Turkey Ragu 2

One of the more interesting aspects of capturing your recipes online is seeing how your recipes change over time.

“I made your sauce.  I followed the recipe but it doesn’t taste the same.

So I look at my original Turkey Ragu recipe.  Sure enough, I made it differently today.  Too many episodes of Food Network in your head changes your recipes.  Just my opinion but I’m sticking with it.

So I look at The Boss and say, “How about a fresh batch of meat sauce?”

And this is how I made it today with the changes from Ragu One in bold.

Turkey Ragu 2

2 cloves fresh garlic, minced plus 1/2 to 1 T garlic granules

1/2 cup sweet onion, diced

1 medium carrot, fine dice

1 celery stalk, fine dice

1 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced

1 fresh green pepper, finely diced

1 pound ground turkey (use 93/7)

2 T dried basil

1 T dried oregano

Pinch of Thyme

2 bay leaves

1/2 cup white wine

1 28 oz can tomatoes diced San Marzano style with juice

1 28 oz can tomatoes, crushed

1 6 oz can tomato paste

Extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

Brown sugar

1.  Heat two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil over high heat in a large saucepot.  I prefer the taste of Spanish olive oils and Borges is my favorite.  If you can’t find Borges look for the Star brand which is made by the same company.  Substitute your favorite regular olive oil if desired.

2.  When the oil is hot, add the garlic, onion, carrot, celery and green pepper.  Saute for a few minutes until limp.

3.  Add more olive oil to prevent sticking and add the ground turkey.  Break up the meat and brown.  Add basil, oregano, and thyme and continue browning until the herbs become aromatic.  With the heat still on high, add the wine and cook until the wine is almost completely evaporated.

4.  Add the can of diced tomatoes with juice.  Toss in the bay leaves, mushrooms, and green pepper.  Stir until well mixed and lower heat to medium.  The sauce ingredients should be bubbling mildly.  Leave uncovered until the tomatoes release their juices and the liquid in the pot is mostly evaporated.  This step concentrates the flavors and will take 15 to 20 minutes.

5.  When the sauce becomes thickened, add the can of crushed tomatoes and the can of tomato paste.  Stir to incorporate well.  Partially cover, turn the heat to low, and simmer for a minimum of one hour.

6.  Taste for seasonings and add more basil or oregano if desired.  Salt and pepper if you must but there is plenty of salt in the canned tomatoes.  If the tomatoes are highly acidic, add brown sugar a half teaspoonful at a time until the acidity is reduced to your liking.  A little bit of sugar will cut the acidity and add smoothness to the ragu.

7.  Find some cooked pasta and plenty of grated cheese.  Eat!

 

Marinara Sauce Number Two

I have a lot of cookbooks and one of my favorites is Cooking from an Italian Garden by Paola Scaravelli and Jon Cohen.  There are over 300 vegetarian recipes in this book.  Over the years I’ve made virtually none of the recipes in the book.  Yes, virtually zero.  This cookbook remains a favorite because it is inspirational.  You can prepare simple healthy meals without animal proteins.  The section on sauces alone is worth the price of admission.

The following is my adaptation of a flavorful marinara sauce that I recently prepared for a Stack Project recipe.

  • 1/2 medium sweet onion, diced
  • 1 carrot diced
  • 1 stalk celery diced
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 15 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 14.5 oz can stewed tomatoes
  • handful fresh basil, chopped (or healthy pinch of dried basil if fresh is not available)
  • handful fresh parsley, chopped ( or dried, if fresh is not available)
  • Salt
  • Sugar
  1. Saute the vegetables until wilted.
  2. Add the canned tomatoes, herbs and simmer uncovered for one hour.
  3. Salt lightly and add just enough sugar to cut the acidity of the tomatoes.
  4. Done.

Tips

Garlic???  By all means if you have to have garlic, use some.  The quality and acidity levels of canned tomatoes vary tremendously.  Use sugar only when necessary.  This sauce freezes well.

One Rotisserie Chicken, 50 Meals – #7 Sandi’s Memaw’s Chicken Spaghetti

Sandi’s Memaw’s Chicken Spaghetti

1 28 oz can diced tomatoes

2 C chicken stock

1 T chopped parsley

1 whole onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

Pinch each, basil and thyme

1 T Worcestershire sauce

1 rotisserie chicken, de-boned and diced

1 lb mushrooms rinsed and sliced

2 T flour

1 C cream

1/4 lb grated cheese, Monterrey Jack and Parmesan

1 lb Spaghetti

2 T Butter

  1. In a medium stock pot simmer tomatoes and chicken stock until reduced by half.
  2. Add parsley, onion, garlic, basil, thyme, Worcestershire, and chicken.
  3. In a separate pan saute the mushrooms in butter.  Stir in flour, cream, and cheese.  Add to chicken/tomato mixture.
  4. Cook spaghetti until al dente.  Drain and combine with the sauce.
  5. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes.

 

When you want a tasty baked pasta dish that’s not exactly Italian try this recipe.  The origin of this recipe is as interesting as the dish itself.   Sandi is one of my wife’s childhood friends.  Sandi called her grandmother “Memaw”.  Hence, this is Sandi’s grandmother’s recipe.  Over the years this pasta supper was made with minor variations.  I’ve always substituted half and half for the cream.  But if your intention is for a creamier dish, go for the cream.  Different pasta shapes work well too.  Don’t just limit yourself to spaghetti.  Be generous with the cheese quantity also.

 

One Rotisserie Chicken, 50 Meals – #6 Pasta with Chicken, Vegetables, Oiive Oil and Garlic

Pasta with Chicken, Vegetables, Olive Oil and Garlic

Parmesan cheese (lots)
3 medium carrots
2 small zucchini

2 small yellow squash
1/2 red bell pepper, diced

4 oz mushrooms, rinsed and sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil for sauteing, 3-4 tablespoons for dressing the pasta
1/2 an onion, chopped
2 – 4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 lb cooked, drained bow tie pasta

One Rotisserie Chicken, carved off the bone, cut into pieces that match your pasta shape.

  1. Cook pasta according to directions on the package for al dente.  Drain and set aside.
  2. Cut carrots and zucchini on the diagonal into thin slices about 1/4 inch thick.
  3. Heat 1 T olive oil (preferably extra virgin) in a frying pan.  Saute the carrots and squashes for several minutes on each side until golden brown and caramelized.
  4. Add the onion, red pepper, mushrooms and garlic.  Saute for several minutes until the onions are translucent.  Add more olive oil if necessary to prevent sticking.
  5. Toss chicken into the pan and stir until the chicken is warmed through.
  6. Add pasta to the vegetable chicken mixture and stir to mix well.  Add remaining olive oil.
  7. Sprinkle with fresh basil and grated Parmesan.  Salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Top each serving with more shredded Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.

 

It was hard figuring out how this dish started.  When the kids were little time was always limited, especially around dinner time when they needed to eat RIGHT NOW.  One night there was leftover spaghetti in the fridge.  It got tossed with some sautéed onion and garlic, topped with cheese and served.  Not only did the pasta get eaten, but the kids requested the dish again.  We had discovered a fast meal without resorting to fast food.

Over the years this simple meal evolved.  More vegetables got added.  The browning of the squashes came later, spurred by a memory of a dish eaten in some Italian restaurant a long time ago.  Chicken was added to make the dish more substantial and to take advantage of the cooked birds that every market started to prepare and sell.

TIPS – use a good quality extra virgin olive oil.  Add crushed red pepper in Step 4 if you want some zing.  You’ll need a nice loaf of bread and a salad to complete the meal.  Either red or white wine will work but if you choose red, get a lighter bodied Italian red like Bardolino.

Tomato Sauce 2

Tomato Sauce 2

2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1/2 large sweet onion, diced
1 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 carrot, finely diced
2 stalks celery, finely diced
1 T dried oregano
1 T dried basil
1 28 oz can tomatoes, puree
1 28 oz can tomatoes, crushed
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
Brown sugar

  1. Heat olive oil in an 8 quart stock pot.
  2. Saute the carrot, onion, and celery until limp.
  3. Add garlic, mushrooms, basil, and oregano.  Saute for another minute.
  4. Add both cans of tomatoes, simmer for 30-45 minutes.

 

This sauce recipe is a rough adaptation from the cookbook Cooking From an Italian Garden by Paola Scaravelli and Jon Cohen.  The cookbook contains Italian vegetarian recipes (long story here).  I’ve served this sauce on pasta and it’s OK.  But rather than use this sauce as is, I’ve always used it as the base for my version of Sunday Gravy.  My family never really cared for giant chunks of animal protein in their sauce.  So Tomato Sauce 2 became my base for meatballs and sausage.

Tips – salt and pepper to taste.  Use sugar only if the tomatoes are overly acidic.  You’ll be glad you used an 8 quart pot once you toss in the meatballs.  Italian Sausage and Beef Meatballs

Italian Meatloaf

Italian Meatloaf

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 red pepper, seeded, small dice
1 onion, diced
2 teaspoons (about 3 cloves) chopped garlic
2 pounds ground beef (or 1 pound ground turkey and 1 pound beef)
2 eggs
3/4 cup bread crumbs (Italian or Panko)
1 cup grated Parmesan
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped basil leaves
1 tablespoon chopped parsley leaves
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a medium saute pan over medium heat and add the peppers, onions and garlic. Saute until just soft, remove to a plate and cool.
  3. When the peppers and onions are cool, combine all of the remaining ingredients together.
  4. Form the meat mixture into 2 loaf (brain) shapes on an oiled oven tray or baking dish.
  5. Bake for approximately 50 to 60 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer registers 160 degrees F in the middle of the meatloaf. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes. Slice and serve.

 

When the kids were little I never made meatloaf.  They hated meatloaf.  When I was growing up as a kid my parents never made meatloaf.  I hated meatloaf.

Time passes, people change, tastes change.  I guess decades of going meatloaf-less made me want meatloaf more.  I only started making meatloaf when MedFed began.  MedFed is the code name for meals that freeze well that can be defrosted, heated up, and eaten by time starved medical school students who would quite frankly probably eat anything you put in front of them.  The only problem with my new found meatloaf craving was finding the perfect recipe.

This recipe is adapted from the Food Network’s Michael Chiarello.  It’s tasty, simple, and hearty.  Serve this up with some loaded mashed potatoes and a green vegetable.

TIP – The recipe will make two meatloaves.  There’s nothing better than a cold meatloaf sandwich the next day.  I’ve also heard rumors that you can chop up this leftover meatloaf, heat it up in some marinara sauce, and serve over pasta.  Sounds like something a medical school student would do.

Substituting dried for fresh herbs is OK.  I usually make this with a mixture of beef and turkey.  85/15 is good.  Don’t use ground turkey breast, use regular ground turkey.

Baked Penne with Two Sauces

Baked Penne with Two Sauces

In the North End of Boston there is a marvelous Italian restuarant named Giacomo’s.  The place is small and cramped, service is brusque.  The food is exquisite which certainly explains this eatery’s well deserved reputation.  My first encounter was many years ago when my brother and I stopped in for dinner.  I ordered Seafood Linguine and the waiter asked

“Red, white, or pink?”

“I know what red is and I know what white is.  What’s pink?”

“Red and white together.”

Imagine a pasta dish with the consistency of a good macaroni and cheese plus a rich hearty ragu.  I bought back my memories and created a baked pasta with two sauces.

Turkey Ragu (about a quart, more if you like your pasta moist)
Parmesan sauce (see recipe below)
One pound box of penne (rigatoni works well also, or use your favorite pasta shape)
Grated parmesan cheese
Shredded mozzarella cheese, about two cups
Extra virgin olive oil

1.  Bring several quarts of water to a boil in a large pot.  Cook pasta until barely al dente.  The pasta should still be firm to the touch and will cook through during the baking process while absorbing the sauces.  Drain and rinse with cold water.  Set aside.

2.  While the pasta is cooking prepare the parmesan sauce.  Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Add flour and cook briefly.  Gradually add milk, stirring constantly to remove all lumps.  Add parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper. When the sauce begins bubbling at the edges and thickens, turn off heat and set aside.

3.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

4.  Take a baking pan large enough for the pasta and grease the pan with extra virgin olive oil.

5.  Place partially cooked pasta in the pan, add parmesan sauce, and mix well.

6.  Cover pasta mixture with ragu, mixing gently.  If your family likes pasta moist, use more ragu.

7.  Sprinkle grated parmesan and shredded mozzarella cheeses on top.

8.  Cover dish with aluminum foil and bake for 30-35 minutes.  If your family likes pasta a little drier, remove the foil for the last 10 minutes of baking time.

9.  Serve with a nice fresh green vegetable, salad, and bread.

Parmesan Sauce

1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 cups milk
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Giacomo’s Restaurant
355 Hanover St
Boston, MA