Friday, October 21, 2011

Improvisational Italian

We bought a spaghetti squash the other day, and I was looking at it sitting on the table today when I decided to build a pasta dish around it. So here's what I did:

Dustin's Italian Meatballs

2 lbs ground chuck (80/20)
2 heaping tsp. minced garlic
1 rounded Tbsp. dry minced onion
1 tsp dried oregano leaves
1 tsp dried sweet basil leaves
1/2 tsp ground thyme
2 tsp parsley flakes
2 tsp kosher salt
5 grindings black pepper
2 large eggs, beaten
1 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup unseasoned plain breadcrumbs

Throw everything in a mixing bowl, and mix thoroughly with your hands (you might want to wear gloves). Roll into about 1-inch balls and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a couple of hours. When ready to cook, heat a large skillet (large enough to place all the meatballs in a single layer with a little breathing room) over medium heat, and then add about 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil. Add the meatballs, and cook for about 5 minutes, then turn them and cook for five more. Add 2/3 of a can of beef broth, turn up the heat and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to low, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes or until done. Remove from the skillet to a wire rack over a baking sheet, and cover loosely with foil. Serve with pasta and sauce of your choice.

I decided to serve the meatballs over spaghetti squash, with my homemade chunky marinara.

Spaghetti Squash

1 medium spaghetti squash
kosher salt, to taste
fresh ground black pepper, to taste
3 Tbsp butter, divided
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 350°. Cut the squash in half and clean out the guts (seeds and fibery pulp). Place cut side up in a 9x13 baking dish. Sprinkle with the kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Sliver up 1 Tbsp of the butter and put that on the squash, some up on the edges, some down in the cavity. Pour water in the pan to get to 1/4 inch deep. Bake for 40 - 50 minutes until tender, then remove the strands with two forks. Place them in a bowl and toss with the remaining 2 Tbsp of butter and the Parmesan. Serve with pasta sauce.

Chunky Marinara

1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp minced garlic
1 bell pepper, cleaned and diced
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 can diced tomatoes, drained, juice reserved
2 cans tomato sauce
2 bay leaves
1 tsp kosher salt
1 rounded tsp dried sweet basil leaves
1 rounded tsp dried oregano leaves
2 tsp parsley flakes
1/2 tsp ground thyme
5 grindings black pepper

Heat a 9-inch skillet over medium heat, then add the oil. Add the minced garlic and saute' for a couple of minutes, then add the pepper and onion. Saute for a couple of minutes until some of the onion pieces start to brown, then turn the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the the onions are translucent. Meanwhile, heat the tomato sauce, the reserved tomato juice, and the bay leaves over medium low heat in a medium size sauce pan, covered (much less mess that way). When the onions are translucent, add the diced tomatoes and turn the heat up to medium. Saute' for 4-5 minutes, then add the vegetables to the sauce pan and stir well. Add all of the seasonings, mix well, cover, turn the heat to low and simmer for at least 20 minutes. Remove the bay leaves and discard. Serve over pasta (or spaghetti squash) or as a dip for breadsticks or calzones.

(No picture of this one, the one I took turned out all fuzzy. I blame the steam.)

Of course, no Italian meal would be complete without some type of bread.

Spread for garlic toast

1 stick butter, softened
1-1/2 tsp granulated garlic
1 tsp parsley flakes
1/2 tsp kosher salt

Mix it all together, and spread on your choice of bread before baking. Yum!

I used my batch tonight on sliced fresh Italian bread from the grocery store. It went in the oven at 350° for about 10 minutes, then I sprinkled a little finely shredded mozzarella over the slices and put it back in the oven for about 3 minutes, just long enough for the cheese to melt.

I was able to time it all out so that everything was ready about the same time (the meatballs had been resting for about ten minutes). Dished out a helping of the squash, put a little of the marinara on top of that, topped it with 2 - 4 meatballs (2 for the kid, 3 for the wife, 4 for me), poured a little more sauce over the meatballs, and topped it all with some shredded Parmesan. Served with a piece or two of the bread - delizioso!

1 comment:

  1. Oooh, I have to try this. I haven't tried spaghetti squash, but I've been dying to.