As mini me gets older, I find our closest times are almost always in the kitchen, or at the kitchen table. As a young girl I dreamed of that mother-child connection, especially over a family meal. Having my girl gave me that long awaited opportunity.
I take every chance to spend time in the kitchen with her, teaching her a new culinary skill. Nothing makes me feel more like a woman than preparing a meal and passing along tradition.
Tomatoes, in all forms are one of our favorite summer treats. Roma, yellow, green, tomatillos, beef, cherry; you name it, we love them all. When I am not stewing and pressing tomatoes for our homemade sauce I use them as little baskets to hold a gluttonous treat. What better way to push the envelope than to nest a creamy risotto inside their walls.
Being in the kitchen is heaven to me. If I have one regret it is that I did not go to culinary school and share my passion for food with the world. But, for now, it is a family affair!
Me and mini have wrestled with time lately, but one area we never let slip away is our meals! This week I showed her how I make one of many different variations of our Sicilian meatballs. Our sauce was our own, and made with crushed tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, basil leaves, half a cup of wine and a roasted red pepper puree. I make a lot and freeze it so it is ready to go.
These meatballs are a little different, and I adore anything out of the norm. I use veal , pork, chicken and beef. Then we dipped three pieces of bread in milk, wrung them out, tore them up and added the to the meat. We needed two eggs. Then, about a cup of romano cheese, a tablespoon of brown sugar, crushed red pepper, and chopped currants or raisins. Yes, raisins! ( No one will know they are there..you need to chop them very fine). We minced 4 cloves of garlic and grated half of a red onion into the mix. I always use a coarse sea salt, fresh pepper and dried basil.
Italians know how to do a Spring fling the right way. But ours have staying power and substance. And they look damn good too. When Mother Nature starts opening its blooms.. traditional foods start to burst with greens and yellows.
Springs renewal brings a reminder of bathing suit season. Foods need to lighten up to accommodate, but flavor does not. Fire roasting springs veggies brings out their natural sweetness. So this week we made my own take on a primavera…lightened up.
Me and mini me fire-roasted 4 yellow and gold tomatoes, 2 sweet peppers, 5 cloves of garlic ( just crushed) with olive oil and sea salt at 425 until they start to burned just a bit.. About 15 minutes.
In another pan, I roasted some broccoli rabe, red onion, asparagus, and a diced zucchini.. And roasted them for only about 7 minutes.
Cooking the greens at such a high temperature brings out their natural sugars, but you cannot over do them.
I took the two pans and put the in a deep bowl of whole grain rigatoni..you can also use a whole grain couscous. The vegetables work well over grilled chicken also.
While the pasta is still hot, I added 3 tablespoons of a very good balsamic vinegar (If you can find something from Modena…you are in!) 1/2 cup shredded fontina, and 5 basil leaves torn up. Make sure to mix the juices from the vegetables well to distribute evenly. This is an easy light Spring dish that I paired with some lemoncello. Perfect. And easy. All souls were satisfied and smiling!
As an Italian woman, I can easily spend 8 hours on a lazy Sunday perfecting my sauce ( gravy as we call it). My traditional Bolognese is created via a slow methodical path to perfection and is about as close to the pearly gates as I may see.
For a weeknight change-up, me and mini me made a quicker, healthier version. It is lighter on the body and easier on my stove. But do not be fooled, quicker can sometimes mean better!
For a traditional Bolognese, several types of meat are used; some ground, some not. It is essentially a hodge-podge of flavors gently melded together. Tonight, we used ground sirloin, pancetta and ground turkey. Usually veal and pork are used. Either works for this weeknight gravy.
After browning the meat in olive oil, I brown half of a red onion with 3 or 4 garlic cloves. Just as they look translucent I add sea salt, fresh black pepper, a touch of cayenne and nutmeg. We add a large can of fresh crushed all natural tomatoes and 3 small chopped fresh tomatoes. As they come to a boil, we add two cups of beef stock and a cup of good red wine. The sauce looks soup-like, but after it boils we simmer it until the liquid is reduced.
Be mindful to scrape the tomato off the side of the pot as you simmer. I add more salt, 6-8 chopped fresh basil leaves, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 2 tablespoons of nutmeg and continue to cook the sauce while I make my dried pasta of choice. Since our goal was to lighten things up, mini me chose a whole grain vegetable pasta, offering low carb, high taste and a long list of nutrients.
Once the sauce is thick, I add 1/4 of half and half, more nutmeg, fresh basil, salt to taste and a good cup of shredded fontina. You can add new broth or vino if needed.
This hearty ” gravy” offers antioxidants, protein and fiber. Tomatoes are a known jewel of cancer prevention. A lighter whole grain and low carb pasta makes this an easy go to for anyone. Always freeze leftover sauce. Bolognese is easy to add to just about anything. Mangia!!!!
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