Weeks 27 & 28 – Fresh Pasta, Creamy Tomato Sauce, Chicken Parm Meatballs, and Turkey Meatball Vegetable Soup with Cheesy Crostini

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Sorry for the missed week, everyone!  I was in Dallas for work training last week and then we went to Baltimore to see Matt’s parents that Saturday.  So Sunday was full of church, brunch with some friends and then complete laziness and there was no time for new recipes.

This week was good, back to normal which I love.  Work is starting to get busier, more from an admin stance than work-wise.  But I’m still just not ready for busy season, so we’re going to soak up the next 2-3 work-free weekends (crossing my fingers that that will be true).

These recipes!  Holy moly, get excited.  The soup and crostini was pretty delicious, a solid week night dinner.  But the homemade pasta, sauce and meatballs! Ahhhhh I love.  I took Friday afternoon off from work to study for the CFP exam and ended up making all of the things for dinner, and studying for a total of about 30 minutes, during which I fell asleep on the couch while reading about life insurance.  Thrilling, I know.  But dinner was amazing!  I made full portions of the recipes below, and ended up freezing half the sauce and meatballs, and 3/4 of the pasta.  So I’ll let you all know how that turns out when we defrost and remake (probably some night during busy season).

Basic Fresh Pasta (Recipe from here)

Yield: about 1 lb. of fresh pasta

Ingredients:

  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surfaces
  • 1½ cups semolina flour
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. water, plus more as needed

Directions:

  1. Combine the flours and salt in the bowl of kitchenaid, creating a well in the center.
  2. Crack the eggs into the well.
  3. Using a mixer with the dough hook attached, slowly mix, incorporating the flour into the egg mixture a little bit at a time.
  4. Once you have a dry, shaggy dough, mix in the olive oil and water and knead by hand until the dough is fairly smooth and homogenous. You may need to add a little additional water.
  5. Divide the dough into four portions and cover with a damp towel. Let rest for 20 minutes.
  6. Take one dough ball out, leaving the rest covered at all times when not in use. Flatten it just enough to be able to go through the pasta sheet roller on the widest (thickest) setting.
  7. Run the sheet through so that it is thinned and flattened. It may look a bit scraggly and torn the first time through.  That’s expected.
  8. Return the pasta sheet to the work surface and fold it into thirds. Flatten the dough out once more with the rolling pin, again to a thickness so that it is able to go through the pasta roller
  9. Run it through again on the widest setting. You can see already that after just two times through, the dough is smoother and more evenly mixed.  Repeat this process (flatten, fold into thirds, flatten again, and so on) about four to five times total until the dough is smooth.
  10. Once you are happy with the texture of the dough, you can start thinning the sheets out. If using a pasta roller, go ahead and set it to the next setting (just slightly thinner than the thickest sheet).  At this point there is no more need for folding into thirds, etc.  The objective is simply to flatten the sheets to your desired thickness.
  11. Go ahead and run the pasta sheet through, thinning it out. Repeat this process on progressively thinner settings until you achieve the thickness you want.
  12. Now, if you are making long strands of pasta such as fettuccine or linguine and you have a pasta cutter, run your thinned sheet through the cutter and voila!  You’re done.
  13. To cook, cook noodles in a large pot of boiling water for 3-5 minutes or until al dente. Drain well and serve immediately.

If you don’t plan to use the pasta right away, it can be stored.  First, dry the pasta for 1 hour (for long strands, this requires a drying rack.)  At this point it can be placed in an airtight container and refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 3 months (at least that’s what I’ve been told, I’ll update you after we make some of our frozen pasta down the road).

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Tomato Cream Sauce (Recipe from here)

Makes: 4-6 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 (28 oz.) can whole (or diced) tomatoes, liquid reserved
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • ¼ cup finely chopped onion
  • 1½ tbsp. tomato paste
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp. red pepper flakes
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream or half-and-half

Directions:

  1. Add the tomatoes to a blender or food processor. Puree until smooth, adding a bit of the reserved liquid if necessary to smooth the mixture out.
  2. Melt the butter in a large, deep skillet or sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook about 1 minute, until it begins to soften.
  3. Stir in the tomato paste, garlic and red pepper flakes and mix just until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  4. Stir in the tomato mixture and whisk until smooth, lower the heat to a simmer, and cook about 5-8 minutes, until the sauce is slightly thickened. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  5. Remove the pan from the heat, If sauce isn’t desired smooth-ness, mix with an immersion blender until smooth.
  6. Stir in the cream and you’re done!

(After the sauce cooled a bit, I put half of the sauce directly in a jar to be frozen)

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Baked Chicken Parmesan Meatballs in Tomato Cream Sauce

Makes: 4-6 servings

Ingredients:

For the meatballs:

  • ½ cup dried panko
  • 1/3 cup grated onion
  • 1 tsp. dried parsley
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp. ground black pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1½ lbs. ground chicken
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil

To Finish

  • 1 batch tomato Cream Sauce (see above)
  • 4 oz. shredded mozzarella (Freshly Shredded is best)
  • 2 tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan
  • 2-3 tbsp. minced fresh basil (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400˚ F.
  2. To make the meatballs, combine the panko, grated onion, parsley, basil, Parmesan, salt, pepper, garlic and egg. Stir together with a fork just until blended.
  3. Mix in the ground chicken and knead together gently until evenly combined.
  4. Form the mixture into meatballs about 1½-inch in diameter.
  5. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the meatballs to the pan in a single layer (two batches may be necessary if you don’t have enough surface area.)  Let cook, turning occasionally, until all sides are browned.
  6. Once all of the meatballs are browned, place them in the pan with the tomato sauce. Sprinkle the mozzarella and additional Parmesan over the top.
  7. Bake until the cheese is fully melted and bubbling and the meatballs are cooked through, about 15-20 minutes.
  8. Remove from the oven and garnish with the fresh basil. Serve warm, over pasta if desired.

If freezing some of the meatballs – food safety expert, ‘I worked at the wegmans pizza shop,’ Matt says you have to make sure you cook the meatballs all the way before freezing, or keep them completely raw.  So we did the browning on the stove and then baked on a cookie sheet for 15ish minutes (until the temp was 165).  When reheating, I plan to defrost all the way and then bake with the sauce and cheese for 10 minutes, until heated through.

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Turkey Meatball & Vegetable Soup with Cheesy Crostini (Recipe from here)

Makes: 6 servings

Ingredients:

 For the Soup-

  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 pound ground turkey
  • 1/4 cup Italian breadcrumbs
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2-3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 cups less-sodium chicken broth (Or, I used chicken bouillon cubes, following the proportions on the box to get to 6 cups of liquid)
  • 1 small zucchini, cut in half lengthwise then sliced crosswise
  • 2-3 cups baby spinach, roughly chopped

For the Cheesy Crostini-

  • 1 baguette, thinly sliced
  • Olive oil
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Make the soup: In large bowl, lightly beat egg. Add turkey, breadcrumbs, basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Stir (or mix with hands) until just combined. Do not overmix. Using hands, gently form into small (slightly smaller than a golf ball) meatballs and place on large plate or baking pan.
  2. In large pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and carrots; cook 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.
  3. Stir in broth; heat to boiling. Stir in celery, zucchini and spinach. Gently drop in meatballs. Reduce heat to medium; cover and cook 6 to 8 minutes or until meatballs reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.
  4. Meanwhile, make crostini: Heat broiler to high heat. Place baguette slices on rimmed baking pan and lightly brush with oil. Place under broiler and cook 2 to 3 minutes or until crisp, watching very carefully.
  5. Spread crostini with ricotta and sprinkle with mozzarella and pepper. Return to broiler and cook 1 minute or until cheese is melted and lightly browned. Serve soup with crostini.

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