A fast lunch pizza using onion naan. These are in the margherita style. Infuse a little olive oil with garlic by heating a few tablespoons in a bowl with a few crushed and minced cloves and brush it on the loaves, then add sliced tomato and dot with fresh mozzarella. Garnish with fresh basil. I like my pizzas with red pepper flakes, I used flakes from my own patio grown cayennes today. The Parmesan sprinkle is from a commercial blend of cheeses with additional peppers and herbs.
We like the big crusts. This 14″ pie has 3-1/4 cups of flour in it. I rolled string mozzarella into the edge and sprinkled it with kosher salt after spritzing with olive oil.I’m calling this one a triple triple – it has three meats, three cheeses, and three veggies. Three veggies if you stretch the definition to include mushrooms. The other two are onions and olives Err, if you count olives. Gah! It has Italian sausage, ham, and pepperoni for the meats; mozzarella, provolone, and parmesan are the cheeses.
The best thing about having cherry tomatoes fresh every day is making a simple sauce like this one. Dice a small sweet onion and sweat it in olive oil with a few minced garlic cloves. Add cherry or grape tomatoes, whole, and cover over medium heat. I tossed in a pat of butter. The tomatoes will usually burst but you can help them along with a spoon. Uncover and cook them down a little, adding a few tablespoons of tomato paste. Spoon in a little pasta water if needed. I chopped a quarter cup of fresh basil leaves and added them right at the end. Drain the pasta and add it to the pan and stir it in. Garnish with grated Parmesan.
I know it’s grilling season, but we’ll have all summer to talk about grilling recipes. This week I wanted to try out a recipe that has been tucked away and waiting for me to put my spin on it.
A while back, I asked you guys for a vegetarian meatball recipe, and you came through with some great ideas. Once I had the general concept down, I thought it was time to flavor it up a bit more. So tonight’s featured recipe is a vegetarian spinach ricotta meatball. With that in mind, the recipe theme came into focus. The versatility of ricotta cheese, from main course to desserts.
To start, how about homemade ricotta? JeffreyW has done it and you can click here and he’ll take you step by step through the process.
He then puts his homemade ricotta to good use with Stuffed Shells, as pretty to look at as they are delicious. (recipe here)
I have a great alternative to regular gnocchi, a lighter, easier version using ricotta cheese and a fire roasted sauce to make a simple, quick Baked Gnocchi. (recipe here)
Moving on to dessert, a friend of mine has what feels like weekly potlucks at work and she often takes Apple Lasagna, recipe here, that is always a hit.
And finally from JeffreyW, a beautiful Cannoli recipe, pictured above that can be found here.
Now that you have a bunch of ideas for that tub of ricotta, let’s switch things up before we get to the featured recipe. I’d like to know if you’ve ever made your own wine, beer or hard ciders. I’d like to know details, where did you get your ingredients and how did it all turn out? Besides that, what’s on your menu for the weekend?
Now on to the featured recipe. These a so simple to make and taste so good, it’s a great vegetarian alternative for your pasta dishes. They’re very light and once you get the technique down, you can play with the flavors and customize them to your palate.
Most of the recipes I looked at used Italian Breadcrumbs. But I really feel these need fresh breadcrumbs, so I’ve included instructions for making your own. I didn’t season mine because I didn’t want them to overpower the delicate flavors of the cheeses. Fresh breadcrumbs absorb flavors and moisture more than packaged ones, so I thought it gave the whole meatball a better, lighter texture. I added a bit of garlic powder (fresh garlic did not work with this, it was overpowering and a touch bitter), basil, oregano and fennel. The fennel really took it up a notch. I think next time I might add a bit of red pepper flake.
Spinach and Ricotta Vegetarian Meatballs
- 1-1/2 to 2 cups fresh breadcrumbs (instructions below)
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 1 cup grated Parmesan, asiago, romano cheese mix
- 1-1/2 cups fresh spinach, chopped
- 1 tbsp fresh oregano or 2 tsp dried oregano, crushed
- 2 tsp fresh basil or 1/2 tsp dried basil, crushed
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder (not salt)
- 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
- Salt and pepper
- 4 eggs, beaten
- 1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan, asiago, romano cheese
- Olive oil
Breadcrumbs: this took a full 1-lb loaf of day-old Italian or French bread. I bought it from the day-old rack for cheap. I tore it into small pieces, spread out on a baking sheet and dried it in a 200 degree F oven for about 30 minutes. I didn’t want them toasted or seasoned because I thought it would overpower the delicate flavors of these meatballs. Once they were dried, I ran them through the blender. I reserved 1/4 cup for rolling the balls in before cooking.
Meatballs: Mix together ricotta, grated cheeses, spinach and spices. Add the eggs and mix well. Then add the breadcrumbs, 1/2 cup at a time. You want it to come together to form soft balls, but you don’t want it to be dry. Once you can form a soft ball with some structure, you don’t need to add more breadcrumbs.
Scoop up a heaping tablespoon (I used my cookie dough scoop) and roll the mixture into balls.
Mix together 1/4 cup breadcrumbs and 1/4 cup grated cheeses in a bowl and roll each meatball in the mixture, coating on all sides.
You can bake or pan fry these. I chose to pan fry, it used a bit of oil, but it gave them a nice flavor. Baking them would be my option if I was doubling the recipe.
To fry: heat olive oil in a skillet on medium and add the meatballs, leaving enough space between them to easily turn them. They are soft, so it’s a delicate process. The good news is, if you really want them round (instead of kind of flattened) you can reshape them after they come out of the pan. Turn them until they are golden brown on all sides.
To bake: place them on a well oiled baking sheet or use parchment paper. Brush them with a bit of oil if desired. Leave space around each one so they brown evenly and bake at 375 degrees F for 30-40 minutes until golden brown. You can turn them halfway through if desired.
A good enough pie. Not an outstanding pie. I looked for black olives and discovered none in the cupboard so I went with green ones. The fresh pepper rings are more of those cute Mexican sweet peppers I stuffed a few days ago. The sausage is from my last and best run at Italian sausage.Standard crust: Flour enough for the pie, salt, sugar, yeast, olive oil, and water enough to form a dough. Everything was pretty much by eye. Using last summer’s Awesome Sauce from a jar put up in August. Looking forward to making more this summer, hoping a drought doesn’t strike us again.
A few weeks back I made meatball grinders – subs to most people – and was talking to my mom about them, because after all I used her recipe. She told me that one of her favorite things to do is to buy ground beef when it’s on sale and make and freeze a whole bunch of meatballs. Then they are available to make all kinds of good stuff, like meatball soup and various meatball sandwiches.
Until that moment, I hadn’t given meatballs much thought. I mean they’re good, but beyond the occasional grinder, I didn’t really use them. Then I went tripping around my own blog and found that JeffreyW had a whole bunch of meatball ideas. And that’s how we got to tonight’s recipe exchange idea: Meatballs!
I’ll post a basic meatball recipe below and include the grinder/sub recipe. But first, let me point you to both JeffreyW’s basic meatball recipe and how he’s used them:
“Not Your Mama’s Meatballs” (recipe here)
Meatball Soup (recipe here)
Couscous with Meatballs (recipe here)
For all of JefferyW’s meatball recipes, click here.
Your turn. Do you have a favorite meatball recipe? Beyond spaghetti and meatball subs, what do you use meatballs in? And does anyone have a good vegetarian meatball recipe? Hit the comments and share your ideas.
A quick tip, cookie scoops make meatball production easier and quick.
Now for the featured recipes:
This is a DOUBLE recipe that makes 8 to 10 subs, you can easily halve the ingredients or you can freeze extra meatballs and sauce for later.
- 2 lbs lean ground beef*
- ½ cup Italian breadcrumbs
- ½ onion, chopped
- ½ cup milk
- 1 egg
- 2 tbsp grated parmesan
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp pepper
- ½ tsp crushed garlic
- ½ tsp oregano
- ½ tsp basil
Mix all ingredients together and mix well. You’re going make 1 ½ inch balls. The easiest way to do this is to use a cookie/muffin scoop (see photo above). Place on the baking sheet and bake at 350° for 15-20 minutes. Don’t overcook, as they will finish in the sauce.
*For spicier meatballs you can substitute 1/4 to 1/2 of the ground beef with spicy Italian sausage.
- 4-15 oz cans tomato sauce
- 2-6 oz cans tomato paste
- 14 oz can diced tomatoes
- 2 tsp oregano, crushed
- 3 tsp basil, crushed
- 3 tsp crushed garlic
- 1 medium carrot, peeled and finely grated
In large saucepan or dutch oven, add ingredients, bring to a low boil, reduce heat to low, cover and let simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add meatballs and stir gently. Let simmer for 10 minutes or longer.
- 8 large hoagie/sub rolls
- 2-4 oz parmesan cheese
- 8 oz sliced mozzarella cheese
Slice rolls, but DO NOT slice completely in half. Place 4 to 6 meatballs in each roll, add lots of sauce, sprinkle with Parmesan and top with slices of mozzarella. Place on baking sheet, cheese side up and bake at 375° for 15 to 20 minutes, until cheese is melted and bread is toasty. Keep a good eye on it, they will burn quickly. Serve with lots of napkins.
NOTE: My mom has this trick of slicing out a wedge on the top of the rolls (instead of slicing them in half lengthwise) to make the pocket (see photo at top). Then they actually sit on their natural flat bottoms while baking. This has the added advantage of creating instant breadsticks from what is cut out that you can brush with olive oil and garlic and bake.