Vegetarian Meatballs

When I did the meatball post a while back, I asked for some vegetarian meatball recommendations. This was the one that I thought sounded really good and I can’t wait to try it. It may take me a while before I can get to it, so I thought I’d go ahead and link to the original recipe. I’ll revisit it when I have the chance to test it out.

From Macheesmo:

veg meatballs

Spinach and Ricotta Vegetarian Meatballs

Yield: Serves 4.  Prep Time:20 minutes   Total Time:50 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 Cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 Cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 Cup fresh spinach, chopped
  • 1 1/2-2 Cups Italian breadcrumbs (plus some for rolling)
  • 4 Eggs
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh oregano
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil

Continue reading…

For the complete recipe, click on this link and let me know how yours turn out.

Lasagna

DSC_4972 [1600x1200]I made this with the “no boil” pasta that’s been in the cupboard for a spell.  It works pretty well, nothing you will brag about to your mother but it’s not a bad thing.DSC_4973 [1600x1200]The noodles are thin, and they don’t bulk up too much more.  They don’t give the kind of body that the regular noodles do.  Damned easy to layer them into the dish.DSC_4974 [1600x1200]Here’s a little better angle on the layers.

Nothing special about the recipe, ricotta and mozzarella with an egg and chopped spinach for the cheese layer.  The sauce was my awesome sauce with my own Italian sausage.  That thick top layer of cheese is about half and half provolone and mozzarella.  I expect this will be better tomorrow.

Thursday Recipe Exchange: Quick Pasta Meals

Shrimp and Pasta by JeffreyW

I started this blog as a complement to my business of 10 years – I provided weeknight menus and recipes for busy families. It was a lot of fun. I’ve moved on to other things and the blog has evolved from just my simple recipes and flavor palate to guest bloggers, co-bloggers and lots of guest recipes. It’s been a pleasant surprise.

But as the holidays approach and life gets busier, I wanted to come back to those simple recipes and highlight them several times a week. These are quick, fresh recipes that take about 30 minutes. And I swear to you, if you’re not confident in the kitchen, these are foolproof. A way, I hope, to help alleviate some of the stress around this time of year. So tonight’s recipes are in that vein.

First up: the photo above is from JeffreyW, it’s a nice, quick Shrimp and Pasta dish that he liked well enough to make again. (recipe here).  Next up is my quick Skillet Lasagna, recipe below.

What are some of your go-to recipes for those nights when there is no time to cook but everyone needs to eat? Do you have family favorites that everyone wants at least once a week? When I was a kid, I would beg my mom to make her rice crispy baked chicken.

Tonight’s featured recipe is one of my favorites because it has a nice blend of flavors for a quick, skillet dish. I use dry spices because they are always in my pantry – make sure to crush them well to bring out the flavor in a dish that doesn’t have the advantage of a long simmer. Use good quality mozzarella and ricotta to take it up a notch. Skip the ground beef for a vegetarian meal (I’d add some nice mushrooms instead) or spice it up with 1/2 Italian sausage and 1/2 ground beef.  In other words, don’t be afraid to change it up to fit your needs. For a side, try green beans or zucchini and you’ve got a nice, quick dinner.

Skillet Lasagna

  • 8 oz  bowtie pasta
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • ½ green pepper chopped
  • 1 tsp basil, crushed
  • 1 tsp oregano, crushed
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 15 oz can tomato sauce
  • 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 4 oz ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup fresh spinach leaves, chopped
  • 4 oz mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 2 oz grated parmesan

skillet, saucepan

In saucepan, cook pasta according to package directions, cooking to al dente (slightly chewy), drain well. Do Not Rinse (it inhibits the sauce from being absorbed by the pasta). Meanwhile, in skillet brown beef, onion & pepper. Add spices, garlic, carrot and sauté for 1 minute. Add sauce, paste, stirring well into meat mixture. Let simmer 10 minutes. Add pasta, stirring gently to mix. Mix together ricotta and spinach, spoon evenly onto mixture (do not stir in, you want to create little cheese balls), top with mozzarella, cover and let simmer on low until mozzarella is completely melted. Serve with parmesan.  Serves 6 generously.

Cheese Stuffed Manicotti

Made another batch of ricotta and made it into a big bowl of cheese stuffing for pasta.  Mixed some Italian sausage into it as well.  We had enough to stuff 14 manicotti, about 30 jumbo shells, and still had some leftover.  The stuffing included some chopped spinach, a couple of eggs, shredded mozzarella, Parmesan, various dried herbs along with the crumbled sausage and the diced onion the meat cooked with.  Quite a bowlful.

We have that bunch of shells dressed out with sauce and put away for later dinners.

Mrs J voted for the tubes for dinner tonight.  We have several more of these stuffed and put away along side of the jumbo shells.

Twenty minutes or so at 400 was long enough to warm these through.  Much longer and the exposed pasta will dry out and get hard.

It takes just a few to make a plateful.  Oh, and I mentioned there was still some of the cheese stuffing mix?  I found a use for that.

Mmm… Stuffed shells

I dithered about what to do with the ricotta we made yesterday until Mrs J mentioned stuffed shells.  Perfect!

I didn’t have that much ricotta so I knew I would have to stretch it out with other stuff.  I never measured the ricotta but the recipe I used mentioned 1-1/2 cups could be expected and that was pretty close.  I added a cup pf shredded mozzarella, half a cup of shredded Parmesan, an egg, about 1/4 cup of chopped parsley, some red pepper flakes, and some dried oregano and basil with a bit of salt and a grind of black pepper.

These were arranged on top of some tomato sauce in a casserole dish.

Then topped with more tomato sauce, this time with some meat, and the rest of the ricotta mixture and a sprinkle of Parmesan.

I covered it with foil and baked it at 350 for 30 minutes.

Then baked it for another 15 minutes, uncovered.

I will be making more ricotta.  It’s easy, and the flavor and texture is better than any I have brought back from the supermarket.\

Fresh Ricotta

Yesterday I went Googling around looking for good ideas for using the onion jam and clicked on a smittenkitchen link.  It’s always a good idea to take a look at whatever she puts up over there.  She was using some onion jam on a pizza, along with home made ricotta and some prosciutto.  Hmm…homemade ricotta.  It looked easy enough.  We were going out Saturday morning anyway, so we made sure to buy the whole milk and some buttermilk the ricotta recipes were calling for.

Add 2 cups of buttermilk to 2 quarts of whole milk in a heavy sauce pot.  Turn the heat up high and scrape the bottom to prevent scorching.

Keep at it until the temp reaches 175 degrees, you will want to use a thermometer of some sort.  Candy making thermometer works fine.

When you hit 175, turn off the burner and quit stirring for 5 minutes so the curds can assemble themselves on the top.

Dip the curds out with a slotted spoon, skimmer, or some other utensil.

Dump the curds into a cheesecloth lined colander or strainer so the water (whey) can drain.  Give it 15 minutes or so.

Then gather the edges of the cheesecloth with a rubber band and use a skewer or something to let it hang over the sink or a bowl.  Anything to catch the liquid as it drains out. Discard the liquid, don’t squeeze the cheesecloth to hurry it.

After an hour or so it should be looking like this.  Refrigerate for up to 3 days.

Cannoli

Mrs J has been threatening to make some of these ever since she saw them during a Sopranos episode years ago.  I ordered some of the tube forms the other day and today she fired up the mixer.

This is the recipe we went with.  I’m not a judge of cannoli, never had one before, but these were darn good.  We rolled the dough with the pasta machine to about an eighth of an inch, then rolled 4″ circles cut with a tumbler a bit thinner yet, into a rough oval about 4″x6″.  These were wrapped around the tube forms and then fried in 375 degree oil-I was giving them 2 to 2-1/2 minutes.

Mrs J had read several recipes and kind of winged it on the filling.  She figures the proportions were 1-1/2 cups of ricotta, 1 cup of cream cheese, and 1/2 cup of Splenda per batch, it took 3 batches to fill the cannolis.  We ended up making 15 total.  Your count may vary depending on how the thick your dough is and the length of the individual tubes you roll.  We tossed enough scrap dough to roll another but deemed the dough overworked already.

I can see where the filling recipe you end up with could vary quite a bit.  There are tons of flavorings and cheeses that would work great.  Mrs J was going to use some vanilla in hers today and just forgot.

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