Sugo Sauce

Sugo Sauce 1
Joel and I went out on a date last month and we ate at one of our favorite Italian restaurants in town. When we go there, I always get the same thing. It’s just so good I can never bring myself to order anything else. But this time I was determined to go out of my comfort zone and get something totally different.

Red sauce is not my favorite, I know, how un-American of me. That combined with not being a huge fan of chocolate should get me thrown out. Anyway, it’s something I have to be in the mood for to really enjoy. Well, when I read the description of a sugo sauce made with cabernet, spicy sausage and pepperoni over penne I was won over. I had never had a sugo sauce before and was intrigued. I’m so glad I tried it and knew right away I would have to try a version at home.
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For this recipe, I skipped the sausage and pepperoni since I was serving it over homemade ravioli and thought that was decadent enough. This is a really simple recipe using common ingredients you probably already have in your pantry. Onions and garlic are sautéed then simmered for an hour with whole tomatoes, herbs and a good amount of red wine. The result is a rich, full sauce with a hint of red wine in the background. From what I can find, a chunky sauce seems pretty traditional but that just doesn’t fly around here so after simmering I zapped it in the blender until smooth. Do whatever floats your boat. Or whatever doesn’t elicit complaints.
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I can’t wait to try this with spicy sausage and diced pepperoni, served over fresh linguini.

Sugo Sauce
recipe adapted from Epicurious.com

2 Tbsp. olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium white onion, minced
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
3 (28 oz.) cans whole tomatoes
1 Tbsp. dried basil
1/2 Tbsp. dried oregano
1 bay leaf
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 cup red wine

1. Heat olive oil in a large stock pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and cook for 5 minutes, until translucent. Add garlic, red pepper flakes and salt and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring often.

2. Add remaining ingredients to onions and garlic. Using a potato masher, break up the tomatoes. Simmer on medium low for 1 hour. If you like a chunky sauce, it’s done. If you prefer a smoother sauce, fish out the bay leaf and pour sauce (in batches) into a blender and blend until desired consistency is reached. Serve over pasta.

 

Homemade Ricotta Ravioli

Last week I registered Noah for Kindergarten. Yesterday, he had his pre-Kindergarten check up. Is this real life? I know us moms say this constantly, but where has the time gone?

It’s seriously hard for me to comprehend that he will be in elementary school in a few short months. He will be away from me for 6.5 hours on a regular basis. Someone get me a paper bag because I’m having a hard time breathing. My heart feels heavy.

I know it will be nice to have a break. I know I will get to spend quality time with Hannah like I was able to with Noah when it was just him. There are days now that I think Kindergarten just can’t come fast enough. But when you sit down and think about it, when you set it in motion, then it hits and it hurts. My awesome friend sent me this article today and by the end I just couldn’t keep it together. Truth. It was perfect and horrible timing. Gah, the feels.
Homemade Ravioli 1
You know what helps with all those feelings. Homemade pasta. Better yet, homemade pasta stuffed with cheese. My name is Meg and I’m an emotional eater.

These delicious pockets of goodness are started with my homemade pasta and a simple 3 ingredient filling. I swear, I will never purchase store-bought ravioli again. The pasta is so tender and the filling is light and creamy. Carbs and cheese all rolled into one, emotional eating at its finest. Don’t judge.
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They do take some time to make but trust me, they are completely worth it. Next time around, I’m going to make a double batch since I will already be taking the time to make them, then freeze half so we have them ready for a busy night.

For now, you can find me with a plate of these. Or a package of frozen thin mints. Or both.

Homemade Ravioli

1 recipe homemade pasta, rolled out into sheets (one setting thinner than recipe states)
1 cup ricotta
1 egg
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
salt and pepper

1. Combine ricotta, egg, parmesan cheese and salt and pepper.

2. Lay out a pasta sheet on a floured surface. Place 1 tablespoon of the filling about an inch apart on the front half of the pasta sheet. Fold the top of the dough over the filling. Press firmly around filling, ensuring that it is completely sealed and no air bubbles remain. Using a ravioli cutter, press down firmly around ravioli. Lift and place on a floured baking sheet. If you don’t have a ravioli cutter, you can cut squares using a sharp knife or pizza cutter. Keep covered with a clean kitchen towel until ready to cook.

3. To cook, place in boiling water and simmer until they start to float (it took 2 minutes for me). If you want to freeze them for future use, place them in the freezer on the floured baking sheet in a single layer and freeze for 4-24 hours. Place in a labeled freezer bag.

 

Creamy Tomato Tortellini Soup

Creamy Tomato Tortellini Soup 1
We ran errands today with the car windows down. DOWN. It was 70 degrees outside. We’ve had quite frigid weather the past month or so with a decent amount of snow so it was a total miracle. And it’s supposed to be this nice all week. Do you think winter is maybe, just finally over? Or am I getting ahead of myself? I don’t care, we’re soaking it all in and loving it.

It’s also Noah’s spring break this week so we have lots of outdoor fun planned. Oh, and yogurt pie. We were talking about fun things we could do this week and I suggested playing outside, science experiments and making something yummy. His immediate reaction was that we should make yogurt pie. We’ve never made or eaten it so it was just something he thought up on his own (probably because he eats yogurt pretty much every day for breakfast). I know I’m biased, but he’s so darn creative to think of that on his own. Definitely a chef in training! So keep your eyes open for that.
Creamy Tomato Tortellini Soup 3
But for those of you that are still cold and not quite ready for talk about Spring-y pies, I have some delicious soup to share. I made this a few weeks ago when the temperature was in the single digits and it totally hit the spot. Tomato soup has never been my favorite but add some cream and pasta and it definitely changes my opinion.  It’s creamy, warming and so comforting on a cold night. Especially with a super crispy, gooey grilled cheese to dunk in it.
Creamy Tomato Tortellini Soup 2
Classic Americana with an extra dose of carby goodness.

Creamy Tomato Tortellini Soup
recipe adapted from Soup Addict

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 tsp. dried basil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 15 ounce can tomato sauce
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
3/4 cup half-and-half
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
10 ounces cheese-filled tortellini, uncooked
salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Heat olive oil in a dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and cook for about 5 minutes. Add garlic and basil and sauté another minute. Add the tomato sauce and broth, stirring to combine. Place in a blender and process until smooth. Pour back into the pan and simmer over medium-low heat for 10 minutes.

2. In a measuring cup, whisk together the half and half and flour. Pour into the tomato soup, stirring constantly until well combined. Add tortellini and cook according to package directions, being sure not to bring to a boil.

 

Homemade Pasta

Homemade pasta is totally where it’s at. You’ll never want to go back to the store bought stuff and you won’t believe how simple it is. Only 3 ingredients to fresh, delicious pasta from scratch.
Homemade Pasta 10
Last week Noah and I were making macaroni salad and he was pretty insistent that we make homemade noodles for it. I’ve been loving his interest in cooking and photography lately so I didn’t want to discourage him by saying no so we did a little negotiating and I promised him that we would make some on the weekend. He asked every single day if it was the weekend yet. The kid doesn’t forget anything. So finally when Saturday rolled around it was time and he was over the top excited. Like couldn’t stop moving or talking or dancing on the counters excited.

So we got to work mixing the flour and salt then made a well for the eggs.
Homemade Pasta 2
Homemade Pasta 1
Then he “lightly” (or as lightly as a 4 year old can) whisked the eggs in the well.
Homemade Pasta 3
And started to pull in the flour from the sides of the well and mixed until a shaggy dough was formed.
Homemade Pasta
Then it was time to knead the dough. I lost him for awhile on this one since it was “boring” and he doesn’t like to get dirty (he gets that from his mama, kneading is the worst). Slowly add in water as needed for the dough to come together. Then cover and let it rest for 15 minutes.
Homemade Pasta 4
We then divided the dough into 6 pieces and rolled them out starting with the lowest (thickest) setting and continued to smaller settings until we reached the desired thickness.
Homemade Pasta 5
Homemade Pasta 8
Homemade Pasta 6
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Then, what he was most excited about, we cut the pasta using the fettuccine attachment.
Homemade Pasta 9
Homemade Pasta 11
Although the process takes a little bit of time and planning, it probably took us about an hour, the end result is definitely worth it. And keep in mind I had an active 4 year old helping me which added some time.

Plus, I got to check off another item on my Top 100 (I admit I’ve made fresh pasta before but have never photographed and shared it here). I’ve kind of neglected the list lately so it was nice to have accomplished something there. We may just have to start fresh pasta Saturday’s around here.

Homemade Pasta
serves 4-6

3 1/2 cups flour
1/4 tsp. salt
4 eggs

1. Mix flour and salt then make a mound and make a well in the center.

2. Crack eggs in well then whisk lightly. Slowly pull in flour from the well walls until a shaggy dough is formed.

3. Knead dough until smooth and elastic (5-7 minutes), adding water by the tablespoon if it’s dry. Then cover with clean towel and let rest 15 minutes.

4. Divide into 6 pieces, work with one piece at a time and keep remaining pieces covered. Flatten into a rectangle and pass through pasta roller on lowest setting, fold in half then pass through the roller another 2-3 times. Crank to next setting and pass through another 3-4 times, then again on the next setting. Lay on floured surface then cover with a towel. Proceed with remaining pieces. Switch to the pasta cutting attachment (we used fettuccine) and pass each pasta sheet through. Place cut pasta on a floured surface and cover with a towel while you complete the remaining pasta. Boil 2-3 minutes in salted water.

 

Pizza Stuffed Shells

IPizza Shells 2

How was your Valentine’s Day? I spent mine with my favorite 4 year old boy and it was so much fun. We went out to lunch then drove around town trying to find a bowling alley that didn’t have a high school bowling tournament going on. Apparently that’s the thing to do on Valentine’s weekend. We finally found a place and bowled a game and played some arcade games. I don’t often get to spend time alone with him so it made for a really special day. When we got home we made heart shaped pizza and watched a movie. The perfect way to spend the day with my love.

Speaking of pizza, it is hands down a favorite amongst my guys. They literally would eat it every single day if I let them. And we may have this weekend but that’s beside the point. I like pizza as much as the next guy but my favorite carb comes in the form of pasta. When I think of the hardest food for me to give up, it’s always a toss up between pasta or cheese. Either one would be pretty disastrous in my world.
Pizza Shells 1
These shells are stuffed with ricotta and diced pepperoni then smothered in a quick homemade marinara and sprinkled with mozzarella cheese. They can be filled with any of your favorite toppings to create your favorite pizza in pasta form. Although we love our traditional stuffed shells, I have to say these are even better. This dish comes together pretty quickly for an easy weeknight meal and you could even double the recipe and freeze half for another time. Who knew combining our favorite carbs would be so so good?

Pizza Stuffed Shells

For quick marinara:
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, finely minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 oz. tomato sauce
3 oz. tomato paste
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1 1/4 cup water
1/2 Tbsp. sugar

12 pasta shells, cooked al dente
15 oz. part skim ricotta
1 egg
2 Tbsp. parsley, minced
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 oz. diced pepperoni
1 cup shredded mozzarella

1. Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until softened and translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook another minute. Add in the remaining marinara ingredients and simmer for 30 minutes. Puree, if desired.

2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a small mixing bowl, combine ricotta, egg, parsley, parmesan, salt, pepper and pepperoni. Divide filling evenly between the shells.

3. Spread a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of a 9×9 pan and place shells in pan. Ladle 1 cup of sauce over the shells and top with mozzarella. Cover loosely with foil and bake for 10 minutes. Remove foil then bake for another 15 minutes.

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Spaghetti and Meatballs 4
Noah had his first day of preschool a couple weeks ago and we did lots to celebrate the big day. It mostly revolved around food because that’s how we roll around here. Big, fancy breakfast, out to his choice of restaurant for lunch (HuHot of course) and his request of spaghetti and meatballs with bell peppers for dinner.
Spaghetti and Meatballs 1
I have a meatball recipe I usually go to for spaghetti but I thought I would switch it up and try something different. I’ve always wanted to try the combination of beef and pork for meatballs so I went on the search and decided on an Ina Garten recipe since you can’t really go wrong with anything she makes. I did adapt the recipe to make them clean by switching white bread for whole grain and using only olive oil to cook them in. Still super delicious and I couldn’t tell the difference. I also opted to make my favorite spaghetti sauce rather than the recipe she included.
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This recipe makes a lot so you can cook them through step 2 then cool and freeze them. Or just wait until next week for a delicious way to use the leftovers.

Ina Garten’s Meatballs
recipe adapted from Ina Garten

1 lb. ground beef
1 lb. ground pork
1 cup fresh whole grain bread crumbs (4 slices, crusts removed)
1/4 cup seasoned dry whole grain bread crumbs
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 extra-large egg, beaten
Olive oil
Sicilian Spaghetti Sauce (prepared without the ground meat)*
Hot cooked whole wheat noodles

1. Place the ground meats, both bread crumbs, parsley, Parmesan, salt, pepper, nutmeg, egg, and 3/4 cup warm water in a bowl. Combine very lightly with a fork. Using your hands, lightly form the mixture into 1-inch meatballs. You will have30 to 32 meatballs.

2. Pour  olive oil into a large (12-inch) skillet to a depth of 1/4-inch. Heat the oil. Very carefully, in batches, place the meatballs in the oil and brown them well on all sides over medium-low heat, turning carefully with a spatula or a fork. This should take about 10 minutes for each batch. Don’t crowd the meatballs. Remove the meatballs to a plate covered with paper towels.

3. Place meatballs in spaghetti sauce and simmer for 30 minutes, or until co0ked through.

*I subbed 3 tablespoons organic cane juice for the 1/4 cup sugar in the sauce to keep it clean.

Veggie Lo Mein

Veggie Lo Mein 4
When Joel is out of town or has to work late, I almost always make some kind of version of this. Whether it’s all veggies or chicken and broccoli, it’s always my go to meal. He’s not a big veggie guy if you guys haven’t figured that out by now.
Veggie Lo Mein 5
This is quick and easy to make while making sure your 3 year old isn’t throwing a baseball in the house and the baby isn’t crawling up the stairs or chewing on cords. Not that I know from experience or anything.
Veggie Lo Mein 3
Since I’ve always preferred pasta over rice, lo mein is far superior to fried rice in my book. And this is so filling it’s a meal in itself. Perfect for those crazy, busy summer days!
Veggie Lo Mein 1
Veggie Lo Mein
recipe adapted from Chinese Food DIY

6 ounces vermicelli, uncooked
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3-5 cups chopped bok choy (I couldn’t find any so I used cabbage mix)
1 cup low sodium fat free chicken broth
2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1/2 cup coarsely shredded carrot
1/4 cup chopped green onion
Additional low sodium soy sauce

1. Cook pasta 1 minute less than package directions.

2. Meanwhile, heat a wok or nonstick skillet over medium-high heat then coat with cooking spray. Add sesame oil, garlic and bok choy and stir fry for 2 minutes. Add chicken broth, soy sauce and crushed red pepper and stir fry 1 more minute. Add carrot and stir fry another minute.

3. Stir in pasta and cook for a minute until thoroughly combined and heated through. Add more soy sauce if desired.
Veggie Lo Mein 2