Leftover Masterpiece – Pappardelle with Peperonata & Chicken Meatballs

I am not a creative cook, by any means. I follow recipes. I leave the recipe creation to people who have actual talent, like Ina Garten or Tyler Florence or Deb Perelman. Once in awhile, however, I happen upon a creation of my own and this week’s is worth tooting my horn. Toot toot!

It started with leftovers from the Pi Phi Christmas Party, I had a good amount of baked chicken meatballs and pureed peperonata in my refrigerator and I thought to myself, “Self, this would be darn tasty served over some pasta”. Well, I was right. I boiled up some pappardelle, tossed it all together and topped with grated pecorino romano. It was a little bowl of heaven. So nice to have a change of pace from a typical red sauce and the peperonata is flavorful, colorful and just delicious.

Pappardelle with Peperonata & Chicken Meatballs

Chicken Meatballs (adapted slightly from Smitten Kitchen)

  • 3 slices Italian bread, torn into small bits (1 cup)
  • 1/3 cup milk 3 ounces sliced pancetta, finely chopped
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 400°F with a rack in the upper third of the oven. Soak bread in milk in a small bowl until softened, about four minutes.

Cook pancetta, onion, and garlic in one tablespoon oil with 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in a large skillet over medium heat until onion is softened, about 6 minutes. Cool slightly.

Squeeze bread to remove excess milk, then discard milk. Lightly beat egg in a large bowl, then combine with chicken, 1 tablespoon tomato paste, pancetta mixture, bread, 1/2 t salt and parsley. Form 12 meatballs and arrange in a 4-sided sheet pan (I used a 9×13 roasting dish).

Bake in upper third of oven until meatballs are just cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes (though mine took a good 5 minutes longer).

Peperonata (adapted from Martha Stewart Living & Epicurious)

  • 3 large bell peppers, preferably 1 each orange, yellow, red – cut into strips
  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch strips
  • 1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
  • pinch sugar
  • 1 teaspoon red-wine vinegar
  • 1/8 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
  • salt & pepper

Heat oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and onions, and cook for about 2 minutes. Add pepper strips and sugar, and toss for 2 to 3 minutes. Cover pan, and turn heat to low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until peppers are very soft, 30 to 35 minutes.

Remove cover; raise heat to medium. Stir in vinegar, red pepper flakes, sugar, salt & pepper. Cook stirring often, until most of the liquid evaporates and peppers are nicely glazed, about 3 minutes. Add a little water, if necessary, to avoid scorching.

Let it cool a little and then throw it in the food processor to puree completely, so there are no large chunks. Boil 120z Pappardelle.

You can add the meatballs and sauce back into a pan to heat. Serve over pasta with fresh grated parmesan or pecorino romano. Deeeeeeelish.

Smitten Kitchen Meatballs & Spaghetti

Today wasn’t the best day. But we all have those, right? My bf Jen suggested I throw myself into a cooking project and that sounded like just the ticket. I asked Oliver what he wanted to eat, because the worst is when I do one of these projects and he won’t touch it. He said pasta. OK! Pasta it is! I wanted to make something I hadn’t made before and looked to one of my food inspirations, Smitten Kitchen. I settled on Meatballs and Spaghetti and spent the last 1.5 hours chopping, hand-rolling and pan-frying meatballs and making marinara. I absolutely love to cook as it is so soothing/relaxing. I am not a meditator. My brain doesn’t shut down. This is the closest I get.

Deb Perelman (aka Smitten Kitchen) adapted her recipe from Ina Garten and I just straight up copied Deb’s version. I like to trust those who know how to get it done, rather than experimenting. It was soooooo good. A little time consuming to make the meatballs, but well worth it! Smitten Kitchen never does me wrong.

Meatballs and Spaghetti – Smitten Kitchen (Adapted liberally from Ina Garten)

Serves 6

For the meatballs:

  • 1/2 pound ground veal
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 1/4 cups fresh white bread crumbs (about 5 slices, crusts removed)
  • 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, or more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 extra-large egg, beaten
  • Vegetable oil and Olive oil

For the sauce:

  • 2 tablespoon good olive oil
  • 2 cup chopped yellow onion (1 large onion)
  • 3 teaspoons minced garlic
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup good red wine
  • 1 (28-ounce) can pureed tomatoes
  • 1 (28-ounce) can chopped or diced tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For serving: 1 1/2 pounds spaghetti, cooked according to package directions. Freshly grated Parmesan

Make the meatballs: Place the ground meats, bread crumbs, parsley, Parmesan, salt, pepper, onion powder, egg, and 3/4 cup warm water in a bowl. Combine very lightly with a fork. Using your hands, lightly form the mixture into 2-inch meatballs. You will have 14 to 16 meatballs. (Or perhaps 24, which is what I ended up with. I’m sorry I cannot give you a more precise measure; I am sure your amount will fall somewhere in the middle.)

Pour equal amounts of vegetable oil and 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. Discard the oil but don’t clean the pan.

Make the sauce: Heat the olive oil in the same pan. Add the onion and saute over medium heat until translucent, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, and cook for 1 more minute. Add the wine and cook on high heat, scraping up all the brown bits in the pan, until almost all the liquid evaporates, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, parsley, salt, and pepper.

Return the meatballs to the sauce, cover, and simmer on the lowest heat for 25 to 30 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through. (The good news is that if, say, you’re still waiting for your pot of water to boil for the spaghetti when the meatballs are ready, it’s hard to overcook these. I ended up simmering ours a whole extra 20 to 30 minutes, and they were not in the least dried out. Heaven!)

Serve hot on cooked spaghetti and pass the grated Parmesan.

Chicken Noodle Soup

It’s Monday, I’m back at work, and I know I’ve made something good when I’m counting down the minutes until I can heat up my leftovers for lunch. Yesterday I made Tyler Florence’s Chicken Noodle Soup and made the stock as well. I think his recipes generally rule, btw. If you’ve never made your own stock, don’t be intimidated! This is the recipe to try it out with. Super easy, seriously, super easy – so delicious. I followed this to a tee and it turned out perfectly.

Chicken Noodle Soup – courtesy of Tyler Florence

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 medium carrots, cut diagonally into 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • 2 celery ribs, halved lengthwise, and cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • 4 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 quarts chicken stock, recipe follows
  • 8 ounces dried wide egg noodles
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cooked chicken
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

Directions

Place a soup pot over medium heat and coat with the oil. Add the onion, garlic, carrots, celery, thyme and bay leaf. Cook and stir for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables are softened but not browned. Pour in the chicken stock and bring the liquid to a boil. Add the noodles and simmer for 5 minutes until tender. Fold in the chicken, and continue to simmer for another couple of minutes to heat through; season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with chopped parsley before serving.

Chicken Stock – Yield: 2 quarts

  • 1 whole free-range chicken (about 3 1/2 pounds), rinsed, giblets discarded
  • 2 carrots, cut in large chunks
  • 3 celery stalks, cut in large chunks
  • 2 large white onions, quartered
  • 1 head of garlic, halved
  • 1 turnip, halved
  • 1/4 bunch fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

Place the chicken and vegetables in a large stockpot over medium heat. Pour in only enough cold water to cover (about 3 quarts); too much will make the broth taste weak. Toss in the thyme, bay leaves, and peppercorns, and allow it to slowly come to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-low and gently simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, partially covered, until the chicken is done. As it cooks, skim any impurities that rise to the surface; add a little more water if necessary to keep the chicken covered while simmering.

Carefully remove the chicken to a cutting board. When its cool enough to handle, discard the skin and bones; hand-shred the meat into a storage container.

Carefully strain the stock through a fine sieve into another pot to remove the vegetable solids. Use the stock immediately or if you plan on storing it, place the pot in a sink full of ice water and stir to cool down the stock. Cover and refrigerate for up to one week or freeze.

Everyone should have a go-to Chicken Noodle Soup recipe and now you do. You’re welcome!  Happy Monday!

Chili Con Carne Con Amigos

Cooking with a friend is something I don’t get to experience much these days, but I have to say it is one of my favorite things, such a treat. Let me back up – my friend Jen (Eating & Drinking in Ptown) and her boyfriend Nick came for a visit this weekend and we had such a blast. We got dressed up for a Halloween party on Saturday night and whooped it up with a big group of friends. There was some karaoke, some dancing, lots of laughing, cocktails galore and awesome costumes.

The next morning wasn’t pretty. I never go to bed with a messy kitchen, but above pic is how it stayed until Nick cleaned it up at around 3pm (thanks Nick!). Dim Sum and a slice at Pagliacci helped us get it together and then we had to tackle the dinner menu as we were having our other best friend Farrah and her family over for dinner. Cold fall day, nursing a little bit of a hangover, nothing better than a big ‘ole pot of chili. We wanted to make enough for the nine of us (5 adults & 4 kiddos) and have leftovers, so that meant a huge batch!  I love to cook, but cooking with my best friend along side me in the kitchen with me was such a delight. BONUS – she has some awesome cooking tips I want to share (she went to the French Culinary Institute in NYC and is a pretty amazing cook).

Chili Con Carne Con Amigos – serves 8 with leftovers

Ingredients

  • 3lbs lean ground beef (85%/15% – a little fat is good for chili)
  • 2 medium yellow onions, chopped
  • 1 head garlic, chopped
  • 4 cans kidney beans, drained
  • 2 cans black beans, drained
  • 1 16oz bottle of beer (something hoppy)
  • 1 can crushed San Marzano tomatoes
  • 1 can whole San Marzano tomatoes with juice
  • Cumin to taste
  • Chili Powder to taste
  • Cholula (or other hot sauce) to taste
  • Salt & Pepper

Directions

  1. In a very large pot, brown ground beef in enough oil to coat the pan, seasoning the meat with salt & pepper
  2. Once beef is no longer pink, transfer to a plate with a slotted spoon and drain the fat drippings, but leave enough to sautee the onions and garlic
  3. Sautee onions until soft, then add in the garlic – make sure there is enough liquid so nothing burns, we had to add in some of the tomato juice from the whole tomatoes after a bit
  4. Stir in cumin (at least 4T) and chili powder to taste (at least 2T)
  5. Add tomatoes, breaking up the whole tomatoes with your hands (but careful not to let them squirt all over your shirt, like I did, grrrrr)
  6. Add meat back in, pour in the beer, and shake in a healthy dose of Cholula
  7. Stir together and cook on low for at least one hour, tasting along the way and finding your balance of cumin, chili powder, Cholula, salt & pepper
  8. Garnish with avocado, sliced radishes, grated cheese and sour cream

We served with cornbread and a simple arugula and shaved pecorino salad with an olive oil, fresh lemon juice, salt & pepper dressing. Deeeeeeelicious. That was pretty much the perfect weekend in my book, full of friends, food, wine and laughing!

I miss my houseguests already, but at least I get to go home to some really good leftovers. And stay tuned for my first guest blogger – Jen will be stepping in for a post or two while I’m on vacation in Mexico next week!