Easy Pasta Sauce

We just threw this sauce together tonight for a pasta dinner. My boys loved it. Normally I’m pretty good with measuring quantities of spices, but this time we did just add a little of this and a little of that. So add your spices to taste and enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 5 – 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 15-oz can tomato sauce
  • 1/3 cup red wine (Whatever is on hand, I used a red blend)
  • salt to taste
  • pepper to taste
  • ½ to 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • black olives, chopped – to taste (I used about ½ of a can)

Directions

Heat large (deep) skillet over medium-high heat. Add EVOO, garlic, and onion, cook until onion is soft – about five minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the rest of the ingredients to the pan. Reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring occasionally. Serve over your favorite pasta.

Taco Casserole

We decided to try a taco casserole last night. I had a few recipes I looked at for the basics. Here’s what we came up with. My boys loved this twist on our usual taco night.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • ½ yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes and green chiles
  • 3 tablespoons taco seasoning
  • tortilla chips
  • ½ green bell pepper, chopped
  • ½ red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 bunch green onions, sliced (divided in half)
  • 2 – 3 roma tomatoes, chopped (divided in half)
  • 2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese (8 oz)
  • ½ cup sliced black olives, plus more for topping
  • shredded lettuce
  • sour cream (optional)
  • avocado (optional)

Directions

Heat oven to 350°. In a large skillet, cook beef and yellow onion over medium-high heat until the beef is browned and cooked through (about 7 minutes). Drain. Add beans, canned tomatoes/green chiles, and taco seasoning. Reduce heat to medium, and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 5 – 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In an ungreased casserole dish (mine was approx 9 x 13), layer the bottom with roughly broken tortilla chips. Top with the beef mixture. Sprinkle the bell peppers, half the green onion, half the diced tomato, and the ½ cup of olives. Cover with cheese.

Bake uncovered 20 – 30 minutes, until hot and the cheese is melted. Top the baked casserole with lettuce and the remaining green onions, diced tomatoes, olives, and a little more broken tortilla chips. Serve with sour cream and avocado.

Note: Not sure how many tortilla chips we used. I just broke them right into the casserole dish, lining the bottom. I had about ¼” to ½” of a layer on the bottom, it made a nice crust. I didn’t add too many additional chips to the top.

Easy Beef Chili

We love to cook soups, stews, and chili in the winter. I have a meatless chili that my husband and I have enjoyed for years. Last winter, my boys wanted to eat chili, but weren’t interested in all those veggies. Here’s what we came up with. I got the basics from The Pioneer Woman, and then we added our own spin.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • Two 14.5-oz cans crushed tomatoes
  • One 8-oz can tomato sauce
  • 2/3 cup Guinness beer
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground oregano
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon Tobasco sauce (could use cayenne pepper)
  • One 15-oz can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • One 15-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed

Toppings

  • Shredded cheddar
  • Tortilla chips
  • Lime wedges
  • Sour cream

Directions

I used a big dutch oven to cook this. Put in the ground beef, onion, and garlic; cook over medium heat until browned. Drain off excess fat, then add the crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, Guinness, and spices. Cover, reduce heat to low. Simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally. If the chili looks too think, you can add water. Finally, add the beans and simmer another 30 minutes. Serve in individual bowls, topped with any desired toppings. Delicious with corn bread or beer bread.

Bolognese Sauce

Recipe Purge, #3! This one is from an ad I received trying to lure me into another magazine subscription. Ha! If they only knew my magazine pile and my husband’s frustration of said magazine pile, they would know I’m not about to commit to another magazine. I don’t think.

*Edit: I am making this tonight and it smells so good! I have modified a bit by adding red wine and reducing the water. Also some modifications at the end. I would say adding the parm cheese and butter to the sauce is optional. I liked it better before this addition. Next time we will skip this step. We made a pound of pasta with 4 cups of sauce (and froze 5 cups of sauce). I think it could use a little more sauce; next time I’ll freeze less. Otherwise delicious!

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground beef (85% lean)
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 carrot, shredded
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt & ground black pepper to taste
  • 42 ounces canned crushed tomatoes
  • ½ cup red wine
  • 1¾ cups water
  • 8 to 10 ounces dried or fresh pasta
  • 1 tablespoon butter (optional)
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional), plus extra for serving.

Heat a large skillet (or large covered pot) over high heat. Stir in the beef, onion, garlic, and carrot. (If not using nonstick cookware, add 2 tablespoons EVOO when browning meat.) Cook and stir until beef is crumbly, evenly browned, and no longer pink. Drain and discard any excess grease. Stir in the spices. Add the tomatoes, wine,  and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and continue to simmer for 1 to 1½ hours. Discard bay leaf. Pour all but 2 cups of the sauce in an airtight container and freeze for future use. (total yield will be about 8 – 9 cups)

Cook pasta according to package directions and drain.

If desired, stir butter and Parmesan cheese into reserved 2 cups of sauce over medium heat.

Stir noodles into sauce, and toss until pasta is well coated. Serve in large bowls with more Parmesan cheese.

Caprese Salad

Caprese salad is an easy and delicious side, and even better when using tomatoes and basil from our garden.

My husband planted some tomatoes and basil in our garden this year. Last night he harvested some beautiful tomatoes. I happened to have bought some fresh mozzarella at the store the other day, so we picked some basil and had a lovely Caprese salad with our meal.

Ingredients

  • Tomato, sliced
  • Fresh mozzarella, sliced
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Balsamic vinegar

Directions

The assembly on this is so simple; just layer a slice of tomato, a basil leaf, and a slice of mozzarella. Arrange your tomato layers on a plate, and drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Perfection.

Messy Giuseppes (Sloppy Joe’s Italian Cousin)

This recipe is courtesy of Rachael Ray, from the 16 January 2007 Rachael Ray Show. Our family really enjoys Messy Giuseppes; in fact, we had them last night, and they were delish!

Messy Giuseppe – Sloppy Joe’s Italian Cousin

I mostly follow Rachael’s recipe, just a few modifications. It does call for ground sirloin; we have subbed in ground turkey (and veggie broth) before and that was good too. A meat substitute and veggie broth could be used for a vegetarian dish. Also, you can just make the bread at the end for a great cheesy garlic bread to serve with something else.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 1 pound ground, 90 percent lean sirloin [Can use ground turkey or meat substitute]
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 5 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 medium portobello mushroom cap, finely chopped [We don’t like mushrooms, so I sub a red pepper instead]
  • 1/8 teaspoon (eyeball it) allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • Coarse salt and black pepper
  • 1/2 cup (a couple of glugs) red wine
  • 3/4 cup beef stock [We use vegetable broth, we like the taste better]
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup (a generous handful) flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 5-8 fresh basil leaves, about 1/4 cup, chopped
  • 1/4 cup (a small handful) grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Romano cheese
  • 4 individual ciabatta rolls or any kind of crusty hoagie rolls
  • 1 ball fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 8 slices

Directions

For the meat sauce, heat a deep skillet or a heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat with 2 tablespoons of EVOO, twice around the pan. Add the ground beef and cook until lightly browned, breaking up the meat with the back of a wooden spoon. Add green pepper, onion, ¾ of the garlic, mushrooms, allspice, red pepper flakes and a little salt and pepper to the beef and cook for about 5-8 minutes.

Add the wine and cook another minute then add the beef stock, Worcestershire and tomatoes. Bring the mixture up to a bubble, reduce the heat to medium-low and gently simmer for 10 minutes. Finish it by stirring in a handful of chopped parsley.[Maybe it’s because I don’t use mushrooms, but our beef mixture still has a lot of liquid at this point. I simmer for longer until it thickens up more.]

While the meat is simmering, combine the remaining garlic with the soft butter, basil, parmesan cheese and a little salt and pepper in a mixing bowl. Split the rolls in half lengthwise without cutting all the way through and separating the halves. Press open the rolls by flattening them out a little bit. Slather the insides with the butter and place 2 slices of the mozzarella on each roll. Toast until golden brown under the broiler, about 2-3 minutes. [We only do mozzarella on one half, leaving the other half with just the garlic butter. It is really good without the cheese!]

Top one side of the cheesy garlic rolls with a heap of meat and get prepared to get sloppy with Messy Giuseppe! [For me, this sandwich is too big to eat like this. I serve it open face, with the meat on both sides of the bread, and use a knife and fork instead.]

Fresh Salsa

A batch of fresh salsa.

UPDATE: I made this yesterday. It was good, but needed a little something. I added in juice from one lime, and that did it. I also think it could either use another tomato, or less on the peppers. Everyone enjoyed the salsa!

Saturday my son’s baseball game was cancelled due to weather, so we came home and randomly turned the TV on. We started watching a show called Restaurant: Impossible, and saw them make this salsa. It looks great; I can’t wait to try it. This recipe is in no way mine, but comes courtesy of Robert Irvine and the Food Network.

I could have sworn he added cubed avocado to this, but it’s not in the recipe. So if you feel adventurous, give that a try. I am also thinking of trying it as a pico de gallo and leaving out the tomato juice.

Ingredients

  • 4 green onions, diced
  • 3 medium vine-ripe red tomatoes, diced [I would use four tomatoes]
  • 2 jalapenos, seeded & diced (the more membrane you leave in, the hotter the salsa)
  • 1 medium green pepper, diced
  • ¼ cup diced red onion
  • ½ bunch fresh cilantro, minced
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • 6 ounces tomato juice
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • [Juice from one lime]

Directions

Combine green onions, tomatoes, jalapenos, and green peppers. Add the red onions. Mince the cilantro and add to the vegetables. Add the vinegar and finish with the tomato juice [and add lime juice here, too]. Season with salt and pepper. Chill before serving.