Chicken Parmesan Meatballs in Tomato Cream Sauce

 These meatballs are so tasty, you definitely will not miss the beef.  They are so moist, and absolutely delectable in the tomato sauce and topped by the cheese.  Real comfort food for a cold winter night.

Ingredients

For the sauce: 

  • 1 (28 oz.) can whole plum tomatoes (Cento San Marzano Organic in puree is my first choice)
  • 11/2 tbsp. butter
  • ¼ cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 tbsp. organic tomato paste
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp. red pepper flakes
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream

For the meatballs: 

  • 3/4 cup panko
  • 3/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 lbs. ground chicken
  • 2 1/2  tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. tomato paste

To finish: 

  • 4-8 oz. shredded mozzarella
  • 2 tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan
  • 2-3 tbsp. minced fresh basil (optional)

 

Instructions:

  •  Puree tomatoes in food processor until smooth, reserving puree.   Melt the butter in a 2-3 qt. pot and saute onion and garlic till translucent, adding red pepper flakes.  Stir in the tomato paste, and mix for a minute.  Stir in tomato puree and reserved puree in can, add salt and pepper, lower the flame, and simmer for about 10 min.  Take off heat, and add the cream. Set aside.
  • To make the meatballs, combine the ground chicken, panko, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, eggs, and tomato paste.  Stir together with a fork just until blended.   With wet hands, form the mixture into meatballs about 1½-inch in diameter.
  • In large nonstick pan, pour about 2-3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, and heat.  Add meatballs, and brown on all sides.  Sprinkle with a little kosher salt as they saute.  Pour tomato sauce in bottom of baking dish.  Add meatballs on top.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and mozzarella and refrigerate until ready to serve.  Then  heat the oven to 400? F.   Put covered baking dish in oven for about 45 min.  Take cover off, put broiler on and broil till cheese browns for about 5-8 min.  Garnish with fresh basil if desired.
  • Serve with pasta or plain with good Italian bread.

Baked Penne with Marinara, Parmesan, Mozzarella, and Miniature Meatballs

I wanted to make a baked pasta dish and add my homemade meatballs, so I came up with this very easy recipe.  I was thrilled when my daughter told me how much she loved the dish.  I decided to omit ricotta cheese from the dish, and I was glad.  I thought it came out perfect without it.

Ingredients:

1 lb. penne or ziti, whole wheat or not

1 lb. or a little more of grated mozzarella (I used Whole Foods part skim)

about 1/2 cup grated parmesan

about 1 qt. marinara sauce (I used jarred)

about 1 teaspoon fresh thyme if you happen to have it

a sprinkling of crushed red pepper flakes, if you like the heat

for the meatballs:

1 lb. grass fed or organic ground beef, 85% fat

about 1/3 cup ketchup

1 large egg

abut 1/3 cup whole wheat bread crumbs or white ones

kosher salt, pepper, garlic powder

make the meatballs:

In a mixing bowl, gently mix the ground beef, ketchup, 1 egg, about 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, about 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, and the bread crumbs.  I use my hands to mix gently.  Then form little meatballs- a little less than 1 inch in diameter.  Put about 2 tablespoons light olive oil or canola oil in nonstick saute pan and heat.  Gently place meatballs in pan and brown only very lightly on all sides.  Pour marinara sauce in a saucepan, and gently place drained meatballs in sauce.  Add the thyme if using as well as red pepper flakes, and simmer covered over low flame about 10 or 15 min.  Turn heat off.

for the assembly:

Cook pasta in boiling salted water till al dente.  Drain in colander. In 9 by 13 rectangular or oval baking dish, spoon a little sauce in pan to coat bottom.  Put a nice layer of noodles to cover bottom of pan.  Spoon about 1/3 of sauce and meatballs over the noodles.  Sprinkle with parmesan and about 1/3 of grated mozzarella.  Put another 1/3 of noodles on top, 1/3 of sauce and meatballs, parmesan, and 1/3 of mozzarella.  Spread last 1/3 of noodles, the rest of the sauce and meatballs, parmesan, and rest of mozzarella.

Either put in fridge to bake later, or bake right away.  From the fridge, it will take about 1 hour at 375 degrees.  If you are baking it immediately, it might only take 30 minutes for it to get nice and bubbly.

My New Chicken Cutlets

I made this recipe three times, and the flavors are really great.  My daughter Randi loved the chicken, so I’m sold.

1 1/2 pounds organic chicken cutlets

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil mixed with 1 large or 2 medium garlic cloves grated

pinch kosher salt

pinch of red pepper flakes

sprinkling of dried oregano

about 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese mixed with about 1 cup Italian bread crumbs with a few twists of freshly grated black pepper

Put the chicken cutlets in the oil and garlic mixture with the salt, red pepper, and oregano.  Then dredge in the bread crumbs and cheese mixture.

At this point, you can fry the cutlets, or bake them.  If you bake them, you have to bake them at a high temperature to brown them.  I fried them, and that worked out well.

Fastastic Italian Broccoli Or Asparagus With Seasoned Breadcrumbs and Romano Cheese

My friend Lisa gave me this fabulous recipe that her grandmother had made.  I have now made this every week since she gave it to me for my daughter and her family.  This recipe reminds me of the flavors you get with chicken or shrimp oreganata- very tasty and satisfying.  When Lisa gave me the recipe, she told me that she had discovered that when her daughter was really little, she actually liked eating broccoli because, I guess it was disguised by delicious flavors.  So it turned out that my grandson Noah also loved the broccoli this way.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t convince my son Danny to give it a try- that’s how much he hates broccoli anything.  But what makes this such a great recipe is that it is very substantial, and you don’t need as much of your main course, because this is just so amazing and very filling too! Thanks Lisa for sharing this recipe of your grandma’s with me!

As much broccoli or asparagus as you wish (I usually buy about 2 pounds of organic)

Italian seasoned bread crumbs

shredded Romano cheese

garlic powder, black pepper, kosher salt, dried parsley flakes

extra virgin olive oil for drizzling

Cut about 1 inch off the bottoms of the broccoli or asparagus, rinse with cold water to wash.  Boil a large pot of water.  Then drop broccoli into boiling water, and boil for 5 minutes.  Dump into collander and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. 

Put oven on broil, and put oven rack about 8 inches from the heat element.  Dump broccoli on sheet pan covered with foil in single layer.  Sprinkle with kosher salt, garlic powder, black pepper.  Sprinkle bread crumbs heavily over all.  Then sprinkle parsley flakes over all.  Then sprinkle shredded Romano generously over all.  Give another sprinkling of black pepper, and drizzle with olive oil.  Place under the broiler for about 5 -7 minutes till nicely browned, but not burned.   

Do the same with asparagus.

Roasted Vegetable Parmesan

I am always looking for great vegetable main courses to cook for my daughter, her husband, and my grandson.  I was talking to a  lovely coworker of mine, Cheryl, who loves to cook, and she gave me this recipe that she makes for her family. I tried it today, and brought it over to my daughter’s house, and everybody loved it.  My 2 year old grandson Noah said, “Mommy, I do like tomatoes!”  when he tasted the dish.  My daughter really liked it too- I think she ate at least half of the entire gratin. The dish tastes delicious, yet it’s pretty healthy, which works out perfectly. 

  • 1 largish eggplant
  • 10 oz. white or baby bella mushrooms (I used white), washed and sliced 1/4 in.
  • 1 large or 2 small zucchini, sliced 1/4 in.
  • 5 plum tomatoes, sliced in 1/4 in.
  • Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • kosher salt, black pepper, dried oregano, olive oil
  • about 8 oz. grated mozzarella cheese, whole milk or part skim
  • about 1/3 cup coarsely grated romano or parmesan cheese
  • about 1 cup of marinara sauce- good jarred is fine

On a half sheet pan, drizzle a little olive oil to grease.  Place eggplant slices and zucchini slices in one layer.  Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle lightly with bread crumbs.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Place in oven for about 15 min.  Put under the broiler at the end to brown a little more.  If you have a second sheet pan, you can do the other veggies at the same time.  Drizzle a little oil on bottom of pan.  Place mushrooms in one layer on half of the pan.  Sprinkle with the chopped garlic, a light sprinkling of salt, pepper, the bread crumbs, and then drizzle with olive oil.  On the other half of the sheet pan, put the slices of tomatoes in one layer.  Sprinkle them with salt, pepper, and drizzle with olive oil lightly.  I found that even after these cooked for about 10 min, they weren’t brown enough, so I turned the heat to 450 to get the mushroom browning and the tomatoes roasting the way I like- probably for 10 or so more minutes. 

In a 9 by 13 or oval baking dish, pour about 1/4 cup of marinara sauce on the bottom of the dish to coat.  Place the eggplant and zucchini slices on bottom, then put the roasted tomatoes, and then the mushrooms evenly on top of the eggplant and zucchini, sprinkle with about 1/2 teaspoon of oregano, then sprinkle about half of the mozzarella over all, then the romano cheese, then spoon about 3/4 cup more of marinara sauce over- it won’t totally cover, then sprinkle the rest of the mozzarella cheese over all.

You can cover and refrigerate this until you are ready to bake it.  Then preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Bake uncovered for about 30 min – 40 min, till bubbly around edges and cheese is melted.  Then put under the broiler for about 5 minutes, just until the cheese starts to brown.  Serve.

Fresh And Tasty Garlic Bread

I made my shrimp scampi with spaghetti last night for dinner for my son Danny, my mother Shirley, and for Danny’s friend Emily.  To go with it, I made a great salad with my lemon vinaigrette, and garlic bread.  Here is what I did for the garlic bread.

  • 1 long Italian bread, cut in half horizontally
  • about 1 stick of butter, softened, or what I used – about 4 oz. of Land o’Lakes canola butter spread
  • about 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • about 2-3 tablespoons chopped finely or crushed fresh garlic

Spread softened butter or butter spread on both cut sides of bread.  Sprinkle garlic evenly over both.  Then sprinkle the chopped parsley over.  Rip off a large sheet of aluminum foil.  Place both halves of bread on sheet, side by side.  Wrap foil over and seal on top tightly.  Cook for about 20 min. at 375 or 400 degrees.  Then uncover and let cook another 5-10 min.  just to start browning around the edges.  Cut into pieces and serve.

Really Easy Marinara Sauce

This sauce is a breeze to make, and you can use it for your homemade pizza, as a sauce for eggplant parm, or just over pasta.

  • 2 28 oz. cans crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin or light olive oil
  • lots of fresh garlic- maybe 6-8 cloves finely chopped
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon light brown sugar (optional)

In saucepan over medium flame, heat oil, add garlic and crushed red pepper flakes, and saute till garlic is translucent.  Add crushed tomatoes, salt, and pepper, and simmer covered over low flame for about 1 hour.  Re-season as needed.  

Whole Wheat Pizza Or Calzone

I have made whole wheat pizza dough a few times.  One recipe I have used is on kingarthurflour.com ; I use their whole wheat crust recipe in their pizza marguerita. But I use the King Arthur white whole wheat (organic) flour to make it.  I make my own quick tomato sauce. 

Pizza Sauce 

2 28 oz. cans of crushed tomatoes

4 garlic cloves

1/4 cup olive oil

red pepper flakes, kosher salt, a little fresh cracked black pepper, and 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon Herbes de Provence

1 teaspoon light brown sugar

In large saute pan with higher sides or in medium saucepan, put olive oil, and saute chopped garlic and about 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes in oil till garlic is translucent.  Add the tomatoes, salt, and pepper, and sugar.  Cover, and simmer over low flame for about 30 min.  During the cooking, add the Herbes de Provence.   

Dough (adapted from King Arthur Flour)
2 teaspoons instant yeast

1 1/2 cups warm water (100°F to 115°F)
2 tablespoons honey
3 1/2 -3 3/4 cups King Arthur 100% Organic White Whole Wheat Flour (I tried this also substituting 1 1/2 cups of flour with bread flour when I made the recipe for calzones) 
1 tablespoon vital wheat gluten (I don’t use)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 425°F. To make the dough: Stir together the yeast, water, honey, and 1 cup of the flour in a large mixing bowl, in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Cover the mixture and let it stand for 30 minutes; it’ll be foamy and  soupy.

Add 2 cups of the remaining flour, the vital wheat gluten if using, and the salt to the yeast mixture, along with the olive oil .  Mix and knead the dough-by hand, mixer, or bread machine-for about 5 minutes, adding more flour as necessary to make a smooth elastic dough. Place it in a lightly greased bowl, cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, and allow the dough to rise for at least 2 hours in a warm spot, or until it’s doubled in size .  I like to gently punch it down and let it rise a second time.  I don’t always do this, but if I have time, I like to.  When dough has risen again, gently punch down.  Put on  cutting board and divide it into fourths, thirds, or halves.  Wrap each disc in plastic wrap, and then put in ziploc bags either in fridge if using within a day, or in the freezer.  

Roll out on parchment paper about 1/4  inch thick.  Lift off parchment paper, and sprinkle same paper with cornmeal.  Place rolled out dough on top of cornmeal.  Spoon sauce over.  Sprinkle with oregano and red pepper flakes.  Then sprinkle with mozzerella.  Bake in 425 degree oven for 18-20 minutes until crust is nicely browned on bottom. Cut into pieces and serve.

For the calzone:

Roll disc into a circle about 1/4 inch thick.  Then spoon some sauce on one half of the circle, leaving a 1 inch border with no sauce.  Place any toppings on top of sauce, such as sauteed mushrooms, sauteed broccoli, sauteed spinach.  Then sprinkle grated mozzarella generously on top.  Take the other half of circle and cover the other half with it.  Then crimp the dough so the filling will not come out during the cooking.  Cut a few slits in the top.  Bake at 450 degrees about 18 to 20 min. till hollow sounding and brown on the bottom.

Note for fillings of the calzone or topping of pizza:  I like to saute about 3-5 chopped cloves of garlic in a few tablespoons of olive oil.  Then saute either sliced mushrooms, fresh spinach, already blanched broccoli, or any other veggies such as  peppers in the pan with a sprinkling of kosher salt and cracked pepper.  

I also plan to use this recipe, which looks quite good, but I may  not get a chance since I like the one above so much:    

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

1 cup warm water (between 95º and 115º)
2 Tablespoons honey
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cup bread flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 US package) instant yeast 
1/2 teaspoon salt

Whisk together the honey, warm water, and oil in a small bowl. The water should be about 95 to 115°. It should feel very warm, but not hot.

Mix 1 cup bread flour and 1 cup whole wheat flour, yeast,  and salt in mixing bowl, using the paddle attachment, mix on low for about 30 seconds.

With the motor running on low, pour in the liquids. Continue mixing until a dough begins to form. Clean off paddle and switch to dough hook. Mix in the remaining cup of bread flour a little at a time, to make a moderately stiff dough. Adding more or less flour as needed.

Knead in your mixer for about 8-9 minutes, adding flour 1 tablespoon at a time if dough is too sticky.  The dough should completely clear the sides. 

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it a few times by hand, form the dough into a ball.  Place in a lightly oiled large mixing bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot until doubled in size- about one hour.  At this point, you can form into your discs, and cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until you are ready to use that day or the next, or you can freeze the discs in freezer bags. 

When you are ready to make, preheat oven to 450F. 

Take a disc, and place on a lightly floured surface (I often do this on a large piece of parchment paper).  Place rolling pin in center and push outward, rotating dough, continuing until dough is about 12 inches across.  Or you can stretch dough with your hands. Stop for a few seconds every minute or so to let dough relax.

Once dough is shaped, place on a large, heavy duty aluminum cookie sheet topped with parchment paper.  Sprinkle with some corn meal, place pizza round on top of corn meal, and top with sauce, cheese, a little oregano or crushed red pepper flakes if you wish, and any other toppings you like.

Bake 10-15 minutes or until crust is golden browned and cheese is brown and melted. Let cool 5 minutes before cutting.

Pizza Sauce
 

2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
1 (28 ounce) cans crushed tomatoes in rich puree or 1 can of tomato puree
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

In a small saucepan, sauté garlic in oil until tender. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until sauce reaches desired thickness.

Eggplant and Zucchini Gratin

This summer my daughter Randi reserves Thursdays to spend with me.  Yesterday was magnificent for me.  Randi and Noah (her 2 year old) came over in the morning.  We went to Holmdel Park with my son Danny, too.  Noah loved looking at and petting the sheep and then throwing stones in the pond.  Then I went home to cook, and Randi took Noah home for a nap.  Before Randi left, we decided on what I would make for dinner, I ran to the market, prepared this dish, then went back to Randi’s house with the food.  We went to the swim club for a great time with Randi’s friend Jessica and her beautiful daughter Maya.  I had the best time in the baby pool with them.  Noah had his first experience floating with a tube.  Then we went back to Randi’s house where I served this really yummy dish (I heated it up in the microwave).  I got the idea for this dish from watching an episode of “The Barefoot Contessa” where Ina Garten makes an eggplant gratin.  I changed a few things in her recipe, and I added zucchini, which really worked out well.  This recipe got the seal of approval from Randi, Noah, and Dan (my son-in-law), so I think I’ll be making this again.

  • 2 medium eggplant or 1 very large (I did not peel, but you may)
  • 1 very large zucchini or 2 medium-largish (I used 2)
  • 1/3 cup ricotta (I used whole milk, but you can use part skim)
  • 1/3 cup light cream or half and half, whatever you may  have around (I used light cream)
  • 1 large or extra large egg
  • 1/4 tsp. each kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper
  • about 10-11 oz. of  freshly ground in processor parmesan (I used Bel Gioioso), measure 1/3 cup, and reserve the remainder
  • about 15 oz. of homemade or jarred marinara sauce- that’s a little more than a half of a 26 oz. jar of sauce (I used Via Roma Marinara from the A&P)
  • light olive oil for cooking the eggplant and zucchini 
  • crushed red pepper flakes for serving, if desired

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 

Make custard.  In medium mixing bowl, mix cream, 1/3 cup parmesan, ricotta, egg, salt, pepper; set aside.

Slice washed eggplant and zucchini about 1/4 inch thick.  Heat a very large frying pan (I have a huge cast iron skillet that I used; otherwise, I would have used a very large nonstick pan.)  After pan is really hot, pour a very small amount of oil in pan, basically just to coat the pan.  Drop eggplant and zucchini slices in, brown quickly and then flip, and brown again.  Place on paper towels to drain.  Repeat with remaining eggplant and zucchini – or alternately, use a grill pan (I have one that fits over 2 burners, it’s really big- it’s a griddle on the reverse side).  Just brush both sides of eggplant and zucchini with light olive oil, and grill till nice grill marks form, then flip, and cook on other side.  There is no need to drain on paper towels, because veggies are not very greasy when grilled.  This method uses much less oil, and it probably produces a healthier dish with many less calories.  I used this method the second time I made the dish and I loved making the veggies this way, and I will do this in the future.  In a large oval baking dish- equivalent to a 9 by 13 in baking dish, put a layer of eggplant and zucchini, filling up as many spaces as possible, but in one layer.  You can cut the slices of zucchini to fill in all the spaces.   Then sprinkle generously with the 1/3 cup of grated parmesan.  Spoon all of the 15 oz. of marinara sauce evenly over veggies.  Then place another layer of the eggplant and zucchini over, using up all.  Sprinkle lightly with a bit of the reserved parmesan.  Spoon all of the custard evenly over, then sprinkle remaining parmesan evenly on top. 

Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 min.  Then change oven setting to low broil.  Place casserole in middle of oven, not too close to heat element.  Watch carefully and take out when top looks browned, but not burned.  Serve.

Note:  Use the smallest amount of oil if you are frying the veggies, because the more oil you use, the more will be absorbed by the vegetables, especially the eggplant.

Judy’s Chicken Cacciatore

I’ve made lots of versions of this, and I’ve never really used a recipe.  I made it this week for my daughter Randi and her baby, my amazing grandson, Noah.  They both really enjoyed so here it is.  The one thing I do differently is that I take all the chicken off the bone after it’s cooked and then I cut it up and put it back in the sauce.  It turns out to be more like a chicken stew.  Of course, you may keep it on the bone if you like.

  • 4 pounds of chicken pieces, seasoned on both sides with salt and pepper (I use only breasts – that’s about 5 – 6 breast pieces)
  • 1 28 oz can of good quality crushed tomatoes (or whole peeled tomatoes in thick puree) Best brand of crushed tomatoes is Sclafani or Jersey Best- the tomato product is amazing!
  • 8-12 oz. sliced mushrooms (I used baby bella this time)
  • 2 large red peppers, sliced
  • about 4 carrots, peeled and sliced in large chunks (optional- if you like to add more veggies, this works well)
  • about 10 oz. chicken broth or stock- buy organic or msg free
  • 4-6 tablespoons of dry white wine (optional)
  • 1 large onion, medium dice
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, chopped
  • olive oil
  • kosher salt, black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano or thyme (use fresh herbs if you have them), crushed red pepper flakes to taste, about 1/2 teaspoon (optional- if you like the heat- I can’t use it for the baby)

In a large deep frying pan, pour 1 tablespoon oil,  heat up, and then place seasoned breasts face down, brown, turn and cook another few minutes.  Take out and place on large plate.  Add a little more oil, and saute onions till just starting to brown- towards the end of cooking the onions, throw the garlic in and saute just till transluscent, take out.  Do same for sliced mushrooms, when browned, put on plate with onions.  Then saute peppers, till just soft, take out.

Now you are ready to put it all together.  If this pan is large enough, and has a cover you can cook it all in pan.  Otherwise, in a pot, put the chicken in, all the cooked vegetables, the can of crushed tomatoes or whole tomatoes with juice, the cut up carrots- if using, the chicken broth, the wine if using, oregano, any additional salt and pepper to taste.

Simmer covered over lowest flame for about 45-55 minutes. If you are serving right away, either cook rice or egg noodles, and then serve over.

I do something different at this point.  I  let the pot sit there at least 1 hour, covered, until the chicken has cooled down.  Then I take the chicken out.  I lift the entire breast off the bone, and then I cut the chicken into nice big chunks. I do this because my children never really learned to eat chicken on the bone.   I put the chicken back into the sauce.  Then I turn the flame on, put the cover back on, and I simmer over lowest flame for another 30 minutes to get the juice into the meat.  Then I either serve it, or let it cool and put it into quart containers for serving later in the week or for freezing.

Note:  I go to the butcher shop at my Foodtown, and I buy the chicken that has no antibiotics.  The chicken is more expensive, but it tastes so much better!