Spaghetti and Meatballs

spaghetti and meatballsEven though I love to try new recipes as often as possible, sometimes I really just want to eat something homey and familiar, like spaghetti and meatballs. It does take a little time, but it’s worth it for the delicious flavor, and a lot of the time is just simmering, so you can do other stuff while you wait for it to cook.

Ingredients
Meatballs
280g (about 10 oz) ground beef/pork mix
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 tbsp milk
1 egg
1/4 cup minced onion
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried parsley (or 1 tbsp fresh)
1 tbsp Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper

Sauce (or use your favorite home-made or store-bought sauce!)
400g (14 oz) canned tomato
1/2 onion, minced
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp sugar
salt and pepper to taste

Spaghetti for serving, cooked according to box instructions
Parmesan cheese for serving, if desired

Instructions

Mix all meatball ingredients well. Form into 1-tbsp balls and roll between your hands to make a neat round shape.

Brown the meatballs in batches in a frying pan and remove to a plate. (They can be frozen at this point.)

Mix all sauce ingredients together in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. (One trick I use is that if the canned tomatoes are too chunky, use a potato masher or fork to smash them a little.)

Add meatballs to sauce and simmer for 45 minutes.

Serve over cooked spaghetti.

Orzo Veggie Soup

orzo soup2This soup has simple ingredients, but it’s a delicious lunch. It’s a light vegetarian meal that I also enjoy when not feeling well. The original idea was from here.

Ingredients (1-2 servings)
480 mL (2 cups) vegetable stock (you can use chicken stock too, though it won’t be vegetarian)
1/2 cup (uncooked) orzo pasta, or other tiny pasta shape
1 tomato
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp olive oil
1 egg white
1 handful fresh spinach
Parmesan cheese for serving

Instructions

Bring the vegetable stock to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the pasta and cook according to the box directions until done.

Meanwhile, cut up the tomato and add the salt, crushed pepper, and olive oil. Cook briefly in the microwave or on the stovetop until done.

When the orzo is done, stir or whisk quickly while pouring in the egg white. It will cook instantly when it hits the hot broth. Finally, add the spinach and stir until wilted.

Put the tomato into 1 or 2 bowls and pour the orzo soup over. Stir, and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese to serve.

Lasagna


I was never a fan of lasagna with lots of ricotta cheese in it. This version uses a white sauce instead, and has a really nice smooth taste. Original recipe from here. It does take a little work and time, but the sauces can be made ahead of time, which makes this dish quick to assemble and bake.

Ingredients
Meat sauce:
100g (1/4 lb) beef (or beef/pork mixture)
1/2 onion, diced
1 tsp garlic
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp basil
1/4 tsp oregano
400g (14oz) canned diced tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato paste
salt and pepper to taste

White sauce:
1 tsp olive oil
480mL (2 cups) milk
1/4 cup flour
salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste

Other:
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
200g (1/2 lb) shredded mozzarella (in Japan, “mix cheese” is fine)
lasagna noodles (enough to fill your baking dish)

Instructions

First, make the meat sauce. Brown the meat in a skillet and remove. In the same skillet, saute onion and garlic until softened, then add sugar, basil, oregano, canned tomato, and tomato paste. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring, then turn off the heat and let cool slightly. Finally, blend the sauce in a food processor or blender until smooth. Mix the browned meat back into the sauce, taste, and add salt and pepper to taste.

Next, make the white sauce. Heat olive oil and 360 mL (1-1/2 cups) milk in a saucepan. Whisk the remaining 120 mL (1/2 cup) milk with the flour in a small bowl until free of lumps, and add to the heated milk. Whisk or stir constantly over low heat until the sauce thickens. Add a pinch of nutmeg, plus salt and pepper to taste.

At this point, you can store the sauces in the fridge until you’re ready to assemble the lasagna for dinner.

When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 180C/350F.

Prepare your lasagna noodles (check the package for instructions on how long to cook them, or use non-boil noodles).

Start by spooning a small amount of the tomato sauce into your pan and spreading it into a thin layer.

Add one layer of lasagna noodles to the pan. Spread 1/3 of the tomato sauce over the noodles, followed by 1/3 of the white sauce, 1/3 of the parmesan cheese, and 1/3 of the mozzarella cheese. Repeat in that order until you have three layers, ending with cheese on top.

Bake for 30 minutes.

Lemon Rosemary Ragu

lemon rosemary raguThis meat sauce comes together very quickly and has a great flavor. There is some tomato in it, but the tomato taste isn’t so strong. It works well for people who aren’t into a very tomato-y pasta sauce. I adapted the recipe from here, which calls for using veal and olives, but those ingredients aren’t so common in Japan, so I’ve made a few changes.

Ingredients
200g (about 1/2 lb) dry pasta (choose a shape with surface area that will hold the sauce)
1 tbsp olive oil
200g ground beef/pork mixture
1/2 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 sprig fresh rosemary (or 1/4 tsp dried rosemary)
1 tbsp tomato paste
60mL (1/4 cup) white wine
120mL (1/2 cup) beef broth (In Japan, I use a bouillon cube plus 120mL water)
1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped
1 tsp grated lemon peel
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese (of course fresh is always best, but in Japan I use canned grated cheese and it works fine)

Instructions

Cook pasta according to package directions.

While pasta is cooking, heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Saute the ground meat until it loses its pink color. Add the onion and garlic and cook for a few minutes until softened.

Add rosemary and tomato paste, stir to combine, and cook for a minute or so. Add the wine and beef broth and cook for 2-3 more minutes.

Add parsley, lemon peel, and grated cheese. Taste and add salt and pepper as necessary.

Mix cooked pasta with the ragu, and serve, along with extra grated cheese.

Garlic Breadsticks

breadsticks2These breadsticks are relatively quick and simple, and I love to throw them in the oven while I cook some Italian food on the stove! In the US, I would often bake them at the same time as something else, but those who live in Japan know that our tiny oven size here mostly prevents that. This recipe was adapted from here.

Ingredients
3/4 cup (180mL) water
1/2 tbsp instant yeast
1 tbsp sugar
2 cups bread flour
1/4 tsp salt
1-1/2 tbsp butter or margarine, melted
herbs and spices to top: basil, oregano, garlic powder, pepper, Parmesan cheese, etc.

Instructions

Mix all ingredients except butter and herbs. Knead dough for a few minutes, then let rest for 10 minutes.

Spread melted butter on a baking sheet. Roll out the dough to a square about the size of your baking pan (or a little smaller than your baking sheet) and cut into strips (I usually get 10 or 12, as you can see from the picture above). Twist them, and lay them down on top of the melted butter. It’s okay if they touch – they’ll pull apart after baking.

Sprinkle your herbs, spices, and cheese on top, then cover with plastic wrap or a clean towel, and let rise for 30 minutes.

Bake for 15-20 minutes at 375F / 190C, or until golden brown.