Best Italian Style Meatballs

I’ve made spaghetti and meatballs hundreds (thousands?) of times, but there really is something to be said for the perfect meatball. They seem easy enough, but the perfect ratio of meat to egg to breadcrumb to seasonings needs to be just right to keep them from tasting like dense little hamburgers. This recipe balances the perfect amount of ground sirloin, spice and flavor from Italian sausage, seasoned up right to simmer away in a big batch of Sunday sauce. These come out great every time.

 

 

Ingredients (makes 24 meatballs):
2 lbs. 90/10 ground sirloin
6 oz. Italian sausage, removed from casing
2 eggs
¾ cup breadcrumbs
¼ onion, grated
1 oz. parmesan cheese, grated
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
¼ tsp. black pepper
1 tbsp. canola oil (for frying)

Add all ingredients except canola oil to a large bowl. Combine with hands, being careful not to overwork. Roll into 24 equal sized meatball. Preheat a heavy bottomed or cast iron skillet on medium-low, then add oil. Working in batches, brown meatballs on all sides until a nice crust forms. Continue cooking browned meatballs in your favorite tomato sauce for at least one hour, preferably 2-3 hours. Serve with pasta. Enjoy!

Instant Pot Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper Soup

Ever since I got an Instant Pot Duo 60, I’ve been converting some of my favorite recipes to Instant Pot recipes to save time.  This Instant Pot Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper Soup is one of my favorite soups – and the best part – it’s actually healthy!  So many tomato soup recipes have a TON of cream in them, but this one is made thick and creamy with the help of a little Arborio rice.  The acid in the tomatoes is balanced out nicely by a pinch of sugar and roasted red peppers. Since it’s converted to an Instant Pot recipe, it all comes together in minutes, but tastes like it’s been simmering on the stove all day.  And since the soup is so healthy, go ahead and pair it with a nice grilled cheese…nothing beats the comfort food combination of grilled cheese and tomato soup.

Ingredients (make 6 large servings):
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 small or ½ large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot, diced
1 sprig celery, diced
1 roasted red pepper, diced
2 tbsp. uncooked Arborio rice
6 oz. can tomato paste
28 oz. can San Marzano tomatoes, with juices
4 cups chicken broth
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. sugar
¼ tsp. pepper
Pinch crushed red pepper
1 tbsp. butter
Optional garnish – basil and parmesan cheese

Press sauté on Instant Pot.  When display reads “Hot” add oil, diced onion and minced garlic.  Stir together until fragrant, 2 minutes.  Add diced carrots, celery, roasted red pepper, Arborio rice and tomato paste.  Stir another 2 minutes until tomato paste is fully incorporated.  Add tomatoes, chicken broth, salt, pepper, sugar and crushed red pepper.  Press “manual” and set timer to 8 minutes.  When the timer is done, turn vent to release pressure quickly.  Blend well with an immersion blender or traditional blender.  Once blended, stir in butter and garnish with chopped basil and parmesan cheese.  Enjoy!

 

Wine pairings:  tomatoes have a ton of acid, which pair nicely with Italian wines that have some acid as well.
Villa Pillo Borgoforte 2014
Rosa dell Olmo Barbera d’Asti 2014

Instant Pot Risotto

After making risotto in my Instant Pot Duo 60, I will never make risotto any other way. I’ve made risotto several times on the stove top; it’s quite the labor of love, between the constant stirring and making sure the heat levels are juuuuussstttt right. When I heard of people making risotto in the Instant Pot, I wanted to convert my stove top recipe and it was perfect. The creamy texture was what you would expect from a perfectly made risotto and aside from the initial sauté of the mushrooms, shallots and rice, all the ingredients go in the pot and POOF! Comes out perfect.

Ingredients (serves 2 as a main course, or 4 as a side dish):
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. butter
4 oz. mushrooms, chopped
1 shallot, minced
1 cup Arborio rice
¾ cup white wine
2 cups chicken broth
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp pepper
1 ½ oz. grated parmesan cheese (½ cup approx.)
½ cup frozen peas, defrosted

Press “Sauté.” When the display reads “Hot,” add olive oil and butter. Sauté shallots and mushrooms for 2-3 minutes, until starting to soften, then add rice and stir to incorporate. Add wine and stir until mostly absorbed, 2-3 minutes. Add chicken broth, salt and pepper.  Hit “manual” and set timer to 7 minutes. Quick release the pressure when the timer is done and then stir in parmesan cheese and peas. Let stand 2 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Wine Pairings: the earthiness of the mushrooms in this dish make it a perfect pairing for Pinot Noir.  Try these recommendations:
Averaen Pinot Noir 2015

Garlic Parmesan Cauliflower

I’ve been eating cauliflower long before it was cool to make rice or pizza out of it. The best thing about cauliflower (aside from all those health benefits) is its ability to take on whatever flavors you throw at it. This Italian inspired Garlic Parmesan Cauliflower goes great with roasted chicken, a perfect side for holiday gatherings, and literally takes about 2 minutes of prep time. Perfecto!

 

 

Ingredients:
Head of cauliflower, cut into florets
3 tbsp. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, grated or pressed
¼ cup grated Parmesan Cheese
⅓ cup seasoned breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper

 

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Add cauliflower florets, olive oil, grated garlic, Parmesan cheese to a large bowl and stir until well combined. Pour onto cookie sheet and arrange in a single layer. Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden brown, turning halfway. Enjoy!

Modus Toscana 2013

Modus Toscana 2013
Italy – Tuscany
14.5% ABV
$16.99
My Rating: 89 points
Costco

Whenever I see a Super Tuscan at Costco, I’m inclined to give it a shot. Although Tuscany is home is home to some of the most notable wine regions in Italy, like Chianti, a wine labeled “Toscana” or what we call a Super Tuscan, is usually Sangiovese blended with grapes not indigenous to Italy, which results in some big, rich wines. Modus is no exception; classic Sangiovese is blended with Cabernet and Merlot, with the Merlot really shining through. The acid in the Sangiovese and Merlot make this a comfortable choice for many Italian dishes, and the structured tannins from the Cabernet give it the depth to respond well to dishes with a good dose of umami. Modus is $17 at Costco; a quick search online puts this wine in the $25-$30 range. Decant an hour before serving.

Deep ruby color, full bodied, blueberry and toasted oak. Long drying tannins and medium + acidity.

Pair with: steak, lasagna, bolognese

Recipe pairings:
Perfectly Seared Steakhouse Steaks
Spaghetti Bolognese

From the winemaker:
“Sangiovese (34%) ~ Cabernet (33%) ~ Merlot (33%)
Lush and impressive, elegant and harmonious. Modus is a blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Each grape variety is packed individually at optimum ripeness and matured in small oak barrels. The name Modus (Latin for ‘method’) refers to the many distinct elements that come together to create this special wine – each depicted in the unique compass logo.”

Fig and Goat Cheese Crostini with Prosciutto and Arugula

A few weeks ago, my husband and I went to happy hour at Mattie’s, a new restaurant in my neighborhood.  One of the appetizers we tried was toasted bread, with creamy goat cheese and figs, topped with prosciutto, honey and arugula with a sprinkle of sea salt.  It was delicious, and certainly something that would be easy to make at home.  So here it is, my recipe for Fig and Goat Cheese Crostini with Prosciutto and Arugula, a sweet and savory appetizer to enjoy with a glass of wine.

 

Ingredients:
4 slices Ciabatta bread
2 oz. goat cheese
1 tbsp. fig preserves
4 slices prosciutto
1 cup baby arugula
1 tsp. honey simple syrup
2 tsp. olive oil
Coarse sea salt

In a small bowl, mix together goat cheese and fig preserves.  Put broiler on LOW and spread an equal amount of the goat cheese mixture on each slice of bread.  Place bread on a cookie sheet and broil until just starting to turn brown, 2-3 minutes.

Toss arugula with honey simple syrup and olive oil.  Top each slice of bread with arugula, prosciutto and sprinkle with coarse sea salt.  Enjoy!

Poggio al Casone Toscana 2010

Poggio al Casone Toscana 2010
Italy – Tuscany
13% ABV
$10.99
My Rating: 88 points
Trader Joe’s

I am a fan of Super Tuscans; they are often big, rich wines. Tuscany is home to some of the most recognized wine regions in Italy, like Chianti, which have specific regulations on which grapes can be used in production and how much.  Like Chianti, many Tuscans contain Sangiovese, either on its own, or blended with grapes that are not native to Italy. This 80% Sangiovese, 20% Syrah blend is well balanced; the acidity that Sangiovese is known for is balanced out by the big tannins found in Syrah. This food friendly wine is a great buy from Trader Joe’s and pairs well with Italian food.

Ruby colored, cherry, wood, with drying tannins. Nicely balanced and medium bodied.

Pair with: pasta dishes, medium/aged cheeses, pizza

Recipe pairings:
Sausage and Peppers
Creamy Chicken a la Vodka
Italian Sausage and Gnocchi Soup

From the winemaker:
“Our Toscana is produced with 80% Sangiovese and 20% Syrah grapes, attentively harvested by hand and selected to give birth to this wine that refines for twelve months in barriques by 225 litres in the cellar of Poggio al Casone Estate, legendary vineyard of the Castellani Family. The estate is situated in Crespina, ancient village on the Pisan Hills just few kilometers from the Tuscan coast.”

Rosa dell Olmo Barbera d’Asti 2014

 

Rosa dell Olmo Barbera d’Asti 2014
Italy – Piedmont
12.5% ABV
$5.99
My Rating: 87 points
Trader Joe’s

There is a lot to like about Rosa dell Olmo Barbera d’Asti 2014.  At only $5.99, it is a small fraction of the price of Rosa dell Olmo’s underwhelming $14.99 Barolo, but much more enjoyable.  First of all, it’s hard to beat the price.  Trader Joe’s carries more than a few wines in the $6 range, but not all of them are drinkable.  This Barbera is a pleasant, everyday table wine with 12.5% ABV, so you can enjoy more than one glass, especially with pizza or just some cheese and crackers.  The bottle refers to distinct “red fruit” and they’ve nailed that description.

Ruby colored, maraschino cherry, black cherry

Pair with: pizza, light pasta dishes, poultry dishes, medium aged cheeses

Recipe pairings:
Everyone’s Favorite Mac and Cheese
Chicken Scampi
Zucchini Pesto with Chicken and Farfalle

From the winemaker:

“An everyday and easy to drink red wine.  Deep ruby red in color, with pleasant and distinct red fruit notes, it is dry and rich, and has a remarkable silky texture.”

Chicken and Spinach Tortellini Soup

chicken-and-spinach-tortellini-soupIt seems like the seasons change in a blink of an eye, and just like that it’s winter. Right now it’s all about the holidays, football, and cooler weather comfort food. A big pot of soup is one of my favorite cooler weather meals; there are endless ways change them up, and there is always enough to take for lunch the next day! The only rule in my house is that soup has to be hearty, and this Italian inspired soup is packed with tender chicken, fresh veggies and tortellini, which combines two of my favorites – pasta and cheese!

 

chicken-and-spinach-tortellini-soup-2Ingredients (serves 4):
1 lb. cooked chicken
4 cups (32 oz. chicken broth)
28 oz. can diced tomatoes, including juices
9 oz. container cheese tortellini (can be found in the refrigerated section)
2 cloves garlic
1 small onion
2 celery stalks
1 zucchini
2 tbsp. olive oil
½ tsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp sugar
Salt and pepper

chicken-and-spinach-tortellini-soup-3Preheat stock pot on medium-low heat. Add olive oil and sauté onion, celery and garlic until translucent, about 5-7 min. Add chicken broth, diced tomatoes and Italian seasonings, and bring to a simmer. Add diced zucchini and chicken and simmer for 10 minutes. Turn heat up to medium and add tortellini to pot. Cook according to package instructions (mine was 7-9 minutes). Stir in baby spinach and let cook one minute more. Garnish with chopped basil and grated parmesan cheese. Enjoy!

Anginetti Cookies

anginetti-cookiesAnginetti Cookies (or Italian Lemon Drop Cookies), are a very popular holiday cookie in my native New York, but less known in other parts of the country. Like a lot of Italian cookies, they aren’t overly sweet, and they are perfect with a cup of coffee or tea. They are lemon-y, a little crumbly, and without a doubt, one of my favorites!

 

 

anginetti-cookies-2Ingredients (makes 24 cookies):
Cookies:
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
½ cup sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
Zest of 1 lemon (approx. 2 tsp.)
3 eggs
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder

anginetti-cookies-3Icing:
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
Juice from ½ lemon (approx. 1 tbsp.)
3-4 tbsp. warm water

 

anginetti-cookies-4To make the cookies: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter, sugar, vanilla and lemon zest. Add eggs, one at a time and beat for one minute until fluffy. Stir in flour and baking soda and mix well to fully incorporate. Roll cookie dough into 1” rounds and place on baking sheet 2 inches apart. Bake approximately 18 minutes until starting to turn golden around the edges. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes before icing.

To make the icing: Melt butter in a microwave soft bowl. Wisk in sugar, vanilla, lemon juice and 3 tbsp. warm water. Microwave icing for 10-15 seconds. Add additional tbsp. warm water only if needed to brush on to cookies. Top with sprinkles if desired and transfer to a cooling rack. Enjoy!