Spaghetti and Meatballs with Tomato Sauce

Serves: 6 – 8

I originally found this recipe in the New York Times and dialled it up over the weekend as a meal for the three boys: doubled the quantity of meatballs, added fresh tomato to the sauce as well as a cup of red wine and a handful of oregano.

It smashed it out of the park.

The sort of dinner kids – and adults – die for on a Saturday night before a movie, popcorn and ice cream.

The meatballs are the cracker here, with handfuls of Parmesan, extra breadcrumbs, eggs and parsley, additions I added and have reflected below.

Slow cook the tomato sauce, throw in the browned meatballs and boom.

This is definitely worth coming home to.

Ingredients

Salt
Freshly ground pepper
4 tbsp olive oil
1 kg beef mince
3 cups, grated Parmesan
1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped
1 breadcrumbs
3 eggs
1 large onion
3 garlic cloves
3 cans crushed tomatoes
2 tomatoes, cored and roughly chopped
3 bay leaves
1 cup red wine
Handful of fresh oregano leaves
500gm spaghetti

Method

  1. Heat the 2 tbsp of the olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Sauté the onions for 10 minutes until starting to golden; mince the garlic and add, cooking for a few minutes.
  2. Add the tomatoes, bay leaves and the cup of red wine. Bring to the boil and then slowly simmer until the sauce is thickened; an hour or so.
  3. Meanwhile, combine the mince, 2 cups of the Parmesan (setting aside the remaining cup), the parsley, breadcrumbs, eggs and a good pinch or two of salt and freshly cracked pepper. Gently mix until it is combined.
  4. Shape the meatballs so that they are golfball in size.
  5. Heat the remaining 2 tbsp olive oil in a heavy skillet over a medium heat. Add the meatballs, cooking them on all sides until browned.
  6. Remove the bay leaves from the sauce and add the oregano leaves. Season well with salt and pepper.
  7. Add the meatballs, ensuring that they do not break up. Simmer on a low heat.
  8. Heat water in large sauce pan until boiling and cook the spaghetti until cooked through.
  9. Add the spaghetti to the sauce and meatballs, combining gently.
  10. Serve with plenty of Parmesan cheese on top.

Arni Psito (Greek Roast Lamb)

Serves: 4 – 6

This dish a classic recipe from my incredibly capable mother.

She cooked this countless times for us as teenagers and we had it again last night and my two boys loved it. Talk about a generational recipe!

The original recipe is from the New York Times Cookbook, though she adapted it so that the onions, parsley and mushrooms cook on top, caramelise and blacken. This is where the genius of this dish comes from and I just cannot recommend it enough.

We had it with Greek potatoes, green beans and a wonderful Greek salad and the memories came rushing back.

Thank you Ellen for introducing me to food. What a life skill and fantastic way to spend a weekend!

Ingredients

1 leg of lamb
Salt and pepper
Dried oregano
Chopped garlic or garlic powder
¼ c butter, melted
Juice of 1 lemon
Diced onion
Chopped parsley
Sliced or chopped dried mushrooms

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 250 C and place the lamb on a rack.
  2. Season the lamb with salt, pepper, oregano and garlic.
  3. Arrange the onion, parsley and mushrooms over the lamb and carefully pour over the butter and lemon juice.
  4. Add ½ cup of water to the pan and roast for 20 minutes.
  5. Add another ½ cup water, lower the temperature to 180 C and roast for 22 minutes per 450gm, basting occasionally.
  6. Serve the lamb with the juices and vegetables spooned over.

Bobby Flay’s Grilled Eggplant Dip

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Handsome and a good cook. Both things I aspire to!

Serves: 8 as part of a share platter

Bobby Flay isn’t a household name in Australia though the reverse is true in America where he is a superstar of cooking.

I first heard about him on Iron Chef America and despite his good looks and cool swagger, this is not a man you want to challenge in the kitchen. From memory, he never lost a challenge.

Anyway, this is his eggplant dip and whilst there is a little effort to it, it has a subtle, sophisticated and really fine flavour to it. I grilled some Turkish bread brushed will olive oil and served that with the dip and that Oliver had five in quick succession tells you volumes.

Impress your mates and serve this up fresh next time they’re around. Better still if you have good looks and cool swagger.

P.S. I didn’t oil the vegetables to cut down on calories and I saw no downside. Except less calories! Oh, and really do try to serve this fresh or if refrigerated, allow time to come back to room temperature and give a good stir to combine.

Ingredients

1 red pepper (capsicum)
¼ c canola oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large or 2 medium eggplant, ends trimmed and sliced lengthwise, 2cm thick
2 cloves garlic
¼ c tahini
¼ c Greek (fat-free) yoghurt
¼ c extra virgin olive oil
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1 tbsp chopped, fresh oregano
1 tsp hot smoked paprika
¼ c chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Pita breads or Turkish breads, brushed with olive oil, heated on the grill to serve

Method

  1. Heat a grill to medium. Brush the red pepper with some of the canola oil and season with salt and pepper. Brush the eggplant slices on both sides with more of the canola oil and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Grill the eggplant until charred on the first side; around 3 minutes. Turn and continue grilling until tender; around 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a chopping board.
  3. Grill the red pepper, turning occasionally until charred all over and tender; around 15 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, cover tightly with cling wrap and let steam while you make the eggplant puree.
  4. Smash the garlic cloves, sprinkle them with salt and mash and smear them to a paste using the side of a knife.
  5. Remove the skin from the eggplant and transfer the flesh to a food processor. Add garlic paste, tahini, yoghurt, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and the lemon zest, oregano and smoked paprika. Process until smooth and thick. Add salt to taste and transfer to a serving bowl and let sit for at least 15 minutes to allow the flavours to meld.
  6. Peel, seed and dice the red pepper.
  7. Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil over the dip (I gave this a miss), top with the diced peppers and chopped parsley and serve with the warm pita, lavash or grilled Turkish bread.

Keftethes (Greek parsley meatballs)

Serves: 4 – 6

I just love these meatballs. And who doesn’t love mince.

The red wine vinegar and oregano adds an really interesting element and contrasts really nicely with the golden outsides and soft, medium-rare inside of the meatballs.

Yum.

Serve with a green salad and some pan-fried brussel sprouts and there is Wednesday night in the bag!

Ingredients

1kg ground beef
1/3 c dry breadcrumbs
½ c milk
1 onion, finely chopped
1 c (or more) chopped parsley
3 tbsp olive oil
2 egg yolks (or 1 egg)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsps salt
pepper to taste
2 tbsp butter
6 tbsp (or more) red wine vinegar
1 tbsp (or more) dried crumbled oregano

Method

  1. Soak the breadcrumbs in the milk until soft.
  2. Saute the onion and parsley in 2 tablespoons olive oil until limp.
  3. Mix together thoroughly with the meat, egg yolks, breadcrumbs, garlic, salt and pepper.  Shape into 1-inch balls and chill.
  4. Sauté the meatballs in the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and the butter, browning on all sides, and then remove any excess fat from the pan.
  5. Pour the vinegar into the pan, and sprinkle with the oregano.  Heat for a few minutes, scraping up the browned drippings. Repeat with more vinegar and oregano for a stronger taste.