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.

Brussel Sprout Salad with Bacon, Apple and Buttermilk Dressing

Serves: 4

As far as slaws go, this is a total winner.

You’ll reach for more and more.

Served along-side really anything that benefits from a slaw – chicken, pork, whatever – it is just wonderful.

Our favourite party trick is serving salads at BBQs that blow people away.

With little effort, this slaw is definitely part of that party trick and one I would commend to you, any night – or BBQ or lunch or whatever – of the week.

Don’t be fooled. It is excellent.

Enjoy.

Ingredients

2 tsp olive oil
4 bacon rashers (about 280gm) rind removed and roughly chopped
12 large Brussels Sprouts
3 golden shallots, thinly sliced
2 Granny Smith apples, cut into matchsticks
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 bunch chives, finely chopped to serve
Shaved Parmesan to serve

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat, add the bacon and fry, turning occasionally, until crisp: 6 – 8 minutes. Drain on paper towels.
  2. Shave Brussels Sprouts with a mandolin into a bowl. Add a good pinch of salt, shallots, apples and half the lemon juice. Toss to combine and set aside.
  3. Whisk together the mayonnaise and buttermilk, remaining lemon juice and season: drizzle over the salad and toss well. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
  4. Scatter the bacon, chives and Parmesan. Season again and serve.

Five-cheese and ham triple-decker toastie

Serves: 2

It’s Easter and we are on holidays on the beautiful South Coast of NSW.

A few unstructured days of walking along the beach, sleeping in and opening a Champagne every afternoon around 2.

(Even Max the 10-month old seems to be getting into it, sleeping in until 7.45 and then going back to bed with a bottle.)

With such a theme of relaxation and “who cares?”, it seemed appropriate to have this toastie one evening for dinner. A extraordinary toastie that on every level, tells you to sit down, shut up and just eat it.

For there are plenty of times for chicken breast and salad and abstaining from wine and life.

But Easter isn’t that time.

Which is why, right now, it’s five-cheese, toastie time and nobody here felt guilt or apologised for it*.

(The recipe is from the always reliable, Gourmet Traveller.)

Ingredients

200gm firm ricotta
75gm cheddar, coarsely grated
75gm provolone, coarsely grated
75gm Parmesan, finely grated
200gm buffalo mozzarella, thickly sliced
6 slices, pane di casa bread**
Dijon mustard
Leg ham slices, off the bone
40gm butter, diced

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c.
  2. Stir the ricotta, cheddar, provolone, and Parmesan in a bowl to combine and season to taste. Spread two of the bread slices with the cheese mixture, then top each with another bread slice.
  3. Spread with mustard to taste, top with slices of ham and the mozzarella. Season to taste and sandwich with the remaining 2 slices of bread.
  4. Melt butter in a large, oven-proof frying pan over a medium heat, add sandwiches and fry until browned on the base: 1 – 2 minutes. Carefully turn over and brown the other side, then transfer in the pan to the oven and bake until the cheese is bubbling: 3 – 4 minutes.

Carefully remove from the oven and spoon the remaining butter in the pan over the top of the toasties and serve hot.

* Once you have done this sandwich, please try Matt Preston’s amazing toasted sandwich, something we unironically cooked one NYE evening!

** A rustic, thick crust white Italian bread cooked on a stone. Or try sourdough.

Big veal, pork and prosciutto meatballs with Parmesan polenta

Serves: 6

These are the best meatballs either Nat or I have ever had.

Not only that, there is an agreeable distance between these meatballs and whatever is in second place.

I am not kidding.

These made us so happy and I think there are a few things that contributed to the success.

The original recipe was from Gourmet Traveller though we made a number of tactical (and genius in my opinion!) changes, both to method and ingredients.

If you served these at a dinner party, everyone – everyone – would pin you down al la Paul Newman when his friends locked him in his garage and made him make a barrel of his famous salad dressing.

If you served this at your restaurant, people would say, “Oh, you have to go to Lucio’s and try his big meatballs. They are incredible. They are equal in genius to Paul Newman’s salad dressing and I think it’s because Lucio uses 75/25% veal and pork mince.”

Get started today, let your mince combine in the fridge for 48 hours and open your own Lucio’s for the night!

Ingredients

Sauce

800gm diced, canned tomatoes
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
2 tbsp finely chopped mixed sage and oregano plus extra to serve
150ml red wine (leaving 600ml for you)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly cracked pepper
Torn mozzarella plus extra to serve

Polenta

1 cup milk plus extra as you go
1 cup chicken stock
2/3 cup polenta
50gm Parmesan, finely grated plus extra to serve
50gm butter, cubed and room temperature
Salt and freshly cracked pepper

Meatballs

750gm veal mince
250gm pork mince
160gm Parmesan, finely grated
120gm coarse fresh breadcrumbs
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 eggs
3 tbsp finely chopped mixed sage and oregano
8 thin prosciutto slices
2 tbsp olive oil

Method

  1. 24 – 48 hours before cooking, combine the meatball mixture except the prosciutto slices and olive oil. Mix well and refrigerate.
  2. Heat some olive oil in a large pan and sauté the onions for 8 minutes or until soft and starting to golden. Add the garlic and continue cooking for 5 minutes, ensuring the garlic doesn’t burn. Add the chopped herbs and cook for 30 seconds and then add the diced tomatoes and red wine. Simmer over a low heat for 40 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, commence the polenta: in a saucepan, bring the milk and stock to the point of scalding though not boiling. Slowly whisk in the polenta and keep whisking for 45 – 60 minutes, adding small amounts of milk as need be, until the polenta is no grainy and you have a thick polenta mixture.
  4. Remove from the heat and stir in the Parmesan and butter, checking for seasoning. Set aside.
  5. While the polenta is cooking, divide the mince into eight and roll into large meatballs. Wrap a piece of prosciutto around each.
  6. Heat olive oil over a medium-high heat and cook the meatballs on each side, making an effort to cook and caramelise the prosciutto: around 10 minutes. Transfer to the pan with the tomato mixture, turning occasionally until cooked through. 5 minutes before serving, drop some of the torn mozzarella into the sauce to melt.
  7. To serve, dollop some polenta onto your plates. Ladle a meatball on top with sauce. Sprinkle chopped herbs, grated Parmesan and torn mozzarella on top and serve.

Jamie Oliver’s Pork Afelia

Serves: 8

Well, it pretty much doesn’t get easier or better than this for a slow Sunday night on the couch with a bottle of red.

Literally.

And we mean better just as much as easier.

It is awesome! And better.

Ingredients

1 onion, peeled and sliced into onion rings
3 garlic gloves, peeled and sliced thinly lengthways
2 tbsp coriander seeds, lightly crushed
4 tbsp olive oil
1.5kg pork shoulder, cut into 5cm pieces
375ml dry red wine
200ml passata
Parmesan cheese to serve
Rice or polenta to serve

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a large, heavy saucepan over a medium heat and cook the pork in batches, until browned on all sides. Set aside.
  2. Add the onion, garlic and crushed coriander seeds to the pan and cook until softened.
  3. Return the pork to the pan and add the wine and passata. Bring to the boil, lower to a simmer, season and cover for 2 hours or more.
  4. When reduced, rich and the pork is to die for, serve on rice (or polenta) with plenty of shaved Parmesan to serve.
  5. Fuck you Monday.

Matt Preston’s Classic Ragu with Polenta Dumplings

Serves: 4 – 6

We’ve typed up a few ragus and slow braises and we have reached a point where unless there is something radical about the dish, it wont make the cut.

This Matt Preston ragu makes the cut.

It is from his book, Yummy Easy Quick, a Christmas gift from Nat.

I’ve never had a failed Matt Preston dish and really admire his wholesome, no-holding-back cooking.

Despite the name of the book, his book – and this recipe – isn’t some sort of magazine aisle ‘I don’t have time to cook’ publication: the book is is just great recipes that are easy enough and certainly fun enough for any night of the week.

Specifically for this ragu, it is the ragu itself and especially the fun of the polenta dumplings that makes the whole thing really work.

Complex it is not, tasty, ragu amazing it is.

We had this the night before NYE 2017 with our friends Woodles and Billy.

It was fabulous and ticked all the boxes.

Happy 2018.

Ingredients

2 tbsp olive oil
1 kg gravy beef, cut into 4cm pieces
100gm pancetta or bacon, coarsely chopped
2 anchovy fillets
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
3 fresh or dry bay leaves
1/2 cup red wine
1 x 400gm can crushed tomatoes
1 1/2 cups passata
1 cup chicken stock
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Polenta Dumplings

1 cup self-raising flour
2/3 cup polenta
1/2 cup shredded Pecorino or Parmesan, plus 2 tbsp to sprinkle
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs, beaten

Method

  1. Heat the over to 160c.
  2. Heat 1 tbsp of the oil over a medium-high heat in a large, oven-proof saucepan. Cook the beef until browned, in batches if necessary. Set aside.
  3. Heat the remaining oil in the saucepan over a medium heat. Add the pancetta and anchovies. Cook for 2 minutes. Add the celery, onion, garlic and bay leaves and cook until soft. Add the wine and simmer for 5 minutes or until the liquid has reduced by half.
  4. Add the beef, tomatoes, stock and passata. Cover and bake for 2 hours; taste and season well.
  5. 15 minutes prior to this, make the dumplings: combine the flour, polenta and cheese in a bowl. Add the milk and eggs and stir until well combined. When the ragu comes out, scoop 1/4 cups of dumpling mixture on the ragu like golf balls. Sprinkle the dumplings with extra cheese.
  6. Return the dish, covered, to the oven for a further 30 minutes.
  7. ENJOY!

Martha Stewart’s Pea Salad

Serves: 4

We had an amazing Bill Granger Pea Salad last week and inspired, I was looking up pea salads we could serve this week along with some spicy lamb meatballs we we’re having for dinner.

This recipe came up a lot.

I used Parmesan rather than Cheddar and I cooked and then refreshed the peas rather then letting them de-thaw in the salad in the fridge for 4 hours… something you are most welcome to do if you wish.

The reason I’ve typed it up of course is that is a fantastic salad.

So much so that the next day, I did a double batch for a BBQ pool party and everyone loved it. Even kids.

Get onto this!

(Note: we cook our greens in the microwave; a dash of water in a microwave dish and you have crunchy, crisp greens without the need to boil or broil… In typing up this recipe, I haven’t prescribed how to cook the peas and however you do it, enjoy.)

Ingredients

1/4 cup (low fat) egg mayonnaise
1/4 cup (low fat) sour cream
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
Salt and freshly ground pepper
500gm frozen baby peas
1/4 cup, packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
60gm, Parmesan cheese, shaved or grated
120gm smoked bacon

Method

  1. Cook the bacon in a large frypan over a medium heat until browned and becoming crispy: around 10 minutes. Drain well on paper towel and then julienne.
  2. Cook the peas until warmed through; refresh in cold water.
  3. Whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream and vinegar in a large bowl; season generously with salt and pepper. Fold in the peas, onion and parsley.
  4. Refrigerate until needed and gently fold in the Parmesan and bacon just before serving.