Vegetable Enriched Pasta Meatballs

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Vegetable Enriched Pasta Meatballs! For a clever way to increase vegetables into your diet, think pasta. The next trip you make to the grocery store could reveal the variety of homemade pasta noodles made with puréed tomatoes, carrots, spinach, and zucchini. Many are cholesterol-free and all-natural, if that sort of thing is important to you. Read the labels carefully. The last thing you want is food coloring instead of the real deal. Chop up fresh onions, green peppers, and garlic, as you normally would. By the time you add marinara sauce and meatballs, I guarantee you the family will be asking for seconds.

VEGETABLE ENRICHED PASTA MEATBALLS

Ingredients:

14 ounces vegetable mix homemade noodles

1 tablespoon sea salt

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 sweet onion, chopped

1/2 green pepper, chopped

1-2 cloves garlic, minced

24-ounce jar pasta sauce, prepared

26-ounce bag frozen Italian-style meatballs, thawed

Instructions:

Bring 3-4 quarts of salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the bag of vegetable in homemade noodles. Cook for 12-15 minutes, or until tender. Rinse and drain. Set aside. In a large skillet, warm olive oil over medium heat. Add chopped onions, green peppers, and minced garlic. Sauté until tender and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add prepared pasta sauce and Italian-style meatballs. Reduce heat and cover. Cook until heated thoroughly, 15-20 minutes. Add drained vegetable pasta. Toss to coat. Keep warm until ready to serve.

Meatball Pizzetta

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Meatball Pizzetta! Need a late-night snack beyond a bag of chips or a bowl of ice cream? Don’t get me wrong, there was a time in my life when I self-medicated with a pint of Turkish Coffee Ice Cream, at least 3 or 4 times a week. No regrets and certainly no judgment here. What I recently discovered, though, is a mini portion of authentic flatbread, packaged in a 4-count. Just the right size to become a pizzetta for one. I always seem to have a jar of homemade Italian marinara in my fridge. And mozzarella cheese? Well, that’s practically a staple around my house as well. Do you see the wheels turning? This is how my kitchen is stocked. Because you never know when a craving will hit.

MEATBALL PIZZETTA

Ingredients:

I mini naan flatbread

2-3 tablespoons marinara sauce, prepared

1/4 cup mozzarella cheese

3-5 small frozen Italian meatballs, thawed

1 tablespoon pickled red onions

Fresh basil, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 400°. If you have a pizza stone, place it on the rack while the oven is warming. Take a mini naan flatbread and place it on a plate. Spread a layer of marinara, stopping short of the edges. Layer naan with shredded mozzarella cheese. Arrange Italian meatballs on top. Transfer pizzetta to a preheated pizza stone. Bake 15-20 minutes until cheese melts and crust is crunchy. Carefully remove from oven, add pickled red onions, and slice pizzetta. Garnish with fresh basil.

Jollof Spaghetti

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Clean Eating: Jollof Spaghetti! Just when you thought you’ve heard of everything, along comes another version of spaghetti night that just made your life a little easier. Gone is the method of boiling water to cook the pasta, worrying about how to keep the starch from building up, or the fact that oil makes the sauce slide right off. Sound familiar? Been there, done that. With this technique, the spaghetti cooks slowly in the marinara sauce. No advanced parboiling required. The results are moist, definitely al dente, and paired with the meatballs…out of this world. I see this in your future.

JOLLOF SPAGHETTI

Ingredients:

28-ounce can Roma tomatoes in basil sauce, cut-up

1/4 teaspoon oregano

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon basil

1/4 teaspoon marjoram

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 teaspoon agave nectar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/2 cup sweet onion, chopped

1/2 cup green pepper, chopped

8 ounces spaghetti

1 pound frozen large Italian-style meatballs, precooked and thawed

Parmesan cheese, for garnish

Instructions:

In a large bowl, combine Roma tomatoes in sauce, oregano, garlic powder, basil, marjoram, olive oil, agave nectar, kosher salt, and red pepper flakes. Mix well. In a microwave-safe dish, combine sweet onion and green peppers. Microwave on High for 2 minutes. Add to marinara sauce. Transfer mixture to a Dutch oven. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add spaghetti; stir. Reduce heat to simmer for 15 minutes or until spaghetti is cooked. Stir occasionally to separate pasta. In a microwave-safe dish, add the Italian-style meatballs. Cook on High setting, according to package directions. When cooked, add to the spaghetti mixture. Gently stir. Simmer 5 minutes longer to combine flavors, or keep warm until ready-to-serve. Spoon into bowls and garnish with parmesan cheese.

Café Portofino in Lihue, Kauai

Dining Outside the Home: Café Portofino in Lihue, Kauai! Do you need a reason to love lasagna? Might it be the oven-baked pasta bathed in layers of zesty spices, fresh herbs, meat sauce, and Italian cheese? Just thinking about it is mouth-watering. Well, you don’t need to travel to Northern Italy from the Pacific Ocean. Café Portofino, a beachfront restaurant on Kauai, serves up a plate of happiness and satisfaction by bringing the Italian deliciousness right to your table. Their classic lasagna combination features the rich meat sauce of cravings as well as a creamy white sauce to die for. This is not your ordinary lasagna. Taste it to believe it.

Neapolitan Tomato Cheese Pizza

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Something to Savor: Neapolitan Tomato Cheese Pizza! Before you roll your eyes, let me explain about Neapolitan pizza. The dough itself is made of four basic ingredients. I like that. The Italian flour makes the dough stretchy and easy to work into shape with your fingers. If you cannot find Italian flour, bread flour is an acceptable substitute. I went on a quest to find it, though. A Neapolitan pizza is made to be eaten with a knife and fork as a personal pan pizza. And it is not precut, simply because the center of the bottom crust is soft and chewy. Trust me, it’s worth every bite. This dough recipe will make six individual servings of thin crust pizza. Bellissimo!

NEAPOLITAN TOMATO CHEESE PIZZA

Ingredients:

4 cups Italian “00” flour plus extra flour for dusting

2 teaspoons sea salt

1/2 teaspoon yeast

1 1/3 cups water

1/2 cup tomato sauce

4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced rounds

6 basil leaves

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon olive oil

Instructions:

Combine flour, sea salt, yeast, and water into a Bread Machine. Set to “Dough”. When finished, divide dough into 6 portions, cover each in plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 72 hours. Remove 45 minutes prior to preparation for dough to come to room temperature. Transfer one ball of dough to a medium bowl that has a handful of flour in it. Flip to coat. Pat off excess flour and transfer it to a floured surface. Gently stretch dough, with fingertips, into a circle. Pick it up and place it on a sheet of parchment paper. With one hand in the center of the dough round, use the other hand to stretch the edge outward without tearing, rotating as needed. Place the oven rack on its highest setting. You should still be able to place an iron skillet on it. If not, lower the rack. Preheat the Broiler on High. Dust the iron skillet with flour; tap out excess. Heat the empty skillet until it is smoking lightly, approximately 3 minutes. Transfer dough to the skillet. Moving quickly, top the dough with tomato sauce, mozzarella slices, and fresh basil leaves. Sprinkle with kosher salt and drizzle with olive oil. Transfer skillet back to the broiler and cook until pizza is puffed and charred in spots, up to 4 minutes. Watch carefully. Remove from oven. Serve immediately. For more than one pizza, repeat process.

Bocca di Bacco in New York, New York

Dining Outside the Home: Bocca di Bacco Theater District in New York, New York! Pay attention when a waiter tells you where he goes for dinner when he’s off work. It’s usually one of those best-kept secrets. If you don’t have a reservation, no worries. Snag a seat at the bar. Bartenders are usually pretty friendly, you can linger over drinks, and when you’re ready for dinner…they happily accommodate. Bocca di Bacco in the Theater District is hip, trendy, popular, and within walking distance of a Manhattan hotel. You’ll realize that as soon as you cross the threshold of this neighborhood trattoria, people flock here for a cozy atmosphere. Distant laughter and glasses clinking are cause for celebration. If Italian small plates are more your style, prepare to be amazed. Not everything is pasta, but it is Italian, so sit back and inhale the aromas.

The Mariner in Mystic, Connecticut

Dining Outside the Home: The Mariner in Mystic, Connecticut! In the center of Historic Downtown Mystic enjoy a meal, or two, at this upscale coastal restaurant where the seafood is fresh, food is made from scratch, and the cocktails go down real smooth. Try their version of New England Clam Chowder. Made with the freshest clams, the richest cream, and a secret recipe they’ll take to their grave. Is it any wonder it’s the top favorite in the restaurant? But don’t stop there. The gourmet chef also specializes in Italian cuisine from pastas to gnocchi as well as dry-aged steakhouse attractions that include tender filets and pan roasted rib eyes. Are you getting the picture? Perhaps you need to make The Mariner your regular eating house.

Duetto Pizza and Gelato in Key West, Florida

Dining Outside the Home: Duetto Pizza and Gelato in Key West, Florida! Just a stone’s throw off Duval Street is a cozy Italian eatery that serves New York-style thin crust pizza by the slice. Because a single slice can be bigger than your hand, you may see people folding it in half, especially if they’re peddling toward the beach or heading over to the waterfront pier. No judgement. If it keeps one from burning the roof of their mouth on the gooey cheese, I’m all for it. Whatever you choose, save a little room for fresh gelato. It’s made daily with milk, real fruit, and natural ingredients. No wonder it tastes so good.

Italian Bread Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Timeless Classics: Italian Bread Salad! Panzanella. Travel with me to Tuscany for a delightful dinner on a gardened terrace. Indulge in a bountiful salad of artisan bread, juicy tomatoes, sweet onions, and green bell peppers. Appreciate the herbs de Provence perfectly blended with garlic wine vinegar whisked in extra-virgin olive oil. It’s enough to make you swoon. The ingredients are very forgiving. Tomatoes a little soft? Has the bread gone stale? No worries. This classic Italian meal was originally meant to be eaten that way. It’s truly amazing!

ITALIAN BREAD SALAD

Ingredients:

1-pound loaf artisan bread

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon Herbs de Provence, crushed

8 Roma tomatoes, sliced

1 medium green bell pepper, cut into strips

1/2 Vidalia onion, chopped

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup red wine garlic vinegar

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 cup fresh basil, thinly sliced

Cracked black pepper to taste

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 300°. Slice and cube the bread in bite-size pieces, leaving crusts on. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick oil. Form a single layer of bread cubes. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with Herbs de Provence. Bake 10 minutes; flip over and bake 10 minutes longer. Cool. For dressing, whisk together olive oil, red wine garlic vinegar, and sea salt. In a large salad bowl, combine bread with tomatoes, green pepper, and onion. Pour vinaigrette over all and toss to coat. Refrigerate for one hour before serving. Stir occasionally to blend flavors. Just before serving, gently toss with fresh basil. Add cracked black pepper to taste.

* Serving suggestion: Italian Bread Salad is best eaten the day it is made.