Spaghetti and Meatballs

I was a fastidious child. I was the kid from Louisiana that couldn’t stand seafood, loved macaroni and cheese and chocolate milk for all occasions, and couldn’t stand the sight of meat sauce. But my mother was and is a very wise woman. She knew I wouldn’t eat meat sauce, but meatballs? Of course! My mother understood my weird palate. She knew I was a texture enthusiast and a romantic. When I say I was a romantic, she knew that I would associate spaghetti and meatballs with Disney’s Lady and the Tramp (the funny thing is I still do!). The scene of two puppies sharing a plate of spaghetti and meatballs with an Italian man in the background singing “Belle Note” was enough for me to appreciate and devour any spaghetti and meatball dish in front of me. And I can only imagine my mom patting herself of the back while the song played in my head and I swayed along, eating my spaghetti until it was all gone. Happy plate!

Recipe: Serves 6-8

For Sauce:

1 tablespoon of olive oil

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 pinch of red pepper

2 28oz. cans of whole San Marzano tomatoes, hand crushed

1 pinch of sugar

¼ cup of chicken stock

1 sprig of fresh basil

2 tablespoons of butter

¼ cup of parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

In a medium sized saucepan, heat a tablespoon of olive oil on medium low heat. Let garlic and red pepper shimmy in the oil for 30 seconds. Add the crushed tomatoes, sugar, salt and pepper to taste. Let cook for about 5 minutes then lower the heat and add stock and basil. Let simmer for at least 30 minutes. Add butter and cheese. Adjust seasonings if needed. Reserve for meatballs.

For Meatballs:

Olive Oil

1 onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 pinch of red pepper flakes

3 tablespoons of parsley

1 cup of milk

4 slices of bread, crust removed and cubed

2 pounds of ground chuck

1 pound of ground pork

1 egg, slightly scrambled

½ cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

1 pound of cooked angel hair pasta

Heat a few tablespoons of oil over a medium flame. Sauté onions, garlic, parsley and red pepper flakes together until soft. Season slightly with salt and pepper. Let cool.

While the vegetables cool, soak the bread in the milk while you get the meatball mixture prepared. In a large bowl, combine the beef and pork together slightly. Add the egg, cheese, salt and pepper to the meat. Finally, squeeze all of the excess milk from the bread and place it with the meat mixture, along with the cooled vegetables. Mix all of the ingredients together with your hands until well combined. Shape into meatballs. You can shape them into large meatballs or bite-sized depending on your preference.

Heat a sauté skillet over medium heat with a tablespoon of olive oil. Sauté meatballs quickly on all sides. I do this step in 2 batches. Once browned, transfer to simmering red sauce for at least 30 minutes. Toss in the angel hair pasta and mix together.





Chicken Parmesan

Chicken Parmesan holds a special place in the hearts of our family.  This dish is on the menu for any special occasion: Valentine’s Day, birthdays, Mother’s Day. There is a lot of love that goes into this meal. Not only is it made in our home, but we also had a special place in Texas where we would all order this dish, Mary’s. Now, understand that the name of the restaurant was La Bistro Italiano, but the piano player was named Mary. Therefore, our family renamed the restaurant Mary’s.  Every Friday and Saturday night, Mary would be there in the corner, tickling the ivories. We would sit there, bobbing our heads (as if that was a substitution for dancing) with smiles on our faces while trying to eat up the Chicken Parmesan as fast as humanly possible. It once served as amuse-bouches as Mary and one of the regulars got into a fight one night. Mary, of course, got the last word, and we held up our chicken and waved it around in her honor.

Recipe: Serves 6-8

1 tablespoon of olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 pinch of red pepper flakes

2 28oz. cans of whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes, hand crushed

½ cup of chicken stock

2 sprigs of fresh basil

1 ½ cups of flour

1 teaspoon of cayenne

2 cups of panko breadcrumbs

2 tablespoons of fresh parsley, finely chopped

¼ cup of parmesan cheese, shredded

3 eggs, slightly scrambled

¼ cup of milk

4 whole chicken breasts, boneless and skinless, sliced crosswise

3 tablespoons of canola oil

Salt and pepper to taste

In a large saucepan, heat olive oil of medium heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and cook until the mixture begins to come to a boil. Reduce heat to low and add basil. Season with salt, pepper and add chicken stock. Let sauce cook for at least 45 minutes.

Place chicken in a heavy-duty freezer bag, one piece at a time. With a meat hammer, pound the chicken until about ¼ inch to ½ inch thick. Set up breading station with the flour and cayenne in one dish, eggs and milk in another, and the panko, parsley and parmesan in the last. Season all of the dishes with salt and pepper. Dredge the chicken in the flour, then the eggs and finally the panko. Let the breaded chicken rest on a wire rack over a cookie sheet.

Set a skillet over medium high heat. Coat the bottom of the skillet with a few tablespoons of canola oil. Once the oil starts to smoke, place the chicken in the skillet and sauté until browned on both sides. In a 12×9-baking dish, place 1 cup of the sauce on the bottom of the dish. Place the browned chicken in the baking dish. Top the chicken with more sauce. Place dish into a 375o oven for 25-30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through all of the way. Serve with angel hair pasta and garnish with parsley.