Osso Bucco

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Will and I have had several “food adventures” together while travelling, trying new restaurants or in our own kitchen. We’re both pretty adventurous eaters, but there are a few things I won’t give in to (looking at you, soft shell crab) or that Will digs his heels in on (loves corn, won’t do hominy).  Every now and then one of us gets to introduce something new to the other.  A while back, Will introduced me to oxtails.

Oxtail is, quite literally, the culinary name for the tail of cattle.  It’s bony, gelatin-rich and typically either used for soups and stocks or in braised dishes. I picked these up at Greak’s Smokehouse, located at Froberg’s Farm in Alvin, but you can also catch them at your local meat market. We’re going the braised route today in Osso Bucco. The oxtails make for a rich, fatty base that is so scrumptious and special. Pair it with a simple side like rice, mashed potatoes or polenta to balance out some of the richness.

Osso Bucco itself is one of my favorite slow-cooked dishes.  It is traditionally made with veal, more commonly made with pork shank, but can most definitely be made with oxtails, beef ribs or beef shank.  It’s a pretty forgiving dish and a great one for Sunday afternoons when it can cook and develop the flavors for a few hours.  This is our take on Osso Bucco.  It’s a little less traditional and skips the tomatoes/tomato paste found in more modern versions.  We use red wine in the base so break out that bottle from the fridge that has just about a cup left in it. (That’s a thing, right?  An unfinished bottle of wine?)

Try this one out and let me know what you think!  What would be your meat of choice?


Osso Bucco

  • 1 lb oxtails, veal, beef ribs, or beef/pork shank
  • Olive oil
  • ¼ – ½ lb pancetta, diced
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2-3 T flour
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 3-4 cups beef broth
  • 2-3 stems fresh rosemary
  • 2-3 stems fresh thyme

Preheat the oven to 350.

Coat the bottom of an oven-safe pot with a couple tablespoons of olive oil.

Saute the pancetta until browned then remove from the pot, reserving the grease.

A quick note about pancetta:  we love it.  Basically because it is fancy bacon.  It is cured pork belly and has a slightly smoky taste, adding more depth of flavor to the Osso Bucco.  If you have ever ordered Carbonara at an Italian restaurant, you have most likely tried pancetta.  We get this pancetta at the deli counter at our local HEB, requesting about a quarter-inch thickness on the slices.  In most grocery stores you can also find some pre-diced packages of pancetta near your deli/cheese selections.  If you aren’t feeling the pancetta, or can’t get your hands on some, thick-cut bacon works just as well.

Here’s a before pic of the oxtails.  Looking lovely!

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Season the oxtails with salt and pepper then lightly coat each one with flour.

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Brown the oxtails for a couple minutes on each side in the reserved pancetta grease, adding a little olive oil if the pot is looking too dry to brown. Remove the oxtails from the pot and set aside.

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Toss the cooked pancetta, carrots, onion, shallot and garlic into the pot, adding a little more olive oil again if the pan is looking a little dry.  Saute the veggies until they begin to soften and brown.

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Add the red wine, scraping the bottom of the pot with your silicone or wooden spoon/spatula to loosen all the brown, delicious bits from the bottom of the pot.

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Let the wine cook down about halfway.  Place the browned oxtails back in the pot, nestling them in with the veggies.  Pour the beef broth in the pot until it covers about 2/3 of the meat.

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Tie the stems of fresh herbs together with some cooking twine.  This allows you to easily fish out the stems after they do their job of seasoning the broth.  You can also make a little pouch for the herbs out of cheesecloth.  Or, in a pinch, remove the leaves from both the rosemary and thyme stems, mince the leaves up and toss them directly into the pot without worrying about removing them later.

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Add the herbs to the pot.  Cover the pot and place it in the oven.

Bake for 2 1/2 – 3 hours, or until the meat is tender and falling off the bone.

Remove from the oven and discard the herb bundle.

Let rest a few minutes and enjoy!

Pictured below are two plating options: one shows a quick flour-based gravy made out of the pot juices and the other is straight from the pot.  Either way… doesn’t it look tasty?!


Full Recipe

Osso Bucco

  • 1 lb oxtails, veal, beef ribs, or beef/pork shank
  • Olive oil
  • ¼ – ½ lb pancetta, diced
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2-3 T flour
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 3-4 cups beef broth
  • 2-3 stems fresh rosemary
  • 2-3 stems fresh thyme

Preheat oven to 350

Coat the bottom of an oven-safe pot with a couple tablespoons of olive oil.

Saute the pancetta until browned.

Remove the pancetta, reserving the grease in the pot.

Season the oxtails with salt and pepper.

Lightly coat the oxtails with flour.

Brown the oxtails for a couple minutes on each side.

Remove the oxtails from the pot, set aside.

Add the cooked pancetta and chopped veggies to the pot.

Saute, adding extra olive oil if necessary, until veggies begin to soften.

Add the red wine, scraping the brown bits from the bottom of the pan.

Let the wine reduce by about half , then place the oxtails back in the pot, nestling in the veggies.

Pour the beef broth in the pot until it covers about ⅔ of the meat.

Tie the stems of fresh herbs together with cooking twine, or secure in cheesecloth.

Add the herbs to the pot.

Cover the pot and place in oven.

Bake 2 ½ – 3 hours.

Remove from the oven and discard the herb bundle.

Serve with mashed potatoes, polenta or rice.

Never Fail Meatloaf

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We’ve had a string a busy nights lately.  When life gets busy, there’s not much better than some comfort food.

My father is a minister.  He served as the Music Minister at First Baptist Church in Weslaco, Texas for many, many years. Growing up in the church, I got to know several of the ladies at FBC Weslaco.  I sat in their laps during Sunday night services, trick-or-treated at their houses, played cards with them at game nights, and ate their food at every Wednesday night supper or potluck. Those ladies can cook! They have the best recipes – recipes that aren’t complicated or fussy, they just taste really good.

This recipe has been adapted from one of those FBC ladies.  We’ve made a few tweaks, such as using poblano peppers, but the base recipe is true to form.  If you are curious about the original topping… it’s the soup. Easy, right?

Plan ahead – this one is ridiculously  simple to mix up but does take some time to bake.

What’s your favorite comfort food?  Where do you stand on the choice of toppings?


Never Fail Meatloaf

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 T brown sugar
  • ¼ tsp paprika
  • 1 T worcestershire sauce
  • ½ c ketchup
  • ½ c milk
  • 1 c breadcrumbs, Panko or cracker crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 1 sm diced onion
  • 1 poblano or bell pepper, chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, chopped

Topping – choice of:

  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup

-or-

  • ½ cup ketchup
  • 6 T brown sugar
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • 2 tsp worcestershire sauce

Preheat the oven to 350 and lightly grease a baking dish.  You  can also use a loaf pan here, but then you get less crispy edges.  Who wants less crispy edges?!

In a large bowl, mix the ground beef, salt, brown sugar, paprika, worcestershire, ketchup, milk, bread crumbs and milk.  You want to mix the ingredients into the ground beef until they are well incorporated but be careful not to overmix, making the meat tough and then end product brick-like.  Not fun.

Regarding the bread/Panko/cracker crumbs – use whatever you have on hand.  In this particular instance I used about a 2:1 ratio of Panko and plain breadcrumbs for a little added texture with the Panko.

Add in the onion, pepper and garlic and mix until just blended throughout the meat mixture. Season with salt and pepper.

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Pat the mixture into a loaf shape in the middle of your baking dish.

Decision time!

If you are looking for super quick and easy, top the loaf with the canned soup.  Done.

If you want to put forth just a touch more effort mix the ketchup, brown sugar, dry mustard and worcestershire in a small bowl and spread that over the loaf.  Done again.

If you have two varying opinions about the topping of choice in your house, do both! Any guesses as to who prefers which topping?

Bake the loaf for 1 hour, 15 minutes to 1 1/2 hours.

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Easy enough for a busy week!


Full Recipe

Never Fail Meatloaf

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 T brown sugar
  • ¼ tsp paprika
  • 1 T worcestershire sauce
  • ½ c ketchup
  • ½ c milk
  • 1 c bread/Panko/cracker crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 1 sm diced onion
  • 1 poblano or bell pepper, chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, chopped

Topping – choice of:

  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup

-or-

  • ½ cup ketchup
  • 6 T brown sugar
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • 2 tsp worcestershire sauce

Preheat oven to 350.

Lightly grease a baking dish.

Mix all meatloaf ingredients together. Season with salt and pepper.

Pat into loaf in baking dish.

Top with soup or ketchup mixture.

Bake for 1 ¼  – 1 ½ hours.

Bacon-Wrapped Tenderloin Steaks, Green Beans with Bacon and Onions, Caesar Salad

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It’s just about Valentine’s Day.  Doesn’t Valentine’s Day always make you think of the great things you and your loved one do for each other?  Don’t the little things make your day feel big?  Indulge me a little as I think about the first Valentine’s Day Will and I spent together way back in 2008. It was the first “fancy dinner” Will ever made for me and it left a lasting impression… this guy can cook!  It definitely made me feel loved. This post is all about that first Valentine’s dinner with three recipes tucked into one post as my Valentine treat to you.

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What’s your favorite Valentine memory? I hope you enjoy one of mine and make this dinner – let me know who you make it for and how they enjoyed it!


Caesar Dressing

  • 1 cup mayo
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp anchovy paste
  • 2 T lemon juice
  • 1 tsp balsamic or dijon mustard
  • Salt & pepper
  • ½ cup parmesan, shredded

The easiest way to mix this dressing up is in a blender or small food processor.  Simply add all the ingredients to your blender and process until smooth.  If the dressing seems a little thick, add about a tablespoon of  milk or cream at a time until you get the consistency you like best.  I must admit that we do prefer a thicker dressing.

Let me tell you about a few of the ingredients in this dressing:

First of all – don’t be scared of the anchovy paste.  It brings a salty, tangy flavor to the dressing that you can’t really replicate with anything else. We find the paste in a tube near the canned tuna in our  local grocery store.

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For the mustard, we use Turtlefly Fields Balsamic Mustard – a grainy, balsamic vinegar-based mustard.   You can also use a dijon mustard in this dressing.

Full disclosure, my sister and I started Turtlefly Fields a few years ago. We sell pickles and jellies at local craft fairs and Will gets in on the action with this Balsamic Mustard and a few other seasonings (as you will see below).  Come see us this March at Angleton Market Days!

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Finally, be sure to use a quality parmesan for this dressing.  Grate the parmesan fairly small to blend into the dressing, keeping in mind that this, along with the anchovy paste, will be your main source of salt for the  dressing.  Shave a few layers of parmesan to top your salad with as well.

The flavors of the dressing will develop as it sits so let is chill in the refrigerator for a couple of hours before you want to serve it.  The dressing will keep in the refrigerator up to a week.  If the dressing thickens up as it sits, loosen it up again in your blender or food processor with a little milk or cream.

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Green Beans with Bacon and Onions

  • 1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed and rinsed
  • 1 cup pearl onions, peeled and halved
  • 4-5 strips bacon, chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • ¼ cup raw sugar

Trim the green beans by snipping off each end – you did this with Grandma, didn’t you?!  Rinse them under cool water.

Steam the green beans until they are al dente, or still have a good bite to them.  Using my rice cooker, this typically takes about 12-15 minutes.

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This recipe calls for pearl onions, because that’s how Will made it for the that first Valentine’s Day.  To prepare the pearl onions, trim the top and bottom root areas and slit the skin of the onion down one side to easily peel off the papery skin.  Then slice the onion in half.  If you can’t find fresh pearl onions, check the freezer section – the peeling is done for you!

For this instance… we couldn’t find fresh or frozen pearl onions at our local grocery store. We went back to the produce section for the next best thing – shallots.

Saute the bacon on medium high heat until about halfway crisp.

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Add the pearl onions, or shallots, and about half the garlic.  Cook the mixture until the onions and garlic begin to carmelize.

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Add the rest of the garlic and the raw sugar.  If you don’t have raw sugar, use just a little less brown sugar.  Saute the mixture until the sugar begins to melt.

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Toss in the steamed green beans, coating with the bacon mixture. Check the seasoning, adding salt and pepper as needed.  Saute a few minutes until beans are as tender as you like them.

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These green beans are sooooo good and have become a staple in our menu rotation!


Bacon-Wrapped Tenderloin Steaks

  • Tenderloin steaks, about 1 1/2 – 2 inches thick, trimmed
  • Steak rub or salt & pepper
  • 2 strips of bacon per steak
  • 2-3 T unsalted butter

You can adjust this recipe to as many steaks as you are cooking.  For our Valentine’s dinner… well, just two 😉

Season each side of the steaks with steak seasoning or salt and pepper. We use Turtlefly Fields Steak Rub.  Will makes this rub… and he is never giving up the recipe.  But, you can come see Turtlefly Fields at Angleton Market Days coming up in March!  We’ll sell you a jar or two!

Let the  steaks rest at room temperature for a couple of hours.

Lay a strip of bacon across a plate or cutting board, then lay another strip slightly overlapping to fit the width of the steaks.

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Season the bacon with freshly ground pepper. Wrap the sides of the steaks with the bacon, pepper side in.  Secure the bacon to the steak with a couple of toothpicks.

Line the bottom of a sheet tray with foil or parchment paper and place a rack on top. Place the bacon-wrapped steaks on the rack and bake at 275 until the steaks reach an internal temperature of 125 for medium-rare, about 45 minutes to one hour. 

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Heat a cast iron skillet over high heat and add a tablespoon of butter to the skillet. Brown the bacon around each side of the steaks.

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Add another tablespoon of butter to the skillet. Sear each the top and bottom of each steak, a couple minutes per side.  Let rest a few minutes before serving.

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Pour a glass of wine and plate up this dinner for your Valentine!  Stay tuned… my favorite dessert to cap off this nice, romantic dinner is coming up!


Full Recipe

Bacon-Wrapped Tenderloin Steaks, Green Beans with Bacon and Onions, Caesar Salad

Bacon Wrapped Tenderloin Steaks

  • Tenderloin steaks, trimmed
  • Steak rub or salt & pepper
  • 2 strips of bacon per steak
  • 2-3 T unsalted butter

Season each side of the steaks with steak seasoning or salt and pepper.

Let the  steaks rest at room temperature for a couple of hours.

When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 275.

Lay a strip of bacon across a plate or cutting board, then lay another strip slightly overlapping to fit the width of the steaks.

Season the bacon with freshly ground pepper.

Wrap the sides of the steaks with the bacon, pepper side in.

Secure the bacon to the steak with a couple of toothpicks.

Line the bottom of a sheet tray with foil or parchment paper and place a rack on top.

Place the bacon-wrapped steaks on the rack and bake until the steaks reach an internal temperature of 125 for medium-rare, about 45 minutes to one hour.

Heat a cast iron skillet over high heat.

Add a tablespoon of butter to the skillet.

Brown the bacon around each side of the steaks.

Sear each the top and bottom of each steak, a couple minutes per side.

Let rest a few minutes before serving.


Green Beans with Bacon and Onion

  • 1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed and rinsed
  • 1 cup pearl onions, peeled and halved
  • 4-5 strips bacon, chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • ¼ cup raw sugar

Steam the green beans until al dente, 12-15 minutes.

Over medium heat, saute the bacon until beginning to crisp, season with fresh black pepper.

Add the pearl onions and half the garlic and let the veggies begin to caramelize a few minutes.

Add the rest of the garlic and the raw sugar, tossing as the sugar begins to melt.

Toss in the steamed green beans, coating with the bacon mixture.

Check the seasoning, adding salt and pepper as needed.

Saute a few minutes until beans are desired texture.


Caesar Dressing

  • 1 cup mayo
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp anchovy paste
  • 2 T lemon juice
  • 1 tsp balsamic or dijon mustard
  • Salt & pepper
  • ½ cup parmesan, shredded

Blend ingredients together; adjusting seasoning as necessary.

Keep dressing stored in refrigerator, up to 1 week.

Philly Cheesesteak Stuffed Peppers

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I love stuffed peppers.  I love the Philly Cheesesteaks, though I can’t say that I have ever had an authentic one.  (Sounds like a travel plan, yes?)  So the two put together makes for a great, easy weeknight dinner.  I like the peppers to be soft but still have some bite, and the stuffing to be extremely flavorful.  You can change up the protein to your tastes, using mushrooms in addition to or instead of the beef.  This recipe is quick, flavorful and fits easily  into your dinner rotations.

Try it out and let me know what you think!


Philly Cheesesteak Stuffed Peppers

  • Olive oil
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 4-8 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3-4 bell peppers for stuffing
  • 3 T Pickapeppa or steak sauce
  • ½ cup beef broth
  • 1 dash Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ cup Panko or breadcrumbs
  • Provolone slices or shredded Mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, season with salt.

Deseed the stuffing peppers, saving the tops or sides for chopping.  You can use any color of bell pepper for stuffing, we have even used poblano peppers, just keep in mind that they aren’t a thick and meaty as bell peppers and won’t require as much boiling time. When you pick your stuffing peppers, grab some that will either sit easily on their bottoms and hold stuffing well, or have a semi-flat side to lay on in a baking dish.  Using a paring knife, cut a hole around the stem of the pepper, or down one side of the pepper as I have done in the picture below.  Remove all seeds and save the piece of the pepper you remove to chop and add in your recipe later.

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Boil the deseeded peppers until beginning to soften, about 5-6 minutes.  If you  like your peppers firm you can skip the boiling step.  The peppers will continue to soften in the oven as well.

Remove the peppers from the peppers from the water and drain any water from the inside.  Lay/stand the peppers in a baking dish.  If the peppers don’t stand easily on their own you can use some of the stuffing around the peppers later to stabilize them some.

Heat a skillet over medium high heat and add olive oil.

Add the onion, chopped bell pepper (one whole and the reserved trimmings) and garlic to the pan and saute 3-4 minutes until crisp tender.

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Add the mushrooms, if using, and saute another 2-3 minutes.

Add the ground beef, season with salt and pepper, and cook 5-6 minutes until no longer pink and drain off any fat.  You can mix up the protein by using ground turkey, a variety of mushrooms or whatever feels right for your weeknight.

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Stir in the Pickapeppa, beef broth and Worcestershire.  Pickapeppa hails from Jamaica. It is a thick, pourable sauce that has a distinct tangy flavor.  You can find it in most grocery stores around the condiments/hot sauces.  If you don’t have Pickapeppa, try a steak sauce such as A1.  Try out the Pickapeppa at some point, it’s also great just poured over cream cheese as an easy  appetizer!

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Cook the mixture over medium heat until most of the liquid is gone, checking your seasonings as it cooks.  Keep in mind that the Worcestershire and Pickapeppa will add a salty element, you may want to balance that will a little more black pepper.  I also like to use the reduced sodium broths to control some that that flavor.

Add the Panko to the pan and stir.  If your filling seems a  little loose or you have extra moisture, add more Panko.

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Time for stuffing!  Fill your boiled peppers with the stuffing. I like to pack them fairly tight but as I mentioned earlier, if your peppers don’t stand well, use some of the stuffing to brace the peppers in the baking dish. Those bits in the dish get nice and toasty as a little tasty bonus.

Top the peppers with the cheese.  Provolone slices are nice, but shredded cheese works just as well.

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Bake the peppers for 5-10 minutes.  I like to then broil the cheese for a couple minutes for that extra toasty cheese texture.

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Remove from the oven, plate and serve with your choice of sides.

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So what’s your favorite stuffed pepper?  I want to hear what you think!


Full Recipe

Philly Cheesesteak Stuffed Peppers

  • Olive oil
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 4-8 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3-4 bell peppers for stuffing
  • 3 T Pickapeppa or steak sauce
  • ½ cup beef broth
  • 1 dash Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ cup Panko or breadcrumbs
  • Provolone slices or shredded Mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

Deseed peppers for stuffing, saving tops/sides to chop.

Boil peppers until desired softness, 6-7 minutes.

Add EVOO to a large skillet over medium-high heat.

Add the onion, chopped bell pepper and garlic and cook 2-3 minutes or until crisp tender.

Add the ground beef, season with salt and pepper, and cook 5-6 minutes or until no longer pink.  

Drain off any fat.

Stir in the Pickapeppa, beef broth and Worcestershire.

Cook over medium heat until most of  liquid is gone and check the seasonings.

Add Panko/breadcrumbs to desired consistency.

Stuff the pepper halves with filling.

Top with provolone slices or shredded cheese.

Bake 5-10 minutes, broil tops as desired.

Ravioli with Two Fillings – Mushroom and Sausage

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One of our favorite foods is pasta.  There are a million different ways you can cook pasta – tomato sauces, brown butter sauces, dried, fresh, stuffed, ribbons.  It can be a quick go-to weeknight dinner or, as we have done here, a Sunday project that takes a little more time and care. One of our first true “food adventures” would have to be making fresh pasta at home.  I won’t say we mastered it right away, our kitchen has most definitely been covered in flour…, and I will wholeheartedly admit that Will is much better at it (and bread making!) than I am.  However, we always have fun experimenting with fresh pasta.

Pasta dough itself is very simple.  It’s just flour and eggs kneaded together to get the gluten going and make a starchy pasta.  Will played with a basic recipe to find the mix we like the best, about 3:1 semolina flour and all purpose flour.  We have decided that we like the addition of the all purpose flour to make a smoother, less grainy dough.  You can most definitely play with the proportions to get the mix you like the best.  Several recipes we found use some egg yolks, make a well in the flour and knead in the eggs one at a time.  We kinda skip all that and keep it pretty simple with a stand mixer.  It shouldn’t be that complicated to make a good dinner, right?

In this recipe we are using the fresh dough to make a couple different raviolis – an Italian sausage and pepper mix and a mushroom ricotta mix.  Will and I have an ongoing battle about ricotta.  For a man that loves cheese, he has some strong opinions about ricotta.. so we split the recipe and work together 😉 We finish the ravioli in a simple tomato cream sauce.  This tomato sauce is way less involved than the meat sauce in the previous lasagna recipe and can easily be put together for a weeknight dinner in about twenty minutes.

Try it out!  And as always, let me know what you think!


Ravioli with Two Fillings

Pasta Dough

  • 1 ½ cups semolina flour
  • ½ cup all purpose flour
  • 4 eggs
  • Pinch of salt

Tomato Cream Sauce

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 T butter
  • 1 sweet onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced or grated
  • 14 oz can tomato sauce
  • 28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes
  • kosher salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • ¼ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

Mushroom Ricotta Filling

  • 4 oz fresh mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 T butter
  • 1 T snipped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ⅛ tsp ground black pepper
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
  • ½ cup red wine
  • 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
  • ½ cup ricotta cheese

Sausage and Sweet Peppers Filling

  • 1 lb ground Italian sausage
  • 1 cup sweet bell peppers, diced
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes

 

Start with making the pasta dough as it will need time to sit and rest.

You can play with the amounts of semolina and all purpose flours to get the texture you like best.  Our favorite is 1 1/2 cups semolina to 1/2 cup all purpose flour.  The semolina makes a nice, starchy dough but the all purpose keeps it from getting too grainy for our taste.

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Knead the semolina, all purpose flour eggs and salt in a stand mixer.  Knead until it becomes a smooth ball of dough.  If it is looking a little dry, add a tablespoon of water at a time until it reaches the desired consistency.

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Roll the pasta dough into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap.

 

Let the dough sit for at least 30 minutes at room temperature.  If you aren’t using the dough for a while, it can chill for an hour or two in the fridge, you’ll just want to get it back up to room temp before rolling it out.  If you aren’t using the dough on the same day it will nicely freeze until you are ready to thaw it out.


In the meantime, make your fillings so they can cool – you don’t want the filling to be too warm when you stuff your fresh dough so that the pasta will hold its shape nicely.

For the Mushroom Ricotta Filling:

In a saute pan on medium-high heat, add the olive oil and butter.

Add the finely chopped mushrooms and saute for a few minutes, being careful not to crowd the pan too much.  *NOTE:  don’t add salt yet.  Salting will draw out the moisture of the mushrooms and cause them to steam more than saute.  By upping the heat, spreading out the mushrooms and waiting a bit to salt them you are giving them a chance to brown and get flavorful rather than just moisten.

 

Add the minced garlic and chopped parsley, saute a few more minutes until garlic starts to soften.  This is where you now want to season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes.  Adjust the amount of red pepper flakes to your liking – I used about 1/2 a teaspoon here.

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Add the red wine, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of your pan, and cook until most of the liquid is evaporated.  Check your seasoning again!

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So… this is my all-time favorite wine.  Bogle Phantom.  It’s released once a year and I may or may not save a bottle every year for an eventual vertical tasting.  Will’s also been known to spoil me with a double magnum of Phantom that then just lends itself to having friends over for a wine dinner.  I’d say my love for Phantom is a problem… but it’s just not. 😉

 

Remove the mushroom mixture from the heat and let it cool little.

In a separate bowl, combine the egg yolk, ricotta cheese, and mushroom mixture.  Cover and chill until ready to use.

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For the Sausage and Peppers Filling:

Add a little olive oil to a skillet on medium-high heat. Saute the sausage for 4-5 minutes.

In this particular recipe, Will used some of his homemade Italian Sausage.  He often hunts, then will grind the venison/pork for our home use.  We have a great recipe for this Italian Sausage blend that you could use on store-bought ground pork.  Be looking for that in a future post!

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Add the sweet bell peppers.  We like the peppers to have a little bit of texture left to them, if you prefer them softer, you can definitely add them right with the sausage at the beginning.

Season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes.  Again, play with the amount of red pepper flakes to your taste!

 

When the sausage is fully cooked, set aside to cool until ready to fill the pasta.


Prepare the Tomato Cream Sauce:

Heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat.

Add the onions and saute for 5 minutes, or until they begin to soften and caramelize.

Add the garlic, salt and pepper and saute for a couple of minutes, until the garlic begins to soften.

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Pour in the whole tomatoes and tomato sauce.  Break up the tomatoes a little bit with your spatula, just so they start to break down.

I am a big fan of the San Marzano tomatoes. I like their sweet flavor and they are less acidic than other tomatoes. I think they just have a good, consistently sweet tomato kick.  If you can’t find them, or have a diced variety in your pantry, no worries!  You may want to add a tablespoon or so of sugar to your sauce to help cut back on some of that acidity.

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Stir the sauce and cook over low heat for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Use an immersion blender to smooth out the sauce now that the tomato chunks have cooked down.  Don’t have an immersion blender?  You can either transfer to a blender or just use a fork to break up any large chunks of tomato.  If you like a chunkier sauce just let it keep simmering away.

*Note: If you do use a normal blender to smooth out your sauce, make sure you vent the top/lid to allow steam to come out and shield the vent with a kitchen towel to protect yourself from any of the volcanic splatter.

 

Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the cream.  Add the shredded parmesan and check your seasonings.  Remember that cheese = salt so be sure to taste before adding more!

Cover the sauce to keep it warm until ready to use.


Now it’s ravioli-making time!

Once your pasta dough has rested and come back up to room temp, flour your counter or cutting board.  Cut the pasta dough into halves, then each half into quarters.

 

Being sure to flour the pasta itself as well as the pasta roller, roll the pasta dough into sheets.  I’ve never given in to the temptation of buying the pasta roller attachment of our stand mixer.  Sigh… maybe one of these days.  However, we have had much success with this simple hand roller that clamps to the edge of the counter top.  If you don’t have a pasta roller, you can most certainly put a little elbow grease behind a rolling pin – just know that it will take a few passes, just like in the roller, to it the pasta thin enough.

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Place a heaping teaspoon of the ravioli filling along the bottom half of the pasta sheet, leaving about a two-finger width between each dollop. As you can see in the pictures below, Will also added a little parmesan on top of each sausage “heap”.  Fold the top half of the pasta sheet over the filling and press all around each dollop to seal the pasta sheet together.  Use a ravioli stamp (or a glass cup) to cut out the ravioli shape.

 

 

Pinch along the edges of the ravioli to make sure that all the edges are sealed – if not, the filling will leak out as it boils.

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Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt the water.  This is your chance to season the pasta itself – don’t be shy with the salt added to the boiling water!

 

Carefully drop the ravioli into the boiling water.  Fresh pasta does not take long to cook, only about 3-4 minutes.  Use a slotted spoon or strainer to make sure the ravioli does not stick to each other as it cooks and notice when they really start to float.  Pull the ravioli out of the water as they are done.

Now… plate it up!  We like to put a little of the Tomato Cream Sauce on the bottom of the plate, top with ravioli, then a little more sauce, parmesan and chopped parsley on top.  How would you plate yours?

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Full Recipe

Ravioli with Two Fillings and Tomato Cream Sauce

Pasta Dough

  • 1 ½ cups semolina flour
  • ½ cup all purpose flour
  • 4 eggs
  • Pinch of salt

Tomato Cream Sauce

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 T butter
  • 1 sweet onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced or grated
  • 14 oz can tomato sauce
  • 28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes
  • kosher salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • ¼ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

Mushroom Ricotta Filling

  • 4 oz fresh mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 T butter
  • 1 T snipped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ⅛ tsp ground black pepper
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
  • ½ cup red wine
  • 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
  • ½ cup ricotta cheese

Sausage and Sweet Peppers Filling

  • 1 lb ground Italian sausage
  • 1 cup sweet bell peppers, diced
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes

Make the pasta:

Knead flours, eggs and salt in a stand mixer until incorporated.

If dough is looking dry, add a tablespoon of water at a time until desired consistency.

Roll the dough into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap.

Let rest at room temp for 30 minutes to an hour, or chill in the fridge until ready to use.  Bring the dough back up to room temp before rolling into sheets.

Make the Mushroom Ricotta Filling:

In a saute pan over medium-high heat, add olive oil and butter.

Add mushrooms, being careful to not crowd the pan too much, saute about 5 minutes.

Add the parsley, and garlic; cook and stir for 1 minute.

Add the salt, pepper, red pepper flakes

Add the red wine to the pan, scraping any browned bits from the bottom, and cook until most of the liquid is evaporated.

Remove from heat and let cool a few minutes.

In a medium bowl, combine egg yolk, ricotta cheese, and mushroom mixture.

Cover and chill until needed.

Make the Sausage and Peppers Filling:

Saute sausage until about halfway cooked, about 4-5 minutes.

Add the diced peppers and season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.

Saute until sausage is fully cooked

Set aside to cool until ready to use.

Make the Tomato Cream Sauce:

Heat butter and oil over medium heat.

Add onions and saute for 5 minutes until they begin to soften and caramelize.

Add the garlic, salt and pepper  and saute for a minute or so.

Pour in tomato sauce and whole tomatoes.  Break up tomatoes a bit with your spatula.

Stir and cook over low heat for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Use an immersion blender or the back of a fork break any large chunks of tomato up.

Remove from heat and stir in cream.

Add cheese to taste, then check seasonings.

Make the Ravioli:

Flour your workspace and cut the rested, room temp pasta dough into halves, then quarters.

Being sure to flour the dough and the pasta roller, roll each quarter into sheets.

Place a heaping teaspoon of the ravioli filling on the bottom half of each pasta sheet, leaving about a two-finger width between each dollop.  For the sausage filling, add a little sprinkle of parmesan to each dollop.

Fold the upper half of the pasta sheet over the filling.  Press around each pile of filling to seal the pasta together.

Use a ravioli stamp, or a glass cup, to cut around each pile of filling.

Press the edges of each ravioli to ensure the edges are sealed.

Heat a large pot of water to boiling and add plenty of salt.

Gently place the ravioli in the boiling water and cook for 3-4 minutes, just to al dente.

Remove from the water with a slotted spoon or strainer.

Plate the ravioli with the sauce and top with shredded parmesan and chopped parsley.

 

Cowboy Cornbread

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I asked my mom if this recipe originally came from my Grandmother or my Aunt. We can’t really remember, but that probably is just because it became such a staple at the dinner table in our own house.  In true fashion, Will and I have since changed it up just a little.  It’s kinda what we do.  One of the fun things about this recipe is that you can change up the flavors easily to make this different each time you make it.  Maybe you are feeling chili seasoning and ground turkey?  Maybe you need a little heat and want to toss in some jalapeños or shredded pepper jack cheese? This one is easy to adjust!  For this post, I’ll stick with our classic version with onions and green chiles. Try it out and let me know what flavors you add!

This one’s for you Grandma… or Aunt Jerrie!


Cowboy Cornbread

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 pkg corn muffin mix*
  • 1 can creamed corn
  • 1 can corn, drained
  • 3 eggs, slightly beaten
  • ¼ c milk
  • 2 c shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 small can green chilies, diced

*Corn muffin mix includes baking powder for a fluffier cornbread.  If you use a plain cornbread mix, add up to 1 tsp of baking powder to the mix.

Preheat the oven to 350.

Chop the onion.  (Side note – look at that fabulous knife Will is using!  It was custom-made from Houston Edge Works and I can’t wait until mine is in my hands!)

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Add a little olive oil to a skillet and saute the ground beef and onions.  Season with salt and pepper.

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At this point, you can play with the flavors of the meat mixture.  Add taco seasoning or chili seasoning, chop up a bell pepper or a couple jalapeños, add a can of black, red, or pinto beans.  You could also swap out the ground beef for ground turkey, or we have many times used ground venison.

While the meat and onions are cooking, prepare the cornbread mixture.

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In a medium bowl, mix the corn muffin mix, corn and eggs. Stir in the milk. You can add to the recipe here as well – maybe some candied jalapeños?

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Grease a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray.  Pour half of the cornbread mixture into the pan and smooth to the edges.

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Cover the cornbread mixture with the ground meat mixture, then chopped chiles, then 1 1/2 cups shredded cheese.

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Cover the pan with the remaining cornbread mixture, carefully smoothing it to the edges to cover, not mix, the cheese.

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Bake the cornbread at 350 for 45 minutes.

Top with remaining 1/2 cup shredded cheese and bake another 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted and beginning to brown.

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Enjoy and let me know how you change this recipe up!


Full Recipe

Cowboy Cornbread

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 pkg corn muffin mix*
  • 1 can creamed corn
  • 1 can corn, drained
  • 3 eggs, slightly beaten
  • ¼ c milk
  • 2 c shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 small can green chilies, diced

*Corn muffin mix includes baking powder for a fluffier cornbread.  If you use a plain cornbread mix, add up to 1 tsp of baking powder to the mix.


 

Chop the onion.

Add a little olive oil to a skillet and saute the onion and ground beef until no longer pink.

While the beef and onions are cooking mix the corn muffin mix, corn and eggs in a medium bowl.

Stir in the milk.

Pour half of the cornbread mixture into a greased 9×13 pan and spread to the edges.

Cover with meat, the diced chilies and 1 ½ cups cheese.

Pour the remaining cornbread mix on top, being careful to spread over the cheese.

Bake at 350 for 45 minutes.

Top with remaining ½ cup shredded cheese and back another 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted and beginning to brown.

Lasagna with Meat Sauce

For the first post on the new blog I’ve got to post something very… me.  Right?  I’m pretty sure this is it.

This recipe goes back to a cooking class that myself, my sister and one of our friends took on a weekend getaway in March of 2009 to The Shelby Inn just outside Round Top, Texas.  We were going to enjoy a bed & breakfast stay, some antiquing and just hanging out, but the highlight was to be the cooking class on Saturday night.  The chef asked beforehand what we wanted to work on and it turned out to be an Italian night – we would learn how to make a simple risotto, fresh pasta, and a hearty meat sauce that would be used to assemble a lasagna.  We were to bring the wine and be ready to chop.  We could do that! We can laugh now about the “breakfast” portion of the stay, the smears of tomato sauce and/or wine on our take-home cookbooks and the amount of flour all over The Shelby Inn’s kitchen, but we have great memories and a stock of recipes we’ll remember for years to come.

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That hearty meat sauce has been adapted since I’ve made it frequently at home.  Will is the fresh pasta maker, so if he is around this lasagna is made with fresh pasta sheets.  If it is a cold, winter day like today when I am home enjoying a day off from work, I use basic dried pasta sheets found in the grocery store.  The other major adaptation is the absence of the traditional ricotta cheese between the layers of pasta. Will hates ricotta.  Hates it. We’ll keep working on that in other recipes, I mean ricotta is a cheese after all, but replacing ricotta with a classic Bechamel sauce really does compliment the lasagna.  It makes for a creamy inside that adds to the comfort-food characteristic of the lasagna.

This Lasagna with Meat Sauce is a labor of love but makes for a pretty tasty dinner.  The leftovers aren’t bad for lunch either 🙂  Try it out and let me know what you think!

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Lasagna with Meat Sauce

For the Sauce:

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 3-4 celery stalks, leaves included, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, any color, diced
  • 4-5 garlic cloves, chopped
  • ½ pound ground pork
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1-2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 15-ounce can tomato puree
  • 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 2-3 bay leaves (I used 4 small)
  • 1 tsp rosemary
  • 1 tsp whole thyme
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1 T sugar

For the Bechamel:

  • ¼ cup butter
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg, or shave fresh nutmeg

For the lasagna:

  • 1 box lasagna noodles
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Cover the bottom of a large, heavy pot with EVOO, a couple turns around the pan.

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Chop the carrots, celery, onion and bell pepper into a small dice. You can use any color of bell pepper – or add a couple if you like the variety!  I just happened to have a sweet yellow pepper on hand today.  Mince the garlic. Saute carrots, celery, onion, bell pepper and garlic a few minutes until softened.

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**A quick note about chopping bell peppers:  you will have a more stable cut if you place the skin of the pepper on the cutting board and slice inside the pepper.

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Add the ground pork and beef, crumble and brown. The meat you use in this meat sauce can be changed up depending on your tastes. We happened to have a half-pound of ground pork leftover from another dinner and I like the addition of some pork over using all beef.  Have some Italian sausage or ground turkey?  That would be great as well!  Make it your own by mixing up the protein.

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Add red pepper flakes and continue to brown.  Will and I like spicy food and generally add a good amount of heat to our cooking.  In this recipe, I added around 2 heaping teaspoons to the pot.  Start with about a teaspoon and work your way up as you taste throughout the cooking process.

Add red wine, scraping bottom of pan to release brown bits.  So what wine should you cook with?  The answer is always “wine that you would drink in a glass”.  You don’t have to use your best bottle when cooking, but keep in mind that the flavor of the wine is concentrated as it cooks down.  If you don’t like the wine in a glass, you won’t like it in your food.  For this recipe, use a slightly-dry to dry red wine – cabernet, merlot, zinfandel, good red table wines all would work.  Just stay away from a sweet red in the tomato sauce.  This is what was in my fridge, so it went into the sauce today 🙂

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Add crushed tomatoes, tomato puree, diced tomatoes and tomato paste, stirring to combine.  Here’s what went into the sauce today:

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Add bay leaves, rosemary, thyme, oregano and basil.  The recipe calls for 2-3 bay leaves – my bay leaf stash is calling to be replenished, so today I used 4 small leaves.  Just remember what you put in so you can pull them back out later!

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Stir in sugar.  Sugar helps to neutralize the acid of the tomatoes a bit.  Start with about a tablespoon but as you check the sauce while it simmers, add a touch more if you’d like to settle the tomatoes down a bit.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for at least an hour, stirring now and then and checking seasoning. Sauce can simmer on the stove top for several hours as flavors continue to develop.  Since today was so cold and rainy, I started this sauce mid-morning and let it simmer very low all afternoon.

Remove and discard the bay leaf and remove sauce from heat when ready to assemble lasagna.

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To assemble lasagna:

Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Salt the water once it is boiling and add the lasagna noodles, stirring to separate the noodles.  When cooking pasta, you want the boiling water to be salty like the ocean to season the noodles.  If you are using fresh noodles, use less salt in your pasta water.

Cook until al dente, 10-12 minutes.  Drain the noodles and set aside.

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As the noodles are cooking, make the Bechamel sauce:

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan.  Add the flour and whisk until smooth and golden in color – you are making a roux, but you don’t want to get it as toasty brown as you would for a gumbo or brown gravy.

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Whisk in the milk and add salt, pepper and nutmeg.

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Whisk until thickened, about 4-5 minutes.  Check seasoning and adjust as needed.  Keep in mind that the Bechamel sauce is in place of layering cheese inside the lasagna, so you want the sauce to have a good amount of flavor.

Remove from heat.

Spray a 9×13 pan, or two 8×8 pans, with cooking spray.  At this point, I always make a little assembly line of all the lasagna components.  It definitely makes it easier to keep going as you assemble the pan (s). I often make two small pans, one in a disposable aluminum pan, and freeze one for later.  The lasagna stores nicely in the freezer and is handy to keep for no-dinner-idea nights or to gift to friends.  Who doesn’t like to have a lasagna on hand?!

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Spread a light layer of meat sauce in the bottom of the pan(s). Lay lasagna noodles across the pan in one layer – it’s okay if the noodles overlap a little. Will and I both like the edges and the pieces where the noodles fold over and crisp up a bit… it’s a struggle when dishing out dinner.

Spread a layer of meat sauce across the noodles. Drop a few tablespoons Bechamel sauce across the pan. Spread with the Bechamel across the meat sauce with the back of the spoon. Cover with another layer of lasagna noodles.

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Repeat 2-3 times.

Top with a final light layer of meat sauce and cover with shredded mozzarella.

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*If freezing a pan set lasagna aside to cool, then cover and freeze.

Spray a sheet of foil with cooking spray and cover the pan to bake.

Bake, covered, at 350 for 25-30 minutes.

Uncover and bake another 10-15 minutes.

If desired, broil a few minutes to brown the top.  We always broil.  Always.

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From frozen:

Bake, covered, at 350 for 1 ½ hours from frozen (1 hour if thawed).  

Uncover and bake another 10-15 minutes.

If desired, broil a few minutes to brown the top.  

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There you have it – one of the most “Lindsey” recipes to start of How We Cook.  Let me know what you think!  It sure did brighten up our cold day.


Full Recipe

Lasagna with Meat Sauce

For the Sauce:

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 3-4 celery stalks, leaves included, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, any color, diced
  • 4-5 garlic cloves, chopped
  • ½ pound ground pork
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1-2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 15-ounce can tomato puree
  • 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 2-3 bay leaves (I used 4 small)
  • 1 tsp rosemary
  • 1 tsp whole thyme
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1 T sugar

For the Bechamel:

  • ¼ cup butter
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg, or shave fresh nutmeg

For the lasagna:

  • 1 box lasagna noodles
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Cover the bottom of a large, heavy pot with EVOO, a couple turns around the pan.

Saute carrots, celery, onion, bell pepper and garlic a few minutes until softened.

Add ground pork and beef, crumble and brown.

Add red pepper flakes and continue to brown.

Add red wine, scraping bottom of pan to release brown bits.  Cook out wine.

Add crushed tomatoes, tomato puree, diced tomatoes and tomato paste, stirring to combine.

Add bay leaves, rosemary, thyme, oregano and basil.

Stir in sugar.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for at least an hour, stirring now and then and checking seasoning. Sauce can simmer on the stove top for several hours as flavors continue to develop.

Remove and discard the bay leaf and remove sauce from heat when ready to assemble lasagna.


To assemble lasagna:

Bring a large pot of water to boil.

Salt the water and add the lasagna noodles.  

Cook until al dente, 10-12 minutes.

Drain the noodles and set aside.


As the noodles are cooking, make the Bechamel sauce:

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan.

Add the flour and whisk until smooth and golden in color.

Whisk in the milk and add salt, pepper and nutmeg.

Whisk until thickened, about 4-5 minutes.

Check seasoning and adjust as needed.

Remove from heat.


Spray a 9×13 pan, or two 8×8 pans, with cooking spray.

*I often make two small pans, one in a disposable aluminum pan, and freeze one for later

Spread a light layer of meat sauce in the bottom of the pan(s).

Lay lasagna noodles across the pan in one layer – it’s okay if the noodles overlap a little.

Spread a layer of meat sauce across the noodles.

Drop a few tablespoons Bechamel sauce across the pan.

Spread with the Bechamel across the meat sauce with the back of the spoon.

Cover with another layer of lasagna noodles.

Repeat 2-3 times.

Top with final light layer of meat sauce.

Cover with shredded mozzarella.

*If freezing a pan set lasagna aside to cool, then cover and freeze.


Spray a sheet of foil with cooking spray and cover the pan to bake.

Bake, covered, at 350 for 25-30 minutes.

Uncover and bake another 10-15 minutes.

If desired, broil a few minutes to brown the top.

From frozen:

Bake, covered, at 350 for 1 ½ hours from frozen (1 hour if thawed)

Uncover and bake another 10-15 minutes.

If desired, broil a few minutes to brown the top.