Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Orecchiette with Mini Chicken Meatballs

I've really fallen in love with orecchiette pasta. I think it's because the pasta has more body and texture to it, and it's chewy yet firm. The only problem is that it's quite hard to find this pasta here in San Diego. On a recent trip to Mona Lisa deli , though, I saw they started selling fresh orecchiette pasta and I just had to buy it.

This recipe is from Giada, but as always I changed it up a bit. I actually read the comments from other users who made this recipe and mostly all said meatball mixture was too sticky and wet, so I modified the recipe by omitting the milk and ketchup and adding just a tablespoon of marinara instead. Additionally I increased the breadcrumbs just a bit. My husband and brother-in-law (and yes, he's living here with us for a bit) loved it! They both especially enjoyed the chicken meatballs because they sure were flavorful.

INGREDIENTS (serves 4)

  • 8 ounce package of fresh orecchiette pasta, if available. (If you're unable to find orecchiette, you can use mini shells).
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons plain bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons dried parsley flakes
  • 1 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup your favorite marinara sauce
  • 1/2 cup grated Romano or parmesan
  • 1/4 cup grated mozzarella cheese
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/4 cups low-sodium chicken stock, hot
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 8 ounces bocconcini mozzarella, halved
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil leaves

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions.

In a medium bowl, stir together the bread crumbs, dried parsley, egg, 1 tablespoon marinara sauce, Romano cheese, mozzarella cheese, and the salt and pepper. Add the chicken and gently stir to combine. (Use your hands, if you have to).

Using a melon baller (or a teaspoon measure), form the chicken mixture into 3/4-inch pieces. With damp hands, roll the chicken pieces into mini meatballs. (I don't have a melon baller, so I just used my hands to form the meatballs).

In a large (14-inch) skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add the meatballs and cook without moving until brown on the bottom, about 2 minutes. Turn the meatballs over and brown the other side, about 2 minutes longer. Remove meatballs from pan and set aside. To the pan add the tomatoes and sear for one minute. Next add the hot chicken stock and bring to a boil. Using a wooden spoon, scrape up the brown bits that cling to the bottom of the pan. Add remaining marinara sauce, dried basil and pepper flakes. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 2 minutes. Now add back the meatballs to the sauce and keep simmering until meatballs are cooked through, about 10 minutes. Drain the pasta, reserving about 1 cup of the pasta water. Transfer pasta to a large serving bowl and add a little olive oil and toss to lightly coat orecchiette. If pasta seems to stick, add a little pasta water to loosen. Add the meatball mixture, mozzarella cheese and gently toss to combine. Garnish with the chopped basil.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Scampi Bake

I truly, truly love shrimp. Next to Ahi tuna, I think it's my favorite seafood, but I wanted to find a recipe that was a bit different and flavorful. I love making scampi, but for some reason it never comes out garlicky enough or buttery enough. So I found this recipe in, and I just modified it a little, but I have to say it was da bomb! Perhaps a tablespoon of garlic may have been a bit much, but we all love garlic in our family. You can cut it down to 1/2 tablespoon if you prefer. I served it with a side gremolata egg noodles, but a salad will be just a nice.

INGREDIENTS (serves 3 to 4)

  • 1/2 cup butter (that's one stick, people)
  • 1 tablespoons prepared Dijon-style mustard
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, divided
  • 1 pounds medium raw shrimp, shelled, deveined, with tails attached

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the butter, mustard, lemon juice, garlic, and half of parsley. When the butter melts completely, remove from heat.

Arrange shrimp in a shallow baking dish. Pour the butter mixture over the shrimp. Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes or until the shrimp are pink and opaque. After you remove shrimp from the oven, sprinkle the remaining parsley and let sit a couple of minutes before serving.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Chili Con Carne

Photo from
I am not a big fan of chili with beans. I'm not entirely sure why but it could be that I grew up eating beans for breakfast, lunch and dinner (pinto beans to be exact) and now I'm just not that into legumes. It's not just pintos, but even black beans, Navy beans and kidney beans. So when I saw this "chili" recipe sans beans, I just had to try it. I made it for my hubby and my brother-in-law. Although they both liked it, I think they were expecting the beans, but it was still very good and it has quite a TexMex flavor kick. This chili con carne tastes great served over steamed, white rice. I found that it tasted even better the next day.

INGREDIENTS (serves 6)

  • 1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons minced chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
  • 4 slices bacon , chopped fine
  • 1 (3 1/2- to 4-pound) boneless beef chuck-eye roast , trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 onion, chopped fine
  • 1 jalapeño chile , seeded and chopped fine
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 4 garlic cloves , minced
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons yellow corn muffin mix, such as Jiffy Mix
  1. Process tomatoes and chipotle in food processor until smooth. Cook bacon in Dutch oven over medium heat until crisp, about 8 minutes. Transfer bacon to paper towel-lined plate and reserve 3 tablespoons bacon fat.
  2. Pat beef dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon reserved bacon fat in empty Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Brown half of beef, about 8 minutes. Transfer to bowl and repeat with additional tablespoon bacon fat and remaining beef.
  3. Add remaining bacon fat, onion, and jalapeño to empty Dutch oven and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in chili powder, cumin, oregano, and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in water, pureed tomato mixture, bacon, browned beef, and sugar and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 1 hour. Skim fat and continue to simmer uncovered until meat is tender, 30 to 45 minutes.
  4. Ladle 1 cup chili liquid into medium bowl and stir in muffin mix; cover with plastic wrap. Microwave until mixture is thickened, about 1 minute. Slowly whisk mixture into chili and simmer until chili is slightly thickened, 5 to 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve. (Chili can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.)