Beef and Italian Sausage Ragu

I’m a big fan of slow cooked, rich meaty sauces. I usually just add beef, but hubby and I recently had a pasta sauce that had sausage mixed in with the beef and it was amazingly delicious. After that, hubby challenged me to make my own version, which is close to my usual Ragu sauce. So I picked up some nice Italian sausages to pair with the beef but would ultimately be the star of this delightful sauce. This is one of those sauces that does take a little more time to make, but it is so worth the love you will put into it. This Ragu is cooked long and slow resulting in a rich flavor from the Italian sausage, beef, herbs, tomatoes and wine. What makes it even better is the pasta is tossed in the sauce at the end so every noodle is coated in that glorious sauce.

This Ragu is great for family get togethers…isn’t it so lovely to be able to actually have those get togethers once again…. or for just a sit down meal. If that sit down meal is just you, a fork and a glass of wine, who cares I won’t tell…. treat yourself.

Here’s what you need:

*1 lb pasta; I used spaghetti

*grated parmesan

For the Ragu:

*3 TBS olive oil

*1 large onion, chopped

*3 cloves of garlic, minced

*1 carrot, shredded or finely chopped

*1 lb ground beef

*1/2 lb Italian sausage removed from casings

*1 tsp dried Thyme

*1 tsp. dried rosemary

*1 tsp dried basil

*1 tsp salt

*3 TBS tomato paste

*28 oz. can crushed tomatoes

*1/2 cup red wine; I used Merlot

*1 1/2 cups beef broth

*1 large bay leaf

Heat a large pot to medium high heat and add the olive oil. Add in the onions, garlic and the carrots.

I have found the best way to finely chop the carrots that go into this dish is using my mini food chopper.

You can also shred the carrots if you prefer.

Turn down the heat to medium and cook the onion mixture until soft, stirring frequently so the garlic does not burn.

Remove from the pot and set aside. Turn the heat up to medium high heat once again and add the beef and the sausage. Cook, breaking it up as you go until browned.

Turn down the heat to medium and add Thyme, basil, rosemary and salt.

Stir to mix together and cook for about 1 minute more then add in the tomato paste.

Stir until the tomato paste is incorporated into the beef mixture.

Add the onion mixture back into the pot and stir into the beef mixture.

Slowly pour in the beef broth, wine and the crushed tomatoes. Stir until well combined.

Add in the bay leaf then turn down the heat to a simmer and cook covered for 2 hours stirring occasionally.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook pasta according to the package directions. Before draining the pasta, add one ladle full of the pasta water to the sauce and remove the bay leaf.

Cook about 5 more minutes then add in the pasta.

Gently stir the pasta in to the sauce until all of the pasta is coated in the sauce.

I know it looks a little messy, but this looks so tasty that I could just grab a fork, lean in and eat it from the pot.

Garnish with grated parmesan and serve.

Creamy Cheesy Beef Skillet Pasta

This dish is total comfort food. I made this after a really long, stressful day at work and it is definitely a winner. The beefy tomato sauce and pasta make this a really hearty meal, while cream cheese gives it a nice creamy flavor. Then there is the cheese…. I mean, you can never have too much cheese. I had some nice Gruyere and aged cheddar that I grated and threw in some Monterrey jack, it really made this cheese loving girl happy. What’s even better is that it’s all cooked in one pan….yes even the pasta. Can I talk about the pasta for a minute? I found this Conchiglie pasta at one of my Fresh Market stores.

I had never even heard if this one before, but I thought it would hold up great in a beefy tomato sauce. They look like a cross between shells and elbow pasta.

What’s even better, is that all of that beefy sauce and cheese fill up the center of the pasta, then when you bite into it….it is heaven. This dish is definitely for a cheat day, but it’s worth it.

Here’s what you need:

*1 LB ground beef

*1 small onion, chopped

*3 garlic cloves, minced

*olive oil

*14.5 oz. can of diced tomatoes, undrained

*28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes

*2 tsp. dried Basil, or more to taste

*2 tsp. dried oregano, or more to taste

*2 tsp. dried marjoram, or more to taste

*1 tsp. onion powder, or more to taste

*1 tsp. garlic powder, or more to taste

*1 tsp. chili powder, or more to taste

*1 tsp salt, or more to taste

*2/3 cup of chicken stock

*2 1/2 cups Conchiglie pasta or elbow pasta, uncooked

*4 oz. cream cheese

*2/3 cup shredded Gruyere cheese

*1/2 cup shredded aged Cheddar cheese

*1/2 cup shredded Monterrey Jack cheese

Heat a large deep skillet on medium high heat, add a few tablespoons of olive oil. When the pan starts getting hot, add the onions and the garlic.

Sauté until the onions just start to get tender, about 2 minutes. If the onions and garlic start to turn brown, reduce the heat to medium. Add the ground beef to the pan and turn the heat back up to medium high heat if you had to lower it.

Break up the beef while stirring the onions and garlic to combine. Cook until the beef is brown, about 5 to 8 minutes stirring frequently; drain if needed.

Add in the diced and crushed tomatoes.

Stir to combine the tomatoes with the onion beef mixture. Next, stir in all of the spices and herbs.

Lower the heat to medium low and simmer for 10 minutes; taste and add any more herbs or spices.

Dump in the pasta and the chicken stock.

Stir to combine. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the pasta is al dente.

Cut the cream cheese into cubes.

Add the cream cheese to the beef and pasta mixture.

Gently stir until the cream cheese starts to melt, then add in the shredded cheeses.

Stir carefully to melt and combine the cheese with the beef pasta mixture. Do not over mix or the pasta will start to break apart.

When the cheese is melted and heated thru, serve with some nice crusty bread.

Lasagna

I first posted this almost a year ago when this blog was still spanking new. I think I had only 5 followers at the time…and you are still very much appreciated as are all of you that have joined me along the way. I wanted to revise this a bit, because to be honest, it never hurts to revamp now and then and I really wanted to give this some love. I mean, it’s Lasagna…. one of the ultimate comfort foods.

This has always been one of my go to meals. It’s what I get requested frequently when I have people over for dinner. This is pretty easy and what’s not to love with layers of hearty pasta, a meaty sauce and all that cheesy goodness. Throw in some nice crusty garlic bread, a salad on the side and you have a great meal.

Here’s what you need:

For the Meat Sauce:

2 cans crushed tomatoes
1/2 small can tomato paste
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2TBs olive oil

1 1/2 ground beef
1Tbs. dried basil and more to taste
1 Tbs. dried Thyme and more to taste
2 tsp. dried oregano and more to taste
2 tsp. paprika and more to taste
2 tsp. onion powder and more to taste
2 tsp, garlic powder and more to taste
2 tsp. chili powder and more to taste
1 tsp salt and more to taste
1 tsp. sugar
1 bay leaf

Or use my Shortcut Meat Sauce , truth be told I use this frequently

For the Lasagna:

1 box of oven ready Lasagna noodles
1 large container of cottage cheese
2 tsp. dried basil or more to taste
1/4 C shredded Parmesan cheese plus 1/2 C. reserved
1 egg
3 C. Shredded cheese; I use a Mozzarella, Colby jack and cheddar cheese blend

I start out by making a meat sauce. You can make this the day before. Don’t want to make a meat sauce from scratch? No problem. Just make a Shortcut Meat Sauce.

To make the homemade sauce,

In a large sauce pan add about 2 to 3 Tbs of olive oil. Heat to medium heat. Add onions and garlic. Cook about 5 minutes or until onions become tender. Remove onions and garlic; set aside. In same pot, add beef and cook over medium high heat until meat is brown. Drain if needed.
Add onions and garlic back to the pot. Sprinkle in basil, Thyme, oregano, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, chili powder, 1/2 can tomato paste and salt. Stir well with beef mixture and cook about 1 minute more.

Pour in the crushed tomatoes and add sugar; mix to combine. If sauce is too thick, add a little water. Taste and add any more spices or salt if you prefer. Add in bay leaf. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour. Remove bay leaf.

Grab the cottage cheese and place in a bowl. I prefer cottage cheese in my lasagna rather than ricotta. To me, it’s not as dry as ricotta and I prefer the flavor, but if you like ricotta, then use that in place of the cottage cheese. Next add basil and the 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan ( fresh or the kind that comes in the shake-able container….no one is judging). Mix together and taste to see if you need to add any more basil or cheese.

Add in one egg and stir to combine.

Spray a large baking dish with non stick spray. Spread some of the meat sauce to cover the bottom.

Place about 4 oven lasagna noodles in a layer, slightly overlapping one another over the sauce.
I like for the pasta to cook with the sauce, I think it adds more flavor to them, not to mention it saves on time not having to boil them first.

Next, add a layer of sauce on top of the noodles.

Spread a layer of the cottage cheese mixture on top of the sauce…..

then add a layer of shredded cheese. I use a mix of mozzarella, Colby Jack and cheddar.

Then add another layer of noodles, sauce, then once again a layer of the cottage cheese mixture and then more shredded cheese. Top with one more layer of noodles and then the rest of the sauce.

Lastly, sprinkle on 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese and rest of the Mozzarella, Colby Jack Cheddar mixture.

Cover the baking dish with foil and bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes. Uncover and continue to bake 15 to 20 minutes more or until the noodles are done.

Let stand 15 minutes before cutting and serving.

Nina’s Baked Mac and Cheese

I wanted to share with you another side dish idea for Thanksgiving. This was my grandmother’s go to mac and cheese. She was always asked to bring her mac and cheese to our family gatherings. She would set it down right in front of everyone and declare ” I’m sure I missed something and it may not be any good.” Of course by the time she finished that sentence the dish would be half gone. I think deep down she knew she had us right when she came walking in with her casserole dish and the scent of cheese wafting through the air. She never wrote down her recipe for her mac and cheese, but I had watched her make it so many times that when she passed away, I had to remember what exactly she put into it. I will confess, it took several attempts before it tasted like hers. A little side fact about my grandmother, when I was little she wanted me to call her Nana, but nope, I always had to be different and instead called her Nina. So from then on she became my Nina. As I have mentioned before, she loved to cook and she was also one who inspired me to cook as well as my mom and dad. Whenever I make this mac and cheese for family or just for hubby and I, I always think of her.

This mac and cheese is more like a mac and cheese pie. You will see plenty versions of this southern side dish at family and church gatherings. It’s layered with noodles and lots of cheese then baked so all of that comes together in one glorious, cheesy goodness…. the ultimate comfort food.

Here’s what you need:

*1 lb elbow macaroni

*2 cups evaporated milk

*1 egg

*1/2 tsp. dry mustard

*pinch of nutmeg

*1/2 tsp. salt, divided

*1/2 stick of butter, cut into small cubes

*3 cups shredded cheddar cheese; I recommend shredding your own cheese and do not buy the kind that is pre shredded in a bag. Those have anti- caking agents so the cheese will not melt as well.

Pre heat oven to 350°.

Boil noodles in salted water one minute less than package directions; drain and set aside.

Whisk together evaporated milk, egg, dry mustard and nutmeg; set aside.

Spray a large casserole dish with no stick spray.

Layer some of the noodles on the bottom of the casserole dish and sprinkle with 1/4 tsp. of the salt; add some of the cheese on top of the noodles. Place some of the butter cubes on top of the cheese. Add another layer of noodles and the rest of the salt, then top with the remaining cheese; scatter the remaining butter cubes on top.

Pour the milk and egg mixture evenly over the noodles and cheese. Cover and bake for 30 minutes then uncover and bake another 15 minutes or until cheese is lightly browned and bubbly. Let it sit about 10 minutes before serving.

Spaghetti with a Creamy Parmesan and Bacon Sauce

Do you ever end up having way too much left over spaghetti and no sauce? That seems to happen to me all the time. I always end up making way too much. I do love eating just the pasta, mixing it with some butter, olive oil, lots of parmesan cheese and cracked black pepper. I could just eat a bowl full of that and be a happy woman, but hubby….well, not so much. He says it should have some kind of sauce. So, this is really what this dish evolved from, a compromise of left over spaghetti, adding butter, parmesan cheese, cracked pepper, bacon…. I mean bacon makes everything better right…. and turning into a creamy, delightful indulgence.

As a side note, I know in the picture it looks like it’s raining black pepper, but it really isn’t that much. It really depends on what you like, so you can add however little or as much as you like.

Here’s what you need:

This is for 2 servings because that’s basically what I had left of the spaghetti, but you can double this if you want more.

*4 C. spaghetti, cooked.

*4 strips of bacon, cooked and crumbled.

*1 TBS butter

*1 TBS flour

*1 C. milk

*1/2 C. grated parmesan cheese + more for serving

*salt to taste;

*cracked pepper to taste + more for serving

Heat a large pan to medium high heat; add the butter. I used the same pan that I had cooked the bacon in and reserved a small amount of the bacon fat, but this is optional.

When the butter is melted, add in the flour.

Start whisking the flour and butter together for about 1 minute or until the flour and butter mixture starts to becomes smooth.

Turn down the heat to medium and slowly pour in the milk while continuing to whisk.

When the mixture starts to bubble and thicken a little, add in the bacon, salt, pepper and the parmesan cheese. Continue to cook and stir until the mixture (roux) is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 1 to 2 minutes.

Add the spaghetti to the pan.

I did not warm the pasta up since it will become hot by adding it to the sauce. Toss the pasta in the cream sauce until it is well coated.

Top with more parmesan cheese and pepper before serving.

Pantry Creamy Pasta Salad

I made this from some leftover pasta shells I had from the Shells with a Tomato Vodka Sauce. The ingredients are what I had on hand, but I think bacon, fresh peas, or diced tomatoes would make some great add ins. This serves 2 or 1 if you are really hungry. You can also double it if this going to be used as a side dish.

Here’s what you need:

*2 C. Cooked shell pasta, or any other pasta you prefer; cooled..

*1/2 mayo

*1/4 c sour cream

*2Tbs grated Parmesan

*1 tsp white wine vinegar

*Cracked pepper

*2 tsp dried parsley

*1 tsp dried dill

*Salt to taste

In a bowl, add mayonnaise and sour cream.

Add rest of ingredients and carefully stir until all of the ingredients are incorporated. Refrigerate if you like it chilled.

Serve as a light lunch or as a side.

Enjoy!

Shells with a Tomato Vodka Sauce

Fresh tomatoes are so good during the summer aren’t they? I wanted to take advantage and use them in this sauce over some pasta shells that I had in my pantry. I did use one can of diced tomatoes as well paired with some vodka, basil, a hint of heat from some chili flakes, Parmesan and a little bit of cream to give this a slight creaminess. This turned out to be a very nice sauce that makes me think of these remaining days of summer.

Here’s what you need:

*1 small onion

*2 large garlic cloves

*4 Roma tomatoes, or any other tomato you might prefer

*salt to taste + 1/2 tsp for the sauce

*olive oil

*15 oz can diced tomatoes

*1 tsp. dried Basil or 1 TBS fresh, chopped Basil

*1/4 tsp red chili flakes, or more to taste

*2 tsp. dried parsley or 1 1/2 TBS fresh chopped parsley

*1/4 C. Vodka

*1/4 C. Parmesan cheese, grated

*1/2 C. heavy cream

*1 box of shell pasta

Preheat broiler.

Cut tomatoes in half; cut the onion into quarters. Place on a baking sheet along with the whole cloves of garlic; drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.

Broil until the tomatoes and onion starts to brown a bit; take out the garlic cloves if they start to burn.

Place the tomatoes, onions, garlic and a can of diced tomatoes into a blender.

Yes, I did use canned tomatoes also in this sauce because I like the combination of using the fresh and the canned. The freshness and flavor of the garden tomatoes still comes thru.

Pulse the blender until everything is mixed and the vegetables are finely chopped; set aside.

Start cooking the pasta according to the direction of the package.

Heat a large sauce pan on medium high heat. Pour the tomato mixture into the pan.

Add in basil, chili flakes and vodka.

Stir ingredients together and turn down the heat to medium. Simmer while pasta is cooking, at least 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

and if you feel the need to save some vodka for yourself while cooking, go ahead, cooking can be a celebration after all.

Take pan off of the heat; stir in the heavy cream, Parmesan and parsley.

Drain the pasta and spoon into serving dishes; add desired amount of the tomato vodka sauce on top and serve.

Ziti Bake

If your grocery store has been like mine of late, and I’m sure it has, it’s been a challenge to shop for meals. I start out with a list and end up planing meals in the store with what I can find. The one thing that I have found a good variety of, is pasta. Not sure why, but I’m thankful. Now as I type this and go back to the store this week, the pasta shelf will probably be bare. But luckily grabbed two boxes of different varieties. I had already had some ground beef in the freezer before all of this started, so I figured a Ziti bake would be a make a good dinner. It’s comforting and can easily be stretched into 2 meals for hubby and I….not to mention it’s like a warm, cheesy hug. I Hope you find it as satisfying as we did.

Here’s what you need:

*1 lb of ground beef

*1 small onion, chopped

*3 cloves of garlic

*dried fennel seed; to taste

*smoked paprika; to taste

*Hungarian half sharp paprika; to taste

*dried basil; to taste

*dried oregano; to taste

*onion powder; to taste

*garlic powder; to taste

*salt and pepper to taste

28. oz can crushed tomatoes

28. oz can diced tomatoes

*16 oz container of cottage cheese

*Parmesan cheese, grated

*egg

*nutmeg

*2 C shredded cheese of your choice; I used a blend of cheddar and Colby Jack

*1 Lb Ziti

For the Sauce:

This sauce you can make the day before, which I did to save some time on the day I was actually going to make it. But it’s perfectly fine to do it the day of.

Heat a large skillet on high heat. If you are using lean beef, add about 1 Tbs of olive oil. Add beef and cook, breaking it up as you go. Add onions and using a micro plane,grate in garlic cloves. If you prefer to use mince garlic, that’s ok as well. Continue to cook until beef is browned and onions are tender. Drain if needed.

Turn heat down to medium and add fennel, both kinds of paprika, basil, oregano, onion and garlic powder, salt and pepper. Stir and cook for about 1 minute. Add both cans of tomatoes and mix well, tasting to see if you need to add any more spices or herbs. Cover and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Let cool while making the pasta.

Boil pasta until al dente; drain and set aside.

In a bowl add cottage cheese. I prefer using cottage cheese in this and I use it in my lasagna rather than ricotta as well, but if you want to use ricotta, feel free to do so. Mix in about 1 tsp of basil, 1/4 tsp. Nutmeg, cracked pepper and 1 Tbs. grated Parmesan cheese. Mix well.

Taste to see if you need to add any more herbs or cheese. Crack in egg.

Mix well; set aside.

Preheat oven to 375°. Spray a deep casserole dish with non stick spray. Spread a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of dish.

Add a layer of ziti on top of the sauce.

Spread another layer of sauce on top of the noodles.

On top of the sauce, spread on the cottage cheese.

And next comes the cheese…. make it rain cheese on top of the cottage cheese.

Add another layer of ziti on top of the cheese.

Last layer…. pour more sauce on top of the ziti.

I’m sure you can tell by the picture that I did not use a deep enough dish for this. Yes, I was crossing my fingers that this would not spill out every where while cooking.

Lastly, add more cheese on top.

Cover dish…. and here is a tip- if you are using foil, spray the side of the foil that will cover the cheese with no stick spray. Cook for 35 minutes. Uncover and continue to bake for 10 minutes or until cheese has melted and sauce is bubbly.

Serve with some crusty bread and enjoy! On a side note, I’m happy to say the sauce stayed inside of the dish. Yay me!