Chicken Parmesan Meatballs

Chicken Parmesan Meatballs

Ingredients

The Balls
1 lb ground chicken
1 large egg
½ cup panko breadcrumbs
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 cloves minced or grated garlic
1 tsp Italian seasoning
½ tsp kosher or sea salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper
8 oz container small mozzarella balls (Ciliegine or cherry sized)
Meatball Coating
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
3 tbsp grated parmesan
Pinch of salt
Finishing Touches
26 oz jar of your favorite marinara sauce or half a batch of my Pantry Shelf Marinara
1 cup shredded mozzarella
Extra grated parmesan and basil leaves for garnish

Directions

In a large bowl, combine the ground chicken, eggs, breadcrumbs, Parmesan, Italian seasoning salt, and pepper. Mix gently until combined. Don’t over mix or squish around the meat too much or you’ll end up with tough, dense meatballs.

Shape the meatball mixture into small balls, about 2 tbsp, and then press a hole in the center with your thumb. Place a piece of mozzarella into each. Reseal the meatball mixture around the mozzarella, making sure to cover it completely. You don’t want to see any of the cheese or it will ooze out when cooking.

Once all of the meatballs have been stuffed, roll them one at a time in the panko/cheese mix to coat. Press the crumbs into the meatballs a bit, while still maintaining their meatball shape. Place meatballs on a small sheet pan or plate and chill in the fridge for about 15-30 minutes before frying.

Preheat oven to 350°

Place an oven-safe skillet (I prefer my 12 inch cast iron) over medium heat with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Brown Meatballs 5-6 minutes, rolling over a few times to brown as much of the outside as you can. You want the exterior to be a nice golden brown. The meatballs won’t be done at this point, but will continue cooking in the oven. You’ll probably need to do this in two batches, wiping out the pan between batches and adding new oil. Remove finished meatballs to a plate and continue with second batch. When done, wipe out the pan again.

Pour the marinara into the skillet and then nestle the meatballs into the sauce. Place into the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven, sprinkle shredded mozzarella cheese around the meatballs and place back into the oven to bake for an additional 5-6 minutes, or until the cheese has melted. If desired, broil for a few minutes to brown the cheese a bit.

Garnish with grated parm and fresh basil. Serve with garlic bread, your favorite pasta, or use slider buns to make mini chicken parm sandwiches.

Chicken Piccata Meatballs

Chicken Piccata Meatballs

Ingredients

Chicken Meatballs
1 ½ lbs ground chicken
4 oz very finely chopped pancetta
2 large eggs, whisked
1 cup panko bread crumbs
½ cup chopped parsley
2 tsp chopped fresh oregano (one tsp if using dried)
1 tsp dried Italian seasoning
Zest of one lemon
1 tsp garlic powder
1 ½ tsp kosher or sea salt (use half the amount if using sea salt)
1 tsp black pepper
Piccata Sauce
2 tbsp unsalted butter
4 garlic cloves, grated
2 cups chicken stock
Juice of one lemon (add an extra half a lemon, if you’re a pucker maniac)
2 tsp cornstarch
¼ cup heavy cream
¼ cup capers, rinsed and drained
2 tbsp chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp chicken bouillon or base, such as Better Than Bouillon (optional)

Directions

Let’s make Meatballs!

Place ground chicken in a medium bowl. If you are an overachiever (as I am oft called), and are grinding your own chicken, I highly recommend adding the 4 oz of pancetta into the grinder with your chicken to really blend the meats together. You don’t even have to finely dice it, just a rough chop will do.

Add all the other meatball ingredients to the chicken and gently mix together. Do not overmix or you might end up with a tough meatball. Treat your balls with care! (🤣)

Hot tip: when making any type of meatballs it is impossible to test for seasoning, since the meat is raw. There is a work-around used in the restaurant industry. Take a small amount of your meatball mixture and fry it in a pan. When done, taste it and adjust the seasoning in your mixture, if needed. Easy!

Place a piece of parchment paper on a sheet pan, or lightly grease the sheet pan if you don’t have parchment paper. Using a small scoop (or eyeballing it if you’re a daredevil) scoop your mixture into golfball-sized meatballs, and line them up on the sheet pan. Using lightly dampened hands, gently roll the scoops into nicely-rounded balls. Once they’re all ready to go, heat a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil in a 12” skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot (you’ll see it shimmer a bit when it’s ready), add one tablespoon of butter. It’ll melt up quick, so go ahead and add some meatballs! Cook the meatballs, in batches, until golden brown on all sides and cooked almost completely through (about 150°). If you cook them all the way to chicken’s food-safe temp of 165°, you run the risk of having your perfect little meatballs go dry. Set cooked meatballs aside on a plate once they hit 150°, and, don’t worry, they’ll finish cooking in the sauce.

In the same pan that your meatballs cooked in, melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Sauté the garlic for about 30 seconds. Add the broth and the lemon juice and allow to reduce for about 10 minutes. Whisk cornstarch with 1/4 cup heavy cream and add to the sauce, whisking the whole time, until completely incorporated. Add most of the parsley and most of the capers, reserving some for garnish. Taste the sauce and season with salt and pepper to taste. For even more flavor, add one tsp of a chicken base, such as Better Than Bouillon. Nestle the meatballs (and any juices that may have settled) into the sauce and allow to simmer for 5-10 minutes or until meatballs are completely cooked (165°). Serve over pasta or creamy mashed potatoes (my favorite!) and garnish with reserved parsley and capers.

Italian Frittata

Italian Frittata

Ingredients

8 large eggs
1 cup heavy cream
12 oz Italian sausage, loose or removed from casing
1 small red bell pepper, diced
1 cup marinated artichoke hearts, quartered
1 large handful baby spinach leaves
4 oz goat cheese, crumbled (you can use ricotta or even dollops of cream cheese or mascapone if you aren’t a goat cheese fan)
6 pieces ciliegine mozzarella (small balls), halved
12 grape tomatoes, halved
Herbs, (basil, flat leaf parsley, chives) for garnish

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a 10 inch cast iron pan with non-stick spray. If you don’t have a cast iron pan, you can spray a round baking dish. Just be sure to cook the ingredients in another pan and then transfer to the dish for baking.

Crack eggs into a large bowl. Add heavy cream and whisk together very well. Set aside.

Brown the Italian sausage in the cast iron pan (or any pan if using a baking dish) over medium-high heat until no more pink remains and the sausage is brown and crispy. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. In the same skillet, sauté the red bell pepper until just starting to soften, about 2-3 minutes. Add the quartered artichoke hearts and allow to just get a bit of color on them, another 2 minutes or so. Turn off the heat and toss in a large handful of baby spinach leaves and stir until wilted.

Pour in the egg and cream mixture and stir to evenly distribute everything. The residual heat from the skillet will already begin to cook the eggs on the bottom and sides.

Top the frittata with the crumbled goat cheese, halved mozzarella balls, and sliced grape tomatoes. Don’t worry about stirring them in. The cheese will melt in and the tomatoes with caramelize on top.

Cook in 350° oven for 35-40 minutes, or until the edges are browned and the center is no longer jiggly.

Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then garnish with fresh herbs, slice into wedges, and serve.

Frittatas are best served warm or at room temperature and can stay out for up to an hour, allowing for an extra lazy breakfast or brunch. Or even dinner. After that, store the frittata in wedges in an airtight container in the fridge for up to two days. Allow individual servings to come to room temperature again, before microwaving for about 30 seconds. Yay!

Best Italian Meatballs Ever!

Best Italian Meatballs Ever!

Ingredients

½ cup white bread (I’m really partial to Wonder Bread. Thanks, Mom ) torn into pieces
½ cup milk or half and half
1 large egg, whisked
½ cup grated Romano cheese
¼ cup finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
2 tsp kosher salt
½ tsp black pepper
1 lb ground beef or a mixture of beef, pork, and/or veal. Use whatever meat you prefer/can find/are comfortable using for dietary or other reasons. It’s all good 🙃
½ cup very finely chopped onion (or grated on a coarse grater)
1 clove minced garlic

Directions

Get ahead of the game and do your mise en place. That just means getting all your ingredients measured and cut up and “in place” so you can get right down to the business of making meatballs.

Preheat your oven to 400° F. Line a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper and spritz with non-stick spray.

Place the torn bread in a large bowl and cover with the milk. Let it sit for about 5 minutes. It will get mushy. This is a good thing!

Add all your other ingredients to the bowl with the soaked bread and gently mix together with a wooden spoon or extra gently with your hands. You don’t want to overwork the mixture or squeeze the meat because that will result in tough meatballs. That is a bad thing. The peeled golf ball bad thing.

I actually use 2 rice scoops when mixing together ingredients. It allows me to mix everything together without the risk of overworking.

You might see bits of bread in the meat after you mix it all together. That’s ok. They’ll melt in when you bake them.

Shape the mixture into roughly golf ball sized balls. You can use a small cookie scoop if it helps, but I just grab a bit and roll. Wetting your hands a little or spritzing them with non-stick spray can help avoid meaty hand syndrome.

Place on your baking sheet with a little space in between each ball so they all get even exposure to the heat and get the little crispy side bits we all know and love! You should get about 24-28 meatballs.

Bake in 400° oven for 25-30 minutes, turning over once.

Remove from the oven. Sneak one and taste it for quality control. No one will notice one missing meatball.

Add the meatballs to your favorite sauce or use the delicious marinara sauce we made in a previous post.

Let the sauce and meatballs simmer for about 20 minutes to allow them to become really good friends. They’re in love.

Mangia!!

Sheet Pan Sausage and Peppers

Sheet Pan Sausage and Peppers

Ingredients

3 bell peppers, cut in strips. I used red, yellow, and orange.
1 medium onion, julienned
8 cloves garlic, smashed with the flat of your knife
1 tsp fresh rosemary, finely minced (if you don’t have fresh rosemary, omit this ingredient. I don’t like the texture of dried rosemary and don’t feel that it imparts any real flavor. I’d rather you skip it.)
1 tsp fresh thyme, stripped off stems and chopped (if you can’t find fresh, use 1/2 tsp dried)
½ tsp dried basil
½ tsp dried oregano
1 tsp kosher salt
8 – 10 whole Italian sausages. I used a mix of sweet and hot
2 tbsp olive oil

Directions

Preheat oven to 425°F. Place a large sheet pan in the oven to preheat along with it.

Place all your peppers, onions, and smashed garlic in a large bowl. Add the herbs, salt, and olive oil and toss to evenly coat everything.

Remove the sheet pan from the oven and toss all the vegetables on the hot pan. Nestle the sausages in with the vegetables, trying to get each sausage to make contact with the hot metal. Bake at 425ºF for 20 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and use tongs to toss all the vegetables and turn the sausages over. It may look like the vegetables are in a lot of liquid at this point, but don’t despair! They are going back into the oven and that liquid is going to evaporate and delightful things will happen. Back in the oven for 20 more minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven. Set the oven to broil and move the rack up one slot in the oven. Toss the vegetables and turn the sausages one last time. Place the pan under the broiler for about 5 minutes, or until the sausages get a nice brown color and the edges of the vegetables start to blacken just a touch.

Remove from the oven and turn the oven off. Toss some hoagie or ciabatta rolls in for a few minutes to toast in the residual heat. At this point, I like to slice the sausages, some in half, some in quarters. This makes it easier to nestle them onto the bread and not have to open my mouth like an anaconda to eat my sandwich. I like to schmear some of the juices (fat) from the bottom of the sheet pan onto my bread, lay on a nice layer of sausages, and cover them with vegetables, maybe sprinkle a little Romano cheese on top… you do what makes your mouth happy. You can even slice the sausages smaller and toss everything with pasta or just eat them straight. It’s all good!

Fresh Homemade Ricotta

Fresh Homemade Ricotta

Ingredients

½ Gallon whole milk (8 cups)
1 Cup heavy cream
1 tsp Sea salt
¼ Cup fresh squeezed lemon juice (about 1-2 lemons, closer to one)

Directions

Bring milk and cream (the “milks”) to a simmer, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching the bottom of the pan. You want a good amount of bubbles on the edge of your mixture. If you’re an exact measurement kind of person, or it’s your first time and you want to be sure, use a thermometer and bring the milks to at least 185°.

When the milks come to temperature, remove the pan from the heat. Add the salt and stir. Now drizzle your lemon juice all over the surface of the milks. Stir it very gently with a wooden spoon to disperse the lemon juice throughout the mixture. You’ll start to see clumping of the curds almost immediately. You will be very excited because delicious science is happening right before your eyes! What you see is that when heat and acid (the lemon juice) are applied to the milk, the curd proteins all clump together, leaving behind the watery whey (curds and whey! Little Miss Muffet!) This is the cheese forming! Gently stir for 3-5 minutes to encourage the process.

Using a ladle or a slotted spoon, gently lift the curds out of the pot and into a colander that has been lined with cheesecloth (save at least 1/2 cup of the whey liquid. I’ll tell you why in a minute). Fold the edges of the cheesecloth over the top and allow the cheese to drain for at least 30 minutes, and up to a few hours, depending on how firm you want your cheese. If you are draining your cheese longer than a couple of hours (for a firmer cheese), refrigerate. If you find that the cheese consistency is firmer than you like, you can add back a little of the reserved whey and stir it in. You can store fresh ricotta in the fridge for up to 2 weeks, but it won’t last that long 😊

Congratulations, you are now a Cheese Maker. Fresh Ricotta is especially delicious at room temperature, just spread over lightly toasted bread and drizzled with a good olive oil or, my personal favorite, covered in tomato bruschetta. However you serve it, you’ll look at store-bought ricotta the same “whey” again 😂!

Skirt Steak with Italian Chimichurri and Tomato Salad

Skirt Steak with Italian Chimichurri and Tomato Salad

Ingredients

Steak Marinade
1 -2 lbs Skirt steak
Juice from one large lemon
½ tsp Kosher salt (I am a recent convert to Diamond Crystal Kosher salt. It has a coarse grain, but crushes easily in your fingers, to give a finer grain when you want it, and it is less salty than Morton’s Kosher salt. Just my 2 cents worth.)
½ tsp Black pepper
2 Cloves finely minced garlic
2 tbsp Finely chopped basil
½ Cup olive oil
Tomato Salad
3 tbsp White balsamic vinegar (unlike dark balsamic vinegar, this doesn’t discolor the tomatoes, a big plus when making a vibrant salad)
1 tsp Kosher salt
¼ tsp Black pepper
4 Cloves finely minced or grated garlic
1 tbsp Honey
½ Cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cups Grape or other small salad tomatoes, cut in half
¼ Cup thinly sliced (chiffonade) basil
Italian Chimichurri (The absolute STAR 🌟 of this meal)
6 Cloves of garlic
½ Cup basil
1 Cup Italian flat leaf parsley (don’t go crazy trying to pluck just leaves from your parsley. There is so much flavor in the stems of most soft herbs, and we’ll be chopping these up so finely that you won’t even see the stems.)
2 tbsp Fresh oregano
1 tsp Kosher salt
1 ½ tsp Calabrian chili paste (found in a jar in the “Ethnic” or “International” aisle of your local Mega Market, this stuff is HOT 🔥, but man, is it delicious! Use caution. If you are sensitive to spicy foods, start with a little and add more if you want to. Or don’t use it at all. I’m not in your kitchen, nor do I use your mouth for eating. Only you can judge your 🔥 tolerance.)
¼ Cup white balsamic vinegar (again, I don’t want the vibrant green of the herbs to be changed by using dark balsamic vinegar)
¾ Cup extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Marinating the steak

We’ll start by getting the steak marinating. The steak will probably be in 2 pieces when you buy it. If not, cut into pieces about 4-6 inches long and place in a gallon sized ziploc bag. Put all of the marinade ingredients in the bag with the steaks and smoosh it around a bit with your hands, from the outside of course. Close the bag, pressing out as much air as possible, and give the steak and marinade another good smooshing, making sure all sides of the meat are covered. Allow the steak to marinate at least one hour, up to all day while you are at work or doing whatever you do during the day 😉 If you’ll be cooking the steak within the hour, just leave it out on the counter. It’ll be fine.

Making the tomato salad

Now we’ll make the tomato salad. Place your halved tomatoes in a large bowl. Set your cut basil aside for when you serve the salad later. Mix all your dressing ingredients in a jar with a lid, like a mason jar, or a small bowl. Shake, or whisk, the dressing ingredients together and pour over the tomatoes and toss gently. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. When serving, add the basil and toss again. The reason I don’t add the basil while marinating is that it tends to discolor and lose it’s freshness. Adding it at the end gives the salad that pop of color and the basil flavor is so bright and delicious! 😋

Creating Our Star: Italian Chimichurri

Chimichurri mise en place. Get everything together and ready to go. There’s nothing worse in the kitchen than starting to cook and realizing you don’t have an important ingredient!

Place the garlic and the salt in the bowl of your food processor and pulse until the garlic is chopped.

Rough chop your herbs a bit and add them to the food processor. Pulse 2 or 3 times, just to get them broken down a bit. Then add your Calabrian chili paste, as much or as little as you want. Pulse, pulse. 2 times. Add the balsamic vinegar and pulse just once to mix.

With the food processor running, pour in your olive oil until fully incorporated. Allow the chimichurri to sit at room temperature until ready to eat. The longer it sits, the more the flavors will become best friends and have an amazing long term relationship 💕 Chimichurri will keep in your refrigerator for a couple of weeks in a tightly sealed container. Yay!

Putting it all together

I wish I had more pictures, and I promise I’ll add them the next time I make this (and I will make it again). We were just so hungry we forgot to take pictures. Same old story.

Remove the steaks from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before cooking. Any cold meat will cook faster on the outside than on the inside, giving you uneven cooking. Having a nicely charred steak with a raw inside is no bueno.

All we have to do now is grill or pan sear the steaks. If grilling, you need to get your grill very hot. Allow it to heat on high for at least 10 minutes. If you’re using a cast iron skillet or pan, heat it on high and add a little vegetable oil right before you put your steaks on.

Place the steaks on a paper towel lined baking sheet and pat them dry all over. A wet steak will never get the kind of char that you want. Dry it off! Season well with salt and pepper and let’s go to the grill.

Grill the steaks for 3-5 minutes on each side, depending on the thickness of your steaks. Skirt steaks have a skinny end and a fat end, so adjust accordingly. The same instructions go for pan searing your steaks. Using a cast iron skillet or grill pan, cook on high for 3-5 minutes per side. Allow the steaks to rest for about 10 minutes, so all those delicious steak juices can settle in.

After the steaks have rested, you will cut them against the grain.

What does cutting “against the grain” mean, you ask? If you look closely at any pice of meat, you will see that the muscle fibers go in a certain direction (called “the grain”) How you cut the meat, in relation to the direction of the grain, will affect how tender the meat is. So, we cut against the grain to make the strands of muscle fiber smaller, and the meat more tender. Thinly sliced, against the grain = tender skirt steak. Do it please 🙏 You’ll thank yourself later.

Serve this magnificent steak alongside a good scoop of your delicious marinated tomatoes, a nice drizzle of the ✨ MAGICAL ✨ Chimichurri sauce you made, and maybe a few pieces of toasted semolina bread just for funsies. Now all there’s left to do is enjoy this meal! That’ll be easy. 💁🏻‍♀️

Copycat Pepperidge Farms “Croissant” Pizza

Copycat Pepperidge Farms “Croissant” Pizza

Ingredients

Easy No-Cook Pizza Sauce
1 -15 ounce can tomato sauce
½ tsp Granulated sugar
1 tbsp Olive oil
½ tsp Garlic powder
½ tsp Dried oregano
½ tsp Dried basil
½ tsp Dried parsley
½ tsp Onion powder
Pizza Toppings can be ANYTHING you want on a pizza (even pineapple 🤭) I used:
Sliced pepperoni
Chopped red bell pepper
Browned ground Italian sausage
2 Cups shredded mozzarella cheese (or the cheese of your choice, depending on your toppings)
Egg wash: 1 egg whisked with 1 tsp of water
All Laid on a Bed of
1 package thawed frozen puff pastry. Some of my extrordinarily talented friends make their own puff pastry, or even (Gasp!) their own croissant dough, but frozen puff pastry is so, so good, and so easy for a quick meal. I use it here with GREAT results)

Directions

I like to start any recipe by getting ALL the ingredients out and ready before starting. This is called “mise en place” in the culinary world, a fancy French phrase for putting everything in place. Ready? Let’s start!

First, the really hard pizza sauce. Mix all of the sauce ingredients together in a bowl and set aside. Done! 😅

The “set aside” part is actually very important. It allows the dried herbs to hydrate and the sugar to kind of counteract the acid in the tomatoes.

Sprinkle a little flour on the counter and gently roll out your thawed puff pastry just a bit. What you want is to kind of get rid of the fold lines a little and widen each “slice” just a touch. Slice the pastry sheet into 3 even pieces.

Using the dull edge of a paring knife, make some score marks all around the edge of your dough, about 1/4 inch in, without actually cutting the dough. It’s just decorative, but also gives you an actual border to work with as you move forward. Lightly brush your egg wash along the score marks. This will give you a nicely browned crust.

Place about 3 tablespoons of pizza sauce (don’t use any more sauce than this or your crust will get soggy.) down the center of your dough, using the back of the spoon to evenly spread the sauce within the borders you made. Pretty!

Sprinkle 1/4 cup of mozzarella cheese, or the cheese of your choice (fly free, my pizza friend!) right on top of the sauce. See where we’re going with this?

Evenly distribute your toppings, on top! I used a classic sausage and bell pepper motif here. I use red bell pepper because I’m not a fan of the traditional green bell. Plus, it’s prettier 😊

Bake at 425° for 20-25 minutes, or until the crust is beautifully puffy and your cheese is bubbly and browned a bit. Here I did pepperoni, sausage and bell pepper, and the classic “Deluxe” combination! 😋

Go on now. Make some pizza and let me know how it goes! Tell me all about it in the comments!

(Fun note: I experimented, and you can freeze these pizzas, fully dressed, and bake them at 425° for 30 minutes with fantastic fresh pizza results! YAY!! More Pizza, later on!!)

Italian Pot Roast with Polenta

Italian Pot Roast with Polenta

Ingredients

Pot Roast
3-4 lb chuck roast, generously seasoned on all sides with salt and pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced small
1 carrot, diced small
2 stalks of celery, diced small (sensing a trend here?)
2 cloves of finely minced garlic
¼ cup basil leaves, roughly chopped
2 sprigs of thyme
2 sprigs of rosemary
1 28 oz can whole San Marzano tomatoes (they’re so much sweeter and well worth the extra 50 cents or so)
2 tbsp tomato paste (I found a great one in a tube that also has basil infused in the paste. Regular is fine 😉)
1 cup of beef broth
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
Second Round of Vegetables
1 large onion cut in eight wedges
2 large carrots, cut in chunks (these will be cooking a long time. Larger chunks mean less mushy carrot)
3 stalks of celery, cut in chunks (see above)
1 cup of small tomatoes (I used grape)
Creamy, Cheesy Polenta
4 ½ cups water
1 cup polenta
1 tsp salt
2-3 tbsp heavy cream
½ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Directions

Making the Pot Roast

Spray the inside of your slow cooker with non-stick spray and have it ready to go.

Before doing anything else, I always recommend doing your mise en place (en français). That’s fancy French chef talk for chopping everything and having it all measured and ready to go before starting to cook. No more looking for something and realizing that you don’t have it or that it’s not ready to go, just do what the French chefs say and put “everything in place” before you start the cooking.

Using a heavy pan, like cast iron or stainless steel, sear all sides of your roast over high heat. Really get a good sear on all the sides. Don’t be afraid that you’ll overcook it. This is a BIG piece of meat.

Place roast in the bottom of your slow cooker, fat side up.

seared pot roast

In the same pan as you seared your roast, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and heat to medium high. Sauté your vegetables until they begin to soften and get a little color. Add your garlic and sauté another minute. Throw in your thyme, rosemary, and basil and give it a stir. We’re using the same pan because we want to keep all those meaty flavors to ourselves. We want the veggies and the meat to be madly in love by the end of this recipe!

soffritto with herbs

In a medium bowl combine your tomatoes, beef broth, tomato paste and red wine vinegar. Using your hands (with gloves, if you want) really squish up those tomatoes and mix everything together. You might be thinking you could have just bought crushed tomatoes. Yeah, you could, but whole San Marzano tomatoes are just peeled tomatoes and juice. Very often crushed tomatoes are a mixture of diced tomatoes and tomato sauce or purée, and not as good quality or flavor. Trust me on this. I wouldn’t steer you wrong.

Now pour the tomato mixture all around your roast. Mmm. Already smelling good isn’t it?

adding tomatoes to italian pot roast

Finally take all your large chunked vegetables and place them all around your roast. Toss those baby tomatoes right on top. Put on the lid, set it to low and walk away for 8-10 hours. Go to work. Go see a double feature. Take 2 naps.

When you come back, it will look like this! And you will be so happy!

finished italian pot roast

Finishing Up and Making Polenta

Turn your slow cooker on warm. Carefully, maybe with the help of a friend, pour the cooking liquid into a medium saucepan. You can leave a bit of the liquid in there with the meat if you want, but just pop the lid back on and the vegetables will help keep the meat moist anyway. Bring the cooking liquid to a simmer, turn to low and let it reduce a bit while you make some polenta.

Polenta looks and sounds difficult to make, but it really isn’t. If you Google polenta (don’t) a lot of people will tell you that it takes 40 minutes of constant stirring, blah blah blah. Relax. There is a lot of stirring, but it’s only about 15 minutes and it’s super simple.

Start by boiling the water with the salt. Once it’s boiling, use a whisk to make a little whirlpool action in the water and slowly pour in your polenta. Keep whisking until it’s all in and there are no lumps. Turn the heat to medium and stir with a wooden spoon every minute or so to make sure it isn’t sticking to the bottom.

whisking polenta

The polenta will get nice and thick. Give it a careful taste (it’s hot). If it feels smooth in your mouth (mouth feel!), it’s done. Take it off the heat and add your heavy cream and cheese. Stir it up and serve on a warm plate.

Top the polenta with your unbelievably tender pot roast and vegetables, and pour the reduced cooking liquid all over. You are going to cry. It’s that good. I haven’t served this to my Mother-In-Law yet, but The Boy sure loved it! Success!

Italian Pot Roast with Polenta2

Hawaiian Pizza

Hawaiian Pizza

Ingredients

Pizza Crust
¾ cup lukewarm water (between 110° and 120° please)
1 tsp active dry yeast
1 tsp sugar or honey (I used honey. It doesn’t actually add any sweetness to the crust, but it does feed those hungry yeasty beasties)
3 tbsp olive oil
2 cups bread flour
1 tsp fine sea salt
Toppings
2 tsp olive oil, for brushing on the crust
A sprinkling of coarse sea salt for the edge of the crust
½ cup marinara (Store bought is fine, or I happen to have a great recipe  here)
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
Sliced pineapple, cut in chunks. I used fresh, but canned is fine.
Thick sliced ham, cut in chunks
Thin slices of hot pepper (Optional. I thought I was getting a really spicy habañero pepper. It wasn’t 😕, but it looked pretty)
A sprinkling of crushed red pepper flakes (Also optional. I like things spicy 🔥, despite my pepper problems)

Directions

Dissolve the sugar or honey in the lukewarm water in the bowl of your stand mixer. I highly recommend using a thermometer to check that the temperature is within the 110° to 120° range. (I didn’t at first and my yeast kinda just sat there and did nothing, so I started over.) Sprinkle your yeast over the water and give it a gentle stir. After about 8-10 minutes, the yeast should be munching on that sweet water and the liquid should be nice and frothy. Mmm, yeast froth.

frothy yeast

While the yeast are eating lunch, grab another bowl and measure out your flour and salt and whisk them together well. Add the oil to your finished frothy yeast. With the mixer on low, add your flour into the liquid, one large spoonful at a time. You might give it a little help with a rubber spatula from time to time to make sure the flour at the bottom of the bowl gets in on the action. Once all the flour is incorporated, switch over to your dough hook and knead the dough for 3-5 minutes. You’ll know it’s ready because the dough will be stuck to the hook and will be making a slapping noise against the side of the bowl. It will be sticky, but should look relatively smooth.

mixed pizza dough

Transfer your dough to a bowl that has been coated with a few teaspoons of olive oil. Roll the dough in the oil to coat it all over and cover with a piece of plastic wrap that has been sprayed with a little non-stick spray. Now we’re going to allow the dough to rise (also known as proofing) for about 1-2 hours. You can even allow it to go overnight in the fridge. Some people swear by this method, but I’m usually not that far ahead of the dinner game. Overnight proofing can create a more light and airy crust, but this quick dough method is amazing as is.

Most proofing instructions call for you to place your dough in a warm spot to rise. I don’t know about you, but I don’t really keep “warm spots” lying about in my house. Nor do I have a fancy proofing box. So, just like in my recipe for milk bread rolls, I made one. Simple. Boil some water in a large bowl of measuring cup in the microwave. Put it on a low rack in your cold oven. Shut the door. Proofing box. Tah Dah 🎉!

proofing box

After 1-2 hours your dough should be nice and risen. Isn’t science great! Those yeast did a fabulous job! Let’s make pizza!

risen pizza dough

Plonk your fluffy dough onto a lightly floured counter. Roll it out to your desired size. I went for a rectangularly shaped pizza that would fit on my sheet pan. I don’t have a fancy pizza stone anymore. I had one for years, but I rarely used it or remembered to take it out of the oven. I always forgot it was there until I preheated the oven for something else and went “Oops, I heated that pizza stone again!” So now, when I bake a pizza, I just use a sheet pan covered in parchment paper.

Once you’ve gotten your crust to the right size/shape, roll it onto your rolling pin and transfer it to the sheet pan.

rolling pizza dough

Preheat your oven to 500°. Yes, 500°. This takes high heat for a very short amount of time until yum begins! Place your oven rack in the bottom third of the oven. Not the very bottom, but the next level. This is so your crust gets nice and crispy. Brush the edges of your crust with a little bit of olive oil and a light sprinkle of coarse sea salt. This is because crust is an essential part of pizza. We want it to have a little flavor and color, right?

A light schmearing of marinara goes onto the crust first, not too little, not too much. We don’t want a soggy bottom. do we?

saucing pizza

Now we’ll add all of our toppings. Evenly distribute your cheese, leaving a bit of crust free for, I don’t know, a handle to hold your slice? Yummy crispy bits? Both. Top with the pineapple, ham, and peppers if you’re using them.

hawaiian pizza raw

Bake at 500° for about 15 minutes. You’ll know it’s done when the crust is browned and the cheese is all melty with a few caramelized cheesy parts here and there.

Resist the urge to scald the inside of your face for about 5-10 minutes as the pizza cools to less than solar temperatures. Slice and enjoy! Embrace Hawaiian Pizza in all its salty sweet glory. Doesn’t being right taste good?

Now that you are a pizza chef, you can adapt this recipe any way you please. No sauce, a different sauce, other meats or vegetables, just cheese…the variations know no bounds!

hawaiian pizza

Make it a Pan Pizza!!:

To make pizza in a cast iron pan, heat your pan in a 500° oven for 10 minutes, add 1 tbs olive oil and then plop your dough in the pan. 𝘾𝙖𝙧𝙚𝙛𝙪𝙡𝙡𝙮 (🔥) spread your dough to the edges and add whatever sauce and toppings you heart desires. Bake at 500° until the crust is puffy and the cheese is all browned and melty (about 10-15 minutes). Tah-da 🎉 PIZZA! You’re welcome.