Comfort Food: Italian Style

Winter is the time for fleece-wear, a roaring fire, page -turning books, and delicious aromas swirling around the kitchen as your comfort food is simmering or baking.

We all have favourite dishes that feel like a hug as we relish each bite; and for me, it’s Italian food.

One of my favourite meals to whip up for a self-care dinner is a simple dish with humble ingredients: Pasta Aglio e Olio (pasta with garlic and oil).

I had some polpette e sugo (meatballs in sauce) leftover from Christmas in the freezer. When I make meatballs, I make a huge batch and freeze them for those days when I need a hug from an Italian staple.

Here’s the recipe for you to try so you too can get your own comfort-food-hug Italian style:

Pasta Aglio e Olio with Polpette

I use homemade pasta, however, you can use whatever type of pasta you have on hand (packaged or homemade), and the same with your sauce–use whatever tomato sauce you normally would use, or no sauce at all, it’s a flexible recipe.

This recipe will serve four. Cut the ingredients in half if making for two.

Ingredients:

1 head of garlic, roasted. You can use raw garlic, if you do, thinly slice 6 cloves
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Kalamata Olive oil (or any other type of Extra Virgin olive oil)
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes, or less if you don’t like spicy, or eliminate
1 cup finely grated, Romano cheese (this is my preference, but you can use Parmigiano or a combination of both)
1 pound uncooked pasta (your choice)
Salt to taste

Directions:

1. Roast the garlic, remove and squeeze out the garlic.

2. Warm up a large pasta bowl.

3. Cook your pasta, according to package directions in a large pot of salted water, al dente. If using fresh pasta, cook only for a few minutes until it’s firm to the bite.

4. Drain and transfer pasta to the warmed pasta bowl.

5. Warm the oil on medium heat in a skillet. Once oil is hot, add the garlic and lower heat to low, stirring the garlic in the oil for 10 minutes, then remove from the heat.

6. Add pasta to the skillet, and toss so that the pasta is coated with the garlic-oil, and sprinkle with salt (to taste).

7. Put pasta back in the bowl, and add pepper flakes, and the grated cheese, and stir well until cheese is combined.

8. Serve with additional grated cheese.

If you’d like to serve the pasta with meatballs, you can find my meatball recipe on my blog. Please click here.

Authentic Polpette (Meatballs)

 

 

When people think of meatballs, they think, spaghetti and meatballs, and that’s good too, however, meatballs are also great as starters for a dinner party or as a meal on their own with a salad.

Polpette’s as they are called in Italy, are one of those recipes where Italian families will claim theirs is the best recipe and the only way to make them. There are a variety of ways to make these mouthwatering, little balls, however, I will say that my version of polpette’s (a recipe handed down from my mother which was handed down from her mother in Italy) is one of the more delectable ways of producing a yummylicious meatball.

The secret to excellent meatballs is for them to be moist on the inside (you get the moistness by adding milk and bread as I will show you below) and golden brown on the outside with a bit of bite, so that you get a variety of textures, teasing your taste buds.

Ingredients:

1 pound medium lean ground beef

1 pound lean ground pork

1 pound lean ground veal

1 cup milk

1 baguette (best to use a few days old bread, best if it is hardened, remove the crust)

1/2 cup Romano cheese (freshly grated)

1/2 cup grated Parmesan (freshly grated)

3 TBSP fresh Italian parsley (chopped)

2 eggs – (lightly beaten)

4 egg whites – (lightly beaten)

2 tsp. Kosher salt

2 tsp. black pepper

 

Directions:

1.  Tear the baguette in small pieces. You can chop it up in a food processor if you like.

2.  In a small pot, heat the milk, stirring constantly, until the milk is steamy.

3.  Turn off the heat and remove pot from the stove.

4.  Add the bread to the milk and let it soak, until all the milk is dissolved in the bread.

4.  Mash it until the bread and milk resembles a paste.

5.  Let the bread paste cool.

6.  In a large bowl, combine the following: beef, pork, veal, Parmesan and Romano cheeses, eggs, egg whites, salt, parsley, black pepper, and the bread-milk mixture.

7.  Mix everything well with your hands. Try not to work the mixture too hard and for too long, as you don’t want the mixture to be too tough. You just want to work it so that all the Ingredients: are well blended.

8.  Roll one meatball and if you find the mixture is a bit too wet, then add a bit more cheese.

9.  If you find the mixture a bit too dry, add more egg whites.

10.  You will able to tell if everything is just right, by rolling one ball, and if it all stays together in a ball, then you don’t have to add anything extra.

 

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11.  Preheat oven to 400 F.

12.  Prepare a baking sheet either by spraying a non-stick spray or lining it with parchment paper.

13.  You can roll the meatballs any size you like. A good size for serving with a main dish (like pasta) is between two to three inches, however, for an appetizer, you can go smaller if you wish.

14.  Place the meatballs on the baking sheet and bake until fully cooked through (internal temperature of 160F (about 20 minutes). The length of time that they need to be baked will depend on the size you are rolling the meatballs.