Friday, March 21, 2014

Spinach Meatballs with Homemade Marinara

Don't you love when you can sneak veggies into a delicious meal? This recipe uses an entire bag/carton of fresh spinach! My family loves this dish. It also makes enough for another night's dinner...or freeze the meatballs and use next week...or make meatball many options!

Thanks again to my friend, Sabrina, for sending me this recipe. She has a big family as well, so she knows how to cook for them!

Spinach Meatballs (slightly adapted from

1 lb ground beef
5 oz fresh spinach (one bag/carton)
2 slices bread (I use older sourdough, any can do)
1 large egg, beaten
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
1 tbsp. olive oil

1. Give entire 5 oz of fresh spinach a rough chop. Steam spinach in microwave for about 1 1/2 minutes until it is warm and slightly wilted.
2. Add to mixing bowl: ground beef, wilted spinach, beaten egg, garlic, parsley, parmesan cheese, healthy dose of salt and pepper (about 1/2 tsp of each). Barely wet bread with water, squeeze out excess water over sink, and crumble bread into mixing bowl. Mix all with hands until thoroughly combined.
3. Using tablespoon, scoop out meat, and form small meatballs (each is about one tablespoon in size, possibly slightly bigger).
4. In large skillet or nonstick pan, heat 1 tbsp. olive oil. Add as many meatballs as you can without them touching each other. Allow meatballs to cook and get a nice sear, then turn to other side. Continue to turn meatballs every 3-5 minutes until all sides are browned and centers are pretty much cooked through.
5. Place meatballs on paper-towel lined plate. Freeze half if you want. Save the rest to cook for 15-20 minutes in the below homemade marinara sauce.

Homemade Marinara Sauce
1 tbsp. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1/2 yellow onion (or one small onion), chopped
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp. oregano
3/4 tsp. dried basil
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 tbsp. fresh basil, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste

1/2 package of angel hair pasta (or full package if feeding a crowd)

1. Heat olive oil in skillet (skillet needs to have a lid or cover). Add chopped onion and allow to cook until translucent. Add garlic and sauté for a couple minutes (don't let garlic burn!). Season with a little salt and pepper (if you have a little red wine, deglaze pan with about 1/4 cup red wine, and allow alcohol to cook off).
2. Add tomatoes, bay leaf, oregano, dried basil, chicken broth, and season with salt and pepper. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
3. After 10 minutes, add meatballs, simmer for another 15-20 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, bring pasta water to a boil, and cook angel hair noodles as directed.
5. Finish marinara by adding in remaining 1 tbsp fresh basil. Remove bay leaf.

Serve all together and enjoy!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Pumpkin (Butternut Squash) Lasagna

I am a huge fan of this cookbook, Feeding Our Families, by Katie Boyer Newell. She spoke at my mom's church MOPs group a couple years ago. She strives to feed her family healthy, whole foods. And, everything I have made from her cookbook has been a WINNER. This is the first recipe of many...

This lasagna adds another veggie - butternut squash - into your normal lasagna, which is absolutely delicious with Italian turkey sausage and sage. Yum! I can make THREE meals out of this recipe. One 9x13" pan (which equates to two nights in my house) and then a 8x8" pan to freeze.

A couple tips:
  • Roast your butternut squash earlier in the day, cover and save in fridge
  • Put together your turkey sausage and cheese mix earlier in the day, cover and save in fridge
Doing those two things earlier in the day will make your assembly go fast!

This is part of our regular rotation - my husband and kids love it!

Pumpkin (Butternut Squash) Lasagna
(Katie Boyer Newell, )

Turkey Sausage & Cheese Mix
2 lbs Italian sausage (I use mild Italian turkey sausage)
1 red onion
4 cloves galic
⅔ cup gorgonzola (I have used extra sharp cheddar cheese here)
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp dried thyme
½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp fresh ground black pepper

Butternut Squash & Ricotta Mix
2 cups pureed pumpkin or butternut squash (or one can) I chop up butternut squash, roast with olive oil, salt and pepper, and puree earlier in the day
1 cup ricotta cheese
2 eggs
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
½ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
½ tsp nutmeg

Marinara Sauce
24 – 25 oz jar of your favorite tomato pasta sauce (Barilla basil and tomato)
15-ounce can tomato sauce (or homemade)

12 lasagna noodles
¼ cup fresh sage leaves OR same amount of fresh basil
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
2 tbsp Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
½ tsp fresh ground black pepper

Instructions (90 minutes, 30 minutes active.):
Preparations: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Peel and cube butternut squash into small cubes. Coat lightly with extra virgin olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Place butternut squash on baking tray, and roast for about 25-35 minutes, turning them over about halfway through. Butternut squash should be soft enough to puree when done roasting. Put squash in bowl and set aside. (You can do this earlier in the day)

Dice 1 red onion and 4 cloves garlic. Set aside. Stir together 1 jar of your favorite pasta sauce with 1 can of tomato sauce. Set this aside as well. In a small bowl, whisk 2 eggs. Add the eggs, 2 cups butternut squash and 1 cup ricotta cheese to a food processor or mixing bowl. Turn food processor on until ingredients are combined. When well combined, stir in 1 cup shredded mozzarella, ½ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, and ½ tsp nutmeg.

Brown your sausage: Heat a large deep skillet over medium high heat for about five minutes. When hot, add 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil and heat an additional 30 seconds, until oil shimmers. Add sausage, onion, and garlic to skillet. Season with 1 tsp dried thyme, and ½ tsp each sea salt and fresh ground black pepper. Brown sausage for 5 – 7 minutes, breaking into crumbles as it cooks. When sausage is no longer pink, turn off heat. Stir in ⅔ cups gorgonzola cheese just until melted.

Cook lasagna noodles: Per package directions. Rinse with cold water to stop noodles from cooking.

Assemble your lasagnas: Pour ¼ – ½ cup tomato sauce on the bottom of baking dish(es). (I can make one 9x13" dish, and one 8x8"). Place lasagna noodles on the bottom of each dish. Layer ¼ of the sausage mixture (eyeball it), ¼ of the pumpkin and cheese mixture, and ¼ of the sauce in each dish. Repeat with another 2-3 layers of noodles, sausage, pumpkin and cheese mixture, and sauce. To final layer, top dish with an additional ½ cup mozzarella, 2 tbsp torn sage or basil leaves, 2 tbsp Parmigiano-Reggiano, and ¼ tsp black pepper. I have been known to add more cheese, even extra sharp cheddar to the top! Cover tonight’s dinner with foil and refrigerate. Transfer disposable 8 x 8 to a labeled and dated freezer bag, and freeze.

To bake your lasagna: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. When oven is hot, place foil covered lasagna in oven and bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes, until cheese is hot and bubbly. Let lasagna rest for 5 – 10 minutes. Serve and enjoy! (When baking your lasagna from frozen, please allow an extra 30 – 40 minutes covered baking time.)