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Restaurant Quality Chinese Beef w/Broccoli

I don’t know about you, but I LOVE Chinese food.  Well, “American” Chinese food.  If I had to eat actual Chinese food in China I would probably live off of pudding cups like Charlotte did in the Sex and the City movie.  Minus the sharting.  I’m not very adventurous when it comes to food.  So the Chinese that we are all used to is one of my favs!

My first job was actually working at a Chinese Restaurant doing the carryout.  It was my family’s favorite place to grab good Chinese and we knew the owners.  I was about 14 years old and my mom and I walked in to pick up some food.  She asks the owner…”are you hiring right now?” And I looked at her and said…”um why do you suddenly have an urge to work here?”  And she snapped back, “NO A JOB FOR YOU!” I was like, “omg this isn’t happening.  What the hell am I gonna do here?!?! Cut the head of the chicken in the back?”    Anyways, she told my mom they were not hiring and I let out a sigh of relief.  I didn’t want to work at all let alone at a Chinese restaurant.  At the time a tanning salon or something would’ve been more ideal.  (Dumb, dumb.)  However a couple weeks later the owner of the restaurant called my mom and said their carryout girl just quit and they would just “love for Angela to come work with us!”  Pfffffff. I was so mad.  Needless to say my mother sent me off because you know that was the age I was giving her a hard time and it would be “good for me”.  Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights from 5-9pm making $6.15 an hour I was working in the kitchen putting orders together.  And you know what?  It ended up being the BEST JOB EVER!  It was a blast!  There were kids my age who worked in the kitchen from a close HS nearby washing dishes and waiting tables.  We all hit it off well.  The place was super clean and the food was amazing.  Plus I would occasionally play kissy face with one of the dishwasher boys in the supply room.  Looks like your plan backfired a little bit huh mom?” Hahahahahaha.

So, whenever I see people or chefs saying…”make your own chinese at home” and “why buy it when you can make it yourself sooooo much better in just 15 minutes?”  Well this just burns my ass.  Why would I want to make my own Chinese food?  One of the MAIN reasons I would get Chinese is because I don’t feel like cooking.  So why would I make it?  You know it’s not going to taste the same.  Not even close!  But it’s “better for you.”  Yes I know.  I will eat a salad if I want “better for you.”  Give me some dang almond boneless chicken, with an egg roll and some white rice.  And a side of MSG.  THANKS!

Well the Chinese food in Nashville sucks.   I mean it just SUCKS.  It’s the worst.  Really it is.  There is one decent place about 20 minutes from me.  So it’s not close enough to get a carryout.  I’ve tried making my own fried rice.  It’s good.  But it’s not the same.  BUT…………………………………the other day I found a recipe on Pinterest for beef with broccoli and it sparked my attention.  It sounded good.  Really good.  So I thought hmmmm okay since I love Chinese and I can’t get anything decent around here, let’s try this.

OMG GUYS!  It was amazing.  Like authentic, restaurant quality “better for you”  deliciousness.  Better than a restaurant.  It was THAT GOOD.  I didn’t even take pics or anything because I wasn’t sure if it was going to be worthy of sharing.  But ohhhhhhhh it was sooooooo good.  So i’m just posting the recipe below and telling you to make it.  Because it will knock your socks off.  If you like beef and broccoli that is.

****So here’s the deal.  This recipe calls for flank steak.  I like flank steak but I find it to ALWAYS BE TOUGH.  It’s just a tough meat.  It’s not tenderloin that’s for sure.  But it’s cheap.  So what do you get for cheap?  You get tough.  It’s very lean though.  So here is my suggestion.  If you can splurge a little bit, use a better cut of beef.  I won’t use flank steak again for this recipe despite the fact that this dish was still amazing.  The steak was tough.  So use something better.  Unless you want tough.**** 

I also added some sesame seeds and green onion. It makes plenty of sauce to pour over rice.  Enjoy!!!!

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BEEF WITH BROCCOLI

INGREDIENTS

1 tbsp olive oil
1 lb flank steak, trimmed of fat and sliced very thin against the grain
½ cup low sodium soy sauce
2 tbsp cornstarch
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp sherry
3 tbsp honey
1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
2 tbsp sesame oil
1 pinch red pepper flakes
1 tbsp Sriracha sauce, or to taste
½ cup beef broth (or chicken broth)
1 head broccoli, cut into small florets

Instructions
In a medium bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, cornstarch, garlic, sherry, honey, ginger, sesame oil, red pepper flakes, Sriracha sauce and beef broth. Set aside until ready to use.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet and cook the steak until it starts to brown, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add sauce and stir in with the steak, it should start to thicken immediately. Add broccoli and cook for an additional 2 minutes until broccoli is tender and sauce is thickened.
Serve over rice or noodles.

Nutrition information does not include rice or noodles.
nutrition information
Calories: 430 Fat: 20.1g Saturated fat: 5.4g Unsaturated fat: 0.0g Trans fat: 0.0g Carbohydrates: 23.7g Sugar: 14.4g Sodium: 1238mg Fiber: 1.6g Protein: 35.3g Cholesterol: 62mg

Here is the link too.

Easy Beef and Broccoli Stir Fry

 

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Chicken Piccata Pasta Toss

Guess who’s back?  Back again.  Angie’s back.  Tell a friend.  (Don’t ever call me Angie by the way or I will cut you.)  So, where have I been might you ask?  Well, I’ve been busy.  Very busy.  And tired.  I’ve been traveling a lot too.  I also threw my boys a massive 2nd and 4th birthday party which totally wore me out.  I’ve barely cooked a decent meal in the last couple months.  Or at least nothing worthy of a “blog post.”  And you know what?  This blogging crap is a lot of work.  I mean a lot.  It’s fun and I love it though.  I especially love hearing feedback from people.  I had a man come up to me at the golf course where my husband plays and said, “hey i love your blog! I made your chicken soup.  I hated it.  My wife loved it though.” Hahahahaha!  I’ve gotten lots of really sweet comments from people and I’m so glad most have been enjoying it!  You know half the time when I’m doing this I have my kids screaming at me or pulling at my leg.  I misspell words and I might forget a step or 2.  Who cares though right?  But I needed a dang break.  I’ve been majorly wore out.  So anyways…all is good!  I’m cooking again.   And I desperately need to hit the gym because my last couple months of fun have also been causing severe damage to my back side.  The several posts will be “healthy” recipes no doubt but they will be goooood.

Well…this pasta…it’s an oldie but a goodie and one of the first few things that I ever made for my husband.  It’s DELICIOUS!!  I saw Rachel Ray make it years ago and I knew it would be good because of my love for lemons and pasta. It’s a lighter dish too.  (Well, kinda light.)  It’s like chicken piccata in a bowl with cheesy pasta! It’s one of my go-to’s because it’s easy and everyone loves it.  Unless you’re my mother who thinks lemon and pasta don’t go together.  She also thinks chicken and pasta together is a sin.  (But she’s weird with food.)  There is a little bit of prep work involved but not too much.  I like to do the wash and chop the chicken earlier in the day so it’s ready. I’ve altered it a little bit because I found it to be a bit too dry.  So I use less noodles than the recipe calls for.

Enjoy!

 

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Start with 1 1/3 pound of chicken breast chopped into 1 inch chunks.  I like smaller pieces of chicken so chop it however you like.  Heat a deep non-stick skillet over medium high heat and add 1 TBS extra virgin olive oil and add the chicken.
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Season VERY WELL with salt and pepper.  
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When chicken is cooked though and golden brown, remove and cover with foil.
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Chop 4 cloves of garlic.  Squeeze one whole lemon and set aside.  In a measuring cup measure 1/2 cup of white wine and in another 1 cup of chicken stock.  Chop 1/2 cup of flat leaf parsley.  Lastly, set aside 2 TBS of flour and 1 1/2 TBS of butter.
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Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the penne.  Once boiling, add about 3/4lb. of pasta to the water.  I do just a little less than one pound so it’s not as dry.  DON’T FORGET TO SALT THE WATER.  

 

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(Use the same skillet as the chicken).  Heat the remaining 1 TBS of Olive Oil and 1 TBS butter over medium low heat.  
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Add the garlic cloves and cook until just lightly golden.  DON’T OVERCOOK!  As soon as you start to see it become translucent and LIGHTLY brown, add in the 2 TBS of flour.  Whisk, Whisk!  Let it cook for a minute and then add 1/2 cup of white wine.  Whisk again until incorporated and reduced (about 1 minute.) 
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Next whisk in lemon juice and chicken broth.  
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Stir in parsley.  (Recipe calls for capers but I don’t use them because my boys don’t like.  When you stir in the parsley you can also add in 3 TBS capers!)  Raise heat to medium/medium high.  When the liquid comes to a bubble, add in remaining 1/2 TBS of butter.  Then add the chicken back to the pan and heat.  Sauce will thicken up in a about 2-3 minutes.   
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Strain the penne and mix very well into the sauce.  
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Don’t forget the parmesan cheese!  

Ingredients

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/3 pounds chicken breast tenders, cut into 1-inch pieces
Salt and pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 shallots, chopped (I don’t use shallots, but do if your fam likes onions!)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white wine
1 lemon, juiced
1 cup chicken broth or stock
3 tablespoons capers, drained
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
3/4 pound penne rigate pasta, cooked to al dente
Chopped or snipped chives, for garnish

Directions

Heat a deep nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add a tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil and the chicken to the pan. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Brown chicken until lightly golden all over, about 5 to 6 minutes. Remove chicken from pan and return the skillet to the heat. Reduce heat to medium. Add another tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter, the garlic and shallots to the skillet. Saute garlic and shallots 3 minutes. Add flour and cook 2 minutes. Whisk in wine and reduce liquid 1 minute. Whisk lemon juice and broth into sauce. Stir in capers and parsley. When the liquid comes to a bubble, add remaining 1/2 tablespoon butter to the sauce to give it a little shine. Add chicken back to the pan and heat through, 1 to 2 minutes. Toss hot pasta with chicken and sauce and serve. Adjust salt and pepper, to your taste. Top with fresh snipped chives.

Recipe courtesy of Rachael Ray

 

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Chocolate Covered Bananas

This sh*t is Bananas.  B-A-N-A-N-A-S!  (You know you’re going to have that song in your head for the rest of the day now.

Everything about these bananas brings family to mind.  My grandma made them growing up as well as my mother.  They were a favorite summer time treat!  We always had them for holiday weekends and everyone went bonkers over them.  They are so easy and quick to make.  We are having a Mother’s Day BBQ at my abode, so I thought these would be a perfect addition!

Now you can get all fancy on me and melt your own chocolate.  (I’m clapping for you.)  We’ve always used the Smucker’s brand (yes, I know…hard to believe right?) and it’s soooooo good.  It hardens instantly.  But I figure, why mess with perfection right?  I always like the better-for-you route.  However this is just too perfect to change.  Just buy the Smuckers.  And don’t feel bad about yourself.  It’s OK once in a while, really.  ( I mean, it’s fruit guys!) It’s called Smuckers Magic Shell Chocolate.  It tastes realllllllly good and hardens fast.  So make sure you apply your toppings right away!

Mmmm good luck eating just one!  Enjoy🙂

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I used 3 of these for about 18-20 Bananas
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Start with some bananas.  Peel and cut in half.  Then stick a POPSICLE STICK through the center…NOT  a cake pop stick like I used.  ( I thought I had some but didn’t!)  The popsicle sticks are much sturdier and easier to hold.  Cover the bananas and put in freezer over night or until completely frozen.
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Now slice up your toppings.  M&M’s would be good for the kids too.  I used Butter Finger, Caramel and Dry Roasted Peanuts.  The salty and sweet combination is perfect. 
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Now take that Chocolate and SHAKE IT.  I mean shake it good.  Shake what your mama gave ya!  Then pour it into a coffee mug.  Take the frozen banana and dip in the chocolate.  You will have to pick up the mug and tilt it around to get the whole banana covered.  Then quickly add your favorite toppings.  QUICKLY!!!  The chocolate hardens fast.
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Place them on some parchment paper when finished!  When dry put them in a container and freeze right away.  
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If using caramel put it in a double boiler or a small sauce pan with a glass bowl on top.  Melt caramels with a little bit of water over low heat and stir until melted. Then drizzle over bananas.  
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Yum!  Doesn’t get any better than this!

Really no recipe here.

Bananas.  Slice in half, add popsicle stick.  Freeze overnight or until frozen solid.  Take the chocolate and shake really well.  Add to a coffee mug.  Dunk the frozen banana into the mixture, turning to coat completely.  QUICKLY add your favorite toppings.  Then place on parchment paper.  When dry, put in a container and freeze until ready to use.

(Can you tell I got a little lazy?)

Ha!

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The Ultimate (Super Easy!) Mother’s Day Brunch Menu

Mother’s Day and Brunch go hand in hand.  I don’t really get the whole brunch thing to be honest with you.  I don’t want an omelette and a piece of chicken next to it.  But, to each is own.  You know what’s even worse?  A waffle with a piece of fried chicken on it.  Seriously guys, whoever started that trend needs to be punished.  It’s not right.  Now that I’ve been a Nashvillian for almost 7 years, I’m starting to embrace the whole brunch idea.  Because just about EVERY restaurant there offers a fabulous Sunday Brunch with endless options.  Everyone be brunchin’ in the South that’s for sure.  So put on your big ole’ fancy hat and pearls (if your in the South) and check out a local hot brunch spot.  And bless your sweet heart.  (I kinda want to bitch smack someone every time they say that to me.)

So Brunch.  Well it’s like a combination of breakfast and lunch right?  I’ve been to brunches where people have served just breakfast and called it brunch because it’s been around lunch time.  And I’ve been to brunches that have served both.  I don’t know what the rules are here.  But I think it would be wrong (like starting a sentence with but) if you only served LUNCH at your BRUNCH.  Right?

My Mother’s Day “brunch” menu is just breakfast.  I like to serve this SUPER EASY and delicious food around lunch time. Quiche is great to make for a crowd.  This particular recipe below I adapted from Paula Deen years ago.  It’s my favorite.  I’ve made a few changes because let’s be honest, before my old girl Paula lost 50 pounds she was serving up heart attacks in a box for a good 20 years.  Her recipe calls for a whole pound of bacon and 1 1/2 cups of heavy cream.  And that’s in ONE quiche.  That’s a lot.  Of course everything in moderation is ok.  But I knew I could make this and have it taste just as good if not better.  I have to warn you.  I’m not much of a baker.  Pie crust is foreign to me.  I’ve made it a couple times and it came out good.  However I was not in the mood to make my own!  By all means, if you want to bust out the eggs and flour…knock yourself out.  I’m sure the quiche will be that much better.  I went the easy route and bought Pillsbury Pie Crust.  And it was gooooooooooood.  Cut corners when you want to.  And lie to your guests.  Tell them you made it.  (And make sure you hide the box really good in the garbage.)  They will never know the difference I promise.  You can still be a great cook and be totally full of shit I promise.

An awesome compliment to the quiche is sausage pinwheels.  (Recipe below) Omg.  They are soooo good.  I first had them years ago when I was invited to a friends house for brunch.  However she made the dough herself.  I fell in love.  And I’m really not a sausage fan at all so I was shocked that I liked these.  These things will disappear before you can blink!

Anyways, let’s get to the food.

Let’s start with the mmmmmmmm bacon!

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Fry up a 1/2 lb. of Bacon.  I like to use center cut because it’s more lean.  Then when cooled, chop it up! Set aside.
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Baby Spinach.  2 cups packed well.  I like to remove the stems but that is just a personal preference.  I hate biting into anything stringy.  Put in a microwave safe bowl and cook for about 30 seconds until wilted.  Then chop.  Set aside.
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Roll your pie crust over a DEEP DISH pie pan.  Then try to make it look as pretty as possible.  Clearly this is not my strong point.
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Whisk together 6 large eggs, 1 1/2 cups of whole milk (you can probably use 2 % to0), and a pinch of salt and pepper.
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Spread the bacon over the pie crust and then all of the spinach.  Try to separate the spinach as much as possible.
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Then, add 1 1/2 Cups of shredded swiss cheese.  Now…I’m a real stickler when it comes to cheese.  Please PLEASE don’t buy your grocery store generic brand already shredded.  It makes all the difference in the world when you buy good cheese believe me.  Go to the fancy cheese section and buy a nice block of it.  And then shred it yourself.  Skimp on some areas (like the crust) but not on the cheese!
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Now add the milk/egg mixture to the pie.
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Make sure you whisk the eggs really well.  See that big glob of egg white in the upper left?  Yeah…you don’t want that!  Now you are ready to bake 375 degrees for about 45 minutes.
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Here is the finished product.  See…there is the big egg white. Whisk, whisk, whisk!  My crust is a little high too.  Make sure the crust is about 1/2 inch over the egg mixture.
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Cut it in wedges! Yum!

Now, for the sausage pinwheels.  Get ready to slave over the stove.

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Yep.  That’s it.  We are going all out here.
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Roll out the Crescent dough. I bought a whole one with out the seems.  If you can’t find just buy the regular ones and pinch the seems together.  Then spread your favorite sausage over the top and roll up long ways.
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Slice them into about 3/4 to 1 Inch rolls.
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Pop these babies in a 375 degree oven for about 15 minutes or until nice and golden brown.
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DONE!  Get ready to be mind blown.
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They are like crack.  You can make them in advance too just don’t cut them until you are ready to cook.  Wrap well with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Make a fruit salad!  Buy some muffins!  Your all set.

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SPINACH AND BACON QUICHE

Ingredients
6 large eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups whole milk
Salt and pepper
2 cups chopped fresh baby spinach, packed and microwaved till wilted
1/2 pound bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 1/2 cups shredded Swiss cheese
1 (9-inch) refrigerated pie crust, fitted to a 9-inch glass DEEP DISH pie plate
Directions
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Combine the eggs, cream, salt, and pepper in a food processor or whisk well. Layer the spinach, bacon, and cheese in the bottom of the pie crust, then pour the egg mixture on top. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes until the egg mixture is set. Cut into 8 wedges.

 

SAUSAGE PINWHEELS

1 Package of Pillsbury Crescent Roll Dough

1 Package of mild sausage

Place the dough on a baking sheet and spread out till even.  Take the sausage and spread with a spatula over the dough.  Roll up long ways and then slice into 3/4-1 inch rolls.  Place on a baking sheet and bake at 375 for 15 minutes or until golden brown.

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(Mother’s Day Part II) Pink Lemonade Champagne Punch

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Mother’s Day wouldn’t be complete with out a little bubbly right?  Especially if you are a part of my family.  We buy it by the case!  This “Pink Lemonade Champagne Punch” is a perfect Spring or Summer drink.  It seriously takes 5 minutes to put together and it is DE-LISH!  All you need is some frozen pink lemonade concentrate, a bottle of cheap dry champagne, club soda, ice and fruit.  I adapted this recipe from Sandra Lee, however her version was way, way WAY too sweet.  So I changed it up a bit and made it fabulous.  Cuz that’s what I do!

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Add 2 cans of thawed Frozen Pink Lemonade Concentrate to a large pitcher.  Add 1 bottle of dry champagne and 3 cups of club soda.  Stir well to combine.  If it tastes to sweet to you, add club soda 1/2 cup at a time until.  Don’t add too much, I like to add a couple scoopfuls of ice and that will water it down a little too.  Then top with some sliced fruit and your good-to-go! 
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And always add some sweet treats and pretty flowers next to your libations. Fancy eh?  These sugar cookies from A Frosted Affair in Nashville will BLOW YOUR MIND.  
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Mom will thank you.  Enjoy!

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Mother’s Day “Rosé” Bar Cart

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Soooooo do you have a bar cart yet?  I’ve recently invested in not 1 but 2 of them and I have to say…the party planner in me is totally obsessed.  They are so fun and versatile!!  Also great for people that don’t have a whole lot of space but still want to entertain.  You can dress them up or down, beverages, treats, candles, flowers, food, party favors, the possibilities are endless!  If you don’t have a butler’s pantry or a wet bar in your home, these are fantastic options.  Being able to move it around is so nice and your guests can easily help themselves!  Some are bigger, some smaller. You just have to find one that works for you and your space.  The one above is from West Elm.  Target has a cute one has well online.

With Mother’s Day just a few weeks away, I decided to do a “Mother’s Day Rose Bar Cart” to give y’all some ideas for the upcoming event!  Whether your a mama, a mama-t0-be, have a mama, mama in-law, grandmama, or just a special person in your life who is a mama…they deserve to be pampered.  Being a mom is serious business.  As most of you know, it’s the most rewarding and challenging thing you will ever do in your life.  And those mama’s deserved to be damn appreciated on this day right?  So bust out some pink bubbly and get going.  Make your special Mama feel extra special on Mother’s Day!  She will appreciate you🙂 And because I like any reason or holiday whatsoever to have a glass of champagne, (I know I’m not alone) I decided to stick with a sparkling rosé theme.

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Recreate this look very easily!  Chandon Rosé is great sparkling wine and very reasonably priced.  You might have to order the splits (mini bottles) online as did I.  And if you are going with a “pink” theme it’s perfect.  Veuve Clicquot has a great rosé champagne as well if you want to spend some dough on your mama.  

 

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Give your champagne flutes a little extra special touch and adorn them with pink sugar!!  Cut a wedge out of a lime and then slice the lime so that it will slide around the rim of the glass easily.  Pour some sugar onto a plate and then dip the glass into it while twisting and turning.  Looks so pretty.  Hang tags are a fun way to spruce up your glasses as well!  You can find them anywhere.  These were blank (except for the gold circles) and I used a “Happy Mother’s Day” stamp and gold ink to customize them.  You can find the stamp, ink and tags at the Paper Source. Stampers are everywhere!  Michaels, Joanne, Hobby Lobby, and craft store.  They are an awesome way to add a personal touch to tags, signs or whatever you are creating.                                                                                                                                                           Hang Tags from the Paper Source                                                                                                    Mother’s Day Stamp

 

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Champagne Gummy Bears.  Need I say more?  These are amazing.  Find them at the Papersource or at Sugarfina Candy  Sugarfina has ahhhhhmazing candy.  It’s pricey, but worth it if you want to splurge a bit.  I like to have some sweet treats around.  These make awesome favors!  

 

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More sweet treats.  Now I know these don’t look like an expert baker made these cupcakes. LOL! My first time “Piping” frosting on a cupcake.  Not too horrible right?  Ok well not great.  But the taste is all that matters.  YUM, YUM!  Homemade frosting is the way to go.  I never realized how easy it was!  Check out this recipe. It’s a whipped frosting.  Absolutely delicious. I made vanilla cupcakes but would like the frosting better on chocolate.    Buttercream Frosting

 

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And there you have it!  Add some beautiful flowers and Mother’s Day accents, you’re all set!  Your loved one will feel oh so special!  (Gold MOM letter’s are from Hobby Lobby!)  

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Penne al Forno aka Penne “Lasagna.”

This pasta.  I mean, I just can’t even.  I have no words.  From the outside it seems like a basic lasagna recipe.  But oh, it’s so much more.  To this day, it is my favorite, favorite, favorite (there aren’t enough favorites) pasta dish of all time.  It’s everything.  It’s hearty (but not too heavy,) it’s cheesy, it’s meaty (but not too meaty!) it’s, ahhhhh just heavenly.  Rarely in my life have I gone to an Italian restaurant and had something truly sensational.  Except in Sicily.  I don’t like to order meat at Italian joints.  I can make meat at home! I want pasta, pasta, pasta!  However I’m often left unsatisfied.  Maybe it’s because I came from the best of the best.  And that sounds like a snobby thing to say but it’s damn true.  Luciano’s Restaurant in Clinton Township, MI is the ONLY Italian restaurant that held a candle to my family’s cooking.  I still love that place.  I can get a 5 course meal for like $25 too!  It’s also the only restaurant my family ever enjoyed going to growing up-so that says a lot because they never went out to eat!  Where as at my favorite Italian in Nashville…Giovanni, just a dish of pasta is $25 and let’s just say the servings are not that hefty! But it’s amazing.

My dad had 4 older sisters growing up in Sicily and 2 of them moved to Michigan with my dad when they were younger.  So I was fortunate enough be to close to them and appreciate the food they made.  To this day their pizza is still my favorite pizza on the planet.  They are like the Sicilian Iron Chefs!  No joke.

About this pasta.  This has been my favorite pasta since I was a little girl.  For as long as I can remember they’ve been serving this up!  And I always remember thinking…”gosh one day I really need to watch them make this!”  They don’t have too many “written down” recipes so it was hard over the years for me to say “ok please tell me how to make this?” I have to physically watch them carefully and take lots of pictures and notes!  They were here in Nashville over Easter weekend and I FINALLY learned how to make this delicacy.  It’s definitely time consuming.  But a great make-a-head dish!  You can also make the sauce a day or two before which will really help speed up the process.

Let’s start with the meat sauce!  I’ve tried to make meat sauce several different ways over the years and NOTHING has come close to this.  You have to use San Marzano tomatoes.  They are the best.  It’s either been not “saucy” enough.  Too dry.  Too meaty.  Too many carrots.  It’s always been something.  To me, this sauce is as perfect as it gets.  I kept dipping bread into it the whole time it was cooking!  A big secret….total game changer that I never did was add nutmeg to the sauce.  Omg. It’s huge.

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Finely chop 1 carrot, 1 celery stalk and 1/2 of an onion. Add to a large pot.  Then pour in 3 TBS of olive oil.  Sauté over medium low until soft and translucent.  Season well with salt.  
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Add 1/2 lb. of ground pork and 2 lbs. of ground beef sirloin.  With a wooden spoon break up all of the meat until brown.  Season the meat with salt and a couple good shakes of garlic powder.  Now you are ready to add the tomatoes.  
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Add (2) 32oz. cans of tomato puree to the meat.  We couldn’t find 32 oz. cans so you may have to use (3) 28oz. cans and just omit some.  Then add 1/2 can of tomato paste and a 1/2 cup of water.  (I’m not sure how many ounces but it’s the tiny Contadina Tomato Paste.) If the sauce still seems too thick, add just a touch more water.  Add 1 teaspoon of nutmeg.  (Use a microplane zester and grate yourself!!!)  Add a good pinch of oregano, a few leaves of fresh basil, and some black pepper to season.  Stir together and TASTE.  May need more salt, pepper, nutmeg etc.  Use your judgment.  Let the sauce simmer for 2 hours stirring occasionally.  Half way through cooking add 4 TBS of sugar!!!  Taste!  

  When the sauce is finished, taste it!  It may need a little more sugar (if you like it sweeter) or more salt and pepper.  If you do not plan on using this right away….wait until it’s cooled completely and then store in an airtight container in the fridge.  Or stick the whole pot in there and cover with a lid!  Then when you plan on using, warm up on the stove before assembling the pasta.

Whenever you plan on making the Lasagna, continue with the next steps.  This pasta requires not one but TWO different sauces.  A meat sauce and a béchamel sauce.    Béchamel is just amazing.  It consists of flour, butter, milk and nutmeg.  It’s what makes this pasta stand out from the rest.  You cannot make in advance, has to be done right before using.  It’s like a creamy goodness!  I follow Giada’s Béchamel recipe which is almost the same exact as my aunts.  (See below.)  The key to Bechamel is making sure you get it nice and thick and lots of nutmeg!

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Giada’s Recipe.  It’s the best.  
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It will look like this when finished.  See how thick and creamy?  Giada says to use a pinch of nutmeg.  We use a good 1 1/2 teaspoons AT LEAST.  Taste it and see if it needs more at the end.  

Ok!  Not that you have made 2 sauces (phew!)  Time for the easy part.

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Put 1 1/2 lbs. of Ricotta Cheese in a mesh strainer with a bowl underneath.  You want as much liquid absorbed as possible.  Let it sit for about 15 minutes.  Now, a note about Ricotta.  It’s NOT ALL CREATED EQUAL.  Don’t buy the kind in a container.  Go to an Italian Market and get it behind the counter.  Unless you’re like me and don’t have a choice because the South and Italian food are just not with it.  You can get 50 fucking types of hot chicken but I can’t find a decent Italian Market.  Can you tell I’m getting worked up about this?   However I have found a great brand that I honestly can’t even tell the difference.  It’s called Calabro.  Whole Foods carries it.  It’s the closest thing.  Please don’t buy Sargento or Kroger brand.  Please.  It’s wrong.  And if you plan on using cottage cheese, well just pretend you got this recipe from someone else because I don’t want to be associated with that.  
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When all of the liquid is removed from the ricotta, put it in a bowl.  Add one egg, about 1/4 cup of finely chopped parsley and about 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese.  Stir it up!
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Mmmm done!
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There is no right amount of peas.  Grab as many frozen peas as you want.  I think we used a half bag.  Put in a skillet with water a couple pinches of salt and a bay leaf.  Heat over medium low for about 5-7 minutes until soft and fragrant.  
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Boil 1 1/2 pounds of penne noodles.  Or you can also use lasagna noodles.  However if you use the no-bake ones you have to make sure the sauce is a little thinner because they need to absorb liquid!  
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Strain noodles and return them back to pot.  Add a scoopful of the meat sauce so they don’t stick together.  
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Butter a foil pan!  We used a large foil baking pan because of the number of people we had coming.  And to be honest, a basic 9×13 pan is too small and even a lasagna pan is just tight.  This recipe is for a large crowd.  I bought one of those large square roaster pans.  So much easier and you don’t have to worry about it spilling over and the pieces are nice and thick.  You can use a basic glass dish (not 9×13) but if you have a larger one that would work!  You may have some leftover but just make a small batch.  
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Spoon a little bit of sauce over the pan, then add your first layer of noodles.  Spoon sauce over the top.  
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On top of the meat sauce dollop some of the béchamel all over and spread.  You want it completely covered!  Then sprinkle a handful of parmesan cheese and as many peas as your little heart desires.  
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Then, repeat what you just did.  Layer of pasta, layer of meat sauce, layer of béchamel, parmesan cheese and peas.  Lastly, spread a good thick layer of ricotta cheese evenly on top of the peas.  
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Like so!  See that little empty corner?  That’s because my husband hates ricotta cheese.  Unheard of right?
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On top of the ricotta, start your layers again!  Pasta, meat sauce, bechamel, parmesan cheese and peas.  
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Ready to bake!  375 degrees, middle rack for at least 45 minutes to an hour.  
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Mmmmm all done!  Cover with foil and let rest for at least 20 minutes.  
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Enjoy!

RECIPE:  

Meat Sauce

1 LB. Ground Pork

2 LBS. Ground Beef Sirloin

(2) 32 oz cans of Tomato Puree

3oz. of Tomato Paste (half of a oz. can)

1 large Carrot, peeled and finely chopped, 

1 Celery Stalk, finely chopped

1/2 Onion, finely chopped

3 TBS Olive Oil

4 TBS Sugar

1/2 Cup Water

Fresh Basil

Dried Oregano

Salt and Pepper

Garlic Powder

1 TSP freshly grated Nutmeg

In a large pot combine carrots, celery, onion and olive oil.  Saute over medium low until soft and translucent. Season well with salt.

Add the ground beef and pork to the pot.  Raise the heat to medium high and break up with a wooden spoon until cooked.  Season the meat with a few pinches of salt and garlic powder.  When nice and brown, add the tomato puree, 3oz. of tomato paste and 1/2 cup of water.  Stir together.

If sauce seems too thick, add just a little bit more water SLOWLY.  You can always add more but you can’t take away!  Then add a good pinch of oregano, a couple pinches of pepper, a few fresh basil leaves and a teaspoon of nutmeg.

Stir well and simmer for 1 hour.  Then stir in 4 TBS of Sugar. Continue cooking for another hour.  Stirring occasionally.  Taste periodically to see if it needs more salt, pepper, sugar, etc.  These measurements should be pretty accurate however it all depends on what kind of tomato puree you use.  ***Use a good Italian brand!***  Try to get San Marzano if can.  San Marzano is the type of tomato it’s not a brand.  It will say on the front of the can.  Don’t use Hunts or Red Gold.  Yucky yucky.  You want good quality ingredients.  That’s what separates something from being good to being great!  

After you have made the meat sauce, make the Béchamel Sauce.  RECIPE IS ABOVE.  Except add 1 1/2 teaspoons of nutmeg at least.  Taste!

Now that you have the Meat Sauce and Béchamel Sauce done, you can do the rest.  Here is what you will need.

 

Penne al Forno

1 1/2 pounds of penne pasta

Bag of Frozen Peas

1 Bay Leaf

1 1/2 lbs. of Ricotta Cheese, strained

1/4 c finely chopped parsley

1 1/2 cups grated parmesan cheese, divided

1 egg

Meat Sauce

Bechamel Sauce

In a large bowl combine ricotta cheese, 1 egg, parsley and 1/4 cup of the parmesan cheese.  Stir together and set aside.

Fill a large pan with water and boil the penne to al dente about 6-8 minutes.  Salt the water good.  The pasta will continue cooking in the oven.  When noodles are finished, strain them and pour them back into the pot.  Add a couple spoonfuls of the meat sauce and stir.  This way they won’t stick together and will be easier to work with.

Butter a large foil pan.  Make sure you get up the sides too.

Pour a half bag of peas in a skillet and fill with water until just covered.  Add a bay leaf.  Cook over medium low for about 5-7 minutes until soft and fragrant.

Get everything set up.  Make sure you have both sauces, the noodles, ricotta and parmesan cheese easily accessible.

Spoon a little bit of meat sauce over the bottom of the pan.  Then do a layer of noodles and spread out evenly.  On top of the noodles spoon meat sauce on the top and spread out.  Then dollop Béchamel all over and spread out as well, making sure to completely cover.  Sprinkle a good handful of parmesan cheese over the top and some peas.  As much or as little as you like.  Don’t go crazy now!  Then, repeat the steps again.  (Noodles, meat sauce, bechamel sauce, parmesan cheese and peas.)  After your second layer of noodles, add the ricotta cheese.  Spread it out evenly over the whole pan.  Finally, your last layer.  (Noodles, meat sauce, béchamel sauce, parmesan cheese and peas.)

Aannnnnnd that’s it!  Now you are ready to bake.  375 degrees, middle rack for 45-60 minutes until nice and bubbly and golden brown.  When done, remove from oven and highly cover with foil for at least 20 minutes.  This will ensure when you cut that it doesn’t fall over the place.  It will still be piping hot!