Meatballs and Spaghetti in Red Tomato Sauce

Even grown-ups adore Spaghetti and Meatballs!   When it is this cold and chilly, expect your family (not necessarily just Italian families, we just embrace pasta so much, it is comfort food to the rescue) to scream “Spaghetti”.   Make this spaghetti for the grown-ups in your family, it’s got VODKA!

Refer to the images display on shaping meatballs.  I put on a plastic glove on my left hand and hold a spoon on my right hand.   Scoop some meatball mix, squeeze and force it out into your covered clenched left fist.  When desired size is obtained, cut it with spoon and transfer to foil-lined baking sheet.   I prefer baking the meatballs than pan-frying.   This way I have all the stove-top for making the red tomato sauce and boiling the pasta in salted water until al dente (meaning cooked but still firm to the bite, you just have to test and test, but be careful not to burn your tongue!).

I use sazon seasoning here for flavor (cilantro) and for color (achuete), it it inexpensive, all you need is a packet.    Give the sauce a medley of exploding spices and aromatics — garlic, onion, crushed red pepper flakes, celery, carrots, fresh basil leaves, dried oregano, dried bay leaves, salt and pepper.  I love it sweeter, but then it is all up to your tastes.   Long simmer (to blend all flavors well) is the key to achieving an over-the-top spaghetti sauce.   And you just have to have grated parmesan cheese.

Now, let’s do it.  Here’s the recipe:

Do this in advance and store in fridge.  And when hubby says, “I’m home”, you say, “Dinner’s ready in minutes”.  Sweet indeed!

1 cup dry bread crumbs
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 lb ground beef
1 lb Italian sausage
4 eggs
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried basil

Preheat oven to 375°F.  In a large bowl combine all meatball ingredients; mix well.  Form into meatballs and place in foil-lined large baking tray.  Bake for 20 minutes.

Tomato Sauce:
2 tablespoon cooking oil
1 packet Sazon cilantro/achuete seasoning
1 large onion, chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 to 1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper (Glenn/Tito Joe preferred 1 teaspoon)
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes
2 cans (8 oz each) tomato sauce
1/3 cup vodka
1/3 cup fresh basil, chopped
½ tsp dried oregano
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup sugar (or more)
1 can mushroom pieces, drained
1 box spaghetti, cooked al dente in salted boiling water, drained
Parmesan cheese for topping

In a large casserole pot, heat oil and sazon seasoning over medium-high heat.  Add onion, garlic and crushed red pepper flakes; saute until soft and translucent, about 2 minutes.  Add celery and carrot and season with salt and pepper.  Saute until all the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes.   Add tomatoes, vodka,  basil, oregano, bay leaves and sugar; reduce heat to simmer until sauce thickens a bit.  Remove bay leaves and taste for seasoning.  If sauce tastes too acidic, add unsalted butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, to round out the flavor.  Use handheld immersion blender to puree the sauce.  Add mushroom pieces, meatballs and drained spaghetti noodles; toss.   Top with parmesan cheese.

BOB RECIPE: Meatloaf

Tired of your “usual” meatloaf?  Try this one, few ingredients, rich tastes.

from:  Shure Fine
Product:  Onion Soup Mix

BOB RECIPE:  Meatloaf

1 (1 1/4 oz envelope) Onion Soup mix
1 teaspoon garlic salt
2 lbs ground beef
2 eggs
1/2 cup Milk
3/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1/2 cup ketchup

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Combine all ingredients except ketchup and mix well.  Spread mixture into a 9 x 5 x3 inch loaf pan or shape into a 9 x 5 loaf in an ungreased rectangular pan.  Spread ketchup over the top.  Bake for 1 to 1 1/4 hours or until a thermometer reads 160 F.  Let stand 5 minutes, then carefully remove from pan.

Corn Chowder Extraordinaire

I love this soup; it’s easy, fast and really creamy good.  Ready in less than 30 minutes, this simple homemade soup will always be a hit.

Corn Chowder Extraordinaire

1 medium onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons butter or bacon grease
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
1 can tall evaporated milk plus enough water to equal 4 cups
1 pack Ramen chicken noodle soup
1 can whole kernel corn, drained
1 can cream-style corn
1 can cream of chicken soup
2 cans vienna sausage, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup instant mashed potato flakes
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese

In a stockpot or large saucepan, saute onion, celery, carrot and garlic in butter over medium high heat.  Add crushed red pepper and parsley flakes.  Pour milk mixture and let boil.  Add Ramen noodles and contents of seasoning packet.  When noodles are almost tender, add whole kernel corn, cream-style corn, cream of chicken soup and chopped vienna sausage.   Heat through; add salt and pepper to taste.  Stir in instant mashed potato flakes and grated cheese.  Yield:  4 servings.

“I-love-em-rolled” Lasagna

Lasagna is one of my favorite comfort foods, and I think it’s safe to say that everybody loves lasagna. To make it from scratch, the traditional way, is a big question mark, nobody has the time to do lasagna. Perhaps after I shared you today my easy lasagna, which is uncomplicated, no chopping involved, and a breeze to put together, you will think twice about delaying lasagna for a weekend treat. You can have lasagna any day of the week, any hour of the day.

My old lasagna recipe has more than 20 ingredients and the recipe calls for preparing the white sauce or bechamel sauce, I too will have to wait for the weekend to do my traditional lasagna. Today’s store-bought ingredients like packaged shredded cheeses and mixes ease the making of lasagna. Let’s start with the lasagna noodles, it is largest in the family of pasta, and like any dried pasta, cooking the pasta properly will spell the difference between a good or bad pasta dish. Boil lasagna in plenty of water so it cooks evenly and won’t stick together. Boil lasagna to almost al dente, firm to the bite but cooked through. Drain it immediately, and this time we RINSE lasagna unlike if we are doing a spaghetti dish in which we don’t want to remove the coating of starch that helps sauce cling to the pasta. I add about 1 tablespoon of oil and 1 teaspoon salt to boiling water.


16 pre-cooked lasagna noodles (1 package, 16 oz)
1 pound ground beef
2 links sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
 few shakes of maggi seasoning
 1 small packet of spaghetti-sauce mix
1 large bottle of Jufran banana catsup (available in Asian aisle)
 pepper to taste (optional)
1 container (16 oz) ricotta cheese
1 egg, beaten
 1 package shredded mozzarella cheese
 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Saute ground beef and sausage in a skillet until nicely browned. Add a few shakes of maggi seasoning. Remove from heat. Mix in spaghetti sauce mix and banana catsup.

In a bowl, combine ricotta, lightly beaten egg, 1 cup mozzarella cheese; set aside.

Pam-spray lasagna pan or 13 x 9-inch baking pan. Preheat oven to 350F.

Lay noodle out flat, spread ricotta mixture over the length of it, about 2 tablespoons, then top with a layer of meat filling. Sprinkle with shredded cheddar cheese and then shredded mozzarella cheese. Roll up each lasagna noodle from short end. Place rolls side by side in the prepared pan, seams side down. Pour any remaining meat filling over rolls. Cover with foil. (You can refrigerate for 2 days or plastic wrap and foil and freeze for 2 months, don’t forget to thaw 24 hours in the refrigerator before baking it).

Bake at 350 F for about 30 minutes. Remove foil, sprinkle with remaining shredded cheddar and mozzarella cheeses. Bake another 5 minutes till cheese melts. Let cool 5 minutes before serving. Serve with garlic bread or mixed green salad. Enjoy!

1) Of course you can substitute ground chicken or turkey for the ground beef.
 2) Individually wrap lasagna roll ups in saran wrap, freeze them and at night, while watching Survivor,America’s Next Top Model, The Apprentice and Dancing with the Stars, you can heat it up in the microwave for just over 2 minutes, and dinner’s ready!
3) Of course you can also use store-bought spaghetti sauce instead of banana catsup and throw in shakes of Worcestershire sauce.