I’m learning things today. That’s one of the best things about writing this blog – because I want to actually have something to say in my post, I frequently dig deeper into the history or other technical details of recipes where I might not have otherwise. Take today’s recipe… I knew I wanted to make homemade pasta for dinner and change it up from the usual Homemade Pasta Carbonara. (We may or may not be a little bit addicted to the carbonara recipe – Selim looked at me like I had an extra head when I said I was thinking about making pasta with a different type of sauce.) Then I remembered the time I learned that all meatsauces weren’t created equally – I was at dinner with friends at a restaurant in our old home of Charlottesville, VA, when someone (my cousin Emily I think) ordered the bolognese. I’d never ordered anything similar off a menu because I always thought… 💭 Meat sauce? I can just buy a jar of that off a shelf 🤷 And then I tasted her dish – it was amazing, delicious, and nothing like meatsauce in a jar!
I wanted to recreate that experience tonight. But what recipe to follow? What technically is bolognese and how is it different from ragu? I feel like I see those words on menus used interchangeably. Well, I finally put some effort into learning the details. I now know that a ragu is an umbrella term for meat-based Italian sauces, under which bolognese falls. (Technically, a bolognese sauce is ragù alla bolognese.) A ragu is different from what I was thinking of as “meatsauce” in that the meat is truly the focus, not tomatoes or tomato sauce. It is thicker and less liquidy. And it turns out, while under this umbrella, bolognese sauce is incredibly specific – it has actually been registered in exact detail. The Italian Academy of Cuisine registered it in 1982. The recipe must include the following ingredients to be an official bolognese: beef, pancetta, onion, celery, carrot, tomato sauce, whole milk, dry wine (red or white), and salt & pepper. We aren’t going to stick to that particular formulation, so the sauce for tonight’s dinner is a ragu!
In a dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
Add both types of meat, removing the sausage from casings if needed. Season liberally with pepper and a pinch of salt. Cook until browned and then remove to the side, retaining a coating of fat in the dutch oven.
To this, add the diced onions and carrots. Cook for 8-10 minutes, until well softened.
Now add the minced garlic, tomato paste, and thyme. Stir frequently, cooking for 3 minutes.
Pulse the tomatoes in a food processor. [Yielding ~2 cups]
Return the meat to the dutch oven. Stir in the wine and tomatoes. Increase heat slightly to a vigorous simmer. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until liquid has reduced by half and thickened.
Lastly, add the beef broth and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat and cover. Check to ensure there’s a light simmer. Braise for at least two hours, checking and stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, prepare the pasta dough. On a clean, dry counter-top, mix together the flour and salt and form it into a volcano (a mound with a crater scooped out in the middle). Crack the eggs into that center well/crater.
Using a fork, slowly mix the egg into the flour. Try to keep the eggs within the crater, pulling in more and more flour. (If you fail, don’t worry, life will go on.) Once the egg is mixed into the flour enough that it’s not trying to run away anymore, switch to use your hands. Fold together until well combined. [You may need an extra dusting of flour if the dough is wet and sticky, or to wet your hands if it’s a bit dry.]
Continue kneading the dough, stretching and folding, for at least 5 and up to 10 minutes. By this point, the dough should be smoother and elastic, so that you can form into a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap. Allow to sit for at least 30 minutes, and up to two hours.
Once the dough has set, roll out and divide into quarters. Using the pasta roller attachment on the stand mixer, flatten out (to #5 if using KitchenAid’s model). Let the flattened dough rest on a floured surface.
Using a sharp knife, slice into 1 inch wide noodles. Cover with parchment paper if still waiting on the sauce.
Remove the lid from the dutch oven and increase heat to return liquid to a fast simmer. As the last bit of liquid is being soaked up, turn off the heat and stir in 2oz freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
Cook pasta in boiling, salted water until al dente – it will only take a minute or two with the fresh pasta.
Top pasta with sauce and additional Parmesan cheese!
I may have mentioned it once or twice, but I have an embarrassing love of most things that come in a box, especially with powdered cheese. Kraft mac & cheese? Clearly. Those Knorr rice or noodle sides in a bag? So good and only $1! Hamburger Helper? Be still my heart 🖤🖤🖤 Are any of these things actually good or good for me? No and no, but my taste buds are confused. Someone mentioned Hamburger Helper the other day, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. (Don’t judge me!)
I knew the chance of convincing Selim that Hamburger Helper was a decent meal choice was slim to none, so I went for a slightly less processed version. Maybe not exactly low calorie or low fat, but hey – I added vegetables and cut out the processed/powdered cheese. Wins all the way around. And it’s delicious! Take that dinner in a box! I guess I should also mentioned that this is based on Cheeseburger Macaroni – which to me is THE Hamburger Helper, but that might not be true for everyone.
I looked to Pinterest for a little guidance in getting started with this recipe. I checked out these lovely blogs, but didn’t follow one in particular – one, two, & three.
Hamburger Helper, Minus the Box
(Inspired by a few different blogs – see above)
2 tsp oil
1/2 of a large onion, diced
4 carrots, chopped
Fresh ground black pepper
1lb ground beef
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 cups dry macaroni
2 cups beef broth
2 cups milk
1 green pepper, chopped
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne
1 tsp salt
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese
In a large pan with tall edges, heat the oil.
Over medium heat, cook the onions and the carrots for just 2-3 minutes. Top the onions with a few turns of black pepper and a pinch of salt.
Increase heat to medium-high and add the beef and worchestershire sauce to the pan. Break up the beef with your cooking spoon. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the beef has browned.
If you have any excess grease, drain it off before adding the next ingredients.
Now add the rest of the ingredients, except for the cheese. Stir together.
Bring liquid to a boil. Then turn the heat back down to medium-low, cover the pan, and simmer for ~10 minutes. Stir once or twice.
Remove lid. Stir in the cheese. Once it’s well-combined, serve!
I don’t know about y’all, but I follow an absurd amount of food-related Instagram accounts. Some days I love it and drool over all the gorgeous photos, and some days I’m like, I just want to see my friends’ babies and sunsets!! (When I’m not freaking out like that), one of these delicious feeds that I love is that of the James Beard Foundation. They share amazing photos of their chef dinners and feature other dishes from chefs they love (I’m guessing). I save recipes that strike my fancy (and that I think I might actually be able to recreate). Some I know from a glance are out of my league, but there are plenty I think I can attempt. This was one of them.
Now let me tell you more about this recipe and its source, that I only discovered myself as I was making it today. While I found it featured via James Beard Foundation, it comes from the cookbook The Hot Bread Kitchen Cookbook: Artisanal Baking from Around the World, by Jessamyn Waldman Rodriguez. In reading the recipe on JBF’s page, it quotes a description from the cookbook itself, including the line, “Another Lutfunnessa specialty, this curry, called alu-maunsho torkerry in Bangladeshi…” And I’m sitting here like, who is Lutfunnessa…? Isn’t the author’s name Jessamyn…? She doesn’t sound Bangladeshi…? 🤷🤷 Being the incredible internet detective I am, I followed the breadcrumbs to the Hot Bread Kitchen’s website. Turns out Ms. Rodriguez is the founder of the bakery and initiative called Hot Bread Kitchen. Her organization, among other things, is a functioning bakery, that employs immigrant women facing economic insecurity and provides training and education including English skills. While her trainees/employees appear to gain much from this organization, the bakery gains much from them, particularly in the form of multi-ethnic new recipes! Sounds like an awesome setup! Back to, who is Lutfunnessa? Per their website, she is a 2012 graduate of the Bakers In Training program, who now works for Hot Bread Kitchen. I’m taking a wild guess that she’s Bangladeshi, given the description of this recipe.
So thank you Lutfunnessa, Jessamyn, Hot Bread Kitchen, the James Beard Foundation, and Instagram for this great recipe! We followed the original recipe pretty closely, except for our addition of vegetables. I think the corn and the green beans were perfect additions! The flavor of the curry is subtle, but builds as you eat it.
Heat 2 tbsp of oil to medium-high in a dutch oven.
Season the beef chunks with salt and pepper. Toss into the dutch oven to brown. Stir a few times to brown on all sides.
Once browned, remove the beef to the side.
Add the other 2 tbsp of oil to the dutch oven and lower heat to medium.
Cook onions, garlic, and ginger in the oil for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they’ve browned.
Top with all of the spices. Toast for just a minute.
Now return the beef to the dish and top with the stock. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cover with the lid. Cook for 1 hour – check occasionally to ensure the heat isn’t too high and beef is still mostly covered with liquid.
After an hour is up, add the potatoes, green beans, and corn (removed from ears). Ensure the liquid returns to a simmer. Re-cover and cook for another 30-45 minutes.
Serve over top rice and with a sprinkle of chopped cilantro.
One of my all-time favorite restaurants is a breakfast and BBQ place in Charlottesville, VA where I lived for 10+ years or so. It’s called Ace Biscuit & BBQ. It’s a little bit of a tucked-away, hole-in-the-wall kind of place… with some of the best breakfast biscuits I’ve ever had. It used to be the best kept secret in C-ville, but the word has gotten out. If you ever find yourself in Charlottesville, I cannot recommend it more highly. Now maybe you’re asking yourself, why is this crazy woman talking about a BBQ joint in Charlottesville, when she should be telling me all about the burger she made for dinner? There is a connection, I promise. Plus, I like to send business towards my favorite places. (I act like this blog is so well-read that an established restaurant is going to benefit from my recommendation… 🙄🙄)
Anyway. Moving further into my tangent… In case you have forgotten, back in the 90s there was a rapper who called himself Ol’ Dirty Bastard, or ODB. He was one of the original members of the Wu-Tang Clan. The owners of Ace’s must share my love of popular 90s hip-hop, because two of their dishes pay homage to the era. There’s the Ace Doggy Dogg (their hot dog) and, you guessed it, the ODB! In this case, the ODB stands for Ol’ Dirty Biscuit. Y’all. You haven’t lived until you’ve clogged your arteries with this guy. Ace’s ODB consists of a homemade biscuit, topped with fried chicken, sausage gravy, pimento cheese, and pickles, all house-made. It is amazing! (And super low-cal, obviously.)
What does all of this have to do with the burger I made tonight? Really nothing honestly. For whatever reason, all afternoon as I’ve been mentally planning my decadent burger, the real ODB’s shout-out to himself in Mariah Carey’s Fantasy Remix, “Ladies and Gentlemen… Introducing the Old, Dirty, Doggy… Here we go now…” kept playing over and over in my head. I guess my subconscious was trying to tell me that tonight’s burger is to a standard boring burger what the Ol’ Dirty Biscuit is to a cheap fast food breakfast biscuit. The secret to making this burger over the top as compared to other burgers? Mixing sausage and ground beef! Ups the flavor and deliciousness! It’s still a simple burger, but the taste is 👌🏼👌🏼
Humor me and pretend my ramblings were linear and logical. And enjoy an ODB – of any variety.
The Ol’ Dirty Burger
1 lb ground beef (85%-15%)
1 lb ground Italian sausage
1 tbsp granulated onion*
3 tbsp Worcestershire
1 tsp soy sauce
Fresh ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.**
Mix together all ingredients except for the salt.
Form the meat into patties.
Sprinkle salt and a little extra pepper on top of each burger.
Place patties on a rack over a cookie sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes. [Since the patties are on a rack, they don’t need to be flipped. We made six 1/3lb burgers and cooked them for about 12 minutes – yielding medium burgers. I was going for medium-rare and overshot, ho hum.]
Top with your favorite burger garnishes!
*Do yourself a favor and pick up some granulated onion instead of onion powder – it’s so much better than that clumpy, powdery stuff.
**You can also grill these like a normal person would, if you don’t live in an apartment complex that doesn’t let you have them like we do…
I don’t think it was until I was in high school or college that I realized that my mom’s meatloaf was different that most other people’s. Apparently, it’s more standard to have a tomato-based sauce, brown sugar, or BBQ sauce mixed in or coating the meatloaf. Don’t get me wrong, those are good too – but my mom’s meatloaf is better. It’s an indisputable fact… don’t argue with me! This was the only meatloaf I ever knew, but in looking through the family cookbook, I recently noted two separate recipes: “Mama’s Red Meatloaf” and “Mama’s Brown Meatloaf.” (“Mama” in this context being my grandmother.) So apparently my own mother was the one partial to the “Brown Meatloaf.” She probably made it for us once every few weeks, while I don’t think she ever made the red version. The meatloaf itself is simple. There’s not much more to it than the ground beef. But the gravy… oh the gravy… that’s what makes the dish! It’s so savory, thick, and delicious. There’s plenty to coat your meat, as well as whatever starch and/or vegetables your choose to serve with it. My recipe is slightly adapted from my mother’s, which is slightly adapted from her mother’s. This may not be nostalgic for you as it is for me, but it is homey, comfort food no matter what.
PS: Can someone teach me how to photograph meatloaf and gravy so it looks appetizing? I promise you, this is delicious, despite it’s blah appearance!
Meatloaf with Beef-Onion Gravy
2 lb ground beef
1 medium onion, diced
1 cup fine bread crumbs
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp salt
10 turns fresh ground black pepper
2 tbsp + 2 1/2 cups beef stock
3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
1/4 cup milk
1 packet of dry onion soup mix
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, combine the first 7 ingredients (beef through 2 tbsp beef stock). Mix together with your hands until well-combined.
Form the mixture into a loaf. Place your meatloaf into a glass casserole dish.
Place in the oven on middle rack. Baking times will vary based on the thickness of your loaf (if you make a longer/thinner loaf, aim for the lower end… if you make a thicker/stouter loaf, aim for the longer end…). Plan on an hour & 15 minutes to an hour & 45 minutes. Safe internal temperature per the FDA is 160 degrees for ground beef.
After 45 minutes to an hour, begin to make the gravy. Start by melting butter in a pan over medium heat.
Once butter has melted, whisk in the flour. Whisk continuously until the butter and flour have come together to make a thick roux.
Next, add the 2 1/2 cups of beef stock in by the 1/2 cup. Continue whisking. (You, of course, may add more or less depending upon how you like the thickness of your gravy.)
Lastly, stir in the onion mix and milk. Lower heat and stir occasionally.
With 20-30 minutes left in the cooking time for the meatloaf, remove it from the oven briefly. Pour off any released grease/fat.
Coat the meatloaf with the gravy. Return to the oven for an additional 20-30 minutes.
Before we moved to South Carolina for school, we were lucky enough to work on a unit (we were ICU nurses) with some amazing people who became great friends. Luckily for us, several of them share our love for food and cooking. Along the way, one recipe sort of became known as “the recipe,” and got passed around and around via email. We got it from Mike, who got it from Christy, who got it from… someone? As best I can tell, the recipe actually originates with the blog, My Kitchen Addiction.
This is “the recipe” because everyone loves it. We’ll use my family as Exhibit A. We go to the Outer Banks with my extended family on my dad’s side every summer. Traditionally, each night one pair of adults would cook dinner for the entire family – we’re talking 30+ people. After my grandparents died, there ended up being a free night. As one of the oldest grandchildren, I decided that my generation should probably step up and take over cooking one night… especially when you consider that we’re still getting a free vacation out of our parents for a week each summer! Two summers ago, Selim and I announced that we would take charge of that extra night, and that we’d be making this dish. There was immediate skepticism… my family prefers staples like hamburgers, spaghetti, steak, and tacos. They also think that Selim and I like “fancy, weird food.”
Well guess what? They all loved it! People came back for seconds and thirds. One of my cousins ate so much that he actually vomited. Not kidding. Moral of the story? This dish is delicious and everyone loves it. We’re sure you’ll love it too!
Spicy Slow Cooker Korean BBQ with Tangy Slaw
1 large onion, finely dice half and roughly chop the other half
10 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1 cup rice wine vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
2 tbsp of grated fresh ginger
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp chipotle powder (or other smoky pepper)
2 1/2 – 3lb beef bottom round or shoulder
3 tbsp flour
5 cups shredded vegetables (cabbage, carrots, peppers, whatever you want)
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
Zest & juice of 1 large lime
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp chopped fresh basil
Extra limes, for garnish
Extra basil, for garnish
Combine the first 10 ingredients in a large bowl. [This can be done ahead of time and refrigerated to save time.]
Place liquid and beef in a large slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 10 hours.
At some point while your beef is cooking, prepare the slaw. Whisk together all ingredients and pour over the vegetables. Refrigerate until ready to serve. [This can also be done ahead of time.]
After 10 hours, pour the liquid out of the slow cooker into a large saucepan. Bring to a simmer. Let the meat remain in the slow cooker, with the heat turned off.
Stir the 3 tablespoons of flour into 1/4 cup of water. Whisk together so it is well-combined and forms a what resembles a paste.
Stir the flour/water paste into the saucepan. Stir while adding so it combines thoroughly into the liquid.
Continue simmering until the liquid has thickened to your liking. We reduced ours by maybe a 1/3.
Return thickened liquid to the slow cooker. Use two forks to shred the meat and mix with the liquid.
Make tacos with the meat and slaw on top of warmed tortillas! Garnish with additional basil or a squeeze of lime.
Post-dinner notes: This also goes great over rice, if for some crazy reason you’re sick of tacos! And, as per usual, I am not making any claims that this is an authentic, traditional dish the way your Korean grandma would make it.
Now that finals are over, we have some time to make a delicious dinner and also catch up on some of our favorite TV shows, Top Chef in particular. There was an episode where one of the chefs had an hour to make something, and she chose to use the pressure cooker to braise some meat. We thought, “pressure cookers are cool, but you know, we actually have the time to really braise something.” There’s something about braising – meat simmering in a rich liquid for hours on end – that always sounds good, and tastes even better! Braising is also a lot easier to make than most people think, as there isn’t much technical skill or finesse that goes into the dish.
We made oven roasted carrots and beets and homemade truffle Parmigiano-Reggiano mashed potatoes. The braising liquid is a great sauce that goes well on top of pretty much everything. You’ll definitely want to pair this with a starch that’ll soak up the delicious liquid so you won’t embarrass yourself by slurping it off your plate. Because you will not want to let it go to waste!
We did not use a bottle of wine out of our collection to cook with, but we did open one to drink with it. In a slightly belated celebration of our first wedding anniversary, we opened a bottle of our “wedding wine.” Our favorite vintage, of our favorite blend, from our favorite winery – King Family Vineyard‘s 2010 Meritage.
Red Wine Braised Beef
3 tbsp olive oil
12 cloves garlic, minced
2 onions, finely diced
6 carrots, roughly diced
1 bottle merlot wine
3 cups beef broth
1.5 lb beef short ribs
2.5 lb beef shoulder roast
12 sprigs of thyme
3 bay leaves
Salt and pepper
In a large Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
Cut the beef shoulder into smaller portions, roughly the same size as the short rib portions. Season all sides with the salt and pepper.
Brown the beef on all sides briefly. Remove to the side.
Strip the thyme from its sprig. Let leaves remain whole.
Add onions, carrots, and half of the thyme to the Dutch oven. Stir to coat in the oil and scrape up any brown bits from the beef. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the garlic to the dish and cook an additional 5 minutes.
Deglaze the dish with the entire bottle of wine. Adjust heat to a light simmer. Allow to reduce by half.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
Return beef to the dish and add the beef broth, bays leaves, and the rest of the thyme.
Cover and place in the oven for 3 hours.
Be careful removing from the oven. Serve over potatoes, rice, or another starch.