Tuscan Meatballs au Gratin

tuscan meatballs with cheese
tuscan meatballs with cheese

These have to be our favourite meatballs. They have everything we love. Good quality beef, cheese and mediterranean flavours.

This dish is actually lighter than you might think. The trick is to remove any fat after cooking the meatballs by draining them in a colander. The lemon zest lifts the whole thing up, and the fresh herbs add freshness. A great dish for all year round. Serve over pasta, with french bread or in a sandwich, or make small ones and serve as an appetizer. Also make a double batch and put one in the freezer for an other day (without the cheese).


tuscan meatballs with cheese

Serves 6

INGREDIENTS:

Sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, peeled and finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 14-oz cans Italian-style diced tomatoes
  • 1 glass dry white wine
  • a tiny grating of lemon zest, about 1/4 teaspoon
  • a pinch of sugar
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup cream, I use half-and-half
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon minced basil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano

Meatballs:

  • 1-1/4 pounds lean ground beef
  • 1/2 medium onion, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and grated
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

Topping:

  • 6 oz. fresh mozzarella
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon  fresh oregano

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. In a large skillet melt the olive oil over medium heat. Add the diced onion and cook about 3 minutes . Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring constantly, about 30 seconds until it starts to soften, Add the tomato paste. Stir in the sugar. Add the wine. Add the lemon zest.
  2. Add the canned tomatoes and salt and pepper to taste. Add the herbs. Reduce heat to a simmer and let it cook while you prep the meatballs.
  3. In a food processor, pulse the onion until it is finely diced. Add the remaining ingredients and pulse until well combined. Roll the mixture into meatballs about the size of golf balls.
  4. Preheat the oven to 220° C / 425° F.
  5. Heat a large non stick frying pan and add the meatballs to the pan with no extra oil. The meatballs will start to release some fat as they cook. Cook for 15 minutes – it’s okay if they aren’t cooked all the way through since they are also going into the oven. Remove from heat and drain off all the fat in a colander.
  6. Place the meatballs in an oven proof dish.
  7. Pour the sauce over the meatballs, add the cream. Stir.
  8. Top with mozzarella and Parmesan cheese.
  9. Place in the oven to bake until the cheese on top is bubbling , about 20 minutes.
  10. Garnish with the fresh oregano.

Enjoy!

Myra XO

tuscan meatballs with cheese
Fool Proof Lasagna

Classic Lasagna

Fool Proof Lasagna

Nothing beats classic lasagna!
And this is the easiest recipe you will ever make. It’s FOOL PROOF ,  anyone can make it even if you have never cooked before. Follow the recipe exactly and you will be super happy with the result. Also, it can be made ahead of time and it’s freezer-friendly!
This recipes does take some time to make and a little bit more effort – but I promise you, it’s worth it. I even double the recipe some times and put one lasagna in the freezer.
The lasagna has layers of classic meat sauce, bechamel and cheese. A.K.A. layers of goodness!
This one of those dishes that tastes even better the very next day! So if you have leftovers, lucky you!

Serves: 6-8

Cooking time: approx. 1 hour


INGREDIENTS:

• 9 fresh lasagna noodles
• 1 pound ground beef
• 4 oz. finely chopped bacon
• 1 onion peeled and diced small
• 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and grated
• Salt and Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
• 2 1/2 Cup Pasatta (tomato sauce)
• 1 1/2 tsp. sugar
• 1 tbsp. bouillon powder
• 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
• 1 C. red wine or water
BECHAMEL:
• 1/2 Cup Butter
• 1/2 Cup Flour
• 1 tsp. salt
• 4 Cups milk
• a grating of nutmeg, about 1/8 tsp.
• 1 bay leaf
ADDITIONAL:
• 3 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella, divided
• 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
• 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves

•Fool Proof Lasagna

DIRECTIONS MEAT SAUCE:
• Preheat oven to 350° F / 180° C . Lightly oil a 9×13 baking dish or coat with nonstick spray.
• Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the bacon and fry until it starts releasing a bit of fat, add the ground beef and onion and cook until beef has browned, add the garlic. Cook for about 3-5 minutes, making sure to crumble the beef as it cooks; season with pepper, to taste. Drain off excess fat. Put back on the heat. Stir in the pasatta, bouillon powder and Italian seasoning until well combined. Add the wine or water and let simmer on low heat for about 30 minutes. Taste and add more salt if necessary.
• Remove from heat.

Fool Proof Lasagna

DIRECTIONS BECHAMEL:
1. Heat a large pot with a thick bottom, add the butter and melt.
2. Add the flour and stir with a whisk until well combined.
3. Add the milk slowly, stirring constantly, until very well combined and there are no lumps at all.
4. Add the bay leaf and nutmeg.
5. Simmer for about ten minutes until flour is fully “cooked”
6. Remove from heat.
ASSEMBLE LASAGNA:
1. Spread 1 cup tomato mixture onto the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish; top with 3 lasagna noodles, 1/3 of the bechamel sauce and 1 cup mozzarella cheese. Repeat . Top with remaining noodles, tomato mixture, 1 cup mozzarella cheese and the Parmesan.
2. Place into oven and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until bubbling.
3. Let cool 15 minutes. This is an important step! *
4. Serve, garnished with parsley, if desired.
*Letting the Lasagna rest for 15 minutes will ensure that you can cut beautiful squares or portions.
*MAKE-AHEAD: Cover lasagna tightly with foil. Refrigerate up to 24 hours. Bake for 40 minutes. Uncover; bake for an additional 10-15 minutes, or until completely cooked through and golden on top.
*TO FREEZE UNCOOKED: Cover lasagna tightly with plastic wrap, then aluminum foil. Freeze up to 3 months. To bake, remove plastic wrap, cover with foil and bake for 90 minutes. Uncover; bake for an additional 10-15 minutes, or until completely cooked through.
*COOKED from frozen: sometimes I will make this recipe and divide it into four portions and pack them into foil baking dishes. Then freeze, when I’m in a hurry I will only have to defrost and place on a plate and microwave, and believe me….still really delicious.

Fool Proof Lasagna

Epic Lasagna

IMG_6495

Serves 6.

Preparation: 1 hrs.

Cooking time 35-40 min.

This family favorite is a cross between moussaka and Lasagna.

The sauce is simmered for hours to fully develop the flavours, and includes bacon and red wine.

It’s even better if you make the ragú the day before. The Eggplant or Aubergine, is thinly sliced and grilled with some olive oil. This adds a nice smokey flavour and is then layered between the pasta and sauces. Much like Moussaka.

This recipe is for 6 people, but you can easily double the recipe, make two dishes and freeze one before the oven cooking step. You will need to cover it very well with foil and cling wrap, then it will keep for 3 months in the freezer. When you want to bake it, take it out the evening before and let it thaw in the fridge overnight. Remove all the wrapping and bake as stated in the recipe.

You will need :

An 8″ x 11″ x 3″ Casserole dish

12 sheets of dried Spelt (or regular) Lasagna sheets

Ingredients for the Ragú;

1 tbsp. olive oil

4 oz. smoked bacon, diced

1 medium onion, peeled and diced small

1 celery stalk, chopped fine

1 medium carrot, peeled and grated

2 garlic cloves, peeled and grated or crushed

2 bay leaves

1 lb. minced beef

1 15 oz. can tomatoes

1 15 oz. Passata

2 organic stock cubes, beef or chicken

1 tbsp. sugar

1 glass of red wine

2 tsp. dried Basil

2 tsp. dried Oregano

1/2 tsp. Sage

1/2 tsp. Thyme

1/4 tsp. All Spice

2 Bay Leaves

1/4 C. chopped Parsley

1 can of water.

For the Eggplant;

2 Eggplants, washed and sliced 1/4 ” thick

cooking oil spray

For the Bechamel;

3 tbsp. olive oil (or butter)

3 tbsp. flour

3 1/2 C. milk

a good grating of Nutmeg

1 organic stock cube, beef or chicken

1 C. grated cheese, a mix of Parmesan and Mozzarella

Method:

Ragú:

Put a large pot on high heat with one tablespoon of olive oil. Add the ground beef and the bacon and cook for 7 minutes until brown. Add all the chopped vegetables. Cook for 5 more minutes. Add the stock cubes ( I always crumble them up between my fingers), and the sugar. Give it a stir. Add the tomato paste and fry for one minute before adding the glass of red wine. Now add both cans of tomato plus one can of water. Add all the dried herbs and the Parsley. Cover half with a lid and simmer on low heat for about two hours. Check once in a while to see if you need to add more water. Alternatively you can transfer the sauce to a slow cooker. Set on high for about one hour until it bubbles then reduce to low and cook for four hours. When the sauce is done, check for seasoning, add a grinding of pepper and add some salt if necessary. Remove the bay leaves. You should end up with 4 cups of sauce. Add liquid if necessary.

Bechamel:

You need to use a pan with a very thick bottom so the sauce doesn’t stick or burn easily. Heat the olive oil and add the flour all at once. Stir in the milk, very little at a time so you do not get any lumps. Stir constantly. Adding milk bit by bit.

IMG_6415

You should end up with a silky smooth sauce like this.

IMG_6417

Add Nutmeg and the stock cube (crumbled up) and let simmer for about ten minutes to cook the flour. Taste and adjust seasoning. Remove from heat and set aside.

For the Eggplant:

Wash the Eggplants and cut off the crown. Cut in 1/4″slices. Heat a large Griddle pan and spray the pan. Put in enough slices to cover the pan with just one layer of Eggplant. When ready to turn spray the top and turn over the slices. Cook for about 5 minutes on each side. Remove to a plate when done. Repeat with all the slices.

Preheat oven to 400° F.

To assemble:

Oil the Casserole dish generously. Start with a thin layer of sauce, then layer the rest like this;

  • lasagna sheets
  • sauce
  • Eggplant
  • Bechamel
  • Grated cheese

The last layer should just be Lasagna sheets, bechamel and cheese.

Put in to the preheated oven and bake until brown and bubbling, for about 35 minutes.

Remove from oven and let sit for at least ten minutes before cutting.

Buon Appetito.

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