spaghetti and meatballs: familystyle

Spagetti and meatballs, familystyle

I experience New Year’s Day with mixed emotion. As much as I love holding a new calendar fresh with possibilities for the year ahead, at the same time my head is spinning trying to process the one that just sped by, seemingly faster every time. What’s up with that?

I can only think it’s what happens when we’re living a full life – each day a series of events that unfolds onto the next. But in the middle of the daily process of work and school; relationships with family, friends, dog…it becomes like a monotonous ride. Some mornings I feel like a character in Groundhog Day.

Italian parsley and Parmigiano cheese


Which is why I’m grateful for the few weeks in December when I can make a plan to unplug; to spend time to nourish myself and my family, with things like mornings without an alarm clock and a schedule with absolutely nothing on it.

And food, of course. There aren’t many things that connect us like time shared around the table, especially when a large platter of spaghetti and meatballs is sitting on top of it.

I’ve shared my personal attempt at my mother’s meatball recipe on this blog before, but this latest version has become all my own. If my mom were here to sit at my table, I think she’d approve.

spaghetti and meatballs familystyle

Spaghetti and meatballs: familystyle

Serving Size: Serves a table of 6


  1. 1 ½ pounds ground beef
  2. 1 ½ pounds ground pork
  3. 1 onion
  4. 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  5. ½ cup fresh bread crumbs *
  6. 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
  7. 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano, Romano or Asiago cheese
  8. 2 eggs
  9. 3 teaspoons salt
  10. 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  11. Large pinch crushed red pepper
  12. Olive oil
  13. Gravy:
  14. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  15. 1 onion, finely chopped
  16. Salt
  17. 2 or 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced or finely chopped
  18. 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  19. 1 container Pomi strained tomatoes
  20. Pinch sugar
  21. Fresh ground black pepper


  1. To make the meatballs, put the ground meats into a large bowl. Grate the onion over the bowl on the side of a large box grater. Add the remaining ingredients (except the olive oil) and mix together with your hands or a large fork until thoroughly combined. Form into 2-inch diameter balls and arrange on a large baking sheet.
  2. Heat a large, deep sauté pan (12 – 14-inches in diameter) over moderate heat. Add enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan completely and heat for a minute or two before adding the meatballs. Cook until nicely browned on one side; carefully turn the meatballs with tongs or a spatula to brown the other side. Transfer the meatballs to a platter.
  3. Drain the fat from the pan. (Note – if you don’t have a large sauté pan with at least 3 inch sides, fry the meatballs in a sauté pan, in batches if necessary so you don’t crowd the pan. Make the sauce in a separate wide saucepan or soup pot.)
  4. To make the gravy, place the pan back over moderate heat. Add the olive oil, onion and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook the onions until they become very soft. If they begin to brown, add a few tablespoons of water, lower the heat and cover the pan until they’re ready.
  5. Stir in the garlic and cook for a minute, until fragrant. Add the tomatoes, sugar and more salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer and cook 15 minutes.
  6. Put the meatballs into the pan, cover and continue simmering for another 10 minutes or so.
  7. Serve the sauce and meatballs over hot spaghetti or pasta, with plenty of cheese grated over.


*To make fresh bread crumbs, trim the crust from a large hunk of crusty peasant bread. Cut the bread into large pieces and toast 10 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Grind in a food processor to form fine crumbs. Keep extra crumbs in a covered container in the refrigerator or freezer.

Cauliflower Mascarpone Gratin

Cauliflower Mascarpone Tart

Are you the type of Thanksgiving cook (and/or eater) who expects to sit down to the same lineup of food from year to year or do you like to get a little bit crazy and try something completely new every time?

I’ve learned that there are definitely two distinct – and very personal – approaches to getting the holiday menu together. I recognize one, the tried-and-trues, as the keepers of family traditions; rational, organized, intelligent souls who keep things simple (doable) and predictable (foolproof).  Which makes a lot of sense. How else to organize 10, 20 or more people around a dining table and keep the peace?

I count myself in the other, open-to-experiment camp. While I’ve never ditched the turkey altogether and made fish instead (as Debra did to much disappointment in one episode of Everybody Loves Raymond) I like to play with vegetables and entertain ideas on how to handle the turkey (shall we bone it, brine it, spice it, tie it up and smoke it?).

I’ll be sharing a few of my ideas for vegetable side dishes over the next week, nothing too wild and crazy. But maybe something to mix up the usual suspects.

In the meantime, leave me a note and share your family favorites, old or new.

Cauliflower Mascarpone Gratin

Yield: 6 servings


  1. 1 head cauliflower, separated into florets
  2. 1 tablespoon softened butter
  3. 1 8-ounce container Wisconsin Mascarpone cheese
  4. 3/4 cup heavy cream
  5. ½ cup Wisconsin grated Parmesan cheese
  6. ¼ cup chopped fresh sage
  7. 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  8. ½ teaspoon salt
  9. Freshly grated black pepper


  1. Blanch the cauliflower in a pot of boiling salted water 5 minutes; drain.
  2. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Coat a 7 x 11 gratin dish with butter; arrange cauliflower in dish.
  3. Stir together Mascarpone, cream, ¼ cup Parmesan,sage, garlic, salt and black pepper to taste until smooth; pour over cauliflower. Sprinkle top with remaining Parmesan.
  4. Bake 30 minutes, or until top is browned and sauce is bubbling. Rest 15 minutes, loosely covered, before serving.

Tuscan Kale Salad with Roasted Chickpeas

Somewhere along the line I got into a habit of eating my daily greens, and by daily I mean All Day, even starting at breakfast with a little pile of leafy greens near, under or around my poached egg. Sometimes it’s baby arugula or maybe washed salad greens leftover from dinner the night before.

I have a favorite method of quickly cooking my greens Italian-style, but this here kale salad might be my favorite way to eat them just plain raw. It’s easy to put together and the sturdy kale leaves hold up so well with the lemony-Parmesan dressing you could even make it hours ahead of time with no fear of a wilted soggy salad – in fact, it only improves matters.

You’ll probably love the roasted chickpeas as much as I do – they garnish the salad very nicely but become an addictive (and yes, healthy) little snack all by themselves.

If you can’t find Tuscan kale – which is also called Lacinato, cavolo nero, black or Dinosaur kale – regular curly kale will do.

Tuscan kale with roasted chickpeas

Tuscan Kale Salad with Roasted Chickpeas

Yield: 4 servings, or one salad for 1 hungry person


  1. 1 can chickpeas, drained
  2. 1/2 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika (Pimenton)
  3. Kosher salt
  4. 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  5. 1 big lemon, zested and juiced
  6. 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese
  7. 1 small garlic clove, smashed and chopped
  8. Pinch Aleppo pepper or red pepper flakes
  9. 1 bunch Tuscan kale, stems trimmed and washed


  1. Heat your oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Toss the chickpeas on a small rimmed baking sheet with the Pimenton, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Roast the chickpeas for 10 - 12 minutes - they should smell good and become a little bit crunchy.
  3. Whisk together the remaining 3 tablespoons oil with the lemon zest and juice, cheese, garlic and red pepper. Taste and season with a pinch of salt if you think it needs some.
  4. Roughly tear the kale leaves into pieces and blot with a clean towel if they're dripping wet; put into a large bowl. Pour the dressing over and toss the leaves with your hands so that they're evenly coated - your hands will taste yummy.
  5. Serve the salad with some of the chickpeas spooned over the top and sprinkled with curls of Parmesan, if you like.