Monday, March 5, 2012

Classic Beef Meatballs

This recipe is from the Meatball Shop.  We think we have now found the best meatball recipe ever!  We served them with a delicious Italian Chop Salad, a tomato-mozzarella-basil salad, fresh fruit and a crusty Italian bread.  You could easily half the recipe, if needed.  A little hint for you . . . start the tomato sauce first so it can simmer away or make the sauce a day early.  The homemade sauce really adds to the entire yummy flavor of the dish!

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds 80% lean ground beef (the 80% lean part is important)
1 cup ricotta cheese
2 large eggs
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano or 1 tsp. dried oregano
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon ground fennel
4 cups classic tomato sauce (see recipe below)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Drizzle the olive oil into a 13" x 9" baking dish and use your hand to evenly coat the entire surface.  Set aside.

Combine the beef, ricotta, eggs, bread crumbs, parsley, oregano, salt, red pepper flakes and fennel into a large mixing bowl and mix by hand until thoroughly incorporated.

Roll the mixture into round, golf ball-size meatballs (about 1 1/2 inches), making sure to pack the meat firmly. Using an ice cream scoop to portion the meat will make evenly sized meatballs.  Place the balls in the prepared baking dish, being careful to line them up snugly and in even rows vertically and horizontally to form a grid--4 rows of 6 balls each.  The meatballs should be touching one another.

Roast in oven for 20 minutes or until the meatballs are firm and cooked through.  A meat thermometer inserted into the center of a meatball should read 165 degrees F.

While the meatballs are roasting, heat the tomato sauce in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring often.

When the meatballs are firm and full cooked, removed them from the oven and drain the excess grease from the pan.  Pour the tomato sauce over them.  Return the meatballs to the oven and continue roasting for another 15 minutes.

Classic Tomato Sauce
makes 7 cups (you'll have some extra to use in other dishes)

1/4 cup olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano or 1/2 teaspoon dried
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2 teaspoons salt or to taste
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 28-ounce cans whole plum tomatoes, chopped with their liquid

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add the onions, bay leaf, oregano, garlic, and salt and cook, stirring often until the onions are soft and translucent, about 10 minutes.

Add the tomato paste and continue cooking for 5 minutes.  Add the tomatoes and stir constantly until the sauce begins to boil.  Lower the heat and simmer for 1 hour, stirring every 5 minutes or so to prevent the sauce on the bottom of the pot from burning.  Taste and season with additional salt, if desired.  Remove the bay leaf before serving.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Peanut Butter Cup Cupcakes

These cupcakes don’t actually have peanut butter cups in them. Instead, they are cupcakes topped with a peanut butter cup-like swirl of buttercream frosting encased in a shell of chocolate. Yummy! The original recipe used a yellow-cake cupcake, but I really wanted to keep with the peanut-butter and chocolate theme so I used a chocolate cupcake instead. You can use your favorite chocolate cupcake recipe.

Peanut Butter Cup Cupcakes


About 28 chocolate cupcakes
1 ½ cups (12 oz) butter, softened
1 ½ cups (14 ¼ oz) creamy peanut butter
1 jar (7 oz) marshmallow crème
3 cups (12 oz) powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
Chocolate Coating:
18 oz chocolate (you can use chopped block chocolate or about 3 cups of chips—you choose whether you want to use milk or dark chocolate—I used a mix)
6 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil (I tried the first few without the oil—the coating went on too thick and was too hard to eat like a cupcake—we had to eat it like candy. Yummy, but not really the intent.)

Bake cupcakes as directed in recipe. Let cool completely.

In large bowl, beat 1 ½ cups butter and the peanut butter with electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Beat in marshmallow crème. On low speed, gradually add powdered sugar until blended. Add 2 teaspoons vanilla; beat 3 minutes longer.

Spoon frosting into decorating bag fitted with large round tip. On top of each cupcake, pipe frosting in circles making cone shape with peak in center. Refrigerate cupcakes at least 45 minutes to harden frosting before dipping in chocolate coating.

In 1 ½-quart saucepan, heat chocolate chips and oil over heat, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Dip cone-shaped frosting on each cupcake into chocolate coating to coat frosting completely, letting excess chocolate drip off. Refrigerate to set coating, about 5 minutes.