Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Pasta Fagioli

Pasta Fagioli is one of my all-time favorite Italian soups. We used to order it every time we visited Da Nico's in New York, which happens to be one of my all-time favorite Italian restaurants in Little Italy. My aunt and uncle were friends with the owners, so whenever we were in town visiting and eating at their restaurant, they would bring us samples of our favorite appetizers on the house, and this one was always included. I recently got to take Matt to experience NYC for the first time- you can read all about it and see pics from our trip here. And if you're even in NYC, make sure you visit Da Nico's! The food and service is fantastic.

SO, on to the soup. This original recipe comes from Olive Garden and is posted on this site. My friend Stephanie made a slightly modified version and posted the recipe on her blog which inspired me to make it that same night! So whether you choose to make Stephanie's, mine (which is also only slightly modified from the original), or the original, I guarantee you will love it! And the best part? There are lots of leftovers for you to freeze for later. :)

Bon Appetit!


1 pound ground turkey or beef
1 small onion; diced 1 cup
1 large carrot; julienned 1 cup
3 stalks celery; chopped 1 cup
2 cloves garlic
2 14.5-oz cans petite-diced tomatoes
1 15-oz canned kidney beans; with liquid
1 15-oz can cannellini beans; with liquid
1 15-oz can tomato sauce
12 oz V-8 juice
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon basil
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 pound ditalini pasta; (1/2 box)
1 cup salted pasta water

1 cup white wine
1/2 cup parmesan


Brown the ground turkey in a large saucepan or pot over medium heat. Drain off most of the fat. Add onion, carrot, celery and garlic; saute for 10 minutes. Add remaining ingredients (except pasta and pasta water), and simmer for at least 1 hour. Cook the pasta in 1 1/2 to 2 quarts of boiling, salted water over high heat. Cook for 10 minutes or just until pasta is al dente. Before draining, add one cup of pasta water to soup. Add the pasta to the large pot of soup. Simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and serve.


Sunday, January 27, 2013

SI Sportskids of the Year

My stepdad sent this touching video to me this week. The two boys in the video are the 2012 Sports Illustrated Sportskids of the Year, and it is easy to see why they were chosen for the award. Cayden is seven years old and has Cerebral Palsy. His brother, Conner, is nine years old, and decided to run Triathlons with his brother because he could see how happy he was when they ran together. 

Lebron James, who was the recipient of the Sport's Illustrated Sportsmen of the Year, gets up at the end of this clip to talk about how these two boys are the real ones worth honoring and that any parent would love to see their kids take care of each other the way these two boys do.

The clip is about 5 minutes long... you may want to grab your tissues first. ;)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Bolognese Sauce

When my dad was in town over the holidays, we cooked a bolognese sauce together from a recipe that's been passed between my aunt, uncle, mom, and dad, who were/are ALL fantastic cooks. I love the smell of a pot of sauce cooking throughout the day. And then when it's finished, you get to enjoy a delicious plate of pasta and have TONS of leftovers to freeze for later!

The only problem with having an actual "recipe" for a homemade sauce, it that most of the flavor depends on the tomatoes, so there will be some tweaking you have to do as the sauce cooks throughout the day. That's fine with me though since I like to taste as I cook. ;)

So here's the closest recipe I can share to what we made... give or take a few dashes here and there. :)

2- 28 oz. cans plum tomatoes
1- 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1- 28 oz. can tomato puree
1- 6 oz. can tomato paste
1 lb. ground chuck
1 lb. ground pork
10 garlic cloves
2 medium-large onions, diced
2 tsp. dried oregano
2 tsp. dried basil
5 bay leaves
1/2 cup EVOO
Salt to taste 
Sugar to taste 
Brown sugar to taste
(We probably added about 1 tsp. each throughout the day) 
6 cups hot water (add 1/2 cup at a time later in cooking)
1 cup white wine (optional)

Saute onions in EVOO. Once onions look translucent, add ground chuck. Brown pork in separate pan, but do not completely cook either meat, as they will continue to cook in the sauce pan (leave a little pink). If you're a visual learner like me, the rest of the steps will be easier to follow with pictures:


Drain the pork and return to pan.
Do not drain the chuck/onions- that will be part of the flavor in the sauce.
Really, both meats can go undrained, but I tried to cut the fat just a little ;)
Season both meats with salt and pepper.

Leave meat slightly pink

Good tomatoes are KEY! The preference is San Marzano (shown on left), but we couldn't get that in puree and peeled, so we went with the next best brands. Although next time, I'll go to a Whole Foods or Fresh Market to make sure I can get all San Marzano. They're the best! Get the San Marzano DOP if you can- if you're a nerd foodie like me, you can read why here.

Blend the peeled and crushed tomatoes (NOT the paste)

Add half of the paste to the tomato mix. 

Place the other half back in the blender with 6 cups of hot water and blend. This will be added throughout the day as the sauce cooks and reduces.

Combine all of the meat into one pan.

Then transfer it to a big pot.

Pour some of the tomato paste and water mixture into the meat pan to "clean" out the rest of the meat, onions, and seasoning. Then transfer it into the large pot as well.

Begin transferring the rest of the tomato mixture into the sauce.

Add seasoning

Mix and simmer for 4-5 hours.
Add sugar, brown sugar, salt, and extra seasoning as needed once the sauce has simmered for at least 2-3 hours.

Sauce will reduce throughout the day. Add paste/water mixture to bring the sauce back up to the "line". The longer the sauce cooks throughout the day, the better the flavor.

Serve on top of an over-sized plate of spaghetti with generous amounts of parmesan cheese. Try to avoid licking the plate when the spaghetti is gone and some sauce remains. ;)

Monday, January 21, 2013

Happy Birthday, Papa!

On Sunday, we got together at my sister's house to celebrate my step-dad's birthday. It's was hard to beat the ski trip we took last year to celebrate his 70th, but we still had a great time being together! Here are some pics from the night:

Our nephew, Fieldon, came up with mom and Charles from Monroe to spend the day with the boys. He has two sisters and all of his other cousins are girls, so he had a blast having an all-boy day! ;)

The birthday boy!

My mama and my honey ;)

Love that sweet smile!

This is SO showing up in a rehearsal dinner video one day. ;) 

Chocolate Heart Bundt Cake recipe here

My sister was apparently still waving her Falcon's flag- ha! 

Happy birthday, Papa!!! We love you!