Compromises

Sunday dinner is taking a different twist today.  We have been eating a lot of comfort meals lately and many have been meat based. Today, we are enjoying one of our favorite meatless Sunday sauce recipes.   My husband brought home a nice large eggplant today with hopes I’d make eggplant parmesan again.  Since we just had that last week, I decided to turn this beautiful eggplant into a meatless meatball for our sauce.  We’ve had this meal before and it is a nice change of pace from the traditional meatball, and surprisingly quite tasty.

My brother and my niece are both vegetarians.  George grew up on the same meals as I did and has commented on my recent blog posts.  I knew he wouldn’t be eating them though and began to wonder how to offer meatless versions of these family traditions.  I will be experimenting with that concept over the coming months and hope my brother will join me.

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George on left, Michael on right, yours truly in middle.

During the recent snowstorm, I made a Chicken Schnitzel and George commented how the meatless gravy on spaetzle is often not quite as good as the version we grew up on.  We spoke that day about the mushroom gravy that goes on my Schnitzel. This mushroom based gravy is only used to top the chicken.  That recipe just needs one tweak to be meatless – change the chicken broth to vegetable broth in the recipe.   For Sunday sauce it’s easy to whip up marinara, but for us meatballs are a huge part of this favorite meal.  If I decided to never eat a meatball again, I’d surely be looking for ways to replace them in my sauce.  This eggplant “meatball” is one way to start thinking about alternatives to meat in Sunday sauce.  Today’s menu will include – Sunday Sauce with Eggplant Meatballs served over homemade, hand cut pasta.  Both will be accompanied with a nice robust glass of Merlot and football playoff games.

Meatless Meatballs – Eggplant

Ingredients:

  • 1 large Eggplant
  • 1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1 cup Pecorino Romano Cheese
  • 1 egg
  • Flour
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions:

  • Pour glass of Merlot and turn on Alexa for dancing in the kitchen.3696CC4B-0446-4256-ABF1-53FED1C597C4
  • Cut eggplants in half lengthwise and trim off ends.  Make a few slits on the cut side and brush with olive oil.   Sprinkle lightly with salt.2881BED9-3233-4F24-BCA7-C8A79D3E2EB1
  • Place the eggplant on a baking sheet, skin side down.
  • Cook at 400 degrees 30 – 40 minutes, depending on size of eggplant.
  • Remove eggplant and allow it to cool before handling.
  • Scoop out the soft insides of the eggplant into your Kitchen Aid mixer with paddle attachment.
  • Add cheese, egg, salt, pepper and breadcrumbs to the bowl and mix on low until combined.  You may need to add more breadcrumbs if mixture is very soft.F3552CCC-0551-41FD-9EC0-06C9DFDC02F9
  • Roll the mixture into balls and dredge in flour. Fry the balls in olive oil until browned on all sides, about 8 minutes.8365AB1D-CD79-4359-8265-EC2436D05429
  • Add to sauce and serve immediately.  There is no reason for these meatballs to cook in the sauce.  They are cooked and ready.  For less saucy eggplant balls, just serve plain with sauce on side.

Last week I shared my sauce recipe, along with the recipe to make easy homemade pasta.  Both recipes can be found by clicking on this link –

Sunday Sauce

Since the eggplant was large, I was also able to make Eggplant Lasagna.   Super easy and great for a gluten free lasagna.  This meal is made and assembled exactly like the traditional version.  The substitution was eggplant for lasagna noodles.    Slice the peeled eggplant lengthwise.   Place on lightly oiled baking sheet.  Roast for 20 minutes at 400 degrees.   Let cool, then assemble as usual.

 

How have you tweaked your meals to include meatless versions?  Please share some of your recipes with me.  I am always looking to try something new.  If you make this recipe, please leave me a note to tell me how it was, including any tweaks you made to improve it.

 

Sunday Sauce

My favorite cookbooks are those that have a memoir weaved throughout.  Food, after all is woven throughout our lives.  Its connection to our memories can’t ever be overlooked.   The mere smell of onions browning brings to mind images of my mother cooking her Sunday roast beef. If I close my eyes I can almost transport myself back to that time.  Sundays around here do not find me cooking roast beef.   After all,  I live on an island known to be full of Italian people and also known for its great Italian food.  What’s a German lady to do when living on such an island?  Learn to cook Italian food without a Nona to teach her!

We’ve been eating Sunday sauce since I’ve been married.   My husband and I both love spaghetti and meatballs so I needed to learn very early in our marriage how to make this traditional Sunday meal.  I grew up in Middle Village, Queens on a block made up of brick row houses.  Each house was exactly the same, yet each was so very different.   0DF6BD35-AF6C-4530-9307-A9D0396CE93AWe were truly lucky to grow up on this block, and lived a very safe and happy childhood.  My attached neighbors to the right were an Italian family, Paul and Rita and their two sons Sal and Johnny.  Both boys were much older than the group I grew up with, but the close proximity of our homes enabled us to know each other well.   Paul was a tailor and Rita a stay at home mom.   Rita was an amazing cook and just the happiest lady.  She was always laughing and always cooking up great food.

As a newly married girl, I knew I needed to learn how to make sauce.   My mom was a great cook, but sauce was just not her thing.  She rarely, if ever, made any sauce that didn’t come from a glass jar labeled Ragu.  So, one day I called Rita on the phone and asked her to teach me how to make homemade sauce.   She shared her recipe with me and I remember being surprised by the short list of ingredients.  I wondered why my mom thought it’d be hard for her to make.  I’ve used this recipe ever since that day, though I’ve taken a few liberties with it as I’ve grown as a cook to personalize it to our tastes.

To go with this sauce, there’s nothing that compares to homemade, fresh pasta.   Dried pasta in a bag just doesn’t work for us.   I’ve been using a Kitchen Aid pasta attachment for years but can’t seem to get the consistency I want.   Sometimes it’s great, others too thick.   Today I decided to go back to hand rolling and cutting to see if that works.

Today, on this very cold Sunday, the smells of sauce permeate my kitchen.   If I close my eyes I can see Rita smiling and hear her joyful laughter.      If I close my eyes I’m sitting on the porch on 72nd Street smelling this food and wishing Rita was cooking for me.   Lucky enough she is.

Here’s Rita’s recipe that I tweaked slightly, along with my pasta recipe.

Sunday Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • 2 large cans crushed Tomatoes (Rita used Redpack, I use Tuttorosa)
  • 1 small can tomato paste (I don’t use)
  • pinch sugar
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • crushed red pepper

Directions:

  • Pour a glass of Chardonnay and turn on Alexa for dancing in the kitchen
  • Sautee onion and red pepper flakes in olive oil until translucent (4 minutes)70879188-EB6A-4F3D-8365-4FC79FB517FB
  • Add chopped garlic and cook 1 minute longer
  • Add tomatoes and stir
  • Add sugar, salt & pepper
  • Add 1 Bay leaf
  • Refuce heat as low as possible, stir and simmer slowly for at least two hours 984859D5-526A-4957-B6C9-DF6BAEEC94E7
  • Add meatballs during last hour

Pasta Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs

Directions:

  • Mix together in Kitchen Aid with dough hook on low setting until it forms a ball 60FEA507-1BA4-440C-BBC9-982BCCA78C86.jpeg
  • Let dough rest at least 30 minutes
  • Knead dough lightly on well floured board
  • Cut dough into four sections
  • Roll each section as thin as possible.  45B50FCC-9FD5-405B-A289-616EA14D5533.jpeg
  • Hand cut using pizza cutter as thin as possible 

  • Cook in boiling water no more than 2 minutes.

*This recipe is for two people, rule of thumb is 2 eggs for every 1 cup of flour.

I served mine today with meatballs and eggplant parmesan.  It was quite delicious.  I learned from the best!

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If you make this recipe, drop me a note and let me know how you made out.  Enjoy!

Recipe Swap

Sunday sauce is a staple in this house.  We love spaghetti and meatballs and afternoons spent together as a family.  I’ve tried to find ways to update this comfort food without changing it too drastically.  Yes, I have tried turkey meatballs and personally they are not my favorite recipe swap.  I’ve also invested in a spiralizer and make zucchini noodles and spaghetti squash as options to replace the traditional spaghetti noodle.  Both of these are good options for the meal, but I personally am not prevented from eating gluten for any health reasons and do prefer pasta with my Sunday meals most weeks.  Below is my updated version of the traditional spaghetti and meatball dinner.

Bison is a great choice for your meatball dinner.  My family can’t tell the difference when I use bison in place of beef.  I can’t say the same about turkey meatballs.  Grass-fed Bison is a low fat, low cholesterol meat with as many Omega-3s per serving as a serving of salmon.  The taste, texture and color is the same as beef, but this meat packs a nice amount of iron as well.  I order mine online, but am sure you can find bison in any store that has quality meats.  The pricing is very similar to that of beef.  Be sure to always buy grass fed, organic versions of any meats you eat.

Bison Meatballs

Ingredients

  1. 1 egg
  2. 1 pound ground bison
  3. 1/2 cup homemade gluten free bread crumbs
  4. 1/4 cup freshly grated pecorino or parmesan cheese
  5. 2 tbs water
  6. Optional – I finely chop two kale leaves and mix in to sneak in a vegetable serving sometimes.

Directions

  1. Combine all ingredients and form into small meatballs.  Roll them firmly in your hand to ensure they hold together.
  2. Place on tray and cook in oven for 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees to brown.
  3. Remove from oven and drop meatballs into your sauce.
  4. Cook for at least 45 minutes, or however long you like your sauce to simmer.

Homemade Spaghetti

I do not have any gluten sensitivities, but I do try to limit my intake.  When it comes to pasta, I really only eat it once per week.  I prefer to make my own pasta and have an easy to use attachment for my Kitchen Aid that doesn’t require me to roll out the pasta.  I simply drop it into the machine.  You can substitute the all purpose flour for whole wheat and it comes out fine.  You can also find many gluten free recipes, but they do require many ingredients.  This is the actual recipe I use for my pasta.  I prefer that I know exactly what is going into my pasta, all ingredients I can pronounce.

Ingredients

  1. 1 egg, beaten
  2. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  3. 1/2 flour 00
  4. 1/2 cup semolina flour
  5. 2 tablespoons water Add all ingredients to list

Directions

  1. In a medium sized bowl, combine all flour and salt.
  2. Make a well in the flour, add the slightly beaten egg, and mix. Mixture should form a stiff dough. If needed, stir in 1 to 2 tablespoons water.
  3. On a lightly floured surface, knead dough for about 3 to 4 minutes. With a pasta machine or by hand roll dough out to desired thinness. Use machine or knife to cut into strips of desired width.

The above directions are for those who do not have a pasta machine.  I make mine right in my Kitchen Aid with the dough attachment so I don’t have to manually knead it.  I let my dough rest covered for at least 30 minutes.  I then roll into small balls and drop into my pasta cutting attachment.  So simple, so delicious!  Here is the attachment I use on my Kitchen Aid –

KitchenAid KSMPEXTA Gourmet Pasta Press Attachment with 6 Interchangeable Pasta Plates

The white attachment on this machine is the actual unit I have.  I love it and it has made making homemade pasta so easy.  It’s simple to use and clean.  It comes with 6 blades for different shape pastas.

Homemade breadcrumbs – Gluten Free

Toast gluten free bread in oven on sheet tray.  Remove, process in food processor.  Season as you wish.  I just use a slight amount of garlic, pepper, salt and Italian seasoning.

If you try the Bison as a healthier option, let me know how you like it.  My family hasn’t noticed and my daughter is super picky!  Please leave a comment if you have a different recipe swap for Sunday sauce.  It’s one of our favorite meals so I’m always on the lookout for healthier versions.

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