Purists call this dish white ragu pappardelle pasta; others call it white bolognese (which makes the purists mad). The point isn’t the name (it tastes just as good no matter what you call it). And, much as I love tomato sauces, the white sauce is a tasty change from the usual red one.
It starts with onions and carrots, then adds ground beef and sausage, which is simmered gently with porcini mushrooms, white wine, and a touch of cream. Soooo good.
I first made this right after Pesach, when the urge to eat starch (and lots of it) is strong, so I splurged for fresh pappardelle pasta. Being on an involuntary low-carb diet is no fun! Since I was using fresh pasta, it takes less time to cook than the dried version. If you use dried pasta, allow 10 minutes or so to boil the water and another 8 minutes or so to cook the pasta. Fresh pasta only needs a couple of minutes. If you can’t get pappardelle, rigatoni will work fine. You want a substantial pasta with bite (angel hair won’t do here).
The original recipe calls for dried porcini mushrooms, which I didn’t have. So, I substituted fresh ones. If you use the dried version, add the soaking liquid to the sauce instead of the water. The pasta water at the end thickens the sauce (with the starch from the cooked pasta).
I made a few other changes too. As a commenter rightly pointed out, the onions and carrots take different amounts of time to cook, so they shouldn’t be added all at once. First the onions, then the carrots. Also, I never have beef bouillon cubes (the ingredients make me wince) so I used beef stock instead.
White ragu papardelle is a fun and delicious change from the usual red sauce.
2 T olive oil
2 T onion, diced
1 carrot, peeled and cut into small chunks
2-3 porcini mushrooms, sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
1 mild Italian sausage (you can use pork sausage or chicken sausage), chopped up (take the casing off)
1/4 pound ground beef
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/2 C beef stock
3/4 C water
1 1/4 T heavy cream
1/4 pound pappardelle (plus 2 quarts of water to boil the pasta)
2 T freshly ground Parmigiano cheese
Add the oil to a wide, deep frying pan (the wider the better, so there’s more surface area to reduce the liquids faster) on medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the diced onion. Cook for a minute.
Then add the carrots, and the mushrooms, and sauté about five minutes or so. The veggies should be slightly tender, but not soft. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Then add the cut up sausage and the ground beef (break up the beef into small pieces, so there are no clumps of meat; you want it distributed throughout the pan). Cook that until the meat is all thoroughly browned.
Add the wine and let the liquid cook down until it is nearly dry. Now add the beef stock and lower the heat from medium-high to medium. Let it simmer (just bubbling) until the stock has practically evaporated and then add the 3/4 cup of water. Let the sauce simmer for about 10 minutes.
Taste it and add more salt and pepper if necessary. The sauce should be slightly runny, (think stroganoff, but Italian).
Take the pan off the stove, away from the heat, and add the cream (folding it into the sauce). Cover the pot to keep it warm.
Put two quarts of water in a medium size saucepan and bring it to a boil. Then add the pasta. Cook 2-3 minutes for fresh pasta, 8-10 for dried. When the pasta is nearly cooked, remove a ladleful of the pasta water and set it aside in a bowl.
Drain the pasta, and return it to the pot you used to cook it. Add the ragu sauce and stir it gently. Add the pasta water you set aside in the last step.
Serve with grated cheese.
Note: if you use dried mushrooms, soak them in the 3/4 C water and add them (and the water you soaked them in) after you add the stock.
White Ragu Papardelle Pasta Substitutions and Variations
Substitute bacon or pancetta for the sausage
Swap ground veal and pork for the beef and sausage
If you like venison or boar, those would work too
Add a few cloves of garlic and top with basil when you serve it
Don’t want sausage or beef? Use ground turkey instead (add a bit more fat to the pan)
I just love moussaka, but the traditional version is just too much work for one serving. I had a recipe for a Jewish Eygptian version of moussaka without bechamel,(or messa’aa) but the first try needed more tweaking. Back to the drawing board! This version uses more spices, has better flavor, and is much easier to put together.
There’s Middle Eastern flavor from spicy/warm cinnamon and nutmeg, the bite of garlic and onion, tender eggplant, and tomatoes. You can make this either with ground lamb or ground beef (whichever you prefer).
Many of the recipes I saw required first making a tomato sauce, then a meat mixture, then the eggplant, and finally assembling the entire thing together. Too much work and too many pots and pans to clean up.
My way is easier. First salt and fry the eggplant (or broil if you’d prefer), then cook the onion and garlic, add the meat, tomatoes, and seasoning, layer it all together and bake it. Instead of spending hours in the kitchen, you can have dinner ready in about an hour.
Or, make it all ahead of time, up to the point of putting it in the oven. Then, put the baking dish in the fridge, and cook it when you’re ready. Just take the dish out about fifteen or twenty minutes in advance so that it isn’t ice cold when you put it in the oven. Make a quick salad or some rice and you have dinner.
This recipe is also a product of a bit of advance planning. The trouble with cooking for one sometimes is that even if you make one serving you still have more ingredients left. However, a little menu planning can go a long way toward fixing that problem. You end up with several delicious meals, a lot less waste, and it’s far more budget friendly too.
12 thin slices eggplant (about half a small eggplant)
2 T plus 1 T olive oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 small clove garlic, smashed and minced
1/4 lb. ground beef or lamb
4 T crushed tomatoes
generous grinding of pepper and salt to taste
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cumin
Preheat the toaster oven to 350 degrees.
Spread the sliced eggplant on a cutting board and sprinkle it with kosher salt. Let sit for fifteen or twenty minutes. Then rinse the salt off and pat dry.
Heat 2T of the olive oil in a frying pan large enough to hold the eggplant in one layer.
Add the eggplant slices to the hot oil and cook for a minute on each side (it should be lightly colored, but not brown).
Remove the eggplant, place on paper towels, and pat dry.
Add the onion to the pan, and add the additional 1T of oil. Let the onion cook for five minutes on medium-low heat, until it softens and the fragrance starts to waft through your kitchen. Add the garlic and cook another minute.
Now add the ground beef or lamb, the tomatoes, and the spices.
Cook for 10 minutes until the meat is browned.
Layer the bottom of a small (6 inches or so) baking dish with half the eggplant. Add the cooked meat mixture on top. Then arrange the remaining eggplant on top.
Put the dish in the toaster oven and bake for 15-20 minutes.
Moussaka Without Bechamel Sauce Substitutions and Variations
Pan fry some almonds in olive oil and add that to the meat mixture in the pan
Toss in some raisins
Top the moussaka with a mixture of yogurt, garlic cloves, olive oil, salt, and chopped cucumbers (sort of a tzatziki without the dill)
I use this dish all the time. It’s great for mini-moussaka (like this recipe), mac and cheese, peach crumble, triple chocolate cake, brownies, or ginger pear bread. You could even make quiche or a mini-meatloaf in it. The dish goes in the oven, the microwave, or the broiler and it’s dishwasher safe too. And since it’s pretty, you don’t need an extra serving dish (one less thing to wash).
Despite the name, this isn’t a spice mixture; it’s from a berry. Allspice is great for moussaka, and indispensable for meatballs, pies (pumpkin season is coming!), and chicken. Like nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves it’s one of those warm/spicy ingredients that can add a little kick or a savory flavor depending on how you use it. It’s sort of a cinnamony, clove, nutmeg taste.
More Beef Recipes
Use up the rest of the package of beef with these recipes.
Ever get stumped by what to do with leftover steak? Steaks aren’t sold for one person, generally. The portions are too big! It’s not enough for another steak dinner, and too much to toss without guilt.
You could make a steak sandwich, or try something a bit different and toss it into a steak salad. Add some veggies, goat cheese, and a homemade red wine vinaigrette and you’ve got a delicious dinner without any cooking. Cold leftover steak salad is the perfect solution for hot summer days when the thought of turning on the stove is too much to bear.
This recipe is inspired by a steak salad on Food Network. I liked the basic idea, but wasn’t about to buy three kinds of greens, extra red onions, or bleu cheese (since bleu cheese and I don’t get along). I used just one kind of lettuce (green leaf) instead and swapped the bleu cheese for herbed goat cheese.
This is best with leftover steak (since it’s already cold), but you can pan fry a small piece if you want and let it rest (or chill in the fridge) while you do something else. Use the rest for a steak sandwich or in a stir fry.
Have you ever gotten a a mad, out-of-blue craving for something? A meal or a treat you just have to have? This week, I had this crazy yen for Sloppy’s Joe’s. Unfortunately, most of the recipes I found were too big and had too much tomato sauce. I wanted “sloppy joe’s” not “bathe in tomato sauce joes.” And, many of the recipes were also too bland. The only sloppy joe recipe for one person that I found was made with tofu. Nope.
Since I’d been feeling ambitious earlier in the week, I had fresh grass-fed beef on hand, and even homemade buns. If you want to make your own buns, try the recipe at King Arthur Flour’s website.
In order to boost the flavor, I added a bit of sriracha to the sauce and increased the Worcestershire sauce slightly.
The recipe includes two different amounts for the ketchup and the tomato sauce, so you can adjust the sauce/beef ratio to your own preferences.
Yes, it was messy. But it was also really good! I have put this under “dinner,” but really you could make it for a weekend lunch too, since it’s easy.
I just love stuffed cabbage, but making all those individual rolls is just a big pain in the neck. It looks good, but it’s labor-intensive and all that work is just not worth it (unless you want to impress company). And, most recipes make enough to feed a small army. Great for a crowd, but not so great when you’re cooking for one. What I really wanted was a small batch unstuffed cabbage rolls recipe. Something easy to put together.
I decided there must be an easier way. I saw a recipe for unstuffed cabbage rolls, made with meatballs and shredded cabbage. Make the meatballs, shred the cabbage, and pile the meatballs on the cabbage. It sounded good (and more of a savory, than sweet/sour recipe). That’s still quite a bit of work.
Then, I hit on an easier method. Instead of making individual rolls, or shredding cabbage, I would layer it instead. Like lasagna!
So, that’s what I did. It’s easiest if you cut the core of the cabbage off first. Then the leaves will come off more easily.
I cut off a few cabbage leaves, made the filling and the sauce, and then put the whole thing in a square baking pan. It was enough for several meals, and proved to be a life-saver as I got sick a few days later. Since I had all that unstuffed cabbage, I didn’t have to cook much.
If you don’t want to eat cabbage every day for several days, cut it into individual portions and freeze them in plastic containers.
I used red cabbage because the cabbage I’d ordered to make no mayo cabbage slaw turned out to be huge! You can use green cabbage if you prefer.
Remove the cabbage leaves (it's easier if you cut out the core first). If it's neat, great, if not don't worry about it.
Mix all the ingredients for the filling together in a medium-size bowl and set aside.
Cook the chopped onion in a saucepan with some neutral oil. Add the tomato sauce, salt and pepper, sriracha, lemon juice, and sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat, and simmer for 15 minutes, covered.
Take an eight inch square baking pan (the kind you would use for brownies). Layer some of the cabbage leaves on the bottom.
Add some of the filling, spreading it out to cover the cabbage.
Now layer the sauce on top.
Add another layer of cabbage leaves.
Repeat this procedure, alternating filling, sauce, and cabbage layers until you run out or the pan is full (stop about an inch from the top).
Cover the pan with foil, put it in the oven, and bake for one hour.
Substitutions and Variations for Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls
This pan is a staple for every kitchen. If you don’t have one, you should. Use it for stuffed cabbage, large batches of brownies, or cakes. It’s heavy-duty, so it won’t warp. The handles make it much easier to take the hot pan out of the oven too.
Cuisinart Mixing Bowls I have had these bowls…forever. They stack neatly inside each other (important in a small kitchen), and the lids mean you can use them for storing leftovers, or for something that has to marinate overnight. And, the lids seal nicely so your food won’t slosh all over the inside of your fridge.
I have been making my spicy stovetop chili recipe the same way for years — until recently. There was a blizzard raging outside and I figured chili would keep me (and the apartment warm). The recipe has evolved since I first started making it, but I’ve been consistently using kidney beans, green and red bell peppers and threw in some chopped jalapeños and a couple of spoonfuls of salsa.
However, I didn’t have any of those ingredients on hand and had no intention of going outside to get them! So, I improvised. Instead of kidney beans I used cooked small white beans (which I had leftover from making this delicious garlicky bean dip). If you don’t have cooked beans ready, use this quick soaking method to speed up the process, or just use half a can.
That solved the bean problem, but there was still the question of adding more heat. I did have plenty of sriracha sauce and ground cayenne, so I used that and added a pinch of cinnamon to balance it out.
The chili came out so well I think I may make it this way going forward. Less chopping!
This makes about three or four servings. You can make it for company, eat it several times in one week, or freeze individual portions for later use.
Spicy stovetop chili you can have ready in a little over an hour.
2T vegetable oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb grass-fed beef*
1/2 can crushed tomatoes
1 T tomato paste
1 tsp cumin
1T chili powder
1/2 cup white beans (soaked and cooked), or about 1/2 can
2 squirts sriracha sauce
1/2 tsp dried coriander
1 generous pinch cayenne powder
1 generous pinch ground cinnamon
Heat the oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Add the onions and cook on low heat until soft.
Add the garlic. Cook stirring for a minute or two.
Add the meat and brown, stirring so it browns evenly.
Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, and the beans. Add the sriracha and the spices.
Simmer on low heat about 60 minutes.
Adjust seasoning as necessary.
Serve in bowls, and top with sour cream and shredded cheddar cheese.
*I used grass-fed beef because I think it tastes better. If you can't get it, or you disagree, use the regular kind.
Also, if the tomatoes are a bit sour, add a pinch of sugar.
Substitutions and Variations for Spicy Stovetop Chili Recipe
use kidney beans instead of white beans
replace the sriracha with Tabasco sauce
add a teaspoon or two of salsa
add jalapeño peppers to taste
add about 1/4 each red and green bell pepper about 10 minutes before the end of the cooking time (so they keep a bit of crunch)
use 2/3 pound beef and 1/3 lb. pork
Calphalon Stainless Steel Dutch Oven, 5-quart Dutch ovens are great for chili, for large pots of pasta (or pasta sauce). They can be used on the stove or in the oven for baking. This one has a glass lid (which I like because you can see if the water is boiling without getting a facefull of steam. It also has measuring lines (to make it easy to tell how much water or food you’ve added, as well as a built-in colander (handy for pouring out the water when you make pasta).
The Chili Cookbook If you really love chili, and are willing to be creative with it, this is a great resource. It’s got chili with ingredients you might not normally associate with chili, as well as lots of classics. There’s different sorts of beans (or no beans at all), vegetarian options, even one with lobster and corn! There are also recipes for huevos rancheros and even instructions on making your own chorizo. I better stop now, I’m about to start drooling over my keyboard.
It’s creeping crud season, and while I’m not quite sick, I’m definitely not feeling quite well either. I was browsing through Pinterest and spotted a spicy beef noodle soup recipe. I was about to save it when I realized I already had one! So I made that instead.
The beauty of this is that it’s really easy, and quick, as well as being spicy (good for fighting germs), hot (the steam is good for fighting congestion) and comforting on a cold day. I sort of got this recipe from my online friend Terry. She had posted a “recipe” (no amounts or detailed directions, just the ingredients) for a spicy beef noodle soup that sounded awfully good.
She used red pepper which I didn’t have, as well as a specialty Korean chili sauce (which I also didn’t have). However, cooking is part following what someone else is done, part inspiration, and part improvisation, so I went with improvisation.
I did have cabbage, and I also had leftover steak, sriracha, and chili garlic sauce. I figured those would work just fine for my beef noodle soup.
If you don’t have turkey stock, you could use beef or even chicken if you prefer (see improvisation!). If you want to make your own turkey stock, the recipe is here.
Either way, once you have the stock, the rest of the soup is really easy to make and only needs a few ingredients.
Start the noodles first, then while they’re cooking, heat the stock in a separate pot and add the other ingredients. Or, you could throw everything (except the steak!) in one pot. If you do, the noodles will absorb a lot of the liquid, so you’ll need more.
Since I had the leftover steak, I didn’t even have to cook that. If you don’t, cook that while the noodles are cooking, and then add it to the soup at the last minute.
Another thing about this spicy beef noodle soup is that with all that garlicky, spicy goodness it will kill any germs that may be plaguing you!
I love this stuff. It’s got a stronger kick, and less sugar, than the sriracha, plus the extra heat (and spiciness) from garlic. It’s great in meatloaf, on eggs, in soup, or in a sauce. Think garlicky salsa.
Huy Fong, Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce, 17 Ounce Bottle If you prefer a hint of sweetness, you might like this instead of the chili garlic sauce (or use them both). Squeeze it over eggs, into soup, on enchiladas, or burritos. It’s also good for stir-fry. Think of it as ketchup with a kick.
It was National Cheeseburger Day a few weeks ago. Somehow, I managed to miss it, but celebrating with a compound butter cheeseburger is something you can do any day. Who needs a holiday?
Compound butter is just a fancy way of saying that you take butter, soften it a bit, and then add other ingredients. Mix them all together and you have compound butter. Once you’ve got that, you add it to your ground beef, form your burger, and start cooking.
There are two good reasons to use compound butters. The first reason is that it adds extra flavor. And, you can change the flavors by adding different ingredients to the butter (lemon, parsley and garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, a dash of cayenne, hot sauce, whatever you like).
The second reason is that it keeps your burger moist and delicious. It won’t dry out as much if you overcook it a bit.
Remove the butter from the fridge and let it sit for half an hour or so to soften (or pop it in the microwave for a few seconds).
Cut a slice of cheddar cheese, and let it sit on the counter to get to room temperature.
Once the butter is soft, mix in the garlic, basil and tarragon.
Add the butter mixture to the ground beef, season with salt and pepper and form into a patty.
Heat the pan on high heat. Cook on one side for three minutes, then turn over and cook for another three minutes (medium-rare). Add the cheddar cheese and cook another minute or two until it melts.
Remove the burger from the pan and let it rest for a minute.
Place burger on roll and enjoy!
If you're using grass-fed beef, the instructions are a bit different. In that case, add about a teaspoon or two of olive oil to the pan.
Sear the burger on one side, turn the heat down to medium-low and cook for three minutes. Turn the burger over, and cook another three minutes. Then add the cheese and cook for a minute. Let the burger rest for two-three minutes before you eat it.
Grass-fed beef has to be cooked slower and on a lower flame than standard beef. It's lower in fat, so you need to add some oil.
Substitutions and Variations
I’ve used garlic, basil, and tarragon in my compound butter, but you can use any herbs you like.
Or, you can kick it up a notch with some cayenne or sriracha.
Replace the garlic with a few sun dried tomatoes.
Make a quick aioli (mayonnaise, garlic, salt, pepper, a splash of olive oil, and a bit of lemon juice), or add crisp bacon.
It’s pretty easy to do and fun to play with.
I served it on a fresh potato roll, but you can use a standard burger bun or a kaiser roll, or even an English muffin if you like.
These are extremely handy. I use them to soften the butter (without having an entire extra pan to clean). They are also great for serving condiments or sauces on the side. I even have a larger one that I use as a mini sugar bowl. They’re safe to use in the oven and the microwave.
I may cook quite a few “exotic” or complicated dishes, but sometimes something simple and comforting and nostalgic really hits the spot. And when it comes to nostalgia and comfort food, it’s hard to beat an old-fashioned, but easy, Italian meatball recipe. Just thinking about spaghetti and meatballs makes me smile.
You can serve this the classic way, with spaghetti and marinara sauce, but they’re also great for making a fast Italian wedding soup. If you don’t want the soup right away, just increase the recipe, and make a few extra meatballs and pop them in the freezer. Then days, or weeks later you can defrost them and treat yourself to soup in a few minutes.
I’ve kept this recipe simple, and easy, but you can change it to suit your own tastes and preferences. Check the end of the post for some inspiration. You can make it spicier, swap the bread crumbs for oatmeal or potato starch (to make it gluten-free), or use turkey instead of beef. A mixture of pork and beef is good too.
Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix together, using your hands.
Form the mixture into balls, about 1 inch in diameter.
Heat the oil in a skillet and gently place the meatballs in the pan. Let them cook for a minute or two, then turn them gently (so they don't fall apart). Cook for about 10 minutes.
If you don't mind a two step process, preheat your toaster oven to 350 degrees. Place the raw meatballs on the tray that comes with the oven. Cook for a minute or two. While that's cooking, heat the oil in a skillet on medium heat. Transfer the meatballs to the pan and cook, turning gently, until they are done, about 5-7 minutes.
This helps keep the meatballs from falling apart.
Substitutions and Variations for Easy Italian Meatballs
use a mixture of ground beef and pork, instead of just beef
add more garlic
if you can’t have gluten, use oatmeal or potato starch, instead of breadcrumbs (either grind up regular oats in a mini-chopper, or use quick-cooking oats).
use ground turkey or chicken instead of meat (if you do, I recommend getting the dark meat turkey; it tastes better)
I’m not Italian, so don’t hit me if this easy Italian wedding soup recipe isn’t authentic. It is, however, quick and satisfying.
There are plenty of recipes out there that require over an hour to make and a long list of ingredients. Sure there are times when I’m perfectly happy to spend an hour or more making soup, but there are other times when I’m hungry and I don’t want to wait!
This soup recipe goes from start to finish in about fifteen minutes. It hardly even requires cooking at all. Just dump, pour, and heat and you’ve got a fast, easy soup. It’s great when you don’t feel like fussing.
Besides, something about soup is just comforting, especially on a cold day.
All you need are a few simple ingredients: meatballs (frozen are fine, or make them ahead), chicken broth, a can of white kidney (cannellini) beans, parmesan cheese and some spinach.
4-5 frozen meatballs (try Trader Joe's mini meatballs)
1/4C oz. canned white beans (optional)
1/2 C spinach
Add broth to saucepan and bring to a boil.
Drop in the meatballs (straight from the bag), the beans (if using), and the spinach. Lower heat and simmer about 8-10 minutes, until meatballs are heated through.
Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
I had some chopped beef to use up the day I made the soup, so I whipped up a few meatballs with some onion, garlic, bread crumbs, egg, and oregano. You can use pre-made or purchased frozen ones if you like, it will turn out just fine! If you do buy meatballs, I recommend the Trader Joe’s party meatballs.
Also, there was a bit of cabbage left in the fridge, too little to do much of anything with, so I added that in too for some extra vitamins.
Substitutions and Variations for Easy Italian Wedding Soup