beef sausage lasagna bake with orecchiette

One of the things I so love about cooking is finding inspiration from items I have in my fridge or freezer. A simpler version of lasagna using beef sausage, vegetables and orecchiette pasta, this dish cooks a little faster than your traditional lasagna as the pasta is cooked before adding it to the meat sauce.
Because sausages are packed with so much beautiful flavour I always remove the casing to enhance the dish. I used orecchiette pasta but any other pasta like penne, rigatoni or fusilli are great alternatives.

Serve this comforting meal with a simple garden or avocado salad and shavings of parmesan.
A delicious, budget friendly family meal!

ingredients | serves 6 | a little effort
600g beef sausage
1/2 white onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
150g button mushrooms, quartered
2 zucchini, grated
1t dried oregano
2 rosemary sprigs, leaves only
2T tomato paste
1 can crushed tomato
1T paprika
2T brown sugar
1C cherry tomatoes, whole
bunch fresh parsley, finely chopped
1t salt
good grind of black pepper
3 thyme sprigs, leaves only
2T olive oil
1T butter
2C grated cheddar
3C orecchiette pasta, cooked according to package intstructions

white sauce
35g butter
4T flour
2.5-3C milk
1/2t salt
1/2t white pepper

method
Preheat the oven to 190C/170 with fan.
Heat the olive oil & butter in a large, ovenproof skillet and sauté the onion and garlic until glossy. Remove the sausage meat from the casings by pressing it out, into the hot pan, like little meatballs. Discard the sausage casings and brown the meat all over. About 8 minutes. Add the tomato paste, stir and cook for 2 minutes.
Add the mushrooms to the pan and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring.
Add the grated zucchini, rosemary, paprika, oregano, sugar, salt & pepper, stir to coat and cook for 5 minutes. Pour the crushed tomato into the pan and cook the mixture for another 10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Add the cherry tomatoes, stir and cook for 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir the parsley through the mixture. Set aside.

make the white sauce
Melt the butter in a small pot on medium heat. Add the flour and mix using a wooden spoon.
Remove the pot from the heat and, using a whisk, add the milk while rapidly whisking. Place the pot back onto the heat and continue to whisk until the sauce starts to thicken. Leave to gently simmer for about 10 minutes, while stirring. Add more milk if the sauce is too thick. (You must have a pourable sauce.)
Season with the salt & pepper.

assemble
Spoon the cooked orecchiette pasta onto the meat sauce. Pour the white sauce over the pasta and top with the grated cheddar cheese and thyme leaves.
Bake in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes until browned on top.




prawns & linguine with tomatoes & vodka

I am all for good food and even more so when it doesn’t take hours to prepare and only needs a few ingredients. This is a simple recipe using cooked, shelled prawns. My choice of pasta was linguine but really, any noodle kind of pasta will work well here.
This is a great meal for either lunch or dinner and since I think it is so aesthetically pleasing, this is most definitely a meal that I will serve to a crowd.
Full marks on taste and looks! Serve with a rocket & avocado salad and extra lemon wedges.

I forgot to add half a cup of frozen peas. Should you remember, this will add a lovely element to an already delicious dish.

ingredients | serves 4-6 | easy
300g cooked, shelled prawns, halved
1/2 red onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, diced
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/2t red pepper flakes
1 can crushed tomato
1/4C vodka
1/2t dried dill
2T tomato paste
1T brown sugar
1 fish stock
1/2C cream, full fat
bunch fresh coriander, finely chopped
bunch fresh parsley, finely chopped
bunch fresh dill, finely chopped
salt to taste
good grind of black pepper
parmesan to serve
300-400g linguine, cooked accordingly
2T olive oil
2T butter

how to
Heat the olive oil & butter in a large skillet and saute the onion & garlic until translucent and aromatic.
Pour the vodka into the skillet and cook until the alcohol has evaporated. About 2 minutes.
Add the tomato paste, brown sugar and dried dill, red pepper flakes, stir and cook for about 3 minutes.
Pour the stock, lemon juice & crushed tomato into the pan and cook until slightly thickened.
Add the cooked prawns & cream and stir to coat. Simmer for about 5 minutes. Taste and season with salt & pepper.
Tip the cooked pasta into the sauce, toss to coat and cook for a few minutes until warmed through.
Add the lemon zest and fresh herbs and toss.
Garnish with finely grated parmesan.



porcupine beef meatballs

Porcupine meatballs, an American dish consisting of ground beef & rice were a staple during the Great Depression. Rice was added as a way of stretching the beef to yield more meatballs.
So called because the cooked rice sticks out of the sides of the meatballs.

To accommodate my 16 month old daughters’ palate and also include her in family dinners rather than cooking her a completely different meal, I like to keep weekday dinners simple yet delicious, flavourful and still nutritious.
Having a curious little human run around the house while trying to make a great meal can sometimes be a little challenging so I always suggest having a few easy, no-fail recipes that simplifies life and meal prep.

This is a hearty and comforting meal, cooked in a rich tomato sauce. Since the rice is added to the meat there is no need to cook a starch to serve alongside. You can, however, serve these on sweet potato or butternut mash.
As a vegetable side I suggest sweet roasted carrots or a mixture of buttered broccoli and cauliflower.

To make these meatballs extra nutritious you can add grated zucchini or carrot to the meat mixture. And for extra flavour, try adding finely grated parmesan or any hard, rich cheese.

ingredients | makes about 15 | easy
for the meatballs
500g lean beef mince
1/2 white onion, grated
2 garlic cloves, grated
1/2C long grain rice
1t dried oregano
1T fresh thyme leaves
1/2C milk
1 egg
1/2t fine salt
black pepper
olive oil, for browning

for the tomato sauce
1/2 white onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 can crushed tomato
400ml beef stock
2T tomato paste
2t paprika
2t mixed dried herbs / italian seasoning
1T brown sugar
2T Worcestershire sauce
1t fine salt
good grind of black pepper
handful fresh parsley, garnish
fresh cilantro to serve (optional)
1T olive oil
2T butter

method
In a large bowl, combine all of the meatball ingredients together except the olive oil.
Mix well using your hands and then roll into balls the size of a golf ball.

Heat a little olive oil in a large skillet or pan with a lid and brown the meatballs on all sides. Set aside.
Without wiping the pan clean, add another tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and the butter. Heat and saute the onion & garlic until glossy. Add the tomato paste & brown sugar and cook for about one minute. Add the paprika and dried herbs and stir to combine.
Pour the crushed tomato into the skillet followed by the Worcestershire sauce & beef stock. Stir to combine.
Season with salt & pepper.
Drop the meatballs into the sauce and bring the mixture to the boil.
Reduce the heat, cover with a tight fitting lid and cook for about one hour until the rice is cooked and most of the moisture have been absorbed.

Garnish with the chopped parsley and cilantro.







parmesan loaded meatball & orecchiette skillet

As pastas go I don’t have one specific favorite. I love all kinds, for very different reasons.
The general rule of thumb is that wide, flat pastas like pappardelle or tagliatelle love cream based sauces and long, round pastas, like spaghetti, are best served with a good drizzle of olive oil or draped in tomato based sauces, which beautifully coats each strand evenly.
“Rigate” means ridges, which makes it easy for sauces like pesto to cling to the pasta.
Short shaped pasta varieties, which includes orecchiette, are ideal for holding rich, hearty sauces with textures from vegetables or proteins.

Since making meatballs can be a little time consuming I make it worth my while by making two batches. One to use immediately and the other to freeze for a different occasion or dish. They freeze really well and bake beautifully straight from frozen.

These mini meatballs are packed with parmesan and herbs giving them a lot of flavor so they are perfect on their own as a snack or canape, served with spaghetti or in a beautiful creamy pasta dish such as this one.

ingredients | makes about 30-35 mini meatballs | a little effort
500g beef mince
1/2 white onion, very finely chopped
1t finely chopped garlic
5 thyme stalks, leaves only
2 rosemary stalks, leaves finely chopped
handful fresh parsley, finely chopped
1/2C finely grated parmesan
1/2C fine breadcrumbs
1 whole egg
1T worcester sauce
2T chutney (I used Mrs Balls, original)
1/2t fine salt
good grind of black pepper
2-3T olive oil for frying

for the sauce
2T butter
1/2 white onion, finely chopped
1t crushed garlic
3T sun-dried tomato pesto (optional)
1 can crushed tomato
1 1/2C – 2C beef stock
1 1/2t dried oregano
1T brown sugar
1t fine salt
black pepper to taste
1 1/2C orecchiette pasta shells
1/2C cream, full fat
fresh parsley, garnish
fresh cilantro, garnish
fresh parmesan, garnish

the method
Combine all of the meatball ingredients in large bowl. Using your hands, mix well until combined and then, with the palms of your hands, roll into balls just larger than bite size.
Heat olive oil in a large skillet and brown the meatballs on all sides. Set aside.

In the same skillet, heat and melt the butter and cook the onion until glossy. About two minutes.
Add the garlic and cook for a further minute. Add the oregano & pesto and cook for another minute, while stirring.
Pour the beef stock & crushed tomato into the skillet, add the brown sugar, salt & pepper and stir. Add the pasta shells, stir to coat and then nestle the meatballs into the sauce.
Turn the heat down to a low simmer, cover with a tight fitting lid and cook for about 20 – 25 minutes, while occasionally stirring, until the pasta is cooked. Stir the cream through the pasta mixture.

Garnish with fresh parsley & cilantro and top with large shavings of parmesan.



Camembert, tomato & pea tagliatelle

Simple and delicious, this creamy pasta is on the table in twenty minutes!
Pasta is definitely a staple in my home and although we love meat, occasionally a meat-free meal is simply necessary.
Tagliatelle is the most common form of flat ribbon noodle and the creamy sauce sticks to it beautifully.
Comfort food at its best!
Serve with a generous shaving of Parmesan and a green salad.
To cook pasta, allow 80-100g raw pasta per person. For every 100g pasta, use 1 liter of boiling water and a teaspoon of salt in a large saucepan and cook rapidly.
To prevent the pasta from sticking together, add a teaspoon of cooking oil to the water.

ingredients | serves 4 | easy
300g uncooked tagliatelle, cooked according to package instruction
1/2 small white onion, finely chopped
2t crushed garlic
1 round camembert cheese, cut into blocks
3 large, ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
100g sun-dried tomatoes, drained and roughly chopped
1c frozen peas (i used petit pois)
5 thyme stalks, leaves only
1/2c dry white wine
1/2c full fat cream
small bunch fresh parsley, chopped
parmesan
1/2t fine salt
good grind of black pepper
pinch red pepper flakes, optional
2T olive oil
1T butter

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil & butter and cook the onions until translucent. About three minutes. Add the garlic and cook for one more minute. Pour the wine into the skillet and cook until reduced. About three minutes.
Add the thyme, tomatoes & sun-dried tomatoes, stir to coat and cook for about five minutes.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package instructions, reserving a bit of the pasta water after cooking.
Add the camembert and cook to melt, while stirring. Pour the cream into the skillet and season with salt, pepper & red pepper flakes, if using.
Once the cheese has melted into the ingredients, add the peas and cook for two more minutes.
Add the drained pasta and about two tablespoons of the reserved pasta water. Mix. Stir the chopped parsley through the pasta.

Garnish with parmesan and serve warm.