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The Best Pasta Sauce EVER

26 Oct

My husband and I modified a recipe for pasta sauce that originally appeared in the Pink Adobe Cookbook. The Pink Adobe is a lovely Sonoran restaurant in Santa Fe, along the Old Santa Fe Trail. I HIGHLY recommend you check it out if you’re ever in the area.

This tomato-and-meat based pasta sauce is incredible and excellent atop Rotini noodles. Don’t skimp on the simmering time – it’s needed to develop the full depth of flavor that all of the herbs and spices provide. Trust me, you’ll never crack open a jar of Prego again!!!

Preparation time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Serves six


– 1 lb lean ground beef
– 1/2 lb ground pork
– 1 TBSP worcestershire

– 2 stalks of celery, diced
– 2 cloves of garlic, minced
– 1/2 large sweet onion, diced
– 2 tbsp olive oil

– 1 cup beef broth
– 24-28 oz canned crushed tomatoes (whichever the largest size is in your grocery store)
– 12 oz (two six ounce cans) tomato paste
– 1 lb fresh mushrooms, sliced
– 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
– 1-2 tsp chili powder (depending on how spicy you like your sauce)
– 1 generous pinch EACH of dried oregano, marjoram, rosemary, basil, cumin, thyme
– 1 bay leaf
– salt and pepper to taste

– grated Parmesan cheese


Brown ground beef and ground pork with the worcestershire in a medium skillet. Drain thoroughly.

In a large stock pot, heat the olive oil until shimmery and saute the onion, garlic, and celery until just transparent. Add the beef broth and deglaze the bottom of the pot. Add the remaining ingredients (except the cheese), plus the cooked ground beef and pork. Stir to combine.

Bring to a LOW simmer and cook, covered, for one hour. Stir occasionally, and add splashes of beef broth, dark beer or red wine if the sauce seems too thick.

Dig around and try to find and remove the bay leaf before serving. Serve over your pasta of choice and top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Eat entirely too much. Unbutton top button of pants. Lay on the couch and groan.

Leftovers the next day are PHENOMENAL.

A Cheese Sauce for Everything

17 May

This is a great, flexible recipe for cheese sauce that goes with, well, just about anything. Pour it over vegetables, mix it with refried beans for a great dip, pour it over pasta. It’s very cheesy without being too thick or overpowering. And, as you can tell by how everything is “two”, it’s WICKED easy to double or halve.

Makes about four cups.

– Two cups shredded cheese – a cheddar or cheddar/colby/jack mix is good. Basically, you want a hard cheese, not a soft cheese
– Two cups milk – whole or 2% is fine. Heck, you could even use half-and-half if you’re feeling especially decadent. I usually use 2%. I wouldn’t recommend skim.
– Two tablespoons salted butter
– Two tablespoons flour
– Two egg yolks, lightly beaten (discard the whites or use them for another purpose)
– Two tablespoons Worcestershire
– A dash or two of paprika
– Salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a heavy skillet over medium-low heat. Once the butter is melted, add the flour a little bit at a time, whisking constantly until the flour and butter are completely mixed, creating a roux.

Very slowly add the milk, a little bit at a time, whisking constantly until the flour/butter mixture is completely dissolved into the milk. Allow the mixture to warm and thicken for about one minute, then gradually whisk in the egg yolks (you don’t want the milk to be too hot or the egg will cook upon contacting the hot liquid, which is, well, gross). Keep whisking and allow the mixture to get hot, about two minutes.

Gradually add in the cheese a little at a time, whisking constantly, until it’s all incorporated and melted. Add the Worcestershire, paprika, salt and pepper, whisk and allow the mixture to become hot, but not simmering or boiling, which will curdle the milk.

If the mixture is too thin, add another handful of cheese. If it’s too thick, add a little bit of milk. You can also add other spices – cayenne pepper works well, for instance.

Pour over whatever needs some extra cheesy goodness, and enjoy!

Stuffed Shells with Vodka Cream Sauce

4 Jun

– One 1 lb. box of jumbo pasta shells
– 2 tbsp. canola or vegetable oil
– One 16 oz. container of ricotta (whole or skim or fat free, whatever your choice)
– 6 oz shredded mozzerella cheese (separated)
– 2 tbsp dried or fresh parsley flakes
– 4 tbsp minced garlic (separated)
– 1 tbsp olive oil
– One 28 oz can of CRUSHED tomatoes (or puree a 28 oz can of diced tomatoes in a blender until smooth)
– 1/2 cup vodka (either the cheap stuff or expensive, it doesn’t effect the taste)
– 1 cup heavy cream
– 1 tsp red pepper flakes
– salt and pepper to taste
– 2 tbsp dried italian seasonings (blend, or oregano and basil)

For Pasta: FOLLOW PRECISELY so that shells do not stick to the pot or each other! In a large pot, pour 1 tbsp canola or vegetable oil. Tilt the pot so that the oil coats the bottom of the pot. Fill pot with water. Add another tbsp of oil to the water, along with a liberal amount of salt. Bring water to a boil, add the shells. Cook, boiling consistently, for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally. Drain, rinse, and drain again. Separate each shell (you should have about 30) and place on a foil lined baking sheet sprayed with non-stick spray and allow to cool slightly.

For Filling: While pasta is cooking, in a large bowl mix together ricotta, half of the mozzerella, 2 tbsp garlic, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. Spray a 9×13 casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray. Fill each pasta shell with about one tbsp of mixture, and place seam-side down into the dish. Cover filled pasta shells with damp paper towels while making the sauce.

For Sauce: In a large skillet or heavy saucepan, sautee 2 tbsp. garlic in olive oil. Add crushed tomatoes, vodka, red pepper flakes, and heavy cream. Stir together, and add salt and pepper to taste. Simmer, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes until flavors have blended and sauce has thickened. Pour sauce over pasta shells (remove the paper towels first!) and ensure each shell is covered completely.

To Bake: At this point you can refrigerate the dish for up to one day (covered in plastic wrap), if you are making it ahead of time. Simply allow it to sit at room temperature for one hour before putting it in the oven. To cook, cover with foil and bake in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, remove foil, cover with remaining mozzerella and the italian spices, and return to oven for 5 or 10 more minutes, until cheese is melted and sauce is bubbly.

Stove-top Tuna and Noodles

9 Feb

Calvin prefers this method over the traditional type of tuna casserole. It sure is a lot faster to prepare. I usually make sure I have the ingredients on hand for whenever I’m stumped for a meal or don’t feel like preparing anything more elaborate. Also, Calvin hates peas so I leave them out of the pot and just add them to my serving. It’s easy to microwave a handful of peas in a bowl and dump the tuna noodles on top.

1 16 oz. package wide egg noodles
2 cans tuna, drained
1 can cream of chicken soup, undiluted
1 can cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
1 tbsp. Worcestershire
1 tbsp. ranch dressing
salt and pepper
12 oz. frozen peas (optional), cooked according to package directions and drained

Prepare egg noodles in a large pot according to package directions. Drain. While noodles are draining, return pot to stove and add soups, Worcestershire, ranch, salt and pepper. Stir to combine thoroughly. Drain tuna completely and add to mixture, stirring to combine and break up the tuna. Add noodles and peas (optional), stir to combine, and heat through before serving.

This recipe also works well when substituting the canned tuna for canned or cooked chicken.

Garlic Cheese Noodles

25 Jan

1 (12? 14? 16?) oz pkg. extra wide egg noodles
2 tbsp butter
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbsp flour
1 cup milk
1 cup finely shredded cheese (I use a cheddar/jack combo)
1 tbsp. worcestershire
salt and pepper (I use lots of both)

Boil noodles according to package directions. Drain.

While noodles are draining, melt butter in the pot on low heat, along with crushed garlic. Whisk in flour until well blended. Gradually add milk, whisking until well blended. Gradually heat the mixture to a simmer, whisking often. Simmer until sauce begins to thicken. Gradually add cheese, stirring until melted. Add worcestershire, salt, and pepper, and continue to stir until the sauce is thickened and well blended.

Pour sauce over noodles and stir to combine. Eat eat eat!

Comfort Noodle Goop

25 Jan

4 1/2 cups uncooked wide egg noodles
1 1/2 lbs. hamburger
1/2 cup onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp. Worcestershire
8 oz cream cheese, cubed
1 can cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
1 can corn, drained
1 cup milk
1 tsp beef bouillon granules
salt and pepper

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook noodles according to instructions. Meanwhile, brown hamburger, onion, and garlic. Drain. Add worcestershire, cream cheese, undiluted cream of mushroom soup, corn, milk, and bouillon granules. Stir until heated through and cream cheese is thoroughly melted. Salt and pepper to taste. Add hamburger mixture to cooked, drained noodles. Mix thoroughly. Consume.

Cheap, easy, filling. Probably zero nutritional value, but when you’re cold and hungry, there’s nothing like gooey noodley dishes to cure what ail’s ya. Next time I’m going to get frisky with it and add a can of diced green chilis.

To make this a “One-Pot Wonder”, simply cook the noodles first and drain, then use the same pot to finish the rest of the meal.

Greek Pasta Salad

25 Jan

1 12 oz package rainbow spiral noodles
1/2 cup red onion, slivered
1/2 cup red bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup green bell pepper, diced
1 whole large cucumber, peeled, sliced, and the slices cut into quarters
12 jumbo black olives, sliced (or use kalamata olives)
1 5 oz can artichoke hearts, drained (optional)
1 large firm tomato, diced
1 cup Feta cheese, crumbled
3 tbsp extra light olive oil
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
3 tbsp water
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste

Boil noodles according to directions. Drain and rinse with cold water. Put noodles in a large bowl and combine with remaining ingredients. Mix well. Chill pasta salad for at least an hour in the fridge before eating. Since I’m the only one in the family who likes Feta, I leave that out and just top my own serving with it. Enjoy!

American Chop Suey (Goulash)

25 Jan

A lot of families have their own Goulash recipe. Mine is of the tradition of Cole Farms Restaurant in Maine – a dish going by the name of “American Chop Suey” in those climes.

1 16 oz box macaroni noodles
1.5 lbs lean hamburger meat
2 tbsp Worcestershire
1 can diced tomatoes
1 jar tomato sauce of choice
2 tbsp italian spices (oregano, basil, rosemary, etc.)
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 sweet onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Boil noodles according to instructions. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, saute bell pepper, onion, and garlic in the olive oil. Once vegetables are crisp-tender, transfer to a bowl and set aside. Using the same skillet, brown the hamburger meat, seasoned with salt, pepper, and Worcestershire. Drain and return to skillet, add sauteed vegetables. Add diced tomatoes (do not drain), tomato sauce, and italian spices – stir to combine. Set heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes.

When the noodles are cooked, pour tomato sauce/meat/vegetable combination over noodles and stir well to combine. Serve with fresh grated cheese, crusty bread, and a salad.

To make this a “One-Pot Wonder”, simply cook the noodles first and drain.  Use the pot to follow the remainder of the recipe, then add the noodles back into the pot and stir to combine.

Baked Ziti

25 Jan

One box (16 oz) Ziti noodles
One jar (20 oz? something like that) of tomato sauce
1/2 lb. hamburger
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
Two cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup green pepper, finely chopped
Two cups mozzarella
1/4 cup ricotta
Basil, onion powder, oregano, other spicy things, or “Italian Seasoning”

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cook Ziti according to directions. Meanwhile, heat oil in saucepan over medium heat. Saute mushrooms, garlic, onion, and green pepper until tender (onions transparent) – about three minutes. Add hamburger to vegetables and brown. Drain. Add tomato sauce to meat mixture and heat thoroughly.

In a large bowl, combine ricotta with half the mozzarella, half the tomato sauce/meat mixture, and the italian seasoning. When Ziti noodles are done, drain and stir into the mixture. Pour noodles into a casserole dish (spray it with “Pam” first!), and top with remaining sauce mixture and cheese. Bake covered for 20 minutes and then uncovered for fifteen minutes. Serve with crusty bread and tossed salad.


25 Jan

– 1 lb ground beef
– 1 egg
– 3/4 cup bread crumbs
– 1/8 cup minced onion
– 1 tsp oregano
– 1 tsp black pepper
– 1 tsp parsley
– 1 tsp garlic salt
– 1 tbsp. Worcestershire
– 1 large jar spaghetti (tomato) sauce, or 16oz home-made sauce

Preheat oven to 450 degrees

  1. Mix all ingredients EXCEPT spaghetti sauce together in a large bowl
  2. Shape mixture into 1 to 2 inch balls, place on cookie sheet 1 inch apart
  3. Bake in preheated oven for five minutes. Remove, turn each meatball over, and cook for an additional five minutes (they will not be fully cooked at this point).
  4. Place spaghetti sauce in a large sauce pan or pot.
  5. Place meatballs in sauce, coat thoroughly.
  6. Simmer on low for one hour.
  7. Serve over pasta, or on sub rolls with sauce and mozzarella cheese.