Barbara first made Penne Ala Vodka for her son’s engagement party using a recipe from a friend of a friend. It has undergone a few changes over the years before it became an all-time family favorite…her granddaughter Stefani could live on this alone! Stefani recently requested that Barbara make it for her baby shower, and she was disappointed when there weren’t any leftovers to take home to Virginia! It’s always a big crowd pleaser and a must have for every holiday dinner.
This recipe is delicious and not your typical restaurant flavor. If you’re not a fan of a little heat, omit the cayenne but it’s really not a strong kick.
Prepare basic tomato sauce ahead of time (see recipe link below)
2 lbs. Penne pasta with the lines (sauce sticks to it better)
6 Tablespoons of salted butter
8-10 large garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (or more for a bigger kick)
6-8 shakes red pepper flakes (more if you like it hotter)
1/2 lb. very thin sliced Prosciutto, shred into pieces with your fingers
One of our best Sunday morning memories is of our mother frying meatballs for our Sunday dinner. There is something to be said for the wonderful aroma of meatballs frying along with the anticipation of the meal to follow, as it was usually shared with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. It wasn't just a meal...it was an event! Sundays were always special in our home because we would get to spend time with our cousins who we had so much fun with. As soon as Mom started placing the cooked meatballs in the bowl we would sneak into the kitchen to grab them out of the bowl while they were still hot; a tradition that our children and husbands still carry on today! 😋 😋
2½ lbs ground beef 80-85% lean/20-15% fat (or 2½ lbs of ground beef, veal, and pork mixture)
1/3 – 1/2 loaf day-old Italian bread soaked in milk (should yield 8 squeezed-out meatball sized mounds of bread)
10 garlic cloves, finely chopped or grated
1/2 large onion, finely chopped
3 large handfuls grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 handful fresh parsley, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
EVOO (for frying)
Place ground meat in a large mixing bowl, break up with a fork and set aside.
In another large bowl, soak bread in enough milk to cover. Let bread absorb milk then squeeze out milk between your hands. (You should have 7-8 handfuls, discard milk)
Place squeezed out bread on top of ground meat.
Add the onion, garlic, salt, and pepper to combine well.
Make a well in the center of the meat mixture and place all the eggs, Pecorino Romano cheese, and the parsley.
With a large fork scramble the eggs, cheese, and parsley in the well, then start to combine into the entire meat mixture. You can do this best with your hands that are scrupulously clean or with gloves…your preference.
Once well combined (don’t over mix) scoop out about 1/2 handful of meat mixture and roll into a ball and place on parchment or waxed paper. Continue making meatballs until all meat has been formed.
In a large skillet pour enough EVOO to about 3/4 inches in depth. Let the oil get hot, then working in batches, brown all sides (Don’t overload, allow each meatball some breathing room).
When meatballs are browned and crisp remove to a paper towel lined bowl or tray. Repeat until all meatballs are cooked.
30 minutes before your tomato sauce is ready, place cooked meatballs in the tomato sauce and continue cooking the sauce.
Serve with your favorite pasta and enjoy!
Notes: These meatballs freeze well and can be used at a later date. They are delicious as a stand-alone meal with or without tomato sauce. Make them smaller and they become a delicious appetizer, add mozzarella & some tomato sauce for meatball parmigiana heroes!😋😋
Stale bread soaked in milk then squeezed out
Mix ground meat with squeezed bread, onions, garlic, salt & pepper
Make a well then add eggs, cheese & parsley then mix well
Slow Cooker Spare Ribs with Hickory & Brown Sugar BBQ Sauce
OMG! Who knew a slow cooker, some spare ribs and barbecue sauce could taste like Heaven? The meat is so tender it falls right off the bone. Our whole family agrees these are the best spare ribs you will ever eat!😋
3 lbs. spare ribs ( I use St. Louis style spare ribs from Costco, 2 sets of ribs are about 6 lbs total)
When we were kids my least favorite meal (besides liver) was beef stew. I hated it and Teresa liked it. On a recent trip back to Long Island, my daughter Jennifer made a batch of beef stew which I tasted just to be polite. I was pleasantly surprised. There were so many wonderful flavors that I ate the whole bowl! Her secret was the beef bone broth, Isabella wine & thyme. I have used beef bone broth in the past; however, none compare as well to the Epic brand made from grass-fed beef. Serve with buttered Italian bread, over creamy mashed potatoes, rice or egg noodles. You won't need a knife to cut your meat, it's extremely tender, juicy, and delicious!
4 russet potatoes, quartered then cut into small bite size pieces
1½ tsp dried thyme leaves
2 tsp parsley (dried or frozen cubes)
1 bag frozen peas, thawed (optional)
1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour to thicken gravy
Pre-heat oven to 325ºF.
In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, 1½ tsp sea salt, and 1 tsp black pepper. Mix together then add the stew meat a little at a time to coat all sides well.
In a large dutch oven, heat bacon grease over medium heat until hot. Transfer meat in 2-3 batches, into the hot bacon fat. Cook 3 minutes on each side until browned. Add EVOO if needed. Set meat aside in a bowl.
Pour 1 cup red wine into the dutch oven to deglaze and bring to a boil, scraping bottom well to get all the meat bits mixed in.
Add the mushrooms and simmer for 10 minutes.
In a separate large skillet on medium-high heat, add 2 Tablespoons EVOO. Add carrots, potatoes, onion, and garlic. Sauté approximately 4 minutes.
Add 1 Tablespoon flour and mix constantly for 1-2 minutes. (If a thicker gravy is Preferred, add 2 Tablespoons flour instead of 1.)
Add 2 Tablespoons tomato paste.
Sauté 1-2 minutes longer.
Transfer the vegetables to the dutch oven. Add the 2 bottles of beef bone broth, 2 bay leaves, dried thyme, 1 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper. Return the beef (and bacon if you cooked bacon), to the pot and stir to combine.
Cover dutch oven with lid and bake in a 325ºF oven for 1 hour and 40 minutes. Add thawed peas and continue cooking another 5 minutes. Ladle into bowls and enjoy!
Notes: I always have bacon fat on hand in the refrigerator. Once I cook the bacon I drain the fat into a small pyrex dish then store covered in the refrigerator.
Beef broth may be substituted for Beef bone broth.
We have been trying an ocean full of different crab cake recipes only to find they had too much breading or too much seasoning which took away from the rich crab taste & texture we were looking for. We also wanted to make sure it was gluten-free without anyone being able to detect the difference. We think we hit a home run with our crab cake recipe which checked all the boxes for us. Serve as a main dish over mixed salad greens topped with our homemade tartar sauce, coleslaw even your favorite pasta with a scampi sauce.🦀
Put crab meat in a small bowl, keeping the lumps together, do not break apart and set aside.
Put the Glutino crackers in a plastic bag and crush until very fine crumbs.
In a large bowl mix together all remaining ingredients including the cracker crumbs. (do not add crab meat at this time)
Take the crab meat and gently fold into the mixture without breaking up the lumps. Do not stir or mix, just fold until it looks uniform.
Line a baking pan with either waxed or parchment paper. Using a 1/2 cup dry measuring cup, loosely fill the cup & turn out to shape into patties then place on the waxed or parchment paper lined baking pan. Place in refrigerator for 60 minutes to set.
In a large skillet on medium heat, add the 2 Tablespoons of butter and 2 Tablespoons of EVOO.
Once the skillet is hot enough, place each pattie in the skillet making sure not to overcrowd. You should be able to get 8 patties in a 12-inch skillet.
Cook until a nice deep golden brown then carefully flip to cook the other side until deep golden brown.
If browning too quickly, lower heat to medium-low.
Remove and place on paper towels to absorb any excess butter/oil.
Serve warm or room temperature. Enjoy!
Notes: To serve as an appetizer, make the crab cakes smaller and serve on a platter with some homemade tartar sauce.
We are so excited to share with you our chili recipe which today took first place for 'Traditional Chili' at Brunswick Forest Fitness & Wellness Center's '3rd Annual Chili & Mac n' Cheese Cook-Off'. We are especially excited that the chili was judged by several professional chefs & owner from our local area restaurants including Executive Chef Scott Euvrard from The Forest at Cape Fear National, Sous Chef Jon Michael Rehm from UNCW, Chef Garrett Swain from The Joyce Irish Pub, and Tom Mills, owner of Little Pond Catering. Thank you so much for voting for our chili.
2 to 2.5 lbs 80% lean chuck ground beef
2 lbs Neese’s hot sausage
2 large sweet onions, chopped
1 red bell peppers, seeds & ribs removed, diced
1 yellow or orange bell pepper, seeds & ribs removed, diced
In a large dutch oven brown the meat, using a slotted spoon remove the meat & set aside. Discard all except 2 Tablespoons of remaining liquid in dutch oven to sauté the vegetables.
Add bell peppers & onions to the dutch oven & cook about 10 minutes until onions start to turn golden. Add garlic, chili mix, mild green chiles, salt, pepper, cumin, harissa paste, and smoked paprika, combine well then cook another minute.
Return meat mixture back to dutch oven and mix well.
Add Hunt’s tomato sauce. Mix well and cook for 1 minute. Add all the beans with their liquid. Bring to a boil, then cover with lid partially open & reduce heat to low, stirring regularly for 2 hours.
Remove cover and continue to cook on low 30 minutes or longer until chili thickens to your liking. (We love thick chili!)
Ladle into bowls. Serve hot with your favorite garnishes: Sour Cream, green onions, shredded cheddar cheese, guacamole and our Rustic Cornbread-Gluten Free. Enjoy!
Notes: To say that Jack & Gary love spicy food is an understatement. If it were up to them, we would be eating this chili every other night! The blend of beef, sausage, beans, & spices makes this a delicious hearty chili for any night of the week and oh so simple to make. Our recipe is for a crowd so if you’re just feeding a few, cut the recipe in half. Any leftover chili can be frozen for 3-4 months at zero degrees in the freezer. Serve with your favorite toppings. For those who like extreme heat like our husbands, add your favorite hot sauce, chili peppers or Sriracha.
Our chili recipe originated from Teresa’s daughter Tracy, a long time ago. Over the years we have adapted it to what it is today. Thank you Tracy. ❤️
Before Barbara retired from the corporate world she would always ask the President of the company what his wife made the night before for dinner. Hal would come into work the next day and heat up his lunch. You cannot believe the wonderful aromas wafting through the entire office. It made everyone hungry! He told me to ask Lynda, his wife and I did. She was kind enough to send me and the entire office handwritten recipes of her chicken dishes as chicken was the only 'meat' her family would eat. She learned to make chicken many different ways and they were all delicious. Thank you Lynda for sharing them with us, you are the best!😋
4-6 chicken thighs, skin on, bone in (you can also use chicken breasts in place of thighs)
2 Tablespoons EVOO
2 Tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2/3 cup white wine vinegar
2/3 cup chicken stock
2 tsp all-purpose flour
14-ounces can/jar artichoke hearts, drained and halved
salt & pepper to taste
parsley for garnish
2 sweet onions, cut in half then sliced
2 cans sliced mushrooms
Season chicken with salt, pepper, garlic, & basil
In a large skillet heat the EVOO and 1 Tablespoon butter. When melted and hot, add the chicken, skin side up & fry for 5 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Remove from skillet and set aside.
Toss the onions in the lemon juice and add to skillet. Gently fry, stirring for 3-4 minutes until just beginning to soften.
Return the chicken to the skillet. Pour in the white wine vinegar and chicken stock, bring to boil, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
Remove chicken from skillet, reserving the cooking juices and keep warm. Bring juices to a boil and boil rapidly for 5 minutes.
Add the remaining butter to the skillet and add the flour. Stir well until flour in blended & smooth and juices start to thicken. Lower heat to a simmer.
Adjust seasoning to taste if needed.
Stir in the artichoke hearts and mushrooms then cook about 2-3 minutes
Plate the chicken then pour sauce over each one with some artichoke hearts and mushrooms.
Pan Seared Loin Pork Chops with Sauerkraut & Onions
We found some delicious looking loin pork chops at Costco that were about 1-inch thick and we thought we would bring you this basic recipe that is quick to make & produces the juiciest pork chops that are Mmmm Good!😋
8 thick loin pork chops (bone-in, about 3/4 to 1 inch thick)
2 Tablespoons butter
salt & pepper to taste
1 large sweet onion, chopped
pinch of caraway seeds
Rub a drizzle of EVOO on each side of pork chop, then sprinkle with salt, pepper & garlic powder to your taste.
Preheat large skillet with 2 Tablespoons butter & 1 Tablespoon EVOO. Sauté onions until golden.
Add sauerkraut & caraway seeds then continue to cook until juice is absorbed. Remove from skillet & set aside.
Raise skillet heat to high in order to produce a nice sear on the pork chops. When skillet is hot enough lower heat to medium-high & add pork chops, don’t crowd them and don’t move them until ready to flip over. Cook for 4-5 minutes. Once browned, flip over and continue to cook another 4-5 minutes on medium-high. When pork chops are done, remove from skillet & arrange on a platter. Cover with foil until sauerkraut is done.
Put the sauerkraut & onion mixture back into the hot skillet. Add 1 pat of butter. Heat for 3 minutes & stir regularly until hot. Place sauerkraut & onions in center of platter then place pork chops all around. Garnish with parsley, rosemary or thyme and serve.
Fennel Sausage, Peppers & Onions in Spaghetti Squash Boats
Today was the day to use up the spaghetti squash that was sitting on the counter for 2 weeks. We were remembering the zucchini or eggplant boats we used to make many moons ago & decided this was perfect for the spaghetti squash. Spaghetti squash is always a big hit with Jack & Gary. We had all the ingredients on hand so it was a no brainer. It's really delicious and satisfying.
2 small spaghetti squash, cut in half lengthwise and seeds scooped out
1 lb chopped bulk pork
1/2 large sweet onion, chopped
2 extra-large cloves of garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons fennel seeds
EVVO to drizzle over squash
1½ tsp dried oregano
1 Tablespoon garlic powder for squash
salt & pepper to taste
2 bell peppers, seeded and sliced into 1/4-1/2 inches pieces (we had 1 orange & 1 yellow on hand)
Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
Pecorino Romano or Parmesan Cheese for garnish
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line a baking sheet with tin foil.
Drizzle some EVOO over each half of squash then rub entire squash interior surface.
Sprinkle each half with salt, pepper, oregano and garlic powder.
Place each squash half face down on sheet and bake for 30-40 minutes depending, on squash size. Don’t over bake… squash skin should be tender but firm to touch.
While the squash is baking, brown the sausage meat & fennel. Once browned, add the salt & pepper, onions, minced garlic, and sliced peppers. Sauté until soft and golden. Keep warm.
When squash is done, remove from oven and let cool.
Once the squash is cooled take 2 forks to shred the squash, being careful not to cut through the skin. Spoon sausage mixture on top of each half.
Sprinkle with shredded mozzarella and return to oven until cheese melts.
Top with grated cheese and serve hot.
Note: We served this dish with sautéd Kale and garlic along with an arugula & baby spinach salad with a homemade lemon/balsamic vinaigrette.
Braised Pork Ragu brings your basic tomato sauce to a whole new level! We simmer our pork ragu for hours to bring out the most delicious, sophisticated flavors that will impress your family & friends. This is a hearty meat sauce and any leftovers can be frozen for a quick, last-minute weeknight dinner with pasta, risotto, mashed potatoes, or polenta, just use your imagination. It's the epitome of Italian comfort food and sure to please. Can you tell we love it?? ❤😋
2½-3 lbs. pork shoulder, bone-in (use boneless if bone-in is not available)
Kosher salt to season pork shoulder
2 Tablespoons EVOO
2 large onions, finely chopped
2 carrots, grated
8 cloves Dorot frozen garlic, minced ( you can get Dorot’s at Target & Trader Joe’s)