Christmas Eve Bolognese Sauce

For several years in a row, our children came home for Christmas and every Christmas Eve we’d make a batch of home-made pasta.  Of course good pasta needs a good sauce, so here’s my recipe.

I make this is two parts: one is the “Bolognese” part, made with a carrot, a celery stalk and the leanest ground beef you can find, then simmered slowly.  The other part is made from high-quality canned tomatoes, simmered with minced garlic with added basil and olive oil.  If you have a vegan, like we did one year, then this second sauce will work for them.

I combine the two sauces as we like our Bolognese sauce to resemble the one we ate in Bologna in 2012, at the Eataly store (shown above with a tagliatelle noodle).

This recipe serves about 8-10; half it if desired.

Part I–Bolognese Meat Sauce (adapted from Phaidon’s Silver Spoon cookbook)
6 Tablespoons real butter
1/4 cup olive oil
2 medium-sized onions, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
1 to 1-1/2 pounds of ground steak, or lean hamburger in the 90% lean category
3 tablespoons concentrated tomato paste
salt and pepper

Melt the butter in a large flat pan, add olive oil.  Add the vegetables and the meat and season with salt and pepper.  Mix well and cook over low heat for a few minutes until the vegetables have softened and the meat begins to brown.  Dilute the tomato paste with a little bit of water, and add to the pan, stirring well to distribute.

Cover and cook over a very low heat for 1-1/2 hours, adding a little water if the sauce appears to be drying out.

Part II–Tomato Sauce
2 cans high-quality Italian Peeled Tomatoes.  I use both of the above, but Cento is preferred.
5-6 garlic cloves, smashed, peeled, then minced
1/2 teaspoon sugar

Put the tomatoes with can juice in a pan and add the minced garlic, the sugar and a sprinkling of salt (shown above).  Cover and cook over a very low heat for thirty minutes without stirring.

Using a potato masher, crush the tomatoes, stir and let cook another fifteen minutes.

If you are using only the Tomato Sauce, at the end of cooking, swirl in about 2-3 Tablespoons high quality olive oil and 15 fresh basil leaves, torn.  You can omit this if you are proceeding to step III.

Part III–Combine

Combine the Bolognese Sauce and the Tomato Sauce and use.

I find it best to make this a day ahead to let the flavors blend.

Combined Sauces

One-pot Spaghetti

I had just read about this recipe in the New York Times that morning, and at noon, out of the blue, three relatives called to say they were coming by at lunchtime…from Utah…but don’t go to any trouble.  We had just returned from a trip abroad, no food was in the house, the jet-lag was flaring badly, but here was this gift of a recipe, and with a few modifications I had it ready to go in no time.  Make it.  It’s delicious and quick.

1 pound angel hair spaghetti
3-4 pints cherry tomatoes, separated (cut about half of the tomatoes in half, and leave the rest whole–save about 1/2 cup of the halved tomatoes to sprinkle on top for garnish at the end.  Truth: I forgot to cut them before I threw them in with the spaghetti and they were fine.)
zest of two lemons
1/3 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
1 bunch kale or spinach (wash, cut out the stems and discard, and chop the rest)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Parmesan or other hard grated cheese, for serving  (we use Pecorino-Romano)

Measure out 1 quart of water, and bring to a boil.

In a separate pan, large in enough to hold the dry spaghetti laying flat (I cheated and broke off 2 inches off the ends), place the dry spaghetti, most of the tomatoes, lemon zest, oil and salt.

Add the boiling water to the pan with the spaghetti.  Cover the pan and bring to a boil.  Remove the lid and simmer for about six minutes. Occasionally use tongs to lift and separate the spaghetti so it doesn’t stick.

Add kale (or spinach) and continue cooking until liquid has been reduced to a sauce, the pasta is cooked through, and the kale is tender (but not overdone).

Correct seasonings, top with cheese and remaining 1/2 cup sliced tomatoes.  Serve.

Cooks’ Notes: Some have suggested adding a pinch of hot pepper flakes to the simmering concoction for a bit of a kick.

Orange and Ginger Chicken

This is the real deal–tender chicken coated with a rich-tasting orange glaze.  This recipe can be prepared in 45 minutes or less, depending on your quantities.

4 boneless chicken breast halves  (If using the giant chicken breasts from the Big Box store, slice them into smaller pieces, as in *this* recipe)
salt and pepper
all-purpose flour
1/4 stick of butter
1 Tablespoon olive oil
4 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
1-1/2 cups freshly squeezed orange juice
2 teaspoons grated orange peel
[OPT: 1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions]

Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper; dust with flour.  Melt butter with oil in large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add chicken; saute until brown, about three minutes per side.  Transfer chicken to plate.

Add ginger to skillet; stir 1 minute.  Add brown sugar and mustard and stir to blend into drippings.  Add orange juice and orange peel.  Simmer until sauce is slightly reduced, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes.  Return chicken, and any accumulated juices, to pan.  Simmer 3 minutes.  Turn chicken over and add green onions.  Simmer until chicken is cooked through and sauce is thick enough to coat spoon, about 3-5 minutes longer.  Season sauce with salt and pepper.  Transfer chicken and sauce to platter; serve with sticky rice.

Cauliflower Soup with Sweet Corn

This is a variation of a soup from my cookbook Bowl Food, as I sort just opened the refrigerator and morphed my ingredients into a meal.  The variables you’ll need to keep track of (as they relate directly to each other) is the amount of broth you use is in relationship to the amount of cauliflower you use.  I cook the leek and garlic, then add the chopped up cauliflower.  I then add broth so it’s just covering the vegetables.  You be the judge.

1 Tablespoon oil
2 leeks, white and light green parts only, chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 potato, chopped (can add a cooked. chopped, potato later in the soup, if that’s what you have in your larder: that’s what I did)
6 cups chicken stock or canned broth (3 cans)
1/2 cup cream
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
pinch of red pepper flakes
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1 -1/2 cups sweet white frozen corn

Heat the oil in a large pot, large enough to hold all ingredients.  Add the leek and garlic, and cook over medium heat until the leek is soft, but not brown (about 6-8 minutes).  Increase the heat to high and add cauliflower, potato, chicken stock and bring just to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes or until the cauliflower and potato have softened.

Turn off heat.  Using a stick blender (or, alternatively, cool the soup and use a blender or food processor), puree the soup until smooth.  Add the cream, lemon, red pepper flakes, chives and frozen corn.  Place over heat until all ingredients are warmed, about 2-3 minutes.  Sometimes the heat of the soup will suffice.

Cauliflower Soup, served with Oyster crackers

Serve with Mary’s Retreat (homemade) Bread, or Oyster crackers, or homemade croutons, or crostini.

Serves 6-8.

Braised Chard, Carrots and Rice with Brats

Braised Chard, Carrots and Rice_1When you have lots of chard in your garden, or it’s on sale at the green grocer’s, it’s time to make this dish.  If you don’t add the brats and use water instead of the broth, it’s vegetarian, but we like to use Apple-Chicken sausage (we buy it at Costco) and add it to this dish.  The original recipe came from Mark Bittman, but I’ve made some modifications.

Braised Chard, Carrots and Rice_5 Braised Chard, Carrots and Rice_4 Braised Chard, Carrots and Rice_3Ingredients
1 pound (or one large handful) chard, washed and trimmed
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
5-6 carrots, peeled, and either sliced, or roughly chopped
1 shallot, peeled and minced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
salt and pepper (this needs more than you think)
2/3 cup jasmine rice
2 cups chicken broth
Aidell’s Apple and Chicken Sausage, 5 links
juice of one lemon

Cut the stems out of the chard leaves. Line up the stems (they look like pink celery) and slice them across the bunch, then cut the leaves into wide ribbons. Keep separate.

Put all but a tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the garlic, shallot, carrots and chopped chard stems, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

When chard/carrots are tender, add chard leaves, more salt and pepper, the rice, and chicken broth. Cover and simmer for about 20-30 minutes, or until water is absorbed (you may have to lower the heat). Add water if needed, until rice is cooked. The mixture will be moist, but not too soupy.

Braised Chard, Carrots and Rice_6While those cook, place the sausage links into a non-stick pan, and over a low heat, cook until they are plump and slightly brown in places on the outside.

To finish the dish, add the juice of one lemon and a circle of olive oil, and if necessary, some more salt and pepper.  Slice the sausage/brats and pile on top of the rice/chard mixture. Braised Chard, Carrots and Rice_2

Spicy African Peanut Soup with Ginger and Tomato

Peanut Soup_1I first found this recipe in the New York Times; one version was by Julia Moskin and the other by Mark Bittman.  I have made this several times and combined/changed things up to suit me.  I like it because it begins with eggplant, and I always use the Japanese kind (so I can skip the salting step).  It’s a good stew to serve over some rice, on a day when you just need something flavorful and hearty for dinner.

1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon turmeric
⅛ teaspoon cayenne
2 medium-size Japanese eggplants, peeled and cut into 1-inch dice
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
¼ cup good quality oil, peanut oil (if you have it)
2 shallots, thinly sliced
2 inches fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 jalapeño chili, seeded and minced
1 onion, chopped
⅓ cup tomato paste
½ pound skinless, boneless chicken (about 2 thighs or breasts) cut into chunks
1 small (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes, preferably roasted
4 cups vegetable stock or water
½ cup natural unsweetened peanut butter (creamy or chunky)
1 medium-size zucchini, 6 to 8 ounces, cut in quarters lengthwise, then sliced 1/2 -inch thick
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (1 to 2 lemons)
2-3 cups coarsely chopped greens, such as spinach or chard
⅓ cup coarsely chopped cilantro leaves, plus whole leaves for garnish

Cooked rice, for serving

Chopped roasted salted peanuts, for garnish (optional)


In a colander, toss eggplant with 1 teaspoon salt; set aside for 30 minutes [I skip this step if using Japanese eggplant]. Rinse, drain well and set aside. In a small bowl, combine cumin, coriander, turmeric and cayenne; set aside.

In a large pot, heat 3 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Add shallots and fry, stirring often, until soft, and caramelized, about 5 minutes. Add chicken and continue cooking for another 3 or 4 minutes, until just starting to turn color. Using a slotted spoon, transfer shallots and chicken to a large bowl, leaving oil in pot (may need to add some more). Raise heat to nearly high and add eggplant. Cook, stirring often, until lightly browned and just tender, about 10 minutes. Transfer to bowl with shallots/chicken.

Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to pot and heat over medium-high heat. Add ginger and jalapeño and cook, stirring for 30 seconds. Add spices and cook, stirring, 30 seconds more. Add onion and cook, stirring to scrape up any browned bits, until softened and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring, 1 minute.

Peanut Soup Add diced tomatoes, stock or water, eggplant, chicken, shallots and a sprinkling of salt. Bring to a boil and cook 5 minutes. Place peanut butter in a medium bowl, add one or two ladlefuls of hot soup, and stir until emulsified, then pour mixture back into soup.

Reduce heat to a simmer, add zucchini, cover and cook 10 to 15 minutes, until vegetables are tender and chicken is done. Turn off heat and stir in lemon juice, chopped cilantro, greens; stir until greens are wilted. Let cool slightly and taste; add salt if necessary. Serve in bowls with rice, garnished with cilantro leaves and chopped peanuts, if desired.

Note: Can omit chicken and add 1 (15 oz.) can garbanzo beans, if desired.  Can also add 1-2 thickly sliced sweet potato (as shown in the image above).

Peanut Soup_2

Pasta with Burst Cherry Tomatoes

IMG_6033This recipe, found on the New York Times’ Recipe Site is a total winner, if you’ve got cherry tomatoes going gangbusters in the garden, which I do.  Melissa Clark made hers with red tomatoes, but I always plant the little golden plum cherry tomatoes and they keep going when all the other toms in the garden have given up because of the heat.  While she calls for fusilli pasta, any small shaped pasta will do.  I adjusted the ratio of tomato mixture to pasta, using a little bit less pasta than she called for.  Lastly, my garden’s mint wasn’t producing, so I omitted that as well, but I’m looking forward to trying it!

IMG_60311 pound fusilli pasta
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, more for drizzling
6 ounces pancetta, preferably thick cut, diced (available at Trader Joe’s)
4 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Fine sea salt and black pepper, as needed
1 quart cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
3 tablespoons butter
Fresh ricotta cheese, for serving (optional)
3 cups whole mint leaves, torn (I didn’t use)
4 scallions, preferably red scallions for color, thinly sliced
Flaky sea salt, to finish


  1. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until 1 minute shy of al dente. Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup pasta cooking water.
  2. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat for 15 seconds, then add the oil and heat until it thins out and easily coats the pan when swirled. Add pancetta and cook until it starts to render its fat, about 2 minutes. Add garlic, red pepper flakes and a large pinch of salt and pepper and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook until they burst, turn golden at the edges and shrivel up slightly, about 5 to 8 minutes.
  3. Add pasta to pan and toss with tomato-pancetta mixture; if the mixture looks dry add a little pasta cooking water a few tablespoons at a time. Cook over high heat until the pasta finishes cooking in the sauce. Add the butter and toss until it melts and coats everything.
  4. Divide pasta among warmed pasta bowls. Garnish with dollops of ricotta if desired, and top with a generous mound of fresh mint and scallions. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and more pepper before serving.

Zucchini Pasta


This dish came about because we had too much zucchini in our garden.  Well — instead of too much — a bounteous harvest of zucchini.  I found this recipe on the New York Times website, and followed it pretty much to the letter.

2 pounds zucchini
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper

cup freshly grated Parmesan, for serving (more to taste)
¼ cup (approximately) light cream
Wash several zucchini from the garden; pat dry.  Slice off lengthwise ribbons of zucchini, using a vegetable peeler.  Peel off several ribbons from one side, then turn the zucchini and peel off more ribbons. Continue to turn and peel off ribbons until you get to the seeds at the core of the zucchini. Discard the core. You can also do this on a mandolin, adjusted to a very thin slice.
Heat 1 Tablespoon of the oil in a large non-stick pan, over medium-high heat, and when it is hot, add about half of the zucchini ribbons, salt and pepper.  Toss and cook, keeping the zucchini in motion until it is just soft and barely transluscent, but not browned (about 2-3 minutes).  Set aside, and cook the second batch.IMG_5830Put both batches back in the pan, and pour over a little bit of cream, then add the grated cheese, again tossing lightly over medium heat.  Adjust salt and add freshly ground pepper to taste, and transfer to a serving dish.We topped ours with a fresh bruschetta-type tomato sauce.

Brined Porchetta Pork Chops

Pochetta Pork CHops_1 Pochetta Pork CHopsWhile looking for a recipe for the newly purchased pork chops from the Big Box store, I found this one.  But every caution says to use a pork chop with the bone still in. . . but mine were boneless.  So I compromised by brining them, and they turned out delicious.  The porchetta part is a variation of Melissa Clark’s recipe from the New York Times.

2 bone-in pork chops, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inches thick
2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt, plus a pinch–divided
1 cup apple juice
1 lemon
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons chopped rosemary
Large pinch red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon fennel seeds, lightly crushed
2 tablespoons chopped fennel fronds, more for garnish (nice, if you have them, but the recipe will survive without them)
2 tablespoons olive oil


To brine: Put the chops in a quart freezer ziploc bag, or a container that is fits the chops snugly.  Mix together 1 teaspoon kosher salt and the apple juice, and pour over the chops.  Let brine overnight, then discard brine and proceed with recipe.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Pat pork chops dry and, using a very sharp paring knife, cut a large pocket into the fat-covered edge of each chop. Season chops all over with 1 teaspoon salt, including inside pockets.

Finely grate zest from lemon and put in a small bowl. Cut lemon lengthwise in quarters for serving (opt).

Using the flat side of a knife, mash garlic with a pinch of salt until you get a paste. Add to the bowl with the lemon zest and stir in rosemary, red pepper flakes, fennel seeds, 2 tablespoons fennel fronds and 1 tablespoon olive oil.

Divide filling between pork chops, stuffing some inside pockets and rubbing the rest on the outside.

Heat a large ovenproof skillet over high heat and add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Sear pork chops on one side for 5 minutes, or until golden brown. Gently turn over chops and cook for another minute, then transfer skillet to oven. Cook until meat is just done, about 5 to 10 minutes longer (internal temperature should read 135 degrees on a meat thermometer). Transfer pork chops to a plate, tent with foil, and let rest for 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with fennel fronds and lemon wedges.

Mushrooms and Soy over Noodles

Soy and Mushroom Dish

Recipe adapted from Chris Jaeckle, All’onda, New York.
Published March 2014 in the New York Times
Further adaptations from Sam Sifton, and then further adapted in my kitchen.

Mushrooms and Soy wNoodles

Lemon Pappardelle pasta

TOTAL TIME: 35 minutes
Put the water on to boil for the a Lemon Paparadelle noodles from Trader Joe’s or use any high quality flat noodle that is at least 1/2″ wide. In between all other tasks, cook the noodles to al dente and the let them drain. Just before combining with the mushrooms, run hot water over them to freshen and unstick, the let drain again. Or, just get the timing down so the noodles are ready when the mushrooms are.

sliced mushrooms

About 20-30 ounces of mushrooms, thinly sliced (It’s better with a combination of mushrooms, such as Golden Oak, Crimini and Shiitakke, but it’s still quite good with just white mushrooms and crimini.) I do not measure, but when combining the mushrooms at the end, most go into the mixture, but some might be held back for another day. You be the judge.

Roughly 6 ounces cold butter, cut into 2 tablespoon pats
3 ounces butter ( for finishing)
1-2 cloves garlic, peeled and pressed through a press (or minced)
1/2 cup beef broth
1 tablespoon low-salt soy sauce
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper


  1. So as to not crowd the mushrooms as they cook,work in batches to cook them. For each batch, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a sauté pan set over high heat until it has melted. Add 1/2 pressed clove of garlic, then about 2 -3 cups of mushrooms, and sauté 3 to 4 minutes, turning until browned, tossing frequently, until mushrooms are coated with butter and start to wilt slightly. The ratio is more important than the quantity (a small amount of butter and garlic to the mushrooms), so if your pan is smaller, use fewer mushrooms. Remove to a bowl, then repeat until all mushrooms have been cooked. Remove last batch to the bowl.
  2. Add the beef broth to the pan deglaze the surface, using a wooden spoon to scrape at the browned bits. Allow the stock to reduce by half, then turn the heat to medium-low and add the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter, whisking to combine, followed by the soy sauce, cream and olive oil. Allow mixture to cook until it thickens a little, then remove from heat. Taste for seasoning, adding black pepper, if desired.
  3. Add the mushrooms to this, tossing to coat as well as incorporate any accumulated juices (can drain those out earlier into soy mixture if desired).
  4. Put the warm noodles in a warmed bowl, then top with mushrooms and the sauce. Serve immediately.