Meatball sauce

spaghetti and meatballsWhen one thinks of Italian food, spaghetti and meatballs comes to mind. It’s a great go-to recipe when you have a crowd or a pot luck dinner.  It can be made in advance,  it’s easy to reheat, and everybody loves it from the youngest to the oldest member in the family.   If you are vegetarian or want a lighter meal you can skip the meatballs and only have the sauce.  It is simple, fast and I tend to make a big batch so I can freeze it or reheat it later in the week. Make sure you use San Marzano tomatoes as the taste will make all the difference!tomato sauce ingredients



  • 2 – 28oz crushed tomatoes 
  • 1- 28oz whole tomatoes coarsely chopped or cut in the pot with kitchen scissors
  • 3 onions diceds
  • 4 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 tablespoon italian seasonings or one teaspoon each of dried basil, thyme and oregano
  • salt and pepper

Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large stockpot or dutch oven.  Add onions and sautée until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic, stir and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add the tomatoes, stir and add the wine and seasonings.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes if you opt not to make meatballs.  If you do, simmer the sauce while making the meatballs and don’t worry about timing.meatballs ingredients

FOR THE MEATBALLS (makes about 30 -2 inches meatballs)

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 lb ground pork
  • 3/4 lb ground veal
  • 3/4 cup dried breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • 1 onion minced
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • 1/2 cup parsley minced
  • 2 eggs lightly beaten
  • 1 cup fresh grated parmesan
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup flouregg shells

In a small bowl mix the breadcrumbs and milk and let sit for 10 minutes while mincing onion, garlic and parsley.

In a large bowl mix meats, breadcrumb/milk mixture, onion, garlic, parsley, parmesan and egg making sure all the ingredients are evenly distributed without over mixing.  Season with salt and pepper.meatballs

Put the flour in a shallow plate.  Shape the meat mixture into 2 inches round balls. Roll each balls in the flour to get them covered slightly and place in a baking dish.  You should roughly end up with 30 meatballs.  When done, heat 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan and brown the meatballs.  Depending on the size of your pan you might have to do this in 2 to 3 batches.  You don’t want to cook the meatballs, only browned them.  As they get ready slowly put them in the simmering sauce.  When all done, continue to simmer for another 30 to 45 minutes to finish cooking the meatballs.meatball makingmeatballs in sauce

Right before serving you can chop 1/4 cup of fresh basil and stir into the sauce. Serve with fresh pasta:  thick spaghetti, bucatin or fettuccine and lots of grated parmesan, nice crusty bread and a bottle of red wine.

NOTE: as this recipe makes a lot, you can freeze some of the leftovers for later or crush the meatballs in the sauce and use it as a base for a meat lasagna.empty spaghetti plate

From my kitchen to yours,

CK, la fille du boucher


calzone with sauceCalzones always reminds me of my children when they were little.  I did not always want to make pizza, and calzones where a good compromise where I was also able to “sneak” in some vegetables.  The wonderful cheese filling always made me feel that they were having a good dose of calcium.  When it comes to calzones, using the freshest ingredients will make all the difference.  I use hand crafted ricotta and mozzarella and end up with a very fluffy calzone.  If like my daughter you are a purist, making your own dough can also be an option.   They can be made ahead of time, put in the fridge and baked later in the day.  Our family likes them served with a good helping of tomato sauce. Add in a big tossed salad and you have dinner!fresh cheeses

CALZONES (makes 4)

  • 1 lb pizza dough 
  • 1/2 lb ricotta cheese
  • 6 oz fresh mozzarella cut into small cubes
  • 1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan divided
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 lb ham chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil
  • cracked pepper
  • egg wash : with a fork mix one egg and one tablespoon of milkcalzone filling

Let the dough come to room temperature (out of the fridge for about 20 to 30 minutes).  Cut the dough into 4 equal pieces.  On a floured surface roll each piece into 6 to 7 inch rounds.

In a bowl mix the ricotta, mozzarella and 1/4 cup of the parmesan .  Break the egg in the cheese mixture and carefully mix it in with a fork.  Fold in the ham, basil and a turn or 2 of cracked dough

Divide the mixture equally between each piece of dough, brush the edges with the eggwash, and fold into a half moon making sure to seal the edges very carefully by pinching the dough together. To make a stronger seal push the edges of the calzone with a fork as you would for a pie.filling the calzone

Put the calzones on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and a couple of tablespoons of corn meal scattered on the paper.  With a knife or scissors, cut 3 small holes in  each calzone ( this will prevent the calzones from bursting).  Brush each calzone with the egg wash making sure it does not drip heavily on the sides or the calzones will stick.  Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of parmesan on top of the calzones.

Bake on the middle rack of a preheated 375 degree oven for 20 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking.calzone

Serve with your favorite sauce.

NOTE:  Thanks to my daughter Maya for the addition of the egg wash and parmesan, she is now the calzone expert in the family.  You can replace the ham for cooked sausages or 1 cup cooked spinach and onion – but make sure all the moisture is gone from the spinach or you’ll end up with a soggy calzone.

From my kitchen to yours,

CK, la fille du bouchercalzone

Ricotta cheese and Zucchini Gnocchi

plated gnocchi in tomato sauceOne of the great thing about my work as a food stylist, besides being around food all day, is that I get to meet people that are as excited and passionate about food as I am: kindred spirits. I get to translate into images the recipes of talented chefs and food writers and in the process expand my knowledge of food, cooking, and new recipes.

Two summers ago I had the opportunity to style Mary Ann Esposito’s cookbook “Ciao Italia, Family Classics” .  We were on an Italian diet for about two weeks; it was delicious! I always come out of a project adding a recipe to my collection – on this one it was the ricotta zucchini gnocchi.  Mary Ann introduces the recipe by saying that “if ever there was a homemade pasta that put the fear of God in cooks, it has to be gnocchi”… fear of God in stylists too! They can so easily turn out wrong: chewy, tasting heavy, or worse – disintegrate once dropped in water.  Following the recipe carefully turned out to be a success.  I have been making them for two years now and never tire of them.  The recipe is so simple I even make them while on vacation. Thank you Mary Ann!gnocchi ingredients


  • 1 medium zucchini, ends trimmed and cut in half
  • 1.5 cup unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons grated Pecorino cheese
  • one 16 once container whole milk ricotta cheese, well drained
  • 1 egg slightly beaten
  • 2 cups prepared tomato sauce

Grate the zucchini using a cheese grater.  Wrap the zucchini in a towel and squeeze the excess water out.  The zucchini needs to be VERY dry otherwise too much flour will be used and your gnocchi will have you tearing out your hair.  Aim for 1 cup well squeezed zucchini.  Set asidegrated zucchini

Heap the flour on a work surface, add the salt and cheese and blend well with your hands.  Make a hole in center of the flour mixture and plop the ricotta cheese in it.  Flatten the cheese a bit with a spoon to make a slight depression in the center of the cheese and add the egg and zucchini.  It will look like a mess.cutting gnocchi dough

Roll up your sleeves and use your hands to blend everything into a ball of dough.  It will be a bit sticky , but only add more flour if the dough is so soft it will not roll into a slightly tacky ball.  Otherwise leave it alone and allow it to sit covered for 5 minutes while you wash the excess flour dough bits off your hands.

You will find that after the dough rests, it will be easier to handle.  Use a dough scraper to help you move and turn the dough to knead it.  It does not have to be smooth, but just holding together.  To test if you have enough flour in the dough for the gnocchi to hold together in cooking, drop one or two in a small pan of boiling water.  If they rise to the top and hold together and do not disintegrate, Congratulations! you are good to go! If they fall apart, you need to add more flour.making gnocchi

Divide the ball into quarters and roll each quarter out on a lightly floured surface into and 18 inch long rope the thickness of your middle finger.  With a small knife cut one inch pieces from each rope.

Place the gnocchi on a towel lined baking sheet in single layers as your form them.gnocchi

When ready to cook and sauce, decide how many are being served.  Gnocchi are a first course so four dozen will serve 8.  Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil and add one tablespoon of salt; drop the gnocchi by hand a few at a time into the pot and cook them just until they bob to the surface.

Use a sieve or a pasta scoop with a handle to fish them out of the water.  Be sure to shake off the excess water and transfer them to a skillet with the waiting tomato gnocchi

Heat the gnocchi in the sauce and toss them gently to coat well.  Serve them as a first course with cheese on the side to sprinkle on top.

You can also serve them with pesto or butter and cheese.

MARY ANN’S NOTE:  Want to make gnocchi ahead?  Cooked gnocchi freeze beautifully.  Flash-freeze cooked gnocchi on baking sheets in a single layer.  When frozen, transfer in plastic ziplock bags.  They will keep for 3 months.  When ready to cook, take out as many as you wish and allow them to defrost then reheat them in the sauce of your choice.

MY NOTE:  For a really tasty and fluffy gnocchi use handcraft ricotta.  My favorite is Maplebrook made in Bennington Vermont and available at Whole Foods Supermarket.empty pasta plate

From my kitchen to yours!

CK, la fille du boucher