Monday, March 17, 2014

Macaroni Sauce...and a few more things

This past weekend, Tom and I had Tom's grandmother and great-Aunt over for dinner.  We were so excited to show these senior members of Tom's family our new house.  I went to my roots and made an Italian dinner.  I made my mom's homemade sauce and used it to make baked ziti and chicken with artichokes.  I have always loved homemade sauce as compared to the jar type.  Even though it is more time consuming, I always think it's worth it.  Growing up, we ate macaroni twice a week (Thursday nights and Sunday lunch/dinner).  So sauce was big in our house.  I am so glad my mom taught me her sauce recipe before she passed away.  I actually learned a lot of her recipes during that terrible time because she wasn't up to cooking.  In retrospect, I wonder if she was trying to teach me these special recipes before she left us.  I am so happy to have learned some of her special recipes and I really look forward to sharing them on my blog.  Here is my mom's sauce recipe that she learned from her grandmother, my great-grandma Vita (which is where my middle name comes from).

Macaroni Sauce

1 can of tomato puree (Redpack)
2 cans of paste (Rienzi)
1 onion
1 garlic clove (this is the only ingredient I've added to the recipe I was taught)

Drizzle oil in the bottom of the pot.  Saute a chopped onion for a few minutes in the pot until the color turns golden.  Pour in the puree and two cans of paste.  Fill up the paste cans with water to rinse them out and add the water to the sauce.  Sprinkle the sauce with salt, pepper, parsley, and basil.  Use a garlic press to put one garlic clove into the sauce.  Add a scoop of sugar (I use the scoop I have in my sugar canister).  Mix it all together and turn up the heat to bring the sauce to a slow boil.  Once it reaches the boiling point, turn back the heat and simmer it for about an hour.  If you are making meatballs (a future recipe I will post), add them for the last half hour of cook time.

Baked Ziti

1 box of ziti (my mom always only cooked with Barilla pasta)
Ricotta cheese

Bake the ziti as directed on the box.  Mix the cooked ziit into a bowl with sauce until it is well coated.  In a separate bowl, mix ricotta cheese and mozzarella.  Add the ziti to the pan and create alternate layers with the macaroni and the cheese mixture.  Give it a gentle stir together in the pan.  Top with additional sauce and cook it at 350 degrees for about 15 to 20 minutes or until it is hot and bubbly (keep an eye on it though, so it doesn't dry out).  For the last minute or two, sprinkle the top with additional mozzarella cheese.
Chicken with Artichokes

Boneless skinless chicken breasts
Canned artichokes (drained)
Mozzarella cheese

Drizzle oil in the bottom of a baking pan.  Lay the chicken in the bottom of the pan.  Coat generously with sauce, then spread the artichokes out across the chicken.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.  For the last minute or two, sprinkle the top with additional mozzarella cheese.

Overall, our menu for the seniors went over well (except they both declined on the artichokes on the chicken!)  I also made a Pioneer Woman dessert, a flat apple pie.  It was so easy and really tasty!

Here are some photos of some other Pioneer Woman meals that Tom and I have been enjoying.

1) Cheeseburger sliders- these were so good with the onion and barbecue mixture that she has you fry them in.  Totally going to make these as appetizers at a future party! 

2) French Toast with berry butter and poached eggs: This was a great Friday night meal for Lent.  The berry butter was so easy to make but really added a special twist!


3) Tonight I made Penne a la Betty- It was a penne pasta with a red cream sauce and shrimp.  I have never cooked shrimp before but Tom is a big fan so I wanted to give it a try.  It came out really good!  Plus I got to make another North Fork stop for the blog!  We went to Braun Seafood in Cutchogue, a place we like to get flounder fillet sandwiches in the summer because you can sit outside.  They also have a great take-out fish counter.  We got 3/4 of a pound of shrimp and a quart of New England clam chowder.  Braun's opened in 1928 and it is definitely a great place to get fresh seafood.  Check it out!   30840 Main Road, Cutchogue NY 11935.    Here is the website link: Braun Seafood

It is amazing to me how the shrimp turn pink like that!

Chowder: YUM!
Penne a la Betty

I also wanted to mention that I googled how to properly cut an onion because I've always wanted to do it like the chefs on TV.  Check out this link, I found it to be very helpful!

    Try this link if you want:  How to Cut an Onion

Lastly, I know my blog is also called crafting in the country and I have been slacking on my crocheting because it is not all unpacked yet!  But I couldn't resist making a newborn sweater for one of the little girls in my class whose mom is having a little girl any day now!

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