Italian Sausage with Meatballs and Pasta on the Side

Spaghetti and meatballs might need a trial separation. Traditionally, pasta is served as a first course and meat as a second course.

Our Sunday dinners with Grandma always observed this practice: cook the meat in the tomato “gravy” (sauce) and ladle the meat-flavored tomato sauce over the pasta. Then, serve the meat on a platter accompanied by a salad, as I’ve recalled before.Meatballs, sausage and salad on a plate.

My father and I recreated this last night. In a saucepan, he started the tomato sauce with garlic in oil and diced tomatoes (imported from Italy). While he browned the sausages in a large saute pan, I prepared the meatballs, according to Grandma’s instructions:

  • 1 egg per pound of meat, in this case lean ground beef
  • handful of parsley (clench hand on a bunch, grabbing leaves within fist, then twist to rip off bottom part of stems. Then remove leaves from stems and finely dice with French chef nice)
  • Italian breadcrumbs (around 1/3 of a cup per pound of meat, this is really to preference)

Meatballs browning in oil in a saute pan.Rinse your hands in cold water before kneading the meatball ingredients together in a large bowl. Re-rinse hands occasionally in cold water to keep the meat from getting warm from friction as you evenly combine and then shape the meatballs. To shape, pinch together a golf-ball sized amount and roll in one palm with pressed fingers of opposite hands. The meatballs should be smoothed by the wet hands.

While I shaped the meatballs, Dad moved the browned sausages to tomato sauce. I then used the same saute pan to brown the meatballs in canola oil. No need to cook them through – just brown them mostly all the way around and pick them up one by one with tongs to place in the tomato gravy. Add a little water to the gravy to smooth it out. Simmer on very low for at least 45 minutes.

Select the pasta of your choice, either short tubular or long, such as spaghetti or even bucatini, which is rather thick.Short pasta in bowl with tomato sauce.

Cook the pasta according to package directions. While the pasta is cooking, move the meat out of the gravy and onto a platter. Drain the pasta in a colander in the sink. Place pasta in a large bowl and ladle on the gravy. Serve in pasta bowls. Enjoy.

Now, for the second course, toss a salad of greens with sliced tomatoes and sweet onion. Dress with olive oil and a little vinegar. Serve the meat and salad together. Again, enjoy!

Sausage and spinach lasagna (psst, leftovers reincarnation)

Here’s my approach to cooking: I left a client meeting this afternoon and drove down the main road toward the house. The supermarket rose on the horizon, but if I stayed on the road, I would beat the rush hour traffic. My mind’s eye explored the fridge and I recalled the leftover jalapeno cheese sausage. My mind then scanned the pantry, where a half-package of no-boil lasagna sheets awaited. For the filling, I knew we had ricotta and parmesan cheese. The fridge also contained a half bag of spinach. Apparently, the fridge already held all the answers. Well, at least it told me what to make for dinner: lasagna.

Lasagna with sausage and spinach
Lasagna with sausage and spinach

For the tomato sauce, my from scratch recipe is really fast: sauté in olive oil a few cloves of freshly chopped garlic with about 1/3 of a cup diced sweet onion. Once golden, add a big can of plum tomatoes (28 oz.). Season with salt and pepper, and simmer for about 20 minutes. In the meantime, I diced the two links of leftover sausage. Then, I mixed 15 oz. of ricotta cheese in a bowl with one egg. To prepare the spinach, I put it on a microwave safe cooking plate and chopped it up with a chef’s knife. I covered it with a couple of wet paper towels and nuked it for three minutes. Now, it was assembly time. While the oven preheated to 375 degrees, I greased a casserole dish with canola spray. Here’s the order: ladle some tomato sauce on the bottom. Lay down lasagna sheets to cover the bottom. Use a spatula to spread a third of the ricotta mixture down. Sprinkle on diced sausage. Spread over that with spinach.  Ladle on more tomato sauce. Repeat that series once more. Finally, cover with lasagna sheets and ladle that top with tomato sauce. Sprinkle top with ample amounts of chopped fresh parsley. Lastly, grate parmesan cheese over as the finishing touch. Bake 25 minutes, then let rest for 15 minutes on the stovetop. How easy was that?

Bon Appetit.

The Sage Leopard