Creamy Tomato Sauce

Creamy Tomato Sauce by Bakewell Junction

Creamy Tomato Sauce by Bakewell Junction

Whew.  It’s been a busy few weeks.  We had a huge deadline at work and with the Easter holiday, it’s been a whirlwind.  I had family over for Palm Sunday and we had a few favorites.  One of them is this Creamy Tomato Sauce over ravioli.  Now, the ravioli I like to use is store bought and frozen (I know, don’t judge) but the highlight is this sauce.  It is delicious.  I bet you’ll have a difficult time trying to stop yourself from licking the plate after the ravioli are gone.  Just be sure to have a few loaves of crusty Italian bread to mop up any remaining sauce on the plate.

Enjoy.

Creamy Tomato Sauce

Yield:  4 – 6 servings                Cook Time:  45 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 28 ounce can of your favorite crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup heavy cream (I use heavy whipping cream)
  • 2 tablespoons shredded fresh basil or 3 teaspoons dried basil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano or marjoram, optional (I omit this)
  • Salt and black pepper to taste (I omit the pepper)

Directions:

Step 1:  Combine tomatoes, oregano, basil, garlic, salt and black pepper in a large sauce pan or a stock pot.  Cook on low and bring the tomato mixture to a simmer.  Simmer 30 minutes.

Step 2:  Add cream and stir until combined.  Meanwhile begin cooking a pound of your favorite pasta according to the package directions in a different pot. Back to the sauce – simmer until thickened while stirring occasionally.  You will see the mixture thickening after 10 to 15 minutes.

Step 3:  Server immediately over your favorite pasta.

Tips:  This recipe is best the first day.  It’s good as leftovers too but it won’t be as creamy and will begin becoming more like a regular pasta sauce.

Enjoy!!!

BWS tips button

The Best Blog Recipes

Spatulas On Parade

Sausage and Peppers

Sausage and Peppers by Bakewell Junction

Sausage and Peppers by Bakewell Junction

Last weekend we had a family get-together for my husband’s birthday and we had lots of food as usual with dishes like my Manicotti, this Sausage and Pepper recipe, Chicken Cutlet Parmigiana, homemade pizza and two Giant Fauxtess Cakes.  We weren’t sure who would be able to attend so we made sure we had plenty.

My mom used to cook sausage peppers on the stove which took a lot of time and attention.  What I’ve done is move the process into the oven to simplify it.  Now everything goes in the oven and no attention is really needed and it turns out so delicious that you would never know the difference.  You’ll notice that there’s no salt in the recipe and that’s because the sausages will provide plenty of salt to the peppers and onions.  How do you like to eat your sausage and peppers?

Enjoy.

Sausage and Peppers

Yield:  4 – 6 servings                Cook Time:  2 hours

Ingredients

  • 1 package of your favorite sweet or hot Italian sausage (about 2 1/2 pounds), per your taste
  • 3 large sliced onions
  • 3 large red or green bell peppers cleaned and cubed (I use red peppers because they become so sweet)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • Fresh and crusty Italian bread

Directions:

Step 1:  Cut sausage links into thirds or quarters.  Place onions, peppers, sausage and water in a disposable aluminum half tray pan.  Cover with aluminum foil and place in a preheated 350 degree oven.

Step 2:  After about 1 1/2 hours, uncover the sausage and peppers.  The onions and peppers should have reduced in volume quite a bit.  Return the tray to the oven for another 1/2 hour to brown a bit.

Step 3:  Slice a hunk of Italian bread and then slice in the middle and spread apart.  Place a good portion of the sausage and peppers in the center of the sandwich, squeeze the ends together and take a big bite.

This recipe stores well in the refrigerator and tastes just as good as left-overs.

Enjoy!!!

Taco Beef Dip

Taco Beef Dip | Bakewell Junction

Taco Beef Dip | Bakewell Junction

The big storm is over and I just finished shoveling snow for about four hours.  I’ve been trying to get this post written since the Super Bowl.  For Super Bowl, we planned to order pizza and not have a lot of work since there were only four and a half of us.  Now the story with the half person is that my friend and neighbor only stops in for a little while because her back doesn’t let her hang out and sit for long periods of time so she doesn’t eat very much.

I figured I would make a few things until we ordered pizza and some would be planned leftovers so I made my spinach dip, a double quacamole recipe, a few cut cheeses (pepper jack, cheddar and fontina), blue corn tortilla chips, pretzel sticks, pretzel crackers, two half trays of sausage and peppers, a double taco beef dip recipe, soft tortillas, my dried etna hot peppers (for the gutsy) and Venetians (recipe coming soon) for dessert.  As it turned out, we never ordered the pizza.  I know, it’s a lot of food but if I had planned to make a meal there would have been a lot more.

When I make this easy taco beef dip, I make it on the milder side and then those who want it spicy can make as spicy as they like.  Many years ago I used to get those recipe cards where they send you packets of a several every so often and I found this recipe on those cards.  I’ve been making this for many years and everyone loves it including me.  It works great in a sandwich or as a topping on chips.  So what did you make for Super Bowl?

Enjoy.

Taco Beef Dip

Ingredients

  • 1 pound extra lean ground beef
  • 3/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon chili powder (I use mild chili powder)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • Hot pepper sauce, to taste
  • 1 16 ounce can red kidney beans (I substitute a can of refried beens)
  • Flour tortillas or tortilla chips

Garnish

  • 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese, optional (I buy a block of cheddar and shred it myself for better taste)
  • 1/2 cup stuffed green olives, chopped, optional (I skip this)
  • 1/2 cup green onions, sliced, optional (I skip this)
  • 1 tomato, diced, optional
  • lettuce, chopped
  • dried Etna peppers, optional

Directions:

Step 1:  Place chopped onions in the bottom of a large skillet and crumble beef on top.  Turn the heat to medium and cook until the beef begins to lose it’s color.  The onions will begin to soften.  Turn the meat so it cooks evenly.  Do not let beef become crisp.

Step 2:  Mix the ketchup, chili powder, salt and hot pepper sauce into the beef mixture.

Step 3:  Chop kidney beans and add to the beef mixture.  Alternatively add the refried beans to the beef mixture.  Continue heating until simmering for 10 minutes.

Step 4:  Serve in a heat safe bowl and top with garnishes as desired.  Supply additional garnishes for everyone to build their own tortillas or serve with tortilla chips.

This recipe stores well in the refrigerator and tastes just as good as left-overs.

Enjoy!!!

Recipe adapted from My Great Recipes.

Manicotti

This post is dedicated to the assembly of the Manicotti which has always been my Mother’s favorite pasta.  The previous two posts give you some information for the components of the Manicotti.  This one will give the rest of the information.

What about the gravy?  You can use a meat gravy or a meatless gravy (Marinara) to make the Manicotti.  It is delicious either way.  This time I used meatless gravy.

Do you call it gravy or pasta sauce or something else?  My family always called it gravy.  When I refer to gravy as anything else, it’s simply to ensure that I’m being clear.

Enjoy.

Mix the ricotta and the grated cheese.

Prepare the pan with the gravy layer.

Start filling the crepe and folding.

Start placing the first row of filled crepes in the pan.

First layer of filled crepes.

First completed layer with the gravy, then the sprinkled grated cheese and then the mozzarella strips.  Try not to eat too many of the mozzarella strips as you work.  This is definitely difficult when using fresh homemade mozzarella.

Second layer of filled crepes.

Second completed layer with the gravy, then the sprinkled grated cheese and then the mozzarella strips.  Ready for the oven.

Ready to eat.

Manicotti

Ingredients

  • 3 lb. container ricotta cheese (I used the Biazzo brand but I also like Polly –O; if you have a local Italian deli that makes their own ricotta, that would make this recipe that much more tasty but it’s a pricy option)
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup grated cheese (I use Pecorino Romano); plus more for sprinkling on the layers
  • 2 – 4 tablespoons milk or more, as necessary (I didn’t need any)
  • 1/2 – 1 recipe meatless gravy (Marinara sauce; can also substitute meat gravy)
  • 1 recipe crepes
  • 1 – 1 1/2 lbs. mozzarella cut into thin strips (Biazzo or Bellgioso brands are good; I used my husband’s homemade mozzarella; if you have a local Italian deli, you can also use their fresh mozzarella)

Directions:

Step 1:  In a large bowl, mix the ricotta, grated cheese and some milk, if the mixture seems too dry and difficult to work with (use a little milk as possible – you don’t want this to become soupy).  The easiest way to get all the ricotta out of the container is to invert it into the bowl and squeeze the sides until it slides out in one whole piece.  If that doesn’t work, use a silicone spatula to extract the ricotta while scraping the sides of the container.

Step 2:  To set up for assembly:  Position a half-size aluminum steam table tray in front of you.  Place the gravy in a large bowl further away from you in front of you and on the far side of the empty aluminum tray.  Place the crepes the left side of the tray and the ricotta mixture on the right side of the tray.

Step 3:  Using a wooden spoon, spoon some gravy into the aluminum pan (several tablespoons) and spread a thin layer across the bottom of the pan.  Take a crepe in your left hand and spoon approximately 2 to 4 tablespoons across the center of the crepe in a wide strip from left to right.  Fold the edge of the crepe closest to you across the strip of ricotta and then fold the edge of the crepe farthest from you across the first fold ensuring the crepe is taut and overlaps the first fold.  Place the filled crepe folded side down in the lower left corner of the pan.  Repeat for the next four crepes, placing each filled crepe next to the prior crepe so you have one row of 5 filled crepes.  Create another row of five filled crepes on the right side of the pan.

Step 4:  With a wooden spoon, spoon gravy onto the filled crepes (several tablespoons) and spread a thin layer across them.  Sprinkle grated cheese across the top of the gravy layer.  Place mozzarella pieces across each Manicotti.  I place three small pieces on each.

Step 5:  Repeat the above steps to create a second layer.  This will give you twenty in one pan.  Cover the pan very loosely with aluminum foil, so that when it cooks the mozzarella doesn’t stick to the aluminum foil.  The pan will be heavy and you’ll need to support it from the bottom due to the weight.  You can store this in the refrigerator for a day or so.  This way you only have to bake it on the day you want to serve it.  You can also bake these in one layer by using a second pan.

Step 6:  You’ll likely have some extra crepes, so you’ll need to use another smaller pan for the remaining 1 to 5 crepes.

Step 7:  Place the filled Manicotti trays in a preheated 350 degree oven and bake covered for about an hour.  Remove the aluminum foil cover and bake for another 20 minutes to crisp up the mozzarella and ensure the Manicotti are heated through.

Step 8:  Let the Manicotti rest for 10 to 20 minutes before serving.  The first Manicotti served may be difficult to extract from the pan.  I usually serve two per person, since they are double stacked.  If someone wants only one, I cut the Manicotti in half, so they get two halves instead on one whole one.

Options:  You can add some optional items to the ricotta filling to change it up a bit.  For example, you could add a couple of tablespoons of parsley flakes or a 10 ounce defrosted and drained chopped spinach.  I like these options but, since I had children to serve, I didn’t use them the last time I made these because children don’t usually like to eat green leaves mixed in with their food.

To store the Manicotti:  Place in the refrigerator for a day or two before baking.  For longer term storage place plastic wrap beneath the aluminum foil and then place the entire tray in a supermarket shopping bag and then another shopping bag with the opening opposite from the first bag before placing in the freezer.  Defrost in the refrigerator completely before baking.

Enjoy!!!

My family recipe.

Frattacc e Minestra

On the weekend before Ash Wednesday, while my family and my husband’s family were over for Sunday dinner, I made a meal that my Mom and sisters hadn’t had for many years.  The meal is a typical recipe from Gallo Matese which is the town in Italy that my family comes from.  This is a hearty and filling meal.

The meal includes Frattacc (hard polenta) and Minestra (savoy cabbage with beans and sausage).  My sisters raved about the Frattacc.  I use great dried great northern beans in the Minestra and the meal should be made only after there has been a hard frost in the fall, as the savoy cabbage tastes better at that time.

Yield:  1 large family sized Frattacc

Ingredients

Beans:

  • 1/2 lb dried great northern beans (about 1 mug or 1 1/2 cups)
  • 3 to 4 cups water
  • 3 to 5 cloves of garlic
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda, divided

Sausage:

  • 8 to 10 sweet Italian sausage links

Minestra:

  • 1 large or 2 medium savoy cabbage heads
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 to 2 quarts water

Frattac:

  • 1 lbs corn meal
  • 6 – 7 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons salt (to taste)

Directions:     

  1. Soak all beans in 3 – 4 cups water and 1 teaspoon baking soda overnight in a sauce pot; then drain and rinse well (rinse at least 3 times).
  2. Replace 3 – 4 cups water and add 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon baking soda.  Bring beans to a boil and then lower heat to simmer.  Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.  Add peeled garlic cloves after piercing with toothpicks (so they float and are easier to pick out).  Cook until beans are tender. Remove garlic cloves before they start to fall apart.
  3. An easy way to cook the sausages is to broil them in disposable aluminum pans.  Prepare the sausages by cutting two slits on the tops and bottoms and transfer them to the aluminum pan.  Broil on high for 5 – 10 minutes. Turn sausages over and broil another 5 – 10 minutes until cooked through..
  4. Wash and tear savoy cabbage leaves into smaller pieces.  In a stock pot add the cabbage, water (enough water to about half way as high as the savoy cabbage) and 2 teaspoons of salt.  Bring to a boil and then lower heat to a fast simmer.  Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.
  5. Cook until the thickest parts of the savoy cabbage is fork tender.  Add beans, sausages and a tablespoon of the sausage drippings to the savoy cabbage.  Cook for another 15 minutes so the flavors meld together.
  6. To cook the Frattacc, bring to a rolling boil the 6 – 7 cups of water with the 2 teaspoons of salt in a separate stock pot.  Frattacc needs plenty of salt for it to taste good.  You will need to taste the water periodically before the corn meal is stirred in to ensure that there is enough.  If the taste is too bland, add salt to taste.
  7. After the water is at a rolling boil, lower the heat, so the water isn’t boiling as hard.  Begin adding the corn meal by making a mound in the stock pot.  Keep adding the corn meal using small handfuls at a time until all the corn meal forms a large mound partially above and partially below the water.
  8. Let the water and corn meal continue boiling for about 30 minutes.  Do not stir until 30 minutes has passed.
  9. After 30 minutes, begin breaking up the mound of corn meal and stirring it vigorously to incorporate it into the water.  It will be difficult to stir the mixture as it is thick but continue to stir until most of the lumps are incorporated for at least 10 minutes.
  10. Place heat-proof materials on the seat of chair and take the pot from the heat and place it on the seat of a chair to make it easier to for the next step.  Using a large flat wooden spoon gather the Frattacc to one side of the pot near a handle towards you, turn the pot 180 degrees so the Frattacc is on the side of the pot that is away from you.  While holding the handle that is close to you, begin scraping a thin slice of the Frattacc mixture (from the top of the mound to the bottom) towards you and up against the empty side of the pot.  Continue scraping thin slices to the Frattacc mixture towards you until all of the mixture is piled up on the side of the pot nearest you.
  11. Turn the pot 180 degrees again and repeat the scraping process another three times.  This will help incorporate all the corn meal and help to dry out the Frattacc to the right consistency.
  12. Place the pot on low heat for 5 – 10 minutes to help the Frattacc stay together.  Pat the outside and top side of the Frattacc so it appears more smooth.  Don’t worry about anything that might stick to the pot because soaking it in water will help it unstick.  Also anything stuck to the pot that you can scrape off and eat is delicious.
  13. Take the pot off the heat and have a clean dishtowel centered on a plate so you can turn the pot over and the Frattacc will drop onto the center of the dishtowel will a little help.  It will look somewhat like a triangle.
  14. Take a thick string (the string used by pastry shops to close their boxes is very good for this) and use it to cut the Frattacc from one low side to the other low side over the inverted V shape into 1″ – 2″ slices.  Then use the string to cut the slices approximately in half by cutting from one end of the inverted V shape to the other.  Cover with the unused ends of the dishtowel to keep it warm.
  15. To serve, place a piece of the Frattacc on one corner of a dinner plate, add a couple of large spoonfuls of the Minestra with the beans alongside the Frattacc and ensure a sausage is also placed on the plate.
  16. To eat, each forkful should include a piece of Frattacc, Minestra and sausage.

With the leftovers, you can make Le Frecule.  To do this, heat a tablespoon of oil in a sauce pan, add crumbled Frattacc to brown lightly and then add Minestra without sausage and cook until heated through.  There aren’t really measurements that go with this; it just has to do with how much is left over but usually there is about 2 parts Minestra to 1 part Frattacc crumbs.  Enjoy!!!