Mozzarella Stuffed Meatballs with Tomato Cream Sauce

I always have a stash of meatballs in my freezer for quick dinners, but every now and again I’ll make these for something a little more special.
This is one of my hubby’s favorite meals, and on the top of my list as well.  I love that it’s so simple to make, but feels like a special dinner.
Especially if you serve it with fresh baguettes.
One warning though, if you don’t get these to the table and serve dinner promptly… well, there won’t be any for dinner. : )
Between my hubby and 5 year old, these can be polished off in a flash.

MOZZARELLA STUFFED MEATBALLS
WITH TOMATO CREAM SAUCE
For the Meatballs:

3 T olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 slices firm bread, cut in small cubes
1/2 cup milk
1 lb ground beef
1 lb ground pork
1 egg
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 T Italian seasoning
8 oz mozzarella cheese, cut into 24 cubes

For the Sauce:
3 garlic cloves, crushed
28 oz can crushed tomatoes
2 tsp thyme
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp sugar
salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup milk or cream

To serve:
1 lb spaghetti, cooked al dente
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

Heat 1 T olive oil in a saute pan over medium high heat.  Add onion and garlic, saute until softened, then put on a plate to cool.
Place the bread cubes in a bowl and pour the milk over.  Let soak.
Combine the beef, pork, egg, Parmesan, salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning in a large bowl.
Squeeze excess milk from bread and add to meat mixture along with cooled onions.
Use your hands to gently combine everything.  Divide mixture into 24 balls (I find it easiest to divide bowl contents in quarters, then each quarter into 6).

Wrap each meatball around a cube of mozzarella, incasing completely.
Place on a cookie sheet and repeat until done.
Heat the  remaining 2 T olive oil in a large skillet (I find a large electric skillet makes this go quite faster.)
Working in batches, sear the meatballs on all sides, don’t cook all the way through, just brown the outside.
Then return to the cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until cooked through.

While meatballs are baking, cook the noodles and make the sauce.
In same skillet used to sear meatballs, saute garlic.
Add crushed tomatoes, thyme, oregano, and sugar.
Let simmer for a few minutes, add salt and pepper to taste.
Stir in cream or milk, then add noodles and toss with sauce, then add meatballs and top with basil.

Recipe adapted from Tyler Florence

Simple Tomato Basil Sauce


Let’s face it.  As much as I enjoy cooking, life happens.  And it is a life saver to have meals like this in my game plan to keep me sane.
And you know what? It tastes better than anything you’ll get passed to you thru your car window.  Especially if served with some hot baguettes.

SIMPLE TOMATO BASIL SAUCE
Olive oil to coat pan (about 2-3 T)
1 shallot, finely minced
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 cans (14.5 oz ea) whole peeled tomatoes
2 cups basil leaves
12-16 oz spaghetti

While you cook the sauce, cook the spaghetti in a pot.
Coat the bottom of a pan with olive oil over medium heat.
When hot, add shallot and garlic.  Cook a few minutes, until softened.
Roughly chop tomatoes, and add to pan with juice and all.
When noodles are a just under done, add to pan with sauce with a scoop of the pasta water (the starch from the pasta will help make a sauce).  Let noodles finish cooking in the sauce until done.
Chop the basil and add to dish off the heat.

Horseradish Sauce, German Mustard, and Pineapple Honey Mustard

I wanted some dips to serve with the pretzel bites at our German dinner party.
I decided on a German mustard and a horseradish cream sauce, and then decided to have a little fun and make a pineapple honey mustard as well.
They were very well recieved, and went really well with the pretzel bites, and also some homemade smoked sausages we made for dinner.
And while they aren’t super spicy, they have a lot of flavor and just the right kind of spice for me.
HORSERADISH CREAM SAUCE
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup grated fresh horseradish
1 T dijon mustard
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
Whisk everything together in a bowl until well combined and smooth.
Store in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours for flavors to meld.
Keeps in the fridge for 2-3 weeks.
Recipe source: Alton Brown
GERMAN MUSTARD
1/2 cup brown mustard seeds
2 T dry mustard
1/2 cup cold water
1 cup cider vinegar
2 T dried minced onion
3 T brown sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp tarragon
1/4 tsp cinnamon
Combine mustard seeds, dry mustard, and cold water in a bowl.
Cover and let stand 4 hours to overnight.
Combined remaining ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat.
Reduce heat to medium and let boil uncovered for about 10 minutes or until reduced by half.
Pour hot vinegar mixture into the bowl of a food processor.  Add mustard mixture and process for 1 minute or until the mustard seeds are chopped but not pureed.
Pour back into saucepan and cook on low heat until thick, stirring constantly.
Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 year.
PINEAPPLE HONEY MUSTARD
1/2 cup dry mustard
1 cup honey
1/2 cup white vinegar
2 tsp kosher salt
1 cup pineapple juice
Place everything in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium high heat.
Reduce heat and simmer until thickened, stirring constantly.
Store in an airtight container in the fridge.
Recipe by My Stained Apron
Horseradish Sauce, German Mustard, and Pineapple Honey Mustard

Ingredients

    HORSERADISH CREAM SAUCE
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup grated fresh horseradish
  • 1 T dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
    GERMAN MUSTARD
  • 1/2 cup brown mustard seeds
  • 2 T dry mustard
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 2 T dried minced onion
  • 3 T brown sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp tarragon
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
    PINEAPPLE HONEY MUSTARD
  • 1/2 cup dry mustard
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup pineapple juice

Instructions

HORSERADISH CREAM SAUCE
  • Whisk everything together in a bowl until well combined and smooth.
  • Store in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours for flavors to meld.
  • Keeps in the fridge for 2-3 weeks.
  • GERMAN MUSTARD
  • Combine mustard seeds, dry mustard, and cold water in a bowl.
  • Cover and let stand 4 hours to overnight.
  • Combined remaining ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat.
  • Reduce heat to medium and let boil uncovered for about 10 minutes or until reduced by half.
  • Pour hot vinegar mixture into the bowl of a food processor. Add mustard mixture and process for 1 minute or until the mustard seeds are chopped but not pureed.
  • Pour back into saucepan and cook on low heat until thick, stirring constantly.
  • Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 year.
  • PINEAPPLE HONEY MUSTARD
  • Place everything in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium high heat.
  • Reduce heat and simmer until thickened, stirring constantly.
  • Store in an airtight container in the fridge.
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    PUMPKIN GNOCCHI WITH MUSHROOM CREAM SAUCE

    When I saw this recipe I knew I had to make it.  I love making gnocchi, and pumpkin gnocchi was too intriging to pass on.   I’ve included some step by step pictures so hopefully no one feels intimidated if they haven’t made it before.  Gnocchi really is incredibly quick and easy to make, easy enough so that kids can even help as well. 
    The pumpkin flavor in these aren’t overwhelming, but just right to me.  We loved the combination with the mushrooms in the sauce and fresh chives.  Allthough, next time I think I’ll leave off the chives and instead add some thyme to the mushrooms when they’re cooking. 
     Happy Fall! : )
    PUMPKIN GNOCCHI WITH MUSHROOM CREAM SAUCE
    FOR THE GNOCCHI:
    2 1/2 cups flour (plus more if needed)
    1 T salt
    1 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
    1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
    FOR THE SAUCE:
    2 T unsalted butter
    2 shallots, finely chopped
    8 oz mushrooms, sliced
    1 cup chicken stock
    1 cup heavy cream
    1/2 cup grated Parmesan
    salt and pepper to taste
    2 T fresh chives, chopped
    Make the gnocchi: In a large shallow bowl mix the flour, salt, and nutmeg.
    Make a well in the center and add the pumpkin and parmesan to well. 
     Using a fork to stir, start incorporating the flour to the pumpkin and cheese.
     Mix until dough gathers, then knead until smooth, about 3-5 minutes.  Add extra flour if needed.
    Dough should be very soft and moist, but not too sticky, or too dry.
     Divide dough into 6 pieces. On a lightly foured counter, roll each piece into a rope about 3/4 inch thick. 
     Cut into half inch pieces and set out on lightly floured tray and cover with a tea towel.
    (TO FREEZE: At this point you can lay single layer on a baking sheet or tray in the freezer and after frozen, about an hour or two, put all together in a zip lock in the freezer. Boil straight from freezer.)
    Bring a medium to large pot of salted water to a boil and add a couple hand fulls of gnocchi at a time. Boil for about 4 minutes.  Drain.
    Make the sauce: (I like to make this while I’m waiting for the water to boil for the gnocchi, so it has time to thicken).  Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium high heat.
    Add the mushrooms and shallots, saute for a few minutes.
    Add chicken stock, cream, and parmesan.  Let cook until thickened.  Toss with gnocchi and top with chives. 
    Recipe Source: Gnocchi adapted from Martha Stewart, sauce by My Stained Apron

    Chinese Red Sauce

    I grew up in a small town with few restaurants.  Not to mention my family rarely, RARELY ate out.  We did have a Chinese restaurant in our town and they served a Chinese red sauce with their egg rolls.  Since it was one of the few places we ate out at it remains a bit of a comfort food to me.  Last year I cooked a big Chinese dinner when some of my siblings were in town and I searched and experimented until I ended with this recipe.  It tastes just like the one from my childhood, and is really good paired with egg rolls, BBQ pork, or fried shrimp.  If you like things spicy, make sure to put out some Chinese hot mustard too.
    CHINESE RED SAUCE
    1/3 cup ketchup
    1/3 cup chili sauce
    2 T horseradish sauce
    2 T lemon juice
    2 T sugar
    Simmer everything together in a saucepan briefly, whisking all together.
    Chill well before serving.
    Chinese Red Sauce

    Ingredients

    • 1/3 cup ketchup
    • 1/3 cup chili sauce
    • 2 T horseradish sauce
    • 2 T lemon juice
    • 2 T sugar

    Instructions

  • Simmer everything together in a saucepan briefly, whisking all together.
  • Chill well before serving.
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    Gnocchi with Gorgonzola cream sauce and ham

    This dish is evil, evil I say.  Run while you can. Don’t look back.  Forget you ever saw this.  Too late? Well, sorry then. : )
    GNOCCHI WITH GORGONZOLA CREAM SAUCE AND HAM
    Recipe by My Stained Apron
    Gnocchi, homemade or store bought
    2 cups heavy cream
    1/2 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
    1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese (or extra Gorgonzola)
    2 tsp dried parsley (or fresh chopped)
    1/2 cup thinly sliced ham (I use a good quality Canadian Bacon)
    Heat ham in a saucepan over medium heat.
    Add cream and cheeses, stir until well incorporated. 
    Add gnocchi (if homemade boil first), toss to coat.
    Add parsley, serve hot.

    Cranberry Sauce

    I don’t care for the canned cranberry sauce.  I mean, how are can lines appetizing?  Am I alone here?
    This is how I like it.  And I make it every holiday this way.  I know there are a few options here for ingredients, but I love to use what I have on hand.  If I have an apple, that goes in.  If not, I always have berries in the freezer ( I do live in the Pacific Northwest, after all!)  And honestly, I love it both ways.  You could even add both if you like!  And make sure you taste as you cook and make sure it’s to your sweetness liking.  You can always add more sugar if it’s too tart.   Merry Christmas everyone!
    CRANBERRY SAUCE
    Recipe by My Stained Apron
    1/2 cup water
    1 cup sugar (I like to use brown, but white is fine as well)
    12 oz cranberries
    1/2 cup orange juice (or 1/2 cup additional water)
    zest of 1 orange (about 1-2 T)
    2 cups blackberries (frozen is fine) OR 1 granny smith apple, peeled, cored, and diced
    Put everything in a pot over medium heat and cook for about 10 minutes, until cranberries have popped and cooked down a bit.  If you want it thicker, let cool to room temperature, about 30-60 minutes.
    Cranberry Sauce

    Ingredients

    • 1/2 cup water
    • 1 cup sugar (I like to use brown, but white is fine as well)
    • 12 oz cranberries
    • 1/2 cup orange juice (or 1/2 cup additional water)
    • zest of 1 orange (about 1-2 T)
    • 2 cups blackberries (frozen is fine) OR 1 granny smith apple, peeled, cored, and diced

    Instructions

  • Put everything in a pot over medium heat and cook for about 10 minutes, until cranberries have popped and cooked down a bit. If you want it thicker, let cool to room temperature, about 30-60 minutes.
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    Cranberry Curd

    As promised, this is the fabulous cranberry curd recipe I adore.  This goes perfectly with scones, especially this time of year.  I love lemon curd as well, but this really is more fitting in the colder months.  It just feels more festive, and it looks the part too!  This is a great filling for little tarts as well.  And a perfect gift would be a little jar of it with a batch of scones!  Merry Christmas!
    CRANBERRY CURD
    Recipe adapted slightly from Nigella Lawson
    5 cups or 1 lb cranberries
    1 cup plus 2 T water
    7 T unsalted butter
    1 2/3 cups sugar
    6 large eggs
    Rinse the cranberries, pick out any shriveled ones.
    Put the berries in a pot with the water and cook, covered, on medium to low heat until tender and popped.
    Put through a food mill or push thru a fine sieve.
    Put the puree back in the pot, add the butter and sugar.
    Beat the eggs in a bowl and push thru a fine sieve into the pot.
    Stir constantly over medium heat the whole time, until thickened.
    Be careful not to get the heat too hot or you’ll curdle the mixture.
    When done, it should coat the back of a spoon.
    Store in the refrigerator.  (It will thicken slightly more as it chills, as well.)
    Makes about 5 cups. (Can put in half-pint jars for gifts- just don’t “can” it, this must be stored in the fridge.)
    Cranberry Curd

    Yield: approx 5 cups

    Ingredients

    • 5 cups or 1 lb cranberries
    • 1 cup plus 2 T water
    • 7 T unsalted butter
    • 1 2/3 cups sugar
    • 6 large eggs

    Instructions

  • Rinse the cranberries, pick out any shriveled ones.
  • Put the berries in a pot with the water and cook, covered, on medium to low heat until tender and popped.
  • Put through a food mill or push thru a fine sieve.
  • Put the puree back in the pot, add the butter and sugar.
  • Beat the eggs in a bowl and push thru a fine sieve into the pot.
  • Stir constantly over medium heat the whole time, until thickened.
  • Be careful not to get the heat too hot or you'll curdle the mixture.
  • When done, it should coat the back of a spoon.
  • Store in the refrigerator. (It will thicken slightly more as it chills, as well.)
  • (Can put in half-pint jars for gifts- just don't "can" it, this must be stored in the fridge.)
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    Homemade Enchilada Sauce

    My Hubby loves enchiladas. LOVES. I get tired of buying enchilada sauce, it seems a bit overpriced in my opinion, and it seemed like something that I should be able to make myself. Not to mention we don’t like super spicy food, and more than once I made enchiladas without knowing that the sauce I was using was more spicy than we cared for.  So I did some digging around and found a few recipes.  This ended up being the winner after some small adaptions, and I was amazed at how good the flavor was.  The nice thing is you could make this as spicy or as mild as you like.  (The original recipe called for a whopping 1/4 cup of chili powder).  I’m never buying a can of enchilada sauce again- try this and you won’t either!
    HOMEMADE ENCHILADA SAUCE
    Recipe adapted from Emeril Lagasse
    3 T canola oil
    1 T flour
    1/2 tsp chili powder (more if you like it hotter)
    2 cups chicken stock
    10 oz tomato paste
    1 tsp dried oregano
    1 tsp ground cumin
    1 tsp garlic powder
    1/2 tsp salt
    Heat oil in a medium saucepan.  Add flour, stirring well.  Cook for 1 minute.
    Add chili powder, cook for 30 seconds.
    Add stock, tomato paste, oregano, cumin, and garlic powder.  Stir well.
    Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and cook for 15 minutes. (It will become thicker and smoother.)
    Add salt, taste and add more seasonings if desired.  Serve on your favorite enchiladas.

    Restaurant Chicken Alfredo

    I’ve gotten some requests for recipes to make Olive Garden dishes at home.  So when my hubby took me there for my birthday (I know, livin’ the life of glamour : ), I took mental notes and then tried my hand at making some “copycat” versions at home.  First I made some notes, then looked online for others ideas too.  First up was the Alfredo recipe, which it seems ALOT of people want that recipe!  There were many different ideas, the most common of which was to use cream cheese, like my usual recipe.  The Olive Garden website actually had an alfredo recipe on it using eggs in the sauce.  I’m pretty positive they are both imposters.  The only way in my opinion to get the same flavor is to use both parmesan and romano cheeses, FRESHLY GRATED, and let it cook for a bit to thicken naturally.  I was really surprised at how closely this dish resembled theirs.  
    Keep checkin back all week for more copycat olive garden recipes!
    P.S. This also is great for dipping breadsticks!

    RESTAURANT ALFREDO
    Recipe by My Stained Apron
    3 garlic cloves, minced
    1/2 cup unsalted butter
    1/4 cup milk
    2 cups cream
    1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (about 4 oz)
    1 cup grated Romano cheese (about 4 oz)
    salt and pepper, to taste
    8 to 12 oz fettuccine noodles (use the lower amount if you want it really saucy)
    fresh parsley, for serving
    extra grated Parmesan, for serving
    Melt butter in a saucepan and add garlic.  Saute for a couple of minutes over medium heat.
    Add milk and cream, bring to a simmer.
    Add cheeses, mix well. 
    Let simmer, uncovered, for about 10 to 15 minutes, until slightly thickened.
    Add salt and pepper, to taste.
    Cook noodles and toss together.  Sprinkle with parsley and cheese.
    To serve with Chicken:
    2 chicken breasts
    olive oil
    salt and pepper
    Brush grill or pan with olive oil, season chicken with salt and pepper and either grill or saute on both sides.  (I use my indoor grill pan).  Cut into strips when done.
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