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Friday, August 2, 2013

An Italian Feast

Delicious vegetarian lasagna, spicy pork meatballs, and caprese salad. Photo courtesy of Winnie Lim

I recently ended up with almost 40 Roma Tomatoes in my refrigerator.  I decided this was my chance to make my own pasta sauce and then create other amazing things with that pasta sauce, and I did.

First I made my pasta sauce, and my goodness was I pleased.  I've included my basic recipe at the end of the post, along with the caprese and lasagna recipe.  I then decided that we couldn't use this wonderfully delicious sauce on spaghetti, no it deserved more than just spaghetti, it deserved an audience who would truly appreciate its texture and bite.  So I decided I would make lasagna!  But wait, I wanted to invite over my vegetarian friends too, so I decided to make vegetarian lasagna!  But wait (again), I also really like meat so I decided to also make spicy meatballs!  And so it was that I had a dinner party with: vegetarian lasagna, spicy meatballs, caprese salad, cheesy bread and the remnants of my coffee toffee cheesecake and a bread pudding....because well because I wanted one.

I made pretty much everything myself minus the bread and the spicy sausage.  I purchased all my bread from Whole Foods, and used the New York Spicy (HOT) sausage.  And then I just basically followed this recipe I found online for how to make the meatballs.  The recipe says it feeds 4 people.  I used my meatballs as a supplement and fed 6 meat eaters.  I used my extra homemade pasta sauce with the meatballs and it was great.  I will say that next time I'll probably buy ground beef and spice it myself.  The pork was good, but a little weird, as traditionally it's beef in pasta sauce.

My spicy pork meatballs! (Before going in the oven.)

My homemade pasta sauce:

This makes about 44oz of sauce.

  • 15 roma tomatoes

  • Cherry tomatoes (optional - however many you'd like)

  • 1 clove of garlic

  • 1 shallot

  • 2 tbsp olive oil

  • Salt and pepper

  • Dried chili flakes (optional)

  • Sugar (1-4 tbsp)

Pre-heat your oven to 450 degrees.

Cut your roma tomatoes into quarters, chop up the garlic into large chunks, and dice your shallot.  In a large roasting pan, or on a cookie sheet add your tomatoes, garlic and shallot.  Pour your olive oil over the top of your delicious chunks of veggies.  Add however much salt and pepper you enjoy, and add the chili flakes now if you so desire.  (1 tbsp of chili flakes will give you a little bite, 2+ tbsp makes it nice an spicy.)  Stir everything around to make sure it's coated nicely with the olive oil and spices.  Now throw it in the oven!

Yummy roasted tomatoes, garlic and shallots! 

Don't worry about covering it, you don't need to.  Leave it in the oven for 25 minutes.  After you let your veggies cool, throw them in your food processor, or blender and blend it up.  This is where the sugar comes in, add a little bit of sugar at a time to get the right balance of sweet to acidic.  If you taste your sauce before adding sugar you'll notice it's very tart/acidic.  The sugar will cut the tartness, I ended up adding about 2 tbsp of sugar to my sauce and I did it a little pinch at a time and then would blend between adding more sugar.  This part is really up to you, because only you will know how sweet you like your pasta sauce.

Super easy caprese salad.

Caprese Salad:

Feeds about 6 people as a side salad.

  • 1 cup chopped up fresh spinach

  • 4 heirloom tomatoes (med/lg sized)

  • 10 baby heirlooms, or cherry tomatoes

  • Mozzarella Cheese (shredded, cubed, whatever and as much as you'd like)

  • Pepper

Chop up your tomatoes into 1/2 sized chunks. Add your spinach, tomatoes and mozzarella to a bowl, add some pepper for zing and toss the crap out of everything!  No dressing necessary and it's delish!

Extra tip:  If you tear up your spinach into smaller pieces it will more evenly disperse throughout the salad.

My pre-cooked lasagna.

Lasagna Recipe:

Feeds about 12, if you follow the recipe.  Mine served 9 because I used a smaller pan (9 3/4 x 9 3/4).

My mother-in-law, Leslie, uses this really great recipe for lasagna so I used that as a base.  The recipe is great because you don't have to pre-cook the noodles!  Hoorays for one less pot to clean.

So I know you can read, which why I'm just going to tell you what I changed with the recipe.

  • Adjustment 1 - I used 1.5x the cheese mixture, because everyone loves cheese.

  • Adjustment 2 - I shredded up a mixture of zucchini, portabello mushrooms and onion in place of the spinach or meat.  (3 zucchinis, 1 portabellos, 1/2 onion - about 12oz of mush)

  • Adjustment 3 - Homemade sauce.

Extra tip:  Follow the directions and use a normal sized pan, it'll save you the grief of breaking the noodles to make them fit.

I'll write up how to make the bread pudding in another post.  Now be free and enjoy your foods!



  1. Great blog! My daughter Katy, a friend of Rachel's, sent me here. Actually what she said was, "...likes Bi-Rite Creamery in San Francisco..." I didn't need to hear much more than that to know I wanted to read your take on food. I used to consider myself a foodie until I read about the phenomenon of "super tasting." Now I'm just a super taster who likes to cook and read about food. Love the range you explore here!

  2. Thanks Penny! I feel like eating is a sport in my family, we're always training and thinking of ways to improve what we're eating. Let me know if you're ever out in SF! (And Katy is the best!)