The smells of garlic and tomatoes simmering on the stove. The crunch of Rice Krispies cereal combined with marshmallows and butter. The thick, smooth feel of potato soup gliding down my throat. Some days just call for comfort food.
Today started like many other off days for me. Jeff quietly woke, got ready for work in the near dark, and kissed my forehead lightly before heading out the door to his job. I, still groggy from yesterday’s shorthandedness at work combined with Father’s day celebrations, turned, pulled the covers over my head, and slipped easily back into sleep. Usually, I jump out of bed after Jeff kisses me goodbye, but that was not the case today. The baby needs more sleep, I decided.
Groggy, I poked my head out from under the covers, glanced at the clock (an hour had passed), and slowly pulled myself into a sitting position. Time to face the day, I thought. That mentality lasted about 10 seconds; long enough for me to walk to the couch, plop down, and turn on the TV. The real world could wait another hour. It is my off day, right?
After procrastinating as long as possible, I turned off the TV and made a grocery list. There were a couple things I had been wanting to try and a few other things I wanted to savor again. Armed with my list, a stack of reuseable bags, and my wallet, I climbed into my SUV and prepared a mental list of stops I needed to make.
Two hours, three grocery stores, and a little bit too much money later, I was back at home unloading groceries. While chatting with my mom over some very bright spots in the past few weeks, I quickly put away my finds and prepared to make Rice Krispie Treats. I have always loved the sweet, crunchy dessert and, since there is no baking involved, have been making these yummy morsels since before I could see over the counter. Today, I added a special treat: Heath bar pieces. They are, in a word, scrumptious.
Next, I decided to make Rachael Ray’s Spaghetti & Meatballs. The last time I made this, I had to substitute a few ingredients as I didn’t plan well enough ahead. This time, I made sure to grab everything on Mrs. Ray’s list to make sure it was authentic. Let me tell you, the smells of pasta sauce cooking away on the stove are unparalleled in my opinion. The warm scents of garlic, tomatoes, fennel, onion, and pepper simmering together remind me of my childhood, of my grandparents (minus the garlic…and she called herself Italian!), and of the love that comes with making something from scratch. It is, quite possibly, one of the best smells of my life.
I would like to share her recipe with all of you lovely people in my life. I want to thank you for visiting my page and giving me all the great feedback over the years. I appreciate each and every one of you and I don’t think we take enough time in our lives to share those words. I have quite recently been reminded of how much we take for granted and how swiftly, seemingly overnight, anything in life can change. Now, having waxed philosophical on you, I share my comfort food.
Rachael Ray’s On Top of Ole Smoky, All Covered With Cheese
For the meatballs:
12 ounces ground pork
12 ounces ground sirloin
3 slices good quality bread, crusts removed
1 cup milk
1 large egg, beaten
1 large handful parsley, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
4 ounces proscuitto, chopped (I found cubes of it at my Kroger)
1/2 cup grated pecorino
Salt & pepper
Preheat oven to 375º. Add the pork and sirloin to a bowl. Season liberally with salt and pepper.
In a food processor, pulse the bread into fresh breadcrumbs, add the milk and let sit. The bread will soak up the milk resulting in more moist meatballs. After a few minutes, squeeze some of the milk out of the breadcrumbs, and add the bread to the meat mixture.
Add the egg, half of the parsley, the garlic, the proscuitto, and romano cheese to the meat mixture. Drizzle mixture with olive oil, then mix thoroughly, but do not overwork.
Place a baking rack over a sheet pan. Form your meat mixture into bite sized balls. I used a medium ice cream scoop to make easy work of this task. Cook in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned, but not cooked through.
For the sauce:
1 tablespoon fennel seed
1 red chile pepper, seeded and finely chopped (I, for some reason, could not find a red chile pepper, but I did find some already prepared stuff in my Kroger’s produce section)
1 onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 cup white wine
1 cup chicken stock
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, torn
Heat some olive oil (three turns of the pan) over medium high heat in a large pot. Once the oil is warmed, add the fennel seeds, chile pepper (I used a hearty squeeze from the tube), onions, and garlic. Season with salt, pepper, and oregano.
Stir 4 to 5 minutes and then add the tomato paste. “Reawaken” the paste by letting it cook for 30 seconds, then add in the wine. Scrape any bits off the bottom of the pan and let the wine cook off a little bit (about 1 minute). Add your stock and tomatoes.
Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to simmer. Add the basil and parsely. Slide the meatballs, once done, into the liquid and let cook for at least 30 minutes to combine the flavors.
My dad adds Italian sausage to his “spaghetti and meatballs” and I, not being one to argue with tradition, followed suit. I browned my sausages in the oven and then slid them into the liquid. I prefer to let my sauce simmer for hours rather than a mere 30 minutes. When dinner time rolls around, I will cook up a pot of spaghetti, make a quick Caesar salad, and brown some rolls. You could also use this meatballs and sauce recipe to make delicious Meatball Subs.
Now, with a pot full of sauce making quiet pops on the stove behind me, and with a plate of Heath Rice Krispie treats to my side, I am going to dive, head first, into Portia de Rossi’s autobiography “Unbearable Lightness”. I may or may not emerge before dinner.