Classic Spaghetti and Meatballs

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I swore to myself as I made these spaghetti and meatballs that I’d never attempt them again. I mean, this recipe is labor-intensive and time-consuming. But then I cut into a meatball and I slurped some of the noodles and sauce and you know what? These are the best spaghetti and meatballs I’ve ever made, so uh, looks like this recipe is a keeper. And the leftovers last for days — if you can keep yourself from taking seconds. And thirds.

Classic spaghetti and meatballs

Ingredients:

For the tomato sauce:
3 tablespoons olive oil
5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 sprigs basil
2 28-ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes
Salt and pepper

For the meatballs:

1/2 cup breadcrumbs
2 eggs, beaten to blend
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup whole-milk ricotta
1/4 cup finely chopped prosciutto
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/3 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for garnish
3/4 teaspoon fennel seeds, ground
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon salt
1 pound ground beef, preferably 20% fat
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound spaghetti

1. Make the tomato sauce: heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium-low. Cook garlic, stirring occasionally, until just beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add basil sprigs and stir to wilt. Add tomatoes, crushing with your hands, and their juices; season with salt and pepper. Increase heat to medium-high; bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened and flavors have concentrated, about 1 hour.

2. Make the meatballs: In a large bowl, mix the bread crumbs with the eggs, garlic, ricotta, prosciutto, parsley, and 1/3 cup Parmesan. Add fennel to bread mixture along with oregano, nutmeg, black pepper, red pepper flakes, and 1 teaspoon salt. Mix well. Add beef and break up into small pieces. Mix gently with your hands until smooth and ingredients are evenly incorporated; be careful not to over-mix.

3. Lightly oil your hands. Working one at a time, scoop out 1/4 cup portions of meat mixture; roll gently between your hands into balls. Arrange on a baking sheet.

4. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium. Add half of the meatballs and cook, turning and rolling occasionally, until browned on all sides, about 5 minutes total. Add meatballs to warm sauce. Repeat with remaining 1 tablespoon oil and remaining meatballs.

5. Cook meatballs in sauce (they should be mostly submerged) at a gentle simmer, gently scraping bottom of pot and adding a splash of water if sauce begins to stick, until meatballs are cooked through and tender, about 40 minutes.

6. Transfer meatballs to a clean baking sheet; cover with foil to keep warm. Pluck out and discard basil from sauce. Use an immersion blender to break up any large pieces of tomato and smooth out sauce.

7. Cook spaghetti in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Using tongs, transfer to pot with sauce. Stir, adding a little bit of pasta cooking liquid as needed, until sauce coats pasta. Transfer spaghetti to a serving dish and top with meatballs and any reserved sauce. Sprinkle with more Parmesan and serve.

Green Beans in Sesame-Miso Sauce

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Thanksgiving is over, Christmas is over, and you have a ton of green beans leftover. You know, that 500-pound bag you bought at Costco thinking, I’ll use these before they start to wilt! Except it’s December 31 and you have approximately 499 pounds left. What to do?

Make these simple-yet-delicious green beans in sesame miso sauce. Make as little or as much as you want. They’re crunchy, salty, savory, and super addictive. And healthy! Which is an attractive proposition considering how much cheese and pecan pie and who-knows-what you’ve (read: I’ve) been eating this week.

Green beans in sesame-miso sauce

Ingredients:

1 pound green beans, cleaned and trimmed
1 1/2 tablespoons tahini
1 1/2 tablespoons light, sweet miso
2 tablespoons dashi stock
1 1/2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil, add the beans, and blanch for 2 minutes, or until tender-crisp. Drain the beans and set aside to cool.

2. Meanwhile, make the sauce: In a bowl, mix the tahini with the miso. Stir to blend completely and thin the mixture with some of the dashi stock.

3. Cut the green beans into 1-inch lengths and toss with the sesame-miso sauce in a bowl. Garnish with sesame seeds and serve.

Turkey Larb

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You know about my trifecta for a perfect recipe, right? If its (a) delicious, (b) healthy, and (c), easy to make, then it enters the gilded hall of Recipes To Be Cherished Forever Because The Nom Factor Is V High. This turkey larb makes the cut, especially since I’m trying to eat less grains these days. Hot, sour, salty, and a tiny bit sweet, you can larb anything, but this is poultry version is classic and never gets old.

turkey larb

Ingredients:

1 pound ground turkey
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon dried chiles, roasted and ground to the texture of red chili flakes
1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion or shallots
1 thinly sliced green onion
15-20 mint leaves, roughly chopped
1/2 cup roughly chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 1/2 tablespoons rice, toasted and finely ground in a spice grinder
Butter lettuce, sliced cucumber, and sticky rice, to serve

1. Put the turkey in a medium saucepan and cover with water, stirring over medium heat until the turkey is opaque but still soft. Use a spatula to break up the meat into small pieces. Drain off the water, then stir in the fish sauce and sugar until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool.

2. Once the turkey has cooled, add the seasonings and mix thoroughly: the chile powder, red onion, green onions, mint, cilantro, and lime juice. Once you’re ready to serve, add the rice powder at the last moment, then mix again. Serve with butter lettuce, sliced cucumber, and sticky rice on the side.

Vietnamese Spring Rolls

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Crispy, salty, and savory, these Vietnamese-style spring rolls are fried to perfection and make a delicious appetizer. I’ve adapted these from the traditional version: I use ground turkey instead of pork, and I shallow-fry instead of deep-fry. And you know what? Even though they’re labor-intensive, I prefer them to the restaurant version.

Make sure to make enough nuoc cham dipping sauce to go with these spring rolls: the bright, tart sauce cuts through the spring rolls perfectly.

Vietnamese spring rolls

Ingredients:

1 pound ground turkey
2 shallots, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot, peeled and shredded
1 ounce bean thread noodles, soaked in warm water for 20 minutes, drained, and cut into 1-inch lengths with scissors (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons fish sauce
40 round rice papers
Vegetable oil for frying
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons rice or apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 Thai bird chile, minced

1. Combine 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic, 1/4 cup fish sauce, lime juice, water, vinegar, sugar, and chile in a bowl and stir to dissolve the sugar. Set aside.

2. Place the turkey in a mixing bowl and add the shallots, remaining garlic, carrot, bean thread noodles, black pepper, and remaining fish sauce and mix well. Set aside.

3. Set out two large plates. Fill a wide bowl or basin with 2 inches of warm water. Wet 1 paper until softened, then place on one of the plates. Place 2 tablespoons filling in a line about 5 inches long across the wrapper, leaving a 3/4-inch border at either end of the line. Fold the edge nearest you over the filling, fold over the sides of the rice paper, and roll up tightly. Place on the other plate, cover with a damp cloth, and repeat with the remaining papers and filling.

4. When ready to fry, set out another large plate lined with paper towels. Place a stable wok or heavy skillet over medium high heat and add oil to a depth of about 1 inch and heat until hot. Add the rolls one at a time to the pan, being careful not to splash yourself with oil, without crowding, and make sure the rolls aren’t touching. After you add the rolls to the oil, they’ll bubble and the rice paper will change texture. Use a spatula or heat-proof tongs to gently turn the rolls so they cook evenly. Cook for 8-10 minutes, until lightly golden all over, then use a slotted spoon to transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Repeat with the remaining rolls.

5. Cut each cooked spring roll in half on the diagonal and arrange on a platter alongside the nuoc cham dipping sauce and serve warm or at room temperature.

Lao-style Turkey Lettuce Cups

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I’m trying to eat grain-free as much as possible these days, and while I haven’t completely cut out grains, I have reduced them by about 75%. I feel good about that: I’m eating more greens and more sources of lean protein.

I’m always trying to come up with creative and delicious ways to put together a grain-free meal, and these turkey lettuce cups are one of my favorites. They’re not traditional, though: I’ve replaced pork with turkey and omitted some of the toppings (*cough* cilanto, my nemesis *cough*).

These are kind of like larb, but without the toasted rice powder and herbs. (But don’t fret, there is always a time and place for larb.) The best part? You probably already have most of the ingredients in your pantry.

Thai-style turkey lettuce cups

Ingredients:

1 pound ground turkey
1 tablespoon tamarind pulp, dissolved in 1/3 cup warm water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup chopped shallots
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon palm or brown sugar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons minced ginger
2 tablespoons roasted peanuts, finely chopped
1 stalk lemongrass, trimmed and minced
1 head butter or bibb lettuce, cleaned and leaves separated

1. Place a sieve over a bowl and press the dissolved tamarind through the sieve; discard the pulp. Set the tamarind juice aside.

2. Heat a wok over high heat. Add the oil and when it is hot, add the shallots, garlic, and lemongrass. Stir-fry until golden, then add the turkey and stir-fry until it has all changed color and is almost cooked through, about 5 minutes. Add the sugar, the tamarind juice, the fish sauce, and salt and cook until the liquid has almost evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add the ginger and peanuts and stir-fry for another 2 minutes. Remove from the wok and let cool.

3. To serve, put a lettuce leaf in the palm of your hand, then scoop up a tablespoon of filling and place it on the leaf. Fold the leaf over to make a bundle, or leave it open, and place on a platter. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.