Stuffed Shell Weekend

When the temperature drops there are a lot of people who enjoy preparing and eating soups, stews and chilis. Me, I go straight for the Italian dishes! Pasta in a good meat sauce topped with cheese is my cold weather comfort food. So when the weekend arrives I like to prepare meals that will provide me with multiple nights’ worth of dinner options, like my stuffed shells in a vodka cream sauce.

This will make enough extra sauce that you can either freeze it or use it later in the week over rigatoni or spaghetti. And these shells are so filling that you’d better invite some friends over to help you eat this; otherwise you’re going to have it as leftovers for a good week!

Katt’s Stuffed Shells in Vodka Cream Sauce

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Rainy Day Meatballs

On a recent Saturday morning here in sunny southern California, I woke up fully expecting to go for a long run, when I look out the window and see a phenomenon that I rarely experience and always despise—RAIN! God, I hate the rain. I’ve got an underground lawn sprinkler system that is fed by the water we steal from Colorado, so why do I need rain? Now what do I do to fill my day? Guess I could cook something…but what would take all day to make and yet still be worth the effort? Hmmmm….wait, I’ve got it! Meatballs! What’s better on a rainy afternoon than spaghetti and meatballs? And considering that I’ve already had a bottle of wine and some crusty bread for breakfast, it makes perfect sense!

First I’ll make my usual large pot of tomato sauce and while it simmers for a few hours I’ll make a batch of my world-class meatballs. Being that I was raised on meatballs made by some chef named ‘Boy-ardee,’ I don’t have any warm childhood memories of great-tasting Italian dishes. I came from a Polish family and our version of spaghetti and meatballs was sauerkraut and sausage. So over the years I’ve tried many different versions and methods of making this dish, and this is the recipe that I’ve come up with. I don’t know what is considered a ‘classic’ version but this one never gets any complaints… except that I should have made more. Maybe it’s the medical marijuana talking but my friends seem to like it. I hope you do too. It just takes a while to put together so rent The Godfather 1 and 2 and open a couple bottles of good Chianti or <erlot. As they say in Italy, “Divertanosi”!  (Look it up!)

Katt’s Rainy Day Meatballs

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The Post Breakup Meal…For Guys

If a woman really doesn’t want to know how she looks in a dress, why does she ask? I don’t know either but what I do know is that you shouldn’t say “Like a sausage in a twist-tie.”

Trust me on this one.

Which brings me to today’s topic: The Post Breakup Meal. During the last few months, I seem to have consumed these quite frequently. I’m not talking about breaking up DURING a meal. I’ve been there before and believe me, most red wines leave a permanent stain. No, I’m talking about the meal AFTER the breakup. Some splits are so heart-wrenching that you just can’t eat, while others make you come home and do a fist pumping victory lap in your living room. I’m referring to the day or so after, when you need to be alone and all you want to do is curl up with a good exploitation-beat-down-action-adventure movie, and a bowlful of soul-healing proteins and carbs (along with your favorite bottle of rotgut).

Yeah, guys are different, but we still need sustenance during the healing process, and I’ve got something for my newly solo brothers out there. My go-to meal has to have pasta and a rich, soothing tomato sauce. And usually some meat—which almost always includes pork—but for some reason, this time I didn’t feel like sausage. So, let’s go meatless on this one. I’ll keep it simple, yet fulfilling. Almost as easy as calling an escort service. And a lot cheaper.

Katt’s Soul Healing Tomato Sauce


¼ cup of olive oil
3 28 oz cans of San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes (Find ‘em…they’re worth it.)
3 peeled carrots
3 stalks of celery
1 large red onion
4 cloves of garlic and 2 sprigs of thyme
1 1/2 cups of chicken stock
Kosher salt
Fresh cracked pepper
1 tsp of red pepper flakes
Heavy cream
2 handfuls of fresh basil leaves
Your favorite pasta
Crusty bread
Unsalted butter
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (Man up and grate it yourself!)

This is my stock tomato sauce recipe, minus the cream. You will need either a hand blender (kinda looks like a boat motor), or you can mix it in batches using a countertop blender. Or you can leave it chunky, but blending it imparts air into the sauce, which makes it creamy and smooth.

First, chop up the onion, carrots and celery. Dump them all into the same bowl because you’ll sauté them together. Then mince the gloves of garlic, but keep them separate. Pour your olive oil into a large soup pot and kick up the heat. Sauté the vegetables until the onions are soft and then throw in the garlic. When you smell the garlic coming from the pot, pour in the chicken stock. Garlic will quickly burn if you’re not careful so I don’t cook it too long over a high flame. Let that come to a simmer and cook down for about 5 minutes. Then, add your tomatoes and their juices one can at a time. Use a potato masher to break up the wholes tomatoes before adding the next can. Strip the thyme sprigs of their leaves over the pot and sprinkle them in. Add the red pepper flakes, salt and black pepper to taste and bring it up to a simmer. Here’s where I blend it well. If you don’t have a hand blender, use your countertop blender BEFORE you bring it up to a simmer. Let it cook uncovered for at least an hour. Two or three is better.

Now prepare some salted water to cook your pasta in. While your pasta is cooking, turn the heat off on your sauce and add some heavy cream. The worse the breakup the more cream you’ll need. Mix it well and then throw in a couple of tablespoons of butter for good measure. Next, coarsely chop up the basil and add it to the sauce. I like it at the end so that it doesn’t cook down and lose its flavor. Once the pasta is done, remove it from the heat and take some straight from the pot to the plate. Don’t rinse the first couple of batches. The pasta water will help the sauce coat the pasta. Ladle on some sauce, spoon on the cheese, and butter up a couple hunks’a bread. Pour yourself a tall one and pop in the DVD. It’s been a rough couple of days but things are looking up. Let the healing begin!

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Towering Food: Greek Eggplant Stacks

The eggplant is a vegetable famous for its glossy, deep purple beauty. With its pleasantly spongy texture and mild flavor, it complements any ingredient. Looking at the tear-dropped gem, we got creative and brainstormed whether to take an Italian route incorporating mozzarella and basil, an Indian route with curry and raisins, or a Thai route with spicy basil and coconut milk. Ultimately, we opted for a Greek-inspired stack. The salty, briny feta paired perfectly with the mellow eggplant. To add some pop in taste and color, we layered sautéed spinach and tomato sauce.s

When we prepare food, we almost always have the same vision. This time around, we had slightly different approaches, so decided to each make our own layered stack. While the eggplant towers both follow the same recipe, they differ slightly in presentation.

Eggplant, Spinach, Tomato and Feta Stack

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The Charm of Sloppy Seconds

sloppy seconds

Waking up before 9am on Saturday has a few perks, most of them edible. Working at the farmers market, at least my gig there, isn’t strenuous. Eager shoppers, without cash, walk up to the Manager’s Table, pass me their debit card, I swipe while asking them to sign up for our newsletter and hand them the appropriate amount of tokens.

I tweet fruit observations and celebrity sightings, gobble up sun gold tomatoes and more or less banter with strangers about food for a few hours.

And then I get to take home the good stuff. Well, not exactly the good stuff. Really the free, almost rotting stuff. Ten pounds of bruised and battered tomatoes. Tomatoes slit apart and oozing juice and seeds. Tomatoes on just this side of rotten.

These seconds, as they’re dubbed at the market, need to be loved and loved quickly. I had less than 24 hours to make the most of out of them.

Part I

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