lola rugula how to make easy pasta carbonara

shredded beef and pork ragu

I’ve had a craving for a meaty ragu ever since the weather started to turn cold and, as is typical with me, I was inspired to go with what looked beautiful at the meat counter as opposed to what I traditionally do with my meat sauces. My local grocery had some lovely beef bones with lots of meat on them and hefty country-style pork ribs on sale, so I grabbed a couple of the soup bones and a 3 pack of ribs and carted them home.

I also picked up a 4 pack of Italian sausages because, honestly, that’s just the mood I was in. Apparently, my body already thinks it needs to bulk up for the winter ahead.¬† ūüôā

This makes a humongous family or dinner size batch so if you want to reserve some of the ragu for freezing, only cook one pound of pasta and then freeze the rest of the sauce.

lola rugula pasta and ragu

shredded beef and pork ragu recipe

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 beef soup bones with meat – about 3/4 lb. each
  • 3 pork loin country-style ribs, bone-in, about 1 lb. total
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 large garlic cloves
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1 1/2 cups beef broth, preferably homemade
  • 6 cups whole, peeled cooked Roma¬†tomatoes with their juice
  • 18 oz. tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 4 Salsiccia sausages (optional)
  • 1 1/2 cups warm half and half
  • 2 lbs. bucatini or other thick pasta
  • Freshly grated Parmesan for serving
  • Fresh parsley, minced, for serving

Season beef and pork all over with salt and pepper.

In a large stockpot, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat. Add beef bones and brown on both sides, about 10 minutes per side, until well browned. Remove to a plate.

Add pork ribs and brown well on all sides, about 15 minutes total. Remove to plate.

If excessive grease, drain off leaving 1 teaspoon in pan. Be sure and try to leave all the crispy bits, because that’s where the flavor is. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and heat.

Add garlic, onion, carrots, and celery. Saute over medium heat for about 7-8 minutes.

Add red wine, stirring and scraping the crispy meat bits from the bottom of the pan. Reduce until wine has almost evaporated.

Add beef stock and bring to simmer for about 10 minutes.

Add back beef bones and pork ribs.

Add tomatoes and tomato paste, hand-smashing the tomatoes as you add them.

Add grated nutmeg and stir everything together well, until tomato paste is well-incorporated.

Bring the sauce to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 3 hours.

Using tongs, carefully remove beef and ribs to a plate.

If using, add sausages to the sauce.

Using 2 forks, shred the beef and pork from the bones. If desired, also scoop out any remaining marrow from the beef bones. Discard bones and any excess fat, and add beef, marrow, and pork back into the sauce.

Simmer for 1 more hour or until almost all of the liquid has evaporated and the sauce is nice and thick.

While the ragu is nearing its finished time, pour half and half into a small pan and heat until warmed through.

Cook pasta and drain.

Add hot half and half to sauce and stir well.

Toss hot pasta with sauce. Transfer everything to large bowl or platter, sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan and minced parsley and serve.

lola rugula ragu with shredded beef and pork

Like most homemade meat and tomato sauces, there’s some prep and long simmer time involved but it’s totally worth it. This is a rich and hearty sauce, full of flavor.

The sausages may take it into overdrive but again, so worth it. My husband made a fantastic sandwich with one of the sausages, some sauce, and French bread. What could possibly be bad about that, right?

As I always say, don’t be afraid to play with your food. If you’d rather lighten this up a bit, why not try using chicken and pork, or even some ground or shredded turkey.¬† Or try replacing the sausages with chicken or turkey sausage. Don’t be a slave to specific recipes – mix them up to fit your tastes and lifestyle.

Winter is coming, so make it a warm, delicious one.

Enjoy!

lola rugula how to make easy pasta carbonara

perfectly cooked roast beef

I’ve¬† been having so much fun posting some of my classic back-to-the-basics lately, such as my Summer Garden Gazpacho recipe, my Cucumber Salad recipe, my simple Refrigerated Beets recipe, and my Classic Potato Salad recipe, that I’m considering making it a new category on my blog. It’s always good to have some simple, easy-to-execute recipes in your arsenal; recipes that are versatile and don’t take a gazillion ingredients to prepare.

Adding to my classic recipe collection is this (in my opinion) perfectly-cooked medium rare roast beef. The beauty of this roast is that you don’t need an expensive cut of meat to make it.¬†I’ve done this¬†with top round roasts and bottom round roasts and they’re both delicious when cooked this way.¬† The roast in my photos below is a small 2 pound bottom round roast, an inexpensive cut but very tender and flavorful when cooked and sliced correctly. The bottom round roast typically has a little more marbling than a top round, so it tends to have better flavor, plus it’s usually cheaper than top round. Score.

You can season this however you like, although salt and pepper at the bare minimum is highly recommended. A¬†little bit of oil rubbed all around helps to keep the edges from drying out in the initial high-heat sear. I love the flavor rosemary adds to this, but all kinds of herbs will work – go with what you love. This works best with a fresh roast, as freezing meat tends to draw out some of the moisture. If you can get a higher-end Black Angus cut, go for it…it’s worth it.

The key to any great roast is a probe thermometer; if you don’t have one, it’s worth your money to invest $15-$20 and have one on hand.¬† It will more than pay for itself in just a few no-more-over-cooked meals.

Behold a big platter of sliced roast beef.

lola rugula perfectly cooked medium rare roast beef

This is one of my “it’s a technique more than it’s a recipe” posts. Why? Because it really doesn’t matter the size of the roast, what matters is this:

  1. a bit of oil and seasoning rubbed all over
  2. let the meat sit at room temperature for at least an hour, so the roast slow-cooks evenly
  3. an initial sear in a very hot oven
  4. a slow roast at a low heat
  5. a probe thermometer to tell you when it’s done
  6. a long resting period
  7. slicing very thinly against the grain with a sharp knife or meat slicer

bottom round roast beef recipe

These are the instructions for the roast pictured here – again, you can use a top round roast if you’d rather. These cuts don’t typically have a lot of fat on them but if it does, you can trim off any excess. Remember though…the fat keeps the roast from drying out.

  • 1 2 lb. bottom round roast
  • 1 tablespoon dried rosemary (or 3 tablespoons fresh)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 healthy teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Unwrap the roast, pat it dry and set it inside a large, low-sided roasting pan or on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with rosemary, salt, and pepper. Drizzle with oil and then rub the oil and seasonings all over the roast. Let sit about 1 hour at room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 500¬ļ

Place roast in oven and roast at high heat for about 12 minutes.

Remove roast from oven, reduce oven temperature to 275¬ļ, and insert the probe of the thermometer into the center of the thickest part of the roast. Set the alert temperature to 122¬ļ. I don’t insert the probe during the initial searing process, due to most probe thermometers shouldn’t be used in temperatures over 450¬ļ.

Let roast slow-roast until the probe thermometer tells you the thickest part of your roast has reached122¬ļ.

Remove from oven, cover loosely with a  piece of aluminum foil, and let rest at least 30 minutes. Remove the probe and wipe clean.

Transfer the roast to a platter or cutting board or, using a meat slicer, slice thinly across the grain with a very sharp knife or meat slicer. My trick is to cut it starting at a corner, so you cut a corner off and keep going from there. You can slice it very thinly or shave it, whichever’s your preference.

You now have perfectly cooked, tender, medium rare roast beef. Enjoy it as a dinner, with a bit of horseradish and your choice of sides or pile it onto sandwiches, bruschetta, etc.

This is, seriously, the best deli-style roast beef you can make.

 

Life’s too short to eat over-cooked roast beef. ūüôā

If you’re cooking a larger roast, up the sear time to 15 minutes but don’t go any longer than that. The slow roasting is really the key.

So now you know how to cook a top round or bottom round roast to medium rare. Easy, right? Put that slow cooker away!

The other beautiful thing about this recipe is the roast cooks pretty quickly.¬† You can cook a 2 lb. roast in under an hour and that’s a wonderful thing with a busy schedule.

Are you hungry yet?

lola rugula how to make easy pasta carbonara

green garlic meatballs

One of my favorite spring garden treats is young, tender green garlic. I always pull up some of it to enjoy – I add it to rubs, sauces, salads and more. Green garlic has a more mild taste than mature garlic and can be used just like scallions in most dishes.

This past weekend I made a large batch of meatballs; some for dinner and the rest for the freezer. I love having meatballs in the freezer – they make a weeknight dinner of pasta or subs a much easier endeavor. And since there’s nothing I love more than garlicky meatballs, my homegrown green garlic make these meatballs extra delicious. I also added a couple of garlic cloves, for a super intense garlic flavor. Vampires, you’ve been warned.

So, if you grow garlic or see green garlic at the market and have wondered what to do with it, here’s a delicious idea.

lola rugula how to use green garlic

green garlic meatballs

  • 3 lbs. ground beef
  • 2 lbs. ground pork
  • 1 cup finely chopped green garlic
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium white onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 3/4 cup panko bread crumbs

In a large bowl, mix everything together well, but not over mixing or smashing everything together too much. I use my fingertips more than my whole hands to blend it all together because I find that over-mixing and mashing it all together makes a denser meatball than I prefer.

Preheat oven to 350

Brush a baking sheet with olive oil.

Begin rolling the meatballs and placing them on the prepared baking sheet. This recipe made about 80 golf ball sized meatballs, 40 meatballs per sheet. If you want them larger, increase the cooking time; smaller, decrease the time.

Bake meatballs for about 20 minutes, turn, and then bake another 20 or just until they start to brown.

lola rugula green garlic meatballs recipe

See that beautiful green garlic in those meatballs? It really adds a fresh garlic flavor to these and I think you’ll agree.

Don’t know what to do with green garlic? Now you do! Never be afraid to play with your food – the results are delicious. Enjoy!

lola rugula how to make easy pasta carbonara

Drunken Round Steak

In case you haven’t noticed, I’m on a real comfort food kick lately and this weekend was no exception. We’re getting bombarded with snow right now, so what better way to spend time inside than cooking up a warm and comforting¬†dish of round steak and noodles?

It’s been a long time since I’ve done anything with round steak but since it was part of the side of beef we recently purchased, I have a few of them on hand that I need to get creative with. ¬†Braising is perfect for it, but I wanted to change it up and make something I could serve with noodles or rice. I trimmed the beef and sliced it, and then tossed it in some flour before browning it. Then I threw in some garlic, onion, mushrooms, red and yellow bell peppers and then some beer (hence the “drunken” part of this recipe) to make a gravy. After about an hour-long simmer, the results were delicious. This is an amped-up recipe version of beef tips with noodles and it’s packed with heartiness and flavor.

It may not make for the prettiest of photos, but sometimes flavor trumps food porn.

lola rugula beef tips and noodles recipe

round steak with peppers, mushrooms and onions over noodles recipe

  • 1 1/2 – 2 lbs. round steak, trimmed of bone and fat and cut into 1-2 inch strips (save those extra parts for beef broth!)
  • salt and pepper for seasoning steak, plus extra if needed
  • 1 1/2 cups flour (I used unbleached whole wheat)
  • 1/4 cup oil (I used a non-GMO sunflower oil but most types of oil will work here)
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped (don’t mince it – you want it chunky so it doesn’t burn)
  • 1 medium onion, cut in half at the root end and sliced
  • 1-2 bell peppers, preferably red, orange or yellow, sliced
  • 8 large mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 bottle of beer or 1 /1/2 cups stock
  • 1/2 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 lb. cooked pasta or egg noodles (I used Buitoni fresh linguine)
  • 2 tablespoons butter (optional)

Season beef strips with about a teaspoon each of kosher salt and black pepper. Toss in flour to coat.

Cook pasta and drain. Return to pan and add butter. Toss well and cover until ready to use.

Heat oil n a large, deep-sided skillet. Add beef strips in 2 portions and brown well. Set beef aside and add the garlic, onion, peppers, and mushrooms to the pan. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. Add half of the beer or stock and stir well, scraping up all of the crispy bits on the bottom of the pan. Return the beef to the pan, add the red pepper flakes (if adding) and  the remaining beer or stock. Stir well. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for about an hour or until the beef is incredibly tender, stirring a couple of times during cooking time. Taste and season with more salt and/or pepper, if needed. Pour beef mixture over buttered noodles and serve immediately.

lola rugula round steak recipe with onions and peppers

Notes: As mentioned, you do not have to use beer here Рstock will work just as well. You could use chicken stock for a lighter flavor or beef stock for a beefier flavor; even vegetable stock would work. Also, the butter adds a beautiful richness to this but can certainly be omitted.  When I make comfort food, I go all in, but you can modify as needed.

I will warn you that after initially cooking the beef, it will look like one big hot mess in your pan, but don’t despair…once you add the beer or stock and scrape and stir it all together, your gravy will form. If you prefer more gravy, you can add more beer or stock accordingly.

Noodles or rice? Totally your preference. I happen to prefer noodles but it’s your call.

Also, don’t be afraid to try other veggies in this – broccoli, leeks and greens would all be great substitutions or additions, depending on your taste.

Happy snow days everyone!

lola rugula how to make easy pasta carbonara

braised arm roast with creamy mashed cauliflower

If you’ve followed my site for a while then you know how much I love braising and oven roasting things, especially in the winter. This year, we joined my parents in going in on a side of beef from Weber Meats in Cuba City, WI so now we have a freezer full of roastable meat, such as short ribs, soup bones, oven roasts and braising roasts.

Behold, the mighty arm roast:

lola-rugula-arm-roast-recipe

The arm roast is a humble cut of meat. It’s not typically huge but it’s an inexpensive cut that will yield delicious results if you cook it right. My favorite way to make this is braising it – browning and then slowly roasting with a cover, along with a bit of liquid, veggies and herbs – until it practically falls off the bone. If you’re craving a tender pot roast, this cut¬†works beautifully. This cut is typically marbled with fat, which is part of what eventually helps it break down into a tender chunk of deliciousness.

braised arm roast recipe

  • 1 arm roast 2-3 lbs.
  • 1 teaspoon each coarse sea or kosher salt and black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 cloves of garlic,¬†crushed
  • 1 large onion, quartered
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano (or 1 teaspoon dried)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary (or 2 teaspoons¬†dried)
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
  • 1 can Guinness or other dark stout¬†(you can absolutely replace the beer with stock or even water)
  • 4-6 medium¬†red potatoes

Preheat oven to 350

Pat beef dry with a paper towel and season on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and stir, cooking until soft and lightly brown, about 5 minutes. Scoop out and place in a roasting pan. Increase heat to medium-high and add beef. Let brown for at least 5 minutes and then flip, browning at least 5 minutes on the other side. I also like to tip mine on its side with a pair of tongs and brown the fat for a minute or two.

Transfer the beef to the roasting pan and top with some of the onions and garlic. Add the herbs. Making sure the heat is off, add the bottle of beer (or stock) to the hot skillet and stir, scraping up the crispy bits from the bottom. My cast iron pan is usually still pretty hot when I add the beer, so the heat really helps loosen up those bits. Slowly pour the beer and pan drippings over the roast.

lola-rugula-arm-roast-braised-in-beer-recipe

Cover the pan tightly and bake for 1 hour. Add potatoes, replace cover and then reduce the oven temperature to 325. Continue cooking for another 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until beef is fork-tender. Remove from oven and let rest, covered, for 15 minutes.

lola-rugula-easy-braised-arm-roast-recipe

Although my husband and I both love potatoes, I personally started cutting down on the carbs I eat when I reached my forties. So, a perfect side to pot roast for me is creamy mashed cauliflower (which my husband also loves). Here’s how I make it:

creamy mashed cauliflower recipe

  • 1 large head of cauliflower, main stem removed and cut into large florets
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper (or more, to taste)
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 cloves pan-roasted garlic (a couple of smashed garlic cloves, pan roasted in a drizzle of olive oil)

Place cauliflower florets in a large pan, add 2 inches of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a healthy simmer, cover and cook for about 15 minutes or until the cauliflower is fork-tender. Drain and return cauliflower to pan.

Add the remaining ingredients and mash well with a potato masher, stirring and mashing as you go, until they’re nice and creamy.

That’s it! Simple, right? Some people like to add chicken or veggie stock to theirs but I like mine with some body to them and not too runny. If these are too thick for you, feel free to add a bit of stock.

Also, if you love braising and oven-roasting as much as I do, here are a few of my other recipes, such as braised beef brisket with caramelized onions,  braised beef brisket with veggies, oven roasted pulled pork, crispy roast duck,  oven roasted Brussels sprouts, and oven roasted tomatoes. You can also roast soup bones for a flavorful and beneficial stock.

Today it’s finally snowing in my neck of the woods for the first time this year, so¬†it’s looking like today will be a perfect day for enjoying the leftovers. Happy eating!

lola rugula how to make easy pasta carbonara

stuffed cabbage rolls

Can we just go ahead and admit that most “stuffed” recipes might as well state: “this is going to be time-consuming”? Because, honestly…from dumplings to ravioli to, well…cabbage rolls, stuffing things takes a bit of time and effort. This recipe is no exception. BUT, like it and so many other stuffed recipes,¬†it is well, well, worth it. Behold….stuffed cabbage rolls.

lola-rugula-german-style-cabbage-roll-recipe

My paternal grandma used to make stuffed cabbage rolls and it’s taken me quite a while to nail down the same amazing rolls. The secret to these is the tomato sauce, which is made with brown sugar and white vinegar, which gives them a sweet and sour appeal. I’ve seen them called German-style, although there’s a whole other German-style cabbage roll made with brown gravy. Whatever their origin, I’m just glad that I finally figured these out. I like to make them in a big batch, which can easily be reheated or frozen, depending on your preference.

lola-rugula-how-to-make-stuffed-cabbage-rolls

stuffed cabbage rolls recipe

This recipe makes about 2 dozen rolls

rice
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 1 ¬† cup rice

In a small saucepan, bring the stock to a boil. Add rice, stir well, reduce heat and cover. Simmer for 10 minutes and remove from heat. Let stand, covered, while you prepare everything else.

cabbage
  • 1 medium head of cabbage, whole but with the core carefully removed. I use a sharp knife to cut carefully around the core to remove it.

Fill a large stockpot halfway with water. Over high heat, bring to a boil. Add cabbage, cored-side down, and cover. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer the whole cabbage to a colander to drain and cool.

tomato sauce
  • 3 cups pureed tomatoes, with their juice (canned or fresh)
  • 1 14 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 4 tablespoons (packed) light brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons white vinegar

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and stir well. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a good simmer, uncovered,  and cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and set aside while you prepare the stuffing.

stuffing
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 lb. ground pork
  • 2 large eggs, beaten

Over medium heat, melt butter in a large skillet or stockpot. Add onion and garlic and saute for about 5 minutes, until softened. Increase heat to medium-high and add pork. Cook about 10 minutes, stirring just a couple of times. Add beef and cook just until both are cooked through, about 10 more minutes. Remove from heat. Add beaten eggs and rice and mix well.  Set aside while you prepare the cabbage leaves.

Carefully peel off each cabbage leaf, keeping them as intact as possible. Some of them may tear just a bit, but that’s okay – they will all come together when you roll them. You may need to slice each leaf at the thick rib near the core to remove them. Remove at least 2 dozen leaves and then chop up the rest of the cabbage.

In two 13 x 9 baking dishes, drop a tablespoon or so of tomato sauce in the bottom of each dish and swirl it around.  Add chopped cabbage.This gives you a base layer of tomato sauce to put your rolls on and helps keep the cabbage from browning too much.

Preparing the cabbage rolls

Take a cabbage leaf and fill with a couple of healthy tablespoons of stuffing mix. Fold in edges and roll as tightly as possible without tearing the leaves. Place prepared roll, seam-side down, in the prepared baking dish. Repeat with remaining leaves and stuffing.

Cover baking dishes with lids or foil and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for an hour. Remove covers and bake for 10 more minutes.

lola-rugula-how-to-make-stuffed-cabbage-rolls-recipe

Voila! Yes, these are a bit of work but they’re seriously worth it.

I like to make mine with a combination of beef and pork for 2 reasons – one is that I like the mix of flavors and two that it makes this dish a little lighter and healthier. If you prefer beef over pork or vice versa, feel free to add what you prefer.

I’m not a fan of all the added sugar that pervades our food these days but it’s definitely key, along with the vinegar, in this recipe. The sweet and sour aspect of the sauce is what makes these flavorful and unique.

I hope if you catch any missed steps or not-clear points, you’ll let me know. These aren’t nearly as complicated as they sound, really just time-consuming.

Oh, and if you like stuffing things, here’s my steamed dumpling recipe, here’s my homemade classic ravioli recipe, and here’s my mushroom ravioli recipe.

Never, ever be afraid to play with your food! Enjoy!