It’s been a few months since we’ve done any significant traveling. I spent my first ever night in Vegas over New Years (that was an experience) and perused the Southwest with my family for a few days in what’s become an unofficial January tradition. We went from boozy mania to rolling hills and quiet roads. I’ll post some tidbits from this time soon. Winter has made me exponentially lazier than ever.
I have begun to force myself to go on walks at lunchtime any day that the temp is above freezing. I brace for the piercing wind in order to get 5 seconds away from my desk so that my legs don’t atrophy. Winter months without travel are most definitely the hardest, when the cold zaps your energy and being indoors kills your creativity.
Time to retreat to my kitchen and fill up on carbs for the dark months. This was my very first attempt at homemade pasta and I was pleasantly surprised that it didn’t turn into a gooey mess. It’s not as hard as you think, but more time consuming. Better as a Saturday dinner than something to tackle after a long work day.
The meatballs and sauce are full of flavor and guaranteed to fuel your winter soul. Enjoy!
Homemade Pasta with Balsamic Glazed Turkey Meatballs, Sauteed Mushrooms & Tomato Cream Sauce
-1 lb. Lean ground turkey
-3-4 shallot bulbs
-3-4 cloves minced garlic
-1 tablespoon Honey
-Balsamic vinegar (generous splash)
-1/3 of a 6oz container of fat-free plain Greek yogurt
-A few sprinkles of flour
-A few handfuls of shredded parmesan
-2 cups flour
-3 medium eggs + 1 egg yolk (4 total)
-1 tablespoon olive oil
-28 oz whole canned plum tomatoes
-3 tablespoons butter
-3 cloves minced garlic
-Several spoonfuls of the same Greek yogurt from above
-Parmesan cheese to taste.
-Maple sugar (if you have it!), garlic powder, pepper & salt
-8 oz plain white mushrooms, chopped into slices
-Olive oil (use the same pan used to cook the garlic and shallots for the turkey)
This dinner requires a lot of moving parts. Because multitasking while cooking stresses me out, I cooked the meatballs and mushrooms ahead of time, followed later by the fresh pasta dough, and finally, the sauce. I also had an entire day of errands to avoid, so spacing out the cooking was easy. I’ll do my best to break up the timing of the various meal elements for those brave enough to tackle it in one marathon shot. You’ll need a pasta roller.
Put 1 tablespoon of butter and the garlic for the tomato sauce in a small saucepan and place over medium heat until it begins to sizzle. Add the tomatoes along with all canned juices and generous sprinkles of the salt/pepper/garlic powder/maple seasonings. Use a knife and fork to cut up all tomatoes into small, chunky pieces within the pot.
Put the heat on very low and allow to simmer uncovered while everything else gets cooked (total simmer time: about 40min). Every so often, add more butter to the sauce for a total of 3 tablespoons and stir frequently. It will take a while to develop a concentrated flavor, so be sure it stays at a low simmer so that it doesn’t boil away. Towards the end of the cook time, add salt or seasoning to taste. As you cook the rest (meatballs in particular), add little crusty pieces of shallot or garlic from other cooking into the sauce. Don’t waste anything!
Pre-cook the garlic and shallots for the turkey meatballs in a large pan with olive oil. Don’t overcook them, just heat until everything is fragrant and the garlic is cooked through but not burnt. Add the garlic and shallots to large mixing bowl and let cool. Add the turkey meat, egg, yogurt, honey, parmesan, balsamic vinegar, little flour, and salt. Mix well. Add more flour if the mixture is too damp to form into meatballs. Set aside.
Before cooking the meatballs, cook the mushrooms in the pan used for the garlic and shallots (scrape off any burned bits first). Add a splash of olive oil and cook the mushrooms for about 10 minutes, stirring and flipping them, until the water evaporates and they begin to shrink and brown. If any liquid gathers in the pan, scoop it out with a spoon. Once the mushrooms are nearly cooked, splash balsamic vinegar in the hot pan and swirl it around to cover all mushrooms. Cook another minute and remove.
PASTA TIME. I used the mix-it-right-on-the-table method. Apologies in advance to my kitchen and my fiance, who will inevitably find flour in the dusty crevices of our home for the next few weeks.
Make the flour into a little “bowl” on a clean surface and crack your 3 eggs and 1 egg yolk into the center. Add the oil and salt, and gently fold the ingredients together. Kneed your dough for 10 min (serious bicep workout), and then let it rest on the table for at least 30 min wrapped in plastic wrap.
Take our your pasta roller and latch it onto the counter. Cut the dough into 8 small pieces and roll those into individual balls. One at a time, roll the dough balls through the roller section of the pasta maker 3 times on each of the widest settings, and then 2 times on each of the more narrow settings, ending with setting 2 or 3 depending on how thin you want the pasta (I used 3). This allows the dough to be rolled thin gradually.
Take your flattened pieces and run them through the slicing attachment set for pappardelle sized strips. I doused my sliced pasta strips in flour and set in little piles, rearranging them once and a while to avoid sticking. However, I will say that my final product was a tad doughier than I expected. Coating in cornmeal, if you have it, might be better than flour, would prevent it from absorbing back into the pasta, and would drop off when it’s boiled. I have no qualms about sharing both my successes and failures!
Cook the pasta in salted water for about 4 minutes, or until pasta is al dente (fresh pasta cooks much quicker than boxed). Apparently fresh pasta gets tougher before getting soft while cooking, so be aware when tasting. Drain.
Wipe out the pan used for cooking the mushrooms and make sure there are no burned bits. Add olive oil and set on medium. Cook meatballs (form into cocktail size) until lightly browned on all sides. I like to splash the pan with a little water and cover the meatballs for 30 seconds to get them nice and juicy. Don’t overcook. Remove and let meatballs drain on paper towel.
Taste the tomato sauce. If it is flavorful, add all of the mushrooms and any residual juices into the pot. Mix and allow to cook another couple minutes.
Drain any excess oil from the meatball pan, and toss meatballs back in over medium heat. As soon as the pan is hot, add a splash of balsamic vinegar and toss to coat all meatballs. Allow to cook for 1-2 minutes with a lid on (don’t overcook or they’ll dry out). Remove.
Remove the tomato sauce from the heat and swirl in the yogurt and parmesan cheese. Stir to melt. Spoon the hot sauce and mushrooms over a plate of pasta with meatballs on top. Homemade pasta has the most satisfying chew to it and you’ll have a hard time going back to boxed.
Sprinkle with a little extra parm and watch the snow (sleet) fall.