Cold Weather Comfort
Recipes and photos by Katherine Costello
One of the things I love most about Indiana is its intense changes from season to season. But January and February are more dormant, sluggish — and baby, it’s cold outside! To bring some comfort to the inside, here is a classic Italian meal.
I have wanted to share this ricotta-stuffed meatball recipe since I began working with Kit. It’s an instant classic, and although making the meatballs might seem tedious, it is well worth it. Once the meatballs are finished, I serve them on a bed of zucchini noodles — something new. Honey-roasted carrots and a roasted tomato and baby kale salad round out the menu. But don’t forget about the true fancy focus: dessert!
I used to purchase ricotta (used in both the meatball and cannoli recipes), but high-quality cheese is pricey and not always available. Inspired by the beauty of hand-dipped ricotta, I learned you can easily make it at home! While there are lots of online recipes, I adapted Ina Gartner’s version (barefootcontessa.com). The greatest benefit to making it yourself is the freshness, and the fact that you determine the quantity.
The homemade cheese can be sweetened, flavored and then used in a cannoli shell. While I have made shells in the past, they are quite the workout. I purchase them online now, giving me more time to choose filling flavors and dip the shells in white and dark chocolate. For this dinner, I went with strawberry, chocolate and matcha, and was truly pleased with them all.
I encourage you to make this Italian-themed supper for family, friends or anyone you wish to charm. Add a bottle of Chianti, and this meal is bound to perk up the winter doldrums.
- 1 pound grass-fed ground beef
- 1 pound Italian sausage
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 tablespoon pepper
- ½ cup chopped pistachios (optional)
- 1 pound ricotta (hand dipped or homemade, well drained)
- 1 egg, beaten
- 2 cups Italian bread crumbs
- 1½ cups cooking oil such as light olive oil or sunflower oil
- 1 16-ounce jar marinara sauce
- Cooked pasta, zucchini noodles or crust ciabatta, to serve
1| In a large bowl, mix the beef, sausage, salt and pepper with your fingertips, or use two forks. Divide the mixture into 10 balls (about 2.75 ounces each). Reserve a bit of the mixture in case you need to do some “patchwork” on the balls.
2| In a separate bowl, combine the chopped pistachios and ricotta.
3| Using the palm of your hand, flatten each meatball into a 3- to 4-inch circle. Place roughly 1 ounce (about 2 tablespoons) of the ricotta mixture onto each meatball. Fold the meat around the ricotta, and then carefully reshape it into a ball, gently rolling it in your hands. If needed, use the reserve mixture to patch the ball.
4| Roll each ball in the egg wash, and then coat with bread crumbs. Set aside.
5| Add oil to a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, but smoking, carefully add the meatballs to the skillet, just a few at a time. You don’t want your pan to get too hot, so turn it to medium as needed. Brown both sides of the meatball (about 7 minutes on each side). Set aside the finished meatballs.
6| Pour the marinara sauce into a medium-sized pan. Next, add the meatballs and coat them with the sauce. Cover and cook on low for 25 minutes. Serve over pasta or zucchini noodles, or as a sandwich on crusty ciabatta.
Oven-Roasted Tomato & Kale Salad
- 1 12-ounce clamshell of small or cherry tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, chopped
- 2 tablespoons freshly chopped herbs
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 12 ounces baby kale, washed
1| Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
2| Place the tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, herbs, balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper in a large bowl and mix well. Once combined, spread onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Bake until the tomatoes pop/split (about 10 minutes). Place the kale in a serving bowl; top the kale with the tomatoes and let sit 5 minutes. Toss and serve.
- 1 pound carrots (use baby carrots or whole carrots, cut in half vertically if thick and then sliced into 2-inch pieces)
- ¼ cup vegetable broth
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons honey
- Salt, to taste
1| To a shallow sauté pan, add the carrots and broth. Cook over medium heat until the broth reduces (about 9 minutes). Add the butter, honey and salt; continue to cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes.
- 10 cannoli shells
- 4 ounces white chocolate (optional, for dipping the shells)
- 4 ounces dark chocolate (optional, for dipping the shells)
- 1½ cups ricotta (preferably homemade or hand dipped)
- ½ cup powdered sugar
- ¾ cup whipped cream
- Strawberry Flavor
- ½ cup freeze-dried strawberries
- ½ cup dark chocolate ganache
- 1 teaspoon grated orange peel, to garnish
- 1 teaspoon matcha powder
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
1| To make the filling, set a mixer on low and blend the cheese. Gradually add the sugar, and then fold in the whipped cream and flavorings. A few notes on fillings: One of my favorite fillings uses chopped “gourmet” chocolate bars, such as Vosges. The filling is wonderful when it’s mixed with the bacon chocolate bar. For additional flavorings, use your imagination.
2| If you are dipping the shells in chocolate, microwave the chocolate in a bowl until melted. Dip the mouth of each shell to coat, and then set aside.
3| Spoon the filling into a pastry bag and fill each shell. You can also use a storage bag (just snip off the corner); or fill your cannoli with a spoon, but it is more time consuming.