**For more #FeelGood stories, check out my blog page!**
Many of you who followed my Lenten Fast from pasta, were curious as to how I would end the fast. What would I eat first? Would I eat everything?
Here's the deal, I love pasta a LOT...so much so that I ate way too much of it when I could. Which was probabaly the reason why I could never maintain significant weight loss. Now, I have learned over the years to pace myself when it comes to pasta, but there were still plenty of occassions I found myself face first in a pot of spaghetti. So this fast really was a challenge for me to see, if I could really go 46 days without it and if after that I could learn to moderate it going forward. After all, my skinniest was when I was a kid and young adult, when I was eating pasta as a meal really just once a week (that big Sunday family dinner) and maybe as a side dish one day during the week.
Not gonna lie, this was a really hard challenge and I was worried that first day I would just shove as much pasta in my mouth as I could, but that didn't happen.
My plan to break my fast was to either have the Pappardelle Bolognese from the Anaheim White House, but they're closed right now, and since it was Easter, so I decided to do what I do best, make my own Sunday Gravy and meatballs at home and make some Lasagna (or Lasagne if you prefer) for hubby and I.
What's interesting is that I didn't make the lasagna the moment I woke up on Sunday, which actually surprised my husband, he was convinced that we would be eating pasta by 11am, but I wanted to continue to challenge myself and just take my time, which is exactly what I did and it worked out perfectly. I had one really nice heafty slice that day (my only real 'meal' that day), savored every bite, and did NOT overdo it on pasta for the first time in a long time. I had another piece the next day. The rest hubby got.
You can check out the pics in my social posts below. In addition, as a thank you to all of you who have supported me, I've put the recipe for both my grandma's Sunday Gravy and meatballs below so you can make it for everyone you love. Mangia, Mangia!
NANA'S SUNDAY GRAVY....According to Nana, it's just 'sauce' until you add the meat, when you add the meat, it's 'gravy!'
What you'll need:
- 2 garlic cloves, minced (or buy the pre-chopped or minced, use 2 teaspoons if you do that)
- 1/2 onion, minced or chopped (depends on how you like it...and if you're like me, who likes onions a lot, I use a whole onion)
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 4 cans (28 oz) crushed tomatoes (my favorite is Cento) San Marzano tomatoes are the best to use...most flavorful
- 1 can (6-8oz) tomato paste (again Cento)
- 1 Tablespoon sugar (use just under a tablespoon)
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons dried basil (you can also chop some fresh basil instead if you like, use a little more if you use fresh) I like a lot of basil
**if you want a really 'chunky' tomato sauce use 3 cans of crushed tomatoes and one can of whole peeled tomatoes...before adding the can of peeled tomatoes crush them with your hands, just squeeze them until they're not whole anymore and add them to the sauce. My nana swore by this **
In a large, deep pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat and fry the onion until soft...add garlic, let that fry until just brown (but don't let it burn!)
Add ALL the cans of tomatoes, fill one empty can with warm water and add that to the pot as well, stir well. Add one can of tomato paste and stir.
Add, basil, sugar and some salt and pepper (go easy on salt and pepper, you can add a little more later to taste) Bring to a boil, then turn down to simmer, let simmer on LOW for 3 hours....it should be barely bubbling because you don't want it to burn, so go back every 15 minutes or so to stir it...make sure it doesn't stick.....if it's too thick for your liking, add a little water to it.
Meanwhile, make the sausage and meatballs!
If you can't get fresh, sweet Italian sausage from an italian store, Get a package of Johnsonville Sweet Italian sausage (it's really good) and fry the links in a pan on medium heat until they're done...take them out of the pan, add a little bit of water to the bottom of the pan and scrape the pan of the bits....put it in the sauce (trust me...)
Cut the links in half and add them to the sauce (which is now 'gravy' since you just added meat!)
WHAT YOU NEED FOR NANA'S MEATBALLS: (this will make 24 meatballs, but if you're gonna make them make the entire batch because they freeze well!)
- 2 lbs ground beef (15% fat)
- 1/2 lb ground PORK
-OPTIONAL- 1/4 pound ground filet mignon...most butchers will look at you like you're nuts and you don't 'need' it but it brings the level of the meatballs up from amazing, to super amazing
- 2 cups bread crumbs, (Progresso Italian style is what I use, but any will do fine)
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup milk (2%)
- 1/4 cup parsley
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 cup grated cheese (parmesean/ romano blend)
- 2 garlic cloves chopped (or get the pre-chopped minced or chopped garlic, just 2 teaspoons of that)
- 1/2 onion, minced or chopped finely
- salt/ pepper to taste
Let meat sit out until room temp (usually about 40 minutes)
Heat oven to 380 degrees. **When I have time, I will fry the meatballs, but it's more time consuming and I've found that baking them works almost as well...frying them is a 'little' better**
In a large bowl, take the beef and pork and mix together well with your hands.
Add, bread crumbs, eggs, milk, parsley, olive oil, grated cheese, garlic and onion...mix well, really squeeze it through your hands (nana swore by this as well) Add a little salt and pepper (maybe 1/2 teaspoon of each) and mix well again.
Now this is going to sound silly, but it works... let the mixture SIT for a half hour (put a paper towel over the bowl)
After that half hour, take a large cookie sheet with a rim of at least 1/4 inch, spray lightly with PAM set near the bowl. (If you're going to fry them, fill a fry pan with enough oil to cover half the meatball...and let the oil get hot...)
Shape the mixture into meatballs (you may need to run a little bit of water in the sink and every once in a while dip your hand quickly under it because the mixture is a little sticky, but that's the sign of a good meatball mixture), try to make them each a little larger than golf ball size and you should get about 24 evenly shaped ones. Place them each in the pan as you go...
(Again, if you're frying them instead, when the oil gets hot, put the meatballs in, let them fry on one side, then turn...then fry on the 2nd side until they're done, then put them on a paper towel to drain, then add to the sauce)
Once done with shaping all the meatballs, place pan in oven and let cook on 380 for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, turn your oven to BROIL...and let broil for 5-8 minutes so they get a nice crust (just like you'd get if you fried them)
Remove from oven, let sit for 10 minutes on the stove.... after that, add as many meatballs to the sauce as you need.
Let remaining ones cool, put in a freezer bag and freeze for use later...the good thing about this is that they're quick to defrost if you want a couple for something later in the week or add to another sauce sometime, etc.
Let gravy cook for another hour or two for maximum taste!
I usually take all the meat out of the gravy before serving and put it on a platter, separate from the pasta....
If making ravioli, be sure to put a little 'gravy on the bottom of the platter before adding ravioli in a single later...add more gravy, add more ravioli and so on. Same for lasagna...and if you're making that I would highly suggest using Polly-O ricotta if you can find it....trust me, if you can get it, try it, it's better than ANY OTHER ricotta I have ever used, but it's not easy to find here in LA, your best bet is Italian markets.
If you're making spaghetti or another kind of pasta, make sure after it's cooked to drain it (don't rinse it) and put it back in the pot with two pats of butter...add a little 'gravy' to it and mix, the sauce will stick to the pasta... then transfer pasta to a platter and add more 'gravy'... put extra 'gravy' on the table for anyone who wants more.