Writing is something I truly love doing. Along with writing Rosie’s Riveting Recipes, I write contemporary romance novels under the name Marina Martindale. Each of my novels includes a scene in which a character cooks something wonderful, and I include the recipe at the back of the book.
This recipe is from my first romance novel, The Reunion. I love Italian wedding soup, so Larry, a seventeen-year-old aspiring chef, has prepared it for his ailing brother, saying it’s his grandmother’s recipe. In reality, however, this recipe is my own creation. It comes from a combination of several different Italian wedding soup recipes, along with a little trial and error.
Larry’s ITALIAN WEDDING SOUP
For the meatballs
1 pound ground beef*
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning blend
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Preheat oven to 350F. Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and knead together like a meatloaf. Roll into small meatballs, about 1/2 to 1 inch in diameter. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until brown. Set aside.
For the soup
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 medium sized yellow onion, chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
3 carrots, peeled and sliced (optional)
2 stalks celery, sliced (optional)
I package of fresh mushrooms (optional)
10 cups, (2 1/2 quarts) chicken stock
1/2 cup dry white wine (such as Chardonnay)
1 egg, well beaten
1 cup small pasta (such as stars or small sea shells)
2 teaspoons salt (if desired)
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon dill
12 ounces fresh spinach, washed and trimmed**
While the meatballs are baking saute the onion, garlic, carrots, celery, (if desired), and fresh mushrooms, (if desired), in olive oil in a stockpot for approximately 5 to 6 minutes. Add chicken stock and white wine and bring to a boil. Once the soup mixture is boiling beat egg in a small mixing bowl with a whisk until slightly frothy. Pour egg slowly and incrementally into soup mixture, whisking the soup mixture continuously until all of the egg has been added. Add pasta, salt, (if desired) and pepper and allow mixture to simmer for about 6 to 8 minutes, or until pasta is soft. Add meatballs and dill. Cover and simmer on low for another 10 minutes. Add spinach and simmer for another 1 to 2 minutes before serving. Once soup is ladled into bowls top with grated Parmesan cheese.
* Ground chicken or ground turkey may also be used, or 1/2 pound of your favorite ground meat can be mixed with 1/2 of ground pork.
**Frozen or canned spinach may be substituted for fresh spinach
When I’m not in the kitchen I write romance novels under the pen name Marina Martindale. So far, each novel has included a scene where my characters enjoy a home cooked meal, and I include the recipe in the back of the book.
In my second novel, The Deception, leading man Alex has just been reunited with Carrie, his long-lost childhood friend. When he comes to her apartment to prepare dinner for her, he makes his mother’s macaroni and cheese; their favorite childhood dish.
They say art imitates life, and macaroni and cheese is one of my favorite childhood dishes too. Problem was, I had no family recipe, and, ding, ding, ding, I’d been buying the prepackaged mac and cheese dinners for years. I confess. It was a bad habit I picked up back when I was a starving college student, and the time had come to break it. So I compiled several different recipes, did some test runs and tweaks, and soon came up with a mac and cheese recipe that was absolutely delicious. No wonder Alex and Carrie loved it. You will too.
ALEX’S MACARONI & CHEESE
2 cups macaroni, cooked and drained
2 1/2 cups milk
1 cup sour cream
2 1/2 cups grated Mexican cheese blend
(or 2 1/2 cups cheddar)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 tablespoons butter, divided
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/3 cup breadcrumbs
Preheat oven to 350F and cook pasta in boiling water for 8 to 10 minutes. Drain. While pasta is cooking whisk milk and sour cream together in a medium-sized mixing bowl and add seasonings. Set aside. Chop two tablespoons of butter into small pieces. Chill in refrigerator until needed. Melt remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in a small mixing bowl. Add breadcrumbs, blend thoroughly and set aside.
Layer half of the cooked and drained macaroni, butter and cheese into an 8 x 8 inch baking dish. Top with the remaining macaroni, butter and cheese. Pour in the milk mixture and sprinkle the breadcrumbs on top. Bake for approximately 30 to 40 minutes, or until the top is crispy and brown.
If desired, ham or sausage may be added. Low-fat milk, sour cream and cheeses may also be used. Penne pasta may also be used instead of elbow macaroni.
I usually make my spaghetti sauce from scratch, but every once in awhile I’ll get a hankering for spaghetti and meatballs and I simply don’t have the time to prepare my signature sauce. That’s when I have to get creative, and I’ve came up with a tasty alternative. It takes about thirty minutes to prepare, and it’s delicious.
QUICK IMPROMPTU SPAGHETTI AND MEATBALLS
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning blend
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 pound extra lean ground beef
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 (14 1/2 oz) cans Italian style diced tomatoes*
2 small (6 ounce) cans tomato paste
splash of red wine
one small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced**
salt and pepper to taste
Blend bread crumbs, Italian seasoning, black pepper, egg and ground beef together in a large mixing bowl and knead until well blended. Break off small pieces of meat mixture and roll into 1-inch diameter meatballs. Place meatballs on a plate. Pour olive oil in a large, deep skillet or saute pan. Turn stove on medium and heat the oil for about two minutes. Add meatballs, onions and garlic and stir frequently but very gently until meatballs are browned on all sides.
Add canned tomatoes, tomato paste, salt and pepper to taste, and a splash of red wine. Blend well, being careful not to break the meatballs. Once sauce starts to bubble reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. (If sauce is too thick add a little more wine or a small amount of water.) While sauce is simmering prepare your favorite pasta according to package directions. Yields approximately 24 meatballs.
*If using plain canned tomatoes add two teaspoons Italian seasoning to sauce.
**1 teaspoon of garlic powder may be substituted for fresh garlic.