Monday, January 19, 2009

easy yet elegant

100_2222There’s nothing like pasta and wine for a laidback weekend dinner. This recipe is fairly easy to put together, yet still nice enough to serve to dinner guests. Sweet basil and roasted cherry tomatoes are paired up with the hearty, juicy meatballs and gooey fresh mozzarella cheese! And what is better than that?

We also tried a new wine with this dish that paired really well: Layer Cake Malbec 2007. When you think of a layer cake you think of moist, chocolate cake, layered among rich, whipped butter cream, right? Well, if you can imagine, this Malbec actually has all those sweet and rich characteristics coming through the wine. I would have to say Layer Cake is the perfect name for this wine. Full of fruit and berry up front, yet rich with mocha and cocoa back notes as it goes down. It flowed beautifully with the sweetness of the basil and tomatoes and stood up to the heartiness of the meatballs. Make sure you serve this wine at 63-65 degrees at the most, because as it warms up the fruit disappears and more tobacco stands out. Weird as it sounds, serving wine at the right temperature makes all the difference in finding harmonious flavor notes and lip-smacking goodness in a wine.

Another great thing about this wine is that it was $15 at Trader Joe’s. I believe that most really great wines out there are $15 or less. You don’t have to spend a fortune on a wine to have it taste really great. Just experiment and find what kind of wine suites your palate. Don’t buy some $50 bottle of wine just because of the price tag and label. Make sure you speak to the store’s wine expert or sommelier before dropping that much cash. A lot of times they may have a personal pick of theirs that won’t break the bank. Don’t get me wrong, there are some amazing, really expensive wines out there (uh . .em . . Insignia), but it’s not necessary!


This says it all . . .

My old grandfather made and enjoyed wine for 80 years. He told me the soil in which the vines lived were a layer cake. He said the wine, if properly made, was like a great layer cake, fruit, mocha and chocolate, hints of spice and rich, always rich. ‘Never pass up a layer cake’, he could say. I have always loved those words.

A little candlelight to set the mood . . .


Pasta with Meatballs, Mozzarella and

Fresh Tomato Sauce



Serves 4-6

  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 pound ground beef (96 percent extra lean)
  • 1/4 cup plain dry breadcrumbs (I used a leftover ciabatta loaf and ground it in the food processor)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp Various spices like Italian herbs, herbs de provence, Mrs. Dash (whatever you have on hand)
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup white wine or low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved and seeds squeezed out
  • 8 ounces orecchiette pasta (looks like little ears)
  • 1/2 pint bocconcini (about 20 balls, cut in half)


  1. Set a large pot of salted water to boil. In a large bowl, combine turkey, breadcrumbs, garlic, egg, 1/4 cup Parmesan, 1/4 cup basil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and spices; mix to combine. Form mixture into about 1-in meatballs, or what size you prefer.
  2. In a large skillet, heat 1-2 tablespoons olive oil over medium. Add meatballs, and cook, turning occasionally, until browned all over and cooked through. You may have to do two batches.
  3. Whisk the wine or broth with the flour in a small bowl and add this mixture to the meatball pan and scrape up all the browned bits just until thickened.
  4. Place halved tomatoes on a foil-lined broiler pan and place under broiler until slightly charred and the skins start to come off, set aside.
  5. Meanwhile, cook pasta in boiling water until al dente, according to package instructions. Drain, return to pot. Add bocconcini, meatballs with sauce, tomatoes, and remaining 1/4 cup basil to the pasta. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese to your liking and serve with a yummy wine!



jamie said...

kristin - i love your blog!!! lucky fiance you have. hope you're doing well!

jamie kelvington

kristen :) said...

Thank you for visiting! I really appreciate it :) We need to get in touch, hope all is going well for you too

Meg Wolff said...

Hi Kristen,
I decided to come over for a visit and peruse your blog. Bon apetite!

VeggieGirl said...

Lovely meal!!

Thank you so much for your comment on my blog - love your blog, and I wish you luck with your RD studies!! :-)