Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Big Italian Dinner (including homemade bread!)

Today's post is about a big Italian meal!  Who doesn't love that!  Let me start by saying I am a carb-lover!  I don't care how fattening it may be.  My philosophy is I'd rather eat a little bit of something delicious, than a lot of something diet!  So, if you are afraid of carbs, look away! (not really, keep reading please)

The title of this post does not lie.  I made homemade Italian bread from scratch!  It wasn't as hard as I imagined.  In fact, it was empowering!  It made me feel like a super woman.  If I can make bread from scratch, I can do anything.  I can rule the world!  Ok, maybe not, but it felt great!

I'm going to start with the bread because, although it's easy, it does take time.  The dough has to rise twice.  So, do this on a day when you've got a few hours to spare.


1 cup warm water (use a thermometer to check that it is between 105 - 115 degrees)*
1 envelope (.25 oz) active dry yeast
2 1/2 - 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (you may not need it all)
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon cornmeal

*if you don't have a thermometer, use hot tap water - not boiling!  If it's not hot enough, the yeast won't rise and if it's too hot, it will kill the yeast.

Place 1/4 cup of the warm water in a large bowl.  Sprinkle yeast over the water.  Let stand 5 minutes or until the yeast is dissolved.  Add remaining water, 1 cup of the flour and salt.  Mix until well blended.  Stir in enough of the remaining flour to make a soft dough (not too sticky, not too dry).

Sprinkle some flour onto a board (or your counter top) and place dough on board.  Knead dough until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes.  (you knead by pressing the dough out, then folding it over on itself, then pressing it out again, give it a 1/4 turn and repeat)

Place dough in a bowl with a little bit of oil in it, turning dough to coat all over with the oil.  Cover with a clean dish towel and let rise in a warm place (I run my microwave empty for 2 minutes to warm it up, then put the dough in there to rise) until double in size, about 30-45 minutes.

Grease a baking sheet.  Sprinkle cornmeal on sheet.  Punch down the dough.  Place the dough onto the baking sheet and press it out into a (12 inch) circle.  Starting on one side, roll the dough into a loaf.  Pinch the seam to seal.  Taper the ends to form an oval loaf.  Cover with the clean dish towel and let rise until almost double in size, about 20 minutes. (your baking sheet probably won't fit in your microwave, so just set it on your stove top to rise)

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Make 3 slashes in the top of the loaf with a knife.  Bake until browned, about 25 minutes.  Transfer to a rack to cool a little bit.  I like to brush the top with a little melted butter before serving.

You can also use this recipe to make Dinner Rolls.  On the step where you form the circle of dough, form 8 rolls instead.  Then put them onto the prepared baking dish, cover and let rise.  You wouldn't bake them as long, just until browned, maybe 15 minutes or so.  I've never tried rolls, so not sure of an exact bake time.  Just keep an eye on the them.

On to the spaghetti.  Since I made the bread from scratch, I took a little help on the meat sauce.  It uses store bought marinara as a base.  But, don't worry, I doctor it up so it tastes homemade!


1/2 lb ground beef
2 links mild Italian sausage (remove the casings)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 jar marinara sauce (your favorite spaghetti sauce)
1 (15oz) can crushed tomatoes (or diced)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup sugar (I like a sweet sauce-if you don't, just use 2 TBS sugar - you still need a little to balance the acidity of the tomatoes)
salt and pepper
3 big leaves fresh basil
1 lb spaghetti

In a large skillet or pot, brown ground beef and crumbled sausage.  Drain fat.  Add garlic and cook for a few minutes.  Add jar of sauce, can of crushed tomatoes, 1/2 the tomato can of water, sugar and Parmesan cheese.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Meanwhile, cook spaghetti.  When sauce is done, take off the heat and stir in the torn fresh basil.  Stir a bit of the sauce into the cooked and drained spaghetti (this will keep it from sticking together).  Serve sauce over spaghetti.

Easy and delicious.  Tastes like it took all day.


1 pkg Romaine hearts, washed and chopped (or use the packaged pre-washed romaine)
1 large can sliced black olives
Italian dressing
Parmesan cheese

Place romaine lettuce and olives in a large bowl.  Dress with Italian dressing and toss.  Top with Parmesan cheese.  That's it.  Quick and easy!

So, if you're in the mood for a big Italian dinner, give these recipes a try.  Put them on the table, gather the family and (as my old school Italian husband would say)   Mangia!

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