“Carnival Lasagna” from “Jamie Cooks Italy”

When we saw the name of this dish– Carnival Lasagna– it seemed the perfect thing to make as we head into the final weeks/days/hours of Andrew being at home before he heads off to the great adventure that is university life. Who doesn’t love a carnival? And indeed, this dish seems perfect for a big family gathering or a party. More pertinently, a carnival might also be just what we need as we all get a bit wistful about his departure.

We set aside a Sunday afternoon to get this done. You could just tell by looking at the three pages of photographs and one full page of instructions this was going to be a PROJECT. We were fine with that, because after all, isn’t that what Sunday afternoons are for?

It was a team effort. You have to make pasta dough for the lattice on the top, which Tim made. You also have to make meatballs and tomato sauce to layer in, which I made. We both kept an eye on the kilo of spaghetti we had to cook to put inside. Assembly was also largely a team effort.

You can imagine the relief we felt when it was finally time to eat. We figured it would be good, and we also figured that everyone would love it, given the ingredients.

The verdict? “This is just basically just spaghetti and meatballs, in pie form,” Andrew said after one bite. That’s really not the reaction we were hoping for after hours of cooking. But he was right. Even so, it was delicious, and it was even better as leftovers for lunch the next day.

This truly would be the perfect meal for a huge gathering of people. You could make it ahead of time, and put it in the oven when the guests arrive. Then once it’s time to eat, all you have to do is bake it and slice it. The picture above doesn’t really do it justice, but trust me, it’s a dramatic dish.

But when I make it again, I’ll modify some of the more fiddly bits. The meatballs, which are fried and then poached in the tomato sauce, were really good, but it took an age to fish them out of the tomato sauce. So the next time, I’ll just roast the meatballs like I always do, and then toss them in a bit of tomato sauce before layering them in– that will be much easier. Although the pie would be fine without the lattice on the top, it does add something extra to the dish, so I guess I would do that again. The next time I’d also add more prosciutto and cheese to the dish, but that’s just down to personal preference.

All in all, it was an excellent way to kick off a month of Italian eating with Jamie Oliver.

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“Carnival Lasagna” from “Jamie Cooks Italy”

“Meatballs Marsala with Egg Noodles and Chives” from “Smitten Kitchen Every Day”


Lucky for us, the first time I made this dish, I forgot to take a picture.

Our family were more than willing to give this another go, given how much they all liked it the first time. Regular readers will know that it’s highly unusual for us to return to something in less than a month, so I think that speaks to how good this was.  I kept calling it Swedish meatballs with noodles, but that’s not exactly right. It’s really a modification of Swedish meatballs with noodles, but no matter what you call it, it’s delicious.

I had to make a few changes to the recipe from the outset. First, she calls for minced chicken. I just couldn’t be asked to mince some chicken, so I bought some ready-made minced turkey instead. I can’t see how that would make much of a difference. Also, Deb calls for wide egg noodles, but I couldn’t find any in my local stores (this might be down to wide egg noodles being a readily found ingredient in the U.S., but not so much here in the U.K.) So I used fresh fettucine noodles instead. Those worked wonderfully.

The second time I made this, I made a few more modifications to the recipe to make it better and/or easier. The first thing I did is I doubled the amount of sauce she calls for in the recipe. Sure, it probably would be healthier for my family if we let up on the butter-and-double-cream sauce, but it was great to have plenty in which to drown both our meatballs and our noodles. There’s nothing worse than not having enough sauce. (We had a bit leftover, which I plan to turn into something delicious for lunch tomorrow.)

The other thing I did was rather than pan frying the meatballs, as per the instructions, I roasted them for 15 minutes instead. This made my life easier as I got on with making the sauce, but also meant that I didn’t have to dirty up another pan. Once they were roasted, I finished them off in the sauce.

Would we have them again? You bet. In fact, as he was hoovering up his dinner, Andrew turned to me and said, “I think this is something you’re going to need to teach me how to make for next year.” High praise indeed.

If you’d like to make this yourself, Shutterbean has the recipe. Click through here to find it.

Alternatively, if you’re in the mood for traditional Swedish meatballs, our fine friends from NYT Cooking have a recipe. Click here to see it. 

Or if you live near an Ikea, you now have a hankering for Swedish meatballs and you don’t feel like cooking (we’ve all been there), get yourself down there. Just search “Ikea” on Google Maps.

“Meatballs Marsala with Egg Noodles and Chives” from “Smitten Kitchen Every Day”

“Meatballs with Orzo” from “At My Table”

I was very much looking forward to cooking this recipe, as Nigella created a similar dish in “Nigellissima” that is eaten by this family so often that it’s practically in our food canon.

“Fake Risotto” (see the original post here and see the follow up post here) is so beloved that I’ve already taught 18-year-old Andrew how to make it so when he’s at university next year, he’ll be able to make it for himself.

Alas, this recipe had big shoes– or should that be bowls?– to follow, and it didn’t quite fill them.

To be sure, it was delicious. However, given that you make the meatballs and then poach them in the tomato sauce before finally adding the orzo, it takes more than an hour from start to finish. If I wanted to do something that labour intensive, I’d just make our very favourite meatballs and tomato sauce from Polpo.

It was good, I just won’t be making it again. I’ll either make the original fake risotto if I only have 15 minutes, or Polpo’s meatballs and tomato sauce if I’ve got more than an hour.

“Meatballs with Orzo” from “At My Table”

“Lamb Meatballs with Herbed Yogurt” from Dinner: Changing the Game”

In the past, people have noted that they can tell how much we love a cookbook by how early and often we post recipes. While that’s often true, that is not the case this month.

Even though it’s already the 13th of the month and this is the first review I’ve posted, I’ve already cooked at least eight dinners out of this book. I know it’s not the end of the month yet so I can’t give my final verdict, but I can say that it’s been a very tasty month so far. The reason why I haven’t posted as much as I would have liked is only because life (work, children, etc.) has gotten in the way. It happens.

We made these meatballs for Sunday night dinner (See how far behind I am? And when I say Sunday dinner, it wasn’t even this past Sunday!) and they were delightful. They were tasty but straightforward to make. They had an air of Ottolenghi about them– in the best possible way– but didn’t seem as much faff as many of his recipes.

Tim made Jamie’s chapatis to go with, which enabled the teenager to make multiple wraps with the meatballs and sauce, while enabling me to mop up the herby yogurt sauce.

Delicious. 10/10 would eat again. And happily.

If you’d like to try this yourself, Google Books has indexed “Dinner: Changing the Game” so you can find the recipe by clicking through this link.

“Lamb Meatballs with Herbed Yogurt” from Dinner: Changing the Game”

What We’re Eating Again: Pork & Beef Polpette with Basic Tomato Sauce from “Polpo”

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Polpo meatballs and tomato sauce is firmly on the list of our family’s high rotation meals. It’s such a favourite that it guarantees a round of cheers and applause when I announce that it’s for dinner.

With that sort of reception, why wouldn’t I make it all the time?

When I was looking up the previous post, I was surprised to see I’ve been making the Polpo meatballs since March 2013— almost four years ago. Though I suppose that also speaks to its staying power: we loved it then, and despite all the dinners I’ve made between now and then, including other meatball recipes, we love it still.

Unusually, I haven’t altered this recipe in any way. I follow it to the letter. The same goes for the tomato sauce, which is absolutely delicious. But the tomato sauce only happens when I’m forward thinking enough to get it started in the afternoon. You can get it done in an hour, but it really shines when you give the ingredients time to mix, mingle and get to know one another before serving it up.

Also, the yield on this recipe is enormous, but actually that’s a good thing. With all of the leftovers, I do one of three things: freeze the remaining, make meatball subs a few days later (yum! highly recommended) or put the meatballs on one of our pizzas on pizza night (also highly recommended).

Perhaps I’m being stupidly effusive about this recipe, but I can’t underplay how much my family loves it. You should try it. You won’t be disappointed.

You can find the recipe on issuu, where it has an extract of the Polpo cookbook. The meatballs are on page 22-23. Unfortunately, the recipe for the tomato sauce isn’t there.

What We’re Eating Again: Pork & Beef Polpette with Basic Tomato Sauce from “Polpo”

Cleaning Out the Refrigerator: Assorted Dinners from “Bread Street Kitchen”

OK Folks. November sort of got away from me, so I’ve got a few Bread Street Kitchen dinners to tell you about. So I’m cleaning out the refrigerator, so to speak, to show you some of the other things we ate in November.

Butterflied Chicken Breasts with Tomato and Olive Salsa

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This recipe was ACES. Everyone loved it. Sure, the tomato and olive salsa had a 1990s vibe about it, but that didn’t bother me. It was good to eat. Butterflying the chicken also made it quicker to cook, which is always a bonus when you’re trying to get dinner on the table on a weeknight. We would definitely eat this again.

Meatballs with Tomato Sauce

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I’m sorry to say that this recipe was less successful. The problem in this family is that everyone loves the Polpo meatballs, and it’s going to have to be a really extraordinary specimen to knock those meatballs out of the top spot. Unfortunately, the Bread Street Kitchen meatballs were not that extraordinary specimen. Don’t get me wrong: We’re always happy to have meatballs for dinner at our house. But it’s a sad day when we spend some of the dinner saying that we’re sorry it’s not the ones we usually have.

‘Njuda Tuna Steaks

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We first had ‘Njuda at Pizza Pilgrims in Soho more than two years ago and we haven’t looked back since. For those of you unfamiliar with this ingredient, ‘Njuda is an Italian delicacy that is a spicy sausage spread. Until now, we only ever dotted it on our pizza. But putting it on top of tuna steaks was absolute genius. Tuna is a bit bland to begin with, but once you add the ‘Njuda, it’s a whole new level of deliciousness. Yum. I will definitely be making this again for Fish Friday. Highly recommended.

Cleaning Out the Refrigerator: Assorted Dinners from “Bread Street Kitchen”

“Meatball Broth” from “A Year of Good Eating”

Is there anything better than a nice soup on a cold January night? I think not.

It was the perfect weeknight dinner for a cold January night when half of us had to be somewhere at 7 p.m.* and the other half of us got in from school/work late. We all have nights like that, and this fit the bill perfectly.

This is a very simple recipe with only seven ingredients. Take ready-made meatballs, fry them, fry some spring onions, grate 1/2 a head of celeriac and pop that in there too, add some thyme, beef stock and bring it all to a boil. Finish it off with some grated parmesan and you’re done.

The adults loved it. The teenagers and near teenagers? Not so much. When pressed the morning after, Nicholas, the near teenager at 12 years old said, “It reminded me of Benihana.” When I pointed out that he loved Benihana, he admitted that was true, but that he didn’t think Benihana would serve this. So I’m flummoxed as to why he did’t like it, but perhaps a little bit of mystery will make my life more exciting.

I really enjoyed paging through this book so far. It’s got several recipes that I’m eager to try, which is always a good sign. I know it’s going to be a long month when I struggle to find a selection of things I’d like to eat, but it looks like this isn’t one of those months.

I also very much appreciate the fact that it’s chronological, so I can see what he made and ate in January, when I know he’ll be using ingredients that will be available to me. For every season he’s also got a section of seasonal eats, which are quick and easy recipes that can be made. This recipe was taken from “Winter Eats.”

I’m hoping the success of this recipe portends a good month of eating. We’ll see.

*The lack of photos reflects the fact that I rushed out before they could be taken. Sorry. It’s a Cookbook A Month FAIL.

“Meatball Broth” from “A Year of Good Eating”