Pasta, Books, and Irish Coffee

Last week, I shared my exhaustive list of work responsibilities. Want to see our non-work activities?

On Sunday, we decided to showcase Steve’s new pasta-making talents. He made two pounds of fettuccini. I made a sauce with meatballs, and we invited the family to the house for dinner.

Over the weekend, I set up a photo shoot for hundreds of new books that I bought for $55 last month. I need to get rid of them. Not my usual stuff.

And we went out with good friends to a local Irish pub and got into a great conversation with the pub owner over the merits of Roe and Co whiskey.


22 thoughts on “Pasta, Books, and Irish Coffee

    1. Can’t claim to be authentically Italian, here – but I’ve *never* floured meatballs before frying them….


  1. No flour here. But there is a lot of other variation in my family – some fry them first (me), others bake them first, some plop them into the sauce raw and let them cook in there.

    Also, there’s a lot of variation about the ingredients. Well, we all do the meatball mix – beef, pork and veal. But some add bread soaked in milk, others panko, others use flavored bread crumbs (me).

    People will have heated debates about these matters, but it all tastes awesome.


      1. I’m not defending a family recipe. I use Lydia’s recipes for my meatballs. My grandmother couldn’t get that quality of ingredients without a ton of trouble, so she used only beef. But to cook meat in liquid without browning first is just wrong.


      2. I don’t know about always, but the meatball recipe is very robust against my general tendency to not measure stuff. She has you season some flour and roll the meatballs in it before pan frying (before cooking in the sauce). It’s easy enough, but if you try to re-roll a meatball with flour on your fingers, it is a mess.


      3. Hilarious! I grew up with the meatballs plunked raw into the sauce. If they are flavorful enough it works. Also my mom’s sauce was super flavorful so it worked. But as an adult I’ve tasted the glory of frying them first. I’m often too lazy though.


    1. I fry them (to colour and get that delicious umami taste) then finish by baking in the oven – which makes them deliciously tender.
      When I make chicken mince meatballs – I do them completely in the oven, since they have a tendency to break apart in the pan.

      The passion aroused by the correct way to cook family recipes amuses me…
      I recently had an elderly gentleman corner me at a party, and tell me that he had the only correct way to cook scrambled eggs! I said Ooooh Kayyyyy and backed away….


      1. Have you seen this? “The Scrambled Egg Technique That Impressed J. Kenji López-Alt”E

        Then you could have given the elderly gentleman an earful.

        “For my next batch, I brought a mere three tablespoons of cream to a simmer in a nonstick skillet, then reduced the heat and drizzled in my beaten eggs. I let them sit in the pan for about 15 seconds, then very gently started stirring with a silicone spatula. I got excited as I stirred, noting how some of the eggs were already set into distinct ribbons, while the still-liquid eggs combined with the cream and slowly thickened into a custardy sauce that coated the ribbons. “


  2. In my house we have the story of the giant meatball, which is what happened when a man and a boy growing up in a house without women in the 1970s prepare meatball[s] with the goal of getting as much food as possible without attention to the details of food preparation.

    I grew up with carefully prepared food where the details of the order that you put in the spices in the saute mattered (though I learned nothing) so sometimes we have conflict over the giant meatball technique.


  3. I am not a huge fan of meatballs. It’s funny, having kids made me realize I have sensory issues; I tend to avoid recipes that call for sticky hands. If I were to put that much handwork into something, I’d make dumplings.

    The beauty of being an adult is that you can plan the menus.


    1. But, this says you don’t like making meatballs, not that you don’t like eating them!

      There’s no animal product that I am comfortable preparing, but I still eat meat/bird/fish.


      1. I’d happily eat someone else’s meatballs, but I wouldn’t order them in a restaurant. I make meatloaf other people like, but it wouldn’t be my choice. Other foods I don’t like: Flan. Scallops. Some chocolate tortes.

        I’m ok with very similar dishes, so it’s a narrow range. Jello, peanut butter, clams, quiche, are all fine for me. My children did keep trying to like pudding and jello. It just didn’t work out for them, which I suspect is related to texture.

        But, while we’re talking food, did you know that cricket flour can trigger shellfish allergies, and maybe also dust mite allergies?

        I really hope cricket flour is not added to prepared foods without stringent warnings. The EU is adding it to food products:

        This is a catastrophe. I have relatives and friends with food allergies. One poor child is allergic to sesame, which is in everything. My relative with shellfish allergy wouldn’t be able to trust common foodstuffs. I spent significant time reading ingredient labels before the labeling standards were improved. As I’m allergic to dust mites, I will need to return to that practice.


  4. Cranberry said, “I am not a huge fan of meatballs.”

    My household’s philistine take on this is that both meatballs and dumplings are the sort of thing that makes the most sense to pre-make and freeze under factory conditions.

    We have started doing store dumplings as an easy Sunday night dinner.


  5. I am intrigued by the blind taste tests I’ve been seeing in the newspapers of prepared foods. Wash Post did one on bottled marinara sauces (Rao’s, which is our go-to) won. The NYTimes did blind taste tests on premium frozen pizza, but they focused on pizza I don’t see on our shelves. I love blind taste tests (as well as double blind experiments and drug trials and RCT experiments). I want to see more even though they have limits.

    I like food to be right, but am not willing to cook it myself, so it’s useful to see what’s the best of the premade stuff. Tastes are individual (say, the top pizza had a sourdough crust, and I don’t like sourdough).


    1. We periodically have blind taste tests here (usually in the context of one of the reality food/cooking shows).
      Almost always the product which wins, is one I don’t care for. I did wonder if it was just me being a food snob – so I tried a couple of them. And figured out the common factor: sugar. Almost all of the products which are generally popular have more sugar in them, than I enjoy (some have *huge* amounts of sugar).
      Not talking here about jams (though, I prefer a tart conserve), but tomato sauces, mustards, mayo, etc.

      Taste is really individual. Just because a panel like it best, doesn’t mean you will.


    2. These are foodies doing the judging, and, I think maybe a bit less susceptible to the sugar issue than the average eater (I think). But, it’s definitely the case that their tastes don’t have to agree with mine, even if they are the expert. In this case, their choice, Rao’s, is also ours, so I was definitely engaging in confirmation bias.

      I remember an episode where two restauranteurs in Key West made key lime pie, one using key limes and the other using key lime syrup. The syrup version won hands down, even though the eater was a foodie (though maybe not a key lime expert). As with the tomatoes, potentially, the available key limes might not have been the “best”, while the syrup might have averaged the quality (or even used the best), but, it’s also possible that sugar is what matters. I do think, maybe, that the tomatoes people judge the best might be the sweetest.


  6. I have made a lot of tomato sauce – living in the midwest with a good CSA plus neighbors and friends who grow tomatoes – and my conclusion is that only the cherry tomato sauce is better than something like Rao’s. These fresh tomatoes are the best thing in the entire world (maybe second to fresh peaches or pears), and the marinara I make is perfectly fine, but nothing out of this world.


  7. I haven’t made my own sauce from fresh tomatoes, but I would like to try sometime. We haven’t had a great haul of tomatoes in our home garden in a while. I think we need to move the garden to a sunnier section of the yard.


    1. My grandma’s never used fresh tomatoes. The whole idea was sauce made from a dried tomato puree-thing, which is what they had in Sicily. The recipe was easily adapted to tomato paste (which is what we had in rural Nebraska). Even if someone grew fresh tomatoes, they were the wrong kind. Always beefsteak or similar, not Roma.


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