Panko Encrusted Meatballs over Alfredo Florentine Penne

Welcome to my first cooking blog post! Hopefully there will be many more to come after this.

Let me first tell you a little bit about why I am starting this. I grew up watching and helping my grandmother cook.  It was a great passion in her life, and to me she was one of the greatest chefs on the planet.   I never really got into cooking as a teenager or when I was a single adult.  But lately as an adult, with a wife and three kids, I find myself cooking a great deal.  Some of it is to save money on fast food and pizza, the other is because I’ve found I really enjoy it.

The goal of this blog is to take you through my cooking experience, as well as give me a place to make a pseudo cookbook.   I am not a trained chef, I’ve never been to culinary school, I don’t even remember taking a cooking class in high school.  Even though I’m pretty sure I had to… I don’t have mad knife skills and I am not a wealth of knowledge, I will probably tell you some things that I think are right and upon further research will probably be completely wrong.

I plan to share recipes that I know my family and I love to eat.  That includes my uber picky 2 year old Daiden,

Enough history, let’s talk about some food.

Panko Encrusted Meatballs with Alfredo Florentine Penne

Daiden and I make meatballs all the time, tonight we decided to make them with a Panko crust.  We had some Panko left over from cordon bleu, so we figured… Those would be great on meatballs too!

One of my things not being a trained cook, I don’t usually measure things, so giving you exacts to go off of will be difficult.  I’ll give you rough estimates… And in some cases odd measuring methods… I apologize in advance… It’s just how I roll.

Panko Encrusted Meatballs

  • 2 lbs ground beef
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 or 4 slices bread (we had 2 pieces of Texas toast left over from French toast)
  • 2 cloves garlic – Sliced
  • 3 seconds of olive oil (what? I counted to three while pouring, it’s probably about 2 cups)
  • 3 tablespoons Oregano
  • 3 tablespoons Basil – Chopped
  • A handful flat leaf parsley – Chopped
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 1 cup plain bread crumbs
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 3/4 cup parmesan cheese

We’ll start with the meatballs because they’ll take the longest.  We’re going to fry and bake our meatballs.   Doing both gives the meatball a nice crunch as well as helps seal a lot of the moisture in, similar to how you sear a good piece of steak.

Preheat your oven to 375.

In a large pan pour your oil, but don’t turn on the heat yet, we’re going to infuse our oil with the garlic.  Peel and slice your garlic nice a thin.  Then drop it in the cold oil and turn your heat to medium high.  By keeping the temp low and increasing it slowly, the oil will extract the flavor from the garlic.  Opposed to starting with high heat, which will just fry the garlic and seal the flavor within. You’ll want to extract the garlic before it starts to burn, burnt garlic is not a tasty treat.  Don’t throw these tidbits away we have big plans for it!

Chop bread into small cubes and place in a large mixing bowl with the milk and let them soak up the milk.   Then add your ground beef, oregano, cheese, parsley, basil, egg, a good bit salt and some pepper.  Grab those left over bits of garlic chop ’em real fine and toss those in the mix as well.  You’ll be tempted to just eat them… I ate one, they were delicious… like mini bagel crisps.

Once you have a ingredients in the bowl, remove all rings… You don’t want want anyone eating your wedding promise now do ya?

Mix the ingredients together with your hands, don’t use a machine to do this… a mixer will destroy the consistency.  The meat should be pretty moist, definitely not dry and not too wet.  Just wet enough that it holds it shape you start forming the balls.

Pour your Panko into a small bowl.  Form your meatball and then dip it in the panko.  Normally you would use some sort of binder like egg to wash the meat first so the panko will stick… well there is already egg in the mixture and your meat should be moist enough that the panko will stick without any extra wash.

When forming the balls, don’t pack them too tight, they should be loosely packed.  You pack them too tight they’ll wind up really tough.  Not a tasty treat.

Make sure your oil is hot, if it’s not hot enough the panko will soak up the oil while it cooks.  Drop the balls into the oil for about 1 – 2 minutes per side.  Remember, we’re not cooking them we’re just sealing them and getting that garlic flavor into the panko.  Don’t crowd the pan either, let those puppies breathe!

Remove the balls and place them on a baking tray and pop in the oven for 15 – 20 minutes.  That time is really going to depend on how big you make the balls.

Alfredo Florentine Penne

Ok I cheated a bit on this… I like to make sauces, but I haven’t made Alfredo yet…. Shame. Next time I promise I will.

  • 1 jar Classico Alfredo (so much shame.)
  • 1 cup spinach
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups penne
  • some salt

My kids hate spinach… at least they think they do.  They actually love it, they just don’t like it in a big sloppy pile on the plate, or even large chunks of it in the sauce.  This is a easy way to disguise the spinach and make a pretty sauce at the same time.

Drop your spinach into a food processor and give it a few pulses.  Then mix that into the saucepan with your sauce, cheese and heavy cream.  Leave that on low heat just to heat up while the meatballs are cooking.

I didn’t tell you to do this, but you should already have a nice big pot of water boiling… yeah?  Please make sure you add the salt to the water.  My grandmother always said it should taste like the ocean.

Boil your pasta according to the instructions.  Usually about 9 – 11 minutes.  Mid way through add a tablespoon or two to the sauce.  That’ll help the marriage process of the pasta to the sauce.  A romantic thought…

When the pasta is just about al dente, strain but DO NOT RINSE the pasta and add immediately to the sauce to let it finish cooking.  If you have good wrist action, do this in a decent pan and flip that stuff around.  It’ll help aerate the sauce as well as combine it with the pasta.

Once your finished all that, you can begin plating.  Believe it or not, I like to plate our food at home.  It just adds something special to the meal.  My wife makes fun of me sometimes, but it’s ok.

There you have it.  I hope you enjoy them as much as we did.  I’d love to hear your feedback if you tried this recipe out or if you altered it in anyway.

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