Meatballs and Lasagna.


First, the recipe.  Then, the story.  ‘Cause the other way around is a thing that everyone hates now.

Lasagna & Meatballs

Lasagna & Meatballs

I don’t measure much.  I had stuff from Aldi, Shop ‘n Save, & Giant  Eagle by the time I was done.  The kids helped.  They have been into helping to cook lately.  We like meatballs on the side, not meat sauce in the lasagna.  Get out of here with your sausage or pork or pepperoni too, this is BEEF territory.

We eventually decided on…

Ingredients:

  • A box of no-bake lasagna noodles from Aldi.
  • A 2½ lb. package of ground beef from Aldi.
  • Fresh spinach from Shop ‘n Save.
  • Fresh parsley from Giant Eagle (could’t order it from Aldi or Shop ‘n Save via Instacart.)
  • A tiny tub of Ricotta from Aldi.  (Instacart size fail.)
  • A giant tub of Ricotta from Giant Eagle.
  • 2 Aldi zucchini.
  • A 2-cup bag of “Italian Blend” cheese from Aldi.
  • A 1½ cup bag of shredded parmesan & romano cheese from Giant Eagle.
  • A 1½ cup bag of shredded mozarella cheese from Gaint Eagle.
  • 2 eggs
  • “Shake cheese” – Used both Parmesan & a Parmesan Romano blend.
  • A bag of “Italian Seasoning” croutons from Aldi.
  • Kraft Roasted Red Pepper Italian dressing.
  • 3 jars of the cheap Aldi marinara sauce.  (It is way better than the supposedly more delicious and expensive ones.)
  • Condensed Tomato Soup
  • Brown Sugar
  • Various spices no, I didn’t measure:
    • “Italian Seasoning” {Whatever that is.)
    • Dried spice-rack Parsely
    • Garlic Powder
    • Onion Powder
    • White Pepper
    • Coarse Ground Black Pepper
    • Sea Salt
    • Whatever Aldi “Seasoned Salt” that looks like the Lawry’s Seasoned Salt bottle or McCormick Season All is.

🌡️ Cook temp:  400° F

⏱ Prep time:  This isn’t Food Network, All Recipes, or Martha Stewart & Snoop Dogg.  How do I know?  I had a 6 year old and a 4 year old helping.  So, it was slow.

⏲ Cook time: 20 to 25 min. for the meatballs.  (Cook to a temperature, not a time.  The USDA says ground beef needs to be 160° F so you don’t die or something.  Get a food thermometer.)  45 min. covered in foil for the lasagna, 15 min. uncovered.

Method:

  1. Get out all your pots, pans, utensils, cutting boards, and stuff before you cook.  If you have children helping, get paper towels.  Get the ingredients out.  Wash your hands.  Wash the eggs.  We used 2 large mixing bowls, and an inordinate amount of oddly shaped glass baking dishes.
  2. Chop the parsley & spinach like a madman (or mad woman, or mad person of a non-specific gender).  Have the kids help.  They love sharp knives.  It’s important that they respect them and that you watch closely.  Very closely.  We sometimes use one of those still sharp plastic lettuce knives for stuff like this.  I didn’t measure.  We used about the whole bunch of parsley & a handful and a half of spinach.
  3. Slice up that zucchini as thinly as possible.  I don’t have a mandolin, so I did that instead of the kids.  Actually, I would still do that if we had a mandolin.
  4. We divided the parsley & spinach about equally into the 2 mixing bowls.  I talked about that thing where you add the same flavors across different dishes to tie them together, but I have no idea what the word for that is.
  5. In the meatball bowl, we tossed in the ground beef & the croutons.  We smashed the croutons first.  Oh, that was fun.  It probably got out of hand, but the bag didn’t pop.
  6. We also poured in some Kraft Roasted Red Pepper Italian dressing in the meatballs.  Amount?  Yes.  Until it looked good.  This is one thing I won’t bend on.  It is far more superior that any other Italian dressing.
  7. The we dropped in some Italian Blend shredded cheese & some shake cheese.  Measuring is for the timid.  Eyeball it.  Use the force, let it guide you.
  8. Mix it with your hands, roll into balls, and pop in into a glass baking dish, or 3 odd little ones.  We spaced them out.  I mean, you could use a baking sheet, and I used to prefer them in the electric skillet, but this is so easy.  We put all of the above spices in there too.  And sprinkled a bit on the outside once formed.
  9. We washed out hands again, and I set that in the oven & set the timer for 23 minutes because I couldn’t decide between 20 or 25.
  10. We poured the marinara & tomato soup in a pot, added some brown sugar (just a bit), shake cheese, parsley & italian seasnonings, & garlic.
  11. The kids stirred that.  And stirred that.  And stirred that.
  12. We put the ricotta in the 2nd mixing bowl already containing spinach & parsley.
  13. Add eggs, the rest of the “Italian Blend” cheese bag, some shake cheese, and some minced garlic… and whatever spices you want.  I told the kids here about depth of flavor in using the dried parsley vs. the fresh parsley and minced garlic vs the garlic powder… but I don’t know if they were paying attention.  They had just cracked eggs and we were about to mess with a giant gooey bowl of cheese.
  14. Go easy on that white pepper if you have it.  It goes a loooong way.
  15. Spread the sauce on the bottom of your biggest glass baking dish.
  16. We layed out the no-boil noodles.  It was my first time using them.  I think it went pretty well.  They fit 4 across and 1 at the end in our pan.
  17. On top of the noodles we did half of the ricotta mixture, the Parmesan/Romano shredded cheese, the zucchini, sauce, more noodles, the rest of the ricotta mixture, the shredded Mozzarella cheese, sauce, noodles, more sauce, and a mix of the Parmesan/Romano & Mozzarella cheeses.
  18. We like cheese.  The kids tasted the different shred varieties as we layered.  Ian liked the Parmesan/Romano & Molly liked the Mozzarella.
  19. I covered that in foil & put it in the oven for 45 minutes.  Then I uncovered it & let it go for 15 minutes.
  20. The extra sauce goes on the meatballs.

Ooh.  I snuck the story in on you didn’t I?  Wow.  Would you like to speak to the manager?  You might like my other blogs about meatballs or meatloaf or wedding soup… or any of my food stuff.  The kids went absolutely primate-poop over the meatballs.  The no-boil noodles were fine.  I liked that they were al dente.  There was enough liquid that I didn’t add any like the box suggested.  Be a rebel!  (OK, I asked for opinions on FB for that first on my page & in an Aldi recipe group.)

View this post on Instagram

Definitely firmed up after sitting more. #lasagna

A post shared by Eric Carroll (@aixelsyd13) on

Oh yeah, completely unrelated, I made these this morning too:

Found the recipe here via Google: https://tasty.co/recipe/potato-flower-breakfast-cups

 

Your favorite pizza sucks, my favorite pizza rules! (Part 2)


So, last time I blogged about pizza, I covered some of my favorites: Aiello’s, SLICE, & A’Pizza Badamo.  This time I’ll blog about other area big-hitters.

Beto's Pizza on UrbanspoonBeto’s is another place nearby that is just excellent.  They’re the place that you’ve probably heard of that doesn’t cook the cheese & other toppings.  You’ll probably either love it or hate it.  I dig it, the wife does not.  The only thing I’d change is the consistency of the sauce… I’m not a fan of chunks of tomatoes in pizza sauce, but the flavor is excellent.  They don’t get all fancy with toppings here either, just simple, straightforward pizza with cheese that’s melting as you eat it.  I think my favorite way to eat it is just as plain cheese pizza.  Why mess up such a beautiful combination?

Molly's Pizza on UrbanspoonMolly’s Pizza is close by too.  They have some great pizza, and some really crazy specialty pies like the Ranchero Steak Pizza and the Pierogi Pizza.  I personally like to get a pizza with zucchini on top.  Excellent stuff!  It’s hard to pick a favorite around here.

Fiori's Pizzaria on UrbanspoonFoiri’s is a south hills institution.  Sorry, I don’t get it.  Is it good pizza?  Most definitely.  Is it overrated?  In my humble opinion, yes.  Maybe I’m biased because you can get deathfish as a topping there.  At any rate, if you’re in the area and a pizza aficionado, it’s worth checking out before you decide that Slice is the best place around.

Il Pizzaiolo on UrbanspoonIl Pizzaiolo isn’t your regular Pittsburgh pizza shop.  They’re fancy.  They have great pies in a steep Neapolitan tradition.  As they say themselves…

…the restaurant has become a vibrant gathering place for lovers of Neapolitan pizza, pasta and Italian wine. Nearly everything on the menu is hand-made. And if it’s not made in-house, it’s imported from the best artisans, cheese-makers and salumeria in the world. Mozzarella di Bufala comes direct from Naples every Thursday and the pizzas are baked at 1000˚ in a handcrafted, wood-fired brick oven for less than 90 seconds. This, along with perfectly leavened dough, San Marzano tomatoes and extra virgin olive oil, produces the most authentic Neapolitan pizza possible.

So obviously, this is no Pizza Hut.  They make incredible gourmet pies.  Unfortunately it’s entirely not what I’m craving when I “just want a pizza”.  This is where you want to go when you’d like a nice evening out to enjoy some of the lightest most delicious pizza you’ve ever eaten.

Italian Village Pizza (Canonsburg/McMurray) on UrbanspoonItalian Village Pizza is all over the place.  Both by location and quality.  They used to have a killer A1 Steak Sub at the one on Rte. 51, but I don’t think they have that any more.  The last one I frequented was the one in McMurray, but I only ever got the pizza once or twice.  The steak & Italian subs are incredible, but the sauce was just too bitter for me.  It tasted like straight tomato paste with some basil thrown in.  Some people love it, but it just wasn’t my thing.

Here I’d also like to try to address this thing…

VinceNt’s vs. Vincent’s

I’m still not sure what the exact dispute is… if there’s still a dispute, and if there are only two Vincent’s involved in this saga.  Can anyone fill me in on this?  I’ve heard several amalgamated stories over the years.  Some credible news even.  First, you’ve got to get your head around the locations…

There’s Vincent’s Pizza ParkOne on 30 in Irwin/North Huntingdon, one on Ardmore Blvd., and one in Holiday Park (the one I used to frequent).  And there’s Vincent’s “of Greentree” …oddly enough in Greentree, Southpointe, and the West End.  (There also seems to be a Vincent’s Pizza Pub on Mt. Washington – I’m unsure if they’re related to any of the others.)

I haven’t been to Vincent’s Pizza Park in Holiday Park in a long long time, but I remember it as the greasiest pizza I have ever had.  It was good, but greasy.  Some people like that.  I’m not the biggest fan of grease, but I remember they had a nice thick crust & a flavorful sauce.

I don’t think I’ve ever been to the Vincent’s in Greentree, but the one in Southpointe has great steak subs, garlic buns, and pretty good pizza.  Their “like it” percentage on Urbanspoon is pretty low though.  No idea what’s up there.

Vincent's Pizza Park on Urbanspoon Vincent's of Southpointe on Urbanspoon

Which Vincent’s is your favorite?  Which Vincent’s location is the best & the original?  (I think it’s Vincent’s in Forest Hills)

Please, chime in on any of these locations, any from my previous pizza post, or any that I may have missed.  I may dive into pizza chains next.  Pizza is always a subject of hot debate (and it goes well with beer).

Radical!

Radical!

Your favorite pizza sucks, my favorite pizza rules! (Part 1)


Dare I say no food can be as unifying and polarizing as Pizza?  Generally, it’s the one thing most people like.  Need to feed a bunch of people quickly?  Kids birthday party?  Reward for good achievements?  Pizza party!  It’s the go-to feed a herd food.  Unless someone’s lactose intolerant or has a food allergy to tomatoes or something…  I’ve never heard someone exclaim anything to the effect of “Free pizza?  Ew!  No thank you!”  I’ve heard a friend say “Pizza is like sex, there’s no such thing as bad pizza.”  I’m pretty sure he’s paraphrasing a comedian, but I have no idea who.  No matter where the sentiment lies on the corny scale, he’s right.  Most pizza is acceptable sustenance if not worthy of writing online reviews, letters to your mom, or several stanzas of poetry.

At the same time, a simple statement like “[So & So] makes the best pizza!” can make the most passive among us throw-down in an instant.  I’m pretty sure if Canada called up, and said “Hey United States, we have better pizza than you!” – there would be a full-scale invasion, and we’d soon have another big state.  (Maybe minus Quebec, the Queen Mum can keep that one.)  I’m guessing that unless you’re from Quebec or you for some reason hate pizza, you’re still with me, right?

Slices from SLICE

Slices from SLICE

Here’s the plan:  I’m going to tell you about my favorite pizza, and you’re going to tell me about your favorite pizza.  We’ll all try to remain calm.  When you’re wrong, I’ll tell you… so don’t be afraid.  This will probably be limited to Pittsburgh due to my geographical location.  So, if there’s pizza from somewhere else that you want to tell me about, you can… & I’ll assume you’re wrong until I go try it.  If the place is local (to me), even better.  I may go try it.

Side note – In case you’re new, I’m deathly allergic to shellfish (& mollusks). I’m not too excited to try pizza from places that offer shrimp, lobster, crab or any other kind of deadly sea-bugs as pizza toppings. I generally don’t feel “safe” when they can put their hands in one topping to put on someone else’s pie, then into my toppings without washing their hands… or to (even worse) perhaps drop some on my pie.

Sometimes you’re in the mood for different kinds of pizza.  It’s OK to like more than one.  Shocking, I know.  Here’s the beginning of my run-down on local pizza:

Aiello's Pizza on UrbanspoonAiello’s is up first, because well… they’re my favorite.  Their sauce is nothing short of perfection to my humble taste-buds.  It’s sweet but it doesn’t lose the flavor of the tomatoes.  I love pizza sauce that doesn’t have that bite that you get from tomato paste.  The dough is perfect doughey goodness, yet thin enough so it’s not like you’re eating a loaf of bread with pizza toppings.  Aiello’s is always clean, and it’s cool to watch ’em make the pies right there in front of you.  The seemingly gruff employees just are who they are.  They’re all nice guys.  They call my father-in-law “Anchovy Bobby” for his dedication as a customer and obviously now I guess… affection for anchovies.  Well, I did get yelled at by Joe once for being late to pickup a pizza.  I was fighting traffic down Forbes all the way from Oakland to Squirrel Hill.  But, he was concerned about pizza quality (and perhaps that he had been stiffed the cost of a pizza).

Mineo's Pizza House (Squirrel Hill) on UrbanspoonI guess if I’m talking Squirrel Hill and pizza, I have to mention the other guys.  I’ve had Mineo’s, but to be fair… it was only once.  I don’t see a reason to go back when Aiello’s is a few doors up the hill.  It was greasy, and they offer deathfish as a topping.  Boo, I say.  One thing you can’t argue is that they have just as devout a following as Aiello’s.  You’ll get lovers & haters on both sides of the issue.  I think it’s probably good for both businesses to have such a famed & heated rivalry.  (Legend goes that Joe worked at Mineo’s, then split to make his own name making pies his way.  Check out this article, this YouTube video, and this Facebook group for more.)

SLICE on Broadway on UrbanspoonI have found a new additional favorite closer to home in Dormont… SLICE on Broadway in Beechview is excellent.  Hoping my father-in-law’s ears aren’t burning, I’m going to go ahead and say that SLICE is every bit as good as Aiello’s.  Read the reviews on UrbanSpoon, Yelp, & Google.  All those people can’t be wrong, can they?  The guys that run the place seem really friendly, the place is clean, and easy to get to for me anyway.  Here again, it all comes down to the sauce.  The sauce here has a slightly sweet tinge to it… and it’s fantastic.  The proportion of the sauce is great too, there’s no cheese sliding off of this pie on the 1st bite.  The amount of toppings is respectful & not a “look how many toppings we can put on” kind of thing.  These guys really just know how to put together a great pie, and I can’t wait to work my way through the menu.  It’s also kind of cool to sit there & watch the T go by… even though I could also do the same thing from my front porch.  They get bonus points for having “The Big Salad” on their menu and for still being excellent the next day.

A'Pizza Badamo on UrbanspoonA'Pizza Badamo on UrbanspoonA’Pizza Badamo is another great nearby shop.  They, like SLICE, seem to have a “No B.S.” approach to making pizza.  Fresh ingredients, simple pies, done right, & value for the money.  I also need to work my way through this menu.  I’m anxious to try the Eggplant Parmesan sub.  The one & only thing that may give SLICE a slight edge (to me anyway) is the sauce.  A’Pizza Badamo’s sauce has a little more savory flavor than sweetness.  Like I said, I like sweet sauce.  Then again, I think I’m going to have to try many many more pies from each place to decide who the champion is.  I hope to never be able to make up my mind.  These guys are also really a class act, the place is quaint, clean, and a relaxing place to hang out.

Well, those are my favorites (& one not-so favorite, I guess)… and it’s a lot to take in right now.  Perhaps I’ll have to make this a series of posts.  I could do a post just about the pizza shops in & around Dormont.  It’s an almost endless list.

At any rate, before I continue my pizza tirade… let the comments begin!  Where are your favorites?

This tiny sign made my day…


It’s simple, really.  It’s a small, simple act that’s a symbolic gesture, and may be complete and total BS in all practicality or reality… but it made me feel comfortable today.  I have discussed my shellfish issues before, and have been ridiculed for suggesting that the food service industry take any more action on allergy issues, awareness, and cross-contamination than they already are.  I can’t explain why or how, but this one little sign put me at ease.  Why?  Because it was simply acknowledgment, I guess.  Maybe that’s all I want or need.  At any rate, kudos to you, Market District Cafe in Robinson!  What am I making such a big fuss about?  Not much really, just this…

Photobucket

That’s all.  No biggie.  But, to me, it means so much.  I did happen to ask the guy behind the counter about what all was cooked on the grill that I can see, and he was happy to inform me that there is indeed no shellfish that touches said grill surface.  It’s not a big deal to you most likely, but it is to me.  So I blogged about it.

In a related note…  The Market District in Robinson is ridiculously awesome… the grocery store and the restaurant side.  I popped up a review on UrbanSpoon.com, here it is…

photo prime

“It’s like a food amusement park…” by ERiC AiXeLsyD (100 reviews)

January 16, 2010 – Really likes it – I really never thought I’d be this excited about a grocery store. The team at Giant Eagle/Market District that put this place together are geniuses. It’s not the first time I’ve been to the store, but today was the first time eating in their cafe. Floor layout plan and traffic flow not withstanding, this is a great place to eat! It’s almost a cross between a food court and hospital cafeteria… with really really good food. You can choose form a bunch of little islands or counters of food… Pizza, Crepes, Rosti, Salad Bars, Hot Bar, Grill/Rotisserie station, and more that I haven’t really looked into yet.

My wife went for a really nice-looking Italian panini with the thickest slice of mozzarella, I’ve ever seen and a nice little side salad with assorted greens, and dropped it off with a Market District brand peach oolong iced tea. She really thought the sandwich was fresh and filling, and is looking forward to trying of the other options. (They had some nice-looking reubens there too!)

I went right to the rotisserie/grill/BBQ area (of course) and my eyes were drawn to the brisket. I got a combo which included the brisket & side… I chose the grilled vegetables… normally for $6, but I got $1 off with my Giant Eagle advantage card. I also snagged a roll (gotta get those carbs!) and a Boylan’s Birch Beer. I chose a St. Louis Style BBQ sauce with the brisket that was a perfect compliment t the juicy beef, and the grilled veggies were perfect. They were just vegetables, the taset wasn’t hidden with a sauce or too many spices. We got an excellent meal IMHO for just over $14.

The thing that impressed me the most was when I was asking the chef/cook behind the counter about what all was cooked on the grill due to my shellfish allergies, he was very patient, kind, and even double-checked with another employee. Then, when I got to the edge of the counter, I spied a sign noting possible cross-contamination listing all the major allergens, and how one should be sure to ask the staff about any cross-contamination. It’s an odd and very small gesture, but it means the world to someone like me who’s generally in a constantly worrisome state when dining out. I applaud their taking note, and to me it says a lot about the company & the people.

Photos of the sign & both our meals have been uploaded to the photo section.

And oh yeah… they have BEER! In a Grocery Store! in PENNSYLVANIA! Genius. I didn’t get any this time, but I saw 6-packs of Straub Special Dark for $6.97 and the wife was eying up the extra large bottles of Raspberry Lambic for only $12.99. We will be back to get some beer!

We’ll definitely be back when we’re in the area!

1 person likes this review Recommend

And, here are the photos I mentioned…

Giant Eagle Market District Restaurant

Giant Eagle Market District Restaurant