Tag Archives: ricotta

The Gentleman’s Spagheeeti & Meatballs – so comforting they can even get you through an election

Printable PDF at the bottom of the page!

Knock knock knock.

Gentleman Caller.

Mamma Mia, dear readers! It’s Spagheeeti & Meatball day! Why spagheeeti, you ask? Do you ever watch Giada DeLaurentis on TV? She’s perfectly American until she has to tell you about ingredients or the name of a dish. It tickles me endlessly. There was a newscaster in Houston that did it, too, and I can’t explain it but I find it hilarious. “Elma BaRRRRReRRRRa, Eyewitness News.”

Anyway, spaghetti and meatballs is one of my most favorite comfort foods. I’ve always known how to make the magic happen, but lately I have been “Italian-ized” based on the company I keep and I picked up some really good tricks. Mostly I’ve un-bastardized some of my old notions about this delicious dish.

This takes some time. It’s worth it. Andiamo! Facciamolo!

What you need for sauce:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 lb boneless pork shoulder
  • 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 28 oz can tomato puree
  • 1 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 5 or 6 basil leaves
  • 8-10 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tbsp white pepper

Heat the olive oil in a dutch oven. While it is heating up, cut pork shoulder in an approximate half. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper on both sides of one of the halves; the other half will be cubed for later and set aside. Put the seasoned pork shoulder in the oil and achieve a sear on both sides.

Smash your garlic cloves with a pastry scraper or a chef’s knife. There’s no need to mince it further unless you are REALLY averse to a piece of garlic in the sauce. This is going to cook forever and most of it will likely break up. Toss in the bay leaf, too. Allow the oil to kind of coat the garlic and bay leaf; keep things moving. Bruise or tear the basil leaves and throw them in. Immediately add the tomato products and stock. If there’s a lot of tomato mess still in the cans, add a little hot water to the can, swirl it a bit, and pour it in. A little water isn’t going to hurt anything. Add salt, sugar, and pepper. Bring the mixture to a simmer. Keep it at a nice baby simmer for at least 6 hours. 8 is better. 10 is magic. If it starts looking thick, add a little water. You will very likely have to do this a couple of times.


What you need for the meatballs:

  • 1 lb cubed sirloin*
  • 1 lb cubed pork shoulder (the other half of the one you used to make the sauce)*
  • 5 garlic cloves*
  • Leaves of about 5 sprigs fresh oregano*
  • Leaves of about 5 sprigs fresh flat leaf parsley*
  • 1 cup of breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup of ricotta cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp white pepper
  • 1 tbsp ground Italian seasoning
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder

*If you aren’t grinding your own meat, 1 lb ground round, 1 lb ground pork, 5 minced garlic cloves, 1/4 cup minced fresh oregano, 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley

Fire up your meat grinder! Alternate beef, pork, garlic, oregano and parsley. The grinder will bring the ingredients together. (video)

Once the meat is ground, gently add breadcrumbs, Worcestershire sauce, eggs, salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, onion powder and garlic powder. Don’t over mix. Gently fold in ricotta. Don’t over mix.


Using a spoon or ice cream scoop (for perfect portions), form meatballs, careful not to squish them too much. You want the lightness to remain intact. Line them up on a piece of pan release sprayed foil on a sheet pan. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 25 minutes. Check them. They might need  5 more minutes depending on size – BUT DO NOT OVERCOOK THEM.


In the final hour of the sauce simmering, add the meatballs to the pot. Try to avoid stirring too much and disturbing them. Allow the sauce to rest for about a half hour before you serve it, and be sure you taste it for salt. Differing brands of stock have different levels of sodium. You’ll probably be in good shape, but taste it.

While the sauce rests, cook your pasta. I chose a thin linguine. Don’t overcook it. When you turn it into the colander to drain, dress the pasta with a drizzle of olive oil. I like to micro plane a piece of garlic and toss fresh chopped basil, oregano and parsley in the pasta. It really gives it a pop. I know this is untraditional, but it’s delicious.

Plate as you like. If you like to toss your pasta with sauce, do it. I like to put the pasta in a bowl and then put the sauce and balls on top with more herbs and fresh grated parmeggiano.  Do it the way you like. You’re the one who has to eat it!

I hope you enjoy this dish because it reminds me of my sweet Mawmaw. One of those sentimental dishes that conjure beautiful memories of loved ones. Make this for your loved ones and they’ll always think of you when they eat it in the future.

And I am signing off!

Cioa for now – The Gentleman Caller





Stanton’s Pepper Bacon and Gulf Shrimp and Grits (say that 3 times fast!)

Printable PDF at the bottom of the page!

Knock knock knock.

Gentleman Caller.

Some dishes are so good, so rich and so indulgent they transcend the barriers of being thought of as “only for breakfast”, “only for lunch”, “only a side dish”… You get what I mean. This is one of those dishes.

Grits. Used to be people would look at me like I had three heads if I asked if they had grits at breakfast time. Usually Northern types in franchise restaurants while I was on tour with a Broadway show. Granted, it does sound like something you’d pave a crude driveway with, would find in a chicken’s gizzard, or put in the bottom of a hamster cage. Regardless, the wonder of sweet white hominy for breakfast seems to be slowly gaining popularity and exposure.

This concoction is not exactly a waist-trimmer. But blow it off – it’s so damn good if you take it as a casserole to a party, you’ll find yourself back on that guest list till you’re tired of RSVP-ing.



My cousin, Allen Stanton, is running our family grocery store down in Alvin, Texas. My great-grandfather, George Elliot Stanton, turned a feed store into a successful department store in the course of several decades from 1922 till his death on December 7, 1984. He was running across a highway and got hit by a car at 86 years old. That should tell you a little something about Grandpa Stanton.


Allen has molded the store into a superior meat market, winning awards and serving many high-end restauranteurs in the Houston area. (www.StantonMeats.com)


Yes, reader, that is kangaroo, wild boar and other exotic meats including Texas Hill Country venison. Delish.


I popped in on Allen and bought some award-winning pepper bacon. Pepper bacon itself is a treat beyond belief; smoky pork and malabar black pepper? So that set my wheels a-turning on how to incorporate this special ingredient into something truly decadent.

I tested the recipe for mom and Dennis, my step-dad. They cursed me for days as they annihilated the leftovers after I had flown back to New York. It’s not something you should eat every day… but it’s damn hard not to if it’s in the fridge.

So go find your fat pants, set them out and let’s get started.


What you need:

  • 1 cup of 5 minute grits (NOT instant)
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 8 slices of pepper bacon, or bacon of your choice (avoid varieties that are sweet)
  • 1 lb Gulf Shrimp, peeled and deveined (bigger is better)
  • 2 cups extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated (reserve 1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 4 oz ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1 tsp sriracha
  • 1 tsp worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp (or so) smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon cajun seasoning (Tony Chachere’s brand)
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper
  • 1 tsp chopped parsley

Yeah, I know that is, like, everything in the whole grocery store… roll with me here.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees (if you have convection option use that). Line a jelly roll pan with foil. Lay the bacon on the foil so that they don’t overlap. Place in preheated oven for about 15 minutes.


While that bakes, prepare the grits. Bring the chicken stock to a boil, add the grits, cook for approximately 7 minutes. Yes, I know they’re 5 minute grits. Cook them for 7.

Season the shrimp with salt, cajun seasoning, onion powder, and white pepper.

When the bacon is cooked to your liking (it should be crisp but not burnt), remove from oven. Dial the oven down to 350 degrees. Pour bacon renderings into a sauté pan large enough to accommodate the shrimp without overlap. Crank up the heat on the sauté pan, right before the grease smokes add the shrimp. Don’t turn them. Allow a sear to occur (3 minutes). Turn and cook for 2 more minutes. Pull them JUUUUST as they turn pink. DO NOT OVERCOOK YOUR BEAUTIFUL EXPENSIVE SHRIMP! Pull from heat.


Use cooking spray to grease a casserole dish – this is up to you. I used an oval Corning Ware casserole. A 9×13 would do; you need something that will hold around 3 quarts of volume. Use your brain.

Crumble the bacon with your hands. Put it in a large bowl. Add cooked grits, cooked shrimp, cheddar cheese, ricotta, butter, sour cream, garlic, sriracha, worcestershire, and parsley. Stir it all up till just combined; pour in casserole dish. Sprinkle with smoked paprika to your liking (I like at least a teaspoon). Sprinkle with reserved cheese.



Shove with love into the 350 degree oven. Check it at 25 minutes. It’s probably not bubbly yet, but check it. Check it every 5 minutes, but it will likely be ready at 35. Ride the line of having the cheese bubble knowing those shrimp don’t want to be cooked any more than necessary.


Pull it out when you’re satisfied and let it rest for a few minutes. It’s going to be incredibly hot. Also the prevailing scent of cheese, garlic and bacon is going to make you want to stick your whole freakin face in it. Don’t do that please.


The closer it is to room temp the less sloppy it will be. I prefer it just above room temperature – “picnic temp”.

This pairs beautifully with a sautéed asparagus with lemon. The brightness of the lemon and stemmy asparagus cut the richness of the grits beautifully and the textural component works.

In the meantime, I tested this recipe by making it a couple of times and let me tell you how much is left: none.

Adios for now.

The Gentleman Caller


**If you didn’t use pepper bacon, add 1 teaspoon of Malabar or course ground black pepper.

Stanton’s Shopping Center – Grocery Store / Meat Market / Feed Store / Lunch Counter / Hardware Store is located at 219 N. Taylor Street, Alvin TX 77511 – 281-331-4491 www.StantonMeats.com