Introducing: The Cowboy Boot Contessa & Sons

I figure, why rip off one name when you can rip off two? This is a new regular feature here at Sure as the World. We hope you enjoy it, and please, let us know what you think.

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We have pasta and red sauce every Sunday, or as Tom calls it “Sunday Gravy.” He is slightly like an old man in this regard. It is something he looks forward to (some might say expects) and if it doesn’t happen (which is RARE) he is slightly grumpy for the rest of the week. So I guess if we had a secret to our 20 years of marriage, it would be this: make and eat pasta and red sauce together every Sunday. Open a bottle of wine, break bread, stain the tablecloth and the napkins and finish with a nice salad, another glass of wine and some more bread. Below you will find our recipes for a perfect Italian-American dinner – choose whatever night of the week you want to make it.

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The Cowboy Boot Contessa (Sheila): I can vividly remember Tom’s grandmother taking me to task when she found out I was eating jarred spaghetti sauce when I was in college. I can also vividly remember her telling me how to make a quick marinara (“madinaad” is how she said it). I still make that recipe, some 25 years later. The fact that I make it for her grandson and her great grandsons that she never met feels poignant, if I let myself stop and think about it. It’s like when I see the boys use her ladle or Tom’s other grandmother’s hand-crank pasta maker. Sitting down to dinner every night binds us to the present, but it also connects us to the past. I can’t help but think sometimes, it also beckons whatever waits in the future.

Son #1 (Vincent): I suggest simmering the red sauce for 2 hours. It is the key to cooking out the canned flavor of the tomatoes. Our recommended favorite brands of tomatoes are Muir Glen and Tuttorosso – although sometimes my mom buys whatever is on sale. If serving with meatballs, sausage or meat sauce, serve with a short shape such as fusili or campanelle. Use spaghetti or linguine for a simple marinara. Oh, and don’t cook like my brother.

Son #2 (Jude): Usually, it’s my job to go get the tomatoes from under my parents’ bed upstairs. That’s where we keep them. One can of crushed and one can of diced. Unless we’re making meatballs. Then I have to make 2 trips. Don’t cook like my brother.

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Nannie Re’s Quick Marinara

  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 cans crushed tomatoes (or substitute one can diced or whole tomatoes, if you prefer a chunkier sauce)
  • dried oregano
  • crushed red pepper

Saute onion in olive oil until transparent and slightly brown. Add garlic, oregano and crushed red pepper. Saute for about a minute until garlic is fragrant and then add tomatoes. Simmer for about 30 minutes.

Tom’s Meatballs

  • 2 pounds ground beef or a combination of ground beef, ground pork and ground veal
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 – 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley
  • salt and pepper

Mix all ingredients together and form into balls about 2 inches in diameter. Brown meatballs in olive oil either on top of the stove or on a well oiled cookie sheet in the oven. After meatballs are browned on all sides, transfer them to a pot of red sauce to finish cooking through. They can cook as short as 30 minutes or all afternoon.

Brother’s Bread

This is a great Italian bread – crunchy crust, soft inside – and perfect with Sunday Gravy. I have made it with all white flour, and it is delicious. You can also substitute 2 cups of whole wheat flour for a more rustic loaf. Our favorite, though, is to use 2 cups of semolina flour to replace some of the white flour. (Link to the original recipe can be found here.)

  • 2 teaspoons yeast
  • 2  cups warm water
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 6 to 7 cups all purpose flour (see variations above)
  • cornmeal
  • vinegar

Combine the yeast, water and honey. Mix about half of the flour and all of the salt. Add yeast mixture. Continue to add flour until a nice dough is formed. It should be smooth and elastic and feel like a baby’s butt. Cover and let rise until doubled in bulk – about 1-2 hours. Punch dough down and divide in half. Shape into round loaves or torpedo shapes. Slash tops with a knife and spray with vinegar. Place loaves on greased baking sheet and sprinkle with cornmeal or line with parchment. Place in a cold oven and bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Overnight Basic Italian Bread

If I am thinking ahead, I like to make this bread on Saturday night to have on Sunday. (Link to the original recipe can be found here.)

  • 2 teaspoons yeast
  • 1 1/4  cups warm water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 to 5 cups all purpose flour (see variations above)
  • cornmeal
  • vinegar

Combine the yeast, water and honey. Mix about half of the flour and all of the salt. Add yeast mixture. Continue to add flour until a nice dough is formed. It should be smooth and elastic and feel like a baby’s butt. Cover and put in the refrigerator to let rise overnight. In the morning, punch dough down and divide in half. Shape into round loaves or torpedo shapes. Cover and let dough come to room temperature, about 45 minutes. Slash tops with a knife and spray with vinegar. Let dough rise another 45 minutes until doubled in bulk. Place loaves on greased baking sheet and sprinkle with cornmeal or line with parchment. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and bake for about 35-40 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Vincent’s Caesar Salad

You can pretty much bet that anything Vincent recommends comes from Cook’s Illustrated magazine. Their recipes are pretty flawless, except for the time he made a recipe for red sauce that started with butter. BUTTER! Tom was extra grumpy that week.

  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic paste, from 1 large clove
  • 2-3 tablespoons lemon juice, from 2-3 lemons
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 6 anchovy fillets, mashed to a paste
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 5 tablespoons canola oil
  • 5 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • black pepper
  • 2-3 romaine hearts

Whisk garlic and 2 tablespoons lemon juice together in large bowl. Let stand 10 minutes. Whisk Worcestershire sauce, anchovies and egg yolks into garlic/lemon mixture. While whisking constantly, drizzle canola oil and olive oil into bowl in a slow, steady stream, until fully emulsified. Add 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese and pepper to taste. Whisk until incorporated. Add romaine to dressing and toss to coat. Serve with croutons.

12 thoughts on “Introducing: The Cowboy Boot Contessa & Sons

  1. This is so much fun! I love the input from the boys, and the recipes sound delicious. Thanks for sharing! We’re already converts to your pizza crust recipe (an excuse to have wine on hand really helps), so I look forward to more good stuff from your kitchen!

    • Thanks Patraq. We had fun putting it all together. And I am happy to give you any excuse you need to keep a couple of bottles of wine on hand! lol Have a great week.

  2. Dear Cowboy Boot Contessa and Sons,
    This is great! You made me smile on this cloudy daylight savings morning. I love your inter-connections with family, past and present. Such a gift. The comments and culinary tips from each of you are impressive, touching and funny! Bon Appetite!

    • I love not having to think about what to cook on Sundays – it’s a given. This frees up valuable space in my brain for other things – like looking to the week ahead. You are a wonderful cook Lori. I would love to know what you come up with.

  3. So happy to see the Cowboy Boot Contessa and 2 Sons!

    When I think of you guys, it’s most usually in an imagined kitchen.

    I love the inclusion of stories and thoughts with the recipes. Love.It.

    You are so inventive.

    xo

    • You know, this was your idea.

      I hope my imagined kitchen has acres of counter space and a clean stovetop and oven . . .

      Hope you guys had a wonderful weekend together with Papa.

      Love to you.
      Sheila

      • “Gravy” does not make for a clean stovetop, but for a full heart xo And, yes, in my imagination it is always very expansive, yet cozy — clean, but not fussy. See, that’s the way fantasy works (: But, really, my imagination always includes that smiling picture of Vincent at the stove — I so love that picture.

        I might have to try again on the bread making front — now that the Cowboy Boot Contessa and Sons is inspiring us with recipes and stories as a “regular feature” (:

        So good having Papa home.

        xoxoxo

  4. Pingback: The Cowboy Boot Contessa Makes . . . | Sure as the World

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