The summer of 2010 was the hottest and most humid summer I can ever remember (and I’ve been around for a long time!) and my schedule is not the greatest which made cooking not-such-a-pleasant-chore.

Thankfully, we had a break in the weather for a day and it was cooler and the humidity level was lower which gave me the energy to catch up on all that deep cleaning I wanted to get done. When it's that hot and humid, you feel so drained and you don't want to get anything done. And I had been craving homemade bread.  

Got all my work done, had to get my car inspected and get an oil change, and I had laundry and bedding to do and was too pooped to bake! So I was up early in the morning with the oven going.

Remember, I was raised in an Italian home and bread was baked every day of the year – regardless of the heat and humidity.  Fresh bread every day on our table.

I started off making my No-Knead Bread. I wanted 3 loaves of bread instead of 2 – I really needed a homemade bread fix!

1 tablespoon dry yeast, dissolved in
3 ¾ cup warm water (110 – 115* F.)

3/8 cup sugar
3/8 cup vegetable shortening
5 cups flour – beat well with electric beaters

Stir in:
3 ½ – 4 cups additional flour
1 ¼ teaspoons salt

Mix well; cover and let rise for an hour. Didn’t have to worry about a “warm place” – it’s hot today.

Now – I get a brainstorm – I get those from time to time. Normally I grease my loaf pans or round tins because you spoon this into them. I shaped the mixture into 3 loaves and placed on a greased baking sheet (jelly roll pan). Covered once again to rise for another hour.  Now I know the loaves will spread and I can use a loaf to make a typical sammie – splitting the entire loaf in half and filling; slice up and serve or grill as a panini.

(I knew the bread would rise and spread – but I didn’t think it would turn out to be one loaf of three pieces! LOL) But oh-so-good!

Meanwhile, I made my No-Roll Crust for a 10-inch pie pan. I do not make thin crusts – I don’t understand why anyone would want paper-thin crust for a pie!

2 ½ cups flour
2 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt – whisked together
Combine in measuring cup:
¾ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup milk (I use whole milk)

Using my big fork, combined well and pressed into pie plate. Baked in a preheated 350* F. oven for 20 minutes.
Allowed to cool completely.

I timed my baking so that when the pie shell came out of the oven – the bread went in. When the bread came out – I buttered the tops of the loaves – just like home-style butter-topped bread!!!

Once the bread was in the oven – I made my meatballs –

2 ½ lbs. ground chuck
5 eggs
Dry bread crumbs – eyeballed
Kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper, ground fennel, parsley, garlic, onion powder

And skillet-fried in olive oil.

At the same time I started my meat sauce –

1 ¼ lbs. ground chuck skillet fried in olive oil and seasoned the same as the meatballs

Added my small can of tomato paste, a large can of tomato puree, pinch sugar, Kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper, parsley, garlic, basil, a pinch of chili powder, onion powder, fresh grated Pecorino Romano cheese.

Once the meatballs are done, transfer to sauce and allow to simmer in the sauce until the shells are cooked.

Place my pot of water on to boil for my shells.

By now my pie shell has completely cooled so I fill it with:

2 pkgs. (4 serving size each) cheesecake flavored instant pudding
2 ¾ cups whole milk – whisk well

Refrigerate until serving.

Prepare my cheese filling for my shells:

24 oz. whole milk ricotta cheese
Kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper, parsley – mix well, cover, and refrigerate until the shells have cooked.

When my pot of water is at a full rolling boil, add plenty of salt and wait for the water to return to a full rolling boil – drop in 12 oz. jumbo shells and cook al dente.

When done, drain; spoon cheese into shells. Place in large baking dish that has sauce spread on the bottom. Any unfilled shells get added as well. Placed the meatballs we were eating today on top; covered and baked in preheated 350* F. oven for 30 minutes.

Remaining meatballs and sauce were transferred to a bowl and placed in the refrigerator immediately. Can’t trust this weather at all.

Now this gave me time to clean the mess and wash all the pans, etc. and make a nice side salad to go with our meal. After dinner – dishes were a cinch to do.

For dessert time – Hot tea and coffee to go with our pie – but not until the pie has been topped with strawberries (in sugar – like you would make for shortcake.)

Comfort food and I got my bread!! Just think – breakfast tomorrow – homemade bread with butter and tea…………heaven.

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