Category Archives: Food Network Canada Chef School

Chef Michael Smith’s Pro Tips for Perfect Rice, Every Time

It’s often the simplest foods that can be the most challenging to make. Take rice, for instance. The grain is common on dinner tables around the world but often turns out too mushy, underdone or just plain boring. To help, Food Network Canada Chef School’s Michael Smith makes nice with rice as he walks you through how to cook a perfect pot of rice to accompany any meal, plus shows us how it can star as the main course, with his best rice tips, preparation techniques, ratios and recipes.

How to Cook Rice

We asked Michael how long to cook white rice and how much water to use, and he gave us an easy to remember rice cooking rule.

“[The] simplest possible way to cook rice is: to measure out, one cup of rice to two cups of water. Put that in a small pot, bring it to a simmer.  [Add a] touch of salt, bring it to the simmer, turn down the heat to maintain the barest of simmers. Put a lid on it and walk away for 20 minutes.”

Before serving up your perfect rice, Michael offers this rice-cooking trick only chefs know.

“Just let it rest before you take the lid off. Ideally a 10 minute rest before you remove the lid. Then you’re ready to serve. You don’t need to fluff it.”

Varieties of rice, like short-grain brown rice and black rice can take upwards of 50 minutes to 1 hour to cook, but the ratio of water to rice stays the same.

For extra-fluffy, quick-cooking rice varieties that take just 15 minutes to cook up, you can lower the quantity of water to 1½ cups of water to 1 cup of rice, as shown in Michael’s recipe for perfect basmati rice. 


Get the recipe for Michael Smith’s Basmati Rice here.

Rice Cookers vs. Stovetop

You can use a rice cooker or pot on the stovetop to make great rice. Michael adds, “Anything that gets you in the kitchen and cooking real food is fine by me.”

So, whether you love the old-fashioned method or the high-tech approach, fluffy and tender rice is within reach. Michael thinks the Instant Pot (a pressure cooker) for rice is an awesome timesaver. These pressure cookers allow wholegrain rice, like brown rice, red rice and black rice cook faster, making them weeknight-friendly.

Washing Rice vs. Not Washing Rice

Rinsing or washing rice a few times in cold water for varieties like basmati, jasmine and other medium- to long-grain rice helps keep the grains individualized, which leads to a fluffy pot.

Starchier rice, like arborio, most commonly used in risotto and rice pudding, doesn’t need to be rinsed or washed, as the outer starches are important for a creamy dish; the exception to this is short-grain sushi rice and sticky rice, which should be washed before cooking.

Michael Smith’s Top Rice Tips

Overall, the best rice comes with patience. Being sure to properly measure at the beginning with a 2:1 water to rice ratio, no peeking under the lid when it’s cooking and letting the rice rest for 10 minutes before serving, are the top takeaways here.

How to Add Flavour to Plain Rice

Rice is a blank canvas, ready for any flavour you add to it. Whether used as a base for a richly spiced curry or as a standalone fried rice supper, rice can handle spices, seasonings and sauces like a champ.


Get the recipe for Michael Smith’s Golden Rice Pilaf here.

To flavour plain (but perfect) white rice, try cooking it with coconut milk in place of some of the water, along with slivered ginger and garlic. In the same vein, vegetable or chicken stock can be used in place of water to boost flavour. Upon serving, a drizzle of herb-infused butter or chili oil will make your rice really pop. Soy sauce or tamari add an Asian flair to white or brown rice, along with a splash of rice vinegar and sesame oil. While saffron threads, as featured in this recipe from Michael Smith, add earthiness and a beautiful yellow hue. Other ideas to bedazzle your rice include curry powder, Tex-Mex spices, garam masala, Italian seasoning or try cinnamon, cumin and raisins for a Moroccan twist.


Get the recipe for Michael Smith’s Saffron Almond Rice here.


Get the recipe for Michael Smith’s Southwestern Rice here.

You can even turn last night’s risotto into a crispy rice cake or deep-fried delight known as arancini. Risotto itself takes to creamy, bold add-ins well, as showcased in Michael’s bacon and blue cheese risotto recipe.


Get the recipe for Michael Smith’s Apple Pie Brown Rice here.

And don’t be afraid to bulk up your rice with vegetables, fruits (apple pie brown rice, anyone?), beans, cooked proteins, toasted nuts and more. When it comes to rice, how you make it, serve it and dress it up is up to you.

Give your fluffy rice something to hold onto, and serve it up underneath Michael Smith’s recipe for curried, vegetable-filled Golden Aloo Gobi.

A Classic Combo: The Best Grilled Cheese with Tomato Soup

A timeless pairing, done ultimate-style. The best grilled cheese recipe ever, along with an outstandingly creamy (yet cream-free) tomato soup, are made world-class thanks to Food Network Canada Chef School’s Roger Mooking, who takes the classic coupling to a whole new level. This isn’t the typical lunch from your childhood, but an epicurean’s delight that’s layered and loaded with top-level ingredients. Along with a step-by-step video, Roger offers ingredient shopping tips, techniques and tricks for the greatest grilled cheese and tomato soup of your life. With this classic combo, it’s all in the details.

 

For the Tastiest Cream of Tomato Soup, Skip the Can

Roger begins by making the tomato soup for dunking, but it’s potatoes, not tomatoes, that start things off. The spuds, when pureed, add dairy-free creaminess to the dish without feeling too heavy – there’s a lot of cheese on the way, after all.

An amazing tip here for “roasted” tomato soup flavour without spending the time roasting tomatoes, Roger uses smoky chipotle peppers in adobo, which lends great depth and a little kick. Finally, fresh tomatoes are stirred in to add brightness and umami punch. After simmering the vegetables until tender, it’s time to blend.

Post-blend, Roger strains the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve, creating that faux “canned” tomato soup vibe (but 100 per cent homemade and 100 per cent better). A finishing dab of butter adds silkiness and brings out the natural sweetness of the tomatoes and onions. Basil, another time-honoured tomato soup partner, garnishes the bowl.

The Best Cheeses for Grilled Cheese

Now for the gooey grilled cheese. Roger uses a blend of stringy mozzarella and sharp cheddar, bringing both texture and flavour – it’s the best of both worlds in this gourmet grilled cheese recipe. He isn’t shy with the cheese, piling the dairy goodness in the centre of hearty sourdough bread, even allowing a bit of cheese to fall out the side and caramelize while grilling.

If mozzarella and cheddar aren’t in your fridge, or you’re looking to step outside the box, Roger provides this yummy alternative: “One that’s really nice and melty, like Provolone or Havarti.”

Fontina and smoked Gouda both work wonders in a grilled cheese, too.

How to Make the Best Grilled Cheese Sandwich

“I think it’s important that there’s only very few elements from the grilled cheese, right? ” says Roger, who opts for minimal ingredients. “There’s bread, there’s butter, there’s cheese. So whenever you’re doing a recipe that has very limited ingredients like that, every ingredient really matters.”

We know it’s tempting, but don’t be stingy with the butter, it’s a core ingredient in the grilled cheese sandwich, making both quality and quantity count.

“Butters are not created equal, and you get some really pale watered down butters and they’re not great,” says Roger.

Irish and French butter is more expensive, but worth it here. While not absolutely necessary for the best grilled cheese sandwich ever, it certainly helps take it above and beyond.

Seasoning is also crucial and often skipped when making a grilled cheese sandwich.

“Make sure you season the layers internally,” says Roger. “You season when you stuff it with the cheese. And on the outside, on the butter, you season it with salt and pepper as well.”

For the bread, Roger reaches for sourdough because of its tangy taste. “So there’s a complexity of flavour in it,” he says, noting that you should look for a loaf with nice aeration and a nice crust on the outside.

Medium-low heat is the temperature you’re after on your stovetop griddle or skillet. This allows the cheese to melt slowly while the sourdough bread becomes golden brown, never burnt.

What Makes Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup So Good?

The mingling of crunchy, gooey, tangy and creamy elements is why grilled cheese and tomato soup go together so well. With this meal, it’s all about the contrast. For both kids and adults alike, there’s really no better comfort food meal, be it for lunch or dinner. It’s the timeless soup and sandwich combo, made Chef School-perfect.

Get Roger Mooking’s recipes for Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup. And, for a Canadian twist, try this recipe for Tomato and Beer Soup Shooters and Mini Bacon Grilled Cheese.

 

The Best Ham Recipes and Tips for Your Easter Table

With Easter coming up, we’re talking to Food Network Canada Chef School’s Michael Smith, Mark McEwan  and Roger Mooking to help us master the baked holiday ham, a favourite roast this time of year. Your top ham questions for Easter and beyond are answered right here, by the pros. Along with what ham is best, how to cook ham and great tips for keeping your ham moist during roasting, the chefs deliver great ham glaze recipes for the trademark sticky-sweet crackling crust guests can’t get enough of. Intensely savoury, a little sweet and always crowd-pleasing, your Easter ham will be better than ever this year, thanks to the pros.

Best Ham to Buy

For the chefs, it’s all about the best quality, bone-in ham you can find – Easter ham is a once-a-year luxury, but can stretch beyond a single meal. Go big, and be rewarded with incredibly versatile leftovers – ham sandwiches, ham macaroni and cheese, ham omelettes, ham biscuits and more, next-day ham is a recipe-improving boon (we have a handful of leftover ham recipe ideas at the bottom of this article).

Michael Smith offers his advice on the traditional Easter ham, including what to look for when you’re purchasing it, saying, “I only cook one ham a year and that’s right around Easter. The best ham is bone-in, from a trusted source. You want something natural, naturally smoked. Not too many words that you can’t pronounce on the label.”

“To me, the best is buying a smoked, bone-in ham,” says Roger. “If you can go to a really good butcher, they can guarantee that they’re giving you [a good quality] Berkshire Ham or a Red Wattle Ham.” Red Wattle and Berkshire are heritage breeds of pork known for having the best quality meat.

How to Cook a Ham and Best Ham Glaze Recipes

Unlike other holiday meats, the beauty of a smoked ham is that it’s already cooked through. Cooks just have to heat, glaze and slice.

Roger keeps his ham moist and tender by covering it in the first half of cooking and mopping the glaze over the ham to finish. This helps to avoid both dry meat and a burnt crust. “As long as it’s covered you’ll have a nice steamy environment, and then towards the end, you [uncover it] and glaze,” he says.

Mark doesn’t typically add a liquid to the roasting pan when preparing his ham but that’s not to say you shouldn’t if you’re worried about keeping it moist.

“You could throw a tiny bit of stock in the bottom of the pan. A little bit of moisture with ham is not a bad thing at all. It helps to temper the cooking process and keep the ham moist. And you do want a moist ham.”

Mark also cautions against glazing the ham too early, as it can become too dark, or even burnt.

For a great ham glaze, the chefs love the interplay of sweetness with acid which complements a salty, smoky pork. The sweet component of a ham glaze can come from maple syrup, honey, fruit preserves, brown sugar, fruit puree or a mix of these. The acidic element can come from apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, rice wine vinegar, or citrus.  A warm savoury note is welcome, too; some chefs like to add a bit of mustard or a strong spice like allspice to the mix.

You’re after the consistency of loose preserves or maple syrup for a glaze, something viscous enough that it will stick to the ham as you mop it on and baste.

Mark McEwan favours an “old school, old-fashioned bone-in a ham out of the oven, beautifully glazed.  For his glaze, Mark juices clementines and adds it to maple syrup. “I like clementines because they have a really rich colour and there’s a bit of pulp in it.” He rounds out the glaze with a bit of brown sugar and cider vinegar. And on the McEwan table,  ham is served with a good mustard; it’s “oh my goodness” delicious.

You can get Mark’s recipe for his Easter Ham Glaze with Maple and Clementine Juice here.

For Rogers’ glaze, he pairs his naturally smoked ham with honey, grapefruit juice, allspice, five-spice, a touch of strained tomato puree, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper, all stirred together until it reaches the consistency of maple syrup.

You can get Roger’s recipe for his Spiced Grapefruit and Honey-Glazed Ham glaze here.

Lynn Crawford has two delicious glazed ham recipes to serve at your holiday table: Pumpkin, Apple Cider, Maple Syrup and Mustard-Glazed Ham and a Traditional Maple-Glazed Ham with Cloves.

For a glazed ham recipe that gives you flexibility to create your own mix of flavours, try Michael Smith’s Sunday Ham with Apple and Rosemary Mustard Sauce. 

Easter Side Dishes for Ham

The perfect pairing for that beautifully glazed Easter ham is scalloped potatoes.   Try Tyler Florence’s Ultimate Potato Gratin recipe or pick your new favourite recipe from our 24 Seriously Delicious Scalloped Potato Recipes collection.

Our Favourite Recipes for Leftover Ham

Repurpose your holiday Easter ham myriad ways with these leftover ham recipes. It’s worth making extra just for them.

And for more leftover inspiration, here’s our collection of Best Easter Leftovers recipes.  

How to Cook a Perfect No-Flip Omelette, Plus More Easy Ways with Eggs

Good mornings start with great breakfasts. Chef Roger Mooking of Food Network Canada Chef School, showcases his skills with the incredible, edible egg, walking you through how to make the perfect omelette using the broiler – without the often-feared flipping. Roger’s failsafe tips make it possible for home cooks of all skill levels to turn everyday eggs into a chef-inspired morning masterpiece.  And along with Roger’s no-flip omelette recipe, we’re sharing even more egg recipes for breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner, so you can really get cracking in the kitchen.

 

How to Make a No-Flip Broiler Omelette

Make sure you have all of your ingredients set out and ready to go, as this breakfast omelette comes together fast.

Something important to note is the colour of the omelette. Classic French omelettes have no golden brown bits or caramelized edges, as the typical soufléed American-style omelettes often do, remaining a pale yolk-yellow inside and out. Gentle heat and a swift hand make this possible, as do the quality of the eggs.

Free-Run Eggs Are Best

Roger thinks free-run (or free-range) eggs are the most delicious eggs, and a clear choice for the perfect omelette.

“You want to get as close to the natural source of ingredients as possible,” he says.

Eggs are a great example of this, where quality and freshness really count. Head to your farmers’ market to source your eggs, or choose the best you can get at your local grocery store.

You’ll see that beating your eggs is no big deal. Skip the fancy whisk and use a fork, incorporating a little air, beating until the whites and yolks are uniformly combined. For flavour, Parmesan and chives add a hint of something special, without distracting from the mild eggs.

The Perfect Omelette Pan

Roger uses a mix of butter and vegetable oil in his cast-iron skillet – his preferred nonstick pan – so the butter won’t burn. When the pan is heated, a few moments of cooking is done on the stovetop before it’s popped under the broiler. If you’re adding a filling, add that before it heads into the broiler. Sautéed mushrooms, wilted spinach, leftover cooked vegetables or diced ham are just a few ideas, but Roger keeps his omelette unadulterated, classic French-style.

The tri-fold is the finishing touch (don’t stress!), along with additional Parmesan and chives. Serve it up with toast and breakfast (or brunch or lunch or dinner) is served.

Treat your family, and yourself, to Roger Mooking’s no-flip, no-fuss French Broiler Omelette tomorrow morning.

More Ways with Eggs, All Day

Eggs are one of the most versatile ingredients in the kitchen, taking you from breakfast to dinner.

The Perfect Make-Ahead Breakfast:
Protein-packed frittatas that can be made the night before, chilled and then sliced to eat on the go.
Try these recipes:
Michael Smith’s Broccoli Frittata
Whole30 Veggie-Packed Breakfast Frittata

Egg-cellent Lunch Ideas:
Versatile hardboiled eggs are just the ticket to power you through an afternoon.
Try these recipes:
Egg Curry
Egg Salad Sandwich with Avocado and Watercress
Lynn Crawford’s Chicken and Egg Salad

Cheep! Cheep! Dinner Recipes:
Eggs baked or poached in cream or a sauce is a delicious and economical way to serve up dinner. Don’t forget the crusty bread!
Try these recipes:
Roger Mooking’s Baked Eggs
Eggs in Purgatory

For more egg inspiration, check out 41 Tasty Ways to Eat Eggs for Dinner.

How to Buy and Cook Fish with Chef-Approved Tips and Recipes

Food Network Canada Chef School brings together Chefs Mark McEwan, Michael Smith and Roger Mooking to share their best tips and recipes for cooking fish at home. You’ll learn which types of fish work best for grilling, frying, oven-roasting and pan-searing and get great fish recipes for cooking cod, salmon, halibut, trout, tuna, sea bream and more!  You’ll also get their best tips for buying the freshest fish and learn how to select sustainable fish varieties that are friendlier for the environment. From beginner to advanced, prepare to have fish demystified as you find a fish and dish to suit your cravings.

How to Buy Fresh Fish

Mark McEwan gives his top tips to keep in mind as you head to the fishmonger (a butcher and purveyor of seafood).

Select Sustainable
Before you go shopping, research the fish you’re looking to cook on a site such as Ocean Wise, which can help you make a well-informed decision about your dinner. Ocean Wise makes this simple with their seafood search bar and no-fuss labelling.

The Fresh Fish Checklist
When you’re at the fishmonger, go through this checklist before buying to ensure you’re getting the freshest catch possible.

1. Aroma: First, use your nose to make sure the fish smells like the sea. It should never smell fishy or off.

2. Eyes: On whole fish, clear eyes, not grey or opaque, ones that sparkle when you peer at them, are the next thing you want to look for in your fish.

3. Gills: Make sure the gills are intact on a whole fish, and the interior bloodline should be a mix of bright red and healthy pink.

4. Firmness: Finally, give the fish a poke; it should be bouncy and spring back as opposed to sinking or retaining your fingerprint, which points to age and desiccation.

Nervous About Cooking Fish? Start Here

Not sure where to start? For the chefs, it’s about getting a quality fish you enjoy and preparing it simply. “Very minimal cooking that gives you a beautiful representation of what fish can be,” says Mark McEwan. Pick a fish and cook method you’re comfortable with, and go from there.

1. Pick a Fish to Cook
For beginners looking for a fail-safe fish to cook, a meatier variety with a higher fat content, like salmon, halibut and mackerel, are more forgiving to overcooking.

Best fish for beginners:
Halibut
Salmon
Haddock
Cod
Trout
Mackerel
Swordfish

Best fish for advanced:
Sea Bream
Tuna
Pickerel
Perch
Sardines

Roger Mooking stresses being mindful when shopping, opting for fish on a watch list, like Ocean Wise, aimed to help consumers make educated, sustainable seafood choices. He favours Canadian Halibut (Ocean Wise shares a great chart to help you pick a sustainable species of halibut). “You can grill it, you can roast it, you can pan sear it, you can steam it and they all work really well,” he says.

2. Pick the Right Cooking Method
Not every fish suits every cooking method, so we’ve whittled down a few key techniques and great recipes below. Your fishmonger will likely have cooking tips for your fish selection, too.

You don’t always need a recipe! Roger tells us that a preparation for salmon or halibut can be as simple as placing a pat of butter on the fish fillet, seasoning with salt and pepper, and roasting at 350ºF until the fish is cooked to your liking. The juices from the fish, along with the butter, salt and pepper are your built-in sauce.

The Best Fish for Deep-Frying

For a truly decadent meal, turn to fried fish. In this section, we’ll focus on battered and fried fish, but there are deep-frying preparations (like deep-fried whole fish) that the adventurous can explore.

“Any fish works battered and fried. But we tend to prefer white fish,” says Michael Smith. “Firm white fish tends to work best because it stands up to the (frying) process.” This includes halibut, cod, haddock, pickerel, perch and walleye, so look to what’s fresh, local and available in your area. You can even glean a bit of inspiration from your local fish and chip shop’s menu.

Here are some decadent deep-fried fish recipes to whet your appetite:
Roger Mooking’s Shoreline Fried Halibut
MMM Fish Tacos
Fish in Chips

The Best Fish for Grilling

The chefs are unanimous with their choice for having easy success with grilling fish: salmon.  Why? Michael Smith says that the higher the fat, the better the fish is for grilling, and salmon is naturally fattier. Roger Mooking adds, “Canada has really great salmon. You can get a lot of sustainable salmon as well.”

In addition to recommending salmon, Mark McEwan also recommends thicker steaks like halibut, tuna and swordfish because they work incredibly well on the grill.

Here are some great grilled salmon recipes to try:
Michael Smith’s Grilled Salmon with Grilled Salad
Miso-Ginger Marinated Grilled Salmon
Sweet and Spicy Grilled Salmon

Here are more delicious grilled fish recipes:
Michael Smith’s Grilled Tuna with Carribean Salsa
Grilled Tuna Tataki Bowl
Grilled Halibut with Tomato Vinaigrette
Grilled Swordfish with Candied Lemon Salad

Watch Mark McEwan grill a whole fish in this Italian inspired recipe:

How to Grill Fish Perfectly

In Chef School, Mark McEwan serves up a gourmet grilled sea bream. This recipe is advanced but doable for the home cook thanks to his pro tips. A quick marinade of fresh herbs, olive oil, salt and pepper are applied after scoring the fish skin to avoid buckling when it hits the grill. For the finishing touches, Mark pairs his grilled sea bream with crunchy focaccia croutons, juicy lemon segments, salty capers and more fresh herbs.

Mark’s 4 Steps to Grilled Fish Perfection
Regardless of which fish you choose, here are his top tips for a grilling flawlessly:

  1. Preheat the grill: Be sure to preheat your grill or grill pan; you want it red-hot so you can hear a loud sizzle when the fish hits the grill. Starting with a cool or just-warm grill will encourage sticking.
  2. Oil the grill: Before you add the fish, your grill needs to be oiled. To oil the hot grill, Mark uses a canola oil-laced cloth to wipe the grates, which has a higher smoke point than olive oil, so it won’t burn.
  3. Oil the fish, too: To oil the fish, Mark compares the amount of oil applied to the fish to the amount of suntan lotion you’d put on at the beach: not too much, not too little. If you’re making Mark’s sea bream recipe, the olive oil-based marinade doubles as the lubrication for the fish.
  4. Don’t flip too soon: The fish will release when it’s ready, so don’t move it right away. It’s tempting to fuss with fish on the grill, but Mark tells us the less you do, the better. When the first side of the fish is crispy and golden brown, it should release easily without any skin or flesh sticking.

 

Sea Bream

Get Mark McEwan’s recipe for Grilled Sea Bream, or try your hand at this super-easy, 20-minute grilled salmon recipe from Michael Smith.

 

How to Make Italian Meatballs with Veal and Ricotta

Serve up an Italian classic that pleases a crowd, with the best recipe ever for spaghetti and meatballs. In this episode of Food Network Canada Chef School, Mark McEwan delivers tried and true tips for making the time-honoured comfort food speciality, including the requisite marinara tomato sauce, with ease. And, if you’re wondering how to make real-deal meatballs on a weeknight, Mark has the answers, guiding you through an Italian meatballs and spaghetti dinner, complete with salad and baguette, by utilizing your pantry and freezer.

 

How to Make Classic Italian Meatballs for Spaghetti

In Mark’s meatball recipe, you’ll see there’s more to meatballs than meat. Ricotta makes them tender, while Parmesan acts in lieu of breadcrumbs, elevating the mix and keeping everything neat and tidy when rolling. Onions, cooked and cooled, are added for depth, while a good bit of salt and pepper season the mix.

Mark favours a medium-sized meatball, which gets rolled in flour before being seared, creating a flavourful brown crust – at this step, he notes, it’s important to not overcrowd the pan so the crust can form.

Of course, the perfect meatball needs the perfect marinara sauce, the heartbeat of the Italian kitchen.

 

A Simple Tomato Sauce Recipe for Your Meatballs

Canned San Marzano tomatoes are preferred by Mark because their sugar content is dialled-in for pasta sauce perfection, picked and canned within 24 hours. For this ultimate spaghetti and meatballs recipe, they’re worth seeking out. A bit of butter in the tomato sauce enriches the dish and creates a glossy, restaurant-quality look and taste.

For the pasta, keep your noodles al dente, with a touch of bite in the centre. The starch from the pasta binds the sauce, bringing everything together. The three components briefly cook in one pan, melding to create something super-special and ultra-delicious.

How to Freeze Meatballs

For those who want to get ahead of the game, freezing meatballs is essential for making a cozy, gourmet weeknight meal, in a flash. And Mark knows the perfect way to prepare meatballs for the freezer.

“I would cook them and then freeze them [in] plastic sealed containers. My wife does this all the time, she’ll make 300 meatballs and she’ll make a big batch of San Marzano tomato sauce. And then she puts eight meatballs in each container and then she covers them in sauce, lets them cool, pops them in the freezer and we eat perfect meatballs all month long. It’s the greatest fast dinner.”

To defrost the frozen meatballs, he recommends bringing them out the day before or slowly defrosting in the microwave (on a low setting) before finishing heating on the stovetop.

“They’re just the most amazing thing to have in your freezer,” Mark adds.

Batch-Cook Your Way to Dinner

Batch cooking helps this Chef create homemade meals that feed and please a crowd, any night of the week. It’s all about planning ahead, creating a pantry, refrigerator and freezer that works in your favour.

“We keep actually we keep Bolognese in the freezer, meatballs in sauce, and we keep straight sauce in plastic containers so that we can do a quick little meal,” says Mark. “One Saturday you do a bunch of stock, one Saturday you do your meatballs, the next Saturday you do your Bolognese and then you do your San Marzano [sauce], or you can do those together. You create this great inventory of products and you can always make a wonderful meal.”

An Italian Feast, Thanks to the Freezer

Continuing with a well-stocked freezer, Mark likes to keep baguettes in there, which would also pair nicely with meatballs and tomato sauce, with or without the pasta.

“I always have a baguette that gets cut in half, wrapped in foil and then [put in zip-top] bags,” he says. “I have them in the freezer so I can always take a baguette out, thaw it in the microwave throw it in the oven, crisp up the crust on it and I have a fresh baguette.”

And no pasta dinner is complete without a bright, fresh salad.

To make this happen, Mark keeps a well-stocked pantry, filled with such things as, “Good vinegars and good oils for throwing together a simple vinaigrette. A little bit of mustard, a little bit of anchovy paste, tiny bit of garlic. Boom. Fresh greens tossed. So healthy, so simple and it escapes a lot of people because…they overthink it.”

With spaghetti and meatballs on the table, an effortless salad ready to go and a baguette at hand to tear up and soak up that glossy San Marzano tomato sauce, dinner is served. Of course, a bottle of wine to complement the meal is a nice touch, if you have one handy.

All that’s left to do is twirl, slurp and dig in.

Make your own Italian feast tonight. Get Chef Mark McEwan’s recipes for Spaghetti and Meatballs, and Classic Marinara with San Marzano Tomatoes.