Favorite Night-Before Dishes

On Top of Spaghetti: Try not to let these turkey-pesto meatballs roll off the table...

One of the main reasons I ran the local marathon was to eat my beloved breakfast--steel-cut oats with Greek yogurt and almonds--before the race. It wasn't until a few days pre-race, though, I realized I'd be able to eat a home-cooked dinner as well. A blessing: I could eat exactly what I wanted without having to wade through a menu in an unfamiliar restaurant. And a curse: I had to cook dinner the night before the big event.  I debated between my old standards, recipes that never fail to please my palate and fuel my fire. I ended up going with option #1, a family fave. My kids have been gobbling  these 'balls up with so much gusto that I served it to them all on their first birthdays. (See Phoebe, below.) Now not only is it our unofficial b-day dinner, but my Boston-qualifying dinner!

Turkey-Pesto Meatballs (I double the Bon Appetit recipe.)
2 jars tomato sauce
1 pound ground turkey
1 1/2 cups homemade bread crumbs (I grind up crusts, too, despite what recipe says)
5 T. pesto (I use Contadina from refrigerator section of market)
2 egg whites
1 teaspoon salt

Pour one jar of sauce into large saucepan (I use a big Le Creuset one). Mix all other ingredients in bowl. With moist hands, form meatballs, golf-ball size or slightly smaller. Place in single layer in sauce, then pour other jar of sauce on top. Bring to a simmer, and let simmer for 20-30 minutes. Serve over spaghetti with Parmesan cheese. (These 'balls freeze really well.)

This next recipe--Fusilli all'Amatriciana--holds a special place in my heart. It's renamed Love Pasta at our house because it is the first dish I ever prepared for my now-husband. When we started dating, he was living in Chicago and I was in San Francisco. I cooked this on the first night he ever visited me in the City by the Bay (he jokes I locked him in my apartment, which he dubbed, "Sal-catraz." Sally being a nickname for you see how my husband's humor works). It fueled a lot of, ahem, action. (Just not of the running kind.) Since then, however, I've eaten it before plenty of 10Ks and 13.1s. (This recipe is also from Bon Appetit. I've modified it slightly after making it countless times.)

5-6 slices bacon
1 T. olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 28-oz. can Italian plum tomatoes
2 t. dried basil

cayenne pepper

In a large skillet, fry bacon. Once crispy, place cooked bacon on paper towels, and drain off about half the bacon fat. Add olive oil to skillet that bacon grease is in and add chopped onion. Saute until onions are soft and translucent, 8 to 10 minutes. Add white wine, and stir 2 minutes. Add basil and tomatoes, along with juices from can, and bring to a simmer, breaking up tomatoes with back of wooden spoon. Let simmer until sauce thickens and reduces, about 30 minutes. Add salt, pepper, and about 1/8 t. of cayenne pepper. Serve over cooked fusilli (although I always use penne), and top with grated Parmesan.

What's your favorite night-before-race recipe?

Phoebe has been a lover-of-meatballs for nearly 8 years!

19 responses to “Favorite Night-Before Dishes

  1. I have not run in 2 months, I am not injured, I have just taken on way too much in my life and running was the first thing to fall my the way side, I miss running so much!
    This blog is my work project, I tried to connect what I love with work, and connecting with busy mothers that have keep up there running is inspirational. I wanted to tell you all how proud I am that through all that you do – the kids, work, husband, keeping the house clean (okay I have a house keeper but she only comes every 2 weeks) and the countless chores we do, you managed to run! Some will say get up early, I do, and I walk my dogs for 45 minutes so by then it is 5:45 and I have to get the family out the door.
    So, with that said, I am planning on running in the disney 5K in January, it will most likely be my worst time ever, but I will be able to free my head for 30 minutes and think of all those other mothers that are able to keep going.

    MAJ Anna Johnson
    Student, Command and General Staff College,
    U.S. Army Combined Arms Center,
    FT Belvoir, VA

    This is the disclaimer: “The views expressed in this blog are those of the
    author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department
    of the Arm, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.”

  2. I’ve only run one race, and I registered the night before. My husband and son were out of town, so on the way home from registering, I stopped at Cosi at the train station and got a salmon salad. I was just craving a really good piece of salmon and some greens, and this did the trick. Of course I ate the bread that came with it.

  3. Small world…we LOVE both of these Bon Appetit recipes. I can completely vouch for the meatballs in particular — they are FAST, EASY and very POPULAR with kids. And they do freeze well.

    Honestly, we often don’t cook the night before a race. Japanese food is our pre-race dinner of choice.

    1. That’s too funny that you swear by both these recipes. I felt downright ancient last evening when I realized one recipe was from mid-1990s! You must share other favorite recipes with moi as we literally have the same taste!

  4. Ok I believe it’s really yummy coz of Phoebe’s cute pic at the end. LOL!

    Hi there! I’m currently reading the book you sent and will review it soon.. Just wanted to say, I am loving it! It’s very hard for me to put down and I wish I could read it from cover to cover but, well, we’re moms so… you know what I mean =)

    I’ll be adding you to my blog roll =)

    1. Glad you are enjoying RLAM, Julie. And I’ll take praise about my kids anytime. Phoebe was VERY pleased to have her photo up today.

  5. I don’t have any pre-race dinner traditions yet, but I am guessing I will soon after trying these! I do have the greek yogurt/granola thing going on before every long run and before every race.

    For the last race, my wonderful chef of a step-dad made me and the kiddos the most wonderful choice of (red) american chop suey penne pasta and (white) homemade mac-n-cheese penne pasta. They were both fabulous!

    Mom made the kids s’mores, which they of course loved, but it certainly made bed-time the night before the race a little interesting. Might want to re-think that one. Maybe on a night when I send them to grammas on their own 😉

  6. My husband has introduced me to Parm Crisps- and he’s risked me leaving him for them. It’s basically grated Parmesan cheese set on parchment paper (in little circular shapes) and baked until slightly crispy. It’s like a thin chip but oh-so-wonderful. It’s great …. always.

  7. LOVE Mary’s comment: St. Sarah, patron saint of marathons!

    Past for me, any which way. I have gotten some great recipes from Runner’s World (Mark Bittman in particular.)

  8. I will definitely make both of these! They look delicious. I love that you make your own bread crumbs but you don’t chop fresh garlic!!! 😉 I think I’ll call the first recipe St. Sarah’s Meatballs, named after our patron saint of marathons…sure to bring us luck/prs on race day!!! Thanks for sharing!!!

  9. Well… it always seems like a run Saturday races… and Friday nights at our house are “Pizza Night at Grandma’s”… so, whatever pizza joint my MIL has ordered from tends to be my go-to night before meal! Maybe I should look into doing some of these recipes? Will they make me run faster, longer, and harder? 😉 I think at heart I must just be lazy and the pizza thing is just easy!

  10. Creamy Sausage Pasta. A friend made it when I stayed with her the night before our first 1/2 and it is now tradition. It is alight tomato cream sauce and just good comfort food. I also eat asiago bagels the week before (Panera..mmmm!).

  11. Two to three days before the marathon I started to have Bertolli meals for dinner. Easy peasy pasta meals. I learned the night before a long run they didn’t upset my stomach or anything like that. The day we left for the hotel I made a Bertolli meal and packed it along with a delicious loaf of fresh bread from the bakery. I had made arrangements with the hotel we were staying at to have a microwave in our room and every thing worked out. Very lucky! I couldn’t imagine trying to get into a restaurant the night before Chicago.

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