Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are versatile, easy to prepare and naturally lower in fat and calories than many other meat options. By itself, though, chicken can be quite boring. Baked, grilled or roasted chicken is probably a regular part of your dinner rotation. So you’ll need some great side dishes for that chicken to bring some excitement to your plate.
Chicken Breasts with Herbs
Using a variety of herbs brings great flavor to chicken breasts.
- 2/3 cup chopped Italian (flat leaf) parsley
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
- 3 tablespoons finely shredded lemon peel
- 3 large cloves finely chopped garlic
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
- 3/4 cup chicken broth
In small bowl stir together parsley, oregano, lemon peel and garlic. Set aside. Season chicken with salt and pepper.
In a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat cook chicken in butter for 6 minutes or until browned, turning once. Transfer to plate.
Remove skillet from the heat; stir in half the herb mixture. Return to the heat. Add broth; bring to boiling, stirring to scrape up browned bits.
Return chicken to the skillet; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, 8 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink.
Pour the pan sauce over the chicken and sprinkle with the remaining herb mixture.
Make a new dish by changing the sauce:
In place of the chicken broth above add 1/2 cup white wine and 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard. Continue with the recipe above.
Mushrooms and Sage
Brown 8 oz. sliced cremini mushrooms in the pan after the chicken is removed. Add the chicken broth and 3 tablespoons chopped fresh sage instead of the oregano. Continue with the recipe above.
Turn the heat up after removing the chicken and add 2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes (about 12 oz.). Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes begin to burst, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients to the pan. Crush the tomatoes slightly to release their juices and continue with the recipe above.
Baked Onions with Fennel Crumbs
- 3 medium red or sweet onions, peeled and cut in half, root ends left intact but trimmed so they lay flat
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
- Kosher salt
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- 6 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1/4 cup panko crumbs
- 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh minced sage
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Brush the onion halves with olive oil, season with salt and arrange cut side down in an ovenproof medium skillet. Add the chicken stock and scatter the bay leaves around the onions. Cover tightly with foil and bake for about 1 1/2 hours, until the onions are very tender.
Meanwhile, in a small skillet, toast the fennel seeds over moderate heat, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a work surface and let cool, then coarsely crush the seeds. Transfer to a small bowl, add the panko crumbs, sage and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Toss and season with salt.
Carefully turn the onions cut side up in the skillet. Spoon the bread crumb mixture on top and bake for about 15 minutes longer, until the crumbs are lightly browned and crisp. Discard the bay leaves and serve the onions hot or warm.
Fresh Corn and Squash Saute
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 small white onion, finely diced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 3 small zucchini, diced
- 3 ears corn, husks and silk removed
- Sea salt to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Shredded fresh basil leaves, for garnish
- Grated Parmesan cheese for garnish
Heat butter in a skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Add garlic and onion and stir onion until translucent, about 5 minutes. Cut kernels from the ears of corn. Add zucchini and corn; cook and stir until the vegetables are tender, about 8 minutes. Season with sea salt and pepper. Add shredded basil and grated cheese to taste.
Green Bean and Vegetable Medley
- 1/2 pound fresh green beans, cut into 1-inch lengths
- 2 carrots, cut into thick strips
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 onion, sliced
- 1 pound fresh cremini mushrooms, sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
- 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
Place green beans and carrots in 1 inch of boiling water. Cover and cook until tender but still firm. Drain.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute garlic, onions and mushrooms until almost tender.
Reduce heat, cover and simmer 3 minutes. Stir in green beans, carrots, salt, herbs and white pepper. Cover and cook for 5 minutes over medium heat.
Au Gratin Potatoes
- 4 large russet potatoes, sliced into 1/4 inch slices
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups milk
- 1 1/2 cups good quality shredded white or yellow cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Butter a 2 quart casserole dish.
Layer 1/2 of the potatoes into the bottom of the prepared casserole dish. sprinkle with salt and pepper. Top with the onion and add the remaining potatoes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
In a medium-size saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Mix in the flour and salt and stir constantly with a whisk for one minute. Stir in milk very slowly. Cook until the mixture has thickened.
Stir in cheese all at once and continue stirring until melted, about 30 to 60 seconds. Pour cheese sauce over the potatoes. Cover the dish with aluminum foil with the side facing the potatoes sprayed with cooking spray.
Bake 1 hour and 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Remove foil and bake for 20 minutes more.
Penne with Broccoli and Ricotta
- 8 oz penne or other short pasta
- 4 cups broccoli florets
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small red onion, finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 cup ricotta cheese, room temperature
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add penne and cook 2 minutes less than the package instructions for al dente; add broccoli. Cook 2 minutes or until penne is al dente and broccoli is bright green.
Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water, drain pasta and broccoli; set aside.
In the same pan, heat oil over medium. Add onion and garlic; cook, stirring constantly, until onion is tender and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the reserved pasta water to help loosen any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
Add penne and broccoli and cook until warmed through; season with salt and pepper. Transfer pasta mixture to a serving dish and mix in the ricotta cheese. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve.
As immigrants from the different regions of Italy settled throughout the various regions of the United States, many brought with them a distinct regional Italian culinary tradition. Many of these foods and recipes developed into new favorites for the townspeople and later for Americans nationwide.
Bloomfield is a neighborhood in Pittsburgh that is referred to as Pittsburgh’s Little Italy. In the decades following 1868, Bloomfield was settled by German Catholic immigrants. Beginning around 1900, they were joined by Italians from five towns in the Abruzzi region. Descendants from both groups, with the Italians outnumbering the Germans, still give the neighborhood its character today.
The residents are diverse, as the neighborhood has a combination of working class Italian-Americans, various other European populations, African-Americans and a substantial population of college students. It is a decidedly urban neighborhood, with narrow streets and alleys packed with row houses. Liberty Avenue is the neighborhood’s main business thoroughfare.
Ciao Pittsburgh is western Pennsylvania’s longest-running online magazine covering all things Italian. They write about Italian cuisine, culture and traditions that have been passed from generation to generation. The magazine advocates for Italian-Americans and provides readers a platform to connect and unite with other Italian-Americans. Each month, they highlight the people, places, traditions and events among the Italian community with in-depth features and articles. Visit the magazine site. Here is a local recipe from a recent edition.
Nicky D Cooks: Pesci Pizzaiola
Copyright 2011 Check out Nancy’s blog.
“White Fish in herbed tomato sauce – a simple peasant dish that goes perfectly over rice pilaf, couscous or lightly dressed orzo in olive oil.”
- 1 ½ lbs cod fillets or white fish fillets
- 1 -2 cans small tomato sauce
- 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 cup (about) olive oil
- 1 large onion, sliced
- Coarse salt and fresh cracked pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish. Place the sliced onions on the bottom of the pan, then put fish on top of the onions. Pour a thin coat of the tomato sauce over the fish. Sprinkle oregano, garlic, salt and pepper, olive oil and cheese over the fish. Cover and bake fish in the oven about ½ hr (approximately) or until the fish is done. The fish will become white and flaky – this is when it is done.
Marion County West Virginia
Italian heritage is especially strong in Mountaineer Country, where at least 11% of the population of the Mountaineer Country has Italian ancestry. Many Italians originally immigrated to West Virginia in the early twentieth century to work in the coal mines throughout the state. Specialty glass factories in this region were largely an Italian immigrant industry with factories in Fairmont, Mannington and Clarksburg. Italian stonemasons were also common in the early communities.
Today Fairmont, Clarksburg and Morgantown form a tri-city area with a strong Italian American network, where community members maintain strong family ties which often include distant relatives, godparents and family friends. Families keep in contact by gathering at significant life events, such as weddings, anniversaries and funerals.
Local organizations, like the Sons of Italy in Morgantown, provide an important meeting place for the Italian American community. These organizations promote various cultural programs. The Sons of Italy, for example, organizes an Italian language course at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Morgantown. Morgantown is also home to the recently formed Committee for the Preservation of Italian History and Culture. This group raises money for local cultural events and sponsors historical programs of special interest to the Italian community.
One important event of the year in the region is the West Virginia Italian Heritage Festival in Clarksburg. Held in September each year, this event features traditional and contemporary Italian music and dance, bocce tournaments, homemade wine contests and plenty of Italian food. The event is a focal point statewide for the Italian American community.
Writer, filmmaker, Robert Tinnell, grew up in the small town of Rivesville, (Marion County) West Virginia, in an extended, Italian-American family. His comic strips are based on his experiences. Robert Tinnell’s Feast of the Seven Fishes has taken on a life of its own. It began as his family’s story of Christmas Eve and became a ‘graphic novel’ or strip, telling an engaging story. Check out Robert’s blog.
Here’s a recipe for one of Robert’s favorite Feast of the Seven Fishes dishes as described on his blog.
You Will Need: 2-4 pounds of calamari (squid), bread crumbs, salt, pepper, fresh grated Parmesan and/or romano cheese, eggs, garlic, basil, water, milk and additional chopped up portions of various seafood. He recommends serving them in Tomato Sauce.
How You Do It:
Remove the tentacles from the calamari, leaving only the body cavity.
Prepare a homemade tomato sauce and allow it to simmer while preparing the stuffing.
The Stuffing – In a large bowl, combine two 15 oz. cans of bread crumbs (or four cups fresh bread crumbs), one head of minced garlic, cup of milk and an egg. Add cheese to preference and chopped seafood. Mix by hand until you get a thick moist mixture; add more milk if necessary.
Now, take the stuffing and fill each calamari tube (tight but not too tight) and place in an olive oiled casserole dish. Lay the stuffed calamari in rows.
Drizzle the stuffed calamari with olive oil and cheese, then pour your sauce over top the entire dish.
Cover with foil and place in an oven that’s been pre-heated to 450 degrees F for about an hour.
Brier Hill is a neighborhood in Youngstown, Ohio, that was once viewed as the city’s “Little Italy” district. The neighborhood, which was the site of the city’s first Italian settlement, stretches along the western edge of Youngstown’s lower north side and encircles St. Anthony’s Church, an Italian-American Roman Catholic parish. Each year, at the end of August, the Brier Hill Fest attracts thousands of visitors from Northeast Ohio and Western Pennsylvania.
The neighborhood was the birthplace of “Brier Hill pizza”, a home-style recipe with origins in the Basilicata region of Italy. Brier Hill pizza is prepared with a generous amount of thick “Sunday sauce”, bell peppers and romano cheese, as opposed to the more typical mozzarella topping. It is one of several dishes the Youngstown area prides itself upon, in much the same way New Yorkers value their distinctive thin-crusted New York-style pizza.
According to Tony Trolio, the organizer of the Brier Hill Memorial Tribute Plaque project, most of the Italians that lived in Brier Hill all came from the same area in Italy; Colobraro, Provincia, Matera and Basilicata. “My parents, Antonio and Nicolette Trolio, came to America in 1922,” said Trolio, who added that they lived on Pershing Street, near St. Anthony’s. Sharing that his father, who was a plumber, continued all of the traditional Italian customs, including having a huge garden and making homemade wine and sausage. Trolio added, “My mother, like all the mothers, made pizza.” He added however, that his mother made and sold about 300 pizzas every week. “We bought boxes for her and called it Mama Mia’s Pizza.”
“I wrote two books about Brier Hill and, in fact, I claimed to be the first one to come up with the name Brier Hill Pizza,” said Trolio, adding that he also led the move to have four road signs installed claiming Brier Hill as the first Italian settlement in Youngstown. “This exciting event brings our tribute to our parents and neighborhood full cycle with two books written, four historic road signs installed honoring Youngstown’s first Italian immigrants and, finally, the memorial plaque,” said Trolio. The plaque is installed next to the parish’s cornerstone on the outside of the church where Trolio said he received his first communion, was confirmed, married and from where many of his family members funeral masses were held. (http://www.towncrieronline.com/)
St. Anthony’s Church still sells its Brier Hill pizza by the pie on most Friday mornings. It is a simple recipe consisting of red sauce, red/green peppers and romano cheese. It was a pizza that many early southern Italian immigrants could make from ingredients grown in their own backyards. Many years later, it has become a source of pride for a city that takes food very seriously. There are lots of great places in Youngstown that sell their own version of this style of pizza. However, for the real deal, you need to get a pie at St. Anthony’s church.
Modarelli Baking Company posted a recipe for the Brier Hill sauce on their Facebook page and writes:
“For those of you who aren’t familiar with Brier Hill Pizza… It’s a ‘style’ of pizza that originated in a Youngstown, Ohio neighborhood called Brier Hill just uphill from Youngstown Sheet and Tube. It was a neighborhood of Italian immigrants including my grandparents. From this neighborhood emerged a unique style of pizza that is Now called Brierhill. It was made from their gardens with tomatoes, peppers and garlic and had only pecorino romano cheese on top.”
This will make 2 – 12” or 4 – 6” pizzas
- 2 large cans crushed tomatoes
- 1 large can tomato puree
- Dried Basil, .about 1-2 teaspoons
- Dried Oregano, about 1/4 teaspoon
- Dried Parsley, about 1/2 teaspoon
- 4 Bell peppers (2 red & 2 green) chopped 1/2”- 1” chunks
- 2- 4 large cloves garlic
- Olive Oil
- Romano cheese
- …and MY secret ingredient 2-3 in. chunk pepperoni
- Favorite pizza dough crust/shell, see recipe below
Slowly brown garlic in olive oil in a saucepan…when it starts getting soft and slightly yellow-i crush it with the back of a spoon and let it get a darker yellow.
Add peppers and let it cool slightly before putting sauce in or it will ”sizzles” at you.
Add tomatoes, herbs and pepperoni chunk and bring to boil then simmer on low heat for at least 45 min. You can pull out garlic when done.
“Sometimes I add 1 hot pepper sliced in half or put in hot pepper seeds while cooking. Sometimes I will add some onion powder and garlic powder (1 teaspoon each and some seasoned salt ¼ teaspoon).”
Spread sauce/peppers on pizza dough, sprinkle on a generous amount of grated pecorino romano cheese and bake.
- 1-1/2 cup warm water (100* to 105* F)
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1-1/4 oz Active Dry Yeast Packet
- 1-1/2 teaspoons Salt
- 1 tablespoon Olive Oil
- 4 Cups of bread flour
(BY HAND) Pour the warm water into a mixing bowl, Add the sugar and packet of yeast. Stir the mixture slowly until yeast and sugar are dissolved. Let sit to allow the mixture to “mature” about 10 minutes or so, The mixture will begin to react: clouding and forming a foamy froth on the surface of the mixture.
Add the salt and olive oil and stir again to combine and dissolve the ingredients. Add one cup of flour and whisk in until dissolved. Add the second cup of flour and whisk it in. Add the third cup of flour and combine. The dough mixture should be fairly thick. Add the last cup of floor and with your hands begin to combine and knead the dough.
Remove the dough ball to the tabletop to knead it. You may need to add a dusting of flour from time to time to reduce the stickiness of the dough. Be patient, folding the dough ball in half, then quarters over and over again for about 8 minutes. You’ll know you’ve done well when the dough no longer sticks to your hands. Coat the dough ball with a thin layer of olive oil and place at the bottom of a large mixing bowl which has been coated on the inside with some olive oil and cover with a stretched piece of kitchen film or kitchen towel.
MIXER OR FOOD PROCESSOR: put all dry ingredients in as listed above and run the machine for about a minute on low-speed to mix the ingredients dry. Add the water slowly and mix/knead until a ball is formed (not usually more than a couple of minutes of machine running time).
Set in a warm place. Allow the dough to rise undisturbed for an hour or so until the dough ball grows at least twice its original size. Punch down lightly and let sit for another hour of rising before spreading in a pizza pan.
The Hill is a neighborhood within St. Louis, Missouri, located south of Forest Park. Its name is due to its proximity to the highest point of the city, formerly named St. Louis Hill. The first Italians to move to St. Louis were Lombard villagers from the region around Milan. Fleeing poverty and overpopulation, they arrived in the 1880s to work in St. Louis’s clay mines and brick factories. At the turn of the century, Sicilians came to work in the same factories and were soon sharing the Hill with their northern cousins.
The first restaurants on the Hill began as taverns catering to workers and evolved over the years into Italian American restaurants. On their menus you’ll find the standards: spaghetti carbonara, cannelloni, scampi, plenty of veal dishes and, usually, ”toasted” ravioli—a definitive St. Louis Italian specialty, said to have been born by accident about fifty years ago at a restaurant on the Hill when a piece of the stuffed pasta fell into a pot of hot fat.
Tony Catarinicchia, who left Palermo more than 25 years ago, says, ”Good Italian food doesn’t need too many ingredients and should never be over sauced,”. Catarinicchia draws crowds of locals to his restaurant with his long list of dishes including fried artichokes, pennette all’arrabbiata and seafood ravioli. His eggplant parmesan is made in the summertime with ingredients picked from the restaurant’s garden.
The Hill is one of St. Louis’s least changed and most stable neighborhoods. Currently, about three-quarters of the residents are Italian-Americans. The neighborhood is home to a large number of locally renowned Italian-American restaurants, bakeries, grocery stores, salons and two bocce gardens.
Tony’s Eggplant Parmesan
This southern Italian classic might be named after the cheese that tops it—but some Sicilians think the title comes from palmigiana , meaning ”shutter”, describing the way the eggplant slices are often overlapped.
- 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 28-oz. can crushed Italian tomatoes
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 eggs
- 1 1/2 cups dried plain bread crumbs, sifted
- 1 large eggplant
- 12 fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces
- 1/4 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano
- 3/4 cup grated provolone cheese
Preheat oven to 375°f. Heat 1/4 cup olive oil and garlic in a medium saucepan over medium heat until garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes, season to taste with salt and pepper, and simmer, stirring, until sauce thickens, about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, place flour in a shallow dish. Beat eggs together in another shallow dish. Mix bread crumbs with a generous pinch of salt and pepper in a third shallow dish. Set dishes aside.
Peel and trim eggplant and slice lengthwise into 1/2” pieces. Dredge each slice first in the flour, then in the egg, then in the seasoned bread crumbs.
Heat remaining ⅛ cup oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until oil is hot but not smoking. Add breaded eggplant slices to the hot oil (working in batches, if needed) and cook until golden on both sides and dark brown on the edges, 2-3 minutes per side.
Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce in the bottom of a large shallow ovenproof dish. Arrange eggplant in a single layer on top of tomato sauce. Spoon remaining sauce over eggplant. Scatter basil on top of sauce and sprinkle with parmigiano-reggiano, then provolone. Bake until sauce is bubbling and cheese is melted, about 20 minutes.
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Molise is a region of Southern Italy. Until 1963, it formed part of the region of Abruzzi. The split, which did not become effective until 1970, makes Molise the newest region in Italy. The region covers 4,438 square kilometres/1,714 sq mi making it the second smallest region in Italy with a population of about 300,000. The region is split into two provinces, named after their respective capitals, Isernia and Campobasso. Campobasso also serves as the regional capital.
Molise is also one of Italy’s less developed and poorest areas. In Molise, one can see two different centuries existing side by side when, on one side of the street grandmothers all in black are purchasing produce in the market and on the other side of the street there are young girls dressed in Benetton carrying mobile phones. Outside the cities are underdeveloped villages that seem to have been forgotten in time, while in the big cities progress is pushing ahead. However, one does not travel to Molise to explore the big cities but to enjoy the region’s natural beauty, the unspoiled beaches and the archaeological excavations.
More than 40% of Molise is covered by mountains. In the Matese area, located on the border of Campania, you will find magnificent mountain ranges. The region is also home to eagles, bears and wolves in the deep forests and it is one of the best locations to harvest mushrooms.
Though there is a large Fiat plant in Termoli, the industrial sector is dominated by the construction industry. With small and medium-sized farms spread widely throughout the region, food processing is another important industry. Pasta, meat, milk products, oil and wine are the traditional regional products. In the service sector the most important industries are distribution, hotels, catering, transport, communications, banking and insurance.
After the earthquake of 2002, some of the communities in Molise adopted a policy which contributed state money to individuals willing to make their homes more resistant to seismic activity. Larino, near Termoli, was a particular beneficiary of this policy and the town, already one of the most beautiful in the province, was transformed. The policy included returning the houses to their historical colors and, based on careful research, the structures were painted in a range of soft pastel tones. As a result, Larino has become an important center for tourism and scores of expatriates from all over the world are returning to live in the revived center. Larino is also famous for the Festa di San Pardo (Larino’s patron saint) and you will witness more than one hundred cattle drawn carts completely covered in flowers made by local families during the three days of festivities.
International tourism is becoming more prevalent as a result of the international flights from other European countries, Great Britain and North America which enter Pescara, not far to the north in Abruzzo. The tourists are attracted by large expanses of natural beaches, a relative lack of congestion and a gentle pace of life.
The cuisine of Molise is similar to the cuisine of Abruzzo, though there are a few differences in the dishes and ingredients. The flavors of Molise are dominated by the many herbs that grow there. Some of Molise’s typical foods include spicy salami, locally produced cheeses, lamb or goat, pasta dishes with hearty sauces and regional vegetables. In addition to bruschetta, a typical antipasto will consist of several meat dishes, such as sausage, ham and smoked prosciutto.
Main dishes of the region include:
- Calcioni di ricotta, a specialty of Campobasso, made of fried pasta stuffed with ricotta, provolone, prosciutto and parsley and usually served with fried artichokes, cauliflower, brains, sweetbreads, potato croquette and scamorza cheese
- Cavatiegl e Patane, gnocchi served in a meat sauce of rabbit and pork
- Pasta e fagioli, pasta-and-white-bean soup cooked with pig’s feet and pork rinds
- Polenta d’iragn, a polenta-like dish made of wheat and potatoes, sauced with tomatoes and pecorino
- Risotto alla marinara, a risotto with seafood
- Spaghetti with diavolillo, a chili pepper sauce
- Zuppa di cardi, a soup of cardoons, tomatoes, onions, pancetta and olive oil
- Zuppa di ortiche, a soup of nettle stems, tomatoes, onions, pancetta and olive oil
Typical vegetable dishes may include:
- Carciofi ripieni, artichokes stuffed with anchovies and capers
- Peeled sweet peppers stuffed with bread crumbs, anchovies, parsley, basil and peperoncino, sautéed in a frying pan and cooked with chopped tomatoes
- Cipollacci con pecorino, fried onions and pecorino cheese
- Frittata con basilico e cipolle, omelette with basil and onions
Fish dishes include red mullet soup and spaghetti with cuttlefish. Trout from the Biferno river is notable for its flavor and is cooked with a simple sauce of aromatic herbs and olive oil. Zuppa di pesce, a fish stew,is a specialty of Termoli.
The cheeses produced in Molise are not very different from those produced in Abruzzo. The more common ones are Burrino and Manteca – soft, buttery cow’s-milk cheeses, Pecorino – sheep’s-milk cheese, served young and soft or aged and hard, Scamorza – a bland cow’s-milk cheese, often served grilled and Caciocavallo – a sheep’s-milk cheese.
Sweets and desserts have an ancient tradition here and are linked to the history of the territory and to religious and family festivities. Most common are:
- Calciumi (also called Caucioni or cauciuni), sweet ravioli filled with chestnuts, almonds, chocolate, vanilla, cooked wine musts and cinnamon and then fried
- Ciambelline, ring-shaped cakes made with olive oil and red wine
- Ferratelle all’anice, anise cakes made in metal molds and stamped with special patterns
- Ricotta pizza, a cake pan filled with a blend of ricotta cheese, sugar, flour, butter, maraschino liqueur and chocolate chips
Traditional Molise Recipes
Polpi in Purgatorio
Spicy Octopus, Molise Style
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 onions, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 10 sprigs Italian parsley, minced
- 2 teaspoons peperoncini, or more to taste
- 1 to 1 1/2 pounds young octopus
Clean the octopus in salted water and rinse well.
Heat half the oil in a medium skillet with a cover over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, parsley and peperoncini and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions soften, 6 to 8 minutes.
Add the octopus to the onion mixture with the remaining oil. Season lightly with salt.
Cover the pan with a lid and cook over very low heat for 2 hours, stirring the octopus from time to time with a wooden spoon. Serve as an appetizer.
Baked Fettuccine with Tomato and Mozzarella
Fettucine con salsa d’aromi
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 4 fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
- 8 fresh basil leaves, finely shredded
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
- 1-15 oz can Italian tomatoes, chopped
- 1/4 peperoncino or 1/4 teaspoon chili flakes, more or less to taste
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano (or other pecorino)
- 1/4 lb scamorza (you can substitute mozzarella)
- 1 lb fettuccine
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and sauté garlic until golden.
Add basil, parsley, mint and peperoncino. Sauté a minute or two more.
Stir in the tomatoes, salt and pepper. Cook over medium-high heat (a fast bubble) stirring occasionally until the sauce thickens, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile bring pot of salted water to the boil. Cook the pasta al dente. Do not overcook.
Preheat oven (while pasta cooks) to 425 degrees F.
Drain the pasta very well and mix with the sauce in the pan.
Transfer all to a greased ovenproof dish.
Sprinkle on the cheese and lay the slices of scamorza or mozzarella on top.
Bake for a few minutes until the cheese melts and bubbles. Serve hot.
Molise Style Stuffed Peppers
- 6 medium green bell peppers
- 5 cups day old bread, cut into small cubes
- 4 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 small can anchovies, chopped
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for the filling
- Grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Wash the peppers. Cut a hole around the stem. Remove the stem. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and ribs.
In a bowl, combine the bread, parsley, garlic and anchovies. Mix together. Sprinkle with olive oil and toss to coat; do not saturate the bread with oil. Fill the peppers evenly with the stuffing.
Put 1/2 cup of olive oil in a baking pan. Lay the peppers on their sides in the pan. Bake for 20 minutes, turning occasionally to cook evenly.
Sprinkle each pepper fresh Parmigiano Reggiano at the end of the cooking time and allow it to melt over the pepper.
Calzoni d’Isernia are named after the town of Isernia in Molise
Makes 12 Calzones
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- Pinch of salt
- 2 large eggs, slightly beaten
- 1/4-1/2 cup water
- 4 ounces pancetta
- 8 ounces ricotta cheese
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 cup mozzarella, grated or diced into small cubes
- 1 teaspoon chopped parsley
- Pinch of salt
- Pinch of pepper
Oil for frying
Marinara sauce for serving
In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt. Add the whole eggs and mix into the flour. Add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water slowly until all the flour is incorporated. Don’t add too much water or the dough will become sticky. Once the dough is formed, knead for about 5 minutes.
Roll out the dough on a floured surface to about 1/8 inch thickness. Cut the dough into squares that are 4 inches by 4 inches. You should be able to get about 12 squares.
For the filling:
Cook the pancetta in a skillet over medium-high heat for a few minutes until well browned. Cool.
Combine the ricotta, egg yolks, mozzarella, pancetta, parsley, salt and pepper together in a mixing bowl.
Place some of the filling in the center of each square of dough. Fold the dough over to form a triangle. Use the tines of a fork to pinch together the seams of the dough. Be careful not to over-stuff the dough or the filling will come out during frying.
Fill a heavy-bottomed pot with about 3 inches of oil. Heat oil to 350 degrees F. Once the oil is hot, drop the calzones in (1 at a time if using a smaller pot, or just a few at a time using a larger pot).
Remove the calzones with a slotted spoon or spider when they have gotten a golden brown color on both sides. Let them drain on a paper towel.
Serve warm with marinara sauce, if desired.
Calciuni del Molise
Adapted from Italian Regional Cooking by Ada Boni, published 1969, Dutton (New York) (Note: this was the first cookbook I owned.)
Makes 15 fritters
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 egg yolks
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon white wine
- 1/4 pound fresh chestnuts
- 1 1/2 tablespoons slivered almonds, toasted
- 1 1/4 teaspoons semi-sweet chocolate
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 1 tablespoon Amaretto liqueur
- 1 pinch cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Oil for frying
Powdered sugar for garnish
Cinnamon for garnish
Put the flour in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and add the egg yolks, water, wine and olive oil. Mix the components slowly until a dough has formed. Once the dough is formed, put it on a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Cover the dough and set aside. (You can also do this in an electric mixer.)
Using a paring knife make an X on one side of each chestnut. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the chestnuts and let boil for about 10 minutes. Drain the chestnuts and remove the shell and the skin from the chestnuts.
In a food processor, chop the toasted almonds until finely ground. Add the chestnuts and continue to grind until no large pieces remain.
Put the ground chestnuts and almonds in a bowl. Grind the chocolate in the food processor until no large pieces remain. Add to the chestnuts and almonds.
Add the honey, Amaretto, cinnamon and vanilla to the nut/chocolate mixture. Stir well.
Roll the dough out on a floured surface to about 1/8 inch thick. Using a 3-4 inch circle cookie cutter or drinking glass, cut out circles from the dough. You should be able to get 15 rounds.
Place about 1 tablespoon in the center of each circle. Do not overfill the pastries. Fold one end over and pinch tightly around the edges to close. Seal edges completely so the filling does not come out while frying.
Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Fry the fritters, a few at a time, until golden brown on each side. Remove with a slotted spoon or spider and place on a paper towels to drain.
Arrange on a plate and sprinkle with powdered sugar and cinnamon.
It can be challenging to serve eggs when you are entertaining house guests. A simple solution is to bake them. Eggs baked in the oven are delicious and offer an alternative to your usual sunny side up or over-easy preparations. You can bake them in individual dishes or in a baking dish and you can add whatever ingredients you like. Additions well suited to eggs are spinach, tomatoes, asparagus, cheese, prosciutto or ham and lots of herbs.
I like baking them in a tomato sauce to make a hardier, meatless entrée and, then, serve them with some delicious sides to make a satisfying lunch or dinner. Serve this meal with some really good crusty Italian bread.
Baked Eggs in Tomato Sauce
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon crushed dried rosemary
- 2 cans (15 ounces each) diced tomatoes in juice
- 1 can (15 ounces) crushed tomatoes
- 1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
- Coarse salt and ground pepper
- 8 large eggs
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Set four 12-ounce ovenproof bowls or ramekins on a large rimmed baking sheet.
In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium. Add garlic and rosemary; cook, stirring, until garlic is golden, about 2 minutes. Add diced tomatoes (with juice), crushed tomatoes and Italian seasoning; bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, 2 to 4 minutes. Season tomato sauce with salt and pepper.
Divide tomato sauce among the bowls, reserving 1 cup. Crack 2 eggs into each bowl.
Dividing evenly, top each dish with ¼ cup reserved sauce and 2 tablespoons Parmesan.
Bake until egg whites are just opaque (yolks should still be soft), 24 to 28 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through.
- 3 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
- 3 medium leeks–white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
- 3 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
Fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the potatoes and 1 teaspoon of the salt and cook until a paring knife easily slips into the center of a potato, 15 – 20 minutes. Drain the potatoes and let them cool. Dice the potatoes and place in a bowl.
In a large skillet set over medium-high heat, add 1 tablespoon of the butter, the black pepper and red pepper flakes, swirling the pan until the butter is melted. Stir in the leeks and cook, stirring often, until the leeks are browned and crisp around the edges, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and cook until the garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute. Transfer the leek mixture to the bowl with the potatoes. Add the oregano and use a fork to stir the mixture until combined, (don’t overmix).
In the same skillet, add 2 tablespoons of butter. Once the butter is melted, let it brown, swirling often, about 1 minute. Add the potato mixture and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt, spreading it out into an even layer in the pan. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the bottoms of the potatoes are crisp and browned, about 4 to 6 minutes. Turn off the heat and sprinkle with the chives. Serve alongside the baked eggs.
Makes 2 cups of sauce
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons unbleached, all-purpose flour
- 2 cups hot whole milk
- Fine sea salt to taste
- Grinding coarse black pepper
- 2 one pound packages fresh spinach, washed and stemmed
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/4 cup grated Pecorino cheese
For the sauce
Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour to make a smooth paste. Slowly whisk in the milk and cook the mixture over medium heat until it thickens on the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat and stir in the salt and pepper. Cover and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350 degree F.
Cook the spinach in a large pot without any additional water. When it is wilted, drain it and squeeze it dry. Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan, add the garlic and the spinach and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, for 3 or 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in 1/2 cup of the besciamella sauce and transfer the mixture to a baking dish.
Spoon the remaining sauce over the top of the spinach and sprinkle the top with the cheese.
Bake about 15 minutes or until the mixture is hot. Serve as a side to the baked eggs.
Pasta with Sautéed Mushrooms
- 1 1/2 pounds fresh mushrooms
- 1/2 lemon
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1 pound tagliatelle or fettuccine pasta
- Splash white wine
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
Submerge the mushrooms in cold water, swish around to wash thoroughly and drain. Trim the ends, slice and place in a large bowl. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the mushrooms and mix.
Place the garlic and olive oil in a large skillet. Heat over medium-high heat until the garlic begins to sizzle but not brown, about 30 seconds. Add the mushrooms, stir and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 4 minutes.
Remove the lid, add the salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until all moisture is evaporated and the mushrooms begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in the parsley.
While mushrooms are cooking, bring a large pot of water to a boil for the tagliatelle pasta. When the water has come to a boil, add salt and the pasta.
While the pasta is cooking, add a splash of white wine to the mushrooms and let simmer for 1 minute. Add cream and grated cheese and bring to a simmer. Remove pan from the heat.
When pasta is al dente, add to the pan of mushrooms and stir. Serve with the baked eggs.
When making this recipe to go with the baked eggs, cook the asparagus first. Bake for 10 minutes, remove from the oven and cover the pan with heavy-duty foil. Turn the oven down to 350 degrees F and bake the eggs.
- 1 ½ pounds fresh asparagus spears
- 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Snap off and discard woody bases from asparagus. Place asparagus and garlic in a 15x10x1-inch baking pan. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to coat.
Roast for 10 to 15 minutes or until asparagus are crisp-tender, stirring once halfway through roasting. Serve with the baked eggs.
Italian Green Bean Salad
- 1-1/2 pounds (675 grams) flat Italian-style green beans or regular green beans, ends trimmed
- Kosher salt
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, or to taste
- 6 garlic cloves, each cut into 3 or 4 pieces
- Freshly ground black pepper
Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the beans and 1 tablespoon salt. Boil until the beans are tender, with no crunch, 8 minutes. Drain in a colander but do not rinse. Let the beans cool and air dry in the colander.
Transfer the beans to a serving bowl and toss with the olive oil, vinegar and garlic. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let stand for 10 minutes to allow the beans to absorb the flavors. Serve at room temperature.
Cotoletta Alla Milanese
Cotoletta is most likely an adaptation of the southern Italian word costoletta, meaning ribs or cutlet, or it may come from the French côtelette. Though the origin and the spelling of the name are uncertain, the dish itself is not. It is a portion of meat, usually veal, fried in breadcrumbs and in its most famous form, it is called cotoletta alla milanese. Today, the technique extends to chicken, turkey and even vegetables. In dishes like these, the name describes the manner of preparation and simply means that the food has been fried with bread crumbs.
The origin of the dish is as obscure as that of the name and its spelling, with both Austrians and the Italians claiming to have invented it. Proof that cotoletta alla milanese is a Milanese invention is in fact provided by two historical documents. The first is a “menu” from 1134, for a meal given by an abbot to the choristers of Sant’ Ambrogio. The list of dishes includes “lumbulos con panito”, sliced loin in breadcrumbs.
This evidence of a Lombard specialty is quoted in Pietro Verri’s, Storia di Milano. A second item of proof is a letter written by the Austrian general, Field Marshal Radetzky, to the Imperial Staff Officer, Baron Attems. After various comments and pieces of information, the general writes of the cotoletta and describes the method of preparation, speaking of it as a new discovery. Perhaps it was the Austrians who learned the dish from south of the Alps – the Milanese certainly believe so. You probably do not want to get into the middle of that argument.
In any case this is a delicious dish to make and the only decision you need to make is what to serve with the pork. I have given you a number of choices that I think go well with a milanese recipe. Choose one.
Pork Chops Milanese
(Adapted from chef, Jonathan Waxman)
- Four 10-ounce bone-in pork rib chops
- 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus extra for drizzling over the pork
- 1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 loaf fresh Italian country bread, crust removed and cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 large eggs
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 lemons, juiced (about ¼ cup)
- 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Place each pork chop in a separate large resealable plastic bag and, using a rolling-pin, gently pound each chop until it is about 8 inches in diameter and about 3/4-inch thick.
Remove each chop from the bag and coat with a drizzle of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
In a food processor, pulse the bread cubes into fine crumbs (you should end up with about 3 cups of crumbs). Place the crumbs into a large paper bag.
Place the flour in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper.
In another large bowl, beat the eggs with 1 teaspoon of sea salt and 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
Place the pork chops in the flour, coat them well and then dip each one into the egg mixture. Transfer the chops to a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with the remaining egg mixture, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Transfer the chops, one at a time, to the bag with the bread crumbs. Close the bag and shake well to coat each chop thoroughly.
Preheat a skillet large enough to hold 2 chops in a single layer. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter and heat over medium heat until the butter is golden brown. Place two chops in the pan and cook for 4 to 5 minutes on one side. Using a spatula, gently turn each chop. Cook for 3-4 minutes longer.
Remove from the heat and transfer the chops to a platter. Add 2 tablespoons lemon juice to the pan, stir to deglaze and pour the juices over the cooked chops.
Wipe out the pan and repeat this process with the remaining chops, oil, butter and lemon juice. Sprinkle the chops with the Parmesan cheese. serve with one of the side dishes below
Contorno (Side Dishes)
Mascarpone Polenta with Wild Mushrooms
(Adapted from the Cuoco Pazzo Restaurant, Scottsdale, AZ)
Polenta comes in three types of grinds: fine (which has a consistency similar to wheat flour), semi coarse and coarse.
- 1½ cups polenta or ground cornmeal
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- ½ cup fresh or frozen sweet corn kernels
- 2 tablespoons mascarpone cheese
- Kosher salt
- White pepper
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 5 cups thinly sliced mixed mushrooms
- 1 small shallot, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
- ½ tablespoon finely chopped chives, plus additional for garnish
- ½ tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
- White truffle oil
- 2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan
In a large saucepan, bring 5 cups of salted water to a boil. Slowly add the polenta and whisk constantly until tender, about 7 to 10 minutes. Use a wooden spoon to stir in the butter, corn and mascarpone cheese. Season with salt and white pepper. Set aside.
In a large skillet set over medium heat, heat the olive oil and add the mushrooms. Cook until they soften slightly, about 7 to 10 minutes. Add the shallot and garlic and cook until translucent. Season with salt to taste.
Stir the herbs and Parmesan cheese into the polenta and spread the polenta onto a serving platter. Spoon the mushrooms onto the center of the polenta and drizzle lightly with truffle oil. Sprinkle with chives and serve as a side to the grilled pork chops.
Olive-Oil-Braised Broccoli Rabe
Look for broccoli rabe with vibrant green leaves and plump stems. Small-leaved plants are young and therefore mild-tasting.
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 3 medium garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
- 1 bunch (1 1/4 pounds) broccoli rabe, trimmed and cut crosswise into 3-inch pieces
- 2 teaspoons julienned lemon zest, plus fresh lemon juice for serving
- Coarse salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- 1 cup homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock
Heat the oil and garlic in a large straight-sided skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until garlic is sizzling and aromatic, but not browned, about 2 minutes.
Add the broccoli rabe, zest and 3/4 teaspoon salt, then use tongs to toss and coat in oil. Add the stock and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook until broccoli rabe is tender, 7 to 10 minutes.
Transfer contents of pan (including liquid) to a serving bowl. Grind pepper over top and drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice. Serve immediately.
Spinach Salad with Roasted Fennel and Grapefruit
(Adapted from A Good Food Day: Reboot Your Health with Food That Tastes Great.)
4 to 6 servings
- 1 large fennel bulb, halved lengthwise, then sliced lengthwise ½ inch thick
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 pink grapefruit
- One 5-ounce container or bag of baby spinach
- ½ cup pitted oil-cured black olives, halved
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.
Place the fennel on the prepared baking sheet and toss the wedges with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and roast until tender and the edges are browned and crispy, 30 to 35 minutes.
Grate the zest of the grapefruit into a bowl. Using a sharp knife, trim ¼ inch to ½ inch off the top and bottom of the grapefruit so it stand flat on a cutting board. Following the curve of the fruit, remove the white pith and the membrane covering the fruit. Cut in between the membranes to remove the fruit and place them in the bowl with the zest. Squeeze what remains of the grapefruit over a small bowl or measuring cup to release any juice still left in the grapefruit.
In a large salad bowl, combine the spinach, olives and grapefruit segments. Add the roasted fennel along with 2 tablespoons of the reserved grapefruit juice and the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Serve as a side to the pork.
Greens and Potatoes
- 4 quarts water
- Salt for the water
- 3 baking potatoes, peeled and quartered crosswise
- 2 pounds Swiss chard or spinach or kale, cleaned and cut into 1/2-inch strips
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 4 garlic cloves, crushed
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a large stock pot over high heat, add the water and salt; bring to a boil. Add the potatoes and boil for 10 minutes. Add the Swiss chard. Boil until the potatoes and chard stems are tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Drain in a colander.
In a large sauté pan or skillet over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, divided. Add the garlic and cook until brown. Add the chard and potatoes. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Sauté, stirring and mashing the potatoes, until the liquid has evaporated and the potatoes are coarsely mashed. If the potatoes begin to brown, reduce the heat.
Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, season to taste with salt and pepper, and mix well. Serve as a side with the pork.
Soup for lunch, soup for dinner or soup as a starter… it’s just great to have on hand!
Soup is good for you and it tastes good. A great soup starts with a stock. What is stock? It’s just the liquid you get when you simmer meat, bones or vegetables together with aromatic vegetables and seasonings. This is what forms the major flavor base for a soup.
A homemade vegetable soup is just so much better than anything you’d get in a can. For one thing, only ingredients that you like end up in the soup. Plus, you have the opportunity to make it much healthier. Vegetable soup is also a great way to empty your refrigerator before the next trip to the grocery store — you can put almost any vegetable in a good old-fashioned vegetable soup.
You can add any vegetable you like but it’s a good idea to pick vegetables that go well together. If you add some bitter vegetables, like broccoli, brussel sprouts or turnips, try to balance it with sweeter vegetables like potatoes, carrots or peas.
If you want to avoid overcooking vegetables, add the veggies that need to cook longest first, letting them cook a bit before adding the vegetables that take the least amount of time to cook.
A soup is all about blended flavors. If you use smaller vegetable chunks, you can fit a few different kinds on a spoon and get a better taste. Smaller vegetable pieces also cook faster. The only rule to how much to add is that you should have enough broth to cover all the vegetables.
The last thing that makes up a homemade vegetable soup is the seasoning you add. The broth will tend to reduce the longer the soup cooks. That means that any seasonings added will get more intense as the soup cooks. You can avoid getting an overwhelmingly seasoned soup by adding the seasonings toward the end of the cooking time. There are plenty of seasonings that are suited to soup. Some popular seasonings are: ginger, rosemary, thyme, basil, oregano, parsley, onion powder, garlic powder and cayenne pepper.
How to Make Vegetable Stock
- 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 cups chopped onion, onion skins reserved
- 2 cups chopped celery
- 2 cups chopped carrot
- 1 cup chopped parsnips
- 1 cup chopped fennel bulb
- 2 large garlic cloves, smashed (leave skins on)
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 tablespoons fresh rosemary
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 4 bay leaves
- 1/2 cup chopped parsley
Place the dried mushrooms in a large bowl and pour 1 quart of boiling water over them. Set aside.
Heat the olive oil over high heat in a large stockpot. Add the chopped onions, celery, carrots and fennel and stir to coat. Sprinkle with salt. Cook over high heat for several minutes, stirring occasionally. Given that there are so many vegetables and they have a high moisture content, it may take more heat and longer time to brown than you would expect. Cook until the vegetables begin to brown.
Add the garlic and tomato paste and stir to combine. Cook, stirring often, for 2-3 minutes, or until the tomato paste begins to turn a rusty color. Add the mushrooms and their soaking water, the rosemary, thyme, onion skins, peppercorns, bay leaves, parsley and 4 additional quarts of water. Bring to a simmer and then turn the heat down to a simmer. The surface of the stock should just barely be bubbling. Cook for 1 1/2 hours.
Using a spider skimmer or slotted spoon, remove all the big pieces of vegetables. Discard.
Set up a large bowl or pot with a sieve set over it. Line the sieve with a plain paper towel and pour the stock through it. When you have about half the stock poured through, stop, let what’s in the strainer filter through and change the paper towels. Filter the rest of the stock.
To store, pour into glass containers and refrigerate for up to a week.
If you freeze in glass jars, leave at least an inch and a half of headroom, so the stock can expand without breaking the glass of the jar or use freezer ziplock bags.
Makes 5 quarts.
Spring Vegetable Soup
- 7 cups vegetable stock
- 10 small red potatoes, quartered
- 2 medium carrots, sliced 1/4 inch thick
- 2 celery ribs, sliced 1/4 inch thick
- 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
- 1 large leek, sliced 1/4 inch thick
- 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 pound green beans, cut into 1-inch lengths
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
- Freshly ground pepper
In a large pot, combine the stock with the red potatoes, carrots, celery, onion and leek. Bring to a boil. Add the salt and simmer over moderately low heat for 30 minutes.
Add the green beans and Italian seasoning and simmer until tender, 3 minutes. Stir in the parsley and season with pepper. Serve.
Creamy Asparagus Soup
- 1 pound fresh asparagus
- 5 cups vegetable stock
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 ribs celery, chopped
- 2 medium-sized potatoes, diced
- Salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste
- 1 cup light cream
- Fresh chopped chives for garnish
Cut the bottom half of the asparagus spears into 2-inch lengths and place in them in a soup pot with the vegetable stock. Simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Remove asparagus ends with a slotted spoon and transfer to a colander over a bowl, pressing on the stalks to get as much juice from them as possible, then discarding the fibrous stalks. Add the extracted juice back into the soup pot and return the stock to a simmer.
In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and add the onion, stirring while cooking for 5 minutes. Cut the top half of the asparagus stalks into 1-inch pieces. Add the asparagus pieces, celery and potato to the onion and butter. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cover the saucepan and allow vegetables to cook for 5 minutes. Add the simmering stock and cover saucepan again, cooking another 7 or 8 minutes, until the potato is tender.
Process these cooked vegetables with a hand blender or in a food processor until smooth, then add this puree back into the soup pot, adding the cream. Simmer for 5 minutes, taste and add salt and pepper, if necessary.
Served warm or chilled, garnished with fresh chives.
Vegetable, Fennel Soup
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 carrots, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
- 2 celery ribs, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
- 2 leeks, white parts only, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
- 1 fennel bulb—halved, cored and thinly sliced
- 1 medium tomato, cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 2 bay leaves, preferably fresh
- 6 cups vegetable stock
- One 3-inch square Parmigiano-Reggiano rind
- 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1 tablespoon chopped basil
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot. Add the garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the carrots, celery, leeks and fennel and cook, stirring, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes.
Add the tomato and bay leaves and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the stock and the cheese rind and bring to a simmer. Cover partially and cook over moderately low heat until the vegetables are very tender, about 30 minutes.
Discard the cheese rind and bay leaves. Stir in the parsley and basil and season the soup with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls, sprinkle with the grated cheese and serve.
Italian Vegetable Soup with Orzo and Pesto
- 1 cup fresh baby spinach, packed
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves, packed, plus extra leaves for garnish
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 1/2 cup canned diced tomatoes, drained (fresh may be substituted)
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 2 leeks, white parts only, chopped (1 bunch of green onions may be substituted)
- 3 carrots, peeled and sliced thin
- 1 medium white potato, peeled and cubed
- 4 cups vegetable stock
- 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
- 1/2 cup orzo
- 1 cup green beans, cut into 1/2-inch slices (can also use frozen)
- 1 (15-oz.) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- 1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper, or to taste
- 2 tablespoons shredded Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese
Puree all pesto ingredients in a food processor. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
In large pot combine leeks, carrots, potato, stock and Italian seasoning. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until vegetables are almost tender, 8-10 minutes.
Add orzo and boil uncovered until orzo is almost tender, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Add green beans, cannellini beans and red pepper, cover and simmer 5-7 minutes.
Ladle soup into serving bowls. Divide pesto among the servings and swirl in to blend. Sprinkle with cheese, garnish with fresh basil leaves and serve.