Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Monthly Archives: November 2012

 

The origin of fishcakes is said to have been in England in the 19th. century, when leftover fish was mixed with cold leftover potato, dipped in batter, fried and served as snack. Traditionally these cakes were made of cod, but today salmon, crab meat or any white fish are also used to prepare them. My grandmother made fish cakes in the traditional Italian style with baccala (dried, salted cod) that was leftover from holiday meals.

Fish cake recipes can have a lot of variations depending upon the type of fish, cooking method, and the use of  herbs and spices. Here are some common variations:

Gefilte Fish-fish patties consisting of white fish, matzoh or challah.

Fiskeboller- Fish buns made of forcemeat are very popular in Norway.

Bermuda Fish Cakes- A traditional dish of Bermuda especially made during Easter and eaten on rolls.

Satsumaage- Japanese fried fish cakes usually eaten as a snack. Kamaboko is yet another preparation of fish which makes use of white fish.

Thai Fish Cakes- These fish cakes are popular in the entire world and make use of Kaffir sauce in its preparation.

Yorkshire fish cakes- consist of fish along with two slices of potato dipped in batter and fried. These fishcakes are also known as scallop cakes.

For a salmon patty recipe go to an older post: http://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/05/12/frugal-italian/

 

Most fish cake recipes call for frying in oil. I have been baking fish cakes for many years to keep them healthy. They taste just as good as fish cakes fried in oil but with much less fat than the original. I like to add mashed potatoes because it is a great binder to hold all the ingredients of the patties together and the flavor complements the leftover cooked fish. My children liked them better with this addition. If you don’t add butter and cream to the potatoes prior to adding them to the fish, the cakes are not high in calories. 

When I make crab cakes, I do not add mashed potatoes because the potato would not allow the taste of the crab to come through. However, leftover cooked white fish doesn’t have a whole lot of flavor to start and the added ingredients in this recipe make for a very delicious patty. This is also a frugal way to cook, as most Italians like to do. Purchase enough fish for two meals, cook it all and reserve half. The leftover fish is then available for a new meal and you do not have to cook more fish before making this recipe.  You can also do the same thing with the mashed potatoes – cook once and use the leftover potatoes in this recipe. A serving of these baked fish cakes (2 patties) is about 300 calories.

Italian Fish Cakes

Makes 8-12 fish cakes, depending on size

Ingredients:

  • 2 large baking or Yukon gold potatoes about 1 pound, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup minced onion
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1/3 cup celery, chopped fine
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 pound cooked white fish (such as cod, halibut, flounder, etc.) or salmon, boned and flaked
  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 cup Italian Panko ( Progresso) or bread crumbs

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Brush two baking sheets with olive oil.

Bring 3 cups of water to a boil. Add potatoes and cook until tender but still firm, about 15 minutes. Drain and mash. Set aside 1 cup of mashed potatoes to add to the fish cakes. If there is any remainder, save it for another use.

In a large saucepan melt the butter and saute onion, garlic and celery in butter over medium high heat until tender. Turn heat to low and fold in flaked fish. Slowly mix in flour, cheese, Old Bay seasoning, dry mustard, salt, pepper, mashed potatoes and milk. Mix gently. Remove pan from heat. If you have time, chill the mixture in the refrigerator for an hour.

For perfect even cakes, try using an ice-cream scoop to form balls and shape with your hands.

With floured hands shape batter into cakes 1/2 inch by 3 inches. Coat in Panko crumbs and place on prepare baking sheets. Spray the top of the cakes with olive oil cooking spray.

Bake the fish cakes for 10 minutes, flip the cakes and bake another 15 minutes until golden brown.

Serve with one of the sauces below.

Sauces To Serve With Fish Cakes

Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

In blender, puree 1/2 cup roasted red bell peppers (jarred is fine) with 1 clove garlic, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Add 1/4 cup olive oil and blend.

Caper-Parsley Sauce

  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 6 tablespoons drained capers
  • 6 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 6 anchovy fillets, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 large garlic cloves, halved

Blend all ingredients in processor until coarse puree forms. Season sauce with salt and pepper. Transfer to bowl.

Lemon-Caper Yogurt Sauce

  • 1/2 cup full-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons capers, rinsed, drained and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a small bowl, mix together the yogurt, capers, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Spicy Tomato Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large fresh red chile, minced
  • 4 large plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano or basil
  • Salt

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and chile and cook over moderately low heat until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook over moderate heat until thickened, about 10 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and water and simmer for 2 minutes longer. Add herbs and season with salt. Serve warm.

 

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Everyone loves a pizza party! But this is no elementary school birthday party; this is a full-out feast of grown-up pies, best enjoyed with everyone pitching in for pizza creation together. Invite eight to ten of your friends over, open a few bottles of wine, and spend the evening assembling, topping and baking your pies. Split up the prep work on the day of dinner by assigning each guest to bring a pizza toppings. This is a meal to eat in stages, as each new pizza comes out of the oven, cut into small slices so everyone can have a taste.

For this menu, you want wines that pair easily with a variety of foods and don’t cost too much per bottle, so you can serve them generously for a crowd. Serve both red and white wines so guests can choose their preference. You can round out the menu with a green salad and a simple dessert, such as cookies or brownies or ice cream.

Some Party Suggestions:

Do make the dough beforehand and freeze it in individual round portions or pan size portions.

Defrost the dough overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature about two hours before guests arrive. 

Don’t buy the premade crusts, they just don’t taste the same as homemade dough. Purchased pizza dough is ok.

Do encourage your guests to stretch and roll out their own dough.

Do offer up interesting pizza toppers to create unusual pizzas or assign guests certain toppings to bring and share. The ingredients should be able to stand the intense heat of the oven, stay moist or crisp and complement the basic taste of the base.

Do interact with your guests. If you stay at the oven all night, you won’t have fun. Share the work.

Here are some pizza party ideas and they mix and match perfectly.

Pizza Margarita

Super simple, but unbelievably flavorful, this classic is made from buffalo mozzarella, cherry tomatoes and fresh basil.

Caramelized Red Onion Pizza with Capers and Olives

There’s no tomato sauce but this succulent pizza is always a hit. Onions are cooked until soft and caramelized and spread on top of mozzarella slices. The olives and capers make the sweet onions more savory.

Pear, Pecorino and Taleggio Pizza

This is a new twist on pizza, but the flavor combinations work well together. Almost like a dessert course, the pears and cheese melt together. For a heartier meal feel free to add some Italian sausage scattered throughout.

Sicilian Shrimp and Tomato Pizza

Topped with whole cherry tomatoes, shrimp, garlic, red pepper flakes, grated Parmesan cheese and fresh parsley, this pizza will add a kick to your party. Make sure to offer plates as it’s a little sloppy but well worth it.

Pizza Party Menu

Rather than making five different kinds of pizza dough, ignore the dough portions of each of these pizza recipes, and make four batches in advance of your pizza party. Then use the recipes simply for their toppings, or improvise your own unique topping combinations.

The key to making pizzeria-quality thin-crust pizza is a blazing-hot oven. The best way to replicate the intense heat of such an oven at home is by using a baking stone and cooking under the broiler. The stone absorbs and radiates heat, crisping the bottom of the pizza, while the broiler renders the toppings golden brown.

Allow the dough to come to room temperature before shaping. I usually take my pizza dough balls out of the refrigerator at least two hours before I need them.

Weigh the dough for individual pizzas; generally 6-8 ounces in size. Pan dough usually weighs 1 pound.

Thirty minutes before you need to make your pizza, lightly flour the ball, then press it into a circle about 1 inch thick. Cover with a kitchen towel until needed.

Use your hands and instead of a rolling pin to shape your crust. This will help to create a light crust with air pockets. The rolling pin pushes all the air out and will give you a flatter, less tender pizza crust. Use the base of your palm and fingers and keep turning the circle of dough as you gently stretch it.

Brush olive oil around the edges of the pizza dough before you add the sauce and toppings to ensure a golden brown crisp crust.

Italian Pizza Dough For The Party

This may not be your perfect dough recipe, but for me, it creates dough that is soft enough that I can press into a pizza pan with my hands and allows the crust to rise nicely during baking. It is also a very tender to the bite crust that has just enough chew to it, but it doesn’t toughen up when it cools. The other non-traditional aspect of this dough is that white wine is used along with the water to help keep the dough tender. As for yeast, I use SAS brand Rapid Rise Yeast also called instant yeast) for all my bread baking and it has never let me down and it doesn’t require proofing. This dough also freezes very well, so I often make a double batch and then weigh the balls, oil them, and wrap them in plastic wrap. I then store them in an airtight freezer bags in my freezer for future use.

Makes 4 large or 6 individual pizzas

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups All-purpose Flour, level with knife
  • 4 cups Italian Flour (Tipo 00), level with knife
  • (If you do not have access to Italian flour use 7 cups all purpose flour or 2 cups white whole wheat flour and 5 cups all purpose flour)
  • 1 cup Dry White Wine
  • 2 cups Warm Water
  • 2 1/2 Teaspoons Rapid Rise Yeast
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons Salt
  • 2 tablespoons Olive OIl

Directions:

In a large electric mixer bowl mix together the two flours, the white wine, yeast, salt, and olive oil.

Slowly add in the warm water, stirring with the paddle attachment as you go until the dough comes together in a ball.

Switch to the dough hook. Knead until the dough is very smooth, about 5 to 7 minutes.

Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl covered with plastic wrap and let double in size.

Divide the dough into 8 ounce portions for individual pizzas or 1 pound portions for pizza pans and roll each in a ball.

Place the balls on a lightly oiled baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed if using on the same day or wrap and freeze for the day of the party .

Remove the dough balls from the refrigerator 2 hours before needed, allowing them to completely come to room temperature before using.

 

Making the Pizzas:

Lightly flour dough balls; transfer to a floured 9″ x 13″ baking pan; cover with plastic wrap. Meanwhile, place a baking stone on bottom rack of oven, about 13″ from heating element; heat broiler and stone for at least 1 hour.

Put 1 piece dough on floured wooden pizza peel or pizza pan; flatten with your fingertips.

*For baking directly on the stone:

Pick up dough and, using your knuckles and backs of your hands, gently and evenly stretch out dough, working from center outward and rotating as you go in order to make a circle of dough; let weight of dough stretch edges until circle of dough has reached a diameter of 12″.

Sprinkle pizza peel with more flour; transfer dough to front edge of peel. Brush edges of dough with extra-virgin olive oil; sprinkle dough with 1⁄4 cup grated grana padano cheese, kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Add toppings (see pizza recipes below).

Transfer pizza to baking stone by resting end of peel on far edge of stone, holding peel at an angle, and gently pulling it back so that lip of dough catches stone and dough slides onto it. Cook pizza, rotating every 2 minutes with a long metal spatula, until edges are golden, 6–8 minutes. Transfer to a board; slice and serve. Repeat with remaining dough. Makes four 12″ pizzas.

*If baking in a pizza pan follow directions for pressing dough into the pan and place the pan on the baking stone. Bake about 12 -15 minutes in an the oven heated to 500 degrees F.

Soppressata, Tomato, and Olive Pizza

  • Pizza Dough, recipe above
  • 1⁄4 cup oven roasted sliced plum or cherry tomatoes
  • 6 thin slices soppressata
  • 10 pitted black olives
  • 2 tablespoons grated grana padano cheese
  • 1 tablespoon. olive oil

Directions:

Make pizza dough according to instructions.

Dot dough with tomatoes, soppressata, and olives. Sprinkle with cheese; drizzle with olive oil.

Transfer pizza to a baking stone and cook pizza, under the broiler, rotating every 2 minutes with a long metal spatula, until edges are golden, 6-8 minutes.

Transfer pizza to a board; slice and serve.

Broccoli Rabe, Goat Cheese, and Lemon Zest Pizza 

  • Pizza Dough, recipe above
  • 1⁄4 cup broccoli rabe, cooked and chopped
  • 2 oz. crumbled goat or feta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons. grated lemon zest
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Olive oil

Directions:

Make pizza dough according to instructions.

Cover dough with broccoli rabe, goat cheese, lemon zest, and salt and pepper; drizzle with olive oil.

Transfer pizza to a baking stone and cook pizza, under the broiler, rotating every 2 minutes with a long metal spatula, until edges are golden, 6-8 minutes.

Transfer pizza to a board; slice and serve.

Prosciutto, Chili, and Onion Pizza

  • Pizza Dough, recipe above
  • 1⁄2 cup sauteed onions
  • 1 chili pepper, thinly sliced
  • 4 thin slices prosciutto
  • Grated grana padano cheese

Directions:

Make pizza dough according to instructions.

Spread onions and chiles over dough.

Transfer pizza to a baking stone and cook pizza, under the broiler, rotating every 2 minutes with a long metal spatula, until edges are golden, 6-8 minutes.

After baking, drape prosciutto over top and sprinkle with cheese.

Transfer pizza to a board; slice and serve.

Mushroom and Fontina Pizza

  • Pizza Dough, recipe above
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 oz. mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, plus 4 sprigs for garnish
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 medium shallots, peeled and sliced
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 3 plum tomatoes, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 2 cups freshly grated fontina cheese
  • 1⁄4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

 Directions:

Make pizza dough according to instructions. Place pizza stone on bottom rack of the oven and heat oven to 500 degrees F.

Heat 2 tablespoons. of the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté mushrooms, thyme leaves, salt, and pepper. Cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Set aside. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and cook until wilted, 5 minutes. Add vinegar slowly, cook for 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, cook for 2 more minutes, and season with salt and pepper.

To assemble pizza, stretch dough into a 12″ round on a pizza pan, pinching edge to form ridge. Cover with half the fontina, all the mushrooms, and all the tomato mixture. Top with remaining fontina and parmesan. Place pan on pizza stone and bake until crust is golden, about 15 minutes. Garnish with thyme sprigs.

Have Fun !


An aerial view of Rome

In just a few centuries, Rome grew from a very small village in central Italy to the absolute dominant power of the entire peninsula. In a few more centuries, the Roman Empire’s might reached as far north as Britain, east to Persia and, in the south, it encompassed the whole of Northern Africa. Rome’s extraordinary achievements and the unparalleled string of influential people shaped the whole of Europe and even the rest of the world.

Much of what we know today about the historical foundations of Rome comes to us from ancient writers, such as Livy and Herodotus, along with archaeology studies. The early history of Rome, so deeply rooted in legend and mythology, is a mix of fact, fiction and educated guesses. The earliest evidence of human habitation in the Latium region which included the city of Rome, dates from the Bronze Age (1500 BC), but the earliest established and permanent, settlements began to form in the 8th. century BC.  At that time archaeology data indicates two closely related peoples in the area, the Latins and Sabines. These agrarian Italic peoples were tribal in origin, with a social hierarchy that dominated Rome’s early form of government and throughout its claim to power in the region.

The date of the founding as a village or a series of tribal territories is uncertain, but the traditional and legendary founding of the city dates to 753 BC.  Although this date is heavily laden in myth, it is at least roughly supported through archaeological evidence. It was in the 8th. century BC that two existing settlements, one on the Palatine Hill, the other on the Quirinal, combined to form a single village, corresponding to the same dates as the legend.

According to legend, Romans trace their origins to Aeneas, a Trojan who escaped the sack of Troy by fleeing to Italy. The son of Aeneas, Iulius (commonly Julius) founded the city of Alba Longa and established a monarchy. Two descendants of the Alba Longa Kings, the twin brothers Romulus and Remus, would go on to become the founders of Rome. Eventually the two brothers quarreled resulting in the murder of Remus, leaving Romulus as the first King of Rome. The traditional date of Romulus’ sole reign and the subsequent founding of the city, April 21, 753 BC, is still celebrated with festivals and parades today.

Pictures of Rome - Roman Court of Justice

Roman Court of Justice

Like all great empires, Rome reached the height of its power, and then over a long period of time, began to collapse. It became increasingly expensive for Rome to maintain the large armies needed to protect their borders from invasion. After 117 AD, when Emperor Trajan called a halt to the expansion of the Empire, the once conquering Legions had now become an army of occupation and were kept busy building towns, roads and aqueducts.The armies also became increasingly staffed by foreign born soldiers and mercenaries, drawn from the conquered provinces. This lead to decreased nationalism and allegiance to the Empire. The legions feuded over who the true emperor should be and, having not fought an offensive battle for a hundred years, had lost their fighting edge. Rome’s commerce and trade, at home and abroad, became complacent and stagnant. The vast numbers of people and the many cultures ruled by the Empire became unmanageable. For 1700 years, Rome set the standards for future civilizations to come. The heritage of Ancient Rome permeates the world today. Roman Art and Architecture can be found throughout the world. Roman Literature, Law and Language have been studied and adopted by many cultures around the globe.

Pictures of Rome - Interior of a Roman House

Interior of a Roman House

In Italian culture, food has always been the anchoring point around love and laughter and good food holds the power to wander freely across class distinction. Today, the region of Lazio is often seen as the center of Italian culture. Bordered on one side by the Tyrrhenian Sea and cradled in almost the very center of Italy, this region has long been looked to as the center of important Italian cultural elements: food, wine, politics, architecture and art are all present in abundance. With the provinces of Viterbo and Rieti to the north of Rome, and Latina and Frosinone to its south, the mountain-to-sea terrain offers a rich variety of landscapes with growing and producing conditions close to ideal. Oxtail, veal, pork, lamb, spaghetti, gnocchi, bucatini, garlic, tomatoes, truffles, potatoes, artichokes, olives, grapes, buffalo mozzarella, and pizza … the cornucopia is overflowing.

Historically the seat of power for the greatest empire the world has ever known, Lazio has developed food that is a great example of how the simple dishes of the poor working classes (farmers, miners, craftsmen) have formed and influenced the cuisine of the upper classes. Pork with potato dumplings. Artichokes stuffed with mint. The process has been evolutionary, fusing the basic with the indulgent, the readily available with the rare, the “at-hand” with the Kosher. Very little is wasted in Lazian cooking, and the results are nothing less than extraordinary.

The Lazio region continues to draw people interested in the history, art and architecture of the area, and of course, the remarkable food. The area is home to a June cherry festival in the village of Celleno where local cherry dishes entice foodies from all over the world. Three prominent lakes also make a popular vacation destination for Europeans in general. Monte Terminillo draws avid skiers in the winter, and its hearty potato-based dishes (such as gnocchi) provide plenty of energy for the downhill runs. Rome offers countless tourism opportunities and amazing food everywhere. Many make the pilgrimage to Latina just for the remarkable mozzarella di bufala, a mozzarella cheese made from water buffalo milk. Santo Stefano village is host to the Sagra degli Antichi Sapori (or “Festival of Ancient Flavors”) each year, celebrating local dishes like minestra di pane e fagioli, a hearty bread and bean soup.

The Food Of Rome

You need not travel all the way to Italy to discover Lazian cooking. Some form of it has probably been on your table many times. Take, for instance, the best known and most humble of pastas: spaghetti. Almost any bit of this or that leftover – vegetables, herbs, oils, cheeses, cream, meats – can be combined with each other and with spaghetti for a delicious meal. With the right ingredients, you and your family can taste the delights of Roman cuisine without ever leaving your home.

Antipasto

fioridizucca Food in Rome

Zucchini flowers, stuffed with mozzarella cheese and a piece of anchovy fillet, dipped in batter and deep fried.

Primo Piatto

cacioepepe Food in Rome

Pasta cacio e pepe: With grated Pecorino Romano and freshly ground black pepper.

Secondo Piatto

Saltimboccaallaromana Food in Rome

Saltimbocca alla romana (“Roman jump-in-your-mouth”): Veal scaloppine with prosciutto and sage leaves

Dolce

Tortaallaricotta1 Food in Rome

Torta alla ricotta

Pizza

pizza rossa2 Food in Rome

In Rome, pizza comes in three versions: Roman (with a thin crust), Neapolitan (with a crust that’s thick around the edges) and “al taglio” (by the slice). Pizzerias prepare individual, plate-size Roman or Neapolitan pizzas (never both) to order. Pizza al taglio is prepared ahead of time and sold for take-out. It comes in two kinds: rossa or red, with tomato sauce, and bianca or white, without tomato sauce and filled or topped with more combinations of ingredients than you thought possible. Be aware that asking for a pepperoni pizza in Rome will get you a pizza con peperoni (bell peppers)

Although Rome is only a few miles from the sea, fish is not part of traditional Roman cooking.  

Some vegetables, e.g. spinach, are served year-round, others only in season. The most common preparations are all’aglio e olio (olive oil and garlic) or al limone (olive oil and lemon) and vegetables are often served at room temperature.

Salads come in many ways. A green salad (insalata verde) or a mixed salad (insalata mista, greens with carrots and sometimes tomato wedges) often comes to the table plain: you dress it yourself with oil and vinegar. Other salads (e.g., tomato or fennel) generally come dressed.

A word about garlic: Most dishes are only flavored subtly with garlic; garlic is rarely predominant and never overpowering.

Make Some Roman Inspired Pasta At Home

                                                                                                      

Penne alla Vodka      

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3 tablespoons Italian tomato paste from a tube plus 4 tablespoons of water
  • 3 tablespoons Vodka
  • 1 cup heavy cream or fat free half & half
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
  • 1 lb. penne

Directions:

Melt butter in a pan large enough to also hold the cooked pasta. Add the chili pepper, saute for 2 to 3 minutes.

Add tomato paste and water. Simmer over low heat for 5 minutes stirring frequently with a wooden spoon to prevent it from sticking to pan and burning. If need be, add more water.

Add the vodka; simmer for about 3 minutes more.

Cook pasta in boiling salted water according to package directions. When pasta is just about ready (about 9 minutes), add the cream or half & half to the heated tomato mixture, stirring.

When heated through, add the Parmesan cheese, stirring. Drain pasta and transfer to pan with sauce.

 Mix thoroughly, taste for seasoning and transfer to a warm bowl. Pass extra grated cheese at table.

Spaghetti alla Carrettiera                                                                                                              

Serves 4

A Roman pasta dish with fresh tomatoes and basil.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, washed and shredded fine
  • 2 cups fresh plum tomatoes peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled but left whole
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lb. spaghettini (thin spaghetti)

Directions:

Boil water for the pasta, add salt and cook according to package directions. Drain. Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta cooking water.

Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute for 2 minutes. Remove garlic and discard.

Add the tomatoes, crushed red pepper flakes and the basil. Continue cooking for 10 to 15 minutes stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon making sure the sauce does not dry out. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Place pasta in the pan in with the sauce. Add pasta water and mix well.

Fettuccine all’Alfredo

The original owner of Alfredo’s Restaurant in Rome, Alfredo Di Lelio, is said to be the originator of this delicious but rich dish of worldwide fame. He has since passed away, and the recipe for both the fettuccine pasta and the sauce remain secret. Some say the creaminess and lightness of the fettuccine and/or the sauce was in the cheese he used; or the addition of a little olive oil to the preparation of the fettuccine; others that the fettuccine was cooked in milk; still others that he gave each dish his blessing with a final toss using his gold fork and spoon before sending it to table.

Yield: Serves 4

The quality and taste of the ingredients is the key to success with Fettuccine Alfredo, especially the fettuccine and the cheese. The fettuccine should either be freshly made and as thin as possible, or, if store bought, the best fresh (not dry), thinnest pasta you can buy. Fettuccine Alfredo is finished in the pan – the cooked and drained pasta is added directly to the warmed ingredients in the pan.

I have used both fat free half & half and whole milk in this recipe and it turns out just fine. Lydia Bastianich also uses milk in her Fettuccine Alfredo recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 10 oz fresh fettuccine or tagliatelle pasta
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Italian Parmigiano Reggiano, at room temperature, plus extra cheese to pass at the table
  • 1 cup heavy cream (or half & half or whole milk for lower calories)
  • Salt and white ground pepper

Directions:

Boil the pasta cooking water. Add salt and pasta.

If you are using fresh fettuccine, it can cook in as little as 2 minutes (plus the time it takes your water to boil), so have all ingredients and cooking utensils ready.

In a pan large enough to hold all the pasta , melt the butter over low heat.

Slowly add the cream or milk and whisk or stir continuously with a wooden spoon until it is hot and slightly reduced. (variation: use 1/2 of the cream here, add the rest just at the end before you add the pasta.)

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Add the cooked and drained pasta. Mix well. Add cheese and stir carefully.

Turn into a warmed serving bowl, or directly onto warmed plates.

Pass extra grated Parmesan at the table.


When you think of carrots, what is the first thing that comes to mind? One thing is for sure, you don’t think “Gee, you mean that long purple vegetable.” Well here’s news for you, carrots were not always orange! Carrots originated in Middle Asia with some historians believing that they were known as far back as Ancient Egypt over 5,000 years ago. It is not clear if they were actually cultivated at this time, however by the 10th. century in Afghanistan, they were being grown in the colors purple and white. These weren’t the only colors around, however. In addition to purple and white, carrots were grown in red, yellow and even black. To begin with carrots were not eaten as a vegetable, but rather in the times of the Ancient Romans, used as a medicinal herb and even as an aphrodisiac. Carrots were cultivated in Europe by the 13th. century, with many doctors prescribing carrots for medicinal purposes for ailments as varied as syphilis and animal bites! 

Carrots were well-known to 16th. century botanists and writers, who described red and purple varieties in France, and yellow and red varieties in England. The Dutch cross-bred the yellow and red carrot to produce a variety that was symbolic of the House of Orange. This carrot quickly became popular and was further developed to become the sweet, orange carrot which is the most recognized color of carrot used throughout the world today?

Carrots arrived in Australia in 1788 and became an important food for the colonists. The Carrot Museum reveals that the carrot was introduced to America in 1609. In 1871 America developed its first carrot. It was called the Danvers carrot from its origins in Danvers, MA. However, the carrot did not become popular in the U.S. until after World War I, when soldiers returning from the war had been exposed to the carrot in French and European cuisines.

In the Second World War carrots were promoted by the British government and became one of the staple foods in England. People were encouraged to grow carrots in their gardens and to cook them in different ways. They were incorporated into both sweet and savory dishes. Growing this crop during troubled times helped people get sufficient amounts of nutritious food to eat in times of food scarcity and rationing.

Red and yellow varieties of carrot are eaten in China and Japan; with the purple carrot becoming increasingly popular in different states in America. There are also ‘rainbow’ carrots on the market. However, a single carrot is not multi-colored, the name comes from bags containing red, yellow, purple and orange carrots.

Today we know that carrots have great nutritional value and are low in calories. Not only that, but carrots are an excellent source of carotene, which the body converts into Vitamin A. It is this particular vitamin that really helps with vision, which is why carrots are a great vegetable to add to your diet.

When you are preparing your carrots for eating, whether you plan on cooking them or eating them raw, there is something important to keep in mind: don’t peel the skin! In carrots, like many vegetables, most of the nutritional value is just below the skin, so instead of peeling, just scrub the skin clean with a vegetable brush. And choose organic varieties when you can.

When purchasing carrots, look for those with minimal sprouting at the top. In other words, if the carrot has started to grow, it has been sitting around for quite some time. Also look for little “hairs” growing along the carrot. This also indicates the carrot is growing and has probably been sitting around for awhile.

The best way to preserve the flavor, crispness, and beta-carotene content in carrots is to refrigerate them.

When preparing carrots, steaming is the very best method for cooking and preparing them. Steaming carrots allows the beta carotene to be more available and readily used by the body. Add a small amount of butter to help better absorb the vitamin A.

How to Cook Carrots on the Stove Top

Cook 1 pound carrots, covered, in a small amount of boiling salted water until crisp-tender:

7 to 9 minutes for 1/4-inch slices

4 to 6 minutes for strips

8 to 10 minutes for baby carrots

How to Cook Carrots in the Microwave

Place 1 pound carrots in a casserole dish with 2 tablespoons water.

Microwave, covered, on 100 percent power (high) until crisp-tender, stirring once:

– 6 to 9 minutes for 1/4-inch slices

– 5 to 7 minutes for strips

– 7 to 9 minutes for baby carrots

How to Steam Carrots

In a steamer cook 1 pound carrots until crisp-tender:

8 to 10 minutes for 1/4-inch slices

5 to 7 minutes for strips

8 to 10 minutes for baby carrots

How to Roast Carrots

Cut 1 pound carrots into 1-inch pieces. Arrange cut carrots or baby carrots in a baking pan.

Toss carrots with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and other seasonings, if desired.

Cover pan with foil.

Bake in a 425 degree F. oven for 30 minutes.

Remove foil; stir carrots.

Bake, uncovered, for 5 to 10 minutes more or until carrots are tender.

Wholesome Baby Food Recipe

Carrot Purée

Carrots should be peeled when making baby food purées as many infants will not be able to digest the skins.  If you do not buy Organic carrots, please cleanse the carrots by using a vegetable brush and lightly scrubbing the carrots under cool running water.

Any amount of fresh carrots you desire

1. Peel carrots and cut into small chunks

2. Place chunks into a steamer pan with just enough water visible through the steamer basket

3. Steam until tender

4. Do not reserve any left over water to use for thinning out the carrots if baby is under 8 months old as Nitrates may seep into the cooking water

5. Puree with your choice of appliance.

6. Add purified water as necessary to achieve a smooth, thin consistency.

Carrots Braised in Marsala Wine

For this simple dish to taste extraordinary, you need the best-quality Italian dry Marsala. Others would give a harsh taste or none at all to the dish. If you can’t find one, use another braising liquid, such as chicken or vegetable broth.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 pounds carrots, cut into large matchsticks or 1/4-inch-thick round slices
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Small grating of fresh nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup dry Marsala
  • Chopped hazelnuts, optional

Directions:

Choose a straight-sided sauté pan that has a tight-fitting lid and is just large enough to hold the carrots in one or two layers. A pan that is too large will allow the liquid to evaporate too quickly; if it is too small, the vegetables will be piled too high to braise evenly.

Melt the butter over moderate heat, so that it melts without taking on any color. Stir the carrots into the pan, and season with salt and pepper, nutmeg, and sugar. Turn the carrots over several times with a heatproof rubber spatula or wooden spatula or spoon to coat them well with the butter and seasonings. Cook gently — do not fry — stirring often, for about 2 minutes, to release the vegetable’s flavor, and then pour in the Marsala. Bring to a quick boil, and then adjust the heat so the carrots just barely simmer. Cover the pan tightly and braise, shaking it well from time to time, for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the carrots are tender. Check the pan occasionally, and if the liquid has evaporated before the carrots are cooked, add small amounts of hot water. When the carrots are tender, there should be only enough liquid left just to coat them. If there is more, turn the heat to high and boil it off. Sprinkle with hazelnuts.

Variations

Carrots Braised in Lemon and Parsley: Before adding the carrots to the butter, cook one finely chopped small onion until it is tender. Substitute broth for the Marsala, and add a teaspoon of lemon juice. When the carrots are tender, stir in 3 tablespoons of finely chopped flat-leaf parsley, and toss a minute before serving.

Braised Carrots with Parmesan Cheese: Braise the carrots with broth and when they are cooked, turn off the heat and sprinkle on 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese.

 

Carrot Saute

A simple side dish is all you need to accompany the Basil Walnut Fish Fillets. You can substitute julienned zucchini or yellow squash for the carrots…just reduce the cooking time slightly.

4 Servings

Ingredients

  • 3 cups julienned carrots
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup sliced green onions
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
  • Dash pepper

Directions

In a large skillet, saute carrots in oil for 3 minutes. Add onions;

cook 4-5 minutes longer or until crisp-tender. Stir in lemon juice,

Italian seasoning, garlic salt and pepper. Yield: 4 servings.

Roasted Root Vegetables

Ingredients:

  • 4 carrots
  • 4 parsnips
  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 3 Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • Chopped, dried or fresh herbs (parsley, rosemary or thyme) to taste
  • Garnish: fresh herbs (parsley, rosemary or thyme), chopped

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Cut all the veggies into similarly sized pieces. Place all the cut vegetables in a single layer on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and toss well so all pieces are lightly coated. Add salt, pepper and herbs to taste. Roast for 25 to 35 minutes until all the vegetables are tender, turning once. Garnish with fresh herbs. Serves 6.

Italian-Style Marinated Carrot Salad

This Italian twist on carrot salad uses almost no fat and just a few ingredients, yet it is deliciously flavorful and has a wonderful texture. The work is all in the vegetable preparation. The recipe calls for the carrots to be cut into matchsticks, but any size will do. Just make sure to steam the carrots a little longer if your pieces are on the plump side. Its flavor improves with a day’s rest in the refrigerator. Fresh herbs may be used, but I prefer to use dried, because fresh herbs tend to darken when the salad marinates overnight.

MAKE AHEAD: The salad needs to be assembled and refrigerated overnight so the flavors have a chance to meld.

6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound carrots, cut into 2- to 3-inch-long matchsticks
  • 1 or 2 teaspoons dried Italian herbs (oregano, basil, rosemary and/or thyme; may substitute 2 tablespoons fresh herbs, finely chopped)
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • Freshly ground black pepper (optional)

Directions:

Steam the carrots until they are just tender to the bite but still retain their shape, about 3 minutes for 1/4-inch-thick matchsticks. Do this in batches so the carrots cook evenly. As each batch is done, turn out onto a shallow baking pan, spreading the carrots out to cool slightly.

Combine the herbs to taste, the oil, vinegar, salt, sugar and the pepper in a large bowl.

Transfer the still-warm carrots to the bowl; toss to combine and coat evenly. Cover and refrigerate the salad overnight. Before serving, toss the salad again. Serve at room temperature.

Fusilli with Braised Fennel, Carrots and Scallions

Servings 4

Ingredients:

  • ¾ lb fusilli
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • ½ lb fennel
  • 3 ½ oz carrot
  • 7 oz scallions
  • 3 oz grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • 1 tablespoon fennel tops, chopped
  • 2 ½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

Slice the fennel bulbs in half, then into thin slices. Slice the carrot into rounds, 1/8th inch wide. Peel and mince the garlic. Slice the onion into ¼ inch pieces.

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet.

Once hot, add the minced garlic. When the garlic begins to turn golden, add the fennel and carrot and cook, covered, for about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and stir from time to time.

Then add the onion and cook for another 3 minutes.

Meanwhile cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling, salted water. Drain and toss with the sauce in the skillet.

Stir in the Parmigiano Reggiano and garnish with the fennel fronds before serving.


 

From breakfast to dinner, squash can find a place on the menu.

Currently, the supermarket produce bins contain many types of squash: kabocha, butternut, hubbard, acorn, delicata, turban and spaghetti, to name just a few. How many of you walk right past the winter squash bin saying, “I don’t know what to do with that,” or “ Way too much work ! ” You are missing a great tasting vegetable and one that is extremely good for you. They are low in calories and high in vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, dietary fiber and manganese, folate, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B1, copper, vitamin B6, niacin and pantothenic acid.

The big winter squashes can be daunting if you don’t have a heavy-duty chef’s knife. The skin on a kabocha, while thick, is not particularly hard. Use a large knife to cut off big slices, which can be roasted without peeling for some recipes or peeled and cut into dice for others. If you need to dice the squash, cut off a big slice first, then cut that slice into manageable pieces. You can then cut it into thin slices, peel and dice.  

The following is a basic guideline on preparing all winter squash varieties. When choosing winter squash, look for ones that are heavy for their size and have a hard, deep-colored rind, free of blemishes. Another advantage to winter squash having such a thick skin is that they can be stored for longer than summer squash and do not require refrigeration.

How to Cook Winter Squash

(1 lb squash yields approximately 1 cup cooked)

1 or more whole winter squash

Preheat oven to 400˚F.

Wash squash under running water and dry. Using a sharp knife or fork, pierce several holes in top of the squash near stem; you don’t have to worry about pricking it all over.

Place squash in a pan, not on a cookie sheet, because as it cooks, it may collapse and its natural water will seep out. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes. Smaller winter squash will be soft and visibly done, but depending on the size, it may take up to 2 hours for an 8 lb. squash.

After removing it from the oven, allow the squash to sit and cool completely. Then cut it in half and scoop out the seeds and stringy fibrous flesh that surrounds the hollow core. Use immediately or store in the refrigerator.

Cooking Ideas

• Purée in food processor with light coconut milk, curry, and freshly minced and sautéed ginger and garlic.

• Add brown sugar, vanilla extract, and toasted walnuts.

• Add maple syrup and toasted almonds.

• Serve mashed with salt and pepper and a touch of real butter.

• Mix with prepared pesto and sprinkle with Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese.

You can use either butternut or kabocha squash in the recipes below, although, the two are not identical in texture or flavor. Butternut is a denser, slightly sweeter squash, and kabocha has an earthier flavor. Kabocha squash absorbs flavors and is especially well suited for salads because of the way it absorbs tart dressings.

BreakfastButternut Squash Muffins, Diabetic. Photo by brokenburner

Winter Squash and Molasses Muffins

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds winter squash, such as butternut, cut in large chunks
  • 1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup blackstrap molasses
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup walnuts

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with foil and lightly oil the foil. Brush the squash with a small amount of oil. Place on the baking sheet skin side down. Roast for 20 minutes and use tongs to turn the pieces of squash over. Roast for 20 to 30 minutes more, until the squash is soft enough that you can pierce the skin with the tip of a paring knife. Remove from the heat and allow to cool, then peel away the skin. Purée in a food processor or use an immersion hand blender. You should have about 1 cup of purée.

2. Turn the oven down to 375 degrees F.  Oil or butter muffin tins or use muffin cup liners, if desired.

3. Sift together the flours, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves, allspice and salt.

4. Beat together the eggs and sugar. Beat in the molasses, oil, buttermilk, puréed squash, and vanilla. Quickly beat in the flour and fold in the walnuts.

5. Spoon into the muffin tins and place in the oven. Bake 20 to 22 minutes, until the muffins have risen and a tester comes out clean. Let the muffins cool in the tins for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely.

Yield: 1 dozen large muffins.

AppetizerPicture of Curried Butternut Squash Soup Recipe

Winter Squash Soup With Ginger

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 2 pounds peeled winter squash, like butternut or kabocha
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced or grated ginger
  • 6 1/2 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • 1/3 cup rice
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 of a lime
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons plain yogurt

Directions:

1. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large, heavy soup pot or Dutch oven and add the onion and carrot. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the squash, garlic and minced ginger and cook, stirring, until the mixture smells fragrant, about 1 minute.

2. Add the broth, the rice and salt to taste and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the squash is very tender.

3. Using a hand blender, or in batches in a regular blender, purée the soup. If using a regular blender, cover the top with a towel pulled down tight, rather than airtight with the lid. Return to the pot and heat through. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. If desired, thin out with a little more broth.

4. Ladle the soup into bowls and add a tablespoon of yogurt, then slowly swirl the yogurt into the soup with a spoon. Squeeze a few drops of lime juice onto each serving and sprinkle with a dash of nutmeg.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Advance preparation: The soup will hold for several hours, in or out of the refrigerator. Proceed with Step 4 just before serving.

Lunch

Wild Rice with Butternut Squash, Leeks, and Corn

Roasted Winter Squash and Wild Rice Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup wild rice
  • 3 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 pounds butternut squash, peeled and cut in small dice (about 3 cups peeled and diced, weighing 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 pounds)
  • Salt to taste
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove, minced or puréed
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons walnut oil or substitute extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh herbs, like parsley, chives, tarragon
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 6-ounce bag baby arugula or spinach

Directions:

1. Rinse the wild rice. Bring the water or stock to a boil in a medium saucepan, add salt to taste and the rice. Bring back to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer 45 minutes, until the rice is tender and has begun to splay. Drain through a strainer, return to the pot and cover the pot with a clean dishtowel. Return the lid to the pot and let sit for 10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil. Place the squash in a bowl or directly on the baking sheet and toss with salt to taste, the balsamic vinegar and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Spread on the baking sheet in an even layer and make sure to tip all of the liquid remaining in the bowl over the squash. Roast for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes so that the squash browns evenly. The squash should be tender all the way through. Remove from the heat.

3. In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the lemon juice, garlic, salt to taste and mustard. Whisk in the remaining olive oil and the walnut oil.

4. Combine the wild rice, squash, herbs and celery in a large bowl. Toss with the dressing. Add salt and pepper to taste. Line a platter, individual plates or a wide salad bowl with the baby spinach or arugula. Top with the salad and serve.

Yield: 6 servings.

Advance preparation: This salad holds well for a couple of days in the refrigerator, without the arugula or spinach.

Side Dish

Roasted Beet and Winter Squash Salad

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds kabocha squash
  • 1 bunch beets
  • 2 tablespoons red wine or sherry vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced or put through a press
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons walnut oil
  • 3 tablespoons chopped walnuts (about 1 1/2 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons mixed chopped fresh herbs, like parsley, mint, tarragon, chives

Directions:

1.Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Cut the greens off of the beets and reserve for another use, leaving about 1/2 inch of the stems attached. Scrub the beets and place in a baking dish or ovenproof casserole. Add about 1/4 inch water to the dish. Cover tightly with a lid or foil, and bake 35 to 40 minutes, or until the beets are tender. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. If not using right away, refrigerate in a covered bowl.

2. Line another roasting pan with foil or parchment and brush with olive oil. Peel the squash and cut in 1/2-inch thick slices. Toss with 2 teaspoons of the olive oil and salt to taste and place on the baking sheet. Roast for 20 to 30 minutes, turning halfway through, until lightly browned and tender. You can do this at the same time that you roast the beets, but watch carefully if you need to put the baking sheet on a lower shelf. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

3. Mix together the vinegars, garlic, salt, pepper, the remaining olive oil and the walnut oil. When the beets are cool enough to handle, trim the ends off, slip off their skins, cut in half, then slice into half-moon shapes. Toss with half the salad dressing. In a separate bowl, toss the roasted squash with the remaining dressing.

4. Arrange the beets and squash in alternating rows in the middle of the platter. Sprinkle on the fresh herbs and the walnuts. If desired, add crumbled feta. 

Yield: 6 servings.

Advance preparation: Roasted beets and squash will keep for 4 to 5 days in the refrigerator.

 

Dinner

Lasagna With Roasted Winter Squash

Ingredients:

  • 3 pounds kabocha squash
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons minced shallot or onion
  • 3 tablespoons sifted all-purpose flour (Use Wondra for instant mixing)
  • 3 cups low-fat milk 
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
  • 1/2 pound no-boil lasagna noodles (or a little more, depending on the size of your lasagna pan)
  • 4 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (1 cup)

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil. Cut the squash into big chunks, brush the exposed flesh with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and place on the baking sheet. Bake 45 minutes or until squash is tender enough to be pierced through to the skin with a paring knife. Remove from the heat and allow to cool until you can handle it, then cut away the skin and cut in thin slices. Turn the oven down to 350 degrees F.

2. While the squash is in the oven, make the béchamel. Heat the remaining oil over medium heat in a heavy medium saucepan. Add the shallot or onion and cook, stirring, until it has softened, about 3 minutes. Whisk the Wondra flour and the milk together and slowly pour in to the pan with the shallot. Whisk and bring to a simmer. Cook,whisking all the while, until the mixture begins to thicken. Turn the heat to very low and simmer, stirring often with a whisk and scraping the bottom and edges of the pan with a rubber spatula, for 10 to 15 minutes, until the sauce is thick. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Remove from heat and stir in 1/4 cup of the Parmesan and 1 tablespoon of the sage.

3. Oil a rectangular baking dish. Spread a spoonful of béchamel over the bottom. Top with a layer of lasagna noodles. Spread a thin layer of the béchamel over the noodles. Top with half the squash. Season the squash with salt and pepper and sprinkle with Parmesan. Repeat the layers, ending with a layer of lasagna noodles topped with béchamel and Parmesan. Sprinkle the remaining sage over the top. Make sure the noodles are well coated with béchamel so they will soften during baking.

4. Cover the baking dish tightly with foil and place in the oven. Bake 40 minutes, until the noodles are tender and the mixture is bubbling. Uncover and bake another 5 to 10 minutes until the top begins to brown. Remove from the heat and allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings.

Advance preparation: You can assemble this dish up to a day ahead and refrigerate, or freeze for a month. The lasagna can be baked several hours ahead and reheated in a medium oven.


Although L’Aquila is in a captivating setting, it has never been a priority for tourists. It is a traditional and very provincial Italian city between Rome and the Adriatic sea about an hour’s drive east of the capital.

A city rich in history, art and culture. It is built on the same plan and layout as Jerusalem. Both are on a hill, both are located at the same height above sea level and there are many other similarities. When walking around L’Aquila and looking into open doorways, one would discover beautiful hidden renaissance courtyards.

In the Middle Ages L’Aquila was on the road between two extremely powerful trading towns, Naples and Florence. It was famous for its rich fair where sheep, wool, milk, cheese, cattle, leather, cloth, almonds and saffron were traded. Later important noble families from Tuscany came to Abruzzo to take advantage of its produce and so it became the rich hinterland of Tuscany.

The main road connecting south and central Italy, called Via degli Abruzzi, was the safest road between Tuscany and the kingdoms of Naples and Sicily. The only other route was through the Vatican States, where dangerous outlaws populated the roads.

From at least 300 BC the open space on the hill, where the basilica of St. Maria di Collemaggio would be built, was the meeting point for the annual transumanza, the long trek of tens of thousands of sheep and hundreds of shepherds from the hot plains in the south to the high plain of Abruzzo and back. In those days sheep, with their by-products of cheese, milk and wool, were of utmost importance for survival.

The small city was formed in 1254, its citizens drawn from the area’s 99 villages. Each village was required to build their own piazza, church and fountain in the new city. Unfortunately most of these structures were destroyed in a catastrophic earthquake in 1701, but remnants of this unusual history remain.

As one of Italy’s highest towns, L’Aquila isn’t the easiest of places to get to, but those who make the effort will be rewarded with some impressive architecture within the city walls and wild nature just outside.

The sturdy, 16th century castle (known locally as the Forte Spagnolo) is a good place to begin your explorations. Here you can admire the tremendous views across the town with the Appennines making a dramatic backdrop. You can also delve below ground and wander the underground passages that lace the castle’s foundations. The castle itself houses the Museo Nazionale d’Abruzzo, a bizarre mix of ecclesiastical art and the skeleton of an enormous mammoth. Estimated to be a million years old, it was unearthed just outside the city in 1954. Also, not to be missed is the Casa Museo Signorini Corsi, a beautiful palazzo housing the aristocratic Corsi family’s religious art and period furniture.

Basilica di Santa Maria di Collemaggio: You can’t miss its distinctive pink and white façade and rose windows. The sparse, gothic interior makes for a surprising contrast. This church was built by a hermit, Peter of Morrone, in the 13th century. Through a strange twist of fate, this quiet man was thrust into the limelight, when suddenly elected Pope in 1294. So attached was he to his church in L’Aquila, he risked ruffling feathers by insisting on being crowned here rather than in Rome. Reluctant from the start, he passed a decree allowing Popes to abdicate, and then did so, just 5 months after taking office. His successor imprisoned him and he died soon after. His body was taken back to L’Aquila and is buried in the Basilica.

Other impressive structures in L’Aquila include Fontana delle 99 Cannelle, or the fountain with 99 spouts and corresponding masks as well as the many museums and homes for famous art.

Those wanting to explore the region’s great wildernesses will find L’Aquila a perfect base. A short drive from the town are three spectacular national parks: the Majella National Park; the Gran Sasso National Park and the Abruzzo National Park.

• Skiing is the most common sport, both cross-country and downhill skiing. Campo di Giove, Campo Felice, Campo Imperatore, Ovindoli and Scanno are the most famous ski runs.

• Trekking, jogging, horse riding, bicycling and mountain biking along the valleys and slopes of the countryside are other favored outdoor activities. Experts scour the woods searching for epigeal mushrooms and truffles, that they cook on the spot.

• Open-air celebrations and popular festivals are often organized in the province of L’Quila, typical and folkloristic occasions representing a revival of the old traditions and offering the possibility to taste traditional local products.

Earthquakes

In the early morning of April 6, 2009 a 20 second lasting earthquake with magnitude 6.9 (followed later by weaker aftershocks) occurred near the city of L´Aquila, Italy.

More than 45 towns were affected, 308 people killed, 1.600 injured and more then 65.000 inhabitants were forced to leave their homes.

Italy has a long and tragic history of earthquakes. The position between two large continental plates (the European and African) and various micro-plates of the Mediterranean Sea results in highly active seismicity all over the peninsula. While most of the medieval structures in rural areas collapsed or were heavily damaged, in L’Aquila most concern arose from the observation that modern buildings suffered the greatest damage and that the death toll included mostly young people.

The Food of L’Aquila

The unusual local cuisine is one of the highlights of this remote mountainous region. The local diavolicchio chili peppers crop up in many specialties, including agnello diavolo – lamb chops cooked with the chilies and tempered with orange peel, rosemary, and fennel. Maccheroni alla chitarra is more well known – homemade squares of egg pasta with a spicy, meaty tomato sauce. 

Crespelle

When it comes to meat, lamb is often prepared using a recipe called Cacio e uova, meaning with pecorino cheese and egg, and the lamb intestines are used to stuff meat roll-ups. Pork is used to prepare ’ndocca ’ndocca, a stew of boiled meat that includes all the parts of the pig, from the snout to the tail.

The fish and seafood recipes tend to rely less on tomato sauce and more on pepperoncino, especially in fish stews.

The area’s unique, regional products include: Cicerchia, or grass-pea, is a regional specialty, as are truffles and saffron from L’Aquila, red garlic from Sulmona and the diavolillo peperoncino that is used to flavor just about every dish. They are also a big producer of extra virgin olive oil. The region has three classified DOP varieties.

Sheep’s milk cheeses dominate dairy production. Caciocavallo and Scamorza are two local favorites that can be found young and aged. Ventricina is a pork sausage that is stuffed into a casing made from pork stomach, rather than intestine. Look for ventricina from Teramo, it is thought to have the best soppressata and mortadelle which is served with a glass of local Montepulciano d’Abruzzo or Trebbiano wine.

Make Some L’Aquila Inspired Recipes At Home

cannarozzetti – spaghetti cut into small pieces

Potato Soup with Saffron

Servings 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 lb. potatoes
  • 6 ounces cannarozzetti – spaghetti cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • ½ teaspoon saffron
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • salt

Directions:

Boil and peel the potatoes and cut them into large chunks and set aside.

Lightly sauté the onion, carrot and celery in olive oil in a deep pot. Add 8 ½ cups water and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil and add the pasta.

When the pasta is cooked, stir in the potatoes and saffron

 

 

Guitar Pasta Sauce

Maccheroni alla chitarra

Serves 4

A famous fresh-egg-pasta dish from the L’Aquila, in the Abruzzi region of Italy. The ‘guitar’ is a wooden frame strung with innumerable wires close together – for cutting the pasta in thin strips by laying the pasta on the ‘strings’ and passing a roller over it.

For a rough approximation of the original – use any fresh pasta from the refrigerator section of your local store. Remember that fresh pasta cooks very quickly: 3 – 4 minutes on average.

Best with fresh tomatoes.

Ingredients:

  • 6 oz. pancetta
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 1/2 pounds peeled, diced fresh plum tomatoes, or use a 16 oz. can of diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
  • 3 1/2 oz. pecorino and or Parmesan cheese, grated.
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1 lb pasta – fresh if possible

Directions:

Dice the pancetta and sauté in the butter until golden.

Add the cut tomato pieces and chili pepper and cook for a few more minutes, until soft.

Add the salt and black pepper to taste.

Cook the pasta.according to directions

Serve with grated cheese.

Chicken Cacciatore L’Aquila Style

Pollo alla cacciatora in bianco

Serves 4 – 6

Notice tomatoes are not used.

Ingredients:

  • 1- 3 pound organic chicken – cut into 10 pieces, two legs, two thighs, two wings and 2 breasts, cut in half
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium large onion, sliced
  • 3 sprigs of parsley, chopped
  • 1 stalk of celery, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1 fresh chili pepper, minced, or 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup white wine or chicken broth, if you prefer.

Directions:

Salt and pepper the chicken pieces to taste.

In a skillet with a cover large enough to accommodate the entire chicken, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add as many chicken pieces as will fit in the bottom of the pan without crowding, and brown. As the pieces brown set them aside and continue with the remaining chicken until all pieces are browned.

When all chicken is browned and removed from pan, add the onion, parsley, celery, chili and crushed clove of garlic and saute, stirring, until transparent.

Add the bay leaves, return all the chicken pieces to the pan,

Pour the 1/2 cup of white wine over the chicken and mix the ingredients well; continue on medium heat allowing the wine to evaporate. -

When the liquid in the pan has thickened, add 1/4 cup of water, reduce the heat to low, cover, and 30 – 60 minutes, until the chicken is tender and done (a fork should easily pierce the meat).


What, you may ask, is Steak Pizzaiola? What does this dish have to do with Pizza? It does share its tomato base with the pie but that’s about all. It’s a sauce that combines onions and garlic and sometimes pepperoncini—the pickled pepper of Italy or bell peppers. Then too, there’s the matter of geography. Pizza itself originated in Naples and was invented there in the late 1800’s. However, the creation of the recipe for Pizzaiola is claimed in several different regions depending on whose legend you are reading. It was probably developed in the Campania (Naples) region based on the use of the sauce. Pizzaiola was invented to tenderize tougher and less expensive cuts of beef. The meat is seared and then braised until tender. It is easy to make and is perfect for a weeknight.

Pizzaiola has probably been eaten in many Italian households without knowing what is was called.. While the basic sauce recipe calls for tomato and onion, in the true sense of Italian cooking, the recipe depends on what was in the refrigerator at the time. There is no one recipe for pizzaiola. My research finds that there are two different ways to approach this dish: braising a less tender cut of beef in the sauce or grilling a tender beef cut and adding the pizzaiola sauce.

During the 70s and 80s, many Italian-inspired regional dishes became popular in America and Steak Pizzaiola was one of them.

Braised Steak Pizzaiola

Serves 4

Tips:

Any cut of beef that requires braising can be used. You can also braise the dish on top of the stove.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound thinly sliced top round beef, cut into 4 pieces
  • 28 oz.contained Pomi strained tomatoes
  • 6 ounces water
  • ½ cup chopped sweet onions
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and cracked black pepper

Directions:

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Season meat with salt and pepper.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet and add meat to pan and brown quickly on each side 3-5 minutes; do not crowd meat in pan. Remove meat from pan as it is browned and place in baking dish.

Add onions to the pan and cook until lightly golden in color, about 10 minutes, Pour onions on top of steak pieces in the baking dish.

Add tomatoes and water to the skillet stirring quickly reduce heat to low, add oregano and basil. Cook tomatoes for about 3 minutes. Pour over meat and onions. Cover dish tightly with foil and bake for 45 minutes covered. Remove foil or pan covering and cook an additional 20-30 minutes until tomatoes are cooked down. Good with angel hair pasta as a side.

Grilled Steak Pizzaiola

Tender cuts of beef.

You can also pan sear the steak in a heavy skillet.

serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut lengthwise into ½-inch strips
  • 1 small white onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup sliced white mushrooms
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • ½ cup dry red wine
  • 1 (14.5) can diced plum tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 (1-pound) rib-eye, NY strip or T-Bone steaks on the bone, about 1-inch thick
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

To make the sauce:

Heat the oil in a large skillet and let it heat until shimmering. Add the bell pepper, onion, mushrooms, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, about 6 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Stir in the tomatoes and oregano, and season with salt and pepper. Return to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes, adding a bit more wine if the sauce gets too thick. Remove from the heat. (The sauce can be made up to 2 hours ahead and reheated.)

 For the steak:

Preheat an outdoor grill for direct cooking over high heat (550ºF).

Season the steaks with the salt and pepper. Let stand at room temperature while heating the grill.

Grill over high heat to medium or to your preferred level, turning only once. Remove from heat and rest rest five minutes. Slice steak into one inch slices and place steaks in the sauce and allow them to heat for a few minutes.

Alternately pour sauce over cooked steaks and slice into serving portions.



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