Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Author Archives: Jovina Coughlin

Gian_Lorenzo_Bernini,

Gian Lorenzo Bernini, 1598 – 1680) was an Italian artist and a prominent architect, who worked principally in Rome. He was the leading sculptor of his time, credited with creating the Baroque style of sculpture. In addition, he painted, wrote plays and designed metalwork and stage sets.

Bernini was born in Naples (1598) to sculptor, Pietro Bernini, originally from Florence, and Angelica Galante. Bernini did not marry until 1639, at the age of forty-one, when he wed a twenty-two-year-old Roman, Caterina Tezio, in an arranged marriage. She bore him eleven children, including his youngest son, Domenico Bernini, who became his first biographer.

Gian-Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680) Damned  Soul - Rome, Spanish Embassy

Dammed Soul

Blessed_Soul_by_Bernini

Blessed Soul

In 1606, at the age of eight, Gian accompanied his father to Rome, where Pietro was involved in several projects. There, Gian’s skill was soon noticed by the painter, Annibale Carracci and by Pope Paul V, and he soon gained the important patronage of Cardinal Scipione Borghese, the pope’s nephew. His first works were inspired by antique classical sculpture. Under the patronage of Cardinal Borghese,  young Bernini rapidly rose to prominence as a sculptor. Among the early works created for the cardinal were decorative pieces for the garden of the Villa Borghese, such as The Goat Amalthea with the Infant Jupiter and a Faun, and several allegorical busts, including the Damned Soul and Blessed Soul. By the time he was 22, he was considered talented enough to have been given a commission for a papal portrait, the Bust of Pope Paul V.

Bernini’s reputation was solidly established by four works, executed between 1619 and 1625, all now displayed in the Galleria Borghese in Rome—Aeneas, Anchises, and Ascanius (1619), The Rape of Proserpina (1621–22), Apollo and Daphne (1622–25), and David (1623–24). Adapting the classical grandeur of Renaissance sculpture and the technology of the Mannerist period, Bernini forged a new conception for religious and historical sculpture.

_Fontana_dei_Quattro_Fiume

Unlike those done by his predecessors, these sculptures focused on specific points of tension in the stories they were trying to tell—Aeneas and family fleeing Troy; the instant that Pluto grasps Persephone; the moment Apollo sees his beloved Daphne begin the transformation into a tree. Bernini’s David is the most obvious example of this. Unlike Michelangelo’s David—and versions by other Renaissance artists—which shows the subject in his triumph after the battle with Goliath, Bernini illustrates David during his combat with the giant, as he twists his body to catapult towards Goliath. To emphasise these moments, Bernini designed the sculptures with a specific viewpoint in mind. Their original placements within the Villa Borghese were against walls, so that the visitors’ first view was to gauge the state of mind of the characters and, therefore, understand the larger story at work, for example, Daphne’s wide open mouth in fear; David biting his lip in determined concentration or Proserpina desperately struggling to free herself. As well as psychological realism, they show a greater concern for representing physical details. The tousled hair of Pluto, the fleshiness of Proserpina or the forest of leaves beginning to envelop Daphne all demonstrate Bernini’s exactitude in depicting complex real world situations in marble form.

Blessed_Ludovica_Albertoni

 

ApolloAndDaphneDuring his long career, Bernini received numerous important commissions, many of which were associated with the papacy. Under Pope Urban VIII, the artist’s opportunities increased. He was not just producing sculpture for private residences, but also for the city. His appointments included, curator of the papal art collection, director of the papal foundry at Castel Sant’Angelo and commissioner of the fountains of Piazza Navona. Such positions gave Bernini the opportunity to demonstrate his skills throughout the city. Perhaps most significantly, he was appointed Chief Architect of St Peter’s, in 1629. From then on, Bernini’s work and artistic vision would be placed at the symbolic heart of Rome.

St. Peter’s, Baldacchino was the centrepiece of this. Designed as a massive spiralling bronze canopy over the tomb of St. Peter, Bernini’s four-pillared creation reached nearly 100 feet. As well as the Baldacchino, Bernini’s rearrangement of the basilica left space for massive statues created by Bernini. Bernini also began work on the tomb for Urban VIII, a full 16 years before Urban’s death. Bernini also gained royal commissions from outside Rome, such as Cardinal Richelieu of France, Francesco I d’Este of Modena, Charles I of England and Henrietta Maria. But it was the commission for the Cornaro Chapel that fully demonstrated how Bernini’s innovative skills continued to grow. The chapel showcased his ability to integrate sculpture and architecture and create what scholars have called a ‘unified work of art’. Bernini was able to portray the swooning Teresa, the quietly smiling angel delicately gripping the arrow that pierced her and, also to the side, portraits of the astonished Cornaro family – the Venetian family that had commissioned the piece. It was an artistic accomplishment that showed the forms Bernini employed, such as, hidden lighting, differently painted sculptures, thin golden beams, recessive spaces and over 20 diverse types of marble to create the final artwork.

Santa_Maria_della_Vittoria,

Pope Alexander VII (1655–67) commissioned large-scale architectural changes in Rome, connecting new and existing buildings by opening up streets and piazzas. It is no coincidence that Bernini’s career showed a greater focus on designing buildings during this time, as there were far greater opportunities. Bernini’s most notable creation during this period was the piazza leading to St Peter’s. Previously a broad, unstructured space, Bernini created two massive semi-circular colonnades, each row of which was formed of four white columns. This resulted in an oval shape that formed a spectacular, inclusive arena within which any gathering group of citizens, pilgrims or visitors could witness the appearance of the pope – either as he appeared on the loggia, on the facade of St Peter’s or on balconies on the neighboring Vatican palaces. Often likened to two arms reaching out from the church to embrace the waiting crowd, Bernini’s creation extended the symbolic greatness of the Vatican area, creating an architectural success.

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641px-St_Peter's_Square,_Vatican_City_-_April_2007

Roman Cuisine

Typical Roman food has its roots in the past and reflects the old traditions in most of its offerings. It is based on fresh vegetables (the king is definitely the artichoke, whether deep-fried, simmered in olive oil with garlic and mint or “alla giudia”), inexpensive cuts of meat (the so-called “quinto quarto,” meaning mainly innards, cooked with herbs and hot chilli pepper). It also consists of deep-fried appetizers (such as salted cod and filled zucchini blossoms) and sharp “pecorino cheese” (made from sheep’s milk from the nearby countryside), a very important ingredient in many recipes. Not to mention the pasta, of course, a staple for every Roman. From “carbonara” to spaghetti “ajo e ojo” (so simple with its mix of olive oil, garlic and chili pepper), from rigatoni “con pajata” to a hearty, fragrant soup such as “pasta e ceci.”

Authentic recipe source: http://www.eatingitalyfoodtours.com/about/

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Trippa alla Romana

4 main-course servings

Ingredients

  • 3 lb raw beef honeycomb tripe (not partially cooked)
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 celery ribs, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1 (32-oz) can whole tomatoes in juice, with juice reserved
  • 2 cups cold water
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Garnish: Pecorino Romano and chopped mint

Directions

Trim any fat from the tripe, then rinse tripe under cold water. Soak tripe in a large bowl of fresh cold water 1 hour, then rinse again.

Put tripe in an 8-quart pot of cold water and bring to a boil, then drain and rinse. Bring tripe to a boil again in the pot filled with fresh cold water, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, turning tripe occasionally and adding more hot water to the pot, if necessary, to keep tripe covered, until very tender, about 4 hours (tripe will have a pungent aroma while simmering). Drain in a colander and cool completely.

While the tripe is cooking, heat olive oil in a 6 to 8 quart heavy pot over moderate heat until hot but not smoking, then cook onion, carrots, celery and garlic, stirring frequently, until softened, about 8 minutes. Add salt, pepper and wine and boil, stirring, 1 minute. Pour juice from the tomatoes into sauce, then chop the tomatoes and add to the sauce with the 2 cups cold water and mint. Simmer sauce, uncovered, 30 minutes.

Trim any remaining fat from the tripe and cut tripe into 2 inch by 1/2 inch strips. Add to the sauce and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the tripe is a little bit more tender but still slightly chewy, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Season with salt and pepper. Serve tripe sprinkled with finely grated Pecorino Romano and additional chopped fresh mint.

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Coda alla Vaccinara (Roman Oxtail Stew)

Ingredients for 4 people:

  • 1 kg (about 2.5 pounds) cows tail
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 150 grams (1/3 pound) pork cheeks, pancetta or bacon
  • Extra virgin olive oil (to taste)
  • 1 kg (2.5 pounds) chopped tomatoes
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 4 cloves
  • Pine nuts (to taste)
  • Raisins (to taste)
  • Unsweetened cocoa (to taste)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Hot water

Directions

Wash and dry the tail and cut into large pieces (or rocchi as they are called in Roman dialect). Brown the pieces of the tail with the chopped bacon and oil, then add chopped onions, a clove of garlic, salt and pepper. Add the dry white wine and cook for about 15 minutes. Then add the chopped tomatoes and cook the meat for at least 3 hours on a low heat always making sure that the pieces are covered with sauce and until meat almost falls off the bone. If it becomes dry, add water.

When the stew is almost done cooking, chop and blanch the celery for a minute or two in boiling water. Then sauté the celery with a bit of the sauce that the tail cooked in, a handful of pine nuts, raisins and a couple of tablespoons of cocoa. Simmer the sauce for a few minutes. Once cooked, add the celery sauce to the main dish. Heat and serve.

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Pomodori Ripieni di Riso con Patate (Rice stuffed tomatoes with potatoes)

Ingredients (makes 14 medium-sized tomatoes)

  • 14 Ripe tomatoes
  • 20 tablespoons carnaroli or other risotto rice
  • 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • Salt
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon pesto
  • Basil
 leaves
  • Potatoes (at least 1 per tomato)

Directions

Heat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Cut off the top of the tomatoes, scoop out the seeds and pulp and place them in a mixing bowl. Set aside the pulp.

Place the empty tomatoes (with their tops) in a large baking pan that you will be using for this recipe.

Mix the tomato pulp with the oil, garlic, salt, basil and pesto. Set aside one cup of this mixture  (which you will be using with the potatoes at the end). Add rice to the remaining mixture.

Sprinkle some salt into the tomatoes. Fill the tomatoes with the rice mixture. Replace tomato lids.

Dice the potatoes into ½ inch cubes.  Pour the tomato mixture, which you set aside earlier, over the potatoes, stir and add some salt. Add the potatoes to the baking pan with the tomatoes.

Sprinkle with more salt over the top of the tomatoes and drizzle some oil all over.

Bake for at least 1 hour, until the  potatoes and the top of the tomatoes are brown.

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Torta Caprese

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 sticks (196 grams) unsalted butter
  • 1 ¼ cups (196 grams) blanched whole almonds
  • 6 ounces (168 grams) fine-quality bittersweet chocolate
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup (225 grams) granulated sugar
  • Powdered sugar to garnish

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Butter and flour a 10-inch spring form pan.

In a small pan, melt the butter and let cool completely.

In a food processor, finely grind together the almonds and chocolate.

Separate the eggs, putting the yolks in the bowl of an electric mixer and the whites in another large bowl.

Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until very thick and pale; then add the almond chocolate mixture and the butter and beat together.

In another bowl, with cleaned beaters, beat the egg whites with a pinch salt until they form stiff peaks. Whisk one-fourth of the egg whites into the almond chocolate mixture. Fold in the remaining whites gently but thoroughly and spread the batter evenly in the pan.

Bake the torta for 50 minutes, or until it begins to pull away from side of the pan and a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out with moist crumbs attached. Cool the cake completely before releasing the sides of the pan. Dust the cake with powdered sugar and serve. Serves 8–10.

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fall fruits

Most people think of summer as the time for the best produce, but autumn is the season that gives us great fruit for baking. First of all, fall is apple picking season, and that means lots of muffins, pies, cakes and tarts all filled with sweet and tart apples. Then Bartlett pears arrive, followed by Bosc and Comice pears and Anjou pears in winter. Other fall fruits would be figs and cranberries, which are healthy and delicious.

This time of year the whole world seems to go pumpkin-crazy. Pumpkin ends up in almost every recipe, whether it’s drinks, breakfast, pasta or pastries. Besides pumpkin, other winter squash such as butternut and acorn are available for sweet as well as savory recipes.

There are some spices that are associated with fall recipes. Those spices are warm, nutty, slightly spicy and slightly sweet. They include cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, pumpkin pie spice, chai, allspice, mace, star anise, cardamom, coriander, fennel and peppercorns.

Make your own Spice Blends

To make pumpkin pie spice blend, combine 1/4 cup ground cinnamon, 2 tablespoons ground ginger, 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg, 1 teaspoon ground allspice and 1 teaspoon ground cloves. Mix thoroughly. Keep the mixture in a tightly sealed jar in your pantry.

To make apple pie spice blend, combine 4 tablespoons ground cinnamon, 1 tablespoon ground allspice, 2 teaspoons nutmeg, 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger, 1/2 teaspoon cardamom and 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves. Mix all the spices together and store in an airtight container.

All these delicious, healthy fruits are in season now.

  • Apple
  • Bananas
  • Dried Fruit
  • Kiwi
  • Melon
  • Pear
  • Pineapple
  • Plum
  • Pomegranate

apple crisp

Apple and Cranberry Crisp

Ingredients

  • 8 cups thinly sliced, peeled baking apples (8 medium)
  • 1 ½ cups cranberries
  • 1/4 cup apple juice
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon apple pie spice or ground cinnamon

Topping

  • 1/2 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
  • 3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon apple pie spice or ground cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons butter

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a 2-quart rectangular baking dish combine apples, cranberries and apple juice.

In a small bowl stir together granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon apple pie spice. Sprinkle over fruit mixture; toss gently to coat.

For the topping:

In a medium bowl stir together oats, brown sugar, flour and 1/2 teaspoon apple pie spice. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Sprinkle topping over fruit mixture.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until apples are tender. Serve warm.

Bread Dough

Use this recipe for the fig rolls.

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups warm water (105 degrees F to 115 degrees F)
  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 2  cups bread flour
  • 3/4 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt

Directions

In a 2-quart mixing bowl stir together the warm water and yeast until yeast is dissolved. Stir in flours, sugar, oil, and salt until combined. Cover with lid or plastic wrap; let stand in a warm place for 1 hour. Stir down. Cover and chill overnight. Before baking, let dough stand, uncovered, at room temperature for 30 minutes.

fig rolls

Italian Fig Rolls

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup finely chopped dried figs
  • 1 teaspoon snipped fresh sage
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 pound bread dough, recipe above and made the day before
  • 2 ounces Brie cheese, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • Small fresh sage leaves

Directions

Line a 9x9x2-inch baking pan with foil. Grease foil; set aside.

For the filling:

In a small bowl combine figs, snipped sage and honey; set aside.

Cut dough into 12 equal portions. Shape dough portions into balls.

Working with one dough ball at a time, flatten it to a 3-inch circle. Top with a rounded teaspoon of the filling and a few pieces of the cheese. Fold dough over filling; pinch edges to seal.

Place rolls, seam side down, in the prepared baking pan. Cover and let rise until double in size (1 to 1-1/4 hours).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a small bowl whisk together egg white and the water; brush lightly over rolls. Gently press small sage leaves onto the tops of the rolls; brush again with the egg white mixture.

Bake about 20 minutes or until golden. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Serve warm.

fall desserts

Mini Cheesecakes with Pear Topping

Ingredients

Crust

  • 3/4 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted

Filling

  • 1 8 ounce package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese (2 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup sour cream

Topping

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons whipping cream
  • 4 cups sliced fresh pears (4 medium)
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Garnish

  • 1/4 cup broken walnuts,toasted
  • Crumbled blue cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Line eight 2-1/2-inch muffin cups with foil or paper baking cups or lightly coat with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.

For the crust:

In a small bowl stir together oats, 1/4 cup chopped walnuts, 1/4 cup brown sugar and 3 tablespoons melted butter. Spoon about 2 rounded tablespoons of oat mixture into each prepared muffin cup. Using the bottom of a narrow glass, press down lightly. Bake about 8 minutes or until light brown. Cool slightly on a wire rack.

Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees F.

For the filling:

In a medium bowl beat cream cheese with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Add egg; beat just until combined. Stir in the 1/2 cup blue cheese and the sour cream.

Spoon 1 well-rounded tablespoon of filling into each muffin cup. Bake about 20 minutes or until slightly puffed and set. Cool about 30 minutes.

Remove from muffin cups. Place on a tray, cover, and chill for 2 to 24 hours. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.

For the pear topping:

In a large skillet melt the 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add 1/2 cup brown sugar and the cream. Cook and stir until bubbly; add pears. Cook about 5 minutes or until pears are tender, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla. Cool slightly.

To serve:

Remove foil or paper liners from cheesecakes. Place cheesecakes in eight deep dessert dishes. Spoon pear mixture around cheesecakes. Sprinkle with the 1/4 cup toasted walnuts and additional blue cheese, if desired.

donuts

Baked Pumpkin Doughnuts

12 doughnuts

Doughnuts

  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups pumpkin purée (canned pumpkin)
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 3/4 cups + 2 tablespoons Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

Coating

  • 3 tablespoons cinnamon-sugar
  • 1/2 cup confectioners sugar, optional
  • 2 tablespoons REAL maple syrup, optional

donut pan

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Lightly grease two standard doughnut pans (see photo). If you don’t have doughnut pans, you can bake these in a standard muffin tin; they just won’t be doughnuts.

Beat together the oil, eggs, sugar, pumpkin, spices, salt and baking powder until smooth.

Add the flour, stirring just until smooth.

Fill the wells of the doughnut pans about 3/4 full; use a scant 1/4 cup of batter in each well.

If you’re making muffins, fill each cup about 3/4 full; the recipe makes about 15, so you’ll need to bake in two batches (unless you have two muffin pans).

Bake the doughnuts for 15 to 18 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of one comes out clean.

If you’re making muffins, they’ll need to bake for 23 to 25 minutes.

Remove the doughnuts from the oven, and after about 5 minutes, loosen their edges and transfer them to a rack to cool.

While the doughnuts are still warm (but no longer fragile), gently shake them in a bag with the cinnamon-sugar.

If you’ve made muffins, sprinkle their tops with the cinnamon-sugar.

Optional: combine the powdered sugar with the maple syrup and drizzle the cinnamon coated donuts with the glaze.

Cool completely, and store (not wrapped tight) at room temperature for several days.

french toast

Apple French Toast Bake

Make ahead breakfast.

French Toast

  • 1 day old Italian bread, about 18″ to 20″ long (12 ounces)
  • 8 large eggs
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Topping

  • 5 to 6 apples (1 3/4 to 2 pounds fresh apples), peeled and thinly sliced; such as Macoun, Empire, Cortland or Granny Smith
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons real maple syrup
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter

Optional Garnish

  • Cinnamon-sugar
  • Maple syrup

Directions

Lightly butter a 9″ x 13″ baking pan or similar-sized casserole dish.

Slice the bread into 1 inch slices; you’ll need about 20 slices to fill the pan. Place the slices of bread into the pan. Be sure the entire bottom of the dish is covered with bread. You may have to cut some slices to fit.

In a medium-sized bowl beat the eggs, then whisk in the milk, sugar, vanilla, nutmeg and salt.

Pour this mixture over the bread and let it soak in while you prepare the topping.

Peel and slice the apples thinly. Mix them with the remaining topping ingredients and spread them over the bread in the pan.

To bake immediately, preheat the oven to 375°F.

To bake up to 48 hours later, cover the pan, and refrigerate.

Bake the French toast in a preheated 375°F oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until the apples are soft and the eggs set.

If it’s been refrigerated, remove the cover, and bake for 60 to 70 minutes.

Remove from the oven and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar or drizzle with maple syrup.

Makes about 10 servings.


fallpasta

WHITE BIRCHES by Leonid Afremov

Pasta is a great way to warm yourself up after a long day and there are so many different types of pasta dishes out there. Make the most of the fall harvest and use butternut squash, pumpkin, apples, pears, sweet potatoes, greens, Brussels sprouts and cranberries in your cooking.

For a really healthy, fast way to serve pasta cook up some fresh chopped vegetables while your pasta is boiling,. You can steam the vegetables, cook them in the microwave with a little water or saute with just a little oil. I always use onion and garlic as well for flavor. Then add any of the following: finely diced mushrooms, broccoli florets, cauliflower florets, diced carrots, peas, sweet corn niblets, canned chickpeas, any type of bean or any other fresh, seasonal vegetable. Add fresh herbs to taste, if you have them. When the pasta is cooked, stir the vegetables through, with some pesto or tomato sauce – either homemade or store-bought– sprinkle some grated Parmesan on top and you are done.

Another great way to serve pasta with vegetables is to use roasted vegetables. In a small bowl, stir together thyme, rosemary, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Toss with vegetables until they are coated. Spread evenly on a large roasting pan. Roast in a 450 degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes in the preheated oven, stirring every 10 minutes, or until vegetables are cooked through and browned. When the pasta is done and drained, scape in the vegetables and their juices from the roasting pan and mix with canned tomatoes or pesto as a sauce. The roasted vegetables have great flavor and are also a good way to make use of vegetables that are past their peak of freshness.

Pasta Bake

Make this, when you have a little more time, on those days when just a bowl of pasta doesn’t seem like enough. Make pasta with the vegetable sauce as above. You can add a can of flaked tuna or some diced cooked chicken to make the dish more substantial. Put the cooked pasta into an ovenproof dish. Make a béchamel sauce, by blending together 1/2 cup flour with a 1/4 cup butter or vegetable spread over a low heat, and gradually whisk in 2 cups low-fat milk to form a sauce. Season with pepper and grated nutmeg and pour over the pasta. Sprinkle with grated cheese on top and bake in a moderate oven for 25 minutes or until the top is browned and bubbling. Serve with a green salad.

fallpasta1

Baked Pumpkin and Sausage Rigatoni

You can use 1 medium butternut squash (about 1 1/2 pounds), baked in the oven and the flesh scooped out instead of the pumpkin.

8 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 12 ounces links uncooked hot Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
  • 1 29 ounce can solid-pack pumpkin
  • 1 1/2 cups low-fat milk
  • 4 ounces Neufchatel (light cream cheese) cheese, softened
  • 2 egg yolks, beaten
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons grated Asiago cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 3/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound rigatoni
  • 1/3 cup panko bread crumbs

Directions

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to boiling.

Add sausage to a large skillet set over medium heat. Cook 8 to 10 minutes or until browned, breaking apart with a wooden spoon. Stir in sage and cook 1 minute. Remove with a slotted spoon; set aside. Pour off and discard drippings.

In the same skillet, whisk pumpkin, milk, Neufchatel, egg yolks, 1 cup of the Asiago, the nutmeg, pumpkin pie spice and salt. Stir over medium heat until cheeses are melted.

Meanwhile, cook rigatoni in the boiling water 1 minute less than the package directions, about 9 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water. Return pasta to the pot. Stir in sausage, pumpkin mixture and reserved pasta water.

Mix well to combine. Transfer to a 13 x 9 x 2-inch dish and top with panko and remaining 2 tablespoons Asiago. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes. Turn broiler on HIGH and broil 1 to 2 minutes or until the top is lightly browned.

fallpasta2

Bucatini with Mushrooms

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup dried porcini mushrooms (about 1/2 ounce)
  • 2/3 cup boiling water
  • 8 ounces uncooked bucatini
  • 3 1/4 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 8 ounces white mushrooms or mushroom blend, coarsely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons dry sherry
  • 2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon truffle oil
  • Sage sprigs for garnish

Directions

Rinse porcini thoroughly. Combine porcini and 2/3 cup boiling water in a bowl; cover and let stand 30 minutes. Drain in a sieve over a bowl, reserving 1/4 cup of the soaking liquid. Chop porcini and set aside.

Cook pasta with 1 tablespoon salt in boiling water 10 minutes or until al dente; drain in a colander over a bowl, reserving 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking liquid.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallots, mushrooms and garlic; sauté 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in porcini, sherry and 1/4 teaspoon salt; cook 1 minute or until liquid evaporates.

Finely grate 1 ounce of the cheese; crumble remaining cheese. Reduce heat to medium. Stir in pasta, 1/4 cup reserved pasta cooking liquid, 1/4 cup reserved porcini soaking liquid, 1/4 cup grated cheese, cream, chopped sage and pepper; toss well to combine. Drizzle with truffle oil; toss. Place about 1 1/4 cups pasta mixture on each of 4 plates; top each serving with about 1 tablespoon of crumbled cheese. Garnish with sage sprigs, if desired.

fallpasta3

Pasta Shells with Chicken and Brussels Sprouts

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/3 pounds in all)
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper, divided
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3/4 pound fresh Brussels sprouts (or one 10-ounce package frozen), cut into quarters from top to stem end
  • 1 cup canned low-sodium chicken broth or homemade stock
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried red-pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 pound medium pasta shells
  • Lemon for garnish

Directions

In a large nonstick frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon each of the oil and the butter over moderate heat. Season the chicken with 1/4 teaspoon each of the salt and pepper. Cook the breasts until browned and just done, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Remove the chicken from the pan and let it rest for 5 minutes. Cut into small pieces.

In the same pan, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil over moderately low heat. Add the red onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until starting to soften, about 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic, Brussels sprouts, broth and red-pepper flakes. Bring to a simmer and cook, covered, 5 minutes. Add the chicken, lemon juice, parsley, Parmesan, the remaining 1 tablespoon butter, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Remove from the heat.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the pasta until just done, about 10 minutes. Drain and toss with the sauce. Garnish with lemons

fallpasta4

Sausage-Cauliflower Spaghetti

Ingredients

  • Kosher salt
  • 12 ounces spaghetti
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 12 ounces sweet Italian pork or turkey sausage, casings removed
  • 6 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 small head cauliflower, broken into small florets
  • 1 bunch scallions, chopped
  • 1 cup grated pecorino romano or parmesan cheese

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook al dente. Reserve 2 cups of the pasta cooking water, then drain.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Crumble the sausage into the skillet and cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until lightly browned and no longer pink, 4 to 5 minutes. Clear a space in the pan, add the garlic and cook until just golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the cauliflower and cook until the edges are browned, about 2 minutes.

Add 1 cup of the reserved cooking water, cover and reduce the heat to medium. Cook until the cauliflower is tender, about 8 more minutes. Uncover and boil over high heat until the liquid is almost evaporated, about 2 more minutes.

Add the spaghetti to the skillet along with the scallions. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt. Toss for a minute or two to wilt the scallions and coat the pasta with the sauce, adding up to 1 cup cooking water, if needed, to loosen. Remove from the heat, sprinkle with the cheese and toss. Divide among shallow bowls and drizzle with more olive oil, if desired.

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Penne with Fennel and Pork Ragù

Ingredients

  • 2 lb ground pork, preferably from the shoulder
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 3 cups minced fennel bulb
  • 3 cups minced onions
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 cups dry white wine
  • 4 cups (or more) low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 12-oz. can diced Italian tomatoes
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lb penne pasta
  • Finely grated Parmesan

Directions

Using your hands, thoroughly mix ground pork and the 2 teaspoons of salt in a large bowl. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Roll pork mixture into 16–18 large meatballs (about ¼-cupful each). Heat 1½ tablespoons of olive oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat. Working in 2 batches and adding the remaining 1½ tablespoons of olive oil between batches, cook meatballs until all sides are brown, adjusting heat to prevent browned bits on the  bottom of pan from burning (they will flavor the sauce later), about 8 minutes per batch. Transfer meatballs to a paper towel–lined plate to drain.

Reduce heat to medium. Scatter fennel, onions and garlic over the bottom of the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally as needed to prevent sticking, until vegetables are translucent and juices have evaporated, about 25 minutes. (A flavorful browned layer may form on the bottom of pan. The moisture from the vegetables will help loosen it from the pot as you stir.)

Add wine, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pot, and bring to a simmer. Cook until the wine has reduced by three-quarters, about 15 minutes. Return meatballs to the pot. Add the 4 cups of broth and the tomatoes. Return sauce to a simmer, scraping up all browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Simmer over medium-low heat, covered with lid slightly ajar and stirring occasionally, until meatballs are very tender, about 2½ hours.

Using a potato masher or fork, break meatballs into small pieces. If sauce is too thick, add broth by the half cupfuls until desired consistency forms. Season ragù to taste with salt and pepper.

DO AHEAD: Ragù can be made 3 days ahead. Let cool in the pot, cover and place in the refrigerator. Return sauce to a simmer before continuing.

Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Cook pasta stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain and transfer to pot with the hot ragù. Stir until well incorporated.

Transfer pasta to a large wide bowl. Sprinkle with cheese.


rice

What is Whole Grain Rice?

After rice is harvested, its inedible hull must be removed, resulting in a whole grain (often brown) rice kernel, ready to cook. If the rice is milled further, the bran and germ are removed, white rice is the result, with lower levels of nutrients.

Rice is often classified by size and texture. There’s long, medium and short-grain rice, with the former quite elongated and the latter nearly round. Some short-grain rices are known as “sticky” rice because of the extra amylopectin (a kind of starch) that they contain; this stickiness makes them easier to manipulate with chopsticks and perfect for sushi. Aromatic rices have a special fragrance and taste, such as Basmati, Jasmine, Texmati and Ambemohar rice.

Rice is one of the most easily digested grains – one reason rice cereal is often recommended as a baby’s first solid. This makes rice ideal for those on a restricted diet or who are gluten-intolerant.

Brown rice has much higher levels of many vitamins and minerals than white rice.

Wild rice is not technically rice at all, but the seed of an aquatic grass originally grown by Native American tribes around the Great Lakes. Today some commercial cultivation takes place in California and the Midwest, but much of the crop is still harvested by Native Americans, largely in Minnesota.

The strong flavor and high price of wild rice means that it is most often consumed in a blend with other rices or other grains. Wild rice has twice the protein and fiber of brown rice, but less iron and calcium.

Cooking common varieties of brown rice is simple.

In general, combine 1 cup uncooked brown rice with two cups liquid (such as water or broth) in a 2-3 quart saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Heat to boiling, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 40-45 minutes. Check to see if most of the water has been absorbed. If rice is not quite tender or liquid is not absorbed, replace lid and cook 2 to 4 minutes longer. Remove from the heat and let stand ten minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve. Yields 3-4 cups.

Tips for perfect rice:

  • Keep lid on the pot during cooking
  • Don’t stir – unless you like sticky rice. Stirring releases extra starch. (That’s the reason for all that stirring when making risotto.)
  • If rice (or any other grain) is sticking to the pot, add a little water, turn off the heat, and let it steam for a few extra minutes. Usually the rice will release from the pot.

Whole grain rice comes in many quick-cooking forms these days, too. These brown rice options are partially (or completely) pre-cooked, so all you have to do is warm them up for ten minutes – or even as little as 90 seconds in the microwave. So brown rice can have a place on your table even when you’re in a hurry.

Store uncooked brown rice at room temperature for up to six months, or in your refrigerator or freezer for longer periods. Cooked rice can be stored in the refrigerator for 3-5 days, or in the freezer for several months. It’s easy to cook a big batch of brown rice, freeze it in batches sized for your household and simply warm it up at mealtime.

My favorite rice company, Lundberg.

Make a big batch of Brown Rice Stuffing and use it in any number of recipes or serve some alongside roasted chicken or pork. You can also just cook the 2 cups of rice in the stock and use the leftovers for casseroles and soup.

Makes 8 cups

Ingredients

  • 1 cup chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts, pignoli, etc.)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 ½ cups chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons dried sage
  • 2 cups uncooked brown rice or whole grain rice mix (unseasoned)
  • 3 ⅓ cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions

Toast the nuts by heating them over medium-high heat in a heavy, dry skillet or baking them in a toaster oven until golden brown. Do not allow them to burn. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan. Add the onion and celery and saute over low heat until soft and just beginning to brown. Stir in the thyme, sage and rice. Add the toasted nuts. Add the stock, bring to a boil and boil for two minutes.

Lower heat, cover and cook until the liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes. The rice will still be a little firm, but it will continue to cook in the recipes below. Season the mixture with parsley, lemon juice and salt and pepper. Set aside or refrigerate until ready to use.

Use to stuff vegetables, such as peppers, tomatoes, onions or cabbage.

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Italian Sausage Stuffed Peppers

Ingredients

  • 4-6 (depending on size) large peppers (green, red, yellow or orange), tops cut off and cleaned out
  • 1 lb hot Italian pork or turkey sausage, casing removed
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning, recipe above
  • 1 cup prepared brown rice stuffing
  • Salt & fresh ground pepper (to taste)
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups marinara sauce, optional
  • Fresh basil, for garnish

Directions

Saute sausage until browned. Add garlic and Italian seasoning. Saute for 2 minutes.

Pour into a mixing bowl and stir in rice stuffing.

Stuff  mixture into the hollowed out peppers.  Place in a baking dish and top the peppers with mozzarella cheese. Pour marinara sauce around the peppers, if desired. You can also heat the sauce separately and pour it over the baked peppers.

Bake at 350 degrees F. for 25-30 minutes or until the peppers are tender. Garnish with fresh basil, if desired.

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Stuffed Acorn Squash

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 acorn squash
  • 2 tablespoons extra‐virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove organic garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup diced Portobello mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup cooked brown rice stuffing
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Kosher salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Cut acorn squash in half; remove seeds and place cut sides down on a greased baking pan.

Roast for 35 minutes. Cool and remove flesh the from squash halves; cube the squash flesh.

Add oil to a sauté pan over medium‐high heat. Add the cubed squash, garlic and mushrooms. Sauté for 4 to 5 minutes.

Add cooked brown rice stuffing, butter and salt and pepper, if needed.

Mix well and stuff into empty squash halves. Reheat in the oven for a few minutes.

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Brown Rice Fritters

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cooked (leftover, plain) brown rice
  • 1/2 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano
  • 1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
  • 3 tablespoons butter, divided
  • Finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves

Directions

Combine rice, parmigiano-reggiano, oregano, salt, pepper and egg.

Form rice mixture into eight 2″ round cakes. Transfer cakes to a baking sheet covered with parchment paper and refrigerate for 30 minutes to allow them to firm up.

Put flour on a plate; dredge cakes in flour.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter in a 10″ skillet over medium-high heat. Working in 2 batches, fry cakes, turning once carefully so they do not break apart, until golden brown, about 4 minutes per side.

Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil to the pan for the second batch, if needed, and cook the second batch.

Garnish each cake with a thin slice of softened butter and sprinkle with finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves.

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Chicken Rice Soup

8 servings

Ingredients

  • 10 cups chicken broth
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 1 cup sliced celery
  • 1 cup sliced carrots
  • 1/4 cup snipped parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken cubed (3/4 lb.)
  • 4 cups (6 oz) baby spinach
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice

Directions

Combine broth, onion, celery, carrots, parsley, pepper, thyme and bay leaf in a Dutch oven or very large soup pot.

Bring to a boil; stir once or twice. Reduce heat; simmer uncovered 10 to 15 minutes. Add chicken and spinach; simmer uncovered 5 to 10 minutes or until chicken is cooked.

Remove and discard bay leaf. Stir in rice and lemon juice and heat just before serving.


gardens

In 1630 the Barbarigo family,  a powerful noble family from the Republic of Venice, owned most of the land in Valsanzibio. They took refuge in this location to escape the black plague outbreak that was spreading throughout Venice and the rest of Europe and that had already killed the wife of Zuane Francesco Barbarigo. Soon after, Zuane Francesco made a solemn vow that, if the rest of his family would be spared from this terrible disease, he would create a spiritual masterwork.

This vow was completed by his son, Gregorio and his grandsons. The garden plans were drawn by Luigi Bernini, a distinguished Vatican architect, and the sculptures were completed by Enrico Merengo (1628 – 1723), who was a well-known sculptor in Venice. The garden contains seventy statues all of which have engraved inscriptions. Symbolism abounds around every corner and down every path, as the gardens were designed to serve as an allegory of man’s progress towards perfection.

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Diane’s Pavilion or ‘Diane’s Doorway’ was the main entrance by water to the Barbarigo estate in the 17th and 18th century and was one of the first works in Bernini’s project. This impressive doorway represents one of the most important areas of the complex, in fact, it was not only the entrance to the Barbarigo estate, but it represented, as it does still today, the beginning of one’s salvation’s itinerary, desired by Gregorio Barbarigo in the plans. Just in front of the doorway, on its outside, on two solid pillars, are the  Barbarigo shields held up by two statues representing angels with a peaceful attitude. Thirteen other statues adorn the area.

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The sculptures depict a world of buildings, streams, waterfalls, fountains, small ponds, game and fish ponds and hundreds of different trees and plants all over an area of more than 10 hectares (over 24 acres).

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The labyrinth paths were created with six thousand boxwood plants, many of which are almost 400 years old, since they were planted between 1664-1669. The pruning work takes fifteen hundred hours of work, with the help of manual and mechanical cutters, ladders, levels and plumbed lines. The maze of labyrinths represent the complex voyage toward achieving human perfectibility. The paths are designed to disorient the visitor by the high boxwood walls, The right path to arrive at the exit is never the shorter one. Every promising shortcut considerably lengthens the walk or ends up in a dead-end. Symbolically teaching: whoever mends his way and finds the right path, will have to avoid repeating errors.

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This symbolic garden was awarded the first prize, as ‘the most beautiful garden in Italy’ in 2003 and as the third most beautiful garden in Europe in 2007.

The gardens are near Padua (Italian: Padova) Italy. The city is sometimes included with Venice and Treviso, in the Padua-Treviso-Venice Metropolitan Area, The city is the home of the University of Padua, almost 800 years old and famous, among other things, for having had Galileo Galilei among its lecturers. Padua is also the setting for most of the action in Shakespeare’s, The Taming of the Shrew.

Padua Hens

Paduan Hens

The culinary tradition of Padua has its roots in the simple produce of the vegetable garden, the farmyard and the vineyard. Farmland products are represented by the well-known Paduan hen. Paduan hens are an ancient breed (a favorite subject of 16th-century European painters) of small crested and bearded chickens from the surrounding province of Padova, in the Veneto region of north-eastern Italy, The Paduan hen is distinguished by the splendor of its plumage and elegant form. The crest is replaced by a tuft of long feathers on the head, which gives the appearance of a chrysanthemum flower in the male or of a hydrangea in the female.

DOC wines are produced in five areas and Extra Virgin Olive Oil comes exclusively from the area of the Euganean Hills. All varieties of chicory (a bitter green) are cultivated in the countryside of Padua. Prosciutto crudo dolce di Montagnana, a specialty of the area, has a festival designated in its honor on the third Sunday of May.

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Risotto with Porcini Mushrooms

Ingredients

  • One-ounce packet dried porcini (25 g, about a packed half cup)
  • 1/2 of a small onion, finely sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil  
  • 1 1/2 cups (300 g) short-grained rice, for example Arborio or Vialone Nano
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • The water the mushrooms were soaked in, strained and added to chicken broth to equal 4 cups
  • One bunch parsley, minced
  • 1 cup (50 g) grated Parmigiano
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Steep the porcini in one cup of boiling water for fifteen minutes. Drain and reserve the mushroom water. Chop the mushrooms and set aside.

Strain the mushroom water and add chicken broth to equal 4 cups. Place in a saucepan and bring to a simmer.

Slice the onion finely and sauté it in oil in another large saucepan. Stir in the rice and cook for several minutes, until it becomes translucent, stirring constantly.

Add the wine and continue stirring until it has evaporated completely. Then stir in the first ladle of the chicken broth.

Add the mushrooms, 3/4 teaspoon salt and continue adding broth, a ladle at a time, stirring occasionally.

About five minutes before the rice is done, check seasoning and add more salt if needed.

As soon as the rice is al dente, turn off the heat, stir in the butter, a little ground pepper, the parsley and 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese.

Cover the risotto for two minutes. Serve with the remaining grated cheese.

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Hens with Garlic and Rosemary

Since Padua hens are not available everywhere, I offer an alternative.

Ingredients

  • 4 Cornish game hens, about 1 lb each
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 lemon, quartered
  • 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 24 cloves garlic
  • 1/3 cup white wine
  • 1/3 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 4 sprigs fresh rosemary, for garnish

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C).

Rub hens with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Lightly season hens with salt and pepper. Place 1 lemon wedge and 1 sprig rosemary in the cavity of each hen. Place in a large, heavy roasting pan and arrange garlic cloves around hens. Roast in the preheated oven for 25 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). In a mixing bowl, whisk together wine, chicken broth and remaining 2 tablespoons of oil; pour over the hens. Continue roasting about 25 minutes longer or until hens are golden brown and juices run clear. Baste with the pan juices every 10 minutes.

Transfer hens to a platter, pouring any cavity juices into the roasting pan. Tent hens with aluminum foil to keep warm.

Transfer pan juices and garlic cloves to a medium saucepan and boil until liquids reduce to a sauce consistency, about 6 minutes. Cut hens in half lengthwise and arrange on plates. Spoon sauce and garlic around hens. Garnish with rosemary sprigs and serve.

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Limoncello Tiramisu

Ingredients

SYRUP:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons limoncello
  • 3 packages (3 ounces each) ladyfingers, split

LEMON CURD: or 1 (10-12 ounce) Jar Lemon Curd

  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1-1/2 cups cold water
  • 3 egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 3 tablespoons butter, cubed
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon peel, plus extra for garnish

FILLING:

  • 1-1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2  cup sugar
  • 1 carton (8 ounces) Mascarpone cheese

Directions

For the syrup: In a small saucepan, bring sugar and water to a boil. Cook and stir until sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat. Stir in limoncello; set aside.

For lemon curd: in another saucepan, combine sugar and cornstarch. Stir in water until smooth. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 1 minute or until thickened. Remove from the heat.

Stir a small amount of hot mixture into the beaten egg yolks; return all to the pan, stirring constantly. Return to the heat and bring to a gentle boil; cook and stir 2 minutes longer.

Remove from the heat. Stir in butter. Gently stir in lemon juice and peel. Cool to room temperature without stirring.

For the filling: In a large bowl, beat cream until it begins to thicken. Add sugar; beat until stiff peaks form. Fold cheese and whipped cream into lemon curd.

Arrange a third of the ladyfingers on the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Drizzle with a third of the syrup; spread with a third of the filling. Repeat layers twice.

Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Carefully run a knife around edge of the pan to loosen. Remove the sides of the pan. Garnish the top with lemon zest and mint, if desired. Yield: 16 servings.

Related Articles


beans

Beans play an essential role in Italian cooking and, consequently, they are grown throughout the country. From Sicily in the south to Piedmont and Veneto in the north, various regions produce different kinds of beans, all of which are enjoyed by the Italian culture. While many cooks will substitute one white bean for another, each type provides its own individual shape and texture to a given dish.

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Borlotti (cranberry beans) is a favorite bean in northern Italy. These red, tan and brown speckled beans turn  dark brown on the outside and  yellow on the inside when cooked. They add a creamy consistency to any recipe.

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The region of Tuscany is famous for Cannellini, white kidney beans, and are simply referred to as fagioli. Other popular Tuscan white beans include sorani, toscanello, corona and schiaccianoci.

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Chickpeas (Cece) or Garbanzo Beans are the most widely consumed legume in the world and have been adopted in every region of Italy. The chickpea has a round shape and are beige in color. They have a firm texture with a flavor somewhere between chestnuts and walnuts. Chickpeas can be cooked in soups and stews, added to pasta, eaten cold in salads and ground into a gluten-free flour.

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Corona, a large white bean,  is a member of the runner family and when cooked, they almost triple in size. This is one reason this hearty bean is often called the “poor man’s meat.”

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Fava beans are a staple of Abruzzo, Puglia, Campania, as well as Sicily. A staple of southern Italian cuisine, fava beans are hardy and widely available.

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Lentils, or lenticchie, are eaten all across Italy. With their nutty taste, lentils are ideally small and brown. The most select lentils are grown in Umbria, Abruzzo and Sicily. Although lentils do not require soaking previous to cooking, they are best when soaked for about an hour.

With all beans, keep in mind that the fresher the bean, the better it will taste when used in your favorite recipes.

A diet rich in fiber is a great preventative of coronary heart disease and colon cancer. Beans can provide a reduction in serum cholesterol levels and are also thought to prevent diabetes in at-risk individuals. Additionally, beans contain more protein than any other vegetable; some beans even rival chicken or meat in protein content.

Cooking beans at home is a simple way to save money and provide the base for many healthy meals. It requires little effort and they’re easy to keep on hand in the refrigerator or freezer. You can quickly put together soups, salads, dips and spreads.

Basic Directions for Cooking Dried Beans

Makes about 6 cups

Ingredients

  • 1 pound dried beans
  • 1 yellow onion, quartered
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Sea salt and ground black pepper to taste

Directions

Spread beans in a single layer on a large sheet tray; pick through to remove and discard any small stones or debris and then rinse well.

Soak the beans using one of these two methods:

Traditional soaking method: In a large bowl, cover beans with 3 inches of cold water, cover and set aside at room temperature for 8 hours or overnight.

Quick soaking method: In a large pot, cover beans with 3 inches of cold water, cover and bring to a boil. Boil for 1 minute, remove pot from heat and set aside, covered, for 1 hour.

Drain soaked beans and transfer to a large pot. Cover with 2 inches of cold water, add onion and bay leaves and bring to a boil; skim off and discard any foam on the surface. Reduce heat, cover and simmer, gently stirring occasionally, until beans are tender, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Drain beans, discard onions and bay leaves and season with salt and pepper.

Beans develop flavor as they cook, but the flavor is subtle. You can boost the flavor of cooked beans by adding aromatic root vegetables, herbs and spices or meat to the pot near the end of cooking—the last 10 to 30 minutes. The flavor of the vegetables, herbs and meat is infused in the water and in turn is drawn into the bean. The conventional wisdom about salting beans is that salt toughens the skins as they cook. So it is best to add salt at the end of the cooking time. Do not add acidic ingredients, like vinegar, tomatoes or tomato juice, as this will slow the cooking process. Instead, add these ingredients after the beans are cooked.

Here are several flavoring options to add near the end of cooking dried beans:

  • Sauté separately diced aromatic vegetables—onions, celery, carrots, leeks, celery root, parsnip, garlic–in olive oil until just soft then stir them into the bean pot with about 10 minutes left to cook.
  • At the end of cooking, stir in salt and pepper to taste, add a bouquet garni–a few thyme sprigs, parsley stems and two bay leaves tied in kitchen twine–to soak.
  • Add a ham hock or a piece of prosciutto to cook with the beans for a deep meaty flavor. Diced bacon or ham steak added to the liquid will also deliver flavor to the beans, as will chunks of beef, pork or lamb.
  • When using beans in a soup, you can thicken the soup by transferring a cup or two of the cooked beans and broth to a blender and purée thoroughly. Then return the purée to the cooking pot.

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Orecchiette Pasta with Spinach and Beans

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound orecchiette pasta (small ears)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 12 ounces fresh spinach leaves, chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 2 cups cooked cannellini beans, drained
  • Parmesan cheese, grated

Directions:

Cook the orecchiette in boiling water  for 1-2 minutes less than the recommended cooking time. Drain and do not rinse.

While the pasta is cooking, saute garlic and red pepper flakes in oil in a saute pan for 1-2 minutes.  Do not allow garlic to brown. Add spinach, salt and pepper. Saute until the spinach is wilted. Add broth and simmer about 5 minutes. Add beans and drained orecchiette to the broth mixture. Stir to combine and cook 1-2 more minutes. Transfer to a serving dish.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

TIP: If you under cook pasta by a few minutes and then add it to your soup to finish the cooking time, the pasta will absorb some of the broth and be more flavorful.

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Bean and Sausage Stew

4 Servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 4 Italian sausage links, either pork or turkey, cut in half
  • 1 cup cooked beans, drained
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 2 carrots, peeled and sliced into 1-inch pieces
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 small potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

In a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed 6-quart pot, heat the olive oil over medium high. Brown the sausages on all sides for about 10 minutes and remove onto a plate.

Add the onions to the pot and cook for 5 minutes, until slightly translucent. Add the remaining ingredients.

Bring to a boil, return the sausage to the pot and reduce the heat to medium low.

Cook, partially covered, for about 30 minutes or until the squash is tender when pierced with a fork. Adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper to taste.

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Herbed Lentils with Spinach and Tomatoes

Serve with pita bread

Ingredients

  • 1 cup lentils
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons diced shallots
  • 3 cups baby spinach leaves (about 3 ounces)
  • 14 oz. diced tomatoes, slightly drained
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Place the lentils in a pot with the water and let rest one hour. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until the lentils are tender but still retain their shape. Drain any excess water from the lentils and set them aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over a medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook until they are softened, about 3 minutes. Add the spinach and cook until just wilted, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, lentils, basil and parsley to the pan and stir to combine. Cook until warmed through. Stir in the lemon juice, salt and pepper and serve.

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Beans and Broccoli 

Ingredients

  • 2 cups dried large white beans (corona), soaked overnight
  • 3 ounces Parmesan cheese with rind
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 1 head garlic, halved crosswise
  • Kosher salt
  • 1½ pounds broccoli, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup olive oil, divided
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 anchovy fillets packed in oil, drained, finely chopped
  • 2 wide strips lemon zest, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

Directions

Drain beans and place in a large heavy pot. Remove the rind from the cheese and add to the beans along with the onion and garlic. Pour in water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, adding water as needed to keep beans submerged, until beans are tender, about 2 hours. Season with salt. Let the beans cool in the liquid. Discard vegetables and Parmesan rind, then drain.

Preheat oven to 450°F. Mix broccoli with ¼ cup oil on a rimmed baking sheet; season with salt and pepper. Roast, turning occasionally, until tender and lightly charred, 15–20 minutes. Let cool. Finely chop the broccoli.

In a large bowl combine the anchovies, lemon zest, lemon juice, remaining ¼ cup of olive oil and beans. Mix gently. Add the broccoli and season with salt and pepper, if needed. Shave Parmesan cheese over the mixture and serve.

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Braised Chicken with Fennel and White Beans

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cut-up whole chicken (about 3 lbs)
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse (kosher or sea) salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 small onion, cut into thin wedges
  • 2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 fennel bulb, quartered, cored, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium yellow bell pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 1 can (28 oz) Italian whole peeled tomatoes, undrained
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 2 cups cooked beans
  • Chopped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley

Directions

In a deep 12-inch skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Add chicken pieces to the skillet; cook 5 to 6 minutes, turning occasionally, until chicken is light golden brown. Remove chicken from skillet to a platter.

Add onion, garlic, fennel and bell pepper to the skillet. Cook 2 to 3 minutes, stirring constantly, until vegetables are crisp-tender. Add browned chicken, tomatoes, wine and rosemary. Heat to boiling. Reduce heat; cover and simmer 20 to 25 minutes, turning chicken once, until chicken is tender.

Stir in beans. Cook uncovered about 5 minutes longer or until sauce is slightly thickened and juice of chicken is clear, when the thickest area reads 165°F on a meat thermometer. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.


pork

Roasting Basics

Today, pork is much leaner than ever before, so leaner pork also affects the way it should be cooked. Care should be taken to not overcook pork.

There are various methods that can be used to produce juicy and flavorful pork. Some methods work better than others on different cuts of meat. There are two basic methods: dry heat and moist heat. Dry heat is most often used on cuts that are naturally tender, such as loin roasts and tenderloins. Moist Heat is used on cuts that are less tender, such as a shoulder or boneless Boston butt roast.

Roasting, which is basically the same method of cooking as baking, is often used when preparing fresh ham roasts, smoked ham roasts, crown roasts, loin roasts, tenderloins and ribs. Marinating the meat before roasting or basting it with meat juices throughout the cooking time will also help produce tender and juicy meat. Roasting is a good method to use when preparing a special dinner because it consists of a longer cooking time than other methods and needs little attention during the cooking period. This leaves time for preparing other dishes.

Roasting is accomplished by cooking the pork, usually uncovered in a heated oven. Excess fat should be trimmed and, if necessary, it should be tied. A rib roast should be tied because the outside layer of meat has a tendency to separate from the inner rib-eye muscle. The rib roast is generally tied by wrapping strings around the roast, between each of the bones. Roasts that have been tied retain their shape and provide a more visually appealing roast when cooked. Most often any boneless roast will be tied to reshape it once the bones have been removed. If a boneless roast will be stuffed, the stuffing is added, the roast is then rolled up and tied to hold the stuffing in the roast.

pork2

To cook the roast, it is best placed on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. The rack is not necessary but if not used, the bottom of the meat will sit in the juices and stew, which will not allow it to become brown and crisp on the surface like the rest of the meat. If the meat does not have any surface fat, it can be rubbed down with 1 ½ to 2 teaspoons of oil and then seasoned.

Meat is sometimes seared before roasting to brown the surface and add flavor. Searing can be accomplished by using several different methods. One method is to use a high oven temperature for a short period of time at the beginning of the roasting time and then reduce the heat for the remainder of the time. This quickly browns the outer surface to create a flavorful crust on the surface of the meat. Another searing method used, involves frying the meat in a very hot pan until all the sides have been browned and then placing it in the oven to finish cooking.

If the meat is not going to be seared in the oven, the oven should be preheated to either 325°F or 350°F (450°F for pork tenderloin) and the meat should be at room temperature.

The length of time a cut of pork will have to cook will depend on the size of the cut and whether it is tied, stuffed, bone-in or boneless. The best way to determine if the meat has cooked long enough is to check for doneness with a meat thermometer. A thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the cut should produce a temperature of 145°F.

Roasting Tips:

  • For a crisp surface on your roast, be sure the oven is fully preheated before placing the roast into the oven in an uncovered pan.
  • To add extra flavor, rub the surface of the meat with your favorite seasonings before roasting.
  • Roasting at a lower oven temperature (NEVER roast meat below 200°F) will result in meat that is more flavorful and moist, but It will take longer to cook.
  • A roast with a bone in it will cook faster than a boneless roast because the bone will conduct heat faster.
  • Do not use sharp utensils that may pierce the meat when trying to turn it because piercing allows valuable juices to escape. Use other utensils, such as wooden spoons and spatulas for turning the meat.
  • If cooking more than one roast, be sure that there is uniform space around them so that they will cook evenly. The roasts should not be touching and there should be enough space around them to allow air and heat to circulate.
  • When placing a thermometer in the meat to check for doneness, be sure that the stem of it is not touching a bone because this can result in a false reading.
  • Using the drippings from the roasted meat will provide great flavor when making a stock, gravy or sauce.
  • Let the roast rest for 5 minutes before carving to allow the meat juices to settle in the roast.

 

pork6

Classic Tuscan Roast Pork Loin

Ingredients

  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh sage
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 cup olive oil plus 2 tablespoons
  • 1 4-pound center-cut bone-in pork loin (rib) roast
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped hazelnuts
  • 4 russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces

Directions

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Whisk 1/4 cup oil, garlic, butter, sage and rosemary in a small bowl to blend. Place pork in large roasting pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Rub herb mixture over pork and sprinkle with hazelnuts. Cover pork loosely with foil and roast 2 hours.

Heat the remaining oil in a large skillet. Add the potatoes and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sauté until potatoes are golden but not tender, about 15 minutes. Transfer potatoes to the roasting pan with the pork. Toss potatoes with pan juices. Continue roasting, uncovered, until pork browns, potatoes are tender and juices are slightly reduced, about 40 minutes.

Place pork in the center of large platter. Surround with the potatoes. Pour juices over pork and potatoes.

pork3

Italian Spiced Boneless Pork with Roasted Vegetables

Ingredients

  • 6 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped rosemary leaves
  • 1 tablespoon whole fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon ground fennel
  • 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon
  • One 3-pound boneless pork loin roast, trimmed of all fat
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 pound fresh, thin carrots, peeled
  • 16 large shallots, peeled and halved
  • 1 cup chicken stock or low-sodium broth

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

In a mini processor, combine the garlic, rosemary, fennel seeds, ground fennel, crushed red pepper, black pepper and olive oil and process to a paste. Set the pork roast on a sheet of foil and cut shallow score marks all over the fat. Spread 1 tablespoon of the garlic paste on the underside of the roast; spread the remaining paste all over the scored fat and meaty parts of the roast. Season all over with salt.

Spread the carrots and shallots around the edge of a shallow roasting pan, setting the shallots cut sides down. Leave enough room in the center for the pork.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the pork loin and cook over moderately high heat until browned on all sides, about 6 minutes total. Place the pork in the roasting pan with the vegetables and roast for 45 minutes. Turn the pan 180 degrees, add 1/2 cup of the stock and roast for 20 minutes longer or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat registers 140°F.

Transfer the pork to a board. Roast the vegetables on the bottom rack of the oven for 15 minutes longer and transfer to a bowl and keep warm.

Set the roasting pan over moderately high heat, add the remaining 1/2 cup of stock and simmer for about 1 minute, scraping up the browned bits. Season with salt and pepper. Slice the pork and serve with the vegetables and sauce.

pork4

Sausage Stuffed Pork Loin Roast

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 1/4 cups fresh parsley, chopped, divided
  • 1/2 cup pine (pignoli) nuts
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 lb Italian sausage, casing removed
  • 1 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 lb boneless pork loin or sirloin roast, butterflyied
  • Kitchen string

Directions

Preheat oven to temperature 350°F.

Blend together basil, 1 cup parsley, pine nuts, garlic and cheese in a food processor or blender. Set aside.

Mix the sausage, breadcrumbs, milk, egg, pepper and the remaining 1/4 cup parsley in a bowl.

Place pork roast fat side down. If the thickeness of the meat is uneven, carefully pound the meat to make it a unifrom thickness.

Spread the basil mixture over the pork and place sausage mixture lenghthwise down the center of the meat. Fold in half and tie the roast in four or five places.

Roast 1-1/2 to 2 hours. Let rest and slice.

pork1

Pork Tenderloin With Roasted Apples And Pumpkin Risotto

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 2 (1-pound) pork tenderloins
  • 4 tart apples, such as Braeburn, McIntosh or Granny Smith, peeled, cored and quartered
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces

Directions

Heat the oven to 425 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine the 3 tablespoons olive oil, garlic, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, salt and maple syrup. Add the tenderloins to the bowl and turn them in the spice mix to coat. Reserve the bowl with any remaining spice mixture.

Heat a large oven-proof saute pan (large enough to hold the tenderloins and apples) over medium-high heat until hot. Add the tenderloins and sear on all sides. If the meat starks to stick, add a little oil.

Add the apples to the bowl that contained the pork spices and mix to coat. When the tenderloins are seared, remove the pan the from heat and scatter the apples around the tenderloins in the pan.

Place the pan in the oven and roast until a thermometer inserted in the center of the tenderloins reaches 140 degrees F, 20 to 25 minutes, or to desired doneness.

Remove the pan from the oven and remove the tenderloins to cutting board to rest. Place the apples on a serving platter.

Place the pan on the stove over medium-high heat. Deglaze the pan with the white wine, scraping the bottom of the pan to dislodge any browned bits. Stir in the chicken broth and simmer until the sauce is reduced by about two-thirds and slightly thickened, about 3 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter to further thicken the sauce and add a sheen.

Slice the tenderloins and arrange with the apples on the platter. Pour the sauce over the pork and apples.

Pumpkin Risotto

Ingredients

  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1½ cups vialone nano or arborio rice
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1½ cups pumpkin puree, divided
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/3 cup chopped toasted walnuts
  • Walnut oil and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, for garnish

Directions

In a medium saucepan, bring the vegetable broth to a simmer over medium heat.

In a large heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Stir in the onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is translucent and just beginning to color, 8 to 10 minutes.

Stir in the rice and nutmeg and cook, stirring frequently and coating the rice with the fat, until the rice just begins to toast, about 3 minutes.

Add the wine and continue to stir, cooking until the wine is mostly absorbed.

Add a (soup) ladle of broth and cook, stirring constantly, until the broth is almost completely absorbed. Continue adding an additional ladle of broth as each is absorbed by the rice.

After 10 minutes of cooking the rice, stir in 1 cup of the pumpkin puree with another ladle of broth. Season with one-half teaspoon salt and a pinch of pepper.

Continue cooking the rice, stirring in additional broth as needed, until the rice is slightly al dente, about another 10 minutes.

Stir in the remaining pumpkin puree, the chopped walnuts and 2 tablespoons walnut oil.

Serve each portion with a light drizzle of walnut oil and a sprinkling of freshly grated cheese.



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