Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Beans

Vegetables,herbs and spices for Italian food

How to make your Italian meals healthier:

  • The satisfaction you’ll get from your food will be much greater if you manage to cook a couple of meals from scratch each week. You’ll also know exactly what’s going into your food. Make your own sauces and meatballs from scratch and, on the weekend, when you have more time make your own bread.
  • Wherever possible, buy ingredients that are in season. The typical Italian diet uses fresh produce and this helps to give dishes a great deal of flavor. It also  means you don’t have to add fat, salt or sugar to improve the taste. Italians love to wander around local markets to select their ingredients – it’s part of enjoying food and cooking.
  • When you are preparing to cook pasta you shouldn’t allocate more than 2-3 oz of dried pasta per person. I find a kitchen scale helpful in determining the right portions. Often people make the mistake of cooking the whole package of pasta and eating far too much. Also take care not to overcook pasta. Al dente (firm to the bite) pasta is better for you than soft, overcooked pasta. Italians lightly coat their pasta instead of drowning it with sauce. Excessive sauce just adds on the calories and fat content without adding any extra flavor. 
  • Olive oil is much better for you than many regular cooking oils and definitely better than cooking with butter or margarine, if you are trying to eat healthy. Olive oil is high in good fats, like monounsaturated and omega 3, as well as containing anti-oxidants.
  • Try to eat fish twice a  week. Fish is a very important part of the Italian diet and you will find many healthy Italian recipes for shellfish, seafood stews and fish.
  • Swap high calorie desserts for a fruit salad or fresh sliced fruit, as the Italians do, instead of cake after dinner. If you buy fruit when it is in season, you’ll find the taste rewarding and it will tame the sugar cravings.
  • Use beans more often and replace some of the meat in your recipes with beans.
  • When dressing your salads use a good quality balsamic vinegar so that you can reduce the amount of oil you mix with it. Balsamic vinegar is low in calories and to make a healthy dressing just mix it with a little extra virgin olive oil as a replacement for creamy salad dressings or mayonnaise.
  • Add plenty of flavor to grilled steak or grilled fish with a gremolata instead of a cream sauce.  A gremolata is an Italian garnish of raw, finely chopped garlic, fresh chopped flat leaf parsley and lemon zest and, when it is sprinkled on top of your fish or meat at the end of cooking, it adds flavor without a lot calories or fat.
  • Every mealtime in an Italian home is important and, as a result, we are very aware of and appreciate the food we consume. Avoid having the TV on and other distractions and concentrate on what and how much you’re eating and who you are eating with to make dinner an enjoyable occasion.

lighter1

Tenderloin with Tuscan Beans

Serve with a green vegetable, such as sautéed spinach or kale.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 oz thinly sliced prosciutto, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried garlic/herb seasoning
  • 1 beef or pork tenderloin  (1 1/4–1 1/2 lb)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 (15-oz) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth or stock
  • 1/3 cup sun-dried, julienne-cut tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

Directions

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Chop shallot, prosciutto (you will need about 1/3 cup) and basil. Set aside.

Preheat a large skillet on medium-high 2–3 minutes. Sprinkle seasoning over meat. Place oil in the pan, then add meat; cook 6–8 minutes, turning as needed, until browned on all sides.

Transfer meat to a  baking sheet and bake 10–12 minutes or until meat reaches an internal temperature of 145°F. Let stand 5 minutes before slicing.

Return the skillet to heat on medium. Place prosciutto in the pan; cook and stir 2 minutes (until lightly crisp). Add remaining ingredients (except basil);simmer 2–3 minutes or until hot.

Stir in basil. Slice meat thinly and serve alongside the beans.

lighter4

Easy Cassoulet and Olive Bread

This dish can be made over the weekend and heated for a quick weeknight dinner.

6 Servings

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 large yellow onion, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 3 large carrots, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 2 slices bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 cans cannellini beans (15-16 oz), drained
  • 2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 (14 oz) can (2 cups) crushed Italian tomatoes

Directions

Preheat a Dutch Oven on medium 1-2 minutes. Place oil and bacon in the pan; cook and stir 2-3 minutes or until bacon starts to brown.

Add garlic; cook and stir 1 minute. Season chicken with salt and pepper, then add to the pan; cook 2-3 minutes on each side or until browned.

Add remaining ingredients; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cover pan.

Simmer 1 1/2 hours or until chicken pulls apart easily with a fork.

Remove cover and cook 7-8 minutes (without stirring) so mixture can thicken slightly. Serve with Olive Bread. (Recipe below.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Easy Olive Bread

Ingredients

  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 1 lb prepared pizza dough, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 (4.25-oz) can sliced black olives, drained
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • All-purpose flour, for rolling dough

Directions

Preheat oven to 425°F. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray. Chop basil.

Pat pizza dough out on a floured board. Sprinkle the surface with the olives, cheese and basil and fold dough over several times until well blended.

Knead 3–4 minutes or until the dough is smooth. Place dough on baking sheet, forming it into a 15-inch loaf. Make two 1/4-inch slits diagonally across the top. Let stand 10 minutes to rest.

Bake the bread 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 375°F. Bake 8–10 more minutes or until golden. Let stand 5 minutes before slicing.

lighter2

Creamy Sausage Mushroom Pasta

Serve with oven-roasted asparagus.

Serves 6

Ingredients

Lighter Alfredo Style Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/3 cups low-fat milk
  • 2 tablespoons reduced fat cream cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 5 oz shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided

Pasta

  • 1 large leek, coarsely chopped
  • 2 links mild Italian pork or turkey or chicken sausage (8 oz)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 oz rigatoni pasta
  • 8 oz fresh sliced cremini mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup white wine (or chicken broth)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, chopped

Directions

To make the sauce:

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic; cook 1 minute, stirring frequently. Stir in flour. Gradually add milk, stirring with a whisk. Cook 6 minutes or until mixture thickens, stirring constantly. Add 1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, cream cheese and salt, stirring with a whisk until the cheeses melt.

To make the pasta:

Bring salted water to a boil for the pasta.

Chop leek (white part only; 1 cup) and chop parsley.

Remove sausage casing.

Preheat a large sauté pan on medium-high 2-3 minutes. Add sausage; brown 3-4 minutes, stirring to crumble the meat, or until no pink remains.

Meanwhile, cook pasta al dente following package instructions.

Remove sausage from the pan and set aside in a bowl.

Add oil, then add mushrooms and leeks; cook and stir 3-4 minutes or until tender.

Reduce heat to medium-low and stir in wine; simmer 2-3 minutes or until reduced by about one-half.

Stir in Alfredo sauce; bring to a simmer. Stir in pasta and sausage; cook and stir 1 minute. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and parsley. Serve.

lighter3

Sautéed Balsamic Fish With Vegetable Orzo

Serve with steamed broccoli.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup orzo pasta
  • 1 teaspoon zested lemon peel
  • 2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 5 tablespoons homemade or store-bought basil pesto, divided
  • 1/3 cup finely diced plum tomatoes,
  • 1/3 cup finely diced onions
  • 1/3 cup finely diced bell peppers
  • 4 white fish fillets, (tilapia, haddock or flounder, etc.) 5-6 oz each
  • 2 teaspoons dried salt-free garlic/herb seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup reduced-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

Directions

Bring the 2 cups of water to a boil and stir in the orzo; cook and stir 4 minutes.

Reduce heat to low; simmer and stir often for 3-4 more minutes or until the orzo is tender and most of liquid has been absorbed. It is important to stir the orzo to prevent sticking. No draining will be needed.

Stir in 3 tablespoons pesto, tomato, onion and bell pepper, lemon zest and lemon juice. Remove pan from the heat and cover; set aside.

Preheat a large skillet  on medium-high 2-3 minutes. Season fish on both sides with the garlic/herb seasoning. Place the oil in the pan, then add the fish; cook 1-2 minutes or until fish is lightly browned. Turn fish over.

Combine broth, vinegar and remaining 2 tablespoons pesto. Add to fish; cook 2-3 minutes or until mixture reduces by about one-half and fish flakes easily.

Divide orzo.among four dinner plates, top with fish and some of the sauce.

lighter5

Eggs over Spinach and Polenta

Look for the polenta in the refrigerated produce section of your supermarket. Serve crusty Italian bread and a mixed green salad with this quick meal.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 (16-ounce) tube of prepared polenta
  • Olive oil cooking spray and olive oil
  • 2 cups homemade marinara sauce
  • 1 (6-ounce) package fresh baby spinach
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded Asiago cheese

Directions

Preheat broiler

Cut 8 polenta slices off the log, each about ½ inch thick

Arrange polenta slices on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Lightly brush the tops of the polenta with olive oil. Broil 3 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

Bring the sauce to a simmer in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in spinach; cover and cook for 1 minute or until spinach wilts. Stir to combine. Make 4 indentations in the spinach mixture using the back of a wooden spoon. Break 1 egg into each indentation.

Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes or until eggs are the desired degree of doneness. Sprinkle with cheese. Place 2 polenta slices on each of 4 plates; top each  with one-fourth of the spinach mixture and 1 egg.


Number 2 made of food

Buying grocery items in bulk may seem like a way to save money, but mushy salad greens in the refrigerator vegetable drawer mean wasted dollars.

Here are some tips for saving time and money at the supermarket when planning fast and healthy meals for two.

  • Avoid waste,;use the salad bar. A full container of cherry tomatoes or a whole bag of shredded cabbage may be an impractical purchase, so select just what you need or like at the salad bar.
  • Six-ounce bags of greens, such as spinach, arugula or mixed salad greens, are perfect for serving two.
  • The 6- or 7-ounce cans and pouches of tuna, salmon, sardines and crab are the right size.
  • If you need shrimp, buy peeled frozen tail-on shrimp in 2-pound bags. Since the shrimp do not stick together in the bag, you can take out what you need when you need it, without having to defrost the whole amount..
  • If your local supermarket only sells prepackaged meats and you have a small freezer, ask the meat department to give you just the amount you need.
  • One 14-ounce can of chicken or beef broth works well when making soup for two. When you only need a small amount of broth for a recipe, use a low-sodium bouillon mix. Cooking rice in leftover broth gives it great flavor.
  • 8-ounce cans of  regular and no-salt-added tomato sauce are just the right size to have on hand for dinner.
  • Small drink boxes of 100% juice are convenient for making sauces and salad dressings, without a lot of extra juice left over..
  • Buy smaller servings of dairy products—pints of milk, 6 and 8 ounce containers of yogurt, 4 ounce containers of cottage cheese and 3 ounce blocks of cream cheese to avoid spoilage after these packages are opened.

So, you find a recipe that sounds good, but the yield is “four to six servings.” How do you get to amounts for two servings? Divide the ingredients by four? By six? In half or make the full amount and hope that the leftover portions are good reheated?

Instead think about what the portions are per serving for a particular ingredient.

If you’re looking at a recipe for pasta, and you know that your preference is for two ounces each, look at how much pasta the recipe calls for. Twelve ounces? Then your starting point is to divide by three for two servings. Sometimes there are two or more main ingredients to a recipe – pasta and a sauce or meat and vegetables – in which case you want to think about portion sizes for all the elements.

Sauces are particularly difficult to make in small amounts without ruining the overall flavor.  I often cut the sauce for a dish that serves 6-8 in half rather than try to reduce it further. I know that I’ll probably have more than we need, but it’s usually an easier reduction without ruining the flavor of the sauce. I can often freeze the extra or use it later in the week for another dish.

It is also helpful, if you develop a file of recipes that serve just two. I will help you out by sharing the following recipes.

fortwo1

Stuffed Turkey or Pork Tenderloin

This dish goes well with mashed sweet potatoes and a green vegetable. Serve the leftover pear on the side.

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup thin sweet onion wedges
  • 3 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 cup thinly sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup cored red skinned pear, finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon snipped fresh thyme or 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
  • 1 10 ounce turkey breast tenderloin
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions

In a large nonstick ovenproof skillet, cook onion, covered, in 2 teaspoons of the oil over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover and add mushrooms. Cook for 5 minutes. Add chopped pear and thyme. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until pear is just tender, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Using a sharp knife, cut a large pocket in the side of the turkey or pork tenderloin by cutting horizontally into the tenderloin, but not all the way through to the opposite side. Spoon cooled onion mixture into the pocket. Secure opening with wooden toothpicks. Sprinkle top of tenderloin with salt and pepper.

Carefully wipe out the skillet. Add remaining 1 teaspoon oil to the skillet; heat over medium heat. Add stuffed tenderloin, top side down, to hot skillet. Cook for 5 minutes or until browned. Turn tenderloin.

Roast, uncovered, in the oven about 20 minutes or until no longer pink (165 degrees F). Cover with foil and let stand for 5 minutes. Slice to serve.

fortwo2

Cioppino For Two

Serve with crusty bread and a green salad.

Ingredients

  • 4 small red potatoes, (1 to 2-inch diameter), quartered
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 small firm white fish fillet, diced (about 6-8 ounces) such as grouper, cod, halibut or snapper
  • 2 large sea scallops, cut in half and patted dry
  • 4 peeled medium shrimp
  • 6  mussels or small clams
  • 1 small sweet onion, sliced
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning 
  • 1-2 teaspoons hot paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup seafood stock or water
  • 2 plum tomatoes, diced
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 2 tablespoon minced fresh parsley

Directions

Place potatoes in a saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer until tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Drain.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add fish filet and scallops; cook, stirring once or twice, until just opaque, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and onion to the pan and stir to coat. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring often, until lightly browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Uncover, increase heat to medium-high, add Italian seasoning, paprika to taste, salt and pepper; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add wine, stock or water and tomatoes; bring to a simmer.

Reduce heat to maintain a simmer and cook, stirring often, until the onion is tender, 6 to 8 minutes.

Add the fish, scallops, shrimp and mussels or clams, potatoes and capers, return to a simmer and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes. Garnish with parsley.

fortwo3

Fusilli with Sausage, Arugula and Tomatoes

To make this dish vegetarian, leave out the sausage and add one 8-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed. Heat with the arugula and tomatoes.

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces fusilli  pasta
  • 4 ounces spicy Italian sausage, casing removed
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 4 cups arugula or baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup halved grape or cherry  tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup finely shredded Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta 8 to 10 minutes, or according to package directions.

Meanwhile, cook sausage in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, breaking it into small pieces with a wooden spoon, until cooked through, 2 to 4 minutes.

Stir in garlic, arugula or spinach and tomatoes. Cook, stirring often, until the greens wilt and the tomatoes begin to break down, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat; cover and keep warm.

Combine cheese, pepper and salt in a serving bowl. Whisk in 2 tablespoons of the pasta cooking liquid and the olive oil.

Drain the pasta and add it to the serving bowl. Toss to combine. Pour the sausage-arugula mixture over the pasta and divide into two serving bowls.

fortwo4

Chicken with Prosciutto and Tomato Sauce Over Polenta

Ingredients

  • 4 (6-ounce) chicken thighs, skin removed
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh or 1 teaspoon dried rubbed sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2/3 cup polenta or yellow cornmeal
  • 2 cups water or chicken broth
  • 1 cup chopped seeded peeled plum tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 very thin slices prosciutto, cut into thin strips (about 1/4 cup)
  • Fresh sage sprigs

Directions

Sprinkle the chicken with the sage, 1/4 teaspoon salt and the pepper. Place flour in a shallow dish. Dredge chicken in flour.

Heat the oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook 4 minutes on each side. Add wine; cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 minutes or until a meat thermometer registers 180°.

Place the cornmeal and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a 1-quart casserole. Gradually add water or broth, stirring until blended. Cover dish and microwave at high 12 minutes, stirring every 3 minutes. Let stand, covered, 5 minutes.

Remove chicken from the skillet. Add tomatoes to pan; cook 1 minute. Stir in lemon juice and prosciutto.

Spoon polenta onto two plates, top with chicken and pour the sauce over the chicken. Garnish with fresh sage sprigs, if desired.

fortwo5

Sirloin Tips with Bell Peppers

Serve with egg noodles tossed with parsley and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces sirloin steak, trimmed of fat and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seed, roughly chopped or coarsely ground in a spice mill
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 3/4 cup reduced-sodium beef broth, divided
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 2 bell peppers (one yellow; one red), cut into strips
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves, crushed
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

Directions

Rub steak with fennel seed and 1/4 teaspoon salt, turning to coat on all sides.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the steak in a single layer and cook, turning once, until browned on the outside and still pink in the middle, about 2-3  minutes.

Transfer to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm.

Add garlic to the pan and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add 1/2 cup broth and wine, scraping up any browned bits with a wooden spoon. Add bell peppers, oregano, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper; bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce heat to maintain a simmer and cook until the peppers are tender-crisp, 4 to 6 minutes.

Whisk the remaining 1/4 cup broth and flour in a small bowl. Add to the pepper mixture, increase heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly.

Return the steak to the pan. Adjust heat to maintain a slow simmer and cook, turning the meat once, about 2 minutes to heat. Serve over cooked noodles, if desired.


souppizzatureen

souppizzapan

Mix and match the recipes below according to your taste. These meals can easily come together, if you have pizza dough in the freezer or pick it up from your supermarket. Keep vegetables in the freezer for a quick put together soup recipe. Supermarkets, today, carry diced onion, celery and peppers that make it easy to make soup in a short amount of time. Mushrooms are also available pre-sliced. Fresh refrigerated pasta is great for soup and cooks very quickly. It is easy to make substitutions, if you don’t have the exact ingredients listed in the recipes below.

souppizza1

MUSHROOM SOUP

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup diced onions
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 (8-ounce) package sliced cremini mushrooms
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2  (14-ounce) cans beef broth
  • 1/3 cup sherry
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup water

Directions

Heat a large soup pan on high heat and add the oil, onions and garlic; cover and cook 1 minute. Stir in mushrooms; cover and cook 5 minutes.

Combine in a large bowl, onion powder, seasoned salt, pepper and thyme, Whisking continuously, add beef broth, sherry and milk to the spice mixture.

Slowly whisk broth mixture into the mushroom mixture in the soup pan. Simmer uncovered 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Mix flour and water in a small bowl to form a creamy paste. Add 3/4 cup of hot broth from the soup pot in 1/4-cup increments, stirring after each addition, to make a thin paste.

Add to the soup, slowly while whisking continuously. Simmer uncovered 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve.

souppizza2

SAUSAGE AND PEPPER PIZZA

Ingredients

  • 1 lb homemade or store-bought pizza dough
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 lb mild Italian sausage, casing removed
  • 1 small green bell pepper, coarsely chopped
  • 1 small red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
  • 1 small sweet onion, coarsely chopped
  • 3/4 cup homemade or store-bought pizza sauce
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Remove dough from the refrigerator and let stand one hour.

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Heat a large sauté pan on medium-high and add oil and sausage. Brown 5–6 minutes, stirring to crumble sausage, or until no pink remains. Let stand 2–3 minutes to cool.

Prepare crust. Flour hands lightly and pat dough evenly into lightly greased  pizza pan. (Or turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll to desired thinness.)

Top crust with pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese, peppers, onions and sausage. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Bake 18–25 minutes (depending on thickness of pizza) or until crust is golden, cheese is melted and toppings are thoroughly heated. Let stand 5 minutes. Slice and serve.

souppizza3

TOMATO GNOCCHI FLORENTINE SOUP

Ingredients

4 large tomatoes

  • 4 cups fresh baby spinach leaves (4 oz)
  • 2 ½ cups canned crushed Italian tomatoes
  • 1 (14-oz) can vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill weed
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 (16-oz) package gnocchi pasta

Directions

Cut tomatoes in half; remove seeds and chop coarsely.

Chop spinach coarsely; set aside.

Combine crushed tomatoes, broth and butter in large saucepan; bring to a boil on medium-high. Stir in fresh chopped tomatoes, dill weed, salt and pepper; return to a boil.

Reduce heat to medium; cook and stir 12-15 minutes or until tomatoes are softened.

Puree soup using a stick blender. Stir in gnocchi and spinach; cook 3 more minutes or until spinach wilts. Serve.

souppizza4

CHICKEN AND BROCCOLI PIZZA

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups fresh broccoli florets, (or frozen florets, defrosted)
  • 2 cups roasted chicken (10 oz)
  • 1 lb homemade or store-bought pizza dough
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup shredded Swiss cheese
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
  • Olive oil cooking spray for the pan

Directions

Remove dough from refrigerator and let stand one hour.

Place oven rack in the center of oven and preheat to 425ºF.

Cut broccoli into bite-size pieces. Cut chicken into bite-size pieces.

Prepare crust. Flour hands lightly and pat dough evenly into lightly greased  pizza pan. (Or turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll to desired thinness.)

Mix the ricotta with the basil, oregano and garlic salt and spread it evenly over the crust to within 1/2 inch of edge.

Evenly distribute the chicken and broccoli over the ricotta.

Sprinkle both cheeses evenly over pizza;

Bake 20-25 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly. Slice and serve.

souppastaedamame

POTATO EDAMAME SOUP

Ingredients

  • 1 (16-oz) bag frozen shelled edamame
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 3 large baking potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 (32-oz) box reduced-sodium chicken broth

Directions

Thaw edamame in a colander under cool running water just until the beans separate.

Melt butter in large saucepan on medium-high. Add onions, potatoes and garlic; cook and stir 3-4 minutes or until onions begin to soften.

Stir in Italian seasoning, salt and chicken broth, then cover; cook, stirring occasionally 10 minutes.

Stir in edamame, then cover; cook 10-15 more minutes or until potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork.

Mash lightly to thicken the soup a little. Serve.

souppizza6

BURGER PIZZA

Ingredients

  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 8 large slices Swiss cheese, broken into large pieces
  • 12 oz sliced white mushrooms
  • 1 large sweet onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 lb fresh pizza dough
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 packet dry beef bouillon
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup water

Directions

Remove dough from refrigerator and let stand one hour  Preheat oven to 400°F.

Heat a large sauté pan on medium-high and place 1 tablespoon oil in the pan. Add mushrooms, salt and pepper and cook, stirring, 2-3 minutes or until tender. Remove mushrooms from the pan and set aside.

Place remaining 1 tablespoon oil in the saute pan and add the onions; cook and stir 5-6 minutes or until soft and golden. Add meat to the pan; brown 4-5 minutes, stirring to crumble the meat until no pink remains. Add the bouillon, Worcestershire and 1/2 cup water; simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cooked mushrooms.

Flour hands lightly and pat dough evenly into a lightly greased pizza pan. (Or turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll to desired thinness.)

Spread ricotta evenly over the dough and spread the meat/mushroom mixture over the ricotta. Place pieces of cheese evenly on top of the meat mixture. Bake 18-25 minutes (depending on thickness of pizza) or until thoroughly heated. Let stand 5 minutes; slice and serve.

souppastacorn

CORN CHEDDAR CHOWDER

Ingredients

  • 5 slices bacon, cut into ½ inch pieces
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup of each: diced onions, diced red/green peppers and diced celery
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons seafood seasoning blend
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 (16-ounce) bag of frozen corn
  • 2 cups frozen hash brown potatoes, defrosted
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 (14-ounce) can low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, plus extra for serving

Directions

Heat a large saucepan on high and place bacon in the saucepan. Cook until crisp, stirring frequently.

Add onions, peppers and celery and cook until softened. Add seafood seasoning and black pepper.

Stir corn and hash brown potatoes into the bacon vegetable mixture.. Cover and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Whisk flour, water, milk and broth in a bowl or large measuring cup until smooth.

Add flour mixture slowly to the chowder, whisking continuously. Reduce heat to low and cover; simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add cheese, stir until melted and serve with additional cheese, if desired.

souppizza8

SEAFOOD PIZZA

Ingredients

  • 1 lb pizza dough at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon basil pesto sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Italian Fontina or Mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 1/4 cup roasted red peppers
  • 6 ounces crab meat
  • 8 ounces cooked shrimp
  • 1 cup sliced cremini mushrooms
  • 6 fresh basil leaves

Directions

Preheat oven 450°F. Spread pizza dough on a greased pizza pan.

Combine ricotta and pesto in a small bowl until blended and spread evenly over the dough. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon of the Italian seasoning and 1/2 cup of the shredded cheese.

Dice roasted red peppers. Cut crab meat into bite-size pieces.

Arrange shrimp, crab, peppers and mushrooms evenly over pizza. Top with remaining 1 cup of shredded cheese and 1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning.

Bake 20 minutes or until cheese is melted and golden.

Slice basil leaves into very thin strips. Sprinkle over pizza and let stand 5 minutes before cutting.

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TORTELLINI SOUP

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound Italian sausage, casing removed
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 (14-ounce) can low-sodium chicken broth
  • 14 ounces water (1 can)
  • 1 (14-ounce) can diced Italian tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup each of diced onions, carrots and celery
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
  • 1 (9-ounce) package refrigerated three-cheese tortellini
  • Grated Parmesan cheese for serving

Directions

Heat a large saucepan and add sausage and garlic. Cook 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently, until brown and no pink remains. Add diced vegetables, italian seasoning and cook until softened.

Stir in chicken broth, water, tomatoes and chili. Cover and bring to boil. Once soup boils, reduce heat to low. Simmer 7-10 minutes. Increase heat to high and add tortellini to boiling soup; cover and cook 5 minutes. Serve with grated cheese.

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PIZZA BAGUETTE

Ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh spinach (loosely packed)
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 8 sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, sliced thinly
  • 1 Italian baguette
  • Olive oil
  • 4 teaspoons pesto sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sliced black olives, drained
  • 2 tablespoons roasted red peppers, drained and sliced thinly
  • 3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 8 teaspoons feta cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Add spinach and water to a microwave-safe bowl; cover and microwave on high for 2 minutes.

Cut bread in half lengthwise, then into fourths and brush lightly with olive oil. Place on a baking sheet.

Spread each with 1 teaspoon pesto sauce.

Top each piece of bread with ¼ of the spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, feta cheese, red pepper slices and olives.

Sprinkle each with seasoned salt and Italian seasoning.

Place in the oven and bake for 9-10 minutes.


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Marche (in English, this region is also known as the Marches) is a mountainous and hilly region facing the Adriatic Sea that allows for very little travel north and south, except on twisting roads over the passes. The mountain area is rugged, with narrow valleys, deep gorges and numerous rushing, sometimes inaccessible, streams. The coastline presents a succession of gently rolling hills and flat plains crossed by rivers. The regional capital is Ancona. Other important cities are Ascoli Piceno, Pesaro, Urbino and Macerata.

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Prior to the 1980s, Marche was considered a rather poor region, although economically stable in some sectors, thanks to its agricultural and crafts industries. Today, the contribution of agriculture to the economy of the region is less significant. Their main products are cereals, vegetables, animal products and grapes. Olives are also produced and managed by various harvesters. The sea has always furnished a plentiful supply of fish with the main fishing centers located in Ancona, San Benedetto del Tronto, Fano and Civitanova Marche.

Ancona

Ancona

Many of the small craft workshops scattered throughout the rural settlements have modernised and become small businesses, some of which have become major brands known all over the world (Indesit, Tod’s, Guzzini, Teuco). This evolution led to the emergence of specialised industrial areas, which are profitable for the region, such as footwear and leather goods in  the provinces of Macerata and Fermo; furniture in the Pesaro area; household appliances and textiles in Ancona, where engineering companies are also found (including ship building, petrochemicals and paper, as well as consumer goods). The region continues to draw tourists, whose increasing numbers have been attracted by the region’s rich heritage, as well as by the attractive seaside resorts.

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One can visit the various workshops of local craftsmen, like those of violin makers, which attest to the skill and creativity of the region’s inhabitants. On the first Sunday of August, the streets of Ascoli serve as the background for the Quintana, in which expert horsemen challenge each other in a joust. The Cathedral of San Ciriaco rises on the site of an ancient Greek acropolis and is considered to be one of the most interesting Medieval churches in the Marches. Another site to visit is the fortress at Gradara, a magnificent example of medieval military architecture. According to legend, the fortress is where Paolo and Francesca kissed, as written about in “Canto V” of Dante’s Inferno.

The Renaissance Town of Urbino

The Renaissance Town of Urbino

If you love classical music, Pesaro hosts the Rossini Opera Festival with two weeks of complete immersion into the music of Gioacchino Rossini (a native of Pesaro) every August.

Take A Tour Of The Marches

The cuisine of Marche has been greatly influenced by other regions and by invading peoples throughout its long history.

Marche Kitchen

Marche Kitchen

Creamy sauces made from chicken giblets are used liberally in Marche cooking. Pork recipes rely on generous chunks instead of the traditional thin prosciutto style servings. Since pork is so readily available, there are many types of sausage made in Marche. A local favorite is a smoked sausage called ciauscolo and it is made with half pork and half pork fat and it is seasoned with salt, pepper, orange peel and fennel seed.

Polenta made from corn, seasoned with oil, cheese, lard, onions, ricotta, tomatoes, greens, legumes, etc.; bread made from a mixture of cornmeal and flour, wine and occasionally salt pork, is the typical diet of Marche shepherds and farmers.

Olives grow well in Marche and are often stuffed with savory meat fillings. Grapes, grains, mushrooms and a wide variety of vegetables are found throughout the region.

Casciotta d’Urbino is a sheep and cow milk cheese, hand-pressed into rounds, that are then salted and cured in a moist environment, producing a velvety texture. Ambra di Talamello is made from goat, sheep or cow milk and is cured in a pit lined with straw, resulting in an earthy flavor. Cacio La Forma di Limone is a sheep milk cheese made with lemons, then formed into small balls (that look a bit like lemons). They are rubbed with a salt and lemon mixture for curing, resulting in a refreshingly light lemon tang. Pecorino cheeses can be found in the region as well.

Pasta in the Marche region is rich with eggs that are formed into wide noodles, like lasagna and pappardelle. The region’s signature dish is vincisgrassi, a pasta casserole with meat sauce. Other pastas like spaghetti alla chitarra, spaghettini, tagliatelle and maccheroncini are typical of Marche dishes.

Along the coast, soup is popular, but it takes the form of brodetto – fish soup. Brodetto are prepared with all types of fish and varying other ingredients like vinegar, flour, garlic and saffron. Other seafood favorites include dried codfish, sole, bream, clams and mussels.

Marche desserts include a Pizza Dolce or sweet pizza and Frustenga a cake made with raisins, figs and walnuts.

Traditional Recipes From Marche

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Calamari Marche Style

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs small squid, cleaned and cut into rings
  • 1 fresh flat leaf parsley sprig, chopped
  • 2 salted anchovies
  • 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 5 tablespoons white wine
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Remove the anchovy heads, clean and fillet them, if they are not bought as fillets. Soak them in cold water for 10 minutes and drain.

Chop the anchovy fillets.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet with the garlic and parsley.

Add the squid and anchovies. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook over a low heat for 10 minutes.

Stir in the wine and 3 tablespoons water. Simmer gently for about 20 minutes until tender. Serves 4.

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Mussels and Clams in White Wine

Serves 4

  • 1 lb or 500 grams of mussels, rinsed, cleaned & beards removed
  • 1 lb or 500 grams of clams, cleaned
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 4 cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/2 cup parsley, chopped
  • Red pepper or chili flakes
  • Salt
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for garnishing

Directions

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over low heat and slowly cook the garlic until brown all over.

Turn the heat up, add the chili flakes and clams – cook about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Then add in the mussels.

Turn up the heat and toss in the cherry tomatoes, sauteing for a moment or two.

Add the white wine and cover the pan. Allow to cook covered 1-2 minutes until the shells open.  Then shut off the heat and add the parsley. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil.

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Spaghetti alla Marchigiana

Ingredients

  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 1/3 pound guanciale or pancetta cut into little cubes
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 medium white onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 fresh chili pepper left whole
  • 1/3 cup grated pecorino cheese
  • Salt to taste

Directions

In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the spaghetti al dente.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan sauté the guanciale and fresh chili pepper in the olive oil.

When the guanciale is crispy and golden, add the onion and garlic and continue to sauté. Add salt to taste.

Once the onion and garlic have become golden, take the pan off of the heat and set aside.

Put the drained spaghetti into a serving dish and sprinkle the pecorino cheese on top.

Pour the onion, olive oil and guanciale sauce over the top of the pasta. Mix well and serve.

Additional pecorino cheese can be sprinkled over the pasta as a finishing touch.

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Polenta with Beans and Cabbage

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1 1/3 pounds (5-600 g) finely ground cornmeal (polenta)
  • 6 ounces (150 g) dried fava beans
  • 6 ounces (150 g) dried white beans
  • 1 to 1 1/3 pounds (5-600 g) green or red cabbage
  • 1/4 pound (100 g)  guanciale or pancetta, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste

Directions

Soak the beans and fava beans separately in water to cover overnight and cook them separately until tender.

Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the tomato paste, the minced herbs and the guanciale, reduce the heat to a low simmer and cook the mixture gently for about 30 minutes, taking care to not let it brown.

Lightly salt and shred the cabbage,

In the meantime, heat 2 quarts of water.  When it comes to a boil, add the cornmeal in a very slow stream (you don’t want the pot to stop boiling), stirring constantly with a wooden spoon to keep lumps from forming. Add the cabbage and continue stirring, in the same direction, as the mush thickens, for about a half-hour (the longer you stir the better the polenta will be; the finished polenta should have the consistency of firm mashed potatoes), adding boiling water as necessary. The polenta is done when it peels easily off the sides of the pot.

Stir the beans and the sauce into the polenta when it’s ready, let everything rest for a minute and then turn the mixture out onto the polenta board or large platter.

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Funghetti Di Offida

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ lb all-purpose flour
  • 1 ¼ lb sugar
  • 1 large pinch anise seed
  • Water

Directions

Using a mixer work together the flour, sugar and anise seed with a little water until you have a smooth dough.

Form the dough into 1-inch balls and allow them to dry for thirty minutes on parchment paper.

Place the balls in a mini muffin tin, one ball in each mold. The molds should be small enough so that the dough touches the edge.

Bake the cookies in a 350°F oven for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown.

Remove from the oven and serve hot. Reheat before serving, if you plan to serve them later.


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Tuscany is known for its landscapes, traditions, history, artistic legacy and its influence on culture. Tuscany is unrivaled as the center of art. One can find examples of every age and style: from the Etruscan civilization to Roman monuments and ruins; from the Romanesque architecture and impressive Gothic cathedrals to the exceptional artistic explosion of the Renaissance. Florence has preserved its masterpieces and great works of architecture over the centuries.

Tuscany borders the regions of Liguria to the northwest, Emilia-Romagna to the north and east, Umbria to the east and Lazio to the southeast. Tuscany has a western coastline on the Tyrrhenian Sea, containing the Tuscan Archipelago, of which the largest island is Elba. The climate is fairly mild in the coastal areas, but much harsher and rainier in the interior, with considerable fluctuations in temperature between winter and summer.

Tuscany

Florence is the capital of Tuscany. Other important cities are Siena, Pisa, Arezzo, Pistoia, Prato, Lucca, Livorno, Grosseto and Massa Carrara.

The most important collection of paintings in the world is found in the Uffizi Gallery. Great paintings can be seen in the Gallery of Palazzo Pitti, such as Tiziano’s and Raffaello’s masterpieces. Florence also has the Museum of the Costume, the Museum of the Carriages and the beautiful Italian gardens, Giardino di Boboli. In the Museum of the Opera del Duomo, the famous “Pietà” by Michelangelo can be admired.

The Via de' Tornabuoni in Florence, the city's top fashion and shopping street,

The Via de’ Tornabuoni in Florence, the city’s top fashion and shopping street.

The fashion and textile industry are the pillars of the Florentine economy. In the 15th century, Florentines were working with luxury textiles such as wool and silk. Today, the greatest designers in Europe utilize the textile industry in Tuscany, and especially Florence.

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Simplicity is central to the Tuscan cuisine. Legumes, bread, cheese, vegetables, mushrooms and fresh fruit are used. Olive oil is made up of Moraiolo, Leccino and Frantoio olives. White truffles from San Miniato appear in October and November. Beef of the highest quality comes from the Chiana Valley, specifically a breed known as Chianina used for Florentine steak. Pork is also produced and the region is known for its many excellent cured meats. Tuscany’s climate also provides ideal soil for the grapes grown to create the region’s world-renowned Chianti wine.

It is Carnival time in Tuscany

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It was February 1873 when a group sitting around a table at the Caffè del Casino in Viareggio had the great idea to have an annual parade of floats to celebrate carnival time. They wanted a parade out in the piazzas, in the streets and, most of all, among the people. The parade floats take center stage each year and usually represent satirical versions of politicians, figures from popular culture or show business. The floats are always based on the hot topics of the day. The floats parade through the crowds along Viareggio’s seafront every Sunday for 4 weeks until Mardi Gras. For 4 weeks on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings, the 4 districts of Viareggio hold large open air street parties with music and masked balls until the early hours. Open air restaurants offer local specialities, mainly fresh seafood dishes, and stages are put up on street corners where free live concerts are performed. Bands and DJs give it their all, dressed in costumes and wearing carnival masks.

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Cenci’ are traditional sweets that are often prepared throughout Tuscany during Carnival time. These treats are made with fried dough and covered with powdered sugar. In Italian, their name means ‘rags’ because that’s exactly what these haphazard squares look like! They’re golden, crispy, light and easy to prepare.

Take A Tour Of Tuscany

Traditional Tuscan Regional Cooking 

Soups, sauces and stews are the cornerstones of Tuscan cooking, many beginning with and relying upon the mastery of a soffritto on which to build more complex flavors. A soffritto can be considered the Italian verson of mirepoix and is a combination of olive oil and minced browned vegetables (usually onion, carrot and celery) that creates a base for a variety of slow-cooked dishes. Herbs (sage and rosemary) are used in many Tuscan dishes and seasonings can be added to the soffritto as needed to bring out the unique flavors of each different recipe.

Stracotto (braised beef) is a well-known favorite of the area, as are finocchiona (a rustic salami with fennel seeds), cacciucco (a delicate fish stew), pollo al mattone (chicken roasted under heated bricks) and biscotti di prato (hard almond cookies made for dipping in the local dessert wine, vin santo). Borlotti beans, kidney-shaped and pink-speckled, provide a savory flavor to meatless dishes and cannellini beans form the basis for many a pot of slowly simmered soup. Breads are many and varied in Tuscan baking, with varieties including, donzelle (a bread fried in olive oil), filone (an unsalted traditional Tuscan bread) and the sweet schiacciata con l’uva  with grapes and sugar on top. Pastas are not heavily relied upon in Tuscan cooking and pappardelle (a wide egg noodle) is one of the region’s few traditional cuts.

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Tuscan Bread

This is a three-day process.

Makes 2 Loaves

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 4 cups warm water (110 F)
  • 9 cups unbleached, All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • Olive Oil
  • Semolina or cornmeal to flour the work board

Directions

To make the biga:

Combine the yeast and ½ cup of water in a bowl; stir and set aside. Measure 2 cups of the unbleached flour into a large bowl. Make a hole in the center of the flour with your hands and pour in the yeast mixture. Move the flour from the sides of the bowl into the yeast mixture and combine. Gradually pour in 1 cup of water. Use a wooden spoon to mix the flour and yeast mixture together to form a thick paste. Sprinkle another cup of the unbleached flour over the top and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Set aside in a cool place to rise for 6 to 8 hours or overnight.

The next day, add the whole wheat flour, 1 cup of warm water and another cup of the unbleached all-purpose flour to the bowl and mix, kneading the dough slightly in the bowl with your hands. The dough will be very sticky. Cover and set aside again to rise for 6 to 8 hours or overnight.

On the third day, stir in the remaining 1 1/2 cups of water. Work in the remaining flour, leaving a little of it aside to spread on the board or work surface. Turn the dough onto the floured surface and knead it for 10 to 15 minutes or until the dough is silky and springy and has lost its stickiness. Place the dough in a large bowl sprayed with olive oil. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and place the dough in a warm place (75 F) to rise for 2 to 3 hours.

It is best to bake the dough on a baking stone. To do this, preheat the oven stone at 450 degrees F for 30 minutes prior to baking the bread.
Turn the risen dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, punch it down, knead it briefly and divide in half. Form each into an oval or round loaf. Set the loaves on 2 oven peels lined with cornmeal. Cover the loaves with a clean towel and allow them to rise for 45 minutes while the oven is heating.

Transfer the loaves from the peel to the stone; if you only have one peel, form one at a time and set one on a piece of parchment paper.

Bake the loaves for 10 minutes, then lower the heat to 350 degrees F and continue baking another 40 to 45 minutes or until the bread is browned and sounds hollow when tapped with your knuckles.

To bake the loaves without a stone, form the loaves as above and place each one on a lightly oiled and cornmeal lined baking sheet. Cover as above and let rise. Bake as above. Cool the bread on a rack before slicing.

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Ribollita

Servings: 8

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dried cannellini beans, uncooked
  • Olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, sliced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 4 potatoes, diced
  • 10 zucchini, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups swiss chard, shredded
  • 1 leek
  • 1 savoy cabbage, shredded
  • 1 bunch kale, shredded
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • Loaf of stale Tuscan bread

Directions

Soak the beans overnight and then cook over low heat. It will take approximately 1 hour for them to cook.

In a soup pot, gently saute the onion, carrot and celery in a little olive oil. Add the other vegetables, with the exception of the cabbage, kale and beans which are added at a later point. When the vegetables have sweated out their juice, cover the ingredients with hot water and then add all the cabbage and kale. Cover and simmer for an hour over medium heat.

Add the cooked beans, salt and pepper. Let simmer for another 20 minutes, stirring frequently because the beans tend to stick to the bottom of the pan. Add the tomato paste.

Slice the stale bread and, in an earthenware casserole, alternate layers of bread with the soup until the bread is soaked. Cover and refrigerate the soup until the next day.

To serve, reheat it or “re-boil” it, as the name in Italian suggests.

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Lemon and Black Pepper Grilled Chicken Legs

Serves: 4 as a main course

Ingredients

  • 8 chicken legs with thighs
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

Directions

Arrange the chicken in a shallow bowl or baking dish. Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, rosemary, salt and pepper. Pour over the chicken, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours.

Heat the grill to medium-high heat. Place the chicken on the grill and cook until browned on all sides, about 10 minutes, turning once or twice. If using a gas grill reduce the heat to low and cook 20 minutes. If using a charcoal grill, move the chicken to the edges of the grill, cover and cook over indirect heat. Check for doneness after 20 minutes.

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Ricciarelli – Tuscan Almond Cookies

These cookies just happen to be gluten-free.

Makes about eighteen 3-inch cookies

Ingredients

  • 1-1/4 cups sliced or slivered almonds
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Grated zest of 1 medium orange
  • Confectioners’ sugar

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Grind the almonds in a food processor until reduced to a semi-fine powder. Set aside.

In a bowl, beat the egg whites on high-speed, adding the sugar a little at a time. Once all of the sugar has been incorporated, add the vanilla.  Continue beating the whites until very thick and glossy, at least 5 minutes.

With a rubber spatula, fold in the ground almonds and orange zest.

Use 2 tablespoons to scoop the mixture onto the prepared baking sheets.  The cookies should be oval-shaped, about 2-1/2 inches long x 1 inch wide.  Only put about 9 cookies on each baking sheet as they will spread a little. Dust the tops of the cookies with confectioners’ sugar.

Bake for 15 minutes, or until firm to the touch, but pale in color, not brown.

Transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool.  When completely cool, re-dust the tops with confectioners’ sugar.


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The Super Bowl is a few days away. And whether or not you care who wins, you may want to invite a few friends over to watch the game. So, what should you serve?

The average football fan eats about a day’s worth of calories during the game. Revamp your old favorites by making them healthier and introducing a few new ideas into your menu. You’ll be able to root for your team without going overboard on fat, calories and salt.

If you haven’t started planning what you’re going to serve, here are some ideas. The foods below are not going to ruin anyone’s New Year’s Resolutions.

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Spicy Tortilla Strips

Ingredients

  • 6 (8-inch) flour tortillas
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Cut tortillas in half and cut each half into 5 strips to form 60 strips. Divide the tortilla strips evenly among 2 baking sheets lined with parchment paper and coated with cooking spray.

Brush strips evenly with oil. Combine cumin and red pepper in a small bowl and sprinkle over strips. Bake for 10 minutes or until browned, rotating baking sheets after 5 minutes.

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Fresh Tomato Salsa

Ingredients

  • 3 cups chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 cup onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 4 teaspoons chopped fresh jalapeno pepper 
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions

Stir the tomatoes, green bell pepper, onion, cilantro, lime juice, jalapeno pepper, cumin, salt and pepper in a bowl. Serve with the tortilla strips.

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Barbecue Spice Roasted Chickpeas

Makes about 3 cups

Ingredients

  • 2-15 ounce cans no-salt-added garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon barbecue spice
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. In a medium bowl combine garbanzo beans, oil, barbecue spice, paprika, chili powder, garlic salt, celery salt and onion powder.

Spread in an even layer in a 15x10x1-inch baking pan. Roast about 30 minutes or until browned and crisp, stirring once halfway through roasting. Cool completely.

To Make Ahead: Place cooled chickpeas in an airtight container; cover. Store at room temperature for up to 1 week.

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Italian Parmesan Pretzels

Makes 10 pretzels

Ingredients

  • 1 pound frozen whole wheat bread dough, thawed or homemade, recipe below
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • Mustard, for serving

Directions

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.

Divide dough into 10 equal portions. Roll each portion into a 15-inch-long rope.

To shape each pretzel, hold one end of the rope in each hand and form a U-shape. Cross the ends over each other and then twist. Then lift the ends across to the bottom of the U-shape; press to seal.

Arrange shaped pretzels on the prepared baking sheet. Cover with waxed paper; let stand in a warm spot for 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a small bowl stir together Parmesan, Italian seasoning and garlic powder. Brush pretzels evenly with half of the melted butter then sprinkle with the Parmesan mixture.

Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until browned. Transfer baking sheet to a wire rack. Drizzle pretzels with the remaining melted butter. Serve warm or cool completely on baking sheet on a wire rack. Serve with mustard.

Whole Wheat Bread Dough

Ingredients

  • 1 cup + 1 tablespoon water, room temperature
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 cups + 6 tablespoons whole wheat flour
  • 3 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
  • 2 teaspoons yeast, active dry, instant

Directions

Mix and knead together all of the dough ingredients—by hand, mixer or bread machine—to make a soft (though not very sticky) dough. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover the bowl, and let the dough rise until it’s doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.

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Turkey and Roast Beef Muffuletta

Makes: 10  servings

Ingredients

  • 1 jar (4.75 oz) pimiento-stuffed olives, drained and chopped
  • 1 large tomato, seeded and chopped
  • 1/4 cup  olive oil
  • 1 rib celery, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons  red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon  dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon  salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon  black pepper
  • 1 large round crusty Italian bread (about 11/4 lbs)
  • 1/4 pound  sliced deli roast beef
  • 1/4 pound  sliced American cheese
  • 1 jar (12 oz) roasted red peppers, drained
  • 1/4 pound  sliced deli turkey
  • 1/4 pound sliced Provolone cheese

Directions

In a small bowl, combine olives, tomato, olive oil, celery, garlic, red wine vinegar, oregano, salt and black pepper.

Cut the loaf of bread in half crosswise. Spread bottom cut side with half of olive mixture. Layer on roast beef, American cheese, red peppers, turkey and Provolone cheese.

Spread remaining olive mixture over cheese and top with the other half of bread.

Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and weigh down with a heavy pot filled with canned goods for at least an hour. Slice into 10 wedges to serve.

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Slow-Cooker Brisket Sandwiches

Serves 8-10

Ingredients

Brisket

  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
  • 3 1/4 pounds brisket
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 16-ounce bottle beer or 2 cups reduced-sodium beef broth

Sandwich

  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup low-fat mayonnaise
  • 8 -10 whole-wheat buns
  • Bread & Butter Pickles

Directions

To prepare the brisket:

Combine paprika, salt, garlic powder, onion powder and pepper in a small bowl. Rub all over brisket. Heat oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the brisket and brown on both sides, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a 6-quart slow cooker.

Add beer (or broth) to the pan along with any remaining spice blend from your cutting board; increase heat to high. Cook for 5 minutes, scraping up browned bits with a wooden spoon. Pour over the brisket. Cover and cook on High for 6 hours or Low for 9 hours.

To prepare the sauce:

Mash garlic and 1/2 teaspoon salt into a paste in a mortar and pestle or with the back of a spoon on a cutting board. Combine the garlic mixture with mayonnaise in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

When the brisket is done, transfer to a clean cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes.

Pull the brisket apart into shreds with 2 forks and then coarsely chop the shredded meat. Combine the chopped brisket with the liquid in the slow cooker.

To serve:

Spread each bun with 1 tablespoon garlic sauce and top with about 3/4 cup brisket. Serve with pickles.

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Caramel Popcorn

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup light butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
  • 12 cups air popped  popcorn

Directions

In a 4-quart Dutch oven heat and stir the brown sugar, granulated sugar, butter and salt over medium heat until just boiling and sugar is dissolved. Stir in vanilla. Add popcorn and toss until coated.

Place coated popcorn in a shallow roasting pan. Bake, uncovered, in a 300 degrees F oven for 15 minutes, stirring once. Transfer to a large piece of foil to cool. Place in a serving bowl.

gameday2

Frozen Neapolitans

Makes 48 bars

Ingredients

  • 4 cups chocolate-flavored crisp rice cereal
  • 1 ¼ cups chopped toasted almonds
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups mini marshmallows
  • 1 pint chocolate ice cream (2 cups)
  • 1 pint vanilla ice cream (2 cups)
  • 1 pint strawberry ice cream (2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup miniature semisweet chocolate pieces or chocolate syrup

Directions

Line a 13x9x2-inch baking pan with foil, extending foil over short ends of the baking pan. Butter foil; set pan aside.

In a large bowl combine cereal and 3/4 cup of the almonds; set aside.

In a large saucepan heat butter over low heat until melted. Stir in marshmallows until completely melted. Remove from heat.

Add cereal mixture to marshmallow mixture; stir gently to coat. Using a buttered spatula or waxed paper, press mixture firmly into prepared pan. Freeze for 10 minutes.

Let ice creams stand at room temperature for 5 minutes. Spread chocolate ice cream evenly over cereal layer in pan. Freeze about 30 minutes or until firm.

Spread vanilla ice cream over chocolate ice cream layer; freeze about 30 minutes or until firm.

Spread strawberry ice cream over vanilla ice cream layer. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup almonds and chocolate pieces or chocolate syrup.

Cover and freeze about 4 hours or until firm.

Using the edges of the foil, lift frozen mixture out of pan. Cut into about 1 1/2-inch squares. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

gameday9

Oatmeal Applesauce Cookies

Makes 30

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons  unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup  packed light-brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup  granulated sugar
  • 1  large egg
  • 1/2 cup  chunky-style applesauce
  • 1 1/2 cup  old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 1/4 cup  all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon  baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon  baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon  Kosher salt
  • 1 cup  golden raisins

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Put butter and sugars in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low-speed until combined. Add egg and applesauce, mix until well blended, 2 to 3 minutes. Mix in oats, flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Mix in raisins.

Using a 1 1/2-inch ice cream scoop, drop dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper, spacing 2 inches apart. Bake cookies until golden and just set, 13 to 15 minutes. Let cool on sheets 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack set over parchment paper; let cool completely.


wintersalad

This is not the season for cold potato salad or any other cold salad when you are trying to warm up. Then again, forget any memory of overcooked, withered spinach salads adorned with hard-boiled eggs and greasy bacon dressing. Good warm salads are filled with delicious flavors and appealing textures. The first key to a great warm salad lies in learning to barely wilt the greens, so that the warm vinaigrette brings all the flavors together but doesn’t make the salad soggy. The second key lies in the complementary combination of ingredients.

When a dressing is warm, it has a more pronounced flavor than when it’s cold, plus the heat really brings out all the flavors of the salad. You have to be careful when you dress the greens, though, because you want them to be just slightly wilted.

You can accomplish this in several ways.

Heat the dressing in a pan. Then pour the warm vinaigrette over the bowl of greens, add the garnishes and toss. This method work well with hardier greens like spinach, escarole and kale. You can wilt mesclun this way, too; just dress the greens a little more lightly and serve them immediately.

Or you can arrange the raw greens on serving plates, top with just cooked shrimp or chicken and then drizzle the hot dressing over all. This method is better when the greens are particularly tender, like mizuna or mesclun. Whichever wilting method you choose, just remember you don’t want to fully cook the greens, so don’t put them directly into a hot sauté pan. Don’t wilt the greens until you’re ready to serve them; this type of salad looks and tastes best when freshly dressed.

wintersalads3

Warm Spinach Salad with Cannellini Beans and Shrimp

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound baby spinach (7 cups)
  • 3 slices of bacon, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch strips
  • 1 pound shelled and deveined large shrimp
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • One 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar

Directions

Spread the spinach on a large platter. In a large skillet, cook the bacon over moderate heat until crisp, about 4 minutes. Remove to a paper towel lined plate with a slotted spoon.

Drain off all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper and cook it in the pan with the bacon fat over moderately high heat until barely pink, about 4 minutes. Add the beans, season with salt and pepper and toss until heated through, about 1 minute. Pour the shrimp and beans onto the bed of spinach.

In the same skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the shallot and cook over moderately low heat until softened, about 1 minute. Add the mustard to the skillet and whisk in the red wine vinegar, then whisk in the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil. Season the dressing with salt and pepper, pour it over the salad and garnish with the bacon. Serve immediately.

wintersalads4

Warm Winter-Vegetable Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 small red onion, cut into 1/2-inch wedges
  • 1 small sweet potato (about 8 ounces), cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 carrot, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 1 parsnip, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 1 small celery root (about 12 ounces), peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 1 small beet, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup walnuts
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 ounce feta, crumbled (1/4 cup)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

In a medium roasting pan, toss the onion, sweet potato, carrot, parsnip, celery root and beet with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil.

Season the vegetables with salt and pepper and roast for about 45 minutes, stirring once or twice, until tender and lightly browned in spots.

Meanwhile, spread the walnuts in a pie plate and toast until golden, about 6 minutes. Transfer the walnuts to a work surface and coarsely chop.

In a large bowl, whisk the vinegar with the lemon juice, mustard and the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and fold in the parsley. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the vegetables and walnuts to the dressing and toss. Top the salad with the feta and serve warm or at room temperature.

wintersalads1

Warm Chicken Salad with Green Beans, Almonds and Dried Cherries

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound chicken breast cutlets (about 6)
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1/2 pound green beans, trimmed
  • 3 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon apricot jam
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 5 ounces baby arugula
  • 1 head radicchio, cored and shredded
  • 1/3 cup dried cherries
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds

Directions

In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over high; season chicken with salt and pepper. In two batches, cook chicken until cooked through, about 2 minutes per side; transfer to a plate. When cool enough to handle, slice chicken crosswise.

In a medium saucepan, bring 2 inches salted water to a boil. Add green beans; cover and cook until crisp-tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Rinse under cold water until cool; drain well.

Make dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, jam, mustard and remaining 2 tablespoons oil; season with salt and pepper.

In a large bowl, toss arugula and radicchio with half the dressing. Divide salad among four plates; arrange chicken, green beans, cherries and almonds on top. Drizzle with remaining dressing; serve immediately.

wintersalads2

Spinach Salad with Salmon

4 Servings

Ingredients

  • 4 skinless salmon fillets, (6 ounces each)
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 10 ounces baby spinach
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • 3/4 cup crumbled blue cheese (3 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup pecans
  • 1/4 cup Balsamic-Rosemary Vinaigrette

Balsamic-Rosemary Vinaigrette

  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves (or 1/4 teaspoon dried)
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

For the Vinaigrette

In a blender combine vinegar, mustard, garlic, rosemary, water, salt and pepper. Blend until smooth. With machine running, add oil in a thin stream; blend until creamy.

For the Salmon

Heat broiler, with rack set 4 inches from the heat. Place salmon on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet; season with salt and pepper. Broil, without turning, until opaque throughout, 7 to 9 minutes. Let cool briefly, then flake.

Divide spinach and tomatoes among serving plates. Top with salmon, blue cheese and pecans. Drizzle with some of the vinaigrette. Pass the remaining dressing with the salad.

wintersalad3

Steak and Potato Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds small potatoes, halved
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 pound sirloin steak (about 1 inch thick)
  • 1 heart romaine lettuce, chopped (about 3 cups)
  • 5 ounces baby arugula
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus wedges for serving
  • 1/3 cup shaved Parmesan (1 ounce)

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss potatoes with 2 teaspoons oil; season with salt and pepper. Roast until golden brown and tender, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large heavy skillet, heat 1 teaspoon oil over high. Pat steak dry; season steak with salt and pepper and cook until browned and medium-rare, 3 to 5 minutes per side (reduce heat if skillet begins to scorch). Transfer to a cutting board; let rest 5 minutes, then thinly slice against the grain.

In a large bowl, combine romaine and arugula. Add potatoes, lemon juice and 2 tablespoons oil and toss to combine.

Top salad with steak and Parmesan and serve with lemon wedges.



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