Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Beef

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Roseto Pennsylvania

In 1882 a group of 11 Italians came to the United States from Roseto, Italy and found work in an area of Pennsylvania that later become known as the town of Roseto. Relatives of these immigrants followed and settled in the same area. By the early 1900s the town was flourishing and a near exact replica of the Roseto, Italy they had left behind. And that was how it remained for years.

By the 1950s the town was bustling with activity. The residents kept to themselves creating an Italian village similar to one in the “Old Country”. However, they didn’t necessarily stick to the “old world” style of cooking and eating. The light flatbread pizza of their homeland was exchanged for heavy bread and cheese. Sausage, meatballs and pasta were a normal dinner, biscotti and other sweets became daily treats and there was always wine.

A physician and University Professor named Stewart Wolf discovered Roseto. Wolf became interested in the townsfolk when he noticed that despite their diets and struggles with obesity, no one really seemed to get sick. He conducted a study of the residents and looked at the incidence of heart disease and heart attack fatalities. He and his team took EKGs of everyone, did blood tests, collected death certificates from decades into the past and conducted exhaustive interviews with the residents.

What he found was astounding. Virtually no one in the town of Rosetto died under the age of 55 from heart disease or heart attack. And the incidences of death from heart disease in men older than 65 was nearly half that of the national averages. In fact, deaths of all causes were 30%-35% lower than expected. There was virtually no alcoholism, no suicide, no drug addiction, no one on welfare and crime was practically nonexistent. There were also no occurrences of peptic ulcers or other stress related problems. The only real consistent cause of death appeared to be old age.

Researchers were baffled. How did this town of sausage eating, wine drinking, overweight and happy Italians manage to escape the ill-health fate of the rest of the country? The researchers came to realize that the people of Roseto were not only very social, but very kind. They stopped in the streets and talked. They had each other over for dinner. Three generations of family lived under the same roof. They laughed a lot. Everyone knew and respected each other, especially their elders. Thus, the town of Roseto illustrated the importance of feeling good about life.

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Italian American Lasagna

Ingredients

Sauce

  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 1/2 cups Italian tomatoes, crushed
  • 12 whole fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Filling

  • 16 oz ricotta cheese
  • 5 oz Parmigiano-Reggiano shredded
  • 4 oz Italian style dried bread crumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 5 sprigs Italian parsley finely chopped

For the lasagna

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • Olive oil
  • 12 whole lasagna either oven-ready or parboiled
  • 10 oz mozzarella, shredded
  • 5 oz Parmigiano-Reggiano, shredded

Directions

For the sauce:

Combine the garlic, olive oil, tomatoes, basil leaves, salt and pepper in a medium saucepan and simmer until the sauce thickens, 20 to 30 minutes.

While the sauce is simmering, mix the ricotta, Parmigiano, bread crumbs, salt and parsley for the filling and set aside.

Brown the ground beef and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Coat a large roasting pan or lasagna pan with olive oil.

Assemble the lasagna as follows (bottom to top): mozzarella, thin layer of sauce, layer of pasta, Parmigiano, ricotta cheese filling, mozzarella, meat, thin layer of sauce and layer of pasta.

Bake for one hour, covered with foil. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Slice into squares and serve.

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Newark,  New Jersey

In its heyday, Seventh Avenue in Newark was one of the largest “Little Italies” in the U.S. with a population of 30,000, in an area of less than a square mile. The center of life in the neighborhood was St. Lucy’s Church, founded by Italian immigrants in 1891. Throughout the year, St. Lucy’s and other churches sponsored processions in honor of saints that became community events. The most famous procession was the Feast of St. Gerard, but there were also great feasts for Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Our Lady of Snow, the Assumption and St. Rocco.

Joe DiMaggio loved the restaurants of Seventh Avenue so much that he would take the New York Yankees to Newark to show them “real Italian food”. Frank Sinatra had bread from Giordano’s Bakery sent to him every week until his death, no matter where in the world he was. New York Yankees catcher, Rick Cerone, also grew up in the First Ward. One of the nation’s largest Italian newspapers, The Italian Tribune, was founded on Seventh Avenue. Seventh Avenue produced stars, such as Joe Pesci and Frankie Valli of the Four Seasons. Congressman Peter Rodino, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee during its impeachment proceedings against Richard Nixon, was a native of the First Ward as well.

Seventh Avenue was devastated by urban renewal efforts during the 1950s. Eighth Avenue was obliterated by the city council, scattering the Italian American residents. Most businesses never recovered. The construction of Interstate 280 also served to cut the neighborhood off from the rest of the city. Following these events some of the First Ward’s Italians stayed in the neighborhood, while others migrated to other Newark neighborhoods, such as Broadway, Roseville and the Ironbound section.

Belmont Tavern

The Belmont, founded in the 1920s, moved to its current location on Bloomfield Ave. in 1965. Chef Stretch has passed away, but his Chicken Savoy recipe is still a popular menu item. Celebrity spottings are not uncommon. Clint Eastwood bought the cast of his movie, Jersey Boys there while they were filming in NJ.

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Stretch’s Chicken Savoy

Serves 3 or 4

This is a restaurant recipe and you must keep the chicken pieces well-separated in the pan. If the pan is crowded, the chicken will not brown because too much liquid will accumulate. In a restaurant kitchen, the oven goes to 700 degrees F or more, which means the juices evaporate before they have a chance to accumulate. For years the recipe was a family secret and Stretch’s daughter Annette, pulled the old, “If I tell you, then we’d have to kill you” line when Saveur Magazine came calling for the recipe.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2- to 3-pound chicken, cut into 6 pieces (two drumsticks, two thighs, two breasts with wings)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 6 to 8 teaspoons grated Locatelli or other Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar (preferably 7% acidity)

Directions

In a 10 1/2-inch cast iron skillet or other heavy, oven-proof pan, arrange the chicken pieces so that they do not touch each other, skin side down.

Sprinkle the chicken with garlic, oregano, salt, pepper and grated cheese, in that order.

Place chicken in a preheated 500-degree F oven for 35 minutes.

Remove from the oven and pour on all the vinegar at once. It should sizzle.

Return the chicken to the oven for another minute or so.

Arrange chicken on a platter and pour the vinegar sauce over the chicken. Serve immediately.

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Café Gia Ristoranté

Baltimore

The “Little Italy” of Baltimore is located close to the Inner Harbor area and Fells Point, newly renovated and very popular for its great restaurants. This neighborhood has been occupied by Italians since the 1890’s and still retains a large Italian community. During the warm months, the neighborhood is home to bocce games and open-air film festivals. “Little Italy” is the end point for the nation’s oldest Columbus Day parade, celebrated since 1890 and hosted by the Italian American community. In June, Baltimore’s “Little Italy” celebrates the Feast of Saint Anthony and the Feast of Saint Gabriel in August.

In 1953, Giovanna Aquia, along with her father Pasquale, her mother Rosa and her little brother Salvatore (Sammy) embarked on a journey that would forever change their lives. The family boarded the famous Italian luxury liner the “Andrea Doria” and made their way to America from Cefalu, Sicily. They entered the U.S. via NYC and arrived to their final destination in Baltimore on June 23, 1953. Giovanna likes to say, “At a time when no one liked to move around, our family traveled 3500 miles and we haven’t moved 200 feet since.”

Giovanna goes on to say that ” family life always revolved around the dinner table. It was there that a great appreciation of simple Sicilian cuisine became rooted in them. Their house was always open to friends and family. On Sundays and holidays, Nonna Rosa, would cook up a feast. We all just sat together, enjoyed each other and talked and laughed while we were feeding their faces. Our family is the only family with 4 generations still living in Little Italy.”

It was the desire to share their Sicilian heritage and Sicilian cuisine that prompted the family to buy an older neighborhood diner and create a warm, comfortable family ristoranté in “Little Italy”, called Café Gia Ristoranté. “We strived very hard to recreate a Sicilian bistro, a place where one feels like they are in Sicily while dining,” she said. “Our walls are embraced with hand painted colorful murals, our tables are also topped off with great hand painted murals. The exterior echoes an old Sicilian bistro and we have created a little bit of Italy with fresh, delicious Italian food and friendly, family service.”

part2baltimoresalad

Insalata di Mare Calda

Chef Gia Daniella

“Growing up, Christmas Eve was a big deal at my house,” says Chef Gia Daniella, the owner of Cafe Gia Ristorante in Little Italy. That night, her family hosted the Feast of the Seven Fishes, a grand seafood meal with Italian roots. “We always entertained and had a spread of seafood and side dishes — all Italian and Italian-American,” she recalls. “My mother is from Italy — Sicily,” she explains. “The Seven Seafoods is actually a regional tradition in the south.” The mixed seafood salad was always one of Gia’s favorite Christmas Eve dishes. The recipe below is served warm but is equally appealing when chilled, she says. And best enjoyed when surrounded by loved ones.

4 servings

For the salad:

  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 lemons
  • 1 pound medium shrimp, peeled, cleaned and deveined
  • 1 pound calamari, cleaned and cut into rings
  • 1 pound clams, cleaned
  • 1 pound mussels, cleaned and debearded
  • 1 ½ cups celery, finely chopped
  • 4 cups arugula 
  • Chopped roasted red peppers for garnish

For the dressing:

  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup lemon juice
  • 3 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup chopped Italian parsley
  • ½ cup capers
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

In a large pot, combine 3 cups of water, bay leaves and crushed garlic.

Slice the lemons in half and squeeze the juice into the pot, then place the lemon rind in the pot.

Over high heat, bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium low.

Add the shrimp to the pot for two minutes, then remove with a strainer and set aside in a bowl.

Add the calamari to the water for 1 ½ minutes. Remove with a strainer and add to the bowl with the shrimp.

Add the clams and mussels to the pot and cook until their shells open, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove with a strainer and combine with the shrimp and calamari.

Add the chopped celery. Add a dash of salt and pepper to taste and gently fold.

To make the dressing:

In a processor combine the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, parsley and capers and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Gently toss the seafood with the dressing. Add another dash or two of salt and pepper. Garnish with roasted red peppers.

For an attractive presentation, serve over fresh arugula.

part2washington

Judiciary Square

Washington, D.C.

Around the turn of the 20th century, the eastern side of Judiciary Square became an enclave of Italian immigrants in Washington; the equivalent of a Little Italy. The Italian neighborhood rested on the eastern edge of the square, stretching eastward to about 2nd Street NW. The heart of the community was Holy Rosary Church, a chapel built at 3rd and F Streets NW. It was a government town without mills, factories or a commercial port and there were fewer opportunities for unskilled laborers without language skills to support themselves. Instead, the area drew smaller numbers of skilled immigrants, such as the construction workers, artists and tradesmen, who labored on the government buildings erected in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

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Casa Italiana

The neighborhood grew throughout the 20th century, with an increased surge of Italian immigrants in the 1950s and 60s. However, the construction of Interstate 395 through the city in the 1970s razed about half of the neighborhood and forced its remaining residents to move away. Today, the former Italian enclave is dominated by Federal office buildings and law offices. The Holy Rosary Church remains standing, though, and continues to draw a heavily Italian congregation, along with its “Casa Italia” cultural center next door. Casa Italiana offers classes on cinema, literature,  cuisine, wine tasting and majolica, the ancient Italian art of ceramic pottery, Visitors can still hear a Catholic Mass in Italian every Sunday at Holy Rosary.

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Campono Meatball Subs

What sets a great meatball sub apart from all the others is the quality of its ingredients. Campono’s popular sandwich is made with ricotta cheese in the meatball mixture and made in-house mozzarella and marinara sauce for the sandwich. The meatballs are neither too firm nor so tender that they fall apart.

FOR THE MEATBALLS

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for your hands
  • 1 small onion, cut into small dice
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 8 slices white/country bread, crusts removed, torn into bite-size pieces
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 2 pounds ground veal
  • 2 pounds 80/20 ground beef
  • 1 pound ground pork shoulder (butt)
  • 8 ounces finely chopped or ground prosciutto
  • 1 cup freshly grated pecorino-Romano cheese
  • 1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • 2 cups “00” flour, for dusting

FOR THE SAUCE

  • 28 ounces canned whole San Marzano tomatoes, drained
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Kosher or sea salt to taste
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • A few fresh basil leaves

FOR ASSEMBLY

  • 6 sub rolls, partially split
  • 12 thin slices good-quality mozzarella cheese
  • 6 slices deli provolone cheese

Directions

For the meatballs:

Heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat. Once the oil shimmers, stir in the onion, garlic, dried oregano and crushed red pepper flakes. Cook just until the onion and garlic have softened but not browned; transfer to a very large mixing bowl.

Combine the bread pieces and milk in a medium bowl; let the mixture sit for a few minutes so the milk is completely absorbed.

Add to the large bowl with the onions, the ground veal, ground beef, ground pork shoulder, prosciutto, pecorino-Romano, ricotta, eggs, Parmigiano-Reggiano, parsley, kosher salt, freshly cracked black pepper and the soaked bread pieces; use clean hands to blend the mixture until well incorporated.

Position oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven; preheat to 450 degrees F. Line two large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the “00” flour in a wide, shallow bowl.

Grease your hands with a little oil. Form the meatball mixture into 65 meatballs of equal size (the size of shell-on walnuts). Coat each one lightly with “00” flour, dividing them between two parchment-paper-lined rimmed baking sheets. Roast on the upper and lower racks for 10 to 14 minutes, rotating the baking sheets top to bottom and front to back halfway through, until the meatballs are browned and cooked through. Discard any remaining flour.

For the sauce:

Use a food mill to puree the tomatoes. Discard the seeds; reserve the drained juices for another use, if desired.

Heat the extra-virgin olive oil in a pot over medium-high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the garlic, dried oregano, crushed red pepper flakes and dried oregano. Cook just until the garlic starts to brown, then stir in the tomato puree. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes then taste, and season lightly with kosher or sea salt and cracked black pepper. Stir in 6 to 8 basil leaves. Turn off the heat. Transfer 30 of the meatballs to the saucepan, turning them until coated. Cool and freeze the remaining meatballs for another time.

When ready to assemble, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Open the sub rolls, keeping the halves partially attached and laying them on two rimmed baking sheets. Tear out some of the inside bread to create room for the meatballs. Spread a tablespoon or two of the marinara sauce over both halves of each open-faced roll; toast in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes; keep the oven on.

Line each sub roll with the mozzarella and provolone slices, overlapping and/or tearing the slices so the inside roll surfaces are covered. Place 5 sauced meatballs at the center of each sub roll; return to the oven just until the cheese melts.

Close each sandwich and cut crosswise in half. Serve hot.

*View Recipes From America’s Italian Communities: Part 1  here .


The region of Abruzzo is hilly and mountainous and stretches from the Apennines to the Adriatic Sea. In this part of the Adriatic, the long sandy beaches are replaced by steep and rocky coasts. L’Aquila is the regional capital. Pescara, Chieti and Teramo are other important cities.

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Abruzzo boasts the title of “Greenest Region in Europe” thanks to one third of its territory, the largest in Europe, being set aside as national parks and protected nature reserves. In the region there are three national parks, one regional park and 38 protected nature reserves. These ensure the survival of 75% of all of Europe’s living species and are also home to some rare species, such as the small wading dotterel, golden eagle, Abruzzo chamois, Apennine wolf and Marsican brown bear. Abruzzo is also home to Calderone, Europe’s southernmost glacier.

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The Abruzzo region has two types of climate: the first is strongly influenced by the presence of Abruzzo’s Apennines range. Coastal areas have a Mediterranean climate with hot dry summers and mild winters, rainy hills and a climate where temperatures progressively decrease with increasing altitude. Precipitation is also strongly affected by the presence of the Apennines mountain ridges with increased rain on the slopes of the mountains in the region.

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Until a few decades ago, Abruzzo was a region of poverty in Southern Italy. Since the 1950s, Abruzzo has had steady economic growth. In 1951, the Abruzzo per capita income or GDP was 53% of that of Northern Italy, the nation’s richest region. By 1971, Abruzzo was at 65% and, by 1994, the per capita income was at 76% of Northern Italy’s per capita income, giving Abruzzo the highest per capita GDP of Southern Italy and surpassing the growth of every other region in Italy. The construction of superhighways from Rome to Teramo (A24) and Rome to Pescara (A25) opened Abruzzo to easy access. Abruzzo also attained higher per capita education levels and greater productivity growth than the rest of the South.

The 2009 L’Aquila earthquake led to a sharp economic slowdown. However, according to statistics at the end of 2010, it seems that the economy of Abruzzo is recovering, despite the negative data regarding employment. At the end of 2010, Abruzzo’s growth was placed fourth among the Italian regions with the highest annual growth rates after Lazio, Lombardy and Calabria.

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Abruzzo’s industrial sector expanded rapidly, especially in mechanical engineering, transportation equipment and telecommunications. Both pure and applied research are carried out in the region where there are major institutes and factories involved in research, especially, in the fields of pharmaceuticals, biomedicine, electronics, aerospace and nuclear physics. The industrial infrastructure is spread throughout the region in industrial zones, the most important of which are Val Pescara, Val Sangro, Val Trigno, Val Vibrata and Conca del Fucino.

A further activity worthy of note is seaside and mountain tourism, which is of considerable importance to the economy of the region. In the past decade, tourism has increased due to Abruzzo’s wealth of castles and medieval towns, especially around L’Aquila. Beach-goers also flock to places like Tortoreto, Giulianova, Silvi Marina, Roseto and, further south, Ortona, Vasto and San Salvo. Ski resorts are equally popular.

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Abruzzo Beach tourism destinations

Agriculture has succeeded in modernizing and offering higher-quality products. The mostly small, agricultural properties produce wine, cereals, sugar beet, potatoes, olives, vegetables, fruit and dairy products. Traditional products are saffron and liquorice. Most famous in the wine world is Abruzzo’s Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. Montepulciano d’Abruzzo has earned a reputation as being one of the most widely exported DOC classed wine in Italy.

Abruzzo has a rich culinary tradition, with various traditions attached to each province.

Battered and fried zucchini blooms, spit-roasted scamorza cheese, vinegar-poached lobster, salame di pecora (a rare sheep’s meat salami), crepes loaded with cheese and vegetables in a rich mutton broth, hearty ragus, ricotta cheese drizzled with honey and dusted with saffron powder .… are just a few of the complex and elegant flavors to be found on Abruzzi tables.

Ragus are a generalized term for any type of meat-based sauce. Ragus are heavily associated with the cooking of Southern Italy, as well, and seem to have begun their migration southward from the Abruzzi region.

This is a cheese-loving region and mozzarella and scamorza take center stage on the dairy scene. Both cow’s milk cheeses are young, mild, creamy and sweet with smooth textures and a stringiness that allows them to hold up equally well in baked dishes or on their own as table cheeses.

The maccheroni alla chitarra are highly renowned (homemade pasta cut on a machine with thin steel blades) and scrippelle are thin strips of pasta eaten in soup. On the coast, most first courses are fish-based, often made with tomato to enhance the taste of “poor man’s fish,” that are caught off the shores of ancient fishing villages.

As for second courses, a typical recipe is scapece, which is pickled fried fish. Guazzetto or fish broth is also popular in coastal towns. Other than sea fare, one will find plenty of lamb, kid and mutton on the dinner table, while pork is used for prosciutto, lonza, ventricina and other typical salamis that are produced locally. Abruzzi lamb, in general, is considered superior in flavor to other lamb found elsewhere because of the animals’ mountain-grazed diets rich in herbs.

Among the desserts, often made with almonds and honey, you will find nougat or torrone; confetti (typical sugared almonds) and cicerchiata, small balls of fried dough covered in honey.

Traditional Recipes from Abuzzo

abruzzosoup

Potato Soup with Saffron

Ingredients

6 servings

  • 1 ¼ lb potatoes
  • 10 oz cannarozzi – spaghetti cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 1 teaspoon Saffron threads
  • 2 ½ oz extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt
  • Water
  • Celery leaves for garnish

Directions

Lightly sauté the onion, carrot and celery in the olive oil. As soon as the mixture has cooled, add the saffron, mix well and then let rest to dissolve the saffron.

Boil and peel the potatoes and cut them into chunks.

Add 8 ¼ cups of water to the pot containing the saffron mixture and then salt to taste. Bring to a boil and add the pasta. When the pasta is cooked, add the potatoes. Heat and serve garnished with celery leaves.

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Timballo di Crespelle

This recipe is often served at wedding lunches, where it generally follows the soup course.

Ingredients

For the crespelle (crepes):

  • 50g [2 oz] all-purpose flour
  • Olive oil, for the pan
  • 3 eggs
  • 6 tablespoons water

For the filling:

  • 125g [4 oz] ground meat
  • 100g [3 1/2 oz] spinach
  • 75g [2 1/2 oz] mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • 20g [1 scant oz] butter
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 artichokes
  • 2 tablespoons grated Grana or Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 1 chicken liver
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • Salt

Directions

To make the filling.

Mince the chicken liver and combine it with the ground meat.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a saucepan and gently brown the ingredients over moderate heat for 3 minutes. Set aside.

Clean the spinach, blanch in a little salted water for 5 minutes; drain, squeeze out any excess water and lightly cook it with the butter for 4 minutes. Set aside.

Clean and trim the artichokes, discard the tough outer leaves and trim off the tips; cut in half, discard the inner fuzz and slice them. Sprinkle with the parsley and a dash of salt and cook in a saucepan with 3 tablespoons olive oil for 20 minutes, moistening with a little water, if need be.  Set aside.

Break the egg into a mixing bowl, add the milk and egg yolk and whisk with a fork. Set aside

To make the crespelle.

Put the flour, eggs and 6 tablespoons water into a mixing bowl and beat with a fork. Take a small frying pan, the bottom should be as wide as the ovenproof dish to be used for the timballo, and heat a little olive oil in it over a moderate to low heat.

Place 2 tablespoons batter into the pan, tilting to make sure it spreads out to cover the bottom; let it set and then flip. When the crespelle is ready, remove it from the pan and continue until all the batter has been used, greasing the pan each time with a little oil.

To assemble the timballo.

Butter an ovenproof dish and lay a crespelle on the bottom.

Make separate layers of sliced mozzarella, meat, spinach and artichokes, separating each with a crepe, adding a sprinkling of Grana cheese each time and a couple of tablespoons of the egg and milk mixture.

Make sure there are at least 2 layers of each ingredient, cover with another crespelle and sprinkle with the remaining cheese and egg-milk mixture.

Place the dish in the oven and bake at 220°C/425°F for 30 minutes.

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Penne with Abruzzi-Style Lamb Ragu

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 2 ounces thinly sliced pancetta, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
  • 1/2 pound boneless lamb, cut into very fine dice
  • Coarse salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • One 28-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped, with their juices
  • 1 pound penne pasta
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for serving

Directions

Put the oil and onion in a large skillet and cook over moderately high heat, stirring frequently, until the onion is pale gold. Add the pancetta and rosemary and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pancetta fat is rendered; the pancetta should remain soft.

Add the lamb and cook until browned, 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and stir. Add the wine and simmer until evaporated, 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and simmer gently, stirring from time to time, until the fat begins to separate from the sauce, 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, fill a large pot with 4 quarts of water and bring to a boil. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of coarse salt, cover and return to a boil.

Add the pasta to the pot and stir rapidly with a wooden spoon. Cover and bring back to a boil. Uncover and cook the pasta, stirring frequently, until it is al dente.

Drain the pasta and immediately transfer it to a warmed bowl. Toss with the lamb sauce and the 1/3 cup of grated cheese. Serve at once, passing additional cheese at the table.

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Parrozzo

But among Abruzzo’s desserts, Parrozzo is the most remarkable. In ancient times, Abruzzo peasants made cornmeal bread in the shape of a dome and baked it in a wood-fired oven. They called this “pan rozzo” meaning ‘unrefined bread,’ as opposed to the regular and more expensive white flour bread eaten at the time only by higher classes. At the turn of the 19th century, pastry chef Luigi D’Amico re-invented that recipe by using eggs instead of cornmeal to obtain the bread’s golden hue. He kept the dome shape and topped it with a dark chocolate coating to reproduce the bread’s charred crust.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups 70% dark chocolate  
  • 1/2 cup sugar  
  • 1/2 cup butter, at room temperature  
  • 1/4 cup sweet almonds
  • 10 bitter almonds
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch  
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour  
  • 5 eggs, separated  

Directions

Blanch almonds in boiling water and peel off the husk, and grind them with 2 tablespoons of sugar in a processor. Work butter with a fork, add the remaining sugar and the egg yolks and whisk well. Fold in the ground almonds and then the flour and cornstarch. Beat the egg whites in a mixer until soft peaks form and then and fold into the almond mixture.

Pour mixture in a buttered Bundt pan or dome-shaped cake mold and bake at 450° F for 45 minutes.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler and once the parrozzo has cooled, spread the chocolate sauce over the entire surface. Allow the chocolate to set before cutting.


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.)

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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.


northeast1

As immigrants from the different regions of Italy settled throughout the various regions of the United States, many brought with them a distinct regional Italian culinary tradition. Many of these foods and recipes developed into new favorites for the townspeople and later for Americans nationwide. No one has contributed more foods to the American dinner table than the Italian immigrants. Strong Italian-American enclaves in New York City, Boston’s North End, Providence’s Federal Hill and South Philly have helped shape a new American hybrid cuisine. Based on Old World traditions, Italian-American cuisine is marked by an appreciation for the New World’s abundance.

northeast7

Boston’s Pan Pizza

Boston’s Italian neighborhood is called the North End. It has a strong Italian flair and numerous Italian restaurants. The North End is also Boston’s oldest neighborhood and it still possesses an old-world charm kept alive by its mostly Italian-American population. The neighborhood also is a major attraction for tourists and Bostonians alike, who come seeking the best in Italian cuisine and to enjoy the Italian feel of the region. Hanover and Salem Streets, the two main streets of this bustling historic neighborhood, are lined with restaurants, cafes and shops, selling a variety of incredible foods. A trip to Boston would not be complete without including a meal at one of North End’s over one hundred fine Italian restaurants.

Ingredients

You’ll need a rimmed baking sheet, preferably non-stick, about 11 1/2-by-17 or a 16-inch pizza pan and a plastic dough scraper.

DOUGH

  • 1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 3/4 cup warm water, or more if necessary
  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Olive oil (for the pans)
  • Extra flour (for sprinkling)
  • Extra salt (for sprinkling)

Directions

In a bowl, sprinkle yeast into water; set aside for 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, and sugar. Stir to blend.

With a wooden spoon, stir in the yeast mixture. Add enough additional water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to make a dough that holds together, but is sticky and too moist to knead.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap so the wrap does not touch the dough. Lay a dish towel on top. Set aside for 2 hours.

Rub a large rimmed baking sheet or pizza pan with olive oil. Rub the center of 1 long sheet of foil with oil and set it aside.

Sprinkle the dough with a little flour. Use a dough scraper to transfer the dough to the baking sheet or pizza pan. Pat the dough with a little flour to within 2 inches of the edge of the pans.

Cover with foil, oiled side down. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes (or as long as overnight).

Remove pan from the refrigerator. Dip your hand in flour and pat the dough with your hand, adding as little flour as necessary, until it reaches the edges of the sheets.

Brush the top of the dough with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.

TOPPINGS

  • 12 slices provolone cheese or 1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) shredded mozzarella
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, thinly sliced, or 4 plum tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 4 slices good-quality ham, cut into matchsticks (optional)
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan

Directions

Arrange racks on the lowest and center parts of the oven. Set the oven at 500 degrees.

If using provolone, arrange it on the dough, spacing out the slices. Add the cherry or plum tomatoes, spacing them out. Sprinkle with mozzarella.

Sprinkle with ham, if using, then Parmesan.

Bake the pizza on the lowest rack of the oven for about 10 minutes (check after 8 minutes to make sure edges are not burning).

Transfer the pizza to the center rack and continue baking for 5 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown, the dough is golden and crisp at the edges, and the bottom is firm.

With a wide metal spatula, lift the pizza from the pan and transfer to large wooden board. Cut into rectangles, wedges, or strips.

northeast8

Federal Hill’s Zuppa Di Polpette (Meatball Soup)

Federal Hill is the Italian neighborhood of Providence with many restaurants, bakeries, cafes, art galleries, cigar shops and markets. DePasquale Square is the center of the neighborhood. Historic Federal Hill is the “Heartbeat of Providence” and begins at Atwells Avenue, the street that flows under the arch. The gateway arch over Atwells with the La Pigna (pinecone) sculpture hanging from its center is a traditional Italian symbol of abundance and quality and the symbol of Federal Hill. It is a place dedicated to the Italian immigrants who gathered here as a community and is still a place of charm, warmth and hospitality to all. Numerous Italian restaurants and businesses line the main thoroughfare and its surrounding area. Garibaldi Square, with a bust of the “Hero of Two Worlds”, and DePasquale Plaza, with outdoor dining and two bocce courts, all contribute to the Italian atmosphere.

Ingredients

In a large 8 quart stock pot prepare the following:

  • 1 small chicken broken up in pieces
  • 1 large onion cut in quarters
  • 2 carrots, sliced into thin rounds
  • 1 medium ripe tomato cut in half
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • Pinch of turmeric, for a little color

Directions

Add enough water to cover 4-5 inches above the ingredients and cook for about one and one half hours. Remove the chicken and vegetables separately and cool.

Puree the vegetables through a food mill or processor and add back to the stock.

Cool the chicken and use it for chicken salad. If you like you can add some of the chicken cut into pieces back into the soup.

For the meatballs:

  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoons fresh parsley
  • 1/3 cup Romano cheese
  • 1 large egg

In a mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients. Scoop out by tablespoons and form into small meatballs. Add them to the soup and simmer them for about 30 minutes.

To serve:

  • 2 tablespoons uncooked soup (small) pasta, per person, optional
  • Lots of freshly grated Romano cheese

Cook the pasta and distribute it between the bowls. Ladle in the soup and meatballs and serve with the cheese.

Serves 6-8

northeast5

Capellini Alla Positano from Philadelphia’s Bellini Grill

Philadelphia’s Italian American community is the second-largest in the United States. Named after its view of the Center City skyline, Bella Vista, Italian for “Beautiful View,” is one of Philadelphia’s oldest and authentic Italian neighborhoods. Bella Vista is home to many Italian-American treasures, such as the city’s first Italian American bathhouse, the Fante-Leone Pool, built in 1905 and the Philadelphia Ninth Street Italian Market, claimed to be the oldest open-air market still in operation in the country. More than 100 years old, the Italian Market was originally a business association of local vendors who banded together to compete with larger stores that were moving into the area. Today, the market houses an assortment of shops, bakeries and restaurants.

Makes  4 Servings

Ingredients

  • 5 oz uncooked Angel Hair Pasta
  • 4 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 teaspoon Chopped Fresh Chili
  • 3 Garlic Cloves; minced
  • 2 tablespoons Shallots; chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon Sea Salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper
  • 1/2 cup Fish Broth
  • 2 ups Dry White Wine
  • 3 cups Marinara Sauce (see recipe below)
  • 8 oz Lump Crab Meat
  • 1 bunch Fresh Basil; chopped
  • 2 cups Grape Tomatoes

Marinara Sauce

  • 24 oz Canned Tomato Sauce
  • 1/4 Yellow Onion, chopped
  • 1 ¼ teaspoon Olive Oil
  • 1 Garlic Clove; minced
  • 1/2 tablespoon Fresh Basil, chopped
  • Pinch Sea Salt
  • Pinch White Pepper

Directions

For the marinara sauce: sauté chopped onion in olive oil until translucent. Add tomato sauce and remaining ingredients. Simmer for 30 minutes; stirring occasionally.

For the pasta: Cook pasta according to directions on package.

Sauté shallots, chili and garlic in olive oil for 1 minute; season with salt and pepper. Add fish stock and white wine, cook until slightly reduced. Add marinara sauce, stirring until combined.

Gently fold in lump crab meat, fresh basil and tomatoes – cook for 5 minutes. Serve sauce over cooked pasta.

northeast2

Bakeries in New York’s Little Italy

Most of the Italian immigrants who made their home in America first landed in New York City. Many then traveled to other parts of the country; but by the early 1900’s, hundreds of thousands had settled in lower Manhattan, living in row houses and tenements in an area of about one square mile. For the unskilled, it was a hard life of cleaning city streets and ash barrels and, for the skilled, it was a hard life of working their trade in constructing buildings and roads. Others became fruit peddlers, bread bakers, shoemakers and tailors. Some opened grocery stores and restaurants or worked in factories. Most of the people who lived on Mulberry came from Naples; those from Elizabeth Street were from Sicily; Mott Street from Calabria; and most of the people north of Mott, came from Bari.

Sweets would have been a rare indulgence for most in the Old Country, however, in America they were a frequent treat. One of the earliest New York ice cream parlors to open, in the 1820s, was Palmo’s Garden, whose immigrant owner, Ferdinand Palmo, fitted it out with gilded columns, huge mirrors and an Italian band. In 1892, opera impresario Antonio Ferrara opened a confections parlor under his name on Grand Street, where he could entertain his musician friends. Veniero’s on East 11th Street began as a billiard parlor in 1894 that sold candy and coffee, eventually, evolving into an enormously successful pastry shop that created the cake for Franklin D. Roosevelt’s inauguration.

Arguably the most famous bakery and cafe in Little Italy is Ferrara, the two-floor dessert mecca with flashing lights and an outdoor summer-season gelato stand. Constantly packed with tourists and locals (on a recent Friday at 11 a.m., the takeout line was out the door), Ferrara has some of the most delicious cannoli this side of the Atlantic. Open since 1892, the cafe serves the dessert with a side of dark chocolate pieces and mixes small chocolate chips into the sweet ricotta-based filling.

northeast3

Ferrara’s Bakery Tiramisu

Enrico Scoppa and Antonio Ferrara, opera impresario and showman, opened the cafe in New York City called Caffé A. Ferrara. Enrico Caruso, the great opera singer, thought the coffee marvelous but loved the cookies and cakes.

Servings: 12

Ingredients

  • 1 box (7 oz.) Savoiardi or Lady Fingers
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 1/2 pint heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup strong warm coffee
  • 1/4 cup coffee liqueur

Directions

Arrange Savoiardi in rectangular serving dish, (approximately 11″ x 13″).

Lightly soak Savoiardi with a mixture of coffee and coffee liqueur.

While gradually adding sugar, beat egg yolks (approximately 5-10 minutes) until very stiff and egg yolks appear pale in color.

Beat heavy cream until very stiff and fold into egg yolks.

In a separate bowl, beat egg whites with a wire whisk or electric beater until very stiff and gently fold egg whites into the cream mixture. Add vanilla and fold gently.

Cover Savoiardi with this cream mixture. Cover with aluminum foil or plastic wrap.

Refrigerate at least one hour before serving. Sprinkle with cocoa or chocolate flakes before serving.

Tiramisu may be frozen and should be defrosted in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours before serving.

northeast4

Di Palo’s Ricotta Cheesecake

Di Palo’s in New York’s Little Italy is the iconic Italian deli, the stuff of dreams for anybody who cooks Italian. Lou Di Palo, whose family has owned the store for 104 years, is still working behind the counter. He is the great-grandson of the founder, is the fourth generation, along with his brother, Sal and his sister, Marie. When you stop in, you’ll almost always find two or more of them there, offering tastes of cheeses, slicing speck or prosciutto or dishing out orders of Eggplant Parmigiana. They make their own ricotta and mozzarella and have for decades.

Lou Di Palo shared his grandmother’s recipe for a true Italian-style cheesecake.

Serves 12

Ingredients

  • Unsalted butter, for greasing
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup crushed Zwieback cookies or graham crackers, plus extra for garnish
  • 3 pounds fresh ricotta
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 teaspoons orange-blossom water
  • 3/4 cup cream

Directions

Butter a 9-inch springform pan and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix 1/2 cup sugar and the crushed cookies in a small bowl and evenly coat the bottom and sides of the buttered pan with the mixture.

In a large bowl, mix 1 1/2 cups sugar and the ricotta, eggs, vanilla, orange-blossom water and the cream. Pour into the cookie-coated pan.

Sprinkle the top with additional crushed cookies and place the springform pan on the center oven rack on a cookie sheet to catch any leaks.

Bake for 1 hour or until the center no longer jiggles; it may crack slightly. Let cool, remove from pan and serve at room temperature.

McClatchy-Tribune

Cassateddi Di Ricotta (Ricotta Turnovers)

This traditional Sicilian recipe for sweet ricotta turnovers is adapted from “The Little Italy Cookbook: Recipes from North America’s Italian Communities” (out of print) by Maria Pace and Louisa Scaini-Jojic. The authors suggest using a pasta machine to get the dough thin enough to make the pastries.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ricotta, drained, see note at the bottom
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 4 eggs plus 1 egg white
  • 1/4 cup shortening, melted
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • Oil for deep frying (about 2 cups)
  • Confectioners’ sugar

Directions

For the filling, combine the ricotta, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and egg white in a large bowl; set aside.

Combine the 4 eggs, melted shortening, remaining 2 tablespoons granulated sugar and milk in a small bowl.

Mound 3 1/2 cups flour on a board; make a well. Pour the egg mixture into the well; sprinkle on the baking powder. Use a fork to incorporate the liquid into the flour to form a dough; add a little more milk, if needed. Knead briefly until the dough is smooth. (Add flour, if needed.)

Divide the dough into four pieces. Take one of the pieces and flatten; dust with flour and roll until it is 1/16th-inch thick and shaped into a 4-inch-wide rectangle.

Place 1 rounded teaspoon of filling along one side of the dough at 3 1/2-inch intervals. Fold the top half of the strip over the filling and press edges together to enclose completely.

Cut with a pastry cutter or knife into individual squares or half moons. Lay each piece on a lightly floured baking sheet; repeat with remaining pieces and filling.

Heat the oil in a deep skillet. Fry several turnovers at a time until golden. Remove with a slotted spoon; drain on a rack placed over paper towels. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar.

Draining ricotta: Place ricotta in a wire sieve in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight to remove excess water. For faster results, cover the ricotta with a small plate that fits in the sieve and weight that with a heavy can. If you can, use fresh whole milk ricotta from a specialty market for the richest flavor.


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I recently read the article, “Parmigiana Dishes to Warm Weary Souls” in the New York Times that got me to thinking about how many different kinds of Parmigiana exists in our cuisine.

Parmigiana or parmesan, also parmigiana di melanzane or melanzane alla parmigiana is an Italian dish made with a fried, sliced filling, layered with cheese and tomato sauce, then baked. Parmigiana made with a filling of eggplant (also called aubergine) is the earliest and still unique Italian version. Other variations may include chicken, veal, or another type of meat cutlet or vegetable filling. The origin of the dish is unclear; it is claimed by both the Southern regions of Campania and Sicily and by the Northern province of Parma.

While the true meaning of the word Parmigiana is “in the style of Parma,” the term often gets confused with the cheese that we know—Parmigiano-Reggiano; however, there is no correlation. Though Eggplant Parmesan began in Italy—Northern or Southern—this dish is not commonly found in current Italian cuisine; the concept of Parmigiana, in this sense (breaded veggies or protein baked with layers of cheese and sauce), is considered more of an Italian American classic. But Eggplant Parmesan was just the beginning for the U.S. Since its first appearance “parms” have shown up on every menu, involving such ingredients as: chicken breasts, veal cutlets, zucchini and even, pork.

The dish consists of sliced ingredients, pan-fried in oil, layered with tomato sauce and cheese and baked in an oven. In some versions, the sliced filling is first dipped in beaten eggs and dredged in flour or bread crumbs before frying. Some recipes use hard grated cheeses such as Parmigiano, while others use softer melting cheeses like mozzarella, or a combination of these.

Variations made with breaded meat cutlets, such as veal and chicken, have been popularized in other countries, usually in areas of Italian immigration. In the United States and Canada, veal parmigiana or chicken parmigiana is often served as an entrée and, sometimes, is served as a submarine sandwich. It is also popular with a side of or on top of pasta. Diced onions or green bell peppers are sometimes added. The veal dish is known in Italian as Cotolette alla Bolognese.

Veal or chicken parmigiana is a common dish in Australia and Argentina and in both countries often served with a side of chips or a salad. In Australia, it may also contain a variety of toppings, including sliced ham or fried eggplant (aubergine) slices. This dish is often referred to as a parmy or parma. In Argentina and in other neighboring South American countries, veal or chicken parmigiana is topped with ham and served with french fries. It is known as milanesa a la napolitana. If the dish is topped with a fried egg, then it is known as a súper milanesa or suprema napolitana. The origin of the dish was the Napoli restaurant in Buenos Aires during the 1940s. A similar dish, the parmo, which uses either pork or chicken, is found in England.

To make any “parm” dish well, you need a good marinara sauce. I have included the recipe in this post along with some of my family’s favorite parm dishes.

Homemade Marinara Sauce

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (28-ounce) can Italian Crushed Tomatoes
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 large basil leaves

Directions

In a large saucepan, sauté the onion in olive oil, until soft and translucent, on medium to low heat. Add garlic and sauté until golden, careful not to overcook.

Add tomatoes, oregano and crushed red pepper to the saucepan and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat and cover with a lid. Cook for about 20 minutes on medium heat. Stir in parsley. Salt and pepper to taste. Cook for another 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and mix in the fresh basil.

Makes about 3 1/2 cups of sauce.

_eggplant-parmigiana_s4x3.jpg.rend.sni12col.landscape

 

Eggplant Parmesan

This is not a dish that can be prepared quickly, but with some of my make ahead tips, you can enjoy this entrée for dinner and have several leftovers for future use without spending all day in the kitchen. Eggplant freezes very well in all stages of its preparation. Additionally, I do not fry the eggplant, but bake it in the oven to reduce the calories.

First Stage

I usually prepare 4-1 pound eggplants at once and freeze them, individually, for future use.

For each one pound of eggplant, you will need:

  • 1 pound eggplant, peeled
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup egg substitute (such as Egg Beaters) or egg whites
  • 1 cup Italian style bread crumbs
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat two large baking sheets with nonstick olive oil cooking spray.

Cut peeled eggplants crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices (no thicker).  You want them to be thin.

Place the egg substitute in one shallow dish and the bread crumbs mixed with the cheese in another.

Dip the eggplant slices into the egg substitute, then coat with the breadcrumb mixture. Arrange the eggplant slices in a single layer on the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 15 minutes, turn the eggplant slices over, and bake until crisp and golden, about 10-15 minutes longer.

If you are not going to assemble the eggplant dish at this time, wrap each batch of eggplant in aluminum foil with foil sheets between the layers and place it in a ziplock freezer bag.  Store in the freezer until you need it. Defrost a package overnight in the refrigerator, when you want to make the casserole.

Second Stage

To assemble the casserole, you will need:

Spray an  8 inch or 9 inch or 8-by-11 1/2-inch baking dish with olive oil cooking spray.

Preheat the oven to 375 °F.

  • 2 ½ cups Marinara sauce (see recipe above)
  • 1-8 ounce package shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 package of breaded and baked eggplant

Directions

Spread 1/2 cup of the sauce in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Arrange half of the eggplant slices over the sauce, overlapping slightly. Spoon 1 cup of the remaining sauce over the eggplant and sprinkle with half of the package of cheese. Add a layer of the remaining eggplant slices and top with the remaining sauce and cheese. Cover the dish with foil and bake until the sauce bubbles, about 25 to 30 minutes.

parm1

Chicken or Veal or Fish Parmigiana

Ingredients

  • 2 cups plain bread crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, minced
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 eggs, beaten lightly or egg whites or egg substitute
  • 2 chicken breasts, halved or about 1 pound veal cutlets or firm white fish fillets
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cups Homemade Marinara, recipe above
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 4-8 slices of mozzarella cheese

Directions

Combine bread crumbs, parsley, 1/2 cup of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, a pinch of salt and pepper to taste. Place bread crumb mixture, flour and eggs in three separate dishes. First, dredge chicken breast halves (or veal/fish cutlets) in flour, making sure to shake off any excess. Dip in beaten eggs and, like the flour, making sure to let any excess drip off. Finally, dredge in breadcrumb mixture to coat well. Allow breaded cutlets to rest for a few minutes on a plate before frying.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Fry chicken or veal until golden. Be sure to turn for even cooking, about 4-5 minutes per side. Remove from hot oil and onto a baking sheet lined with paper towels.

To bake, preheat oven to 375˚F. Spread about 1 cup of Marinara sauce in the bottom of a 9 by 13-inch casserole dish. Arrange a layer of breaded cutlets on top of the sauce. Top with 1 cup of Marinara, covering each piece. Sprinkle with Parmigiano. Place 1 to 2 slices of mozzarella on each cutlet.

Cover dish with foil and bake, 15 to 20 minutes, or until bubbling. Uncover, then bake to fully melt cheese for another 5 minutes.

Serves 4

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Shrimp  Parmigiana

For 2 servings you will need the following:

Ingredients

  • 12 large shrimp (16-20 per pound), peeled and deveined
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup egg substitute
  • 1/3 cup Italian Style Panko Bread Crumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup homemade marinara sauce, warmed
  • 1 cup (4 oz) shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 450°F. Spray a baking dish that fits the portion of shrimp you are making with cooking spray.

Place the egg beaters in a shallow bowl and the Panko bread crumbs mixed with the Parmigiano cheese in another.

Wash and dry the shrimp. Season shrimp with salt and pepper. Put the shrimp in the bowl with the egg beaters to coat and then into the breadcrumb mixture. Place in the baking dish.

The shrimp can be prepared ahead up to this point.  Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to bake.

Drizzle the top of the shrimp with the olive oil and bake on the middle oven rack for 10 minutes. Turn shrimp over then cook another 5  minutes.  Pour sauce evenly over the shrimp and then sprinkle with shredded mozzarella cheese. Return to the oven and heat just until the cheese melts.

football5

Meatball Parmesan Subs

These are especially popular with children for a birthday party.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 1/4 lbs lean ground beef or turkey
  • 1/4 cup dried Italian-style bread crumbs
  • 1 egg or 1/4 cup refrigerated egg substitute
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 bunch of parsley leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 recipe Marinara sauce, recipe above
  • 12 small hoagie buns or firm hot dog rolls, split and warmed
  • 12 slices (one ounce each) mozzarella cheese, cut in half

Directions

Heat the oil in a small frying pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and cook for five minutes, or until softened. Add the garlic and spices and cook for a further two minutes. Remove from the heat, pour into a bowl and cool to room temperature.

Once the onion mixture has cooled, add the beef or turkey, bread crumbs, egg, salt and parsley and mix thoroughly. Using wet hands, shape tablespoons of the meatball mixture into 1 ½ inch balls and then transfer to a baking pan sprayed with olive oil cooking spray.

Preheat the oven to 400 degree F. Bake the meatballs in the oven for 20 minutes, until cooked through and golden brown. Turn over halfway through baking.

Add the baked meatballs to the marinara sauce and heat.

To make the sandwiches:

Spoon the hot meatballs with some sauce over the bottoms of the rolls. Place a slice of mozzarella, cut in half, over the meatballs. Spread a little more sauce over the meatballs, then fold the tops of the rolls over and serve.

The sandwiches can be assembled and wrapped individually in foil. Rewarm the sandwiches in the oven at 350 degrees F for about 15 minutes before serving.

parm3

Cauliflower Parmesan

The New York Times article contained a recipe for Cauliflower Parmesan and it inspired me to create this healthy version. I made this dish over the Christmas holidays for family and they loved it.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups homemade  marinara sauce, recipe above
  • 1 head of fresh cauliflower, cut into florets
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 cup Italian flavored bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1 ½ cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions

Heat a large, deep oven proof skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to the  pan and heat. Add onion; sauté 4 minutes. Add garlic; sauté for 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Stir in sauce and cauliflower and cook until cauliflower is just tender.

Preheat the broiler

Mix the bread crumbs with the Parmigiano cheese. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the cauliflower. Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese over the bread crumbs and broil until the cheese melts..

 


umbriacover

In this series on Italian regional cooking, I have been working my way around the Italian peninsula. The series started with the northern regions and now it is moving into the central areas. Todays post is on Umbria, the only Italian region having neither a coastline nor a border with another country. The region is mostly mountainous and hilly and presents a landscape rich in forests, water resources and valleys. Lake Trasimeno is located here.

In literature, Umbria is referred to as il cuore verde d’Italia (the green heart of Italy). The phrase is taken from the poem, Barbarian Odes,  by Giosuè Carducci, an italian Nobel prize-winning poet.  The poem is one most familiar to Italian school children and is entitled “Le fonti del Clitumno” (“The Head-waters of the Clitumnus”), a description of that spot in the hills of Umbria where the Clitunno River had its beginning. Carducci wrote the ode between July and October 1876. It is generally considered one of Carducci’s best poems combining pastoral beauty with nostalgia for the glories of ancient Italy.

The flocks still come down to you, o Clitumnus, from the far mountains that move with the murmur of breeze-swept ash groves and fresh scent of sage and thyme in the damps of evening.

The young Umbrian shepherd immerses his reluctant sheep in your waters.

By a farmhouse a barefoot mother sits and sings, nursing her child, who looks to the shepherd and smiles.

The pensive father with goatish hair, at his painted cart, turns on his hips like the beasts of old, with the strength of a young bull, like those square of breast, erect and crowned by crescent horns, sweet in their eyes and snow-white, much beloved by gentle Virgil.

The darkening clouds hang like smoke on the Apennines: grand, austere and green from the spreading mountains, Umbria watches. Hail, green Umbria, and you the fount of god Clitumnus.

I feel in my heart the ancient home, my fevered brow touched by the olden gods of Italy.

English Translation

The region is named for the Umbri tribe, one of the many tribes who were absorbed by the expansion of the Romans. The Umbri probably sprang from neighboring tribes in northern and central Italy, at the beginning of the Bronze Age. The Etruscans were the chief enemies of the Umbri. The Etruscan invasion came from the western coast towards the north and east, eventually driving the Umbrians inland. Nevertheless, the Umbrian population does not seem to have been eradicated by the conquerors. After the downfall of the Etruscans, Umbrians aided the Samnites in their struggle against Rome (308 BC). However, the Romans defeated the Samnites and their allies. The Roman victory started a period of integration under the Roman rulers, who established colonies in the region.

Perugia, the Capital

Perugia, the Capital

The modern region of Umbria is different from the Umbria of Roman times. Roman Umbria extended through most of what is now the northern Marche region. After the collapse of the Roman empire, Ostrogoths and Byzantines struggled for supremacy in the region. The Lombards founded the duchy of Spoleto, covering much of today’s Umbria and when Charlemagne conquered the Lombard region, some Umbrian territories were given to the Pope. After the French Revolution and the French conquest of Italy, Umbria became part of the Roman Republic (1798–1799) and later, part of the Napoleonic Empire. After Napoleon’s defeat, the Pope regained Umbria and ruled it until 1860.

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Following Italian unification in 1861, Umbria was incorporated into the Kingdom of Italy. The present borders of Umbria were fixed in 1927 and in 1946 Umbria became part of the Italian Republic.

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The charm of Umbria derives from its fusion of art, nature, peacefulness and the inspirations behind its artistic masterpieces and small Medieval towns. Umbrians have a deep appreciation of art and, throughout history, the region has produced its share of talented artists. In the 15th and 16th centuries, Umbria was home to a well-respected art school (known as the “Umbrian School”) that taught venerated artists such as Raphael, della Francesca and Perugino. Old paintings and frescos can still be found all over Umbria, not just in famous museums (such as the National Gallery of Umbria in Perugia) but on the walls of tiny churches in the quiet hilltop towns. Romanesque architecture thrived in this region at the beginning of the twelfth century and some beautiful examples that have survived the years are the Cathedrals of Spoleto and Assisi, St. Silvestro and St. Michele in Bevagna. The Gothic styles are also present in almost every city. The Renaissance movement can be seen in the region’s magnificent monuments.

Roman Theater

Roman Theater

When it comes to music, Umbria steps away from its traditions and embraces contemporary music. Each July, the region hosts the Umbria Jazz Festival, one of the most renowned international music festivals in the world. Famed musicians such as Miles Davis, Wynton Marsalis and Dizzy Gillespie have played at the festival and every year it attracts new talented artists.

The food industry in Umbria produces processed pork-meats, pasta, lentils, truffles and cheese. The other main industries are textiles, clothing, sportswear, iron and steel, chemicals and ornamental ceramics. Umbrian agriculture is noted for its tobacco, olive oil and vineyards that produce fine wines. Regional varietals include white Orvieto, Torgiano and Rosso di Montefalco. Another typical Umbrian product is the black truffle found in Valnerina, an area that produces 45% of this product for Italy.

umbrianporchetta

The most renowned Umbrian pork comes from the black pigs of Norcia, an ancient town in southeast Umbria. Norcia has been the center of sausage-making and other pork dishes for so many centuries that pork butcher shops in Umbria are called “Norcineria.” Traditional Umbrian pork dishes include salame mazzafegati (a pork liver sausage made with orange peel, pine nuts and raisins) and porchetta, an herb-stuffed pork roast.

Greens are a very popular vegetable found across Umbria and commonly include rapini (broccoli rabe), bietola (swiss chard) and chicoria (chicory). Greens are usually blanched, drained and sautéed with olive oil, chili pepper and garlic. These sautéed greens are then enjoyed as a vegetable side dish or are used as fillings in sandwiches, to top pizza, stirred into eggs or tossed with pasta. Rustic tortas are made with blanched greens and eggs, flavored with onions, pancetta and garlic. The tiny lentils from the Umbrian town of Castelluccio are prized across Italy for their earthy, sweet taste and their ability to maintain their shape even after long simmering.

umbrianlentils

Umbrians are masters at grilling and it is not uncommon to find indoor grills in their kitchens. Bakers in Umbria use wood ovens to make giant saltless loaves of pane casereccio. Pecorino or pork rind flavored breads are made from an egg enriched wheat flour dough.  Pan nociato are sweet rolls with pecorino, walnuts and grapes flavored with cloves.  A similar bun, called pan pepato, is filled with almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts with raisins and candied fruit.  Other desserts include torcolo, a sponge cake brimming with raisins and candied fruit, or ciaramicola.  This meringue covered round cake is made with a rich egg batter flavored with lemon rind and a spicy liqueur called Alchermes.

Regional Cuisine

umbriatrufflefestival

Truffle Festival

Insalata Di Farro (Farro Salad)

umbriafarro

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 medium shallots, minced or 1/4 clove garlic and 1/4 medium red onion, minced
  • 2 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar or 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard or 1/2 teaspoon minced anchovy or both
  • 1 tablespoon minced capers or finely chopped, pitted black olives
  • 1 cup (total) chopped fresh parsley, chives, thyme or basil (or any combination)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 quarts chicken stock
  • 2 cups farro
  • 1 bell pepper, finely chopped 
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped
  • 1/2 cup grated ricotta salata or other firm or semi-firm cheese
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Squeeze of lemon juice

Directions

Combine shallots, olive oil, vinegar, mustard, capers and herbs in a bowl.

In a large saucepan, bring  chicken stock to a boil.

Add the farro to the stock, lower heat to a strong simmer and cook for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the farro is tender but somewhat chewy.

Drain and let cool until no more than warm.

Add cooked farro to the ingredients in the bowl and mix. Add vegetables, tomato and cheese and mix.

Salt and pepper to taste. Add more olive oil to taste. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and serve at room temperature.

White Lasagna with Besciamella (Lasagna in Bianco )

umbria2

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup minced shallots (about 6)
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 3 3/4 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup dry Marsala wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 pound grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1 cup), divided
  • 12 (7 by 3 inch) no-boil lasagna sheets

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.

Cook shallots in butter in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 4 minutes. Add flour and cook over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, 3 minutes. Add nutmeg, then slowly whisk in milk and stock. Bring to a boil, whisking, then simmer, stirring occasionally, just until sauce lightly coats the back of a spoon, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and cool to warm, stirring occasionally. Stir in eggs, Marsala, sea salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 1/2 cup cheese.

Spread about 1 1/4 cups sauce over the bottom of an 11 by 8 inch baking dish. Cover with a layer of 3 lasagna sheets. Repeat layering 3 more times, then top with remaining sauce and remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Bake, uncovered, until browned, 45 to 55 minutes.

Umbrian Mixed  Grill

umbria6

This dish is often served with the region’s classic lentils.

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1 pound boneless pork loin
  • 1 pound boneless beef loin
  • 1 pound skinless boneless chicken breasts
  • 1 pound sweet or hot Italian sausage, cut into chunks
  • 4 thick slices pancetta or prosciutto, cut in 1-inch squares
  • Coarse salt to taste
  • Coarsely ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh sage
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 medium bell peppers, seeded and cut into 2-inch squares
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • Small bunch of fresh sage, leaves only
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

Directions

Cut the meat, sausage and chicken into 1-inch cubes. Season the pork with coarse salt and pepper and rub with the garlic; season the beef  with salt and pepper and sprinkle with the sage; season the chicken with salt and pepper and sprinkle with the rosemary. Set aside.

In a skillet, heat the olive oil and sauté the peppers until just crisp-tender. Add the wine and cook until the liquid is reduced by about half.

Thread the skewers in this order: Pork, bell pepper, chicken, pancetta, sage leaf, beef, bell pepper and sausage. Do not crowd the pieces. Place the skewers in a nonmetal dish large enough to hold them in a single layer and drizzle the lemon juice and olive oil over them. Let them marinate for several hours in the refrigerator, basting and turning them often.

Heat the grill and lightly oil the grill rack. Remove the skewers from the marinade, place them on the grill, and baste with the marinade. Grill, turning and basting the skewers, until done to taste, about 8 to 12 minutes.

Apricots with Amaretto Syrup

umbria3

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 10 firm-ripe large apricots
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2/3 cup Amaretto liqueur
  • 6 amaretti (Italian almond macaroons; if paper-wrapped, use 3 packets), crumbled (1/3 cup)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped pine nuts for sprinkling

Directions

Peel apricots with a vegetable peeler, then halve and pit. Finely chop 2 halves and set aside.

Heat butter in a 12-inch heavy nonstick skillet over medium heat until foam subsides, then cook sugar, stirring constantly, until golden brown. Stir in Amaretto (be careful; syrup will spatter) and simmer, stirring, 2 minutes.

Working in 2 batches, poach apricot halves in syrup at a low simmer, turning, until almost tender, 5 to 10 minutes per batch. Using a slotted spoon, transfer apricots, hollow sides up, to a platter.

Add crumbled amaretti to syrup and cook over low heat, crushing cookies with back of a wooden spoon, until melted into a coarse purée.

Stir in reserved chopped apricot and gently simmer, stirring, until syrup is deep brown and slightly thickened. Cool syrup slightly.

Spoon syrup over apricots and sprinkle with pine nuts. Serve warm or at room temperature.

 

 



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Lover of cooking ~ Wanting to share my adventures in the kitchen!

Il mondo di Macdelice

Il blog rosa di Maria Cavallaro

Good Food Everyday

From the heart of the Mediterranean ....

Culinary Adventures of The Twisted Chef T

Recipes from My Kitchen to Yours!

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no, not just bread: crafting edible creations as a way to feed the spirit, body, friends and family <3

healthy.yogi.mama

Fitness, recipes and babies in NYC

The Good, the Bad and the Italian

food/films/families and more

SOLE Food Kitchen

SUSTAINABLE. ORGANIC. LOCAL. ETHICAL. THAT'S HOW WE ROLL.

vinicooksveg

Amazing & fun.........Indian cooking!!

LOVE-the secret ingredient

Like to cook? Like to eat? Be a part of the conversation.

Chocolate Spoon & The Camera

A clumsy newbie in the kitchen. Una principiante ai fornelli.

An eye for food

Food is to be admired as well as desired. It should speak to you visually and make you want to taste it!

mycookinglifebypatty

Adventures in Healthy Living

Things My Belly Likes

Where eating to live and living to eat are not mutually exclusive

Our Growing Paynes

A journey about gardening, cooking, and knitting.

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musings of a baking fiend

thewhitedish

Just another WordPress.com site

on the road with Animalcouriers

pet transport through Europe and beyond

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recipes worth sharing

charuyoga

vibrant inspiring nourishing yoga

pattytmitchell

site for Patricia Mitchell, author

Something Sweet Something Savoury

Family friendly recipes from a chaotic kitchen

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