Risotto is a hearty, warming rice dish, rich in flavor, of which any of a hundred different ingredients can be added to it. Risotto is not only versatile, but easy to make.
Rice was first introduced into Italy and Spain by the Arabs during the Middle Ages. The humidity of the Mediterranean was found to be perfect for growing shorter-grained rice. The popularity of rice grew throughout Italy and then the outside world discovered it.
It was in Milan where the rice met its future destiny. Milan had been under Spanish rule for almost two centuries where rice was a staple. The technique for making risotto probably evolved from trying to cook the rice as porridge—boiling it in milk, water or broth until soft. A fourteenth-century manuscript known as the “Libro per cuoco” by an anonymous Venetian contains the recipe, “rixo in bona manera” or rice cooked in sweet milk.
Antonio Nebbia in “Cuoco Maceratese” introduces a revolutionary method where he suggests letting the rice soak in cold water for two hours, then frying the rice in a little butter and adding cabbage broth.
A more complete preparation appears in the early 19th century, in the anonymous “Cuoco Moderno”, printed in Milan in 1809, where the recipe “Yellow Rice in a Pan” says to cook the rice in a sauté of butter, cervellata (an Italian pork sausage), marrow, onion and gradually adding hot broth in whicj saffron had been dissolved.
And finally” the” classic recipe as described by Felice Luraschi, a celebrated chef from Milan, in his “Nuovo cuoco milanese economico” manuscript of 1829, a recipe titled “Risotto alla Milanese”.
Today the dish is served extensively, almost unchanged, in the kitchens and restaurants of the world. Ingredients as varied as scallops, lobster, truffles, veal, mushrooms, squid ink, snails, asparagus, duck, sausage, pumpkin and almost anything else you can think of are paired with this classic dish.
All rice is a member of the grass family. What makes Risotto special is it’s high amount of starch. This starch is what makes Risotto “creamy” without any cream. Risotto rice is a round medium- or short- grain white rice with the ability to absorb liquids and to release starch, so they are stickier than the long grain varieties. The principal varieties used in Italy are Arborio, Baldo, Carnaroli, Maratelli, Padano, Roma and Vialone Nano. They all have slightly different properties. For example, Carnaroli is less likely than Vialone Nano to get overcooked, but the latter, being smaller, cooks faster and absorbs condiments better. Other varieties like Roma, Baldo, Ribe and Originario may be used but will not have the creaminess of the traditional dish. These varieties are considered better for soups and other non-risotto rice dishes and for making sweet rice desserts. Rice designations of Superfino, Semifino and Fino refer to the size and shape (specifically the length and the narrowness) of the grains, and not the quality.
Basic Technique for Making Risotto
Risotto recipes recommended not washing the rice prior to cooking as that will make it lose its starch which is an essential ingredient of the dish. The rice and vegetables are toasted lightly in butter. Herbs, spices and a little wine are added. The rice is cooked gradually over a low flame and broth is added to the rice and stirred until absorbed. More broth is added in several steps until the rice is tender.
Popular Italian Risottos
• Risotto alla Milanese – is cooked in beef stock and beef bone marrow with lard in Italy. Cheese and saffron are added. This dish is popularly served with osso buco (a dish consisting of braised veal shanks).
• Risotto al barolo – is made with borlotti beans and sausage meat and is cooked with red wine.
• Risotto al nero de seppia (black risotto) – is a specialty from Veneto and is made with cuttlefish.
This is probably the best tasting risotto I have ever made, with much of the credit going to the Meyer lemons from my tree. You may recall that we planted the tree last April and it has rewarded us with about 20 large lemons in its first year.
Meyer Lemon Risotto with Basil and Grilled Shrimp
- 6 cups chicken stock or canned low-sodium broth
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1 celery rib, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 1/2 cups arborio rice (10 ounces)
- 1/2 cup white vermouth or dry white wine
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
- 1 tablespoon finely grated Meyer lemon zest
- 2 tablespoons fresh Meyer lemon juice
- 1/4 cup julienned basil leaves
- 18 large shrimp, shelled and deveined
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- A pinch of kosher salt or to taste
- 2 tablespoons julienned basil leaves
For the risotto:
Bring the stock to a boil in a medium saucepan, cover and keep hot. Melt the butter in a second large saucepan. Add the onion and celery. Season with salt and pepper and cook over low heat, stirring, until softened, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the rice and cook, stirring until glossy, about 1 minute.
Add the wine to the rice and simmer over moderate heat until almost absorbed, about 3 minutes. Add the hot stock, 1 cup at a time, and cook, stirring constantly between additions, until most of the stock has been absorbed before adding more. The rice is done when it’s tender and most of the liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes total. The best way to see if the rice is cooked, is to taste it. Risotto should be creamy and thick. It’s best al dente, which means it should be fully cooked, yet still retain some firmness when you chew it. If it is mushy, it has cooked too long.
Stir in the Parmesan cheese, the lemon zest and juice, the salt and pepper and the basil. Mix well but gently.
For the grilled shrimp:
Mix the shrimp with the remaining ingredients in a mixing bowl. Refrigerate until cooking time.
Heat a stovetop grill until very hot. Place the shrimp on the grill and cook for about 3 minutes on each side.
Spoon the risotto into individual bowls, top each with grilled shrimp and serve, passing additional Parmesan at the table.
The following are some of the favorite side dishes my family has come to enjoy on Thanksgiving. I don’t make all these dishes at one time but tend to rotate them each year to keep things interesting.
Italian Bread & Sausage Stuffing
Yields enough to fill a 12- to 14- pound turkey and a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.
- 14 cups Italian bread, like ciabatta, cut into 1/2- to 3/4-inch cubes (about 3 loaves)
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 2 lb sweet Italian fennel sausage (casings removed)
- 2 large yellow onions, cut into 1/4-inch dice
- 5 large ribs celery, cut into 1/4-inch dice
- 8 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (or 1-1/2 teaspoons dried)
- 1 tablespoons dried sage
- 1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup chicken broth, plus extra for the baking dish
Pile the bread cubes into a very large bowl and set aside. Place a large sauté pan over medium heat and add the olive oil and sausage. Cook, breaking up the sausage with a wooden spoon or spatula into 1-inch pieces, until light brown, about 5 minutes With a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage to the bowl with the cubed bread.
In the fat left in the pan, sauté the onions, celery and garlic until the onions are translucent and just beginning to brown, 8 to 10 minutes Stir in the thyme, sage, salt and pepper, cook 1 minute and then add the mixture to the cubed bread. Add the broth to the bread mixture; stir until well combined.
Put some of the stuffing in the turkey just before roasting. Pack the stuffing loosely, leaving enough room to fit your whole extended hand into the bird’s cavity. Cook the stuffing in the turkey in a 325 degree F oven to 165ºF, checking with an instant-read thermometer.
Place the remaining stuffing in a casserole dish or large baking pan, pour a cup or two of extra stock over the stuffing to replace the juices the stuffing would have absorbed from the turkey. Bake it covered until heated through, 45 minutes to 1 hour. For a crunchy top, uncover it for the last 15 minutes of baking.
Makes 6 servings
- 3 acorn squash, each about one pound
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 cups finely chopped onions
- 1/4 cup fresh sage, minced, plus more for garnish
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
- 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 3/4 teaspoon ground pepper
- 1 cup fine to medium ground polenta or cornmeal
- 3 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
- 6 ounces Italian fontina cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Using a sharp knife cut the squash in half; discard the seeds. Place squash cut side up in two 13-in. x 9-in. baking dishes coated with cooking spray. Rub the flesh and skin of each squash with 1 tablespoon oil. Scatter garlic inside.
Roast the squash in a baking pan until the flesh is tender but the sides are not yet collapsing, about 25 – 30 minutes.
Heat butter and the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions, the sage and thyme; cook, stirring often, until the onions are just starting to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add polenta or cornmeal, then whisk in broth. Bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer, whisking frequently, until the polenta is tender, 10 to 15 minutes.
When cool enough to handle, scrape about 1 cup of flesh out of each squash, leaving a layer in the shell so it retains its shape. Mash the flesh into a coarse puree and add to the polenta along with the Fontina cheese; stir well. Spoon into the squash shells. Sprinkle the top of each with the Parmesan cheese.
Bake the stuffed squash until the cheese is melted and the polenta is steaming hot, about 20 minutes. Serve garnished with additional sage, if desired.
- 6 medium tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Cut a thin slice off the top of each tomato. Scoop out the pulp, leaving a 1/2-inch thick shell. Invert tomatoes onto paper towels to drain.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet. Add spinach and garlic; cook until tender, about 3-4 minutes.
In a bowl, combine bread crumbs and Italian seasoning. Add the spinach and cheese to the crumb mixture. Sprinkle tomato shells with salt and pepper and stuff with the spinach mixture. Place in a greased 13-inch x 9-inch baking dish. Bake, uncovered, at 375° F for 20-25 minutes.
Italian Baked Macaroni and Cheese
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 pound small shell macaroni
- 1 cup half and half
- 2 cups shredded Italian Fontina cheese
- Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/3 cup plain bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Bring 4 quarts water to a boil in a large pot for cooking the pasta. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Coat a 13×9 baking dish with cooking spray; set aside.
Dice the butter and place in a large bowl. Warm the half & half in the microwave, about 1 minute. Cover to keep warm. Shred the Fontina cheese and add to the bowl with the butter. Set aside.
When the water comes to a boil, add salt and the shells and cook until they are 1 to 2 minutes shy of al dente. Drain.
Add the warm half & half to the Fontina and butter. Stir until the cheese starts to melt. Season with salt to taste and the nutmeg.
Stir the shells into the bowl with the cheese. Toss to coat well. Pour the mixture into the baking dish.
Combine the bread crumbs and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese; sprinkle over the pasta.
Bake until the sauce is bubbling and the topping turns golden brown, about 20 minutes. Serve immediately.
Glazed Cipollini Onions
Cipollini means little onion in Italian.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 16 cipollini onions, trimmed and peeled
- Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Heat olive oil in a medium ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add onions, stem side down, and cook, until lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn and continue browning on opposite side, about 2 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper.
Add vinegar and honey; cook, until slightly syrupy, about 2 minutes. Add chicken broth, thyme, and garlic; bring to a boil. Transfer skillet to oven and roast until onions are easily pierced with the tip of a sharp knife, 15 to 20 minutes.
Olive Oil and Spinach Mashed Potatoes
- 2 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
- 1 package frozen spinach, defrosted
- Salt and pepper
- 1/2 cup milk
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
- 1 rosemary sprig, leaves removed and chopped
- 1 thyme sprig, leaves removed and chopped
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
In a large saucepan, cover potatoes with cold water by 2 inches and add 1 tablespoon coarse salt and the garlic cloves. Bring to a boil; cook until the potatoes are very tender and easily pierced with a fork, 20 to 25 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup potato cooking water. Drain; transfer to a large bowl.
Heat together the milk, spinach, chopped rosemary leaves and chopped thyme leaves then remove from the heat, cover and set aside to infuse flavors.
Using a potato masher, mash the potatoes with the olive oil and some of the reserved cooking water as needed to moisten. Add the milk and spinach mixture. Stir until well combined and season with salt and pepper.
A potluck dinner is a gathering of people where each person in the group contributes a dish of prepared food to be shared among everyone in the group. Presentation is key, so think about how you’re going to serve it. Don’t cook anything that spoils when made in advance or where cooking times are vital.
The main thing to consider about a potluck dish is that the food is:
- Easy to transport.
- Easy to make.
- Ok to eat warm or at room temperature, unless there are hot plates or refrigeration available.
- Group-friendly; no super spicy dishes or ingredients that have a high allergy risk.
- Good even if not fresh. For example, a dressed Caesar salad will end up soggy and limp after a half hour.
I belong to a community group and we meet every month for a potluck dinner. Pasta dishes are popular with our group and here are some of the favorites.
- 2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 lbs ground turkey or beef
- 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
- Two 28-oz can whole tomatoes in juice
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 16-20 dried lasagna noodles
- Two 10-oz box frozen chopped spinach, thawed
- Two 15-oz container ricotta cheese
- 2 eggs
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium. Add onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook another minute.
Turn heat to medium-high and add ground meat, breaking it up with a spatula until the meat shows no sign of pink. Stir in the Italian seasoning, then add tomatoes and salt.
Reduce heat to medium-low, stir, cover and let simmer for 20 minutes, occasionally stirring and breaking up tomatoes with a wooden spoon.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil. Cook pasta according to package directions, drain, rinse and allow to cool in a colander.
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Squeeze all remaining moisture from thawed spinach and place in large bowl. Add ricotta cheese, eggs and a 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese to the bowl. Stir until combined
Spread 2 cups of tomato sauce in the bottom of a large baking dish. Lay a cooked lasagna noodle flat in front of you. Spread a tablespoon of ricotta mixture across the noodle and roll it up. Place the rolled pasta seam side down in the baking dish. Repeat with remaining noodles. Spread remaining tomato sauce over roll-ups, then top with remaining mozzarella cheese.
Bake, covered with foil, for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 10 minutes.
Cover with heavy-duty foil and transport in an insulated carrier.
- 2 1/2 cups orzo pasta
- 1 lb feta cheese, coarsely crumbled
- 2 cups chopped Roma tomatoes
- 1 cup chopped pitted Kalamata olives
- 2 tablespoons snipped fresh basil
- 2 tablespoons snipped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 2/3 cup olive oil
- 6 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon snipped fresh oregano
- Salt and ground black pepper
In a jar with a screw-top lid, place olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and oregano. Shake vigorously to combine.
Cook orzo according to package directions; drain. Transfer pasta to a large bowl. Pour dressing over pasta and mix well. Cover; chill in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours.
Add feta, tomatoes, olives, basil, and parsley to the chilled pasta; stir to combine. Season to taste with salt and ground black pepper. Cover; chill in the refrigerator for 2 to 24 hours.
Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe and Italian Sausage
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 8 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
- 2 pound lean Italian sausage, a combination of hot and sweet according to your taste, cut into bite-size pieces
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 pounds orecchiette
- 2 bunches broccoli rabe
- 1 ½ cups pasta water
- 1 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
Wash broccoli rabe in several changes of cold water. Cut off the bottom tips on the stalks and cut each stalk into one inch lengths.
Heat oil and stir in garlic in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the sausage and saute until meat is brown.
Boil a large pot of water, add salt and pasta. Add the broccoli rabe during the last two minutes of the pasta cooking time. Reserve 1 1/2 cups of pasta cooking water.
Add the pasta water to the cooked sausage and raise heat and cook until the sauce is hot.
Drain orecchiette and broccoli rabe and add to the sausage sauce in the skillet.
Using a wooden spoon, toss together for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and pour into a large serving bowl. Sprinkle with Pecorino Romano cheese.
Cover with heavy-duty foil and transport in an insulated carrier.
Tortellini and Vegetable Bake
- Two 9-ounce packages refrigerated tortellini
- 1 medium carrot, thinly sliced
- 1 ½ cups sugar snap peas, halved crosswise or green beans
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
- 1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
- 1/3 cup chicken broth
- 2 tablespoons snipped fresh oregano or 1-1/2 teaspoons dried oregano, crushed
- 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon minced garlic
- ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper
- 1 cup milk
- One 8 ounce package cream cheese or light cream cheese (Neufchatel), cubed and softened
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 cup quartered cherry tomatoes
- 1 small red or green bell pepper, coarsely chopped
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
Cook tortellini in boiling salted water according to package directions, adding the carrot during the last 5 minutes of cooking and the sugar snap peas or green beans during the last 1 minute of cooking; drain.
Heat butter in a 12-inch skillet. Add chicken, garlic and mushrooms, and cook about 5 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink. Remove from the skillet.
Whisk together chicken broth, oregano, flour, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl. Add to the skillet with the milk. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly; add cream cheese.
Cook and stir until cream cheese is smooth. Remove from the heat. Stir in lemon juice. Add pasta mixture, chicken mixture, tomatoes and sweet pepper. Toss to coat.
Turn into an ungreased 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking dish or shallow 3-quart casserole.
Bake, covered, in a 350 degrees F oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until heated through. Stir mixture and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Cover with heavy-duty foil and transport in an insulated carrier.
Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese
- 2 pounds rigatoni pasta
- 3 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into chunks
- 7 cups milk, divided
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 pound Italian Fontina cheese, shredded (about 4 cups)
- 2 large sweet onions, diced
- 6 ounces sourdough bread
- 3 tablespoons butter, melted plus 1 tablespoon
- Fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Lightly butter a large baking pan; set aside.
Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain; transfer to a large bowl.
In a large saucepan combine the squash and 6 cups of the milk over medium-high heat. Bring to boiling; reduce heat to medium and simmer until the squash is tender when pierced with a fork, 18 to 20 minutes.
Stir together remaining 1 cup milk and flour; stir into squash mixture. Bring to boiling; cook until thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in 2 cups of the Fontina cheese until melted; keep warm.
In a very large skillet or Dutch Oven heat the 1 tablespoon of butter. Add onions to the skillet; cover and cook over low heat 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover and increase heat to high. Cook 4 to 6 minutes more, stirring, until onions are golden. Add to the pasta in the bowl along with the squash-cheese mixture. Toss well to combine, then transfer to the prepared baking dish.
Place bread in a food processor and pulse with two or three on/off turns to form large coarse crumbs. Transfer to a small bowl; mix with the 3 tablespoons of melted butter. Sprinkle remaining cheese and the bread crumbs over the pasta mixture.
Bake until the top is browned, about 14 to 15 minutes. Cool 5 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley. Cover with heavy-duty foil and transport in an insulated carrier.
Turin is in the northwest section of the Piedmont region between the Po River and the foothills of the Alps. The city is famous for the Shroud of Turin, Fiat auto plants, Baroque cafes and architecture and its shopping arcades, promenades and museums. Turin hosted the 2006 Winter Olympics because the nearby mountains and valleys are ideal for winter sports.
The Piedmont region has some of the best food in Italy. Over 160 types of cheese and famous wines like Barolo and Barbaresco come from here as do truffles. The hilly region bordering France and Switzerland is perfect for growing grapes. Turin has some outstanding pastries, especially chocolate ones. Chocolate bars originated in Turin. The chocolate-hazelnut sauce, gianduja, is a specialty of Turin. In addition, an enormous array of artisanal cheeses, the white truffle of Alba, cured meats and a vast assortment of herb products are all part of the Piedmont table.
The cuisine of Turin is unlike the food you expect to find in Italy. Local dishes incorporate a much larger variety of savory sauces which are more traditional in French cuisine than in Italian. Chefs tend to cook with butter and lard rather than olive oil, which is also more French than Italian. Another difference is that appetizers play a much larger role on the menu in Turin than in other parts of Italy. The city’s signature dish is bollito misto, a mix of boiled meats served with three sauces: bagnet verd, a green sauce made from parsley, anchovies, garlic and olive oil; bagnet ross, a red sauce of crushed tomatoes, garlic and hot peppers and sausa d’avije, a yellow mustard sauce sweetened with honey and crushed nuts. Other classic dishes include brasato al Barolo, locally raised beef slowly braised in Barolo wine and finanziera, a stew of cock’s crests, chicken livers, veal, peas and porcini mushrooms. In the fall and winter you’ll find slices of reindeer meat, on some menus along with beef and veal, free range poultry and freshly caught fish.
The dinner menu below serves 4-6 and is inspired by the cuisine and regional foods of Turin, Italy.
Bagna Cauda is the Italian version of fondue. The dish is eaten by dipping raw, boiled or roasted vegetables, especially cardoons, carrots, peppers, fennel, celery, cauliflower, artichokes and onions in the hot sauce. It is traditionally eaten during the autumn and winter months and must be served hot, as the name suggests. Originally, the Bagna Càuda was placed in a big pan (peila) in the center of the table for communal sharing. Now, it is usually served in individual pots, called a fojòt, a type of fondue pot traditionally made of terra-cotta.
It helps to have a Bagna Cauda “pot”, but a fondue dish with the Sterno flame underneath works — as does an electric wok on low.
- 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 12 olive oil packed anchovy fillets, minced
- 6 large garlic cloves – peeled and minced
- Cubed raw vegetables for dipping: sweet peppers, fennel, cauliflower, endive and zucchini
- Italian bread – sliced
Place the olive oil, garlic and anchovies in a skillet over low heat. Stir until the anchovies have “melted” and the mixture looks thickened. Whisk in the butter until melted, then remove the skillet from the heat and whisk again until creamy looking. Pour into a dish that can stay heated at the table — like a fondue pot, Bagna Cauda pot, an electric skillet or a wok.
To serve: Dip vegetable pieces into the hot oil for a few minutes and use a bread slice to absorb the dripping oil on the way to your mouth.
Brasato Al Barolo
“Braised in Barolo”, a classic Italian beef dish from this region uses a simple slow cooking technique to tenderize the meat. In Italy, Piedmontese is a dual-purpose breed of cattle that are raised for their milk, which is used in the production of several traditional cheeses of the region, including Castelmagno, Bra, Raschera and Toma Piemontese; and are also raised for meat. Beef from Piedmontese cattle is seen as a premium product. The unique genetics of the breed combine to create cattle that is more muscled than conventional cattle, so the yield of lean meat is greater than with other breeds. All cuts of beef are lean because as they grow, the cattle add more muscle but less fat. In addition, Piedmontese cattle produce shorter muscle fibers and less connective tissue, so the meat remains tender in spite of its minimal fat.
Serve this dish the traditional way, with polenta, or if you prefer, mashed potatoes.
- 3 lb Piedmontese brisket flat
- 2 onions, chopped
- 3 medium carrots, chopped
- 2 fresh bay leaves
- 1 to 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 4 to 5 juniper berries
- 1 bottle Barolo red wine
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 4 tablespoons virgin olive oil
- ½ cup dry Marsala wine
- 2 tablespoons flour
Put all the vegetables and spices in a bowl, add the beef and cover with the wine. Refrigerate overnight, or a minimum of 10 hours.
Heat a heavy-bottom pot, large enough to hold the beef and wine, over medium-high heat. Melt half of the butter with all of the oil. Take the beef out of the marinade, season it with salt and pepper, and brown it in the hot-pot on all sides. Using a slotted spoon, take out all the vegetables from the wine and add them to the beef, stirring until they color a bit.
Add the wine to the pan, turn the heat down and cover with a lid. Simmer for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally and turning the beef.
Pour the Marsala into the stew and let cook a few more minutes. Take the beef out of the pan and set it on a carving board.
Remove and discard the bay leaves and juniper berries.
To make the sauce:
Put the wine and vegetables in a food mill or pour through a fine mesh sieve, applying pressure to the vegetables to extract all the juice. Reserve the juice and the vegetable puree.
In a saucepan, melt the remaining butter. Add the flour and cook for a few minutes, being careful not to brown the mixture. Add the wine and vegetable puree and cook for a bit longer, until the sauce thickens slightly.
Slice the meat against the grain, arrange it on a serving plate and pour the very hot wine sauce on top.
Cardoons are closely related to the artichoke. They look like very large hearts of celery and have thorns in the stalks. The stalks are not solid like celery, but are semi-hollow and stringy.
- 3 cups heavy cream
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 1 bay leaf
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 lb. cardoons
- 1 cup grated Italian fontina cheese
Place cream, stock and bay leaf in a large saucepan and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Wash cardoons, then remove and discard tough outer stalks. Cut away thorns and pull off stringy fibers. Cut cardoons into 1½”–2″ pieces, placing them immediately into the cream mixture as you go, to prevent them from discoloring.
Bring cream mixture to a simmer over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cardoons are tender, about 1 hour. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cardoon pieces to a 1-quart baking dish.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Reduce cream mixture to about ¾ cup over medium heat, about 30 minutes. Discard bay leaf and pour the sauce over the cardoons in the baking dish, sprinkle cheese on top and bake until golden and bubbly, about 30 minutes.
- 12 tablespoons butter
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 325°F.
In a saucepan, melt butter. Remove from the heat and add sugar and vanilla, stirring until most of the sugar has dissolved. Add flour and mix together using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. Press the dough into an ungreased, 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Freeze crust for 15 minutes, then bake for 25 minutes. Set crust aside to cool.
- ½ cup hazelnuts (also called filberts)
- 3 tablespoons baking soda
Boil 2 cups water; add baking soda. The water will foam up a bit. Add the nuts to the boiling soda water and boil for 3 minutes. Strain the nuts and rinse with cold water. Peel the skins away from the nuts and place on a kitchen towel to dry.
When the nuts are dry, toast them on a baking sheet in a 350°F oven for about 7 to 10 minutes.
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 7 1/2 ounces good quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 3/4 cup chocolate-hazelnut spread such as Nutella
Place chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set aside.
In a saucepan, bring cream to a boil. Remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate pieces, whisking until chocolate is melted and smooth. Add the chocolate-hazelnut spread and whisk until smooth.
Pour filling into the cooled crust and sprinkle toasted hazelnuts on top. Refrigerate for 2 hours to set. When ready to serve, cut into small wedges and garnish with fresh fruit.
Some days are so busy that there doesn’t seem to be much time left at the end of the day to prepare dinner. If you keep the ingredients for some quick cooking recipes on hand, you will be able to put a healthy meal on the table without a lot of preparation or long cooking times. So much better for the family than fast food. Stock your pantry with quick cooking rice, couscous, thin spaghetti and orzo. Broths and canned tomatoes are very useful, as are dried seasonings. Keep packages of thin chicken cutlets, lean ground beef, salmon and pizza dough in the freezer and you have the ingredients for an easy meal.
Chicken Cutlets in Lemon Sauce
Serve with Zucchini and Quick Cooking Brown Rice. This is an easy meal for two and the recipe can easily be doubled.
- Two 6 ounce skinless, boneless chicken breasts, pounded thin
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1/2 lemon, juiced
- 1 cup chicken broth
- Salt and fresh pepper
- 3 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
- 2 tablespoons butter, divided
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Place the flour in a bowl and the beaten in another bowl.
Heat the oil and one tablespoon of butter in a large non stick pan over medium heat.
Lightly flour chicken, then dip in the egg and add to the hot pan. Saute chicken 2-3 minutes on each side. When cooked, transfer onto a plate.
Place the chicken broth in the bowl with the remaining flour and whisk. Add to the pan along with the lemon juice, parsley and remaining butter and simmer on low heat for about 2 minutes so it reduces slightly and thickens. Turn off the heat. Return the chicken to the pan to combine with the sauce and serve.
Salmon & Broccoli with Herb Sauce
- Two 8-oz thick-cut boneless, skinless wild salmon fillets
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, plus additional, to taste
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup clam broth or fish stock, divided
- 1 leek, thinly sliced crosswise, white and pale green parts only
- 1 head broccoli, cut into thin spears
- Juice of 1 lemon, divided
- 6 oz plain Greek yogurt
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint leaves
- Sea salt, to taste
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Pat salmon dry with paper towels and season with pepper. In a large ovenproof sauté pan with a cover, heat oil on medium-high. Add salmon and sear for 3 minutes per side, until lightly golden. Transfer salmon to a plate and keep warm.
Reduce the heat to medium and add 1/4 cup clam broth to the pan. Add leek and cook for 2 minutes, stirring, until liquid evaporates and leeks soften. Add remaining 3/4 cup broth and broccoli; mix well.
Return salmon to center of the pan, nestling the fish between leeks and broccoli. Drizzle half of the lemon juice over salmon; cover the pan and transfer to the oven. Cook for 12 to 14 minutes, until salmon and broccoli are tender. Remove pan from the oven and, using a slotted spoon, transfer salmon and vegetables to a platter; cover with foil to keep warm. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pan juices.
Prepare lemon-herb sauce:
In a small bowl, combine yogurt, tarragon, mint, remaining half of lemon juice and reserved 1/2 cup pan juices; mix well. (Add more lemon juice or pan juices as needed to reach desired consistency.) Season with salt and additional pepper.
To serve, cut the salmon fillets in half and plate each with lemon-herb sauce and leek-broccoli mixture.
Spaghetti with Italian Sausage & Spinach
- 2 links fresh Italian sausage (about 8 oz), casings removed
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- 8 oz thin spaghetti
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper (chili) flakes, or to taste
- 6 oz spinach leaves (about 6 packed cups)
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 oz Parmesan cheese, grated
Mist a large pot or saucepan with olive oil cooking spray and heat to medium-high. Add sausage and cook, stirring and crumbling with a spatula, until no longer pink, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.
To the same pot, add 2 cups water and the milk and bring to a boil on medium-high. (TIP: Watch carefully and stir from time to time, as milk has a tendency to boil over.)
Add spaghetti and pepper flakes. When the liquid returns to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer, stirring frequently, until the spaghetti is just short of al dente, 11 to 14 minutes.
Stir in spinach and simmer, uncovered, until spinach is wilted, most of the liquid is absorbed and the spaghetti is al dente, 2 to 4 minutes.
Add lemon zest, black pepper and sausage and stir until heated through, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Divide among plates and top evenly with cheese.
Beef Kebabs with Tahini Sauce
- 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
- 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons tahini paste
- Olive oil cooking spray
- 8 oz lean ground sirloin
- 1 small clove garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons very finely minced white onion
- 1 1/4 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, divided
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon salt-free garlic and herb seasoning blend
- 1/2 cup couscous
- 1/4 cup packed chopped fresh parsley
- 1 large Roma tomato, cut into 8 wedges
Two 12-inch skewers (If using wooden skewers, soak in warm water for at least 20 minutes before using.)
Line a baking sheet with foil and arrange an ovenproof wire rack over the top. Mist rack with cooking spray.
(NOTE: If you don’t have an ovenproof wire rack, simply bake your kebabs directly on a baking sheet.)
Prepare tahini sauce:
In a small bowl, stir yogurt, lemon juice and tahini until well combined. (If the tahini is hard or lumpy, microwave for 20 to 30 seconds, or until smooth.) Set aside while the kebabs cook.
Arrange an oven rack 5 to 6 inches from the top heat source and preheat the broiler to high. Line a baking sheet with foil and arrange an ovenproof wire rack over the top. Mist rack with cooking spray.
In a small saucepan, bring 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons water to a boil. Stir in seasoning blend, remaining black pepper, salt and couscous. Cover and remove from the heat. Let sit, covered, for 5 to 7 minutes. Fluff with a fork and stir in parsley
Arrange an oven rack 5 to 6 inches from the top heat source and preheat the broiler to high.
In a large bowl combine sirloin, garlic, onion, cumin, coriander, ¼ teaspoon each black pepper, salt and cayenne. Stir gently until thoroughly combined.
Divide mixture into 4 equal portions. Shape each portion into a narrow, oblong 2- to 3-inch-long patty. Mold 2 patties around 1 skewer about 1 inch apart (see photo). Repeat with remaining 2 patties and skewer.
Transfer to the prepared rack and broil until tops are lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Turn and broil until lightly browned and cooked through, 3 to 4 more minutes.
Divide couscous between two serving plates and top each serving with 1 beef skewer. Serve with tahini sauce and tomato wedges, dividing evenly.
Quick Tomato Soup
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 medium onion, chopped
- 1 stalk celery, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
- One 28-ounce can crushed Italian tomatoes
- One 14-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, with juice
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 1/2 cup half-and-half
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground pepper to taste
Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat and add onion and celery; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and thyme cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 10 seconds.
Stir in canned tomatoes and broth; bring to a low boil over high heat. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes.
Puree the soup in the pot using an immersion blender or in batches in a blender. (Use caution when pureeing hot liquids.)
Stir in half-and-half, salt and pepper. Serve with the wrap or a grilled cheese sandwich.
Spinach and Feta Cheese Wraps
- 4 eggs
- 2 teaspoons.prepared basil pesto
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1-1/2 cups chopped fresh baby spinach leaves
- 1/2 cup crumbled Feta Cheese
- 2 (2 oz.) whole-wheat flat breads
- 1/2 cup jarred roasted red peppers, drained and thinly sliced
In a 10-inch skillet heat olive oil over medium heat. Beat eggs and pesto together with a fork in a medium bowl. Pour into the skillet. As eggs start to set, lift the edges with a spatula, allowing uncooked eggs to flow to the bottom of the skillet. Cook until the eggs are set but still moist. Sprinkle with feta; cover the pan and heat 1 minute longer. Cut omelet in half.
Immediately, place half of the omelet on one flat bread. Top with half the spinach leaves and half the roasted red peppers and roll up tightly. Wrap in parchment and let rest about 10 minutes so the vegetables can warm up. Repeat with the second flat bread and the remaining ingredients. Serve with a bowl of soup.