Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: cake


Just because summer is over and the season for berries, peaches and melons has passed, it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy fruit desserts. Fall brings us apples, plums, pears, figs, grapes and pumpkins. No matter which fruit you pick up at the market, there are so many delicious desserts that you can make. A warm apple pie, a sweet plum tart or a delicious pear crisp are all terrific to enjoy on a cool fall night.

Apple Bars


Makes 20 bars


  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 ¼ cups vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled and chopped (3 cups)
  • 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted or cinnamon chips
  • Whipped cream or frozen yogurt (optional)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 13 x 9 x 2 inch baking pan; set aside.

In a very large bowl combine flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Make a well in center of flour mixture; set aside.

In a medium bowl combine eggs, oil, and vanilla. Stir in apples and nuts. Add egg mixture in the well in flour mixture, stirring just until moistened (batter will be thick). Spread batter evenly in the prepared pan.

Bake for 50 to 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 1 hour to serve slightly warm, or cool completely. If desired, top each serving with whipped cream or frozen yogurt

Plum Galettes


8 servings


  • 2 ounces light cream cheese
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons low-sugar orange marmalade
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 recipe Galette Pastry, recipe below
  • 4 medium plums, pitted and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 2 tablespoons almonds or walnuts, chopped
  • Milk, for brushing the pastry
  • 4 teaspoons honey


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.

In a medium bowl beat cream cheese with an electric mixer on medium to high-speed. Beat in egg yolk, orange marmalade and ginger.

Prepare pastry:

Divide the pastry dough into four portions. On a lightly floured surface, roll each dough portion into a 7-inch circle. Spread each portion with one-fourth of the cream cheese mixture, leaving a 1-inch border. Top with plum slices and almonds. Fold border up over the filling, pleating pastry as necessary to fit.

Place galettes on prepared baking sheet. Brush tops and sides of the crust with milk.

Bake about 30 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. Serve warm. Cut each in half and drizzle with honey.

Galette Pastry


  • 4 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons cold water


In a small saucepan heat and stir 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat until light brown; set aside to cool slightly.

In a medium bowl stir together all-purpose flour, sugar and salt. Using a pastry blender, cut in the 2 remaining tablespoons of butter and the browned butter until the mixture resembles crumbs.

Sprinkle 1 tablespoon cold water over part of the mixture; toss gently with a fork. Push moistened dough to the side of bowl. Repeat moistening flour mixture, using 1 tablespoon cold water at a time, until all of the flour mixture is moistened (2 to 3 tablespoons total). Form dough into a ball.

Pumpkin  Cream Cheese Cupcakes


24 cupcakes


Cake Batter

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin puree, not pie mix
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


  • 1 package (8 oz.) light cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg


Preheat oven to 350° F. Place paper liners in 24 muffin cups.

For the filling:

In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth.

Add the egg and beat on low just until combined.

For the cupcakes:

In a large bowl, beat the pumpkin, sugar, oil and the 4 eggs until well blended.

In small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Gradually beat into the pumpkin mixture until blended.

Fill the muffin cups one-third full with batter.

Drop a tablespoonful of filling into the center of each cupcake and then cover with the remaining batter.

Bake at 350°F for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the pumpkin portion comes out clean.

Cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pans to wire racks to cool completely.

Store cupcakes in the refrigerator.

Pear Crisp


6 servings


  • 5 cups thinly sliced pears
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar


  • 1/2 cup regular rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup chopped nuts


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Coat a 2-quart square baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Mix the sliced fruit with the granulated sugar and place in the prepared baking dish.

For the topping:

In a medium bowl stir together the oats, brown sugar, flour and cinnamon. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the nuts.

Sprinkle topping evenly over the fruit.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until the fruit is tender and the topping is golden. If desired, serve warm with frozen yogurt.

Grape Cake with Wine Sauce



  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup fine grind, yellow cornmeal, plus extra for dusting the pan
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 2 cups red and green seedless grapes

Wine Sauce

  • 4 cups fruity white wine, such as Riesling


Preheat oven to 350° F. Spray a 9-inch round baking pan with cooking spray and dust with the extra cornmeal. Shake the pan to evenly coat all sides and the bottom and tap out the excess.

Stir together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl. Set aside.

Place eggs and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Turn mixer to low-speed and slowly add in the olive oil.

Beat in the milk, vanilla extract and orange zest until well incorporated, about 1 minute.

Slowly incorporate the flour mixture into the wet mixture, a half cup at a time, while mixing on low-speed until all the dry ingredients are incorporated.

Using a spatula, transfer the batter to the prepared baking pan. Disperse the grapes evenly over the top of the batter.

Bake for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean and the cake is golden brown.

Remove the pan from oven and place it on a wire rack to cool for 5–10 minutes. Turn pan over and remove the cake. Let the cake cool completely, grape side up, on the wire rack.

Place the wine in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium low and allow the wine to simmer until it has reduced by half, about 15-20 minutes.

Remove from the heat and keep warm until ready to serve.

To serve, slice the cake and drizzle the wine reduction over the cake.


Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in wheat (durum, emmer, spelt, farina, farro, kamut, khorasan and einkorn), rye, barley and triticale. Gluten helps foods maintain their shape, acting as a glue that holds food together. Gluten can be found in many types of foods. Cutting out gluten from your diet may seem like a difficult and limiting task. Fortunately, there are many healthy and delicious foods that are naturally gluten-free, such as

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Meat and poultry
  • Fish and seafood
  • Dairy
  • Beans, legumes, and nuts

There are also many naturally gluten-free grains that you can enjoy in a variety of creative ways. Gluten free flours are made from the grains below. Nut flours are ideal for making desserts. Many of these grains can be found in your local grocery store.

  • rice
  • cassava
  • corn
  • soy
  • potato
  • tapioca
  • beans
  • sorghum
  • quinoa
  • millet
  • buckwheat groats (also known as kasha)
  • arrowroot
  • amaranth
  • teff
  • flax
  • yucca
  • gluten-free oats
  • nut flours

A gluten-free diet is primarily used to treat celiac disease. I have friends who have celiac disease, so I have acquired several recipes I can make when they come over for a visit.


Carrot, Orange and Ginger Soup

Serve with gluten-free rolls and a salad.

6 servings


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pinch dried red pepper (chili) flakes
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
  • 4 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 russet potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 orange (juice and zest)
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)


Place a soup pot over medium heat for about 30 seconds. Add olive oil, red pepper flakes, onion and ginger and quickly sauté for 2 or 3 minutes or until the onion is translucent.

Add carrots, potatoes, broth, water, thyme and cardamom. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and cook until the carrots and potatoes are soft, 12–15 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and purée the soup with a hand immersion blender until smooth.

Add orange juice, zest, salt and pepper to taste. Return the pan to the stove-top and heat through.


Spaghetti with Artichokes, Olives, Tomatoes and Capers

Serve with sautéed zucchini.

3 servings


  • 8 ounces brown rice spaghetti
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 cups artichoke hearts in water, drained and quartered (about 1 ½ cans)
  • 1/2 cup pitted olives, drained and quartered
  • 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and drained
  • 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • Freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese, for garnish


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add spaghetti, stirring to prevent sticking. Cook al dente, 12–15 minutes.

While spaghetti cooks, place olive oil and garlic in a saucepan over medium-high heat.

Saute until the garlic just begins to color, about 2 minutes. Add artichoke hearts, olives, capers, tomatoes and pepper, stirring to warm through. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm.

Grate zest from the lemon and combine with the parsley, along with 1 tablespoon lemon juice.

When the spaghetti is done, drain and transfer to a warm serving dish.

Stir zest-parsley mixture into the hot artichoke mixture and pour over spaghetti. Toss thoroughly and serve at once, topped with freshly grated Pecorino Romano.


Paprika and Garlic Roasted Chicken

Roast chunks of butternut squash or fingerling potatoes in place of the sweet potatoes alongside the chicken, if you wish. Add a green salad tossed with an Italian vinaigrette.

4 servings


  • 1 (4- to 5-pound) roasting chicken
  • 1 small apple
  • 1 small onion, peeled
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch lengths
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch wedges


Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Place chicken on a rack in a 9 x 13-inch roasting pan. Quarter the apple and onion and place the chunks in the chicken cavity.

Stir oil, paprika, cumin, salt, pepper and garlic in a small bowl to form a paste. Rub paste all over the chicken and under the skin.

Roast chicken for 30 minutes. Add carrots and sweet potatoes and roast for 60 minutes or until juices run clear when a thigh is pierced with a knife.

Transfer to a serving platter and let rest for 15 minutes before carving. Garnish with rosemary sprigs.


Gluten-Free Meatloaf

Serve with mashed potatoes and a green vegetable.

Serves 8


  • Non-stick olive oil cooking spray
  • 2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 1/2 cup rice crackers, crumbled
  • 1 yellow onion, 1/2 chopped and 1/2 thinly sliced
  • 1 cup grated carrots
  • 1 egg , lightly beaten
  • One 8 ounce can tomato sauce, divided
  • 1 tablespoon gluten-free yellow or Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon gluten-free Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar


Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lightly coat a 9-inch loaf pan with cooking spray; set aside.

In a large bowl, combine beef, cracker crumbs, chopped onion, carrots, egg, 1/4 cup of the tomato sauce, mustard, Worcestershire, salt and pepper. Transfer mixture to the prepared pan.

In a small bowl, combine remaining tomato sauce with the brown sugar. Pour over meatloaf and scatter sliced onion over the top.

Place the pan on a baking sheet and bake until cooked through and deep golden brown, about 1 hour. Set aside to let cool for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.


Spiced Beef or Fish Steaks

Serve with oven roasted asparagus and rice pilaf. This recipe also works well with fish steaks, just substitute equal weight fish steaks, such as halibut, cod or swordfish, for the beef. Use the same procedures and seasonings as directed below.

4 servings


  • 4 (4-ounce) boneless beef tenderloin, sirloin or rib steaks, cut 1 inch thick
  • White rice flour
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper (chili) flakes
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves


Dust steak with the rice flour and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.

Add steaks; brown on both sides until cooked, 3–4 minutes per side. Remove to a plate and keep warm.

Add ginger to the skillet; cook 30 seconds, scraping up brown bits. Add brown sugar, red pepper flakes and orange juice; stir to blend.

Bring to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally until slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Return steak and juices to the pan.

Simmer until warmed through and sauce thickens, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle with thyme and serve.



Pecan Custard Pie

Serves 8


  • Non-stick cooking spray
  • 2 cups pecan halves, divided
  • 1 tablespoon high heat oil (safflower, grapeseed or coconut oil)
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 cups cooked, mashed butternut squash or pureed pumpkin
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup unsweetened soy milk, almond milk or coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


Preheat the oven to 350°F. Coat a deep 9-inch pie pan with cooking spray and set aside.

In a food processor, coarsely grind 1 1/2 cups of the pecans until pea-sized. Add oil and 1 tablespoon of the maple syrup. Pulse just until well combined then transfer pecan mixture to the prepared pie pan and press into the bottom of the pan; set aside.

In the food processor, purée squash with eggs, soy milk, remaining 1/2 cup maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Pour filling over the pecan crust in the pie pan and bake for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, finely chop remaining pecans. Sprinkle pecans along the outer edges of the pie and return to the oven for another 30 minutes, or until the filling is set and firm. Cool pie on a rack then transfer to the refrigerator to chill before serving.

For best results, chill the pie until very cold before cutting. Serve with whipped cream or a scoop of ice cream, if you like.


Italian Cornmeal Cake

Serves 8


  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter , softened, plus more for the pan
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup full fat ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup ground almonds or almond meal/flour
  • 2 teaspoons gluten-free vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • Sweetened mascarpone cheese and fruit for toppings


Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly butter a 9-inch spring-form baking pan.

In a large bowl, beat butter until light and creamy. Add sugar and beat until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.

Mix in ricotta, almonds, vanilla, orange juice and zest. Mix cornmeal with baking powder and salt in a separate bowl and fold into the batter.

Pour mixture into the prepared pan and bake 35 to 40 minutes or until set and firm. Remove from the oven and allow the cake to cool. Cut into wedges and serve with a tablespoon of mascarpone cheese and seasonal fruit.



Look for apples that are firm, brightly colored and free of bruises. The skin should be clean and shiny; a dull finish indicates the fruit may be past its prime. Refrigerate apples up to two weeks. At room temperature, they ripen too quickly and become mealy. Apples are also good baked in pies, roasted or sautéed to accompany meat dishes.

Look for grapes that are plump, unblemished and firmly attached to a flexible stem. Ripe white and green grapes should have a yellowish cast; red and purple ones should have no green. Refrigerate grapes in a ventilated plastic bag up to one week.

Pears ripen off the tree, so most of the fruit you’ll find at the market will need a few days to soften at home. Common varieties include: Anjou, which is egg-shaped with a green, rose-tinged green, or red skin; Bosc, which has a slender neck and a brown skin (Boscs are flavorful even before fully ripe so they are good for cooking); and Bartlett, which has a red skin or a green skin that yellows as it ripens. Let pears ripen at room temperature. When they’re ready to eat, the flesh on the neck of the fruit will give a little when pressed. Refrigerate ripe pears for up to five days. Cooking can really bring out their flavor, so try them baked or poached.

This slightly sour fruit has gotten a lot of press as an antioxidant powerhouse. The juice provides a tangy base for marinades and the seeds can be mixed into salads to give them flavor.

This Middle Eastern favorite is a sweet fruit that is perfect braised in stews, chopped up in desserts, stuffed with cream cheese or almonds or baked into quick breads.

Use this sweet fruit to add a tropical flavor to your recipes. It’s great mixed with other fruits for a fruit salad or combined with pineapple to make a tangy chutney.



Apple-Date Cake

12 servings


  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 2/3 cup fat-free milk
  • 2/3 cup chopped pitted dates
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup chopped peeled apple
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, plus 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat an 8 x 8 x 2-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Set aside.

In a small saucepan combine milk, dates and salt; heat until steaming but do not boil. Remove from the heat. Stir in apple and vanilla; cool to room temperature.

Whisk in egg and oil and stir until combined. Set aside.

For the topping:

In a small bowl stir together pecans, brown sugar, butter, the 1 teaspoon flour and the cinnamon; set aside.

For the cake:

In a medium bowl whisk together the 1-1/2 cups flour, the baking powder and baking soda. Add milk mixture all at once to the flour mixture. Stir just until combined. Spoon batter into the prepared baking pan. Sprinkle evenly with the pecan topping mixture.

Bake about 25 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool slightly. Serve warm.


Italian Grape Cake


  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup (135 g) sugar
  • 4 tablespoons (2 ounces; 60 g) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups (200 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • A pinch of sea salt
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • Grated zest of 1 orange
  • 10 ounces (300 g) small, fresh, seedless purple grapes
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for garnish


Preheat oven to 350°F

Generously butter and flour a 9 inch springform pan, tapping out any excess flour. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk, beat the eggs and sugar until thick and lemon-colored, about 3 minutes. Add the butter, oil, milk and vanilla extract and mix until blended.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Add the lemon zest and orange zest, and toss to coat the zest with the flour.

Spoon the mixture into the bowl of batter and stir with a wooden spoon until thoroughly blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix once more. Set aside for 10 minutes to allow the flour to absorb the liquids.

Stir about 3/4 of the grapes into the batter. Spoon the batter into the prepared cake pan and smooth out the top with a spatula.

Place the pan in the center of the oven. Bake for 15 minutes, then sprinkle the top of the cake with the remaining grapes. Bake until the top is a deep golden brown and the cake feels quite firm when pressed with a fingertip, about 40 minutes more, for a total baking time of 55 minutes.

Remove to a rack to cool. After 10 minutes, run a knife along the sides of the pan. Release and remove the side of the springform pan, leaving the cake on the pan base.

Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar just before serving. Serve at room temperature. Cut the cake into thin wedges.


Pear Quick Bread


  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 3/4 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup wheat bran
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups finely chopped fresh pears (not too ripe – more hard than soft)
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts


Mix together molasses, honey, egg white, buttermilk and oil in a small bowl or glass measuring cup.

Mix flour, bran, sugar, baking soda and salt in a mixing bowl and add the wet mixture all at once.

Stir in the chopped pears and walnuts.

Pour into a 9 x 5-inch lightly greased baking pan.

Bake at 350°F for 60 to 70 minutes, or until the bread tests done (cake tester inserted in middle of loaf comes out clean). Makes 1 large loaf.


Pomegranate-Ginger Muffins

Makes 12 muffins


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup sugar, plus extra for the topping
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup minced crystallized ginger
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  • 1 1/4 cups pomegranate seeds
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup (1/8 lb.) butter or margarine, melted and cooled


In a bowl, mix flour, 2/3 cup sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in crystallized ginger, lemon peel and pomegranate seeds. Make a well in the center.

In a measuring cup, blend milk, egg and melted butter. Pour mixture all at once into the well in the bowl with the flour mixture. Stir just until batter is moistened; it will be lumpy.

Spoon batter into 12 (2 1/2-in.-wide) or 24 (1 3/4-in.-wide) buttered mini muffin cups, filling each almost to the rim. Sprinkle the tops of each muffin with granulated sugar.

Bake in a 425°F oven until lightly browned, about 16 minutes for the large muffin pan or 13 minutes for the small muffin pan. Remove muffins from the pan immediately and cool on a wire rack.


Kiwi Ricotta Cheesecake


  • 2/3 cup (about 3 oz.) gingersnap cookie crumbs or biscotti crumbs
  • 1/2 cup minced crystallized ginger, divided
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 15 oz. (1 2/3 cups) ricotta cheese
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 kiwi fruit (about 1/4 lb. each)


Combine crumbs, 1/4 cup crystallized ginger and melted butter. Pat crumb mixture evenly the over bottom of a removable-rim 8-inch cheesecake pan.

Bake in a 350°F oven until the crust is lightly brown, 10 to 12 minutes.

In a blender or food processor, process ricotta cheese, egg whites and lemon juice until very smooth.

In a mixing bowl, stir together yogurt, sugar, lemon peel and vanilla. Add ricotta mixture and stir until well blended (the mixture is thin). Pour into the (hot or cool) crust.

Bake in a 350°F oven until the center barely jiggles when cake is gently shaken, 50 to 55 minutes. Run a thin-bladed knife between cake and pan rim.

Refrigerate cake, uncovered, until cool, at least 2 1/2 hours. (If making ahead, wrap airtight when cool and chill up to 2 days.)

Remove pan rim. Peel kiwi fruit and slice crosswise. Arrange fruit in a ring in overlapping slices on top of the cake and sprinkle with remaining ginger. Cut cake into wedges.


There are three categories of symbolic foods for Rosh Hashanah and each has its own meaning. The first is sweet tasting foods, such as apple and honey, which are symbolic of the wish for a sweet year. The second, which includes pomegranates and fish, are foods that allude to abundance and to the wish to be fruitful and multiply. The third category, which includes foods such as carrots, beets, leeks and cabbage, allude to the destruction and eradication of sin. The combination of sweet and sour is also prominent in Jewish cooking because it correlates with times that are hopeful and happy while also remembering the challenges of Jewish history.

What makes these basic food categories particularly fascinating is how their preparations can vary as we move from country to country and culture to culture.

Since 1442, when the Kingdom of Naples came under Spanish rule, considerable numbers of Sephardi Jews came to live in Southern Italy. Following the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492, from Portugal in 1495 and from the Kingdom of Naples in 1533, many moved to central and northern Italy. In addition to Spanish and Portuguese Jews, Italy has been host to many Sephardi Jews from the eastern Mediterranean, Dalmatia and many of the Greek islands, where there were large Jewish communities and for several centuries they were part of the Venetian Republic. As such, they have greatly influenced the cuisine of Italy.

Italian Jewish cuisine for Rosh Hashanah often includes chestnut turnovers, goose or veal, spinach or swiss chard, artichokes, caponata and fennel. The seder often begins with figs (fichi). Figs are in season in Italy in the fall and they represent renewal for a good and sweet year (Shanah Tovah Umetukah). It is also full of tiny seeds (like the pomegranate) representing abundance and rebirth.

First Course


Fish in Tomato Garlic Sauce


  • 1 ½ lbs. fish fillets, such as halibut, grouper, cod or tilapia
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons dry white wine, vegetable broth or water
  • 4 medium-size tomatoes, diced small
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 3 tablespoons. chopped fresh herbs (dill, parsley, basil)


Check fish carefully and remove any bones. Rinse fish and thoroughly pat dry. Cut it in 8 pieces.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet, preferably nonstick. Add fish, sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper and sauté over medium to medium-high heat 1 minute per side. Remove with a slotted spoon.

Added remaining oil to the pan and add the garlic. Sauté for about 30 seconds or until fragrant, then add the wine and bring to a boil, stirring. Add tomatoes and heat for about 1 minute. Returned fish to the pan, cover and cook over medium-low heat for 2 or 3 minutes or until its color has changed from translucent to opaque. Add pepper flakes and herbs. Serve fish in the sauce.


Sephardic Challah

Sephardic Jews of the Mediterranean favor their challah seasoned with caraway and anise. Many challahs are braided, but this one is twisted into a round, turban-shaped loaf.


  • 3 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons caraway seeds
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons anise seeds
  • 1 envelope active dry yeast
  • 2 cups lukewarm water
  • 5 cups bread flour
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • Cornmeal for dusting
  • 2 large egg yolks


In a skillet, toast the sesame, caraway and anise seeds over moderate heat until fragrant, 2 minutes; transfer to a plate and let cool.

In a small bowl, combine the yeast with 2 tablespoons of the water and let stand until thoroughly moistened, about 5 minutes.

In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the flour with the olive oil, the honey and the remaining water and mix at low-speed until a very soft dough forms. Add the kosher salt, yeast mixture and all but 1 tablespoon of the seeds and mix at medium-low speed until the dough is supple and smooth, 10 minutes. Using oiled hands, transfer the dough to a large oiled bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let stand in a draft-free spot until the dough is risen, 1 hour.

Lightly oil 2 small cookie sheets and dust them with cornmeal. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and press to deflate. Cut the dough in half and let rest for 5 minutes. Roll each piece into an 18-inch-long rope and let rest for 5 minutes longer, then roll each rope into a 32-inch rope. Beginning at the center and working outwards, form each rope into a coil and tuck the ends under the coils.

Transfer each coil to a baking sheet and cover each loaf with a large, inverted bowl. Let stand for 1 hour, until the loaves have nearly doubled in bulk.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks with 1 tablespoon of water. Brush the egg wash over the loaves and let stand uncovered for 30 minutes. Brush with the egg wash once more and sprinkle with the reserved 1 tablespoon of seeds.

Bake the loaves side-by-side in the center of the oven for 30 minutes, until they’re golden and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Transfer the loaves to racks and let cool completely before slicing.

Second Coursejewishnewyear3

Chicken with Pomegranate Sauce

Serves 4

  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs
  • 2/3 cup bottled pomegranate juice (100% pure juice)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • About ½ cup white flour
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt to taste
  • About ½ cup pomegranate seeds


Add the honey to the pomegranate juice and stir to combine; set aside.

If using chicken breasts cut each in half and remove any fat; pat dry with paper towels.

Pour the flour into a shallow bowl and lightly dust each piece of chicken with the flour.

Heat the olive oil over low heat in a large nonstick frying pan. When hot, add the chicken and sprinkle  with salt. Turn the heat up and let them cook for 1-2 minutes on each side until golden.

Add the pomegranate and honey mixture and reduce the flame. Let cook for another few minutes, adding more salt and turning each piece so it absorbs the sauce well.

Arrange on a large serving platter, pouring the sauce on top and sprinkling with the fresh pomegranate seeds to garnish.


Saffron Rice


  • Pinch of saffron
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts or pistachios
  • 1 cup long-grain rice
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste


Stir the saffron into 2 tablespoons hot water in a bowl, and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed ovenproof pan. Add the onion and nuts; cook over medium heat, stirring, for about 5 minutes, or until the onion is translucent and the nuts are fragrant and beginning to change color.

Lower the heat, and stir in the rice. Add the saffron water, the bay leaf, the salt, freshly ground pepper to taste and 2 cups water.

Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a slow simmer, cover, and cook for 15 to 18 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender. Fluff the rice with a fork and  remove the bay leaf.


Sephardic Spinach Patties


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for cooking
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 pounds fresh spinach, stemmed, cooked, chopped, and squeezed dry, or 20 ounces thawed frozen chopped spinach, squeezed dry
  • About 1 cup matzo meal
  • About 3/4 teaspoon table salt or 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • Lemon wedges for serving


In a large skillet, heat the 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the spinach, matzo meal, salt and cayenne. Stir in the eggs. If the mixture is too loose, add a little more matzo meal. The mixture can be stored in the refrigerator for a day.

Shape the spinach mixture into 3 inch patties. In a large skillet, heat a thin layer of oil over medium heat. In batches, saute the patties, turning, until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels. Serve warm, accompanied with lemon wedges.

Dessert Course


Honey Cake

The cake can be made a day ahead; just wrap it tightly in plastic, store it at room temperature, and glaze it just before serving.

Serves 10-12


  • 2 3⁄4 cups flour, plus more for the pan
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground allspice
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 1 cup vegetable oil, plus for greasing the pan
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1⁄4 cup fresh orange juice, divided
  • 2 tablespoons orange zest
  • 2 tablespoons orange liqueur
  • 1 1⁄2 cups confectioners’ sugar


Heat oven to 325°F. Oil and flour a 4-qt. Bundt pan; set aside.

Whisk together flour, cinnamon, allspice, ginger, baking powder and soda and salt in a bowl; set aside.

Beat 3⁄4 cup sugar and egg yolks in a bowl on medium-high speed of a mixer until tripled in volume, about 4 minutes. Stir in oil, honey, 2 tablespoons orange juice, zest and liqueur.

Add dry ingredients and stir until just combined.

Beat egg whites in a bowl on high-speed of a mixer until soft peaks form. Add remaining sugar; beat until stiff peaks form. Fold whites into batter.

Pour into the prepared pan; smooth top. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle of cake comes out clean, about 60 minutes.

Let cool and invert onto a serving plate. Whisk remaining juice with confectioners’ sugar; drizzle over cake.


In my area of the world, it is often too hot at this time of year to spend a great deal of time baking when guests are coming for dinner. So during the cooler months, I like to make a few simple sponge cakes to keep in the freezer. That way I can make a refreshing dessert for company in the summer without a lot of fuss.

During the summer months, ice cream desserts can really “hit the spot”. It is easy to pull together a really great tasting dessert when it is hot with just a few simple ingredients. Here are a few ideas.


Simple Sponge Cake


  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup cake flour


Cut parchment or wax paper to fit two 9″ round cake pans.

Separate eggs, putting whites in large mixer bowl and yolks in small mixer bowl.

Add 1/2 cup sugar and a pinch of salt to the whites and beat until very stiff.

Add 1/2 cup sugar to the yolks and beat until very thick and light yellow in color.

Fold egg yolk mixture into egg whites.

Fold flour in using 1//3 cup each time until well mixed.

Do not over-mix.

Divide the cake batter and pour into the prepared pans.

Bake at 350 degrees F for approximately 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry.

Cool for a few minutes, remove from pan and remove paper.

Cool completely.


Tiramisu Ice Cream Parfaits

Serves 4


  • 1 1/2 cups brewed coffee, cooled
  • 4 cups (1-inch) cubed sponge cake (you could also use angel food cake or pound cake)
  • 2 cups vanilla ice cream, softened
  • 1 (3-ounce) dark chocolate bar, shaved with a vegetable peeler
  • 1 cup fresh cherries, pitted and cut in half


In a bowl mix the cake cubes with 2/3 of the coffee until well soaked.

Stir ice cream in a second bowl until spoonable, then layer cake cubes and ice cream in parfait glasses. Top each with a drizzle of coffee, a generous amount of chocolate shavings and a few cherries. Serve immediately.


Pineapple Ice Cream Sandwiches

2 servings


  • 2 (1/4-inch thick) fresh pineapple slices, cut in circles
  • 1 cup vanilla ice cream, softened
  • Toasted flaked sweetened coconut


Grill pineapple slices over low to medium heat for 90 seconds on each side. Allow to cool briefly.

Sandwich the softened ice cream between the 2 grilled slices of pineapple. Coat sides in toasted coconut. Slice in half and serve immediately.


Vanilla Affogato

Affogato is an Italian drink that makes a wonderful alternative to iced coffee on a hot summer day.  Affogato literally means “drowned”.  It generally consists of  gelato (Italian ice cream) that is topped with hot espresso or a liqueur. You can use freshly brewed espresso or instant or decaffeinated espresso, if you prefer. You may also top your drink with a liqueur such as Kahlua, Grand Marnier or Frangelico.  You can also add a little powdered chocolate milk mix to the coffee for a mocha flavor. Traditionally, affogato is served with a biscotti on the side.

Serves 4


  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
  • 1 pint vanilla gelato or ice cream
  • Shaved chocolate


Beat the cream until stiff peaks form.

Cover and refrigerate.

Stir the espresso powder into the boiling water until dissolved.

Place one scoop of gelato into 4 tall glasses or large coffee mugs.

Pour 2 to 4 tablespoons hot espresso over each.

Top each with a dollop of whipped cream and shaved chocolate. Serve immediately.


Sicilian Granita

Tip: If you don’t have an espresso maker, use instant espresso powder and water; store the powder in your freezer after opening. Instant coffee will also work in a pinch, it just won’t be as full-flavored.

8 servings


  • 3 cups freshly brewed espresso
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon powdered sugar


Stir hot espresso and sugar in a medium bowl until the sugar dissolves. Let the mixture cool to room temperature, then pour into a 9-by-13-inch baking pan.

Place on a level surface in your freezer and freeze for 2 hours, stirring and scraping with a fork every 20 minutes to break up the ice crystals. Cover and freeze for at least 1 hour more.

Beat cream and powdered sugar in a medium bowl with an electric mixer on high-speed until medium peaks form, 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Scrape the frozen granita into ice crystals using a sturdy fork.

To serve, layer the granita in dessert goblets and top each with a tablespoon of whipped cream.


Italian Coconut-Coffee Bites

24 bites


  • 1 ½ teaspoons instant espresso powder or 2 teaspoons instant coffee granules
  • 2 ½ tablespoons boiling water
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 ¼ cups finely crushed biscotti crumbs
  • 5 ounces mascarpone cheese, softened
  • 5 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla


Line twenty-four mini muffin cups with paper baking cups; set aside.

Dissolve espresso powder in the boiling water; set aside.

For the crust:

In a medium nonstick skillet melt butter over medium-low heat. When butter is bubbling, add coconut. Cook and stir until coconut is toasted and golden brown. Stir in finely crushed biscotti crumbs. Remove pan from heat.

Spoon 1 teaspoon of the crumb mixture into each prepared muffin cup; press firmly to pack down. Place the muffin cup pan in the freezer. Keep remaining crumb mixture at room temperature to use for topping.

For the filling:

In a medium bowl beat mascarpone cheese with a wooden spoon until smooth and creamy, Beat in the sugar, cinnamon and salt until smooth and well mixed. Beat in vanilla and espresso.

Divide filling among the crumb-lined muffin cups. Top each cup with the reserved crumb mixture. With a fingertip, gently press topping into filling.

Freeze until firm, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.


Take advantage of fresh, in-season produce to make healthy dessert recipes for your next barbecue, block party or casual summer dinner. These summer desserts are so satisfying that no one will notice that they’re lower in fat and calories.


Berry-Lemon Shortcake

12 servings


  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup fat-free milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter

Berry-Lemon Sauce

  • 3 cups fresh  raspberries, strawberries or blueberries
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
  • 4 cups fresh raspberries, strawberries or blueberries


Allow eggs to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease a 9 x 9 x 2 inch baking pan. Line pan with waxed paper. Grease and flour the waxed paper; set pan aside.

In a small saucepan heat milk and butter until the butter melts.

In a small bowl stir together flour, baking powder and lemon peel; set aside.

In a medium bowl beat eggs with an electric mixer on high-speed about 4 minutes or until thick. Gradually add sugar, beating on medium speed for 4 to 5 minutes or until light and fluffy. Add flour mixture; beat on low to medium speed just until combined.

Add the heated milk/butter to the batter and beat until combined.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near center comes out clean.

Cool cake in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Invert cake onto a wire rack lined with waxed paper; carefully peel off top waxed paper and cool completely.

Make sauce: Place the 3 cups of berries in a medium bowl and mash the berries with a potato masher.

In a small saucepan combine sugar, cornstarch and lemon peel. Add mashed berries. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly; cook and stir for 2 minutes more. Remove from heat. Cool about 10 minutes. Stir in the 4 cups of berries. Makes about 3-1/2 cups.

Cut cake into 12 pieces. Split each cake piece in half horizontally. Place a cake bottom on an individual dessert plate. Spoon some sauce over the cake bottom. Cover with a cake top. Spoon sauce over the cake.


Chocolate Sauce with Fruit Kabobs

Be sure to use good quality chocolate for the sauce.

16 servings


  • Strawberry halves, pineapple, apple, kiwi fruit chunks and raspberries
  • 3/4 cups whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 6 ounces Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate baking bar, chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 6 ounces Ghirardelli Milk Chocolate baking bar, chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons brewed coffee


In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, vanilla and butter. Heat over medium heat until the mixture comes to a simmer.

Remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate and coffee until completely melted and smooth. Keep warm or reheat just before serving.

Thread assorted fruit onto sixteen 6-inch wooden (bamboo) skewers.

To serve:

Place a few tablespoons of sauce on a serving plate and place a fruit skewer on top.


Blueberry Cheesecake Bars

Makes 24 bars


  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 cup butter
  • One 8 ounce package low-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Powdered sugar


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 13 x 9 x 2 inch baking pan with foil, extending foil over edges of pan; set pan aside.

For the blueberry sauce:

In a small saucepan stir together the 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar and the cornstarch. Stir in the blueberries and the orange juice. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat and set aside.

For the crust:

In a large mixing bowl stir together the 2 cups flour and the powdered sugar. Cut in the butter until fine crumbs form and mixture starts to cling together (mixture will still be crumbly). Pat mixture firmly into prepared pan and bake the crust for 20 minutes.

For the cake:

n a medium bowl beat cream cheese, the 1/2 cup granulated sugar and the 1 tablespoon flour until smooth. Beat in eggs and vanilla until combined.

Pour over the hot baked crust, spreading evenly. Drop blueberry sauce in small mounds over the cheese layer. Use a thin metal spatula or table knife to marble the mixtures together.

Bake for 20 minutes more or until the center is set. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 1 hour. Cover and chill at least 1 hour.

Remove uncut bars from the pan by lifting the foil out of the pan. Cut into bars.

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 2 days. Sift powdered sugar over bars just before serving.


Chocolate-Hazelnut Cookies

28 cookies


  • 4.5 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 cup)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup finely chopped hazelnuts, toasted
  • 1/3 cup hazelnut-chocolate spread (such as Nutella)


Preheat oven to 350°F.

Weigh or lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine the flour, sugar, cocoa and salt; stir with a whisk.

Place butter in the large bowl of an electric mixer and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes).

Add the egg yolks, espresso and vanilla to the butter; beat well. Add flour mixture and beat at low-speed just until combined. Stir in nuts.

Cover bowl and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Turn dough out onto a sheet of wax paper; knead several times or until smooth and shiny. Shape dough into 28 (1-inch) balls.

Arrange balls 1 inch apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Press thumb deeply into the center of each cookie, leaving an indentation. Bake, 1 batch at a time for 10 minutes. Remove cookies from pans; cool completely on wire racks. Spoon a scant 1/2 teaspoon hazelnut-chocolate spread into center of each cookie.


Peach Custard Pie

10 servings



  • 1/2 cup pecan halves
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup ice water, plus more as needed
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice or distilled white vinegar


  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup low-fat milk
  • 3/4 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt (6 ounces)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 cups sliced fresh peeled peaches
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pecans

To prepare the crust:

Pulse pecans in a food processor until finely ground. Add flour, sugar and salt and pulse a few times. Turn into a mixing bowl and cut in butter with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add oil and stir with a fork to blend.

Mix 1/4 cup water, egg yolk and lemon juice (or vinegar) in a measuring cup. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Add enough of the wet ingredients, stirring with a fork, until the dough clumps together. (Add a little more water if it seems too dry.)

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead several times. Form into a ball, then flatten into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Position rack the in lower third of the oven; preheat to 400°F. Coat a 9-inch pie pan with cooking spray.

To prepare filling & assemble pie:

Combine sugar, milk, yogurt, eggs, flour, cornstarch, vanilla (or almond) extract and salt in a medium bowl; whisk until smooth.

Roll out the dough between sheets of parchment or wax paper into a 12-inch circle. Peel off the top sheet and invert the dough into the prepared pie pan. Peel off the remaining paper.

Trim the dough so it overhangs evenly by about 1 inch. Fold the edges under to make a plump edge; flute or crimp the edge with your fingers or a fork. Place on a baking sheet.

Arrange peaches on the crust and pour the filling on top (some peaches will float but this won’t affect the final results). Bake for 30 minutes.

Remove the pie from the oven and sprinkle chopped pecans over the top. Cover the edges with heavy-duty foil (or a double layer of regular foil) to help prevent over browning.

Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. Return the pie to the oven and bake until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, 40 minutes to 1 hour more.

Let cool for 1 1/2 hours. Serve warm or refrigerate until cold.


Sardinia is the second largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. The coasts of Sardinia are generally high and rocky with long, relatively straight stretches of coastline that contain a few deep bays, many inlets and smaller islands off the coast. The Strait of Bonifacio is directly north of Sardinia and separates Sardinia from the French island of Corsica. The region’s capital is Cagliari.


The island has a Mediterranean climate along the coasts, plains and low hills and a continental climate on the interior plateaus, valleys and mountain ranges. During the year there are approximately 135 days of sunshine, with a major concentration of rainfall in the autumn and winter.

Traditional Dress

Traditional Dress

During the Second World War, Sardinia was an important air and naval base and was heavily bombed by the Allies. In the early 1960s, an industrialization effort was begun with the initiation of major infrastructure projects on the island. These included the construction of new dams and roads, reforestation, agricultural zones on reclaimed marshland and large industrial complexes (primarily oil refineries and related petrochemical operations). With the creation of these industries, thousands of ex-farmers became industrial workers.

The Sardinian economy is constrained due to the high cost of importing goods, transportation and generating electricity, which is twice that of the continental Italian regions and triple that of the EU average. The once prosperous mining industry is still active, though restricted to coal, gold, bauxite, lead and zinc. Granite extraction represents one of the most flourishing industries in the northern part of the island. Principal industries include chemicals, petrochemicals, metalworking, cement, pharmaceutical, shipbuilding, oil rig construction, rail and food.


Cork Trees

Agriculture has played a very important role in the economic history of the island, especially in the great plain of Campidano, where it is particularly suitable for wheat farming. Water scarcity was a major problem that was overcome with the construction of a great barrier system of dams. Now, the Campidano plain is a major Italian producer of oats, barley and durum wheat. Sardinian agriculture is linked to specific products: cheese, wine, olive oil, artichokes and tomatoes that contribute to a growing export business. Sardinia produces about 80% of Italian cork and ranks 5th among the Italian regions in rice production. The main paddy fields are located in the Arborea Plain.

Sardinia is home to one of the oldest forms of vocal music, generally known as cantu a tenore. The guttural sounds produced in this form make a remarkable sound, similar to Tuvan throat singing. Sardinia is home to professional soccer and basketball teams and auto racing. Cagliari hosted a Formula 3000 race in 2002 and 2003 around its Sant’Elia stadium.


Sardinia boasts the highest consumption of beer per capita in Italy. The discovery of jars containing hops in some archaeological sites are evidence that beer was produced in the region since the Copper Age.

The Cuisine of Sardinia

Thousands of rare species of plants and animals grow and live on the island, some entirely unique to Sardinia. An excellent example of the longevity of Sardinia’s heirloom produce is the Grenache wine grape which dates back to about 1,200 BC. The Grenache grapes grown on the island today are genetically indistinguishable from their ancestors grown thousands of years ago in the same areas.

Wild boar, lamb, pork, eggplant, artichokes, tomatoes, lobsters, sea urchins, octopus, clams, mussels and squid are plentiful. Salty flavors are preferred by Sardinians, such as, bottarga (a pressed and salted mullet roe) and salt preserved sardines.


Traditional hearty Italian pastas like culingiones (spinach and cheese ravioli) share center stage with Arabic-inspired couscous dishes. Many first-time visitors are surprised by the Sardinians’ liberal use of saffron, which grows well on the island. Saffron is a particular favorite in gnocchi dishes.

A wide variety of herbs, including myrtle (berries, flowers, leaves and stems), flourish on Sardinia and flavor the local dishes. Whether savory, sweet, used for wood smoking or instilled into digestive liqueurs, myrtle is a major part of the Sardinian palate.


Cheeses are especially important and the island’s most exported food product. Pecorino sardo, Fiore sardo, ricotta, caprino, pecorino romano and the famous casu marzu are all made within the region. Casu marzu is illegal now in Italy due to its bizarre culturing and aging process involving the introduction of live cheese fly larvae into the process to bring about a poisonous stage akin to decomposition. Though obviously a risky gastronomic health adventure and definitely not for the timid, casu marzu is nonetheless a very popular black market commodity and is considered a distinctive delicacy by many locals.

For more traditional tastes, you will find local rock lobsters topped with seasoned breadcrumbs and roasted in the oven and cassòla, a flavorful seafood soup, that can have as many as a dozen types of seafood cooked with spices and tomatoes.

Fava beans are cooked with cardoons, wild fennel, tomatoes, salt pork and sausage to create the thick stew known as favata.  Farro, a locally grown grain, is simmered slowly in beef broth with cheese and mint to make su farro.

Chickens are marinated with myrtle leaves and berries, boiled and eaten chilled.  Other Sardinian recipes for meat are agnello con finocchietti, a stew of lamb with wild fennel, tomatoes and onion.  Not people to waste food, Sardinians stew lamb or kid intestines with peas, onions and tomatoes.

Sardinians love pasta in all forms and their cuisine features specialties found nowhere else.  Plump culingiones are shaped like ravioli and stuffed with chard and pecorino cheese and served with tomato sauce. The regional dish, malloreddus, are tiny semolina gnocchi topped with a garlic, basil, pecorino and saffron flavored sausage and tomato sauce.


Every village has a unique shaped bread, either a round loaf, a long cylindrical loaf or a donut shaped loaf.  Sardinian recipes also include a sweet focaccia flavored with pecorino cheese and a local bitter honey. The entire island loves flatbread and crisp carta de musica or “sheet of music”,  a paper-thin crisp bread. One popular way to serve this cracker style bread is to soften it in warm water, then spread it with tomato sauce, grated cheese and poached eggs.

Sardinian cooking also offers a wide selection of cookies, pastries and cakes. These desserts are usually flavored with spices, almonds, raisins and ricotta cheese.  Pabassinas are pastries filled with a raisin walnut paste.


Mirto is a liqueur unique to the islands of Sardinia and Corsica. It is made from the berries of the flowering Mirto (or Myrtle) plant, a distinctive plant that grows throughout the Mediterranean basin but is most prolific on the islands of Sardinia and Corsica. The berries are dark blue in color and look somewhat like blueberries but bear no relationship to blueberries in taste or other properties.

Sardinia’s wines have little in common with those produced in the rest of Italy. The Island’s remote Mediterranean location, as well as the historic influence from other cultures, gives the wines a unique character that might be considered to have more in common with Spanish wines rather than Italian wines. Production is extensive around the port of Cagliari in the Campidano area, where the little known Girò, Monica, Nasco and Nuragus varietals grow alongside Malvasia and Moscato, all bearing town names: Girò di Cagliari, Monica di Cagliari, Nasco di Cagliari, Nuragus di Cagliari, Malvasia di Cagliari and Moscato di Cagliari DOCs.


Sardinian Minestrone

Traditionally, it is made with whatever is growing in the garden, but it always includes beans and fregula (or fregola) a toasted pebble-size semolina pasta that is popular in Sardinia.


  • 1/2 cup dried peeled fava beans
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberry beans or cannellini beans
  • 1/3 cup dried chickpeas
  • 7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped (about 2⁄3 cup)
  • 2 medium celery stalks, chopped (about ½ cup)
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes (about 3½ cups)
  • 3 medium yellow potatoes, peeled and diced (about 1½ cups)
  • 1½ cups chopped fennel bulb
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 2⁄3 cup of Sardinian fregula, Israeli couscous, or acini di pepe pasta
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup finely grated pecorino Romano (about 2 ounces)


Soak the fava beans, cranberry beans and chickpeas in a large bowl of water for at least 8 hours or overnight. Drain in a colander and rinse well.

Warm 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large soup pot or Dutch oven set over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrots and celery; cook, stirring often, until soft but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 20 seconds.

Stir in the tomatoes, potatoes, fennel, parsley and basil, as well as the drained beans and chickpeas. Add enough water (6 to 8 cups) so that everything is submerged by 1 inch.

Raise the heat to high and bring to a full boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer slowly, uncovered, until the beans are tender, adding more water as necessary if the mixture gets too thick, about 1½ hours.

Stir in the fregula, salt and pepper. Add up to 2 cups water if necessary. Continue simmering, uncovered, until the pasta is tender, about 10 minutes.

Pour 1 tablespoon of olive oil into each of four serving bowls. Divide the soup among them and top each with 1 tablespoon of the grated cheese.

Notes: You can vary the beans in the minestrone: pinto beans make a good substitute for cranberry beans; great northern or cannellini beans, for the favas. Use the stalks and fronds that come off a fennel bulb for the most intense flavor. Add other fresh vegetables from the garden or market, such as zucchini, cabbage, green beans, and cauliflower or broccoli florets.


Cavatelli with Sardinian Sausage Sauce

Cavatelli pasta is shaped like a small hot dog bun with a long, rolled edge that is good for holding thick sauces.

4 servings


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 pound hot Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 cups canned crushed tomatoes in thick puree (one 28-ounce can)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 2 large pinches saffron
  • 1 pound fresh or frozen cavatelli pasta
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 3 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan, plus more for serving


In a large deep frying pan or Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over moderate heat. Add the sausage and cook, breaking up the meat with a fork, until it is no longer pink, about 5 minutes.

Reduce the heat to moderately low and add the remaining oil to the pan. Stir in the onion and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, mint, parsley, water, salt and 1 pinch of the saffron. Simmer until thickened, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the cavatelli with the remaining pinch saffron until just done, 10 to 15 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Drain the cavatelli and toss with the meat sauce, the basil, the reserved pasta water and the cheese. Serve with additional Pecorino Romano.


Sardinian Lamb Kabobs over Couscous

Serves 4


  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless leg of lamb, cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
  • 8 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 4 tablespoons lemon juice, divided
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 small head cauliflower (about 1 1/4 pounds), cut into small florets
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron
  • 3/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper, divided
  • 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes in thick puree
  • 1 3/4 cups canned chicken broth or homemade stock
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1 1/2 cups couscous
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

In a small frying pan, toast the pine nuts over moderately low heat, stirring frequently, until golden brown, about 5 minutes.

Light an outdoor grill or heat the broiler.

In a glass dish or stainless steel pan, combine the lamb, 6 tablespoons of the oil, the thyme and 3 tablespoons of the lemon juice.

In a large frying pan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over moderate heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until starting to brown, about 5 minutes.

Add the cauliflower, garlic and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower is golden, about 10 minutes. Add the saffron, 1 1/4 teaspoons of the salt, 1/2 teaspoon of the pepper, the tomatoes, broth and raisins.

Simmer until the cauliflower is tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the couscous and parsley. Bring back to a simmer. Cover, remove from the heat, and let sit for 5 minutes. Stir in the pine nuts and the remaining 1 tablespoon lemon juice.

Put the lamb on skewers. Sprinkle the kabobs with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Grill or broil the kabobs, turning and basting with the marinade, until the lamb is cooked to your taste, 6 to 8 minutes for medium rare. Serve the skewers on the couscous.


“Torta de arrosu”  Saffron rice cake


  • 200 gr / 7 oz rice
  • 150 gr/ 5 oz  sugar
  • 750 ml /  1 ½ pints of milk
  • 1/2 oz butter
  • 5 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 100 gr/ 3 1/2 oz skinned almonds
  • Grated rind of a lemon
  • A pinch of saffron
  • A pinch of salt
  • Powdered sugar for garnish


Preheat the oven to 350 degree F (180 C).  Grease a 9 inch (24 cm) cake pan.

Put the milk, butter, saffron, sugar, salt and lemon rind in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Add the rice and cook, stirring frequently, until all the milk has been absorbed. Let cool and then add the eggs and the almonds.

Spoon mixture into the prepared pan.

Bake in the preheated oven for one hour.  Cool on a wire rack and sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving.


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