Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Dinner



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


Serves 6

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.

Serves 4-6


  • 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.

Cardoon Gratin


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.

4-6 servings


  • 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.

Chocolate-Hazelnut Tart



  • 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.

Toasted Hazelnuts

  • 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.



With the weather getting cooler in many parts of the country, we may find ourselves entertaining friends for dinner rather than hosting casual, warm weather BBQs. There are so many good choices in the fall for your menu that it is difficult to know where to begin. Chicken is always a good choice but for a dinner party,  the chicken recipe should be something a little different; something your guests may not have had before – just to keep things interesting. Choose vegetables in season, a side of potatoes, noodles or rice and a great appetizer.

Please find below one of my fall dinner party menu suggestions and the recipes to go with it.

Entertaining Menu

Antipasto Stromboli

Wine: Pinot Grigio or Prosecco

Vinegar Braised Chicken with Pappardelle Noodles

Olive Oil Braised Broccoli Rabe

Wine: Barbera from Emilia-Romagna or a Chianti from Tuscany

Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti and Cherry Pistachio Biscotti

Fresh Fruit


First Course


Antipasto Stromboli


  • 2 (one pound) pizza dough balls, at room temperature
  • Olive oil
  • 1/4 pound thinly sliced Genoa Salami
  • 1/4 Pound thinly sliced Pepperoni
  • 1/2 pound thinly sliced Provolone Cheese
  • 1/2 cup sliced pickled cherry peppers
  • 1 egg lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. and line two baking sheets with parchment.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out one of the dough balls to a 15 x 10 inch rectangle. Brush the dough lightly with olive oil.

Use half the meat, cheese and peppers, and cover the dough, leaving a 1/2 inch border.


Roll the dough up into a log and brush the seam edges with beaten egg.

Leaving the seam at the bottom and pinching the ends closed, place the roll on one of the baking sheets. Complete the other roll in the same manner.

Brush the rolls with the beaten egg mixture and bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Cool 10 minutes before slicing.

Second Course


Vinegar-Braised Chicken


  • 8-10 pieces of chicken – combination of bone-in breasts cut in half if large and thighs (skin on or off; your choice)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Flour
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 bunch scallions (green onions), sliced thin
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 8 oz pappardelle noodles


Preheat the oven to 425°F and position a rack in the upper third.

Coat the chicken in flour and season generously with salt and pepper.

In a Dutch Oven or large ovenproof skillet heat half of the butter and half of the oil. Add half the chicken, skin side up, and cook over high heat until browned, about 5 minutes. Turn and cook the chicken for 1 minute. Remove to a large platter. Repeat with the remaining butter, oil and chicken. When brown place on the platter with the first batch of chicken.

Add the scallions and garlic to the skillet and cook until the onions begin to soften, about 2 minutes. Add the broth and vinegar and bring to a boil. Season with salt and pepper.

Place the chicken on top, skin side up and roast for about 25 minutes, until it is cooked through.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pappardelle and cook until the al dente stage. Drain. Place the noodles on a large serving platter.

Place the Dutch Oven on top of the the stove and transfer the chicken with a slotted spoon to the  platter with the noodles, arranging the chicken attractively over the noodles.

Bring the mixture in the pot to a boil over high heat and cook until the liquid is reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add a little of the sauce to the sour cream, mix well and whisk the sour cream into the mixture in the pot. Simmer until the sauce is hot and slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Do not boil or the sour cream will curdle. Season with salt and pepper. Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve.


Olive-Oil-Braised Broccoli Rabe

Look for broccoli rabe with vibrant green leaves and plump stems.

Serves 8


  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 6 medium garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
  • 2 bunches (1 1/4 pounds each) broccoli rabe, trimmed and cut crosswise into 3-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon julienned lemon zest, plus fresh lemon juice for serving
  • Coarse salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 cups homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock


Heat the oil and garlic in a large straight-sided skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until garlic is sizzling and aromatic, but not browned, about 2 minutes.

Add the broccoli rabe, zest and 3/4 teaspoon salt, then use tongs to toss and coat in oil. Add the stock and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook until broccoli rabe is tender, 7 to 10 minutes.

Transfer contents of pan (including liquid) to a serving bowl. Grind pepper over top and drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice.

Dessert Course


Cherry Pistachio Biscotti

Makes about 36 biscotti


  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted pistachio nuts
  • 1 cup dried tart cherries
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs, plus 1 egg, lightly beaten, for brushing the tops of the dough
  • 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract


Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Reserve one baking sheet for later when you bake the biscotti slices.

Place pistachios in a single layer on a third baking sheet and toast the nuts in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until just golden. Remove the nuts from the pan and set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, mix toasted pistachios, cherries, sugars, baking powder and flour.

In a small bowl, whisk eggs and vanilla extract until well blended. Add to the flour mixture. Stir a few times.

Work the batter together with lightly floured hands. The mixture will be sticky, but persevere. Keep squeezing the batter with your hands, until a dough starts to form. Once the dough is firm, form a ball. Divide the ball into 2 equal pieces.

On a lightly floured surface, place one piece of dough and, using your hands, roll into a log shape that is approximately 8 inches long and 2 inches wide. If it’s sticky, simply dust your palms with more flour. Repeat with the remaining piece of dough. Place the two logs on one baking sheet. Brush the loaves all over with 1 lightly beaten egg.

Bake for 40 minutes, turning the pan around halfway through, or until the tops of the loaves are shiny and deep golden. Cool on a rack for about 20 minutes before slicing.

Place a loaf on a cutting board. Using a large serrated knife, cut 1/2-inch-thick slices, either straight or on the diagonal. Use a sawing motion to prevent crumbling. If the cookie is crumbling, then let it cool a few more minutes. Don’t let it rest too long, however, or it could become too hard to slice.

Place slices on their sides on the baking sheets. Reduce the oven temperature to 200 degrees F and bake the biscotti for 20 minutes, until toasted and crisp. Turn the biscotti slices over and rotate the pans after ten minutes.

Remove the pans from the oven and cool the biscotti completely before storing in an airtight container.

Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti

Makes about 36 biscotti (3/4-inch-wide cookies)


  • 1 1/2 cups toasted hazelnuts, chopped
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons espresso powder
  • 4 large eggs, plus 1 egg, lightly beaten, for brushing the tops of the dough
  • 2 tablespoons coffee liqueur


Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Reserve one baking sheet for later when you bake the biscotti slices.

Place hazelnuts in a single layer on a third baking sheet and toast the nuts in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until just golden. Remove the nuts from the pan and set aside to cool. Chop the nuts into large pieces.

In a large bowl, mix toasted hazelnuts, chocolate chips, sugars, baking powder, cocoa, flour, cinnamon and espresso powder.

In a small bowl, whisk eggs and coffee liqueur. Add to the flour mixture. Stir a few times.

Work the batter together with lightly floured hands. The mixture will be sticky, but persevere. Keep squeezing the batter with your hands, until a dough starts to form. Once the dough is firm, form a ball. Divide the ball into 2 equal pieces.

On a lightly floured surface, place one piece of dough and, using your hands, roll into a log shape that is approximately 8 inches long and 2 inches wide. If it’s sticky, simply dust your palms with more flour. Repeat with the remaining piece of dough. Place the two logs on one baking sheet. Brush loaves all over with 1 lightly beaten egg.

Bake for 40 minutes, turning the pan around halfway through, or until the tops of the loaves are shiny and deep golden. Cool on a rack for about 20 minutes before slicing.

Place a loaf on a cutting board. Using a large serrated knife, cut 1/2-inch-thick slices, either straight or on the diagonal. Use a sawing motion to prevent crumbling. If the cookie is crumbling, then let it cool a few more minutes. Don’t let it rest too long, however, or it could become too hard to slice.

Place slices on their sides on the baking sheets. Reduce the oven temperature to 200 degrees F and bake the biscotti for 20 minutes, until toasted and crisp. Turn the biscotti slices over and rotate the pans after ten minutes.

Remove the pans from the oven and cool the biscotti completely before storing in an airtight container.


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.

2 servings


  • 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


4 servings


  • 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.

with Italian Sausage & Spinach


4 servings


  • 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


Serves 2


  • 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.

Prepare couscous:

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

Prepare kebabs:

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


8 servings


  • 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


2 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.


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

A soffritto can be considered the Italian version of a mirepoix and is a combination of olive oil and minced browned vegetables (usually onion, carrot and celery) that are used to create a base for a variety of slow-cooked dishes. Herbs (sage and rosemary) are used in many Tuscan dishes and seasonings can be added to the soffritto, as needed, to bring out the unique flavors of each different recipe.

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



Italian Bread



Marinated Olives and Mushrooms


  • 1 cup mixed Italian olives
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped mixed fresh herbs, (flat-leaf parsley basil, and oregano)
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest


  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb. whole cremini mushrooms, stemmed
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh fennel stalk (with some chopped fronds)
  • 2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


To prepare olives:

Combine ingredients in a bowl and let sit for 1 hour. Serve at room temperature or store in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

To prepare mushrooms:

Heat oil in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat. Add remaining ingredients and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are just soft, 6–8 minutes.

Transfer mushrooms to a medium bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Mushrooms will keep in refrigerator for 1 week. Serve at room temperature.


Tuscan White Bean Salad


  • 1 pound cannellini beans
  • 4 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh oregano leaves
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper


Soak the beans in water to cover overnight.

Drain the beans and simmer in water to cover until tender (about 45-60 minutes).

Combine the remaining ingredients and toss with the warm beans.

Correct seasoning to taste. Serve at room temperature.

Main Course

Stracotto translates literally from the Italian as “overcooked,” but the term has come to refer to beef stews and braises – especially in northern Italy. There are as many versions of this dish as there are cooks. The important part of the recipe is the slow cooking of the meat at a very low temperature to tenderize even the toughest cut of beef. The recipe starts with a soffritto and continues with the addition of red wine, beef broth, tomatoes and tomato paste.

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Italian Pot Roast (Stracotto)


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 lb chuck roast
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 8 oz. cremini mushrooms, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 cups dry red wine
  • 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley leaves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons sage leaves, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • One 26-28 oz. container Italian crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • Polenta, recipe below


Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Salt and pepper the roast, then brown it on both sides. Put the roast on a plate and set aside.

Sauté the vegetables in the oil that remains until they’re soft and a little browned.

Add the wine to stir up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan and bring to a boil for 2-3 minutes.

Add the herbs, tomato paste, tomatoes and beef stock. Put the roast back in the pot and bring the mixture to a simmer and keep at just a simmer for 2 ½ to 3 hours. If the liquid begins to boil, you may need to place the lid ajar. You don’t want a rapid boil, just a few lazy bubbles or the meat will get tough.

When the meat is tender, remove it from the sauce and cut into thin slices. To thicken the sauce, boil for a few minutes to reduce it. Remove the bay leaf.

Serve the sliced beef with the creamy polenta. An Italian red wine, like Montepulciano d’Abruzzo or Chianti, will be great to use in the recipe and to drink with dinner.


Quick Creamy Polenta


  • 3 cups beef broth or water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, if using water
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup quick cooking polenta


Bring the broth to a boil. Add salt and butter, then while stirring, slowly pour in the polenta. Stir until there are no lumps, then turn the heat down to a bare simmer. After 5 minutes, turn off the heat and cover the pan until ready to serve.

Dessert Course


Fresh Fall Fruit


Amaretto Biscotti


  • 3½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 egg yolks and reserve one egg white
  • 2 cups granulated sugar, plus 1 tablespoon for topping
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons Amaretto liqueur
  • 1 tablespoon anise seed
  • 6 cups whole almonds, coarsely chopped


Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly grease two heavy cookie sheets, or line with parchment paper.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, egg yolks and sugar until light, about 2 minutes; the mixture will look somewhat curdled.

Beat in the vanilla, amaretto and anise seed. Beat in the dry ingredients, then the chopped nuts.

Divide the dough into four portions. On a lightly floured board, shape each portion into a flat log, just about the length the cookie sheet. Place two rolls on each cookie sheet.

In a small bowl, beat the egg white with a fork until frothy. With a pastry brush, glaze each log with some egg white and sprinkle with granulated sugar.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the logs are lightly golden brown, firm to the touch and just beginning to crack slightly.

Allow the logs to cool on the cookie sheet about 20 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 200°F.  With a serrated knife slice the biscotti on the bias into ½-inch slices. Lay the slices on the cookie sheets in a single layer; Return the biscotti to the oven and cook for 20 more minutes, turning over halfway through the baking time or until the biscotti are toasted and crisp

Store the biscotti in an airtight container. They will keep for 2-3 weeks.


Folklore states that cooks aboard Neapolitan ships invented marinara sauce in the mid-16th century after the Spaniards introduced the tomato from America to Europe. The original recipe was resistant to spoilage due to the high acid content of the tomatoes. This made it ideal for lengthy sea voyages hundreds of years before refrigeration methods were invented. Historically, the first Italian cookbook to include tomato sauce was Lo Scalco alla Moderna (The Modern Steward), written by Italian chef, Antonio Latini, and was published in two volumes in 1692 and 1694. This early tomato sauce was more like a modern tomato salsa.

Today, the sauce is usually made with tomatoes, garlic, herbs and onions. Its many variations can include the addition of capers, olives and spices and it is occasionally sweetened with a dash of red wine. This sauce is widely used in Italian-American cuisine, which has greatly diverged from its Old World origins.

Keep your freezer or pantry stocked and you’ll always be minutes away from a great, easy meal. Visit this link for my homemade marinara recipe or use your favorite brand.

For Breakfast or Lunch:


Marinara Baked Eggs

4 servings


  • 1 cup marinara sauce
  • 4 eggs
  • Shaved Parmesan cheese, optional


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Warm marinara sauce; pour 1/4 cup into each of four lightly greased 6-ounce ramekins.

Top each with 1 egg. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until the egg white is set and the yolk is thickened.

To serve:

Sprinkle with shaved Parmesan cheese. Serve crusty bread on the side.


Italian Stew

4 servings


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, quartered or sliced
  • 3/4 cup chopped green bell pepper (1 medium)
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped onion (1 small)
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 cups marinara sauce
  • 1 ¼ pounds uncooked ground turkey breast
  • Four ½ inch slices of Italian bread, toasted (optional)
  • 1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese (2 ounces)


In a 3 1/2 to 4-quart saucepan, heat oil and add ground turkey. Cook until brown.

Add mushrooms, bell pepper, onion, Italian seasoning, salt and black pepper. Cook until vegetables are tender.

Pour marinara sauce over all. Cover and cook on low-heat for 1 hour.

To serve:

Heat the broiler

Pour stew into 4 individual ovenproof bowls. Top with a slice of bread and sprinkle each with mozzarella cheese. Place under the broiler until the cheese begins to melt. Serve immediately.

You can also skip the bread and just top the hot stew with mozzarella cheese.


Pizza Stuffed Potatoes

4 servings


  • 4 medium russet potatoes
  • Olive oil
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup pre-cooked additions, such as chopped bell pepper, chopped mushrooms, crumbled Italian sausage or chopped ham
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano or Italian seasoning
  • 2 cups marinara sauce
  • 8 teaspoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • Sliced olives, optional


Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Scrub  potatoes thoroughly with a brush; pat dry. Prick potatoes with a fork and rub with olive oil. Bake for 40 to 60 minutes or until tender.

Split each potato in half lengthwise. Carefully scoop out the flesh of each potato, leaving a 1/4-inch-thick shell. Place in a baking dish sprayed with olive oil cooking spray.

In a bowl mash scooped-out potato flesh; add 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, 1 cup desired fillings and 2 teaspoon dried oregano or Italian seasoning.

Spoon 1/4 cup marinara sauce into the bottom of each shell; divide the potato mixture evenly among the shells. Sprinkle each potato half with 1 teaspoon grated Parmesan cheese.

Bake about 15 minutes or until heated through. Garnish with sliced olives, if desired.

For Dinner:


Italian Style Pot Roast

4 servings


  • One 3 pound boneless beef chuck pot roast
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seed, toasted and crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 medium fennel bulbs, trimmed, cored and cut into thin wedges
  • 3 medium carrots, cut in 2-inch lengths (1-1/2 cups)
  • 1 large onion, cut into thin wedges (1 cup)
  • 3 1/2 cups marinara sauce
  • 2 cups hot cooked penne pasta
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
  • Grated Parmesan cheese


Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees F.

Trim fat from the meat.

In a small bowl, combine garlic salt, fennel seed and pepper; rub into the roast on all sides.

In a 5-quart Dutch Oven heat oil and brown the roast on all sides. Remove to a plate.

Place the fennel, carrot and onion in the bottom of the pot and and place the roast on top.

Pour the marinara sauce over the roast  Bring liquid to simmer over medium heat, then place a large piece of foil over the pot and cover tightly with the lid; transfer the pot to the oven.

Cook, turning the roast every 30 minutes until fully tender and a meat fork or sharp knife easily slips in and out of the meat, about 3 1/2 to 4 hours.

Toss the cooked pasta with parsley and place on a serving platter. Slice the roast. Place the sliced pot roast slices and vegetables on the plate with the pasta.

Pour the sauce over all and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Serve.


Marinara Poached Chicken

Serve this dish with cooked pasta, mashed potatoes or couscous.

4 servings


  • 3 cups marinara sauce
  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Grated Parmesan cheese and chopped fresh basil for garnish


Pour marinara sauce into a large, deep skillet with a cover; warm over medium heat.

Sprinkle skinless, boneless chicken breast halves with salt and ground black pepper. Add to the skillet and turn to coat in the sauce.

Heat just until beginning to boil; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, about 10 minutes or until the chicken is no longer pink in the center and a meat thermometer reaches 165 degrees F.

Top with grated Parmesan cheese and basil before serving.


Eating less meat and more grains, beans, fruits and vegetables means you’ll be consuming fewer calories and less saturated fat. People who eat less meat are healthier, less prone to cancer, especially colorectal cancer, and suffer from fewer heart problems. Another benefit is that you’ll save money. Meat costs more per pound than most foods and it can be challenging to serve healthy meals on a budget.

Committing to a 100% vegetarian diet isn’t necessary to achieve the health benefits that vegetarians enjoy. There aren’t specific guidelines to exactly how much meat to cut out to achieve these benefits, but cutting back even slightly is a positive change. A national health campaign known as “Meatless Monday” promotes cutting out meat one day each week, but you could try meatless lunches during the week for the same effect. Going meatless once a week may reduce your risk of chronic preventable diseases and it can also help reduce your carbon footprint and save precious resources like freshwater and fossil fuel.

How to make veggies taste good:

Go big when it comes to seasoning your veggie-friendly food. Fresh herbs are great but try something besides rosemary and thyme. Hearty roasted root vegetables are the perfect blank canvas for experiments using dried spices. A blend made with shallot, onion and garlic, adds lots of flavor to vegetables. Like things hot? Try Aleppo pepper, a spicy-sweet pepper. Don’t be shy with the sauces, either. Harissa is a spicy and aromatic chile paste that’s a widely used staple in North African and Middle Eastern cooking. Harissa added to yogurt brings the heat and then the yogurt calms it down. This sauce is delicious drizzled over roasted carrots. Or, use a herb-packed vinaigrette made from parsley, tahini, lemon and garlic. Choosing in-season produce at the peak of ripeness ensures that the color will be rich the taste will be fresh and flavorful.

Dinner One: Lentil Chili and Corn Muffins with Cheddar Cheese

veggie night1

Lentil Chili

Serves 8


  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 large red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 4 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 (16-ounce) package brown lentils (about 2 1/4 cups lentils)
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley


Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add onion and bell pepper; cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables begin to brown, about 6 minutes.

Stir in garlic and chili powder and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add lentils, tomatoes and broth.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered, 30 minutes or until lentils are almost tender.

Uncover and cook 10 minutes longer. Stir in parsley, salt and pepper and serve.


Corn Muffins with Cheddar Cheese


  • 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cups yellow cornmeal
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 large egg
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 cups grated aged cheddar cheese, divided
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Butter 12 standard muffin cups or use cupcake liners.

Combine cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cayenne pepper in a bowl.

Whisk together buttermilk, egg and butter in a separate bowl.

Add buttermilk mixture to the cornmeal mixture and stir just until combined. Gently fold in 1 cup of cheese and the corn kernels.

Divide batter evenly among the muffin cups. Sprinkle tops with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese.

Bake 15 to 17 minutes, until golden and a wooden pick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove muffins from the tins and cool at least 5 minutes before serving.

Dinner Two: Penne Pasta with Eggplant Sauce and Garden Salad


Penne Pasta with Eggplant Sauce

4-6 servings


  • 1 medium to large eggplant, trimmed and diced (about 4 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 ounces sliced mushrooms
  • One 28 – ounce can Italian-style tomatoes, undrained
  • One 6 – ounce can Italian tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine or beef or vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
  • 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh parsley
  • ½ teaspoon salt, plus extra for seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon dried red chili flakes
  • 4 cups hot cooked penne pasta (about 8 oz. uncooked)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
  • 1/2 cup packed basil leaves, roughly chopped


Peel eggplant and cut eggplant into 1-inch cubes.

Heat the oil a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the eggplant and a generous pinch of salt and allow to cook, shaking and tossing occasionally, until the eggplant is brown and softened, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl with a slotted spoon, cover with foil, and set aside.

Add the onions and mushrooms. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic, oregano, salt and red chili flakes.

Add the tomatoes and tomato paste and bring to a simmer. Once the tomatoes have softened, gently break them apart with a potato masher. Then add the wine and water and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook until the sauce has thickened, about 30 minutes.

Add the cooked pasta, parsley and eggplant, cover, and heat over medium until hot. Stir in basil and olives, season to taste with salt and pepper and garnish with pignoli and Parmesan cheese.


Garden Salad

4 servings


  • 1 cup torn romaine lettuce
  • 1 cup fresh spinach leaves
  • 3/4 cup torn curly endive
  • 3/4 cup baby arugula
  • 1 small red, green and/or yellow bell peppers, cut into thin strips
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup red or yellow grape, pear or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 small carrot or half of a large carrot, thinly shaved
  • 1 ounce cheddar cheese, finely shredded (1/4 cup)
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup Homemade Salad Dressing (recipe below)


In a large bowl, combine romaine, spinach, curly endive, arugula, bell pepper strips, red onion, and cherry tomatoes. Top with carrot and cheddar cheese. Toss with the dressing and serve.

Homemade Salad Dressing


  • 1/4 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 3 tablespoons vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup olive oil


In a blender, combine broth, vinegar, honey, paprika, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, black pepper and salt.

With the blender running, slowly add the olive oil through the hole in the lid and continue blending until mixture is emulsified.

Cover and chill for up to 1 week. Makes about 3/4 cup.

Dinner Three: Oven Baked Asparagus and Pepper Frittata; Sautéed Garlic Spinach and Braised Baby Potatoes


Oven Baked Asparagus and Pepper Frittata

6 servings


  • 1 lb asparagus, trimmed
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 red bell pepper, julienned
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 eggs, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons Italian parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 4 oz feta cheese, crumbled (about 1 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon butter, softened


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Cut asparagus at an angle into two-inch pieces and blanch in boiling hot water to cover about two minutes. Drain and set aside.

Heat olive oil in an ovenproof skillet with a cover. Add bell peppers and cook until soft, but not browned, about 7 minutes. Stir in onion and  asparagus pieces; sauté for 1 minute. With a slotted spoon remove the vegetables to a large mixing bowl.

Whisk chopped parsley, salt and pepper with the beaten eggs. Stir in cheese and mix with the sautéed vegetables in the mixing bowl.

Coat the inside of the skillet with the softened butter. Pour the egg mixture into pan. Bake, covered, until the eggs are just firm, about 35 minutes. Remove cover; bake until top is lightly browned, about 10 minutes.

Divide into six wedges and serve.


Sautéed Garlic Spinach

Serves 4


  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 5 garlic cloves, thickly sliced lengthwise
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red chili pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt
  • Thick strips of zest from 1 lemon
  • 2 pounds spinach, cleaned, thick stems discarded
  • Freshly ground pepper


In a small saucepan, stir together the olive oil, garlic, chili pepper and 1 teaspoon of salt. Stir in the lemon zest. Bring the oil to a gentle simmer over low heat and cook until the garlic begins to brown slightly, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the oil infuse for 1 hour. Remove the lemon zest with tongs and discard.

In a large skillet a large heat the infused oil and add some of the spinach and cook over moderately high heat until wilted. Add the remaining spinach until it is all wilted..Season with additional salt, if needed and serve.


Braised Baby Potatoes

Serves 4


  • 16 small red or new potatoes, halved
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves


Place the potatoes, chicken stock, olive oil, salt and black pepper in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Drain the potatoes and place in a serving bowl. (I save this broth for soup or cooking other vegetables at a later time.)

Add the lemon zest and basil. Toss well and serve

Dinner Four: Mediterranean Salad with Hummus and Pita


Easy Hummus


  • One 15-ounce can of no salt added chickpeas, drained, 1 tablespoon of the liquid reserved
  • 1 small garlic clove, smashed
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil plus extra for top
  • Pinch of sweet smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • Chopped parsley for garnish


In a food processor, combine the chickpeas with the liquid, garlic, lemon juice and tahini and puree to a chunky paste. Scrape down the side of the bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the paprika and puree until smooth. Season the hummus with salt and drizzle the top with olive oil and sprinkle with parsley. Serve with Pita bread.


Mediterranean Salad


4 servings

  • 1/2 cup bulgur (not quick-cooking)
  • 1/4 of a medium head green cabbage, cut into 1”-thick wedges, then very thinly sliced crosswise (about 2 cups)
  • 1/2 sweet onion (such as Vidalia), finely chopped
  • 2 cups assorted small tomatoes, halved, quartered if large
  • 3/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh mint
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped flat leafed parsley
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or 1/4 teaspoon crushed red chili pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt


Place bulgur in a large bowl and add 3/4 cups boiling water. Let soak until softened and water is absorbed, 40–45 minutes.

Mix bulgur, cabbage, onion, tomatoes, mint, oil, lemon juice and Aleppo pepper in a large bowl to combine; season to taste with salt.

Do Ahead: The salad (without oil and lemon juice) can be made 4 hours ahead. Toss with oil and lemon juice just before serving.

Umbrian Olive Orchards

Umbrian Olive Orchards

The only landlocked region in Italy, Umbria is located in the center of the country. Wheat and spelt, pearl barley, grapes, olives, lentils, red potatoes, sunflowers and fruits and vegetables of all kinds grow well in the fertile lands of Umbria and provide the basis for hearty Umbrian cooking. Abundant, as well, are forest animals like deer, wild pigs and venison that provide hearty proteins for the Umbrian table.

Some of the best lentils come from Umbria, in particular from Castelluccio, therefore a hearty lentil soup is a typical regional dish served as a first course or for lunch. With such a strong meaty tradition where meats are often cooked whole on a spit, Umbrian second courses appeal to meat lovers.  Late summer is fig season in Umbria and they are often baked into sweet breads and pastries.


The wines of Umbria include: Sagrantino di Montefalco (DOCG) and Montefalco Rosso (DOC), but the most prestigious Umbrian wine is Torgiano Rosso “riserva” (DOCG). Orvieto produces one of Italy’s best-selling DOC whites.

The dinner menu below is inspired by the cuisine and regional foods of Umbria, Italy

First Course


Umbrian Vegetable and Sausage Lentil Soup


  • 2  tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 Italian sausage links, sliced thin and each slice cut in half
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, peeled and chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 large red potato, peeled and cubed
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon coarse salt
  • 1 cup lentils
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 28 oz. container finely chopped Italian tomatoes
  • Half of a 16 oz. package of frozen broccoli florets
  • 6 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • 2 cups water


Heat the oil in a large Dutch Oven or soup pot. Add the sausage and brown; remove to a plate.

Add all the vegetables and garlic to the pot and saute until softened, about 10 minutes.

Add the broth, water, tomato and seasonings. Bring to a boil, lower heat to medium and cook the vegetables for 15 minutes.

Stir in the lentils and bring back to a boil, lower the heat to medium low and simmer until the lentils are tender but not mushy, about 30 to 45 minutes.

Remove the bay leaf. Serve with crusty Italian bread

Second Course

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Pork Scaloppine with Peppers and Onions

6 servings


  • 3 boneless pork loin chops, about 1 lb.
  • 1/2 cup refrigerated egg substitute or 2 eggs
  • 1 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 an onion, sliced
  • 3-4 Italian frying peppers, depending on their size
  • 1/2 cup pureed Italian tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • Salt & pepper to taste


Trim and cut the pork chops in half lengthwise to make 6 pieces. Place a piece of plastic wrap on the countertop. Put one pork piece on top of the plastic and cover with a second piece of plastic wrap.



With a meat mallet (or heavy skillet), pound the meat into 1/4-inch thick scaloppine.


Repeat with the other 5 pieces.

Dip the scaloppini in the egg and then coat in the bread crumbs. Place breaded meat on a plate, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to cook.


Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet. Add the 3 scaloppini slices and brown on both sides. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate and keep warm. Repeat with the remaining oil and breaded cutlets.

Add the garlic, peppers and onions to the skillet and cook until tender. Stir in the tomatoes and Italian seasoning. Season with salt and pepper to taste and cook until heated through.

Serve the scaloppini with the pepper and onion sauce.



Roasted Cauliflower Parmesan

6 servings


  • 1 whole cauliflower, broken into large florets
  • 3 eggs or 3/4 cup refrigerated egg substitute
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour mixed with ¼ teaspoon each of salt and pepper
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese


Grease a large baking sheet with olive oil.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place the flour and seasonings in a large plastic bag. add the cauliflower florets, close the bag and shake until the cauliflower pieces are covered in flour.


In a deep bowl beat the eggs with a fork and add the Parmesan cheese.

Dip each piece of floured cauliflower into the egg and cheese mixture, making sure they are coated evenly on all sides.


Put them on the greased baking pan and bake for 30 minutes, turning them over halfway through the cooking time. Sprinkle lightly with salt and serve.

Dessert Course


Fresh Fig and Almond Tart


  • 1 refrigerated single 9 inch pie crust dough, at room temperature
  • 15 Mission figs, tips cut off and halved
  • 1/2 cup fig jam (or another jam)
  • 2 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla granulated sugar or regular granulated sugar


Unroll pastry and place in a buttered 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Flute edges.


Spread the fig jam over the bottom of the crust. Arrange the figs in a decorative pattern on top.

Sprinkle with sliced almonds and sugar.


Place the tart pan on a foil lined cookie sheet and bake at 375°F for 45-50 minutes, until golden brown.

Cool on a wire rack until serving time.

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