Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: shrimp

 

676142901_1388825053Whether it’s a partner or a family member with different eating styles and preferences, conflict can arise on various fronts when some people in the house are vegetarians and others are not. The good news: with a little patience and compromise, not to mention good humor, it is possible for everyone to enjoy meals together. Setting ground rules in advance can ward off many disagreements in the kitchen. In particular, deciding who is responsible for what can help prevent resentment and ensure things run more smoothly when it comes time for food preparation.

  • Will a group meal be prepared that everyone will share?
  • How does the vegetarian feel about preparing and cooking meat even if he or she doesn’t eat it?
  • Will the non-vegetarian prepare vegetarian meals?
  • Is it simplest for each person to be responsible for their own cooking?

There is no one correct answer and it may take some time to work out the best system. As far as meals are concerned, vegetarian and non-vegetarian options can be blended without making the division obvious. Here are a few suggestions for minimizing the differences and increasing the joy of eating together:

  • The non-vegetarian partner should agree to expand his/her food horizons and try new vegetables, grains and protein sources.
  • Find as many dishes as possible that also work for your partner.
  • The vegetarian partner should tolerate having the non-vegetarian cook meat, chicken or fish in the family kitchen. Have pots and dishes just for that, if it’s an issue.
  • At the same time, the vegetarian shouldn’t be expected to cook meat, unless he/she doesn’t mind.
  • Freeze individual portions of each partner’s favorite dishes to eat when time is short or you can’t agree.
  • Never make negative remarks about what the other wants to eat. Don’t try to convert the other to your point of view or even think that this would be a good thing. It never is.

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Types of Vegetarians

  • A vegetarian eats no meat, poultry or fish.
  • An ovo-lacto vegetarian eats eggs and milk.
  • A lacto-vegetarian eats dairy products, but not eggs.
  • A vegan eats no animal products at all, often including honey. There are strict ethical vegans who don’t wear or use any animal product.
  • Raw food devotees are vegan.
  • A pesco-vegetarian (eats fish) isn’t vegetarian, because fish is considered an animal product.
  • Flexitarian is a made up term for one who flips back and forth from vegetarian to non-vegetarian.

When entertaining think about the likely food preferences of those you’re feeding. Ask about likes and dislikes, as you would with any other guest. Stick with familiar foods, when feeding both vegetarians and non-vegetarians at the same meal.

Here are some suggestions:

Serve egg or cheese based dishes, such as a Spinach Quiche. Good accompanied with baked potato and a salad. Chickpeas and kidney beans are familiar enough to be used in small amounts. Add them to dishes that are well-known – such as three-bean salad, pasta salad, minestrone soup or vegetarian chili. Use familiar comfort foods, such as potatoes, breads or pasta. Familiar ethnic foods work well: Mexican, Indian or Italian. Whenever possible, tell your guests in advance what you’re planning to make and ask them for suggestions, if you feel comfortable with that idea.

Breakfast may be one of the easier meals to accommodate vegetarians and non-vegetarians, so inviting friends for brunch may be an ideal way to entertain. There are many breakfast options that do not contain meat, such as oatmeal, yogurt, granola, fruit, coffee cake, pancakes or waffles that can be enjoyed by both vegetarians and non-vegetarians. For a larger breakfast, eggs or omelets can be eaten by everyone, except vegans. For the non-vegetarians, bacon or sausage can easily be added to the meal as a side.

For vegetarians, sandwiches made with vegetables and cheese can provide an alternative to deli meats, while non-vegetarians can add sliced turkey, beef or chicken to their sandwiches. Soups can be made with vegetable broth instead of chicken or beef broth. Cooked chicken, fish or beef can be added to the non-vegetarian soup just before serving. Salads are also lunch options that are easy to make vegetarian by replacing meat or fish with beans or hard-boiled eggs. Dinner pasta or rice recipes made with vegetables are easily prepared dishes where meat or fish can be added for family members that are not vegetarians.

The situation in my family is easy. The vegetarians are not vegan. They just do not eat animal protein and they don’t get upset if it is on the table. My typical approach is that I make the same foods the non-vegetarians are eating minus the animal protein part for the vegetarians. It is a two-in-one system. Two versions of the same dish, one vegetarian and one non-vegetarian. Here are some of the recipes that work in our family.

split pea soup

Split Pea Soup

Corn chowder is another great option. Serve crumbled bacon on the side as a garnish.

4-6 servings

Ingredient

  • 2 cups dry split peas, rinsed
  • 8 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 large potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 large onion (2 cups), diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons pepper
  • 1 pound cooked ham steak, diced and heated

Directions
Sauté the onion, celery and carrot in olive oil in a Dutch oven for about 10 minutes, until the onions translucent. Add the potato, garlic and rosemary and sauté for another 5 minutes.
Add the split peas, vegetable stock, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Lower heat and cook, partially covered, for another 40 minutes or so until the peas are very soft and falling apart.
Serve the warmed ham in a separate bowl for non-vegetarians to add to their soup bowls.

cabbageroll

Stuffed Cabbage

4 servings

Ingredients

Cabbage & Filling

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup short-grain brown rice
  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil plus 2 tablespoons, divided
  • 1 large Savoy cabbage (2-3 pounds)
  • 1 pound baby bella mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rubbed sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon crumbled dried rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, divided
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/4 cup dried currants
  • 1/3 cup toasted pine nuts, chopped
  • 6-8 ounces (2 links) sweet turkey or pork Italian sausage, casing removed
  • Olive oil for drizzling over the cabbage rolls
  • Chopped parsley

Tomato Sauce

  • 1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 28-ounce can no-salt-added crushed tomatoes 
  • 1/2 cup red wine

Directions

To prepare the rice:

Combine water, rice and 1 teaspoon oil in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to maintain the barest simmer, cover and cook until the water is absorbed and the rice is just tender, 40 to 50 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside.

To prepare the cabbage:

Half fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil.
Line a baking sheet with a clean kitchen towel and place near the stove.
Using a small, sharp knife, remove the core from the bottom of the cabbage. Add the whole cabbage to the boiling water and cook for 5 minutes. As the leaves soften, use tongs to gently remove 8 large outer leaves. Transfer the leaves to the toel lined baking sheet and pat with more towels to thoroughly dry. Set aside.
Drain the remaining cabbage in a colander for a few minutes. Finely chop enough to make 1 1/2 cups. (Save any remaining cabbage for another use. I place the remaining cabbage in the freezer to save for a soup recipe.)

To prepare the filling:

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, onion, garlic, sage, rosemary and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper; cook, stirring, until the mushrooms have released their juices and the pan is fairly dry, 8 to 10 minutes. Add wine and cook, stirring, until evaporated, about 3 minutes more. Add the mushroom mixture to the cooked rice along with currants and pine nuts.
Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in the same skillet over medium-high. Add the chopped cabbage, the remaining salt and pepper; cook, stirring, until the cabbage is wilted and just beginning to brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Set aside in a separate bowl.
Add the sausage to the empty skillet and brown. Set aside in a separate bowl.

To prepare the sauce:

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until starting to soften, 2 to 4 minutes. Add tomatoes and wine; bring to a simmer and cook until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Coat two 8-inch baking dishes with olive oil cooking spray. Place a ½ cup of tomato sauce in each baking dish.

To stuff the cabbage:

Divide the rice mixture in half. To one half add the sautéed cabbage and to the other half add the browned sausage.

For the vegetarian rolls:

Place a reserved cabbage leaf on a cutting board; cut out the thick stem in the center, keeping the leaf intact. Repeat with three more cabbage leaves.
Evenly divide the cabbage/ rice mixture among the four leaves. Fold both sides of the cabbage over the filling and roll up. Repeat with the remaining 3 leaves and filling. Place the stuffed cabbage rolls, seam side down in one baking dish.

For the non-vegetarian rolls:

Place a reserved cabbage leaf on a cutting board; cut out the thick stem in the center, keeping the leaf intact. Repeat with three more cabbage leaves.
Evenly divide the sausage/ rice mixture among the four leaves. Fold both sides of the cabbage over the filling and roll up. Repeat with the remaining 3 leaves and filling. Place the stuffed cabbage rolls, seam side down in the other baking dish.

Pour the remaining sauce evenly over the rolls in both pans. Drizzle a little olive oil over the top of the cabbage rolls in each pan. Sprinkle the chopped parsley over the tops of the vegetarian rolls, so you will know they are the vegetarian rolls when serving. Bake, uncovered, basting twice with the sauce, until hot, about 45 minutes.

pasta-primavera-ay-1875565-l

Pasta Primavera with Chicken

4 servings

Ingredients

For the chicken:

  • 1 bone-in, skin-on chicken breast, 1 to 1 1/2 pounds
  • 1 medium onion, cut into quarters
  • 1 small lemon, sliced
  • 1 carrot, cut into quarters
  • 2 ribs celery, cut into quarters
  • 2 large bay leaves
  • Small bunch of each – parsley, thyme and rosemary – tied together with kitchen twine

For the Primavera:

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 small or 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 2-inch matchsticks
  • 1 small zucchini, trimmed and cut into 2-inch matchsticks
  • 1 large leek, trimmed, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced on an angle, washed and dried
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • Salt and white pepper
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose of instant flour
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • Water
  • 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 10 oz box frozen peas, defrosted
  • 1 pound egg tagliatelle or fettuccine
  • A handful of parsley, thyme leaves and rosemary, very finely chopped
  • 1 lemon
  • Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions

To poach the chicken:

Place chicken, onion, lemon, carrot, celery, bay and herb bundle in a medium saucepan, cover chicken with water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat and simmer 45 minutes. Strain and reserve a 1/2 cup of the poaching liquid. Save remaining broth for another use. Cool chicken and remove the skin and bones. Slice the chicken into serving pieces, place in a serving bowl, cover and keep warm

For the pasta sauce:

Heat oil with the butter over medium heat in the same pan. Add carrots, zucchini, leeks and garlic, season with salt and white pepper and sauté until tender, 6-7 minutes. Sprinkle veggies with flour and stir a minute more. Deglaze the pan with the wine, then stir in 2 cups of the vegetable broth. Cook until the sauce thickens. Stir in the peas and reduce the heat to low.

Bring a pot of water to a boil for the pasta. Add salt and cook the pasta to the al dente stage and drain. Add the Primavera sauce to the pasta along with the remaining 1/2 cup vegetable broth.

Gremolata-zest the lemon and combine it with the finely chopped herbs.
Serve the pasta in shallow bowls topped with some of the gremolata and some grated cheese.

Heat the remaining 1/2 cup of chicken poaching broth and pour it over the sliced chicken. Serve the chicken to non-vegetarians to add to their pasta bowl.

beef skewers

vegetable skewers

shrimp skewers

Grilled Beef Sirloin & Shrimp & Farmer’s Market Skewers

I like to serve this dish with a brown and wild rice mix and a tomato salad. You can use any combination of vegetables that you like and that your vegetarian friends or family like.

Ingredients

Mustard-Thyme Glaze

  • 4 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard
  • 4 tablespoons apricot preserves
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon pepper

Skewers

  • 1 lb top sirloin steak, grass-fed if possible, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 lb extra-large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 medium yellow squash, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 medium zucchini, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 thin eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into 1 inch squares
  • 1 large onion, cut into 1-inch thick wedges
  • 12 medium mushrooms

Directions

Combine glaze ingredients in a large glass measure. Microwave on HIGH 45-60 seconds, stirring once until bubbly.

Place the vegetables on one platter, the shrimp on another platter and the beef on another platter.

Lightly brush some of the glaze on all sides of the vegetables. Wash or change to another pastry brush and lightly brush the steak and shrimp with the remaining glaze.

Heat an outdoor grill and oil the grill grates.

Thread vegetables, beef and shrimp, separately, onto 12-inch metal skewers.

Place beef skewers on the grill over medium heat. Grill steak, 12-15 minutes for medium rare to medium, turning occasionally.

Grill vegetables skewers for 10 minutes or until the vegetables are until tender. Grill the shrimp just until they turn pink, turn and grill until the second side is pink.

Serve the grilled vegetables on one platter and the shrimp and beef on another platter.

veggie-cartoon

 

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crostini-mistakes-646

Crostini is just another name for slices of bread that have been brushed with oil and baked until golden brown. Crostini make for an endless variety of near-instant hors d’oeuvres. Just spoon on your pick of toppings and watch the crostini disappear!

Crostini is the Italian word for “little toasts”. Crostini are believed to be a kind of Italian peasant food that originated in medieval times. The Italians, too poor to possess ceramic plates, preferred to eat their food by keeping it on the surface of slices of bread. The Italians, not a group to waste anything, often ate stale bread which had to be soaked in juices or wine in order to chew it properly.

Bruschetta and crostini are both bread preparations used in antipasti – but what is the difference?

The difference between bruschettas and crostini is the type of bread used. Bruschetta, from the Italian word “bruscare” meaning “to roast over coals”, is made by toasting whole, wide slices of a rustic Italian or sourdough type bread. Crostini are sliced from a smaller, round, finer-textured bread, more like a white bread baguette. In Italy you might find yourself offered an antipasto of four or five different crostini, no more than a couple of mouthfuls each, accompanied by some olives, but only one or two of the larger bruschetta would be plenty.

crostini_vert

Some do’s and don’t I picked up from the Bon Appetit Test Kitchen to ensure successful crostini.

Not starting with good bread

The bread you use should be high quality; look for fresh baguettes, boules and hearty country bread, preferably from a local bakery (as opposed to supermarket brands). Texture is very important–it shouldn’t be too dense.

Slicing the bread too thick or thin

The bread needs to be thin enough to bite, but thick enough to support toppings -1/2-inch thick is just right.

Skipping the oil

Brush olive oil on each piece before toasting it. Why? It makes the surface of the bread less dry. And it just tastes better.

Over-toasting the bread

If the crostini are too hard, they will hurt your guests’ mouths and flake all over their clothes. The ideal texture: crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. To achieve it, bake, grill or broil bread over high heat, making sure to toast both sides. (If you cook on too low a heat, the bread will dehydrate and crumble upon first bite.) You’ll know it’s finished when the edges are browned but the center is lighter in color and still has a little spring to it.

Forgetting the flavor

Flavor your crostini right after toasting. Things you can rub on the bread: a raw garlic clove, a tomato half – cut side-down or a whole lemon or orange–rind. The crispy bread will pick up the fruit’s essential oils.

Going overboard with your topping

If you pile on the topping, it’s going to fall off when you bite into the crostini. You should be able to take bites without worrying about staining your shirt or dress.

Overdressing your topping

Wet topping = soggy bread. Use a slotted spoon when working with a wet topping (tomatoes, etc.) so that extra liquid is left behind. If using greens, dress them lightly.

How To Make Crostini Toasts

Using a serrated knife, cut one 8 ounce baguette diagonally into ½ inch slices. Makes about 20 slices.

Baked Crostini

Baked Crostini

Bake:

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Arrange the bread on 2 large baking sheets and brush each slice on both sides with olive oil. Bake for about 8-10 minutes, or until the edges of the bread are golden brown. Turn the slices over half way through the baking time. Let cool completely. Store at room temperature.

toast_on_the_grill

Grilled Crostini

Broiled Crostini

Broiled Crostini

Grill or Broil

Brush bread slices lightly on both sides with olive oil.

Grill for 15 to 20 seconds on each side, until lightly brown, then remove with tongs and set aside.

For broiling, position the rack so the slices are 2 inches from the flame and turn them over when the crostini start to brown at the edges.

Here are some of my favorite combinations. They are easy to prepare and are always a big hit when I entertain. The recipes are based on 20 slices of crostini.

Shrimp and Pesto

Cut 10 medium peeled and deveined shrimp in half lengthwise.

In a skillet saute 1 minced garlic clove and the shrimp in 1 tablespoon of olive oil until the shrimp turn pink.

Spread each crostini with homemade or store bought basil pesto. Place one shrimp half on each crostini and sprinkle each with shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Mediterranean Spread

Drain two 6 ounce jars of marinated artichoke hearts, reserving 2 tablespoons of the marinade.

Finely chop the artichokes and place in a mixing bowl with the reserved marinade.

Stir in ½ cup finely chopped sun dried tomatoes packed in oil and drained, 2 tablespoons pitted and chopped Kalamata olives and 2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley.

Mix well and spread mixture on the crostini slices and sprinkle the top with feta cheese.

Caprese

Rub crostini with a garlic clove or two as soon as they come out of the oven. Sprinkle each with a little balsamic vinegar.

Top each with the following

  • 1 slice of plum (Roma) tomato
  • 1 thin slice of fresh mozzarella cheese
  • 1 fresh basil leaf

Grind fresh black pepper over each crostini.

Olive Orange Spread

In a food processor combine:

  • 1 cup pitted Kalamata olives
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon chopped italian parsley
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper

Pulse until coarsely chopped.

Spread on the crostini, top each with an orange segment and a small piece of arugula.

Roasted Red Pepper and Prosciutto

In a food processor combine one 12 oz jar of roasted red peppers, drained, with a large pinch of cayenne pepper. Process until almost smooth.

Spread pepper mixture on the crostini.

Top with a piece of prosciutto and shredded mozzarella cheese.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake crostini until the cheese melts. Serve warm.

Cannellini Bean Spread

In a food processor coarsely process one drained 15 oz. can cannellini beans. Remove to a mixing bowl.

Stir in ¼ cup shredded zucchini, 2 tablespoons chopped green onions, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar and ½ teaspoon coarse grained mustard.

Spread on crostini slices. Top each with a half of a grape tomato and sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves.

Cremini Mushroom Spread

Thinly slice 12 oz cremini mushrooms. In a skillet heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and cook 3 minced garlic cloves for 1 minute. Add the mushrooms and cook for 8-10 minutes until the mushrooms are tender.

Stir in 1/3 cup white wine. Simmer uncovered for 5 minutes or until wine evaporates. Season with salt and pepper.

Spread crostini with a thin layer of mascarpone cheese. Top with mushrooms and sprinkle with chopped fresh chives.

Caramelized Sweet Onions and Gorgonzola

Halve and thinly slice 3 sweet onions. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons butter. Add onions and cook, covered, on medium low for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover and cook for 5 more minutes, or until the onions turn golden. Season with salt and pepper.

Spoon onions on the crostini and sprinkle with crumbled gorgonzola cheese.

Lemon Ricotta with Fruit and Honey

Stir together 1 cup of whole milk ricotta cheese, 1 teaspoon shredded lemon peel and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Spread mixture on crostini.

Top each with thinly sliced fresh strawberries or figs.

Drizzle with honey and top each with a mint leaf.

What Are Your Favorite Toppings For Crostini?

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Like other art forms that aim to attract a mass audience (movies, television, Broadway shows), pop music has been and continues to be a melting pot that borrows and assimilates elements and ideas from a wide range of musical styles. Rock, r&b, country, disco, punk, Latin and hip hop are all specific genres of music that have influenced and been incorporated into pop music in various ways over the past 5 decades. Italian Americans have helped shape American popular music as composers and performers.

Louis Prima (1910-1978)

a trumpeter, composer and bandleader, who successfully crossed the line from jazz to swing, then to R&B and finally to rock n’ roll. Some of his famous compositions are “Brooklyn Boogie” and “Oh Babe.” His greatest achievement was his 1936 composition “Sing, Sing, Sing” which was later recorded by Benny Goodman and stands as the most powerful big band/ jazz hit of all time.

Prima was from a musical family in New Orleans. His father, Anthony Prima, was the son of Leonardo Di Prima, a Sicilian immigrant from Salaparuta, while his mother, Angelina Caravella, had immigrated from Ustica as a baby. Louis was the second child of Angelina Caravella and Anthony Prima. His older brother, Leon, was born in 1907. He had two younger sisters: Elizabeth and Marguerite. Louis’s mother, Angelina made sure that each child played an instrument. Louis was assigned the violin and started out playing at his church. He became interested in jazz when he heard the black musicians playing at Italian owned and operated clubs, such as Matranga’s, Joe Segretta’s, Tonti’s Social Club and Lala’s, where Blacks and Italians played together.

According to author, Garry Boulard, in his book, Louis Prima, Prima paid attention to the music coming from the clubs and watched his older brother, Leon, play the cornet. After dropping out of high school, Prima had a few unsuccessful gigs and he got a temporary job playing on the steamship, Capital, that docked on Canal Street. From 1931 to 1932 Louis occupied his time by performing in the Avalon Club owned by his brother Leon. His first break was when Lou Forbes hired him for daily afternoon and early evening shows at The Saenger.

New York was an attraction for hungry musicians during the Great Depression. Prima headed to New York City next to further his music career. While there he met Guy Lombardo, who was a positive influence on Prima’s career. In 1934, Prima was offered a contract with Brunswick label and recorded the songs: “That’s Where the South Begins,” “Long About Midnight,” “Jamaica Shout” and “Star Dust.” Prima generated positive responses from growing fans and critics alike with his records and formed his band called, The New Orleans Gang, which consisted of Frank Pinero on piano, Jack Ryan on bass, Garrett McAdams on guitar and Pee Wee Russell on clarinet. The band played gigs in and around New York and Prima’s stage presence became an attraction to the band’s live shows.

Prima’s style fused Dixieland and swing by the late 1930s. By 1935 Prima relocated to Los Angeles, where he found moderate success. Due to a knee injury, Proma was not drafted during WWII and continued to perform and build up a following. By the mid-1940s, Prima’s music was a huge success with the general public. When the war was over, the music industry had been affected and big bands were becoming a thing of the past as the 1950s emerge.

1954 saw Prima embark on the Vegas circuit with singer Keely Smith. The duo enlisted the legendary saxophonist, Sam Butera to perform with them. They also recorded “Old Black Magic,” which earned them a Grammy Award.

Harry Warren (1893-1981)

was born Salvatore Guaragna in Brooklyn and was the son of a Calabrian boot maker. One of Hollywood’s most successful and prolific composers during the 30s, 40s and 50s, he wrote “Chattanooga Choo Choo,” “I Only Have Eyes For You,” “A Love Affair to Remember” and “That’s Amore,” among many other songs. Between 1935 and 1950, he wrote more hit songs than Cole Porter, Irving Berlin or George Gershwin, three of which earned him Academy Awards: “Lullaby of Broadway,” “You’ll Never Know” and “Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe.”

Warren was one of eleven children of Italian immigrants Antonio (a bootmaker) and Rachel De Luca Guaragn and grew up in Brooklyn, New York. His father changed the family name to Warren when Harry was a child. Although his parents could not afford music lessons, Warren had an early interest in music and taught himself to play his father’s accordion. He also sang in the church choir and learned to play the drums. He played the drums professionally at age 14 and dropped out of high school at 16 to play with his godfather’s band in a traveling carnival. Soon he taught himself to play the piano and by 1915, he was working at the Vitagraph Motion Picture Studios, where he did a variety of administrative jobs, such as props man, played mood music on the piano for the actors, acted in bit parts and eventually was promoted to assistant director. He also played the piano in cafés and silent-movie houses.

Warren wrote over 800 songs between 1918 and 1981, publishing over 500 of them. They were written mainly for feature films. His songs eventually appeared in over 300 films and 112 of Warner Brothers, “Looney Tunes” cartoons. 42 of his songs were on the top ten list of the radio program “Your Hit Parade”, a measure of a song’s popularity. 21 of these reached #1 on “Your Hit Parade”. “You’ll Never Know” appeared 24 times. His song, “I Only Have Eyes for You”, is listed as one of the 25 most-performed songs of the 20th Century, as compiled by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP). Warren was the director of ASCAP from 1929 to 1932.

He collaborated on some of his most famous songs with lyricists Al Dubin, Billy Rose, Mack Gordon, Leo Robin, Ira Gershwin and Johnny Mercer. In 1942 the Gordon-Warren song, “Chattanooga Choo-Choo”, performed by the Glenn Miller Orchestra, became the first gold record in history. It was No.1 for 9 weeks on the Billboard pop singles chart in 1941–1942, selling 1.2 million copies. Among his biggest hits were “There Will Never Be Another You”, “I Only Have Eyes for You”, “Forty-Second Street”, “The Gold Diggers’ Song (We’re in the Money)”, “Lullaby of Broadway”, “Serenade In Blue”, “At Last”, “Jeepers Creepers”, “You’re Getting to Be a Habit with Me”, “That’s Amore” and “Young and Healthy”.

Guy Lombardo (1929-1977)

was born in London, Ontario, to Italian-Canadian immigrants, Gaetano Sr. and Lena Lombardo. His father, who had immigrated to Canada from Italy and worked as a tailor, was an amateur singer with a baritone voice and had four of his five sons learn to play instruments, so they could accompany him. Lombardo and his brothers formed their first orchestra while still in grammar school and rehearsed in the back of their father’s tailor shop. Lombardo first performed in public with his brother, Carmen, at a church lawn party in 1914. Forming “The Royal Canadians” in 1924 with his brothers Carmen, Lebert and Victor and other musicians from his hometown, Lombardo led the group to international success, billing themselves as creating “The Sweetest Music This Side of Heaven.” The Lombardos are believed to have sold between 100 and 300 million phonograph records during their lifetimes.

In early 1932, the band signed with Brunswick records and continued their success through 1934, until they signed with Decca (1934–1935). They then signed with Victor in 1935 and stayed until mid 1938, when again they signed with Decca. In 1938, Lombardo became a naturalized citizen of the United States. Although Lombardo’s “sweet” big-band music was viewed by some in the jazz and big-band community of the day as “corny”, trumpeter Louis Armstrong famously enjoyed Lombardo’s music.

Guy Lombardo is best known for his New Year’s Eve big band performances, first on radio and then on television. Lombardo’s orchestra played at the “Roosevelt Grill” in the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City from 1929 to 1959 on New Year’s Eve and continued at the Waldorf Astoria until 1976. Broadcasts (and later telecasts) of their performances were a major part of New Year’s celebrations across North America; millions of people watched the show with friends at house parties. Because of this popularity, Lombardo was calleed, “Mr. New Year’s Eve.”

On December 31, 1956, the Lombardo band did their first New Year’s TV special on CBS; the program (and Lombardo’s 20 subsequent New Year’s Eve TV shows) would include a live segment from Times Square (long the focal point of America’s New Year’s Eve celebrations) showcasing the arrival of the New Year. While CBS carried most of the Lombardo New Year’s specials, there were a few years in the late 1960s and early 1970s when the special was syndicated live to individual TV stations instead of being broadcast on a network. By the middle 1970′s, the Lombardo TV show was facing competition, especially for younger viewers, from Dick Clark’s, “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve”, but Lombardo remained popular among viewers, especially older ones. The Royal Canadians were noted for playing the traditional song, “Auld Lang Syne” as part of the celebrations. Their recording of the song still plays as the first song of the new year in Times Square.

Al Caiola (1920-)

was born Alexander Emil Caiola in Jersey City, New Jersey. He is a guitarist who plays jazz, country, rock, western and pop music. He has been both a studio musician and a stage performer. He has recorded over fifty albums and has worked with some of the biggest stars of the 20th century, including Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Percy Faith, Buddy Holly, Mitch Miller and Tony Bennett.

Caiola was an active studio musician in the 1950s centered in the New York City area. He released some minor records under his own name during that decade. In 1960 he became a recording star on the United Artists (UA) label for over least ten years. He had prominent pop hits in 1961 with “The Magnificent Seven” and “Bonanza”. His style was inspired by Duane Eddy’s twangy bass guitar sound. The arrangements were typically by Don Costa, using a large orchestral backing. Caiola continuously released singles and albums throughout the 1960s and beyond, though no others appeared on the charts except for an entry in 1964 with “From Russia with Love”. UA used him to make commercial recordings for many movie and television themes. His popular and sought-after album was 1961′s, “Hit Instrumentals From Western TV Themes”, which included “Wagon Train (Wagons Ho)”, “Paladin”, “The Rebel” and “Gunslinger”. Solid Gold Guitar, probably his most impressive album, contained the popular songs of “Jezebel”, “Two Guitars”, “Big Guitar”, “I Walk the Line” and “Guitar Boogie”.

The Magnificent Seven album, other than the title track, consisted of a variety of pop songs with a jazzy bent. Guitars Guitars Guitars was similar. There was a wide variety to his albums — soft pop, Italian, Hawaiian, country and jazz. In the early 1970s he continued with the Avalanche Records label, producing similar work including the album, Theme From the ‘Magnificent 7 Ride’ ’73. Later, on other labels, came some ethnic-themed instrumental albums, such as Spanish Mood in 1982 and other Italian instrumentals. In 1976, Al Caiola accompanied Sergio Franchi, Dana Valery and Wayne J. Kirby on a concert tour to Johannesburg, South Africa.

During World War II Caiola played with the United States Marine Corps 5th Marine Division Band and also served in the Battle of Iwo Jima as a stretcher bearer.

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William “Bill” Conti (1942-)

is an American film music composer, who is frequently the conductor at the Academy Awards ceremony. Conti, an Italian American, was born in Providence, Rhode Island, the son of Lucetta and William Conti. He is a graduate of Louisiana State University and also studied at the Juilliard School of Music.

His big break into celebrity came in 1976, when he was hired to compose the music for a small United Artists film called, “Rocky”. The film became a phenomenon and Conti’s training song, “Gonna Fly Now” topped the Billboard singles chart in 1977. He also composed music for the sequels “Rocky II” (1979), “Rocky II”I (1982), “Rocky V” (1990) and “Rocky Balboa” (2006). Conti also worked on some other films and, eventually, for television. In 1981, he wrote the music for the James Bond film, “For Your Eyes Only” and provided the score for playwright Jason Miller’s film version of his Pulitzer Prize winning play, “That Championship Season”, the following year.

In 1983, he composed the score for HBO’s first film, “The Terry Fox Story”. Conti composed music for the films “Bad Boys” and “Mass Appeal”. Then in 1984, he received an Academy Award for composing the score to 1983′s “The Right Stuff” followed by composing music for the TV series, “North and South” in 1985. He also composed the score for “The Karate Kid”, as well as, “Masters of the Universe”. Another Conti score was the 1987 film “Happy New Year”.

In 1991, he composed the score for” Necessary Roughness”, a college football movie starring Scott Bakula, Sinbad and Héctor Elizondo. In 1993, he composed and wrote the music for “The Adventures of Huck Finn” starring Elijah Wood. In 1999, he composed the score for “The Thomas Crown Affair” remake, starring Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo and, in the same year, he composed the original music of “Inferno”, starring Jean-Claude Van Damme. He also composed the classic themes to television’s “Dynasty” as well as, writng the score for “The Cosby”s, “Falcon Crest”, “Cagney & Lacey” and “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous”.  Conti also composed the theme song to the original version of “American Gladiators” and the themes for “Inside Edition” and “Primetime Live” for ABC News. Bill Conti was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame.

Classic Italian American Recipes

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Stuffed Calamari in Gravy

Serves 6 – 8

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 8 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon each chopped fresh oregano, basil, and marjoram
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 28-oz. can crushed tomato
  • 1 6-oz. can tomato paste
  • 1 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1/3 cup mixture of parmesan cheese and romano cheese
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2–3 lbs. small squid bodies (3″–4″), cleaned

Directions

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a heavy pot and cook the onions and 6 cloves garlic over medium heat until soft. Add oregano, basil, marjoram and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, tomato paste and 2 cups water. Simmer for at least 30 minutes, adding half the parsley when the sauce is cooked.

Combine bread crumbs, cheese mixture, remaining garlic, 1/3 cup parsley, eggs and salt and pepper to taste in a mixing bowl. Stuff squid with bread-crumb mixture and the secure tops with toothpicks.

Heat remaining olive oil in a large skillet and sauté squid in small batches until browned on all sides, about 2–4 minutes. Drain on paper towels.

Place the squid in the tomato sauce and cook for 15 minutes longer. Garnish with remaining parsley.

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Chicken Parmesan

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 chicken cutlets, pounded thin
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 3 eggs, beaten with a little water
  • 1 1/2 cups dried Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups Marinara Sauce
  • 4 slices provolone cheese (about 3-4 oz.)
  • 6 tablespoons grated Parmesan
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

Directions

Heat oven to broil and place a rack 10″ from the heating element. Season chicken cutlets lightly with salt and pepper.

Place flour, eggs and bread crumbs in separate shallow dishes. Working with one piece of chicken at a time, dredge in flour, eggs and bread crumbs and transfer to a parchment paper–lined baking sheet.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 pieces of breaded chicken and cook, turning once with tongs, until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Transfer to an

aluminum foil–lined baking sheet. Wipe out skillet and repeat with the remaining oil and chicken.

Top each piece of chicken with 1/2 cup of the marinara sauce, 1 slice provolone cheese and 1 1/2 tablespoons parmesan. Broil until cheese is golden and bubbly, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with the parsley and serve.

manicotti

Baked Manicotti

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cups Marinara Sauce
  • 1 8-oz. box dried manicotti shells (about 14)
  • 8 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 4 cups whole-milk ricotta
  • 1 cup grated parmesan
  • 7 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 2 eggs, beaten

Directions

Coat a 9″ x 13″ baking pan with cooking spray and spread 1/2 cup of the marinara sauce across the bottom of the pan. Set aside.

Bring a 6-qt. pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the manicotti and cook until just tender, about 8 minutes. Drain manicotti and set aside on kitchen towels.

Heat oven to 450°F. Heat oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 5 minutes. Transfer garlic to a medium bowl along with the ricotta, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, 5 tablespoons chopped parsley, salt, pepper, nutmeg and eggs and stir to combine.

Spoon some of the filling into both openings of each manicotti shell. (Alternatively, transfer the ricotta mixture to a 1-gallon resealable plastic bag, snip off a bottom corner of the bag, and pipe filling into pasta.) Repeat with remaining manicotti shells.

Transfer stuffed manicotti to prepared baking dish, making 2 rows. Spread the remaining marinara sauce over the manicotti and sprinkle with remaining parmesan. Bake until hot and bubbly, about 20 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining parsley. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

scampi

Shrimp Scampi

Ingredients

  • 1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cups dry white wine
  • 1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock
  • 4 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

Directions

Lightly dredge shrimp in flour and set aside on a plate.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over high heat. Working in batches, sauté shrimp until just pink, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a paper-towel–lined plate to absorb excess oil. Repeat process until all shrimp have been sautéed.

Wipe excess oil from the skillet, then stir in wine, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, lemon juice and stock. Heat over high heat to boiling and whisk in butter. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Lower heat to medium low and add shrimp to reheat, tossing to coat well with the sauce, about 1 minute. Sprinkle with parsley just before serving. Serve with linguine, if you like.

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Penne

There are approximately 350 different dried pastas produced in Italy that are made from durum wheat and semolina flour. Penne is a tube-shaped pasta that originated in Campania, a region in Southern Italy, and comes in two main varieties: penne lisce and penne rigate, with the rigate having ridges on each noodle. The name “penne” comes from the Italian word for “pen” (penna), a reference to the angled ends of the tube, which resemble the tip of a quill pen.

This pasta can be used in a wide assortment of dishes, from casseroles to soups. The tubes are relatively short, around the length and width of a pinkie finger. Cooks may also hear penne pasta referred to as mostaccioli, in a reference to an Italian dish that traditionally features this pasta.

ziti

Ziti

And, there is also ziti, which are hollow long wands, with a smooth texture and square-cut edges. When they are cut into shorter tubes, they are called cut ziti. Telling the difference between penne variants can be difficult, especially in countries outside of Italy, because there is a tendency to name ridged and smooth penne subtypes the same. Basically, the difference is penne is cut on the diagonal and is longer and thinner than ziti.

Penne is probably one of the more well-known pasta shapes, available in most markets and grocery stores that stock pasta. Dishes made with it are frequently on the menu at Italian restaurants, especially in the United States, where consumers have a fondness for this shape.

Whole wheat and multigrain versions are available, along with gluten-free pastas made from rice, corn or other ingredients. Many producers also make flavored varieties by adding ingredients, such as spinach or sun dried tomatoes. The best tasting penne is made with durum wheat because it will remain chewy and resilient throughout the cooking process.

baked penne

Ridged penne pasta pairs very well with many pasta sauces, because the ridges can be used to hold thin sauces or to support thick, chunky sauces. Its hollow nature also helps distribute the sauce, ensuring that pasta dishes are evenly and appealingly sauced.

Penne is traditionally cooked al dente and served with pasta sauces such as pesto, marinara or arrabbiata. In addition to being plated with sauce, penne holds up well when baked in a casserole. You will also find penne used cold in salads, added to soups or used as a side dish.

Dried pasta is essentially indestructible as long as it is stored in a cool, dry place. This makes it a useful staple to keep around the house, because as long as the pasta is not exposed to moisture, it will be perfectly usable.

Healthy Penne Dinners

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Whole-grain Penne with Onions and Walnuts

Ricotta salata (also called “hard ricotta”) is a firm white Italian cheese made by salting, pressing and drying sheep’s-milk ricotta. In flavor, it’s like a very mild, less tangy feta, which makes it a good addition to pastas and salads (it can be grated). Look for ricotta salata in specialty stores, Italian markets or any supermarket with a good cheese department.

Ingredients

  • 7 medium onions (about 4 lbs.), peeled and thinly sliced
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 3/4 cups walnuts
  • 10 ounces whole-grain penne pasta
  • 1 pound ricotta salata, crumbled
  • 2/3 cup loosely packed flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

Directions

In a large skillet over high heat, cook onions in 3 tablespoons olive oil with the sugar and 2 teaspoons salt, stirring and turning often, until onions begin to release their juices and turn golden, 10 to 13 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions turn a caramel color and become quite sweet, 35 to 40 minutes more. If onions begin to stick to the pan or char during cooking, reduce heat.

Meanwhile, in a dry small frying pan over medium-low heat, toast walnuts, stirring frequently, until golden, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Pour walnuts into a zip-lock plastic bag and lightly crush with a rolling pin. Set aside.

When onions are nearly done, cook pasta in boiling salted water until tender to the bite, 9 to 12 minutes or according to package instructions. Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup cooking water.

Mix caramelized onions with pasta, walnuts, ricotta salata, parsley, reserved cooking water, lemon juice, pepper and remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Season to taste with salt.

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Sirloin Steak Over Penne and Vegetables

Ingredients

  • 2 cups uncooked penne 
  • 1/4 pound green beans, trimmed
  • 3/4-pound boneless sirloin steak, trimmed
  • 1 tablespoon salt-free garlic-pepper blend
  • 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced red onion
  • 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced red bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) crumbled blue cheese, optional

Directions

Preheat broiler.

While the broiler preheats, bring 3 quarts of salted water to a boil in a large Dutch oven. Add pasta; cook 5 1/2 minutes. Add beans and cook 3 minutes or until pasta is al dente. Drain well.

Sprinkle steak with the garlic-pepper blend. Place on a broiler pan; broil 3 inches from heat for 10 minutes, turning after 5 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes. Cut steak diagonally across the grain into thin slices.

Combine onion and next 8 ingredients (onion through black pepper) in a large bowl. Add pasta mixture; toss well to coat. Place steak slices on top. Sprinkle with cheese, if desired.

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Penne with Spinach and Shrimp

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces uncooked penne pasta
  • 1 (10-ounce) package fresh spinach
  • 2 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 1/2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 2 1/2 cups chopped Vidalia or other sweet onions
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup dry vermouth or dry white wine
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add shrimp. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and sauté 2 minutes or until the shrimp are pink. Remove shrimp from the pan and set aside.

While you make the pasta sauce, cook penne according to package directions. Drain well; return to pan. Stir in spinach; toss well until spinach wilts.

Melt the remaining butter in the skillet over medium heat. Add onion; cook 10 minutes or until tender, stirring often. Stir in broth, vermouth and lemon zest. Increase heat to medium-high; cook 8 minutes or until mixture begins to thicken. Reduce heat to medium. Add cream cheese; stir until well blended. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt, nutmeg and pepper; remove from heat. Stir in shrimp to rewarm. Add mixture to pasta and spinach; toss to combine.

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Penne with Sausage and Eggplant

Ingredients

  • 4 1/2 cups cubed, peeled eggplant (about 1 pound)
  • 1/2 pound Italian sausage, casing removed
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 6 cups hot cooked penne (about 10 ounces uncooked)
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) finely diced mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Directions

Cook eggplant, sausage and garlic in olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat 5 minutes or until sausage is browned and eggplant is tender. Be sure to stir often to keep eggplant from sticking to the pan.

Add tomato paste and the next 3 ingredients (through tomatoes); cook over medium heat 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Place cooked pasta in a large bowl. Add tomato mixture, cheese and parsley; toss well.

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Penne with Greens, Almonds and Raisins

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces uncooked penne
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped, trimmed greens of choice (kale, swiss chard, escarole, etc.)
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1/3 cup slivered almonds, toasted
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • Cracked black pepper

Directions

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Retain 1/2 cup of pasta cooking water. Drain.

While pasta cooks, place raisins in a small bowl; cover with hot water. Let stand 10 minutes. Drain.

While pasta cooks and raisins soak, heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add greens and garlic; sauté 3 minutes or until greens are tender.

Stir in pasta, raisins, almonds, salt and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper; toss to combine. Moisten with pasta cooking water. Sprinkle with cracked black pepper according to taste.

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What goes great with pasta? Fish! Pasta makes an excellent companion for seafood for many reasons. Percatelli, a thick spaghetti, goes especially well with a spicy tomato sauce made with clams, mussels and shrimp. Fettuccine is superb served in the classic Southern Italian-style, topped with little neck clams in a red sauce flavored with hot crushed peppers. Thin spaghettini is delicious with a garlic sauce made with mussels, parsley and white wine. All these are easy supper dishes for chilly winter nights. They are substantial and restorative, yet easy on the digestion, because they are high in carbohydrates.

Today’s healthy pasta meals have roots that stretch back to ancient times. Thousands of years ago, people ground wheat, mixed it with water to make a wheat paste, dried it and then boiled it to go with meat. Today’s diners welcome pasta to their tables for its versatility and convenience, just as nutrition scientists now recognize pasta meals for their place in healthy diets. A healthy pasta meal features two key factors: what you pair with your pasta and how much pasta you put on your plate. Pay attention to serving portions in healthy pasta recipes, as a guideline to how much you should eat.

Pasta is an ideal partner for healthy ingredients such as vegetables, beans, herbs, fish, nuts and extra virgin olive oil and pasta’s versatility allows for almost endless preparations. Research has shown that the traditional Mediterranean way of eating reduces the risk of heart disease. It’s generally accepted that in the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, people live longer and suffer less than most Americans from cancer and cardiovascular ailments. The not-so-surprising secret is an active lifestyle, weight control and a diet low in red meat, sugar and saturated fat and high in produce, nuts and other healthful foods.

Some of the most delicious seafood dishes in the world—from spaghetti with mussels to tagliolini with shrimp and radicchio—can be found in Italy. Regional recipes for salt-water fish—and sometimes for fresh-water fish from Italy’s many lakes, rivers and streams—are some of the most celebrated dishes in Italian cuisine.

It is well known that eating fresh fish is one of the healthiest ways to make sure you and your family are getting your daily supply of proteins and minerals; so serving fish and fish-based pastas are always a wise choice. Fish is relatively economical—especially when part of a pasta dish. Many fish pasta dishes are delicious, visually appealing and, yet, very easy and quick to prepare.

The secret to a perfect plate of pasta is often in its simplicity and in using a very small number of ingredients. Combine just a few really good—meaning fresh, locally produced ingredients, cook them quickly and you’ll always get great results. The few basic ingredients for some of the best Italian recipes are extra virgin olive oil, garlic, parsley, tomatoes and often dry white wine and chili peppers. When these essentials of Italian cuisine are combined with beautiful fresh fish, you can be sure that a delicious dinner is waiting for you.

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Fettuccine with Artichokes and Shrimp

4 servings

Ingredients

Shrimp Broth

  • 3 cups water
  • Shells from 1 pound of shrimp
  • 4 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 slice lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Pasta

  • 8 ounces whole wheat or whole grain fettuccine
  • 9-ounce package frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and halved lengthwise
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound shrimp in shells, peeled and deveined (reserve shells for broth)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 plum tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup Shrimp Broth
  • 1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon snipped fresh Italian parsley
  • 4 slices Italian country loaf bread or other hearty bread, toasted
  • Lemon halves, and or wedges

Directions

Shrimp Broth

In a large saucepan, combine water, the reserved shells from the 1 pound of shrimp, parsley, lemon and ground black pepper. Bring to boiling over high heat; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Strain and set aside until serving time.

Pasta

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain and set aside.

In a large skillet heat oil and cook garlic for 30 seconds. Add artichokes to the skillet and cook for 1 minute. Add shrimp and wine to the skillet. Cook and stir for 2 minutes or until shrimp turn pink. Stir in tomatoes, red pepper, shrimp broth, lemon peel, salt, nutmeg and cooked pasta; heat through. Mix in the parsley.

To serve, place bread slices in 4 shallow soup bowls. Divide pasta mixture among 4 bowls. Add additional shrimp broth, as desired. Squeeze lemon over pasta mixture.

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Salmon with Whole Wheat Spaghetti

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound fresh or frozen (defrosted) skinless salmon fillets, cut into 4 pieces
  • 2 medium yellow and/or red sweet bell peppers, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 8 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved (1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 ounces whole wheat spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/3 cup snipped fresh basil

Directions

Rinse salmon; pat dry with paper towels. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. In a 15x10x1-inch baking pan combine pepper pieces and tomatoes. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with half of the rosemary, the salt and black pepper. Toss to coat. Roast, uncovered, for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions; drain and keep warm.

Remove baking pan from oven. Combine wine and balsamic vinegar and stir into vegetable mixture. Add salmon pieces to the baking pan and turn to coat in the wine mixture. Return to the oven and bake about 10-15 minutes more or until salmon flakes easily when tested with a fork.

To serve, divide pasta among four plates. Top pasta with vegetable mixture and sprinkle with basil. Place salmon on vegetables and sprinkle with remaining rosemary.

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Tuna Puttanesca

4 servings

Ingredients

  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 8 ounces whole wheat or whole grain penne
  • 5 to 6 oz. can Italian tuna packed in oil, not drained
  • 1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons capers, chopped
  • 1/4 cup sliced black and/or green olives 
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups homemade or store bought marinara sauce
  • Small bunch fresh basil leaves, torn into large pieces

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente.

Pour tuna oil from the can into a saucepan and heat. Flake tuna and set aside.

Add garlic and onion to heated oil; saute until onion is soft. Add tuna, capers, olives, crushed red pepper and marinara sauce. Stir to combine and heat to a simmer; adjust salt to taste.

Drain pasta and return to pot. Add tuna mixture; toss gently. Sprinkle with basil.

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Linguine with Red Clam Sauce

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 12 oz whole wheat linguine
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 3 cups homemade or store bought marinara sauce
  • 4 (6 oz.) cans chopped clams, undrained
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh parsley

Directions

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook linguine, stirring often, until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain thoroughly in a colander.

Heat oil in a deep skillet over medium heat. Add chopped onion and crushed red pepper and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in red wine and boil until syrupy, about 4 minutes. Stir in marinara sauce and clams with their juice and heat until simmering, about 10 minutes.

Add cooked pasta and parsley to clam sauce in skillet. Toss to coat pasta thoroughly.

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Scallops and Pasta in Lemon Sauce

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 12 large scallops
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 small shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of finely chopped garlic
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 cup plum tomatoes, diced
  • 3 tablespoons capers, drained
  • Juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 8 ounces whole grain thin spaghetti

Directions

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain.

Pat scallops dry with paper towels. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add scallops to the pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste; cook 3 minutes on each side. Remove scallops from the pan; keep warm.

Add the remaining olive oil, garlic and shallots to the skillet; cook 15 seconds. Add wine and the next 3 ingredients to the pan. Allow to simmer over low heat for about 3 minutes. Add parsley and stir. Season with salt and pepper. Add cooked pasta and toss. Place pasta in serving bowls and top with scallops.

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Fish has a high level of protein, is easy to digest and is considered an important part of a healthy diet. Some fish have an added bonus because they contain omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids – docosahexaeonic acid (DHA) – occur mostly in fatty fish like herring, salmon and mackerel. They are thought to lower blood pressure, to strengthen the immune system and to have positive effects on the development of the nervous system and the cardiovascular system.

Two newly published articles in the March 2013 science journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, describe how the researchers analyzed the impact of omega-3 fatty acids at a systemic level and they also described their underlying molecular mechanisms for the first time. The teams working at Jena University Hospital in Germany and at the University of Pennsylvania examined the effects of omega-3 fatty acids on the cardiovascular system and were able to show, for the first time, that DHA directly influences blood pressure.

According to the Mayo Clinic, Omega-3 fatty acids may decrease triglycerides, lower blood pressure, reduce blood clotting, boost immunity and improve arthritis symptoms and, in children, may improve learning ability. Eating two servings a week of fish, particularly fish that’s rich in omega-3 fatty acids, appears to reduce the risk of heart disease and sudden cardiac death.

Fatty fish, such as salmon, herring and tuna, contain the most omega-3 fatty acids and, therefore, offer the most benefit, but many types of seafood contain small amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. Most freshwater fish have less omega-3 fatty acids than do fatty saltwater fish. However, some varieties of freshwater trout have relatively high levels of omega-3 fatty acids.

Look for seafood rich in omega-3s, such as:

  • Halibut
  • Herring
  • Mackerel
  • Mussels
  • Oysters
  • Salmon
  • Sardines
  • Swordfish
  • Trout
  • Tuna (fresh)

Only buy fish that is refrigerated or properly iced. Fresh fish should smell fresh and mild, not fishy, sour or ammonia-like. Whole fish and fillets should have firm, shiny flesh and bright red gills free from slime. When buying frozen fish, avoid packages placed above the frost line or top of the freezer case. If the package is transparent, look for signs of frost or ice crystals. These could mean the fish has been stored a long time or thawed and refrozen — in which case, choose another package.

Healthy Ways to Cook Fish

Baked Fish

Baking fish allows you to get the satisfying crunch of fried fish without all the fat. Just because it’s baked, though, doesn’t mean it’s healthy: Watch the amount of butter, oil, mayonnaise, or cheese called for in the recipe.

It’s easy and delicious to cook fish fillets in packets of parchment paper, a technique called “en papillote”. The fish is cooked by the trapped steam. If you don’t have parchment paper on hand, use aluminum foil to make the packets. The fish needs to bake for only 10 to 15 minutes at 400 degrees F.

Broiled Fish

When the weather’s not right for grilling, try broiling instead. Broiling is great when you want a fast, simple, hassle-free preparation with delicious results.

It gives fish a nicely browned exterior with the convenience of a temperature-controlled heat source.  For easy cleanup, line the broiler pan with a piece of greased foil.

Poached Fish

This gentle cooking method is perfect for seafood. Poaching keeps fish moist and won’t mask the delicate flavor of the fish.

To poach fish: use vegetable or chicken stock or a homemade broth of aromatic herbs and spices.

Use a pan big enough to lay each piece of fish down flat.

Pour in enough liquid to just barely cover the fish.

Bring the liquid to a simmer and keep it there.

If you see any bubbles coming up from the bottom of the pan, it’s too hot–the liquid should “shimmer” rather than bubble. The ideal poaching liquid temperature is between 165 and 180 degrees F (74 to 82 degrees C).

Steamed Fish

Steaming is another gentle cooking method. It produces a mild-tasting fish that is often paired with a flavorful sauce.

Rub the fish with spices, chopped herbs, ginger, garlic and chile peppers to infuse flavor while it cooks.

Use a bamboo steamer or a folding steamer basket with enough room for each piece of fish to lie flat.

Pour about 1½ inches of water into the pan.

Place the steamer over the water, cover the pot, and bring the water to a boil.

Begin checking the fish for doneness after 10 minutes.

Grilled Fish

When you’re grilling fish, keep a close watch. Fish only takes a few minutes per side to cook. If the fillets are an even thickness, they may not even require turning–they can be cooked through by grilling on one side only.

Brush the fish lightly with oil and spray the grill with nonstick cooking spray.

Place fish near the edge of the grill, away from the hottest part of the fire. (Don’t try to lift up the fish right away; it will be stuck to the grill).

Start checking for color and doneness after a few minutes once the fish starts to release some of its juices.

Turn the fish over when you see light grill marks forming.

Fish should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees F. If you don’t have a food thermometer, you can determine whether fish is properly cooked by slipping the point of a sharp knife into the flesh and pulling it aside. The flesh should be opaque and separate easily.

White Wine and Garlic Steamed Clams

This dish makes a great appetizer.

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds manila or littleneck clams
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 cup thinly sliced shallots
  • 1½ cups dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 large slices sourdough or country bread, each about ½-inch thick

Directions

Scrub the clams and rinse them in four rounds of cold water to remove any sand and grit.

Heat a 12-inch skillet with a cover over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. Add the garlic and shallots and sauté until fragrant and tender, about 1 minute.

Add the wine and cook for about 1 minute more. Add the clams and cook covered until the clams open wide, 5 to 10 minutes, stirring every few minutes.

Add the 2 tablespoons butter, the parsley and season with pepper. Toast the bread on a stovetop grill or in the broiler about 1 minute, turning once.

Discard any unopened clams and serve right away in bowls with the bread and pan juices.

 

Shrimp with Oregano and Lemon

This is another great appetizer. You can turn it into an main dish by serving the shrimp and sauce over rice or pasta.

The sauce is also delicious spooned over grilled swordfish or any other meaty fish.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup salted capers—rinsed, soaked for 1 hour and drained
  • 1/2 cup fresh oregano
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 1/2 pounds large shrimp, shelled and deveined

Directions

On a cutting board, finely chop the drained capers with the oregano and garlic. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, along with the lemon zest and lemon juice. Season the sauce with pepper.

Heat a stove top grill.

In a large bowl, toss the shrimp with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and season lightly with salt and pepper.

Grill shrimp, turning once, until the shrimp show grill marks and are cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. Remove the shrimp to a platter.

Spoon some the sauce on top and serve. Pass the remaining sauce with the shrimp platter.

MAKE AHEAD The sauce can be refrigerated overnight. Bring it to room temperature before serving. Serve with crusty bread.

Red Snapper Livornese

Serve with rice or couscous and a salad or steamed broccoli.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup homemade or store bought marinara sauce
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons capers, chopped
  • 1/2 cup sliced black olives, drained
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 pound red snapper fillets

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).

In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil and saute onion until tender, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and saute for 1 minute. Stir in marinara sauce, wine, capers, black olives, red pepper flakes and parsley. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes.

Spread 1/2 cup of the sauce in an 11×7 inch baking dish and arrange the snapper fillets in a single layer in the dish. Pour the remaining sauce over all.

Bake for 15 minutes for 1/2 inch thick fillets or 30 minutes for 1 inch thick fillets. Baste once with the sauce while baking. Snapper is done when it flakes easily with a fork.

Salmon Rolls

4 servings

Ingredients

1 ¼ pounds center-cut salmon fillet, skinned and cut lengthwise into 4 strips

Stuffing

  • 1/2 cup plain panko crumbs
  • 1/4 cup chopped herbs (basil, parsley, oregano)
  • 1 garlic, minced
  • 1 small shallot, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon each salt & pepper
  • 1 tablespoon truffle oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.

Mix the stuffing ingredients together in a medium bowl. Working with one piece of salmon at a time, spread about 3 tablespoons of the breadcrumb mixture over the salmon.

Starting at one end, roll the salmon up tightly, tucking in any loose filling as you go. Insert a toothpick through the end to keep the rolls from unrolling.

Place in the prepared dish and repeat with the remaining salmon strips.

Bake the rolls until just cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the toothpicks before serving.

Italian Style Paella

Fregola, the pearl-sized pasta that is similar to couscous, makes an excellent substitute for rice in this paella-style dish; it soaks up a lot of the cooking liquid from the dish and still stays chewy.

12 Servings

Ingredients

  • Large pinch of saffron threads
  • 6 ½ cups warm water
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 pound fregola (2 1/4 cups)
  • 1/2 pound Italian sausage, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup canned diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds large shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 2 pounds red snapper, cod or monkfish, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 pound mussels, scrubbed and debearded
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

Directions

In a small bowl, crumble the saffron in 1/2 cup of the warm water and let stand for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a very large, deep sauté pan. Add the onion and garlic and cook over high heat, stirring, until lightly browned, 2 minutes. Add the fregola and sausage and cook, stirring, until the sausage starts to brown, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, white wine, saffron and its soaking liquid and the remaining 6 cups of warm water to the sauté pan and bring to a boil.

Stir in 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper, cover and cook over low heat until the fregola is very chewy and soupy, about 10 minutes.

Season the shrimp and red snapper with salt and pepper and add them to the pan along with the mussels, nestling them into the fregola. Bring to a boil. Cover the pan and cook over low heat until the fregola is al dente, the fish is just cooked through and the mussels have opened, about 12 minutes longer.

Remove the pan from the heat and let the paella stand for 5 minutes; the fregola will absorb a bit more of the liquid, but the dish should still be brothy. Discard any mussels that do not open. Sprinkle the fregola with the chopped parsley and serve.

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When the cold weather comes around and the holiday season appears, mint can provide some warmth and comfort to your holiday meals. Mint can adapt itself to the coming season and instead of adding it to iced tea, use it to garnish pork roasts, vegetables, sauces and desserts. My supermarket has fresh mint bunches available all year.

Whichever way one eats it, drinks it or prepares it, mint is an herb with many beneficial uses for good health. In fact, the reason most of our ancestors grew this pungent herb was for its many health benefits. Naturalists still employ peppermint to treat gallstones, irritable bowel syndrome and the common cold.

This herb, belongs to a large family with over 30 species, the most common being peppermint and spearmint. Native to the Mediterranean and Western Asia, mints interbreed often, making it difficult for even an expert to distinguish all the varieties. All mints contain the oil menthol, which gives them that characteristic cooling, cleansing feeling.

The Greeks believed mint could clear the voice and cure hiccups. In fact, mint is part of Greek mythology and according to legend – Menthe, originally a nymph and Pluto’s lover, angered Pluto’s wife, Persephone, who in a fit of rage turned Menthe into a lowly plant, to be trod upon. Pluto, unable to undo the spell, was able to soften it by giving Menthe a sweet scent, which would perfume the air when her leaves were stepped on.

Mint is a perennial and its seeds can be sowed in flats or in the ground. Once the tenacious herb takes hold in your garden, it is very easy to propagate it by cuttings and transplanting once the root system is well established. Mint needs humid soil and only moderate sunshine. It will grow in, out and around all garden plants, not unlike a weed, this herb is dedicated to spreading throughout the garden. The trick is to continuously cut them back and restrict their growth, otherwise, this herb will take over your garden. Mint can be grown in large garden pots, which is how I grow it, so I can contain it. I learned not to put in a pot with other herbs because it strangles the other herbs and they quickly die.

According to legend this is a good herb for keeping ants away from doors and combating mice and fleas. Keep mint leaves near food, beds and wardrobes. Use it to freshen the house like an air freshener and it can be simmered in a pot of water with rosemary and lemongrass to create a unique potpourri.

The mint varieties come in a number of useful flavors. There is chocolate mint perfect for desserts, spearmint and peppermint for drinks and garden mint for general cooking. Pineapple mint is delicious in salads. To reduce the effects of tannin and caffeine in your favorite tea, brew fresh mint sprigs in your teapot with your favorite tea. Steep for 2-3 minutes. Longer for a more potent flavor.

Many cooks like to add chopped mint leaves to scrambled eggs and omelets, for a change of pace flavor. Add the mint at the end of cooking the eggs. Too much heat will turn the mint bitter. Fresh mint leaves are good addition in salads. Mint is commonly paired with peas. carrots, potatoes, eggplant, beans and corn to pep up the flavor.

Mint Gelato

In Italy, mint grows everywhere and is used widely in cooking. Here are some examples of how mint fits in the Italian cuisine.

  • Fresh mint is used in combination with anchovy, red onion and peperoncino for Roman-style artichokes.
  • Mint is simmered in a veal with porcini mushroom braise.
  • Polenta is served with snails cooked in tomato, onions, wine and mint
  • A mint verde is mixed into fresh cheese and spread on crostini or tossed into hot pasta.
  • Minced mint is added along with parsley and basil to caponata and salads with fennel, olive and blood oranges.
  • Chopped mint is added to charred eggplant salad, pickled eggplant and marinated mushrooms.
  • Mint is sometimes used in the Tuscan tomato and bread salad called panzanella.
  • It is also used in tripe dishes and ragus made from wild rabbit or boar.
  • Mint is used to flavor cold seafood dishes, especially octopus salad, and rice dishes.
  • In some areas mint enhances trout and other mild fish that are simply sautéed and dressed with olive oil, sweet onion, fresh mint and lemon.
  • Mint is added to meatballs in Sicily.
  • Melons are tossed with fresh mint and balsamic vinegar.
  • After dinner, it is tossed with sugar and berries.

Mint-Almond Pesto

This pesto can be used on everything from a mozzarella salad, to a plate of fresh pasta and even as a topping for grilled rack of lamb. I like to serve it over cooked green beans.

Ingredients

  • 2 big bunches of mint
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup toasted almonds
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Wash the mint very well and pick off all the leaves on the woody stems. Put the mint, garlic, parmesan and almonds into a food processor and pulse until smooth. Squeeze in the juice of the lemon and add the olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste. Pulse to mix.

This pesto can be frozen. If you want to make some ahead of time– just omit the parmesan cheese until you’re ready to eat the pesto.

Risotto with Peas and Mint

Ingredients

Servings 4

  • 3/4 lb arborio rice
  • 10 oz. package frozen peas (do not thaw)
  • 3 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 3 ½ oz pancetta, diced
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 oz grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 medium onion, divided
  • 4 sprigs mint
  • 4 tablespoons white wine

Directions

Divide onion in half. Chop one half and add it to a medium saucepan with 1 tablespoon of butter. Cook until onion is soft. Add the frozen peas, pour in the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to lowest setting and keep warm.

Chop remaining onion. In another large saucepan heat olive oil and saute the onion; pour in the rice and toast it, then add the diced pancetta. Add the wine and allow to evaporate.

Add the broth with the peas, 1 cup at a time, until all the liquid is all absorbed by the rice. (Takes about 20 minutes.)

When the rice is cooked, remove pan from the heat and add the remaining butter and cheese.

Serve garnished with mint leaves.

Fresh Shrimp with Oranges and Mint

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 sweet navel oranges, divided
  • 8 plum tomatoes, divided
  • 1 bunch fresh mint, divided
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 16 fresh jumbo shrimp

Directions

Prepare 16 orange garnish slices using 1 orange: slice off ¼ inch from the top and bottom of the orange and remove the rind. Segment the orange, using a knife to discard the tough inner membrane on each segment. Place in a bowl and set aside.

Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Make an x with a knife on the bottom of each tomato. Place the tomatoes in the boiling water for 1 minute. Remove from water and let cool. Peel the skin from the tomatoes. Remove seeds. Cut 1 tomato into thin strips (julienne) and set aside.

Slice the remaining 3 oranges in half. Remove the orange pulp from each half using a grapefruit knife, carefully removing the orange pulp without any rind or outer membrane attached.

Julienne several mint leaves and set aside.

Chop the remaining tomatoes and place them in a skillet with the orange pulp. Simmer for two minutes with salt, pepper and one mint leaf.

Process the tomato and orange mixture in a blender with 3 tablespoons of olive oil to make the sauce. Store in the refrigerator to chill.

Sauté the shrimp in 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium heat until opaque in the middle. Add the julienne tomato, 4 orange segments and julienne mint leaves.

Place the orange sauce on eachof 4 platse. Place equal amounts of the shrimp mixture in the middle and garnish with a mint leaf, three orange segments and drizzle with remaining olive oil over the top.

Tuscan-Style Cauliflower

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. whole grain rotini or other short pasta
  • 1/2 small onion chopped
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 whole jarred roasted red bell pepper, sliced thin
  • 5 fresh mint leaves
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red chili pepper flakes or to taste
  • 1 1/4 pound cauliflower
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream or half & half
  • 1/2 cup pecorino cheese, grated
  • Black pepper freshly ground to taste
  • Toasted fresh bread crumbs

Directions

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add 2 tablespoons salt. Cook pasta according to package instructions and drain.

Heat oil in a 14 to 18 inch skillet. Add onion and mint. Cook until soft, about 5 to 6 minutes.

Meanwhile, remove the leaves and core the cauliflower. Break the florets away from the central core and cut into small pieces.

Add cauliflower to skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring regularly for about 12 to 15 minutes, until cauliflower is softened and light brown but not mushy. Stir in sliced roasted red pepper and cream. Toss hot pasta into the skillet with the cauliflower.

Add the grated cheese, black pepper and red chili pepper flakes. Toss to coat; top with toasted bread crumbs and serve immediately.

Lamb Chops with Mint Gremolata

Ingredients:

For the lamb

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 rib or loin lamb chops
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 mint sprigs, stems included and cut in pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the gremolata

  • 1 cup raw walnut halves
  • Leaves from 1 bunch of mint, finely chopped (1/2 cup)
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

For the lamb:

Place lamb chops, olive oil, torn mint, garlic and pepper in a large, sealable plastic bag. Toss to coat lamb chops and marinate in the refrigerator for 2 hours.

Remove chops, wipe off excess marinade and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Position the top oven rack 4 to 6 inches from the broiler element. Have a broiler pan or baking sheet lined with greased aluminum foil ready. Place chops on pan.

Broil for 5 to 7 minutes on each side (medium-rare to medium) until nicely browned.

Make the gremolata:

Place the walnuts in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until coarsely ground (about the consistency of very coarse sand).

Transfer to a medium bowl, then add the mint, lemon zest, garlic, salt, black pepper to taste and the oil; mix well. Taste and adjust the seasonings as needed.

Serve the lamb chops with equal portions of the gremolata.


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This Parma Ham sponsored post is about helping you with some holiday entertaining ideas.

What does “entertaining” mean to you? Take a moment and think of what comes to mind.

The best advice I have is that, when it comes to holiday parties, nothing beats the power of planning.

Begin early:

  • Set the Date
  • Make a Guest List
  • Get the Word Out Early
  • Plan the Food and Drinks
  • Decide the Set Up for Beverages, Food and Decorations
  • Set Aside Time for Shopping, Preparing the Food, Cleaning and Decorating
  • Once the Doorbell Rings Have Fun

Holiday appetizer recipes are a must-have in your party plan book. They help tide over your guests until the main event or make for great eating on their own, along with a few cocktails and some desserts. Simple finger foods work the best. Instead of worrying about finding out whether anyone attending your party has a particular dietary restriction, prepare a variety of hors d’oeuvres that will suit any taste and diet. Make two or three meat-based dishes ( red meat and poultry), two fish dishes (one fish, one shellfish) and three vegetarian dishes (one with dairy, two without). You might consider gluten-free choices, as well.

Here is a tip – when Italians entertain guests, they are often greeted with a platter of prosciutto, crisp breadsticks and fruit. It’s an effortless but elegant crowd-pleaser that you can put together quickly. The famous Prosciutto di Parma brand is the one to use for this dish.

Prosciutto di Parma has been produced in Parma, Italy for at least two thousand years, gaining recognition in 100 BC when Cato the Censor remarked on the extraordinary flavor and sweetness of the ham. Its production follows the same traditions, today, as the ones used then. By law Prosciutto di Parma can only be made in the hills around Parma where the unique conditions of the Parma region have made it possible to produce ham of the highest quality. All Parma Ham authorized producers must be located within the geographical boundaries of the Parma region and meet the requirements set by the Consorzio, in order to receive the official certification mark – the Parma Crown. Through the long and carefully controlled curing process, the meat becomes tender and the distinctive aroma and flavor of Parma Ham emerges. This year the Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma is celebrating its 50th Anniversary.

Parma Ham is a naturally gluten free product, so are the recipes I developed for this post. If you’d like to try something more impressive for your guests, try one of these Parma party bites at your next party.

Stuffed Vegetables and Parma Ham

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You can double the recipe or use all mushrooms or use all mini bell peppers.

Makes 36 appetizers

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese (8 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons sundried tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh basil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 12 mini bell peppers
  • 12 mushroom caps
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Prosciutto di Parma slices cut into 1 inch squares (about 5-6 slices)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degree F. Cut the bell peppers in half, lengthwise; remove the seeds and stems. Lightly oil the bell peppers by tossing them in a bowl with some olive oil. Place the peppers on a baking sheet skin-side down.

Remove mushroom stems (reserve for another use) and brush mushroom cavities lightly with olive oil. Place them on the baking sheet with the peppers. Roast in the oven for 10-12 minutes until the edges begin to show some color. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

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While the vegetables are roasting, prepare the stuffing.

Place the cream cheese, ricotta, sundried tomatoes, basil, garlic, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, salt and black pepper in a bowl or in a processor and mix until creamy. Refrigerate until ready to make the appetizers.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Stuff the peppers and mushroom caps liberally with the filling and place them back on the baking sheet. Bake about 8 minutes.

Change oven setting to high broil and bake an additional 2 minutes, until the top of the cheese stuffing begins to brown. (If they’re already brown at this point, you can skip the broiling).

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Top each pepper and mushroom with a square of prosciutto. Serve immediately.

Parma Ham-Wrapped Shrimp

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Makes 18 appetizers

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 18 extra-large shrimp, peeled, deveined
  • 18 thin slices prosciutto
  • 18 fresh basil leaves
  • 18 bamboo skewers, soaked in water 30 minutes

Directions

In a bowl, gently combine the shrimp, olive oil, lemon juice, honey and garlic and marinate for 5 minutes.

Place 1 prosciutto slice on your work surface, short end parallel to the edge. Place 1 basil leaf at the short end of the prosciutto slice. Place 1 shrimp on top of the basil leaf. Roll up shrimp in the prosciutto. Thread shrimp on a skewer.

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Repeat with remaining prosciutto, basil, shrimp and skewers. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate.)

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Prepare barbecue grill (medium-high heat) or preheat a broiler. Grill or broil wrapped shrimp until opaque in the center, turning frequently, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a platter. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Herbed Frittatas with Prosciutto di Parma

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Makes 36 appetizers

Ingredients

  • 8 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 cup chopped, seeded, drained tomato
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs (chives, tarragon, parsley, basil, etc.)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Prosciutto di Parma, about 12 slices

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease an 8-inch square baking dish.

Dry the chopped tomatoes on a paper towel.

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Beat eggs and water with wire whisk in a medium bowl. Stir in tomato, 1/2 cup of the cheese and the herbs.

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Pour into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese.

Bake 30 minutes or until puffed and golden brown. Cool.

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Loosen the sides of the frittata with a spatula and gently turn it out onto a cutting board.

Cut the frittatas into 1-inch squares and top with a piece of prosciutto. Serve at room temperature.

MAKE AHEAD:  The frittatas can be baked up to 3 hours ahead.

Follow Parma Ham on Twitter for a chance to win $50 worth of the world’s most famous ham. Click on the banner below to participate. This post is a collaboration between the blogger and Parma Ham.

Win Parma Ham


A large and growing number of Italian American authors have had success in getting their works published in America. Some of the authors who have written about the Italian American experience are Pietro Di Donato, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Dana Gioia (Executive Director of the National Endowment for the Arts), John Fusco (author of Paradise Salvage) and Daniela Gioseffi (winner of the John Ciardi Award for Lifetime Achievement in Poetry and The American Book Award).

Poets Sandra (Mortola) Gilbert and Kim Addonizio and Helen Barolini, editor of The Dream Book, a collection of Italian American women’s writings were award winners from Italian Americana (a semi-annual historical and cultural journal devoted to the Italian experience in America). These women have authored many books depicting Italian American women in a new light. Helen Barolini’s work was the first anthology to pay special attention to the interaction of Italian American women with American social activism. Common themes included conflicts between the Italian American and the mainstream American culture and traditional immigrant parents with their American-assimilated children.

Mary Jo Bona (Professor of Italian American Studies & English at Stony Brook University is the author of Claiming A Tradition: Italian American Women Writers, was interested in showing how authors portrayed the many configurations of family relationships: from the early immigrant narratives of the journey to America, through novels that depicted intergenerational conflicts to contemporary works about the struggle of Italian American women to live in nontraditional gender roles.

A growing number of books about the Italian American experience are published each year. Well known authors, such as Don DeLillo, Giannina Braschi, Gilbert Sorrentino, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Gay Talese, John Fante, Tina DeRosa, Daniela Gioseffi, Kim Addonizio and Dana Gioia, have broken into mainstream American literature and publishing. Dana Gioia was Poetry Editor of Italian Americana from 1993 to 2003. He initiated an educational series in which featured poets talked about their work. Poet, Michael Palma, continues Dana Gioia’s work, today.

Italian Americans have written not only about the Italian American experience but, also, about the human experience. Mario Puzo’s first novel, The Fortunate Pilgrim, was an inspirational account of the immigrant experience, which was widely reviewed as being well written, moving and poetic. The Right Thing to Do, by Josephine Gattuso Hendin, is an elevating novel about an Italian American family and their experiences in a new culture. Contemporary best-selling fiction writers include David Baldacci, Kate DiCamillo, Adriana Trigiani and Lisa Scottoline.

Helen Barolini

Helen Barolini’s fiction and nonfiction work has created a bridge between the United States, her home, and Italy, her ancestral land. Awarded a writing grant from the National Endowment for the Arts for her first novel, Umbertina, Barolini is also the author of twelve books and many short stories and essays that have been cited in annual editions of Best American Essays. She has received the American Book Award; has been a Resident Fellow at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center in Lake Como; a visiting artist at the American Academy in Rome; an invited writer at Yaddo and the MacDowell colony and a writer in residence at the Mark Twain Quarry Center of Elmira College. Three of her books have appeared in translation in Italy, where she has lectured as an invited American author.

Helen’s maternal grandfather, Angelo Cardamone and his wife, Nicoletta, immigrated from Calabria, Italy to Utica, NY in 1880. Helen Barolini was born and raised in Syracuse, NY and attended local schools. She attended Wells College, graduated magna cum laude from Syracuse University and received a Master’s degree from Columbia University. She was an exchange student at the University of London, where she studied contemporary English literature and then traveled in Europe, writing “Letters from Abroad” for the Syracuse Herald Journal.

Given the intercultural themes of her work linking her American birth and education with her ancestral Italy, Helen Barolini’s writings have been the subject of many student theses both here and abroad. Crossing the Alps, a novel, is Barolini’s newest work. It is a coming of age novel set in post World War II Italy. The Italian edition received praise for its authentic background.

John Ciardi

John Ciardi, poet and scholar, did the only English translation of Dante’s, Divine Comedy, that reproduced the Italian poet’s complex rhyme scheme. Ciardi was also a poet in his own right, who authored 60 books, taught at Harvard and Rutgers, hosted a weekly radio commentary on National Public Radio in the 1980′s and was the only American poet to have his own television program (“Accent,” CBS, 1961).

Ciardi was born in Boston’s Little Italy to immigrant parents from Naples, Italy. After the death of his father from an automobile accident in 1919, he was raised by his mother and his three older sisters, all of whom scrimped and saved until they had enough money to send him to college. In 1921, two years after his father’s death, the family moved to Medford, Massachusetts, where the Ciardi peddled vegetables to the neighbors and attended public school. Ciardi began his higher educational studies at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, but transferred to Tufts University in Boston, where he studied under the poet John Holmes. He received his degree in 1938 and won a scholarship to the University of Michigan, where he obtained his master’s degree the next year and won the first of many awards for his poetry: the prestigious, Hopwood Award in poetry.

Ciardi published his first book of poems, Homeward to America, in 1940, before the war and his next book, Other Skies, focusing on his wartime experiences, was published in 1947. His third book, Live Another Day, came out in 1949. In 1950, Ciardi edited a poetry collection, Mid-Century American Poets, which identified the best poets of his generation.

In 1953, Ciardi joined the English Department at Rutgers University, in order to begin a writing program, but after eight successful years there, he resigned his professorship in 1961 in favor of several other more lucrative careers and to “devote himself full time to literary pursuits”. (When he left Rutgers, he famously quipped that teaching was “planned poverty.”) He was popular enough and interesting enough to warrant a pair of appearances in the early 1960s on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. He was the poetry editor of Saturday Review from 1956 to 1972 and wrote the 1959 poetry textbook, How Does A Poem Mean. Ciardi was a “fellow of the National Academy of Arts and Sciences and was a member and former president of the National Institute of Arts and Letters. He died on Easter Sunday in 1986 of a heart attack.

Don DeLillo

Don DeLillo, an important contemporary American novelist, wrote Americana, Great Jones Street, White Noise, Libra and Underworld. DeLillo was born on November 20, 1936 and grew up in a working-class Italian Catholic family from Molise, Italy in an Italian-American neighborhood in the Bronx. Reflecting on his childhood, DeLillo described how he was “…always out in the street. As a little boy I whiled away most of my time pretending to be a baseball announcer on the radio. There were eleven of us in a small house, but the close quarters were never a problem. I didn’t know things any other way. We always spoke English and Italian all mixed up together. My grandmother, who lived in America for fifty years, never learned English.”

DeLillo has described his fiction as being concerned with “living in dangerous times”. In a 2005 interview he declared, “Writers must oppose systems. It’s important to write against power, corporations, the state and the whole system of consumption and of debilitating entertainments. I think writers, by nature, must oppose things, oppose whatever power tries to impose on us.” DeLillo is currently at work on a new novel, his sixteenth, where the main character spends a lot of time watching file footage on a widescreen of images of a disaster. He currently lives near New York City in the suburb of Bronxville.

Pietro di Donato

Pietro di Donato, the son of an Italian immigrant and himself a bricklayer, captured the life and death of his father, who was foreman of a construction crew of Italian immigrants, in his first novel, Christ in Concrete (1939). Di Donato was born April 3, 1911 in West Hoboken, New Jersey (now Union City) to Geremio, a bricklayer, and Annunziata Chinquina. Pietro had seven other siblings. His parents had emigrated from the town of Vasto, in the region of Abruzzo in Italy.

On March 30, 1923, Geremio di Donato died when a building collapsed on him, burying him in concrete. Pietro, who was twelve at the time, left school in the seventh grade to become a construction worker in order to help support his family. His father’s death and his life growing up as an immigrant in West Hoboken were the inspiration for his writings. Though he had little formal education, during a strike, he wandered into a library and discovered French and Russian novels, becoming particularly fond of Émile Zola.

In 1958 di Donato wrote his second novel, a sequel to Christ in Concrete called, This Woman. It continued the story of di Donato’s life following his father’s death. In 1960 a third book in the same tradition called, Three Circles of Light, focused on di Donato’s childhood in the years prior to his father’s death. That same year, di Donato published, The Immigrant Saint: The Life of Mother Cabrini, a fictionalized account of Frances Xavier Cabrini, the first United States citizen canonized. The following year di Donato published, The Penitent, an account of contrition and spiritual rebirth of the man who killed the twelve-year-old Maria Goretti. In 1978 his article on the kidnapping and murder of Aldo Moro (president of the Christian Democratic Party of Italy), titled “Christ in Plastic”, appeared in Penthouse Magazine and won the Overseas Press Club award. Di Donato later adapted the article into a play, entitled Moro. Di Donato died of bone cancer on January 19, 1992 in Stony Brook, Long Island, with his last unfinished novel, Gospels, unpublished.

Barbara Grizzuti-Harrison

Barbara Grizzuti-Harrison, one of the most well-known contemporary writers, is the author of Italian Days, considered a masterpiece of travel writing, thanks to her acute powers of observation and broad cultural knowledge. She has also written The Islands of Italy, A History and a Memory of Jehovah’s Witnesses and The Astonishing World. Barbara Grizzuti was born in Queens, New York City, on September 14, 1934. Her parents were first-generation Americans and her grandparents were immigrants from Calabria in southern Italy. She later described her childhood as deeply troubled and the turmoil of her childhood would have a strong influence on her writing.

When Harrison was 9, she and her mother became Jehovah’s Witnesses. Harrison’s father and brother did not convert and this caused a rift in the household. As a teenager at New Utrecht High School in Brooklyn, Harrison fell in love with Arnold Horowitz, an English teacher who was among the first to encourage her writing talent. He apparently returned her feelings and although their relationship remained platonic, they continued to see each other and to correspond until Horowitz’s death in the late 1960s. After graduating from high school, Harrison, who had been forbidden to attend a university, went to live and work at the Watchtower headquarters. However, her friendship with Horowitz scandalised her colleagues and she was asked to leave. The relationship was but one symptom of a growing conflict between Harrison’s faith and her artistic sensibilities, which eventually led to a nervous breakdown.

Harrison became involved with the women’s movement and wrote about feminist themes for various publications. Her first book, Unlearning the Lie: Sexism in School, was published in 1969. Harrison was one of the first contributors to Ms. Magazine. Harrison wrote for many of the leading periodicals of her time, including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The New Republic, Harper’s, The Atlantic Monthly, The Village Voice, The Nation, Ladies’ Home Journal and Mother Jones Magazine. Among the people she interviewed were Red Barber, Mario Cuomo, Jane Fonda, Gore Vidal, Joan Didion, Francis Ford Coppola, Nadia Comăneci, Alessandra Mussolini and Barbara Bush. Because of her background, Harrison was often asked to write about movements that were perceived to be cults; she described families affected by the Unification Church and the Northeast Kingdom Community Church and reported on the U.S. government’s deadly standoff with the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas.

In 1994 Harrison, who had been a heavy smoker for most of her adult life, was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. She died on April 24, 2002 in a hospice in Manhattan.

Jerre Mangione

Jerre Mangione (1909-1998) was one of the most celebrated early Italian American writers. His first book, Mount Allegro, (1943) and, later, An Ethnic At Large (1978), explored the evolution of Mangione’s identity from a child of Sicilian immigrants to an American. His last book, La Storia, which he co-authored with Ben Morreale, is a monumental five-century social history of the Italians in America.

Mount Allegro was Mr. Mangione’s first book and its sympathetic portrait of his family and neighbors have made it a classic of ethnic American literature and a must read for anyone interested in the experience of Sicilian immigrants. Mr. Mangione, professor emeritus of American literature at the University of Pennsylvania, wrote 10 more books after Mount Allegro was published in 1943. Most of them dealt in some way with Sicily, Sicilians or the Italian American experience – the experience he lived as a child.

Jerre (Gerlando) Mangione was born in Rochester in 1909, the first of six children born to parents, who emigrated from Sicily at the turn of the century. He grew up in the section of the city now known as Mount Allegro, the fictionalized name he gave the place in his book. His mother, Josephine, had dreams for her children, but they were musical rather than literary. Those dreams were realized through jazz musicians, Chuck and Gap Mangione, the sons of Mr. Mangione’s brother, Frank. But the dreams were nightmares for the young Jerre, who failed at the piano, violin and guitar before his mother finally understood that music was not his forte.

Said to have been a sickly and lonely child, Mr. Mangione spent much of his youth reading – generally on the sly because his mother believed too much reading caused insanity. “The boy would rather read than eat,” she said of him. His favorite book in those years was the dictionary, he once said. He depended on it because his parents, doing their best to preserve their Sicilian heritage, insisted that he and his siblings speak only Italian at home.

Though he was prolific, Mr. Mangione found that getting words down on paper was painful. He said he often found himself doing other chores to avoid his daily 9:30 a.m to 1 p.m. date with the typewriter. “In an effort to avoid writing, one can accomplish almost anything,” he said in an interview. Mr. Mangione, who once said he considered himself an observer of life, rather than a participant, enjoyed consistent success as a novelist and social historian. He won several national fellowships to pursue his writing. The New York Times and other national publications regularly gave his books glowing reviews and his book about the Federal Writers Project was nominated for a National Book Award. Mangione died on August 16, 1998 in Haverford, PA.

Gay Talese

Gay Talese (b.1932) is known for his daring pursuit of “unreportable” stories, for his exhaustive research, and for his formally elegant style. He is a prolific writer and one of the founders of the 1960′s style of writing called, “New Journalism,” which incorporates fictional elements (dialogue, scene description and shifting points of view) into news writing. Talese was a reporter for The New York Times between 1956 and 1965, writing about sports and politics. Among his many best-sellers is The Kingdom and the Power, the story of crime boss Joe Bonanno and his son, Bill; Thy Neighbor’s Wife, which examines America’s changing sexual mores and Unto the Sons, an autobiographical book about his Italian heritage.

Gay Talese was born into an Italian-American family in Ocean City, New Jersey, located just south of Atlantic City. His father, Joseph Talese, was a tailor who had immigrated to the United States in 1922 from Maida, a town in the province of Catanzaro in southern Italy. His mother, the former Catherine DePaolo, was a buyer for a Brooklyn department store.

Talese was rejected by dozens of colleges in New Jersey and nearby states but, eventually, he was accepted at the University of Alabama. His selection of a major was, as he described it, “I chose journalism as my college major because that is what I knew,” he recalls, “but I really became a student of history”.  It was here that he would begin to employ literary devices more well known in fiction, like establishing the “scene” with minute details in his writing. In his junior year he became the sports editor for the campus newspaper, Crimson-White, and started a column, he dubbed “Sports Gay-zing”.

He later wrote,”Sports is about people who lose and lose and lose. They lose games and then they lose their jobs. It can be very intriguing.” Of the various sports, boxing held the most appeal for Talese, largely because it was about individuals engaged in contests and those individuals were predominately non-whites. He wrote 38 articles about Floyd Patterson alone. Talese’s celebrated Esquire piece about Joe DiMaggio, “The Silent Season of a Hero” – in part a meditation on the transient nature of fame – appeared in 1966. The Library of America selected Talese’s 1970 account of the Charles Manson murders, “Charlie Manson’s Home on the Range”, for inclusion in its two-century retrospective of American True Crime. In 2011 he received the Norman Mailer Prize for Distinguished Journalism.

Frances Winwar

Frances Winwar (1900-1985) a novelist, biographer and translator, was born Francesca Vinciguerra in Taormina, Sicily, the daughter of Domenico Vinciguerra, a singer, and Giovanna Sciglio. Her family arrived in the United States in 1907 and she grew up in New York City. She attended local public schools and studied at Hunter College and Columbia University but never earned a degree. Quickly mastering English and French while retaining complete fluency in Italian, she showed an early taste for literature and began to publish poetry. A literary essay on Giovanni Verga that she published in Freeman in 1923, brought her a job with the New York World as a staff book reviewer. She stayed with the World for two years and was a frequent contributor to such periodicals as the New York Times, the New Republic and the Saturday Review of Literature for years afterward.

Winwar married four times. Sometime shortly after 1920 she was briefly married to the writer, Victor J. Jerome. In 1925 she married Bernard D. N. Grebanier, a professor of English literature at Brooklyn College, with whom she had one son. That marriage ended in divorce and in 1943 Winwar married mystery writer, Richard Wilson Webb. After a third divorce, she married Dr. Francis Lazenby, a classics scholar and librarian of the University of Notre Dame.

Winwar was best known for a series of romanticized biographies of nineteenth-century English literary figures and their followers, beginning with Poor Splendid Wings: The Rossettis and Their Circle (1933), an account that included Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Charles Algernon Swinburne and William Morris. Two years later she published The Romantic Rebels, another composite biography, in which she sensitively, though not always accurately, portrayed John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron. Farewell the Banner (1938) relates the complex relationships of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Wordsworth and Wordsworth’s sister, Dorothy. The fourth of her group biographies was Oscar Wilde and the Yellow ‘Nineties, describing the scandal surrounding its leader.

In The Life of the Heart (1945) she focused on a single writer rather than a group or a movement, but her novelized biography of George Sand included vivid portraits of Frédéric Chopin, Gustave Flaubert and Louis Napoléon, as well. Other fictionalized biographies, such as American Giant: Walt Whitman and His Times (1941) and Haunted Palace (1959), a life of Edgar Allan Poe, met with popular success, even when the critics were less than enthusiastic, as did her juvenile histories, Napoleon and the Battle of Waterloo (1953) and Queen Elizabeth and the Spanish Armada (1954). Listed as “romantic novels,” these novel-biographies were sometimes criticized as falling short of rigid historical completeness, but all were thoroughly researched and offered vivid portraits of their subjects.

She was an outspoken opponent of Italian Fascism, the only Italian American besides Pietro di Donato to speak at the Second American Writers Congress in 1937, where her paper “Literature under Fascism” vehemently condemned Fascist repression and its effects on literature in the country of her birth. She died on July 24, 1985, at her home in New York City.

All the authors in this post have Italian roots from southern Italy. Here are a few traditional Italian American recipes in their honor.

Seafood Marinara With Linguine

6 Servings

Ingredients

  • 1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 12 oz tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 14.5 oz can low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1 tablespoons fresh basil chopped or 2 teaspoons dried basil leaves, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon fresh oregano chopped or 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 8 oz shrimp fresh or frozen, peeled and deveined
  • 8 oz scallops fresh or frozen
  • 1 lb linguine cooked, drained and kept warm

Directions

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic; cook for 2 minutes.

Add tomatoes, chicken broth, tomato paste, wine, basil, oregano and salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low; simmer for 10 minutes.

Heat remaining oil in small skillet over high heat. Add shrimp and scallops; cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until shrimp turn pink and scallops are opaque.

Add to sauce. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes.

Serve over pasta.

Sausage and Mushroom Calzone

4 Servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups homemade of store bought pizza sauce
  • 12 oz sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 cup mushrooms sliced
  • 1 lb pizza dough
  • 1 -1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1 tablespoon parmesan cheese grated

Directions

Cook sausage and mushrooms in a large skillet until no longer pink; drain off fat in the pan. Stir in one cup of pizza sauce.

Roll dough on lightly floured surface to a 12-inch circle. Place on greased cookie sheet or pizza pan. Spoon sausage mixture over half the dough to within 1/2 inch of edge.

Sprinkle with mozzarella.

Moisten edges of dough with water. Fold dough in half over filling. Seal by pressing with the tines of a fork. Cut slits in the top of the dough.

Brush with water and sprinkle with Parmesan.

Bake at 375°F. for 25 minutes or until golden. Heat remaining pizza sauce and serve with the calzone.

Ricotta Fritters

Ingredients

  • 4 cups vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 cup whole-milk ricotta
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
  • Special equipment: a deep-fat thermometer

Directions

Heat 1 1/2 inches oil in a large wide heavy saucepan until it registers 370°F.

Meanwhile, whisk together flour, baking powder, zest and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a bowl.

Whisk together ricotta, eggs, granulated sugar and vanilla in another bowl, then whisk in flour mixture.

Working in batches, gently drop level tablespoons of batter into the hot oil and fry, turning occasionally, until golden, about 3 minutes per batch.

Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain.

Dust generously with confectioners sugar.


While strolling through Citta’ Della Pieve, a northern Umbrian town during the Festa dello Zafferano held each fall, you will pass shops with baskets of lilac colored crocus petals and zafferano packets. During this festival, sprays of crocus flowers decorate textile shop windows, toy shop entrances and the Gelaterie which features ice-creams and yogurts made with saffron. In the Piazza Matteotti, a young chef teaches a cooking class with saffron starring in every dish: yellow risotto, saffron bread and a dessert. Just around the corner in the Palazzo della Corgna, you’ll find the embroidery work of the local women, including textiles of yellow hues, dyed with saffron. In the covered market area, you’ll see saffron-dyed candles and even creams and soaps made with saffron.

Citta’ Della Pieve in Umbria – http://www.annesitaly.com/

Saffron, the red-orange stigmas from the center of the fall flowering crocus plant (Crocus sativus), is the world’s most expensive spice. That’s because each flower provides only three stigmas. One ounce of saffron = approximately 14,000 of these tiny saffron threads. The tiny threads of saffron must be handpicked from the flower. The yellow stamens which have no taste are left behind. This spice comes either powdered or in threads.

The ancient Greeks and Romans prized saffron for its use as a perfume. They scattered it about public spaces such as royal halls, courts and amphitheaters. When Emperor Nero entered Rome, they spread saffron along the streets and wealthy Romans made daily use of saffron baths. They also used saffron as mascara, stirred saffron threads into their wines, strewn it in the halls and streets as a potpourri and offered it to their deities. Roman colonists took saffron with them when they settled in southern Gaul, where it was extensively cultivated until the AD 271. Saffron cultivation in Europe declined following the fall of the Roman Empire. For several centuries thereafter, saffron cultivation was rare or non-existent throughout Europe. This was reversed when the Moors came from North Africa to settle most of Spain, as well as parts of France and southern Italy. Two centuries after their conquest of Spain, the Moors planted saffron throughout the southern provinces of Andalucia, Castile, La Mancha and Valencia.

During the Renaissance, Venice stood out as the most important commercial center for saffron. In that period saffron was worth its weight in gold and, even today, it is still the most expensive spice in the world. Unfortunately, its high price led to its adulteration which, in those times, was severely punished. Henry VIII, who cherished the aroma of saffron, condemned adulterers to death.

Saffron grows on the Navelli Plain in the Province of L’Aquila and is considered by many to be a major product of the Italian Abruzzo region. How a flower of Middle Eastern origin found a home in Italy can be attributed to a priest by the name of Santucci, who introduced it to his native home over 450 years ago. Following his return from Spain at the height of the Inquisition, Santucci was convinced that the cultivation of saffron was possible in the plains of Abruzzo. Nevertheless, even today, the harvesting of saffron is difficult work and great skill is needed to handle the stems without damaging the product or allowing contamination from other parts of the plant.

Italian saffron is also produced on family owned farms in Sardara, a town located in the center of Sardinia, Italy. The production of saffron on the island of Sardinia and especially in Sardara has been a tradition for centuries with more than 60% of Italian saffron being produced in this region

An essential ingredient in Risotto Milanese, saffron is also used in many other dishes across Italy. For example, the fish soup found in Marche region, uses saffron for its red coloring in place of the more traditional tomato in the recipe. This coloring property is also widely appreciated in the production of cakes and liqueurs and, for centuries, by painters in the preparation of dyes. Its additional curative powers have long been believed to help digestion, rheumatism and colds.

Copycats

American saffron or Mexican saffron is actually safflower, a member of the Daisy family and the same plant from which we get safflower oil. Although its dried, edible flowers do yield the characteristic yellow color, it has no flavor and is not suitable as a saffron substitute. Turmeric, also known as Indian saffron, is an honest substitute for saffron, but it is a member of the ginger family. Use turmeric sparingly as a saffron substitute, since its acrid flavor can easily overwhelm the food. Turmeric is also used to stretch powdered saffron by unscrupulous retailers. Unfortunately, there is no truly acceptable substitute for saffron. Its distinctive flavor is a must for classic dishes such as paella, bouillabaisse and risotto. If your recipe calls for saffron, do yourself a favor and use the real thing to fully appreciate the intended result.

Beyond Risotto

Eggs Stuffed with Saffron

A classic Italian appetizer that is often served with olives.

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 6 hard boiled eggs
  • ¼ cup bechamel sauce
  • 18 strands of saffron
  • ground saffron for garnish

Bechamel Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • pinch of nutmeg

To make the sauce:

In a small saucepan, heat the butter over medium-low heat until melted. Add the flour and stir until smooth. Over medium heat, cook until the mixture turns a light, golden color, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the milk in a separate saucepan until just about to boil. Add the hot milk to the butter mixture, a little at a time, whisking continuously until very smooth. Bring to a boil. Cook 10 minutes, stirring constantly, then remove from the heat. Season with salt and nutmeg and set aside until ready to use.

To make the stuffed eggs:

Peel the eggs, cut them in half and remove the yolks. Set the white halves aside on a serving platter.

Mash the yolks in a small bowl.

Add the saffron to the bechamel sauce and mix well. Add the mashed yolk and stir until the egg yolks are completely dissolved.

Fill eggs halves with a little of the sauce and garnish with ground saffron.

Italian Seafood Stew

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon crumbled saffron threads
  • 1 cup no-salt-added diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup clam broth
  • 4 ounces green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 6 ounces bay scallops or sea scallops quartered, tough muscle removed
  • 6 ounces medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

Directions

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and celery; cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes. Add garlic, thyme, fennel seed, salt, pepper and saffron; cook for 20 seconds.

Stir in tomatoes, clam broth and green beans. Bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 2 minutes.

Increase heat to medium, stir in scallops and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes. Add shrimp and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes more.

Serve with crusty Italian bread.

Homemade Saffron-Flavored Pasta Dough

Ingredients

  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons hot water
  • 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon lukewarm water

Directions

Put the crushed saffron threads in a cup. Add 1-1/2 tablespoons hot water and let stand 30 minutes.

Place the saffron water in a food processor with the 3 eggs and puree.

Add remaining ingredients and process until the dough forms a ball.

Cover kneaded dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least ½ hour.

Preparing the dough with a hand crank pasta machine: Divide dough into 3″ x 2″ pieces. Dust the dough lightly with flour on both sides. Start with the first thickness on the machine and gradually crank in steps to the desired thinness.

After the first pass through the machine, fold the dough in half to help develop the gluten. To make good straight edges, fold the ends of the pasta sheet to the center and then rotate it 90º so that the folded edges are on the sides. Place rolled pasta sheets on floured kitchen towels.

After all the pasta sheets are formed, cut the pasta into spaghetti or fettuccine on the pasta machine.

As soon as you cut the pasta, either place on a floured flat surface or hang on a pasta drying rack. Homemade pasta will stay fresh in the refrigerator for a few days, or it can be air dried on your pasta rack and then stored in an airtight container. Fresh pasta can also be frozen in a vacuum bag. Do not keep dried fresh pasta unrefrigerated because it contains eggs in the mixture.

Cooking Hand Made Pasta: Drop the pasta into a large pot of salted boiling water and boil until tender or “al dente” for about two to three minutes. Do not over-cook the pasta. Drain well and serve with your favorite sauce. Saffron flavored pasta is especially good with butter and parmesan cheese. It also makes a delicious side dish to Chicken Marsala.

Chicken Breasts with Saffron Gravy

Ingredients

  • 4 chicken breasts, (flattened with a meat pounder)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 tablespoons flour
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 shallots, sliced
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
  • Chives, chopped for garnish

Directions

Season chicken with salt, pepper and dredge in flour.

Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium high heat. Add the chicken and saute until lightly browned on both sides. Then transfer to another plate; cover with foil to keep warm.

Add butter to the same skillet and heat until its starts to sizzle. Add the shallots and saute for about 5 minutes..

Add the wine to the pan. After a minute, slowly whisk in the cream, blending completely. Add the saffron and simmer for a minute.

Add the chicken back into the pan, lower heat, cover and cook for 5 minutes or until the chicken is done. Plate chicken, pour sauce over the top and garnish with chopped chives.

Gluten Free Orange Saffron Cake

Ingrdients

  • 2 whole sweet oranges with thin peels
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 large pinch saffron strands
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/4 cups finely ground almonds (almond meal)
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped candied orange peel

Directions

Place the oranges in a large saucepan and add enough water to cover. Bring to a boil and cook for 2 hours over medium heat. Check occasionally to make sure they stay covered with water. Allow the oranges to cool, then cut them open and remove as much white pith as possible and the seeds. Process in a blender or food processor into a coarse pulp.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. (190 degrees C) Thoroughly grease a 10-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer beat the eggs and sugar together until thick and pale, at least 10 minutes. Mix in baking powder and saffron. Stir in the pureed oranges.

Gently fold in almond meal and candied orange peel; pour batter into the prepared pan.

Bake until a small knife inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Allow the cake to cool in the pan. Tap out onto a serving plate when cool.



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

mycookinglifebypatty

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Things My Belly Likes

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

Our Growing Paynes

A journey about gardening, cooking, and knitting.

Silvia's Cucina

Welcome to my authentic Italian home cooking blog

gotta get baked

musings of a baking fiend

thewhitedish

Let's talk recipes, great food and FITNESS!

on the road with Animalcouriers

pet transport through Europe and beyond

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recipes worth sharing

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delicious nourishing energizing spice

pattytmitchell

site for Patricia Mitchell, author

Cookie's cakes and bakes

Seeking world domination - through the power of baking!

Simply Sophisticated Cooking

Effortless home cooking recipes, tips and methods for busy lives to encourage fine eating in instead of out.

FARMINISTA'S FEAST with Karen Pavone

Farm to Table Adventures in California's Beautiful North Bay

Blue Heron Writes

Sharing to Inspire through Words and Pictures www.wendiedonabie.com

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