Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Healthy Italian Cooking


Risotto is a hearty, warming rice dish, rich in flavor, of which any of a hundred different ingredients can be added to it. Risotto is not only versatile, but easy to make.

Rice was first introduced into Italy and Spain by the Arabs during the Middle Ages. The humidity of the Mediterranean was found to be perfect for growing shorter-grained rice. The popularity of rice grew throughout Italy and then the outside world discovered it.

It was in Milan where the rice met its future destiny. Milan had been under Spanish rule for almost two centuries where rice was a staple. The technique for making risotto probably evolved from trying to cook the rice as porridge—boiling it in milk, water or broth until soft. A fourteenth-century manuscript known as the “Libro per cuoco” by an anonymous Venetian contains the recipe, “rixo in bona manera” or rice cooked in sweet milk.

Antonio Nebbia in “Cuoco Maceratese” introduces a revolutionary method where he suggests letting the rice soak in cold water for two hours, then frying the rice in a little butter and adding cabbage broth.

A more complete preparation appears in the early 19th century, in the anonymous “Cuoco Moderno”, printed in Milan in 1809, where the recipe “Yellow Rice in a Pan” says to cook the rice in a sauté of butter, cervellata (an Italian pork sausage), marrow, onion and gradually adding hot broth in whicj saffron had been dissolved.

And finally” the” classic recipe as described by Felice Luraschi, a celebrated chef from Milan, in his “Nuovo cuoco milanese economico” manuscript of 1829, a recipe titled “Risotto alla Milanese”.

Today the dish is served extensively, almost unchanged, in the kitchens and restaurants of the world. Ingredients as varied as scallops, lobster, truffles, veal, mushrooms, squid ink, snails, asparagus, duck, sausage, pumpkin and almost anything else you can think of are paired with this classic dish.

risotto rice

All rice is a member of the grass family. What makes Risotto special is it’s high amount of starch. This starch is what makes Risotto “creamy” without any cream. Risotto rice is a round medium- or short- grain white rice with the ability to absorb liquids and to release starch, so they are stickier than the long grain varieties. The principal varieties used in Italy are Arborio, Baldo, Carnaroli, Maratelli, Padano, Roma and Vialone Nano. They all have slightly different properties. For example, Carnaroli is less likely than Vialone Nano to get overcooked, but the latter, being smaller, cooks faster and absorbs condiments better. Other varieties like Roma, Baldo, Ribe and Originario may be used but will not have the creaminess of the traditional dish. These varieties are considered better for soups and other non-risotto rice dishes and for making sweet rice desserts. Rice designations of Superfino, Semifino and Fino refer to the size and shape (specifically the length and the narrowness) of the grains, and not the quality.

Basic Technique for Making Risotto

Risotto recipes recommended not washing the rice prior to cooking as that will make it lose its starch which is an essential ingredient of the dish. The rice and vegetables are toasted lightly in butter. Herbs, spices and a little wine are added. The rice is cooked gradually over a low flame and broth is added to the rice and stirred until absorbed. More broth is added in several steps until the rice is tender.

Popular Italian Risottos

• Risotto alla Milanese – is cooked in beef stock and beef bone marrow with lard in Italy. Cheese and saffron are added. This dish is popularly served with osso buco (a dish consisting of braised veal shanks).

• Risotto al barolo – is made with borlotti beans and sausage meat and is cooked with red wine.

• Risotto al nero de seppia (black risotto) – is a specialty from Veneto and is made with cuttlefish.


This is probably the best tasting risotto I have ever made, with much of the credit going to the Meyer lemons from my tree. You may recall that we planted the tree last April and it has rewarded us with about 20 large lemons in its first year.

Meyer Lemon Risotto with Basil and Grilled Shrimp

6 servings



  • 6 cups chicken stock or canned low-sodium broth
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 celery rib, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups arborio rice (10 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup white vermouth or dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated Meyer lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons fresh Meyer lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup julienned basil leaves

Grilled Shrimp

  • 18 large shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • A pinch of kosher salt or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons julienned basil leaves



For the risotto:

Bring the stock to a boil in a medium saucepan, cover and keep hot. Melt the butter in a second large saucepan. Add the onion and celery. Season with salt and pepper and cook over low heat, stirring, until softened, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the rice and cook, stirring until glossy, about 1 minute.


Add the wine to the rice and simmer over moderate heat until almost absorbed, about 3 minutes. Add the hot stock, 1 cup at a time, and cook, stirring constantly between additions, until most of the stock has been absorbed before adding more. The rice is done when it’s tender and most of the liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes total. The best way to see if the rice is cooked, is to taste it.  Risotto should be creamy and thick. It’s best al dente, which means it should be fully cooked, yet still retain some firmness when you chew it. If it is mushy, it has cooked too long.

Stir in the Parmesan cheese, the lemon zest and juice, the salt and pepper and the basil. Mix well but gently.


For the grilled shrimp:

Mix the shrimp with the remaining ingredients in a mixing bowl. Refrigerate until cooking time.

Heat a stovetop grill until very hot. Place the shrimp on the grill and cook for about 3 minutes on each side.

Spoon the risotto into individual bowls, top each with grilled shrimp and serve, passing additional Parmesan at the table.



A potluck dinner is a gathering of people where each person in the group contributes a dish of prepared food to be shared among everyone in the group. Presentation is key, so think about how you’re going to serve it. Don’t cook anything that spoils when made in advance or where cooking times are vital.

The main thing to consider about a potluck dish is that the food is:

  • Easy to transport.
  • Easy to make.
  • Ok to eat warm or at room temperature, unless there are hot plates or refrigeration available.
  • Group-friendly; no super spicy dishes or  ingredients that have a high allergy risk.
  • Good even if not fresh. For example, a dressed Caesar salad will end up soggy and limp after a half hour.

I belong to a community group and we meet every month for a potluck dinner. Pasta dishes are popular with our group and here are some of the favorites.


Pasta Roll-Ups

16 servings


  • 2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 lbs ground  turkey or beef
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
  • Two 28-oz can whole tomatoes in juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 16-20 dried lasagna noodles
  • Two 10-oz box frozen chopped spinach, thawed
  • Two 15-oz container ricotta cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese


In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium. Add onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook another minute.

Turn heat to medium-high and add ground meat, breaking it up with a spatula until the meat shows no sign of pink. Stir in the Italian seasoning, then add tomatoes and salt.

Reduce heat to medium-low, stir, cover and let simmer for 20 minutes, occasionally stirring and breaking up tomatoes with a wooden spoon.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil. Cook pasta according to package directions, drain, rinse and allow to cool in a colander.

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Squeeze all remaining moisture from thawed spinach and place in large bowl. Add ricotta cheese, eggs and a 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese to the bowl. Stir until combined

Spread 2 cups of tomato sauce in the bottom of a large baking dish. Lay a cooked lasagna noodle flat in front of you. Spread a tablespoon of ricotta mixture across the noodle and roll it up. Place the rolled pasta seam side down in the baking dish. Repeat with remaining noodles. Spread remaining tomato sauce over roll-ups, then top with remaining mozzarella cheese.

Bake, covered with foil, for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 10 minutes.

Cover with heavy-duty foil and transport in an insulated carrier.


Orzo Salad

16 servings


  • 2 1/2 cups orzo pasta
  • 1 lb feta cheese, coarsely crumbled
  • 2 cups chopped Roma tomatoes
  • 1 cup chopped pitted Kalamata olives
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 6 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon snipped fresh oregano
  • Salt and ground black pepper


In a jar with a screw-top lid, place olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and oregano. Shake vigorously to combine.

Cook orzo according to package directions; drain. Transfer pasta to a large bowl. Pour dressing over pasta and mix well. Cover; chill in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours.

Add feta, tomatoes, olives, basil, and parsley to the chilled pasta; stir to combine. Season to taste with salt and ground black pepper. Cover; chill in the refrigerator for 2 to 24 hours.


Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe and Italian Sausage

12 servings


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  • 2 pound lean Italian sausage, a combination of hot and sweet according to your taste, cut into bite-size pieces
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 pounds orecchiette
  • 2 bunches broccoli rabe
  • 1 ½ cups pasta water
  • 1 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese


Wash broccoli rabe in several changes of cold water. Cut off the bottom tips on the stalks and cut each stalk into one inch lengths.

Heat oil and stir in garlic in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the sausage and saute until meat is brown.

Boil a large pot of water, add salt and pasta. Add the broccoli rabe during the last two minutes of the pasta cooking time. Reserve 1 1/2 cups of pasta cooking water.

Add the pasta water  to the cooked sausage and raise heat and cook until the sauce is hot.

Drain orecchiette and broccoli rabe and add to the sausage sauce in the skillet.

Using a wooden spoon, toss together for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and pour into a large serving bowl. Sprinkle with Pecorino Romano cheese.

Cover with heavy-duty foil and transport in an insulated carrier.


Tortellini and Vegetable Bake

12 servings


  • Two 9-ounce packages refrigerated tortellini
  • 1 medium carrot, thinly sliced
  • 1 ½ cups sugar snap peas, halved crosswise or green beans
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1/3 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh oregano or 1-1/2 teaspoons dried oregano, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon minced garlic
  • ½ teaspoon each salt and  pepper
  • 1 cup milk
  • One 8 ounce package cream cheese or light cream cheese (Neufchatel), cubed and softened
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 cup quartered cherry tomatoes
  • 1 small red or green bell pepper, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese


Cook tortellini in boiling salted water according to package directions, adding the carrot during the last 5 minutes of cooking and the sugar snap peas or green beans during the last 1 minute of cooking; drain.

Heat butter in a 12-inch skillet. Add chicken, garlic and mushrooms, and cook about 5 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink. Remove from the skillet.

Whisk together chicken broth, oregano, flour, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl. Add to the skillet  with the milk. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly; add cream cheese.

Cook and stir until cream cheese is smooth. Remove from the heat. Stir in lemon juice. Add pasta mixture, chicken mixture, tomatoes and sweet pepper. Toss to coat.

Turn into an ungreased 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking dish or shallow 3-quart casserole.

Bake, covered, in a 350 degrees F oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until heated through. Stir mixture and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Cover with heavy-duty foil and transport in an insulated carrier.


Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

12 servings


  • 2 pounds rigatoni pasta
  • 3 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into chunks
  • 7 cups milk, divided
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 pound Italian Fontina cheese, shredded (about 4 cups)
  • 2 large sweet onions, diced
  • 6 ounces sourdough bread
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted plus 1 tablespoon
  • Fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Lightly butter a large baking pan; set aside.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain; transfer to a large bowl.

In a large saucepan combine the squash and 6 cups of the milk over medium-high heat. Bring to boiling; reduce heat to medium and simmer until the squash is tender when pierced with a fork, 18 to 20 minutes.

Stir together remaining 1 cup milk and flour; stir into squash mixture. Bring to boiling; cook until thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in 2 cups of the Fontina cheese until melted; keep warm.

In a very large skillet or Dutch Oven heat the 1 tablespoon of butter. Add onions to the skillet; cover and cook over low heat 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover and increase heat to high. Cook 4 to 6 minutes more, stirring, until onions are golden. Add to the pasta in the bowl along with the squash-cheese mixture. Toss well to combine, then transfer to the prepared baking dish.

Place bread in a food processor and pulse with two or three on/off turns to form large coarse crumbs. Transfer to a small bowl; mix with the 3 tablespoons of melted butter. Sprinkle remaining cheese and the bread crumbs over the pasta mixture.

Bake until the top is browned, about 14 to 15 minutes. Cool 5 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley. Cover with heavy-duty foil and transport in an insulated carrier.




Italian American cuisine is a popular and delicious cuisine. It is a style of cooking adopted throughout the United States that was shaped by waves of Italian immigrants and their descendants. However, what is known in America as Italian food is often not found on the Italian table.

Pizza originated in Naples but Americans usually don’t like the original Neapolitan pizza with a crust that tends to be soggy in the middle — unlike the crisp New York Italian American version. Italian Americans continued to put new spins on the Neapolitan version. In Chicago, they created the deep-dish pizza. New Haven’s legendary Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana is famous for its white clam topping. Corporations also got into the act, including Domino’s and California Pizza Kitchen. Few foods are more popular in the American and pizza is now synonymous with American cuisine.

If you go to Naples and ask for a Pepperoni Pizza – what you’ll get is pizza with peppers, because the word pepperoni in Italian sounds almost the same and, in Italy, there is no type of salami called pepperoni. In Italy, you would need to ask for pizza with sausage or spicy salami.

It is traditional in Campania to make a soup with green vegetables and meat, especially pork, called Minestra Maritata, which is the translation for wedding soup or married soup. It is not what Americans call “Italian Wedding Soup”.

Garlic bread- no Italian restaurant will ever serve that to you. Instead bruschetta is served as an appetizer topped with fresh chopped tomatoes or rubbed with garlic and extra virgin olive oil.

In Italy, they make meatballs and sometimes small meatballs can be found in lasagna, but no Italian family serves spaghetti with meatballs for dinner.

No one in Italy knows what marinara sauce is. There may be different variants of such a sauce that depend on regional or family traditions (with or without garlic, with or without onions, with or without carrots, with or without a pinch of sugar to counter acidity, etc.) but tomato sauce is simply called “salsa” or “sugo” depending on whether you’re from northern or southern Italy. What’s commonly called marinara sauce in America is tomato sauce in Italy that is the base for pizza, pasta, etc., but without garlic or onion or herbs that are not fresh basil.

Parmigiana is made with eggplant, tomato, caciocavallo cheese and basil. No chicken or veal. At best, in some parts of Italy, they alternate the layers of eggplant with prosciutto or beaten eggs for added flavor.

Here are some classic Italian American recipes for you to try:


New York Style Pizza

Authentic Italian pizza is far less cheesy than its American counterpart and definitely won’t have a cheese-filled crust.


  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 2/3 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 pound shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Romano cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil


Sprinkle the yeast over the surface of the warm water in a large bowl. Let stand for 1 minute, then stir to dissolve. Mix in the flour, salt and olive oil. When the dough thickens, turn out onto a floured surface and knead for 5 minutes. Knead in a little more flour if the dough is too sticky. Place into an oiled bowl, cover and set aside in a warm place to rise until doubled in bulk.

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F (245 degrees C). If using a pizza stone, preheat it in the oven as well, setting it on the lowest shelf.

When the dough has risen, flatten it out on a lightly floured surface. Roll or stretch out into a 12 inch circle and place on a baking pan. If you are using a pizza stone, you may place it on a piece of parchment while preheating the stone in the oven.

Spread the tomato sauce evenly over the dough. Sprinkle with oregano, mozzarella cheese, basil, Romano cheese and red pepper flakes.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven, until the bottom of the crust is browned when you lift up the edge a little and the cheese is melted and bubbly. Cool for about 5 minutes before slicing and serving.


Marinara Sauce

Pasta alla marinara (“mariner style” pasta) does exist in Italy, but it’s usually prepared with shellfish or olives—sometimes both. In the United States, the term “marinara” refers to the simple tomato-based “red” sauce that’s a standard in Italian-American cooking.


  • 3 garlic gloves, minced
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped fine
  • 1 carrot, chopped fine
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped fine
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • One 6 oz can tomato paste
  • Four 28 oz containers Italian chopped tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon each dried oregano, dried basil, crushed red pepper and dried thyme.
  • Salt and pepper


Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a Dutch oven and saute the vegetables and garlic. Add the tomato paste. Fill the empty can with water and add it to the pot.

Add tomatoes. Simmer, uncovered, for 1 hour.

Add 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon each black pepper and the dried oregano, dried basil, crushed red pepper and dried thyme.

Simmer, uncovered, for another hour or until the sauce thickens.


Chicken Parmigiana


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


Combine breadcrumbs, parsley, 1/2 cup of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, a pinch of salt and pepper to taste. Place bread crumb mixture, flour and eggs in three separate dishes.

First, dredge chicken breast halves in flour, making sure to shake off any excess. Dip in beaten eggs and, like the flour, make sure to let any excess drip off. Finally, dredge in the breadcrumb mixture to coat well. Allow breaded cutlets to rest for a few minutes on a plate before frying.

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

To bake, preheat oven to 375˚F.  Spread about 1 cup of Marinara sauce in the bottom of a 9 by 13-inch casserole dish. Arrange the breaded cutlets on top of the sauce. Top with 1 cup of Marinara, covering each piece. Sprinkle with Parmigiano.  Cover the dish with foil and bake, 15 to 20 minutes, or until bubbling.

Uncover and place a slice of mozzarella on each cutlet. Bake for another 5 minutes or until the cheese melts.


Shrimp Scampi

“Shrimp scampi” is a dish where large shrimp are sautéed with garlic, wine, butter, herbs and red pepper flakes, then served over pasta or rice. It is a staple in Italian-American restaurants, most likely the descendant of an Italian recipe that involves langoustines sautéed in wine, olive oil, onion, and garlic. Langoustines are a type of tiny lobster, called scampi in Italy. Italian-American cooks adapted the recipe but kept the old name.


  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 lb medium shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails attached
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • ½ cup white wine
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 lb thin spaghetti, cooked
  • ¼ cup roughly chopped parsley


Heat 4 tablespoons butter and the olive oil in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat; season shrimp with salt and pepper and add to the skillet. Cook, turning once, until beginning to turn pink, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate; set aside.

Add chili flakes, garlic and shallots to the skillet; cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Add wine, lemon juice and zest; cook until reduced by half, about 5 minutes.

Add pasta, reserved shrimp and remaining butter; toss until evenly combined. Transfer to a serving platter with the cooked spaghetti; sprinkle with parsley.


Mozzarella Sticks

This great appetizer comes to you from Little Italy. However, if you’re looking for mozzarella sticks in Italy, according to Fodor’s, there is only one place you’ll find them—McDonald’s.


  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1 ½ cups vegetable oil for deep frying
  • 1 (16 ounce) package mozzarella cheese sticks or a 16 oz block cut into 4 by 1/4-inch sticks
  • Marinara Sauce


Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a shallow bowl, beat the eggs.

In another shallow bowl place the breadcrumbs.

One at a time, coat each mozzarella stick in the egg mixture, then in the breadcrumbs and place on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat the procedure with all the coated cheese sticks (double coat), dip the sticks in the egg again and then in the breadcrumbs.

Return to the baking sheet and place the baking sheet in the freezer until all the sticks are frozen. I usually leave them there overnight.

In a large heavy saucepan, heat the oil to 350 degrees F.  Fry until golden brown, about 30 seconds. Remove from heat and drain on paper towels. Serve with warm marinara for dipping.


You can also bake the mozzarella sticks. Place the frozen sticks on an ungreased baking sheet; drizzle with a little olive oil. Bake, uncovered, at 400°F for about 8 minutes turning them over after 4 minutes. Allow to rest for 3-5 minutes before serving.


Rainbow Cookies

These famous cookies, also known as Tricolor Cookies, Neapolitans, Venetians or Seven Layer Cakes, can always be found in Little Italy. They were invented in New York by Italian immigrants who designed them to invoke the flag of their motherland.


  • 1- 8 ounce can almond paste
  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 10 drops green food coloring
  • 8 drops red food coloring
  • 1- 12 ounce jar apricot preserves
  • 6 ounces semisweet chocolate


Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease three 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking dishes; line with waxed paper; grease paper.

Break up paste in large mixer bowl with fork. Add butter, sugar, egg yolks and extract and beat with the mixer until fluffy, 5 minutes. Beat in the flour and salt.

Beat egg whites in a separate bowl until stiff peaks form. Fold into the almond mixture with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula.

Remove 1-1/2 cups batter; spread evenly into one of prepared pans. Remove another 1-1/2 cups batter to small bowl; tint green with coloring and spread in the second pan. Tint remaining 1-1/2 cups of batter red. Spread in remaining pan.

Bake 15 minutes or until the edges are lightly golden; cake layers will each be about 1/4 inch thick. Immediately remove cakes from the pans onto large wire racks. Carefully peel off waxed paper. Cool.

Place red layer on an upturned jelly roll pan. Heat preserves; strain; spread half of the strained preserves over the red layer. Top with the white layer. Spread with remaining preserves. Cover with the green layer, top side up.

Cover with plastic wrap. Weigh down with large wooden cutting board, heavy flat tray or large book. Refrigerate overnight.

Melt chocolate in the top of a double boiler over hot water. Trim cake edges even. Cut cake crosswise into 1-inch-wide strips. Frost the layer side of one strip with chocolate. Turn strip on its side and frost the other (green) side. Let chocolate dry. Cut into 1-inch pieces. Repeat with remaining strips. Makes 6 dozen. Cookies freeze well.


Some days are so busy that there doesn’t seem to be much time left at the end of the day to prepare dinner. If you keep the ingredients for some quick cooking recipes on hand, you will be able to put a healthy meal on the table without a lot of preparation or long cooking times. So much better for the family than fast food. Stock your pantry with quick cooking rice, couscous, thin spaghetti and orzo. Broths and canned tomatoes are very useful, as are dried seasonings. Keep packages of thin chicken cutlets, lean ground beef, salmon and pizza dough in the freezer and you have the ingredients for an easy meal.

Chicken Cutlets in Lemon Sauce


Serve with Zucchini and Quick Cooking Brown Rice. This is an easy meal for two and the recipe can easily be doubled.

2 servings


  • Two 6  ounce skinless, boneless chicken breasts, pounded thin
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • Salt and fresh pepper
  • 3 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
  • 2 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil


Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Place the flour in a bowl and the beaten in another bowl.

Heat the oil and one tablespoon of butter in a large non stick pan over medium heat.

Lightly flour chicken, then dip in the egg and add to the hot pan. Saute chicken 2-3 minutes on each side. When cooked, transfer onto a plate.

Place the chicken broth in the bowl with the remaining flour and whisk. Add to the pan along with the lemon juice, parsley and remaining butter and simmer on low heat for about 2 minutes so it reduces slightly and thickens. Turn off the heat. Return the chicken to the pan to combine with the sauce and serve.

Salmon & Broccoli 
with Herb Sauce


4 servings


  • Two 8-oz thick-cut boneless, skinless wild 
salmon fillets
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, plus additional, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup clam broth or fish stock, divided
  • 1 leek, thinly sliced crosswise, white and pale green parts only
  • 1 head broccoli, cut into thin spears
  • Juice of 1 lemon, divided
  • 6 oz plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint leaves
  • Sea salt, to taste


Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Pat salmon dry with paper towels and season with pepper. In a large ovenproof sauté pan with a cover, heat oil on medium-high. Add salmon and sear for 3 minutes per side, until lightly golden. Transfer salmon to a plate and keep warm.

Reduce the heat to medium and add 1/4 cup clam broth to the pan. Add leek and cook for 2 minutes, stirring, until liquid evaporates and leeks soften. Add remaining 3/4 cup broth and broccoli; 
mix well.

Return salmon to center of the pan, nestling the fish between leeks and broccoli. Drizzle half of the lemon juice over salmon; cover the pan and transfer to the oven. Cook for 12 to 14 minutes, until salmon and broccoli are tender. Remove pan from the oven and, using a slotted spoon, transfer salmon and vegetables to a platter; cover with foil to keep warm. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pan juices.

Prepare lemon-herb sauce:

In a small bowl, combine yogurt, tarragon, mint, remaining half of lemon juice and reserved 1/2 cup pan juices; mix well. (Add more lemon juice or pan juices as needed to reach desired consistency.) Season with salt and additional pepper.

To serve, cut the salmon fillets in half and plate each with lemon-herb sauce and leek-broccoli mixture.

with Italian Sausage & Spinach


4 servings


  • 2 links fresh Italian sausage (about 8 oz), casings removed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 8 oz  thin spaghetti
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper (chili) flakes, 
or to taste
  • 6 oz spinach leaves 
(about 6 packed cups)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 oz Parmesan 
cheese, grated


Mist a large pot or saucepan with olive oil cooking spray and heat to medium-high. Add sausage and cook, stirring and crumbling with a spatula, until no longer pink, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.

To the same pot, add 
2 cups water and the milk and bring to a boil on medium-high. (TIP: Watch carefully and stir from time to time, 
as milk has a tendency to boil over.)

Add spaghetti and pepper flakes. When the liquid returns to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer, stirring frequently, until the spaghetti is just short of al dente, 11 to 14 minutes.

Stir in spinach and simmer, uncovered, until spinach is wilted, most of the liquid is absorbed and the spaghetti is al dente, 2 to 
4 minutes.

Add lemon zest, black pepper and sausage and stir until heated through, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Divide among plates and top evenly with cheese.

Beef Kebabs 
with Tahini Sauce


Serves 2


  • 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons tahini paste
  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 8 oz  lean ground sirloin
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons very finely minced white onion
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, divided
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt-free garlic and herb seasoning blend
  • 1/2 cup couscous
  • 1/4 cup packed chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 large Roma tomato, cut into 8 wedges


Two 12-inch skewers (If using wooden skewers, soak in warm water for at least 20 minutes 
before using.)

Line a baking sheet with foil and arrange an ovenproof 
wire rack over the top. Mist rack with cooking spray.

(NOTE: If you don’t have an ovenproof wire rack, simply bake your kebabs directly on a baking sheet.)

Prepare tahini sauce:

In a small bowl, stir yogurt, lemon juice and tahini until well combined. (If the tahini is hard or lumpy, microwave for 
20 to 30 seconds, or until smooth.)  Set aside while the kebabs cook.

Arrange an oven rack 5 to 6 inches from the top heat source and preheat the broiler to high. Line a baking sheet with foil and arrange an ovenproof 
wire rack over the top. Mist rack with cooking spray.

Prepare couscous:

In a small saucepan, bring 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons water to a boil. Stir in seasoning blend, remaining black pepper, salt and couscous. Cover and remove from the heat. Let sit, covered, for 5 to 7 minutes. 
Fluff with a fork and stir in parsley

Prepare kebabs:

Arrange an oven rack 5 to 6 inches from the top heat source and preheat the broiler to high.

In a large bowl combine sirloin, garlic, onion, cumin, coriander, ¼ teaspoon each black pepper, 
salt and cayenne. Stir gently until thoroughly combined.

Divide mixture into 4 equal portions. Shape each portion into a narrow, oblong 2- to 3-inch-long patty. Mold 2 patties around 
1 skewer about 1 inch apart (see photo). Repeat with remaining 2 patties and skewer.

Transfer to the prepared rack and broil until tops are lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Turn and broil until 
lightly browned and cooked through, 3 to 4 more minutes.

Divide couscous between two serving plates and top each serving with 1 beef skewer. Serve with tahini sauce and tomato wedges, dividing evenly.

Quick Tomato Soup


8 servings


  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • One 28-ounce can crushed Italian tomatoes
  • One 14-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, with juice
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste


Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat and add onion and celery; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and thyme cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 10 seconds.

Stir in canned tomatoes and broth; bring to a low boil over high heat. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes.

Puree the soup in the pot using an immersion blender or in batches in a blender. (Use caution when pureeing hot liquids.)

Stir in half-and-half, salt and pepper. Serve with the wrap or a grilled cheese sandwich.

Spinach and Feta Cheese Wraps


2 wraps


  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons.prepared basil pesto
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1-1/2 cups chopped fresh baby spinach leaves
  • 1/2 cup crumbled Feta Cheese
  • 2 (2 oz.) whole-wheat flat breads
  • 1/2 cup jarred roasted red peppers, drained and thinly sliced


In a 10-inch skillet heat olive oil over medium heat. Beat eggs and pesto together with a fork in a medium bowl. Pour into the skillet. As eggs start to set, lift the edges with a spatula, allowing uncooked eggs to flow to the bottom of the skillet. Cook until the eggs are set but still moist. Sprinkle with feta; cover the pan and heat 1 minute longer. Cut omelet in half.

Immediately, place half of the omelet on one flat bread. Top with half the spinach leaves and half the roasted red peppers and roll up tightly. Wrap in parchment and let rest about 10 minutes so the vegetables can warm up. Repeat with the second flat bread and the remaining ingredients. Serve with a bowl of soup.



Como is a province in the northern part of the Lombardy region of Italy that borders Switzerland. Its proximity to Lake Como and to the Alps has made Como a popular tourist destination and the area contains numerous works of art, churches, gardens, museums, theaters, parks and palaces. Como’s climate is humid and subtropical. Winters are not long, but foggy, damp and chilly with occasional periods of frost; spring and autumn are pleasant while summer can be quite oppressive and hot.


The most famous area within the province is Bellagio, a historic town surrounded by ancient city walls with narrow roads that run through the hills. The town’s ancient origins are visible in its Romanesque Cathedral dedicated to San Giacomo, the interior of which seems unchanged from the 12th Century. Another interesting town is Laglio that lies near the “Bear Cave” (buco dell’orso), where fossils of prehistoric bears and other remains found in the cave are displayed in the Town Hall. The annual Medieval Palio takes place at the beginning of September and is a knightly jousting contest between various province districts that is reenacted in the town of Cernobbio.


Lake Como (Lago di Como in Italian) is located in this province and is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful lakes in Europe. The lake is shaped like the letter “Y” and has been a popular retreat for aristocrats and wealthy people since Roman times. Many famous people have or have had homes on the lake’s shores. The lake’s deep-blue waters, set against the foothills of the Alps, makes for a stunning view.


The Cuisine of Como Province

Lake Como’s cuisine is shaped by the three geographic areas that make up the Como area – the lake, the mountains with their valleys and the hills of Brianza (the area between Milan and Como). The province’s cuisine is closely tied to its primary natural resource, the lake, that provides an abundance of freshwater fish. Lavarello , a popular local lake fish, is usually served fried with a squeeze of lemon. Misultitt (a type of Shad) is usually dried and preserved with bay leaves in special tin containers. Another traditional dish is Risotto al Pesce Persico (European Perch filet Risotto), a fish grown in Lake Como, that is prepared with white wine, onion and butter.

Polenta is popular especially in the mountain valleys. In this area, it is common to make polenta by mixing corn flour and buckwheat flour together. It is usually served with meat, game, cheese or fish.

South of Como, the food becomes more Milanese. Popular in this region are polenta e osei (polenta served with poultry), cassoela (a stew with pork ribs and cabbage), cotechino sausage with beans and many different kinds of salami and cheese.

As far as traditional sweets and cakes are concerned, in Lake Como, you can find fritters often filled with apple and, Resca de Comm, a panettone made with raisins, citron, pine nuts and anise, that is baked in a cylindrical tube.

Among the red and white wines produced in the province are Rosso di Bellagio and Vespertò di Canzo. The best liqueurs are made by the Piona friars using local herbs.

Valtellina Pizzoccheri


Pizzoccheri is one of Lake Como’s typical winter pasta dishes. It usually consists of flat short tagliatelle noodles, made from buckwheat flour that is common in the area of Valtellina in Northern Italy (on the east shore of Lake Como). The buckwheat flour gives the noodles a grayish color and they are easy to make at home. However, most supermarkets now sell boxes of dried pizzoccheri, which has helped to spread the word of this delicious recipe throughout the country and, of course, cuts down on preparation time.

The noodles are served with a mixture of greens and diced potatoes and dressed with butter, sautéed garlic, sage and Swiss Casera and Parmesan cheeses (or grana padano). There are several variations to the recipe, including substituting the cabbage with Swiss chard, spinach or green beans depending on what you have on hand. The amount of butter can also be altered to your own preference although the original recipe states that the pizzoccheri should be practically drowning in the sage and garlic-infused butter. Vatellina Casera cheese can be difficult to find outside of Lombardy, so a good alternative is Italian Fontina, which is more widely available.

For the pasta:

  • 2 cups (200 grams) fine buckwheat flour
  • 1/2 cup (50 grams) plain flour
  • About 1/2 cup (125 milliliters) water
  • Pinch salt

For the pizzoccheri:

  • 3 1/2 ounces (100 grams) savoy cabbage
  • 4 1/2 ounces (125 grams) potatoes (2 to 3 small potatoes)
  • 1/3 cup (70 grams) unsalted butter
  • 8-10 sage leaves
  • 4 1/2 ounces (125 grams) Valtellina Casera DOP or Bitto (Gruyere or Fontina can be substituted), thinly sliced or shaved
  • 2 ounces (about 60 grams) Grana Padano, grated
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • Freshly ground pepper

For the pasta:

Combine the two flours in a bowl and gradually add the water, mixing until well incorporated. Work the dough for a few minutes. It should be smooth and compact, but not dry or crumbly and it shouldn’t stick to your hands. If it’s dry, add a little more water until it becomes smooth. Rest the dough for at least 30 minutes.

Roll the dough out with a rolling-pin to a thickness of 2-3 millimeters (1/10 of an inch). With a sharp knife, cut the dough into large strips about 7-8 cm (2.5 to 3 inches) wide then cut these into short pasta strips about ¼ inch thick. (If you have a pasta machine, I would use it)

For the pizzoccheri:

Peel the potatoes and cut them into large chunks. Discard the outer leaves of the cabbage and chop roughly.

Boil a large saucepan of salted water, cook the potatoes for 20 minutes and then add the cabbage and pasta and cook for an additional 10 minutes.

Melt the butter in a separate pan and saute the garlic and sage.

Drain the potatoes, cabbage and pasta and layer in a dish with the melted butter, slices of cheese and black pepper.

Serve with Grana Padano cheese.

Risotto with Perch Fillets


This recipe is the national dish of Lake Como and one that is used in most of the area’s restaurants. Perch is one of the most valuable species of freshwater fish because of its tender and delicate meat and the fish can be found in all the lakes of Northern Italy.

Serves 5-6


  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups risotto rice
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • Salt and black pepper for seasoning
  • ½ cup grated Parmigiano cheese
  • 4 cups broth (chicken or vegetable stock)
  • 4 perch fillets (per person) – about 18 total
  • Flour  for coating
  • Butter or oil for frying


In a heavy saucepan, heat the 4 tablespoons butter until it melts.

Add the chopped onion and cook until tender. Add the rice and mix it well. Let it cook for a couple of minutes. Add the wine and cook, stirring, until the liquid evaporates. Add the broth, a small amount at a time, stirring it constantly until all the liquid is absorbed.

When the rice is just about tender, add the salt, pepper and Parmigiano cheese.

Dredge the fillets in the flour and cook in a hot skillet in butter or oil, turning them over once, until each side is golden brown.

Spoon the rice onto a serving dish and top with the fish fillets.

Parmesan Barley Soup


Barley is a healthy high-fiber, high-protein whole grain containing numerous health benefits. When cooked, barley has a chewy texture and nutty flavor, similar to brown rice. Although soup is the most popular way to eat barley, you can use it like any other grain, such as couscous or rice.  Hulless barley is unprocessed and takes longer to cook than pearl or pearled barley, which is more common. Quick cooking barley is just as healthy and takes only 10 minutes to cook. Try adding a handful of quick cooking barley to a simmering pot of soup.


  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 2 ribs celery, sliced thin
  • 1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning blend
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 2/3 cup barley
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 Parmesan rinds
  • 1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
  • 2 tablespoons milk or cream
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • Sea or kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste


Pre-soak the barley in water to cover for one hour. Drain well and set aside.

Saute onions and garlic in olive oil for a minute or two, then add the diced carrots and celery. Reduce the heat and cook for another two to three minutes, stirring occasionally. Next, add the red wine vinegar, stirring to coat the vegetables well.

Reduce heat to medium low and add the barley and vegetable broth, stirring to combine.

Heat for ten minutes, then add the Parmesan rinds and simmer for fifteen minutes, or until the barley is almost cooked.

Stir in the grated Parmesan cheese, milk, white wine and season lightly with salt and pepper. Heat another five minutes or until the barley is fully cooked.

Remove the Parmesan rinds and serve with additional Parmesan cheese.



Lake Como’s sweets are mainly cakes, tarts and pies that are eaten for breakfast and afternoon snacks. Among them you can find the cutizza, a homemade focaccia made of flour, milk, sugar and lemon peel. The cutizza is a sweet bread known as the poor man’s cake because it uses only a small amount of flour. This is a very old and rustic recipe.


  • ½ lb white flour
  • 6-7 oz whole milk
  • Oil for frying
  • 3 eggs
  • Lemon rind
  • Vanilla sugar
  • Salt


Break the eggs in a bowl, add the flour and mix well. Add the grated lemon and milk and mix until smooth. Add the smaller amount of milk at first and then more, if needed, to make a smooth dough.

Heat enough oil in a frying pan to just cover the bottom and pour in the mixture. Cook on one side and then turn over to cook the other side. Sprinkle with sugar and serve warm.

Variation: add some chopped apple to the mixture before cooking.

The cutizza can be eaten as a snack or as a dessert accompanied by a glass of Moscato.



Beans are a great source of fiber, antioxidants and protein. Many people choose the simplicity of canned beans over cooking dried beans. However, canned beans are more expensive per serving and often have other added ingredients. Cooking dried beans is not difficult. Here is some basic information.

Soaking the Beans

Always sort through beans to remove tiny stones or debris
Rinse well with water before adding beans to a large bowl
Add enough cold water to cover by 2 inches
Beans will be fully hydrated within 4 hours, but can soak for up to 24 hours
In hot weather, refrigerate beans while they soak

Quick Soak Technique

Combine beans and water in a pot and heat to boiling
Cook for 3 minutes
Remove from the heat, cover tightly, and set aside for an hour

Cooking Facts

Dry beans should always be cooked in soft water or they will be tough
You can add a pinch of baking soda to the pot if you have hard water
Adding salt to beans at the beginning of cooking toughens the skins and increases cooking time

Other Information

Dry beans have a shelf life of one year
Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place
Always store leftover beans in their cooking liquid and refrigerate for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 6 months

Dried Bean Guide

1/3 cup dry beans = 1 cup cooked beans

1/2 cup dry beans = 1 1/2 cups cooked beans

2/3 cup dry beans = 2 cup cooked beans

1 cup dry beans = 3 cups cooked beans

Basic Recipe for Cooking Dried Beans



  • 1 pound dried beans
  • Pinch baking soda
  • 1 carrot, cut in half
  • 1 celery stalk, cut in half
  • 1/2 onion, cut in half
  • 1 sprig rosemary or 1 bay leaf


The night before serving, rinse the beans, picking out any bad ones and place in a large bowl. Cover with water, add a pinch of baking soda and let soak at least 12 hours.

The next day, drain well. Place the beans in a heavy stock pot with the vegetables and rosemary and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the beans are tender.

Check them after 30 and 45 minutes because they may be done, depending on how fresh the beans are.

Remove the vegetables and rosemary sprig. Refrigerate until ready to use the beans. Drain and use the beans in the recipes below.

Clams and White Beans



  • 2 cups cooked white beans
  • 2 tablespoons cubed pancetta
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 white or yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 2 pounds clams
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
  • Salt and freshly grated black pepper


In a large frying pan, add the pancetta and the olive oil and cook on medium heat until the pancetta has rendered its fat and is beginning to brown, about 10 minutes.

Remove the pancetta with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined plate, reserving the fat in the pan. Add the onion and garlic to the pan and saute until soft, about 7 minutes.

Add the oregano, crumbling it with your hands to release the flavors, and then add the clams.

Continue cooking the clams, shaking and tossing them, until they all open. Discard any clams that do not open. Add the wine and beans, stir and return the pancetta to the pan. Heat until the beans are hot. Test for seasoning and add salt if needed.

In each bowl, ladle a portion of beans, some of the clams and their sauce, and a sprinkling of parsley. Serve with plenty of freshly grated black pepper.

Large White Beans with Vinaigrette



These giant beans and vegetables go well together. Serve with sandwiches, over greens or as part of an antipasto platter.


  • 1/2 pound dried gigante beans or lima beans
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/2 head cauliflower, cut into florets (about 2 cups)
  • 3 large carrots, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
  • 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped pepperoncini


Place beans in a large bowl and cover with 2 inches cold water. Let soak overnight.

Drain beans and place in a large sauce pot. Cover with 4 inches water and add the onion. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until the beans are tender. Drain well.

Steam cauliflower and carrots until tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Drain well.

In a large bowl, whisk together the vinegar, salt and chili flakes. In a slow, steady stream, whisk in oil until blended. Add beans, pepperoncini and vegetables, mix well and let marinate at least 4 hours or overnight, stirring occasionally.

Sautéed Spinach with Cannellini Beans



  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (chili)
  • 1 1/2 pounds spinach, trimmed and roughly chopped, (or escarole, curly endive, mustard greens, kale or broccoli rabe)
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 cans no-salt-added cannellini or other white beans, rinsed and drained or 4 cups dried beans as cooked above
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving


Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring often, until the garlic is golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the broth to the skillet and deglaze, scraping up any browned bits. Add beans and simmer until hot throughout, 2 to 3 minutes.

Add greens (in batches, if needed) and cook, tossing often, until wilted and bright green, 3 to 4 minutes. Mix well and season with salt and pepper. Serve piping hot with the cheese as a garnish.

Tomato Soup with Beans


Serves 8


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 cups chopped fresh tomatoes or canned Italian chopped tomatoes with juice
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 cups pinto, cannellini, kidney or black beans, canned and drained, or cooked, as directed above
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Heat the oil in a large soup pot. Add the chopped onion and cook on medium heat until soft. Add the minced garlic and cook a minute more.

Add the tomatoes and broth. Cook about 20 minutes

Stir in the brown sugar. Add half of the beans to the mixture. Use an immersion blender to blend the beans into the soup. Add the rest of the beans and salt and pepper to taste. Heat until hot.

Beef and Bean Burger


My favorite steak seasoning is Penzey’s Chicago Steak Seasoning that contains salt, Tellicherry black pepper, sugar, garlic, onion, lemon zest, citric acid and natural hickory smoke flavor. You will need to add salt to the recipe below if your favorite steak seasoning does not have it.


  • 1/2 cup home cooked or canned (black or pinto) beans, rinsed and drained well
  • 3/4 lb lean ground beef
  • 1/4 cup dried bread crumbs
  • Olive oil for brushing on the burgers
  • 1 teaspoon steak seasoning
  • 4 thin slices Cheddar cheese
  • 4 hamburger buns, lightly toasted
  • Thinly sliced tomatoes, sliced red onion and lettuce leaves


Preheat an outdoor grill to medium. Oil the grill grates.

Place the beans on a cutting board and mash with the back of a fork or large spoon until smooth, but still a bit chunky. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.

Add the beef, bread crumbs and steak seasoning; mix until well combined.

Divide the beef mixture evenly and shape into 4 patties, each a bit larger in diameter than the hamburger buns. Create a small dimple in the center of the burger patty by pressing down with your fingers.

Brush both sides of the burgers lightly with olive oil.

Place the patties on the grill and cook until no longer pink inside and an instant-read thermometer registers about 160°F, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Place cheese slices on top of the patties one minutes before they are done. Transfer the burgers to the toasted buns. Serve with tomatoes, sliced onion and lettuce leaves.

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