Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Herbs


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.



Yes, pasta is healthy!

Pasta makes the perfect delivery system for the healthy foods you should have each day. Pair pasta with a variety of nutrient-dense foods and create meals that you can feel good about. Fiber-filled vegetables and beans, heart healthy fish and monounsaturated oils, antioxidant-rich tomato sauce and protein-packed cheeses, poultry and lean meats are all nutrient dense foods.

Carbohydrates like pasta provide glucose, the crucial fuel for your brain and muscles.  Pasta is an excellent source of complex carbohydrates, which provide a slow release of energy.  Unlike simple sugars that offer a quick boost of energy, pasta helps sustain energy.

Pasta is very low in sodium and enriched varieties provide a good source of several essential nutrients, including iron and several B-vitamins.  Whole wheat pasta can provide up to 25% of daily fiber requirements in a one cup portion. Enriched pasta is also fortified with folic acid – essential for women of child-bearing age.  FDA regulations require enriched grain products to contain this important vitamin.  A serving of dry pasta supplies the equivalent of roughly 100 micrograms of folic acid or 25% of the recommended daily intake.

Pasta meals are central to the Mediterranean Diet, not only because they are tasty, inexpensive and easy to prepare, but because they are the perfect way to highlight and complement many of the other healthy foods in this diet. The New England Journal of Medicine reported that the Mediterranean Diet reduces the risk of death from heart disease and cancer and it is one of the most recognizable successful diets.

So here is how to keep your pasta healthy:

Farfalle with Zucchini and Butternut Squash


This pasta dish makes a great meatless Monday dinner option.

6 servings


  • 1 lb farfalle (bow-ties) pasta
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons fresh oregano, chopped
  • 1 butternut squash, diced into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 zucchinis, sliced into half moons
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1/3 cup grated Pecorino cheese


Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta al dente according to the package directions. Reserve one cup of the pasta water.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and oregano and sauté for 1-2 minutes.

Add the butternut squash and sauté for another 6-8 minutes, or until lightly browned and softened.

Add the zucchini and sauté for 1-2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add 1 cup of the pasta cooking liquid to the vegetables and bring to a simmer.

Toss the drained pasta with the sauce and cheese.

Chicken Fettuccine in Parmesan Cream Sauce


4 servings


  • Non-stick olive oil spray
  • 10 ounces skinned and boned chicken breast, cut into 1-inch long strips
  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons butter
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups reduced fat milk
  • 1 1/2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/4 teaspoon each salt, white pepper and ground nutmeg
  • 8 oz. dried fettuccine
  • 2 cups broccoli florets, blanched or frozen florets, defrosted and drained on paper towels


Cook pasta al dente according to package directions. Drain.

Spray a 10-inch nonstick skillet with nonstick olive oil spray, add the 2 teaspoons of butter and heat over medium-high heat for 1 minute; add chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until cooked through, about 3 minutes. Remove chicken from the skillet; set aside and keep warm.

In the same skillet melt remaining butter over medium-high heat; add garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 1 minute. Sprinkle butter with flour and cook, stirring constantly with wire whisk, for 1 minute. Continuing to stir, slowly add the milk; cook until bubbly and thickened, about 3 minutes.

Add cheese, salt, pepper and nutmeg to the milk mixture; stir until the cheese is melted. Add cooked fettuccine, broccoli and reserved chicken; reduce heat to low and toss until all ingredients are evenly coated with the sauce and heated through.

Pasta with Eggplant Olive Sauce


6 servings


  • 1 medium eggplant
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • One 28 – ounce can Italian-style tomatoes, cut up, undrained
  • One 6 – ounce can Italian-style tomato paste
  • One 4 – ounce can (drained weight) sliced mushrooms, drained
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine or beef broth
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano, crushed
  • 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives or pitted ripe olives, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh parsley
  • Salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • 8 oz. penne pasta
  • 1/3 cup grated or shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted


Peel eggplant, if desired; cut eggplant into 1-inch cubes.

Heat oil in a large saucepan and add the eggplant, onion and garlic. Cook until the eggplant begins to brown.

Add undrained tomatoes, tomato paste, mushrooms, wine or broth, the water and oregano.

Bring to a boil, lower heat to a simmer with the saucepan cover ajar and cook for about an hour or an hour and a half or until the sauce thickens.

Stir in olives and parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Cook pasta al dente according to package directions. Drain.

Mix the cooked pasta into the eggplant sauce; add the Parmesan cheese and toasted pine nuts. Serve.

Herbed Shrimp Linguini


4 servings


  • 1 pound fresh or frozen peeled, deveined medium shrimp
  • 8 ounces dried linguini or spaghetti
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons snipped fresh rosemary, plus additional for a garnish
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper


Thaw shrimp, if frozen. Rinse shrimp and set aside.

Cook pasta al dente according to package directions. Add the shrimp to the pasta water the last 3 minutes of cooking.

Drain well and place in a large pasta bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of the cheese, the garlic, olive oil, snipped rosemary, salt and black pepper and toss until well coated.

Sprinkle evenly with the 2 tablespoons remaining cheese and garnish with additional rosemary leaves. Serve immediately.

Rigatoni With Roasted Cauliflower and Sun-Dried Tomatoes


6 servings


  • 12 oz rigatoni pasta
  • ½ medium head cauliflower (about 1 pound), cut into florets
  • ½ cup sliced sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil and drained
  • 1 medium red onion, cut into 1/4-inch wedges
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons sun-dried tomato oil from the jar
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 2 ounces grated Pecorino cheese (about 1/2 cup), plus more for serving


Heat oven to 450° F.

On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss the cauliflower and onion with the thyme, sun-dried tomato oil and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper.

Roast, tossing the vegetables once halfway through cooking, until golden brown and tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

Cook the pasta al dente according to the package directions. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water; drain the pasta and return it to the pot.

Add the roasted vegetables, sun-dried tomatoes, Pecorino cheese and ½ cup of the reserved pasta cooking water to the pasta.

Toss to combine (add more cooking water if the pasta seems dry). Serve sprinkled with additional Pecorino cheese.


Whole grains generally are packed with nutrients and fiber, which aid in healthy digestion and weight management. These are the “good carbs” that help balance your diet and can fill you up.
Time-saving tip: cook extra grains and store portioned leftovers in the freezer — you’ll be ready when you need them for a recipe.

Farro And Chicken Chili


Farro is popular in Italy and, more recently, in North America and other European countries as well, for its roasted, nutty flavor and distinctive chewy texture. Farro’s tough husk makes it more difficult to process than other commercially produced grains, but that husk also helps protect the grain’s vital nutrients. With a higher fiber and protein content than common wheat, farro is also especially rich in magnesium and B vitamins. As a type of wheat, farro is unsuitable for those with celiac disease, gluten intolerance or a wheat sensitivity or allergy. As with all grains, pearled farro will take less time to cook.

6-8 servings


  • 1 cup semi-pearled farro
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 1/4 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups chopped onions (2 large)
  • 2 cups chopped zucchini (2 small)
  • 1 cup chopped carrots (2 medium)
  • 1 fresh jalapeno chili pepper, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped*
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • Two 14 1/2 – ounce cans reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • One 14 1/2 – ounce can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, undrained
  • One 6 ounce can tomato paste
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (4 ounces)


Rinse farro. In a medium saucepan bring 2 cups of water to boiling. Stir in farro. Return to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 20 to 25 minutes or until farro is tender. Drain off any excess water and discard.

In a large skillet bring 2 cups water to boiling. Add chicken breasts. Reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 12 minutes or until no longer pink (165 degrees F). Using a slotted spoon, transfer chicken to a cutting board. Cool slightly. Coarsely dice the chicken. Set aside. Retain the chicken cooking water.

In a 4-quart Dutch oven cook onions, zucchini, carrots and chili pepper in hot oil about 5 minutes or until tender. Stir in chili powder, cumin, crushed red pepper, broth, tomatoes, tomato paste and the chicken cooking water. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered for 20 minutes.

Stir in cooked farro and diced chicken. Cook and stir until heated through. Ladle chili into serving bowls. Top each serving with cheddar cheese.

Note* Chili peppers contain volatile oils that can burn your skin and eyes. When working with chili peppers, wear plastic or rubber gloves. If your bare hands do touch the peppers, wash your hands and nails well with soap and warm water.

Beef Steaks With Kasha Pilaf


Buckwheat Groats are soft white seeds with a mild flavor, but when toasted they develop a more intense flavor. Groats can be steam-cooked like rice for salads and side dishes or ground into fresh flour. Buckwheat flour makes delicious pancakes. Buckwheat groats are gluten-free seeds from a plant related to rhubarb. The outer husk is pulled away and the grain-like fruit is harvested and eaten. First cultivated in Southeast Asia thousands of years ago, kasha eventually took root in Eastern Europe, where it became a classic side dish. Buckwheat is very nutritious and provides a complete protein, including all the essential amino acids. Use buckwheat groats in any recipe that calls for whole grains. Be sure to purchase buckwheat groats that have been toasted.

4 servings


  • 2/3 cup buckwheat groats
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion (1 medium)
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup dried cherries
  • 1/4 cup coarsely snipped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound beef tenderloin
  • 1/4 teaspoon steak seasoning
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted


In a medium saucepan bring 1-1/2 cups water to boiling. Stir in buckwheat groats; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 5 to 7 minutes or until tender (you should have about 2 cups of cooked groats). Set aside.

In a large nonstick skillet heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic; cook and stir for 2 to 3 minutes or just until the onion begins to soften.

Drain cooked groats, if necessary. Add onion mixture to the cooked groats. Stir in 1 tablespoon of olive oil, the cherries, basil, vinegar and salt.

Let stand at room temperature while you prepare the beef.

Cut beef crosswise into 1/2 inch thick slices. Evenly sprinkle beef pieces with the steak seasoning.  Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the same skillet; heat over medium heat.

Cook beef pieces in hot oil about 4 minutes or until medium  (145 degrees F), turning once halfway through the cooking time.

Serve beef pieces over groats mixture. Sprinkle with toasted almonds.

Amaranth Biscuit Topped Stew


Amaranth is often popped like popcorn and mixed with honey, molasses or chocolate to make a popular treat in Mexico called “alegría” (meaning “joy”). Although amaranth derives its name from the Greek for “never-fading flower,” it is its highly nutritious seeds, not its vibrant red blooms, that are its most valuable asset. Like buckwheat and quinoa, amaranth is an especially high-quality source of plant protein including two essential amino acids, lysine and methionine. Amaranth is packed with iron and calcium and its fiber content is triple that of wheat. Amaranth is completely gluten-free and suitable for those with celiac disease. It is an especially digestible grain, making it a good choice for people recovering from illness.

8 servings


  • 1/2 cup whole grain amaranth
  • Nonstick olive oil cooking spray
  • 1 1/2 pounds lean pork shoulder, trimmed of fat and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon dried sage, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup chopped onion (1 large)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups cubed sweet potato
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup butter


Place amaranth in a small bowl. Stir in 1 cup boiling water. Cover and let stand for at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly coat a 3-quart rectangular baking dish with cooking spray.

Sprinkle pork with sage and toss to coat. In a large nonstick skillet brown pork in hot oil over medium-high heat. Transfer pork to the prepared baking dish.

Add mushrooms, onion and garlic to the same skillet. Cook and stir about 5 minutes or until the onion is tender. Stir in sweet potato cubes and 1 cup water. Bring to boiling.

In a small bowl stir together 1/4 cup cold water, the cornstarch and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt; stir into the mixture in the skillet. Cook and stir until mixture thickens.

Pour the mixture over the pork in the baking dish. (Sweet potatoes will not be done yet.) Bake for 30 minutes.

Remove the baking dish from the oven and increase the oven temperature to 450 degrees F.

For the biscuits:

In a large bowl combine flour, cornmeal, baking powder, thyme, black pepper and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Add soaked amaranth and any liquid remaining in the bowl. Stir until combined.

Using a large spoon or ice cream scoop, drop about ¼ cup of the biscuit dough into eight mounds on top of the stew.

Return the baking dish to the oven and bake for 15 minutes or until the biscuits are browned and a toothpick inserted in the center of a biscuit comes out clean.

Quinoa Salmon Cakes


The quinoa plant is a relative of beets, spinach and Swiss chard, but we treat its seeds as we would a grain, preparing and eating them in much the same way. Available in light brown, red and even black varieties, quinoa is filling and has a mellow flavor. It is a good source of manganese, iron, copper, phosphorous, vitamin B2 and other essential minerals and has the highest protein content of any grain. It is especially high in lysine, an amino acid that is typically low in other grains. Quinoa’s protein is complete, containing all nine essential amino acids – a rarity in the plant kingdom. Quinoa is gluten-free and easy to digest.

While it’s best to rinse all grains before cooking, pre-washing is especially advisable for quinoa, in order to remove the bitter saponin coating on its outer hull that sometimes remains after processing. To do so, simply run cold water over quinoa in a fine-meshed strainer, rubbing the seeds with your fingers. (Avoid soaking quinoa, however, as saponins can leach into the seeds.)

After rinsing, combine 1 cup quinoa with 2 cups water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until quinoa is tender, about 15 minutes, or until the grains become translucent and the germ appears as a thin white ring around each grain. This recipe will yield 3 cups of cooked quinoa.  Quinoa holds lots of water, so you have to make sure you drain it thoroughly after it’s cooked. Fluff with a fork.

6 servings


  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 12 ounces cooked salmon or two 6 ounce pouches pink chunk salmon, drained
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion (1 medium)
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh chives
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup panko (Japanese-style bread crumbs)
  • 3/4 teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 egg whites, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Nonstick olive oil cooking spray
  • 6 cups arugula

Lemon-Mustard Sauce

  • 1 lemon, cut into thin wedges
  • One 6  ounce carton plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
  • 1 tablespoon snipped fresh chives
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • Dash freshly ground black pepper


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl stir together cooked quinoa, salmon, onion, 2 tablespoons chives and the garlic.

In a medium bowl stir together panko and lemon pepper seasoning; then add milk, eggs, egg whites and oil, stirring until combined. Add the panko mixture to the salmon mixture; stir until well mixed.

Generously coat twelve 2-1/2-inch muffin cups with cooking spray. Divide salmon-panko mixture evenly among the prepared cups, using a heaping 1/3 cup in each cup.

Bake about 25 minutes or until tops are golden and an instant-read thermometer inserted in center of a cup registers 160 degrees F. Cool in muffin cups on a wire rack for 10 minutes.

Divide arugula among six serving plates. Run a knife around the edges of each cup to loosen; remove cakes from muffin the cups. Arrange on top of the arugula. Serve with lemon wedges and the lemon mustard sauce.

For the lemon-mustard sauce:

Stir together yogurt, mustard, 1 tablespoon chives, the lemon juice and black pepper. Serve sauce with warm salmon cups.

Barley-Stuffed Red Bell Peppers


A staple of soups and stews, barley is the oldest known domesticated grain and comes in hulled and pearled varieties. Hulled barley is the true whole-grain form, with only the outermost hull removed, whereas pearled barley is polished to remove the bran layer and often the inner endosperm layer as well. Pearled barley is both easier to find and the type called for in most recipes. Barley is an excellent source of fiber (one cup cooked contains 13 grams); its insoluble fiber helps maintain large populations of friendly bacteria in the digestive tract. Additionally, barley has been shown to aid in regulating blood sugar after meals (more so than other grains) for up to 10 hours, Like wheat and rye, barley is a gluten grain and is therefore unsuitable for those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance.

If you cannot find quick cooking barley then combine 1 cup pearled barley and 3 cups water in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 45-60 minutes.

4 servings


  • 1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 cup vegetable or chicken broth
  • 2/3 cup quick-cooking barley
  • 2 large red bell peppers
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 large tomato, peeled, seeded and chopped (about 3/4 cup)
  • 3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (3 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup shredded zucchini
  • 1/4 cup finely diced onion
  • 1/3 cup soft bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon snipped fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon snipped fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • Several dashes of bottled hot pepper sauce


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium saucepan combine mushrooms, broth and barley. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 12 to 15 minutes or until barley is tender; drain and reserve the cooking liquid.

Halve sweet peppers lengthwise; remove seeds and membranes.

In a medium bowl combine egg, tomato, 1/2 cup of the cheese, onion,  zucchini, bread crumbs, basil, rosemary, onion salt and hot pepper sauce. Stir in cooked barley mixture.

Place peppers, cut sides up, in an ungreased 2-quart baking dish. Spoon barley mixture into peppers. Pour the barley cooking water around the peppers to cover the bottom of the baking dish. Cover the dish with foil.

Bake for 30 minutes or until barley mixture is heated through and the peppers are tender. Sprinkle each pepper with the remaining 1/4 cup cheese. Bake, uncovered, about 2 minutes more or until the cheese is melted.


There is nothing quite so good as a fresh, crusty loaf of bread. If you do not have a great bakery down the street, as I do not, then making your own bread is what I do. Homemade bread is always a hit when I entertain, so I make loaves of bread in advance, wrap them tightly in heavy-duty foil and freeze them for when I will be entertaining. This method works for me and allows me to have the bread available for an antipasto or a first course without having to do this preparation last-minute when there are other foods to prepare. Simply place the frozen bread on the kitchen counter overnight in its wrapping. Just before serving time, heat the oven to 375°F, remove the wrapping and place the bread directly on the oven rack. Immediately spritz water on the bread and the oven walls and heat for 5-10 minutes for a crispy, crusty loaf of bread. Slice and serve.


longbakerI also like to bake bread in a clay cloche pan because the results are so professional. The cloche mimics a brick oven and turns out loaves of bread with a tender and moist interior and a crispy golden crust. The unglazed clay absorbs heat to ensure even baking on all sides, while the porous surface absorbs moisture to create a crispy crust.

Here are some of my favorite appetizer breads.

Rosemary Olive Sourdough Bread



  • 1 cup sourdough starter
  • 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon crushed dried rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed dried oregano
  • 1 cup chopped Kalamata olives or dry cured Italian olives


Combine all of the ingredients, mixing and kneading to form a smooth dough in an electric mixer.


Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover the bowl and allow it to rise until it’s doubled in size, about 90 minutes.


Shape the dough into a round loaf in a floured board. Place the loaf on the bottom part of a cloche pan. Put the cover on and let rise until very puffy, about 1 hour.


Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 425°F. Bake the bread with the cover on for 30 minutes. Remove the cover and bake for an additional 15 minutes or until the bread is golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers 190°F to 200°F. Remove the bread from the oven and carefully turn the bread out of the pan onto a rack to cool.

Semolina Cheese Bread


Semolina is the hard grain left after milling the flour and it is used in making puddings, pasta and bread.


  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup semolina
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup lukewarm water
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup shredded Provolone cheese
  • 1 cup shredded Asiago cheese


Combine everything but the three cheeses and beat on medium speed of an electric mixer to make a soft, smooth dough.

Add the three cheeses and mix until well combined.

Put the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover and let rise for about 2 hours, until very puffy.

Shape the dough into a round or oval loaf. Place the loaf on the bottom part of a round or long loaf cloche pan. Put the cover on and let rise until very puffy, about 1 hour.

Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 425°F.

Bake the bread with the cover on for 30 minutes. Remove the cover and bake for an additional 15 minutes or until the bread is golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers 190°F to 200°F.

Remove the bread from the oven and carefully turn the bread out of the pan onto a rack to cool.

Garlic And Herb Wheat Bread


Makes 2 loaves


  • 2 1/2 cups warm water
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons instant yeast
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped, fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon chopped, fresh oregano
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 3 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour


In a large electric mixer bowl add the water, yeast, salt and honey and mix well. Then add the oil, herbs and garlic.

Add half of the whole wheat and half of the all-purpose flour to the yeast mixture. Mix by hand or with the electric mixer’s paddle attachment. Add the remaining flour, a little at a time, until all of it is incorporated. Switch to the dough hook attachment. Continue kneading until the dough is no longer sticky; this should take about 7 to 8 minutes. The dough should be a little tacky but not sticky.

Divide the dough in half and form into two free-form oval loaves or place them in two oiled 9″ X 5″ X 3″ loaf pans . Let rise until double in size, about 40 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Place the loaves in the center of the oven and bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until the bread is golden brown. Test by inserting a toothpick or skewer into the center of each loaf and, if it comes out clean, the bread is ready. Remove the pans from the oven, take the bread out of the pans and place on a rack to cool before slicing.

Cut the bread into ½ inch thick slices and cut in half again to serve on the antipasto tray.

This bread will keep 3 to 4 days in an air-tight container and it freezes well for 2 months.


Most Italian Americans, I know, grew up on spaghetti and meatballs. However, meatballs can sometimes be difficult to make because it is tough to get the texture and the seasonings just  right. Often, they come out spongy or dry or dense.

Here are some of my tips for making good meatballs.

Some recipes call for beef and others call for pork. Some call for a mixture of beef and pork. Others call for beef, pork and veal. Then, there are the decisions about how much cheese, breadcrumbs and herbs to add or whether the meatballs should be cooked in the sauce or separately.

Meatballs need seasoning.  As a rule, about 1 teaspoon of salt per pound will make for perfectly seasoned meat. Herbs are also important. Without them, your meatballs will end up tasting like a burger. Change the flavor a bit with herbs like mint, oregano and marjoram.

When using all beef to make meatballs, the meat should not be too lean. You need some fat for flavor, so buy ground beef that is labeled 75% lean. Another way to add flavor is to use part ground beef and part ground pork in the meatball mixture.

Eggs are not used for moisture. They are in the meatball mix to bind the meat, breadcrumbs, cheese and herbs together. For one to two pounds of meat, you won’t need more than one egg.

Be sure not to add too many bread crumbs–about a half cup per pound of meat will be enough.

Put all the ingredients into a bowl at once and use your hands to mix them. The light touch of your hands incorporates all of the ingredients without crushing the meat.

Depending on how you’ll serve the meatballs, you should roll them to the size appropriate for the dish. In soup, for instance, you’ll want small, bite-sized meatballs. If they’re on top of spaghetti, make them medium. If they are the main course, make them 2 inches in diameter.

If you roll meatballs with dry hands, the meat mixture will stick to your skin. To remedy this, wet your hands with water.

I never fry meatballs to keep them healthy. Baking or broiling work just fine.


Here is my basic formula for meatballs:

  • 1 pound ground meat (pork, beef, veal, chicken, turkey or a combination)
  • 1/2 cup plain dried bread crumbs
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 finely minced garlic clove
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Olive oil

Preheat the broiler or heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Oil a rimmed cookie sheet.

Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl. With wet hands form into 12 equal sized meatballs. (Use an ice cream scoop to make them uniform in size.)

Place the meatballs on the prepared pan and broil 5 minutes each side or until completely brown. Or bake the meatballs in the oven for about 25 minutes.

If I am making the meatballs to go with spaghetti, then I simmer them in the sauce for the last hour of cooking.


Meatball Soup



  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 leeks, white and pale green parts, chopped
  • 1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups pearl barley
  • 8 cups chicken broth


  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup plain dried bread crumbs
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed fennel seed
  • 2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley, plus 1/2 cup chopped parsley for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper


To make the soup:

In a large, heavy pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Add the leeks and garlic and saute until very soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes.

Add the tomato paste and wine, stir to combine and cook for 4 minutes.  Add the barley and the chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the barley is tender, about 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375°F.  Oil a rimmed cookie sheet.

To make the meatballs:

In a mixing bowl, combine the chicken, Parmesan cheese, bread crumbs, the 2 tablespoons parsley and tomato paste.  Add 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and mix with your hands. The mixture will be very sticky.

To form the meatballs:

Use two small spoons or a small ice cream/melon scoop to form small (1 inch) meatballs. Place on the prepared baking sheet.  Bake until the meatballs are cooked through and no longer pink in the center, about 10-12 minutes.

Add the meatballs to the soup and stir in gently. Serve the soup garnished with the 1/2 cup parsley.


Italian Meatball Stew

My mother made this often when I was growing up and I made it for my children when they were young. This dish is popular with kids if you find the right combination of vegetables that appeal to them.


  • Basic Meatball recipe above, cooked
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Large baking potato, peeled and diced
  • 4 ounces green beans, trimmed, cut into 1-inch-long pieces or the equivalent frozen
  • 26-28 oz. container crushed Italian tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Heat the oil in a large saucepan and saute the onion, carrot and garlic until softened. Add the potato, green beans, tomatoes and seasonings.

Bring to a low boil, reduce heat and cook mixture until the potatoes and beans are tender.

Gently stir in meatballs and heat until the meatballs are hot and the mixture has thickened slightly.


Meatballs Stuffed With Mozzarella Cheese

This makes a great entrée with a salad and Italian bread. If you make them smaller, they are very good as an appetizer.


  • Double batch of the Basic Meatball recipe, above
  • 1/2 lb fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2 inch cubes or mini fresh mozzarella cheese balls called pearls
  • 3 cups store-bought marinara sauce or homemade spaghetti sauce


Heat the oven to 450°F. Line a 15 x 10 inch baking pan with parchment paper; set aside.

Form meatball mixture into 2″ balls.

Press a cheese cube or ball in the middle and seal the meat around it.

Bake 12-15 minutes or until lightly brown all over. Place in a large serving bowl.

Heat marinara sauce and pour over the meatballs in the serving bowl.


Italian-American Meatball Lasagna

This is another favorite from my childhood days that my children and husband are also crazy about.


  • One recipe of basic meatballs from above
  • 12 traditional lasagna noodles
  • 4 cups homemade or store-bought marinara sauce
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
  • Two 15 ounce containers ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, divided
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 lb  mozzarella cheese, sliced thin


Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Oil a rimmed cookie sheet.

In a large bowl, combine the meatball mixture. With wet hands, shape into mini meatballs, using 2 teaspoons of mixture for each. Place the meatballs on the prepared cookie sheet and bake until brown all over, about 15 minutes.

To make the lasagna:

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to boiling. Add noodles to the boiling water one at a time and cook for 10 minutes. Drain and place the noodles on kitchen towels.

Stir the chopped basil into the marinara sauce. Reserve 1 cup of the sauce for the top layer.

In a medium bowl, blend ricotta, egg, parsley and ¼ cup of the Parmesan cheese.

To assemble the lasagna:

Spread 1 cup marinara sauce in the bottom of a 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking dish. Top with 4 noodles, overlapping. Layer half of the mozzarella slices on top of the noodles, followed by half the ricotta cheese. Spread the ricotta with a spatula. Scatter half the meatballs over the noodles. Pour half 1 cup of the marinara sauce over the meatballs.

Top with 4 more noodles and layer with the remaining mozzarella and ricotta cheese. Scatter remaining meatballs over the cheese. Pour 1 cup marinara sauce over meatballs.

Top with the final 4 lasagna noodles. Spread with the reserved 1 cup of sauce. Top with the remaining Parmesan. Cover the dish with foil.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake for 15 minutes until bubbly and slightly browned. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.


How To Make The Best Roast Chicken

Whenever possible, buy the best quality chicken you can find. The taste difference between a pasture-raised organic chicken and a traditional feedlot chicken is huge. Big chickens ― often labeled roasters (generally 6 lbs.) have a richer and more complex flavor than smaller ones. Young chickens (also called broilers and fryers; about 3-4 lbs.) can be roasted but by the time the skin is an appealing color, the breast meat of smaller birds is dry.  A roasting chicken, however, cooks evenly.

Season the entire chicken generously with salt and pepper. Don’t forget the back, underneath the wings, between the thighs and inside the cavity. Other additions, like ground spices and finely chopped herbs add flavor to the outside. Stuffing the chicken with aromatic ingredients, like citrus quarters, full sprigs of herbs, smashed garlic and onion can infuse it with flavor from the inside.

Some of my favorite flavor combinations:

All Purpose Dry Mix For Poultry

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon crushed dried rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Mix the salt, basil, rosemary, garlic powder, mustard, paprika, black pepper, thyme, celery seed, parsley, cumin and cayenne pepper together until blended. Rub all over chicken, inside and out before roasting.

Other flavorings that go well with chicken include: lemon and orange juice, garlic, white wine, ginger, pesto, honey, maple syrup, smoked paprika, mustard and chili peppers.

Before you prepare the chicken for roasting, give it time to come to room temperature, about 45 minutes. Placing the chicken directly from the refrigerator into the oven will increase its roasting time and the chicken will cook unevenly. Another common mistake is not properly drying the chicken before roasting it. A damp chicken makes for limp, soggy skin. There’s no need to rinse the chicken, simply remove it and place it on a paper towel-lined sheet tray. Thoroughly pat it dry, inside and out, then proceed with your recipe.

While it is probably hard to break the habit, don’t wash raw chicken before cooking as germs can be spread through splashed water on the counter or in the sink. Cooking chicken at the right temperature will destroy any bacteria present and you need to make sure that chicken is properly cooked through; the juices should run clear and the meat should not show any signs of pink.

There are two common ways to roast a chicken: low and slow or hot and fast. To make the right decision, you first have to decide how you want to serve the chicken. For sticky, rotisserie-style skin with fall-apart meat, cook it at a low temperature for several hours. If it’s crispy, crackling skin you’re after, cook the chicken quickly at a high temperature. Sear the chicken on the stove-top in a pan (preferably cast-iron). Once the skin is golden, transfer the skillet to an oven set at 425˚F. The chicken will cook in just 35-40 minutes—depending on its size.

Once you take the chicken out of the oven, remove it from the pan and let it rest for 15 minutes. The juices need time to redistribute throughout the meat or else they’ll wind up on your cutting board. After 15 minutes the chicken will also be cool enough to carve.

Classic Roast Chicken

It is very practical to roast two chickens at the same time, so that you can have plenty of leftovers for weeknight meals.

6-8 Servings


  • One 5 pound roasting chicken, at room temperature
  • 2 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 medium yellow onions
  • 10 sprigs fresh thyme, plus 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 4 garlic bulbs
  • 2 carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces (cut any large pieces in half lengthwise)
  • 2 stalks celery, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth, plus extra
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 sprigs fresh sage


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and sprinkle inside and out with 1-1/2 teaspoons of the salt and the pepper. Cut one-half of one of the onions into two pieces; place onion pieces and the thyme sprigs in the body cavity of the chicken. Skewer neck skin to the back; tie legs to the tail. Twist wing tips under the back. Place chicken, breast side up, on a rack in a shallow roasting pan.

Cut the remaining 1-1/2 onions into wedges. Cut off the top 1/4 inch of the garlic bulbs to expose the ends of individual cloves. Keeping the garlic bulbs whole, remove any loose, papery outer layers.

In a large bowl combine onion wedges, garlic bulbs, carrots, celery, 1/4 cup broth, oil, bay leaves, sage sprigs, thyme leaves and the remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Arrange vegetables around the chicken; spoon liquid from the bowl over the chicken.

Roast, uncovered, for 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 hours or until drumsticks move easily and the chicken is no longer pink (180 degrees F), stirring vegetables a few times. Add small amounts of additional broth if the vegetables and the bottom of the pan begin to get too brown.

Remove from oven when cooked and cover with foil. Let stand for 15 minutes before carving. Remove and discard bay leaves and sage sprigs. Serve chicken with vegetables and pan juices.


Sticky Chicken Rotisserie Style

8 servings


  • 4 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 onions, quartered
  • 2 (4 pound) whole chickens, at room temperature


In a small bowl, mix together salt, paprika, onion powder, thyme, white pepper, black pepper, cayenne pepper and garlic powder.

Remove and discard giblets from the chicken and pat dry with a paper towel. Rub each chicken, inside and out, with the spice mixture. Place 1 onion into the cavity of each chicken.

Place chickens in a resealable bag or double wrap with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight or for at least 4 to 6 hours.

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F (120 degrees C).

Place chickens in a roasting pan. Bake uncovered for 5 hours, to a minimum internal temperature of 180 degrees F (85 degrees C). Let the chickens stand for 15 minutes before carving.


Honey-Spiced Roasted Chicken

6-8 servings


  • 1 (5-6 pound) whole roasting chicken, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and place in a roasting pan.

In a bowl, mix together the honey, chili powder, cumin, cayenne pepper, salt and garlic powder. Using your hands, rub the honey mixture all over the chicken. Baste chicken with the melted butter.

Roast the chicken in the preheated oven until the skin begins to brown, 30 to 45 minutes. Baste the chicken with juices in the roasting pan. Cover the pan with foil.

Reduce heat to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) and roast until no longer pink at the bone and the juices run clear, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, basting occasionally during roasting. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh, near the bone should read 180 degrees F (80 degrees C).

Remove the chicken from the oven, cover with a doubled sheet of aluminum foil and allow to rest in a warm area for 15 minutes before slicing.


Italian Flavored Roast Chicken

6-8 servings


  • 1 roasting chicken (6 to 8 lbs.), at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 14 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 6 rosemary sprigs, rinsed
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • 2 red bell peppers (about 1 1/2 lb. total)
  • 2 yellow bell peppers (about 1 1/2 lb. total)
  • 2 onions (about 1 lb. total)
  • 8 Roma tomatoes (about 2 lb. total)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/3 cup oil cured black olives
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1 cup chicken broth


Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Remove giblets and pull off and discard lumps of fat from the chicken. Pat dry and fold wing tips under the first joint. Set chicken, breast side up on a V-shaped rack set in a medium pan.

In a small bowl, mix chopped rosemary and basil. Starting at the neck, gently ease your fingers under the skin to loosen it over the breast area. Push 1/3 of the rosemary-basil mixture under the skin and spread it evenly over the breast.

Place 6 garlic cloves and 3 rosemary sprigs in the body cavity. Sprinkle chicken with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Stem and seed the bell peppers; cut into 1/3-inch-wide strips. Peel onions and cut each into 6 wedges. Core tomatoes and cut in half lengthwise.

Distribute peppers, onions, and remaining garlic around the chicken in the pan. Set tomatoes, cut side up, on top of the pepper mixture and sprinkle vegetables with another 1/3 of the herb mixture and the remaining salt and pepper; drizzle with the olive oil.

Roast until the vegetables begin to brown and a thermometer inserted through the thickest part of the breast or the thickest part of thigh at joint reaches 180°, about 1 1/4 to 1 3/4 hours.

Insert a carving fork into the chicken cavity, lift the chicken and drain the cavity juices into the pan. Set the chicken on a rimmed platter; let rest, covered with foil, in a warm place for 15 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the vegetables to a shallow bowl; sprinkle with olives and keep warm.

Skim and discard fat from the pan; add vinegar, wine, broth and remaining herb mixture. Stir often over high heat, scraping browned bits free, until reduced to 3/4 cup, 6 to 8 minutes. Pour through a fine strainer into a small pitcher or bowl.

Carve the chicken and serve with the vegetable mixture. Add pan juices and salt and pepper to taste. Garnish the serving platter with the remaining rosemary sprigs.


Fall is the time when we feel we can get back to spending some time cooking. Luckily, the cooler weather also brings a whole new group of seasonal produce to cook with, from apples and pears to hearty greens, root vegetables and squash. Make the most of what you find at the markets this autumn and try some new recipes to get you excited again about cooking.


Nothing says autumn more than a sweet tart apple. Apples can be used in dishes that are both sweet and savory. From stuffed turkey and pork to salads to applesauce and apple pie.


Pork Tenderloin with Sautéed Apples

Serve with a spinach salad.

4 servings


Spice Mix

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg


  • 1 pound pork tenderloin, trimmed
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups thinly sliced, peeled or unpeeled apples
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup apple cider or white wine
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves


Cut pork tenderloin into 8 slices and flatten slightly with the palm of your hand.

Combine the spice ingredients and sprinkle the mixture evenly over all sides of the pork slices. Let rest for about 10 minutes.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon butter. Add the  pork slices to the pan; cook 4 minutes on each side. Remove pork from the pan to a platter and keep warm. If all the pork does not fit in the pan at one time, you will need to brown the pork in two batches.

Melt the remaining butter in the pan; swirl to coat. Add the apple slices, shallots, brown sugar and 1/4 teaspoon salt; sauté 4 minutes or until the apples start to brown. Add apple cider or wine to the pan and cook for 2 minutes or until the apples are crisp-tender. Stir in thyme leaves. Serve.


Pears are great for adding a touch of sweetness to savory dishes. Try serving a roasted pork roast or leg of lamb with caramelized pears. Not only does it add flavor, but the enzymes in the pears actually tenderize the meat.


Roasted Pears and Red Onions

Excellent as a side dish for roasted pork or turkey.

6 servings


  • 4 semi-ripe medium pears, quartered and cored
  • 1 large red onion, cut into 8 wedges
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 2 sprigs rosemary, plus extra leaves for garnish


Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

In a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, toss pears and onion with butter and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Arrange pears and onion in a single layer (they should fit snugly in the dish) and top with rosemary.

Cover dish tightly with foil and bake until the pears begin to soften, about 20 minutes. Uncover and bake until the pears are golden brown on the bottom and tender when pierced with a knife, 15 to 20 minutes more. Sprinkle with fresh rosemary leaves before serving.


Hard-skinned squash varieties are usually yellow to deep-orange, with a flesh that turns creamy and sweet when cooked. Out of the hundreds of varieties, each has its own unique flavor and ideal uses. Dark green and orange-skinned acorn squash has a tender golden interior that makes a sweet, creamy purée; butternut squash makes a great filling for pasta;  delicata, with its thin, edible skin, is delicious sliced and sautéed in a little butter and roasted spaghetti squash has a light flavor and texture that’s perfect topped with pesto.


Stuffed Acorn Squash

4 servings


  • 2 medium acorn squashes (about 2 pounds), halved and seeded
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 pound lean ground beef or turkey
  • Ground cinnamon
  • Ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3/4 cup bulgur wheat
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place squash halves, cut sides down, in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Bake until tender, 35 to 40 minutes.

Heat oil in a 4-quart pot with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat. Add ground beef, a pinch each of cinnamon and nutmeg and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until browned and cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer beef to a bowl using a slotted spoon, keeping as much cooking liquid in the pot as possible.

Add onion and cook until slightly translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add remaining salt and the bulgur and stir to combine. Add water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Fluff with fork and stir in the reserved beef, the raisins, parsley and pine nuts.

Scrape out the baked squashes, forming 1/4-inch-thick bowls and fold flesh into the bulgur mixture. Divide mixture among squash halves and return to the oven. Bake until warmed through and tops are browned, 12 to 14 minutes.

Parsnips and Carrots

Carrots and parsnips are earthy root vegetables. They’re especially good for roasting, but they also have a place in salads and soups. While similar in taste parsnips are sweeter than carrots, especially when roasted. Heirloom carrots come in a rainbow of colors, from white to yellow to purple. They are delicious grated raw with a honey dressing, roasted with orange zest and maple syrup or shredded and baked into cakes and breads.


Root Vegetable Gratin

6-8 servings


  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Italian Fontina cheese
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed and sliced into 1/8-inch-thick half moons
  • 1/2 pound parsnips, peeled and sliced into 1/8-inch-thick half moons
  • 1/2 pound carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 pound red potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/8-inch-thick half moons
  • 1/4 cup low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil


Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Coat a 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking dish with olive oil cooking spray.

In a small bowl, combine salt, pepper, thyme, nutmeg and cayenne.

In another bowl, combine cheese and garlic.

Layer half the butternut squash in the baking dish; sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon seasoning mix and 1/2 cup cheese mixture. Layer parsnips and carrots over the squash and season with 1/2 teaspoon seasoning mix and 1/2 cup cheese, followed by the onion and 1/2 teaspoon seasoning mix and 1/2 cup cheese. Top with potatoes, remaining butternut squash and seasoning mix.

Pour chicken broth over top. Cover with foil and bake at 375 degrees F for 60 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 30 minutes.

Combine panko and olive oil. Sprinkle evenly over vegetables. Broil 45 seconds or until lightly browned. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.


Fennel seed is perhaps best known for its licorice-scented seeds, used to flavor Italian sausage. But the crunchy vegetable bulb itself has a delicious, delicate anise flavor and the feathery fronds add flavor to salads and soups. It is delicious roasted and blends well with root vegetables and potatoes.


Italian Crab and Fennel Stew

6 servings


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 3 ribs celery, thinly sliced
  • 2 large shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1 large bulb fennel, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoons finely chopped thyme
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 cups fish or chicken stock
  • 1 (28-oz.) can whole peeled tomatoes in juice, crushed by hand
  • 2 lbs. pre-cooked king or snow crab legs, defrosted if frozen and cut into 3″ pieces
  • 2 tablespoons roughly chopped basil
  • 2 bunches roughly chopped flat leaf parsley
  • Italian Country bread, for serving


Heat oil in an 8 quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Add garlic, celery, shallots, fennel, salt, and pepper; cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 10 minutes.

Add the wine and cook until reduced by half, 1–2 minutes. Stir in tomato paste, thyme, paprika and bay leaves; cook, stirring, until slightly caramelized, about 3 minutes.

Add stock and tomatoes; boil. Reduce heat to medium; cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens, 15–20 minutes.

Stir in crab; cook until shells are bright red and the crab meat is tender, 2–3 minutes. Discard bay leaves. Stir in basil and parsley and serve with the bread.


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