Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Herbs

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If you are trying to eat less meat, substituting pasta dishes made with vegetables are not only healthy but quite satisfying. Vegetables that are especially good in pasta are frozen or canned artichoke hearts, mushrooms, broccoli/broccoli rabe, cauliflower, zucchini, peas and fresh tomatoes.

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Spaghetti with Cauliflower and Capers

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs made from Italian bread with crusts removed
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion (1 medium)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon snipped fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
  • 1 1/2 pound head cauliflower, cut into 1-inch florets (5 to 6 cups)
  • 3 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 pound dried spaghetti
  • Snipped fresh thyme or fresh thyme sprigs (optional)

Directions

Bring a 5- to 6-quart pot of salted water to boiling.

In a large skillet heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium-low heat. Add bread crumbs to the hot oil; cook about 3 minutes or until crumbs are crisp and golden brown, stirring frequently (reduce heat and stir constantly if bread crumbs are becoming too dark). Stir in 1 clove of the minced garlic; cook and stir until garlic is fragrant. Transfer mixture to a small bowl. Stir in 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese and the lemon peel; set aside.

In the same large skillet heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and salt; cook about 3 minutes or until onion is tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in the 1 teaspoon thyme and the remaining 2 cloves minced garlic; cook and stir for 30 seconds.

Add cauliflower, broth and capers; cover and cook about 10 minutes or until cauliflower is tender. Stir in lemon juice and pepper.

Meanwhile, in the large pot cook spaghetti according to package directions, except cook for 2 minutes less than the time given on the package.

Drain spaghetti. Return to the pot and add the cauliflower mixture to spaghetti. Cook about 5 minutes more or until spaghetti is al dente.

Divide spaghetti mixture among six shallow serving bowls. Sprinkle with the bread crumb mixture and the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. If desired, garnish with additional snipped fresh thyme or thyme sprigs.

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Baked Rigatoni with Spinach and Cheese

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound rigatoni
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 10-ounce package frozen spinach, thawed
  • 2 cups (about 1 pound) ricotta
  • 5 tablespoons grated Parmesan
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 6 ounces fontina, grated (about 1 1/2 cups)

Directions

Heat the oven to 450°F. Oil a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the rigatoni until almost done, about 12 minutes. Drain. Put the pasta in the prepared baking dish and toss with 1 tablespoon of the oil.

Meanwhile, squeeze as much of the water as possible from the spinach. Put the spinach in a food processor and puree with the ricotta, 3 tablespoons of the Parmesan, the nutmeg, salt and pepper. Stir in half of the fontina cheese.

Stir the spinach mixture into the pasta. Top with the remaining fontina and Parmesan cheeses. Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over the top. Bake the pasta until the top is golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes.

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Creamy Fettuccine with Spring Vegetables

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces dried fettuccine
  • 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 ounces fresh asparagus spears, trimmed
  • 4 ounces fresh Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered (you can leave these out if you are not a fan)
  • 1 ½ cups fresh broccoli florets
  • 8 fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 ¼ cups milk, plus extra if needed
  • 1/2 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnish
  • 2 teaspoons finely shredded lemon peel

Directions

Cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain and return to the saucepan. Stir in sun-dried tomatoes; keep warm.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet heat 1 tablespoon of the butter and the olive oil over medium heat. Add asparagus, Brussels sprouts, if using, broccoli and mushrooms. Cook over medium heat for 8 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Remove vegetables from the skillet; set aside.

In same skillet, melt remaining butter over medium heat. Stir in flour. Cook and stir 1 minute. Stir in milk. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Stir in Parmesan cheese. Gently stir in pasta and vegetables. Stir in additional milk, if the sauce needs thinning. Sprinkle with lemon peel and additional shredded Parmesan cheese. Serve.

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Baked Ziti with Pesto

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound ziti
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups canned crushed tomatoes in thick puree
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup store-bought or homemade pesto

Directions

Heat the oven to 350°F. Oil an 8-by-8-inch square or oval baking dish.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the pasta for 7 minutes. It will be partially cooked. Drain.

In a medium saucepan, heat 1 tablespoons of the oil over moderately low heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes, salt and bay leaf. Bring to a simmer over moderate heat and cook until very thick, about 10 minutes. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper. Remove the bay leaf.

In a small bowl, combine the ricotta, 1 cup of the mozzarella, about half the Parmesan, the pesto and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Put half of the cooked pasta into the prepared baking dish and top with about a third of the tomato sauce. Spread the ricotta mixture on the sauce in an even layer. Cover with the remaining pasta and then the remaining sauce. Top with the remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella and the remaining Parmesan cheese. Drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Bake until bubbling, about 30 minutes. Let sit 10 minutes before serving.

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Linguine with Sweet Bell Peppers

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 pound red, green, yellow, orange bell peppers, sliced thin
  • Kosher salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 pound linguine
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, diced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

Directions

In a large skillet, heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onion, garlic and bell peppers, season with salt and pepper and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the peppers are tender, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of pasta water.

Add the cooked linguine, pasta water, tomatoes and basil to the skillet and toss over moderate heat for 1 minute; then serve.

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SICILY — SPRING MORNING by Leonid Afremov

SICILY — SPRING MORNING by Leonid Afremov

Make some healthy, delicious spring desserts with in-season ingredients like lemon, berries, rhubarb, cherries and herbs. A great way to celebrate spring.

These desserts can fit any occasion, whether you are entertaining guests or as a delicious ending to a family dinner.

Olive Oil Cornmeal Cake with Strawberry Sauce

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Ingredients

  • 1 ⅓ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons finely snipped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon coarse sugar or sparkling sugar
  • Strawberry Sauce, (recipe below)
  • Fresh basil leaves and/or fresh strawberries

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease and flour an 8 x 1-1/2-inch round cake pan; set aside.

In a medium bowl stir together flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl whisk together eggs, granulated sugar, milk and olive oil. Using a wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture and snipped basil until combined.

Pour batter into prepared cake pan, spreading evenly. Sprinkle with coarse sugar.

Bake about 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool cake in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes.

Remove cake from the pan. Turn cake, sugar side up. Cool completely on a wire rack.

To serve, cut cake into wedges. Serve with Strawberry Sauce and garnish with fresh basil leaves and/or fresh strawberries.

Strawberry Sauce

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of fresh strawberries, hulled
  • 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoons of white balsamic vinegar

Directions

In a blender or food processor, combine strawberries, sugar and 1 tablespoon of the white balsamic vinegar. Cover and blend or process until smooth.

If desired, stir in additional white balsamic vinegar to taste. Cover and chill for up to 24 hours. Stir before serving.

Rosemary and Lemon Cupcakes

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ¾ cups cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons lemon extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons finely shredded lemon peel
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Lemon Glaze (recipe below)

Directions

Let butter and eggs stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Line fifteen 2-1/2-inch muffin cups with paper bake cups; set aside.

In a medium bowl combine cake flour, rosemary, baking powder and salt; set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter on medium-high for 30 seconds. Add granulated sugar, lemon extract and vanilla. Beat on medium-high for 2 minutes until light and fluffy, scraping bowl.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Alternately add flour mixture and milk to the butter mixture; beat on low after each addition, just until combined. Stir in the lemon peel and lemon juice.

Spoon batter into prepared cups to three-fourths full.

Bake 22 to 25 minutes, until a wooden pick inserted in centers comes out clean.

(Bake 36 mini cakes 15 to 18 minutes; 6 jumbo cakes 25 to 30 minutes.) Cool in the muffin pan on a rack 5 minutes. Remove muffins from the pan; cool completely.

Spoon Lemon Glaze on cupcakes. Let stand 10 minutes. Makes 15 (2-1/2-inch) cupcakes.

Lemon Glaze

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of powdered sugar
  • 5 teaspoons of lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon of finely shredded lemon peel

Directions

In a small bowl combine powdered sugar and enough of the lemon juice to reach spreading consistency. Stir in lemon peel.

Cherries Poached in Red Wine with Mascarpone Cream

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4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups red wine
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1-by-3-inch strip orange zest
  • 2 pounds sweet cherries, halved and pitted
  • 1 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons honey

Directions

In a medium stainless-steel saucepan, combine the wine, sugar and orange zest. Bring to a simmer over moderately high heat. Add the cherries and bring back to a simmer. Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the cherries are just tender, about 5 minutes. Pour into a glass or stainless-steel serving bowl.

In a small bowl, combine the mascarpone with the honey. Remove the strip of orange zest from the cherries. Serve the warm cherries and syrup in bowls or stemmed glasses, topped with a large dollop of the mascarpone cream.

Blueberry-Lemon Shortcakes

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons cold butter, cut up
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons fat-free milk
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons plain fat-free Greek yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons finely shredded lemon peel
  • 1 recipe Honey-Yogurt Cream (below)
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1 tablespoon honey

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

In a large bowl stir together flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Make a well in center of the flour mixture; set aside.

In a small bowl beat egg lightly with a fork. Stir in milk, 2 tablespoons of the honey, 2 tablespoons yogurt and the lemon peel. Add egg mixture all at once to flour mixture. Stir just until moistened.

Using a large spoon, drop dough into 8 mounds onto a parchment-lined or lightly greased baking sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden. Transfer shortcakes to a wire rack; let cool.

To serve, split the shortcakes in half horizontally. Place bottom halves on serving plates. Evenly top bottom halves with the Honey-Yogurt Cream and blueberries.

Top with shortcake tops and drizzle evenly with the remaining 1 tablespoon honey. Serve immediately.

Honey-Yogurt Cream

Ingredients

  • 1 ounce of plain fat-free Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • 1/2 cup of whipped cream

Directions

In a medium bowl stir together yogurt and honey. Fold in whipped cream.

Rhubarb Buckle

Buckle Is a type of cake made in a single layer with fresh fruit added to the batter. The topping is similar to a streusel, which gives it a buckled or crumpled appearance.

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For the cake

  • Vegetable-oil cooking spray, for cake pans
  • 1 pound plus 10 ounces rhubarb, trimmed and cut 1/2 inch thick on the bias
  • 2 cups sugar, divided
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup sour cream

For the crumb topping

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup light-brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted

Directions

Make the cake:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, with the oven rack in the center position.

Coat two 9-inch square cake pans with cooking spray and line them with parchment, leaving an overhang on 2 sides.

Stir together rhubarb and 1 cup sugar; set aside to macerate.

Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.

Beat together butter, remaining 1 cup of sugar and the lemon zest until light and fluffy.

Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, then beat in vanilla. Beat in flour mixture in 2 additions, alternating with the sour cream, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.

Make the crumb topping:

Stir together flour, brown sugar and salt. Add melted butter; stir to combine.

Divide batter between the pans. Top with rhubarb mixture and sprinkle with crumb topping.

Bake until golden on top and cooked through, about 1 hour 5 minutes. Let cool completely in the pans on wire racks, then lift cakes from the pans using the parchment overhangs.

Remove parchment. Before serving, cut buckle into 2-inch squares.


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Soft, woodsy flavors and aromas are the hallmarks of spring’s earliest produce that include an assortment of mushrooms, bright green asparagus and artichokes.

Savor the peak of asparagus season by roasting fresh, green spears to enhance their flavor and provide for a more tender texture.

Step away from the strong flavors of winter, like garlic and onions, and explore some milder flavoring ingredients, such as shallots and green onions (spring onions).

Leafy herbs become widely available in spring and are great on everything.

Radishes are root vegetables with a distinctive flavor that range from mild to sharp, depending on the variety. To choose the best, pick radishes that are deep in color with solid roots.

All types of leafy greens and lettuces begin to bloom in the spring. With temperatures warming, it is time to replace stews and casseroles with salads at the dinner table.

Although rhubarb is often used as a fruit in sweet pies and jams, rhubarb is actually a vegetable. You can find rhubarb in a range of colors, from green to bright pink and everything in between (color doesn’t indicate ripeness) in the market until June.

Strawberries are at their peak in the spring. Be sure to purchase firm red berries with no soft or mushy spots. Store in the refrigerator, but keep them dry. Don’t wash until ready to eat and serve at room temperature.

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Grilled Artichokes with Dipping Sauce

Ingredients

  • 4 medium artichokes
  • 1 lemon
  • Olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce or chili sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1  teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Directions

Cut 1/2 inch off the top of each artichoke. Cut each in half vertically and, using scissors, trim the pointy ends off the leaves. Carefully cut out the fuzzy choke in the center and discard.

Rub the artichokes all over with lemon. Fill a large pot with water and fit with a steaming rack. Place the artichokes on a rack and steam until they are tender and easily pierced with a fork, about 30 minutes. Set aside to cool for 15 minutes.

Preheat an outdoor or indoor grill to high heat.

For the sauce: In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, hot sauce and  honey. Sir well. Set aside.

Brush the cut side of each artichoke with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Grill artichokes, cut side down, until evenly charred, 4 to 5 minutes.

Serve hot with the dipping sauce.

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Vegetable and Fruit Spring Salad

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh strawberries
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh tarragon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 8 ounces fresh green beans, trimmed
  • 8 ounces fresh sugar snap peas, trimmed
  • 4 ounces radishes, sliced in thin rounds (about 1 cup)
  • 1 cup sliced or quartered strawberries

Directions

For the dressing: Combine vinegar, oil, chopped strawberries, sugar, tarragon, salt and pepper in a screw top jar. Cover; shake until combined. Set aside.

In a large pot cook green beans and peas in boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain; rinse with cold water. In a large bowl toss cooked beans and peas with dressing. Cover; chill for 30 minutes or up to 4 hours. Stir in radishes and sliced strawberries before serving.

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Roasted Asparagus and Wild Mushrooms

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 pound assorted fresh mushrooms (such as crimini, oyster, chanterelles, morels, stemmed shiitakes), sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh Italian parsley
  • 1 1/2 pounds medium thick asparagus, tough ends trimmed
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 475°F.

Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and garlic, sauté until mushrooms are brown and just tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Add lemon juice and parsley, toss to coat. Set aside.

Arrange asparagus on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Roast asparagus until just tender, about 10 minutes. Arrange asparagus on a serving platter and top with mushrooms.

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Penne Primavera with Salmon

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces salmon, cut into 2 portions
  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt or coarse sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 12 ounces whole wheat penne
  • 1 bunch thin asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3/4 cup fresh or frozen peas
  • 1 cup halved grape tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup crème fraîche
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 large shallot, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh dill

Directions

Preheat oven to 450°F. Brush both sides of the salmon with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place skin-side down on a small baking sheet and roast until salmon is just lightly pink in the center, 8 to 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add penne and cook until al dente, about 13 minutes, adding asparagus and peas in the last 2 minutes of cooking. Drain pasta and vegetables and return them to the pot. Place over low heat and stir in tomatoes, crème fraîche, Parmesan and shallot. Remove and discard salmon skin; flake salmon into chunks with a fork and toss into pasta along with dill.

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Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler

Serve with whipped cream, if desired.

For the filling:

  • 6 to 8 stalks rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 3 cups)
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 1 tablespoon salted butter
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups sliced strawberries

For the topping:

  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons salted butter, chilled
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 3/4 cup half-and-half
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest

To make filling: 

In a saucepan over medium heat, cook the rhubarb, sugar and orange zest until the rhubarb begins to soften and exude juices, about 2 minutes. Add the butter and flour and bring to a boil while stirring. Cook for about 1 minute. Add the sliced strawberries. Remove from heat and pour the fruit mixture into a deep 10-inch pie dish.

To make topping: 

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Cut the butter into small pieces. With a fork or pastry cutter, cut the chilled butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Add 1/2 cup of the sugar and blend. Slowly add the half-and-half with a fork. Spoon the dough over the fruit mixture in the pie dish. Mix together the 2 tablespoons sugar and the orange zest, and sprinkle it over the top. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool slightly and serve with or without whipped cream. Serves 6.


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Puglia is a little more rustic than other parts of Italy. Its major cities are a lot smaller and less well-known by tourists than Florence or Rome. For the Italians, Puglia is where they go for sunny beaches, good seafood fished from nearby waters, vegetables grown in local pastures and to sample the region’s local wines: negroamaro, primitivo di Manduria and Salice Salentino.

Puglia

Puglia is a region in southern Italy bordering the Adriatic Sea in the east, the Ionian Sea to the southeast and the Strait of Òtranto and Gulf of Taranto in the south. It is bordered by the Italian regions of Molise to the north, Campania to the west and Basilicata to the southwest. Puglia’s neighbors are Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Greece and Montenegro. Its capital city is Bari.

The southernmost portion of Puglia forms a high heel on the “boot” of Italy and its population is about 4.1 million. Foggia is by far the least densely populated province, whereas Bari is the most densely populated province. Emigration from the region’s depressed areas to northern Italy and the rest of Europe was very intense in the years between 1956 and 1971. Later the trend declined as economic conditions improved after 1982.

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As with the other regions of Italy, the national language (since 1861) is Italian. However, as a consequence of its long and varied history, other historical languages have been spoken in this region for centuries. In the northern and central sections, some dialects of the Neapolitan language are spoken. In the southern part of the region, the Tarantino and Salentino dialects of Sicily are spoken. In isolated pockets of the southern part of Salento, a dialect of modern Greek, called Griko, is spoken by just a few thousand people. A rare dialect of the Franco-Provençal language called Faetar is spoken in two isolated towns, Faeto and Celle Di San Vito. In a couple of villages, the Arbëreshë dialect of the Albanian language has been spoken by a very small community since a wave of refugees settled there in the 15th century.

In the last 20 years the industrial base of the region’s economy has changed radically. Alongside large-scale plants, such as ILVA (steel-making) in Taranto and Eni (petrochemicals) in Brindisi and Manfredonia, a network of small and medium-sized firms has gradually expanded and they provide approximately 70% of the jobs in the region. The majority of such firms are financed by local capital. As a result, highly specialized areas have developed in food processing, vehicle production, footwear, textiles, clothing, wood and furniture, rubber and computer software. A major contribution to the competitiveness of the region’s economy stems from the existence of important research and development centers such as Tecnopolis-CSATA near Bari, the Cittadella della ricerca (Center for research and new materials) near Brindisi and the new software development centers, also near Bari.

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The region has a good network of roads but the railway network is somewhat inadequate, particularly in the south. Puglia’s long coastline, more than 500 miles of coast on two seas, is dotted with ports, which make this region an important terminal for transport and tourism to Greece and the eastern Mediterranean.

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No other image says Puglia better than the trulli, a rural home that’s essentially a whitewashed teepee of small limestone slabs stacked without mortar, with a cone surmounted by ancient symbols. They are scattered among olive groves and prickly pear cacti in the Valle d’Itria, inland in a triangle between Bari, Taranto and Brindisi. Of unknown origin and unique to Puglia, the trulli date at least back to the Middle Ages.

Puglian cuisine is balanced by equal use the land and the sea. A typical local antipasti will often contain a number of seafood dishes, such as mussels, oysters, octopus, red mullet and swordfish. Popular vegetables are fava beans, artichokes, chicory and various greens including rucola (“rocket”). Eggplant, peppers, lampasciuoli (a bitter type of onion), cauliflower, olives and olive oil are all Puglian staples.

Taralli are breadsticks typical of Puglia

Taralli are breadsticks typical of Puglia

The region produces half of all Italian olive oils and olive oil is used almost exclusively in local cooking. The most famous pasta is orecchiette, but bucatini is also popular and both are usually served with tomato sauce or with olive oil, garlic and cauliflower. Regional cheeses include Canestrato Puglisi, Caciocavallo Silano (both PDO), Ricotta and Mozzarella. The meat of choice is either lamb or kid that may be roasted, baked or grilled on skewers. Pork is popular for local salami with rabbit and beef also being available. Breads and sweets include focaccia and pizza to fritters filled with sweetened ricotta, sweet ravioli, honey covered dates and Zeppole di San Giuseppe, served on the saint’s day in March.

Vineyards

Vineyards

Puglia is now producing wines of quality over quantity, yet they are reasonably priced. Castel del Monte (DOC) is well-known as a full-bodied red wine, Primitivo di Manduria is now more refined and. Salice Salentino (DOC) is used to make sweeter reds and dessert wines. White wines are undergoing modernization and international grape varieties are being introduced, however there are some traditional varietals. Locorotondo (DOC) is straw yellow and fruity. Martina Franca (DOC) is a dry white. Besides the dessert wines and Grappa, Puglia also is home to a number of herbal and citrus infused spirits making use of local walnuts, flowers, rhubarb, myrtle, anise, lemons and oranges.

 

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Chickpea Soup

Like most bean soups in the Puglia region, this one may be served over slices of stale country-style bread, lightly toasted and brushed with a little garlic.

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 8 oz (1 cup) dried chickpeas
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 medium yellow onion, cut in half
  • 3 or 4 ripe tomatoes, peeled and seeded, or 2 cups drained canned tomatoes
  • 1 stalk celery, including the top green leaves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 small dried hot red chili pepper
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Finely minced flat-leaf parsley

Directions

Put the chick-peas in a bowl, cover with cool water and set aside to soak for 6 to 8 hours or overnight. Then drain and place in a soup pot with fresh cold water to cover to a depth of one inch.

Put the pot on medium-low heat and when the water boils, lower the heat, cover the pot and simmer until the chickpeas are partially cooked-about 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the age of the beans. Add simmering water from time to time to keep the beans covered, if needed.

Add the garlic, onion halves, tomatoes and celery to the pot, along with the bay leaf, chili pepper, salt and pepper.

Continue cooking, adding boiling water as necessary, until the chickpeas are tender. Remove the bay leaf and chili pepper.

Serve garnished with olive oil and parsley.

Orecchiette pasta with broccoli rabe and red pepper

Orecchiette with Turnip Tops

Ingredients

  • 1.8 lbs (800 g) young and tender leaves from turnips
  • 6 fillets of anchovy in oil
  • 1 fresh chili pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 14 oz (400 g) of orecchiette pasta

Directions

Once you’ve collected the most tender leaves, wash them several times in cold water and boil them in plenty salted water in a large pot for at least 7-8 minutes.

Drain the turnip tops into a large bowl saving all the cooking water, since you’ll need it to boil the pasta.

Return the salted cooking water to the pot, bring to a boil and add the orecchiette.

In a saucepan heat the oil, the garlic, the anchovies and the chopped chili pepper.  Once the garlic is golden brown, add the turnip tops and sauté them for a few minutes to coat in the oil.

When the orecchiette are cooked to the al dente stage, drain, return them to the pasta pot and add the turnip tops and sauce. Sauté everything together for a few moments, season with salt, if needed, and serve.

pugliapizza

Pizza di Patate Pugliese (Tomato-and-Cheese-Topped Potato Pizza)

A classic Puglian pizza recipe adapted from RUSTICO COOKING.

Serves 2 as a main course or 6 as an appetizer

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound boiling potatoes, peeled
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for the counter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for the baking pan
  • 20 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 pound fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions

Place the potatoes in a saucepan. Add water to cover by 2 inches and bring to a boil. Cook until tender about 30 minutes over medium heat.

Drain, pass through a ricer and cool to room temperature.

Preheat the oven with a baking stone in it to 450°F.

Mix the potatoes, flour and ¼ teaspoon salt together on a floured board until a smooth dough forms.

Add a little water, if needed, to help the dough come together or add a little flour, if the dough is sticky,. The dough should be soft but not sticky.

Flatten into a disk and roll out into a 12-inch circle.

Generously grease a 12-inch pizza pan with olive oil and line it with the dough.

Drizzle the top of the dough with olive oil; top with the tomatoes, cut side down. Season with oregano, the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt and the pepper.

Place the pizza pan on the baking stone in the preheated oven and bake 15 minutes or until golden around the edges.

Remove the pan from the oven, top with the Mozzarella and Parmigiano cheeses and return to the oven for 10 more minutes or until golden brown around the edges. Serve hot.

puglia4

Stuffed Eggplant Puglian Style

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 Italian eggplants (about 1 pound), preferably short and plumb
  • Coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon (20) small capers, rinsed and drained
  • 8 anchovy fillets, rinsed, drained and roughly chopped
  • 1/4 packed cup (1 ounce) finely grated Pecorino cheese
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 small cloves garlic, peeled and slivered
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled just before using
  • 2 teaspoons dry white wine
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

Directions

Halve the eggplants lengthwise and make two or three deep slits in the eggplant flesh but do not pierce the skin on the bottom. Sprinkle with salt and place cut side down in a colander. Put a heavy plate on top and let stand at least 30 minutes. Rinse thoroughly and pat dry with paper towels.

In a mixing bowl, combine the capers, anchovies, cheese and pepper and crush to make a paste. You should have about 3 tablespoons. Divide mixture into 8 equal parts and fill the slits in the eggplant halves with garlic slivers and a portion of the paste. Reshape the eggplant.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat olive oil to hot but not smoking. Add the eggplant, cut side down, and reduce the heat to moderate. Cover and cook until the eggplant flesh turns golden brown, about 10 minutes. Turn each eggplant and cook, uncovered, until tender, about 5 minutes. Place eggplant, flesh side up, on a serving plate; sprinkle with the crumbled oregano, white wine and vinegar and let stand at least 20 minutes before serving.


 

chickenand1

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are versatile, easy to prepare and naturally lower in fat and calories than many other meat options. By itself, though, chicken can be quite boring. Baked, grilled or roasted chicken is probably a regular part of your dinner rotation. So you’ll need some great side dishes for that chicken to bring some excitement to your plate.

Chicken Breasts with Herbs

Using a variety of herbs brings great flavor to chicken breasts.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup chopped Italian (flat leaf) parsley
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
  • 3 tablespoons finely shredded lemon peel
  • 3 large cloves finely chopped garlic 
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth

Directions

In small bowl stir together parsley, oregano, lemon peel and garlic. Set aside. Season chicken with salt and pepper.

In a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat cook chicken in butter for 6 minutes or until browned, turning once. Transfer to plate.

Remove skillet from the heat; stir in half the herb mixture. Return to the heat. Add broth; bring to boiling, stirring to scrape up browned bits.

Return chicken to the skillet; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, 8 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink.

Pour the pan sauce over the chicken and sprinkle with the remaining herb mixture.

Make a new dish by changing the sauce:

Mustard Wine

In place of the chicken broth above add 1/2 cup white wine and 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard. Continue with the recipe above.

Mushrooms and Sage

Brown 8 oz. sliced cremini mushrooms in the pan after the chicken is removed. Add the chicken broth and 3 tablespoons chopped fresh sage instead of the oregano. Continue with the recipe above.

Tomato

Turn the heat up after removing the chicken and add 2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes (about 12 oz.). Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes begin to burst, about 5 minutes.  Add the remaining ingredients to the pan. Crush the tomatoes slightly to release their juices and continue with the recipe above.

Baked Onions with Fennel Breadcrumbs + A140924 Food & Wine Nancy Silverton January 2015

Baked Onions with Fennel Crumbs

Ingredients

chickenand3

  • 3 medium red or sweet onions, peeled and cut in half, root ends left intact but trimmed so they lay flat
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/4 cup panko crumbs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh minced sage

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Brush the onion halves with olive oil, season with salt and arrange cut side down in an ovenproof medium skillet. Add the chicken stock and scatter the bay leaves around the onions. Cover tightly with foil and bake for about 1 1/2 hours, until the onions are very tender.

Meanwhile, in a small skillet, toast the fennel seeds over moderate heat, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a work surface and let cool, then coarsely crush the seeds. Transfer to a small bowl, add the panko crumbs, sage and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Toss and season with salt.

Carefully turn the onions cut side up in the skillet. Spoon the bread crumb mixture on top and bake for about 15 minutes longer, until the crumbs are lightly browned and crisp. Discard the bay leaves and serve the onions hot or warm.

chickenand4

Fresh Corn and Squash Saute

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 small white onion, finely diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 small zucchini, diced
  • 3 ears corn, husks and silk removed
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Shredded fresh basil leaves, for garnish
  • Grated Parmesan cheese for garnish

Directions

Heat butter in a skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Add garlic and onion and stir onion until translucent, about 5 minutes. Cut kernels from the ears of corn. Add zucchini and corn; cook and stir until the vegetables are tender, about 8 minutes. Season with sea salt and pepper. Add shredded basil and grated cheese to taste.

chickenand5

Green Bean and Vegetable Medley

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound fresh green beans, cut into 1-inch lengths
  • 2 carrots, cut into thick strips
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 pound fresh cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper

Directions

Place green beans and carrots in 1 inch of boiling water. Cover and cook until tender but still firm. Drain.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute garlic, onions and mushrooms until almost tender.

Reduce heat, cover and simmer 3 minutes. Stir in green beans, carrots, salt, herbs and white pepper. Cover and cook for 5 minutes over medium heat.

chickenand6

Au Gratin Potatoes

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 large russet potatoes, sliced into 1/4 inch slices
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 1/2 cups good quality shredded white or yellow cheddar cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Butter a 2 quart casserole dish.

Layer 1/2 of the potatoes into the bottom of the prepared casserole dish. sprinkle with salt and pepper. Top with the onion and add the remaining potatoes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

In a medium-size saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Mix in the flour and salt and stir constantly with a whisk for one minute. Stir in milk very slowly. Cook until the mixture has thickened.

Stir in cheese all at once and continue stirring until melted, about 30 to 60 seconds. Pour cheese sauce over the potatoes. Cover the dish with aluminum foil with the side facing the potatoes sprayed with cooking spray.

Bake 1 hour and 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Remove foil and bake for 20 minutes more.

chickenand7

Penne with Broccoli and Ricotta

Serves 4

Ingredients

Coarse salt

  • 8 oz penne or other short pasta
  • 4 cups broccoli florets
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add penne and cook 2 minutes less than the package instructions for al dente; add broccoli. Cook 2 minutes or until penne is al dente and broccoli is bright green.

Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water, drain pasta and broccoli; set aside.

In the same pan, heat oil over medium. Add onion and garlic; cook, stirring constantly, until onion is tender and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the reserved pasta water to help loosen any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.

Add penne and broccoli and cook until warmed through; season with salt and pepper. Transfer pasta mixture to a serving dish and mix in the ricotta cheese. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve.


 

molise2

Molise is a region of Southern Italy. Until 1963, it formed part of the region of Abruzzi. The split, which did not become effective until 1970, makes Molise the newest region in Italy. The region covers 4,438 square kilometres/1,714 sq mi making it the second smallest region in Italy with a population of about 300,000. The region is split into two provinces, named after their respective capitals, Isernia and Campobasso. Campobasso also serves as the regional capital.

Molise1

Molise is also one of Italy’s less developed and poorest areas. In Molise, one can see two different centuries existing side by side when, on one side of the street grandmothers all in black are purchasing produce in the market and on the other side of the street there are young girls dressed in Benetton carrying mobile phones. Outside the cities are underdeveloped villages that seem to have been forgotten in time, while in the big cities progress is pushing ahead. However, one does not travel to Molise to explore the big cities but to enjoy the region’s natural beauty, the unspoiled beaches and the archaeological excavations.

molise3

More than 40% of Molise is covered by mountains. In the Matese area, located on the border of Campania, you will find magnificent mountain ranges. The region is also home to eagles, bears and wolves in the deep forests and it is one of the best locations to harvest mushrooms.

Though there is a large Fiat plant in Termoli, the industrial sector is dominated by the construction industry. With small and medium-sized farms spread widely throughout the region, food processing is another important industry. Pasta, meat, milk products, oil and wine are the traditional regional products. In the service sector the most important industries are distribution, hotels, catering, transport, communications, banking and insurance.

molise4

After the earthquake of 2002, some of the communities in Molise adopted a policy which contributed state money to individuals willing to make their homes more resistant to seismic activity. Larino, near Termoli, was a particular beneficiary of this policy and the town, already one of the most beautiful in the province, was transformed. The policy included returning the houses to their historical colors and, based on careful research, the structures were painted in a range of soft pastel tones. As a result, Larino has become an important center for tourism and scores of expatriates from all over the world are returning to live in the revived center. Larino is also famous for the Festa di San Pardo (Larino’s patron saint) and you will witness more than one hundred cattle drawn carts completely covered in flowers made by local families during the three days of festivities.

molise5

 

molise6

International tourism is becoming more prevalent as a result of the international flights from other European countries, Great Britain and North America which enter Pescara, not far to the north in Abruzzo. The tourists are attracted by large expanses of natural beaches, a relative lack of congestion and a gentle pace of life.

molisse

The cuisine of Molise is similar to the cuisine of Abruzzo, though there are a few differences in the dishes and ingredients. The flavors of Molise are dominated by the many herbs that grow there. Some of Molise’s typical foods include spicy salami, locally produced cheeses, lamb or goat, pasta dishes with hearty sauces and regional vegetables. In addition to bruschetta, a typical antipasto will consist of several meat dishes, such as sausage, ham and smoked prosciutto.

Main dishes of the region include:

  • Calcioni di ricotta, a specialty of Campobasso, made of fried pasta stuffed with ricotta, provolone, prosciutto and parsley and usually served with fried artichokes, cauliflower, brains, sweetbreads, potato croquette and scamorza cheese
  • Cavatiegl e Patane, gnocchi served in a meat sauce of rabbit and pork
  • Pasta e fagioli, pasta-and-white-bean soup cooked with pig’s feet and pork rinds
  • Polenta d’iragn, a polenta-like dish made of wheat and potatoes, sauced with tomatoes and pecorino
  • Risotto alla marinara, a risotto with seafood
  • Spaghetti with diavolillo, a chili pepper sauce
  • Zuppa di cardi, a soup of cardoons, tomatoes, onions, pancetta and olive oil
  • Zuppa di ortiche, a soup of nettle stems, tomatoes, onions, pancetta and olive oil

Typical vegetable dishes may include:

  • Carciofi ripieni, artichokes stuffed with anchovies and capers
  • Peeled sweet peppers stuffed with bread crumbs, anchovies, parsley, basil and peperoncino, sautéed in a frying pan and cooked with chopped tomatoes
  • Cipollacci con pecorino, fried onions and pecorino cheese
  • Frittata con basilico e cipolle, omelette with basil and onions

Fish dishes include red mullet soup and spaghetti with cuttlefish. Trout from the Biferno river is notable for its flavor and is cooked with a simple sauce of aromatic herbs and olive oil. Zuppa di pesce, a fish stew,is  a specialty of Termoli.

The cheeses produced in Molise are not very different from those produced in Abruzzo. The more common ones are Burrino and Manteca – soft, buttery cow’s-milk cheeses, Pecorino – sheep’s-milk cheese, served young and soft or aged and hard, Scamorza – a bland cow’s-milk cheese, often served grilled and Caciocavallo – a sheep’s-milk cheese.

Sweets and desserts have an ancient tradition here and are linked to the history of the territory and to religious and family festivities. Most common are:

  • Calciumi (also called Caucioni or cauciuni), sweet ravioli filled with chestnuts, almonds, chocolate, vanilla, cooked wine musts and cinnamon and then fried
  • Ciambelline, ring-shaped cakes made with olive oil and red wine
  • Ferratelle all’anice, anise cakes made in metal molds and stamped with special patterns
  • Ricotta pizza, a cake pan filled with a blend of ricotta cheese, sugar, flour, butter, maraschino liqueur and chocolate chips

Traditional Molise Recipes

molise8

Polpi in Purgatorio

Spicy Octopus, Molise Style

Serves 4

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 10 sprigs Italian parsley, minced
  • 2 teaspoons peperoncini, or more to taste
  • 1 to 1 1/2 pounds young octopus
  • Salt

Directions

Clean the octopus in salted water and rinse well.

Heat half the oil in a medium skillet with a cover over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, parsley and peperoncini and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions soften, 6 to 8 minutes.

Add the octopus to the onion mixture with the remaining oil. Season lightly with salt.

Cover the pan with a lid and cook over very low heat for 2 hours, stirring the octopus from time to time with a wooden spoon. Serve as an appetizer.

molise7

Baked Fettuccine with Tomato and Mozzarella

Fettucine con salsa d’aromi

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 4 fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
  • 8 fresh basil leaves, finely shredded
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1-15 oz can Italian tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/4 peperoncino or 1/4 teaspoon chili flakes, more or less to taste
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano (or other pecorino)
  • 1/4 lb scamorza (you can substitute mozzarella)
  • 1 lb fettuccine

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and sauté garlic until golden.

Add basil, parsley, mint and peperoncino. Sauté a minute or two more.

Stir in the tomatoes, salt and pepper. Cook over medium-high heat (a fast bubble) stirring occasionally until the sauce thickens, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile bring pot of salted water to the boil. Cook the pasta al dente. Do not overcook.

Preheat oven (while pasta cooks) to 425 degrees F.

Drain the pasta very well and mix with the sauce in the pan.

Transfer all to a greased ovenproof dish.

Sprinkle on the cheese and lay the slices of scamorza or mozzarella on top.

Bake for a few minutes until the cheese melts and bubbles. Serve hot.

molise0

Molise Style Stuffed Peppers

Ingredients

  • 6 medium green bell peppers
  • 5 cups day old bread, cut into small cubes
  • 4 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 small can anchovies, chopped
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for the filling
  • Grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Wash the peppers. Cut a hole around the stem. Remove the stem.  Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and ribs.

In a bowl, combine the bread, parsley, garlic and anchovies.  Mix together. Sprinkle with olive oil and toss to coat; do not saturate the bread with oil. Fill the peppers evenly with the stuffing.

Put 1/2 cup of olive oil in a baking pan.  Lay the peppers on their sides in the pan.  Bake for 20 minutes, turning occasionally to cook evenly.

Sprinkle each pepper fresh Parmigiano Reggiano at the end of the cooking time and allow it to melt over the pepper.

molise01

Isernian Calzones

Calzoni d’Isernia are named after the town of Isernia in Molise

Makes 12 Calzones

Ingredients

Dough

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 large eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1/4-1/2 cup water

Filling

  • 4 ounces pancetta
  • 8 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 cup mozzarella, grated or diced into small cubes
  • 1 teaspoon chopped parsley
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper

Oil for frying

Marinara sauce for serving

Directions

In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt. Add the whole eggs and mix into the flour. Add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water slowly until all the flour is incorporated. Don’t add too much water or the dough will become sticky. Once the dough is formed, knead for about 5 minutes.

Roll out the dough on a floured surface to about 1/8 inch thickness.  Cut the dough into squares that are 4 inches by 4 inches. You should be able to get about 12 squares.

For the filling:

Cook the pancetta in a skillet over medium-high heat for a few minutes until well browned. Cool.

Combine the ricotta, egg yolks, mozzarella, pancetta, parsley, salt and pepper together in a mixing bowl.

Place some of the filling in the center of each square of dough.  Fold the dough over to form a triangle.  Use the tines of a fork to pinch together the seams of the dough.  Be careful not to over-stuff the dough or the filling will come out during frying.

Fill a heavy-bottomed pot with about 3 inches of oil.  Heat oil to 350 degrees F. Once the oil is hot, drop the calzones in (1 at a time if using a smaller pot, or just a few at a time using a larger pot).

Remove the calzones with a slotted spoon or spider when they have gotten a golden brown color on both sides.  Let them drain on a paper towel.

Serve warm with marinara sauce, if desired.

molise9

Calciuni del Molise

Chestnut Fritters

Adapted from Italian Regional Cooking by Ada Boni, published 1969, Dutton (New York) (Note: this was the first cookbook I owned.)

Makes 15 fritters

Ingredients

Dough

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon white wine
  • 1/4 pound fresh chestnuts

Filling

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons slivered almonds, toasted
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons semi-sweet chocolate
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon Amaretto liqueur
  • 1 pinch cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Oil for frying

Powdered sugar for garnish

Cinnamon for garnish

Directions

Put the flour in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and add the egg yolks, water, wine and olive oil. Mix the components slowly until a dough has formed. Once the dough is formed, put it on a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth.  Cover the dough and set aside. (You can also do this in an electric mixer.)

Using a paring knife make an X on one side of each chestnut. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the chestnuts and let boil for about 10 minutes. Drain the chestnuts and remove the shell and  the skin from the chestnuts.

In a food processor, chop the toasted almonds until finely ground.  Add the chestnuts and continue to grind until no large pieces remain.

Put the ground chestnuts and almonds in a bowl. Grind the chocolate in the food processor until no large pieces remain. Add to the chestnuts and almonds.

Add the honey, Amaretto, cinnamon and vanilla to the nut/chocolate mixture.  Stir well.

Roll the dough out on a floured surface to about 1/8 inch thick. Using a 3-4 inch circle cookie cutter or drinking glass, cut out circles from the dough. You should be able to get 15 rounds.

Place about 1 tablespoon in the center of each circle. Do not overfill the pastries. Fold one end over and pinch tightly around the edges to close. Seal edges completely so the filling does not come out while frying.

Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed pan.  Fry the fritters, a few at a time, until golden brown on each side.  Remove with a slotted spoon or spider and place on a paper towels to drain.

Arrange on a plate and sprinkle with powdered sugar and cinnamon.


springsoupcover

Soup for lunch, soup for dinner or soup as a starter… it’s just great to have on hand!

Soup is good for you and it tastes good. A great soup starts with a stock. What is stock? It’s just the liquid you get when you simmer meat, bones or vegetables together with aromatic vegetables and seasonings. This is what forms the major flavor base for a soup.

A homemade vegetable soup is just so much better than anything you’d get in a can. For one thing, only ingredients that you like end up in the soup. Plus, you have the opportunity to make it much healthier. Vegetable soup is also a great way to empty your refrigerator before the next trip to the grocery store — you can put almost any vegetable in a good old-fashioned vegetable soup.

You can add any vegetable you like but it’s a good idea to pick vegetables that go well together. If you add some bitter vegetables, like broccoli, brussel sprouts or turnips, try to balance it with sweeter vegetables like potatoes, carrots or peas.

If you want to avoid overcooking vegetables, add the veggies that need to cook longest first, letting them cook a bit before adding the vegetables that take the least amount of time to cook.

A soup is all about blended flavors. If you use smaller vegetable chunks, you can fit a few different kinds on a spoon and get a better taste. Smaller vegetable pieces also cook faster. The only rule to how much to add is that you should have enough broth to cover all the vegetables.

The last thing that makes up a homemade vegetable soup is the seasoning you add. The broth will tend to reduce the longer the soup cooks. That means that any seasonings added will get more intense as the soup cooks. You can avoid getting an overwhelmingly seasoned soup by adding the seasonings toward the end of the cooking time. There are plenty of seasonings that are suited to soup. Some popular seasonings are: ginger, rosemary, thyme, basil, oregano, parsley, onion powder, garlic powder and cayenne pepper.

How to Make Vegetable Stock

springsoup4

Ingredients

  • 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cups chopped onion, onion skins reserved
  • 2 cups chopped celery
  • 2 cups chopped carrot
  • 1 cup chopped parsnips
  • 1 cup chopped fennel bulb
  • Salt
  • 2 large garlic cloves, smashed (leave skins on)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoons fresh rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley

Directions

Place the dried mushrooms in a large bowl and pour 1 quart of boiling water over them. Set aside.

Heat the olive oil over high heat in a large stockpot. Add the chopped onions, celery, carrots and fennel and stir to coat. Sprinkle with salt. Cook over high heat for several minutes, stirring occasionally. Given that there are so many vegetables and they have a high moisture content, it may take more heat and longer time to brown than you would expect. Cook until the vegetables begin to brown.

Add the garlic and tomato paste and stir to combine. Cook, stirring often, for 2-3 minutes, or until the tomato paste begins to turn a rusty color. Add the mushrooms and their soaking water, the rosemary, thyme, onion skins, peppercorns, bay leaves, parsley and 4 additional quarts of water. Bring to a simmer and then turn the heat down to a simmer. The surface of the stock should just barely be bubbling. Cook for 1 1/2 hours.

Using a spider skimmer or slotted spoon, remove all the big pieces of vegetables. Discard.

Set up a large bowl or pot with a sieve set over it. Line the sieve with a plain paper towel and pour the stock through it. When you have about half the stock poured through, stop, let what’s in the strainer filter through and change the paper towels. Filter the rest of the stock.

To store, pour into glass containers and refrigerate for up to a week.

If you freeze in glass jars, leave at least an inch and a half of headroom, so the stock can expand without breaking the glass of the jar or use freezer ziplock bags.

Makes 5 quarts.

springsoup1

Spring Vegetable Soup

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 7 cups vegetable stock
  • 10 small red potatoes, quartered
  • 2 medium carrots, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 celery ribs, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 large leek, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 pound green beans, cut into 1-inch lengths
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • Freshly ground pepper

Directions

In a large pot, combine the stock with the red potatoes, carrots, celery, onion and leek. Bring to a boil. Add the salt and simmer over moderately low heat for 30 minutes.

Add the green beans and Italian seasoning and simmer until tender, 3 minutes. Stir in the parsley and season with pepper. Serve.

springsoup3

Creamy Asparagus Soup

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1 pound fresh asparagus
  • 5 cups vegetable stock
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 2 medium-sized potatoes, diced
  • Salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup light cream
  • Fresh chopped chives for garnish

Directions

Cut the bottom half of the asparagus spears into 2-inch lengths and place in them in a soup pot with the vegetable stock. Simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Remove asparagus ends with a slotted spoon and transfer to a colander over a bowl, pressing on the stalks to get as much juice from them as possible, then discarding the fibrous stalks. Add the extracted juice back into the soup pot and return the stock to a simmer.

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and add the onion, stirring while cooking for 5 minutes. Cut the top half of the asparagus stalks into 1-inch pieces. Add the asparagus pieces, celery and potato to the onion and butter. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cover the saucepan and allow vegetables to cook for 5 minutes. Add the simmering stock and cover saucepan again, cooking another 7 or 8 minutes, until the potato is tender.

Process these cooked vegetables with a hand blender or in a food processor until smooth, then add this puree back into the soup pot, adding the cream. Simmer for 5 minutes, taste and add salt and pepper, if necessary.

Served warm or chilled, garnished with fresh chives.

springsoup2

Vegetable, Fennel Soup

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 carrots, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 2 celery ribs, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 2 leeks, white parts only, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 1 fennel bulb—halved, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1 medium tomato, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 2 bay leaves, preferably fresh
  • 6 cups vegetable stock
  • One 3-inch square Parmigiano-Reggiano rind
  • 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped basil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot. Add the garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the carrots, celery, leeks and fennel and cook, stirring, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes.

Add the tomato and bay leaves and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the stock and the cheese rind and bring to a simmer. Cover partially and cook over moderately low heat until the vegetables are very tender, about 30 minutes.

Discard the cheese rind and bay leaves. Stir in the parsley and basil and season the soup with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls, sprinkle with the grated cheese and serve.

springsoup5

Italian Vegetable Soup with Orzo and Pesto

6 servings.

Pesto Ingredients

  • 1 cup fresh baby spinach, packed
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves, packed, plus extra leaves for garnish
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup canned diced tomatoes, drained (fresh may be substituted)
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Soup Ingredients

  • 2 leeks, white parts only, chopped (1 bunch of green onions may be substituted)
  • 3 carrots, peeled and sliced thin
  • 1 medium white potato, peeled and cubed
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 cup orzo
  • 1 cup green beans, cut into 1/2-inch slices (can also use frozen)
  • 1 (15-oz.) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper, or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons shredded Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese

Directions

Puree all pesto ingredients in a food processor. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

In large pot combine leeks, carrots, potato, stock and Italian seasoning. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until vegetables are almost tender, 8-10 minutes.

Add orzo and boil uncovered until orzo is almost tender, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Add green beans, cannellini beans and red pepper, cover and simmer 5-7 minutes.

Ladle soup into serving bowls. Divide pesto among the servings and swirl in to blend. Sprinkle with cheese, garnish with fresh basil leaves and serve.



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