Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Herbs

appetizer cover

What kinds of appetizers should you serve on Thanksgiving or before other holiday dinners? What kinds of appetizers you serve depends on how much you want to spend and what type of event you’re cooking for. Don’t think, however, that appetizers have to be fancy and unusual. It’s best to lean toward the practical side and serve appetizers that most people like.

For a formal or semi-formal party: Serve such items as chilled shrimp with a dipping sauce, oysters on the half shell, mini quiches, stuffed mushrooms, finger sandwiches, tartlets, baked brie with crackers and cocktail meatballs.
For home-style parties: Serve various chips and dips, meat and cheese trays, cracker trays, cocktail sausages, cheese balls, chicken nuggets and veggies.
Generally, serving appetizers is a good idea. Appetizers give guests something to do, while waiting for dinner.

This time of year, however, can turn into an eating frenzy. Cocktails, dips laden with fat, fried food and lots of sweet desserts can be the usual fare. Not exactly healthy. While you don’t necessarily have to eat like you are dieting, remember that you may be eating a lot more calories at these holiday parties than you really want or need. Thanksgiving dinner alone can be over indulgent. You, also, want appetizers that won’t ruin your guests appetites for the main event.

Appetizers are just that – a little something in anticipation of the main meal. They should not be the main meal, unless this is a cocktail party where dinner will not be served.

Some tips on creating healthy but good tasting appetizers:

Don’t overlook the power of a good vegetable tray, especially served alongside a low-fat dip with great flavor. Here is a tip for giving the vegetables good taste – boil the vegetables for one minute in abundant salted water, drain, chill in ice water, drain and dry the vegetables. Chill in the refrigerator.until serving time.

It’s easy to go overboard when it comes to pre-dinner cheeses. Serve lower fat cheeses like Swiss, fresh mozzarella or well aged Italian hard cheeses that can be eaten without crackers.

Wrap small pieces of cheese or fruit in pieces of prosciutto for a delicious appetizer.

Healthier fresh salsas and bean purées or hummus make for smart dips. Serve baked snacks instead of fried.

Popcorn is a healthy whole grain and can be dressed up with flavorful herbs and spices for a special-occasion treat.

For recipes that call for a cup of regular mayonnaise, blend 1/2 cup of light mayonnaise and 1/2 cup of fat-free sour cream or Greek yogurt. You’ll cut more than 1,000 calories and more than 130 grams of fat for every 1 cup.

Nuts are an excellent party snack, especially almonds or walnuts because they offer the best health benefits. They are a great protein source and the fat in them will help keep you fuller and not as tempted to binge.

Be mindful of what drinks you choose and be careful not to go overboard—especially during the appetizer course. Remember, too, that the size of the glass and serving makes a big difference. A serving of wine is 5 oz.

Here are some easy appetizers you may like to prepare for your future holiday gatherings.

Green-Olive-Tapenade-Resized-006

Artichoke Tapenade

Good on a vegetable tray.

Yield: 1 1/2 cups

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons capers, drained
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 10 large pitted green olives
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained or one package of frozen artichoke hearts, defrosted

Directions

Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until smooth.

appetizer crab

Crab Stuffed Mushrooms

Ingredients

  • 16 small cremini mushrooms, stems removed
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 8 ounces lump crabmeat, picked over
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • Lemon wedges, for serving

Directions

Prepare the mushrooms: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Toss the mushrooms with 1 tablespoon olive oil, the garlic powder and season with salt. Arrange the mushrooms snugly in a baking dish and bake until tender, about 15 minutes.

Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the shallot and crab meat; cook until the shallot is soft, about 3 minutes. Stir in the wine and cook until slightly reduced, about 1 minute. Add the lemon zest, juice and parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Remove the skillet from the heat and push the crab mixture to one side of the skillet; let any excess juices collect on the opposite side.

Remove the mushrooms from the oven and preheat the broiler. Stuff the mushrooms with the crab mixture. Toss the panko with the juices in the skillet; sprinkle over the mushrooms. Broil until golden, about 2 minutes. Squeeze lemon wedges on top.

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Chicken Salad Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 2 (8-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Chicken broth
  • 16 cherry tomatoes
  • 2 Granny Smith apples
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice, to keep apples from turning brown
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons light mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 16 very small leaves rosemary, for garnish

Directions

Poach chicken in enough chicken broth to just cover the breasts for about 8 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer in the thickest part of the meat registers 165°F. Set aside to cool.

Carefully cut off a thin slice of the top of the tomatoes (be careful not to remove too much) and scoop out seeds. (A 1/4 teaspoon measuring spoon works well for this procedure.)

Peel apples, remove core and chop fine and coat in lemon juice.

Finely chop cooled chicken, season with salt and pepper and cinnamon, stir in mayonnaise and chopped parsley, mixing well.

Spoon chicken salad into tomatoes and garnish with the rosemary leaves. Chill until serving time.

appetizerGrilledPrawn

Broiled Shrimp with Caper Sauce

This recipe is easily doubled.

Ingredients

Sauce

  • 1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup large capers, drained and finely chopped
  • 1 small shallot, finely minced
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Shrimp

  • 12 extra-large shrimp, about 1 pound, peeled, deveined, tail left on
  • 3 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Preheat the broiler.

To make the sauce: In a small bowl, stir together the yogurt, capers, shallots and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Let stand to allow flavors to mingle.

To make the shrimp:  Mix shrimp with oil, lemon juice, garlic, oregano and season well with salt and pepper. Place shrimp on a broiler pan.

Broil the shrimp, turning once, until bright pink and just cooked through, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes per side. Serve with the sauce.

appetizer falafel

Baked Falafel

Ingredients

  • One 15- to 16-ounce can low salt chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 small onion or 2 scallions (white and light green parts), roughly chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 3 tablespoons roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Juice of 1 lemon, divided (3 tablespoons)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Hummus, tzatziki or tahini sauce as a condiment

Directions
Preheat oven to 450°F and set racks in upper and lower thirds of oven. Grease or line 2 baking sheets with parchment or foil.

Combine the chickpeas, onion, garlic, parsley, spices, flour, baking powder, half of the lemon juice, 1 tablespoon olive oil and salt and pepper to taste in a food processor. Pulse until well combined but mixture is still relatively coarse. You do not want a puree.

Using your hands or a small cookie scoop, shape the mixture into about 24 balls (roughly 1½ inches in diameter) and arrange on the the prepared baking sheets. Flatten each slightly and brush the tops with the remaining olive oil.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, then turn patties (rotating the trays when you take them out) and bake for another 10-12 minutes or until brown. Serve with hummus or yogurt sauce..

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Meatloaf does not enjoy the very best reputation in the food world. Why? because it can be dry or lack flavor. A well made meatloaf is delicious and makes wonderful sandwiches.

Some important tips to help you make a good meatloaf:

Don’t handle the mixture too much. If you over mix the ground meat it will compact, squeezing liquid out during cooking, resulting in a tougher, drier loaf.

Meatloaf consists of three basic ingredients: ground meat, a binder like bread crumbs or oatmeal and a liquid. Soak the binder in the liquid before adding it to the meat. Then you won’t end up with dry chunks of bread in your meatloaf – one of the most common complaints about meatloaf.

When you’re making meatloaf from ground turkey or chicken, you must add lots of binder or the loaf will be too compact and heavy. For traditional meatloaf recipes, you can use all ground beef or add ground pork to the mixture for a little lighter texture and a more interesting loaf. Make sure your meat mixture is not too lean. Aim for about 15 percent fat.

Adding other ingredients to a meatloaf will help add moisture and flavor and make the texture lighter. Plus you’ll get more vitamins and minerals in each serving! You can add mashed or grated carrots or potatoes, diced and cooked onions, chopped tomatoes, chopped mushrooms, cooked spinach and cheese. The meatloaf might not hold together as perfectly with these add-ins, but it will taste fabulous. And seasonings are so important.

After the meatloaf is cooked (when it reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees), let the meatloaf sit for 15 minutes before serving. This allows the juices to redistribute so the texture is moist and tender.

Here is what you need for basic meatloaf:

2 pounds of ground meat: any combination of beef, pork, lamb, ham, sausage, turkey, chicken

Baking dish, loaf pan or broiler pan and a saute pan for the vegetables

Flavoring ingredients: herbs, spices, sautéed vegetables

Binder: dried bread crumbs, fresh bread slices, oats,

Liquid ingredients: eggs, milk, tomato sauce, ketchup, broth

Brush a glaze across the top of your meatloaf to make the meat more moist

An instant-read thermometer for testing the temperature of the cooked meatloaf

Classic Meatloaf

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil; more for the baking pan
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 lb. ground beef, 85-percent lean
  • 1/2 lb. ground veal or turkey
  • 1/2 lb. ground pork
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 3/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs made from firm country white bread
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 slices uncooked bacon

Directions

Heat the oven to 350°F.

In a small skillet, heat the oil; add the onions and cook over medium heat until soft, about 4 min. Add the garlic and sauté another 1 to 2 minutes to soften. Set aside to cool.

In a large mixing bowl, combine all the remaining ingredients except the bacon and add the cooled onion-garlic mixture. Mix with your hands just until the ingredients are combined. Don’t overwork the meat.

Oil a rimmed baking pan or jelly roll pan, turn the meat mixture out onto the pan and shape it into a large oval loaf. Place strips of bacon across the shaped loaf.

Bake the meatloaf until an instant-read thermometer registers 160°F, 60-75 minutes. Before slicing, let the meatloaf rest for 10 to 15 minutes to allow some carryover cooking and to let the juices redistribute. Slice and serve.

Variations

For a little extra color, sauté 1 cup diced red, green or yellow bell peppers along with the onions and garlic; when cool, fold them into the rest of the mixture.

The simple addition of 1/4 cup shredded basil and 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese will offer another level of flavor or you could add a tablespoon of a favorite fresh herb, such as thyme or rosemary.

Here are some additional ways to make a meatloaf:

turkey_meatloaf

Mushroom Turkey Loaf

Serves 6.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 2 small leeks or 1 large, white and light-green parts only, thinly sliced, washed and dried
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup shredded Italian fontina cheese (4 ounces)
  • 1 slice day-old bread, cubed
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage leaves, plus extra for garnish
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground turkey

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high. Working in batches, cook mushrooms, stirring once or twice, until deep golden brown, about 5 minutes per batch. Season with salt and pepper; transfer to a large mixing bowl.

Return skillet to medium and add 1 tablespoon oil. Add leeks and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 4 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Add to bowl with the mushrooms and let cool.

Add fontina cheese, bread, egg, and sage to the bowl with the mushrooms and mix until thoroughly combined. Mix in turkey, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Turn out mixture onto a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet and use your hands to form turkey mixture into a 10-inch loaf.

Bake until cooked through, about 45 minutes or until a thermometer inserted in the center reads at least 160°F. Let rest 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with extra sage leaves, if desired.

mediterranean-meat-loaf

Italian Meatloaf

Ingredients:

  • 1- 8 ounce jar sliced roasted red peppers, drained, finely chopped and 2 tablespoons reserved for the top
  • 1/4 cup chopped black or green olives
  • 1/2 large onion finely chopped
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 ½ cups dried seasoned Italian bread crumbs
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup marinara sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 pounds lean ground grass-fed beef
  • Chopped parsley for garnish

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine the finely chopped roasted red peppers, olives, onion, garlic, bread crumbs, egg, marinara sauce, Italian seasoning, salt and black pepper. Add ground beef; mix well.

Shape into a loaf in a glass baking dish (8”x4”). Bake, uncovered, for 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 hours or until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center of the meat loaf registers 160 degrees F.

Let stand on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Drain off any fat from meat loaf; loosen meat loaf from sides of pan and turn out onto a serving platter. Sprinkle reserved chopped peppers and chopped parsley on top, slice and serve.

Old-fashioned-Glazed-Meatloaf

Vegetable Filled Meatloaf with BBQ Glaze

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large zucchini, finely diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, finely diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, smashed to a paste with a little coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, divided
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves, plus more for garnish
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 pound ground beef chuck
  • 1 cup panko (Japanese) bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup ketchup

BBQ Glaze

  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons packed brown sugar

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

For the Glaze: combine all ingredients in a small saucepan; bring to simmer over medium heat and cook, stirring, until thick and syrupy, about 5 minutes.

Heat the oil in a large saute pan over high heat. Add the zucchini, peppers, garlic paste, the crushed red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, to taste, and cook until almost soft, 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Whisk together the eggs and herbs in a large bowl. Add the meat, bread crumbs, cheese, the 1/2 cup of ketchup and the cooled vegetables and mix until just combined.

Mold the meatloaf on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush half the glaze over the entire loaf. Bake the meatloaf for 1 to 1 1/4 hours or until a thermometer inserted in the meat loaf reads 160°F.

Remove from the oven and brush with the remaining glaze. Let rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

sausage meatloaf

Rolled Italian Sausage Meat Loaf

Ingredients

  • 3/4 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 1/4 lb Italian sausage, mixed hot and sweet, casings removed
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup marinara sauce
  • 1/4 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (8 oz)
  • 2 cups loosely packed fresh baby spinach leaves

Directions

Heat oven to 350°F.

In large bowl, mix ground beef, sausage, egg, 1/2 cup of the marinara sauce, the bread crumbs and pepper together.

On a large piece of foil, pat mixture to a 12×8 inch rectangle.

Sprinkle evenly with shredded cheese; gently press into meat. Top with spinach leaves.

Starting at the short end, roll up tightly, using the foil to start the roll and tucking in spinach leaves; seal ends. Place seam side down in an ungreased 12×8 inch (2 quart) glass baking dish.

Bake 1 hour. Spread remaining sauce over the top. Bake 15 minutes longer or until a thermometer inserted in the meat loaf reads 160°F. Let stand 5 to 10 minutes before serving.


fallpasta

WHITE BIRCHES by Leonid Afremov

Pasta is a great way to warm yourself up after a long day and there are so many different types of pasta dishes out there. Make the most of the fall harvest and use butternut squash, pumpkin, apples, pears, sweet potatoes, greens, Brussels sprouts and cranberries in your cooking.

For a really healthy, fast way to serve pasta cook up some fresh chopped vegetables while your pasta is boiling,. You can steam the vegetables, cook them in the microwave with a little water or saute with just a little oil. I always use onion and garlic as well for flavor. Then add any of the following: finely diced mushrooms, broccoli florets, cauliflower florets, diced carrots, peas, sweet corn niblets, canned chickpeas, any type of bean or any other fresh, seasonal vegetable. Add fresh herbs to taste, if you have them. When the pasta is cooked, stir the vegetables through, with some pesto or tomato sauce – either homemade or store-bought– sprinkle some grated Parmesan on top and you are done.

Another great way to serve pasta with vegetables is to use roasted vegetables. In a small bowl, stir together thyme, rosemary, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Toss with vegetables until they are coated. Spread evenly on a large roasting pan. Roast in a 450 degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes in the preheated oven, stirring every 10 minutes, or until vegetables are cooked through and browned. When the pasta is done and drained, scape in the vegetables and their juices from the roasting pan and mix with canned tomatoes or pesto as a sauce. The roasted vegetables have great flavor and are also a good way to make use of vegetables that are past their peak of freshness.

Pasta Bake

Make this, when you have a little more time, on those days when just a bowl of pasta doesn’t seem like enough. Make pasta with the vegetable sauce as above. You can add a can of flaked tuna or some diced cooked chicken to make the dish more substantial. Put the cooked pasta into an ovenproof dish. Make a béchamel sauce, by blending together 1/2 cup flour with a 1/4 cup butter or vegetable spread over a low heat, and gradually whisk in 2 cups low-fat milk to form a sauce. Season with pepper and grated nutmeg and pour over the pasta. Sprinkle with grated cheese on top and bake in a moderate oven for 25 minutes or until the top is browned and bubbling. Serve with a green salad.

fallpasta1

Baked Pumpkin and Sausage Rigatoni

You can use 1 medium butternut squash (about 1 1/2 pounds), baked in the oven and the flesh scooped out instead of the pumpkin.

8 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 12 ounces links uncooked hot Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
  • 1 29 ounce can solid-pack pumpkin
  • 1 1/2 cups low-fat milk
  • 4 ounces Neufchatel (light cream cheese) cheese, softened
  • 2 egg yolks, beaten
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons grated Asiago cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 3/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound rigatoni
  • 1/3 cup panko bread crumbs

Directions

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to boiling.

Add sausage to a large skillet set over medium heat. Cook 8 to 10 minutes or until browned, breaking apart with a wooden spoon. Stir in sage and cook 1 minute. Remove with a slotted spoon; set aside. Pour off and discard drippings.

In the same skillet, whisk pumpkin, milk, Neufchatel, egg yolks, 1 cup of the Asiago, the nutmeg, pumpkin pie spice and salt. Stir over medium heat until cheeses are melted.

Meanwhile, cook rigatoni in the boiling water 1 minute less than the package directions, about 9 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water. Return pasta to the pot. Stir in sausage, pumpkin mixture and reserved pasta water.

Mix well to combine. Transfer to a 13 x 9 x 2-inch dish and top with panko and remaining 2 tablespoons Asiago. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes. Turn broiler on HIGH and broil 1 to 2 minutes or until the top is lightly browned.

fallpasta2

Bucatini with Mushrooms

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup dried porcini mushrooms (about 1/2 ounce)
  • 2/3 cup boiling water
  • 8 ounces uncooked bucatini
  • 3 1/4 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 8 ounces white mushrooms or mushroom blend, coarsely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons dry sherry
  • 2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon truffle oil
  • Sage sprigs for garnish

Directions

Rinse porcini thoroughly. Combine porcini and 2/3 cup boiling water in a bowl; cover and let stand 30 minutes. Drain in a sieve over a bowl, reserving 1/4 cup of the soaking liquid. Chop porcini and set aside.

Cook pasta with 1 tablespoon salt in boiling water 10 minutes or until al dente; drain in a colander over a bowl, reserving 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking liquid.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallots, mushrooms and garlic; sauté 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in porcini, sherry and 1/4 teaspoon salt; cook 1 minute or until liquid evaporates.

Finely grate 1 ounce of the cheese; crumble remaining cheese. Reduce heat to medium. Stir in pasta, 1/4 cup reserved pasta cooking liquid, 1/4 cup reserved porcini soaking liquid, 1/4 cup grated cheese, cream, chopped sage and pepper; toss well to combine. Drizzle with truffle oil; toss. Place about 1 1/4 cups pasta mixture on each of 4 plates; top each serving with about 1 tablespoon of crumbled cheese. Garnish with sage sprigs, if desired.

fallpasta3

Pasta Shells with Chicken and Brussels Sprouts

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/3 pounds in all)
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper, divided
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3/4 pound fresh Brussels sprouts (or one 10-ounce package frozen), cut into quarters from top to stem end
  • 1 cup canned low-sodium chicken broth or homemade stock
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried red-pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 pound medium pasta shells
  • Lemon for garnish

Directions

In a large nonstick frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon each of the oil and the butter over moderate heat. Season the chicken with 1/4 teaspoon each of the salt and pepper. Cook the breasts until browned and just done, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Remove the chicken from the pan and let it rest for 5 minutes. Cut into small pieces.

In the same pan, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil over moderately low heat. Add the red onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until starting to soften, about 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic, Brussels sprouts, broth and red-pepper flakes. Bring to a simmer and cook, covered, 5 minutes. Add the chicken, lemon juice, parsley, Parmesan, the remaining 1 tablespoon butter, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Remove from the heat.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the pasta until just done, about 10 minutes. Drain and toss with the sauce. Garnish with lemons

fallpasta4

Sausage-Cauliflower Spaghetti

Ingredients

  • Kosher salt
  • 12 ounces spaghetti
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 12 ounces sweet Italian pork or turkey sausage, casings removed
  • 6 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 small head cauliflower, broken into small florets
  • 1 bunch scallions, chopped
  • 1 cup grated pecorino romano or parmesan cheese

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook al dente. Reserve 2 cups of the pasta cooking water, then drain.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Crumble the sausage into the skillet and cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until lightly browned and no longer pink, 4 to 5 minutes. Clear a space in the pan, add the garlic and cook until just golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the cauliflower and cook until the edges are browned, about 2 minutes.

Add 1 cup of the reserved cooking water, cover and reduce the heat to medium. Cook until the cauliflower is tender, about 8 more minutes. Uncover and boil over high heat until the liquid is almost evaporated, about 2 more minutes.

Add the spaghetti to the skillet along with the scallions. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt. Toss for a minute or two to wilt the scallions and coat the pasta with the sauce, adding up to 1 cup cooking water, if needed, to loosen. Remove from the heat, sprinkle with the cheese and toss. Divide among shallow bowls and drizzle with more olive oil, if desired.

fallpasta5

Penne with Fennel and Pork Ragù

Ingredients

  • 2 lb ground pork, preferably from the shoulder
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 3 cups minced fennel bulb
  • 3 cups minced onions
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 cups dry white wine
  • 4 cups (or more) low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 12-oz. can diced Italian tomatoes
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lb penne pasta
  • Finely grated Parmesan

Directions

Using your hands, thoroughly mix ground pork and the 2 teaspoons of salt in a large bowl. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Roll pork mixture into 16–18 large meatballs (about ¼-cupful each). Heat 1½ tablespoons of olive oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat. Working in 2 batches and adding the remaining 1½ tablespoons of olive oil between batches, cook meatballs until all sides are brown, adjusting heat to prevent browned bits on the  bottom of pan from burning (they will flavor the sauce later), about 8 minutes per batch. Transfer meatballs to a paper towel–lined plate to drain.

Reduce heat to medium. Scatter fennel, onions and garlic over the bottom of the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally as needed to prevent sticking, until vegetables are translucent and juices have evaporated, about 25 minutes. (A flavorful browned layer may form on the bottom of pan. The moisture from the vegetables will help loosen it from the pot as you stir.)

Add wine, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pot, and bring to a simmer. Cook until the wine has reduced by three-quarters, about 15 minutes. Return meatballs to the pot. Add the 4 cups of broth and the tomatoes. Return sauce to a simmer, scraping up all browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Simmer over medium-low heat, covered with lid slightly ajar and stirring occasionally, until meatballs are very tender, about 2½ hours.

Using a potato masher or fork, break meatballs into small pieces. If sauce is too thick, add broth by the half cupfuls until desired consistency forms. Season ragù to taste with salt and pepper.

DO AHEAD: Ragù can be made 3 days ahead. Let cool in the pot, cover and place in the refrigerator. Return sauce to a simmer before continuing.

Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Cook pasta stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain and transfer to pot with the hot ragù. Stir until well incorporated.

Transfer pasta to a large wide bowl. Sprinkle with cheese.


beans

Beans play an essential role in Italian cooking and, consequently, they are grown throughout the country. From Sicily in the south to Piedmont and Veneto in the north, various regions produce different kinds of beans, all of which are enjoyed by the Italian culture. While many cooks will substitute one white bean for another, each type provides its own individual shape and texture to a given dish.

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Borlotti (cranberry beans) is a favorite bean in northern Italy. These red, tan and brown speckled beans turn  dark brown on the outside and  yellow on the inside when cooked. They add a creamy consistency to any recipe.

beans1

The region of Tuscany is famous for Cannellini, white kidney beans, and are simply referred to as fagioli. Other popular Tuscan white beans include sorani, toscanello, corona and schiaccianoci.

beans4

Chickpeas (Cece) or Garbanzo Beans are the most widely consumed legume in the world and have been adopted in every region of Italy. The chickpea has a round shape and are beige in color. They have a firm texture with a flavor somewhere between chestnuts and walnuts. Chickpeas can be cooked in soups and stews, added to pasta, eaten cold in salads and ground into a gluten-free flour.

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Corona, a large white bean,  is a member of the runner family and when cooked, they almost triple in size. This is one reason this hearty bean is often called the “poor man’s meat.”

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Fava beans are a staple of Abruzzo, Puglia, Campania, as well as Sicily. A staple of southern Italian cuisine, fava beans are hardy and widely available.

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Lentils, or lenticchie, are eaten all across Italy. With their nutty taste, lentils are ideally small and brown. The most select lentils are grown in Umbria, Abruzzo and Sicily. Although lentils do not require soaking previous to cooking, they are best when soaked for about an hour.

With all beans, keep in mind that the fresher the bean, the better it will taste when used in your favorite recipes.

A diet rich in fiber is a great preventative of coronary heart disease and colon cancer. Beans can provide a reduction in serum cholesterol levels and are also thought to prevent diabetes in at-risk individuals. Additionally, beans contain more protein than any other vegetable; some beans even rival chicken or meat in protein content.

Cooking beans at home is a simple way to save money and provide the base for many healthy meals. It requires little effort and they’re easy to keep on hand in the refrigerator or freezer. You can quickly put together soups, salads, dips and spreads.

Basic Directions for Cooking Dried Beans

Makes about 6 cups

Ingredients

  • 1 pound dried beans
  • 1 yellow onion, quartered
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Sea salt and ground black pepper to taste

Directions

Spread beans in a single layer on a large sheet tray; pick through to remove and discard any small stones or debris and then rinse well.

Soak the beans using one of these two methods:

Traditional soaking method: In a large bowl, cover beans with 3 inches of cold water, cover and set aside at room temperature for 8 hours or overnight.

Quick soaking method: In a large pot, cover beans with 3 inches of cold water, cover and bring to a boil. Boil for 1 minute, remove pot from heat and set aside, covered, for 1 hour.

Drain soaked beans and transfer to a large pot. Cover with 2 inches of cold water, add onion and bay leaves and bring to a boil; skim off and discard any foam on the surface. Reduce heat, cover and simmer, gently stirring occasionally, until beans are tender, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Drain beans, discard onions and bay leaves and season with salt and pepper.

Beans develop flavor as they cook, but the flavor is subtle. You can boost the flavor of cooked beans by adding aromatic root vegetables, herbs and spices or meat to the pot near the end of cooking—the last 10 to 30 minutes. The flavor of the vegetables, herbs and meat is infused in the water and in turn is drawn into the bean. The conventional wisdom about salting beans is that salt toughens the skins as they cook. So it is best to add salt at the end of the cooking time. Do not add acidic ingredients, like vinegar, tomatoes or tomato juice, as this will slow the cooking process. Instead, add these ingredients after the beans are cooked.

Here are several flavoring options to add near the end of cooking dried beans:

  • Sauté separately diced aromatic vegetables—onions, celery, carrots, leeks, celery root, parsnip, garlic–in olive oil until just soft then stir them into the bean pot with about 10 minutes left to cook.
  • At the end of cooking, stir in salt and pepper to taste, add a bouquet garni–a few thyme sprigs, parsley stems and two bay leaves tied in kitchen twine–to soak.
  • Add a ham hock or a piece of prosciutto to cook with the beans for a deep meaty flavor. Diced bacon or ham steak added to the liquid will also deliver flavor to the beans, as will chunks of beef, pork or lamb.
  • When using beans in a soup, you can thicken the soup by transferring a cup or two of the cooked beans and broth to a blender and purée thoroughly. Then return the purée to the cooking pot.

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Orecchiette Pasta with Spinach and Beans

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound orecchiette pasta (small ears)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 12 ounces fresh spinach leaves, chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 2 cups cooked cannellini beans, drained
  • Parmesan cheese, grated

Directions:

Cook the orecchiette in boiling water  for 1-2 minutes less than the recommended cooking time. Drain and do not rinse.

While the pasta is cooking, saute garlic and red pepper flakes in oil in a saute pan for 1-2 minutes.  Do not allow garlic to brown. Add spinach, salt and pepper. Saute until the spinach is wilted. Add broth and simmer about 5 minutes. Add beans and drained orecchiette to the broth mixture. Stir to combine and cook 1-2 more minutes. Transfer to a serving dish.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

TIP: If you under cook pasta by a few minutes and then add it to your soup to finish the cooking time, the pasta will absorb some of the broth and be more flavorful.

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Bean and Sausage Stew

4 Servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 4 Italian sausage links, either pork or turkey, cut in half
  • 1 cup cooked beans, drained
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 2 carrots, peeled and sliced into 1-inch pieces
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 small potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

In a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed 6-quart pot, heat the olive oil over medium high. Brown the sausages on all sides for about 10 minutes and remove onto a plate.

Add the onions to the pot and cook for 5 minutes, until slightly translucent. Add the remaining ingredients.

Bring to a boil, return the sausage to the pot and reduce the heat to medium low.

Cook, partially covered, for about 30 minutes or until the squash is tender when pierced with a fork. Adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper to taste.

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Herbed Lentils with Spinach and Tomatoes

Serve with pita bread

Ingredients

  • 1 cup lentils
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons diced shallots
  • 3 cups baby spinach leaves (about 3 ounces)
  • 14 oz. diced tomatoes, slightly drained
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Place the lentils in a pot with the water and let rest one hour. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until the lentils are tender but still retain their shape. Drain any excess water from the lentils and set them aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over a medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook until they are softened, about 3 minutes. Add the spinach and cook until just wilted, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, lentils, basil and parsley to the pan and stir to combine. Cook until warmed through. Stir in the lemon juice, salt and pepper and serve.

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Beans and Broccoli 

Ingredients

  • 2 cups dried large white beans (corona), soaked overnight
  • 3 ounces Parmesan cheese with rind
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 1 head garlic, halved crosswise
  • Kosher salt
  • 1½ pounds broccoli, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup olive oil, divided
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 anchovy fillets packed in oil, drained, finely chopped
  • 2 wide strips lemon zest, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

Directions

Drain beans and place in a large heavy pot. Remove the rind from the cheese and add to the beans along with the onion and garlic. Pour in water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, adding water as needed to keep beans submerged, until beans are tender, about 2 hours. Season with salt. Let the beans cool in the liquid. Discard vegetables and Parmesan rind, then drain.

Preheat oven to 450°F. Mix broccoli with ¼ cup oil on a rimmed baking sheet; season with salt and pepper. Roast, turning occasionally, until tender and lightly charred, 15–20 minutes. Let cool. Finely chop the broccoli.

In a large bowl combine the anchovies, lemon zest, lemon juice, remaining ¼ cup of olive oil and beans. Mix gently. Add the broccoli and season with salt and pepper, if needed. Shave Parmesan cheese over the mixture and serve.

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Braised Chicken with Fennel and White Beans

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cut-up whole chicken (about 3 lbs)
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse (kosher or sea) salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 small onion, cut into thin wedges
  • 2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 fennel bulb, quartered, cored, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium yellow bell pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 1 can (28 oz) Italian whole peeled tomatoes, undrained
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 2 cups cooked beans
  • Chopped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley

Directions

In a deep 12-inch skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Add chicken pieces to the skillet; cook 5 to 6 minutes, turning occasionally, until chicken is light golden brown. Remove chicken from skillet to a platter.

Add onion, garlic, fennel and bell pepper to the skillet. Cook 2 to 3 minutes, stirring constantly, until vegetables are crisp-tender. Add browned chicken, tomatoes, wine and rosemary. Heat to boiling. Reduce heat; cover and simmer 20 to 25 minutes, turning chicken once, until chicken is tender.

Stir in beans. Cook uncovered about 5 minutes longer or until sauce is slightly thickened and juice of chicken is clear, when the thickest area reads 165°F on a meat thermometer. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.


fallpizza

If the chill in the air has you wanting to make some heartier pizzas, look no further for inspiration than the fall farmers’ market. Apples, butternut squash, sage, kale, mushrooms, cauliflower, figs…these ingredients are perfect. The American Heart Association recommends eating eight or more fruit or vegetable servings each day. This fall’s harvest offers the opportunity to revisit the classics while searching for new flavors. What better way to enjoy these ingredients than on a pizza. You can prepare it so many different ways, so experiment and have fun with it. Who knows? Maybe you will create a new family favorite that you can look forward to year after year.

Master Pizza Dough Recipe:

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Make this dough at least one day ahead.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour
  • ½ cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • Semolina flour for dusting

Directions

Combine the flour, salt and yeast in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the oil, honey and water and stir on low-speed until the flour is all absorbed. Switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for 5 to 7 minutes, or as long as it takes to create a smooth, sticky dough. Transfer the dough to floured work surface and gently round into a ball. Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight (or up to 3 days).

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Sage Pesto and Butternut Squash Pizza

For a vegetarian version, leave out the pancetta.

Ingredients

  • One prepared pizza dough, see above, or your favorite pizza dough
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons sage pesto (recipe follows)
  • 3/4 cup caramelized butternut squash (recipe follows)
  • 2 ounces Fontina cheese, shredded
  • 4 thin slices of pancetta cut into bite size pieces
  • 1 leek (white part only), halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4 inch slices
  • Fresh cracked pepper to taste
  • Grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • Freshly grated nutmeg to taste

Sage pesto:

  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh sage leaves
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Caramelized butternut squash:

  • 1/2 small butternut squash cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

For the sage pesto:

Combine the walnuts, sage, parsley, salt and nutmeg in the bowl of a food processor and pulse 10 to 15 times to break up the walnuts and herbs somewhat. With the processor running, slowly pour in the olive oil. Process until smooth. Taste and add additional salt, if needed.

For the caramelized butternut squash:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place the diced squash on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Drizzle with the olive oil and add salt and pepper to taste. Bake for 30 minutes or until the squash is tender, mixing once after 15 minutes. Let cool.

To make the pizza:

Remove dough from the refrigerator and rest at room temperature for 2 hours.

In a small skillet heat the 1 tablespoon of oil and saute the pancetta and leek until  the pancetta begins to brown. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and place a pizza stone on the bottom rack of the oven. On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough a few times and form it into a round flat disc. Roll or stretch the dough out in a 15 inch pizza pan or a 13×9 rectangular baking pan .

Spread the sage pesto on the dough and then evenly distribute the caramelized squash, the Fontina cheese, the pancetta and the leek. Place the pan on the pizza stone and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until lightly brown. Remove from the oven and add fresh cracked pepper, Parmigiano Reggiano, and additional nutmeg. Slice and serve immediately.

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Fennel, Onion and Italian Sausage Pizza

Ingredients:

  • 1 recipe pizza dough, recipe above
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 large fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 ounces whole-milk fresh mozzarella cheese, coarsely grated
  • Freshly shaved Parmesan cheese
  • Chopped fennel fronds, for garnish

Directions:

Remove dough from refrigerator and rest at room temperature for 2 hours. On a lightly floured work surface, gently press the dough into flat disks about 1/2 inch thick and 5 inches in diameter.

At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, place a baking stone on a rack in the lower third of the oven. Heat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Saute crumbled Italian sausage in a skillet until no longer brown. Set aside. In the same skillet heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet. Add onion, thyme, salt and fennel and cook over medium heat until onions are soft and golden and the fennel is tender, about 15 minutes.

On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough a few times and form it into a round flat disc. Roll or stretch the dough out in a 15 inch pizza pan or a 13×9 rectangular baking pan .

Brush the crust with a thin layer of olive oil. Spread with grated mozzarella and top with sausage, the onion and fennel mixture. Season with pepper.

Place the pan on the pizza stone and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until lightly brown.Remove from the oven and transfer to a cutting board. Sprinkle with shaved Parmesan and a few fennel fronds. Let rest for 3 to 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

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Mushroom, Kale Pizza with Roasted Garlic Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 large head roasted garlic, see recipe below
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 large Portobello mushroom, thinly sliced
  • 3 cups torn kale leaves (not tightly packed!)
  • 1 prepared pizza crust, at room temperature
  • 1 cup shredded fontina or mozzarella cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Place a pizza stone on the bottom rack in the oven.

Remove roasted garlic cloves from their skins and place in small bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and mash with fork until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Heat remaining olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushroom slices and cook until softened, 3-5 minutes. Add kale and cook until wilted, about 3 minutes more. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper.

Place pizza dough in a 14-15 inch pizza pan and push dough to the edges.

Spread roasted garlic sauce onto the crust, leaving a 1-inch edge on all sides. Top with half of cheese, mushrooms and kale, then remaining cheese.

Transfer pizza pan to the pizza stone. Bake 15-20 minutes or until crust is golden brown and kale is just beginning to crisp.

Roasted Garlic:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Slice off the top of the head of garlic to expose some of the cloves inside. Place the head on a piece of foil. Drizzle with olive oil and wrap in the foil. Roast until the cloves are lightly browned and tender, about 30 minutes.

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Roasted Fall Vegetable Pizza

Any combination of roasted vegetables, you like, can work in this recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1 small, thin eggplant, sliced thin
  • 1 zucchini, halved, sliced thin
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1 red onion, peeled, cut into eighths
  • 1 red, yellow or green bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
  • 1 prepared pizza dough, recipe from above
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 3/4 cup ricotta cheese
  • Garnish with fresh basil

Directions

Remove dough from the refrigerator. Let stand, covered, for 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Toss together the first 8 ingredients with 3 tablespoons of olive oil and arrange in a single layer in 2 aluminum foil-lined 15 x 10-inch jelly roll pans.

Bake for 45 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and golden brown.

Turn the oven temperature up to 450 degrees F. Place a pizza stone on the bottom rack of the oven.

Press dough out in a 15-inch pizza pan and coat crust with remaining olive oil.

Sprinkle 1/2 cup mozzarella over the crust and top with roasted vegetables. Sprinkle 1/2 cup mozzarella and crushed red pepper over the vegetable mixture. Place the pan on the pizza stone and bake 10 minutes.

Remove pizza from the oven and dollop the ricotta cheese over the top of the pizza. Return the pizza to the oven and bake 10 more minutes or until the crust is crisp and cheese is melted. Garnish with basil, if desired.


casseroles

Casserole is a French word for “pot” or “pan” and it refers not only to mixed-ingredient, one-dish meals, but also the vessel they are cooked in; a casserole is a type of cooking pan. The idea of casseroles dates back as far as the thirteenth century, but it wasn’t until the 1900s that they started to gain widespread popularity. The scarcity of food (and rationing) during the World Wars, the invention of canned foods (especially soup), and the changing role of women in society as they joined the workforce all contributed to the success of these convenient and economical one-dish meals. By the middle of the twentieth century, the casserole craze was in full swing.

Casseroles are still popular today for many of the same reasons; most are easy to make, cost very little to put together and can be made ahead and stored away for busy nights. A make-ahead casserole is perfect for just about any occasion. You can welcome new neighbors, have a dish ready for an upcoming party or plan next week’s meals.

Make-Ahead and Freezing Guidelines

• To bake a casserole ahead of time, cool completely, and then cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

• To freeze a casserole, you can either assemble and freeze or bake and freeze, depending on the recipe. Either way, cool completely and cover tightly with plastic wrap, and then with heavy duty foil. Add a label with the name of the recipe and the date. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator.

• Whether refrigerated or frozen, bring a casserole to room temperature 30 minutes to 1 hour (but no longer) before baking or reheating. You may need to add extra baking time when a dish has been refrigerated.

• Reheat casseroles in a moderate (around 350 degrees F) oven, covered, so that they do not dry out. If a casserole seems to be dry, you can stir in a little more of the liquid that was called for in the recipe. Reheating in a microwave will warm the food but will also soften crispy toppings.

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Rolled Lasagna Florentine

Ingredients

  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 15 ounce carton ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 8 ounces package (2 cups) shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 10 ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 12 dried lasagna noodles, cooked according to package directions
  • 3 cups Tomato Meat Sauce, recipe below
  • 1 ½ teaspoons dried Italian seasoning, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed

Directions

For the spinach-cheese filling:

In a medium bowl combine egg, ricotta cheese, salt and pepper. Stir in 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese and the spinach. Spread mixture over each cooked lasagna noodle. Starting from a narrow end, roll up each noodle.

For the sauce:

In a medium bowl combine Tomato Sauce, Ground Beef or Turkey filling, Italian seasoning and fennel seeds.

Spread 1 cup of the sauce in the bottom of a 2-quart rectangular baking dish. Arrange lasagna rolls on top of the sauce in the baking dish. Top with the remaining  2 cups of sauce and sprinkle with the remaining 1 cup of mozzarella cheese. Save any remaining sauce for another meal.

Cover the baking dish with plastic wrap. Place casserole in a resealable freezer bag. Seal and freeze for up to 2 months.

To serve, thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Remove plastic wrap; cover with greased or nonstick foil. Bake for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours or until heated through.

Ground Beef or Turkey Filling

Ingredients

  • 4 pounds ground beef or turkey
  • 1 ½ cups chopped onions (3 medium)
  • 1 cup chopped carrots (2 medium)
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery (1 stalk)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper

Directions

In a 5- to 6-quart Dutch oven cook ground beef, onions, carrots, celery, and garlic over medium heat until meat is browned, using a wooden spoon to break up meat as it cooks. Drain off fat. Stir in salt and pepper.

Tomato Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 28-ounce cans diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1/3 cup tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon of salt

Directions

In a large saucepan heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic and crushed red pepper; cook and stir for 3 to 4 minutes or until garlic is lightly golden. Carefully add tomatoes, wine, tomato paste and salt.

Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 30 for 40 minutes or until slightly thickened and reduced by about one-third, stirring occasionally. (You should have about 5 1/2 cups.)

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Sausage, Mushroom and Polenta Bake

Ingredients

  • 1 pound Italian (hot or sweet) sausage, casing removed
  • 1 medium fresh chili pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced, divided
  • 3 cups marinara sauce
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 cups chopped fresh mushrooms
  • 3/4 cup thinly sliced green onions (6)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning, crushed, divided
  • 1 ½ cups polenta
  • 2 cups shredded fontina or mozzarella or provolone  cheese (8 ounces)

Directions

In a large skillet cook sausage, chili pepper and 2 cloves garlic over medium-high heat until the sausage is brown, using a wooden spoon to break up meat as it cooks. Drain off fat. Stir in marinara sauce. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Pour into a large mixing bowl and cover.

In the same skillet heat oil over medium heat. Add mushrooms, green onions, remaining 2 cloves garlic and 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning. Cook about 5 minutes or until mushrooms are tender and liquid is evaporated, stirring occasionally. Stir in heavy cream, wine and salt. Cook over low heat about 10 minutes or until mixture is thickened, stirring occasionally.

For polenta, in a large saucepan bring chicken broth, the water and remaining Italian seasoning to a boil. Slowly add polenta, stirring constantly. Cook and stir until mixture returns to boiling; reduce heat to low. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until mixture is thickened, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, grease a 3-quart rectangular baking dish. Spread half of the sausage mixture in the bottom of the prepared baking dish.

Working quickly, spread half of the polenta over the sausage mixture in the baking dish. Top with mushroom mixture and half of the cheese. Quickly spread the remaining polenta over the top as evenly as possible. Top with the remaining sausage mixture and the remaining cheese. Cool completely.

Cover baking dish with plastic wrap, then with foil. Freeze for up to 1 month.

To serve, thaw in the refrigerator overnight (casserole may still be a bit icy). Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Remove plastic wrap; cover with foil. Bake about 1 1/2 hours or until heated through. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

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Zucchini Rice Casserole

Ingredients

  • 1 cup uncooked long grain rice
  • 3 medium zucchini, cut into 1/8-inch slices
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 sweet onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 cups (16 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 2 cups (16 ounces) light sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 large tomato, seeded and diced

Directions

Cook rice according to package directions.

In a large skillet, heat oil and cook the green pepper, onion and zucchini for 3-5 minutes or until the vegetables are crisp-tender. Set aside.

Place rice in a greased shallow 3-qt. baking dish. Add 1-1/2 cups cheese.

In a large bowl, combine the sour cream, parsley, salt and oregano.

Spread over the cheese layer.

Add the sautéed vegetables and tomato. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.

If not cooking immediately, cover tightly and refrigerate overnight. Remove from the refrigerator thirty minutes before heating.

Bake, covered, at 350°F for 30 minutes. Uncover; bake 5-10 minutes longer or until heated through and the cheese is melted.

casseroles4

Tuscan Bean Casserole

Ingredients

  • 3 cups shredded kale (thick stems removed)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped (1/2 cup)
  • 2 19 ounce cans cannellini beans (white kidney beans), rinsed and drained
  • One 14 1/2 ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 4 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto or cooked ham, cut into bite-size strips
  • 1/4 cup fine dry Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried sage, crushed
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a saucepan cook kale in a small amount of boiling water for 8 to 10 minutes until tender. Drain well in a colander.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in the empty pan over medium heat. Add onion and celery; cook for 4 to 5 minutes or until tender.

In a large bowl combine cooked kale, onion mixture, beans, tomatoes, prosciutto, 2 tablespoons of the bread crumbs, the sage, garlic, and pepper. Transfer mixture to an ungreased 2-quart casserole.

In a small bowl combine the remaining 2 tablespoons bread crumbs and the remaining 1 tablespoon oil; sprinkle over the bean mixture.

Bake, covered, for 20 minutes. Bake, uncovered, about 10 minutes more or until heated through.

casseroles5

Bulgur, Beef Stuffed Peppers

Ingredients

  • 8 large red, yellow and/or orange bell peppers, with stems if possible
  • 2 cans (14 to 14 1/2-ounce) chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cups bulgur
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed with press
  • 1 pound ground beef or turkey
  • 1 package (10-ounce) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 2 cans (28-ounce) crushed Italian tomatoes
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4  teaspoon salt
  • 1/4  teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

Directions

Cut 3/4-inch slice from the top of each pepper; reserve tops, including stems.

Remove seeds and ribs and cut a thin slice from bottom of each pepper, if needed, so they will stand upright.

Arrange 4 peppers and their tops (separately) on the same microwave-safe plate. Cook, uncovered, in the microwave on High 4 minutes. With tongs, transfer tops to a paper towel. Microwave peppers 4 to 5 minutes longer or until just tender. Invert peppers onto a double thickness of paper towels to drain. Repeat with remaining peppers and tops.

In a microwave-safe large bowl, combine chicken broth and bulgur. Cook, uncovered, in the microwave on High 12 to 15 minutes or until bulgur is tender, but still slightly chewy, and most of broth is absorbed. You can also do this on top of the stove. Bring the broth to a boil and stir in the bulgur. Reduce the heat and cook the bulgur until tender, about 7 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a deep 12-inch skillet, heat oil on medium until hot. Add onion and garlic, and cook 5 minutes or until onion begins to turn golden, stirring frequently. Remove 1/4 cup onion mixture and reserve. Add beef to the remaining onion in the skillet and cook 6 to 8 minutes or until beef is no longer pink, breaking up beef with the side of a wooden spoon.

Remove skillet from the heat and stir in cooked bulgur, spinach, Italian seasoning, 1 cup crushed tomatoes and 3/4 cup mozzarella. Fill peppers with bulgur mixture, using a generous 1 cup for each; sprinkle each pepper with the remaining 1/4 cup cheese. Replace pepper tops.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Wipe skillet clean and combine remaining crushed tomatoes, reserved onion mixture, salt and coarsely ground black pepper in the skillet; heat to boiling on medium-high, stirring occasionally.

Divide tomato sauce evenly between two 2-quart casseroles or 8″ by 8″ glass baking dishes. Place 4 peppers in each dish.

Cover one dish with foil and bake 35 minutes or until peppers are hot. Cover the second dish and freeze for another day.


fallsoup

Autumn officially arrived on Tuesday. What better way to welcome the season than making a delicious soup using ingredients that are hitting the farmers markets now? Soup is perfect in any season, but Autumn is especially a perfect time to make soup. When the temperatures drop and the days get shorter, nothing hits the spot like a bowl of warm soup. Store-bought varieties are convenient, but they can be salty and taste overcooked. Homemade is better.

The fall season aligns well with some interesting seasonal ingredients. For example you can add any of the fall ingredients to your standard soup recipes:

Squash, acorn, delicata, kabocha or butternut squash
Apples
Kale
Cabbage
Kohlrabi
Parsnips
Turnips
Parsnips
Swiss Chard
Sweet Potatoes

Orzo, Squash and Chicken Soup

fallsoup1

Make it vegetarian by omitting the chicken, substituting vegetable broth and serving with shaved Parmesan. You can also substitute a different type of squash or sweet potatoes.

Ingredients

  • 4 delicata squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 small skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 1 cup orzo
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 5 sage leaves, torn into pieces
  • 4 cups chicken broth

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F and line two baking pans with parchment paper.

Mix the squash with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, salt and pepper and spread on one prepared baking pan.

Place the chicken on the other baking pan, brush with 1 tablespoon oil and season with salt and pepper.

Place the squash on the top rack in the oven and the chicken on the lower rack. Roast until the chicken is cooked through and a thermometer inserted into the thickest part reaches 160°F, about 20 minutes. Remove the chicken from the oven and continue to roast the squash until it is tender and caramelized, about 10 minutes longer.

When the chicken is cool enough to handle, cut it into bite-sized pieces.

Put 6 cups water in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Add salt and the orzo and cook for 7 minutes. Drain the pasta and set aside.

Return the pot to medium-high heat and add the remaining oil  Add the onion, garlic and sage and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the chickenbroth and bring to a boil. Add the cooked orzo, chicken and squash and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 15 minutes, then season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

Vegetable Farro Soup

fallsoup2

Omit the Parmesan cheese for a vegan dish.

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 celery ribs, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium leek, white and pale green parts only, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup farro or wheat berries
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 quarts water
  • One 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced basil
  • Grated Parmesan cheese, optional

Directions

In a large soup pot, heat the oil and add the celery, onion and leek. Cook over moderately high heat, stirring a few times, until softened, 5 minutes.

Add the farro and tomato paste and cook, stirring, until the grains are coated and shiny, 30 seconds.

Add 1 quart of the water, sweet potato and the beans and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat for 30 minutes.

Add the carrots and the remaining 1 quart of water. Cover and cook over low heat until the carrots are tender, 30 minutes.

Add the peas, cover and cook until tender, at the most 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, top with basil and Parmesan cheese, if using. Serve with bread sticks.

Pea Soup with Ham and Sherry

fallsoup3

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion (1 large)
  • 1 cup sliced celery (2 stalks)
  • 1 cup sliced carrots (2 medium)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 – 14 ounce cans reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup dried green split peas
  • 3 ounces reduced-sodium ham, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup frozen green peas
  • 1/4 cup snipped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons dry sherry
  • Whole wheat croutons* (optional)
  • Plain Greek yogurt (optional)

Directions

In a Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, celery, carrots, garlic and thyme. Reduce heat to medium; cook about 5 minutes or until the vegetables are tender, stirring frequently.

Stir in the chicken broth, the water, split peas, ham, crushed red pepper, black pepper and nutmeg. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 1 to 1-1/4 hours or the until split peas are soft.

Stir in frozen peas and parsley; cook about 5 minutes more or until the peas are heated through. Stir in sherry and remove from the heat.

Top the soup with croutons and/or yogurt.

*For homemade croutons, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a baking pan with nonstick cooking spray; set aside. Cut up whole wheat bread slices into 3/4- to 1-inch pieces; place on the prepared baking pan. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are golden, turning or stirring once halfway through the baking time.

Hearty Greens, Bowtie Pasta and Tomato Soup

fallsoup4

Use any hearty greens that are in season in this filling soup. I save the rinds from wedges of Parmesan cheese in the freezer for making this type of soup.

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
  • 8 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 4 plum tomatoes, cored and chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard including chard stalks or kale (about 3/4 pound)
  • One Parmigiano-Reggiano rind, plus grated Parmigiano Reggiano for garnish
  • 1/2 pound baby spinach
  • 1/2 pound bowtie (farfalle) pasta, cooked al dente

Directions

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add garlic, onion and bay leaf and cook, stirring often, until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add crushed red pepper flakes, Italian seasoning and tomatoes and cook until most of the tomato liquid is released and absorbed, about 5 minutes more.

Add carrots, celery, salt, pepper and broth. Bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot.

Stir in chard and Parmigiano-Reggiano rind. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer one hour.

Stir in spinach, cooked pasta and season. Simmer 15 minutes.

Remove and discard bay leaf and cheese rind from the soup. Add salt and pepper, if needed, and ladle into bowls, Garnish with grated cheese.

Pork, Rosemary, Chianti Wine and Pasta Soup

fallsoup5

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound Ditalini pasta
  • Two 16-oz cans Italian diced tomatoes
  • 2 whole cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 whole sprig of rosemary
  • 2 slivers lemon zest
  • 4 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 parsnips, peeled and diced
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1/3 cup Chianti wine
  • 1½ pounds pork shoulder fat trimmed, diced ½ inch pieces
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
  • Extra virgin olive oil, optional
  • 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese shredded, optional

Directions using a slow cooker:

In a slow cooker, combine all the ingredients except for the pasta and parsley. Set to low and cook for 8 hours.

Once the soup is cooked, remove the rosemary sprig, garlic and lemon zest.

Meanwhile bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta to the al dente stage, drain and add to the soup. Heat until all the ingredients are hot.

Garnish with fresh parsley, drizzle with olive oil and top with cheese, if desired, before serving.

Stove top directions:

Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a Dutch oven or soup pot and brown the pork cubes.

Mince the garlic and add to the pot with the rosemary leaves and lemon zest. Saute for one minute. Add the wine and stir, scraping the bottom of the pan.

Add the carrots, parsnips, tomatoes and beef broth; bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover the pan and simmer for 2 hours.

The meat should be very tender. If not, simmer for another 30 – 45 minutes.

Cook pasta in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain and add to the soup along with the parsley. Heat for a few minutes and serve with the optional ingredients.

A green salad goes nicely with this soup.



Simmer and Boil

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