Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Italian Cuisine

lunchtime

The healthiest meals you can make are ones that you prepare from scratch using unprocessed foods. If you don’t have time to home-cook all of your meals, try to make healthy choices about the processed and prepared foods you do consume. Choosing baked or grilled foods over fried, drinking water instead of soda and sharing a dessert are just a few ways you can eat healthy while still eating well.

Choose ingredients located in the perimeter aisles of your grocery store, where the produce, fresh meats and unprocessed foods are typically located. Make healthy meals by forgoing prepared meals that come in boxes or frozen meals in bags, which all contain high amounts of preservatives and unhealthy salt that can contribute to high blood pressure. Refined grains lack the outer husk of the grain, which contains the health benefits of fiber that cleanses the intestines and creates a full feeling sensation during a meal. Choose brown rice instead of white and cook with whole oats, not instant.

Bake, braise, broil or grill meats, fish and poultry. These are healthier cooking methods because fats drain away from the foods while they are cooking. Low fat dairy products help decrease your risk of high cholesterol and weight gain because you will consume less animal fat.

Consume less food when eating out by splitting your entrée with a friend or taking a portion of the dinner home and look for foods that haven’t been fried. Choose lower fat options when available. Lunchtime is probably one of the least healthiest meals, if you buy your lunch. Fast food is an expensive but convenient option that often comes with a side of guilt. One in every four Americans eats fast food at least once a day. Unfortunately, many fast food meals contain a whole day’s worth of calories and fat all in one meal. When you consider the benefits that come from taking your lunch to work or preparing lunch at home with fresh ingredients, the prospect of making your own lunch quickly becomes more appetizing. Here are some ideas for appealing and healthy lunches that can be made ahead and warmed at work or at home in the microwave. Add your favorite seasonal fruit, a bottle of water and you are all set.

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Focaccia Pizza Sandwiches

This sandwich can also be layered with sliced fresh tomatoes and pesto instead of marinara sauce and pepperoni.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup prepared or homemade marinara sauce
  • 2 (4-inch) squares focaccia, halved horizontally
  • 2 tablespoons sliced pitted black olives
  • 1 ounce sliced uncured (such as Applegate Farms) pepperoni, ham or prosciutto
  • 4 slices part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 6 small leaves basil

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Place focaccia bottoms on a baking pan. Spread marinara sauce on one side of each of the 2 bottom pieces of focaccia. Top the sauce with olives, pepperoni or other meats and the mozzarella cheese. Arrange the focaccia tops next to the bottoms on the baking sheet.

Bake until cheese is just melted, pepperoni is warmed through and focaccia is crisp, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to plates, top bottom halves with basil, add focaccia tops and serve.

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Meatball Pitas

Serves 4

Savory beef meatballs makes this a satisfying sandwich for lunch or a light dinner. Adding bread soaked in milk to the meat mixture keeps meatballs moist and tender. This recipe uses some of the pita tops for just that purpose.

Ingredients

  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 4 whole grain pita breads
  • 1/2 cup low-fat milk
  • 3/4 pound lean ground beef or your favorite ground meat
  • 3 tablespoons finely minced onion
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1 cup finely sliced romaine lettuce

Yogurt Sauce

  • 3/4 (6-ounce) cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped fine
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Spray olive oil on a medium baking sheet.

Cut the top third off the pitas. Tear 2 of the tops into pieces with your fingers and place the pieces in a small bowl; save the remaining 2 pita tops for another use. Add milk to the bowl and let the bread soak until very soft, about 15 minutes.

Combine beef, onion, oregano, cayenne, pepper and the 1/2 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. With your hands, gently squeeze excess milk from pita tops; add the bread to the bowl with the meat; discard milk. Mix with your hands or a rubber spatula until well combined. Form the mixture into 16 balls, each about the size of a ping-pong ball. Place on the prepared baking sheet and bake, shaking the pan once or twice, until the meatballs are browned and cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine yogurt, cucumber and lemon juice in a small bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. Fill each pita with tomato, lettuce and 4 meatballs. Spoon yogurt sauce on top.

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Quick Italian Spinach and Pasta Soup

Serves 4

This soup is simply made from pantry staples including vegetable or chicken broth, diced tomatoes, canned beans and dried pasta. Look in the freezer section of your store for some frozen spinach or other favorite vegetables to add.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 garlic, minced
  • 2 cups dried pasta (any shape), cooked according to package instructions
  • 6 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1 (15-ounce) can no-salt-added kidney or great northern beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced Italian tomatoes
  • Salt, pepper and Italian seasoning, to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4 ounces frozen or 4 cups fresh spinach
  • Grated parmesan cheese

Directions

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, add olive oil and saute garlic for a minute.

Add broth and bring to a boil. Add beans, tomatoes, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper and lower to a simmer. Add spinach and cook until softened and bright green.

Place pasta (about 1 cup per serving) into soup bowls, ladle soup over the top and garnish with Parmesan cheese..

lunchtime4

Leftover Frittata

A frittata is the savvy cook’s solution for leftovers.

Ingredients

  • 6 eggs
  • 2 cups chopped cooked vegetables and/or meat (asparagus, onion, ham, potatoes, spinach, sausage, chopped bell pepper etc.)
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese – any kind you like
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, basil or chives
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325°F. In a large bowl, beat eggs and stir in vegetables and/or meat, herbs and salt and pepper, if needed. Reserve the cheese.

Heat a 10-inch ovenproof skillet over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add oil and carefully swirl around to completely coat the bottom and sides of the skillet.

Add egg mixture, spread out evenly and cook, without stirring, until the edges and bottom are set and golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. (Carefully loosen an edge to peek.)

Sprinkle the cheese on top and transfer the skillet to the oven. Bake until the eggs are completely set and the frittata is deep golden brown on the bottom, about 15 minutes more.

Remove the skillet from the oven. (The handle will be hot!)

Loosenthe  edges and bottom of the frittata with a table knife and spatula; carefully slide onto a large plate. Serve warm, at room temperature or cold, cut into wedges.

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Italian Tuna Salad

Servings: 2

Ingredients

Salad

  • 1 can (5 oz) Tonno (tuna) in 0live oil, drained and oil reserved for use in the vinaigrette
  • 3 tablespoons canned garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 tablespoons canned white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup cooked cut fresh green beans
  • 6 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinaigrette (recipe below)
  • 2 cups mixed salad greens
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil leaves

White Balsamic Vinaigrette

  • 1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar (or vinegar of choice)
  • 3 tablespoons oil (combine tuna oil and olive oil to make 3 tablespoons)
  • Juice of half a lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Prepare Balsamic Vinaigrette:

In a small bowl, combine vinegar, oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Set aside. (Stir vinaigrette mixture later before pouring on the salad.)

Prepare the Salad:

In a medium bowl, combine garbanzo beans, white beans, green beans, tomatoes, salt, pepper and half of the vinaigrette, stir gently.

In a separate bowl, toss salad greens with the remainder of the vinaigrette.  Divide the tossed salad greens between two salad plates and top each plate with an equal portion of the bean mixture. Divide the tuna in half and add to the top of the bean mixture. Garnish with fresh basil leaves. Serve with your favorite bread.

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semifreddo

Semifreddo desserts are easy to make but look and taste like you took a class at Le Cordon Bleu! Semifreddo is an Italian word meaning “half cold” or “half frozen.” It refers to a class of frozen desserts that are similar to ice cream, but made with heavy cream instead of churning air into the mixture while it freezes. Semifreddos are very similar to mousses and are often served in the form of ice cream cakes or tarts.

There are many different recipes for semifreddo, that use different bases to mix with the cream. In Italy, semifreddo is commonly made with gelato. Cooked custards and custard-based sauces are another common choice to mix with the cream. One of the biggest benefits of making semifreddo is that you don’t need an ice cream maker or other specialty equipment to make it. Many semifreddo recipes involve no cooking at all. The most difficult part of making semifreddo is waiting for it to freeze, which typically takes from several hours to overnight in your freezer.

Semifreddos are a great base for just about any flavor or combination of flavors. Once you learn the basics of the recipe, you can customize your semifreddo with your favorite blends of fruits, chocolate, coffee, spices and more! Best of all, the texture and flavors are delicious. For semifreddos with a crust, use a springform pan so it’s easier to remove and present. But you could just as easily form the crust in the bottom of a loaf pan and mold your semifreddo on top of that. Using individual ramekins works well, too.

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Raspberry & Chocolate Semifreddo

Ingredients

  • 1 (9 ounce) box chocolate wafer cookies
  • 1 cup sugar, divided
  • 5 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1⁄4 cup (1 ounce) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup heavy (whipping) cream
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 cups (12 ounces) fresh or frozen, unsweetened raspberries (if using frozen berries, thaw before use)

Directions

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Break cookies into pieces and place in a food processor; process to finely ground crumbs. Combine crumbs with 1/4 cup of the sugar and the butter. Press crumb mixture evenly over bottom and halfway up sides of a 9 inch round and 3 inch deep springform pan. Bake 10 minutes or until crust is set; cool on wire rack 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in large bowl of electric mixer, using the whip attachment, whip cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add cream; beat at medium speed until soft peaks form; transfer to another bowl and chill.

In clean bowl of electric mixer, combine egg whites and 1/2 cup of the sugar.  Place bowl over a pot of simmering water (not touching bottom of bowl); whisk until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture reaches 130 degrees F.  Place bowl on the stand mixer; using the whip attachment, beat on high-speed until meringue forms and mixture is room temperature, 3 to 4 minutes.

Place raspberries and remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a food processor. Process until pureed. Place mixture in a strainer placed over a large bowl. Press firmly on the raspberry mixture to extract all the juice. Discard seeds. Gently stir in half the meringue. Gently stir in half of the whipped cream mixture. Repeat stirring in remaining meringue and whipped cream until well combined.

Pour mixture over cooled crust, smoothing top. Cover tightly with foil. Freeze at least 4 hours or overnight.

To serve, run a thin spatula between semifreddo and edge of rim to loosen. Remove rim from spring-form pan. Cut semifreddo into wedges; serve immediately. If there is any remaining semifreddo, reattach the rim of the springform pan, cover and return to the freezer for up to 1 week.

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Pistachio, Strawberry and Vanilla Semifreddo

Ingredients

  • 1 cup shelled unsalted pistachios
  • 4 tablespoons sugar, divided, plus 1/2 cup
  • 1 cup whole milk, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
  • 1 cup fresh strawberries (about 4 ounces), hulled, halved
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/3 cups chilled heavy(whipping) cream

Directions

Line a metal loaf pan (approximately 9x5x3″) with 2 layers of plastic wrap, leaving generous overhang on all sides.

Grind pistachios and 2 tablespoons sugar in a food processor until very finely chopped. Transfer pistachio mixture to a small saucepan. Add 1/2 cup milk; bring to a boil. Remove from heat, cover, and let steep for 20 minutes. Set a fine-mesh strainer over a medium bowl; strain, discarding solids. Stir in almond extract; set pistachio mixture aside.

Place remaining 1/2 cup milk in a separate small saucepan. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; add bean and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat, cover, and let steep for 15 minutes. Set a strainer over another medium bowl; strain, discarding solids, and chill vanilla mixture.

Purée strawberries and 2 Tbsp. sugar in a food processor until smooth. Set a fine-mesh strainer over another medium bowl; strain, pressing on solids to extract as much juice as possible. Discard solids. Stir in vanilla extract and set strawberry mixture aside.

Whisk eggs, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a medium metal bowl. Set bowl over a medium saucepan of simmering water (do not allow bottom of bowl to touch water). Beat egg mixture at high-speed until it triples in volume and an instant-read thermometer inserted into mixture registers 170°, about 3 minutes. Remove bowl from over water and continue beating until thick and cool, about 3 minutes. Add one-third of egg mixture to each of the pistachio, strawberry, and vanilla mixtures; fold each just to blend.

Beat cream in a large bowl until soft peaks form. Add one-third of cream to each of the pistachio, strawberry, and vanilla mixtures; fold each just to blend. Cover vanilla and strawberry mixtures separately; chill. Pour pistachio mixture into pan; smooth top. Cover; freeze until firm, about 45 minutes. Gently pour strawberry mixture over pistachio layer; smooth top. Freeze until firm, about 45 minutes. Gently fold vanilla mixture to blend; pour over and smooth top. Freeze until firm, about 4 hours. DO AHEAD Can be made 3 days ahead. Fold plastic wrap over; seal tightly and keep frozen.

Uncover semifreddo. Using plastic wrap as an aid, lift from mold. Invert onto a chilled platter; peel off plastic. Slice crosswise.

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Triple Layer Berry Semifreddo

Ingredients

  • 1⁄4 cup (1 ounce) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup heavy (whipping) cream
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar, divided
  • 1⁄3 cup whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1⁄2 cups halved and hulled fresh strawberries (6 ounces)
  • 1 1⁄2 cups fresh blueberries (6 ounces)

Directions

Coat a 9 x 5 x 3-inch metal loaf pan lightly with cooking spray. Line pan with plastic wrap extending generously over edges of pan.

In large bowl of electric mixer, using the whip attachment, whip cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add cream; beat at medium speed until soft peaks form, scraping down bowl once. Transfer to another bowl and chill.

In clean bowl of electric mixer, combine egg whites and 1/2 cup sugar.  Place bowl over a pot of simmering water (not touching bottom of bowl); whisk until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture reaches 130 degrees F.  Place bowl on the stand mixer; using the whip attachment, beat on high-speed until meringue forms and mixture is room temperature, 3 to 4 minutes.

Combine milk and vanilla in a medium-sized bowl; set aside. Place strawberries and 1/4 cup of the sugar in a food processor; puree until smooth. Transfer to a second medium-sized bowl. Place blueberries and 1/4 cup of the sugar in clean food processor; puree until smooth. Place strainer over another medium-sized bowl; sieve blueberry mixture through strainer, pressing on solids to extract as much juice as possible. Discard blueberry skins.

Gently stir 1/3 of the meringue into each of the three bowls. Gently stir 1/3 of the chilled whipped cream into each of the three bowls. Pour blueberry mixture into bottom of prepared loaf pan. Refrigerate the bowls of vanilla and strawberry mixture. Freeze loaf pan until firm, 45 minutes. Gently pour vanilla mixture over blueberry mixture; freeze 45 minutes. Gently pour strawberry mixture over the vanilla layer, smoothing top with a spatula. Pan will be full, so do not cover with foil until top is firm, about 45 minutes. Continue freezing at least 3 ½ hours or overnight.

To unmold: wrap sides of pan with a hot, wet cloth or dip briefly in a sink of warm water to loosen. Using plastic wrap as an aid, remove semifreddo from pan; place on a serving platter; discard plastic wrap.  Cut into slices; serve immediately. To store, cover and return any extra semifreddo immediately to the freezer for up to 1 week.

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Apricot Semifreddo with Blackberry Sauce

A healthier version.

Serves 12

APRICOT SEMIFREDDO

  • 2 large eggs, separated
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 ½ cups milk
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots
  • 1 ½ cups sliced fresh apricots
  • 1/3 cup low-fat sour cream
  • 1/8 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 pint fresh blackberries

BLACKBERRY SAUCE

  • 1/2 pint fresh blackberries
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Directions

To make the Apricot Semifreddo:

Line 4-cup loaf pan with plastic wrap. Whisk egg yolks and 1/4 cup sugar in a medium bowl until thick and light yellow, about 1 minute.

Bring milk to a boil in saucepan. Slowly pour hot milk over egg mixture, whisking constantly. Return to saucepan; cook over medium-low heat (do not boil), stirring often, until custard is thick enough to coat the back of spoon, about 5 minutes. Strain, and cool.

Meanwhile, place dried apricots in heatproof bowl. Cover with boiling water, and let stand 15 minutes, or until softened. Drain, and cool. Put in food processor with fresh apricots, and purée until smooth. Transfer to large bowl. Add custard, sour cream and almond extract.

Put egg whites in large bowl; beat until soft peaks form. Add remaining 1/4 cup sugar; continue beating until stiff peaks form. Fold egg whites into apricot mixture.

Pour half of mixture into prepared pan. Place 3 rows of blackberries on their sides down the center of loaf pan; top with remaining mixture. Cover; freeze at least 4 hours.
To make the Blackberry Sauce:

Press blackberries through fine-meshed sieve into bowl. Stir in sugar and lemon juice. Set aside.

Remove Apricot Semifreddo from freezer; let stand 10 minutes. Unmold onto plate, and cut into 10 slices. Drizzle with Blackberry Sauce and serve.

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Espresso Semifreddo with Dried Cherries

Serves 8

Ingredients

Semifreddo

  • 1/3 cup freshly made strong espresso or coffee, hot
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup fresh ricotta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon amaretto
  • 1/2 tablespoon grated lemon zest
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature, yolks and whites separated
  • 6 crisp amaretti cookies

Fruit

  • 1/4 cup Kirsch (cherry liqueur)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Zest of 1/4 lemon, in strips
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 2 cups (1/2 pound) dried cherries

Directions

While the espresso is still hot, add all but 2 tablespoons of sugar and stir until dissolved. Cool.

Set a fine-mesh strainer over a large bowl and with a wooden spoon or a spatula, push ricotta through. Add half of the espresso mixture, amaretto, lemon zest, and salt, and whisk until well combined.

Combine egg yolks and remaining espresso in a stainless-steel bowl and whisk until eggs are foamy. Set the bowl over, not in, a pan of simmering water, being careful not to let the bottom of the bowl touch the water. Continue whisking until the mixture is foamy, light-colored, and tripled in bulk. This could take up to 10 minutes. If cooking too quickly, turn heat off and work over the hot water. Cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, with an electric mixer, whip egg whites until foamy. Add remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and whip to stiff peaks.

Stir 1/4 cup of cooled yolk mixture into the ricotta mixture to lighten. Fold in the remaining yolk mixture and 1/3 of the whites. Gently fold in remaining egg whites. Spoon mixture into prepared loaf pan and gently smooth top. Crumble the amaretti cookies and spread over the top. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze at least 24 hours.

For the fruit: Combine Kirsch and sugar in a medium stainless-steel saucepan. Place over low heat and stir until sugar dissolves, about 1 minute. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Remove from heat and let sit for at least 2 hours or overnight at room temperature.

To serve:

Remove semifreddo from the freezer 20 minutes before serving. Uncover top; invert semifreddo onto a serving platter and remove plastic wrap. Cut into 1-inch slices, spoon on cherries, and serve.


healthyfat

Research shows that not all fats are created equal in terms of their health effects. For heart health, you should get the majority of your fat from monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat (especially the omega-3 kind), consume less saturated fat and strictly limit trans fat because it tends to raise blood cholesterol levels. In fact, manufactured trans fat is the worst fat for your heart and, yet, it is still out there in some packaged foods.

Monounsaturated Fat – Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Olive oil is one of the richest sources of monounsaturated fat, which has long been known to help improve cholesterol levels and prevent cardiovascular disease. But that’s not all. Olive oil is also rich in antioxidants and other phytonutrients that may help fight inflammation, high blood pressure and cancer.

Look for extra virgin olive oil, which, unlike other olive oils, has not undergone refinement that strips the oil of some flavor, phytonutrients and other beneficial compounds. Compare “best by” dates on oils and choose the furthest date, which suggests it’s fresher and more likely to contain higher levels of antioxidants. Olive oil can be used in low to moderate heat cooking; it’s generally stable up to 410 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s also perfect for dipping, salad dressing and sauces.

Monounsaturated Fat – Avocado

Similar to olive oil, more than 70 percent of the fats in avocado oil are monounsaturated, plus it naturally contains beneficial antioxidants, including lutein, that is important for eye health. You’ll get the best flavor, aroma and nutrition in unrefined, cold-pressed extra virgin avocado oil, which is mechanically rather than chemically extracted. Extra virgin avocado oil can take the heat a little better than olive oil, tolerating temperatures up to 475 degrees Fahrenheit, although this may vary a bit with the variety of avocado used. Avocado oil’s buttery, nutty flavor is also perfect when drizzled on steamed vegetables or grilled asparagus. Fresh avocado slices are good on sandwiches in place of mayonnaise.

Monounsaturated Fat – Tree Nuts

Most tree nuts—including macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, pecans, almonds and pistachios—contain more heart-healthy monounsaturated fat than any other type of fat. Plus, studies suggest eating nuts regularly may help reduce the risk of major diseases, including heart disease and type 2 diabetes, as well as boost longevity.

Try a variety of whole, raw, dry-roasted nuts, natural tree-nut butters and nut oils. Some nut oils and nut butters, such as almond, are easier to find and are less expensive than others, such as macadamia and pecan. Delicate nut oils are less heat-stable than other oils. Unrefined nut oils are best used in salad dressings and dips, drizzled over roasted vegetables or tossed with whole grain pasta and herbs.

Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fat – Oily Fish

Fish oils are rich in omega-3 fats known as EPA and DHA, which have anti-inflammatory and heart-health benefits. Research is not clear, however, on whether supplements can provide all of the benefits of eating fish regularly. Buy oily seafood that is rich in omega-3s but low in mercury, such as salmon, Arctic char, Atlantic mackerel, sardines, Pacific oysters and halibut, herring, mussels and anchovies. In general, aim for at least two 4-ounce servings of oily fish per week (which equates to about 500 milligrams of EPA and DHA daily).

healthyfat3

Italian Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 garlic clove, smashed
  • Salt
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 large head romaine lettuce, chopped
  • 1 small head of radicchio—halved, cored and coarsely chopped
  • 1 tender celery rib, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup pitted green olives, preferably Sicilian
  • 8 peperoncini
  • 2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shaved (1 cup)

Directions

In a large salad bowl, mash the garlic to a paste with a generous pinch of salt. Whisk in the vinegar and oregano, then whisk in the olive oil. Season with pepper. Add all of the remaining ingredients and toss well. Serve.

healthyfat4

Italian Guacamole

Ingredients

  • 4 ripe, fresh California or Florida (large) avocados, seeded and peeled*
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons shredded fresh basil leaves
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained and chopped
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Directions

Coarsely mash (DO NOT PUREE) avocados.
Stir in vinegar.
Fold in remaining ingredients.

Serving Suggestions:

Serve with crispy bread sticks or crostini.

*Large avocados are recommended for this recipe. A large avocado averages about 8 ounces. If using smaller size avocados, adjust the quantity accordingly.

Guacamole is best made as close to serving time as possible. For short-term storage, seal in an airtight container with a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the guacamole.

healthyfat1
Fettuccine with Sardines

Serve with a salad of bitter greens tossed with Italian vinaigrette and a glass of Pinot Grigio.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces fettuccine (whole wheat works well in this recipe)
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Two 4 ounce cans boneless, skinless sardines, flaked
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese

Directions

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain.

Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a small nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant and sizzling but not brown, about 20 seconds. Transfer the garlic and oil to a large serving bowl.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in the pan over medium heat. Add breadcrumbs and cook, stirring, until crispy and golden brown, 5 to 6 minutes. Stir in Parmesan cheese and transfer to a plate.

Whisk lemon juice, tomato paste, pepper and salt into the garlic oil in the serving bowl. Add the pasta to the bowl along with sardines and parsley. Gently stir to combine.

Sprinkled the breadcrumbs on top and serve.

healthyfat2

Nut-Crusted Fish with Summer Vegetables

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 pounds fresh salmon or any omega 3 fatty fish, about 1/2 inch thick
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped walnuts, pecans or nuts of choice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 2 small red and/or orange bell peppers, seeded and cut into 1-inch-wide strips
  • 1 large zucchini, bias-sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • 1 large yellow summer squash, bias-sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • Lemon wedges

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Rinse fish; pat dry with paper towels. Cut fish into 4 pieces; set aside.

Line a 15x10x1-inch baking pan with foil. Coat foil with cooking spray; set aside.

In a shallow dish, stir together cornmeal, nuts and salt.

In another dish, stir together flour and cayenne.

In a small bowl, stir together flour and cayenne.

In a small bowl, whisk egg and water.

Dip each piece of fish into the flour mixture, shaking off any excess. Dip fish into egg mixture, then into the nut mixture to coat. Place in the prepared pan.

In a large bowl, combine peppers, zucchini and squash. Add oil and seasoned salt; toss to coat. Arrange vegetables next to the fish, overlapping as needed to fit.

Bake, uncovered, for 20 to 25 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork and vegetables are crisp-tender. Serve with lemon wedges. Makes 4 servings.

healthyfat5

Italian Pesto alla Trapanese

Ingredients

  • 1 cup almonds, blanched
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup parsley leaves
  • 1 cup basil leaves
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 ½ pounds (about 4-5) red plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

Grind almonds, garlic and herbs in the food processor. Add the oil, gradually. Transfer to a bowl and fold in the tomatoes, then season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve over whole wheat pasta, grilled meat or fish.


matera6

Matera is a city and a province in the region of Basilicata, in southern Italy. Historically, the region is one of Italy’s poorest and also one of its least populated. The town lies in a small canyon, that has been eroded over the  years by a small stream. Matera was built above a deep ravine called Gravina of Matera and the ravine divides the territory into two areas. Matera was built in a way that made it difficult to provide a water supply to its inhabitants. Early dwellers invested tremendous energy in building cisterns and systems of water channels to compensate.

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In later years, during some restoration work in the main square of the town, workers came across what was believed to be the main footings of a castle tower. However, on further excavation, these footings turned out to be large Roman cisterns. Whole house structures were also discovered and one can see how the people of that era lived. Found under the main square of the modern city was a large underground reservoir, complete with columns and a vaulted ceiling.

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Les Sassi et le parc des églises rupestres de Matera

The city was allegedly founded by the Romans in the 3rd century BC and, In AD 664, Matera was conquered by the Lombards. In the 7th and 8th centuries the nearby grottos were colonized by both Benedictine and Basilian monastic institutions. The 9th and 10th centuries were characterized by the struggle between the Byzantines and the German emperors. In the 15th century the city became an Aragonese possession and was given in fief to the barons of the Tramontano family. In 1514, however, the population rebelled against the oppression and killed Count Tramontano. In the 17th century Matera became part of the Terra d’Otranto di Puglia. Later, it was the capital of Basilicata and, in 1927, it became capital of the province of Matera. In 1943, the Materani rose against the German occupation, the first Italian city to fight against the Wehrmacht.

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Matera3Matera has gained international fame for its ancient town, the “Sassi di Matera” (meaning “stones of Matera”). The Sassi originated from a prehistoric settlement and are believed to be some of the first human settlements in Italy. The Sassi houses were dug into the calcareous rock, which is characteristic of Basilicata and Apulia. Many of these “houses” are really only caverns and the streets in some parts of the Sassi are located on the rooftops of houses.

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Known as “la Città Sotterranea” (the Subterranean City), Matera is well-known for its historical center called “Sassi” and has been considered a World Heritage site by UNESCO since 1993, along with the Park of the Rupestrian Churches. Matera preserves a large and diverse collection of buildings related to the Christian faith, including a large number of rupestrian churches carved from the soft volcanic rock of the region. These churches were listed in the 1998 World Monuments Watch by the World Monuments Fund. There are many other churches and monasteries dating back throughout the history of the Christian church. Some are simple caves with a single altar and maybe a fresco, often located on the opposite side of the ravine. Some are complex cave networks with large underground chambers, thought to have been used for meditation by the monks.

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In the 1950s, the government of Italy forcefully relocated most of the population of the Sassi to other areas of the developing modern city. Until the late 1980s this was considered an area of poverty, since these houses were mostly uninhabitable. Current local administration, however, has become more tourism-oriented and has promoted the regeneration of the Sassi homes with the aid of the Italian government, UNESCO and Hollywood. Because of the ancient and primitive scenery in and around the Sassi, it has been used by filmmakers as the setting for ancient Jerusalem in their films. Today, there are many thriving businesses, pubs and hotels.

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The Cuisine of Matera

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The cuisine of Matera has much in common with the surrounding regions of Apulia, Campania, Calabria and Abruzzo and often make use of ingredients that are difficult to find elsewhere . For example, a special flour called farina di grano arso (literally, burnt wheat flour) is popular in the region. This flour was traditionally obtained by milling durum wheat grains gathered from the fields after the stubble had been burnt. A back-breaking job collecting burnt berries. However, in a situation of need, they were better than nothing. The grano arso was then milled and mixed with regular durum flour to make pasta, bread and focaccia. Today, this flour is obtained through toasting the seeds, a safer process, since burning produces unhealthy compounds. The resulting gray flour smells slightly smoky and is appreciated for its unusual color and pleasant nutty flavor.

Other pastas dishes include orecchiette (ear-shaped handmade pasta) prepared with fresh tomato or with turnip tops, broccoli, cauliflower or with breadcrumb and sultana grapes.

In this Province, peperoncino (hot pepper) is widely used and goes by at least three different names: diavolicchio, francisella and cerasella. Local favorites include legume soups made from cicerchie (a hybrid between a fava bean and chick pea); fresh wild chicory served on pureed fava beans or Peperoni di Senise – red peppers that are dried, then fried and salted and used as seasoning for several dishes. A wheat and chickpea soup is made with stale bread, eggs, olives, tomatoes and other vegetables.

Another typical dish is cotto di fichi (cooked figs), a type of cream made with boiled and dried figs. The local Cardoncello mushroom is cooked in different ways or eaten raw with ricotta cheese, lemons and olive oil. Special Easter dishes include cardoons with caciocavallo cheese and eggs, pirc buzz (pasta with a mulled wine dressing) and fusilli with fried breadcrumbs and baked figs. Majatica Olives from Ferrandina (in the province of Matera) are eaten without curing, but fried and salted instead.

Fish dishes are very common, for example, scapece (fried anchovies marinated with vinegar) and dried salted cod (baccalà) is prepared with peppers. Eel is cooked with hot peppers, tomatoes, mint and laurel.

Vegetables are widely used and offer a range of dishes spiced with a hint of pepperoncino. Typical vegetable dishes include, vegetable calzone, ciammotta (fried potatoes, peppers and eggplants with tomato sauce), cialledda with broad beans, potatoes and artichokes and lampaggioni (wild onion) salad.

Fresh meat is scarce and lamb or sheep are traditional when meat is served. On occasion, a mutton stew that gets cooked in a traditional tall earthenware pot covered with a layer of bread dough can be found. The dish is left to simmer for several hours in a wood burning oven. Pork sausages can also be found, such asSalsicce Lucane that are seasoned with fennel seeds and a touch of peperoncino. Another typical dish is the gammarid, special rolls filled with sheep and kid giblets.

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Cheeses of the region are: ricotta, sheep’s milk cheese and burrata (fresh mozzarella and cream cheese). Meals are served with Pane di Matera, an oven baked bread made with durum wheat flour. It has a very hard crust and is a light yellow color.

Typical desserts are: figs with honey; pasch nisch, a September dessert prepared with semolina and wine; cuccìa, a boiled wheat dessert mixed with chocolate, pomegranate, walnuts and mulled wine. Wines of the region include: Val Bradano, Sangiovese, Moscato, Malvasia and Elixir di noci.

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Spinach Pies

Dough

  • 3½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup water

Filling

  • 3 lbs fresh spinach
  • 5 tablespoons paprika
  • 3 tablespoons minced onion
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • Pinch crushed red pepper
  • 1½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Prepare the dough:

Put the flour in a bowl and make a hollow or depression in the center.

Pour in the olive oil. Then, using a spoon, mix the flour and olive oil until it forms what looks like little beads. Add the water to the mixture. Knead by hand until the dough has a soft texture.

Divide the dough in 10 equal parts. Form the equal parts into balls and set aside.

Prepare the spinach filling:

Combine the paprika, crushed red pepper, salt and pepper in a small bowl.

Wash the spinach and shake out the excess water. Place the spinach into a large bowel. Add the onion, garlic and seasonings and mix well.

Pour the olive oil over the spinach. Toss gently to coat the spinach evenly.

Make the pies:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. On a lightly floured board, roll out each ball of dough into circles about 8 inches in diameter.

Place 1 cup of the prepared spinach leaves on each dough circle.

Fold dough in half, completely enclosing the filling and crimp edges to hold together.

Bake about 35-40 minutes until pies are golden brown.

Serve immediately or cool and serve at room temperature.

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Piatto d’erbe Alla Lucana

Ingredients

  • 3 large onions
  • 2 eggplant
  • 2 large yellow bell peppers
  • 2 large tomatoes
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Handful of basil
  • Handful of parsley
  • Crostini (bread slices), toasted or grilled
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Salt

Directions

Dice the eggplants and put them on a plate, sprinkle with salt and leave them for an hour, so that they lose their bitterness. Wash and dry the eggplant.
Peel the onions and cut into thin rings.
Cut the peppers into strips. Peel and chop the tomatoes, discarding the seeds. Chop the parsley and basil together with the garlic.
Pour a half a cup of olive oil into a saucepan and add the onions; when they are wilted add the eggplant, peppers and tomatoes, add salt to taste, stir and cook for about 10 minutes.
Add the basil, parsley and garlic, stir again and continue cooking over medium heat, uncovered, for about an hour. Serve the vegetables with the crostini.

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Cutturiddu – Lamb Casserole

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds lamb stew meat, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • Salt and black pepper  to taste
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 8 plum tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped mint
  • 1 whole sprig rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup grated Pecorino cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Dry the lamb with paper towels. Rub the pieces with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat until it is fragrant. Brown the lamb well on all sides and place in a ovenproof casserole with a cover.

Add the potatoes to the skillet. Salt and pepper them and saute until lightly brown. Add the potatoes to the casserole along with the tomatoes and remaining ingredients except the grated cheese. Cover and bake for about 2 hours.

Uncover and sprinkle on the cheese. Serve immediately.

Figs with honey cheese and nuts

Orange Ricotta Stuffed Figs

Ingredients

  • 12 medium ripe fresh figs
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 6 tablespoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange peel
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pistachio nuts

Directions

Remove stem ends from the figs. Cut each into a tulip shape by slicing in quarters from the stem almost to the blossom end. Press on the stem end to open petals.

In a blender or food processor, process the ricotta, orange zest and juice, and honey. Stuff each fig with 2 tablespoons ricotta and sprinkle the chopped nuts on top.


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Cauliflower Pizza Crust

It All Starts with Crust  

Whole-wheat flour. Forgo the traditional white-flour crust and make your own whole-wheat dough for some extra protein and fiber.

Tortillas. Rice and beans aren’t the only ingredients that can top a tortilla. Make your own whole-wheat tortilla for a perfect thin-crust alternative.

Pita bread. Pita pockets are the perfect size for a personal pizza and the whole-wheat variety adds an extra nutrition.

English muffins. With all the nooks and crannies, an English muffin pizza crust can toast up perfectly in the oven and are great for making mini-pizzas for a light lunch.

Matzo. Think of this as the ultimate thin-crust pizza. Super simple and super crispy.

Cauliflower. For a lighter option, forgo the extra carbs and turn cauliflower into a healthful, delicious pizza crust.

Zucchini. Similar to cauliflower, zucchini is easy to make into a lean, green, pizza crust.

Portobello. These mushrooms are a perfect bed for any pizza sauce and toppings.

Quinoa. This grain isn’t only great on top of salads or in soups. Cook up your own quinoa crust for a nutty, protein-packed alternative to classic pizza dough.

Leftover rice. Another use for that leftover rice from dinner last night. Add just a little flax-seed meal and Italian seasoning, and you’ve got an easy, inventive crust.

And Then There’s Some Crazy Toppings!

  • Start with a whole-wheat crust, spread on a thin layer of goat cheese. Layer on some roasted beets and drizzle with oil. Bake until crispy and top with a handful of fresh arugula before serving. Drizzle with some high-quality balsamic vinegar.
  • Toast a large tortilla until slightly crisp. Remove from oven and top with pumpkin puree, chicken sausage and kale.
  • Start with a zucchini crust. Add pesto. Top with :broccoli or spinach or asparagus and sliced artichokes. Dollop with some pieces of fresh mozzarella and bake until crisp.
  • On a whole-wheat crust, spread a thin layer of ricotta cheese. Bake until the cheese starts to brown. Top with sliced figs, grapes, strawberries and blueberries or any combination. Add a drizzle of honey.
  • On a whole-wheat pita, spread a few tablespoons of fresh tomato sauce. Top with sautéed onions and peppers and sliced cooked  sausage. Top with some mozzarella cheese and a sprinkling of fresh herbs. Bake a few minutes to melt the cheese.

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Polenta Pizza Crust

Who says pizza has to be made from bread dough? Best of all, it’s gluten free!

Makes: one 11” x 14” rectangular crust

Ingredients

  • 3½ cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/3 cups Polenta
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped, fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

In a saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the 3½ cups of water to a boil. Add the salt.

Slowly add the polenta to the boiling water and stir. Reduce the heat and continue stirring for about 5 minutes, until thickened.

Pour in 2 tablespoons of oil and stir to incorporate. Add the chopped parsley, oregano and freshly ground black pepper (to taste). Stir to combine.

Remove the pan from the heat and prepare an 11×14 inch baking sheet by lining with parchment paper. Using a spatula (a silicone spatula works the best), spread the polenta evenly onto the prepared baking sheet.

Cover the pan and refrigerate for about an hour to set the polenta. You can also chill it overnight.

Once chilled, heat the oven to 450 degrees F. Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes or until slightly crispy on top. Remove from the oven and apply  pizza toppings of choice. Return to the oven just until the toppings are heated. Cut into serving pieces.

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Whole Wheat Sandwich Pizza Dough

This pizza dough has a thick crust – more like focaccia. Top with prosciutto, figs and pesto for an unusual sandwich.

Makes: one 9×13” thick crust pizza

Ingredients

For the starter:

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 package active dry yeast

For the dough:

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cups of bread flour
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • Extra water
  • Kosher salt

Directions

For the starter:

In a large bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the 1 cup of warm water (about 115 degrees F). Let the mixture stand 5 minutes—it should start to foam and bubble a bit. Add flour and mix well. Cover and let it stand for about 1 hour.

Make the dough:

Add the remaining 1 cup water, oil and salt to the yeast mixture and mix together. You can use a standing mixer or food processor as well.

Add the bread and whole wheat flours and using the paddle attachment mix until smooth. Switch to the dough hook and knead the dough for 5-6 minutes. It shouldn’t be too sticky, but still slightly tacky. Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl. Cover it and let it rise for 1½ hours.

Punch down the dough and turn it onto a lightly oiled 9×13 pan. Press the dough out to fit the pan and let it rise for 30 more minutes. After the 30 minutes, press the surface of the dough with your fingertips to make small depressions on the top. Apply toppings of choice or use the bread for sandwiches.

Bake the bread in an oven heated to 400 degrees F for 15 minutes. Then reduce the heat to 375 degrees F and bake for 20 minutes longer. If the top of the bread browns too quickly, cover it with some aluminum foil.

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Sweet Potato Pizza Crust

Makes four 8” personal pizzas

Ingredients

  • 2 cups mashed sweet potato (about two medium sweet potatoes)
  • 5 cups whole wheat flour (or use gluten-free flour as an alternative)
  • 3 teaspoons salt
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup milk or nondairy milk
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Prepare the sweet potatoes:

Fill a medium saucepan with water and bring it to a boil. Peel, dice, the sweet potatoes and then place them in the boiling water until soft.

Drain and mash the sweet potatoes in a large bowl. Allow to cool. Add the milk, olive oil and salt and mix well.

In another bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and combine.

Dust hands with flour and gently knead the dough until it is well mixed. You may want to turn the dough out onto a floured work surface for more space. You can add a little more flour to reduce the stickiness of the dough, but not too much, as it should still be slightly sticky.

Separate into 4 equal parts and form into rounds. Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and press one of the dough balls in the center. Press out from the middle of the ball, forming a flat, round disc (about 8  inches diameter). Repeat with remaining balls of dough.

Bake for 10 minutes. Add  toppings of choice and return to the oven to bake for 10 more minutes.

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Quinoa Pizza Crust

Makes 2 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup quinoa plus enough water to cover for soaking
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/3-1/2 cup  water
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning

Directions

Place the quinoa in a bowl and pour in enough water to cover the quinoa. Let it sit for about 8 hours to soak .

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Use a large 12-inch cast iron skillet or baking pan and brush with oil. Place in the oven to preheat.

Drain the quinoa, rinse and drain thoroughly. Place the quinoa in a blender. Add the 1/3 cup water and the seasonings and blend. Add more water as needed, until the batter resembles a thick pancake-style batter.

Once the oven reaches the set temperature, pour the batter into the skillet and quickly spread it out evenly across the bottom.

Place in the oven and bake for about 10 minutes, or until the underside is well-browned and starting to crisp. Use a large spatula and carefully flip the crust over. Bake for an additional 10 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and top with desired toppings. (Such as, tomato-based pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese, sautéed mushrooms, onions, pork sausage or greens.)

As with any pizza, be careful not to overload on toppings or the crust will get soggy.

Return the pan to the oven for 5-7 minutes or until the crust is well-browned on the bottom and crisp. Remove from the skillet and transfer to a cutting board or plate. Slice into serving pieces.

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Zucchini Crust Pizza

Ingredients

  • 2 cups shredded (1 large) zucchini
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped basil or oregano
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup. grated fresh parmesan
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Dry zucchini well with clean paper towels. Shred the zucchini using a hand shredder, then take all the shredded pieces and squeeze out all the excess water in between two paper towels.

Combine the zucchini, flour, eggs, oil, herbs and the cheeses until well-blended.

Once the dough is fully formed, spread evenly to about 10 inches on a pizza pan covered with parchment paper, then bake in an oven pre-heated to 400 degrees F for 15 minutes or until crispy.

Carefully turn the crust over with a wide spatula so the other side cooks as well. This will prevent sogginess. Bake for another 10-15 minutes

Once cooked, remove from the oven and add whatever toppings you choose (see below for ideas).

Turn the oven temperature to 450 degrees F. Once topped, put the pan back in the oven for about 8 minutes until heated.

Some Topping Ideas Or Use Your Imagination:

  • 1 large ripe tomato, sliced
  • 2-3  sautéed garlic cloves
  • Sautéed mushrooms
  • Thinly sliced bell peppers
  • Thinly sliced potatoes sautéed with garlic
  • Sliced olives
  • Sliced onion
  • Pesto
  • Fresh Mozzarella or Italian Fontina cheese

Dear Readers: What is the most unusual pizza you have created or eaten?


MarcheMarche’s location is ideal for both catching fresh seafood and harvesting food from the land. While Marche recipes make frequent use of pecorino cheese, olive oil and unsalted bread, they are also influenced by other nearby regions. Marche’s most famous appetizer is Olive Ascolana-olives are stuffed with a bread, cheese and meat filling before being deep-fried. Since it is deep-fried, I don’t serve them, but if you would like to know how to make them click on the recipe link.

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Vincisgrassi is a pasta dish layered with lasagna noodles, chicken livers and giblets, veal brains, ham and mushrooms with béchamel sauce, Parmesan cheese and white truffles, if they are in season. Tender pockets of ravioli pasta are filled with a parsley and ricotta mixture and served with sole cooked with tomatoes and white wine in what is called, Ravioli ai Filetto di Sogliola.

Lumachelle, a cheese flavored egg pasta, is made into a popular soup called Minestra di Lumachelle. Other popular soups in the Marche cuisine include Minestra di Trippa, a tripe soup served with battuto, a herb-flavored pork fat. Brodetto or fish soup, is eaten further along the coast and may contain any number of types of fish that are seasoned with vinegar, garlic or saffron and thickened with flour.

Several classic seafood combinations include a Potacchio sauce seasoned with white wine, tomato, onion. rosemary and lemon juice. Alla Marinara cooks the seafood in tomato sauce and Gratinati al Forno broils the fish in the oven. Porchetta combines cured pork, such as pancetta or prosciutto, wild fennel, rosemary and garlic with seafood and spices.

Mussels are stuffed with ham, bread crumbs and parsley before roasting in tomato sauce to make Muccioli Arrosto. Dried cod, tomatoes and carrots are cooked in a garlic and rosemary flavored sauce made with olive oil, white wine and milk for a dish called Stocco All Anconetana.

Marche cuisine includes a wide range of meats, from beef and lamb, free range poultry and pork, rabbits and game birds. Ground beef and bone marrow are mixed with cheese, spinach, bread crumbs and eggs to make a pasta that is served in broth. Quail, salt pork, peas and tomatoes are braised in white wine.

Marche’s variety of salumi is quite extensive. Ciauscolo,is a sausage that is spread on bread and prosciutto form Carpegna is especially well-known.

Fresh vegetables, such as greens, zucchini and peas, are eaten in season.

Marche cuisine takes advantage of dried lentils and beans to eat all year-long in soup. In the dish, Minestra di ceci, chick peas with pork ribs and tomatoes are simmered in a herb broth. It is served over toast with grated pecorino cheese.

Pecorino from Marche is eaten while relatively young and mild. It is used frequently in focaccia and pizza. Formaggio di fossa is a rare cheese from Talamello, made from sheep and cow milk. It is wrapped in cloth and buried in pits to age.

Marche cuisine also uses cheese in sweet dessert dishes. Calcio are pocket shaped pastries made with fresh pecorino. Piconi are made with ricotta and flavored with cinnamon and rum. Becute, a raisin and nut biscuit and Frustenga, a dried fruit and walnut cake, are both made with cornmeal.

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Dinner Menu

Antipasto

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Slices of fresh Italian bread,  Ciauscolo, Pecorino cheese and olives.

First Course

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Lasagna with Meat Sauce & Béchamel – Vincisgrassi

Ingredients

Meat Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 5 ounces prosciutto, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, chopped
  • 1 large white onion, chopped
  • 1 pound ground lamb or pork
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 pound chopped chicken thighs
  • 1 cup mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • Freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup whole milk

White Sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • Salt and pepper

Lasagna:

  • 1 (1-pound) package lasagna noodles
  • 2 cups grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

Directions

In a large stockpot, bring several quarts of lightly salted water to a boil. Add lasagna noodles and cook until the pasta is al dente. Strain and set aside to cool on kitchen towels.

Preheat the oven to 400˚F.

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, melt one tablespoon of butter. Add the chopped prosciutto and sauté until almost crisp. Add the carrots and onions and sauté, stirring constantly for about 1 minute. Add the ground lamb to the mixture and cook until evenly browned. Pour in the white wine and the stock. Stir in the tomato paste until well mixed and add a little salt and pepper. Reduce the liquid by half. Reduce the heat to medium low and cover the pot. Allow to simmer for about 30 minutes.

In another pan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Add the chopped chicken, mushrooms and a pinch of nutmeg. Sauté over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. Add this mixture to the simmering meat sauce, along with 1/3 cup of whole milk. Cover the meat sauce and simmer for another 15 minutes, tasting towards the end for seasoning. Add salt and pepper to taste.

For the white sauce:

In a small saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Stir in the flour to make a light roux, stirring constantly. Slowly whisk in 2 cups of whole milk. Allow the white sauce to simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Season with salt and pepper.

Coat a large rectangular baking dish with olive oil cooking spray. Cover the bottom with a layer of lasagna noodles. Add a layer of meat sauce topped with white sauce. (Be sparing on bottom layers to avoid a soggy casserole). Add a layer of Parmesan cheese. Repeat the layering process, ending with a layer of lasagna noodles on top. Using a pastry brush, brush the top noodles with the melted butter and sprinkle on the rest of the Parmesan cheese. Bake for 30 minutes or until the cheese on top is golden brown.

Serve the vincisgrassi piping hot from the oven, cut into squares.

Second Course

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Fish in Spicy Sauce

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds firm white fish fillets, such as snapper or cod
  • 1 carrot, chopped fine
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped fine
  • 1 medium-sized onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 8 ounces (200 g) roasted red bell peppers packed in oil, finely chopped
  • 4 ounces (100 g) pitted black olives, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons salted or pickled capers, rinsed and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • A small bunch parsley, chopped
  • Hot water
  • Salt, pepper and crushed red pepper flakes

Directions

Cut the fish into serving pieces. Salt and pepper the fillets and flour them lightly. Heat the oil in a large skillet and brown the fish on both sides, then pour in the wine.Simmer for 1 minute. Remove the fish to a platter and keep warm.

In the same skillet sauté the onion, carrot and celery. When the onions are lightly browned, stir in the tomato paste, roasted red peppers, olives, capers and a half cup of hot water. Bring to a boil and cook for a couple of minutes, then season to taste with salt and pepper and crushed red pepper. Return the fish to the skillet and gently heat. Garnish with parsley and serve.

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Zucchini Carpaccio

Ingredients

  • 2 medium zucchini
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1 leek, white part only, sliced thinly
  • 1/4 pound piece Parmesan cheese
  • Fresh mint or parsley leaves, for garnish

Directions

Using a mandolin or a very sharp knife, slice zucchini into very thin lengthwise slices. Overlap zucchini in 1 layer on a plate; season with salt and pepper. Drizzle over the olive oil and lemon juice and scatter with leeks. Using a vegetable peeler, shave very thin slices of Parmesan over the leeks. Garnish with mint leaves.

Dessert Course

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Poached Peaches in White Wine

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 firm peaches 
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • White wine
  • 1 sprig of thyme
  • 1 sprig of rosemary
  • Zest of ½ lemon
  • Mascarpone cheese or Frozen Yogurt

Directions

With a paring knife cut the fruit in half and remove the stone. If the stone will not come away easily, make a shallow incision around the stone and it will fall away once cooked.

Place the fruit cut side down in a pan or pot that fits the fruit snugly. Add in the herbs, lemon zest and the honey. Add enough wine to reach halfway up the fruit. Cover with baking paper (parchment) and bring the pan up to a medium simmer for 8-12 minutes total depending on the size of the fruit.

Give the peaches a turn on their backs after about 5 minutes and they are done when a knife slips easily into the thickest part of the fruit.

Once the peaches are cooked, remove them from the pan and place on a plate to cool. Return the pan to a low heat and reduce the wine until it becomes a syrup. Be careful not to let the mixture burn. Strain the syrup into a bowl and allow to cool.

To serve: Carefully remove the skins and arrange the peach halves on a serving plate. Drizzle the peaches with the white wine syrup and add tablespoons of mascarpone or yogurt on top of each peach half.


Cinque

The Cinque Terre is a rugged portion of coast on the Italian Riviera. It is in the Liguria region of Italy, to the west of the city of La Spezia. The coastline, the five villages (Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore) and the surrounding hillsides are all part of the Cinque Terre National Park and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Over the centuries, people have built terraces on the rugged, steep landscape right up to the cliffs that overlook the sea. Part of its charm is the lack of visible corporate development. Paths, trains and boats connect the villages, but cars cannot reach them from the outside. There’s not a chain store anywhere and each of the five villages has a distinct dialect and its own proud heritage. The Cinque Terre area is a very popular tourist destination and the main attraction is the landscape. Mediterranean herbs and trees grow spontaneously from the top of the hills down to the water level. Admiring this amazing natural scenery, one can imagine the intense human activity of carrying an enormous quantity of heavy stones on men’s shoulders and women’s heads to build the terraces that surround the hills. It is estimated to have taken about 200 years to build the entire stone-wall network. Its total length has been calculated to be at least equal to the Great Wall of China.

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The first historical documents concerning Cinque Terre date back to the 11th century. The villages of Monterosso and Vernazza sprang up first and the other villages grew later under the Genoa military and political era. In order to protect themselves from the attacks by the Turks, the inhabitants reinforced the old forts and built new defence towers. However, this isolated the inhabitants. In later years, thanks to the construction of the Military Arsenal of La Spezia and to the building of the railway line between Genoa and La Spezia, the inhabitants were able to escape their isolation. The consequence was an increase in poverty which pushed many to emigrate abroad, at least up until the 1970s, when the development of tourism brought back wealth.

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There are few roads into the Cinque Terre area that are accessible by car. The one into Vernazza opened in June 2012, but it is very narrow and leads to a parking area that is a 1/2 mile from town. Local trains from LaSpezia to Genova and the rest of the region’s network connect the towns. Intercity trains also connect Cinque Terre to Milan, Rome, Turin and Tuscany. The tracks run most of the distance in tunnels between Riomaggiore and Monterosso. A passenger ferry runs between the villages and enters Cinque Terre from Genova’s Old Harbor and LaSpezia ,Lerici or Portovenere.

Walking is very popular but In order to walk along the trails between the villages, one must purchase a pass. A walking trail, known as Sentiero Azzurro (“Azure Trail”), connects the villages. The trail from Riomaggiore to Manarola is called the Via Dell’Amore (“Love Walk”) and is wheelchair-friendly.

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The variation of house colors is due to the fact that while fishermen were doing their jobs just offshore, they wanted to be able to see their house easily. Most of the families in the villages made money by catching the fish and selling them in the small port villages. Fish was also their main source of food.

In 1998, the Italian Ministry for the Environment set up a natural marine area in Cinque Terre to protect the natural environment and to promote socio-economic development. In 1999 the Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre was set up to conserve the ecological balance, protect the landscape and safeguard the anthropological values of the location. Nevertheless, the dwindling interest in cultivation and maintenance of the terrace walls posed a long-term threat to the site. As a result the site was included in the 2000 and 2002 World Monuments Watch by the World Monuments Fund. The organization secured grants from American Express to support a study of the conservation of Cinque Terre and a site management plan was created.

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The Cuisine of Cinque Terre

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The cuisine of the Cinque Terre preserves tradition and respects the flavors and ingredients of its local products. Given its location on the Mediterranean, seafood is plentiful in the local cuisine. Anchovies of Monterosso are a local specialty designated with a Protected Designation of Origin status from the European Union. The mountainsides of Cinque Terre are heavily terraced and are used to cultivate grapes and olives. This area in the region of Liguria is known for pesto — a sauce made from basil leaves, garlic, salt, olive oil, pine nuts and pecorino cheese. Focaccia is common and locally baked. Farinata is also a typical snack found in bakeries and pizzerias- a savory and crunchy pancake made from a base of chick-pea flour. The town of Corniglia is particularly popular for its gelato made from local honey.

The grapes of the Cinque Terre are used to produce two locally made wines: Cinque Terre and the Sciachetrà are both made using Bosco, Albarola and Vermentino grapes. Other DOC producers are Forlini-Capellini, Walter de Batté, Buranco, Arrigoni. In addition to wines, other popular local drinks include Grappa, a brandy made with the pomace left from winemaking and limoncello, a sweet liqueur flavored with lemons.

Some typical dishes include:

  • Trofie is a type of pasta made from chestnut or wheat flour and its usual condiment is pesto sauce.
  • Farinata, similar to focaccia but made with chickpea flour. A regional speciality.
  • Tagliatelle, a broad handmade pasta, is used with sauces that contain mushrooms, cabbage and potatoes, beans, chickpeas or sometimes pesto.
  • Vegetable pies are prepared with a stuffings that contain borage, parsley, marjoram, other local herbs that grow wild, artichokes, swiss chard, zucchini, potatoes and leeks combined with egg and ricotta cheese or with stale bread soaked in milk or béchamel sauce (depending on each family’s traditions) and parmesan cheese.
  • Rice pie, or ‘torta di riso’, is a specialty of every grandma in the region. In Monterosso this rice pie is made by adding dried mushrooms to the filling. In Manarola, the tradition is to make this dish for the feast of the patron saint, Lawrence, on August 10th.
  • Egg frittata or flat omelettes are very popular and are used as an antipasto.
  • Cotoletta di acciughe are anchovies stuffed with a breadcrumb filling and then fried.
  • Frittelle di bianchetti are fritters made from tiny anchovies or sardines.
  • Other dishes include stewed cuttlefish, stuffed calamari and spiced octopus.
  • Mussels, another protected designation of origin product from the Gulf of La Spezia, are prepared in a variety of ways: stuffed, stewed or baked.

Farinata with Sage, Olives and Onion

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup chick-pea flour
  • 2 cups cold water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 large white onion, thinly sliced
  • 30 Ligurian black olives, pitted
  • 45 small or 30 large fresh sage leaves

Directions

At least 1 hour before making farinata, set a pizza stone on a rack in the upper third of an oven and preheat the oven to 550°F.

Whisk together chick-pea flour and water until smooth, then whisk in salt and 2 tablespoons of oil. Let stand at least 30 minutes at room temperature.

Cook the onion with salt to taste in 1 tablespoon oil in a large heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 10 minutes; then cool.

Put a seasoned 10-inch cast-iron round griddle on the pizza stone and heat 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and add 1/2 tablespoon oil, tilting to coat evenly.

Working quickly, stir batter and ladle about 7/8 cup (1 cup minus 2 tablespoons) evenly into the pan (batter will sizzle and start to set almost immediately).

Quickly scatter a third of the onion, olives and sage leaves over the batter and carefully return pan to the oven on the pizza stone.

If using an oven with a built-in broiler, bake 12 minutes, then turn oven setting to broil and broil the farinata for 3 to 5 minutes.

If using an oven with a broiler underneath, bake 15 minutes, then transfer pan to the broiler for 1 to 2 minutes. Edges should be golden brown and crisp and the top flecked with golden spots.

Slide farinata onto a cutting board. Make 2 more in same manner, reheating pan 5 minutes for each successive farinata. Halve farinata and cut into strips.

Fish Stew

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Buridda is a traditional fish stew, made around the Cinque Terre area. To serve six you’ll need:

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds of mixed fresh fish (red mullet, angler fish, dogfish, drumfish, etc – things that are inexpensive and fresh)
  • 1 1/4 pounds cuttlefish, shellfish and/or and baby squid
  • 1 pound onions
  • 1 pound of fresh tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • A pinch of dried oregano (no more)
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Slices of toasted Italian bread, for serving

Directions

Clean the mollusks and slice all the fish, removing any bones you may find. Thinly slice the onions and blanch, peel, and chop the tomatoes.

In a Dutch oven lightly oil the bottom, then add half the tomatoes and half the onions. Salt and pepper lightly, then arrange half the fish over the vegetables. Add another tomato-onion layer, then another fish layer, then season again and sprinkle the top with the parsley, oregano and wine.

Cover and cook over a very low flame for about an hour, or until the liquid is mostly evaporated and the sauce has thickened. Occasionally shake the pot lightly but do not stir it, or you will break up the fish.

Serve the Buridda over slices of toasted Italian bread that have been rubbed with garlic.

Pizzoccheri (Pasta with Potatoes, Cabbage & Cheese)

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Pre-heat oven to 450°F. Coat a 9×13 inch baking dish with olive oil.

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 3 potatoes, peeled and cut into small chunks
  • 8 oz Savoy cabbage, halved, cored and cut into strips about 1/2″ wide
  • 1 lb pizzoccheri (buckwheat fettuccine) or regular fettuccine
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 12 sage leaves, torn into pieces
  • Pinch salt and pepper
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 10 oz Italian Fontina or Taleggio cheese, diced

Directions

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the coarse salt and potatoes. Reduce heat to medium-high and cook for 3 minutes or until potatoes are softened (but not cooked through). Stir in the cabbage and pasta. Increase the heat to high and cook, uncovered, for about 8 minutes, or until the pasta is not quite tender and firm. Drain, but reserve 1 cup of the cooking liquid.

Melt the butter in the pasta pot and add the garlic and sage, adding the pinch of salt and pepper. The garlic should get soft, but not brown. Return the pasta and vegetables to the pot. Add all but 3 tablespoons of the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Toss it all together gently until incorporated.

Place half the mixture in the prepared casserole dish, scatter half the diced Fontina over the top and a grinding of pepper. Repeat and then top with the rest of the Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Pour 1/3 cup of the reserved cooking liquid over top to moisten slightly.

Bake in the top half of the oven for 7 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Let stand for five minutes before serving.


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My favorite brand of Italian Sausage comes from a very fine market in Rhode Island. When I moved away from the northeast, I found it difficult to buy authentic Italian sausage until I found Fortuna’s.

Patti Fortuna-Stannard writes on her website:
“Our story starts with my Nani and Poppa, my grandparents who emigrated to America from Calabria, Italy over 100 years ago. They brought with them only their hopes, dreams, and great Italian Sausage recipes with old world techniques. I am proud to be a 3rd generation Italian-American sausage maker that plans to carry on our family traditions forever! We take great pride in making our salami the same way my grandparents did, in small batches, using only the finest hand trimmed pork, spices ground moments before blending, tied with pure cotton twine, stuffed into natural casings and hung to dry- not cooked. Every salami has a unique flavor and aroma! At Fortuna’s our passion is making only the very best salami and keeping our old world values, flavors and traditions alive. Our niche is all natural salami- they didn’t use nitrates and preservatives in the early 1900s and we certainly do not need to add them now! “

Photo from the Fortuna archives

Photo from the Fortuna Archives

Photo from the Fortuna archives

Photo from the Fortuna Archives

This is true old world Italian salami and sausage that is made in the USA. Fortuna’s Sausage Company offers five types of Italian rope sausage:

  • Sweet – with pork and fennel seed
  • Calabrese – hot, hot
  • Tuscano – with sun-dried tomato, sharp Provolone cheese and Pepperoncini
  • Sandgate – a northern Italian specialty with Romano cheese, fresh parsley and garlic, wine and citrus in a sweet sausage base
  • Cheese & Parsley- a sweet base sausage in a thin casing that is great grilled.

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Grilled Italian Sausage

Other than simmering Italian sausage in sauce  for pasta, my next favorite way of cooking sausage is to grill it. My method is simple and they come out perfect every time.

To grill the sausage:

Heat the grill on high and then turn the burners off on one side of the grill or place coals on one side of a charcoal grill.
Lower heat is better and will prevent the meat from drying out. Oil the grill grates.
Keep the entire link whole – don’t cut it up or poke holes in it.

Coil the link over the indirect heat side of the grill and close the grill lid. After 10 minutes turn the sausage link over.
Use tongs to turn the links. Don’t pierce the link’s skin or the juices will flow out and cause the sausage to be dry.
Once the sausage has cooked for about 20 minutes, place the sausage over the direct heat and let the skin crisp slightly.

Check with a meat thermometer for 160 degree F internal temperature to be sure the sausage is cooked all the way through.
I like to grill hot (spicy) sausage and serve it over garlic sautéed broccoli rabe. Don’t forget the crusty italian bread.

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Italian Sausage Risotto

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 1/4 cups Carnaroli rice
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 5 ounces Italian pork sausage, casing removed
  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • 6 cups beef broth
  • 2 1/4 cups Carnaroli rice
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 5 ounces Italian pork sausage, casing removed
  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • 6 cups beef broth
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Simmer the broth in a large pot over medium heat, cover and keep warm.

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a wide pan over medium heat, add the finely chopped onion and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the rice and chopped sausage and stir for about 2 minutes.

Add the wine and stir for about 1 minute until all the wine has evaporated. Add 1/3 of the warm broth and simmer until it is absorbed, stirring frequently.

Add 1 or 2 ladles of the remaining broth and allow the rice to absorb all the liquid before adding more. Continue stirring until the rice is creamy and al dente, approximately 16-20 minutes.

Remove from the heat and add the Parmigiano-Reggiano and the remaining butter, stirring well. Season the risotto with salt and pepper to taste.

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Sautéed Sausage, Peppers and Onions

Sometimes I leave out the tomatoes – just depends on how I want to serve this dish. The photo shows a double batch, since this dish doesn’t last long in my house.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound each of hot and sweet Italian sausage, uncut
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 green bell pepper, sliced into long strips
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced into long strips
  • 1 yellow or orange bell pepper, sliced into long strips
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced into slivers
  • 1 large sweet onion, sliced into 1/4-inch half-moons
  • 1 small (15 ounce) can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • Salt to taste

Directions

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large, deep skillet with a lid. When the oil is hot, add the whole sausage links and brown them slowly. You want a gentle browning, not a quick sear. Cook for several minutes, turning them occasionally so they brown on all sides. When the sausages are browned, remove them from the pan and set aside.

Increase the heat to high and add the onions and peppers. Toss so they get coated with the oil in the pan and cook, stirring often. Once the onions and peppers soften, sprinkle some salt on them, add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute.

Add the red wine and with a wooden spoon scrape the bottom of the pan to release all the browned bits. Let the wine cook down by half.

Add the tomatoes, oregano and red pepper flakes and stir well to combine. Add the sausages back in. Bring to a simmer then reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer until the peppers are soft and the sausages are cooked through, about 20 minutes.

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Baked Vegetable Sausage Penne

Ingredients

  • 1 pound Italian sausage
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 – 14 1/2 ounce can diced Italian tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, plus extra for garnish
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 pound eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2 zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch half-moons
  • 2 large red bell peppers, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 8 ounces dried regular or whole wheat penne pasta
  • 1/2 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 2 quart baking dish with olive oil cooking spray.

Place sausage links in a large unheated skillet. Add 1/2 inch of water to the skillet. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer about 15 minutes or until juices run clear; drain off the liquid. Cook for 2 to 4 minutes more or until browned, turning occasionally. Remove from heat. When cool enough to handle, cut sausages in half lengthwise; bias-cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Set aside.

In the same skillet, heat the olive oil, add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the undrained tomatoes, the 3 tablespoons parsley, oregano and the crushed red pepper. Bring to boiling. Stir in eggplant, zucchini and peppers. Reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook pasta for one minute less than the minimum time listed on the package. Drain the pasta and return it to the hot pan. Stir in the eggplant mixture and the sausage.

Spoon into the prepared baking dish. Covered with foil and bake about 30 minutes or until heated through. Uncover, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and bake about 5 minutes more or until the cheese melts. If desired, sprinkle with additional parsley. Makes 6 (1-cup) servings.

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Pan Pizza with Ricotta and Sausage

Pizza Dough

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 ½ cups (8 1/4 ounces) bread flour
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

Coat a rimmed rectangular baking sheet with 2 tablespoons of the oil.

Combine water and remaining 1 tablespoon oil in 1-cup liquid measuring cup. Using a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix flour, yeast, sugar and salt on low-speed until combined.

With mixer running, slowly add water mixture and mix until dough comes together, about 1 minute. Increase speed to medium-low and mix until dough is smooth and comes away from the sides of the bowl, about 10 minutes.

Transfer dough to the greased baking sheet and turn to coat. Stretch dough to a 10 by 6-inch rectangle. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 to 1½ hours.

Stretch dough to the corners of the pan, cover loosely with plastic and let rise in a warm place until slightly puffed, about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to the lowest position and heat the oven to 500 degrees F.

For the topping:

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup canned finely chopped Italian plum tomatoes, drained
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 pound fresh whole-milk ricotta
  • 1/4 pound spicy Italian sausage, casings removed, cooked
  • 6 basil leaves, cut into thin strips

Directions

Combine drained tomatoes, oil, garlic, oregano and salt in bowl. Spread the dough with the tomato mixture. Scatter the cooked sausage on top. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Drop tablespoons of ricotta on top of the pizza, leaving room between tablespoons.

Bake until well browned and bubbling, about 15 minutes. Slide pizza onto wire rack, sprinkle with basil and let cool for 5 minutes before cutting into serving pieces.


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Making the classic Ligurian pesto of basil, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, garlic and olive oil, is really just a start. Play with the formula to create your own pesto version for tossing with pasta or spooning over just about anything from the grill.

Here are a few ideas.

  • Vary the herbs. Tender leaves, like parsley, oregano and mint also work well. Or skip the herbs and try baby kale, baby spinach or arugula.
  • Switch up the nuts. Try almonds, hazelnuts or walnuts, which make a heartier pesto. Or add pistachios or Brazil nuts, which both have a natural buttery flavor that’s delicious in a sauce.
  • Add vegetables. For an especially chunky pesto, add your farmers’ market finds, from asparagus to red peppers to tomatoes.
  • Mix and match. After you get comfortable with varying the formula, you can come up with creative combos, like oregano-pistachio or olive-hazelnut.

Carrot Top Pesto

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A new cookbook, Root to Stalk Cooking by Tara Duggan, inspired me to think about how I could use the carrot tops that came with my CSA share. The spread I created is delicious over grilled chicken breasts and grilled fish fillets.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup packed carrot leaves (washed well and stems removed)
  • 6 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • 1/4 teaspoon each fine sea salt and black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons roasted pistachio nuts (see below)
  • 1/2 of a lemon, squeezed

Directions

If you did not purchase roasted nuts then spread the nuts in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Place in a preheated 350-degree F oven and toast the nuts until lightly browned, 5 to 10 minutes. Alternatively, nuts can be browned in a microwave. Spread in a single layer on a microwave-safe plate and microwave on high power, stopping to stir once or twice, until lightly browned, 5 to 8 minutes.

To Make the Pesto:
In a food processor, combine the carrot leaves, oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Process until finely minced. Add the nuts and pulse until finely chopped. Add the lemon juice and pulse just until combined. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Use immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Traditional Handmade Basil Pesto

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Makes about 1 1/2 cups

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup pine nuts (6 ounces)
  • 5 cups basil leaves, chilled and very dry
  • 6 small garlic cloves, quartered
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for sealing
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Toast the nuts on a baking sheet for about 4 minutes, or until lightly browned. Coarsely chop the basil leaves.

In a large mortar, combine the basil and garlic and pound to a coarse paste. Add the nuts and pound until a smooth paste forms. Stir in the Parmesan, then 3/4 cup of the olive oil.

Transfer the pesto to a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Smooth the surface and pour a little olive oil on top to seal.

Cavatappi with Basil Pesto and Eggplant 

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Modern method for making pesto.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound cavatappi pasta or short pasta of choice
  • 7 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 small eggplant, diced in small cubes
  • 1 bunch fresh basil chopped
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts toasted
  • 1 lemon juiced
  • 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shredded
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Mix eggplant with 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Place on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for about 10 minutes or until light, golden brown. Remove from the oven.

Combine basil, pine nuts, salt and pepper in a blender, pulse for 5 seconds. With processor running add 6 tablespoons of olive oil and puree. Remove the pesto from the blender and transfer to a large pasta serving bowl.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, season with salt. Cook pasta 1 minute less than packaged directions. Drain pasta and place in the bowl with the pesto.

Add lemon juice and eggplant and toss to combine. Top with shredded Parmigiano cheese before serving.

Spinach Pesto

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This pesto does incredible things for grilled chicken.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups lightly packed baby spinach leaves (about 2 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Combine the spinach, pine nuts, lemon juice and lemon peel in a processor. Lightly pulse.

With the machine running, gradually add the oil, blending until the mixture is creamy. Add salt and pulse. Stir in the Parmesan. Season the pesto with salt and pepper to taste.

Olive-Mint Pesto

Olive-Mint Pesto

Stir this pesto into mixed ground meats to make meatloaf, serve it on bruschetta with shaved Parmesan cheese, stir it into soups or whisk it into vinaigrettes.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons tightly packed mint leaves
  • 2 tablespoons small capers, drained
  • 1 large garlic clove, smashed
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup pitted mixed olives, such as Kalamata and Cerignola
  • Freshly ground pepper

Directions

In a food processor, pulse the mint with the capers, garlic, lemon zest and crushed red pepper. With the machine on, add the olive oil in a thin stream. Add the olives and pulse until coarsely chopped. Season the pesto with pepper.

Olive-Mint Pesto Meatballs

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Ingredients

  • 3 slices good quality packaged white bread, crusts removed, bread torn
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 1/3 cup Olive-Mint Pesto, recipe above
  • 1 scallion, thinly sliced
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 pound ground turkey
  • 3/4 pound ground beef (or use all turkey)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

In a large bowl, soak the bread in the milk for 1 minute, mashing it. Using your hand, press out the milk and drain it off.

Add 1/3 cup of the olive-mint pesto, the scallion and the egg to the soaked bread and mash to a paste. Add the ground turkey and beef and season with 1 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Mix until well blended.

Line a baking sheet with plastic wrap. Using lightly moistened hands, roll the meat mixture into twenty-four 1 1/2-inch balls and transfer to the baking sheet.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the meatballs in a single layer and cook over moderately high heat, turning occasionally, until browned all over and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Serve over pasta, if desired.

Mixed-Herb Pesto

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Whisk the pesto with a little vinegar to create a delicious herb dressing for a salad, sliced tomatoes or grilled fish.

Makes 2 ½ cups

Ingredients

  • 1 large garlic cloves
  • 4 lightly packed cups basil leaves
  • 2 lightly packed cups flat-leaf Italian parsley leaves
  • 1/2 cup lightly packed mint leaves
  • 1/2 cup roasted nuts, such as walnuts, almonds, pine nuts or pistachios
  • 1 1/2 cups extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 ounces Pecorino Romano cheese, grated (1/2 cup)
  • Salt

Directions

In a food processor, chop the garlic. Add the basil, parsley and mint and pulse until chopped. Add the nuts and oil and pulse until a smooth paste forms. Add the cheese and pulse until incorporated. Season with salt to taste.

Spoon the pesto into 1/2-pint freezer containers. Smooth the surface and pour a little olive oil on top to seal. Freeze for up to 6 months.

Walnut Pesto

Walnut Pesto

Mix this pesto with cooked tortellini or roasted vegetables, spread it on thickly sliced tomatoes and broil, or stuff it under the skin of a chicken  before roasting.

Makes about 1 1/4 cups.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups walnut halves (6 ounces)
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • Crushed red pepper
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup minced flat-leaf Italian parsley
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread the walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 12 minutes, or until golden. Cool the walnuts and finely chop.

In a processor, combine the garlic with a pinch each of crushed red pepper and salt. Process until a paste forms.

Add the walnuts, parsley and slowly add the olive oil until blended. Stir in the Parmesan cheese and season with additional salt, if needed.

Sun-Dried-Tomato Pesto

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Use this pesto on top of grilled chicken, lamb or vegetables; as a sandwich spread; or mixed with cream cheese on a bagel. It is quite delicious on whole wheat spaghetti, also.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup pine nuts or
  • 15 drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper

Directions

In a small frying pan, toast the pine nuts over moderately low heat, stirring frequently, until golden brown, about 5 minutes; remove from the pan. Or toast the pine nuts in a 350°F oven for 5 to 10 minutes.

In a blender or food processor, put the pine nuts, sun-dried tomatoes, oil, water, salt and pepper. Puree until smooth.

6. Fusilli with Spinach and Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto

To Make a Pasta Salad:

Cook 1 lb fusilli pasta according to directions. Drain.
Toss the pasta with a 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts, 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, the sun-dried tomato pesto, 1/2 cup of roughly chopped pitted black olives, 2 cups baby spinach leaves, 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes and 1/4 cup grated Parmesan. Serve at room temperature.


Lake

Lake Bolsena is a crater lake of volcanic origin in central Italy, which began to form 370,000 years. It is the largest volcanic lake in Europe and is the fifth largest lake in Italy with a circumference of over 26 miles (43 km). Lake Bolsena’s bed was formed from a caldera in the extinct Vulsini volcano. A caldera is a volcanic feature formed by the collapse of land following a volcanic eruption. The underlying rock in the area where the lake formed, the caldera, collapsed into a deep bowl. This bowl was gradually filled by rain water and underwater sources.

Roman historical records indicate volcanic activity last occurred there in 104 BC and it has been dormant since then. The two islands, Bisentina and Martana, in the southern part of the lake, were formed by underwater eruptions following the collapse that created the caldera.

Lake 2

The lake is fed primarily by underground springs and rainwater and has a single outlet, the river Marta that flows into the Tyrrhenian Sea, in the vicinity of Tarquinia. The lake has an oval shape, typical of crater lakes. The long axis of the ellipse is aligned in a north-south direction. The entire lake is surrounded by hills and is a good vacation spot. It has beaches, a harbor, restaurants, hotels and a medieval historic center surrounded by walls with a castle at the top. On the lake one can enjoy water sports, from canoeing, water skiing, sailing to surfing. Unlike most lakes, Lake Bolsena displays tidelike movements, called “sessa” with the difference between low and high tides being as much as 50 cm or 20 inches.

Lake Bolsena is north of Rome in the Northern Lazio region, just south of Tuscany. Bolsena, the main town on the lake, is on the northeastern shore. In the 7th century BC, it was the site of a Villanovan settlement whose huts were built on stilts directly over the water, using reed platforms, hay roofs and cobbled floors. About four hundred years later, it was settled by the Etruscans after they fled from the Roman destruction of Velzna in 264 BC. Velzna eventually became Volsinii, a Latin name which has been transformed over the centuries into Bolsena.

Lake 1

The Rocca Monaldeschi della Cervara sits at the top of the hill, overlooking the medieval quarter of the town. The castle was built between the 12th and 14th centuries. It has been completely renovated and, since 1991, has housed the Museo Territoriale del Lago di Bolsena (Lake Bolsena Territorial Museum). Each of its three floors is dedicated to various aspects of Bolsena’s history, ranging from its prehistoric volcanic origins to its Etruscan-Roman period. The Church of St. Christine is the town’s other major site. It is a Romanesque church built in 1078 in a typical basilica style over the catacombs where St. Christine, a young woman martyred during the reign of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, was buried.

The Cuisine

Lake 5

The territory of Lake Bolsena brings with it a whole host of ancient traditions that are also reflected in the local cuisine, with flavors and products typical of their ancient recipes and cooking methods. It is also famous for its clear lake waters and the nickname “the lake with a drink. Long ago, lake water was used in cooking. Fishermen prepared the Sbroscia in a clay pot using freshly caught fish; it was one of the few means of survival, when they had little more than what the lake could offer. It was prepared within the small hut on the shore that was used as a refuge and as a warehouse for their supplies.

Acquacotta is the name of a typical local soup prepared with chicory, potatoes, tomatoes, onions, hot pepper, dried cod, dry bread and olive oil. Other soups of the local cuisine are made with mushrooms, legumes, chestnuts, lake fish (sbroscia) and lamb. First courses often include rice and lentils, pasta and potatoes, rice and chicory, peas with quadrucci (small squares of hand-made egg pasta) and “minestrone alla Viterbese”.

Pasta dishes include maccheroni, ceciliani, lombrichelli (made with only flour and water), potato gnocchi, fettuccine, pappardelle, gavinelle or polenta. These dishes are often served with a classic ragout – meat sauces prepared with hare, wild boar, mushrooms, spare ribs and pork sausages or, in summer, with fresh garden vegetables, such as: zucchini, eggplant, turnip greens or sweet peppers.

For main courses, rabbit alla cacciatora, stewed chicken with tomatoes, wild boar with tomato sauce, stewed hare, baked lamb, tripe with tomato sauce, fried coratella (veal intestines), roasted pork or pignattaccia (a stew made with meat and vegetables) are most common. Main fish dishes, prepared with lake fish, include: fried perch fillets, stewed eels, fried lattarini, stewed or fried pike and baked or grilled whitefish.

Typical desserts include: sweet ravioli made with ricotta, ciambellone (simple white cakes), tarts made with ricotta or jam, crunchy biscuits and cookies made with hazelnuts and sweetened fritters made with rice.

Lake 4

Chickpea and Chestnut Soup

This ancient soup recipe of chickpeas and chestnuts is one of the typical dishes of the area.

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups dried chickpeas
  • 1 oz pancetta
  • 10 ½ oz chestnuts, chopped 
  • 4 peeled tomatoes 
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic,
  • 1 sprig of rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt

Directions

Cover the chickpeas with water in a bowl and soak for about 24 hours; drain and pour into a pot with water to cover. Cook until the chickpeas are softened, about an hour; add the salt. Drain the chickpeas; set aside a 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid and puree half the chickpeas.

Chop together the garlic, rosemary and pancetta. Heat a little extra virgin olive oil in the pot used to cook the chickpeas and cook the pancetta mixture for a few minutes.

Add the pureed chickpeas, the whole chickpeas, the cooking water and the chopped chestnuts. Cook the mixture for 5 minutes, then add the diced tomatoes and the bay leaf.
Mix add the broth, stirring well; let the mixture simmer for 10 minutes over low heat. Remove the bay leaf before serving.

Lake 3

The Sbroscia of Lake Bolsena

Sbroscia is a stew of fresh fish from the lake. There are many species of fish that inhabit the lake: whitefish , eel , pike , tench , trout, perch and silversides are a few examples. Any combination of fish may be used in the recipe.

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • 1 tench (minnow family)
  • 1 pike
  • 1 eel
  • 4 perch
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 large potatoes, diced
  • 3 tomatoes, chopped
  • Stale bread ( 3-4 slices per serving dish)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • Salt
  • Small bunch mint, chopped
  • Crushed red pepper flakes

Directions

Cut the fish into serving pieces.

Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a Dutch Oven or large soup pot. Add the garlic, mint and onion and cook until the onion softens.

Add the potatoes and tomatoes and saute for a few minutes. Add all the fish, 6 cups of water and salt to taste, cover the pan, and cook for 30-35 minutes.

Place 3 to 4 slices of bread in each serving bowl and pour in the stew. Drizzle with olive oil before serving.

Lake 6

Whitefish (Coregone)

The whitefish sauce is served with fettuccine or spaghetti.

Ingredients

  • 1 whitefish, filled
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 3-4 peeled and chopped tomatoes
  • Salt
  • Crushed red pepper flakes to taste
  • Chopped parsley for garnish
  • Cooked pasta

Directions

Saute the onion and garlic in a large skillet. Add the whitefish fillets and saute until cooked through. Break up the fish into smaller pieces.

Add the wine and cook until it evaporates. Add the fresh tomatoes and cook until no longer raw. Season with salt and the crushed red pepper.

Mix in the cooked pasta and garnish with chopped parsley.

Lake 7

Risotto with Perch Fillets

This risotto uses the freshwater perch in the starring role.

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 7 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 2 cups risotto rice
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano cheese
  • 4 cups broth (chicken or vegetable stock)
  • 3 perch fillets (per person) – about 18 total
  • Flour or bread crumbs for coating

Directions

In a heavy saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon butter until it melts. Add the chopped onion and cook until it is tender. When the onion becomes transparent, add the rice to the pot and mix it well. Let it cook for a couple of minutes. Then, add the wine to the pot. Mix the rice until the liquid evaporates, then add the broth, a small amount at a time, stirring it constantly to allow even absorption of the liquid. When the rice is just about tender, add the salt, pepper and cheese and allow to melt.

Meanwhile, to cook the fish – batter the fillets in the flour or bread crumbs and then cook the perch in batches in a hot skillet using some of the remaining butter. Turn the fillets over once and cook until each side is golden brown. Repeat with remaining fillets and butter.

Spoon the rice onto a serving dish and top with the fish fillets. Just a note to add an additional Italian twist to this risotto: heat some butter in a pan and add a handful of sage leaves. Let the butter melt and become infused with the herbs. When the risotto is ready to be served pou,r the butter sauce over the fish.

Lake 8

Sweet Rice Fritters (Frittelle di Riso)

Makes about 40

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) short grain rice (arborio)
  • 2 cups (500 ml) milk
  • Zest of 1 lemon or orange (or a mixture of both)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 2 tablespoons Italian dessert wine: Vin Santo
  • 1/3 cup (40 grams) flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • Olive oil or vegetable oil for frying

Directions

Cook the rice in the milk, watching very carefully that it doesn’t burn or overflow – don’t take your eyes off it! You will need to stir it quite often to make sure it doesn’t stick and burn on the bottom. When the milk has been mostly absorbed and the rice is very soft, take the pan off the heat and add the citrus zest and sugar.

Set aside. Once completely cool, add the wine, eggs, baking powder, salt and flour. Combine thoroughly then cover and let the mixture rest for several hours or overnight in the refrigerator before using. The mixture may look quite runny, like a pancake batter.

Drop tablespoons of batter into hot oil, and fry, turning to cover all sides evenly until a deep brown. Transfer to paper towels to drain before rolling in powdered sugar. These are best eaten the day they are made.



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