Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Italian Cuisine

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Florence’s hot temperatures, al fresco dining and a busy open-air arts and concert season make it one of Italy’s most vibrant cities in the summer.

The classic Italian dinner, or “cena”, has a very specific structure. Traditional dinners begin with “apertivo,” which is usually a drink with snacks to get ready for the large meal to come. “Antipasta,” the appetizer, comes next, followed by the “primo”, which can be a pasta, a soup, polenta or a rice dish. The “secondo” follows the primo, which is the major protein of the meal, consisting of meat, eggs or fish and often accompanied by “contorno,” or a side dish of vegetables. The meal is then topped off by “dolce,” dessert and a “café,” coffee.

At the heart of Florentine cuisine, you will find bread (plain, unsalted, well-baked with a crispy crust and light and airy inside); without any doubt the best extra-virgin olive oil, Florentine steaks of beef, roasted or wine-braised game such as boar, deer and rabbit and wine.

There is a reason that Italians live long lives and everyone looks healthy and happy: they eat really, really well with a focus on seasonal vegetables, simple cooking techniques and lots of olive oil. The bean and chickpea salads we serve at backyard barbecues, marinated vegetable salads and the cooling end to a meal with panna cotta and gelato, all have their roots in Italian summer recipes. There is even a minestrone designated for summer and it is one of the best because of all the fresh tomatoes and squash available at this time of year.

Italian cocktails… are delicious year-round. But in summer, when the temperature rises and the humidity sets in, there’s nothing more refreshing than—a Bellini, spritz or limoncello.

Eat the Italian way: slowly and moderately, while enjoying the food and each other’s company.

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Florentine Market

Cocktails

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Classic Negroni

This classic was first created for Count Camillo Negroni in 1919 at Florence’s Café Casoni.

For each cocktail:

  • 1 oz. Campari
  • 1 oz. gin
  • 1 oz. sweet vermouth

Directions

Stir Campari, gin and vermouth in an ice-filled tumbler; pour into a glass and garnish with an orange slice.

Appetizer

Caprese Salad with Red and Yellow Tomatoes and Buffalo Mozarella

Pesto Caprese Salad

Serve with Italian bread.

Serving 6

Ingredients

  • 6-8 fresh tomatoes, depending on their size
  • 8 ounces fresh Mozzarella cheese
  • A handful of fresh basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons basil pesto
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and fresh cracked pepper, to taste
  • High quality balsamic vinegar

Directions

Slice the tomatoes about 1/4 inch thick and place on a serving platter. Slice the mozzarella cheese about 1/4 inch thick. Place cheese slices between the tomato slices. Tuck fresh basil leaves in between the tomatoes and the cheese.

For the dressing:

Stir together the basil pesto and olive oil to make a thin dressing.  Drizzle over the salad and season with salt and pepper. Splash a little balsamic vinegar over the salad. Serve.

First Course

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Pasta zucchine e ricotta

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 8 medium-sized zucchini
  • 20 leaves of basil
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 oz. ricotta cheese
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 12 oz. short pasta, such as penne
  • Grated parmesan cheese for serving

Directions

Slice the zucchini into rounds and cut each round in half.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a frying pan and sauté the zucchini on a high heat until they turn lightly brown.

Add the garlic, cook for 5 seconds and turn off the heat, continuing to stir so that the garlic infuses the zucchini but does not burn. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Cook the pasta in salted, boiling water until al dente (a good minute or two less than the package instructions; until it is cooked but still firm to the bite).

Reserve ½ cup of the pasta cooking water.

In a warmed bowl, combine the pasta with the ricotta, remaining olive oil and the pasta cooking water.

Tear the basil leaves into small pieces and stir into the pasta. Serve with grated cheese.

Second Course

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Tuscan Pork with Spinach and Chickpeas

Serves 6

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 1/4 pounds pork tenderloin, cut into 1/2″-thick slices
  • 1 can (15 ounces) low sodium chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (15 ounces) chopped Italian tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 bags (10 ounces each; 15 ounces total) baby spinach leaves (15 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

Directions

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 2 minutes until the onion softens. Push the onions to one side of the pan.

Add the pork. Cook for about 4 minutes, turning once, until well browned on both sides. Add the chickpeas, tomatoes, Italian seasoning and salt. Stir. Adjust the heat so the sauce is at a moderate simmer. Cover and cook for 5 minutes.

Add the spinach, a large handful at a time, covering the pan between each addition. Cook until all the spinach wilts. Remove the pork to a serving plate.

Add the lemon juice to the pan. Stir to combine. Spoon the spinach mixture over the pork slices. Serve.

Dessert

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Zabaglione & Orange Liqueur

Use any fruit that is in season in this recipe.

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 3 cups peaches, peeled and cut into thin slices
  • 3 tablespoons crumbled amaretti cookies
  • 1 pound fresh strawberries, cut into quarters
  • 7 tablespoons orange liqueur (Grand Marnier)
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • Fresh mint for garnish

Directions

In the top half of a double boiler, whisk the egg yolks and sugar to a creamy consistency. Place the egg mixture over the hot water in the bottom of the double boiler, making sure that the pot containing the eggs doesn’t touch the water. Beat the mixture well with a whisk until it starts to thicken. It should take about 5 minutes. Be careful not to beat too long or you will cook the eggs.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in 1 tablespoon of the orange liqueur, whisking until it is well incorporated. Return the pan to the double boiler and whisk until the mixture is thickened, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Divide the strawberries and peaches among 6 wine glasses or dessert bowls, Sprinkle each with the amaretti crumbs and spoon 1 tablespoon of orange liqueur over each. Top with some of the custard and decorate each with a mint sprig, if you wish.

This dessert can be eaten warm or it can be refrigerated and eaten later.


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Small plate dining is very appealing when it is hot, as it is right now where I live. It is appealing for two and even for a small gathering of friends. This type of dining, often called tapas dining, used to be called a cocktail or appetizer party years ago. Eating lightly in such hot weather also makes sense for health reasons.

Doctors advise that in the summer, light food should be preferred because it can easily be digested. Vegetables with high water content like onions, tomatoes and cucumbers should be regularly eaten as they will not only cool down the body but provide the daily quota of nutrition as well. Foods high in fat and sugar will cause the body to work harder to process these foods. Contrary to conventional thinking, when it is really hot, you are not going to exercise these calories away.

Summer eating should be enjoyable and entertaining should be fun, even if it is hot. Small plates can be the answer and not overwork the host. You can even ask friends to bring a small plate to share with 6 or 8 friends. Here are some ideas for small plate options with an Italian flavor. Just add a few cool drinks and you are all set.

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Lambrusco Cooler

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1 (750-ml) bottle lemon Italian soda, chilled
  • 8 ounces fresh cherries, pitted and quartered
  • 8 ounces fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
  • 1 (750-ml) bottle Lambrusco

Directions

Put 1 cup of lemon soda in a large pitcher with cherries and strawberries and crush the fruit using a wooden spoon to release the juices. Chill at least 4 hours or overnight.

To serve, stir in Lambrusco and remaining soda and pour over ice.

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Crostini Di Scampi

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 sprig rosemary, plus 1 teaspoon minced
  • 16 medium shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails removed
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 4  ½ inch thick slices Italian country bread cut in half or quarters, brushed with olive oil and lightly toasted

Directions

Heat oil and garlic in a 12” skillet over medium-high heat. Fry the whole rosemary sprig, turning once, until crisp, 1–2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer rosemary to a paper towel to drain.

Season shrimp with pepper; add to skillet and saute, turning once, until golden about 2–3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer shrimp to paper towels to drain. Serve shrimp on toasted bread. Sprinkle with minced rosemary and freshly ground black pepper.

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Zucchine Ripiene Con Ricotta

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 6 medium zucchini (about 2 lbs.), halved lengthwise
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 medium tomatoes, cored, seeded and chopped
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 3/4 cup grated Pecorino cheese
  • 3/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 2 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions

Using a small spoon, scoop out the pulp (save pulp for another use) from each zucchini half, leaving a ¼ inch rim around the edges.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a 10″ skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and onions; cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 6 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 4 minutes more. Remove from the heat and set aside.

In a medium bowl, stir together the ricotta, 1/4 cup of the Pecorino cheese, 1/4 cup of the bread crumbs, parsley, oregano and the egg. Fold in the onion mixture and season with salt and pepper. Set the filling aside.

Arrange an oven rack about 7″ from the broiler element and heat. Rub the insides of the zucchini with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and season lightly with salt.

Place zucchini cut side up on a foil-lined baking sheet and broil for 5 minutes. Remove baking sheet from the oven and fill each zucchini half with enough of the ricotta mixture that it mounds slightly but doesn’t spill over the edges of the zucchini.

Sprinkle each stuffed zucchini with the remaining Pecorino cheese and bread crumbs and drizzle with the remaining olive oil. Broil until the zucchini are soft and the tops are lightly browned, 10 to 15 minutes.

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Orange Seasoned Dry Cured Black Olives

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1 orange
  • 1 lb. dry-cured black olives
  • 1 large sprig rosemary, stemmed and roughly chopped
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions

Using a vegetable peeler, remove zest from the orange, taking care to peel as little of the white pith as possible; roughly chop zest and transfer to a medium bowl.

Juice the orange and add the juice to the zest along with the olives, rosemary and pepper; toss to coat. Let sit at room temperature for 1 hour to marinate before serving.

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Peperoni Arrostiti Sotto Olio

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • 1 orange bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 5 leaves fresh basil leaves, finely sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions

Preheat an outdoor grill for high heat and lightly oil the grate. Reduce grill heat to medium.

Grill whole peppers until charred on all sides, turning about every 5 minutes. Place charred peppers in a paper or plastic food storage bag. Allow peppers to cool in the bag.

Combine olive oil, vinegar, garlic, basil, oregano, salt and pepper in a deep serving container.

Remove cooled peppers from the bag and scrape off charred skins. Cut peppers in half and remove seeds and stems. Slice peppers into long strips and place in the oil mixture. Mix well. Serve.

Store leftover peppers in refrigerator for up to 5 days.

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Balsamic Glazed Meatballs

Serves 10-12

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar
  • 2 eggs
  • Sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley parsley
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • Balsamic Glaze, recipe below

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine beef, bread crumbs and milk. Mix in tomato paste, vinegar and eggs and then add the remaining seasonings. Combine well and form into small, bite sized meatballs.

Place on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.

In a medium bowl, combine ingredients for the glaze and whisk together. Brush glaze over meatballs and bake for 30 minutes. Serve hot.

Balsamic Glaze

  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup water

Combine ingredients in a medium bowl.  Whisk to combine well. Set aside until needed.

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Italian Stuffed Mushrooms

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 12 medium button mushrooms
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/4 cup pancetta, diced
  • 1/4 cup onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 tablespoons dry white wine
  • Sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Using a spoon or your fingers, pop out mushroom stems and set aside. Finely dice 1/3 cup of the reserved mushroom stems. Reserve the rest for another use.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in sauté pan over medium heat. Add diced mushroom stems, pancetta and onion. Cook until soft and lightly brown; add garlic and sauté an additional 2 minutes.

Remove from the heat and add bread crumbs, Parmesan and wine. Mix well and season with salt and pepper.

Place mushrooms, stem side up in a baking dish. Spoon ricotta inside each mushroom then top with bread crumb mixture.

Drizzle remaining olive oil on top of the bread crumb mixture. Bake for 25 minutes until soft and brown.


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This time of year I have many visitors and they often include my grandchildren. It is easy enough to plan meals that appeal to the grown-ups but not always so easy to prepare foods the children like to eat. Of course pizza is the number one favorite.

Here are some recipes that I have found that the young ones like and ask for again and again. These are delicious recipes with fats kept low and healthy ingredients added where they will be accepted.

Breakfast

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Cheese Pancakes with Blueberry Sauce

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups blueberries
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 cup low fat cottage cheese
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil, plus extra if needed

Directions

In a small saucepan, combine the blueberries, lemon juice and honey and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened and syrupy, about 5 to 6 minutes; set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, granulated sugar and a pinch of salt.

In a second bowl, whisk together the cottage cheese, milk and eggs. Add the cottage cheese mixture to the flour mixture and mix until fully incorporated.

Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet or griddle over medium heat. In batches, drop large spoonfuls (about 1/4 cup each) of the batter into the skillet and cook until bubbles begin to appear in the center.

Turn the pancakes and cook 1 minute more; repeat with the remaining batter and add additional oil if needed.

Serve with the blueberry sauce.

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Cinnamon French Toast

4 Servings

Ingredients

  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup vanilla nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 8 slices hearty sandwich bread
  • Vegetable oil

Sauce:

  • 1 cup vanilla nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup real maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions

Combine sauce ingredients and refrigerate until serving time.

Beat eggs, yogurt and cinnamon in a wide shallow dish until blended.

Cut each slice of bread into 3 sections. Soak the bread pieces in the egg mixture, turning once.

Coat a large nonstick skillet or griddle with vegetable oil; heat over medium heat until hot.

Place as many bread pieces as will fit in the skillet or on the griddle and cook over medium to medium-low heat until golden brown and no visible liquid remains, 1 to 2 minutes per side.

Repeat with any remaining bread pieces. Serve toast with dipping sauce.

Lunch

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Spinach Mac & Cheese

Serve with fresh fruit.

Makes 8 servings.

Ingredients

  • 8 oz. uncooked elbow macaroni
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups low fat milk
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 8 oz. shredded cheddar
  • 3 oz. Velveeta Light cheese, cut into thin strips
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 10-oz. package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 3 tablespoons Italian seasoned breadcrumbs

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Boil macaroni two minutes less than the package directions.

While pasta cooks, whisk together flour and 1/2 cup milk in a small bowl. Pour remaining 1 1/2 cups milk into a large saucepan and heat over low. Once milk is slightly warmed, turn heat to medium-low and add flour and milk mixture, stirring constantly until thick. Reduce heat slightly and add butter, cheeses and salt. Cook until smooth, about 5 minutes. Stir in spinach.

Drain macaroni, then combine with the cheese mixture, stirring thoroughly.

Divide macaroni mixture among eight small ovenproof dishes. Place baking dishes on a baking sheet.

Sprinkle breadcrumbs lightly and evenly on the top and bake 25 to 30 minutes.

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Ham and Cheese Calzones

Serve with vegetable sticks.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound package refrigerated pizza dough (for 1 crust)
  • 1/4 cup mild mustard
  • 8 ounces sliced mozzarella cheese
  • 8 ounces sliced deli ham

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degree F. Line a baking sheet with foil; lightly grease the foil.

On a lightly floured surface, roll or pat the dough into a 15 x 10-inch rectangle. Cut dough in half crosswise and lengthwise to make 4 rectangles.

Spread mustard over each rectangle. Divide half of the cheese among the rectangles, placing cheese on one half of each rectangle.

Top with ham and then the remaining cheese. Brush the edges of the dough with water.

For each calzone, fold dough over filling to the opposite edge, stretching slightly if necessary. Seal edges with the tines of a fork.

Place calzones on the prepared baking sheet. Prick tops to allow steam to escape. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Dinner

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Chicken Fingers

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound chicken breast tenders (fingers), about 8
  • 1/4 cup refrigerated egg substitute
  • 3/4 cup  Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Olive oil cooking spray   

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Coat a 9”x13” glass baking dish with cooking spray. Set aside.

Place chicken fingers in a shallow dish and pour the egg substitute over them.  Rotate and coat all the fingers.

Place bread crumbs in another shallow dish and dredge fingers in the crumbs.

Place coated chicken in the prepared baking dish in a single layer. Drizzle fingers with the olive oil.

Bake 15 minutes at 400 degrees F.  Turn fingers over and bake 15 minutes more.

Serve with the ranch dip, if desired.

Healthy Ranch Dip

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup low fat Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup low fat buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup olive oil mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Dash of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper

Directions

Whisk together all the ingredients and chill.

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Spaghetti with Basil Pesto

This dish is second to pizza in our house.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of basil leaves packed tightly in a measuring cup
  • 2 peeled garlic cloves, cut in pieces
  • 1/4 cup pignoli or walnuts
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup of very good extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Place the garlic, nuts, salt and pepper in the processor and pulse a few times. Add the basil leaves and with the processor running, add the olive oil slowly.

Process until the mixture becomes a paste. Pour the sauce into a pasta serving bowl and set aside.

Cook 1 lb. of spaghetti in boiling salted water  until al dente. Just before you drain the pasta, remove 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water and set it aside.

Add the drained pasta to the serving bowl with the pesto and add 2 tablespoons of butter, the pasta water and 1 cup of grated Parmesan cheese.  Mix well.

Garnish with freshly grated black pepper. Serve.

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Homemade Pizza

Ingredients

  • 1 pound of your favorite pizza dough
  • 1 pound sliced mozzarella cheese
  • Pizza sauce, recipe below
  • Dried oregano and fresh basil

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Spread the dough to the edges of an oiled pizza pan.

Layer the sliced cheese on top of the dough.

Spread some pizza sauce on top.

Sprinkle with oregano.

Bake the pizza for about 20 minutes until lightly brown and crispy. Garnish with fresh basil.

5 Minute Pizza Sauce

  • One 28 oz. container diced Italian tomatoes 
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped basil
  • Dash of red pepper flakes

Directions

Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat and add the garlic. As soon as the garlic begins to sizzle, but before it takes on color, add the tomatoes. Turn the heat to high, and as soon as the sauce begins to bubble, turn the heat back down to medium low.

Season with salt and pepper. Add the red pepper flakes and the basil. Cook for another minute of two and remove from the heat.


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The delicate flavor, soft shell and creamy white flesh of summer squash is a perfect addition to any summer meal. Summer squashes are relatives of melons and cucumbers and come in many different varieties. While each variety may have a distinct shape, color, size and flavor, all varieties share some common characteristics. All parts of summer squash are edible, including the flesh, seeds and skin. Some varieties of squash also produce edible flowers. Unlike winter squash, summer squash are more fragile and cannot be stored for long periods of time.

When purchasing summer squash, look for ones that are heavy for their size and have shiny, unblemished rinds. Additionally, the rinds should not be very hard since this indicates that the squash are over-mature and will have hard seeds and stringy flesh. Purchase summer squash that are of average size since those that are overly large may be fibrous, while those that are small may be inferior in flavor.

Summer squash is very fragile and should be handled with care as small punctures will quickly lead to decay. They should be stored unwashed in an air-tight container in the refrigerator, where they will keep for a week.

The three most common varieties of summer squash are zucchini, yellow crookneck and straightneck squash and pattypan.

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The plain green zucchini is a prolific producer and the most popular summer squash in the US. There are many varieties and colors of zucchini, including two-toned green zucchini with raised ribs that make star shapes when sliced. Baby zucchini (2-3 inches) are also sold as a delicacy, sometimes with the blossoms still attached.

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Yellow Squash are solid light yellow. Some varieties have bumps or warts and others are shaped like small bowling pins.

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Pattypan squash are like little flying saucers with scalloped edges. They have a delicious, nutty crunch and are great sliced in half and grilled, or stuffed or chopped and sautéed quickly with fresh herbs.

Since summer squash is in season now and quite reasonably priced, pick some up on your next trip to the market and make some of the Italian flavored recipes below.

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Summer Squash Salad

Ricotta salata cheese is a variation of ricotta that has been pressed, salted and dried.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 medium zucchini
  • 1 medium yellow squash
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 thin slices prosciutto (1 ounce), chopped
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) crumbled ricotta salata or feta cheese

Directions

Shave the zucchini and squash into thin strips using a vegetable peeler. Discard seeds.

Place zucchini and squash in a medium bowl and toss with the salt.

Combine basil and next 4 ingredients (through pepper) in a small bowl; stir with a whisk.

Pour over the squash and toss.

Heat a small nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add prosciutto; saute for 2 minutes or until crisp.

Divide the salad among 4 serving plates. Top each serving with cheese and prosciutto.

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Lemony Squash Risotto

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 5 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 (8-ounce) zucchini, halved lengthwise and diced
  • 2 (8-ounce) yellow squash, halved lengthwise and diced
  • 5 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 1 cup uncooked Arborio rice
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated fresh Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives, plus extra for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 teaspoons olive oil to pan; swirl to coat.

Add the diced squash to the pan; cook for 5 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Set aside.

Bring broth to a simmer in a medium saucepan (do not boil). Keep warm over low heat.

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add shallots and cook for 3 minutes or until tender.

Stir in rice and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in wine; cook until liquid is absorbed (about 30 seconds), stirring constantly.

Stir in 1 cup broth; cook 5 minutes or until liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly.

Reserve 1/4 cup broth. Add remaining broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until each portion of broth is absorbed before adding the next (about 22 minutes total).

Stir in squash; cook 1 minute or until thoroughly heated. Remove from heat; stir in reserved 1/4 cup broth and remaining ingredients. Garnish with chopped chives.

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Zucchini Cakes with Spicy Marinara Sauce

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups shredded zucchini
  • 1/2 cup grated onion
  • 1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Spicy Marinara Sauce, recipe below
  • Shredded Parmesan cheese
  • Chopped fresh parsley

Directions

Drain shredded zucchini and onion on paper towels to remove excess moisture. Transfer vegetables to a large bowl; stir in panko.

Whisk together egg, salt and baking powder in a small bowl; stir into the zucchini mixture.

Heat oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, drop mounds of zucchini batter into the skillet using a 1/3-cup measure.

Fry cakes until golden, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer cakes to a paper-towel-lined plate.

Serve zucchini cakes with the spicy marinara sauce garnished with Parmesan and chopped parsley.

Spicy Quick Marinara Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup diced onion
  • 1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup canned diced tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt to taste

Directions

Sauté onion and bell pepper in oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat for 3 minutes. Add tomato paste and garlic; cook for 1 minute.

Stir in wine, tomatoes, vinegar and hot pepper flakes. Simmer sauce for 5 minutes; season with salt. Keep sauce warm until ready to serve.

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Mediterranean Summer Squash Gratin

Ingredients

  • 2 onions halved and sliced thin
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced, fresh oregano
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, chopped fine
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil  
  • 1 1/2 pounds zucchini sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 1 1/2 pounds yellow squash sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 1 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • Cooking spray
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Toss zucchini and yellow squash with 1 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Let rest 30 minutes. Drain in a colander. Arrange zucchini and yellow squash on a triple layer of paper towels, then cover with another triple layer of paper towels. Press slices firmly to remove as much liquid as possible.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft and golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes.

Stir in garlic and oregano and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in wine and cook until evaporated, about 3 minutes. Off heat, stir in olives and basil; set aside.

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat the oven to 450°F. Spray the bottom and sides of a 13 x 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray.

Combine panko, Parmesan and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a bowl. Evenly coat the bottom of the baking dish with 6 tablespoons of the panko mixture.

Stir melted butter into the remaining panko mixture and mix until well combined; set aside.

Arrange half of the squash over the bottom of the prepared dish. Sprinkle 1/4 cup panko mixture evenly over the squash. Spread onion mixture in an even layer over the crumbs.

Arrange remaining half of the squash over the onion mixture. Cover with aluminum foil and bake until just tender, about 15 minutes.

Remove the baking dish from oven and sprinkle remaining panko mixture evenly over the top. Bake, uncovered, until bubbling around the edges and the crumbs are golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for 15 minutes before serving.

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Italian Sausage Stuffed Pattypan Squash

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 6 medium pattypan squash
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pound Italian pork sausage, casings removed
  • Fine sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • 1 medium to large tomato, seeded and diced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Directions

Fit a large pot with a steamer basket; add water just up to the basket and bring to a boil. Add pattypan squash, cover, and steam until tender, about 10 minutes.

Let squash cool to the touch. Trim the stems and cut each squash in half crosswise.

Using a spoon, hollow out the inside and set the pulp aside. Place squash halves in a baking dish.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Heat oil a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté 1 minute.

Add sausage and cook until no longer pink, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Add tomato paste, fresh tomato, squash pulp and wine. Simmer until liquid has reduced, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in bread crumbs and parsley.

Fill squash halves with the meat mixture. Top each with shredded Parmesan. Bake until heated through and cheese has melted, about 20 minutes.


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Throughout the Mediterranean and the Middle East, nearly every meal begins with an assortment of appetizers. Stuffed vegetables are often on the appetizer tray with an emphasis on eggplants, peppers and tomatoes seasoned with fresh herbs and spices. Many of the most popular stuffed vegetables served as a main course in these regions are stuffed grape leaves, artichokes filled with savory breadcrumbs and sausage and hearty cabbage leaves rolled around a meat and rice stuffing.

An easy way to incorporate more vegetables into your diet is by making them your meal’s main event. Stuffed vegetable recipes—including stuffed peppers, stuffed tomatoes and stuffed squash—use usually hollowed out and filled with lean meats, flavorful cheeses or even more vegetables. Any sturdy vegetable can be used for stuffing. Leftovers can often be used for the filling, such as risotto to stuff tomatoes.

Getting vegetables ready for stuffing is quite simple, but the technique varies from vegetable to vegetable. It’s important to always use the freshest, ripest vegetables available, avoiding those that are oversized and or soft. Cut ripe tomatoes in half, then scoop out most of the pulp with a spoon to create a shell. For peppers and squash, remove the seeds and stringy bits of flesh and you’ll be left with a natural cavity to fill.

Many stuffings are interchangeable and work well with other vegetables. You can add diced ham or sausage for a meatier taste, nuts for a crunchy texture or experiment with your favorite herbs and spices.

Pack the stuffing into the vegetables, place them in a shallow roasting pan or casserole dish. Bake until the vegetables soften and the filling is cooked through and golden brown.

Liquids like tomato sauce, wine, broth or water are often poured around the vegetables to keep them moist and provide even more flavor.

Stuffed vegetables taste good hot or at room temperature. Serve them as an hors d’oeuvre, a first course, a main course or a side dish.

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Tuna-Stuffed Tomatoes

Serves: 4

Ingredients

  • 8 small tomatoes
  • 6 oz olive oil-packed tuna, drained and oil reserved
  • 10 pitted Kalamata olives, minced
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and drained
  • 1 tablespoon reserved tuna olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
  • Black pepper to taste

Directions

Line a baking sheet with paper towels. Cut a thin slice off the top of each tomato. Gently scoop out tomato seeds and pulp, leaving the shell intact.

Set shells cut side down to drain on the paper towels.

Mix tuna, olives, parsley, capers, tuna olive oil, thyme and pepper, breaking up any large chunks of tuna.

Spoon tuna mixture into tomatoes and chill until serving time.

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Orzo-Stuffed Peppers

You can prepare these up to 12 hours before serving. Just cover the baking dish with foil, refrigerate until time to bake the peppers.

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup uncooked orzo pasta
  • 3 cups baby arugula or baby spinach
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 4 small bell peppers, halved and seeded

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Cook the orzo according to package directions in boiling, salted water in a saucepan; drain.

Heat oil in the pot and add the onion and garlic. Saute until the onion is tender. Add arugula, feta, oregano and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and freshly ground black pepper; stir.

Add drained orzo and mix thoroughly.

Season the inside of peppers with 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper.

Fill peppers and transfer to a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Cover with foil; bake until the peppers are tender ( about 35-40 minutes).

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Stuffed Portobellos

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 6 (4-inch) portobello caps
  • 1 1/3 cups lean ground beef or ground turkey, lightly packed
  • 3/4 cup canned diced Italian tomatoes, drained
  • 1/2 cup minced green onions
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons grated fresh Parmesan cheese, plus additional for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons lower fat cream cheese
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Olive oil cooking spray

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Remove and discard the stems from the mushrooms. Remove the brown gills from undersides of the mushrooms, using a spoon; discard the gills.

Combine beef with the remaining  ingredients in a medium bowl.

Spoon 1/3 cup of the mixture into each mushroom cap.

Place caps on a baking sheet coated with olive oil cooking spray.

Bake for 30 minutes or until the mushrooms are tender and the tops are lightly browned.

Sprinkle each cap with Parmesan cheese before serving.

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Italian Sausage Stuffed Zucchini

Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 4 zucchini, small to medium size
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt & pepper
  • 8 ounces Italian sausage, casing removed
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 4 ounces scallions, chopped
  • 8 ounces fresh tomatoes, diced
  • 8 ounces shredded Mozzarella cheese
  • 1 ounce fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 ounces grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 ounces pine nuts, toasted

Directions

Cut zucchini in half and scoop out the flesh, leaving about ¼ inch attached to the shell. Lightly salt the zucchini shells.

Chop the zucchini pulp.

Heat olive oil in a skillet and sauté the sausage till browned. Add the zucchini pulp and garlic and saute for a minute or two.

In a bowl, combine the scallions, tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, red pepper and pine nuts.

Add the sausage mixture. Mix thoroughly.

Spoon mixture into scooped out zucchini shells and sprinkle tops with Parmesan cheese.

Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 25 to 30 minutes.or until the zucchini shells are tender and the tops are lightly brown.

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Stuffed Onions

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 6 medium yellow onions (about 2 pounds)
  • 2 slices of bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 1/2 cups diced fresh mushrooms
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Dash each pepper and ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup beef broth, plus extra if needed
  • Additional parsley for garnish

Directions

In a Dutch oven, bring a small amount of water (about 1 inch) to a boil.

Peel onions and using a slotted spoon, place the onions in the boiling water. Cook for 5 minutes; remove to a plate and let stand until cool enough to handle.

Cut a 1/4-inch slice off the top of each onion. Remove the center, leaving a 1/2-inch shell.

Chop the centers and tops of the onions; set aside.

In a skillet, cook the bacon until crisp; remove to a paper towel to drain.

In the drippings, saute the chopped onion until tender.

Add the butter and mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms are tender.

Stir in the breadcrumbs and parsley.

 

Add the bacon, salt, pepper and nutmeg.

Stuff the onion shells with the mushroom mixture; place in an ungreased shallow 1 quart baking dish. Pour broth around the onions.

Bake, uncovered, at 375°F for 45 minutes or until tender, basting frequently during the first 15 minutes with the broth, adding more if needed. Sprinkle with additional parsley before serving.


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For relatively few calories, soup brings a feeling of fullness and makes it easier to eat less of other foods in a meal. Soup can benefit long-term health by serving as the basis to work more vegetables into meals.

Tomato soup provides a serving of vegetables by itself and then you can add even more vegetables to the soup.

Pureed squash is an excellent base for a soup that is packed with nutrients.

Broth-based soups can be the base for adding several servings of vegetables, also.

Even if you start with commercial soup that’s light on vegetables, you can add  frozen, canned or leftover fresh veggies of your own to enhance the nutrition of this bowl of soup.

The key to making soup a healthy food option is to make sure it is concentrated in the plant foods that we need to increase in our diet and not loaded with what we need to reduce: sodium and saturated fat.

Soup can even be a complete meal. A soup full of vegetables that includes a small amount of meat or poultry can provide a satisfying and healthful meal. All you need to complete this meal is some great tasting bread. Easy weeknight dinner.

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Sicilian Meatball Soup

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound lean ground beef
  • 5 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, divided
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
  • 2 tablespoons raisins
  • 2 tablespoons dry bread crumbs
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced, divided
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper, divided
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 carrots, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 1/2 quarts canned low-sodium chicken broth or homemade stock
  • 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes in thick puree
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary or 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 cup small pasta shells or other small macaroni

Directions

In a medium bowl, mix together the ground beef, 4 tablespoons of the parsley, the Parmesan, raisins, bread crumbs, egg, half of the garlic, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper until thoroughly combined. Shape the mixture into 24 meatballs.

In a large pot, heat the oil over moderate heat. Add the carrots, onion, celery and the remaining garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables start to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the zucchini and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Stir in the broth, tomatoes, rosemary and the remaining 2 teaspoons salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 10 minutes.

Add the remaining tablespoon parsley, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and the pasta to the soup. Simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the meatballs and simmer gently until the meatballs and pasta are done, about 5 minutes longer. Serve with additional Parmesan.

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Tuscan Tomato Bread Soup with Steamed Shellfish

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 onion, chopped fine
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped fine
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil plus 2 tablespoons thinly-sliced basil leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 cups canned crushed tomatoes in thick puree (from one 28-ounce can)
  • 1 1/4 pounds vine-ripened tomatoes (about 4), cut into small dice
  • 1 cup canned low-sodium chicken broth or homemade stock
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • Pinch of sugar
  • One country loaf of bread, crust removed, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 7 cups)
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds mussels or clams, scrubbed or shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine

Directions

In a large saucepan, heat 4 tablespoons of the oil over moderately low heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, garlic, chopped basil and oregano. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is golden, about 10 minutes. Add the canned and fresh tomatoes, the broth, salt and sugar; bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low. Simmer, uncovered, until thick, about 30 minutes.

Heat the oven to 350°F. Put the bread on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until crisp, about 25 minutes.

Add the bread and the black pepper to the sauce and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring gently, until the bread absorbs all the liquid, about 5 minutes.

Put the wine, mussels or clams or shrimp and 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large stainless-steel saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook, shaking the pot occasionally, just until the mussels or clams open or the shrimp turn pink, about 3 minutes. Discard any shellfish that do not open.

Mound the bread soup in shallow bowls and surround with the shellfish. Strain any broth from the shellfish pot over the top and drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Sprinkle with the sliced basil.

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Vegetable Farro Soup

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 celery ribs, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium leek, white and pale green parts only, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup farro
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 quarts water
  • One 15-ounce can borlotti, cannellini or pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 large carrots, halved lengthwise and sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen peas
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced basil

Directions

In a Dutch oven, heat the oil. Add the celery, onion and leek and cook over moderately high heat, stirring a few times, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the farro and tomato paste and cook, stirring, until the grains are coated and shiny, about 30 seconds.

Add 1 quart of the water and the beans and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat for 30 minutes. Add the carrots and the remaining 1 quart of water. Cover and cook over low heat until the carrots are tender, about 30 minutes. Add the peas, cover and cook until tender, 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, top with the basil.

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White Bean Soup With Mustard Greens

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small white or yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/2 bunch mustard greens or any greens you like, torn into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
  • One 15-ounce can white beans, such as cannellini
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Lemon wedges for serving

Directions

In a large heavy pot, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add onion and fennel and cook, until softened, 7–8 minutes. Add garlic and mustard greens and season with salt and pepper.

Cook, stirring often, until the greens are wilted, about 5 minutes.

Add the beans and the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer gently, being careful not to break the beans, until flavors blend and the soup is thickened slightly, about 10 minutes.

Add Parmesan and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve with lemon wedges and additional cheese.

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Squash and Corn Chowder

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 slices bacon
  • 3/4 cup sliced green onions, divided
  • 1/4 cup chopped celery
  • 1 pound yellow or green summer squash, chopped
  • 16 oz fresh or frozen corn kernels, thawed if frozen
  • 2 1/4 cups low-fat milk, divided
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese

Directions

Cook bacon in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove the bacon from pan, reserving 2 teaspoons drippings in the pan. Crumble bacon and set aside.

Add 1/2 cup of the green onions, the celery and squash to the drippings in the pan; sauté about 8 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

Reserve 1 cup of the corn and set aside. Place the remaining corn and 1 cup milk in a blender and process until smooth. Add remaining 1 1/4 cups milk, thyme, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and the pepper to the blender and process until combined.

Add pureed mixture and reserved 1 cup corn to the vegetables in the Dutch oven. Reduce heat to medium; cook 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated, stirring constantly. Stir in remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Ladle soup into each of 4 bowls; top each serving with about 1 tablespoon bacon, 1 tablespoon remaining green onions and 1 tablespoon cheese.


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Central States

As immigrants from the different regions of Italy settled throughout the various regions of the United States, many brought with them a distinct regional Italian culinary tradition. Many of these foods and recipes developed into new favorites for the townspeople and later for Americans nationwide.

Minnesota

The Italian Cultural Center

The Italian Cultural Center

The ICC (The Italian Cultural Center) was established as a center in Minneapolis for all things Italian and to serve as a beacon for classic and contemporary Italian culture through language, art, music, design, cinema, architecture and technology. The ICC draws Italian-Americans who want to learn more about the culture and connect with their roots.

Discovering modern Italy is a goal for ICC’s students. Some of the students who come to study language here also enjoy learning about what Italy is like now. The Center’s seven university-trained teachers are from Italy and bring their own diverse heritages into the classroom, giving students a glimpse of life in some of the small towns and villages.

Films are a big part of the Italian cultural experience. Since the development of the Italian film industry in the early 1900s, Italian filmmakers and performers have enjoyed great international acclaim and have influenced film movements throughout the world. As of 2015, Italian films have won 14 Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film, the most of any country.

Every year, the ICC presents a series of outstanding contemporary films in their annual Italian Film Festival. They also offer screenings throughout the year in the CineForum series.

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Through the lens of drama, comedies, documentaries and movies, the view of Italy is broadened and offers a fresh perspective on the country and its people. It is a way to take a journey to Italy without leaving Minnesota.

The desire to show Twin Cities’ residents the real Italy has led them to select films by modern Italian directors for the ICC’s annual free film festival, held in collaboration with the Italian Film Festival USA and the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD). The Italian film series offers a glimpse into award-winning, post-war Italian films and the high fashion industry they launched.

Antipasti Skewers

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Serves 8

Inspired by her travels and studies in Tuscany, Carmela Tursi Hobbins created Carmela’s Cucina to teach the art of Italian cooking and entertaining. Her experience blends years as co-owner of a successful catering business and her background as a classroom teacher. She has written two cookbooks, Carmela’s Cucina and Celebrations with Carmela’s Cucina.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound package of fresh tri-colored tortellini
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes
  • 1 bunch of fresh basil
  • 1 can quartered artichoke hearts
  • 1 pint fresh bocconcini mozzarella balls
  • 1 pint pitted olives
  • 1/2 pound salami sliced thin
  • 2 envelopes Good Seasons Zesty Italian Salad Dressing mix
  • Bamboo skewers

Directions

Boil the tortellini for about 6 minutes in salted water.  Drain and put the tortellini into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Wash the tomatoes and basil and pat dry.

Thread the tortellini, tomatoes, basil leaves, artichoke hearts, mozzarella, olives and salami (folded into quarters) onto the skewers.

Using one package of the Italian salad dressing mix, make up the dressing following the directions on the package and drizzle the dressing over the prepared skewers.

Sprinkle the contents of the second envelope of dried Italian Salad mix over the skewers and let marinate for several hours.

When ready to serve, assembled skewers can be stuck into a melon or pineapple half or laid on a lettuce lined tray.

Nebraska

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Little Italy is a neighborhood in Omaha, Nebraska that, historically, has been the home to the city’s Italian population. Omaha’s first Italian community developed during the 1890s near the intersection of South 24th Street and Poppleton Street. It was formed by immigrants from southern Italy and Italian immigrants who moved there after living in the eastern states. In 1905, Sicilian immigrants settled along South 6th Street in the hills south of downtown. Additional immigrants from Sicily arrived between 1912 and 1913 and following World War I.

Two brothers, Joseph and Sebastiano Salerno, are credited with creating Omaha’s Little Italy, located near the Union Pacific yards in downtown. When Sebastiano took a job as an agent for a steamship company in 1904, he encouraged friends from Sicily to emigrate. Joseph then secured housing and jobs for the immigrants, particularly in the downtown Omaha’s Union Pacific shops that included grocery stores, clothing and shoe stores and the Bank of Sicily, established by the Salerno brothers in 1908.

Today, the Festival of Santa Lucia is still celebrated throughout Little Italy, as it has been since the arrival of the first immigrants. An annual festival called “La Festa” is held to unite the city’s Italian community and celebrate its heritage. Many other remnants of Little Italy endure, making this area distinct within the city.

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Little Italy has several landmarks, including St. Francis Cabrini Church, built in 1908 at 1335 South 10th Street. Other landmarks include the Santa Lucia Festival Committee Hall at 725 Pierce Street; Marino’s Italian Grocery at 1716 South 13th Street; Sons Of Italy Hall located at 1238 South 10th Street and Orsi’s Bakery at 621 Pacific Street.

Orsi’s Bakery and Pizzeria is a gold mine for Italian fare. Their Sicilian style pizza, in particular, has been popular since they first opened in 1919. Passed through the Orsi family for over 90 years, the interior and the owners may have changed, but the recipes have stayed the same. Along with pizza, their Italian deli offers a variety of meats, cheeses, olives, peppers and desserts.

Steakhouse Spaghetti

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Chefs at Omaha’s Piccolo Pete’s flavor the sauce for their spaghetti with beef steak trimmings and pork and beef bones. In the true sense of Italian American cuisine this recipe combines Italian heritage cooking with Omaha’s love of beef.

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 lb. beef shank bones, trimmed
  • 1/4 lb. raw steak trimmings (ask your butcher for this)
  • 1 pork neck bone
  • 10 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup tomato paste
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons. celery seeds
  • 4 sprigs basil
  • 3 (28-oz.) cans crushed tomatoes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 lb. spaghetti
  • Grated Parmesan, for serving

Directions

Heat the oil in an 8-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Working in batches, cook bones and steak trimmings until browned, 7–9 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

Add garlic and onion; cook until golden, 6–8 minutes. Add tomato paste; cook until slightly caramelized, about 3 minutes. Add sugar, celery seeds, basil, tomatoes, bay leaves, salt and pepper.

Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; add bones and trimmings. Cook, until the sauce is reduced by a third, about 1 hour. Discard bones, trimmings, basil and bay leaves; shred the meat and add it to the sauce.

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Cook spaghetti until al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain and divide among serving bowls; ladle with sauce. Sprinkle with Parmesan.

Kansas

Heart of America Bridge

Heart of America Bridge

The Columbus Park area is Kansas City’s Italian neighborhood. Although ethnic lines are less distinctly drawn than in years past, the unique character of the neighborhood remains. Unlike other Little Italys that blur into other neighborhoods, Columbus Park has established boundaries: the Missouri River on one side and the Heart of America Bridge on the other. As one of Kansas City’s oldest immigrant neighborhoods, it has also had a long history of social infrastructure and culture. By 1920 there were about 10,000 Italians living in the area.

The heart of the community is the Holy Rosary Catholic Church. Built in 1895, the Church was the result of petitioning by the local Italian community for a church. Bells still toll on Sunday mornings and services have continued in the building for more than 100 years.

The main business area is found along 5th street, where there are many Italian restaurants and grocery shops. You will find traditional foods and products at Garazzo’s Ristorante, LaSala’s Deli and LaRocca’s Grocery.

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Wish-Bone Salad Dressing originated in Kansas City. In 1945, returning World War II veteran, Phillip Sollomi, opened a family-style chicken restaurant in Kansas City called, The Wish-Bone®. In 1948, Sollomi began serving his mother’s salad dressing made from a recipe she brought with her from her native Sicily. As demand grew, Sollomi began mixing the dressing in a 50-gallon drum and bottling it. The dressing became known as“The Kansas City Wish-Bone® Famous Italian-Style Dressing. Word of this unique salad dressing spread throughout the heartland. In 1957, Sollomi sold the business to Lipton.

Chef Jasper Mirabile grew up in an Italian family. Each year he travels back to Italy and his family’s hometown of Gibellina, Sicily to see family and friends. He also goes to do research on the authenticity of Sicilian cuisine and to learn as much as he can about its rich history.

He writes in The Kansas City Star, “ I like to say my mother is “old school” in her style of cooking. No short cuts, no microwaves, no cheating at all, just respecting traditional recipes and cooking methods. Unlike me, a short order line cook, mama measured everything exactly, never doubling a recipe, never experimenting with different ingredients, just preparing the same tried and true recipes over and over again since she learned to cook as a teenager. Mama learned to prepare her Sunday sauce, meatballs and braciole from her mother, Rosa Cropisi. Grandmother Cropisi brought the recipe over from Corleone, Sicily, never-changing a single ingredient. My mother claims my father only married her for her mother’s meatball recipe.”

Jasper Mirabile’s Recipe for Meatballs

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Makes about  20

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. Ground Pork
  • 1 lb. Ground Beef
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 1 cup Freshly Grated Romano
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Parsley, (Chopped)
  • 3 Garlic Cloves, (Minced)
  • 1/2 cup Onion, (Minced)
  • Salt and Pepper, (To taste)
  • 2 cups Plain Bread Crumbs
  • 1 1/2 cups Water
  • 1 cup Olive Oil

Directions

Place pork & beef in a large bowl. Add the eggs, cheese, parsley, minced garlic, onions and salt and pepper to taste. Mix.

Add the bread crumbs and blend into the meat mixture. Slowly add the water until the mixture is moist. Shape the meat mixture into 2 1/2- to 3-inch balls.

Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the meatballs and fry in batches, being careful not to crowd the pan.

When the bottom half of the meatballs are well browned and slightly crisp, (usually takes about 5 to 6 minutes), turn them over and cook the other side for 5 minutes more.

Remove the meatballs from the heat and drain them on paper towels. Simmer in your favorite sauce.

Chef Jasper J. Mirabile Jr. runs his family’s 59-year-old restaurant, Jasper’s, with his brother. He is the author of The Jasper’s Kitchen Cookbook. Chef Mirabile is a culinary instructor, a founding member of Slow Food Kansas City and a national board member of the American Institute of Wine and Food. He hosts a weekly radio show, “Live! From Jasper’s Kitchen” on KCMO 710 AM and 103.7 FM.

Oklahoma

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Krebs began as a small coal-mining camp inhabited by the English, Irish and Italian miners. The commercial exploitation of coal in the Native American Territories began in 1872, with the completion of the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railway. A few years later, the Osage Coal and Mining Company leased the property on which the town of Krebs emerged. The first mine opened in 1875 and twenty years later, 15 mines were operating in the area.

Krebs, Oklahoma is considered the center of Italian culture in the state of Oklahoma. Most of the immigrants who found their way to Oklahoma settled in the coal-producing communities in Pittsburg County and in the Choctaw Nation. Italian immigrants to Oklahoma were predominantly from northern Italy. They came as families and often established strong ethnic communities. In 1910, there were 2,162 Italians living in Pittsburg, Latimer and Coal counties. Later on the region attracted immigrants from southern Italy.

First-generation Oklahomans learned Italian from their parents. There aren’t many first-generation Italian Americans left in Krebs. The language hasn’t made it down through the generations, but it can still be heard during festivals and community events, especially over a game of bocce ball. The Italian Festival has been running for 40 years and is the community’s biggest single event.

When Kreps’ resident, Joe Prichard, took his family back to the Italian town his grandfather emigrated from, he was surprised by how familiar it felt. “The little village my grandfather left was almost a clone of the village he came to in Oklahoma,” he said. Joe discovered that San Gregorio Magno, in the Campania region, was not only the same size as Krebs, but community life there also centered around the Catholic Church. Even the town’s differences created parallels for him.

Krebs is famous throughout Oklahoma for its many Italian restaurants. Isle of Capri, “Pete’s Place” and Roseanna’s, to name a few, have been there for generations. A specialty of the region is Lamb fries, the name generally given to lamb animelles (testicles) that have been peeled, rolled in cracker meal and fried. Lamb fries are served in many Italian restaurants, particularly in Oklahoma’s “little Italy” and the Cattlemen’s Steakhouse located in the Oklahoma City Stockyards.

Original Pete's Place

Original Pete’s Place

Three years after his arrival, at the age of 11, Pietro began working in the coal mines, changing his name officially to “Pete Prichard.” Through hard work and determination, he managed to make a meager living. However, in 1916, when Pete was 21 years old, a massive cave-in nearly cost him his life. He survived, but the accident crushed his leg in such a way that he couldn’t return to work in the mines.

To help pass the time, Pete took an interest in brewing beer. He found a unique recipe brewed by the local Native American tribe, the Choctaw, which made use of the plentiful supply of golden wheat that grew on the Oklahoma plains. Pete experimented and tested until he perfected his own version, which he named choc® beer.

Before long, other immigrant miners began gathering at his house regularly to relax and enjoy a beer during breaks. Then, it only seemed natural to start fixing the men a hearty lunch to go along with the beer. That’s the Italian way! He served “family-style” helpings of homemade Italian specialties like spaghetti, meatballs, ravioli and sausage. In 1925, Pete officially opened a restaurant in his home and, since everyone had always just called it “Pete’s Place®”, the name stuck.

Caciocavallo Cheese

Caciocavallo Cheese

When Mike Lovera’s Grocery first opened in 1946 in Krebs, it was a regular mom-and-pop general store and meat market. But it was the homemade Italian sausage that made Lovera’s store stand out from the competition. A specialty Italian grocery store would find it hard to survive in most towns of 2,000 people. But Krebs has been largely Italian since immigrant coal miners arrived in the 1870s and the town has no problem supporting a grocery store, three Italian restaurants and a Catholic church.

Along with about 40 imported Italian products, Lovera’s is famous for its caciocavallo, a milky cheese covered in wax. Initially, Lovera bought caciocavallo from local Italians who made it at home, but when the supply started to dry up, Lovera learned how to make it.

Sausage and Peppers

part7-03

Source: News OK, Dave Cathey, Food Editor

Ingredients

  • One 16-ounce coil of fresh Lovera’s sausage
  • 1 whole garden-fresh green pepper, cut in 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 onion sliced in 1-inch pieces
  • 1 jalapeno cut in thick slices, optional
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil, divided
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Brush sausage with 1 tablespoon oil and place in a cast-iron skillet or small roasting pan.

Roast sausages 20 minutes.

While the sausages are roasting, toss onions and peppers with remaining oil, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl.

After 20 minutes in the oven, turn the sausages over and top with the onion-pepper-oil mixture. Roast another 20 minutes and remove the pan from the oven.

Remove the sausages from the pan, let sit five minutes, then cut in slices and toss with the onions and peppers in the pan.

Serve with pasta and Italian tomato sauce or with crusty bread.

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