Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Italian Cuisine

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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

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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.

Read Part 1

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Read Part 5

Read Part 6


shrimpcover

There are Gulf Shrimp, Farm Raised Shrimp, Tiger Shrimp, Imported Shrimp and Coldwater Shrimp. The flavor and texture of each type of shrimp are influenced by the waters they come from or are raised in, plus from what they eat or are fed. Wild shrimp feed on seaweed and crustaceans which gives them a more enriched flavor and thicker shells. The ability to swim freely also makes the meat firmer.

Shrimp are abundant in America, especially off the Atlantic and Pacific seaboards in inshore waters, wherever the bottom is sandy. Shrimp are in season from May to October and 95% of the shrimp caught come from the warm waters of the South Atlantic and Gulf states.

Fresh shrimp are highly perishable and should be eaten within 24 hours of purchase. Unless you live in the part of the country where you can actually buy “fresh” shrimp, it is best to buy frozen shrimp. All shrimp are frozen soon after they are caught, usually right on the fishing vessel. Those “fresh” shrimp in the store? They are previously frozen and thawed. The shelf life of thawed shrimp is only a couple of days, whereas shrimp stored in the freezer retain their quality for several weeks.

Avoid shrimp that smells of anything other than salt water. If there is any hint of the aroma of ammonia, it’s a sign they are way past their prime. Truly fresh shrimp will have almost translucent flesh. Do not buy shrimp with black spots or rings (unless it’s black tiger shrimp) as this indicates the meat is starting to break down.

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In the United States, shrimp are sold by count. This is a rating of the size and weight of the shrimp. The count represents the number of shrimp in a pound for a given size category. If you are grilling or serving the shrimp as a main course, you probably want 21-25 or larger (16-20). If you are stir-frying or adding to a soup or pasta dish, you probably want a smaller shrimp (31-35 or 36-40).

The terms “shrimp” and “prawns” can be confusing. In many restaurants, larger shrimp are referred to as “prawns,” while smaller shrimp are called “shrimp.” However, both shrimp and prawns can come from saltwater or freshwater and there is no absolute standard for measuring their size. Scientists say there are no real differences.

Shrimp is the most consumed seafood in America, with close to 1 1/2 billion pounds sold per year. I know it is my first choice and here are some of my favorite recipes:

As An Appetizer

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Shrimp with Garlic and Lemon

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 pound large shrimp (16-20 per pound), shelled and deveined
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon and 1 lemon cut into wedges
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley

Directions

In a bowl, toss the shrimp with the garlic, Italian seasoning and bell pepper.

In a skillet, sauté the shrimp in the oil over moderately high heat, turning the shrimp once, until just barely pink. Add the lemon juice and parsley and toss gently. Garnish with lemon wedges.

In A Sandwich

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Oven Fried Shrimp Sandwich

4 sandwiches

Ingredients

  • 4 – 6 inch lengths of baguette, split in half
  • Olive oil
  • 2/3 cup low-fat mayonnaise
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon Tabasco (hot) sauce, more to taste
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 egg, beaten to mix
  • 3/4 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 1/4 pounds large shrimp, shelled
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • Shredded romaine lettuce
  • 1 tomato, cut into thin slices

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Put the bread, cut-side up, on a baking pan and brush lightly with olive oil. Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, mustard and Tabasco sauce.

To prepare the shrimp:

Oil another baking pan and place the pan in the oven for 10 minutes.

In a medium bowl, combine the milk and the egg. In another bowl, combine the breadcrumbs with the salt, black pepper and cayenne.

Dip the shrimp into the flour, then into the egg mixture and then into the bread crumbs. Place on a plate until all the shrimp are breaded.

Transfer the shrimp to the preheated baking pan Bake the shrimp for 12-15 minutes until nicely browned, turning them over halfway through baking.

Place the bread in the oven with the shrimp after you turn the shrimp over and bake the pieces of baguette until they are lightly crisp, about 5 minutes.

Spread the sauce on both sides of the bread and add lettuce, tomato and shrimp.

In A Salad

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Grilled Shrimp Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 6 anchovy fillets
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Grated zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 cup packed fresh mint leaves
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1 pound large shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 2 small heads Boston lettuce or any tender lettuce (about 1/2 pound in all), torn into bite-size pieces

Directions

In a blender, combine the anchovies, garlic and lemon zest. Pulse to chop. Add the mint, oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper and blend until smooth.

Heat an outdoor grill or grill pan. Oil the grill or pan. Cook the shrimp until they just turn pink. Large shrimp will need about three minutes per side.

Transfer the shrimp to a medium glass bowl and toss with half the dressing.

Put the lettuce in a large salad bowl and toss with the remaining dressing.

Put the greens on individual serving plates; top with the grilled shrimp.

As A First Course

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Spaghettini with Shrimp, Tomatoes and Spicy Crumbs

Serves 6-8 as a first course

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 pounds plum tomatoes, cored and scored on the bottoms with an X
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup coarse bread crumbs (about 2 ounces), made from stale bread
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • Crushed red pepper
  • 12 ounces spaghettini
  • 1 pound medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 2 tablespoons finely shredded basil
  • 1/2 pound cherry tomatoes, halved

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Put the plum tomatoes in a small baking dish and drizzle with the vinegar and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil.

Roast for about 20 minutes, just until the skins loosen and the tomatoes are barely softened. Let cool slightly, then peel the tomatoes and finely chop or mash them in the baking dish.

Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the breadcrumbs and cook over moderately low heat, stirring, until golden and crisp, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the lemon zest, a large pinch of crushed red pepper and season with salt. Transfer the crumbs to a bowl.

In the skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil until shimmering. Season the shrimp with salt and a pinch of crushed red pepper and add them to the skillet.

Cook over high heat, tossing once or twice, until pink, about 1 1/2 minutes.

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water.

Return the pasta to the pot and add the shrimp, basil and reserved pasta cooking water and cook, tossing, until the pasta is coated in a light sauce and the shrimp are evenly distributed.

Transfer the pasta to individual serving bowls and scatter the cherry tomatoes all around. Top each with tomato sauce and bread crumbs.

As A Main Course

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Stuffed Shrimp Oreganata

Ingredients

  • 1 pound extra-large shrimp (16-20 per pound) 
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted 
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil 
  • 2 teaspoons garlic, minced 
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine 
  • 2 cups of fresh breadcrumbs 
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese 
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons parsley, chopped 
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano 
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 

Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped tomatoes
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 cup low sodium chicken stock
  • 3 tablespoons chopped basil
  • 1 lemon, quartered

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Peel and devein the shrimp, leaving the tail intact.

To butterfly them: make a slit along the back side, taking care not to slice all the way through the body.

Line a baking pan with aluminum foil, spray with nonstick olive oil spray and arrange the shrimp in a single layer.

Melt the butter over medium heat and add the olive oil. Add garlic and sauté until soft and just beginning to turn golden – do not brown. Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat, add the breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, parsley, oregano, crushed red pepper, salt and black pepper. Mix well.

Spoon even portions of the breadcrumb mixture over each of the butterflied shrimp in the baking pan. Using your fingers, gently mold each portion of stuffing around the shrimp.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until the shrimp turn pink.

While the shrimp are cooking, heat the minced garlic and olive oil in a saute pan until the garlic turns light brown, add the chopped tomatoes and cook for about 3 minutes.

Add the white wine and heat until almost dry; add the chicken stock and basil.

Heat the sauce for 3 minutes and place onto the bottom of a large platter. Place Shrimp Oreganata on top of the tomatoes sauce.

Quarter the lemon into 4 pieces and serve with the shrimp.


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Warmer weather means BBQ time.

Getting started:

Prepare an outdoor grill for cooking over medium-hot charcoal (moderate heat for gas). If using a charcoal grill, open vents on the bottom of the grill, then light the charcoal. When the charcoal turns grayish white about 15 minutes after lighting, the grill is ready. If using a gas grill, preheat the burners on high, covered for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat if specified in the recipe.

Keep a third of your grill fire-free. On a charcoal grill, this means spreading the coals over the rear two-thirds of the firebox and leaving the front third coal-free. On a gas grill, leave one burner off. Sausages should be grilled over indirect heat.

Do not boil sausages before grilling because it diminishes flavor and moistness  Pre-boiling is unnecessary, if you grill carefully.

There’s no need to prick sausages with toothpicks or a fork before grilling. Perforating the casing only releases flammable fats, juices and flavor.

Lightly brush or rub the casings with olive oil. This prevents sticking and makes them extra crisp.

Handle with care. The key to a juicy sausage is to keep the casing intact. Use tongs and don’t break the sausage skin when turning.

Grill the sausages over the indirect part of the grill until crusty and golden brown on the outside and cooked through, about 30 minutes, turning them over after 15 minutes.

The safe internal temperature for ground meats—sausages included—is 160 degrees F. The casing will be crisp and brown, the filling plump and bubbling. But the only way to check, if the sausages are cooked, is to insert an instant-read meat thermometer through one end of the sausage toward the center.

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Warm Pepper and Onion Salad

Ingredients

  • 3 mixed colored large bell peppers, trimmed and quartered lengthwise
  • 1 large red onion, quartered lengthwise and separated into layers
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

Toss peppers and onion with 1 tablespoon oil. Grill on a lightly oiled grill sheet or a sheet of heavy-duty foil set directly on the grill rack (with grill covered if using a gas grill), turning occasionally, until slightly softened and charred, 9 to 15 minutes (onion will cook faster), transfer vegetables to a platter when cooked.

Add vinegar, oregano, salt, pepper and remaining 2 tablespoons oil to the peppers and onion, tossing to coat. Let stand 10 minutes to allow flavors to develop. Place grilled sausages on top.

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Potato and Green Bean Salad

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces green beans
  • 2 pounds peeled small potatoes
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 4 teaspoons whole-grain mustard
  • 2 teaspoons chopped thyme leaves
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • Coarse salt

Directions

Simmer green beans in salted water until barely tender and bright green, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon or wire-mesh skimmer to a bowl of ice water. Drain and pat dry.

Add potatoes to the same pot of salted water and simmer until tender, about 12 minutes. Drain potatoes and halve them.

Whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, mustard and thyme in a large bowl. Add potatoes, beans and red onion. Gently toss. Season with coarse salt.

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Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Cannellini Bean Salad

Ingredients

  • 600 gr (1.3 lbs) cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
  • A generous handful of mixed fresh herbs (thyme, oregano, rosemary)
  • Salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground white or black pepper, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 19 oz can cannellini beans, well-drained and rinsed (if using dried beans, 450 gr or 1 lb)
  • Arugula

Directions

If using dried beans, start this recipe a day ahead. Soak the beans in cold water overnight. The next day, rinse the beans, place them in a pot well covered with water, add some herbs and simmer for 1 hour or until tender. Cool the beans in the cooking liquid, taste for salt and adjust accordingly. Set aside until ready to use.

Preheat the oven to 160 C/320 degrees F.

Put the tomatoes in a large bowl. Season with oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, sugar and herbs. Mix well.

Pour the tomato mixture onto a large roasting pan lined with parchment paper. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until they begin to blistered. Place the tomato mixture in a serving bowl.

Add the well-drained beans to the tomatoes while they are still warm, taste for seasoning.

Serve warm as a side dish over arugula leaves.

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Eggplant, Tomato and Mozzarella Salad

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium eggplant, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella, sliced
  • 1 pound sliced ripe tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, torn
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Brush two rimmed baking sheets with 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil each. Arrange eggplant slices on the baking sheets. Brush tops with 2 tablespoons oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast until the eggplant is golden and tender, about 20 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.

On a serving platter, layer eggplant with sliced mozzarella and tomatoes. Top with basil leaves and drizzle with remaining 2 tablespoons oil and balsamic vinegar.

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Tortellini Salad with Tomato Vinaigrette

8 servings

Ingredients

Tortellini

  • 1 pound fresh or frozen cheese tortellini
  • 1 cup sun-dried tomatoes, sliced
  • One 14-ounce can artichoke hearts in water, rinsed and quartered
  • 1 7-ounce jar roasted red peppers, chopped
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved or 2 ripe tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 4 scallions, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • Arugula or baby spinach, for serving

Tomato Vinaigrette

  • 2 ripe tomatoes, halved and seeded
  • 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Directions

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook tortellini until just tender, 8 to 10 minutes.

Drain and transfer to a large bowl.

Add the sun-dried tomatoes to the tortellini along with artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, tomatoes, scallions and basil. Season with salt and pepper.

Tomato Vinaigrette:

Working over a bowl, rub tomato halves on the large-holed side of a box grater until only the skins remain. Discard the skins.

Add vinegar, oil, oregano, garlic, salt and pepper to the tomato juice and whisk until blended.

Add the Tomato Vinaigrette to the tortellini salad and toss. Serve the salad on a bed of arugula or baby spinach.


classicscover

These recipes are designed to be more in line with the way Italians eat rather than Italian Americans. Eating the Italian way means incorporating more vegetables and healthy fats into your recipes and eating less meat.

Do you want to trim down this summer? Then, trim some calories from your recipes. Trimming calories, however, doesn’t mean trimming flavor. These reinvented Italian classics are an excellent example of how to do this type of makeover.

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Baked Eggplant Parmesan

Calorie savers in this recipe: egg whites instead of a whole egg; eggplant is baked, not fried and no oil is used in cooking.

I like to serve this dish with olive oil mashed potatoes and sautéed spinach.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • Olive Oil Cooking Spray
  • 1 large eggplant (1 ½ pounds)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 egg whites, lightly beaten
  • 1 ½ cups panko crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
  • 1 cup homemade or store-bought spaghetti sauce
  • 3/4 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese (4 ounces)
  • Shredded fresh basil

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper; coat paper with cooking spray. Set aside.

Cut the eggplant crosswise into eight (about 3/4-inch-thick) slices, discarding the small ends. Place slices on a double layer of paper towels. Sprinkle all sides of the eggplant slices with the salt. Let stand about 30 minutes or until liquid is visible on the surface. Rinse salt and liquid off the eggplant slices; pat dry with paper towels.

Place egg whites in a shallow dish. In another shallow dish combine panko, Parmesan cheese, garlic powder, basil and oregano.

Dip eggplant slices in the egg whites, then in the panko mixture, turning to coat both sides of each slice. Place coated slices on the prepared baking sheet.

Sprinkle the eggplant slices with any of the remaining panko mixture.  Lightly coat tops of coated eggplant slices with cooking spray.

Bake for 15 minutes or until tops are lightly browned. Carefully turn eggplant slices over. Bake for 15 minutes more or until lightly browned and the eggplant is tender.

Remove from oven. Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees F. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the spaghetti sauce onto each eggplant slice. Divide shredded cheese evenly among eggplant slices. Bake until the cheese melts. Garnish with basil before serving.

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Pasta Carbonara

Calorie savers in this recipe: less pasta due to added vegetables; lean pancetta instead of bacon; low-fat milk for the sauce instead of cream.

This is a one-dish meal that doesn’t need any sides.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces multigrain spaghetti
  • 1 pound broccolini or broccoli rabe, chopped (about 5 cups)
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 4 round slices pancetta, each about ¼ inch thick and diced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • One 12 ounce can evaporated low-fat milk
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
  • Grated Parmesan cheese for garnish
  • Salt
  • Coarsely ground black pepper

Directions

Cook spaghetti al dente, adding broccolini for the last 5 minutes of cooking and the peas during the last minute of cooking. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water; drain and set aside.

In a small saucepan melt butter and saute pancetta. Remove the pancetta to a small bowl with a slotted spoon.

Add garlic to the pan and cook for 1 minute. Whisk in the 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese and the flour. Slowly whisk in the evaporated milk. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Boil gently, uncovered, until sauce has thickened. Remove from heat and return pancetta.

Place spaghetti-vegetable mixture in a large serving bowl. Pour sauce and 1/2 cup of the reserved cooking water over the top. Toss gently to combine. Thin to desired consistency with more of the reserved cooking water.

Top with snipped parsley and additional grated Parmesan cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

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Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Turkey Meatballs

Calorie savers in this recipe: squash instead of pasta; ground turkey and bulgur instead of beef; baked meatballs instead of fried.

Serve this dish with a green bean salad.

6 servings

Ingredients

  • One 3 pound spaghetti squash, halved and seeded
  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 1/3 cup bulgur
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 pound lean ground turkey
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning, divided
  • Three 14 1/2 ounce cans Italian crushed tomatoes, undrained
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Snipped fresh basil

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly coat the cut sides of the spaghetti squash with cooking spray. Place squash halves, cut sides down, on a 15x10x1-inch baking pan lined with parchment paper. Bake about 50 minutes or until squash is soft. Let cool slightly. Use a fork to separate the strands of squash.

For the meatballs:

Place bulgur in a bowl. Pour the boiling water over the bulgur; let stand about 20 minutes or until most of the water is absorbed. Add egg, ground turkey, garlic and 1 teaspoon of the Italian seasoning. Mix to combine. Shape into 1-inch meatballs. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet that has been coated with cooking spray. Place in the oven with the squash for the last twenty minutes.

Preheat a deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add tomatoes, crushed red pepper, the salt and the remaining 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 7 to 10 minutes or until sauce starts to thicken. Add meatballs and simmer 5 minutes.

Serve meatballs and sauce over spaghetti squash strands. Top with grated Parmesan cheese and basil.

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Baked Cavatelli Pasta

Calorie savers in this recipe: less pasta with the added vegetables; leaner chicken sausage instead of pork; part skim mozzarella cheese.

Serve this dish with a mixed green salad.

8 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces cavatelli pasta (about 3 1/2 cups)
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 12 ounces Italian cooked chicken sausage, diced
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions (4)
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • One 28-32 ounce can Italian diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 3 cups homemade or store-bought spaghetti sauce
  • One 5 ounce package fresh baby spinach, chopped
  • 1 ½ cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese (6 ounces), divided

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Cook pasta al dente. Drain well.

Meanwhile, in a 4- to 6-quart Dutch oven heat the olive oil and brush the bottom of the pan with the warm oil to completely cover the bottom. Add sausage, green onions, fennel seeds and crushed red pepper and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add diced tomatoes, spaghetti sauce and spinach; stir until spinach wilts. Remove from the heat. Stir in 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese. Stir in the cooked pasta.

Spoon into a greased 3-quart casserole. Cover with foil. Bake for 25 minutes. Uncover. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup cheese on top.

Bake, uncovered, for 10 to 15 minutes more or until cheese is melted.

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Chicken Cacciatore

Calorie savers in this recipe: chicken skin removed; vegetable filled sauce; very little oil used in cooking.

Serve over cooked spaghetti.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 small chicken thighs, skin removed (about 2 pounds)
  • Salt
  • 3 cups sliced cremini mushrooms
  • 1 large green sweet pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into bite-size strips
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped carrot (1 small)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • One 28 ounce can diced Italian tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 ½ cups frozen pearl onions
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper, plus extra for the chicken
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 10 pitted Kalamata olives, cut in half
  • 1/3 cup snipped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
  • 4 oz dried spaghetti, cooked al dente

Directions

In a large skillet heat oil over medium heat. Sprinkle chicken thighs lightly with salt and cracked black pepper. Brown chicken thighs turning once. Remove chicken from the skillet; set aside.

Add mushrooms, bell pepper, carrot and garlic to the skillet; cook for 4 minutes. Add wine. Simmer, uncovered, until liquid is nearly evaporated. Add tomatoes, onions, oregano and coarsely ground black pepper, stirring to combine.

Return chicken to skillet. Simmer, covered, about 20 minutes or until chicken is cooked. Stir in balsamic vinegar, olives and parsley. Adjust salt to taste.

Serve each portion with a ½ cup of cooked spaghetti.

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sardiniacover

Sardinia is the second largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. The coasts of Sardinia are generally high and rocky with long, relatively straight stretches of coastline that contain a few deep bays, many inlets and smaller islands off the coast. The Strait of Bonifacio is directly north of Sardinia and separates Sardinia from the French island of Corsica. The region’s capital is Cagliari.

Sardinia

The island has a Mediterranean climate along the coasts, plains and low hills and a continental climate on the interior plateaus, valleys and mountain ranges. During the year there are approximately 135 days of sunshine, with a major concentration of rainfall in the autumn and winter.

Traditional Dress

Traditional Dress

During the Second World War, Sardinia was an important air and naval base and was heavily bombed by the Allies. In the early 1960s, an industrialization effort was begun with the initiation of major infrastructure projects on the island. These included the construction of new dams and roads, reforestation, agricultural zones on reclaimed marshland and large industrial complexes (primarily oil refineries and related petrochemical operations). With the creation of these industries, thousands of ex-farmers became industrial workers.

The Sardinian economy is constrained due to the high cost of importing goods, transportation and generating electricity, which is twice that of the continental Italian regions and triple that of the EU average. The once prosperous mining industry is still active, though restricted to coal, gold, bauxite, lead and zinc. Granite extraction represents one of the most flourishing industries in the northern part of the island. Principal industries include chemicals, petrochemicals, metalworking, cement, pharmaceutical, shipbuilding, oil rig construction, rail and food.

Cork

Cork Trees

Agriculture has played a very important role in the economic history of the island, especially in the great plain of Campidano, where it is particularly suitable for wheat farming. Water scarcity was a major problem that was overcome with the construction of a great barrier system of dams. Now, the Campidano plain is a major Italian producer of oats, barley and durum wheat. Sardinian agriculture is linked to specific products: cheese, wine, olive oil, artichokes and tomatoes that contribute to a growing export business. Sardinia produces about 80% of Italian cork and ranks 5th among the Italian regions in rice production. The main paddy fields are located in the Arborea Plain.

Sardinia is home to one of the oldest forms of vocal music, generally known as cantu a tenore. The guttural sounds produced in this form make a remarkable sound, similar to Tuvan throat singing. Sardinia is home to professional soccer and basketball teams and auto racing. Cagliari hosted a Formula 3000 race in 2002 and 2003 around its Sant’Elia stadium.

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Sardinia boasts the highest consumption of beer per capita in Italy. The discovery of jars containing hops in some archaeological sites are evidence that beer was produced in the region since the Copper Age.

The Cuisine of Sardinia

Thousands of rare species of plants and animals grow and live on the island, some entirely unique to Sardinia. An excellent example of the longevity of Sardinia’s heirloom produce is the Grenache wine grape which dates back to about 1,200 BC. The Grenache grapes grown on the island today are genetically indistinguishable from their ancestors grown thousands of years ago in the same areas.

Wild boar, lamb, pork, eggplant, artichokes, tomatoes, lobsters, sea urchins, octopus, clams, mussels and squid are plentiful. Salty flavors are preferred by Sardinians, such as, bottarga (a pressed and salted mullet roe) and salt preserved sardines.

sardinia4

Traditional hearty Italian pastas like culingiones (spinach and cheese ravioli) share center stage with Arabic-inspired couscous dishes. Many first-time visitors are surprised by the Sardinians’ liberal use of saffron, which grows well on the island. Saffron is a particular favorite in gnocchi dishes.

A wide variety of herbs, including myrtle (berries, flowers, leaves and stems), flourish on Sardinia and flavor the local dishes. Whether savory, sweet, used for wood smoking or instilled into digestive liqueurs, myrtle is a major part of the Sardinian palate.

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Cheeses are especially important and the island’s most exported food product. Pecorino sardo, Fiore sardo, ricotta, caprino, pecorino romano and the famous casu marzu are all made within the region. Casu marzu is illegal now in Italy due to its bizarre culturing and aging process involving the introduction of live cheese fly larvae into the process to bring about a poisonous stage akin to decomposition. Though obviously a risky gastronomic health adventure and definitely not for the timid, casu marzu is nonetheless a very popular black market commodity and is considered a distinctive delicacy by many locals.

For more traditional tastes, you will find local rock lobsters topped with seasoned breadcrumbs and roasted in the oven and cassòla, a flavorful seafood soup, that can have as many as a dozen types of seafood cooked with spices and tomatoes.

Fava beans are cooked with cardoons, wild fennel, tomatoes, salt pork and sausage to create the thick stew known as favata.  Farro, a locally grown grain, is simmered slowly in beef broth with cheese and mint to make su farro.

Chickens are marinated with myrtle leaves and berries, boiled and eaten chilled.  Other Sardinian recipes for meat are agnello con finocchietti, a stew of lamb with wild fennel, tomatoes and onion.  Not people to waste food, Sardinians stew lamb or kid intestines with peas, onions and tomatoes.

Sardinians love pasta in all forms and their cuisine features specialties found nowhere else.  Plump culingiones are shaped like ravioli and stuffed with chard and pecorino cheese and served with tomato sauce. The regional dish, malloreddus, are tiny semolina gnocchi topped with a garlic, basil, pecorino and saffron flavored sausage and tomato sauce.

sardiniabread

Every village has a unique shaped bread, either a round loaf, a long cylindrical loaf or a donut shaped loaf.  Sardinian recipes also include a sweet focaccia flavored with pecorino cheese and a local bitter honey. The entire island loves flatbread and crisp carta de musica or “sheet of music”,  a paper-thin crisp bread. One popular way to serve this cracker style bread is to soften it in warm water, then spread it with tomato sauce, grated cheese and poached eggs.

Sardinian cooking also offers a wide selection of cookies, pastries and cakes. These desserts are usually flavored with spices, almonds, raisins and ricotta cheese.  Pabassinas are pastries filled with a raisin walnut paste.

sardiniamyrtle

Mirto is a liqueur unique to the islands of Sardinia and Corsica. It is made from the berries of the flowering Mirto (or Myrtle) plant, a distinctive plant that grows throughout the Mediterranean basin but is most prolific on the islands of Sardinia and Corsica. The berries are dark blue in color and look somewhat like blueberries but bear no relationship to blueberries in taste or other properties.

Sardinia’s wines have little in common with those produced in the rest of Italy. The Island’s remote Mediterranean location, as well as the historic influence from other cultures, gives the wines a unique character that might be considered to have more in common with Spanish wines rather than Italian wines. Production is extensive around the port of Cagliari in the Campidano area, where the little known Girò, Monica, Nasco and Nuragus varietals grow alongside Malvasia and Moscato, all bearing town names: Girò di Cagliari, Monica di Cagliari, Nasco di Cagliari, Nuragus di Cagliari, Malvasia di Cagliari and Moscato di Cagliari DOCs.

sardinia8

Sardinian Minestrone

Traditionally, it is made with whatever is growing in the garden, but it always includes beans and fregula (or fregola) a toasted pebble-size semolina pasta that is popular in Sardinia.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup dried peeled fava beans
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberry beans or cannellini beans
  • 1/3 cup dried chickpeas
  • 7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped (about 2⁄3 cup)
  • 2 medium celery stalks, chopped (about ½ cup)
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes (about 3½ cups)
  • 3 medium yellow potatoes, peeled and diced (about 1½ cups)
  • 1½ cups chopped fennel bulb
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 2⁄3 cup of Sardinian fregula, Israeli couscous, or acini di pepe pasta
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup finely grated pecorino Romano (about 2 ounces)

Directions

Soak the fava beans, cranberry beans and chickpeas in a large bowl of water for at least 8 hours or overnight. Drain in a colander and rinse well.

Warm 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large soup pot or Dutch oven set over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrots and celery; cook, stirring often, until soft but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 20 seconds.

Stir in the tomatoes, potatoes, fennel, parsley and basil, as well as the drained beans and chickpeas. Add enough water (6 to 8 cups) so that everything is submerged by 1 inch.

Raise the heat to high and bring to a full boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer slowly, uncovered, until the beans are tender, adding more water as necessary if the mixture gets too thick, about 1½ hours.

Stir in the fregula, salt and pepper. Add up to 2 cups water if necessary. Continue simmering, uncovered, until the pasta is tender, about 10 minutes.

Pour 1 tablespoon of olive oil into each of four serving bowls. Divide the soup among them and top each with 1 tablespoon of the grated cheese.

Notes: You can vary the beans in the minestrone: pinto beans make a good substitute for cranberry beans; great northern or cannellini beans, for the favas. Use the stalks and fronds that come off a fennel bulb for the most intense flavor. Add other fresh vegetables from the garden or market, such as zucchini, cabbage, green beans, and cauliflower or broccoli florets.

sardinia6

Cavatelli with Sardinian Sausage Sauce

Cavatelli pasta is shaped like a small hot dog bun with a long, rolled edge that is good for holding thick sauces.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 pound hot Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 cups canned crushed tomatoes in thick puree (one 28-ounce can)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 2 large pinches saffron
  • 1 pound fresh or frozen cavatelli pasta
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 3 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan, plus more for serving

Directions

In a large deep frying pan or Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over moderate heat. Add the sausage and cook, breaking up the meat with a fork, until it is no longer pink, about 5 minutes.

Reduce the heat to moderately low and add the remaining oil to the pan. Stir in the onion and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, mint, parsley, water, salt and 1 pinch of the saffron. Simmer until thickened, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the cavatelli with the remaining pinch saffron until just done, 10 to 15 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Drain the cavatelli and toss with the meat sauce, the basil, the reserved pasta water and the cheese. Serve with additional Pecorino Romano.

sardinia9

Sardinian Lamb Kabobs over Couscous

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless leg of lamb, cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
  • 8 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 4 tablespoons lemon juice, divided
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 small head cauliflower (about 1 1/4 pounds), cut into small florets
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron
  • 3/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper, divided
  • 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes in thick puree
  • 1 3/4 cups canned chicken broth or homemade stock
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1 1/2 cups couscous
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Directions
In a small frying pan, toast the pine nuts over moderately low heat, stirring frequently, until golden brown, about 5 minutes.

Light an outdoor grill or heat the broiler.

In a glass dish or stainless steel pan, combine the lamb, 6 tablespoons of the oil, the thyme and 3 tablespoons of the lemon juice.

In a large frying pan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over moderate heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until starting to brown, about 5 minutes.

Add the cauliflower, garlic and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower is golden, about 10 minutes. Add the saffron, 1 1/4 teaspoons of the salt, 1/2 teaspoon of the pepper, the tomatoes, broth and raisins.

Simmer until the cauliflower is tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the couscous and parsley. Bring back to a simmer. Cover, remove from the heat, and let sit for 5 minutes. Stir in the pine nuts and the remaining 1 tablespoon lemon juice.

Put the lamb on skewers. Sprinkle the kabobs with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Grill or broil the kabobs, turning and basting with the marinade, until the lamb is cooked to your taste, 6 to 8 minutes for medium rare. Serve the skewers on the couscous.

sardinia7

“Torta de arrosu”  Saffron rice cake

Ingredients

  • 200 gr / 7 oz rice
  • 150 gr/ 5 oz  sugar
  • 750 ml /  1 ½ pints of milk
  • 1/2 oz butter
  • 5 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 100 gr/ 3 1/2 oz skinned almonds
  • Grated rind of a lemon
  • A pinch of saffron
  • A pinch of salt
  • Powdered sugar for garnish

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degree F (180 C).  Grease a 9 inch (24 cm) cake pan.

Put the milk, butter, saffron, sugar, salt and lemon rind in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Add the rice and cook, stirring frequently, until all the milk has been absorbed. Let cool and then add the eggs and the almonds.

Spoon mixture into the prepared pan.

Bake in the preheated oven for one hour.  Cool on a wire rack and sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving.

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