Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Olive Oil

hanukkah

The first Jews began arriving in Rome as far back as 160 BC, creating one of the oldest Jewish communities in Western Europe, and with over thirty-thousand Jews calling Italy home, it isn’t surprising that Hanukkah, the festival of lights, is celebrated just as passionately as Christmas. Hanukkah 2014 begins in the evening on Tuesday, December 16.

Hanukkah celebrations last for eight days, with the dates being dictated by the Hebrew calendar. Each night a candle is lit on the nine-branched candle holder called the menorah until all eight candles are burning. The shamash; the ninth candle is raised above the eight others, its purpose being as a flame to light the religious candles below.  On Rome’s via Sacra, near the Coliseum stands the Arch of Titus, built in AD81, shows  a sculpture of a procession following the raid on the Temple of Solomon and, above the heads of the triumphant Romans, a menorah is held aloft. Today, a twenty-foot menorah is erected in Piazza Barberini and this becomes the central focus for Rome’s  lighting ceremony.  In Milan the large public menorah is traditionally set in Piazza San Carlo with the hope that its light will reach the hearts of the people.

While in Venice, following the lighting of the menorah, the Cannaregio neighborhood is brought to life with music and dancing. Once the home of the world’s oldest Jewish ghetto, the five synagogues remain intact and are still used for worship by the local community. Florence’s past is also steeped in Jewish history with the Jewish museum on Via dei Giudei (street of the Jews) where the city’s ghetto once stood. Nearby is Tempio Maggiore, built between 1874 and 1882, and is the  Synagogue of Florence where the city’s Jewish community gather to celebrate and light the Menorah before the feasting begins.

The fried foods that are served during the holiday commemorate the miracle of the one day’s supply of olive oil that burned for eight days after the destruction of the temple. The Jewish communities celebrate with traditional recipes, such as, chicken marinated in olive oil, lemon and nutmeg before being dredged in flour and fried, thin slices of fried eggplant and potato pancakes. Frittelle di Chanukah  (sweet fried dough fritters) are the traditional end to all Italian Hanukkah meals; balls of bread dough are stuffed with raisins and flavored with aniseed, fried and drizzled with hot honey.

hanukkah1

Fennel and Orange­ Scented Challah

By Joan Nathan (New York Times)

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ tablespoons (2 packages) active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/3 cup sugar
  • Grated zest from 2 large oranges plus 1/2 cup of the juice, strained
  • 1/3 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 3 large eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 7 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 2 teaspoons poppy seeds
  • 2 teaspoons roasted sesame seeds

Directions

In the bowl of a standing mixer, dissolve yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar in 1 cup of lukewarm water.

Using the paddle attachment, stir orange zest, juice and oil into yeast mixture, then add 2 eggs, 1 at a time, and remaining sugar and salt. Switch to the dough hook and gradually add 6 cups of flour, kneading for about 5 minutes and adding more flour as needed to make a slightly sticky, smooth and elastic dough.

Grease a large bowl, turn dough into it and then turn the dough over to grease the top. Cover with greased plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, or refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.

When the dough has almost doubled, punch it down, remove it to a lightly floured counter, knead it briefly until smooth and divide it in half.

Roll each piece into a cylinder about 27 inches long, making sure there are no seams in the dough. Bring one end of the dough up to the other and twist to form a spiral. Push both ends together to make a squat 12 ­inch loaf.

Repeat with the other piece of dough and arrange loaves on a parchment ­lined baking sheet at least 2 inches apart. You can also twist the long spirals into a circle if you like; the dough is very malleable.

Beat remaining egg and egg yolk and brush about half the mixture on the loaves, reserving the rest. Let the dough rise uncovered another half ­hour or overnight in the refrigerator.

If dough was refrigerated, bring to room temperature. Heat oven to 350 degrees F and in a small bowl, combine fennel, poppy and sesame seeds. Brush the loaves with egg again and sprinkle with seeds.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until golden and firm when tapped with a spatula. Cool on a rack.

hanukkah4

Pollo Fritto

Ingredients

  • 1 chicken, cut into eighths
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 2 eggs
  • The juice of a lemon
  • Flour
  • Olive oil for frying
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Directions

Place the chicken pieces in a bowl, seasoning them well with salt and pepper. Mix the 2 tablespoons of olive oil, nutmeg and the lemon juice in a measuring cup and beating the mixture well with a fork. Pour the mixture over the chicken pieces, turn them to coat on all sides and let them marinate for about an hour, turning them several times.

When it comes time to cook, heat the oil in a pot. Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade and pat them dry.

Beat the eggs in a bowl, seasoning them lightly with salt and pepper. Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour, then dip them in the egg and slip them into the oil. When they are well browned on all sides, remove them from the pot, drain them well, and serve them.

hanukkah5

Butternut Squash and Sage Latkes

Ingredients

  • 1/2 medium onion, grated
  • 6 cups grated butternut squash (1 3-pound squash)
  • 1/4 cup chopped or slivered fresh sage(more to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons oat bran
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Sour cream, for serving

Directions

Place the grated onion in a strainer set over a bowl while you prepare the other ingredients. Then wrap the onion in a dishtowel and squeeze out excess water. Place in a large bowl and add the squash, sage, baking powder, salt and pepper, oat bran and flour. Add the eggs and stir together.

Begin heating a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Heat the oven to 300 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment. Place a wire rack over another sheet pan.

Take a 1/4 cup measuring cup and fill with 3 tablespoons of the mixture. Turn out onto the parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining latke mix. You should have enough to make about 30 latkes.

Add the oil to the pan and when it is hot, use a spatula to transfer a ball of latke mixture to the pan. Press down with the spatula to flatten.

Repeat with more mounds. Cook on one side until golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Slide the spatula underneath and turn the latkes over. Cook on the other side until golden brown, another 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to the rack set over a baking sheet and place in the oven to keep warm. Serve hot topped with low-fat or regular sour cream.

hanukkah3

Couscous With Olives, Lemon And Fresh Herbs

Ingredients

Servings: 8

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) pareve margarine
  • 6 cups chopped onions
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 1/4 cups low-salt chicken broth
  • 1 cup pitted halved brine-cured black olives (such as Kalamata)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh mint
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 cups couscous (about 13 1/2 ounces)

Directions

Melt margarine in a large pot over medium-low heat. Add onions; stir to coat. Cover pot and cook onions until very tender but not brown, stirring occasionally, about 35 minutes.

Mix in ginger and turmeric.

Add broth, olives, basil, mint and lemon juice. Bring to simmer. Mix in couscous.

Cover pot, turn off heat and let stand until couscous is tender and all the liquid is absorbed, about 12 minutes. Fluff couscous with fork. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour couscous into a bowl and serve.

hanukkah2

Honey-Glazed Doughnuts With Raisins And Pine Nuts

Ingredients

MAKES ABOUT 32

  • 1 1/2 cups warm water (105°F to 115°F), divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 envelope active dry yeast
  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1 large egg, beaten to blend
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil plus more for frying
  • 1 1/2 cups honey
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

Directions

Combine 1/4 cup warm water and sugar in small bowl. Sprinkle yeast over; stir to blend. Let stand until yeast dissolves and mixture is foamy, about 6 minutes.

Whisk flour and salt in large bowl to blend. Make a well in the center. Add raisins, pine nuts, egg and 1 tablespoon oil to well. Pour remaining 1 1/4 cups warm water over, then pour yeast mixture over. Stir until a smooth dough forms. Scrape down the sides of the bowl; cover bowl with plastic, then a towel. Let dough rise in a warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 1 1/2 hours.

Line a large rimmed baking sheet with a double layer of paper towels. Pour enough oil into large deep saucepan to reach a depth of 2 inches. Attach a deep-fry thermometer to the side of the pan and heat oil to 360°F to 370°F. Working in batches of 5 or 6 doughnuts, dip a metal tablespoon into the hot oil to coat and, without deflating dough, gently scoop up a rounded tablespoonful. Drop dough into the oil. Fry until deep golden, turning occasionally, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer doughnuts to prepared sheet and drain.

DO AHEAD Doughnuts can be made 6 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature. Rewarm on the same sheet in a 350°F oven about 15 minutes.

Whisk honey, 3/4 cup water and cinnamon in a heavy medium saucepan over medium-high heat until syrup comes to boil. Remove pan from the heat. Dip warm doughnuts into honey syrup and pile onto a serving platter. Pour remaining syrup into bowl. Serve doughnuts with remaining syrup.

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Northern italy

Northern italy

Central italy

Central italy

Southern Italy

Southern Italy

The diverse nature of Italy’s landscape accounts for its attractiveness which has made the country a popular place to visit. The country is a peninsula with a unique shape, extending into the waters of the Mediterranean, that is surrounded by seas on all three sides. On the south-western corner of the country is located the Tyrrhenian Sea, while the Adriatic Sea is on the north-eastern side. In the south-eastern area is the Ionian Sea and the Ligurian Sea is located in north-west Italy.

Italy has two major mountain ranges, the Alps and the Apennines. The natural position of both these mountain ranges is in the shape of an arc and this semicircular topography strengthens the northern boundaries of Italy against any possible foreign invasions. Mont Blanc, 4810 meters or 5,781 feet above sea levels, is the highest Italian mountain summit. The country also has two volcanoes, among which Mount Vesuvius, close to Naples, is presently in a dormant state. The other volcanic peak in Sicily, Mount Etna is still very active.

Next to the mountains and the seas, come the valleys and the plains . The Italian plains, known as the Padan Plain, contains one of the longest rivers in Italy – the Po (652 km) and its numerous tributaries, mostly flowing down from the Alps and Apennines to join it. Some of the tributaries of the Po River like Mincio, Dora Baltea, Trebbia and Secchia bring extensive alluvial deposits onto the plains, increasing its fertility and making it ideal for cultivation.

Po Valley

Po Valley

Lake Como

Lake Como

Italy is also a land of lakes. The largest lake in Italy is Lake Garda that covers an area of 142 sq. mi./370 km² and, another, is Lake Como, a major tourist attraction. All these fresh water lakes add to the scenic beauty of the land, making it more and more inviting to tourists.

Northern and southern Italy are very different in climate. The south has very warm weather while in the north the weather is cold for a good portion of the year. Dry pasta, like spaghetti and rigatoni, is found more in the southern areas because it is easier to dry pasta in warm weather. Since it is more difficult to dry pasta in the north, fresh pastas, like pappardelle and tagliatelle, are more popular. Other types of pasta popular in the north are stuffed pastas, such as ravioli. The climate also affects the types of food and plants that grow in Italy. Some plants, like olive trees grow better in warm weather. Olive trees do not grow well in the northern areas where it is cold. In the south olive oil is used while in the north butter and lard are used in place of olive oil. Because of the gradually sloping hills in Parma, the consistent dry breeze make it an ideal location for curing and aging pork products, such as Prosciutto di Parma. The weather in southern Italy is conducive to growing vegetables and chilis that like hot weather conditions.

Italian Olive Trees

Italian Olive Trees

Although Italians are known throughout the world for pizza and pasta, the national diet of Italy has traditionally differed greatly by region. Italy has 20 regions and I will be writing about them in the future. From the early Middle Ages, Italy consisted of separate republics, each with different culinary customs. These varying cooking practices, which were passed down from generation to generation, contributed to the diversity of Italian cuisine. Italy’s neighboring countries, including France, Austria and Yugoslavia, also contributed to differences in the country’s cuisine. Pride in the culture of one’s region, or campanilismo, extends to the food of the locality and regional cooking styles are celebrated throughout the country.

The mountainous regions of the north feature hearty, meaty fare. The Veneto’s coastal lowlands provide mussels and clams and the lakes and waterways inland provide a tremendous variety of fresh water fish, in addition to ducks and other wild birds. You’ll find a southern meal isn’t complete without a pasta course, while the north prefers gnocchi, risotto and polenta dishes. Cooking ranges from boiling and frying through slow braising and stewing and, in the latter cases, northern cooks use much less tomato, preferring to use wine or broth as the liquid and chopped herbs for flavor. The results can be elegant and the same holds true for roasts, especially those that contain winter vegetable stuffings.

In Central Italy the summers are hotter and longer than those of the North and, consequently, tomato-based dishes are more common than they are further north; at the same time, the winters are chilly inland, making it possible to grow leafy vegetables that reach their best after it frosts, for example black leaf kale. Though there are braised meats and stews, in much of central Italy the centerpiece of a classic holiday meal will be a platter of mixed grilled or roasted meats, with poultry, pork or beef, especially in Tuscany, where the renowned Chianina cattle graze the fields. In Lazio, on the other hand, the platter will likely have lamb, which may also be present on Umbria and the Marche table.

Central Italy also has a rich specialty farming tradition, with many crops that are difficult to find elsewhere, including farro, an ancient grain domesticated by the Romans and saffron, whose distinctive sharpness adds considerably to many dishes. The area, which is almost entirely hilly or mountainous, also boasts massive chestnut stands on the steeper slopes; chestnuts were in the past one of the staple foods of the poor and even now roasted chestnuts are a wonderful treat in winter, as are the dishes made with fresh chestnut flour.

In the sun-drenched south, you will find more Greek and Arabic influences, with a cuisine featuring fragrant olive oils and many varieties of tomatoes both fresh and dried, spiked with hot peppers and seasoned with basil and oregano. Historically the South is known for shepherding and lamb and kid play a much more important role in the diet than they do in much of the rest of Italy. Fish in many coastal areas dominate. Sicilians add citrus, raisins, almonds and exotic spices that set their cuisine apart. The Spaniards’ influence, most notably saffron, is found throughout the south and also in Milan and Sardinia where they once ruled.

Classic Regional Recipes

regional carbonade

Carbonade

A classic northern Italian stew.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds (800 g) lean beef, cubed
  • 2 medium-sized onions
  • Bay leaf
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Freshly ground nutmeg
  • Pinch of powdered cinnamon
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Flour
  • Beef broth
  • 2 cups full-bodied dry red wine
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • Salt and pepper
  • Directions

Flour the beef and brown the pieces in the butter, taking them out of the pot with a slotted spoon and setting them aside when brown.

Slice the onions into rounds and brown them in the same pot, add a ladle of broth and simmer until the broth has evaporated. Add the meat, the spices, the bay leaf, salt and add a pinch of sugar. Then add the wine, bring it all to a boil, reduce the heat to a slow simmer and cook, covered, adding more broth as necessary to the meat submerged.

After about 2 hours or when the meat is tender, add a grinding of pepper and serve it over polenta.

Yield: 4 servings

regional pasta

Spaghetti Aio Oio

A central Italian traditional dish.

Ingredients

  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced, or more to taste
  • 1/2 a dried chili pepper, crumbled, or more to taste
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • Grated Parmigiano or Pecorino Romano, optional

Directions

Bring 6 quarts of salted water to a boil and add the spaghetti. Meanwhile, mince the garlic, crumble the red pepper and sauté them in the oil until the garlic begins to turn a light brown.

Turn off the heat (the garlic will continue to brown; you don’t want it to over brown and become bitter).

When the spaghetti is cooked to the al dente stage, drain, transfer to a serving bowl and toss with the sauce.

Serve with grated Parmigiano or Pecorino Romano on the side; some people like it, whereas others, especially traditionalist Romans, shudder at the idea.

4-6 servings

regionalpizza

Pizza Margherita

A southern Italian staple.

To make the dough for 2 12-inch pizzas, you’ll need:

  • 1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons, or about 20 grams) active dry yeast
  • 1 1/3 cups (330 ml) warm (105-115 F, or 42-45 C) water
  • 3 1/2 cups (400-430 g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • A healthy pinch of salt

For the topping for each pizza, you’ll need

  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce or chopped canned tomatoes
  • Quarter pound of shredded mozzarella
  • 4 fresh basil leaves.

Directions

Begin by dissolving the yeast in the water, in a large mixing bowl; let it stand for 5 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and mix, either by hand or with a mixer set to low-speed, until the ingredients are blended. Hand-knead the dough or mix it with a dough hook setting the speed to low for about 10 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Coat the insides of another bowl with olive oil and turn the dough in it to coat it in oil, then cover with plastic wrap and set it in a warm place to rise for an hour or until it doubles in volume.

Preheat the oven to 475 F (250 C) — if you are using a baking stone it should heat for at least 45 minutes. Otherwise grease and dust two flat baking sheets with corn meal. Divide the dough in half, shape each half into a ball and let rest for 15 minutes. Then shape them into disks, stretching them out from the center on a floured surface. Do not roll them, because rolling toughens the dough.

Ladle and spread a half cup of tomato sauce or chopped canned tomatoes over the dough, add the cheese and basil and bake for 15 – 20 minutes.

If you’re using a baking stone and have a baker’s peel, lightly flour it, slide the pizza onto it and transfer it to the stone with a shake — the flour will keep the dough from sticking. If you don’t have a peel, use a flat cookie sheet instead, lightly flouring it, to transfer the pizza from the work surface to the stone.

If you’re using metal baking pans you should bake the pizza towards the bottom of the oven.


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

Some important tips to help you make a good meatloaf:

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

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

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

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

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

Here is what you need for basic meatloaf:

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

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

Flavoring ingredients: herbs, spices, sautéed vegetables

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

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

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

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

Classic Meatloaf

Ingredients

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

Directions

Heat the oven to 350°F.

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

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

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

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

Variations

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

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

Here are some additional ways to make a meatloaf:

turkey_meatloaf

Mushroom Turkey Loaf

Serves 6.

Ingredients

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

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

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

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

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

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

mediterranean-meat-loaf

Italian Meatloaf

Ingredients:

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

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

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

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

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

Old-fashioned-Glazed-Meatloaf

Vegetable Filled Meatloaf with BBQ Glaze

Ingredients

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

BBQ Glaze

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

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

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

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

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

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

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

sausage meatloaf

Rolled Italian Sausage Meat Loaf

Ingredients

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

Directions

Heat oven to 350°F.

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

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

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

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

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


Roast-Chicken Cover

With its crispy skin and juicy meat, roasted chicken is one of the tastiest, most satisfying dishes you can make. If you’ve never roasted a chicken before, or if it’s been a while since you did, I’ll take you through the steps:

Here’s what you’ll need:

One whole chicken, about 4 to 5 pounds

A roasting pan with a rack

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Butter or olive oil for rubbing on and under the chicken skin

Carrots, celery and onion

2 cups of chicken stock or broth

1 tablespoon each of butter and flour for thickening the gravy

An instant-read thermometer for testing the temperature of the chicken

A mesh strainer, for straining the gravy

Optional: Garlic, fresh herbs and citrus fruits such as lemons or oranges

Kitchen twine for trussing

Roasting a chicken will take you about an hour and a half from start to finish, which also includes making gravy.

Basic Roast Chicken

Preheat your oven to 425°F.

Remove the neck and giblets from the chicken’s body cavity and pat the chicken dry, inside and out, with paper towels.

Rub the outside and inside of the chicken with butter or olive oil, then season with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper — both inside and out.

Truss (tie the legs together) the chicken securely with cooking twine. This step is optional, but it will help your roasted chicken cook more evenly.

Thick slice half an onion and quarter one single celery stalk and one single medium carrot. Scatter these veggies in the bottom of a roasting pan. They will flavor the gravy that you will make later.

Set a roasting rack over the vegetables and place the chicken (breast-side-up) on the rack.

Transfer the roasting pan to the oven. After the chicken has roasted for an hour and 15 minutes, check the temperature with an instant-read thermometer inserted into the deepest part of the thigh. The thermometer should read at least 160°F. If not, continue roasting, and check again in 15 minutes.

When the chicken is done, remove the roasting pan from the oven, carefully lift out the rack with the roasted chicken on it and transfer the chicken to a clean cutting board. Let it rest there for 20 minutes, uncovered, while you make the gravy.

Place the roasting pan with the roasted vegetables on the stove top. Remove the large pieces of vegetables. Add a tablespoon of butter and heat over medium heat until the butter melts. Add a tablespoon of flour and stir to form a paste. Pour in the 2 cups of chicken stock or broth into the pan and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer over medium heat until reduced and thickened. Some cooks like to strain the gravy to remove any bits of vegetables but I like to leave them in there.

Season the gravy to taste with Kosher salt and black pepper. Once the gravy is finished and the chicken has rested, you can carve the chicken and serve it with the homemade gravy.

Flavoring Tips:

You can stuff the chicken with fresh herbs or other aromatic items. Thyme, rosemary, sage and marjoram are great choices, but any fresh herbs will do. For flavor and aroma add a couple of lemons or oranges cut into wedges and fennel fronds. Add a few peeled cloves of garlic to the carrot-celery-onion mixture before roasting.

Here are some additional ways to roast chicken.

How-to-Roast-a-Whole-Chicken-in-the-Crockpot-Step-3

How to Roast a Whole Chicken in the Crock Pot

Serves: 4-5

Ingredients

  • 1 (4 lb) whole chicken, insides removed and patted dry
  • 1/2 tablespoon of paprika
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose seasoning
  • 1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Directions

Mix together paprika, all-purpose seasoning, garlic powder and salt.

Place 4 medium-sized foil balls in the bottom of a crock pot. This will act as a stand to prevent the chicken from drying out.

Rub seasoning over the entire chicken (including the inside). Place on top of the foil balls. Cover and cook on HIGH for 4 – 4½ hours, or LOW for 6½ – 8 hours.

98d9274f-a77a-47ca-bc19-cedc8e004d16

Roast Chicken with Maple Glaze

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds sweet potatoes (about 3), peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 medium onion, cut into 8 wedges
  • 1/3 cup cranberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1 chicken (3 to 4 pounds)
  • 1 tablespoon butter, cut into small pieces
  • 6 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme

Directions

Heat the oven to 425°.

In a large roasting pan, mix the sweet potatoes, onion and cranberries with 1 tablespoon of the oil, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper. Push them to the edges of the pan, leaving a space in the center for the chicken.

Rub the cavity of the chicken with 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and 1/8 teaspoon of the pepper. Twist the wings behind the back and tie the legs together. Put the chicken, breast-side up, in the center of the roasting pan. Coat the chicken with the remaining tablespoon oil, sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon of the pepper, and dot with the butter. Roast the chicken for 30 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine the maple syrup, thyme and the remaining 3/4 teaspoon pepper. Remove the roasting pan from the oven and stir the potatoes. Brush the chicken with about 2 tablespoons of the glaze and drizzle the potatoes with about 1/2 tablespoon of the glaze.

Return the pan to the oven and cook, stirring the potatoes and brushing the chicken with the remaining glaze 2 more times, until the chicken and potatoes are just done, about 30 minutes longer. Transfer the chicken and vegetables to a serving plate and keep in a warm spot for about 10 minutes.

Skim off the fat from the roasting pan. Pour the pan juices over the chicken and the sweet potatoes.

salsaverde chicken

Roasted Chicken with Spicy Salsa Verde

4 servings

Ingredients

  • One 4-to 5-pound chicken
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced and seeded
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 small onion, peeled
  • 1 small bunch fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Salsa Verde:

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons salt-packed capers, rinsed and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh mint
  • 1/4 -1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 salt-packed anchovy fillets, rinsed and minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 hot pepper, seeded and minced (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Make the salsa verde:

Combine the extra-virgin olive oil, parsley, capers, mint, red pepper flakes, anchovies, garlic, lemon zest and juice, hot pepper and shallots in a bowl and stir to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste. Allow the flavors to meld for at least 15 minutes before serving; if planning to serve after more than an hour, add the lemon juice at the last minute to keep the color vibrant. Yield: 1 1/2 cups.

Remove the chicken from the refrigerator 1 hour before cooking.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Lift the chicken skin up and wedge 3 lemon slices and 1 bay leaf between the skin and each breast. Put the garlic, onion, thyme and remaining lemon slices in the cavity of the chicken. Rub the entire chicken liberally with olive oil.

Put the chicken in an ovenproof saute pan or roasting pan breast-side up, slide it into the oven and roast until the thigh reaches 160 degrees F, or until the cavity juices run clear, about 1 hour. Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 to 20 minutes.

Cut the chicken into 8 pieces and drizzle with the Salsa Verde.

lemon chicken

Roast Chicken with Lemon Shallot Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 4- to 5-lb. chicken
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 medium lemons
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 pound shallots
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup reduced-sodium or homemade chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine

Directions

Pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Loosen skin of breast and thighs and work some salt under the skin. Rub remaining salt all over chicken and in the cavity. Chill, uncovered, at least 3 hours and up to overnight.

Preheat oven to 375°. Zest lemons. Slice 1 lemon; juice half of the other.

Pat chicken dry, inside and out. Rub zest under as much of the skin as possible and rub any remaining zest inside the cavity. Rub chicken all over with 1 tablespoon olive oil and the thyme. Put lemon slices in the cavity.

Set a V-shaped rack in a heavy roasting pan large enough to hold shallots. Put chicken in the rack, breast side up. Add shallots to the pan and drizzle with remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, turning them to coat.

Roast chicken until chicken leg moves easily and skin is brown and crisp, 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours (remove shallots after 1 hour and set aside). Tip chicken so juices from cavity pour into roasting pan. Transfer chicken to a carving board and let rest, covered with foil.

To make the sauce: Pour pan drippings into a measuring cup with a pouring lip. Trim tops from shallots and squeeze soft insides into a blender. Pour off all but about 1 tablespoon fat from pan drippings and add drippings to the blender. Add 1/2 cup broth and the wine and pulse until smooth.

Pour sauce back into the roasting pan. Cook, scraping up brown bits and adding more broth if you want a thinner sauce, over medium-high heat on your biggest burner (or straddling 2 burners) until sauce turns a nutty brown, about 10 minutes. Stir in the reserved lemon juice. Carve chicken, discarding lemon slices and serve with the sauce.

Roast Chicken with Butternut Squash

Roast Chicken with Pumpkin

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 chicken (3 to 3 1/2 pounds), quartered
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1 small sugar pumpkin or butternut squash (about 2 1/4 pounds), peeled and cut into 1-inch slices
  • 1 teaspoon dried sage
  • 3 tablespoons water

Directions

Heat the oven to 450°.

Coat the chicken quarters with 1 tablespoon of the oil, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper. Arrange the chicken quarters, skin-side up, in a large roasting pan.

Mix the pumpkin cubes with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of pepper and the sage.  Add the pumpkin to the roasting pan.

Bake, stirring the pumpkin occasionally, until the chicken breasts are just done, about 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and remove the breasts from the pan. Tilt the roasting pan and spoon off most of the fat from the pan.

Return the pan to the oven. Continue cooking until the chicken legs and the pumpkin are done, about 10 minutes longer. Remove the chicken and pumpkin from the pan.

Pour off the fat from the roasting pan. Set the pan over moderate heat and add the water. Bring to a boil, scraping the bottom of the pan to dislodge any brown bits. Boil until reduced to approximately 2 tablespoons. Add any accumulated juices from the chicken. Spoon the sauce over the chicken and pumpkin.


fallpasta

WHITE BIRCHES by Leonid Afremov

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

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

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

Pasta Bake

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

fallpasta1

Baked Pumpkin and Sausage Rigatoni

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

8 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

fallpasta2

Bucatini with Mushrooms

4 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

fallpasta3

Pasta Shells with Chicken and Brussels Sprouts

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

fallpasta4

Sausage-Cauliflower Spaghetti

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

fallpasta5

Penne with Fennel and Pork Ragù

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


beans

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

beans3

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

beans1

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

beans4

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

beans7

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

beans2

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

beans5

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

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

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

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

Basic Directions for Cooking Dried Beans

Makes about 6 cups

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

Soak the beans using one of these two methods:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Orecchiette Pasta with Spinach and Beans

Serves 4

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

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

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

beans8

Bean and Sausage Stew

4 Servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

beans9

Herbed Lentils with Spinach and Tomatoes

Serve with pita bread

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

beans0

Beans and Broccoli 

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

beans02

Braised Chicken with Fennel and White Beans

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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


pork

Roasting Basics

Today, pork is much leaner than ever before, so leaner pork also affects the way it should be cooked. Care should be taken to not overcook pork.

There are various methods that can be used to produce juicy and flavorful pork. Some methods work better than others on different cuts of meat. There are two basic methods: dry heat and moist heat. Dry heat is most often used on cuts that are naturally tender, such as loin roasts and tenderloins. Moist Heat is used on cuts that are less tender, such as a shoulder or boneless Boston butt roast.

Roasting, which is basically the same method of cooking as baking, is often used when preparing fresh ham roasts, smoked ham roasts, crown roasts, loin roasts, tenderloins and ribs. Marinating the meat before roasting or basting it with meat juices throughout the cooking time will also help produce tender and juicy meat. Roasting is a good method to use when preparing a special dinner because it consists of a longer cooking time than other methods and needs little attention during the cooking period. This leaves time for preparing other dishes.

Roasting is accomplished by cooking the pork, usually uncovered in a heated oven. Excess fat should be trimmed and, if necessary, it should be tied. A rib roast should be tied because the outside layer of meat has a tendency to separate from the inner rib-eye muscle. The rib roast is generally tied by wrapping strings around the roast, between each of the bones. Roasts that have been tied retain their shape and provide a more visually appealing roast when cooked. Most often any boneless roast will be tied to reshape it once the bones have been removed. If a boneless roast will be stuffed, the stuffing is added, the roast is then rolled up and tied to hold the stuffing in the roast.

pork2

To cook the roast, it is best placed on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. The rack is not necessary but if not used, the bottom of the meat will sit in the juices and stew, which will not allow it to become brown and crisp on the surface like the rest of the meat. If the meat does not have any surface fat, it can be rubbed down with 1 ½ to 2 teaspoons of oil and then seasoned.

Meat is sometimes seared before roasting to brown the surface and add flavor. Searing can be accomplished by using several different methods. One method is to use a high oven temperature for a short period of time at the beginning of the roasting time and then reduce the heat for the remainder of the time. This quickly browns the outer surface to create a flavorful crust on the surface of the meat. Another searing method used, involves frying the meat in a very hot pan until all the sides have been browned and then placing it in the oven to finish cooking.

If the meat is not going to be seared in the oven, the oven should be preheated to either 325°F or 350°F (450°F for pork tenderloin) and the meat should be at room temperature.

The length of time a cut of pork will have to cook will depend on the size of the cut and whether it is tied, stuffed, bone-in or boneless. The best way to determine if the meat has cooked long enough is to check for doneness with a meat thermometer. A thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the cut should produce a temperature of 145°F.

Roasting Tips:

  • For a crisp surface on your roast, be sure the oven is fully preheated before placing the roast into the oven in an uncovered pan.
  • To add extra flavor, rub the surface of the meat with your favorite seasonings before roasting.
  • Roasting at a lower oven temperature (NEVER roast meat below 200°F) will result in meat that is more flavorful and moist, but It will take longer to cook.
  • A roast with a bone in it will cook faster than a boneless roast because the bone will conduct heat faster.
  • Do not use sharp utensils that may pierce the meat when trying to turn it because piercing allows valuable juices to escape. Use other utensils, such as wooden spoons and spatulas for turning the meat.
  • If cooking more than one roast, be sure that there is uniform space around them so that they will cook evenly. The roasts should not be touching and there should be enough space around them to allow air and heat to circulate.
  • When placing a thermometer in the meat to check for doneness, be sure that the stem of it is not touching a bone because this can result in a false reading.
  • Using the drippings from the roasted meat will provide great flavor when making a stock, gravy or sauce.
  • Let the roast rest for 5 minutes before carving to allow the meat juices to settle in the roast.

 

pork6

Classic Tuscan Roast Pork Loin

Ingredients

  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh sage
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 cup olive oil plus 2 tablespoons
  • 1 4-pound center-cut bone-in pork loin (rib) roast
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped hazelnuts
  • 4 russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces

Directions

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Whisk 1/4 cup oil, garlic, butter, sage and rosemary in a small bowl to blend. Place pork in large roasting pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Rub herb mixture over pork and sprinkle with hazelnuts. Cover pork loosely with foil and roast 2 hours.

Heat the remaining oil in a large skillet. Add the potatoes and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sauté until potatoes are golden but not tender, about 15 minutes. Transfer potatoes to the roasting pan with the pork. Toss potatoes with pan juices. Continue roasting, uncovered, until pork browns, potatoes are tender and juices are slightly reduced, about 40 minutes.

Place pork in the center of large platter. Surround with the potatoes. Pour juices over pork and potatoes.

pork3

Italian Spiced Boneless Pork with Roasted Vegetables

Ingredients

  • 6 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped rosemary leaves
  • 1 tablespoon whole fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon ground fennel
  • 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon
  • One 3-pound boneless pork loin roast, trimmed of all fat
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 pound fresh, thin carrots, peeled
  • 16 large shallots, peeled and halved
  • 1 cup chicken stock or low-sodium broth

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

In a mini processor, combine the garlic, rosemary, fennel seeds, ground fennel, crushed red pepper, black pepper and olive oil and process to a paste. Set the pork roast on a sheet of foil and cut shallow score marks all over the fat. Spread 1 tablespoon of the garlic paste on the underside of the roast; spread the remaining paste all over the scored fat and meaty parts of the roast. Season all over with salt.

Spread the carrots and shallots around the edge of a shallow roasting pan, setting the shallots cut sides down. Leave enough room in the center for the pork.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the pork loin and cook over moderately high heat until browned on all sides, about 6 minutes total. Place the pork in the roasting pan with the vegetables and roast for 45 minutes. Turn the pan 180 degrees, add 1/2 cup of the stock and roast for 20 minutes longer or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat registers 140°F.

Transfer the pork to a board. Roast the vegetables on the bottom rack of the oven for 15 minutes longer and transfer to a bowl and keep warm.

Set the roasting pan over moderately high heat, add the remaining 1/2 cup of stock and simmer for about 1 minute, scraping up the browned bits. Season with salt and pepper. Slice the pork and serve with the vegetables and sauce.

pork4

Sausage Stuffed Pork Loin Roast

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 1/4 cups fresh parsley, chopped, divided
  • 1/2 cup pine (pignoli) nuts
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 lb Italian sausage, casing removed
  • 1 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 lb boneless pork loin or sirloin roast, butterflyied
  • Kitchen string

Directions

Preheat oven to temperature 350°F.

Blend together basil, 1 cup parsley, pine nuts, garlic and cheese in a food processor or blender. Set aside.

Mix the sausage, breadcrumbs, milk, egg, pepper and the remaining 1/4 cup parsley in a bowl.

Place pork roast fat side down. If the thickeness of the meat is uneven, carefully pound the meat to make it a unifrom thickness.

Spread the basil mixture over the pork and place sausage mixture lenghthwise down the center of the meat. Fold in half and tie the roast in four or five places.

Roast 1-1/2 to 2 hours. Let rest and slice.

pork1

Pork Tenderloin With Roasted Apples And Pumpkin Risotto

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 2 (1-pound) pork tenderloins
  • 4 tart apples, such as Braeburn, McIntosh or Granny Smith, peeled, cored and quartered
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces

Directions

Heat the oven to 425 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine the 3 tablespoons olive oil, garlic, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, salt and maple syrup. Add the tenderloins to the bowl and turn them in the spice mix to coat. Reserve the bowl with any remaining spice mixture.

Heat a large oven-proof saute pan (large enough to hold the tenderloins and apples) over medium-high heat until hot. Add the tenderloins and sear on all sides. If the meat starks to stick, add a little oil.

Add the apples to the bowl that contained the pork spices and mix to coat. When the tenderloins are seared, remove the pan the from heat and scatter the apples around the tenderloins in the pan.

Place the pan in the oven and roast until a thermometer inserted in the center of the tenderloins reaches 140 degrees F, 20 to 25 minutes, or to desired doneness.

Remove the pan from the oven and remove the tenderloins to cutting board to rest. Place the apples on a serving platter.

Place the pan on the stove over medium-high heat. Deglaze the pan with the white wine, scraping the bottom of the pan to dislodge any browned bits. Stir in the chicken broth and simmer until the sauce is reduced by about two-thirds and slightly thickened, about 3 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter to further thicken the sauce and add a sheen.

Slice the tenderloins and arrange with the apples on the platter. Pour the sauce over the pork and apples.

Pumpkin Risotto

Ingredients

  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1½ cups vialone nano or arborio rice
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1½ cups pumpkin puree, divided
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/3 cup chopped toasted walnuts
  • Walnut oil and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, for garnish

Directions

In a medium saucepan, bring the vegetable broth to a simmer over medium heat.

In a large heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Stir in the onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is translucent and just beginning to color, 8 to 10 minutes.

Stir in the rice and nutmeg and cook, stirring frequently and coating the rice with the fat, until the rice just begins to toast, about 3 minutes.

Add the wine and continue to stir, cooking until the wine is mostly absorbed.

Add a (soup) ladle of broth and cook, stirring constantly, until the broth is almost completely absorbed. Continue adding an additional ladle of broth as each is absorbed by the rice.

After 10 minutes of cooking the rice, stir in 1 cup of the pumpkin puree with another ladle of broth. Season with one-half teaspoon salt and a pinch of pepper.

Continue cooking the rice, stirring in additional broth as needed, until the rice is slightly al dente, about another 10 minutes.

Stir in the remaining pumpkin puree, the chopped walnuts and 2 tablespoons walnut oil.

Serve each portion with a light drizzle of walnut oil and a sprinkling of freshly grated cheese.



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