Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Olives

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Sandwiches are one of the most popular midday choices for lunch and, for some, even dinner. They are quick, delicious, and, if properly portioned, an option for losing weight. But if you aren’t careful, a few ingredients can add hundreds of extra calories and make up more than half your daily limit of artery-clogging saturated fat. So make sure you know what hidden calories are hiding between those bread slices. If you make smart choices you’ll create a delicious and healthy sandwich for yourself.

Smarter Choices

Start with whole grain bread slices, a pita, an English muffin or a tortilla. Look for the words “whole grain” near the top of the ingredients list, not just “whole wheat.” Good choices have at least 3 grams of fiber per serving. Some breads are fortified with extra fiber and contain as many as 12 grams of fiber per serving, helping you achieve the recommended 25-30 grams of fiber a day.

Good sandwich fillings include chicken, turkey, ham, lean roast beef, tuna, hummus and reduced fat cheese. Check the sodium levels in prepackaged and deli meats, since most of those products run high. Cut the sodium by slicing meat you have roasted at home or by asking specifically for meats lower in sodium at the deli.

Vegetables add both nutrients and flavor. Tomatoes, fresh greens (the darker, the better), red onion and peppers are all good choices. Roasted red peppers are especially good and it you like things spicy, sliced banana peppers can do that for you.

Condiments don’t need to be high in fat to have a lot of flavor. There are low-fat, healthful choices that will give your sandwich extra flavor, such as:

— Mustard

— Salsa

— Italian vinaigrette

— Light salad dressings

— Greek Yogurt flavored with herbs and lemon

Crispy Chicken Sub

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Serves: 4

Ingredients

Sauce

  • 1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon each sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, divided

Sandwich

  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/3 cup whole-wheat flour
  • Four 4-oz boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded to 1/4-inch thick
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 thin whole-grain sandwich buns, toasted
  • 2 cups arugula or shredded lettuce
  • 1/2 English cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 2 jarred roasted red peppers, drained and sliced

Directions

In a small bowl, whisk together yogurt, dill and lemon juice. Season with 1/8  teaspoon each salt and black pepper; set aside.

In a separate small bowl, whisk together egg whites, Dijon mustard and remaining 1/8 teaspoon each salt and black pepper; set aside.

Place panko crumbs in a shallow pan. Place flour in a second shallow pan.

Dredge each chicken breast in flour, shaking off excess, then in egg white mixture. Press cutlets gently into the panko crumbs and transfer to a baking tray or plate.

Heat oil in a nonstick skillet on medium-high and saute chicken until golden brown and fully cooked, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a paper towel–lined plate.

To assemble the sandwiches:

Split buns and spread yogurt-lemon mixture evenly onto cut sides of the bread, dividing evenly between the four sandwiches. Layer the bottom half of each bun with 1 chicken cutlet and even amounts of lettuce, cucumber slices and roasted peppers. Cover each with the top half of a the bun.

Smoked Salmon Flatbreads

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4 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces reduced fat tub cream cheese spread with added chives and onions
  • 4 multigrain flatbreads or pitas
  • 1 ½ – 2 cups shredded lettuce
  • 6 ounces smoked salmon, sliced into strips
  • 4 radishes, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and drained
  • Ground black pepper

Directions

Spread one ounce of cream cheese evenly on one side of each flatbread. Top with shredded lettuce. Add salmon strips, radish slices and capers to each sandwich; sprinkle with pepper. Fold in half and serve.

Meatball Pitas

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Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 whole grain pita breads
  • 1/2 cup low-fat milk
  • 3/4 pound lean ground beef
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped onion
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 3/4 (6-ounce) cup plain Greek yogurt
  • ¼ cup feta cheese
  • 1 small garlic clove , minced
  • 1/2 cup grated peeled seedless cucumber
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1 cup finely sliced romaine lettuce

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Coat a small baking sheet with cooking spray.

Slice the top third off the pitas. Tear 2 of the tops into small pieces with your fingers and place the pieces in a small bowl; save the remaining 2 pita tops for another use.

Add the milk to the bowl and let the bread soak until very soft, about 15 minutes.

Combine the beef, onion, oregano, cayenne pepper, black pepper and salt in a medium bowl.

With your hands, gently squeeze excess milk from the pita tops; add the bread to the bowl with the meat; discard the milk.

Mix with your hands or a rubber spatula until well combined and form the mixture into 16 balls, each about the size of a ping-pong ball.

Place on the prepared baking sheet and bake, turning the meatballs over halfway through baking, until browned and cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes.

Combine the yogurt, feta cheese, garlic, cucumber and lemon juice in a small bowl. Fill each pita with tomato, lettuce and 4 meatballs. Spoon yogurt sauce on top and serve.

Mozzarella and Tomato Panini

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4 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 slices whole grain country bread
  • Nonstick olive oil cooking spray
  • 2 medium tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 4 slices
  • ½ cup fresh basil leaves
  • Balsamic vinegar

Directions

Coat one side of each bread slice with olive oil cooking spray.

Place bread slices on a work surface, coated sides down.

Arrange tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and basil on four of the bread slices. Cover with the remaining four bread slices, coated sides up; press together gently.

Preheat a panini grill or heat a large skillet over medium heat.

Add sandwiches to the hot panini grill or skillet; cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until golden brown and the cheese is beginning to melt, turning once if using a skillet.

Serve with balsamic vinegar for a dipping sauce.

Mediterranean Sloppy Joes

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6 servings

Ingredients

  • 12 oz  lean ground lamb or beef
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped sweet onion
  • 1 large  garlic clove, minced
  • 1 cup canned garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup canned stewed tomatoes, undrained and cut up
  • 2 tablespoons dry red wine
  • 1 small bay leaf
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
  • ½ teaspoon dried mint, crushed
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
  • ¼ teaspoon dried marjoram, crushed
  • 3 whole wheat pita bread rounds, cut in half
  • Toppings: crumbled feta cheese, cucumber slices and chopped Kalamata olives

Directions

In a large skillet cook ground lamb or beef over medium heat until the meat is brown using a wooden spoon to break up the meat as it cooks.

Drain off the fat and place the meat on a paper towel lined plate.

Wipe out the pan and add the olive oil, onion and garlic. Cook over medium heat until softened. Add the browned meat, beans, tomatoes, wine, bay leaf, oregano, mint, salt, thyme and marjoram.

Cover and cook on low-heat for 45 minutes. Remove the cover and simmer for an additional 15 minutes. Remove and discard bay leaf.

To serve: spoon the sloppy joe  mixture into the pita bread halves and add the toppings.

All things previously thought to be good for us are in fact harmful to our health.


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Longing for a salad even though it is cold outside? By using seasonal produce, you can make salads even with snow on the ground. This time of year switch to dark leafy greens, cold-weather vegetables like broccoli, beets and squash and seasonal fruits like pears and citrus. Add flavorful dressings to balance the heartier tastes and textures. For a full-meal salad, finish the salad with cooked beans, meat or seafood and a bit of your favorite cheese or toasted nuts. Winter vegetables also make delicious salads, especially after they have been roasted.

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Winter Salad with Spinach, Pears and Walnuts

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

  • 3 Anjou, Bosc or Comice pears
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon German Dusseldorf mustard or yellow prepared mustard
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 3/4 pound spinach, torn into bite-size pieces
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted
  • 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

Directions

Chop 1 pear and slice the remaining two.

Put the chopped pear, oil, vinegar, mustard and honey into a blender and purée. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in 2 tablespoons water, more if needed, to make a thin, pourable dressing.

Put spinach, onion, walnuts, feta cheese, sliced pears and dressing into a large bowl and toss gently to coat. Serve immediately.

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Chickpea Salad with White Wine Vinaigrette

Serves 2

VINAIGRETTE

  • ¼ cup finely minced shallot
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ tsp stone-ground mustard
  • ½ teaspoon honey or maple syrup
  • ¼ teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

SALAD:

  • 1 large avocado
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 ½ cups cooked chickpeas (rinsed and drained)
  • ¾ cup cooked black lentils (rinsed and drained)
  • ¼ cup sliced Kalamata olives
  • 4 oz goat cheese
  • 3 handfuls Italian kale
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper (to taste)

Directions

Place all dressing ingredients in a jar. Seal and shake vigorously until well combined. Let sit for at least 10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings to your preferences.

Cut the avocado in half and discard the pit. Chop the flesh into a small bowl and toss with a squeeze or two of lemon juice to help prevent browning.

In a large mixing bowl, combine all salad ingredients together.

Pour about half the dressing over the top and toss with salad tongs or a large fork and spoon to thoroughly blend the ingredients and coat lightly with the dressing.

Top with a big squeeze of lemon, and salt and pepper to taste. Add more dressing, if needed. Serve immediately.

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Winter Citrus Salad

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons pistachio, almond or any nut flavored oil
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon white or golden balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon agave syrup or honey
  • Pinch salt
  • 2 oranges (segmented)
  • 2 pink grapefruits (segmented)
  • 2 tangerines or satsumas (peeled)
  • 3 oz mixed baby salad greens (about 3-1/2 cups, lightly packed)
  • 4 cups frisée or curly endive, oak leaf or red leaf lettuce, lightly packed
  • 1/3 cup shelled, roasted pistachios
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions

Remove the peel and white pith from the fruit with a small, sharp knife. Working over a shallow bowl, slice down either side of each membrane, releasing the citrus segments into the bowl.

Remove any seeds from the fruit. Drain and reserve the accumulated juices for the dressing.

Place the oil, orange juice, vinegar, agave and salt in a small glass jar and seal the lid. Shake vigorously to combine. (The dressing can be refrigerated, covered, for up to 5 days. For best flavor, bring to room temperature before using.)

Place the segmented citrus in a large salad bowl. Drizzle some of the dressing over the fruit and toss to coat. Add the greens and toss to combine, adding more dressing to lightly coat the greens as well.

Transfer the salad to a platter and sprinkle with the pistachios. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and serve immediately.

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Italian Barley Salad

Ingredients

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup uncooked, quick-cooking barley
  • 14-ounce can quartered artichoke hearts (chilled) or one package of frozen artichoke hearts, defrosted
  • 12 pitted kalamata olives
  • 1 medium yellow bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup grape tomatoes or cherry tomatoes
  • 4 ounces part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil, crumbled
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium garlic clove, minced
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

In a medium saucepan, bring water to a boil over high heat. Stir in the barley. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes or until the barley is just tender but firm. Transfer the barley to a colander. Drain well. Place in a medium bowl to cool.

Dry artichokes on paper towels. Coarsely chop the artichokes and olives, dice the bell pepper, quarter the tomatoes and cut the cheese into one-quarter inch cubes.

In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, garlic, dried basil, salt and pepper. Whisk in oil.

Combine the cooked and cooled barley with the vegetables and cheese. Drizzle the dressing over the salad ingredients and toss to blend. serve immediately of refrigerate until serving time.

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Red Grapefruit and Beet Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 3 medium beets, greens removed
  • 2 red grapefruits
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Wrap beets individually in aluminum foil and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast until beets are tender when pressed through the foil and a knife slides easily into them when unwrapped, 50 to 60 minutes.

When cool enough to handle, unwrap beets and rub each with a paper towel to remove skins. Halve and slice beets.

Cut thin slices off the top and bottom of a grapefruit and set on a cutting board. Slice down along the curve of the fruit, removing all skin and white pith and cutting all the way to the flesh.

Working over a bowl, cut along each side of the membranes to release the sections, allowing them to fall into the bowl along with any juice. Repeat with remaining grapefruit.

Gently stir in honey and salt. Add beets and toss. Garnish with mint. Serve or chill until serving time.

"And that's the real difference between summer and winter. Saucepans. Lots of saucepans."


pastacover

Believe it or not, it is possible to eat and cook healthy with pasta. When prepared appropriately, pasta has many positive benefits in maintaining a healthy lifestyle and it can satisfy numerous dietary needs. Pasta is a great vehicle for enjoying other healthy foods that improve your diet as well, such as healthy proteins and vegetables.

The most important thing to remember about pasta is that when you prepare it at home, you have complete control over making sure it was cooked in a healthy manner.

Some tips on how to keep your pasta recipes healthy:

Pay Attention to Portions

First, we nearly always cook too much pasta. The USDA recommends 2 ounces of dry pasta per person, which works out to about 1 cup of cooked pasta per person.

Add Healthy Ingredients

Add sautéed  broccoli, peppers, spinach or sweet onions to your plain cooked pasta and mix in a tablespoon of olive oil for a delicious side dish with your meal. Add garlic, herbs and grated Parmesan cheese for flavor.

Always Use Olive Oil

Avoid saturating the pasta in rich, thick and high-calories fats. This is obvious for Italians, but always try to use olive oil, an unsaturated fat, which assists with the absorption of vitamins.

Choose Lean Proteins

Add drained and rinsed beans, such as cannellini beans or chickpeas, along with the sauce. Other healthy protein options include lean pork loin, grass-fed beef, fish, ground turkey and chicken or lean turkey sausage.

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Spicy Puttanesca

6-8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 3 ounces green olives, such as Castelvetrano (Italian green olives), pitted and chopped (1/2 cup) plus extra for garnishing
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon drained capers, chopped
  • One 2-ounce can anchovy fillets in oil, drained and chopped
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and chopped
  • 1/2 cup canned crushed Italian tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup torn basil leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Directions

In a large pot, heat the olive oil. Add the olives, capers, anchovies, jalapeno and garlic and cook over moderately high heat until sizzling. Add the sun-dried tomatoes, crushed tomatoes and the almonds and cook for 1 minute. Add the wine and cook until reduced by half, about 7 minutes.

In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta for 5 minutes. Drain, reserving 3 cups of the pasta cooking water.

Add the spaghetti and the reserved cooking water to the sauce in the skillet and cook until the pasta is al dente. Stir in the parsley, basil, lemon zest and lemon juice and serve in bowls with a drizzle of olive oil. Garnish with additional olives, if desired.

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Linguine with Scallops

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 3/4 pound linguine
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds sea scallops
  • Salt
  • 1/2 cup drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried red-pepper (chili) flakes

Directions

Toast the pine nuts in a large dry skillet until golden brown. Remove from the skillet and set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in the same skillet over moderately high heat until very hot. Season the scallops with 1/4 teaspoon salt and put them in the skillet.

Sear until brown on the bottom, 1 to 2 minutes. Turn and sear until brown on the other side, 1 to 2 minutes longer. Remove the scallops to a bowl and cut them into quarters.

In the same pan, heat the remaining oil over moderate heat. Add the tomatoes, garlic, 2 tablespoons of the parsley, the red-pepper flakes and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the scallops and the pine nuts.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the linguine until al dente, about 12 minutes. Drain the pasta.

Add the pasta to the skillet with the remaining 4 tablespoons of parsley. Toss well and serve.

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Rigatoni with Red Peppers and Spinach

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 12 oz rigatoni pasta
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 medium red bell peppers, seeded and sliced into 1/2-inch strips
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 10 oz fresh spinach leaves
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil

Directions

Cook rigatoni according to package directions for al dente. Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water. Return pasta to the pot to keep warm.

While the pasta cooks, heat the oil in a skillet over high heat. Stir in onion, peppers and tomatoes. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Sauté, stirring occasionally.

After 5 minutes, add spinach and continue to sauté until the vegetables are tender and the spinach is wilted, about 5 more minutes.

Add vegetables, reserved pasta water and 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese to the cooked pasta and gently toss to combine.

Place in a serving bowl and top with basil and remaining Parmesan cheese.

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Spaghetti with Cauliflower and Capers

6-8 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ cup soft bread crumbs
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon snipped fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed, plus extra for garnish
  • One 1 1/2 pound head cauliflower, cut into 1-inch florets (5 to 6 cups)
  • 3 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 pound spaghetti

Directions

Bring a 5- to 6-quart pot of salted water to boiling. Cook spaghetti according to package directions, except cook for 2 minutes less than the time given on the package for al dente. Drain spaghetti and return to the large pot.

In a large skillet heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-low heat. Add breadcrumbs to the hot oil; cook about 3 minutes or until crumbs are crisp and golden brown, stirring frequently. Stir in 1 clove of the minced garlic; cook and stir until garlic is tender. Transfer mixture to a small bowl. Stir in 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese and the lemon peel and set aside.

In the same large skillet heat the remaining the oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and salt; cook about 3 minutes or until the onion is tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in 1 teaspoon thyme and the remaining 2 cloves minced garlic; cook and stir for 30 seconds. Add cauliflower, broth and capers; cover and cook about 10 minutes or until cauliflower is tender. Stir in lemon juice and pepper.

Add cauliflower mixture to the cooked spaghetti. Cook about 5 minutes more or until spaghetti is al dente. Divide spaghetti mixture among six shallow serving bowls. Sprinkle with the bread crumb mixture and the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Garnish with additional snipped fresh thyme.

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Chicken, Green Beans and Pesto Pasta

6-8 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 chicken breasts
  • Flour for dredging
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup low sodium chicken stock
  • 1 pound of penne pasta
  • 8 oz thin green beans, ends trimmed
  • 1/2 cup of homemade or good quality prepared pesto
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Trim fat from the chicken breasts. If very thick, slice in half lengthwise to create two thin cutlets. Season with salt and pepper. Dredge the chicken in the flour.

In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium high heat until melted.  Add in the chicken and sauté until browned on each side and almost cooked through – about 3 minutes per side. Place chicken on a cutting board and slice into one inch pieces and set aside.

Add the white wine to the pan and simmer for a few minutes to deglaze. Lower the heat. Add in the stock and simmer for a few minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste. Return the chicken and any juices to the pan and allow to simmer until cooked through.

Bring salted water to a boil in a large pasta pot. Add pasta and cook according to package directions until al dente. Add the green beans to the pasta pan for the final 6 minutes of cooking time.

Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water and drain pasta and green beans.

Add pasta and green beans to the skillet with the chicken. Reserve 1/4 cup of the pesto and add the remaining to the pasta. Stir to incorporate. If dry, add in as much pasta water as needed.

Arrange the pasta on a warmed serving plate and dot with the reserved pesto. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.


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The Province of Siena is located in central-southern Tuscany. The main agricultural products are wheat, grapes, fruit and silk. Chianti wine is produced here, as well. The town’s 13th-century main square, the Piazza del Campo, is still the city’s symbolic and physical heart. Piazza del Campo is the ideal Italian piazza, a huge space reached by winding streets that suddenly converge in front of the city’s town hall. The twice-a-summer bareback horse race, Il Palio, are popular events. The city’s Museo Civico is in the Piazza del Campo, where you’ll find beautiful frescoes, like the collection painted by Simone Martini and the Allegory of Good and Bad Government created by Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s Sala della Pace. Commissioned by the city council in the 14th century, at the height of the city-state’s power, the frescoes depict on one side a city at peace and, on the other, a tyrant-ruled Siena in ruins with armies descending on one another. In the Piazza Grande in Montepulciano, a festival of love stories in the Tuscan tradition is held, where players dressed in costume, narrate the stories. The Medieval folklore is continued in Montepulciano, with the combat of the Bravio delle Botti, during which athletes compete by pushing 176-lb barrels.

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sienzcathedral

Few dishes are more Tuscan than Bistecca Fiorentina, grilled steak from the prized Chianina cattle.  Other typical delicacies are pici (a thick, handmade spaghetti), ribollita, a vegetable, bread and bean soup, roasts, stewed or grilled game, cacio pecorino – a hard, salty Italian cheese, often used for grating and made from sheep’s milk, mushrooms, tripe, wild boar and cold cuts made from the Cinta Senese, the famed black pig with a white stripe, depicted in some famous 15th Century paintings.

Italy / Italia - Siena (Toscany / Toscana) / FLR : on Piazza del Campo - Palazzo Pubblico - Unesco world heritage site - photo by M.Bergsma

Italy / Italia – Siena (Toscany / Toscana) / FLR : on Piazza del Campo – Palazzo Pubblico – Unesco world heritage site – photo by M.Bergsma

Osteria-style lunches tend to be simple meals of small plates containing sausage, local meats, such as prosciutto and salami, panzanella, meatballs and different types of frittata accompanied by carafes of the house wine. Seafood from the Tuscan coast, may consist of Calamari Eggplant Parmesan (crispy strips of battered calamari with chunks of aubergine topped with cheese) or fresh fish, such as  amberjack baked with potatoes, zucchini and olives.

Sienese sweets are not particularly well-known, but two treats — Panforte and Ricciarelli are typical of the province’s desserts. The former, with its spices and dry fruit, is reminiscent of a slightly hard Christmas fruit cake. The Ricciarelli are soft almond-based cookies with a crunchy top and the flavors of honey and vanilla.

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Some Traditional Recipes From Siena

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Crostini With Chicken Livers

Ingredients

  • 1 pound chicken livers
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 white onion, finely chopped
  • 2 sage sprigs
  • 1 rosemary sprig
  • 1 anchovy fillet, minced
  • 1 tablespoon drained capers
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup cognac
  • 1 large baguette, thinly sliced

Directions

Trim the chicken livers of any sinews and veins and set them on paper towels to dry for about 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

In a large skillet, melt the butter in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the chopped onion, sage and rosemary and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the minced anchovy and capers and cook over low heat until the onion is lightly browned, about 8 minutes longer. Scrape the mixture into a medium bowl.

Add the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil to the skillet. Season the chicken livers with salt and pepper, add them to the skillet and cook over high heat until browned, about 2 minutes. Turn the chicken livers over and cook for 1 minute longer. Stir in the onion mixture. Add the cognac and carefully ignite it with a long match. Cook the livers until the flames subside.

Discard the herb sprigs and scrape the contents of the skillet into a food processor; let cool slightly. Pulse until chunky, then season with additional salt and pepper, if it is needed.

Place the baguette slices on a large baking sheet and toast them for about 15 minutes, until they are golden and crisp. Spread the baguette toasts with the chicken liver and serve.

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White Lasagne

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup minced shallots (about 6)
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 3 3/4 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup rich chicken stock or reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup dry Marsala
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 pound grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1 cup), divided
  • 12 no-boil egg lasagne noodles

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F with an oven rack placed in the middle.

Cook shallots in butter in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 4 minutes. Add flour and cook over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, 3 minutes. Add nutmeg, then slowly whisk in milk and stock. Bring to a boil, whisking, then simmer, stirring occasionally, just until the sauce lightly coats back of spoon, about 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat and cool to warm, stirring occasionally. Stir in eggs, Marsala, sea salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 1/2 cup of the cheese.

Spread about 1 1/4 cups of sauce over the bottom of an 11 by 8 inch baking dish. Cover with a layer of 3 lasagne noodles. Repeat layering 3 more times, then top with remaining sauce and remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Bake, uncovered, until browned, 45 to 55 minutes. let rest 15 minutes before cutting.

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Tuscan Roasted Game Hens

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 6 Game Birds or Rock Cornish Game Hens, each about 3/4 pound each and at room temperature
  • 6 fresh sage leaves
  • 6 bay leaves, preferably fresh
  • 12 black olives (preferably small Gaeta or Nicoise)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 12 thin slices pancetta or prosciutto
  • Roasting pan or baking dish large enough to accommodate the hens

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place a piece of pancetta inside each hen, along with a sage leaf, a bay leaf and 2 of the olives.. Sprinkle salt and pepper all over the outsides of the hens and rub into the skin, along with some of the olive oil at the same time. Wrap a slice of pancetta or prosciutto around each hen, stretching the meat to cover as much of the hen as possible. Set the hens in the baking pan.

Roast for 45 minutes, then turn down the oven to 325 degrees F. and continue roasting 30 to 45 minutes longer, or until the hens  are cooked.. Serve with the pan juices as a sauce.

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Panforte Di Siena Recipe – Italian Siena Cake

Panforte is an Italian confection that is a cross between fruitcake, candy and honey cake and is a specialty of Siena, Italy that dates back to the 13th century.

Ingredients

Bread Crumb Crust

  • 1 tablespoon cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon fine bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons ground almonds or hazelnuts

Cake

  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons cake flour, divided
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup candied citron or candied melon, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup candied orange peel, cut into small pieces
  • 1 cup almonds or hazelnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped*
  • Powdered (confectioner’s sugar) sugar

* To toast nuts, preheat the oven to 350° F.  Place nuts in a single layer in an ungreased shallow pan or rimmed baking sheet. Bake 5 to 10 minutes, stirring once or twice during toasting to aid in even browning, or until they are golden brown. Remove the pan from the oven and place the nuts on a plate to cool

Directions

Brush an 8-inch Springform Pan with the butter. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the pan bottom. Brush with paper with butter and fit into pan bottom.

In a small bowl, combine cake flour, bread crumbs and almonds or hazelnuts; evenly scatter over sides and bottom. Pat gently into place and set aside..

Preheat the oven to 300° F and adjust the oven rack to the center position.

In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup cake flour, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, coriander, cloves and nutmeg; set aside.

In another small bowl, combine the remaining 2 tablespoons of cake flour and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon; set mixture aside and save for the top.

In a medium saucepan over low heat, combine the honey and sugar. Cook, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching, until the mixture comes to a full boil; remove from the heat. Stir in candied fruit and almonds or hazelnuts. Sift in flour mixture; stir until well blended. Pour batter into prepared pan. Smooth the top with the slightly wet palm of your hand. Sift reserved cinnamon-flour mixture over the top.

Place cake in the center of the oven rack. Bake 30 minute or until panforte just starts to simmer around edge of the pan. Remove from the oven; cool completely on a wire rack.

Loosen the cake from the pan by running a small knife around the perimeter and remove the sides of the springform pan. Invert onto a wire rack, letting excess cinnamon flour fall away. Use a knife to peel away the parchment paper. Invert panforte again and transfer onto a wire rack. Dust top with powdered sugar.

When cool, it can be wrapped in several layers of plastic wrap and a layer of aluminum foil and stored in an airtight container for several weeks or frozen for up to six months. Serve at room temperature. Before serving, dust lightly with additional powdered sugar. Cut into small wedges to serve.

Makes 16 servings.

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fishdinnercover

A healthy diet should include fish twice a week, including one oily fish, such as salmon, sardines or tuna. That’s because fish and shellfish are good sources of many vitamins and minerals and oily fish  is also high in omega-3 fatty acids, which may help to keep your heart healthy.

Fish that is steamed, baked or grilled is a healthier choice than fried fish. Frying makes fish and shellfish much higher in fat, especially if they’re cooked in batter.

To ensure there are enough fish to eat now and in the future, we should try to eat a wide variety of fish and to buy fish from sustainable sources. Check the chart on the Marine Stewardship Council’s site.

salmon3

Salmon Pinwheels

Ingredients

  • 12 oz center-cut salmon fillet
  • 2 teaspoons mayonnaise

Stuffing

  • ¼ cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 large basil leaves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon whole grain Dijon mustard
  • 1 garlic, minced
  • 1 scallion (green onion) chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon each salt & pepper
  • 1 tablespoon truffle oil or regular extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

salmon1

Make the stuffing:

Combine the panko crumbs with the remaining stuffing ingredients.

Butterfly the salmon filet and spread with the mayonnaise.

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Sprinkle the stuffing over the mayonnaise; roll up from long side and cut into 2” wide pieces. Secure each roll with a toothpick

Place in an oiled baking dish. Bake for 20 minutes or until the fish is cooked to your likeness.

poachedfish2

Fish Poached in Tomato Sauce

Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 26 -28 oz container Italian crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 large garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
  • ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons minced parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes, or more to taste
  • Salt to taste
  • Four 6-ounce red snapper fillets or your favorite fish fillets
  • 4 slices of grilled sourdough bread

Directions

In a deep skillet that’s large enough for the fish fillets to lie flat without overlapping, combine the tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, Italian seasoning, chili flakes and a large pinch of salt.

Cover the skillet and bring the water to a steady simmer over moderate heat; simmer for 30 minutes.

poached fish1

Uncover the skillet and add the fish, skin side up, and cook for 2 minutes. Using two spatulas, gently turn the fillets. Season the fish with salt and simmer until just cooked through.

Put the grilled bread in shallow bowls and arrange the snapper fillets on top. Spoon the broth all around and serve. You may also serve the bread on the side.

almondcrustedfish

Almond and Mustard Crusted Fish

4 servings

Ingredients

  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon, divided
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ cup dried breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 1/4 pounds white fish fillets, cut into 4 portions
  • 4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 cloves garlic, slivered
  • Lemon wedges for garnish

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat a rimmed baking sheet with olive oil.

Combine lemon zest, almonds, oregano, bread crumbs, 1 tablespoon oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper in a small bowl.

Place fish on the prepared baking sheet and spread each portion with 1 teaspoon mustard.

Divide the almond mixture evenly on top of each piece of fish, pressing  the mixture onto the mustard.

Bake the fish until opaque in the center, about 8-10 minutes, depending on thickness.

Serve the fish with green beans and lemon wedges.

fishdinner4

Fish with Sautéed Vegetables and Parmesan

4 servings

Ingredients

  • Four 6 ounce fish fillets
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup canned or frozen and defrosted artichoke hearts, quartered
  • 2 tablespoons jarred roasted red pepper, sliced
  • 1/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons red onion, finely minced
  • 1 medium fresh tomato, diced
  • 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup shaved or shredded Parmesan cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Season fish with salt and pepper.Heat oil in large, oven-safe skillet over medium heat. Add fish and sauté on one side until lightly browned. Turn fish over and cook 2 – 3 minutes more.

Combine remaining ingredients except cheese in a bowl and spoon equally over the fish. Scatter cheese over the top and place the skillet in the oven until the cheese is melted. Serve immediately.

fishdinner5

Fish with Citrus and Herbs

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 minced shallot
  • 1 teaspoon fresh tarragon
  • Two 6 ounce fish fillets such as tilapia, grouper or arctic char
  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs

Directions

Combine juice, shallot and tarragon in a small saucepan and simmer until thickened, 15-20 minutes; cover and set aside.

Heat the broiler.

Sprinkle both sides of the fish with oil, salt and pepper. Place the fish on a foil-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs evenly over the fish.

Broil 5 to 6 inches from heat, just until fish is opaque and flakes easily with a fork, about 5 minutes per half-inch of thickness.

Use a wide spatula to transfer fillets to serving plates, spoon sauce on top and serve.


baricover

The Province of Bari is in the Puglia region of Italy. It is attractive to tourists and has a large commercial harbor and airport and an excellent university. It is also the second most important economic center in Southern Italy after Naples.

Piazza del Ferrarese, Bari

Piazza del Ferrarese, Bari

The large, fertile plains of Bari stretch inland from the coast where olives, grapes and almonds are grown. Bari is among the largest and most populated province in Italy. Apart from the plains area around the city of Bari, the territory is mainly high hills, called “murge” that is partly occupied by the recently established National Park of Alta Murgia.

bari1

The old houses in this region are interesting, ranging from the ancient masserie (old fortified farmhouses) and the very popular, much photographed conical houses called trulli.

The area is famous for its olive oil. Italy is the second biggest producer, after Spain, and Puglia provides around 40 percent of the country’s extra virgin olive oil.

Durum wheat grows in abundance here and is used for making pasta and bread. The pasta from Puglia is made without eggs as they were once considered to be a luxury. The most famous pasta made in Puglia is ‘orecchiette’ (meaning little ears). The bread in Puglia, which accompanies all meals, is more diverse than many other regions in Italy and comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. It is cooked in a traditional wood burning.

Vegetables grow well in the warm climate and are used frequently in Bari’s cuisine. Tomatoes are used for making sauces to go with the local pasta and eggplant, peppers and squash are roasted and grilled as an accompaniment to meat.

The province is a good area to raise sheep and goats. They are bred for their meat, as well as their milk, which is used for a variety of cheeses. Lamb is the most popular meat, followed by pork.

Local cheeses include, Burrata which is made from mozzarella and cream, Cacioricotta – a seasonal ricotta cheese made from unpasteurized ewes’ milk and Canestrato – a hard cheese which is a mixture of sheep and goat’s milk.

Fish plays a large part in the cuisine because the long coastline offers a large array of fresh fish on a daily basis. Sea bass, red mullet, anchovies, mussels and cuttlefish are among the favorites.

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The daily cuisine, as in the other southern regions of Italy, tends to be simple, fresh and unprocessed with most locals growing, rearing and making enough food for their individual needs.

Eggplant Rollatini

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Ingredients

  • 1 large eggplant, peeled and cut into 8 lengthwise slices (You may also choose to leave the skin on)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon each of finely chopped fresh oregano, thyme and basil ( or ¼ teaspoon each of dried herbs)
  • ¼ teaspoon each salt and black pepper
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 4 ounces mozzarella cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups Marinara (tomato) sauce

Directions

Combine the ricotta, mozzarella cheese, herbs, salt and pepper in a small bowl and refrigerate while you prepare the eggplant.

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Heat a grill pan or the broiler. Brush eggplant slices with olive oil. Grill or broil eggplant slices three minutes on each side or until lightly brown.

Spread about 3 tablespoons of the filling on each eggplant slice.  Roll up tightly, jelly roll style. Place the eggplant rolls in an oiled baking dish and cover with the marinara sauce.

Bake in a 400-degree F oven for about 20 minutes.  Makes 8 appetizer or 4 main dish servings.

Focaccia Bari Style

bari6

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (500 grams) 00-type flour {substitute all-purpose if you don’t have the Italian flour}
  • 2 large baking potatoes, peeled and quartered, boiled until fork tender, drained and cooled.
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons instant yeast (1/2 oz.)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 cup (250 ml) lukewarm water
  • 10 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 10 kalamata olives, halves
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Parmesan cheese

Directions

Place flour in a large mixing bowl and whisk in the yeast. Using a ricer, add the cooked potatoes.

Add the water and a small pinch of salt to the flour and begin kneading to obtain a sticky, firm ball.

You can also make the dough in an electric mixer or a food processor.

Place the dough in a bowl sprayed with olive oil. Cover the top of the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until double in a warm, dry place. About 1 hour — depending on the warmth of your kitchen it may take longer.

Preheat oven to 430 degrees F.

Use olive oil to generously grease a large baking pan (about 12 inches). Don’t use anything smaller or the dough will creep over the edge. Stretch the dough to evenly fill the pan.

Press the halved tomatoes into the dough, cut side down and do the same with the olives. Sprinkle with oregano and sea salt.

Drizzle the surface with more olive oil and bake for 20-30 minutes, or until the surface appears evenly browned and the tomatoes are caramelized.

Lightly dust with Parmesan cheese when the focaccia is finished baking. Let cool on a cooling rack before cutting.

Broccoli Rabe and Italian Sausage

bari7

Serves 4

  • 1 lb (500 grams) spicy Italian sausage links
  • 1 bunch broccoli rabe (sometimes called turnip greens in Italy)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 oz.(100 ml) white wine
  • 1 hot pepper, chopped fine
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Salt to taste
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Directions

To prepare the broccoli rabe:

Wash the broccoli rabe well and cut off the bottom tough part of the stem. Cut the stalks into one inch pieces.

Blanch the broccoli rabe for 5 minutes in boiling salted water and drain well.

Place the garlic, oil, chopped chili and bay leaves in a large skillet with a cover; heat and saute for a few minutes.

Add the sausage links and cook until brown, about 5 minutes, add the white wine and allow it to evaporate. Add the blanched broccoli and season with salt and pepper, cover the pan and continue cooking over medium heat for about 30 minutes . Uncover and cook for 5 minutes to allow the liquids to evaporate. Remove the bay leaves and serve hot.

Cartellate (Honey Pinwheels)

bari8

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup water
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • 1 cup honey or fig syrup

Directions:

In a large bowl of an electric mixer, combine the flour, oil, salt and cinnamon.

Slowly add the water and beat until the dough comes together.

Add additional water, if necessary, so the dough holds together.

Shape the dough into a ball.

Wrap in plastic and let rest at room temperature for 1 hour.

Divide the dough into 4 pieces. Dust each piece with flour.

Pass the dough through a pasta machine set at the widest opening.

Pass each piece through successive settings until thin.

On a manual pasta machine, stop at setting #6.

Place each pasta strip on a lightly floured surface.

With a fluted pastry cutter, cut the dough into strips 10 x 1-1/4 inches.

Fold each strip in half lengthwise but do not press it together.

bari9

With the wavy edges pointing up, roll the strips into loose spirals about 2 inches wide.

Pinch the edges to seal. Place on an oiled baking sheet.

Let the pinwheels dry at room temperature for 2 hours.

Heat oil in a deep fryer or Dutch Oven to 370 degrees F.

Carefully add a few pinwheels at a time to the oil.

Fry until evenly golden, about 1 minute.

Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper-towel lined plate.

Heat honey in a small saucepan until it thins.

Arrange the cartellate on a large platter. Drizzle with the warm honey.

Best served immediately or within a few hours.

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potluckcover

A potluck dinner is a gathering of people where each person in the group contributes a dish of prepared food to be shared among everyone in the group. Presentation is key, so think about how you’re going to serve it. Don’t cook anything that spoils when made in advance or where cooking times are vital.

The main thing to consider about a potluck dish is that the food is:

  • Easy to transport.
  • Easy to make.
  • Ok to eat warm or at room temperature, unless there are hot plates or refrigeration available.
  • Group-friendly; no super spicy dishes or  ingredients that have a high allergy risk.
  • Good even if not fresh. For example, a dressed Caesar salad will end up soggy and limp after a half hour.

I belong to a community group and we meet every month for a potluck dinner. Pasta dishes are popular with our group and here are some of the favorites.

potluck1

Pasta Roll-Ups

16 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 lbs ground  turkey or beef
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
  • Two 28-oz can whole tomatoes in juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 16-20 dried lasagna noodles
  • Two 10-oz box frozen chopped spinach, thawed
  • Two 15-oz container ricotta cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium. Add onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook another minute.

Turn heat to medium-high and add ground meat, breaking it up with a spatula until the meat shows no sign of pink. Stir in the Italian seasoning, then add tomatoes and salt.

Reduce heat to medium-low, stir, cover and let simmer for 20 minutes, occasionally stirring and breaking up tomatoes with a wooden spoon.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil. Cook pasta according to package directions, drain, rinse and allow to cool in a colander.

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Squeeze all remaining moisture from thawed spinach and place in large bowl. Add ricotta cheese, eggs and a 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese to the bowl. Stir until combined

Spread 2 cups of tomato sauce in the bottom of a large baking dish. Lay a cooked lasagna noodle flat in front of you. Spread a tablespoon of ricotta mixture across the noodle and roll it up. Place the rolled pasta seam side down in the baking dish. Repeat with remaining noodles. Spread remaining tomato sauce over roll-ups, then top with remaining mozzarella cheese.

Bake, covered with foil, for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 10 minutes.

Cover with heavy-duty foil and transport in an insulated carrier.

potluck2

Orzo Salad

16 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups orzo pasta
  • 1 lb feta cheese, coarsely crumbled
  • 2 cups chopped Roma tomatoes
  • 1 cup chopped pitted Kalamata olives
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 6 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon snipped fresh oregano
  • Salt and ground black pepper

Directions

In a jar with a screw-top lid, place olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and oregano. Shake vigorously to combine.

Cook orzo according to package directions; drain. Transfer pasta to a large bowl. Pour dressing over pasta and mix well. Cover; chill in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours.

Add feta, tomatoes, olives, basil, and parsley to the chilled pasta; stir to combine. Season to taste with salt and ground black pepper. Cover; chill in the refrigerator for 2 to 24 hours.

potluck3

Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe and Italian Sausage

12 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  • 2 pound lean Italian sausage, a combination of hot and sweet according to your taste, cut into bite-size pieces
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 pounds orecchiette
  • 2 bunches broccoli rabe
  • 1 ½ cups pasta water
  • 1 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Directions

Wash broccoli rabe in several changes of cold water. Cut off the bottom tips on the stalks and cut each stalk into one inch lengths.

Heat oil and stir in garlic in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the sausage and saute until meat is brown.

Boil a large pot of water, add salt and pasta. Add the broccoli rabe during the last two minutes of the pasta cooking time. Reserve 1 1/2 cups of pasta cooking water.

Add the pasta water  to the cooked sausage and raise heat and cook until the sauce is hot.

Drain orecchiette and broccoli rabe and add to the sausage sauce in the skillet.

Using a wooden spoon, toss together for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and pour into a large serving bowl. Sprinkle with Pecorino Romano cheese.

Cover with heavy-duty foil and transport in an insulated carrier.

potluck4

Tortellini and Vegetable Bake

12 servings

Ingredients

  • Two 9-ounce packages refrigerated tortellini
  • 1 medium carrot, thinly sliced
  • 1 ½ cups sugar snap peas, halved crosswise or green beans
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1/3 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh oregano or 1-1/2 teaspoons dried oregano, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon minced garlic
  • ½ teaspoon each salt and  pepper
  • 1 cup milk
  • One 8 ounce package cream cheese or light cream cheese (Neufchatel), cubed and softened
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 cup quartered cherry tomatoes
  • 1 small red or green bell pepper, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Cook tortellini in boiling salted water according to package directions, adding the carrot during the last 5 minutes of cooking and the sugar snap peas or green beans during the last 1 minute of cooking; drain.

Heat butter in a 12-inch skillet. Add chicken, garlic and mushrooms, and cook about 5 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink. Remove from the skillet.

Whisk together chicken broth, oregano, flour, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl. Add to the skillet  with the milk. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly; add cream cheese.

Cook and stir until cream cheese is smooth. Remove from the heat. Stir in lemon juice. Add pasta mixture, chicken mixture, tomatoes and sweet pepper. Toss to coat.

Turn into an ungreased 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking dish or shallow 3-quart casserole.

Bake, covered, in a 350 degrees F oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until heated through. Stir mixture and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Cover with heavy-duty foil and transport in an insulated carrier.

potluck5

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

12 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds rigatoni pasta
  • 3 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into chunks
  • 7 cups milk, divided
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 pound Italian Fontina cheese, shredded (about 4 cups)
  • 2 large sweet onions, diced
  • 6 ounces sourdough bread
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted plus 1 tablespoon
  • Fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Lightly butter a large baking pan; set aside.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain; transfer to a large bowl.

In a large saucepan combine the squash and 6 cups of the milk over medium-high heat. Bring to boiling; reduce heat to medium and simmer until the squash is tender when pierced with a fork, 18 to 20 minutes.

Stir together remaining 1 cup milk and flour; stir into squash mixture. Bring to boiling; cook until thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in 2 cups of the Fontina cheese until melted; keep warm.

In a very large skillet or Dutch Oven heat the 1 tablespoon of butter. Add onions to the skillet; cover and cook over low heat 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover and increase heat to high. Cook 4 to 6 minutes more, stirring, until onions are golden. Add to the pasta in the bowl along with the squash-cheese mixture. Toss well to combine, then transfer to the prepared baking dish.

Place bread in a food processor and pulse with two or three on/off turns to form large coarse crumbs. Transfer to a small bowl; mix with the 3 tablespoons of melted butter. Sprinkle remaining cheese and the bread crumbs over the pasta mixture.

Bake until the top is browned, about 14 to 15 minutes. Cool 5 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley. Cover with heavy-duty foil and transport in an insulated carrier.

potluckcartoon



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