The following are some of the favorite side dishes my family has come to enjoy on Thanksgiving. I don’t make all these dishes at one time but tend to rotate them each year to keep things interesting.
Italian Bread & Sausage Stuffing
Yields enough to fill a 12- to 14- pound turkey and a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.
- 14 cups Italian bread, like ciabatta, cut into 1/2- to 3/4-inch cubes (about 3 loaves)
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 2 lb sweet Italian fennel sausage (casings removed)
- 2 large yellow onions, cut into 1/4-inch dice
- 5 large ribs celery, cut into 1/4-inch dice
- 8 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (or 1-1/2 teaspoons dried)
- 1 tablespoons dried sage
- 1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup chicken broth, plus extra for the baking dish
Pile the bread cubes into a very large bowl and set aside. Place a large sauté pan over medium heat and add the olive oil and sausage. Cook, breaking up the sausage with a wooden spoon or spatula into 1-inch pieces, until light brown, about 5 minutes With a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage to the bowl with the cubed bread.
In the fat left in the pan, sauté the onions, celery and garlic until the onions are translucent and just beginning to brown, 8 to 10 minutes Stir in the thyme, sage, salt and pepper, cook 1 minute and then add the mixture to the cubed bread. Add the broth to the bread mixture; stir until well combined.
Put some of the stuffing in the turkey just before roasting. Pack the stuffing loosely, leaving enough room to fit your whole extended hand into the bird’s cavity. Cook the stuffing in the turkey in a 325 degree F oven to 165ºF, checking with an instant-read thermometer.
Place the remaining stuffing in a casserole dish or large baking pan, pour a cup or two of extra stock over the stuffing to replace the juices the stuffing would have absorbed from the turkey. Bake it covered until heated through, 45 minutes to 1 hour. For a crunchy top, uncover it for the last 15 minutes of baking.
Makes 6 servings
- 3 acorn squash, each about one pound
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 cups finely chopped onions
- 1/4 cup fresh sage, minced, plus more for garnish
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
- 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 3/4 teaspoon ground pepper
- 1 cup fine to medium ground polenta or cornmeal
- 3 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
- 6 ounces Italian fontina cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Using a sharp knife cut the squash in half; discard the seeds. Place squash cut side up in two 13-in. x 9-in. baking dishes coated with cooking spray. Rub the flesh and skin of each squash with 1 tablespoon oil. Scatter garlic inside.
Roast the squash in a baking pan until the flesh is tender but the sides are not yet collapsing, about 25 – 30 minutes.
Heat butter and the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions, the sage and thyme; cook, stirring often, until the onions are just starting to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add polenta or cornmeal, then whisk in broth. Bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer, whisking frequently, until the polenta is tender, 10 to 15 minutes.
When cool enough to handle, scrape about 1 cup of flesh out of each squash, leaving a layer in the shell so it retains its shape. Mash the flesh into a coarse puree and add to the polenta along with the Fontina cheese; stir well. Spoon into the squash shells. Sprinkle the top of each with the Parmesan cheese.
Bake the stuffed squash until the cheese is melted and the polenta is steaming hot, about 20 minutes. Serve garnished with additional sage, if desired.
- 6 medium tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Cut a thin slice off the top of each tomato. Scoop out the pulp, leaving a 1/2-inch thick shell. Invert tomatoes onto paper towels to drain.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet. Add spinach and garlic; cook until tender, about 3-4 minutes.
In a bowl, combine bread crumbs and Italian seasoning. Add the spinach and cheese to the crumb mixture. Sprinkle tomato shells with salt and pepper and stuff with the spinach mixture. Place in a greased 13-inch x 9-inch baking dish. Bake, uncovered, at 375° F for 20-25 minutes.
Italian Baked Macaroni and Cheese
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 pound small shell macaroni
- 1 cup half and half
- 2 cups shredded Italian Fontina cheese
- Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/3 cup plain bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Bring 4 quarts water to a boil in a large pot for cooking the pasta. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Coat a 13×9 baking dish with cooking spray; set aside.
Dice the butter and place in a large bowl. Warm the half & half in the microwave, about 1 minute. Cover to keep warm. Shred the Fontina cheese and add to the bowl with the butter. Set aside.
When the water comes to a boil, add salt and the shells and cook until they are 1 to 2 minutes shy of al dente. Drain.
Add the warm half & half to the Fontina and butter. Stir until the cheese starts to melt. Season with salt to taste and the nutmeg.
Stir the shells into the bowl with the cheese. Toss to coat well. Pour the mixture into the baking dish.
Combine the bread crumbs and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese; sprinkle over the pasta.
Bake until the sauce is bubbling and the topping turns golden brown, about 20 minutes. Serve immediately.
Glazed Cipollini Onions
Cipollini means little onion in Italian.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 16 cipollini onions, trimmed and peeled
- Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Heat olive oil in a medium ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add onions, stem side down, and cook, until lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn and continue browning on opposite side, about 2 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper.
Add vinegar and honey; cook, until slightly syrupy, about 2 minutes. Add chicken broth, thyme, and garlic; bring to a boil. Transfer skillet to oven and roast until onions are easily pierced with the tip of a sharp knife, 15 to 20 minutes.
Olive Oil and Spinach Mashed Potatoes
- 2 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
- 1 package frozen spinach, defrosted
- Salt and pepper
- 1/2 cup milk
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
- 1 rosemary sprig, leaves removed and chopped
- 1 thyme sprig, leaves removed and chopped
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
In a large saucepan, cover potatoes with cold water by 2 inches and add 1 tablespoon coarse salt and the garlic cloves. Bring to a boil; cook until the potatoes are very tender and easily pierced with a fork, 20 to 25 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup potato cooking water. Drain; transfer to a large bowl.
Heat together the milk, spinach, chopped rosemary leaves and chopped thyme leaves then remove from the heat, cover and set aside to infuse flavors.
Using a potato masher, mash the potatoes with the olive oil and some of the reserved cooking water as needed to moisten. Add the milk and spinach mixture. Stir until well combined and season with salt and pepper.
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.
- 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
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.
- 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
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.
Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe and Italian Sausage
- 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
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.
Tortellini and Vegetable Bake
- 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
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.
Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese
- 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
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.
The Province of Perugia is the larger of the two provinces in the Umbria region of Italy. The eastern part of the province is a hilly region while the rest is covered by forests. Perugia is home to the largest lake in central Italy, Lake Trasimeno. The southern regions are less hilly. Silk, corn and grass are some of the most important agricultural products of the province.
Over the centuries, Perugia has been ruled by numerous different peoples, evidence of which can be found in the many archaeological remains. Artifacts from the Roman period include paved roads, the forum, the cisterns, a Roman amphitheatre and the thermal baths.
The Province of Perugia hosts events, such as Eurochocolate where chocolate in all its varied forms is on display and Umbria Jazz, a music festival that every year gathers together important artists of the jazz world.
The cuisine consists of rustic cooking traditions with many recipes still influenced by ancient rituals and rules. Black truffles, a local product, are used in many dishes. Easter Pizza and a salted panettone (Christmas cake) flavored with pecorino (made from sheep’s milk cheese) are regional classics. The lentils from Castelluccio are known for their tiny size and their soft hull. Salami and cold cuts from Norcia are well-known throughout the world.
Strangozzi, or Strozzapreti pasta made with water and flour is served with meat sauce. The types of meat that are used for second courses are pork made from nut-fed black pigs, boar and lamb.
Fish from Lake Trasimeno are the basis for many dishes, such as Tegamaccio, a seafood soup, made with different types of lake fish such as perch, trout, carp and pike.
Another local favorite is Parmigiana di Gobbi, a dish that dates back to ancient times made with cardoons (the gobbi), served with sauce, mozzarella and Parmigiano.
Popular desserts include pinacate, a pine nut-based sweet, torciglione made with raisins, walnuts and dried figs and torcolo, essentially a large donut with raisins and candied fruit.
And of course, Italy’s version of the chocolate kiss, Baci Perugina, chocolate and hazelnut truffles in their famous silver and blue wrapping, with a romantic message tucked inside, were invented here. Also Stacchetti (a mix of almond, cacao and sugar covered with meringue) and Struffoli (small balls of dough fried and sweetened with honey) are additional well-known desserts.
Torta Umbra al Formaggio
(Easter Cheese Bread from Umbria)
In the past, Torta Umbra al Formaggio, a savory cheese bread from the Umbrian region, was traditionally enjoyed on Pasqua (Easter) morning with boiled eggs, prosciutto and other cold cuts. Today, it can usually be found as an accompaniment to any meal.
- 2 tablespoons dried yeast (2 packages)
- 1/3 cup warm water
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 4 cups flour
- 5 eggs
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 6 ounces Pecorino Romano, cut into ½ inch dice
- 5 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano, cut into ½ inch dice
Grease a 9-inch cake pan with olive oil. Using a strip of parchment paper, line the top of the pan to add an additional 2 to 3 inches of height.
Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water (110°F) in a large stand mixer bowl; let stand until foamy (about 5 minutes). Add sugar and 1/3 cup of the flour without stirring. Let it rest (covered with plastic wrap) for 20 minutes. Add the rest of the flour, the eggs, butter and oil. With the paddle attachment mix until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Switch to the dough hook attachment. Add the salt and continue mixing at medium speed until the dough is soft, shiny and elastic (7-10 minutes). Add the pepper and cheeses and knead the dough until thoroughly combined. Let it rest in an oiled bowl, covered, until it doubles in size (about 2 hours).
Punch down the dough. Form the dough into a round loaf. Place into the prepared pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let it proof until it doubles in size (about 1 hour).
Bake for 45 minutes at 400° F. Let it sit for 20 minutes before cutting and serving.
Crostini with Garlic and Black Truffles
Ingredients for each serving
- 2 slices bread (Torta Umbra al Formaggio would be excellent for this appetizer)
- 1 winter black truffle
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 lemon
- 2 ¼ tablespoons (30 ml) extra virgin olive oil
- Salt – to taste
- Pepper – to taste
Shave half the truffle and set aside. Pound the remaining truffle in a mortar together with the garlic, adding the lemon juice and olive oil until the mixture becomes thick and creamy. Season with salt and pepper.
Tear the bread slices into smaller pieces, toast and spread the truffle and garlic paste on top. Garnish with the shaved truffle slices and serve.
Minestra Di Ceci (Umbrian Chickpea Soup)
- 1 lb (500g) dry chickpeas
- 1 twig fresh rosemary
- 10 leaves fresh sage
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 1 small carrot, diced
- 1 medium onion, peeled and diced
- 1 rib celery, diced
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- Salt & Pepper
- Grated Pecorino cheese
- Extra virgin olive oil
Soak chickpeas overnight in a bowl of cold water. Drain.
Place chickpeas in large soup pot. Cover with water to 1 inch above the chickpeas. Add rosemary and half the sage leaves. Cover and cook on low 3 1/2 to 4 hours.
In a skillet placed over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and sauté garlic, carrot, onion and celery. Season with salt and pepper and cook until the vegetables are tender. Set aside.
Remove and discard the sage leaves and rosemary from the cooked chickpeas. Drain the chickpeas, reserving the cooking liquid.
In a blender or with a hand immersion blender, purée half the chickpeas, along with 2 cups of the chickpea cooking liquid.
Return puréed chickpeas and sautéed vegetables to the soup pot.
Cover and cook 60 minutes.
Serve the soup in warmed bowls with a drizzle of oil, remaining sage leaves, black pepper and grated cheese.
Pasta alla Norcina
Ingredients for 4 people
- 14 oz (400g) Penne pasta
- 4 sausages of Norcia
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ onion
- 1 cup heavy (cooking) cream
- Salt and black pepper
- ½ cup white wine
- Grated parmesan cheese or pecorino cheese of Norcia.
Finely chop the onion and saute in extra-virgin olive oil in a skillet. Remove the casings from the sausages and add it to the onion and cook until brown and crumbled. Lower the heat and add the white wine. Cook until it evaporates. Add the cream and as soon as it’s hot remove the pan from the heat.
Cook the penne pasta in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain and mix the pasta with the sauce. Add black pepper and grated cheese. Serve immediately.
Porchetta (Roast Pork Loin)
by CHEF BIKESKI (Culinary Director and Owner of Italia Outdoors Food and Wine)
This is best started the day before you wish to serve it.
- One 2 1/2 – 3 pound piece fresh pork belly, skin on
- One 2 1/2 – 3 pound boneless pork loin roast
- Kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons fennel seeds
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 bulb fresh fennel, tough outer layer and inner core removed, chopped into 1/4 inch dice
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried
- 1/4 cup fennel fronds, finely chopped
Preheat oven to 500°F.
Place the pork belly skin side up. Using a sharp knife, score the skin on the diagonal making a diamond-shaped pattern. Try to cut only the skin itself.
Turn the belly so the skin side is down. Score the belly flesh in the same diagonal diamond-shaped pattern.
Salt both sides of the belly, as well as the pork loin roast. Set aside while you make the seasoning mixture.
Place the fennel seeds in a hot sauté pan and toast just until they start to brown. Add the olive oil, chopped fresh fennel, garlic and rosemary and saute until the fennel is soft, about 4 minutes. Add the chopped fennel fronds and remove from the heat.
Cover the entire loin and the flesh side of the pork belly with the seasoning mixture. Roll the belly around the loin so the short ends of the belly meet or come as close to meeting as possible. If there is a bit of loin still exposed along the bottom, put this side down in the pan. If the loin is longer than the pork belly or the belly longer than the loin and one sticks out, trim the longer piece so the ends are flush.
Tie the roast with kitchen twine at about 1/2” intervals. Place the roast on a wire rack set in a sheet pan, with any gap where the pork belly may not cover the loin at the bottom. Place the roast, uncovered, in your refrigerator for 1-2 days to allow the seasonings to penetrate the roast and the skin to air-dry.
When ready to cook, remove the roast from the refrigerator and allow to sit at room temperature for 2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 500°F.
Roast for 45 minutes. Reduce heat to 300°F and continue to roast until the porchetta reaches an internal temperature of 140°F, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours more. If the skin is not as brown and crispy as you’d like, turn on the broiler and finish browning the skin, keeping a careful eye on it so it doesn’t burn.
Slice into 1/2 inch rounds for serving as a roast or into very thin slices for porchetta sandwiches.
by Baci Perugina
10” tart pan
For the crust:
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 1 stick softened butter
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/3 pound (5 1/4 oz) all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons cocoa powder, plus extra for garnish
For the filling:
- 1 bar Perugina Dark (51%) chocolate
- 8 Baci candies
- 1 1/2 cups cream
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 large eggs
Combine the sugar, salt, butter,egg yolk and vanilla in the mixer bowl and start on medium.
Sift the flour and cocoa together. Pour the flour and cocoa into the mixer bowl. Turn up the speed until the mixture comes together into crumbs. Press into a ball, wrap tightly and let rest in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.
Roughly chop the chocolate bar and the Baci and melt them in a double boiler. Heat the cream in a saucepan until almost boiling and pour over the melted chocolate.
Stir until the color is uniform and mix in the sugar until it dissolves completely. Let cool slightly.
Lightly beat the eggs and set aside.
Line the bottom of the tart mold with parchment paper.
Preheat the oven at 350°F.
Roll out the crust to about 1/2” thick and place in the mold. Press it down gently and eliminate any overhanging pieces.
Quickly whisk the beaten eggs into the chocolate cream and pour the filling into the tart shell. The filling will appear quite liquid.
Place the tart on a sheet pan and bake for 45-50 minutes, until soft but set and not jiggly and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out slightly damp but otherwise clean.
Let cool and dust lightly with cocoa powder before serving.
Some days are so busy that there doesn’t seem to be much time left at the end of the day to prepare dinner. If you keep the ingredients for some quick cooking recipes on hand, you will be able to put a healthy meal on the table without a lot of preparation or long cooking times. So much better for the family than fast food. Stock your pantry with quick cooking rice, couscous, thin spaghetti and orzo. Broths and canned tomatoes are very useful, as are dried seasonings. Keep packages of thin chicken cutlets, lean ground beef, salmon and pizza dough in the freezer and you have the ingredients for an easy meal.
Chicken Cutlets in Lemon Sauce
Serve with Zucchini and Quick Cooking Brown Rice. This is an easy meal for two and the recipe can easily be doubled.
- Two 6 ounce skinless, boneless chicken breasts, pounded thin
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1/2 lemon, juiced
- 1 cup chicken broth
- Salt and fresh pepper
- 3 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
- 2 tablespoons butter, divided
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Place the flour in a bowl and the beaten in another bowl.
Heat the oil and one tablespoon of butter in a large non stick pan over medium heat.
Lightly flour chicken, then dip in the egg and add to the hot pan. Saute chicken 2-3 minutes on each side. When cooked, transfer onto a plate.
Place the chicken broth in the bowl with the remaining flour and whisk. Add to the pan along with the lemon juice, parsley and remaining butter and simmer on low heat for about 2 minutes so it reduces slightly and thickens. Turn off the heat. Return the chicken to the pan to combine with the sauce and serve.
Salmon & Broccoli with Herb Sauce
- Two 8-oz thick-cut boneless, skinless wild salmon fillets
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, plus additional, to taste
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup clam broth or fish stock, divided
- 1 leek, thinly sliced crosswise, white and pale green parts only
- 1 head broccoli, cut into thin spears
- Juice of 1 lemon, divided
- 6 oz plain Greek yogurt
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint leaves
- Sea salt, to taste
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Pat salmon dry with paper towels and season with pepper. In a large ovenproof sauté pan with a cover, heat oil on medium-high. Add salmon and sear for 3 minutes per side, until lightly golden. Transfer salmon to a plate and keep warm.
Reduce the heat to medium and add 1/4 cup clam broth to the pan. Add leek and cook for 2 minutes, stirring, until liquid evaporates and leeks soften. Add remaining 3/4 cup broth and broccoli; mix well.
Return salmon to center of the pan, nestling the fish between leeks and broccoli. Drizzle half of the lemon juice over salmon; cover the pan and transfer to the oven. Cook for 12 to 14 minutes, until salmon and broccoli are tender. Remove pan from the oven and, using a slotted spoon, transfer salmon and vegetables to a platter; cover with foil to keep warm. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pan juices.
Prepare lemon-herb sauce:
In a small bowl, combine yogurt, tarragon, mint, remaining half of lemon juice and reserved 1/2 cup pan juices; mix well. (Add more lemon juice or pan juices as needed to reach desired consistency.) Season with salt and additional pepper.
To serve, cut the salmon fillets in half and plate each with lemon-herb sauce and leek-broccoli mixture.
Spaghetti with Italian Sausage & Spinach
- 2 links fresh Italian sausage (about 8 oz), casings removed
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- 8 oz thin spaghetti
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper (chili) flakes, or to taste
- 6 oz spinach leaves (about 6 packed cups)
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 oz Parmesan cheese, grated
Mist a large pot or saucepan with olive oil cooking spray and heat to medium-high. Add sausage and cook, stirring and crumbling with a spatula, until no longer pink, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.
To the same pot, add 2 cups water and the milk and bring to a boil on medium-high. (TIP: Watch carefully and stir from time to time, as milk has a tendency to boil over.)
Add spaghetti and pepper flakes. When the liquid returns to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer, stirring frequently, until the spaghetti is just short of al dente, 11 to 14 minutes.
Stir in spinach and simmer, uncovered, until spinach is wilted, most of the liquid is absorbed and the spaghetti is al dente, 2 to 4 minutes.
Add lemon zest, black pepper and sausage and stir until heated through, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Divide among plates and top evenly with cheese.
Beef Kebabs with Tahini Sauce
- 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
- 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons tahini paste
- Olive oil cooking spray
- 8 oz lean ground sirloin
- 1 small clove garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons very finely minced white onion
- 1 1/4 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, divided
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon salt-free garlic and herb seasoning blend
- 1/2 cup couscous
- 1/4 cup packed chopped fresh parsley
- 1 large Roma tomato, cut into 8 wedges
Two 12-inch skewers (If using wooden skewers, soak in warm water for at least 20 minutes before using.)
Line a baking sheet with foil and arrange an ovenproof wire rack over the top. Mist rack with cooking spray.
(NOTE: If you don’t have an ovenproof wire rack, simply bake your kebabs directly on a baking sheet.)
Prepare tahini sauce:
In a small bowl, stir yogurt, lemon juice and tahini until well combined. (If the tahini is hard or lumpy, microwave for 20 to 30 seconds, or until smooth.) Set aside while the kebabs cook.
Arrange an oven rack 5 to 6 inches from the top heat source and preheat the broiler to high. Line a baking sheet with foil and arrange an ovenproof wire rack over the top. Mist rack with cooking spray.
In a small saucepan, bring 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons water to a boil. Stir in seasoning blend, remaining black pepper, salt and couscous. Cover and remove from the heat. Let sit, covered, for 5 to 7 minutes. Fluff with a fork and stir in parsley
Arrange an oven rack 5 to 6 inches from the top heat source and preheat the broiler to high.
In a large bowl combine sirloin, garlic, onion, cumin, coriander, ¼ teaspoon each black pepper, salt and cayenne. Stir gently until thoroughly combined.
Divide mixture into 4 equal portions. Shape each portion into a narrow, oblong 2- to 3-inch-long patty. Mold 2 patties around 1 skewer about 1 inch apart (see photo). Repeat with remaining 2 patties and skewer.
Transfer to the prepared rack and broil until tops are lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Turn and broil until lightly browned and cooked through, 3 to 4 more minutes.
Divide couscous between two serving plates and top each serving with 1 beef skewer. Serve with tahini sauce and tomato wedges, dividing evenly.
Quick Tomato Soup
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 medium onion, chopped
- 1 stalk celery, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
- One 28-ounce can crushed Italian tomatoes
- One 14-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, with juice
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 1/2 cup half-and-half
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground pepper to taste
Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat and add onion and celery; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and thyme cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 10 seconds.
Stir in canned tomatoes and broth; bring to a low boil over high heat. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes.
Puree the soup in the pot using an immersion blender or in batches in a blender. (Use caution when pureeing hot liquids.)
Stir in half-and-half, salt and pepper. Serve with the wrap or a grilled cheese sandwich.
Spinach and Feta Cheese Wraps
- 4 eggs
- 2 teaspoons.prepared basil pesto
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1-1/2 cups chopped fresh baby spinach leaves
- 1/2 cup crumbled Feta Cheese
- 2 (2 oz.) whole-wheat flat breads
- 1/2 cup jarred roasted red peppers, drained and thinly sliced
In a 10-inch skillet heat olive oil over medium heat. Beat eggs and pesto together with a fork in a medium bowl. Pour into the skillet. As eggs start to set, lift the edges with a spatula, allowing uncooked eggs to flow to the bottom of the skillet. Cook until the eggs are set but still moist. Sprinkle with feta; cover the pan and heat 1 minute longer. Cut omelet in half.
Immediately, place half of the omelet on one flat bread. Top with half the spinach leaves and half the roasted red peppers and roll up tightly. Wrap in parchment and let rest about 10 minutes so the vegetables can warm up. Repeat with the second flat bread and the remaining ingredients. Serve with a bowl of soup.
On these busy nights before the holidays, I like that I have a few homemade soups and homemade rolls or bread in my freezer. They are easy to defrost and heat and can be on the table in no time at all. This may be a quick dinner, but it is both nutritious and delicious.
Italian Escarole Bean Soup
This is one of our family’s favorite soups. I can remember my grandparents making this often and it seemed to be my grandfather’s favorite lunch. If you would like to make this soup vegetarian, it is easy to do. Swap out the chicken broth for vegetable broth and 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (chili) for the dried sausage.
- ½ onion, diced
- 3 celery stalks, diced
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 2 cups dried white beans (cannellini), soaked overnight in water to cover and drained
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 16 cups no salt added chicken broth
- 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
- 2 heads of escarole, washed and cut into small pieces
- 1 cup chopped dried spicy sausage/salami
- 1 cup short pasta
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- Parmesan cheese for serving
Heat oil in a large Dutch Oven and add the onions, celery and garlic. Cook until tender. Add the Italian seasoning and soaked and drained beans. Heat for a minute or two and add the broth.
Bring to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer and cooked the beans for 30 minutes. Add the pasta, re-boil, lower the heat and cook for 15 minutes more.
Add the dried sausage, salt and escarole. Let simmer until the escarole wilts. Ladle into soup bowls and top with Parmesan cheese, if desired.
Sourdough Ciabatta Bread
I always have sourdough starter in my refrigerator that I keep in a crock, so it always available for baking. You will find that this bread will not puff up much in the oven. It will stay quite flat, like a slipper, hence its name (ciabatta means slipper in Italian). Ciabatta is one of Italy’s most delicious breads and it goes so well with soup. I like to make Ciabatta with a sourdough starter because it adds a nice tang to the bread.
- 1 cup sourdough starter removed from the refrigerator the night before baking and placed in a covered bowl
- 2 teaspoons instant yeast
- 1 1/4 cups warm water
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 4 cups Italian 00 flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
In the bowl of an electric mixer using the paddle attachment combine the water, olive oil, yeast, sourdough starter, 1 cup of the flour and the salt. Stir in the remaining flour, a cup at a time, until the dough is the consistency of drop-cookie batter. Transfer to the dough hook attachment and knead the dough until it is smooth and satiny. The dough should be on the slack side, but not oozy; it needs to be able to hold its shape.
Place the dough in an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel. Place the bowl in a warm spot and let the dough rise, undisturbed, about 2 hours, or until doubled in size.
Punch the dough down and turn it onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead the dough gently and divide it into two pieces. Form the loaves into torpedo shapes, and place the loaves on a baking sheets dusted with flour and cornmeal. Cover with a damp towel.
Let the loaves rise until they look puffy. This should take approximately an hour. While the loaves are rising, preheat the oven to 425°F.
Brush or spray the loaves with water; a plant mister is good for this job. Bake for 10 minutes, spraying the loaves with water two more times.
Lower the oven to 375°F and bake for an additional 20 minutes.
Como is a province in the northern part of the Lombardy region of Italy that borders Switzerland. Its proximity to Lake Como and to the Alps has made Como a popular tourist destination and the area contains numerous works of art, churches, gardens, museums, theaters, parks and palaces. Como’s climate is humid and subtropical. Winters are not long, but foggy, damp and chilly with occasional periods of frost; spring and autumn are pleasant while summer can be quite oppressive and hot.
The most famous area within the province is Bellagio, a historic town surrounded by ancient city walls with narrow roads that run through the hills. The town’s ancient origins are visible in its Romanesque Cathedral dedicated to San Giacomo, the interior of which seems unchanged from the 12th Century. Another interesting town is Laglio that lies near the “Bear Cave” (buco dell’orso), where fossils of prehistoric bears and other remains found in the cave are displayed in the Town Hall. The annual Medieval Palio takes place at the beginning of September and is a knightly jousting contest between various province districts that is reenacted in the town of Cernobbio.
Lake Como (Lago di Como in Italian) is located in this province and is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful lakes in Europe. The lake is shaped like the letter “Y” and has been a popular retreat for aristocrats and wealthy people since Roman times. Many famous people have or have had homes on the lake’s shores. The lake’s deep-blue waters, set against the foothills of the Alps, makes for a stunning view.
The Cuisine of Como Province
Lake Como’s cuisine is shaped by the three geographic areas that make up the Como area – the lake, the mountains with their valleys and the hills of Brianza (the area between Milan and Como). The province’s cuisine is closely tied to its primary natural resource, the lake, that provides an abundance of freshwater fish. Lavarello , a popular local lake fish, is usually served fried with a squeeze of lemon. Misultitt (a type of Shad) is usually dried and preserved with bay leaves in special tin containers. Another traditional dish is Risotto al Pesce Persico (European Perch filet Risotto), a fish grown in Lake Como, that is prepared with white wine, onion and butter.
Polenta is popular especially in the mountain valleys. In this area, it is common to make polenta by mixing corn flour and buckwheat flour together. It is usually served with meat, game, cheese or fish.
South of Como, the food becomes more Milanese. Popular in this region are polenta e osei (polenta served with poultry), cassoela (a stew with pork ribs and cabbage), cotechino sausage with beans and many different kinds of salami and cheese.
As far as traditional sweets and cakes are concerned, in Lake Como, you can find fritters often filled with apple and, Resca de Comm, a panettone made with raisins, citron, pine nuts and anise, that is baked in a cylindrical tube.
Among the red and white wines produced in the province are Rosso di Bellagio and Vespertò di Canzo. The best liqueurs are made by the Piona friars using local herbs.
Pizzoccheri is one of Lake Como’s typical winter pasta dishes. It usually consists of flat short tagliatelle noodles, made from buckwheat flour that is common in the area of Valtellina in Northern Italy (on the east shore of Lake Como). The buckwheat flour gives the noodles a grayish color and they are easy to make at home. However, most supermarkets now sell boxes of dried pizzoccheri, which has helped to spread the word of this delicious recipe throughout the country and, of course, cuts down on preparation time.
The noodles are served with a mixture of greens and diced potatoes and dressed with butter, sautéed garlic, sage and Swiss Casera and Parmesan cheeses (or grana padano). There are several variations to the recipe, including substituting the cabbage with Swiss chard, spinach or green beans depending on what you have on hand. The amount of butter can also be altered to your own preference although the original recipe states that the pizzoccheri should be practically drowning in the sage and garlic-infused butter. Vatellina Casera cheese can be difficult to find outside of Lombardy, so a good alternative is Italian Fontina, which is more widely available.
For the pasta:
- 2 cups (200 grams) fine buckwheat flour
- 1/2 cup (50 grams) plain flour
- About 1/2 cup (125 milliliters) water
- Pinch salt
For the pizzoccheri:
- 3 1/2 ounces (100 grams) savoy cabbage
- 4 1/2 ounces (125 grams) potatoes (2 to 3 small potatoes)
- 1/3 cup (70 grams) unsalted butter
- 8-10 sage leaves
- 4 1/2 ounces (125 grams) Valtellina Casera DOP or Bitto (Gruyere or Fontina can be substituted), thinly sliced or shaved
- 2 ounces (about 60 grams) Grana Padano, grated
- 1 clove of garlic
- Freshly ground pepper
For the pasta:
Combine the two flours in a bowl and gradually add the water, mixing until well incorporated. Work the dough for a few minutes. It should be smooth and compact, but not dry or crumbly and it shouldn’t stick to your hands. If it’s dry, add a little more water until it becomes smooth. Rest the dough for at least 30 minutes.
Roll the dough out with a rolling-pin to a thickness of 2-3 millimeters (1/10 of an inch). With a sharp knife, cut the dough into large strips about 7-8 cm (2.5 to 3 inches) wide then cut these into short pasta strips about ¼ inch thick. (If you have a pasta machine, I would use it)
For the pizzoccheri:
Peel the potatoes and cut them into large chunks. Discard the outer leaves of the cabbage and chop roughly.
Boil a large saucepan of salted water, cook the potatoes for 20 minutes and then add the cabbage and pasta and cook for an additional 10 minutes.
Melt the butter in a separate pan and saute the garlic and sage.
Drain the potatoes, cabbage and pasta and layer in a dish with the melted butter, slices of cheese and black pepper.
Serve with Grana Padano cheese.
Risotto with Perch Fillets
This recipe is the national dish of Lake Como and one that is used in most of the area’s restaurants. Perch is one of the most valuable species of freshwater fish because of its tender and delicate meat and the fish can be found in all the lakes of Northern Italy.
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 2 cups risotto rice
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- ½ cup dry white wine
- Salt and black pepper for seasoning
- ½ cup grated Parmigiano cheese
- 4 cups broth (chicken or vegetable stock)
- 4 perch fillets (per person) – about 18 total
- Flour for coating
- Butter or oil for frying
In a heavy saucepan, heat the 4 tablespoons butter until it melts.
Add the chopped onion and cook until tender. Add the rice and mix it well. Let it cook for a couple of minutes. Add the wine and cook, stirring, until the liquid evaporates. Add the broth, a small amount at a time, stirring it constantly until all the liquid is absorbed.
When the rice is just about tender, add the salt, pepper and Parmigiano cheese.
Dredge the fillets in the flour and cook in a hot skillet in butter or oil, turning them over once, until each side is golden brown.
Spoon the rice onto a serving dish and top with the fish fillets.
Parmesan Barley Soup
Barley is a healthy high-fiber, high-protein whole grain containing numerous health benefits. When cooked, barley has a chewy texture and nutty flavor, similar to brown rice. Although soup is the most popular way to eat barley, you can use it like any other grain, such as couscous or rice. Hulless barley is unprocessed and takes longer to cook than pearl or pearled barley, which is more common. Quick cooking barley is just as healthy and takes only 10 minutes to cook. Try adding a handful of quick cooking barley to a simmering pot of soup.
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/4 cup minced onion
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 carrot, diced
- 2 ribs celery, sliced thin
- 1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning blend
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 2/3 cup barley
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 2 Parmesan rinds
- 1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
- 2 tablespoons milk or cream
- 1/4 cup white wine
- Sea or kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
Pre-soak the barley in water to cover for one hour. Drain well and set aside.
Saute onions and garlic in olive oil for a minute or two, then add the diced carrots and celery. Reduce the heat and cook for another two to three minutes, stirring occasionally. Next, add the red wine vinegar, stirring to coat the vegetables well.
Reduce heat to medium low and add the barley and vegetable broth, stirring to combine.
Heat for ten minutes, then add the Parmesan rinds and simmer for fifteen minutes, or until the barley is almost cooked.
Stir in the grated Parmesan cheese, milk, white wine and season lightly with salt and pepper. Heat another five minutes or until the barley is fully cooked.
Remove the Parmesan rinds and serve with additional Parmesan cheese.
Lake Como’s sweets are mainly cakes, tarts and pies that are eaten for breakfast and afternoon snacks. Among them you can find the cutizza, a homemade focaccia made of flour, milk, sugar and lemon peel. The cutizza is a sweet bread known as the poor man’s cake because it uses only a small amount of flour. This is a very old and rustic recipe.
- ½ lb white flour
- 6-7 oz whole milk
- Oil for frying
- 3 eggs
- Lemon rind
- Vanilla sugar
Break the eggs in a bowl, add the flour and mix well. Add the grated lemon and milk and mix until smooth. Add the smaller amount of milk at first and then more, if needed, to make a smooth dough.
Heat enough oil in a frying pan to just cover the bottom and pour in the mixture. Cook on one side and then turn over to cook the other side. Sprinkle with sugar and serve warm.
Variation: add some chopped apple to the mixture before cooking.
The cutizza can be eaten as a snack or as a dessert accompanied by a glass of Moscato.