Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Pasta

"Tuscany Delights" painting by Lisa Lorenz.

“Tuscany Delights” painting by Lisa Lorenz.

Hey, come over here, kid, learn something. … You see, you start out with a little bit of oil. Then you fry some garlic. Then you throw in some tomatoes, tomato paste, you fry it; ya make sure it doesn’t stick. You get it to a boil; you shove in all your sausage and your meatballs; heh? … And a little bit o’ wine. An’ a little bit o’ sugar, and that’s my trick. (Michael learning to make gravy from The Godfather.)

For a crowd-pleasing reunion meal, serve this family style menu with plenty of garlic bread and red wine for a comforting Italian-American feast. All the dishes in this menu can be prepared several days ahead, except for the pasta, and heated before serving.

I have many memories of the Sunday dinners at my grandparents’ and parents’ houses while I was growing up. The centerpiece was the rich tomato gravy. What gave it its distinction were the meats that were cooked in it: pork sausages, meatballs and my favorite, braciole. The dish is a lean cut of beef pounded thin, then spread with a layer of grated cheese, fresh herbs, bits of prosciutto, raisins and pine nuts, then rolled, tied, seared and simmered for hours in tomato sauce.

Sitting down together for a family meal has been in decline in America for decades. According to surveys, however, that’s beginning to change. This is good. Studies show that children who eat meals with their families are more likely to do well in school and more likely to have a healthier diet. In addition the treasured memories children develop are irreplaceable.

“Mangia! Mangia! (Eat! Eat!)” — as my grandmother would say.

Menu for 12-16

  • Braised Artichokes and Stuffed Cherry Peppers
  • Braciole and Pasta
  • Sautéed Greens and Garlic Bread
  • Dessert: Italian Cookies

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Italian American Garlic Bread

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  • 1 (1 pound) loaf Italian bread, cut into 1/2 inch slices

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and mix with the garlic powder and parsley.

Using a basting brush, coat the bread generously with the butter mixture. Place the Italian bread on a medium baking sheet.

Bake for approximately 10-15 minutes, until lightly toasted.

italianfeast1Braised Artichokes

This dish can be made ahead. Just reheat before serving.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 8 large artichokes, outer leaves trimmed and halved lengthwise
  • 6 lemons, halved and juiced
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions

Cut each of the artichokes in half; remove the toughest outer leaves, use a spoon to remove the choke and trim the bottom.

Heat oil in an 8 to 10-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Add garlic; cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Add wine, artichokes, lemon juice and squeezed lemon halves, salt and 10 cups water; boil.

Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until the artichokes are very tender, about 30 minutes. Transfer artichokes to a serving platter, cut each half, in half, and keep warm.

Discard all but 2 cups of the cooking liquid; return the pan with the liquid to medium-high heat. Add butter; cook until sauce is thickened, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper; spoon sauce over artichokes to serve.

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Tuna Stuffed Cherry Peppers

Make this appetizer a day or two before the party, so they can marinate.

Ingredients

  • 6 oz can Italian tuna in olive oil
  • 8 anchovies in olive oil
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/4 cup plain dried bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons capers, minced
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 (32-oz.) jar red, hot cherry peppers, drained, rinsed, seeded and stemmed

Directions

Finely chop tuna and anchovies; mix with 1/3 cup of the olive oil, bread crumbs, capers, parsley and salt and pepper in a bowl.

Stuff each pepper with a little of the tuna mixture. Transfer to a covered dish and pour the remaining oil over the peppers. Chill for at least 8 hours to marinate.

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Braciole (Italian Beef Rolls in Tomato Sauce)

This entire dish, with the exception of the pasta, can be prepared well in advance and reheated.

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup raisins
  • 1 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus extra for serving
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 8 ounces prosciutto, sliced thin and finely diced
  • 24 6″x 4″ slices boneless beef steak (top sirloin or round), pounded to 1/16″ thickness (about 3 lbs)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 medium yellow onions, finely chopped
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 4 (28-oz.) cans whole, peeled Italian tomatoes in juice, crushed 
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3-4 lbs penne or rigatoni or pappardelle pasta

Directions

To make the filling:

Mix together raisins, 3/4 cup parsley, pine nuts, Parmesan, prosciutto and garlic in a bowl; set aside.

Place a slice of beef on a work surface perpendicular to you, season with salt and pepper and place about 1 tablespoon of filling on the bottom half; starting with the filled half, roll beef up around the filling into a tight cylinder. Secure roll with toothpicks or kitchen string and repeat with remaining beef and filling.

Heat oil in an 8-qt. Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add the beef rolls and cook, turning as needed, until browned on all sides, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Add onion to pot, and cook, stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add wine and cook, stirring to scrape the bottom of pot, until almost evaporated, about 5 minutes. Stir in chili flakes, tomatoes, Italian seasoning and bay leaves and return beef rolls to the pot. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium-low; cook, covered partially, gently stirring occasionally until meat is cooked through and tender, about 2 hours.

Remove the meat rolls from the sauce, remove toothpicks, transfer to serving platters and cover plates with foil. Keep warm.

Continue cooking sauce until thickened, while you cook the pasta.

Pour some of the sauce over the meat rolls and sprinkle with the remaining parsley. Mix some of the remaining sauce with the pasta. Serve extra sauce and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese with the braciole and pasta.

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Sautéed Greens and Red Peppers

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 4 medium heads escarole (or greens of choice), cored, washed and roughly chopped
  • 3 whole roasted red peppers from a jar, diced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions

Heat the oven to 400° F

Mix 1/4 cup olive oil, bread crumbs and parmesan cheese in a mixing bowl and set aside.

Heat 1/4 cup oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add garlic; cook until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Add escarole; cook until wilted, about 8 minutes. You may have to wait until some of the leaves wilt before adding more.

Stir in peppers; season with salt and pepper. Pour mixture into a baking dish. Spread breadcrumb mixture evenly over the top; transfer skillet to the oven and bake until golden brown on top, about 12 minutes.

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Pine-nut (Pignoli) Italian Cookies  

Makes about 48 cookies

Use only almond paste, not marzipan or canned almond filling.

Ingredients

  • 2 cans (8-ounce) almond paste, cut in small pieces
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 4 egg whites, from 4 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon peel
  • 2 cups pine nuts (pignoli)

Directions

Heat oven to 325°F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In an electric mixer bowl, beat almond paste, sugar, egg whites and lemon peel until smooth.

Drop by heaping teaspoons, 1 inch apart, on the prepared cookie sheets. Sprinkle with pine nuts to cover, then press them gently to adhere.

Bake 22 to 25 minutes, until tops feel firm and dry when lightly pressed. Cool completely on cookie sheet on a wire rack.

Store airtight at room temperature. (Cookies are best eaten within 2 weeks. They freeze very well.)

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Chocolate-Almond Cookies (Strazzate)

Makes 3 dozen cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter for greasing
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 3/4 cups finely ground almonds, plus 2 tablespoons roughly chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups, plus 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons mini chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup Strega or Galliano liqueur
  • 1/3 cup coffee, at room temperature

Directions

Heat the oven to 325F. Grease 2 parchment-lined baking sheets with the butter and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together baking powder and 1 tablespoon lukewarm water until dissolved, 20 seconds.

Combine ground and chopped almonds, flour, sugar, chocolate chips, cocoa powder, oil and salt in a large bowl. With a wooden spoon, vigorously stir in the baking powder mixture, liqueur and coffee to form a wet dough.

Divide the dough into 1-oz. portions. Using your hands, roll dough portions into balls and transfer to the prepared baking sheets spaced about 1-inch apart.

Bake until set, about 30 minutes. Transfer cookies to racks and let cool to firm before serving.


Bologna's Piazza Maggiore

Bologna’s Piazza Maggiore

This Italian region comprises the historical areas of Emilia and Romagna. Half the territory is formed by the Apennines and the other half is a large plain, which reaches east to the Adriatic Sea. The coastline is flat and sandy with lagoons and marshy areas.

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Emilia-Romagna is one of the wealthiest and most developed regions in Europe, with the third highest GDP per capita in Italy. Bologna, its capital, has one of Italy’s highest quality of life standards. Emilia-Romagna is also a cultural and tourist center, being the home of the University of Bologna, the oldest university in the world. Its cuisine is renowned and it is home to the automotive companies of Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, Pagani, De Tomaso and Ducati.

 Lamborghini Gallardo

Lamborghini Gallardo

Popular coastal resorts such as Rimini and Riccione are located in this region. Other important cities include Parma, Ferrara, Modena, Piacenza, Ravenna, Forlì and Reggio Emilia.

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Despite being an industrial power, Emilia-Romagna is also a leading region in agriculture, with farming contributing 5.8% of the region’s agricultural products. Cereals, potatoes, corn, tomatoes and onions are the most important products, along with fruit and grapes for the production of wine (of which the best known are Emilia’s Lambrusco, Bologna’s Pignoletto, Romagna’s Sangiovese and white Albana). Cattle and hog breeding are also highly developed.

Castell’Arquato

Castell’Arquato

Tourism is increasingly important, especially along the Adriatic coastline and the art museum cities. Since 187 B.C., when the Romans built the 125-Mile Roman Road/Via Emilia, this thoroughfare has taken travelers throughout the region and connected them with the major trading centers of Venice, Genoa and central/northern Europe. This main roadway crosses the region from north-west (Piacenza) to the south-east (Adriatic coast), connecting the main cities of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Bologna and the Adriatic coast.

Emilia-Romagna gave birth to two great musicians, one of the most important composers of music, Giuseppe Verdi and Toscanini, the famous conductor. Marcella Hazan, one of the foremost authorities on Italian cuisine, was born in 1924 in the village of Cesenatico in Emilia-Romagna. She earned a doctorate in natural sciences and biology from the University of Ferrara.  Her cookbooks are credited with introducing the public in the United States and Britain to the techniques of traditional Italian cooking. She moved to New York City following her marriage to Victor Hazan and published her first book, The Classic Italian Cook Book, in 1973.

 Verdi Theater in Busseto


Verdi Theater in Busseto

Cesena

Cesena

The most popular sport in Emilia-Romagna is football. Several famous clubs from Emilia-Romagna compete at a high level on the national stage: Cesena, Parma and Sassuolo. With 13 professional clubs in 2013, the region is only bettered in terms of a number of professional clubs by Lombardy. It also has 747 amateur clubs, 1,522 football pitches and 75,328 registered players. Another sport which is very popular in this region is basketball and teams from Emilia-Romagna compete in the Lega Basket Serie A. Zebre rugby club competes professionally in the Guinness Pro 12 league. The club’s home ground is located in Parma.

Take a tour of Emilia-Romagna with the video below.

The Cuisine of Emilia-Romagna

The celebrated balsamic vinegar is made in the Emilian cities of Modena and Reggio Emilia, following legally binding traditional procedures. Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan Cheese) is produced in Reggio Emilia, Parma, Modena and Bologna, while Grana Padano is produced in the rest of the region. Prosciutto di Parma is Italy’s most popular ham, especially beyond Italy where it’s widely exported. With its roots going back to 100 BC, when a salt-cured ham was mentioned in the writings of Cato, Prosciutto has a long and hallowed history in the Parma province.

Prosciutto di Parma

Prosciutto di Parma

Antipasto is optional before the first course of a traditional meal and may feature anything from greens with prosciutto and balsamic vinegar to pears with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and balsamic vinegar. Pasta is often the first course and Emilia-Romagna is known for its egg and filled pastas, such as tortellini, lasagna and tagliatelle. In some areas of Romagna rice is eaten, with risotto taking the place of pasta. Polenta, a cornmeal-based dish, is common both in Emilia and Romagna.

Seafood, poultry and meats comprise the second course. Although the Adriatic coast is a major fishing area (well-known for its eels and clams), the region is more famous for its meat products, especially pork-based, that include: Parma’s prosciutto, culatello and Felino salami, Piacenza’s pancetta, coppa and salami, Bologna’s mortadella and salame rosa, Modena’s zampone, cotechino and cappello del prete and Ferrara’s salama da sugo. Reggio Emilia is famous for erbazzone, a spinach and Parmigiano Reggiano pie and Gnocco Fritto, flour strips fried in boiling oil and eaten in combination with ham or salami.

GNOCCO FRITTO WITH PARMA HAM

Gnocco Fritto with Parma Ham

From grilled asparagus with Parma ham to basil/onion mashed potatoes or roasted beets and onions, vegetables play a major role in Emilia-Romagna side dishes. Residents boil, sauté, braise, bake or grill radicchio and other tart greens. They also serve a cornucopia of other vegetables, including sweet fennel, wild mushrooms, zucchini, cauliflower, beets, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, onions, chard, sweet squashes, cabbage, eggplant, green beans and asparagus.

Sweet pastas may be a dessert or a side dish. Rich tortes, almond and apple cream tarts, sweet ravioli with winter fruit and strawberries & red wine often find their way to the table. Regional desserts include zuppa inglese (custard-based dessert made with sponge cake and Alchermes liqueur) and panpepato (Christmas cake made with pepper, chocolate, spices, and almonds).

Barrels of  Traditional Balsamic Vinegar

Barrels of traditional Balsamic Vinegar

Some differences do exist in the cuisines of Emilia and Romagna. Located between Florence and Venice and south of Milan, Emilia has lush plains, gentle hills and a cuisine that demonstrates more Northern Italian influences and capitalizes on the region’s ample supply of butter, cream and meat that is usually poached or braised. The Romagna area includes the Adriatic coast, part of the Ferrara province and the rugged mountain ranges. Food preferences follow those found in central Italy, with olive oil used as a base for many dishes, plenty of herbs and a preference for spit roasting and griddle baking.

TRADITIONAL RECIPES OF EMILIA-ROMAGNA

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PUMPKIN RAVIOLI (CAPPELLACCI)

4 servings

FOR THE PASTA

  • 10 oz all-purpose flour
  • 3 eggs
  • Pinch of salt

FOR THE FILLING

  • 2 lbs pumpkin, baked and the flesh scooped out
  • 7 oz grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • Nutmeg to taste
  • 2 oz butter
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 egg

For the pasta:

Mix the eggs, flour and a pinch of salt until thoroughly combined.

Roll out into thin sheets on a pasta machine and cut into squares, about 2.5 inches a side.

For the filling:

Mix the baked pumpkin pulp with the egg, the grated cheese and the nutmeg.

Put the filling on half the squares of pasta and top with another square. Press the edges with a fork to seal.

Cook them in abundant salted water and season with melted butter, sage and grated cheese.

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BEEF FILLET WITH BALSAMIC VINEGAR SAUCE

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 ¾ lb beef fillet
  • 1 ½ oounces all-purpose flour, plus extra for coating the meat
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup beef broth
  • Salt to taste
  • Chopped parsley for garnish

Directions

Cut the fillet into four equal slices and flatten slightly with a meat pounder. Coat the meat in flour and shake to remove any excess. Put the fillets on a greased plate, then salt them.

Heat a large skillet and cook the fillets on both sides over very high heat, sprinkling each with some of the balsamic vinegar.

In a separate saucepan, combine the remaining vinegar, the beef broth and the flour. Heat, stirring constantly, until thickened.

When the fillets are cooked, cover them with the sauce and garnish with parsley.

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ERBAZZONE (SAVORY GREENS PIE)

This pie is often served with slices of prosciutto.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs spinach
  • 7 oz grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • 1 oz olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 oz pancetta, chopped fine
  • 1 ¾ oz butter
  • 3 ½ oz lard
  •  1/2 onion, about 2/3 cup
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • Box frozen puff pastry (2 sheets), defrosted overnight in the refrigerator

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Cook the spinach in boiling salted water until tender. Drain well and chop the spinach. Squeeze well to dry.

Sauté butter, lard and onion in a skillet. Add the spinach and garlic and cook for five minutes. Cool. Then, mix with some grated Parmesan, the olive oil, pepper and salt.

Lay one sheet of pastry in a rectangular oven-dish (about the size of the pastry sheet; cut to fit, if needed). Spread the filling over the dough. Dot the top of the filling with the pancetta. Cover with the second pastry sheet. Press down lightly.

Bake at 350°F until the pastry is golden, about 30 minutes.

Serve hot or warm.

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CIAMBELLA (RING CAKE)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • Grated zest of 1/2 a medium orange
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • Powdered sugar

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 9-inch ring mold or a springform pan and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, almond flour, baking powder and salt to thoroughly combine them and set aside.

Crack the eggs into a large mixing bowl and whisk them lightly to break up the yolks. Add the sugar to the bowl and whisk it in thoroughly in both directions for about 30 seconds. Add the olive oil and whisk until the mixture is a bit lighter in color and has thickened slightly, about 45 seconds. Whisk in the extracts and zest, followed by the orange juice.

Add the dry ingredients to the bowl and whisk until they are thoroughly combined; continue whisking until you have a smooth, emulsified batter, about 30 more seconds.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake the cake for 30 to 45 minutes, rotating the cake pan halfway through the cooking time to ensure even browning.

The cake is done when it has begun to pull away from the sides of the pan, springs back lightly when touched and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Allow the cake to cool for ten minutes in the pan, then gently remove it from the pan and allow it cool completely on a rack. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.


vegetarian-food-pyramid

Vegetarian dishes can shine as the main attraction, especially when using fresh and flavorful ingredients. Use spices and herbs often, add lots of flavor with grains and beans, include good fats to carry flavors and salt to bring them together. Roasting vegetables also make them delicious.

It can be challenging to serve healthy meals on a budget. Meatless meals are built around vegetables, beans and grains instead of meat, which is more expensive. You may be able to save money by going meatless once or twice a week. In addition, meatless meals offer health benefits. A plant-based diet, which emphasizes fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, legumes and nuts, is rich in fiber, vitamins and other nutrients. This kind of healthy eating is the central theme of the Mediterranean diet — which limits red meat and emphasizes fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains and healthy fats — and has been shown to reduce your risk of heart disease and other chronic conditions.

Plan some meals that feature entrees you like that are typically meatless, such as lasagna, soup or pasta. Occasionally, try substituting protein-rich foods for meat in your favorite recipes, such as, using beans and legumes in casseroles, salads, burritos and tacos. The following recipes show you that meatless dinners can be good tasting. Give then a try.

Dinner 1: Potato Vegetable Skillet Cake and Green Bean Mushroom Casserole

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Vegetable and Potato Skillet Cake

Ingredients

  • 3/4 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 2 (8-ounce) russet potatoes, peeled, shredded and squeezed of excess moisture
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 parsnips, shredded
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 carrots, shredded
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 cup finely diced red onion
  • 1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

Directions

In a large bowl, combine the vegetables and onion. Sprinkle with flour, salt, Italian seasoning and nutmeg and toss to coat. Stir in the eggs and mix in thoroughly..

Heat a 10 inch skillet over medium heat until hot. Add 1 tablespoon of oil. Pour in the vegetable mixture and press gently. Cook, running a spatula around the edges of the skillet occasionally, until the bottom is very brown, about 12 minutes.

Place a round platter upside down over the top of the skillet. Grasp sides of the skillet and platter with oven mitts and invert the potato cake onto the platter. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the skillet  and slide the potato cake back into the skillet (browned-side up) and continue to cook over medium heat, loosening the edges with a spatula and shaking the pan occasionally to loosen the bottom. Cook until the bottom is browned and crisp and cooked through, about 12 more minutes. Invert the skillet again to remove the potato cake. Cool 5 minutes before cutting into wedges.

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Green Bean Mushroom Casserole

Ingredients

  • 12 oz fresh green beans
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 oz mushroom blend, sliced (such as, shiitake and oyster mushrooms)
  • 6 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup thinly sliced shallots
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2/3 cup shredded Italian Fontina cheese, divided
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dried Italian bread crumbs

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add green beans and cook for 2 minutes. Drain and plunge into a large bowl filled with ice water; set aside for 5 to 8 minutes, then drain. Cut beans into 2-inch pieces.

In a large skillet on medium-high, heat oil. Add mushrooms and sauté for 3 to 5 minutes until mushrooms release their juices. Reduce heat to medium and add shallots, garlic, thyme, pepper and salt.

Cook, stirring constantly, until shallots become translucent, about 2 to 3 minutes. Sprinkle in flour; stir to coat. Slowly add buttermilk and continue to cook, stirring until buttermilk starts to thicken and mixture is creamy, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in broth and green beans. When broth is absorbed, after 1 to 2 minutes, stir in 1/2 cup cheese.

Transfer mixture to a medium greased baking dish. Sprinkle bread crumbs and remaining cheese over the top. Cover with foil and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until bubbling. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes

Dinner 2:  Butternut Squash Pie and Orange Beet Salad

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Butternut Squash Pie with Hazelnuts

Ingredients

  • 1 (3-pound) butternut squash, halved lengthwise, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes or 3 cups cubed squash from the supermarket or one 16-oz package of frozen and defrosted cubed squash
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • 1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1 frozen 9-inch pie crust (in a pie pan)

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F.

In a large bowl, mix squash with 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper. Arrange squash in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Roast, tossing occasionally, until squash is tender and golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside.

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until browned, 7 to 9 minutes. Add wine and cook, scraping up any brown bits, for 1 minute more.

Add onion to the bowl with the squash and add Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, hazelnuts, egg, bread crumbs, salt and pepper and toss gently to combine. Transfer mixture to the pie crust, pat down lightly and bake until crust is golden brown and the filling is hot, about 40 minutes. Set aside to let cool for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

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Beet, Orange & Burrata Salad

Burrata is a fresh Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream.

Burrata Cheese

Burrata Cheese

Ingredients

  • 2 beets (about 11 oz), ends trimmed
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 2 oranges
  • 2 tablespoons white or regular balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
  • Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  • 5 cups (5 oz) baby arugula
  • 6 oz fresh burrata or fresh mozzarella cheese, broken into about 8 pieces

Directions

Position rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 425°F. Wrap beets in foil and roast in a baking pan until tender when pierced with a fork, about 1 hour. Set aside to cool. Peel and cut each beet into 12 slices.

Use a sharp knife to slice peel off the oranges. Cut each orange into 6 round slices.

Squeeze pieces of orange peel (there should be some flesh still attached) into a mixing bowl to yield about 2 tablespoons juice. Whisk in garlic, vinegar, 2 teaspoons water, oil, mustard, parsley, salt and pepper.

In a large bowl, toss arugula with 3 tablespoons orange vinaigrette. Divide among serving plates and top with oranges, beets and cheese. Drizzle with remaining vinaigrette.

Dinner 3: Pappardelle with Tomatoes and Almonds and Bibb Radish Salad

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Pappardelle with Tomatoes, Almonds and Parmesan

If your market doesn’t carry fresh basil this time of year, use 2 tablespoons of basil pesto instead.

Plum tomatoes are a good choice during the winter months.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds plum (Roma) tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 1/4 cup shredded basil leaves or 2 tablespoons basil pesto
  • 1 small fresh hot red chile, minced
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 pound dried pappardelle pasta
  • 1/4 cup chopped almonds
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions

In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes with the vinegar, olive oil, shallots, oregano, basil and chile and season with salt and pepper. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour.

In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain. Add the pasta to the tomato mixture and toss. Mix the almonds and Parmigiano together, sprinkle over the pasta and serve right away.

Bibb and Radish Salad with Buttermilk Dressing

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Ingredients

  • 3 heads of Bibb lettuce, leaves torn
  • 8 radishes, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup snipped fresh chives
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions

In a large bowl, toss the lettuce with the radishes and chives. Chill until ready to serve.

In a small bowl, whisk the mayonnaise with the buttermilk and vinegar.

Gradually whisk in the olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Just before serving, drizzle the dressing over the salad and toss well.

Dinner 4: Tomato Risotto and Broccolini with Lemon Crumbs

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Tomato Vegetable Risotto

Ingredients

  • 32 oz carton lower-sodium vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • 28 oz container diced Italian tomatoes, drained and liquid reserved
  • 1/2 cup dry white
  • 1 box (10 oz) frozen corn kernels, defrosted
  • 1 box (10 oz) frozen green beans, defrosted
  • 2 ounces finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions

Put the reserved tomato juice and the vegetable broth into a saucepan and bring it to a simmer over low heat, with a ladle nearby.

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a wide, heavy skillet or a wide, heavy saucepan. Add the onion, a generous pinch of salt and cook gently until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and garlic and cook, stirring, until the grains of rice are separate and beginning to crackle. Stir in the drained diced tomatoes and salt to taste and cook, stirring often, until the tomatoes have cooked down slightly and coat the rice, 5 to 10 minutes.

Add the wine and stir until it has evaporated and been absorbed by the rice. Begin adding the simmering stock, a couple of ladlefuls (about 1/2 cup) at a time. The stock should just cover the rice, and should be bubbling, not too slowly but not too quickly. Cook, stirring often, until it is just about absorbed. Add another ladleful or two of the stock and continue to cook in this fashion, adding more stock and stirring when the rice is almost dry.

After the rice has cooked about 15 minutes, stir in the defrosted corn and green beans. Continue adding broth until it is all used.

You do not have to stir constantly, but stir often and when you do, stir vigorously. When the rice is just tender all the way through but still chewy (al dente), in 20 to 25 minutes, it is done.  Stir in the basil and Parmesan and remove from the heat. Serve in wide pasta bowls.

veggie8

Broccolini with Lemon Crumbs

Ingredients

  • 2 slices of country white bread, torn
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • Salt
  • 2 bunches Broccolini (8 ounces each) or broccoli rabe (rapini), ends trimmed
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small shallot, very finely chopped
  • Lemon wedges, for serving

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the broccolini and cook until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Drain well, shaking off the excess water; pat dry with paper towels.

In a food processor, pulse the bread until large crumbs form.

In a large skillet, melt the butter. Add the breadcrumbs and cook them over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until golden. Remove from the heat. Stir in the crushed red pepper and lemon zest and season with salt. Transfer the crumbs to a plate to cool.

In the same skillet, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the shallot and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until lightly browned, about 1 minute. Add the broccolini, season lightly with salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the broccolini is lightly browned in spots, about 4 minutes. Transfer the broccolini to a serving platter and sprinkle the lemony bread crumbs on top. Serve right away with lemon wedges.

Dinner 5: Stuffed Shells and Green Bean Slaw

veggie9

Cheese Stuffed Shells with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Ingredients

SAUCE:

  • 3 cups canned Italian tomatoes
  • 12 oz roasted red bell peppers (from a jar packed in water), drained, patted dry and roughly chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup packed parsley sprigs, roughly chopped, plus extra for garnish

SHELLS:

  • 1 1/2 cups frozen corn, defrosted
  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 30 large pasta shells
  • 1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 3 oz grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  • 3 oz mozzarella cheese, shredded

Directions

Prepare sauce:

In a medium saucepan, combine tomatoes, roasted peppers, garlic, rosemary, oregano, red pepper flakes and black pepper. Bring to a simmer on medium-high heat, then reduce to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer to a blender and add parsley. Remove plastic center from blender lid to allow steam to escape, hold a kitchen towel loosely over the opening and purée.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Meanwhile, prepare pasta shells according to package directions, cooking until just al dente. Drain thoroughly and place on clean kitchen towels.

In a large bowl, combine ricotta, Parmesan cheese, basil, chives, egg and corn. Season with black pepper.

Spread 1 cup sauce on the bottom of a 9×13-inch baking dish that has been coated with olive oil cooking spray. Fill pasta shells with about 1 rounded tablespoon of ricotta mixture and place in the baking dish, stuffed side up. You may have a few extra shells that do not fit in the baking dish.

Cover shells with remaining sauce and mozzarella. Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until the sauce is bubbling. Let cool for 10 minutes, garnish with additional parsley and serve.

Beekman Boys

Green Bean Slaw

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 pounds thin green beans
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery seeds
  • 1 medium carrot, cut into fine julienne
  • 1 medium parsnip, cut into fine julienne
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into fine julienne
  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • A few dashes of Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the beans until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Drain, rinse and pat dry. Slice the green beans lengthwise, if they are not thin.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and cook over moderate heat, about 30 seconds. Stir in the vinegar, water, mustard, honey and celery seeds. Add the carrot, parsnip, red pepper and onion and toss until warmed through, about 1 minute.

Transfer to a large bowl. Add the beans and toss well. Add a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce and season with salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.


Umbrian dinner

Umbria is a region of both historic and modern central Italy. It is the only Italian region having neither a coastline nor a border with another country. The regional capital is Perugia. Umbria is known for its landscapes, traditions, history, artistic legacy and influence on Italian culture. The region is characterized by hills and historical towns such as Assisi, Norcia and Orvieto. Umbria is bordered by Tuscany to the west, Marche to the east and Lazio to the south.

Despite being landlocked and somewhat economically depressed — or perhaps because of these things — Umbria is the quintessential embodiment of all things Italian. This is certainly true of its cuisine, which emphasizes the virtues of Italian cooking: simplicity, tradition and respect for fresh, local ingredients. Any list of the products for which Umbria is famous would include farro, a grain; prosciutto and other pork or wild boar products from the town of Norcia and the well-known black truffle.

Umbrian pigs live on the land and eat acorns and chestnuts that give the meat its characteristic flavor and texture. Umbrians take special pride in how their pigs are raised and treated, especially in the mountainous area of Norcia. Over the centuries, the word norcino, or person from Norcia, became synonymous with butcher. The most important cured meat in Umbria is, without a doubt, Prosciutto di Norcia IGP, followed by pork sausages and mazzafegati, a pork and liver sausage that can be traced back to Renaissance tables.

The best of Umbria’s cheeses are mature pecorino sheep’s cheese and fresh or ripe goat’s milk cheese. The lentils of Castelluccio di Norcia are utilized for soups, main courses and side dishes. Everything is seasoned with the golden and fruity olive oil produced in this region. Umbrian oil of high quality is awarded with a PDO quality mark (Protected Designation of Origin).

Umbria is particularly suitable for wine growing and its mild climate gives this land top-quality white and red wines, including among the many well-known labels, Assisi Grechetto and Sagrantino di Montefalco. The wines of Montefalco have an interesting history, having been identified as important local products. In the 1400s, a city council made it illegal for people who owned grapevines in the area to neglect them and the fruits they produced. As a result, Montefalco wines are some of Italy’s finest wines. Each year, around Easter, the town holds a wine festival celebrating the fruits of its winemaking labors.

Pretend you are in Umbria this weekend and make this dinner for your friends:

Umbrian dinner 1

Arugula, Pecorino, Pine Nut and Pear Salad (Rucola con Pecorino, Pignoli e Pere)

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 3 tablespoons raisins
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 ripe pears, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
  • 5 oz. baby arugula
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 4 oz. Pecorino Romano
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

Directions

Combine water and raisins in a bowl; let sit 20 minutes and drain. Toss lemon juice with the pears in a bowl. Arrange arugula on four separate salad plates; season with salt and pepper.

Top each plate with some of the pears and shave pecorino over the top of each salad; sprinkle with raisins and the pine nuts.

Whisk balsamic, salt and pepper in a bowl. While whisking, slowly drizzle in oil until emulsified; drizzle dressing over each salad plate.

Umbrian dinner3

Tagliatelle with Goose Ragù (Tagliatelle al Ragù d’Oca)

If goose is difficult to find, you can certainly substitute duck.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5 oz boneless, skinless goose breast, diced
  • 3 oz goose liver, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced rosemary
  • 3/4 tablespoon minced sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
  • 1 stalk celery, minced
  • 1/2 carrot, minced
  • 1/2 small yellow onion, minced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 (14 ­oz) can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 lb fresh tagliatelle pasta
  • Grated parmesan, for garnish

Directions

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a skillet over medium ­high. Cook goose breast until browned, 5–7 minutes; transfer to a bowl. Cook liver until browned, 4–6 minutes; transfer to bowl with the breast.

Add remaining oil to the skillet; cook rosemary, sage, chili flakes, celery, carrot and onion until golden, 8–10 minutes. Add wine; cook until evaporated, 5–7 minutes. Add tomatoes, salt and pepper; cook until thickened, about 20–22 minutes.

Stir in reserved goose breast and liver.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in salted water until al dente, about 7 minutes. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta water; toss pasta and reserved water in skillet with the sauce. Garnish with parmesan.

Umbrian dinner 2

Pork with Juniper Berries (Filetto di Maiale con Bacche di Ginepro)

Serves 4

Ingredients

For the Potatoes:

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 lb russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1″ pieces
  • 10 oz green beans, trimmed
  • 1½ tablespoons minced sage
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the Pork:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 oz guanciale or pancetta, minced
  • 1 (1 ­lb) pork tenderloin
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon juniper berries
  • 4 sprigs rosemary
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup chicken stock

Directions

To make the potatoes:

Heat oil in a 12″ skillet over medium ­high. Cook potatoes until golden, 10–12 minutes.

Stir in green beans, sage, garlic, salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium; cook, covered, until potatoes and green beans are tender, 6–8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl; keep warm.

To make the pork:

Wipe the skillet clean and heat the oil over medium ­high. Cook guanciale until crisp, 2–3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer guanciale to a plate.

Season pork with salt and pepper; add to the skillet and cook, turning as needed, until browned on all sides, 8–10 minutes. Add juniper berries, rosemary, thyme, bay leaves and garlic and cook 1–2 minutes. Add wine; cook, stirring and scraping up browned bits from the bottom of the skillet, until evaporated, 12–15 minutes. Add stock; boil. Reduce heat to medium; cook, slightly covered, until an instant ­read thermometer inserted into the pork reads 145° F.

Let pork rest 5 minutes, then slice ½” thick; divide between plates. Simmer sauce until thickened, 10–12 minutes. Discard herbs and stir in reserved guanciale, salt and pepper; spoon over pork. Serve with potatoes and green beans.

Umbrian dinner 4

Umbrian Snowflake Cookies (Biscotti ai Cereali)

Corn flakes—both mixed into the batter and coating the cookies’ exterior—give these crumbly chocolate chip treats a crunchy, nutty flavor. Served at festivals, wineries and charity bake sales, they’re a favorite of the residents of the Umbrian hill town of Montefalco.

Makes 28 Cookies

Ingredients

  • 2½ cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1¼ cups granulated sugar
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 eggs
  • 6 cups corn flakes cereal (2 cups lightly crushed, 4 cups whole)
  • 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for garnish

Directions

Heat the oven to 350° F.

Whisk flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl.

In the bowl of an electric  mixer, cream granulated sugar and butter until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add dry ingredients; mix until dough forms.

Fold in crushed corn flakes and the chocolate chips. Divide dough into 28 balls; roll in the whole corn flakes. Space 1″ apart on parchment paper—lined baking sheets.

Bake until golden and crisp, 20–22 minutes. Let cookies cool; dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving.


friuli7

Like all the northern regions on Italy’s border that I have written about so far in this series, the regions are heavily influenced by the countries they touch.

Friuli

Friuli–Venezia Giulia is Italy’s most North-Eastern region and is the fifth smallest region of the country. It borders Austria to the north and Slovenia to the east. To the south it faces the Adriatic Sea and to the west. The region spans a wide variety of climates and landscapes from the mild Mediterranean climate in the south to Alpine continental in the north. The total area is subdivided into mountainous-alpine terrain in the north, hilly areas in the south-east and in the imterior the coastal plains area.

friuli 4

The regional capital is Trieste; the other important cities are Udine, Gorizia and Pordenone.

The ancient Romans left many remarkable traces, mainly at Aquileia, which is a famous archaeological center. In Grado and Cividale, there are important architecture examples of the Byzantine style. The Basilica of Aquileia, which is in the Romanesque Gothic style, houses splendid mosaics.

In Trieste, the Revoltella Civic Museum, holds an important collection of sculptural and pictorial works from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; the Civic Museum of the Sea, shows the history of navigation from its origins to the end of the last century, with models, instruments and projects. The Civic Museum of Risorgimento is an interesting review of Trieste’s struggle for freedom; the Civic Museum of Art History holds a remarkable collection of archaeological relics, from the Paleolithic to the Roman Age with collections of archaeology, sculpture, painting, ceramics, coins and jewelry.

friuli6

Italian is the official national language. Friulian language is also spoken in most of the region — with a few exceptions, most notably Trieste and the area around Monfalcone and Grado, where a version of the Venetian language and Triestine dialect is spoken instead. The local languages are more common in the countryside, while in the larger towns (Udine, Pordenone, Gorizia), standard Italian is the predominant language.

Take a visit to the Friuli Venezia Giulia region via the video below:

Friuli Venezia Giulia Cuisine

The food culture has been enriched by the historical melting pot of peoples, languages and traditions, with influences from the Mediterranean and Slavic countries detectable in a range of flavors and recipes.

Friuli 3

The legendary San Daniele ham and wines from Friuli vineyards have become the ambassadors of Friuli Venezia Giulia food production. There are 8 D.O.C. zones where D.O.C.G. wines are produced, including robust reds such as Ramandolo, Picolit and Rosazzo, the strangely-named Tazzelenghe (do you know how it got this name?). Tazzelenghe, in English, means literally “tongue-cutting or stinging,” which refers to a great combination of acidity and tannins, born from a long, cool growing season. Tazzelenghe is an indigenous varietal that disappeared and only saw cultivation and production as recently as the late 1970s and early ‘80s.

friuli2

The foremost white wine produced in this region is the Tocai Friulano, as it is called now. Because of a confusion between a Hungarian grape called Tokaj and a French one called Tokay, the European Community had demanded a name change of the French and Friuli grapes allowing Hungary to keep the original Tokaj name.

Seafood dishes include crostacei e conchiglie (a crustacean and shellfish dish), specialities such as boreto from Grado, “scampi a la busara” from Istria, sardoni from the Gulf of Trieste and ribalta vapor from the Marano lagoon.

Montasio, smoked ricotta cheese with the taste of Alpine meadows is the best known cheese of the region and cheeses that are little known but much-loved, are formadi frant and Asìno. Dis

Delicacies such as Sauris cured ham, cured ham from Cormòns, salami, speck (smoked ham), local bacon, brusaola and pitina, smoked meatball of sheep, goat or wild animal are all characteristic foods of the region.

Specialties of the region include frico (a kind of cheese fritter, either soft or crunchy), with musèt and brovade (sausage with soured turnip). Other specialities include cjarsòns (ravioli with a sweet or herb-flavored filling) and gnocchi di susine (plum gnocchi) from Goriziano. You will also find trout (especially the Regina smoked trout from San Daniele), honey, Julia Dop apples, grappas, oils and Slavic desserts such as gubana and presnitz.

If you want to taste and buy typical Friuli products, go to the Farmers’ Market in San Daniele: it’s an open air market organised in collaboration between the San Daniele Agro-food Park and the Slow Food Movement.

Recipes from Friuli Venezia Giulia

friuli9 Frico with Potatoes and Cheese

Asiago is a good replacement for Montasio cheese.

Ingredients for 1 frico ( 4 people):

  • 8 oz (250 grams) of potatoes
  • 1 onion
  • 9 oz (260 grams) of Montasio cheese, cut into small cubes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Grated Grana Padano cheese

Directions

Place potatoes in a pot of cold water; when it begins to boil cook them for 20 minutes. Drain and mash with a fork.

In the meantime chopped the onion. Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet and add the onion. cook until lightly brown. Add the mashed potatoes to the pan with the cheese cubes. Flatten the mixture with a wide spatula and cook until the underside is brown.

Slip the spatula under the mixture and flip it over. Cook until brown on the bottom.

Sprinkle with the grated grana padano cheese, cut into four and serve as an appetizer.

friuli8

Fresh Pasta with Poppy Seeds and Sugar

This is an unusual sweet sauce not usually found in Italy.

For the pasta:

  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 pound fresh egg tagliatelle or reginette pasta

For the sauce:

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 ounces poppy seeds
  • 1/4 cup sugar

Directions

Make the pasta:

Bring 5 quarts of water to a boil. Add the salt and the pasta. Cook until al dente; then drain, reserving about 2 cups of the pasta cooking water.

Make the sauce:

Warm the butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the poppy seeds and warm through until aromatic, about 2 minutes. Keep warm.

Transfer the drained pasta to a large serving platter and toss with the warm poppy-seed butter. Add some of the reserved pasta cooking water, as needed to thin out the sauce; it should coat the pasta nicely. Sprinkle with the sugar and toss again. Serve hot.

friuli0

Cevapcici with Roasted Red Pepper and Eggplant Sauce

Serves: 4

Ingredients

Cevapcici:

  • 8 ounces ground beef
  • 8 ounces lean ground pork
  • 1 onion plus 2 tablespoons finely chopped onion, divided
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Dash cayenne pepper

Sauce:

  • 1 large red bell pepper
  • 1 small eggplant
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Dash cayenne pepper

Directions

To prepare the Cevapcici:

In a medium bowl, combine the ground beef, ground pork, 2 tablespoons chopped onion, garlic, paprika, salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper. Roll the mixture into sausage shapes about 3 inches long and ¾ inch in diameter.

Preheat a grill (or heat a large skillet over medium-high heat). Place the sausages on the grill; cook until done, about 5–6 minutes, turning to brown each side.

Serve with the sauce and the onion, chopped.

To prepare the Sauce:

Preheat oven to 400°F. Place the bell pepper and eggplant on a baking sheet; bake until the eggplant is tender and the bell pepper skin begins to brown, about 30–40 minutes. When the bell pepper is cool enough to handle, remove and discard the skin, stem and seeds.

Slice open the eggplant and scoop out the flesh. Place the bell pepper and eggplant in a food processor, along with the olive oil, vinegar, sugar and cayenne pepper; purée until smooth. Season to taste with salt.

friuli01

Friuli Chocolate Fondue

Ingredients

  • 2 bananas
  • 12 fresh, ripe strawberries
  • 2 pears
  • 1 lemon, cut in half
  • 1 ¼ lbs (500 gr) dark melting chocolate of excellent quality, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream, slightly scalded
  • 2 tablespoons rum

Directions

Wash all the fruit. Slice the bananas and pears into wedges and rub with the sliced lemon to keep them from turning brown. Take care not to use too much lemon as it will alter the flavor of the fruit.

Melt the chocolate pieces in a double boiler.

Remove from the heat and add the rum and the heavy cream.

Serve the chocolate sauce in a warmed ceramic (or clay) bowl and arrange the fruit around it.


91547ffd-a909-450a-861a-d9047277c5a6

I find if I wash, chop and dry Romaine lettuce in the salad spinner it keeps wonderfully for 5 days or so in zip lock bags with a few paper towel. This can make the weeknight meal prep shorter. Just add tomatoes, cucumber, onion and dressing and you don’t have to lug out the salad spinner midweek!

Roasted vegetables keep well when make ahead and stored in sealed container in the refrigerator.

Most foods can be prepped ahead of time. Chop onions, garlic, ginger, green onions, asparagus, etc on the weekend to use during the week. You can even chop fresh tomatoes and keep them in a covered container. I’ve never heard that you can’t pre chop cucumbers and carrots and I do it all the time. I have a container that I fill up with carrot and celery sticks, sliced cucumbers and grape tomatoes. We can easily grab some veggies to munch on or to use for a fast salad.

I happen to like roast chicken, but you could easily roast a turkey breast or a beef roast or a pork shoulder to use during the week in place of my chicken.

Next weekend make a big pot of spaghetti sauce and use it for lasagna and chicken parmesan. These are just a few ideas to give you a head start.

Menu For The Week

Sunday – Mediterranean Roast Chicken with Potatoes, Olives and Spinach

Monday – Tuscan Beef Stew; Italian Bread

Tuesday – Spinach Chicken Salad; Italian Bread

Wednesday – Italian Pork Roast with Fennel and Onions; Roasted Broccoli with Parmesan

Thursday – Pasta with Beef Stew; Roasted Broccoli Salad

Friday - Italian Grilled Pork Panini; Coleslaw; Pickles

Recipes for the Week

On Sunday cook the chicken and pork in the oven and the beef stew on top of the stove. Prep ingredients for Tuesday’s salad and make the dressing. Cut up the broccoli for roasting on Wednesday.

Italian Seasoning

I use this seasoning often in my recipes. You can buy it in the store or make your own. My recipe can be found in a post here

Tuscan Vinaigrette_Gimme Some Oven_Recipes_1007x545

Italian Vinaigrette

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Mix vinegar, Italian seasoning, sugar and sea salt in a small bowl with a wire whisk. Gradually add oil, whisking until well blended. Cover.

Refrigerate until ready to serve. Whisk dressing before drizzling over salad greens.

chicken

Mediterranean Roast Chicken with Potatoes, Olives and Spinach

Serve this dinner on Sunday

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons dried Italian seasoning , divided
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 whole chicken, about 4 pounds
  • 2 lemons, cut in half
  • 1 large red onion, cut into thin wedges
  • 12 Yukon gold potatoes, each cut into wedges
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2/3 cup pitted Kalamata olives
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, coarse grind
  • 12 ounces fresh spinach leaves
  • 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled and divided

Directions

Preheat oven to 375ºF.

Mix 2 tablespoons of the dried seasoning with the butter. Rub 3/4 of butter mixture under the chicken skin (breasts and legs) and remaining mixture on the outside of the chicken. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the Italian seasoning over the outside of the chicken.

Stuff 3 lemon halves inside the chicken cavity. Place chicken in large roasting pan.

Mix potatoes, oil and the remaining 1 tablespoon dried seasoning. Arrange potatoes around the chicken in the roasting pan.

Roast 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours or until chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken from oven to a platter. Let stand 10 minutes.

Transfer vegetables to large skillet. Add olives, salt and pepper; cook and stir 1 to 2 minutes on low heat. Add spinach; cook and stir 1 to 2 minutes or until leaves just begin to wilt. Remove from the heat.

Set aside half of the mixture in a covered bowl for Wednesday’s dinner and refrigerate the dish.

Gently stir in 2 oz feta and juice of 1/2 lemon into the remaining vegetable mixture in the skillet. Reserve the remaining 2 oz feta for Wednesday’s dinner.

Remove the vegetables to large platter. Carve enough chicken needed for dinner and serve with the vegetables.

Dice the remaining chicken and reserve half for Wednesday’s dinner and the other half for chicken salad for lunch.

beef

Tuscan Beef Stew

Serve half the stew with some great bread and a salad using the vinaigrette and prepped salad ingredients for Monday’s dinner.

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 pounds cubed chuck roast
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup carrot, sliced into ½ ­inch chunks
  • 1 onion, cut into wedges
  • 1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 1/2 cups beef stock
  • 1 can (15 ounces) cannellini beans, drained

Directions

Heat oil in a 5 ­quart Dutch oven on medium ­high heat. Add beef in batches; cook until browned on all sides. Return all of the beef to Dutch oven. Sprinkle with flour; mix well. Stir in carrots, onion, tomatoes, stock and Italian Seasoning. Mix until well blended.

Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium­ low; cover and simmer 1 hour or until beef is tender, stirring occasionally.

Stir in beans. Simmer, uncovered, 15 minutes.

Serve half the recipe for dinner and reserve the remaining stew for Thursday’s dinner.

Spinach Chicken Salad

Serve this on Tuesday.
Place the reserved spinach, olive, potato mixture in a shallow salad bowl. Add reserved feta cheese and drizzle with a little of the Italian vinaigrette. Add diced chicken and mix. Heat up the leftover bread from Monday’s dinner and serve additional vinaigrette on the side.

pork

Italian Pork Roast with Fennel and Onions

Serve this pork dinner on Wednesday.

Serves: 8

Ingredients

  • 2 boneless pork tenderloins or 1 pork loin roast, trimmed (about 2 to 2 1/4 pounds)
  • 2 tablespoons dried Italian seasoning , divided
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 medium fennel bulbs, tops and cores removed, and bulbs cut into 1/4­inch thick slices
  • 1 medium red onion, cut into 1/4 ­inch thick slices
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Directions

Place pork roast in 6­ quart shallow Dutch oven.

Mix 1 1/2 tablespoons of the dried Italian seasoning, 1 tablespoon of the oil, lemon peel, fennel seed and sea salt in small bowl. Rub evenly over the pork. Toss fennel, onion, remaining 1 tablespoon oil and remaining 1/2 tablespoon dried seasoning in large bowl. Place vegetable mixture around the pork.

Roast 40-45 minutes or until thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the pork reaches 145°F, stirring vegetables occasionally. Transfer pork to a cutting board. Let stand 15 minutes before slicing. Then, layer in a shallow casserole dish (9×13).

Place Dutch oven with vegetables on medium­ low heat. Stir in stock and lemon juice. Simmer 15 minutes or until liquid is reduced by half, stirring occasionally. Pour over the pork slices in the casserole dish. Cover tightly with foil and refrigerate until Wednesday.

Use some of the leftovers to make Italian Pork Panini sandwiches for Friday.

broccoli

Roasted Broccoli with Parmesan

Place the pork dish in the oven to heat while the broccoli roasts on Wednesday.

Ingredients

  • 1 large head of broccoli (1 1/2 pounds), cut into 1 1/2-inch florets, stems peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

On a large baking sheet, toss the broccoli florets and stems with the 2 tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast the broccoli in the oven for about 30 minutes, tossing halfway through, until browned and tender. Serve half for dinner with the 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese.

Add some of the Italian vinaigrette to the remaining broccoli and refrigerate to serve with Thursday’s dinner.

Pappardelle with Beef Stew

Serve this dinner on Thursday.

Cook 8 oz pappardelle pasta (wide noodles) in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain.

While the pasta is cooking heat remaining beef stew.

Serve over noodles and garnish with grated Parmesan. Serve with reserved broccoli salad.

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Grilled Pork Panini

Serve with pickles and coleslaw on Friday.

Ingredients

  • Leftover pork slices and vegetables
  • 8 slices Italian bread
  • 1/2 cup store-bought or homemade basil pesto
  • 4 one ounce slices provolone cheese
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, for brushing

Directions

Spread 1 tablespoon pesto on each slice of bread. Top four slices of bread with pork slices, fennel, onion and cheese; top each sandwich with remaining bread.

Lightly brush the outer surface of the sandwiches with olive oil; grill in a medium-hot skillet or in a sandwich press until toasted on each side.

Easy Coleslaw

You can make this the night before.

Ingredients

  • 1 (16 ounce) bag coleslaw mix
  • 2/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions

Combine all ingredients except coleslaw mix in a large bowl and combine well.

Add the coleslaw, mix and toss to coat.

Cover and refrigerate several hours or overnight to allow flavors to blend.


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Christmas is by far the most important holiday of the year in Italy—the festivities lasting from December 24th through January 6th. Family gatherings are the most important part of Natale. This is the time of year when families reunite from whatever corners of the world they may have scattered and, it is around the table or a tavola, that Italian families come together. As we all know, these holidays can sometimes be anything but serene; nonetheless, Natale allows parents and children, siblings and in-laws, friends and sweethearts—and sometimes a grandfather (nonno) or grandmother (nonna), or an old beloved aunt (zia)—the opportunity to see one another after long separations, spending significant time together over festive food and drink.

Natale is one of the few occasions of the year in which family traditions are revered above all else; skills, memories and team work all come together to create very elaborate banquets and fabulous dishes. What will be eaten during the festa is a kind of ritual; very often each single course is prepared in the same way it has been for generations. Days are spent in the kitchen—everyone pitching in—with lots of long, languorous hours between meals, spent relaxing and digesting and chatting—the long-awaited family conversations punctuated by the sound of walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts being cracked open and the shells tossed into the fireplace.

Antipasto

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The first course is often preceded by a classic antipasto with slices of cured meat, garnished with olives, cheese and, of course, hearty bread.

First Course

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Classic Lasagna

Tomato Sauce

  • 2 cans (28 oz. each) Italian tomatoes
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can (6 oz.) tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Lasagna

  • 1 pound ground beef or Italian sausage, cooked and drained
  • 4 cups Ricotta Cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Parmesan Cheese, divided
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • 1/2 pound lasagna noodles, cooked and drained
  • 3 cups shredded Mozzarella Cheese

For Classic Tomato Sauce:

Drain tomatoes, reserve juice. Finely chop the tomatoes and set aside. In a large saucepan, cook carrot and onion in olive oil until tender. Add garlic; cook 1 minute. Add reserved juice, tomatoes, tomato paste, red wine, parsley, basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Simmer 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

In a medium bowl, combine tomato sauce and cooked beef or sausage.

In a separate medium bowl, combine Ricotta cheese, 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese and parsley.

Pour 3/4 cup tomato mixture in the bottom of 13 x 9-inch baking pan. Layer one-third of the noodles, half the Ricotta mixture, one-third of the remaining tomato sauce and 1 cup Mozzarella cheese in the baking pan. Repeat layers. Top with remaining noodles, tomato sauce and 1 cup Mozzarella and 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese.

Cover with foil and bake at 350°F for 50 minutes; uncover and bake 15 minutes more. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Second Course

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Italian Roast Chicken with Potatoes

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs chicken pieces
  • 3/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper
  • 20 fresh sage leaves
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 12 cloves garlic
  • 5 potatoes (1 ½ lb), peeled and quartered
  • 1 cup dry white wine

Directions

Season chicken with 1/2 each of the salt and pepper; set aside. Finely chop 4 of the sage leaves; set aside.

In a large ovenproof skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat; saute garlic cloves and remaining whole sage leaves until garlic is lightly browned, 1 minute. With a slotted spoon, set sage aside for garnish. Remove garlic and set aside. Brown chicken, in batches, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

Add potatoes to the pan; sauté until browned, about 7 minutes. Pour off fat. Return chicken and any accumulated juices to the pan. Add wine, remaining salt and pepper, garlic cloves and chopped sage; bring to boil.

Place pan in the oven preheated to in 425°F (220°C) and roast, basting 2 or 3 times, until the sauce is thickened and juices run clear when chicken is pierced, about 30 minutes. Serve garnished with reserved fried sage leaves.

Italian Tossed Green Salad with Olive Oil Vinaigrette

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Dessert

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Struffoli

Ingredients

For the Dough:

  • 3 1/3 cups (400 g) flour
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon anise liqueur
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • The zest of half a lemon, grated
  • The zest of half an orange, grated
  • 1 pinch salt

For the struffoli:

  • Olive oil for frying
  • 3/4 pound (300 g) honey
  • 3/4 cup (150 g) sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • Colored sprinkles
  • 4 candied cherries, halved

Directions

Combine the ingredients for the dough, knead it well and let rest for at least an hour, covered. It does take a while for the dough to absorb the eggs.

Pluck off a piece, roll it out under your fingers to form a snake about as thin as your pinkie and cut the dough into quarter-inch long pieces. Fry the pieces a few at a time in hot oil until brown and drain them on absorbent paper. Repeat with remaining dough.

In another pot, preferably round-bottomed, put the honey, sugar and water in it. Boil the mixture until the foam dies down and it begins to turn yellow. At this point reduce the heat as much as possible and add the struffoli. Stir to distribute everything evenly through the honey and turn the mixture out onto a plate. Using your fingers shape the mixture into a wreath with a hole in the middle or in a dome shape, dipping your hands frequently into cold water so you don’t burn yourself.

Sprinkle with colored sprinkles and arrange the cherry halves evenly. Struffoli will keep a week or more, if covered, and the dessert improves with age.



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