Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Pasta

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Although sweet potatoes may be part of the Thanksgiving tradition, be sure to add these naturally sweet vegetables to your meals throughout the year; they are some of the most nutritious vegetables around. Sweet potatoes can be found in your local market year-round, however they are in season in November and December.

They also have many health benefits.

1.  They are high in vitamin B6.

2. They are a good source of vitamin C.

3.  They contain Vitamin D.

4.  Sweet potatoes contain iron.

5.  Sweet potatoes are a good source of mag­nesium.

6.  They are a source of potassium.

7. Sweet potatoes are sweet-tasting but their natural sugars are slowly released into the bloodstream.

8. Their rich orange color indicates that they are high in beta carotene and other carotenoids.,

In the U.S., there is often much confusion between sweet potatoes and yams. They are completely different foods, belonging to different plant families. This confusion exists for two reasons. First, as a shopper, it is possible for you to find sweet potatoes and yams that look reasonably alike in terms of size, skin color and flesh color. Second, government agencies have allowed these terms to be used interchangeably on labeling, so that you often cannot rely on the grocery store signs to help you determine whether you are looking at a bin full of sweet potatoes or a bin full of yams. For example, in many stores you can find bins that are labeled “Red Garnet Yams” and “Jewel Yams” and the foods in these bins are actually sweet potatoes.

Here are some general practical rules that you can follow:

  • In most U.S. groceries, you should assume that you are always purchasing a sweet potato, even if the sign says “yams.” Over 1 million sweet potatoes are commercially grown in the U.S. each year, while commercial production of yams in the U.S. is rare.
  • Don’t use flesh color to decide whether you are getting a sweet potato or a yam. Both root vegetables come in a variety of colors. Once again, you should assume that you are getting a sweet potato regardless of the flesh color.
  • If you are seeking a true yam (from the plant genus Dioscorea), it might be helpful to visit a more internationally focused store that specializes in foods from tropical countries.

The sweet potato is a tropical plant that was brought to Italy and Spain by Columbus. From there it spread to Austria, Germany, Belgium and England. Within the U.S., over half of all commercially grown sweet potatoes come from the southern states (especially North Carolina).

Choose sweet potatoes that are firm and do not have any cracks, bruises or soft spots. Avoid those that are displayed in the refrigerated section of the produce department since cold temperatures negatively alter their taste.

Sweet potatoes should be stored in a cool, dark and well-ventilated place (in a brown paper bag with multiple air holes punched in it) where they will keep fresh for up to ten days. They should not be kept in the refrigerator.

Try them roasted, mashed, steamed, baked or grilled. You can add them to soups and stews or grill and place on top of leafy greens for a delicious salad. Puree them and add to smoothies and baked goods.

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Sweet Potato-Sausage Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced large
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3/4 pound sweet or hot Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 2 sweet potatoes (1 pound total), peeled and diced
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup small pasta shells
  • 4 cups roughly chopped mixed greens, such as kale, Swiss chard or spinach
  • Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Directions

In a large pot, heat oil over medium-high. Add onion and garlic and cook until onion is translucent, about 6 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Add sausage and cook, breaking up meat with a wooden spoon, until browned, about 5 minutes.

Add sweet potatoes, broth and 2 cups water and bring to a boil. Add pasta and cook 3 minutes less than the package instructions. Reduce to a simmer, add greens and cook until the pasta is tender and greens are wilted, about 4 minutes. Serve with Parmesan.

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Sweet Potato Frittata

The peppers and sweet potatoes can be cooked ahead of time.

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 red pepper, roasted and thinly sliced
  • 1 yellow pepper, roasted and thinly sliced
  • 2 pounds (about 3) sweet potatoes
  • 5 whole eggs
  • 5 egg whites (or refrigerated egg substitute)
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1 bunch (about 6 ounces) greens, blanched and chopped
  • 1/4 cup crumbled Feta cheese (plus more to garnish)
  • Chopped fresh parsley

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Char the peppers on an open fire or under the broiler. Steam them for five minutes in a bag or covered bowl and peel. Seed them, then cut into 1/4-inch strips.

Bake potatoes in the oven or in the microwave until they are tender. Allow them to cool to room temperature. When the potatoes have cooled, peel them and cut into 1/4-inch slices.

Beat whole eggs, egg whites and Italian seasoning together and season with salt and black pepper.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large, 10-inch ovenproof sauté pan. Add the onions and sauté until brown. Remove to a bowl and season onions with salt and pepper.

Return sauté pan to the stove on medium heat and add the remaining olive oil. Add a layer of potatoes, followed by 1/3 of the onions, peppers and greens. Pour a third of the egg mixture over the vegetables. Repeat until all of the ingredients are in the pan. You may need to push the layers of the frittata down gently so that all of the ingredients are covered by the egg mixture. Sprinkle top with feta cheese.

Place the pan in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until the eggs are set and the top is golden brown.

Slide onto a warm serving platter, garnish with chopped parsley and additional feta cheese. Cool for five minutes. Slice and serve.

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Sweet Potato Gnocchi

Serves 8 as a First Course

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 lb russet (baking potatoes)
  • 1 (3/4-lb) sweet potato
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano plus more for serving
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups all-purpose flour plus more for dusting
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup sage leaves 
  • 1/3 cup bottled roasted chestnuts, very thinly sliced with a sharp vegetable peeler
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

GNOCCHI:

Preheat oven to 450°F with the oven rack in middle.

Pierce potatoes in several places with a fork, then bake in a 4-sided pan until just tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Cool potatoes slightly, then peel and force through a ricer into a sheet pan, spreading in an even layer. Cool potatoes completely.

Lightly flour 2 or 3 large baking sheets or line with parchment paper.

Beat together egg, nutmeg, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a small bowl.

Scoop potatoes into a mound in the sheet pan, using a pastry scraper, if you have one, and form a well in the center.

Pour egg mixture into the well, then mix into the potatoes. Mix in cheese and 1 1/2 cups flour, then knead, adding more flour as necessary, until mixture forms a smooth but slightly sticky dough. Dust top lightly with some flour.

Cut dough into 6 pieces. Form 1 piece of dough into a 1/2-inch-thick rope on a lightly floured surface. Cut rope into 1/2-inch pieces. Gently roll each piece into a ball and lightly dust with flour. Repeat with remaining 5 pieces of dough.

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Turn a fork over and hold at a 45-degree angle, with the tips of tines touching work surface. Working with 1 at a time, roll gnocchi down the fork tines, pressing with your thumb, to make ridges on 1 side. Transfer gnocchi as formed to floured baking sheets.

SAGE LEAVES AND CHESTNUTS:

Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat until it shimmers. Fry sage leaves in 3 batches, stirring, until they turn just a shade lighter and crisp (they will continue to crisp as they cool), about 30 seconds per batch. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Season lightly with salt.

Fry chestnuts in 3 batches, stirring, until golden and crisp, about 30 seconds per batch. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Season lightly with salt. Reserve oil in the skillet.

SAUCE:

Add butter to oil in the skillet with 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook until golden-brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

COOK GNOCCHI:

Add half of the gnocchi to a pasta pot of well-salted boiling water and stir. Cook until they float to the surface, about 3 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to the skillet with the butter sauce. Cook remaining gnocchi in same manner, transferring to the skillet as cooked.

Heat gnocchi in the skillet over medium heat, stirring to coat.

Serve sprinkled with fried sage and chestnuts and grated cheese.

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Italian Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Sweet Potatoes

4 servings

Vegetables

  • 1 tablespoon olive
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped (about 1/2 teaspoon)
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes (about 1 lb), peeled, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 medium yellow onion, cut into 8 wedges each

Pork

  • 2 pork tenderloins (about 3/4 to 1 lb each)
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, if desired

Directions

Heat oven to 425°F.

In large bowl, mix the 1 tablespoon oil, 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning, 1/4 teaspoon salt and the garlic together. Add the sweet potatoes and onions; toss to coat. Spread in a 9×13-inch pan. Roast uncovered 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, brush pork tenderloins with the 1/2 tablespoon oil. In a small bowl, stir together 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning, 1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt and the Parmesan cheese.

Move vegetables to the center of the baking pan; place one pork tenderloin on each side. Sprinkle seasoning mixture evenly over pork.

Roast uncovered 20 to 25 minutes longer or until thermometer reads 155°F. Cover pan with foil; let stand 5 minutes or until thermometer reads 160°F. (Temperature will continue to rise about 5°F, and pork will be easier to carve.)

Cut pork into 1-inch-thick slices; arrange on a platter with sweet potatoes and onions. Sprinkle with parsley.

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Sweet Potato Latte

Ingredients

  • 1 small sweet potato
  • 1 ¼ cups unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant espresso coffee crystals
  • 1/8-1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Ground cinnamon
  • Cinnamon stick

Directions

Prick sweet potato several times with a fork. Wrap potato in a damp paper towel. Microwave on 100 percent power (high) for 3 minutes. Turn potato over; microwave for 2 to 3 minutes more or until tender. Cool slightly. Remove and discard peel. Mash potato with a fork; measure 1/3 cup. Save any remainder for another use.

In a blender combine the 1/3 cup mashed sweet potato, almond milk, brown sugar, coffee and 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (according to taste). Cover and blend on high-speed for 1 minute.

Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a small saucepan. Cook and stir over medium-low heat until heated through. Transfer to a heat-proof mug. If desired, sprinkle with additional ground cinnamon and garnish with a cinnamon stick. Makes one serving.

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It seems that summer went by so quickly. And here we are on the verge of Halloween.

This is the time of year when kids are getting back into the swing of classes and homework and parents are gearing up for busy evenings filled with after-school activities. These quick weeknight meals will help you fit dinner into the family’s schedule every night. With a little creative planning and a handy list of go-to meals, you can make quick meals for busy nights. You’ll avoid fast food, eat well and spend less!

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Lemony Chicken

Serve with cooked rice and steamed broccoli florets.

Ingredients

  • 6 medium boneless skinless chicken breast halves (1-1/2 pounds)
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoons pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 lemons, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Hot cooked rice
  • Broccoli florets

Directions

Place each chicken breast between two pieces of plastic wrap. Pound lightly into a rectangle about 1/4 to 1/8 inch thick. Remove plastic wrap.

In a shallow bowl, combine the flour, salt, pepper, oregano and garlic powder. Coat chicken breasts with flour mixture, pressing it into the chicken.

In a 12-inch skillet cook half the chicken breasts in 1 tablespoon and 1 tablespoon oil butter over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes on each side or until brown and no longer pink. Remove chicken from skillet. Repeat with remaining butter, oil and chicken. Remove to the plate with the browned chicken.

Add lemon slices to the skillet; cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until lightly browned, turning once. Return all of the chicken to the skillet, overlapping chicken breasts slightly. Drizzle lemon juice over the chicken breasts. Cook for 2 minutes more to heat through. Serve chicken, lemon slices and pan juices over hot cooked rice. Makes 6 servings.

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Fresh Tomato Topped Pork

Ingredients

  • 4 boneless pork loin chops, 3/4-inches thick
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, quartered and sliced (2 cups)
  • 2 tomatoes, cut into thin wedges
  • 2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
  • Mashed Potatoes, recipe below
  • Peas

Directions

Prepare mashed potatoes according to recipe below.

Season chops with salt and pepper.

In 12-inch skillet heat oil over medium-high heat. Add pork chops; cook 3 minutes. Turn pork over, add onion. Cook 10 minutes more or until chops are cooked through (160F), and stirring onion occasionally. Transfer chops to serving plates leaving onion in the pan.

Add tomatoes and vinegar to onion; cook and stir 1 minute more. Pour sauce over pork chops.

Serve with mashed potatoes and peas. Makes 4 servings.

Mashed Potatoes

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds russet or Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup milk
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add potatoes and cook until tender but still firm, about 15 minutes; drain. Return drained pot to the heat and heat butter and milk until butter is melted. Return potatoes to the drained pot with the milk/butter mixture.

Using a potato masher or an immersion blender, slowly blend milk mixture and potatoes until smooth and creamy. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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Tortellini Primavera

Serve with a green salad and whole-grain baguette.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 14 1/2-ounce can vegetable broth or reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 cup shredded Italian fontina cheese or 3/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, plus extra for the pasta
  • 16-ounce bag of your favorite frozen mixed vegetables
  • 16-ounce package frozen cheese tortellini

Directions

Put a large pot of water on to boil.

Whisk broth and flour in a small bowl.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until just beginning to brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the broth mixture to the pan, bring to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 3 minutes.

Remove from the heat and stir in cheese, Italian seasoning and salt.

Add salt and tortellini to the boiling water; return the water to a boil. after 3 minutes add the frozen vegetables and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook until the vegetables and tortellini are tender, 2-3 minutes. Drain; add to the skillet with the sauce and stir to coat. Serve with additional grated cheese.

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Ham and Spinach Frittata

Serve with some fresh Italian bread and the red leaf lettuce salad.

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 small russet potatoes (about 3/4 pound), peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 9 large eggs
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed of excess liquid
  • 4 ounces Cheddar, grated (1 cup)
  • 4 ounces thinly sliced deli ham, cut into 2-inch pieces

Salad

  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 head red leaf lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces (6 cups)

Directions

Heat oven to 400° F. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large ovenproof nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the potatoes and onion and cook, turning occasionally, until the potatoes are tender, 12 to 15 minutes.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Mix in the spinach, Cheddar and ham.

Add the egg mixture to the skillet, stir once, and transfer the skillet to the oven. Cook until the eggs are set, 12 to 14 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the vinegar, mustard, the remaining tablespoon of oil, and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Add the lettuce and toss to coat. Serve alongside the frittata.

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Salmon Burgers

Serve with frozen sweet potato fries heated in the oven and Easy Cucumber Salad.

Ingredients

  • 16 oz canned salmon, drained (or leftover cooked salmon)
  • 3/4 cup panko (Japanese-style bread crumbs)
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons snipped parsley
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 recipe Lemon Mayonnaise, recipe below
  • Sandwich buns and leaf lettuce
  • Easy Cucumber Salad, recipe below

Directions

In a mixing bowl combine panko, green onions, parsley, ginger, garlic, eggs, soy sauce and lemon juice. Stir in salmon.

Line a tray with parchment paper or foil. Divide salmon into four (2/3-cup) mounds on the tray. Shape into 1-inch-thick patties. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate 30 minutes while you prepare the other dinner ingredients.

Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add salmon patties. Cook 4 to 5 minutes per side or until cooked through (160 degrees F). Serve with Mayonnaise topping on buns with lettuce.

Lemon Mayonnaise

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons red onion, minced
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice

Directions

In a bowl stir together mayonnaise, red onion, and lime juice. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

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Easy Cucumber Salad

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar, honey or agave syrup
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 English seedless cucumber, peeled and sliced

Directions

Whisk together the vinegar, parsley, dill, garlic, sugar and salt in a bowl; stir well. Add the cucumber and stir to coat.


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WHITE BIRCHES by Leonid Afremov

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

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

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

Pasta Bake

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

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Baked Pumpkin and Sausage Rigatoni

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

8 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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Bucatini with Mushrooms

4 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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Pasta Shells with Chicken and Brussels Sprouts

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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Sausage-Cauliflower Spaghetti

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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Penne with Fennel and Pork Ragù

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


beans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Basic Directions for Cooking Dried Beans

Makes about 6 cups

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

Soak the beans using one of these two methods:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Orecchiette Pasta with Spinach and Beans

Serves 4

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

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

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

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Bean and Sausage Stew

4 Servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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Herbed Lentils with Spinach and Tomatoes

Serve with pita bread

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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Beans and Broccoli 

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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Braised Chicken with Fennel and White Beans

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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


 

 

Valt2Valtellina or the Valtelline (occasionally spelled as two words in English: Val Telline) is a valley in the Lombardy region of northern Italy, bordering Switzerland. Today, it is known for its ski center, hot spring spas, bresaola, cheeses and wines. In past centuries, it was a key alpine pass between northern Italy and Germany and control of the Valtelline was much sought after, particularly during the Thirty Years’ War.

The earliest settlements date back to prehistoric times: prior to the Roman conquest, the area was inhabited by Rhaetians and Celts.Thanks to its strategic position at a crossroads on one of the main routes connecting northern Italy with the trans alpine regions (the Via Imperiale d’Alemagna), it was already being fought over in the 10th century by various potentates, passing from one ruling power to the next (the bishops of Cosmo and Chur, the Visconti and Sforza families, France and Spain), although it maintained its municipal independence thanks to a 14th – century statute that gave its residents special rights and privileges and helped it become a commercial center.

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Valtellina is also an area of great natural beauty. Nature lovers and sports enthusiasts come here to enjoy a whole range of outdoor pursuits all year round, in a valley dominated by some of the most beautiful and best-known mountains in the Alps. Its internationally renowned tourist resorts have been attracting skiers and mountaineers from Italy and abroad since the 19th century. The best skiing resorts are Bormio, Santa Caterina Valfurva, Livigno, Aprica and Madesimo, the venue of such international events as the 1985 and 2005 World Alpine Skiing Championships.

Ski Trails

Ski Trails

The Stelvio National Park, one of Europe’s largest protected areas covering 134.620 hectares of central Alpine territory, straddles two italian regions: Lombardy and Trentino Alto Adige. The idea to protect this area in the Italian alps was first proposed at the beginning of the 20th century, although the law creating the park was not approved until 1935, and only as recently as 1977 were its present borders defined. The scenery of the park, which ranges in altitude from 650 to 3905 meters (over 12,000 feet), includes glaciers, alpine pasture, extensive woodland, agricultural holdings with farmsteads inhabited all year round, glacial lakes and mountain streams.

Stelvio National Park

Stelvio National Park

Other areas of natural interest include: the Valtellina Orobian Alps Regional Park, the Acqua Fraggia Waterfalls and several nature reserves (Marmitte dei Giganti, Pian di Spagna and Lake Mezzola, the Postalesio Pyramids, the Bordighi Forest, Pian di Gembro and Paluaccio di Oga.

Valtellina’s grapes are grown on the mountain slopes in an east-west direction, which means maximum light exposure:, so the vineyards enjoy similar sunshine hours to those in Sicily. Vines are almost all planted on terraces carved into the granite and slate rock. All grape picking is by hand, as is the heavy work of hauling grapes up and down the slopes – around three-times more man-hours are required to work these vines than the gentler slopes of Piedmont. A few growers have invested in funicular transporters and even helicopters to aid in this back-breaking work. Nebbiolo has always been the only grape variety bottled in the region’s red wines, though recently some experimental plantings of Merlot and Pinot Noir are being watched with interest.

Mountain Vineyards

Mountain Vineyards

A number of ingredients make up pizzocheri; a local pasta made with a grain known as grano saraceno. This is a medium-width pasta much like fettuccine that is cooked with casera, a local cow’s milk cheese and a cabbage known as verza, which has a blend of sweet and slightly bitter flavors.

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Valt6Other famous foods of Valtellina include bresaola, a cured meat served in an antipasti. This is usually made from beef, but sometimes a restaurant will serve bresaola made from deer, written on the menu as cerva. The most famous food from here is Bitto, a D.O.P. cheese that is aged for various periods ranging from 70 days to 10 years. Primarily a cow’s milk cheese (up to 10 percent goat’s milk may be added) and is made only during the summer in the area’s mountain dairies.

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VALTELLINA PIZZOCHERi

Original recipe of the Pizzocchero Teglio ®

Coded and registered by the Academy of Pizzocchero Teglio

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 400 g of buckwheat flour
  • 100 g white flour
  • 200 g of butter
  • 250 g of cheese Valtellina Casera DOP (protected origin den.ne)
  • 150 g of grated parmesan cheese in
  • 200 g of cabbage
  • 250 g of potatoes
  • a clove of garlic, pepper

Preparation:

Mix the two flours, mix with water and work for about 5 minutes.

With a rolling-pin roll the dough to a thickness of 2-3 mm which are derived from the bands 7 -8 cm. Overlap the strips and cut widthwise, tagliatelle getting about 5 millimeters wide. Bake the vegetables in salted water, the cabbage into small pieces and potatoes into chunks, add the pizzocheri after 5 minutes ( the potatoes are always present, while cabbage can be replaced, according to the seasons, with ribbed or green beans.)After about ten minutes to collect pizzocheri with a slotted spoon and pour a part in a very hot pan, sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese and Valtellina Casera dop flakes Continue alternating pizzocheri and cheese. Fry the butter with the garlic color leaving for good, before pouring it on pizzocheri. pizzocheri. Without stirring serve hot with a sprinkling of pepper.

The Cuisine of Valtellina

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Insalata Della Valtellina (Bresaola salad)

Bresaola is cured, air-dried beef typically made in the Valtellina area of Lombardy. Lean and tender with a little added salt, it is perfect in salads. It is readily available in Italian delis and larger supermarkets.

Ingredients

  • 3 slices bread
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4-5 Romaine lettuce leaves, separated
  • A small handful arugula
  • 4 oz radishes, sliced
  • 20 black olives
  • 2 eggs, hard-boiled and quartered
  • 3 oz bresaola, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons finely shaved fresh
  • Parmesan, shaved

Dressing

  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, left whole

Directions

Remove the crusts from the bread and slice into small triangles. Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the bread and fry on both sides until golden. Remove and place on a plate.

Combine all the dressing ingredients and whisk together until the dressing is creamy. Remove the garlic clove from the dressing.

Arrange the lettuce leaves, arugula, radishes and olives on a serving dish, drizzle with the dressing and toss well. Arrange the eggs, bresaola and fried bread on top and scatter the Parmesan shavings over all.

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Polenta Taragna alla Valtellinese

It is generally served with salami and pickles.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups polenta mixed with 1 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1/2 cup butter plus 3 tablespoons
  • 1/4 pound casera cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Butter an oven proof dish with 3 tablespoons butter and set aside. In a 6 quart sauce pan, heat 8 cups water to a boil. Whisking furiously, slowly drizzle in mixed flours until all are incorporated. Switch to a wooden spoon.and cook until the texture is thickened. Add the butter and cheese. Stir through and pour into baking dish. Place in the oven for 10 minutes, remove and serve immediately.

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Italian Pork and Vegetable Saute

Ingredients

  • 1 pound boneless sirloin pork chops, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 red bell peppers, cored and cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 10 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
  • Coarse salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine, such as Pinot Grigio

Directions

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add red pepper and cook, stirring often, until beginning to soften, about 1 minute. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until juices evaporate, about 5 minutes. Stir in scallions and cook until wilted, about 1 minute. Transfer to a plate.

Season pork with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to skillet and heat. Add pork and cook, turning occasionally, until browned and meat is slightly pink when pierced in the center with the tip of a sharp knife, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with flour and stir with a wooden spoon to coat the pork.

Add wine and 1/2 cup water and bring to a boil, scraping up browned bits in pan with wooden spoon. Return the vegetables to the pan and cook until the sauce is thickened, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper, if needed. Serve.

Makes 4 servings

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Bisciola

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup golden raisins, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup Grappa, Port or Marsala (dessert wine)
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of whole milk
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons or 1 packet (¼-ounce) active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup spelt, rye or whole wheat flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • A pinch of kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 large egg yolk, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (about 15) dried figs, roughly chopped
  • 3/4 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts, pistachios or hazelnuts, roughly chopped
  • 1 egg yolk plus 1 teaspoon water, for brushing dough top

Directions

Combine raisins and grappa or dessert wine in a bowl. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, heat milk over medium until just warm. Transfer to a mixing bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer. Sprinkle yeast and sugar over the milk. Let mixture stand until foamy, 5 to 10 minutes.

While yeast is foaming, put flour, salt and sugar in a bowl and whisk to combine. With mixer at medium-low, add half of the flour mixture to the yeast mixture.

Mix until well blended, then add the remaining flour mixture along with the butter and egg yolk. Mix for five minutes on low.

Drain raisins, discarding the liquid. Add raisins, figs and all the nuts to the dough. Mix on low until just incorporated.

Remove the bowl from mixer and knead dough with your hands to finish incorporating ingredients and forming a stiff, wet dough.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Turn dough out on the prepared pan and form the dough into an 8-inch oval loaf. Cover with plastic wrap or a lightly dampened towel.

Let rest at room temperature until double in size, about 2 hours.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F with a rack in the middle of oven.

In a small bowl, beat 1 egg yolk with a teaspoon of water. Brush dough with the egg mixture then bake, rotating pan halfway through, until golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes.

Remove and cool on wire rack. Will last 4 to 5 days wrapped in plastic.

Related Articles


 

freezing3With a little pre-planning, you can stock your freezer with family friendly weeknight dinners, easy sauces and sides, quick dessert toppings and breakfast options. You can also preserve the late summer and fall fruits and vegetables by freezing.

Freezing slows down bacterial growth, but doesn’t kill it, so start with good quality produce. There’s nothing more disappointing than spending your time and money to freeze food and have to throw it away when it doesn’t taste good.

Foods That Freeze Well

  • Meat, poultry and fish all can be frozen with success. Raw meat is preferable for long storage because it doesn’t dry out or get freezer burn as fast as cooked meat.
  • Breads and baked goods can freeze and do well in the freezer. This includes cakes, pies, muffins, bagels, quick and yeast breads both as dough/batter or baked, cookies raw or baked and pizza dough raw or baked.
  • Butter and margarine freeze well.
  • Beans can save you money, if you buy dry beans then soak and cook them yourself instead of buying the canned variety.
  • Rice can also freeze and cooking it ahead can save time.

Foods That Can Freeze But Will Change In Texture

  • Fruits and vegetables all soften and those with high water content do not freeze well. Fruit that still has ice crystals can be eaten as is after thawing but most fruits and veggies should be used for cooking after being frozen.
  • Potatoes freeze well and make quick side dishes, however they must be cooked before freezing to insure they don’t turn black.
  • Pastas will become much softer after they are frozen and should only be cooked about three-quarters of the recommended time. Also pastas frozen in liquid or sauce will absorb much of the sauce.
  • Milk and dairy products can be frozen but may separate after being frozen. Cheese will become crumbly and hard to slice but is fine for cooking or melting.
  • Herbs lose their texture but retain their flavor. Frozen herbs can be used for cooked dishes but not for garnishes.
  • Raw eggs removed from their shells can be frozen but should be mixed with a bit of salt or sugar to keep them from turning rubbery.
  • Cooked eggs that are scrambled freeze well. Boiled eggs don’t do as well because the whites get rubbery.
  • Fried foods lose their crispness but do ok when reheated in the oven.
  • Salty, fatty items, such as bacon, sausage, ham, hot dogs, some lunch meats and some fish do not last long in the freezer. The USDA only recommends freezing these items for 1-2 months. The salt causes fat to go rancid in the freezer. If it looks or smells ‘off’ toss it.

Foods That Don’t Freeze Well

  • Cornstarch looses it’s thickening power. Use a roux made of butter and flour (or rice flour if you’re gluten-free) instead to thicken your casseroles.
  • Gelatin weeps or loses water.
  • Vegetables such as lettuces, celery, radishes and cucumbers become  watery.
  • Melons get very soft and lose much of their juice. They can still be used for smoothies but generally are not good frozen.
  • Meringue toppings become tough and rubbery.
  • Custards and cream puddings can separate.
  • Mayonnaise tends to separate.
  • Crumb toppings for things like casseroles or desserts can become soggy.
  • Egg white based icing or frosting can become frothy or weep.
Freezer Burn - Meat

Freezer Burn – Meat

Freezer Burn - Fruit

Freezer Burn – Fruit

Tips for Frozen Foods

  • Before freezing hot food, it’s important to let it cool down. Heat will raise the temperature of the freezer and the food will not freeze uniformly; the outer edges of the hot dish will freeze hard quickly, while the inside might not cool in time to prevent spoilage.
  • Poorly wrapped foods run the risk of developing freezer burn and unpleasant odors from other foods in the freezer. Use only specialty freezer wrappings: they should be both moisture-proof and vapor-proof.
  • Leave as little air as possible in the packages and containers. When freezing liquids in containers, allow a small amount of headroom for expansion. When using freezer bags, be sure to remove as much air as possible before sealing.
  • Use rigid containers with an air-tight lids and keep the sealing edge free from moisture or food to ensure proper closure.
  • Write the name of the dish and the date on the package with a marker.
  • In many cases, meats and fish wrapped by the grocer or butcher need no extra attention before freezing. However, meat wrapped on Styrofoam trays with plastic wrap will not hold up well to freezing. If the food you want to freeze was not specially wrapped, then re-wrap them at home.
  • Freeze in small containers with no more than a 1-quart capacity to ensure that freezing takes place in a timely manner (i.e., within four hours). Food that is two inches thick will take about two hours to freeze completely.
  • A temperature of 0 degrees F (-18 degrees C) is best for maintaining food quality.
  • With the exception of muffins, breads and other baked goods, do not thaw foods at room temperature. Bacteria can grow in the thawed portion of prepared foods, releasing toxins that are unsafe to eat even after cooking. To ensure that your food is safe to eat, thaw overnight in the refrigerator.

This information below lists recommended storage times for popular pre-cooked foods–casseroles, soups, lasagna–to ensure high-quality results:

Type of Food

  • Tomato/vegetable sauces 6 months
  • Meatloaf (any type of meat) 6 months
  • Soups and stews 2-3 months
  • Poultry and Meat Casseroles 6 months
  • Poultry (cooked, no gravy) 3 months
  • Poultry (with gravy/sauce) 5-6 months
  • Meatballs in sauce 6 months
  • Pizza dough (raw, homemade) 3-4 weeks
  • Muffins/quick breads (baked) 2-3 months

Recipes below give you some ideas of all the different ways frozen meals can be put together to save you time in the future.

freezing

Freezer Corn Saute

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh chives
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 14 ears of corn, husks and silks removed
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped red or green bell pepper (1 medium)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped sweet onion (1 medium)
  • Four 1-quart freezer ziplock bags

Directions

In a small bowl combine butter, chives, parsley, salt and black pepper. Shape mixture into a 5-inch log. Wrap in waxed paper or plastic wrap. Freeze about 1 hour or until firm.

In a covered 8-quart pot cook corn in enough boiling water to cover for 3 minutes; drain. Plunge corn into two extra-large bowls of ice water. Let stand until chilled. Cut kernels from cobs. (There should be about 7 cups.)

Line two 15x10x1-inch baking pans with parchment paper or foil. Spread corn kernels, bell pepper and onion in an even layer in the prepared pans. Freeze, loosely covered, about 2 hours or until nearly firm.

Divide vegetables evenly among four 1-quart freezer bags. Cut butter log into eight slices. Add 2 slices of butter to each bag. Squeeze air from bags; seal and label. Freeze for up to 6 months.

To reheat each portion

Transfer frozen vegetable mixture to a medium saucepan or skillet. Cook, covered, over medium heat for 10 to 12 minutes or until butter is melted and vegetables are heated through, stirring occasionally.

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Eat Twice Lasagna

Ingredients

  • 1 package (16 ounces) lasagna noodles
  • 3 pounds ground turkey or beef
  • 3 jars (26 ounces each) spaghetti sauce or 10 cups homemade sauce
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1-1/2 pounds ricotta cheese
  • 6 cups (24 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Cook noodles to the al dente stage. Don’t overcook. The pasta will have additional cooking time in the oven. Drain and place noodles on clean kitchen cloths.

In a Dutch oven, cook turkey or beef over medium heat until no longer pink; drain. Pour into a large mixing bowl and stir in the spaghetti sauce.

In another large bowl, combine the eggs, ricotta cheese, 4-1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, parsley, salt and pepper.

Spread 1 cup meat sauce in each of two greased 13-in.x 9-in. baking dishes.

Layer each with three noodles, 1 cup ricotta mixture and 1-1/2 cups meat sauce. Repeat layers twice.

Top with Parmesan cheese and remaining mozzarella cheese.

Cover and freeze one lasagna for up to 3 months. Cover and bake remaining lasagna at 375°F for 45 minutes.

Uncover; bake 10 minutes longer or until bubbly. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting.

To use frozen lasagna

Thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Cover with foil and bake at 375°F for 60-70 minutes or until heated through. Uncover; bake 10 minutes longer or until bubbly. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting.

Yield: 2 lasagnas (12 servings each).

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Blueberry Oatmeal Pancakes

You can freeze these in single-serving portions (in ziploc bags) and reheat in the microwave for a quick breakfast.

Ingredients

  • 3 1/3 cups self rising flour
  • 1 1/3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 4 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 cups milk
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups blueberries
  • Maple syrup or maple flavored yogurt, for serving

Directions

In a large bowl, combine flour, oats, sugar and baking soda.

In another bowl, whisk together yogurt, milk, butter, vanilla and eggs. Pour mixture over dry ingredients and stir using a rubber spatula just until moist. Add blueberries and gently toss to combine.

Lightly coat a griddle or nonstick skillet with nonstick spray or brush with oil. Scoop 1/3 cup batter for each pancake and cook until bubbles appear on the top and the underside is nicely browned, about 2 minutes. Turn and cook pancakes on the other side, about 1-2 minutes longer.

freezing5

Frozen Spinach and Feta Stuffed Chicken Breasts

What is great about this recipe is that the chicken can be cooked without defrosting first.

Makes 12

Ingredients

  • 12 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (not cutlets)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 6 oz reduced-fat cream cheese
  • 1 cup feta cheese
  • 4 cups baby spinach leaves, chopped fine
  • 12 quart sized freezer ziplock bags
  • 2 gallon sized ziplock bags

Directions

In a mixing bowl combine the chopped spinach, the cream cheese and feta.

Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Make a slit in the side of the chicken breast to create a pocket.

Fill each chicken breast with the cheese mixture.

Place each stuffed breast separately in a quart sized freezer ziplock bag. Squeeze out all the air in the bag before sealing.

Place 6 bags in a gallon freezer ziplock bag and the other six in another.Squeeze out the air and freeze.

To cook

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Remove as many chicken breasts as you need for dinner and place them in a baking dish coated with non-stick cooking spray. Bake, covered with foil, for one hour or until tender and no longer pink in the center.

freezing6

Kid Friendly Lemony Chicken Noodle Soup

8 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 carrots and/or parsnips, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 2 pounds bone-in chicken breasts, skin removed
  • 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup small pasta
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Directions

Heat the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the carrots and/or parsnips, celery, onion, thyme, 1½ teaspoons salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are tender and just beginning to brown, 10 to 12 minutes.

Add the chicken, chicken broth and 4 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until the chicken is cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the chicken and place on a cutting board. When it is cool enough to handle, shred the meat with 2 forks; discard the bones.

Meanwhile, add the pasta to the soup and simmer until al dente, 6 to 10 minutes. Add the chicken, lemon juice, and parsley and stir to combine.

This soup can be frozen in freezer-safe containers for up to 3 months. Freezing individual servings can be helpful for a quick lunch.

To reheat

Run the containers under warm water until the soup loosens from the container. Transfer to a pot and heat over medium, covered, stirring occasionally, until heated through.


cookingsausage3

Sausage consists of meat, cut into pieces or ground, that is stuffed into a casing along with other ingredients. Ingredients may include a starch filler, such as breadcrumbs, seasoning spices and sometimes vegetables. The meat may be from any animal, but most often is pork, beef or veal. More common today are sausages made from chicken and turkey. The lean meat-to-fat ratio is dependent upon the style of sausage. Speciality sausages with other ingredients, such as apple and leek, are also popular.

In some jurisdictions foods described as sausages must meet regulations governing their content. For example, in the United States, The Department of Agriculture specifies that the fat content of different defined types of pork sausage may not exceed 30% to 50% by weight. Italian sausage must be at least 85% meat. Most Italian sausage contains salt, pepper, fennel and/or anise and no more than 3% water. Optional ingredients permitted in Italian Sausages are spices (including paprika) and flavorings, red or green peppers, onions, garlic and parsley, sugar, dextrose and corn syrup. The italian Sausage i buy from Fortuna does not contain any preservatives or sweetners and is low in fat. See the post I wrote recently on this type of sausage.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture mandates that fresh sausage contain no sodium nitrite and/or potassium nitrite or nitrates. However, cured sausages normally contain one of these preservatives, which are suspected of contributing to cancer. Many people are allergic to nitrites and nitrates, as well as some fillers, such as soy, so beware of these ingredients in commercial cured varieties. Read the ingredients label. There are a number of brands available today without nitrates.

Cured varieties also contain high amounts of salt, necessary to the curing process, which could be a potential problem for those with high blood pressure.

Precooked chicken sausage is convenient. Keep a package or two on hand to accompany Sunday morning pancake breakfasts or to sauté with sliced peppers and onions for a quick weeknight dinner. Two brands that I like are Applegate Farms and Al Fresco. These companies also make excellent breakfast sausages.

Many traditional styles of sausage from Europe and Asia contain only meat, fat and flavorings. In the United Kingdom and other countries with English cuisine traditions, many sausages contain a significant proportion of bread and starch-based fillers, which may comprise 30% of the ingredients.The filler used in many sausages helps them to keep their shape as they are cooked. As the meat contracts in the heat, the filler expands and absorbs moisture and fat from the meat. Many nations and regions have their own characteristic sausages, using meats and other ingredients native to the region to create their traditional dishes.

There are a wide variety of different sausages available throughout the world, however, they all fall into just a few basic categories.

Typical Sausage Classifications

  • Cooked sausages are made with fresh meats and then fully cooked. They are either eaten immediately after cooking or must be refrigerated. Examples include hot dogs, Braunschweig and liver sausage.
  • Cooked smoked sausages are cooked and then smoked or smoke-cooked. They are eaten hot or cold, but need to be refrigerated. Examples include kielbasa and mortadella. Some are slow cooked while smoking, in which case, the process takes several days or longer.
  • Fresh sausages are made from meats that have not been previously cured. They must be refrigerated and thoroughly cooked before eating. Examples include Boerewors, Italian pork sausage, siskonmakkara and breakfast sausage.
  • Fresh smoked sausages are fresh sausages that are smoked and cured. They do not normally require refrigeration and do not require any further cooking before eating. Examples include Mettwurst and Teewurst which are meat preparations packed in sausage casing, but squeezed out of it to serve (just like any other spread from a tube).
  • Dry sausages are cured sausages that are fermented and dried. Some are smoked, as well, at the beginning of the drying process. They are generally eaten cold and will keep for a long time. Examples include salami, Droë worst, Finnish meetvursti, Sucuk, Landjäger (smoked), Slim Jim and summer sausage.
  • Bulk sausage refers to raw, ground, spiced meat, usually sold without any casing.
  • Vegetarian sausages are made without meat. The ingredients are usually soy protein or tofu, with herbs and spices. Some vegetarian sausages are not necessarily vegan and may contain ingredients such as eggs.

Cooking Sausages

Unless you are cooking sausages in a casserole dish or in a sauce, the key to great-tasting fresh sausages that do not get dried out is this: simmer them in beer or water until partially cooked and then finish in the oven or on the grill or stove top.

Fall is a popular time of year to cook with sausage. Tailgating and heartier meals are perfect for this meat. To keep sausage recipes healthy be sure to buy sausages that are pure meat with no fillers and not too much fat or salt. Stretch the amount of sausage used with vegetables and hearty grains.

cookingsausage2

Roasted Brats with Apples and Butternut Squash

Serves 8 to 10

Great for busy weeknights. The apples and butternut squash in this recipe go well with bratwurst, but any mild sausage will work.

Ingredients

  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 2 1/2 cups)
  • 2 apples, sliced
  • 1 cup seedless red grapes
  • 1 small red onion, halved and cut into thick slices
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon crushed caraway seeds
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 6 fresh (uncooked) bratwurst (about 1 1/2 pounds)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450°F. In a large roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet, combine squash, apples, grapes and onion. Sprinkle with oil, caraway seeds, salt and pepper and toss to coat.

Arrange brats over the top. Roast until brats are browned and hot all the way through and the squash is very tender, about 35 minutes.

cookingsausage1

Vegetarian Sausage and Quinoa One-Pot Supper

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces vegetarian sausage, cut into (1/2 inch) cubes
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped sage
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 cups chopped kale or spinach leaves, lightly packed

Directions

In a large skillet with a cover, cook sausage, onions and sage over medium-high heat until just browned, about 10 minutes. Add cider, quinoa, cranberries, salt and 3/4 cup water and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits.

Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until liquid is just absorbed, 25 to 30 minutes. Stir in kale, cover again and set aside off of the heat for 5 minutes. Uncover, fluff with a fork and serve.

cookingsausage4

Chicken Sausage with Potatoes & Sauerkraut

The flavor of the dish will vary depending on what type of chicken sausage you choose. Roasted garlic or sweet apple sausage are best for this recipe. Opt for the crisp texture of refrigerated sauerkraut over canned. Serve with roasted carrots and some mustard to spread on the sausage.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 12 ounces (4 links) cooked chicken sausage, halved lengthwise and cut into 2 to 3-inch pieces
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, halved and cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1 1/2 cups sauerkraut, rinsed
  • 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon caraway seeds
  • 1 bay leaf

Directions

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add sausage and onion and cook, stirring frequently, until beginning to brown, about 4 minutes.

Add potatoes, sauerkraut, wine, pepper, caraway seeds and bay leaf; bring to a simmer. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are tender and most of the liquid has evaporated, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the bay leaf before serving.

cookingsausage5

Mediterranean Penne with Italian Sausage

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 red bell peppers, chopped
  • 1 small fennel bulb, quartered lengthwise, cored and chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 small eggplant, peeled and cut into small chunks
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 pound Italian sweet or hot sausage, casings removed
  • 3 cups homemade or store-bought marinara sauce
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes
  • 1 lb whole wheat penne pasta
  • ½ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

Directions

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet. Add the bell peppers, fennel bulb, onion, eggplant and garlic. Cook, stirring often, over medium heat for 5 minutes, or until the fennel starts to soften. Add the sausage. Cook, breaking up the sausage with the back of a spoon, for 3 minutes, or until no longer pink.

Add the marinara sauce, fennel seeds and red-pepper flakes. Stir to mix. Cover and reduce the heat to low. Cook for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta to the al dente stage. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water.

Place the pasta in a serving bowl. Top with the sauce. Add the reserved cooking water and parmesan cheese. Mix well and serve.

cookingsausage6

Black Beans and Smoked Sausage

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound kielbasa or other smoked sausage, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 medium carrots, diced small
  • 2 shallots, diced small
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cans (15.5 ounces each) black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, plus more for serving

Directions

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high. Add sausage and cook until browned on all sides, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

Add carrots and shallots to the skillet and cook until beginning to soften, about 4 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Add garlic and cook 1 minute.

Add black beans and broth and bring mixture to a boil. Add sausage, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until carrots are tender, about 12 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in parsley.

Serve with hearty country bread.



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