Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Pizza

fingerfoods

How did finger foods come about? Ratified in 1919, the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution banned the manufacture, sale and transportation of liquor. Even before the law took effect in 1920, Congress passed the Volstead Act, or National Prohibition Act, which outlawed the sale of “intoxicating beverages”—defined as any drink containing 0.5 percent or more of alcohol.

Of course, no amount of legislation could transform all Americans into teetotalers; instead, Prohibition simply drove alcohol consumption underground. Millions of people in small towns and large cities imbibed at secret taverns and bars called speakeasies. Many were drab, makeshift saloons in basements or tenements located in shabby parts of town. Some, however, were fine restaurants in their own right, including New York City’s swanky 21 Club, which featured two bars, a dance floor, dining rooms on two levels and underground passageways leading to a secret wine cellar.

To help soak up the booze and drive up sales, some enterprising speakeasy proprietors began offering more than just popular cocktails of the day. Rather than heavy meals, customers were offered assorted bite-sized canapés to snack.

It was also during this period that the custom of hosting cocktail parties at home became fashionable. The rise of these parties led to the popularization of an increasingly wide array of finger foods. Hosts paraded out such popular foods as lobster canapés, caviar rolls, crab meat cocktails, shrimp patties, oyster toast, jellied anchovy molds, radish roses, devilled eggs and savory cheese balls. Sweet selections included fruit cocktail cups topped with powdered sugar or marshmallows.

Even after the 1933 repeal of the 18th Amendment, the practice of serving finger foods at restaurants, bars and cocktail parties lived on and quickly became a popular American culinary tradition. Fannie Farmer’s “Boston Cooking-School Cook Book,”  contained many finger food recipes and became widely used in the United States throughout the 1920s.

Care to whip up some Prohibition-era finger foods at your next holiday gathering? Try the easy recipes below.

fingerfoods1

Mini Appetizer Pizzas

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound prepared pizza dough
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella (5 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup pitted olives, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup jarred or frozen and thawed artichoke hearts, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes (chili)

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Coat each of two rimmed baking sheets with olive oil. Divide prepared pizza dough into 32 equal pieces.

On a lightly floured work surface, press each piece into a 2-inch round with the palm of your hand. Transfer to prepared baking sheets, turning once to coat lightly in oil.

Season with salt and pepper. Divide mozzarella, olives, sun-dried tomatoes and artichoke hearts among rounds. Sprinkle with red-pepper flakes.

Bake until the cheese is bubbling and dough is crisp and golden brown, about 12 minutes.

fingerfoods2

Marinated Olives

Ingredients

  • 2 cups assorted unpitted olives, rinsed and drained
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 thin orange slices
  • 3 thin lemon slices
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme or rosemary
  • Red-pepper flakes (chili)

Directions

In a medium saucepan, combine olives, olive oil, orange slices, lemon slices and fresh thyme. Season to taste with crushed red-pepper flakes.

Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer olives, fruit and herbs to a serving dish; reserve oil for salads.

fingerfoods3

Pancetta-Wrapped Figs

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup red-wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon light-brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon juniper berries
  • 10 whole black peppercorns
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1 cup dried Black Mission figs, stemmed
  • 12 ounces pancetta, sliced into 1/8-inch-thick rounds and cut into 1/2-inch-thick strips

Directions

Bring vinegar, water, sugar, juniper berries, peppercorns, and cloves to a boil in a small saucepan. Add figs, and simmer gently for 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Let stand, covered, to bring to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Transfer figs to a cutting board using a slotted spoon; cut in half. Wrap a pancetta strip around each half. Transfer, seam side down, to a wire rack set on a baking sheet. Bake until pancetta is browned, about 30 minutes. Secure each with a toothpick. Serve warm.

fingerfoods4

Sausage-Cheddar Balls

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 cups grated cheddar (1/2 pound)
  • 1 pound bulk pork, chicken or turkey sausage
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, grated on large holes of a box grater
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper and baking powder. Add cheddar and toss to coat. Add sausage, onion and butter.

With your hands, mix until well combined and roll mixture into 1-inch balls. Place balls, 1/2 inch apart, on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake until balls are golden and cooked through, 25 minutes. Serve warm.

fingerfoods5

Spicy Roasted Chickpeas

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cans (15.5 ounces each) chickpeas, rinsed, drained, and patted dry
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seed
  • Coarse salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Pour olive oil on a rimmed baking sheet and place in the oven until the oil is hot, 3 minutes.

In a medium bowl, combine chickpeas, cayenne pepper, and cumin seed. Season with salt and toss to combine. Place chickpea mixture on hot baking sheet and spread in a single layer.

Bake until chickpeas are crisp, 10 to 12 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels and let cool slightly. Serve warm.

fingerfoods6

Artichoke-Parmesan Crostini

Ingredients

  • 8 slices (1/4 inch thick) baguette
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 jar (6 1/2 ounces) marinated artichoke hearts, drained, rinsed, and patted dry
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Make crostini: Brush baguette slices on both sides with a total of 1 tablespoon oil; season with salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet, and bake, turning over once, until golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool.

Meanwhile, make topping: Finely chop artichokes, and combine in a bowl with Parmesan, parsley, and remaining tablespoon oil.

Dividing evenly, spoon topping on crostini and garnish with additional Parmesan, if desired.

fingerfoods7

Shrimp Salad Canapes

Ingredients

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails removed
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon white-wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons creme fraiche or sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
  • Thin crackers, for serving

Directions

Bring water, wine, 1 teaspoon salt, and the bay leaf to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat, and simmer for 5 minutes. Add half the shrimp, and cook until opaque, about 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon, transfer shrimp to a plate, and let cool. Repeat with remaining shrimp. Cut into 1/2-inch pieces.

Whisk together lemon juice, vinegar and remaining 1 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. Pour in oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking until emulsified. Whisk in creme fraiche. Fold in shallot, chives and shrimp. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (and up to 4 hours). Serve on crackers.


Northern italy

Northern italy

Central italy

Central italy

Southern Italy

Southern Italy

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

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

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

Po Valley

Po Valley

Lake Como

Lake Como

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

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

Italian Olive Trees

Italian Olive Trees

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

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

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

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

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

Classic Regional Recipes

regional carbonade

Carbonade

A classic northern Italian stew.

Ingredients

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

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

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

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

Yield: 4 servings

regional pasta

Spaghetti Aio Oio

A central Italian traditional dish.

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

4-6 servings

regionalpizza

Pizza Margherita

A southern Italian staple.

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

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

For the topping for each pizza, you’ll need

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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


fallpizza

If the chill in the air has you wanting to make some heartier pizzas, look no further for inspiration than the fall farmers’ market. Apples, butternut squash, sage, kale, mushrooms, cauliflower, figs…these ingredients are perfect. The American Heart Association recommends eating eight or more fruit or vegetable servings each day. This fall’s harvest offers the opportunity to revisit the classics while searching for new flavors. What better way to enjoy these ingredients than on a pizza. You can prepare it so many different ways, so experiment and have fun with it. Who knows? Maybe you will create a new family favorite that you can look forward to year after year.

Master Pizza Dough Recipe:

fallpizza5

Make this dough at least one day ahead.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour
  • ½ cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • Semolina flour for dusting

Directions

Combine the flour, salt and yeast in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the oil, honey and water and stir on low-speed until the flour is all absorbed. Switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for 5 to 7 minutes, or as long as it takes to create a smooth, sticky dough. Transfer the dough to floured work surface and gently round into a ball. Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight (or up to 3 days).

fallpizza1

Sage Pesto and Butternut Squash Pizza

For a vegetarian version, leave out the pancetta.

Ingredients

  • One prepared pizza dough, see above, or your favorite pizza dough
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons sage pesto (recipe follows)
  • 3/4 cup caramelized butternut squash (recipe follows)
  • 2 ounces Fontina cheese, shredded
  • 4 thin slices of pancetta cut into bite size pieces
  • 1 leek (white part only), halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4 inch slices
  • Fresh cracked pepper to taste
  • Grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • Freshly grated nutmeg to taste

Sage pesto:

  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh sage leaves
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Caramelized butternut squash:

  • 1/2 small butternut squash cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

For the sage pesto:

Combine the walnuts, sage, parsley, salt and nutmeg in the bowl of a food processor and pulse 10 to 15 times to break up the walnuts and herbs somewhat. With the processor running, slowly pour in the olive oil. Process until smooth. Taste and add additional salt, if needed.

For the caramelized butternut squash:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place the diced squash on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Drizzle with the olive oil and add salt and pepper to taste. Bake for 30 minutes or until the squash is tender, mixing once after 15 minutes. Let cool.

To make the pizza:

Remove dough from the refrigerator and rest at room temperature for 2 hours.

In a small skillet heat the 1 tablespoon of oil and saute the pancetta and leek until  the pancetta begins to brown. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and place a pizza stone on the bottom rack of the oven. On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough a few times and form it into a round flat disc. Roll or stretch the dough out in a 15 inch pizza pan or a 13×9 rectangular baking pan .

Spread the sage pesto on the dough and then evenly distribute the caramelized squash, the Fontina cheese, the pancetta and the leek. Place the pan on the pizza stone and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until lightly brown. Remove from the oven and add fresh cracked pepper, Parmigiano Reggiano, and additional nutmeg. Slice and serve immediately.

fallpizza2

Fennel, Onion and Italian Sausage Pizza

Ingredients:

  • 1 recipe pizza dough, recipe above
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 large fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 ounces whole-milk fresh mozzarella cheese, coarsely grated
  • Freshly shaved Parmesan cheese
  • Chopped fennel fronds, for garnish

Directions:

Remove dough from refrigerator and rest at room temperature for 2 hours. On a lightly floured work surface, gently press the dough into flat disks about 1/2 inch thick and 5 inches in diameter.

At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, place a baking stone on a rack in the lower third of the oven. Heat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Saute crumbled Italian sausage in a skillet until no longer brown. Set aside. In the same skillet heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet. Add onion, thyme, salt and fennel and cook over medium heat until onions are soft and golden and the fennel is tender, about 15 minutes.

On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough a few times and form it into a round flat disc. Roll or stretch the dough out in a 15 inch pizza pan or a 13×9 rectangular baking pan .

Brush the crust with a thin layer of olive oil. Spread with grated mozzarella and top with sausage, the onion and fennel mixture. Season with pepper.

Place the pan on the pizza stone and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until lightly brown.Remove from the oven and transfer to a cutting board. Sprinkle with shaved Parmesan and a few fennel fronds. Let rest for 3 to 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

fallpizza3

Mushroom, Kale Pizza with Roasted Garlic Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 large head roasted garlic, see recipe below
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 large Portobello mushroom, thinly sliced
  • 3 cups torn kale leaves (not tightly packed!)
  • 1 prepared pizza crust, at room temperature
  • 1 cup shredded fontina or mozzarella cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Place a pizza stone on the bottom rack in the oven.

Remove roasted garlic cloves from their skins and place in small bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and mash with fork until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Heat remaining olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushroom slices and cook until softened, 3-5 minutes. Add kale and cook until wilted, about 3 minutes more. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper.

Place pizza dough in a 14-15 inch pizza pan and push dough to the edges.

Spread roasted garlic sauce onto the crust, leaving a 1-inch edge on all sides. Top with half of cheese, mushrooms and kale, then remaining cheese.

Transfer pizza pan to the pizza stone. Bake 15-20 minutes or until crust is golden brown and kale is just beginning to crisp.

Roasted Garlic:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Slice off the top of the head of garlic to expose some of the cloves inside. Place the head on a piece of foil. Drizzle with olive oil and wrap in the foil. Roast until the cloves are lightly browned and tender, about 30 minutes.

fallpizza4

Roasted Fall Vegetable Pizza

Any combination of roasted vegetables, you like, can work in this recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1 small, thin eggplant, sliced thin
  • 1 zucchini, halved, sliced thin
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1 red onion, peeled, cut into eighths
  • 1 red, yellow or green bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
  • 1 prepared pizza dough, recipe from above
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 3/4 cup ricotta cheese
  • Garnish with fresh basil

Directions

Remove dough from the refrigerator. Let stand, covered, for 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Toss together the first 8 ingredients with 3 tablespoons of olive oil and arrange in a single layer in 2 aluminum foil-lined 15 x 10-inch jelly roll pans.

Bake for 45 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and golden brown.

Turn the oven temperature up to 450 degrees F. Place a pizza stone on the bottom rack of the oven.

Press dough out in a 15-inch pizza pan and coat crust with remaining olive oil.

Sprinkle 1/2 cup mozzarella over the crust and top with roasted vegetables. Sprinkle 1/2 cup mozzarella and crushed red pepper over the vegetable mixture. Place the pan on the pizza stone and bake 10 minutes.

Remove pizza from the oven and dollop the ricotta cheese over the top of the pizza. Return the pizza to the oven and bake 10 more minutes or until the crust is crisp and cheese is melted. Garnish with basil, if desired.


There are five islands in the Ligurian Sea and all are protected nature reserves or part of the collection of Italian national parks. The Ligurian Islands are characterised by their small or even tiny size and by their vicinity to the coast. These islands share two common features: their well-preserved Mediterranean vegetation with rare surviving species and the presence of ruined abbeys and monasteries dating back to the late Roman times.

Palmaria

islandspalmaria

A ferry service takes visitors to the island of Palmaria, which is a regional park: a protected area which is rich in natural beaches, cliffs, vegetation and caves that can only be reached by boat. From a tourist point of view, the island of Palmaria is the biggest and the most popular of the La Spezia Archipelago and every year thousands of tourists choose to visit its beautiful, uncontaminated beaches and crystalline waters.

It is close to the town of Portovenere, separated only by a narrow strait called Le bocche. The Palmaria island probably takes its name from the term “balma” which means cave, rather than from the presence of dwarf palms. The island offers many different landscapes: the eastern part is densely covered with Mediterranean scrub and the western side is characterized by steep sea cliffs that reach (188 m) over 600 feet high.The island also contains many interesting sights, such as the Grotta Azzurra (Blue Cave) in the western side which can be reached only by boat and the Grotta dei Colombi (Cave of Pigeons) accessible only with climbing ropes. Another noteworthy site is an abandoned quarry situated in the southern part of the island called Pozzale, which was used for mining black marble with gold streaks.

Tino

islandstino

The island of Tino lies beyond Palmaria. It is a military zone and is only open to visitors once a year on the occasion of the feast of San Venerio, the hermit who lived on the island in the tenth century.The area measures about 127,000 square meters and presents a triangular and rocky shape, with dense vegetation made up of maritime pines, live oaks, myrtles, mastics and strawberry trees.

A military lighthouse is located on a 400 foot (122 m) high cliff and has been a guide for thousands of boats, ships and vessels. On the eastern side there’s also a small port, the only landing-place for visitors. Nearby, there’s an archaeological area with ruins dating back to the Roman Age which prove the presence of ancient monastic settlements. In addition, on the northern coast, are the ruins of a monastery, whose construction probably dates back to 11th century.

Although the island is a military area, every year on September 13th the day of the patron St. Venerio, the island can be visited by tourists and, in addition, it is also possible to visit it with excursions organized by the Park. On the other days of the year it is strictly forbidden to land there.

Tinetto

islandstinetto

The island of Tinetto is the smallest one in the La Spezia Archipelago and is separated from Tino by just a few submerged rocks. The area is about half a hectare and doesn’t exceed 55 feet (17 meters) in height. Tino island lacks vegetation, with the exception of some Mediterranean shrubs and it hosts a rare subspecies of wall lizard, which is not present in any other corner of the world.

Tinetto had the first monastic settlement that was built in the 6th century. but it was destroyed by the Saracens. On the southern side, a small oratory remains intact along with a church with two naves to which a second oratory and the monks’ cells were linked.

Gallinara

islandsgallinara

The island of Gallinara takes its name from the wild hens (Gallina = hen in Italian) which once lived there.The island has a surface of 0.23 sq. miles and lies less than a mile from the coast, near Albenga. It is a small Island and sheltered St. Martin of Tours between 356 and 360, who was escaping from Milan in order to avoid the Aryan persecutions. It became a center for monks and subsequently, the Benedictines. The monastery extended its influence into the Riviera di Ponente in 11th century but, during the 13th and 14th centuries, the abbey gradually fell into decay. Today, the island preserves the monastery ruins, the 16th century tower and the little neo-gothic church.

The Island, with its rare Mediterranean vegetation and its uncontaminated environment has become a Regional Natural Park. The Herring Gulls chose this place to nest without being disturbed, creating one of the largest colonies in the northern Tyrrhenian Sea. The less steep northern coast used to be a landing-place for the Roman ships, whose important discoveries are safeguarded in the Albenga Museum. Visitors can find Mediterranean Paleolithic flower species, rare reptiles and an unpolluted sea environment. Sea beds host several interesting and, in some cases, rare species of animal and vegetative life. The island’s vertical rock is characterized by formations of Coralligeno, whereas the northern area shows a wide area of oceanic Posidonia, a genus of flowering plants. The area surrounding the whole island is a marine conservation area. The only mooring place is on the north-western side. Its 1.86 miles coastline is steep, but the seabed is beautiful and famous for the presence of very rare black coral.

Bergeggi

islandsbergeggi

The little island of Bergeggi is a mile from the small promontory of Punta Predani. It is part of a regional protected area and it has a medium high rocky coast which is a little over 170 feet (53 meters) high. The natural environment includes the Mediterranean scrub and other species named campanula sabatia and euphorbia dendroides.The surrounding marine area was included among the conservation areas for the presence of important biological species in its sea beds.

The island has several signs which prove human settlement occurred on the island during the Roman age. One can find a very ancient circular sighting tower and the ruins of a Roman church dedicated to St. Eugenio, which dates back to the fourth century. In 992, the bishop of Savona ordered the construction of a monastery on the island to pay homage to the saint and it was given as a gift to the Colombian monks of Lérins. Today, the ruins of the monastery remain intact. Recently, a private villa was built on the island, but now it is empty and abandoned.

On the western part of the island, a pifferaio (Pied piper), a metal statue which represents a sitting human figure playing a wind instrument can be seen. According to reports, the statue represents a shepherd who’s calling a little goat from the gardens of the promontory, Torre del mare.

In all the areas, it is strictly forbidden to do any activity that might disturb the animal and plant life, such as bathing, navigation, anchorage, mooring, use of water motors, water skiing, underwater fishing, fishing or aquaculture.

The Cuisine of Liguria

The Mediterranean diet combines certain ingredients with the climate, traditions and cultures of the Mediterranean countries. Olive oil, pasta, fruit, vegetables, fish, some meat, legumes and wine are the basis of the Mediterranean diet. The word “diet” come from the Greek “diaita” that means “way of living”. Since the 1960’s, scientific research has proved that the Mediterranean people enjoy better health conditions than much of the western world.

Italy is one of the major consumers of olive oil and pasta in the world. Moreover every region can boast different types of pasta produced locally and olive oil is produced throughout much of the country. Liguria produces extra virgin olive oil that bears the certification of “origine protetta” (i.e., protected origin) and is characterised by precise qualities according to its production areas. Extra virgin olive oil that is produced in Western Liguria is characterised by a fruity aroma with hints of almond and apple and a low acidity. The oil of Western Liguria is extracted from the Taggiasca olives that are small and dark whose cultivation was introduced into Liguria by the Benedictine monks many centuries ago.

Typical foods of the Ligurian cuisine include stuffed vegetables, salads and home-made pasta (e.g., ravioli and trofie) with pesto sauce. One can also find “rabbit with Vermentino”, “dried cod brand de cujun”, “torta verde” (rice and vegetables cooked in a thin sheet of pastry) or pizzas – such as “Sardenara” with tomatoes, anchovies, olives and extra virgin olive oil.

islandtart

Leek and Smoked Mozzarella Tart

This Ligurian tart is prepared by chef Fausto Oneto at Ristorante U’ Giancu in Rapallo.

For the dough:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for greasing the pan
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra if needed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup whole milk, plus extra if needed

For the filling:

  • 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick)unsalted butter
  • 3 pounds leeks, white parts only, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 4 ounces smoked Mozzarella or smoked Scamorza, coarsely grated
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a round 16-inch pizza pan with low sides with olive oil.

Make the dough: Combine the flour, salt, milk, and olive oil on a counter. Add a little more milk if the dough is dry, or a little more flour if the dough is sticky. Knead 30 seconds, or until smooth, and wrap in plastic. Let rest at room temperature 1 hour.

Meanwhile, make the filling: Melt the butter in a large sauté pan over a medium flame. Add the leeks and milk, and cook for 15 minutes, or until the leeks are soft and the milk has evaporated. Add the Parmigiano, smoked Mozzarella and salt, and cool to room temperature. Adjust the salt, if needed.

Roll out the dough until it is very thin on a lightly floured counter (it should measure about 22 inches in diameter) and line the prepared pan with it, letting excess dough hang over the sides of the pan. Spoon in the leek filling. Use the overhanging dough to create a pretty border around the tart.

Bake the tart in the preheated oven until the crust is golden, about 40 minutes. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

islandpasta

Pasta with Mediterranean Herbs

Maria Rosa Costa owns the renowned Ristorante Rosa overlooking the fishing town of Camogli. Here is her recipe for pasta with Mediterranean herbs.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 rosemary sprigs, leaves only, minced
  • 4 sage leaves, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 8 plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon plus 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound shell pasta
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Directions

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a deep saute pan over a high heat. Add the rosemary, sage and garlic and saute 30 seconds.

Stir in the tomatoes, season with ½ teaspoon of the salt and the pepper and cook 10 minutes, adding a little water, if needed.

Meanwhile, bring 5 quarts of water to a boil. Add the shells and the remaining 2 tablespoons of salt. Cook until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking water.

Stir the pasta into the rosemary sauce and add the Parmigiano. Add as much of the reserved pasta cooking water as needed to dilute the sauce and saute until the sauce thickens and coats the pasta. Adjust the salt, drizzle with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and serve hot.

islandfish

Ligurian Style Snapper with Tomatoes and Olives

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 (6-ounce) pieces snapper fillet
  • Fine sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon lightly toasted and ground fennel seeds
  • 1 cup black olives, pitted
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 3/4 pounds ripe but firm tomatoes, seeded and cut into 3/8-inch dice
  • 1/2 cup lightly packed torn fresh basil leaves

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Put 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in each of 2 baking dishes, each large enough to hold 4 pieces of fish with space in between. Put the dishes in the oven to heat the oil, but don’t let it get to the smoking point.

With a sharp utility or boning knife, make a few shallow slices through the skin of each snapper fillet to keep them from curling in the hot oil. Season each piece on both sides with salt, pepper and fennel. Place the fish in the hot oil, skin side down, to coat with the oil, then immediately turn with a fish spatula so that the skin side is up. The oil is the correct temperature, if you hear a light sizzle when the fish is added.

Divide the olives between the dishes, scattering them around the fish, then splash equal amounts of wine into each dish.

Bake for 6 to 8 minutes, until the fish is slightly firm and starts to flake when the tip of a knife is inserted into the flesh. The cooking time will vary depending on the thickness of the fillets. Season the tomatoes with salt and pepper, then divide them between the baking dishes, making sure they fall between the pieces of fish and into the hot pan juices. The tomatoes just need to get slightly wilted in the hot pans.

With a fish spatula, transfer the fish to warmed plates or a serving platter. Toss the basil in the olives and tomatoes and when the leaves are coated with the pan juices, spoon the mixture over the fish.

Italian-hazelnuislandcake

Hazelnut Olive Oil Cake

10 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for pan
  • 1 1/4 cups hazelnuts
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • Finely grated zest of 1 large lemon

Directions

Heat oven to 350°F. Lightly coat a 9-inch springform pan with oil.

Spread the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and bake until lightly golden, about 5 minutes. Remove from the oven, let cool slightly then rub in a clean dish towel to remove the skins. Set aside to cool completely.

Grind cooled nuts in a food processor until finely ground but not powdery. Transfer to a bowl. Add flour and baking powder; whisk to combine.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the eggs on medium-high speed until frothy, about 2 minutes. Gradually add sugar, beating until light, thick and pale yellow, about 4 minutes. Gradually add hazelnut-flour mixture; then add olive oil, milk and lemon zest, beating 1 minute more to combine.

Transfer batter to the prepared pan. Place pan on rimmed baking sheet and bake cake until golden and a cake tester inserted into center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool cake completely in pan on a wire rack. Release cake from pan and serve.

Related articles


pizzacrust6

Cauliflower Pizza Crust

It All Starts with Crust  

Whole-wheat flour. Forgo the traditional white-flour crust and make your own whole-wheat dough for some extra protein and fiber.

Tortillas. Rice and beans aren’t the only ingredients that can top a tortilla. Make your own whole-wheat tortilla for a perfect thin-crust alternative.

Pita bread. Pita pockets are the perfect size for a personal pizza and the whole-wheat variety adds an extra nutrition.

English muffins. With all the nooks and crannies, an English muffin pizza crust can toast up perfectly in the oven and are great for making mini-pizzas for a light lunch.

Matzo. Think of this as the ultimate thin-crust pizza. Super simple and super crispy.

Cauliflower. For a lighter option, forgo the extra carbs and turn cauliflower into a healthful, delicious pizza crust.

Zucchini. Similar to cauliflower, zucchini is easy to make into a lean, green, pizza crust.

Portobello. These mushrooms are a perfect bed for any pizza sauce and toppings.

Quinoa. This grain isn’t only great on top of salads or in soups. Cook up your own quinoa crust for a nutty, protein-packed alternative to classic pizza dough.

Leftover rice. Another use for that leftover rice from dinner last night. Add just a little flax-seed meal and Italian seasoning, and you’ve got an easy, inventive crust.

And Then There’s Some Crazy Toppings!

  • Start with a whole-wheat crust, spread on a thin layer of goat cheese. Layer on some roasted beets and drizzle with oil. Bake until crispy and top with a handful of fresh arugula before serving. Drizzle with some high-quality balsamic vinegar.
  • Toast a large tortilla until slightly crisp. Remove from oven and top with pumpkin puree, chicken sausage and kale.
  • Start with a zucchini crust. Add pesto. Top with :broccoli or spinach or asparagus and sliced artichokes. Dollop with some pieces of fresh mozzarella and bake until crisp.
  • On a whole-wheat crust, spread a thin layer of ricotta cheese. Bake until the cheese starts to brown. Top with sliced figs, grapes, strawberries and blueberries or any combination. Add a drizzle of honey.
  • On a whole-wheat pita, spread a few tablespoons of fresh tomato sauce. Top with sautéed onions and peppers and sliced cooked  sausage. Top with some mozzarella cheese and a sprinkling of fresh herbs. Bake a few minutes to melt the cheese.

pizzacrust

Polenta Pizza Crust

Who says pizza has to be made from bread dough? Best of all, it’s gluten free!

Makes: one 11” x 14” rectangular crust

Ingredients

  • 3½ cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/3 cups Polenta
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped, fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

In a saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the 3½ cups of water to a boil. Add the salt.

Slowly add the polenta to the boiling water and stir. Reduce the heat and continue stirring for about 5 minutes, until thickened.

Pour in 2 tablespoons of oil and stir to incorporate. Add the chopped parsley, oregano and freshly ground black pepper (to taste). Stir to combine.

Remove the pan from the heat and prepare an 11×14 inch baking sheet by lining with parchment paper. Using a spatula (a silicone spatula works the best), spread the polenta evenly onto the prepared baking sheet.

Cover the pan and refrigerate for about an hour to set the polenta. You can also chill it overnight.

Once chilled, heat the oven to 450 degrees F. Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes or until slightly crispy on top. Remove from the oven and apply  pizza toppings of choice. Return to the oven just until the toppings are heated. Cut into serving pieces.

pizzacrust1

Whole Wheat Sandwich Pizza Dough

This pizza dough has a thick crust – more like focaccia. Top with prosciutto, figs and pesto for an unusual sandwich.

Makes: one 9×13” thick crust pizza

Ingredients

For the starter:

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 package active dry yeast

For the dough:

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cups of bread flour
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • Extra water
  • Kosher salt

Directions

For the starter:

In a large bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the 1 cup of warm water (about 115 degrees F). Let the mixture stand 5 minutes—it should start to foam and bubble a bit. Add flour and mix well. Cover and let it stand for about 1 hour.

Make the dough:

Add the remaining 1 cup water, oil and salt to the yeast mixture and mix together. You can use a standing mixer or food processor as well.

Add the bread and whole wheat flours and using the paddle attachment mix until smooth. Switch to the dough hook and knead the dough for 5-6 minutes. It shouldn’t be too sticky, but still slightly tacky. Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl. Cover it and let it rise for 1½ hours.

Punch down the dough and turn it onto a lightly oiled 9×13 pan. Press the dough out to fit the pan and let it rise for 30 more minutes. After the 30 minutes, press the surface of the dough with your fingertips to make small depressions on the top. Apply toppings of choice or use the bread for sandwiches.

Bake the bread in an oven heated to 400 degrees F for 15 minutes. Then reduce the heat to 375 degrees F and bake for 20 minutes longer. If the top of the bread browns too quickly, cover it with some aluminum foil.

pizzacrust2

Sweet Potato Pizza Crust

Makes four 8” personal pizzas

Ingredients

  • 2 cups mashed sweet potato (about two medium sweet potatoes)
  • 5 cups whole wheat flour (or use gluten-free flour as an alternative)
  • 3 teaspoons salt
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup milk or nondairy milk
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Prepare the sweet potatoes:

Fill a medium saucepan with water and bring it to a boil. Peel, dice, the sweet potatoes and then place them in the boiling water until soft.

Drain and mash the sweet potatoes in a large bowl. Allow to cool. Add the milk, olive oil and salt and mix well.

In another bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and combine.

Dust hands with flour and gently knead the dough until it is well mixed. You may want to turn the dough out onto a floured work surface for more space. You can add a little more flour to reduce the stickiness of the dough, but not too much, as it should still be slightly sticky.

Separate into 4 equal parts and form into rounds. Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and press one of the dough balls in the center. Press out from the middle of the ball, forming a flat, round disc (about 8  inches diameter). Repeat with remaining balls of dough.

Bake for 10 minutes. Add  toppings of choice and return to the oven to bake for 10 more minutes.

pizzacrust3

Quinoa Pizza Crust

Makes 2 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup quinoa plus enough water to cover for soaking
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/3-1/2 cup  water
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning

Directions

Place the quinoa in a bowl and pour in enough water to cover the quinoa. Let it sit for about 8 hours to soak .

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Use a large 12-inch cast iron skillet or baking pan and brush with oil. Place in the oven to preheat.

Drain the quinoa, rinse and drain thoroughly. Place the quinoa in a blender. Add the 1/3 cup water and the seasonings and blend. Add more water as needed, until the batter resembles a thick pancake-style batter.

Once the oven reaches the set temperature, pour the batter into the skillet and quickly spread it out evenly across the bottom.

Place in the oven and bake for about 10 minutes, or until the underside is well-browned and starting to crisp. Use a large spatula and carefully flip the crust over. Bake for an additional 10 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and top with desired toppings. (Such as, tomato-based pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese, sautéed mushrooms, onions, pork sausage or greens.)

As with any pizza, be careful not to overload on toppings or the crust will get soggy.

Return the pan to the oven for 5-7 minutes or until the crust is well-browned on the bottom and crisp. Remove from the skillet and transfer to a cutting board or plate. Slice into serving pieces.

pizzacrust5

Zucchini Crust Pizza

Ingredients

  • 2 cups shredded (1 large) zucchini
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped basil or oregano
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup. grated fresh parmesan
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Dry zucchini well with clean paper towels. Shred the zucchini using a hand shredder, then take all the shredded pieces and squeeze out all the excess water in between two paper towels.

Combine the zucchini, flour, eggs, oil, herbs and the cheeses until well-blended.

Once the dough is fully formed, spread evenly to about 10 inches on a pizza pan covered with parchment paper, then bake in an oven pre-heated to 400 degrees F for 15 minutes or until crispy.

Carefully turn the crust over with a wide spatula so the other side cooks as well. This will prevent sogginess. Bake for another 10-15 minutes

Once cooked, remove from the oven and add whatever toppings you choose (see below for ideas).

Turn the oven temperature to 450 degrees F. Once topped, put the pan back in the oven for about 8 minutes until heated.

Some Topping Ideas Or Use Your Imagination:

  • 1 large ripe tomato, sliced
  • 2-3  sautéed garlic cloves
  • Sautéed mushrooms
  • Thinly sliced bell peppers
  • Thinly sliced potatoes sautéed with garlic
  • Sliced olives
  • Sliced onion
  • Pesto
  • Fresh Mozzarella or Italian Fontina cheese

Dear Readers: What is the most unusual pizza you have created or eaten?


sausage4

My favorite brand of Italian Sausage comes from a very fine market in Rhode Island. When I moved away from the northeast, I found it difficult to buy authentic Italian sausage until I found Fortuna’s.

Patti Fortuna-Stannard writes on her website:
“Our story starts with my Nani and Poppa, my grandparents who emigrated to America from Calabria, Italy over 100 years ago. They brought with them only their hopes, dreams, and great Italian Sausage recipes with old world techniques. I am proud to be a 3rd generation Italian-American sausage maker that plans to carry on our family traditions forever! We take great pride in making our salami the same way my grandparents did, in small batches, using only the finest hand trimmed pork, spices ground moments before blending, tied with pure cotton twine, stuffed into natural casings and hung to dry- not cooked. Every salami has a unique flavor and aroma! At Fortuna’s our passion is making only the very best salami and keeping our old world values, flavors and traditions alive. Our niche is all natural salami- they didn’t use nitrates and preservatives in the early 1900s and we certainly do not need to add them now! “

Photo from the Fortuna archives

Photo from the Fortuna Archives

Photo from the Fortuna archives

Photo from the Fortuna Archives

This is true old world Italian salami and sausage that is made in the USA. Fortuna’s Sausage Company offers five types of Italian rope sausage:

  • Sweet – with pork and fennel seed
  • Calabrese – hot, hot
  • Tuscano – with sun-dried tomato, sharp Provolone cheese and Pepperoncini
  • Sandgate – a northern Italian specialty with Romano cheese, fresh parsley and garlic, wine and citrus in a sweet sausage base
  • Cheese & Parsley- a sweet base sausage in a thin casing that is great grilled.

sausage8

Grilled Italian Sausage

Other than simmering Italian sausage in sauce  for pasta, my next favorite way of cooking sausage is to grill it. My method is simple and they come out perfect every time.

To grill the sausage:

Heat the grill on high and then turn the burners off on one side of the grill or place coals on one side of a charcoal grill.
Lower heat is better and will prevent the meat from drying out. Oil the grill grates.
Keep the entire link whole – don’t cut it up or poke holes in it.

Coil the link over the indirect heat side of the grill and close the grill lid. After 10 minutes turn the sausage link over.
Use tongs to turn the links. Don’t pierce the link’s skin or the juices will flow out and cause the sausage to be dry.
Once the sausage has cooked for about 20 minutes, place the sausage over the direct heat and let the skin crisp slightly.

Check with a meat thermometer for 160 degree F internal temperature to be sure the sausage is cooked all the way through.
I like to grill hot (spicy) sausage and serve it over garlic sautéed broccoli rabe. Don’t forget the crusty italian bread.

sausage1

Italian Sausage Risotto

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 1/4 cups Carnaroli rice
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 5 ounces Italian pork sausage, casing removed
  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • 6 cups beef broth
  • 2 1/4 cups Carnaroli rice
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 5 ounces Italian pork sausage, casing removed
  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • 6 cups beef broth
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Simmer the broth in a large pot over medium heat, cover and keep warm.

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a wide pan over medium heat, add the finely chopped onion and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the rice and chopped sausage and stir for about 2 minutes.

Add the wine and stir for about 1 minute until all the wine has evaporated. Add 1/3 of the warm broth and simmer until it is absorbed, stirring frequently.

Add 1 or 2 ladles of the remaining broth and allow the rice to absorb all the liquid before adding more. Continue stirring until the rice is creamy and al dente, approximately 16-20 minutes.

Remove from the heat and add the Parmigiano-Reggiano and the remaining butter, stirring well. Season the risotto with salt and pepper to taste.

sausage5

Sautéed Sausage, Peppers and Onions

Sometimes I leave out the tomatoes – just depends on how I want to serve this dish. The photo shows a double batch, since this dish doesn’t last long in my house.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound each of hot and sweet Italian sausage, uncut
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 green bell pepper, sliced into long strips
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced into long strips
  • 1 yellow or orange bell pepper, sliced into long strips
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced into slivers
  • 1 large sweet onion, sliced into 1/4-inch half-moons
  • 1 small (15 ounce) can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • Salt to taste

Directions

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large, deep skillet with a lid. When the oil is hot, add the whole sausage links and brown them slowly. You want a gentle browning, not a quick sear. Cook for several minutes, turning them occasionally so they brown on all sides. When the sausages are browned, remove them from the pan and set aside.

Increase the heat to high and add the onions and peppers. Toss so they get coated with the oil in the pan and cook, stirring often. Once the onions and peppers soften, sprinkle some salt on them, add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute.

Add the red wine and with a wooden spoon scrape the bottom of the pan to release all the browned bits. Let the wine cook down by half.

Add the tomatoes, oregano and red pepper flakes and stir well to combine. Add the sausages back in. Bring to a simmer then reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer until the peppers are soft and the sausages are cooked through, about 20 minutes.

Sausage3

Baked Vegetable Sausage Penne

Ingredients

  • 1 pound Italian sausage
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 – 14 1/2 ounce can diced Italian tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, plus extra for garnish
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 pound eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2 zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch half-moons
  • 2 large red bell peppers, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 8 ounces dried regular or whole wheat penne pasta
  • 1/2 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 2 quart baking dish with olive oil cooking spray.

Place sausage links in a large unheated skillet. Add 1/2 inch of water to the skillet. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer about 15 minutes or until juices run clear; drain off the liquid. Cook for 2 to 4 minutes more or until browned, turning occasionally. Remove from heat. When cool enough to handle, cut sausages in half lengthwise; bias-cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Set aside.

In the same skillet, heat the olive oil, add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the undrained tomatoes, the 3 tablespoons parsley, oregano and the crushed red pepper. Bring to boiling. Stir in eggplant, zucchini and peppers. Reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook pasta for one minute less than the minimum time listed on the package. Drain the pasta and return it to the hot pan. Stir in the eggplant mixture and the sausage.

Spoon into the prepared baking dish. Covered with foil and bake about 30 minutes or until heated through. Uncover, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and bake about 5 minutes more or until the cheese melts. If desired, sprinkle with additional parsley. Makes 6 (1-cup) servings.

sausage2

Pan Pizza with Ricotta and Sausage

Pizza Dough

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 ½ cups (8 1/4 ounces) bread flour
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

Coat a rimmed rectangular baking sheet with 2 tablespoons of the oil.

Combine water and remaining 1 tablespoon oil in 1-cup liquid measuring cup. Using a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix flour, yeast, sugar and salt on low-speed until combined.

With mixer running, slowly add water mixture and mix until dough comes together, about 1 minute. Increase speed to medium-low and mix until dough is smooth and comes away from the sides of the bowl, about 10 minutes.

Transfer dough to the greased baking sheet and turn to coat. Stretch dough to a 10 by 6-inch rectangle. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 to 1½ hours.

Stretch dough to the corners of the pan, cover loosely with plastic and let rise in a warm place until slightly puffed, about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to the lowest position and heat the oven to 500 degrees F.

For the topping:

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup canned finely chopped Italian plum tomatoes, drained
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 pound fresh whole-milk ricotta
  • 1/4 pound spicy Italian sausage, casings removed, cooked
  • 6 basil leaves, cut into thin strips

Directions

Combine drained tomatoes, oil, garlic, oregano and salt in bowl. Spread the dough with the tomato mixture. Scatter the cooked sausage on top. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Drop tablespoons of ricotta on top of the pizza, leaving room between tablespoons.

Bake until well browned and bubbling, about 15 minutes. Slide pizza onto wire rack, sprinkle with basil and let cool for 5 minutes before cutting into serving pieces.


seafood

As the seasons change, so do our appetites and nutritional needs. Between the spring and summer, our food habits undergo a gradual metamorphosis. By the time the hottest months have arrived, most of us are naturally inclined to avoid heavy foods and the long cooking preparations required for them. Leggero (light) or restare leggeri (staying light) is the Italian credo in the summer—fresh, light, colorful and simple foods are what everyone craves on hot days.

Italians tend to eat lukewarm or cold food in the summer; tables are often laden with all kinds of variations of salad—from lettuce-based and raw vegetable salads, to insalata di pasta (pasta salads), insalata di riso (rice salads) and insalata di mare or polpo (seafood or octopus salad).

Insalata di mare (Seafood salad) is a delicate preparation usually made with boiled fresh octopus, clams and mussels; the shellfish open when cooked in a covered pan. Sometimes this salad includes shrimp—previously boiled and cleaned—and baby calamari. Crabmeat or other fresh seafood can also be added. The freshness of the fish, the quality of the extra virgin olive oil and the addition of good-quality lemon make all the difference. The dressing for this salad is made simply with two essential ingredients of the Italian cuisine—lemon and olive oil, along with a bit of garlic, parsley, salt and white pepper. Insalata di polpo (octopus salad) is another favorite in Italy, especially along the coasts. It consists of just boiled fresh octopus and tiny slices of celery, seasoned with the same dressing as in the seafood salad. Sometimes it’s served cold or at room temperature, but it can also be served warm with potatoes.

seafood 1

Crab Risotto

Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 2 fennel bulbs with tops
  • 1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms, such as shiitake, porcini, or button
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seed, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 3 1/4 cups low sodium chicken broth, heated
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 cups fresh crabmeat
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions

Directions

Trim fennel bulbs, reserving tops. Quarter bulbs lengthwise and slice. Measure 1 cup sliced fennel. Snip enough of the fennel tops to measure 1 tablespoon; set aside.

In a large saucepan heat olive oil and cook the 1 cup fennel, the mushrooms, pepper and fennel seed in until tender. Stir in rice. Cook and stir over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add the 1/4 broth and bring to a boil.

Gradually add the remaining warm chicken broth, one cup at a time, until all the broth is absorbed, about 20 minutes.

Remove saucepan from the heat. Stir in crabmeat and green onions. Let stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Stir in the snipped fennel tops and serve. This dish can also be served at room temperature.

seafood 2

Shrimp Pizzettas

Ingredients

  • 1 pound homemade or refrigerated pizza dough
  • 4 medium plum tomatoes, sliced
  • 8-10 oz cooked shrimp (cut in half lengthwise)
  • 3 tablespoons snipped fresh oregano
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese
  • Fresh basil leaves

Directions

Lightly grease a baking sheet; set aside. Unroll the pizza dough onto a lightly floured surface. Roll into a 16 inch rectangle. Cut dough into eight squares.

Place squares about 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheet. If desired, fold over about 1/4 inch of the dough on each edge; press with a fork.

Bake in a 425 degrees F oven for 5 minutes or until lightly browned.

Divide tomato slices among the squares. Divide shrimp among the squares. Sprinkle with snipped oregano and crushed red pepper. Sprinkle with cheese.

Bake for 5 to 6 minutes more or until cheese melts. If desired, garnish with basil.

seafood 3

Fettuccine and Scallops in Wine Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 pound fresh scallops
  • 6 ounces fettuccine or linguine
  • 3 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 4 medium carrots, thinly sliced (2 cups)
  • 8 green onions, sliced (1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • Juice and zest of half a lemon 
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

Cut any large scallops in half.

In a 4 to 5-quart Dutch Oven, bring 3 quarts of water to boiling. Add pasta; return to boiling. Cook for 5 minutes. Add mushrooms, carrots and green onions. Return to boiling.

Cook, uncovered, for 5 to 7 minutes more or until pasta is tender but al dente and vegetables are crisp-tender. Drain pasta and vegetables; keep warm.

Meanwhile, in a small mixing bowl stir together wine, lemon juice and cornstarch; set aside.

In the empty pasta pot melt butter. Add garlic; cook over medium-high heat about 1 minute. Add scallops, wine mixture, lemon zest, Italian seasoning, parsley and pepper to the pan.

Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir for 1 to 2 minutes more or until the scallops turn opaque.

Arrange pasta mixture on a large platter. Spoon the scallop mixture over the pasta mixture. Makes 4 main-dish servings.

seafood 4

Seafood al Cartoccio (Grilled Red Snapper and Shellfish)

Ingredients

Seafood

  • 4 red snapper fillets, 6 ounces each, skin on, scaled and bones removed
  • 6 ounces shrimp, peeled and deveined or clams or mussels or a combination of all
  • 1/2 cup fresh cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Herb Butter

  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chives, chopped
  • 2 basil leaves, chopped
  • 2 oregano sprigs, chopped
  • Juice of 3 fresh lemons
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Foil Packets

  • Aluminum foil, heavy strength
  • Olive oil cooking spray

Directions

To make the herb butter

1. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl until butter is blended evenly.
2. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

To make the foil packets

1. Cut 4 sheets of heavy-duty aluminum foil, approximately 14 x 18 inches in size.
2. Place sheet of foil shiny side down, narrow edge toward you, on the work surface.
3. Spray the foil with cooking spray. Arrange 1 fish fillet skin side down, 3 to 4 shrimp, a few scattered cherry tomatoes and scallions on each foil sheet. Season with salt and pepper. Using a teaspoon, place several small dollops of the herb butter on the fish and shrimp.
4. Fold the foil over the seafood and bring the top and bottom edges together. Fold the edges over several times to make a tight seal and turn edges up.

Grilling

1. Preheat grill to highest setting.
2. When ready to cook, place the foil cartoccio(skin side down) in the center of the hot grate. Cover the grill and cook until foil pouches are dramatically puffed, approximately 7 to 9 minutes.
3. Remove the packets directly from the grill to a plate. Using a sharp knife, cut the center of the foil pouch lengthwise and open. Be careful of the hot steam.

seafood 5

Marinated Seafood Salad

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound fish fillets of choice
  • Poaching liquid
  • 1/4 pound small bay scallops
  • 1/4 pound medium shrimp, peeled, deveined
  • 1/4 cup sliced celery
  • 3/4 cup black olives, halved
  • 1/2 cup green onions, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons parsley, chopped
  • 3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • Pinch cayenne pepper

Directions

Gently poach fillets, scallops and shrimp in liquid of your choice: water, broth, white wine or a mixture of the liquids.

When fish and shellfish are firm to the touch and cooked through, remove from poaching liquid and cool.

Cut fillets into 1-inch chunks.

Combine fish, scallops, shrimp, celery, olives and green onions in a large mixing bowl. Season with olive oil, lime juice, parsley, salt and cayenne.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.



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