Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Risotto


Risotto is a hearty, warming rice dish, rich in flavor, of which any of a hundred different ingredients can be added to it. Risotto is not only versatile, but easy to make.

Rice was first introduced into Italy and Spain by the Arabs during the Middle Ages. The humidity of the Mediterranean was found to be perfect for growing shorter-grained rice. The popularity of rice grew throughout Italy and then the outside world discovered it.

It was in Milan where the rice met its future destiny. Milan had been under Spanish rule for almost two centuries where rice was a staple. The technique for making risotto probably evolved from trying to cook the rice as porridge—boiling it in milk, water or broth until soft. A fourteenth-century manuscript known as the “Libro per cuoco” by an anonymous Venetian contains the recipe, “rixo in bona manera” or rice cooked in sweet milk.

Antonio Nebbia in “Cuoco Maceratese” introduces a revolutionary method where he suggests letting the rice soak in cold water for two hours, then frying the rice in a little butter and adding cabbage broth.

A more complete preparation appears in the early 19th century, in the anonymous “Cuoco Moderno”, printed in Milan in 1809, where the recipe “Yellow Rice in a Pan” says to cook the rice in a sauté of butter, cervellata (an Italian pork sausage), marrow, onion and gradually adding hot broth in whicj saffron had been dissolved.

And finally” the” classic recipe as described by Felice Luraschi, a celebrated chef from Milan, in his “Nuovo cuoco milanese economico” manuscript of 1829, a recipe titled “Risotto alla Milanese”.

Today the dish is served extensively, almost unchanged, in the kitchens and restaurants of the world. Ingredients as varied as scallops, lobster, truffles, veal, mushrooms, squid ink, snails, asparagus, duck, sausage, pumpkin and almost anything else you can think of are paired with this classic dish.

risotto rice

All rice is a member of the grass family. What makes Risotto special is it’s high amount of starch. This starch is what makes Risotto “creamy” without any cream. Risotto rice is a round medium- or short- grain white rice with the ability to absorb liquids and to release starch, so they are stickier than the long grain varieties. The principal varieties used in Italy are Arborio, Baldo, Carnaroli, Maratelli, Padano, Roma and Vialone Nano. They all have slightly different properties. For example, Carnaroli is less likely than Vialone Nano to get overcooked, but the latter, being smaller, cooks faster and absorbs condiments better. Other varieties like Roma, Baldo, Ribe and Originario may be used but will not have the creaminess of the traditional dish. These varieties are considered better for soups and other non-risotto rice dishes and for making sweet rice desserts. Rice designations of Superfino, Semifino and Fino refer to the size and shape (specifically the length and the narrowness) of the grains, and not the quality.

Basic Technique for Making Risotto

Risotto recipes recommended not washing the rice prior to cooking as that will make it lose its starch which is an essential ingredient of the dish. The rice and vegetables are toasted lightly in butter. Herbs, spices and a little wine are added. The rice is cooked gradually over a low flame and broth is added to the rice and stirred until absorbed. More broth is added in several steps until the rice is tender.

Popular Italian Risottos

• Risotto alla Milanese – is cooked in beef stock and beef bone marrow with lard in Italy. Cheese and saffron are added. This dish is popularly served with osso buco (a dish consisting of braised veal shanks).

• Risotto al barolo – is made with borlotti beans and sausage meat and is cooked with red wine.

• Risotto al nero de seppia (black risotto) – is a specialty from Veneto and is made with cuttlefish.


This is probably the best tasting risotto I have ever made, with much of the credit going to the Meyer lemons from my tree. You may recall that we planted the tree last April and it has rewarded us with about 20 large lemons in its first year.

Meyer Lemon Risotto with Basil and Grilled Shrimp

6 servings



  • 6 cups chicken stock or canned low-sodium broth
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 celery rib, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups arborio rice (10 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup white vermouth or dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated Meyer lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons fresh Meyer lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup julienned basil leaves

Grilled Shrimp

  • 18 large shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • A pinch of kosher salt or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons julienned basil leaves



For the risotto:

Bring the stock to a boil in a medium saucepan, cover and keep hot. Melt the butter in a second large saucepan. Add the onion and celery. Season with salt and pepper and cook over low heat, stirring, until softened, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the rice and cook, stirring until glossy, about 1 minute.


Add the wine to the rice and simmer over moderate heat until almost absorbed, about 3 minutes. Add the hot stock, 1 cup at a time, and cook, stirring constantly between additions, until most of the stock has been absorbed before adding more. The rice is done when it’s tender and most of the liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes total. The best way to see if the rice is cooked, is to taste it.  Risotto should be creamy and thick. It’s best al dente, which means it should be fully cooked, yet still retain some firmness when you chew it. If it is mushy, it has cooked too long.

Stir in the Parmesan cheese, the lemon zest and juice, the salt and pepper and the basil. Mix well but gently.


For the grilled shrimp:

Mix the shrimp with the remaining ingredients in a mixing bowl. Refrigerate until cooking time.

Heat a stovetop grill until very hot. Place the shrimp on the grill and cook for about 3 minutes on each side.

Spoon the risotto into individual bowls, top each with grilled shrimp and serve, passing additional Parmesan at the table.




Como is a province in the northern part of the Lombardy region of Italy that borders Switzerland. Its proximity to Lake Como and to the Alps has made Como a popular tourist destination and the area contains numerous works of art, churches, gardens, museums, theaters, parks and palaces. Como’s climate is humid and subtropical. Winters are not long, but foggy, damp and chilly with occasional periods of frost; spring and autumn are pleasant while summer can be quite oppressive and hot.


The most famous area within the province is Bellagio, a historic town surrounded by ancient city walls with narrow roads that run through the hills. The town’s ancient origins are visible in its Romanesque Cathedral dedicated to San Giacomo, the interior of which seems unchanged from the 12th Century. Another interesting town is Laglio that lies near the “Bear Cave” (buco dell’orso), where fossils of prehistoric bears and other remains found in the cave are displayed in the Town Hall. The annual Medieval Palio takes place at the beginning of September and is a knightly jousting contest between various province districts that is reenacted in the town of Cernobbio.


Lake Como (Lago di Como in Italian) is located in this province and is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful lakes in Europe. The lake is shaped like the letter “Y” and has been a popular retreat for aristocrats and wealthy people since Roman times. Many famous people have or have had homes on the lake’s shores. The lake’s deep-blue waters, set against the foothills of the Alps, makes for a stunning view.


The Cuisine of Como Province

Lake Como’s cuisine is shaped by the three geographic areas that make up the Como area – the lake, the mountains with their valleys and the hills of Brianza (the area between Milan and Como). The province’s cuisine is closely tied to its primary natural resource, the lake, that provides an abundance of freshwater fish. Lavarello , a popular local lake fish, is usually served fried with a squeeze of lemon. Misultitt (a type of Shad) is usually dried and preserved with bay leaves in special tin containers. Another traditional dish is Risotto al Pesce Persico (European Perch filet Risotto), a fish grown in Lake Como, that is prepared with white wine, onion and butter.

Polenta is popular especially in the mountain valleys. In this area, it is common to make polenta by mixing corn flour and buckwheat flour together. It is usually served with meat, game, cheese or fish.

South of Como, the food becomes more Milanese. Popular in this region are polenta e osei (polenta served with poultry), cassoela (a stew with pork ribs and cabbage), cotechino sausage with beans and many different kinds of salami and cheese.

As far as traditional sweets and cakes are concerned, in Lake Como, you can find fritters often filled with apple and, Resca de Comm, a panettone made with raisins, citron, pine nuts and anise, that is baked in a cylindrical tube.

Among the red and white wines produced in the province are Rosso di Bellagio and Vespertò di Canzo. The best liqueurs are made by the Piona friars using local herbs.

Valtellina Pizzoccheri


Pizzoccheri is one of Lake Como’s typical winter pasta dishes. It usually consists of flat short tagliatelle noodles, made from buckwheat flour that is common in the area of Valtellina in Northern Italy (on the east shore of Lake Como). The buckwheat flour gives the noodles a grayish color and they are easy to make at home. However, most supermarkets now sell boxes of dried pizzoccheri, which has helped to spread the word of this delicious recipe throughout the country and, of course, cuts down on preparation time.

The noodles are served with a mixture of greens and diced potatoes and dressed with butter, sautéed garlic, sage and Swiss Casera and Parmesan cheeses (or grana padano). There are several variations to the recipe, including substituting the cabbage with Swiss chard, spinach or green beans depending on what you have on hand. The amount of butter can also be altered to your own preference although the original recipe states that the pizzoccheri should be practically drowning in the sage and garlic-infused butter. Vatellina Casera cheese can be difficult to find outside of Lombardy, so a good alternative is Italian Fontina, which is more widely available.

For the pasta:

  • 2 cups (200 grams) fine buckwheat flour
  • 1/2 cup (50 grams) plain flour
  • About 1/2 cup (125 milliliters) water
  • Pinch salt

For the pizzoccheri:

  • 3 1/2 ounces (100 grams) savoy cabbage
  • 4 1/2 ounces (125 grams) potatoes (2 to 3 small potatoes)
  • 1/3 cup (70 grams) unsalted butter
  • 8-10 sage leaves
  • 4 1/2 ounces (125 grams) Valtellina Casera DOP or Bitto (Gruyere or Fontina can be substituted), thinly sliced or shaved
  • 2 ounces (about 60 grams) Grana Padano, grated
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • Freshly ground pepper

For the pasta:

Combine the two flours in a bowl and gradually add the water, mixing until well incorporated. Work the dough for a few minutes. It should be smooth and compact, but not dry or crumbly and it shouldn’t stick to your hands. If it’s dry, add a little more water until it becomes smooth. Rest the dough for at least 30 minutes.

Roll the dough out with a rolling-pin to a thickness of 2-3 millimeters (1/10 of an inch). With a sharp knife, cut the dough into large strips about 7-8 cm (2.5 to 3 inches) wide then cut these into short pasta strips about ¼ inch thick. (If you have a pasta machine, I would use it)

For the pizzoccheri:

Peel the potatoes and cut them into large chunks. Discard the outer leaves of the cabbage and chop roughly.

Boil a large saucepan of salted water, cook the potatoes for 20 minutes and then add the cabbage and pasta and cook for an additional 10 minutes.

Melt the butter in a separate pan and saute the garlic and sage.

Drain the potatoes, cabbage and pasta and layer in a dish with the melted butter, slices of cheese and black pepper.

Serve with Grana Padano cheese.

Risotto with Perch Fillets


This recipe is the national dish of Lake Como and one that is used in most of the area’s restaurants. Perch is one of the most valuable species of freshwater fish because of its tender and delicate meat and the fish can be found in all the lakes of Northern Italy.

Serves 5-6


  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups risotto rice
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • Salt and black pepper for seasoning
  • ½ cup grated Parmigiano cheese
  • 4 cups broth (chicken or vegetable stock)
  • 4 perch fillets (per person) – about 18 total
  • Flour  for coating
  • Butter or oil for frying


In a heavy saucepan, heat the 4 tablespoons butter until it melts.

Add the chopped onion and cook until tender. Add the rice and mix it well. Let it cook for a couple of minutes. Add the wine and cook, stirring, until the liquid evaporates. Add the broth, a small amount at a time, stirring it constantly until all the liquid is absorbed.

When the rice is just about tender, add the salt, pepper and Parmigiano cheese.

Dredge the fillets in the flour and cook in a hot skillet in butter or oil, turning them over once, until each side is golden brown.

Spoon the rice onto a serving dish and top with the fish fillets.

Parmesan Barley Soup


Barley is a healthy high-fiber, high-protein whole grain containing numerous health benefits. When cooked, barley has a chewy texture and nutty flavor, similar to brown rice. Although soup is the most popular way to eat barley, you can use it like any other grain, such as couscous or rice.  Hulless barley is unprocessed and takes longer to cook than pearl or pearled barley, which is more common. Quick cooking barley is just as healthy and takes only 10 minutes to cook. Try adding a handful of quick cooking barley to a simmering pot of soup.


  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 2 ribs celery, sliced thin
  • 1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning blend
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 2/3 cup barley
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 Parmesan rinds
  • 1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
  • 2 tablespoons milk or cream
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • Sea or kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste


Pre-soak the barley in water to cover for one hour. Drain well and set aside.

Saute onions and garlic in olive oil for a minute or two, then add the diced carrots and celery. Reduce the heat and cook for another two to three minutes, stirring occasionally. Next, add the red wine vinegar, stirring to coat the vegetables well.

Reduce heat to medium low and add the barley and vegetable broth, stirring to combine.

Heat for ten minutes, then add the Parmesan rinds and simmer for fifteen minutes, or until the barley is almost cooked.

Stir in the grated Parmesan cheese, milk, white wine and season lightly with salt and pepper. Heat another five minutes or until the barley is fully cooked.

Remove the Parmesan rinds and serve with additional Parmesan cheese.



Lake Como’s sweets are mainly cakes, tarts and pies that are eaten for breakfast and afternoon snacks. Among them you can find the cutizza, a homemade focaccia made of flour, milk, sugar and lemon peel. The cutizza is a sweet bread known as the poor man’s cake because it uses only a small amount of flour. This is a very old and rustic recipe.


  • ½ lb white flour
  • 6-7 oz whole milk
  • Oil for frying
  • 3 eggs
  • Lemon rind
  • Vanilla sugar
  • Salt


Break the eggs in a bowl, add the flour and mix well. Add the grated lemon and milk and mix until smooth. Add the smaller amount of milk at first and then more, if needed, to make a smooth dough.

Heat enough oil in a frying pan to just cover the bottom and pour in the mixture. Cook on one side and then turn over to cook the other side. Sprinkle with sugar and serve warm.

Variation: add some chopped apple to the mixture before cooking.

The cutizza can be eaten as a snack or as a dessert accompanied by a glass of Moscato.



For a great tasting dinner, without a lot of cleanup, look no further than a one-pot meal. The recipes for these comforting and healthy dishes below are complete meals that use ingredients that are in seasons. Add a salad, if you like, and some great tasting bread.

One of the best features of one-pot cooking is that the recipes often include vegetables, meat, rice, pasta, fresh herbs and spices all in one pot, making it a great way to cook a convenient and nutritious meal the whole family. One-pot meals can be steamed, sautéed, braised or baked and the “one pot” can be a saucepan, skillet, crock pot, pressure cooker or baking dish.

I find a large ovenproof skillet with a cover, the best pot to have in your kitchen. It can do the work of several pans in one.


Eggs Over Roasted Vegetables

6 servings


  • 3 cups small broccoli florets (about 1 inch in size)
  • 12 ounces yellow potatoes, such as Yukon Gold, cut into 1/2 to 3/4 inch pieces (about 2 cups)
  • 1 large sweet potato, cut into 1/2 to 3/4 inch pieces (about 1 cup)
  • 1 small red onion, cut into thin wedges
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for the baking dish
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 ounces Italian Fontina cheese, shredded (1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper


Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Coat a 3-quart rectangular baking dish with olive oil. Add  broccoli, potatoes, onion, olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt, tossing to coat all the vegetables.

Spread the vegetable mixture evenly in the dish. Roast for 10 minutes. Stir vegetables; roast about 5 minutes more or until the vegetables are tender and starting to brown. Remove the baking dish from the oven and reduce the heat to 375 degrees F.

Make six wells in the layer of vegetables. Break an egg into each well. Bake for 5 minutes. Sprinkle evenly with the shredded cheese and bake for 10 minutes more or until the egg whites are set and the yolks start to thicken. Sprinkle with pepper. Serve with some crusty Italian bread.


Roasted Chicken With Beans

6 servings


  • Two 15-ounce cans rinsed and drained Great Northern beans, or other white beans
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 6 chicken thighs (about 2-1/4 pounds total), skin removed
  • Coarse sea salt and coarse black pepper for the chicken
  • 2 medium carrots, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium onion, cut into thin wedges
  • 1 stalk celery, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • One 14 1/2 – ounce diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Sprinkle the chicken with the coarse salt and pepper.

In a large ovenproof skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken; reduce heat to medium-low. Brown the chicken about 10 minutes, turning once to brown both sides. Remove chicken from the skillet to a plate and set aside.

Add carrots, onion, celery and garlic to the drippings in the skillet. Cover and cook about 10 minutes or until the vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in drained beans, undrained tomatoes, thyme, 1/4 teaspoon salt and cayenne pepper.

Bring to boiling. Arrange chicken thighs on top. Place skillet in the oven and bake, uncovered, about 25 minutes or until the chicken registers 180 degrees F on an instant read thermometer.


Spicy Braised Pot Roast And Vegetables

Coffee adds a rich, deep flavor to beef roasts.


  • 3 pound beef chuck pot roast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon instant espresso coffee powder
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, cut into eighths
  • 1 green bell pepper, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups beef broth
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red (chili) pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 2-inch pieces


Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Trim fat from the meat. Rub meat with the espresso powder, salt and black pepper.

In a 6-quart Dutch oven brown roast on all sides in the olive oil over medium-high heat. Transfer to a plate.

Add onion, bell pepper and garlic to the Dutch oven. Cook and stir for 4 to 5 minutes or until the onion and garlic are tender. Return roast to the Dutch oven. Add broth, crushed red pepper and allspice. Bring to boiling.

Bake, covered, for 1 3/4 hours. Add squash. Bake, covered, for 45 minutes to 1 hour more or until the meat and vegetables are tender.

Transfer meat and vegetables to a platter; cover to keep warm. Bring liquid in the Dutch oven to boiling. Reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes until slightly thickened.

Serve sauce over meat and vegetables.


Chicago Style Deep Dish Pizza


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 lb. homemade or store-bought pizza dough
  • 2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup frozen chopped broccoli, defrosted and dried on paper towels
  • 2 roasted red peppers, cut into thin slices
  • 1/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives and cut in half
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 can chopped Italian tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese


Let the dough come to room temperature about an hour before you are ready to make the pizza.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Coat a 12-inch cast iron or other heavy ovenproof skillet or baking pan with the 1 tablespoon of oil.

Stretch the dough into a 14 inch circle on a floured board or counter.

Carefully transfer the dough to the skillet and then turn the dough over, so both sides are evenly coated with oil. Gently press the edges of the dough 2 inches up the side of the skillet.

Sprinkle mozzarella evenly over the dough; top with broccoli, peppers, olives, tomatoes, garlic, basil and Pecorino cheese.

Bake pizza 45 minutes or until the dough is puffed and golden brown. Let rest for 5 minutes before cutting the pizza into slices.


Risotto With Shrimp And Peas

Technically this is not a one-pot meal because the broth needs to be heated before it can be added to risotto. At least it will be an easy pan to wash.

4 servings


  • 4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium shallots, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt, plus extra for the shrimp
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for the shrimp
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup frozen green peas
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • 1 pound jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined


Heat broth in a saucepan and turn the heat down to low.

Heat oil in a second saucepan over medium-high heat. Add shallots, salt and pepper; sauté 2 minutes.

Add rice and stir to coat in the oil. Cook, stirring constantly, 2 minutes.

Add wine and cook until the wine is absorbed, about 2 minutes.

Reduce heat to medium and add 1 cup warm broth. Cook, stirring constantly, until the liquid is mostly absorbed. Continue adding broth 1 cup at a time, cooking and stirring, until the rice is al dente, about 25 minutes.

Sprinkle the shrimp with salt and pepper. Add green peas and shrimp to the risotto and cook, stirring gently, until the shrimp are just until firm and bright pink.

Add butter, cream and cheese, stirring until incorporated. Serve immediately.



Pumpkins haven’t always been popular. In fact, pumpkins were hardly eaten by people for a considerable part of the 19th century. Now, we have pumpkin flavored yogurt, coffee, candies, muffins and more. While the round orange pumpkin is the most recognizable pumpkin, pumpkins come in many different shapes, sizes, and colors. Pumpkins are native to Mexico, but are grown on every continent except Antarctica. Americans love pumpkin, but so do the people on the other 6 continents who choose to grow them. America’s love is usually concentrated around Halloween and Thanksgiving.

Today, more pumpkins are grown in Italy than in America. In all of Italy’s diverse 20 regions, it is the people of Veneto, who give the pumpkin its highest esteem. The pumpkin — marina di Chioggia, also known as sea pumpkin, after its native town in the lagoon, is the most popular. The pumpkin’s bland and compact flesh make them an ideal canvas for the savory and sweet creations of Italians cooking, such as pumpkin risotto, pumpkin tortelli, cappelletti and gnocchi.

Italian Pumpkin

Italian Pumpkin

Smaller is Better

Choose sugar pie pumpkins or other flavorful varieties. Small and sweet with dark orange-colored flesh, they’re perfect for pies, soups, muffins, and breads.

A medium-sized (4-pound) sugar pumpkin should yield around 1½ cups of mashed pumpkin. This puree can be used in all your recipes calling for canned pumpkin.

Field pumpkins, which are bred for jack-o’-lanterns, tend to be too large and stringy for baking.

Choose A Cooking Method

There are three ways to transform an uncooked pumpkin into the puree used in baking:

Baking Method

Cut the pumpkin in half and discard the stem section and stringy pulp. Save the seeds to dry and roast.
In a shallow baking dish, place the two halves face down and cover with foil.
Bake in a preheated 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) oven for about 1½ hours for a medium-sized sugar pumpkin, or until tender.
Once the baked pumpkin has cooled, scoop out the flesh and puree or mash it.
For silky smooth custards or soups, press the pumpkin puree through a sieve.

Boiling Method

Cut the pumpkin in half, discarding the stringy insides.
Peel the pumpkin and cut it into chunks.
Place in a saucepan and cover with water.
Bring to a boil and cook until the pumpkin chunks are tender.
Let the chunks cool, then puree the flesh in a food processor or mash it with a potato masher or food mill.

Microwave Method

Cut the pumpkin in half, discarding the stringy insides.
Microwave on high power for seven minutes per pound, turning pieces every few minutes to promote even cooking. Process as above.
You can refrigerate your fresh pumpkin puree for up to three days, or store it in the freezer up to six months, so you can enjoy fall pumpkins for months to come.


Pumpkin and Leek Risotto


  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 4 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 leek
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 1/2 cups pumpkin, peeled and diced
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, plus additional for serving


Cook the pumpkin:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).

Toss the pumpkin with a tablespoon of olive oil and one, small minced garlic clove  in a large bowl. Season with salt and black pepper. Arrange the pumpkin in a single layer on a baking sheet.

Roast until tender and lightly browned, 25 to 30 minutes.

Wash the leek well and dice the white and light green parts.

In a saucepan, bring 6 cups stock to a simmer.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large saucepan over medium heat and add the diced eek. Stir for 4-5 minutes or until soft. Reduce heat to low. Add 2 cups Arborio rice and stir to coat in the butter.

Add 1/2 cup dry white wine and cook, stirring, until liquid is absorbed. Add stock, a ladleful at a time, stirring after each addition until all liquid is absorbed.

When rice is almost cooked, add the pumpkin. Continue cooking,.until the pumpkin is hot and the rice is tender.

Season with salt and freshly cracked black pepper, then stir in 1/2 cup grated Parmesan and the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Serve topped with extra Parmesan cheese.


Pumpkin Gnocchi

3-4 servings


  • 1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup pumpkin purée (not pie filling)
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt (plus more as needed)
  • 2 teaspoons dark brown sugar (packed)
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • Ground white pepper
  • 11/2 cups all-purpose flour (plus more as needed)
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
  • Ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup hazelnuts,toasted and coarsely chopped (optional)


Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly dust it with flour; set aside.

Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil over high heat. (Do not heat the water if you plan to freeze the gnocchi.)

Drain the ricotta in a fine-mesh strainer over a large bowl for a few minutes. Place in a mixing bowl and add the pumpkin, egg yolks, salt, brown sugar, nutmeg and a few pinches of white pepper. Stir to combine. Add the flour and mix until the dough just comes together. (It will be very soft and slightly sticky, but don’t overwork the dough or it will become tough and heavy.)

Generously flour the work surface and turn out the dough. Pat it into a rough rectangle and cut it into 4 equal pieces. Gently roll 1 piece into an even rope about 3/4 inch in diameter, flouring the surface as needed.

Cut the rope into 3/4-inch pieces. Lightly flour your forefinger, your thumb and the tines of a salad fork. Using your thumb, lightly press the cut side of the gnocchi into the back of the fork tines, then roll it off with your forefinger; your thumb will leave a concave impression in the gnocchi that’s handy for holding sauce.

Place the gnocchi on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat rolling and cutting the remaining 3 dough pieces.

Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil over high heat.

Line a second baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Add a third of the gnocchi to the boiling water and cook until they float, about 2 to 3 minutes, then let them cook about 30 seconds to 1 minute more so they’re just cooked through. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to the second prepared baking sheet. Repeat cooking the remaining gnocchi in 2 more batches.

Set aside a large serving bowl.

Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat until foaming. Add 1 teaspoon of the sage. a pinch of black pepper and half of the gnocchi and cook, shaking the pan often, until the gnocchi are browned, about 3 minutes. Transfer with the slotted spoon to the reserved large bowl. Repeat with the remaining butter, sage, gnocchi and more black pepper..

Gently toss the gnocchi with the Parmesan cheese and sprinkle with the hazelnuts, if using. Serve immediately.


Penne Pasta with Pumpkin & Italian Sausage


  • 1 lb hot or sweet Italian Sausage
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 (14 ½-ounce) can pumpkin puree, not pie mix
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1 pound penne pasta or any short pasta
  • Grated Parmesan cheese and sage leaves for garnish


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the penne al dente. Drain and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat the oil and cook the sausages until well-done, 165°F as measured by a meat thermometer. Slice into ¼-inch slices and set aside.

Add the garlic and onion to the skillet and sauté 3 to 5 minutes or until the onion is tender. Add the bay leaf and wine. Cook until the wine reduces by half; about 2 minutes. Add the chicken broth and pumpkin; cook, stirring, until sauce bubbles. Add sliced sausage and reduce heat and stir in cream. Season with nutmeg, salt and black pepper. Simmer 5 to 10 minutes to thicken the sauce.

Remove the bay leaf from sauce and add the cooked pasta. Toss together over low heat 1 minute. Garnish with grated cheese and sage leaves.


Italian Pumpkin Strata

A strata is a  brunch dish, similar to a quiche or frittata, made from a mixture of bread, eggs and cheese. It may also include meat or vegetables. The bread is layered with the filling in order to produce layers (strata) and baked.

Servings: 10


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 lb Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb Italian bread, cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 3 cups half & half (fat-free works fine)
  • 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree, not pie mix
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper


In a large skillet cook sausage, onion, peppers and garlic in oil until the sausage is no longer pink; drain.

Combine bread, cheese and sausage mixture in a large bowl.

Mix together the half & half, pumpkin, eggs, salt, pepper and seasonings.

Pour over the bread mixture and stir gently until bread is moistened.

Pour into a greased 13×9 inch baking dish.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 30-35 minutes or until set.

Serve warm.

pumpkin 5

Pumpkin Tiramisu

Serves 9


  • 1 1/2 cups whipping cream, chilled
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 (8-ounce) container mascarpone cheese
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 cup Amaretto liqueur
  • 25 Savoiardi Ladyfingers
  • 6 ounces Amaretti cookies, crumbled


In an electric mixer beat cream and sugar together until stiff peaks form. Fold in the mascarpone cheese, pumpkin and spices and beat until smooth.

Pour the Amaretto liqueur into a shallow bowl. Dip each ladyfinger in the liqueur before arranging them along the bottom of a 13- by 9-inch baking dish, overlapping to fit.

Spread one-third of the filling over the ladyfingers, sprinkle evenly with one-third of the Amaretti cookie crumbs and repeat with two more layers.

Smooth the top of dessert and wrap tightly in plastic and foil. Refrigerate. Best when chilled overnight.


As immigrants from the different regions of Italy settled throughout the United States, many brought with them a distinct regional Italian culinary tradition. Many of these foods and recipes developed into new favorites for the local communities and later for Americans nationwide.


Italians were some of the first European explorers and settlers of California. Italians first came to the state in large numbers with the Gold Rush. While most found little gold, they did find success in farming, fishing, commerce and making wine. Though we often associate Italians in California with San Francisco, the initial Italian settlers established themselves in such diverse communities as Monterey, Stockton and San Diego. Italian fishermen established themselves in fishing villages along the coast.


Across the state, the Italians also settled the farmlands and played a prominent role in developing today’s fruit, vegetable and dairy industries. By the 1880’s, Italians dominated the industry in the great Central Valley of California. Italian immigrants also left their mark on the California food processing industry. Marco Fontana arrived in the United States in 1859 and along with another Ligurian, Antonio Cerruti, established a chain of canneries under the “Del Monte” label. Most of their workers were Italian and their cannery soon became the largest in the world.

Another enterprising Italian was Domenico Ghirardelli, who traveled through the gold mines in the 1850’s, selling chocolates and hard candies. He settled in San Francisco after the Goldrush and founded the Ghirardelli chocolate empire.


One of the most inspiring of California’s Italians was Amadeo Pietro Giannini who was born in 1870 to immigrant Italian parents from Genoa. He started the first statewide system of branch banks in the nation by opening branches of his Bank of Italy, in the Italian neighborhoods, across the state. He later changed the name of his bank to Bank of America.


Many Italian families have made their living from cattle ranching in the Mother Lode foothills at the base of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. One can still find many Italian family ranches in the region.

The Italians also played an important role in developing the olive oil industry in the foothills. The rolling hills of the Gold Country, which resemble the Mediterranean hills of Liguria, are dotted with the remnants of early Italian olive tree orchards and with newly planted trees similar to those found in Italy.


The California wine industry also owes much to its Italian founders. Italians have been planting vineyards and making wine in America since the early colonial days when Filippo Mazzei planted vineyards with Thomas Jefferson.

Drive down the California vineyard roads and you may think you are in Italy. The Italian winery names that are seen throughout the area stand as a reminder of the contribution of Italian-Americans in the growth of the California wine industry. Some of the most famous names in American wine got their start during the four decades leading up to Prohibition in 1919. Seghesio, Simi, Sebastiani and Foppiano all started in the late 1800s and are still operating today. Giuseppe Magliavacca’s Napa winery was by then a thriving business, Secondo Guasti had established the Italian Vineyard Company and Andrea Sbarbaro had founded Italian Swiss Colony.

Italian-Americans in California kept their vines in the ground and healthy throughout the Prohibition era. When Prohibition ended, they were rewarded but, more importantly, the families that had struggled to maintain their vineyards gave America a jump start in resuming the wine industry. Without the vineyards and the fully equipped wineries, America would have had to rebuild the industry from scratch, an industry that is synonymous with longevity and tradition.

Today, the California wine industry is dotted with Italian names. The Trinchero family name is hidden behind its non-Italian winery name: Sutter Home. Robert Mondavi, Ferrari-Carano, Geyser Peak (owned by the Trione family), Viansa, Cosentino, Atlas Peak (owned by Antinori), Dalla Valle, Delicato, Valley of the Moon, Parducci, Signorello, Sattui, Rochioli, Rafanelli and Mazzocco are all thriving wineries in America.

Recipes From California’s Wineries


Chilled California Garden Gazpacho

Recipe by Vicki Sebastiani from Viansa Winery.

Serve this course with Barbera, a wine flavored with plum, black cherry, wild berry and oak spice.


  • 1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
  • 1 large red onion, peeled and diced
  • 1 large red bell pepper, cored, seeded and diced
  • 1 large zucchini, diced
  • 6 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced (about 6 cups)
  • 1/4 cup Italian white wine, such as Pinot Grigio
  • 2 cups tomato juice
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • Dash Tabasco sauce


  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh chives
  • 1/2 cup croutons, preferably homemade


Set aside 1/2 cup each of the chopped cucumber, red onion, red pepper and zucchini. In a blender or food processor combine the rest of the vegetables with the remaining ingredients. Puree slightly, so the vegetables are left a little chunky.

Combine soup with the reserved vegetables, cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill 2 to 3 hours. To serve, top with a dollop of sour cream, a sprinkle of minced chives and several croutons.

Makes 8 cups.


Risotto Milanese

From the kitchen of Ed Seghesio.

Serve this course with Arneis, which is both the name of the wine and the grape from which it is made. The name means “little rascal” in the Piedmontese dialect, so named because it can be difficult to grow. Arneis has a delicate aroma and flavor of pears, with a hint of almonds. The grape seems to have more acidity in California than in Italy, yielding a crisper wine.


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup Seghesio Arneis
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3-1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 ounce dried Porcini mushrooms, rehydrated in 1/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste


Simmer chicken stock in a separate pan.

Sauté onions in olive oil and butter until onions are clear in a large saucepan. Add the rice to the onions and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.

Add the wine and garlic to the mixture and allow the liquid to cook down. Then add 1/2 cup of warm stock and the rehydrated porcini mushrooms with their liquid. Allow the liquid to cook down, stirring constantly.

As the liquid simmers, continue adding 1/2 cup of the warm stock. Repeat this process until the rice is tender, approximately 30 minutes.

With the last 1/2 cup of stock, add the saffron. When the rice is tender, stir in the Parmesan cheese and freshly ground pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Serves 2 as a main dish and 4 as a side dish.


Grilled Chicken with Tapenade

Recipe courtesy of Louis M. Martini Winery.

Serve with Sangiovese, a Chianti-style wine.


  • 1 chicken, about 3-1/2 pounds
  • 1/4 cup tapenade, store-bought or homemade (recipe below)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
  • Salt and pepper


Remove the chicken’s backbone (or have the butcher do it). Lay the chicken out flat. With your fingers, gently separate the chicken skin from the breast and thighs but do not detach it completely.

Rub oil all over chicken skin. Spread the tapenade evenly over the breast and thighs and underneath the skin. Season with rosemary, salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate 3 to 4 hours. Bring to room temperature before grilling.

Prepare a medium-hot charcoal fire. Arrange coals in a ring around the perimeter of the grill and set an aluminum foil drip pan in the center. Grill the chicken over the drip pan for about 20 minutes skin side down, with the grill covered; then turn, cover again and cook until done, about another 10 minutes. Let rest 5 to 10 minutes before cutting into serving pieces. Serves 4.


  • 1/2 pound Greek or Italian black olives, pitted
  • 4 anchovy fillets
  • 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons brandy


Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender and blend until nearly but not completely smooth. Tapenade should have a slightly coarse texture.


Hazelnut Biscotti

Recipe courtesy of the Mosby Winery.

Serve with Tocai Friulano, a slightly sweet wine with aromas of honeysuckle and orange blossom along with the flavors of citrus and tropical fruit.


  • 1-1/2 cups whole hazelnuts, toasted, and coarsely chopped
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup of hazelnut flour (finely ground hazelnuts, measured  after grinding)
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
  • 1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup cold butter
  • 2 teaspoons anise seed


Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease 2 baking sheets.  

Combine flour, baking powder, hazelnut flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to blend the ingredients.

In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer. Add the eggs to the butter and sugar and beat well.  

Stir in the flour mixture, the coarsely chopped hazelnuts, espresso powder, vanilla and anise seed.  Cover the dough and chill for 1 hour.

Divide the dough into four pieces and shape each into a 9-inch log. Place the logs on the baking sheets and bake in the oven for 35 minutes.

Remove the loaves to a cutting board, cool and cut the pieces crosswise into 3/4” thick slices.

Return the slices, cut side down, to the baking sheets and bake an additional 20 minutes, or until dry and firm. Let the biscotti cool before serving. Store in airtight container for up to two weeks.

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Summer brings an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables to grocery stores, farmers’ markets and local gardens. That means more opportunities to add good tasting, heart-healthy foods to your everyday meals. Tomatoes, corn, eggplant and bell peppers are now at their best. Use them in your main dish recipes to add color and nutrition.


Pork Tenderloin Sandwiches with Slaw

4 servings


  • 12 ounces pork tenderloin
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 hamburger buns, split and toasted
  • Ketchup, mustard and/or pickles


Cut pork crosswise into four pieces. Place one pork piece between two pieces of clear plastic wrap. Pound lightly with the flat side of a meat mallet, working from center to edges until 1/4 inch thick. Remove plastic wrap. Repeat with remaining pork pieces.

In a shallow dish, combine flour, salt, onion powder, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, cayenne pepper and black pepper. Dip meat into the flour mixture, turning to coat.

In a very large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add pork; cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until no pink remains and juices run clear, turning once. (If all the pork slices won’t fit in the skillet, cook in two batches, adding additional oil if necessary.)

To serve: place pork pieces in buns and top with ketchup, mustard and/or pickles. Serve slaw on the side.



  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Several dashes bottled hot pepper sauce
  • 2 cups packaged shredded broccoli slaw mix or cabbage slaw mix
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onion
  • 3 tablespoons minced red or green bell pepper
  • 1 tablespoon snipped fresh parsley


In a screw-top jar combine vinegar, honey, salt, black pepper and bottled hot pepper sauce.

Cover and shake well.

In a medium bowl combine broccoli, green onion, bell pepper and parsley. Pour vinegar mixture over the vegetable mixture; toss to coat. Cover and chill before serving.


Corn-Mushroom Risotto with Grilled Chicken

Make 2 extra grilled chicken breasts on the weekend and save for this dish.

2 servings


  • 2 small skinless, boneless grilled chicken breast halves (8 to 10 ounces total)
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon snipped fresh thyme
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons white wine
  • 1/2 cup fresh corn, cut off one cob
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1/3 cup Arborio rice
  • 1/3 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1/3 cup fresh snow pea pods or green beans, halved crosswise
  • 1/4 cup diced tomato
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese


In a medium saucepan combine the water, broth and wine; heat over high heat until hot but not boiling. Reduce heat to low; keep warm.

In another medium saucepan heat the 2 teaspoons olive oil over medium heat. Add corn and onion; cook 6 minutes or until corn is tender and onion is lightly browned. Add rice, mushrooms, thyme, pepper and garlic; cook and stir about 5 minutes or until rice is golden brown, stirring frequently.

Carefully add 1/2 cup of the broth mixture, stirring to loosen browned bits from bottom of saucepan. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, 3 to 4 minutes or until the rice has absorbed the liquid.

Add another 1/2 cup of the broth mixture. Cook and stir 3 to 4 minutes more or until the rice has absorbed the liquid. Continue adding broth mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, and cooking until all of the liquid has been absorbed before adding more, stirring often. (This should take 18 to 20 minutes total.)

When rice is fully cooked but still slightly firm, remove from the heat. Stir in pea pods or green beans, tomato and Parmesan cheese. Dice chicken and stir into rice mixture. Serve.


Swordfish and Squash Kabobs

You can serve this dish over rice or orzo pasta or with a simple green salad on the side.

Serves 6


  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons fresh-squeezed orange juice
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 pounds skinless swordfish steaks, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2 pounds zucchini and yellow summer squash, cut into 1-inch-thick rounds
  • 12 cherry tomatoes


In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together oil, orange juice, garlic, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper and crushed red pepper flakes. Add swordfish and toss well to coat; cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Prepare a grill for medium-high heat cooking and oil the grill grates.

Thread marinated swordfish, squash rounds and tomatoes onto skewers. (If using wooden skewers, soak in water for 30 minutes before assembling.)

Discard excess marinade. Grill kabobs over direct heat, turning once, until lightly charred and cooked through, about 8 minutes.


Summer Vegetable Bake

Serve with a green salad.

4 servings


  • 2 medium sweet onions
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 eggplant (about 1 pound), ends trimmed, halved lengthwise
  • 3 large summer squash (combination of zucchini and yellow squash), ends trimmed
  • 1/2 pound russet (baking) potatoes
  • 3 plum tomatoes
  • 6 ounces feta cheese


Heat oven to 400 degrees F . Peel and halve onions; cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add onions and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Cook 8 to 10 minutes or until softened. Add garlic and cook 1 minute.

Add 1/2 teaspoon of the Italian seasoning and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper. Pour mixture into the bottom of a 9 x 13 oven-safe casserole.

Cut eggplant, squash, potatoes and tomatoes into 1/4-inch thick slices.

Toss vegetables with remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Alternate vegetables on top of the onion mixture in 1 layer; packed tightly.

Cover dish with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil and crumble feta cheese on top. Bake 15 more minutes uncovered. Cool slightly and cut into servings.


Linguine with Scallops, Red Bell Peppers and Broccoli

4 servings


  • 8 ounces linguine
  • 1 bunch broccoli florets
  • 1 large red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 pound scallops, tough muscle removed, rinsed
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 6 garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese


Cook pasta according to package directions in salted boiling water, about 8-9 minutes for al dente; add broccoli during the last 2 minutes of cooking. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water.

Drain.Heat the oil and butter in large skillet over medium-high heat.

Coat scallops with flour and season with salt and pepper. Saute 2 minutes per side; remove to a plate and set aside.

Add the garlic and bell pepper to the skillet and cook until pepper softens.

Add pasta, parsley, lemon juice, scallops and the pasta water. Toss gently to combine and simmer 1 minute. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Pour into a large serving bowl. Add cheese and toss. Serve.


As immigrants from the different regions of Italy settled throughout the United States, many brought with them a distinct regional Italian culinary tradition. Many of these foods and recipes developed into new favorites for the local communities and later for Americans nationwide.



For almost 150 years Reno, Nevada, has had an Italian American presence. After arriving in American ports on the West and East Coasts, the immigrants sought out areas of the United States where the climate would be similar to the one they had left behind in Europe. They also desired to move to locations where either a plentiful number of jobs were available or where the land was cheap enough so that they could earn a living from farming or ranching. Northwestern Nevada satisfied all these demands. The dry, mountainous terrain is similar to that of many of the provinces in northern Italy where most of the local Italian families emigrated from and the area featured cheap and fertile land.

Initially, Italians streamed into the area to work on the Transcontinental Railroad. After the completion of the railroad in 1869, Italian immigrants continued to move to the area in significant numbers to work at the local ranches and lumber companies. This trend lasted through the first few decades of the twentieth century.


After arriving in Nevada, Reno’s Italian Americans gradually created distinctive ethnic neighborhoods throughout the valley. Three major Italian areas developed in the region: one in central Sparks along Prater Way, one in north Reno along Washington Street and one along the Truckee River just west of downtown. These districts were conveniently located within easy walking to some of the major employers of local Italian Americans—the Union Pacific freight depot in Sparks and the many Italian-owned shops, restaurants and other small businesses located along Lake Street in downtown Reno.

Each of these neighborhoods featured a particular style of architecture. From the 1910s until the 1940s, Italian immigrants constructed Craftsman-style homes in their Reno neighborhood. These houses distinctively feature shallow sloping roofs, upstairs dormer windows and tapered columns. The immigrants built these wide, low-rising dwellings to take full advantage of the small sizes of their neighborhood lots. While this style of home design is not exclusive to the Italian American community, this particular local immigrant group did make almost exclusive use of this style because of its efficient use of lot space, its simple design and construction and the inexpensive nature of the required building materials.


Today, many Craftsman-style homes remain in all three of the major Italian American neighborhoods and, while not carrying the weight of a full historic district, the city provides guidance and information for homeowners interested in restoring their historic properties. The valuable historic character of this collection of homes and streets, so important to the area’s Italian American community, is now being painstakingly preserved by volunteer residents with the official backing of the City of Reno.

The many small business enterprises run by northern Nevada’s Italian Americans functioned as a major means of achieving financial stability and social mobility among its members. Many local Italians, lacking a formal American education, saw the formation of small shops, restaurants and other enterprises as an accessible path to financial and social success for both themselves and their families. Some of Reno’s most popular businesses, past and present, have been owned and operated by local Italian Americans. The Eldorado Hotel and Casino, the Mizpah Hotel, the Sportsman, First National Bank of Nevada and Pioneer Citizens Bank are a few examples of prominent establishments that were started by local Italians. On a smaller scale, Italian American–owned neighborhood shops such as the Dainty Cake Shop and Pinky’s Market were also staffed mostly by Italian Americans who were either related to or were close friends with the owners. In addition to their influence on Reno’s  business community, Italian Americans had an impact on local leisure activities through games and gatherings they did for fun and relaxation. Some of these activities included gardening, wine making, and bocce ball tournaments. (Source:

Ivano Centemeri, executive chef at Eldorado Hotel Casino’s La Strada restaurant in Reno, has been bringing Italian flavors to area eateries since 1995. Born and raised in Monza, Italy, near Milan, Centemeri came to Reno to share his culture through food. He’s happy that people enjoy learning about his background. Centemeri began his cooking endeavors at just 15 years old. After the required amount of schooling, he enrolled in culinary school to make cooking his career path. In addition to indulging in the cooking process at work and at home, Centemeri works with the owners of Arte Italia to further share his culture with others. The Italian arts and culinary center is devoted to the preservation of historical Italian traditions and heritage. A huge part of any culture is the cuisine, which is why, several times a year, the center hosts chefs from around Italy to demonstrate authentic cooking from their respective regions.


Porcini Risotto

(courtesy of Chef Ivano Centemeri)

Porcini mushrooms have a smooth, meaty texture and woodsy flavor. They are a natural enhancement to a smooth Risotto. Chef Centemeri serves this dish topped with pan seared scallops.

Serves 4


  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 large white onion, finely chopped
  • 1 ½ cups Carnaroli or Arborio, an Italian rice
  • 3 cups prepared chicken stock
  • 2.5 oz dried Porcini mushrooms
  • 1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, freshly grated


In a saucepan, simmer the Porcini mushrooms in the chicken stock on low for 15 minutes.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in heavy large saucepan over medium heat.

Add onion. Sauté until translucent, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.

Add rice and while stirring, add 1/2 cup broth with the Porcini mushrooms.

When liquid in rice mixture has reduced, add an additional 1/2 cup stock with the Porcini mushrooms, always stirring.

As liquid reduces continue to add stock with Porcini mushrooms 1/2 cup at a time, continually stirring until stock and mushrooms are used, about 20 minutes.

Mixture will be creamy and rice slightly al dente. Add remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, season with salt and pepper to taste.

Fold in 1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano and serve.



The Roosevelt Dam, the US’s first project under the Federal Reclamation Act, is the tallest masonry dam in the world and is located on the Salt River in Arizona. “I want to recollect the men who built the dam, who made the road to the Roosevelt Dam from Phoenix.” President Theodore Roosevelt spoke these words during his March 18, 1911 dedication at the new dam named after him. It was indeed a diverse community of men, some with families, the President chose to acknowledge that day. One of the unique traits of the American West was just how quickly immigrants from around the world came together to create a new society. The people who hired on to build the dam reflect this trait.

The Roosevelt Dam was designed as a masonry dam that required each block of stone to be precisely cut and shaped. Stonemasons from around the world were sought out and hired for the demanding job. The dam was faced from boulders cut or blasted from the surrounding sandstone cliffs and then bonded with mortar and concrete. The first stone, weighing six tons, was set September 20, 1906 by stonemasons, many of whom were Italian immigrants.

Between the boulders, laborers placed large stones weighing up to ten tons each, carried by the cable ways at night to free the units for mortar hauling during the day. Each stone was lowered into waiting mortar and fitted into place. Workers filled the gaps with small rocks and the vertical spaces with mortar. Although construction was hampered by floods throughout the building process, the Roosevelt Dam was completed by February 1911. Four years later, the reservoir was full and water was released over the spillways.

The Roosevelt Dam was located in a very remote canyon 40 miles from the railroad at Globe and about 60 miles from Phoenix, inflating the cost of freighting supplies and adding to the difficulty of construction. Construction of a road from Mesa, called the Apache Trail, took three years to build. Houses for workers and a few stores were built on a hillside within walking distance of the dam site. The town and the campsite were provided with water, sewer lines, an ice plant, telephones and electricity. Roosevelt had utilities other towns in Arizona wished for but it also went without something every other boom town had. The government forbade the sale of alcohol.

. Here twenty-six Italian stonemasons pose for the Reclamation Service photographer Walter J. Lubken in 1906.

. Here twenty-six Italian stonemasons pose for the Reclamation Service photographer Walter J. Lubken in 1906.

When construction workers first came in 1903, the project was called Tonto Dam or Tonto Basin Dam, after the valley that holds the lake. The dam was built where the river was narrowed to 200 feet as it entered a rugged canyon just below a point called “The Crossing.” Exactly when the town came to be named Roosevelt is not clear. There is evidence that it was first called Newtown. But the Post Office was established January 22, 1904 as “Roosevelt,” and probably by then everyone knew it would be called Theodore Roosevelt Dam, after the president who supported its construction. (Source: Arizona State History)

Bass in Pesto Fish Broth

The Theodore Roosevelt Dam created Roosevelt Lake and it is the largest of four lakes created as part of the project. This lake has some of the best fishing waters in the country. The game fish include large mouth bass, small mouth bass, crappie, carp, channel catfish, flat head catfish, bluegill, buffalo fish and an occasional rainbow trout.

4 servings


  • 4 medium leeks
  • 1 cup fish stock or clam juice
  • 1/2 cup basil pesto
  • 1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 bass fillets, 6 ounces each
  • Salt and pepper to taste


For the leeks:

Cut off the root ends. Slice off the white part of the leeks just before the stem turns green. Split the leeks in half lengthwise. Cut into ½ inch-wide strips. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and blanch the leeks for 1 to 2 minutes, or until soft. Drain well. Reserve.

For the pesto broth:

Bring the fish stock or clam juice to a boil, reduce to a slow simmer and add the pesto. Stir well, and keep warm while the fish is cooking.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Season the bass fillets with salt and pepper. Heat a large, ovenproof saute pan and add the olive oil. When hot, carefully add the fillets to the hot saute pan. Sear until golden brown on one side, about 2 minutes. Carefully turn over the fillets and place the pan in the oven. Cook for 4-5 minutes.

To serve:

Place 4 equal mounds of leeks in the center of 4 large bowls. Place the fish on top of the leeks. Place the tomatoes around the fish in the bowl. Finish by ladling the pesto broth around the fish. Serve immediately. (Source: The Arizona Republic)

New Mexico


KiMo Theater


Although the railroad represented the city’s major industry, other enterprises played an important role in the early development of Albuquerque. Italian immigrants built many of the city’s premier buildings. In 1886 Gaetano Palladino and Michael Berardinelli built the first county courthouse. They also built the ornate, brownstone Nicholas T. Armijo Building. Luigi Puccini, cousin of the famed composer, is responsible for the Puccini building, now home to both the El Rey Theater and Puccini’s Golden West Saloon. Oreste Bachechi built both the Savoy Hotel in 1905 and in 1927 the KiMo Theater.

Bachechi initiated the process of Italians settling in Albuquerque. Born in Bagni de Lucca, Italy in 1860, he came to Albuquerque in 1885. He opened a small tent saloon near the railroad to cater to the needs of travelers and railroad employees and later expanded this business into a prosperous wholesale liquor dealership. News of his economic success influenced other Italians to try their fortune in Albuquerque. Additionally, Bachechi lent some Italian immigrants money for their passage and helped them find work when they arrived.

In 1925, Oreste decided to achieve his true dream – building his own theater. Envisioning a unique southwestern style, he soon hired an architect to design it, winding up with the Pueblo Deco style. This architectural style fused the spirit of Native American culture with Art Deco. The KiMo Theater was opened on September 19, 1927 and the first movie shown in the KiMo was Painting the Town Red. The first talking movie was Melody of Broadway. Frances Farney played the Wurlitzer organ during each performance.

The KiMo was also an important employer for young people just getting started in the entertainment business. Vivian Vance, who gained fame as Lucille Ball’s sidekick in the I Love Lucy series, started working at the KiMo. The theater also hosted such Hollywood stars as Sally Rand, Gloria Swanson, Tom Mix and Ginger Rogers. A year after the realization of his dream, Oreste Bachechi died, leaving the management of the KiMo to his sons, who combined vaudeville and out-of town road shows with movies. Extra revenue came in from the luncheonette and curio shop on either side of the entrance. (Source: History of Albuquerque)



The New Mexico Italian Film & Culture Festival (formerly the NM Italian Film Festival) has become an Albuquerque tradition and is held in February each year. Eleven films were screened this past February (three in Santa Fe and eight in Albuquerque., The festival also features music, art, Italian food and a silent auction. Extending over 11 days, the festival, a benefit for the University of New Mexico Children’s Hospital, starts at the Jean Cocteau Cinema with a wine and food reception and a screening. All films are in Italian with English subtitles and include a great mix of genres, from comedy to drama to romance. The mission of the New Mexico Italian Film & Culture Festival is to promote and raise awareness of Italian culture in New Mexico while contributing to a valuable state institution that benefits all New Mexican children. (Source

La Lama Mountain Ovens is a high-altitude bakery located in New Mexico with an Italian emphasis. Old family recipes and old-world techniques are being recorded and tested and then preserved on their website along with modern translations.

As a family project, their primary mission is to record, test and preserve the best of the Italian-American old family recipes and translate them to fit today’s families. They have also developed an appreciation for the differences that their 8,000 foot altitude makes to the cooking and baking, process – and intend to share tips and techniques useful to anyone trying to prepare food above 2,000 feet.


Baked Ziti with Four Cheeses

by CeCe Dove, La Lama Mountain Ovens

Serves six


  • 1 lb. ziti pasta
  • 3/4 lb. whole milk ricotta
  • 1/4 lb. Italian Fontina cheese, coarsely grated
  • 1/4 lb. whole milk Mozzarella, coarsely grated
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 quart tomato sauce
  • 2 cups Bechamel sauce

Bechamel Ingredients

  • 2 cups cold whole milk
  • 1/4 lb. butter
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt


For the Bechamel Sauce

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan – add flour and stir to blend; cook the butter/flour mixture 2 minutes. Add the cold milk all at once and whisk to blend. Add salt. Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly until thickened.

Butter a glass casserole dish, approximately 13 x 9, and set aside.

For the Ziti

Cook the ziti to the al dente stage in a large quantity of boiling salted water.

While the pasta is cooking, warm the tomato sauce and put it into a bowl large enough to hold all ingredients.

When the pasta is cooked, drain well, add to the bowl with the tomato sauce. Add the Bechamel sauce and then add the ricotta, fontina and mozzarella cheeses. Mix vigorously until well combined.

Pour into the buttered casserole, top with the Parmesan cheese and bake 30-35 minutes until bubbly.

Let sit five minutes before serving. (Source:



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