Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Soup

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

They also have many health benefits.

1.  They are high in vitamin B6.

2. They are a good source of vitamin C.

3.  They contain Vitamin D.

4.  Sweet potatoes contain iron.

5.  Sweet potatoes are a good source of mag­nesium.

6.  They are a source of potassium.

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

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

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

Here are some general practical rules that you can follow:

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

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

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

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

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

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Sweet Potato-Sausage Soup

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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Sweet Potato Frittata

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

6 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sweet Potato Gnocchi

Serves 8 as a First Course

Ingredients

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

GNOCCHI:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SAGE LEAVES AND CHESTNUTS:

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

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

SAUCE:

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

COOK GNOCCHI:

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

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

Serve sprinkled with fried sage and chestnuts and grated cheese.

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Italian Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Sweet Potatoes

4 servings

Vegetables

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

Pork

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

Directions

Heat oven to 425°F.

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

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

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

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

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

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Sweet Potato Latte

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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rice

What is Whole Grain Rice?

After rice is harvested, its inedible hull must be removed, resulting in a whole grain (often brown) rice kernel, ready to cook. If the rice is milled further, the bran and germ are removed, white rice is the result, with lower levels of nutrients.

Rice is often classified by size and texture. There’s long, medium and short-grain rice, with the former quite elongated and the latter nearly round. Some short-grain rices are known as “sticky” rice because of the extra amylopectin (a kind of starch) that they contain; this stickiness makes them easier to manipulate with chopsticks and perfect for sushi. Aromatic rices have a special fragrance and taste, such as Basmati, Jasmine, Texmati and Ambemohar rice.

Rice is one of the most easily digested grains – one reason rice cereal is often recommended as a baby’s first solid. This makes rice ideal for those on a restricted diet or who are gluten-intolerant.

Brown rice has much higher levels of many vitamins and minerals than white rice.

Wild rice is not technically rice at all, but the seed of an aquatic grass originally grown by Native American tribes around the Great Lakes. Today some commercial cultivation takes place in California and the Midwest, but much of the crop is still harvested by Native Americans, largely in Minnesota.

The strong flavor and high price of wild rice means that it is most often consumed in a blend with other rices or other grains. Wild rice has twice the protein and fiber of brown rice, but less iron and calcium.

Cooking common varieties of brown rice is simple.

In general, combine 1 cup uncooked brown rice with two cups liquid (such as water or broth) in a 2-3 quart saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Heat to boiling, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 40-45 minutes. Check to see if most of the water has been absorbed. If rice is not quite tender or liquid is not absorbed, replace lid and cook 2 to 4 minutes longer. Remove from the heat and let stand ten minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve. Yields 3-4 cups.

Tips for perfect rice:

  • Keep lid on the pot during cooking
  • Don’t stir – unless you like sticky rice. Stirring releases extra starch. (That’s the reason for all that stirring when making risotto.)
  • If rice (or any other grain) is sticking to the pot, add a little water, turn off the heat, and let it steam for a few extra minutes. Usually the rice will release from the pot.

Whole grain rice comes in many quick-cooking forms these days, too. These brown rice options are partially (or completely) pre-cooked, so all you have to do is warm them up for ten minutes – or even as little as 90 seconds in the microwave. So brown rice can have a place on your table even when you’re in a hurry.

Store uncooked brown rice at room temperature for up to six months, or in your refrigerator or freezer for longer periods. Cooked rice can be stored in the refrigerator for 3-5 days, or in the freezer for several months. It’s easy to cook a big batch of brown rice, freeze it in batches sized for your household and simply warm it up at mealtime.

My favorite rice company, Lundberg.

Make a big batch of Brown Rice Stuffing and use it in any number of recipes or serve some alongside roasted chicken or pork. You can also just cook the 2 cups of rice in the stock and use the leftovers for casseroles and soup.

Makes 8 cups

Ingredients

  • 1 cup chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts, pignoli, etc.)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 ½ cups chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons dried sage
  • 2 cups uncooked brown rice or whole grain rice mix (unseasoned)
  • 3 ⅓ cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions

Toast the nuts by heating them over medium-high heat in a heavy, dry skillet or baking them in a toaster oven until golden brown. Do not allow them to burn. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan. Add the onion and celery and saute over low heat until soft and just beginning to brown. Stir in the thyme, sage and rice. Add the toasted nuts. Add the stock, bring to a boil and boil for two minutes.

Lower heat, cover and cook until the liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes. The rice will still be a little firm, but it will continue to cook in the recipes below. Season the mixture with parsley, lemon juice and salt and pepper. Set aside or refrigerate until ready to use.

Use to stuff vegetables, such as peppers, tomatoes, onions or cabbage.

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Italian Sausage Stuffed Peppers

Ingredients

  • 4-6 (depending on size) large peppers (green, red, yellow or orange), tops cut off and cleaned out
  • 1 lb hot Italian pork or turkey sausage, casing removed
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning, recipe above
  • 1 cup prepared brown rice stuffing
  • Salt & fresh ground pepper (to taste)
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups marinara sauce, optional
  • Fresh basil, for garnish

Directions

Saute sausage until browned. Add garlic and Italian seasoning. Saute for 2 minutes.

Pour into a mixing bowl and stir in rice stuffing.

Stuff  mixture into the hollowed out peppers.  Place in a baking dish and top the peppers with mozzarella cheese. Pour marinara sauce around the peppers, if desired. You can also heat the sauce separately and pour it over the baked peppers.

Bake at 350 degrees F. for 25-30 minutes or until the peppers are tender. Garnish with fresh basil, if desired.

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Stuffed Acorn Squash

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 acorn squash
  • 2 tablespoons extra‐virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove organic garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup diced Portobello mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup cooked brown rice stuffing
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Kosher salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Cut acorn squash in half; remove seeds and place cut sides down on a greased baking pan.

Roast for 35 minutes. Cool and remove flesh the from squash halves; cube the squash flesh.

Add oil to a sauté pan over medium‐high heat. Add the cubed squash, garlic and mushrooms. Sauté for 4 to 5 minutes.

Add cooked brown rice stuffing, butter and salt and pepper, if needed.

Mix well and stuff into empty squash halves. Reheat in the oven for a few minutes.

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Brown Rice Fritters

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cooked (leftover, plain) brown rice
  • 1/2 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano
  • 1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
  • 3 tablespoons butter, divided
  • Finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves

Directions

Combine rice, parmigiano-reggiano, oregano, salt, pepper and egg.

Form rice mixture into eight 2″ round cakes. Transfer cakes to a baking sheet covered with parchment paper and refrigerate for 30 minutes to allow them to firm up.

Put flour on a plate; dredge cakes in flour.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter in a 10″ skillet over medium-high heat. Working in 2 batches, fry cakes, turning once carefully so they do not break apart, until golden brown, about 4 minutes per side.

Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil to the pan for the second batch, if needed, and cook the second batch.

Garnish each cake with a thin slice of softened butter and sprinkle with finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves.

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Chicken Rice Soup

8 servings

Ingredients

  • 10 cups chicken broth
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 1 cup sliced celery
  • 1 cup sliced carrots
  • 1/4 cup snipped parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken cubed (3/4 lb.)
  • 4 cups (6 oz) baby spinach
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice

Directions

Combine broth, onion, celery, carrots, parsley, pepper, thyme and bay leaf in a Dutch oven or very large soup pot.

Bring to a boil; stir once or twice. Reduce heat; simmer uncovered 10 to 15 minutes. Add chicken and spinach; simmer uncovered 5 to 10 minutes or until chicken is cooked.

Remove and discard bay leaf. Stir in rice and lemon juice and heat just before serving.


beans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Basic Directions for Cooking Dried Beans

Makes about 6 cups

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

Soak the beans using one of these two methods:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Orecchiette Pasta with Spinach and Beans

Serves 4

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

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

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

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Bean and Sausage Stew

4 Servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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Herbed Lentils with Spinach and Tomatoes

Serve with pita bread

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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Beans and Broccoli 

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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Braised Chicken with Fennel and White Beans

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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


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Milan is the home of Italy’s stock exchange, the Gothic cathedral – the Duomo, one of Europe’s biggest trade-fair complexes, famous nightclubs, the prestigious opera house, La Scala, A.C. Milan (football) and endless opportunities to eat the best of Lombard’s Italian food. Milan is also the fashion icon of Italy and houses millions of residents in this northern city located south of the Italian Alps. Milan is very close to several other cities, such as Venice and Florence, and attractions, such as the Alpine ski slopes or the seashore villages of Liguria and Cinque Terre. The fashion quarter is not only known for major designers in the industry, such as, Valentino, Gucci, Kenzo and Yves Saint Laurent but, also, for many small boutique stores and fashionable shops.

milan

Milan’s cuisine features many specialties. Pasta dishes, such as “tortelli di zucca”, which is ravioli stuffed with pumpkin, “zuppa pavese” (broth with bread and eggs) and “zuppa di porri e bietole” (soup made with leeks and swiss chard). Polenta topped with mushrooms or meat sauce is typically served during the winter. Risotto alla Milanese, Osso Buco, breaded veal cutlet, pork chops or roast beef are typical main dishes. Cheese is a must on the Milanese table at the end of the meal. The cheeses that are eaten in Milan come from the surrounding countryside and alpine valleys. Among the most popular are Bagoss, Brescia cheese, Caprini, Crescenza or Stracchino, soft cheeses flavored with mountain herbs and, of course, Gorgonzola, eaten alone or served over risotto and polenta. You will notice that the dishes in Milan are based on more high calorie ingredients such as butter and sausages, supposedly due to the fact that the winters are long.

Milanese Dinner

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Appetizer Course

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Polenta e Gorgonzola

Servings 6

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1 cup gorgonzola blue cheese
  • Chopped herbs, such as rosemary or sage
  • Coarse ground black pepper

For the polenta:

  • 13 oz polenta (not quick cooking)
  • 7 cups water or milk or a combination
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 teaspoons salt

Directions

Boil the water and/or the milk, add salt and butter.

Pour the polenta into the boiling water, slowly and mixing well with a whisk.

Cover and let simmer over low heat for 60 minutes.

Grease a large baking tray and pour the polenta onto the pan, spreading it with a spatula: it should be around 1/4 inch thick, let it cool.

With a decorative 2 inch cookie or biscuit cutter make 24 circles.

Spread the gorgonzola cheese over half of the circles, cover with the other half and decorate with a walnut on the top, herbs and black pepper.

Serve warm, heating for 5 minutes in the oven

First Course

milan2

Leek and Swiss Chard Soup – Zuppa Di Porri E Bietole

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 leeks, white and light green parts, cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 8 ounces swiss chard, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 6 cups stock ( vegetable or chicken)
  • 1/2 cup Arborio rice
  • Salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated

Directions

In a large saucepan over low heat, cook the leeks in the butter and oil until tender and golden.

Add the Swiss chard and stock and bring to a simmer.

Cook until the chard wilts, about 10 minutes.

Add the rice, salt and pepper.

Cover and cook over low heat about 20 minutes or until the rice is cooked.

Stir in cheese and serve.

Main Course

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Italian Roast Turkey with Chestnut Stuffing

During the autumn season in Italy, turkey is often made with a stuffing of chestnuts and sausage. The wild turkey was brought to Europe from the New World and, once domesticated, became one of the large courtyard fowl animals in Lombardy. With Italy being one of the largest producers of chestnuts, it was natural to use them in a stuffing.

Ingredients

  • Chestnut Stuffing, (recipe below)
  • 1 12-to-14-pound turkey
  • 1 lemon, cut in half
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 4 slices bacon
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 3 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch

Directions

Make Chestnut Stuffing.

Preheat oven to 325°F. Coat a large roasting pan and a 2-quart baking dish with cooking spray.

Remove the giblets, neck and any visible fat from the turkey. Rub the cavity with lemon halves, squeezing them as you go. Make a few tiny slits in the skin under the wings, where the legs join the body and in the thickest part of the breast. Stuff each slit with a piece of rosemary and sage.

Stuff the cavity and neck pouch with about 5 cups of the stuffing, securing the neck cavity with a skewer. Place remaining stuffing in the prepared baking dish; cover and refrigerate until needed.

Sprinkle the turkey with salt and pepper. Place bacon slices across the breast. Tie the drumsticks together.

Place the turkey, breast-side up, in the prepared roasting pan. Roast for 1 hour. Pour the wine over the turkey and baste a few times. Continue to roast for 2 hours more, basting with the pan juices several times and roast until the turkey is done, an additional 30 to 60 minutes. (An instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh should register 180°F and 165°F in the stuffing.) Total cooking time will be 3 1/2 to 4 hours.

About 40 minutes before the turkey is ready, cover the reserved stuffing with a lid or foil and bake until heated through, 35 to 45 minutes. If you like a crisp top, uncover for the last 15 minutes of baking.

When the turkey is ready, place it on a carving board or platter. Scoop stuffing into a serving bowl, cover and keep warm. Tent the turkey with foil.

Place the roasting pan over medium heat and pour in the broth; bring to a boil, stirring to scrape up any browned bits. Cook for 5 minutes and transfer to a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer. Mix water and cornstarch in a small bowl; add to the simmering sauce, whisking until lightly thickened.

Remove string from the drumsticks and carve the turkey. Serve with stuffing and gravy.

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Chestnut Stuffing

Ingredients

  • Two 7 1/2-ounce jars vacuum-packed cooked chestnuts
  • 8 cups cubed country bread, (1 pound)
  • 12 oz sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 pound mushrooms, wiped clean, trimmed and sliced
  • 1 small fennel bulb, diced
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1-1 1/2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth

Directions

Break the chestnut meat into chunks. Preheat oven to 350°F.

Spread bread on a baking sheet and bake until lightly toasted, 15 to 25 minutes. Set aside.

Cook sausage in a large skillet over medium heat, crumbling with a wooden spoon, until browned, 5 to 10 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Wipe out the skillet.

Add oil to the skillet and heat over medium-low heat. Add onions and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute more. Add mushrooms and fennel and increase heat to medium-high; cook, stirring, until tender, 5 to 7 minutes.

Combine the reserved chestnuts, toasted bread, sausage, onion-mushroom mixture, parsley, thyme, sage, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Toss until well mixed.

Whisk eggs and 1 cup broth in a small bowl. Drizzle the egg mixture over the bread mixture and toss until evenly moistened. If you like a moist stuffing, add remaining 1/2 cup broth.

Use as directed in Roast Turkey with Chestnut Stuffing or place in a 3-quart baking dish that has been coated with cooking spray, cover with a lid or foil and bake at 325°F until heated through, 35 to 45 minutes. If you like a crisp top, uncover for the last 15 minutes of baking.

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Broccoli with Orange Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 pounds fresh broccoli, cut into serving pieces
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • Juice of 1 medium orange
  • 1 teaspoon orange peel, grated
  • 1 medium navel orange, peeled and thinly sliced

Directions

Cook the broccoli in a saucepan in a small amount of salted water for about eight minutes. Drain the broccoli in a colander and place it in a serving bowl.

In the empty saucepan combine the cornstarch, chicken broth, orange juice and orange peel and stir until mixture is blended. Then bring to a boil and stir for two minutes or until it thickens. Drizzle the sauce over the broccoli. Garnish with orange slices before serving.

Dessert Course

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Fresh Pear Crostata

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups chopped peeled ripe pears (about 8 medium)
  • One 9 inch refrigerated pie crust, or your favorite pie crust
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons sliced almonds

Directions

Heat the oven to 450°F. In medium bowl, mix the 1/2 cup sugar and the flour. Gently stir in the pears to coat.

Place the pie crust on a parchment lined 15×10 inch pan with sides.

Spoon the pear mixture onto center of the crust to within 2 inches of the edge. Carefully fold the 2-inch edge of crust up over pear mixture, pleating crust slightly as you go along the circle. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon sugar over the crust edge.

Bake 15 minutes and sprinkle almonds over the pear mixture. Continue to bake 5 more minutes until the pears are tender and the crust is golden. Cool 15 minutes. Cut into wedges; serve warm.

Related Articles


 

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

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

Foods That Freeze Well

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

Foods That Can Freeze But Will Change In Texture

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

Foods That Don’t Freeze Well

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

Freezer Burn – Meat

Freezer Burn - Fruit

Freezer Burn – Fruit

Tips for Frozen Foods

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

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

Type of Food

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

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

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Freezer Corn Saute

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

To reheat each portion

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

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Eat Twice Lasagna

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

Top with Parmesan cheese and remaining mozzarella cheese.

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

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

To use frozen lasagna

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

Yield: 2 lasagnas (12 servings each).

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Blueberry Oatmeal Pancakes

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

freezing5

Frozen Spinach and Feta Stuffed Chicken Breasts

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

Makes 12

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

Fill each chicken breast with the cheese mixture.

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

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

To cook

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

freezing6

Kid Friendly Lemony Chicken Noodle Soup

8 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

To reheat

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


Pumpkin1

Except for a Halloween display and its use in Thanksgiving pies, pumpkin is rarely served in the US. On the other hand, Italians, who grow a great deal of pumpkins, serve it in a number of ways. Cucurbitaceae, the genus that includes pumpkins, squashes and edible gourds, has nourished people for centuries.

Of all of Italy’s gastronomically diverse 20 regions, none utilizes the pumpkin the way the city of Venice does. Pumpkin, what the Venetians call zucca  or”suca”, lasts through the cold weather and keeps until spring.

Marina di Chioggia (pronounced kee-oh’-jah),  is Italy’s best known pumpkin. Dense, flavorful and silky, this pumpkin weighs about 4 lbs.  Called “suca baruca” (warty pumpkin) in Venetian dialect, this slightly squashed sphere with gnarled, dark green skin and vibrant orange flesh is rich and sweet after cooking. Once, vendors walked around the streets of Venice balancing wooden planks piled high with roasted pumpkin on their shoulders, hawking, “suca baruc”, to eager schoolchildren or anyone else wanting a sugary snack.

The “suca” criers are gone, replaced by souvenir peddlers, but Chioggia pumpkins have become universally loved in Italy and beyond, and vendors with their big golden wedges of pumpkin still sell in the markets from the Rialto to Sicily. There are other types of pumpkins that are long, such as the Violina from Ferrara (a variety of Butternut squash) with rugged skin. Since some squash share the same botanical classifications as pumpkins, the names are frequently used interchangeably. This is the reason why Butternut squash is called “pumpkin” in Italy.

pumpkin

pumpkin3The Chioggia’s ancient signature dish, suca in saor, is sweet-and-sour pumpkin. Slices of pumpkin are salted in a colander, as for eggplant, to remove excess moisture. Next they are dredged in flour and fried in olive oil until crisp. Then they are layered with sautéed onions, raisins, toasted pine nuts and white wine vinegar. The dish is chilled for several days before serving it as an appetizer.

The US could grow Marina di Chioggia pumpkin, if there was a demand for it, though its sheer size would discourage shipping it to different markets. Widely available, however, are pie pumpkins, butternut squash and Calabaza that can be used in for Italian sweet and savory dishes or pies.

Overall, the Cucurbitaceae family’s bland and its compact flesh makes these squash an ideal canvas for the savory and sweet recipes the Italians cook. The blossoms are prepared in a variety of unusual ways, while the pulp is made into soup, risotto, pasta and gnocchi, to name just a few dishes.

They can also be used for savory pumpkin tarts with prosciutto and sweet versions made with pumpkin-honey-orange filling in a walnut-flour crust.

Pumpkin2

Italian Squash Stew

The combination of fresh pumpkin, black dry-cured olives, garlic and tomatoes may sound unusual, but it is a very aromatic dish. Pumpkin or squash alone is bland, but the dry-cured olives and garlic give it great flavor.

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 large cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 cup canned tomato purée, or ½ cup tomato paste mixed with ½ cup water
  • 1 medium-sized butternut or Hubbard squash or 1 small pumpkin (about 1½ pounds), peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch dice
  • 20 black dry-cured olives, pitted and halved
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme, or ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

In a saucepan over medium heat, warm the oil and garlic together until the garlic is fragrant, about 4 minutes. Add the tomato sauce, stir and bring slowly to a simmer, about 4 minutes. Add the squash, olives, thyme and 3/4 cup water. Cover partially and simmer over low heat until tender, about 40 minutes.

Season with the salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately or chill and reheat gently before serving.

This dish can be made up to 3 days in advance.

Pumpkin5

Italian Sausage and Pumpkin Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2  onions, chopped
  • 1 leek, washed and sliced into half rounds
  • 1 29-ounce can of pumpkin or 3 pounds of fresh pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cut into half-inch pieces
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 8 cups chicken broth
  • 1 sprig sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme
  • Pinch of cayenne to taste
  • 1 pound Italian sausage, casing removed and crumbled
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions

Heat butter and olive oil in a Dutch oven or heavy soup pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and leeks. Cook and stir until soft and lightly golden, about 10 minutes.

Add pumpkin, salt, pepper and bay leaves. Mix well. If using fresh pumpkin, cook until it softens slightly.

Add chicken broth , sage and thyme. Stir to mix. Bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to medium and cook uncovered for 20 to 25 minutes until the pumpkin is tender and the broth thickens.

Use an immersion blender to puree the soup.

Brown the sausage in a medium sauté pan. Remove the sausage with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Stir the sausage into the soup and heat.

Serve the soup with Parmesan-Reggiano cheese on top.

pumpkin4

Pumpkin Pasta

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces rigatoni pasta
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, plus extra for pasta water
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup half & half or whole milk
  • 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a simmer. Add salt and the rigatoni and boil until al dente.

Dice the onion and garlic.

Melt the butter in a small sauté pan over medium heat; add the onions and garlic and sauté for about five minutes, until the onion and garlic are translucent and just starting to brown.

Combine the salt, Italian seasoning and flour. Add to the onions and garlic and carefully stir to incorporate. Next, add the pumpkin puree to the pan, stirring it together. Add the half & half or milk to the mixture. Give it a gentle stir until incorporated and remove the pan from the heat.

Drain the pasta and place it in a large baking dish. Add the pumpkin sauce and stir until the pasta is coated. Sprinkle the shredded Parmesan cheese over the pasta and place the dish in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until the pasta is hot in the center of the baking dish and the cheese has melted.

pumpkin6

Pumpkin Bread Stuffing for Roast Chicken or Pork

Ingredients

  • 1 cup diced pumpkin (from 1 whole small pumpkin)
  • 2 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups diced sweet onions
  • 1 1/2 cups diced celery
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped sage leaves
  • Salt and cracked black pepper
  • 2 1/2 cups day old country bread
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock
  • Parsley for garnish

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F

Cut pumpkin in half and then cut each half into several pieces. Place the pumpkin on a baking sheet and roast until tender, about 30 minutes. Let cool, peel away skin and dice. Lower oven temperature to 350 degrees F.

In a large skillet, melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, thyme and sage, and saute for 5 minutes or until tender. Season to taste with salt and cracked black pepper.

Meanwhile, crumble the bread into a large bowl and add the sautéed vegetables. Stir in the beaten egg and roasted pumpkin and mix well. Then add the chicken stock and mix well.

Transfer stuffing into a medium-sized casserole dish and dot with the remaining butter. Bake for 45 minutes. Garnish with chopped parsley.

To serve, cut stuffing into squares and serve with roasted meat.

Pumpkin7

Pumpkin Ricotta Cheese Pie

Ingredients

Filling

  • 1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 1/3 cup of honey
  • 1 cup of pumpkin
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice

Crust

  • 2 whole graham crackers, enough to make a scant 1/3 cup crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 cup almonds, pecans or hazelnuts
  • Pinch of salt
  • Butter

Directions

For the crust:

Place the crust ingredients, except the butter, in a food processor or blender and process until totally ground, but not powdery:

Rub a little soft butter on the inside of a 9″ pie pan at least 1 1/2″ deep; use a deep-dish pan, if you have one. If your pie pan isn’t at least 1 1/2″ deep, substitute a 9″ square pan.

Pour the crumbs into the pan, tilting and shaking the pan to distribute the crumbs across the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Place the pan on a baking sheet, to make it easy to handle once you’ve added the filling.

For the filling

Beat together with a mixer the ricotta, mascarpone, pumpkin, honey, eggs and pumpkin pie spice. Continue to beat until creamy.

Pour the filling into the prepared crust. Bake at 350degrees F for 50-60 minutes or until the top of the center of the cheese pie springs back to the touch. Chill in the refrigerator prior to serving


fallsoup

Autumn officially arrived on Tuesday. What better way to welcome the season than making a delicious soup using ingredients that are hitting the farmers markets now? Soup is perfect in any season, but Autumn is especially a perfect time to make soup. When the temperatures drop and the days get shorter, nothing hits the spot like a bowl of warm soup. Store-bought varieties are convenient, but they can be salty and taste overcooked. Homemade is better.

The fall season aligns well with some interesting seasonal ingredients. For example you can add any of the fall ingredients to your standard soup recipes:

Squash, acorn, delicata, kabocha or butternut squash
Apples
Kale
Cabbage
Kohlrabi
Parsnips
Turnips
Parsnips
Swiss Chard
Sweet Potatoes

Orzo, Squash and Chicken Soup

fallsoup1

Make it vegetarian by omitting the chicken, substituting vegetable broth and serving with shaved Parmesan. You can also substitute a different type of squash or sweet potatoes.

Ingredients

  • 4 delicata squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 small skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 1 cup orzo
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 5 sage leaves, torn into pieces
  • 4 cups chicken broth

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F and line two baking pans with parchment paper.

Mix the squash with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, salt and pepper and spread on one prepared baking pan.

Place the chicken on the other baking pan, brush with 1 tablespoon oil and season with salt and pepper.

Place the squash on the top rack in the oven and the chicken on the lower rack. Roast until the chicken is cooked through and a thermometer inserted into the thickest part reaches 160°F, about 20 minutes. Remove the chicken from the oven and continue to roast the squash until it is tender and caramelized, about 10 minutes longer.

When the chicken is cool enough to handle, cut it into bite-sized pieces.

Put 6 cups water in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Add salt and the orzo and cook for 7 minutes. Drain the pasta and set aside.

Return the pot to medium-high heat and add the remaining oil  Add the onion, garlic and sage and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the chickenbroth and bring to a boil. Add the cooked orzo, chicken and squash and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 15 minutes, then season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

Vegetable Farro Soup

fallsoup2

Omit the Parmesan cheese for a vegan dish.

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 celery ribs, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium leek, white and pale green parts only, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup farro or wheat berries
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 quarts water
  • One 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced basil
  • Grated Parmesan cheese, optional

Directions

In a large soup pot, heat the oil and add the celery, onion and leek. Cook over moderately high heat, stirring a few times, until softened, 5 minutes.

Add the farro and tomato paste and cook, stirring, until the grains are coated and shiny, 30 seconds.

Add 1 quart of the water, sweet potato and the beans and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat for 30 minutes.

Add the carrots and the remaining 1 quart of water. Cover and cook over low heat until the carrots are tender, 30 minutes.

Add the peas, cover and cook until tender, at the most 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, top with basil and Parmesan cheese, if using. Serve with bread sticks.

Pea Soup with Ham and Sherry

fallsoup3

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion (1 large)
  • 1 cup sliced celery (2 stalks)
  • 1 cup sliced carrots (2 medium)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 – 14 ounce cans reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup dried green split peas
  • 3 ounces reduced-sodium ham, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup frozen green peas
  • 1/4 cup snipped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons dry sherry
  • Whole wheat croutons* (optional)
  • Plain Greek yogurt (optional)

Directions

In a Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, celery, carrots, garlic and thyme. Reduce heat to medium; cook about 5 minutes or until the vegetables are tender, stirring frequently.

Stir in the chicken broth, the water, split peas, ham, crushed red pepper, black pepper and nutmeg. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 1 to 1-1/4 hours or the until split peas are soft.

Stir in frozen peas and parsley; cook about 5 minutes more or until the peas are heated through. Stir in sherry and remove from the heat.

Top the soup with croutons and/or yogurt.

*For homemade croutons, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a baking pan with nonstick cooking spray; set aside. Cut up whole wheat bread slices into 3/4- to 1-inch pieces; place on the prepared baking pan. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are golden, turning or stirring once halfway through the baking time.

Hearty Greens, Bowtie Pasta and Tomato Soup

fallsoup4

Use any hearty greens that are in season in this filling soup. I save the rinds from wedges of Parmesan cheese in the freezer for making this type of soup.

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
  • 8 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 4 plum tomatoes, cored and chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard including chard stalks or kale (about 3/4 pound)
  • One Parmigiano-Reggiano rind, plus grated Parmigiano Reggiano for garnish
  • 1/2 pound baby spinach
  • 1/2 pound bowtie (farfalle) pasta, cooked al dente

Directions

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add garlic, onion and bay leaf and cook, stirring often, until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add crushed red pepper flakes, Italian seasoning and tomatoes and cook until most of the tomato liquid is released and absorbed, about 5 minutes more.

Add carrots, celery, salt, pepper and broth. Bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot.

Stir in chard and Parmigiano-Reggiano rind. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer one hour.

Stir in spinach, cooked pasta and season. Simmer 15 minutes.

Remove and discard bay leaf and cheese rind from the soup. Add salt and pepper, if needed, and ladle into bowls, Garnish with grated cheese.

Pork, Rosemary, Chianti Wine and Pasta Soup

fallsoup5

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound Ditalini pasta
  • Two 16-oz cans Italian diced tomatoes
  • 2 whole cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 whole sprig of rosemary
  • 2 slivers lemon zest
  • 4 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 parsnips, peeled and diced
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1/3 cup Chianti wine
  • 1½ pounds pork shoulder fat trimmed, diced ½ inch pieces
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
  • Extra virgin olive oil, optional
  • 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese shredded, optional

Directions using a slow cooker:

In a slow cooker, combine all the ingredients except for the pasta and parsley. Set to low and cook for 8 hours.

Once the soup is cooked, remove the rosemary sprig, garlic and lemon zest.

Meanwhile bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta to the al dente stage, drain and add to the soup. Heat until all the ingredients are hot.

Garnish with fresh parsley, drizzle with olive oil and top with cheese, if desired, before serving.

Stove top directions:

Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a Dutch oven or soup pot and brown the pork cubes.

Mince the garlic and add to the pot with the rosemary leaves and lemon zest. Saute for one minute. Add the wine and stir, scraping the bottom of the pan.

Add the carrots, parsnips, tomatoes and beef broth; bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover the pan and simmer for 2 hours.

The meat should be very tender. If not, simmer for another 30 – 45 minutes.

Cook pasta in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain and add to the soup along with the parsley. Heat for a few minutes and serve with the optional ingredients.

A green salad goes nicely with this soup.



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