Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

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Summer is here along with just about every vegetable you could possibly want to cook. It is also the best time to make a delicious chowder. Chowder usually indicates a soup that is rich and creamy with chunks of seafood and vegetables. The term may also describe a hearty soup made with corn or chicken.

The most famous, of course, is New England Clam Chowder. It is believed that the word “chowder” evolved from the French word “chaudiere,” the name of the pot in which French fisherman would boil their catch of the day with potatoes and other vegetables. French settlers in the New England colonies introduced the culinary tradition to America. “Chowder” first appeared in a written recipe in 1751 and, by the 1800s, American cooks were using mostly clams instead of fish because of the abundance of shellfish in the northeast.

Italian chowders and stews are usually made with seafood. The true story of cioppino begins with ancient Mediterranean fishermen who created the first fish soups and stews. These recipes were adopted by seamen and the recipes used local ingredients. Cioppino belongs to the same tradition as a chowder and a bouillabaisse. American cioppino is a story of immigration patterns, ethnic heritage and local adaptation. Food historians, generally agree, cioppino originated in California (in the San Francisco Bay area) and the group of Italian fisherman credited for the recipe immigrated from Northern Italy, specifically Genoa.

East Coast Italian Americans were fond of Manhattan Clam Chowder and put their special touches to it.

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Italian American Clam Chowder

Serves 8

Ingredients

Medium-sized hard-shell clams provide the flavor for the broth and the tender clam meat for this hearty soup. Instead, the broth is briny and clean tasting with flavors from the sea standing out.

If you do not want to fuss with fresh clams substitute 4 cups of clam broth and 16 oz of canned clams.

Ingredients

  • 8 pounds clams, medium-sized hard-shell clams, such as cherrystones, washed and scrubbed clean
  • 2 ounces pancetta, finely chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped small
  • 1 small red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
  • 6 medium garlic cloves , minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
  • 1 (8-ounce) bottle clam juice
  • 1 ¼ pounds Yukon Gold potatoes , peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • 1 28-32 oz. can Italian diced tomatoes, undrained
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves , chopped

Directions

Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in large stockpot or Dutch oven. Add the clams and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Cook for 5 minutes, uncover, and stir with a wooden spoon. Quickly cover the pot and steam until the clams open, 4-5 minutes. Transfer the clams as they open to a large bowl; cool slightly. Reserve the cooking water.

Holding the clams over a bowl to catch any juices, sever the muscle that attaches the clam to the shell and transfer the meat to a cutting board. Discard the shells. Cut the clams into 1/2-inch dice; set aside.

Pour the broth that collected in the bowl into a 2-quart glass measuring cup, holding back the last few tablespoons of broth in case of sediment; set the clam broth aside. (you should have 5 cups; if not, add some of the cooking water to make this amount. Rinse and dry the pot, then return it to the burner.

Fry the pancetta in the empty pot over medium-low heat until the fat renders and the pancetta is crisp, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the onion, pepper, carrot and celery, reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, oregano, fennel seeds and pepper flakes and saute about 1 minute.

Add the reserved clam broth, bottled clam juice, potatoes and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer until the potatoes are almost tender, 8 to 10 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, bring back to a simmer, and cook for 5 minutes. Off heat, stir in the reserved clams and season with salt and pepper to taste; discard the bay leaf. (Chowder can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 days. Warm over low heat until hot.) Stir in parsley and ladle the chowder into individual bowls. Serve immediately.

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Corn and Potato Chowder

Ingredients:

  • 2 slices of bacon
  • 1 cup onions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 ½ cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups red potatoes,unpeeled and diced
  • 2 cups fresh corn kernels
  • 8 ounces cream-style corn
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions

Cook the bacon in a large skillet until crisp and remove to a plate. Crumble when cool enough to handle. Add the onion and cook in the bacon drippings over medium heat until the onion is lightly browned and tender.

Stir in flour until blended into the mixture.

Add chicken broth and stir to blend.

Add diced potatoes, corn and cream-style corn, pepper and hot sauce.

Bring to a simmer and continue cooking for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Cover, reduce heat to low and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are tender.

Add milk and cook, covered, for another 15 minutes. Sprinkle crumbled bacon on top.

Serve warm with crusty bread.

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Summer Vegetable Chowder

Servings 8-10

Ingredients

  • 2 cups chopped onions
  • tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 celery ribs, diced
  • 1 cup peeled and diced carrot
  • 1 1⁄2 cups diced potatoes
  • 3 cups water or vegetable stock
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 1⁄2 teaspoons salt
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1⁄2 cup green beans, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1⁄2 cup red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 cup zucchini, diced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
  • 2 ounces light cream cheese

Directions

In a large soup pot on medium heat, sauté the onions in the butter and oil for 3 to 4 minutes.

Stir in the celery, cover, and cook until just soft, stirring occasionally.

Add the carrots, potatoes, water or stock, thyme, bay leaf, salt, and pepper and bring to a boil; then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until the vegetables are just tender, about 5 minutes.

With a strainer or slotted spoon, remove about 1 1/2 cups of the cooked vegetables and set aside in a blender or food processor.

Add the green beans, bell peppers, and zucchini to the soup pot and cook until the green beans are tender, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the parsley, simmer for 2 more minutes, and then remove from the heat.

Discard the bay leaf.

Puree the reserved vegetables with the milk and cheeses to make a smooth sauce.

Stir the sauce into the soup and gently reheat.

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Summertime Fish Chowder

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 5 medium red potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1 cup clam juice or fish stock
  • 1 cup no-salt-added diced tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or 1/4 tsp. dried
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika, plus additional for optional garnish
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 to 2 cups water, as needed
  • 1 lb. firm-fleshed white fish, skin removed, cut into 2-inch chunks
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Directions

In a large stockpot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and saute until soft, about 6 minutes. Add garlic and saute for 2 minutes.

Add potatoes and carrots, stir, then add fish stock and tomatoes, bay leaf, thyme, paprika, cayenne, salt and pepper. Add just enough water to cover potatoes. Simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 10 to 12 minutes.

Add fish and stir. Cook until fish is opaque and cooked through, about 8 to 10 minutes.

While fish cooks, heat milk in a small saucepan over medium heat until hot. Do not let it boil. Add milk to soup mixture and stir. Keep at low temperature.

To serve, ladle into shallow bowls. Top with chopped parsley and a sprinkling of smoked paprika.

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Chicken and Summer Squash Chowder

Ingredients

  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound skinned, boned chicken breast, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 6 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 pounds summer squash, diced
  • 1 piece Parmesan cheese rind
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups 2% low-fat milk
  • 3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped basil

Directions

Saute onion, celery and garlic in olive oil in a large soup pot. Add chicken and sauté until lightly brown. Add broth and Parmesan cheese rind.  Simmer for 10 minutes. Add squash and simmer until the squash is tender. Remove the cheese rind.

Place flour in a bowl. Gradually add milk, stirring with a whisk until blended; add to soup. Cook over medium heat 15 minutes or until thick, stirring frequently. Stir in cheese, basil, salt and pepper.


The Bacon's grow a variety of produce for their own consumption, including these bell peppers, at the Bacon Century Farm in Jonesborough, Tennessee. The farm is designated a Tennessee Century Farm, which was founded in 1891. In 2004, Bruce H. Bacon Jr., the grandson of founder Robert B. Bacon, obtained the land. JCI Photo- Jeff Adkins

Peppers are plentiful this time of year and can be found at a reasonable cost. So this is the perfect time of year to think about preserving some of the peppers you buy for the winter months when they cost a fortune.

Some of the pepper varieties that are common are: California Wonder, Big Bertha Green, Red, Yellow and Orange Bell, Marconi, Italian Roaster, Mariachi, Pimento, Super Cayenne, Chinese Lantern, Jalapeno, Hot Banana, Cajun Belle, Cubanelle, Poinsettia and Sangria.

Peppers are extremely easy to freeze. Wash them, pat them dry, chop or slice them, place them in a freezer bag and store them in the freezer! Diced into small chunks, peppers are ready for casseroles, egg dishes, stir fry, fajitas, etc. Whole peppers are perfect for stuffing and baking. Defrosted frozen peppers will be a little mushy but they are perfect for cooking.

Of course, you know you can add peppers to omelets, soups, pizza or pasta. One of my favorite recipes is to make roasted red peppers. They are delicious in salad, on pizza and in sandwiches. They are also perfect for an antipasto platter.

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Roasted Red Peppers

Wash and dry red peppers – leaving them whole with the stem intact. Char the peppers using an outdoor grill set for  medium heat. Place the peppers directly on the grate until one side is charred. Work carefully so that as soon as one section of a pepper is blackened, turn the peppers to a side without charring. (Charring can also be done on a grill pan or in the broiler.)

Once all the sides of the peppers are blackened, place them in a large bowl.  Cover the bowl with a clean towel. (Or place in a plastic bag and seal or place in a brown paper bag and close it.) The steam will help to loosen the skin, making them easy to peel once they cool.

When the peppers are cool to the touch, remove and discard the skins. Remove the stem, seeds and ribs. Cut in quarters. Place in a covered container and drizzle with a little olive oil and vinegar. They will keep for a few weeks in the refrigerator.

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Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

You can make a delicious sauce from the roasted red peppers that you can use over grilled meat or over pasta.

Ingredients

  • 2 large roasted red peppers
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large garlic clove, smashed
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • Basil leaves

To make the pepper sauce:  Place all of the ingredients in a processor and pulse until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with basil leaves.

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Italian Vegetable Soup

4-6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 oz. boneless chicken, cut into small cubes
  • 2 Italian frying peppers, finely diced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1 hot pepper, diced or 1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 3 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoon fresh basil, sliced
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds, crushed
  • 6 cups canned low-salt chicken broth
  • 1 cup dried short pasta
  • Grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Brown chicken in a Dutch oven or a stock pot with the olive oil.  Add the peppers, onion, celery, carrot and garlic to the pan and sauté until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes.

Add seasonings and broth. Cover the pot and simmer 10 minutes. Increase heat to high and bring soup to boil. Add pasta and boil until tender, about 5-6 minutes.

Season soup to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with grated cheese.

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Italian Pepper & Egg Sandwich

My favorite sandwich growing up.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 green or red bell peppers (or Cubanelle or Italian sweet frying peppers) seeded and sliced.
  • 1 small onion, sliced thin
  • 5 large eggs, whisked in bowl with 1 tablespoon water
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Grated Parmesan or Romano Cheese
  • 1 loaf of Italian bread, sliced or 4 ciabatta rolls
  • Crushed red pepper

Directions:

In large skillet add olive oil and garlic and saute on low until garlic is golden, (do not burn). Add peppers and onion, season with salt and pepper, stir to coat the vegetables with oil.

Continue cooking on low heat, stirring frequently, until the peppers are soft. Raise heat to med-high and add eggs, stirring well to mix the eggs into the peppers.

Cook eggs thoroughly, but be careful not to burn them. Sprinkle with cheese and red pepper. Serve on an Italian roll or on Italian bread.

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Rigatoni with Peppers & Pancetta

Sometimes I add sliced and browned Italian sausage instead of the pancetta.

5 servings

Ingredients

  • 10 ounces dried rigatoni
  • 4 slices pancetta, cut into small pieces
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large red bell pepper, cut into strips
  • 1 large yellow bell pepper, cut into strips
  • 2/3 cup sliced onion
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh garlic
  • 1/4 cup small pitted ripe olives
  • 1/4 pound Provolone Cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Directions

Cook rigatoni just to the al dente stage. Drain.

Cook the pancetta in a large skillet over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove the pancetta from the pan; set aside.

Add the olive oil, bell peppers, onion and garlic to the reserved pan drippings in the skillet. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the peppers are tender.

Add cooked rigatoni, pancetta and all the remaining ingredients except the parsley. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the cheese is melted. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

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Baked Chicken, Sausage, Potatoes and Peppers

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper
  • One 3 lb. organic chicken, cut into 10 pieces or 1 whole bone-in chicken breast, cut into 4 pieces and 6 bone-in thighs,skin removed
  • 1 pound Italian sausage (pork, chicken or turkey), cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 lemons
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 4 medium baking potatoes, cut in fourths
  • 2 green and 2 red bell peppers, cut into one inch strips
  • 1 large sweet onion, cut into eighths

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Pour 1 tablespoon olive oil in the bottom of a roasting pan and spread over the bottom of the pan. Place the chicken in the pan, skin side down.

Salt and pepper both sides of the chicken pieces and scatter the sausage around the chicken.

Bake 15 minutes. Turn the chicken and sausage pieces and bake 15 minutes more.

Squeeze the lemons over the chicken and place the lemon skins in the roasting dish. Sprinkle chicken with minced garlic and the oregano.

Add the potatoes, onions and peppers to the pan and sprinkle with salt.

Lower the oven temperature to 400 degrees F.

Cover the pan with foil and bake 1 hour, turning the ingredients after 30 minutes. Serve with warm crusty bread, if desired.

 


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The one-skillet breakfast can have it all: eggs, cheese, meat, vegetables and potatoes. It is a savory breakfast dish that is sure to please all types of appetites. This easy to prepare meal provides a delicious way to begin the day.

This type of dish is also a popular concept for breakfast in many breakfast restaurants throughout the US and around the world. While traveling around the country, one may find the basic procedure is the same but the ingredients can vary, especially by locality.

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Southern Style Skillet Breakfast

4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper,
  • 2 cups peeled and cubed red potatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon Creole seasoning (recipe below)
  • 1 cup diced, smoked ham
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Directions

In a large skillet, cook the onion and bell pepper in butter until tender. Add the potatoes and season to taste with the salt and pepper; stir, cover and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, without stirring.

Beat together the eggs, milk, seasoning and ham. Pour over the potatoes and cook over low heat, without stirring, until set on the bottom. Lightly stir and turn eggs to shift uncooked eggs to the bottom and cook gently until eggs are cooked through, but still a little shiny and wet. Don’t overcook.

Taste and adjust seasonings as needed, and stir in half of the cheese. Transfer to plates or a serving platter and top with remaining cheese.Serve immediately with a side of fresh, seasonal fruit.

Creole Seasoning

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 5 teaspoons sweet paprika

Combine the ingredients and mix well. Store in a container with a tight-fitting lid.

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Italian Style Breakfast Skillet

4 Servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups frozen hash brown potatoes
  • 8 oz. Italian sausage
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1/3 cup chopped onion
  • 1/3 cup chopped celery
  • 1/3 cup chopped bell pepper
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (2 oz.)

Directions

Brown the sausage in a skillet  and cook until no longer pink. Remove to a platter to cool. Cut into thin slices.

Add oil to the skillet  and heat over medium-high heat until hot. Add the potatoes; cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until golden, 6 to 8 minutes.

Add the sliced sausage, mushrooms and vegetables ; cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, about 4 minutes.

Beat eggs, milk, salt and oregano in bowl until blended.

Reduce the heat to medium and pour the eggs over the mixture in the skillet. As the eggs begin to set, gently pull the eggs across the pan with an inverted spatula. Continue cooking until the eggs are thickened and no visible liquid egg remains. Do not stir constantly.

Sprinkle with the cheese and remove the pan from the heat; cover pan.

Let stand until the cheese is melted, 2 to 3 minutes.

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Farmers’ Market Skillet

2 Servings

Ingredients

  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Filling:

  • 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced yellow summer squash
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced zucchini
  • 1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Directions

Combine the filling ingredients in a 10-inch skillet cook and stir over medium heat until the vegetables are crisp-tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the vegetables from the pan and keep warm.

Beat eggs, water, cheese, seasoning and garlic  in medium bowl until blended. Heat the butter in the same pan over medium-high heat until hot. Pour in the egg mixture.

Gently push the cooked egg portions from edges of the pan toward the center with a spatula so that uncooked eggs can reach the hot pan surface.

When the top surface of the eggs is thickened and no visible liquid egg remains, place the filling on one side of the egg mixture.

Fold the uncovered portion of the eggs on top of the vegetables with the spatula. Divide in half and serve.

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Mediterranean Skillet

4-6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 medium plum tomatoes
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 2 cups baby spinach leaves
  • 8 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Directions

Chop tomatoes. Crumble feta cheese. Thinly slice spinach leaves.

Heat the olive oil in a 10 inch ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat.

Add the spinach, season with salt and pepper. Toss quickly until leaves are barely wilted, about 30 seconds. Add the chopped tomatoes.

Whisk the eggs, cheese, oregano, salt and pepper together until thoroughly combined.

Add the egg mixture (do not stir) and cook over low heat until the eggs are set, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the broiler. Place the skillet under the broiler for 30 to 45 seconds to finish cooking the top.

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Egg and Sweet Potato Skillet

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 eggs
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes (about 1 pound total), peeled, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced
  • 1 green onion, sliced
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • Fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
  • Bottled hot pepper sauce

Directions

In a medium bowl whisk together eggs, milk, salt and pepper; set aside.

In a large skillet melt butter over medium heat. Add sweet potato and green onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are lightly browned and just tender, about 8 minutes. Add spinach. Cook until slightly wilted, about 1 minute.

Pour egg mixture over potato mixture in skillet. Cook, without stirring, until mixture begins to set on bottom and around edges. Lift and fold partially cooked egg mixture so the uncooked portion flows underneath. Continue cooking for 2 to 3 minutes or until egg mixture is cooked through but still glossy and moist. Sprinkle with fresh parsley. Remove from heat and serve with bottled hot pepper sauce.


tomatocover

Summer is a great time for tomatoes. This is when they are at their best – deep red, juicy and intense in flavor. There are Beefsteak, Roma, Vine-Ripened, Grape, Cherry, Heirloom and so many other types of tomatoes. Each has their own flavor and each can be used in multiple ways.

Perhaps you grow tomatoes, or you are the lucky recipient of someone who has too many to use or maybe you are indulging in the bounty at the farmers’ market. However, you come by your tomatoes, now is the perfect time to try new and exciting things with them. Of course, you know, you can use fresh tomatoes to make tomato sauce, salsa or bruschetta and, you know, they taste great in salads and sandwiches. Below are a few different ways to use up some of your tomatoes.

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Tomato, Watermelon and Feta Appetizer

Makes about 1 1/2 dozen skewers

Ingredients

  • 1 large beefsteak tomato, cored and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups 1-inch watermelon cubes
  • 4 ounces whole feta cheese, cut into 18 cubes
  • 1 1/4 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 18 (3-inch) wooden skewers
  • Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling

Directions

In a large bowl, place the tomatoes, watermelon, lime juice, mint, salt and pepper. Gently toss the ingredients, cover the bowl and chill 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Thread 1 tomato piece, 1 watermelon cube and 1 feta cube onto a skewer and place on a serving platter. Repeat with remaining skewers.

Drizzle with the remaining marinade in the bowl and a little olive oil. Serve immediately.

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Chilled Green Tomato Soup with Crab Meat

Have green tomatoes? Here is something to make instead of fried green tomatoes.

Makes about 3 quarts

Ingredients

  • 1 small green bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 4 celery ribs, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 1/2 pounds firm green tomatoes, cored and coarsely chopped
  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups loosely packed arugula
  • 14 fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 bunch fresh parsley, stems removed
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons hot sauce
  • 2 small hot peppers, seeded and sliced
  • Lump crab meat

Directions

Melt butter with oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low; add onions and cook, stirring often, 15 minutes. Add celery and chopped green bell pepper; cook, stirring often, 5 minutes. Add garlic; cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Add tomatoes, broth and bay leaves. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Increase heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, 15 to 20 minutes or until tomatoes are tender. Remove from the heat and discard the bay leaves. Stir in arugula, basil and parsley. Let cool 30 minutes.

Process soup with an immersion blender in the pot or, in batches, in a food processor or blender until smooth. Stir in lemon juice and hot sauce and add additional salt and pepper to taste, if needed. Cover and chill 8 to 24 hours.

Ladle chilled soup into serving bowls and top each serving with some crab meat and a few slices of hot peppers.

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Fresh Mozzarella, Corn and Tomato Salad

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

  • 4 ears corn-on-the-cob, in the husk
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 pound fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 1/2 lb (8 oz) plum (Roma) tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/2 cup Kalamata olives
  • 1 ripe avocado, halved, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch cubes, optional
  • 10 large fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips
  • 5 cups baby arugula, spinach or romaine lettuce for serving

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F. Soak corn in the sink or in a bowl filled with cold water for 15 minutes.

Prepare vinaigrette by whisking together oil, vinegar, mustard, garlic, chives, salt and pepper. Set aside.

Once the corn has soaked, place it on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roast for 25 minutes or until the corn kernels are tender.

Cool to room temperature; then discard husks and silks. Cut the kernels off the cobs and put them in a large serving bowl. Add mozzarella, tomatoes, olives, avocado, if using, and basil.

Drizzle the dressing over the salad. Toss gently to combine. Season with additional salt and pepper, if needed, and serve over a bed of greens.

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Fresh Tomato Cheese Tart

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3-4 medium tomatoes (You will need enough to make 2 layers)
  • 1 cup ricotta
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Combine bread crumbs, flour, butter and salt in a food processor until dough comes together.

Using your hands, press the dough into a 10-inch tart pan or pie plate. Bake until golden, 10 to 12 minutes.

Slice the tomatoes thinly and place on paper towels. Lightly sprinkle the tomatoes with salt so they can release their juices and set aside.

In a food processor, combine ricotta, mozzarella, eggs and basil leaves just until blended.

Top the baked tart shell with a layer of tomatoes followed by the cheese filling.

Top with another layer of sliced tomatoes and drizzle with olive oil.

Bake the tart until golden brown and set in center, 45 to 55 minutes.

Let rest for 15-20 minutes before cutting.

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Pasta with Hot Italian Sausage and Fresh Tomatoes

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 3/4 pound(12 oz) farfalle (bowtie) pasta or your favorite short pasta
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound hot Italian sausage
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch fresh basil, leaves torn into pieces
  • 1 pound cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 ounces Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, shaved or shredded
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Sea salt and ground black pepper

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta until al dente. Drain and toss with the olive oil. Set aside.

Preheat a large skillet. Cut the casing off the sausage and add it to the pan, crumbling it into small pieces.

Add garlic and cook until the sausage is browned and cooked through, 7 to 10 minutes.

Add cooked sausage to the pasta with the basil, tomatoes, cheese, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.


AN ITALIAN MAJOLICA PASSOVER PLATE The center with the Kiddush and the order of the Seder, surrounded by wide molded rim with scenes of Joseph Greeting his Brothers and the Passover Meal in Egypt, four heroes (Moses, Aaron, Solomon, David), and two floral plaques in molded borders, late 19th century.

AN ITALIAN MAJOLICA PASSOVER PLATE
The center with the Kiddush and the order of the Seder, surrounded by wide molded rim with scenes of Joseph Greeting his Brothers and the Passover Meal in Egypt, four heroes (Moses, Aaron, Solomon, David), and two floral plaques in molded borders, late 19th century.

The Jewish people celebrate Passover as a commemoration of their liberation over 3,300 years ago from slavery in ancient Egypt. When the Pharaoh freed the Israelites, it is said that they left in such a hurry that they could not wait for bread dough to rise. For the duration of Passover no leavened bread is eaten and that is why Passover is also called “The Festival of the Unleavened Bread”. Matzo (flat unleavened bread) is a symbol of the holiday. Other scholars teach that in the time of the Exodus, matzo was commonly baked for the purpose of traveling because it did not spoil and was light to carry, suggesting that matzo was baked intentionally for the long journey ahead.

It is traditional for Jewish families to gather on the first night of Passover for a special dinner called a seder. The table is set with the finest china and silverware to reflect the importance of the meal. During this meal, the story of the Exodus from Egypt is retold using a special text called the Haggadah. The Passover seder is one of the great traditions of the Jewish faith. Following the pre-meal chants, the charoset is passed around. “With unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it,” is recited while biting into the Passover matzo, horseradish and charoset. One of the most revered of Jewish dishes, it closes the ceremony and begins the feast. Charoset is a dense fruit paste that represents the mortar used by the ancient Hebrew slaves in Egypt to make bricks.

S.A.Hart, Festa della Legge in Livorno's Antica Sinagoga, 1850

S.A.Hart, Festa della Legge in Livorno’s Antica Sinagoga, 1850

People rarely associate Judaism with Italy, probably because Rome has hosted the seat of the Catholic Church for close to 2000 years. Jews arrived long before the Christians, however. Jewish traders built one of the first synagogues in Ostia Antica (an area just outside of present day Rome) during the second century BC. With time the Jewish population grew and swelled and historians have calculated that by the reign of Tiberius (14-37 AD), there were more than 50,000 Jews living in Rome and dozens of Jewish communities scattered throughout the Roman territory.

Telemaco Signorini, Il Ghetto di Firenze, 1882

Telemaco Signorini, Il Ghetto di Firenze, 1882

Like their fellow countrymen, Italian Jews suffered through thousands of years of invasions that followed the fall of the Roman Empire, but they managed to live fairly peacefully in Italy almost everywhere — from Venice, where the Isola della Giudecca (across the canal from Piazza San Marco) is so named because it was the home of many Jews, to the Arab lands of southern Italy. At least until 1492, when the Spaniards drove the Arabs back across the Mediterranean Sea into Africa and turned the liberated territories of Sicily and Southern Italy over to the Inquisition. Southern Italian Jews fled north to more tolerant regions, where they were joined by Jews from other parts of Europe as well. Florence, Torino, Mantova and Bologna all had strong Jewish communities during the renaissance.

Because Passover celebrates freedom, a small amount of charoset is placed on the seder plate as a reminder to Jews that they were once slaves and they should not take their freedom for granted.

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Italian Charoset

(adapted from The Book of Jewish Food by Claudia Roden)

In Italy there are various regional versions of haroset. The haroset of Padua has prunes, raisins, dates, walnuts, apples and chestnuts. In Milan they make it with apples, pears, dates, almonds, bananas and orange juice. Other possible additions include: chopped lemon or candied orange peel, walnuts, pistachios, dried figs, orange or lemon juice, ginger, nutmeg and cloves.

Ingredients

  • 3 apples, sweet or tart
  • 2 pears
  • 2 cups sweet wine
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 2/3 cups ground almonds
  • 1/2 lb. dates, pitted and chopped
  • 3/4 cup yellow raisins or sultanas
  • 4 oz. prunes, pitted and chopped
  • 1/2 cup honey or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Directions

Peel and core the apple and pears and cut them in small pieces. Put all the ingredients into a pan together and cook, stirring occasionally, for about an hour, until the fruits are very soft, adding a little water, if it becomes too thick.

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Sweet-And-Sour Celery (Sephardic Passover Apio)

Servings 8

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1⁄4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons mild honey
  • 4 lbs celery, cut into 2-inch pieces, reserving about 1 cup of celery leaves (2 to 3 bunches)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley

Directions

Cut a round of parchment paper to fit just inside a wide heavy 6-to 8-quart pan, then set the paper round aside.

Simmer water, lemon juice, oil, honey, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in the pan, stirring, until the honey has dissolved.

Stir in celery (but not leaves) and cover with the parchment round. Simmer until tender and liquid is reduced to about 1/4 cup, 35 to 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, coarsely chop reserved leaves. Serve celery sprinkled with celery leaves and parsley.

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Chicken with Lemon and Olives

Ingredients

  • 2 chicken breast halves (about 1 1/2 pounds), skin removed
  • 4 thighs (about 1 pound), skin removed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup pitted whole green olives
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander 
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

Directions

Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over high heat. Add chicken; cook 3 minutes on each side or until browned. Remove chicken from pan and set aside.

Add onion and garlic to the pan; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add browned chicken, broth, olives, cinnamon, ginger and coriander; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 45 minutes.

Turn chicken over; cook, uncovered for 15 minutes.

Remove the chicken from the pan with a slotted spoon; place 1 chicken piece on each of 4 plates. Add lemon zest, juice, and parsley to the pan; cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Spoon sauce over chicken.

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Vegetable Farfel Kugel

Farfel is small pellet or flake shaped pasta used in Ashkenazi Jewish cuisine. It is made from an egg noodle dough and is frequently toasted before being cooked. It can be served in soups or as a side dish. In the United States, it can also be found pre-packaged as egg barley. During the Jewish holiday of Passover, when dietary laws pertaining to grains are observed, “matzah farfel” takes the place of the egg noodle version. Matzah farfel is simply matzah broken into small pieces

Serves 12

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 2 medium onions, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 cups coarsely grated carrots
  • 8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
  • 10 ounce package frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and drained
  • 4 cups boiling water
  • 6 ounces matzah farfel
  • 7 large eggs, whites only
  • 1 ½ teaspoon salt
  • Dash pepper
  • 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
  • Dash paprika

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease 9 x 13 inch oven proof dish.

In a large, nonstick skillet, sauté the fresh vegetables in oil 3-5 minutes. Add drained spinach. Pour boiling water over farfel (in a strainer) to moisten. Add farfel, vegetables, salt, pepper and nuts. Cool.

Beat egg whites until stiff and fold into the farfel mixture. Sprinkle with paprika.

Bake 45 minutes or longer until browned.

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Passover Honey Nut Cake

(adapted from A TREASURY OF JEWISH HOLIDAY BAKING By Marcy Goldman)

Cake

  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon finely minced orange zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup matzoh cake meal
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped hazelnuts or almonds
  • 1 cup finely chopped walnuts

Soaking Syrup

  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Generously grease a 7-inch round layer cake pan. (If you do not have one that size, you can use a round foil pan of the same or similar size available in the supermarket baking aisle).

Cake:

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, using a wire whisk, beat the granulated and brown sugars with the oil and eggs until the mixture is thick and pale yellow. Stir in the remaining batter ingredients. Turn the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the top is light brown and set. Cool for at least 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the Soaking Syrup.

Soaking Syrup:

In a medium saucepan, combine all the ingredients. Heat to dissolve the sugar and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, until the mixture becomes syrupy. Cool well.

Pour the cooled syrup over the cooled cake, poking holes in the cake with a fork, to permit the syrup to penetrate. Allow it to stand for 2 to 4 hours to absorb the syrup.

Refrigerating this cake while it is absorbing the liquid helps the cake to firm up, which makes it easier to cut.


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Soup for lunch, soup for dinner or soup as a starter… it’s just great to have on hand!

Soup is good for you and it tastes good. A great soup starts with a stock. What is stock? It’s just the liquid you get when you simmer meat, bones or vegetables together with aromatic vegetables and seasonings. This is what forms the major flavor base for a soup.

A homemade vegetable soup is just so much better than anything you’d get in a can. For one thing, only ingredients that you like end up in the soup. Plus, you have the opportunity to make it much healthier. Vegetable soup is also a great way to empty your refrigerator before the next trip to the grocery store — you can put almost any vegetable in a good old-fashioned vegetable soup.

You can add any vegetable you like but it’s a good idea to pick vegetables that go well together. If you add some bitter vegetables, like broccoli, brussel sprouts or turnips, try to balance it with sweeter vegetables like potatoes, carrots or peas.

If you want to avoid overcooking vegetables, add the veggies that need to cook longest first, letting them cook a bit before adding the vegetables that take the least amount of time to cook.

A soup is all about blended flavors. If you use smaller vegetable chunks, you can fit a few different kinds on a spoon and get a better taste. Smaller vegetable pieces also cook faster. The only rule to how much to add is that you should have enough broth to cover all the vegetables.

The last thing that makes up a homemade vegetable soup is the seasoning you add. The broth will tend to reduce the longer the soup cooks. That means that any seasonings added will get more intense as the soup cooks. You can avoid getting an overwhelmingly seasoned soup by adding the seasonings toward the end of the cooking time. There are plenty of seasonings that are suited to soup. Some popular seasonings are: ginger, rosemary, thyme, basil, oregano, parsley, onion powder, garlic powder and cayenne pepper.

How to Make Vegetable Stock

springsoup4

Ingredients

  • 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cups chopped onion, onion skins reserved
  • 2 cups chopped celery
  • 2 cups chopped carrot
  • 1 cup chopped parsnips
  • 1 cup chopped fennel bulb
  • Salt
  • 2 large garlic cloves, smashed (leave skins on)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoons fresh rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley

Directions

Place the dried mushrooms in a large bowl and pour 1 quart of boiling water over them. Set aside.

Heat the olive oil over high heat in a large stockpot. Add the chopped onions, celery, carrots and fennel and stir to coat. Sprinkle with salt. Cook over high heat for several minutes, stirring occasionally. Given that there are so many vegetables and they have a high moisture content, it may take more heat and longer time to brown than you would expect. Cook until the vegetables begin to brown.

Add the garlic and tomato paste and stir to combine. Cook, stirring often, for 2-3 minutes, or until the tomato paste begins to turn a rusty color. Add the mushrooms and their soaking water, the rosemary, thyme, onion skins, peppercorns, bay leaves, parsley and 4 additional quarts of water. Bring to a simmer and then turn the heat down to a simmer. The surface of the stock should just barely be bubbling. Cook for 1 1/2 hours.

Using a spider skimmer or slotted spoon, remove all the big pieces of vegetables. Discard.

Set up a large bowl or pot with a sieve set over it. Line the sieve with a plain paper towel and pour the stock through it. When you have about half the stock poured through, stop, let what’s in the strainer filter through and change the paper towels. Filter the rest of the stock.

To store, pour into glass containers and refrigerate for up to a week.

If you freeze in glass jars, leave at least an inch and a half of headroom, so the stock can expand without breaking the glass of the jar or use freezer ziplock bags.

Makes 5 quarts.

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Spring Vegetable Soup

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 7 cups vegetable stock
  • 10 small red potatoes, quartered
  • 2 medium carrots, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 celery ribs, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 large leek, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 pound green beans, cut into 1-inch lengths
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • Freshly ground pepper

Directions

In a large pot, combine the stock with the red potatoes, carrots, celery, onion and leek. Bring to a boil. Add the salt and simmer over moderately low heat for 30 minutes.

Add the green beans and Italian seasoning and simmer until tender, 3 minutes. Stir in the parsley and season with pepper. Serve.

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Creamy Asparagus Soup

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1 pound fresh asparagus
  • 5 cups vegetable stock
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 2 medium-sized potatoes, diced
  • Salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup light cream
  • Fresh chopped chives for garnish

Directions

Cut the bottom half of the asparagus spears into 2-inch lengths and place in them in a soup pot with the vegetable stock. Simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Remove asparagus ends with a slotted spoon and transfer to a colander over a bowl, pressing on the stalks to get as much juice from them as possible, then discarding the fibrous stalks. Add the extracted juice back into the soup pot and return the stock to a simmer.

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and add the onion, stirring while cooking for 5 minutes. Cut the top half of the asparagus stalks into 1-inch pieces. Add the asparagus pieces, celery and potato to the onion and butter. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cover the saucepan and allow vegetables to cook for 5 minutes. Add the simmering stock and cover saucepan again, cooking another 7 or 8 minutes, until the potato is tender.

Process these cooked vegetables with a hand blender or in a food processor until smooth, then add this puree back into the soup pot, adding the cream. Simmer for 5 minutes, taste and add salt and pepper, if necessary.

Served warm or chilled, garnished with fresh chives.

springsoup2

Vegetable, Fennel Soup

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 carrots, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 2 celery ribs, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 2 leeks, white parts only, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 1 fennel bulb—halved, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1 medium tomato, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 2 bay leaves, preferably fresh
  • 6 cups vegetable stock
  • One 3-inch square Parmigiano-Reggiano rind
  • 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped basil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot. Add the garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the carrots, celery, leeks and fennel and cook, stirring, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes.

Add the tomato and bay leaves and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the stock and the cheese rind and bring to a simmer. Cover partially and cook over moderately low heat until the vegetables are very tender, about 30 minutes.

Discard the cheese rind and bay leaves. Stir in the parsley and basil and season the soup with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls, sprinkle with the grated cheese and serve.

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Italian Vegetable Soup with Orzo and Pesto

6 servings.

Pesto Ingredients

  • 1 cup fresh baby spinach, packed
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves, packed, plus extra leaves for garnish
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup canned diced tomatoes, drained (fresh may be substituted)
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Soup Ingredients

  • 2 leeks, white parts only, chopped (1 bunch of green onions may be substituted)
  • 3 carrots, peeled and sliced thin
  • 1 medium white potato, peeled and cubed
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 cup orzo
  • 1 cup green beans, cut into 1/2-inch slices (can also use frozen)
  • 1 (15-oz.) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper, or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons shredded Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese

Directions

Puree all pesto ingredients in a food processor. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

In large pot combine leeks, carrots, potato, stock and Italian seasoning. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until vegetables are almost tender, 8-10 minutes.

Add orzo and boil uncovered until orzo is almost tender, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Add green beans, cannellini beans and red pepper, cover and simmer 5-7 minutes.

Ladle soup into serving bowls. Divide pesto among the servings and swirl in to blend. Sprinkle with cheese, garnish with fresh basil leaves and serve.


The region of Abruzzo is hilly and mountainous and stretches from the Apennines to the Adriatic Sea. In this part of the Adriatic, the long sandy beaches are replaced by steep and rocky coasts. L’Aquila is the regional capital. Pescara, Chieti and Teramo are other important cities.

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Abruzzo boasts the title of “Greenest Region in Europe” thanks to one third of its territory, the largest in Europe, being set aside as national parks and protected nature reserves. In the region there are three national parks, one regional park and 38 protected nature reserves. These ensure the survival of 75% of all of Europe’s living species and are also home to some rare species, such as the small wading dotterel, golden eagle, Abruzzo chamois, Apennine wolf and Marsican brown bear. Abruzzo is also home to Calderone, Europe’s southernmost glacier.

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The Abruzzo region has two types of climate: the first is strongly influenced by the presence of Abruzzo’s Apennines range. Coastal areas have a Mediterranean climate with hot dry summers and mild winters, rainy hills and a climate where temperatures progressively decrease with increasing altitude. Precipitation is also strongly affected by the presence of the Apennines mountain ridges with increased rain on the slopes of the mountains in the region.

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Until a few decades ago, Abruzzo was a region of poverty in Southern Italy. Since the 1950s, Abruzzo has had steady economic growth. In 1951, the Abruzzo per capita income or GDP was 53% of that of Northern Italy, the nation’s richest region. By 1971, Abruzzo was at 65% and, by 1994, the per capita income was at 76% of Northern Italy’s per capita income, giving Abruzzo the highest per capita GDP of Southern Italy and surpassing the growth of every other region in Italy. The construction of superhighways from Rome to Teramo (A24) and Rome to Pescara (A25) opened Abruzzo to easy access. Abruzzo also attained higher per capita education levels and greater productivity growth than the rest of the South.

The 2009 L’Aquila earthquake led to a sharp economic slowdown. However, according to statistics at the end of 2010, it seems that the economy of Abruzzo is recovering, despite the negative data regarding employment. At the end of 2010, Abruzzo’s growth was placed fourth among the Italian regions with the highest annual growth rates after Lazio, Lombardy and Calabria.

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Abruzzo’s industrial sector expanded rapidly, especially in mechanical engineering, transportation equipment and telecommunications. Both pure and applied research are carried out in the region where there are major institutes and factories involved in research, especially, in the fields of pharmaceuticals, biomedicine, electronics, aerospace and nuclear physics. The industrial infrastructure is spread throughout the region in industrial zones, the most important of which are Val Pescara, Val Sangro, Val Trigno, Val Vibrata and Conca del Fucino.

A further activity worthy of note is seaside and mountain tourism, which is of considerable importance to the economy of the region. In the past decade, tourism has increased due to Abruzzo’s wealth of castles and medieval towns, especially around L’Aquila. Beach-goers also flock to places like Tortoreto, Giulianova, Silvi Marina, Roseto and, further south, Ortona, Vasto and San Salvo. Ski resorts are equally popular.

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Abruzzo Beach tourism destinations

Agriculture has succeeded in modernizing and offering higher-quality products. The mostly small, agricultural properties produce wine, cereals, sugar beet, potatoes, olives, vegetables, fruit and dairy products. Traditional products are saffron and liquorice. Most famous in the wine world is Abruzzo’s Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. Montepulciano d’Abruzzo has earned a reputation as being one of the most widely exported DOC classed wine in Italy.

Abruzzo has a rich culinary tradition, with various traditions attached to each province.

Battered and fried zucchini blooms, spit-roasted scamorza cheese, vinegar-poached lobster, salame di pecora (a rare sheep’s meat salami), crepes loaded with cheese and vegetables in a rich mutton broth, hearty ragus, ricotta cheese drizzled with honey and dusted with saffron powder .… are just a few of the complex and elegant flavors to be found on Abruzzi tables.

Ragus are a generalized term for any type of meat-based sauce. Ragus are heavily associated with the cooking of Southern Italy, as well, and seem to have begun their migration southward from the Abruzzi region.

This is a cheese-loving region and mozzarella and scamorza take center stage on the dairy scene. Both cow’s milk cheeses are young, mild, creamy and sweet with smooth textures and a stringiness that allows them to hold up equally well in baked dishes or on their own as table cheeses.

The maccheroni alla chitarra are highly renowned (homemade pasta cut on a machine with thin steel blades) and scrippelle are thin strips of pasta eaten in soup. On the coast, most first courses are fish-based, often made with tomato to enhance the taste of “poor man’s fish,” that are caught off the shores of ancient fishing villages.

As for second courses, a typical recipe is scapece, which is pickled fried fish. Guazzetto or fish broth is also popular in coastal towns. Other than sea fare, one will find plenty of lamb, kid and mutton on the dinner table, while pork is used for prosciutto, lonza, ventricina and other typical salamis that are produced locally. Abruzzi lamb, in general, is considered superior in flavor to other lamb found elsewhere because of the animals’ mountain-grazed diets rich in herbs.

Among the desserts, often made with almonds and honey, you will find nougat or torrone; confetti (typical sugared almonds) and cicerchiata, small balls of fried dough covered in honey.

Traditional Recipes from Abuzzo

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Potato Soup with Saffron

Ingredients

6 servings

  • 1 ¼ lb potatoes
  • 10 oz cannarozzi – spaghetti cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 1 teaspoon Saffron threads
  • 2 ½ oz extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt
  • Water
  • Celery leaves for garnish

Directions

Lightly sauté the onion, carrot and celery in the olive oil. As soon as the mixture has cooled, add the saffron, mix well and then let rest to dissolve the saffron.

Boil and peel the potatoes and cut them into chunks.

Add 8 ¼ cups of water to the pot containing the saffron mixture and then salt to taste. Bring to a boil and add the pasta. When the pasta is cooked, add the potatoes. Heat and serve garnished with celery leaves.

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Timballo di Crespelle

This recipe is often served at wedding lunches, where it generally follows the soup course.

Ingredients

For the crespelle (crepes):

  • 50g [2 oz] all-purpose flour
  • Olive oil, for the pan
  • 3 eggs
  • 6 tablespoons water

For the filling:

  • 125g [4 oz] ground meat
  • 100g [3 1/2 oz] spinach
  • 75g [2 1/2 oz] mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • 20g [1 scant oz] butter
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 artichokes
  • 2 tablespoons grated Grana or Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 1 chicken liver
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • Salt

Directions

To make the filling.

Mince the chicken liver and combine it with the ground meat.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a saucepan and gently brown the ingredients over moderate heat for 3 minutes. Set aside.

Clean the spinach, blanch in a little salted water for 5 minutes; drain, squeeze out any excess water and lightly cook it with the butter for 4 minutes. Set aside.

Clean and trim the artichokes, discard the tough outer leaves and trim off the tips; cut in half, discard the inner fuzz and slice them. Sprinkle with the parsley and a dash of salt and cook in a saucepan with 3 tablespoons olive oil for 20 minutes, moistening with a little water, if need be.  Set aside.

Break the egg into a mixing bowl, add the milk and egg yolk and whisk with a fork. Set aside

To make the crespelle.

Put the flour, eggs and 6 tablespoons water into a mixing bowl and beat with a fork. Take a small frying pan, the bottom should be as wide as the ovenproof dish to be used for the timballo, and heat a little olive oil in it over a moderate to low heat.

Place 2 tablespoons batter into the pan, tilting to make sure it spreads out to cover the bottom; let it set and then flip. When the crespelle is ready, remove it from the pan and continue until all the batter has been used, greasing the pan each time with a little oil.

To assemble the timballo.

Butter an ovenproof dish and lay a crespelle on the bottom.

Make separate layers of sliced mozzarella, meat, spinach and artichokes, separating each with a crepe, adding a sprinkling of Grana cheese each time and a couple of tablespoons of the egg and milk mixture.

Make sure there are at least 2 layers of each ingredient, cover with another crespelle and sprinkle with the remaining cheese and egg-milk mixture.

Place the dish in the oven and bake at 220°C/425°F for 30 minutes.

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Penne with Abruzzi-Style Lamb Ragu

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 2 ounces thinly sliced pancetta, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
  • 1/2 pound boneless lamb, cut into very fine dice
  • Coarse salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • One 28-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped, with their juices
  • 1 pound penne pasta
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for serving

Directions

Put the oil and onion in a large skillet and cook over moderately high heat, stirring frequently, until the onion is pale gold. Add the pancetta and rosemary and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pancetta fat is rendered; the pancetta should remain soft.

Add the lamb and cook until browned, 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and stir. Add the wine and simmer until evaporated, 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and simmer gently, stirring from time to time, until the fat begins to separate from the sauce, 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, fill a large pot with 4 quarts of water and bring to a boil. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of coarse salt, cover and return to a boil.

Add the pasta to the pot and stir rapidly with a wooden spoon. Cover and bring back to a boil. Uncover and cook the pasta, stirring frequently, until it is al dente.

Drain the pasta and immediately transfer it to a warmed bowl. Toss with the lamb sauce and the 1/3 cup of grated cheese. Serve at once, passing additional cheese at the table.

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Parrozzo

But among Abruzzo’s desserts, Parrozzo is the most remarkable. In ancient times, Abruzzo peasants made cornmeal bread in the shape of a dome and baked it in a wood-fired oven. They called this “pan rozzo” meaning ‘unrefined bread,’ as opposed to the regular and more expensive white flour bread eaten at the time only by higher classes. At the turn of the 19th century, pastry chef Luigi D’Amico re-invented that recipe by using eggs instead of cornmeal to obtain the bread’s golden hue. He kept the dome shape and topped it with a dark chocolate coating to reproduce the bread’s charred crust.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups 70% dark chocolate  
  • 1/2 cup sugar  
  • 1/2 cup butter, at room temperature  
  • 1/4 cup sweet almonds
  • 10 bitter almonds
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch  
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour  
  • 5 eggs, separated  

Directions

Blanch almonds in boiling water and peel off the husk, and grind them with 2 tablespoons of sugar in a processor. Work butter with a fork, add the remaining sugar and the egg yolks and whisk well. Fold in the ground almonds and then the flour and cornstarch. Beat the egg whites in a mixer until soft peaks form and then and fold into the almond mixture.

Pour mixture in a buttered Bundt pan or dome-shaped cake mold and bake at 450° F for 45 minutes.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler and once the parrozzo has cooled, spread the chocolate sauce over the entire surface. Allow the chocolate to set before cutting.



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