Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Make A Fall Milanese Inspired Dinner

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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.

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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

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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.

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Italian Treasures – Valtellina

 

 

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

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

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

Ski Trails

Ski Trails

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

Stelvio National Park

Stelvio National Park

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

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

Mountain Vineyards

Mountain Vineyards

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

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

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VALTELLINA PIZZOCHERi

Original recipe of the Pizzocchero Teglio ®

Coded and registered by the Academy of Pizzocchero Teglio

Ingredients (serves 4)

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

Preparation:

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

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

The Cuisine of Valtellina

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Insalata Della Valtellina (Bresaola salad)

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

Ingredients

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

Dressing

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

Directions

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

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

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

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Polenta Taragna alla Valtellinese

It is generally served with salami and pickles.

Ingredients

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

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

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

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Italian Pork and Vegetable Saute

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

Makes 4 servings

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Bisciola

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Cooking For The Freezer

 

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.

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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.

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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.

Cooking With Different Types Of Sausage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Typical Sausage Classifications

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

Cooking Sausages

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

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

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Roasted Brats with Apples and Butternut Squash

Serves 8 to 10

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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Vegetarian Sausage and Quinoa One-Pot Supper

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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Chicken Sausage with Potatoes & Sauerkraut

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

4 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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Mediterranean Penne with Italian Sausage

Serves 6

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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Black Beans and Smoked Sausage

4 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

Serve with hearty country bread.

Fall Pizza

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

Master Pizza Dough Recipe:

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Make this dough at least one day ahead.

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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Sage Pesto and Butternut Squash Pizza

For a vegetarian version, leave out the pancetta.

Ingredients

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

Sage pesto:

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

Caramelized butternut squash:

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

Directions

For the sage pesto:

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

For the caramelized butternut squash:

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

To make the pizza:

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

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

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

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

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Fennel, Onion and Italian Sausage Pizza

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mushroom, Kale Pizza with Roasted Garlic Sauce

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roasted Garlic:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

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

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Roasted Fall Vegetable Pizza

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Italian Treasures – Autumn Wine Harvest

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Italy is home to some of the oldest wine-producing regions in the world and Italian wines are known worldwide for their broad variety. Italy, closely followed by France, is the world’s largest wine producer by volume. Italian wine is exported around the world and is also extremely popular in Italy: Italians rank fifth on the world wine consumption list by volume with 42 litres per capita consumption. Grapes are grown in almost every region of the country and there are more than one million vineyards under cultivation. Italy’s twenty wine regions correspond to the twenty administrative regions. Understanding of Italian wine becomes clearer with an understanding of the differences between each region and their cuisines.

The Italian Wine Regions

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In 1963, the first official Italian system of classification of wines was launched. Since then, several modifications and additions to the legislation were made (a major one in 1992), the last of which, in 2010, established four basic categories, which are consistent with the last EU regulation in the matter of wine (2008–09). The categories, from the bottom level to the top one, are:

  • Vini (Wines – informally called ‘generic wines’): These are wines that can be produced anywhere in the territory of the EU; no indication of geographical origin, of the grape varieties used, or of the vintage is allowed on the label. (The label only reports the color of the wine.)
  • Vini Varietali (Varietal Wines): These are generic wines that are made either mostly (at least 85%) from one kind of authorized ‘international’ grapes (Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Sauvignon blanc, Syrah) or entirely from two or more of them. The grape(s) and the vintage can be indicated on the label. These wines can be produced anywhere in the territory of the EU.)
  • Vini IGP (Wines with Protected Geographical Indication): This category (also traditionally implemented in Italy as IGT – Typical Geographical Indication) is reserved to wines produced in a specific territory within Italy and following a series of specific and precise regulations on authorized varieties, viticultural and vinification practices, organoleptic and chemico-physical characteristics, labeling instructions, etc. Currently (2014) there exist 118 IGPs/IGTs.
  • Vini DOP (Wines with Protected Designation of Origin): This category includes two sub-categories, i.e. Vini DOC (Controlled Designation of Origin) and Vini DOCG (Controlled and Guaranteed Designation of Origin). DOC wines must have been IGP wines for at least 5 years. They generally come from smaller regions, within a certain IGP territory, that are particularly known for their climatic and geological characteristics and for the quality and originality of the local winemaking traditions. They also must follow stricter production regulations than IGP wines. A DOC wine can be promoted to DOCG, if it has been a DOC for at least 10 years. In addition to fulfilling the requisites for DOC wines (since that’s the category they come from), before commercialization DOCG wines must pass stricter analyses, including a tasting by a specifically appointed committee. DOCG wines have also demonstrated a superior commercial success. Currently (2014) there exist 332 DOCs and 73 DOCGs for a total of 405 DOPs.

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1 Abruzzo
Abruzzo produces one DOCG – Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane – and three DOC wines: Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Controguerra and Trebbiano d’Abruzzo.

The region vineyards cover 33,252 hectares or 82,166 acres.; yearly wine production is 4,184,000 hectoliters or 110,541,611 gallons of which 17.6% isDOC.

2 Aosta Valley
In this small region in the Western Alps along the French border, the grapes are grown up 800 meters above sea level. The Valle d’Aosta DOC zone includes seven sub-zones.

Vineyards cover 635 hectares, or 1,569 acres; yearly wine production is 22,000 hectoliters, or 581,241 gallons; 10% white, 90% red; 22.8% is DOC.

3 Apulia
Apulia economy is based mainly on wine production and counts 25 DOCs, including Aleatico di Puglia, Cacc’e Mmitte di Lucera, Primitivo di Manduria, Salice Salentino and Rosso di Cerignola among others.

Vineyards cover 107,715 hectares or 263,693 acres; yearly wine production is 7,236,000 hectoliters or 191,175,693 gallons30% white, 70% red; 3.8% isDOC.

4 Basilicata
Basilicata produces only one DOC wine, the Aglianico del Vulture.

The region is 9,992 Km2 or 6,205 square miles, vineyards cover 10,848 hectares or 26,825 acres; yearly wine production is 481,000 hectoliters or 12,708,058 gallons; 27% white, 73%red; 2.4% isDOC.

5 Calabria
Calabria produces 12 DOCs including Bivongi, Ciró,Greco di Bianco, Pollino and Verbicaro among others.

The region vineyards cover 24,339 hectares or 60,142 acres; yearly wine production is 753,000 hectoliters or 19,894,319 gallons; 9% white, 91% red or sosé; 2.4% is DOC.

6 Campania
Campania produces one DOCG wine – Taurasi – and 19 DOCs including Aglianico del Taburno or Taburno, Campi Flegrei, Cilento, Fiano di Avellino and Vesuvio among others.

The region vineyards cover 41,129 hectares or 101,630 acres; yearly wine production is 1.971,000 hectoliters or 52,073,976 gallons; 36% white, 64% red; 2.8% is DOC.

7 Emilia – Romagna
Emilia–Romagna produces one DOCG wine – Albana di Romagna – and 18 DOCs, including three kind of Lambrusco – di Sorbara, Grasparossa di Castelvetroand Salamino di Santa Croce – in addition to Sangiovese di Romagna, Colli Bolognesi Pignolettoand Bosco Eliceo among others.

The region vineyards cover 58,237 hectares or 143,904 acres; yearly wine production is 4,733,000 hectoliters or 125,046,235 gallons; 43% white, 57% red; 21.4% is DOC.

8 Friuli – Venezia Giulia
Friuli–Venezia Giulia produces one DOCG wine –Ramandolo – and 9 DOCs including Colli Orientali del Friuli, Friuli Aquileia, Collio Goriziano or Collio andLison – Pramaggiore among others.

The region vineyards cover 18,704 hectares or 46,218 acres; yearly wine production is 1,018,000 hectoliters or 26,895,640 gallons; 52% white, 48% red; 60.5% is DOC.

9 Latium
Lazio produces 25 DOCs including Castelli Romani, Colli Albani, Montecompatri-Colonna, Est! Est! Est! di Montefiascone and Velletri among others.

The region vineyards cover 47.884 hectares or 118,321 acres; yearly wine production is 2,940,000 hectoliters or 77,675,033 gallons; 84% white, 16% red; 6.5% is DOC.

10 Liguria
Liguria produces 7 DOCs: Cinque Terre or Cinque Terre Schiacchetrà, Colli di Luni, Colline di Levanto, Golfo del Tigullio, Riviera Ligure di Ponente, Rossese di Dolceacqua or Dolceacqua and Val Polcevera.

The region vineyards cover 4,837 hectares or 11,952 acres; yearly wine production is 165,000 hectoliters or 4,359,313 gallons; 66% white, 34% red; 13.9% is DOC.

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11 Lombardy
Lombardy produces two DOCGs wines – Franciacortaand Valtellina Superiore – and 15 DOCs includingGarda Classico, Oltrepó Pavese, Cellatica and Botticino among others.

The region vineyards cover 26,951 hectares or 66,593 acres; yearly wine production is 1,665,000 hectoliters or 43,989,432 gallons; 38% white, 62% red; 47.3% is DOC.

12 Marches
Marche produces 12 DOCs including Bianchello del Metauro, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi, Rosso Cònero, Lacrima di Morro or Lacrima di Morro d’Alba and Falerio dei Colli Ascolani among others.

The region is 9,694 Km2 or 4,330 square miles, vineyards cover 24,590 hectares or 60,762 acres; yearly wine production is 1,815,000 hectoliters or 47,957,443 gallons; 62% white, 38% red; 19.6% isDOC.

13 Molise
Molise produces only three DOC wines: Biferno, Molise or del Molise and Pentro di Isernia.

The region is 4,438 Km2 or 2,756 square miles, vineyards cover 7,650 hectares or 18,903 acres; yearly wine production is 360,000 hectoliters or 9,511,228 gallons of which 3.9% is DOC.

14 Piedmont
Piedmont produces seven DOCGs wines – Asti, Barbaresco, Barolo, Brachetto d’Acqui or Acqui, Gavi o Cortese di Gavi, Gattinara and Ghemme – and 44DOCs including three Barbera – d’Alba, d’Asti and del Monferrato – two Freisa – d’Asti and di Chieri, seven Dolcetto, Erbaluce di Caluso o Caluso and Roero among many others.

The region vineyards cover 57,487 hectares or 142,050 acres; yearly wine production is 3,405,000 hectoliters or 89,960,369 gallons; 30% white, 70% red; 55.8% is DOC.

15 Sardinia 
Sardinia produces one DOCG – Vermentino di Gallura– and 19 DOC wines including two Malvasia – di Bosa and di Cagliari – three Moscato – di Sorso-Sennori, di Cagliari and di Sardegna – Vernaccia di Oristano, Cannonau di Sardegna, Nuragus di Cagliariand , Carignano del Sulcis and Mandrolisai among others.

The region vineyards cover 43,331 hectares or 107,070 acres; yearly wine production is 1,062,000 hectoliters or 28,058.124 gallons; 43% white, 57% red; 15.6% is DOC.

16 Sicily 
Sicily produces 19 DOCs including four Moscato – di Noto Naturale or di Noto, di Pantelleria Naturale or di Pantelleria, di Passito di Pantelleria or Passito di Pantelleria and di Siracusa – Marsala, Cerasuolo di Vittoria, Malvasia delle Lipari and Sambuca di Sicilia among others.

The region vineyards cover 133,518 hectares or 329,923 acres; yearly wine production is 8,073,000 hectoliters or 213,000,000 gallons of which 2.1% is DOC.

17 Trentino – Alto Adige
Trentino-Alto Adige produces 8 DOCs including Alto Adige or Südtirol which has six subzones, Valdadige or Etschtaler, Teroldego Rotaliano, Casteller and Lago di Caldaro o Caldaro among others.

The region vineyards cover 12,810 hectares or 31,653 acres; yearly wine production is 953,000 hectoliters or 25,178,335 gallons; 45% white, 55% red; 79.1% is DOC.

18 Tuscany
Here they say that grapes preceded mankind …

Tuscany produces seven DOCGs wines – Chianti which includes seven subzones, Chianti Classico, Brunello di Montalcino, Carmignano, Vernaccia di San Gimignano and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano – and 44 DOCs including Bolgheri or Bolgheri Sassicaia, Valdichiana, Bianco della Valdinievole and Ansonica Costa dell’Argentario among many others.

The region vineyards cover 63,633 hectares or 157,237 acres; yearly wine production is 2,156,000 hectoliters or 56,961,690 gallons; 30% white, 70% red; 55.5% is DOC.

19 Umbria
Umbria produces two DOCGs wines – Montefalco Sagrantino and Torgiano Rosso Riserva – and 11DOCs including Rosso Orvietano or Orvietano Rosso, Colli del Trasimeno or Trasimeno, Assisi, and Colli Altotiberini among others.

The region vineyards cover 16,503 hectares or 40,779 acres; yearly wine production is 740,000 hectoliters or 19,550,858 gallons; 58% white, 42% red; 30.5% is DOC.

20 Veneto
Veneto produces two DOCGs wines – Recioto di Soave and Bardolino – and 11 DOCs including Soave, Valpolicella o Recioto della Valpolicella, Lessini Durello, Bianco di Custoza and Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene among others.

The region vineyards cover 73,314 hectares or 186,101 acres; yearly wine production is 6,785,000 hectoliters or 179,260,237 gallons; 55.4% white, 44.6% red; 29.1% is DOC.

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Vendemmia

While the majority of tourists prefer to visit Italy during the summer months, for wine lovers September and October is the time the magic happens. The vendemmia – Italian for grape harvest – takes place every year during these months (the exact dates vary between vineyards, depending on the weather and the grapes reaching their peak of ripeness). During the vendemmia, wine festivals take place across Italy, though Tuscany remains the home of winemaking. The Festa dell’uva in Impruneta is the oldest and most revered festival in Italy. Featuring local wine tasting, fresh local produce, music, dancing and parades, it is their biggest event of the year. The Italian grape harvest is underway as you read this, with grower organizations promising less quantity but more quality from the 2014 vintage.

The first grapes were picked in Franciacorta in Lombardy last week, 10 days earlier than in 2013, despite variable weather in the lead-up to harvest. Sicily also started picking around the same time. The total Italian harvest is expected to be smaller than last year’s bumper crop, which yielded 49 million liters of wine, according to Wine-Searcher.

What To Serve With Italian Wine?

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Homemade Ricotta & Spinach Filled Ravioli

Ingredients

Filling:

  • 3/4 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 pound fresh spinach, chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • A pinch freshly grated nutmeg

Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 chopped shallot
  • 4 ounces lean ground beef
  • 4 ounces lean ground pork
  • 4 ounces sweet Italian sausage
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/2 cup beef  broth
  • 1 (28-ounce) can Italian crushed tomatoes
  • A pinch of fresh sage, rosemary and 2 bay leaves
  • Salt and pepper

Dough:

  • 2 cups All-Purpose flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions

The filling:

In a large bowl, combine the spinach, ricotta, one egg, half of the Parmigiano, some grated nutmeg, salt and pepper. Mix well. Refrigerate until reading to make the ravioli.

The sauce:

Heat a skillet over low heat; add the olive oil and then the shallot. Stir for 2 minutes, then add the herbs, meat and sausage—breaking up the sausage with a wooden spoon. Raise the flame to medium-high and cook for 5 minutes or until the meat is cooked through. Add the wine and season with salt and pepper. Cover and continue to cook on a low flame. Add broth to keep the mixture moist. Cook for 1 1/2 hours, stirring often. Add the crushed tomatoes and continue to simmer for another 30 minutes.

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The dough:

Combine the flour and salt on a flat work surface; shape into a mound and make a well in the center. Add the eggs and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil to the well and lightly beat with a fork. Gradually draw in the flour from the inside wall of the well in a circular motion. Continue to incorporate all the flour until it forms a ball. Or you can mix the ingredients in the food processor.

Wrap the ball in plastic wrap and let rest 30 minutes.

Cut the ball of dough in 1/2, cover and reserve the piece you are not immediately using to prevent it from drying out. Dust the counter and dough with a little flour. Press the dough into a rectangle and roll it through a pasta machine, 2 or 3 times, at the widest setting. Pull and stretch the sheet of dough with the palm of your hand as it emerges from the rollers. Reduce the setting and crank the dough through again, 2 or 3 times. Continue tightening until the machine is at the second narrowest setting; the dough should be almost paper-thin.

Cut two long rectangular strips of equal size, a little more than 3 inches wide. (Keep the rest of the dough covered with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel.) Spoon a generous amount of filling every 2 to 3 inches along the dough. Place the other sheet on top and press it lightly all along the edges. Using the wheel cutter, first trim off the four sides of the rectangle; then cut out each square. Seal each one well with your fingers or a fork. Lay them on a tray with some semolina flour on the bottom to avoid sticking.

Continue this procedure, preparing as many ravioli as you can, balancing the amount of filling with the remaining dough.

To cook:

In a large pot, bring a gallon of water to boil; add a half handful of salt and then add the ravioli one by one. Stir them very gently and cook for 8 minutes. Drain them with a colander or a sieve and then place them in a warm pasta bowl, alternating them with the hot meat sauce and Parmigiano cheese.

Make Ahead Casseroles

casseroles

Casserole is a French word for “pot” or “pan” and it refers not only to mixed-ingredient, one-dish meals, but also the vessel they are cooked in; a casserole is a type of cooking pan. The idea of casseroles dates back as far as the thirteenth century, but it wasn’t until the 1900s that they started to gain widespread popularity. The scarcity of food (and rationing) during the World Wars, the invention of canned foods (especially soup), and the changing role of women in society as they joined the workforce all contributed to the success of these convenient and economical one-dish meals. By the middle of the twentieth century, the casserole craze was in full swing.

Casseroles are still popular today for many of the same reasons; most are easy to make, cost very little to put together and can be made ahead and stored away for busy nights. A make-ahead casserole is perfect for just about any occasion. You can welcome new neighbors, have a dish ready for an upcoming party or plan next week’s meals.

Make-Ahead and Freezing Guidelines

• To bake a casserole ahead of time, cool completely, and then cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

• To freeze a casserole, you can either assemble and freeze or bake and freeze, depending on the recipe. Either way, cool completely and cover tightly with plastic wrap, and then with heavy duty foil. Add a label with the name of the recipe and the date. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator.

• Whether refrigerated or frozen, bring a casserole to room temperature 30 minutes to 1 hour (but no longer) before baking or reheating. You may need to add extra baking time when a dish has been refrigerated.

• Reheat casseroles in a moderate (around 350 degrees F) oven, covered, so that they do not dry out. If a casserole seems to be dry, you can stir in a little more of the liquid that was called for in the recipe. Reheating in a microwave will warm the food but will also soften crispy toppings.

casseroles1

Rolled Lasagna Florentine

Ingredients

  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 15 ounce carton ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 8 ounces package (2 cups) shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 10 ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 12 dried lasagna noodles, cooked according to package directions
  • 3 cups Tomato Meat Sauce, recipe below
  • 1 ½ teaspoons dried Italian seasoning, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed

Directions

For the spinach-cheese filling:

In a medium bowl combine egg, ricotta cheese, salt and pepper. Stir in 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese and the spinach. Spread mixture over each cooked lasagna noodle. Starting from a narrow end, roll up each noodle.

For the sauce:

In a medium bowl combine Tomato Sauce, Ground Beef or Turkey filling, Italian seasoning and fennel seeds.

Spread 1 cup of the sauce in the bottom of a 2-quart rectangular baking dish. Arrange lasagna rolls on top of the sauce in the baking dish. Top with the remaining  2 cups of sauce and sprinkle with the remaining 1 cup of mozzarella cheese. Save any remaining sauce for another meal.

Cover the baking dish with plastic wrap. Place casserole in a resealable freezer bag. Seal and freeze for up to 2 months.

To serve, thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Remove plastic wrap; cover with greased or nonstick foil. Bake for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours or until heated through.

Ground Beef or Turkey Filling

Ingredients

  • 4 pounds ground beef or turkey
  • 1 ½ cups chopped onions (3 medium)
  • 1 cup chopped carrots (2 medium)
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery (1 stalk)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper

Directions

In a 5- to 6-quart Dutch oven cook ground beef, onions, carrots, celery, and garlic over medium heat until meat is browned, using a wooden spoon to break up meat as it cooks. Drain off fat. Stir in salt and pepper.

Tomato Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 28-ounce cans diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1/3 cup tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon of salt

Directions

In a large saucepan heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic and crushed red pepper; cook and stir for 3 to 4 minutes or until garlic is lightly golden. Carefully add tomatoes, wine, tomato paste and salt.

Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 30 for 40 minutes or until slightly thickened and reduced by about one-third, stirring occasionally. (You should have about 5 1/2 cups.)

casseroles2

Sausage, Mushroom and Polenta Bake

Ingredients

  • 1 pound Italian (hot or sweet) sausage, casing removed
  • 1 medium fresh chili pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced, divided
  • 3 cups marinara sauce
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 cups chopped fresh mushrooms
  • 3/4 cup thinly sliced green onions (6)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning, crushed, divided
  • 1 ½ cups polenta
  • 2 cups shredded fontina or mozzarella or provolone  cheese (8 ounces)

Directions

In a large skillet cook sausage, chili pepper and 2 cloves garlic over medium-high heat until the sausage is brown, using a wooden spoon to break up meat as it cooks. Drain off fat. Stir in marinara sauce. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Pour into a large mixing bowl and cover.

In the same skillet heat oil over medium heat. Add mushrooms, green onions, remaining 2 cloves garlic and 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning. Cook about 5 minutes or until mushrooms are tender and liquid is evaporated, stirring occasionally. Stir in heavy cream, wine and salt. Cook over low heat about 10 minutes or until mixture is thickened, stirring occasionally.

For polenta, in a large saucepan bring chicken broth, the water and remaining Italian seasoning to a boil. Slowly add polenta, stirring constantly. Cook and stir until mixture returns to boiling; reduce heat to low. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until mixture is thickened, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, grease a 3-quart rectangular baking dish. Spread half of the sausage mixture in the bottom of the prepared baking dish.

Working quickly, spread half of the polenta over the sausage mixture in the baking dish. Top with mushroom mixture and half of the cheese. Quickly spread the remaining polenta over the top as evenly as possible. Top with the remaining sausage mixture and the remaining cheese. Cool completely.

Cover baking dish with plastic wrap, then with foil. Freeze for up to 1 month.

To serve, thaw in the refrigerator overnight (casserole may still be a bit icy). Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Remove plastic wrap; cover with foil. Bake about 1 1/2 hours or until heated through. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

casseroles3

Zucchini Rice Casserole

Ingredients

  • 1 cup uncooked long grain rice
  • 3 medium zucchini, cut into 1/8-inch slices
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 sweet onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 cups (16 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 2 cups (16 ounces) light sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 large tomato, seeded and diced

Directions

Cook rice according to package directions.

In a large skillet, heat oil and cook the green pepper, onion and zucchini for 3-5 minutes or until the vegetables are crisp-tender. Set aside.

Place rice in a greased shallow 3-qt. baking dish. Add 1-1/2 cups cheese.

In a large bowl, combine the sour cream, parsley, salt and oregano.

Spread over the cheese layer.

Add the sautéed vegetables and tomato. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.

If not cooking immediately, cover tightly and refrigerate overnight. Remove from the refrigerator thirty minutes before heating.

Bake, covered, at 350°F for 30 minutes. Uncover; bake 5-10 minutes longer or until heated through and the cheese is melted.

casseroles4

Tuscan Bean Casserole

Ingredients

  • 3 cups shredded kale (thick stems removed)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped (1/2 cup)
  • 2 19 ounce cans cannellini beans (white kidney beans), rinsed and drained
  • One 14 1/2 ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 4 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto or cooked ham, cut into bite-size strips
  • 1/4 cup fine dry Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried sage, crushed
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a saucepan cook kale in a small amount of boiling water for 8 to 10 minutes until tender. Drain well in a colander.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in the empty pan over medium heat. Add onion and celery; cook for 4 to 5 minutes or until tender.

In a large bowl combine cooked kale, onion mixture, beans, tomatoes, prosciutto, 2 tablespoons of the bread crumbs, the sage, garlic, and pepper. Transfer mixture to an ungreased 2-quart casserole.

In a small bowl combine the remaining 2 tablespoons bread crumbs and the remaining 1 tablespoon oil; sprinkle over the bean mixture.

Bake, covered, for 20 minutes. Bake, uncovered, about 10 minutes more or until heated through.

casseroles5

Bulgur, Beef Stuffed Peppers

Ingredients

  • 8 large red, yellow and/or orange bell peppers, with stems if possible
  • 2 cans (14 to 14 1/2-ounce) chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cups bulgur
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed with press
  • 1 pound ground beef or turkey
  • 1 package (10-ounce) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 2 cans (28-ounce) crushed Italian tomatoes
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4  teaspoon salt
  • 1/4  teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

Directions

Cut 3/4-inch slice from the top of each pepper; reserve tops, including stems.

Remove seeds and ribs and cut a thin slice from bottom of each pepper, if needed, so they will stand upright.

Arrange 4 peppers and their tops (separately) on the same microwave-safe plate. Cook, uncovered, in the microwave on High 4 minutes. With tongs, transfer tops to a paper towel. Microwave peppers 4 to 5 minutes longer or until just tender. Invert peppers onto a double thickness of paper towels to drain. Repeat with remaining peppers and tops.

In a microwave-safe large bowl, combine chicken broth and bulgur. Cook, uncovered, in the microwave on High 12 to 15 minutes or until bulgur is tender, but still slightly chewy, and most of broth is absorbed. You can also do this on top of the stove. Bring the broth to a boil and stir in the bulgur. Reduce the heat and cook the bulgur until tender, about 7 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a deep 12-inch skillet, heat oil on medium until hot. Add onion and garlic, and cook 5 minutes or until onion begins to turn golden, stirring frequently. Remove 1/4 cup onion mixture and reserve. Add beef to the remaining onion in the skillet and cook 6 to 8 minutes or until beef is no longer pink, breaking up beef with the side of a wooden spoon.

Remove skillet from the heat and stir in cooked bulgur, spinach, Italian seasoning, 1 cup crushed tomatoes and 3/4 cup mozzarella. Fill peppers with bulgur mixture, using a generous 1 cup for each; sprinkle each pepper with the remaining 1/4 cup cheese. Replace pepper tops.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Wipe skillet clean and combine remaining crushed tomatoes, reserved onion mixture, salt and coarsely ground black pepper in the skillet; heat to boiling on medium-high, stirring occasionally.

Divide tomato sauce evenly between two 2-quart casseroles or 8″ by 8″ glass baking dishes. Place 4 peppers in each dish.

Cover one dish with foil and bake 35 minutes or until peppers are hot. Cover the second dish and freeze for another day.


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