Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Italian Regional Cooking – Piemonte

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The Piedmont region stretches across the great Alpine arc: that includes the Pennine Alps and a portion of the Lepontine Alps. It includes two large hilly areas, the Langhe and the Monferrato. The Po River has its source in Piedmont and the region is crossed by several Alpine streams flowing into the Po. Many Alpine lakes dot the region. In the eastern section one can find two larger lakes: Lago Maggiore and Lago d’Orta. The regional capital is Turin. Other important cities are: Asti, Alessandria, Cuneo, Novara, Vercelli, Biella and Verbania.

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In Turin and in Susa interesting traces of the Roman era can be found. The religious Romanesque-Gothic architecture is remarkable: examples are the Abbey of Vezzolano, the Sacra di San Michele, the Abbey of Staffarda, St. Antonio di Ranverso, St. Andrea in Vercelli and other churches in Saluzzo, Chieri and Ciriè. The Baroque style has greatly influenced the appearance of most Piedmontese cities, especially in Turin.

Some of the major sites in Turin, include the Royal Armory, the Egyptian Museum, the second most important in the world after the one in Cairo, with historical remains of the ancient civilization. The Sabauda Gallery houses pictorial works of the Piedmontese, Dutch and Flemish schools, as well as some valuable Tuscan works, such as the Beato Angelico and the Pollaiolo. The Borgogna Museum houses the works of the local Renaissance painters and the Civic Museum is dedicated to local history and art.

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This northwestern region of Italy, is famous for egg pastas, vitello tonnato, the boiled-meat dish, bollito misto—plus well known red wines like Barolo, Barbera and Barbaresco. Torino (Turin) is a city of interesting contrasts between old the world and the new. The name of Torino is widely recognized as home to the famous Shroud of Torino, housed in the Cattedrale di San Giovanni Battista (“Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist”), but it is also the center of operations for the automobile manufacturers, Lancia and Fiat. Torino’s appeal is heightened even more by the city’s excellent artisan chocolates, no doubt influenced heavily by their proximity to Switzerland.

The valleys and pasture lands, protected in large part by the Alps, offer the ideal locations for growing grains like wheat, corn and rice. The terraced hills lend themselves well to growing grapes and, subsequently, wine production. Freshwater fish and eels are popular in Piedmontese cooking. Pork and pork products are on the table, as is good beef. Cattle thrive in Piedmont, and the dairy industry is strong, creating a love of cheeses, cream, milk and butter. Locals also have a fondness for game meats hunted in the forests. White truffles grow wild there and their distinctive flavor adds earthiness to many recipes.

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The preferred pasta is a narrow handmade noodle called tajarin. They are often simmered in beef broth and topped with butter, grated Grana Padano cheese and shaved truffles. Agnolotti Piemontesi, similar to ravioli, are also popular. These meat and herb filled dumplings are generally served with fresh sage fried in butter and topped with Parmigiano Reggiano.

The flatlands of Piemonte are Europe’s prominent supplier of Carnaroli rice and they are known for their creamy risotto dishes. It is cooked with butter and shaved truffles or made into panissa, a risotto flavored with red borlotti beans, Salam d’la Duja and pork rind. Frogs, meat or vegetables may also be used in rice dishes.

Piemonte produces large numbers of hazelnuts and they are put to good use in cakes and pastries, as well as torrone nougat and chocolates. Candied chestnuts, known as marron glacés, are famous worldwide. Other outstanding desserts include bonèt, a custard cake flavored with coffee or chocolate, panna cotta, a silky custard made with cream and caramel thickened with gelatin and torta gianduia, a decadent hazelnut and chocolate cake made with ground nuts instead of flour. Zabaione is a light custard made with Marsala wine and sweetened egg yolks.

Take a trip through the Piedmont region via the video below.

Piedmont Recipes To Make At Home

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Zuppa di Cipolla al Vino Rosso

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 8 medium red onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 16 thin slices baguette
  • 1 cup freshly grated Fontina cheese

Directions

Melt the butter in a heavy, wide pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for 25 minutes, or until they are very soft and caramelized; stirring every few minutes to ensure they cook evenly.

Season with the salt and pepper, deglaze with the wine and cook for 5 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pan to incorporate all the liquid into the onions.

Pour in the broth and bring to a boil, uncovered. Cook for 30 minutes, uncovered, stirring once in a while.

Preheat the broiler.

Place 4 slices of baguette in each of 4 oven-proof soup bowls (preferably the sort with a handle). Scatter the Fontina over the bread.

Ladle the soup over the bread and place the dishes under the broiler. Broil the soup for 5 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly. Serve hot. Serves 4.

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Maltagliati with Leek Sauce

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 lb all-purpose flour
  • 6 whole eggs
  • 6 leeks, trimmed, cleaned and thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup light cream (half & half)
  • ½ cup or more of grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • Salt to taste

Directions

Mix the flour and eggs in a mixing bowl or a food processor.

Roll the dough thin by hand or with a pasta machine. Cut the pasta into medium-size diamonds.

In a deep skillet, brown the leeks in the butter.

Cook the pasta in abundant boiling salted water. Fresh pasta cooks quickly in about 2-3 minutes.

Drain and add it to the pan with the  browned leeks.

Add the cream, mix well and finish with a handful of grated Parmesan cheese.

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Pan Roasted Meat with Hazelnuts

Ingredients

  • Pork or veal tenderloin about 2 lbs.(800 grams)
  • 3 ½ oz (100 grams) hazelnuts, chopped plus extra for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons (50 grams) butter
  • 2 cups (1 pint) milk
  • Half an onion, diced
  • 3 tablespoons Marsala wine
  • Salt
  • 5 tablespoons (80 grams) Flour
  • Water

Directions

In a large pot, brown the onion in the butter. Push the onions aside and add the meat and let it brown on all sides.

Add the Marsala wine and let it completely evaporate. Season the meat with salt and add the milk and chopped hazelnuts .

Cover the pan and cook the tenderloin for at least 120 minutes. Remove the meat and set aside.

Prepare a roux by mixing the flour with enough water to make a paste, mix well.

Bring the sauce in the pan to a boil, then whisk in the roux and cook until the sauce thickens, whisking the entire time.

Cut the meat into slices and serve coated with the sauce. Garnish with hazelnuts.

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Salad of Roasted Peppers, Olives and Fontina

Ingredients

  • 3 large yellow bell peppers
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • Salt
  • White pepper
  • 2 tablespoons sliced, Italian green olives
  • ¼ pound fontina, cut into long strip

Directions

Arrange the peppers on a grill rack above a charcoal fire, on wire racks positioned over the burners of a gas or electric stove, 2 to 3 inches under a preheated broiler, or in an oven preheated to 400 degrees F. Roast them until they are charred all over and tender inside, turning them frequently to insure they blacken evenly, about 30 minutes in the oven, but less time by the other methods. Set aside to cool.

When the peppers are cool enough to handle, using your fingertips, peel off the skins. Cut the peppers in half and remove and discard the stems, ribs, and seeds (Do not do this under running water; it will wash away some of the delicious taste.) Cut the peppers lengthwise into ½-inch-wide strips and place in a bowl. Add the oil, mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper to taste, olives and cheese and toss gently to mix well. Serve at room temperature.

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Baci di Dama (Lady Kisses) Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup hazelnut flour (finely ground hazelnuts)
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 11 tablespoons cold butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Nutella (or any chocolate hazelnut spread)

Directions

In a mixing bowl combine the flours and the sugar. Cut the butter into small chunks and incorporate it into the flour mixture. It is best to use a wooden spoon or your fingers to completely mix the butter with the flour mixture to make the dough.

Place the dough in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Then take it out and form small balls the size of a quarter. When placing them on the cookie sheet, press down slightly so that they are flattened on one side. They will form a dome shape: flat on one side, rounded on the other.

Bake at 350 degrees F, for about 20 minutes, or until they just start to brown. Remove to wire racks to cool.

After the cookies have cooled spread a thin layer of Nutella on the flat side of the cookie and place another cookie on top, making a sandwich.

Cold Weather Dinners

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BEGINNING OF WINTER — By Leonid Afremov

The best winter recipes will warm you up inside and out, will warm your home and make your house smell fantastic.

Soups, stews, casseroles and chili are very versatile dishes. Not really in the mood to cook after a long day at work? Let your crock pot do the work for you. There are lots of crock pot recipes out there for stews, roasts, chicken, chili and more.

Even if your recipe doesn’t call for it, it’s easy to add or substitute any veggie or lean meat that you have in the refrigerator. These types of recipes usually make a lot of servings. You can always freeze leftovers in individual containers, so you’ll have a quick, pre-portioned meal for another day.

Below are five dinners guaranteed to help you warm up.

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Sausage, Broccoli Rabe and Polenta

This dish is perfect for a cold winter night and is a complete meal all in one bowl.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound broccoli rabe, tough stems removed
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds hot or mild Italian sausage
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 1/2 cups canned crushed tomatoes in thick puree (from a 14-ounce can)
  • 1 1/2 cups canned low-sodium chicken broth or homemade stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 4 1/2 cups water
  • 1 1/3 cups polenta or coarse/ medium cornmeal
  • Grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the broccoli rabe for 2 minutes. Drain thoroughly. Cut into 2-inch lengths.

In a large frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over moderately high heat. Add the sausage links and cook, turning, until browned, about 10 minutes. Remove to a plate. When cool enough to handle, cut into slices.

Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat from the pan. Reduce the heat to moderately low. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the wine; bring to a simmer. Add the sausage slices, tomatoes, broth, thyme and 1 1/4 teaspoons of the salt. Bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Add the broccoli rabe, parsley and pepper to the sauce; bring to a simmer.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, bring the water and the remaining 1 1/4 teaspoons salt to a boil. Add the polenta in a slow stream, whisking. Whisk in the remaining 3 tablespoons oil. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until very thick, about 20 minutes. Serve in individual pasta bowls and pour the sausage/broccoli sauce over the top. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese.

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Winter Fish Chowder

Serve with some delicious crusty bread.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium red potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 dozen mussels, scrubbed
  • 16 littleneck clams, scrubbed
  • 2 slices of bacon, finely diced
  • 1 celery rib, finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 6 ounces skinless salmon fillet, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 6 ounces white fish fillets, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Directions

In a saucepan, cover the potatoes with the water and bring to a boil. Cover the pan and cook over moderate heat until the potatoes are tender, about 6 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered.

In a large saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add half of the onion and garlic and cook over moderate heat until softened, 5 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Add the mussels, cover and cook over moderately high heat until they open, 3 minutes; transfer to a bowl. Add the clams to the saucepan, cover and cook. As the clams open, transfer them to the bowl. Strain and reserve the cooking liquid. Remove the mussels and clams from their shells and coarsely chop them.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the bacon to the pan and cook over moderate heat until crisp, 4 minutes. Add the celery and the remaining onion and garlic. Cover and cook over moderately low heat until softened, 7 minutes. Stir in the flour, then gradually whisk in the potato cooking water. Bring to a boil, whisking, and cook until thickened slightly.

Add the potatoes and the half and half and bring to a simmer. Add the salmon and fish and simmer over moderate heat, stirring a few times, until the fish is just cooked, 3 minutes. Add the mussels and clams and pour in their reserved cooking liquid, stopping before you reach the grit at the bottom; stir until heated through. Season with salt and pepper and add the parsley. Serve the chowder in bowls.

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Gnocchi-Meatball Bake

A salad is all that is needed to complete this meal.

Ingredients

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 16 – ounce package shelf-stable potato gnocchi
  • 1 1/2 cups marinara sauce
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped onion, divided
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons Italian seasoned  bread crumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and diced
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (2 ounces)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat a 2-quart rectangular baking dish with cooking spray; set aside.

Cook gnocchi according to package directions. Drain. Transfer to a large bowl. Stir in marinara sauce; set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl combine ground beef, ¼ cup chopped onion, egg, bread crumbs, oregano, basil, garlic powder and fennel seeds. Shape meat mixture into 24 equal balls, about 1 inch round.

In a large skillet heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add mushrooms, bell pepper and the remaining onion; cook about 7 minutes or until tender. Add vegetables to the bowl with the gnocchi.

In the same large skillet heat the remaining oil over medium heat. Cook meatballs, half at a time, about 6 minutes or until cooked through (160 degrees F), turning occasionally. Transfer meatballs to the bowl with the gnocchi and vegetables. Gently stir to combine.

Pour gnocchi mixture into prepared baking dish. Cover with foil. Bake for 20 minutes. Sprinkle cheese on top. Bake, uncovered, about 10 minutes more or until cheese is melted and golden brown.

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Tuscan Kale and White Bean Stew

A meatless option.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup fresh bread crumbs
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 8 oz. cremini mushrooms, quartered (2 cups)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 bunches kale, stemmed, torn into bite-size pieces (8 cups)
  • 1 15.5-oz. can white beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Directions

Combine bread crumbs, Parmesan and the 2 teaspoons of olive oil in small bowl. Set aside.

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and butter in large ovenproof skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add mushrooms; increase heat to medium-high. Stir, cover pan, and cook 5 to 6 minutes, or until mushrooms are lightly browned, stirring occasionally.

Uncover the pan, add garlic and stir 30 seconds. Add kale, and cook 2 minutes, or until wilted.

Add beans, broth and 3/4 cup water. Cover, and simmer 6 to 8 minutes, or until liquid has reduced by about three-quarters. Stir in the lemon juice and remove from the heat.

Heat broiler to high. Sprinkle bread crumb mixture over stew and broil 3 minutes, or until topping is golden.

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Stuffed Chicken Rolls

Serve with a vegetable side dish for a complete meal.

Ingredients

  • 4 (4-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, flattened to 1/4 inch
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 slices prosciutto, diced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 12 ounces baby spinach
  • 4 ounces light cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 1 ¼ cups Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 2 cups marinara sauce
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Spray the bottom of a baking dish with nonstick spray.

Sprinkle both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper.

Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat, add prosciutto and cook until crisp. Remove to a mixing bowl.

Add spinach to the skillet and stir until slightly wilted, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

Transfer wilted spinach to the bowl with the prosciutto. Add cream cheese, Parmesan and ¼ teaspoon of salt. Stir until thoroughly combined..

Divide spinach mixture evenly among the chicken breasts and spread over the surface. Roll up chicken, dip in egg and roll in breadcrumbs. Place chicken rolls seam side down in the prepared pan.

Bake 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from oven. Spoon on marinara sauce and sprinkle with mozzarella. Turn on the broiler and broil the chicken rolls 2 to 3 minutes, until the cheese melts.

Winter Pasta Sauces

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In Italian cuisine, a ragù is a meat-based sauce, which is commonly served over pasta. The Italian gastronomic society, l’Accademia Italiana Della Cucina, has documented 14 different ragùs. The commonalities among the recipes are that they are all meat-based and all are used as sauces for pasta. Typical Italian ragùs include ragù alla bolognese (Bolognese sauce), ragù alla napoletana (Neapolitan ragù) and ragù alla Barese (sometimes made with horse meat).

In the northern Italian regions, a ragù is typically a sauce of meat, chopped or ground, and cooked with sautéed vegetables in a liquid. The meats are varied and may include beef, chicken, pork, duck, goose, lamb, mutton, veal or game, as well as offal from any of the same. The liquids can be broth, stock, water, wine, milk, cream or tomatoes and often include a combination of these. If tomatoes are included, it is usually a small amount. Characteristically, a ragù is a sauce of braised or stewed meat that may be flavored with tomato, to distinguish it from a tomato sauce that is flavored with the addition of meat.

In southern Italian regions, especially Campania, ragùs are often prepared with whole cuts of beef, pork and regional sausages, cooked with vegetables and tomatoes. After a long braise (or simmer), the meats are then removed and may be served as a separate course. Examples of these styles of ragùs are the well-known ragù alla Napoletana (Neapolitan ragù) and carne a ragù.

Sometimes a thick meatless, vegetable based sauce is referred to as a ragu, such as mushroom ragu.

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Pork Ragu

This sauce is excellent served over potato gnocchi.

Ingredients

  • 2 pound boneless pork shoulder
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic (about cloves)
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (chili) flakes
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 3 cups canned Italian plum tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • Water
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Directions

Trim the fat from the exterior of the pork. Cut it into bite-sized pieces, about 3/4-inch cubes, trimming more fat and bits of cartilage as you divide the meat. Pat the pieces dry with paper towels.

Pour the olive oil into a large pan, set it over medium heat and add the pork. Spread out the pieces in the pan and season with the salt. Cook the pork slowly for 15 minutes or so, turning to brown the pieces on all sides.

When the pork is brown, add the chopped garlic and chili flakes. Raise the heat and pour in the white wine, stir and bring to a boil. Add the crushed tomatoes and 1 cup of water; grate the fresh nutmeg over all and stir.

Cover the pan and bring the sauce to a boil, then adjust the heat to maintain a steady simmer. Cook for about 1 1/2 hours or until the pork is tender and the sauce has thickened. If the liquid is still thin toward the end of the cooking time, set the cover ajar and raise the heat a bit to reduce it. Use immediately or cool and refrigerate until needed.

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Mushroom Shallot Sauce

This sauce is excellent for pasta, baked in a lasagna or poured over polenta, cooked into risotto or as a condiment for grilled steak or fish.

Makes 6 cups

Ingredients

  • 2½ pounds fresh mixed mushrooms, small and firm
  • 1/2 ounce dried porcini, soaked in 1 1/4 cups warm water
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary, a tender stem about 4-inches long
  • 1 sprig fresh sage, with 4 big leaves
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/3 cup tomato paste
  • 1 cup dry Marsala
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cups hot meat or vegetable broth

Directions

Squeeze out the soaked porcini and slice them into pieces about 1/4-inch wide. Strain the soaking water and set aside.

Clean, trim and slice the fresh mushrooms into thin slices, barely 1/4-inch wide.

Tie all the fresh herb sprigs together with piece of kitchen twine.

Put the oil and butter in the large skillet or saucepan and place over medium heat. When the butter melts, add the onions and shallots and 1/4 teaspoon of salt and stir well. Cook slowly for 6 minutes-stirring often-until they’re soft, wilted and shiny, without any brown color.

Add the fresh mushrooms and porcini to the pan and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add the herb bouquet, raise the heat a little and cover the pan. Cook, covered for about 3 minutes, so the mushrooms release their liquid.

Uncover and continue to cook over fairly high heat, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms shrink and the liquid evaporates, 5 minutes or more. When the pan is dry and the mushrooms begin to brown, clear a spot, add the tomato paste and stirring,cook for a minute or so, then stir it into the mushrooms.

Pour in the Marsala and stir constantly until the wine evaporates. Add the porcini mushroom water and 2 cups of the hot stock. Bring to a boil, stirring up any caramelization in the pan. Lower the heat to keep the sauce bubbling gently and cover the pan. Cook for about 20 minutes, occasionally stirring and adding stock to keep the mushrooms covered in liquid; expect to add at least a 1/2 cup, if not more.

Uncover the pan and cook for another 20 minutes, maintaining a simmer and adding stock as needed. Remove the herb bouquet and discard it. Taste and add salt, if needed, and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Use the sauce immediately or let it cool. Store it in the refrigerator for a week or freeze, for use within several months.

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Neapolitan Ragu

Ingredients

  • 2 pound boneless pork butt or shoulder, in 1 piece
  • 2 teaspoons salt, divided, more to taste
  • Pepper
  • 2 tablespoons finely minced parsley
  • 1 pound onions, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/3 cup chopped pancetta
  • 1/4 cup chopped prosciutto
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cups dry red wine
  • 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
  • 1 cup crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 pound Italian sausage, crumbled

Directions

Season the pork all over with 1 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste.

In a food processor, chop together the parsley, onions, garlic, pancetta and prosciutto to make a very coarse paste.

Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add the seasoning paste and another teaspoon of salt and cook until no more liquid appears when the paste is stirred, about 7 minutes.

Add the pork roast, cover and reduce the heat to low. Cook, turning every 15 minutes, until the meat is lightly browned and the onions have begun to color, about 1 hour.

Add the red wine, place the cover back but leave ajar and continue cooking until the wine reduces to a thick sauce, about 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

If, after 1 hour and 15 minutes, the wine has not reduced sufficiently, remove the roast to a plate, increase the heat to medium-high and cook the sauce until it thickens.

Reduce to low heat, stir in the tomato paste, 2 or 3 tablespoons at a time, stirring in each addition until it mixes into the sauce and darkens to a brick color. Stir in the crushed tomatoes, return the roast to the pan if previously removed and cover. Continue to cook, turning the meat every 30 minutes and stirring the sauce until the meat is tender enough to be easily pierced with a meat fork, 2 to 2 1/2 hours. If the sauce dries out too much and the meat begins to stick to the bottom of the pan, stir in a tablespoon or two of water.

Remove the roast to refrigerate and reheat when dinner is served, if desired. Crumble the Italian sausage into the sauce and cook until the sauce is a deep red color and thickened, stirring occasionally, about another hour. (The dish can be prepared to this point and refrigerated overnight.)

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Winter Squash and Tomato Sauce

Ingredients

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup sliced shallots
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (chili) flakes, or to taste
  • 2 cups chopped canned Italian tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 to 2 pounds (about 5 cups) winter squash, peeled and cut into small cubes
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup mascarpone cheese, at room temperature, optional
  • 8 ounces ziti or penne cut pasta
  • Freshly chopped parsley or Parmesan cheese, for garnish

Directions

Put the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add shallots, garlic and pepper flakes and cook for about 1 minute; add the white wine and cook for a few minutes.

Add the tomatoes and squash and season with salt and pepper.

When the squash is tender, about 20 minutes or so for small cubes. Remove the pot from the heat and mash the sauce with a potato masher.

Stir in the mascarpone cheese, if using. Keep warm while the pasta cooks.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta until it is al dente.

Mix the sauce and pasta together and serve garnished with parsley or Parmesan cheese.

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Sicilian Pesto

If fresh basil is not available in your market this time of year, substitute with fresh flat leafed parsley and 1 tablespoon dried basil.

Ingredients

  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
  • 1/2 cup packed basil leaves, (see substitute above)
  • 1/2 cup finely grated parmesan, plus more for serving
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons golden raisins
  • 2 tablespoons capers, drained
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
  • 3 anchovy fillets in oil, drained
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 pepperoncini (Italian pickled pepper), stemmed, seeded, and roughly chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Short pasta, such as corkscrew or penne

Directions

Place the cherry tomatoes in a food processor and process until finely chopped; pour tomatoes into a fine strainer and drain off excess juices. Return the pulp to the processor.

Process the tomato pulp along with the almonds, basil, Parmesan, olive oil, raisins, capers, chili flakes, anchovies, garlic and pepperoncini in a food processor until finely ground.

Season with salt and pepper.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat, add pasta and cook, stirring, until al dente. Drain, reserving ¼ cup cooking water, and transfer pasta to a large bowl along with the pesto; toss to combine, adding a couple of spoonfuls of pasta cooking water, if needed, to create a smooth sauce.

Transfer to a large serving platter or individual bowls and serve with more Parmesan cheese.

 

Easy Recipes For Thanksgiving Leftovers

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Today is Monday and you may be tired of heating up the turkey leftovers by now. There’s lots of ideas out there for using up the turkey but what about that leftover stuffing, veggies or cranberry sauce? Here are some easy ways to use them up.

Leftover cranberry sauce and turkey make a great lunchtime turnover

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Turkey Cranberry Turnovers

Makes 8 turnovers

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cooked turkey breast, diced into small cubes
  • 1 box (15 oz/425 g) frozen puff pastry dough, defrosted
  • 2/3 cup Swiss cheese, cut into small cubes
  • 3 tablespoons (45 mL) chopped onion
  • 3/4 – 1 cup Cranberry Sauce

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C)

Flour the surface you will be working on. Roll one of the pastry sheets lightly to make the sheet an even thickness. Cut the sheet into 4 equal squares. Repeat with the second sheet of pastry.

Divide the turkey, cranberry sauce, onion and cheese equally among each pastry dough square.

Fold one corner of the square over to the opposite end (to make a triangle) and seal the edges with your fingers, pressing the pastry to merge the two edges. Use a fork and press the edges to further seal the turnovers.

Place the turnovers on a baking sheet and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until browned and puffed.

Leftover mashed potatoes make delicious potato pancakes for breakfast or as a side dish.

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Crispy Mashed Potato Cakes

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cold mashed potatoes
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
  • Sour cream, for serving

Directions

Combine potatoes, eggs, cornstarch and garlic powder in a bowl. Form into 4 patties (about 1/4 cup of the potato mixture patted into 3 inch circles that are 1/2″ thick).

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Cook until the bottom is browned and crisp, about 3-4 minutes. Carefully turn the patties over and cook the second side until brown and crisp, 3-4 minutes.

Sprinkle with chopped chives and serve with sour cream, if desired.

I make bread stuffing with Italian sausage and the leftovers are delicious in a frittata for a quick weeknight dinner.

Leftovers4

Stuffing Frittata

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups leftover sausage stuffing
  • 1 cup shredded Italian fontina cheese
  • 8 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves, divided

Directions

Preheat oven to  400°F (200°C)

Heat the oil in an ovenproof skillet over medium heat.

Add the stuffing to the pan and warm through.

Sprinkle with the grated fontina cheese.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the  eggs, milk, 1 tablespoon of parsley, salt and pepper to taste.

Pour the egg mixture over the stuffing and sprinkle with the Parmesan.

Carefully transfer the skillet to the preheated oven.

Bake until the eggs are set and the sides have puffed up a little bit and the cheese is golden, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Let rest before cutting.

Sprinkle with remaining fresh parsley.

Turn those leftover sweet potatoes into delicious waffles.

leftovers5

Sweet-Potato Waffles

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 cup leftover sweet potatoes, mashed
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for brushing the waffle iron
  • Maple syrup, for serving

Directions

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. Place a wire rack on a baking pan and place in the oven.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients (flour through allspice).

In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, sweet potatoes, eggs and vanilla until combined. Stir sweet-potato mixture into flour mixture until combined. Stir in melted butter until just blended – some lumps will remain.

Heat a waffle iron to medium-high and lightly brush the grids with melted butter. Ladle about 1/2 cup batter into the center of the iron (grids should be full but not overflowing), close and cook until the iron stops steaming and waffles are golden brown, about 4 minutes (or make according to your manufacturer’s instructions).

Transfer waffles to the wire rack in the oven to keep warm. Repeat with remaining batter. Serve with maple syrup.

Turn those leftover Thanksgiving vegetables into soup.

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Turkey Leftover Vegetable Soup

Ingredients

  • 8 cups turkey or chicken broth
  • 1 turkey carcass, all meat removed
  • 1 carrot, halved lengthwise, plus 1 carrot, minced
  • 1 whole stalk celery, plus 1 stalk, minced
  • 1 onion, halved, plus 1 onion, minced
  • 2 bay leaves, divided
  • 2-3 cups leftover turkey meat, diced into small pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cups leftover cooked Thanksgiving side vegetables ( Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, green beans, peas, etc)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage

Directions

Put the broth, turkey bones, carrot halves, celery stalk, onion halves and 1 bay leaf in a large stockpot. Bring to a boil and then simmer, about 1 1/2 hours.

Before straining the broth, remove the large bones and carcass with tongs. Strain the broth through a sieve covered with wet cheesecloth. Discard the solids and set broth aside.

In a large soup pot, heat the garlic in the olive oil over medium heat. Add the minced carrots, celery and onions. Cook over medium-low heat until softened, 7 or 8 minutes.

Dice the leftover Thanksgiving vegetables. Add the sage to the soup pot along with the reserved turkey broth and the remaining bay leaf. Bring to a simmer. When simmering, add the diced leftover vegetables and diced turkey meat to the soup. Bring it back up to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Turn the heat off and cover. Allow to sit and steam for about 10 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

My Family’s Favorite Thanksgiving Pies

Thanksgiving-pies

They’re simple, they’re American and, come Thanksgiving, everybody saves room for them. The recipes below for apple, pumpkin and pecan pie have been a tradition in my family for many, many years. It would not be Thanksgiving without them. I share these recipes with you and you can make them even if you do not celebrate Thanksgiving in your country.

Pie Crust for Apple and Pecan Pies

You will need three pie crusts for the Apple and Pecan Pies. You can double the recipe below and freeze the extra crust for another day or make one double and half of a double for the apple and pecan pies. I use a different crust for the Pumpkin Pie because my recipe needs a larger, deeper crust.

Classic Double Pie Crust

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 cup trans-free vegetable shortening, such as Spectrum
  • 10 tablespoons very cold unsalted butter
  • 10 tablespoons ice water

Directions

Whisk together the flour and salt. Add the shortening, working it in until the mixture is crumbly.

Cut the butter into small (about ½”) cubes. Add the butter to the flour mixture and work it in with your fingers, a pastry cutter or a mixer. Don’t be too thorough; the mixture should be very uneven, with big chunks of butter in among the smaller ones.

Add 4 tablespoons of water and toss to combine. Add enough additional water to make a chunky, fairly cohesive mixture. It should hold together when you gather it up and squeeze it in your hand.

Divide the dough in half and form each half into a disk. Smooth the disks and the edges with floured hands. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes, or even overnight.

When you’re ready to make the pie, remove the crust from the refrigerator, leaving it wrapped. Allow it to warm a bit until it’s softened enough to roll, but still feels cold to the touch.

Next, measure the bottom diameter and up the sides of your pie pan. For example, if your pan is 7 inches across the bottom and 1 ½ inches up each side, that’s a total of 10 inches. This means you should roll your bottom crust to a diameter between 11 and 12 inches, which gives you enough extra pastry for crimping the edges.

Place the crust on a floured work surface and roll it to the desired width.

Place the crust in the pan by folding in quarters and placing it in the pan. Unfold the pastry and center it in the pan.

For a single-crust pie:

Fold the edges of the crust under and gently squeeze them together. Crimp, as desired. It’s good to make a tall crimped edge for a single-crust pie that is fairly liquid, such as pumpkin or custard.

For a double-crust pie:

Leave the edges of the bottom crust as is (no crimping). Once you’ve added the pie filling, roll out the top crust to the outside diameter of your pan and place it on top of the filling. Trim the excess crust with a pair of scissors; then press the two edges together.

Crimp, as desired. A simple fork crimp is fast and easy. At this point, it helps to return the pie to the refrigerator for 20 to 30 minutes; this chills the fat, which ultimately increases the crust’s flakiness. Cut a hole in the center of the crust for steam to escape or slash the pie’s top surface several times. Brush with milk and sprinkle with coarse sugar, if desired.

pies
Pecan Pie

Single Crust, recipe above. Chill in the refrigerator while you make the filling.

For the filling

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups chopped pecans

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Whisk the first 5 ingredients in a medium bowl to blend. Mix in 3/4 cup pecans.

Pour into the prepared crust. Sprinkle with remaining 1 ¼ cups of pecans. Bake the pie until set, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack; cool.

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Apple Pie

Double Crust, recipe above.

For the Filling

  • 6 cups thinly sliced peeled McIntosh apples (about 2 pounds)
  • 6 cups thinly sliced peeled Granny Smith apples (about 2 pounds)
  • 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Pinch of ground allspice
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Topping (optional)

  • 1 teaspoon milk
  • 1 tablespoon coarse sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions

To prepare filling:

Combine apples, brown sugar, lemon juice, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, flour and salt in a large bowl.

To assemble & bake the pie:

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven; preheat to 425°F.

Roll out half of the dough as directed in the recipe above and invert the dough into a 9 1/2-inch deep-dish pie pan. Pour the filling into the crust, mounding it higher in the center than on the sides of the pan.

Roll out the second crust and invert the dough onto the top of fruit. Tuck the top crust under the bottom crust, sealing the two together and making a rolled edge. Flute the edge with your fingers.

Combine the coarse sugar and the cinnamon in a small bowl. Brush the top crust with the milk and sprinkle with the cinnamon-sugar. Cut 6 steam vents in the top crust.

Bake the pie for 20 minutes; reduce the oven temperature to 375°F and continue baking until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbling, about 35 minutes more.

Let cool on a wire rack for about 1 1/2 hours before serving.

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Pumpkin Pie

Pie Crust Ingredients

This recipe makes enough for a single deep dish crust.

  • 1 1/2 cups (6 1/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/3 cup (2 3/8 ounces) olive or vegetable oil
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons (1 1/2 to 2 ounces) water

Directions

You will need a 9 inch pie pan that’s at least 1 1/2 inches deep.

Whisk together the flour, salt, sugar and baking powder. This can be done right in the pie pan, if you like.

Whisk together the oil and water in a measuring cup; then pour over the dry ingredients.

Stir with a fork until the dough is evenly moistened. Pat the dough across the bottom of the pie pan and up the sides. A flat-bottomed measuring cup can help you make the bottom even.

Press the dough up the sides of the pan with your fingers and flute the top. Chill in the refrigerator while you make the filling.

Pumpkin Pie Filling Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • Pinch black pepper
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups fresh cooked pumpkin
  • 1 cup half & half

Directions

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sugars, flour, salt and spices.

In a large measuring cup, beat together the eggs, pumpkin and half & half. Whisk into the dry ingredients.

For best flavor, cover and refrigerate the filling overnight before baking.

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

When the oven is hot, place the pie pan with the chilled crust on a baking sheet to catch any drips. Pour the filling into the unbaked pie shell and place the baking sheet in the oven on the center rack.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the filling is set 2 inches in from the edge. The center should still be wobbly. Remove the pie from the oven and cool on a rack; the center will finish cooking through as the pie sits.

Tips

  • This recipe makes enough filling to generously fill a 9 inch pan that’s at least 1 1/2 inches deep. If your pan isn’t quite that big, you can bake any leftover filling in custard cups; they will take 25 to 30 minutes to cook.
  • Pumpkin pie filling is basically a custard; the eggs in the filling will continue cooking as the heat from the edge of the pie moves toward the center, which is why it’s important to remove the pie from the oven before the center is completely set. Leaving it in the oven too long will cause the eggs to overcook, tightening the proteins and causing the pie to crack in the center.
  • Mixing the filling a day in advance (refrigerate until using) will improve the flavor of this pie by giving the spices’ flavors a chance to blend.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving Everyone.

Need Some New Thanksgiving Side Dishes?

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The centerpiece of contemporary Thanksgiving in the United States and Canada is a huge meal, generally featuring a large roasted turkey. The majority of the dishes in a traditional Thanksgiving dinner are made from foods native to the New World. However, many of the classic traditions attributed to the first Thanksgiving are actually myths.

According to what is known about “The First Thanksgiving,” the 1621 feast between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag at Plymouth Colony contained waterfowl, venison, fish, lobster, clams, berries, fruit, pumpkin and squash. William Bradford (Plymouth Colony Governor) noted that, “besides waterfowl, there was a great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many.” There were definitely wild turkeys in the Plymouth area, however, the best existing account of the Pilgrims’ harvest feast comes from colonist, Edward Winslow, author of Mourt’s Relation: A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth. Winslow’s first-hand account included no explicit mention of turkey. He does, however, mention the Pilgrims gathering “wild fowl” for the meal, although that could just as likely have meant ducks or geese. Many of the foods that were included in the first feast (except for the seafood) have since gone on to become staples of the modern Thanksgiving dinner.

The White House Cookbook, 1887, by Mrs. F.L. Gillette, et al., had the following menu: oysters on the half shell, cream of chicken soup, fried smelts, sauce tartare, roast turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, baked squash, boiled onions, parsnip fritters, olives, chicken salad, venison pastry, pumpkin pie, mince-pie, Charlotte russe, almond ice cream, lemon jelly, hickory nut cake, cheese, fruit and coffee.

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1943 Thanksgiving Dinner Aboard the Navy Ship U.S.S. Wake Island

 

Many other foods are typically served alongside the main dish—so many that, because of the amount of food, the Thanksgiving meal is sometimes served midday or early afternoon to make time for all the courses. Copious leftovers are also common. Many diners would say the meal is “incomplete” without cranberry sauce, stuffing or dressing and gravy. Other commonly served dishes include winter squash, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, dumplings, noodles, corn on the cob or hominy grits, deviled eggs, green beans or green bean casserole, sauerkraut (among those in the Mid-Atlantic; especially Baltimore), peas and carrots, bread or rolls, cornbread (in the south and parts of New England) or biscuits, rutabagas, turnips and salad.

There are also regional differences, as to the type of stuffing or dressing traditionally served with the turkey. Southerners generally make their dressing from cornbread, while those in other parts of the country make stuffing from white, wheat or rye bread as the base. One or several of the following may be added to the dressing/stuffing: oysters, apples, chestnuts, raisins, celery and/or other vegetables, sausages or the turkey’s giblets. The traditional Canadian version has bread cubes, sage, onion and celery. Rice is also sometimes used instead of bread in some parts of Canada.

Other dishes reflect the regional or cultural background of those who have come together for the meal. For example, many African-Americans and Southerners serve baked macaroni and cheese and collard greens, along with chitterlings and sweet potato pie; while Italian-Americans often have lasagna on the table alongside the turkey and Ashkenazi Jews may serve noodle kugel, a sweet dessert pudding. Other Jewish families may consume foods commonly associated with Hanukkah, such as latkes or a sufganiyot (a type of jelly doughnut). It is not unheard of for Mexican Americans to serve their turkey with mole and roasted corn.

In Puerto Rico, the Thanksgiving meal is completed with arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas) or arroz con maiz (rice with corn), pasteles (root tamales) stuffed with turkey, pumpkin-coconut crème caramel, corn bread with longaniza, potato salad, roasted white sweet potatoes and Spanish sparkling hard cider. Turkey in Puerto Rico is stuffed with mofongo (a fried plantain-based dish). Cuban-Americans traditionally serve the turkey alongside a small roasted pork and include white rice and black beans or kidney beans. Vegetarians or vegans have been known to serve alternative entrées, such as a large vegetable pie or a stuffed and baked pumpkin or tofu substitutes. Many Midwesterners (such as Minnesotans) of Norwegian or Scandinavian descent serve lefse (a soft, Norwegian flatbread) at their holiday meal.

So, if you are not a traditionalist, you may want to change things around a little and try some new sides for your holiday meal. Much of the preparation in the recipes below can be done ahead of time.

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Creamy Farro Pilaf with Wild Mushrooms

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 cup farro
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken stock
  • Coarse salt
  • 12 ounces wild mushrooms, such as shiitake or oyster, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • Red-pepper chili flakes
  • 1 bunch spinach (10 ounces), stemmed
  • 1/4 cup crumbled Parmesan, plus more for serving

Directions

In a medium saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook, stirring, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add farro, stirring until toasted, about 1 minute. Add wine and reduce by half. Add stock, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the farro is tender and creamy, 35 to 40 minutes. Season with salt and cover to keep warm.

Meanwhile, heat the oven to 450 degrees F. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss mushrooms with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and season with salt and red-pepper flakes. Roast, stirring once, until crisp and golden, about 20 minutes.

Re-warm the farro over medium heat and add the spinach, stirring until wilted, about 1 minute. Stir in mushrooms and Parmesan. Serve with additional Parmesan.

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Creamy White Bean and Vegetable Mash

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 2 cups cooked white beans, drained (equivalent to one 16-ounce can)
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions

Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook onion, celery and carrot until translucent, 6 to 8 minutes. Add potatoes and white beans and cover with water by 2 inches. Season generously with salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until all the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Drain, reserving about 1 cup of the cooking water.

Mash vegetables (or put through a ricer), adding reserved cooking water to adjust consistency. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with oil before serving.

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Stuffed Acorn Squash with Quinoa and Pistachios

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 4 small acorn squash, halved and seeds removed
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed well
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup roasted, salted pistachios, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons red-wine vinegar
  • Pinch red-pepper chili flakes

Directions

Heat the oven to 425 degrees F. Brush squash with 2 tablespoons of the oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast cut side down on two baking sheets until tender and caramelized, 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring quinoa and 2 cups water to a boil in a small pot. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until tender and water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Let cool, then fluff with a fork.

In a large bowl, combine quinoa, parsley, feta, pistachios, remaining 2 tablespoons oil and vinegar. Season with salt and red-pepper flakes. Fill the squash cavities and serve.

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Sweet Potato-Ginger Spoon Bread

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • Butter forthe  baking dish
  • 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal, plus more for dusting the pan
  • 2 small sweet potatoes (12 ounces), peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups low-fat milk (1%)
  • 2 large eggs, separated, plus 2 large egg whites
  • 2 tablespoons light-brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 1 tablespoon grated, peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 2-quart baking dish and dust with cornmeal.

Cook sweet potatoes until tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and mash until very smooth; let cool slightly.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, bring milk to a simmer. Whisk in cornmeal in a thin stream. Cook, whisking constantly, until just thickened, 1 to 3 minutes; remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

In a large bowl, stir together mashed sweet potatoes, cornmeal mixture, egg yolks, sugar, molasses, ginger and salt.

Beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Fold half of the egg whites into the cornmeal mixture. Very gently fold in the remaining egg whites.

Spoon mixture into the prepared baking dish, place on a baking sheet and bake until puffed and set, about 35 to 40 minutes.

SONY DSC

Lemon-Garlic Brussels Sprouts

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds fresh brussels sprouts
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Dash pepper
  • 3 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 3 cooked bacon slices, crumbled

Directions

Cut an “X” in the core of each brussels sprout. Place in a shallow baking pan coated with cooking spray. Drizzle oil and lemon juice over the brussels sprouts; sprinkle with salt, garlic powder and pepper.

Bake, uncovered, at 400°F for 20-25 minutes or until tender, stirring once. Sprinkle with cheese and crumbled bacon.

Italian Regional Cooking – Valle d’Aosta

region1valle_daosta

Valle d’Aosta is the most mountainous region of Italy, entirely surrounded by the peaks of the Alps: Monte Bianco, Matterhorn, Monte Rosa and Gran Paradiso. The latter is at the center of a magnificent National Park. Numerous glaciers feed a rich web of streams and the distinctly Alpine character of this region can be seen in the pine forests, up to rather high altitudes, where they give way to large pasture lands. Numerous small Alpine lakes sit in between the majestic mountain landscapes.

region Aosta map

Aosta is the capital of the region, where a special statute is in place that recognizes the Italian and the French languages as official languages. Important traces of the Roman Age can be found on the Aosta city walls, theaters, Augustus’s Arch and the Praetorian Gate. Visitors can admire the Romanesque Cathedral, which dates back to the eleventh century. The Sant’Orso Church is a good example of medieval architecture. There are many fortified castles in the Aosta Valley; most of them are in perfect condition and open to visitors; many have become historical museums. The most famous are the castles of Fénis, Aymavilles, Issogne and Verrés.

Sunrise over Mount Mucrone, seen from Val di Gressoney, in the Aosta Valley's section of the Italian Alps.

Sunrise over Mount Mucrone, seen from Val di Gressoney, in the Aosta Valley’s section of the Italian Alps.

Valle d’Aosta’s unique location and long history of invasion from neighboring lands have combined to make for an interesting and diverse mix of languages and cooking influences that include pockets of Italian, French and German. This diversity makes the numerous local festivals a must-see for any traveler interested in distinctive food and entertainment.

region1park

The best-loved dishes in the area cover as much cultural ground as the languages. Unlike much of Italy, pasta is not a staple food here. Valle dAosta cooking is based on warming soups, bread, rice, potatoes and gnocchi. Polentas hold a place right alongside Swiss-like fondues and creamy butter sauces. Dairy products are important in the region. Overall, food is relatively simple but hearty: stews thickened with bread, game meats or beef braised with chestnuts in wine sauces, smoked pork and sausages, fresh rye breads with local dark and slightly bitter honey, rich and nutty fontina cheeses, strong grappa and creamy panna cottas. Herds of free range pigs are used for the famous prosciutto known as Jambon de Bosses and for making salt pork. Boudins, spicy sausages made from pork blood, and salami are preserved in rendered pork fat.

Mountain streams provide trout and recipes include stuffing the trout fillets with ham and fontina and poaching them in white wine.

The valleys offer a wealth of crops like cabbage, grapes, apples and garlic and, while vintages are small, the wines produced in the area are of excellent quality. The area is most famous for fontina cheese and it is used in everything from appetizers to desserts.

Fruit from the Alps is very sweet and many desserts are prepared with the locally grown apples and pears. These fruits are often cooked with red wine. Sweets include tegole, a cookie named after the roof tiles that they resemble. Torcetti, or ring-shaped cookies, are also flavored with honey before being dusted with powdered sugar.

Take a tour of the area with the video below.

Recipes of the Valle d’Aosta Region

One of the favorite and most representative dishes of the Valle d’Aosta is zuppa di valpelline, a thick fall soup made from fresh cabbage, rye bread and fontina cheese.

region1soup

Zuppa di Valpelline (Valpelline Soup)

4 servings

Ingredients

  • A litre and a half (6 ¼ cups) meat stock
  • 1 savoy cabbage, sliced
  • 400 g (14 oz) fontina cheese
  • 500 g (1 lb.) rye bread cut into slices
  • Cinnamon
  • 150g (5 ¼ oz.) butter, melted

Directions

Layer an oven dish with the bread slices and, then, the fontina cheese.

Boil the savoy cabbage in the meat stock.

Pour the mixture over the bread and wait until it all softens, then pour the melted butter over the top.

Sprinkle on some cinnamon and place in a pre-heated 425 degree F (220°C) oven and cook for about 40 minutes, until a golden crust forms on top. Serve hot.

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Pork Chops Stuffed with Fontina Cheese

Ingredients

  • 4 thick pork chops on the bone
  • Fontina cheese, from Valle d’Aosta
  • 3 ½ oz butter
  • 7 oz breadcrumbs
  • 3 ½ oz all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Cut the chops in two, horizontally, leaving them attached along the bone side.

Cut the Fontina cheese into thin slices and insert into the meat and then tap gently with a meat pounder.

Season the meat with salt and pepper to taste and dip the chops first in the flour, then the beaten egg and finally the breadcrumbs.

Saute in butter until the chops become golden and crunchy. They are traditionally served with sautéed cabbage.

region1Gnocchi

Gnocchi with Fontina

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. baking potatoes
  • 8 oz. Fontina, thinly sliced
  • 4 oz. flour
  • 4 oz. butter
  • Salt

Directions

Cook the potatoes in lightly salted water (without peeling). It is best to start with cold water. The potatoes should all be about the same size. Cooking time depends on the type and size.

A rule of thumb for testing if the potatoes are cooked is to stick a fork into one or two potatoes and, if it goes easily, the potatoes are done. When ready, drain, peel and mash them through a potato ricer, (do not use a food mill, as it would make the puree sticky and thus impossible to work with) and place the riced potatoes on a floured pastry board or marble surface. Should the potatoes be too watery, put them back on the stove over moderate heat and let them dry well, stirring constantly.

Add a small amount of salt and as much white flour as necessary to make the dough soft enough not to stick to your fingers. You don’t have to knead the dough for too long, just long enough to bind all the ingredients.

Cut a piece of the dough off, coating your hands with flour and roll the dough into a long cylinder about the thickness of your index finger. Then cut the cylinder into pieces about l-inch long. Press the dough lengthwise toward you and against the board with your fingertips. This will make each piece curl up, taking the shape of a little shell. You may also use other utensils, such as the back of a cheese grater or a fork and, In this case, gnocchi will be ridged and curled. It is not necessary to give them a particular shape, though. They may be simply cut into nuggets of any desired size.

Repeat until all the dough is used, trying to handle the dumplings as little as possible. Finally, place the gnocchi on a flat surface sprinkled with flour without overcrowding. Cook as soon as possible.

Cook gnocchi in boiling salted water. They are cooked when they rise to the top of the water. Drain. Place alternate layers of gnocchi and Fontina in a buttered baking dish, making sure you have at least 3 layers. The top layer should be of cheese. Dot with butter and bake for 5 minutes. Let the gnocchi rest 5 more minutes and serve.

region1cookies3

Valdostana Tegole Dolci

These are delicious cookies that are part of the traditional cuisine of Valle d’Aosta. Their name is due to its shape, which is reminiscent of the typical curved roof tiles. To achieve this effect the hot cookies are pressed over a rolling-pin. The tiles are enjoyed with a cup of coffee at breakfast or as a snack.

Ingredients

  • 200g (7 oz) granulated sugar
  • 80g (2.8 oz) toasted and ground hazelnuts
  • 80g (2.8 oz)  toasted and ground almonds  
  • 60g (2.1 oz) butter,at room temperature
  • 60g (2.1 oz) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 large egg whites, at room temperature.

Directions

Toast the almonds and hazelnuts on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Bake in preheated oven at 150 degrees F for 30 minutes. Let them cool thoroughly and then transfer them in a blender or processor along with half of the granulated sugar. Process until thoroughly ground.

Transfer the ground nut mixture in a large bowl and add the flour, melted butter and vanilla. Stir with a spatula until the butter is incorporated and set the bowl aside.

Place the egg whites in the electric mixer bowl and, with the whip attachment, beat the egg whites until they begin to thicken. Sprinkle on the remaining sugar and beat until stiff. Fold the egg whites into the flour mixture with the spatula.

Cover a baking pan with baking paper and place a small amount of dough (about a scant tablespoon) on the baking pan about 2 inches (3-4 cm) apart. Spread the dough with the back of a spoon to form circles with a diameter of about 7 cm (2 ¾ inches). Wet the back of a spoon to simplify the process.

Bake the tray in a preheated oven set at 350 degrees F (180 C) for 8 minutes. When they are crisp and lightly browned, remove each cookie from the baking pan and lay them over a rolling-pin to acquire their characteristic curved shape. Repeat the process with the remaining cookie dough.

region1cookie


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