Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Tag Archives: butternut squash

Where would Italian cuisine be without America? Strange as it might sound, just imagine how astonishingly different Italian food would be without tomatoes to make pasta sauces or corn for creamy polenta. Think of the gastronomic delights we would be missing! Take zucchini, a type of squash. They’ve become so intertwined with Italian cooking and culture, that Americans even call them by their Italian name –– although they originated on this side of the globe. In fact, just like tomatoes and corn, squash of all shapes and sizes were yet another culinary gift from the new world. Part of the large cucurbitaceae family –– which includes everything from pumpkins and winter squash to zucchini, melons, and cucumbers –– are said to have originated in the South American Andes and were grown in several parts of the American continent well before Columbus ever set foot on it.

So, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that here in the U.S. the fall season is associated with pumpkins and winter squash. Yet, most of us have a rather superficial acquaintance with them, often limited to the Halloween Jack-o-Lantern, a few pretty ornamentals, lots of pumpkin pie, and the occasional squash soup. But try walking through a farmers market these days, and you’ll be hit by an astounding assortment of squash of all colors and forms, from traditional orange pumpkins to smaller delicata and butternut squash to big hubbards.  What other food can be mashed to make comforting soups and delicate purées, stuffed into ravioli, used in a flavorful risotto or hollowed out to look like a scary skull lit from within by a candle?

Delacata

Although called “winter” squash, these fruits really start appearing in late summer and keep growing through December –– some kinds grow even further into the winter. Unlike summer squash,  such as zucchini or yellow squash, which are harvested and eaten in the immature stages when the rind is still soft, winter squash are harvested when the fruit is fully mature and the rind is hard. Yes, I said fruit. All squash are botanically fruits. But can be used as a fruit or a vegetable.

If you’re a squash newcomer whose experience is confined to pumpkin pie topped with whipped cream, start out with a butternut or a delicata squash and you won’t be disappointed. Butternut squash are light beige with a peanut-like shape, and they taste somewhat like sweet potatoes. Delicata squash are smaller and narrower, their rind is usually yellow with a few green streaks and the flavor is delicate.

Butternut

Other culinary favorites include acorn squash, a round globe, with even groves around the entire squash. They are mostly dark green, with occasional splotches of orange and yellow, that make a hearty soup; hubbard, a large, bumpy and thick-skinned squash with a fairly sweet flavor; kabocha, a drier, flakier type with a round shape and a flattened top, green in color with occasional white stripes; and spaghetti squash, which has nothing to do with the pasta, but is so called because its flesh is stringy and turns into strands that resemble spaghetti when cooked.

Native Americans once believed squash was so nutritious that they buried it along with the dead to provide them nourishment on their final journey. Squash were originally grown for the seeds because they were believed to increase fertility; however, with the evolution of squash, plants produced fruit that had a thicker skin, fewer seeds and less waste.

Red Kuri

The hard-shelled squash species are uniquely American. The earliest natives revered them, and gave them the honor of being one of the “Three Sisters”.  Beans and corn completed the trio, and without those foods for sustenance, many ancient peoples would have ceased to exist. The Three Sisters were vital to many civilizations. The corn and the beans made a complete protein, the squash supplied beta carotene, Omega 3 and Potassium. Whole communities could survive on these alone, if game and other foods were scarce. They were also one of the first companion plantings, each contributing to the growth and well-being of the others. The corn supplied support for the beans to climb on, and shade for the squash plants during the heat of the day. The squash plants large leaves shaded the ground, prevented weeds, and deterred hungry wildlife that didn’t like to walk through the fuzzy vines. The beans fixed nitrogen in the soil to feed the corn and the squash.

The European conquerors carried the squash back across the Atlantic, and many varieties were created around the Mediterranean Basin. Winter squash never caught on in the more northern parts of Europe though, as the climate was too cool, and the season did not last long enough to properly grow them. France, Spain and Italy are European countries which have embraced the squash, and raised its cultivation to an art form with many unique varieties springing from that area. Wonderful varieties have been developed in Australia also, as the climate there is quite hospitable to raising winter squash.

Although types of gourds were found in tombs of Egypt, the butternut squash and its family members including the pumpkin and the calabaza are new world, native Americans. The butternut is the new kid on the block having made its appearance in 1944.

Most people ask what the difference is between a winter squash and a pumpkin. A pumpkin is just another hard-shelled winter squash. What makes  winter squash different from a summer squash? It’s simply the time of year in which they are eaten. The early American settlers gave them those designations. Summer squash are soft-skinned vegetables which grew quickly, and were eaten soon after harvest. Winter squash grew the thick, hard rinds that made them suitable for storing through the long winters when fresh vegetables were a precious commodity.

From Acorn Squash to Cinderella Pumpkins - Types of Winter Squash

Acorn

Winter squash comes in many shapes, sizes, textures and flavors. Chances are, there will be one variety out there that will suit your family. Here are a few popular ones.

The ‘Waltham Butternut’ is a smooth-skinned squash with a meaty texture. It is prolific and easy to grow. It keeps well in a cool, dark storage area, and it’s small enough that 1 squash will feed an average family.

The ‘Blue Hubbard‘ is a huge, heavy squash that requires more than just a paring knife to open it. The thick rind needs a small hatchet or saw to cut it open, but it will keep well into spring with nothing much more than a dry, cool spot. Not for the ‘Squash Novice’ as it occasionally will reach over 30 pounds, and 1 squash feeds a small army. The flesh is smooth and not stringy, somewhat on the dry side, but quite pleasing.

‘Carnival’ is a variety of acorn squash found in many supermarkets, and is a great selection for a two person meal. Use the squash as the main meal instead of meat, stuffing the halves with a seasoned rice mixture. Each person being served their own personal, edible bowl. For a simple side dish, simply drizzle with butter and brown sugar before baking.

 BUYING

The rind should be firm and unbroken with a uniform matte coloring. Squash should feel heavy for their size (indicating a high moisture content – squash gradually lose water after harvesting). Bigger squash generally have a more highly developed flavor.

STORING

Squash are amongst the longest keeping vegetables. In a cool (not refrigerator-cold), dry, well-ventilated place they can keep for three months or more. At room temperature, or in the refrigerator, they will deteriorate more quickly, but should be fine for at least a couple of weeks.

 PREPARATION

The hard rind, dense flesh and awkward shape mean that squash require careful cutting. Use a large knife or cleaver to make a shallow cut down the length of the squash (curves permitting). Place the blade in the cut and knock the back of the blade (using your hand, a wooden mallet or rolling pin) until the squash is cut in half lengthways. Scoop out the seeds and any fibrous-strings . If you require chunks of squash, cut a small piece off each end, enabling you to stand it vertically and trim off the rind before slicing and dicing.

Squash should be cooked until tender. Baking a halved squash is an excellent way of preserving and intensifying its flavors. Cubes can also be added to casseroles. Boiling is quicker than baking but will result in some sugars being absorbed into the water and so is best used for dishes (such as soups) where the flavored water forms part of the dish rather than being discarded.

Save the Seeds!

The seeds of winter squash are delicious when toasted. Rinse them well and pat dry. Toss them lightly in oil and a little salt, spread them on a sheet pan, and bake at 250 degrees for about 1 hour. If you’d like to brown the seeds slightly, turn on the broiler for the last 4-5 minutes of baking. Let cool and store in a sealable bag or jar with a lid. Not only do they taste great, they’re nutritious and good for you!

Winter Squash Polenta

Makes about 4 cups

ROAST SQUASH

  • 3 pounds winter squash
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & pepper

Set oven to 400 degrees F. Carefully cut the squash in half either lengthwise or crosswise. Scoop out the seeds and rub olive oil on the flesh, season with salt and pepper, then place cut-side down on a baking sheet. Place in the oven and roast until a knife easily inserts into the thickest part of the flesh, for about an hour. Let cool a bit. Scoop out the flesh and mash with a potato masher or a fork.

POLENTA

  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup coarse stone-ground cornmeal
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter or Smart Balance Blend
  • 8 ounces grated fresh Parmesan, divided
  • Salt & pepper

Bring the water to a boil in a medium nonstick saucepan on medium heat. Stir in the salt. Slowly stir in the cornmeal with a whisk. Reduce heat to medium low, cover and set timer for 5 minutes. When timer goes off, check to see if it’s cooking at a slow simmer, adjust heat accordingly and whisk gently for a minute. Repeat every 5 minutes, adjusting temperature and whisking. When it thickens, uncover and stir for 2 – 3 minutes. Stir in the butter and three quarters of the Parmesan and stir until melted. Stir in the cooked squash and combine well. Taste and adjust seasonings.

BAKING

Transfer to a greased baking dish. [If you're cooking ahead, stop here and refrigerate. Return to room temperature.] Top with reserved Parmesan. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 60 minutes.

Top with oven roasted vegetables or Italian tomato meat sauce.

Butternut Squash Risotto

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups homemade or low-salt chicken broth; more as needed
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 ounces pancetta, diced
  • 10 large fresh sage leaves
  • 2 medium shallots, minced (about 1/4 cup)
  • 2 cups 1/4-inch-diced peeled butternut squash
  • 1-1/2 cups Arborio or other risotto rice
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Combine the chicken broth and wine in a small saucepan and set over medium heat.

In a medium (3-qt.) saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the sage leaves and cook, turning once, until they’ve turned dark green in most places, about 1 minute total. Don’t brown. With a fork, transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain.

Put the pancetta in the saucepan and cook, stirring occasionally, until nicely browned, 5 to 7 minutes and transfer to the plate with the sage.

Add the shallots to the saucepan and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until softened, about 1 minute. Add the squash and rice and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Ladle in enough of the hot broth mixture to just cover the rice. Cook, stirring frequently, until the broth is mostly absorbed.

Add another ladle of broth and continue cooking, stirring, and adding more ladles of broth as the previous additions are absorbed, until the rice is tender with just a slight bite, about 25 minutes. As the risotto cooks, adjust the heat so that it bubbles gently. The broth mixture needn’t be boiling; it should just be hot. If you use all the broth and wine before the rice gets tender, use more broth but not more wine.

Set aside 4-6 sage leaves as a garnish (1 leaf per serving). Crumble the pancetta and the remaining sage leaves into the risotto. Stir in the Parmigiano. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish each serving with a sage leaf.

Serves six as a primo (first) course, or four as a second course.

 

Spaghetti Squash Casserole

Ingredients:

  • 1 spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise and seeds removed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) skim ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded low-fat mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 tablespoons seasoned dry bread crumbs

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Coat a 13″ x 9″ baking dish and a baking sheet with nonstick spray. Place the squash, cut side down, on the sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a sharp knife. With a fork, scrape the squash strands into a large bowl. 

Meanwhile, warm the oil in a medium skillet set over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and basil. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the onion is soft. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the mixture is dry.

To the bowl with the squash, add the ricotta cheese, mozzarella, parsley, salt, and the onion mixture. Stir to mix. Pour into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and bread crumbs.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until bubbly, heated through and the top is brown.

Winter Squash Gratin

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium butternut squash (or any winter squash of choice) (1 1/2 pounds each)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 medium leek, white part only, coarsely chopped (1/2 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • One 12-ounce can evaporated skim milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • 2 ounces of a baguette (thinly cut into 8 small slices) or 2 slices peasant bread (cut into 4 equal pieces), toasted
  • 4 ounces Italian Fontina cheese, shredded (about 1 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon grated Parmesan cheese
  • 8 basil leaves, shredded

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Halve the squash lengthwise and remove the seeds. Place the squash, cut side up, in a baking pan. Season with 1/2 teaspoon each of the salt and pepper and cover tightly with foil. Bake for about 1 hour, until the squash are tender but not mushy. Let cool slightly.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, combine the leek, olive oil and 2 teaspoons of water. Cover and cook over moderately low heat until the leek is soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Uncover and stir in the wine. Increase the heat to high and boil until the liquid is reduced to approximately 3 tablespoons, about 3 minutes. Stir in the broth, milk, honey and remaining 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Remove from the heat.

Using a big spoon, scoop the flesh from the squash in large pieces. Place in a medium bowl.

To assemble the gratin, preheat the oven to 400°F. Bring the leek mixture to a boil. Spoon half of the squash into a 6- to 8-cup casserole. Ladle half of the leek mixture over the top and cover with half of the toast and half of the Fontina. Repeat the layers with the remaining squash, leek mixture, toast and Fontina. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese over the top.

Bake the gratin for 30 minutes, or until the top is browned and bubbly. Garnish with the basil and serve.

MAKE AHEAD: The recipe can be prepared through Step Three up to 3 hours ahead. Return to room temperature before baking.

Baked Winter Squash With Italian Sausage Stuffing

Servings: 8

Ingredients

  • 4 large acorn squash or squash of choice, about 1 pound each, cut in half, seeds removed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 pound Italian sausage ( turkey, pork, chicken or vegetarian), casings removed and diced ( 1/4-inch)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped,
  • 3/4 cup green bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 plum tomatoes, diced
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
  • 4 cups Italian bread cubes
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1/4 pound shredded Mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1/4 cup egg substitute or 1 egg

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Then lightly season the cut sides of squash with 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt and pepper. Place the halved squash in a baking dish, flesh side down, and add 1/2 cup water to the pan. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil and bake until tender, about 1 hour. Remove from the oven and cool completely.

In a large skillet brown the sausage over medium-high heat, about 6 to 8 minutes. Remove the sausage from the pan and drain on paper towels. Wipe out the pan with paper towels.

Heat the remaining olive oil in the pan, and add the onion and bell pepper, sauté until soft, about three minutes. Add the garlic, tomato and cook an additional minute. Remove the pan from the heat.

In a large mixing bowl, mix the sausage with the vegetables, bread cubes, chicken stock, the mozzarella cheese, parsley and dried sage. Add the egg and stir well to combine. Season to taste with

salt and pepper, and mix well.

Divide the stuffing mixture between the baked squash halves, and top with the Parmesan cheese. Place the filled squash on a baking sheet and place in the preheated oven. Bake until the

squash are heated through and the cheese melts, about 25 minutes.         

Kabocha                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Pumpkin

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The history of ravioli is yet another example of the many stories and myths surrounding pasta creations. The word, ravioli, may derive from the Latin rabiola (a little turnip) whose shape resembles ravioli, or from ravolgere (to wrap) directly suggesting the way ravioli are made or in Italian, the term “ravioli” is derived from a word meaning “to stuff” .

Enjoyed worldwide, but where do ravioli actually come from?

The city of Cremona claims to be the birthplace, competing for this title with Genoa that traces the etymology of the word back to their dialect word for the pasta, rabiole, which signifies “something of little value” and, as the legend has it, originates from the practice of local sailors who would wrap the leftovers from one meal in  thin sheets of dough to use for another meal and to break the monotony of a sailor’s diet.

Although no-one can be sure when ravioli were first made, the earliest written mentions appear in 14th century manuscripts including pieces by  Francesco di Marco Datini, a merchant of Prato, Tuscany  and in a Venetian manuscript which had a ravioli recipe consisting of chopped blanched green herbs mixed with beaten egg and fresh cheese which was simmered in broth – a very traditional way of eating ravioli (al brodo) which is still observed today. References have also been found dating back to mid 16th century Rome when  Bartolomeo Scappi served them to the papal conclave of 1549.

Ravioli is a traditional Italian pasta dish made by filling rounds or squares of pasta dough with a filling, creating a sort of pasta “pillow.” The dish is wildly popular outside of Italy, and can be readily found in fresh and frozen form in most Western supermarkets. The fillings for ravioli are limited only by the imagination, as are the sauces which can complement it, and making ravioli at home is fun and relatively easy, if cooks want to experiment with new flavors.

Within Italy, depending on where you travel, you can have meat ravioli, cheese ravioli, seafood ravioli, and versions stuffed with a variety of vegetables including squash, spinach and seasonal mushrooms. Regional Italian cuisine highlights unique flavors and specialties of the area. Typically, the ravioli are boiled and served with a rich sauce, although some parts of Italy bake their ravioli in cream sauces after boiling them.

Although many consumers associate meat with ravioli, there is actually a long tradition of vegetarian ravioli in Italy. On Fridays and during Lent, vegetarian ravioli is a popular option, because for Catholics, red meat is forbidden during fast periods. Less wealthy Italian families ate vegetarian ravioli more often, and there is a long culinary history of cheese and vegetable filled ravioli with interesting spices like nutmeg and cinnamon. Seafood ravioli is also common in port towns of Italy, and is often served with delicate lemon sauces that highlight the flavor of the fish.

All ravioli starts with a pasta dough, typically made by mixing egg, flour, salt, olive oil, and water. The dough is kneaded and worked to a smooth, moist consistency, and then allowed to rest while the filling is made. The vegetable or meat filling is usually cooked and cooled, then mixed with egg and/or cheese. The dough is rolled out into a flat sheet and small spoonfuls of filling are placed approximately one inch apart before another sheet of rolled out dough is carefully placed on top. The ravioli are then cut into “little pillows” with a cutter.

Making Homemade Ravioli

You don’t have to make pasta by hand to make it from scratch. Follow these  tips on using a pasta machine.

Combine 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, 3 eggs beaten, 1 tablespoon water, 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt in food processor. Process until dough forms; shape into a ball.

Place dough on lightly floured surface; flatten slightly. Cut dough into 4 pieces. Wrap 3 dough pieces in plastic wrap; set aside.

Knead dough with pasta machine. Set rollers of pasta machine at widest setting (position 1). Feed unwrapped dough piece through flat rollers by turning handle. (Dough may crumble slightly at first but will hold together after two to three rollings.)

Lightly flour dough strip; fold strip into thirds. Feed through rollers again. Continue process 5-6 times more, until dough is smooth and elastic.

Roll out dough with machine keeping the sheets as wide as the pasta maker roller. Reduce setting to position 3. Feed dough strip through rollers. Without folding strip into thirds, repeat on positions 5 and 6.

Let dough stand 5 to 10 minutes until slightly dry on floured kitchen towels.

Repeat kneading and rolling with reserved dough pieces.

To Shape Ravioli:

In a small bowl, combine 1 egg and 1 tablespoon water; set aside.

Place the rolled dough on a cutting board and brush strips lightly with egg mixture.

Leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edges, place about 1 teaspoon of filling at 1-inch intervals on one strip of dough.

Lay a second strip of dough, brushed side down, over the first. Using your fingers, press the dough around each mound of filling so that the two moistened strips stick together.

Cut dough between filling to make individual ravioli. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling.

Fillings to use for stuffing the ravioli.

Butternut Squash Ravioli Filling

Ingredients:

  • 1 -1 pound butternut squash
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese (1 ounce)
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cut squash in half lengthwise. Seed and peel squash; cut into 1-inch pieces (you should have about 2 2/3 cups).
Place squash in an 8x8x2-inch or 9x9x2-inch baking pan. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper; toss gently to coat. Roast, uncovered, about 30 minutes or until tender, stirring once.
Transfer squash to a medium bowl. Mash with a fork or potato masher. Stir in cheese and nutmeg.

Crab Ravioli Filling

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 6 ounces crab meat, drained, flaked, and cartilage removed
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons drained capers
  • 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
  • 1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Directions
In a medium skillet, cook pepper, onion, and garlic in hot butter over medium heat about 4 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in crabmeat, lemon peel, lemon juice, capers, fennel seeds, and black pepper.

Spinach Cheese Filling

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups  ricotta
  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 2 eggs 
  • 1 1/2 cups packed spinach (1/2 pound of frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry or a pound of cooked drained fresh spinach)
  • A pinch of nutmeg, salt and pepper.

Directions:
Drain the ricotta well, if need be by squeezing it in cheesecloth, and crumble it. Mince the spinach. Mix the spinach, ricotta, eggs, and spices together.

To Cook Ravioli:

Bring a large amount of salted water to boiling in a large pot. Gently drop about one-fourth of the ravioli, one at a time, into the boiling water and stir to prevent them from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Simmer gently for 3 to 4 minutes or until tender. Using a slotted spoon, transfer ravioli to a serving dish.  Serve with your favorite sauce.


Potatoes originally came from South America specifically from the Andes mountains and they were brought to Europe by early Spanish explorers.  In 1565, Spain’s King Philip II is said to have sen a gift of potato tubers for Pope Pius IV in Rome, who passed samples on to a cardinal in Belgium.  Along with the tubers went their Italian name – tartufoli- and the samples were disseminated throughout Europe.   Wherever the potato was introduced, it was considered weird, poisonous, and downright evil.

European immigrants introduced potatoes to North America several times throughout the 1600s, but they were not widely grown for almost a century. Not until 1719, when Irish immigrants brought the potato to Londonderry, New Hampshire, were potatoes grown on a large scale. Again, potatoes were slow to gain popularity. Even when they became the second largest food crop in America, they were still used primarily as animal fodder.

Although the potato – called patata by modern Italians – was a staple food for generations of rural families, potato growing in Italy has been declining since the 1960’s. Large areas of land are unsuitable for potato growing and have since been abandoned.  Pasta-loving Italy has one of the lowest levels of potato consumption in Europe.  They do not use sweet potatoes in Italy, but pumpkin is a favorite ingredient for a number of dishes, including ravioli and soups.  Marcella Hazan notes in her book that she could not get the right textured pumpkin here in America, but found that the orange-fleshed sweet potato came the closest.

In Italian cuisine, potatoes are used as a complement to other ingredients in a dish, such as  soups, frittatas, stews or salads or baked alongside fish or chicken.They are a nutrient filled vegetable despite their carbohydrate level.

It is a misconception, though, that they only contain carbohydrates and calories!  Potatoes are also a  rich source of  vitamin C, potassium, manganese, copper, vitamin B6 and dietary fiber.  If consumed in the right form and with moderation, potatoes can make for a very healthy, high fiber vegetable choice.

Artichoke and Potato Salad

You can substitute 1 pound green beans for the artichokes as an alternative.

Dressing:

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 stalks of celery, diced
  • 1/4 cup green onion or red onion (thinly sliced) 
  • 1/2 cup italian parsley (fresh, chopped)
  • 2 tablespoons capers (drained)
  • 2 garlic cloves (minced)
  • Salt  to taste
  • black pepper (fresh cracked, to taste)
  • 2 lbs red potato (scrubbed, unpeeled and cut in half)
  • 1-10 oz package frozen artichoke hearts, defrosted
  • Garnish with olives, optional

Directions

In a large bowl combine the first 9 ingredients and set aside.

In a large pot simmer potatoes in salted water to cover until tender when pierced with a fork, about 10 minutes.  Drain in a large colander and move to the bowl with the dressing.

In the same saucepan cook artichokes (or green beans) in 3 inches salted boiling water over high heat until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Drain in a colander and add to potatoes.
Mix well, let marinate and serve at room temperature.

Sicilian Potatoes Gratin

Ingredients

  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 28-ounce container Pomi chopped tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 4 baking potatoes, peeled and sliced very thin
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Topping:

  • 1 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced

Directions

Preheat oven 350 degrees F.

In a skillet, saute onions in 1 tablespoon olive oil until soft and slightly caramelized. Add tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste and oregano. Cook until sauce thickens slightly, about 10 minutes.

In a gratin dish, ladle enough sauce to cover bottom of dish. Layer potatoes over sauce. Continue layering tomato sauce and potatoes, ending with a layer of potatoes.
In a bowl, combine bread crumbs, Parmesan, olive oil and garlic. Sprinkle bread crumb topping over potatoes.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until potatoes are fork tender.

Braised Fingerlings with Crispy Sage & Tender Garlic

For this dish, choose fingerlings that are all about the same thickness (length doesn’t matter), so that they will all cook in about the same amount of time.
Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 25 large sage leaves
  • 8 garlic cloves, lightly smashed and peeled
  • 1 pound  fingerling potatoes, cut in half lengthwise
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, more for seasoning
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon sherry

Directions

In a large (10-inch) straight-sided skillet with a lid, heat the butter and olive oil over medium-high heat. When the butter has melted and is foaming, add the sage leaves and cook, stirring a bit, until the sage leaves have turned color and are crispy and the butter is golden brown, about 2 minutes. (Watch carefully so that they don’t burn; they will stiffen and curl and turn grey as they crisp up.) Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the sage leaves with a fork or tongs to a plate.

Put the pan back over medium to medium-high heat and immediately add the garlic and potatoes. Season them with the 1/2 teaspoon salt and toss them in the butter/oil mixture. Arrange the potatoes cut side down, partially cover the pan and cook until the bottoms of the potatoes are nicely browned, 8 to 10 minutes.
Add the chicken broth and partially cover the pan again. Bring the broth to a gentle simmer and cook until the broth has reduced to just a few tablespoons,  about 10 to 12 minutes.

Remove the lid, turn the heat off, and transfer the potatoes and garlic to a serving dish. Add the sherry to the pan and stir and scrape with a wooden spoon to get up any browned bits. Immediately pour the pan drippings over the potatoes and garlic and garnish with the crispy sage leaves. Sprinkle a little kosher salt over all.


Butternut Squash & Potato Gnocchi

When making gnocchi, I always like to mix the potato with another vegetable to reduce the calorie level.  You could also substitute sweet potatoes for the russet potatoes or use all sweet potatoes in the recipe below.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound russet potatoes (about 2 medium potatoes)
  • 1 pound butternut squash
  • 1 /3 cup egg substitute
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting board and dough
  • Sage Pesto, recipe below

Directions

Peel and quarter the potatoes. Boil until very fork tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and return the cooked potatoes to the hot pan. Let them dry out over medium heat for about 30 seconds.  Let cool a bit and then pass the potatoes through a potato ricer.

Cut the squash in half and roast in the oven, see post http://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/05/08/make-dinner-sunday-for-your-mom/

After the squash cools, scoop out the flesh and mash it. Add the squash to the potatoes and add the egg substitute, the cheese, nutmeg, garlic, salt, and pepper. Mix well.  Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the flour over the potatoes and  press it into the potatoes. Fold the mass over on itself and press down again. Sprinkle on more flour, little by little, folding and pressing the dough until it just holds together and seems a bit sticky.

Keeping your work surface and the dough lightly floured, cut the dough into 4 pieces. Roll each piece on a generously floured board, into a rope about 1/2-inch in diameter. Cut into 1/2-inch-long pieces. You can cook these as is or form them into the classic gnocchi shape with the tines of a fork.  Roll the gnocchi along the times of the fork making light indentations and curving the gnocchi just a bit.

MegaGnocchi1

When ready to cook, bring a large pot of water to a boil and add salt. Drop in the gnocchi and cook for about 90 seconds from the time they rise to the surface. Remove the cooked gnocchi with a skimmer, shake off the excess water, and place in a serving bowl.
Gently mix with the Sage Pesto

Walnut and Sage Pesto Recipe
(makes 1 cup pesto)

  • 1 large clove garlic
  • 1/4 cup walnuts
  • 1/4 cup Parmaggiano- Reggiano cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh packed sage
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 2 tablespoons water

Put the food processor on and add garlic, pulse until the garlic is minced. Remove lid and add walnuts, cheese and sage. Add a big pinch of salt and of freshly ground pepper.

Close the food processor and pulse until minced. Open it back up and scrape down the sides. Combine lemon juice and water. With the processor running stream in lemon juice and olive oil. Stop and scrape down the sides.


Mother’s Day

From painted hand prints to roses and other elaborate gifts, Mother’s Day is celebrated around the world. People everywhere take the opportunity to honor their mothers.
This tradition has been around since the early Egyptians celebrated the Goddess Isis, who they considered the mother of the pharaohs. The ancient Romans also celebrated the festival of Isis, but their true celebration of motherhood was in honor of Cybele who stems from the Greek goddess Rhea. Rhea who was regarded as the mother of all deities including Zeus, was called the Great Mother or Magda Mater. 

It’s said that Mother’s Day was first suggested in the United States by Julia Ward Howe in 1872 as a day dedicated to peace after the Franco Prussian War. The holiday gained in popularity due to the efforts of Anna M. Jarvis.  Anna began a letter-writing campaign to gather support for a national Mother’s Day holiday about the same time that her mother passed away in 1905.  With the help of friends, reaching out to influential leaders, including William Taft, Theodore Roosevelt, and John Wannamaker, Anna was able to gain support for the idea. She believed mothers deserved their own special day and that it would help strengthen family bonds.  She persuaded her mother’s church in West Virginia to celebrate Mother’s Day on the second anniversary of her mother’s death, the second Sunday of May. By 1911 Mother’s Day was celebrated in almost every state, and flowers quickly became a lasting tradition to express love on the occasion. In 1914, Congress passed a resolution designating the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day, saying it is “a public expression of love and reverence for the mothers of our country.” President Woodrow Wilson issued the first proclamation making it an official U.S. holiday.  In addition to the United States, countries that celebrate Mother’s Day on the second Sunday in May include: Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Japan, and Turkey.

Italian Tribute

                                            “For you, mother, one kiss for every heart”.


Mother’s Day in Italy was celebrated for the first time on May, 12, 1957, in the city of Assisi, thanks to the initiative of Reverend Otello Migliosi, parish priest of the Tordibetto church. This celebration was so successful that the following year it was adopted throughout Italy and is celebrated on the second Sunday in May. “La Festa della Mamma” is the name of their celebration and  mothers are honored with a big feast and a heart-shaped cake. Mothers are relieved of their household chores that day and children bring home handmade gifts.


Mother’s Day Menu

First Course

Roasted Butternut Squash Lasagna

Traditional butternut squash lasagna can be very rich.  This is a healthier version that you can use for special occasions.  I like to roast the squash first because it adds much more flavor than when you boil the squash.

Squash Preparation

  • 3 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage plus extra leaves for garnish


Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Toss squash, oil, and 1 teaspoon salt on a baking sheet. Season with pepper. Bake until light brown and tender, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool. Transfer the squash to a mixing bowl or food processor and mash. Season the squash purée to taste with more salt and pepper and chopped sage.  Set aside.

White Sauce


I like to use Wondra flour for sauces because it dissolves instantly in hot or cold liquids and you do have to mix it with lots of butter before adding the milk.

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/3 cup Wondra all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups nonfat milk
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • Salt and Pepper

In a medium-size saucepan over medium heat add milk, flour and butter. While whisking, bring the sauce to a low boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the sauce thickens slightly, whisking often, about 5 minutes. Add the nutmeg. Season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste.

Completing the Lasagna

  • 12 no-boil lasagna noodles
  • 2 1⁄2 cups shredded skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Lightly coat a 13-by-9-by-2- inch glass baking dish with olive oil cooking spray. Spread 3/4 cups of the sauce over the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Cover the bottom of pan with one layer of lasagna noodles. Spread half of the squash purée over the noodles. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese. Drizzle 1/2 cup of sauce over the cheese. Repeat layering once more, finishing with a layer of noodles covered only by white sauce.
Tightly cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove cover, sprinkle the remaining mozzarella and the Parmesan cheese over the lasagna and continue baking until the sauce bubbles and the top is golden, about 15 minutes longer. Let the lasagna stand for 15 minutes before serving.  Garnish the corners with sage leaves. Serves 12 for a first course and 8 as a main dish.

Second Course

Tuscan Pork Loin

  • 1- 3-pound boneless pork loin, trimmed of fat
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest and lemon slices for garnish
  • 3/4 cup white wine

1. Tie kitchen string around the pork loin in three places so it doesn’t flatten while roasting. Place salt and garlic in a small bowl and mash with the back of a spoon to form a paste. Stir in oil, rosemary and lemon zest; rub the mixture into the pork. Refrigerate, uncovered, for 1 hour.
2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
3. Place the pork in a small roasting pan. Roast, turning once or twice, until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 145 degrees F., 40 to 50 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board; let rest for 10 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, add wine to the roasting pan and place over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer and cook, scraping up any browned bits, until the sauce is reduced by half, 2 to 4 minutes. Remove the string and slice the roast. Pour the wine sauce over the pork slices.  Garnish with lemon slices and serve.

Parmesan Roasted Green Beans

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 pound thin green beans 
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Trim off the ends of the beans and blanch them in lightly salted boiling water for 2 minutes to soften slightly. Drain well.  

Arrange the beans on a nonstick cookie sheet coated with olive oil cooking spray. Drizzle with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the top and bake until the cheese melts and forms a crisp shell over the beans, about 10 minutes.

Let the beans sit a few minutes for the cheese to cool slightly. Lift the beans out onto a platter and serve.


Dessert

Hazelnut-Olive Oil Cake

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/4 cups (5 1/2 ounces) hazelnuts
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • Finely grated zest of 1 large lemon

Directions

Heat oven to 350°. Lightly coat 9-inch springform pan with olive oil cooking spray.

Spread hazelnuts on a baking sheet and bake until lightly golden and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Remove from oven, let cool slightly, then rub in a clean dish towel to remove skins. Set aside to cool completely.

Grind cooled nuts in food processor until finely ground but not powdery. Transfer to a bowl. Add flour and baking powder; whisk to combine.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk, beat eggs on medium-high speed until frothy, about 2 minutes. Gradually add sugar, beating until light, thick and pale yellow, about 4 minutes. Gradually add hazelnut-flour mixture; then add olive oil, milk and zest, beating 1 minute more to combine.

Transfer batter to prepared pan. Place pan on rimmed baking sheet, and bake cake until golden and tester inserted into center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool cake completely in pan on rack. Release cake from pan and serve.

Have a Wonderful Mother’s Day!

Don’t forget to honor your mother by playing Luciano Pavarotti singing “Mamma” in the video below.



Are veggie haters born or made? The answer seems to be both. Some of us have negative veggie experiences from our childhood that come back to haunt us as adults. Maybe you were forced to eat vegetables, or had to plow through a stack of green beans to get to dessert. Maybe you were served overcooked, mushy vegetables.  “If veggies are only served in ways that don’t match your personal flavor preferences, they won’t seem exciting,” explains Karen Collins, MS, RD, nutrition advisor for the American Institute for Cancer Research. So if you love spicy food, you won’t like veggies served plain; or if you love simple, earthy flavors, veggies covered with a rich sauce won’t be appealing. 

When my children were young, they struggled with eating some vegetables that were on their dinner plates.  I, also, know that many parents struggle to get their kids to eat their veggies – it’s a never-ending battle in many households in America.  Nagging and taking away dessert are often futile remedies.  What can help is, if a parent can involve their children in food preparation and find healthy ways to make vegetables taste good. 

Deep frying or adding butter and cheese make everything taste so good.  The real challenge is how to make vegetables taste good without it, if you are trying to make your meals more healthy. Cooking vegetables with the right herbs can make a difference, such as oregano, basil, parsley, thyme, rosemary, tarragon, coriander, dill and garlic.  Adding chopped nuts to vegetable dishes is another way to bring more flavor and nutrition into the meal. Using cooking techniques other than boiling in water, such as roasting and grilling, are ways to improve the taste of vegetables without adding a lot of fat.

Prep veggies, like carrots, asparagus and peppers, place in foil, mist with extra virgin olive oil, drizzle with a tablespoon or two of balsamic vinegar or another flavored vinegar or with a low-fat dressing, sprinkle with herbs like thyme, rosemary and cracked black pepper and place the package on the grill. Some take as little as 10 minutes to become tender. Or use the same seasonings on vegetable kabobs, alternating  vegetables of your choice with cherry tomatoes and onion slices.

You can roast just about anything, but vegetables especially benefit from the high, dry heat of the oven. Their flavor becomes concentrated and their natural sugars caramelize, transforming them into richly satisfying sides. For every 2 pounds of vegetables, toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil prior to roasting. Spread in a single layer, with space in between the pieces or they’ll just steam instead. You can roast different veggies together if their cooking times are similar.

Read more: How to Roast Vegetables – Good Housekeeping

The recipes below are ones I have made, adjusting ingredients, cooking techniques and utilizing Italian flavors to make these dishes just right. These are vegetable side dishes that my family likes and enjoys at our family dinners.  

Mashed Potatoes With Kale

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds russet potatoes, scrubbed and peeled
  • Salt
  • 1 pound (1 large bunch) kale, either curly or cavolo nero, with the ribs removed and the leaves washed
  • 1-1/4 cups low-fat milk
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Cover the potatoes with water in a saucepan, add 1/2 tablespoon of salt and the garlic and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, cover partially and cook until tender about 30 to 40 minutes. Drain off the water, return the potatoes with the garlic to the pan and mash with a potato masher.

While the potatoes are cooking bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil and add the kale. Cook the kale for 4 to 6 minutes (after the water returns to the boil) until the leaves are tender but still bright green. Allow to cool for a couple of minutes, drain and squeeze out excess water. Chop into small pieces and add the olive oil.

Stir the chopped kale into the hot mashed potatoes along with the milk.  Add salt to taste and freshly ground pepper.

Tip: This is a good dish to make ahead and reheat for dinner.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

Oven-roasted Vegetables with Rosemary, Bay Leaves and Garlic

 The process of roasting brings out the natural sweetness in vegetables and intensifies their natural flavors

Ingredients

  • Sea salt
  • 1 lb red or Yukon gold potatoes, cut into 2-inch chunks
  • 1 lb butternut squash, seeded and cut into chunks
  • 2 medium red onions, cut into eighths
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed, cored and cut into chunks
  • 3 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 3 parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 4 sprigs of rosemary
  • 4 sprigs of bay leaves

Directions

In a large baking pan sprayed with olive oil cooking spray place potatoes, squash, onions and 2 tablespoons of the oil. Toss to coat, then roast for 20 minutes.

Add the remaining tablespoon of oil and the remaining ingredients to the baking pan.

Roast for another 20 minutes, turning the vegetables occasionally until tender and edges slightly brown. Salt and pepper to taste.

Remove bay leaves before serving.

Makes 4 servings.

Grilled Vegetables with Basil Dressing

Makes 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 small eggplant, sliced into chunks
  • 1 zucchini, cut into chunks
  • 1 yellow summer squash, cut into chunks
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into squares
  • 1 small red onion, sliced and cut into 8 segments
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic  vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
Dressing
  • 1/4 cup non-fat Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons reduced-fat olive oil mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Directions

Thread skewers with alternating pieces of eggplant, zucchini, squash, bell pepper and onion. Place skewered vegetables in shallow pan.

Make the marinade for vegetables by blending vinegar, oil and 1/4 cup fresh basil. Pour over vegetables. Let stand 10 minutes, occasionally turning skewers so marinade coats all sides.

Meanwhile, make the dressing. Place yogurt, mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon fresh basil and lemon juice in a bowl and whisk until smooth. Transfer to small serving dish.

Grill vegetables, adjusting height of rack to avoid charring, if using an outdoor grill.

Serve vegetables as a side dish, as a sandwich filling in ciabatta rolls or on sliced Italian bread or bruschetta. Pass basil-yogurt dressing to use as a topping.   

Baked Spaghetti Squash

What I like about this spaghetti squash dish is that when it comes out of the oven, it’s ready to serve. It does not need any additional cooking to give it flavor.

Ingredients:

  • 1 small to medium spaghetti squash
  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • Kosher or salt and fresh pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder

Directions

Cut the squash in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and fibers with a spoon. Place on a baking sheet, cut side up, spray lightly with the cooking spray, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

In a small bowl mix together the paprika, onion powder, Italian seasoning and garlic powder. Sprinkle over squash.

Bake at 350° F for about an hour or until the skin gives easily under pressure and the inside is tender. Remove from the oven and let it cool 10 minutes.

Using a fork, scrape out the squash flesh a little at a time. It will separate into spaghetti-like strands. Place in a serving dish and serve.

Spicy Broccoli Rabe with Garlic and Lemon Zest

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds broccoli rabe
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (adjust to taste)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add salt. Cook broccoli rabe in water for 4 to 5 minutes until tender and bright green. Drain well in a colander and set aside.

In a large saute pan heat  2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and pepper flakes then toss in the broccoli rabe.

Season with salt and pepper and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, gently tossing it in the pan. Finish with the lemon zest and toss to combine. Serve immediately.

Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Lemon Vinaigrette

Serves  6

Ingredients

  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Progresso Italian Bread Crumbs

Lemon Vinaigrette

Whisk together:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • Pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon small capers

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Wash the head of cauliflower and trim off the outer leaves. With a sharp knife, remove a cone-shaped piece from the core, keeping the head intact.

With your fingers, rub a little olive oil into the bottom of a deep oven-safe baking dish, rub the remainder on all over the cauliflower, working the oil into the crevasses as best you can. Place core-side down in the baking dish and sprinkle with salt and breadcrumbs.

Bake for 1 hour or 1-1/4 hours, until the exterior is brown and crusty and the center soft.  With a spoon, drizzle the vinaigrette over the top of the cauliflower and let it seep slowly.

Crispy Parmesan Broccoli

2 servings

Ingredients 

  • 1/2 lb broccoli, rinsed, dried, and cut into flat sided bite-size pieces
  • 1/2 cup egg substitute
  • 1/4 cup Progresso Lemon Pepper Panko Crumbs
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

In a small bowl combine the bread crumbs and cheese.

Put the broccoli in a large bowl, add the egg substitute, and toss with your hands to coat.

Sprinkle in the bread crumb and cheese mixture and toss to combine.

Transfer to a baking sheet, flat side down, and roast for 12 minutes.

Italian Green Beans Marinara

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds fresh green beans, cleaned and stem ends removed
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes, no salt added
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 6 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Directions
Snap the beans into 2-inch pieces. Blanch lightly salted boiling water for 2 minutes to soften slightly. Drain well.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté until softened. Add the tomatoes, oregano, salt and pepper.
Simmer uncovered, until tomatoes start to break down. Add the green beans and cook, covered, until tender.
Taste the beans for seasoning and, if desired, add more salt, pepper or oregano. 6-8 Servings

Roasted Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus 

Servings: 4
 
Ingredients
  • 1 1/4 lb thin asparagus spears, tough ends trimmed
  • olive oil spray
  • fresh cracked pepper to taste
  • 4 slices (2 oz) thin sliced prosciutto
  • grated Parmesan cheese
Directions

Preheat oven to 400° F.

Lightly spray asparagus spears with olive oil cooking spray. Season with fresh cracked pepper and divide into 4 bundles.

Bundle 1/4 of the asparagus together and wrap a slice of prosciutto around it.  Place on a baking dish seam side down.  
Repeat with the remaining asparagus and prosciutto.
Place in the baking dish and bake 12 minutes or until asparagus is tender crisp. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan.



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