Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Tag Archives: pasta

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In Italy, there are sugo and salsa. Sugo derives from succo (juices) and refers to pan drippings that come from cooking meat or from a rich meat-based sauce, such as, sugo alla Bolognese and thick vegetable sauces (which often go over pasta). A salsa is a semi-liquid raw or cooked sauce that’s used as a condiment. It can go over pasta or used to season other dishes, for example, pesto alla genovese or salsa verde that is served over boiled meats or potatoes. If a sauce is especially delicate, it may be called “salsina.”

The passage from sugo/salsa to sauce/gravy must have occurred when immigrant families settled into new neighborhoods in the U.S. and became an Italian-American family/neighborhood tradition more than anything else. Some immigrants translated the Italian for what they put on their pasta as gravy, while others translated it as sauce and the translations have been passed down through the generations, becoming the definitive lable in the process. People get amazingly passionate over things like this.

The aroma of a garlic-laden tomato sauce spiked with sausage, meatballs and rolled-up braciole can bring tears to the eyes of many Italian-Americans. Sunday gravy, evokes memories of weekend family gatherings in which mom or grandma presided over the constantly stirred pot of sauce and meat, and various relatives were tasked with procuring the essential provisions to round out the dinner—the cannoli and sesame bread from the bakery or the wine from the cellar.

Sunday gravy was more than just a big meal. In close-knit Italian-American homes, it was a virtual religion. The best Sunday gravy simmered on the stove for hours and the meats in the sauce became a symbol of plenty. Meat had been a rarity in the old country and, if there was any of it at all in a meal, it was usually pork. But in the U.S., immigrant women bought beef because they could. The long, slow cooking time was also a time for families to spend with each other, reinforcing ties that could withstand the harsh realities of the outside world.

When I was young, my mother would make Italian gravy every Sunday. She would start at dawn and work in the kitchen pretty much until dinner time, which was around 2 or 3 in the afternoon. Not only did she prepare this sauce with meatballs, sausage, etc. for pasta, but she would also cook a pork roast or an eye of the round roast, vegetables and salad. In those days, my grandfather would come to dinner and bring Hershey chocolate bars, ice cream and a jug of homemade wine.

This tradition is time-consuming and quite a lot of work. Not the healthiest of meals, either, with all the meat and oil used in its preparation. I make tomato sauce with meatballs and sausage quite often but on a much smaller scale with a lot less fat and with healthier meat for the meatballs and I do the same for Sunday gravy. Just for the fun of it, I make Italian gravy once or twice a year. This time it is for the blog, so you can see just exactly what Sunday Gravy is all about.

Italian Gravy

The Meat

The Meat

The Sauce Ingredients

The Sauce Ingredients

Ingredients

Gravy

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound sweet Italian fennel sausage, cut into links
  • 11 to 12 ounces boneless pork ribs
  • Meatballs, recipe below
  • Braciole, recipe below
  • 3 (26-ounce) containers of Italian chopped tomatoes, without salt or sugar added
  • 2 (26-ounce) containers of Italian crushed tomatoes, without salt or sugar added
  • 2-6 ounce cans tomato paste
  • Water
  • 3 whole garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons dried basil
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon each salt and black pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

Meatballs

  • 1 pound grass-fed ground beef
  • 1 pound pasture-raised ground pork
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup dried Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh, flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon each salt and black pepper

Braciole

  • 1 pound beef top round, flank steak or strip steak, pounded thin
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped shallots
  • 1/2 cup dried Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1 large clove garlic chopped finely
  • 1/4 cup pignolis – toasted and chopped, optional
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • String (butcher’s twine) to secure the rolls

Pasta

  • 1 pound of pasta
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 7-8 fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced

To make the braciole:

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Lay the meat out on a board. Pound with a mallet to thin the meat. Cut the meat into 5-6” slices.

In a small bowl combine the olive oil, chopped parsley, shallots, bread crumbs, cheese, garlic, pignolis, if using, and salt and pepper to taste.

Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the beef rolls. Fold in the sides over the filling of each roll. Roll up each slice and secure with kitchen string.

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To make the gravy:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with aluminum foil (for easy clean up) and coat them with olive oil cooking spray. Place the sausage links on one baking sheet. The second baking pan is for the meatballs.

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In a large, heavy pot over medium-low heat, warm 1 tablespoon olive oil and add the boneless pork ribs. Cook 4 to 5 minutes on each side or until browned all over. Place on a clean plate.

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Add the braciole rolls and brown them on all sides. Transfer to the plate with the pork and cover with foil to keep warm.

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Add the onion and garlic to the pot and cook 3 to 5 minutes, until softened. Add the tomato paste. Fill the empty paste cans with water and add to the pot. Stir into the onions and let cook for 2 or 3 minutes.

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Pour in all the tomatoes and fill one tomato container with water and add it to the pot. Add the seasonings (crushed red pepper – parsley), the pork ribs and the sausage. Bring to a boil; reduce to a low simmer and cook for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Add the cooked meatballs and braciole to the gravy after it has simmered for one hour. Simmer for an additional 3 to 4 hours (if you want it thick and rich). Stir in the fresh basil just before adding the gravy to the pasta.

In the meantime, cook the pasta in salted water until al dente. Once cooked, drain and add the gravy. Sprinkle with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Serve the meat on a big platter, so diners can choose what they want.

To make the meatballs and sausage:

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Add the water to the bread crumbs, mix well and let sit for a few minutes. Place the meat in a large bowl. Add the onion, garlic, cheese and parsley to the meat. In a small bowl, beat the egg with the salt and pepper and add to the meat mixture. Add the moistened bread crumbs. Mix the ingredients with your hands until the consistency is moist and the meat holds together well. Using your hands, roll the meatballs into 1 1/2-inch balls.Two pounds of meat should make about 18 to 20 meatballs. Place the meatballs on the foil lined baking sheet.

Bake for about 20 minutes, or until browned, turning them over after 10 minutes. Cover and keep warm.

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Place the pan of sausage links in the oven at the same time and bake the sausage until browned. Turn over halfway through baking. Add the sausage to the gravy when the pork ribs are added.

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Cooking pasta

Cooking pasta is as easy as boiling water, but cooking pasta correctly is about paying attention to detail.

Fill a large stockpot with water. The more the better – pasta only sticks when cooked in too little water. Add salt. Salt makes pasta taste better, and won’t increase the sodium level of your recipes. Use 1 teaspoon per gallon of water. At that level, 2 ounces of uncooked pasta (1 cup cooked), the FDA serving size, absorbs about 20 mg of sodium, which is about 1% of the recommended daily sodium intake.

Measure the pasta you need. Pasta generally doubles in size when cooked, so 1 cup uncooked = 2 cups cooked. Refer to the recipe, if necessary.

Bring the water to a rolling boil. This means a boil you can’t stop by stirring. Slowly add the pasta to the boiling water. Ideally, the water shouldn’t stop boiling, but if that happens, it’s ok. Continue to stir. Pasta will stick together if it isn’t stirred during the crucial first moments of cooking. Don’t add oil, because that will make the pasta slippery and the sauce won’t stick to it when it’s done.

You can regulate the heat so the pasta/water mixture doesn’t foam up and over the pot sides. Lower it the tiniest bit and you shouldn’t have a problem. Start timing when the water returns to a boil. Most pastas cook in 8-12 minutes. Check the package directions! The only way to tell if the pasta is correctly cooked is to taste it. It should be al dente – firm, yet tender, with a tiny core in the middle. You can also cut into a piece you’ve fished out of the pot. There shouldn’t be any solid white in the center of the pasta – just a shading to a more opaque cream color.

Drain the pasta into a colander placed into your kitchen sink. Lift the colander and shake off excess water. Don’t rinse. That removes the starch that helps hold the sauce. Toss the pasta into a simmering sauce and mix it. That’s all there is to it!

Tips:

  • By covering the pot when you bring water to a boil, you are lowering the air pressure directly over the water, making it easier to boil.
  • Never mix pasta types in one pot. They all have different cooking times.
  • Watch the cooking process carefully. Pasta can overcook very quickly.
  • If the pasta is to be used in a casserole, undercook it slightly. It will finish cooking while in the oven.

pasta and sausage

Pasta with Sausage and Mustard Sauce

Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 1 pound penne or medium shells
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 spicy hot Italian sausages, meat removed from casings and crumbled (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 3/4 cup half & half
  • 3 tablespoons grainy mustard
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper
  • 1 cup thinly sliced basil

Directions

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente; drain.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large, deep skillet. Add the sausage meat and brown over moderately high heat, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and simmer, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom, until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add the half & half, mustard and crushed red pepper and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat, add the pasta and basil and toss to coat.

Spaghettini with Mushrooms, Garlic, and Oil 

Spaghettini with Mushrooms and Garlic

Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes 
  • 2/3 pound mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound spaghettini (thin spaghetti)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper

Directions

In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil over moderately low heat. Add the garlic and the red-pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until the garlic softens, about 1 minute. Add the sliced mushrooms and the salt and cook until the mushrooms exude liquid, the liquid evaporates and the mushrooms begin to brown, about 5 minutes.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the spaghettini until just done, about 9 minutes. Reserve a ½ cup of pasta cooking water. Drain and toss with the mushroom mixture, the reserved pasta cooking water, the parsley and the black pepper. Mix well and serve.

Cavatelli with Sardinian Meat Sauce

Cavatelli with Meat Sauce

Servings: 4

Frozen cavatelli are better than dried. Since this shape is thick and doughy, the dried version tends to get overcooked on the outside before it’s done inside. If you can’t find cavatelli in the freezer section of your grocery store, a chunky dried pasta such as rigatoni will also be excellent here. Use the same quantity.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3/4 pound lean ground beef or turkey
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 cups canned crushed tomatoes in thick puree (one 28-ounce can)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 2 large pinches crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 pound frozen cavatelli
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 3 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan, plus more for serving

Directions

In a large deep skillet or Dutch oven, heat the oil over moderate heat. Add the meat and cook, breaking up it with a fork, until it is no longer pink, about 5 minutes.
Reduce the heat to moderately low and add the onion and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, oregano, parsley, water, salt and red pepper. Simmer until thickened, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the cavatelli until just done, 10 to 12 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water. Drain the cavatelli and toss with the meat sauce, the basil, the reserved pasta water and the cheese. Serve with additional Pecorino Romano.

Penne with Shrimp and Spicy Tomato Sauce

Penne with Spicy Shrimp in Tomato Sauce

Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning (seafood seasoning)
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup canned crushed tomatoes in thick puree
  • 1/3 cup chopped parsley
  • 3/4 pound penne rigate
  • 1 pound medium shrimp, shelled and deveined

Directions

In a large glass bowl, whisk together the olive oil and the lemon juice with the paprika, seafood seasoning, oregano, salt and pepper. Stir in the crushed tomatoes and the parsley. Set aside at room temperature.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the penne rigate until almost done, about 12 minutes. Add the shrimp and cook about 1 minute longer. Drain. Toss with the tomato sauce.

Some Variations for this dish:

• Penne with Mozzarella and Spicy Tomato Sauce: Use 1 pound fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/4-inch cubes, in place of the shrimp. Toss the cheese in at the end.
• Penne with Grilled Vegetables and Spicy Tomato Sauce: In place of the shrimp, use grilled or sautéed vegetables such as mushrooms, zucchini, eggplant or green beans, cut into bite-size pieces. Toss the vegetables into the pasta with the sauce.

Greek Ziti

Chicken Ziti

Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 1 cup canned low-sodium chicken broth or homemade stock
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 pound in all), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/2 pound ziti
  • 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved

Directions

In a large saucepan, simmer the chicken broth and the oregano until 1/2 cup of the liquid remains in the pan, about 4 minutes. Stir in the chicken cubes, cover the pan and remove it from the heat. Let the chicken steam in the hot broth until just done, about 10 minutes.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the ziti until just done, about 12-13 minutes. Drain the pasta and toss it with the chicken mixture, the feta, lemon juice, salt, pepper and parsley. Stir until the cheese is completely melted. Toss in the cherry tomatoes and mix well before serving.

 

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Penne

There are approximately 350 different dried pastas produced in Italy that are made from durum wheat and semolina flour. Penne is a tube-shaped pasta that originated in Campania, a region in Southern Italy, and comes in two main varieties: penne lisce and penne rigate, with the rigate having ridges on each noodle. The name “penne” comes from the Italian word for “pen” (penna), a reference to the angled ends of the tube, which resemble the tip of a quill pen.

This pasta can be used in a wide assortment of dishes, from casseroles to soups. The tubes are relatively short, around the length and width of a pinkie finger. Cooks may also hear penne pasta referred to as mostaccioli, in a reference to an Italian dish that traditionally features this pasta.

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Ziti

And, there is also ziti, which are hollow long wands, with a smooth texture and square-cut edges. When they are cut into shorter tubes, they are called cut ziti. Telling the difference between penne variants can be difficult, especially in countries outside of Italy, because there is a tendency to name ridged and smooth penne subtypes the same. Basically, the difference is penne is cut on the diagonal and is longer and thinner than ziti.

Penne is probably one of the more well-known pasta shapes, available in most markets and grocery stores that stock pasta. Dishes made with it are frequently on the menu at Italian restaurants, especially in the United States, where consumers have a fondness for this shape.

Whole wheat and multigrain versions are available, along with gluten-free pastas made from rice, corn or other ingredients. Many producers also make flavored varieties by adding ingredients, such as spinach or sun dried tomatoes. The best tasting penne is made with durum wheat because it will remain chewy and resilient throughout the cooking process.

baked penne

Ridged penne pasta pairs very well with many pasta sauces, because the ridges can be used to hold thin sauces or to support thick, chunky sauces. Its hollow nature also helps distribute the sauce, ensuring that pasta dishes are evenly and appealingly sauced.

Penne is traditionally cooked al dente and served with pasta sauces such as pesto, marinara or arrabbiata. In addition to being plated with sauce, penne holds up well when baked in a casserole. You will also find penne used cold in salads, added to soups or used as a side dish.

Dried pasta is essentially indestructible as long as it is stored in a cool, dry place. This makes it a useful staple to keep around the house, because as long as the pasta is not exposed to moisture, it will be perfectly usable.

Healthy Penne Dinners

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Whole-grain Penne with Onions and Walnuts

Ricotta salata (also called “hard ricotta”) is a firm white Italian cheese made by salting, pressing and drying sheep’s-milk ricotta. In flavor, it’s like a very mild, less tangy feta, which makes it a good addition to pastas and salads (it can be grated). Look for ricotta salata in specialty stores, Italian markets or any supermarket with a good cheese department.

Ingredients

  • 7 medium onions (about 4 lbs.), peeled and thinly sliced
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 3/4 cups walnuts
  • 10 ounces whole-grain penne pasta
  • 1 pound ricotta salata, crumbled
  • 2/3 cup loosely packed flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

Directions

In a large skillet over high heat, cook onions in 3 tablespoons olive oil with the sugar and 2 teaspoons salt, stirring and turning often, until onions begin to release their juices and turn golden, 10 to 13 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions turn a caramel color and become quite sweet, 35 to 40 minutes more. If onions begin to stick to the pan or char during cooking, reduce heat.

Meanwhile, in a dry small frying pan over medium-low heat, toast walnuts, stirring frequently, until golden, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Pour walnuts into a zip-lock plastic bag and lightly crush with a rolling pin. Set aside.

When onions are nearly done, cook pasta in boiling salted water until tender to the bite, 9 to 12 minutes or according to package instructions. Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup cooking water.

Mix caramelized onions with pasta, walnuts, ricotta salata, parsley, reserved cooking water, lemon juice, pepper and remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Season to taste with salt.

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Sirloin Steak Over Penne and Vegetables

Ingredients

  • 2 cups uncooked penne 
  • 1/4 pound green beans, trimmed
  • 3/4-pound boneless sirloin steak, trimmed
  • 1 tablespoon salt-free garlic-pepper blend
  • 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced red onion
  • 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced red bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) crumbled blue cheese, optional

Directions

Preheat broiler.

While the broiler preheats, bring 3 quarts of salted water to a boil in a large Dutch oven. Add pasta; cook 5 1/2 minutes. Add beans and cook 3 minutes or until pasta is al dente. Drain well.

Sprinkle steak with the garlic-pepper blend. Place on a broiler pan; broil 3 inches from heat for 10 minutes, turning after 5 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes. Cut steak diagonally across the grain into thin slices.

Combine onion and next 8 ingredients (onion through black pepper) in a large bowl. Add pasta mixture; toss well to coat. Place steak slices on top. Sprinkle with cheese, if desired.

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Penne with Spinach and Shrimp

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces uncooked penne pasta
  • 1 (10-ounce) package fresh spinach
  • 2 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 1/2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 2 1/2 cups chopped Vidalia or other sweet onions
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup dry vermouth or dry white wine
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add shrimp. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and sauté 2 minutes or until the shrimp are pink. Remove shrimp from the pan and set aside.

While you make the pasta sauce, cook penne according to package directions. Drain well; return to pan. Stir in spinach; toss well until spinach wilts.

Melt the remaining butter in the skillet over medium heat. Add onion; cook 10 minutes or until tender, stirring often. Stir in broth, vermouth and lemon zest. Increase heat to medium-high; cook 8 minutes or until mixture begins to thicken. Reduce heat to medium. Add cream cheese; stir until well blended. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt, nutmeg and pepper; remove from heat. Stir in shrimp to rewarm. Add mixture to pasta and spinach; toss to combine.

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Penne with Sausage and Eggplant

Ingredients

  • 4 1/2 cups cubed, peeled eggplant (about 1 pound)
  • 1/2 pound Italian sausage, casing removed
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 6 cups hot cooked penne (about 10 ounces uncooked)
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) finely diced mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Directions

Cook eggplant, sausage and garlic in olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat 5 minutes or until sausage is browned and eggplant is tender. Be sure to stir often to keep eggplant from sticking to the pan.

Add tomato paste and the next 3 ingredients (through tomatoes); cook over medium heat 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Place cooked pasta in a large bowl. Add tomato mixture, cheese and parsley; toss well.

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Penne with Greens, Almonds and Raisins

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces uncooked penne
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped, trimmed greens of choice (kale, swiss chard, escarole, etc.)
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1/3 cup slivered almonds, toasted
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • Cracked black pepper

Directions

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Retain 1/2 cup of pasta cooking water. Drain.

While pasta cooks, place raisins in a small bowl; cover with hot water. Let stand 10 minutes. Drain.

While pasta cooks and raisins soak, heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add greens and garlic; sauté 3 minutes or until greens are tender.

Stir in pasta, raisins, almonds, salt and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper; toss to combine. Moisten with pasta cooking water. Sprinkle with cracked black pepper according to taste.

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What goes great with pasta? Fish! Pasta makes an excellent companion for seafood for many reasons. Percatelli, a thick spaghetti, goes especially well with a spicy tomato sauce made with clams, mussels and shrimp. Fettuccine is superb served in the classic Southern Italian-style, topped with little neck clams in a red sauce flavored with hot crushed peppers. Thin spaghettini is delicious with a garlic sauce made with mussels, parsley and white wine. All these are easy supper dishes for chilly winter nights. They are substantial and restorative, yet easy on the digestion, because they are high in carbohydrates.

Today’s healthy pasta meals have roots that stretch back to ancient times. Thousands of years ago, people ground wheat, mixed it with water to make a wheat paste, dried it and then boiled it to go with meat. Today’s diners welcome pasta to their tables for its versatility and convenience, just as nutrition scientists now recognize pasta meals for their place in healthy diets. A healthy pasta meal features two key factors: what you pair with your pasta and how much pasta you put on your plate. Pay attention to serving portions in healthy pasta recipes, as a guideline to how much you should eat.

Pasta is an ideal partner for healthy ingredients such as vegetables, beans, herbs, fish, nuts and extra virgin olive oil and pasta’s versatility allows for almost endless preparations. Research has shown that the traditional Mediterranean way of eating reduces the risk of heart disease. It’s generally accepted that in the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, people live longer and suffer less than most Americans from cancer and cardiovascular ailments. The not-so-surprising secret is an active lifestyle, weight control and a diet low in red meat, sugar and saturated fat and high in produce, nuts and other healthful foods.

Some of the most delicious seafood dishes in the world—from spaghetti with mussels to tagliolini with shrimp and radicchio—can be found in Italy. Regional recipes for salt-water fish—and sometimes for fresh-water fish from Italy’s many lakes, rivers and streams—are some of the most celebrated dishes in Italian cuisine.

It is well known that eating fresh fish is one of the healthiest ways to make sure you and your family are getting your daily supply of proteins and minerals; so serving fish and fish-based pastas are always a wise choice. Fish is relatively economical—especially when part of a pasta dish. Many fish pasta dishes are delicious, visually appealing and, yet, very easy and quick to prepare.

The secret to a perfect plate of pasta is often in its simplicity and in using a very small number of ingredients. Combine just a few really good—meaning fresh, locally produced ingredients, cook them quickly and you’ll always get great results. The few basic ingredients for some of the best Italian recipes are extra virgin olive oil, garlic, parsley, tomatoes and often dry white wine and chili peppers. When these essentials of Italian cuisine are combined with beautiful fresh fish, you can be sure that a delicious dinner is waiting for you.

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Fettuccine with Artichokes and Shrimp

4 servings

Ingredients

Shrimp Broth

  • 3 cups water
  • Shells from 1 pound of shrimp
  • 4 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 slice lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Pasta

  • 8 ounces whole wheat or whole grain fettuccine
  • 9-ounce package frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and halved lengthwise
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound shrimp in shells, peeled and deveined (reserve shells for broth)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 plum tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup Shrimp Broth
  • 1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon snipped fresh Italian parsley
  • 4 slices Italian country loaf bread or other hearty bread, toasted
  • Lemon halves, and or wedges

Directions

Shrimp Broth

In a large saucepan, combine water, the reserved shells from the 1 pound of shrimp, parsley, lemon and ground black pepper. Bring to boiling over high heat; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Strain and set aside until serving time.

Pasta

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain and set aside.

In a large skillet heat oil and cook garlic for 30 seconds. Add artichokes to the skillet and cook for 1 minute. Add shrimp and wine to the skillet. Cook and stir for 2 minutes or until shrimp turn pink. Stir in tomatoes, red pepper, shrimp broth, lemon peel, salt, nutmeg and cooked pasta; heat through. Mix in the parsley.

To serve, place bread slices in 4 shallow soup bowls. Divide pasta mixture among 4 bowls. Add additional shrimp broth, as desired. Squeeze lemon over pasta mixture.

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Salmon with Whole Wheat Spaghetti

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound fresh or frozen (defrosted) skinless salmon fillets, cut into 4 pieces
  • 2 medium yellow and/or red sweet bell peppers, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 8 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved (1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 ounces whole wheat spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/3 cup snipped fresh basil

Directions

Rinse salmon; pat dry with paper towels. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. In a 15x10x1-inch baking pan combine pepper pieces and tomatoes. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with half of the rosemary, the salt and black pepper. Toss to coat. Roast, uncovered, for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions; drain and keep warm.

Remove baking pan from oven. Combine wine and balsamic vinegar and stir into vegetable mixture. Add salmon pieces to the baking pan and turn to coat in the wine mixture. Return to the oven and bake about 10-15 minutes more or until salmon flakes easily when tested with a fork.

To serve, divide pasta among four plates. Top pasta with vegetable mixture and sprinkle with basil. Place salmon on vegetables and sprinkle with remaining rosemary.

tuna-pasta-recipe-photo-260x260-acoleman-004.jpg

Tuna Puttanesca

4 servings

Ingredients

  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 8 ounces whole wheat or whole grain penne
  • 5 to 6 oz. can Italian tuna packed in oil, not drained
  • 1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons capers, chopped
  • 1/4 cup sliced black and/or green olives 
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups homemade or store bought marinara sauce
  • Small bunch fresh basil leaves, torn into large pieces

Directions

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

Pour tuna oil from the can into a saucepan and heat. Flake tuna and set aside.

Add garlic and onion to heated oil; saute until onion is soft. Add tuna, capers, olives, crushed red pepper and marinara sauce. Stir to combine and heat to a simmer; adjust salt to taste.

Drain pasta and return to pot. Add tuna mixture; toss gently. Sprinkle with basil.

linguine-clam-ay-1875389-l

Linguine with Red Clam Sauce

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 12 oz whole wheat linguine
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 3 cups homemade or store bought marinara sauce
  • 4 (6 oz.) cans chopped clams, undrained
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh parsley

Directions

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook linguine, stirring often, until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain thoroughly in a colander.

Heat oil in a deep skillet over medium heat. Add chopped onion and crushed red pepper and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in red wine and boil until syrupy, about 4 minutes. Stir in marinara sauce and clams with their juice and heat until simmering, about 10 minutes.

Add cooked pasta and parsley to clam sauce in skillet. Toss to coat pasta thoroughly.

scallops-tomatoes-oh-1896038-l

Scallops and Pasta in Lemon Sauce

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 12 large scallops
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 small shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of finely chopped garlic
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 cup plum tomatoes, diced
  • 3 tablespoons capers, drained
  • Juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 8 ounces whole grain thin spaghetti

Directions

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain.

Pat scallops dry with paper towels. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add scallops to the pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste; cook 3 minutes on each side. Remove scallops from the pan; keep warm.

Add the remaining olive oil, garlic and shallots to the skillet; cook 15 seconds. Add wine and the next 3 ingredients to the pan. Allow to simmer over low heat for about 3 minutes. Add parsley and stir. Season with salt and pepper. Add cooked pasta and toss. Place pasta in serving bowls and top with scallops.

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Seasonal eating is easy in summer when produce at the local farmers’ markets and supermarkets is abundant. But in winter, across wide areas of the world, the options tend to dwindle after the fall harvest. However, with a little creativity, you can create satisfying meals with seasonal ingredients – root vegetables, winter squashes, kale and other winter greens. Cooking greens range from the very tender and quick-cooking spinach to the hearty fibrous varieties of kale. These nutritious, tasty recipes are fairly quick to prepare and are useful on these busy days while you are getting ready for the holidays. You can use any type of pasta that you have in your pantry for these recipes. You can even combine 2 half packages to use them up.

Pasta with Kale and Anchovy Sauce

Use the same pot of water to blanch the greens before boiling the pasta and then finish the dish in the same pot. This dish is quick, easy, nutritious and works with any type of greens.

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch kale (collard greens, turnip greens, chard also work)
  • 1 tablespoon salt plus more to taste
  • 1 lb. penne
  • 2 anchovy fillets
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 cups freshly shredded Parmesan, Asiago or aged Pecorino cheese

Directions

Trim and wash greens, leaving the leaves whole.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon salt to the boiling water. Add greens and blanch until wilted, from 30 seconds for chard to 2 minutes for kale. Use tongs or a slotted spoon to remove the leaves to a colander and rinse them under cool water.

Reboil water and add pasta. Cook pasta until tender to the bite. Drain, reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid and set aside.

Chop anchovies, garlic and cooked greens separately.

Once pasta is drained, return pot to medium high heat. Add oil, garlic, pepper flakes and anchovies. Cook, stirring, until the garlic just turns golden.

Add chopped greens and stir to combine. Add reserved pasta cooking liquid and bring to a boil. Add pasta, stir to combine. Take off the heat.

Stir in half of the shredded cheese. Taste and add salt, if you like.

Divide between plates or pasta bowls, garnish with remaining shredded cheese and serve.

Broccoli Walnut Pasta

Ingredients

  • 8 oz. pasta shells, penne, or fusilli or a combination (whole wheat is better)
  • 2 lbs. broccoli
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup freshly shredded pecorino, parmesan, or other hard grating cheese, plus more for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon salt for pasta water, 1/2 teaspoon salt for sauce

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Roughly chop the walnuts and spread them on a baking sheet or piece of foil and bake until toasted, 5 to 10 minutes. Set a timer and check on them – walnuts go from toasted to burnt very quickly. Set the walnuts aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the salt. Add the pasta and cook until tender to the bite. When the pasta is almost done, scoop out 1 cup of the cooking water and reserve it. Drain the pasta.

Trim the broccoli, peel the stalks and separate the crowns into large florets. Cut the florets into smaller ones, about 1/2-inch across. Chop the stems into small pieces. Set aside.

Peel and finely chop the garlic and set aside.

In a large sauté pan with a cover over medium-high heat, add the oil, the broccoli and the 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the broccoli turns bright green, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and the red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add about 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta-cooking water to the broccoli. Cover pan, reduce heat to medium-low and cook until the broccoli in tender to the bite, 3 to 5 minutes. Add more pasta-cooking water if the pan gets dry.

Add the drained pasta to the broccoli, toss to combine well. Add the walnuts and toss to combine. Add the cheese and toss to combine. Taste and add more salt, if you like. Serve hot, topped with more cheese.

 

Creamy Spinach Pasta

Ingredients

  • 10-oz. bag of spinach leaves
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 8 oz. fusilli, corkscrew or rotini pasta
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup freshly shredded parmesan cheese

Directions

If baking as a casserole, preheat oven to 375°F. Butter an 8-by-8 baking dish, if you’re making the casserole version.

Rinse and trim spinach. Chop garlic finely.

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon salt to boiling water and add the pasta. Cook until pasta is tender to the bite. Drain pasta and return pot to the stove over medium-high heat.

Add olive oil and garlic to the pasta pan, cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add spinach and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir until spinach wilts, cover, and cook until completely wilted, about 2 minutes.

Stir in cream and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook to blend flavors, about 2 minutes.

Add nutmeg and black pepper. Add pasta and stir to combine thoroughly – the greens will want to stick together, so you will need to break them up a bit, if you want them evenly distributed in the pasta. Cover and cook so the pasta can soak up some of the liquid, about 2 minutes.

Stir in half of the cheese. Either serve as is in pasta bowls topped with the rest of the cheese or transfer mixture to the prepared baking dish, sprinkle with remaining cheese and bake until the cheese is melted and the mixture is bubbling and starting to brown on top, about 15 minutes.

Zucchini Pasta

Ingredient

  • 2 lbs. zucchini
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 12 large basil leaves
  • 1/3 cup (pignoli) pine nuts
  • 2 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon salt, divided
  • 3/4 lb. fusilli or similar pasta
  • 1 cup freshly grated parmesan or pecorino cheese
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Cut each zucchini into 3-inch long matchsticks 1/4- to 1/2-inch thick. Chop the garlic and cut the basil leaves into thin ribbons.

In a large frying pan over medium heat, toast pine nuts, stirring constantly, until just turning golden, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl or plate and set aside.

In the same pan, add 1 tablespoon of the butter and the olive oil and increase heat to high. Add half of the zucchini and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and cook, stirring frequently, until the zucchini is soft and brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate, leaving as much of the fat in the pan as possible. Repeat with other half of the zucchini and another 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Set the pan and the zucchini aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of salt to the boiling water and cook the pasta until tender to the bite. Drain the pasta.

Return the reserved pan to medium heat, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon butter and add the garlic, cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the reserved zucchini and pine nuts and cook, stirring, until combined. Add the zucchini mixture and the basil to the cooked pasta. Toss to combine thoroughly. Add half of the cheese and toss to combine well—the cheese will melt a bit to make a sauce. Divide the pasta among serving plates and sprinkle with the remaining cheese and pepper. Serve immediately.

Gnocchi With Chard & Ricotta

Ingredients

  • 1 large bunch green Swiss chard (golden, red or rainbow chard are ok, but know that they will tint the entire dish)
  • Salt
  • 1 package (approx. 1 lb.) potato gnocchi
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Cut stems out of chard leaves (make a “v” around the stem to cut out as much of the stem as possible). Chop stems and leaves separately and set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon salt to boiling water and add chopped chard stems. Cook until almost tender, about 3 minutes. Add gnocchi and chopped chard leaves. Cook until gnocchi are cooked through and float to the top of the water, about 3 minutes. Drain.

Put gnocchi and chard in a large bowl and toss with ricotta. Add nutmeg, pepper and salt to taste. Toss to combine.

Put gnocchi mixture in a generously greased 9×13 inch baking dish. Heat broiler on high.

Sprinkle gnocchi with Parmesan cheese. Broil until cheese melts and the entire dish gets browned and crispy.


Tribute to Immigrants of Ybor City – Centennial Park

The Italians in Florida

“The people who had lived for centuries in Sicilian villages perched on hilltops for protection from marauding bands and spent endless hours each day walking to and from the fields, now faced a new and strange life on the flats of Ybor City.” – Tony Pizzo, The Italians in Tampa.

The Italians of Ybor arrived almost exclusively from Sicily. Life in that island off Italy’s southern coast was unimaginably hard in the mid- to late 1800s. Most of the immigrants whose eventual destination was Ybor City came from Sicily’s southwestern region, a hilly area containing the towns of Santo Stefano Quisquina, Alessandria della Rocca, Cianciana and Bivona. Dependent on agriculture (including the cultivation of almonds, pistachios, flax, olives, wheat and wool), mining and limited trade contacts, the residents of the area struggled with poor soil, malaria, bandits, low birth rates, high land rents and absentee landlords. The population responded, according to historian Giampiero Carocci, by exercising three options: “resignation, socialism, and emigration.”

The last option–emigration–was usually of the “chain” variety. Both through word of mouth and the activities of labor brokers (padrones), Sicilians learned of job opportunities in America. Padrones were labor brokers, usually immigrants themselves, who acted as middlemen between immigrant workers and employers. Early sugar-producing communities in New Orleans, Louisiana and St. Cloud, Florida attracted many Sicilians, but the work and conditions were so grueling that many immigrants looked elsewhere. The completion of the Plant System Railway to Tampa (1884) and Vicente Martinez Ybor’s development of Ybor City (1886) made the Tampa area an attractive destination for these immigrants. Thousands–including the many Sicilians who either came directly to Tampa or moved there from their initial U.S. “landing spots”–found work in the cigar trade, as well as in the myriad of other enterprises that supported Italians in the community.  Source: Cigar City Magazine

Italians mostly brought their entire families with them, unlike many of the other immigrants. The foreign-born Italian population of Tampa grew from 56 in 1890 to 2,684 in 1940. Once arriving in Ybor City (pronounced ee-bor), Italians settled mainly in the eastern and southern fringes of the city. The area was referred to as La Pachata, after a Cuban rent collector in that area. It also became known as “Little Italy”.

At first, Italians found it difficult to find employment in the cigar industry, which had moved to Tampa from Cuba and Key West, FL and was dominated by Hispanic workers. The Italians arrived in the cigar town without cigar-making skills. When the early Italians entered the factories, it was at the bottom of the ladder, positions which did not involve handling tobacco. Working beside unskilled Cubans, they swept, hauled, and were porters and doorkeepers. In time, many did become cigar workers, including Italian women. The majority of the Italian women worked as cigar strippers, an undesirable position, mainly held by women who could find nothing else. Eventually, many women became skilled cigar makers, earning more than the male Italian cigar makers.

Inside an Ybor City cigar factory, ca. 1920

Seventh Avenue (ca. 1908)

Many Italians founded businesses to serve cigar workers, mostly small grocery stores in the neighborhood’s commercial district that were supplied by Italian-owned vegetable and dairy farms located east of Tampa’s city limits.The immigrant cultures in town became better integrated as time went by; eventually, approximately 20% of the workers in the cigar industry were Italian Americans. The tradition of local Italian-owned groceries continued and a handful of such businesses founded in the late 1800’s were still operating into the 21st century. Many descendants of Sicilian immigrants eventually became prominent local citizens, such as mayors Nick Nuccio and Dick Greco.

Current View: Gateway to Ybor City on 7th Ave near the Nick Nuccio Parkway.

Devil crab is one of Tampa’s original culinary creations. The snack first appeared around 1920 as street food in Tampa, concocted when blue crab was plentiful. Heat from red pepper flakes gave the rolls their fiery name. Some debate the origins of the rolls, tracing them to Spain, Cuba or Italy, but they are likely a little of all three, one of Tampa’s fusion foods.

Victor Licata watched over his own devil crabs after opening the Seabreeze Restaurant on the 22nd Street Causeway around 1925. His daughters rolled the crabs at home and then they were served in the restaurant; diners could not get enough of the spicy, plump croquettes. Seabreeze devil crabs were so popular, the restaurant sold about 750,000 rolls annually in the 1990’s. In 1992, the Licata family sold the Seabreeze Restaurant to Robert and Helen Richards, who had run a neighboring seafood shop since the 1960’s. 

Seabreeze’s Devil Crab

From: Seabreeze By The Bay Cookbook.                                    

This recipe has been cut in half. See the original in the newspaper copy above

You can also bake the cakes in a very hot oven turning them over several times, so that they can brown evenly.

Ingredients:

Sauce

  • 1 cup finely diced onion
  • 1/2 cup finely diced green or red pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup finely diced celery
  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 7 oz. tomato puree
  • 7 oz. tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 pounds of blue crab claw meat, fresh or frozen

Stuffing

  • 1 Italian baguette
  • 1 loaf of Cuban bread
  • Italian seasoned bread crumbs, plus additional for dredging
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons crushed red pepper
  • Water
  • Vegetable oil for frying

Directions:

Finely dice the onion, pepper, garlic and celery in a blender or food processor.

Add the vegetables to a large saute pan with the oil and the water and cook over very low heat for 1 hour until soft.

Add in the tomato puree, tomato paste and red pepper flakes and cook on low heat for an additional hour, stirring often. Add the oregano and cook for 5 more minutes. Turn off the heat and let it cool.

Flake the crabmeat into a large bowl and make sure to pick it over for any small pieces of shell. Add sauce gradually until the mixture is moist and holds together. Refrigerate the mixture until ready to cook.

Tear the bread up and put it all into a big bowl. Add enough water to moisten the bread and then mash it all together until it has a loose, doughy consistency.

Add in the red pepper and then add enough bread crumbs to form a dough with a biscuit consistency.

In a Dutch Oven heat 2 inches of oil to 330 degrees F.

In 3 separate bowls: place stuffing in the first bowl, crab mixture in the second and additional bread crumbs in the third.

Scoop up a handful of dough and drop it into the bread crumbs and roll lightly and form it into a 4 inch circle.

Place a heaping tablespoon of crab filling right in the center and then bring the edges up and around it. Close up the seams. (See photos below.)

Roll the deviled crab in bread crumbs again and place on a plate.

Fry the cakes in batches for 7 minutes or until golden brown. Serve immediately with hot sauce.

Healthier Recipes To Make At Home

Cucuzza Soup

Cucuzza has its origins in the Mediterranean, especially Italy. Its season in Florida is from June until first frost and can grow from 15 to 36 inches long and approximately 3 inches in diameter. It’s also known as bottle gourd, super long squash and snake squash.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cucuzza (3–4 cups)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1–15 oz can of diced tomatoes
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese

Directions:

Cut the cucuzza in cubes and set them aside while the onions and garlic simmer in olive oil. Next add the cucuzza, water and tomatoes. Add the salt, pepper and grated Parmesan cheese. Simmer until the cucuzza is tender and almost transparent.

Spicy Deviled Crab

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb crabmeat
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 heaping teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 finely chopped serrano chile
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 finely chopped garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons dry sherry
  • 4-6 cleaned crab shells or ramekins

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix all the ingredients together and let rest for 10 minutes.

Stuff the mixture loosely — do not pack it — into the crab shells, or if you don’t have them, single-serving ramekins. You could also simply use a casserole dish, too.

Bake for 40 minutes.

Linguine with Clams, Mussels, Shrimp and Calamari in Spicy Tomato Sauce

1 Serving

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2-ounces extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2-ounce garlic, chopped
  • 1/2-ounce shallots, chopped
  • 1/4 cup finely diced red bell pepper
  • 4 small clams
  • 5 black mussels
  • 2 ounces shrimp
  • 1/2-ounce white wine
  • 3 ounces spicy marinara sauce
  • 1-ounce calamari
  • 3 ounces linguine
  • 1-ounce fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon bread crumbs

Directions:

In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil. Add garlic, bell pepper and shallots, and saute until brown. Add the clams, mussels and shrimp. When shells start to open, add the white wine. Reduce to half its volume, then add the marinara and calamari.

Cook the pasta in salted boiling water. Drain and add to the seafood. Allow pasta to cook in the sauce for a minute, then toss in the basil and bread crumbs. Serve in a deep pasta bowl.

 

Easy Italian Rum Cake

A popular restaurant dessert.

Yield: 1 – 10 inch Bundt Pan or Tube Pan

Ingredients:

  • 1 box of yellow cake mix
  • 1 package of vanilla instant pudding mix (4 oz serving size)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup of pecans or walnuts, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup dark rum

Glaze

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup of dark rum

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Spray the bundt or tube pan with cooking spray.

Sprinkle the chopped nuts over the bottom of the pan.

Mix all the cake ingredients together in an electric mixer and blend well.

Pour batter over nuts.

Bake for 1 hour. Cool on a wire rack.

While the cake is baking prepare the glaze.

Glaze Directions:

Melt the butter in a saucepan and stir in the water and sugar. Boil the glaze mixture for 5 minutes stirring constantly. Remove saucepan from the heat and stir in the rum.

When the cake has cooled remove from the cake pan and invert onto a serving plate.

Prick the top with a fork. Drizzle and smooth glaze evenly over the sides and top.You may need to do this several times until all the glaze is absorbed. Let the cake sit covered for 12 hours to absorb the rum sauce. (Place several toothpicks in the cake and cover tightly with plastic wrap for 12 hours.)


Whole Wheat Pasta

Transitioning to a healthier lifestyle can be hard, especially when it comes to food. You have to look out for bad fats, funky chemicals added for ‘flavor’, like THBQ, and harmful hormones and antibiotics sneaking their way into our food supply. With misleading food labels like “all natural,” “made with whole grains,” “0g Trans fats” and “rich in fiber” — just to name a few — it’s no wonder people struggle to find a healthier diet.

So, you love pasta!. You’d never make it on a low-carb diet, but there are certainly other ways to lighten and make your meals more healthy. Believe it or not, given the right ingredients, pasta can be healthy, too. It’s all about limiting the fattening and high sodium sauces in favor of healthier alternatives.

Pasta won’t make you fat, eating too many calories will. And since one 2 oz serving weighs in at only 210 calories, you can enjoy a pasta dinner without worrying about your waistline.

To keep it healthy, you’ll need to keep it whole wheat or whole grain. When you choose whole-wheat pasta instead of regular to make the pasta recipes below, you’ll get more than twice as much fiber per serving. Almost every major brand of pasta at the supermarket offers a whole-wheat or whole-grain option. Plus, whole-wheat and whole-grain pasta have a nutty flavor and a pleasant chewy texture that I have grown to prefer over white flour pasta. Whole grains also tend to have a lower glycemic index, which means they don’t spike insulin levels. Also, the longer you cook pasta, the higher the glycemic index, so only cook pasta to the al dente stage.

Whole-grain pastas-from whole wheat to spelt-are increasingly easy to find on grocery shelves and in restaurants. According to Mintel’s Global New Products Database, 48 more new whole-grain pastas are now on store shelves since 2005. And because many product labels boast “wheat” or “grain” content, it’s helpful that the Whole Grains Council in Boston, Massachusetts, has introduced a food packaging stamp, easing buyers’ confusion about which foods have whole grains. The stamp indicates whether the product is a Good Source (which offers a half-serving of whole grain per portion), an Excellent Source (a full serving of whole grain), or 100% Whole Grain/Excellent Source (a full serving with no refined grains). Still, the stamp system is voluntary, so as an alternative, look for whole grain to be first on the product’s ingredient list.

Whole grain pasta is recommended for diabetics and those who are at risk for heart disease. Brown rice pasta is recommended for people with celiac disease and wheat allergies. Quinoa corn pasta is also good for people suffering from celiac disease and those who have wheat allergies, heart disease or diabetes, since it is higher in minerals, B vitamins and easier to digest. Doctors say people with wheat allergies, heart disease or diabetes could also benefit from eating buckwheat pasta since it contains no wheat or gluten. In tests results reported in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, buckwheat groats products significantly lowered blood glucose and insulin responses.

Next, look at what type of sauce you typically put on your pasta. This is usually what makes a normal pasta dish totally unhealthy, especially if you use sauces that are loaded with fat and calories. Stick to sauces that are low in sodium and sugar.

After you decide on the the type of pasta and sauce, take a look at what protein you put into your pasta dish. If you’re adding pork sausage and ground beef with a high fat content, you’re adding hundreds of calories to your dish. Try lean chicken breast or lean ground turkey. If you really miss the beef flavor, add a small amount of beef with a low percentage of fat to your sauce.

Add some healthy veggies to your dish and some fresh herbs to give it the kick you miss from the lowered salt content. Some fresh basil is always great, but choose what you like and sprinkle a bit on top.

Seafood and pasta are a great match and healthy seafood pasta recipes offer plenty of choices.

201112-r-pappardelle-with-clams

Fettuccine with Clams, Turmeric and Hot Pepper

Servings: 6

Ingredients:

  • 8 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups packed whole basil leaves plus 1/2 cup chopped basil
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1 cup bottled clam juice
  • 4 dozen littleneck clams, scrubbed
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lime
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 3/4 pound whole wheat fettuccine
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400° F. Loosely wrap the garlic cloves in foil and bake for about 25 minutes, until very soft. Peel the garlic.

In a medium saucepan, heat the oil. Add the roasted garlic, turmeric and crushed red pepper; cook over moderate heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the basil leaves, black pepper, wine and clam juice, cover and cook over low heat until the liquid has reduced to 1/2 cup, about 10 minutes. Strain the reduction into a large pot, pressing on the solids.

Bring the strained liquid to a boil. Add the clams, cover and cook, shaking the pot a few times, until they start to open, 3 minutes; as the clams open, transfer them to a bowl and keep covered. When all of the clams have opened, boil the broth over high heat until reduced to 2 cups, about 5 minutes. Stir in the lime zest and lime juice.

Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain.

Add the pasta to the pot with the reduced clam broth and toss to coat. Add the butter, tossing well over moderate heat, until melted. Transfer the pasta to bowls. Top with the clams and chopped basil. Serve with crusty Italian bread.

Spaghettini with Shrimp, Tomatoes and Chili Crumbs

Servings: 4

 Ingredients:

  • 2-3 large plum tomatoes (about 1 1/4 pounds), cored and scored on the bottoms with an X
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup coarse, dried sourdough bread crumbs (about 2 ounces)
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • Crushed red pepper
  • 12 ounces whole wheat spaghettini (thin spaghetti)
  • 1 pound medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 2 tablespoons finely shredded basil
  • 1/2 pound cherry tomatoes, halved

 Directions:

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Put the plum tomatoes in a small baking dish and drizzle with the vinegar and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Roast for about 20 minutes, just until the skins loosen and the tomatoes are barely softened. Let cool slightly, then peel and chop the tomatoes. Put them back into the baking dish and season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet. Add the breadcrumbs and cook over moderately low heat, stirring, until golden and crisp, about 5 minutes. Stir in the lemon zest and a pinch of crushed red pepper and season with salt. Remove to a separate bowl.

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until barely al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water. 

In the same skillet used for the breadcrumbs, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil until shimmering. Season the shrimp with salt and a pinch of crushed red pepper and cook over high heat, tossing once or twice, until barely cooked, about 1 1/2 minutes. Add the basil, roasted plum tomatoes, cherry tomatoes and pasta along with the reserved pasta cooking water and cook, tossing, until the shrimp are pink throughout and the pasta is coated in a light sauce, about 1 minute. Transfer the pasta to bowls, top with the bread crumbs.

 

Pasta with Fish, Lemon and Capers

Yield: 6 generous portions

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ pounds swordfish steaks or scallops or fish of choice
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 6 cloves garlic, sliced thickly
  • 3 tablespoons capers, drained
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • Zest of one lemon, grated
  • 2 cups clam juice
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 lb. whole wheat spaghetti, linguine or spaghettini.
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces

 Directions:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Trim and discard the skin and any very dark red meat from the swordfish. Cut the fish into ½” dice. Toss the swordfish with the flour, salt and pepper.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat until the oil sizzles. Cook half of the coated swordfish pieces until golden brown on all sides, about 2 minutes. Remove the browned fish with a slotted spoon and set aside. Repeat with 1 tablespoon olive oil, if needed, and the remaining fish.

Reduce the heat to medium-low. In the same pan cook the garlic, onion, red pepper flakes, capers, parsley and lemon zest slowly in the remaining olive oil until the onions are golden and tender, about 5-6 minutes. Pour on the white wine and stir gently to dislodge any of the brown bits remaining in the bottom of the pan. Reduce the wine by one half.

Add the clam juice, tomato sauce, sugar, salt and pepper. Bring the sauce to a boil and simmer for 8-10 minutes until slightly thickened. Add the swordfish, any accumulated juices and the lemon juice to the sauce and warm through, 2 minutes.

While the sauce is simmering cook the pasta according to the directions on the package, drain and return to the pot. Pour the sauce over the pasta and simmer over low heat stirring constantly until the pasta is well coated, about 2 minutes.

Turn the pasta out onto a warm serving dish and sprinkle with the basil.

Italian Style Pasta with Tuna

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pound whole-wheat pasta, shape of choice
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 large red onion, chopped
  • 2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 12 sun-dried tomato-halves packed in oil, drained and minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Pinch of dried red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 1 can (15 oz.) rinsed and drained Cannellini beans
  • 1 can (6 oz.) tuna, well drained and broken into small pieces
  • 1 tablespoon small capers, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup sliced olives, such as Kalamata and green Cerignola
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Minced flat-leaf parsley leaves

Directions:

Cook pasta according to package directions and drain. Reserve a 1/2 cup of pasta cooking water.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Saute onion, stirring often, until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring frequently, about 2 minutes. Transfer mixture to small bowl and mix the tomatoes, oregano and pepper flakes to taste. Set aside.

Add remaining oil to skillet and heat over medium-high heat until hot. Add beans, tuna, olives and capers and cook until mixture is completely heated through. Mix in the tomato/ onion/garlic mixture. Cook, stirring often, until heated. Add cooked pasta and pasta water and heat through, tossing to mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve garnished with parsley.

Seafood Lasagna

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup flour (Wondra dissolves instantly)
  • 3 cups low-fat milk
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/8 teaspoon grated fresh nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups thinly sliced onion
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 cup low-fat cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup fat free half-and-half
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 3/4 lb. medium. shrimp, peeled, deveined and cut into thirds
  • 3/4 lb. scallops, cut into thirds
  • 1-6 oz. can crabmeat, drained or use ½ pound of fresh crab meat
  • 3 large eggs
  • 15 oz. carton low fat ricotta
  • 12 whole wheat lasagna noodles, pre-cooked according to package directions

Directions:

Preheat oven 350 degrees F. Coat a 13 x 9 baking dish with cooking spray.

White Sauce:

Place flour in large saucepan. Gradually add milk. Cook, whisking constantly until smooth, about 1 minute. Stir in butter, thyme, salt and pepper; bring to boil. Cook 5 minutes until thickened, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in 1 1/4 cups Parmesan and nutmeg. Set aside.

Filling:

Heat oil in a large skillet. Add onion and garlic; saute 4 minutes. Add cream cheese and stir until cheese is melted. Stir in half-and-half; 1/4 cup chopped parsley, shrimp, scallops and crab. (The fish will continue to cook in the oven.) Remove from heat.

In a food processor combine eggs and ricotta. Process until smooth and stir into seafood mixture.

Spoon 1 cup the white sauce into the baking dish coated with cooking spray. Arrange 4 noodles on top. Spread the noodles with 1/2 of the ricotta seafood mixture.

Repeat layers with 4 noodles, the remaining ricotta seafood mixture and remaining 4 noodles.

Pour remaining white sauce over the top layer of noodles and sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese.

Bake for 45 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove from oven and sprinkle with remaining parsley. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

 



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