Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Tag Archives: Spaghetti

Whole Grains

Whole grains or foods made from them contain all the essential parts and nutrients of the entire seed. If the grain has been processed (e.g., cracked, crushed, rolled, extruded, and/or cooked), the food product should deliver approximately the same balance of nutrients that are found in the original grain seed.  

LIST OF WHOLE GRAINS

The following are examples of generally accepted whole grain foods and flours.

WHOLE WHEAT VS. WHOLE GRAIN

A question that gets asked regularly is, “What is the difference between whole wheat and whole grain?” The answer is in another question: “What is the difference between a carrot and a vegetable?”
We all know that carrots are vegetables but not all vegetables are carrots. It’s similar with whole wheat and whole grain: Whole wheat is one kind of whole grain, so all whole wheat is whole grain, but not all whole grain is whole wheat.
If you’re reading this in Canada, be aware that Canada has a different regulation for whole wheat flour. Canada allows wheat flour to be called “whole wheat” even when up to 5% of the original kernel is missing. So in Canada you’ll hear two terms used:

  • Whole Wheat Flour in Canada — contains at least 95% of the original kernel
  • Whole Grain Whole Wheat Flour in Canada — contains 100% of the original kernel

“Whole grain whole wheat flour” would be redundant in the U.S.A. — whole wheat flour is always whole grain in the United States. 

Source of Essential Nutrients

The charts below list some of the nutrients that whole grains contribute to a healthy diet, and the proportion of the Daily Value for each.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers a food to be a “good source” of a nutrient if a standard-size serving provides 10% of the recommended daily value; an “excellent source” provides 20% or more than the recommended daily value. We’ve noted when some nutrients in whole grains go even farther above these levels.  Note that a blank, white block does not mean that a particular grain contains none of that nutrient. Very often levels fall just short of reaching the “good source” level – but these foods can still make important contributions to your nutrient needs, in combination with other healthy foods. Whole Grains Council May 2004

A SERVING OF 100% WHOLE GRAIN FOODS

If you enjoy foods made entirely with whole grain, you can follow the suggestions in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, where a serving of whole grain is defined as any of the following:

  • 1/2 cup cooked brown rice or other cooked grain
  • 1/2 cup cooked 100% whole-wheat pasta
  • 1/2 cup cooked hot cereal, such as oatmeal
  • 1 ounce uncooked whole grain pasta, brown rice or other grain
  • 1 slice 100% whole grain bread
  • 1 very small (1 oz.) 100% whole grain muffin
  • 1 cup 100% whole grain ready-to-eat cereal

The Whole Grains Council has created an official packaging symbol called the Whole Grain Stamp that helps consumers find real whole grain products. The Stamp started to appear on store shelves in mid-2005 and is becoming more widespread every day.The 100% Stamp assures you that a food contains a full serving or more of whole grain in each labeled serving and that ALL the grain is whole grain.

You can easily add whole grains to your meals, often using favorite recipes you’ve always enjoyed. Try some of the following:

MAKE EASY SUBSTITUTIONS

  • Substitute half the white flour with whole wheat flour in your regular recipes for cookies, muffins, quick breads and pancakes. Or be bold and add up to 20% of another whole grain flour such as sorghum.
  • Replace one third of the flour in a recipe with quick oats or old-fashioned oats.
  • Add half a cup of cooked bulgur, wild rice, or barley to bread stuffing.
  • Add half a cup of cooked wheat or rye berries, wild rice, brown rice, sorghum or barley to your favorite canned or homemade soup.
  • Use whole corn meal for corn cakes, corn breads and corn muffins.
  • Add three-quarters of a cup of uncooked oats for each pound of ground beef or turkey when you make meatballs, burgers or meatloaf.
  • Stir a handful of rolled oats in your yogurt, for quick crunch with no cooking necessary.

TRY NEW FOODS

  • Make risottos, pilafs and other rice-like dishes with whole grains such as barley, brown rice, bulgur, millet, quinoa or farro.
  • Enjoy whole grain salads like tabbouleh.
  • Buy whole grain pasta, or one of the blends that’s part whole-grain, part white.
  • Try whole grain breads. Kids especially like whole grain pita bread.
  • Look for cereals made with grains like kamut, kasha (buckwheat) or spelt.

Whole-Grain Spaghetti with Peppers, Turkey Sausage, and Cheese

Makes: 4 servings

Ingredients:

12 ounces whole wheat or dark spelt* spaghetti (available at some supermarkets and natural food stores)
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 sweet Italian turkey sausage link, (about 4 to 5 oz.) casing removed
1/2 red onion, sliced
4 bell peppers (one each red, green, orange, and yellow), cored and sliced
1/2 crushed red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons balsamic or red wine vinegar, or to taste
1/2 cup fresh mozzarella cheese, finely diced
Black pepper

Directions

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the spaghetti. Cook per package instructions until al dente, then drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water.
2. Meanwhile, heat 1/2 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and saute, crumbling it with a spatula, until browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate.
3. Pour off any fat, then heat the remaining olive oil in the pan. Add the onion and cook, stirring, for 1 minute, then add the bell peppers and crushed red pepper. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the peppers are soft and beginning to brown, 15 minutes. Stir in the vinegar.
4. Add the drained pasta and reserved cooking water to the pan and toss over medium heat for 2 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and toss the pasta with the cheese. Season with black pepper and serve.

Notes * Spelt is related to wheat, but it’s higher in protein and vitamins. Its deep, nutty flavor gives pasta and breads a rich taste.

3-Grain Salad with White Beans, Tomatoes, and Parmesan

Makes: 4 servings

Ingredients:

1/2 cup hulled barley*
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup farro**
1/4 cup bulgur
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons minced red onion
1 smashed garlic clove
1 cup drained, rinsed cannellini beans
1 pint grape tomatoes, quartered
1 cup torn fresh basil leaves
3 tablespoons olive oil
Black pepper
1/4 cup shaved Parmesan

Directions:

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the barley and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt; boil for 30 minutes. Add the farro; boil for an additional 20 to 25 minutes or until both grains are tender. Drain.
2. Meanwhile, bring 6 tablespoons of water to a boil in a small saucepan; add the bulgur. Bring the liquid back to a boil, then cover the pot, turn off the heat, and let sit for 25 minutes, until the water is absorbed.
3. In a large bowl, toss together the vinegar, onion, garlic, and remaining salt.
4. Add the grains to the vinegar mixture while still warm; toss well. Remove the garlic and stir in the beans, tomatoes, basil, and olive oil; season with black pepper to taste. Fold in the Parmesan and serve.

Notes:* With its chewy, pasta-like texture, barley is a great addition to soups and stews. It’s loaded with satisfying protein and fiber.
** A hearty grain with plenty of protein, farro is used in soups and salads. It has a distinct nutty taste.

Spicy Salmon with Olives and Lemon Quinoa

Makes: 4 servings

Ingredients:

1/2 cup chopped scallions
Large pinch crushed red pepper flakes
Pinch salt
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
Nonstick cooking spray
1 pound skin-on salmon fillet
1 cup quinoa*, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
2 tablespoons pitted, chopped black olives
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. In a small bowl, combine the scallions and red pepper with the salt and 1/2 tablespoon of the olive oil.
2. Spray a small roasting pan with nonstick cooking spray and lay the salmon in it skin side down. Cover the fish with the scallion and red pepper mixture. Roast the salmon in the top third of the oven until it is opaque at the center of the thickest part, about 15-20 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a saucepan. Add the quinoa; cover and cook over low heat until the water is absorbed, about 12 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and add the remaining olive oil and the pine nuts, olives, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Serve the salmon over the quinoa.

Notes * Technically a seed, quinoa is packed with protein and magnesium, a nutrient that lowers blood pressure. Light and fluffy, quinoa is perfect for salads and side dishes.

Tabbouleh with Feta and Shrimp

Makes: 4 servings

Ingredients:

1 cup bulgur*
1 packed cup parsley, chopped
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
Pinch salt
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ cup chopped fresh mint
8 ounces medium cleaned, shelled, tail-on shrimp, thawed if frozen
1 large pickling cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 cup chopped tomato
1 cup chopped scallion
1/4 cup crumbled feta

Directions:

1. Bring 1 1/2 cups of water to a boil in a saucepan and add the bulgur. Bring the liquid back to a boil and then cover the pot, turn off the heat, and let sit for 25 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk together 1 teaspoon of the parsley with the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, oregano, and mint.
3. Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add the shrimp and simmer for 1 1/2 minutes. Drain, then rinse under cool water.
4. Place the bulgur in a serving bowl and toss with the shrimp, cucumber, tomato, scallion, feta, the remaining parsley, and the dressing. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Note:* Bulgur cooks quickly and has a subtle, nutty flavor. Try it in soups, salads, and stuffings or as a substitute for rice.

Creamy Cannellini Bean and Amaranth Soup


Cannellini beans, fresh herbs, and amaranth, a wonderful whole grain thickener,  makes this hearty soup filling enough to be a main dish. For a thick and creamy soup, puree all of the soup rather than leaving half of the beans whole.

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons. extra virgin olive oil
2 large leeks, white parts only, sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup amaranth
2 cups vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
1 cup tomato paste
2 cups canned cannellini beans, rinsed and drained, divided
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 teaspoon. sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

1. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the leeks and cook, stirring frequently, until golden and soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute, then add the amaranth grains, stock, bay leaf, and tomato paste and bring to a boil.

2. Reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for 30 minutes.

3. Remove the bay leaf from the amaranth mixture, add 1 cup of the beans, and use a handheld immersion blender to puree in the pot until smooth. (Alternatively, puree the beans in a food processor, add the amaranth mixture – working in batches if necessary – and puree again until smooth, then return to the pot.)

4. Stir in the remaining beans, the herbs, and the salt. Warm gently just to heat through. If desired, thin the soup with additional stock. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

Robin Asbell’s The New Whole Grains Cookbook, published by Chronicle Books, has more than 75 recipes that take advantage of the abundance of grains now available in both supermarkets and specialty stores.

About these ads

Do you eat the same food for three to four days in a row or eat the same food at the same meal day after day? Perhaps you eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch every day. Or you always eat peanuts for a snack. Sound familiar?

It’s so easy to fall into an eating rut. Having the same breakfast, lunch, or dinner, day in and day out, offers convenience and comfort.  No need to think about what to eat or where to find it.There are no surprises when you pour yourself a bowl of the same cereal for breakfast day after day.

The foods people get hooked on are the usual — burger and fries, chips and soda and pepperoni pizza. Rarely do you hear of anyone stuck on broccoli for days or months.

That doesn’t mean that eating the same thing again and again has to be unhealthy. One person who made an eating rut work to his advantage was Jared Fogel of Subway fame. In less than a year, he says, he lost 235 pounds on a diet of coffee for breakfast; a 6-inch low-fat turkey sub with extra veggies, baked chips, and diet soda for lunch; and a 12-inch veggie sub for dinner.

You’re probably the best judge of whether you’re in an eating rut. However, just in case you are in a rut, here are some ideas for getting out of that rut:

  • Next time you go to the grocery store, venture out of the familiar aisles. Buy brown or wild rice instead of white, pita pockets instead of white bread, and pears instead of bananas.
  • Challenge yourself to try one new food each week.
  • Pick up a healthy dinner from a restaurant instead of having pizza delivered.
  • Have the sandwich you usually choose for lunch for breakfast instead.
  • Try slight alterations to your old standbys: accessorize your sandwich with spinach leaves instead of lettuce, stir sliced veggies into your scrambled eggs, choose a new type of cheese for your casserole.
  • Don’t say “Yuck” when friends want to try an ethnic restaurant that serves unfamiliar cuisine.
  • Visit a farmers market.
  • Take a cooking class.
  • Buy a new cookbook or get a subscription to a healthy cooking magazine.


Here are some new ways to prepare some classic foods:

Old Favorite

Linguine with Clam Sauce

6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 cup bottled clam juice
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 dozen littleneck clams
  • 8 cups hot cooked linguine (about 1 pound uncooked pasta)

Directions:

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic; cook 3 minutes or until golden, stirring frequently. Stir in clam juice and next 5 ingredients (clam juice through clams). Cover and cook 10 minutes or until clams open.

Place pasta in a large bowl. Add 2 tablespoons oil; toss well to coat. Add clam mixture to pasta; toss again.

New Twist

Spaghettini in Clam Broth with Cherry Tomatoes

4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 small leek, thinly sliced into rounds
  • Fine sea salt
  • 2 cans minced clams, undrained
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 6 oz. spaghettini or angel hair pasta or spaghetti
  • 1/2 pound cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 small carrot, peeled and thinly sliced into rounds
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped green bell pepper 
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 sprig fresh oregano, chopped 


Directions:

Wash the sliced leek well in a bowl of cold water, agitating it, then lift out and pat dry. Set aside.

Combine the undrained clams, 1 1/2 tablespoons oil and wine in a small bowl.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta in the boiling water until al dente. Drain and set aside (do not rinse).

In a large skillet, heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Add leek, carrot and bell pepper; cook, stirring frequently, 5 minutes.

Add tomatoes, garlic and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook 30 seconds; add clam mixture; gently simmer until carrot is tender, about 5 minutes.

Then add cooked pasta and parsley; toss just to combine. Top with plenty of fresh cracked pepper. Remove from heat.

Old Favorite

Restaurant Style Baked Flounder With Crabmeat Stuffing

4 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 small red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 3/4 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup light cream
  • 8 oz. crabmeat
  • 3 teaspoons chopped parsley
  • 4 flounder fillets
  • 3/4 cup white wine

Directions:

Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Coat pan with nonstick cooking spray, add butter, then the onion and red pepper. Cook until softened, stirring occasionally about 4 minutes. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon of Old Bay, 1/8 teaspoon of the salt and the light cream.

Increase heat to medium high and bring to boil; cook for 1 minute or until thickened. Gently fold in crabmeat and 2 teaspoons of the parsley. Refrigerate 30 minutes.

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a 13×9 inch baking dish with cooking spray. Place one of the flounder fillets, skinned-side up on work surface, then spoon 1/2 cup crab mixture onto one end of fillet; roll up, creating a small bundle. Repeat using remaining fillets and crab.

Transfer bundles to baking dish, seam side down, and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 teaspoon Old Bay, 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon parsley. Add wine to the pan; transfer to the oven. Bake for 20 minutes or until fish is solid white and flakes easily with a fork.


New Twist

Shrimp and Mango-Stuffed Fish Fillets

Ingredients:

4 flounder fillets

Stuffing

  • 1/2 cup finely processed crumbs, from Italian bread, crusts removed
  • 1 cup finely chopped shrimp (about 8 oz. shelled)
  • 1/2 cup finely diced mango
  • 2 tablespoons minced scallions
  • 1 tablespoon diced pimientos, drained
  • 1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon minced chives

Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh parsley
  • Dash paprika

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Coat a baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

In a medium bowl combine all the stuffing ingredients. Spoon about 1/2 cup stuffing onto each fillet; roll up. Place seam side down in baking dish.

Combine the butter and lemon juice and drizzle over the fish rolls. Sprinkle with paprika and parsley.

Bake, uncovered, at 375° for 20-25 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork.

Old Favorite

Classic Lasagna


Ingredients:

Sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 (28 oz.) container Pomi tomatoes
  • 1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper

Filling:

  • 2 eggs
  • 3 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup parmesan or romano cheese, grated
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Lasagna:

  • 1 pound mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
  • 16 lasagna noodles


Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a 9x13x2 inch baking dish with olive oil cooking spray.

Make sauce:
Heat oil in large saucepan and add garlic, basil, tomatoes, tomato paste, seasonings, salt and pepper.  Simmer uncovered for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Make filling:
Beat eggs. Add ricotta and parmesan cheeses, salt and parsley.  Refrigerate until needed.

Cook pasta:
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add salt and cook lasagna noodles according to package directions. Drain.

To assemble:
Spread ½ cup sauce on the bottom of the baking dish. Top with 3 noodles, 1/3 ricotta mixture, 1/3 mozzarella, and 1/4 of the sauce. Repeat 2 more times. Top the last 3 noodles with sauce and cover tightly with foil.  Bake 45 min. Let stand 15 minutes before cutting.


New Twist

Deconstructed Lasagna

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup ricotta
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 8 lasagna noodles
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 2 pints grape tomatoes, halved
  • 2 zucchini (about 1 pound total), halved if large and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon torn fresh basil leaves, plus more for serving

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, combine ricotta, Parmesan, and the 2 teaspoons oil; season with salt and pepper.
  2. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook noodles according to package instructions; drain and separate on kitchen towels. Cut each noodle in half.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high. Add garlic and tomatoes; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until slightly broken down, about 3 minutes. Transfer tomatoes to a bowl.
  4. Add zucchini to the skillet; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until zucchini are tender, about 5 minutes. Transfer to another bowl and stir in basil.
  5. Place some tomatoes in each of four pasta bowls; top with a noodle and a spoonful of ricotta, some zucchini, and more tomatoes. Repeat layering twice, then top with remaining noodles and tomatoes. Garnish with basil.

Old Favorite

BBQ Sirloin Steak

6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup barbecue sauce
  • 2 tablespoons orange marmalade
  • Dash  ground cinnamon
  • 1 boneless beef sirloin steak (1-1/2 lb.), 1-1/2 to 2 inches thick

Directions:

Heat grill to medium-high heat.
Mix barbecue sauce, marmalade and cinnamon.
Grill steak 8 to 10 min. on each side or until medium rare to medium (125 to 130 degrees), brushing with barbecue sauce mixture after turning steak. Let rest 5 minutes before slicing.

New Twist

Baked Steak

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 2 stalks celery, thinly sliced on a diagonal
  • 1 lemon, very thinly sliced
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 1 -2 pound, 2 inch thick sirloin steak
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1⁄4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1⁄4 cup Worcestershire sauce

Directions:

Heat oven to 400°F.

In a roasting pan, combine the mushrooms, celery, lemon slices, onion, oil, and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper.
Season the steak with 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper, rub in the garlic and place steak on top of the vegetables.
In a small bowl, whisk together the ketchup, lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce.
Spoon the ketchup mixture over the top of the steak and roast 30 to 35 minutes for medium-rare (when a meat thermometer registers 125°F). Transfer the meat to a cutting board and let rest at least 5 minutes before slicing. Serve the steak with the vegetables.


Old Favorite

Fried Green Tomatoes with Remoulade Sauce

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 or 4 large firm green tomatoes
  • Salt
  • 2 cups vegetable or peanut oil, for deep-frying
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 cups self-rising flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Slice the tomatoes 1/4-inch thick. Lay them out in a shallow baking pan and sprinkle with salt. Place the tomato slices in a colander and allow time for the salt to pull the water out of the tomatoes, approximately 30 minutes. Drain on paper towels.

Add pepper to the self-rising flour in a shallow bowl.  Pour buttermilk into another shallow bowl.

In a large skillet for deep-frying, heat the oil over medium-high heat.

Dip the tomatoes into buttermilk, then dredge them into flour. Deep-fry until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Serve with the Remoulade Sauce.


Remoulade Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup  mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon chopped shallots
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons capers, drained and chopped
  • 2 teaspoons Creole mustard
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

Combine  mayonnaise and remaining ingredients in a small bowl; stir with a whisk. Chill.

New Twist

Baked Green Tomatoes with Onion Relish

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Italian seasoned Panko crumbs
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • 3 green tomatoes,  each cut into 4 slices
  • Sea Salt

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400° F Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Sprinkle the tomato slices lightly with sea salt.

Combine bread crumbs, olive oil, water, garlic, and Parmesan cheese in a small bowl. Place tomato slices in a single layer on the baking sheet. Divide the crumb mixture evenly over each tomato slice.

Bake about 20 minutes or until brown and crispy. Serve with Onion Relish.

 Onion Relish

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large sweet onions, such as Vidalia, halved lengthwise and sliced
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar, plus more to taste
  • Pinch of salt
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add onions and sugar. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft and most of their liquid has evaporated, 10 to 20 minutes. Uncover and cook, stirring, until onions turn deep golden, 10 to 20 minutes more. (Add 1 or 2 tablespoons water if the onions start to stick.)

  2. Add garlic and rosemary; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add 1/4 cup vinegar and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 3 minutes. Season with salt, pepper and more vinegar, if desired.


Ciro’s Italian Village, Washington, D.C. (1930)
Photo courtesy of Bill Walsh, copy editor at The Washington Post.

In the early 1900’s the Italian Immigrants who came to America lacked a common language and a common interpretation of “Italian cuisine.”  In Italy they had  been sharecroppers and tenant farmers and had become accustomed to living on the foods they grew on their land. While there was no single style of cooking that typified the newly-arrived Italian, one foodstuff that all Italian immigrants had in common was pasta made from soft wheat flour, water, and salt. At the time, semolina pasta made with durum wheat (as we know it today), was a staple for only the Italian upper classes, however, that would change once the newcomers found housing and steady incomes in America.

As they began to form communities in America, the Calabrese settled with other Calabrese; Sicilians with other Sicilians, etc. They cooked the dishes they remembered from Italy, whenever possible, with ingredients close to those they knew from home. These Italian neighborhoods became the ‘Little Italy’ communities in the major cities of the United States. Among the better known are the North End in Boston, North Beach in San Francisco, The Hill in St. Louis, the Bella Vista neighborhood in Philadelphia, Federal Hill in Providence, and the Little Italy quarters of Chicago, Baltimore, and New York.

Commercial pasta production—on a mom-and-pop level—began with the first waves of immigrants. Many set up shops, some in the front parlors of their apartments, to sell their homemade products to neighbors.

Although many worked as laborers and longshoremen, Italians found that even with a $10.00 weekly wage, one could enjoy the semolina pasta and salume (cured meats) they had been unable to afford back home. Tenement living may have been crowded and unpleasant, but semolina pasta—even simply dressed with olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes—gave them a sense of liberation from the oppressive poverty they had known in Italy.  (Source: Almost Italian: A Cookbook & History of Italian Food in America by Skip Lombardi and Holly Chase.)

Following the First World War, pasta was an inexpensive choice at a time when food prices were rising in America. Recipes for spaghetti and tomato sauce started turning up in women’s magazines. American millers found a new use for flour, the consumption of which had decreased as the population moved to cities and began eating  more varied diets, which were not based on bread. The millers sponsored “eat more wheat” campaigns in the early 1920s and promoted macaroni. Pasta makers began using durum wheat, which they advertised as being higher in protein than soft wheat (it is, but not by much). Campbell’s, Heinz and other manufacturers brought out canned macaroni with tomato sauce, joining Franco-American, which in the 1890s had begun to sell canned spaghetti, stressing that it used a French recipe. Cooking pasta long enough to can it safely, institutionalized what was already a long-established practice, one for which Italians still deride Americans—over cooking pasta.  

Semolina Flour

It became acceptable and fashionable  to promote Italian food, even if the pasta was mush and the tomato sauce was full of sugar and salt. One typical recipe for tomato sauce omitted garlic and consisted of canned tomato soup with Worcestershire sauce added. In 1927 Kraft began marketing grated “Parmesan” cheese in a cardboard container with a perforated top and suggested that the cheese be served as a topping for spaghetti with tomato sauce. Spaghetti sales outnumbered those of egg noodles and ran a strong second in popularity to elbow macaroni, called simply macaroni, which was already conventional in salads.

spaghetti and meatballs

Spaghetti and Meatballs

The promotional efforts worked and annual per capita consumption of pasta went from near zero in 1920 to 3¾  pounds by the end of the decade (as compared with fifty pounds in Italy). Restaurants accounted for much of this rise. Cafeterias, which became extremely popular in the twenties, served a great deal of spaghetti and tomato sauce. Italians all over the country opened “spaghetti houses” that served spaghetti and meatballs (purely an Italian American creation) to blue-collar workers. By the end of the twenties Italian restaurants had become the most popular ethnic restaurants in American cities, a lead they now hold nationwide. The Depression made spaghetti less an option than a necessity, and spaghetti and meatballs began appearing regularly on millions of American tables. ( Source: July 1986 ATLANTIC MAGAZINE)

In the mood for some real Italian spaghetti, try these recipes:

Spaghetti with Sausage and Simple Tomato Sauce                                                                                                                

Yield:  4 servings (serving size: 1 1/4 cups)

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces hot Italian pork or turkey sausage links
  • 8 ounces uncooked spaghetti
  • 1 (28-ounce) container Pomi chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup torn fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions:
1. Preheat broiler.
2. Arrange sausage on a small baking sheet. Broil sausage 5 minutes on each side. Remove pan from oven (do not turn broiler off). Cut sausage into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Arrange slices in a single layer on the baking sheet. Broil sausage slices 2 minutes on each side or until browned.
3. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain.
4. Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add crushed red pepper and minced garlic; sauté 1 minute. Stir in tomatoes, sugar, and salt; cook 4 minutes or until slightly thick. Add sausage and cooked pasta to pan; toss well. Top with fresh basil and Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Sautéed Chicken with Pesto Spaghetti                                                                                                     

4 Servings

Ingredients:

Directions:

1. Make the pesto if using homemade.
2. Trim the chicken breasts. If very thick, slice in half lengthwise to create two thin cutlets. Dredge the chicken in the flour.
3. In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil and butter over medium high heat until melted.  Add in the chicken and sauté until browned on each side and almost cooked through – about 3 – 5 minutes per side. (Do not move them until you are ready to turn them – let them caramelize.) Place chicken on a plate and set aside.
4. Add the white wine to the pan and simmer for a few minutes to deglaze. Lower the heat. Add in the stock and simmer for a few minutes.  Taste and add salt and pepper to taste. Return the chicken and any juices to the pan and allow to simmer until cooked through.
5. Meanwhile, bring salted water to boil in a large pasta pot.  Add pasta and cook according to package directions until ‘al dente’. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water and drain pasta.
6. Return pasta to the pot in which it was cooked.  Remove chicken from the sauté pan to a plate. Pour the sauce from the sautéed chicken over the pasta.  Reserve 1/4 cup of the pesto and add the remaining to the pasta.  Stir to incorporate. If dry, add in as much pasta water as needed.
7. Arrange the pasta on a warmed serving plate.  Arrange the chicken over the pasta and top with the reserved pesto.

Spaghetti with Shrimp, Scallops, and Clams                                                                                                 

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 fresh red chili, seeded and finely chopped or 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1 pound fresh clams, scrubbed and rinsed well 
  • 1/2 pound. fresh scallops, cut small
  • 1/2 pound fresh raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped, to serve

Directions:

1.  Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat and sweat the garlic and chili for a few minutes until soft. Add the wine to the pan. Tap the clams on the work surface and discard any that do not close.  Add the clams and scallops to the pan and continue to sweat, taking care that the garlic and chili do not burn. As soon as the clams open (discard any that do not), remove the clams and scallops to a plate and set aside. Add the shrimp to the same pan and saute over medium-high heat for a few minutes until they turn lightly pink. Return the clams and scallops to the pan.  Season with salt and a little black pepper, and toss briefly to heat through.
2.  Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in a large pan of salted boiling water until al dente. Drain and add to the sauce with a tiny amount of the cooking water (just enough to keep the pasta moist). Stir well, transfer to a large serving bowl or individual pasta bowls, and sprinkle with lots of chopped parsley.

Note
How to clean clams:
Scrub the clams well under cold running water to wash away any grit. Put the clams in a large bowl of salted water making sure they are well covered with water (but do not cover the bowl). Soak in the refrigerator for a couple of hours or even overnight – any grit or sand will be left behind in the bottom of the bowl when you remove the clams. Pick out the clams by hand and rinse in plenty of fresh cold water.

Whole Wheat Spaghetti With Artichokes And Ricotta                                                                                                       

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 package frozen artichoke hearts, defrosted
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 pound whole wheat spaghetti
  • 1 cup ricotta
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • Freshly grated Parmesan

Directions:

Melt the butter over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the garlic and as soon as it starts to sizzle, add the artichokes and lemon juice. Add 1/4 cup water, cover the pan, and cook for 5 minutes, or until the artichokes are tender.

Cook the spaghetti according to the package directions until al dente.

Meanwhile, whisk the ricotta, lemon zest and 2 tablespoons of hot pasta water together in a large pasta bowl until creamy. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the parsley.

Reserve about 1/2 cup pasta water and drain the pasta. Add it to the pasta bowl with the ricotta and toss to coat the pasta. If necessary, add a little hot pasta water to attain a creamy consistency. Add the artichokes and toss again. Serve immediately with generous amounts of grated Parmesan.

Spaghetti With Fresh Veggies                                                                                                                     

Makes: 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 16 thin stalks fresh asparagus (or any fresh green vegetable in season)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced or minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 6 medium plum (Roma) tomatoes, seeded and chopped (2 1/4 cups)
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter*
  • 3/4 pound of spaghetti 
  • 1/4 cup shredded fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup fat free half

Directions:

Trim asparagus. Remove tips; set aside. Bias-slice asparagus stalks into 1 1/2-inch pieces; set aside.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add tomatoes and cook about 2 minutes, stirring often.

Add asparagus stalks, wine, and salt. Cook, uncovered, for 3 minutes. Add asparagus tips; cook uncovered, for 1 minutes. Add butter; stir till melted.

Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain pasta. Return to pan and toss with asparagus mixture, half and half and basil.

Note: The butter is used in this recipe to bind the sauce. Margarine might not be an effective substitute.


Shrimp is the most popular seafood in the United States, so it is good to know that it is a naturally renewable and sustainable resource. I live in the heart of shrimp country on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. We are able to purchase wild-caught shrimp year round.  However, not all shrimp is sustainable and there is a big taste difference in the shrimp you buy frozen from the supermarket and US wild-caught shrimp. Most likely the shrimp you bought at the supermarket or the shrimp dish you ordered at a restaurant was not from the sea.

Ninety percent of the shrimp eaten by Americans is imported from countries such as Thailand, India and Ecuador, where industrial shrimp farms are harming the environment and coastal communities, and producing unhealthy, flavorless shrimp. Unlike imported shrimp, US wild-caught shrimp, are unlikely to contain the chemicals that are used heavily on many foreign shrimp farms. The impact on the environment from shrimping in the United States is far less significant than those of many foreign shrimp farms.  Most US shrimp spawn offshore in deep water from early spring through early fall and grow very quickly. Additionally, choosing shrimp from the Gulf, the Carolinas, Maine or Oregon supports the economic well-being of U.S. coastal communities.

There are four species of wild-caught shrimp commercially harvested in the Gulf of Mexico and the South Atlantic waters.  Shrimp species are categorized by shell color: pink, white, brown, and royal red. The majority of the shrimp harvested in my area are the pink species.The meat is white with pink skin tones, firm texture and mild flavor.


Wild-caught white shrimp has a sweet taste and firm, almost “crunchy” meat which makes it a favorite of local chefs to use in a variety of recipes. They are harvested primarily in the fall from October through December. With a lifespan of up to 24 months, they can grow as large as eight inches.

Florida brown shrimp are harvested year round in both the Atlantic and Gulf waters with the highest yields June through August. Brown shrimp are named for their reddish brown shells and have a firmer texture than other varieties due to a higher iodine content. They can grow as large as nine inches long and have a maximum life span of 18 months.

Florida royal reds with their deep red color and soft, delicate texture have a unique taste that you won’t find in any other shrimp. Royal Reds are frozen onboard the ships and contain more salt than other shrimp so do not add salt to the water when cooking. Royal red shrimp are harvested in the deep Atlantic waters off the coast of St. Augustine with peak season in late summer through fall.

Gulf Shrimp Boats

HOW MUCH TO BUY

  • Raw, headless and unpeeled shrimp: 1/3 pound per serving.
  • Peeled and deveined shrimp: 1/6 pound per serving
  • Two pounds of raw, headless, unpeeled shrimp will yield 1 pound of cooked peeled and deveined shrimp.
  • Shrimp are sized and sold by count (number of shrimp per pound) either whole or headless. For example, headless shrimp of 16-20 count means there are 16 to 20 headless shrimp per pound. Counts for headless shrimp range from under 10 (the largest shrimp) to 300-500 (the smallest. 
  • Store shrimp in the coldest part of your refrigerator at 32 degrees F and use within two days, or freeze at 0 degrees F for up to six months.
  • Remember to purchase seafood last and keep it cold during the trip home.

Some of My Favorite Shrimp Recipes

Appetizers

Shrimp with Garlic and Bread Crumbs

  • 1 cup Progresso Italian Panko Crumbs
  • 1/3 cup very finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • big pinch of crushed red pepper
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3-4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • Lemon wedges

1. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Lightly oil a large baking pan.
2. In a bowl, combine the panko crumbs, parsley, garlic, red pepper, lemon juice and zest.  Add 2-3 tablespoons oil, just enough to moisten the crumbs.
3. Arrange the shrimp in the pan in a single layer, curling each one into a circle. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spoon a little of the crumb mixture onto each shrimp. Drizzle with a little more oil.
4. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the size of the shrimp, or until the shrimp turn pink and the crumbs are lightly browned. Serve with lemon wedges.

Grilled Garlic Tomato Shrimp

  • 1 1/2 pounds jumbo shrimp (16 to 20 per pound), shelled and deveined, with tails left intact
  • 4 sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained and patted dry, chopped fine
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Salsa Verde, recipe below

Mince together the tomatoes, garlic, parsley and basil. Turn into a medium bowl and stir in the hot pepper and olive oil. Toss shrimp with the tomato mixture. Keep cold in the refrigerator.
Sprinkle the shrimp with salt and pepper. Cook the shrimp on a lightly oiled, medium-hot grill, about 2 to 3 minutes per side, or until pink and just firm. Serve with Salsa Verde.

Salsa Verde

  • 2/3 cup lightly packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 3 tablespoons drained capers
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 4 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon anchovy paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup low sodium chicken broth


Put the parsley, capers, the garlic clove, the lemon juice, anchovy paste, mustard,  salt, and pepper into a food processor or blender. Pulse just to chop, six to eight times. With the machine running, add the oil and chicken broth in a thin stream to make a slightly coarse puree.


Main Dishes

How to Butterfly Shrimp for Stuffing

1. Use a sharp paring knife to cut along (but not through) the vein line, then open up the shrimp like a book

.

2. Using the tip of the paring knife, cut a 1-inch opening through the center of  the shrimp.

.

3. After the shrimp have been butterflied and the opening has been cut, flip the shrimp over when placing in the baking dish, so that they will curl around the stuffing.


4. Divide the stuffing among the shrimp, firmly pressing the stuffing into the opening and to the edges of the shrimp.

Crab Stuffed Shrimp

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

• 1/2 cup egg substitute
• 1 cup Progresso Italian bread crumbs
• 2 tablespoons light or low fat mayonnaise
• 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
• 1/4 teaspoon oregano
• 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
• 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
• 1/2 pound lump crabmeat
• 1 pound large shrimp
• 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
Lemon wedges

Peel shrimp, leaving tails on; devein and butterfly shrimp according to the directions above.
Place shrimp in a baking dish coated with cooking spray with the tail pointing up and the shrimp curved into a circle. (Fan the tail out for handle)
Mix first 7 ingredients and gently fold into crab meat. Place a spoonful of crab meat mixture on top of the circle. Top with fresh parmesan and place baking dish in 350 degree F. oven for 15 minutes. Serve with lemon wedges.

Stuffed Shrimp Oreganata

  • 1 pound large shrimp (16-20 per pound)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups of fresh bread crumbs
  • (made from Italian bread, crusts removed and processed into crumbs)
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Preheat oven to 375°F.  Peel and devein the shrimp, leaving the tail intact. To butterfly them, follow the directions above.  Line a baking pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper, spray with nonstick spray and arrange the shrimp in a single layer.
Heat the butter and the olive oil over medium heat.  Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, soft and just beginning to turn golden – do not brown. Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, parsley, oregano, crushed red pepper, salt and black pepper. Mix well.
Spoon even portions of the breadcrumb mixture over each of the butterflied shrimp. Using your fingers, gently mold each portion of stuffing around the shrimp. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the shrimp turn pink and opaque. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with lemon juice and serve immediately.
Serves 4

Shrimp Parmigiana


 You will need the following amounts for 2 servings.  Recipe is easily doubled or tripled.

Directions:

Preheat oven to 450°F.  Spray a baking dish that fits the portion of shrimp you are making with cooking spray.

Place the egg substitute in a shallow bowl, and the Panko breadcrumbs in another.

Shrimp in Egg Bath.

Wash and dry the shrimp. Season shrimp with salt and pepper.   Put shrimp in the bowl with the egg substitute to coat and then into the breadcrumbs. Place in the baking dish.

Breading Shrimp with Panko

The shrimp can be prepared ahead up to this point.  Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to bake.

Shrimp Ready to be Baked

Drizzle the top of the shrimp with the olive oil and bake on the middle oven rack for 12 minutes.

Shrimp after Baking in the Oven

 Pour sauce evenly over shrimp and then sprinkle with shredded mozzarella cheese.

Shrimp with sauce and cheese ready to return to the oven.

Return to the oven and heat just until cheese melts about 3-4 minutes.

Shrimp after Cheese has Melted

Shrimp Parmigiana served with Spaghetti


Shrimp Fra Diavolo with Spaghetti

In Italy the phrase “alla fra diavolo”, which means “in Brother Devil’s style,” refers to a dish in which chicken is sprinkled heavily with black pepper and then grilled.  In America, lobster fra diavolo became a popular restaurant dish in the 1930s—it was unknown in Italy, where they do not have American lobsters. The reference to “brother Devil” refers both to the red color of the lobster and the tomato sauce and to the hot bite provided by the chile pepper,  which suggests that this sauce might have originated with Abruzzese cooks who came to this country. Abruzzo is renowned for its hearty and spicy dishes that use hot red peppers, called diavolini (little devils) that grow well in that region of Italy. Crushed red chile peppers give this sauce a better flavor than cayenne pepper but you may need to adjust the amount based on your tolerance for hot peppers. I choose to make this dish with shrimp instead of lobster.

Sauce:
2 (28-ounce) containers Pomi chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 bay leaves
4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
2 medium onions, finely chopped
2 medium carrots, finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 (8-ounce) bottle clam juice
¼ teaspoon kosher or sea salt, taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Shrimp:
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
8 fresh basil leaves, torn into quarters
1 lb.spaghetti

In a Dutch oven heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the bay leaves and stir them in the oil until they begin to brown, about 10 seconds. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, then add the onions, carrots, and oregano. Cook the vegetables until they are soft, about 10 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent them from scorching.
Add the tomatoes, the tomato paste, salt and pepper, and clam juice.  Bring to a boil. Lower the heat, and simmer, partially covered until the sauce thickens, about 1 to 1 ½ hours, stirring occasionally so it doesn’t stick.  Remove bay leaves.
Cook spaghetti according to package instructions.

Stir crushed red pepper into sauce and lay the shrimp in the sauce, increase the heat to medium, and simmer until the shrimp turn pink, 4 to 6 minutes. Adjust the seasonings, add basil and serve over spaghetti.



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