Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

What Is In Season In December?

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This month the market offers lots of festive ingredients in anticipation of the coming holidays. I find it is a great time to perk up your winter dishes with lots of fruit flavors. This week I picked up fennel and apples to enhance some pork cutlets and oranges to give swordfish a new look. Carrots make a great side dish and there are so many recipes you can make with hearty greens. Cranberries add a beautiful red color to breakfast cake that could easily be served on Christmas morning. Check the list above and try something new this week.

Swordfish with Smoked Paprika and Orange Sauce

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Swordfish is a cornerstone food throughout the Mediterranean and swordfish is not endangered anywhere around the United States. The various fish watchdog organizations all give consumers the green light to eat as much swordfish as they want, provided it was caught in North American or Hawaiian waters. The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch gives American swordfish either a “best choice” or “good alternative” rating, depending on how it’s caught.

2 servings

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound swordfish or tuna fillets
Salt
¼ cup flour
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon orange zest
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika
Black pepper

Directions

Cut the swordfish into 2 inch cubes. Salt the fish well and dust the cubes in flour. Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan large enough to hold all the swordfish chunks in one layer. Sear them well on at least two sides. Give the first side 1-2 minutes, then sear other sides for 30 seconds to 1 minute each.

When the swordfish is cooked, remove it to a bowl and reserve. Add the garlic slices and sauté 30 seconds or so — the second it begins to brown, add the orange juice, zest, parsley, nuts and paprika. Toss to combine and cook 1 minute, then add the swordfish back to the pan, toss to combine and cook another 30 seconds or so. Serve at once.

Crispy Pork Cutlets with Fennel Apple Sauce

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4 servings

Ingredients

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
1 egg
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
Four boneless pork cutlets, pounded to 1/4 inch thick
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 apple, peeled and thinly sliced
Lemon wedges, for serving

Directions

In a shallow dish, mix the flour with salt and pepper. In another shallow dish, beat the egg. In a third shallow dish, spread the panko and season with additional salt and pepper. Dredge the pork in the flour, shaking off the excess. Dip the pork in the egg, then dredge in the panko to coat. Place the cutlets on a large plate.

In a large skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter and 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the pork cutlets and cook over moderately high heat until golden, 2 minutes. Turn the cutlets over, and cook until just golden on the outside and white throughout, about 2 minutes more. Transfer the cutlets to a paper towel-lined plate.

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Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil and butter to the skillet. Add the fennel and onion and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until light golden and crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice and apple slices and season with salt and pepper. Cook for an additional 2 minutes. Place the cutlets back in the pan and let them heat in the fennel mixture for a few minutes. Place the cutlets on a serving platter and top with the fennel mixture. Serve with lemon wedges.

Sautéed Carrots

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2 servings

Ingredients

3 medium carrots, peeled
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon dried marjoram

Directions

Cut the carrots diagonally into 1/4-inch thick slices. Place the carrots, 2 tablespoons water, the salt and pepper in a medium skillet and bring to a boil. Cover the pan and cook over medium-low heat for 4-5 minutes. Add the butter and marjoram and saute for another minute, until the water evaporates and the carrots are coated with butter.

Cranberry Orange Breakfast Cake

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Topping

1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Cake

2-1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour; more for the dusting the pan
1-1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups fresh or defrosted frozen cranberries
1-1/2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
½ cup softened unsalted butter
3 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk

Directions

Position a rack in the middle of the oven, and heat the oven to 350°F.  Lightly butter and flour a 9×13-inch baking pan.
Combine the walnuts, brown sugar, cinnamon and butter in a mixing bowl. Using your hands form the mixture into crumbs.,

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the cranberries and orange zest and mix.
In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a medium mixing bowl, mix the ½ cup butter on low-speed with the stand mixer’s paddle attachment or on medium-low speed with a hand mixer until smooth. Add the sugar gradually and continue mixing on low until slightly fluffy. Scrape the bowl and beater. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until smooth after each addition.

Stop the mixer, scrape the bowl and beater, and add half the flour mixture. On low-speed (for either mixer), mix until the flour drifts disappear and then add half the buttermilk; mix until just blended. Repeat with the remaining flour and buttermilk. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix until smooth. 

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Pour into the prepared pan and sprinkle the top with the crumb mixture. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the middle of the bread comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

Cake can be served warm. Dust with powdered sugar for a pretty presentation.

Spinach and Cheese Pie

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Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onions
1 pound frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons dried dill
8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
1 1/2 cups whole-milk ricotta cheese
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1⁄2 lb. frozen phyllo dough, thawed
Melted butter or butter cooking spray

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Butter a 2 quart baking dish.

Heat olive oil in a saucepan. Add the onions and sauté until tender, about 3 minutes. Add spinach and cook 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat.
Stir in lemon zest, dill and feta cheese into spinach mixture. Combine ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese and egg in a small bowl. Stir until well blended. Add to the spinach mixture. Add salt, pepper and stir well.

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Working quickly so that phyllo doesn’t dry out, line the baking pan with 10 sheets of phyllo, brushing each sheet with butter after you place it in the pan. Fan the sheets out towards the edge of the pan, making sure the bottom is covered. Allow excess to hang over the sides. Spoon filling into pan. Drape remaining layers of phyllo over filling, one at a time, brushing each with butter. Brush top with butter, then neatly fold overhanging phyllo over the top, and brush with remaining butter. Bake until golden, about 1 hour. Cool for 30 minutes before serving.


Cooking the Italian Provinces – Genova

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Genoa is located in the region of Liguria and it is a historical port city in northern Italy. Today, it is often overshadowed by cities such as Rome or Venice, even though it has a long history as a rich and powerful trade center. The birthplace of the explorer Christopher Columbus with its multitude of architectural gems, excellent cuisine, renovated old port, beautiful sights and its position as the European Capital of Culture in 2004 have made this an interesting area to visit.

The main features of central Genoa include the Piazza De Ferrari, the Opera House and the Palace of the Doges. There is also a house where Christopher Columbus is said to have been born. Much of the city’s art is found in its churches and palaces, where there are numerous Renaissance, Baroque and Rococo frescoes. The Palazzo di San Giorgio was once the headquarters of the Bank of Saint George and it is in this area that Marco Polo and Rustichello da Pisa composed, The Travels of Marco Polo.

Piazza de Ferrari

Piazza de Ferrari

The city is spread out geographically along a section of the Liguria coast, which makes trading by ship possible. Before the invention of the car, train and airplane, the main outside access for the city was the sea, as the surrounding mountains made trade north by land more difficult than coastal trade. Trade routes have always connected Genoa on an international scale and the harbor was important to the merchants for their own economic success. The port of Genoa also contains an ancient Lighthouse called “La Lanterna”.

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Recently, Renzo Piano redeveloped the port for public access, restoring the historical buildings and creating new landmarks like the Aquarium, the Bigo and the “Bolla” (the Sphere). The main touristic attractions of this area are the famous Aquarium and the Museum of the Sea (MuMA). In 2007 these attracted almost 1.7 million visitors.The Aquarium of Genoa is the largest aquarium in Italy and amongst the largest in Europe. Built for the Genoa Expo ’92, it is an educational, scientific and cultural center. Its mission is to educate and raise public awareness as about conservation, management and responsible use of aquatic environments.

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Popular foods in the Genoese cuisine include Pesto sauce, garlic sauce called “Agliata” and walnut sauce called “Salsa di Noci”. There are many varieties of pasta, such as Trenette, Corzetti, Trofie, Pansotti, Croxetti and Testaroli.

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Fresh pasta (usually trofie) or trenette with pesto sauce is probably the most well-known among Genoese dishes. Pesto sauce is prepared with fresh basil, pine nuts, grated parmesan, garlic and olive oil pounded together.

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Typical pizzas include pizza with potatoes or onions, “Farinata” and Focaccia with cheese also called “Focaccia di Recco”.

Fish is a key ingredients in the Genoese cuisine and the many varieties include, Sardines, Anchovies, Garfish, Swordfish, Tuna, Octopus, Squid, Mussels and stoccafisso (Stockfish).

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Other popular dishes of Genoese tradition are tripe cooked in various sauces and Minestrone alla Genovese, a thick soup made out of several vegetables and legumes, such as potatoes, beans, green beans, cabbages, pumpkins and zucchini. Important and popular soup dishes which are common to the area include: Bagnun – anchovy soup, Ciuppin (the precursor to San Francisco’s Cioppino, Buridda – another tomato based fish soup, Zemin (a soup with garbanzo beans), Sbira, tripe soup and Preboggion, rice soup. Other specialties are “Ravioli al sugo”, Gianchetti that is sardine and anchovy based, “Tomaxelle” or stuffed veal rolls, Cappon magro – a seafood and vegetable salad, the famous “Cima alla Genovese” a pork roll, “Torta Pasqualina” a spinach torte very similar to Spanakopita, “Pandolce” a Christmas sweet bread and “Sacripantina” a Genovese Butter Cake.

Genoa Butter Cake

Genoa Butter Cake

Genoa Recipes To Make At Home

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Minestrone alla Genovese

Ingredients

1/4 pound cannellini or borlotti (cranberry) beans, soaked overnight
3 tablespoons Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 leeks, washed and chopped, white part only
1 medium eggplant (1 pound), peeled and diced
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
2 ribs celery, sliced
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
2 medium tomatoes, diced
2 cups hot chicken broth
4 cups hot water, plus extra if needed
1 cup chopped raw spinach
1 cup diced zucchini
1 cup shredded green cabbage
1/4 pound vermicelli or stelline pasta
3 tablespoons Basil Pesto
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Drain the beans from the overnight soaking water, place them in a pot, cover with water, cook about 30 minutes or until still quite al dente, and set aside.
In a large pot, heat the oil. Add the onion, leeks, eggplant, carrots, celery and potatoes and sauté for about 8 minutes, or until the vegetables just begin to exude their juices.
Add the tomatoes, hot broth, hot water, beans and additional hot water to just cover the mixture. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer, and cook covered for about 30 minutes.
Add the spinach, zucchini, cabbage and pasta and cook another 20 minutes or until the pasta is al dente. Stir in the pesto. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve.

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Walnut Sauce

Ingredients

1 cup walnut pieces
1 cup (1/2-inch) cubes day-old rustic bread plus milk to cover
Coarse sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 garlic clove,
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup fresh ricotta cheese
1/3 cup Parmesan Cheese
A generous  handful of fresh Marjoram
1/4 cup of heavy cream (or Greek Yogurt)
1 lb Pansotti or store-bought vegetable and cheese ravioli or dried pasta

Directions

Soak the bread in milk to cover until soft, then drain.
In a kitchen blender, combine nuts, the soaked bread, 3/4 teaspoon salt, pepper, parmesan cheese and the fresh marjoram. Add garlic and process until the mixture is smooth and almost becoming a paste but not too fine. Working with 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time, drizzle in all but about 2 tablespoons of the oil, processing and mixing to incorporate as you go. Once the mixture is smooth, transfer to a bowl and add the ricotta cheese mixing well. Then add the cream and remaining oil. Mix well until the sauce is combined. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.
Bring a large wide pot of salted water to a boil. Boil pansotti, ravioli or pasta until al dente. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a colander to drain, then transfer to a large bowl; reserve 1/4 cup pasta cooking liquid. Once all of the pansotti are cooked, add the walnut sauce and pasta cooking liquid; gently toss to combine. Serve immediately with a generous serving of Parmesan cheese, fresh cracked pepper and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

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Sea Bass Genoa Style

Ingredients

2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 pound tomatoes, cut into large chunks
3/4 cup pitted green olives
1/4 cup torn basil leaves
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Two 3-pound whole sea bass or red snapper, or cut into fillets
1/2 cup pine nuts

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425° F. In a very large roasting pan, toss the potatoes, tomatoes, olives and basil with 1/2 cup of the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
Rub each fish or the fillets with the 3 tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Set the fish in the roasting pan with the vegetables. Roast for about 30 minutes for the fillets or 40 minutes for the whole fish, until the vegetables are tender and the fish are cooked through.
Meanwhile, in a small skillet, toast the pine nuts over moderate heat, stirring, until golden, about 3 minutes. Spoon the pine nuts over the fish and vegetables in the roasting pan and serve right away.

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Pandolce

Ingredients

½ teaspoon active dry yeast
½ cup warm milk
½ cup butter, softened, plus additional for greasing
¾ cup sugar
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
½ teaspoon ground coriander
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 teaspoons orange flower water
3½ cups flour
1/2 cup dried currants
1/3 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup finely chopped candied orange rind
1/3 cup pine nuts

Directions

Dissolve the yeast in the milk in a small bowl. Set aside until foamy, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, beat the butter in an electric mixer and gradually add the sugar, beating until the mixture is light and fluffy. Stir in the fennel seeds and coriander, then add the egg, vanilla and orange flower water; mix thoroughly. Add milk and dissolved yeast and mix. (Mixture may appear slightly curdled.)
Gradually add flour, mixing thoroughly. When the dough is smooth, mix in the currants, raisins, orange rind and pine nuts (dough will be moist). Transfer the dough to a large greased bowl. Cover with a clean dish towel and set aside in a warm place to rise for 3–4 hours. (Dough may only rise a little; this is a dense bread.)
Preheat the oven to 375° F. Wet hands (dough will be sticky) and transfer to a greased cookie sheet. Shape into a 6″ round and bake until golden, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Cool completely. To serve, cut or break into small pieces and serve with sweet wine, if desired. (Store in an airtight container.)

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Had Enough Turkey?

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How about Italian?

Since Thursday – when we had the traditional Thanksgiving feast – we have had leftover turkey dinner night and turkey sandwiches for lunch. So tonight it is a total menu change – Italian Shells Stuffed with Ricotta with Meatballs and Italian Sausage.

Ricotta Stuffed Shells 

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Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for the pan
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (chili) flakes
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 4 medium cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • Half a sweet onion, finely diced
  • Two 26-28 ounce containers finely chopped Italian tomatoes

Filling:

  • 2 lbs (32 oz) container whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 1 cup grated mozzarella
  • ½ cup chopped parsley
  • 24 jumbo dried pasta shells

Directions

Oil two 13 x 9-inch baking pans, or equivalent. Set aside.

Bring a big pot of water to boiling and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

To make the sauce:

Combine the olive oil, red pepper flakes, sea salt, onion and garlic in a cold saucepan. Stir while you heat the saucepan over medium-high heat. Saute just 45 seconds or so until everything is fragrant – you don’t want the garlic to brown. Stir in the tomatoes and heat.  Simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from the  heat and let cool.

To make the filling:

Combine the ricotta, egg, parsley and salt in a medium bowl. Mix until combined, then stir in the mozzarella. Set aside.

To make the pasta:

Cook the shells according to package instructions in well-salted water – until barely al dente. Don’t overcook the shells or they will tear as you attempt to fill them. Drain and let cool  on kitchen towels until you can handle them with your hands.

Spread 1/3 of the sauce across the bottom of each prepared pan. Fill each shell with ricotta filling, and arrange in a single layer in the pan. Ladle the remaining sauce over the shells, cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes, uncover for the final 15 minutes or until the shells are cooked through and the cheese is bubbly. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese.

Serves 6-8

Meatballs and Italian Sausage

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For the Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Half medium sweet onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • One 26-32 oz container imported chopped Italian tomatoes (Preferably without salt or sugar added)
  • 6 oz can (170 g) tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (chili)
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt  
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 or 4 basil leaves

For the Meatballs and Sausage

  • 2 lbs lean ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 slices sandwich bread, crusts removed
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 lb Italian sausage

Directions

To make the sauce:

Heat the oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Add the sausage and brown on all sides; then remove to a plate. Slice the sausage into 3-inch lengths,

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Add the onion and garlic and saute until the onion is soft. Add the tomato paste and fill the empty can with water and add it to the pot.

Stir well and cook the paste a minute or two. Add the chopped tomatoes and the remaining ingredients. Bring the sauce to a boil, lower the heat to low.

Place the lid on the pot but leave it ajar and cook the sauce until thick, about 2 hours. When the meatballs and sausage are browned, add them to the sauce after it has been cooking for 1 hour.

Stir the meatballs carefully so they do not break.

Place the meatballs and sausage in a large bowl and pour some of the sauce over the meat. Serve extra sauce on the side.

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To make the meatballs:

Combine the bread cubes with the milk in a mixing bowl and set aside.

Heat the oil in a small skillet and add the onion and garlic.Cook until the onion is soft. Remove the pan from the heat and cool the onion to room temperature.

In a large  mixing bowl combine the beef with the cooled onion, the bread and the soaking liquid with the rest of the ingredients. Mix well and form the mixture into 12 meatballs.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and cover a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Place the meatballs on the baking sheet and bake the meatballs until brown all over, about 20 minutes.

Italian Mixed Green Salad

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Any of the following:

  • Mixed baby lettuces
  • Cucumber, peeled and sliced
  • Olives
  • Tomatoes
  • Red onion, sliced
  • Italian vinaigrette

Toss the ingredients together just before serving.

Some Of My Favorite Thanksgiving Recipes

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Spinach-Stuffed Tomatoes

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6 servings

Ingredients

  • 6 medium tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

Cut a thin slice off the top of each tomato. Scoop out the pulp, leaving a 1/2-inch thick shell. Invert tomatoes onto paper towels to drain.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet. Add spinach and garlic; cook until tender, about 3-4 minutes.

In a bowl, combine bread crumbs and Italian seasoning. Add the spinach and cheese to the crumb mixture. Sprinkle tomato shells with salt and pepper and stuff with the spinach mixture.

Place in a greased 13-inch x 9-inch baking dish. Bake, uncovered, at 375° F for 20-25 minutes.

Italian Baked Macaroni and Cheese

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8 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 pound small shell macaroni
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 2 cups shredded Italian Fontina cheese
  • Salt
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup plain bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions

Bring 4 quarts water to a boil in a large pot for cooking the pasta. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Coat a 13×9 baking dish with cooking spray; set aside.

Dice the butter and place in a large bowl. Warm the half & half in the microwave, about 1 minute. Cover to keep warm. Shred the Fontina cheese and add to the bowl with the butter. Set aside.

When the water comes to a boil, add salt and the shells and cook until they are 1 to 2 minutes shy of al dente. Drain.

Add the warm half & half to the Fontina and butter. Stir until the cheese starts to melt. Season with salt to taste and the nutmeg.

Stir the shells into the bowl with the cheese. Toss to coat well. Pour the mixture into the baking dish.

Combine the breadcrumbs and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese; sprinkle over the pasta.

Bake until the sauce is bubbling and the topping turns golden brown, about 20 minutes. Serve immediately.

Glazed Cipollini Onions

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Cipollini means little onion in Italian.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 16 cipollini onions, trimmed and peeled
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Heat olive oil in a medium ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add onions, stem side down, and cook, until lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn and continue browning on opposite side, about 2 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper.

Add vinegar and honey; cook, until slightly syrupy, about 2 minutes. Add chicken broth, thyme, and garlic; bring to a boil. Transfer skillet to oven and roast until onions are easily pierced with the tip of a sharp knife, 15 to 20 minutes.

Olive Oil and Spinach Mashed Potatoes

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Ingredients

  • 2 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 package frozen spinach, defrosted
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 1 rosemary sprig, leaves removed and chopped
  • 1 thyme sprig, leaves removed and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Directions

In a large saucepan, cover potatoes with cold water by 2 inches and add 1 tablespoon coarse salt and the garlic cloves. Bring to a boil; cook until the potatoes are very tender and easily pierced with a fork, 20 to 25 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup potato cooking water. Drain; transfer to a large bowl.

Heat together the milk, spinach, chopped rosemary leaves and chopped thyme leaves then remove from the heat, cover and set aside to infuse flavors.

Using a potato masher, mash the potatoes with the olive oil and some of the reserved cooking water as needed to moisten. Add the milk and spinach mixture.  Stir until well combined and season with salt and pepper.

Pecan Pie

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  • Single Pie Crust Dough

For the filling

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

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Roll out the dough and [lace in a 9 inch pie plate.

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

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

Apple Pie

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  • Double Pie Dough Crust

For the Filling

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

Topping (optional)

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

Directions

To prepare filling:

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

To assemble & bake the pie:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cooking The Italian Provinces With Faith Willinger

 

faith_willinger_20001My friend, Andy, recently gave me a cookbook titled, Adventures of an Italian Food Lover by Faith Heller Willinger. The author’s name was familiar to me because I have been cooking from her book, Red, White, and Greens: The Italian Way with Vegetables, for a long time. You can also check out a column she wrote for The Atlantic Monthly by visiting this site: http://www.theatlantic.com/author/faith-willinger/

In the Adventures book, Faith takes readers to country markets and busy city shops, to wineries in rural villages, to kitchens in restaurants and into private homes where her friends share their recipes – real Italian recipes.

Additionally, Willinger introduces the reader to the people of Italy: the grocers who stock homemade artisan cheeses and salumi, winemakers, Tuscan bakers, butchers and chocolatiers. Each entry is followed by a recipe. The recipes include some classic Italian dishes that will be familiar, but most are as authentic and original as the people Ms. Willinger profiles in the book. Actually these profiles are one of the best features in the book.

Even if you’re practiced in making Italian food, there’s still much to learn from Ms. Willinger.  She includes information on the most important ingredients, explaining such things as why certain dry pastas are superior to others, what goes into making Italy’s best cheeses, how to select the best olive oils and what distinguishes an artisanal ricotta from another more ordinary one.

The book can also function as a guidebook for travelers because she includes web sites, hours of operation and contact information that make arranging a personal visit easy.

Here are a few recipes from the book for you to try. The book is divided into three major areas of Italy: Northern and Central Italy; Tuscany and Southern Italy and the Islands.

From Chapter 1 – Northern and Central Italy

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Bellini Cocktail

Willinger adapted this recipe from Walter Bolzonella’s recipe, a barman of the Hotel Cipriani in Venice.

Serves 2

For the peach puree:

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 to 3/4 pound ripe white peaches
  • 2 teaspoons sugar

For the drinks:

  • A few raspberries, if desired, for color
  • 1 bottle Prosecco sparkling wine

Directions

Put the water and lemon juice in a bowl. Peel, pit and slice the peaches. Immerse them in the acidulated water, so they don’t discolor and macerate for at least 10 minutes or up to 6 hours.

Drain the peaches, reserving 2 to 3 tablespoons of the liquid. In a food processor or blender, puree the peaches with the sugar and reserved liquid. Use more sugar if the peaches are very tart

but this is not a sweet drink. If the peaches don’t have pink veins (which lend a Bellini its rosy hue), add a few raspberries to the mixture before pureeing.

Transfer the mixture to a jar or bottle and chill thoroughly.

Pour cold peach puree into a pitcher. Add one bottle of chilled Prosecco sparkling wine and stir gently. Pour into glasses and drink at once.

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Zabaione

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 3 egg yolks at room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons Moscato d’Asti wine
  • Butter or hazelnut cookies or fresh fruit or berries

Directions

Place the ingredients in a 1 ½-2 quart pot (use a copper or stainless steel bowl with a rounded bottom, holding the bowl with a pot holder)

Begin beating at high-speed with a mixer until foamy. Place the pot over medium heat and continue beating.  Mixture will grow greatly in volume and thicken.  Remove the pot from the heat when the mixture feels warm and continue beating.  

Place back over the heat, beating the whole time, removing the pot from the heat when it seems to be heating up too much. Practice makes perfect.  

The zabaione will be thick and foamy, warm but not hot to the touch.  Serve in individual glass serving bowls with butter or hazelnut cookies on the side.  Or over berries or sliced fresh soft ripe fruit like peaches or mango.

Chapter 2 – Tuscany

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Ricotta-Stuffed Zucchini Flowers

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 1 cup ricotta, fresh, if possible, or sheep’s milk ricotta
  • 12-16 fresh zucchini flowers
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Fine sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh basil

Directions

If your ricotta is watery, drain it in a sieve to remove excess whey. Soak the zucchini flowers in cool water, then gently spin-dry in a salad spinner. Removing the stamens is unnecessary.

Pack the ricotta into a pastry bag — I use a disposable one and simply cut the tip off the end. Insert the end of the pastry bag into the zucchini flowers and pipe one or two spoonfuls of ricotta into each.

Drizzle one tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil in a large non-stick skillet. Place the stuffed flowers in the skillet in a single layer and the place pan over the highest heat.

When the pan heats and the oil begins to sizzle, cover and cook for four to six minutes or until the flowers are hot, steamed by the moisture of the ricotta.

Transfer to a serving dish and top with pepper and salt, minced basil, and the remaining extra virgin olive oil.

2black-grape-schiacciata

Etruscan Grape Tart

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients

  • 1 package active dry yeast (2 ½ teaspoons)
  • ¾ cups warm water
  • 3 tablespoons Chianti — drink the rest with dinner
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 ½ – 2 ¾ cups soft wheat flour (Italian “00” or White Lily flour)
  • ¼ cup Tuscan extra virgin olive oil, plus more for oiling the bowl
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • Around 1 ¾ pounds wine, Concord, or red Grace grapes
  • 6 tablespoons sugar

Directions

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water, wine and honey in a large bowl. Let sit for 10 minutes or until bubbles form. Stir in ¾ cup flour — it doesn’t have to be smooth because lumps will dissolve. Cover and let rise for 1 hour.

Add the olive oil, salt and 1 ½ cups flour. Knead dough until smooth and elastic. Add up to ½ cup additional flour if necessary so it isn’t sticky. Shape into a ball, place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover, and let rise for 1 ½ hours.

Punch the dough down and divide into two pieces. Roll each piece out to a rough 10 by 16-inch rectangle. Place one rectangle on parchment paper on a cookie sheet (or use a nonstick cookie sheet), scatter the dough with half the grapes and sprinkle with 3 tablespoons sugar.

Use the second rectangle of dough to cover the bottom layer. Sprinkle the remaining grapes on the dough, gently press the grapes into the dough, and sprinkle with 3 tablespoons sugar. Cover with plastic wrap and a dishtowel and let rise for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until dark brown. Remove from the pan while still warm and spoon excess juice over the tart. Serve at room temperature.

From Chapter 3 – Southern Italy

4316

Spaghetti with Walnuts and Anchovies

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 2 whole salt-cured anchovies, filleted, or 4–6 canned anchovy fillets
  • 3–4 tablespoons coarsely chopped walnuts
  • Chili pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
  • Coarse sea salt
  • 14–16 ounces spaghetti

Directions

Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet and sauté the garlic over low heat until it barely begins to color. Add the anchovy fillets and, with a wooden spoon, mash them until they dissolve into the oil. Add the walnuts, chili pepper and parsley; stir to combine and remove from heat.

Bring 5 to 6 quarts of water to a rolling boil. Add about 3 tablespoons of sea salt, then add the spaghetti and cook until it offers considerable resistance to the tooth, approximately three-quarters of the package-recommended cooking time. Drain the pasta, reserving 2 cups of the starchy pasta cooking water.

Add the spaghetti to the sauce in the skillet along with 1/2 cup reserved pasta-cooking water, and cook over high heat, stirring with a wooden fork, until the pasta is cooked al dente, adding a little more pasta water as the sauce dries.

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Sweet & Sour Lemon Sauce

Use as a sauce for fish.

For the candied zest:

  • 2 Meyer lemons
  • 1 orange
  • 6 tablespoons coarse sea salt
  • 1/2 cup wildflower honey
  • 1 cup sugar

Directions

Peel the zest from the lemons in strips, leaving 1/4-inch pulp attached to the zest. Peel the orange the same way.

Put the zests in a bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons salt; add 1 cup water and weight down with a small plate to keep zests submerged for 1 to 2 hours. Rinse and drain.

Bring 10 cups of water to a rolling boil, Add the remaining 4 tablespoons of salt and the zests and when the water returns to a rolling boil, remove from heat and let zests cool completely in the salted water. Drain zests.

Combine the honey, sugar and 2 1/4 cups of fresh water in a small pot and bring to a simmer. Add the drained zest and cook over lowest heat, less than a simmer, for 40 minutes.

Remove from the heat and let zest cool in the syrup overnight. The next day, bring the syrup back to a simmer, lower the heat and cook for 1 hour. Remove from the heat and cool completely.

Repeat the process one more time, cooking zest on the lowest heat for 30 minutes. Store zest in its syrup in a jar.

For the sauce:

  • 3 1/2 Meyer lemons
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 1 tablespoon minced celery
  • Fine sea salt
  • White pepper
  • 3 tablespoons chopped candied lemon zest

Directions

Trim three lemons with a knife, cutting the rind away down to the pulp. Section the lemon into wedges, cutting between the white connective membranes.

Squeeze the juice from the remains of the lemons into a measuring cup and add the wedges. You should have about 1/2 cup.

Squeeze the juice from the remaining 1/2 lemon and add it to the wedges. In a small saucepan, add the oil and saute the garlic and celery over medium heat until the celery barely begins to color.

Add the lemon wedges and juice and cook, mashing the mixture with a wooden spoon, until the mixture is pulpy. Remove the garlic. Season the lemon mixture with salt and white pepper.

If the sauce is too tart, add a spoonful or two of syrup from the candied zest. Transfer lemon mixture to a blender and add candied zest. Blend until smooth.

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Using Up The Leftovers

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Over the past week and a half, I cooked several meals that yielded plenty of leftovers. My plan was to create some new ways to use these leftovers and this post is the result of that planning. The chicken breasts were really an economical buy because they yielded 3 different meals. The same with the pot roast. There was also plenty of kale remaining to make a hearty soup and the leftover stuffing makes a great breakfast hash.

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Chicken Divan Redo

Roasted chicken recipe: https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2016/11/14/dinners-in-the-oven/

2 servings

  • 6 leftover roasted broccoli floret spears
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups reserved lemon broth from the roasted chicken or use chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup well-chilled half & half
  • 1/4 cup freshly shredded Italian fontina cheese
  • 4 leftover roasted chicken slices
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons Italian breadcrumbs
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika

Directions

In a heavy saucepan combine the broth and flour. Stir until the flour is absorbed. Add the half & half and mix well. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring, and then simmer until thickened  

Stir in the cheese and season the sauce with salt and pepper, if needed. Heat until the cheese is melted.

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Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Arrange the broccoli in two individual baking dishes or in a 2-quart gratin dish and pour half the sauce over it.

Arrange the chicken on top of the broccoli, pour the remaining sauce over it. Sprinkle the top with of each dish with one tablespoon of the breadcrumbs and sprinkle each with paprika.

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Cut two pieces of foil just large enough to cover the dishes. Coat the foil with cooking spray and use that side to cover the dishes. Bake the covered dishes for 10 minutes.

Remove the foil and continue to bake  until the top is golden and bubbling, about 15 minutes.

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Individual Shepherd’s’ Pie

I had served the pot roast with mashed potatoes and made extra potatoes so I would have some leftover.

Pot roast recipe: https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2016/11/11/how-to-keep-beef-recipes-healthy/

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups diced leftover pot roast and gravy
  • 2 carrots, diced carrots
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 2 cups leftover mashed potatoes

Directions

Combine the pot roast, peas and carrots in a mixing bowl. Divide the mixture in half and place it in two individual ovenproof dishes.

Spread half of the potatoes over the mixture in one dish and spread the remaining potatoes over the mixture in the second dish.

(You can even fix this earlier in the day and refrigerate until dinner time.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Bake the casseroles for about 30 minutes or until the potato topping is golden brown.

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Caesar Salad with Leftover Roasted Chicken

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups chicken cut into cubes
  • 1/2 head Romaine lettuce, washed and finely chopped
  • 1 cup croutons, see recipe below
  • Grated Parmesan cheese and freshly ground black pepper for garnish

Dressing

  • 1 anchovy, finely chopped or use anchovy paste
  • 3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise made with olive oil, if available
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

Add the anchovy, Parmesan cheese, mayonnaise, lemon juice, mustard, garlic and Worcestershire sauce to a bowl and whisk together.

Gradually whisk in the 1/4 cup of olive oil, whisking until the dressing is emulsified.

Place the chopped lettuce in a bowl and toss it with the dressing, cubed chicken and croutons. Top the salad with extra cheese and freshly ground black pepper.

Croutons

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cubed bread
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In mixing bowl combine the bread cubes and olive oil. Toss well to coat.

Pour the bread cubes onto a baking sheet. Spread them into a single layer.

Bake in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring every five minutes to prevent burning.

Cool completely before storing in an airtight container or ziplock bag.

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Kale and Lima Bean Soup

I used homemade cooked dried baby lima beans for this soup, but you can use canned white beans, if you choose.

Kale recipe link

 

 

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Serves 8-10

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 10 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth or homemade broth
  • 4 cups packed chopped fresh kale or 2 cups leftover cooked kale
  • 1 large fresh tomato, diced
  • 4 cups home cooked dried baby lima beans or canned no-salt-added cannellini beans, drained
  • 3 large carrots, cut into coins
  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
  • Grated Parmesan cheese for garnish

Directions

In a large soup pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and carrots and cook 3 minutes. Add the garlic and Italian seasoning; cook 2 minutes longer.

Add broth, kale, tomatoes and beans and heat thoroughly. Serve hot with grated cheese and Italian bread.

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Easy Hash and Eggs

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 cups of leftover Italian bread and sausage stuffing, (see link above from Dinner’s In The Oven)
  • 4 large eggs

Directions

In a medium skillet with a cover, heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the butter.

Add the stuffing, flatten with a spatula and cook until light golden brown and crispy on the bottom. Gently turn the stuffing over and cook for 3-4 minutes more.

With a large spoon make four round holes in the stuffing mixture. Crack eggs, one at a time, into a small bowl and gently pour into each hole in the stuffing.

Cover the pan and cook the eggs to your likeness or until the whites are completely set and the yolks begin to thicken but are not hard. Serve immediately.

Cauliflower Pasta For Dinner

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The earthy flavor of cauliflower is the perfect complement to pasta. Adding vegetables to pasta stretches the pasta and adds more nutrients to your diet. Though cauliflower has a bland taste on its own, it is a highly regarded vegetable. In Italian cuisine, cauliflower is often paired with pasta because it absorbs flavor from the spices and sauces used in preparing the recipes.

According to research studies, water boiling and blanching have the biggest impact on reducing cauliflower’s nutrients. These methods cause significant losses of  protein, mineral and phytochemical nutrients after five minutes of boiling. Instead, cauliflower kept its nutrients most intact when microwaved or gently stir fried. The very best method for cooking cauliflower seems to be gently sautéing it on the stove top, with a bit of water, broth, lemon juice or a healthy source of fat which can make its nutrients more absorbable. Of course eating it raw, perhaps dipped in some healthy hummus or another type of dip, also preserves its nutrients.

Since cauliflower is in season now, I try to think of a variety ways to cook this great vegetable and combining it with pasta is a family favorite. This recipe can be used with any vegetable that is in season.

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Cauliflower Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Half a large onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 8-10 sage leaves, sliced
  • 1 head of cauliflower, trimmed and cut into small florets
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • ½ cup of pureed sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil
  • ½ cup white wine
  • Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • ½ cup chopped parsley
  • ½ cup diced Italian Fontina cheese
  • 1 lb short pasta, preferably with ridges (I used trofiette – short, twisted spaghetti shape)

Directions

In a large skillet cook the onion and garlic in the oil until the onion is tender. Add the sage and cauliflower and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the cauliflower softens a bit. Don’t overcook cauliflower or it loses its taste and nutrients.

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Add the tomato paste and wine and cook for a few minutes. Stir in the sun-dried tomato puree and crushed red pepper. Heat gently.

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Boil a large pot of salted water and cook the pasta until al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water. Drain the pasta and add to the skillet with the reserved pasta water. Stir well. Turn the pasta out into a large serving bowl and add the parsley and cheese. Stir well and serve.

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Cucumber Fennel Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 large cucumber, peeled, halved lengthways, deseeded and cut into thin half moons
  • ¼ red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup oil cured Italian olives

Dressing

  • 1 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon fresh oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions

In a medium salad bowl whisk the dressing ingredients together. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Cover the dish and refrigerate until well chilled.


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