Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Monthly Archives: March 2013

Asparagus season varies based on the climate in which it is grown, though it typically matures in early summer in the US northern latitudes and even earlier in southern states, like Texas. In tropical regions of the world, such as the state of Hawaii or warm Mediterranean climates like those of southern Italy and Greece, asparagus season is year round. The plant, however, only lasts 90 days per season, so crops need to be planted incrementally to receive a steady harvest throughout the year.

A member of the lily family, asparagus comes from the Greek word, asparagos, which first appeared in English print around 1000 A.D. It cannot be definitively traced to any one specific area of origin, although it is known to be native to the eastern Mediterranean and Asia Minor areas.

As early as 200 BC, Cato , a Roman statesman and author, gave excellent growing instructions for asparagus, in his work, De Agri Cultura. The ancient Egyptians cultivated asparagus and Romans, from Pliny to Julius Caesar to Augustus, prized the wild variety. “As quick as cooking asparagus” was an old Roman saying meaning something accomplished rapidly.

The asparagus growing beds in Northern Italy were famous during the Renaissance period. These graceful spears have always been a sign of elegance, and in times past, were a delicacy only the wealthy could afford. Roman emperors were so fond of asparagus, that they kept a special asparagus fleet for the purpose of fetching it.

Asparagus spears grow from a crown planted in sandy soils and, under ideal conditions, can grow 10 inches in a 24-hour period. The most common types are green, but you might see two others in supermarkets and restaurants: white, which is more delicate and difficult to harvest, and purple, which is smaller and fruitier.

This large vegetable is one of the most nutritionally well-balanced vegetables — high in folic acid and a good source of potassium, fiber, thiamin and vitamins A, B6 and C.  A 5-ounce serving provides 60% of the RDA for folic acid and is low in calories. You can enjoy this vegetable raw or with minimal preparation.

Like all vegetables, asparagus doesn’t instantly “die” when it is picked but continues to engage in metabolic activity. This metabolic activity includes intake of oxygen, the breaking down of starches and sugars and the releasing of carbon dioxide. The speed at which these processes occur is typically referred to as “respiration rate.” Compared to most other vegetables, asparagus has a very high respiration rate. Asparagus’ very high respiration rate makes it more perishable than its other vegetables and also much more likely to lose water, wrinkle and harden.

Three types of asparagus are pictured with white asparagus at the back and green asparagus in the middle. The plant at the front is wild asparagus.

Since asparagus varieties most commonly available in the U.S. are green in color, you are most likely to find these green-colored varieties in your grocery store.

Two other types of asparagus that are widely grown aside from the typical green variety are white asparagus and purple asparagus. These strains have the same asparagus season for harvesting and only differ in appearance and size.

White asparagus is produced by keeping the stems of the plant buried under mounds of dirt which prevents them from being infused with green chlorophyll from interaction with sunlight and gives the plants’ shoots a more mild and softer texture.

Purple asparagus was first grown in Italy and is a larger than normal strain with a sweeter taste. It is a hybrid plant where the spear edges of the stems are noticeably purple and is named Violetto d/Albenga after the Albenga north-western region of Italy situated along the Gulf of Genoa. 

Purple varieties typically have a higher sugar content than green and white varieties and for this reason have a sweeter taste. Even with this higher sugar content, asparagus is anything but a high-sugar food. We’re talking about 3 grams of total sugar per cup of fresh asparagus — less than half of the amount in an extra small apple.

Asparagus stalks should be rounded and not twisted. Look for firm, thin stems with deep green or purplish closed tips. The cut ends should not be too woody, although a little woodiness at the base prevents the stalk from drying out. Once trimmed and cooked, asparagus loses about half its total weight. Use asparagus within a day or two after purchasing for best flavor and texture. Store in the refrigerator with the ends wrapped in a damp paper towel.

Cooking Wild Asparagus

As asparagus grows almost everywhere in Italy there are many regional asparagus recipes. The spears can be boiled for a few minutes and served as a side dish with a splash of olive oil and lemon juice or added to an omelette. The tender tips have a delicate flavor and taste the best with as little cooking as possible.

To make a simple pasta dish: cut the asparagus shoots into medium length pieces and then saute them for 3-4 minutes along with some finely chopped garlic, pepperoncino (chilli pepper) and a few shavings of lemon zest. Pour this mixture over cooked spaghettini (a thinner variety of spaghetti) and sprinkle with pecorino-romano cheese.


Italian Asparagus Gratin ( Asparagi alla Parmigiana)

Roasting is an excellent way to prepare asparagus. Asparagi alla parmigiana is a springtime favorite in northern Italy.

4 to 6 servings


  • Asparagus, trimmed — 2 pounds
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Parmesan cheese, grated — 1/2 to 2/3 cup
  • Salt and pepper — to taste


Preheat oven to 450°F. Oil a shallow baking dish that is just large enough to hold the asparagus. Place a layer of asparagus in the dish with the tips all facing the same direction. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and some of the cheese. Keep adding layers until all asparagus and all cheese is used, finishing with the cheese.

Drizzle with olive oil and place the dish on the top rack of the oven. Bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until the asparagus is cooked through and beginning to brown and the cheese is melted.

Asparagus and Sausage Pizza


  • 1 lb. Dough for Pizza
  • 1/2 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch long pieces
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large sweet red pepper, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch wide strips
  • 1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage with fennel, casing removed
  • 3/4 cup shredded provolone cheese, or cheese of choice


Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Place the asparagus in a skillet and add 1 cup water. Cook until the asparagus are tender; drain and transfer to a bowl.

In the same skillet add the olive oil and cook the peppers until they soften. Transfer to the bowl with the asparagus.

In the same skillet, cook the sausage until it is no longer pink. Cool.

Pat the dough into a large pizza pan. Spread the sausage over the dough.

Spread the asparagus and peppers over the sausage. Sprinkle the provolone over all.

Bake until the crust is brown and the cheese has melted. Slice and serve.

Spring Asparagus and White Bean Salad

Makes 4 – 1cup servings


  • 3 cups asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 1½ lb)
  • 1½ cups canned cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 5 thinly sliced radishes
  • 1/2 cup (2 oz) crumbled feta
  • 1 medium shallot, peeled and minced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint


  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tteapsoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper


Steam asparagus, covered, 2 minutes or until crisp-tender.

Rinse asparagus with cold water and drain.

Gently combine asparagus, beans, radishes, feta, shallot and fresh mint in a serving bowl.

Make the dressing by combining lemon juice, lemon zest, mustard, olive oil, salt and pepper and whisk to combine.

Pour dressing over asparagus mixture and toss gently to coat.

Rigatoni with Bacon and Asparagus

8 Servings


  • 1 package (16 ounces) whole wheat rigatoni pasta
  • 1 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed and coarsely chopped
  • 8 bacon strips
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2/3 cup fat free half-and-half cream
  • 1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1/8 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese


Cook pasta according to package directions. (Cook asparagus with pasta during the last 3 min.) Drain.

In the same pan, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Remove to paper towels to drain. Crumble bacon and set aside. Drain fat from pan.

Add butter and oil to the pan and heat. Saute garlic briefly. Stir in cream.

Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 3-4 minutes or until slightly thickened.

Stir in mozzarella cheese until melted. Add drained pasta and asparagus. Stir in the salt, parsley and reserved bacon. Sprinkle with pepper and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.


Asparagus and Herb Lasagna

The lasagna takes some time to make, but it can be prepared the day before you entertain. It keeps very well for a day or two in the refrigerator before you bake it.


  • 2 large garlic cloves, peeled
  • Salt
  • 2 pounds asparagus
  • 1 recipe Olive Oil Bechamel, recipe below
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh herbs, such as tarragon, parsley, chives, basil
  • 12 no-boil lasagna noodles


Fill a pasta pot with water and add the garlic cloves. Bring to a boil while you trim the asparagus by breaking off the woody ends but do not discard. When the water comes to a boil, add salt and the asparagus woody ends. Reduce the heat to medium low, cover partially and simmer the asparagus ends for 30 minutes. Remove the asparagus ends and the garlic cloves from the water and discard.

Bring the water back to a boil and add the asparagus stalks. Boil thick asparagus stalks for five minutes or medium and thin stalks for three minutes. Transfer them, using a spider or tongs, to a bowl of ice water. Do not drain the cooking water.

Allow the asparagus to cool for a few minutes, then drain and dry on a clean kitchen towel. Cut the asparagus into 1-inch lengths. Set aside.

Make the bechamel sauce according to directions below.

Whisk 1/2 cup of the cooking water from the asparagus into the béchamel, along with 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese and the herbs. Add freshly ground pepper to taste and adjust salt.

Oil or butter a 3-quart baking dish or lasagna dish.

Bring the asparagus cooking water back to a rolling boil and drop in 3 lasagna noodles. Boil just until the pasta is flexible (about three minutes for no-boil lasagna). Using tongs, transfer the pasta to drain on a clean dish towel.

Set aside 1/3 cup of the bechamel sauce for the top of the lasagna and spread a very thin layer of bechamel over the bottom of the baking dish. Cover with the just parboiled pasta noodles.

Stir the asparagus into the remaining bechamel and spread a layer over the noodles. Sprinkle on 2 tablespoons Parmesan.

Parboil another layer’s worth of pasta, top with the asparagus bechamel sauce and with another 2 tablespoons of Parmesan.

Repeat with one more layer. End with a layer of pasta and spread the 1/3 cup reserved bechamel sauce over the top and sprinkle on the remaining Parmesan.

Cover tightly with plastic, if storing in the refrigerator.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil over the lasagna and cover tightly with foil. Bake for 30 minutes until bubbling. Uncover and continue to bake until the top just begins to color, about 10 minutes. Remove from the ocen. Allow the lasagna to sit five to 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 6-8

Make Ahead: You can prepare this dish up to a day or two before you bake it. Don’t drizzle on the last tablespoon of olive oil until you’re ready to bake. Wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate. Remove the plastic and replace with foil before baking.

Olive Oil Bechamel

The main thing to watch for here is scorching. Stir often with a rubber spatula, especially at the bottom and edges of the pan, so that the mixture doesn’t stick and begin to burn. If it does, immediately pour the sauce into another pot and continue to cook over very low heat.


  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups low-fat milk
  • Salt to taste
  • Freshly ground white or black pepper


Heat the oil over medium heat in a heavy medium saucepan. Add the shallot and cook, stirring, until softened, about three minutes. Stir in flour and cook, stirring, for about three minutes until smooth and bubbling but not browned. The paste should have the texture of wet sand. Whisk in the milk all at once and bring to a simmer, whisking all the while.

Turn the heat to very low and simmer, stirring often with a whisk and scraping the bottom and edges of the pan with a rubber spatula, for about 10 minutes or until the sauce thickens. Season with salt and pepper. 

Variation: Substitute vegetable stock for the milk for a vegan version of this sauce.

Makes 1 1/2 cups

Wild Italian Asparagus

There are around 5,000 different species of crab, which can be found all over the world. 4,500 of these species are said to be “true” crabs, while the other 500 are made up of different species of hermit crabs.The majority of crabs live in the water, however, there are a small number of crabs that live on land and breathe air.

The majority of the crab population can be found in the waters around China, followed by the U.S. and Japan.  While most crabs are found in the Asian seas, the U.S. is the world’s largest exporter of crabs. Crab dishes are very popular in Japan, France, Spain, Hong Kong, the U.S., Canada and Portugal.

Crabs and crustaceans were considered a delicacy in ancient Rome. In particular, Apicius, a well known “foodie” of the time, described how to cook crustaceans in his book, De Re Coquinaria, and it seems that he was a real fan. Legend has it that when he learned that there were extremely large lobsters living along the coast of Libya, he hired a boat and sailed there just to try them. Once he arrived and discovered that the local lobsters were almost identical to those found in Rome, he turned around and came back to Italy without even debarking.

Although there are many different types of crab and each offer their own distinctive taste and texture, all crabmeat is essentially sweet. The many crab species fished from North America’s coastal waters vary greatly in size, appearance, taste and texture and lend themselves to an immense array of dishes. There are six varieties that are used the most and are commercially available, either live, cooked, frozen or in lump form (that is, picked from the shell and packaged).

If you are planning on cooking the crab at home and eating it straight from the shell, it is best to buy live crabs for better taste. Frozen crabs can also be bought. Buy your crabs from a well-known and reputable fish market or, as a second choice, from a large supermarket. If you are buying from the latter, make sure to find out how long the crabs have been in the tank. If it is longer than a week, they should really be avoided.

When I was young, my family and I would spend our summers at the shore. One of the activities involved crabbing in the bay near our house. My father would take me to the dock very early in the morning. It was a simple affair: string, bait and a basket. My father would attach the bait to the string, drop the bait end into the water and tie the other end to the dock. My job was to check the strings every once in awhile to see if we caught a crab. If we did, we would pull up the string and place the crab in a covered basket. Believe or not, we caught many crabs this way, more than enough for dinner. My father would be very happy and always bragged about the crab catch. He loved to make spaghetti sauce with crabs cooked in the sauce. I was not a fan and didn’t eat crab then. Times have changed.

If you are buying live crabs, it is best to consume them when they are as fresh as possible, preferably on the same day, although they will keep overnight in the refrigerator. Put the live crabs in a bowl or a container where they can still breathe and cover them with damp paper towels or a damp cloth. Place them in a cold area of your refrigerator until you are ready to use them. 

Boiling live crab

Pour 5 quarts of water into a large pot and add 5 tablespoons of sea salt. Bring to a rapid boil.

Grasp the live crab by the back legs and drop it into the water headfirst. Bring the water back to the boil and only then start timing.

You should cook large crabs (about 2 lb.) for around 15-20 minutes and smaller crabs around 8 – 10 minutes.

The crab’s shell should turn a bright orange when done.

When the crabs are done, immerse them for a few seconds in cold water, so that cooking stops and they do not overcook.

Defrosting a whole crab

If you have decided to purchase pre-cooked frozen crab, simply place it in the refrigerator overnight in order to defrost.

If you need to defrost the crab quickly, wrap it in plastic wrap and place it in a sink full of cold water. Do not use hot water. A two pound crab will defrost in one hour.

Storing cooked crab meat

Freshly cooked crab meat is best eaten on the same day, however, it can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two days. The cooked meat should be removed from the shell beforehand.

Cooked crab meat can be frozen and will keep for four months. Make sure that it is tightly wrapped or placed in an airtight container before freezing.

Some of the more common types of crab are described below.

Alaskan King Crab are the largest and most sought after crab in the world due to its size, which can reach up to 25 pounds and measure up to 10 feet. It may be large, but only about one-fourth is edible, primarily the legs and claws. Only males are harvested. The delicately-flavored meat is snowy white with a bright red outer edge. Their preferred habitat is in the coldest waters in the world. King Crab is caught chiefly by commercial fisherman in various areas in the Pacific Ocean near Alaska: Bristol Bay, Norton Sound, St. Matthew Island, Pribilof Island and the Kodiak Islands.

Alaskan Snow Crab are the type of crab you mainly find in a seafood restaurant. There are four species of Snow Crab and two species are found in Alaskan waters. Alaskan Snow Crab are mainly caught by commercial fishermen in the Bering Sea waters and the Chukchi Sea. Many of the same crabs are also found in Japan. Their habitat is in very cold waters. Snow Crab grow by molting when they shed their exterior. Then they grow tissue to fill each new, larger exo-skeleton. They molt several times per year when they are young but only once per year when they get larger and mature. The average snow crab weighs between 2 and 4 pounds.

The Blue Crab habitat is mainly around the Chesapeake Bay area on the Atlantic coast, areas in the Gulf of Mexico and other areas as far south as the Bahamas. This species of crab has blue highlights and their shells are extremely sharp. Blue crabs can also be eaten in it’s soft shell stage. To eat these crab in the soft shell stage, they have to caught, processed and cooked before they molt to their hard shell state. 

Dungeness Crab is a type of crab that inhabits grass beds and water bottoms all the way from the Aleutian Islands in Alaska down through the Pacific Ocean waters of California and even into parts of the Gulf of Mexico. They are named after Dungeness, Washington, which is located near Port Angeles, WA, in the Puget Sound area. This area is where Captain George Vancouver explored the Strait of Juan de Fuca, along the northern area of Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula in the late eighteenth century. Dungeness Crab is considered a characteristic food of the Great Pacific Northwest.

Stone Crabs have large, very hard claws that are prized for their meat. Most of the harvest comes from Florida, where it is harvested from October 15 to May 15. Only the claws are eaten, so fishermen twist off one claw from each stone crab and toss them back to grow a new one. Crabs will regenerate new claws within 18 months. The law requires the claws of just caught stone crabs be boiled for 7 minutes and then either put on ice or frozen. The freezing process seems to remove an unpleasant iodine taste which is often noticed in the meat. To serve, the claws are cracked with a mallet and served cold with dipping sauces. Minimum size for claws is 2 to 2.75 ounces. The meat has a firm texture and a sweet flavor.

Red Rock Crabs and their cousins, the Jonah Crab, are light to dark brownish red, depending on where they are caught. The further north they are fished, the darker the shells get. Red Rock crabs are found along the Atlantic coast all the way from Nova Scotia to the shores of Florida. Neither are sold in upscale fish stores or in the major supermarkets, but you may be able to find them in Spanish or Chinese markets.

Freshwater Crabs: There are many species that live in freshwater- especially in the streams and billabongs of Australia- but also on every other continent.The Southern European Crab, pictured above, has been eaten by people since Roman Times. Unfortunately, freshwater crabs are threatened by human activities more than most groups of animals and many species are in danger of becoming extinct.

The four basic types of shelled meat that you can buy and their uses follow:

Jumbo Lump or Lump Crab Meat

Jumbo Lump meat comes from the pair of large muscles that drive the crab’s swimming legs. With care and skill these lumps can be removed intact, resulting in the prized whole Jumbo Lump with its incomparable visual appeal. Grades identified simply as lump are from smaller crab varieties.

Use Jumbo Lump when you want to display beautiful white meat in:

Crab cocktails

Solid-meat crab cakes

Crab Louis – lumps of crab meat and hard boiled eggs on Boston lettuce, with Russian dressing.

Crab Imperial – a baked dish combining crab with mayonnaise or a sherried white sauce, spooned into scallop shells, sprinkled with Parmesan cheese or bread crumbs and browned.

Lump or Backfin Lump Crab Meat

Lump or Backfin is the preferred grade for many traditional crab dishes. It has the same fine flavor and texture of Jumbo Lump, but is in slightly smaller pieces. Some companies call this grade Lump, some Backfin and some Backfin Lump. If you purchase a can labeled Lump, it will be all lump meat and will not contain any Jumbo Lump.

Use Lump or Backfin when you want beautiful white crab but don’t want the expense of Jumbo Lump, for example:

Crab Benedict (Eggs Benedict with crab instead of ham)

Gazpacho: add a 1/2 cup of crab to the center of the soup

Pasta:  add to Spaghetti Carbonara instead of bacon or add a cup to Fettuccini all’Amatriciana


White Crab Meat


White crab meat is ideal for crab cake recipes that have multiple ingredients (bread crumbs, vegetables) that are mixed with mayonnaise and in crab recipes where the size and shape of the crab flake becomes indistinguishable from the rest of the ingredients.

White crab meat is a more economical alternative for:


Bisques and chowders



Sandwiches and salads

Stuffed tomatoes

Claw Crab Meat

Claw Crab meat is the “dark meat” of the crab. The reddish-brown claw and leg meat is actually more flavorful than the white meat and is preferred by many who like the more robust flavor and appreciate the lower price. Claw meat also stands up to bolder seasonings. Some people mix it with Backfin Lump for visual appeal, while keeping the overall price down.

Try claw meat and, if you like the flavor, you may have an economical alternative and a reason to enjoy crab more often. You can use it in any preparation, but especially in

Cheese melts

Crab tacos

Cioppino or other fish stews

What To Look For In Canned Crab Meat

When you do a comparative test among different brands of canned crab meat, you can immediately discern differences in the size, color, texture, shell content, scent and the flavor of the meat. Each bite of crab meat should taste and smell the same. If it doesn’t, you need to find a better brand.

Cooking With Crab

If you are planning on buying crab legs, try not to buy ones that have been thawed, since they will not retain their taste and freshness. Always try to buy frozen crab legs or pre-cooked and frozen crab legs.

Thawed crab legs can be maintained in the refrigerator for two days before they go bad, but they should really be cooked as soon as they have been defrosted.

To defrost frozen crab legs, place them in the refrigerator for about 8 hours. If you place them on a rack in a watertight container, they can drain as they are defrosting.

Pre-cooked frozen crab legs can be heated in a number of ways, even in the microwave. My preferred way is to bake them in the oven.

To bake crab legs

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Crack the whole crab legs and place them on a baking tray.

Brush the crab legs with butter or oil, seasoning and lemon juice and bake in the oven for 8 – 9 minutes.

Crab Stuffed Artichokes

4 appetizer servings


  • 4 artichokes
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons crab boil or Old Bay Seasoning
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 cup finely diced onion
  • 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • 1 teaspoon chopped oregano leaves
  • 1/2 cup Italian style bread crumbs
  • 1 cup crab meat
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for garnish
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Salt and pepper


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut the stems from the artichokes to leave a neat, flat base. Lay each artichoke on its side, and cut away the upper third with a sharp knife. With kitchen shears, remove the prickly leaf tips from each remaining leaf. Rub the cut sides and bottom with a lemon slice, squeezing lemon juice onto the cut areas and set aside.

Place the prepared artichokes, lemon slices, crab boil and bay leaves in the boiling water and simmer, partially covered, until the bottom is tender and can be pierced with a sharp knife and an outer leaf pulls out easily, about 25 minutes.

Drain the artichokes upside down in a colander.

Heat the butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until softened, about 4 minutes.

To the onions in the pan, add the garlic and oregano and continue to cook for 30 seconds.

Remove from the heat and stir in the bread crumbs, crab meat, lemon zest, Parmesan and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Mix well and adjust seasonings with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

When the artichokes are cool enough to handle, press the leaves gently back so that the artichoke opens to reveal the inner choke and prickly leaves. Pull out the cone of undeveloped white leaves and gently scrape out the choke with a spoon. Gently pull the leaves outward from the center until the leaves open slightly.

Fill the artichoke cavities with the crab stuffing and pack a little bit into the space between the leaves.

Place the artichokes in an earthenware baking dish and drizzle the tops with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil.

Pour 1/2 cup of water into the bottom of the dish and place in the oven. Bake until the artichokes are golden brown and the bread crumbs develop a crust, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Transfer to a serving plate and sprinkle each with some grated Parmesan cheese. Serve with additional lemon wedges.

Cioppino-Style Roasted Crab

4 servings


  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 6 large garlic cloves, pressed
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups bottled clam juice
  • 2 – 15-ounce cans chopped tomatoes in juice
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup (packed) fresh Italian parsley leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon (scant) dried crushed red pepper
  • Coarse kosher salt
  • 2 – 2-pound cooked Dungeness crabs, cleaned, quartered, cracked or 2 pounds Alaska king crab legs


Preheat oven to 400°F. Heat oil in large deep ovenproof skillet or large metal roasting pan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; saute until soft, about 5 minutes. Add wine; increase heat to high and boil 2 minutes. Add clam juice, tomatoes with juice, 1 cup water, bay leaves, parsley and crushed red pepper and bring to boil. Season to taste with coarse salt and pepper.

Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer 15 minutes. Add crab pieces; nestle into sauce. Transfer skillet to oven and roast until crab pieces are heated through, 15 to 20 minutes. Place crab with juices in large bowl to serve.

Spaghettini with Crab and Spicy Lemon Sauce

4 Servings


  • 3/4 pound spaghettini (thin spaghetti)
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil plus more for drizzling
  • 1 large garlic clove, pressed
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons anchovy paste
  • 1 teaspoon lemon peel
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups (packed) coarsely chopped fresh parsley plus whole sprigs for garnish
  • 8 ounces lump crabmeat, picked over
  • 3 ounces prosciutto, sliced crosswise (optional)


Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, heat 4 tablespoons olive oil and garlic in large skillet over medium heat. Mix in the next 4 ingredients.

Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup cooking liquid. Add pasta, 1/4 cup cooking liquid, chopped parsley and crab meat to skillet. Toss over medium heat until sauce coats pasta, adding more cooking liquid by tablespoonfuls to moisten if necessary, about 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to large platter.Top with prosciutto, if desired. Drizzle with olive oil and garnish with parsley sprigs. 

Roasted Shellfish with Fennel and Citrus


  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves
  • 1 tablespoon ground fennel seeds
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 pounds stone crab claws or Canadian snow crab legs, shells cracked with mallet or cut with scissors
  • 1 1/2 pounds small clams, scrubbed
  • 16 mussels, scrubbed, debearded
  • 1/2 cup chopped shallots
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Chopped fresh chives


Preheat oven to 500°F. Place a heavy large roasting pan over 2 burners and heat over medium heat. Add oregano and fennel and stir 1 minute. Add olive oil, cracked crab, clams and mussels; stir to coat. Place pan in the oven. Roast until crab is heated through and clams and mussels open, stirring occasionally and transferring clams and mussels to a platter as they open, about 10 minutes.

After all the shellfish has been transferred to the platter (discard any clams and mussels that do not open); tent with foil to keep warm. Heat the same roasting pan over 2 burners over high heat. Add shallots and wine and boil 1 minute. Add citrus juices and boil until sauce thickens slightly, about 2 minutes. Whisk in butter. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Pour sauce over shellfish. Sprinkle with chives and serve.

Most of the immigrants went to the cities. New York, Buffalo, Rochester and other cities in the State of New York received large contingents. It must be remembered that immigrants almost always came to join others who had preceded them – a husband, or a father, or an uncle or a friend. In western New York most of the first immigrants from Sicily went to Buffalo, so that from 1900 on, the thousands who followed them to this part of the state also landed in Buffalo. There they joined their friends and relatives who in many cases had purchased the tickets for their steerage passage to America. After they arrived, guided and assisted by relatives, they ventured out of the city of Buffalo, joined work gangs all over western New York to pick peas, beans and other crops and to work in the numerous canneries located in the small towns and villages. In their westward migration they first went to work on the farms in Brant, Angola and Farnham and also in the canneries at Farnham, Silver Creek, Irving and other places. Some of the men found work on the railroad. They moved from place to place and lived in freight cars. In this manner some of them reached as far as Westfield and settled there. The canneries there and the rich farm lands provided work for the whole family.


Buffalo, New York

Approximately 1908

Canal Street was the name of a thoroughfare as well as a district in Buffalo in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Originally called Rock Street, Canal Street ran parallel to and just to the west of the famed Erie Canal at its terminus in Buffalo. The area had been the site of the original Village of Buffalo, near a Seneca Indian village on Buffalo Creek. The city eventually expanded outward from the waterfront location.

The Canal, completed in 1825, opened up the western United States to travelers and trade from the east coast. With it came a tremendous increase in Great Lakes freighter traffic at Buffalo Harbor and, with that, an influx of canal and freighter crewmen, who were often paid when they reached Buffalo and spent their pay freely in the bars and brothels that sprang up in the district, that was known at different times as “Canal Street”, “Five Points”, “the Flats” and “the Hooks”.

In the early 20th century, the district became the home of the Italian immigrants, mostly Sicilian. Canal Street’s name was changed to Dante Place and the neighborhood became known as “Little Italy.” Most of the bars and brothels gave way to three-and four-story brick tenements, each housing multiple families.

Alter the first wave of immigrants came, a larger wave from Abruzzi province in central Italy, from Calabria in the boot and more Sicilians from the Mediterranean island, arrived on the waterfront. The Italians extended their area up to Niagara Street and Front Park and down to Eagle and Chicago Street. Their traditional neighborhood had been the West Side, but they moved out past the city limits as early as 1900 and today are still scattered throughout the area. 

No fewer than five distincts emerged in Buffalo:

Newcomers from Sicily settled in a neighborhood called, The Hooks, close to Canal Street on the crowded Lower West Side.

Calabrians regrouped in South Buffalo.

The Campanese, who came from Naples, lived closer to downtown.

The Abruzzi, lived on East Delavan and immigrants from central southern Italy, the Campobassese, settled in the Lovejoy-William area.

Syracuse, New York

The “Bambinos” of Little Italy – Syracuse, New York in 1899

Little Italy in Syracuse, New York, is an area on the north side of the city where the early Italian immigrants settled. The neighborhood has been called Little Italy for years, but it was not until 2003 that the city officially designated it as such. The area is populated with Italian restaurants, some along North Salina Street, Little Italy’s main street.

St. Peter’s Italian Catholic Church at 130 North State Street, c.1910

Italian immigrants first came to the area around Syracuse, New York in 1883 after providing labor for the construction of the West Shore Railroad. At first, they were quite transient and came and went, but eventually settled down on the Northside. By 1899, the Italian immigrants were living on the Northside of the city in the area centered around Pearl Street. The Italians all but supplanted the Germans in that area of the city and had their own business district along North State and North Salina Streets.

Early residents in the neighborhood worked for Learbury Suits, Nettleton Shoes and other Northside factories. The Columbus Baking Company has been a mainstay on Pearl Street for over a century. The bakery is family-owned and specializes in four types of bread. Thano’s Import Market, located on North Salina Street for over 90 years, sells Italian delicacies, such as aged provolone cheese, olives and homemade pasta.  

Syracuse Northside Produce Market, c.1900

By 1900, farmers gathered at the Northside Produce Market  and supplied fresh fruit and vegetables to local residents. Lombardi’s Fruits & Imports,created during this time, is another fixture on the Northside and carries hundreds of items imported directly from Italy.

Bronx, New York

Arthur Avenue pushcarts in 1940.

Arthur Avenue – what some call the “real Little Italy” is in the Bronx. Located in the Belmont section of the Bronx, Arthur Avenue was named after President Chester A. Arthur in the 19th century. Italians temporarily settled here to help build the Bronx Zoo, but with the creation of the Third Avenue elevated train, which ran between the Bronx and downtown Manhattan, their presence in the neighborhood remained and grew, with the population reached close to 100,000 Italian residents by the early 1900s.

The Bronx Zoo is one of the most famous zoos in the world. In 1898, the City of New York allotted 250 acres of Bronx Park to the New York Zoological Society to build a park aimed at preserving native animals and promoting zoology. The Bronx Zoo opened in 1899 and remains one of the largest wildlife conservation parks in the United States, housing 4,000 animals representing more than 650 species. The Rockefeller Fountain, was built by Italian sculptor Biagio Catella in 1872, donated to the Zoological Society by William Rockefeller in 1903, and moved to its present spot in the zoo in 1910.

In the 1890s, Italian immigrants moved from lower Manhattan to the tenement buildings of the Bronx. They set up shops selling produce, pasta, cheese, salumi, bread, pastries and other products. Many of those establishments are still doing business today. The atmosphere of Italy is preserved on merchant lined Arthur Avenue and in the Arthur Avenue Retail Market, established by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia in 1940.

The Arthur Avenue Retail Market brings all the elements of the neighborhood together under one roof. For a meal to remember, head to Dominicks’s. This classic restaurant is loud, has no menu, no dessert and is consistently named the neighborhood’s favorite “red-sauce joint”. Not to worry dessert lovers, the neighborhood has an abundance of sweet treats at shops like Egidio Pastry, where desserts have been served since 1912.

Some Italian American Regional Favorites:

Sausage-Stuffed Mushrooms

Serves 4 to 6


  • 14 large white mushrooms. each about 2 inches wide
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 ounces Italian fennel sausage,casing removed
  • 1 cup finely chopped green peppers
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 3/4 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons grated romano cheese
  • 3 large sweet vinegared cherry peppers, chopped


Wipe the mushrooms clean and remove the stems. Set aside the 10 best and largest mushroom caps. Finely chop the remaining 4 mushroom caps and all the stems. Transfer them to a small bowl and set them aside.

In a large saute pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the sausage and cook it for 4 to 5 minutes or until it is nicely browned. As it cooks, break the sausage apart with a wooden spoon.

Add the green peppers, garlic and chopped mushroom, increase the heat to high and cook the mixture, stirring, for about 8 to 10 minutes or until it is browned and tender and the liquid from the mushrooms has evaporated.

Add the bread crumbs and chicken stock. Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the cheese. Add the pickled peppers and remove the mixture from the heat.

Spread the mixture on a platter, allow it to cool slightly, and then transfer it to the refrigerator for 15 to 20 minutes or until it has cooled completely.

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Stuff each of the reserved mushroom caps with 1 to 1½ tablespoons of the sausage mixture. Set the stuffed mushrooms in a casserole and drizzle them with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Bake them for 15 to 20 minutes or until the mushroom caps are tender. Transfer the mushrooms to a plate, spoon any remaining pan juices over them, and serve.

Escarole Soup

Serves 8–10


  • 1 lb. ground lean beef
  • 1/2 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more
  • 1/2 cup grated pecorino cheese
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced, plus 1 clove, finely chopped
  • 2 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced, plus 1 onion finely chopped
  • 1 small bunch parsley , minced
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 large heads escarole, cored and cut into 2″ pieces
  • 8 cups chicken stock
  • Cooked white rice, for serving


Mix beef, bread crumbs, parmesan and pecorino cheese,, seasoning, finely chopped garlic and onion, parsley , egg, salt and pepper in a bowl. Form into 30, 1 ½″ meatballs; chill.

Heat oil in an 8-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Add sliced garlic and onions; cook until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add escarole; cook until wilted, about 6 minutes. Add stock; boil. Reduce heat to medium-low.

Add meatballs; cook until meatballs are cooked through, about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve over rice; top with more parmesan cheese and black pepper.

Fillet of Sole Oreganata

There are different kinds of sole, Dover sole, considered the best, is caught in the English channel and surrounding waters, imported, and sold in fish markets in America. It is expensive. The best domestic sole is called gray-sole, which is fairly abundant in the North Atlantic. Also distinctive in flavor is Lemon Sole. Flounder is also an option. 


  • 4-fillets of sole or flounder (6 oz each)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup of Chardonnay (or another dry white wine)
  • 1/2-cup of fish stock
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Oreganata Mixture:

  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4-cup of fine breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon of freshly grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon of finely chopped Italian parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Mix oreganata ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

In a 350-degree oven, bake fillets in a pan topped with lemon juice, wine, fish stock and salt and pepper for 10 minutes.

Place oreganata mixture over fillets and bake for an additional 5 minutes or until golden brown. Arrange fillets on a plate and serve with lemon wedges.

Dolce Torino

Serves: 6

This no-bake recipe comes from an Italian recipe written in 1891. Store-bought savoiardi ladyfinger cookies are dipped in liqueur, layered with chocolate and then refrigerated until firm.


  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk or 2 tablespoons egg substitute, such as Egg Beaters
  • 3½ ounces dark chocolate, at least 70% cacao
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 tablespoons sweet liqueur, such as Alchermes*
  • 12 savoiardi (crisp ladyfingers)
  • 2 tablespoons crushed pistachios or hazelnuts


In a large bowl, using a whisk or electric mixer, beat the butter, confectioners’ sugar and egg yolk until very smooth and creamy. Set aside.

Put the chocolate and cream in a small bowl and melt chocolate, either in a microwave or over a saucepan of gently simmering water. Let chocolate mixture cool to room temperature, then stir it and the vanilla into the butter mixture. Set aside.

Combine 5 tablespoons warm water with the granulated sugar in a shallow bowl and stir until the sugar dissolves. Stir in the liqueur. Dip 4 of the savoiardi, one at a time, into the liquid. Be sure to moisten them well on all sides. Arrange the 4 liqueur-dipped savoiardi in a row, close together, on a serving plate. Spread with one third of the chocolate mixture. Repeat the dipping and layering to make 2 more layers, spreading the last layer of chocolate mixture on top and around the sides of the stacked savoiardi. Sprinkle top layer with pistachio or hazelnuts. Refrigerate for 3 hours, or until firm. Serve cold.

*Alchermes is a Mediterranean red colored liqueur made from brandy flavored with nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, and other spices. Use a cranberry liqueur as a substitute. Cranberry flavored liqueur popular brands: Godfreys or Boggs.

Garlic (Allium sativum) is a close relative of chives, leek and onions. This edible bulb of garlic cloves is found underground, below the leafy, scallion-like growth. A garlic bulb, composed of 4-60 cloves, can be 1.5 to 3 inches in diameter (4 to 7.5 cm) and grow to a height of 10 inches to 5 feet (10 cm to 1.5 m). The flowers are white with a rose or green cast. The bulbs themselves are creamy white and may have a purplish hue, as may the paper-like covering that surrounds the bulb.

As a culinary and medicinal plant, garlic spread in ancient times to Mediterranean regions and beyond. Garlic has been used for medicinal purposes by more cultures than any other plant product or substance. The first recorded use was by the Sumerians of Mesopotamia, in the region of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Archeologists have discovered paintings of garlic dating back to 3200 B.C in Egyptian tombs. A recently discovered Egyptian papyrus dated around 1,500 B.C. recommends garlic as a cure for over 22 common ailments, including lack of stamina, heart disease and tumors.

Garlic was so highly prized, it was even used as currency. Although the Egyptians considered garlic valuable, they had a strong aversion to cooking and eating it. The ancient Israelites were fond of garlic and in the Mishnah, a collection of Jewish traditions incorporated into the Talmud, the ancient Hebrew writers refer to themselves as “the garlic eaters.” Many other ancient civilizations, including the Romans and Greeks used garlic to boost strength and prevent diseases. In ancient Greece and Rome, garlic enjoyed a variety of uses, from repelling scorpions to treating animal bites and bladder infections to curing leprosy and asthma.

Although highly regarded as a medicine in eastern cultures, garlic was not used as a food. The Buddhists avoided eating it as did some Hindus.The ancient Indians valued the medicinal properties of garlic and thought it to be an aphrodisiac. But it was not considered to be suitable food for the upper classes, who detested its strong odor. It was also forbidden by monks, who believed it to be a stimulant that aroused passions. This attitude changed with the centuries and garlic, ginger and onion were, and continue to be, an indispensable part of the cuisine of Southern Asia.

In the Middle Ages, garlic was thought to combat the plague and was hung in braided strands across the entrances of houses to prevent evil spirits from entering and as a protection from the plague. Garlic was also used as a medicine against plagues that struck London in the 17th century and France in the 18th century.

In New England, during colonial times, garlic cloves were used to treat smallpox, rheumatism, intestinal worms and whooping-cough. Louis Pasteur recognized its antiseptic properties in 1858, and Albert Schweitzer recommended garlic for dysentery.

For many years, garlic was shunned as a food by the western cultures because of the odor it left behind. It was avoided in America until the 20th. century, when an influx of immigrants brought garlic flavored cooking with them and the use of garlic slowly gained a foothold in American cuisine. Today, garlic is recognized worldwide as an extremely nutritious addition to any diet.

Over a thousand papers on garlic health benefits have been published since 1950. Many of the health benefits of garlic that have been studied come from garlic’s abundant antioxidant nutrients. Garlic also contains enzymes, calcium, copper, iron, manganese, phosphorus, potassium and selenium. Vitamins in garlic include vitamin A, vitamin B1 (thiamine), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B6 and vitamin C. Garlic is a powerful immune system booster. It increases the production of interferon (an antiviral compound), which improves the action of your white blood cells. Interferon and white blood cells are critical components of your body’s immune system.

There are certain dishes that are unimaginable without garlic: the sauce from France called aioli, the Italian anchovy dip called bagna cauda, the Middle Eastern spread hummus, Greek Tzatziki sauce and, of course, garlic bread, to name a few. It is also an important ingredient in many Italian sauces and Asian recipes. There are jellies and jams and even ice cream. For a milder flavor, choose Elephant garlic, which — while large in size — has a mild garlic taste.

Garlic Measurements:

Here are some garlic measurement yields:

1 small clove of garlic equals one half teaspoon of garlic

1 medium clove equals one teaspoon

1 large clove equals two teaspoons

1 extra-large clove equals one tablespoon

Garlic Tips:

Garlic keepers, covered ceramic pots with holes for circulation, provide the kind of cool, dark climate in which the bulbs keep best. Green shoots on stored garlic do not mean it can no longer be used, but the flavor will be milder.

Refrigeration changes the texture of garlic and causes it to quickly become soft. Neither freezing nor drying gives satisfactory results, but storing peeled cloves in wine or vinegar in the refrigerator, will preserve garlic for up to four months.

Do NOT store garlic in oil, even under refrigeration, because cases of botulism have resulted. Commercial preparations in oil, by law, have been specially treated to prevent this possibility.

When garlic cloves are cooked or baked whole, the flavor mellows into a sweet, almost nutty flavor that hardly resembles any form of pungency.

The potency of garlic is determined by size. The smaller you cut it, the stronger the flavor. Chopping finely and/or pressing a clove exposes more surfaces to the air, causing a chemical reaction to produce that strong aroma and potent flavor.

When sauteing garlic, be very careful not to burn it. The flavor turns intensely bitter and you’ll have to start over.

If you have a good garlic press, you don’t even need to peel garlic cloves before pressing, which can be a wonderful time-saver. Just place the unpeeled clove in the tool cavity, press and discard the skins left in the cavity.

Choose garlic heads that are firm to the touch, with no nicks or soft cloves. If you notice dark, powdery patches under the skin, pass it up because this is an indication of a common mold which will eventually spoil the flesh.

Some Common Types of Garlic

Believe it or not, all garlics do not taste the same. Some are exceedingly mild in taste, such as Italian Red and Red Toch. Some are medium flavored, while others are very hot and strong, such as Metechi (a marbled Purple Stripe) or Chinese Purple.There are several components to garlic taste: flavor, pungency (which is the degree of hotness when eaten raw) and residual or aftertaste, which for some varieties is considerable. Flavor and aftertaste can be measured on a scale from 1 to 10. Raw garlic is hot like a chili pepper, it just doesn’t last long, but it has an aftertaste. Flavor is the intensity of the garlic taste itself, whether it is hot or not. Some have a heavy flavor but are mild in heat, whereas others may be light in both or very heavy in both. If you get garlic that scores a ten on all three scales, you have very potent garlic.

For many, many more types of garlic, read what the following garlic farm in Wisconsin grows:

Fresh garlic consists of several cloves that can be individually separated from their paper-thin white peel. Each clove of garlic is also encased in its own individual white to reddish-brown wrapper, often layered, depending upon variety. Regardless of variety though, it is best to choose garlic with firm bulbs and roots still intact, as this is a sign of freshness. Whole garlic has a very mild scent, once cloves are chopped or pressed enzyme compounds are released which produce a sulfur based molecule known as allicin, a process which gives garlic its renowned pungent aroma and flavor.

Italian Purple garlic can easily be distinguished from other garlics by its appearance. Its solid bulb is almost uniformly rounded and its thick layers of wrappers are streaked with variegations of violet-purple. The bulb contains a thick central scape and about six to eight plump cream-colored cloves in relatively easy-to-peel skin. The cloves are aromatic, spicy and bold in flavor, which only increases with maturity. When eaten raw, a little bit goes a long way with Italian Purple garlic, since its flavor lingers for quite a while. Italian Purple is a rare Rocambole that was brought to the United States from northern Italy in the early 20th. century. It has been grown throughout many garlic growing regions in the Northern United States. It is still considered a rare garlic with very limited commercial production. You will most likely find Italian Purple garlic at a farmers market.

Elephant garlic is much larger in size than common garlic. Elephant garlic develops a large underground bulb (nearly twice the size of the largest true garlic variety) that produces an average of five large cloves. The largest bulbs can weigh as much as one pound, hence its given name. Its size matters only in appearance, though, as its flavor is milder and sweeter than that of other garlic varieties, due to its leek ancestry.


Thai garlic produce extremely small bulbs, that carry about six to eight pea-sized cloves, that grow around the garlic’s scape. When harvested at maturity, the cloves are encased in tight, firm wrappers varying in stripes and colors of purple and tan. The cloves themselves are creamy in color with a shallot rose-colored hue on their surface. Regardless of size, their flavors are pungent and aromas are strong. The fiery flavor does mellow with cooking.

Rancho Grande garlic is an Italian red garlic variety and a soft neck type of garlic. Rancho Grande garlic produces large bulbs, which carry an average of ten cloves, that grow in a circular order around the garlic’s central scape. The bulbs and individual cloves are wrapped in thin papery layers that protect the garlic from the elements through maturity. The cloves are a translucent white in color. The garlic’s aroma is a savory and mellow essence of allium, while the flavor is peppery and yet sweet.


Kettle River garlic produces large bulbs with an average of four cloves per bulb. The bulbs grow in pairs around the garlic’s central scape, their size is quite robust compared to many garlic varieties. Even when slightly peeled, the aromatics of the garlic permeate immediately and linger. The flavor of Kettle River garlic is intense with an earthy garlic taste and a smooth subtle aftertaste.

Green garlic are young, short-season plants that are harvested before they begin to form mature bulbs or cloves. Green garlic ranges in height from 8-18 inches, producing thin, green stalks and small, cylindric to globular white bulbs. Green garlic has a piquant garlic flavor and a firm texture.


Recipes That Showcase Garlic:



Garlicky Bruschetta with Tomatoes


  • 1 cup diced ripe tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 loaf Italian bread, sliced diagonally into 1-inch thick slices and toasted


In a small bowl, combine tomatoes, basil, olive oil, and garlic. Mix well to combine. Season, to taste, with salt and black pepper. Spoon tomato mixture on toasted bread slices and serve.

Bagna Cauda

An Italian favorite, bagna cauda is a warm dip of anchovies, garlic and olive oil served with fresh vegetables as an appetizer.


  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 5 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
  • 12 anchovies preserved in olive oil, drained and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks

For dipping:

A variety of raw vegetables, including fennel, cauliflower, Belgian endive, sweet peppers and zucchini.


Put the olive oil in a pan with the garlic and anchovies and cook over a low heat, stirring, until the anchovies melt or break apart. Whisk in butter and, as soon as it has melted, remove the pot from the heat and whisk for a few more turns to blend everything together. Pour into a heatproof dish that fits over a flame or bunson burner, so that it does not get cold at the table. Serve with the crudities.


First Courses


Spaghetti with Garlic, Oil and Chili Pepper

Spaghetti with garlic, oil and peperoncino is one of the most simple and quick-to-prepare pasta dishes in Italy.

Servings 4


  • 3/4 lb spaghetti
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 chili pepper
  • parsley, chopped to taste


Cook the pasta in salted water and drain when cooked al-dente. While it is cooking, heat the garlic and the chili pepper, without letting them burn, and add to the cooked pasta, sprinkling some finely chopped parsley on top.

Garlic Soup Italian Style


  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, finely chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 2 large potatoes cut into bite-size cubes
  • 20 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Fresh chives or tops of green onions to garnish


In a soup pot heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot and celery and cook for about 3 minutes. Reduce the heat and add the garlic and potatoes. Cook until the potatoes are softened, (not mushy.) This should take an additional 10 to 15 minutes.

Add the broth, the water, thyme, bay leaves, salt and pepper and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer until all ingredients are soft, about 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and remove the bay leaves.

Process the soup with an immersion blender until chunky. Season with salt and pepper and garnish. Serve hot.

Linguine with Clam Sauce

See post on how to clean clams:

6 servings


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


Heat 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. Stir well and add clams in a single layer. Cover and cook 10 minutes or until the clams open. Remove from heat. Discard any clams that do not open.

Drain pasta and return to the pot.  Add clam sauce to pasta and toss well. Serve in individual pasta bowls.


Second Courses


Garlicky Pan-Roasted Shrimp


  • 1/2 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 large cloves garlic, finely chopped or passed through a garlic press
  • pinch of dried red-pepper flakes, or 1 or 2 whole dried peperoncini (hot peppers)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley


In a large skillet over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the garlic and hot pepper and saute gently until the garlic softens but is not browned, about 2 minutes. Add the shrimp and saute, turning once, until they are opaque, about 2 minutes on each side. Add the wine and salt, stir and cook for an additional 30 seconds, to allow the alcohol to evaporate. Remove and discard the whole peppers, if used. Sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately.

Italian Garlic Chicken and Potatoes


  • 8 bone in chicken thighs
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon red chili peppers, finely minced
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 5 medium new potatoes
  • 2 -3 tablespoons olive oil


Preheat oven to 375°F.

Line a roasting pan with foil.

Cut off any excess skin from the chicken leaving just a covering on top. Dry chicken with paper towels and place into a large bowl. 

Drizzle 3 tablespoons olive oil over chicken.

Add garlic, lemon juice, parsley, basil, thyme, rosemary, chili peppers, salt and pepper.

Using clean hands, toss the chicken in the oil/garlic/herb mixture to thoroughly coat.

Lay the chicken pieces in the roasting pan, skin side down, leaving any excess oil/garlic/herb mixture in the bowl.

Cut up potatoes (do NOT peel) into large chunks and toss into the bowl with the remaining oil/garlic/herb mixture.

Toss to coat and place potato chunks around chicken in pan and drizzle any remaining oil mixture over chicken and potatoes.

Bake for 25 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and turn chicken and potatoes over.

Return to the oven and bake an additional 20-25 minutes or until potatoes are tender.


The Sunday roast is a traditional British and Irish main meal served on Sundays, consisting of roasted meat, roast potato or mashed potato, with accompaniments, such as Yorkshire pudding, stuffing, vegetables and gravy. The meal is often comparable to a less grand version of a traditional Christmas dinner in these cultures.

There are (at least) two opinions on the origins of the Sunday Roast. One holds that, during the industrial revolution, Yorkshire families left a cut of meat in the oven before going to church on a Sunday morning, which was then ready to eat by the time they arrived home at lunchtime.The second opinion holds that the Sunday Roast dates back to medieval times, when the village serfs served the squire for six days a week. Then on the Sunday, after the morning church service, serfs would assemble in a field, practice their battle techniques and were rewarded with a feast of oxen roasted on a spit.

Typical meats used for a Sunday dinner roast are beef, chicken, lamb or pork, although duck, goose, ham, turkey or other game birds may be used. Sunday roasts can be served with a range of boiled, steamed and roasted vegetables. The vegetables served vary seasonally and regionally, but will usually include potatoes roasted alongside the meat and gravy made from juices released by the roasting meat and thickened with flour. Other vegetable dishes served with a roast dinner can include mashed turnips, roasted parsnips, boiled or steamed cabbage, broccoli, green beans, boiled carrots and peas. It is also not uncommon to find vegetable dishes — such as cauliflower gratin or stewed red cabbage — to be served alongside the more usual assortment of plainly-cooked seasonal vegetables.

In Italy, the Sunday main meal is important. All across Italy in restaurants, houses and dining rooms, every Sunday at about one in the afternoon, the majority of people will sit down to eat with friends and family, dressed in their finest. Like clockwork, piazzas will suddenly empty of their crowds; churches, having finished services, will close their doors and bars will serve their last drink.

Typical meals, depending on the region in Italy, follows:

Northern Italian Menu

Starter: soppressa – salami and formaggi – cheeses

First Course: tortellini in stock, risotto al radicchio – chicory risotto

Second Course: coniglio – rabbit and vitello arrosto – roast veal (probably cooked under salt)

Vegetables: composta di verdure cotte – mixed cooked vegetables, patate al forno – roast potatoes

Dessert: crostata – a sort of jam or fruit tart and zuppa inglese – an Italian version of English trifle

Central Italian Menu

Starter: crostini – croutons and salumi misti – selection of salami and cooked and smoked hams

First Course: pasta al forno – oven cooked pasta and pasta al ragù – pasta with ragu

Secondi: arista di maiale – roast pork and pollo arrosto – roast chicken

Vegetables: piselli – peas and patate al forno – roast potatoes

Dessert: biscottini – biscuits and tiramisù

Southern Italian Menu

Starter: prosciutto e melone – smoked ham and melon , salame – salami and formaggi – cheeses

First Course: linguine di mare, pasta al forno –

Second Course: agnello – lamb and polpettone – meatballs

Vegetables: insalata mista – salad, peperoni al forno – roast peppers

Dessert: pasticcini – small cakes, babà – rum baba

Italian American Sunday Dinner

Growing up in an Italian American family, Sunday was the day for our family to get together for a large meal, share it with relatives and watch sports. My siblings and I often looked forward to having a few relatives invited for dinner, because they brought dessert. It was almost always Italian cookies and pastries from an Italian bakery. We loved to peak in the boxes, however, it always seemed like a long time until dessert.

Dinner was served around 2:00 o’clock in the afternoon. The adults would pick on an antipasto, usually salami, cheese and bread while dinner cooked.  When we sat down to dinner, the first course was always pasta, usually ravioli or ziti. My mother was fond of cooking eye of the round roasts with potatoes cooked in the same pan and there always seemed to be peas and salad. Once in awhile pork roast with potatoes was the feature, but not often. I suspect my father really liked the beef roast. At the time, I didn’t like a roast of any kind. My tastes have evolved.

Boring, you say! For sure. So I offer you a menu of possible Sunday dinner options – that are not boring.

Turkey Breast Braciola

I would serve this roast with Oven-roasted Vegetables with Rosemary, Bay Leaves and Garlic

(see post:


  • 1 large head escarole (about 1 1/2 pounds), washed well and drained
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large shallots, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups low-salt chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup blanched hazelnuts, toasted and crushed
  • 1 slice Italian bread, minced (about 1/2 cup coarse bread crumbs)
  • 1 skinless boneless turkey breast half (2 to 2 1/2 pounds)
  • 1/4 pound thinly sliced prosciutto
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice


Coarsely chop enough escarole to measure about 6 cups, loosely packed, and reserve remaining escarole for another use. In a 12-inch skillet heat 1 tablespoon oil over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking and saute the shallots, stirring occasionally, until they begin to brown. Add chopped escarole to the shallots and cook, stirring frequently, until wilted. Stir 1/2 cup broth and cook over high heat until most liquid is evaporated. Remove skillet from heat and stir mozzarella, Parmesan, nuts and bread into filling.

Put turkey on a long sheet of plastic wrap. Butterfly turkey breast: Beginning from a long side make a horizontal lengthwise cut almost but not all the way through turkey and spread turkey open to form a larger, thinner piece of meat. Top turkey with another sheet of plastic wrap and pound with a meat mallet or bottom of a heavy skillet until meat measures about 12 by 8 inches, being careful not to make any holes in it.

Discard top sheet of plastic wrap and arrange prosciutto, overlapping slightly, in one layer over turkey. Spread a 1/2-inch-thick layer of filling over prosciutto, leaving a 1/2-inch border all around. Beginning with a long side and using the plastic wrap on the bottom as a guide, roll up turkey and turn it seam side down (discard plastic wrap). Tie rolled turkey with kitchen string lengthwise and then crosswise at 1-inch intervals. Season with salt and pepper.

In a 12-inch deep skillet (with a cover) heat remaining tablespoon of oil over moderately high heat until hot, but not smoking, and brown turkey on all sides. Add wine, remaining cup of broth and braise, covered, over moderately low heat for 35 minutes.Turn turkey over halfway through the cooking time.

Transfer turkey to a cutting board and rest 10 minutes. Strain braising liquid through a sieve into a small saucepan. Boil liquid until reduced to about 1/2 cup. Stir in lemon juice. Discard string from turkey and slice turkey crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices and drizzle turkey with sauce.

Rib-Eye Roast with Wine Gravy

I would serve this roast with Twice-Baked Potatoes and Sauteed Kale.

4 to 6 servings


  • 1 – 4-pound bone-in rib eye roast
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil


  •  1 large shallot, finely chopped
  • 1/2 bottle drinking red wine, such as Malbec
  • 5 cups beef stock


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Using a heavy hand, season rib eye roast with salt and pepper on all sides. Heat olive oil in bottom of large Dutch Oven. Place beef in hot pan and sear in oil to a deep golden brown on all sides. Move pan to the heated oven for about 15 minutes per pound for medium rare, making for an approximate hour of cooking time. Remove the pan from oven and transfer the beef to a cutting board. Allow meat to rest for at least 15 minutes, tented with foil.


Pour off excess fat from the Dutch Oven and place the pot on the stove top over medium heat. Add shallots and cook until soft and brown, about 4 to 6 minutes. De-glaze the pot with 1/2 cup of the wine and cook, scraping up browned bits. Add remaining wine and bring to a boil reduce by half. Add stock and simmer until reduced again by about half. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary. Carve beef against the grain, in thin slices and serve with gravy.

Tuscan Pork Roast

Serve this roast with Angel Hair Pasta with Pesto Sauce and a Tomato Salad.

Serves 6


  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped sage 
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon cracked ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 bone-in pork loin roast, about 4 ½ to 5 lbs – center cut pork loin
  • 1 cup white wine


Preheat the oven to 450 degree F.

Ask your butcher for a rib section center cut pork loin. You can have the butcher cut the bones away from the meat but leave the undercut attached then re-assemble the piece and tie it with twine. Or, you can just cook it on the bone.

Combine the garlic, rosemary, sage, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Brush the meat with oil and rub herb mixture over the entire roast. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (up to 24 hours). Bring to room temperature for 1 hour before roasting.

Place the pork in a greased baking pan, pour in the wine and roast in the oven for 1 1/2 -2 hours, basting the meat with the pan juices. Roast until the pork reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees F. at its thickest part (do not allow the thermometer to touch the bone). Remove the pan from the oven and place the pork roast on a carving board. Slice the meat and arrange on a serving platter. Pour the pan juices over the meat.

Herb-and-Lemon-Roasted Chicken

I would serve a Brown and Wild Rice Pilaf and Oven Roasted Asparagus with the chicken.


  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 5 garlic cloves, 1 minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced rosemary plus 2 rosemary sprigs
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced thyme plus 2 thyme sprigs
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • One 4-pound chicken, at room temperature
  • 1 large onion, cut into 8 wedges
  • 1 lemon, cut crosswise into 8 rounds
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock or low-sodium broth


Preheat the oven to 425°F. and position a rack in the lower third of the oven. In a bowl, mix the butter with the minced garlic, minced herbs and the lemon zest. 

Pat the chicken dry. Rub half of the herb butter under the skin and the rest over the chicken; season with salt and pepper.

Set the chicken, breast-side-up, on a rack in a roasting pan. Scatter the onion, lemon, garlic cloves and herb sprigs around the chicken and add 1/2 cup of water. Roast for 30 minutes, until the breast is firm and just beginning to brown in spots. Using tongs, turn the chicken breast-down and roast for 20 minutes longer, until the skin is lightly browned.

Using tongs, turn the chicken breast-side-up. Add another 1/2 cup of water. Roast for about 20 minutes longer, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the inner thigh registers 175° to 180°.

Tilt the chicken to drain the cavity juices into the pan and transfer to a cutting board. Remove the rack from the pan and spoon off the fat. Set the pan over high heat. Add the stock and cook, scraping up any browned bits. Press the lemon slices to release the juices into the pan. Strain the sauce and pour into a serving bowl. Carve the chicken and pass the lemon sauce at the table.

Rack of Lamb With Smoked Paprika Crust

Serve this roast with cooked cannellini beans and broccoli rabe.


  • 1 rack of lamb (about 2 pounds)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 medium slice rye bread, broken into pieces.


Heat the oven to 450 degrees F. Trim the lamb of excess fat, but leave a layer of fat over the meat. Cut about halfway down the bones between the chops; this allows the meat between them to become crisp.

Put the oil, garlic, paprika and a sprinkle of salt and pepper in a small  food processor and puree; add the bread and pulse a few times to make rough crumbs. Rub this mixture over the meat side of the rack and sprinkle with more salt and pepper. Put it in a roasting pan and into the oven; roast for 18 to 20 minutes. Insert an instant-read meat thermometer straight in from one end into the meatiest part. If it reads 125 degrees F. or more, remove the lamb immediately. If it reads less, put the lamb back for 5 minutes, no more. Remove and let sit for 5 minutes. Serve, separating the ribs by cutting down straight through them.

Yield: 4 servings.

The wild beet, the ancestor of the beet with which we are familiar today, is thought to have originated in prehistoric times in North Africa and grew wild along Asian and European seashores. In earlier times, people ate the beet greens and not the roots. The ancient Romans were one of the first civilizations to cultivate beets and to use the roots as food. The tribes that invaded Rome were responsible for spreading beets throughout northern Europe, where they were first used for animal fodder and later for human consumption.

The medicinal properties of the root were more important than its eating qualities and it was used to treat a range of ailments including fevers, constipation, wounds and various skin problems. At that time, the roots were long and thin like a carrot. The rounded root shape, that we are familiar with today, was not developed until the sixteenth century and became widely popular in Central and Eastern Europe 200 years later. Many classic beetroot dishes originated in this region, including the famous beetroot soup known as borscht.

The value of the beet grew in the 19th. century, when it was discovered that they were a concentrated source of sugar. When access to sugar cane was difficult to get, beets became the primary source of sugar. Around the same time, beets were also brought to the United States, where they flourished. Today, the leading commercial producers of beets include the United States, Russia, France, Poland, France and Germany.

You don’t hear much about beets, though. People rarely serve them. As a matter of fact, in the world of vegetables, beets are seldom even mentioned. Hopefully, after reading this post, you will be more inclined to try this vegetable.

Beets are low in calories but have a high sugar content when compared with all other vegetables. Beets also serve as a natural coloring agent in cooking. Try using pureed beets in a Red Velvet Cake recipe, instead of red dye. Beets are most often used in salads and soups or pickled.

Health Benefits

Beets, also known as beetroot, are high in potassium, folate and fiber. Their edible leaves offer protein, calcium, beta carotene, vitamins A, C and some B vitamins. They are also a rich source of carotenoids and lutein/zeaxanthin and they contain magnesium, iron, copper and phosphorus. Beets are a source of beneficial flavonoids called anthycyanins. The beetroot fibers help in reducing cholesterol and triglycerides by increasing the level of HDL. Consumption of beets also helps to prevent cardiovascular diseases.

Types of Beets

Red Beets

Red beets are the beets most of us think of when our minds turn to “beets.” Look for beets with their fresh, leafy greens still attached, if possible – then you’ll know they are fresh. The great thing about red beets, however, is that they are great storage vegetables. Getting a bit less tender as they are stored, perhaps, but also gaining sweetness along the way.

Golden Beets

Golden beets are a bit less sweet than red beets, but also have a more mellow, less earthy flavor all around. If nothing else, golden beets add a bright, zesty yellow color when served roasted or in salads.

Chioggia Beets (Striped Beets)

Chioggia beets are naturally striped – some are a subtle yellow-and-orange combination, while others come with a brilliant red-and-cream candy cane effect. Use them as you would other beets and know that the striping often fades when cooked.

Baby Beets

Any beet can be sold as a “baby beet.” They are simply the beets that are pulled to thin the field and make room for other beets to grow. Smart farmers sell these small specimens as a specialty item. They are very tender and tend to have beautiful, fresh greens.

White Beets

White beets lack the earthy, strong beet flavor that colored beets embody. They also lack the red and yellow pigments that colored varieties possess. What Baby White beets do have is a high level of sweetness. The beets are comprised of a round tapered white root with pale green shoulders, crunchy midribs and wavy broad green leaves. 

How to Cook Beets:

To roast beets (the most flavorful method): Trim the greens off the beets to within 1 inch and scrub the beets. (Reserve the greens for another use, such as the Sauteed Beet Greens recipe below.) Arrange the beets in a small roasting pan, add 1/8 inch water, and cover loosely with foil. Roast at 450 degrees F. for 30 to 45 minutes, until they are tender when pierced with a knife.

To boil beets: Place in a saucepan with 2 inches of cold water to cover. Bring to a boil and cook until tender, about 30 minutes for baby beets to 1 hour for large ones.

To microwave beets: Place in a microwave-safe dish with 1/4 cup of water; cover. Microwave on high 10 to 15 minutes until tender.

 When cool enough to handle, peel the beets: Cut off the stem and root ends and scrape the thin layer of skin off with a knife. I wear latex gloves and put a piece of parchment on the cutting board to reduce staining.

The Italian Beet

The Chioggia beet is an Italian heirloom variety established circa 1840. It was named for the town in which it was first cultivated, the island fishing village of Chioggia, near the Lagoon of Venice. Chioggia beets grow best in a cool climate, though they can tolerate some heat. They should be well weeded though, as beets that fight weeds for growing space, can become woody and stringy.

The Chioggia beet can be roasted, steamed or braised. Roasting the beet will bring out the most flavor. Chioggia beets can be served raw, cold or hot. They are a great salad beet, whether served alongside greens or as the main ingredient. Chioggia beets pair well with other beets, bacon, apples, butter, cheeses such as, goat, gorgonzola or aged pecorino-romano, cucumbers, creme fraiche, hard-coked eggs, fennel, mustard, oranges, parsley, smoked fish, shallots and vinegars, especially balsamic, sherry and red wine. Chioggia beets can also be preserved by pickling them.


Chioggia Beet Salad with Ricotta Salata and Hazelnuts

When sliced crosswise, Chioggia beets have a stunning red-and-white bull’s-eye pattern. Compared with common red beets, Chioggia beets don’t bleed much color, so they’re ideal for mixing in salads. Choose small beets if you’re planning to eat them raw–they’re more tender.

Use a mandoline, if you have one, to slice the beets super thin.

Serves 6 to 8


  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup hazelnut or olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 6 small uncooked Chioggia beets, peeled and sliced very thin
  • 1/2 cup crumbled ricotta salata cheese
  • 1/4 cup torn mint leaves
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped toasted hazelnuts

Whisk together lemon juice, oil, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Add beets and toss to coat evenly. Sprinkle with remaining ingredients.

Beet Leaves – Italian Style

This is a good side for grilled flank steak.

Wash 1 bunch of beet leaves very well. Do not use any discolored leaves which can appear yellow. You want the deep green leaves. You can keep the stems too.

Chop the leaves and stems and set aside.

Crush 2 cloves of garlic and saute the garlic in 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, for about 3 minutes over medium heat, in a pan that will be large enough to hold the leaves. Do not let the garlic burn, this will ruin the whole dish.

Next add the beet leaves along with 1/4 cup water. The water will help create steam for cooking the greens.

Lower the heat to low. Cover the pan and cook until the leaves are wilted and soft, stirring frequently. Add additional water as needed to prevent leaves from sticking to pan.

Season with salt and pepper. Serve warm.

This dish can be served as a side dish with Italian-style breaded chicken breasts.


Roasted Beets with Garlic–Potato Spread

Serves 4 – 6


  • 4 medium red beets (about 1 1/2 lbs.) trimmed and cleaned
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1⁄4 cup finely ground toasted walnuts
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 6 cloves garlic, smashed and minced into a paste
  • 2 medium Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1″squares and boiled until tender


Heat oven to 425°F. Put beets in an 8″ x 8″baking dish and drizzle with 2 tablespoons oil. Season with salt and pepper and pour in 1 cup water. Cover pan tightly with foil and crimp edges to form a seal. Bake beets until a knife inserted into beet slides easily into the center, about 1 hour. Transfer pan to a rack, carefully uncover, and let cool for 30 minutes. Peel beets and cut into 1″–2″pieces; set aside.

Put walnuts, vinegar, garlic and potatoes into a medium bowl and mash until the potatoes are smooth. Vigorously stir in remaining oil and season with salt and pepper. Transfer beets to plates and serve with some of the potato spread on the side.


Italian Roasted Beets and Asparagus

Serve with baked salmon fillets (if desired) seasoned with Italian herbs (instructions below).

4 servings


  • Kosher salt
  • 5 large red beets
  • 12 spears jumbo asparagus
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for shaving
  • 1 lb. salmon fillets, if using
  • Chopped Italian herbs (basil, rosemary, parsley, thyme), if using


Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Sprinkle kosher salt on a cookie sheet large enough to hold the beets and place the unpeeled beets on the salt. Place in the oven and cook for 45 minutes. Meanwhile, cut off the woody bottom inch of the asparagus and set aside.

When the 45 minutes have passed, open the oven door and carefully lay the asparagus around the beets on top of the salt. Return to oven and cook 15 minutes more. Remove the cookie sheet from the oven and remove the asparagus to a platter. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with a bit of the salt from the cookie sheet.

If baking salmon to go with this dish, do not turn off the oven. Place the salmon in an oiled baking dish, top with chopped fresh herbs, and place the dish in the oven for about 15 minutes while you prepare the beets.

Allow the beets to cool 5 minutes and then peel them. Cut the peeled beets into 1/4-inch dice and place in a kitchen bowl. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil and season them with salt and pepper.

Arrange the beets over the asparagus and shave Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese over the vegetables. Place the salmon on top if using.


Roasted Beet Risotto


  • 3 medium beets (1 1/2 lbs. with greens), trimmed, leaving 1 inch of stems attached
  • 6 1/2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth 
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups Arborio rice (14 oz)
  • 2/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 oz grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1/2 cup)


Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 425°F.

Tightly wrap beets in a double layer of foil and roast on a baking sheet until very tender, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours. Cool in the foil package, about 20 minutes.

When beets are cool enough to handle, peel them, discarding stems and root ends, then cut into 1/2-inch cubes.

Bring broth to a bare simmer in a 2- to 3-quart saucepan. Keep at a bare simmer, covered.

Cook onion in oil in a wide 4- to 6-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and rice and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute.

Add wine and simmer briskly, stirring constantly, until absorbed, about 1 minute. Stir in 1/2 cup broth and simmer briskly, stirring constantly, until broth is absorbed. Continue simmering and adding broth, about 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and letting each addition be absorbed before adding the next, until rice is just tender and creamy-looking, 18 to 22 minutes. (Reserve any leftover broth.)

Stir in beets, salt and pepper (mixture will turn bright pink) and cook, stirring, until heated through. Thin as necessary with some leftover broth, then stir in cheese and remove from heat.

Mulberry Street, along which New York City’s Little Italy is centered. Lower East Side, circa 1900.

In 1892 Ellis Island, located at the mouth of the Hudson River in New York Harbor, was established as the chief immigration center. Between 1892 and its closing in 1956, over 12 million immigrants passed through Ellis Island.

For centuries since the collapse of the Roman Empire, Italy had not existed as a single unified entity. Instead, it was a series of principalities each ruled by a different prince, duke or ruling family. The Italian Unification of 1861 changed all that, but it was not a smooth transition. The new government favored the areas in the north part of Italy, leaving the south with heavy taxes. This largely rural area had many tenant farmers who were no longer able to make a living, especially as the area was heavily populated.

Instead, millions of Italians decided to head to America. Most intended to make a new home for themselves there, while others intended to stay long enough to make their fortune and then return to Italy. Either way, life was not easy once they arrived in the “Land of Opportunity”. Not only did they not know the language, but they were usually without any education or training.

By 1910, there were 340,765 Italians living in New York.

Ellis Island and Harbor, New York. Statue of Liberty at far left.

To cope with this transition to a strange land with a different language, Italian immigrants, like many other immigrant groups, tended to live very close together in the cities to which they came. These pockets of Italian population were called “Little Italies.” Within these communities they helped each other, fed each other, practiced their religion and kept up many of the familiar customs of their homeland.

These “Little Italies” became important cultural areas of the cities. Often the Italians would establish restaurants, thus introducing Italian cuisine to America. Pope Leo XIII even sent missionaries to the “Little Italies” in the U.S. to serve the people there. As immigrants were able to establish themselves, the next generation was able to stay in school and learn trades. Thus, they were able to raise themselves to the level of skilled workman and eventually to professional jobs. In fact, an Italian entrepreneur, Amadeo Giannini, established a bank in San Francisco for the Italian population there, which eventually became Bank of America, one of the largest banks in the country today.

Most of the Italian immigrants who made their home in America first landed in New York City. Many then traveled to other parts of the country; but by the early 1900’s, hundreds of thousands had settled in lower Manhattan, living in row houses and tenements in an area of about one square mile. For the unskilled, it was a hard life of cleaning city streets and ash barrels and, for the skilled, it was a hard life of working their trade in constructing buildings and roads. Others became fruit peddlers, bread bakers, shoemakers and tailors. Some opened grocery stores and restaurants or worked in factories; all giving their children the option to stay with the family trade or enter a professional field.

Even within Little Italy, still more insular enclaves formed. Most of the people who lived on Mulberry came from Naples; those from Elizabeth Street were from Sicily; Mott Street, from Calabria; and most of the people north of Mott, came from Bari. Back then if a boy from Mulberry Street married a girl from Elizabeth Street it was considered a mixed marriage.

Mulberry Street today, St. Gennaro Festival

Today, just several thousand Italian Americans live in New York City’s Little Italy in an area six by three blocks: Mulberry Street and Mott Streets between Canal and Spring Streets, then spreading to the northwest along Bleecker Street from 6th to 7th Avenues. Still, it’s the location of the largest Italian festival in the United States — The Feast of San Gennaro — an 11-day event that attracts over one million people. Held since 1927, the Festival has live music, games and rides, more than 300 vendors selling food and merchandise, indoor and outdoor restaurant and café dining, live radio broadcasts and a street procession of the San Gennaro statue.

Other events include Summer in Little Italy and Christmas in Little Italy, both held over several consecutive weekends. A recent addition located in the heart of Little Italy, The Italian American Museum, opened in the renovated Banca Stabile building.

To Experience Manhattan’s Little Italy

Start off the day at the Italian American Museum (155 Mulberry St.) located at the site of the former Banca Stabile, a bank established in 1885, to serve as a link back to Italy for the new Italian immigrants.

Follow Mulberry north to the oldest espresso bar in the country, Ferrara (195 Grand St. between Mott and Mulberry) established in 1892, for a coffee and dessert.

Continue on through the remaining area of Little Italy, mostly crowded restaurants and souvenir shops, and turn right onto Spring St. to try a slice of pie from Lombardi’s (32 Spring St.), the first pizzeria in America, dating back to 1905 when Sicilian, Gennaro Lombardi, peddled his first slice. Then head northwest to Ottomanelli & Sons Meat Market (285 Bleecker St.), one of the oldest butchers in New York City.

For a sweet finish, head next door to Pasticceria Rocco (243 Bleecker St.) for cannoli. It’s an old neighborhood favorite: the former Joe Zema’s Pastry, turned over to Rocco ( Joe’s southern Italian apprentice) in 1974.

Manhattan Italian American Cuisine

Neapolitan baker, Lombardi, opened the nation’s first pizzeria in New York City in 1905 and, to this day, Lombardi’s pies stand up as stellar examples of Italian-America’s take on the Neapolitan original: Larger in size, they’re topped with fresh tomato sauce, milky mozzarella, grated Romano cheese, olive oil and basil leaves and cooked in a coal oven. 

Soon enough, red sauce became the standard for Italian food in the United States and was embraced by Americans from every ethnic group. The epitome of this style of dining was Mamma Leone’s on 48th. Street in Manhattan, where blocks of mozzarella and provolone cheese were on every table. The restaurant opened in 1906 and was operated by the same family until it was sold to a restaurant group in 1959, eventually closing in 1994. 

It wasn’t until the arrival of first-rate Italian ingredients—many of which had been kept out of the U.S. by trade laws—in the 1970’s and ’80’s that Italian-American cooks were able to reproduce the regional flavors that travelers to Italy complained they could never find in the States. Such foods included: prosciutto di Parma, extra-virgin olive oil, parmigiano-reggiano cheese, arborio rice, porcini, balsamic vinegar and outstanding Italian wines from producers, like Angelo Gaja and Giovanni di Piero Antinori.

By that time, many Italian-American restaurants had become tired of traditional entrees and turned to northern Italy for inspiration. In New York there were Romeo Salta (opened in 1953), Nanni (1968), and Il Nido (1979). They downplayed the red sauce and substituted butter and cream sauces in pasta, risotto and polenta dishes. Instead of lasagna with meatballs and meat sauce, lasagne alla Bolognese with besciamella and spinach pasta became the favorite. Italian-American cheesecake and cannoli were replaced by tiramisù and panna cotta. The old Chianti bottles in straw  baskets were abandoned in favor of expensive barolos, barbarescos and “super-Tuscans.”  Now, the new restaurants in the U.S., proclaimed they were Tuscan-style trattorias or grills. Among the first to promote their Tuscan origins were Da Silvano, opened in 1975, and Il Cantinori (1983). Before long, their menus were copied across the country and extra-virgin olive oil became the new red sauce.

Manhattan”s Little Italy Inspired Recipes:

Mozzarella in Carrozza


  • 12 slices firm white sandwich bread
  • 1/4 cup drained bottled capers, chopped
  • 6 oz fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil


Divide capers among 12 bread slices and spread evenly. Divide mozzarella among 6 slices and sprinkle with pepper to taste. Make into 6 sandwiches, then cut off and discard crusts to form 3-inch squares.

Coat sandwiches with flour, knocking off excess. Beat together eggs, milk and a pinch each of salt and pepper in another small shallow bowl.

Heat 1/2 tablespoon butter with 1 tablespoon oil in a 10-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat until foam subsides. Meanwhile, coat 3 sandwiches, 1 at a time, with egg mixture. Cook, turning over once, until golden brown, about 5 minutes, then drain on paper towels. Coat and cook remaining 3 sandwiches in same manner.

Cut sandwiches into halves.

Classic Shrimp Scampi

Serves 4


  • 1 pound large shrimp (about 20), shelled and deveined
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 baguette, sliced
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges


Preheat the oven to 425°F.  In a large bowl, toss the shrimp with the wine. In a small bowl, mash the butter with the garlic, cheese, parsley, lemon juice and crushed red pepper. Season the butter with the salt and pepper.

Arrange the shrimp side by side in a single layer in a ceramic baking dish and drizzle any accumulated juices on top. Spread a scant teaspoon of the seasoned butter over each shrimp.

Bake the shrimp for about 7 minutes, until almost cooked through.

Remove the shrimp from the oven and turn on the broiler. Broil the shrimp about 6 inches from the heat for 2 minutes, or until browned and bubbling.

Serve immediately with the baguette slices and lemon wedges.

MAKE AHEAD The shrimp can be prepared through Step 2 and refrigerated overnight. Add another minute or so to the cooking time.

Baked Penne with Sausage and Ricotta

Serves 8


  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 pound hot or sweet Italian fennel sausage, casings removed
  • One 28-ounce can tomato puree
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground fennel
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 pound penne
  • 3 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 pound fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese


Preheat the oven to 400°F.  In a large saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until lightly browned, about 1 minute. Add the sausage and cook, breaking up the meat, until browned, about 8 minutes. Add the tomato puree, water, sugar, bay leaf and fennel. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat until thickened, about 30 minutes. Remove the garlic, mash it to a paste and stir it back into the sauce; discard the bay leaf.

Meanwhile, cook the penne in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Stir in the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Using a slotted spoon, add the cooked sausage to the pasta, then add 1 cup of the tomato sauce and toss to coat the penne.

Spoon the pasta into a greased 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Pour the remaining tomato sauce over the pasta and dollop large spoonfuls of the ricotta on top. Gently fold some of the ricotta into the pasta; don’t overmix—you should have pockets of ricotta. Scatter the mozzarella on top and sprinkle with the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Bake the pasta for about 45 minutes, or until bubbling and golden on top. Let rest for 15 minutes before serving.

MAKE AHEAD The baked penne can be refrigerated, covered, overnight.

Reheat before serving.


Zabaglione with Strawberries

Serves 4


  • 8 large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup dry Marsala wine
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 pint strawberries, sliced


Put the egg yolks, the marsala and the sugar into a large stainless steel bowl. Set the bowl over a large saucepan filled with 1 inch of barely simmering water. Using a whisk or hand-held electric mixer on low speed beat the egg-yolk mixture until it is hot and the mixture forms a ribbon when the beaters are lifted, 5 to 8 minutes. Don’t cook the zabaglione for too long or it will curdle.

Beat the heavy cream just until it holds firm peaks.

When the zabaglione is done, remove the bowl from the heat and continue beating until it cools down. Fold the cooled zabaglione into the whipped cream. Put the strawberries in serving bowls, top with the zabaglione, and refrigerate.

Substitute blueberries, raspberries or sliced peaches for the strawberries.


%d bloggers like this: