Italian Style Meatloaf
This dinner can serve 8. Less and you have plenty of leftovers or the makings for a few sandwiches. I add lots of vegetables to my meatloaf and, of course, lots of Italian flavors. Meatloaf freezes well and I usually cut extra slices off the loaf to freeze individually to use at a later date. Just defrost overnight in the refrigerator.
- Half a sweet onion, finely chopped
- 1 celery rib, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1/2 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
- 1/2 cup shredded carrot
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 cups tomato (marinara) sauce, divided
- 2 pounds lean ground beef (I use grass-fed beef)
- 1 cup Italian flavored dried bread crumbs
- 2 large eggs, beaten slightly
- 1/3 cup minced fresh parsley leaves
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
In a large bowl, combine the beef, eggs, vegetables, bread crumbs, 1 cup of the tomato sauce, seasonings and parsley with your hands until thoroughly mixed.
Form into a loaf and put into a rectangular baking pan with 2-inch high sides.
Bake the meatloaf in the oven for 1 hour. Pour the remaining 1 cup of tomato sauce over the meatloaf and sprinkle with the mozzarella cheese.
Return the dish to the oven just until the cheese melts.
Oven Roasted Potatoes
- 2 lbs small red potatoes, peeled and diced
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
Spread the olive oil out on a baking sheet. Add the diced potatoes, salt, pepper, garlic and rosemary. Toss well and spread the potatoes out into an even layer.
Bake in the oven at the same temperature and for the same amount of time as the meatloaf.
Sautéed Zucchini and Fennel
- 2 zucchini, halved and sliced
- 1 fennel bulb, trimmed and cubed
- 1 small garlic clove, minced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
- Salt and pepper
Heat the oil in a small skillet. Add the garlic and fennel and saute until lightly brown.
Add the zucchini, Italian seasoning and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 2-3 minutes until the zucchini is tender.
This has always been my family’s favorite meal. This is the most asked for menu for birthdays and special occasions, after homemade pizza.
Antipasto Platter and Italian Bread
- Stuffed Peppers
- Roasted Tomatoes
Spaghetti and Meatballs
- 1 lb to 2 lbs spaghetti (depending on how many you are serving)
- Parmesan cheese, grated
For the Sauce
- 3 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium sweet onion, finely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 53 oz (1500 g) imported chopped Italian tomatoes (Preferably without salt or sugar added)
- 6 oz can (170 g) tomato paste
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (chili)
- 1/2 cup chopped parsley
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 3 or 4 basil leaves
For the Meatballs
- 2 lbs lean ground beef
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 slices sandwich bread, crusts removed
- 3/4 cup milk
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
To make the sauce:
Heat the oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Add the onion and garlic and saute until the onion is soft. Add the tomato paste and fill the empty can with water and add it to the pot.
Stir well and cook the paste a minute or two. Add the chopped tomatoes and the remaining ingredients. Bring the sauce to a boil, lower the heat to low.
Place the lid on the pot but leave it ajar and cook the sauce until thick, about 2 hours. When the meatballs are browned, add them to the sauce after it has been cooking for 1 ½ hours.
Stir the meatballs carefully so they do not break.
To make the meatballs:
Combine the bread cubes with the milk in a mixing bowl and set aside.
Heat the oil in a small skillet and add the onion and garlic.Cook until the onion is soft. Remove the pan from the heat and cool the onion to room temperature.
In a large mixing bowl combine the beef with the cooled onion, the bread and the soaking liquid with the rest of the ingredients. Mix well and form the mixture into 12 meatballs.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and cover a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Place the meatballs on the baking sheet and bake the meatballs until brown all over, about 20 minutes
Italian Mixed Green Salad
- Mixed baby lettuces
- Cucumber, peeled and sliced
- Red onion, sliced
- Italian vinaigrette
Italian Ricotta Cheesecake
This quick-and-easy dessert is lighter than traditional cheesecake, since it calls for ricotta instead of cream cheese and my children love it. They always ask for it.Serves 8-10.
- Soft butter for the pan
- ½ cup crushed Amaretti Cookies
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 pounds ricotta cheese, drained
- 1 teaspoon orange zest
- 6 eggs, at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon amaretto liqueur
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Set an oven rack in the middle of the oven.
Butter a 9 inch springform pan. Sprinkle the pan with amaretti cookie crumbles to cover the bottom and sides of the pan.
Place the pan on a rimmed baking sheet.
In a large bowl of an electric mixer, combine the ricotta, orange zest and sugar. Mix to combine. Beat in the flour.
Add eggs, 1 at a time, and beat until incorporated. Add the amaretto liqueur and salt.
Pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake in the center of the oven for about 75 minutes, until a light golden color. Make sure the center is firm and the point of a sharp knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool completely on a wire rack. Cover with plastic wrap and transfer to refrigerator until chilled, overnight or at least for 2 hours. Remove the sides of the pan and serve with fresh fruit on the side.
Grass-fed red meats are leaner and contain proportionally more of many important nutrients that relate to good health. Because grass-fed beef has less fat and marbling (which help keep the juices in the meat), the meat toughens much more rapidly and, therefore, requires more careful cooking. This means it’s essential to rely on a thermometer rather than timing to ensure you don’t overcook the meat. Choose spice rubs or marinades that are oil or herb based, and plan to serve all tender cuts of steak medium rare. Cook the steak to an internal temperature of 120 degrees and let it rest for 5 minutes before serving.
A grass-fed steak should be exposed to high direct heat for no more than 2 minutes per side. After that, in order to guarantee tender and juicy meat, it should be removed from the flames and allowed to finish in indirect or low heat. If you are cooking the steak on the grill, simply move it off the flames and put it on the side of the grill that is not lit, close the grill cover and allow the meat to cook for about 5-7 minutes per pound. During that indirect time, the internal muscle fibers will come up to temperature slowly without contracting too tightly and toughening. Also, the proteins and sugars will have time to caramelize over the surface of the meat, giving the steak that characteristic glossy look and rich taste.
If you are cooking it indoors, once the steak has seared in a hot skillet, transfer the skillet to a 300 degree F oven for about 5-7 minutes per pound (or a 200 degree F oven for about 10 minutes per pound).
- 2 grass-fed, bone-in ribeye or NY strip steaks, about 14-16 oz each
- Olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 8 mushrooms, sliced
- 1 shallot, sliced
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano or thyme
- 4 cups loosely packed baby arugula
- Italian vinaigrette (your favorite)
- 1/4 cup (1 ounce) shaved fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- Lemon wedges
Cooking the steak:
Coat the steaks in olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Let rest at room temperature for one hour.
Heat an outdoor grill and oil the grill grates. Once the grill is hot, turn off one burner or move the hot coals to one side.
Place the steaks over the hot (direct) side of the grill and cook for two minutes. Turn the steaks over and cook for two more minutes.
Move the steaks to the indirect side and cook for 5-7 minutes or until the steaks register 120 on a n instant meat thermometer. Remove to a plate and let rest for 5 minutes.
Cooking the mushroom topping:
Melt the butter in a small skillet. Add add the shallots. Cook for one minute and then add the sliced mushrooms. Cook the mushrooms until their moisture evaporates.
Add the remaining ingredients. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.
For the salad:
Arrange the arugula on a serving platter and drizzle lightly with Italian vinaigrette. Sprinkle with shaved Parmesan cheese.
Place the grilled steaks on top. Spread the mushrooms over the steaks.
Serve with lemon wedges.
Sourdough Dinner Rolls
These rolls are delicious with the steak and round out the meal.
Yield: 8 rolls
- 3 cups bread flour
- 1 package (2¼ teaspoons) yeast
- 1/3 cup cracked wheat or other whole grain
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 cup sourdough starter
- 3/4 cup water
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, combine 1 cup of the flour with the yeast, cracked wheat and salt.
In a microwave-safe bowl or measuring cup, combine the water, honey and the oil. Microwave on high for 30-45 seconds, until warm (but not hot).
Add the warm water mixture and the sourdough starter to the dry ingredients. Beat for 4 minutes on medium speed.
Gradually add the remaining flour, about ½ cup at a time, and switch to the dough hook and knead for 5-7 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.
Place in a lightly oiled bowl and turn to grease the top. Cover lightly with a tea towel and let rise until doubled in size, about an hour.
Turn the risen dough onto a lightly floured surface and gently press or “punch” down to remove air bubbles. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces.
On a lightly floured surface, roll each piece of dough into a 4×6-inch rectangle; then, starting with the longer side, roll up each rectangle tightly, pinching the edges and ends to seal.
Place shaped rolls onto a greased baking sheet. Cover and let rise until doubled again, about 1 more hour. Near the end of the rising time, preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
With a sharp knife, make a lengthwise slash down the center of each roll and brush or lightly spray with cold water.
Bake for 20-25 minutes or until crusty and brown. Remove the rolls from the baking sheet and cool on a cooling rack.
While most peppers start out green, depending on the variety, they will mature into a variety of colors, such as red, orange, yellow and sometimes even purple. Bell peppers are abundant in the summer and these colorful vegetables have a sweet flavor. When choosing bell peppers, make sure to pick those with shiny, blemish-free skin. No wrinkles or soft spots either. Their size and shape will vary greatly so don’t use that as an indicator of age or taste. Packed with vitamins and low in calories, bell peppers can be added to a variety of dishes to bring both color and flavor to your diet. Use them raw or roasted or grilled. Freeze them if you end up with more than you can use. Here are some ideas for using bell peppers:
Add peppers to your favorite kebabs for late summer grilling. This is when it’s a great idea to get one of each color.
Add chopped pepper to your favorite tuna or chicken salad for extra crunch.
Make a colorful pepper slaw. Thinly slice peppers and toss with green onions, cider vinegar and just enough mayonnaise to coat the mixture. Let sit in the refrigerator for several hours to soften the peppers slightly.
Make a bell pepper pizza. Brush a rolled out pizza crust with extra-virgin olive oil. Top with thinly sliced red, orange and yellow peppers and add tablespoons of ricotta cheese. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese and bake. Add fresh basil leaves just before the pizza finishes cooking.
Bell peppers make excellent appetizer dippers. Cut wide strips and use for hummus, salsa or other dips.
Grilled Stuffed Italian Peppers
This appetizer recipe is a healthy, fresh alternative to the popular breaded and fried versions.
Yield: 10 peppers
10 Italian (long) frying peppers
- 8 ounces low-fat cream cheese with chives and onion, softened
- 2 ounces extra-sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1/2 cup)
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Preheat an outdoor grill to medium-high heat. Oil the grill grates.
Cut a thin slice off the top of the peppers. Carefully remove the seeds so you not tear the peppers.
Combine the filling ingredients in a mixing bowl, stirring well to combine. Using a small spoon fill the peppers. Coat the outside of the peppers with olive oil cooking spray.
Place the peppers on the grill, close the cover and grill the peppers 5 minutes. Turn the peppers over and grill for 5 more minutes.
Southern Style Stuffed Peppers
Ingredients for every 2 peppers
- 2 whole bell peppers
- 2 teaspoons butter
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons diced sweet onion
- 2 tablespoons diced celery
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh tomato
- 1 cup fresh corn kernels
- 3/4 cups grated Cheddar or Monterrey Jack cheese
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh herbs
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly oil a baking dish deep enough to stand the peppers upright.
Cut the tops off the peppers and remove the seeds. Save the tops. Lightly salt the inside of the peppers.
Combine the filling ingredients in a mixing bowl. Season with black pepper. Stuff the peppers with the filling, packing it in tightly. Place 1 teaspoon of butter on top.
Replace the pepper tops and set them in the prepared dish. Add water to the dish, about one inch deep, cover, and bake until the peppers are completely cooked, about 45-50 minutes.
Sautéed Peppers and Onions (Peperonata)
Peperonata recipes come in many versions; some get stewed, some are cooked with potatoes or with tomatoes. I prefer to lightly saute them, so they retain a slight crunch. This dish is perfect to serve with grilled steak, chicken cutlets, sausage or fish. They are also good in a sandwich, especially an Italian pepper and egg sandwich.
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 6 sweet bell peppers or 20 Italian frying peppers, seeded, sliced into 2 1/2 to 3-inch long strips
- 2 large sweet onions, halved and sliced
- 4 garlic cloves, grated
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano or 1 teaspoon of fresh oregano leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (chili)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the onions, the peppers, garlic, oregano, pepper flakes, salt and pepper and cook for about 10 minutes, until crisp tender.
Add 4 Roma or other plum tomatoes, seeded and diced with the peppers in the skillet
Add ½ cup sliced basil leaves, instead of oregano
Add 1/4 cup Balsamic Vinegar with the peppers to the skillet
Add 2 boiled potatoes, sliced, to the onions in the skillet
Steak Pizzaiola with Peppers and Onions
The loin is actually two subprime cuts—the strip loin and the tenderloin—and contains the most tender and prized cuts of meat. The strip loin, the larger of the two, is a cylindrical muscle running along the spine. The tenderloin is a smaller, snake-shaped muscle running parallel to and beneath the strip loin. Steaks cut from the boneless strip loin are known as New York Strip Steaks. The tenderloin may be sold in roast-sized chunks for Chateaubriand, or sliced into individual steaks known as filet mignon. A steak cut that includes both the strip and the filet separated by a t-shaped bone between them is called a T-bone steak. When a T-bone steak is cut from farther back on the short loin, where the tenderloin is thicker, it is known as a porterhouse. Loin is not as marbled (fatty) as the rib eye, nor is it among the leanest cuts. All loin cuts are best dry-heat cooked.
- 1 boneless strip loin steak, cut into 1/4 inch thick slices and fat trimmed
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Half of the sautéed Pepper and Onion recipe – from above
- 2 cups Marinara (tomato) sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano or basil
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (chili)
Sprinkle the 1 teaspoon salt on the steaks and let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the steaks and sear them on one side for 2 minutes. Turn the steaks over.
Top each steak with about 1/2 cup of the sautéed peppers and onions. Cover the peppers and onions on each steak with 1/2 cup of tomato sauce. Sprinkle each with some red pepper flakes, black pepper and herbs.
Cover the skillet and cook until warmed, about 5 minutes on medium heat.
The province and metropolitan city of Messina are located in the northeast corner of Sicily on the Strait of Messina and sits on two different seas. It is also the 3rd largest city on the island of Sicily and the 13th largest city in Italy. Messina was originally founded by Greek colonists in the 8th century BC. In 1908, a devastating earthquake hit Messina, along with a tsunami, which destroyed much of the historical architecture of the city. One of the major landmarks lost to the earthquake was the 12th century Cathedral of the City, which was rebuilt in 1919. The city was also victim to significant damage from bombing raids during the Second World War.
Among the top attractions of Messina are the Cathedral of Messina, the Orologio Astronomico (the Bell Tower with an Astronomical Clock) and the Annunziata dei Catalani Church. The cathedral has largely been rebuilt following the earthquake damage and the bomb damage but some of the original building still remains, including a 15th century Gothic doorway and some 14th century mosaics. The attractive Bell Tower is home to one of the world’s largest astronomical clocks and its motorized figures emerge every day at noon to depict scenes of local history. Also, in the Piazza Duomo is the 16th century Fontaine de Orione.
The province’s main resources are its seaports (commercial and military shipyards), cruise tourism, commerce and agriculture (wine production and cultivating lemons, oranges, mandarin oranges and olives).
Just off the coast are the Aeolian Islands, a volcanic archipelago in the Tyrrhenian Sea, and they are a popular tourist destination in the summer, attracting up to 200,000 visitors annually. There are beaches and coves with black sand, pumice stone and tiny pebbles, steaming craters, bubbling mud baths, sulfur springs, strange-shaped grottoes, crystal-clear turquoise waters, craggy cliffs, and archaeological sites on the coastline and the adjacent islands.
Fish: fried, baked or grilled, is the province’s most popular food. The preparation can vary, but what matters most is its freshness. Swordfish from the Messina Strait is cooked in multiple ways. Crustaceans and mussels make a popular soup and are often used as a topping for rice and spaghetti.
Vegetables and fruits are important components of Messinese cooking. Caponata, eggplant with cheese and potato fries are three of the best known local vegetable dishes.
Dairy products include canestrato cheese in sweet or spicy versions, sheep pecorino cheese and provola cheese, all made according to ancient traditions.
Olive oil, honey, hazelnuts and pistachios are all part of the cuisine.
Local pastries are well-known classics: cannoli, cassate, almond paste, martorana fruit and pignolata.
The D.O.C. wines of Etna, the Malvasia di Lipari and citrus liqueurs are all produced here.
Sciusceddu ( Meatball and Egg Soup)
“Sciusceddu” is a dish that comes from the city of Messina in Sicily, where it is traditionally served at Easter. There are two theories for where the name “sciusceddu” comes from. One suggests that it derives from the Latin word “juscelleum,” meaning soup, and the other is from the Sicilian verb “sciusciare,” meaning to blow.
4 cups meat broth
7 oz veal or beef meat, chopped
2 oz breadcrumbs
3 ½ oz caciocavallo cheese, grated
3 eggs, divided
3 ½ oz ricotta cheese
Salt and pepper
Combine the minced meat, one egg, breadcrumbs, half of the grated Caciocavallo cheese (or Parmesan), chopped parsley and a little water; then form meatballs about the size of a small egg.
In another bowl, beat the remaining 2 eggs with the ricotta cheese, the remaining Caciocavallo cheese and a dash of salt and pepper.
Bring the broth to the boil in a saucepan and drop the meatballs into the broth.
Cook for about twenty minutes, then add the egg/ricotta mixture, stirring vigorously for a few moments. Remove from the heat and serve the “sciusceddu” piping hot.
Pesce Spada alla Messinese (Swordfish Messina style)
Ingredients (serves 4)
1 lb (600 gr) swordfish cut into palm-sized pieces slices
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 spring onions, chopped
20 capers (if salted, rinse well first)
10 black olives, chopped
4 anchovy fillets
1 cup white wine
2 cups tomato passata (sauce)
15 oz can chopped tomatoes
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
A pinch of crushed dried chili pepper
Brush the swordfish slices with olive oil and set aside.
In a skillet heat enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Add the spring onions, garlic, capers, olives, chili pepper and anchovy fillets and cook until the anchovies melt into the oil and the onion is soft.
Put the slices of swordfish in the skillet and add the white wine. Burn off the alcohol and then add the tomatoes. Mix well, cover and cook for 30 minutes on very low heat.
When ready to serve, sprinkle with parsley.
Pidoni, a popular dish from Messina. are pieces of pizza-like dough, stuffed with curly endive, mozzarella and anchovy, similar to a calzone but fried.
For the dough:
400 gr (3 cups) Italian 00 or pastry flour
200 gr ( 2 cups) bread flour
300 ml (1 and 1/3 cups) water
2 gr ( 1/2 teaspoon) active dry yeast
40 gr (6 tablespoons) olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
For the filling:
500 gr (1 lb, about 2 bunches) curly endive which is also named chicory or frisee
600 gr /18 oz diced, canned tomato
400 gr (14 oz) fresh mozzarella
6-8 anchovy fillets
Salt and black pepper to taste
Vegetable oil for deep frying
Twenty-four hours before you need it, make the dough. Mix the dough ingredients, oil the dough, cover it and let it rise in a draft-free area.
About half way through the proofing time, knead the dough briefly and cover again.
Make the filling.
Wash the curly endive thoroughly and chop it finely or pulse it in a food processor. Mix the chopped salad with the tomatoes, salt lightly and transfer in a colander for at least one hour.
It’s important to remove as much liquid as possible from the vegetable mixture, so squeeze it in a cotton towel if necessary.
Transfer the mixture to a bowl, add one tablespoon olive oil and season the filling with a sprinkle of black pepper.
Divide the risen dough into 16 equal pieces. Roll each into a ball. Place each ball on a lightly floured work surface and roll out into a thin disk of about 20 cm ( 8 inches) in diameter.
Divide the filling among the 16 disks leaving a 2.5cm ( 1 inch) margin around the edge.
Place 1 slice of mozzarella and 1/2 anchovy fillet broken in 2-3 pieces over the filling and fold the disk of dough to form a small calzone.
Preheat the oil in a deep saucepan, until a cube of bread dropped into the oil turns golden in about 25 seconds.
Seal the edges of the pidoni with a fork, drop them carefully into the hot oil and fry for 3-4 minutes per batch until golden.
Drain on kitchen towssl and set aside. Continue until all are finished. Serves 6-8
4 cups whole milk, divided
3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 cup superfine sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup Pistachio Cream, recipe below
In a small bowl combine 1 cup milk, cornstarch, and sugar. Using a wire whisk, combine the ingredients to form a slurry so that all the cornstarch is dissolved and the mixture is smooth.
In a medium-size saucepan over medium heat, combine the remaining 3 cups milk and the vanilla extract.
Stirring occasionally, heat the mixture to almost a boil; stir in the cornstarch mixture and let simmer from 5 to 12 minutes to thicken, stirring constantly.
Another important tip is to stir slowly, (do not whisk) which will prevent too much air from being incorporated into the custard that will produce ice crystals.
Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the mixture to a bowl. Cover and refrigerate until completely chilled, preferably overnight.
Prior to using the custard mixture, pour the chilled custard through a strainer into a mixing bowl to clear out any clumps that may have formed. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Whisk the prepared chilled Pistachio Cream into the strained and chilled custard. The gelato mixture is now ready for the freezing process.
Transfer the mixture into your ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
With Gelato, it is best to not process it until it is hard. Instead, stop the ice cream maker at soft serve consistency, then put it in a container in your freezer until stiff for a delicate flavor and texture that differentiates it from ice cream.
When the gelato is done, either serve (best if eaten and enjoyed immediately, as gelato has a shorter storage life than ice cream) or transfer to freezer containers and freeze until firmer.
Makes approximately 1 quart of pistachio gelato.
1 cup hot water
8 ounces raw unsalted shelled and hulled pistachio nuts
2 tablespoons superfine sugar
2 teaspoons olive oil
In a medium-size saucepan, bring water to a boil.
Place the pistachio nuts, sugar and olive oil in a food processor. Blend/process, adding the hot water (1 tablespoon at a time to control the consistency of the cream) until the pistachios are a smooth, creamy consistency that spreads freely in the blender (It usually takes about 9 tablespoons of hot water).
NOTE: Stop the processor and scrape down the sides of the bowl several times during this process. When done, cover and refrigerate until ready to use in making the gelato.
Makes approximately 1 cup.
The Province of Naples is a mixture of colors, culture and history. The beautiful islands that dot the blue waters of the Mediterranean are like jewels in a necklace. In a sea so blue that it blends with the sky, three islands can be found: Capri, Ischia and Procida. Mt. Vesuvius overlooks the city and the beautiful bay. The sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum are of great archaeological value and are famous worldwide. The entire area is interspersed with finds from a long-ago past, especially those that saw the presence of the Roman emperors that first recognized the beauty of this terrain.
Naples is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Bronze Age Greek settlements were established in the area in the second millennium BC and Naples played a key role in the merging of Greek culture into Roman society. Naples remained influential after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, serving as the capital city of the Kingdom of Naples between 1282 and 1816. Later, in union with Sicily, it became the capital of the Two Sicilies until the unification of Italy in 1861.
Naples has the fourth-largest urban economy in Italy, after Milan, Rome and Turin. It is the world’s 103rd richest city by purchasing power and the port of Naples is one of the most important in Europe with the world’s second-highest level of passenger flow, after the port of Hong Kong. Numerous major Italian companies are headquartered in Naples. The city also hosts NATO’s Allied Joint Force Command Naples, the SRM Institution for Economic Research and the OPE Company and Study Center.
Neapolitan cuisine took much from the culinary traditions of the Campania region, reaching a balance between dishes based on rural ingredients and seafood. A vast variety of recipes are influenced by a local, more affluent cuisine, like timballi and the sartù di riso, pasta or rice dishes with very elaborate preparation, while some dishes come from the traditions of the poor, like pasta e fagioli (pasta with beans) and other pasta dishes with vegetables. Neapolitan cuisine emerged as a distinct cuisine in the 18th century with ingredients that are typically rich in taste, but remain affordable.
The majority of Italian immigrants who went to the United States during the great migration were from southern Italy. They brought with them their culinary traditions and much of what Americans call Italian food originated in Naples and Sicily.
Naples is traditionally credited as the home of pizza. Pizza was originally a meal of the poor, but under Ferdinand IV it became popular among the upper classes. The famous Margherita pizza was named after Queen Margherita of Savoy after her visit to the city. Cooked traditionally in a wood-burning oven, the ingredients of Neapolitan pizza have been strictly regulated by law since 2004, and must include wheat flour type “00” with the addition of flour type “0” yeast, natural mineral water, peeled tomatoes or fresh cherry tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, sea salt and extra virgin olive oil.
Spaghetti is also associated with the city and is commonly eaten with a sauce called ragù. There are a great variety of Neapolitan pastas. The most popular variety of pasta, besides the classic spaghetti and linguine, are paccheri and ziti, long pipe-shaped pasta usually topped with Neapolitan ragù. Pasta with vegetables is also characteristic of the cuisine. Hand-made gnocchi, prepared with flour and potatoes are also popular.
Other dishes popular in Naples include Parmigiana di melanzane, spaghetti alle vongole and casatiello. As a coastal city, Naples is also known for its numerous seafood dishes, including impepata di cozze (peppered mussels), purpetiello affogato (octopus poached in broth), alici marinate (marinated anchovies), baccalà alla napoletana (salt cod) and baccalà fritto (fried cod), a dish commonly eaten during the Christmas period.
Popular Neapolitan pastries include zeppole, babà, sfogliatelle and pastiera, the latter of which is prepared for Easter celebrations. Another seasonal dessert is struffoli, a sweet-tasting honey dough decorated and eaten around Christmas.
The traditional Neapolitan flip coffee pot, known as the cuccuma or cuccumella, was the basis for the invention of the espresso machine and also inspired the Moka pot.
Naples is also the home of limoncello, a popular lemon liqueur. Limoncello is produced in southern Italy, especially in the region around the Gulf of Naples, the Sorrentine Peninsula and the coast of Amalfi, and islands of Procida, Ischia, and Capri. Traditionally, limoncello is made from the zest of Femminello St. Teresa lemons, also known as Sorrento or Sfusato lemons. The lemon liquid is then mixed with simple syrup. Varying the sugar-to-water ratio and the temperature affects the clarity, viscosity and flavor.
Tomatoes entered Neapolitan cuisine during the 18th century. The industry of preserving tomatoes originated in 19th century Naples, resulting in the export to all parts of the world of the famous “pelati”(peeled tomatoes) and the “concentrato” (tomato paste). There are traditionally several ways of preparing tomato preserves, bottled tomato juice and chopped tomatoes. The famous “conserva” (sun-dried concentrated juice) tomato is cooked for a long time and becomes a dark red cream with a velvety texture.
Buffalo mozzarella is mozzarella made from the milk of the domestic Italian water buffalo. It is a product traditionally produced in the region. The term mozzarella derives from the procedure called mozzare which means “cutting by hand”, that is, the process of the separation of the curd into small balls. It is appreciated for its versatility and elastic texture. The buffalo mozzarella sold as Mozzarella di Bufala Campana has been granted the status of Denominazione di origine controllata (DOC – “Controlled designation of origin”) since 1993. Since 1996 it is also protected under the EU’s Protected Designation of Origin and Protected Geographical Indication labels.
Neapolitan ragù is one of the two most famous varieties of Italian meat sauces called ragù. It is a specialty of Naples, as its name indicates. The other variety originated in Bologna. The Neapolitan type is made with onions, meat and tomato sauce. A major difference is how the meat is used, as well as the amount of tomato in the sauce. Bolognese versions use very finely chopped meat, while the Neapolitan versions use large pieces of meat, taking it from the pot when cooked and served it as a second course. Ingredients also differ. In Naples, white wine is replaced by red wine, butter is replaced with olive oil and lots of basil leaves are added. Bolognese ragù has no herbs. Milk or cream are not used in Naples. Neapolitan ragù is very similar to and may be ancestral to the Italian-American “Sunday Gravy”; the primary difference being the addition of a greater variety of meat in the American version, including meatballs, sausage and pork chops.
- 1 pound rump roast
- 1 large slice of brisket (not too thick)
- 1 pound veal stew meat
- 1 pound pork ribs
- 2 large onions, sliced
- 6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 cup of red wine
- 1 1/2 pounds tomatoes, pureed
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Fresh basil leaves
Season the meat with salt and pepper. Tie the large pieces with cooking twine to help them keep their shape. In a large pot heat the oil and butter. Add the sliced onions and the meat at the same time.
On medium heat let the meat brown and the onion soften. During this first step you must be vigilant, don’t let the onion dry, stir with a wooden spoon and start adding wine if necessary to keep them moist.
Once the meat has browned, add the tomato paste and a little wine to dissolve it. Stir and combine the ingredients. Let cook slowly for 10 minutes.
Add the pureed tomatoes, season with salt and black pepper and stir. Cover the pot but leave the lid ajar. (You can place a wooden spoon under the lid.)
The sauce must cook very slowly for at least 3-4 hours. After 2 hours add few leaves of basil and continue cooking.
During these 3-4 hours you must keep tending to the ragú, stirring once in a while and making sure that it doesn’t stick to the bottom. Serve with your favorite pasta.
Pizza Dough Ingredients
- 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
- 1 1/2 cups (350 cc) warm water
- 3 1/2 cups (500 g) flour (Italian OO flour)
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- Pinch of salt
Topping for 1 pizza
- 1 cup (250 g) tomatoes, puréed in a blender
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- Salt and pepper
- 5 fresh basil leaves
- 2 oz (60 g) fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
For the pizza dough:
In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast on the warm water and stir to dissolve it. Set aside until the yeast starts forming bubbles, about 5 minutes.
Sift the flour. Pour the flour into a large bowl or on a work surface. Form the flour in a mound shape with a hole in the center. Pour the yeast mix in the center, then the olive oil and a pinch of salt.
Using a spatula, draw the ingredients together. Then mix with your hands to form a dough. Sprinkle some flour on the work surface. Place the pizza dough on the floured surface.
Knead the pizza dough briefly with your hands pushing and folding. Knead just long enough for the dough to take in a little more flour and until it no longer sticks to your hands.
With your hand, spread a little olive oil inside a bowl. Transfer the dough into the bowl.
On the top of the pizza dough, make two incisions that cross, and spread with a very small amount of olive oil. This last step will prevent the surface of the dough from breaking too much while rising.
Cover the bowl with a kitchen cloth, and set the bowl aside for approximately 1½ – 2 hours or until the dough doubles in volume. The time required for rising will depend on the strength of the yeast and the temperature of the room.
When the dough is about double its original size, punch it down to eliminate the air bubbles.
On a lightly floured work surface, cut the dough into three equal pieces. On the work surface, using a rolling-pin and your hands, shape one piece of dough into a thin 12 inch round layer.
Transfer the dough to a pizza pan. Using your fingertips, push from the center to the sides to cover the entire surface of the pan.
For the pizza
Preheat the oven to 500 F (260 C). In a mixing bowl place the tomatoes. Stir in 1 tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread the tomato mixture evenly over the pizza.
With your hands, break the basil leaves into small pieces. Distribute the basil uniformly over the pizza. Spread the rest of the olive oil on the pizza. Add salt to taste.
Bake the pizza for approximately 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and add the mozzarella cheese.
Bake for 10 more minutes. Lift one side to check for readiness. Pizza is ready when the bottom surface is light brown. Top with few more fresh basil leaves, if desired, and serve immediately.
Pasta con i Calamari
Small clams and other fish are sometimes added with the calamari.
- 2 whole fresh squid
- 1 ½ cups cherry tomatoes
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 peperoncino
- Fresh parsley
- Fresh basil
- 1 cup white wine
- Olive oil
- 8 oz paccheri pasta
Cut the squid body into slices and halve the tentacles if they are large.
Clean, remove the seeds and finely chop the tomatoes. Rinse and chop the parsley. Peel and slice the garlic.
Heat a generous amount of oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook 2 to 3 minutes.
Add the peperoncino. Stir in the calamari and cook 3 to 5 minutes.
Add the wine and cook until the liquid is reduced by half.
Add the tomatoes and parsley and stir through. Salt to taste.
Cover and cook on medium for 15 minutes.
While the calamari is cooking, cook the pasta al dente. Remove some of the pasta cooking water.
Stir a bit of the pasta water into the sauce and cook a few minutes longer.
Drain the pasta, add it to the sauce and stir through.
Garnish with a few basil leaves.