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.
The comforting and inviting smell of home-baked bread should be reason enough to try baking at home. Home-baked bread also offers more nutrients than commercially manufactured breads and, of course, there are no preservatives in this bread. Although baking bread takes some time, the taste and nutritional benefits of baking your own bread makes the effort worthwhile.
No-Knead Sourdough Rye
I came up with this recipe for rye bread based on the process for no-knead breads developed by Jim Lahey at the Sullivan Street Bakery. Plus I often think about how I can use my sourdough starter that I always have available in my refrigerator. So I combined the two and the results were a delicious rye bread that goes really well with soup or a salad.
- 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups rye flour
- 1/2 teaspoon instant rise yeast
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons caraway seeds
- 1/2 cup sourdough starter, at room temperature
- 1 1/4 cups water
- 1 1/2 teaspoons honey
You will need a Dutch Oven or a Cloche Baker (round or long) for this recipe.
Mix the flours, salt, yeast and caraway in a large bowl. Combine the honey, starter and water in a measuring cup and, gradually, add the liquids until the dough comes together into a wet dough.
You may need a little more water, 2-3 tablespoons more, if the dough seems dry. The dough should be fairly moist.
Cover the bowl with a damp towel or plastic wrap and let it rise at room temperature for 12-18 hours.
Flour a work surface and gently turn the dough out. Fold the edges in and pinch them to form a ball.
Let the dough rise on a well floured towel or parchment lined bowl.
I like to line a round bread basket with parchment paper, cut to fit the basket, because the bread does not flatten out too much, as no-knead doughs can sometimes do.
After 1-2 hours, the dough should have fully risen.
During the last 45 minutes of the second rise, preheat the oven to 500 degrees F with the cloche baker or dutch Oven on a low rack.
After 45 minutes, remove the baker from the oven and turn the oven down to 450 degrees F. Use well insulted pot holders, as the baker will be very hot.
Using the parchment as a sling, gently lower the dough with the parchment into the preheated baker.
Be careful to not touch the baker as it is very hot! Slash the top of the loaf with a sharp knife.
Place the lid on the baker and put the baker into the oven. Bake for 30 minutes with the lid on.
After 30 minutes, remove the lid and bake an additional 15 minutes, until the bread is deep brown in color and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers about 205°F.
To keep the crust crackly, turn the oven off, crack the door open, and let the bread cool inside the oven for 30 minutes.
Sourdough English Muffins
There are many recipes for English Muffins but this one is a favorite in my family. It is easy to make and tastes great for breakfast, especially with homemade jam. I like making my own English Muffins because they have a fresh, clean taste, that store-bought muffins do not seem to have. Adding a little whole wheat flour gives the muffins some added nutrition. You do need to buy English Muffin rings to make this recipe, but the process I use won’t make a mess from cooking the muffins on the stovetop.
- 1/4 cup dry milk powder
- 1 1/3 cups lukewarm water
- 3 tablespoons soft butter
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 large egg
- 3 tablespoons (1 1/4 ounces) potato flour (not starch)
- 2 cups unbleached bread flour
- 1 cup white whole wheat flour
- 2 teaspoons instant yeast
- 1 cup sourdough starter, set out on the kitchen counter, covered, overnight
- Semolina flour or cornmeal
Combine all of the ingredients except the semolina in the bowl of an electric stand mixer. Mix and then beat at high speed using the flat beater paddle for 5 minutes.
The dough will be soft, sticky and glossy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, cover it, and allow the dough to rise for about 90-120 minutes, until doubled in bulk.
Grease the rings with cooking spray.
Place 16 rings on two parchment covered sheet pans and sprinkle a little semolina or cornmeal in each muffin ring,
Fill each ring almost to the top. I used a small muffin scoop to make it easier. Pat the dough a little to get it to the sides of the rings.
Place a sheet of parchment paper that has been coated with cooking spray on top of the rings and lay another sheet pan on top. This step helps the muffins retain their shape. Let rise 30 minutes.
Remove the top pan and parchment and sprinkle the tops of the risen muffins with semolina. Replace the parchment paper, sprayed side down, and the baking sheets.
Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 400°F.
Bake the muffins (with the baking sheet on top) for 10 minutes. Flip the pans over and rotate the pans on the oven racks. Bake 5 minutes more.
Remove the top pan and parchment, and bake for another 10 minutes, or until the muffins are a light golden brown and the interior of one registers about 200°F on a digital thermometer.
Remove the muffins from the oven. Remove the muffin rings (they will slide right off) and transfer the muffins to a rack to cool.
Ancona is a province in the Marche region of central Italy. The province is bordered by the Adriatic Sea in the north and the Apennine Mountains on the west. Ancona’s sandy beaches are popular with Italians but not well-known to tourists.
The hills of the region are littered with Medieval buildings and walls, and unlike many other often-invaded areas, historical architecture has been preserved and adapted for modern uses.
The Ancona port, one of the main ports on the Adriatic Sea, is located in the city of Ancona and is a busy passenger port with ferries running to Greece, Turkey, Croatia, Albania and Montenegro.
The city was founded in 387 BC by Greek settlers and the name Ancona comes from the Greek for elbow, due to its elbow-shaped harbor.
Many of the small craft workshops of the past scattered throughout the rural settlements have modernised and become small businesses, some of which have become major brands known all over the world (Indesit, Tod’s, Guzzini, Teuco). This evolution led to the emergence of ‘specialised’ industries: footwear, leather goods, furniture, household appliances and textiles, all made in the region.
The demand for Italian textiles and clothing is strong in the United States and Japan, as well as China, Hong Kong, Turkey and Russia. Italy is also a pioneer in the export of yarn, woolen fabrics, silk fabrics, clothing and hosiery.
A large area of the province’s land is farmland and much of it is used for wine production; as the production of Montepulciano, Sangiovese and Verdicchio grapes. Traditional feasts are held in the province during the harvesting period.
The mountainous regions and the Conero Regional Park, which contain dense forests, are where black truffles are found and they are sold throughout the province and neighboring provinces.
The main products grown are cereals, vegetables, animal products and grapes. Olives are also produced and managed by various harvesters. The sea has always furnished a plentiful supply of fish,
The influence of the neighboring regions, particularly Emilia-Romagna, can be seen in the popularity of fresh egg pasta and oven-baked pasta dishes in the province. Vincisgrassi is a regional favorite and is a type of baked-lasagna stuffed with chicken livers.
In and around Ancona, you will find a variety of soups. Minestra di lumachelle is a local favorite containing lumachelle, a type of pasta made with egg, cheese and bread crumbs, similar to passatelli. Tripe soup, or minestrone di trippa, is also a regional specialty that is served with a battuto, lard pounded together with herbs.
Along the coast, fish soups are typical. Brodetto is prepared with a variety of fish. There are also a number of special, regional preparations for local seafood: cooked with white wine, tomato, lemon juice and spices, alla marinara, stewed in tomato sauce; al forno or oven-broiled.
Meat is also popular. Pilotto is a way to prepare meat by wrapping it in paper with a piece of lard, which melts into the meat during cooking. Another local favorite is Porchetta, a spit-roasted whole, boneless pig that has been stuffed with herbs.
Some of the best cheeses made in the area are Casciotta d’Urbino DOP, Raviggiolo del Montefeltro, Slaatto and herb-flavored sheep’s milk cheeses. For a special treat, olive ascolane are stuffed with meat, dipped in egg and breadcrumbs and then fried.
Cicerchiata is a dessert made from yeast dough, shaped into balls, baked in the oven and covered with honey. Becciate are made with raisins and pine nuts. Migliaccio is a dessert made with pig’s blood, sugar and citrus peel.
Broad Beans with Anchovies
Serve with crusty Italian bread as an appetizer.
- 2 lb broad beans, fresh and shells removed
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 pinch marjoram
- 4 anchovies
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- White wine vinegar to taste
- Salt and pepper to taste
Boil the broad beans in a small quantity of salted water until they are fairly “al dente”.
Prepare the topping with a chopped mixture of anchovies, garlic, marjoram, vinegar, oil, salt and pepper, to taste.
Pour the topping over the broad beans as soon as they have been drained. Serve immediately or at room temperature.
Brodetto (Fish Stew) Ancona-Style
You can use any type of fish–swordfish, squid, red snapper, shrimp, clams, mussels and lobster for this recipe with a total weight of 3 lbs.. Clean the clams and mussels well and put them into the stew whole. Some versions of brodetto use saffron instead of red pepper flakes and white wine instead of vinegar. You can substitute rice for the bread, as well.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 carrot, chopped
- 2 celery ribs, chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 cup chopped fresh parsley
- Red pepper flakes (chili) to taste
- 1 (28 ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, mashed
- 1 1/2 pounds red snapper fillets, cut into 2 inch pieces
- 1/2 cup white vinegar or wine
- Salt and ground black pepper to taste
- 3 cups fish stock
- 1 pound clams in the shell, scrubbed
- 1/2 pound medium shrimp, with shells
- 6 (3/4 inch thick) slices Italian bread, toasted
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan, Dutch oven, or a clay pot over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, carrot, celery, bay leaves, parsley and red pepper.
Cook and stir until the onion has softened and turned translucent, about 5 minutes.
Stir in the mashed tomatoes and cook for 15 minutes over medium heat. Pour in the vinegar or wine and cook 10 minutes. Pour in the fish stock and add the snapper.
Cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 10 minutes.
Gently mix in the clams and cook until the clams open (discard any that don’t) about 2 minutes, and then stir in the shrimp.
Cook until the shrimp are pink, about 3 minutes.
Place a slice of toasted bread in the bottom of each bowl. Ladle the brodetto over the bread and serve immediately.
Pollo in Potacchio
- 1 small chicken cut into 5 pieces (wing, drumstick, thigh and breast cut in half)
- 1 small onion
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 1/4 cup chopped imported Italian tomatoes
- 4 sprigs of fresh rosemary
- Hot water
- 10 small Yukon gold potatoes
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Salt to taste
Line a dish with paper towels and lay out the chicken, skin side up. Let air dry uncovered in the refrigerator for 2 days.
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Cut the potatoes into wedges. Place in a pot, cover with cold water, and add a pinch of salt. Over high heat, bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes.
The potatoes will not be completely cooked. Drain in colander.
Add the potatoes to a mixing bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Add the leaves from two of the rosemary sprigs. Add a good pinch of salt and toss.
Pour the potatoes out onto a sheet pan and shake to separate. Roast in the oven for about 30 minutes, turning the potatoes once with a stainless steel spatula.
In a large skillet add a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the chicken and brown on all sides, about ten minutes. Remove the chicken to a bowl.
Discard the rendered chicken fat and oil.
Add a tablespoon of olive oil to the large skillet, still over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic cloves; sauté until soft but not brown.
Add the white wine and rosemary sprigs; cook until the wine evaporates.
Reduce the heat to low and add the tomatoes. Season with salt and cook for 10 minutes.
Add the chicken and a splash of hot water. Turn the chicken over to coat. Cover and cook until the chicken is cooked through.
Serve the chicken topped with a little sauce and the potatoes.
Orange Cake – Ancona-Style
- 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus flour for dusting the pan
- 3 eggs
- Grated peel of 3 oranges
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, softened to room temperature, plus butter for greasing the pan
- 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons orange liqueur
- 1 tablespoon whole milk
- 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- 2 cups freshly squeezed orange juice, with 3 tablespoons sugar dissolved in it.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Thickly smear a Bundt pan with butter and dust with flour.
Put the flour, eggs, orange peel, 4 tablespoons softened butter, sugar and liqueur in a food processor and run until all the ingredients are evenly mixed.
Add the milk and baking powder and process again to incorporate into the mixture.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan (it won’t fill it up all the way) and place the pan in the preheated oven.
Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until a cake tester placed in the center of the cake comes out clean..
Invert the cake while still warm and place it on a rimmed plate. Poke many holes into the cake with a thin handle from a wooden spoon.
Pour the orange juice over the cake slowly. At first, the holes fill to the brim with juice, but this will be absorbed by the cake. Repeat until all the juice is used.
Whatever juice ends up at the bottom of the cake, leave it there; it will eventually be absorbed.
Serve at room temperature. The cake keeps in the refrigerator, covered, for a week.
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.
Summer is a great time to entertain and if you can do it outdoors, it is even better. Casual get-togethers call for easy to do recipes using foods that can stand up to the outdoor elements. If you are hosting or attending such a party, thoughts usually run along the “what should I make” category. Since I live where it is quite hot six months of the year, I tend not to serve or take mayonnaise flavored dishes. Here are some ideas for each menu course of what to make or bring to an outdoor party. These have all been stamped with approval from my family and friends.
Appetizer Course: Crostini with Mushrooms
- 3 lb mixed fresh mushrooms
- 3 oz. dried mushrooms
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
- 6 cloves garlic
- 1/4 cup low-sodium beef or vegetable broth
- 2 tablespoons cognac
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 sprigs rosemary
- 2 sprigs thyme
- Chopped flat-leaf parsley for garnish
- Grated Parmesan for garnish
Heat oven to 450 degrees F.
Slice fresh mushrooms 1/4-inch thick. Soak dried mushrooms in a bowl of hot water until tender — about 10 minutes. Rinse and squeeze to dry.
Heat a 12-inch ovenproof skillet until very hot. Add olive oil and fresh mushrooms. Cook, while stirring frequently, over high heat until the mushrooms release their liquid — about 10 minutes.
Add the shallots, garlic, rehydrated mushrooms. Cook until the liquid has evaporated. Add broth, cognac, butter, salt, pepper, rosemary and the thyme.
Transfer skillet to the oven and roast, stirring twice, for 30 minutes. Garnish with parsley and Parmesan cheese.
Serve warm with grilled bread.
Salad Course: Grilled Shrimp Tomato Salad
This is a popular dish, so I often divide the salad onto smaller serving dishes, so I can have them available in several areas.
- Vegetable oil for the grill
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 5 tablespoons mixed chopped fresh herbs, such as dill, basil, mint, and/or chives
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- 2 pounds peeled and deveined large raw shrimp
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 pounds tomatoes, quartered
- Parsley sprigs for garnish
Oil the grill grates and preheat the grill to medium-high heat.
Whisk together the ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil and next 6 ingredients (through garlic) in a small bowl. Whisk in 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt.
Arrange tomatoes on a large serving platter or in a large bowl, and drizzle with 1/4 cup of the vinaigrette.
Mix the shrimp with the 3 tablespoons of olive oil, the 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt.
Grill the shrimp, covered with the grill lid, 2 minutes on each side or just until shrimp turn pink.
Mix the grilled shrimp with the remaining vinaigrette and arrange over tomatoes. Garnish with the parsley sprigs. Serve at room temperature.
Main Dish: Italian Sausage and Peppers
This dish is always a big hit with everyone.
For the sausage:
- 1 ½ lb. Italian sausage
Prepare an outdoor grill for cooking over medium-hot charcoal (moderate heat for gas).
Keep a third of the grill indirect heat. On a charcoal grill, this means spreading the coals over two-thirds of the firebox and leaving one-third coal-free.
On a gas grill, leave one burner off. Sausages should be grilled over indirect heat.
Lightly brush or rub the sausage with olive oil. This prevents sticking and makes them extra crisp. Use tongs and don’t break the sausage skin when turning.
Grill the sausages over the indirect part of the grill until crusty and golden brown on the outside and cooked through, about 30 minutes, turning them over after 15 minutes.
The safe internal temperature for ground meats—sausages included—is 160 degrees F.
Cut the sausages into two-inch lengths and set aside.
For the peppers and onions:
- 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
To finish the dish:
- 2 cups Marinara (tomato) sauce
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 the tomato sauce and heat.
Add the grilled sausage links to the skillet with the peppers and onions. Heat until the sausage is warm. Serve with lots of crusty Italian bread.
Side Dish: Corn Pudding
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
- 2 cups fresh (about 4 ears) or frozen corn kernels, divided
- 1 1/2 cups half-and-half
- 6 eggs
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
- 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack Cheese
- Chopped parsley for garnish
Heat the oven to 350°. Butter an 8-by-12-inch baking dish or another shallow baking dish of about the same size.
In a mixing bowl combine the onion, bell pepper, 1 cup of the corn and the salt and black pepper; Set aside.
Combine the remaining 1 cup of corn and half-and-half in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Add the eggs and cayenne. Blend thoroughly.
Spoon the corn/pepper mixture into the prepared baking dish and then sprinkle the Monterey Jack over the top. Pour the egg mixture over all.
Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the pudding comes out clean, about 40 minutes.Garnish with chopped parsley.
Dessert Course: Peach Cobbler
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 eggs, slightly beaten
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 4 to 6 medium (4 cups) peaches, peeled and sliced
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 5 tablespoons sugar, divided
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup cold butter, cut into chunks
- 1 egg, slightly beaten
- 3 tablespoons heavy cream
Heat the oven to 400°F.
Combine all the filling ingredients except the peaches in a mixing bowl.
Stir in peaches. Pour into an ungreased 13×9-inch baking pan.
Make the topping:
Combine the 1 1/2 cups flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, baking powder and salt in a bowl; cut in the butter with a pastry blender or fork until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
Stir in the egg and cream just until moistened. Spread the topping over the peach filling; sprinkle with the 3 tablespoons of remaining sugar.
Bake 35-40 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly around edges. Serve warm or chilled.
Pavia is a province in the region of Lombardy in northern Italy. The province is mostly flat with some hills in the south. The northwestern area of the province is ideal for agricultural land. Pavia has a major position in northern Italy’s textile industry and is renowned for hatmaking. It also plays its part in the country’s engineering and metallurgical industries. This is an important winemaking district that produces sparkling wines.and it is the largest area in Italy for the production of Pinot Noir. Also, the province of Pavia was the birthplace of Peroni, a well-known Italian beer.
The Peroni company was established under the founding family name in the town of Vigevano, Italy, in 1846. The company moved to Rome 1864, six years prior to Rome becoming the Italian capital in 1870. Throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the company became one of the most prominent brewing companies in the newly unified Italian nation.
By the 1990s, both the Peroni brand name and product line were distributed and known worldwide. The London-based brewing giant SABMiller bought the company in 2003, making it one of the few international brands in its portfolio.
Beers under the Peroni brand include: Crystall, a 5.6% alcohol pale lager; Peroni Gran Riserva, a 6.6% alcohol strong lager; Peroncino, a 5% alcohol pale lager and Peroni Leggera, a 3.5% alcohol pale lager. The company also produces the Wuhrer brand – a 4.7% alcohol pale lager launched in Brescia in 1829. The main brands are Peroni and Nastro Azzurro.
Peroni is the Peroni company’s original brand. According to Assobirra (Italian Brewers and Malsters Trade Association), it is the best selling beer in Italy. It is 4.7% alcohol and made with barley malt, maize, hop pellets and hop extract. By the 1950s and 1960s, Peroni was the most recognized brand of beer throughout the Italian peninsula.
Nastro Azzurro, a 5.1% alcohol pale lager, launched in 1963, is the Peroni Brewery’s premium lager brand. The name means “Blue Ribbon” in Italian, in honor of the Blue Riband award won by the Italian ocean liner SS Rex in 1933. Nastro Azzurro has also sponsored teams in Grand Prix motorcycle racing. In 1997, they sponsored a 125cc Aprilia team with rider Valentino Rossi, who won the championship in that season. In 2000 and 2001 they sponsored a 500cc Honda team, again with Rossi as the rider.
When you think of Italian food pairing, wine may be the first thing that comes to mind; however, beer can complement the flavors of Italian food just as well. The tradition of Aperitivo, a pre-dinner social hour featuring drinks and small plates, is the perfect time to enjoy Italian lager. Here are some appetizers that go well with beer.
• Affettati Misti: mortadella, prosciutto, coppa or bresaola, all of which have a saltiness and complex texture that will contrast with the lager. Serve with cured olives, quartered figs or melon slices.
• Crostini are thin Italian bread slices toasted with olive oil and then topped with a number of different kinds of pastes or sauces. Try an olive tapenade, a red bell pepper spread or a chicken liver pate.
• Fiori di Zucca are zucchini blossoms that make an elegant salad. Mix the blossoms, available at farmers’ markets or specialty groceries, with arugula, shaved pecorino cheese and a lemony vinaigrette.
• Carciofi alla Romana is a traditional roman dish of artichokes and mint. Artichokes are steamed in white wine with garlic, mint and parsley and sliced into small sections to eat by hand.
• Bagna Cauda is a warm dipping sauce made from olive oil, garlic, anchovies and butter. Fresh vegetables are then dipped into this salty, creamy sauce.
• Cocktail di Gamberi. Steam shrimp in a broth of melted butter, olive oil, garlic, chopped parsley, lemon juice and some Italian lager and serve warm or cold.
1 large slice crusty Italian bread
1 ¾ cups beef stock
Enough Parmesan cheese (grated) for a generous sprinkle
A generous tablespoon of butter
An oven proof dish to contain the soup
Coarse ground black pepper
Put the oven proof dish in a moderate hot oven to heat while the other ingredients are prepared.
Bring the beef stock to boiling in a saucepan.
In a medium skillet, heat the butter and fry the bread on both sides.
Once the bread is ready, take the oven proof dish out of the oven.
Put the bread inside the dish, pressing it down so that it stays on the bottom of the dish.
Place the eggs over the bread, carefully, so the yolks do not break.
Top with a generous sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.
The dish is now ready for the stock. The stock must be boiling hot (not simmering) so raise the heat before adding it to the dish.
The heat of the stock will partially cook the eggs. You can cover the dish with a plate and leave the soup alone for one minute or two, then you can serve the dish.
Sprinkle with black pepper before serving.
Note: With this soup the eggs will never be thoroughly cooked, but this is the tradition. However, if you are serving the soup to children or older people, you may consider poaching the eggs before laying them on the bread; then you add the stock. Alternatively, before adding the stock, you can pass the dish under a broiler, in order to cook the eggs, but you need to be careful not to burn the bread.
From Ristorante Da Mino, Pavia Province, Italy
1 1/4 lbs asparagus, trimmed
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onions
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup shaved parmesan cheese
Bring 5 cups salted water to boil in a large saucepan. Add the asparagus and cook until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes.
Using tongs, transfer the asparagus to a bowl of ice water; cool. Drain (reserving 3 1/2 cups cooking liquid in a saucepan).
Cut off the asparagus tips and reserve. Finely diced the stalks.
In the saucepan with the reserved cooking liquid add the broth. Bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low.
Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion; saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add rice; stir 2 minutes.
Add 3/4 cup hot liquid. Simmer until the liquid is absorbed, stirring often. Add the diced asparagus.
Cook until the rice is just tender and the risotto is creamy, adding liquid 3/4 cup at a time, stirring often and allowing each addition to be absorbed before adding next, about 20 minutes.
Mix reserved asparagus tips, grated cheese and butter into the rice. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Top with shaved cheese.
Cassoeula (Pork Rib and Sausage Stew)
Cassoeula is a dish with several versions. Sometimes, after the meats have been browned, a spoonful of tomato paste is added. Other cooks prefer to cook the cabbage in a separate pot, steaming it in the water remaining on the leaves after washing, and then adding it to the meat. The quality of the meat added to the cassoeula varies. The simplest version requires only ribs and sausages, while the most complicated includes the ears and tail.
Recipe courtesy of The Italian Trade Commission.
1 pig’s foot
1 lb. pork sausage
1 lb. pork ribs
1/2 lb. pork rind
2 tablespoons oil
2 oz. butter
1 diced onion
1/2 lb. carrots, diced
1/2 lb. celery, diced
½ lb tomatoes, diced
3 lbs. Savoy cabbage
Salt and pepper
Boil the pig’s foot and cut in half, lengthwise.
Make a soffritto with the oil, butter and chopped onion. Add the pork rind, sausage and ribs, cut into pieces, and the pig’s foot.
When the meat is golden brown, add all diced carrots, celery, tomatoes. Cook over medium heat.
After 30 minutes, add the cabbage, cut into strips. add salt and pepper to taste and cook for 45 minutes.
The cooking juice should be rather thick. If you wish to remove some of the fat from the cassoeula, do so before adding the cabbage.
Paradise cake is one of the most traditional Italian desserts. Light and airy, this cake is considered a cornerstone of Italian pastry.
Legend has it that the paradise cake was invented by a monk at a monastery in Pavia in Lombardy. There are different versions of this story, but almost all of them suggest that a monk learned to make the cake from a young bride who lived near the monastery. Since the cake was so good, she suggested to the monks that they name it paradise cake. The origin of the cake dates back further in history. There were already multiple versions of the recipe in existence in 1878, when pastry chef Enrico Vigoni, the owner of a pastry shop in Pavia that is still in business today, codified the recipe, making it famous throughout Italy.
1 lb butter
1 lb confectioners sugar
10 egg yolks
Vanilla extract to taste
5/8 lb all-purpose flour
5/8 lb potato starch
3/8 oz baking powder
Lemon zest to taste
Remove the butter from the refrigerator 20 to 30 minutes prior to baking. Once the butter is soft, whisk the butter in a bowl with the confectioner’s sugar by hand or with an electric mixer whisk attachment.
Once the mixture is light and creamy, add the eggs and egg yolks, one at a time, and continue whisking. Then add the grated lemon peel and mix well. Mix in the vanilla and potato starch.
Mix together the flour and baking powder and sift into a bowl or on wax paper. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix together well, using a wooden spoon.
Grease a round cake pan with butter. Flour lightly, then pour in the cake batter, filling the pan to 2/3rds full.
Bake in a 350° F oven for 35 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool.
Once cool, remove the cake from the pan by turning it out onto a serving dish or cake stand. Finish by dusting with confectioner’s sugar.
July has an abundance of vegetables and fruits available, so I try to incorporate as many as I can into my weekly menu. I made a few dinners last week that utilize these seasonal fruits and vegetables and I hope you like them as much as we did.
Veggie Packed Frittata
Serve with a mixed green salad and some hot biscuits.
- 1 lb parboiled potatoes, sliced ¼ inch thick
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 3 links pre-cooked Italian chicken sausage, sliced thin
- 1 bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
- Half of a small onion, thinly sliced
- 6 mushrooms, sliced
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 tablespoons thinly sliced basil
- 6 asparagus, cut into 2 inch lengths
- 8 eggs, beaten
- 1 cup shredded cheddar or mozzarella cheese
Heat an oven broiler.
Heat oil in an ovenproof 12″ nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the sliced sausage, garlic, bell pepper, mushrooms and onion until the vegetables are soft, 3–4 minutes. Add asparagus; cook until wilted, about 1 minute.
Stir in the sliced potatoes and salt and pepper. Stir in half the basil and the eggs and reduce heat to medium; cook until golden on the bottom, 8–10 minutes.
Sprinkle the cheese on top and place the skillet under the broiler. Broil until set and the cheese is melted, about 3 minutes. Garnish with remaining basil before serving.
Summer Melon Salad with Grilled BBQ Shrimp
Last week my CSA had melons aplenty. I received two Crenshaw and one yellow watermelon. So I came up with a few recipes to make. The melon salad is in this post and next week, I will share the melon soup recipe I made. When you make the salad try to use two different types of melon for contrast. I also like the balance of the tangy grilled shrimp with the sweetness of the fruit salad. I also served this salad dinner with some homemade cornbread. See the recipe for Cheddar Cornbread here.
For the salad
- 4 cups Crenshaw melon, peeled and seeds removed
- 4 cups yellow watermelon, peeled and seeds removed.
- 2 cups red grapes, halved
- 1 cup toasted pecans, toasted
For the shrimp
- 12 large shrimp, shelled and deveined
- 1/4 cup Peach BBQ sauce, see recipe here
- Lemon quarters for garnish
Basil Honey Dressing
- 3 tablespoons chopped basil leaves
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/4 cup cider vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Combine the salad dressing ingredients in a blender. Set aside in a serving bowl.
For the melon salad
In a mixing bowl combine the two types of melon with the grapes. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Just before serving, mix the melon and grape mixture with the toasted pecans and a little of the basil dressing. Serve additional dressing with the salad.
For the grilled shrimp
Prepare an outdoor grill for medium hot heat or heat an indoor stove-top grill.
Thread the shrimp onto skewers and brush them lightly with BBQ sauce. Place the shrimp skewers on the grill directly over the heat. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes.
Turn the skewers and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Take care not to overcook. Remove them to a plate and serve with lemon quarters, the melon salad and cornbread.
Stuffed Zucchini with Fresh Basil Pesto Spaghetti
Basil is so plentiful this time of year, so I try to think of different ways to use it in my summertime cooking. Of course, freezing basil pesto for the winter months is also another option. It is also a great addition to salad dressing and omelets, as in the recipes above.
For the eggplant
- 1/2 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for baking
- 2 medium zucchini
- 1 link pre-cooked Italian chicken sausage, finely chopped
- 1 small garlic clove, minced
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped bell pepper
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped plum tomatoes
- 2 tablespoon dried Italian bread crumbs
- Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons shredded cheddar cheese
For the spaghetti
- 8 oz spaghetti
- 1/2 cup prepared basil pesto, see recipe here
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Cut a thin slice off the top of each zucchini. With a small spoon (I like to use a grapefruit spoon) remove most of the flesh from the zucchini without cutting into the outside. Chop the cut slice and the flesh.
Heat the 1/2 tablespoon of oil in a medium skillet and add the chopped zucchini, chopped sausage and the garlic. Saute until the zucchini is completely cooked and has lost its moisture.
Add the onion, bell pepper and tomatoes, cook until soft. Add enough breadcrumbs to hold the mixture together, about 2 tablespoons.
Remove the pan from the heat and allow the mixture to cool, about 30 minutes.
Stir in the cheese and fill the hollowed out zucchini shells with the mixture.
Place the stuffed zucchini in a small baking dish. (The zucchini can be prepared in advance up to this point and refrigerated until baking time.)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Drizzle the zucchini with olive oil. Pour about 1 inch of water into the bottom of the baking dish.
Place the baking dish in the oven and bake for about 40-45 minutes or until the filling is golden brown and the zucchini shells are tender.
For the spaghetti
While the zucchini are baking, cook the pasta in salted boiling water until al dente. Reserve ½ cup of the pasta cooking water and drain the spaghetti.
Return the drained pasta to the cooking pot and add the pesto with a little of the cooking water to thin the sauce a bit.
Add the Parmesan cheese and black pepper. Mix well and serve alongside the stuffed zucchini.