Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Cheese

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When the children come for a visit, they are not interested in experimental dishes. So, I don’t make recipes that I am testing, when they are here. Tried and true – old favorites –  is what they look for. I have shared some of their favorites in the past and here are a few more. Hope you like them, also.

Roasted Chicken and Potatoes

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Serve this dish with a green vegetable or salad.

Ingredients

Chicken

4 chicken breast halves, bone-in and skin removed
1 slice sandwich bread
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Potatoes

1 pound medium baking potatoes, cut into ¼ inch rounds
One lemon, juiced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 F.

In a roasting pan or baking dish, combine the sliced potatoes, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread mixture evenly over the bottom of the baking pan. Set aside.

Place the slice of bread in the food processor and process until bread into crumbs.

In small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, mustard, garlic powder and tarragon.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Brush the mayonnaise mixture on top of the chicken breasts and spread evenly to coat.

Sprinkle each breast with 1/4 of the bread crumbs, pressing them to adhere to the chicken.

Place the chicken on top of the potatoes in the baking pan. Place the pan in oven and roast for about 45 minutes, or until a meat thermometer registers 165 degrees F.

Oven Fried Fish with Tartar Sauce

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I have found that heating the baking pan in the oven before placing the fish on it, will make the fish extra crispy.

Serve this dish with broccoli or spinach and macaroni and cheese.

For every 2 servings, you will need:

Ingredients

1 lb white fish fillets
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 drops hot pepper sauce
1 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
1/4 teaspoon white ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1 tablespoon olive oil for the baking pan
Tartar Sauce, recipe below

Directions

Preheat oven to 475 degrees F. Spread the olive oil in a baking pan and place the pan in the oven when you turn it on.

Dry the fillets with paper towels. Combine the lemon juice, buttermilk, hot pepper sauce and garlic in a shallow dish.

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Combine the white pepper, salt and onion powder with panko crumbs and place in a second shallow dish.

Let fillets sit in the buttermilk mixture for a few minutes. Then coat the fillets on both sides with seasoned crumbs, pressing the crumbs onto the fish.

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Place the coated fish on a plate and refrigerate for several hours.

When ready to cook, place the fillets on the hot baking sheet and bake 12 minutes on the middle oven rack. Using a wide spatula, turn the fillets over after 6 minutes. Serve with tartar sauce, if you like it.

Homemade Tartar Sauce

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Ingredients

½ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup sweet pickle relish
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 teaspoon minced capers
Few drops of hot sauce
½ teaspoon agave syrup

Directions

Whisk all the ingredients together in a small serving bowl. Refrigerate until serving time.

Italian Sausage, Tomato and Ricotta Pasta

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Ingredients

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 lb hot Italian sausage
1 clove garlic, minced
Half a medium onion, finely diced
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 cups fresh (or canned) seeded, diced, plum tomatoes or roasted red peppers
4 large basil leaves, torn into small pieces
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 lb. rigatoni pasta
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese, divided
1 cup ricotta cheese
¼ cup chopped parsley
Salt and black pepper

Directions

Brown the entire sausage on the grill or in a skillet. Set aside until cool enough to handle. When cool enough to touch, slice the sausages into ¼ inch slices.

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil.

In a large skillet heat the oil and add the onion and garlic. Cook about 3 or 4 minutes to soften the onion. Add the wine and cook over medium high for a few minutes.

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Lower the heat and add the sausage, tomatoes, basil, the red pepper flakes and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes break down, 6 to 10 minutes.

Cook the pasta in the boiling water, stirring frequently until al dente, about 11 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water and drain well.

Return the pasta to the pot, add the sausage/tomato sauce, and cook over medium-high heat, stirring, for 1 minute so the sauce and pasta combine.

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Add some of the reserved pasta water to moisten.

Combine the ricotta with the parsley, ¼ cup of the Pecorino cheese and salt and pepper to taste.

Turn the pasta and sauce into a large serving bowl. Drop tablespoons of ricotta on top of the pasta and sprinkle with the remaining Pecorino cheese.

Italian Sourdough Bread

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Some Italian dinners need bread to finish off the meal. This bread is one of the family’s favorite.

Ingredients

3/4 cups lukewarm water
1 cup sourdough starter
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon honey
2 teaspoons instant yeast

Directions

Combine all the ingredients in an electric mixer with the paddle attachment until the dough leaves the side of the bowl. Switch to the dough hook and knead for 5 minutes.

Let the dough rest in the bowl for 5 minutes. Then, knead again for 5 minutes.

Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover and let rise until doubled, about 60-90 minutes.

Place the dough on a floured board and divide in half (about one pound each).

Shape each piece into an 18-inch long loaf and place the loaves, at least 4 inches apart, on a parchment-lined baking sheet or in a lightly greased baguette pan.

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Cover the loaves with lightly greased plastic wrap and let them rise for 1 hour, or until they’re puffy and twice the size. Cut slits across top.

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Spray the loaves with water and bake them for about 15 minutes, or until they are golden brown. Remove the loaves from the oven and cool them on a wire rack.

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img_0015No reservations needed for this dinner! Sometimes it is just nice to have a special dinner with your partner in your own home. I try to have this special kind of evening every once in a while. Come up with a menu that is elegant but easy to make and the evening will be memorable. The salad and main dish recipes below are easy and come together quickly. The dessert takes a bit longer but eclairs and cream puffs are not difficult to make. You can certainly make anything you like for dessert, as long as it is special to you. Keep romance alive.

Blue Cheese and Dried Cranberry Tossed Salad

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Ingredients

1 hearts of romaine lettuce, chopped
1/4 of a cucumber, sliced
1/4 of a red onion, sliced thin
1/2 cup chopped toasted almonds
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup crumbled bleu cheese

Dressing

3 tablespoons raspberry vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste

Directions

For the dressing: Whisk vinegar and honey in a small bowl until blended. Whisking continuously, slowly add oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Layer the romaine lettuce with the cucumber, onion, almonds, cranberries and bleu cheese on two individual salad plates. Dress the salad with the vinaigrette just before serving.

Filet Mignon with Leek Sauce

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Serves 2

Ingredients

2 Filet Mignon steaks, about 7 oz each and 2 inches thick
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1 large leek, finely chopped white and light green sections of the leek
1/4 cup red wine (such as Cabernet)
1 tablespoon capers
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Directions

Preheat the grill or broiler. Lightly oil the grill rack or broiler pan. Rub the steaks with the salt, then press the pepper into both sides of the steaks.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and cook the leeks for 6 minutes, or until very soft. Add the wine, capers and tarragon.

Simmer for 3 minutes, or until well blended and heated through. Keep warm.

Grill or broil the steaks about 5-6 minutes on each side or until a meat thermometer inserted in the center registers 135°F for medium-rare. Place the steaks on individual serving plates.

Top with the leek sauce and sprinkle with parsley.

Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes

Ingredients

1 pound potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
1/4 – 1/2 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook for 15 minutes, or until tender. Drain and place in a large bowl.

Mash the potatoes, adding the buttermilk until moist. Add the chives, cover and keep warm.

Chocolate Filled Eclairs

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Makes 12 medium-sized eclairs

Pastry

3/4 cup water
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 large eggs

Directions

Heat the oven to 425 degrees F; line a baking sheet with parchment paper or use an eclair pan.

Put the butter in a saucepan with the salt and water; bring it to a boil over medium-high heat and stir until the butter is melted.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the flour; continue to cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the mixture pulls away from sides of the pan and forms a ball, about 30 seconds.

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Remove the pan from the heat and let cool for 3 to 4 minutes.

Add the eggs to the slightly cooled flour mixture one at a time, beating well with the wooden spoon after each addition — the batter will come apart after each egg is added but will reunite as you stir.

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Mound dough about 1 inch high and 1 to 2 inches in diameter on the prepared baking sheet, leaving about an inch of space between each one. If using an eclair pan simply fill the indentations.

Bake until puffed and golden, about 25 minutes. Remove the puffs from the oven and pierce the bottom of each puff once with a skewer, to keep them from getting soggy.

Return to the oven; prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon and let the puffs crisp up for about 5 minutes. Cool on a rack.

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Chocolate Filling

1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 tablespoons powdered sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

Directions

Place cream, vanilla extract, sugar and cocoa powder into a large bowl. Stir to combine the ingredients. Cover and chill the bowl and the beaters for at least 30 minutes.

When chilled, beat until stiff peaks form.

Glaze

3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

In a double boiler over hot, but not boiling water, combine the chocolate chips, butter and corn syrup. Stir until the chips are melted and the mixture is smooth; then add the vanilla.

To assemble the éclairs:

Cut the eclairs in half lengthwise. Pipe or spoon the filling into the pastries, then dip the tops of each one into the glaze.

For best results, serve immediately or refrigerate and serve within several hours.

Note: Puffs can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 days; freeze unfilled eclairs for longer storage. If the eclairs soften in storage, they can be crisped up in the oven before filling and serving. To re-crisp; bake uncovered in a 300°F for about 5 to 8 minutes. Cool completely before filling.


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How many folks still hold with tradition and have “Sunday Dinner”? Growing up in my house, a big dinner with family members occurred every week. Family time and lots of good food are Italian American traditions. Once I was married and had children, we didn’t always live near family members. I think this is a common factor today. As a small family we always had dinner together, weeknights and weekends, but they were not the typical big feasts of old. Sunday meals were not much different from weeknight meals, usually. I thought this week I would make a traditional Sunday dinner featuring seasonal ingredients and a roast – a pork roast. The only thing missing from this dinner is the first course pasta dish that we always had in the old days.

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Herb-Crusted Pork Roast

Ingredients

One 3 pound top loin, bone-in pork roast, fat trimmed
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tablespoon coarse or kosher salt
¼ cup minced herbs (I used sage, rosemary, tarragon, oregano and basil)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup dry white wine
Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Pat the pork loin dry with paper towels. Place the roast on a platter or in a baking dish. Rub the roast with the olive oil and press the herbs and salt onto all the sides of the roast.

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Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (up to 24 hours). Bring to room temperature for 1 hour before roasting.

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Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Place the roast on a rack that has been placed inside a roasting pan and cook for 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, turn the roast over and baste with 1/4 cup of the wine.

Return the roast to the oven and reduce the temperature to 325°F. Cook for 60-75 minutes longer, turning the roast and basting it with wine every 20 minutes; reserve 1/4 cup of wine for the sauce.

Check the roast after it has been cooking for 60 minutes. Place a meat thermometer in the roast to determine if it has reached 150 -155 degrees F.

If not, continue cooking until the temperature is reached.

Transfer the roast to a platter and pour the pan juices into a measuring cup.

Place the roasting pan over moderate heat on the stove-top; when it starts to sizzle, add the reserved 1/4 cup wine and cook for 2 minutes, scraping up the drippings from the bottom of the pan.

Add to the pan juices in the measuring cup; let the fat rise to the surface, about 5 minutes. Skim off the fat and season the sauce with black pepper.

Carve the roast into thin slices and arrange the meat on a platter. Serve the pan juices on the side.

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Roasted Butternut Squash Puree

I prefer to cook the squash whole. Uncooked butternut squash is a difficult to cut through, however, after baking, it is very easy.

This recipe makes about 2 1/2 cups.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Wash a 2 to 2 1/2 pound butternut squash and place it on a parchment lined baking sheet.

Bake for about 90 minutes or until soft all over, turning the squash halfway through the baking time.

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Cool slightly and cut the squash in half and remove the seeds. With a spoon, scoop the flesh into a bowl and mash the squash.

Stir in 2 tablespoons butter, 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, salt and black pepper to taste.

You can make this early in the day or the day before. Reheat before serving.

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Sautéed Peas

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 celery stalk including the leaves at the top, finely chopped
10 ounce package of frozen peas (or 2 cups fresh peas)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Directions

Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat; add the onions and cook until tender. Add celery and peas.

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Cook until peas are heated through (about 6 minutes). Stir in salt and pepper and serve.

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Apple Rosemary Tart

Ingredients

One 9 inch refrigerated pie crust, at room temperature
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 pounds baking apples, such as Granny Smith or Golden Delicious
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary (do not substitute dried) or 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
2 teaspoons confectioners’ sugar

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

In a small bowl, combine the flour with 1 tablespoon of the brown sugar; reserve.

Peel and core the apples. Slice them into ¼ inch-thick slices. (You should have about 3 cups.)

Place the apples in a bowl and toss them with the lemon juice, the remaining 3 tablespoons brown sugar and the rosemary or cinnamon.

Place the dough on a parchment lined baking sheet and sprinkle the reserved flour/sugar mixture evenly over it, leaving a 2-inch border uncovered.

Arrange the apples evenly over the flour mixture. Fold the edges of the dough over the apples. Moisten your fingers lightly with water and gently press the creases so that they hold together.

Dot the apples with the butter.

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Bake the tart for about 40 minutes, until the crust is golden brown, the apples are tender and the juices syrupy.

Cover the tart with foil halfway through the cooking time, if the crust is browning too rapidly. Let cool for 10 minutes, then slide the tart onto a serving platter.

Just before serving, sift the confectioners’ sugar evenly over the crust.


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The Province of L’Aquila is the largest, most mountainous and least densely populated province of the Abruzzo region of southern Italy.  The outstanding feature of the Abruzzo region, one that distinguishes it from Tuscany, is its three national parks and 30 nature reserves. It is why the area is known as the “green heart of Italy”. However, the province has been badly affected over the years by earthquakes, particularly the capital city of L’Aquila and its surrounding areas.

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The province is also known for its many castles, fortresses and medieval hill towns. The province’s two major cities, L’Aquila and Avezzano, have had rapid economic expansion since the late 20th century, with growth in the areas of transportation, manufacturing, telecommunications and the computer industry.

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Throughout most of the 20th century, there were serious population declines in the rural areas, with the near collapse of the province’s agricultural economy, as people moved to cities for work. Since the founding of the Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga and Majella national parks and the Sirente-Velino Regional Park, tourists have been attracted to the mountainous landscapes. Tourism and associated services have boosted the economy and begun to reverse its decline.

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The province of L’Aquila is dotted with ruins of ancient pagan temples and Roman settlements. A well-known city landmark (below) is the Fontana Luminosa (“Luminous Fountain”), a sculpture of two women bearing large jars, that was built in the 1930s.

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L’Aquila is a good base for skiing in the Apennines. The two most popular resorts are Campo Felice and Campo Imperator. Both resorts offer routes for downhill skiing, as well as for cross country. Ski season usually lasts from December to April.

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The Province of L’Aquila often organizes open-air celebrations and folk festivals that recall the old traditions and offer the chance to taste traditional local products. Abruzzi’s cuisine is rich in local specialties, such as red garlic, sugar-coated almonds, goat cheese, lentils from Santo Stefano di Sessanio, mortadella from Campotosto and Trebbiano d’Abruzzo DOC and Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC wines.

Abruzzo Food Map

Abruzzo Food Map

The famous “Maccheroni all chitarra” is amongst the best known in the Abruzzi cuisine. The pasta dough, made of eggs and durum wheat, is cut into strips using a “chitarra” (translated literally as “guitar”). This equipment is made up of a wooden frame, strung with parallel steel strands, and by pushing the sheets of pasta dough through with a rolling-pin, the characteristic shape of chitarra is obtained. Chitarra is served with various Abruzzo sauces that include: pork, goose or lamb ragout.

Abruzzo side dishes include, “sagne e faggioli”, bean soup with traditional thin pasta noodles made from flour and water, flavored with a thin sauce made from fresh tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and spicy peppers. Other well-known Abruzzo dishes, include “gnocchi carrati”, flavored with bacon, egg and ewes-milk cheese. “Scripelli” crepes are served in a soup or used to form a soufflé dish and are served with a little ragout or stuffed with chicken liver, meat balls, hard-boiled eggs or a fresh ewe’s-milk cheese.

Chitarra Pasta Maker

Chitarra Pasta Maker

Ravioli can also be stuffed with sugar and cinnamon and served with a thick pork ragout. The “Pastuccia” is a stew of polenta that is served with sausage, egg and grated ewe’s-milk cheese and “pappicci” are thin pasta noodles in a tomato sauce.

Roast lamb has several variations, such as “arrosticini”, thin wooden skewers with pieces of lamb, cooked over an open fire and often served with bruschetta – which is roasted bread rubbed with garlic and topped with extra-virgin olive oil. Pecora al cotturo is lamb stuffed with herbs and cooked in a copper pot and “agnello cacio e oro” is a rustic fricassee.

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Pizzas, from the Easter Pizza, above, (a cake with cheese and pepper) to “fiadoni” that is often enriched by a casing of pastry and filled with everything imaginable: eggs, fresh cheeses, ricotta and vegetables with all the flavorings and spices that the mind can only imagine.

The spreadable sausage from Teramano flavored with nutmeg, liver sausage from the mountains, ewe’s-milk cheeses and mozzarella cheese are all local favorites.

Traditional homemade desserts include “Ferrarelle”, aniseed wafers, “cicerchiata”, balls of fried dough joined into ring shapes with heated honey, “croccante” a type of nougat made with almonds and caramelized sugar, flavored with lemon, “mostaccioli” biscuits sweetened with cooked must; “pepatelli” biscuits of ground almonds and honey; macarons and the airy “Sise delle monache”, triangular pieces of sponge cake filled with confectioners cream; almonds and chocolate.

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Prosciutto and Fichi

The prosciutto from near L’Aquila is a bit saltier and less sweet than the prosciutto from Parma or San Daniele.

Ingredients

Slices of prosciutto crudo
Fresh, ripe figs
Large basil leaves
Balsamic vinegar

Directions

Slice the figs in half (if they are the smaller ones or in quarters if they are the larger variety). Wrap the ham and basil around the figs. Arrange on a serving platter and drizzle with balsamic vinegar..

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Swiss Chard with Borlotti Beans (Verdure con Fagioli)

6-8 servings

Ingredients

2 cups dried borlotti or cranberry beans, soaked overnight and drained
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
7 lbs Swiss chard, trimmed, leaves and tender stems roughly chopped
1/3 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon. crushed red chili flakes
12 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
4 stalks celery, cut into 1⁄4″ pieces
3 carrots, cut into 1⁄4″ pieces
1 medium yellow onion, cut into 1⁄4″ pieces
2 cups chicken stock

Directions

Boil beans and 6 cups water in a 6-qt. saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, covered, until the beans are tender, about 2 hours. Drain beans; set aside.

Fill a saucepan with salted water and bring to a boil. Add the chard and cook until wilted and the stems are tender, 4–6 minutes; drain and squeeze dry.

Add 1⁄4 cup oil and the chili flakes to the same saucepan and heat over medium. Cook garlic, celery, carrots and onion until golden, 8–10 minutes.

Add the reserved beans and chard, the stock, salt and pepper and simmer until the stock is slightly reduced, 6–8 minutes. Transfer to a serving dish and drizzle with the remaining oil.

 

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Ragu’ all’Abruzzese (Abruzzese-style meat sauce)

Ingredients

3 tablespoons cooking oil
1/2 lb boneless beef chuck roast, cut into 3 or 4 large pieces
1/2 lb boneless pork shoulder, cut into 3 or 4 large pieces
1/2 lb boneless lamb shoulder, cut into 3 or 4 large pieces
Fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 pounds chopped canned tomatoes, with their juices (about 7 1/2 cups)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves finely chopped

Directions

Warm the cooking oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Season the pieces of meat with a little salt and pepper and add them to the pot.

Brown for 3 to 4 minutes, then turn the pieces over to brown the other side, another 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the pieces to a deep plate or bowl.

Press the tomatoes through a food mill. Discard the solids. Set the tomatoes aside.

Return the Dutch oven to medium heat and add the extra virgin olive oil. Stir in the onion and garlic, reduce the heat to medium-low, and sauté for about 5 minutes, or until the onion is shiny and beginning to soften.

Pour in the tomatoes, raise the heat to medium-high, and bring to a simmer.

Return the meat to the pot and reduce the heat to medium low or low to maintain a gentle simmer.

Cover partially and let the sauce cook, stirring it from time to time, for about 3 hours, or until the meat is very tender and the sauce is thickened.

Add a splash or two of water, if the sauce thickens too much before the meat is done. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.

Turn off the heat. Remove the meat from the pot, shred it and return it to the sauce.

Note: The ragu may be stored in a tightly lidded container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Makes about 1 1/2 quarts.

This sauce is traditionally served over pappardelle or chitarra pasta.

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Dolci: Pizzelle

Italian waffle cookies, or pizzelle (which literally means small pizzas), are quite popular in the Abruzzo region of Italy. You can add cocoa with the sugar and make a chocolate version, or spread some hazelnut cream on one and top with another.

Makes about 36 pizzelle

Ingredients

1¾ cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¾ cup white granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup unsalted butter
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons anise (or other extract)

Directions

Preheat the pizzelle maker. In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In another bowl, combine the butter and sugar and mix until smooth. Add the anise and then the eggs, one at a time, until well blended. Pour in the dry ingredients and mix well.

Lightly spray the pizzelle maker with vegetable oil (unless you have a non-stick version).

Drop the batter by the tablespoon onto the hot pizzelle iron and cook, gauging the timing (usually less than a minute) according to the manufacturer’s instructions or until golden.

Serve with your favorite toppings.

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Looking for some ideas to make your veggie dishes more appealing? Try stuffing them. These recipes can serve as a main course or a side dish. I wanted to use vegetables that you do not see stuffed very often and that are in season at this time of year, instead of cooking the usual peppers and tomatoes. Try these recipes for an interesting change.

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Swiss Chard Rolls

5 servings

Ingredients

2 bunches Swiss chard, about 10 leaves
1 tablespoon olive oil
2/3 cup quick cooking barley
1/4 cup diced onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup diced Swiss chard stems
2 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/13 plus 2 cups vegetable stock
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Place the Swiss chard leaves in boiling water for 5 minutes to soften. Drain and place on paper towels.

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Remove the ribs/stems from each leaf and set the leaves aside. Chop enough of the stems to measure ¼ cup.

In a medium saucepan over medium high heat, bring the 1 ⅓ cups vegetable broth to a boil and add a pinch of salt.

Add the barley, reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pan and cook the barley for ten minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and let the barley rest covered for five minutes.

In a small skillet heat the olive oil. Add the onion, garlic and Swiss chard stems. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until they soften. Add salt, pepper and the Italian seasoning.

Add the chopped tomatoes, basil and cheese. Cook until the tomatoes soften. Adjust seasoning if necessary. Add this mixture to the cooked barley and stir well.

Set aside until the mixture is cool enough to handle.

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Divide the stuffing equally among the leaves, about 2-3 tablespoons for each leaf.

Bring the edges of the leaves, about 1/2 inch, toward the center and roll and tuck into a ball or a cigar shape.

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Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Arrange the Swiss chard rolls in a 13 x 9 inch baking dish and pour the 2 cups of stock over the rolls. Cover the dish tightly with foil and bake for 1 hour.

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Spinach Stuffed Squash

2 servings

2 large yellow squash
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup panko crumbs
2.5 oz fresh baby spinach leaves
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut a thin slice off the top of each squash. With a spoon carefully remove the flesh of the squash without cutting into the outer shell. I use a grapefruit spoon to remove the flesh.

Finely chop the squash flesh.

In a skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and chopped squash; cook 5 minutes or until transparent. Add spinach and cook until wilted. Add salt and pepper, to taste.

Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the panko crumbs and cheese.

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Spoon mixture evenly into the squash shells. Place in a greased baking dish and cover with foil. Bake for 45 minutes; remove the foil and bake for 15 minutes more.

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Cheeseburger Stuffed Onions

If you would like to make this dish vegetarian, substitute a grain, such as quinoa or rice for the meat in the recipe.

2 servings

Ingredients

2 medium sweet onions
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons bell pepper, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/4 teaspoon chili (red) pepper flakes
1/4 lb lean ground beef or turkey
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper

Topping: 2 slices of American cheese, each folded into quarters

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut a 1/4-inch-thick slice from the top of each onion and reserve. Trim just enough from the bottom of the onions so they can stand upright.

Remove the dry skin and the outermost layer of each onion. Use a spoon or an ice cream scoop to remove the inner layers of the onion, forming a bowl with about 3-4 layers thick.

Dice the removed inner section of one of the onions and set aside. Save remaining sections for another use.

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Prepare the stuffing:

Heat oil in a medium skillet. Add reserved diced onion and bell pepper and saute just until tender, about 4 to 6 minutes.

Add garlic, fennel seeds and chili flakes and saute for about 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add meat, stirring to crumble the meat and saute until browned, about 6 to 8 minutes.

Stir in the basil, salt and pepper.

Divide the stuffing evenly into each onion bowl, mounding it up. Wrap each onion in two layers of aluminum foil and bake in the oven about 45 minutes, or until tender.

Unwrap onions and top each with a slice of folded cheese. Return to the oven unwrapped and heat until the cheese begins to melt.

Transfer to a serving plate. Serve hot.


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Every once in a while, I survey what is hiding in my freezer and decide to make something with the frozen goodies. Winter is a very good time to do that for me. Since our growing season is just about here in the south, I have to make room for my CSA produce. A biggie is the leftover Thanksgiving turkey and gravy which shouldn’t be stored for too many n\months. So this week turkey pot pie was on the menu, Since I still have the turkey bones, soup is on the menu next week. This week the frozen ham bone gave is split pea soup for lunch. A box of frozen artichoke hearts were just right for pizza and the extra applesauce made a delicious bread.

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Applesauce Bread

Recipe for Baked Applesauce:

https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2017/01/18/cooking-with-winter-fruit/

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups applesauce
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
3 tablespoons milk
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan.

In a large bowl, combine the applesauce, sugar, oil, eggs and milk; beat well. Sift in the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and salt; stir until smooth.

Fold in the pecans. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan.

Bake in preheated oven for 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into center of the loaf comes out clean.

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Turkey Pot Pie

Following Thanksgiving, I had quite a bit of turkey and turkey gravy leftover. I placed some in the freezer for the future. The future is here and I decided this was a good time to make a turkey pot pie.

Ingredients

2 refrigerated 9 inch pie crusts, at room temperature

Filling

1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cups leftover turkey gravy, defrosted if frozen
2 cups diced turkey, defrosted if frozen
2 cups frozen mixed vegetables, thawed
1 small baking potato, peeled and diced
Salt and black pepper to taste

Directions

Heat the oven to 425°F. Unroll pie crust and place one pastry in a 9 inch pie pan.

In a large mixing bowl combine all the filling ingredients and mix well.

Spoon the mixture into crust-lined pan. Top with second crust; seal edge and flute. Cut slits in several places in top crust.

Bake 45 minutes or until crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbling. During last 15 minutes of baking, cover crust edge with strips of foil to prevent excessive browning.

Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

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Artichoke & Fontina Pizza

Ingredients

9 ounces frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and drained
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion sliced into thin rounds
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1 sprig basil leaves sliced
Salt and black pepper to taste
One pound of your favorite pizza at room temperature
1 1/2 cups whole milk ricotta cheese. drained
8 oz Italian Fontina cheese, sliced thin
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese

Directions

Heat the oil in a medium skillet and saute the garlic and onion until tender. Add the artichoke hearts, lemon juice, salt and pepper and simmer until the artichokes soften.

Cool the mixture to room temperature.

Heat the oven to 450 degrees F. Oil a pizza pan. Stretch the pizza dough to fit the pan.

Combine the ricotta with basil, salt and pepper

Cover the dough with the sliced fontina cheese. Top with ricotta and then the artichoke mixture. Sprinkle with Parmesan.

Place the pizza on the bottom rack of the oven and bake for 20 minutes.

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Split Pea Soup

Recipe for Glazed Ham:

https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2017/01/27/birthday-dinner/

Ingredients

2 1/4 cups dried split peas
2 quarts cold water or broth
1 1/2 pounds ham bone
2 onions, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
/4 teaspoon dried marjoram or thyme
2 bay leaves
3 stalks celery, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
1 large russet potato, peeled and diced

Directions

In a large stock pot, cover peas with 2 quarts cold water and soak overnight. If you need a faster method, simmer the peas gently for 2 minutes, and then soak for l hour.

Once peas are soaked, add ham bone, onion, salt, pepper and marjoram. Cover, bring to boil and then simmer for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Remove bone; cut off meat, dice and return meat to soup. Add celery, carrots and potatoes. Cook slowly, uncovered for 30 to 40 minutes, or until vegetables are tender.


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This past week my husband celebrated his birthday. It is tradition in our family that the person celebrating their birthday gets to request their favorite foods for dinner. My husband asked for ham, one of his favorites, that I rarely make because I am not a fan. But it was his birthday. Friends who were celebrating with us, were happy with his choice. We were so busy celebrating that I forgot to take photos of the dishes when they came out of the oven. You will just have to use your imagination. The birthday menu is below and includes his favorite cake.

First Course – Celery Bisque

You can view the recipe in a previous post – see the link.

Glazed Ham

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place an oven rack on the bottom shelf of the oven.

Place an 8 lb. bone in, spiral cut ham in a roasting pan.

Score shallow cuts in a diamond pattern the fat on the top of the ham. Place whole cloves in the ham where the diamond cuts intersect.

Bake the ham for one hour.

Mix 1/4 cup of orange marmalade with 1/4 cup brown sugar and 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard in a small mixing bowl.

Remove the ham from the oven. Attach pineapple slices to the outside of the ham with toothpicks. Brush the glaze on the ham and pineapple.

Return the ham to the oven and cook for another hour or until the internal temperature of the ham registers 140 degree F. Let stand 20 minutes before slicing.

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Scalloped Potatoes

Place the potato casserole in the oven with the ham, after the ham has baked for 30 minutes.

Ingredients

4 (about 2 lbs) baking potatoes, thinly sliced
1 small onion, sliced into thin rounds
1 tablespoon butter
2 cups half & half or cream
1 teaspoon salt
1 dash cayenne pepper
8 oz grated Gruyère cheese

Directions

Use the butter to grease a 9 x 12 inch baking dish. Place a half of the sliced potatoes into the dish. Top with all the sliced onion. Sprinkle the potatoes and onions with half the salt and pepper.

Top with half the cheese. Repeat with a second layer of potatoes, salt and pepper. Sprinkle the top with the remaining cheese. Pour in the cream. Sprinkle with some paprika for color. Cover the dish with foil.

Bake covered at 350°F. for 1 hour. Remove the foil and bake the casserole for 30 minutes or until the potatoes are tender

Orange Broccoli Sauté with Almonds

Serves: 4

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 crushed garlic clove
4 cups broccoli florets
2 teaspoons orange zest and 1 tablespoon orange juice from 1 orange
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon slivered almonds

Directions

Heat a deep skillet over medium-low heat. Add the almonds and toast lightly. Remove to a plate.

Add the oil and garlic and cook for 1 minute.

Add the broccoli, salt, pepper, orange zest, orange juice and sauté with the olive oil and garlic mixture until the broccoli turns bright green and becomes tender.

Remove from the skillet, sprinkle with toasted almonds and serve.

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Italian Rum Cake

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Coat the bottoms of two 9 inch round cake pans with cooking spray and cut parchment paper into circles to fit the bottom of the baking pans. Spray again. Set aside.

Ingredients

For the layer cake:

1 cup sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature and soft
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 eggs
2 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups milk
1 cup finely ground hazelnuts (almonds or pecans can be used if you cannot find hazelnuts)
1/4 cup light rum

For the cake filling:

1 cup Nutella (chocolate hazelnut spread or other chocolate cake filling)
8 oz. Mascarpone cheese, at room temperature

For the topping:

2 cups heavy cream (whipping cream)
1 cup powdered sugar
¼ cup rum
Shaved chocolate

Directions

For the layer cake:

In an electric mixer beat together the sugar, butter and vanilla for 5 minutes.

Add eggs one at a time beating well after each addition.

In a separate bowl whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.

Add the flour to the sugar mixture alternating with the milk. Repeat until all the flour and milk are incorporated; end with flour.

Stir nuts in on low-speed.

Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pans and bake for 30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Do not over-bake or the cake will be dry. Cool 10 minutes and remove layers to a cooling rack and carefully peel off the paper. Cool thoroughly.

Drizzle each of the layers with the rum and let sit for a while to absorb the rum.

For the filling:

Beat together the Nutella and the Mascarpone cheese until very smooth.

For the topping:

Whip the cream until very stiff. Add powdered sugar and blend. Add rum on low-speed until incorporated.

To assemble:

Cover one cake layer with filling and place on a cake plate. Place the unfrosted layer on top. Completely cover the cake with the whipped cream mixture.

Chill in the refrigerator for several hours. Just before serving, decorate the cake with chocolate shavings.



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