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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Cheese

Folklore tells us that what has come to be known as Italian Wedding Soup began as a dish traditionally served to the bride and groom at their wedding reception. However, that story is not exactly true. Italian Wedding Soup gained its name, not from the occasion that might bring it to the table but rather from the harmony of its ingredients. The name of the dish in English, “wedding soup”, actually means “married soup” (minestra maritata) in Italian. The modern Americanized version of wedding soup is a far lighter dish than the original, which was a rib-sticking dish intended as the main (and sometimes only) meal of the day. The Italian Wedding Soup history also has ties with America, where it was brought here by the Neapolitan immigrants. In Italy, the soup went out of fashion around the time the immigrants took their recipe with them to America. There are many, many versions of this soup. Below is my version of the dish and the one my family loves. This soup tastes better if made a day ahead.

Italian Wedding Soup

For the meatballs:

1 pound lean ground chicken
1 cup plain breadcrumbs
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 egg, lightly beaten
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the soup:

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 medium stalks celery with leaves, diced
3 carrots, peeled and diced
1 clove garlic, minced
12 cups chicken broth
1 cup small pasta, such as ditalini
1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
10 ounces frozen spinach, defrosted
Parmesan cheese for garnish

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray it with cooking spray.

For the meatballs:

Place the ground chicken, bread crumbs, garlic, parsley, Italian seasoning, Parmesan, cream, egg, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a bowl and combine gently with a fork.
Form 1 inch balls (I use a small cookie scoop) and drop the meatballs onto the prepared pan They don’t have to be perfectly round. Bake for 30 minutes, until cooked through and lightly browned. Set aside.

For the soup:

Heat the olive oil over medium-low heat in a large heavy-bottomed soup pot. Add the garlic, onions, carrots, and celery and saute until softened, 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and add the pasta and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the pasta is tender. Add the Italian seasoning and then the meatballs to the soup and simmer for 1 minute. Stir in the spinach and cook for 1 minute. Adjust the seasoning if necessary. Ladle into soup bowls and sprinkle each serving with grated Parmesan.

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Philly-Style Steak Sandwiches

2 sandwiches

Ingredients

1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 small bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, grated
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon butter
1 boneless rib eye steak, about 10 ounces and about 1 inch thick, trimmed of all fat
2 hoagie (Italian sub) rolls, split
2 thin slices white American cheese, each folded in half
2 thin slices provolone cheese, each folded in half

Directions

Cut the steak into paper-thin slices.
In a medium bowl combine the onion, peppers, garlic, olive oil, and oregano. Season with salt and pepper and toss to coat evenly. Set aside.
Heat a skillet (with a cover) and add the butter. Add the steak slices and cook quickly, about a minute on each side. Remove the steak to a plate and add the vegetables to the skillet.
Cook the vegetables until they are soft and tender, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. While still in the pan, divide the vegetable mixture into two long piles. Divide the steak slices in half and place on top of the vegetables. Place a folded slice of provolone cheese and a folded slice of American cheese on top of each steak mound. Cover the pan and heat on low just until the cheese begins to melt.


Brush the cut sides of the rolls with a little olive oil and toast under the broiler just until lightly brown. Place one steak mound on each role and serve.

Mixed Green Salad With Homemade Ranch Dressing

Dressing

1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 tablespoons. fresh lemon juice
1 clove garlic, grated
1/4 teaspoon Louisiana-style hot sauce
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped chives
Salad
1 head Boston or Bibb lettuce
1 bunch arugula
8 cherry tomatoes, sliced
1/2 cucumber, peeled and sliced into half moons
¼ of a red onion sliced thin

Directions

In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, buttermilk, lemon juice, garlic, hot sauce, and pepper; stir in the chives.
In a large bowl, toss together the lettuce, arugula, tomatoes, red onion, and cucumbers. Drizzle with some of the dressing and serve the remaining dressing on the side.


Have lots of leftovers from Thanksgiving? Here is a delicious recipe to use some of the leftovers in a new way. For the topping, I use a mixture of potatoes and cauliflower to reduce the number of carbs in the dish. If you are not a fan of cauliflower use all potatoes. Don’t forget the leftover cranberry sauce to add as a side.

Filling Ingredients

4 cups cubed leftover turkey
1 medium onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 celery stalk, diced
1 carrot, finely diced
Half a green bell pepper, diced
1 cup leftover green beans, diced
2 cups leftover turkey gravy

Topping

2 cups leftover mashed potatoes
2 cups leftover mashed cauliflower
1 tablespoon melted butter.
½ cup shredded cheddar cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Choose either an 8×8-inch or a 9×14-inch oven-proof pan, depending on how much food you have. Oval gratin dishes or a casserole dish also work well, as do individual baking dishes. Butter the dish well.

To reheat the filling before putting the casserole in the oven.

Combine the filling ingredients in the baking dish, cover with plastic wrap and heat in the microwave until warm (not hot), about 4 minutes on high.
If you don’t wish to use the microwave, reheat the mixture in a saucepan and pour into the baking dish.

To make the topping:

Thoroughly combine the mashed potatoes and cauliflower. Mix in the melted butter and cheddar cheese. Spread the topping over the filling in the baking dish, spreading it to the edges of the dish. Place the baking dish on a foil covered cookie sheet. The filling may bubble over.

Bake, uncovered, for about 45 minutes. You will know it is done when the pie filling is bubbling hot and the topping turns golden brown. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.



Stuffed Pork Chops

For two servings you need

Ingredients

Freshly ground black pepper
2 one-inch thick boneless pork chops (about 6 oz each), trimmed of all fat and butterflied
½ cup creamed spinach (see recipe below) (leftover or frozen and defrosted)
4 slices Prosciutto di Parma
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
Half of a 9 oz.package of frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
2 large or 3 medium shallots peeled and halved
1 large clove garlic, thinly sliced
2 sprigs fresh thyme

Directions

Heat the oven to 400°F.


Pound the butterflied pork lightly just to even out their thick areas. Season the pork chops with black pepper.

Place ¼ cup creamed spinach on half of each pork chop. Fold the uncovered side over the filling. Wrap each chop with two slices of prosciutto.


Heat the oil and butter in a medium ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat, add the chops and brown the bottom side. Turn the chops over, add the garlic, artichokes, and shallots to the pan and cook until the second side is brown.

Stir the vegetables occasionally. Add the thyme and place the pan in the oven. Cook the pork until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center of a chop reads 140°F, about 6-8 minutes.

Creamed Spinach

This is the recipe I use for creamed spinach. I made it for Thanksgiving and had some leftover.

8 servings

Ingredients

2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup minced onion
1 garlic clove, grated
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup cream cheese with chives and onion
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Two 16 oz packages frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry

Directions

In a large skillet, heat butter over medium heat. Add onions; cook and stir 5 minutes or until tender. Add garlic and stir in cream cheese until melted. Add cream and salt and pepper to taste. Add spinach; cook, covered, 3-5 minutes or until the spinach is soft, stirring occasionally. Can do ahead and reheat in the microwave.

Oven Roasted Cauliflower Steaks

4 servings

Ingredients

1 large head of cauliflower
Olive oil
1 large garlic clove, grated
2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste
4 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese

Directions

Remove the outer leaves and trim the stem end.
Hold the cauliflower with its stem on a cutting board.
With a sharp knife, make one cut through the center of the cauliflower to divide it in half.
Cut each half into two 3/4-inch thick slices. Save the ends for another recipe.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place the cauliflower steaks on the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle with the garlic, salt, and pepper to taste. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle the Italian seasoning evenly over the cauliflower. Top each cauliflower steak with 1 tablespoon of Parmesan cheese.

Roast the cauliflower steaks in the preheated oven for 30 minutes or until tender and golden.


The word “spiedino” is a diminutive of “spiedo” the Italian food term for skewered meat. Spiedini, or “skewers,” are a popular way of grilling throughout Italy, from north to south. Small pieces of meat, fish, vegetables, and even cheese are skewered on a spiedo, or “stick,” and then cooked over a flame. This recipe is one I have adapted from the Italian restaurant, Carrabba’s Italian Grill.

Spiedino Di Mare (Skewered Seafood)

Serves 3-4

Ingredients

6 oz sea scallops
6 oz large shrimp, peeled, deveined and tails removed
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
Extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, grated
1/4 cup seasoned Italian breadcrumbs, for breading
Lemon Butter Sauce, recipe below
Fresh parsley, chopped
Bamboo or metal skewers
Simmered Italian Seasoned Rice, recipe below

Directions

If using bamboo skewers, soak them in warm water for a 1/2 hour.
Season the scallops and shrimp with salt and pepper to taste.
Add the grated garlic to the breadcrumbs.
Lightly coat the seafood with olive oil, then dip in the seasoned breadcrumbs.
Preheat a stovetop grill and oil the grill.
Skewer the shellfish and grill on both sides just until the shrimp turn a light pink.
Place the grilled seafood on the prepared rice and pour the lemon butter sauce over the shellfish. Sprinkle chopped parsley on top.

Lemon Butter Sauce

Ingredients

2 tablespoons salted butter
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon)
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Black Pepper to taste

Directions

Melt the butter in a small saucepan or in the microwave. Add the lemon juice to the butter and warm briefly.
Add Worcestershire sauce and pepper to taste. Mix well and set aside.

Simmered Italian Seasoned Rice

Ingredients

1 3/4 cups Chicken Broth
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
3/4 cup uncooked long-grain white rice
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Heat the broth and Italian seasoning in a 2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat to a boil.
Stir the rice into the broth. Reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook for 20 minutes or until the rice is tender. Stir in the cheese.

Italian Peppers and Onions

Ingredients

4 bell peppers, seeded and sliced
1 onion, sliced thinly
4 whole garlic cloves skin removed
1 teaspoon fresh oregano, roughly chopped
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil
Few leaves of fresh basil, chopped

Directions

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and cover the bottom with olive oil. Place the whole garlic cloves in the oil and let the garlic infuse the oil and begin to caramelize. This should take about 5 minutes. Remove the garlic.


Add the peppers, onions, oregano, red pepper, salt, and pepper and allow the vegetables to cook down and soften turning them over a few times. This should take about 15 minutes.
Place the vegetables in a serving bowl and sprinkle with chopped basil.


Italian Macaroni & Cheese

Serve with meatballs and a green mixed lettuce salad.

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

10 oz small pasta, penne or macaroni
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 plump garlic cloves, grated
1 (28-ounce) can plus 1 (14-ounce) can chopped tomatoes in juice
1/4 teaspoon honey
Salt to taste
A couple of fresh basil sprigs
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Freshly ground pepper to taste
8 ounces ricotta cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Freshly ground pepper
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup breadcrumbs

To make the tomato sauce.

Pulse the chopped tomatoes in a food processor fitted with the steel blade, or pass through the medium blade of a food mill. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat in a large, wide nonstick skillet or saucepan and add the garlic. Cook, stirring, for 30 seconds to a minute and add the tomatoes and their juice, the honey, salt, oregano and basil sprigs. Stir and turn up the heat. When the tomatoes begin to bubble, lower the heat to medium and cook, stirring often, until thick, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the basil sprigs and add freshly ground pepper. Measure out 4 cups of sauce and save the remaining for another recipe.

Combine the ricotta, mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses and then stir into the 4 cups of sauce to thoroughly combine. Taste and adjust seasonings.

To make the pasta:

Heat a large pot of water to boiling.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF and oil a 2-quart baking or gratin dish with olive oil.
When the water for the pasta comes to a boil, add a tablespoon of salt and cook the pasta for a minute or two less than the instructions on the package indicate. It should still be a little underdone as it will finish cooking in the oven. Drain and transfer to a large bowl. Add the tomato-cheese sauce and stir together until the pasta is thoroughly coated.

Transfer the pasta to the baking dish. Toss the breadcrumbs with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle over the top of the macaroni. Bake in the preheated oven until the casserole is bubbly and the breadcrumbs are lightly browned about 45 minutes. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.


Neapolitan Meatballs

Makes 12 large meatballs

Ingredients

1 pound lean ground beef
1 pound lean ground pork
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup breadcrumbs
2 large eggs, beaten
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1 onion, finely chopped
1 large clove garlic, grated
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
New York Style Pizza Sauce, recipe below

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Using your hands. combine all of the meatball ingredients, except the sauce, in a large mixing bowl. Cover a large baking sheet with foil and coat the foil with olive oil cooking spray. Form the meatball mixture into large meatballs. Use a ½ cup measure. You should be able to make 12 large meatballs.

Place the meatballs on the prepared baking sheet and place the pan in the oven. Bake for 15 minutes and then turn the meatballs over. Bake for 15 minutes more. Place the meatballs in the pot of pizza sauce and simmer for one hour.

For the Parmigiana:
For 2 servings
1 cup shredded Mozzarella Cheese
2 Sub Rolls, warmed and sliced lengthwise

Directions

Preheat the broiler.
Place the split sub rolls on a baking sheet.
Place 2-3 cooked meatballs in each sub roll. Spoon a little of the sauce over each meatball.
Sprinkle ½ cup of shredded mozzarella over the meatballs
Place the pan under the broiler until the cheese begins to melt, about 2-3 minutes. Garnish with fresh parsley if desired. Serve with a garden salad.

New York-Style Pizza Sauce

Ingredients

1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 medium cloves garlic, grated on a microplane grater (about 2 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Pinch red pepper flakes
Kosher salt
2 (6-inch) sprigs fresh basil with leaves attached
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and cut in half
1 teaspoon honey or sugar substitute

Directions

Process tomatoes and their juice through a food mill, or pulse in food processor until pureed, or puree with a hand blender. Puree should not be completely smooth but should have no chunks. Set tomatoes aside.

Combine butter and oil in medium saucepan and heat over medium-low heat until the butter is melted. Add garlic, oregano, pepper flakes, and large pinch salt and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant but not browned, about 3 minutes. Add tomatoes, basil sprigs, onion halves, and honey. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to the lowest setting (bubbles should barely be breaking the surface), and cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced by 1/2, about 1 hour. Discard onions and basil stems. Season to taste with salt. Allow to cool and store in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.



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