Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Herbs

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This is a perfect dinner to have on a lazy weekend when you don’t feel like doing much or there is a great game on TV in the afternoon. This dinner is easy to fix in the morning and put it into the refrigerator until it is time to bake. Another advantage is that all the dishes go into the oven and bake together – so no extra pots or last-minute cooking.

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Normally, I make recipes for two servings, but there are some things I like to double up on for extra meals and leftover creations. Chicken and salmon are often two of those ingredients. In this post I am doubling up on the amount to chicken and stuffing, so I can use the extra for other meals and the stuffing can be divided into smaller portions and frozen to serve at another time, You will see later in the week how I use up some of my leftovers.

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Roasted Chicken Breasts

If you like dark meat chicken by all means substitute chicken leg quarters.

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoons dried thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon whole fennel seeds
  • 1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 1 lemon, halved and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 sweet onion, halved and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 4- bone in chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Combine the thyme, fennel seeds, salt and pepper in a small bowl.

Distribute the lemon slices, the onion and garlic in a baking dish large enough to hold the chicken. Dry the chicken pieces well with paper towels.

Place the chicken, skin side down, on top of the onion and brush with oil and sprinkle with half of the herb mixture. Turn the chicken skin side up and brush it all over with oil and the remaining herb mixture.

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Roast the chicken for 30 minutes. Pour the wine into the pan and roast for another 15 – 20 minutes, until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast registers 155 to 160 degrees.

Remove the chicken from the oven, cover the skillet tightly with aluminum foil and allow to rest for 10 to 15 minutes. Serve the chicken with the pan juices, cooked lemon and onion. Reserve remaining broth for leftovers.

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Italian Bread & Sausage Stuffing

Reserve one-third of the stuffing for this meal and set aside the remaining stuffing for other meals. I assembled this recipe a few days ahead and set aside some for this meal.

Ingredients

  • 8 cups Italian bread, like ciabatta, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 lb. sweet Italian sausage, diced
  • 1 large onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 2 large ribs celery, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tablespoon fresh sage leaved
  • 1 teaspoon. kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups low sodium chicken broth

Directions

Place the bread cubes into a large mixing bowl and set aside.

In a large skillet over medium heat add the olive oil and sausage. Cook until light brown, about 5 min. With a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage to the bowl with the cubed bread.

In the same skillet, sauté the onions, celery and garlic until the onions are tender about 8 minutes.

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Stir in the thyme, sage, salt and pepper, cook 1 minute and then add the mixture to the bread. Add the broth to the bread mixture; stir until well combined.

This stuffing can be baked at a range of oven temperatures, depending on what else you are cooking.

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For this dinner, I put the stuffing in the oven with the chicken and let it bake for the same amount of time.

Place the stuffing in a casserole dish or baking pan and bake it covered until heated through, 45 minutes to 1 hour. For a crunchy top, uncover it for the last 15 minutes of baking.

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Roasted Broccoli Florets

Ingredients

  • 1 large head of broccoli
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. If baking this dish with the chicken, place the broccoli in the oven after the chicken has roasted for 30 minutes and you are going to add the wine.

Wash the broccoli and cut the broccoli florets from the thick stalk, leaving some of the stalk attached. Pull the florets apart. You don’t want the pieces too small.

Place the broccoli florets in a single layer in an oiled baking pan. Toss the garlic on the broccoli and drizzle with about 3 tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle with the salt and red pepper flakes.

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Roast for 20 to 25 minutes, until crisp-tender and the tips of some of the florets are browned.

Remove the broccoli from the oven and sprinkle with the cheese.


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I have been making spaghetti sauce this way for many, many years. It is my standard, perfected for my family, from the way my grandmother and mother make spaghetti sauce.

I have made variations of the recipe numerous times but always come back to this for an authentic Italian American sauce, especially when my children visit. This is what they expect.

This recipe makes quite a bit of sauce with lots of meat. You will have enough leftovers to freeze for at least two more meals.

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Meatball Ingredients

(I use a combination of fresh bread and dried breadcrumbs to keep the mixture moist.)

  • 2 slices sandwich bread, torn into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 pound ground lean beef
  • 1 pound ground lean pork
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • ¼ cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning.
  • ½ cup dried plain breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Sauce Ingredients

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • One 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 1 large basil sprig
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
  • Four 28-ounce containers Italian chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 ½ lbs spicy Italian sausage

Pasta

  • 1 1/2 pounds spaghetti
  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided

Directions

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To make the meatballs:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and coat the foil with olive oil spray.

In a small bowl, soak the bread in the milk until the milk is absorbed, about 5 minutes.

In a large bowl, gently mix the ground meats with the soaked bread, onion, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, garlic, salt, black pepper and Italian seasoning.

Add enough dried bread crumbs to just hold the mixture together, about ½ cup. Add the fresh parsley.

Form the meat mixture into golf ball–size meatballs and transfer them to the prepared baking sheet. Bake about 30 minutes or until brown all over, turning them over halfway through the baking time.

To make the sauce:

In a large Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the sausage and brown on all sides; then remove to a plate.

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Add the remaining oil and saute the onion until tender. Add the garlic and stir for a minute or two.

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Add the tomato paste. Fill the empty paste can with water and add to the sauce pot. Stir and let cook for a few minutes until dissolved.

Add the crushed red pepper, tomatoes and the herbs. Bring to a simmer and cook over moderately low heat until the sauce is slightly thickened, about 25 minutes.

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Season the sauce with salt and pepper. Transfer the browned meatballs and sausage to the tomato sauce and simmer until the sauce is very thick, about 3-4 hours.

To make the pasta:

In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the spaghetti until al dente. Drain and return the pasta to the pot.

Pour in 2 cups of the tomato sauce and 3/4 cup of cheese. Toss until the pasta is well coated, about 1 minute. Transfer the pasta to large shallow bowls.

Spoon the meatballs, sausage and some of the remaining tomato sauce over the spaghetti. Sprinkle with the remaining grated cheese and serve.

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October Moon by Ron Jones

October Moon by Ron Jones

At times, it is just the thing to slow down and have a nice leisurely dinner with your partner. No TV, no phone – just a nice glass of wine, conversation and a delicious dinner to relax after a busy work week.

Stuffed Chicken Rolls

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 thin chicken cutlets, pounded thin
  • 1/2 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup cooked spinach, chopped
  • ¼ cup ricotta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons shredded mozzarella 
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Combine the Italian breadcrumbs and 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese in one bowl and the egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water in another.

Combine the remaining grated Parmesan cheese, the shredded mozzarella, spinach (make sure you squeeze it dry) and ricotta cheese in a small bowl.

Lay chicken cutlets down on a working surface and spread half of the spinach cheese mixture on each cutlet. Loosely roll each one and place seam side down on the work surface.

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Dip chicken rolls in the egg mixture, then in the breadcrumbs.

Heat the oil in an oven proof skillet. Brown chicken on all sides and place the skillet in the oven.

Bake the chicken rolls for about 15 minutes or until an instant read meat thermometer registers 165 degrees F. Remove the pan from the oven and the chicken rolls from the pan to a serving plate.

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Spaghetti with Fresh Tomatoes and Herbs

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh tomatoes, finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon shallot, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1 pinch black pepper
  • 6 ounces spaghetti

Directions

Cook spaghetti al dente according to package directions. Drain.

Cook shallot in the olive oil in a small pot over medium high heat until soft, about 1 minute.

Reduce heat to low. Add tomatoes, pepper and salt to taste. Stir to mix.

Tomatoes should get warm, but not cooked, about 2-3 minutes.Add basil and oregano.

Mix the tomatoes with the cooked spaghetti and serve under the chicken rolls.

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Romaine Salad

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups shredded romaine lettuce
  • 1/4 of a medium red onion, cut into rings
  • 10 Italian olives
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Divide the lettuce between two salad plates and top each plate with rings of red onion and 5 olives.

In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, lemon juice, oregano, salt and pepper. Drizzle dressing over the greens and serve.

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Toasted Coconut Custard Pie

8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup honey, agave nectar, pure maple syrup or granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups unsweetened almond milk
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup toasted finely shredded coconut, divided
  • 1 teaspoon coconut extract
  • 1 prebaked Pie Crust, cooled

Directions

In a large saucepan over medium heat, whisk together the honey, butter, vanilla and 2 cups of the almond milk.

In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 1 cup of almond milk with the cornstarch. Slowly add this mixture to the saucepan, whisking constantly over medium high heat.

Continue whisking until the custard begins to thicken.

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The custard will need to come to a full boil in order to thicken properly. You’ll know when the custard is ready because it will become the consistency of pudding.

Remove the pan from the stove and whisk in the salt, 3/4 cup of the shredded coconut and the coconut extract into the vanilla custard.

Allow the custard to cool to room temperature before spooning into the prepared pie crust. Sprinkle the top of the pie with the remaining 1/4 cup toasted coconut.

Refrigerate until chilled, about 2-3 hours. 

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Looking for some new ideas for sides for dinner? Here are a few recipes that my family likes.

Broccoli with Cheese Sauce

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Ingredients

  • 6 cups broccoli florets
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons unbleached white flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard powder
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • 1 cup low-fat milk
  • 1 cup Italian fontina cheese, diced
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • White pepper, to taste

Directions

Steam or stir fry the  broccoli until crisp tender, about 4 to 5 minutes. Meanwhile, melt butter in a medium saucepan. Whisk in flour, mustard powder and salt to taste.

Gradually stir in milk, whisking over medium low heat until thickened. Add cheese, stirring until completely melted. Season to taste with white pepper.

Pour over steamed broccoli and serve at once.

Oven Roasted Parmesan Cauliflower

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Ingredients

  • 1 whole cauliflower head
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Oil a rimmed baking sheet.

Cut the cauliflower into large florets.

Beat the eggs with the milk in a shallow dish.

Place the grated cheese in a shallow dish.

Place the flour in a plastic bag and add the salt and pepper.

Add the florets to the flour filled bag and give them a shake, rotating the bag until the florets are dusted with flour.

Dip each floret in egg and then in cheese and place on the prepared pan.

Place the pan in the oven and bake for 23-30 minutes.

Spaghetti with Cheese and Black Pepper

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Ingredients

  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 8 oz.spaghetti
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil or butter
  • 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • 3/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese
  • Chopped parsley for garnish

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta; cook until al dente, 8–10 minutes; reserve 1 cup pasta water and drain pasta.

Heat oil in a 12″ skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add pepper; cook until fragrant, 1–2 minutes. Ladle 3⁄4 cup pasta water into skillet; bring to a boil.

Using tongs, transfer pasta to skillet; spread it evenly.

Sprinkle the Pecorino Romano cheese over pasta; toss vigorously to combine until sauce is creamy and clings to the pasta without clumping, about 2 minutes, adding some pasta water if necessary.

Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Green Bean Salad

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Ingredients

Green Beans

  • 1 lb green beans, trimmed and halved
  • 1 cup low sodium chicken broth
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper

Salad Ingredients

  • 1/4 of a red onion, diced
  • 1 celery stick, sliced thin
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Sea salt to taste

Optional Additions

  • 1/3 cup feta cheese
  • 1 cup tomatoes, sliced
  • ½ cup shredded carrots
  • ½ cup sliced radishes

Directions

Bring the chicken broth to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the salt, pepper and green beans. Reduce the heat and simmer the beans until they are tender but very firm, 3-4 minutes. Drain.

Add the salad ingredients and any of the additional optional ingredients that you may wish to add. Toss well and chill before serving.

Italian Stuffed Baked Potato

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4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 russet potatoes
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon plus one tablespoon of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons sliced basil plus extra for garnish
  • 1 cup whole milk ricotta

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Rub the potatoes with 1 teaspoon of olive oil, place on a baking sheet and bake until they are tender when pierced with a knife, about one hour. Do not turn off the oven.

Toss the tomatoes with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon of salt and a grinding of black pepper.

Cut the baked potatoes in half and remove most of the potato flesh from the shells. Mash the potato pulp and add the tomatoes, basil and ricotta. Mix well.

Add the mixture to the potato shells and return the stuffed potatoes to the oven and heat until the potato mixture is hot. Garnish with additional basil.

 


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The holidays will be here soon and these veggies will be just right for entertaining. Pickled vegetables are a great accompaniment to a cheeseboard. 

Just about any vegetable — and some fruits — can be pickled. All you need is vinegar, water, sugar, salt and some dry seasonings and herbs.

Don’t be afraid to get creative! Even unusual veggie choices — like Brussels sprouts, green beans, fennel, pearl onions and okra — are surprisingly good pickled.

You can enjoy them as an appetizer, a light snack or as a side to an entrée. But if you’re looking for different ways to use them, here are some suggestions:

  • In Bloody Marys
  • On pizza
  • As a bed for grilled fish
  • For an omelet side
  • On a sandwich
  • In a salad

What is your favorite way to serve pickles and relish?

Pickled Mixed Vegetables

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I prefer to use firm vegetables for pickling.

  • Cauliflower, cut into florets
  • Bell Pepper (all colors), cut into chunks
  • Carrots, cut into diagonal slices
  • Celery, cut into diagonal slices
  • Fennel, cut into small chunks
  • Green Beans, trimmed but left whole
  • Radishes, cut into thick slices

To Make 2 Quarts

Fresh raw vegetables from the list above to fill 2 quart size mason jars (about 6-7 cups). For this batch, I used carrots, cauliflower, fennel, green beans and celery.

  • 4 cups vinegar (White Distilled or Apple Cider)
  • 1 cup water
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 6 tablespoons Kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons mustard seed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 6 cloves garlic, sliced thickly

Directions

Prep the vegetables.

Bring the water, vinegar, salt and sugar to a boil in a small pot.

Divide the garlic and whole spices among the jars and then add the vegetables, packing them in. Leave about an inch of space at the top of the jar.

Using a funnel, carefully pour the hot liquid into the jars, making sure to submerge all the vegetables, pressing down on them with the end of a wooden spoon.

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You may be able to add a few more veggies at this point, just make sure the liquid completely covers the vegetables by at least a half-inch.

Cover and turn the jars over on the counter covered with a kitchen towel for about 30 minutes to seal the lids. Turn the jars upright and let sit on the counter to cool for an hour or two.

Place the jars in the refrigerator. These will taste good after 6-8 hours, but much better after a couple of days. Keeps for several months.

Cucumber Pickle Relish

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Makes 2 cups

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • Pinch crushed red chili flakes
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 6 small cucumbers (about 2 pounds total), peeled, seeded and finely diced
  • 1/2 cup finely diced red onion

Directions

Combine the vinegar, sugar, mustard seeds, turmeric, chili flakes and salt in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the cucumbers and onion and return to a boil.

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Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool. Transfer the relish to jars and refrigerate at least 2 hours to let the flavors blend. Will keep in the refrigerator for 2 weeks or freeze for future use.

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paduauniversity

Padua University

Padua is a province in the Veneto region of Italy. It is home to some of the masterpieces from the Medieval and Renaissance art and architecture period and the towns of Cittadella and Montagnana are famous for their well-preserved Medieval city walls. There are also many ancient and historic villas in the countryside. The hills offer a relaxing naturalistic site often covered with woods, while the eastern slopes offer ancient spa sites, such as Terme Euganee, Abano Terme, Montegrotto Terme, Galzignano Terme and Battaglia Terme. There is a small part of the Venetian Lagoon lying inside the province, the Valle Millecampi (“one-thousand-fields valley”) that includes naturalistic routes for cycling or horse-riding.

Padua Basilica

Padua Basilica

The University of Padua was founded in 1222 and was one of the most prominent universities in early modern Europe. It is among the earliest universities of the world and the second oldest in Italy. In 2010 the university had approximately 65,000 students and in 2013 was ranked “best university” among Italian institutions of higher education with more than 40,000 students.

From the fifteenth to the eighteenth century, the university was renowned for its research, particularly in the areas of medicine, astronomy, philosophy and law. During this time, the university adopted the Latin motto: Universa universis patavina libertas (Paduan Freedom is Universal for Everyone). Nevertheless, the university had a turbulent history, and there was no teaching in 1237–61, 1509–17 and 1848–50.

Botanical Garden of Padova

Botanical Garden of Padova

The Botanical Garden of Padova, established by the university in 1545, was one of the oldest gardens of its kind in the world (after the Hanging Gardens of Babylon). In addition to the garden, the university also manages nine museums, including a History of Physics Museum.

The University began teaching medicine from the day it was founded and played a leading role in the identification and treatment of diseases and ailments, specializing in autopsies and the inner workings of the body. The university houses the oldest surviving permanent anatomical theatre in Europe, dating from 1595.

Padua's anatomical theater

Padua’s anatomical theater

Since 1595, Padua’s famous anatomical theater drew artists and scientists studying the human body during public dissections. Anatomist Andreas Vesalius held the chair of Surgery and Anatomy and in 1543 published his anatomical discoveries in De Humani Corporis Fabrica. The book triggered great public interest in dissections and caused many other European cities to establish anatomical theatres.

The university became one of the universities of the Kingdom of Italy in 1873 and, ever since, has been one of the most prestigious in the country for its contributions to scientific and scholarly research. In the field of mathematics alone, its professors have included such figures, as Gregorio Ricci Curbastro, Giuseppe Veronese, Francesco Severi and Tullio Levi Civita. On 25 June 1678, Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia, a Venetian noblewoman and mathematician, became the first woman to be awarded a Doctor of Philosophy degree.

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Paduan Hens

Padua’s cuisine has its simple roots in the vegetable garden, the farmyard and the vineyard, Farmyard products include: the well-known Paduan hen, Polverara hen, goose, guinea-hen and capon.

All varieties of chicory are cultivated in the countryside of Padua and include the Variegated Castelfranco, Early and Late Red Treviso, Red Chioggia or Red Verona varieties, are always present in the cooking proposals of the restaurants of Padua. Their soft and slightly bitter taste is particularly appetising in risotto dishes.

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Padua is a producer of both the white and of the green species of asparagus. Boiled eggs and asparagus or risotto with asparagus are part of the springtime cuisine.

Like the rest of the Veneto region, Padua is a land of well-known vineyards. DOC wines are produced in five areas of the province.Wines events and exhibitions are usually organized for spring and autumn.

Since Pre-Roman times olive trees have been cultivated in the Euganean Hills. The Extra Virgin Olive Oil produced in the area is under the protection of the Association of the Regional Park of the Euganean Hills. The color of the oil is typically golden green, obtained by using cold-pressing techniques and bottling after careful decanting without filtering.

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Montagnana is renowned for its ham, a tradition rooted in the rural population, called, prosciutto crudo dolce di Montagnana, by the locals. The sweet taste, the tenderness, the pink color and the unmistakable smell guarantee the identity of this product, so much so, that these properties were granted by the Protected Designation of Origin (DOP) seal and are now safeguarded by the Consortium of the Prosciutto Veneto Berico Euganeo, based in Montagnana. On the third Sunday of May, Montagnana organizes Piacere Montagnana, the festival of sweet ham.

In summer Padua produces its excellent cheeses in the northern grazing areas and among them are Grana Padano, Montasio and Asiago.

The cooking traditions of Padua are passed on to the generations that follow with only slight changes to adjust to more modern tastes and likes, while preserving the old recipes.

paduasandwiches

Tramezzini

Tramezzini are very common in Padua. They are stuffed triangular sandwiches made of chewy white bread and usually served with a glass of Prosecco.

Ingredients

  • 1 can mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup cream cheese
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • Slices of Prosciutto crudo dolce di Montagnana
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 8 slices bread

Directions

Remove the crust from the bread.

Chop the mushrooms.

In a bowl, stir together the mushrooms, cream cheese, parsley, lemon juice and pepper until creamy. Spread a layer of mushrooms on each slice of bread.

Top four pieces of bread with some ham. Turn the other four slices upside down on top of the other one. Press and cut diagonally.

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Risotto con gli Asparagi

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 5-6 cups homemade or purchased low sodium broth
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 lb asparagus
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups rice: Carnaroli, Vialone Nano or Arborio
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup Grana Padano grated cheese, divided
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Pour the broth into a pot and heat. Keep at a simmer.

Trim and discard the tough woody stems of the asparagus (usually about an inch). Slice the spears crosswise into 1/4 inch pieces. Leave the tips intact.

Place 1 tablespoon of butter and the extra-virgin olive oil into a heavy-bottomed 5-quart pot.

Add the onions and cook over med-high heat for a couple of minutes, until transparent.

Add the sliced asparagus (reserve the tips for later use) and salt.

Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 8-10 minutes, until the asparagus are soft and slightly golden in color.

Add the rice and “toast”, stirring constantly, for a couple of minutes, until the rice acquires a light golden color.

Add the white wine and stir for one minute, letting it evaporate. Add a couple of ladles of hot broth to the rice and lower the heat to medium. Add the asparagus tips.

Stir every 30 seconds or so. Keep adding broth, ladle by ladle, as soon as the liquid is absorbed, slightly covering the rice each time, until the rice is cooked.

You will need approximately 5 cups of broth, but it depends on the rice variety, so be prepared to add more or less.

Cooking time for the rice will be 14 to 18 minutes, depending on the rice variety used. The final consistency of the risotto should be creamy.

Turn off the heat and add 1 tablespoon of butter, 1/2 cup cheese and heavy cream.

Rest for one minute and serve with freshly ground black pepper and the reserved cheese.

paduachicken

Paduan Chicken Cacciatore

Authentic Chicken Cacciatore doesn’t use tomatoes. It was a traditional Italian dish that hunters could easily make in the field if they needed to cook a meal.

Ingredients

  • 1 Padua chicken
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 20 mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 cup Prosciutto crudo dolce di Montagnana, diced
  • 1 rosemary sprig
  • 1 sage branch
  • 1 thyme sprig
  • Dash red wine vinegar
  • Chianti red wine
  • Chopped parsley for garnish

Directions

Cut the chicken up into smaller pieces.

Season well with salt and pepper.

Brown in a hot skillet with some olive oil. Remove the chicken pieces from the pan and set aside.

Add the onion, garlic and mushrooms to the pan and brown gently. Add the diced prosciutto and place the chicken back in the pan.

Add the herbs and vinegar and allow it to evaporate.

Add enough red wine to cover the chicken. Simmer over low heat until the chicken is tender and falls off the bone.

Serve with either polenta or slices of bread and with steamed or roasted vegetables on the side. Garnish with chopped parsley.

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Tips On Grilling Shellfish

The flavor of shellfish benefits significantly from grilling. Removing the shellfish from the grill before they become too well done and rubbery is the biggest challenge. Watching closely for shellfish to turn opaque (non-transparent), removing them from the grill and serving them immediately are key to delicious tasting fish.

Prepare scallops for grilling by cutting off the curved shaped appendage that is attached to the side of the body, if still intact.

Prepare shrimp by removing the shell and the vein that runs along the back. Personal preference dictates whether to leave the tail on or off.

Marinating shellfish in a flavorful oil will help to prevent the tendency of the scallops and shrimp to dry out.

Two skewers work best to prevent the seafood from spinning or turning on the grill.

Grill shrimp on each side for 2-3 minutes, depending on the thickness of the shrimp. Cook scallops for 2-3 minutes on each side, depending on their size.

Tips On Grilling Vegetables

Make room on the grill for vegetables. The caramelized, smoky flavor that comes with grilling does wonders for vegetables. A lot of veggies do well on the grill, but some really stand out — asparagus, corn, eggplant, squash, mushrooms, peppers and onions.

Most vegetables cook better and are less likely to stick if they’re marinated first or brushed lightly with vegetable oil.

For added flavor, sprinkle grilled vegetables with chopped fresh herbs. Cut the vegetables all about the same size for even cooking.

If you use wooden skewers, soak them in warm water for 20 minutes.

Marinade for the Shellfish and Vegetables

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions

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Whisk all the marinade ingredients together in a measuring cup. Divide in half. Use one half for the shellfish and one half for the vegetables.

Grilled Shellfish Skewers

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For 2 servings

Ingredients

  • 6 medium sea scallops
  • 6 medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • Marinade, recipe above
  • 2 double skewers
  • Green Goddess Dressing, recipe below

Grilled Vegetable Skewers

For 2 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/4 of a Fennel bulb, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 1/3 of a Red Bell Pepper, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 1 small Zucchini, cut into 2 inch slices
  • Marinade, recipe above
  • 2 double skewers
  • Green Goddess Dressing, recipe below

Directions

Marinate the shellfish and vegetables separately for 30  minutes. Drain and thread the scallops on one double skewer and the shrimp on a second double skewer.

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Do the same with the vegetables. Save any marinade left in the bowl to use as a basting sauce.

Preheat an outdoor grill to high and grease the grill grates with oil.

Place the vegetable skewers on the grill first, since they will take longer to cook. Cook until the vegetables are tender, turning and basting them with the olive oil mixture occasionally, about 15 minutes.

After the vegetables have cooked for 10 minutes, place the shellfish skewers on the grill.  Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side.

Serve the grilled shellfish and vegetables with the Green Goddess Dressing.

Green Goddess Dressing

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This may be used immediately or stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. This dressing is also delicious drizzled over hard-boiled eggs.

Makes 1 cup

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup snipped chives
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley leaves
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
  • 2 anchovy fillets
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Place the chives, parsley, anchovy fillets, tarragon and vinegar in a food processor and pulse a few times to combine.  

With the motor running, add the olive oil in a steady stream, scraping down the sides, and process until pureed. Add the sour cream and process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

Store in the refrigerator until serving time.

Brown and Wild Rice with Pecans and Thyme

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 1 cup brown and wild rice mix, without seasoning. (I use Lundberg rice)
  • 3/4 cup chopped, toasted pecans
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 cups low sodium chicken stock

Directions

In heavy saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, saute the onion in oil until softened. Add rice and saute 2-3 minutes, stirring so it does not get too brown.

Add the bay leaves, thyme, salt, pepper and chicken stock and bring to a boil.

Turn the heat to very low, cover and cook for about 50 minutes. (Check your rice package to see what the recommended cooking time is.)

After 50 minutes, check the rice. It should be slightly chewy with all the liquid absorbed when it’s done. Stir in the toasted pecans.

Turn off the heat and let stand, covered, 10 minutes. Serve hot.

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