The healthiest meals you can make are ones that you prepare from scratch using unprocessed foods. If you don’t have time to home-cook all of your meals, try to make healthy choices about the processed and prepared foods you do consume. Choosing baked or grilled foods over fried, drinking water instead of soda and sharing a dessert are just a few ways you can eat healthy while still eating well.
Choose ingredients located in the perimeter aisles of your grocery store, where the produce, fresh meats and unprocessed foods are typically located. Make healthy meals by forgoing prepared meals that come in boxes or frozen meals in bags, which all contain high amounts of preservatives and unhealthy salt that can contribute to high blood pressure. Refined grains lack the outer husk of the grain, which contains the health benefits of fiber that cleanses the intestines and creates a full feeling sensation during a meal. Choose brown rice instead of white and cook with whole oats, not instant.
Bake, braise, broil or grill meats, fish and poultry. These are healthier cooking methods because fats drain away from the foods while they are cooking. Low fat dairy products help decrease your risk of high cholesterol and weight gain because you will consume less animal fat.
Consume less food when eating out by splitting your entrée with a friend or taking a portion of the dinner home and look for foods that haven’t been fried. Choose lower fat options when available. Lunchtime is probably one of the least healthiest meals, if you buy your lunch. Fast food is an expensive but convenient option that often comes with a side of guilt. One in every four Americans eats fast food at least once a day. Unfortunately, many fast food meals contain a whole day’s worth of calories and fat all in one meal. When you consider the benefits that come from taking your lunch to work or preparing lunch at home with fresh ingredients, the prospect of making your own lunch quickly becomes more appetizing. Here are some ideas for appealing and healthy lunches that can be made ahead and warmed at work or at home in the microwave. Add your favorite seasonal fruit, a bottle of water and you are all set.
Focaccia Pizza Sandwiches
This sandwich can also be layered with sliced fresh tomatoes and pesto instead of marinara sauce and pepperoni.
- 1/4 cup prepared or homemade marinara sauce
- 2 (4-inch) squares focaccia, halved horizontally
- 2 tablespoons sliced pitted black olives
- 1 ounce sliced uncured (such as Applegate Farms) pepperoni, ham or prosciutto
- 4 slices part-skim mozzarella cheese
- 6 small leaves basil
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Place focaccia bottoms on a baking pan. Spread marinara sauce on one side of each of the 2 bottom pieces of focaccia. Top the sauce with olives, pepperoni or other meats and the mozzarella cheese. Arrange the focaccia tops next to the bottoms on the baking sheet.
Bake until cheese is just melted, pepperoni is warmed through and focaccia is crisp, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to plates, top bottom halves with basil, add focaccia tops and serve.
Savory beef meatballs makes this a satisfying sandwich for lunch or a light dinner. Adding bread soaked in milk to the meat mixture keeps meatballs moist and tender. This recipe uses some of the pita tops for just that purpose.
- Olive oil cooking spray
- 4 whole grain pita breads
- 1/2 cup low-fat milk
- 3/4 pound lean ground beef or your favorite ground meat
- 3 tablespoons finely minced onion
- 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 tomato, diced
- 1 cup finely sliced romaine lettuce
- 3/4 (6-ounce) cup Greek yogurt
- 1/2 cup cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped fine
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Spray olive oil on a medium baking sheet.
Cut the top third off the pitas. Tear 2 of the tops into pieces with your fingers and place the pieces in a small bowl; save the remaining 2 pita tops for another use. Add milk to the bowl and let the bread soak until very soft, about 15 minutes.
Combine beef, onion, oregano, cayenne, pepper and the 1/2 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. With your hands, gently squeeze excess milk from pita tops; add the bread to the bowl with the meat; discard milk. Mix with your hands or a rubber spatula until well combined. Form the mixture into 16 balls, each about the size of a ping-pong ball. Place on the prepared baking sheet and bake, shaking the pan once or twice, until the meatballs are browned and cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine yogurt, cucumber and lemon juice in a small bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. Fill each pita with tomato, lettuce and 4 meatballs. Spoon yogurt sauce on top.
Quick Italian Spinach and Pasta Soup
This soup is simply made from pantry staples including vegetable or chicken broth, diced tomatoes, canned beans and dried pasta. Look in the freezer section of your store for some frozen spinach or other favorite vegetables to add.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 garlic, minced
- 2 cups dried pasta (any shape), cooked according to package instructions
- 6 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
- 1 (15-ounce) can no-salt-added kidney or great northern beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced Italian tomatoes
- Salt, pepper and Italian seasoning, to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 4 ounces frozen or 4 cups fresh spinach
- Grated parmesan cheese
In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, add olive oil and saute garlic for a minute.
Add broth and bring to a boil. Add beans, tomatoes, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper and lower to a simmer. Add spinach and cook until softened and bright green.
Place pasta (about 1 cup per serving) into soup bowls, ladle soup over the top and garnish with Parmesan cheese..
A frittata is the savvy cook’s solution for leftovers.
- 6 eggs
- 2 cups chopped cooked vegetables and/or meat (asparagus, onion, ham, potatoes, spinach, sausage, chopped bell pepper etc.)
- 1/2 cup shredded cheese – any kind you like
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, basil or chives
- Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 325°F. In a large bowl, beat eggs and stir in vegetables and/or meat, herbs and salt and pepper, if needed. Reserve the cheese.
Heat a 10-inch ovenproof skillet over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add oil and carefully swirl around to completely coat the bottom and sides of the skillet.
Add egg mixture, spread out evenly and cook, without stirring, until the edges and bottom are set and golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. (Carefully loosen an edge to peek.)
Sprinkle the cheese on top and transfer the skillet to the oven. Bake until the eggs are completely set and the frittata is deep golden brown on the bottom, about 15 minutes more.
Remove the skillet from the oven. (The handle will be hot!)
Loosenthe edges and bottom of the frittata with a table knife and spatula; carefully slide onto a large plate. Serve warm, at room temperature or cold, cut into wedges.
Italian Tuna Salad
- 1 can (5 oz) Tonno (tuna) in 0live oil, drained and oil reserved for use in the vinaigrette
- 3 tablespoons canned garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
- 3 tablespoons canned white beans, drained and rinsed
- 1/4 cup cooked cut fresh green beans
- 6 cherry tomatoes, halved
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinaigrette (recipe below)
- 2 cups mixed salad greens
- 1 tablespoon fresh basil leaves
White Balsamic Vinaigrette
- 1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar (or vinegar of choice)
- 3 tablespoons oil (combine tuna oil and olive oil to make 3 tablespoons)
- Juice of half a lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
- Salt and pepper, to taste
Prepare Balsamic Vinaigrette:
In a small bowl, combine vinegar, oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Set aside. (Stir vinaigrette mixture later before pouring on the salad.)
Prepare the Salad:
In a medium bowl, combine garbanzo beans, white beans, green beans, tomatoes, salt, pepper and half of the vinaigrette, stir gently.
In a separate bowl, toss salad greens with the remainder of the vinaigrette. Divide the tossed salad greens between two salad plates and top each plate with an equal portion of the bean mixture. Divide the tuna in half and add to the top of the bean mixture. Garnish with fresh basil leaves. Serve with your favorite bread.
- Healthy Options For Kids (jovinacooksitalian.com)
- Black Bean Burgers with Parsnip Fries and Avocado Cilantro Cream (balancingactfoodie.wordpress.com)
- Homemade Pita and Smoky Red Pepper Hummus (georgiapeachonmymind.com)
- Bell Pepper Pita Pizza Recipe (mysillylittlegang.com)
Marcella Hazan was born on this day, April 15, in 1924 in the village of Cesenatico in Emilia-Romagna. She earned a doctorate in natural sciences and biology from the University of Ferrara. In 1955 she married Victor Hazan, an Italian-born, New York-raised Sephardic Jew, who subsequently gained fame as a wine writer. The couple moved to New York City a few months later and Marcella was a newlywed who did not speak English, transplanted to a country whose knowledge of her native cuisine was not much more than spaghetti covered with what, to her, tasted like overly spiced ketchup. The culture shock was substantial. She found canned peas and hamburgers appalling and for coffee – she described it, “as tasting no better than the water we used to wash out the coffee pot at home”.
Hazan had never cooked before her marriage. As she recounted in the introduction to her 1997 book, Marcella Cucina, “… there I was, having to feed a young, hard-working husband who could deal cheerfully with most of life’s ups and downs, but not with an indifferent meal. In Italy, I would not have wasted time thinking about it. My mother cooked, my father cooked, both my grandmothers cooked, even the farm girls who came in to clean could cook. In the kitchen of my New York apartment there was no one.” She began by using cookbooks from Italy, especially Ada Boni’s cookbook, The Talisman Italian Cookbook, – also my first Italian cookbook. Soon after she realised that she had an exceptionally clear memory of the flavors she had tasted at home and found it easy to reproduce them in her kitchen. “Eventually I learned that some of the methods I adopted were idiosyncratically my own,” she recalled, “but for most of them I found corroboration in the practices of traditional Italian cooks.”
In October 1969 she began teaching Italian cooking classes that were as much about Italian culture and history as about food. She taught students that Italian cooking was really regional cooking, from the handmade noodles and meat sauce of Bologna to the fish and risotto of Venice to the linguine and clams of Naples.
Her recipes tended to use only ingredients that would actually be used in Italian kitchens (with some concessions for ingredients that are not readily available outside Italy). Mrs. Hazan embraced simplicity, precision and balance in her cooking. She emphasised careful attention to detail. In her third book, Marcella’s Italian Kitchen, Hazan laid out her “Elementary Rules” with some 22 commandments. Among them are:
- Use no Parmesan that is not Parmigiano-Reggiano.
- Never buy grated cheese of any kind; grate cheese fresh when ready to use.
- Do not overcook pasta. Do not pre-cook pasta.
- Unless you are on a medically prescribed diet, do not shrink from using what salt is necessary to draw out the flavor of food.
- Dress salads with no other oil than olive.
- Do not turn heavy cream into a warm bath for pasta or for anything else. Reduce it, reduce it, reduce it.
- Choose vegetables that are in season and plan the entire meal around them.
- Soak vegetables in cold water for half an hour before cooking to remove all trace of grit. Cook them until they are tender, but not mushy, so that they have a rich flavor. Cooking brings out the taste. If you cook vegetables too little because you want them crunchy, they all have one thing in common: They taste like grass.
- When sautéing onions, put them in a cold pan with oil and heat them gently; this will make them release their flavor gradually and give them a mellower taste than starting them in a hot pan.
- Although some types of pasta, like tagliatelle, are best made freshly at home, others, like spaghetti, should be bought dried. Pasta should be matched carefully to the sauce.
- Olive oil isn’t always the best choice for frying; in delicately flavored dishes, a combination of butter and vegetable oil should be used.
- Garlic presses should be avoided at all costs.
Bibliography of Marcella’s books:
- The Classic Italian Cook Book: The Art of Italian Cooking and the Italian Art of Eating (1973)
- More Classic Italian Cooking (1978)
- Marcella’s Italian Kitchen (1986)
- Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking (1992)
- Marcella Cucina (1997)
- Marcella Says: Italian Cooking Wisdom from the Legendary Teacher’s Master Classes With 120 of Her Irresistible New Recipes (2004)
- Amarcord: Marcella Remembers (Gotham Books, 2008)
In her honor, the International Culinary Center (ICC)—the only school at which Marcella taught—is launching a scholarship in her name, sending worthy aspiring chefs to the seven-month Italian Culinary Experience, a program that begins at ICC’s campus in New York or California, then continues in Marcella’s home province of Emilia-Romagna in Italy, including staging (apprenticeships) in top restaurants in Italy. To access information and the application, click on the link below.
Recipes for some of Marcella Hazan’s pastas.
Eggplant, Tomato and Mozzarella Pasta
(From Marcella Says)
- 1 medium eggplant or 2 small eggplants
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 large can San Marzano tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon dried chili flakes
- 1/4 lb mozzarella, cut into thin strips
- 1 lb short tube pasta, such as rigatoni or penne
- 1/4 cup freshly grated pecorino cheese
- Torn basil leaves
Boil 4 quarts of salted water in a large pot.
Remove the tops of the eggplant and cut into 1-inch dice.
Heat a 10-inch saute pan and add the olive oil. When oil is hot, add the eggplant. Cook about a minute, turning the eggplant frequently. Add tomatoes and chili flakes. Turn heat to low and simmer until the oil floats to the top of the sauce. Season with salt and remove from the heat.
Drop pasta into boiling water. When the pasta is nearly done, turn the heat down on the sauce and add the mozzarella, stirring until it dissolves into the sauce.
When the pasta is done, drain and transfer into a large warm bowl. Pour sauce over. Add pecorino cheese and torn basil leaves. Toss and serve at once.
Pasta with Abruzzi-Style Lamb Sauce
(From Marcella Cucina)
Serve 4 to 6.
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup chopped onion
- 2 ounces pancetta, finely diced
- 1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
- 1/2 pound boneless lamb, cut into very fine dice
- Coarse salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- One 28-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped, with juices.
- 1 pound penne, ziti or rigatoni
- 1/3 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for serving
Put the oil and onion in a large skillet and cook over moderately high heat, stirring frequently, until the onion is pale gold. Add the pancetta and rosemary and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pancetta fat is rendered; the pancetta should remain soft.
Add the lamb and cook until browned, 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and stir. Add the wine and simmer until evaporated, 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and simmer gently, stirring from time to time, until the fat begins to separate from the sauce, 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, fill a large pot with 4 quarts of water and bring to a boil. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of coarse salt, cover and return to a boil.
Add the pasta to the pot and stir rapidly with a wooden spoon. Cover and bring back to a boil. Uncover and cook the pasta, stirring frequently, until it is al dente.
Drain the pasta and immediately transfer it to a warmed bowl. Toss with the lamb sauce and the 1/3 cup of grated cheese. Serve at once, passing additional cheese at the table.
Pasta With Fresh Clams
(From Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking)
- 18 littleneck clams
- 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 large cloves garlic, peeled and sliced paper-thin
- 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh hot red pepper or crushed dried red pepper to taste
- 1 ripe plum tomato, seeded, diced and drained
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 pound spaghettini or spaghetti
- Several basil leaves, torn up.
Wash and scrub the clams, dunking them in several changes of fresh water until there are no traces of sand. Discard any that remain open when handled. Place them in a dry skillet in one layer, cover the skillet and turn the heat to high. Cook, checking and turning occasionally to remove each clam as it opens; the total cooking time will be about 10 minutes.
Turn off the heat. Remove each clam from its shell and swish it in the cooking liquid to remove any remaining sand. Cut the clams into two or three pieces each, then put them in a bowl with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Cover and set aside. Pass the cooking liquid through a strainer lined with paper towels or cheesecloth and set aside.
Place the remaining oil and the garlic in a skillet large enough to hold the pasta later and turn the heat to medium high. Cook, stirring, for a few seconds, then add parsley and chili pepper. Stir once or twice, then add tomato. Cook for a minute, stirring, then add the wine. Cook for 30 seconds, then turn off the heat.
Meanwhile, set a large pot of water to boil and salt it. Cook the pasta until it is very firm to the bite, just short of being fully cooked (it should be so firm that you would not yet want to eat it). Drain it, turn the heat to high under the skillet and add the pasta to the skillet, along with the filtered clam juice. Cook, tossing and turning the pasta, until the juice has evaporated. The pasta should now be perfectly cooked; if it is a little underdone, add some water and continue to cook for another minute.
Add the cut-up clams with their oil and the basil leaves; toss two or three times, then serve.
Marcella Hazan’s Spaghetti Carbonara
(From Essentials of Italian Cooking)
- 1/2 pound cubed pancetta or slab bacon
- 1 small onion, finely diced
- 4 garlic cloves
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 2 large eggs
- 1/4 cup freshly grated romano cheese
- 1/2 freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- freshly ground pepper
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 1 1/4 pound spaghetti
Mash the garlic with a fork and saute in the olive oil in a pan on medium heat while you cook the spaghetti. Saute until the garlic becomes a deep gold color, then remove and discard it.
Put the onion and cubed pancetta or bacon in the pan and cook until onions are golden and the pancetta is crisp at the edges. Add the wine and let it bubble for 2 minutes, then turn off the heat.
Break the eggs into a serving bowl in which you will toss the pasta. The serving bowl can be warmed in the oven, if it is oven proof. Beat the eggs lightly with a fork, add the cheeses, a liberal grinding of pepper and the chopped parsley. Mix thoroughly.
Add cooked drained spaghetti to the bowl and toss rapidly, coating the strands well. Briefly reheat the onion and pancetta over high heat. Turn out the contents of the pan into the pasta bowl and toss thoroughly once more. Serve immediately.
Penne with Creamy Zucchini and Basil Sauce
(From The Classic Italian Cookbook)
- 1 lb penne
- 2 lb zucchini
- 1/2 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup half and half or heavy cream
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- One bunch of basil, chopped finely
- 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
Set a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta al dente.
Meanwhile, slice zucchini in thin strips.
Heat butter and olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add garlic and stir. Before garlic starts to brown, add zucchini and cook, stirring occasionally, until cooked through and starting to brown a bit.
Add cream. Season with salt and pepper. Let cook on medium-low heat until thickened a bit and let simmer until the pasta is done.
Just before mixing with the pasta, stir basil into the sauce and turn off the heat. Toss with pasta and parmesan cheese.
- Marcella Hazan 1924 – 2013 (ecookbooks.typepad.com)
Football is the sport where we get together with our fellow fans and cheer on our team. Saturday and Sunday afternoons and nights are sacred for football viewers. Whether it’s tailgating at the game or hosting some friends in front of the TV, rooting for our “team” has become an enjoyable ritual in the fall. You expect your team to play its best, so you might as well throw a great party.
The big question is – what to eat? Are you going to do a big, one-pot meal that can feed everyone (like chili) or a number of appetizers that people can munch on during the game? It’s your call, but appetizers are usually a better bet – everyone will be able to find something they like and you don’t have to plan anything complicated. For appetizers you could do a number of things: chips and salsa, chips/veggies and dip or hummus and pita chips. Some other popular foods are stuffed jalapeno peppers, ribs, wings and pizza.
I prefer to set out a few nibbles on the tables around the TV viewing area and prepare easy to eat entrees, like hearty sandwiches, so that eating isn’t complicated and folks can concentrate on the game action at the same time. Slice the sandwiches into small serving pieces that are easy to handle. Don’t forget to plan for any vegetarians attending the party. For dessert – keep it simple. Make a big batch of brownies or chocolate chip cookies. They are always a big hit.
You’ll also want to decide what you’re going to do for drinks. Will you be providing alcohol or asking people to bring their own? Either way, make sure you know who the designated drivers are before serving any alcohol. Asking people to bring their own drinks is probably the cheapest option. You could also say you’ll provide some and then ask people to also bring some for the group. You’ll also want to make sure you have non-alcoholic beverages on hand like water and soda.
The most important part of a football party is simple: make sure everyone can see the TV!
Game Day Sub Recipes:
Herb-Roasted Pork Subs
Pork shoulder is rubbed with an herb-and-garlic mixture and then slow-roasted. Pile the meat high with pickled peppers and spinach sautéed with garlic. One key to the sandwich is to slice the pork very thinly; to do so, be sure the pork is very cold and use a deli slicer or a thin, sharp knife.
- 12 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped rosemary
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- One 4-pound boneless pork shoulder roast
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 20 ounces baby spinach
- 8 hero rolls, split
- 3/4 pound sliced provolone
- 1 cup jarred Peppadew peppers or sweet pickled Italian cherry peppers, chopped
For the pork:
Preheat the oven to 300°F. In a small bowl, combine the garlic with the rosemary, thyme, oregano, fennel seeds, crushed red pepper and salt; stir in the olive oil. Rub the mixture all over the pork. Set the pork in a large casserole dish or dutch Oven and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Roast in the oven for about 2 1/2 hours, turning once, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the meat registers 180°. Let cool, then wrap the pork in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
For the spinach:
Preheat the oven to 450°F. In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and crushed red pepper and cook over high heat until golden, 1 minute. Add the spinach in large handfuls and cook, stirring, until wilted, 3 minutes. Season the spinach with salt and transfer to a colander. Let cool slightly, then squeeze out the excess water.
For the subs:
Slice the cold pork very thinly, then let come to room temperature. Arrange the rolls on 2 baking sheets and mound the spinach on the bottom halves; layer the provolone on the top halves. Bake for about 5 minutes, until the cheese is melted. Pile the sliced pork on the rolls and top with the pickled peppers. Close the sandwiches, slice and serve.
MAKE AHEAD The roasted pork can be refrigerated for up to 3 days before slicing.
Broccoli Rabe and Provolone Grinders
WHITE BEAN PURÉE
- 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 15-ounce can cannellini (white kidney) beans with liquid
- Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
- 4 bunches broccoli rabe (rapini, 4–5 pounds), ends trimmed
- Kosher salt
- 1/2 cup olive oil, divided
- 1 head of garlic, cloves peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 8–8 inch-long Italian rolls, split lengthwise
- 8 ounces thinly sliced provolone cheese
- 4 green or red jalapeño pepper, seeded, very thinly sliced
WHITE BEAN PURÉE
Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat; add garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring often, until garlic begins to turn golden, about 4 minutes. Add beans with liquid. Bring to a simmer; cook, stirring often, until liquid thickens, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a food processor; add 3 tablespoons oil. Process until smooth. (Or you can use a hand immersion blender.) Season with salt and pepper.
Cook broccoli rabe, 1 bunch at a time, in a large pot of boiling salted water for 2 minutes (return to a boil between batches).
Transfer broccoli rabe to a baking sheet; let cool. Squeeze dry and coarsely chop.
Heat a large pot over medium heat; add 1/4 cup oil, garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring often, until garlic is fragrant and beginning to turn golden, 2–3 minutes.
Add broccoli rabe; cook, stirring often, until stem pieces are just tender, 4–5 minutes. Add remaining 1/4 cup oil and 3 tablespoons lemon juice.
Season with salt and pepper. Spread out on a rimmed baking sheet with liquid and let cool. DO AHEAD: Can be made one day ahead. Cover baking pan and chill.
For the subs:
Arrange racks in top and bottom thirds of oven and preheat to 400° F.
Open rolls and arrange on 2 rimmed baking sheets. Spread bean purée on one side of each roll; add broccoli rabe (at room temperature if it has been refigerated) with some of its liquid.
Top with cheese, then sliced jalapeno peppers. Toast, rotating pans after 5 minutes, until cheese is melted, 7–10 minutes.
Italian Deli Sandwiches
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
- 1/2 cup drained capers
- 4 tablespoons chopped fresh marjoram
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 22-inch-long sourdough baguette, halved lengthwise
- 12 ounces assorted sliced Italian deli meats and cheeses (such as mortadella, ham, prosciutto, salami, mozzarella and provolone)
- 1 cup thinly sliced Vidalia onion
Blend olive oil, parsley, capers, 3 tablespoons marjoram and vinegar in a food processor until herbs are finely chopped. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer dressing to small bowl. Let stand 30 minutes.
Mix remaining 1 tablespoon marjoram into dressing. Spoon dressing over cut sides of bread, dividing equally. Arrange meats, cheeses, and onion on bottom half of bread. Cover with top half of bread. Cut diagonally into 4-8 sandwiches.
DO AHEAD Sandwiches can be made 4 hours ahead. Wrap tightly in foil and refrigerate.
If you are in the mood to grill – make these sandwiches.
Grilled Sausage Sandwiches with Caramelized Red Onions
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 medium red onions, sliced 1/4 inch thick
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- Freshly ground pepper
- Four 6-ounce thin Italian sausages, such as luganega, pricked all over with a fork
- Four 6-inch long Italian rolls, split and toasted
- 12 large sprigs of parsley or arugula
In a large skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the onions, season with salt and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to moderate and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are softened, about 10 minutes.
Stir in the honey and balsamic vinegar and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until richly caramelized, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Light a grill. Grill the sausages over moderate heat, turning occasionally, until nicely browned and cooked through, about 15 minutes.
Set a piece of sausage on each roll. Top with the caramelized onions and a few parsley or arugula sprigs and close the sandwiches. Transfer to plates and serve.
MAKE AHEAD The caramelized onions can be refrigerated overnight. Reheat gently before serving.
Caprese Cheesesteak Sandwich
- 12 ounces round steak, thinly sliced and pounded thin
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
- 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 4 ciabatta rolls, sliced
- 3 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced into 8 slices
- 1 tomato, sliced into 8 slices
Place pounded steak slices into shallow dish. Sprinkle with basil, garlic powder, balsamic vinegar, olive oil and salt and pepper. Turn to coat steaks with ingredients. Cover and place in the refrigerator for about 1 hour.
Heat grill to high. Place rolls cut-side-down onto part of grill. Place steaks onto grill. Remove rolls when toasted. After 3 minutes, turn steaks and cook another 3 minutes on the second side. Remove steak from the grill and let rest about 5 minutes.
Thinly slice steaks across the grain. Divide steak evenly among 4 toasted rolls. Top each with 2 slices mozzarella and 2 slices tomato before serving.
Grilled Zucchini Caprese Sandwiches
A Vegetarian Version
- 1 medium zucchini, trimmed and cut lengthwise into 6 slices
- 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
- 4 ciabatta rolls, split and toasted
- 8 large fresh basil leaves
- 1 medium tomato, thinly sliced
- 6 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
Heat a large grill pan (you may also use an outdoor grill, especially if you are also cooking meat) over medium-high heat. Place zucchini in a shallow dish. Add 2 teaspoons oil and garlic; toss to coat.
Arrange zucchini in the grill pan; cook 2 minutes on each side or until grill marks appear. Cut each zucchini piece in half crosswise. Return zucchini to the shallow dish. Drizzle with vinegar. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper.
Brush bottom halves of rolls with the remaining 2 teaspoons oil. Top evenly with zucchini, basil, tomatoes and mozzarella.
Brush cut side of roll tops with remaining liquid from the shallow dish. Wrap the sandwiches in foil and heat on the grill or in the oven to warm.
- Panini Tonight? (jovinacooksitalian.com)
- Sautéed Broccoli Rabe with Garlic & Red Pepper Flakes (groupspoon.com)
Achieving widespread US popularity, the ‘panino’ or Italian sandwich is known, more commonly, in English by its plural form ‘panini’. The difference between a panini and a regular sandwich is that it’s grilled, has ridges and the sandwich ingredients melt or fuse together, giving delicious flavor and texture to the filling. Panini sandwiches do not need additional butter or oil for grilling and a panini does not need to be turned over, the press does the work.
Panini are easy to make and can be made with any variety of food desired. Served with a salad or soup, a panini can make a complete, fast and healthy meal, eaten any time of the day.
The Panini Grill
A panini grill is very much like a waffle iron, where heat is applied from the top and bottom to cook both sides evenly. Unlike a waffle iron, the panini grill has a larger hinge to accommodate thick bread or flat buns. A panini grill usually has ridges on the top and bottom grilling surface and this creates the signature grilling lines.
If you do not have a panini maker, a George Foreman Grill will make a great panini, but make sure the grill is heated prior to using.
On the stove: Preheat a skillet with butter or oil to medium low. Add your sandwich, then press a heavy pan on top to weigh it down. Cook until golden and crisp, 3 to 4 minutes per side.
Here is how to make your own panini:
There is no one traditional type of bread used for panini, but generally the most popular are ciabatta, focaccia and sourdough. The most important requirement is that your bread be sliced thick enough so that the sandwich can be grilled.
You can use whatever filling you’d like, but here are some suggestions:
- Italian cold cuts, peppers, mozzarella cheese, anchovies
- Chicken, cheese, spinach
- Cooked bacon, scrambled eggs, cheese
- Leftover turkey or chicken, mayonnaise, cranberry sauce, Monterey-jack cheese
- Sliced ham, provolone cheese, tomatoes, Dijon mustard
- Sliced tomatoes, basil, mozzarella cheese
- Grilled vegetables (red pepper, zucchini, mushrooms, onions) cheese
- Brush one side of the bread with fig jam or jam of choice. Fill with sliced apple and manchego cheese.
- Dijon mustard, shredded gruyere cheese, sliced roast beef, caramelized onions
Slice or use pre-sliced cheese.
Spread bread with condiments, if using.
Lay cheese on one bread slice.
Slice any other ingredients and place on top of the cheese.
Cover with another slice of bread spread with coniment of choice.
Place onto a preheated panini grill. Grill for 2 to 4 minutes.
Open the panini maker and check to see if the ridges are well-formed, the cheese is melted properly and the bread is toasted.
Remove the sandwich from the panini machine and cut in half.
Here are some panini for you to make. After that – use your ceativity.
Turkey Breast with Roasted Peppers and Mozzarella
Makes 4 sandwiches
- Kosher salt
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound boneless, skinless turkey breast
- 8 slices sourdough bread
- 1/4 cup basil leaves
- 1/2 cup jarred roasted peppers
- 8 ounces fresh mozzarella or buffalo mozzarella, sliced
In a large saucepan, bring 8 cups water to a gentle simmer. Generously salt water. Add thyme, rosemary, bay leaves and black pepper. Add turkey and simmer until breast registers 160 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer. Remove from heat and let turkey cool in liquid. Store turkey in liquid, covered and refrigerated, until ready to use.
Preheat a panini press according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Remove turkey breast from poaching liquid and thinly slice; divide evenly among 4 slices of bread. Top with peppers, basil leaves and mozzarella.
Sandwich with remaining 4 slices of bread and place on the panini press. Close the lid and apply slight pressure; cook until bread is golden and cheese is melted, 5 to 8 minutes. If bread is sticking to the press, continue to cook and bread will unstick itself. If press is generating more heat from the bottom, flip the sandwich halfway through cooking.
Remove sandwich from press and cut in half before serving.
Steak and Cheese Panini
- 1 1/2 lb flank steak
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 2 large vidalia onions, cut into 1/2 inch slices
- 6 focaccia rolls or bread
- 12 slices white cheddar cheese
Sprinkle steak with salt and pepper on both sides. Place in a sealable plastic bag. Add garlic, lemon juice and olive oil. Seal bag. Shake until ingredients are evenly distributed. Place in the refrigerator for a 1/2 hour.
Preheat a panini grill.
In a large nonstick pan over medium-high heat, heat 1 tablespoon of the marinade from the bag with the steak. Add steak to the pan and saute until medium rare, 5-7 minutes per side. Remove steak from pan and let rest on a cutting board for 10 minutes.
Add onions to the pan with any remaining marinade. Saute until onions are soft and translucent, 8-10 minutes.
Cut the steak into thin slices across the grain. Put 5 to 7 thin slices of steak on each roll. Top each sandwich with onions and cheddar cheese.
Place the sandwich in the panini press and cook until the cheese melts.
Everything or Anything Panini
- 2 large onions, sliced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 8 slices Swiss cheese
- 1/2 pound thinly sliced deli ham
- 1 large tomato, sliced
- 8 garlic-flavored sandwich pickle slices
- 8 slices Italian bread (1/2 inch thick)
In a large skillet, saute onions in oil until softened. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes or until deep golden brown.
Layer the cheese, ham, tomato, pickles and caramelized onions on four bread slices; top with remaining bread.
Cook on a panini maker for 3-4 minutes or until bread is browned and cheese is melted. Yield: 4 servings.
Chicken Pesto Panini
- 1 focaccia bread, quartered
- 1/2 cup prepared basil pesto
- 1 cup sliced cooked chicken
- 1/2 cup sliced green bell pepper
- 1/4 cup sliced red onion
- 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
Preheat a panini grill.
Slice each quarter of focaccia bread in half horizontally. Spread each half with pesto. Layer bottom halves with equal amounts chicken, bell pepper, onion and cheese. Top with remaining focaccia halves, forming four sandwiches.
Grill paninis 5 minues in the preheated grill,or until focaccia bread is golden brown and cheese is melted.
Tuna Melt Panini
- Two 6-ounce cans albacore tuna
- 1/4 cup finely diced red onion
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon minced basil
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 4 ciabatta rolls, split
- Dijon mustard for spreading
- Eight 1/4-inch-thick slices of Swiss or cheddar cheese (6 ounces)
- Sixteen 1/8-inch-thick lengthwise slices of kosher dill pickles
In a medium bowl, mix the tuna with the onion, olive oil, vinegar, basil and crushed red pepper. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Heat a panini press.
Spread the cut sides of the rolls with mustard and top each roll half with two slices of cheese. Spread the tuna mixture on top of the cheese and cover with the pickles. Close the sandwiches.
Add the sandwiches to the press and grill until the cheese is melted, about 6 minutes. Cut the sandwiches in half and serve.
Red Pepper, Egg and Provolone Panini
In the south of Italy, egg and bell pepper sandwiches are a classic. For variety, add some sautéed or grilled red onion slices.
- 4 (1/2-inch thick) Sicilian-style sesame semolina bread or Italian bread of choice
- 3 large eggs
- 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- Olive oil
- 1/2 cup jarred roasted red peppers, drained and sliced
- 2 ounces sharp Provolone cheese, sliced
- 1 ounce Parmesan cheese, sliced
Preheat panini grill or stovetop griddle pan.
In a small bowl, beat eggs, oregano, salt and pepper with a fork. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and add a little olive oil. Add egg mixture. Cook, lifting the edges with a fork, 2 to 3 minutes or until set.
Divide eggs, peppers and cheeses between 2 slices of bread. Top with remaining bread slices
Place on panini grill and cover. Grill 5 minutes until golden and cheese starts to melt.
And For Dessert
- 4 slices challah or whole wheat bread or bread of choice
- 2 ounces Nutella
Form 2 sandwiches with the bread and Nutella
Transfer to a hot panini press and cook until the bread is golden and the chocolate has melted, 2 to 3 minutes.
(Alternatively, cook the sandwiches in a hot grill pan, turning once and pressing down frequently.)
- Breakfast Panini (therapybread.com)
- Cheddar, Chive & Ciabatta Panini (theseasonedtraveler.wordpress.com)
- Baby-Gourmet Grilled Cheese Panini’s (thefitspirationalblonde.wordpress.com)
- Chicken Caprese Panini’s with Basil Pesto (saraheatsaustin.com)
- P.A.M.P.T Panini (latenightnosh.wordpress.com)
- Vegan panini (healthyyogimama.wordpress.com)
Cucumbers are generally believed to have originated in India and have been cultivated throughout western Asia for at least 3,000 years. From India, the cucumber spread to Greece and Italy and slightly later to China and southern Russia. Cucumbers probably were brought to the rest of Europe by the Romans and later to the New World via colonialism and trade networks. Their cultivation first appeared in France by the ninth century, Great Britain by the fourteenth century, the Caribbean at the end of the fifteenth century and North America by the middle of the sixteenth century.
Colonial encounters between Europeans and Native Americans resulted in the diffusion of cucumbers throughout North America. The Spanish began growing them in Hispaniola by 1494 and less than a century later European explorers were noting that a wide range of Native American peoples from Montreal to New York, Virginia and Florida were cultivating them, along with a large variety of other crops including maize, beans, squash, pumpkins, and gourds. By the seventeenth century, Native American groups on the Great Plains were also cultivating cucumbers. Cucumbers have a wide range of consumption uses cross-culturally. They are generally eaten fresh or pickled and are particularly important in the diets of people living in Russia and Asia, where they may also be served as a cooked vegetable. In India, the fruits are used in the preparation of chutney and curries. Cucumber seeds, young leaves and cooked stems are also consumed in some parts of Asia. In addition, since at least the nineteenth century, cucumbers have been used in the production of a large variety of cosmetics, including fragrances, body lotions, shampoos and soaps.
The skin, if it is not waxed, and the seeds of cucumbers are edible. As the cucumber matures, however, the seeds can start to become bitter, so look for narrow, young cucumbers at the market for the best taste. The English cucumber is a long and narrow cucumber with a tender, edible skin that is marketed as seedless but actually will contain a few seeds. Cucumbers are available year round with a peak season from May until August. Choose cucumbers with firm, smooth skins, devoid of any blemishes or soft spots. They can be stored in the refrigerator in a bag for about a week. Cucumbers are high in potassium and fiber with moderate amounts of Vitamins A and C, as well as folic acid, phosphorous and magnesium.
Although they can be cooked, cucumbers are most often eaten raw in salads, in cold soups, in cucumber based sauces and as hors d’oeuvres. Cucumbers are also the vegetable of choice for pickles. Cucumbers are used to make raita, (pronounced rye-ta), a classic Indian dish. Raita is a mixture of yogurt, cucumbers, seasonings and herbs. It can be used as a condiment or mixed with larger chunks of other vegetables or fruits for a salad. Similar to raita is the Greek cucumber and yogurt sauce, tzatziki. Tzatziki is the classic sauce used on Greek gyros, a sandwich of ground lamb on pita bread with onions and peppers.
Types of Cucumbers
English cucumbers (a.k.a. hot house cucumbers) are long and thin with a dark green skin. They are often sold wrapped in plastic at supermarkets, but you can find unwrapped ones at farmers markets. This cucumber has a mild, almost non-existent flavor and is prized for its thin skin and minimal seeds. English cucumbers are best sliced and served raw and are not good for pickling.
These are the most common cucumbers in North America. They are relatively smooth skinned and dark green. Cucumbers sold at grocery stores tend to be waxed to help them retain moisture, which is part of why these cucumbers tend to need peeling. Un-waxed varieties can be found (particularly at farmers markets), but you may still want to peel them if the skin is thick or bitter.
Kirby cucumbers are short and bumpy. They have a range of skin color from yellow to dark green. Kirbys are crunchy, flavorful and perfect for pickling.
Yellow, round and the size of a generous fist, lemon cucumbers do look like lemons. They are sweet, without that bitter edge that many cucumbers have, thin skins, minimal soft seeds and flavorful. They are tasty raw, but make delicious pickles too.
Persian cucumbers are very similar to English cucumbers. They are shorter, with bumpy skin, but have a mild flavor and thin skin.
Most Asian cucumbers are very narrow and long, growing up to 18 inches long , but remaining less than 2 inches in diameter. The seed cavity is vey small and the flesh is thick, crisp and flavorful. These cucumbers are picked when immature and used for pickling and salads.
Some Basic Cucumber Recipes
Classic Marinated Cucumber Salad
- 2 garden cucumbers
- 1/4 cup white vinegar
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- Water to cover
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Fresh herbs to taste, basil & parsley
- Salt & pepper to taste
Trim and peel the cucumbers. Cut in half lengthwise and then scoop out and discard the seeds. Cut into half rings or chunks.
Place cucumbers in a large bowl. Stir together the vinegar and sugar and mix with the cucumbers. Add enough water to cover the cucumbers and let the cucumbers soak for a few hours.
Drain the cucumbers. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Chill.
Cucumber Sauce for Cooked Fish
- 1 cucumber, peeled and finely diced
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon wine vinegar
- 1 cup sour cream (or 1/2 cup light sour cream and 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt)
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
Place the cucumber in a bowl and toss with the salt, sugar and vinegar.
Let stand for about 5 minutes, then mix in the sour cream.
Fold in the dill. May be made a few hours in advance and refrigerated.
Refrigerator pickles are easy to make and there’s no need for processing, special jars or vacuum-tight lids. Plus, unlike store-bought pickles, these homemade pickles are lower in sodium.
Yield: 7 cups
- 6 cups thinly sliced pickling cucumbers (about 2 pounds)
- 2 cups thinly sliced onion
- 1 1/2 cups white vinegar
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Place 3 cups of the sliced cucumbers in a medium glass bowl; top with 1 cup onion. Repeat procedure with the remaining cucumbers and onions.
Combine vinegar and remaining ingredients in a small saucepan; stir well. Bring to a boil; cook 1 minute. Pour hot mixture over cucumber mixture; let cool. Cover and chill at least 4 days.
Spoon into glass jars for refrigerator storage. Note: Pickles may be stored in the refrigerator for up to one month.
Italian Tomato, Cucumber and Onion Salad
Lightly salting the tomato wedges and letting them stand briefly concentrates their flavor significantly. Be sure to use a sweet onion to maintain the flavor balance in this refreshing salad.
- 2 medium tomatoes, preferably an heirloom variety
- 1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar
- 1 small sweet onion, such as Vidalia, coarsely chopped
- 1 cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch slices
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Basil leaves, minced
Cut the tomatoes into bite-sized, irregular wedges, discarding any runny seeds. In a small bowl, toss the tomatoes with a pinch of salt and the vinegar. Let the tomatoes stand for up to 30 minutes.
In a mini food processor, pulse the onion until minced; be careful not to over process the onion into a puree.
Shortly before serving, transfer the tomato wedges to a medium bowl with a slotted spoon; discard the tomato juices.
Add the cucumber and onion and toss, then season with salt to taste. Add the olive oil and toss to coat, then add the basil, toss once more and serve.
Try Something Different With Cucumbers
Cucumber Shrimp Appetizers
Yield: 32 appetizers.
- 1 can (8 ounces) unsweetened crushed pineapple, drained very well on paper towels
- 4 ounces cooked shrimp, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped green onion
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1-1/2 teaspoons minced fresh dill
- 1 English cucumber, unpeeled and cut into 1/4-inch slices
In a bowl, combine the pineapple, shrimp, mayonnaise, green onion, mustard and dill. Spoon onto cucumber slices.
Grilled Sourdough Panzanella
Bread salads are common in the Mediterranean and the Middle East, where frugal cooks use stale bread as the primary ingredient. In this Italian version, called panzanella, char the bread on the grill for added flavor. If you don’t feel like grilling the bread, you can toast it on a grill pan or under a low broiler.
Serves four to six. Yields about 6 cups.
- 4-1/2-inch-thick slices bread (about 8 oz.) from the center of a round sourdough loaf
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 small shallot, sliced into thin rings
- 3 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
- 1 small clove garlic, coarsely chopped
- 1-1/2 lb. ripe tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch dice (about 3-1/2 cups)
- 1 English cucumber, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch dice (about 1-1/2 cups)
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
- 2 tablespoons capers, drained and rinsed
Heat a gas grill with all burners on medium. Brush the bread with 1/4 cup of the oil and season it with 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and a few grinds of pepper. Grill the bread on both sides, checking frequently, until nicely browned, 3 to 4 minutes per side. When the bread is cool enough to handle, cut it into 1/2-inch cubes.
Toss the bread cubes, tomatoes, cucumber, basil, mint, capers and vinaigrette in the bowl with the shallot. Season the panzanella to taste with kosher salt and pepper and serve.
Asparagus, Green Onion, Cucumber and Herb Salad
For the Dressing:
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
For the Salad:
- 3 pounds medium asparagus, trimmed
- 4 cups thinly sliced green onions
- 3 cups (1/4-inch cubes) peeled, seeded cucumbers
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon
Prepare the Dressing:
Whisk first 5 ingredients in small bowl. Gradually whisk in oil. Set aside.
Prepare the Salad:
Fill a large bowl with lightly salted ice water; stir until salt dissolves. Cook asparagus in large pot of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes.
Drain, reserving 3 cups of the cooking liquid. Transfer asparagus to the bowl of salted ice water to cool.
Place green onions in another large bowl; pour hot reserved asparagus cooking liquid over the green onions and let stand until cool, about 30 minutes.
Separately drain asparagus and green onions well.
Transfer onions to a clean kitchen towel and squeeze dry.
Combine green onions, cucumbers and herbs in mixing bowl.
Add dressing; toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Arrange asparagus on platter. Spoon cucumber mixture over and serve.
Italian Picnic Sandwich
- 1 loaf focaccia bread ( 12 inches in diameter)
- 1/2 cup prepared creamy Italian dressing, see recipe below
- 6 -8 lettuce leaves
- 1/2 cucumber, thinly sliced
- 1/2 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
- 2 red onions, thinly sliced and separated
- 4 ounces sliced Provolone cheese
- 4 ounces thinly sliced salami
- 4 ounces thinly sliced cooked ham
- 1 medium tomato, sliced thin
Cut bread in half horizontally. Spread 1/4 cup of the dressing on the bottom half. Top with half of the lettuce.
Layer with cucumber, green pepper, onion, cheese, meats and tomato. Top with remaining lettuce.
Spread remaining dressing on the top half of the bread before covering the bottom.
Cover with plastic wrap and place a heavy skillet on top to press it down. Let sit for a few minutes.
Remove skillet and plastic wrap and cut sandwich into 8 wedges.
Creamy Italian Salad Dressing
- 1/2 cup reduced-calorie mayonnaise
- 6 tablespoons reduced fat milk
- 1/4 cup water
- 4 teaspoons white wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/2 teaspoon table salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
In a small bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, milk, water, vinegar, garlic, oregano, basil, salt and pepper until blended. For best flavor, cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.
- 15 Health Benefits of Cucumber (thenatureheals.wordpress.com)
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- Smoked Salmon Salad Recipe With Avocado & Cucumber (greatbritishchefs.com)
In doing research for this post, I was sure that Italian immigrants found their way to Detroit, because it was a major industrial center that offered job opportunities the immigrants were seeking in coming to America. What totally surprised me was the number of immigrants who settled in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. A land totally different from the warm Mediterranean country that the Italian immigrants had left behind. As you read, you will see why.
The Eastern Market established in 1891.
Italian Americans in Detroit
For more than 350 years, Italian immigrants played important roles in the opening and development of the land that is now Michigan, from their participation in the French fur trade up to the present day. People of Italian descent have been present in Detroit since Alfonso Tonti, second-in-command to Antoine Cadillac, participated in the founding of the city in 1701. By the close of the 19th century, the trickle of Italian immigrants had become a torrent, as thousands rushed to the growing industrial centers. They worked in stone and cement, paving, produce, tile work, at small groceries, as merchants and, of course, as part of the labor force in the auto shops around Detroit. Settling on the lower east side, the community grew rapidly, especially north and east into MaComb County. Italians in Detroit did not remain in a “little Italy,” but mingled with the diverse population of the city. Through a combination of hard work, strong family connections and community ties, the Italians of Detroit achieved their dreams of a better life. They met the challenges of living in a new land, while nurturing the culture of the old country. Most Italians came to Detroit between 1880-1920. Detroit’s original “Little Italy” started from the lower east side (Eastern Market area) along Gratiot and Riopelle Streets near Black Bottom and Paradise Valley. They also settled in considerable numbers along Oakwood Blvd. in SW Detroit and in Dearborn early in their residency here. As they prospered, Detroit Italians in the 1950’s eventually moved into neighborhoods across Detroit and their cultural and religious institutions dotted the landscape. Their affiliations were Catholic and other Christian religions.
On the right is a photo of the yellow-hued church that is very visible when you exit the Chrysler Expressway in downtown Detroit, or drive west on East Jefferson toward the Renaissance Center. It is also Detroit’s first Italian Catholic church. Shortly after 1900, immigrants from Sicily and southern Italy settled in northeast Detroit.They began to worship at Sts. Peter and Paul on East Jefferson, but in 1907, Father Giovanni Boschi arrived from Italy and sought to establish an Italian parish here. In 1908, Bishop Foley gave him permission to do so and named the parish La Chiesa Della Sacra Famiglia or the Church of the Holy Family. In 1909, construction began on a modest Italian Renaissance-style, basilica-type church. More than one hundred years after its founding, this parish is in operation with an Italian language Mass said every Sunday. There are about 300,000 Italian Americans in Metro Detroit, today. If you are in Detroit and looking for a restaurant with authentic Italian food and a history related to the immigrant’s experience head to Giovanni’s Ristorante, 330 S. Oakwood Blvd., Detroit, MI 48219.
Giovanni Cannarsa was 14 years old when he embarked on a journey from Termoli– a town on the Adriatic coast of Italy, in the province of Campobasso, the region of Molise to the United States of America. Giovanni met a young woman, Rose Tonkery and in 1927 they were married. They moved from New York to Detroit, Michigan so Giovanni could go to work for Henry Ford. Giovanni and Rose settled in a neighborhood near the Rouge River plant, where the assembly line was first introduced during the immerging age of manufacturing. There the young couple started and raised their family, two sons and one daughter – her name is Frances. She and her brothers were born in Detroit. Frances had a best friend, Marie. She came from an Italian family that lived across the street from the Cannarsa family. It was her older brother – Olindo Truant who captured the heart of young Frances. In 1953 she married her sweetheart. Frances and Olindo had three sons, Chris – Michael and Randy. Olindo worked for Detroit Edison and Frances opened a carryout pizzeria, Givoanni’s Pizza Parlor. It was 1968. It didn’t take long for Frances to start taking charge and making changes – it was 1972. Frances decided the family style pizza parlor would one day be an elegant, award winning five-star class restaurant. Everyone thought she was crazy… but the night Frank Sinatra held a private dinner party in the back room of what was now called Giovanni’s Ristorante, was the night the whole family new Frances meant business.
Italian-Americans in Wyandotte
Just after the turn of the 20th century, jobs were opening up at the J. B. Ford Company and the Michigan Alkali Company. The Italian settlement in East Detroit was bulging with a steady influx of friends and relatives coming to Michigan from Italy. Many young men sought work, and Wyandotte the bustling downriver town, offered the opportunity of jobs. A street car from Detroit brought the first Italian laborers to the city. Others joined the workforce and brought their families. Statistics show that in 1890 there were only 338 Italians living in Detroit and downriver and, by 1920, the number had swelled to 29,047. In 1914, a large group of Italian workers and their families were residing in what was then called Ford City. The community had formed in an area bounded by Antoine, Hudson, 2nd Street and the railroad tracks.The families built large sturdy homes and planted gardens. Many of those early family residences still stand as testimony to the skillful construction techniques shown by those first immigrant workers. Most of the families knew each other from Palermo, Sicily in Italy and interacted socially. During the summer evenings, the men could be seen playing bocce (lawn bowling) or playing card games.
In 1915, a concert band was organized. Maestro Pellegrino’s Italian Ford City Band attracted musicians from ages 15 to 25 and, in a relatively short time, the new musical group was presenting concerts for the entire community to enjoy. The camaraderie enjoyed by the band also gave birth to two early Italian social organizations. The San Giuseppi Society was a club that assisted many newly arrived Italian immigrants and helped them transition to the American way of life. The second organization, Santa Fara, was formed in Wyandotte during 1924 and named after the patron saint of the small Sicilian village of Cinisi. In order to become a member, one must be a “Cinisarii” or be married to one. Other organizations were formed over the years to serve the Italian community. In the 1930’s, the Non-Partisan Progressive Club was organized. One of the first projects of this club was to host a war bond drive in early 1945. Americans of Italian descent in Wayne County, under the leadership of Anthony D’Anna of Wyandotte, raised $16,000,000 to build a ship. The U.S.S. Cosselin was commissioned October 19, 1945, in memory of Seaman Joseph Polizzi, an Italian-American from Detroit killed earlier during the war. In 1970 fourteen members organized a new Italian organization, the Downriver Italian club and built a hall to host events.
Italian Americans in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula
Our knowledge of the Italian community in the Copper Country is credited to the research of Russell Magnaghi and to Cristina Menghini’s thesis: “Examining Patterns of Italian Immigration to Michigan’s Houghton County, 1860-1930”. Menghini’s study, the most detailed migration study of any immigrant group in the Copper Country, uncovered specific chain migration links between sending communities in northern Italy and receiving communities in Houghton County. Half of the Italians in Houghton County had emigrated from the province of Torino, in Italy’s Piedmont region and another quarter had emigrated from the province of Lucca, in the Tuscany region. Thus, three-quarters of Italians in Houghton County had emigrated from just two of Italy’s 110 provinces. Not surprisingly, Menghini found that nearly three-quarters of Italians in Houghton County in 1910 worked either in the mines or mine related occupations. Source: Recorded in Stone is a collection of the oral histories of immigrants to the Marquette Iron Range in the central Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Produced by the Central Upper Peninsula and Northern Michigan University Archives and funded in part with a grant from the Michigan Humanities Council. Italians were attracted to Marquette County through the efforts of “barasa” or what is known as chain migration: Immigrants arrived at a location and then sent letters back to Italy, which then brought their friends and relatives to America. At first the Italians who were from northern Italy: Lombardy, Piedmont, Venice and the Tyrol settled in Negaunee. Initially 50 Italians arrived; followed in the spring of 1888 by an additional 100. Although they inherited the jobs at the lowest end of the employment scale as trammers (miners) or iron ore shovelers, they wrote back to Italy and encouraged others to join them. The wages and living conditions on the Marquette Iron Range were a great improvement over economic and work conditions in Italy. In the 1890’s southern Italians, primarily from Calabria but also from Naples and Sicily, settled in Ishpeming. They experienced a similar migration process. By 1910 Italians comprised 15% – 16% of the labor force on the Range. In 1910, of the 907 Italians with occupations, 741 or 81.6% were miners. There were also 51 Italians (6%) working on the railroad, 24 (2.8%) listed as laborers and 20 working in the iron furnaces in Marquette.
The first Italians who arrived on the Marquette Range were usually single men, who once they got settled, sent for their wives or got married. At first, many lived in company housing but, as soon as was possible, they purchased their own homes. Families took in boarders from the same Italian village and/or family members, as a means of providing housing and adding to the family income. Most of the Italian businessmen were located in Negaunee and Gwinn at that time. There were 16 boardinghouse keepers, 11 saloon keepers, 5 merchants, 5 bakers and 3 shoemakers. Each family maintained a garden which provided the household with much of the vegetables that the household needed during the year. Besides what was planted, the women and children gathered fruits and berries and made jams and preserves from them. If possible families kept a pig and cow. In November the pig was usually butchered and prime pieces were preserved in a crock jar, covered with liquefied lard, and the small pieces were processed into different types of sausage. The cow provided milk, butter and cheese for the family and, if there was a surplus, it was sold to neighbors. The Italian family became self-sufficient, so that they only had to purchase certain items, like coffee, sugar or olive oil. Pasta and Italian bread were often made at home, but were sometimes purchased. In the late summer, orders were taken for grapes and beginning in September train loads of grapes arrived at railroad sidings in Negaunee and Ishpeming. Most families made as many as 150-200 gallons of wine, which would last them through the year. Most of the Italian immigrants who settled on the Marquette Range were literate. As a result many of them kept in touch with the news through Italian-language newspapers. Some subscribed to papers published in New York City, like the popular Il Progresso, while others read the Il Minatore Italiano (The Italian Miner) which was published in Laurium, MI between 1896 and the 1930’s or the transient papers, such as La Democrazione Italiana of Hancock or La Sentinella (The Sentinel) published in Calumet, MI.
The Italian love for music is well known. As early as 1884, the Marquette Mining Journal noted that an Italian band provided excellent dance music in Marquette County. A number of Italian music teachers appeared in the various communities, such as Nettie R. Calamata, who in 1906 offered mandolin, guitar and banjo lessons. The Italian Band of Negaunee was organized by January 9, 1907, when it provided music for Mike Marrietti’s saloon, called Hogan’s Place and in the summer, it provided music for picnic dances. The most famous band in Ishpeming’s history was Vampa’s Band. Professor Vampa arrived in the community in 1915 and organized the band. He was able to get even the most musically illiterate to read music and, by January 1916, his band with thirty-four members, played for the first time and was an immediate success. Vampa’s Band played at the Marquette County Fair, Memorial Day and Columbus Day celebrations and at other dances and festivals given by local clubs and lodges. The local Italians directed their entertainment and recreation toward their families. Home parties were popular with an accordion and violin or guitar providing the music on a Saturday night.The men played bocce in their backyards or saloon-side courts or played the Italian card game, morra. Some of the Italians fished and hunted both as recreation and also a means of augmenting their families’ food supply. The mutual beneficial societies were a characteristic feature of all Italian communities, wherever the immigrants settled. At a time when there were no Social Security benefits for unemployment or disability insurance or death benefits, the Italians established these societies. The oldest of the Italian fraternal organization in Marquette County was Società Fratellanza e Mútuo Soccórso/Fraternal and Mutual Aid Society which was established in Negaunee in 1890. The biggest activity for the lodge was the annual picnic ,where there was boating, swimming and athletic events, eating contests and card games. Over the years a number of fraternal organizations were formed in Negaunee. Società Italiana di Mútuo Soccórso Giuseppe Mazzini/Italian Mutual Aid Society Giuseppe Mazzini was founded on June 24, 1908. They built a series of Italian Halls, which were used for meetings and social events. Like many benefit societies, the Italian Mutual Beneficial Society transformed itself in a social organization. It was through such organizations that Italian immigrants and their children located housing, found work, organized political blocks and met their prospective mates.
On Christmas Eve, 1913, members of the Upper Peninsula mining community of Calumet, Michigan gathered in the upstairs of the Italian Hall for a party. The gathering was supposed to be one of a few happy times for the town, which was ravaged by a bitter strike between miners and owners. Popular history has it that someone ran into the party and yelled “fire”, causing a stampede down the stairs into doors that opened inward, resulting in a deadly pile-up. Some claim the incident was plotted by local copper bosses. So was it murder or an accident? Author and lawyer, Steve Lehto, goes back to find the answer in his book, Death’s Door: the Truth Behind Michigan’s Largest Mass Murder. Lehto uses his skills as a lawyer to investigate the deaths of 74 people, mostly children. His research led him to the conclusion that the doors opened out and were purposely held closed, resulting in the murder of the party-goers. Claims that the tragedy was an accident, Lehto believes, were the result of carefully placed stories in the mine-controlled newspapers.
Cuisine of the Early Italian Families in Michigan
Antipasto of Italian vegetables and fish Baccala – Italian dried cod fish Bagna Cauda – garlic, olive oil dip Rustic Bread Cornetti -Italian rolls Grissini – Italian breadsticks Porchetta, Abruzzi Style Salame Milanese for sandwiches Cudighi Italian Sausage – Italian sausage originating in northern Italy and made in the homes of many Michigan Italian Americans. It is made from pork meat on the hind section of the hog, this sausage is a combination of coarse ground pork, pork fat, red wine, and seasonings such as salt, pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. The meat is then typically aged only for only a few days before being served. (See recipe below) Sautissa Piedmontese Sausage – pork sausage from the Piedmont region of Italy that uses cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and cloves to impart a unique flavor. Often used as a filling ingredient for ravioli. Suppressa – Italian cured meats Garden Vegetables Pasta Torchetti cookies Cookies: biscotti, pizzelle, cialde Grappa – Italian brandy Homemade wine
Try Some Michigan-Italian Inspired Recipes At Home
Northern Michigan Cherry Bruschetta
- 18 1/2 inch thick slices of small baguette-style bread
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- 1 1/2 cups pitted fresh sweet cherries, coarsely chopped
- 1/4 cup each diced yellow sweet bell peppers and green onions
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Fresh mozzarella cheese
- 1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh basil
Directions: Toast one side of baguette slices at 350 degrees F for 5 minutes. Turn slices, brush with the 1 tablespoon of olive oil and bake 5 minutes longer. Combine cherries, bell pepper, green onions, lime juice, salt, pepper and remaining olive oil; mix well. Top each slice of baguette with a thin slice of fresh mozzarella cheese, a heaping tablespoon of cherry mixture and sliced basil.
Homemade Cudighi Sausage
Unique to the central part of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the cudighi is an excellent example of the Italian-American food of this region. This one is made the more modern way, dressed like pizza. The classic sandwich is sausage with mustard and onions. (Paisano’s in Negaunee, MI, an Italian-American restaurant on the shore of Lake Teal in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula) Ingredients:
- 6 lb coarsely ground pork butt
- 1 clove garlic chopped fine
- 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
- 6 tablespoons salt
- 2 tablespoons fennel seed
Mix well and refrigerate for 24 hours. Directions: Form into thin, 1/2 thick patties into or oblong shapes. Brown in oil , cover and simmer in a little water to help with the dryness, for 25-30 minutes or until no red shows and pork is fully cooked. Serve on a Ciabatta roll or italian bread with grilled green pepper rings and grilled sliced onion, mustard, ketchup, pizza sauce or mozzarella cheese. Freeze extra cooked patties. Some other serving suggestions: You can make this into links or leave in bulk. Use it in Italian cooking for lasagna, pizza, etc. You can also serve this as a sandwich, either grilled or pan fried. Can be served with mustard and onions, but the most popular way is to top with mozzarella cheese and some spaghetti sauce. You could add some green peppers and mushrooms also. Can be served as an appetizer with cheese and crackers. Roll the sausage into log. Wrap in foil and boil in water for 45 minutes. Let cool and serve sliced.
Iron Mountain Vegetable Lasagna
- 2 zucchini, thinly sliced
- 2 cups mushrooms, sliced
- 1 cup fresh peas
- 2 cups fresh asparagus, cut on the bias
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 cups besciamella (recipe follows)
- 8 ounces freshly grated Parmigiano cheese
- 1 -16-ounce package lasagna noodles (or use fresh)
For besciamella sauce:
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 6 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
- 3 1/2 cups milk, heated
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
For vegetable filling: Heat oil in a skillet and lightly saute vegetables, in steps if needed, until vegetables are just tender. Cool to room temperature. For besciamella sauce: In heavy saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Add the flour and cook, whisking constantly for 2 to 3 minutes, not allowing mixture to brown. Slowly whisk in the hot milk and bring just to a simmer, whisking frequently. Reduce the heat to low and cook, whisking often, until the sauce has thickened to a creamy consistency, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the salt, pepper and nutmeg. Allow to cool for a few minutes before using. For lasagna: Preheat oven to 350°F. Cook lasagna noodles to desired tenderness, drain. In a 12-by-18-inch pan assemble the lasagna, beginning with a layer of besciamella in the bottom of the pan, followed by a layer of pasta, a scattering of vegetables, a layer of besciamella, a sprinkling of grated Parmigiano, until all sauce, vegetables and pasta are used up. The top layer should be pasta with besciamella over it. Top the lasagna with grated Parmigiano and bake, loosely covered with foil in the oven, until the sauce is bubbling, about 45 minutes. Remove and allow to cool for at least 20 minutes before serving.
Pork Roast alla Porchetta
- 4 pounds boneless pork loin roast
- Salt and pepper
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
- 1 bulb fennel, fronds chopped and reserved, bulb thinly sliced
- 2 pounds ground pork or Italian sausage with casing removed
- 2 tablespoons fennel seeds
- 2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
- 6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 4 red onions, halved
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Have your butcher butterfly the pork to an even 1 inch thickness, you should have a flat piece of meat about 8 inches by 14 inches. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and set aside. In a sauté pan, heat olive oil until smoking. Add the onion and fennel bulb and sauté until softened and lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add ground pork, fennel seeds, pepper, rosemary and garlic and cook until the mixture assumes a light color, stirring constantly, about 10 minutes. Allow to cool. Add chopped fennel leaves and eggs and mix well. Spread the mixture over the pork loin and roll up like a jelly roll. Tie with butcher’s twine and place in roast pan on top of halved red onions. Place in the oven and roast for 2 1/2 hours, until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F. Remove and allow to rest for 10 to 20 minutes. Slice into 1 inch thick pieces and serve.
Northern Michigan’s Mario Batali Shares His Recipe for Ciambella with Summer Berry Compote
The chef summers in Northern Michigan. By: Mario Batali A ciambella is a simple ring-shaped bread made of egg, shortening and sugar. Ciambelle were for a long time a symbol of luxury in Italian culture; a fancy bread pictured next to royalty and aristocracy in Renaissance painting. Today, ciambelle are often served as an afternoon snack at a bar or cafe. They can be dressed with glazes, syrups, or, in this case, a berry compote. In this recipe, I incorporate berries abundant in this area, but you can easily substitute whatever berries are available at your farmers’ market. With the listed ingredients, this ciambella makes the perfect summer dessert in this fertile area that I’ve come to love—Mario Batali (www.mynorth.com) Serves 8 Ingredients:
- 1 pint blueberries
- 1 pint blackberries
- 1 pint raspberries
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 1/4 cup cold milk
Directions: In a large saucepan, combine the berries, lemon juice,and 3 tablespoons sugar. Place over medium heat and heat just to the boiling point, 5 to 6 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter a cookie sheet. Combine the remaining 1/2 cup sugar, flour and the baking powder in a food processor and pulse quickly to blend. Add the cold butter and pulse quickly until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. In a separate bowl, beat the egg, almond extract and milk until smooth. With the food processor running, add the liquid all at once and blend 10 to 15 seconds, until the dough just forms a ball. Transfer the dough to a well-floured cutting board and shape into a log about 14 inches long and 1 1/2 inches thick. Form the log into a ring in the center of the cookie sheet. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until light golden brown. Remove, transfer to a rack, and cool to room temperature. Cut the cake into slices about 1 inch thick, top with 2 tablespoons of berry compote, and serve.
- Baltimore’s Little Italy (jovinacooksitalian.com)
- Western Pennsylvania’s “Little Italies” (jovinacooksitalian.com)
- Philadelphia’s Little Italy (jovinacooksitalian.com)
- Chicago’s Little Italy (jovinacooksitalian.com)
- Cleveland’s Little Italy (jovinacooksitalian.com)
- New England’s “Little Italies” (jovinacooksitalian.com)
- Italian American Neighborhoods – Boston (jovinacooksitalian.com)
- Ybor City – Florida’s Little Italy (jovinacooksitalian.com)
- Little Italy – Manhattan (jovinacooksitalian.com)
The Port of Erie, PA
Many of the Italians who came to Erie worked for the railroad. Little Italy’s boundaries at that time were along the New York Central and the Nickel Plate tracks. Others worked in the factories that grew up near the railroads and they built their homes in the same area. They worked many hours and labored hard. Some of the factories they worked in were Erie Forge and Steel, Griffin Manufacturing Company, Superior Bronze and Continental Rubber.
By 1911 there were about 3,000 Italians living in Erie. Little Italy had grown to include nine city blocks, from Huron Street south to West 17th Street and from Chestnut to Poplar. In 1920 the population was estimated at about 8,000 Italians and, from 1920 to 1940, the population expanded and spread southward. Prominent among the family names of the old Italian settlers in Erie were Fatica, Yacobozzi, Palmisano, Scolio and Minadeo.
Much of the social life of Italian-Americans in Erie centered around St. Paul’s Church. It served the immigrants and their children from baptism to death, while meeting their religious needs. The church also functioned as the social center of the Italian community, a function it still maintains. Because of the cultural and language barriers, the immigrants established their own social organizations within their neighborhoods. In 1907 the first social organization was La Nuova Aurora Club. Here the Italians met with their friends, played bocce and morra (a hand game) and drank a few beers. Eventually, these activities expanded into social and civic clubs for Italian-Americans.
After World War II, the first and second generation Italian-Americans returned home after serving their country and gave thought to their future. They went to the nearby colleges and universities to become eligible for professional positions. Others went on to trade schools with the same ambitions for better job opportunities. By 1960 a large Italian settlement was established outside of the city in Millcreek, however, by 1970 many of the second and third generation Italians were gone from Erie’s Little Italy.
Almost every large city in North America has one. In western Pennsylvania there are enclaves of Italians in every community from New Castle in Lawrence County; Monaca, Aliquippa and Ambridge in Beaver County; Coraopolis, McKees Rocks, Oakland and Morningside in Allegheny County; New Kensington and Vandergrift in Westmorland County; and Canonsburg and Cecil in Washington County. In the Pittsburgh district, the official “Little Italy” is located in Bloomfield !
Bloomfield is a neighborhood in Pittsburgh that is located three miles from the Golden Triangle, which is the city’s center. Pittsburgh architectural historian, Franklin Toker, has said that Bloomfield “is a feast, as rich to the eyes as the homemade tortellini and cannoli in its shop windows are to the stomach”. In the early 1900s, Italian immigrants settled in Bloomfield, drawn to the area by jobs in the steel mills and on the railroads. As the Italian population increased, businesses providing Italian products and services began to line the streets. A church, along with restaurants, bakeries, markets and other shops added to the culture of the neighborhood creating its Italian atmosphere. While the area is more culturally diversified today, it still has a large Italian American population.
Various Italian and Italian American associations help keep the culture alive and the Heinz History Center includes an extensive collection of Italian American artifacts representing Western Pennsylvania’s Italian Americans. Little Italy Days, held each September, adds to the neighborhood’s character, drawing crowds of more than 20,000 with Italian food, merchandise, music, entertainment, games and a Madonna della Civita procession. In October, the Columbus Day Parade is one of the country’s largest.
Red, white and green parking meters attest to the fact that Bloomfield is “Pittsburgh’s Little Italy.” In fact the neighborhood’s Italian roots reach back more than five generations. Its colorful mix of shops and restaurants attracts thousands of visitors from throughout the Pittsburgh region. The business district along Liberty Avenue puts most of life’s necessities and several luxuries within an easy walk for Bloomfield residents.
Strolling down Liberty Avenue and meandering off on side streets, there is a distinctly European ambiance coupled with small-town America friendliness. Groceria Italiana (237 Cedarville St.) opened almost 50 years ago and continues to draw crowds with its 14 varieties of handmade ravioli and rich ricotta-stuffed pastries.
Donatelli’s Italian Food Center (4711 Liberty Ave.) is another neighborhood favorite founded by Frank Donatelli in 1932 and now run by his son who continues the tradition of passionately providing the freshest Italian prepared foods and imports in town, including bottles of Grandma Donatelli’s sauce.
Down the road, a second generation of brothers, Alex and John, run their father’s (and uncle’s) Sanchioli Brother’s Bakery (4731 Juniper St.), which provides many of the restaurants in the area with their famous onion bread. Sanchioli’s has been in this location since 1922. “I started bagging bread here when I was little,” says Alex Sanchioli, part owner of the shop for a quarter century, who has seen changes over the years. “ Yet some things remain the same,” he says. “We’ve always gotten the old Italians from the neighborhood. Now, their kids come in.” Sanchioli’s makes bread, buns and pizza shells for most of the eateries in the area. Many of them have been around almost as long as the bakery.
Del’s Bar and Ristorante Del Pizzo (4428 Liberty Ave.) was founded by Grandpa and Grandma Del Pizzo, who came to Bloomfield in 1908 and opened a small grocery store and, a few years later, they changed the business into a small restaurant they called the Meadow Grill. For more than two decades, it was a Pittsburgh landmark. Customers came from all over for the delicious housemade food, including sandwiches, pasta dishes, and Pittsburgh’s first wood-fired oven pizza. When they sold the Meadow Grill in 1949, Dino and Bob, their sons, carried the family tradition and opened Del’s,on Liberty Ave, in the heart of Bloomfield. They continue to supply Bloomfield with Italian American classics, like veal scaloppini and they have also begun a historical renovation. So far, the exterior has been rebuilt to reflect Bloomfield’s architectural history, and they have expanded and remodeled the bar in a style that recaptures the feel of the original Meadow Grill. The restoration project will continue for the next several years.
Since its opening in November, Stagioni has been the talk of the town or in this case, critics and foodies alike. The menu is described as “elegantly conceived” with dishes like beef short ribs braised in Chianti and balsamic vinegar and a vegetarian dish of acorn squash risotto with walnuts, sage and chestnut honey, that was described by the reviewers as “a masterful combination of flavors and textures — sweet, earthy and herbal”.
Domenico Aliberto’s, Café Roma, could easily be the first place you think of for a plate of linguine with New Zealand mussels sauteed in tomatoes, garlic, extra-virgin olive oil and fresh herbs. Specials often include: gnocchi with fresh tomato and basil; chicken with spicy lemon sauce; rigatoni with artichokes in a light-red sauce and eggplant parmesan. “I cook when you order,” stresses chef/owner Domenico Aliberto. “It’s like buying the groceries and eating in your own house, only I make the pasta fresh,” he says. Even the soups – including Tuscan-style white bean and cream of butternut squash – are made in small quantities intended for one night’s consumption only. The chef’s special, Sicilian lasagna, is made with soft noodles from semolina instead of flour “already al dente because I make them myself,” Aliberto notes.
Lidia’s Pittsburgh opened in March of 2001, only two years after Lidia Bastianich and her son Joseph Bastianich opened the popular Lidia’s Kansas City, their first venture outside of Manhattan. Well known architect, David Rockwell, designed the interior to reflect an open-warehouse atmosphere and the restaurant is located in the heart of the Bloomfield strip district. The menu features a daily pasta tasting with homemade pastas that incorporate seasonal ingredients in addition to hearty Italian favorites, such as a braised Heritage Pork Shank with barley risotto.
Bloomfield’s Little Italy Inspired Cuisine
The Primanti Brothers opened their restaurant in Pittsburgh in the 1920s. Their idea was to create an eating place that offered simple but tasty food. The Primanti Sandwich was the result — it’s a whole meal in each bite. Ham, french fries, tomato, provolone cheese and coleslaw are stuffed between two slices of Italian bread and served on wax paper.
FYI: The Washington Post did a nuitritional analysis of the sandwich and here it is: 775 calories, 33g fat, 10g saturated fat, 48mg cholesterol, 1729mg sodium, 87g carbohydrates, 6g dietary fiber, 17g sugar, 34g protein.
Primanti Brothers Sandwiches
For the slaw
- 1 pound (about half of a medium-size head) green cabbage, shredded or finely chopped (about 6 cups)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 to 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon celery seed
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- Freshly ground black pepper
For the twice-fried potatoes
- 6 to 8 large (4 to 5 pounds) russet potatoes, washed well
- 8 cups vegetable oil, for frying
- Kosher salt
For the meat and cheese
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 pounds spicy, thinly sliced capicola ham
- 8 thin slices provolone cheese (about 5 ounces)
- 4 vine-ripened tomatoes, cut into 16 thin slices
- 16 large slices of soft Italian bread (18 ounces total)
For the slaw: Combine the cabbage, sugar, salt and celery seed in a colander set over a medium bowl. Let stand at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours; the cabbage will be wilted (about 4 cups total).
Discard the draining liquid in the bowl; rinse and dry the bowl, then transfer the wilted cabbage to the bowl. Add the oil and vinegar; toss to coat. Season with pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
For the twice-fried potatoes: Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. Line a few large baking sheets with several layers of paper towels. Fill a large bowl with cold water.
Cut the (unpeeled) potatoes lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick sticks. Submerge in the cold water. Rinse in subsequent changes of cold water to remove all visible starch, then drain in a colander and spread the potatoes on the paper towels, patting the potatoes dry.
Heat the oil in a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat, until the oil temperature reaches 320 degrees F.
Fry the potatoes in 4 batches; each batch will take 2 to 4 minutes. Stir occasionally as they cook, until the fries are soft and cooked through but still pale. Allow enough time for the oil to return to 320 degrees F. between batches; use an instant-read thermometer to monitor the oil. Use a slotted spatula to transfer the potatoes to the lined baking sheets.
Increase the heat to high (or as needed) so that the temperature of the oil reaches 375 degrees. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Refresh the paper towels on the baking sheets as needed.
Cook the fries a second time, working in 4 batches; each batch will take 2 to 3 miinutes, until the fries are crisp and golden brown. Transfer to the lined baking sheets. Immediately season lightly with salt, then place in the oven to keep the fries warm.
For the meat and cheese: Melt the butter in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Have ready a large baking sheet.
Separate the ham slices and add to the skillet, turning them as needed until the slices are warmed through. Transfer the slices to the baking sheet, creating 8 equal portions. Top each with a slice of provolone cheese. Place in the oven (along with the fries) just until the cheese has melted.
For assembly: Place the portions of cheese-topped ham on 8 bread slices. Top with a large handful of the warm fries, then pile about 1/2 cup of the slaw on each portion. Garnish with 2 tomato slices for each portion; use the remaining 8 pieces of bread to finish each sandwich. Serve warm.
Fettuccine with Mafalda Sauce
This dish is served at Del’s Bar & Ristorante DelPizzo, on Liberty Avenue in Pittsburgh. This tomato and cream sauce is served on a variety of pasta shapes.
- Kosher salt
- 3 cups Marinara sauce
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 pound fettuccine
- 10 large fresh basil leaves, shredded
- ½ cup grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano
To make the marinara sauce, see post https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/04/19/hello-world/
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil for pasta. Bring the marinara to a simmer in a large skillet. Stir in the heavy cream, bring back to a simmer and cook until thickened, about 5 to 6 minutes.
Add the fettuccine to the boiling water. When the pasta is al dente and the sauce is ready, drain the pasta and place it directly into the sauce. Add the shredded basil, then toss to coat the pasta with the sauce. Remove from heat, stir in the grated cheese and serve immediately.
Braised Short Ribs
- 4 lbs short ribs of beef, trimmed
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper, divided
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 2 cups finely chopped red onions
- 1/4 cup minced garlic
- 2 cups low sodium beef broth
- 1 cup Chianti red wine
- 3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 2 cups chopped plum tomatoes
Preheat oven to 300°F.
Over medium-high temperature, heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large Dutch oven.
Season the ribs with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
Brown half the ribs in the heated pan, about 8 minutes, until browned; remove from pan.
Repeat with the remaining oil and ribs.
Add the finely chopped onion to the pan and saute until lightly browned, about 8 minutes.
Add the minced garlic and saute for 1 minute.
Add the browned ribs back into the pan, then add the broth, wine, vinegar, brown sugar and tomatoes and bring to a simmer.
Cover pan, transfer to the oven and bake at 300°F for 90 minutes or until tender.
Remove from oven and let cool slightly, then transfer pan to refrigerator and let chill for 8 hours or overnight.
After chilling, skim the solidified fat from the surface of the broth mixture and discard fat.
Over medium heat on the stove, cook the ribs in the Dutch oven for 30 minutes or until thoroughly heated.
Season with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper and serve with potato gnocchi.
For the seafood
- 2 lbs calamari cut into 1/4 inch strips
- 12 large sea scallop, cut in half
- 12 shrimp, cut in half
- 3 chopped plum tomatoes
For the risotto
- 1 small sweet onion chopped
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 16 oz carnaroli rice
- 1/4 cup half & half
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- chopped parsley
- 1/2 gallon of vegetable stock or chicken stock or clam juice
Heat oil in a heavy bottom pan and add the onions.
Cook, stirring continuously, on medium until they become translucent.
Add the rice and keep stirring on low until the rice is toasted and also becomes translucent.
Heat the stock in a saucepan and keep it simmering while you prepare the risotto.
Add stock to the rice, 8 liquid ounces at a time (depending on the rice, the process should be repeated as the rice absorbs the liquid, 4 to 5 times). total time about 18 minutes.
When the rice reaches the al dente stage, add 4 oz of stock, the seafood, chopped tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 4 minutes more or until seafood is cooked.
Remove from heat, add butter, half & half, cheese and parsley.
Place in serving dishes and drizzle with a good extra virgin olive oil
Number of servings: 6
Italian Cream Puffs
- 1 cup water
- 8 tablespoons oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup flour
- 1 pound whole milk ricotta (drained)
- 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 tablespoons rum
- Chopped candied orange peel
- Chopped chocolate pieces or mini chips
Bring water to a boil. Add the oil and salt. Add the flour all at once and stir until it forms a ball. Remove from the heat.
Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until each egg is incorporated before adding the next.
Drop dough by teaspoon or tablespoon (depending on desired size) onto a greased or parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake at 450 degrees F. for 15 minutes.
Lower heat to 350 degrees F. and cook until golden-brown. Remove from the oven and cut a slit into the side of each puff to release steam.
Drain the ricotta in a fine strainer overnight in the refrigerator. Beat the ricotta with the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla and rum until creamy. Refrigerate for 1 hour or more. Add the chopped candied orange peel and chocolate pieces just beforw assembly.
When the puffs are completely cool, fill with cream and sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar.
- Philadelphia’s Little Italy (jovinacooksitalian.com)