Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Italian Cuisine

Makes 18 rolls

Ingredients

18 large outer savoy cabbage leaves, frozen and thawed
(Freezing makes it easier to roll wilted leaves and eliminates the boiling step.)
Stuffing Ingredients
1 lb lean organic ground pork
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup chopped bell pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 tablespoon Italian pork sausage seasoning or use a combination of fennel and Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste
1 ½ cups cooked orzo, rice or cauliflower rice

Marinara Sauce, recipe below
Spaghetti Squash, recipe below

Directions

Combine the filling ingredients (pork through orzo) in a large mixing bowl.
To assemble the cabbage rolls:
Heat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Oil a 9×13 inch baking pan.
Place the cabbage leaves on a kitchen towel. Cut about 1-inch of the hard core on the stem off.

Use about 1/3 cup of filling for large leaves and about 1/4 cup for smaller leaves.
Place the filling on the base of each leaf, fold in the sides and roll the leaf up to make a tight packet.

As you complete them, place each roll, seam side down, into the prepared baking dish. Continue until all the filling is used up.

Pour 2 cups of marinara sauce on top of the rolls and spread the sauce to cover all the cabbage rolls. Cover the dish tightly with foil and bake the cabbage rolls for 1 ½ hours or until the rolls are tender.

Marinara Sauce

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 a large onion finely diced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
One 6 oz can tomato paste
6 cups chopped Italian tomatoes

Directions
Heat the oil in a Dutch Oven or large saucepan. Add the onion and seasonings. Cook for 3-4 minutes until the onion is softened. Add the garlic and tomato paste. Stir and cook one minute. Fill the tomato paste can with water and pour into the sauce ingredients. Add the tomatoes. Stir. Bring to a soft boil, lower the heat, partially cover the pan and let the sauce simmer until thickened, about an hour.

Roasted Spaghetti Squash

The squash can bake in the oven along with the cabbage rolls.

Ingredients

1 medium spaghetti squash, halved and seeds removed
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh sage leaves
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.


Place the squash cut-side-down into an oiled 9×13 inch baking and bake 45 minutes until it is easily pierced with a knife. Don’t overcook the squash. It should be tender but the strands should still have some chew to them so they have the same texture as spaghetti.
When the squash is done, turn the halves so that the cut-side is facing up and allow to cool for about 5 minutes.

Run a fork through the flesh to separate the “spaghetti-like” strands. Turn into a serving bowl and toss the strands with olive oil, salt, pepper, sage, and Parmesan cheese.

Serve the cabbage rolls with the spaghetti squash.


This dinner is a good example of how I like to use leftovers to create a few new dinners. The creamed spinach was leftover from my Steakhouse dinner and extra broccoli rabe will be used to make a pasta dish later in the week.

Creamy Stuffed Chicken Breasts

For 2 servings

Ingredients

1 large boneless chicken breast (10-12 oz)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
Paprika

Filling
1 cup leftover creamed spinach from the Steakhouse post. See recipe.

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Place the chicken breast on a cutting board and with a sharp knife cut the chicken breast in half lengthwise. Pound the two halves covered in plastic wrap until evenly thin. Sprinkle each with salt, pepper and garlic powder.

Spoon the creamed spinach mixture evenly over each chicken breast half. Roll up the breasts carefully so the filling doesn’t ooze out. Secure with toothpicks.

Place them in a baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle the top of each chicken roll with paprika and drizzle with the olive oil. Bake, uncovered, for 30-35 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and registers 160 degrees F on a digital meat thermometer.

Sautéed Broccoli Rabe

Ingredients

Kosher salt
1 large bunch broccoli rabe, trimmed, tough stalks peeled
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus additional for drizzling
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lemon, cut into 4 to 6 wedges
Parmesan cheese, shredded

Directions

Wash and cut the broccoli rabe into two-inch lengths.


Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil in a large Dutch oven and season it generously with kosher salt.
Cook the broccoli rabe in the boiling water for about 5 minutes, until tender. Drain, and pat dry. Heat the olive oil in the same Dutch Oven over moderately high heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, and sauté, stirring for 30 seconds. Add the broccoli rabe and sauté, tossing or turning it with tongs, until tender, about 2 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper to taste, and top with shavings of Parmesan cheese. Serve with the lemon wedges alongside.


“Alla Puttanesca” literally means “in the style of a whore” in Italian. The name famously refers to prostitutes, with stories (most of them debunked by historians) attributing the connection to the fact that the dish was quick to make between clients, or so aromatic it helped prostitutes attract them.

However, it is an Italian sauce usually served over pasta that was invented in Naples. Its ingredients typically include tomatoes, olive oil, anchovies, olives, capers, and garlic. Various accounts exist as to when and how the dish originated, but it likely dates to the mid-twentieth century. The earliest known mention of it is in Raffaele La Capria’s, Ferito a Morte (Mortal Wound), a 1961 Italian novel which mentions “spaghetti alla puttanesca come li fanno a Siracusa” (spaghetti alla puttanesca as they make it in Syracuse). The sauce became popular in the 1960s, according to the Professional Union of Italian Pasta Makers.

The 1971 edition of the Cucchiaio d’argento (The Silver Spoon), one of Italy’s most prominent cookbooks, has no recipe with this name, but two which are similar: The Neapolitan spaghetti alla partenopea, is made with anchovies and generous quantities of oregano; while spaghetti alla siciliana adds green peppers. Still again there is a Sicilian style dish popular around Palermo that includes olives, anchovies, and raisins.

In a 2005 article from Il Golfo—a daily newspaper serving the Italian islands of Ischia and Procida—Annarita Cuomo wrote that sugo alla puttanesca was invented in the 1950s by Sandro Petti, co-owner of Rancio Fellone, a famous restaurant and nightspot. According to Cuomo, Petti’s moment of inspiration came when—near closing one evening—he found a group of customers sitting at one of his tables. He was low on ingredients and so told them he didn’t have enough to make them a meal. They complained that it was late and they were hungry. “Facci una puttanata qualsiasi,” or “throw together whatever,” they insisted. Petti had nothing more than four tomatoes, two olives and some capers—the basic ingredients for the sugo, “So I used them to make the sauce for the spaghetti,” Petti told Cuomo. Later, Petti included this dish on his menu as spaghetti alla puttanesca.

Basic recipe
The sauce alone is called sugo alla puttanesca in Italian. Recipes may differ according to preferences; for instance, the Neapolitan version is prepared without anchovies, unlike the version popular in Lazio, where spices are added with the anchovies. In most cases, however, the sugo is a little salty (from the capers, olives, and anchovies) and quite fragrant (from the garlic). Traditionally, the sauce is served with spaghetti, although it is also paired with penne, bucatini, linguine and vermicelli.

Chopped garlic and anchovies are sautéed in olive oil. Chopped chili peppers, olives, capers, diced tomatoes and oregano are added along with salt and black pepper to taste. The sauce is reduced by simmering and is poured it over spaghetti and topped with chopped parsley.

Whatever its Italian origins, Americans have made it a popular sauce. Besides pasta, the sauce can be served over fish, beans or meat. I like it served over pork chops. Here is my version.

Puttanesca Pork Chops

2 servings

Ingredients

2 boneless pork loin chops, each about ¾ inch thick
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 anchovy fillets, minced, or 1 teaspoon anchovy paste
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes or more to taste
2 cups cherry or plum tomatoes, diced
1/4 cup pitted black olives
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed
1/4 cup dry white wine
! tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

Directions

Sprinkle pork with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and add the pork. Cook, turning once until browned and an instant-read thermometer registers 140°F, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate and tent with foil to keep warm.

Add the wine and cook for one minute. Add the garlic and anchovies (or anchovy paste) to the pan. Cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add tomatoes, olives, capers, and crushed red pepper; cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and simmer until the tomatoes break down and the sauce is thickened, 2 to 4 minutes. Return the pork and any juices to the pan, turning to coat with the sauce. Top the pork with the chopped oregano and parsley. Serve with cooked pasta.

Pappardelle Pasta with Butter and Parmesan Cheese

2 servings

Ingredients

4 oz pappardelle pasta
Salt
Sauce:
4 tablespoons butter
1 garlic clove, minced
Freshly cracked black pepper
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Chopped fresh parsley

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta al dente and drain. In the same pot add the butter and garlic and cook on low heat just until the butter melts. Add the pasta, cheese, and black pepper, toss and serve with the pork.

Oven Roasted Broccoli Florets

Ingredients

12 oz bag of fresh broccoli florets
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, grated
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Oil a baking dish.
Place the broccoli in the prepared baking dish and drizzle with the olive oil, sprinkle with the lemon zest, salt, and pepper. Toss well and roast for 15 -20 minutes in the preheated oven until crisp-tender and the edges are starting to brown, tossing occasionally.


What is Saltimbocca (pronounced [saltimˈbokka]?
Saltimbocca (Italian for jumps in the mouth) is an Italian dish (also popular in Europe) made of veal scallops lined or wrapped with prosciutto and sage; marinated in wine, oil or saltwater depending on the region or one’s own taste.
The original version of this dish is Saltimbocca Alla Romana (saltimbocca, Roman-style), which consists of veal, prosciutto, and sage, rolled-up and cooked in dry white wine and butter. Marsala is sometimes used in place of white wine. Also, in some recipes, the veal and prosciutto are not rolled-up but left flat. An American twist replaces the veal with chicken or pork
The ancient recipe for “saltimbocca” is said to have originated in Brescia. While it is much older than a century, the first written recipe can be found in an influential book published towards the end of the 19th century, by Pellegrino Artusi, a celebrated Italian chef: “Saltimbocca Alla Romana” is recipe No. 222, and Artusi claims to have enjoyed the dish in Rome, at the Trattoria “Le Venete”.
While there are many variations of this Italian classic dish, I have given my version a slightly southern Italian flavor.

Chicken Saltimbocca Over Tomato Sauce

Ingredients for 2

1 cup marinara sauce heated
Salt and pepper
2 chicken breasts, pounded thin
6 fresh sage leaves
2 slices Prosciutto
2 slices Provolone Cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter

Directions

Lightly sprinkle the chicken breasts slices with salt and pepper. Wrap each breast in a slice of prosciutto. Heat the olive oil and butter in a skillet with a cover. Completely brown the chicken on both sides.


Top each chicken breast with 3 sage leaves. Place a slice of provolone cheese on top of each breast. Cover the pan and heat over low until the cheese begins to melt.


Place ½ cup of tomato sauce on a serving plate and place a chicken breast on top of the sauce. Repeat with the second breast. Serve immediately.

Green Beans With Sauteed Mushrooms

4 servings

Ingredients

1 lb fresh green beans trimmed and cut into thirds
1 lb mushrooms, sliced thin
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
Salt
Pepper

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add in the green beans and stir. Cook for 3 – 5 minutes until crisp-tender. Remove from the heat, drain thoroughly then pat dry with a clean linen tea towel and keep warm while the mushrooms cook. Place a skillet over medium-high to high heat with the butter and olive oil. As soon as the butter melts, spread the mushrooms out evenly over the bottom of the pan. Cook for about 5 minutes. Mushrooms should be lightly brown. Add the green beans. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Heat on low until the beans are hot.


Cacciatore means “hunter” in Italian. In cuisine, alla cacciatora refers to a type of stew prepared “hunter-style” with onions, herbs, bell peppers, and sometimes wine. It is named in honor of the hunter’s wife—who, all over northern Italy, might traditionally cook the dish on the eve of the hunt. In Italy hunter’s stew was made with rabbit or other wild game, not chicken, sometime during the Renaissance period. This stew dish was simple but delicious and was likely developed to satisfy the appetites of hunters who may have been on the track of a larger animal or herd of animals for several days, and who needed a tasty, filling stew that could easily be cooked outdoors to keep them going. The spices used, such as parsley and oregano, would have also been readily available. Contrary to popular belief, Cacciatore did not originally contain tomatoes or tomato sauce, as tomatoes were brought to Italy from the New World later than it would have been made for the first time. When the Italian immigrants came to America, they brought with them their traditional recipes but needed to adapt them to the ingredients available in America.

In true Italian fashion, there are probably more than a thousand recipes for this dish and here is mine.

Chicken Cacciatore

Ingredients

4 lbs chicken cut up or use all thighs, skin removed
8 oz Italian pork sausage, casings removed
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (divided)
1 large onion, diced (about 1-1/2 cups)
1 large carrot, peeled and diced (about 3/4 cups)
1 large bell pepper, seeded and diced (about 1-1/2 cups)
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
1 (26-oz.) container finely chopped Italian tomatoes

Directions

Arrange the chicken in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet or plate. Season with the salt, pepper and Italian seasoning.

Place a large Dutch oven over high heat for several minutes. When hot, add 1 tablespoon of the oil and heat until shimmering. Add a layer of chicken and brown on both sides. Remove to a large plate. Add 1 tablespoon oil and brown the remainder of the chicken. Remove and place with the first batch of chicken.

Add the sausage to the pan and brown completely, crumbling the meat as you stir.


Add the remaining oil and vegetables; reduce the heat to medium and sauté until the vegetables are very soft, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more, until fragrant.

Add the tomatoes and the chicken to the pan and bring to a simmer. Cover the pan and cook for about 1 ½ hours or until the chicken is very tender.

To prepare ahead.
Remove the pot from the heat and cool. Remove chicken to a large baking dish and pour the sauce from the Dutch Oven over the chicken. cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.
The next day, heat the oven to 350 degrees F and reheat the chicken covered for one hour.


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

Spiedino Di Mare (Skewered Seafood)

Serves 3-4

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

Lemon Butter Sauce

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

Simmered Italian Seasoned Rice

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

Italian Peppers and Onions

Ingredients

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

Directions

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


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


Neapolitan Meatballs

Makes 12 large meatballs

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

Directions

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

New York-Style Pizza Sauce

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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



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