Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Olive Oil


Looking forward to fall? One of the nice things about early fall is that the weather is still warm but not too hot and there are plenty of fruits and vegetables to choose from at the markets. This dinner menu I planned for you takes advantage of the season’s delicious offerings, like mushrooms, squash, spinach. pears and pork. This dinner serves four but can easily be doubled for a company dinner.


Pork Tenderloin in Mushroom Wine Sauce


  • 1 pork tenderloin (about 1 lb)
  • 1 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • ¼ cup porcini dried mushrooms
  • ¾ cup boiling water
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Wine Sauce

  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • Porcini broth
  • 1 tablespoon butter


Preheat oven to 400 F degrees.

Combine the porcini and boiling water in a small mixing bowl. Set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large oven proof skillet. Add the chopped onion and saute until the onion is soft.


Add the garlic and fresh mushrooms and continue cooking for another 3 minutes.

Strain the porcini in a fine mesh colander and reserve the drained mushroom water. Add the porcini to the skillet with the fresh mushrooms.

Season with salt and pepper and stir in the oregano and thyme. Set aside.

Butterfly the pork, by cutting the pork down the center, without completely cutting through, so when the two halves are opened they resemble a butterfly.


Use a meat mallet to flatten the meat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Spread the mushroom filling down the center of the pork and bring the 2 sides up. Use butcher string to tie around the roll at 1 inch intervals.

Season the stuffed pork with salt and pepper and in the same ovenproof skillet heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil.

Sear the pork on all sides and place the skillet in the preheated oven.



Roast uncovered for about 20 minutes or until done to your preference.

Remove the skillet from the oven and place the pork on a platter.



Place the skillet back on the stovetop. Add the red wine and the strained porcini water and bring to a boil. Cook the sauce until it is reduced by half.

Remove the pan from the from the heat and stir in the butter.

Cut the strings off the pork and slice into thin rounds. Arrange the pork on a serving platter and pour the wine sauce over the slices.


Italian Style Spaghetti Squash

Cook the squash a few hours earlier, so it will be cool enough to handle.

Serves 4.


  • 1 spaghetti squash, about 1 1/2 pounds
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons Panko  breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Pierce the squash in several places with a sharp knife. Cover a baking sheet with foil and place the squash on top.

Bake for one hour or until the squash is soft and easy to cut with a knife. Remove from the heat and allow to cool until you can handle it.


Cut in half lengthwise and allow to cool some more. Remove the seeds and discard. Scoop out the flesh from the squash and place in a bowl.

Run a fork through the flesh to separate the spaghetti like strands.

Heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat and add the garlic and breadcrumbs.

When the breadcrumbs begin to sizzle and turn crisp, stir in the squash strands and parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper.


Toss all together over medium heat until the squash is infused with the breadcrumbs, garlic and oil and heated through, about 5 minutes.

Remove to a warm serving dish, top with freshly grated Parmesan and serve.


Sautéed Spinach and Garlic


  • Two 10 oz packages of fresh spinach
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, sliced thin
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice


Heat the olive oil and garlic in a skillet. Add the spinach and salt and pepper to taste. Cook just until the spinach is wilted. Stir in the lemon juice. Serve immediately.


Pear Turnovers

4 turnovers


  • 1 sheet of frozen prepared puff pastry, thawed
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 cups chopped peeled pears (about 3 medium pears)
  • 1 egg beaten


Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Combine the honey, cornstarch, ginger and vanilla in a mixing bowl. Stir in the chopped pears.

Roll the pastry into a 12 inch square on a floured board. Cut the pastry sheet into four equal squares. 

Spoon 1/3 cup of the pear mixture into the center of each square and brush the edges with beaten egg. Fold diagonally in half and press the edges with a fork  to seal.

With a wide spatula, place the turnovers on a parchment covered baking pan. Brush the turnovers with beaten egg.

Place the baking pan in the oven and bake for about 15-20 minutes or until the turnovers are puffy and golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.


I oven roasted 1 lb of small new potatoes last week. I used half of the potatoes as a side for dinner and saved the remainder to make a potato salad for another meal. See the recipe below.

I also sautéed one pound of green beans (they are in season here where I live) and served half with the potatoes for dinner and saved half for a green bean salad later in the week. I prefer to saute green beans rather than boil them and the recipe is below.

Oven Roasted Potatoes


  • 1 pound small potatoes (about 1 3/4-inch diameter), scrubbed
  • 1 tablespoon Herbes de Provence
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Put the potatoes into a heavy large baking dish. In a glass measuring cup, whisk the herbs, garlic and oil together until blended and then pour over the potatoes.

Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Spread the potatoes, spacing them evenly apart, in a single layer.

Roast the potatoes until they are tender and golden, turning them occasionally with tongs, for about 45 minutes.

Sautéed Green Beans


  • 1 lb green beans, trimmed
  • 1 garlic clove, sliced thin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste


In a large skillet with a cover, heat the oil and garlic. Add the green beans and seasonings. cover the pan.

Simmer the beans, turning occasionally until crisp tender, about 10 minutes. Serve half for dinner and refrigerate the remaining beans for the salad recipe below.


Oven Fried Chicken

4 servings

This chicken tastes even better cold the next day.


  • 4 chicken thighs, skin removed
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup Panko crumbs
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, grated
  • ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon each salt and black pepper


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Cover a rimmed baking pan with heavy-duty foil. Spray the foil with cooking spray.

Melt the butter and add the garlic. Set aside to cool.

On a sheet of wax paper, combine the flour, panko crumbs, paprika and salt and pepper.

Dip the chicken in the meted butter and then press the chicken in the crumb mixture. Place the breaded chicken pieces on the prepared pan.


Drizzle any remaining butter over the chicken. (Chicken can be prepared in advance of cooking and refrigerated until cooking time.)

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes until crispy, brown and cooked to at least 165 degrees F.

Potato Salad

seasonal potatosalad

2 servings


  • ½ lb leftover oven roasted new potatoes (about 8), sliced thin
  • ¼ cup finely diced onion
  • ¼ cup finely diced celery
  • ¼ cup finely diced red bell pepper
  • ¼ cup finely diced bread and butter pickles
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup low-fat mayonnaise


Combine all the ingredients together in a serving bowl. Cover and chill until dinner time.


Green Bean and Cherry Tomato Salad

2 servings


  • Half a pound of sautéed green beans, chilled
  • Half a pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper


Combine the mustard, vinegar and olive oil in a serving bowl. Cut the green beans into 2 inch pieces. Add the green beans and cherry tomatoes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix well.

Let sit at room temperature for one hour before serving.


seasonalmarchStarting with this post, I will include posts each week about cooking with seasonal and local (if possible) ingredients.

When buying produce in season, you are not only getting fruits and vegetables at their peak of flavor, you are also getting the best price! Try incorporating a few of the “in season” produce items in your market into your weekly menu. Below is a dinner we had last week that made use of what is in season where I live: asparagus and tuna. February and March are good months for catching tuna in the Gulf of Mexico. I also made this tuna steak work for two meals. Earlier in the week, I grilled a tuna steak and we ate about 2/3 of the tuna steak and I saved 1/3 to make the tuna cakes in the recipe below. Asparagus are at their peak right now and prices are quite reasonable, so they are on our dinner table each week.


Oven Baked Asparagus

2 servings


  • 1 bunch fresh asparagus
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Wash and trim the woody stems from the asparagus spears. Place them in a baking dish large enough so that they lay in a single layer. Add the olive oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well and spread them back into a single layer.

Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the dish from the oven and sprinkle with the grated cheese.

Tuna Cakes

Serve with Remoulade sauce on the side, if desired. Recipe below.


2 servings


  • 4 oz cooked (leftover grilled) tuna
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
  • 2 tablespoons low-fat mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoons Old Bay Seafood seasoning
  • Panko bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil



Shred the tuna into a medium bowl. Add all of the other ingredients, except the Panko crumbs and oil and mix very well.


Sprinkle a coating of Panko crumbs on a sheet of wax paper. Divide the tuna mixture into 4 equal portions and shape into patties.


Press the panko crumbs into the tuna cakes as you form the patties. Refrigerate the tuna cakes for a few hours before cooking. They will hold together better during cooking.


Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium skillet over medium high heat. Add the patties to the pan and, cook for 3-4 minutes until golden brown, then turn them over and cook for another 3-4 minutes.

 Light Remoulade Sauce


  • 1/4 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup low-fat plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1  tablespoon capers, drained and chopped
  • 1  teaspoon cider vinegar
  • 1  teaspoon sweet relish
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot sauce


Combine all the ingredients in a small serving bowl. Cover and refrigerate until serving time.

Gardens of Palazzo Vicentini.

Gardens of Palazzo Vicentini.

The Province of Rieti  is located in the northeast section of the Lazio region in the heart of Italy and was established in 1927. The territory is mostly mountainous and there are two artificial lakes created during the Fascist period. There are several protected areas in the province. To the south lies the Parco regionale naturale dei Monti Lucretili and to the southeast is the Riserva regionale Montagne della Duchessa. Between the two areas is the Riserva naturale Monte Navegna e Monte Cervia. These areas support a diversity of wildlife, particularly birds such as herons and grebes. Numerous castles, fortresses and Franciscan sanctuaries can be found throughout the Rieti Province.

Mount Terminillo in summer.

Mount Terminillo in summer.

Remains of the Roman Bridge (3rd century BC)

Remains of the Roman Bridge (3rd century BC)

During the Roman Empire the province was a strategic point in the early Italian road network, that was known as the “salt” track and it linked Rome to the Adriatic Sea through the Apennine Mountains. According to Roman tradition, a stone bridge was laid across the Velino river and a large viaduct was built to bring goods from the road directly to the cities. After the fall of the Roman Empire the province suffered destruction by invaders. The area was rebuilt during the 12th century and for a time it was a favorite Papal seat.


Bell Tower of St. Mary Cathedral

Palazzo Comunale.

Palazzo Comunale.

Feasts and festivals are also among the province’s highlights. A festival dedicated to St. Anthony of Padua has taken place for 600 years in the old town of Rieti, with a procession through the streets. In Antrodoco, the Sagra degli Stracci (Festival of Rags) is an occasion to taste local culinary specialties. The Festa della Madonna della Neve e del Toro Ossequioso (Festival of Our Lady of the Snow and of the Fulsome Bull) is held in Posta, in which a man rides a harnessed bull and brings it before the Church of Santa Maria Assunta, where it will be made to kneel three times. The Festa Dolce Primavera (Sweet Spring Festival) in Castel Sant’Angelo is a competition between the 10 municipalities in preparing the most delicious desserts. There are many any are carnival festivities, with floats parading through the towns of Amatrice and Magliano Sabina during the celebrations.

Fontana dei delfini. fountain in Vittorio Emanuele II square

Fontana dei delfini. fountain in Vittorio Emanuele II square


Farmers’ Market Vegetables

The presence of forests means that local produce includes chestnuts, mushrooms, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, juniper and white and black truffles. The farms produce fresh, salted or seasoned cheese, such as ricotta made with goat’s milk; the Fiore Molle from Leonessa, flavored with saffron and pecorino from Amatrice. Growing conditions for vegetables is ideal, especially for garlic, tomatoes, potatoes, artichokes, olives and grapes. Sausages come from Leonessa and Amatrice and dry sausages are made in the city of Rieti.

Fried pizzas in the Rieti area are usually eaten with cold meats like ham, sausage or pork loin and they are sometimes stuffed with vegetables and cheese.

Fried pizzas in the Rieti area are usually eaten with cold meats like ham, sausage or pork loin and they are sometimes stuffed with vegetables and cheese.

Amatriciana is one of the best known pasta sauces in Roman and Italian cuisine.

Amatriciana is one of the best known pasta sauces in Roman and Italian cuisine.

La Copeta

La Copeta

Local favorite dishes include stracciatelle in brodo (similar to egg-drop soup); spaghetti all’amatriciana; pollo (chicken) alla diavola; stracci di Antrodoco – thin pancakes filled with meat sauce and cheese; stufatino garofolo and spezzatino di pollo (chicken stews), agnello in guazzetto (lamb stew) and porchetta di Poggio Bustone (pork).
Sweets include: terzetti alla reatina, soft cookies made with honey and nuts; copeta are  made with honey and nuts between layers of bay leaves and pizza di Pasqua (Easter pizza).

A well-known local wine is Colli della Sabina D.O.C. and it is available in white, red and rosé.


Bruschetta with Porcini Mushrooms

4 servings


  • 8 slices ciabatta bread
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for the bread
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Chopped fresh parsley
  • 4 whole cloves of garlic
  • 8 oz fresh porcini mushrooms
  • Sea Salt
  • Black Pepper


In a hot grill pan, toast the bread on each side; then lightly rub one side with a clove of garlic and drizzle each with olive oil. Set aside.

Slice the mushrooms thickly taking care to keep the stalk and the cap intact.

Smash the garlic cloves with the flat blade of a knife.

In a heavy skillet, heat the olive oil and butter and fry the smashed garlic for a few seconds before adding the mushrooms.

Add the mushrooms and cook over high heat until they are browned and just cooked. Remove the garlic. Season with salt and pepper.

Place the bruschetta on warm plates and top with the mushrooms and parsley leaves. Serve immediately.


Stuffed Eggplant

Serves 6


  • 3 (1 pound or smaller) round dark purple eggplants
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil for the baking dish
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 3/4 pound ground veal or pork or beef
  • 3 cups canned crushed Italian tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 ounce Pecorino Romano cheese, grated


Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut each eggplant in half lengthwise. Using a sharp paring knife, cut a box in the center of each eggplant half, coming about half an inch from the sides and cutting down to within half an inch of the bottom.

Using a large spoon, pry the center free. It should come out fairly easily and use the spoon to scrape any excess eggplant from the inside of the box.

Place the eggplant shells cut side down on a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Cover the excess eggplant flesh with plastic wrap and set aside. Repeat, cleaning all the eggplants.

Chop the onion and combine it with one-fourth cup of the olive oil in a large skillet. Place the skillet over medium-high heat and cook until the onion softens, about 5 minutes.

Add the minced garlic and reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the meat to the skillet and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is lightly brown, about 5 minutes.

Finely dice the reserved eggplant flesh and add it to the skillet and cook until the eggplant has softened completely, about 5 to 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Add 1 cup of the crushed tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the pine nuts and parsley and remove from the heat.

Oil a large baking dish with the remaining olive oil and pour the remaining crushed tomatoes into the dish. Arrange the eggplant halves in the baking dish. They should fit tightly.

Spoon the meat mixture into the eggplant halves, dividing evenly.

Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and bake 15 minutes, then remove the foil and spoon some of the tomatoes from the bottom of the baking dish over the eggplant.

Re-cover with aluminum foil and bake, spooning the tomato mixture over the eggplants once after another 15-minutes.

After 45 minutes total cooking time, scatter the grated cheese generously over the top of each eggplant. Bake uncovered until the cheese is lightly browned, 5 to 10 minutes.

Remove from the oven and cool at least 10 minutes before serving.


Boiled Potatoes with Celery


  • 2 tender inner celery stalks, sliced diagonally 1/8″ thick
  • 2 lbs boiling potatoes (about 6 medium potatoes)
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
  • Oil-cured black olives, for garnish


Bring a large pot of cold water to a boil.

When the water comes to a rolling boil, add salt and, then, add the celery. Blanch until it is still slightly crunchy, about 2 minutes.

Remove the celery using a slotted spoon and scatter it on a baking sheet to cool.

Add the potatoes to the boiling water and cook until tender, about 20 to 25 minutes. Drain them and place on a rimmed baking sheet to cool.

When the potatoes are cool enough to handle but still warm, peel them using a paring knife. Carefully cut the potatoes into 1/4-inch thick slices.

In a large bowl, season the warm potatoes with salt and pepper. Pour the olive oil over the potatoes and mix well. Add the parsley and celery and mix well.

Let it sit for an hour. Garnish with the olives and serve at room temperature.


Roman Honey Sesame Cookies

Makes about 40 small cookies.


  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature; extra melted butter for dipping the baked cookies
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sesame seeds


In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Set aside.

In another bowl, combine butter, honey and eggs with an electric mixer until well combined. Gradually beat in the flour mixture.  Cover and chill the dough about 1 hour or until firm.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Grease two baking sheets. Form chilled dough into logs and place on the prepared baking sheets.

Bake 10 minutes or until golden brown. Be sure not to overcook or they will be dry.

While warm, dip in a bowl of melted butter and then into a bowl of sesame seeds. Cool on a wire rack.


Kate Hackett Ceramics

Kate Hackett Ceramics

There are many motivations for sticking with a healthy diet. Eating more of the good stuff (and less of the junk) can help you prevent cancer, extend your lifespan, protect your heart and manage your weight. But one thing we don’t always remember is that your diet affects not just your weight, but your body from the inside to the outside. Your body transforms the foods you eat into the cells that make up your hair, nails, skin and bones, along with your brain, heart and joints. You literally are what you eat.

Add lean meats and beans to your diet to help keep your body in hormone balance and prevent hair loss. B-vitamins from leafy greens, peas, tomatoes and carrots also support cell growth for healthy hair.

Essential fatty acids (named “essential” because your body cannot make them) help you grow brain cells and stay sharp, so feed your brain with regular doses of fish, nuts, seeds, avocado and olive oil.

The antioxidants for brain health also help the eyes, so include foods with lutein and zeaxanthin. These antioxidants, found in spinach, collard greens and kale, protect the retina from macular degeneration.

Most adults need between 1,000 and 1,200 milligrams of calcium daily. Low-fat milk, cheese, yogurt, almonds, spinach and soybeans are all good sources of dietary calcium.

Boost your vitamin C intake with fruits and vegetables, especially strawberries, oranges, pineapple, cauliflower and green peppers to keep your joints healthy.

Fiber is also essential. Whole grains, especially oats and bran, beans, nuts, fruits and vegetables can help you get your daily 20-35 grams of fiber.

Maintain disease-free and healthy looking skin with alpha-lipoic acid (ALA). This antioxidant is more powerful than vitamins C and E and protects your skin cells from damage and many of the elements it’s exposed to each day. ALA can be found in spinach, broccoli and beef. Vitamins C, E, K, and A, as well as B-vitamins, are also important for nourished skin. Enjoying a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables can help you reach the recommended amounts.

Winter comfort foods can be good for you. Sweet potatoes are filled with vitamin A and anything filled with green vegetables will give you a vitamin C boost. Switching up some ingredients for healthier ones in your favorite casserole dishes can improve a recipe’s nutrition. Also, be careful about the amount of cheese, bread and cream in a recipe.

The next time you look forward to making a comforting dish, try out one of the healthy recipes below instead of your usual go-to casserole. Another bonus is that all of the recipes below are between 300 and 350 calories per serving. That leaves some room for a healthy dessert.


Meatballs and Bean Casserole

6 servings



  • 1 pound lean ground meat (pork, beef, chicken, turkey or a combination)
  • 1/2 cup plain dried bread crumbs
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 finely minced garlic clove
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Olive oil for the baking pan


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup thinly sliced carrots (2 medium)
  • ½ cup chopped onion (1 medium)
  • ½ cup thinly sliced celery (1 stalk)
  • 1 cup frozen green beans
  • 2 ½ cups homemade or store-bought tomato sauce (marinara sauce)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
  • Two 15 ounce cans cannellini beans (white kidney beans), rinsed and drained
  • ¼ cup chopped green onion tops


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Oil a rimmed cookie sheet.

To make the meatballs:

Mix all the ingredients, except the oil,  together in a large bowl. With wet hands form into 12 equal sized meatballs. (Use an ice cream scoop to make them uniform in size.)

Place the meatballs on the prepared pan and bake the meatballs in the oven for about 25 minutes.

In a large Dutch Oven, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add carrots, onion, and celery; cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Add green beans. Cook for 2 minutes more, stirring occasionally. Stir in tomato sauce and oregano. Stir in beans and meatballs.

Cover the pan and transfer the mixture to the oven.

Bake for 10 minutes. Uncover. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes more or until heated through. Sprinkle with green onion tops just before serving.


Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie

4 servings


  • 1 ½ pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, halved
  • ¼ cup fat-free milk
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 12 ounces uncooked ground turkey breast or a mix of white and dark meat or lean ground beef
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • 1 ¼ cups coarsely diced zucchini (1 medium)
  • 1 cup diced carrots (2 medium)
  • ½ cup frozen yellow corn
  • ¼ cup water
  • One 8 ounce can low salt tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons snipped fresh sage or 1/2 teaspoon dried sage, crushed
  • ⅛ teaspoon black pepper


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a medium saucepan, cook sweet potatoes and garlic, covered, in enough lightly salted boiling water to cover for 15 to 20 minutes or until tender; drain.

Mash the sweet potatoes and gradually add milk and salt, mashing the potato mixture to make a light and fluffy mixture. Cover and keep warm.

In a large skillet cook turkey or beef and onion over medium heat until meat is brown, stirring to break up the meat as it cooks. Drain, if needed.

Stir in zucchini, carrots, corn and water. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 5 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

Add tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, sage and pepper to the meat mixture; heat through.

Spoon mixture into a 1-1/2-quart casserole dish, spreading evenly. Spoon mashed potato mixture on top of the pie mixture.

Bake, uncovered, in the preheated oven for 25 minutes or until heated through.


White Bean and Kale Casserole

4 servings


  • 3 cups shredded kale (stems removed)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped (1/2 cup)
  • Two 19 ounce cans cannellini beans (white kidney beans), rinsed and drained
  • One 14 1/2 ounce can diced Italian tomatoes, undrained
  • 4 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, cut into bite-size pieces
  • ¼ cup dry Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a small saucepan cook kale in a small amount of boiling water for 8 minutes or until tender. Drain well in a colander.

In a small skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium heat. Add onion and celery; cook for 4 minutes or until tender.

In a large bowl combine cooked kale, onion mixture, beans, tomatoes, 2 tablespoons of the bread crumbs, the oregano, garlic and pepper. Transfer mixture to a 2-quart casserole dish.

In a small bowl combine the remaining 2 tablespoons bread crumbs and the remaining 1 tablespoon oil; sprinkle over the bean mixture.

Sprinkle with diced prosciutto.

Bake, covered, for 20 minutes. Bake, uncovered, about 10 minutes more or until heated through and the prosciutto is crispy.


Vegetable Pasta Bake

6 servings


  • 8 ounces dried whole wheat penne pasta
  • 2 ½ cups cauliflower florets (1/2 medium head)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 medium carrots, sliced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 12 ounces spinach, stems removed, leaves torn
  • ½ cup frozen peas
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cup fat-free milk
  • 4 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (1 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons finely shredded or grated Parmesan cheese


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large Dutch Oven, cook pasta al dente according to package directions; add cauliflower during the last 4 minutes of cooking. Drain and set aside.

In the same Dutch oven cook onion and garlic in hot oil over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add carrots and celery; cook just until carrots are tender. Add spinach; cook just until wilted. Stir in pasta mixture and peas.

For the cheese sauce:

In a small saucepan melt butter; stir in flour, salt and pepper. Add milk all at once; cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Reduce heat; add cheddar cheese. Cook and stir until melted.

Stir sauce into pasta and vegetables.

Transfer to a 2 1/2-quart casserole coated with cooking spray. Bake, covered, for 35 minutes. Uncover; sprinkle with Parmesan and bake 5 minutes more.


Pizza Casserole

8 servings


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ cup chopped onion (1 medium)
  • 2 yellow, red and/or green bell peppers, cut into thin strips
  • 1 medium zucchini (8 ounces), halved lengthwise and sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Two 14 1/2 ounce can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, drained
  • 4 fully cooked chicken sausage links, halved lengthwise and sliced
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning, crushed
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 lb package pizza dough
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (8 ounces)


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease a 2-quart rectangular baking dish; set aside.

In a large skillet heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and bell peppers; cook and stir for 5 minutes. Add zucchini and garlic; cook for 5 minutes more, stirring occasionally.

Add tomatoes, sliced sausage, half of the Italian seasoning, salt and black pepper to the mixture in the skillet. Bring to boiling; boil gently, uncovered, for 5 to 7 minutes or until most of the liquid evaporates.

Place pizza dough on a lightly floured surface. Using a knife or pastry wheel, cut pizza dough into 16 strips.

Remove skillet from the heat. Stir in the Parmesan cheese and half of the mozzarella cheese. Spoon mixture into the prepared dish. Top with the remaining mozzarella cheese.

Arrange pizza dough strips  on top of the casserole in a lattice pattern. Sprinkle with remaining Italian seasoning. Bake, uncovered, about 30 minutes or until the crust is brown and the filling is bubbly.

Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.


Traditional meat stews can add up to 1,000 calories per serving. The calories really depend on the protein used, as fatty cuts of meat contain more calories. The sodium level can also be off the charts, providing much more than the amount recommended per day. Watch portion sizes, also.

Ground turkey isn’t always the leanest choice – it depends on which part of the turkey is ground. And, while ground turkey breast is the leanest, it can end up rather dry after cooking. The best solution is a combination of white and dark ground turkey meat which will keep the meat moist while saving on calories.

A healthy version of traditional beef stew should use 4 ounces of beef per serving while adding lots of vegetables. To keep sodium under control use a low-sodium beef or vegetable broth. Seafood is also a good choice for stew. Lentils are also a good stew ingredient because they contains both healthy protein and carbs and they are filled with fiber to help keep you satisfied.

So, take control of the ingredients and make your own delicious, healthy stews. Since it is quite cold here in the south today, the Bean and Sausage Stew is on our menu.


Seafood Stew

8 servings

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1 red chili pepper, seeded and 
thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon each dried oregano, thyme and basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 28-oz can Italian diced tomatoes, with juices
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup clam juice
  • 1 lb littleneck clams, scrubbed
  • 1 lb frozen cooked crab claws
  • 1 lb cod, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1/2 lb sea scallops
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf 


In a 5-quart Dutch Oven, melt butter. Add onions and 
cook, stirring occasionally until onions soften slightly, about 6 to 8 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add celery, fennel, chili, oregano, thyme, basil and cayenne; stir to combine. Add wine, tomatoes, broth and clam juice. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, soak clams in cold water for 20 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer clams to the stew pot.  Cover and cook until clams open, about 20 to 25 minutes. Discard any unopened clams. Add crab claws, cover and cook until heated through, about 
10 minutes. Add cod and scallops. 
Cover and cook until the fish is firm, about 
5 minutes longer. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.


Easy Oven Beef Stew

Serves 6; 1 cup per serving

What makes this stew easy? Toss all the ingredients together in a Dutch oven, place it in the oven and forget about it for two hours or cook it all day in your slow cooker.


  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon each salt and black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 pounds lean boneless round steak, trimmed of fat and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 4 cups low sodium beef broth
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 lb Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed and cut into bite-size pieces
  • 4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
  • 8 ounces sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 cup onions
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Salt to taste


Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Pat meat dry with paper towels. In a large plastic bag with a tight-fitting seal, combine flour, salt and pepper. Add meat and shake until well coated. Shake off excess flour.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over high heat until just starting to smoke.

Add half of the beef and cook until well browned on all sides, about 8 minutes total, reducing heat if oil begins to smoke. Transfer beef to large plate.

Repeat with remaining beef and oil. Leave the second batch of meat in the pot after browning and add the browned beef on the plate and the remaining ingredients to the Dutch Oven. Mix well.

Cover, place in the oven and bake for 2 hours or until the meat is tender, stirring once or twice during the cooking time. Taste and adjust for salt. Serve hot.


White Bean and Sausage Stew

6 to 8 servings


  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, more for serving
  • 1/2 pound lean sweet Italian turkey sausage, sliced thin
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 medium carrots, finely diced
  • 2 celery stalks, finely diced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 pound dried Great Northern beans, rinsed and picked through
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 1 fresh large rosemary sprig
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar, plus more for serving
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, more to taste


Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and brown until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel. Place on a plate and refrigerate until the beans are cooked.

Add the tomato paste and oregano to the same pot. Cook, stirring, until dark golden, about 2 minutes. Add the carrots, celery, onion and garlic. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the beans, 8 cups water, salt, thyme, rosemary and the bay leaf. Turn the heat up to high and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to low and simmer gently until the beans are tender, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, adding more water if needed to make sure the beans remain submerged.

When the beans are tender, return the sausage to the pot. Simmer for 5 minutes or until the sausage is hot. Stir in the vinegar and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning. Ladle into warm bowls and serve drizzled with additional vinegar and olive oil.


Chicken Stew with Lima Beans and Cauliflower 

4 servings


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 teaspoons hot pepper sauce, such as Tabasco®
  • 2 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups (10 ounces) frozen lima beans (no need to thaw)
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can Italian diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 3 cups coarsely chopped (1/2 – inch chunks) cauliflower (about 1/2 of a large head)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves or 2 teaspoons dried


Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute 2 minutes. Add chicken thighs and hot sauce; saute until chicken is no longer pink, about 3 minutes.

Add broth, lima beans, tomatoes, cauliflower and thyme; bring to a boil over high heat.

Reduce heat; simmer uncovered 20 to 25 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and the beans are tender. Serving size: one chicken thigh and one-fourth of the stew.


Pork and Vegetable Stew

4 servings


  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 lbs boneless pork loin cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 onion, medium, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
  • 1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 cups fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1 cup canned diced Italian tomatoes
  • 14 1/2 oz canned low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil, torn
  • 2 teaspoons fresh oregano, chopped

Combine flour, salt and pepper in a plastic bag. Add pork pieces and shake to coat. Set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a Dutch Oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, celery, green pepper and mushrooms. Sauté for 5 minutes, until vegetables are softened. Add garlic and sauté for another 30 seconds. Transfer vegetables to a bowl and set aside.

Heat remaining oil over medium-high heat. Sauté pork on all sides, until golden brown, about 5 minutes.

Return sautéed vegetables to the Dutch Oven. Add tomatoes and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes, or until the pork is tender.

Season with salt and pepper, garnish with basil and oregano and serve.


Believe it or not, it is possible to eat and cook healthy with pasta. When prepared appropriately, pasta has many positive benefits in maintaining a healthy lifestyle and it can satisfy numerous dietary needs. Pasta is a great vehicle for enjoying other healthy foods that improve your diet as well, such as healthy proteins and vegetables.

The most important thing to remember about pasta is that when you prepare it at home, you have complete control over making sure it was cooked in a healthy manner.

Some tips on how to keep your pasta recipes healthy:

Pay Attention to Portions

First, we nearly always cook too much pasta. The USDA recommends 2 ounces of dry pasta per person, which works out to about 1 cup of cooked pasta per person.

Add Healthy Ingredients

Add sautéed  broccoli, peppers, spinach or sweet onions to your plain cooked pasta and mix in a tablespoon of olive oil for a delicious side dish with your meal. Add garlic, herbs and grated Parmesan cheese for flavor.

Always Use Olive Oil

Avoid saturating the pasta in rich, thick and high-calories fats. This is obvious for Italians, but always try to use olive oil, an unsaturated fat, which assists with the absorption of vitamins.

Choose Lean Proteins

Add drained and rinsed beans, such as cannellini beans or chickpeas, along with the sauce. Other healthy protein options include lean pork loin, grass-fed beef, fish, ground turkey and chicken or lean turkey sausage.


Spicy Puttanesca

6-8 servings


  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 3 ounces green olives, such as Castelvetrano (Italian green olives), pitted and chopped (1/2 cup) plus extra for garnishing
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon drained capers, chopped
  • One 2-ounce can anchovy fillets in oil, drained and chopped
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and chopped
  • 1/2 cup canned crushed Italian tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup torn basil leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice


In a large pot, heat the olive oil. Add the olives, capers, anchovies, jalapeno and garlic and cook over moderately high heat until sizzling. Add the sun-dried tomatoes, crushed tomatoes and the almonds and cook for 1 minute. Add the wine and cook until reduced by half, about 7 minutes.

In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta for 5 minutes. Drain, reserving 3 cups of the pasta cooking water.

Add the spaghetti and the reserved cooking water to the sauce in the skillet and cook until the pasta is al dente. Stir in the parsley, basil, lemon zest and lemon juice and serve in bowls with a drizzle of olive oil. Garnish with additional olives, if desired.


Linguine with Scallops

6 servings


  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 3/4 pound linguine
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds sea scallops
  • Salt
  • 1/2 cup drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried red-pepper (chili) flakes


Toast the pine nuts in a large dry skillet until golden brown. Remove from the skillet and set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in the same skillet over moderately high heat until very hot. Season the scallops with 1/4 teaspoon salt and put them in the skillet.

Sear until brown on the bottom, 1 to 2 minutes. Turn and sear until brown on the other side, 1 to 2 minutes longer. Remove the scallops to a bowl and cut them into quarters.

In the same pan, heat the remaining oil over moderate heat. Add the tomatoes, garlic, 2 tablespoons of the parsley, the red-pepper flakes and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the scallops and the pine nuts.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the linguine until al dente, about 12 minutes. Drain the pasta.

Add the pasta to the skillet with the remaining 4 tablespoons of parsley. Toss well and serve.


Rigatoni with Red Peppers and Spinach

6 servings


  • 12 oz rigatoni pasta
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 medium red bell peppers, seeded and sliced into 1/2-inch strips
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 10 oz fresh spinach leaves
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil


Cook rigatoni according to package directions for al dente. Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water. Return pasta to the pot to keep warm.

While the pasta cooks, heat the oil in a skillet over high heat. Stir in onion, peppers and tomatoes. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Sauté, stirring occasionally.

After 5 minutes, add spinach and continue to sauté until the vegetables are tender and the spinach is wilted, about 5 more minutes.

Add vegetables, reserved pasta water and 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese to the cooked pasta and gently toss to combine.

Place in a serving bowl and top with basil and remaining Parmesan cheese.


Spaghetti with Cauliflower and Capers

6-8 servings


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ cup soft bread crumbs
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon snipped fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed, plus extra for garnish
  • One 1 1/2 pound head cauliflower, cut into 1-inch florets (5 to 6 cups)
  • 3 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 pound spaghetti


Bring a 5- to 6-quart pot of salted water to boiling. Cook spaghetti according to package directions, except cook for 2 minutes less than the time given on the package for al dente. Drain spaghetti and return to the large pot.

In a large skillet heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-low heat. Add breadcrumbs to the hot oil; cook about 3 minutes or until crumbs are crisp and golden brown, stirring frequently. Stir in 1 clove of the minced garlic; cook and stir until garlic is tender. Transfer mixture to a small bowl. Stir in 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese and the lemon peel and set aside.

In the same large skillet heat the remaining the oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and salt; cook about 3 minutes or until the onion is tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in 1 teaspoon thyme and the remaining 2 cloves minced garlic; cook and stir for 30 seconds. Add cauliflower, broth and capers; cover and cook about 10 minutes or until cauliflower is tender. Stir in lemon juice and pepper.

Add cauliflower mixture to the cooked spaghetti. Cook about 5 minutes more or until spaghetti is al dente. Divide spaghetti mixture among six shallow serving bowls. Sprinkle with the bread crumb mixture and the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Garnish with additional snipped fresh thyme.


Chicken, Green Beans and Pesto Pasta

6-8 servings


  • 4 chicken breasts
  • Flour for dredging
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup low sodium chicken stock
  • 1 pound of penne pasta
  • 8 oz thin green beans, ends trimmed
  • 1/2 cup of homemade or good quality prepared pesto
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Grated Parmesan cheese


Trim fat from the chicken breasts. If very thick, slice in half lengthwise to create two thin cutlets. Season with salt and pepper. Dredge the chicken in the flour.

In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium high heat until melted.  Add in the chicken and sauté until browned on each side and almost cooked through – about 3 minutes per side. Place chicken on a cutting board and slice into one inch pieces and set aside.

Add the white wine to the pan and simmer for a few minutes to deglaze. Lower the heat. Add in the stock and simmer for a few minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste. Return the chicken and any juices to the pan and allow to simmer until cooked through.

Bring salted water to a boil in a large pasta pot. Add pasta and cook according to package directions until al dente. Add the green beans to the pasta pan for the final 6 minutes of cooking time.

Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water and drain pasta and green beans.

Add pasta and green beans to the skillet with the chicken. Reserve 1/4 cup of the pesto and add the remaining to the pasta. Stir to incorporate. If dry, add in as much pasta water as needed.

Arrange the pasta on a warmed serving plate and dot with the reserved pesto. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.


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