Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Pasta

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This has always been my family’s favorite meal. This is the most asked for menu for birthdays and special occasions, after homemade pizza.

Antipasto Platter and Italian Bread

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Ingredients

  • Stuffed Peppers
  • Roasted Tomatoes
  • Prosciutto
  • Salami
  • Olives
  • Cheese

Spaghetti and Meatballs

  • 1 lb to 2 lbs spaghetti (depending on how many you are serving)
  • Parmesan cheese, grated

For the Sauce

  • 3 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium sweet onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 53 oz (1500 g) imported chopped Italian tomatoes (Preferably without salt or sugar added)
  • 6 oz can (170 g) tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (chili)
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt  
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 or 4 basil leaves

For the Meatballs

  • 2 lbs lean ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 slices sandwich bread, crusts removed
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

To make the sauce:

Heat the oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Add the onion and garlic and saute until the onion is soft. Add the tomato paste and fill the empty can with water and add it to the pot.

Stir well and cook the paste a minute or two. Add the chopped tomatoes and the remaining ingredients. Bring the sauce to a boil, lower the heat to low.

Place the lid on the pot but leave it ajar and cook the sauce until thick, about 2 hours. When the meatballs are browned, add them to the sauce after it has been cooking for 1 ½ hours.

Stir the meatballs carefully so they do not break.

To make the meatballs:

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Combine the bread cubes with the milk in a mixing bowl and set aside.

Heat the oil in a small skillet and add the onion and garlic.Cook until the onion is soft. Remove the pan from the heat and cool the onion to room temperature.

In a large  mixing bowl combine the beef with the cooled onion, the bread and the soaking liquid with the rest of the ingredients. Mix well and form the mixture into 12 meatballs.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and cover a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Place the meatballs on the baking sheet and bake the meatballs until brown all over, about 20 minutes

Italian Mixed Green Salad

  • Mixed baby lettuces
  • Cucumber, peeled and sliced
  • Red onion, sliced
  • Italian vinaigrette

Italian Ricotta Cheesecake

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This quick-and-easy dessert is lighter than traditional cheesecake, since it calls for ricotta instead of cream cheese and my children love it. They always ask for it.Serves 8-10.

Ingredients

  • Soft butter for the pan
  • ½ cup crushed Amaretti Cookies
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 pounds ricotta cheese, drained
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 6 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon  amaretto liqueur
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Set an oven rack in the middle of the oven.

Butter a 9 inch springform pan. Sprinkle the pan with amaretti cookie crumbles to cover the bottom and sides of the pan.

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Place the pan on a rimmed baking sheet.

In a large bowl of an electric mixer, combine the ricotta, orange zest and sugar. Mix to combine. Beat in the flour.

Add eggs, 1 at a time, and beat until incorporated. Add the amaretto liqueur and salt.

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Pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake in the center of the oven for about 75 minutes, until a light golden color. Make sure the center is firm and the point of a sharp knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool completely on a wire rack. Cover with plastic wrap and transfer to refrigerator until chilled, overnight or at least for 2 hours. Remove the sides of the pan and serve with fresh fruit on the side.

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Turkey Scallopini with Capers and Lemon

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Serve this dish with cooked, thin spaghetti and a green vegetable or salad for dinner. This dish also works for company or as a potluck dish, since a turkey breast is quite large. You can also freeze the leftovers.

Serves 8-10

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pound boneless turkey breast, sliced into thin cutlets and pounded to 1/8-inch thick
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 lemon, cut into thin slices

Directions

Pat the turkey slices dry and season with salt and pepper.

Dredge the turkey slices in flour, shaking off excess and set aside on waxed paper.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over high heat until hot but not smoking, then brown half of the turkey cutlets on both sides and just cooked through, about 4 minutes.

Transfer to a platter and keep warm, covered.

Cook the remaining turkey cutlets with another 2 tablespoons of oil in the same manner.

Do not clean out the skillet.

Heat the butter in the skillet and cook the garlic for one minute.

Add the broth to the skillet and deglaze over moderately high heat, scraping up brown bits. Bring to a boil and stir in the lemon juice, lemon slices, capers, parsley and salt and pepper, to taste.

Return the turkey cutlets to the skillet with any juices on the platter and simmer until heated through, about 1 minute.

Old Fashioned Baked Beans

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This is one dish I only like homemade. Baked beans out of a can just are not to my liking. Here is my favorite recipe. These beans are delicious with BBQ pork chops.

Serves 8-10

Ingredients

  • 1 pound navy beans
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon dry mustard
  • 3 pieces thick bacon
  • 1 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup dark molasses
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 cup real maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup Dijon country mustard
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions

Rinse beans in a colander under water to remove any stones or impurities. Place the rinsed beans in a large pot or bowl and fill with water to completely cover the beans.

Set aside, loosely covered, on the kitchen counter, overnight.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

Cook the bacon in an ovenproof Dutch Oven. When crisp, remove to a paper towel to cool and, then, cut into small pieces.

Drain the beans and place in the Dutch Oven with the onions and the garlic. Mix well.

Add all the remaining ingredients, including the chopped bacon and stir until all contents are well mixed.

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Add enough water to cover the beans, about 3 cups, depending on the size of your pot.

Cover the pot and place in the oven. Cook for 4-5 hours – stirring several times during the baking period.

Remove the lid after 3 hours and continue baking for the next hour – to allow the liquid to evaporate into a thick sauce.

Add the kosher salt. Taste the beans and add more, if needed.

Carrot, Olive and Feta Salad

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This salad goes very well with grilled chicken.

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups shredded  carrots
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh mint
  • 10 oil-cured black olives, pitted and cut into thin slices
  • 2 ounces feta cheese, cubed

Directions

In a small bowl whisk together the 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, oregano and parsley.

Mix together the carrots, olives, feta, mint and the olive oil mixture.

Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to two days. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Pasta with Italian Sausage Sauce and Ricotta

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Serve with a green salad to complete this meal.

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1 pound penne or rigatoni pasta
  • 1 /2 pound Italian sausage
  • 3 cups homemade or prepared marinara (tomato) sauce
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper(chili)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan Cheese

Directions

In a large skillet, brown the sausage and drain on a paper towel. When cool cut into thin slices.

Add the sausage back to the skillet with the marinara sauce and crushed red pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer while the pasta cooks.

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

Mix the ricotta, parsley, salt and pepper together in a microwave safe mixing bowl. Warm the ricotta in the microwave on high for about 60 seconds – just until warm to the touch.

Stir the cooked pasta into the sausage sauce in the skillet and pour into a serving bowl.

Drop tablespoons of the ricotta mixture over the pasta.

Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese on top and serve.


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Every once in a while, it is nice to just have dinner with your partner.

First Course

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Southern Pimento Cheese Stuffed Celery

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchâtel), softened
  • 8 ounces shredded sharp Cheddar cheese (about 2 cups)
  • 8 ounces shredded Monterey Jack cheese (about 2 cups)
  • 3 tablespoons low-fat mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons drained chopped pimientos
  • 1 teaspoon grated onion
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Pinch salt
  • Pinch ground cayenne pepper
  • Celery stalks, cut into 4 inch lengths

Directions

Process cream cheese in a food processor until smooth. Add Cheddar, Monterey Jack, mayonnaise, pimientos, onion, garlic powder, salt and pepper and pulse to combine.

Scrape into a serving  bowl, cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes or up to 2 days.

Use the spread to fill celery stalks and serve immediately.

Second Course

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Grilled Crab Stuffed Salmon Rolls

  • 1 Salmon Fillet, about 8 oz, skin removed

Crab Stuffing

  • ½ cup shelled, fresh  lump crab meat
  • 1 tablespoon minced onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced celery
  • 1 tablespoon minced green bell pepper
  • 2 teaspoons mayonnaise
  • ¼ teaspoon seafood seasoning (Old Bay)
  • ¼ teaspoon ground garlic
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Directions

For the stuffing

Mix the crab meat with the vegetables and seasoning.

For the salmon rolls

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Cut the salmon fillet in half lengthwise. Divide the stuffing in half and spread on the skinned side of the salmon fillet. Roll up tight and secure with metal skewers or Butcher’s string.

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Refrigerate until time to grill.

Preheat the grill to medium hot.

Place pinwheels on a sheet of heavy-duty foil that has been coated with olive oil cooking spray. Poke a few holes into the foil.

Slide the foil onto the hot grill and grill with the lid closed for about 10 minutes.

To cook indoors

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly coat a glass baking dish with cooking spray.

Place pinwheels the pan. Brush pinwheels with butter, cover loosely with foil and bake 15-20 minutes..

Spaghetti with Basil Pesto Sauce

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Ingredients

  • 4 oz spaghetti
  • 1/4 cup prepared or homemade basil pesto
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Fresh ground black pepper

Directions

Cook the spaghetti in boiling salted water until al dente. Reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water and drain the spaghetti.

Add the pasta cooking water, the basil pesto and the Parmesan cheese to the empty pasta pot and stir until combined. Add the drained pasta, toss and serve.

Tomato Cucumber Arugula Salad

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Ingredients

  • 1 large tomato cut in half and sliced
  • 1/4 of a cucumber, cut in half and sliced
  • 2 scallions, finely diced
  • 2 cups arugula
  • Italian vinaigrette

Directions

Combine the salad ingredients. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add enough salad dressing to just moisten the ingredients and toss, Serve immediately

Peach Frozen Yogurt

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Makes about 4 1/2 cups

Ingredients

  • 1 pound peaches, peeled
  • 2 cups nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Garnish with chopped mint leaves

Directions

Combine peaches, yogurt, sugar, lemon juice and vanilla in a food processor and blend until smooth.

Transfer to a freezer-safe bowl, cover and freeze, whisking mixture vigorously every 30 minutes until just frozen throughout, 2 to 3 hours.

(Whisking helps to break up the ice that forms when freezing.) Frozen yogurt is ready when it is too thick to whisk.

Stir with a spatula, transfer to an airtight container and store in the freezer. Serve garnished with chopped mint.

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Yellow Watermelon

 

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Crenshaw Melon

 

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July has an abundance of vegetables and fruits available, so I try to incorporate as many as I can into my weekly menu. I made a few dinners last week that utilize these seasonal fruits and vegetables and I hope you like them as much as we did.

Veggie Packed Frittata

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Serve with a mixed green salad and some hot biscuits.

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1 lb parboiled potatoes, sliced ¼ inch thick
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 links pre-cooked Italian chicken sausage, sliced thin
  • 1 bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • Half of a small onion, thinly sliced
  • 6 mushrooms, sliced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced basil
  • 6 asparagus, cut into 2 inch lengths
  • 8 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar or mozzarella cheese

Directions

Heat an oven broiler.

Heat oil in an ovenproof 12″ nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the sliced sausage, garlic, bell pepper, mushrooms and onion until the vegetables are soft, 3–4 minutes. Add asparagus; cook until wilted, about 1 minute.

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Stir in the sliced potatoes and salt and pepper. Stir in half the basil and the eggs and reduce heat to medium; cook until golden on the bottom, 8–10 minutes.

Sprinkle the cheese on top and place the skillet under the broiler. Broil until set and the cheese is melted, about 3 minutes. Garnish with remaining basil before serving.

Summer Melon Salad with Grilled BBQ Shrimp

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Last week my CSA had melons aplenty. I received two Crenshaw and one yellow watermelon. So I came up with a few recipes to make. The melon salad is in this post and next week, I will share the melon soup recipe I made. When you make the salad try to use two different types of melon for contrast. I also like the balance of the tangy grilled shrimp with the sweetness of the fruit salad. I also served this salad dinner with some homemade cornbread. See the recipe for Cheddar Cornbread here.

For the salad

  • 4 cups Crenshaw melon, peeled and seeds removed
  • 4 cups yellow watermelon, peeled and seeds removed.
  • 2 cups red grapes, halved
  • 1 cup toasted pecans, toasted

For the shrimp

  • 12 large shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 1/4 cup Peach BBQ sauce, see recipe here
  • Lemon quarters for garnish

Basil Honey Dressing

  • 3 tablespoons chopped basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Combine the salad dressing ingredients in a blender. Set aside in a serving bowl.

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For the melon salad

In a mixing bowl combine the two types of melon with the grapes. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Just before serving, mix the melon and grape mixture with the toasted pecans and a little of the basil dressing. Serve additional dressing with the salad.

For the grilled shrimp

Prepare an outdoor grill for medium hot heat or heat an indoor stove-top grill.

Thread the shrimp onto skewers and brush them lightly with BBQ sauce. Place the shrimp skewers on the grill directly over the heat. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes.

Turn the skewers and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Take care not to overcook. Remove them to a plate and serve with lemon quarters, the melon salad and cornbread.

Stuffed Zucchini with Fresh Basil Pesto Spaghetti

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Basil is so plentiful this time of year, so I try to think of different ways to use it in my summertime cooking. Of course, freezing basil pesto for the winter months is also another option. It is also a great addition to salad dressing and omelets, as in the recipes above.

2 servings

For the eggplant

  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for baking
  • 2 medium zucchini
  • 1 link pre-cooked Italian chicken sausage, finely chopped
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped bell pepper
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped plum tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoon dried Italian bread crumbs
  • Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons shredded cheddar cheese

For the spaghetti

  • 8 oz spaghetti
  • 1/2 cup prepared basil pesto, see recipe here
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Cut a thin slice off the top of each zucchini. With a small spoon (I like to use a grapefruit spoon) remove most of the flesh from the zucchini without cutting into the outside. Chop the cut slice and the flesh.

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Heat the 1/2 tablespoon of oil in a medium skillet and add the chopped zucchini, chopped sausage and the garlic. Saute until the zucchini is completely cooked and has lost its moisture.

Add the onion, bell pepper and tomatoes, cook until soft. Add enough breadcrumbs to hold the mixture together, about 2 tablespoons.

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Remove the pan from the heat and allow the mixture to cool, about 30 minutes.

Stir in the cheese and fill the hollowed out zucchini shells with the mixture.

Place the stuffed zucchini in a small baking dish. (The zucchini can be prepared in advance up to this point and refrigerated until baking time.)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Drizzle the zucchini with olive oil.  Pour about 1 inch of water into the bottom of the baking dish.

Place the baking dish in the oven and bake for about 40-45 minutes or until the filling is golden brown and the zucchini shells are tender.

For the spaghetti

While the zucchini are baking, cook the pasta in salted boiling water until al dente. Reserve ½ cup of the pasta cooking water and drain the spaghetti.

Return the drained pasta to the cooking pot and add the pesto with a little of the cooking water to thin the sauce a bit.

Add the Parmesan cheese and black pepper. Mix well and serve alongside the stuffed zucchini.


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It is 90 degrees outside and you are thinking, “ I am not turning on the oven and heating up the house”. No need. There are plenty of light, delicious meals that you can serve cold or at room temperature for those hot summer days and nights. The Summer is filled with great seasonal foods like peaches, berries, melon, tomatoes, corn, bell peppers and cucumbers ­– all of which help keep us hydrated and cool during the heat. Turn these summer gems into light, easy meals.

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Italian Cantaloupe Salad

This makes a great lunch. Just add a few bread sticks.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1/2 medium cantaloupe, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 10 basil leaves, sliced thin
  • 12 Italian green olives
  • 6 small sweet pickled Italian cherry peppers, diced
  • 1/4 red onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup diced provolone cheese (or any cheese you like)
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients together. Toss with the oil and vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste. This salad is better chilled for a few hours before serving to allow the flavors to meld.

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Carrot, Cucumber and Sweet Onion Salad

Good side for grilled meats or fish.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups thinly shaved carrot
  • 1 small Vidalia onion, very thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups thinly shaved cucumber
  • 1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

Directions

Combine the vinegar, oil, salt and pepper in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add the carrot and onion; toss to coat. Let stand 5 minutes.

Add the cucumber and parsley to the bowl; toss to coat. Let sit for an hour to allow the salad to marinate.

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Spaghetti Salad

Ingredients

  • 6 oz spaghetti, cooked al dente and drained
  • 2 cups small heirloom or plum tomatoes of different colors, if possible, sliced thin
  • 1/4 red onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup pitted and sliced Italian oil cured black olives, halved
  •  2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and black pepper
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (chili)
  • Basil leaves, sliced thin

Directions

In a serving bowl large enough to hold the pasta, add the the lemon juice, olive oil, onion, olives, red pepper flakes and a little salt and black pepper. Mix,

Add the sliced tomatoes and cooked spaghetti. Mix well and cover the dish until serving time. You can also serve this dish chilled.

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Tuna Patty with Peach and Corn Salad

Using leftover grilled tuna gives the fish cakes much more flavor than canned tuna.

For 2 servings

Ingredients

  • 6 oz leftover grilled tuna
  • 1/4 cup finely diced celery
  • 1/4 cup finely diced onion
  • 1/4 cup finely diced green bell pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/3 cup panko crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon Tabasco (hot sauce)
  • 1-2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon butter
  • Ranch Dressing, recipe below
  • Peach and Corn Salad, recipe below

Directions

Combine the tuna, celery, onion, bell pepper, mustard, lemon juice and zest, parsley, chives, hot sauce, salt and pepper to taste in a medium mixing bowl and stir to combine.

Add enough mayonnaise to hold the mixture together. Place the mixture in the refrigerator for a few hours to chill.

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Divide the mixture evenly into 2 rounds and coat in the panko crumbs, pressing the crumbs into the parry.

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Heat the olive oil and butter in a medium skillet. Add the tuna patties and cook 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until golden brown.

Remove to a plate lined with a paper towel. Allow to cool for 2 to 3 minutes before serving.

Mixed Green Salad with Homemade Ranch Dressing

Combine a mixture of your favorite salad greens and spread them on two individual dinner plates.

Make the salad dressing according to the recipe link: Homemade Ranch Dressing.

Place a cooked tuna patty on each plate and drizzle the greens and tuna with ranch dressing.

Place the Peach and Corn Salad on the other side of the plate. The Peach and Corn Salad compliments the tuna very well.

Summer Peach and Corn Salad

Serve this on the side with the tuna patty or as a salad on its own.

Serves: 4

Ingredients

  • 2 ears fresh corn, kernels removed
  • 2 peaches, diced
  • 1 small shallot, finely diced
  • 3 tablespoons champagne vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Salad

  • 1/2 pound fresh salad greens
  • 1/2 cup shaved Pecorino Romano cheese

Directions

Whisk together the vinegar, honey and oil. Season to taste with salt & pepper. Toss the vinaigrette with the, shallots, parsley, corn and peaches.

Chill for a few hours to allow the flavors to blend.

Serve as a side with the tuna patties over greens and top with the shaved cheese. 

You can also serve the salad over greens and top with the shaved cheese as a separate salad with an entree.

 


Veduta del Golfo di Napoli

The Province of Naples is a mixture of colors, culture and history. The beautiful islands that dot the blue waters of the Mediterranean are like jewels in a necklace. In a sea so blue that it blends with the sky, three islands can be found: Capri, Ischia and Procida. Mt. Vesuvius  overlooks the city and the beautiful bay. The sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum are of great archaeological value and are famous worldwide. The entire area is interspersed with finds from a long-ago past, especially those that saw the presence of the Roman emperors that first recognized the beauty of this terrain.

Naples is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Bronze Age Greek settlements were established in the area in the second millennium BC and Naples played a key role in the merging of Greek culture into Roman society. Naples remained influential after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, serving as the capital city of the Kingdom of Naples between 1282 and 1816. Later, in union with Sicily, it became the capital of the Two Sicilies until the unification of Italy in 1861.

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Naples has the fourth-largest urban economy in Italy, after Milan, Rome and Turin. It is the world’s 103rd richest city by purchasing power and the port of Naples is one of the most important in Europe with the world’s second-highest level of passenger flow, after the port of Hong Kong. Numerous major Italian companies are headquartered in Naples. The city also hosts NATO’s Allied Joint Force Command Naples, the SRM Institution for Economic Research and the OPE Company and Study Center.

Neapolitan cuisine took much from the culinary traditions of the Campania region, reaching a balance between dishes based on rural ingredients and seafood. A vast variety of recipes are influenced by a local, more affluent cuisine, like timballi and the sartù di riso, pasta or rice dishes with very elaborate preparation, while some dishes come from the traditions of the poor, like pasta e fagioli (pasta with beans) and other pasta dishes with vegetables. Neapolitan cuisine emerged as a distinct cuisine in the 18th century with ingredients that are typically rich in taste, but remain affordable.

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Parmigiana di Melanzane

The majority of Italian immigrants who went to the United States during the great migration were from southern Italy. They brought with them their culinary traditions and much of what Americans call Italian food originated in Naples and Sicily.

Naples is traditionally credited as the home of pizza. Pizza was originally a meal of the poor, but under Ferdinand IV it became popular among the upper classes. The famous Margherita pizza was named after Queen Margherita of Savoy after her visit to the city.  Cooked traditionally in a wood-burning oven, the ingredients of Neapolitan pizza have been strictly regulated by law since 2004, and must include wheat flour type “00” with the addition of flour type “0” yeast, natural mineral water, peeled tomatoes or fresh cherry tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, sea salt and extra virgin olive oil.

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Pasta with Meat Ragu

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Spaghetti alle Vongole

Spaghetti is also associated with the city and is commonly eaten with a sauce called ragù. There are a great variety of Neapolitan pastas. The most popular variety of pasta, besides the classic spaghetti and linguine, are paccheri and ziti, long pipe-shaped pasta usually topped with Neapolitan ragù. Pasta with vegetables is also characteristic of the cuisine. Hand-made gnocchi, prepared with flour and potatoes are also popular.

Other dishes popular in Naples include Parmigiana di melanzane, spaghetti alle vongole and casatiello. As a coastal city, Naples is also known for its numerous seafood dishes, including impepata di cozze (peppered mussels), purpetiello affogato (octopus poached in broth), alici marinate (marinated anchovies), baccalà alla napoletana (salt cod) and baccalà fritto (fried cod), a dish commonly eaten during the Christmas period.

Popular Neapolitan pastries include zeppole, babà, sfogliatelle and pastiera, the latter of which is prepared for Easter celebrations. Another seasonal dessert is struffoli, a sweet-tasting honey dough decorated and eaten around Christmas.

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Sfogliatella.

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Zeppole

The traditional Neapolitan flip coffee pot, known as the cuccuma or cuccumella, was the basis for the invention of the espresso machine and also inspired the Moka pot.

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Naples is also the home of limoncello, a popular lemon liqueur. Limoncello is produced in southern Italy, especially in the region around the Gulf of Naples, the Sorrentine Peninsula and the coast of Amalfi, and islands of Procida, Ischia, and Capri. Traditionally, limoncello is made from the zest of Femminello St. Teresa lemons, also known as Sorrento or Sfusato lemons. The lemon liquid is then mixed with simple syrup. Varying the sugar-to-water ratio and the temperature affects the clarity, viscosity and flavor.

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Making Limoncello

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Tomatoes entered Neapolitan cuisine during the 18th century. The industry of preserving tomatoes originated in 19th century Naples, resulting in the export to all parts of the world of the famous “pelati”(peeled tomatoes) and the “concentrato” (tomato paste). There are traditionally several ways of preparing tomato preserves, bottled tomato juice and chopped tomatoes. The famous “conserva” (sun-dried concentrated juice) tomato is cooked for a long time and becomes a dark red cream with a velvety texture.

naplesmozzarella

Mozzarella di Bufala.

Buffalo mozzarella is mozzarella made from the milk of the domestic Italian water buffalo. It is a product traditionally produced in the region. The term mozzarella derives from the procedure called mozzare which means “cutting by hand”,  that is, the process of the separation of the curd into small balls. It is appreciated for its versatility and elastic texture. The buffalo mozzarella sold as Mozzarella di Bufala Campana has been granted the status of Denominazione di origine controllata (DOC – “Controlled designation of origin”) since 1993. Since 1996 it is also protected under the EU’s Protected Designation of Origin and Protected Geographical Indication labels.

naplessauce

Neapolitan Ragu

Neapolitan ragù is one of the two most famous varieties of Italian meat sauces called ragù. It is a specialty of Naples, as its name indicates. The other variety originated in Bologna. The Neapolitan type is made with onions, meat and tomato sauce. A major difference is how the meat is used, as well as the amount of tomato in the sauce. Bolognese versions use very finely chopped meat, while the Neapolitan versions use large pieces of meat, taking it from the pot when cooked and served it as a second course. Ingredients also differ. In Naples, white wine is replaced by red wine, butter is replaced with olive oil and lots of basil leaves are added. Bolognese ragù has no herbs. Milk or cream are not used in Naples. Neapolitan ragù is very similar to and may be ancestral to the Italian-American “Sunday Gravy”; the primary difference being the addition of a greater variety of meat in the American version, including meatballs, sausage and pork chops.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound rump roast
  • 1 large slice of brisket (not too thick)
  • 1 pound veal stew meat
  • 1 pound pork ribs
  • 2 large onions, sliced
  • 6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup of red wine
  • 1 1/2 pounds tomatoes, pureed
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh basil leaves

Directions

Season the meat with salt and pepper. Tie the large pieces with cooking twine to help them keep their shape. In a large pot heat the oil and butter. Add the sliced onions and the meat at the same time.

On medium heat let the meat brown and the onion soften. During this first step you must be vigilant, don’t let the onion dry, stir with a wooden spoon and start adding wine if necessary to keep them moist.

Once the meat has browned, add the tomato paste and a little wine to dissolve it. Stir and combine the ingredients. Let cook slowly for 10 minutes.

Add the pureed tomatoes, season with salt and black pepper and stir. Cover the pot but leave the lid ajar. (You can place a wooden spoon under the lid.)

The sauce must cook very slowly for at least 3-4 hours. After 2 hours add few leaves of basil and continue cooking.

During these 3-4 hours you must keep tending to the ragú, stirring once in a while and making sure that it doesn’t stick to the bottom. Serve with your favorite pasta.

naplespizza

Pizza Margherita

Pizza Dough Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups (350 cc) warm water
  • 3 1/2 cups (500 g) flour (Italian OO flour)
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Pinch of salt

Topping for 1 pizza

  • 1 cup (250 g) tomatoes, puréed  in a blender
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • Salt and pepper
  • 5 fresh basil leaves
  • 2 oz (60 g) fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced

Directions

For the pizza dough:

In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast on the warm water and stir to dissolve it. Set aside until the yeast starts forming bubbles, about 5 minutes.

Sift the flour. Pour the flour into a large bowl or on a work surface. Form the flour in a mound shape with a hole in the center. Pour the yeast mix in the center, then the olive oil and a pinch of salt.

Using a spatula, draw the ingredients together. Then mix with your hands to form a dough. Sprinkle some flour on the work surface. Place the pizza dough on the floured surface.

Knead the pizza dough briefly with your hands pushing and folding. Knead just long enough for the dough to take in a little more flour and until it no longer sticks to your hands.

With your hand, spread a little olive oil inside a bowl. Transfer the dough into the bowl.

On the top of the pizza dough, make two incisions that cross, and spread with a very small amount of olive oil. This last step will prevent the surface of the dough from breaking too much while rising.

Cover the bowl with a kitchen cloth, and set the bowl aside for approximately 1½ – 2 hours or until the dough doubles in volume. The time required for rising will depend on the strength of the yeast and the temperature of the room.

When the dough is about double its original size, punch it down to eliminate the air bubbles.

On a lightly floured work surface, cut the dough into three equal pieces. On the work surface, using a rolling-pin and your hands, shape one piece of dough into a thin 12 inch round layer.

Transfer the dough to a pizza pan. Using your fingertips, push from the center to the sides to cover the entire surface of the pan.

For the pizza

Preheat the oven to 500 F (260 C). In a mixing bowl place the tomatoes. Stir in 1 tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread the tomato mixture evenly over the pizza.

With your hands, break the basil leaves into small pieces. Distribute the basil uniformly over the pizza. Spread the rest of the olive oil on the pizza. Add salt to taste.

Bake the pizza for approximately 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and add the mozzarella cheese.

Bake for 10 more minutes. Lift one side to check for readiness. Pizza is ready when the bottom surface is light brown. Top with few more fresh basil leaves, if desired, and serve immediately.

naplescalamari

Pasta con i Calamari

Small clams and other fish are sometimes added with the calamari.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 whole fresh squid
  • 1 ½ cups cherry tomatoes
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 peperoncino
  • Fresh parsley
  • Fresh basil
  • 1 cup white wine
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • 8 oz paccheri pasta

Directions

Cut the squid body into slices and halve the tentacles if they are large.

Clean, remove the seeds and finely chop the tomatoes. Rinse and chop the parsley. Peel and slice the garlic.

Heat a generous amount of oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook 2 to 3 minutes.

Add the peperoncino. Stir in the calamari and cook 3 to 5 minutes.

Add the wine and cook until the liquid is reduced by half.

Add the tomatoes and parsley and stir through. Salt to taste.

Cover and cook on medium for 15 minutes.

While the calamari is cooking, cook the pasta al dente. Remove some of the pasta cooking water.

Stir a bit of the pasta water into the sauce and cook a few minutes longer.

Drain the pasta, add it to the sauce and stir through.

Garnish with a few basil leaves.

naplesmap


july

At this time of year the farmers’ markets, roadside stands and supermarkets are bursting at the seams with fresh grown produce. Take advantage of all these good things and create some seasonal recipes around fresh July produce. Here are a few ideas.

Stuffed Cucumbers

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These little bites are delicious for lunch or for a summer appetizer.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium cucumbers, peeled
  • 1/2 cup chive and onion cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup carrots, finely shredded
  • 1/4 of a green bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 small banana pepper or other spicy pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons relish
  • Sweet paprika for garnish

Directions

Cut cucumbers lengthwise. With a spoon, scoop out seeds to form a hollow center.

Combine the carrots, green pepper, spicy banana peppers, relish and cream cheese.

Spread the mixture into the center of the cucumbers. Sprinkle the top with paprika.

Cut each cucumber half into 4 pieces. Chill in the refrigerator until serving time.

Eggplant Rollatini

IMG_0006

Ingredients

Eggplant

  • 1 medium to large eggplant, peeled and cut lengthwise into ¼ inch slices
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian herbs
  • Olive oil

Filling

  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh herbs (parsley, basil)
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Rollatini

  • 2 cups Marinara (tomato) sauce
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Combine the flour, salt, pepper and dried herbs in a shallow dish. Heat enough olive oil to cover the bottom of a large skillet.

IMG_0001

Dredge the eggplant slices in the flour mixture and place in the skillet.

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Cook until brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels and let cool until room temperature.

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Mix together the filling ingredients and distribute evenly over the sautéed eggplant slices.

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Roll up the slices from the short end and place in a greased casserole dish. Pour the Marinara sauce over the rolls and sprinkle with the grated Parmesan cheese.

Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 30 minutes.

Big Batch Summer Vegetable Chowder

IMG_0002 (2)

Makes plenty to freeze for future dinners and lunches.

Ingredients

  • 12 ears fresh corn
  • 2 quarts water
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 3 cups southern field peas
  • 3 medium red potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 8 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
  • 9 oz pkg fresh spinach tortellini
  • Chopped fresh herbs for garnish

Directions

Slice the kernels from each corn cob into a large bowl. Set aside.

Break each corn cob in half and place in a large Dutch oven or stock pot. Cover the cobs with 2 quarts of cold water. Bring the water to a boil and turn the heat to low.

Simmer, uncovered, for 40 minutes.

When the corn cobs have finished simmering, heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium low heat.

Add the onions and cook until soft, approximately 2 minutes, then add the garlic, salt, pepper, dried Italian seasoning, reserved corn and remaining vegetables.

IMG_0001 (2)

Cook for several minutes until the corn is soft, stirring frequently.

Once the corn cobs have finished simmering, remove the cobs from the broth. Add the corn broth to the soup pot. If the corn broth has reduced to less than 4 cups, add more water to equal 4 cups.

Add the chicken broth and tortellini. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the ingredients together over medium heat for an additional 15-20 minutes, covered.

Tomato Tart

IMG_0009

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

  • One 9 inch refrigerated pie crust, at room temperature
  • 3 small to medium vine-ripe tomatoes, cored and sliced 1⁄4″ thick
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 4 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • Salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped chives

Directions

Spread tomatoes in a single layer on a double thickness of paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and let drain for 1 hour. Blot dry with more paper towels.

Heat the oven to 425°F.

Place the dough in a greased 10 inch pie dish or tart pan.  You can also place the dough on a baking sheet on parchment and form the tart like a galette.

IMG_0008

Spread the cream cheese over the crust, leaving a 1 inch border. Sprinkle the cheddar over the cream cheese.

Top with tomato and shallot slices, overlapping each slightly. Sprinkle with black pepper and chives. Fold overhanging crust up and over the edge of the filling.

Bake until golden brown, 40–45 minutes. Let the tart rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Regular or Gluten-Free Strawberry Peach Sponge Cake

IMG_0001 (3)

The recipe for this cake can be made as a gluten-free cake or as a regular sponge cake. Any fruit filling works in this recipe – just use what is in season.

Ingredients

Simple Sponge Cake Mixture

Ingredients

  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup cake flour

Gluten-Free Cake Mixture

Ingredients

  • 8 oz butter, softened at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon light rum
  • 1 ½ cups King Arthur or Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free All Purpose Baking Flour (not gluten-free flour)
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons milk

Regular or Gluten Free Cake Filling

Ingredients

2 tablespoons light rum for sprinkling on the cake layers

1/2 cup strawberry syrup or jam (recipe for strawberry syrup)

6 strawberries, cut into thin slices

1 medium peach, peeled and sliced thin

12 whole small strawberries, stems removed

Whipped Cream Topping

Ingredients

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon light rum

Directions

Cut parchment or wax paper to fit two 9 inch round cake pans. Spray the pans with cooking spray and place the parchment circles in the pans. Spray the paper. Set aside.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Directions for making the simple sponge cake:

Separate the eggs, putting whites in the large mixer bowl and the yolks in a small mixer bowl.

Add 1/2 cup sugar to the whites and beat until very stiff.

Add 1/2 cup sugar to the yolks and beat until very thick and light yellow in color.

Fold egg yolk mixture into the egg whites.

Fold flour in using 1//3 cup each time until well mixed. Do not over mix.

Pour evenly into the prepared pans.

Bake for approximately 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry.

Cool for a few minutes, remove from pan and remove paper. Sprinkle each layer with 1 tablespoon of rum. Cool completely.

Directions for making the gluten-free sponge cake:

Cream the butter and sugar together in the large electric mixer bowl. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Add the rum.

Fold in the baking flour and baking soda, a little at a time. When completely mixed, add the milk slowly until the batter is fluid.

Pour into the prepared cake pans and bake until lightly brown and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean, about 20 minutes.

Let cool in the pans for 10 minutes and transfer to a cooling rack. Sprinkle each layer with 1 tablespoon of rum. Cool completely.

Directions for making the whipped cream topping:

Combine the ingredients in an electric mixer bowl and with the whisk attachment beat the mixture until stiff.

Directions for assembling the cakes:

Place one cake layer on a cake plate and top with the strawberry syrup. Arrange the sliced fruit on top of the strawberry syrup layer. Spread half of the whipped cream over the fruit.

Place the second cake layer on top of the whipped cream. Spread the cake layer with the remaining whipped cream. Place the whole strawberries evenly in a circle around the cake.

Chill in the refrigerator until serving time.


						
						
					
		

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