Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Pasta


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

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

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


Meatball Ingredients

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

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

Sauce Ingredients

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


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



To make the meatballs:

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

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

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

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

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

To make the sauce:

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


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


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

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


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

To make the pasta:

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

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

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


October Moon by Ron Jones

October Moon by Ron Jones

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

Stuffed Chicken Rolls

2 servings


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


Preheat oven to 400°F.

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

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

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


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

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

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


Spaghetti with Fresh Tomatoes and Herbs

2 servings


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


Cook spaghetti al dente according to package directions. Drain.

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

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

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

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


Romaine Salad

2 servings


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


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

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


Toasted Coconut Custard Pie

8 servings


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


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

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

Continue whisking until the custard begins to thicken.


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

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

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

Refrigerate until chilled, about 2-3 hours. 



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

Broccoli with Cheese Sauce



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


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

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

Pour over steamed broccoli and serve at once.

Oven Roasted Parmesan Cauliflower



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


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

Cut the cauliflower into large florets.

Beat the eggs with the milk in a shallow dish.

Place the grated cheese in a shallow dish.

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

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

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

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

Spaghetti with Cheese and Black Pepper



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


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

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

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

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

Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Green Bean Salad



Green Beans

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

Salad Ingredients

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

Optional Additions

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


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

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

Italian Stuffed Baked Potato


4 servings


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


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

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

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

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

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



Trapani is a province in the island region of Sicily in Italy. The northwestern part of the province is rugged in comparison to the south. The province also includes the archipelago of the Egadi Islands, the volcanic island of Pantelleria, which is the largest in Sicily, and the Stagnone Islands. The Egadi Islands consist of three main islands, Favignana, Levanzo and Marettimo and two islets, Formica and Maraone. The coast is one of the most impressive in Italy and comprises valuable naturalistic spots with its seafront full of cliffs and stacks alternating with beautiful beaches.



Marsala, a town in the province of Trapani, is the home of Marsala wine. Marsala became known when the English began their explorations for commerce and trade. As the legend goes….

In 1770, a violent storm forced a British ship to take shelter in the harbor of Marsala. John Woodhouse, a merchant, disembarked and went into town to sample the wine in one of the humble taverns. Although more accustomed to the liqueur wines of Spain and Portugal, his palate detected their similarity to the local Marsala wine, prompting him to risk purchasing a considerable consignment of wine (blended with alcohol to withstand the journey) to take to his native land to sound out the market. The response was positive, the merchant set up his own company in Marsala. A second English merchant, Ben Ingham, a connoisseur of fortified wines, gradually improved the wine’s quality by using carefully selected blends of different grape varieties.

In 1833, the entrepreneur Vincenzo Florio, bought up large areas of land between the two largest established Marsala producers and set out to make his own vintage with a more specialised range of grapes. At the end of the 19 century, several more wine-growers joined the competition, including Pellegrino (1880). After the turn of the century, Florio bought out Ingham and Woodhouse and retained the two labels.

Marsala is registered as a DOC wine (a State-designated label of controlled quality); this means that production is restricted to an exclusive area around Trapani and a collection of additional vineyards in the provinces of Agrigento and Palermo. Only grape varieties with a high natural sugar content are used to make Marsala: these, once pressed, are left to ferment before being blended with ethyl alcohol to produce the different types and flavors of Marsala. Relative to the sugar content, Marsala may be categorised as dry, semi-dry or sweet. Its main denomination, however, is relative to the length of time it is left to mature: Marsala Fine (1 year), Superiore (2 years), Superiore Riserva (4 years), Vergine (5 years) and Vergine Riserva (10 years). Dry Marsala is usually served as an aperitif, while the sweeter forms are drunk as a dessert wine.

Marsala was traditionally served between the first and second courses. It is now also served, chilled, with Parmesan (stravecchio), Gorgonzola, Roquefort, and other spicy cheeses.
Marsala is a fortified wine – this means alcohol is added to it. This also means that, just like you can keep an open bottle of vodka or rum on your shelf, you can also keep an opened bottle of Marsala around. Just keep it in a cool, dark area.

The City of Marsala

The City of Marsala

Cooking with Marsala

Should you use – sweet or dry Marsala – in a recipe? Do you like sweet or savory chicken dishes? Are you even going to notice the subtle difference? You might not even be able to taste any difference since both are going to taste “like Marsala”. So make your recipe one time with the sweet and one time with the dry, and see if you can even notice any difference.


Garlicky Marsala Mushroom Sauce

This sauce can be served over cooked pasta, folded into an omelet, served with pan-fried chicken breasts or over cheese grits (polenta).


  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 pound white mushrooms, caps quartered
  • 1 pound shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded, caps quartered
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 large garlic cloves, 2 thinly sliced and 2 minced
  • 1 medium shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced rosemary
  • 1/2 cup dry Marsala wine
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 6 Kalamata olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons minced chives


In a very large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the white and shiitake mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, cover and cook over moderately high heat for 5 minutes, stirring once. Uncover and cook over high heat, stirring once, until the mushrooms are browned all over, about 3 minutes.

Add the sliced garlic, the shallot and rosemary and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the Marsala and cook until evaporated, about 30 seconds. Add the vinegar and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Stir in the minced garlic, chives, olives and the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cover and keep warm.


Maggiano’s Little Italy’s Rigatoni D (Marsala)

This dish was named after its creator, David DiGregorio, Executive Chef at Chicago’s Clark & Grand St. restaurant. David and his team spent about 3 months perfecting the Marsala Cream Sauce to compliment chicken.

Serves 4-6


  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 ½ cups sliced mushrooms
  • 3/8 cup Spanish, yellow or white onion, diced ½”
  • 1 tablespoon fresh garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 cups cold low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 cups rigatoni pasta
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 lb chicken breast, boneless, skinless
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • ½ cup dry white wine (Chardonnay)
  • ¾ cup sweet Marsala wine
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
  • 3/8 cup Parmesan cheese, grated


Preheat the oven to 450°F.

On a 12 X 18 cookie sheet or tray, mix the diced onions, mushrooms, finely chopped garlic and balsamic vinegar together until all the ingredients are evenly mixed and coated. Bake for 15 minutes until the mushrooms are a deep brown color and almost all the liquid and moisture has evaporated. Set mixture aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the cornstarch with the cold chicken broth with a whisk. Set aside the mixture.

Prepare pasta as directed on the box to the al dente stage approximately 10 minutes before you plan on cooking the entire pasta dish. Drain pasta in a colander, shake out excess water, then toss in an 8 quart bowl with half of the olive oil.

Cut the chicken into pieces approximately 1” long x ¾” wide. In a 12”-14”.

In a pan or Dutch oven. heat the remaining olive oil and butter until melted and the butter begins to lightly brown, add the sliced chicken and cook for approximately 3-4 minutes until a light golden brown color is achieved.

Immediately add the white wine to the sautéed chicken, cook until the wine evaporates, add the Marsala wine and reduce by half, then add the cold chicken broth/cornstarch mixture, bring to a simmer. Then add the heavy cream, kosher salt, black pepper and the roasted mushrooms, onions. Bring to a simmer and allow the sauce to thicken.

Add the cooked rigatoni and simmer for 2 minutes. Finish the pasta and sauce with fresh basil and grated parmesan cheese.


Sage Meatballs with Marsala Wine Sauce

4 servings


  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1/4 cup soft unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh sage leaves (about 20 leaves), very finely chopped
  • Salt to taste
  • All-purpose flour for dredging
  • 1/4 cup sweet Marsala wine


In a large bowl, combine the meat, Parmigiano, half the butter, the sage and salt until they are very well blended, using your hands. Form small meatballs about 1 1/2 inches in diameter using cold wet hands to keep the meat from sticking. Roll the meatballs in the flour and set aside.

In a large skillet, melt the remaining butter over medium heat, then cook the meatballs until brown, 7 to 8 minutes. Shake the skillet often so they don’t stick.

Remove the excess fat from the skillet with a spoon and discard. Once the meatballs are brown, pour in the Marsala wine and continue cooking until it is almost evaporated, about 2 minutes. Serve immediately.


Strawberry, Mascarpone, and Marsala Budini

Budini is Italian for puddings or parfaits.

Makes 6 servings


1 8-ounce container mascarpone cheese

  • 6 tablespoons sweet Marsala (preferably imported)
  • 3 tablespoons whipping cream
  • 3 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 3 cups sliced hulled strawberries (about 15 ounces)
  • 2 1/4 cups coarsely crumbled amaretti cookies (Italian macaroons; about 4 1/2 ounces)


Combine mascarpone, 3 tablespoons Marsala, cream and 2 tablespoons of the sugar in medium bowl. Stir gently until well blended.

Combine strawberries, remaining 3 tablespoons Marsala, and 1 tablespoon sugar in another medium bowl; toss to blend. Cover mascarpone and berry mixtures; refrigerate 30 minutes.

Place 2 tablespoons crumbled cookies in each of 6 champagne goblets. Divide strawberry mixture with juices among the goblets.

Top berries with mascarpone mixture, then remaining cookies. Cover and chill at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.



Stuffing fish or shrimp with crabmeat has always been one of my favorite combinations. Having fresh seafood is crucial to the success of the dish. You can add any number of ingredients to the stuffing but I like to keep it simple so the taste of the crab comes through.

Creamed spinach is also a favorite but it often is heavy in calories. My lightened up version has all the taste of the original but is much better for you. And, what is more natural than pasta to go with the shrimp. Rice is also a good option. Orzo gives you both.


Crab Stuffed Shrimp

Serves 4


  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, plus extra for the baking dish
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Two drops hot sauce
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 lb. backfin crabmeat, drained and picked over for shells
  • ¾ cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 12 jumbo shrimp (16 to 20 per lb.), butterflied


Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 400°F. Butter a 9 x 13 inch baking dish.

Make the stuffing:

In a small skillet, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the minced shallot and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring, until softened, 3 minutes (don’t brown).

Take the pan off the heat and stir in the Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce. Cool to room temperature.

In a medium bowl, combine the mayonnaise, panko breadcrumbs, chopped parsley, lemon juice,  lemon zest, mustard, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and a few grinds of pepper.

Stir in the cooled shallot mixture. Add the crab and mix gently but thoroughly.

Stuff the shrimp:

Arrange the butterflied shrimp in the baking dish and mound a heaping tablespoon of the crab mixture onto each shrimp.

Bake until the shrimp are cooked through, the crabmeat is hot, and the top of the stuffing is golden brown, about 15 minutes.


Creamy Spinach

4 servings


  • 2-10 oz pkgs frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and drained or 2 lbs. fresh spinach
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons reduced fat cream cheese
  • 2 tablespoons low-fat milk
  • Salt and pepper


Heat the oil in small saucepan and add the garlic; cook 1 minute. Add spinach and heat.

Make a well in the center of the spinach and add the milk and cheese.

Heat and stir until the cheese is dissolved throughout spinach. Season with salt & pepper.


Parmesan Orzo

4 servings


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup red onion, chopped
  • Pinch red chili flakes
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat orzo pasta
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/1/2 cups chicken broth
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley


In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, onions and chili flakes and cook until the onions soften, about 3 minutes.

Add the orzo and white wine and cook until the wine is absorbed, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the chicken broth, salt and pepper to taste and 1 cup water and bring to a simmer.

Cook, stirring often, until the orzo is tender and cooked through, about 20 minutes.

Stir in the Parmesan, butter and parsley.




Here in the south, October is still summer but the markets like to think it is fall. So lots of squash, greens, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, green beans, potatoes, apples and grapes are available. I have posted below several recipes that take advantage of the fall harvest.

One of the Farmers' Markets Nearby

Nearby Farmers’ Market

If you have freezer space, this is also a good time to freeze some of fall’s abundance to use in the winter. Only use fruits and veggies in excellent condition that have been thoroughly cleaned. Most vegetables you plan to freeze should be blanched for two to five minutes. Blanching — the process of heating vegetables with boiling water or steam for a set amount of time, then immediately plunging them into cold or iced water — stops enzyme activity that causes vegetables to lose nutrients and change texture. The cooled veggies can then be packed into plastic freezer bags, jars or other freezer-safe storage containers.

Fruits or blanched vegetables can also be patted dry with clean kitchen towels, frozen in a single layer on cookie sheets and then put into containers. Using cookie sheets for freezing ensures that the fruits and vegetables won’t all stick together, so that you can remove a portion at a time from the container. Using this method is best for freezing berries. Berries should not be blanched, just washed and dried before freezing. Chopped onion and chopped bell peppers for cooking can also be frozen without blanching.

Here is a handy chart on how to blanch vegetables for freezing.

Mediterranean Tomato Salad


Serve this salad with grilled steak.


  • 2-3 large ripe tomatoes, sliced thin
  • One large red onion slice, cut ¼ inch thick and quartered
  • ½ cup oil cured olives, pitted and halved
  • ¼ cup crumbled feta cheese


  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper


Whisk together the oil, vinegar, oregano and black pepper.

Arrange the tomatoes on a serving plate and distribute the onion, olives and cheese over the tomatoes. Drizzle with the dressing.

Let the salad sit at room temperature for an hour before serving.

Fall Vegetable Minestrone



  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 whole celery stalks with leaves, diced
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1/2 cup diced carrot
  • 1 cup green beans, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano or basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/3 cup whole-wheat orzo pasta
  • Two 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • One 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese


Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the diced celery, onion, carrot, garlic, oregano and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.

Add broth and water and bring to a boil. Add orzo and green beans. Cook, uncovered, until tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Add tomatoes, chickpeas and paprika.  

Cook over medium heat until steaming-hot, 3 to 5 minutes.Taste and add salt to your liking.

Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with cheese,

Lemon Leek Spaghetti


This recipe is a great side dish for grilled or baked fish.


  • 8 ounces spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 leek, trimmed, cut in half lengthwise, and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup lower-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed
  • Salt & black pepper
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese


Cook pasta, al dente, according to package directions. Drain.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic, leek, and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and black pepper; sauté 4 minutes.

Add broth and juice; cook 2 minutes or until the liquid is reduced by half. Remove the skillet from the  heat; stir in remaining 1 tablespoon butter.

Add the pasta and capers to the leek mixture; toss well to combine and sprinkle with parsley and cheese.

Butternut Squash Gratin


Serve this dish with ribs or pork chops.

Serves 6


  • 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and diced
  • 1 clove garlic, very finely chopped
  • 3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 large leek, cleaned and sliced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 small butternut squash (about 1 pound), peeled, seeded and diced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs


Preheat the oven to 400°F. Coat a 1 1/2-quart gratin dish or other shallow baking dish with 1 teaspoon of the oil.

Place the garlic and sliced leeks in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Season with salt and pepper.

Arrange the squash and apple cubes on top of the leeks. Season with salt and pepper. With a rubber spatula toss the mixture until evenly combined.

Cover the tightly with foil and bake until the squash is very tender, about 1 hour.

Combine the breadcrumbs with the remaining oil, the lemon zest and parsley. Sprinkle over the squash and bake, uncovered, until the crumbs is golden, 15 minutes longer.


My blogger friend and artist, Wendie, asked me to consider creating some vegan dishes for my blog. I told her I would consider it, if I could come up with ideas that did not use processed vegan foods. To me a true vegan dish should be made from plants without the addition of meat substitutes or processed dairy substitutes and dressings.

Note: If you are making a vegan dessert then the sugar you use must not have been processed with animal products, as most regular sugar products are. Did you know that? Here is some information on how sugar is processed. Look for brands that say organic, fair trade or vegan on the label.

Of course, the recipes in my menu must be Italian and I did include some olive oil. I consider olive oil to be a healthy oil and part of the vegan diet, since it is a plant-based food.

If there are health issues, then leave it out and use vegetable broth for sautéing, but for most of us olive oil is needed to create a flavorful dish.

Here is my take on a great tasting vegan dinner using all natural, easy to find ingredients. Try it for your next Meatless Monday dinner.


Pureed Celery Soup


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 leeks, light green and white sections, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 pounds celery (stalks & leaves), diced
  • 2 medium baking potatoes, peeled & diced
  • 8 cups vegetable broth (for homemade vegetable stock see my recipe here)
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice


In a heavy saucepan, heat the oil and cook the onion and celery until soft, about 10 minutes.

Add the garlic and cook for another minute or two.

Add the broth and potato and season with salt and pepper.

Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and cook until the potato is fork tender, about 20 minutes.

Add the parsley leaves and cook another 4 to 5 minutes.

Use a regular blender to puree the soup until smooth (a hand immersion blender or a food processor does not get the soup really smooth).

Stir in the lemon juice and taste to adjust the seasoning, if needed.


Crusty Italian Bread


  • 3 cups unbleached bread flour
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups water


In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and yeast. Add water and mix until a shaggy mixture forms.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 12 – 18 hours. Overnight works great.

Cut a piece of parchment paper the size of the bottom of a round cloche baker or dutch oven with a lid and sprinkle with flour. Set aside.

Heat the oven to 450 degrees F. When the oven has reached 450 degrees F, place the baker pan in the oven and heat for 30 minutes.

Turn the dough out onto a heavily floured work surface and shape into a ball. Place the dough on the prepared parchment and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise while the baker is heating.

Remove the hot baker from the oven and transfer the dough with the parchment to the baker. With a sharp knife, make a few slashes in the top of the dough. Cover and return to the oven for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes remove the lid and bake an additional 15 minutes.

Remove the bread from the oven and place on a rack to cool. Slice and serve with olive oil for dipping.


Eggplant Olive Pasta

Serve a mixed green salad with the pasta.


  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium eggplant, (about 1 pound), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1/2 cup chopped pitted kalamata olives
  • 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 8 ounces dried rigatoni pasta (Check the ingredient list to be sure the pasta is vegan. Good Italian dried pasta should never contain eggs.)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil


Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the eggplant and the onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until just softened, about 5 minutes.

Add garlic and cook, stirring, 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Add tomatoes, olives, vinegar, salt, pepper and crushed red pepper and cook, stirring, until the tomatoes begin to break down, 5 to 7 minutes more.


Turn the heat down and simmer the sauce, while the pasta cooks.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 5 minutes. Drain and reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water.

Place the cooked pasta and pasta cooking water in the skillet with the eggplant sauce and heat for about 2 minutes.

Pour into a pasta serving bowl and garnish with basil.


Vanilla Almond Biscotti

After experimenting with different ingredients to create a vegan biscotti, I decided this recipe had the right combination to form an authentic tasting biscotti.

They are more fragile than traditional biscotti, so handle gently. And, believe me when I say, this is a great tasting biscotti.

Makes about 15 biscotti


  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1 cup organic sugar
  • 3/4 cup slivered almonds
  • 3/4 cup almond flour/meal
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 cup sliced almonds


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients except for the almond milk and sliced almonds. Once mixed, slowly add the milk and mix until thoroughly combined. Fold in the 1 cup sliced almonds.

Cover a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and place the dough in the center. Form the dough into a log with wet hands, about 10 x 4 inches.

Place the pan in the center of the oven and bake until the center is firm (about 30 minutes); remove from the oven and place the log on a cutting board to cool for about 20 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees F.

Using a sharp knife, slice the log on the diagonal into 1-inch thick cookies and place them back on the baking sheet.


Bake for 15 minutes. Turn the biscotti over and bake for 15 minutes more. Move to a wire rack to cool completely. These go very well with coffee for dessert.

Note: If you would like to decorate the biscotti with a drizzle of frosting for a better presentation, then mix together 1 cup of organic powdered sugar with 2-3 teaspoons of almond milk.


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