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Category Archives: gnocchi

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Valle d’Aosta is the most mountainous region of Italy, entirely surrounded by the peaks of the Alps: Monte Bianco, Matterhorn, Monte Rosa and Gran Paradiso. The latter is at the center of a magnificent National Park. Numerous glaciers feed a rich web of streams and the distinctly Alpine character of this region can be seen in the pine forests, up to rather high altitudes, where they give way to large pasture lands. Numerous small Alpine lakes sit in between the majestic mountain landscapes.

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Aosta is the capital of the region, where a special statute is in place that recognizes the Italian and the French languages as official languages. Important traces of the Roman Age can be found on the Aosta city walls, theaters, Augustus’s Arch and the Praetorian Gate. Visitors can admire the Romanesque Cathedral, which dates back to the eleventh century. The Sant’Orso Church is a good example of medieval architecture. There are many fortified castles in the Aosta Valley; most of them are in perfect condition and open to visitors; many have become historical museums. The most famous are the castles of Fénis, Aymavilles, Issogne and Verrés.

Sunrise over Mount Mucrone, seen from Val di Gressoney, in the Aosta Valley's section of the Italian Alps.

Sunrise over Mount Mucrone, seen from Val di Gressoney, in the Aosta Valley’s section of the Italian Alps.

Valle d’Aosta’s unique location and long history of invasion from neighboring lands have combined to make for an interesting and diverse mix of languages and cooking influences that include pockets of Italian, French and German. This diversity makes the numerous local festivals a must-see for any traveler interested in distinctive food and entertainment.

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The best-loved dishes in the area cover as much cultural ground as the languages. Unlike much of Italy, pasta is not a staple food here. Valle dAosta cooking is based on warming soups, bread, rice, potatoes and gnocchi. Polentas hold a place right alongside Swiss-like fondues and creamy butter sauces. Dairy products are important in the region. Overall, food is relatively simple but hearty: stews thickened with bread, game meats or beef braised with chestnuts in wine sauces, smoked pork and sausages, fresh rye breads with local dark and slightly bitter honey, rich and nutty fontina cheeses, strong grappa and creamy panna cottas. Herds of free range pigs are used for the famous prosciutto known as Jambon de Bosses and for making salt pork. Boudins, spicy sausages made from pork blood, and salami are preserved in rendered pork fat.

Mountain streams provide trout and recipes include stuffing the trout fillets with ham and fontina and poaching them in white wine.

The valleys offer a wealth of crops like cabbage, grapes, apples and garlic and, while vintages are small, the wines produced in the area are of excellent quality. The area is most famous for fontina cheese and it is used in everything from appetizers to desserts.

Fruit from the Alps is very sweet and many desserts are prepared with the locally grown apples and pears. These fruits are often cooked with red wine. Sweets include tegole, a cookie named after the roof tiles that they resemble. Torcetti, or ring-shaped cookies, are also flavored with honey before being dusted with powdered sugar.

Take a tour of the area with the video below.

Recipes of the Valle d’Aosta Region

One of the favorite and most representative dishes of the Valle d’Aosta is zuppa di valpelline, a thick fall soup made from fresh cabbage, rye bread and fontina cheese.

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Zuppa di Valpelline (Valpelline Soup)

4 servings

Ingredients

  • A litre and a half (6 ¼ cups) meat stock
  • 1 savoy cabbage, sliced
  • 400 g (14 oz) fontina cheese
  • 500 g (1 lb.) rye bread cut into slices
  • Cinnamon
  • 150g (5 ¼ oz.) butter, melted

Directions

Layer an oven dish with the bread slices and, then, the fontina cheese.

Boil the savoy cabbage in the meat stock.

Pour the mixture over the bread and wait until it all softens, then pour the melted butter over the top.

Sprinkle on some cinnamon and place in a pre-heated 425 degree F (220°C) oven and cook for about 40 minutes, until a golden crust forms on top. Serve hot.

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Pork Chops Stuffed with Fontina Cheese

Ingredients

  • 4 thick pork chops on the bone
  • Fontina cheese, from Valle d’Aosta
  • 3 ½ oz butter
  • 7 oz breadcrumbs
  • 3 ½ oz all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Cut the chops in two, horizontally, leaving them attached along the bone side.

Cut the Fontina cheese into thin slices and insert into the meat and then tap gently with a meat pounder.

Season the meat with salt and pepper to taste and dip the chops first in the flour, then the beaten egg and finally the breadcrumbs.

Saute in butter until the chops become golden and crunchy. They are traditionally served with sautéed cabbage.

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Gnocchi with Fontina

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. baking potatoes
  • 8 oz. Fontina, thinly sliced
  • 4 oz. flour
  • 4 oz. butter
  • Salt

Directions

Cook the potatoes in lightly salted water (without peeling). It is best to start with cold water. The potatoes should all be about the same size. Cooking time depends on the type and size.

A rule of thumb for testing if the potatoes are cooked is to stick a fork into one or two potatoes and, if it goes easily, the potatoes are done. When ready, drain, peel and mash them through a potato ricer, (do not use a food mill, as it would make the puree sticky and thus impossible to work with) and place the riced potatoes on a floured pastry board or marble surface. Should the potatoes be too watery, put them back on the stove over moderate heat and let them dry well, stirring constantly.

Add a small amount of salt and as much white flour as necessary to make the dough soft enough not to stick to your fingers. You don’t have to knead the dough for too long, just long enough to bind all the ingredients.

Cut a piece of the dough off, coating your hands with flour and roll the dough into a long cylinder about the thickness of your index finger. Then cut the cylinder into pieces about l-inch long. Press the dough lengthwise toward you and against the board with your fingertips. This will make each piece curl up, taking the shape of a little shell. You may also use other utensils, such as the back of a cheese grater or a fork and, In this case, gnocchi will be ridged and curled. It is not necessary to give them a particular shape, though. They may be simply cut into nuggets of any desired size.

Repeat until all the dough is used, trying to handle the dumplings as little as possible. Finally, place the gnocchi on a flat surface sprinkled with flour without overcrowding. Cook as soon as possible.

Cook gnocchi in boiling salted water. They are cooked when they rise to the top of the water. Drain. Place alternate layers of gnocchi and Fontina in a buttered baking dish, making sure you have at least 3 layers. The top layer should be of cheese. Dot with butter and bake for 5 minutes. Let the gnocchi rest 5 more minutes and serve.

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Valdostana Tegole Dolci

These are delicious cookies that are part of the traditional cuisine of Valle d’Aosta. Their name is due to its shape, which is reminiscent of the typical curved roof tiles. To achieve this effect the hot cookies are pressed over a rolling-pin. The tiles are enjoyed with a cup of coffee at breakfast or as a snack.

Ingredients

  • 200g (7 oz) granulated sugar
  • 80g (2.8 oz) toasted and ground hazelnuts
  • 80g (2.8 oz)  toasted and ground almonds  
  • 60g (2.1 oz) butter,at room temperature
  • 60g (2.1 oz) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 large egg whites, at room temperature.

Directions

Toast the almonds and hazelnuts on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Bake in preheated oven at 150 degrees F for 30 minutes. Let them cool thoroughly and then transfer them in a blender or processor along with half of the granulated sugar. Process until thoroughly ground.

Transfer the ground nut mixture in a large bowl and add the flour, melted butter and vanilla. Stir with a spatula until the butter is incorporated and set the bowl aside.

Place the egg whites in the electric mixer bowl and, with the whip attachment, beat the egg whites until they begin to thicken. Sprinkle on the remaining sugar and beat until stiff. Fold the egg whites into the flour mixture with the spatula.

Cover a baking pan with baking paper and place a small amount of dough (about a scant tablespoon) on the baking pan about 2 inches (3-4 cm) apart. Spread the dough with the back of a spoon to form circles with a diameter of about 7 cm (2 ¾ inches). Wet the back of a spoon to simplify the process.

Bake the tray in a preheated oven set at 350 degrees F (180 C) for 8 minutes. When they are crisp and lightly browned, remove each cookie from the baking pan and lay them over a rolling-pin to acquire their characteristic curved shape. Repeat the process with the remaining cookie dough.

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Although sweet potatoes may be part of the Thanksgiving tradition, be sure to add these naturally sweet vegetables to your meals throughout the year; they are some of the most nutritious vegetables around. Sweet potatoes can be found in your local market year-round, however they are in season in November and December.

They also have many health benefits.

1.  They are high in vitamin B6.

2. They are a good source of vitamin C.

3.  They contain Vitamin D.

4.  Sweet potatoes contain iron.

5.  Sweet potatoes are a good source of mag­nesium.

6.  They are a source of potassium.

7. Sweet potatoes are sweet-tasting but their natural sugars are slowly released into the bloodstream.

8. Their rich orange color indicates that they are high in beta carotene and other carotenoids.,

In the U.S., there is often much confusion between sweet potatoes and yams. They are completely different foods, belonging to different plant families. This confusion exists for two reasons. First, as a shopper, it is possible for you to find sweet potatoes and yams that look reasonably alike in terms of size, skin color and flesh color. Second, government agencies have allowed these terms to be used interchangeably on labeling, so that you often cannot rely on the grocery store signs to help you determine whether you are looking at a bin full of sweet potatoes or a bin full of yams. For example, in many stores you can find bins that are labeled “Red Garnet Yams” and “Jewel Yams” and the foods in these bins are actually sweet potatoes.

Here are some general practical rules that you can follow:

  • In most U.S. groceries, you should assume that you are always purchasing a sweet potato, even if the sign says “yams.” Over 1 million sweet potatoes are commercially grown in the U.S. each year, while commercial production of yams in the U.S. is rare.
  • Don’t use flesh color to decide whether you are getting a sweet potato or a yam. Both root vegetables come in a variety of colors. Once again, you should assume that you are getting a sweet potato regardless of the flesh color.
  • If you are seeking a true yam (from the plant genus Dioscorea), it might be helpful to visit a more internationally focused store that specializes in foods from tropical countries.

The sweet potato is a tropical plant that was brought to Italy and Spain by Columbus. From there it spread to Austria, Germany, Belgium and England. Within the U.S., over half of all commercially grown sweet potatoes come from the southern states (especially North Carolina).

Choose sweet potatoes that are firm and do not have any cracks, bruises or soft spots. Avoid those that are displayed in the refrigerated section of the produce department since cold temperatures negatively alter their taste.

Sweet potatoes should be stored in a cool, dark and well-ventilated place (in a brown paper bag with multiple air holes punched in it) where they will keep fresh for up to ten days. They should not be kept in the refrigerator.

Try them roasted, mashed, steamed, baked or grilled. You can add them to soups and stews or grill and place on top of leafy greens for a delicious salad. Puree them and add to smoothies and baked goods.

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Sweet Potato-Sausage Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced large
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3/4 pound sweet or hot Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 2 sweet potatoes (1 pound total), peeled and diced
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup small pasta shells
  • 4 cups roughly chopped mixed greens, such as kale, Swiss chard or spinach
  • Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Directions

In a large pot, heat oil over medium-high. Add onion and garlic and cook until onion is translucent, about 6 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Add sausage and cook, breaking up meat with a wooden spoon, until browned, about 5 minutes.

Add sweet potatoes, broth and 2 cups water and bring to a boil. Add pasta and cook 3 minutes less than the package instructions. Reduce to a simmer, add greens and cook until the pasta is tender and greens are wilted, about 4 minutes. Serve with Parmesan.

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Sweet Potato Frittata

The peppers and sweet potatoes can be cooked ahead of time.

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 red pepper, roasted and thinly sliced
  • 1 yellow pepper, roasted and thinly sliced
  • 2 pounds (about 3) sweet potatoes
  • 5 whole eggs
  • 5 egg whites (or refrigerated egg substitute)
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1 bunch (about 6 ounces) greens, blanched and chopped
  • 1/4 cup crumbled Feta cheese (plus more to garnish)
  • Chopped fresh parsley

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Char the peppers on an open fire or under the broiler. Steam them for five minutes in a bag or covered bowl and peel. Seed them, then cut into 1/4-inch strips.

Bake potatoes in the oven or in the microwave until they are tender. Allow them to cool to room temperature. When the potatoes have cooled, peel them and cut into 1/4-inch slices.

Beat whole eggs, egg whites and Italian seasoning together and season with salt and black pepper.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large, 10-inch ovenproof sauté pan. Add the onions and sauté until brown. Remove to a bowl and season onions with salt and pepper.

Return sauté pan to the stove on medium heat and add the remaining olive oil. Add a layer of potatoes, followed by 1/3 of the onions, peppers and greens. Pour a third of the egg mixture over the vegetables. Repeat until all of the ingredients are in the pan. You may need to push the layers of the frittata down gently so that all of the ingredients are covered by the egg mixture. Sprinkle top with feta cheese.

Place the pan in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until the eggs are set and the top is golden brown.

Slide onto a warm serving platter, garnish with chopped parsley and additional feta cheese. Cool for five minutes. Slice and serve.

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Sweet Potato Gnocchi

Serves 8 as a First Course

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 lb russet (baking potatoes)
  • 1 (3/4-lb) sweet potato
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano plus more for serving
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups all-purpose flour plus more for dusting
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup sage leaves 
  • 1/3 cup bottled roasted chestnuts, very thinly sliced with a sharp vegetable peeler
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

GNOCCHI:

Preheat oven to 450°F with the oven rack in middle.

Pierce potatoes in several places with a fork, then bake in a 4-sided pan until just tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Cool potatoes slightly, then peel and force through a ricer into a sheet pan, spreading in an even layer. Cool potatoes completely.

Lightly flour 2 or 3 large baking sheets or line with parchment paper.

Beat together egg, nutmeg, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a small bowl.

Scoop potatoes into a mound in the sheet pan, using a pastry scraper, if you have one, and form a well in the center.

Pour egg mixture into the well, then mix into the potatoes. Mix in cheese and 1 1/2 cups flour, then knead, adding more flour as necessary, until mixture forms a smooth but slightly sticky dough. Dust top lightly with some flour.

Cut dough into 6 pieces. Form 1 piece of dough into a 1/2-inch-thick rope on a lightly floured surface. Cut rope into 1/2-inch pieces. Gently roll each piece into a ball and lightly dust with flour. Repeat with remaining 5 pieces of dough.

Fork_Sweet_Potato_Dough

Turn a fork over and hold at a 45-degree angle, with the tips of tines touching work surface. Working with 1 at a time, roll gnocchi down the fork tines, pressing with your thumb, to make ridges on 1 side. Transfer gnocchi as formed to floured baking sheets.

SAGE LEAVES AND CHESTNUTS:

Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat until it shimmers. Fry sage leaves in 3 batches, stirring, until they turn just a shade lighter and crisp (they will continue to crisp as they cool), about 30 seconds per batch. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Season lightly with salt.

Fry chestnuts in 3 batches, stirring, until golden and crisp, about 30 seconds per batch. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Season lightly with salt. Reserve oil in the skillet.

SAUCE:

Add butter to oil in the skillet with 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook until golden-brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

COOK GNOCCHI:

Add half of the gnocchi to a pasta pot of well-salted boiling water and stir. Cook until they float to the surface, about 3 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to the skillet with the butter sauce. Cook remaining gnocchi in same manner, transferring to the skillet as cooked.

Heat gnocchi in the skillet over medium heat, stirring to coat.

Serve sprinkled with fried sage and chestnuts and grated cheese.

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Italian Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Sweet Potatoes

4 servings

Vegetables

  • 1 tablespoon olive
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped (about 1/2 teaspoon)
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes (about 1 lb), peeled, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 medium yellow onion, cut into 8 wedges each

Pork

  • 2 pork tenderloins (about 3/4 to 1 lb each)
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, if desired

Directions

Heat oven to 425°F.

In large bowl, mix the 1 tablespoon oil, 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning, 1/4 teaspoon salt and the garlic together. Add the sweet potatoes and onions; toss to coat. Spread in a 9×13-inch pan. Roast uncovered 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, brush pork tenderloins with the 1/2 tablespoon oil. In a small bowl, stir together 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning, 1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt and the Parmesan cheese.

Move vegetables to the center of the baking pan; place one pork tenderloin on each side. Sprinkle seasoning mixture evenly over pork.

Roast uncovered 20 to 25 minutes longer or until thermometer reads 155°F. Cover pan with foil; let stand 5 minutes or until thermometer reads 160°F. (Temperature will continue to rise about 5°F, and pork will be easier to carve.)

Cut pork into 1-inch-thick slices; arrange on a platter with sweet potatoes and onions. Sprinkle with parsley.

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Sweet Potato Latte

Ingredients

  • 1 small sweet potato
  • 1 ¼ cups unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant espresso coffee crystals
  • 1/8-1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Ground cinnamon
  • Cinnamon stick

Directions

Prick sweet potato several times with a fork. Wrap potato in a damp paper towel. Microwave on 100 percent power (high) for 3 minutes. Turn potato over; microwave for 2 to 3 minutes more or until tender. Cool slightly. Remove and discard peel. Mash potato with a fork; measure 1/3 cup. Save any remainder for another use.

In a blender combine the 1/3 cup mashed sweet potato, almond milk, brown sugar, coffee and 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (according to taste). Cover and blend on high-speed for 1 minute.

Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a small saucepan. Cook and stir over medium-low heat until heated through. Transfer to a heat-proof mug. If desired, sprinkle with additional ground cinnamon and garnish with a cinnamon stick. Makes one serving.


gnocchi headerIt seems that nearly every nation has some form of dumpling and it’s easy to see why. They are tasty, versatile and make excellent use of leftover ingredients. In Italy, dumplings are collectively known as gnocchi and are made in several different styles. In the family run trattorias of Rome, you can sample some of the best gnocchi every Thursday night in a citywide tradition. Just like most Italian cooking, these delicious lumps do not just vary from region to region, but from household to household as well, depending upon what is available. The most common way to prepare gnocchi is to combine potatoes (boiled, peeled or mashed) with flour to form soft bite-size lumps of dough. Each gnocco is then ridged along one side like a seashell. Gnocchi also come in different sizes, with gnocchetti being the smallest version.

Other types of gnocchi are made with semolina flour, milk and cheese – also known as Gnocchi alla Romana. Some versions are made with regular flour and other kinds can be made with leftover bread. Florence’s strozzapreti are gnocchi made from a combination of spinach and ricotta. Another spinach/ricotta gnocchi is from Lombardy called malfatti, meaning “malformed”, since these gnocchi are made from leftover ravioli filling and do not have a uniform shape. What makes gnocchi so popular is its versatility – simple ingredients like potatoes and semolina flour, vegetables, mushrooms and cheeses can be combined to make endless variations.

See two of my previous posts on the different types of gnocchi and how to make them:

https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/10/16/how-to-make-homemade-gnocchi/

https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/05/23/need-some-new-potato-recipes/

Woodcut from Maccaronee, by Merlin Cocai, 1521. Revelers eating gnocchi. From Pasta Classica: The Art of Italian Pasta Cooking, by Julia della Croce (Chronicle Books, 1986)

Woodcut from Maccaronee, by Merlin Cocai, 1521. Revelers eating gnocchi. From Pasta Classica: The Art of Italian Pasta Cooking, by Julia della Croce (Chronicle Books, 1986)

In early writings, gnocco (singular for gnocchi) is sometimes replaced by maccherone, a generic term for pasta. The Encyclopedia of Pasta by Oretta Zanini De Vita tells us that gnocchi is one of the earliest pastas and is originally a Germanic word describing the distinctive shape of gnocchi. Gnocchi was originally from the Middle East, but when the Romans explored the area, they took back with them the recipe for gnocchi. Thus, it was brought with them when they settled European land, in particular, Italy. Here, gnocchi most strongly rooted itself. Various regions began to invent their own form of the dish and introduce them to other neighboring countries. When Italians immigrated into South America by way of Argentina and North America, the recipe for gnocchi went with them.

Recipes for gnocchi have been documented back to the 1300’s. In some parts of Italy, gnocchi was made of fine durum wheat. Elsewhere, it was chestnut, rye, rice or barley flour. When poverty struck, gnocchi might mean leftovers bound with breadcrumbs. We do know that potatoes came in very late as an ingredient and were slow to gain a following. An early recipe for potato gnocchi, circa 1834, calls for just one part potato to three parts flour. It takes another century for modern gnocchi to emerge—where the potato is the main ingredient, with only enough flour to bind it into a workable dough.

Commercial gnocchi is readily available, but it’s worth the effort to make your own. Essentially, you mix cooked, riced potatoes with egg, then knead in some flour. There’s no special equipment required; the familiar grooved pattern is made with a table fork. Gnocchi’s delicate flavor pairs well with robust sauces, from tomato to pesto to gorgonzola. Because they cook more quickly than traditional pasta, gnocchi are a great meal idea for weeknights. Just keep an eye on them, because as soon as they float to the top, they’re ready to sauce and serve!

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While gnocchi are simple enough to make from scratch, there are several varieties that can be found pre-made in supermarkets or in Italian specialty stores. Pre-packaged gnocchi, depending upon ingredients, can be found fresh (refrigerated) or frozen. Pre-packaged gnocchi should not be avoided since there are several very good brands. When buying gnocchi in the store, look for the “fresh” looking kind in the refrigerated section (usually next to the fresh pasta), preferably in a well-sealed or vacuum container. The package should be heavy for its size, as dense gnocchi will be less likely to fall apart when cooking. There are also several brands of frozen gnocchi that cook up well, so long as they remain frozen before dropping them in the boiling water, otherwise they will turn into soggy mashed potatoes if allowed to thaw.

Gnocchi in the dried pasta section is usually of the semolina variety, but you may also find vacuum-sealed potato gnocchi as well. Dried semolina gnocchi are convenient and can be tasty, but its taste and texture resembles more of a pasta than fresh semolina gnocchi. With dried potato gnocchi, there just does not seem to be enough moisture left in the dumplings, making them lighter than other varieties. Because of this lack of moisture, the gnocchi tend to fall apart somewhat and often loose their shape. The rule of thumb for buying gnocchi is: get the closest thing to making it yourself – fresh/refrigerated or frozen.

Making Homemade Gnocchi

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 lbs potatoes
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup or more for the work surface
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

A General Rule of Thumb: 1 medium-sized potato per serving or person. For every potato, you want to use approximately 1/2 cup of flour.

Directions

First, clean and peel potatoes. Remove any brown spots. Cut potatoes into 1” cubes; be sure to cut them into cubes consistent in size so that they cook evenly. Place cut potatoes in a medium-sized pot; fill with water just to cover. Add salt and cover with a lid. Stirring occasionally, boil potatoes for about 20 minutes or until fork tender. Over-boiling will cause potatoes to become mushy and too wet.

Drain the potatoes well. Allow them to cool in a colander. Rice potatoes using a potato ricer into a kitchen towel to remove excess water.

Combine potatoes, 2 ½ cups flour, egg and salt in the work bowl of a processor. Pulse just until the dough comes together.

Once the dough come together, turn out onto a floured board (using as much of the ½ cup flour as needed) and knead into a wide rectangle shape.

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Cut the dough into about 8 pieces, 4 inches long.

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For shorter, heavy gnocchi, roll dough into thick ropes and cut into 1-inch pieces.

Gnocchi-step 4

Use a fork to make ridges on the side of each gnocchi.

Gnocchi-step 5

For thinner gnocchi, roll long ropes. Cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces and place on a floured tray. Repeat with the rest of the dough.

Gnocchi-step 3

Note: While you are shaping gnocchi, finished gnocchi should be kept on a heavily floured tray as to prevent sticking together. Also, keep them in a cool place until ready to cook for no longer than 45 minutes or else place them in the freezer.

Cooking Gnocchi:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, add salt and then gnocchi. Gnocchi are finished once they float to the top, approximately 3 to 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and toss in a saucepan with your favorite sauce.

For best taste and texture, allow gnocchi to “sit” in their sauce once cooked for about 5 minutes.

Serves 4 to 6

gnocchi and peas

Fresh Peas with Lettuce and Gnocchi

Ingredients

  • 1 (16-ounce) package frozen potato gnocchi or homemade
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons minced onion
  • 1 head Boston or other loose-leaf lettuce
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 4 cups frozen peas, thawed
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil over high heat. Cook gnocchi until they float to the top; drain and keep warm.

Place butter in a large, heavy pan; heat over medium heat until melted. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.

Wash lettuce and trim away the stalk end. Shake water off lettuce (it’s OK if some water remains) and add to the pan. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt and the peas. Cook about 3 minutes or until the peas are warm.

Remove pea mixture from the pan and keep warm. Add cream to the pan and cook over medium heat until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Return pea mixture to the pan, add gnocchi and cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture is hot, 2 to 3 minutes. Add remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper.

gnocchi and sausage

Gnocchi with Italian Sausage 

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 teaspoon loose saffron threads
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped basil
  • 26-28 oz container of Italian diced tomatoes
  • 1 (1-pound) package potato gnocchi  or homemade
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Directions:

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-heat. Add the garlic and sausage. Saute, stirring frequently, until the sausage is cooked through. Add the saffron threads, basil and diced tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Bring the mixture to a simmer and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and continue simmering for about 15-20 minutes or until slightly thickened.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add gnocchi to the boiling water and cook gnocchi until they float to the top. Once finished, drain and toss with the sauce in the saucepan for about 2 minutes to coat. Serve topped with Pecorino Romano cheese.

Serves 4

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Chicken and Gnocchi Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup finely diced onion
  • 1/2 cup finely diced celery
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 quart milk
  • 1 (14-ounce) can low sodium chicken broth
  • Salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup finely shredded carrots
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped fresh spinach leaves
  • 1 cup diced cooked chicken breast
  • 1 (16-ounce) package gnocchi or homemade

Directions

Melt the butter into the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, celery and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion becomes translucent. Whisk in the flour and cook for about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the chicken broth followed by the milk. Simmer until thickened.

Stir in a 1/2 teaspoon salt, the thyme, nutmeg, carrots, spinach, chicken and gnocchi. Simmer until the soup is heated through.

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Cooking healthy doesn’t mean you suddenly start counting calories, checking your cholesterol or monitoring your sodium intake. It means making better food choices. More whole grains, less white flour; more leafy, hardy greens; more heritage-breed pork instead of plastic-wrapped supermarket meat; more sustainable fish and organic chicken. When we build our meals around these ingredients, we don’t think “health,” we think “delicious.” Celebrate what good food has always been about: the best possible ingredients, prepared well and consumed with portion restraint. For many of us, learning to develop healthy eating habits takes a little more discipline than it does for others. By making small changes with every meal, you can start developing healthier eating habits in no time.

Here are a few small steps that can lead to giant leaps for you and your family’s health.

Start by changing the “snack ratio” in the house. Slowly and gradually have more fruit and healthier choices around, rather than the typical, higher-calorie junk food. For instance, have three types of fruit (apples, oranges, grapes) to replace some of the small bags of chips or candy bars. Start replacing unhealthy snacks with alternative choices, such as oatmeal bars, granola bars or peanuts and yogurt.

Easy snacks:

  • Toss sliced apples, berries, bananas and a tablespoon or two of whole-grain cereal on top of fat-free or low-fat yogurt.
  • Put a slice of low-fat cheese on top of whole-grain crackers.
  • Make a whole-wheat pita pocket with hummus, lettuce, tomato and cucumber.
  • Pop some low-fat popcorn.
  • Microwave or toast a soft whole grain tortilla with low-fat cheese and sliced peppers and mushrooms to make a mini-burrito or quesadilla.
  • Drink fat-free or low-fat chocolate milk (blend it with a banana or strawberries and some ice for a smoothie).

When shopping at the grocery store, spend more of your time in the outer aisles. That’s where you’ll find the healthier foods, such as fresh fruits, fish and vegetables, which are naturally lower in fat and cholesterol and do not have added sugar, salt and other preservatives that add on the pounds.

A better choice because these chips contain just corn, oil and salt and less than 150 calories per serving.

Begin reading the labels of the foods that you eat. Foods that are labeled “low in fat,” or “light,” are not always the healthiest choice. Many times, if a product is lower in fat, it may be higher in sodium, or, if it’s lower in sugar, it may be high in fat. Read the “Nutrition Facts” chart on the back of the box, can or bag, so you know what you are eating. Reading the label of every food item while you’re shopping is not easy. A better way to start is with your favorite packaged foods and snacks at home. Notice the differences in the amounts of sodium, carbohydrates, sugar and calories per serving between the different foods that you have in your pantry. The next step is to slowly begin making adjustments in your shopping choices by looking for alternatives with fewer calories, sodium and fats.

Don’t get caught up in the calories. Instead look at the portions and calories per serving. Most consumers read the number of calories and assume that’s the number of calories for the entire package, rather than the number of calories per serving – buyer beware.

Comparison of Portions and Calories 20 Years Ago to Present Day
20 Years Ago Today
Portion Calories Portion Calories
Bagel 3” diameter 140 6” diameter 350
Cheeseburger 1 333 1 590
Spaghetti
w/meatballs
1 cup sauce
3 small
meatballs
500 2 cups sauce
3 large
meatballs
1,020
Soda 6.5 ounces 82 20 ounces 250
Blueberry
muffin
1.5 ounces 210 5 ounces 500

Develop a healthy habit of selecting sensible-sized food portions. If your plate has a serving of rice that can’t fit into the cupped palm of your hand, then, in most cases, the amount of food you’ve chosen is too much. Using this “cup of your hand” technique is a good way to mentally measure the amounts of foods that go onto your plate. Some people use the size of their fist as a measurement. The size of your fist, or a cupped hand, is about the same size of one measuring cup. You can also use the Healthy Eating Plate pictured at the top of this post as a guide to portion control.

Retrain your taste buds and attitude toward better food choices. The natural sweetness of an orange or apple can’t compete with the sugary taste of a candy bar. You can retrain your palate to like foods that are good for you. Eat more fruits and vegetables as snacks or as replacements for some of the fats that you would tend to add onto your lunch tray or dinner plate and your taste buds will get used to it.

The more color on your plate, the better. Not only does this keep things interesting and exciting for you and your taste buds, but it’s healthier. The nutrients that create the different colors in our fruit and vegetables, represent different nutrients for your body. Feed your body as many varieties as possible. The fight against the common cold, cancers and other illnesses can be prevented by having variety in your diet. Don’t skip meals (especially breakfast). Skipping meals, or starving your body will cause it to go into a starvation mode – it will start to hold on to fat rather than burn it. In fact, allow yourself to snack a little more, just make them healthy snacks. Your metabolism will actually pick up steam and start to burn more of what you’re giving it – especially with an accompanying daily exercise program.

Basic alternatives to fattening foods.

  • Choose mustard instead of mayo (mustard naturally has less calories/fat).
  • Choose brown rice, whole wheat, rye or oat bread over white bread (brown foods don’t have extra fats added to them to change their color).
  • Choose the white meat of turkey or chicken over dark meat, red meat or pork (most of our fat intake comes from animal fat; white meat contains less fat).
  • Choose baked or broiled instead of fried, battered or breaded.
  • Choose water over juice and soda. Some juices contain just as many carbs and calories as a small bag of potato chips. Try slowly weaning yourself off caffeinated soda with tea or water – have two glasses of water or cups of tea for every can of soda you drink. (Also, don’t drink your calories – those 100 calories of juice could be two pieces of fruit or a cereal bar, a more filling feeling for you and your stomach.)
  • Choose low-calorie sauces and ask to have sauces and dressings served on the side when dining at a restaurant. (Usually more sauce is poured on than is needed. Dip your fork into the sauce, then dip your fork into the food. This will give you the flavor with every bite, but without the extra, unnecessary fat.)
  • Choose fat-free milk and skim milk cheese, as opposed to whole milk (again, most of our fat intake comes from animal fat).
  • Choose vegetables as side orders over fries and chips. Oven roasted or stir fried veggies are preferable over creamed veggies (vegetables naturally carry less fat).
  • Choose to pack fruit and nuts to hold you over to the next meal, rather than opting for fast food or snacks from a vending machine. Fruit snacks will help you get to the next meal without the extra fat intake). Fruits like bananas and oranges are convenient and have their own protective packaging.

Italian Sausage Soup

This soup stores well in the refrigerator for easy reheating. If you use a slow cooker, combine everything together except the cabbage, kale, beans and tomatoes; add those during the last 30-45 minutes of cooking. Serve with rustic bread.

10 servings

Ingredient

  • 1 (20-ounce) package pre-cooked, all-natural Italian chicken or turkey sausage, sliced diagonally
  • 1 cup chopped red onion
  • 1 stalk celery with leaves, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 5 cups low-sodium stock or broth (chicken, beef, or a mixture)
  • 1 1/2 cups peeled, cubed potatoes (about 2 medium potatoes)
  • 1 cup peeled, chopped carrots
  • 1 small fennel bulb, chopped (about 7 ounces)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried fennel seed
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 4 cups thinly sliced green cabbage
  • 3 cups thinly sliced kale leaves, tough center stems removed
  • 1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish
  • 1/4 cup sliced fresh basil leaves

Directions

Brown sausage in a Dutch oven or large saucepan for 5 minutes. Add onion, celery and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes more. Drain off any fat in the pot.

Add stock or broth, potatoes, carrots, fennel, fennel seed, Italian seasoning and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, covered, for 35-40 minutes or until vegetables are nearly tender.

Stir in cabbage, kale, beans and tomatoes. Return to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 10-15 minutes more. Ladle into bowls and serve with grated Parmesan cheese, fresh basil and crusty bread.

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Quinoa-Stuffed Winter Squash

This vegetarian dish can be prepared up to three hours ahead and reheated just before serving time.

8 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 small acorn squash
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 3/4 tablespoon sea salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons allspice, divided
  • 1 red onion, cut in 1/4-inch dice
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts or slivered almonds
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Directions

Preheat oven to 375˚F. Cut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds. Place halves, cut side down, in a lightly greased, large baking dish. Bake for 35 minutes, until just tender.

Turn cut side up, brush each half with olive oil and place 2-3 tablespoons of vegetable broth into each of the eight cavities. Season tops with ¼ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper and ¼ teaspoon allspice. Return squash to the oven and bake until browned on the edges, another 5–10 minutes. Remove from oven and drain any broth from the squash into a bowl with the unused broth. Set baking dish and bowl with broth aside.

Place 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large saucepan over high heat and add onions. Stir until they begin to soften and then reduce the heat to medium. Add garlic, cranberries, remaining salt, pepper and allspice. Cook, stirring often, for another 5–10 minutes, until the onions are tender. Add cooked quinoa and reserved broth; mix well.

Remove saucepan from the heat and stir in nuts, mint, parsley and salt to taste. Divide mixture among squash halves. Return to the oven and warm through.

Chicken and Gnocchi with Squash Sauce

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 pound shelf-stable potato gnocchi
  • 1 small acorn (or butternut) squash, halved and seeded
  • 1 pound chicken breast tenderloins
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 3/4 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
  • 2 tablespoons low fat milk
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Tiny whole sage leaves
  • Grated nutmeg

Directions

Prepare gnocchi according to package directions. Drain. Cover and keep warm.

While the gnocchi are cooking, place squash, cut sides down in a microwave-safe baking dish with 2 tablespoons water. Cook in the microwave, covered, on high (100 percent power) 7 to 10 minutes; rearrange once. Let stand, covered, 5 minutes.

Sprinkle chicken with Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. In large skillet cook chicken in 1 tablespoon hot oil over medium heat 4 minutes on each side, until no longer pink. Remove; cover, keep warm.

Scrape flesh from the squash; mash. Transfer to the hot skillet where the chicken was cooked; stir in broth and chopped sage. Bring to boiling; simmer 1 minute. Stir in milk. Add gnocchi and stir carefully.

Spoon gnocchi with sauce into 4 serving bowls. Top with chicken and sprinkle each with Parmesan cheese, sage leaves and nutmeg.

Creamy Spinach Lasagna

8 Servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 1/4 cups chopped onion (about 2 medium)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (16-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained and squeezed dry
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour (about 1 1/2 ounces)
  • 3 cups reduced-fat milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1 (26-ounce) jar or 3 ½ cups homemade marinara sauce
  • Cooking spray
  • 12 cooked whole wheat lasagna noodles
  • 1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • Chopped parsley

Directions

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Heat oil in a large skillet with a cover over medium heat. Add onion; cook 10 minutes or until onion is browned, stirring occasionally. Stir in garlic and spinach. Reduce heat, cover, and cook 3 minutes or until spinach is tender. Set aside.

Combine flour, milk, salt, black pepper and red pepper in a small saucepan, stirring with a whisk. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce heat and simmer 1 minute, stirring frequently.

Add 2 cups of the milk mixture to the spinach mixture. Cover remaining milk mixture and set aside.

Spread 1/2 cup marinara sauce in the bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Arrange 3 lasagna noodles over the sauce; top with half of the spinach mixture.

Top with 3 lasagna noodles, 1 cup marinara sauce and 3/4 cup of the mozzarella cheese.

Layer 3 more lasagna noodles, remaining spinach mixture and remaining 3 lasagna noodles.

Top with remaining marinara sauce. Pour reserved milk mixture over the top and sprinkle with remaining 3/4 cup cheese.

Bake at 375° for 50 minutes or until lasagna is browned on top. Garnish with parsley.

Raspberry Tiramisu Parfaits

2 Servings (recipe is easily doubled)

Ingredients

  • 1/4 ounce ladyfingers, cubed (6 halves)
  • 2 tablespoons espresso or strong coffee
  • 1/4 cup reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchatel)
  • 1/4 cup light dairy sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup frozen raspberries, defrosted
  • Fresh mint sprigs and additional raspberries for garnish

Directions

Divide half of the ladyfinger cubes between two 5- to 6-ounce dessert dishes. Drizzle ladyfinger cubes with half of the espresso. Set aside.

In a medium bowl stir cream cheese to soften. Stir in sour cream, sugar and vanilla. (Beat smooth with a wire whisk, if necessary.) Stir in the defrosted raspberries with a spoon, mashing slightly.

Spoon half of the cream cheese mixture over the ladyfinger cubes. Add remaining ladyfingers and drizzle with remaining espresso.

Top with remaining cream cheese mixture. Cover and chill for 1 to 24 hours. Garnish with fresh mint sprigs and a few raspberries before serving.

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Seasonal eating is easy in summer when produce at the local farmers’ markets and supermarkets is abundant. But in winter, across wide areas of the world, the options tend to dwindle after the fall harvest. However, with a little creativity, you can create satisfying meals with seasonal ingredients – root vegetables, winter squashes, kale and other winter greens. Cooking greens range from the very tender and quick-cooking spinach to the hearty fibrous varieties of kale. These nutritious, tasty recipes are fairly quick to prepare and are useful on these busy days while you are getting ready for the holidays. You can use any type of pasta that you have in your pantry for these recipes. You can even combine 2 half packages to use them up.

Pasta with Kale and Anchovy Sauce

Use the same pot of water to blanch the greens before boiling the pasta and then finish the dish in the same pot. This dish is quick, easy, nutritious and works with any type of greens.

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch kale (collard greens, turnip greens, chard also work)
  • 1 tablespoon salt plus more to taste
  • 1 lb. penne
  • 2 anchovy fillets
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 cups freshly shredded Parmesan, Asiago or aged Pecorino cheese

Directions

Trim and wash greens, leaving the leaves whole.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon salt to the boiling water. Add greens and blanch until wilted, from 30 seconds for chard to 2 minutes for kale. Use tongs or a slotted spoon to remove the leaves to a colander and rinse them under cool water.

Reboil water and add pasta. Cook pasta until tender to the bite. Drain, reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid and set aside.

Chop anchovies, garlic and cooked greens separately.

Once pasta is drained, return pot to medium high heat. Add oil, garlic, pepper flakes and anchovies. Cook, stirring, until the garlic just turns golden.

Add chopped greens and stir to combine. Add reserved pasta cooking liquid and bring to a boil. Add pasta, stir to combine. Take off the heat.

Stir in half of the shredded cheese. Taste and add salt, if you like.

Divide between plates or pasta bowls, garnish with remaining shredded cheese and serve.

Broccoli Walnut Pasta

Ingredients

  • 8 oz. pasta shells, penne, or fusilli or a combination (whole wheat is better)
  • 2 lbs. broccoli
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup freshly shredded pecorino, parmesan, or other hard grating cheese, plus more for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon salt for pasta water, 1/2 teaspoon salt for sauce

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Roughly chop the walnuts and spread them on a baking sheet or piece of foil and bake until toasted, 5 to 10 minutes. Set a timer and check on them – walnuts go from toasted to burnt very quickly. Set the walnuts aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the salt. Add the pasta and cook until tender to the bite. When the pasta is almost done, scoop out 1 cup of the cooking water and reserve it. Drain the pasta.

Trim the broccoli, peel the stalks and separate the crowns into large florets. Cut the florets into smaller ones, about 1/2-inch across. Chop the stems into small pieces. Set aside.

Peel and finely chop the garlic and set aside.

In a large sauté pan with a cover over medium-high heat, add the oil, the broccoli and the 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the broccoli turns bright green, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and the red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add about 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta-cooking water to the broccoli. Cover pan, reduce heat to medium-low and cook until the broccoli in tender to the bite, 3 to 5 minutes. Add more pasta-cooking water if the pan gets dry.

Add the drained pasta to the broccoli, toss to combine well. Add the walnuts and toss to combine. Add the cheese and toss to combine. Taste and add more salt, if you like. Serve hot, topped with more cheese.

 

Creamy Spinach Pasta

Ingredients

  • 10-oz. bag of spinach leaves
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 8 oz. fusilli, corkscrew or rotini pasta
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup freshly shredded parmesan cheese

Directions

If baking as a casserole, preheat oven to 375°F. Butter an 8-by-8 baking dish, if you’re making the casserole version.

Rinse and trim spinach. Chop garlic finely.

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon salt to boiling water and add the pasta. Cook until pasta is tender to the bite. Drain pasta and return pot to the stove over medium-high heat.

Add olive oil and garlic to the pasta pan, cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add spinach and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir until spinach wilts, cover, and cook until completely wilted, about 2 minutes.

Stir in cream and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook to blend flavors, about 2 minutes.

Add nutmeg and black pepper. Add pasta and stir to combine thoroughly – the greens will want to stick together, so you will need to break them up a bit, if you want them evenly distributed in the pasta. Cover and cook so the pasta can soak up some of the liquid, about 2 minutes.

Stir in half of the cheese. Either serve as is in pasta bowls topped with the rest of the cheese or transfer mixture to the prepared baking dish, sprinkle with remaining cheese and bake until the cheese is melted and the mixture is bubbling and starting to brown on top, about 15 minutes.

Zucchini Pasta

Ingredient

  • 2 lbs. zucchini
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 12 large basil leaves
  • 1/3 cup (pignoli) pine nuts
  • 2 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon salt, divided
  • 3/4 lb. fusilli or similar pasta
  • 1 cup freshly grated parmesan or pecorino cheese
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Cut each zucchini into 3-inch long matchsticks 1/4- to 1/2-inch thick. Chop the garlic and cut the basil leaves into thin ribbons.

In a large frying pan over medium heat, toast pine nuts, stirring constantly, until just turning golden, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl or plate and set aside.

In the same pan, add 1 tablespoon of the butter and the olive oil and increase heat to high. Add half of the zucchini and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and cook, stirring frequently, until the zucchini is soft and brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate, leaving as much of the fat in the pan as possible. Repeat with other half of the zucchini and another 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Set the pan and the zucchini aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of salt to the boiling water and cook the pasta until tender to the bite. Drain the pasta.

Return the reserved pan to medium heat, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon butter and add the garlic, cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the reserved zucchini and pine nuts and cook, stirring, until combined. Add the zucchini mixture and the basil to the cooked pasta. Toss to combine thoroughly. Add half of the cheese and toss to combine well—the cheese will melt a bit to make a sauce. Divide the pasta among serving plates and sprinkle with the remaining cheese and pepper. Serve immediately.

Gnocchi With Chard & Ricotta

Ingredients

  • 1 large bunch green Swiss chard (golden, red or rainbow chard are ok, but know that they will tint the entire dish)
  • Salt
  • 1 package (approx. 1 lb.) potato gnocchi
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Cut stems out of chard leaves (make a “v” around the stem to cut out as much of the stem as possible). Chop stems and leaves separately and set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon salt to boiling water and add chopped chard stems. Cook until almost tender, about 3 minutes. Add gnocchi and chopped chard leaves. Cook until gnocchi are cooked through and float to the top of the water, about 3 minutes. Drain.

Put gnocchi and chard in a large bowl and toss with ricotta. Add nutmeg, pepper and salt to taste. Toss to combine.

Put gnocchi mixture in a generously greased 9×13 inch baking dish. Heat broiler on high.

Sprinkle gnocchi with Parmesan cheese. Broil until cheese melts and the entire dish gets browned and crispy.


A Neapolitan Market by Attilio Pratella

Neapolitan cuisine has ancient historical roots that date back to the Greco-Roman period, which was enriched over the centuries by the influence of the different cultures that controlled Naples and its kingdoms, such as that of Aragon and France. Since Naples was the capital of the Kingdom of Naples, its cuisine took much from the culinary traditions of the region, balancing between dishes based on rural ingredients and seafood. The Spanish and French rule in Naples initiated the difference between the cuisine of the aristocrats and that of the poorer classes. The former was characterized by elaborate, more cosmopolitan dishes and a greater number of expensive ingredients, including meat.

Braciola (plural braciole) is the name given to thin slices of meat (typically pork, chicken, beef or swordfish) that are rolled as a roulade with cheese and bread crumbs. Interestingly, the word braciole derives from the word for charcoal, implying that it was originally cooked “alla brace”, that is, grilled and that it was a cut of meat with the bone.

What are known as braciole in the United States are named involtini in Italian. Each involtini are held together by a wooden toothpick and the dish is usually served in a sauce as a second course. When cooked in tomato sauce, the sauce itself is used to coat the pasta for the first course, giving a consistent taste to the whole meal. Involtini can be cooked along with meatballs and Italian sausage in a Neapolitan ragù or tomato sauce called “Sunday gravy” (northeastern United States). They can also be prepared without tomato sauce. There exist many variations on the recipe, including using different types of cheese and the addition of vegetables, such as eggplant. Braciole are not exclusively eaten as a main dish, but can also be served as a side dish at dinner or in a sandwich for lunch.

First Course

Potato Gnocchi with Peas, Prosciutto and Ricotta

Directions:

Boil the gnocchi in batches in plenty of salted water. The gnocchi are done about 2 minutes after they float to the surface; remove them with a slotted spoon. Reserve about 1/2 cup cooking water.

At the same time heat a large skillet with 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium high heat, add shallots and saute until translucent. Add prosciutto and cook until crisp. Add in the peas and toss gently to coat. Season with a little salt and pepper. Add boiled gnocchi to the pan and gently toss. Add butter and a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese. Stir in the lemon ricotta and add some of the gnocchi water to thin the sauce, if needed.

Lemon Ricotta:

  • 1 cup good quality ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 lemon, zested and juiced
  • Salt

Place the ricotta cheese in a mixing bowl and add the lemon zest and juice. Season with salt and pepper.

Second Course

Braised Beef Braciole Stuffed with Basil and Mozzarella

This is a home-style version of the Italian-American classic. The traditional dish uses small roulades of beef round, but in this recipe I use a whole flank steak because it is easier to stuff and roll one large cut of meat and flank steak has more flavor than round steak.

Ingredients:

  • One 2 lb. flank steak
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup grated mozzarella
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1/3 cup dry breadcrumbs
  • 12 large basil leaves, torn into pieces
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 large onion, cut into thin strips (about 1-1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • One 26-28-oz. container crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 8 oz. white mushrooms, quartered

Directions:

Place the flank steak on a large cutting board. Using a chef’s knife, slice the steak lengthwise along one long side (without cutting all the way through the meat) and open it up like a book. Using a meat mallet, flatten the meat so it is about 1/4 inch thick. Sprinkle both sides of the meat with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

For the stuffing: put the mozzarella, Parmigiano, bread crumbs and basil in a food processor and pulse to combine. Sprinkle the stuffing evenly over the beef and roll it up lengthwise, jelly roll–style, with the stuffing inside. Secure with kitchen twine in five or six places.

Heat half the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until it’s shimmering. Add the beef and cook until it browns and releases easily from the pan, about 2 minutes. Turn and cook the other side until browned, about 5 more minutes. Transfer meat to a large plate.

Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and the onion to the pan and lower the heat to medium. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring, until the onion wilts completely and turns a light brown, about 8 minutes. Add the red wine and cook, stirring, until it is almost completely reduced, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and red pepper flakes and bring to a boil.

Reduce to a gentle simmer and add the meat and mushrooms to the sauce. Cover and cook, repositioning the meat occasionally, until the meat becomes tender and cuts easily with a paring knife, about 1-1/2 hours.

Set the meat on a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes. Thinly slice and serve topped with the sauce. (Adapted from Big Buy Cooking)

Spicy Rapini with Garlic and Oregano

4 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch broccoli rabe (rapini), ends trimmed and rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2-3 large garlic cloves minced
  • 1/2 dried oregano, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper, crushed
  • Salt to taste

Directions:

Cook broccoli in boiling, salted water in a large saucepan 2 to 3 minutes or until just tender; drain. Rinse with cold water and and drain again. Coarsely chop.

Heat oil in the same saucepan. Add broccoli, garlic, crushed red pepper and oregano; cook stirring 3 to 4 minutes. Season with salt, to taste.

Mixed-Greens-and-Herb Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 4 ounces Black Mission figs, thinly sliced ( 2/3 cup)
  • 8 cups mixed Italian lettuce greens
  • 1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 2 tablespoons torn mint leaves
  • 2 tablespoons chopped dill
  • 2 tablespoons snipped chives
  • 1 ounce fresh pecorino, shaved

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Spread the walnuts in a pie plate and toast until golden, about 10 minutes; let cool, then coarsely chop.

In a large bowl, whisk the vinegar with the oil and season with salt and pepper. Add the figs, greens, parsley, mint, dill, chives, pecorino and walnuts and toss gently.

Dessert Course

Italian Apple Cake

Ingredients:

  • 4 1/2 oz. (125 grams) butter
  • 1 TB butter for greasing pan
  • 3/4 cups (125 grams) sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 ¾ cup (250 grams) flour
  • 1 heaping tablespoon baking powder (16 grams)
  • 2/3 cup (125 ml) milk
  • Grated rind of 2 lemons
  • For the apples:
  • 1 ½ lb. (700 grams) apples (Golden Delicious)
  • 1 ½ tablespoons sugar
  • Confectioners sugar

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350° F (180°C) and thoroughly butter and flour a 10” (25 cm) springform pan.

Sift together the flour and baking powder and set aside.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter until soft, add the 3/4 cups sugar and beat until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and salt. Add the flour gradually, alternating with the milk, beating well after each addition. Stir in the lemon rind. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth it with a spatula so it is even.

Peel, quarter and core the apples. Slice each quarter into 3-4 pieces, about 1/4 inch wide. Place the slices core side down on the batter. Start from the outside making one circle, then make a smaller inner circle of apple slices. The apples should be quite close together so that you barely see the batter. You may have a few apple slices that don’t fit. Sprinkle the surface of the apple cake with the 1 1/2 tablespoons of granulated sugar.

Bake for 50-60 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Place on a rack, remove the springform side and allow to cool. Sieve powdered sugar over the apple cake before serving. Serves 8-10.


Flooded banks of the Brazos River, Texas, c.1910

The few Italians who came to Texas during the seventeenth, eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries were mainly explorers, adventurers or missionaries. The Italian presence in the state goes back to the earliest years of Spanish exploration. Like Christopher Columbus, Italians were often in the employ of the Spanish during that early period of discovery. Some soldiers of fortune came from northern Italy, but the larger numbers were from Sicily and Naples, provinces that were under the Spanish crown at various times. Francisco Vásquez de Coronado’s explorations in 1541 included soldiers with the Italian surnames of Loro, Napolitano and Romano, among others. When Texas became a settled territory in the late 1700’s, individual Italian merchants began to arrive. Among them was Vincente Micheli who came to Nacogdoches from Brescia.

Prospero Bernardi bust

Prospero Bernardi, an Italian immigrant who took part in the Battle of San Jacinto, where he was wounded on April 21, 1836.

In 1836, when Texas won independence from Mexico, Italian-born Prospero Bernardi was one of the Texans who fought at the Battle of San Jacinto. The older cities of San Antonio, Nacogdoches and Victoria have Italian families who date back to this period. Not until the 1880’s, however, did Italian immigrants begin to arrive in Texas in large groups. Between 1880 and 1920, immigration to Texas increased from a trickle to a flood. In 1870 there were 186 Italian residents in Texas. By 1920 their numbers had swelled to 8,024. The immigrants’ primary goal was to provide a higher standard of living for themselves and their families. The Italian immigrants were drawn by railroad and steamship advertisements, notices published in the Italian-language press, letters from Italian immigrants already in America and word-of-mouth information. Italian Texans learned to grow cotton and corn on Texas soil, to speak the English language and to adapt to their new environment. They purchased land, opened businesses and acquired a degree of geographic mobility.

Italian-owned Val Verde Winery, Del Rio, Texas

These were mostly farmers who settled in three areas: the Brazos Valley around Bryan, mainland Galveston County and Montague County in the Red River Valley. The Montague group was from northern Italy. Never large in number, they engaged in agriculture, including planting some vineyards, primarily to supply the family table, but a few small wineries operated until Prohibition. Over in southwest Texas, Frank Qualia, who came from northern Italy to Del Rio, established Texas’ oldest winery in 1883. The Val Verde Winery managed to survive Prohibition by selling table grapes from the Qualia family vineyards. A fourth group has largely “come and gone.” These Italians were the thousands of miners and brick makers of Thurber. Between 1880 and 1920, this coal-mining town grew to a population of 10,000. Now, it is a virtual ghost town, a mere exit sign on Interstate 20, west of Fort Worth. Most of the Italians of Thurber moved to other areas when the mines and factories closed. Another group of Italians worked building a railroad in 1881 that extended from Richmond and Rosenberg to Brownsville. So many Italians were employed that the rail line became known as the “Macaroni Line.” Financial problems halted construction at Victoria in 1882 but many of the workers stayed in the area and settled in Victoria, Houston, San Antonio and Galveston. The Brazos Valley Italians came from impoverished Sicily, specifically from three villages, Poggioreale, Corleone and Salaparuta. After a period of tenant farming cotton and corn, they began to acquire land, some of it being flood-prone bottom land that had been passed over by previous immigrants. Estimates in the late 1800’s on the numbers of Italians along the Brazos ranged from 2,400 to 3,000. In 1899, heavy rainfall caused severe flooding in the Brazos bottom and some of the Italian families left the area for mainland Galveston County, where other Italians had begun to establish vegetable and fruit farms.There another weather disaster, the Galveston hurricane of 1900, created havoc for these Italian-Texans, damaging their farmland with the surging saltwater tide. (In the first week of December in 1913, major flooding occured in the state of Texas. According to the official records, the Brazos crested at 42 feet at Highbank. In September of 1936, another flood hit Highbank but this time the river crested at 40 feet). However, the families stood fast, continuing their farming or finding employment in nearby Houston. Today, the Galveston County towns of League City and Dickinson retain their Italian heritage.

Bales of Cotton Saved From Flooding

The pillars of Italian cultural identity in Texas have been principally food, faith and family. First is membership in the Roman Catholic Church. This can be seen in “Italian” parishes today, such as St. Anthony’s in Bryan, Shrine of the True Cross in Dickinson, St. Francesco Di Paola in San Antonio and others. Also, the tradition of the St. Joseph Altar on the feast day, March 19, remains a custom in several Texas cities. On this day in Sicily, dishes of pasta, cakes and breads were placed on a specially decorated table in the church to symbolize food to the poor. Second, knowledge of the preparation of Italian cuisine and the customs that go along with the celebration of the meal – such as folk music and dance – are other important factors in maintaining Italian identity. One distinguishing dance is the tarantella, almost always part of the wedding feast. Social historians describe the Sicilian tarantella as “full of movement and abandon,” a dance that centuries ago fused with the Spanish fandango, performed in the Italian style without castanets and played with a certain melody. At times the sole accompaniment is the rhythmic clapping of hands.

Annual Festa Italiana

 Festa Italiana University of St Thomas 3800 Montrose Boulevard Houston, TX

Third, the foods and folk customs are almost always shared with the family. Italian consciousness does not depend on any one of these attributes, but a sum of all of them all. It is manifested in a pride in Italian achievements, especially, in architecture and sculpture. Courthouses designed by immigrated Italian architects grace many Texas county seats. Other public spaces are anchored with sculptures by Italian-Texans. Among such artists is Pompeo Coppini, who was born in Tuscany in 1870 and arrived in Austin in 1901. His sculptures include the Littlefield Fountain at the University of Texas in Austin, the statue of Gov. Sul Ross on the campus of Texas A&M University and the Alamo Cenotaph Memorial in San Antonio, the city he made his home and where he was buried in 1957.

Littlefield Fountain at the University of Texas in Austin by Pompeo Coppini.

Oscar and Frederick Ruffini, two Genoese brothers, designed many Texas public buildings. Frederick (b.1851) arrived in Austin in 1877. He was the architect of 19th century courthouses in Henderson, Longview, Georgetown and Corsicana.  Oscar (b.1858) settled in San Angelo and was the architect for several West Texas courthouses including those in Concho, Mills, Sutton, Sterling and Crockett counties. Other Italian artists in Texas include: John C. Filippone, print maker for George Roe’s version of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam; Rodolfo Guzzardi, painter of landscapes, including “Palo Duro Canyon-Texas”;  sculptor Louis Amateis and Enrico Cerrachio, creator of the Sam Houston monument in Houston’s Hermann Park. Parks, airports, streets and communities bear the names of prominent Italian immigrants, among them Bruni Park in Laredo, named for Antonio Mateo Bruni and Varisco Airport in Bryan, named for Biagio Varisco. The Italians in Texas constitute the sixth largest ethnic group in the state, according to figures from the U.S. census of 1990. In that year, when the total population of Texas was 16.9 million, the number of Texans who said they were Italian or part-Italian was 441,256. Sources: Texas Almanac and The Italian Experience in Texas, by Valentine J. Belfiglio, Eakin Press, Austin, 1983.

A Few Oral Histories:

Photo taken in Poggioreale, Sicily in the mid 1990’s.

“In the 1870’s and 1880’s, a wave of immigrants from Sicily boosted the population of the Highbank settlement to over 300. These early settlers travelled by wagons, stage coach, by horseback and Model T Ford from the Ports of New Orleans and Galveston to the banks of the Brazos River. Many of the Highbank settlers came from Poggioreale, Sicily and from surrounding villages and towns. Poggioreale was the former home of many of Highbank’s settlers, including the Falsone, Guida, & the Falco families. Other settlers came from small towns in an around Poggioreale like Alcomo and Palermo.” According to Mary Lena (Salvato) Hall, “My grandfather, Carlo Salvato passed away on November 22, 1949 at the age of 82. He was born in Italy on November 2, 1867. He came to the United States with his brother Frank Salvato. The two families purchased the Rogers farm that set up the beginning of the Italian farming community in High Bank. He is buried in Marlin, TX. He had five sons, Tony Salvato, Frank Salvato, Ross Salvato, Nick Salvato and Carlo Salvato and all are buried in Marlin except Tony Salvato who is buried in Houston. Four daughters Lula Lewis, Pauline Vetrano, Fena Rao and Mary LaPagelia all deceased and buried in Houston. They originally came through Louisiana.” “Our old house consisted of three bedrooms: a combination dining room and living room and a small kitchen (ten feet wide and fifteen feet long). The kitchen was located next to the bedroom, which was no bigger than today’s modern walk in closet. Linen were stored in metal trunks. Sunday clothes worn to church were hung in a cloth cabinet called chiffonier.” “The Italian influence can still be seen with Italian surnames appearing on most of the area mailboxes!. Prominent Italian families in the Highbank area once included the Salvato family, Alfano family, the Barbera and LaBarbera families, the Burresha family, the Cangelosi family, the Catalano family, the Corpora family, the Falco family, the Falsone family, the Margoitta family, the Martino family, the Parrino family, the Salvaggio family and others.” The following description of early Highbank comes to us from Robert Falsone who was born in Highbank in 1911 and lived there with his family that included ten children. Robert Falsone has taken the time to share many of his early memories of Highbank that provide a facinating account of life in the early days in Highbank!  “My name is Robert Falsone and I was born in Highbank on July 24, 1911. The following are my recollections of our early life in Highbank. When I was thirteen years old, daddy hired someone to paint door frames of the house. When the painter was out for lunch, I took the bucket of paint and the brush, went behind the car garage and printed R F 13 years old. Everytime I would go behind the garage , I would look up to see 13 still on the wall. It seemed like I never would get to be 14”. “The old house was a single wall frame house with one window in each room. A netting was tacked on the walls from the ceiling to the floor. Mother, with the help of the neighbors, papered the walls. The paste for sticking the paper to the wall was made what looked like flour mixed with warm water and brushed on the back side of the colorful paper. While the paste was still wet it stuck firmly on the netting tacked on the walls. In the winter when the North wind blew strong, the wall paper would push out and the go back against the wall. It appeared the wall was breathing. In the flood of 1913, water stood four feet deep in the house. It seems that when the house was built, the builders forgot to put an opening in the ceiling to get in the attic. As the water began to enter the house, daddy took an ax to cut a hole big enough for us to get up in the attic. I was only two years old when the flood took place, but mother explained to me years later why there was still a hole in the ceiling”. “My father, Dominico Parrino, was the first farmer to buy a tractor and everybody told him he could not plow a good field with the plow and big tires on the tractor, but he did well. So the next year, many of the other farmers bought tractors and are still plowing the fields that way! Course now they have even better tractors. We all had gas pumps on the land for fueling the tractors. The gas was Mobile Gas and we had the Red horse with wings on the pumps. I remember that each winter, Dad would kill a hog on a cold day (we had no refrigeration) and we made a lot of Italian sausage and hams, which my dad smoked in a barrel and then stored them in coolers in Marlin”. “Many of the first Sicilians to arrive in Texas took jobs as farm laborers because this was what they were most familiar doing. Soon, enterprising immigrants began selling their produce in the markets and as they acquired capital, they opened small corner grocery stores. According to the Houston City Directory for 1907, 13% of all grocery stores in Houston were owned by individuals with Italian surnames. Damian Mandola’s grandfather, Vincent, and his great uncles, Frank and Giuseppe, were among those who opened such stores. Vincent’s was located in Houston’s near east side and stocked canned goods, fresh fruits and vegetables and household supplies. But, as was common for many Italian grocery store owners, Vincent also sold Italian cheeses and deli meats, such as prosciutto, salami and pancetta. For the Italian immigrants who came to America in the early 1900s, food and cooking were (and remain for their descendants) essential components of social life. The immigrants who came to Houston maintained their culinary traditions, just as they did in such places as New York or Boston. However, the effect Italian immigrants had on Houston’s culinary landscape was more diffuse than in northeastern cities. Houston has never had a Little Italy, but scattered in neighborhoods throughout the city, Houston’s Italian groceries fostered the growth of small food empires. Damian recalls one man who parlayed his corner grocery into a pasta factory; another went door-to-door selling olive oil and cheeses. His own father started a meat packing business, which ultimately failed after an untimely accident.” “There was always a stove in the back of all the stores where the women would cook,” muses Frankie B., who recalls making Italian sausage in the back of his parents’ store. “Our grandmothers would cook these huge Sunday meals for 50 or 60 people; our friends couldn’t believe it.” It was only natural for some of the sons and daughters of grocery store owners to start serving the recipes of their parents in a cafe setting.

The Food of Italians In Texas

Texas Ultimate Italian Sub

Ingredients:

  • 1 large round loaf of Italin bread about 10″ in diameter
  • 1/2 lb. mortadella
  • 1/2 lb. capicola
  • 1/2 lb. genoa salami
  • 1/2 lb. prosciutto di parma
  • 1/3 lb. provolone cheese
  • 1 jar (16 oz) olive salad
  • 1 jar (7 oz) roasted red peppers, sliced
  • 1 jar (12 oz) marinated artichoke hearts, drained & chopped
  • 1 jar (12 oz) mild banana peppers, sliced
  • balsamic vinegar

Directions: Carefully slice the loaf in half . Scoop out the insides (top and bottom) to make a large cavity for the filling. Begin layering and alternating the meats, cheese and condiments. It helps to lay everything out assembly line style and layer in order, making sure to get everything evenly distributed. Use all the meat and cheese. You’ll likely have extra condiments (these can be served on the side if you like). Once the loaf has been filled, put the top back on and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. Put a heavy pan over the top to weigh it down and chill the sandwich for at least 4 hours to let the flavors come together. Unwrap, slice in wedges and drizzle with balsamic vinegar.

Italian Quiche

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups eggplant, peeled and chopped into 1/4″ cubes
  • 1 cup zucchini, chopped into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1 cup red bell pepper, chopped into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1 cup yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 4 artichoke hearts, chopped (water packed)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup egg whites (from a carton of Egg Beaters)
  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper 
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, torn into pieces
  • 3/4 cup mozzarella, shredded
  • cooking spray

Directions: Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In a large skillet over medium heat, saute onion, eggplant, zucchini, bell pepper and garlic in oil for about 10 minutes. Turn off heat and fold in artichoke hearts. In a bowl, whisk egg, egg whites, milk, black pepper, thyme and oregano. Add egg mixture, basil and mozzarella to vegetable mixture. Gently stir until eggs and mozzarella are evenly distributed. Coat an 8″ square pan with cooking spray. Pour in quiche mixture. Place in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let sit for 10 minutes to set. Prego's Sweet Potato Gnocchi

Prego’s Sweet Potato Gnocchi With Shrimp

From Chef John Watt Ingredients:

  • 5 lbs Sweet Potato
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 4 cups All Purpose Flour
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 1 cup Dark Brown Sugar
  • 2 cups Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 8 Jumbo Gulf Shrimp
  • 2 green onions
  • 1 tablespoon chopped flat leaf parsley
  • Handful of sage leaves

Directions: Roast whole sweet potatoes drizzled with olive oil. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10-15 mins. Remove all the skin from the sweet potatoes. Place the peeled sweet potatoes in a food processor and mix to a rough texture. Add the flour, brown sugar, parmesan cheese and the eggs and continue to process until smooth. It should look and feel like a pizza dough; very elastic. Lightly dust flour over a wood countertop/cutting board. Separate the dough into five equal balls and begin rolling each ball out into a long thin string about 2 inches in thickness. Once all the dough balls have been rolled out, use a dough scraper/cutter to cut all five strings at once into 2 inch by 2 inch gnocchi. Lightly dust the cut gnocchi with flour and roll each gnocchi with a dinner fork to give them the traditional design. Heat a saute pan to medium high heat. Add 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Once hot add the chopped green onions and saute for 2 minutes. Add the jumbo shrimp and cook until pink. Add the chopped parsley and toss. In a separate saute pan; heat 4 tablespoons of butter. As the butter begins to foam around the edges add the gnocchi and sage. Toss and top with the shrimp.

And Desserts In the Sicilian Tradition……

Ricotta-Filled Zeppole

DOUGH

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 cups flour
  • 6 eggs
  • Vegetable oil for frying

FILLING

  • 2 pounds of ricotta cheese
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup of semisweet chocolate chips
  • 12 Maraschino cherries

Directions: Bring water, butter and salt to a boil. When boiling add flour and stir until thoroughly mixed, for about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and put into electric mixing bowl and cool for 10 minutes. Mixing at a low speed add 1 egg at a time allowing each egg to be absorbed. Put dough into a pastry bag. Cut 12 pieces of wax paper into 3-inch squares and lightly dust with flour. Pipe a doughnut shape onto each piece of paper. Heat oil to 350ºF in a deep pan. Carefully slide batter off the wax paper into the oil. Fry for 7 to 8 minutes turning every couple of minutes. Doughnuts should double in size. Allow to cool on absorbent paper. Slice horizontally. Mix ricotta, sugar and vanilla extract in another mixing bowl on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add chocolate chips and mix for 10 seconds. Put cream in pastry bag and fill center of each zeppole. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and place a cherry on top of each pastry.

Cannoli

Sweet Cheese Filling

  • 2 pounds ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons candied cherries, cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Drain the ricotta in a colander placed over a large mixing bowl for about two hours at room temperature. Press the cheese with a spatula to release more whey. Discard the whey and transfer drained cheese from the colander to the mixing bowl. With an electric mixer, whip the cream in a small mixing bowl until it holds stiff peaks. Set aside. Beat the sugar and vanilla into the ricotta until smooth. Fold in the whipped cream with a rubber spatula. Add the cherries and chocolate chips. Cover and chill. Shells

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons cold vegetable shortening
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • 1 large egg white beaten with 1 tablespoon water

To make the shells, sift the flour, sugar,and salt together into a large mixing bowl. With a pastry blender or two knives, cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. With a fork or your hands, mix in the milk. Continue mixing until you have a soft dough. Cut the dough in half. Roll out each half on a floured work surface to a thickness of 1/8-inch. Using a 3-1/2-inch biscuit or cookie cutter, cut out circles of dough. Heat the oil to a depth of 4 inches in a deep saucepan or deep fryer until it registers 325°F on a candy thermometer. Wrap each dough circle around a metal cannoli tube, sealing overlapping dough with the beaten egg white. Fry in the hot oil until golden brown (about 4 minutes). Remove carefully and place on paper towels to drain and cool. To assemble: Fit a pastry bag with the largest tube or snip 1/2-inch off the corner of a resealable plastic bag. Pressing one finger over the tube opening or pinching the corner of the bag shut, spoon filling into the bag. Fill each cannoli tube with the filling. Cover and refrigerate up to 1 hour or until ready to serve. Makes about 30 cannoli.  

https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2013/06/14/little-italy-new-orleans-style/Birmingham, Alabama’s “Little Italy” (jovinacooksitalian.com) West Virginia’s Little Italy Communities (jovinacooksitalian.com) Baltimore’s Little Italy (jovinacooksitalian.com) Western Pennsylvania’s “Little Italies” (jovinacooksitalian.com) Philadelphia’s Little Italy (jovinacooksitalian.com) Chicago’s Little Italy (jovinacooksitalian.com) Cleveland’s Little Italy (jovinacooksitalian.com) New England’s “Little Italies” (jovinacooksitalian.com) Italian American Neighborhoods – Boston (jovinacooksitalian.com) Ybor City – Florida’s Little Italy (jovinacooksitalian.com) Little Italy – Manhattan (jovinacooksitalian.com) https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2013/03/08/new-yorks-other-little-italies/ https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2013/03/15/little-italy-new-jersey-style/ https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2013/04/12/delawares-little-italy/ The “Little Italies” of Michigan (jovinacooksitalian.com) The Hill” St. Louis’ Little Italy (jovinacooksitalian.com) https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2013/05/24/indianas-little-italy-communities/



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