Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Sauces

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Tips On Grilling Shellfish

The flavor of shellfish benefits significantly from grilling. Removing the shellfish from the grill before they become too well done and rubbery is the biggest challenge. Watching closely for shellfish to turn opaque (non-transparent), removing them from the grill and serving them immediately are key to delicious tasting fish.

Prepare scallops for grilling by cutting off the curved shaped appendage that is attached to the side of the body, if still intact.

Prepare shrimp by removing the shell and the vein that runs along the back. Personal preference dictates whether to leave the tail on or off.

Marinating shellfish in a flavorful oil will help to prevent the tendency of the scallops and shrimp to dry out.

Two skewers work best to prevent the seafood from spinning or turning on the grill.

Grill shrimp on each side for 2-3 minutes, depending on the thickness of the shrimp. Cook scallops for 2-3 minutes on each side, depending on their size.

Tips On Grilling Vegetables

Make room on the grill for vegetables. The caramelized, smoky flavor that comes with grilling does wonders for vegetables. A lot of veggies do well on the grill, but some really stand out — asparagus, corn, eggplant, squash, mushrooms, peppers and onions.

Most vegetables cook better and are less likely to stick if they’re marinated first or brushed lightly with vegetable oil.

For added flavor, sprinkle grilled vegetables with chopped fresh herbs. Cut the vegetables all about the same size for even cooking.

If you use wooden skewers, soak them in warm water for 20 minutes.

Marinade for the Shellfish and Vegetables

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions

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Whisk all the marinade ingredients together in a measuring cup. Divide in half. Use one half for the shellfish and one half for the vegetables.

Grilled Shellfish Skewers

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For 2 servings

Ingredients

  • 6 medium sea scallops
  • 6 medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • Marinade, recipe above
  • 2 double skewers
  • Green Goddess Dressing, recipe below

Grilled Vegetable Skewers

For 2 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/4 of a Fennel bulb, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 1/3 of a Red Bell Pepper, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 1 small Zucchini, cut into 2 inch slices
  • Marinade, recipe above
  • 2 double skewers
  • Green Goddess Dressing, recipe below

Directions

Marinate the shellfish and vegetables separately for 30  minutes. Drain and thread the scallops on one double skewer and the shrimp on a second double skewer.

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Do the same with the vegetables. Save any marinade left in the bowl to use as a basting sauce.

Preheat an outdoor grill to high and grease the grill grates with oil.

Place the vegetable skewers on the grill first, since they will take longer to cook. Cook until the vegetables are tender, turning and basting them with the olive oil mixture occasionally, about 15 minutes.

After the vegetables have cooked for 10 minutes, place the shellfish skewers on the grill.  Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side.

Serve the grilled shellfish and vegetables with the Green Goddess Dressing.

Green Goddess Dressing

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This may be used immediately or stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. This dressing is also delicious drizzled over hard-boiled eggs.

Makes 1 cup

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup snipped chives
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley leaves
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
  • 2 anchovy fillets
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Place the chives, parsley, anchovy fillets, tarragon and vinegar in a food processor and pulse a few times to combine.  

With the motor running, add the olive oil in a steady stream, scraping down the sides, and process until pureed. Add the sour cream and process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

Store in the refrigerator until serving time.

Brown and Wild Rice with Pecans and Thyme

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 1 cup brown and wild rice mix, without seasoning. (I use Lundberg rice)
  • 3/4 cup chopped, toasted pecans
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 cups low sodium chicken stock

Directions

In heavy saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, saute the onion in oil until softened. Add rice and saute 2-3 minutes, stirring so it does not get too brown.

Add the bay leaves, thyme, salt, pepper and chicken stock and bring to a boil.

Turn the heat to very low, cover and cook for about 50 minutes. (Check your rice package to see what the recommended cooking time is.)

After 50 minutes, check the rice. It should be slightly chewy with all the liquid absorbed when it’s done. Stir in the toasted pecans.

Turn off the heat and let stand, covered, 10 minutes. Serve hot.

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

First Course

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Southern Pimento Cheese Stuffed Celery

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

Use the spread to fill celery stalks and serve immediately.

Second Course

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Grilled Crab Stuffed Salmon Rolls

  • 1 Salmon Fillet, about 8 oz, skin removed

Crab Stuffing

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

Directions

For the stuffing

Mix the crab meat with the vegetables and seasoning.

For the salmon rolls

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

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Refrigerate until time to grill.

Preheat the grill to medium hot.

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

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

To cook indoors

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

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

Spaghetti with Basil Pesto Sauce

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Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

Tomato Cucumber Arugula Salad

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Ingredients

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

Directions

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

Peach Frozen Yogurt

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Makes about 4 1/2 cups

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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Tomatoes were yellow and orange-colored at the beginning of the tomato’s cultivation, with the color red becoming more prevalent through many years of breeding. Today, there are hundreds of different types of tomatoes in colored varieties that include red, orange, yellow, white, green, purple and black. Some tomatoes, like Heirloom and cherry, come in many varieties, as well.

Most people consider the red tomato varieties the most popular, especially the Beefsteak and Roma varieties. Pink tomatoes have similar flavors to the red ones, that include the Pink Girl and Brandywine varieties. Orange tomato varieties include Persimmon and Mountain Gold and they are usually sweeter than red tomatoes, due to a higher sugar content. Yellow varieties, such as Golden Boy and Garden Peach, are similar to the orange type, but are usually less tangy than red tomatoes. There are green tomato varieties (not just unripened tomatoes) that ripen green and usually have a lower acidic taste than red tomatoes.

Fresh Tomato SauceIMG_0009

Ingredients

  • 4-5 pounds of fresh Roma tomatoes, quartered and seeded retaining as much pulp as possible
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 large sweet onion, finely diced
  • 2 celery stalks, finely diced
  • 1 carrot, finely diced
  • 2 large cloves of fresh garlic, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (chili)
  • 1-2 teaspoons honey, if needed

Herbs

Place the following  herbs in a piece of cheesecloth and tie the cheesecloth closed.

  • 1/3 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1 sprig of fresh thyme
  • 1 sprig of fresh oregano
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 sprigs of parsley

Directions

Pour the olive oil into a large stockpot over medium heat.

Add the onions, celery, garlic and carrots.

Saute for 5 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

Add the tomatoes and sea salt.

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Simmer on low heat, covered, for about an hour until the tomatoes cook down.

Remove the pot from the heat and using an immersion blender, process the mixture until smooth.

Return the pot to the heat and add the herb cheesecloth package.

Taste the sauce to see if the tomatoes were too bitter. Add the honey, if needed.

Bring the sauce to a simmer and cook  until reduced and thick, an hour to an hour and a half more. Remove the cheesecloth package and discard.

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Pour the sauce into a refrigerator container and store the sauce up to 1 week, or freeze in batches.

This sauce is especially good served over gnocchi.

Pepper Pizza

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Ingredients

  • 1 lb of your favorite pizza dough, at room temperature
  • 1 lb mozzarella cheese, sliced thin
  • 2 cups fresh tomato sauce, see recipe above
  • 1 ½ cups leftover sautéed peppers and onions, see recipe here
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 4 slices of prosciutto, cut into strips

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Move an oven rack to lowest position in the oven.

Press the dough out on a greased pizza pan. Top the dough with the sliced mozzarella.

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Spread the sauce over the cheese. Place the peppers and onions evenly over the sauce. Sprinkle with the hot pepper.

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Place the pizza in the oven and bake until crisp, about 20 minutes. Remove the pizza from the oven and place the prosciutto slices evenly on top.

Return the pizza to the oven for about a minute or two to warm the prosciutto. Set the pizza on the counter on top of a wire rack to cool for about 5 minutes before cutting.

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Tomato Jam is great on burgers in place of ketchup or served alongside grilled meat or fish. It also pairs exceptionally well with cheeses and cured meats. I like to serve it as an appetizer, as part of a cheese board selection.

Makes about 2 1/2 cups

  • 3 pounds Roma tomatoes), cored and quartered
  • ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 ¼ and ¼ teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons good quality red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium shallots, minced (about ½ cup)
  • 2½ teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 3/4 cup dry red wine

Directions

In a food processor, pulse the tomatoes, sugar, 1¼ teaspoons salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper and red wine vinegar until the tomatoes are finely chopped but not completely pureed and the sugar is dissolved, about 6 2-second pulses.

In a 12 inch skillet over medium heat, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the shallots, thyme and the ¼ teaspoon salt, and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the red wine, adjust the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Continue to boil, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is reduced to a loose glaze, about 4-5 minutes. Add the processed tomato mixture.

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Adjust heat to medium-high and simmer vigorously, stirring more often as the mixture reduces, until it is glossy and has a jam like consistency, somewhere between a sauce and a paste, about 60-90 minutes (depending on how watery your tomatoes are).

Set the pan aside, off heat, to cool to room temperature.

Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper and store. The jam can be refrigerated for 1-2 weeks or frozen for six months.

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While most peppers start out green, depending on the variety, they will mature into a variety of colors, such as red, orange, yellow and sometimes even purple. Bell peppers are abundant in the summer and these colorful vegetables have a sweet flavor. When choosing bell peppers, make sure to pick those with shiny, blemish-free skin. No wrinkles or soft spots either. Their size and shape will vary greatly so don’t use that as an indicator of age or taste. Packed with vitamins and low in calories, bell peppers can be added to a variety of dishes to bring both color and flavor to your diet. Use them raw or roasted or grilled. Freeze them if you end up with more than you can use. Here are some ideas for using bell peppers:

Add peppers to your favorite kebabs for late summer grilling. This is when it’s a great idea to get one of each color.

Add chopped pepper to your favorite tuna or chicken salad for extra crunch.

Make a colorful pepper slaw. Thinly slice peppers and toss with green onions, cider vinegar and just enough mayonnaise to coat the mixture. Let sit in the refrigerator for several hours to soften the peppers slightly.

Make a bell pepper pizza. Brush a rolled out pizza crust with extra-virgin olive oil. Top with thinly sliced red, orange and yellow peppers and add tablespoons of ricotta cheese. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese and bake. Add fresh basil leaves just before the pizza finishes cooking.

Bell peppers make excellent appetizer dippers. Cut wide strips and use for hummus, salsa or other dips.

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Grilled Stuffed Italian Peppers

This appetizer recipe is a healthy, fresh alternative to the popular breaded and fried versions.

Yield: 10 peppers

Ingredients

10 Italian (long) frying peppers

Filling

  • 8 ounces low-fat cream cheese with chives and onion, softened
  • 2 ounces extra-sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Directions

Preheat an outdoor grill to medium-high heat. Oil the grill grates.

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Cut a thin slice off the top of the peppers. Carefully remove the seeds so you not tear the peppers.

Combine the filling ingredients in a mixing bowl, stirring well to combine. Using a small spoon fill the peppers. Coat the outside of the peppers with olive oil cooking spray.

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Place the peppers on the grill, close the cover and grill the peppers 5 minutes. Turn the peppers over and grill for 5 more minutes.

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Southern Style Stuffed Peppers

Ingredients for every 2 peppers

  • 2  whole bell peppers
  • 2 teaspoons butter
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Filling

  • 2 tablespoons diced sweet onion
  • 2 tablespoons diced celery
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh tomato
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels
  • 3/4 cups grated Cheddar or Monterrey Jack cheese
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh herbs

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly oil a baking dish deep enough to stand the peppers upright.

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Cut the tops off the peppers and remove the seeds.  Save the tops.  Lightly salt the inside of the peppers.

Combine the filling ingredients in a mixing bowl. Season with black pepper. Stuff the peppers with the filling, packing it in tightly. Place 1 teaspoon of butter on top.

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Replace the pepper tops and set them in the prepared dish. Add water to the dish, about one inch deep, cover, and bake until the peppers are completely cooked, about 45-50 minutes.

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Sautéed Peppers and Onions (Peperonata)

Peperonata recipes come in many versions; some get stewed, some are cooked with potatoes or with tomatoes. I prefer to lightly saute them, so they retain a slight crunch. This dish is perfect to serve with grilled steak, chicken cutlets, sausage or fish. They are also good in a sandwich, especially an Italian pepper and egg sandwich.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 6 sweet bell peppers or 20 Italian frying peppers, seeded, sliced into 2 1/2 to 3-inch long strips
  • 2 large sweet onions, halved and sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, grated
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano or 1 teaspoon of fresh oregano leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (chili)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the onions, the peppers, garlic, oregano, pepper flakes, salt and pepper and cook for about 10 minutes, until crisp tender.

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Variations:

Add 4 Roma or other plum tomatoes, seeded and diced with the peppers in the skillet

Add ½ cup sliced basil leaves, instead of oregano

Add 1/4 cup Balsamic Vinegar with the peppers to the skillet

Add 2 boiled potatoes, sliced, to the onions in the skillet

Steak Pizzaiola with Peppers and Onions

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Beef Loin

The loin is actually two subprime cuts—the strip loin and the tenderloin—and contains the most tender and prized cuts of meat. The strip loin, the larger of the two, is a cylindrical muscle running along the spine. The tenderloin is a smaller, snake-shaped muscle running parallel to and beneath the strip loin. Steaks cut from the boneless strip loin are known as New York Strip Steaks. The tenderloin may be sold in roast-sized chunks for Chateaubriand, or sliced into individual steaks known as filet mignon. A steak cut that includes both the strip and the filet separated by a t-shaped bone between them is called a T-bone steak. When a T-bone steak is cut from farther back on the short loin, where the tenderloin is thicker, it is known as a porterhouse. Loin is not as marbled (fatty) as the rib eye, nor is it among the leanest cuts. All loin cuts are best dry-heat cooked.

Ingredients

  • 1 boneless strip loin steak, cut into 1/4 inch thick slices and fat trimmed
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Half of the sautéed Pepper and Onion recipe – from above
  • 2 cups Marinara (tomato) sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano or basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (chili)

Directions

Sprinkle the 1 teaspoon salt on the steaks and let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the steaks and sear them on one side for 2 minutes. Turn the steaks over.

Top each steak with about 1/2 cup of the sautéed peppers and onions. Cover the peppers and onions on each steak with 1/2 cup of tomato sauce. Sprinkle each with some red pepper flakes, black pepper and herbs.

Cover the skillet and cook until warmed, about 5 minutes on medium heat.

 


Veduta del Golfo di Napoli

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

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

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

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

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Parmigiana di Melanzane

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

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

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Pasta with Meat Ragu

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Spaghetti alle Vongole

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

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

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

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Sfogliatella.

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Zeppole

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

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

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Making Limoncello

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

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Mozzarella di Bufala.

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

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Neapolitan Ragu

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Pizza Margherita

Pizza Dough Ingredients

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

Topping for 1 pizza

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

Directions

For the pizza dough:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the pizza

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

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

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

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

naplescalamari

Pasta con i Calamari

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

Serves 4

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cover and cook on medium for 15 minutes.

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

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

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

Garnish with a few basil leaves.

naplesmap


IMG_0007

Easy Homemade Jam

This is a basic jam recipe and it works with any fruit (other than citrus). You can make jam with whatever fruit grows well where you live. In each season, use the best fruit you can find.

Work in small batches. Three pounds of fruit will yield close to 2 ½ pints of jam. If you want more jars, make two small batches rather than one double batch. The quality of the jam will be much better.

You don’t need to process the jars in a boiling water bath for this recipe. Just store the jam in the refrigerator, where it will last for weeks.

You can also store the jam in the freezer. The Ball Company now makes great containers to store jam in for the freezer.

Unprocessed homemade jam will not make you ill, because most jams are made from high acid fruits which are not susceptible to botulism.

I made Blackberry Jam using this recipe. It is definitely worth making because the jam has such a fresh and distinct blackberry taste. Not at all like processed jam.

IMG_0004

For 2 1/2 pints

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds ripe fruit, such as strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, cherries, peaches, plums, etc.
  • 2 to 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 lemon

Directions

Clean and cut the fruit as you would for making fruit salad or fruit pie. For example: remove the caps from strawberries and cut into quarters; or peel, pit and slice peaches into pieces; or trim rhubarb and chop it into chunks.

Using a potato masher, crush the fruit until soupy. Measure this puree and note the quantity. Put the puree in a wide, heavy-bottomed, non-reactive pot.

The puree should be no more than 1 inch deep in the bottom of the pot. I placed half of the blackberry puree in a strainer to remove the seeds before proceeding with the recipe.

For every two cups of fruit puree, add to the pot one scant cup of sugar and 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Stir to combine and taste. Very tart fruit (such as sour cherries, some plums or blackberries) might need a little more sugar. Very sweet fruit (such as white peaches) might need a little more lemon juice. Adjust to taste.

Bring the fruit-sugar mixture to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently. After it boils, continue to cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, for 12 to 14 minutes, or until thickened.

IMG_0003

Check the consistency by turning off the heat and putting a spoonful of hot jam on a chilled saucer in the freezer for one minute.

When ready, the cold jam will form a light skin that wrinkles when you push your finger through it and it will cling to the saucer when you tilt the saucer upright.

If the cold jam is too runny, bring the pot back to a boil for another minute or two, stirring constantly, then check the set again.

When the jam is set, ladle it into clean half-pint jars or other air-tight containers. Allow to cool, then store in the refrigerator for up to a month.

Fresh Strawberry  Syrup

IMG_0009 (2)

Delicious over pancakes, cheesecake, ice cream or crepes.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 pint strawberries, stems and leaves removed
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Directions

Place sugar and water in a small saucepan over high heat; stir, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until sugar is completely dissolved.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow the syrup to cool completely. Place half the berries in the jar of a blender; add the syrup. Puree until smooth and pass through a fine sieve or colander.

Chop remaining berries; stir into the strawberry puree. Store in an airtight container, refrigerated, for up to 3 days or freeze in small containers.

Blueberry Muffins

IMG_0007 (2)

Makes 12 – 15 muffins depending on the size of your muffin pan.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups (9 5/8 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 ounces) fresh blueberries

Topping

  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons butter

Directions

Pre-heat the oven to 400°F and either lightly grease 12 -15 muffin cups or use paper liners and spray the insides of the papers.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together with a hand-held or stand mixer, until light and fluffy and almost white in color.

Scrape down the bowl to make sure all the butter is incorporated, then add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla and sour cream and mix until incorporated.

Add the dry ingredients and mix on low-speed just until the batter is smooth. Fold in the berries by hand.

Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin cups, using 1/4-cup for each muffin.

To make the topping:

In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar, flour and cinnamon. Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Sprinkle topping over the muffins.

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove them from the oven, cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then remove the muffins from the pan to finish cooling on a wire rack.

Summer Fruit Salad

IMG_0001

Use summer fruits that are in season. I used about 6 cups of cut fruit in this recipe.

Ingredients

Fruit, sliced or cut into cubes

  • Melon
  • Pineapple
  • Berries
  • Grapes
  • Cherries

Mint-Lime Simple Syrup

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice

Directions

For the syrup:

Stir together the sugar and mint and 1 cup water in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, and boil 1 minute or until the sugar dissolves.

Remove from the heat. Stir in the lime juice, and cool 30 minutes.Pour mixture through a fine wire-mesh strainer into an airtight container. Cover and chill syrup 4 hours.

For the salad:

Gently toss together the fruit in a large bowl. Add 1/2 cup Mint-Lime Simple Syrup, and gently stir to coat. Taste to see if the fruit needs more syrup.

Serve immediately, or cover and chill until serving time.

Peach Barbecue Sauce

IMG_0010

This recipe makes one of the best tasting BBQ sauces I have made. It is especially good for grilled chicken.

Yields 4 cups.

  • 2 cups peeled and chopped very ripe peaches, about 4 medium peaches
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoons onion salt
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground mace
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 cups tomato ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons butter, cubed and well chilled

Directions

IMG_0006

Process peaches in a blender 1 minute or until smooth and pour into a medium saucepan. Add all the additional ingredients except the butter. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to low.

IMG_0008

IMG_0009

Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thick. With a whisk, blend in the butter cubes, a few cubes at a time, until incorporated. Refrigerate covered until needed.

Ball Canning Company Freezer Jars

Ball Canning Company Freezer Jars


watermeloncover

With summer comes summertime food: steaming corn-on-the-cob, burgers, barbecue, ice cream sundaes and crisp red watermelon wedges. It is also the time you can make certain summertime homemade foods that are not usually available at other times of the year, such as pickles, ice pops, green tomatoes and oven roasted tomatoes. These summer favorites will remind you of what time of year it is. What are your favorite foods to prepare in the summer?

Easy Homemade Pickles

IMG_0022 (1)

Yields 2 quarts or 4 pints

This pickling technique is safe and very easy adapt. In addition to cucumber pickles, you can also use this recipe to pickle any sturdy vegetable including green beans, zucchini, carrots, celery, onions and beets. If you stick to the basic ration of one part 5 percent vinegar to one part water, you can season the pickling brine to taste. (Commercial vinegar contains 5% -20% acetic acid)

Salt is always a key component, both for flavor and because the salt helps to crisp the vegetables. Almost all pickle recipes contain spices and you can add any combination of black peppercorns, dill seed, coriander seed, cumin seed, mustard seed, allspice, mace, cinnamon or cloves.

Wash and trim the vegetables as you would for making a salad or a vegetable side dish. Cut them into bite-sized shapes you like—spears, sticks, chunks, rounds or chips.

You can pack the vegetables into storage containers with lids raw, blanched or cooked. Store the sealed containers in the refrigerator, where they will keep for weeks.

Ingredients

  • 2-2 1/2 pounds fresh, firm vegetables, such as cucumbers, squash, green beans, etc.
  • 2 cups 5-percent vinegar
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 2 whole garlic cloves, peeled and lightly crushed for quart jars, halved for pint jars
  • 4-6 three-inch fronds of fresh herbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole-seed mustard
  • 2 small dried red chili or slices of hot pepper

Directions

Trim and cut the vegetables.

Pack the vegetables snugly into 2 clean quart or 4 pint jars adding the garlic and fresh herbs at the same time. Then add the peppercorns, mustard seeds and hot peppers.

Combine the vinegar, water, salt and  honey in a small pot. Bring to a boil and ladle the vinegar mixture over the vegetables to fill the jar. Seal the jars. Allow to cool overnight and then store in the refrigerator for up to a month.

Creamy Fresh Blackberry Ice Pops

IMG_0026

Ingredients

  • 10 ounces fresh blackberries
  • 2 cups vanilla frozen yogurt, softened
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • One 6-piece ice pop mold

Directions

Place the blackberries into a blender or food processor. Cover and puree until the mixture is smooth.

Pour the blackberry puree through a fine sieve placed over a large bowl to strain out the seeds.

Add the softened frozen yogurt and honey to the strained blackberry puree and mix well. Pour into ice pop molds and freeze.

“Fried” Green Tomatoes

IMG_0024 (1)

Serves: 4

Ingredients

  • 2 to 3 medium-sized green tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Cut the tomatoes into thick slices and place them on paper towels to dry for about an hour.

IMG_0019 (1)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Place the flour in a shallow dish and add the seasoned salt.

Place the egg in a second shallow dish.

Place the panko crumbs to a third dish and add the paprika.

Sprinkle the tomato slices lightly with salt and pepper.

Dredge the tomato slices in flour, then egg and then in the panko crumbs to coat evenly.

Place on a greased baking pan.

IMG_0023

Bake for 15 minutes, turning the tomato slices over and continue baking for 10 – 15 minutes more until the tomatoes are crispy.

Remove and cool on a wire rack.

Creole Sauce

If creole seasoning is not available in your area, you can make it. See the recipe below.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon Creole seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon horseradish
  • 1/2 tablespoon minced jalapeno pepper

Directions

Mix all ingredients together and whisk to combine.

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 2 weeks. This sauce is also good with grilled fish.

Creole Seasoning

2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme

Combine and store in a jar with a tight-fitting cover.

Slow Roasted Summer Tomatoes

IMG_0011

 

Slow roasting caramelizes and intensifies the flavor of the tomatoes. You can eat these “as-is” from the oven. They are also great served on crusty bread with a little olive oil or as a side dish. Perfect for adding to pasta, salads, sandwiches or used as a topping for crostini. Roasted tomatoes can be used in place of sun-dried tomatoes in recipes. They can also be frozen to be used at a later time.

Ingredients

  • 4 pounds fresh vine-ripened plum tomatoes*
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • * Or as many tomatoes as you want to make. You can also use beefsteak tomatoes, heirloom and/or cherry tomatoes for this recipe.

Directions

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with heavy-duty foil (be sure to line the baking pan because it catches the juices and helps with cleanup).

Wash and dry the tomatoes; cut out the stem core and discard. Slice the tomatoes in half lengthwise. Scoop out and discard the seeds, leaving as much pulp as possible.

If you are using large heirlooms, cut them into quarters or even eighths.

Place tomatoes, cut sides up, on the prepared baking pan. They can be placed closely together since they shrink considerably during baking.

Sprinkle garlic and olive oil evenly over the tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper.

IMG_0005

Bake 6 to 8 hours or until the tomatoes are reduced in size but still retain their shape. They should have shrunk to about half their original size and still be moist.

The time the tomatoes take to cook will vary because of their size and moisture content, but they should be caramelized and crispy on the edges. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool.

Roasted tomatoes will keep in an airtight container, 2 to 3 weeks in the refrigerator or up to 8 months in the freezer. Bring to room temperature before using.

Roasted Tomatoes in Olive Oil

  • Slow-Roasted Tomatoes recipe (see recipe above)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Thyme sprigs

Allow the Slow-Roasted Tomatoes to cool.

Clean and sterilize a 1-pint jar; set aside and let cool.

Layer the tomatoes in a jar with fresh basil leaves and some sprigs of thyme.

Pour olive oil in the jar until the tomatoes are covered by at least an inch or oil (the oil will seal the tomatoes for longer lasting). Store in the refrigerator.

Makes approximately 1 pint.



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