Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Sauces

 

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This time of year it takes some creativity to cook with seasonal ingredients. There is plenty of cabbage in the market in December and it can easily be used for a delicious main dish. Finding ways to use cabbage is not difficult. Add cabbage to casseroles and soup or sauté it for a side dish. Don’t pass up this healthy, versatile and frugal vegetable when you see in the market.

Italian Style Stuffed Cabbage

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Stuffed cabbage rolls are usually made with rice but I like to use orzo because it has a soft texture and gives the rolls an Italian flair. You can use any type of meat but I like the flavor sausage gives the stuffing for these rolls.

Makes 18-21 rolls

Ingredients

1 large head of cabbage placed in the freezer two days before using and then thawed. (It’s easier to roll wilted leaves and eliminates the boiling step)
8 oz pork sausage, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup diced onion
1 cup shredded carrot.
¼ cup chopped green bell pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ teaspoon red chili flakes
1 teaspoon Italian pork sausage seasoning or use a combination of fennel and Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups cooked orzo
Marinara Sauce, see recipe below

Directions

Remove as many whole leaves from the cabbage head as you can. I was able to remove 21 leaves from my cabbage. Cut out the core and discard. Chop the remaining cabbage.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat and add the diced sausage. Cook until lightly brown. Place in a large mixing bowl

Add the vegetables to the skillet and saute just until tender. Add the seasonings and place in the bowl with the sausage.

Add the orzo and ½ cup marinara sauce. Mix the filling until all the ingredients are combined.

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To assemble the cabbage rolls:

In a greased 9×13 inch baking pan, spread one cup of marinara sauce in the bottom of the dish and sprinkle with the chopped cabbage.

Use about 1/2 cup of filling for large leaves and about 1/4 cup for smaller leaves. Place the filling on the base of each leaf, fold in the sides and roll the leaf up to make a tight packet.

As you complete them, place each roll, seam side down, into the prepared baking dish.. Continue until all the filling is used up.

Pour 2 cups of marinara sauce on top of the rolls and spread the sauce to cover all the cabbage rolls.

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Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Cover the pan with foil and bake for 2 hours or until the cabbage rolls are very tender.

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Marinara Sauce

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
Half a medium onion, finely diced
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
¼ teaspoon red chili flakes
2-26 oz containers of Italian chopped tomatoes (without salt or sugar added, if possible)
Salt & pepper to taste

Directions

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan and add the next four ingredients. Saute them for a minute or two. Add the tomatoes and bring to a simmer.

Partially cover the pan and let the sauce cook for about an hour until smooth and slightly thickened. Add salt and pepper to taste.


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Chilly weather makes you think comfort food. Meatloaf sure fits that description. I like to make meatloaf interesting by incorporating lots of different ingredients. In this meatloaf I added mushrooms, onions, mozzarella cheese and marinara sauce.

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Cheese Filled Meatloaf

I have a double meatloaf pan that allows for the fat to drip through and, therefore, the meatloaf doesn’t sit in fat while it cooks.

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Ingredients

2 lbs lean ground beef
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup dried breadcrumbs
1 large egg
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black cracked pepper
1 teaspoon Italian dried seasoning
1 cup mushrooms, chopped
¼ cup minced onion
2 garlic cloves minced
3/4 cup homemade marinara sauce or store-bought, divided
½ lb small mozzarella balls, also called pearl mozzarella

Directions

In a skillet sauté the onion, mushroom and garlic in the olive oil until fully cooked about 10 minutes. And allow to cool.

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Fold the vegetables into the meat along with the breadcrumbs, egg, salt, pepper, Italian seasoning and 1/2 cup of the marinara sauce. Mix well.

Place 1/2 of the meatloaf mixture into a loaf pan, Then scatter the cheese balls over the meat and cover with the remaining meatloaf mixture.

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Spread the remaining marinara sauce over the top of the meatloaf.

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Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 90 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

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Roasted Fingerling Potatoes

After the meatloaf has roasted for 30 minutes put the potatoes in the oven to cook alongside the meatloaf.

Ingredients

10-12 fingerling potatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, sliced
½ teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper

Directions

Place the oil, garlic and oregano in a small baking dish. Add the potatoes and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Turn the potatoes so they are coated in oil and herbs.

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Bake in a moderate oven for about an hour or cook them in the oven with whatever meat or poultry you are roasting.

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Sautéed Green Beans with Parmesan Cheese

Ingredients

1 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound green beans, stem ends snapped off, beans cut into 2-inch pieces
Salt and ground black pepper
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons juice from 1 lemon
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat and add the beans, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper; cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.

Add water, cover, and cook until beans are bright green and still crisp, about 2 minutes more. Remove cover, increase heat to high and cook until the water evaporates, about 1 minute.

Transfer green beans to a serving bowl, toss with lemon juice and cheese and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.


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I am sure you have heard of Chicken Cacciatore but how about Beef Cacciatore? I came up with this recipe when I had several beef round roasts in the freezer and did not want to make a traditional pot roast. This is a great dish to make at this time of year. Assemble it and put in the oven and then you can go on with your holiday preparations. Cook some pasta or mashed potatoes and you have dinner.

A typical bottom round roast that weighs 3 to 4 pounds should be slow roasted in a Dutch Oven for about 4 hours for a tender roast with an internal temperature of 165 to 170 F(74 to 77 °C) . Preheat the oven to 300 °F (149 °C) and slow roast the meat for 3 to 4 hours, depending on the weight.

Beef Cacciatore

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Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
3-4 lb boneless bottom round roast (also called rump)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 large onion, cut into large dice
1 (28 ounce) container finely chopped Italian tomatoes
1 green bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
8 oz fresh mushrooms, sliced thickly
1 cup dry red wine
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
½ teaspoon red chili flakes
8 oz Pappardelle Pasta

Directions

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

Brown the roast on all sides in the oil in an ovenproof Dutch Oven. Season the roast with salt and pepper.

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Add the garlic, onions, bell peppers and mushrooms. Let them cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.

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Add the wine, tomatoes, seasoning and some additional salt and pepper. Bring to a boil.

Cover the pan and place it in the oven. Cook for about four hours or until very tender. Turn the roast over several times during cooking.

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Remove the roast to a large plate and let rest for ten minutes. Slice thin.

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Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain.

Bring the sauce to a boil in the Dutch Oven and reduce the heat to low. Add the drained pasta and let heat for a minute or two.

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Pour into a large pasta serving bowl and place the sliced beef on top.

Serve this meal with a green salad.


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How about Italian?

Since Thursday – when we had the traditional Thanksgiving feast – we have had leftover turkey dinner night and turkey sandwiches for lunch. So tonight it is a total menu change – Italian Shells Stuffed with Ricotta with Meatballs and Italian Sausage.

Ricotta Stuffed Shells 

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Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for the pan
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (chili) flakes
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 4 medium cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • Half a sweet onion, finely diced
  • Two 26-28 ounce containers finely chopped Italian tomatoes

Filling:

  • 2 lbs (32 oz) container whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 1 cup grated mozzarella
  • ½ cup chopped parsley
  • 24 jumbo dried pasta shells

Directions

Oil two 13 x 9-inch baking pans, or equivalent. Set aside.

Bring a big pot of water to boiling and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

To make the sauce:

Combine the olive oil, red pepper flakes, sea salt, onion and garlic in a cold saucepan. Stir while you heat the saucepan over medium-high heat. Saute just 45 seconds or so until everything is fragrant – you don’t want the garlic to brown. Stir in the tomatoes and heat.  Simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from the  heat and let cool.

To make the filling:

Combine the ricotta, egg, parsley and salt in a medium bowl. Mix until combined, then stir in the mozzarella. Set aside.

To make the pasta:

Cook the shells according to package instructions in well-salted water – until barely al dente. Don’t overcook the shells or they will tear as you attempt to fill them. Drain and let cool  on kitchen towels until you can handle them with your hands.

Spread 1/3 of the sauce across the bottom of each prepared pan. Fill each shell with ricotta filling, and arrange in a single layer in the pan. Ladle the remaining sauce over the shells, cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes, uncover for the final 15 minutes or until the shells are cooked through and the cheese is bubbly. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese.

Serves 6-8

Meatballs and Italian Sausage

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For the Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Half medium sweet onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • One 26-32 oz container imported chopped Italian tomatoes (Preferably without salt or sugar added)
  • 6 oz can (170 g) tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (chili)
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt  
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 or 4 basil leaves

For the Meatballs and Sausage

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

Directions

To make the sauce:

Heat the oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Add the sausage and brown on all sides; then remove to a plate. Slice the sausage into 3-inch lengths,

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Add the onion and garlic and saute until the onion is soft. Add the tomato paste and fill the empty can with water and add it to the pot.

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

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

Stir the meatballs carefully so they do not break.

Place the meatballs and sausage in a large bowl and pour some of the sauce over the meat. Serve extra sauce on the side.

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To make the meatballs:

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

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

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

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

Italian Mixed Green Salad

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Any of the following:

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

Toss the ingredients together just before serving.


 

faith_willinger_20001My friend, Andy, recently gave me a cookbook titled, Adventures of an Italian Food Lover by Faith Heller Willinger. The author’s name was familiar to me because I have been cooking from her book, Red, White, and Greens: The Italian Way with Vegetables, for a long time. You can also check out a column she wrote for The Atlantic Monthly by visiting this site: http://www.theatlantic.com/author/faith-willinger/

In the Adventures book, Faith takes readers to country markets and busy city shops, to wineries in rural villages, to kitchens in restaurants and into private homes where her friends share their recipes – real Italian recipes.

Additionally, Willinger introduces the reader to the people of Italy: the grocers who stock homemade artisan cheeses and salumi, winemakers, Tuscan bakers, butchers and chocolatiers. Each entry is followed by a recipe. The recipes include some classic Italian dishes that will be familiar, but most are as authentic and original as the people Ms. Willinger profiles in the book. Actually these profiles are one of the best features in the book.

Even if you’re practiced in making Italian food, there’s still much to learn from Ms. Willinger.  She includes information on the most important ingredients, explaining such things as why certain dry pastas are superior to others, what goes into making Italy’s best cheeses, how to select the best olive oils and what distinguishes an artisanal ricotta from another more ordinary one.

The book can also function as a guidebook for travelers because she includes web sites, hours of operation and contact information that make arranging a personal visit easy.

Here are a few recipes from the book for you to try. The book is divided into three major areas of Italy: Northern and Central Italy; Tuscany and Southern Italy and the Islands.

From Chapter 1 – Northern and Central Italy

bellini

Bellini Cocktail

Willinger adapted this recipe from Walter Bolzonella’s recipe, a barman of the Hotel Cipriani in Venice.

Serves 2

For the peach puree:

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 to 3/4 pound ripe white peaches
  • 2 teaspoons sugar

For the drinks:

  • A few raspberries, if desired, for color
  • 1 bottle Prosecco sparkling wine

Directions

Put the water and lemon juice in a bowl. Peel, pit and slice the peaches. Immerse them in the acidulated water, so they don’t discolor and macerate for at least 10 minutes or up to 6 hours.

Drain the peaches, reserving 2 to 3 tablespoons of the liquid. In a food processor or blender, puree the peaches with the sugar and reserved liquid. Use more sugar if the peaches are very tart

but this is not a sweet drink. If the peaches don’t have pink veins (which lend a Bellini its rosy hue), add a few raspberries to the mixture before pureeing.

Transfer the mixture to a jar or bottle and chill thoroughly.

Pour cold peach puree into a pitcher. Add one bottle of chilled Prosecco sparkling wine and stir gently. Pour into glasses and drink at once.

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Zabaione

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 3 egg yolks at room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons Moscato d’Asti wine
  • Butter or hazelnut cookies or fresh fruit or berries

Directions

Place the ingredients in a 1 ½-2 quart pot (use a copper or stainless steel bowl with a rounded bottom, holding the bowl with a pot holder)

Begin beating at high-speed with a mixer until foamy. Place the pot over medium heat and continue beating.  Mixture will grow greatly in volume and thicken.  Remove the pot from the heat when the mixture feels warm and continue beating.  

Place back over the heat, beating the whole time, removing the pot from the heat when it seems to be heating up too much. Practice makes perfect.  

The zabaione will be thick and foamy, warm but not hot to the touch.  Serve in individual glass serving bowls with butter or hazelnut cookies on the side.  Or over berries or sliced fresh soft ripe fruit like peaches or mango.

Chapter 2 – Tuscany

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Ricotta-Stuffed Zucchini Flowers

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 1 cup ricotta, fresh, if possible, or sheep’s milk ricotta
  • 12-16 fresh zucchini flowers
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Fine sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh basil

Directions

If your ricotta is watery, drain it in a sieve to remove excess whey. Soak the zucchini flowers in cool water, then gently spin-dry in a salad spinner. Removing the stamens is unnecessary.

Pack the ricotta into a pastry bag — I use a disposable one and simply cut the tip off the end. Insert the end of the pastry bag into the zucchini flowers and pipe one or two spoonfuls of ricotta into each.

Drizzle one tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil in a large non-stick skillet. Place the stuffed flowers in the skillet in a single layer and the place pan over the highest heat.

When the pan heats and the oil begins to sizzle, cover and cook for four to six minutes or until the flowers are hot, steamed by the moisture of the ricotta.

Transfer to a serving dish and top with pepper and salt, minced basil, and the remaining extra virgin olive oil.

2black-grape-schiacciata

Etruscan Grape Tart

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients

  • 1 package active dry yeast (2 ½ teaspoons)
  • ¾ cups warm water
  • 3 tablespoons Chianti — drink the rest with dinner
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 ½ – 2 ¾ cups soft wheat flour (Italian “00” or White Lily flour)
  • ¼ cup Tuscan extra virgin olive oil, plus more for oiling the bowl
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • Around 1 ¾ pounds wine, Concord, or red Grace grapes
  • 6 tablespoons sugar

Directions

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water, wine and honey in a large bowl. Let sit for 10 minutes or until bubbles form. Stir in ¾ cup flour — it doesn’t have to be smooth because lumps will dissolve. Cover and let rise for 1 hour.

Add the olive oil, salt and 1 ½ cups flour. Knead dough until smooth and elastic. Add up to ½ cup additional flour if necessary so it isn’t sticky. Shape into a ball, place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover, and let rise for 1 ½ hours.

Punch the dough down and divide into two pieces. Roll each piece out to a rough 10 by 16-inch rectangle. Place one rectangle on parchment paper on a cookie sheet (or use a nonstick cookie sheet), scatter the dough with half the grapes and sprinkle with 3 tablespoons sugar.

Use the second rectangle of dough to cover the bottom layer. Sprinkle the remaining grapes on the dough, gently press the grapes into the dough, and sprinkle with 3 tablespoons sugar. Cover with plastic wrap and a dishtowel and let rise for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until dark brown. Remove from the pan while still warm and spoon excess juice over the tart. Serve at room temperature.

From Chapter 3 – Southern Italy

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Spaghetti with Walnuts and Anchovies

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 2 whole salt-cured anchovies, filleted, or 4–6 canned anchovy fillets
  • 3–4 tablespoons coarsely chopped walnuts
  • Chili pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
  • Coarse sea salt
  • 14–16 ounces spaghetti

Directions

Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet and sauté the garlic over low heat until it barely begins to color. Add the anchovy fillets and, with a wooden spoon, mash them until they dissolve into the oil. Add the walnuts, chili pepper and parsley; stir to combine and remove from heat.

Bring 5 to 6 quarts of water to a rolling boil. Add about 3 tablespoons of sea salt, then add the spaghetti and cook until it offers considerable resistance to the tooth, approximately three-quarters of the package-recommended cooking time. Drain the pasta, reserving 2 cups of the starchy pasta cooking water.

Add the spaghetti to the sauce in the skillet along with 1/2 cup reserved pasta-cooking water, and cook over high heat, stirring with a wooden fork, until the pasta is cooked al dente, adding a little more pasta water as the sauce dries.

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Sweet & Sour Lemon Sauce

Use as a sauce for fish.

For the candied zest:

  • 2 Meyer lemons
  • 1 orange
  • 6 tablespoons coarse sea salt
  • 1/2 cup wildflower honey
  • 1 cup sugar

Directions

Peel the zest from the lemons in strips, leaving 1/4-inch pulp attached to the zest. Peel the orange the same way.

Put the zests in a bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons salt; add 1 cup water and weight down with a small plate to keep zests submerged for 1 to 2 hours. Rinse and drain.

Bring 10 cups of water to a rolling boil, Add the remaining 4 tablespoons of salt and the zests and when the water returns to a rolling boil, remove from heat and let zests cool completely in the salted water. Drain zests.

Combine the honey, sugar and 2 1/4 cups of fresh water in a small pot and bring to a simmer. Add the drained zest and cook over lowest heat, less than a simmer, for 40 minutes.

Remove from the heat and let zest cool in the syrup overnight. The next day, bring the syrup back to a simmer, lower the heat and cook for 1 hour. Remove from the heat and cool completely.

Repeat the process one more time, cooking zest on the lowest heat for 30 minutes. Store zest in its syrup in a jar.

For the sauce:

  • 3 1/2 Meyer lemons
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 1 tablespoon minced celery
  • Fine sea salt
  • White pepper
  • 3 tablespoons chopped candied lemon zest

Directions

Trim three lemons with a knife, cutting the rind away down to the pulp. Section the lemon into wedges, cutting between the white connective membranes.

Squeeze the juice from the remains of the lemons into a measuring cup and add the wedges. You should have about 1/2 cup.

Squeeze the juice from the remaining 1/2 lemon and add it to the wedges. In a small saucepan, add the oil and saute the garlic and celery over medium heat until the celery barely begins to color.

Add the lemon wedges and juice and cook, mashing the mixture with a wooden spoon, until the mixture is pulpy. Remove the garlic. Season the lemon mixture with salt and white pepper.

If the sauce is too tart, add a spoonful or two of syrup from the candied zest. Transfer lemon mixture to a blender and add candied zest. Blend until smooth.

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The reason grass-fed meat is generally healthier for you is because it is lower in overall fat and saturated fat and it provides a higher amount of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids than grain-fed meat.

Opt for organic. The use of growth-promoting hormones and antibiotics is not allowed in certified organic beef production. Nor is feed made from animal by products..

Go for grass. Choose beef from cattle that were 100 percent “grass-fed”. ” These animals are raised on their natural diet of grass from birth to market and are not given antibiotics and hormones. Look for a grass-fed label from the American Grassfed Association.

Look at labels. Check for phrases like “Naturally Raised,” “No Hormones Added,” “Raised Without Antibiotics” and “Never Fed Animal Byproducts.”

Portion control: 5-6 oz of meat is more than adequate to satisfy. Serve vegetables and salad for menu balance.

Grass-fed meat requires less time to cook than grain-fed meat. Since it is generally leaner, with less fat to keep it moist, it will cook faster at the same level of heat. Grass-fed meat is best cooked medium rare to medium, or it will become tough. Check the internal temperature with a meat thermometer in the thickest part. At 135°F the meat is still rare. At 145°F to 155°F it will be medium. Above that the meat may lose its moisture and tenderness.

Let the meat rest for a few minutes after cooking it to help redistribute the juices inside. Do not cut it immediately since the juices will spill out, leaving a drier texture. For the same reason, turn meat with a spatula or tongs rather than a fork.

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Pan-Seared Steak Pizzaiola

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 rib-eye steaks (preferably grass-fed and organic) (about 12 oz. each and 1 inch thick), all fat removed
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onions, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 small bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 2 cups Marinara Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions

Cut each steak in half lengthwise (to make four steaks) and pat them dry with paper towels. Season both sides with salt and pepper.

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Place a 12-inch heavy frying pan over medium high heat and add the oil. When hot, place the steaks in the pan and sear until deeply browned on both sides and medium rare, 2 minutes per side (no more than that). Transfer the steak to a serving to a plate.

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Add the onions and bell pepper to the skillet and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they’re softened and but not browned, about 5 minutes.

Pour the wine into the pan. As it comes to a boil, deglaze the pan by stirring the bottom of the pan well with a wooden spoon. Add the steaks; pour in the marinara sauce and stir. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low.

Sprinkle the mozzarella over the steaks, cover the pan and heat just until the cheese melts, 1 to 2 minutes. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve.

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Grilled Onion Burger

For 2

Ingredients

  • 10 oz. grass-fed organic ground beef
  • 1 teaspoon steak seasoning
  • Half red onion, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 hamburger rolls
  • Olive oil cooking spray

Directions

Divide the ground beef in half. Using a hamburger press form 2 burgers.

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Sprinkle with the steak seasoning and refrigerate until cooking time.

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For the onions: heat the oil in a small skillet and add the sliced onions. Cook until tender and set aside while you grill the burgers.

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I prefer to grill burgers instead of cooking them on top of the stove, so heat an outdoor grill to medium high heat. Reduce heat to medium.

Spray the burgers on both sides with cooking spray and place them on the grill. Cook 4 minutes and turn them over. Cook for another 4 minutes. Toast the rolls on the grill.

Serve the burgers on the toasted rolls and divide the cook ed onions between the two burgers. Add ketchup, if desired

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Pot Roast with Onion Gravy and Mustard Sauce

For a leaner pot roast, choose a bottom round or rump roast. Chuck roast is a bit more tender, but fattier.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large onions, halved and thinly sliced (4 cups)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated orange zest
  • One 3-pound (organic and grass-fed) rump or bottom round roast, trimmed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more for the gravy
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, plus more for the gravy
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 2 cups reduced-sodium beef broth
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons cold water

Mustard Sauce

  • 1/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup low-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions

To prepare pot roast:

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a 4-quart dutch oven over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the beef with 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper.. Add the beef; cook, turning from time to time, until well browned on all sides, 5 to 8 minutes. Remove beef to a plate and reserve.

Add the onions; cook, stirring often, until softened and starting to brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Add garlic, rosemary and orange zest; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 10 seconds.

Return the beef to the pot, nestling it among the onions. Add the wine to the skillet; bring to a boil, stirring to scrape up browned bits. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add broth and bring to a simmer.

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Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F..

Cover the pot with a lid and transfer to the oven and bake until the beef is tender, 3 – 3 1/2 hours. Turn the meat several times during the cooking process.

To prepare the mustard sauce:

Combine mayonnaise, yogurt, mustard and pepper in a small serving bowl. Reserve in the refrigerator until serving time.

To make the gravy:

Transfer the roast to a clean cutting board. Cover loosely with foil and let rest for 10 minutes.

Skim fat from the liquid in the pot. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Combine the cornstarch and water in a small bowl; add to the liquid and cook, whisking, until the gravy thickens Season to taste with salt and pepper. Slice the meat and serve with the gravy and the mustard sauce.

The roast is delicious served with roasted carrots, parsnips and asparagus

Make Ahead: Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Reheat the sliced pot roast with gravy in a skillet over medium-low heat. The mustard sauce can be covered and refrigerated separately for up to 2 days.


bologna1

Bologna is a province and city in the Emilia-Romagna region in northwestern Italy. Bologna is of great importance as a road and rail system for central and southern Italy. Until World War I the city was chiefly dependent upon agriculture based on the surrounding fertile plain. Although still an important agricultural market and food-processing area, Bologna also has developed into an important industrial center that manufactures agricultural machinery, electric motors, motorcycles, railway equipment, chemicals and shoes. Ferrari S.P.A. was created in Maranello, a town 20 minutes from Bologna. Lamborghini and Ducati motorcycles are also from this area. Every year the convention center in Bologna hosts the Motor show, one of Europe’s most important motor exhibitions showcasing the world’s fastest cars and bikes.

Garisenda and Asinelli leaning towers. Bologna, Italy

Garisenda and Asinelli leaning towers. Bologna, Italy

The arcaded streets of the central part of the city still preserve a medieval aspect, characterized by the leaning Asinelli and Garisenda towers. Among numerous medieval palaces (palazzi) the most notable are the Palazzi Comunale (town hall) and Podestà Mercanzia (chamber of commerce). The Palazzo Bevilacqua with a magnificent inner courtyard is one of the finest in Bologna. The first thing you may notice is that most of the city is built under porticoes, which are covered walkways. This is very convenient when you are stuck in the frequent rain or snow, but it can seem a bit dark. The reason they are so common is because they were primarily offered as a tax incentive to estate developers because it was considered a service to the town.

Decorated old portico with columns in Bologna, Italy

Decorated old portico with columns in Bologna, Italy

The university in Bologna is one of the oldest and most famous in Europe, dating from the 11th century. Originally the campus had no fixed location; lectures were generally held in the great halls of convents until the Archiginnasio Palace was erected. Today, the student population of 100,000+ dominates the city and everywhere you turn you’ll catch young people walking arm in arm down the streets.

bolognaproduce

Bologna is considered the culinary capital of Italy and it isn’t nicknamed – Bologna la grassa – which means “Bologna the fat” for nothing. The market in the city center is one of the largest in Europe and has a huge array of fresh cheeses, meats, fruits, vegetables, dairy and baked goods.  

Local specialties include:

Tortellini in brodo – Meat tortellini in a broth

Bologna is no doubt synonymous with tortellini. Legend has it that their shape takes inspiration from Venus’ navel. The recipe for authentic tortellini was registered with Bologna’s Chamber of Commerce in 1974. The dough is made with flour and eggs, while the filling contains pork loin, raw ham, mortadella di Bologna, Parmesan cheese, eggs and nutmeg. To enhance their taste, tortellini is eaten in a broth of capon or hen. It is a typical winter dish that the Bolognesi have for their Sunday lunches.

Tagliatelle al ragu – pasta with meat sauce

Lucrezia Borgia seems to have been the inspiration for the hand-made pasta, tagliatelle. Legend has it that Maestro Zeferino invented them for her wedding upon seeing her blonde braids. Bologna’s Chamber of Commerce guards the recipe of tagliatelle, along with its measurement rule: tagliatelle should be 8 mm wide when cooked. Their thickness has not been defined, although experts say it should be between 6 and 8 tenth of a millimeter.

The official ragu recipe also rests with Bologna’s Chamber of Commerce since 1982, but with ragù there is a lot of leeway. If you ask Bolognese women, you will find there are many individual variations, and they seem to be very secretive about them also. The most important ingredient is minced beef and the tomato based sauce must cook for hours. Ragù goes well with many types of pasta, but especially with tagliatelle and lasagna; never ever eat it with spaghetti though – the Bolognesi consider it an insult!

Lasagna Verde alla Bolognese – Lasagna composed of green spinach pasta sheets with meat ragu and a cream bechamel sauce
Mortadella – Pink colored Italian sausage often served in sandwiches or before meals
Bollito – Boiled beef
Zuppa Inglese – A colorful dessert of cake and cream
Mascarpone – A very creamy and sweet cheese dessert

Cook Bologna’s Famous Pasta Recipes At Home

bolognaragu

Tagliatelle al Ragu

by Mario Batali

Ingredients

Ragu

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup onions, chopped small
  • 1/2 cup celery, chopped small
  • 1/4 cup carrots, chopped small
  • 1/4 pound pancetta, ground
  • 1 pound veal
  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup tomato paste
  • Tagliatelle, recipe follows
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano

Tagliatelle Pasta

  • 1 3/4 to 2 cups cake flour
  • 1 3/4 to 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 eggs

Directions

Ragu

In a large Dutch oven or saucepan, add the olive oil and butter and heat. Add onions, celery and carrots and cook until very soft and beginning to caramelize. Mix together all of the meats.

Add the meats to the pan and begin to brown. When the meat begins changing color and releasing its own liquids, add the milk.

Cook until the milk is almost totally evaporated–it should just be moist around the edges of the meat, about 15 minutes. Add the wine.

Add the tomato paste and stir well. Bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and cook for 2 hours.

To make the pasta:

Roll out the pasta dough to the thinnest setting on a pasta machine. Cut into strips that are 4-inches wide and 8 inches long.

Starting with the 4-inch side, loosely roll the pasta into a tube that is about 4-inches long and 2 1/2-inches wide. Cut the open side into 1/4-inch wide strips.

Unroll the pasta and place in small bundles.

Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil. Add salt to the water and return to a boil. Add the tagliatelle and cook for 5 minutes. Drain the tagliatelle and add to the Bolognese sauce.

Thin with a little pasta water, if necessary. Toss for 1 minute. Immediately serve in warm pasta bowls. Top with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Tagliatelle

Mound 3 1/2 cups of the flour in the center of a large wooden cutting board. Make a well in the middle of the flour and add the eggs and the olive oil.

Using a fork, beat together the eggs and oil and begin to incorporate the flour, starting with the inner rim of the well.

As you expand the well, keep pushing the flour up from the base of the mound to retain the well shape. The dough will come together when half of the flour is incorporated.

Start kneading the dough with both hands, using the palms of your hands. Once you have a cohesive mass, remove the dough from the board and scrape up and discard any leftover bits.

Lightly flour the board again and continue kneading for 6 more minutes. The dough should be elastic and a little sticky.

Wrap the dough in plastic and allow to rest for 30 minutes at room temperature. Roll or shape as described above.

bolognasoup
Tortellini en Brodo

by Mario Batali

Ingredients

  • 6 cups brodo, recipe follows
  • 1 1/4 pounds tortellini, recipe follows
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated

Brodo

  • 1 pound beef scraps
  • 1 pound beef or veal bones
  • 1 pound beef tongue, cut into 4 or 5 pieces
  • 1 (4 to 5 pound) stewing hen, cut into 6 pieces
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 carrot, coarsely chopped
  • 1 celery rib, coarsely chopped
  • 10 to 12 quarts cold water
  • Salt and pepper

Tortellini

Filling:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 ounces ground turkey
  • 4 ounces ground veal
  • 4 ounces ground pork shoulder
  • 4 ounces prosciutto, finely diced
  • 4 ounces mortadella, finely diced
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cups Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

Pasta:

  • 3 1/2 to 4 cups flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

Bring the brodo to a boil. Add the tortellini and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until all the tortellini are floating to the top of the pot.

Ladle equal portions of tortellini into 4 warmed pasta bowls. Ladle the hot broth on top of the tortellini and top with grated Parmigiano.

Brodo:

Place the beef, bones, tongue, chicken pieces, onion, carrot, and celery in a large soup pot, cover with the water and bring almost to a boil, very slowly.

Reduce the heat to simmer before the mixture boils and allow to cook for 4 hours, skimming off the foam and any excess fat that rises to the surface.

After 4 hours, remove from the heat, strain the liquid twice, first through a conical sieve and second through cheesecloth and allow to cool.

Refrigerate stock in small containers for up to a week or freeze for up to a month.

Pasta:

Filling:

In a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed, large saucepan, heat the butter and oil until it foams and subsides.

Add the turkey, veal and pork shoulder and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until the meat is well-browned and begins to release some of its juices.

Add the prosciutto and mortadella and cook for 5 minutes more. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Place in a food processor and pulse to combine.

Add the egg and the Parmigiano-Reggiano and mix well to combine. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and add at least 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg and mix again.

Set aside in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Pasta Dough:

Mound 3 cups of flour in the center of a large wooden cutting board. Make a well in the middle of the flour; add the eggs and oil.

Using a fork, beat together the eggs and begin to incorporate the flour starting with the inner rim of the well.

As you incorporate the eggs, keep pushing the flour up to retain the well shape.

The dough will come together in a shaggy mass when about half of the flour is incorporated.

Start kneading the dough with both hands, primarily using the palms of your hands. Add more flour, in 1/2-cup increments, if the dough is too sticky.

Once the dough is a cohesive mass, remove the dough from the board and scrape up any left over dry bits. Lightly flour the board and continue kneading for 3 more minutes.

The dough should be elastic and a little sticky. Continue to knead for another 3 minutes, remembering to dust the board with flour when necessary.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and set aside for 20 minutes at room temperature.

Roll the pasta into sheets using a pasta machine.

For the desired pasta sheet thickness, gradually pass the dough through the settings starting with the widest and continuing to the number 9 setting.

With a pasta cutter or a knife, cut the pasta into 1 1/2-inch squares. Place 3/4 teaspoon of filling in the center of each square.

Fold into triangles, press out any air around the filling and press to seal the edges. Bring the points of the long side together to form a ring,and seal between your fingers.

Set the tortellini aside on a sheet pan, wrap well with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Reserve for later assembly.

bolognalasagna
Lasagna Verde alla Bolognese

by Mario Batali

Ingredients

  • Ragu Bolognese recipe from above

Lasagna al Forno

  • 4 extra-large eggs
  • 6 ounces frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed very dry and chopped very fine
  • 3 1/2 to 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus 1/2 cup for dusting the work surface
  • 1/2 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

Besciamella

  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 8 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano, for grating

Directions

Make the ragu as directed from above and set aside.

For the lasagna al forno:

Combine the eggs and spinach. Mound 3 1/2 cups of the flour in the center of a large wooden cutting board.

Make a well in the middle of the flour and add the egg and spinach mixture and the olive oil.

Using a fork, beat together the spinach, eggs and oil and begin to incorporate the flour, starting with the inner rim of the well.

As you expand the well, keep pushing the flour up from the base of the mound to retain the well shape. The dough will come together when half of the flour is incorporated.

Start kneading the dough with both hands, using the palms of your hands. Once you have a cohesive mass, remove the dough from the board and scrape up and discard any leftover bits.

Lightly flour the board and continue kneading for 6 more minutes. The dough should be elastic and a little sticky.

Wrap the dough in plastic and allow to rest for 30 minutes at room temperature. Divide the dough into 3 equal portions and roll each out to the thinnest setting on a pasta rolling machine.

Bring about 6 quarts of water to a boil and add 2 tablespoons salt. Set up an ice bath next to the stove top. Cut the pasta into 20 (5-inch) squares and drop into the boiling water.

Cook 1 minute, until tender. Drain well and refresh in the ice bath. Drain on towels and set aside.

For the besciamella:

In a medium saucepan, heat butter until melted. Add flour and stir until smooth. Over medium heat, cook until light golden brown, about 6 to 7 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat milk in separate pan until just about to boil. Add milk to butter mixture 1 cup at a time, whisking continuously until very smooth and bring to a boil.

Cook 30 seconds and remove from heat. Season with salt and nutmeg and set aside.

For assembly:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a baking pan, assemble the lasagna, beginning with a layer of ragu, a sprinkling of grated Parmigiano, a layer of pasta, a layer of bechamel, a layer of ragu, a sprinkling of grated Parmigiano etc. until all the sauce and pasta are used up.

The top layer should be pasta with bechamel over it. Top the lasagna with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and bake in the oven for 30 to 45 minutes, until the edges are browned and the sauces are bubbling.

Remove and allow to cool for 10 minutes before slicing.

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