Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Marinara

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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.


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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.


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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.

 


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Summer is a wonderful time to entertain and enjoy the outdoors with your friends. Serving appetizers and drinks are a great way to entertain when it is hot. You want easy to prepare recipes so you are not in the kitchen for hours and you want to use simple, common ingredients that you usually have in your pantry or refrigerator. Below are a few of my easy to make suggestions.

Mediterranean Bruschetta

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Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for the bread
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 2 large tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup finely diced red onion
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped oil cured Italian olives
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
  • 1 baguette, cut diagonally into 1/4 inch-thick slices

Directions

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl; except the bread slices. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Lightly grill the bread slices and then brush them with olive oil. Spoon 1 heaping tablespoon of the tomato mixture onto each bread slice and arrange on a serving plate.

Oven Fried Zucchini and Yellow Squash Rounds

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Ingredients

  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • Homemade Marinara Sauce, (see recipe here)
  • 2 medium zucchini, ends trimmed
  • 2 medium yellow squash, ends and neck trimmed
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 ½ cups dried Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Olive oil, for drizzling

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray.

Cut the squash into ¼ inch thick slices.

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In a plastic bag, combine the flour, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper.

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In a shallow bowl, beat the eggs and milk together.

In another shallow bowl, combine the breadcrumbs and cheese.

Place the squash slices in the bag with the flour and shake until they are coated.

Next, place each slice in the egg and then into the breadcrumb mixture.

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Place the squash rounds on the prepared baking pan and drizzle with olive oil.

Bake for 10 minutes. Turn the slices over and bake for another 10 minutes or until crispy.

Serve with warm marinara sauce.

Marinated Cheese

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Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4-ounces of cream cheese, quartered
  • 1 heaping tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • 1 packed teaspoon fresh lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped pitted black and green Italian olives
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes
  • Sea salt
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Toasted crostini, pita chips or crackers for serving

Directions

Place the cheese quarters in a medium container. Sprinkle the thyme, lemon zest, olives and sun-dried tomatoes over and around the cheese. Sprinkle the cheese with a little sea salt.

Pour the olive oil over the mixture. Squash the mixture with a fork and cover the container. Let the cheese marinate in the refrigerator for a few hours.

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Bring the cheese mixture to room temperature about 45 minutes before serving. Put the marinated cheese mixture into a serving dish.

Arrange crostini, pita or crackers around the dish with a couple of small knives for serving.

Tuna Dip

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Serve with fresh celery, radishes, carrots and thin, crispy crackers.

Makes 8 servings.

  • 8-ounces canned tuna
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon capers, washed and drained
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

Combine the olive oil, lemon juice, onion, parsley, garlic, capers, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.

Place the tuna in a food processor and pulse to break it up.

Turn the speed to low speed and add the olive oil mixture, a little at a time, until the ingredients are thoroughly combined and the mixture is smooth.

Pour into a small serving bowl and chill. Serve with fresh-cut vegetables and crackers on the side.


 

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Adding more vegetables to our meals has been a goal. Pasta is a great base for doing this. Vegetables add healthy ingredients while stretching the amount of pasta included in each serving. Also, if you have vegetables leftover from dinner, they make an excellent addition to pasta and save you work.

In the stuffed shells recipe below, I added sautéed chard to the cheese filling, thus stretching the amount of cheese in each serving. Likewise, in the second recipe I added green beans to the pasta to make each serving healthier.

Swiss Chard Stuffed Shells

3-4 stuffed shells make 1 serving.

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces jumbo pasta shells (21 shells)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 leek, white and light green portion, finely chopped
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided, plus more for salting the water
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1 pound (2 bunches) Swiss chard, stems removed
  • 1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese (about 16 ounces)
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 cups Marinara or Basic Tomato Sauce

Directions

Wash the chard well, drain and spin in a salad spinner to remove most of the water. Cut the chard leaves into thin strips.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the leek and garlic and cook, stirring often, until the leek is softened.  Add the chard, oregano, ½ teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Cook, tossing with tongs, until completely wilted. Cover the pan and simmer until the chard is very tender, about ten minutes. Turn the chard into a mixing bowl to cool to room temperature.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta shells, stir, and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes. Place a colander in the sink and drain the shells. Transfer the shells to a kitchen towels on the counter and set aside to cool.

Add the ricotta, mozzarella cheese, 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese, the egg, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and the remaining ¼ teaspoon of black pepper to the chard.in the mixing bowl.

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Heat the oven to 375°F and arrange a rack in the middle.

Evenly spread 1 cup of the tomato sauce on the bottom of an oiled 13-by-9-inch baking dish.

Fill the shells with about 2 tablespoons of the ricotta mixture and place in a single layer, open side up, in the baking dish.

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Pour the remaining tomato sauce  evenly over the shells and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.

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Cover the dish with foil. Tip: I always spray the side of the foil that will touch the food with cooking spray to keep the food from sticking to the foil during baking.

Bake the shells until the sauce just starts to bubble around the edges, about 20 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking until the sauce is bubbling vigorously and the edges of the pan have started to brown, about 10 minutes more. Remove from the oven and let cool 5 minutes before serving.

Pasta with Green Beans and Ricotta

Casarecce is a short, wide pasta loosely rolled into a scroll shape. It is a traditional pasta from Sicily.

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients

  • 12 oz Casarecce or short pasta
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 oz pancetta, chopped
  • 1 large clove garlic, smashed and peeled
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1/2 lb parboiled green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths (2 cups)
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • ½ teaspoon Kosher salt, plus extra for boiling the pasta
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese, warmed
  • 1 oz finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 8 to 10 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water and drain the pasta.

Warm the ricotta cheese in the microwave.

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In a large, heavy skillet, warm the olive oil over medium-high heat. Cook the pancetta until crispy.

Add the shallot, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper and saute for 1 minute. Add the green beans and pasta cooking liquid and continue cooking until hot, about 2 more minutes.

Add the cooked pasta and lemon zest toss to combine. Transfer the mixture to a serving bowl and add the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Mix well.

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Drop tablespoons of ricotta cheese on top of the pasta. Serve immediately.

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I belong to a community group that meets once a month. We have a potluck dinner prior to each meeting and everyone brings a “covered” dish.  Until I discovered the Reynolds Pan Carriers, I struggled with how to transport my dish to the meeting. The Reynolds’ pans make the whole process so much easier. You can reheat the food in the aluminum pan, cover it, place in the carrier and then into the car. So much easier to carry it into the meeting also because the pan has handles.

Carriers are available in Lasagna and 13 x 9 inch Cake Pan sizes. These carriers are made with the same sturdy paper board used to carry 6-packs of beverages. Plus, the colorful design on the disposable carrier makes it attractive to place on the table.

Below is a video from the Reynolds Company on how these disposable pans and carriers work. A bonus  recipe is included.

Below are some of the recipes that I have made for the potluck dinners and I have been asked to make again and again. Hope you like them.

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Orecchiette Pasta with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe

Ingredients

  • One bunch broccoli rabe, washed and trimmed
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (chili)
  • 1 lb sweet Italian sausage, cut into one inch slices
  • 1 lb orecchiette pasta
  • Salt

Directions

Cut the broccoli rabe into one inch pieces and place in a large Dutch oven. Fill the pot with cold water and add salt to taste. Bring to a boil and cook the broccoli rabe for about 5 minutes or until just tender. Remove the broccoli rabe with a slotted spoon or spider to a bowl. Return the water to a boil and add the pasta. Cook the pasta al dente. Reserve ½ cup of the pasta cooking water. Drain the pasta.

While the pasta is cooking, heat the garlic and olive oil in a large deep skillet Add the sausage and cook until completely brown. Add the cooked broccoli rabe and red pepper. Heat thoroughly. Add the pasta cooking water and the cooked pasta. Stir and heat for a few minutes before serving.

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Mozzarella Stuffed Meatballs

Ingredients

  • 15 mini fresh mozzarella balls
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup Italian bread crumbs
  • ½ onion minced
  • Small garlic clove minced
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • Black pepper
  • 1/3 cup shredded fresh Parmesan cheese
  • Marinara Sauce

Directions

Place cheese balls in a plastic freezer container in a single layer and freeze at least 1 hour.

Heat the oven to 375°F. Line 15 x 10 x 1 inch pan with foil; spray foil with cooking spray.

In large bowl, mix bread crumbs and 3 tablespoons of pasta sauce. Stir in beef, onion, salt, oregano and egg. Shape mixture into 15 (2-inch) balls.

Press 1 cheese cube into the center of each ball, sealing it inside. Gently place on the prepared pan. Bake 10 minutes. Do not turn off the oven.

Place browned meatballs in an ovenproof casserole dish with a cover and pour the marinara sauce over the meatballs. Place the covered dish in the oven and heat the meatballs in the sauce, about 20 minutes.

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Oven Baked Italian Chicken Casserole

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper
  • One 3 lb chicken, cut into 10 pieces
  • 1 pound package Italian pork or chicken sausage each link diagonally cut into fourths
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Juice from 2 lemons (about 4 tablespoons)
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 4 medium baking potatoes, cut in fourths
  • 2 green and 2 red bell peppers, cut into one inch strips
  • 1 large sweet onion, cut into eighths

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Coat the bottom of a roasting pan with the olive oil. Place chicken in the pan, skin side down. Salt and pepper both sides of the chicken pieces and scatter the sausage pieces around the chicken.

Bake 15 minutes; turn chicken pieces over and bake 15 minutes.

Squeeze lemon over the chicken, place the lemon skins in the roasting dish with the chicken and sprinkle the chicken with the minced garlic and oregano.

Add the sliced potatoes, onions and peppers to the pan and sprinkle with salt.

Lower the oven temperature to 400 degrees F.

Cover the pan with foil and bake 1 hour, turning the ingredients after 30 minutes.

potluck4

Italian Pot Roast

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 lb chuck roast
  • All-purpose flour
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 8 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 cups dry red wine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 1 container crushed tomatoes (26-28 ounces)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley leaves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons sage leaves, chopped

Directions

Trim most of the fat from the meat and pat dry with paper towels. Season the roast generously with the salt and pepper and lightly rub with all-purpose flour.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot,  but not smoking, add the roast and brown on all sides, 10-12 minutes.

Transfer the meat to a platter.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the carrots, celery, mushrooms and onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, 10-12 minutes. Add the garlic and tomato paste and stir about 1 minute.

Add the wine and stir to incorporate the vegetables. Add the beef stock, the tomatoes, half the parsley, the sage, the bay leaf and the roast with any juices accumulated on the plate. Bring to a boil.

Cover the pot, reduce the heat and simmer on very low, turning and basting the meat every half hour or so, until the meat is very tender, about 4 hours.

(You can also put the pot into a 300°F oven and turn the roast every hour.)

Remove the meat from the pot and place it on a cutting board, covered loosely with aluminum foil to rest for 10 minutes.

Taste and adjust the sauce for seasoning, remove the bay leaf and stir in the remaining chopped parsley.

Cut the meat into thick slices and place in a deep serving dish. Spoon the hot sauce over the meat to serve.

potluck5

Lasagna

Ingredients

Cheese Filling:

  • 32 oz whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup chopped Italian parsley
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Lasagna:

  • 16 oz mozzarella cheese, sliced thin
  • 4 cups spaghetti sauce
  • 16 lasagna noodles, parboiled

Directions

For the filling:

Mix all the filling ingredients together until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to assemble the lasagna.

Completing the Lasagna:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Oil a 13 x 9 inch glass baking dish.

Spread about 1 cup of sauce on the bottom of the dish and place a layer of parboiled noodles on top.

Spread one-third of the sliced mozzarella cheese on top of the pasta and then one-third of the ricotta cheese mixture over the mozzarella; top with another 1 cup of sauce.

Repeat the layers twice, then top with a layer of noodles. Spread 1 cup of sauce over the top layer of pasta.

Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 15 minutes longer. Let stand 15 minutes before cutting.


Amalfi-Coast-Beach

Amalfi-Coast-Beach

Italy is surrounded by the sea where there is an abundance of fresh fish. Seafood is a very important part of the Italian cuisine and fresh seafood is the key to the best tasting Italian meals. Regional recipes for salt-water fish—and sometimes for fresh-water fish from Italy’s many lakes, rivers, and streams—are some of the most celebrated dishes in Italian cuisine. One of the reasons that the Mediterranean people and their diet is so healthy is that they eat a lot more fish than they eat meat. Fish such as tuna, herring, salmon and sardines are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and shellfish including mussels, oysters, and clams have similar benefits for the brain and heart health.

Adding Italian flavors to your fish, makes dinner so much more interesting. Try these out next time you are cooking fish.

seafood1

Shrimp Bruschetta

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound large peeled fresh or frozen (thawed) cooked shrimp
  • 1 pint yellow and/or red cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/4 cup snipped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley, plus extra for garnish
  • 1/4 cup tomato (marinara) sauce
  • 1 small baguette or small loaf of Italian bread
  • 4 tablespoons ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (chili)

Directions

Remove the tails from the shrimp, if present. Combine the shrimp, tomatoes, parsley and marinara sauce in a saucepan and heat just until warm.

Preheat the broiler.

Cut the loaf of bread in half lengthwise and then crosswise, so you have four pieces. Place the bread on a baking sheet. Broil 4 to 5 inches from the heat for about 2 minutes or until light, golden brown.

Spread the ricotta on the toasted bread and top with the warmed shrimp mixture. Sprinkle with hot pepper flakes and parsley before serving.

seafood2

Tuna Club Sandwiches

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup creamy Italian salad dressing, recipe below
  • 1/2 cup bottled roasted red sweet peppers, drained
  • One 12 ounce can solid white tuna, drained and broken in chunks
  • One 8 3/4 ounce can whole kernel corn, drained
  • 12 extra-thin slices sandwich bread, lightly toasted
  • Butter head lettuce leaves

Directions

For the roasted red pepper sauce:

In a blender container combine the salad dressing and half the roasted red sweet peppers; process until nearly smooth.

For tuna filling:

Chop the remaining peppers. In a mixing bowl combine the chopped peppers with the tuna, corn and 1/4 cup of the roasted red pepper sauce.

For each club sandwich: spread two slices of toasted bread with tuna filling, layer with lettuce leaves, stack the two slices, then top with a third slice of toast.

Cut in half diagonally. Serve with remaining roasted red pepper sauce as a dipping sauce.

Light Creamy Italian Dressing

Ingredients

  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup plain Greek Yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons light mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon pepper

Directions

Combine all the ingredients in a jar or mixing bowl and whisk until completely smooth. Use immediately or store in a jar in the refrigerator up to 5 days.

seafood4

Sea Bass with Fennel Salad

4 servings

Ingredients

Dressing:

  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Dash ground black pepper

Fish and Salad

  • 3 fennel bulbs, trimmed, thinly sliced and then cut into thin strips (about 4 cups)
  • 1 cup coarsely shredded carrot
  • 1 lb fresh or frozen sea bass or grouper fillets, cut 3/4 to 1 inch thick
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Fresh fennel tops

Directions

To make the dressing:

In a screw-top jar, combine vinegar, oil, oregano, mustard, the 1/8 teaspoon salt and a dash black pepper. Cover and shake well. Set aside 1 tablespoon of the dressing in a small container with a cover and chill until serving time.

For the salad:

In a large bowl, combine the fennel strips and carrot. Pour the remaining dressing over the fennel mixture. Toss lightly to coat. Cover and chill for 2 to 24 hours.

For the fish:

Pat  the fish dry with paper towels. In a small bowl, stir together the crushed fennel seeds, the 1/2 teaspoon salt and the 1/4 teaspoon pepper; sprinkle evenly over both sides of the fish.

Heat a stove top grill ( or use the broiler).

Grill for 4 to 6 minutes per 1/2-inch thickness of fish or until the fish flakes easily when tested with a fork.  Carefully turn fish once halfway through grilling.

Drizzle the reserved 1 tablespoon dressing over the grilled fish. Cut the fish into four pieces and serve with the fennel salad. Garnish with fennel tops.

seafood3

Pasta Bowl

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 lb fresh white fish fillets, cut into 4 pieces
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 small zucchini or yellow summer squash
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 cup broccoli florets
  • 8 ounces dried pappardelle pasta (wide noodles)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (chili)
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1/2 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese (2 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to boiling.

Trim zucchini. Trim and peel carrot. Using a vegetable peeler, cut the zucchini and carrot lengthwise into thin ribbons. Set aside.

Cook pappardelle pasta al dente according to the package directions and add the broccoli during the last 4 minutes of cooking time. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water and drain the pasta and broccoli.

In a large skillet, heat oil and cook the fillets about three minutes on each side. Place on a plate and cover with foil to keep warm.

In the same skillet, combine the wine, broth, Italian seasoning, the salt and the crushed red pepper. Bring to boiling; reduce heat.

Simmer, uncovered, about 4 minutes or until the liquid is reduced by half. Add the reserved 1/2 cup pasta cooking water. Bring back to boiling.

Add drained pasta, broccoli and vegetable ribbons to the skillet. Gently cook and stir until the pasta is coated with the sauce mixture and thickens slightly.

Stir in the cherry tomatoes, the 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese and half of the parsley. Heat until the cheese is incorporated and the tomatoes are slightly softened.

Divide pasta, vegetables and sauce into four individual pasta bowls. Break fish into large chunks and place on top of each pasta serving. Sprinkle with the remaining parsley.

seafood5

Swordfish with Citrus Salsa

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 lb fresh or frozen swordfish or tuna steaks, cut 1 inch thick and divided into 4 steaks
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 2 blood oranges or red grapefruit
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh mint
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, divided
  • Asparagus

Directions

Pat fish dry with paper towels. Set aside.

In a small saucepan cook the green onions and garlic in 2 tablespoons of oil for 1 to 2 minutes or until the onions soften. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Crumble saffron threads into the mixture; stir. Let stand to infuse the saffron.

Cut a thin slice from one end of each orange or grapefruit and the lemon, so the fruit will sit level. Working on a cutting board, cut down from the top of the fruit to remove the peel and white part of the rind.

Working over a bowl to catch the juices, remove the fruit sections by cutting into the center of the fruit between one section and the membrane; cut along the other side of each section next to the membrane to free the section. Remove seeds.

Add saffron mixture to the bowl with the fruit sections and juices. Stir in the mint, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper.

Lightly brush both sides of the swordfish steaks with the remaining olive oil; sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Grill fish on the rack of a covered grill directly over medium heat for 8 to 12 minutes or just until fish flakes when tested with a fork, turning once halfway through cooking time.  Or use a stove top grill or a broiler.

Add some asparagus spears to the grill with the fish. Turn the asparagus several times during the grilling time.

Gently stir fruit-mint mixture to combine and spoon over the fish. Serve the asparagus on the side.



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