Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

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Fra Diavolo is a spicy sauce for pasta and seafood. Most versions are tomato-based and use chili peppers for spice. Fra Diavolo is served over pasta with shellfish that roughly translates to “among the devil,” getting its name from the hot pepper that gives it its signature heat. It’s traditionally made with shrimp or lobster, and sometimes clams
Debate rages on whether this dish originated in Italy or in one of America’s Italian American communities. Regardless of its origins, it is popular in restaurants, but lobster Fra Diavolo is rarely found in cookbooks. I grew up with spicy shellfish pasta, especially for Christmas Eve, so here is my version. I use lobster tails because they are easier to cook with and eat with the pasta.

4 servings

Ingredients

250g (8 1/2 oz) long pasta
4 small lobster tails, about 4 oz each, split in half down the middle lengthwise
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 (28 oz) containers chopped Italian tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons Calabrian chili paste or 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 sprig fresh basil
1 cup seafood broth or clam juice
¼ cup chopped Italian parsley leaves

Directions

In a sauté pan that will be large enough to hold the lobster and cooked pasta, sauté the garlic in 2 tablespoons of olive oil for 30 seconds. Add the seafood broth and simmer for a minute or two. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, chili paste, basil sprig, and salt to taste, or about 1 teaspoon. Simmer until the sauce is reduced about 1 hour. Add the lobster tails cut side down, bring the sauce back to a low boil and cook the lobster for about 5 minutes or until the shells turn red and the meat turns white.

Boil a large pot filled with water. When it comes to a rolling boil, add a generous amount of salt and the pasta, and cook very al dente.

Place the lobster tails on a plate and set aside. Remove the basil sprig. Drain the pasta and add it to the tomato sauce, along with a ladleful of the pasta cooking water. Let the pasta simmer in the sauce, mixing it well, and making sure every strand is coated with the sauce. Pour the pasta on to a serving platter and top with the lobster tails. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve.


Roasted Potatoes And Green Beans

Ingredients

1 1/2 pounds baby gold potatoes, halved
1/2 pound fresh green beans, trimmed and cut in half
2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
2 whole bay leaves
1 lemon, juiced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Chopped parsley for garnish

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Arrange the potatoes in the bottom of a baking dish. Drizzle with oil and lemon juice, then season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with the Italian seasoning and add the garlic cloves and bay leaves. Arrange the green beans on top.
Bake for 30-40 minutes until veggies are just tender. Stir the mixture halfway through the baking time. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve.

Italian Tomato and Sundried Tomato Bruschetta Sauce

This sauce is also excellent for an appetizer spread on toasted slices of Italian bread.

Bruschetta Sauce

ingredients

5 Roma tomatoes chopped
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, about 8, chopped
4 cloves minced garlic
1 tablespoon oil from sun-dried tomatoes
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon salt
Combine the ingredients in a food processor or blender until smooth. Set aside at room temperature.

Baked Chicken Bruschetta

Ingredients

2 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
2 tablespoons oil
½ cup Italian Tomato and Sundried Tomato Bruschetta Sauce, recipe above
2- 4 large slices Mozzarella cheese

Directions

Place the chicken cutlets in an oiled baking dish and drizzle with the 2 tablespoons olive oil. Bake in the oven alongside the potato/green bean pan. After 25 minutes, remove the dish from the oven and spread the chicken evenly with the Bruschetta sauce and cover with slices of mozzarella cheese. Return to the oven for about 5 minutes more to melt the cheese. Serve with the potatoes and green beans.


Ingredients

2 whole eggplants, peeled and sliced lengthwise, about 1/4 inch thick, to get about 12 slices total
Salt for the eggplant slices
Flour and Olive oil
2 cups whole milk ricotta cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella, plus extra for the top of the rolls
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese (plus extra for sprinkling)
1 egg
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
3 cups prepared tomato sauce (recipe below), homemade or store-bought
1 loaf Italian bread, for serving

Directions

Combine the egg, ricotta, mozzarella, and parmesan cheeses together in a mixing bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste and the chopped parsley. Mix well and set aside in the refrigerator while you prepare the eggplant.

Place the eggplant slices in a colander and sprinkled them with salt to sweat for 30 minutes. Rinsed the slices with cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Place on a kitchen towel.

Dredge the slices in flour. Heat enough oil in a large skillet to cover the bottom of the pan. Cook the eggplant slices in the pan until lightly brown. Tuen the slices over and cook until the second side is lightly brown. Drain eggplant on paper towels. Repeat the process, adding more oil as needed, until all the slices are fried.

When the eggplant has cooled about 10 minutes, begin the filling process. On each slice, put about 2 tablespoons of ricotta cheese mixture. Spread it on the eggplant and then roll. Repeat with all eggplant slices.

Cover the bottom of a deep baking dish with tomato sauce. Place the eggplant rolls in the bottom of the pan and spread tomato sauce over the top of the eggplant rolls. Sprinkle with shredded mozzarella and grated parmesan cheese. Cover the dish with foil.

 


Bake in a 400-degree F oven for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 15 minutes more. let rest 10 minutes before serving with some crusty Italian bread.

Rollatini Tomato Sauce

Ingredients

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 (28-32-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
2 dried bay leaves
1 tablespoon prepared basil pesto
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Directions

In a large pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until soft and translucent, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add celery and carrots and season with salt and pepper. Saute until all the vegetables are soft, about 5 to 8 minutes. Add tomatoes and bay leaves and simmer uncovered on low heat for 1 hour or until thick. Remove bay leaves and add the unsalted butter.


This dish is always a big hit when I take it to a potluck dinner.

Meat Sauce

Ingredients

3-26-ounce containers chopped Italian tomatoes
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and chopped fine
1 pound ground beef
1 pound meatloaf mix( pork, veal, beef)
1 lb Italian sausage, casing removed
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
½ teaspoon coarse black pepper
1/4 cup tomato paste
1½ teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

 

To prepare the meat sauce
Heat the olive oil in a heavy 4 to 5-quart pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 8 minutes. Make a little room in the center of the pot, add in the garlic and cook, stirring, until the garlic is lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Add the ground beef, meatloaf mix and pork sausage and season lightly with salt. Cook, stirring to break up the meat until the meat changes color and the water it gives off is boiled away, about 10 minutes. Continue cooking until the meat is brown, about 5 minutes. Add the seasonings and bring to a boil and cook, scraping up the brown bits that cling to the bottom of the pot. Pour in the tomatoes, then stir in the tomato paste until it is dissolved. Bring to a boil, adjust the heat to a lively simmer and cook, uncovered, stirring often, until the sauce thickens and takes on a deep, brick-red color, about 3 hours.

The sauce can be prepared entirely in advance and refrigerated for up to 5 days, or frozen for up to 3 months.

Lasagna

Ingredients

Meat Sauce (recipe above)
12 uncooked fresh lasagna noodles
2 containers (15 oz each) ricotta cheese
1 box (9 oz) frozen spinach, thawed, drained and squeezed dry
2 teaspoons dried basil leaves or Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon garlic powder Salt and pepper to taste
1 egg
1 lb sliced mozzarella cheese
Grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

In a mixing bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, spinach, basil, garlic, salt, pepper, and egg.
Oil a 9×13 inch baking dish. Spread about 2 cups of sauce in the bottom of the baking dish. Place 4 fresh noodles on top of the sauce. Layer half of the mozzarella slices on top of the noodles. Spread half of the ricotta filling over the mozzarella. Add 4 more noodles. Spread with some of the meat sauce. Add remaining mozzarella slices, remaining ricotta filling and cover with 4 more noodles. Cover the noodles with a good amount of sauce. You may not need all of the sauce from the recipe above.

Spray a sheet of foil with cooking spray and place it face down on the lasagna and seal tightly. Heat the oven to 375°F. Bake the lasagna for45 minutes. Remove the foil and sprinkle the top of the lasagna with Parmesan cheese. Return the baking dish to the oven and cook for 15 minutes more. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.

To bring to a potluck-cover the dish again and place it in a thermal carrier.


The recipe yields enough sauce and meat for 2 pounds of pasta. Serve this meal, as the Italians do, with a green salad.

Penne with Ricotta Cheese
1 lb whole grain penne pasta
1 lb Italian pork sausage, hot or sweet, cut into links
1 cup ricotta cheese, warmed in the microwave
1 cup grated parmesan cheese

Soft and Tender Meatballs
1 cup crushed saltine crackers
1/2 cup milk
1 pound meatloaf mix (ground beef, pork, and veal)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Tomato Sauce
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1/2 medium onion, finely diced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
3 (26-28-ounce) containers Italian crushed tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Adjust the oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

For the meatballs:
Combine the crushed saltines and milk in mixing bowl and let sit for 5 minutes. Mash with a fork until a smooth paste forms. Add the meat, Parmesan, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper to the saltine mixture and mix with your hands until thoroughly combined. Use a muffin/ice scoop to form 12 meatballs. Transfer to a plate, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate while you make the sauce.

For the sauce:
Combine oil and garlic in a large Dutch oven. Cook over low heat until the garlic is soft about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add onion and red pepper flakes and cook until the onion softens about 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, Italian seasoning, and 1 teaspoon salt. Simmer for 15 minutes. Carefully place the meatballs into the sauce. Return the mixture to a simmer over medium heat. Cover the pot and place the Dutch Oven in the preheated oven.

Place one tablespoon olive oil il a separate baking pan and place the sausage links in the pan, turning to coat the sausages in oil. Place in the oven with the sauce. Bake until the sausages are brown, turning them over halfway through the baking time about 45 minutes. Add the sausages to the meatball/sauce mixture. Continue to bake the sauce for 15 minutes more.

For the pasta
Remove the Dutch Oven from the oven and place it on the stove, covered, while you cook the pasta. When the pasta is cooked al dente, return it to the pasta pan and add 2 cups of the tomato sauce, stir gently and add the Parmesan cheese. Stir again. Place the pasta in a pasta serving bowl. Drop tablespoons of warm ricotta cheese on top. Place some of the meatballs and sausage around the pasta and serve.


When broccoli rabe shows up in my supermarket, I know spring is not far behind in my area.

Sausage, Mozzarella, and Broccoli Rabe Pasta

Serves 4

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Half of a large sweet onion, chopped
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 oz spicy Italian sausage, casings removed
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 container (26-28 ounces) chopped Italian tomatoes
2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
8 ounces short pasta
1 bunch broccoli rabe (about 1 pound), trimmed and cut into two-inch lengths
8 ounces mozzarella, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1/4 cup grated Parmesan

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.


In a large skillet or saucepan, heat oil over medium-high. Add onion and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally until the onion is golden brown, 15 minutes (reduce heat if browning too quickly).
Add garlic and sausage. Cook, breaking meat up with a wooden spoon, until browned, about 5 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, 30 seconds. Add tomatoes and Italian seasoning. Cook sauce until slightly thickened, 10 minutes.

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta 4 minutes less than package instructions and add the broccoli rabe to the pot with the pasta. Cook for the remaining time. Drain pasta and broccoli rabe and return to the pot. Stir in tomato sausage sauce.

Transfer to an oiled 3-quart baking dish Top with diced mozzarella and Parmesan. Bake until the cheese melts and the sauce is bubbling about 15 minutes. Let rest a few minutes before serving.


I used pappardelle pasta for this recipe because I wanted a lighter dish. Pappardelle noodles are very wide but lighter than lasagna. If you want a lower carb dish, I would recommend a low carb pasta I found made by Al Dente. It is a delicious egg/semolina pasta, that tastes like pasta but has half the carbs of regular pappardelle pasta. I like to serve a mixed green salad with Italian dressing with the casserole.

Ingredients

1 lb Pappardelle pasta
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 pound Italian pork sausage
3-14 to 15 oz cans diced Italian tomatoes, undrained
One 6 oz can tomato paste
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon dried Italian herbs
Salt and pepper

Ricotta Filling
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl; mix well and set aside
32 oz container ricotta cheese
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon dried parsley or ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

Directions.

Cut the sausage into ¼ inch slices.

In a large saucepan or Dutch Oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic; cook and stir 1 minute. Add sausage; cook until the sausage is browned and cooked through, stirring frequently. Add the tomato paste, one tomato paste can of water, and the dried seasoning. Cook and stir for one minute. Add tomatoes salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes and bring to a low boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer the sauce until thickened, about 1 to 1 ½ hours.

Cook pasta two minutes less than the package directions. Drain.

Arrange a double layer of pappardelle (about a third of the pasta) in a 3-quart casserole dish sprayed with olive oil cooking spray. Cover the pasta with 1/3 of the sauce and add half of the ricotta cheese. Spread the cheese to cover the layer underneath. Repeat the process for a second layer. Spread the remaining pasta for a third layer and cover with the remaining sauce. Sprinkle with 1 cup mozzarella.

Spray a sheet of foil with olive oil cooking spray. Place the coated side down on the baking dish. Bake at 375*F for 40-45 minutes or until heated through. Let rest 15 minutes before serving.


Chicken Puttanesca

Serve with pasta.

4 servings

Ingredients

Sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup diced pancetta
1/4 cup minced fresh onion
2 red chili peppers, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
28 oz can of Italian whole cherry tomatoes (Cento brand)
1/4 cup sliced green olives
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons capers, chopped
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 canned anchovy fillet, chopped

Chicken
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 (4-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast cutlets
4 slices provolone cheese
Flour
Salt and pepper
8 oz fettuccine

Directions

Make the sauce
Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the pancetta onion, and garlic; sauté 1 minute. Add tomatoes and remaining ingredients. Bring to a simmer, and cook for 15 minutes or until sauce is slightly thickened, stirring occasionally.

Cook the pasta al dente and drain.

For the chicken
Coat the chicken cutlets in flour, salt, and pepper. Shake off excess. Heat the oil in a large skillet and cook the cutlets about 2-3 minutes on each side until golden. Top each cutlet with a slice of cheese and cover the pan. Cook for a minute or two until the cheese melts.

Mix the cooked pasta with the sauce. Place an equal portion of pasta in four individual pasta bowls. Top with the chicken and serve.

Oven Roasted Zucchini

4 servings

Ingredients

Two large Zucchini sliced into 1/4″ thick rounds
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika
Salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and line a baking sheet with foil. Coat the foil with olive oil cooking spray.
Place zucchini rounds in a bowl. Add oil and spices to the bowl and toss zucchini to coat.
Lay zucchini on the prepared baking sheet in a single layer.
Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Return to the oven for 5 more minutes.


In the mood for deep-dish pizza? No need to to get take out because this deep dish pizza is easy to make at home.

Chicago-Style Pan Pizza

Makes two 10-inch deep-dish pizzas.

Ingredients

1 recipe Deep Dish Pizza Dough, recipe below
8 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 pound Italian sweet sausage, crumbled
1/2 pound button mushrooms, chopped
1 cup chopped onions
2 garlic cloves, minced
26-28 oz container chopped Italian tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried Italian herbs
1 teaspoon of sea salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
16 oz mozzarella, shredded
Grated Parmesan Cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
Drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil in two 10-inch round deep dishpans. Place one dough ball in each pan and press into the pan until the edge of the dough reaches the corners of the pan. Press the dough so that the edges rise up slightly. Cover the pans with a kitchen towel and set aside to rest as you prepare the filling.


Place a large saute pan over medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add the sausage and cook until lightly caramelized, about 4 minutes. Add the mushrooms and onions and cook until soft, about 4 minutes. Add garlic, Italian herbs, crushed red pepper flakes, black pepper, and tomatoes to the pan and cook until thickened, about 1 hour. Allow to cool to room temperature and divide the mixture in half.


Sprinkle the bottom of each dough with 1/4 of the shredded cheese, about 1/2 cup. Spread an equal amount of the sausage mixture over the dough in each pan. Drizzle each with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and then top each pizza with the remaining mozzarella cheese and a sprinkling of Parmesan. Transfer the pizzas to the oven and bake until the dough has risen, the cheese has melted, and the surface of the pizza and dough are a golden brown, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, let rest 10 minutes, cut into wedges, and serve hot.

Deep Dish pizza dough ingredients:
2 ¼ teaspoons (1 packet) instant yeast
1 cup warm water (110 degrees F)
Pinch of sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for coating bowl
3 cups all-purpose flour

Directions

In a large mixer bowl fitted with the paddle attachment, add all the dough ingredients. Mix until the dough forms a ball around the paddle. Remove the paddle and switch to the dough hook and knead the dough for 7 minutes to form a smooth and elastic dough that is not sticky. Transfer dough to a lightly oiled large bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, usually 1 hour. Divide dough into 2 portions and form each into a ball.


This classic Italian sauce is called sugo alla puttanesca in Italian. Recipes may differ according to preferences; for instance, the Neapolitan version is prepared without anchovies, unlike the Lazio version. Spices are sometimes added. In most cases, however, the sugo is a little salty (from the capers, olives, and anchovies) and quite fragrant (from the garlic). It is usually served with spaghetti but we like it with seafood.

Seafood in an Italian Spicy Tomato Sauce

2 servings

Ingredients

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 fish fillets,(I used sea bass) (about 1 1/2 inches thick 4 ounces each)
4 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
Flour
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon anchovy paste
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
26 oz container finely diced Italian tomatoes (I used the Pomi brand)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, halved
1 tablespoon capers
2 1-inch-thick slices Italian bread brushed with olive oil and grilled
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley

Directions

For the sauce
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a medium skillet.
Add the anchovy paste and garlic and cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes. Add the pepper flakes and continue to stir.
Pour in the tomatoes, oregano and basil and heat to a simmer. Add the olives and capers and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until thickened.

For the fish
Season the fish and shrimp with salt and pepper. Lightly flour the fish shaking off extra flour.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a small skillet with a cover over medium-high heat. Brown the fish fillets and shrimp on both sides.

Pour a cup to 1 ½ cups of sauce over the fish in the small skillet and cover the skillet. Heat for 2-3 minutes. Save the remaining sauce for pasta.

Place a piece of grilled bread in each serving bowl. Divide the fish evenly and place it on top of the bread. Spoon the sauce over each portion and sprinkle with parsley. Serve immediately.



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