Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: squash



When choosing a pumpkin at the market, look for soft spots, mold, wrinkles or open cuts that would indicate damage or early spoilage. Choose a pumpkin with a solidly attached stem. A green stem indicates a freshly harvested pumpkin. Choose pumpkins between 4 to 8 pounds and labeled “sugar pumpkins” or “pie pumpkins.” Some specific names are Baby Pam, Autumn Gold, Ghost Rider, New England Pie Pumpkin, Lumina (which are white), Cinderella and Fairy Tale. Pumpkins have a long shelf life and can keep for months at cool room temperature.

Pumpkin Puree


  • 2 ½ pounds pie pumpkins


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Cut pumpkins into 5×5-inch pieces. Remove and discard seeds and strings. Arrange pieces in a single layer, skin sides up, in a foil-lined baking pan.

Cover with foil. Bake about 1 hour or until tender. When cool enough to handle, scoop pulp from rind. Place pulp in food processor or blender.

Cover and process or blend until smooth. Measure 1 cup puree to use in risotto. Transfer remaining puree to an airtight container.

Store for up to 3 days in the refrigerator or freeze for up to 6 months. Thaw frozen puree in the refrigerator.


Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins

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


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 cups cranberries (fresh or frozen)
  • ½ cup applesauce
  • ¼ cup reduced fat milk or almond milk
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • 1 egg
  • Vanilla sugar


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 12-15 cup muffin pan with nonstick spray.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Combine the remaining (wet) ingredients in another bowl.

Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture until just moist. Fill the muffin cups and bake for 30 minutes (or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean).

Let rest for 10 minutes.Remove the muffins and cool on a wire rack.


Apple Pumpkin Butter

Pumpkin butter is a delicious addition to waffles, pancakes, banana bread, oatmeal or as a spread for toast. It also makes a great and healthy topping for ice cream.


  • 4 cups pumpkin puree or two 15-oz. cans pureed pumpkin
  • 1 ¼ cups pure maple syrup
  • ½ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • ¼ teaspoon salt


In 5-quart Dutch oven combine all ingredients except nuts. Bring to boiling; reduce heat.

Cook, uncovered, over medium heat, stirring frequently, about an hour until thick. (If mixture spatters, reduce heat to medium-low). Remove from heat; cool.


Ladle into jars or freezer containers, leaving 1/2-inch head space. Cover; store in refrigerator up to 1 week or freezer up to 6 months.

Acorn Squash


Acorn squash can have orange, dark green, or tan skin. To pick a good-tasting one, press it all around to make sure it’s devoid of soft spots. Don’t refrigerate-just store the squash in an airy dry spot for up to 3 weeks.


Roasted Acorn Squash Slices


  • 1 medium acorn squash (about 1-1/2 pounds)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces


Preheat the oven 350°F.

Cut squash in half lengthwise; remove and discard seeds and membrane. Cut each half into 1/2-inch slices; discard ends.

Place slices in a greased 13 x 9-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with salt and drizzle with the maple syrup. Dot with butter.


Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes or until tender.


Italian Sausage Stuffed Acorn Squash

6 servings


  • 3 large acorn squash, halved crosswise, seeds and fibers scooped out
  • 1 teaspoon unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, sliced thin
  • 12 ounces Italian sausage, casing removed
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 4 cups of 1/4-inch cubes of lightly toasted sourdough bread
  • ¾ cup chicken broth, homemade or low-sodium canned
  • 4 teaspoons chopped fresh Italian parsley


Oven 400 degrees F.

Cut the squash in half and remove the seeds. Slice off the bottom of each squash half so that they stand flat, being careful not to cut into the flesh.

Place in a baking dish large enough to hold the squash halves and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and celery and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add the sausage and cook, breaking it up with the back of a spoon, until no traces of pink remain, about 8 minutes.

Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and stir in the thyme, salt, pepper, bread cubes and chicken broth until well mixed.

Divide the stuffing mixture among the squash halves. Add enough water to the roasting pan to make a depth of about 1/4 inch. Cover the squash loosely with aluminum foil.

Roast for 45 minutes.Remove the foil and bake for 15 minutes more or until the squash is tender. Place 1 squash half on each of 6 plates, garnish with parsley and serve immediately.



Grilled Porterhouse Steak


Grilled Corn and Grilled Squash Boats

First Course


Tomato Salad with Herbed Ricotta Cheese

Serve with crusty Italian Bread


  • 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh basil
  • 2 pounds tomatoes, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1/4 cup torn fresh basil leaves


Combine oil, vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and garlic in a bowl, stirring with a whisk.

Combine ricotta and 2 tablespoons minced basil in a bowl, stirring with a whisk. Arrange the tomato slices on a platter; sprinkle with the remaining salt, pepper and torn basil leaves.

Drizzle oil mixture over the salad. Dollop ricotta mixture evenly over tomato slices. Serve.

Second Course


Grilled Porterhouse Steak

Serves 4


  • 1 porterhouse steak, about 1 1/2 pounds and 1 1/2 inches thick, trimmed of excess fat
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon steak seasoning (I use Pensey’s Chicago seasoning), divided
  • 1 tablespoon butter


Brush both sides of the steak with olive oil and rub in ½ tablespoon of steak seasoning on each side of the steak. Allow the steak to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before grilling.


Prepare the grill for direct and indirect cooking over high heat (450°to 550°F).

Brush the cooking grates clean. Sear the steaks over direct high heat for 6 to 8 minutes, turning once.

Continue grilling over indirect high heat until cooked to your desired doneness, 4 to 6 minutes more for medium rare (125 – 130 degrees), turning once or twice.

Keep the lid closed as much as possible during grilling. Remove the steak from the grill and place the butter on top if the steak. Let rest for 5 minutes.

Cut the steak across the grain into ¼-inch slices

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Italian Frying Peppers

These are delicious as a side dish for grilled steak. Extras will be great in a sandwich.


  • 2 dozen whole Italian frying peppers
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
  • Salt and Pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper (chili)


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Combine all the ingredients in a large skillet with a cover. Turn the heat to low, cover the pan, and cook the peppers until they soften and develop brown spots.

Turn the peppers over after they are browned on the bottom side. Cool to room temperature and store in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving.


Grilled Yellow Squash Boats

Serves 4


  • 2 medium yellow squash
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 4 tablespoons shredded cheese (cheddar, mozzarella, etc)
  • 4 tablespoons Italian seasoned dried bread crumbs
  • Olive oil


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Cut the necks off the yellow squash and reserve for another recipe. Cut each squash in half and scrap out the seeds with a spoon making a hollow in the shell.

Sprinkle the shells with salt and pepper. Fill each squash with 1 tablespoon of cheese followed by 1 tablespoon of bread crumbs. Drizzle each with olive oil.

Place the squash boats on the grill and close the cover. Cook until the shells are tender and the crumbs begin to brown, about 12-15 minutes.

Grilled Corn on the Cob


Dessert Course


Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies

Makes about 30 cookies

I purchase hazelnut pastry and cake filling from the King Arthur.Flour Company. If you prefer, you can substitute Nutella for the hazelnut filling in this recipe.


  • 1/4 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup hazelnut pastry /cake filling or use Nutella
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup water
  • Chocolate Frosting


Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer add all the ingredients except the flour and the water. Beat the ingredients until smooth and creamy. Add the flour and water and beat until smooth.

Form balls of dough with a tablespoon or a small melon scoop. Roll until rough with your hands. Place on parchment lined baking sheets. With a fork, press down on the dough balls to flatten slightly.

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Bake the cookies for 12 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking. Remove the cookies to the counter or a wire rack to cool. When completely cool, frost the top of each cookie with a teaspoon of your favorite chocolate frosting.



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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  • 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


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



  • 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


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

Cut the squash into ¼ inch thick slices.


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


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.


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


Serves 4


  • 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


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.


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


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


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.


I look forward to this time of year because the CSA I belong to (Jeta Farms) begins its distribution of shares to its members. As you can see from the cover photo, my share contains beautiful produce.

CSAs (community supported agriculture programs), provide a direct link between local farmers and consumers by allowing members to purchase a share of a farmer’s crop before it’s produced each season. This allows the farmer to pay for seed, water, equipment, etc., up front.

Each week of the share season, the farmers deliver great tasting, healthy food to predetermined locations or members pick up their shares at the farm. CSA members share in the harvest and everyone benefits. This type of arrangement helps people to connect back to the earth and the food they eat.

Here are recipes for how I used some of the produce in my first share.

Corn Stock


Did you know that you can make delicious vegetable stock with corn cobs? The stock can be used to add flavor to soups, risotto or any recipe calling for vegetable stock.


  • 12 corn cobs (corn kernels removed)
  • 2 chive stalks
  • 2 stems fresh parsley
  • 2 stems fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf



Put corn cobs, chives, parsley, thyme, bay leaf and cold water to cover in a large pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium, cover the pot and simmer for 1 1⁄2 hours.

Strain, discard solids and refrigerate or freeze until ready to use the stock.

Grilled Corn on the Cob


For each ear of corn:

  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • ½ tablespoon chopped fresh chives
  • One ice-cube
  • Heavy duty aluminium foil


Remove the husks and silk from the corn. Center the corn on a piece of foil large enough to enclose the entire cob.

Dot with the butter and sprinkle on the chives. Add an ice-cube.


Bring up the foil sides. Double fold the top and ends to seal making one large foil packet, leaving room for heat circulation inside.

Grill, turning frequently, until the corn is tender, about 15 minutes. Remove the corn from the grill. Be careful opening the foil and wear oven mitts as the corn will be very hot!

Green Bean Salad

green beans

3-4 servings


  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 2 oz feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup finely diced red onion
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano


To make the vinaigrette: whisk together the vinegar, oil, garlic, salt and pepper in a serving bowl; set aside.

Bring a large saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil; add the beans and cook until just tender, about 3 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the beans to a bowl of ice water. Drain well and toss with the vinaigrette, oregano, feta and onion. Chill before serving.

Stuffed Summer Squash Boats



Serves 4


  • 4 medium yellow squash
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup marinara sauce, heated (see recipe link here)
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • 1/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • Olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh basil leaves
  • Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste


Cut off the stems on the squash and cut a slice off the top of each squash. I used the top and the scooped out flesh in the relish recipe below.


Using a small spoon, scoop out the seeds and enough flesh from each squash to create room for the stuffing.

Place the squash in a greased baking dish or in individual baking dishes and brush the cut sides of the squash with olive oil.

Season the squash lightly with salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

To make the stuffing:


In a small mixing bowl, combine the panko breadcrumbs, 1 tablespoon olive oil, minced basil and Parmesan cheese. Set aside.

Combine the ricotta and mozzarella in another mixing bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Evenly distribute the ricotta cheese mixture in the squash boats.

Evenly sprinkle the breadcrumb topping mixture on top of the ricotta filled squash.

Bake the squash for 30 minutes or until the squash is tender and the topping is golden brown.

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Remove the baking dish or dishes from the oven and pour some warm marinara sauce over the squash boats before serving.

Small Batch Summer Relish

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Sweet-and-sour squash relish is a great condiment for burgers and summer sandwiches. You won’t believe how delicious summer squash is in this relish.

Makes: 2 cups


  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons mustard seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (chili)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 lbs zucchini and/or yellow squash
  • Half a medium onion
  • Half a red or yellow bell pepper


Finely dice the vegetables with a knife. I don’t like using the processor for relish because it makes the squash watery and a grater makes them too fine for relish.


In a large saucepan, heat vinegar, sugar, mustard seeds, crushed red pepper and salt to boiling on high, stirring. Stir in squash, onion and bell pepper.

Simmer 60 minutes or until very tender and very soft, stirring occasionally.

Transfer to airtight containers and refrigerate until cold. Store up to 1 week in the refrigerator or freeze in small containers.

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How to get back on track:

Have Breakfast

Not only does it reset your body by getting your metabolism going, but it also helps you set the tone mentally for a regular eating day.


Water helps you feel full, so you won’t be as tempted to carry your overeating into the next day.

Squeeze in Some Exercise

It will make you  feel so much better.

Have a Filling Salad for Lunch

The water in the veggies will help hydrate you and keep you feeling full until dinner.

Cook Dinner at Home

Go for clean foods, like a piece of broiled fish with roasted veggies and a whole grain like quinoa or barley. They’ll give you the nutrients you need and you won’t be hungry.Choose lean cuts of meat and avoid oversized portions. A serving of protein should be no more than 3 ounces (85 grams) — or about the size of a deck of cards — and should take up no more than one-fourth of your plate. Vegetables and fruits should cover half your plate. Whole grains make up the rest. Try a few meatless meals each week for added health benefits.

A few really tasty recipes follow to get you started.


Roasted Vegetable Crepes


  • 1 cup flour
  • 2/3 cup reduced-fat milk
  • 2/3 cup cold water
  • 3 eggs
  • 6 tablespoons melted butter, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


  • 2 medium zucchini, cut into bite-size pieces (about 2 cups)
  • 1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into bite-size pieces (about 1 cup)
  • 1 medium sweet onion, coarsely chopped (about 3/4 cup)
  • 2 cups grape tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Coarsely ground black pepper
  • 5 ounces softened reduced fat cream cheese


To prepare the crepes:

Place flour in a medium bowl. Gradually whisk in milk and water until smooth. Whisk

in eggs, 3 tablespoons melted butter and salt. Let stand 10 minutes. (This allows the flour to absorb the liquid.)

Heat an 8 or 9 inch crepe pan over medium-high heat until hot. Lightly brush the pan with some of the remaining melted butter.

Pour 1/4 cup batter into the center of the pan. Quickly tilt in all directions. (Batter should lightly cover the bottom of the pan.) Cook 30 seconds. Lift edge with a spatula to check doneness. Shake and jerk the pan by its handle to loosen the crepe. Turn crepe over and  cook 15 to 20 seconds. Second side will be spotty brown.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Repeat with remaining batter and melted butter. Makes 10 crepes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

To prepare the filling:

Makes about 3 cups.

Place zucchini, bell pepper, onion and tomatoes in a large baking pan. Drizzle with olive oil. Add salt, thyme and pepper. Roast 30 minutes or until tender.

Spread 2 tablespoons of cream cheese on half of each crepe. Top with about 1/3 cup roasted vegetables. Fold in half, then in half again. Serve with a green salad.


Winter Vegetable Stew 


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 large red onion, cut crosswise into 1/3 inch thick rounds
  • 3 medium carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 pound red skinned or yellow gold potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 butternut squash (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled and cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 acorn squash (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled and cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
  • 3 parsnips–peeled and quartered lengthwise
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon marjoram
  • Flat leaf parsley for garnish


Preheat the oven to 400°F.

In a large nonreactive skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over moderately high heat. Add the onion and carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned all over, about 10 minutes; transfer to a casserole dish.

Add another tablespoon of oil to the skillet. Add potatoes and butternut squash, and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned all over, about 10 minutes; transfer to the roasting pan. Repeat the cooking process using another tablespoon of oil and the acorn squash and parsnips.

Add the broth to the skillet and bring to a simmer over high heat, scraping up any browned bits. Pour the broth over the vegetables. Season with salt and pepper and add the marjoram. Cover and cook the vegetables in the oven for about 45 minutes, or until just tender when pierced. Increase the oven temperature to 450°F and cook, uncovered, for 5 minutes longer. Ladle into serving bowls and garnish with parsley. Serve with a slice of crusty country bread.


Tomato, Zucchini and Eggplant Gratin


  • 1/2 medium eggplant, sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 medium zucchini or yellow squash, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • Kosher salt
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced or mashed
  • One 14-ounce loaf Italian bread, crusts removed and sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup torn basil leaves
  • 3 medium tomatoes, sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • 1 teaspoon thyme leaves
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese


Preheat the oven to 400° F.

In a colander, toss the eggplant and zucchini with 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and let stand for 20 minutes. Drain well and gently squeeze out any excess liquid.

In a small bowl, stir the olive oil with the garlic. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with 1 1/2 teaspoons of the garlic-infused oil.

Tear the bread into 2-inch pieces and line the bottom of the baking dish with the bread, fitting the pieces tightly together. Drizzle the bread with 2 tablespoons of the garlic oil and sprinkle the bread with half of the basil leaves.

In a medium bowl, toss the eggplant and zucchini with 2 tablespoons of the garlic oil and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the tomato slices with salt and pepper. Arrange the eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes over the bread, overlapping them as necessary. Sprinkle with the thyme leaves and Parmesan cheese and drizzle with the remaining garlic oil.

Bake the gratin for about 40 minutes, until the vegetables begin to brown and the bottom of the bread is golden brown. Remove the vegetable gratin from the oven and let stand until cooled slightly, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with the remaining basil, cut into serving pieces.


Italian Style Stuffed Peppers

4 servings


  • 4 medium bell peppers
  • 1/2 pound extra-lean ground beef or turkey
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup drained, canned whole Italian tomatoes
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 cup soft bread crumbs
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Vegetable cooking spray
  • 1 cup homemade or store-bought tomato sauce


Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Slice off the stem end of peppers and remove and discard seeds and membranes. Submerge the peppers in a pan of boiling water and cook for 5 minutes; drain.

Brown ground beef and onion in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Drain on paper towels.

Return meat mixture to the skillet. Add tomatoes, breaking them into pieces with a spoon, and cook until the liquid evaporates. Remove meat mixture from heat; stir in wild rice, Worcestershire sauce and Italian seasoning.

Spoon 1/2-cup portions of the mixture into the peppers; sprinkle evenly with breadcrumbs and cheese.

Place peppers in a baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Spoon tomato sauce over peppers and return to oven until heated.


Broccoli Swiss Quiche

6 servings

Easy Whole Wheat Pastry Crust

  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons milk

Quiche Filling

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup broccoli, cooked and chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups Swiss cheese, shredded
  • 8 ounces reduced fat milk
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 medium tomato, sliced thin
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

Directions for making the crust:

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Into 8 or 9 inch Quiche pan or pie plate, stir together flour, sugar and salt. Combine the oil and milk in a measuring cup and pour over the flour mixture.

Mix with fork till all the flour is dampened.

Press dough evenly against the bottom and sides of the pie plate. Crimp edges.

Line the unpricked pastry shell with a double thickness of foil. Bake in the oven for 8 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 4 to 5 minutes more or until the pastry is set and dry.

Remove the pie plate from the oven and set aside while you prepare the filling.

Reduce oven temperature to 350°F.

Directions for the Quiche Filling:

In a mixing bowl whip eggs with a wire whisk and stir in the broccoli, shredded Swiss cheese, milk, garlic, onion, salt and pepper; stir until blended.

Assembling the Quiche:

Pour into baked pastry crust. Place the tomato slices on top of Quiche mixture; sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until Quiche tests done in center. Protect pastry crust with foil at the end of the cooking time to prevent over browning.

Cool on wire rack for 5 to 10 minutes before cutting.




The following are some of the favorite side dishes my family has come to enjoy on Thanksgiving. I don’t make all these dishes at one time but tend to rotate them each year to keep things interesting.

Italian Bread & Sausage Stuffing


Yields enough to fill a 12- to 14- pound turkey and a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.


  • 14 cups Italian bread, like ciabatta, cut into 1/2- to 3/4-inch cubes (about 3 loaves)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 lb sweet Italian fennel sausage (casings removed)
  • 2 large yellow onions, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 5 large ribs celery, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 8 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (or 1-1/2 teaspoons dried)
  • 1 tablespoons dried sage
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup chicken broth, plus extra for the baking dish


Pile the bread cubes into a very large bowl and set aside. Place a large sauté pan over medium heat and add the olive oil and sausage. Cook, breaking up the sausage with a wooden spoon or spatula into 1-inch pieces, until light brown, about 5 minutes With a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage to the bowl with the cubed bread.

In the fat left in the pan, sauté the onions, celery and garlic until the onions are translucent and just beginning to brown, 8 to 10 minutes Stir in the thyme, sage, salt and pepper, cook 1 minute and then add the mixture to the cubed bread. Add the broth to the bread mixture; stir until well combined.

Put some of the stuffing in the turkey just before roasting. Pack the stuffing loosely, leaving enough room to fit your whole extended hand into the bird’s cavity. Cook the stuffing in the turkey in a 325 degree F oven to 165ºF, checking with an instant-read thermometer.

Place the remaining stuffing in a casserole dish or large baking pan, pour a cup or two of extra stock over the stuffing to replace the juices the stuffing would have absorbed from the turkey. Bake it covered until heated through, 45 minutes to 1 hour. For a crunchy top, uncover it for the last 15 minutes of baking.

Polenta-Stuffed Squash


Makes 6 servings


  • 3 acorn squash, each about one pound
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups finely chopped onions
  • 1/4 cup fresh sage, minced, plus more for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1 cup fine to medium ground polenta or cornmeal
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 6 ounces Italian fontina cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese


Preheat oven to 400°F.

Using a sharp knife cut the squash in half; discard the seeds. Place squash cut side up in two 13-in. x 9-in. baking dishes coated with cooking spray. Rub the flesh and skin of each squash with 1 tablespoon oil. Scatter garlic inside.

Roast the squash in a baking pan until the flesh is tender but the sides are not yet collapsing, about 25 – 30 minutes.

Heat butter and the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions, the sage and thyme; cook, stirring often, until the onions are just starting to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add polenta or cornmeal, then whisk in broth. Bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer, whisking frequently, until the polenta is tender, 10 to 15 minutes.

When cool enough to handle, scrape about 1 cup of flesh out of each squash, leaving a layer in the shell so it retains its shape. Mash the flesh into a coarse puree and add to the polenta along with the Fontina cheese; stir well. Spoon into the squash shells. Sprinkle the top of each with the Parmesan cheese.

Bake the stuffed squash until the cheese is melted and the polenta is steaming hot, about 20 minutes. Serve garnished with additional sage, if desired.

Spinach-Stuffed Tomatoes


6 servings


  • 6 medium tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper


Cut a thin slice off the top of each tomato. Scoop out the pulp, leaving a 1/2-inch thick shell. Invert tomatoes onto paper towels to drain.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet. Add spinach and garlic; cook until tender, about 3-4 minutes.

In a bowl, combine bread crumbs and Italian seasoning. Add the spinach and cheese to the crumb mixture. Sprinkle tomato shells with salt and pepper and stuff with the spinach mixture. Place in a greased 13-inch x 9-inch baking dish. Bake, uncovered, at 375° F for 20-25 minutes.

Italian Baked Macaroni and Cheese


8 servings


  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 pound small shell macaroni
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 2 cups shredded Italian Fontina cheese
  • Salt
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup plain bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese


Bring 4 quarts water to a boil in a large pot for cooking the pasta. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Coat a 13×9 baking dish with cooking spray; set aside.

Dice the butter and place in a large bowl. Warm the half & half in the microwave, about 1 minute. Cover to keep warm. Shred the Fontina cheese and add to the bowl with the butter. Set aside.

When the water comes to a boil, add salt and the shells and cook until they are 1 to 2 minutes shy of al dente. Drain.

Add the warm half & half to the Fontina and butter. Stir until the cheese starts to melt. Season with salt to taste and the nutmeg.

Stir the shells into the bowl with the cheese. Toss to coat well. Pour the mixture into the baking dish.

Combine the bread crumbs and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese; sprinkle over the pasta.

Bake until the sauce is bubbling and the topping turns golden brown, about 20 minutes. Serve immediately.

Glazed Cipollini Onions



Cipollini means little onion in Italian.

Serves 4


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 16 cipollini onions, trimmed and peeled
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Heat olive oil in a medium ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add onions, stem side down, and cook, until lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn and continue browning on opposite side, about 2 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper.

Add vinegar and honey; cook, until slightly syrupy, about 2 minutes. Add chicken broth, thyme, and garlic; bring to a boil. Transfer skillet to oven and roast until onions are easily pierced with the tip of a sharp knife, 15 to 20 minutes.

Olive Oil and Spinach Mashed Potatoes



  • 2 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 package frozen spinach, defrosted
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 1 rosemary sprig, leaves removed and chopped
  • 1 thyme sprig, leaves removed and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil


In a large saucepan, cover potatoes with cold water by 2 inches and add 1 tablespoon coarse salt and the garlic cloves. Bring to a boil; cook until the potatoes are very tender and easily pierced with a fork, 20 to 25 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup potato cooking water. Drain; transfer to a large bowl.

Heat together the milk, spinach, chopped rosemary leaves and chopped thyme leaves then remove from the heat, cover and set aside to infuse flavors.

Using a potato masher, mash the potatoes with the olive oil and some of the reserved cooking water as needed to moisten. Add the milk and spinach mixture.  Stir until well combined and season with salt and pepper.


Beans are a great source of fiber, antioxidants and protein. Many people choose the simplicity of canned beans over cooking dried beans. However, canned beans are more expensive per serving and often have other added ingredients. Cooking dried beans is not difficult. Here is some basic information.

Soaking the Beans

Always sort through beans to remove tiny stones or debris
Rinse well with water before adding beans to a large bowl
Add enough cold water to cover by 2 inches
Beans will be fully hydrated within 4 hours, but can soak for up to 24 hours
In hot weather, refrigerate beans while they soak

Quick Soak Technique

Combine beans and water in a pot and heat to boiling
Cook for 3 minutes
Remove from the heat, cover tightly, and set aside for an hour

Cooking Facts

Dry beans should always be cooked in soft water or they will be tough
You can add a pinch of baking soda to the pot if you have hard water
Adding salt to beans at the beginning of cooking toughens the skins and increases cooking time

Other Information

Dry beans have a shelf life of one year
Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place
Always store leftover beans in their cooking liquid and refrigerate for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 6 months

Dried Bean Guide

1/3 cup dry beans = 1 cup cooked beans

1/2 cup dry beans = 1 1/2 cups cooked beans

2/3 cup dry beans = 2 cup cooked beans

1 cup dry beans = 3 cups cooked beans

Basic Recipe for Cooking Dried Beans



  • 1 pound dried beans
  • Pinch baking soda
  • 1 carrot, cut in half
  • 1 celery stalk, cut in half
  • 1/2 onion, cut in half
  • 1 sprig rosemary or 1 bay leaf


The night before serving, rinse the beans, picking out any bad ones and place in a large bowl. Cover with water, add a pinch of baking soda and let soak at least 12 hours.

The next day, drain well. Place the beans in a heavy stock pot with the vegetables and rosemary and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the beans are tender.

Check them after 30 and 45 minutes because they may be done, depending on how fresh the beans are.

Remove the vegetables and rosemary sprig. Refrigerate until ready to use the beans. Drain and use the beans in the recipes below.

Clams and White Beans



  • 2 cups cooked white beans
  • 2 tablespoons cubed pancetta
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 white or yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 2 pounds clams
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
  • Salt and freshly grated black pepper


In a large frying pan, add the pancetta and the olive oil and cook on medium heat until the pancetta has rendered its fat and is beginning to brown, about 10 minutes.

Remove the pancetta with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined plate, reserving the fat in the pan. Add the onion and garlic to the pan and saute until soft, about 7 minutes.

Add the oregano, crumbling it with your hands to release the flavors, and then add the clams.

Continue cooking the clams, shaking and tossing them, until they all open. Discard any clams that do not open. Add the wine and beans, stir and return the pancetta to the pan. Heat until the beans are hot. Test for seasoning and add salt if needed.

In each bowl, ladle a portion of beans, some of the clams and their sauce, and a sprinkling of parsley. Serve with plenty of freshly grated black pepper.

Large White Beans with Vinaigrette



These giant beans and vegetables go well together. Serve with sandwiches, over greens or as part of an antipasto platter.


  • 1/2 pound dried gigante beans or lima beans
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/2 head cauliflower, cut into florets (about 2 cups)
  • 3 large carrots, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
  • 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped pepperoncini


Place beans in a large bowl and cover with 2 inches cold water. Let soak overnight.

Drain beans and place in a large sauce pot. Cover with 4 inches water and add the onion. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until the beans are tender. Drain well.

Steam cauliflower and carrots until tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Drain well.

In a large bowl, whisk together the vinegar, salt and chili flakes. In a slow, steady stream, whisk in oil until blended. Add beans, pepperoncini and vegetables, mix well and let marinate at least 4 hours or overnight, stirring occasionally.

Sautéed Spinach with Cannellini Beans



  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (chili)
  • 1 1/2 pounds spinach, trimmed and roughly chopped, (or escarole, curly endive, mustard greens, kale or broccoli rabe)
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 cans no-salt-added cannellini or other white beans, rinsed and drained or 4 cups dried beans as cooked above
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving


Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring often, until the garlic is golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the broth to the skillet and deglaze, scraping up any browned bits. Add beans and simmer until hot throughout, 2 to 3 minutes.

Add greens (in batches, if needed) and cook, tossing often, until wilted and bright green, 3 to 4 minutes. Mix well and season with salt and pepper. Serve piping hot with the cheese as a garnish.

Tomato Soup with Beans


Serves 8


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 cups chopped fresh tomatoes or canned Italian chopped tomatoes with juice
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 cups pinto, cannellini, kidney or black beans, canned and drained, or cooked, as directed above
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Heat the oil in a large soup pot. Add the chopped onion and cook on medium heat until soft. Add the minced garlic and cook a minute more.

Add the tomatoes and broth. Cook about 20 minutes

Stir in the brown sugar. Add half of the beans to the mixture. Use an immersion blender to blend the beans into the soup. Add the rest of the beans and salt and pepper to taste. Heat until hot.

Beef and Bean Burger


My favorite steak seasoning is Penzey’s Chicago Steak Seasoning that contains salt, Tellicherry black pepper, sugar, garlic, onion, lemon zest, citric acid and natural hickory smoke flavor. You will need to add salt to the recipe below if your favorite steak seasoning does not have it.


  • 1/2 cup home cooked or canned (black or pinto) beans, rinsed and drained well
  • 3/4 lb lean ground beef
  • 1/4 cup dried bread crumbs
  • Olive oil for brushing on the burgers
  • 1 teaspoon steak seasoning
  • 4 thin slices Cheddar cheese
  • 4 hamburger buns, lightly toasted
  • Thinly sliced tomatoes, sliced red onion and lettuce leaves


Preheat an outdoor grill to medium. Oil the grill grates.

Place the beans on a cutting board and mash with the back of a fork or large spoon until smooth, but still a bit chunky. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.

Add the beef, bread crumbs and steak seasoning; mix until well combined.

Divide the beef mixture evenly and shape into 4 patties, each a bit larger in diameter than the hamburger buns. Create a small dimple in the center of the burger patty by pressing down with your fingers.

Brush both sides of the burgers lightly with olive oil.

Place the patties on the grill and cook until no longer pink inside and an instant-read thermometer registers about 160°F, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Place cheese slices on top of the patties one minutes before they are done. Transfer the burgers to the toasted buns. Serve with tomatoes, sliced onion and lettuce leaves.


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