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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Tag Archives: Italian American favorites

Italian American cuisine is a popular and delicious cuisine. It is a style of cooking adopted throughout the United States that was shaped by Italian immigrants and their descendants. However, what is known in America as Italian food is often not found on the table in Italy.
No one in Italy knows what marinara sauce is. There may be different variants of such a sauce that depend on regional or family traditions (with or without garlic, with or without onions, with or without carrots, with or without a pinch of sugar to counter acidity, etc.) but tomato sauce is simply called “salsa” or “sugo” depending on whether you’re from northern or southern Italy. What’s commonly called marinara sauce in America is tomato sauce in Italy that is the base for pizza, pasta, etc., but without garlic or onion or herbs that are not fresh basil.

Parmigiana in Italy is made with eggplant, tomato, caciocavallo cheese, and basil. No chicken or veal. At best, in some parts of Italy, they alternate the layers of eggplant with prosciutto or beaten eggs for added flavor.

Below is a classic recipe for chicken that I grew up on and it is still a big favorite in my family.

Chicken Parmigiana

2 servings

Ingredients

1 cup plain breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, minced
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 egg, beaten lightly
2 chicken breast halves
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups Homemade Marinara, see recipe
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
4 slices of mozzarella cheese
4 oz thin Spaghetti, cooked al dente

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375˚F.

Combine breadcrumbs, parsley, 1/4 cup of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, a pinch of salt and pepper to taste. Place bread crumb mixture, flour, and egg in three separate dishes.

First, dredge the chicken breast halves in flour, making sure to shake off any excess. Dip in beaten eggs and, like the flour, make sure to let any excess drip off. Finally, dredge in the breadcrumb mixture to coat well. Allow breaded cutlets to rest for a few minutes on a plate before frying.

Heat olive oil in an ovenproof skillet on medium-high heat. Fry chicken until golden. Be sure to turn for even cooking, about 4-5 minutes per side.
Top each breast with Marinara, covering each piece, place the skillet in the oven and bake for 15 minutes, or until bubbling.

Place two slices of mozzarella on each piece of chicken and bake for another 5 minutes or until the cheese melts.
Serve with the cooked spaghetti mixed with the remaining marinara sauce.

Marinara Sauce

Pasta alla marinara (“mariner style” pasta) does exist in Italy, but it’s usually prepared with shellfish and olives. In the United States, the term “marinara” refers to the simple tomato-based “red” sauce that’s a standard in Italian-American cooking.

Ingredients

3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 large onion, chopped fine
1 carrot, chopped fine
1 celery stalk, chopped fine
1 tablespoon olive oil
One 6 oz can tomato paste
Four 28 oz containers Italian chopped tomatoes
1 teaspoon each dried oregano, dried basil, crushed red pepper, and dried thyme.
Salt and pepper

Directions

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a Dutch oven and saute the vegetables and garlic. Add the tomato paste. Fill the empty can with water and add it to the pot.

Add tomatoes. Simmer, uncovered, for 1 hour.

Add 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon each black pepper and the dried oregano, dried basil, crushed red pepper, and dried thyme.

Simmer, uncovered, for another hour or until the sauce thickens.

Italian Leaf Salad

Ingredients

1 small head of lettuce, washed and dried
1 small red onion, cut into ring
Italian black olives to taste

Italian Dressing

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Directions

Tear the lettuce leaves into small pieces.
Place the greens, olives, and onion in a medium salad bowl.
In a jar, combine the dressing ingredients. Shake well and pour over the greens. Toss and serve.

 

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These are the dishes my children and grandchildren love. I try to make them when they visit. No one ever seems to tire eating these traditional family favorites.

Neapolitan “Low Carb” Meatballs

Makes 12 large meatballs

Ingredients

1 pound lean ground beef
1 pound lean ground pork
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
2 large eggs, beaten
¼ cup minced fresh parsley
1 teaspoon Montreal steak seasoning
1 onion, finely chopped
1 large clove garlic, grated
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Marinara Sauce for cooking the meatballs, recipe below

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Using your hands. combine all of the meatball ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Cover a large baking sheet with foil and coat the foil with olive oil cooking spray. Form the meatball mixture into large meatballs. Use a ½ cup measure. You should be able to make 12 large meatballs. Place the meatballs on the prepared baking sheet and place the pan in the oven. Bake for 15 minutes and then turn the meatballs over. Bake for 15 minutes more. Place the meatballs in the pot of marinara sauce and simmer for one hour.

Marinara Sauce

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
6 oz can tomato paste
Two 26-28 oz containers of Italian finely chopped tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Directions

Heat the oil in a large deep skillet. Add the onion and garlic. Cook until tender. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to low and simmer the sauce for about 1 ½ hours.

Sausage and Peppers

Ingredients

2 lbs Italian pork sausage, one hot; one sweet
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
8-10 Italian frying peppers, stems and seeds removed; cut into 1-inch rings
2 medium onions, sliced
1 cup marinara sauce, recipe above

Directions

Heat an outdoor grill with direct and indirect heat. Place the sausage links on the indirect heat side and cook for 15 minutes. Turn the sausage links over and grill for 15 minutes more. Remove the links to a plate and cool. Cut the sausage into 1-inch pieces.
You may also cook the sausage in the oven or in a frying pan.
Heat the oil in a large deep skillet. Add the garlic, onions, and peppers. Turn the heat to low and cook until the vegetables are soft and tender, about 30 minutes. Add the sliced sausage and marinara sauce. Heat over low until hot.

Cheese Ravioli

My favorite frozen ravioli are made by Celentano. They are most like homemade ravioli and for busy times they are perfect.

Ingredients

One family size package cheese ravioli
2 cups Marinara sauce, heated, recipe above
Grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Cook the ravioli in boiling salted water according to the package instructions.

Tip
I like to place the package of ravioli in the refrigerator overnight. That way the ravioli do not stick together and you can drop individual ravioli into the boiling water.

Remove the ravioli with a spider utensil and place the ravioli in a serving bowl. With each layer, add sauce and Parmesan cheese. Continue until all the ravioli are in the serving bowl. Serve immediately.

Eggplant Parmesan

For each one pound of eggplant, you will need:

1 pound eggplant, peeled
2-3 large eggs
1 cup Italian style bread crumbs
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Coat two large baking sheets with nonstick olive oil cooking spray.

Cut peeled eggplants crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices (no thicker). You want them to be thin.

Place the eggs in one shallow dish and the breadcrumbs mixed with the cheese in another.

Dip the eggplant slices into the egg, then coat with the breadcrumb mixture. Arrange the eggplant slices in a single layer on the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 15 minutes, turn the eggplant slices over, and bake until crisp and golden, about 10-15 minutes longer.

To assemble the casserole, you will need:

Spray an 8 inch or 9 inch or 8-by-11 1/2-inch baking dish with olive oil cooking spray.

Preheat the oven to 375 °F.

2 ½ cups Marinara sauce (see recipe above)
8 ounces sliced mozzarella cheese
1 recipe breaded and baked eggplant

Directions

Spread 1/2 cup of the sauce in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Arrange half of the eggplant slices over the sauce, overlapping slightly. Spoon 1 cup of sauce over the eggplant and add half of the cheese slices. Add the remaining eggplant slices and top with the remaining sauce and cheese. Cover the dish tightly with foil and bake until the sauce bubbles, about 25 to 30 minutes.

Italian Romaine Salad

Ingredients

1 head of romaine lettuce, sliced, washed and dried
1 small red onion, cut into rings

Italian Dressing

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Directions

Place the greens and onion in a medium salad bowl. In a jar, combine the dressing ingredients. Shake well and pour over the greens. Toss and serve.

Leftover Meatballs, Sausage & Peppers and Eggplant make great sandwiches.

 



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