Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Tag Archives: pesto

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Making the classic Ligurian pesto of basil, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, garlic and olive oil, is really just a start. Play with the formula to create your own pesto version for tossing with pasta or spooning over just about anything from the grill.

Here are a few ideas.

  • Vary the herbs. Tender leaves, like parsley, oregano and mint also work well. Or skip the herbs and try baby kale, baby spinach or arugula.
  • Switch up the nuts. Try almonds, hazelnuts or walnuts, which make a heartier pesto. Or add pistachios or Brazil nuts, which both have a natural buttery flavor that’s delicious in a sauce.
  • Add vegetables. For an especially chunky pesto, add your farmers’ market finds, from asparagus to red peppers to tomatoes.
  • Mix and match. After you get comfortable with varying the formula, you can come up with creative combos, like oregano-pistachio or olive-hazelnut.

Carrot Top Pesto

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A new cookbook, Root to Stalk Cooking by Tara Duggan, inspired me to think about how I could use the carrot tops that came with my CSA share. The spread I created is delicious over grilled chicken breasts and grilled fish fillets.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup packed carrot leaves (washed well and stems removed)
  • 6 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • 1/4 teaspoon each fine sea salt and black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons roasted pistachio nuts (see below)
  • 1/2 of a lemon, squeezed

Directions

If you did not purchase roasted nuts then spread the nuts in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Place in a preheated 350-degree F oven and toast the nuts until lightly browned, 5 to 10 minutes. Alternatively, nuts can be browned in a microwave. Spread in a single layer on a microwave-safe plate and microwave on high power, stopping to stir once or twice, until lightly browned, 5 to 8 minutes.

To Make the Pesto:
In a food processor, combine the carrot leaves, oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Process until finely minced. Add the nuts and pulse until finely chopped. Add the lemon juice and pulse just until combined. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Use immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Traditional Handmade Basil Pesto

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Makes about 1 1/2 cups

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup pine nuts (6 ounces)
  • 5 cups basil leaves, chilled and very dry
  • 6 small garlic cloves, quartered
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for sealing
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Toast the nuts on a baking sheet for about 4 minutes, or until lightly browned. Coarsely chop the basil leaves.

In a large mortar, combine the basil and garlic and pound to a coarse paste. Add the nuts and pound until a smooth paste forms. Stir in the Parmesan, then 3/4 cup of the olive oil.

Transfer the pesto to a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Smooth the surface and pour a little olive oil on top to seal.

Cavatappi with Basil Pesto and Eggplant 

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Modern method for making pesto.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound cavatappi pasta or short pasta of choice
  • 7 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 small eggplant, diced in small cubes
  • 1 bunch fresh basil chopped
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts toasted
  • 1 lemon juiced
  • 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shredded
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Mix eggplant with 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Place on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for about 10 minutes or until light, golden brown. Remove from the oven.

Combine basil, pine nuts, salt and pepper in a blender, pulse for 5 seconds. With processor running add 6 tablespoons of olive oil and puree. Remove the pesto from the blender and transfer to a large pasta serving bowl.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, season with salt. Cook pasta 1 minute less than packaged directions. Drain pasta and place in the bowl with the pesto.

Add lemon juice and eggplant and toss to combine. Top with shredded Parmigiano cheese before serving.

Spinach Pesto

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This pesto does incredible things for grilled chicken.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups lightly packed baby spinach leaves (about 2 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Combine the spinach, pine nuts, lemon juice and lemon peel in a processor. Lightly pulse.

With the machine running, gradually add the oil, blending until the mixture is creamy. Add salt and pulse. Stir in the Parmesan. Season the pesto with salt and pepper to taste.

Olive-Mint Pesto

Olive-Mint Pesto

Stir this pesto into mixed ground meats to make meatloaf, serve it on bruschetta with shaved Parmesan cheese, stir it into soups or whisk it into vinaigrettes.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons tightly packed mint leaves
  • 2 tablespoons small capers, drained
  • 1 large garlic clove, smashed
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup pitted mixed olives, such as Kalamata and Cerignola
  • Freshly ground pepper

Directions

In a food processor, pulse the mint with the capers, garlic, lemon zest and crushed red pepper. With the machine on, add the olive oil in a thin stream. Add the olives and pulse until coarsely chopped. Season the pesto with pepper.

Olive-Mint Pesto Meatballs

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Ingredients

  • 3 slices good quality packaged white bread, crusts removed, bread torn
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 1/3 cup Olive-Mint Pesto, recipe above
  • 1 scallion, thinly sliced
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 pound ground turkey
  • 3/4 pound ground beef (or use all turkey)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

In a large bowl, soak the bread in the milk for 1 minute, mashing it. Using your hand, press out the milk and drain it off.

Add 1/3 cup of the olive-mint pesto, the scallion and the egg to the soaked bread and mash to a paste. Add the ground turkey and beef and season with 1 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Mix until well blended.

Line a baking sheet with plastic wrap. Using lightly moistened hands, roll the meat mixture into twenty-four 1 1/2-inch balls and transfer to the baking sheet.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the meatballs in a single layer and cook over moderately high heat, turning occasionally, until browned all over and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Serve over pasta, if desired.

Mixed-Herb Pesto

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Whisk the pesto with a little vinegar to create a delicious herb dressing for a salad, sliced tomatoes or grilled fish.

Makes 2 ½ cups

Ingredients

  • 1 large garlic cloves
  • 4 lightly packed cups basil leaves
  • 2 lightly packed cups flat-leaf Italian parsley leaves
  • 1/2 cup lightly packed mint leaves
  • 1/2 cup roasted nuts, such as walnuts, almonds, pine nuts or pistachios
  • 1 1/2 cups extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 ounces Pecorino Romano cheese, grated (1/2 cup)
  • Salt

Directions

In a food processor, chop the garlic. Add the basil, parsley and mint and pulse until chopped. Add the nuts and oil and pulse until a smooth paste forms. Add the cheese and pulse until incorporated. Season with salt to taste.

Spoon the pesto into 1/2-pint freezer containers. Smooth the surface and pour a little olive oil on top to seal. Freeze for up to 6 months.

Walnut Pesto

Walnut Pesto

Mix this pesto with cooked tortellini or roasted vegetables, spread it on thickly sliced tomatoes and broil, or stuff it under the skin of a chicken  before roasting.

Makes about 1 1/4 cups.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups walnut halves (6 ounces)
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • Crushed red pepper
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup minced flat-leaf Italian parsley
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread the walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 12 minutes, or until golden. Cool the walnuts and finely chop.

In a processor, combine the garlic with a pinch each of crushed red pepper and salt. Process until a paste forms.

Add the walnuts, parsley and slowly add the olive oil until blended. Stir in the Parmesan cheese and season with additional salt, if needed.

Sun-Dried-Tomato Pesto

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Use this pesto on top of grilled chicken, lamb or vegetables; as a sandwich spread; or mixed with cream cheese on a bagel. It is quite delicious on whole wheat spaghetti, also.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup pine nuts or
  • 15 drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper

Directions

In a small frying pan, toast the pine nuts over moderately low heat, stirring frequently, until golden brown, about 5 minutes; remove from the pan. Or toast the pine nuts in a 350°F oven for 5 to 10 minutes.

In a blender or food processor, put the pine nuts, sun-dried tomatoes, oil, water, salt and pepper. Puree until smooth.

6. Fusilli with Spinach and Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto

To Make a Pasta Salad:

Cook 1 lb fusilli pasta according to directions. Drain.
Toss the pasta with a 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts, 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, the sun-dried tomato pesto, 1/2 cup of roughly chopped pitted black olives, 2 cups baby spinach leaves, 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes and 1/4 cup grated Parmesan. Serve at room temperature.


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Liguria can be found on the Italian Riviera, along the northwestern coast of Italy, and it is a landscape that will impress people on their journey through this historically rich and popular region. The capital Genoa, one of the most important ports in the Mediterranean and home to Christopher Columbus, was a powerful maritime state during the Middle Ages. Today, one can find architecturally impressive buildings, elegant mansions and historic churches — all of which bear witness to Liguria’s glorious past, yet blend in perfectly with modern times. Luxuriant Mediterranean vegetation exists in the mountain regions of Portofino and Cinque Terre and the climate in this mountainous region is mild, perfect for growing vegetables, olives and grapes. Sanremo is one of Italy’s most famous bathing resorts and the place where the annual Italian pop music festival takes place.

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On Saturday, March 29, 2014 the Pesto Championship will take place in Genoa. In the Hall of the Great Council in the Doge’s Palace, 100 competitors from around the world will compete in the preparation of Pesto Genovese using traditional ingredients and a pestle and mortar.

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Ligurian cooking is known for the simple flavors of fresh produce, especially the Pesto alla Genovese mentioned above. Liguria basil is blended with extra virgin olive oil, pine nuts, garlic and Parmigiano Reggiano to make this famous sauce. It is not only used for pasta, but can also be added to soups, vegetables or rice dishes.

Liguria is a region of vineyards and olive groves that produce excellent extra-virgin olive oils and quality wines, like Ormeasco and Rossese from Dolceacqua, Vermentino, Ciliegiolo and Bianchetta from Genoa, Albarola, and Pollera Nera from the Riviera di Levante and Pigato from Salea d’Albenga.

Seafood and fish dishes are typically fish soups like ciuppin and buridda made with stockfish, as well as stuffed and fried sardines.

Among the meat dishes to choose from are cima alla genovese (cold stuffed breast of veal) made ​​from the leftovers of slaughter such as brains and sweetbreads, etc. along with eggs, cheese, peas and greens or a stewed hare with taggiasche olives, pine nuts and rosemary. The famous stuffed pie of the region is Torta Pasqualina (Easter pie), a thin pastry stuffed with greens, cheese and eggs.

Cima alla Genovese

Cima alla Genovese

Fugassa, a soft and thick focaccia covered with onion slices and olive oil, and the thin farinata, a baked savory pancake made with chickpea flour, are very popular. The traditional desserts of this region are pandolce genovese, amaretti and cubeli (tiny butter cookies).

Antipasto

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La Focaccia Col Formaggio Di Recco – Focaccia with Cheese

The traditional version calls for locally made stracchino cheese–a soft, fresh, creamy cow’s milk cheese. You can substitute crescenza cheese, which is basically stracchino under a different regional name or even a burrata, which is made from fresh mozzarella cheese with a creamy cheese filling in the middle. It bakes down to a stracchino-like texture. All of these are now available in the United States from Bel Gioioso Cheese. You will want something mild and creamy (soft enough to be spreadable, but not liquid) that will also melt. I also like the taste of creamy Italian fontina in this recipe. The King Arthur Flour Company sells 00 Italian flour.

Ingredients

Dough (will make two “14″ pans)

  • 2 1/4 cups (10 ounces/ 284 g) unbleached all-purpose flour or 00 grade flour (this has slightly more gluten than American flour)
  • 1/2 teaspoon (0.125 ounce (3.5 g) salt
  • 3/4 cup (6 ounces/170 g) water, room temperature

Filling

  • Stracchino or similar cheese, 8 ounces for each 14-inch pan
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Topping

  • Olive oil, about 1 tablespoon per pan
  • Sea salt, to taste

Directions

In a mixing bowl stir all the dough ingredients together and continue stirring until they form a ball of dough. Add more water if needed, a few drops at a time, to hydrate all the flour. If the dough is too sticky, add more flour. Dust the counter with a little flour and transfer the dough to the counter. Knead it for about four minutes, adding flour or water as needed to make a smooth, supple dough. It should not be sticky, but soft and only slightly tacky, almost satiny to the touch. You can also do this in an electric mixer or a food processor.

Cover the dough and let it rest for five minutes, then knead it again for about two minutes. This can also be done in an electric mixer using a dough hook.

Divide the dough into 4 balls of approximately 4 ounces each. Cover them and let them rest for about fifteen minutes before rolling and stretching them.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Lightly mist the baking pan or pans with olive oil spray.

Rub a small amount of olive oil on a smooth counter or work surface to make a circular lightly oiled spot of about the diameter of your baking pan. Take one of the dough balls and place it in the center of the oiled spot and flatten it with your hand. Flip it over so that both sides have touched the oiled surface. Use a rolling-pin to roll out the dough, from the center to the outer edges, to the size of your pan. If the dough springs back, let it rest for a few minutes and then continue rolling it (you can start on a second piece in the meantime–it will take 2 pieces per pan).

When the dough is the diameter of the pan, carefully lift it and gently stretch it with your hands, as if stretching pizza dough, to make it larger than the pan and as thin as you can get it without tearing it–it should look like fillo (phyllo) or strudel dough–nearly paper-thin. Lay one piece of stretched dough over the pan and tuck it into the corners to cover the whole surface as well as the inner walls of the pan, with some dough overhanging the pan.

Fill the dough-covered pan with pieces of cheese, spaced about 1 1/2 to 2 inches apart. Sprinkle the cheese with a small amount of pepper and salt. Repeat the rolling and stretching of a second piece of dough and cover the pan with the dough, overhanging the outside of the pan so that the top and bottom crusts connect along the rim of the pan. Pinch the two doughs together and tuck the dough into the pan, crimping it with your fingers all around the circumference to make a pie-like edge. Crimp this edge with your fingers to seal the two doughs together to fully enclose the cheese filling. If necessary, trim off any excess dough with a paring knife.

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Drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil over the top of the dough and sprinkle a small amount of sea salt. Use a scissors or sharp paring knife to cut vent holes into the top crust. Place the pan in the oven and bake for about 10 to 15 minutes or until the top crust is covered with deep golden brown streaks and sections. Remove the focaccia from the oven and allow it to cool for about three minutes. Cut the focaccia into large or medium size squares (not wedges) and remove the sections with a flexible spatula. Serve while still hot.

First Course

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Rice Minestrone with Pesto – Minestrone di Riso al Pesto

4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (200 g) rice (use medium-grained, if possible, not parboiled)
  • 1 – 15 oz can borlotti beans or similar beans
  • 12 ounces (300 g) mixed greens (e.g. spinach, chard, cabbage)
  • 2 potatoes
  • 1 leek
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 1 rib celery
  • 1/2 medium onion
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 quarts (2 liters) boiling water
  • 2 tablespoons pesto sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

Directions

Peel and dice the potatoes. Peel and slice the carrots, coarsely chop the mixed greens and dice the green part of the leek. Mince the celery, onion and white part of the leek. In a soup pot heat the olive oil and saute the onion, celery and white part of the leek until the onion is translucent. Add the remaining chopped and diced vegetables and cook, stirring, for a minute or two. Add the beans, season the mixture with salt and pepper and carefully add the boiling water. Simmer the soup for one hour.

After an hour, stir in the rice and let it cook for 15 minutes more or until the rice is tender. Remove a ladle of just the broth to a mixing bowl. Stir the pesto sauce into the broth and, when the rice is done, stir the pesto mixture into the soup. Simmer for a minute more and serve it topped with grated cheese.

Second Course

fish and potatoes

Sea Bass Filets, Ligurian Style — Filetti di Orata Alla Ligure

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 1/3 pounds (600 g) sea bass fillets, bream or similar fish
  • 1/2 pound (200 g) potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 4 teaspoons (20 g) capers, rinsed
  • 1/2 pound (240 gr) green zucchini, sliced
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh marjoram or dill
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 C).

Sauté the potatoes until lightly browned in half the olive oil and then place them with the zucchini slices in the bottom of a baking dish. Lay the fish filets over them, sprinkle the remaining ingredients over the fish and season everything to taste with salt and pepper. Roast the fish for 15-20 minutes and serve each portion of fish with the vegetables beneath it.

Dessert Course

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Ligurian Olive Oil Cake

Ingredients

  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons whole milk, at room temperature
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Finely grated zest of 2 lemons or oranges

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Butter and flour a 10-inch round cake pan.

Into a medium bowl, sift together the 1 3/4 cups of flour, baking powder and salt. In another medium bowl, whisk the melted butter with the olive oil and milk.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the eggs with the sugar and citrus zest until pale and thickened, about 3 minutes. Alternately, beat in the dry and wet ingredients, starting and ending with the dry ingredients. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for about 30 minutes, until the cake is golden brown and the side pulls away from the pan. Transfer the cake to a rack and let cool before serving.

MAKE AHEAD The cake can be stored at room temperature for up to 3 days.

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Entertaining, especially during the holiday season, can be challenging. Not only do you need to spend time wrapping gifts, baking cookies, getting the house and yourself ready, but you need to make meals! A dinner menu can be expensive. Just look at the cost for a beef or pork roast; you can easily spend more than $20.00 – $30.00 just on the entree. Save money and time by making several pasta sauces before the holidays, freeze them and defrost them, as needed, for entertaining over the busy holiday season.

You can make Italian pasta sauces with or without meat ahead of time and keep them in the refrigerator for up to a week or frozen for many months. Pasta cooks quickly. Toss it with one of these great sauces, below, and you have a quick delicious meal your guests are sure to appreciate. All you need to round out the menu is a simple appetizer, a bottle of wine and an easy dessert.

I keep an assortment of dry pastas and frozen fresh pastas, on hand, to help with stress free entertaining during busy times. You just need to decide what type of pasta you want to make for a dinner party and fit the sauce to the pasta type. The texture of pasta will often determine the type of pasta sauce that can most effectively be used — thicker or shaped pastas can withstand heartier sauces, while thin pastas have better results with lighter sauces.

Good pasta sauces enhance the delicate flavor of the pasta without overpowering it. There are many types of pasta sauces, from the light and simple marinara sauce to the thick and rich Alfredo sauce. Traditional sauces are made from a base of tomatoes, vegetables, herbs, cream, meat or cheese. Some types of pasta sauces combine several ingredients to make a more complex sauce. Bolognese sauce, for example, includes meat, tomatoes, cream, wine and fresh herbs.

Types of Sauces

Marinara

Marinara sauce is a simple, basic sauce made from tomatoes and olive oil. The tomatoes are seasoned with garlic and fresh basil. Some recipes also add other ingredients, such as onions and parsley. Fresh tomatoes are ideal, but you can use canned, peeled tomatoes instead.

Bolognese or Meat Sauce or Ragu

Bolognese sauce is named for its origin in Bologna, Italy. Traditional Bolognese sauce includes two or more types of meat chopped into small pieces. When cooked, the meat blends in with the other ingredients, seasonings and herbs. A variety of vegetables, including onions, celery and chile peppers, can be added to the tomatoes and olive oil. Seasonings include nutmeg, basil, oregano and bay leaves. Some cooks add cream or milk to give the sauce a rich flavor.

Alfredo

Alfredo is a rich, creamy white sauce. You can use heavy cream, or substitute half and half or whole milk for a lighter version. The cream is mixed with butter and grated Parmesan cheese. The sauce is seasoned with pepper and, sometimes, nutmeg. Alfredo sauce is usually served on fettuccine noodles.

Puttanesca

Puttanesca is a strong, spicy red sauce. The spicy flavor comes from the garlic, dried chili peppers, anchovies and capers added to the tomatoes. You can make the sauce hot or mild by adjusting the amounts of spices.

Pesto

Pesto is a delicate sauce made from a paste of ingredients such as olive oil, pine nuts, fresh basil and garlic. Pesto sauce can be served with grated cheese. Pesto is a more healthful sauce because it contains only unsaturated fats.

Alcohol-Based

Some types of alcohol, including wine, are a flavorful ingredient for certain pasta sauces. Madeira sauce, for example, uses Madeira wine. Marsala sauce includes the namesake wine as a key ingredient. Its base is made from tomatoes, mushrooms or fruit.

Here are some of my favorite prepare ahead sauces for entertaining:

Pork and Sausage Ragù

Yields about 2 quarts

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 lb. boneless pork shoulder (Boston butt)
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped (2 cups)
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 3 cups strainedPomi tomatoes
  • 3 dried bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 lb. sweet Italian pork sausage (3 links)

Directions:

Heat the oil in a 5- to 6-quart Dutch oven or other heavy-duty pot over medium-high heat until shimmering. Season the pork generously on both sides with salt and pepper and sear the meat on all sides until well browned, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Using tongs, transfer the pork to a deep platter.

Reduce the heat to medium low and add the garlic and onion to the pot. Cook, stirring frequently, until softened and translucent, 7 to 8 minutes. Return the pork to the pot, raise the heat to medium high, and add the wine. Let it bubble for a minute or two and then add the tomatoes, Italian seasoning and bay leaves. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium low to maintain a gentle simmer.

Remove the sausages from their casings and break the meat apart over the pot, allowing it to fall into the sauce in small clumps. Cover the pot and simmer gently, adjusting the heat as necessary, for 30 minutes. Uncover and turn the pork shoulder; then re-cover and continue to cook at a gentle simmer, turning the meat once or twice more, until very tender, about 1-1/2 hours.

Transfer the pork to a cutting board with tongs and let cool for a few minutes. Using two forks, shred the meat and return it to the sauce. Cook over low heat until the meat and sauce are heated through. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Chill the sauce overnight and, the next day, remove any fat that has congealed on the surface of the sauce. The ragù can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 3 months. Reheat gently before tossing with the pasta, such as pappardelle.

Mushroom Ragu

Makes 6 cups

This is a great vegetarian sauce, very complex and satisfying, It’s excellent for pasta, baked in a lasagna or poured over polenta, cooked into risotto-or as a condiment for grilled steak or fish. The mushrooms you can buy at the supermarket will make a fine sauce-if you have access to fresh wild mushrooms, it will be even better. In either case, dried porcini provide an important flavor for this sauce. I like to serve this over fettuccine.

Ingredients

  • 2½ pounds fresh mixed mushrooms, small and firm
  • 1/2 ounce dried porcini, soaked in 1 1/4 cups warm water
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary, a tender stem about 4-inches long
  • 1 sprig fresh sage, with 4 big leaves
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/3 cup tomato paste
  • 1 cup dry Marsala
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cups hot beef or vegetable broth

Directions:

Squeeze out the soaked porcini and slice them into pieces about 1/4-inch wide. Strain the soaking water and keep it in a warm spot.

Clean, trim and slice the fresh mushrooms into moderately thin slices, barely 1/4-inch wide.

Tie all the fresh herb sprigs together with piece of kitchen twine or enclose the leaves in cheesecloth.

Sauce

Put the oil and butter in the big skillet (or other saucepan) and place over medium heat. When the butter melts, add the onions and shallots and 1/4 teaspoon of salt and stir well. Heat the onions to a slow sizzle and cook for 6 minutes or more-stirring often-until they’re soft, wilted and shiny, without any browning.

Pour all the mushrooms into the pan-both the chopped porcini and sliced mushrooms; spread and toss them in the pan. Sprinkle in another 1/4 teaspoon salt, drop in the herb bouquet, toss briefly, raise the heat a bit and cover the pan. Cook covered for about 3 minutes,shake the pan now and then, to sweat the mushrooms.

Uncover and continue to cook over fairly high heat, stirring frequently, as the mushrooms shrink and the liquid evaporates, 5 minutes or more. When the pan is dry and the mushrooms begin to brown, clear a hot spot, drop in the tomato paste and heat it, stirring, for a minute or so, then stir it into the mushrooms.

When everything is sizzling and browning again, and just starting to stick, pour the Marsala all over. Stir constantly as the wine thickens and evaporates. When the mushrooms again start sticking to the bottom, pour in the warm mushroom water and 2 cups of the hot stock. Bring to a boil, stirring up any caramelization on the pan bottom. Lower the heat to keep the sauce bubbling gently all over the surface and cover the pan. Cook for about 20 minutes, occasionally stirring and adding stock to keep the mushrooms nearly covered in liquid; expect to add 1/2 cup or so. Adjust the heat to keep a steady bubble but not too rapid.

Uncover the pan and cook for another 20 minutes, maintaining a simmer and adding stock as needed. When mushrooms are thoroughly tender and the saucy liquid thickened-but not too condensed-the sauce is done. Remove the herb bouquet and discard it (after you scrape off all the good sauce). Taste and add salt, if needed, and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Use the sauce immediately or let it cool. Store it in the refrigerator for a week or freeze, for use within several months.

Italian-American Meat Sauce

Makes 8 cups

Ingredients:

  • 3- 28 oz.containers Pomi chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium yellow onions, diced (about 2 cups)
  • 8 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped fine
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • salt
  • 3/4 cups dry red wine
  • 1/3 cup tomato paste
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 4 cups hot water

Directions:

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 the garlic and cook, stirring, until the garlic is lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Add the ground beef and pork 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 browned, about 5 minutes. Add the bay leaves, basil and oregano then pour in the wine. Bring to a boil and cook, scraping up the brown bits that cling to the pot, until the wine is almost completely evaporated. Pour in the tomatoes, then stir in the hot water and tomato paste until dissolved. Season lightly with salt. Bring to a boil, adjust the heat to a lively simmer and cook, uncovered, stirring often, until the sauce takes on a deep, brick-red color and thickens, 2 to 3 hours.

The sauce can be prepared entirely in advance and refrigerated for up to 5 days, or frozen for up to 3 months. This sauce works very well with spaghetti or short pasta, such as penne.

Spicy Tomato Sauce                                                                  

Makes enough for 2 lbs. pasta. Good over bucatini pasta.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 oz. pancetta, small dice (leave out if you have vegetarian guests)
  • Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 carrots, minced
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 2 teaspoons crushed red chili flakes
  • 2- 28-oz. container Pomi strained tomatoes
  • Kosher salt, to taste

Directions:

Heat oil in a large, high-sided skillet over medium heat. Add pancetta; cook, stirring, until lightly browned, 6–8 minutes. Add pepper; cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes more. Increase heat to medium-high; add garlic, carrots, and onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 6 minutes. Add chili flakes; cook for 1 minute. Stir in tomatoes, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens and flavors meld, about 1 hour. Season with salt; keep warm. Store in the refrigerator or freeze.

Lasagna Sauce with Little Meatballs                   

This is a favorite in our family, especially for Christmas. Prepare the meatballs in advance and store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 2 days, or freeze in a ziplock bag for up to 1 month. Use this sauce in place of your regular tomato sauce in your favorite lasagna recipe.

Ingredients:

Meatballs:

  • 1 lb ground beef or turkey
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup Italian dried bread crumbs
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • salt & pepper

Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1-28 oz container Pomi chopped tomatoes
  • 1-6 oz can of tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

For the meatballs:

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 450 degree F. Spray large rimmed baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

In large bowl mix together the ground meat, cheese, oregano, bread crumbs, egg, water, salt & pepper. Pinch off small grape-sized pieces of the meat mixture and roll into balls; arrange on prepared baking sheet. Bake just until cooked through, about 8-10 minutes. Transfer meatballs to paper towel lined platter to drain excess fat.

For the sauce:

Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook just until fragrant (30 sec-1 min). Stir in the tomatoes, tomato paste, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper and whisk until thoroughly combined. Bring to a simmer and cook until slightly thickened. Take off the heat and add the meatballs to the pot, cover and keep warm while pasta is cooking.

 


Pasta salads are ideal for summer days when it’s too hot to eat fresh-from-the-oven dishes. Lighten up traditional pasta salad by substituting the fattiest ingredients often found in the dish with leaner options. Omitting the mayonnaise or substituting a low-fat version, using  low-fat cheese and adding fresh vegetables, such as spinach, are among the ways that a traditionally calorie-heavy side dish can be transformed into a healthy main course that’s perfect for summer entertaining.

Whatever type of pasta you have in your cupboard, from spaghetti to rigatoni, you can create a great salad in the time it takes the pasta to cook and cool. The first thing to do before you start cooking any noodles is to look through your kitchen and decide which ingredients will be added to the salad.

Here are a few ideas:

1-Vegetables:

You can put just about any vegetable in a pasta salad. Onions, celery, carrots, bell peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumber, raw spinach, etc. are good examples. If you prefer to have your vegetables cooked rather than raw you can add them to the pot with your pasta. I would wait until the pasta is partially cooked about 3 minutes before adding them to keep the vegetables from overcooking. Tomatoes, roasted red peppers and cucumber should be raw and added after the pasta is cooked and cooled slightly.

2-Meat and Seafood:

Deli-style meat or leftover cooked meat makes a great addition to a pasta salad. Beef, chicken, ham and turkey are good examples. It doesn’t matter if it’s cubed or thinly sliced, it will blend into the salad nicely.

Seafood is another popular ingredient, freshly cooked or canned. The easiest is to add a can of salmon or tuna to your salad. Freshly cooked seafood is becoming quite popular. Some examples are scallops, shrimp, prawns, crab, squid, mussels, oysters, clams, and any finfish. Smoked salmon is full of flavour and my favorite seafood to add to a salad.

Although meat and/or seafood can enhance your pasta salad, they are not required, so if you would prefer to omit them, you can still make a perfectly fine salad without them.

3-Cheese:

Many pasta salads have parmesan cheese added to them but any cheese will add flavor. You can use cheese in any form such as grated, sliced or cubed.

4-Olives:

Any kind of olive enhances a salad.

5-Spices:

Add spices sparingly, use any of your favorites. Some popular ones are: oregano, basil, thyme or chives.

6-Dressing:

For dressing you can go with creamy or an oil and vinegar mix. Any bottled dressing will work or you can make your own. Homemade dressings taste better. For creamy dressing use about a cup of  low-fat mayonnaise or yogurt with 1/4 cup of either vinegar, wine, lemon or lime juice. Add a little spice, salt and pepper to taste and you have a creamy dressing. For an oil/vinegar dressing just substitute the mayonnaise or yogurt with about 1/4 cup salad oil.

Now that you have decided on your ingredients it’s time to boil your pasta. Follow the directions on the package and cook until al dente. In other words, cook pasta until tender but firm (usually about 8-10 minutes).

Drain pasta in a colander and pour into a large serving bowl.  Add dressing sparingly until salad is completely coated. Pasta will absorb the dressing better while it is warm. Add all the other ingredients you have decided upon and mix well. Cool salad for about 2 hours before serving.

Lemon-Basil Chicken-Pasta Salad  

 4 servings

Ingredients

  • Salt
  • 2 cups uncooked rotini or rotelle (spiral) pasta (6 ounces)
  • 10 asparagus stalks (about 8 ounces)
  • 1 clove garlic 
  • 5 ounces cooked chicken or turkey
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2  cup shredded Parmesan cheese (2 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon peel

Directions:
Fill a 4-quart Dutch oven about half full of water. Add salt and cover with lid; heat over high heat until water is boiling rapidly. Add the pasta. Heat to boiling again. Boil uncovered 9 to 11 minutes, stirring frequently, until tender but not mushy. While water is heating and pasta is cooking, continue with recipe.
Break off and discard the tough ends of the asparagus stalks where they snap easily; wash asparagus. Cut asparagus into 1-inch pieces to measure 2 cups. Add asparagus to the pasta during the last 2 to 3 minutes of cooking.
Peel and finely chop the garlic. Cut the chicken into 1/2-inch cubes to measure about 2 cups. Tear the basil leaves lengthwise into narrow strips.
Place strainer or colander in the sink. Pour pasta and asparagus in the strainer to drain.
In a large bowl, toss pasta, asparagus and chicken. Stir in garlic, basil, cheese, oil and lemon peel. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate 1 to 2 hours or until chilled.

Caesar Pasta Salad

Cooked cold shrimp makes a great addition to this salad.

Yield: Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • Salt
  • 12 ounces curly pasta, such as fusilli 
  • 1 1/2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 9 flat anchovies, chopped
  • 1/4 cup plus 1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons low-fat mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • 10 cups chopped green leaf lettuce
  • Chopped fresh basil

Directions:

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta until just tender, about 10 minutes, or as package label directs.
2. While pasta is cooking, combine garlic, anchovies, lemon juice, mayonnaise, olive oil and 3/4 teaspoon salt in a blender and blend until smooth.
3. Drain pasta. Toss with half of the dressing and tomatoes. Let stand for 10 minutes. Toss with Parmesan.
4. Toss lettuce with remaining dressing and divide among 4 shallow bowls. Spoon pasta salad over lettuce, sprinkle with basil and serve.

Orecchiette with Tomatoes, Fresh Mozzarella and Basil

Taking its cue from Italy’s insalata caprese, this easy dish combines fresh mozzarella cheese with basil and tomatoes. Choose the ripest, most flavorful tomatoes for this delicious pasta salad.
4 servings (serving size: 1 1/2 cups)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups uncooked orecchiette (about 8 ounces uncooked
  • 3 cups chopped plum tomato
  • 1 1/4 cups (5 ounces) diced fresh mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup loosely packed chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced

Directions:

Cook pasta according to package directions: drain.
Combine pasta, tomato, and remaining ingredients.
Cover and chill at least 1 hour.

Chicken-Thyme-Penne Salad

Servings: 6 servings (1 cup each)

Ingredients:

  • 11/2 cups uncooked penne pasta (10 oz)
  • 2 cups cubed deli rotisserie or leftover chicken (from a 2- to 2 1/2-lb chicken)
  • 1 cup seedless red grapes, cut in half
  • 1 medium stalk celery, sliced 
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 11/2  tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoons chopped fresh or 1 teaspoons dried thyme leaves, crushed
  • 2/3 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise 
  • 1/2 tablespoon milk
  • 1/2 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 tablespoon coarse-grained mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

Directions:
Cook pasta as directed on package and drain.
In large bowl, mix pasta, chicken, grapes, celery and onion.

In small bowl, mix oil and 1/2 tablespoon of the fresh thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon of the dried thyme). Pour oil mixture over chicken mixture; toss to coat. In small bowl, mix mayonnaise, milk, honey, mustard, salt and remaining thyme.

Cover chicken mixture and mayonnaise mixture separately; refrigerate at least 4 hours but no longer than 24 hours. Up to 2 hours before serving, toss chicken mixture and mayonnaise mixture. Cover; refrigerate until serving. Just before serving, stir in 1/4 cup of the walnuts. Sprinkle salad with remaining walnuts.  

Macaroni Salad with Summer Tomatoes

Yield: 8 servings (serving size: about 3/4 cup salad, about 1 tablespoon breadcrumbs, and 3/4 teaspoon basil)

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces uncooked medium elbow macaroni
  • 3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh basil
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic, divided
  • 4 cups chopped seeded tomato (about 6 tomatoes)
  • 1 (1-ounce) slice sandwich bread
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil

Directions:

Cook elbow macaroni according to package directions. Drain.
Combine white balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon basil, 3/4 teaspoon salt, sugar, and crushed red pepper in a large bowl. Add 2 tablespoons oil and 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic, stirring with a whisk. Add cooked pasta and tomato; toss well to coat.
Place bread in a food processor; pulse 5 times or until coarse crumbs measure 1/2 cup. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add breadcrumbs and remaining 1/2 teaspoon garlic to pan; sauté 2 minutes or until browned and crisp, stirring frequently. Remove from heat; stir in 1/8 teaspoon salt
and basil.  Sprinkle over pasta mixture.

Pesto Pasta Salad

An easy homemade pesto elevates a casual pasta salad. Grilled tuna or scallops would be a good addition.
8 Servings

Ingredients:

Pesto:

  • 3 cups packed fresh basil
  • 1 cup packed fresh parsley
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan

Salad:

  • 1 pound gemelli or other short pasta
  • 1 cup plain 2 percent Greek yogurt
  • 2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

Directions:

Make pesto: In a food processor puree basil, parsley, garlic, lemon juice, salt, pepper and pine nuts until smooth. With motor running, add olive oil and process until a thick paste forms. Add Parmesan and pulse twice. Season with more salt and pepper, if desired.

Make salad: Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente. Drain.
In a large bowl, combine pesto and Greek yogurt and stir until well blended. Add pasta and toss to coat with dressing. Top with tomatoes. Serve salad at room temperature or cover and refrigerate to serve chilled.

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Classic Italian foods such as pizza, bruschetta, pasta, rice, soups, and stews all typically include this blend of herbs. The mixture can be used to season lamb, pork, poultry, fish, and beef dishes.  Sandwiches, meat marinades, salads, and flavored breads can also be seasoned with Italian herbs.

One popular use of Italian seasonings involves mixing them with butter and Parmesan cheese to make a spread to use on breads, crackers, and other foods. Vegetables that are particularly good when flavored with Italian seasonings include potatoes, tomatoes, zucchini, and eggplant. Italian seasoning can be used to flavor vinegar, olive oil, and other dips and sauces as well.

Italian seasoning blend is considered a staple herbal mix in most pantries. It can be purchased pre-mixed from grocery stores, farmer’s markets and most places where food supplies are sold. Italian seasonings are usually sold in a plastic or glass jar, though some fresh varieties can be purchased in sealed bags or other airtight packages.  Blends can, also, be created from fresh herbs at home.

ESSENTIAL ITALIAN SPICES

Rosemary: The fresh, strong taste of rosemary enhances poultry, fish, and seafood. Italian cooks often add it to roasted lamb with potatoes and many grilled meats as well. Try it in any vegetable dish and in breads, especially focaccia.  The woody stems are often used in place of skewers for grilling kabobs.

Sage: This herb is typically found in stuffings, poultry and meat dishes, sausages and soups. Italian cooks also use it, along with garlic, to flavor butter for pasta dishes. It enhances salads (especially bean salads), and dressings. Sage is traditional in Tuscan white beans and in Saltimbocca, a veal dish.  Chopped sage can be added to cornbread for a different flavor combination.

Chilies: Italian cooks sometimes use pungent chili peppers to enliven sauces, stews, and seafood dishes. They’re also often found in Italian sausages. Experiment with different varieties for different effects.

Fennel Seeds: The distinct, licorice-like fennel is found in Italian meatballs and sausage and with roasted meats and fish. To enhance the flavor, toast the seeds lightly before adding to your dish.

Chives: For a mild onion flavor, Italian cooks use chives in salads and dressings, pasta dishes, casseroles, soups and stews. Dried chives are a convenient staple.

Marjoram: Like its relative oregano, marjoram is used liberally in Italian kitchens. It’s a versatile seasoning, compatible with many vegetables, meats and poultry. You’ll find it used in recipes for Italian soups, stews, sauces, and salad dressings.

Thyme: Its affinity for tomatoes makes thyme a good choice in Italian cooking.  Aromatic and pungent, it takes just a light touch to season poultry, seafood, fish, meats, marinades and stuffing. Sprinkle thyme on top of blue cheese and serve with fresh figs for a great appetizer.

Bay: Bay leaves are an important addition to Italian broths, soups and stews, grilled meats, and roasted poultry. It generally takes just one leaf to fully season a large serving.

Onions: “Sauté onion and garlic” begins many an Italian recipe. Dried onion flakes, onion powder, onion granules, minced onion and onion salt provide maximum convenience. Add them directly to soups and sauces, dressings and casseroles.

Nutmeg: Not just a dessert spice in the Italian kitchen, nutmeg adds a rich scent and flavor to ravioli filling and tortellini dishes. You’ll also find it in recipes for Bolognese meat sauce and Italian stews.

Basil:  A member of the mint family, basil has shiny green leaves and a fragrant aroma. Basil’s flavor is sweet and pungent.  Good in all tomato, pepper and eggplant dishes. Try adding chopped basil to corn on the cob.

Sauces

Salsa Verde

Salsa verde is used as a condiment or dipping sauce for grilled meats, fish, poultry, or vegetables.

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup lightly packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 3 tablespoons drained capers
  • 1 whole garlic clove
  • 4 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon anchovy paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup low sodium chicken broth

Directions:
Put the parsley, capers, the whole garlic clove, the lemon juice, anchovy paste, mustard,  salt, and pepper into a food processor or blender. Pulse just to chop, six to eight times. With the machine running, add the oil and chicken broth in a thin stream to make a slightly coarse puree. Leave this salsa verde in the food processor until ready to serve; pulse to re-emulsify just before serving.

Low-Fat Fettuccine Alfredo

Recipe makes enough sauce for 9 ounces fresh fettuccine pasta, cooked
4 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup half-and-half
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and lightly crushed but kept whole
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 pinch nutmeg
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese


Directions:

In a small saucepan, heat the butter over medium heat until foaming. Whisk in the flour until mixture is smooth and golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk in the milk, half-and-half, garlic, 1/2 tsp salt, pepper and nutmeg. Bring to a simmer.

Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until sauce is slightly thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Discard garlic, stir in Parmesan and remove from heat.

Spaghetti Carbonara Low Fat Version

I prefer to use egg substitute instead of the traditional raw eggs in this recipe.

4 servings.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound cooked whole wheat spaghetti,
  • 2 bacon strips cooked, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon freshly chopped garlic
  • 1/2 cup egg substitute
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley leaves (for garnish)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Mix parmesan cheese with egg substitute. Set aside.
Heat a large sauté pan and add olive oil. Sauté garlic until fragrant. Add the cooked pasta to the garlic and sauté for about 1 minute to heat
the pasta up. Add the egg substitute mixture and cook until thickened but not scrambled.
Serve in individual portions and sprinkle each with the crumbled bacon and chopped parsley

Sicilian Pistachio Sauce

This orange-scented sauce from Sicily can be served with fish or vegetables, or as a topping for crostini.

Ingredients:

  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, preferably kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs, moistened with water and squeezed dry
  • 1 cup shelled pistachios
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
  • 1/3 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Directions:
Turn on a food processor fitted with the steel blade and drop in the garlic. When the garlic is chopped and adhering to the sides of the bowl, stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Add the salt, bread crumbs and pistachios and process to a paste. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Turn on the machine and add the orange zest, orange juice, and lemon juice. With the machine still running slowly pour in the olive oil. Taste and adjust salt.
Yield: Makes about 1 1/4 cups
Advance preparation: This will keep for 3 or 4 days in the refrigerator. It will become more pungent.

Piedmontese Tomato Sauce

Good with gnocchi or as a side with grilled flank steak.

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and roughly chopped 
  • 1 large tomato, cored, seeded and roughly chopped 
  • 1/2 medium onion, roughly chopped 
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 
  • Fine sea salt 
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar 

Directions:
In a large skillet combine bell pepper, tomato, onion, oil and pinch salt. Bring to a simmer. Gently simmer, covered, until vegetables are very soft, about 12 minutes. Add vinegar and cook, uncovered, 1 minute more. Process with an immersion blender or strain through a mesh colander and transfer to a serving bowl and set aside.

Sicilian Pesto

Servings: 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups lightly packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 to 2 serrano chilies, cored, and seeded, depending on how spicy you like your food
  • 1 tablespoon hot red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/4 cup sliced blanched almonds
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup plus ¼ cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano
  • Salt 

Directions:
Place the basil, mint, garlic, chilies, red pepper flakes, fennel seeds, and almonds in a food processor and pulse three times to start the chopping process. Add in the oil in a thin stream and pulse four or five times to create a thick paste (not a thin, oily sauce). Add ¼ cup of the cheese and pulse once to mix it in.
Season the pesto with salt, if it needs it.

Butter and Sage Sauce                                                              

Good sauce for ravioli or gnocchi and will cover a 8-9 oz. of fresh pasta.
Serves:  4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 8 sage leaves
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Directions:

While your pasta cooks, melt butter in a small saute pan and continue cooking until a golden brown color just starts to appear . Add sage leaves and remove from heat. Add lemon juice and the cheese.  Drizzle over cooked pasta.

Easy Pizza Sauce

Makes enough sauce for 2 pizzas.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes 
  • 1- 28-oz. container Pomi strained tomatoes 
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions:
Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook until soft, 5 minutes. Add garlic and chili flakes; cook 1 minute. Add tomatoes, increase heat until sauce starts to bubble. Lower heat to a simmer and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally until thickened, 20 minutes. Stir in honey, basil and salt and pepper to taste. 

Spices                                                                                                                                                                                 

Homemade Italian Seasoning

Makes about 2 cups

  • 1/2 cup dried basil
  • 1/4 cup dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup dried rosemary
  • 1/4 cup dried marjoram
  • 1/4 cup dried parsley
  • 1/4 cup dried thyme
  • 1/4 cup dried savory
  • 2 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dried sage
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Combine all ingredients; store in an airtight glass container.

Italian Parmesan Paste

This is a cheese rub that contains herbs and spices for flavor and olive oil and red wine vinegar to turn the mixture into a thick paste. Use this rub on any grilled meat to add great Italian flavor.

  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons dried basil
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced

Combine all ingredients in a processor and pulse just until combined.  Pour into a nonreactive airtight container and refrigerate.

Marinades

Chicken or Steak Italian Marinade

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 2 tablespoons dry parsley
  • 6 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon fennel seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Mix above ingredients. Use to marinate chicken or steak for up to 3 days in refrigerator.

Vegetable Marinade    

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/3 cup cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons white pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cups chopped parsley

Directions:
Combine water, both vinegars, lemon juice, pepper, garlic and parsley in large saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover, simmer 10 minutes.  Remove from heat. Cool to room temperature, cover and chill at least 2-3 hours. Drizzle over cooked vegetables.



LEO GERMANO AND JENNIFER EWING’s mural is entitled Papa Gainni which depicts an Italian fishing village. It is at Café Trieste located at 1667 Market Street, San Francisco.

Italy is water-bound, with thousands of miles of beaches, bays and inlets. Almost everything that lives in the sea, from swordfish which the fishermen still harpoon from the bows of their boats in the Straights of Messina, to arselle or little clams that live in the sand just beyond the shore and gathered with strainers, fins there way to the table. 

The role of fish in the Italian diet was, in the past, even more important than it is now. Up until the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church required that their followers eat fish on Fridays and days of penitence.  All large cities had fishmongers to meet the demand, as well as, traveling fishmongers who made the rounds of the towns too small to support a specialized store. 

Each of Italy’s main regions are known for specific types of fish and the ways of preparing it. When Italians emigrated to America, they first settled along the coastal areas and brought with them their style of preparing fish. Vegetables are often used to create sauces in fish dishes in traditional Italian cooking.  The following recipes are examples of this cuisine.

fish2

Tuna Steaks Simmered With Fennel

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 leek, white and light green parts only, cut in half lengthwise, cleaned, and thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 fennel bulbs, trimmed, quartered, cored and cut across the grain into thin slices
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 pounds tuna steaks
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
Directions

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the leek and cook, stirring, until leeks are limp, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until the mixture is fragrant, 30 seconds to a minute.

Add the fennel and a generous pinch of salt and cook, stirring often, until it begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Turn the heat to low, cover and cook slowly for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring often. Stir in the lemon juice, taste and adjust seasonings. The mixture should be very soft. Remove to a bowl and keep warm.

Season the tuna steaks with salt and pepper and heat the remaining olive oil in the skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the tuna steaks for 1 minute on each side and remove to a plate.

Return the fennel mixture to the skillet and place the tuna on top of the mixture. Cover the pan, turn the heat down to medium-low and simmer for another 5 to 10 minutes, until the fish is cooked through or cooked the way you like it.

Sprinkle on the parsley and serve, laying the fish on top of the fennel, with lemon wedges on the side.

Yield: 4 servings.

Fast Italian Fish

 

Ingredients

Directions

Heat oven to 425°F.

Trim ends off the zucchini and cut lengthwise into quarters. Place on nonstick baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Roast 5 minutes.

Place  1 slice prosciutto on top of each fish fillet.

Remove the baking pan from the oven, turn zucchini over and pushthem to one side and put fish on pan.

Roast until the fish is cooked and the zucchini quarters are tender, about 8 minutes. Top each fillet with 1 tablespoon pesto and garnish with fresh basil leaves.

Pasta With Sardines, Bread Crumbs and Capers

Nutritionist and author, Jonny Bowden of  “The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth,”  has created a list of healthy foods people should be eating but aren’t. Sardines is one of them. They are high in omega-3’s, contain virtually no mercury and are loaded with calcium. They also contain iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper and manganese, as well as, a full complement of B vitamins. Choose sardines packed in olive oil.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             
Ingredients

  • Salt
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs, ideally made from stale bread
  • 1 onion, chopped and garlic
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound long pasta with a hole through the center, like perciatelli
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons drained capers
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 cans sardines packed in extra virgin olive oil (about 1/2 pound)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley, plus more for garnish.

Directions

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until just tender; drain, reserving some of the cooking liquid.

Put half the oil (2 tablespoons) in a medium skillet over medium heat. When it’s hot, add the bread crumbs and cook, stirring frequently, until golden and fragrant, less than 5 minutes, and then remove them to a bowl.

Add the remaining oil and the onion to the pan, sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.

Turn the heat under the onions to medium-high and add the lemon zest, capers, crushed red pepper and sardines; cook, stirring occasionally, until just heated through, about 2 minutes.

Add the cooked pasta to the sardine mixture and toss well to combine. Add the parsley, most of the bread crumbs and some reserved pasta cooking water, if necessary, to moisten. Taste and adjust seasoning.  Garnish with parsley and remaining bread crumbs.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings.

Swordfish – a staple in Italian cuisine.

I know what you’re thinking: Isn’t swordfish endangered? No. Or at least it’s not endangered anywhere around the United States. The various fish watchdog organizations all give consumers the green light to eat as much swordfish as they want, provided it was caught in North American or Hawaiian waters.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch gives American swordfish either a “best choice” or “good alternative” rating, depending on how it’s caught.

If you’ve never worked with swordfish, it is dense and meaty. It also has a rubbery skin around the outside that must be removed. When shopping for swordfish, pay attention to the bloodline, that red patch of meat in the steak. It should be red. If it is brown, the fish is old. Good alternatives to swordfish, if you can’t find it, are yellowfin tuna or mahi mahi.

involtini-di-pesce-spada-al-forno

Swordfish Roll–Ups

Yield: Serves 4

Use a light hand when pounding the fish; it should be thin enough to roll around the simple bread-crumb-and-cheese filling, but not so thin that it rips.

Ingredients

  • Juice of 2 lemons, strained of seeds
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon drained, chopped capers
  • 6 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Four 6-ounce pieces swordfish, cut long and thin so each is 4 or 5 inches long
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ cup minced yellow onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ cup fresh or dried bread crumbs
  • ½ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon drained capers, minced
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 ounces provolone, thinly sliced or grated

Directions

To make the sauce:

Put the lemon juice in a small nonreactive bowl. Add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking until emulsified. Stir in the parsley, basil, capers, and rosemary and season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside until ready to use. 

To make the fish:

Lay the swordfish between 2 sheets of plastic wrap.  Using a meat mallet or the bottom of a small, heavy skillet, lightly pound the fish until it is about ¼ inch thick. Transfer the fish to a plate, season with salt and black pepper.

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

In a sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Saute the onion and garlic for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the onion is translucent. Add the bread crumbs and sun-dried tomatoes.  Cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove pan from the heat and stir in the parsley, thyme, capers and red pepper. Season with salt and black pepper and set aside.

Spread the bread crumb mixture over the fish. Cover with the provolone and roll each piece of fish into a cylinder. Hold the rolls closed with toothpicks.

In an ovenproof sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat and saute the swordfish rolls until golden brown on all sides. Turn them carefully with tongs or a wooden spoon. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake for 4 to 6 minutes, just until they are still moist in the center. Do not overcook.

Put each swordfish roll on a plate. Whisk the vinaigrette and spoon a little over each roll. 



Summer Yule Nutrition

Recipes for Weight Loss by a Registered Dietitian. No Added Sugar, No Refined Grains!

ACCREDITED SENIOR PSYCHOTHERAPIST / COUNSELLOR -Dr.Fawzy Masaoud-LONDON, ENGLAND

NO DESPAIR WITH LIFE AND NO LIFE WITH DESPAIR . Email: dr.fawzyclinic2019@yahoo.com

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