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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Tag Archives: seafood

No-Fuss Butternut Squash Soup

I am not a fan of peeling butternut squash but I do like the vegetable. Very happy to have found it pureed and frozen at my local market. It is a perfect time saver for soup.

6-8 servings

Ingredients

4-12 oz packages frozen pureed butternut squash
32 oz container vegetable broth
4 oz container unsweetened applesauce
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup heavy cream
Herbs for garnish, such as sage

Directions

Put all the ingredients in a Dutch Oven except the cream. Bring to a boil, stir well, lower the heat to a simmer, cover the pot and cook for 30 minutes. Stir in the cream and serve garnished with fresh herbs.

Crab Stuffed Shrimp

2 servings

Ingredients

8 large shrimp (16-20 per pound)
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1 garlic, minced
2 green onions (scallions) finely chopped
¼ cup finely chopped celery
¼ cup finely chopped red bell pepper
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 cup fresh crab meat
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh oregano
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon lemon juice, for serving

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Peel and devein the shrimp. Butterfly the shrimp by making a slit along the back side, taking care not to slice all the way through the body. Coat a baking dish with nonstick spray and arrange the shrimp in a single layer.
Melt the butter in a microwave dish and set aside.

Combine the garlic, green onion, celery, bell pepper, herbs and seasoning in a mixing bowl. Carefully fold in the mayonnaise and crab meat.

Spoon even portions of the crab mixture over each of the butterflied shrimp. Using your fingers, gently mold each portion of stuffing around the shrimp. Pour the melted butter evenly over the shrimp.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the shrimp turn pink and opaque. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with lemon juice and serve immediately.

Garlicky Sautéed Greens

2-3 servings

Ingredients

3 cloves garlic, sliced thin
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 cups (packed) stemmed and roughly chopped swiss chard or other greens
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Directions

Heat the garlic and oil in large skillet over medium-low heat until the garlic begins to turn golden, about 3 minutes. Pour the mixture into a small bowl and reserve.

Add the Swiss chard, red pepper flakes, and salt to the empty skillet. Using tongs, turn greens until wilted enough to fit in the pan.

Raise the heat to medium, cover, and cook 7 to 10 minutes, tossing a few times during the cooking process. Transfer the greens to a colander to drain.

Return to them to the pan, turn the heat to low and toss with the reserved garlic and oil mixture.when hot, transfer to a serving bowl.

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seafood night cover

Fish is easy to digest, has a high level of proteins and omega-3 fatty acids. Fatty fish like mackerel, salmon, trout and sardines comprise high levels of Omega 3 fatty acids.

Why is this important?

Researchers have proved that Omega 3 fatty acids offer safety against harmful cardiovascular disease by reducing the levels of poor cholesterol and lowering blood pressure. Omega 3 prevents the arrival of diseases such as macular degeneration, which is one of the most widespread causes of blindness related to aging. An increase in Omega 3 fatty acids is favorable for people with diabetes and has been proven to delay the appearance of dementia, as well Alzheimer’s disease. More recent studies, which have focused on its impact on the nervous system, show benefits in increased brain functions and even in combating depression.

Eat more fish and less meat. It’s so simple, really, and this is probably the most powerful change that you can make in your diet. Just as with vegetables, many people say that they don’t like fish. As with veggies, look for delicious and healthy recipes and try a few different types of fish or shellfish before you rule out fish on your menu. Even if you don’t like stronger tasting fish, like tuna and salmon, freshwater fish, which are lighter tasting, may appeal to you. While leaner freshwater fish such as trout, bass and whitefish may not be the best source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, they still have them and they’re both delicious and low in calories and fat.

A number of environmental organizations have created lists that help identify fish that are sustainable and those that are not. Seafood Watch, the program run by the Monterey Bay Aquarium, has combined data from leading health organizations and environmental groups to come up with their list “Super Green: Best of the Best” of seafood that’s good for you and good for the environment. Click on the link below for their recommendations.

http://www.seafoodwatch.org/cr/cr_seafoodwatch/sfw_recommendations.aspx

seafood night

Tilapia with Lemon-Garlic Sauce

I like to serve this entrée with orzo or rice and a green vegetable, such as broccoli.

Yield: Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 (6-ounce) tilapia fillets
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons quick-mixing flour (such as Wondra)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1/3 cup unsalted chicken stock 
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Directions

Sprinkle fish with salt and pepper. Place flour in a shallow dish. Dredge both sides of the fish in flour; reserve unused flour.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon butter and oil to the pan; swirl to coat. Add fish to the pan; cook 2 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Remove fish from the pan to a serving platter and keep warm.

Add reserved flour and garlic to the pan; cook 90 seconds or until lightly browned, whisking constantly. Add wine and stock, stirring with the whisk; bring to a boil.

Cook 2 minutes or until slightly thickened. Remove pan from the heat; stir in remaining 1 tablespoon butter, parsley and lemon juice. Pour the sauce over the fish in the serving platter.

seafood night 2

Shrimp Pasta Primavera

All you need to round out this dinner is a green mixed salad and a glass of white wine.

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces uncooked angel hair pasta
  • 8 jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 6 fresh asparagus spears, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup low salt chicken broth
  • 1 small plum tomato, peeled, seeded and diced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon each minced fresh basil, oregano, thyme and parsley
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Cook pasta (al dente) according to package directions.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, saute the asparagus and mushrooms in oil for 3 minutes or until tender. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer. Add the shrimp, broth, tomato, salt and pepper flakes; simmer, uncovered, for 2 minutes or until the shrimp turn pink.

Drain pasta. Add the pasta and herbs to the skillet; toss to coat. Sprinkle with cheese. Yield: 2 servings.

seafood night 3

 

Parmesan-crusted Fish

Serve this entrée with sautéed greens.

Ingredients

  • 4 skinless cod fillets (1-1/2 pounds total)
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup panko (Japanese-style bread crumbs)
  • 1/2 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 cups julienned carrots ( My market sells carrots shredded)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Lightly coat a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Rinse fish, pat dry with paper towels and place on the prepared baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper.

In a small bowl stir together the panko crumbs and Parmesan cheese; press this mixture on the fish.

Bake, uncovered, for 10 minutes per 1/2-inch thickness of fish or until crumbs are golden brown and the fish flakes easily when tested with a fork.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet bring the water to boiling; add carrots. Reduce heat. Cook, covered, for 4-5 minutes. Uncover; cook for 2 minutes more. Add butter and oregano; toss. Serve fish with the carrots.

seafood night 4

Seafood Arrabbiata

Don’t forget the crusty Italian bread.

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces uncooked linguine
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 8 ounces bay scallops
  • 8 ounces peeled and deveined medium shrimp
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, according to taste
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can petite-cut diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1/2 cup clam juice
  • 12 littleneck clams
  • 12 mussels, scrubbed and debearded
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh basil

Directions

Cook pasta (al dente) according to package directions; drain.

While pasta cooks, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add scallops and shrimp to the pan; cook 3 minutes. Remove the mixture from the pan to a bowl and keep warm.

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in the same pan over medium-high heat. Add onion, red pepper and garlic; cook 2 minutes. Add tomato paste and tomatoes; bring to a boil and cook 2 minutes. Add clam juice; cook 1 minute.

Add clams; cover, reduce heat to medium and cook 4 minutes. Add mussels; cover and cook 3 minutes or until clams and mussels open. Discard any unopened shells. Stir in reserved scallop/shrimp mixture and parsley; cook 1 minute or until thoroughly heated. Serve over pasta. Sprinkle with basil.

seafood night 5

Baked Cornmeal-Crusted Grouper Sandwich

Serve with coleslaw and pickles.

4 servings

Ingredients

Grouper

  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne)
  • 1/4 cup reduced-fat milk
  • 4 (6-ounce) grouper fillets or fish fillets that are available in your area
  • 4 hamburger buns, split
  • Sliced tomatoes and lettuce, optional

Tartar Sauce

  • 1/2 cup low-fat mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped green onions
  • 1 tablespoon sweet pickle relish
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons capers, chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Directions

Preheat oven to 450°F.

To prepare grouper:

Dry fish well with paper towels.
Place flour in a shallow bowl. Combine cornmeal, salt and cayenne pepper in a second shallow dish, stirring well with a fork. Place milk in a third shallow bowl.
Dust both sides of each fillet with flour; dip each fillet in milk and dredge both sides in the cornmeal mixture. Place fish on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until fish is flaky and crusty, turning once.

To prepare tartar sauce:

Combine mayonnaise and next 5 ingredients (mayonnaise through Worcestershire), stirring with a whisk.

Spread about 2 tablespoons of the tartar sauce over the cut sides of each bun; place one fish fillet on the bottom half of each bun. Add sliced tomatoes and lettuce, if desired. Top fillets with the remaining bun halves.

seafood ending

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seafood-platter

There are two types of shellfish-crustaceans and mollusks. Crustaceans have segmented bodies with crust-like shells. Mollusks have shells encasing their soft bodies. Crustaceans can be identified by their unsymmetrical, elongated bodies and their eyes on stalks. Examples of crustaceans are shrimp, crab and lobster. Mollusks can be identified by their shells which are either closed or partially cover their soft bodies. Oysters, scallops, mussels and clams are examples of mollusks.

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Crabs
Edible crabs include Alaskan King Crab, Snow Crab, Dungeness Crab and Blue Crab. After steaming, grilling, or frying the crab, you crack open the outer shell of the legs and body and eat the meat inside. Crabs are classified in a subgroup of crustaceans called Brachyura and typically live near the shore of oceans around tide pools. All crabs characteristically feature “pinchers” (claws) on their two front legs. Crabs can be cooked in numerous ways, but boiling is perhaps the most common method of preparation.

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Lobster
Another popular edible crustacean, lobsters feature 10 legs and often have pinchers (clawed legs). Varieties include the American Lobster (also called the Maine Lobster), the European Lobster and the Spiny Lobster (which does not have pinchers). Lobsters can be found in the ocean near the coast and can live up to 50 years in the wild. Many people choose to buy just the lobster claws or the tails, which is where the majority of the meat is. However, serving a whole, bright red lobster makes an attractive presentation for a special occasion. To cook whole lobsters, they must be bought alive as they will quickly spoil once they are dead. One of the most common and easiest ways to cook whole lobster is to steam it.

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Shrimp
Shrimp live in freshwater and saltwater. Although more than 300 species of shrimp exist, the most common edible shrimp, include gulf shrimp and tiger shrimp. Farm raised shrimp are also increasingly common. Avoid shrimp that smells of anything other than salt water. If there is any hint of the aroma of ammonia, it’s a sign the shrimp are way past there prime. Truly fresh shrimp will have almost translucent flesh. Do not buy shrimp with black spots or rings (unless it’s black tiger shrimp) as this indicates the meat is starting to break down. Also avoid pink meat. Shrimp can be cooked in a variety of ways. They can be boiled, steamed, grilled, sautéed, baked or deep-fried. They can also be cooked with or without the shell and with the vein or deveined.

oyster

Oysters
Oysters are found all over the world’s coasts and oceans. Oyster varieties have different sizes, colors and flavors due to environmental conditions. Because oysters are filter feeders, they are sensitive to environmental pollution. They may pass these pollutants on to humans so eating oysters from reliable habitats is important. Buy oysters in winter months when the cold water in the oyster bed produces peak flavor. Look for undamaged shells that are shut tight. Ask the fishmonger to shuck fresh oysters, if possible. To do it yourself: scrub the outside and shuck them carefully with a sharp knife. Wear a heavy rubber glove to hold the oyster shell to avoid injury. Oysters are served raw, steamed, fried, poached, grilled and baked. Oyster dishes are usually accompanied by lemon juice, chili sauce or horseradish sauce. Serve raw oysters on the half-shell with cocktail sauce and crackers or baked florentine. Saute whole oysters, make oyster chowder or fry them with a light breading.

clams

 

Clams
The many species of clam are found all over the world’s oceans and coasts and range in size from a four-inch sand clams to the four-foot giant clams. Soft shell and hard shell clams live in the open in deep fresh and saltwater and burrowed in the tidal sands or muddy banks of coastal areas. Buy fresh clams in the shell. Store in an open bowl in the refrigerator. Wash the clams under running water to remove any sand before preparing them. Small hardshell clams should be handled in the same manner as mussels. Cook softshell clams before eating them. Wash them thoroughly under running water, as they always contain a lot of sand and mud. Clams are served in chowder and soups and in sauces. Steam, fry, bake and grill clams.

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Mussels
Mussels are fresh and saltwater filter feeder mollusks that are sensitive to environmental pollutants and are considered a species that indicates water quality. Mussels have two shells bound together with a ligament and can close and open it at will. Mussels use the ligament to attach to rocks or underwater piles but some species burrow in sand or mud. Store fresh mussels in an open bowl in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days. Rinse fresh mussels under slow running water. Discard any heavy mussels (that are filled with mud), any broken shells or any shells that are open. Take a sharp knife and carefully scrape off the “beard” from the edge of each mussels. Mussels are usually served steamed with sauces but they can also be roasted or served in soups and pasta. Steam the mussels 8 to 10 minutes until the shells pop open. Serve with a sauce made from butter, white wine and garlic.

scallops

Scallops
Sea Scallops live on the ocean floor in groups and filter feed on plankton and other small organisms. Unlike most mollusks, sea scallops are relatively fast swimmers, opening and closing their fanned shell quickly to move around. The muscle that holds the two scallop shells together, called the abductor muscle, is the most popular edible part of the scallop. Choose sea scallops or bay scallops, both of which come shucked and ready to prepare. Strip off and discard the little strip of tendon that is attached to each scallop. Buy “dry” scallops, if possible. Refuse scallops that have been soaked in phosphates, which causes them to absorb water and lose flavor. Scallops are served sauteed, seared, baked, grilled, in soups and raw. Make serviche, an appetizer made with fresh bay scallops and marinated in citrus juices. Grill, roast or saute large scallops as an entrée. Bread scallops with a mixture of bread crumbs and basil.

Cooking Shellfish

Some Guidelines

Shellfish — shrimp, crabs, scallops, clams, mussels, oysters or lobster — becomes tough and dry when overcooked. To cook raw shellfish, shucked or in the shell, follow these basic guidelines:

  • Raw shrimp turn pink and firm. Depending on the size, it takes from 3 to 5 minutes to boil or steam 1 pound of medium size shrimp in the shell.
  • Shucked shellfish (clams, mussels and oysters without shells), become plump and opaque when cooked and the edges of the oysters start to curl. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) suggests: boiling shucked oysters for 3 minutes, frying them in oil at 375 degrees F for 10 minutes or baking them for 10 minutes at 450 degrees F.
  • Clams, mussels and oysters in the shell will open when cooked. The FDA suggests steaming oysters for 4 to 9 minutes or boiling them for 3 to 5 minutes after they open.
  • Scallops turn milky white or opaque and firm when cooked. Depending on the size, scallops take 3 to 4 minutes to cook thoroughly.
  • Boiled lobster turns bright red. Allow 5 to 6 minutes cooking time after the water comes back to a full boil.

Grilling Seafood

CUT WEIGHT ORTHICKNESS HEAT COOKING TIME(MINUTES PER POUND)
Dressed Fish 1 lb. Medium/Direct 10 to 15
2-2-1/2 lbs. Med/Indirect 20 to 30
Fillets or Steaks 1/4 to 1/2 in. High/Direct 3 to 5
1/2 to 1 in. High/Direct 5 to 10
Kabobs 1-in. cubes Medium/Direct 8 to 12
Scallops, Sea 1 lb. Medium/Direct 5 to 8
Shrimp, Medium 1 lb. Medium/Direct 5 to 8

Shrimp and Crab Boat Appetizers

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24 Servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound peeled and deveined cooked shrimp, chopped
  • 6 ounces) lump crabmeat, picked over for shells
  • 2 celery ribs, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise 
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 24 Belgian endive leaves (3-4 heads) or small butter lettuce leaves

Directions

In a large bowl, combine shrimp, crab and celery. Add mayonnaise and mustard. Toss to coat. To serve, top each leaf with about 2 tablespoons shrimp mixture. Yield: 2 dozen.

Red Pepper Soup with Grilled Shellfish

pepper soup

Ingredients

For the soup:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
  • 1/4 cup minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 4 pounds red bell peppers
  • 1 cup tomatoes, diced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 10 leaves basil, chiffonade
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

For the seafood:

  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon minced chives
  • 8 (U 16/20-count) shrimp
  • 8 (U 30-count) scallops
  • 8 ounces crabmeat, leg or lump

Directions

For the soup:

Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to a saute pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the olive oil, garlic and onion and saute until translucent.

Roast the peppers on an open flame until charred; place in a plastic bag to sweat; remove skin and seeds. Puree the peppers and add to onions and garlic. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, chicken stock and water; bring to a simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Add basil, thyme, crushed red pepper and salt and pepper to taste. Puree the mixture with a hand immersion blender.

For the seafood:

Combine ingredients (olive oil through the chives) and mix well. Add seafood and marinate for 10 minutes prior to cooking. Cook seafood until done (about 5-6 minutes) on a grill or under the broiler. Use as a topping for the Red Pepper Soup and serve hot with crusty country bread.

Pistachio-Crusted Scallops

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Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted, shelled raw natural pistachios
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 8 large sea scallops, side muscle removed
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add pistachios and cook, stirring often, until nuts are deeply toasted, about 2 minutes. Let cool. Chop pistachios. Place in a small bowl; toss with chives, tarragon and thyme.

Season scallops with salt and pepper. Heat remaining butter and oil in a large nonstick skillet over high heat. Add scallops; sear until crusty brown, about 2 minutes per side. Roll scallops in pistachio mixture and serve immediately.

Baked Italian Oysters

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8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 (1-ounce) slices white bread
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/3 cup sliced green onions
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground red (cayenne) pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 24 oysters on the half shell
  • 8 lemon wedges

Directions

Preheat oven to 450°F.
Place bread in a food processor and pulse 10 times or until coarse crumbs form, (about 3/4 cup).

Heat a medium nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium heat. Add onions, parsley and garlic; cook 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; stir in fresh breadcrumbs, Italian breadcrumbs and the next 4 ingredients (Italian breadcrumbs through black pepper).

Place oysters on a jelly roll baking pan. Sprinkle breadcrumb mixture evenly over oysters.
Bake the oysters for 7 minutes or until the edges of the oysters curl. Serve with lemon wedges.

Mussels Fra Diavlo

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Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (6 cloves)
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 cups Fra Diavlo Sauce, recipes follow
  • 3 pounds medium mussels, scrubbed, de-bearded, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley leaves

Fra Diavolo Sauce:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 large cloves garlic, chopped (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
  • 2 cups Marinara Sauce
  • 1 (8-ounce) bottle clam juice
  • Kosher or sea salt

Directions

For the sauce:

Heat the 3 tablespoons olive oil in a 3-quart saucepan slightly over medium heat and saute the garlic and crushed red pepper until the garlic is fragrant and beginning to brown, about 40 seconds. Add the Marinara Sauce, clam juice and salt to taste. Simmer, stirring occasionally over medium-low heat, about 15 minutes.

For the mussels:

Heat the 2 tablespoons olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and red pepper and saute until fragrant, stirring, about 30 seconds. Add the wine and Fra Diavlo sauce, increase the heat to high, cover and bring to a boil.

Add the mussels and replace the lid. Cook over high heat 3 minutes. Remove the lid and stir once gently. Continue to cook until the mussels are completely open and firmly cooked, about 4 minutes more.

Remove the pot from the heat and transfer the mussels gently from the pot to a large bowl with a wire mesh skimmer. Return the pot to the heat and increase the heat to high. Boil for a minute or two, until the sauce is thick enough to coat a spoon. Pour the sauce over the mussels and serve immediately.

Lobster Arrabbiata

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Ingredients

  • Two 1 1/2-pound lobsters
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 small dry red chilies, crushed or 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 pints ripe cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lb spaghetti
  • 12 fresh basil leaves, for garnish, optional

Directions

Bring 2 large, tall pots of water to a boil. One will be for the spaghetti, one for the lobsters. It is best if the lobster pot has a lid.

Place the lobsters in the boiling water headfirst and cover tightly with the lid. (If you happen to have lobsters of different weights, put the heaviest lobster in first and wait a minute to add the others.) Boil the lobster for about 7 minutes but no longer than 8 minutes. You want it to be slightly underdone. Transfer the lobsters to a bowl and separate the heads from the tails, reserving them both in the bowl. Remove the lobster legs from the body/head and set aside.

Heat the olive oil and lobster heads in a large 14-inch saute pan. Include any juices that have collected in the bowl. Roast the lobster heads in the oil for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, crack open the claws and remove the meat. Cut open the tails to remove the tail meat. Cut all of the meat into large, 2-inch pieces.

Remove the lobster heads from the pan and discard. Add the chilies and garlic to the olive oil and cook for a few minutes until fragrant. Add the wine and cook until reduced by half. Add the tomatoes, sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper and saute until they just begin to break down.

Cook the spaghetti in the second pot of boiling water along with 2 tablespoons of salt for 2 minutes less than indicated on the package instructions. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water and drain the spaghetti.

Add the lobster meat, reserved lobster legs and pasta to the sauce and toss together for about a minute, adding pasta water as needed, top torn basil and serve.

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Fish has a high level of protein, is easy to digest and is considered an important part of a healthy diet. Some fish have an added bonus because they contain omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids – docosahexaeonic acid (DHA) – occur mostly in fatty fish like herring, salmon and mackerel. They are thought to lower blood pressure, to strengthen the immune system and to have positive effects on the development of the nervous system and the cardiovascular system.

Two newly published articles in the March 2013 science journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, describe how the researchers analyzed the impact of omega-3 fatty acids at a systemic level and they also described their underlying molecular mechanisms for the first time. The teams working at Jena University Hospital in Germany and at the University of Pennsylvania examined the effects of omega-3 fatty acids on the cardiovascular system and were able to show, for the first time, that DHA directly influences blood pressure.

According to the Mayo Clinic, Omega-3 fatty acids may decrease triglycerides, lower blood pressure, reduce blood clotting, boost immunity and improve arthritis symptoms and, in children, may improve learning ability. Eating two servings a week of fish, particularly fish that’s rich in omega-3 fatty acids, appears to reduce the risk of heart disease and sudden cardiac death.

Fatty fish, such as salmon, herring and tuna, contain the most omega-3 fatty acids and, therefore, offer the most benefit, but many types of seafood contain small amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. Most freshwater fish have less omega-3 fatty acids than do fatty saltwater fish. However, some varieties of freshwater trout have relatively high levels of omega-3 fatty acids.

Look for seafood rich in omega-3s, such as:

  • Halibut
  • Herring
  • Mackerel
  • Mussels
  • Oysters
  • Salmon
  • Sardines
  • Swordfish
  • Trout
  • Tuna (fresh)

Only buy fish that is refrigerated or properly iced. Fresh fish should smell fresh and mild, not fishy, sour or ammonia-like. Whole fish and fillets should have firm, shiny flesh and bright red gills free from slime. When buying frozen fish, avoid packages placed above the frost line or top of the freezer case. If the package is transparent, look for signs of frost or ice crystals. These could mean the fish has been stored a long time or thawed and refrozen — in which case, choose another package.

Healthy Ways to Cook Fish

Baked Fish

Baking fish allows you to get the satisfying crunch of fried fish without all the fat. Just because it’s baked, though, doesn’t mean it’s healthy: Watch the amount of butter, oil, mayonnaise, or cheese called for in the recipe.

It’s easy and delicious to cook fish fillets in packets of parchment paper, a technique called “en papillote”. The fish is cooked by the trapped steam. If you don’t have parchment paper on hand, use aluminum foil to make the packets. The fish needs to bake for only 10 to 15 minutes at 400 degrees F.

Broiled Fish

When the weather’s not right for grilling, try broiling instead. Broiling is great when you want a fast, simple, hassle-free preparation with delicious results.

It gives fish a nicely browned exterior with the convenience of a temperature-controlled heat source.  For easy cleanup, line the broiler pan with a piece of greased foil.

Poached Fish

This gentle cooking method is perfect for seafood. Poaching keeps fish moist and won’t mask the delicate flavor of the fish.

To poach fish: use vegetable or chicken stock or a homemade broth of aromatic herbs and spices.

Use a pan big enough to lay each piece of fish down flat.

Pour in enough liquid to just barely cover the fish.

Bring the liquid to a simmer and keep it there.

If you see any bubbles coming up from the bottom of the pan, it’s too hot–the liquid should “shimmer” rather than bubble. The ideal poaching liquid temperature is between 165 and 180 degrees F (74 to 82 degrees C).

Steamed Fish

Steaming is another gentle cooking method. It produces a mild-tasting fish that is often paired with a flavorful sauce.

Rub the fish with spices, chopped herbs, ginger, garlic and chili peppers to infuse flavor while it cooks.

Use a bamboo steamer or a folding steamer basket with enough room for each piece of fish to lie flat.

Pour about 1½ inches of water into the pan.

Place the steamer over the water, cover the pot, and bring the water to a boil.

Begin checking the fish for doneness after 10 minutes.

Grilled Fish

When you’re grilling fish, keep a close watch. Fish only takes a few minutes per side to cook. If the fillets are an even thickness, they may not even require turning–they can be cooked through by grilling on one side only.

Brush the fish lightly with oil and spray the grill with nonstick cooking spray.

Place fish near the edge of the grill, away from the hottest part of the fire. (Don’t try to lift up the fish right away; it will be stuck to the grill).

Turn the fish over when you see light grill marks forming.

Fish should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees F. If you don’t have a food thermometer, you can determine whether fish is properly cooked by slipping the point of a sharp knife into the flesh and pulling it aside. The flesh should be opaque and separate easily.

White Wine and Garlic Steamed Clams

This dish makes a great appetizer.

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds manila or littleneck clams
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 cup thinly sliced shallots
  • 1½ cups dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 large slices sourdough or country bread, each about ½-inch thick

Directions

Scrub the clams and rinse them in four rounds of cold water to remove any sand and grit.

Heat a 12-inch skillet with a cover over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. Add the garlic and shallots and sauté until fragrant and tender, about 1 minute.

Add the wine and cook for about 1 minute more. Add the clams and cook covered until the clams open wide, 5 to 10 minutes, stirring every few minutes.

Add the 2 tablespoons butter, the parsley and season with pepper. Toast the bread on a stovetop grill or in the broiler about 1 minute, turning once.

Discard any unopened clams and serve right away in bowls with the bread and pan juices.

 

Shrimp with Oregano and Lemon

This is another great appetizer. You can turn it into a main dish by serving the shrimp and sauce over rice or pasta.

The sauce is also delicious spooned over grilled swordfish or any other meaty fish.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup salted capers—rinsed, soaked for 1 hour and drained
  • 1/2 cup fresh oregano
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 1/2 pounds large shrimp, shelled and deveined

Directions

On a cutting board, finely chop the drained capers with the oregano and garlic. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, along with the lemon zest and lemon juice. Season the sauce with pepper.

Heat a stove top grill.

In a large bowl, toss the shrimp with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and season lightly with salt and pepper.

Grill shrimp, turning once, until the shrimp show grill marks and are cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. Remove the shrimp to a platter.

Spoon some the sauce on top and serve. Pass the remaining sauce with the shrimp platter.

MAKE AHEAD The sauce can be refrigerated overnight. Bring it to room temperature before serving. Serve with crusty bread.

fish5

Red Snapper Livornese

Serve with rice or couscous and a salad or steamed broccoli.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup homemade or store-bought marinara sauce
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons capers, chopped
  • 1/2 cup sliced black olives, drained
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 pound red snapper fillets

Directions

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

In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil and saute onion until tender, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and saute for 1 minute. Stir in marinara sauce, wine, capers, black olives, red pepper flakes and parsley. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes.

Spread 1/2 cup of the sauce in an 11 x 7 inch baking dish and arrange the snapper fillets in a single layer in the dish. Pour the remaining sauce over all.

Bake for 15 minutes for 1/2 inch thick fillets or 30 minutes for 1 inch thick fillets. Baste once with the sauce while baking. Snapper is done when it flakes easily with a fork.

Salmon Rolls

4 servings

Ingredients

1 ¼ pounds center-cut salmon fillet, skinned and cut lengthwise into 4 strips

Stuffing

  • 1/2 cup plain panko crumbs
  • 1/4 cup chopped herbs (basil, parsley, oregano)
  • 1 garlic, minced
  • 1 small shallot, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon each salt & pepper
  • 1 tablespoon truffle oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.

Mix the stuffing ingredients together in a medium bowl. Working with one piece of salmon at a time, spread about 3 tablespoons of the breadcrumb mixture over the salmon.

Starting at one end, roll the salmon up tightly, tucking in any loose filling as you go. Insert a toothpick through the end to keep the rolls from unrolling.

Place in the prepared dish and repeat with the remaining salmon strips.

Bake the rolls until just cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the toothpicks before serving.

Italian Style Paella

Fregola, the pearl-sized pasta that is similar to couscous, makes an excellent substitute for rice in this paella-style dish; it soaks up a lot of the cooking liquid from the dish and still stays chewy.

12 Servings

Ingredients

  • Large pinch of saffron threads
  • 6 ½ cups warm water
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 pound fregola (2 1/4 cups)
  • 1/2 pound Italian sausage, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup canned diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds large shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 2 pounds red snapper, cod or monkfish, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 pound mussels, scrubbed and debearded
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

Directions

In a small bowl, crumble the saffron in 1/2 cup of the warm water and let stand for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a very large, deep sauté pan. Add the onion and garlic and cook over high heat, stirring, until lightly browned, 2 minutes. Add the fregola and sausage and cook, stirring, until the sausage starts to brown, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, white wine, saffron and its soaking liquid and the remaining 6 cups of warm water to the sauté pan and bring to a boil.

Stir in 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper, cover and cook over low heat until the fregola is very chewy and soupy, about 10 minutes.

Season the shrimp and red snapper with salt and pepper and add them to the pan along with the mussels, nestling them into the fregola. Bring to a boil. Cover the pan and cook over low heat until the fregola is al dente, the fish is just cooked through and the mussels have opened, about 12 minutes longer.

Remove the pan from the heat and let the paella stand for 5 minutes; the fregola will absorb a bit more of the liquid, but the dish should still be brothy. Discard any mussels that do not open. Sprinkle the fregola with the chopped parsley and serve.

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Tribute to Immigrants of Ybor City – Centennial Park

The Italians in Florida

“The people who had lived for centuries in Sicilian villages perched on hilltops for protection from marauding bands and spent endless hours each day walking to and from the fields, now faced a new and strange life on the flats of Ybor City.” – Tony Pizzo, The Italians in Tampa.

The Italians of Ybor arrived almost exclusively from Sicily. Life in that island off Italy’s southern coast was unimaginably hard in the mid- to late 1800s. Most of the immigrants whose eventual destination was Ybor City came from Sicily’s southwestern region, a hilly area containing the towns of Santo Stefano Quisquina, Alessandria della Rocca, Cianciana and Bivona. Dependent on agriculture (including the cultivation of almonds, pistachios, flax, olives, wheat and wool), mining and limited trade contacts, the residents of the area struggled with poor soil, malaria, bandits, low birth rates, high land rents and absentee landlords. The population responded, according to historian Giampiero Carocci, by exercising three options: “resignation, socialism, and emigration.”

The last option–emigration–was usually of the “chain” variety. Both through word of mouth and the activities of labor brokers (padrones), Sicilians learned of job opportunities in America. Padrones were labor brokers, usually immigrants themselves, who acted as middlemen between immigrant workers and employers. Early sugar-producing communities in New Orleans, Louisiana and St. Cloud, Florida attracted many Sicilians, but the work and conditions were so grueling that many immigrants looked elsewhere. The completion of the Plant System Railway to Tampa (1884) and Vicente Martinez Ybor’s development of Ybor City (1886) made the Tampa area an attractive destination for these immigrants. Thousands–including the many Sicilians who either came directly to Tampa or moved there from their initial U.S. “landing spots”–found work in the cigar trade, as well as in the myriad of other enterprises that supported Italians in the community.  Source: Cigar City Magazine

Italians mostly brought their entire families with them, unlike many of the other immigrants. The foreign-born Italian population of Tampa grew from 56 in 1890 to 2,684 in 1940. Once arriving in Ybor City (pronounced ee-bor), Italians settled mainly in the eastern and southern fringes of the city. The area was referred to as La Pachata, after a Cuban rent collector in that area. It also became known as “Little Italy”.

At first, Italians found it difficult to find employment in the cigar industry, which had moved to Tampa from Cuba and Key West, FL and was dominated by Hispanic workers. The Italians arrived in the cigar town without cigar-making skills. When the early Italians entered the factories, it was at the bottom of the ladder, positions which did not involve handling tobacco. Working beside unskilled Cubans, they swept, hauled, and were porters and doorkeepers. In time, many did become cigar workers, including Italian women. The majority of the Italian women worked as cigar strippers, an undesirable position, mainly held by women who could find nothing else. Eventually, many women became skilled cigar makers, earning more than the male Italian cigar makers.

Inside an Ybor City cigar factory, ca. 1920

Seventh Avenue (ca. 1908)

Many Italians founded businesses to serve cigar workers, mostly small grocery stores in the neighborhood’s commercial district that were supplied by Italian-owned vegetable and dairy farms located east of Tampa’s city limits.The immigrant cultures in town became better integrated as time went by; eventually, approximately 20% of the workers in the cigar industry were Italian Americans. The tradition of local Italian-owned groceries continued and a handful of such businesses founded in the late 1800’s were still operating into the 21st century. Many descendants of Sicilian immigrants eventually became prominent local citizens, such as mayors Nick Nuccio and Dick Greco.

Current View: Gateway to Ybor City on 7th Ave near the Nick Nuccio Parkway.

Devil crab is one of Tampa’s original culinary creations. The snack first appeared around 1920 as street food in Tampa, concocted when blue crab was plentiful. Heat from red pepper flakes gave the rolls their fiery name. Some debate the origins of the rolls, tracing them to Spain, Cuba or Italy, but they are likely a little of all three, one of Tampa’s fusion foods.

Victor Licata watched over his own devil crabs after opening the Seabreeze Restaurant on the 22nd Street Causeway around 1925. His daughters rolled the crabs at home and then they were served in the restaurant; diners could not get enough of the spicy, plump croquettes. Seabreeze devil crabs were so popular, the restaurant sold about 750,000 rolls annually in the 1990’s. In 1992, the Licata family sold the Seabreeze Restaurant to Robert and Helen Richards, who had run a neighboring seafood shop since the 1960’s. 

Seabreeze’s Devil Crab

From: Seabreeze By The Bay Cookbook.                                    

This recipe has been cut in half. See the original in the newspaper copy above

You can also bake the cakes in a very hot oven turning them over several times, so that they can brown evenly.

Ingredients:

Sauce

  • 1 cup finely diced onion
  • 1/2 cup finely diced green or red pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup finely diced celery
  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 7 oz. tomato puree
  • 7 oz. tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 pounds of blue crab claw meat, fresh or frozen

Stuffing

  • 1 Italian baguette
  • 1 loaf of Cuban bread
  • Italian seasoned bread crumbs, plus additional for dredging
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons crushed red pepper
  • Water
  • Vegetable oil for frying

Directions:

Finely dice the onion, pepper, garlic and celery in a blender or food processor.

Add the vegetables to a large saute pan with the oil and the water and cook over very low heat for 1 hour until soft.

Add in the tomato puree, tomato paste and red pepper flakes and cook on low heat for an additional hour, stirring often. Add the oregano and cook for 5 more minutes. Turn off the heat and let it cool.

Flake the crabmeat into a large bowl and make sure to pick it over for any small pieces of shell. Add sauce gradually until the mixture is moist and holds together. Refrigerate the mixture until ready to cook.

Tear the bread up and put it all into a big bowl. Add enough water to moisten the bread and then mash it all together until it has a loose, doughy consistency.

Add in the red pepper and then add enough bread crumbs to form a dough with a biscuit consistency.

In a Dutch Oven heat 2 inches of oil to 330 degrees F.

In 3 separate bowls: place stuffing in the first bowl, crab mixture in the second and additional bread crumbs in the third.

Scoop up a handful of dough and drop it into the bread crumbs and roll lightly and form it into a 4 inch circle.

Place a heaping tablespoon of crab filling right in the center and then bring the edges up and around it. Close up the seams. (See photos below.)

Roll the deviled crab in bread crumbs again and place on a plate.

Fry the cakes in batches for 7 minutes or until golden brown. Serve immediately with hot sauce.

Healthier Recipes To Make At Home

Cucuzza Soup

Cucuzza has its origins in the Mediterranean, especially Italy. Its season in Florida is from June until first frost and can grow from 15 to 36 inches long and approximately 3 inches in diameter. It’s also known as bottle gourd, super long squash and snake squash.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cucuzza (3–4 cups)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1–15 oz can of diced tomatoes
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese

Directions:

Cut the cucuzza in cubes and set them aside while the onions and garlic simmer in olive oil. Next add the cucuzza, water and tomatoes. Add the salt, pepper and grated Parmesan cheese. Simmer until the cucuzza is tender and almost transparent.

Spicy Deviled Crab

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb crabmeat
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 heaping teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 finely chopped serrano chile
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 finely chopped garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons dry sherry
  • 4-6 cleaned crab shells or ramekins

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix all the ingredients together and let rest for 10 minutes.

Stuff the mixture loosely — do not pack it — into the crab shells, or if you don’t have them, single-serving ramekins. You could also simply use a casserole dish, too.

Bake for 40 minutes.

Linguine with Clams, Mussels, Shrimp and Calamari in Spicy Tomato Sauce

1 Serving

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2-ounces extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2-ounce garlic, chopped
  • 1/2-ounce shallots, chopped
  • 1/4 cup finely diced red bell pepper
  • 4 small clams
  • 5 black mussels
  • 2 ounces shrimp
  • 1/2-ounce white wine
  • 3 ounces spicy marinara sauce
  • 1-ounce calamari
  • 3 ounces linguine
  • 1-ounce fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon bread crumbs

Directions:

In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil. Add garlic, bell pepper and shallots, and saute until brown. Add the clams, mussels and shrimp. When shells start to open, add the white wine. Reduce to half its volume, then add the marinara and calamari.

Cook the pasta in salted boiling water. Drain and add to the seafood. Allow pasta to cook in the sauce for a minute, then toss in the basil and bread crumbs. Serve in a deep pasta bowl.

 

Easy Italian Rum Cake

A popular restaurant dessert.

Yield: 1 – 10 inch Bundt Pan or Tube Pan

Ingredients:

  • 1 box of yellow cake mix
  • 1 package of vanilla instant pudding mix (4 oz serving size)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup of pecans or walnuts, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup dark rum

Glaze

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup of dark rum

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Spray the bundt or tube pan with cooking spray.

Sprinkle the chopped nuts over the bottom of the pan.

Mix all the cake ingredients together in an electric mixer and blend well.

Pour batter over nuts.

Bake for 1 hour. Cool on a wire rack.

While the cake is baking prepare the glaze.

Glaze Directions:

Melt the butter in a saucepan and stir in the water and sugar. Boil the glaze mixture for 5 minutes stirring constantly. Remove saucepan from the heat and stir in the rum.

When the cake has cooled remove from the cake pan and invert onto a serving plate.

Prick the top with a fork. Drizzle and smooth glaze evenly over the sides and top.You may need to do this several times until all the glaze is absorbed. Let the cake sit covered for 12 hours to absorb the rum sauce. (Place several toothpicks in the cake and cover tightly with plastic wrap for 12 hours.)


Whole Wheat Pasta

Transitioning to a healthier lifestyle can be hard, especially when it comes to food. You have to look out for bad fats, funky chemicals added for ‘flavor’, like THBQ, and harmful hormones and antibiotics sneaking their way into our food supply. With misleading food labels like “all natural,” “made with whole grains,” “0g Trans fats” and “rich in fiber” — just to name a few — it’s no wonder people struggle to find a healthier diet.

So, you love pasta!. You’d never make it on a low-carb diet, but there are certainly other ways to lighten and make your meals more healthy. Believe it or not, given the right ingredients, pasta can be healthy, too. It’s all about limiting the fattening and high sodium sauces in favor of healthier alternatives.

Pasta won’t make you fat, eating too many calories will. And since one 2 oz serving weighs in at only 210 calories, you can enjoy a pasta dinner without worrying about your waistline.

To keep it healthy, you’ll need to keep it whole wheat or whole grain. When you choose whole-wheat pasta instead of regular to make the pasta recipes below, you’ll get more than twice as much fiber per serving. Almost every major brand of pasta at the supermarket offers a whole-wheat or whole-grain option. Plus, whole-wheat and whole-grain pasta have a nutty flavor and a pleasant chewy texture that I have grown to prefer over white flour pasta. Whole grains also tend to have a lower glycemic index, which means they don’t spike insulin levels. Also, the longer you cook pasta, the higher the glycemic index, so only cook pasta to the al dente stage.

Whole-grain pastas-from whole wheat to spelt-are increasingly easy to find on grocery shelves and in restaurants. According to Mintel’s Global New Products Database, 48 more new whole-grain pastas are now on store shelves since 2005. And because many product labels boast “wheat” or “grain” content, it’s helpful that the Whole Grains Council in Boston, Massachusetts, has introduced a food packaging stamp, easing buyers’ confusion about which foods have whole grains. The stamp indicates whether the product is a Good Source (which offers a half-serving of whole grain per portion), an Excellent Source (a full serving of whole grain), or 100% Whole Grain/Excellent Source (a full serving with no refined grains). Still, the stamp system is voluntary, so as an alternative, look for whole grain to be first on the product’s ingredient list.

Whole grain pasta is recommended for diabetics and those who are at risk for heart disease. Brown rice pasta is recommended for people with celiac disease and wheat allergies. Quinoa corn pasta is also good for people suffering from celiac disease and those who have wheat allergies, heart disease or diabetes, since it is higher in minerals, B vitamins and easier to digest. Doctors say people with wheat allergies, heart disease or diabetes could also benefit from eating buckwheat pasta since it contains no wheat or gluten. In tests results reported in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, buckwheat groats products significantly lowered blood glucose and insulin responses.

Next, look at what type of sauce you typically put on your pasta. This is usually what makes a normal pasta dish totally unhealthy, especially if you use sauces that are loaded with fat and calories. Stick to sauces that are low in sodium and sugar.

After you decide on the the type of pasta and sauce, take a look at what protein you put into your pasta dish. If you’re adding pork sausage and ground beef with a high fat content, you’re adding hundreds of calories to your dish. Try lean chicken breast or lean ground turkey. If you really miss the beef flavor, add a small amount of beef with a low percentage of fat to your sauce.

Add some healthy veggies to your dish and some fresh herbs to give it the kick you miss from the lowered salt content. Some fresh basil is always great, but choose what you like and sprinkle a bit on top.

Seafood and pasta are a great match and healthy seafood pasta recipes offer plenty of choices.

201112-r-pappardelle-with-clams

Fettuccine with Clams, Turmeric and Hot Pepper

Servings: 6

Ingredients:

  • 8 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups packed whole basil leaves plus 1/2 cup chopped basil
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1 cup bottled clam juice
  • 4 dozen littleneck clams, scrubbed
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lime
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 3/4 pound whole wheat fettuccine
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400° F. Loosely wrap the garlic cloves in foil and bake for about 25 minutes, until very soft. Peel the garlic.

In a medium saucepan, heat the oil. Add the roasted garlic, turmeric and crushed red pepper; cook over moderate heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the basil leaves, black pepper, wine and clam juice, cover and cook over low heat until the liquid has reduced to 1/2 cup, about 10 minutes. Strain the reduction into a large pot, pressing on the solids.

Bring the strained liquid to a boil. Add the clams, cover and cook, shaking the pot a few times, until they start to open, 3 minutes; as the clams open, transfer them to a bowl and keep covered. When all of the clams have opened, boil the broth over high heat until reduced to 2 cups, about 5 minutes. Stir in the lime zest and lime juice.

Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain.

Add the pasta to the pot with the reduced clam broth and toss to coat. Add the butter, tossing well over moderate heat, until melted. Transfer the pasta to bowls. Top with the clams and chopped basil. Serve with crusty Italian bread.

Spaghettini with Shrimp, Tomatoes and Chili Crumbs

Servings: 4

 Ingredients:

  • 2-3 large plum tomatoes (about 1 1/4 pounds), cored and scored on the bottoms with an X
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup coarse, dried sourdough bread crumbs (about 2 ounces)
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • Crushed red pepper
  • 12 ounces whole wheat spaghettini (thin spaghetti)
  • 1 pound medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 2 tablespoons finely shredded basil
  • 1/2 pound cherry tomatoes, halved

 Directions:

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Put the plum tomatoes in a small baking dish and drizzle with the vinegar and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Roast for about 20 minutes, just until the skins loosen and the tomatoes are barely softened. Let cool slightly, then peel and chop the tomatoes. Put them back into the baking dish and season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet. Add the breadcrumbs and cook over moderately low heat, stirring, until golden and crisp, about 5 minutes. Stir in the lemon zest and a pinch of crushed red pepper and season with salt. Remove to a separate bowl.

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until barely al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water. 

In the same skillet used for the breadcrumbs, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil until shimmering. Season the shrimp with salt and a pinch of crushed red pepper and cook over high heat, tossing once or twice, until barely cooked, about 1 1/2 minutes. Add the basil, roasted plum tomatoes, cherry tomatoes and pasta along with the reserved pasta cooking water and cook, tossing, until the shrimp are pink throughout and the pasta is coated in a light sauce, about 1 minute. Transfer the pasta to bowls, top with the bread crumbs.

 

Pasta with Fish, Lemon and Capers

Yield: 6 generous portions

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ pounds swordfish steaks or scallops or fish of choice
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 6 cloves garlic, sliced thickly
  • 3 tablespoons capers, drained
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • Zest of one lemon, grated
  • 2 cups clam juice
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 lb. whole wheat spaghetti, linguine or spaghettini.
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces

 Directions:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Trim and discard the skin and any very dark red meat from the swordfish. Cut the fish into ½” dice. Toss the swordfish with the flour, salt and pepper.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat until the oil sizzles. Cook half of the coated swordfish pieces until golden brown on all sides, about 2 minutes. Remove the browned fish with a slotted spoon and set aside. Repeat with 1 tablespoon olive oil, if needed, and the remaining fish.

Reduce the heat to medium-low. In the same pan cook the garlic, onion, red pepper flakes, capers, parsley and lemon zest slowly in the remaining olive oil until the onions are golden and tender, about 5-6 minutes. Pour on the white wine and stir gently to dislodge any of the brown bits remaining in the bottom of the pan. Reduce the wine by one half.

Add the clam juice, tomato sauce, sugar, salt and pepper. Bring the sauce to a boil and simmer for 8-10 minutes until slightly thickened. Add the swordfish, any accumulated juices and the lemon juice to the sauce and warm through, 2 minutes.

While the sauce is simmering cook the pasta according to the directions on the package, drain and return to the pot. Pour the sauce over the pasta and simmer over low heat stirring constantly until the pasta is well coated, about 2 minutes.

Turn the pasta out onto a warm serving dish and sprinkle with the basil.

Italian Style Pasta with Tuna

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pound whole-wheat pasta, shape of choice
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 large red onion, chopped
  • 2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 12 sun-dried tomato-halves packed in oil, drained and minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Pinch of dried red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 1 can (15 oz.) rinsed and drained Cannellini beans
  • 1 can (6 oz.) tuna, well drained and broken into small pieces
  • 1 tablespoon small capers, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup sliced olives, such as Kalamata and green Cerignola
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Minced flat-leaf parsley leaves

Directions:

Cook pasta according to package directions and drain. Reserve a 1/2 cup of pasta cooking water.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Saute onion, stirring often, until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring frequently, about 2 minutes. Transfer mixture to small bowl and mix the tomatoes, oregano and pepper flakes to taste. Set aside.

Add remaining oil to skillet and heat over medium-high heat until hot. Add beans, tuna, olives and capers and cook until mixture is completely heated through. Mix in the tomato/ onion/garlic mixture. Cook, stirring often, until heated. Add cooked pasta and pasta water and heat through, tossing to mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve garnished with parsley.

Seafood Lasagna

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup flour (Wondra dissolves instantly)
  • 3 cups low-fat milk
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/8 teaspoon grated fresh nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups thinly sliced onion
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 cup low-fat cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup fat free half-and-half
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 3/4 lb. medium. shrimp, peeled, deveined and cut into thirds
  • 3/4 lb. scallops, cut into thirds
  • 1-6 oz. can crabmeat, drained or use ½ pound of fresh crab meat
  • 3 large eggs
  • 15 oz. carton low fat ricotta
  • 12 whole wheat lasagna noodles, pre-cooked according to package directions

Directions:

Preheat oven 350 degrees F. Coat a 13 x 9 baking dish with cooking spray.

White Sauce:

Place flour in large saucepan. Gradually add milk. Cook, whisking constantly until smooth, about 1 minute. Stir in butter, thyme, salt and pepper; bring to boil. Cook 5 minutes until thickened, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in 1 1/4 cups Parmesan and nutmeg. Set aside.

Filling:

Heat oil in a large skillet. Add onion and garlic; saute 4 minutes. Add cream cheese and stir until cheese is melted. Stir in half-and-half; 1/4 cup chopped parsley, shrimp, scallops and crab. (The fish will continue to cook in the oven.) Remove from heat.

In a food processor combine eggs and ricotta. Process until smooth and stir into seafood mixture.

Spoon 1 cup the white sauce into the baking dish coated with cooking spray. Arrange 4 noodles on top. Spread the noodles with 1/2 of the ricotta seafood mixture.

Repeat layers with 4 noodles, the remaining ricotta seafood mixture and remaining 4 noodles.

Pour remaining white sauce over the top layer of noodles and sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese.

Bake for 45 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove from oven and sprinkle with remaining parsley. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

 


While the history of the origin of a particular food can be very contradictory, there are usually some true facts in the different versions of how a food originated in a particular country. Lasagna has one of those conflicted origins, however the description, if not the origin, included here, is one commonly found in the culinary history books.

The history of the name of these noodles is actually quite interesting. “Lasagna” is derived from the Greek lasanon, which means “chamber pot.” The Romans borrowed the word to refer to cooking pots of a similar shape, and eventually the word came to be used to refer to the noodles which were traditionally layered in a lasanum, a Roman lasagna dish.

Athenian Tile

Roman Baking Tiles

With the expansion of the Roman empire, this new “lasagnum” dish spread all across Europe, eventually reaching Britain, where it was published in a cookbook, The Forme of Cury, in the late 14th. century, which led to Britain claiming the origin of the dish was within their country. Documented  historical accounts, tell us that the first printed recipe with tomatoes appeared in 1692. If lasagna includes tomatoes, then it would have not been known, in its present form, until somewhere around 1700. Most likely present day lasagna may have no ancient roots, but may very well be a dish that was re-invented at a much later date.

Title page of The Forme of Cury (18th century ed.)

The early Italians changed the name from “lasagnum,” to “lasagna or in Italian, lasagne,” which is the current form. Over the years, the word “lasagna” began to change definitions; the word previously referred to the serving dish it was baked in, but later began to simply mean a pasta meal in the dish itself. In modern cooking terms, it now means layers of thin pasta, with meat, cheese and tomato sauce layered in between.

It seems that lasagna takes a different form not only in the various provinces of Italy but also from the diversity of every home. Some lasagna recipes are meat based, others are made from vegetables, such as spinach or artichokes. Some folks add hard boiled eggs and peas; others do not. In the end, what goes between the layers of noodles is as variable as the things you can find to put between them.

With lasagna, it’s all about the freshness of the ingredients, especially the cheese. Some lasagna recipes have multiple cheeses, but most often you’ll find ricotta and mozzarella, especially in southern Italy.  Some typical Italian lasagna specialties include Lasagna Alla Bolognese, which uses a tomato meat/white sauce and Lasagna Verdi, which includes spinach and cheese. Outside of Italy, there are many different types of lasagna, especially in the United States. From vegetable lasagna to spicy chipotle (Mexican) lasagna to everything in between. 

Ridged Lasagna Noodles

Flat Sided Lasagna Noodles

In Italy, lasagna noodles are totally flat, while American lasagna tends to be ruffled along the edges to help trap sauces. The best noodles are made from durum wheat, a particularly hard wheat which stands up to extended cooking, remaining chewy and resilient even after boiling and baking. Some cooks prefer to use no-boil lasagna noodles, which are layered into a lasagna pan without being boiled in water. The moisture in the lasagna and the heat of the oven cook these noodles so that they become soft by the time the dish has finished baking. In using no boil noodles, I have found that the noodles taste better if soaked in hot water for 15 minutes before layering in the baking dish.

Roasted Eggplant Lasagna

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs. eggplant (peeled, cut into 1/2 inch cubes)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 lbs.skim ricotta cheese
  • 1  1/4 cups freshly grated parmesan (cheese about 3 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup shallots (chopped)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary (chopped)
  • 4 cups homemade or store bought marinara sauce, see post for recipe: https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/04/19/hello-world/
  • 9 lasagna noodles (boiled or no boil or homemade)
  • 8 oz. mozzarella cheese ( thinly sliced)
  • Salt

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375°F. Brush baking sheet with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Place eggplant pieces on paper towels. Sprinkle lightly with salt; let stand 20 minutes. Transfer eggplant to prepared sheet. Toss with remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Roast eggplant until tender, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. Set aside. Maintain oven temperature.

Mix ricotta cheese, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shallots and rosemary in large bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

Spray a 13 x 9 x 2-inch glass baking dish with olive oil cooking spray.

If using no boil noodles: Place noodles in large bowl. Fill bowl with hot tap water. Soak noodles until pliable, stirring occasionally to separate, about 15 minutes. Place large sheet of parchment paper on work surface. Transfer noodles to parchment in single layer, shaking off excess water.

If using regular noodles, boil according to package directions.

Spread 1/2 cup marinara sauce in the bottom of the dish. Arrange 3 lasagna noodles crosswise in a single layer in dish. Spread half of ricotta mixture over noodles. Arrange half of eggplant over. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spoon a generous 1 cup marinara sauce over. Arrange half of the mozzarella slices over sauce. Repeat layering 1 more time. Top with 3 lasagna noodles. Spread remaining sauce over. Sprinkle with 3/4 cup Parmesan. Cover tightly with lightly oiled foil. (Can be made 1 day ahead; chill.)

Bake until noodles are tender and lasagna is heated through, about 45 minutes. Uncover; bake until cheese begins to brown and sauce is bubbling slightly at edges, about 15 minutes longer. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Chicken Mushroom Lasagna

Ingredients:

  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (about 7 ounces each)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion , chopped
  • 2 large cloves garlic , finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 pounds mushrooms , brushed clean and sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage leaves
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups low fat milk
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Pinch ground nutmeg
  • 1 container (15 ounces) part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1 package (8 -9 ounces) no-boil lasagna noodles

Directions:

In a medium saucepan, combine chicken breasts, bay leaf, 1 teaspoon salt, and enough water to cover chicken. Bring to a boil; skim off any foam. Reduce heat to low; simmer 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat and let chicken cool in cooking liquid. Remove chicken and shred or chop into bite-size pieces. Set aside.

In a large nonstick skillet over medium-low heat, heat 1 tablespoon oil. Add onion; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Stir in mushrooms, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Increase heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until mushroom liquid evaporates, 10 to 15 minutes.

Stir in sage and cook 1 minute. Return mushroom mixture to skillet and stir to combine; set aside.

Place flour in a large saucepan. Gradually whisk in milk until smooth. Over medium heat, cook, stirring frequently, until sauce comes to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove pan from heat; stir in 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 375° F. Spray a 13″ x 9″ baking dish with olive oil cooking spray.

Place noodles in large bowl. Fill bowl with hot tap water. Soak noodles until pliable, stirring occasionally to separate, about 15 minutes. Place large sheet of parchment paper on work surface. Transfer noodles to parchment in single layer, shaking off excess water.

In a small bowl, combine ricotta and mozzarella cheeses; stir well.

Reserve 1 cup sauce for top layer. Spread 1/2 cup sauce in bottom of prepared dish. Arrange 4 lasagna noodles over sauce, overlapping noodles slightly to fit. Spread with 1/2 cup ricotta mixture. Spoon on half of mushroom mixture. Top with half of chicken. Pour half of remaining sauce over chicken. Repeat layering. Top with remaining lasagna noodles and spread with reserved 1 cup sauce.

Coat a sheet of foil with cooking spray and cover baking dish. Bake lasagna 35 minutes. Uncover dish and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Bake uncovered 15 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes.

     

Spinach, Pesto, and Fontina Lasagna

Makes 8 servings

Sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour (Wondra)
  • 2 1/2 cups lowfat milk
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper

Spinach:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped shallots or sweet Vidalia onions
  • 4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 10-ounce packages frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper

Filling:

  • 2 cups skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper

Lasagna

For the sauce:

In heavy large saucepan combine Wondra flour,  milk, wine and butter. Cook over medium heat until sauce thickens and comes to boil, whisking constantly, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Whisk in Parmesan cheese, nutmeg, garlic powder, salt and white pepper.

DO AHEAD: Sauce can be made up to 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

For the spinach:

Heat oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Add shallots and garlic. Sauté until shallots soften, about 2 minutes. Add spinach and cook about 2 minutes. Remove spinach from heat and stir in 1 1/2 cups sauce. Season spinach with salt and pepper.

DO AHEAD: Spinach can be made up to 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

For the filling:

Mix ricotta, Parmesan, salt, pepper and lemon peel in medium bowl.

DO AHEAD: Filling can be made up to 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

For the lasagna :

Place noodles in large bowl. Fill bowl with hot tap water. Soak noodles until pliable, stirring occasionally to separate, about 15 minutes. Place large sheet of parchment paper on work surface. Transfer noodles to parchment in single layer, shaking off excess water.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray 13 x 9 x 2- inch glass baking dish with cooking spray.

Spread 1/2 cup sauce thinly over bottom of prepared dish. Top with 3 noodles, arranged side by side and covering most of bottom of dish. Spread half of spinach mixture over.

Sprinkle with 1/3 cup Fontina. Top with 3 noodles and half of ricotta mixture Drop half of pesto over the ricotta by teaspoonfuls, spacing evenly apart.

Continue layering with 3 noodles, remaining spinach mixture, 1/3 cup Fontina, 3 more noodles, remaining ricotta mixture, then remaining pesto. Top with last 3 noodles. Spread remaining sauce over; sprinkle with remaining Fontina. Cover dish with foil coated with cooking spray.

Bake lasagna until heated through and bubbling at edges, 50 to 55 minutes. Remove from oven. Remove foil from dish.

Preheat broiler. Broil the lasagna casserole until top is browned in spots, turning dish occasionally for even browning, about 4 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.

 

Low-Fat Meaty Lasagna

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 1 small carrot , cut into chunks
  • 1 pound mushrooms (cremini or white)
  • 6 cloves garlic , peeled
  • 2 (28 ounce) containers Pomi chopped tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion , minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 pounds very lean ground beef
  • 2 cups low fat milk
  • 2 cups low-sodium beef broth
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh basil
  • 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour (Wondra flour is good for making white sauces)
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 12 no-boil lasagna noodles
  • Table salt and ground black pepper

Directions:

Pulse carrot, mushrooms, and garlic in food processor until finely chopped; transfer to bowl.

In Dutch oven heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil and brown ground beef. Remove to a paper towel lined bowl and wipe out pan with additional paper towels.

Add remaining 1 teaspoon oil, onion, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper to pan. Cover and cook over medium-low heat until onion is softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Add carrot, mushrooms, and garlic and cook, uncovered, until mushrooms release their liquid, 5 to 7 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high and cook until liquid has evaporated, 3 to 5 minutes.

Add tomato paste and cook until paste begins to brown, about 2 minutes. Stir in browned beef and 1 cup milk, using a wooden spoon to break up any large chunks, and cook until most of the milk has evaporated, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, 1 cup broth, crushed red pepper and bay leaf; bring to simmer and cook until sauce has thickened and most of liquid has evaporated, 45 to 60 minutes. Off heat, remove bay leaf, stir in basil, and season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, whisk remaining 1 cup milk, remaining 1 cup broth, and Wondra flour together in medium saucepan until smooth. Bring mixture to simmer over medium-high heat and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 2 minutes. Off heat, stir in 1 teaspoon butter, nutmeg and cheese. Season with salt and pepper.

Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees F. and spray a 9 x 13 inch baking dish with olive oil cooking spray.

Place noodles in large bowl. Fill bowl with hot tap water. Soak noodles until pliable, stirring occasionally to separate, about 15 minutes. Place large sheet of parchment paper on work surface. Transfer noodles to parchment in single layer, shaking off excess water.

Spread 2 cups meat sauce in prepared baking pan. Lay 3 noodles over sauce, leaving space between them. Repeat with 3 more layers, sauce and noodles. Spread white sauce evenly over top layer of noodles, leaving 1-inch border around edge. Bake until lasagna is bubbling around edges and top begins to brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool on a rack 20 minutes before serving.

Make Ahead: You can make both the meat sauce and the white sauce up to 2 days in advance and refrigerate them until ready to use. Gently reheat the sauces separately before proceeding with the recipe.

Creamy Seafood Lasagna

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (Wondra)
  • 9 uncooked lasagna noodles
  • 1 tablespoon butter or margarine
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped (1/2 cup)
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 cups fat free half-and-half
  • 1 cup low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup dry sherry or white wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 container (15 oz) skim ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 lb. crabmeat, picked over for shells
  • 1/2 lb. medium shrimp, cut in half
  • 1/2 lb. bay scallops
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (8 oz)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, if desired

Directions:

Heat oven to 350°F. Cook noodles as directed on package. Drain noodles.

Meanwhile, in 3-quart saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; cook 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onion is crisp-tender. Stir in flour; cook and stir until bubbly. Gradually stir in half-and-half, broth, sherry, salt and pepper. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir 1 minute. Remove from heat and set aside.

In medium bowl, mix Parmesan cheese, ricotta cheese and 1/4 cup parsley; set aside.

Spray a 13×9-inch (3-quart) glass baking dish with cooking spray.

Spread 3/4 cup of the sauce on the bottom of the dish. Top with 3 noodles.

Spread half of the crabmeat and half of the shrimp and half of the scallops over the noodles.

Spread with 3/4 cup of the sauce over the seafood. Sprinkle with 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese and top with 3 noodles.

Spread ricotta mixture over noodles and spread the remaining seafood over the ricotta.

Top with 3 noodles, spread 3/4 cup of the sauce over the noodles and sprinkle with remaining 1 cup mozzarella cheese.

Bake uncovered 40 to 45 minutes or until cheese is light golden brown. Let stand 15 minutes before cutting. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon parsley.

Makes 8 servings

 

Special Occasion Lasagna with Spicy Tomato Sauce

This spicy sauce was developed in the town of Amatrice in central Italy and typically combines chilies, pancetta and tomatoes.

Homemade lasagna noodles allow the sauce to shine through.

Pasta:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour or 00 Italian pasta flour (about 4 1/2 ounces)
  • 1 cup semolina flour (about 6 1/4 ounces)
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large eggs

Sauce:

  • 2 pancetta slices, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick pieces and dice
  • 4 cups thinly sliced onion
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 (28-ounce) containers Pomi chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Filling:

  • 2 cups skim ricotta cheese
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • Pinch ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 6 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Remaining ingredients:

  • 6 quarts water
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • Cooking spray

To Prepare Pasta:

Lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flours in a food processor; process 30 seconds. Combine 1/3 cup water, 2 tablespoons oil, and eggs in a bowl, stirring well with a whisk. With processor running, slowly pour water mixture through food chute, processing just until dough forms a ball. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead lightly 5 times. Shape dough into a disk. Dust dough lightly with flour; wrap in plastic wrap. Let stand 30 minutes.

Divide dough into 6 equal portions. Working with 1 portion at a time (cover remaining dough to prevent drying), press dough portion into a flat narrow rectangle. Roll the dough through the settings of a pasta machine into a rectangle the width of the roller, dusting with flour as necessary. Keep rolling the sheet through the machine on decreasing settings until you have rolled it through the next to last setting. Lay pasta sheet flat on a kitchen towel; cover. Repeat procedure with remaining dough portions. Cut pasta into lasagna length sheets that fit the lasagna dish you are using.

To Prepare Sauce

Cook pancetta in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Add onion, 1 tablespoon oil, and garlic to drippings in pan; sauté 5 minutes or until browned, stirring frequently. Add 1/2 cup water and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until slightly thick, stirring occasionally.

To Prepare Filling:

Combine  ricotta cheese, salt, ground pepper, chopped fresh parsley and  ground nutmeg in a medium bowl.

Cook Pasta:

Bring 6 quarts water and 1 tablespoon salt to a boil. Slowly lower 1-2 pasta sheets into the boiling water; cook 1 1/2 minutes or until done. Carefully remove pasta from water with a slotted spoon; lay pasta flat on a damp kitchen towels and cover with another damp kitchen towel. Repeat procedure with remaining pasta sheets.

Assemble Lasagna and Bake:

Preheat oven to 350°F and coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with olive oil cooking spray.

Spread about 1 1/2 cups tomato sauce in the prepared pan. Layer 3 noodles on top. Spread another 1 cup sauce over the noodles. Dot about 2/3 cup ricotta mixture over the sauce, then sprinkle with 1/4 cup mozzarella and 2 tablespoons Parmesan. Continue layering the noodles, sauce and cheeses, finishing with the sauce, mozzarella and Parmesan. Cover with foil sprayed with cooking spray.

Bake the lasagna until the sauce is bubbling, 35 to 40 minutes. Uncover and bake until golden, 5 to 10 minutes more. Let cool for 10 minutes before cutting.



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