This is an easy one and the kids like them too. Feel free to dip them in ketchup. (more…)
Tag: italian food
After work I felt like cooking, so I went shopping and came home and whipped this up in about 90 minutes (I used left over tomato sauce). All of the recipes except for the beet recipe have been posted on Rootsliving. So, I’m posting a link to the beet salad recipe courtesy of Epicurious.
I never liked beets, but now with this recipe, I love them. And they’re good for you too.
Here’s what we ate tonight:
Eggplant Parmesan (follow the recipe here for chicken parm, but omit the sage leaf)
The combination of these earthy side dishes blended together well. And a glass (or two) of my homemade zinfandel rounded out the meal.
It came to me in a dream: nepitella pesto. I thought that maybe I had invented the idea but a quick search online turned up one reference to it at a restaurant in New York called Osteria Morini.
There they team nepitella pesto with buffalo mozzarella on crostini or with fresh whipped ricotta topped with peas and asparagus. I’m sure that doesn’t taste bad, but what were they thinking? Everyone knows nepitella pairs perfectly with mushrooms and artichokes: everyone, in the small minority of people in this country who have heard of nepitella.
So let me let you in on the secret. Nepitella is an herb that grows wild in Tuscany (and in my driveway after I transplanted a small plant from my grandmother’s garden about 15 years ago). Some describe it as a cross between oregano and mint, but I believe it’s more like a cross between basil and mint. And I wouldn’t think of cooking mushrooms or artichokes without it.
So when I was inspired to try to make nepitella pesto the logical use for it was to stuff mushrooms with it. And the result was perfect.
The pesto by itself, without any cooking, was much stronger than a basil pesto: more earthy and with a sharp bite, almost spicy flavor. But when it cooked inside the mushrooms, the taste mellowed into a more mild buttery flavor: still very earthy but without the sharpness of the raw nepitella pesto.
If you’d like to try this, finding nepitella will be a challenge, but a search online revealed a few places that sell the plant. Or just stop by my driveway: there this evasive plant grows wild in cracks and along narrow dirt patches along the fence.
Nepitella Pesto (And Stuffed Mushrooms)
Making the pesto probably takes about 15-20 minutes; add another 20-25 minutes to make the stuffed mushrooms.
- Nepitella leaves (washed, about a half a cup)
- Pignoli nuts (about 1/4 cup)
- Garlic (4-6 cloves)
- Extra-virgin olive oil (about 1/2 cup)
- Parmesan cheese (About 1/4- 1/2 cup
- Imported, freshly grated. Don’t use the stuff they sell in a jar
- Or use freshly grated Romano and/or Pecorino if you’d like to save some money.)
- Kosher salt and pepper.
- Step 1 Put nuts and garlic in food processor with a steel blade and process for about 15 seconds.
- Step 2 Add nepitella leaves, salt and pepper.
- Step 3 With processor running slowly add the olive oil until it’s completely pureed.
- Step 4 Add cheese and process for another minute.
- Step 5 If you don’t use it right away, put in refrigerator with plastic wrap touching the top or with a film of olive oil on top. This will prevent discoloring.
- Step 6 To stuff mushrooms:
- Step 7 Pull off stems, clean caps with paper towel.
- Step 8 Put clean caps in a baking dish that has been greased with a small amount of olive oil.
- Step 9 Spoon in nepitella pesto and bake at 350 for about 15 minutes. You can serve it as is or with a shaved piece of parmesan cheese on top and/or a pignoli nut.
(Above: This gnocchi dish can be served as an appetizer or as a main course.)
In most anything in life, you have to work with what you have. And in cooking, the seasons dictate what ingredients are best or available. On a recent trip to Calareso’s Farm Stand in Reading, Mass. I was intrigued by one pound packages of pumpkin gnocchi.
Now I’ve cooked gnocchi before, usually in a tomato sauce, but the savory pumpkin flavor needed something else. So I brainstormed. Pumpkin pie is good with whipped cream so I opted to go with a cream sauce and a little hint of nutmeg.
But this wasn’t going to be dessert. I had to keep it (dinner) real. Cheese would help keep the dish on the savory side and I decided the nutty taste of fontina, combined with some freshly grated imported parmesan cheese would do the trick.
I then imagined all of this gooey, sweet, savoriness melting in my mouth, but it was missing something: a healthy clean foil to the heavy richness. I decided it needed some greens. I had some broccoli rabe on hand and decided to give it a go.
The result was a sweet, savory, gooey piece of heaven, offset by the bitterness of a good healthy green vegetable. The icing on this savory cake? Thinly sliced almonds.
Note: This will serve four as a main course. Gnocchi is very filling. You don’t need much for each serving.
Pumpkin Gnocchi in an Almond Cream Sauce
This doesn't take long to make, perfect for a weeknight supper. However, it will impress guests too.
- Pumpkin gnocchi (1 pound)
- Fontina Cheese (4 ounces, chopped up)
- Imported parmesan cheese (1/3 cup or to taste)
- Heavy cream (About 1/4 to 1/2 cup)
- Scallions (About five or six, chopped)
- Broccoli Rabe (1 small bunch, cleaned of leaves and stems. Keep only about an inch or two of stem after the floret. Cut florets in half length-wise.)
- Almonds (About 1/8 cup, sliced thin)
- Nutmeg (A small dash, just a few specks. Be careful.)
- Salt, pepper (to taste)
- Step 1 Steam broccoli rabe until done, but not soggy. Don’t overcook. It should have some bite. (I used a large pasta pot with a colander insert and steaming basket. It’s one of my favorite and most used cooking tools. )
- Step 2 Cook gnocchi in a large pot of boiling water for about three minutes (just until they float). Don’t overcook.
- Step 3 In a saute pan cook the scallions until translucent and then add the cream, heating it up, but don’t let it boil. Add a small dash of nutmeg: we’re talking a few specks here. Nutmeg is very strong and can easily overpower a dish. Taste it. You just want a hint of nutmeg flavor. You can always add more if you like, but once you put it in, you can’t take it out. Be careful!
- Step 4 Add cream sauce, fontina cheese, parmesan cheese, sliced almonds, and broccoli rabe to the cooked gnocchi and stir until cheese melts and everything is well blended.
- Step 5 Add salt and pepper to taste and serve with a side salad.
This is a quick, easy pasta dish I created several years ago (probably 10 or more). It’s an old favorite around the RootsLiving kitchen. I’m not sure why it’s taken so long to make its way to the website. But good things come to those who wait.
This dish takes only about 20 minutes to make: as long as it takes for you to boil a large pot of water and cook the pasta.
- Fuscilli (1 pound box)
- Grape or cherry tomatoes (1 pint, chopped)
- Fresh oregano (About 1 tablespoon
- or 1/2 teaspoon if using dried oregano)
- Dried basil (About 1/2 teaspoon)
- Wine (A healthy splash, about 1/4 cup. I usually use red wine, but white would be fine too.)
- Olive oil (About 1/4 cup)
- Butter (About 1/4 – 1/2 stick)
- Marinated mozzarella cheese (8 oz. It’s available at most supermarkets.
- Step 1 Cook fuscilli in a large pot of salted water. Drain, put in a bowl and add butter, oil (about 1/8 cup), salt and pepper (to taste).
- Step 2 Chop up tomatoes, put in a small bowl. Add olive oil (about 1/8 cup), salt, pepper, fresh oregano, and a healthy splash of wine. Mix it up.
- Step 3 Add mozzarella pieces to pasta and stir, letting it melt evenly.
- Step 4 Pour tomato mixture over fuscilli. Add dried basil and stir. Add salt and pepper if needed. Serve with a salad.
This recipe works for chicken parmesan, beef parmesan or veal parmesan. If you want to make beef or veal parmesan, buy good quality beef or veal cutlets and omit the sage. (Good veal should be pink, not brown or gray.)
My mother often made the beef cutlets and this is her recipe. Every time she made it she’d forget if the cheese came first or the sauce when layering the dish and she’d say, “I forget, do I put the cheese on first or the sauce?” I’d answer, “The cheese. It’s just the opposite of making pizza.”
- Tomato Sauce (click here to get recipe)
- Boneless chicken breasts, or chicken cutlets (6-10)
- Parmesan or Romano cheese, grated. (About a cup)
- Mozzarella cheese (8 oz.)
- Sage (enough to sprinkle over the chicken as it cooks)
- Breadcrumbs (about 8 oz.)
- Large eggs (2-4)
- Milk (one splash per egg)
- Crisco shortening
Preparing the Chicken:
If you buy chicken breasts, you have to beat them to make them thin. If you buy cutlets, you don’t have to do this. Separate the breasts and pound them flat on both sides. You can do this by putting a piece of plastic wrap or wax paper over the breasts and hitting them a few times with a rolling pin or meat tenderizer.
Breading the chicken: Scramble a few eggs with a few splashes of milk in a bowl. Add salt and pepper. Spread breadcrumbs on a large dinner plate or platter. Dip the chicken in the egg mixture and then dredge through the breadcrumbs until covered.
Fry the chicken in batches in a little olive oil with garlic on medium heat. You can also add a thin slice of butter to the pan for flavor, but be careful it doesn’t burn. Sprinkle with a little sage and cook on both sides until done. Transfer the chicken to a plate lined with a paper towel to drain the grease. (If the pan gets dirty or burns from leftover breadcrumbs, wipe it clean with a paper towel and add fresh oil).
Lightly grease a roasting pan with the Crisco shortening. Lay down one layer of chicken. Put thin slices of mozzarella over each chicken piece. Cover with sauce. Sprinkle Parmesan or Romano cheese over chicken. And repeat with each layer, ending with a layer of sauce and grated cheese.
Bake in a 350 degree oven for about half an hour to one hour, until cheese melts. Serve hot. You can serve this with rice. If you like mix a few spoonfuls of the tomato sauce into the rice. Or with mashed potatoes, green beans, whatever you like.
Find more recipes in the Food section.
Here’s another recipe from the classic 19th century Italian Cookbook, The Art of Eating Well, by Pellegrino Artusi.
Cenci are a Florentine winter treat, made from Epiphany to Mardi Gras. This deep-fried pastry looks like little rags and tastes a little like fried dough, but not as heavy and never greasy.
- All-purpose flour (2 1/4 cups)
- Butter (2 tbsp.)
- Confectioners’ sugar (1/3 cup, plus more for dusting the finished cenci)
- Large eggs (2)
- Brandy (1 tbsp.)
- Salt (just a pinch)
- Water (Optional; 1/4 cup or less; just enough to make dough)
- Vegetable oil or lard (enough for deep frying)
What I did:
Making the Dough: Mix all of these ingredients in a bowl, making a fairly stiff dough. You may have to add a little water to incorporate all of the ingredients. Knead the dough thoroughly on a lighted floured surface. Add a little flour if dough comes out too soft. Shape into a ball and flour it. Let it rest, covered, for about an hour.
After it rests, the dough will much softer and easier to roll out. (If the dough formed a crust while it sat, knead it a little before rolling it out.) Roll it out into a thin rectangle (about 1/8 inch thick).
Use a pastry wheel (or knife) to cut it into strips as long as your palm and two fingers wide.
Twist and crinkle the strips and then fry them in the hot oil or lard.
Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel to catch the extra oil.
Transfer to a clean plate and when cool, dust them with confectioners’ sugar.
Find more recipes in the Food section.
(Special thanks to professional food photographer Russell French for photographing this meal. His photos appear courtesy of Russell French Studio.)
This is one of my prized recipes. My grandmother, Bruna, used to make this and it was my favorite dish when I was a little boy.
I remember sitting at her kitchen table, with a glass of red wine mixed 50/50 with ginger ale (that’s what the kids got to drink). I’d pluck out the little black olives that were covered in a red sauce and stick them on all ten fingers, and then eat them one by one. My fingertips would be hot and then instantly cool as I ate each one.
Here’s the recipe from that memory:
Chicken with Polenta: The Chicken Recipe
This is what you call peasant food, created in northern Italy where my grandmother learned to cook it.
- Chicken: I like to use a mixture of bone-in breasts and bone-in thighs. For this recipe, you could use four bone-in breasts
- and four bone-in thighs to serve between 6 and eight people. You could also use a whole chicken, cut up, or even rabbit.
- Two or three sweet Italian sausages
- About 16 oz. of mushrooms
- One can of pitted black olives
- 1 1/2 to 2 cans of tomato paste (and about the same amount of water)
- Two or three garlic cloves
- A sprig of fresh sage or about a tablespoon of dried sage
- A sprig of nepitella or about a tablespoon of dried nepitella. Can also substitute a combination of basil and mint. (Optional)
- About four or five tablespoons of olive oil
- About 1/3 to 1/2 cup of red table wine
- A pinch of salt
- A pinch of nutmeg
- Step 1 Clean fat from chicken and soak in salted water.
- Step 2 Boil sausage for about three minutes.
- Step 3 Fry sausage with chicken, one clove of garlic (crushed), sage, salt and nutmeg in about one tablespoon of olive oil.
- Step 4 Fry mushrooms in about one or two tablespoons of olive oil, with garlic clove (crushed), and nepitella. And then add to chicken.
- Step 5 Add red wine, pitted black olives, tomato paste and dissolve with water to make a sauce.
- Step 6 Heat in oven. If heating in oven immediately after cooking, set at 350 and heat for only about 15 minutes or so. If you’re not going to serve it for a while, turn heat down to 250 or even 200 just to keep warm. (Don’t overcook chicken as it gets tough.)
Chicken and Polenta: The Polenta Recipe
- Three cups of corn meal
- Seven cups of water
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Step 1 Bring seven cups of water and 1/2 teaspoon of salt to a boil over medium high heat.
- Step 2 Gradually stir in three cups of corn meal in a slow and steady stream. Stir vigorously as you add the corn meal to avoid lumps. Continue to stir vigorously until polenta is a creamy, yet stiff, consistency. (Tip: Have boiling water on hand in case polenta gets too thick.)
- Step 3 You can either spoon polenta onto plates in a small pile or you can dump the whole pot of polenta on a large wooden board and let it spread out and cool a bit before slicing into rectangles or squares.
- Step 4 Spoon tomato sauce from chicken dish on top of polenta when serving.