Tag: tomato sauce

Quick, Easy, Turkish Eggplant Casserole

Quick, Easy, Turkish Eggplant Casserole

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This dish is similar to eggplant parmesan but without the cheese and without as much work. It is, however, as delicious as that Italian favorite. And a dash of cinnamon sends it to another world.

 

Tomato sauce in a frying pan
The tomato sauce is pretty easy to make. Use a box of chopped tomatoes.

 

This is a take on the classic Turkish dish, Imam Bayildi (which translates to “the imam fainted”). The classic dish is a stuffed eggplant but here you slice the eggplant and then layer it instead.

 

Eggplant slices on a cookie sheet
Brush the eggplant slices with some olive oil and bake them in a hot (425 degree) oven.

 

Other casserole versions of this recipe call for frying the eggplant and if you do that you can get away with using just one pan to create this dish. However, I found that baking the eggplant slices is just as good and probably less calories. It does, however, require you dirty an additional two cookie sheets.

 

Turkish eggplant casserole with salad
Slices of this pair well with a simple arugula salad.

 

The Bitter Myth of Eggplant

Most eggplant recipes tell you to salt the eggplant slices to get the bitter juices out. I’ve found this to be a myth and contrary to popular belief believe salting it may actually add some bitterness.

 

Eggplant with stripes
I know there are plenty of grandmothers out there who recommend salting eggplant but this only makes the eggplant mushy.

 

I’ve found that the best way to avoid making bitter eggplant is by carefully selecting the eggplant. Look for one that is a dark, purplish/black color. It should be firm without any scarring and without any soft spots. Next, I recommend peeling the eggplant, leaving purple vertical stripes.

 

Eggplant dish in pan
If you use a cast iron skillet to make the sauce you can layer the eggplant in it and then bake it in the oven (using only one pan).

 

I based this recipe on one I found on the “Feed Me Phoebe” blog. Phoebe describes herself as a gluten-free chef, obsessed with finding the sweet spot between health and hedonism. And I can attest that this casserole feels very indulgent while you’re eating it.

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Quick, Easy, Turkish Eggplant Casserole (Imam Bayildi)

November 30, 2018
: 20 min
: 1 hr
: 1 hr 20 min
: Easy

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Ingredients
  • 1 large eggplant or two medium eggplants (I don’t salt it as recommended in the original recipe as I believe that makes it more acidic. Instead, be careful to select a very firm eggplant with little or no blemishes. The color should be a deep purple. And then peel it vertically in strips so that it looks like it has thin purple stripes before you slice it into 1/4-inch slices, horizontally.
  • Sea salt, 1/2 teaspoon
  • Olive oil. Use a good grade regular frying-style olive oil, not extra-virgin
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • Dash of cinnamon
  • About 27 oz of diced tomatoes from a can or box.
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley, divided in half
Directions
  • Step 1 Take eggplant slices and brush olive oil on both sides. Put them on a cookie sheet that has been drizzled with a little olive oil (to prevent sticking).
  • Step 2 Bake slices in batches on two cookie sheets. When one side has turned brown, flip them over the bake on the other side. This should take about 10-15 minutes per batch.
  • Step 3 Heat a little olive oil in a cast iron skillet.
  • Step 4 Add onion to skillet and cook until soft (about 5 minutes). Add the garlic, chili flakes, 1/2 teaspoon sea salt and cinnamon. Cook for one minute more, until fragrant. Carefully pour in the tomatoes and simmer until thickened slightly, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in half the parsley.
  • Step 5 Remove most of the tomato sauce from the pan, leaving only a thin layer (about 1/4 cup) spread evenly over the bottom. Add one layer of the eggplant in the pan over the sauce and then top with more sauce. Continue to add layers of eggplant and sauce, as if you were building a lasagna.
  • Step 6 Cover with foil and cook in the oven for about 45 minutes until eggplant is soft and sauce is reduced. Garnish with remaining parsley and let it rest for about 10 minutes before slicing it. You can serve it warm or at room temperature.
Quick Tomato Sauce

Quick Tomato Sauce

This simple recipe comes from the classic nineteenth-century Italian cookbook, the Artusi. Although it’s a bit more complicated and time-consuming than opening up a jar of sauce, it’s still pretty simple and quick to make. And it’s definitely worth the effort as it creates a very plain, simple tomato sauce that you can use in a variety of dishes.

Quick Tomato Sauce (From the Artusi)

October 15, 2018
: 1 hr
: Easy

It doesn't get any more authentic than this. From a classic nineteenth-century Italian cookbook. It's easy to make and worth the effort.

By:

Ingredients
  • Tomatoes (About 1 1/2 pounds, preferably Roma or plum tomatoes)
  • Salt and pepper (Just a dash, to taste)
Directions
  • Step 1 Blanch the tomatoes: that means drop them in boiling water for about a minute. This makes it easier to peel them.
  • Step 2 Peel, de-seed and chop them.
  • Step 3 Drop the tomatoes into a pot with just enough water to keep them from sticking to the bottom.
  • Step 4 Simmer the tomatoes until done (About 20 minutes. No more than 30 minutes). Stir occasionally. And add salt and pepper.
  • Step 5 Puree the tomatoes in a blender or food processor.
Sartu di Riso: One of the Best Dishes, Ever

Sartu di Riso: One of the Best Dishes, Ever

There are many recipes on RootsLiving but this one takes the cake. The giant rice cake, stuffed with sausages and meatballs covered in a velvety tomato sauce, has become a RootsLiving favorite.

I first ate it when my sister-in-law, Kathy, made it. It sounds like a heavy dish, but it’s surprisingly light: a giant arancini that has been baked, not fried. It’s an elegant, Italian dish, much like the chef herself, Giada De Laurentis — and of course, my sister-in-law, Kathy (who is Italian by marriage).

A rice ring with tomato sauce cut open
Cutting into this dish is like carving a great sculpture. There is excitement and much anticipation of the beauty that will come.

I’m glad I read the comments below Giada’s recipe. Several people recommended making twice the amount of tomato sauce and they were correct. This dish needs that much tomato sauce. I also doubled the amount of sausage and ground beef and ended up with too many meatballs (but can one really have too many meatballs?) So here’s the recipe, updated to reflect the double amounts needed to make the sauce and extra batch of meatballs.

(Note: The recipe says it takes about 2 hours, 30 minutes to make, but it took me about 3 hours. There are many steps, but it’s worth it!)

Sartu di Riso, An Elegant Dish

September 6, 2017
: 3 hr
: Difficult

This truly is one of our favorite dishes. There are many steps but it's worth it. There is nothing like this.

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Ingredients
  • 1 pound Arborio rice (2 1/3 cups)
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 3 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 5 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 16 ounces sweet Italian sausage or sweet Italian turkey sausage
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 shallot, sliced
  • 2 sprigs basil
  • One 2-inch piece Parmigiano-Reggiano rind
  • Two 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 6 tablespoons whole milk, at room temperature
  • 9 tablespoons fine breadcrumbs (use more if needed, especially to line the Bundt pan)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 16 ounces ground sirloin or ground dark turkey meat
  • Olive oil, for frying
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • One 8-ounce ball fresh mozzarella, diced
Directions
  • Step 1 In a large saucepan combine the rice, chicken broth, 1 1/4 teaspoons of the salt and the bay leaf. Stir and bring to a boil over high heat. Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid, reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring once, until the rice is still slightly undercooked but the liquid is absorbed, 8 minutes. Pour the rice into a large bowl and cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally. Stir in 2 1/2 cups of the cheese and 3 of the eggs until well combined, and set aside.
  • Step 2 Meanwhile, heat the extra-virgin olive oil in a medium nonreactive saucepan over medium-high heat. Remove the sausage from the casing and break into small, bite-size pieces. Add the sausage to the hot oil and cook until browned, breaking it up with the back of a wooden spoon as it cooks. Using a slotted spoon, remove the sausage to a medium bowl and set aside. Reduce the heat to medium and add the garlic, shallots and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Cook, stirring constantly until fragrant and the shallots are soft, 1 minute. Add the basil, cheese rind and tomatoes, and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Step 3 Remove the basil and cheese rind. Add 2 cups of the sauce to the reserved sausage and set aside.
  • Step 4 Meanwhile, in a separate medium bowl, mix together 4 tablespoons of the breadcrumbs, the milk and the remaining 2 eggs with a fork and let the mixture sit for 5 minutes to thicken. Stir in the oregano, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and the remaining cup of cheese. Using your hands, mix in the beef, until just combined. Heat 1/2-inch of olive oil in a medium straight-sided pan. Scoop 1-tablespoon mounds of the mixture into damp hands and roll into uniform balls. When the oil is hot, fry the balls in 2 batches, turning them as needed with a slotted spoon to brown the balls evenly, about 4 minutes. When golden brown and crispy all around, remove the balls using a slotted spoon to the bowl with the sausage and sauce. Continue with the remaining balls, and then toss to coat evenly in the sauce.
  • Step 5 Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Using 1 tablespoon of the butter, grease the inside of a Bundt pan or a 3 1/2-quart Dutch oven, making sure to coat it very well. Dust the inside of the pan with 3 tablespoons (or more) of the breadcrumbs. Make sure it is evenly coated and there are no bald spots. This is very important to prevent sticking.
  • Step 6 Add the peas and diced mozzarella to the meat and sauce, and toss gently to incorporate. Spoon two-thirds of the rice mixture into the prepared bundt pan. Using damp hands, press the rice evenly over the bottom of the pan and 2 1/2-inches up the sides and middle of the pan. Spoon the meat filling into the well of rice and press gently to make sure it is evenly packed. Spoon the remaining rice over the filling and, using damp hands, press the rice evenly over the filling, being sure to press the rice on top into the rice along the edges to seal. Sprinkle evenly with the remaining 2 tablespoons breadcrumbs and dot with the remaining 1/2 tablespoon butter. Bake until lightly browned on top, 45 minutes.
  • Step 7 Cool for 15 minutes.
  • Step 8 Place a plate large enough to cover the top of the pan over the pan. Using heat-resistant pads or a towel, invert the sartu onto the plate. Carefully lift the pan off of the rice, shaking gently if needed. Warm the remaining sauce and fill the opening in the middle of the molded rice with the sauce to serve.

 

Patata Ball In Tomato Sauce

Patata Ball In Tomato Sauce

Here’s another recipe from our Southern France meal plan, courtesy of La Zucca Magica, an Italian vegetarian restaurant in Nice.

We were served this as our first course there and although I couldn’t find the exact recipe online I was able to recreate it perfectly: mainly because the potato mixture was very similar to a potato cake my grandmother used to make.

Mashed potato mixture on a cookie sheet.
Instead of spreading the mixture on a cookie sheet (shown above), put it in a greased oven-safe bowl and bake it.

It’s one of my favorite dishes. To make it just follow the Torta d’Patata recipe here, but omit the swiss chard and use a vegetable broth bullion cube instead of chicken broth bullion cube if you want to keep the dish vegetarian.

They don’t use swiss chard in this dish at La Zucca Magica, according to the chef there. And instead of spreading it out into a thin layer on a cookie sheet, put the potato mixture in a greased oven-safe bowl and bake at 350 degrees until the top is lightly golden (or about 20 minutes).

For the tomato sauce, follow the Quick Tomato Sauce recipe here.

To serve, scoop out a large ball of the potato mixture and place it in the center of a small plate or soup bowl. Put a ring of the tomato sauce around the potato ball. Serve warm.

Lasagna, from The Figs Table

This lasagna has a crunchy top, but a soft middle.
This lasagna has a crunchy top, but a soft middle.

Chef Todd English makes a good lasagna.

I still remember one I had at his Olive’s Restaurant in Boston that was made with veal.

He has a knack for taking an old standard and then being innovative, without being preposterous, paying more attention to the flavors of a dish than the flair.

On Sunday I made one of his lasagnas from his other restaurant, Figs. Figs is more casual and family-friendly, and so is this lasagna.

He deviates from the traditional lasagna recipe by using no-boil noodles, Fontina cheese and fresh mozzarella. But I have a confession to make: I bought the standard, rubbery, mozzarella by mistake, instead of the fresh balls of mozzarella, and the result was still very good.

Ingredients:

For the sauce:

  • Olive oil (1 tbsp.)
  • Garlic cloves (5, thinly sliced)
  • Onion (1 small, chopped)
  • Sweet Italian Sausage (1 1/2 pounds, casings removed, and crumbled) (English says you can experiment here with different types of sausages and recommends trying spicy chicken.)
  • Diced Canned Tomatoes (6 cups). (I actually used a box of diced tomatoes; a can of San Marzano whole tomatoes, chopped up; and one large fresh tomato from the farmers market, chopped.)
  • Fresh Basil Leaves (1/2 cup, chopped)
  • Kosher Salt (1/2 – 1 tsp.)
  • Black Pepper (1/2 tsp.)
    For the layers:
  • No-Boil Lasagna Noodles (About 1 1/2 boxes)
  • Fresh Mozzarella (1 1/2 pounds, cut in large dice)
  • Italian Fontina Cheese (3/4 pound, sliced thin)
  • Part-Skim Ricotta Cheese (2/3 pound)
  • Fresh Basil (1 bunch; several leaves)
  • Kosher Salt (2 tsp.)
  • Black Pepper (1 tsp.)
  • Parmesan Cheese (1 to 1 1/2 cups, freshly grated)

What I did:

To Make the Sauce:

Stir occasionally as needed.

Add oil to a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and toast it for about 3-4 minutes. Add the onion and cook until golden, about 3-4 minutes.

Add the sausage and cook until fat is rendered, about 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper and discard any excess fat.

Add the tomatoes and cook for 30 minutes.

Add the basil and cook until the mixture begins to thicken, about 10 minutes.

Fresh basil adds a bright lift to the flavors in this dish.
Fresh basil adds a bright lift to the flavors in this dish.

To Assemble the Lasagna:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Put a light coating of olive oil on a 9 x 12 roasting pan or lasagna pan.

Fill a large bowl with hot water. Dip the noodles and then drain.

Cover the bottom of the pan with noodles.

Spread some sauce over the noodles.

Top with a little mozzarella cheese (it does not have to cover completely)

Top with a little Fontina cheese (it does not have to cover completely)

Top with small dollops of Ricotta cheese. Place pieces of fresh basil on top.

Sprinkle lightly with parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.

Repeat this five times.

Top with a thin layer of tomato sauce. Sprinkle lightly with parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.

Bake in the oven until golden brown, hot and bubbly, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Serve immediately or put in refrigerator to eat later.

This lasagna took a few hours to make but was easy.
This lasagna took a few hours to make but was easy.

Lasagna often takes best the second day. To reheat, put in a 350 degree oven and cook until heated through, about 30-40 minutes.

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Tomato Sauce (Basic Recipe)

Tomato Sauce (Basic Recipe)

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” 

Here’s my standard tomato sauce recipe. I got this from my mother who was an excellent cook. I’ve changed a few things over the years, adding touches of my own and some embellishments from my cousins in Italy.

 

Tomato sauce over pasta
Italians never drown their pasta in tomato sauce. Instead, they coat it with a thin layer.

 

This sauce can be used on most anything that requires Italian tomato sauce. It’s great to use when making chicken, beef or veal parmesan (which I’ll write about later in another post). For pasta, I often choose to make a much lighter sauce without the meat. I’ll write about that another time. However, this works well on pasta too.

 

Vegetables and sausage
Some vegetables and a little sausage flavor this sauce.

 

Inside Tips: Something to Think About While Making a Good Tomato Sauce

Making a good tomato sauce is an art, not a science. You have to continuously taste it while it cooks and then decide if it needs a little more of this or little more of that. Sometimes it may need only a tsp. of basil, other times, it may need more than twice that. So what follows is a good guide, but follow your taste buds and have fun.

 

Sausage and vegetables cooking
Be sure to cook the sausages until they’re done and cook the vegetables until they’re tender before adding the tomatoes.

 

When I cook, I like to think about music. I often have music playing (and a glass of wine poured) but I’m not talking now about the music I’m listening to. Instead I like to think about bass notes and treble notes or low notes and high notes.

Different flavors elicit different types of notes. Example: salt would be a high note and black pepper would be a low note or bass note. When cooking a red sauce, I often strive to have the flavors balanced between high and low. And adding dried oregano pushes the sauce into the high-note territory and adding dried basil takes it down into the bass category.

 

Tomato sauce cooking
Adjust the heat beneath the pan and continuously stir the sauce so that it doesn’t splatter too much.

 

You also have to be careful about making it too bitter or too sweet. The red wine, depending on what type you use, can make the sauce a little bitter. And if you choose to use carrots, you won’t need to add the optional sugar, as the carrots usually make the sauce sweet enough.

 

A bowl of pasta and a glass of red wine
Nothing goes better with pasta than a glass of wine. Cheers!

 

So stir and taste and ask yourself, is it on the high-note side or the low-note side? And then adjust the seasonings as needed. Everyone has their own opinion on what the perfect red sauce is, so use your judgement, make it to your liking, and you can’t go wrong.

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Tomato Sauce (Basic Recipe)

January 31, 2010
: 1 hr 30 min
: Medium

It's not difficult to make this sauce, but you do need to think about it and pay attention to the flavors by continuously tasting it.

By:

Ingredients
  • Large onion (1, chopped fine)
  • Carrots (2, chopped fine) (optional)
  • Celery (2 stalks, chopped fine) (optional)
  • Italian sausages (2, sweet, not hot)
  • Kitchen Ready Tomatoes (1 28 oz. can)
  • Tomato Paste (1/2 – 1 small can, plus 1 small can of cold water)
  • Olive oil (2-3 tbsp.)
  • Salt, pepper, basil, oregano to taste. A shot of tabasco (optional)
  • Splash of red wine (optional, about 1/4 cup)
  • Sugar (optional, about 1/2 tsp.)
  • Butter (1-2 tbsp)
  • Nutmeg (just a speck, about 1/8th of a teaspoon.)
Directions
  • Step 1 In a medium to large pot, cook the onions over medium-high heat in olive oil until translucent (not brown).
  • Step 2 If desired, add the carrots and celery and cook until tender.
  • Step 3 Crumble and add the sausages. Cook until brown.
  • Step 4 Add the can of tomatoes. Stir, making sure to scrape the bottom and sides.
  • Step 5 Add tomato paste and one can of water. Stir, making sure to scrape the bottom and sides.
  • Step 6 Add spices and tabasco (if desired). Stir, making sure to scrape the bottom and sides.
  • Step 7 Cook for about 20 minutes to 1/2 hour on low heat, partially covered, stirring occasionally.
  • Step 8 Taste periodically and add more spices if necessary, but remember, the longer you cook it, the stronger the flavor of the spices will be.
  • Step 9 Add the splash of red wine (optional) and stir. Cook for another 20 minutes to 1/2 hour, stirring occasionally. Taste and if you like, you can add a 1/2 tsp. of sugar.
  • Step 10 Turn the heat off and add the butter. Add the nutmeg and gently stir until the butter melts. Cover the pot and let it sit until you’re ready to use it.

 

 

Prized Recipe: Chicken with Polenta

Prized Recipe: Chicken with Polenta

(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

July 27, 2009
: 6-8
: 30 min
: 45 min
: Medium

This is what you call peasant food, created in northern Italy where my grandmother learned to cook it.

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Ingredients
  • 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
Directions
  • 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

July 27, 2009
: 6-8
: 15 min
: 15 min
: 30 min
: Medium

By:

Ingredients
  • Three cups of corn meal
  • Seven cups of water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
Directions
  • 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.