White Pizza, Four Cheese With Summer Corn

summer dinner

Nothing screams summer more than fresh corn on the cob and beautiful summer garden tomatoes. I love a good white pizza, meaning no red sauce on top, it’s actually my favorite type of all, but I must confess in my years of making pizza I have never had or made a corn version, until now!

Yes, I have seen many photos of blogger friends ( Stacey Snacks) sitting in restaurants eating gorgeous summer pizzas showcasing fresh corn which I was very envious of because it’s not something I see here in the midwest at all.

Recently a family member dropped off some fresh corn from Wisconsin so I thought this would be a perfect time to make a white version of a corn pizza, and I’m so happy I did, and to say we loved it is an understatement!

  summer tomatoes

I also made an heirloom tomato salad to go along with it and it turned out to one one of our favorite summertime meals that I will repeat again and again!

corn pizza

At first glance this pizza may not look so fancy but don’t let that fool you, this pizza has so much flavor and texture. Nice crunchy dough topped with a combination of four cheeses, mozzarella, fontina, dreamy burrata and Parmesan, melted together it’s the perfect union!

summer pizza

The burrata cheese is scrumptious as it is, but when mingled with the corn it’s outstanding, but remember always use fresh shucked corn, never ever frozen.

corn and cheese pizza

I’ll look forward to making this pizza every summer, it’s now a top favorite and before this summer ends I’ll be making it again and again while corn is still at it’s peak.

If you’ve never had a corn pizza stop what you’re doing and make this now!

4.0 from 1 reviews
White Pizza, Four Cheese With Summer Corn
 
Recipe adapted from The Original Dish
Author:
Ingredients
  • 16 " round pizza pan
  • cornmeal for dusting pan along with olive oil
  • 1 pound ball of pizza dough, homemade or good quality store bought
  • 3 ears of fresh shucked corn, uncooked
  • 4 oz. shredded fontina cheese
  • 2 balls (not large) of burrata cheese
  • ¾ lb. of shredded mozzarella
  • a generous handful of grated parmesan, enough to spread all over the pizza
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • fresh basil leaves
  • red pepper flakes optional for garnish
Instructions
  1. Note: First and foremost it's important to get your dough to room temperature so it's easy to stretch out into the pan.
  2. Coat the bottom of your pizza pan with olive oil and a dusting of cornmeal, it keeps the bottom nice and crunchy.
  3. Stretch your dough onto the pan and place it into a hot prepared oven at 480 degrees for only 5 minutes, then remove it.
  4. If it bubbles up when you take it out pierce it a few times with a fork.
  5. Now add and spread all around your fontina and mozzarella cheese, then sprinkle your grated parmesan generously all over.
  6. Open up your burrata cheese and place dots of it all over the surface.
  7. Sprinkle the fresh, uncooked corn kernels all over the top, evenly spreading them all over the pizza surface.
  8. Season with salt and pepper and a drizzle with olive oil.
  9. Bake at 480 for around 15 minutes or until bottom of crust is deep golden and cheese is all melty.
  10. Garnish with fresh basil all around and optional red pepper flakes.
  11. Enjoy!

 

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Summer Corn and Shrimp Fritters

fritters

Tis the season to make fritters! It’s summertime and everyones garden is bursting with fresh vegetables as well as the farmers markets and grocery stores. I’ve been seeing all sorts of fritters being made of broccoli, cauliflower, but the most popular in the summer are ones made with zucchini or corn.

Today we’re pairing shrimp with corn in a fritter. Summer fresh corn and shrimp go really well together and are the perfect combination, it takes on a high end kind of flavor experience.

 

shrimp and corn fritters

Crunchy on the outside, creamy on the inside with pops of sweet corn in every bite. Serve these for a midweek dinner and if you have leftovers they heat up well and are delicious for lunch, I’ve even made them for a fancy girls summer dinner party.

corn and shrimp

This recipe makes quite a few fritters, ten to twelve depending on the size. You can prep and form them early in the day then stick them into the fridge to get chilled before you pan fry them, these are not deep fried but rather requires just enough of a drizzle of oil to cover the bottom of a pan.

uncooked fritters

You can up the seasoning on the inside with smoked paprika, a cajun spice, some Old Bay seasoning or just leave it as in with the basic recipe, either way it’s all good!

shrimp and corn fritter

Golden brown and crispy ready to be dipped into a sauce of your liking. I’ve served them with a spicy and sweet chili sauce, a lemon aioli, a mango and peach chutney, believe me it’s all good!

Summer Corn and Shrimp Fritters
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 lb. shrimp, raw, peeled and deveined and patted dry
  • 3 medium ears of corn, shucked
  • 3 eggs, whisked
  • 3 green onions, sliced with a little bit of the green not all
  • 1 cup of AP flour
  • ¾ cup of shredded cheddar
  • 1 smashed garlic clove, large
  • basil and parsley a heaping tablespoon each, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional spice like smoked paprika, Old Bay, cajun, maybe a heaping teaspoon
  • olive oil for pan frying
Instructions
  1. Take ⅔ of the shrimp and place it into a food processor and pulse it into a paste, remove it with a spatula and place it into a large bowl.
  2. Take the remaining shrimp and roughly chop it into small pieces, then add to the bowl.
  3. Then add in the eggs, garlic, parsley, green onions, basil, seasoning, flour and cheddar, mix well then add in the shucked corn continuing to incorporate it all.
  4. Form the mixture into patty's.
  5. Refrigerate them for a couple of hours.
  6. When it's time to cook them remove patty's from fridge.
  7. Drizzle olive oil on the bottom of a heated non stick skillet and pan fry each side until nice and golden and fully cooked inside.
  8. Serve with your favorite dipping sauce like a lemon aioli, or a sweet and spicy chili sauce or even a peach or mango chutney.
  9. This recipe I was able to make 11 fritters, so anywhere between 10 and 12 you should yield.

 

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Summers Magic Sauce, Basil Pesto Cream

summer basil

It’s no secret that I have fondness for fresh basil, I look forward to summertime when I can walk out into my garden and pick my own. This season has been particularly great for growing it as you can tell by my beautiful bounty pictured above, at least 2020 was good for something…

It’s mid July here and so far I’ve used my basil in so many different meals, plus I’ve already made pesto a couple of times, some for me and some for family and friends. I like making pesto, it can be used to enhance so many dishes, it’s so intense in flavor, I love it!

 

pesto swirl

One of my absolute favorite treats whenever I make basil pesto is to turn it into a cream sauce. Ok, let’s stop here and let me say that if you’ve never tasted a basil pesto cream sauce, you’re really missing out!

It’s beyond decadent and creamy and so delicious with seafood, meats, veggies, pasta, I could go on and on, and the best thing is, it’s super simple to make.

It’s definitely summers magic sauce!

homemade pesto

It all starts with the making of your own homemade basil pesto, very important, homemade. Here’s how I do it.

It’s so delicious because it’s filled with fresh basil leaves, quality parmesan cheese, garlic and toasted nuts. I guess you could use store bought in a pinch as long as it’s a good quality one, but I really recommend you making your own, it really makes a difference.

basil cream

There are very few ingredients used to make this luscious sauce, just your homemade pesto and some heavy cream, how easy is that?

Grab a pint of heavy cream, it must be heavy, pour it into a saucepan and simmer it low and slow until it starts to thicken, you’ll begin to see the cream bubbling along the edges of the pan.

When it thickens turn off the heat and start adding your prepared basil pesto, tablespoon by tablespoon whisk it in, it should be a nice balance between the pesto and the cream.

No need to add any other seasoning, it’s a wonderful marriage of the two. If you end up with some leftover sauce it heats up well the next day just put it on a low flame and maybe add a little more cream to loosen it up, but making it the day you’re going to use it is best.

basil cream scallops

I recently seared some scallops and placed them into a puddle of this scrumptious sauce, no words, pure deliciousness!

Think of it smeared on salmon, into your favorite pasta shape, roasted or grilled veggies and different meats, like I said, the possibilities are endless. I hope you make this magic sauce!

 

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Creamy Polenta With Summer Garden Veggies

summer veggie polenta

Since I started this blog way back in 2007 ( next month will be 13 years!) I have posted many different polenta recipes, needless to say we adore polenta in our house.

If you do a search here on my blog you’ll find polenta muffins, polenta biscotti, a polenta tart, croutons, grilled polenta and many different ways to serve it with meat, eggs and various vegetables that are highlighted during the seasons.

 

polenta with veggies

Today I made a creamy polenta that showcases all the summer garden veggies like corn and zucchini that are readily available right now. It’s a fun and very delicious way to highlight both.

polenta ingredients

I use instant polenta which takes no time at all to cook up, and if you prep a few of the other ingredients ahead of time, this comes together quickly.

I roasted a pint of cherry tomatoes the other day and I had some grilled corn leftover from the weekend so I added zucchini and yellow squash and picked some fresh basil from my garden. Just a few ingredients makes such a spectacular meal, but this can also serve as a side dish with something you cook up on the grill.

I also like to serve this up alongside grilled shrimp, it’s such a nice combo!

whisking polentapolenta and veggies

So all you have to do is whisk up some creamy polenta, top it off with julienned strips of zucchini, smokey charred corn along with sweet, juicy roasted cherry tomatoes. Polenta tends to firm up after it sits for a while so if you have leftovers no problem, cut it into wedges and serve it like a pizza!

A summertime dish you won’t forget!

Creamy Polenta With Summer Garden Veggies
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 2 ears of grilled corn with planks cut off the cob, make some planks along with the kernals
  • 1 small zucchini, julienned
  • 1 small yellow squash, julienned
  • a squeeze of fresh lemon
  • 1 pint of cherry tomatoes, rainbow colored
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • fresh basil
  • olive oil
  • FOR THE POLENTA
  • 1 cup of instant polenta
  • 3 cups of chicken or vegetable broth preferably, or water
  • ½ cup parmigiano cheese
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped basil
  • additional ¼ cup or so of water to thin it out a bit if needed at the end
Instructions
  1. Prep your tomatoes by placing them whole on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil. Drizzle generously with olive oil all over and sprinkle with salt and pepper, if made the day before just warm them up a bit the day of.
  2. Roast at 400 until they burst and all the juices mingle with the oil.
  3. Grill both ears of corn cutting the kernels off the cob and making some into planks, it looks nice when placed on top of the polenta.
  4. Julienne both zucchini and yellow squash then place into a bowl and add a squeeze of lemon and a little olive oil just to wilt them down a bit.
  5. MAKE THE POLENTA
  6. In a medium saucepan add the broth or water, get it to a boil and whisk in the polenta, now turn the heat down and let it cook til it thickens, it doesn’t take long.
  7. Shut off the heat and stir in the butter, chopped basil and parmigiano, taste for seasoning adding salt and pepper, maybbe more cheese.
  8. When polenta is finished pour it into your serving dish and "decorate" the top to your liking with all the ingredients including the green onion and extra sprinkle of basil and cheese for finishing. You'll probably have some leftover ingredients, especially the roasted tomatoes.Be sure to spoon some of the tomato oil on too.
  9. Serve immediately and enjoy!

 

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Spice Encrusted Chicken Thighs With White Peaches

chicken with peaches

This is a quick summer dish to make when you see peaches starting to appear in the markets. Crispy, spice encrusted chicken thighs balanced with the sweetness of peaches creates such a wonderful flavor combination, and it’s made all in one pan!

I like using bone in, skin on chicken thighs, they stay nice and juicy even if you overcook them a little bit. But if you’re not a fan of thighs you can make it with chicken breasts, but again I would only recommend bone in and skin on, it really makes a difference in flavor.

white peaches

I was lucky enough to come across these beautiful white peaches the other day. White peaches have a creamy white flesh and taste just as sweet when they’re firm and crunchy as well as tree ripened.

Open up your spice cabinet and pull out some of your dried spices because that is what you use primarily for this dish, with a little fresh basil for garnish.

I usually make beer can chicken during the summer out on the grill,  I make it a couple of different ways but my family likes it when it’s all spiced up the best.

By spiced up I mean a blend of different dry spices rubbed all over a whole chicken, it’s delicious because the spices create a smoky, savory crust but it can get very messy while prepping it because you’re rubbing the spice mixture all over a propped up ( on a beer can) and vertical whole chicken.

 

spice encrusted chicken

In this version you’re using the same spice mix and placing it on top of the skin of the thighs, which results in that same crispy, smoky, savory crust and it takes about a half an hour or so to cook in your oven!

So grab some peaches when you see them, and of course you can sub in the classic yellow peach or even some sweet nectarines if you want, but if you do happen to come across some white peaches I hope you give them a try.

Sweet and spicy is always such a perfect combination!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Spice Encrusted Chicken Thighs With White Peaches
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 6 bone in skin on chicken thighs
  • 5 peaches, pit removed cut into quarters
  • SPICE MIX
  • 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon each of oregano and thyme
  • ½ teaspoon each of granulated garlic, onion and salt
  • ¼ teaspoons fresh black pepper
  • fresh basil for garnish
  • olive oil
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 450 F.
  2. Mix up your spice blend in a small bowl and have it ready to go.
  3. Drizzle the bottom of a baking dish with olive oil.
  4. Place thighs in pan, skin side up and brush top with olive oil.
  5. Spoon the spice mix on top of each thigh covering the skin completely and using all the mix.
  6. Do a quick drizzle on top of each thigh.
  7. If you can, let it sit for 15 minutes or so to permeate the meat.
  8. Place pan into the oven and roast for 15 minutes then take out pan and place the cut peaches all around, then back into the oven for another 15 to 20 minutes or until temp insides reaches 165 to 170.
  9. The crispier the better, so a few minutes more won't hurt it at all, if using thighs.
  10. Let it rest for 10 minutes then garnish with a generous amount of fresh basil.
  11. Enjoy!

 

 

 

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How To Grill An Herb Stuffed Pork Loin

pork roast

Grilling season is in full force and Father’s Day is just around the corner and so you might be thinking of something special to make, may I suggest grilling a pork loin. A pork loin is excellent to make on the grill if you’re having a small or large group, you can feed a crowd with a pork roast being the main course and then just  have some wonderful side dishes to serve along side it.

A pork loin has a much richer flavor because of the marbling throughout, as opposed to a very lean pork tenderloin.

A grilled pork loin that’s smothered with fresh herbs inside and out is easier than you think to make, plus it can be stuffed, rolled and tied a day ahead or hours before which makes for a stress free day of entertaining.

grilled pork roast

 

Ask your butcher what size roast you should get according to the amount of people that you’ll will be serving. Look for a pinkish red color when picking your fresh roast and one with some marbling, because as we know, fat = flavor.

herb paste

I used three herbs for my rub, sage, rosemary and thyme along with garlic and olive oil of course!

herb filled pork roast

If you have a smaller roast, two to three pounds, you can cut it down the center, lengthwise with a sharp knife, being very careful not to go all the way and cut through the bottom, then gently open it up like a book.

Cover the meat with plastic wrap and beat it all over with a meat mallet until it’s about a half inch thickness. If you have a larger roast, four to five pounds, you’ll have to be a little more precise in opening it up.  Here’s a good visual for details on the cutting.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s2Vl78vJMJ8

rolled and tied pork roast

It’s best to get the roast all prepped and ready for the grill ahead of time so all the flavors can marinate together as it sits in the fridge.

 

herb filled roastgrilled roast

The smell when it’s grilling is out of this world, your neighbors will be so jealous!

grilled pork roast

Each bite is jam packed with flavor and the pork retains all it’s juices.

Happy Grilling!

How To Grill An Herb Stuffed Pork Loin
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 3 lb. fresh pork loin
  • meat mallet
  • butchers twine
  • a small handful each of rosemary, sage and thyme plus extra branches for decorating the roast, and your platter.
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. To Make your herb paste:
  2. On a cutting board or a small food processor place the herbs, garlic, a pinch of salt and pepper.
  3. Chop or pulsing the herb mix then drizzle in some olive until the mixture becomes a loose paste, set aside.
  4. To open up the pork loin take a sharp knife and cut down the center, being care not to cut all the way through.
  5. Open the roast up like you do a book.
  6. (If roast is bigger, refer to the youtube link I provided in the post, and double the herb mixture.)
  7. Lay some plastic wrap on top of opened meat.
  8. Take your meat mallet and pound all over the surface, you want it to be about a half inch thick all around.
  9. Remove plastic wrap and smear all over the surface, reserving enough for the outside of the roast.
  10. Have your butchers twine cut and ready to tie the meat
  11. Now roll up the meat as close and tight as you can and secure it with the twine in 2 inch intervals.
  12. Rub the outside all over with remaining herb mixture and add a branch of each herb under one tie.
  13. At this point you can place in a fridge overnight or you can place in fridge for a couple of hours before grilling, you want the flavors to mingle for a while.
  14. FOR A GAS GRILL
  15. Take roast out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before grilling.
  16. Sear both sides on a medium high flame for a few minutes then lower it down to medium, around 350 until internal temp reaches 140. You will have to move it from time to time checking it and watching your temp but other than that it's hands free, and of course cover your grill.
  17. Remove roast and let it rest under loose foil for 15 minutes.
  18. Cut the twine off and it's ready to slice!

 

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Roasted Eggplant Artichoke and White Bean Dip

creamy dip

If you’re looking for an easy and delicious appetizer or snack to serve up this summer, I have just the thing! My roasted eggplant, artichoke and white bean dip.

This wonderful dip is like an Italian version of hummus.

It’s full of flavor and quite healthy and comes together quickly using canned cannellini beans and a jar of marinated artichoke hearts, with no tahini required! ( I never was a fan).

 

pricked eggplant

The only cooking you’ll be doing is roasting your eggplant, this can be done a day ahead of time, just pierce the skin and roast it whole.

roasted eggplant

The eggplant will eventually collapse and become soft, when it cools down you’ll be able to slice and scoop out the nice creamy flesh inside, which is a key component in your dip along with the artichoke hearts, white beans.

dip

Perfect for entertaining with a beverage of your choice. Serve it swiped on crusty bread, crackers or even veggies.

Follow me on Instagram to see what else I’m cooking up during the week.

Roasted Eggplant Artichoke and White Bean Dip
 
An easy to make summer dip, snack or appetizer!
Author:
Ingredients
  • 2 medium/ small eggplant left whole, roasted with flesh scooped out
  • 1 jar of marinated artichoke hearts, drained
  • 1 can of cannellini beans, drained
  • 1 or 2 small garlic cloves
  • small handful each of basil and parsley
  • ¼ cup olive oil, extra for top garnish
  • lemon zest
  • a small pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
  • Small jar of roasted red peppers drained, which you will use for garnish only
  • TO GARNISH THE TOP
  • a few olives
  • a swipe of roasted red pepper paste easily made by draining a jar of roasted red peppers and swirling them in a food processor into a thick consistency.
  • olive oil
  • extra chopped herbs
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375
  2. Line a baking sheet with foil.
  3. Poke fork holes all around the whole eggplant skin, then roast until eggplant is soft and collapsed.
  4. Let the eggplant cool down and then scoop out the flesh.
  5. In a food processor add the artichoke hearts, the beans, the eggplant pulp, olive oil, basil, parsley, garlic cloves, lemon zest and pulse slowly to desired consistency. ( I like to see some of the artichoke bits). Taste for salt and pepper.
  6. Place dip into a serving bowl and make a swirl on top with a small spoon, drizzle in some olive oil into the swirl, add the red color of the roasted red pepper.
  7. Sprinkle with herbs.
  8. Serve with toasted bread, crackers or veggies

 

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Roasted Pepper Salad with Castelvetrano Olives

roasted peppers

You’re in for a real treat when you make this smoky flamed roasted pepper salad. It tastes nothing like the peppers that you can buy in a jar, not in the least!

The salad is sweet as well as smoky with just a few ingredients such as garlic, olive oil and herbs, and it’s perfectly accompanied by buttery, mild and lightly brined Castelvetrano olives.   Aaah… Have you ever tried them? Even olive haters are won over by their incredible taste.

blistering peppers

To start out making this you have to prepare the peppers. The skin has to be removed by charring all the sides and it can be done a few different ways.

Blistering the skin takes a little time and you don’t want to hurry the process.

You can use a grill pan inside, a grill outside or you can even place them directly onto the burner of your gas stove while the flame is going.

broiler blistering peppers

Another way which is pretty easy, especially if you’re making quite a few is to stick them onto a foil lined baking sheet and place the pan right under the broiler. Any of the methods you chose you have to be watchful with constant turning making sure all sides of the peppers are blistering.

You’ll know when they’re done, they’ll feel tender to the touch with charring all around.

covered peppers

Then you’re going to place them into a bowl putting plastic wrap over the top so they can steam a bit while they’re still hot, maybe 15 minutes.

seeding peppers

When they cool down the outer skin will peel right off, if you need a little help grab hold with a paper towel. You’ll be left with the meat of the pepper.

Open up the pepper and scrape out the seeds, you might have a few lingering but that’s ok. Now all you have to do is cut them into slices.

peppers and olives

Now here’s the easy part. Grab a bowl, add the sliced peppers and start adding in the rest of your ingredients.

roasted pepper salad

For six peppers I added roughly a third cup of olive oil, 4 finely chopped garlic cloves, a good handful of chopped parsley, ( you could add basil too)  salt and pepper to taste and a generous amount of Castelvetrano olives. Some people add in capers, pine nuts, garbanzo beans.

I say add what you like but I’m more of a purist and want those olives to shine through all the way.

Keep in mind the flavor just enhances the more it sits and marinates all together. So as the saying goes, the more it sits the better it gets!

 

roasted pepper crostini

Grab a platter and serve up this beautiful, colorful pepper salad as a side to anything you put on the grill, or simply served as a crostini on some crusty bread.

Simplicity at it’s best!

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Memorial Day Weekend Grilling Ideas

veggie kabobs

It’s time to bust out your grills, Memorial Day weekend is around the corner and it’s the start of warm weather and enjoying the outside, and quite frankly I’m tired of comfort foods I’m ready for some serious grilling!

Honesty this post could go on for days because there are so many meals you can make on the grill. Pizza is always fun and so is paella and who doesn’t love a good old clambake on the grill!

Today I’m going to focus on a few of my good old standbys, ones that I make throughout the summer. Starting out with rainbow colored veggie kabobs.

Just skewer your favorite veggies together, I love adding chunks of portobello mushrooms on mine. I usually use wooden skewers that have been soaked in water for a couple of hours so as not to burn, if you have metal skewers, even better.

grilled kabob

I usually do a simple olive oil, salt and pepper that’s brushed all over mine I like the individual veggie flavors to really shine through. I have a basil infused olive oil that I sometimes drizzle over them at the end when plated, simple and delicious!

meat kabob

To go along with the veggie kabobs you might as well do some meat ones. I usually do sirloin steak and chicken breast sprinkled with dry herbs and olive oil of course. I have a Greek seasoning that I love to use but I’ve also done some wet marinades as well, like teriyaki.

That’s the fun part just make them the way you want.

grilled meat kabob

You really don’t use a lot of meat when making kabobs because there’s always some type of veggie stuck in between, so they’re very economical to make and great for a party. Yes, they’re a little time consuming to put together, but all that can be done a day ahead.

kabobs

They’re so pretty on a platter and everyone seems to love them, make a couple of sides and you’re good to go.

planked salmon

I love doing fish on the grill, in fact I prefer it. I often make a cedar planked piece of  gorgeous salmon. Again I’m mostly a dry rub girl, the one I used here had a mix of brown sugar, onion, garlic, paprika, cilantro, smoked salt, chipotle and some other spices, but again make it your own, just be sure to soak your planks for a couple of hours so they don’t burn up on the grill.

I’ve even done a whole sheet pan full of cod with tomatoes, olives, lemons, capers and other spices out on the grill which is super simple to do with amazing flavor.

grilled shrimp

Grilled shrimp always a favorite, for this I make a simple marinade of olive oil, fresh chopped garlic, lemon zest, salt, pepper and fresh chopped parsley. Large shrimp is best to use so that you can put them directly onto the grill grates to get all that good charred flavor.

grilled shrimp

Served with lemon slices these shrimp on the barbie always disappear!

grilled meats

Steaks, ribs, burgers and grilled chicken are all front runners in the grilling department.

sausage and peppers

In my family you can count on Italian sausage on the grill always making a reoccurring appearance, tossed with peppers of course.

grilled veggie tray

If you don’t want to skewer your veggies just grill up a whole bunch of your favorite and arrange them on a platter, a healthy and delicious side to any of your grilled meats or fish.

pasta salad

Throw in a good pasta salad or two, this one has a mix of artichoke hearts, garbanzo beans, olives, tomatoes, red peppers, cucumber, red onion, spinach and feta.

pasta caprese salad

Or do this simple caprese pasta salad. Chop up your tomatoes and let them sit with olive oil and garlic til the juices run out and mingle together, then toss into your cooked pasta and add fresh chopped mozzarella with fresh basil.

potato salad

If you prefer a potato salad, here’s one I posted made with fingerling potatoes and a honey, lemon and Dijon vinaigrette.

Most of us will be homebound this summer so we might as well make the best of it, enjoying our outdoor spaces, nice weather along with good food and drink!

Happy grilling!

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Chicken Parmigiana with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

chicken parmigiana

Chicken parmigiana is an intensely flavored dish of crispy, crunchy chicken topped with warm, oozing melted cheese and then garnished with the luscious flavor of roasted cherry tomatoes.

roasted cherry tomatoes

It all begins with a pan of roasted cherry tomatoes, I’m obsessed with roasting tomatoes, I’ve been doing it for years and you can’t beat the flavor.

I like to line my pan with foil so none of the juices dry up and burn, you want every single drop. I always add shaved garlic into the pan and toss in some fresh basil along with dousing the tomatoes with olive oil, salt and pepper.

You’ll want to roast the tomatoes until they burst open and release their juices so that they all mingle together with the garlic and basil flavors.

You can prepare the tomatoes early in the day,  just warm them up before using.

cooking cutlets

Then you want to cook up your chicken. Sometimes I can find thinly cut chicken cutlets but more often I just trim my own by slicing a breast longways into two or three pieces, then you’ll want to pound then flat for even cooking.

The chicken cutlets are dipped in egg first then into a mix of panko breadcrumbs, grated parmesan, granulated garlic, fresh snipped parsley and a touch of paprika.

chicken cutlets

Pan fried in olive oil will give you a nice crunchy crust. Be sure to place them on a rack to keep that crunch after frying, otherwise the bottom might get soggy and believe me you don’t want soggy chicken parmigiana!

parmigiana

Then plop a slab of fresh mozzarella on top, stick the cutlets under the broiler just until the cheese starts to melt. Pull the chicken cutlets out and top them with the warm roasted tomatoes, this is a heavenly combo!

Make this anytime of the week, prepare the tomatoes ahead, then everything else will take no time at all!

5.0 from 3 reviews
Chicken Parmigiana with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes
 
No exact measurements, it will depend on how many cutlets you have. Just mix up your breadcrumb mixture as you go. Start out with 2 eggs.
Author:
Ingredients
  • chicken cutlets, sliced thin and pounded flat
  • ROASTED TOMATOES
  • at least 2 pints of cherry tomatoes
  • 2 or 3 shaved garlic cloves
  • fresh torn basil
  • olive oil
  • BREADCRUMB MIXTURE
  • panko breadcrumbs
  • granulated garlic
  • fresh chopped parsley
  • a handful of grated parmesan
  • paprika
  • 2 eggs scrambled
  • slices of fresh mozzarella
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Prepare your tomatoes on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil. throw on the tomatoes, shaved garlic, salt, pepper and torn basil, douse with a generous amount of olive oil.
  3. Roast tomatoes until they burst and juices mingle with the olive oil.
  4. Set up your breadcrumb mixture and scrambled eggs.
  5. Dip cutlets into egg first then into crumb mixture then directly into a pan with the bottom coated with olive oil.
  6. Cook cutlets on both sides til golden brown with no pink inside.
  7. Place cooked cutlets onto a rack to stay crispy.
  8. Place the cheese on top then under the broiler just until it melts slightly.
  9. Remove and place them on a platter and spoon the warm, garlicky roasted tomatoes on top.
  10. Garnish with more basil.
  11. Enjoy

 

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Linguine and Zucchini On Your Table In Minutes

pasta with veggies

We all need a quick go to meal, one that we can put together in minutes without much thought. This recipe uses ingredients that are very inexpensive and easy to find but when put together tastes like a million bucks!

Linguine and zucchini, a match made in heaven, but truth be told you can really use any shape of pasta for this dish, use what you have and like, you can’t go wrong.

Zucchini coins that are pan fried in olive oil gives you the flavor base along with toasted breadcrumbs, pecorino cheese, parsley and toasty nuts and of course my choice, good old fashioned toothsome linguine pasta.

pasta and veggie

Fry up as many zucchini you like, you’d be surprised how many slices you get from just one good sized zucchini. You can go heavy on the veg and light on the pasta amount, or visa versa, it’s up to you.

fried zucchini

When you pan fry the zucchini it goes really fast, it doesn’t take long before you’ll get a nice golden brown color on them. The time it takes you to boil the water you’ll be done with the frying.

 

linguine with vegetables

This is such a satisfying and comforting dish quick to make for mid week or the weekend, I hope you make this linguine and zucchini for your family!

5.0 from 2 reviews
Linguine and Zucchini On Your Table In Minutes
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • Linguine pasta, or any other of your choice, ½ lb. or 1 lb. However much you want to make
  • 1 or 2 zucchini, medium sized sliced into coins
  • 2 shaved garlic cloves
  • a generous handful of toasted walnuts, grated Pecorino or Parmesan along with breadcrumbs, preferably homemade
  • chopped parsley
  • red pepper flakes, (optional)
  • olive oil
Instructions
  1. In a frying pan cover the bottom with olive oil and start frying your zucchini coins, sprinkle with salt and pepper and set aside on paper towels to drain.
  2. Have your salted pasta water going while you’re frying up the zucchini.
  3. When done frying the zucchini, add more oil to the bottom of the pan and toss in the shaved garlic, the toasted nuts and the breadcrumbs, everything should be golden and toasty.
  4. Cook your pasta Al dente, reserve some hot pasta water then drain the pasta and toss it into the pan with the breadcrumb mixture.
  5. Gently toss in half of your zucchini coins, combining well.
  6. If you feel you need to loosen things up add in some of the pasta water.
  7. You can then toss in your parsley, check for seasoning adding salt, pepper, more cheese and maybe an extra drizzle of olive oil, it's up to your taste buds.
  8. Place pasta into your serving dish and top with the remaining zucchini coins for a nice presentation along with a sprinkling of nuts and more parsley.

 

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White Pasta Fagioli

white pasta fagioli

I don’t know about you but I’m still seeking out comfort foods, especially soup. On a rainy, dreary April day this white pasta fagioli is just what you need!

It’s nice to make a big pot and have it ready to heat up for lunch during the week, it’s so comforting and I know we can all use some comfort right now.

Let’s talk about the white version of pasta fagioli or “pasta fazool”which I grew up calling it. You won’t find any tomatoes in this version at all and although I love the tomatoey version, the white is hands down my absolute favorite!

making soup

There’s something about the smokey bacon flavor that goes so well with the beans, garlic, celery and onions, ( yes I use bacon). You could use pancetta if you like, but I prefer using bacon.

No elaborate ingredients go into this dish, in fact probably have some of the pantry items already, boxed stock, pasta and cannellini beans as well as celery, grated cheese, onions and garlic, staples you might have in your fridge.

beans and bacon

This actually takes no time at all to make, before you know it you’ll be enjoying a hot steamy bowl right in front of you, with some crusty bread I hope!

white fagioli

It’s so satisfying and it has that feel good flavor, I hope you find comfort in every bite!

5.0 from 1 reviews
White Pasta Fagioli
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 4 slices smokey bacon, medium dice
  • 3 celery stalks, diced
  • ½ white onion, diced
  • 4 chopped garlic cloves
  • 1 large can cannellini beans, 1 lb. 13 oz or 2 regular sized cans, drain half of the liquid
  • ½ lb. of ditalini pasta or something similar that size
  • a handful chopped parsley
  • a generous handful of grated parmesan cheese
  • chicken stock in a box, or homemade if you have it, not quite a whole quart or depending on desired thickness
  • a pinch of red pepper flakes to taste
  • black pepper and salt to taste
  • olive oil
Instructions
  1. Drizzle olive oil in the bottom of a heavy pot to cover.
  2. Cook the diced bacon until it gets slightly, crispy golden.
  3. If it's too greasy, remove and drain on paper towel, wipe out pan and add more olive oil and return the cooked bacon.
  4. Toss in the the garlic, onion and celery, cook til it softens, add in your red pepper flakes to taste (optional).
  5. Throw in the beans with the remaining liquid in the cans.
  6. Stir well, then pour in the chicken stock.
  7. Get it to a boil then simmer it for 15 to 20 minutes, it should thicken to the right consistency on its own.
  8. In the meantime boil the pasta on the side, a’dente then drain it.
  9. Turn off heat when soup is finished, add a big handful of grated parmesan and chopped parsley.
  10. Add a little bit of the pasta, reserving most of it for your individual bowls, this way the pasta won't blow up in the hot soup and you can take as much as you want for your bowl.
  11. Taste for seasoning on everything.
  12. Ladle into bowls adding a drizzle of olive oil, more cheese, black and red pepper.
  13. Enjoy!

 

 

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Pizza Night At Home, Who Needs Delivery!

Pizza art

Nothing beats the smell of freshly made pizza cooking in the oven and it’s easier to make than you think. You might have a favorite handed down pizza dough recipe from your family, I know I do but honestly I hardly ever use it these days.

Good quality ready made pizza dough can be easy to find nowadays. You can find it in Italian markets, grocery stores and even your local pizzeria will sell you some.

I usually buy a few balls of dough and stick them in my freezer so I have them readily available when we feel like pizza night at home, you can do the same with your homemade dough if you make it ahead and freeze it. I’ll usually take the dough out of the freezer in the morning, as it sits it will defrost but then more importantly it comes to room temperature which makes it very pliable and easy to roll out.

The above photo was a pizza I recently made which was really fun to do and it tasted amazing, I call it pizza art. This pizza needs no sauce or cheese.

  1. I always start out coating my pans with olive oil on the bottom and sides, then I sprinkle the bottoms with a light dusting of cornmeal or polenta.
  2. I used a quarter sheet pan for this with a heated oven at 450F.
  3. Place 1 pound of dough into the pan and make dimple marks all over with the tips of your fingers.
  4. Drizzled olive oil all over making sure it falls into the dimple indentions.
  5. All the vegetables I used in the photo above were uncooked, I also added olives and very thin sliced potatoes.
  6. Drizzle the top of the veggies with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, maybe red pepper, oregano whatever you want.
  7. Bake til golden brown on bottom and sides, maybe 15 minutes or so but ovens do vary so keep an eye on it!

white pizza

One of my personal favorite types of pizza to make is this white pizza with garlic sautéed spinach, oh it’s so delicious!

The topping has no red sauce but rather a mix of ricotta, shredded mozzarella and parmesan cheese and you really don’t need a lot! I also take a nice handful of fresh spinach and wilt it down in a sauté pan with some garlic flavored olive oil, then cool it down and squeeze it til no moisture is clinging onto it.

  • This pizza was made using  1/2 pound of dough, rolled to fit a 15 inch round pizza pan.
  • Prep the pan with olive oil all over and a dusting of cornmeal or polenta on the bottom, preheat oven to 500F.
  • Mix together 1 cup each of ricotta and shredded mozzarella, add in a good handful of grated parmesan cheese.
  • Pre- cook dough for 5 minutes in hot oven, only 5! Then take it out, push it down if it bubbled up and spread the ricotta mixture all over the warm top, then arrange your spinach all around.
  • Bake for around 12 – 15 minutes till golden on bottom and sides. (ovens do vary).

pizza ingredients

When I use red sauce on a pizza I make a simple and light sauce which doesn’t overpower the ingredients but rather enhances them.

  • Open a 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes, a good Italian brand.
  • Right into the can add 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 1 small smashed garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, and an optional pinch of red pepper flakes.
  • Stir it up and that’s it, it’s ready to use!

sausage pizza

My husbands favorite combination on pizza is cheese, sausage, mushroom and onions. The pan and the pre-cooking of the dough was exactly the same as above pizza. By precooking the dough for the 5 minutes it gives the bottom a head start on a nice crispy crust.

sausage pizza

  • The sausage was removed from the casing then browned so there was no visible pink.
  • Spread your fresh sauce on top, then shredded mozzarella, onions, sliced mushrooms, dotting the cooked sausage all around.
  • A quick drizzle all over with olive oil, you can add fresh basil or dried oregano whatever you have.
  • Into the 500 degree oven for around 15 minutes or so.

 

Italian beef pizza

If you’re from Chicago then you’re very familiar with a very popular sandwich here called the Italian beef. It’s thinly sliced beef in a highly seasoned Au Jus, it’s usually served with sweet peppers on top, and hot giardiniera  on the side. It’s excellent and you can also put all the components on a pizza!

  1. Same as above, precook dough on nicely oiled pan for 5 minutes, spread red sauce, then cheese, thin slices of beef and slightly sautéed peppers.
  2. In 15 minutes or so remove and drizzle on the giardiniera on your individual piece.

 

nutella pizza

And let’s not forget dessert! You can make a Nutella pizza and it is sinfully delicious! You may think cooked pizza dough with Nutella on it? Don’t think twice just do it!

I did a step by step post on it here, so check out how it’s done. Feel free to top it with berries of your choice or sliced bananas topped with nuts, you can’t go wrong with any of it!

Enjoy having pizza night at home, it’s inexpensive, it uses few ingredients, it’s so easy to do and the kids can even get involved.

Like I said, you may never order delivery again!

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Easter Sprinkle Chocolate Dipped Macaroons

sprinkle macaroons

Easter will be quite different for all of us this year but we can still try and make the best of it. I’m thankful for FaceTime, Zoom and all the other video apps where we can chat and connect with family and friends as often as we want while we all hunker down in our homes and pray for this virus to end.

The fact is Easter is around the corner and there are still ways we can make it special. If you’re looking for a super easy and fun sweet treat to make, one that doesn’t require a bunch of ingredients and one that your kids could help you make and eat, try these colorful, sprinkle, chocolate dipped macaroons!

 

coconut and sprinkles

Cute little sprinkles in pastel colors is a pop of brightness after a long winter and it is very spring like.

egg shaped macaroons

This recipe comes from Molly Yeh but I put my spin on it by shaping them into Easter eggs and using pastel sprinkles, but you can certainly use whatever colored sprinkles you have and just scoop them out into round mounds if you like.

egg shaped coconut cookies

And just a note, if you think you might not care for sprinkles in your macaroons, I urge you to take a bite of these, I was hooked!

rack of cookies

They’re soft and chewy in the middle and crisp and toasty on the outside and finished off with a nice dip into chocolate!

chocolate dipped

Just a few ingredients are required and some you probably already have in your pantry, like a jar of sprinkles, a can of sweetened condensed milk, a bag of  chocolate chips and coconut.

single macaroon

Whatever your own spin is on these cookies I know you’ll love them! Who doesn’t love cookies and especially ones with sprinkles!

plated macaroons

Have a blessed Easter, wishing you all safety and good health with the hope that we’ll all be reunited with our loved ones soon.

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Easter Sprinkle Chocolate Dipped Macaroons
 
This recipe is adapted from Molly Yeh's Sprinkle Macaroon's
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 teaspoons, vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 14 oz. bag sweetened shredded coconut
  • 2 large egg whites
  • ¼ t, salt
  • ¼ cup pastel sprinkles or rainbow of any color, more for topping each cookie
  • 3 oz. of chocolate chips or any kind for melting
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 f. Line a baking sheet with parchment
  2. In a large bowl add the condensed milk, vanilla and almond extract. Mix in the shredded coconut and set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl beat the egg whites with the salt until stiff peaks form.
  4. Fold the egg whites into the coconut mixture and then gently fold in the ¼ cup of sprinkles.
  5. Scoop out about a 2" ball and shape it into an egg, or if not shaping into egg just leave it as that.
  6. Place onto baking sheet 1" apart and sprinkle the tops with more sprinkles.
  7. Bake until golden brown, check at about 18 minutes, remove from oven, let it cool for a few minutes then transfer to a wire rack.
  8. Melt your chocolate in the microwave at 30 second increments, stirring til smooth.
  9. Dip the bottoms of the macaroons into the melted chocolate and place back on parchment.
  10. Let the chocolate on the cookies cool completely at room temperature or in the fridge.
  11. These can be. stored in the fridge for up to a week and still be fresh and delicious!

 

 

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16 Inspiring Frittatas with Helpful Tips and Tricks

breakfast frittata

Frittatas have always been a regular staple in my house, for as long as I can remember my whole married life I’ve been making them. Over the years my technique has evolved and I probably can make them in my sleep now.

What I like about frittatas is that they make a hearty breakfast, they can become an amazing brunch, a very satisfying lunch and a casual and light dinner.

Right now as I write this we are all living in uncharted waters, trying to navigate our lives through this horrible virus that’s attacking the earth. We want to nurture our loved ones and cooking is one of the ways to do that.

Frittatas don’t take a lot of energy to make, and in times of stress that’s a good thing. You don’t need to go out and buy fancy ingredients, in fact you’d be surprised how little you actually need. The key ingredients would be of course eggs, maybe some leftover veggies you don’t want to waste or some odds and ends of cheese wrapped up in the fridge. All these things can be transformed into an amazing meal to feed your family.

I hope to give you some inspiration with some of the ingredients I’ve used. The above frittata was made with a yellow pepper, cherry tomatoes, prosciutto, fontina and pecorino.

 

caprese frittata

My caprese frittata made here with the three basics ingredients of tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and fresh basil, I could eat this anytime of the day.

squash and sausage

Keep in mind if you make these throughout the year like I do, no doubt you’ll be using seasonal veggies as well.

This frittata is a hearty meal of pre-cooked crumbled Italian sausage, roasted butternut squash, a handful of spinach, pecorino and shredded mozzarella.

artichoke and asparagus

I actually made this one the other day with some leftover cooked artichoke hearts that I had, a few stalks of roasted asparagus with some cherry tomatoes.

One ingredient constant in all my frittatas is grated pecorino, to me its like Emeril’s ”BAM !”

tomato feta

This one has a Greek flavor profile with feta cheese, red onion and tomato wedges, feta is fantastic in frittatas!

delicata squash

I love squash and delicata squash is no exception, I make it during the fall and winter a lot by roasting it, and always have leftovers. Here it is with roasted cauliflower and spinach. This time I used cheddar with a mix of mozzarella and pecorino of course, because what can I say, it just enhances the whole frittata!

Oh and yes you can eat the delicate skin on the squash!

 

sheet pan frittata

My go to pan is always an oven safe skillet, mostly 10 inch, sometimes 12 inch but I’ve also made them in a quarter sheet pan which is fun. You can have fun creating a little scene with all the veggies, great if you’re feeding a group, just double the egg amount.

This one is filled with fresh roasted asparagus, a handful of frozen peas, red onion, herbs, cherry tomatoes with pecorino and mozzarella.

spring veg

I call this my spring frittata, it has beautiful melted brie cheese with shaved asparagus, peas and cherry tomatoes. The shaved asparagus gives it a really special look and it tastes amazing!

zucchini feta

Pan sautéed zucchini coins with cherry tomatoes, goat cheese, pecorino and cheddar.

brussel bacon

Hearty and delicious roasted brussels sprouts leaves with cooked chopped bacon, mozzarella and pecorino.

heirloom tomato

When tomato season is here remember this frittata made with sliced heirlooms, cheddar, pecorino and basil.

zucchini flowers

I look forward to making this when delicate zucchini blossoms start to appear along with sautéed zucchini coins, pecorino, basil and fresh mozzarella.

 

spiralized

Speaking of zucchini, this frittata is made with spiralized zucchini, fresh herbs, tomato slices, mozzarella, pecorino and shaved parm on top. 

pepper rings

Roasted mini colored peppers with peas, pecorino and mozzarella with a green salad plopped on top, which by the way is a fun way to eat a frittata.

I often mix up some arugula with just lemon and olive oil and plop it on top of mine.

 

broccolini

Roasted broccolini with red pepper, mushrooms, fresh mozzarella and pecorino.

 

shiitake mushrooms

And lastly an earthy frittata made with shiitake mushrooms, goat cheese and spinach, feel free to use any mushroom you have, leaving some whole for a nice presentation.

HERE ARE SOME OF MY TIPS AND TRICKS FOR MAKING FOOL PROOF FRITTATAS.

  • Always use an oven proof skillet ( 10 inch if you want it thicker, 12 inch if you want it thinner)
  • Have pre-cooked fillings ready ( you can use frozen veggies if that’s all you have, just saute them in a little olive oil for flavor)
  • Use fresh tomatoes and herbs
  • Use various cheeses of your choice ( cheddar, mozzarella, fresh or shredded, brie, feta, fontina, gouda, you get the picture)
  • Use 6 eggs scrambled with a dash of water from the tap ( I never use milk or cream in my frittatas)
  • Start out by drizzling olive oil in the bottom of your pan, if using onions start out sauteing them first then place your veggies all around the way you want your frittata to look, sort of like painting on a canvas.
  • Pour your scrambled eggs gently over the tops of your veg.
  • Heat should be medium lowish
  • Sprinkle with grated pecorino or parmesan
  • Add some salt and black pepper

Heat up your broiler.

When the eggs start to set a little it’s time for the broiler, so shut the flame off the stove. At this time I like to take some tongs and gently lift up some of my vegetables, otherwise they all get buried under the egg mixture and you won’t have a pretty presentation or see any of the veg popping out.

Next you want to strategically place whatever cheese you’re using all around trying not to bury everything, then add maybe a quick drizzle of olive oil and some more pecorino.

Speaking of broiler, I always finish my frittatas under the broiler, I’m not a flipper, I prefer the presentation you achieve from using the broiler.

One important note; don’t leave the broiler! keep opening the door to see how golden it’s getting, ovens vary so don’t leave the scene! You want a nice golden color from the melted cheese.

Test the center to see if any egg runs, if so put it back in for a few seconds.

Take it out and let it rest for 5 or 10 minutes, garnish with herbs if you like.

Frittatas can be eaten warm, at room temperature, or cold right from the fridge.

To round out the meal even more you can add some crusty bread and a salad.

Enjoy!

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10 Inspiring Easter Desserts

limoncello tiramisu

Are you looking for some inspiration while planning for your Easter dessert? Well here are 10 of my favorites! Each and very one I have made for family and friends and all have been a big hit!

Let’s start out with this dreamy Limoncello Tiramisu. It’s bright and delicious and the perfect ending to a great meal. This particular recipe can be made in individual parfait glasses or in a 9×13 inch pan like featured above, all you have to do is double the recipe!

cannoli pie

Cannoli Pie, I call it a pie because it’s actually a take on another Easter pie that I make.

This special dessert is made in a spring form pan which allows you to press broken cannoli shells easily against the wall of the pan in forming the crust. You can  make it a day ahead then adorn the top with all things cannoli, like pistachios, mini chocolate chips and powdered sugar.

easter cookies

Italian Anise Cookies, these are a staple in many Italian homes, usually made often for any type of celebration and holidays. The nice thing about these cookies is the fact that you can decorate them according to whatever occasion it is.

The pastel colors scream winter is gone and spring is upon us! I promise they’ll be the perfect addition to your Easter table.

olive oil cake

Olive Oil Chardonnay Pound Cake with Citrus Vanilla Glaze. This recipe has been on my blog since 2013 and I have to say I have a weakness for this cake.

This pound cake has a bright and bold flavorful glaze that mixes three different citrus zests together, and the texture of the cake is amazing, plus I think it gives a pretty awesome presentation.

Easter Lamb cake

Easter Lamb Cake. Lamb cakes have been a tradition for years and years at Easter time. Yes, you can buy them at bakeries and grocery stores around the holiday, but have you ever wanted to make your own?

I had a dear friend show me step by step how she makes her old school recipe which she’s been making for over 50 years! Get the kids involved in the decorating it would be a nice tradition to start in your own family as well.

Check out her delicious pound cake recipe that she uses.

 

strawberry tiramisu

Strawberry Tiramisu, I love a rich and creamy tiramisu. You can change up the berries using which ones that you like or even do a mixed berry version.

I have a confession to make, I never make my tiramisu with raw eggs, I prefer it without.

limoncello tart

Limoncello Tart. ( Can you tell I love Limoncello?) This one has a crust that’s made with crushed amaretti cookies and it’s served with a blueberry sauce on the side.

It’s an amazing combination and a real show stopper!

ricotta cookies

Triple Zested Ricotta Cookies. Flavors of lemon, orange and lime are tasted through out every bite of this cookie.

They’ll look nice and pretty set out on your Easter dessert table, everyone loves a ricotta cookie, so light and refreshing!

Easter rice pie

Easter Italian Rice Pie with Rum Soaked Raisins. Arborio rice and soaked rum raisins nestled in with a mix of mascarpone and ricotta.

My little twist uses a phyllo crust which is very forgiving.  The contrast between the creamy and the crunchy is out of this world good!

A very traditional Easter dessert with a little updated twist.

Lemon knot cookies

Anginetti, Italian Lemon Knot Cookies. This cookie goes by many names but one thing that remains the same is the taste. Intense lemon flavor with a soft texture to the bite. Another special occasion cookie and just perfect for Easter time.

I hope I’ve given you some inspiration with some of these Easter dessert options.

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Fingerling Potato Salad with Honey, Lemon and Djon Vinaigrette

potato salad

Easter is around the corner and I can’t think of a better side dish to have sitting next to your Easter ham. It’s a potato salad made with those pretty colored fingerling potatoes. It showcases a special creamy vinaigrette made with honey, lemon and Djon.  The vinaigrette is the perfect compliment to the fingerlings because their light and mild flesh makes the flavors easy to absorb.

The flavors are bright and slightly tangy with a lighter version of a traditional potato salad. This salad can safely sit out and be served at room temperature because it’s made without mayonnaise, so keep this potato salad in mind for future BBQ’s, parties and picnics.

fingerling potato salad

Adding hard boiled eggs, your favorite olives, parsley and sliced green onions round out all the flavors in this hearty potato salad.

fingerling potatoes

Seek out fingerlings that are about the same size because you want them all to cook evenly together, sometimes you’ll see some larger ones in the mix.

boiling potatoes

Fingerlings boil up fast so be careful not to overcook them. You want the tip of a knife to go through easily but not so much so that the potato falls apart when poking it.  Be mindful of that, so keep checking for doneness so they don’t fall apart and get mushy.

honey mustard sauce

The vinaigrette is dreamy, you might want to double the recipe and have extra in the fridge so you can use it for a bunch of other dishes!

balsamic pearls

A while ago I ordered these balsamic pearls on line but never got around to using them, since they were lemon flavored I thought they would be a nice addition to this potato salad. This is totally optional, no need to add it to the recipe at all, but they are sort of fun!

fingerling potato salad

Look closely, you’ll see them sitting on the surface.

potato salad

Feel free to make this salad your own with inspiration of seasonal veggies like asparagus, peas, green beans or even corn, and maybe switching up some herbs and adding some arugula, all would go well with the flavors of honey, lemon and Djon.

I hope you seek out some of those vibrant fingerlings and make this delicious potato salad customized by you!

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Fingerling Potato Salad with Honey, Lemon and Djon
 
A potato salad you'll eat all year long!
Author:
Ingredients
  • 2 lbs. vibrant colored fingerling potatoes, roughly same size and cut in half lengthwise
  • 3 or 4 hardboiled eggs halved or quartered, your choice
  • ½ cup or so of sliced olives, green or black
  • 3 green onions sliced on the diagonal
  • balsamic pearls (optional)
  • Vinaigrette ingredients
  • 1 big shallot or 2 small, finely chopped
  • chopped parsley, a handful
  • 3 tablespoons of Djon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons, lemon juice
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons of white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 heaping tablespoon, honey
  • ⅓ cup or so of good olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Whisk together all of the vinaigrette ingredients in a bowl, taste to your liking, maybe you want it sweeter, add more honey, more tart, add a splash more vinegar or lemon juice or even more olive oil, then set aside.
  2. Wash your potatoes really well.
  3. Place them into cold water and let them reach a boil, then turn down heat to a medium simmer.
  4. Test potatoes for doneness you don't want them mushy as stated in the post.
  5. When finished cooking drain them and place the warm potatoes gently into a large serving dish.
  6. Sprinkle in the green onions and olives all around the potatoes and arranging the hard boiled eggs.
  7. Spoon the vinaigrette all over the warm potatoes so that flavors can absorb.
  8. Taste and determine if salt and added pepper is needed, maybe sprinkle in more parsley, onions and olives as well.
  9. Serve best at room temperature

 

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Eggplant Parmesan Veggie “Meatballs”

eggplant veggie balls

Who says meatballs all have to be made with meat? Here’s a great veggie alternative that’s made with eggplant. They’re lighter in texture but full of flavor!

These eggplant balls have a little chunk of mozzarella stashed into the center so they totally take on the eggplant parmesan taste through and through.

eggplant

It’s simple to make with just a few steps like cubing the eggplant then sautéing it with a bit of olive oil and water. You want to  make sure that the consistency is nice and soft.

smashed eggplant

Then you’re going to mash all that eggplant up just to make sure it gets nice and smooth, that’s going to make it really easy to mix with all the other ingredients.

eggplant balls ingredients

When I make traditional Italian meatballs I always add egg, garlic, breadcrumbs, fresh parsley, pecorino and a bit of red pepper flakes, it’s the same with these eggplant parmesan veggie balls, it takes on those Italian flavors perfectly but without the meat!

 

stuffed eggplant balls

Make sure you poke a hole into the center when forming your balls and place a cube of mozzarella inside, this will ensure that the cheese will ooze out just perfectly when you take a bite.

eggplant balls

So delicious covered in a pool of warm marinara sauce, the smells and taste of eggplant parmesan is in every bite.

eggplant balls

Eggplant parmesan that’s all rolled up into a meatball, what’s better than that?  You can eat them with pasta or alone with just a salad and a hunk of bread, or you can make yourself a meatless “meatball” sandwich, it’s all good!

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5.0 from 1 reviews
Eggplant Parmesan Veggie "Meatballs"
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • Eggplant, 2 or 3, depending on how large they are. Slice the tops and bottoms off, remove the skin peeling it off in a striped manner, keeping some on and some off, then cut the eggplant into small cubes
  • 1 cup or more of toasted breadcrumbs
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • ½ cup or so grated pecorino romano
  • a small handful, chopped parsley
  • a few tablespoons, chopped basil
  • ¼ cup water
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • a pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
  • small cubes of fresh mozzarella to stuff inside
  • marinara sauce, 1 quart or less
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 375, spray a baking sheet with olive oil spray.
  2. Drizzle the bottom of a heated skillet with olive oil and place the cubes of eggplant inside.
  3. Season with salt and pepper on the eggplant then pour in the ¼ cup of water tossing until the eggplant is cooked and very soft and tender.
  4. Mash the eggplant mix with a potato masher until you get a nice smooth consistency, then let it cool down.
  5. Grab a large bowl and add the cooled down eggplant, breadcrumbs, parsley, basil, pecorino, garlic, salt and pepper to taste and red pepper flakes, mix well.
  6. If mixture seems too wet and more breadcrumbs.
  7. Roll into balls then poke a whole in the center and add your cubed mozzarella making sure it's well inside and gets covered with eggplant mixture.
  8. When all is rolled out place on oiled baking sheet then into the oven for around 20-25 minutes.
  9. Plop the eggplant balls into warmed up marinara when done baking.
  10. They're ready to serve!

 

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Strawberry and Nutella Dessert Pizza

strawberry pizza

Just in time for Valentines Day, I give you this decadent and delicious strawberry and Nutella dessert pizza! Gooey, warm Nutella slathered on top of pre-cooked, crunchy pizza dough, it’s scrumptious!

This is a fun dessert that you can share together with family, friends or a certain someone. It’s unbelievably easy to make and it tastes like a million bucks!

I was thinking how fun this dessert would be in the summertime cooking the dough out on the grill and finishing it off right on the table, it’s that easy.

dessert pizza

All you’ll need is a jar of Nutella, a good store bought pizza dough, some fresh strawberries and a can of whipped cream. Of course you can make your own dough and whip your own cream but you really don’t need to in this case.

pizza dough

There’s no exact recipe, here’s what you do.

I used half of a 1 pound dough ball so that would be 8 oz.

Roll it out on a lightly oiled pizza pan that is sprinkled with cornmeal.

Brush some melted butter all over the top then sprinkle it lightly with sugar, then prick it all over with a fork so it doesn’t bubble up.

Place dough into a 475F pre-heated oven and bake it for around ten minutes, you want the crust to be golden but not dark.

Nutella spread

Take it out when finished cooking, let it cool down a bit and then while it’s still warm spread the Nutella all over but not on the crust.

nutella pizza

Arrange your sliced strawberries all over in whatever design you like, you can even add bananas as well, but I think it’s good to keep it simple.

You can also add a sprinkling of toasted hazelnuts if you so desire.

strawberry nutella pizza

Adorn it with a dusting of powdered sugar and slice it up just like a pizza!

dessert pizza

I do recommend a nice dollop of whipped cream right before serving, sweet pizza heaven!

I hope you make this easy, scrumptious dessert!

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Orange Honey Garlic and Thyme Chicken Thighs

chicken thighs with orange

This is a one pan dish that I make very often during citrus season. The flavor combinations of orange, honey, garlic and thyme are just amazing and you won’t believe how simple and fuss free this is to make.

Let’s talk about chicken for a minute, the quality of chicken you purchase really makes a difference. I always buy organic chicken, mostly Amish organic when I can find it. Organic chicken is not only healthier but it tastes so much better, therefore it really adds to the taste and quality of the dish.

orange halves

For this dish I would recommend sweet, juicy in season navel oranges or cara cara which is another variety that I love. You want the citrus to taste super sweet so I would not suggest using blood oranges which sometimes have a tangy flavor.

chicken thighs

Bone in, skin on is the way to go for this delicious orange honey chicken. Browning and crisping up the skin is a critical part of this recipe, so make sure you see a deep golden color in the browning process. Also, you want to use a pan that can go from the stovetop to the oven at a high temperature.

Don’t use any non stick type pan, in my opinion you’ll never acquire a deep golden crust on the skin.

A few briny olives compliments the sweetness of the juice which results in a sweet and salty thing going on with the orange honey mix, as well as the savory taste of thyme.

I highly recommend this dish, you can make it quickly during the week or get it together for a nice weekend meal, the flavors are out of this world!

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4.0 from 1 reviews
Orange Honey Garlic and Thyme Chicken Thighs
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 package of good organic chicken thighs, bone in and skin on ( i had 5 in my package)
  • 6 whole garlic cloves
  • 1 big orange for the juice, maybe additional if needed
  • A big squirt of honey, like 3 tablespoons
  • Additional orange slices with the peel on, thinly sliced
  • dried thyme for seasoning
  • a handful of olives, a mix of 2 different kinds with the pits, like Castelvetrano and kalamata
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat oven to 450
  2. Heat an oven proof skillet on the stove on medium til it gets nice and hot.
  3. Pat your chicken with paper towel to make sure they are dry.
  4. Salt and pepper both sides of the chicken, then sprinkle dried thyme on the skin as well.
  5. Drizzle olive oil in hot pan then place chicken skin side down and don't move it until you get a deep golden crust on the skin side.
  6. While crust is browning add a little thyme to the other side.
  7. When deep golden flip over chicken, add the garlic cloves, letting them cook til they start to smell nice and garlicky.
  8. Add olives and the juice of one large orange, if not juicy enough squeeze another orange into the pan, you want to see the juice.
  9. Now squeeze your honey into the pan, whisking it into the juice.
  10. Lay your orange slices all around, sprinkle them with a little salt, pepper and thyme.
  11. Brush some of the orange and honey juice on top of each thigh.
  12. Place the whole pan into the oven to finish cooking, (it should only take maybe 15 more minutes but test with meat thermometer to make sure) taking it out and basting it again with the orange and honey mixture, which will thicken in the oven.
  13. Let it rest for 5 minutes then serve.

 

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Orange Citrus Tart with Mascarpone Custard

orange tart

This orange citrus tart is the perfect remedy for the doldrums of winter. It’s bright, citrus-y and it looks like sunshine! If you want a nice light dessert, here’s your answer! Yes, there is a custard made with creamy mascarpone cheese, but it doesn’t require much, just enough to give the sliced oranges a delicious, creamy base.

orange tart

I made this tart using a prepared pie crust which made it quite easy to pull together. If you have a Trader Joe’s near you, that’s the one I use (not sponsored).

tart ingredients

Because there are so few ingredients in this tart make sure you use quality mascarpone and good quality vanilla. I made a batch of my own vanilla back in September and I just started using it now.

I also love the flavor and quality of vanilla bean paste which is easy to find, just don’t get any thing that says “imitation vanilla”.

As far as what type of oranges to use, that’s your choice. I always have a surplus of citrus laying around this time of year so I used some navels along with cara cara and a Sumo orange, if I had a blood orange I would have added that because of it’s gorgeous color!

orange tart

Keep in mind this is not a rich dessert, it’s fresh and light tasting, so if you’ve had a heavy meal you can end it on a light note with a slice of this orange citrus tart.

tart slice

Calling all orange lovers, this one’s for you!

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5.0 from 2 reviews
Orange Citrus Tart with Mascarpone Custard
 
Bright and citrusy and brimming with bright flavors!
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1- 12 inch tart pan
  • 3 large oranges, outer peel and pith removed then sliced for layering. You can mix up any variety you like
  • 1 pastry crust, you can also use puff pastry and phyllo but all crusts need to be placed into a tart pan for stability
  • 3 eggs beaten
  • ¼ cup sugar plus 2 tablespoons to sprinkle on top
  • ¼ cup plus 2 heaping tablespoons of room temperature mascarpone cheese
  • 1 heaping teaspoon of good quality vanilla or vanilla bean paste
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat oven to 375
  2. Place your crust into your tart pan. ( if using phyllo use 6-8 sheets brushed with butter in between the layers). Then place the tart pan onto a rimmed baking sheet for easy in and out of the oven.
  3. FOR THE CUSTARD
  4. In a bowl add the mascarpone, grab your hand mixer and make sure there are no lumps, then add in ¼ cup of sugar and mix in 1 egg at a time then the vanilla and zest.
  5. Pour the mascarpone mixture all over the pastry crust then place your sliced oranges all around, single layer.
  6. Sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar all around.
  7. Place the tart into the oven until the top is slightly golden, the mascarpone mixture sets and the crust is nice and golden. 30 minutes or so, but ovens do vary so watch and test it.
  8. Let it cool down completely before serving, refrigerate any leftover.
  9. Optional: While still warm you can brush on a thinned out orange marmalade all over the oranges.

 

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Easy Roasted Vegetable Lasagna with No Boil Noodles

slice of lasagna

This delicious vegetable lasagna is easy to make, full of flavor and showcases a superabundance of roasted vegetables. It’s also meat-free, light and fresh and very customizable.

whole lasagna

By customizable I mean there’s no specific veggies you need to use, I actually went through my fridge and roasted every vegetable I saw. Of course if you like certain vegetable combinations together like spinach and mushroom or whatever just do it, it will work!

vegetable lasagna

Don’t stress about certain combinations, use what you like or have available like I did.

roasted vegetables

This is what I had in my fridge, I like roasting vegetables every week any way and I usually buy a lot. I’ll have some for lunch, use them as sides for dinner and in the morning with eggs but this time I decided to also make a veggie lasagna with some of them.

I had three Japanese eggplants, a few carrots, two red peppers, a small head of cauliflower, one yellow squash, one bunch of kale, a small butternut squash and some brussel sprouts (that I did not use in the lasagna). All veggies were roasted on sheet pans separately at 425 degrees drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper, roasted til slightly golden.

All the roasting of the veggies can be done a day or two ahead of time.

no boil pasta sheets

I have to admit I wasn’t a fan of the no boil noodles, ones that I’ve tried in the past did not impress me at all. But the Delverde brand really caught my eye, I liked the ridges and I knew that their pasta was good so I thought I’d give them a try. This time I have to say at least with this brand, I’m a fan, and this isn’t sponsored!

The pasta sheets weren’t paper thin, they still had a nice texture and bite to them and they weren’t heavy tasting at all.

One thing I never liked about the no boil pasta was trying to spread sauce and ricotta on a dry stiff noodle, it’s weird to me because I always used the curly lasagna sheets that had to be boiled first.

But I found that if you just wet them one by one in a quick dip of warm water, they become a little pliable, easier to spread sauce and cheese onto, and easier to press down on them after the layers are formed, so that’s what I did.

lasagna ingredients

All the veggies you see in the container above I actually used, ( except for the brussels) but I chopped them up so they would be easier to eat and be more bite sized pieces in the lasagna.

making lasagna

In between the layers I added thinly sliced raw zucchini. Zucchini cooks up so fast there was no need to roast it ahead of time as long as it was thinly cut.

making lasagna

I like using a mix of shredded and fresh mozzarella cheese along with the ricotta and grated pecorino.

lasagna

Top it off with some pine-nuts and bake it all together!

lasagna

Simple comfort food adapted to whatever vegetables you have on hand transforms into a very special meal.

lasagna slice

A worthy treat for yourself, your family and your guests to enjoy!

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5.0 from 1 reviews
Easy Roasted Vegetable Lasagna with No Boil Noodles
 
Use any mix of veggies you like, just have them pre-roasted ahead of time.
Author:
Ingredients
  • at least 4 cups or more, ( I would go with more just in case and depending on the size of your lasagna) of a mix of roasted veggies, any combination you like cut into bite sized pieces, roasted at 425 until slightly golden, refer to my post
  • 2 zucchini sliced thin, kept raw
  • no boil pasta sheets, enough for 3 layers to your lasagna either for an 8x8 pan or a 9x13
  • 1 lb. good ricotta, drained well of all liquid
  • 2 eggs
  • roughly 1lb. each of fresh and shredded mozzarella ( you might not use it all).
  • marinara sauce, good quality or homemade
  • grated pecorino or parmigiano cheese
  • fresh chopped parsley and pine nuts for garnish
Instructions
  1. Dip each pasta sheet into warm water to slightly soften, one by one.
  2. Mix ricotta with the 2 eggs and a handful of grated cheese, salt and pepper. Combine til incorporated.
  3. Butter casserole dish and ladle sauce all over the bottom.
  4. Add enough noodles to cover the bottom of the pan.
  5. Ladle sauce all over noodles.
  6. Spread mixed veggies all over the noodles.
  7. Sprinkle with grated cheese, shredded cheese and dot it with torn, fresh mozzarella.
  8. Layer the zucchini strips to cover first layer.
  9. Add more sauce on top of zucchini.
  10. Spread ricotta mixture all over, you probably won't use all of it but spread a nice amount because this is the only layer you will do it on.
  11. Repeat with all the other ingredients until you reach the top.
  12. Spoon sauce all over, add shredded cheese and slices of fresh mozzarella, chopped parsley and pine nuts.
  13. Drizzle with olive oil and place foil over pan.
  14. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.
  15. Take foil off and bake for 10 more minutes. Sides should be bubbling.
  16. Place under the broiler for a few seconds to get the cheese extra golden.
  17. Let it rest for ½ hour before cutting.

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Versatile Spaghetti Squash My Two Favorite Ways

spaghetti squash and eggs

Versatile spaghetti squash, a healthy winter squash that can be used in so many dishes. It’s a mild flavored and neutral tasting squash, so it’s able to take on the flavors and spices that you use to cook it with.

I’ve cooked with it many times in the past and even posted several recipes on this blog like here and here.

These two recipes posted here today are my current favorite ways to eat it. I’m sure as time goes on there will more!

You’ve heard of eggs in purgatory, well I make that every time I have some leftover strands of cooked spaghetti squash. Delicious to eat for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Seasoned browned butter squash that I made the night before lays as a base to hold eggs that sit in a puddle of flavored marinara, it’s out of this world good and so comforting!

roasted spaghetti squash

There are many different ways to prepare your spaghetti squash, I simply like to roast it. I also like my strands to be al’dente. Overcooking the squash results in mushy clumped together strands, not very appealing.

I like to slice the squash in half, ( be very careful), scoop out the seeds and place the 2 halves on a parchment lined sheet pan. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees, salt and pepper each half and give it a light drizzle with olive oil. Place cut side down and pierce a couple of times with the tip of a knife. Roast 30-40 minutes depending on the size of your squash. Let it cool down then fluff the strands with a fork. 

brown butter squash

Now you’re ready to make this!

Spaghetti squash strands tossed into a garlicky browned butter and sage sauce. Then it’s showered with a very generous amount of Parmigiano Reggiano and toasted hazelnuts.

browned butter

Just grate some fresh garlic into your nutty brown butter and sage sauce, it smells amazing and takes the dish over the top!

butter and sage infused squash

 

squash with eggs

Be sure to save some of the leftovers so you can make this eggs in purgatory version with spaghetti squash for breakfast the next day, it will become one of your favorites, like mine.

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Perfect Baked Stuffed Clams

baked clams

Typically when we’re at an Italian restaurant and there’s baked clams on the menu we order them. Baked clams are the perfect starter to a nice Italian meal.

clams

Have you ever wanted to make them at home? They’re very easy to make and personally I like them much better home made. They’re a lovely appetizer for a special meal. I recently made a full tray of baked stuffed clams for Christmas Eve, and not one of them were left, they really go fast, in fact I could have made more but then no one would have eaten anything else! New Years Eve is almost here, so grab a bottle of wine and start your party off with a tray of delicious baked stuffed clams.

So much flavor packed into one bite, the stuffed clams are tender and sweet, the breading crispy, cheesy, zesty, garlicky, I could go on and on, but let me show you how easy it is to make them.

clams soaking

First of all whenever you buy clams and they say they’re cleaned just ignore that, you’re going to find sand in there and they will be gritty if not soaked and drained a few times.

I had five pounds of fresh clams that I picked up at Costco. I let them soak in cold water for around twenty minutes in a strainer with a bowl underneath so I can see any sand that comes out when I drain them. It usually takes three times of soaking and draining.

Then give each one a gentle scrub and discard the broken shells with exposed clam, I had three, trust me you’ll always have some to discard, so count for a few bad ones when buying them.

steamed clams

Next you’ll want to poach or steam your impeccably cleaned clams in a liquid of water, white wine, some garlic cloves and a bay leaf, letting them simmer in a covered lid on the pot scooping them out as they open, one by one. If doing a large amount don’t overcrowd them do half at a time or get another pot going.

Place the steamed opened clams into a bowl so they can cool down. The best thing about this method is that you don’t have to do any shucking to the raw clams, this makes the whole process so easy! Once they cool down just wiggle off the top of the shell so you have an open half shell, how easy is that!

cleaned clams

Some clams have that little rubbery black thing attached that you see above, it’s part of the neck, just snip it off with a pair of scissors, it takes a second.

prepped clams

For five pounds of clams I ended up with forty five clams on the half shell. A few were broken and a few never opened up when they were steamed, those have to be discarded as well if that happens.

Place you half shells on a foil lined sheet pan drizzled with olive oil. At this point if you were making them for a crowd you could prep this all the day up to this point and then refrigerate and proceed with the stuffing the next day.

You can stuff the clams before your guests arrive so you’re ready to place them into the oven when everyone is ready to enjoy, you want to eat them hot.

clam filling

The stuffing recipe will be below, I recommend making your own breadcrumbs if possible, but if not buy some good quality ones that are plain because you’ll be flavoring them up yourself.

stuffed clams

Each clam gets about a heaping teaspoon of stuffing.

stuffed clams

Then a quick drizzle of olive oil over top of each stuffed clam and into the oven they go to bake!

 

baked clams

A light crispy bite with a ton of flavor that enhances the tender clam below!

baked clams

Serve it with a little hot sauce and lemon slices on the side, I promise, you’re going to love these!

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5.0 from 2 reviews
Perfect Baked Stuffed Clams
 
Refer to step by step on blogpost
Author:
Ingredients
  • 5 lbs. fresh, little neck clams could yield 4 dozen depending on size and discards, cleaned, scrubbed and sand removed as outlined in blogpost
  • POACHING LIQUID
  • water, 1 cup white wine, a few whole garlic cloves, a bay leaf and a small bunch of parsley, just enough to cover the clams.
  • FILLING
  • 2 cups homemade or good quality bread crumbs
  • 4 tablespoons each of unsalted butter and olive oil
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 3 or 4 garlic cloves grated on a microplane
  • a handful of chopped parsley
  • ½ cup of grated pecorino romano cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • lemon for garnish
  • hot sauce optional
Instructions
  1. Clean clams according to step by step on blog post
  2. Steam clams as stated in step by step on post.
  3. Prepare the half shells as pictured in post for a visual.
  4. In a small saucepan, melt butter and olive oil together.
  5. Stir in grated garlic and simmer until it's infused but not golden or dark.
  6. In a bowl add the breadcrumbs, zest, cheese, parsley, salt and pepper, mix together then pour in the melted oil/butter with garlic mixture and stir together until it looks like wet sand, if too dry add more melted butter and olive oil.
  7. Fill each half shell with a heaping teaspoon of the stuffing mixture and place them onto a foil lined sheet pan.
  8. Drizzle the tops with olive oil and place into a pre-heated 450 degree oven for around 8 minutes.
  9. They should be medium golden brown when finished, also nice and crispy.
  10. Serve immediately with lemon slices and hot sauce on the side.

 

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Christmas Tree Shaped Cheese Ball

cheese ball

Cheese balls, they’re the perfect party food! You can make them into the shape of a round ball, a log, I’ve seen them shaped as footballs, pumpkins, birds, reindeer, snowman I could go on and on.

Since we’re deep into the holidays right now I made this festive looking cheese ball that’s shaped into a Christmas tree.

muffuletta salad

The key ingredient in this cheeseball is muffuletta salad, it comes in a jar and it’s pretty easy to find. Jars may vary ingredients but normally they’re filled with things like Kalamata and green olives, red peppers, cauliflower, carrots, garlic, capers and some spices. If you can’t find muffuletta salad you can sub in an olive salad which is similar and just as good.

cheese ball ingredients

You’ll want to drain the salad of any excess oil really well, then add it to a mix of cream cheese and mascarpone.

Honestly when all is blended together there’s no need to add anything else except some fresh chives if you like.

cheese ball mixturecone shape cheese ball

After everything is blended together shape it all into a cone for your “tree”.

Cover loosely with plastic wrap and place it into the fridge for a few hours so it can harden up again. Then you can fine tune your tree with an offset spatula to shape it better and make it smooth all around when it comes out of the fridge.

tree shaped cheese ball

Press chopped parsley onto the cone shape to make it look like a tree, then begin to decorate it by added nuts, peppers or whatever your creative mind wants to do, there’s no set rules, make it your own.

xmas tree cheese ball

I placed a star on top made of cheddar cheese, just do it freehand. At this point if I loosely drape it with plastic wrap it can sit in my fridge for a couple of days ahead to serve at a party and it will be just fine.

One thing to keep in mind is that you’ll want to serve this cheese ball with fairly sturdy crackers to hold up to the dipping, flimsy crackers just won’t do.

Start your holiday party off with this festive Christmas tree cheese ball, it’s a showstopper, it’s fun to eat and you and your guests will love it!

Christmas Tree Shaped Cheese Ball
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 2 8oz, packages of full fat cream cheese, room temp
  • 1 16oz, container of mascarpone cheese, room temp
  • 1 heaping cup of muffuletta salad or olive salad, drained well of excess oil
  • 3 tablespoons of FINELY grated cheese like cheddar or mozzarella
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • snipped chives, optional
  • chopped parsley, enough to go around the "tree"
  • 1 piece cheddar cheese to make a star shape
  • almond slices, chopped red peppers and whatever else you want to decorate your cheeseball tree with
Instructions
  1. Combine the mascarpone, cream cheese, grated cheese along with the muffuletta salad and chives into a large bowl.
  2. With a hand mixer on low speed blend everything together.
  3. Taste for seasoning or if you want to add more of something else.
  4. on a small cookie sheet or tray place a sheet of wax paper down and then plop the cheese mixture onto that.
  5. Place plastic wrap over your hands and start to form the cone as best you can. Check your hight and width.
  6. Keep the formed cone shape on the pan and place the whole thing into the fridge loosely covered with plastic wrap and let it harden for a few hours or even overnight if you want.
  7. Remove from fridge and on the same tray press in the chopped parsley all over your cone.
  8. Decorate it with the nuts and peppers and make sure you cut out a star with cheddar cheese for the topper.
  9. If loosely draped with plastic wrap this can stay in the fridge for a couple of days before serving.
  10. When ready to serve place a large spatula underneath the tree and lift it onto your serving platter.
  11. Scatter sturdy crackers all around.
  12. Enjoy!

 

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Italian Anisette Cookies for Christmas

anise cookies

Sweet childhood memories seem to come up often when people see these Italian Anisette cookies on a platter at Christmas. These cookies are inspired by my mother in law who made them every year for her family. Just the scent of them baking brings back warm memories.

baking cookies

Anisette cookies have a soft interior with a warm licorice-like flavor of anise. You can form the dough into balls, braided knots and even rings. The shiny frosting can also be flavored with a little anise and then sprinkled with your favorite nonpareils. You can definitely have fun with all the different holiday sprinkles that are available this time of year to make them look very festive.

frosting cookies

These cookies will stay light in color when baked but have a nice golden brown bottom with some characteristic cracks on top.

anisette cookiesanise cookies

This recipe is adapted from the Cooking with Nonna website, sadly none of my husbands family had a complete recipe of their moms cookies but I knew this would be as close to hers as any, and it was.

I doubled the recipe because you’ll want to make a bunch like I did and I changed up the way the cookie gets mixed because it was one less step for my lazy self, and I’m happy to say it all worked out!

xmas cookies

Placed on a pretty platter these anisette cookies scream Christmas!

christmas cookies

They’re simple to make and the perfect addition to your holiday cookie trays.

Christmas cookies

Grab a cup of coffee, tea or espresso and enjoy this Italian cookie classic this holiday season, you still have plenty of time to make them!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Italian Anisette Cookies for Christmas
 
Adapted from The Cooking with Nonna website.
Author:
Ingredients
  • COOKIE DOUGH
  • 5 cups all purpose flour, un-bleached
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 cups confectioner's sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons anise extract
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • ICING
  • 3 cups, confectioner's sugar
  • 6 tablespoons half and half or cream, adjusting if you need a little more or less. Icing should have a nice flow when stirring it with a little thickness but not runny
  • 1 teaspoon anise extract ( or if you prefer another extract like lemon, almond or orange)
  • nonpareils for decorating
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place parchment paper onto rimmed baking sheets.
  2. In a separate bowl add the flour, baking powder and salt and whisk until incorporated.
  3. In a large mixing bowl with your electric hand or stand mixer (preferably a stand mixer with paddle) add the softened butter and confectioners sugar, beat on medium speed until well combined.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time along with the extracts, beating until all is incorporated.
  5. Lower the speed and add in all your dry ingredients a cup at a time, dough ball will form and pull away from side, the dough will be sticky.
  6. Form your balls either from a rounded teaspoon or a small cookie scoop which I used. Remember you can roll your dough and form them into a knot or a ring if you like as well.
  7. Keep them 2 inches apart on the lined baking sheet and pop them in the oven for 12 minutes total, bottoms will be golden and tops still pale with some cracks.
  8. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  9. MAKING THE ICING
  10. Stir together in a bowl the confectioners sugar, extract and half and half.
  11. Dip or brush the tops of the cookies into the icing then immediately add your sprinkles ( over a bowl so they don't fly all over your kitchen).
  12. Let the icing dry completely on a rack before you store the cookies away.
  13. NOTE;
  14. You can bake these ahead of time and freeze if you don't frost them, I would recommend frosting them just a day or two ahead before you'll be serving them, otherwise the frosting won't look as nice and fresh.

 

Signature

Warm Robiola Cheese with Cranberry, Hazelnuts and Pistachio Dust

holiday cheese appetizer

This luscious appetizer is perfect for the holidays, it uses Robiola cheese and if you haven’t had it you’re missing out. It has a festive look topped with homemade cranberry sauce, toasted hazelnuts and pistachio dust which is then warmed ever so slightly until the cheese starts to ooze out. Crusty bread served alongside it is a must so you can smear all that warm and gooey cheese all over it, it’s divine!

 

robiola cheese

Robiola Bosina cheese from Italy is made with both sheep and cows milk. Robiola is rich and creamy with a slight nuttiness, perfectly balanced with an edible rind that melts right into the cheese, you don’t even know you’re eating it!

In my humble opinion it gives Brie a run for the money, and I like Brie, but this, this is out of this world, and worth every penny!

It’s not easy to find, you have to seek it out, ask your favorite cheesemonger it’s so worth the effort. I got mine at my favorite Italian market but it’s not something that I see often, but of course if you can’t find it you can always substitute Brie.

 

holiday cheese appetizer

I slathered the top with homemade cranberry sauce which I highly recommend doing then added some toasted hazelnuts and sprinkled the top with pistachio dust which is made by taking whole pistachios and grounding them up in a mini food processor.

Then place the adorned cheese in an oven proof vessel in a pre-heated 375 degree oven for five to seven minutes, it doesn’t take long before it becomes warm and gooey and ready for dipping.

 

holiday cheese appetizer

Just remember to toast up plenty of bread ahead of time, I drizzle mine with olive oil then stick them under the broiler for a few minutes on each side, don’t walk away it goes fast!

 

cheese toast

Its hard to describe this delicious bite, it’s like the best fondue you ever had on a plate, it’s amazing cheese, seek out some Robiola and make this appetizer during the holidays!

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Italian Christmas Torta Made With Pandoro

torta

I came across this Italian Christmas Torta at the end of the Christmas holiday last year and although I did make it I never posted it on my blog, well now is the time!

As we get closer to Christmas I’ll be posting some of my favorite cookies, cakes and desserts. This torta or cake is a fun dessert to make that requires no baking at all, it can be a nice little project that you can do with the kids and you can get as creative as you want.

pandoro

The star of the show is a Pandoro cake, you can find them in most supermarkets and Italian markets almost everywhere this time during the holidays. Pandoro is basically Panettone but without the raisins and candied fruits inside, but that rich, eggy, sweet dough remains the same.

I love using Pandoro to create the look of a Christmas tree as I did here and here. It’s fun and easy to do and very impressive as a centerpiece on your holiday table.

That’s why I was drawn to this recipe when I saw it in a one minute video on Chef Club Italia. I kept watching it over and over until I finally got it!

 

whipped custard

You need a filling for the cake, in the past for my Pandoro Christmas cakes I used a mix of heavy whipped cream with mascarpone and lemon curd folded in.  I’ve also used the same mix with Amaretto liquor as the flavor mixed in. If you want to make it  easy, you can use vanilla or chocolate instant pudding with whipped cream and mascarpone folded in as well, or even a traditional tiramisu filling.

For this recipe and because it was my first try I used a box of instant vanilla mousse and folded it in the mixture of whipping cream and mascarpone. I like using the combination of the two because the mascarpone helps to stiffen and stabilize the whipped cream so it doesn’t get runny.

paper star

The next thing you’ll need is an image for the top of  the Italian Christmas Torta, you can either draw it freehand on paper or find an image on the Internet and print it out as I did. I picked a star but you can do a Christmas tree, a bell, snowman whatever you like, that’s the creative part.

 

sliced pandoro

You’ll be slicing the Pandoro horizontally and placing it on the bottom of an eight or nine inch spring form pan, which ever it fits in best. Make sure to use the biggest slice of the whole cake on the bottom of the pan.

Each slice you use, ( a total of three for the whole cake) should be brushed with either a liquor of some sort, like limoncello if using a lemon filling, Amaretto, espresso, or just a simple syrup to make it kid friendly, but it’s important that each layer be brushed to moisten and flavor it.

sliced pandoro

The other two slices will be cut on a diagonal and that will be for the sides of the cake, again brushing them before fitting them into the pan.

sliced pandoro

So again in total you’ll need three slices cut about one inch thick, the biggest for the bottom and the next two biggest for the sides.

pandoro

 

pandoro

I used some of the leftover Pandoro and stuffed it into the spaces that are between the side and bottom, as shown in the previous photo.

cream filled pandoro

Next you take the cream filling that has been whipped up and mixed together and spoon it in until you reach the top of the cake.

cream stuffed pandorastar cut out

Now place the cut out image of your choice and place it on top of the cream then sprinkle cocoa powder liberally all over it.

coco dusted

Then find an edge of your design and lift it off gently starting it with the tip of a knife to help lift it up, you should see the image perfectly!

christmas torta

When you lift it off and the design shows you can now decorate it even more with sprinkles or whatever else you choose or leave it as is.

christmas torta

This cake is best made the day before, which is nice prep for a party and because it has to be refrigerated well overnight.  So cover the top with tented foil and stick it in the fridge to chill and meld together. You can also wait till the morning of to place your image and cocoa powder on, that works also.

christmas torta

The next day you can pop the spring on the pan and remove the band and cut the cake into wedges to serve, by then it will be all melded together.

Another fun, no bake Italian Christmas Torta to make this holiday season, I’ll be making it again this year, I hope you give it a try!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Italian Christmas Torta Made With Pandoro
 
Refer to the blog post for a step by step with some added suggestions. This is a NO BAKE dessert that must be made the day before for best results.
Author:
Ingredients
  • 8 or 9 inch spring form pan
  • 1 cut out design for top of cake ( refer to blog post )
  • 1 large box of Pandoro, Italian cake
  • 3 large 1 inch slices of Pandoro sliced horizontally, one will be kept whole and the other two will be cut on the diagonal for the sides.
  • 1 envelope of vanilla instant mousse, made according to directions. ( there are other variations you can use, refer to blog post)
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup mascarpone, room temperature
  • 2 Tablespoons, powdered sugar to sweeten the cream
  • simple syrup, Amaretto, Limoncello, espresso to moisten the cut slices of pandoro, ( refer to blog post for ideas)
  • cocoa powder for dusting and garnish
  • additional sprinkles if needed
Instructions
  1. Make three 1 inch Horizontal slices on the Pandoro
  2. Take the largest slice and lay it in the pan.
  3. Brush and moisten the slice with liquor or simple syrup.
  4. Slice the other two pieces diagonally as shown in blog post, make sure to moisten them as well.
  5. With point facing down place them around the sides of the cake, they will fit between the points of the bottom layer.
  6. Fill in the open spaces with remaining Pandoro.
  7. Make mousse or pudding according to package and set aside.
  8. Whip the cream with the mascarpone until stiff, then fold in some of the mousse, you might not use it all, make sure the mixture still keeps shape and not be runny.
  9. You can also add flavoring at this point if you like, any liquor or espresso, taste to your liking.
  10. Fill the prepared cake to the top with the cream mixture.
  11. Add your cut out image by placing it on top of the cream and sprinkle liberally with cocoa powder.
  12. ( you can do the image placing the next day after you've refrigerated it if you prefer, it doesn't matter)
  13. Please make this a day ahead of time so you can refrigerate it overnight.
  14. Gently remove the image after dusting of cocoa powder and if need be add a few sprinkles of your choice.
  15. Slice in wedges and serve.

 

Signature

Four Cheese Ravioli with Herb Embedded Pasta

herb ravioli

I don’t know what it is but as soon as the weather turns cold I get the urge to make homemade pasta of some sort. Once a year I usually make my traditional ravioli, two different kinds, a meat and cheese version which is a family recipe that has been handed down to me.

This time I wanted to change it up by making a four cheese ravioli with a twist on the dough.I’ve always loved the look of herbs embedded in pasta dough. In fact I’ve done two different posts regarding that technique way back in my early days on this blog. One was a guest post I did for a blogger friend, it was known as silhouette pasta, stained glass pasta and windowpane pasta but now you see it described as laminated or embedded dough.

When I did the guest post and created the recipe I just cut the dough it self into ravioli sized noodles, I never actually made filled ravioli with the dough as I did here on this post.

pasta sheet

If you follow me you know that I have several posts on making ravioli on this blog, when I first started out making ravioli they were all made by hand, I even used only a rolling pin to roll the dough. Then as time went on I used a crank style pasta machine which is a staple in many homes along with ravioli forms.

We would get together as a family and make hundreds for holiday parties and by using the forms it helps you get a more uniformed shaped ravioli which has it’s place when you’re cranking out so many and there’s different people with their own techniques.

Fast forward to today, I have graduated to using my Kitchen Aid attachment for rolling the dough and I’m never going back, I love it! No fatigue in cranking, it’s hands free and it puts the perfect amount of pressure on the dough and it comes out perfectly smooth every time. I can easily make a couple of hundred myself and never get tired!

For this herb embedded batch I tried using my ravioli forms but didn’t like the way they looked, the dough didn’t lay right when placed over the holes because of the shape of the herbs I guess, so freeform was the way to go, besides I think the imperfectness of doing them freeform makes them look just perfect!

You can read and see the ravioli forms and the machines I use, how I prep the dough and the fillings in this post, it will help you get a visual when doing this version here on this post.

layered herbs

To embed your pasta dough with herbs you’ll want to roll out two pieces the same size, keeping it thin but not completely see-through. Pick herbs of your choice, make sure they’re clean and dry and pull the stems off. I used parsley and sage here. You would never want to use a woody herb like rosemary or thyme they will break through the dough, stick with the more leafy herbs like cilantro, basil and the ones I used.

Lay your clean herbs just on one sheet of the two sheets you rolled out, covering the area of the pasta sheet up nicely filled with the herbs.

herb pasta dough

Then you’re going to take the other piece with no herbs on it and gently place it on top, pressing down gently all over with your hands to help the herbs stick to the dough underneath.

Now take that whole sheet and roll it through your pasta machine, maybe on number three of the roller. You don’t want it to be too see -through so much so that the herbs rips through, but you don’t want it too thick either, you can be the judge on that as you’re doing it in your own machine.

 

herb pasta sheet

One thing to keep in mind is that the herbs will stretch as you put the sheet through the rollers and that’s fine, you just don’t want it to rip.

folded pasta dough

Now you’re dough is ready to fill. I always use a disposable pastry bag when piping out my fillings, the post that I linked above will show you a visual.

cheese ravioli

I used a mix of four cheeses for my filling this time, ricotta along with fontina, parmesan and romano. Then place your dollops along one side of your sheet of herb embedded dough that you ran through the rollers.

Take a mini brush and lightly brush the edges with a touch of water to ensure sticking and that no cheese mixture will leak out when boiling.

forming ravioli

Next fold the other half over the dollops of cheese pressing the edges down and pressing in between the cheese mounds with your fingers. Then take a ravioli cutter and slice between the mounds to create the individual ravioli.

making ravioli

Once that’s finished you’ll want to crimp all four sides with a fork that you keep dipping in flour so your crimping it won’t stick.

herb embedded ravioli

And that’s it! You’ve now created you own special ravioli, each one different in it’s own special way.

ravioli

You can cook them as is immediately or you can place them single layer on a cookie sheet and freeze until hard then transfer to a freezer proof container.

I normally freeze mine, after we sample some of course! They cook up beautiful from either the fresh or frozen state, just add a couple more minutes when frozen.

I do around eight minutes in the frozen state but honestly it depends on how thick yours turns out, my best tip is to take one out of the water, snip a bit of the edge off and taste if you think it’s finished or if it needs another minute or two.

boiling ravioli

With the herby pasta dough the best sauce to serve them with is a simple browned butter sauce, then shower the ravioli with some good Parmigiano Regggiano cheese! That’s honestly all you’ll need because you’ll taste the subtle flavor of the herbs coming through along with the cheese in every delicious bite!

cheese ravioli

Spend some time in the kitchen, have your favorite music playing in the background and I promise you once you get going you’ll get into a Zen- like mood and before you know it you’ll have a bunch of ravioli formed in front of you!

cheese ravioli

Making homemade pasta of any sort is truly a labor of love but worth every bit of the time and effort it takes, no store-bought pasta can ever compare, and besides you can taste the love!

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5.0 from 2 reviews
Four Cheese Ravioli with Herb Embedded Pasta
 
The pasta dough is a family recipe that never fails me and it's easily made in a food processor.
Author:
Ingredients
  • PASTA DOUGH
  • 2 cups of unbleached flour, my favorite brand is Ceresota
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon, olive oil
  • enough water just to get the dough together to form a ball
  • 4 CHEESE FILLING
  • 1 cup good quality ricotta, drained of all liquid ( I usually drain mine overnight) or buy it on the drier side
  • ½ cup grated fontina cheese
  • ½ cup Parmigiano Reggiano
  • ⅓ cup grated romano cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 egg beaten
Instructions
  1. FOR THE DOUGH, in a food processor add the flour and salt, pulse, then add the 2 eggs and and olive oil and process for a minute or two.
  2. As the machine is running slowly dribble water down the tube, keep processing until the dough forms a ball.
  3. It could be ¼ cup or water, maybe less, maybe more. Give it time to process, you will know when it's coming together.
  4. Open top of processor, dough should be moist and a little sticky, not dry with bits of flour, if so add a tiny bit more water and process again.
  5. If it's too watery just add a bit more flour and reprocess.
  6. Pull the dough out and onto a floured board, knead it a few times then form it into a ball and wrap it with plastic wrap and leave it on the counter for ½ hour before starting to roll it.
  7. The dough can be made 1 day ahead and at this point you can place it into the fridge, but you need to take it out and get it to room temp before using it the next day.
  8. Divide dough into 4 pieces and work with 1 piece at a time rolling it through the pasta machine.
  9. Then refer to tutorial above in the post on how to add the herbs and cheese.
  10. CHEESE MIXTURE
  11. Add the ricotta and all of the cheese into a bowl, mix well by hand, then add salt and pepper and taste it, you might want more grated cheese, do it to your liking.
  12. Then mix in the beaten egg and make sure everything is combined well.
  13. I like placing my ricotta mixture into disposable pastry bags for a clean and easy way of piping out the cheese, but you can use a tablespoon as well. ( I usually do a heaping tablespoon)
  14. Just like the dough this cheese mixture can be made a day ahead of time, this way you can be all prepped and ready to actually start forming the ravioli the day of.
  15. PLEASE REFER TO THE TUTORIAL IN THE POST TO SEE THE PROCEDURE IN FILLING AND FORMING THE RAVIOLI AS WELL AS BOILING AND FREEZING THEM.
  16. BROWN BUTTER SAUCE
  17. Melt 1 stick of unsalted butter over medium heat, gently swirl as butter melts, turn down if butter sputters too much, let it foam up and then the color will deepen with brown bits on the bottom and have a beautiful nutty taste.
  18. Spoon warm butter over cooked ravioli and shower with more Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, enjoy!

 

Signature

Smashed Brussel Sprouts with Parmesan and Lemon Aioli

smashed brussel sprouts

If you think you’re not a fan of brussel sprouts I encourage you to try these crispy gems! This is my new favorite way to eat brussel sprouts, but I must warn you, they’re very addictive!

They’re made similar to the popular smashed potatoes but on the healthier side. They’re crispy and caramelized on the outside and tender on the inside, and because of their size they’re the perfect one bite wonder!

raw brussel sprouts

Let’s face it the holiday season is upon us, brussel sprouts are hanging out all over in the produce sections of stores. It’s definitely a popular vegetable that seems to make an appearance on holiday tables served in many different ways.

Likewise if you do a Google search of smashed brussel sprouts you’ll see all the different ways you can change them up by adding different spices and cheese’s and even dipping sauces. I like the pairing of parmesan and lemon and those are the flavors I feature in mine.

 

boiled brussel sprouts

First you have to prep your brussel sprouts by rinsing and cutting off the hard tip, boiling them and then submerging them into an ice bath to cool down.

I found that depending on the size of your sprouts which very greatly, that’s going to determine how long for you to boil them, it could be anywhere from 10-15 minutes. The best way is to test one by smashing it, they should flatten easy but not be overcooked, mushy or falling apart, sort of al dente.

After the ice bath which cools them down and helps retain their color, drain in a stainer.

Even with straining they always seem to retain some water, so a great tip is to smash them inside a tea towel covering the top of the sprout with a portion of the towel as you press down, ( I used the palm of my hand ) the sprouts will release their retained water right into the tea towel and they’ll become super dry and perfect for crisping up in the oven, the drier the better.

smashed brussel sproutschessed up brussel sprouts

Then place your smashed sprouts on a parchment lined baking sheet, I drizzled mine with garlic infused olive oil which added so much flavor and I think is a key ingredient as well as grated parmesan and a light sprinkling of shredded mozzarella for added crunch when melted but the mozzarella is optional.

Now they’re ready to be put into a hot oven for roasting.

 

crispy brussel sprouts

Half way through the roasting process you flip them over so the other side can crisp up as well.

crispy brussel sprouts

Then stick them on a platter, scatter lemon zest all over and have a bowl of lemon aioli for dipping and watch them disappear!

smashed brussel sprouts

Make these smashed brussel sprouts for your friends and family now and throughout the holiday season.

5.0 from 2 reviews
Smashed Brussel Sprouts with Parmesan and Lemon Aioli
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • brussel sprouts, tip trimmed, rinsed and ready to go
  • grated parmesan cheese
  • lemon zest
  • garlic infused olive oil
  • FOR THE AIOLI
  • real mayonaise
  • lemon juice
  • 1 small garlic clove, grated
  • salt and pepper
  • lemon zest for garnish
Instructions
  1. Place prepped brussel sprouts in salted boiling water and boil for 10- to 15 minutes according to their size and thickness. You want to be able to smash them easily without being overcooked or mushy, so test one out for doneness.
  2. When finished boiling scoop them out and place them directly into an ice bath to cool down and retain nice green color.
  3. Drain them in a strainer when cooled down.
  4. Preheat oven to 425F
  5. Line a baking sheet with parchment and drizzle with olive oil ( preferably garlic infused)
  6. One by one take a cooked brussel sprout and stick it inside a tea towel covering the top also with the towel then with the palm of your hand flatten it, you will see moisture come out onto the towel when you remove it, and that's a good thing.
  7. Place them onto the baking sheet and one by one sprinkle grated parmesan on each along with a light sprinkling of mozzarella which is optional and not needed.
  8. Drizzle the tops of each one with garlic infused olive oil.
  9. Roast for around 20 minutes or so until charred to your liking, turning them on the other side adding more cheese and crisping to your liking.
  10. Place on a platter, scatter lemon zest all over and serve them at room temperature.
  11. FOR THE AIOLI
  12. Scoop full fat real mayo in a bowl, add lemon juice to thin it out along with the grated garlic clove and salt and pepper to taste.
  13. Garnish with lemon zest and serve on the side for dipping.

 

Signature

Slow Simmered Beef Braciole

braciole

Braciole is a popular Italian dish, it’s usually preserved for special family gatherings and not something you would normally eat during the week. Beef is the most commonly used meat and it’s typically flank or a top round steak. The meat needs to be pounded thin to tenderize it before it gets stuffed with a flavorful filling.

flank steak

I like using flank steak, if it’s too thick you might have to ask your butcher to butterfly it open for you, or you can easily do it yourself at home. When and if you need that done then the next step is to tenderize it with a meat mallet, pounding it to about 1/8 of an inch thick

You can cut your meat in half lengthwise for smaller rolls or you can keep it large as one big roll, I’ve done it all different ways.

braciole stuffing

The fillings for beef braciole can be a number of things, some families add slices of prosciutto, pine nuts, raisins, spinach, I could go on and on. My version is pretty straight forward using fresh parsley, garlic, chopped hard boiled egg, grated Pecorino, some provolone or fontinella cheese and depending on whom I’m making this for I’ll add either dry breadcrumbs or torn pieces of soaked day old Italian bread.

Lately everyone seems to be watching their carbs or someone is gluten free so I make a version minus the bread/ breadcrumbs and I must tell you it’s equally delicious, you won’t be missing anything but the carbs!

un-cooked braciole

Some use toothpicks to secure their braciole after you get it rolled up, I use to do that in the past but found that often they would break open, either on the sides or middle and the filling would seep out into the sauce making a mess of it.

large braciole

I prefer using butchers twine I find it really holds the filling tightly inside and your rolls are more uniform.

browning braciole

Once rolled up and tied securely you’ll want to give the braciole a good sear on each side then deglaze the pan with some wine.

cooking braciole

Then it’s time to let them cook by submerging them into some good quality marinara sauce allowing the braciole to simmer away in a heavy bottom pan with the lid slightly ajar. Simmering is a process that you can’t rush, you’ll know they’re done, they’ll be nice and tender and the tip of a knife should go through them like butter!

large braciole

You can easily make braciole a day or two ahead of time, I’ve done that many times especially for parties.

 

sliced baciole

If I make them ahead of time for a party I also like to take my time removing the strings and cutting the rolls while they’re cold.

I then layer the slices on a platter, so I can easily warm them up adding more warmed marinara.

Just remember this tip, after you fill them, you roll them up in a jelly roll style with the grain, but when you cut your slices it’s always against the grain.

 

cooked braciole

However creative you get with the fillings inside is up to you. This”fancy”comfort food can stand alone, eaten with just a salad, served with polenta or a favorite pasta of your choice, it’s all good!

Follow Proud Italian Cook on Instagram to see what else I’m cooking up during the week.

Slow Simmered Beef Braciole
 
You can get creative with your filling adding prosciutto, raisins, pinenuts, spinach if you wish. Below is my tried and true version.
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1½ to 2 lbs flank steak, butterflied if to thick then pounded with a meat tenderizer to ⅛ inch thickness.
  • 2 to 3 hard boiled eggs, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • breadcrumbs, enough to spread all over your meat, or (soaked in water and squeezed out ) day old Italian bread, enough to spread all over meat
  • a handful of parsley, enough to sprinkle all over
  • grated pecorino romano spread generously all over the meat as well as grated provolone or fontinella cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • a good drizzle all over the layered filling on the meat
  • wine for deglazing (optional)
  • 2 quarts of marinara
  • basil for garnish
Instructions
  1. After meat has been tenderized, salt and pepper it then rub the minced garlic all over.
  2. Sprinkle a good amount of pecorino all over.
  3. Add your bread crumbs or soaked bread and spread it all around, or eliminate this step all-together if making them gluten free.
  4. Spread your chopped eggs all around, along with the chopped parsley.
  5. Then end by scattering your shredded provolone or fontinella cheese.
  6. Lastly generously drizzle meat filling all over with olive oil.
  7. Tightly roll the meat up jelly roll style with the grain of the meat.
  8. Secure with butchers twine all over the roll, this process takes a little time but it's worth it.
  9. Drizzle some olive oil in the bottom of a heavy bottom pan that has a lid
  10. Sear well on both sides.
  11. Deglaze with wine, (optional).
  12. Then pour in your marinara with some torn basil.
  13. Put the lid on and slow simmer on top of stove until they become tender and the tip of a knife goes in like butter!
  14. Let the braciole rest before you remove the string and begin slicing them against the grain, or all this can be done the day before, cutting them cold as stated in my post.

 

Signature

Baby Eggplant with Italian Style Salsa

baby eggplant

Beautiful baby eggplant, have you tried them? These beauties are small and petite but yet their flesh is rich, creamy and mildly sweet.

Here I’ve roasted and then paired them with what I call an Italian style salsa, similar to a gremolata. A zesty garlic and herb topping that permeates through the hearty flesh along with the buttery texture of pine nuts, it’s the perfect union.

baby eggplant

Imagine a platter of these set out on a buffet table, a delicious centerpiece with individual servings. They can be the perfect starter or the ideal side dish to a main course of your favorite protein or pasta, an a nice vegetarian option as well.

baby eggplant

Baby eggplant look like little jewels, they’re tiny in size usually 2 to 3 inches long, some are stout and round and some more of a tear drop shape, and the nice thing is you can find them year round.

baby eggplant

When you get them home just give them a good rinse and wipe them dry then all you do is slice them lengthwise, easy prep!

baby eggplant

You can roast or grill them, I opted for roasting since it’s not grilling weather here right now. They cook up really fast and can be roasted earlier in the day, just give them a little warm up before serving, either in a low temp oven or microwave. For ultimate flavor I recommend serving them slightly warm but definitely not hot.

baby eggplant

Just scrape out the flesh with the topping and leave the skin on your plate, sort of like eating an artichoke. These will go fast so make enough!

Follow me on Instagram to see what else I’m cooking up during the week.

Baby Eggplant with Italian Style Salsa
 
No exact recipe but rather the method in which you make this, because it al depends how many eggplants you'll be using and how much sauce you'll need, which you can easily make more of if need be.
Author:
Ingredients
  • baby eggplant, rinsed and dried then cut in half lengthwise.
  • FOR THE ITALIAN SALSA
  • good olive oil
  • handful of parsley and basil, hand chopped
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced small
  • a pinch of red pepper flakes
  • a handful of imported pine nuts from Italy
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • lemon zest (optional)
Instructions
  1. Make the Italian salsa first so it can sit and the flavors can meld together. Mix everything into a bowl and add enough olive oil so that the mixture is loose.
  2. Toss your cut eggplant into a large bowl, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, tossing until coated.
  3. A quick drizzle of olive oil on a rimmed baking sheet place the eggplant cut side down in a 425 degree oven.
  4. They cook really fast, could only be about 15 or 20 minutes tops.
  5. Check with a spatula to make sure not too brown and overcooked.
  6. Pull them out of the oven and turn them over to skin side down and let them cool off.
  7. Arrange on a platter and spoon the Italian salsa on each one, having extra for more spooning, the more the better!

 

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White Bean Crostini with Frizzled Sage

crostini

Fall has arrived, the temperatures are cooler and holiday entertaining is around the corner. Sometimes you need a little something for lunch or dinner or a nice hearty appetizer to serve your guests, these white bean crostini with frizzled sage will fit the bill!

Crunchy and warm crostini spread with smashed cannellini beans that have been infused with lots of flavor and topped off with a crispy sage leaf.

It’s warm and comforting, quick and easy to make and looks very impressive.

 

fried sage

You need to frizzle your sage in olive oil, just getting it to the point where it starts to crisp up and doesn’t turn dark brown. The sage infused oil is then the base for starting your beans.

white beans

Half of the beans will be smashed and the other half left whole. Canned beans are used in this recipe but you certainly can cook up your own pot of beans if you so desire but remember this is a fuss free recipe, one that you can whip up in no time.

So my advice would be to stock up your pantry with some canned cannellini beans so you’re ready when you need a spur of the moment topping for crostini.

crostini

Crispy charred bread that I toasted under the broiler are the perfect crunchy base for these creamy beans, which taste at their peek when warm, then each crostini is crowned with a frizzled sage leaf.

This is the time to take out your best quality olive oil and give each one a good drizzle to finish them off. How is it that something so simple can taste so good?

crostini board

You can eat them on their own with your favorite beverage, or place them onto a charcuterie platter with some other goodies.

crostini board

 

Deliciously simple, you’ll be a hit and they’ll all be devoured!

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5.0 from 1 reviews
White Bean Crostini with Frizzled Sage
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 2 cans of cannellini beans, drained
  • 2 cloves of garlic, smashed into a paste
  • ⅓ cup of onion finely minced
  • a pinch or so of red pepper flakes according to your liking
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • every day olive oil
  • a good quality olive oil for finishing
  • horizontally sliced baguette, drizzled with olive oil and put under the broiler to get toasted on each side, it goes fast so keep checking and don't walk away
  • enough fresh sage leaves to top each crostini and garnish the pot of beans
Instructions
  1. Toast your bread first as stated above and set aside.
  2. Depending on how many crostini your're making, first fry up a bunch of fresh sage in your everyday olive oil, enough to cover the bottom of the pan.
  3. You want the sage to be frizzled and not dark golden brown, set aside on paper towels.
  4. In same pan add the garlic and onion and saute until soft.
  5. Add in the drained beans, season with red pepper, salt and pepper.
  6. Cook beans on medium low, turning constantly until all the flavors meld together.
  7. Gently smash half on the beans right in the pan and leave the rest whole.
  8. Toss in some whole sage leaves for garnish right in the pan.
  9. Drizzle with good quality olive oil and taste for seasoning, it should be heavily seasoned.
  10. Spread warm beans onto toasted bread, garnish with one sage leaf, and give it a good drizzle with the quality olive oil.
  11. Enjoy!

 

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Cream of Wild Mushroom Soup with Asiago Cheese Bread

mushroom soup

When the weather turns with cooler temps the first thing I always want to make is a big pot of soup. This cream of wild mushroom soup is surprisingly easy to make, it’s comforting and cozy and has a rich complex flavor.

wild mushrooms

It’s made with a mix of wild and cremini mushrooms, some of which I purchased at an Asian market. By the way did you know that specialty mushrooms bought at an Asian market are a fraction of the cost that you would pay in a regular supermarket? So when I go I usually buy a bunch.

For this soup I combined cremini with oyster, king oyster, shiitake and brown beech. Using a mix of some of the wild varieties results in an earthy depth of flavor that would rival any gourmet soup, but honestly if you can’t find them just go with cremini as opposed to the white button mushrooms you see everywhere.

simmered mushrooms

Fresh thyme, shallots and garlic are the base for this soup with added broth for the mushrooms to soak up the flavors while they’re simmering in the pot.

mushroom soup

This soup is rich and elegant and can be served as a first course, a fantastic lunch or light dinner served with my cheesy Asiago toast.

pot of mushroom soup

There’s just a small amount of heavy cream swirled in at the end of cooking, it’s optional but I would highly recommend using it because it makes the soup exceptional!

For a nice presentation roast off some of the mushrooms and set aside to use for garnishing the top.

mushroom soup

This creamy wild mushroom soup can be a go to week night meal or fancy enough to serve during the upcoming holidays, and it only takes around a half hour to pull it together. It stays well in the fridge so it can be made a day or two ahead of time, then just heat it up and garnish!

cheese bread

If you need a little crunch factor on the side,

Spilt a baguette in half, drizzle with olive oil and place into a 400 degree oven just until it starts to get golden, then pull it out and spread shredded Asiago cheese all over with fresh chopped parsley or other herbs of your choice, then place under a broiler until it all melts.

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5.0 from 1 reviews
Cream of Wild Mushroom Soup with Asiago cheese Bread
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1½ to 2 lbs. mushrooms, a mix of wild along with cremini ( if unable to find wild mushrooms you can use all cremini) chopped.
  • additional mushrooms set aside for garnish that have been pre-roasted
  • 2 large shallots, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, grated on a microplane
  • broth, chicken or veggie, enough to cover the top of the sautéed mushrooms ( I used a little over a quart)
  • olive oil
  • butter
  • parsley and thyme
  • ¼ cup heavy cream ( optional but highly recommended!)
  • salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. In a stock pot add a knob of butter and a drizzle of olive oil to the bottom of the pan.
  2. Add in the chopped shallots and garlic. Cook until they soften a bit.
  3. Add the chopped mushrooms, salt, pepper and fresh thyme.
  4. Cook mushroom mix until they soften up and all the flavors meld, around 15 minutes.
  5. Next, pour in enough broth to cover the top of the mushrooms.
  6. Bring to a slow boil then reduce heat and simmer uncovered for around 20-30 minutes.
  7. Use an immersion blender to whiz it up right in the pot to reach the texture you like, it will thicken up as you're doing this.
  8. Swirl in the cream, tasting and adjusting for seasoning, adding more thyme, salt and pepper if needed.
  9. Ladle into bowls and garnish with the roasted reserved mushrooms, chopped parsley and thyme.
  10. Enjoy!

 

Signature

Swordfish with “Almost” Puttanesca Sauce

swordfish

Typically puttanesca sauce is made with anchovies, mine is not. I have to admit I’m not a lover of anchovies, never have been. But with that being said if you’re fond of them you can certainly add them into this pungent and delicious sauce to top off your swordfish.

Try to seek out swordfish if you can, it’s a nice meaty fish, firm to the touch with nice texture and it stands up really well to the strong and bold flavors of the sauce, but if you can’t find it, try a thick piece of cod or any other firm fish you like.

Puttanesca sauce is not a dedicate sauce by any means it contains briny olives, capers, garlic and spicy red pepper among other things.

 

puttanesca sauce

I like using fresh cherry tomatoes in my puttanesca sauce, they keep their fresh flavor pretty much all year long, I prefer them over canned tomatoes in this dish, to me it really makes a difference in the end result.

 

 

swordfish

This dish is easy to make with simple, quality ingredients that you probably already have in your pantry and fridge.

Perfect for Sunday dinner or even midweek because it doesn’t take long to get it on your table, serve it up with something green on the side like asparagus, green beans, spinach, kale or just a green salad of some sort.

swordfish

I promise you that if you do skip the anchovies like I did,  you won’t even miss them in this intensely robust sauce, it’s a winner anyway!

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5.0 from 1 reviews
Swordfish Almost Puttanesca
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 2 swordfish filets
  • FOR THE SAUCE
  • cherry tomatoes sliced lengthwise ( enough to fill your saute pan)
  • ½ onion chopped
  • 5 cloves of garlic, shaved
  • handful of kalamata olives
  • handful of sliced green olives
  • a small handful of capers, rinsed
  • small handful of chopped sundried tomatoes in oil
  • fresh parsley, chopped
  • wine or chicken broth to loosen the sauce
  • olive oil
  • knob of butter
  • zest of ½ lemon
  • red pepper flakes, optional or to your heat desire
  • sliced lemons for garnish
Instructions
  1. Salt and pepper each side of the fish.
  2. In a deep sided saute pan drizzled with olive oil and the knob of butter, brown the fish on each side for 2 minutes getting it nice and golden.
  3. Remove and set aside.
  4. In the same skillet add the onion and shaved garlic and cook till slightly golden and softened up, sprinkle with red pepper flakes to desired amount.
  5. Throw in your sliced cherry tomatoes with all the other remaining ingredients, olives, capers, sun dried tomatoes, lemon zest, parsley with salt and pepper to taste. Taste the sauce at this point to make sure it's flavored enough.
  6. Let it simmer low until it thickens up, if it gets too thick loosen it up with some broth or wine.
  7. again do a slow simmer until it thickens.
  8. When sauce thickens nestle your fish into the sauce.
  9. Cook it for an additional 5 minutes with a cover on the pan.
  10. Garnish with more chopped parsley, lemon slices and a drizzle with olive oil to finish it off.

 

Signature

Grape Tart with Mascarpone Custard and Phyllo

grape tart

Grapes are in season right now and this grape tart features plump and juicy grapes nestled inside a custard of mascarpone cheese with flaky phyllo as the crust.

Let’s be honest, you don’t see grapes all that often showing up in desserts, but why not? They’re naturally sweet, crisp and juicy and when baked into a dessert their sweetness gets even more concentrated.

red grapes

To make this tart you need to macerate the grapes first by piercing them, tossing in sugar and letting them sit covered for a while at room temperature.

grape tart

This grape tart can be made with any pastry bottom of your choice, you can use puff pastry, a shortcrust pastry or what I’ve chosen, phyllo.

I like using phyllo, it’s so forgiving and easy to use once you get the hang of it. Using phyllo also gives you a wonderful crunchy crust to bite into, a nice contrast to the creamy mascarpone custard.

You can also flavor the custard mixture with a bit of liquor or extract such as vanilla or almond or even some citrus zest if you so desire.

grape tart

Hurry up and get some grapes so you can make this dreamy tart, your friends and family will thank you!

grape tart

Creamy custard with a sweet burst of intense grape flavor, what’s not to love?

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Grape Tart with Mascarpone Custard and Phyllo
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • red grapes, enough to fill the bottom of a 9' springform pan with removable bottom. ( I like to make sure of the amount of grapes I'm going to use by picking them off the vine and placing them in the pan just to see if I have enough as a tester.)
  • ¼ cup of sugar, plus 2 tablespoons for sprinkling on top of tart
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons of room temperature mascarpone cheese
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • ¼ teaspoon to ½ of vanilla, or extract of your choice, or citrus zest if you choose
  • 8 sheets of phyllo dough, defrosted
Instructions
  1. MACERATE THE GRAPES AT LEAST 2 HOURS BEFORE
  2. Place grapes in a bowl, prick them with a fork, toss in ¼ cup sugar, stir and cover with plastic wrap and let them sit at room temperature, stir occasionally, the granules of sugar should be dissolved and juice forming on the bottom. When finished strain the juice and set aside.
  3. FOR THE CUSTARD
  4. In a bowl add the eggs and mascarpone, ¼ cup of sugar plus optional extracts or liquor, beat on low speed with a hand mixer until it's nice and smooth.
  5. PREPARING THE CRUST ( oven temp at 375 )
  6. Grease the bottom and sides of the tart pan with butter.
  7. Keeping your phyllo covered and working fast, layer each sheet individually and either brush with melted butter, butter spray or olive oil spray.
  8. Continue layers of phyllo covering the bottom and sides of pan with buttering in between. Don't worry if phyllo rips you won't even notice it when it's done.
  9. Pace the tart pan on a rimmed baking sheet for easy in and out.
  10. Pour the drained grapes onto the tart pan covered in phyllo, bake it for 10 minutes then remove from oven.
  11. Pour the mascarpone mixture all over the top of the grapes and sprinkle the top with the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar.
  12. Place back into the oven until the top is slightly golden, the mascarpone mixture sets and the crust is crusty and golden. 30 minutes or so, but ovens do vary so watch it.
  13. When finished let it cool down so you can touch it snd remove the bottom.
  14. It's ready to serve!

 

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