Winter Citrus Salad Guaranteed to Brighten Your Day

citrus salad

Start the new year off right with this bright, winter citrus salad. It’s a welcome change from all the holiday and comfort foods we’ve been indulging in. Winter citrus is definitely a bright spot I look forward to when it finally arrives.

Not only is it refreshing but it perks up our taste buds and it’s also loaded with vitamins. For this salad I strictly used cara cara oranges, they’re my favorite and I always buy a bunch when I see them. I would have used a blood orange in this salad as well but it seems they’re hard to find in my neck of the woods this year.

You can use any citrus of your choice to make this salad, the brighter the color the better!

citrus salad

This salad is composed on a platter and is easy to assemble but first you need to slice up your citrus really pretty, removing as much of the pith as possible for a lovely presentation.

I use a serrated knife and cut off the top and bottom of the orange so it can stand flat. Then proceed to take off the peel by slicing from the top to the bottom following the curve of the fruit.

Take off only the peel and the white pith, as much as you can see leaving the flesh naked, then turn the fruit on it’s side and carefully slice crosswise.

citrus salad

There are no exact measurements here, your aim is to fill and arrange your platter with all the ingredients dispersed all around starting off with fresh arugula as the base. This salad is all about color!

Then thinly sliced fennel and radish rounds, the slices of citrus, small sized rings of red onion, nicoise olives, toasted hazelnuts, pomegranate seeds and some fennel fronds for garnish.

The vinaigrette is made with equal parts olive oil, fresh squeezed orange juice, a tablespoon or two of white balsamic vinegar, a dollop of dijon to thicken it up a bit and salt and pepper.

Whisk it up and spoon it all over the salad right before you serve it.

There’s a bounty of citrus all around so now is the time to make good use of it!

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Seared Scallops Infused with Flavored Butter and Herbs

seared scallops

Are you planning on dining in instead of facing the crowds this New Years Eve? Have you been searching for a special dish to serve for an intimate dinner party or a romantic dinner for two?  Well look no more this is it!

Sweet and delicate, melt in your mouth seared scallops topped with a flavored butter that’s infused with the zest of lemon, shallot, garlic and a hint of spicy chili.

compound butter

The recipe itself is fairly simple to pull together, it’s basically all about the infused butter that will anoint the seared scallops with so much flavor, but equally as important are the steps you take to properly cook the scallops. It’s critical to avoid over cooking them, if you do they’ll become tasteless and rubbery and that would be such a waste!

In this recipe you’ll be using the large sea scallops, the smaller bay scallops are not what you want to be using here at all.

seared scallops

This could be the perfect first course with one scallop presented dramatically on baking sea shells, (Amazon). If you’re doing this for a main course you can use pretty gratin dishes.

As far as servings go, for a main I would say 4-5 per person because you’ll be having some sides with it. Scallops pair wonderfully with any green veggie and if you want some starch I like to serve maybe some couscous, garlic mashed potatoes or creamy polenta.

seared scallops

Grab a bottle of champagne, make this “fancy” dish and ring in the New Year at home!

Wishing you all a very healthy and happy 2019, thank you for all your support throughout the year I appreciate each and everyone of you, you’re the best! xo

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5.0 from 3 reviews
Seared Scallops Infused with Flavored Butter and Herbs
 
You will definitely have extra infused butter leftover but it will be perfect for other things and it stays good for a couple of weeks in the fridge.
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 dozen large sea scallops, side mussel removed and patted completely dry
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 small garlic cloves grated on a microplane
  • 1 fresh red chili, veins and seeds removed and finely diced ( if you like it hotter add more)
  • 1 large shallot, finely diced
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • parsley for garnish, finely chopped
Instructions
  1. Heat you oven to 400F.
  2. Mix by hand in a bowl the softened butter with the garlic, zest, chili and shallot, taste for salt and pepper addition and set aside. Butter can be made ahead of time and refrigerated.
  3. Heat up a good non stick skillet on medium high heat until its screeching hot, making sure it's big enough so scallops have room and don't touch at all, you might have to do them in batches if your skillet isn't big enough to give them room.
  4. While skillet is heating up salt and pepper each side of the scallops.
  5. When you think the skillet is hot enough drizzle some olive oil on the bottom of the pan, when it starts to slightly smoke add the scallops and press them down gently on one side.
  6. Don't touch them or move them until you see a deep crust forming, then peek and check them out using tongs.
  7. When you see a deep crust take them out and place them crust side up in your gratin dish or baking shells.
  8. Add a good dollop of the infused butter on top, place them into the oven just so the butter melts down.
  9. Take them out, let rest a second, garnish with the chopped parsley and serve immediately.

 

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Lasagna Party Rolls with Red and White Sauce

lasagna rolls

I recently made these lasagna rolls for a holiday party that we hosted, I first thought of making a couple of trays of lasagna but I opted for this instead, individual lasagna rolls. Assembly can be made the day before and kept in the fridge overnight so all your prep, the mess in the kitchen is done ahead and the day of the party all you have to do is stick it into the oven.

This is so much easier to serve your guests, no cutting involved and each roll is a perfect little package that’s easy to grab and go on a buffet table.

lasagna rolls

The lasagna rolls are filled with three different cheeses mixed with fresh spinach that has been wilted down, squeezed of all liquid then chopped and added in. The rolls are placed on a bed of bechamel and topped with homemade marinara.

I have to give credit to Giada for adding the bechamel sauce, yes it’s an extra step but it really makes the rolls taste extra special, definitely party worthy!

lasagna roll prep

I used those full size catering pans, ( I get mine from Costco) they’re really sturdy and hold up very well when taking them in and out of the oven. I was able to fit 27 rolls in one pan which basically is two, 1 lb. boxes of lasagna noodles.

I always drain my ricotta overnight in a strainer, over a bowl and covered in my fridge, you’d be surprised how much liquid drains out. Draining the fresh ricotta is an important step because you don’t want a watery mixture spread onto the lasagna noodles.

Have your marinara sauce made ahead of time as well as your bechamel, I always have homemade marinara in my freezer so I just defrosted mine a couple of days ahead. In this case I also had some frozen, leftover bechamel I had made before so I defrosted it and added a little more milk to thin it out when I warmed it up, and it was perfectly fine.

So for a big party you can prep many of the components way ahead of time before actually assembling the rolls, I would never make all of the components in one day!

One other important note to remember, undercook your pasta, the pasta will finish cooking in the oven anyway, also when you take them out of the water place them single layer on a tray so they won’t stick together and pat each noodle dry before you start the actual rolling process.

lasagna rollslasagna rolls

Each time you pick up a roll you’ll be scooping up that rich white sauce that’s on the bottom which mingles so well with the marinara on top.

lasagna rolllasagna roll

I hope you consider these for your next party when needing a delicious pasta dish that’s easy to serve and eat for your guests.

These lasagna rolls were a hit at my party and I’m sure they’ll be a hit at yours!

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5.0 from 3 reviews
Lasagna Party Rolls with Red and White Sauce
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 2 boxes of lasagna noodles, with curly edges, around 15 noodles in each box, I used Barilla brand
  • RICOTTA MIXTURE
  • 3 lb. fresh, good quality ricotta, drained overnight.
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups pecorino or parmigiano grated cheese
  • 1 cup grated fontina cheese and extra for topping each roll
  • 2 small grated garlic cloves
  • 3 tablespoons of bechamel
  • 1½ cups of chopped spinach, I used fresh spinach, (I like the taste better than frozen,) that I wilted down then squeezed of all liquid before chopping
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • BECHAMEL SAUCE
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • ¼ cup, flour
  • 4 cups, whole milk
  • ⅓ cup grated pecorino or parmesan
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • MARINARA SAUCE
  • I had a few quarts because you want extra when your serving your rolls. I would say just make a pot of sauce ahead of time and you'll be fine, if you have some leftover it's a good thing.
  • parsley or basil for garnish
Instructions
  1. Prepare your BECHAMEL by melting butter then adding the flour and whisking vigorously so no lumps occur, pour in the milk and keep whisking until nice and smooth, as it gets hotter and starts to bubble around the edges it should thicken up and coat the back of a spoon, then shut off the heat and add the grated cheese then taste for seasoning of salt and pepper.
  2. If using a large, full size catering pan like I suggest you might need to make more because you need to have it cover the whole bottom of the pan.
  3. Your favorite homemade MARINARA sauce should be made ahead of time.
  4. Place your RICOTTA in a very large bowl, add the garlic, grated cheese, fontina, the 3 tablespoons of bechamel and before you add the beaten eggs taste for seasoning adding salt and pepper.
  5. Mix in the beaten eggs making sure it's all incorporated.
  6. Then wilt, drain, squeeze and chop your SPINACH and gently fold it into the well mixed ricotta mixture making sure it's evenly dispersed.
  7. Cook your LASAGNA NOODLES in salted boiling water with 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the water to prevent the noodles from sticking together. I cooked mine for 8 minutes.
  8. Drain pasta immediately and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process, place them single layer and pat them dry.
  9. ASSEMBLY
  10. Spread bechamel white sauce on the bottom of the catering pan all over from corner to corner.
  11. One by one take a lasagna noodle and spread abut 3 tablespoons of the ricotta mixture from top to bottom, then roll up and place seam side down into the pan on top of the white sauce.
  12. Repeat until the pan is full ( I fit 27 in a large catering pan, 3 rows of nine each).
  13. Top each roll with marinara down the middle, leaving the curly part of the noodle un-sauced.
  14. Sprinkle each with grated cheese and a quick drizzle of olive oil all over.
  15. Cover with heavy duty foil.
  16. At this point you can refrigerate and bake them off the next day which I recommend for party prepping.
  17. The next day when you're ready to bake, take them out of the fridge an hour or so ahead of time to get pan to room temp then place the covered rolls into a 400 degree oven for around 20 minutes.
  18. Remove pan from oven and take off the foil, add a little more sauce on top if need be and a tablespoon or so of fontina cheese on top of each roll.
  19. Return to the oven, uncovered until the cheese melts and curly edges get a little golden brown.
  20. Let them rest for 5 minutes and garnish with chopped parsley or basil.
  21. Have extra marinara warmed up for serving if need be.

 

 

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Seven Dishes for the Feast of the Seven Fishes

seafood salad

The Feast of the Seven Fishes is an Italian American Christmas Eve celebration that’s full of tradition. Regardless of the name not every family serves seven dishes, some do way more and some do way less, for instance a single pot made up of a rich seafood stew.

Whatever your traditions are or heritage is, if you’re a seafood lover this is the night for you, so you might want to add one of my favorites here to your holiday table or keep one in mind for a later dinner event.

First up is this bright and citrusy SEAFOOD SALAD  above, your guests will go crazy over it and it’s a stunner on the table.

crab cakes

CRAB CAKES, so decadent and rich, filled with flaky crab, not bready fillers, topped with a lemon aioli.

cioppino

CIOPPINO, This is that seafood stew I was talking about and great for a smaller group, it’s filled with scallops, cod, crab, mussels and clams. Feel free to mix and match any combination of fish you want, it has a deep flavored rich broth which requires crusty bread for sopping up the juices.

shrimp and lobster ravioli

Here’s a very special pasta dish that’s really worth the time and effort, SHRIMP AND LOBSTER RAVIOLI, did I mention it has a limoncello cream sauce?

seafood risotto

You can’t go wrong with SEAFOOD RISOTTO, shrimp, scallops and lobster made with a seafood broth, creamy rice that is laced with Prosecco, this screams celebration time!

crab stuffed shrimp

CRAB STUFFED SHRIMP, Oh my, you can easily make a huge tray of these to serve your guests. I love the flavor combination, it’s luxurious and perfect for a crowd with or without the CHAMPAGNE sauce they’re resting in, yes, champagne! It’s the holidays and it’s time to splurge.

fried calamari

And last but not least is this FRITTO MISTO, which means fried mixture. It’s filled with calamari, scallops, lemon slices, some green beans and jalapeno tossed in for added color, flavor and texture, it’s delicious and has a very light breading that you will love.

Being with family, drinking good wine, eating great food, making memories and keeping those traditions alive, whether you celebrate The Feast of the Seven Fishes or not, that’s really what it’s all about!

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Chocolate Dipped Polenta Biscotti with Amaretto and Anise

polenta biscotti

The holiday season is upon us and it’s time to start making some cookies! Each year I love to bake a few different kinds of biscotti, this year these polenta biscotti will make an appearance.

Biscotti are so nice to have around when people stop by to visit, they store very well when baked early on during the holidays and hardly ever lose their crunch factor.

Speaking of crunch factor, these particular biscotti have the addition of fine granules of polenta incorporated into the dough which results in a rustic and crunchy texture.

Almost eleven years ago on this blog I did a post on polenta biscotti but since then I have upgraded both my photos and added a little twist to the original along with more detail for you, so this is my revised version.

biscotti ingredients

As well as the polenta, anise seeds are crucial to this recipe along with a light touch of amaretto liquor which can easily be replaced with almond extract if need be. You can adorn them with dark chocolate or not, but for the holidays and any special occasion or for gifting the dip of chocolate on one end makes for a prettier presentation, and it sure tastes good!

polenta biscotti

When the logs are finished baking it’s important to let them cool down completely before you slice them for the second baking.

I like slicing them on the diagonal and always use a serrated knife to make clean cuts. Often times I use an old fashioned electric knife that I have and it works wonders for slicing biscotti.

polenta biscotti

After you’ve baked the individual slices again make sure they are completely cooled before you start to dunk them into the pool of melted chocolate. After dipping just the one end and while the chocolate is still warm, immediately scatter some sliced almonds over the top so they can stick as the chocolate starts to cool.

polenta biscotti

Leave them on parchment then stick them into the fridge for maybe fifteen minutes so the chocolate can set.

polenta biscottipolenta biscotti

I like to store mine in pretty boxes or tins, preferably rectangle shaped so that they fit nicely, with layers of wax paper in between, just keep them in a cool place and they’ll be fine.

polenta biscotti

Whether you gift this to someone you love or keep the stash for yourself these polenta biscotti are so worth making!

polenta biscotti

Get the coffee going, grab a biscotti and enjoy the season!

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5.0 from 1 reviews
Chocolate Dipped Polenta Biscotti with Amaretto and Anise
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 4 cups un-bleached all purpose flour
  • ¾ cup of instant polenta granules
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 1½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons of anise seeds
  • 3 large eggs
  • ½ cup of sliced almonds plus extra for garnishing chocolate
  • 10 tablespoons of melted butter
  • 2 or 3 teaspoons of amaretto liquor or ½ teaspoon of almond extract
  • dark chocolate chips for melting
  • ¼ teaspoon of vegetable shortening to smooth out the chocolate when melting
Instructions
  1. Melt butter, set aside. Heat oven to 350F
  2. In a large bowl add the flour, polenta, baking powder, anise seed and almonds. Whisk by hand to incorporate.
  3. In a smaller bowl with a hand mixer, beat the sugar with the melted butter and get it throughly mixed, then add in one egg at a time still mixing until light and fluffy, then add the amaretto and combine.
  4. Combine the dry ingredients with the wet mixing with hand beater to get it all incorporated so you're able to form your logs.
  5. If you see some dry crumbles add a tiny bit of milk and gather up the dough.
  6. Once dough is nice and smooth form it into two logs, 9x4 around ¾ inch thick.
  7. Place both logs onto a rimmed parchment lined baking sheet, make sure to flatten down the tops of the logs gently.
  8. Bake logs at 350F for 25 to 30 minutes depending on your oven, then let them cool completely before slicing.
  9. When it's time to slice them, cut on the diagonal being careful with a serrated or electric knife.
  10. Place the slices down on one side and bake them for 5 minutes.
  11. Take them out after 5 minutes, flip them over on the other side, put them back in the oven and bake for another five minutes.
  12. Take them out to check for desired golden color, I did mine for one more additional 5 minutes, ovens vary and so does every ones crunch factor.
  13. Let them cool completely before dunking into chocolate.
  14. MELTING CHOCOLATE
  15. Place some of the chocolate into a microwave proof cup, along with the bit of shortening and check in 20 second increments until its melted, check and stir. You may need to melt more, but a little goes along way.
  16. Take one end of your biscotti and dunk it into the chocolate and immediately onto parchment paper, then scatter your nuts on top.
  17. When finished dunking all your biscotti place them into the fridge for 15 minutes so the chocolate can set.
  18. Enjoy!
  19. This can be stored in tin cans or boxes in between layers of wax paper for a few weeks, if they last that long.

 

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Italian Meatloaf

Italian meatloaf

This is my version of Italian meatloaf, it’s rich and meaty, bursting with flavors of garlic, asiago, herbs and pecorino cheese and it has a tasty red pepper sauce infusing the inside as well as the outside.

Italian meatloaf

What can I say, meatloaf is homey, classic comfort food. This Italian meatloaf is something I make during the colder months. I like eating this with a big Italian salad or maybe roasted potatoes and sometimes the classic mashed, you can’t go wrong with either.

Italian meatloaf

You can slather the top with a red pepper sauce like, store bought or homemade or just as good a chunky marinara.You are then going to finish it off with some fresh mozzarella which you’ll stick it on at the end for a few minutes just until it starts to melt and ooze out.

You can use whatever ground meat mixture you like, I used all ground beef in mine.

Italian meatloaf

Not only is this delicious for dinner but the next day you can slice it up for sandwiches with some good bread and crunchy lettuce.

red pepper sauce

FYI, If you’re lucky enough to have a Trader Joe’s near you, sometimes I cheat and buy this fabulous spread, it’s filled with red peppers, a bit of garlic and eggplant and it’s so delicious smeared all over the meatloaf as it bakes, and so convenient!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Italian Meatloaf
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 2 lbs. ground beef or ground meat of your choice
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • ½ chopped onion
  • handful of shredded carrots
  • handfull of grated pecorino romano
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup panko
  • ¼ cup red pepper sauce or marinara thats on the thicker side
  • ¾ cup asiago cheese, diced small
  • chopped basil and parsley for seasoning
  • salt and pepper
  • Additional red peer sauce or thick marinara, enough to slather the top of the meatloaf
  • 3 slices of fresh mozzarella
  • Fresh basil for garnish
Instructions
  1. Mix everything together in a big bowl.
  2. Form meat mixture into a loaf.
  3. Place meatloaf into baking dish
  4. Smother with enough red pepper sauce or marinara to cover it from end to end.
  5. Bake at 375F for about 1 hour and 15 minutes or until meat thermometer reaches 160.
  6. Last 5 minutes or so place mozzarella on top and let it start to melt and ooze.
  7. Garnish with basil leaves on top of melted mozzarella.

 

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Ciabatta Bread Stuffing With Sausage And Herbs

ciabatta and sausage stuffing

Turkey time is here and now is the time to start planning our menus for the big Thanksgiving Day feast. We all have our tried and true recipes that we serve on that day the one’s that our families count on every year, and this is one of mine, my ciabatta bread stuffing with sausage and herbs.

You might think that I use Italian sausage but I don’t. This stuffing is made with good old Bob Evans breakfast sausage, it comes in a roll a pork sausage that’s flavored with sage and other ingredients, I use it every year in my stuffing and I dare not change it for fear of a revolt!

bread cubes

Ciabatta bread is the key to this stuffing, it gives it a nice rustic feel and texture, it’s crunchy and slightly chewy and it holds up well when broth is added to soften.

I like to prep things ahead of time doing as much as I can the day before. You can easily prep the bread which should be day old and not super fresh. After it gets cubed up it gets dried out in the oven on a low temp, then left out overnight.

breakfast sausage

The sausage of course can be cooked up in advance as well, drained on paper towels and when cooled placed into a container and put into the fridge.

 

celery and onions

The celery and onions also get prepped and sautéed with a stick of butter, cooled down then place into a zip bag ready to be thrown together with the other ingredients the next day.

ciabatta and sausage stuffing

The morning of Thanksgiving Day everything gets dumped into a nice big bowl for easy mixing with some additional added ingredients.

ciabatta and sausage stuffing

Once everything is throughly incorporated and mixed well it goes into a buttered casserole dish which is the way I prefer to make it, however feel free to stuff some into your turkey if that’s how you like it.

Over the years we’ve come to love making three whole breasts out on the grill, everyone in my family prefers white meat, so that gives us plenty for everyone to eat plus leftovers to take home and the bonus of freeing up my oven for the sides.

ciabatta and sausage stuffing

Crispy, crunchy bites that form all over the top, nicely seasoned with the perfect amount of moisture underneath it all, it’s delicious!

Happy Thanksgiving!

5.0 from 2 reviews
Ciabatta Bread Stuffing With Sausage And Herbs
 
I usually double or triple this recipe for a crowd but I broke it down as best I could for you for one recipe.
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1½ lb. ciabatta bread, the bottom sliced off if too crusty along with the ends with a serrated knife, then the remaining sliced into 1 inch cubes ( you could use 2 lbs. depending how much you want to make)
  • 1 lb. pork breakfast sausage, like Bob Evans in a roll preferably with extra sage
  • 1 quart box of stock, turkey or chicken, you might use more or less
  • 1 large onion, diced small
  • 6 ribs of celery with leaves, diced small
  • 1½ sticks, unsalted butter
  • 1 bunch parsley, chopped
  • 2 finely minced garlic cloves
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • dried sage, thyme, salt and pepper for seasoning
  • Sage leaves for garnish
Instructions
  1. PREPPING THE STUFFING THE DAY BEFORE:
  2. Place the cubed bread on a sheet pan and into the oven at 250, turning until all sides are very dried out, remove and set aside.
  3. In a large sauce pan melt the stick of butter add the onions, garlic and celery, sauté on low until soft, let it cool then place into a container or zip bag for the morning of Thanksgiving.
  4. In the same pan you cooked the celery and onions cook the sausage, breaking it up into small pieces with a wooden spoon and cooking until you see no pink. Place on paper towels to drain, let it cool then place into fridge in a container or zip bag.
  5. THE MORNING OF THANKSGIVING;
  6. In a very large bowl add the dried bread cubes, celery, onion and garlic mixture, chopped parsley and the cooked sausage.
  7. In a small sauce pan add the stock and additional ½ stick of butter, let the butter melt in the stock, don't boil it just warm it.
  8. Then cup by cup add the stock to the big bowl of stuffing ingredients, stirring until moistened not drenched in liquid. Remember you don't want a soggy, mushy stuffing, you want the bread to keep it's shape slightly.
  9. Start to add your dried sage, thyme, salt and pepper, this is a personal taste, so taste as you go everything is cooked.
  10. Start out with teaspoons then taste and stir, adding more, but always taste it.
  11. When you think the moisture is good enough and the seasoning just right stir in the egg until it's all incorporated throughly.
  12. Butter a 9x12 inch casserole dish with deep sides and pour the stuffing mixture into it.
  13. Heat oven to 375F
  14. Cover pan loosely with foil for around 30 minutes then uncover, garnish with sage leaves and let the top crisp up for an additional 20-30 minutes more.

 

 

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Vintage Coconut Custard Pie

coconut custard pie

Coconut custard pie is a classic egg custard pie with sweetened flaked coconut, it was ever so popular back in the day and I have a slew of family members that love it!  When I was first married I was able to buy decent tasting ones from bakeries and some local stores but that was years ago.

Then as time went by they became harder and harder to find because the new and more trendy coconut cream pie, piled high with whipped cream moved in and took it’s place, so I had to start making it myself.

My mother-in-law use to make this pie all the time and mostly without a crust because it was easier for her to just butter a glass pan and pour everything in, she had seven kids to feed. Making it with or without the crust is your decision but if it’s up to me the crust is the way to go.

coconut custard pie

Regarding the crust I really think you should blind bake it for a few minutes, I’ve made it many times without doing that and my pie eaters could care less and loved it anyway but for me I like the bottom to be golden brown and not beige looking, so in my opinion blind baking it is.

This pie is a simple dessert made with basic ingredients, nothing fancy going on but it’s always a request by my family.

coconut custard pie

Since Thanksgiving is around the corner you’re probably thinking about which pies you’ll be serving, in my house I know at least two of them will be coconut custard pie.

coconut custard pie

This is not the kind of pie you want to make ahead, freeze and defrost it would ruin the whole integrity of the pie. This pie is best when baked the day before letting it cool and then refrigerating it, you never want to serve it warm because the custard needs to set up as it cools.

coconut custard pies

I could never make just one pie because it disappears way too fast!

coconut custard pie

Pour yourself a cup of coffee and enjoy a slice of this vintage coconut custard pie!

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5.0 from 1 reviews
Vintage Coconut Custard Pie
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 10 inch pie plate
  • 1 un-baked pie crust, homemade or store-bought
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2½ cups whole milk
  • ½ stick unsalted butter
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1heaping cup sweetened flaked coconut ( make sure it's not clumped together)
Instructions
  1. To achieve a golden brown crust on the bottom you can choose to blind bake the crust by heating the oven to 425F and lining the pie shell with a sheet of parchment or tin foil and securing it down with dry beans or pie weights. Bake for 4 minutes, remove and let it cool completely to room temp.
  2. REDUCE TEMP TO 400F
  3. In a small pan heat the milk, when you see it starting to bubble on the sides shut it off ( do not let it boil what so ever!) then add the butter so it can melt. It should cool at least 10 minutes.
  4. In the meantime in a bowl beat the eggs one at a time with the sugar.
  5. Temper the milk and butter mixture to the beaten eggs in very small increments, beating vigorously being careful to not add too much to soon because the eggs can scramble.
  6. Add the vanilla.
  7. Sprinkle the coconut into the mixture being careful not to drop it in clumps, stir gently to distribute.
  8. Put your prepared pie crust onto a rimmed baking sheet for ease in and out of the oven.
  9. Carefully pour the mixture into the pie shell and carefully place it all into the oven.
  10. IMPORTANT NOTE!
  11. You're only going to bake it at 400F for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven temp while the pie is still inside to 350F and finish cooking for about 35 more minutes. Crust should be golden and filling puffed and when the tip of a knife in the center comes out clean.
  12. Ovens vary so if the crust is too brown but center isn't finished just cover the crust with a little foil.
  13. When finished let the pie cool completely to room temperature, then into the fridge for at least 3 hours but preferably overnight.
  14. I do not recommend freezing this pie, just make it the day before.

 

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Stuffed Artichokes Italian Style Step By Step

stuffed artichokes

The holidays are coming and I can’t think of a better recipe to be posting right now. As a kid stuffed artichokes were always a part of our holiday dinners or special celebrations. Throughout the years I’ve kept that tradition going making them for my own family as well as my husbands. Stuffed artichokes are one thing that’s always requested on the menu.

Thanksgiving food plate

This is a picture of last years Thanksgiving day plate and there’s my stuffed artichoke proudly displayed as one of my sides, I can make a meal of just that, but hey it’s the holidays and its time to splurge!

artichokes

The hardest thing about making stuffed artichokes is searching and seeking out good ones, I definitely go on a search and seek mission to find the best. It usually go to a few different stores or call ahead and talk to the produce guys who can assure me they will set aside a fresh case for me when they arrive.

You’re looking for fresh, firm artichokes with no signs of being discolored, dried or shriveled up.

prepping artichokes

I always say stuffed artichokes are a labor of love, especially when making them for a crowd. No doubt about it, there’s going to be prep involved and it can be time consuming if you’re making a bunch but hopefully this step by step will help ease the process because it’s sure worth it in the end like all good things.

Step 1: Slice off the bottom stem so it can sit upright nicely in a pan, then pull off any lower leaves that look gnarly.

Step 2: Take a very sharp knife or even a good serrated knife and slice off the top third where the artichoke comes to a point.

Step 3: Grab your scissors and snip off the tips of the remaining leaves as pictured above, then open the leaves gently and give it a good rinse.

Step 4: Rub the entire cut area with a fresh lemon to prevent discoloration.

steaming artichokes

I to do a two step method, first steaming the artichokes unstuffed, then into the oven to bake for a while stuffed.

Place them in a sturdy bottomed pot which has a lid and fill it with water half way up to the chokes.

Into the pot I add some roughly chopped garlic cloves, lemon slices, salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil on each artichoke. Doing this gives them a nice flavor and the olive oil helps tenderize the leaves and the bonus is that the flavored steaming liquid can be used again at the bottom of the baking dish when they go into the oven to bake, this will help prevent them from drying out. 

steaming artichokes

Depending on how many I’m making I might have a couple of pans going at the same time, but keep in mind this part can be done ahead of time, like the day before.

You’ll know their done when you can tug at a leaf and it comes right off with ease. Be careful not to overcook them where the artichoke just flops open and almost falls apart, it needs to be intact. Keep in mind it’s still going to be put into the oven.

When finished steaming take them out, drain the liquid from the chokes and let them cool completely on a rimmed baking sheet. At this point you can place them in the fridge overnight and continue the second part of the process the next day if you choose to do that, but remember to reserve the steaming liquid.breadcrumb stuffing

In the meantime you’ll want to mix up your stuffing. One thing I like to point out is that I don’t like using bread crumbs that are super processed in a can and almost look like powder. I have however made my own or have mixed them with a good quality bread crumb that is unseasoned. FYI, I do like Whole Foods in house breadcrumbs, you’ll find them in the bakery section they’re very good with a nice, course texture like homemade.

I must confess I don’t really measure out the stuffing mixture because it will all depend on how much stuffing you personally like to fill them with and how many artichokes you’re making,  but here’s a rough estimate.

Grab a bowl and add your breadcrumbs, start with maybe three cups, then add a good amount of grated pecorino romano cheese, a generous cup or so (I never use parmesan), add some garlic that is finely grated on a microplane about 3 cloves, then lemon zest and a nice bunch of chopped fresh parsley, taste it for salt and pepper adjusting the seasonings to your liking. Then drizzle olive oil onto the mixture until it feels like wet sand.

If you need more, make more, if you made too much put it in a container and keep it in the freezer.

 

prepping artichokes

Are you still with me? Don’t bail your almost there! Now lets talk about the inner spiny choke. Back in the day when I first got married and made these I never removed the choke, I just stuffed them as is. But over the years I much prefer removing all that un edible mess before I stuff them. This is another reason why they are a true labor of love, but in the end it will be a much more pleasant eating experience.

Now because you have them pre-cooked and cooled down, even done the night before like I mentioned, the spiny choke is super easy to remove with either a grapefruit spoon or just a plain spoon.

It’s truly worth the effort. I just sit at my table with the TV on or some music going and take my time removing all of it, right above the precious and coveted heart which you leave in tact.

prepping artichokesstuffing artichokes

While you’re sitting in the same spot with the music or TV going start to stuff them, take your time and spread out each and every leaf gently adding a bit of  the bread crumb stuffing to each. I just use a teaspoon and go around and fill each one as well as the center. I’ll be the first to admit it’s time consuming, but again so worth it!stuffed artichokes

There are a couple of different ways to nestle them into a pan, I like them to have room, some artichokes are really large, I like using those big foil pans if making a bunch. Sometimes I place balls of tin foil in between so they don’t fall over if I don’t have enough to help them stand up straight.

 

stuffed artichokes

To finish them off  for the last phase of baking, drizzle each stuffed artichoke all over with olive oil then place a thinly slice of lemon on top of each one.

Next spoon some of that steaming liquid that was saved on the bottom of the pan, then cover the whole pan with heavy duty foil.

Place the covered pan into a 375F. oven for about 30 minutes, and that’s it! But to be absolutely sure peek underneath the foil and grab a leaf or two to test it out. The stuffing should be nice and moist with a slight crunch and the artichoke nice and tender.

 

stuffed artichokes

It doesn’t matter how many you make the process is the same, stuff each leaf.

stuffed artichokes

Add lemon slices, liquid and bake.

stuffed artichokes

If you have leftovers or give some away no worries they’re excellent the next day or two after, just warm them up and enjoy!

stuffed artichokesstuffed artichokes

Honestly you could just leave me in a corner with one of these beauties and I’m a happy camper, let the festivities begin!

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Italian Wedding Soup with Escarole and Mini Meatballs

Italian wedding soup

Soup season is here and there’s nothing more comforting than coming in from the cold and warming up to a nice big steamy hot bowl of homemade soup, it’s good for the soul and good for the senses.

Certain soups evoke memories of the past and this is the one for me, Italian wedding soup. As a kid I just called it meatball soup, what kid doesn’t love cheesy flavored meatballs and teeny tiny pasta floating around in a big bowl!

There are so many versions of Italian wedding soup some by adding or subtracting different ingredients, and over the years I’ve even done that myself but the one thing that is constant and stays the same are those tiny little meatballs.

turkey meatballs

Flavoring up your meatballs is the key to this recipe, I’m talking garlic, onions, egg, parsley and a very healthy dose of grated pecorino romano cheese. You could also choose to add breadcrumbs but I don’t, I think it makes the tiny meatballs too dense, in my opinion you get a much lighter meatball without it. Just make them ahead of time so they’re ready to go.

My preferred meat to use is either ground turkey or chicken, since I’m using a chicken stock as the base anyway it makes sense, but I’ve also made it with beef as well, no rules here, choose whatever meat you like.

When I’m making the broth from scratch I’ll shred up some of the chicken and add it into the soup as well.

chicken stockclear broth

The shot right above shown with the spoon inside the bowl was done with a boxed, low sodium , organic chicken broth and straight up ground chicken for the meatballs with the same ingredients as stated in the recipe below. It’s quick, easy and tastes just as amazing!

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the kind of girl who always has homemade stock in the freezer, I don’t always have the time and patience but I admire those that do. I think it’s because I like my broth to look nice and clear so I have to strain it a couple of times to get to that point. It does require some patience and time but it’s truly worth it if you do it.

I do however have a well stocked pantry of organic, low sodium boxed broth. Word of advice, if you’re going to make this with your homemade stock, do it ahead of time and have it ready to go.

In this recipe I used a combination of both, I do like the enriched flavor that the simmering homemade stock gives the soup plus I like to add in some of that shredded chicken anyway, so it’s a win win situation, but I always make such a large amount and I never have enough stock so I’m always adding my good quality, store bought stock into the mix.

So you can use all homemade stock, a combination of both or all good quality store bought. Trust me there’s so many flavors that mingle together, either way it all works out in the end.

Italian wedding soup ingredients

I also used escarole as my choice of greens but any hearty green will do, kale, chard or spinach as well. My favorite pasta to use is acini di pepe, little round and couscous shaped, but again any small pasta of your choice will do, anelletti pasta works well too, the kind that looks like spaghettiO’s

True confession, I never boil my pasta in the broth of the soup, I don’t like it when the pasta blows up and gets mushy, so in my house it’s always cooked on the side.

Then one last essential ingredient is cheese rinds. Have you ever used them before? Save all your cheese rinds of parmigiano or pecorino, but make sure some of the cheese is still attached because when thrown into your soup the rind will soften and the flavors of the cheese will infuse throughout the soup, it’s magic!

making soup

Then it’s a matter of sautéing your veggies, adding the broth and cheese rind and letting that simmer until the rind starts to melt.

meatballs

Add in your cooked meatballs  and shredded chicken and the very last thing is your greens.

Italian wedding soupItalian wedding soup

Add some of your cooked pasta into the bowls and ladle all that goodness on top, then sprinkle with a bit of grated cheese and a quick drizzle of olive oil.

Italian wedding soup

cooked pasta

As I said I love making the pasta on the side, this way it doesn’t blow up in the broth and get mushy, it always has a nice bite to it when I add it in.

 

Italian wedding soup

It’s hearty, healthy and made with love, true comfort food!

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Italian Wedding Soup with Escarole and Mini Meatballs
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 2 quart boxes of good quality stock or homemade stock or a combination of both
  • 2 chicken breasts, bone in skin on, cooked in the homemade stock, cooled and shredded, optional
  • MEATBALLS
  • 1 lb. ground turkey, chicken or beef
  • 1 egg
  • ½ small onion and 2 garlic cloves grated on a microplane
  • ½ cup, grated pecorino cheese
  • a good handfull chopped parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • SOUP
  • 1 heaping cup each of chopped carrots, onions and celery
  • 3 smashed garlic cloves
  • 1 big bunch escarole, chopped or greens of your choice
  • 1 or 2 cheese rinds (with some cheese attached)
  • parsley
  • grated pecorino romano
  • PASTA
  • 1½ cups dry small pasta like acini di pepe or anelletti shaped, cooked according to package then rinsed with cold water and set aside in a container
Instructions
  1. I used a combination of home made stock and good quality store bought.
  2. For the homemade stock I used;
  3. bone in skin on chicken breasts with enough water in the pot to cover, about 2 quarts, then add ½ onion or leek, 1 carrot, 1 celery, 3 garlic cloves, salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Simmer until the chicken starts to fall off the bone.
  5. When stock is finished remove breasts let them cool and shred the chicken. Also strain the broth really good either with a fine mesh strainer or through cheesecloth until it's nice and clear.
  6. For the MEATBALLS mix together your ground meat, egg, garlic, onion, parsley, pecorino, salt and pepper until nice and incorporated.
  7. Roll into small 1 inch balls, place on a parchment lined baking sheet and into a 375F oven for 15 minutes, you can do this a day or two ahead. (You can also cook them stove top.) Prepped and ready to go.
  8. In a big heavy bottomed stock pot drizzle the bottom with olive oil and a dab of butter.
  9. Add all the veggies to the pot, carrots, onion, celery, garlic, when softened pour in your stock.
  10. When stock is hot add in your cheese rinds and then simmer partially covered.
  11. When you see the rind start melting and cheese bits start to fall off, stir and taste for seasoning and adjust.
  12. Add in your cooked chicken, if using it, and all the cooked meatballs and some fresh chopped parsley.
  13. Continue simmering.
  14. Remove rinds and add in all the chopped escarole or other greens of your choice.
  15. Stir and turn off the heat, then I always add in some grated pecorino romano for added flavor, a good handful.
  16. To serve grab a bowl, add some cooked pasta if so desired, ladle the finished soup on top, making sure to get a little bit of everything, more cheese and a drizzle of olive oil.

 

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Tuscan Apple Cake

tuscan apple cake

Tuscan apple cake, also known as torte di mele, is a rustic and simple Italian dessert filled with fresh sliced apples. The cake has a nice dense texture with a buttery crumb that picks up the added flavors of your choice.

apple display

Right now it’s apple season where I live and they are in abundance, so pick whatever apples suit your fancy for this recipe, it’s all good.

To me the most important thing to remember when making a tuscan apple cake is to flavor the cake itself. Because the crumb has such a hearty texture it can take on nice bold flavors such as lemon zest, vanilla, a touch of cinnamon and my favorite addition along with the others is Amaretto liquer.

 

tuscan apple cake

I made my cake in a spring form pan but you can also use a square or round baking dish, just keep it to an eight or nine inch size.

tuscan apple cake

This is the perfect “coffee cake” for me and for anyone else that enters my home, no fancy ingredients just pure deliciousness!

THE RECIPE WHEN FIRST POSTED HAD TWO MISTAKES, IT HAS BEEN CORRECTED

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5.0 from 3 reviews
Tuscan Apple Cake
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 6 apples of your choice, 2 will be diced and the rest will be thinly sliced, peeled and cored for all and lightly tossed with a touch of lemon juice to prevent discoloration
  • 2 cups all purpose un-bleached flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 8 Tablespoons of butter, 7 will be melted while reserving 1 tablespoon for dotting the top ot the cake
  • 1 cup, sugar
  • ⅓ cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 Tablespoons amaretto liquer (optional) sub almond extract if you prefer but just ½ teaspoon
  • a pinch of salt
  • a pinch of cinnamon
  • lemon juice to prevent apples from discoloration
  • extra butter to prepare the pan
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Butter and dust with flour a 9 inch spring form pan.
  3. Place the prepared pan onto a rimmed baking sheet.
  4. Melt the 7 tablespoons of butter in a small saucepan, let it cool then add the milk, zest, vanilla and optional amaretto or almond extract.
  5. Whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder and salt.
  6. In a large mixing bowl mix eggs and sugar together until light and creamy, a few minutes.
  7. Add the flour mixture and beat until it's incorporated, then add the cooled milk with all the flavorings.
  8. When everything is well mixed fold in the diced apples.
  9. Pour apple batter into prepared pan.
  10. Arrange remaining thinly sliced apples all around covering the top (you probably will have some apple slices left over depending on their size) then give it a light sprinkle of sugar all over as well as a tiny bit of cinnamon.
  11. Dot the cake top with the tablespoon of reserved butter.
  12. Bake for somewhere between 60- 70 minutes, keep in mind if you by chance use an 8 inch springform pan it will take longer to bake because it will be deeper.
  13. Mine took 70 minutes in a nine inch but keep in mind ovens do vary, so my advice keep watching!
  14. Apples should be golden brown and cake should be barely moist when tested with a toothpick.
  15. Let it rest and cool down for at least 15 minutes before you pop the spring.
  16. ENJOY!

 

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Steak Pizzaiola That’s Worth Repeating

steak pizzaiola

Steak pizzaiola, a quick  and easy stove to table recipe, top quality in taste, a truly uncomplicated comfort food. It basically means meat in “pizza style”. The pizza style is referring to the sauce that the steak mingles in, which is not to be confused with a marinara.

This pizzaiola sauce uses fresh tomatoes, garlic and good oregano, I like to use the imported one from Sicily that’s still on the branches where you just shake off what you want, it has such a distinct earthy flavor and so delicious in this dish.

Even though it’s autumn here in my area I can always find fresh tasting cherry tomatoes even throughout the winter, so that’s what I use in this dish, I prefer not using any canned tomatoes, it’s so much better with fresh.

There are hundreds of ways to make steak pizzaiola, some add peppers, some top it with melted cheese. Also, the meat you use can vary, you could use a less tender cut of meat but then it would have to braise in the sauce longer. I much prefer using a tender thin cut, boneless steak like a rib eye or a strip steak, then just like I said in the beginning this will be a quick and easy stove to table recipe.

This dish can be perfect for mid week when you’re rushing around or fancy enough for a dinner party. Back in the day I experimented making pizzaiola quite a few different ways, but this is my favorite and so worth repeating!

This is an adaption from an old Gennaro Contaldo recipe, he added anchovies which I don’t think is necessary at all, ( but then I’m not fond of them either.)

 

 

steak pizzaiola

I promise you will love this as is, how can you not? Tender steak smothered with plumped tomatoes in a rich, zesty sauce spiced up with a few simple ingredients, it’s comfort food at it’s best.

You can serve it with pasta or polenta on the side or the way I did with a green vegetable and a few roasted potatoes, either way it’s amazing!

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Steak Pizzaiola
 
Adapted from Gennaro Contaldo
Author:
Ingredients
  • 2 thin cut boneless steaks, preferably a strip or ribeye, sometimes I buy one thick steak and have the butcher slice it in half horizontally, or you can buy 4 super thin steaks
  • 2 pints, cherry tomatoes sliced in half
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, smashed and chopped
  • a good handful of capers, rinsed of brine
  • red pepper flakes, according to taste
  • 1- ½ cups white wine
  • kalamata and cerignola olives, a good handful of each
  • 1 tablespoon or so, good quality oregano, dried
  • ½ cup water
  • olive oil
  • parsley for garnish
Instructions
  1. Season both sides of steak with salt and pepper.
  2. Add a drizzle of olive oil to your pan, place steaks in and brown each side but don't cook through.
  3. Remove steaks and set aside.
  4. Add another little drizzle of olive oil then add in the garlic, red pepper flakes and oregano.
  5. Deglaze with the wine and let it reduce a little.
  6. Add the tomatoes, capers, water and olives.
  7. Add the steaks back in and let it simmer until the tomatoes burst and all the juices flow and thicken up a bit.
  8. Place on a platter and garnish with chopped parsley, enjoy!

 

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How To Make A Savory Veggie Strudel

veggie strudel

Crispy layers of phyllo pastry is the perfect wrapper to hold in tender roasted veggies and creamy, melted cheese to create this savory veggie strudel. This dish could be a served as a veggie main course, a starter or even a side.

It’s easier to make than you think and I’m going to show you how!

roasted veggies

First of all you can use any combination of vegetables that you like, all is good. Maybe you have some odds and ends leftover in your fridge, or some that need to be cooked  before they go bad, or like me maybe you just went a little over board when shopping for produce.

It doesn’t matter what combination of vegetables you have, the only thing you need to do is to precook them so they can be ready to assemble, they can be either grilled or roasted, I roasted the majority of mine except for the beans which I steamed.

phyllo pastry

The next thing is get yourself a box of phyllo pastry, you’ll find it in the frozen section, it’s very accessible these days. Don’t be intimidated by it, it’s so easy to work with and so forgiving, trust me. I always defrost mine overnight in the fridge and then take it out of the box to warm up to room temp before rolling it out, leave it in the plastic wrap though.

Phyllo needs to be covered while you’re working with it, it tends to dry up fast so it’s important that you cover it with a damp kitchen towel when you unfold it from the roll.

roasted veggies

To further prep for this veggie strudel you have to make sure all the vegetables are cut into bite size pieces, so cut them up and set them aside.

roasted veggies

There are six layers of phyllo here, the first five are sprayed one sheet at a time with olive oil spray then sprinkled with grated cheese like pecorino or parmesan and a few grinds of black pepper all over. Then you’ll want to continue layering the same way with each five sheets until you reach the sixth one, the top.

Next you’re going to spread your chopped veggies all around the pastry sheet, whatever combination you have, fill up the space like I did above leaving a border of a little over an inch on all four sides.

Dice up fresh mozzarella into cubes and add that on top of the mixed vegetables, equally distributing it all around, then grate more pecorino or parmesan on top of it. I also had a very small chunk of fontina cheese and I grated that onto the mixture as well, you get the picture, you don’t have to be so precise.

Any cheese combo will do, but it helps if you have at least one good melting cheese in there because it will help bind the veggies together.

rolled phyllo

Then your filled veggie strudel gets rolled up and baked seam side down until it gets nice and golden.

cooked strudel

Let it rest before cutting!

veggie strudel

Layers of crispy phyllo, tender roasted, savory mixed vegetables with warm melty cheese inside, oh yes, you’re going to love this!

veggie strudelveggie strudel

Add a little dipping sauce and you’re good to go, enjoy!

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How To Make A Savory Veggie Strudel
 
I always roast my veggies in a 400F oven, drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper, making sure the moisture is roasted out.
Author:
Ingredients
  • 6 sheets of frozen phyllo pastry, defrosted according to the box and set out to get to room temp before using.
  • roasted veggies, cooked and cut into bite size pieces, enough to spread out onto a 14x18 sheet of phyllo, choose your favorites with a variety of color.
  • fresh mozzarella cut into small cubes enough to spread all over the top of the veggies
  • pecorino or parmesan for spreading on each layer
  • an additional small amount of cheese to crumble on for added flavor like blue, fontina, goat, or feta
  • olive oil spray
  • granulated garlic
  • italian seasoning
  • FOR DIPPING SAUCE;
  • Roasted red peppers and a little marinara
Instructions
  1. Heat the oven to 400F.
  2. Place parchment paper onto a half sheet pan with rimmed sides.
  3. Carefully place one sheet of phyllo onto the parchment, while making sure the others are covered with a damp kitchen towel.
  4. Spray phyllo sheet all over with olive oil spray then sprinkle with grated cheese and black pepper.
  5. Repeat above on each remaining phyllo sheets including the last one, the top.
  6. On the top layer spread out your veggies leaving an 1-1/2 inch border all around.
  7. Sprinkle lightly with granulated garlic on the veggies for added flavor.
  8. Spread the diced mozzarella all around, evenly distributing it.
  9. Add the small amount of the additional cheese of your choice.
  10. Looking at the sheet pan horizontally, fold the left and right sides of the phyllo where you made a border onto the veggie mixture.
  11. Then gently start at the bottom and slowly start to roll it up making sure the sides are still tucked in and covered.
  12. Place the rolled strudel seam side down.
  13. Spray the top with olive oil, black pepper, some Italian seasoning and some shredded cheese.
  14. Bake for 20-30 minutes or under golden and crispy.
  15. Let it rest before cutting then gently cut with a serrated knife.
  16. RED PEPPER DIPPING SAUCE;
  17. I whirled roasted red peppers and a little marinara in a food processor to make my sauce.

 

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Shrimp and Sausage Paella on the Grill

grilled paella

I’ve made paella many times but honestly I never made grilled paella until recently, and now I don’t think I’ll ever make it any other way. Making paella on the grill gives you a larger cooking surface which gives you more even cooking all around as opposed to using just a burner on the stove.

Having the rice spread out evenly on the wide, shallow paella pan creates the perfect condition for socarrat, which is the crunchy, crust that forms on the bottom, known as the prized part of eating a paella. I once read that socarrat is to a paella what the smoke ring is to a brisket, and by making a grilled paella it’s easy to achieve.

paella ingredients

Let me just say I’m no expert on making paella, but I do love making it. The presentation is dramatic and it’s cooked all in one vessel! There are so many versions of paella, seafood, vegetarian, meat, I could go on and on, but for this grilled version I kept it simple by using shrimp with andouille, a spicy smoked sausage.

For paella you have to use a short grain rice, you can find the brand above or a rice called bomba but if not, arborio or carnaroli will do.

Another key ingredient is the spice saffron, a little goes a long way. I found this spice packet from Spain on Amazon which has just the right amount in it along with some other spices to flavor the paella so well.

grilled paella

Making a grilled paella gives you a rich, smoky flavor and it’s fairly easy to do providing you have all your ingredients prepared and ready to go.

 

grilled paella

I have two paella pans, a 15 inch and a 22 inch depending on what ingredients you decide on and what you’ll be serving with it, you can feed quite a few people, so it’s a great dish for entertaining.

grilled paella

A beautiful grilled paella is a wonderful option for a special occasion or just a casual dinner with friends. It’s still grilling season, so get on out there and make this!

socarrat

Look at that crusty bottom, the famous socarrat! That’s exactly what you want to see as you’re serving it up.

I hope you enjoy as much as I do!

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Shrimp and Sausage Paella on the Grill
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 lb. jumbo shrimp, cleaned and deveined and tail on, dried of all moisture and tossed with a little olive oil, salt and pepper
  • ½ lb. smoked andouille sausage or any smoked sausage of your choice, sliced
  • 1½ cups of short grain rice, valencia, bomba, arborio or carnaroli
  • 1 white onion, finely chopped
  • 4 small fresh tomatoes, chopped
  • 5 cloves, garlic chopped
  • 1 Paellero spice packet or a pinch of saffron and a teaspoon of smoked paprika
  • 2 heaping Tablespoons of a roasted red pepper sauce, store bought or made by whizzing roasted red peppers in a food processor
  • 1 quart of chicken broth, warmed up
  • 1 red, yellow and orange pepper sliced thin
  • 1 cup of frozen peas, defrosted
  • parsley and lemon wedges for garnish
  • olive oil
Instructions
  1. Heat your grill up, for gas have all burners on and leave on medium high
  2. Put the paella pan on and drizzle the bottom with olive oil.
  3. When pan is hot add the sliced smoked sausage tossing for a couple of minutes.
  4. Add the onions and garlic until you start to smell them.
  5. Add chopped tomatoes, the rice and the spices, tossing and toasting the rice for a few minutes.
  6. Add the roasted red pepper sauce, mixing until incorporated.
  7. Then add in 2 cups of the warm broth making sure the rice is evenly spread across the bottom of the pan, now is the time you do not stir. Just make sure the sausage is evenly distributed as well.
  8. Place the thinly cut peppers all around.
  9. Add 2 more cups of warm broth then distribute the shrimp all around the paella pan.
  10. Toss in the peas and put the lid on the grill down and let it go for a few minutes.
  11. If it's looking dry add 2 more cups of the broth, but no stirring.
  12. You can taste test the edges, because that will be the last to get tender, so you'll know when it's ready when the rice is tender but firm to the bite.
  13. Remove, garnish with lemon wedges and parsley.
  14. Serve it up right in the pan.

 

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Pork Tenderloin with Figs, Onions and Olives

pork and figs

Have you ever paired pork tenderloin with figs? If not, you’re in for a real treat. As you know pork goes very well with fruit, think apples and pork, but when paired with sweet and luscious figs the flavor combination is beyond words!

The pork tenderloin gets marinated for a while, then gets roasted with sweet red onions, green and black olives and plumped out poached fresh figs.

fig leaves

For years, five to be exact, we tried growing our own figs, we have the most beautiful, healthy looking fig tree with enormous leaves, but not one fig has ever been produced, we have a dud, and we might just pull it out this year and attempt to buy another variety and start over, but it’s hard when the leaves look this good.

boxed figs

So in the meantime when I see a display of figs like this I jump for joy and grab a couple of boxes.

figs

The figs were unblemished, in premo condition, sweet and ripe, what more could a girl ask for!

cut figs

These little jewels got placed into a poaching liquid to cook down and concentrate their flavor a bit, and to create the most delicious, syrupy sauce which will act as a beautiful glaze for the pork tenderloin.

pork and fig

What you have here is a sweet and savory combination that balances quite nicely with the briny olives and herbs.

pork and figPlated pork and fig

Make this please, it’s pure decadence!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Pork Tenderloin with Figs, Onions and Olives
 
Make this when fresh figs are nice and ripe for a delicious combination of sweet and savory
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 pork tenderloin about 1½ lbs. ( silver skin removed)
  • 1 dozen fresh, ripe figs, cut lengthwise
  • green and black olives some cracked and pitted, a good handful
  • 1 large red onion, quartered leaving the stem and root attached
  • MARINADE INGREDIENTSFOR PORK
  • 2 tablespoons, fig preserves
  • 2 tablespoons grainy mustard
  • 2 small garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon each of thyme and rosemary leaves
  • salt and pepper
  • POACHING LIQUID FOR FIGS
  • ¼ cup of red wine and ½ cup of water or all water if you prefer
  • ¼ cup or so of sweetner, honey, brown sugar or white sugar
  • ¼ cup or so of fig preserves or fig butter
Instructions
  1. First, you want to poach your figs so they can cool down and have the syrup thicken..
  2. In a saucepan, on low heat, add everything in but the figs just until the sugar dissolves, then put your figs in and poach them on low until they absorb the flavors and plump up and you see the juice oozing out, depending on how ripe your figs are you may need to add a little more liquid while it's poaching. When finished let it cool down and thcken up.
  3. Marinate the pork tenderloin by making a paste of the chopped herbs, garlic, mustard, fig preserves, salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.
  4. Rub marinate all over the pork tenderloin and let it sit for at least a half hour.
  5. Sear the pork tenderloin on all sides, getting a nice golden brown.
  6. Place the seared tenderloin into a baking dish along with your quartered and fanned out red onion and the olives.
  7. Add the plumped up and thickend figs all around the baking dish and spoon some of the thick syrup on the top and sides of the seared tenderloin, this will act as a glaze.
  8. Roast at 400F for 20 minutes or until internal meat thermometer reaches 145
  9. Let it rest 5 minutes before slicing.
  10. Make sure each serving has a little bit of everything.

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Summer Stacked Vegetable Caprese

stacked vegetable caprese

Healthy summer vegetables roasted then layered and stacked together along with all the makings for a caprese salad, that best describes this Summer Stacked Vegetable Caprese. The flavors of summer all stacked into one lovely bundle.

This can be served as an appetizer, a light lunch or even a side dish, it’s colorful and it tastes amazing, like a caprese on steroids!

aloha peppers

I was lucky enough to find these beautiful Aloha peppers when I made my veggie/caprese stacks but you can certainly use a mix of yellow and red bell peppers to get the same color effect.

roasted vegetables

I roasted all my vegetables but you can certainly grill them as well. I used eggplant that had the skin peeled off in a zebra effect, some left on and some peeled off.

The peppers were cut around 3/4 of an inch thick to keep them sturdy enough to hold the other veggies. You’ll also want to reserve and cook the tops for use in the presentation, slices of zucchini were also roasted.

All vegetables were roasted at 400F. on a baking sheet drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper, cooked until lightly golden until tender but not overcooked.

Slice up some ripe summer tomatoes and have your mozzarella sliced and ready to go.

Fresh basil is a must, along with basil pesto for added yummy flavor.

stacked vegetable caprese

Then it’s all about the stacking, so find a pretty plate and first add the pepper ring, inside the ring stick a eggplant slice and swipe a little pesto on it.

Next, add your sliced mozzarella with a basil leaf on top.

Top the mozzarella with a ripe tomato slice swiped with pesto and a drizzle of olive oil.

Repeat with another pepper ring and this time add the zucchini and swipe the top with pesto.

Then another mozzarella slice with a fresh basil leaf.

Repeat with another tomato slice swiped with pesto and a drizzle of olive oil.

Place the pepper top that you reserved to cap it off, place a skewer right down the center to keep it nice and secure then add some pesto on the top.

 

stacked vegetable caprese

You can decorate the plate with swirls of pesto and balsamic glaze, serve this with a knife and fork and enjoy!

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Spaghetti with Blistered Tomatoes, Burrata and Corn

spaghetti with tomatoes

This recipe is summer freshness at it’s best, and the great thing about it is that the preparation is nice and simple but yields the most amazing results!

What you’re looking at are strands of spaghetti intertwined with juicy, cherry tomatoes that have burst and blistered in the oven to create the most luxurious tomato and garlic flavored sauce with the special addition of sweet, fresh corn kernels and burrata cheese.

spaghetti with tomatoes

Fresh summer flavors are what makes this dish such a hit, there’s no special skills you need in making it because the ingredients speak for themselves.

Do a search and you’ll see roasted tomatoes and pasta all over the place, but I make this every summer and this is my way of doing it and what works for me. So rather than a recipe at the bottom of the post I’ll just walk you through the steps now.

blistered tomatoes

I use a quarter sheet pan that has a rim on it. Heat the oven to 425F and line the pan with foil. Lining it with foil helps to gather and hold on to those precious, silky juices, plus it helps prevents the juices from burning off.

I really don’t measure the amount of tomatoes I use, I just load the pan from rim to rim, single layer with cherry or grape tomatoes, you could use all red or colored.

I leave the tomatoes whole so they can burst on their own when ready.

Add in four cloves of crushed garlic, torn basil, salt, pepper and dowse it generously all over with extra virgin olive oil.

When you start to see the tomatoes split pull the pan out of the oven and with the tip of a small paring knife pierce each tomato to let the hot juices release, word of caution, lean back  because sometimes the juice will squirt out at you, then before it goes back into the oven add the fresh kernels of two ears of sweet corn, continue cooking until you see the tomatoes wrinkle and all the juices mingling together with the olive oil, garlic and corn.

blistered tomatoes and corn

It should look like this. Now all you have to do is cook up your spaghetti or pasta of your choice and then toss everything together, make sure you get every bit of that juice incorporated, use a rubber spatula to make sure you scrape off all that glorious juice. For this amount of saucey goodness I used twelve ounces of pasta.

spaghetti with tomatoes

When all the silky sauce is mixed in break open your burrata cheese, (as much as you want) and spread it on top, it will start to melt slightly, then adorn it with more basil, grated Parmigiano Reggiano and a quick drizzle of olive oil to finish it off.

spaghetti with tomatoes

That’s it, dig in and enjoy summer tasting at it’s best!

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Sorbetto di Limone Dressed Up in a Frozen Lemon Shell

sorbetto di limone

Sorbetto di Limone, or lemon sorbet is one of the most refreshing desserts to serve on a hot summer day.

This version is so easy to prepare because no ice cream maker is required, just purchase a quality, store bought lemon sorbet and whirl it up in a food processor together with dreamy mascarpone cheese.

The mascarpone gives the sorbet a wonderful creamy texture that goes so well with the sweet and tart lemon flavor of the sorbet.

What makes this version a little extra special is that it’s presented and served in a frozen lemon shell, yes, it’s a little more prep but so worth it for it’s impressive presentation.

I’ve posted before about this lovely marriage of the lemon sorbetto and the mascarpone cheese before but it’s my first time presenting it in a frozen lemon shell.

lemon shells

Let me first say that all this prep, every step for this recipe can be done days ahead and I recommend you doing that. You’ll want to give yourself at least three days ahead of time, but with that being said it’s prepared and ready to go on the day you’ll be serving it, just grab it right out of the freezer.

To prep the lemon shell look for larger sized lemons, if they’re too small you’re not going to have enough room to stuff it and believe me you’ll want all that goodness inside.  Cut the tip off the top of the lemon where the point is and set that aside.

lemon shells

Make a tiny slice off the bottom of the lemon because you want them to sit flat, being careful not to cut the bottom completely off. Next take a small pairing knife and cut around the flesh and scoop it out as best you can with a spoon or a grapefruit spoon, ( you can strain the juice and pulp and save it for later use) then take a lemon reamer and ream it out so the insides are nice and smooth.

Now you want to freeze the lemon shells along with all the tops that you cut off. Place them into a container single layer, cover and freeze hard.

 

lemon sorbetto

Let the sorbet and the mascarpone sit out on the counter for a while before you start the blending together, then the mix will go into a food processor.

lemon sorbetto with mascarpone

After the mascarpone and the lemon sorbetto have been blended together nicely without any lumps, feel free to add some lemon zest for more flavor, the mixture will be on the melted side so it has to go back into the freezer to get nice and frozen again, at least overnight.

sorbetto di limone

An elegant dessert that’s simple, light and so refreshing!

sorbetto di limonesorbetto di limone

Present this either on individual pretty plates or fancy martini glasses for an extra “WOW” from your guests.

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5.0 from 1 reviews
Sorbetto di Limone Dressed Up in a Frozen Lemon Shell
 
Can be, and should be made days before serving it.
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 pint lemon sorbetto/sorbet
  • 6oz. mascarpone cheese
  • lemon zest
  • large lemons, cleaned and scrubbed
  • mint leaves for garnish
  • NOTE;
  • This recipe can be doubled, tripled or what ever according to how many lemons you have and how deep your shells are. I always make extra because its nice to have it in the freezer.
Instructions
  1. PREPARING THE LEMON SHELLS
  2. Cut a third off the top of each lemon where the point is, save the tops.
  3. Slice a shallow cut on the bottom so it can sit up straight and flat being careful not to cut through to the inside.
  4. Hollow out each lemon with a pairing knife then scoop out with a spoon then use a lemon reamer to smooth it out inside, reserve pulp and juice for something else.
  5. Put them single layer into an airtight container and into the freezer they go until nice and hard along with the tops. ( Remember, this can be done days ahead)
  6. PREPARING THE SORBET MIX;
  7. Take your sorbet out of the freezer and set it on the counter so it can defrost and soften a little.
  8. The mascarpone can be close to room temp for easy no lump blending.
  9. In a food processor place the sorbet and the mascarpone, give it a whirl until it's nice and smooth.
  10. Place back into a container, add the zest and freeze it until hard again, overnight or longer is good.
  11. FILLING THE SHELLS
  12. When both things are nice and frozen just fill the shells with the sorbet mix and place the tops back on, at this point you can put them back into the freezer in a covered container until ready to serve.
  13. Serve them on pretty individual plates or martini glasses, garnish with one mint leaf on top.

 

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Summer Stone Fruit Clafoutis

stone fruit clafouti

Clafoutis is a rustic French dessert and it’s the perfect way to showcase seasonal stone fruits. This is the time of year when peaches, plums, nectarines, apricots and cherries are in abundance and peak condition. I can’t think of a better way to feature those summer stone fruits.

This delicious dessert comes together quickly, tossing all the ingredients into one bowl then mixing or blending the batter together until nice and smooth. The end result when baked will be a light, rich and custardy texture.

stone fruit

I used plums and nectarines in mine but feel free to use any combo of stone fruit that you like, just cut the fruit in half and remove the pits.

stone fruit clafouti

I personally like leaving the halves in tact, I like the way it looks visually but slicing the fruit and arranging them in the batter is pretty as well, I also like using a cast iron pan because of the heat retention and when it bakes you get nice crusty brown edges.

 

stone fruit clafouti

When it comes out of the oven it will look puffy but let it rest because it needs to deflate and settle down all around the fruit, you can serve it warm or cooled down completely, then pretty it up with some powdered sugar and toss on some nuts!

stone fruit clafouti

You can slice it or scoop it out of the pan, you can eat it as is or you can top it with whipped cream, ice cream or a dollop of mascarpone like I did.

stone fruit clafouti

Don’t be intimidated, this is one of the easiest desserts to make, you can be creative with whatever stone fruit you decide to use and forming it into your own rustic look.

Summer Stone Fruit Clafoutis
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 10" cast iron skillet or casserole dish
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • fresh stone fruit, pitted, halved or sliced, a mix of your favorites such as nectarines, cherries, plums, apricots or all of the same kind, enough to fit into the bottom of a 10 inch skillet, maybe a pound or a little less depending what kind of fruit you use.
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3 large eggs
  • ½ cup all purpose flour
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon, vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon, salt
  • powdered sugar for sprinkling
  • nuts for garnish, hazelnuts or slivered almonds
Instructions
  1. Heat the oven to 400F
  2. Butter the skillet sides and bottom.
  3. In a blender or bowl add the cream, eggs, sugar, vanilla, extract and salt and flour then wizz it until it's nice and smooth.
  4. I prefer mixing the batter in a blender because it comes out nice and smooth, but a hand mixer will work as well, just make sure there are no lumps.
  5. Gently pour the batter into the buttered skillet then gently place your stone fruit all around.
  6. Put it into the oven for 10 minutes at 400F then reduce the temperature to 375F until it's deep golden on the edges.
  7. Oven's vary so keep checking but mine took about 45 minutes.
  8. Remove it from the oven and let it sit for a good 15 to 30 minutes, it will deflate and settle around the fruit.
  9. sprinkle with the powdered sugar and toss your nuts around.
  10. Scoop or cut a slice and serve as is or with ice cream, whipped cream or mascarpone.

 

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Zucchini Ribbon Rolls with Tapenade, Spinach and Parmesan Cheese

zucchini ribbon rolls

Zucchini ribbon rolls are such a wonderful summer appetizer, snack or side dish to make when zucchini is in abundance. Delicate ribbons of zucchini smeared with olive tapenade, shaved parmesan and shredded spinach. It’s a combination that packs a punch in flavor, yet it’s so fresh and light.

I actually saw this recipe in a Sunset magazine that I was reading on a plane coming home from vacation and I couldn’t wait to make it.

zucchini ribbon rolls

It’s super easy to make, no cooking involved just create your ribbons of raw zucchini by using either a mandoline or a veggie peeler as I did. Purchase a good quality jar of olive tapenade, shave up a pile of parmesan cheese and shred some raw baby spinach.

zucchini ribbon rolls

I’ve made these twice already and each time they quickly disappeared off of the platter, they’re just perfect for your next summer party. You can prep everything ahead but I actually like the way they taste after sitting for an hour, the zucchini softens slightly and all the flavors really mingle together.

zucchini ribbon rolls

Drizzle the top with the best olive oil you have so it can seep into these delicious little rolls to enrich the flavor even more.

For another version you might want to smear the zucchini ribbons with your favorite pesto, think basil, arugula, spinach or even sun-dried tomato to name a few, but the possibilities are really endless!

zucchini ribbon rolls

Enjoy these while the bounty of zucchini is upon us!

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Zucchini Ribbon Rolls with Tapenade, Spinach and Parmesan Cheese
 
Recipe adapted from Sunset Magazine July 2018
Author:
Ingredients
  • zucchini, ends trimmed and made into ribbons with either a mandoline or veggie peeler
  • parmesan cheese, shaved
  • baby spinach leaves, cut into thin ribbons
  • store -bought tapenade
  • olive oil
  • black pepper
Instructions
  1. Lay the ribbons on a flat surface, then smear each ribbon with tapenade.
  2. Place the parmesan shavings on the top.
  3. Put a generous pinch of the shredded spinach at the end of each slice.
  4. Roll up starting from the spinach end and close with toothpicks if you like.
  5. Place them on a platter, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with black pepper and scatter more cheese around.
  6. NOTE:
  7. Find zucchini that are wide enough so that when you make the ribbons you'll have some good surface to spread your ingredients on, so small ones wouldn't work. Also when making your ribbons, when you reach the seeds, turn the zucchini and keep peeling, do not use the seeded part for your ribbons.

 

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Fresh Berry Slab Pie

fresh berry slab pie

Fresh berry slab pie, I can’t think of a better dessert to serve up for all your upcoming summertime parties, especially with the fourth of July right around the corner.

Fresh berries are at their peak right now so it’s the perfect time to make this, you could use any combination of berries you like or even just one type, here I used mostly blueberries with an added pint of raspberries for a little pop of color.

I have to admit this is the first time I made a slab pie and now I don’t think I’ll ever use a round pie pan again.

fresh berry slab pie

A slab pie is made on a rimmed sheet pan, I used a quarter sized sheet pan, and I got twelve good size servings from it, although you can get adventurous and use a large half sized sheet pan for a really big crowd, probably doubling everything, you bakers would know how to do that correctly.

What I like about making a slab pie is that it’s easy to cut and serve, it’s not messy because you get nice square pieces and it travels well.

You can cover the top with a full crust or be a little creative with some cutouts to match the occasion, I used stars to celebrate the fourth of July.

berries and dough

I also used refrigerated pie dough, my favorite being from Trader Joe’s because why not? It tastes excellent and it makes this berry slab pie a breeze to put together, but in saying that I’m sure all you fabulous bakers out there can whip up an excellent pie dough in no time!

pie dough

Even though I use refrigerated pie dough I still gather up the dough, form it into a ball and roll it out myself, which you’ll need to do anyway for this because a nice rectangle size is required.

fresh berry slab pie

Just make sure you roll out enough dough to form a pretty crust all the way around. I bought two boxes just to make sure I would have enough for everything, including my stars because I didn’t know at the time how many I would need to cover the top.

star dough cutouts

It was fun and easy to do, I just used a cookie cutter which would make the possibilities endless to top it off with, or just go with a classic lattice crust as well, but I do think it looks really nice having the berries show through instead of covering the whole top with a crust.

fresh berry slab pie

All brushed with egg so it gets nicely golden and ready for the oven!

fresh berry slab pie

This was out of this world good, now I want to make a peach slab pie and of course an apple one in the fall.

fresh berry slab pie

Vanilla ice cream is a must!

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5.0 from 1 reviews
Fresh Berry Slab Pie
 
Filling recipe adapted from Martha Stewart
Author:
Ingredients
  • standard ¼ sized rimmed sheet pan for the slab pie but place it on a larger sheet pan to catch drips in the oven when baking.
  • 2 boxes of refrigerated dough, I used Trader Joe's. ( You might end up with a little extra) If frozen defrost according to package.
  • 8 cups of fresh berries, I used mostly blueberries with a pint of raspberries but you can add blackberries or just use one type, whatever you prefer.
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons corn starch
  • 1 Tablespoon of lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • 1 egg whisked with a bit of water to brush over the top and crust
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 400F.
  2. In a large bowl add the berries, zest, cornstarch, sugar, and lemon juice, toss gently to make sure everything is coated, set aside to form crust.
  3. Take one box of the dough, ball it together and roll it out into a rectangle making sure you have enough over hang to make a nice edge all the way around. I found I needed to use more dough so I opened the second box and pieced it together giving me more for my over hang which was really easy.
  4. Once the bottom crust is formed and edges nicely crimped, scoop out the berry filling into it, don't pour it because you don't need the excess juice that might be on the bottom of the bowl, so just scoop it out.
  5. Now take more dough and roll it out so you can do cutouts if you like. I did stars on mine.
  6. Place the cutouts over the berries.
  7. Use your egg wash and with a pastry brush cover the edge of the crust and the cutouts, this will ensure a nice golden color when finished.
  8. NOW REDUCE TEMPERATURE TO 375F.
  9. Place the prepared pie into the oven and set your timer for 60 minutes, but check at 55 minutes to see how it looks.
  10. I added 10 more minutes to mine to get the color I wanted, and you should be able to see the blueberries thickening and slightly bubbling, if it looks too runny put it in for a few minutes more.
  11. Let it cool way before eating this, I suggest hours.
  12. I made mine in the morning and served it after dinner, it cut beautiful that way.
  13. It can stay out for 2 days un refrigerated with foil loosely covering it, after 2 days refrigerate, that is if you have leftovers.
  14. Serves 10- 12
  15. Serve with a scoop of ice cream, you won't regret it!

 

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Pesto Pappardelle Pasta with Zucchini Ribbons

pesto pappardelle pasta

I love this time of year when I can walk outside into my back yard and pick enough fresh basil to make a batch of pesto. Usually the first time that I make pesto I immediately have to cook up some sort of pasta with it, there’s nothing like freshly made basil pesto swirled into warm pasta, perfection at it’s best!

zucchini ribbons and pappardelle pasta

I decided on making pappardelle pasta this time, pappardelle is a large, broad and flat noodle and it goes really well with the addition of some zucchini ribbons  tossed into the warm pasta at the end. The long, wide zucchini ribbons mimic the pappardelle and adds a nice touch to the freshly made pesto.

A vegetable peeler is a great tool to use when making zucchini ribbons and it’s easy to do, but just make sure you keep turning the zucchini when you reach the seeds like I did, shown in the above photo.

home grown basil

To make the basil pesto gather up the best leaves you can find, ones that are unblemished.

making basil pesto

A tip I learned a long time ago was to blanch the basil in boiling water for just fifteen seconds then immediately plunge it into cold ice water to shock it and stop the cooking process. By doing this the pesto will stay a nice bright green color, it won’t oxidize and have that dark green color on top which is not so visually appealing.

After you scoop the leaves out of the water make sure you give them a really good squeeze, removing as much water as you can. Another tip I learned a while back was to use a potato ricer for squeezing out the water, it works wonders, the handle comes down and it easily pushes all the excess water through the holes beneath, but if you don’t have a ricer just wrap it up in a tea towel and twist it until it’s nice and dry.

basil pesto ingredients

Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano is a must for a quality tasting pesto as well as a bit of garlic, good olive oil and lightly toasted walnuts. I stopped using pine nuts a while ago it’s hard to find descent ones and the price is outrageous, plus I have really come to love it with the toasted walnuts anyway.

basil pesto

I like using a food processor to make my pesto it’s quick and easy and then I store it in the fridge using glass jars, pesto also freezes really well.

pesto pappardelle pasta

No need to cook the zucchini ribbons at all you just toss them raw right into the warm, strained pasta that has been tossed with the fresh basil pesto.

pesto pappardelle pasta

This is such a fresh and vibrant tasting pasta dish to make when basil is in abundance this time of year, it’s even good cold as a salad with some grilled chicken or shrimp.

Don’t stop at only pasta though fresh pesto can be slathered on just about anything, use your imagination and get creative!

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5.0 from 2 reviews
Pesto Pappardelle Pasta with Zucchini Ribbons
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • BASIL PESTO
  • 4 cups of solidly packed basil leaves, unblemished and washed
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • ½ cup toasted walnuts
  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • FOR THE PASTA
  • ½ lb. pappardelle pasta
  • 2 zucchini and 1 yellow squash or 3 zucchini, medium sized made into ribbons with a veggie peeler
  • basil pesto, no measurement just enough to coat the warm pasta to your liking
  • a few basil leaves, toasted walnuts and grated cheese for garnish
Instructions
  1. TO MAKE THE PESTO
  2. Blanch the basil in boiling water for just 15 seconds.
  3. Immediately remove, scoop out with a spider and place into an ice bath to stop the cooking.
  4. Squeeze out all the water from the blanched basil.
  5. In a food processor add the nuts, then garlic and basil and grated cheese, combine.
  6. Now while the processor is running stream enough olive oil down the shoot until you get a nice loose consistency.
  7. Place into a glass jar and refrigerate until ready to use, I got a little over 2 pints.
  8. Pesto stays well in the fridge for at least 3 weeks or in the freezer for over a month.
  9. TO MAKE THE PESTO PAPPARDELLE PASTA WITH ZUCCHINI RIBBONS
  10. Cook pasta according to directions al'dente, reserve a little pasta water if need be for incorporating.
  11. Scoop out and place into a large bowl.
  12. Add in enough pesto to your taste and liking, if it seems to thick loosen it up with some of the warm pasta water you reserved.
  13. Toss in the raw zucchini ribbons while the pasta is still hot, tossing and coating with the pasta and pesto.
  14. Arrange everything onto a nice platter.
  15. Add some small basil leaves, some toasted walnuts, extra grated cheese and a drizzle of olive oil all over for garnish.
  16. Enjoy!

 

Signature

Easy Summer Limoncello Tiramisu

limoncello tiramisu

I can’t think of a more luscious dessert that’s easy to make and serve during the summertime, than this limoncello tiramisu.

Ladyfingers soaked in limoncello liquor and layered between a combination of mascarpone and whipped cream that’s streaked with lemon curd. The more it sits the better it gets, so make it hours before your guests arrive or better yet let it sit overnight so all the flavors can infuse and mingle together.

I love to serve this tiramisu in individual glasses, anything pretty and see-through is best, use your favorite glassware something four to six ounces is enough especially after a large meal.

limoncello tiramisu

This is so easy to put together, there are no raw eggs involved like in the classic tiramisu which always makes me a little squeamish anyway, and there’s no need to make the lemon curd either, just pick up a jar at the store, every brand I’ve bought always tastes decadent to me, just make sure it’s pure lemon curd.

The key ingredient is the Savoiardi Italian ladyfingers, they’re the crispy ones not the soft ones and hold up to the limoncello when soaking them.

whipped mascarpone

The heavy whipped cream gets folded gently into the cheese and lemon curd mixture, seriously just that alone is to die for!

limoncello tiramisu

I’ve made this many ways, sometimes I’ll use just straight up limoncello for the dipping, but sometimes you’ll find that there are bottles of limoncello that might be stronger than others especially homemade, so in that case I add a little water and a bit of sugar with lemon juice to tone down the strength of the alcohol a bit, taste it to your liking and your guests and adjust accordingly.

Cut your lady fingers in half and then in a shallow dish do a quick dip on both sides of the cookie, one at a time, being careful not to over soak too much because they could easily fall apart.

If you prefer not to use limoncello liquor you can use straight up lemon juice to replace it adding a little sugar and water to cut the tartness if need be and then you’ll have a lemon tiramisu!

limoncello tiramisulimoncello tiramisulimoncello tiramisuslice of tiramisu

If you like to forgo the small individual servings, just double the recipe, make everything the same way layering it into a 9 x 13 inch glass pan with the cream, curd and whole lady fingers instead of sliced.

Rich and creamy, sweet and tart, anything lemon just screams summertime to me, easily one of my top favorite desserts to serve during the summer and honestly as soon as spring arrives. Think Easter!

I hope I’ve inspired you to make this incredible tiramisu with a boozy twist of limoncello for your next dinner party, I think you’ll love it!

Easy Summer Limoncello Tiramisu
 
Makes 6- 4 oz. individual serving size. I recommend using a pretty see-through glass vessels of some sort. If you're making more or have larger glassware just double the recipe.
Author:
Ingredients
  • CREAM MIXTURE
  • 1- 8 oz. tub of mascarpone cream, room temperature
  • 1 cup of heavy cream
  • 1- 10 oz. jar of lemon curd
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1- 7 oz. package of Savoiardi ladyfingers, half of the bag with each cookie cut in half
  • DIPPING MIXTURE
  • ¾ cup of limoncello
  • ¾ cup of warm water
  • 3-4 tablespoons, lemon juice
  • a couple tablespoons of granulated sugar to taste dissolved into it
  • Garnish
  • lemon zest and raspberries
Instructions
  1. LIMONCELLO MIX
  2. In a shallow bowl mix up your limoncello for dipping, either straight up or cut it with the water, lemon juice and sugar if alcohol content is too high for your taste.
  3. CREAM MIXTURES
  4. In a bowl with an electric hand mixer, add the mascarpone cream, the zest of one lemon, and two tablespoons of powdered sugar, mix until smooth and creamy.
  5. Fold in ¾ of the 10 oz. jar of lemon curd into the cheese mixture.
  6. In a separate bowl whip up the heavy cream until you have stiff peaks.
  7. Fold the heavy cream gently into the mascarpone and lemon curd mixture until well combined.
  8. LAYERING
  9. Start with a little cream on the bottom then add the dipped ladyfingers on top, arranging it to fit your glass, then more cream mixture.
  10. Just keep repeating til you get to the top of the glass.
  11. Garnish with lemon zest, a drizzle with the remaining lemon curd and a raspberry.
  12. Cover gently with plastic wrap and refrigerate hours before serving or preferably overnight.

 

 

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How To Make Grilled Artichokes Italian-Style

grilled artichokes

 

Today I’m going to show you step by step how to make grilled artichokes, a must for summer entertaining. This is my favorite side dish and sometimes appetizer to make during the the grilling season. Present a big platter of these smoky grilled artichokes to your guests and watch them disappear quickly. I’m certain you’ll be making them over and over throughout the season.

These lovelies are lightly stuffed, not with the traditional breadcrumb mixture but with the pronounced flavor of grated parmesan, or pecorino cheese, fresh parsley and lemon zest. The grill adds a smoky dimension and the cheese mixture when melted through the layer of leaves, takes the flavors over the top!

grilled artichokes

 

And if that’s not enough to rock your world you can dip each leaf into a simply made bright and citrusy lemon and garlic aioli. The recipe for the aioli will be provided at the end of the post, but first lets get these artichokes prepped because you can’t put them straight on the grill raw, they have to be pre-cooked by either steaming or boiling them first.prepping artichokes

Choose a nice medium sized fresh artichokes, you’ll want to cut the very end of the stem off, then if the stem is long enough use a veggie peeler and peel the top layer off of the stem, because that’s edible too.

Remove and tear off the small leaves at the bottom of the artichoke by hand then turn it on it’s side and with a sharp serrated knife cut about a third of the top off all the way through, then immediately rub all the cut surfaces with a raw lemon, because artichokes oxidize fast.

If you see any remaining outer leaves that have a pointy top just snip the tip off with a pair of scissors, remember rub all cut surfaces with lemon.

Now turn the artichoke cut side down and slice it right through the middle like I did in the photo above leaving the choke and spiny thistle fuzz in tact. It’s so much easier and neater to remove it all after they’ve been cooked and become tender throughout.

I like to steam my artichokes in water in a pot that has a lid. I throw in a few slices of lemon, whole garlic cloves, salt, pepper and a good drizzle of olive oil. Get the water to a boil then simmer it down and put the lid on.  The cooking time varies according to the size of the artichokes that you have, but a good rule of thumb is if you can tug at a leaf and it comes off easily with no effort they’re pretty much done, but taste it to make sure.

Take the cooked artichokes out with tongs making sure the water is drained out by turning them upside down, then set aside and let them cool down.

 

prepping artichokes

To clean the insides of all the spiny chokes I like to use a grapefruit spoon to gently scrape it out, like I said it comes out really easy after the artichokes are steamed.

Now at this point if you were making them for a party the prep is done, you could refrigerate them as is ready to be stuffed for the day you’re going to be grilling them.

Try not to be intimidated by the steps above, it’s really pretty easy and once you get the hang of it everything else is a breeze.

stuffing artichokes

As for the cheese mixture there are no specific measurements, again it all depends on how many artichokes you’ll be making, just grab a bowl put a handful or two of grated parmesan, pecorino or even a mix of both, the zest of one lemon and a handful of chopped parsley, if you need more, make more as you go, there’s no set rule here.

Take a spoon with some of the cheese mixture on it and stuff it into the layered artichoke leaves, you don’t need to over stuff it, a little on each leaf layer is fine.

Finally drizzle olive oil all over the top with a few grinds of black pepper, you won’t need salt because the cheese is salty enough.

grilled artichokes

Get your grill nice and hot, I put mine on high, then place them cut side down and don’t move them until you see deep golden char marks. The cheese mixture will also be melty and slightly crispy, at this point they’re done just take them off  because you don’t need to flip them over, remember they’re already cooked through.

grilled artichokesgrilled artichokes

Cheesy goodness with a nice smoky dimension all throughout, delicious warm or at room temperature.

grilled artichokes

If you haven’t had a grilled artichoke yet I promise you you’re in for a special treat!

grilled artichokes

Now for that citrusy aioli for dipping that I promised you, go grab a bowl and add a few big tablespoons of good quality mayo, one smashed or grated garlic clove, lemon zest and enough fresh lemon juice to thin it out into a dipping consistency with some salt and pepper to taste, I told you it was easy!

Now go ahead and make some grilled artichokes, happy grilling!

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Party Worthy Roasted Potato Salad

roasted potato salad

This roasted potato salad is a must for summer parties, graduations and backyard BBQs. It’s healthy, vibrant in color with lots of crunch with a much lighter take on the classic potato salad because this one is not ladened down with heavy mayo.

Another benefit of no mayo is that it can sit out on a warm sunny day and you won’t have to worry about it going bad.

roasted potatoes

Look for the petite sized potatoes, when cut in half they’re a nice bite size. I used red and white, but the tri-color with the purple potatoes would be nice as well

Make sure you don’t over roast them, or dowse them with too much olive oil, they’ll be coated with the dressing later, just toss them into a bowl with a little drizzle to coat them, add in salt and pepper then put them on a sheet pan in a 425F oven.

Mine took about fifteen minutes turning them over once, you want them tender but on the firm side.

roasted potato salad

The crunch factor comes from sliced rainbow colored mini peppers, sliced radishes, red and green onion along with fresh arugula, olives, chives and parsley.

roasted potato salad

You don’t really need exact amounts for this depending on how big your platter will be and how many potatoes you’ll be making. I like to mix everything together in a big bowl first, slicing the veggies and adding the rest as I go along making sure it looks balanced with color and crunch, adding the arugula last by handfuls.

The dressing is made with equal amounts of olive oil and fresh lemon juice, a squeeze of dijon and 1 garlic clove, whisked together and spooned over the top.

roasted potato salad

The potatoes can be roasted the day before or the morning of, they should be at room temp or chilled before adding the other ingredients, not hot from the oven.

It’s colorful and vibrant and it makes the perfect party dish and side to almost anything you’ll be grilling up this season.

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

5.0 from 3 reviews
Party Worthy Roasted Potato Salad
 
You don't need exact ingredients for this, it depends on how many potatoes you roast, just add the veggies and herbs to your liking making sure it's balanced with everything.
Author:
Ingredients
  • mini petite potatoes, drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper, cut in half roasted in a 425F oven for about 15 minutes turning once and making sure they are fork tender but still firm. Let them cool down.
  • sliced rainbow colored mini peppers
  • thin sliced radishes
  • small nicoise olives, drained
  • chopped red and green onion
  • fresh arugula
  • chives and parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Place the roasted potatoes and everything else into a big bowl, add all the other ingredients, tasting as you go along and making sure you have enough to make it look balanced.
  2. Carefully toss with your clean hands and place the salad onto a pretty platter.
  3. Spoon the dressing all over it.
  4. THE DRESSING;
  5. Equal parts of olive oil, fresh lemon juice, one garlic clove, a squeeze of dijon, salt and pepper.
  6. Whisk it up to incorporate.
  7. NOTE: The potatoes can be done the morning of or day before, then mix with everything else shortly before serving.

 

 

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Eggs and Veggies, The Perfect Pairing

egg with rapini

Eggs in combination with veggies have produced many a meal in my house for breakfast, lunch and dinner over the years and it’s still evolving. It’s still evolving because the variety of veggies are endless and because eggs can be prepared in so many different ways.

 

Take for example this crispy egg with leftover garlicky rapini, I’ve eaten this for breakfast, lunch and dinner, I always make extra rapini so I can make this combination. If you never had a crispy egg before just google “how to make a crispy egg” there’s a certain technique to it and the result will give you a souffled white with lacy, crispy edges and a nice runny yolk. I like to top mine with red pepper flakes, oregano, black pepper and salt.egg with asparagus

 

Here’s a winning combination fit for a fancy breakfast or brunch, a poached egg on a bed of roasted asparagus with crispy prosciutto and shaved parmesan, the creamy yolk when broken open oozes out and mingles with all the flavors, it’s heavenly!eggs with peppers

Peppers and eggs, I seriously grew up on this as a kid, the best sandwich ever with Italian bread, a great lunch or dinner with a salad on the side.eggs with artichokes

 

This is a favorite of mine, a recipe from Ina Garten, it’s her herb-baked eggs and it’s wonderful for a lazy Sunday morning. You can make this in individual gratin dishes like Ina, or as I did, all in one pan. My twist on it is to add in some artichoke hearts, a perfect addition I think to the creamy herbs and cheese, but make sure you have some toasted, crispy bread for dipping.

egg caprese

 

This caprese omelet can be a staple for you this summer made with fresh mozzarella, garden basil and summer tomatoes, nice for brunch and a light dinner..eggs with spring veggie

 

It’s spring here in Chicago and I love making my Spring Vegetable Frittata with Brie, with tender zucchini, asparagus and peas. I can go on and on about frittata’s they’re a staple. They’re not just for breakfast or lunch either, frittata’s make the best dinner with a side salad and crusty bread of course.

eggs with string beans

 

Pressed for time? You can always make this for dinner, Eggs in Purgatory, the way I make it has evolved over the years but here’s my basic recipe.

 

You can use chunky tomatoes or straight up marinara as I did above but I always add in some vegetables and herbs, here I added haricot verts with a few olives.eggs with broccolini

My clean out the fridge frittata with a little bit of this and a little bit of that like broccolini, mushrooms, red pepper and fresh mozzarella. It doesn’t’ take a lot of ingredients to put a meal on the table, a couple of mushrooms, a handful of broccolini and a red pepper sliced around some bruised spots creates a nice meal.

cauliflower steaks

 

The other day I sliced rainbow colored cauliflower into “steaks” and roasted them, basically I only get two or three nicely shaped slices from a head of cauliflower because I cut them an inch thick, the leftover florets can then be tossed into a frittata of course!eggs and cauliflower

 

Like this one, so delicious and colorful too..eggs with cauliflower

And lastly my version of “steak and eggs“. A crispy egg perched on top of a roasted cauliflower steak sitting in a pool of marinara, healthy, hearty and delicious and perfect for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Endless meals can be made with veggies and eggs, these are just a few of my favorites. Go for what’s in season and just let your creative juices flow!

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Pan-Fried Ricotta Gnocchi with Asparagus and Peas

pan-fried ricotta gnocchi

Pan-fried ricotta gnocchi is golden and crispy on the outside and soft and pillowy on the inside. Ricotta creates such a light and dreamy homemade gnocchi, which I much prefer over the potato version.

This recipe is great for spring, it’s light and doesn’t require a heavy sauce of any kind because it’s tossed together with fresh tender asparagus, peas, parmesan cheese, lemon zest and olive oil and it pairs perfectly with the soft and crispy bite of the pan-fried gnocchi. ricotta gnocchi

Some people think that making gnocchi is intimidating, but actually it’s easier than you think, and there’s absolutely no comparison to tasteless store bought, at least the ones I’ve tried.

Making them yourself is totally worth the effort and within no time you’ll get the hang of it, and they don’t have to be so picture perfect, that’s the special quality of making them homemade.

 

If you buy your ricotta from a good Italian deli like I do you’re usually going to have some liquid in the container when you bring it home, that needs to be drained really well to achieve a good gnocchi dough, in fact I think it is key.

 

I like to drain my ricotta in a strainer over a bowl that I keep in my fridge overnight, when your ricotta is nice and cold the dough comes together beautifully, if the ricotta is warm or room temperature it tends to be more sticky and you’ll keep adding more flour which in turn makes your gnocchi heavier, and we don’t want heavy gnocchi do we? We want it nice and fluffy.ricotta gnocchi

 

Whenever I make gnocchi I never serve them on the same day, I actually prefer to freeze them ahead of time and for some reason I think they cook up better from the frozen state, but one very important thing that I do before I freeze them is to boil up a couple just to make sure they don’t come apart, if they do, I’ll add a little more flour to the dough, just a little at a time. Then retest a couple more until they’re perfect, intact little dumplings holding together nicely in a gentle boil.

Gnocchi take only a few minutes to cook, toss them into a rolling gentle boil with salted water, give them one good stir, let them rise to the top and boil for an additional 1-2 minutes, scoop them out with a wide hand strainer. Never pour them directly into a strainer for fear they might break, you must be gentle and handle with care.

For the pan-fried version you scoop them out of the water and immediately toss them into a skillet with a mix of butter and olive oil letting them get slightly crispy golden on each side.

If you’re going through the trouble of making homemade gnocchi you might as well make a double batch like I do, you’ll be glad you did and besides it’s nice to have a stash set aside in your freezer, some for pan-frying and some for boiling and tossing into your favorite sauce.pan-fried ricotta gnocchi

I’m in love with this dish, it’s perfect for springtime, easy enough to make mid week and elegant enough to serve at a dinner party.pan-fried ricotta gnocchi

Pan-fried ricotta gnocchi gives you a little different take on the traditional boiled gnocchi, and the texture of the gnocchi holds up really well to the spring veggies you’re highlighting, but either way you choose to prepare it you can’t go wrong.

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5.0 from 2 reviews
Pan-Fried Ricotta Gnocchi with Asparagus and Peas
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • FOR THE RICOTTA GNOCCHI
  • 1½ cup of drained ricotta, nice and cold
  • ½ cup of grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1 teaspoon of salt and a few grinds of black pepper
  • 1 cup or so of unbleached all purpose flour
  • VEGETABLE TOSS
  • 1 bunch of tender asparagus, chopped small like pea size but leaving the pretty tips on
  • 1 cup of frozen, defrosted peas
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 finely chopped garlic cloves
  • olive oil for drizzle
  • a knob of butter
  • more Parmigiano for garnish
Instructions
  1. PREPPING THE VEGGIES
  2. In a separate skillet, drizzled with olive oil, toss in your chopped asparagus, garlic and defrosted peas, sauteing until nicely al-dente, then set aside.
  3. FOR THE GNOCCHI
  4. Place ricotta, grated cheese, salt and pepper into a bowl, whisk egg then add in.
  5. If ricotta is lumpy, which it usually is, take a hand mixer on low to break up the lumps and just to incorporate all the ingredients.
  6. Then fold in flour, little by little, you might need less or you might need more, but dough should come together quickly and it will feel slightly sticky.
  7. Lightly flour your finger tips and a board.
  8. Cut off a chunk then roll it into a round snake, then cut off bite size pieces.
  9. Leave as is or make indention's with a gnocchi board or the tines of a fork.
  10. At this point you can freeze them single layer, then once frozen place them into zip lock bags, they stay good for a month.
  11. WHEN READY TO COOK THE FROZEN GNOCCHI
  12. Toss them into salted boiling water, let them float to the top and cook maybe another minute or so, then scoop them out carefully with a hand strainer, like a spider.
  13. For pan-fried, drain them first then crisp them up in an additional skillet with a good drizzle of olive oil and a small knob of butter, turning them until they crisp up golden on each side.
  14. Then incorporate the precooked veggies you had set aside together with the golden crisp gnocchi.
  15. Place them onto a platter adding more grated cheese of course, more olive oil and scatter the lemon zest all around.
  16. Happy Spring!

 

Signature

Baked Eggplant Parmigiana

baked eggplant parmigiana

Baked eggplant parmigiana is a much lighter take on the classic breaded and fried version. Don’t get me wrong, I love eggplant and have breaded and fried my own fair share of eggplant over the years many, many times.

Normally it would be a three step process, flour, egg, bread crumbs  or more often I would make it like my mother-in-law did, she whipped up a batter of flour, eggs, water to thin it, lots of romano cheese and parsley, oh it’s so good!

Then I would dip the eggplant slices into the batter and start frying, always adding more oil because eggplant soaks up oil like a sponge and there never seemed to be enough.

Most times I would have to start over and clean the pan out in between frying because the crumbs left in the pan would start to burn, so it was a long and messy process and the clean up on my stove would take a while, to say the least!

baked eggplant

Years later I’ve really come to love the baked version better, it’s lighter, healthier but even more than that I think the flavor of the eggplant really shines through. My version isn’t buried in sauce or cheese either, to me less is more, with the added bonus of a clean stove!

baked eggplant

You need a hot oven to prep your eggplant slices, and by cutting them to almost an inch thick this ensures a crispy bottom with a nice tender bite of eggplant meat in between, because they do shrink down.

baked eggplant

I also like to take my veggie peeler and and peel off strips of skin to create a zebra like pattern of skin and no-skin, I think it looks nice and gives structure to the dish, and when cooked it melts in your mouth anyway.

Years ago I would salt them down and place something heavy on top to take the bitterness out, I don’t do that anymore I think the varieties today are perfectly fine and not bitter.

baked eggplant parmigiana

Quality ingredients are always a must, fresh mozzarella,(not the dry shredded kind), good pecorino, fresh basil and homemade marinara, simple and light flavored with garlic and basil.

baked eggplant parmigiana

This takes no time at all to make, you can even roast the eggplant ahead of time and assemble it the next day, it’s easy enough to make mid week and delicious for a special dinner party.

I’ve even made it on a rimmed sheet pan for a large group, you can fit quite a few pieces of eggplant on a half size sheet pan, perfect for a party!

baked eggplant parmigiana

I promise you won’t sacrifice any flavor on this lightened up, baked version of the classic eggplant parmigiana, it’s just as delicious and you’ll feel good about eating it!

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5.0 from 1 reviews
Baked Eggplant Parmigiana
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 3 medium sized eggplants peeled in a zebra effect with some skin on and some skin off, sliced ¾ inch thick
  • 8 oz. fresh mozzarella, padded dry
  • pecorino romano
  • 3-4 cups of homemade marinara flavored with garlic and basil or a good quality store bought brand
  • fresh torn basil
  • olive oil
Instructions
  1. PREPPING THE EGGPLANT
  2. Heat oven to 425F.
  3. Drizzle the bottom of a sheet pan with olive oil.
  4. Place sliced eggplant on top and sprinkle them with salt and pepper.
  5. When you see a light golden bottom, flip them over and let the other side get golden as well, if you need a little more drizzle of olive oil, go ahead, time will vary according to oven heat, just watch it.
  6. When finished set aside. If prepping for a party or a larger amount, let it cool down and refrigerate to assemble the next day.
  7. ASSEMBLING
  8. In a 13x9 casserole quick drizzle bottom with olive oil, then spread marinara all over the bottom covering the surface.
  9. Add slices of eggplant to cover, spoon about a tablespoon of sauce on each slice, rip off some fresh mozzarella and add pieces to each slice then sprinkle with romano cheese and torn basil.
  10. Repeat.
  11. Bake in the hot oven until cheese melts down and it's all heated through.
  12. Top with more fresh basil, a sprinkle of cheese and a quick drizzle of olive oil.

 

Signature

Italian Anise Cookies for Easter and Beyond

anise cookies

Spring is officially here finally, and Easter is quickly approaching, and I can’t think of a better cookie to grace your dessert table than these pretty pastel glazed Italian anise cookies.

 

These cookies are classic, traditional and perfect for any special celebration and just the mere scent of them bring back fond memories of old. Italian anise cookies have played center stage at many weddings, showers, communions, graduations and of course all the major holidays.

 

What I love about these cookies is that you can change up the frosting and sprinkles to fit whatever the occasion is, so with Easter coming up I thought frosting them with some pretty pastel colors would be fun and just looking at them scream “spring” to me.anise cookies

 

Let’s talk about anise and the flavor of anise, if you haven’t tried it you’re missing out. It’s described as being warm, a little spicy and very aromatic with just a mild hint of licorice. Anise is used widely in making pastries and baked goods and it’s the essential ingredient in these cookies where you taste it inside as well as in the frosting.

 

The dough is very similar to my Anginetti Lemon Knots with a slight variation, some recipes add milk, some do not, some are made with shortening, some butter, but basically they turn out very similar. The end result will yield a soft, crumbly, light cookie that takes on the flavors of the extracts you choose, in this case it’s anise but if you prefer, lemon, almond and orange work wonderfully as well.

 

frosting cookies

 

This is the first time I mixed up different colored frostings and I’m so glad I did because they look so festive and they resemble little colored Easter eggs.anise cookies

 

The dough can be formed into balls like I did here or tied into knots and even formed into rings, either way don’t get nervous if you see some characteristic cracks on top.anise cookies

 

Don’t you think they’re the perfect addition to your Easter table? But think ahead to summer parties, baby and wedding showers, birthdays and BBQ’s, you can’t go wrong with a platter of these pretty cookies on your table.anise cookiesanise cookies

 

I did a search on the internet to find a recipe that was as close to the one made by my beloved mother-in-law who made them often for her family because sadly none of her children have a complete recipe of hers. The recipe I chose was the Anise Cookies on the Cooking with Nonna website which is Rossella Rago’s actual Nonna’s recipe, so I knew it would be a good one, and it did not disappoint.

 

I did however double the recipe and I changed up the way the cookie gets mixed, just the procedure in doing it, so that’s what I’ll be posting, it seemed easier for me with one less step for my lazy self, and they turned out absolutely fine.anise cookies

Keep this recipe tucked away for all your special occasions and make sweet memories of your own.

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Italian Anise Cookies for Easter and Beyond
 
Adapted from The Cooking with Nonna website, Anise Cookies
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)
  • 1 drop of any food coloring to make your pastel colors
  • non-pariels and sprinkles to decorate
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 small bowl the confectioners sugar, extract, half and half and food coloring if you are using it. Depending on how many cookies you're making you could do a large batch of white frosting then divide and separate some into smaller bowls so you can add your food coloring to each.
  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 them 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.
  15. I made 68 cookies from this batch.

 

Signature

Clams With Spicy Sausage in Garlicky Tomato Broth

spicy clams

Get your napkins ready, because there’s nothing like a big pot of clams with spicy Italian sausage floating in a garlicky tomato broth! Other than some crusty bread for dunking, that’s all you’ll be needing with this.sausage and clams

Let’s talk clams, Littleneck clams are best for this recipe, fresh of course. Make sure you clean them really good, trust me, tasting sand is something you do not want!

I like to scrub the clams really good with a stiff brush removing any out side sand, then soak them in a bowl of cold water with some cornmeal sprinkled in for twenty minutes, the cornmeal helps to draw out any of the sand that might be inside the shells, then fill the bowl with water and rinse again, filling with cold water and rinsing a couple more times.

If you see any shells that are open test them by tapping them against another clam, hopefully they will close, if not just discard. Likewise you’ll want to discard If any of the shells are cracked and chipped.

You can pretty much count on some not opening so allow for that when your buying them so you’ll want to add a few extra.

sausage and clams

I like using thinly shaved garlic in this recipe, the garlic pieces seem to land right into the shells and it’s so delicious! Spicy Italian sausage is key, it flavors the dish so well, but if you need something less spicy go with mild and just add a little red pepper flakes, you need a little kick!

sausage and clamsclams and spicy sausage

You could add pasta with this if you like but I think you’ll be throughly content with some warm crusty bread for dunking!

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5.0 from 1 reviews
Clams With Spicy Sausage in Garlicky Tomato Broth
 
This recipe will happily feed two, so feel free to adjust amounts accordingly.
Author:
Ingredients
  • 2 dozen Littleneck clams
  • ¾ lb of spicy Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 14 oz. can of cherry tomatoes or baby roma tomatoes ( I used Mutti brand)
  • ½ bottle of clam juice about 4 oz. is needed
  • 5 large garlic cloves, shaved or thinly sliced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • a good splash of white wine
  • a bunch of parsley
  • a knob of butter
  • olive oil
  • salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. In a heavy bottomed pot or skillet with high sides, drizzle in some olive oil and cook the sausage on medium high heat, making sure to break it up into smaller pieces and cook until you see no more pink then remove from pan and set aside.
  2. In same skillet drizzle a little more olive oil into the pan then add in the garlic and onions and saute until soft but not caramelized.
  3. Add the clams tossing them a few times into the garlic and onions.
  4. Add the white wine to deglaze and let it cook down a couple of minutes, tossing the clams.
  5. Add in the tomatoes and all the sausage back in stirring until well distributed, then stick a cover on the pan so the clams can steam in the liquid and open up gently.
  6. When clams have all opened up, stir in a knob of butter and chopped parsley for garnish, maybe a quick drizzle of olive oil too.
  7. If a clam didn't open and the rest did, just discard it.
  8. Don't forget the crusty bread, I like to slice a rustic loaf and drizzle with olive oil and stick under the broiler to get it crunchy, but keep checking it could burn easily!

 

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Seared Scallops on Creamy Polenta with Broccolini

seared scallops

Seared scallops on creamy polenta with broccolini is such a fabulous dish, I promise it will wake up all your taste buds when you eat it, it’s quick enough for midweek and worthy enough for company.

A perfectly seared scallop is pure bliss and when cooked properly the most tender thing in the world, then paired with the corn grits of polenta you’ll be sure to have a match made in food heaven.seared scallops

However there are a few important factors when making this, let’s start with the scallops. You have to buy the large, dry sea scallops, fresh. The smaller bay scallops won’t work for this dish and neither will frozen, they hold on to too much liquid and you’ll never be able to get a good sear on them, which makes all the difference.

Even with the dry scallops I’ll bring them home and layer them between paper towels, just to make sure even the slightest bit of liquid is absorbed.

When you’re ready to sear them I place my heavy bottomed pan on the stove and turn the heat up to get it screeching hot, so hot where smokes starts to rise, so put your fan on and then drizzle the bottom with olive oil, just to get it heated and never use a nonstick pan you won’t get a good sear at all.

Salt and pepper one side of the scallops and place the seasoned side down in the oiled pan which you’ve now turned down to medium high and don’t move them until you can see a deep sear on the bottom, maybe three minutes or so, but honestly looking at them is more accurate.

When you see that deep sear on the scallops turn them over and basically take them out, they’re finished, they’ll continue to cook slightly after you remove them. With this method they’ll be sure to come out perfect every single time.

 

seared scallops

Regarding the polenta, the secret to making it nice and creamy is the ratio of liquid to cornmeal. I only know what is a success for me and works every time and that is, 1 part polenta to 5 parts liquid, finished off with some butter and a splash of half and half.

Any less liquid and it will become too thick and seize up, especially when cooling down. With this method even if it sits a few minutes it will remain creamy, and that’s what you want for this dish, smooth and creamy with no lumps.

You can serve this on a wooden board or a platter as I did, and you can change up the greens of your choice, I love it with the broccolini but I think any green would be good, even kernels of corn would be nice.

Either way I guarantee you’ll have a fabulous meal!

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Seared Scallops on Creamy Polenta with Broccolini
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 lb. large sea scallops, dry and fresh
  • 1 small bunch of broccolini, trimmed and pre-cooked
  • 1 cup of polenta, I used quick cooking polenta
  • 4 cups of low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup water
  • ¾ cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • large knob of butter
  • splash of half and half or cream
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • olive oil
Instructions
  1. Start out heating up your pan until it's screeching hot as stated in my post.
  2. Have the scallops seasoned and ready for searing as stated in my post.
  3. Proceed to make the polenta, getting the broth and water to a boil, then whisking in the polenta, lower the heat so it doesn't spit all over, but keep whisking until it all comes together.
  4. When the polenta comes together, remove from the heat and add the knob of butter and all the cheese, stir til combined then add a nice splash of cream or half and half.
  5. Get your scallops seared and ready for plating using the method I stated in my post.
  6. Pour the creamy polenta on to your platter or board, then placed the seared scallops all around and top with the cooked broccolini.
  7. Do a quick drizzle of olive oil on top and that's it, enjoy!

 

 

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Anelletti al Forno, Little Baked Pasta Rings

anelletti al forno

Anelletti is a pasta type that is ring shaped and in this case is baked, ( al Forno) between layers of marinara and bechamel sauce, of course there’s cheese and other goodies included like Italian sausage and peas.

Anelletti al Forno is a wonderful dish to spoon up for a crowd or for a mid week meal for your family, you can even make it meatless if you prefer, kids love it as well as adults because they look like spaghetti O’s.

Recently here in Chicago we had a huge snow storm and woke up to our neighbors shoveling out our long driveway, so as a thank you I brought this dish over to them to have for dinner.

anelletti pasta

As tiny as this anelletti pasta looks they take quite a long time to cook, but for this recipe you’ll want to stop cooking it around three minutes or so before the time on the package because it needs to be nice and al’dente, plus it’s going to finish cooking in the oven anyway.anelletti pasta

anelletti al forno

I like to spread the cooked anelletti onto a rimmed baking sheet so it can cool down faster, then it’s basically like making a lasagne, just have all your ingredients ready to go so you can start layering it into your baking dish.

Years ago on the blog I did another version of anelletti al forno but it was pressed and baked into a spring form pan, it’s really a pretty presentation when un-molded, check it out here.anelletti al forno

This recipe is very easy to prep the day before, no stress or clean up the day you’ll be serving it. Have it ready to go as in the picture above, just cover with foil and pop it into the fridge.anelletti al forno

Then on serving day, take it out and get it to room temp before baking, that’s it!anelletti al forno

The bechamel mingles with the marinara and parmesan cheese and creates a creamy, luscious sauce that envelopes the anelletti pasta so well.anelletti al forno

Like I said there are many versions of this dish, I got inspired to add the bechamel from a video I saw on Rosella’s Cooking with Nonna, and I’m so glad I did because it really makes the sauce dreamy.

I like the flavor of Italian sausage so I used that but other versions use ground meats. Also in my house I always have homemade marinara stashed in my freezer seasoned with garlic and basil, so that’s what I used here, s you can make homemade yourself or to make things easier and go a little faster  you can use a good quality store bought one, I repeat… Good Quality!  ( I won’t tell).

If you prefer a meatless version, omit the meat and add chunks of fresh mozzarella instead, believe me it’s all good!

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5.0 from 3 reviews
Anelletti al Forno, Little Baked Pasta Rings
 
Recipe inspired from Rossella's Cooking with Nonna and The Geometry of Pasta
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 lb. anelletti pasta, (ringed shaped) cooked al'dente at least 3 minutes before cooking time on package, cooled down and set aside
  • 1 lb. mlld Italian sausage, bulk, or links with casings removed and cooked until you see no pink
  • 1½ quarts of marinara sauce, homemade or a good quality store bought with a garlic and basil base
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • basil
  • BECHAMEL INGREDIENTS
  • 4oz. butter
  • ½ cup flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • ½ cup grated parmesan
  • salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Oil a 9x13 inch baking dish.
  2. Heat oven to 425F.
  3. Cook pasta al'dente, cool it down then add 1 cup of marinara to it, toss and set aside.
  4. Gather all your ingredients before you, the pasta, the cooked sausage, frozen peas, grated cheese, basil leaves and marinara.
  5. Make the bechamel sauce by melting the butter in a sauce pan, add the flour and whisk and let it cook a little, careful not to burn, but keep whisking.
  6. Add the milk and whisk until it thickens nicely.
  7. Turn off the heat and fold in half cup of parmesan cheese.
  8. Add spoonfuls of marinara to the bottom of the baking dish. spread half of the pasta on top.
  9. Spoon bechamel over the layer, sprinkle it with sausage and a handful of peas.
  10. Top the layer off with grated Parmesan.
  11. Repeat layer like above with remaining ingredients ending with bechamel and a light layer of marinara.
  12. Top with fresh basil and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.
  13. Cover with foil and bake on the middle rack for thirty minutes.
  14. Let it rest before serving around thirty minutes.
  15. NOTE:
  16. Can do a meatless version by replacing the sausage with cubed fresh mozzarella.

 

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Heart Shaped Pizza with Egg for Valentine’s Day Breakfast

heart pizza with egg

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner so here’s an idea to turn a regular breakfast into something special, serve your special someone a heart shaped pizza with an egg on top!

A simple margherita pizza consisting of tomato sauce, mozzarella and basil is a nice backdrop for the egg  and it tastes super delicious when the cooked yolk oozes out all over the heart shaped pizza.heart pizza with egg

Of course pizza is a blank canvas so feel free to put any of your favorite toppings on, but since this is for a special breakfast I made the egg the focal ingredient as well as the heart shape.heart pizza

You can shape the pizza dough into a heart shape many ways, I usually just take my time and shape it by hand, but this time I tried something different.

I rolled the dough out into a circle, folded it in half, then took a pizza cutter, sliced the V in the center along the crease and did a little trimming around the top to shape it.heart pizza dough

When the shaping is finished, place the dough onto a baking sheet and pull the bottom down slightly into point. I always pre-cook the dough for a few minutes so the shape gets set, then I’ll put the toppings on and stick it back into the oven to finish.heart pizza with egg

A few minutes later you’ll have a perfectly cooked egg with the yolk ready to break open and mingle together with the sauce and cheese.heart pizza with egg

Serve some mimosa’s with this and you’ll have a wonderful, thoughtful Valentine’s Day breakfast or brunch for your special someone, if you’re making it for kids of course omit the booze!heart pizza with egg

Here’s a link to another version I made some years ago using ham, spinach and cheese, equally delicious and fun to serve on Valentine’s Day, or any day you just want to show some love to someone.

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5.0 from 1 reviews
Heart Shaped Pizza with Egg for Valentine's Day
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 ball of pizza dough, store bought or homemade cut in half or thirds to make smaller, individual size pizza's, room temp for easy rolling..
  • pizza sauce
  • mozzarella, fresh or shredded
  • 1 egg per pizza
  • fresh basil
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 500F.
  2. grease a baking sheet with olive oil and a dusting of polenta or cornmeal. Note: (If making 2 pizza's and you can't fit both on 1 baking sheet use 2 baking sheets.)
  3. Take your dough ball and cut it in half or thirds rolling one at a time into a circle.
  4. When circle is formed fold dough in half and with a pizza cutter cut the v shape and trim out the top of the heart, then open the dough and you should see a perfectly formed heart, then pull the bottom into a point.
  5. You can also shape the heart by hand, just take your time doing it.
  6. Place the heart shaped dough onto the prepared baking sheet, prick it in a few places with a fork.
  7. Put it into the hot oven for 3 minutes, then remove it, if the dough bubbled up no problem, just prick it so it settles down.
  8. Add the sauce, leaving a little edge bare all around, scatter the cheese around and fresh basil leaves.
  9. In a separate little bowl crack your egg so as not to break the yolk.
  10. Gently pour the egg onto the pizza.
  11. Pop the pizza into the oven and finish cooking until crust is golden and egg is set.
  12. Time will vary depending on how thick your dough is rolled out.
  13. Mine was fairly thin and took ten minutes total, 5 minutes on bottom rack and another five on top rack.
  14. Add more fresh basil and serve immediately.

 

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Pineapple Party Dip for Super Bowl and Beyond

pineapple party dip

This pineapple dip is perfect for game day this Sunday, actually it’s fun to serve at any party, so keep it in mind down the road.

The presentation is fun and it really stands out on your buffet table plus it tastes really delicious. Cream cheese with fresh pineapple chunks and other savory ingredients get molded into the shape of a pineapple then studded with whole pecans, when finished it will take on the look of a whole pineapple, you can swipe it on crackers, raw veggies, fruit, chips, whatever you like.
pineapple top

The process is simple, buy one pineapple, cut the crown off then split the crown in half lengthwise so it can lay flat on your serving platter.pineapple dip

Your cream cheese mixture can be whipped up the day before so all the flavors meld together nicely, you can even pre-shape it into the pineapple barrel shape beforehand, cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate it the night before.dipping sides

You’ll be using raw, unsalted pecans halves for your pineapple dip, once I counted and it took 70 to cover the cheese mixture which came from an 8 oz. bag, this time I bought a container full and I had extras, which is a good thing.

Just remember whatever kind of platter you’re going to serve it on to make sure you position the barrel of cream cheese with enough room for the crown piece to be placed back on top.

 

pineapple party dip

 

You can start from the top and work your self down placing the pecans on making sure to overlap them and cover the sides and bottom as well, you can also place them from the bottom up, trying your best to cover as much surface as you can.pineapple party dippineapple party dip

 

When completed with the pecans, just place the crown back in position then scatter your crackers and veggies all around.pineapple party dip

 

You still have time to gather up the ingredients to make this party pineapple dip for Sunday game day,  it’s a show stopper and your guests will love it!

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5.0 from 1 reviews
Pineapple Party Dip for Super Bowl and Beyond
 
Recipe adapted from The Healthy Foodie Blog
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 fresh, ripe pineapple
  • 1 cup or so of pineapple, finely chopped and drained or squeezed of juice if overly juicy
  • 2 - 8 oz bricks of cream cheese, softened
  • at least an 8 oz. bag of raw unsalted pecan halves, a little more just in case some are cracked. You'll need 70 or so to cover your cream cheese barrel
  • 1 tablespoon, grainy mustard
  • ¼ each of a red, orange and yellow pepper, small dice
  • ⅓ cup of black olives, canned, drained, sliced and chopped ( optional)
  • 2 or 3 green onions, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup chopped pecans
  • 2 heaping tablespoons, fresh chopped parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Cut the crown off of your pineapple, slice the half lengthwise so it lays flat and save. Pick a pineapple crown that's not so big, otherwise it won't look in proportion.
  2. Chop up a cup of so of the pineapple flesh.
  3. In a medium bowl add the softened cream cheese and grainy mustard, beat with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy.
  4. Now fold in with a spatula the reserved pineapple, colored peppers, chopped pecans, olives, onions and parsley, making sure everything gets incorporated.
  5. It's important to taste at this point, you might want to add more of something to your liking.
  6. Now you can either refrigerate the mixture overnight in the bowl covered with plastic wrap, or on plastic wrap shape the mixture into the barrel shaped pineapple, covered completely with plastic wrap and refrigerate that overnight.
  7. When ready to serve place cream cheese mixture onto your serving platter, remember the crown is going to be placed on top so make sure you allow for that on your platter when positioning the cream cheese.
  8. Place the pecan halves from top to bottom or bottom to top covering the sides as best you can, overlapping the pecans to cover most of the cheese mixture.
  9. Position the crown in place and scatter all your dipping veggies, crackers and chips all around.

 

 

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Italian Specialty Sausage and Beans

Italian sausage and beans

Here’s a quick mid week meal that comes together really fast, it has just a few ingredients, uses only one pot, and you don’t even have to turn on your oven.

What makes this recipe stand out a little more than the traditional sausage and beans was the fact that this time I used a specialty sausage, you know the ones behind the case that the butchers stuff with unique combinations.Italian sausage and beans

The base was a standard pork Italian sausage that was stuffed and filled with hot giardiniera and provolone cheese, don’t get me wrong you can certainly use your favorite Italian sausage, with or without a specialty filling, but why not change it up a bit and try something a little different, there are so many different varieties of sausages.

 

You’ll use canned beans in this dish which is the reason the cooking process is so speedy and of course the beans of choice are cannellini. garlic and tomatoes

Browning the sausage is your first step, that process will leave you with nice brown bits that will form at the bottom of the pan, perfect to saute the garlic and tomatoes in and eventually creating a delicious sauce. Italian sausage and beans

Canned beans go into the pot along with the browned sausage, then all you have to do is let all the flavors simmer and meld together.Italian sausage and beans

Finish it off with some fresh torn basil and a side of crusty bread and this meal is complete!

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Italian Specialty Sausage and Beans
 
This recipe was inspired by an episode I watched on Extra Virgin
Author:
Ingredients
  • 4-6 Italian sausage links, either traditional or to try something different using the specialty, gourmet kind that the butcher stuffs with various combinations of ingredients.
  • 1 lb. of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half lengthwise
  • 2 15 oz. cans of cannellini beans that have been drained and rinsed
  • 4 large garlic cloves, shaved
  • basil leaves
  • olive oil
Instructions
  1. Heat a heavy bottom high sided saute pan, cast iron pan or a smaller size dutch oven, drizzle the bottom with olive oil.
  2. Place the sausage links into the hot pan and brown both sides, then remove and set aside.
  3. Add the shaved garlic, moving it around until it's nice and golden.
  4. Toss in the sliced cherry tomatoes along with the shaved garlic, toss to coat the tomatoes.
  5. Now add the drained beans to the pot, stirring to make sure they get coated with the garlic and tomatoes.
  6. Drizzle some olive oil on top, a little salt and pepper.
  7. Add back the sausage and nestle them into the pot.
  8. Throw some torn basil leaves in.
  9. Simmer with a lid on until the sausage is all cooked through and the tomatoes break down and thicken.
  10. Add fresh torn basil leaves for garnish and added flavor.
  11. Enjoy with some crusty bread!

 

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Baked Eggs Florentine with Pecorino Crema

eggs florentine

Eggs Florentine is the perfect weekend breakfast or brunch, it’s elegant, so delicious, simple to make with just a few ingredients. If you do a search you’ll find many different variations of this dish, I even put a little Italian spin on mine.

One thing that’s certain about Eggs Florentine is that spinach is the star ingredient, in fact the term Florentine will always indicate that the dish uses spinach.spinach and creama

I had a one pound bag of baby spinach and a container of spreadable Crema di Pecorino Romano that a friend gave me to try, she was curious about it and thought I’d like to try it, which I did.

 

I’ve actually seen it before at my Italian market in the cheese department but never picked one up. It has the consistency of a softened cream cheese flavored with Pecorino Romano.eggs florentine

Since Eggs Florentine generally has a cream sauce that’s mixed in with the spinach, I thought this crema would be perfect, but you could also achieve the same flavors and texture by reducing some cream and adding grated Pecorino, or parmesan cheese for that matter, either would work well.eggs florentine

The eggs lay on a base of homemade marinara which is already flavored with garlic, onions and herbs, you can also substitute a good store bought brand just as long as it’s flavored nicely, so because of that you really don’t have to do anything to flavor the spinach other than wilting it down with a knob of butter and then tossing it into the creamy Pecorino to get it nicely coated.

eggs florentine

I like to use a rectangle baking dish when making this because you’ll be able to cut out a perfect square portion per person.
eggs florentineeggs florentineeggs florentine

Add a little crusty bread on the side if you like and you’re good to go. Make this for breakfast or brunch on your next slow weekend, you’ll love every bite!

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5.0 from 1 reviews
Baked Eggs Florentine with Pecorino Crema
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 lb. bag of baby spinach
  • butter
  • 5 oz. container of Crema di Pecorino, warmed and melted down with a splash of cream to loosen it, or make your own by reducing some heavy cream or half and half with a couple tablespoons of grated Pecorino or Parmesan cheese until it thickens up, ending up with 5 ounces.
  • Marinara, homemade or store bought, flavored with garlic and herbs, just enough to coat the bottom of the baking dish.
  • 6 large eggs
Instructions
  1. I used a 8x11 rectangle baking dish which perfectly fit 6 eggs and all of the spinach that was wilted down.
  2. Spoon marinara onto the bottom of the baking dish.
  3. Start wilting down your spinach, I did it in 3 batches for that amount, placing a knob of butter in a large skillet and tossing it until it wilts, which only takes a few minutes, then set aside.
  4. Drain the spinach in a fine strainer if alot of moisture forms.
  5. Create your cheese sauce either way then toss your wilted spinach into it, saving a little of the sauce to spoon on top when finished.
  6. Spread the creamed spinach on top of the marinara in the baking dish, making 6 indentions for the eggs.
  7. Crack each egg one by one into a separate bowl and let it fall into each spinach indention.
  8. Season with pepper, no need to add salt because the Pecorino is salty enough.
  9. Bake in a 350F oven at least 20 minutes or more or until the white of the egg firms up and is not jiggly.
  10. Remove and let it rest for 5 minutes before cutting it, if you have some leftover crema, you can spoon some on top of each portion.
  11. Enjoy!

 

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