Parmesan Crusted Rainbow Carrots on Cheesy Baked Ricotta

roasted rainbow carrots

Gorgeous rainbow carrots! I have to admit they’re much more exciting than plain carrots and I’m drawn to them whenever I see their vibrant colors and pretty shapes.

I love roasting them because roasting creates caramelization and we all know that caramelization equals intense flavor, especially so when dowsed with grated parmesan and infused garlic oil.

The baked ricotta is a flavorful base that showcases the vibrant colors of the rainbow carrots and takes this lovely side dish to another level!

rainbow carrots

When I saw this huge bundle at the farmers market I just couldn’t resist, they get me every time!

roasted carrots

Tossing the carrots into a garlic infused olive oil is a nice savory contrast that goes well with the sweetness of the carrots as they roast.

roasted carrots

Halfway through the roasting process you sprinkle in a generous amount of grated Parmigiano Reggiano which will create a yummy crust all over as it bakes on.

ricotta spread

The ricotta gets prepped before it’s baked with grated Parmigiano, garlic, herbs and lemon zest. Both elements of this dish, the carrots and the ricotta are roasted separately then brought together as one.

roasted carrots

The ricotta becomes a heavenly pairing when eaten together with the cheesy carrots, and I must say it makes a dynamite presentation!

glazed carrots

I posted this version a couple of years ago, rainbow carrots roasted with balsamic and thyme, and again I placed it on a bed of baked ricotta, it’s crazy good as well!

carrot salad

And this pretty rainbow carrot ribbon salad, posted a few years ago, it’s crunchy, delicious and filled with so much flavor. I told you I can’t resist them!

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5.0 from 2 reviews
Parmesan Crusted Rainbow Carrots on Cheesy Baked Ricotta
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 bundle of rainbow carrots, (preferably the long slender ones, if they have tops, snip them off,
  • (although if you can't find them you can use the plain orange ones but pick the thinner ones.)
  • 1½ cups of whole milk ricotta, liquid drained
  • 1 egg
  • 1 generous cup or so of grated Parmigiano Reggiano, half for the ricotta mixture and the other half for sprinkling on the carrots. ( you can sub grated pecorino)
  • 1 small smashed garlic clove
  • zest of a lemon
  • chopped basil and parsley
  • salt and pepper
  • infused garlic oil for roasting the carrots, but can sub regular olive oil
  • olive oil for drizzling
Instructions
  1. Toss the carrots with the olive oil, salt and pepper, then place them single layer on a rimmed baking sheet or parchment.
  2. Place the carrots into a 400 degree oven turning them until the bottom starts to look golden, you don't want mushy carrots, aim for a little bite to them.
  3. Halfway through the roasting process pull the pan out and generously sprinkle the grated cheese and some of the chopped herbs all over the carrots, return to the oven to let them finish cooking and a little crust forms on the carrots.
  4. When carrots are finished remove and set aside.
  5. Turn oven down to 375.
  6. In a small bowl add the ricotta, egg, salt and pepper, smashed garlic clove, lemon zest and some of the chopped herbs, mix well til all combined.
  7. Oil the bottom of a casserole dish.
  8. Spread your ricotta mixture on the bottom.
  9. Place casserole dish into oven and bake for around 20 minutes, ovens vary so check to see if ricotta is set, if it looks too pale, place it under the broiler for just a couple of minutes so it looks lightly golden, but don't leave the scene!
  10. Then arrange the cooked carrots on top of the cooked cooked ricotta, garnish with more grated cheese and fresh herbs and a drizzle of olive oil all over.
  11. Both can be done early in the day then warmed up later before eating.

 

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Eggplant, Tomato and Feta Summer Side Dish

eggplant side dish

We’re still in the dog days of summer with an abundance of garden produce still available You just can’t beat the flavor of garden ripe tomatoes, there’s nothing like it, and I will dream about that taste when summer ends.

But for now, if you need to use up some of those sweet cherry tomatoes you might have, this is the perfect side dish to make.

It’s a delicious combination of eggplant with tomatoes and feta cheese.

 

roasted tomatoes

You honestly don’t need a recipe for this because you’ll never go wrong with the ingredients and amounts. All you have to do is roast some cherry tomatoes with a good amount of olive oil and shaved garlic, salt and pepper. It doesn’t matter how many tomatoes you use, just fill up a sheet pan like I did.

Place them into the oven at 400 degrees until they start to blister and their flavorful juices mingle with the olive oil.

roasted eggplant

Same thing goes for the eggplant, I like to peel the skin of my eggplant into stripes, some on, some off. Then cut your eggplant into bite size pieces, 2 or 3 eggplant  or however many you have, place on a sheet pan, douse with olive oil, salt and pepper.

Roast at 425 degrees until the moisture is gone and you start to see lightly golden edges.

eggplant side dish

Now basically it’s all about combining everything. In a bowl add the blistered cherry tomatoes and every bit of that luscious garlicky juice, toss in the roasted eggplant, and crumble in the best quality Greek feta you can find.

Combine gently and arrange it all on a pretty platter garnished with chopped parsley, now watch it disappear!

I can’t tell you how good this is, you’re just going to have to make this amazing summer side dish, but hurry!

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Italian Meatballs with Ricotta (Low Carb and Gluten Free)

ricotta meatballs

There’s nothing like the smell of homemade meatballs cooking in the kitchen, and these tender beef meatballs enhanced with ricotta, pecorino and other classic ingredients are no exception.

Yes, there are many different ways to make classic and traditional Italian meatballs, every family has their own cherished recipes. In my family I make them a few different ways, traditionally with soaked bread and breadcrumbs, a mix of pork and beef, fried, baked, I could go on and on but recently this has become my current favorite and neither bread nor breadcrumbs are added into the mix.

 

ricotta meatballs

Ricotta laced meatballs are so tender and flavorful, the taste is incredible and I promise you you’re not going to miss the addition of bread, so because of that ricotta meatballs are perfect for those on a low carb and gluten free diet.

pan fried meatballs

I like using organic ground beef which is 85% lean and 15% fat. I also prefer to pan fry them in a little olive oil after they’re formed. Pan frying allows them to become caramelized all over and form a crust which is a very important step that adds to the intense flavor, and there’s no need to cook them all the way through.

ricotta meatballs

The meatballs will be finished off in the oven along with a good quality marinara for them to bathe in, preferably homemade.

ricotta meatballs

You’re always going to treasure your own tried and true family recipes that have been handed down through the generations but it’s also fun to discover new favorites along the way, I hope you give these a try, they’re truly amazing!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Italian Meatballs with Ricotta (Low Carb, GF)
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1.5 lbs. organic ground beef, 85% lean 15% fat
  • 1 egg
  • ½ onion, finely chopped
  • 2 very generous heaping tablespoons ricotta, look for a good quality supermarket ricotta, not the over the counter deli type which holds a lot of moisture.
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed or grated on a microplane
  • 1 large handful of grated pecorino romano and 1 large handful of Italian parsley chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste and a pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 good quality jar of marinara, preferably homemade
  • basil for garnish
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl mix all the ingredients together well. Before you form mixture into balls, fry off a little bit of the meatball mix, this way you can really check for the right seasoning. Sometimes you need more grated cheese, pepper, salt, parsley and this way you'll be able to adjust to your liking.
  2. Drizzle olive oil in a nonstick skillet and when oil is hot drop your formed meatballs into the pan and caramelize on all sides, no need to worry about cooking it all through, just make sure to get a nice crust all around.
  3. Preheat oven to 450 degrees
  4. Spoon some marinara into the bottom of a casserole dish, add the meatballs, then spoon some sauce on top of each one as well.
  5. Bake uncovered for 15 minutes.
  6. Garnish with fresh basil leaves.
  7. Enjoy!

 

 

 

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Zucchini Flowers Stuffed with Herby Ricotta and Cheese

zucchini flowers

Stuffed zucchini flowers, my favorite summertime treat, whenever I spot them on a menu they get ordered, but It’s been a while since I’ve actually made them myself.

Living in the midwest they’re not the easiest thing to find unless you grow your own, and then if you’re lucky enough to find some, which is not very often, they bring out such a small amount that if you’re not right there in front of them, they’re gone in an instant!

They’re such a delicacy and everyone who appreciates them grabs them up really fast.

zucchini flowers

I lucked out this time by nicely stalking my produce guy, finding out the exact day and time they would arrive and making sure I got there right before they were put out on display. Again it was such a small quantity that they had but I was able to go home with four nice bundles, so I was a happy girl!

There are so many ways you can eat them, in frittatas, quesadilla’s, pizza’s and pasta’s but my favorite way is stuffing the insides with ricotta, herbs, Parmigiano Reggiano and lemon zest and then frying them up until nicely golden with a very light and crispy batter.

They make the best summertime appetizers especially with a cold glass of Prosecco!

 

zucchini flowers

Preparing them is a little labor of love, they’re delicate and fragile and you have to handle them with care in the cleaning process. Usually they’ll have some dirt on them so you’ll want to remove that and check inside to make sure there’s no insect hiding as well, then rinse them really good. In the center of the blossom is a pistil, you’ll want to pinch it out with your two fingers and remove it as well, it’s hard and not so pleasant to eat, then let them dry on paper towels.

You can keep them wrapped up gently in paper towels if not using right away and keep them refrigerated for just a couple of days, so buy according to how much you’re going to be using.

stuffed zucchini flowers

Then as far as the stuffing process goes I like placing my ricotta mixture into a pastry bag, it’s a much cleaner and neater way to fill them rather than using a spoon,  and it goes really fast.

I like leaving some of the stem on to use as a handle for ease in frying and for eating.

batter ingredients

The batter couldn’t be easier to make, just two ingredients, sparkling water and flour, I’m partial to San Pellegrino but any plain sparkling water will do.

Just whisk the two together until you get a loose yogurt consistency, not too thick and not too thin.

zucchini flowers

The result is a light and crispy tempura like coating, so airy that it doesn’t overpower the zucchini flower at all, it just enhances it as well as the ricotta stuffing.

stuffed zucchini flowersstuffed zucchini flowers

It has just the right crunch factor!

zucchini flowers

Crunchy, creamy, dreamy! Hands down my favorite summertime treat especially when it’s swiped into some warm marinara.

Go seek some out before they’re gone and gobble these up!

You can follow Proud Italian Cook on Instagram to see what I’m cooking up during the week.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Zucchini Flowers Stuffed with Herby Ricotta and Cheese
 
Depending on how many zucchini flowers you have just mix up more or less ricotta mixture, also some bulbs are bigger than others so I will just give you a step by step procedure instead of exact measurements.
Author:
Ingredients
  • Zucchini flowers, leave about 2 inches of stem on, cleaned of dirt and inner pistil
  • FILLING
  • ricotta, ( remove moisture)
  • grated Parmigiano Reggiano (or pecorino)
  • granulated garlic
  • chopped basil and parsley
  • lemon zest
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 disposable pastry bag
  • BATTER
  • seltzer water
  • all purpose flour
  • oil for pan frying
  • Optional, marinara for dipping
Instructions
  1. Make sure the cleaning prep is done on the zucchini flowers with all the pistils removed inside.
  2. Mix up your stuffing mixture in a bowl and this is all done to taste, start with a cup of ricotta and add in maybe ¼ cup of cheese, a couple of tablespoons of herbs, zest of ½ lemon and everything else, adjust to your liking.
  3. Place a disposable pastry bag into a tall glass, fold down sides and fill it with the ricotta mixture, the glass will hold the bag and give you stability as you spoon the filling in.
  4. Cut the tip of the bag off and proceed to fill the cavity of the flowers.
  5. When they're all filled up mix up your batter.
  6. Grab a shallow bowl add a few generous tablespoons of flour and start adding the seltzer water , consistency should be loose yogurt.
  7. Heat your oil in a fry pan, just enough to cover bottom, then swipe your stuffed flower into the batter on both sides and fry until golden on both sides.
  8. NOTE: If you need more ricotta mixture make it, if you need more batter, mix up a little more, depending on how many flowers you have and the size of them.
  9. Place on paper towels to drain. and serve immediately.
  10. Warm up some marinara for swiping!

 

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20 Ideas, Inspiration and Tips for Antipasto and Small Bites

charcuterie board

This post is meant to inspire you, give you ideas with some tips along the way on creating antipasto platters and small bites for easy entertaining, last minute get togethers, holidays, weekend lunch and Sunday afternoon noshing.

These platters and boards will help you visualize all the different components that you can use in creating them because there is no exact recipe for this kind of eating, the sky is the limit!

This is easy no fuss entertaining, small portions of cured meats, cheese, nuts, crackers, fruit, berries, olives, store bought or homemade spreads and that’s just to name a few.

Small bites can consist of various different crostini, grilled veggies, stuffed mini peppers, honestly there’s no limit, the list can go on and on and the best thing is that it’s always welcome no matter what season of the year it is.

 

fig and prosciutto

Sometimes you just need a few quality ingredients to make the most perfect and delicious bites, like fresh figs on top of prosciutto with burrata and toasted ciabatta bread.

charcuterie board

Here’s a little bit of everything with some of my favorites like soppressata, provolone and black pepper taralli, oh and I can’t leave out my castelvetrano olives.

You can prepare this in advance or arrange it last minute, just serve up your favorite beverage to pair with this and you’re good to go!

peppers and goat cheese

You’ve seen those colorful mini peppers, well they make the perfect small bites. The above are filled with goat cheese and herbs, roasted and then drizzled with olive oil, all you need is some crusty bread.

foccacia board

Leftover focaccia bread rounds out this whole board with the other components.

zucchini carpaccio

I like using things that are in season, like summer tomatoes and fresh zucchini. I prepared the zucchini carpaccio style, raw with shaved parmesan and dressed with lemon and olive oil.

grilled artichokes

Grilled artichokes with lemon aioli, these will disappear in a hot minute! We have a love of artichokes in my family.

charcuterie board

Your meats should be thinly sliced, sometimes I just order a quarter pound of everything and I can usually make a nice big board, with all the other things added like marinated artichokes, bocconcini and various olives and things to fill it up even more.

bread and olive oil

Many times just good crusty bread dipped into a simple mix of quality olive oil, a little spice, with a drizzle of balsamic is all you need to satisfy your senses, low effort with unbelievable results and everyone loves it, especially if they have their own individual dish.

nduja and crackers

Spreads are good too, here I used a spicy Nduja, which basically is a spreadable pork salumi. I also purchased an olive spread and I made a creamy goat cheese spread with pecans, noshing at it’s best!

eggplant dip

Roasted eggplant dip, so good and so simple.  Prick an eggplant and roast on a foil lined sheet pan until it’s soft, let it cool down then mash in a bowl with garlic, lemon and olive oil. Place into a serving dish and garnish with herbs, olive oil and here I used a swipe of jarred roasted red pepper sauce with a few olives, of course toast up some crusty bread for dipping.

crostini bar

Toasted crostini slathered with smashed peas and burrata was the star of the show here, but just think of the different variations you can make.

quick lunch

Quick lunch? Grab a friselle, ( a hard pre-toasted bread available at Italian markets) and top with a juicy cherry tomato salad with olive oil, fresh hand tied mozzarella, optional!

frisselle crostini

I always keep a couple of bags of friselle in my pantry, they keep for a long time and when company drops in I can whip something together really fast and top them with different things I might have in my fridge.

cantaloupe and prosciutto

Melon wrapped in prosciutto with mixed greens, feta and a rich balsamic dressing, who wouldn’t love this?

charcuterie board

Or this?

charcuterie board

Or this? I told you I love sopressata, artichokes and those beautiful hand tied fresh bocconcini, if you can find some, grab a big container for sure!

fig crostini

How about some good old store bought fig spread, swipe on some crusty bread with a bit of cheese and an apple slice, the perfect bite!

eggplant caprese

Thin grilled slices of eggplant topped off with a caprese salad, grab a hunk of bread and a glass of wine, need I say more?

cheese and meat board

There’s no limit to creating the perfect bite, they’re always crowd pleasing with something for everyone to enjoy. Simple, easy and impressive, fun to make like creating art on a board, the perfect nibble for everyone!

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Classic Dutch Baby with Cherries and Amaretto

cherry dutch baby

Cherry season is upon us and I can’t get enough, I’ve been buying bags of them weekly, mainly just for eating but cherries can be used both in sweet and savory dishes as well and cherries just scream summer to me!

Recently I made this delicious Dutch baby pancake filled with plump fresh cherries, the batter flavored with Amaretto and topped off with toasted almonds.

A Dutch baby pancake is excellent to serve for a special breakfast or even a dessert, and it’s quite simple to put together, it uses basic ingredients and the result is a showstopper presentation. I’m thinking this might be nice to serve for a casual breakfast on the 4th of July.

bing cherries

I have to admit I never owned a cherry pitter before, I thought it was too time consuming and messy to use.

Yes, it could get a little messy, but I found pitting them into a bowl with deep sides minimized the juice from squirting everywhere. It was a little trial and error before I figured that out, but once I did the process went really fast.

Pull the stem out, place the cherry in the little cup holder, plunge the handle down and out pops the pit it’s that easy, and by the way the cherries stay fairly intact.

 

cherry pits

 

pitted cherries

Take a day, pit the cherries then refrigerate them so they’re ready to go, I even tossed them into a salad the other evening but for something on the sweet side you have to make this dutch baby!

cooked cherries

The cherries get swirled around with melted butter spiked with Amaretto liqueur, the smell is intoxicating!

Then the prepared batter gets poured in  all around the cherries and then into the oven the pan goes, as it cooks the pancake will puff up really high and then when taken out it settles down and leaves you with this bejeweled looking pancake.

 

cherry dutch baby

Sprinkle with toasted almonds and powdered sugar.

cherry dutch baby

You can drizzle syrup or honey on top, add whipped cream or even a scoop of ice cream.

cherry dutch baby

Either way it’s all amazing!

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5.0 from 2 reviews
Classic Dutch Baby with Cherries and Amaretto
 
Recipe adapted from Sunset Magazine
Author:
Ingredients
  • 2 cups, pitted fresh bing cherries
  • ¼ cup of butter
  • 1 Tablespoon Amaretto liqueur, or (1/4 to ½ teaspoon of almond extract)
  • ½ cup of toasted, sliced almonds
  • ¾ cup of flour
  • ¾ cup of whole milk
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 Tablespoons, sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla bean paste or vanilla
  • powdered sugar for dusting
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 425F.
  2. For The Batter:
  3. Whisk together, eggs, flour, milk, salt, sugar and vanilla bean paste until nice and smooth, or you can whizz it in a blender.
  4. In a heavy, 10 to 12 inch oven proof pan like a cast iron, melt the butter on stove top.
  5. When butter is melted add the cherries and the Amaretto liqueur. (or almond extract).
  6. Saute the cherries in the butter and Amaretto for around 2 minutes, stirring them gently.
  7. Pour the batter into the pan with the cherries, then place the pan into the preheated oven.
  8. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown and puffy.
  9. Remove pan from oven and sprinkle with the toasted almonds, the pancake will sink down and settle into the pan.
  10. Slice and serve with syrup, honey, whipped cream or a scoop of ice cream.

 

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Perfect Potato Salads for Summer Entertaining

party size Italian potato salad

Way back in 2007 when I started this blog I posted an Italian potato salad, fast forward almost twelve years later ( still can’t believe it’s been that long!) and  I still continue to make it.

Italian potato salad is such a classic dish, it’s the perfect side so it’s great for parties, picnic’s and celebrations. There’s no mayo involved so no need to worry about anything spoiling as it sits out at your party.

The photo above is a crowd size amount that I made for a family cookout that I was having. Don’t get caught up on amounts and exact measurements when making this, it’s a simple process it’s all about visual balance and your taste preference as far as seasonings go.

I used those teeny red, white and blue potatoes, I like the different colors, but you can certainly use all red which is more a traditional Italian potato salad.

roasted potatoes and beans

Since 2007 I’ve changed up my recipe a bit. I always use to boil my potatoes but now I roast them. Don’t get me wrong, boiling is fine but I much prefer the taste of a roasted potato, plus I don’t like the texture of a some what mushy potato, but again, that’s just my preference, but I would encourage you to try it this way by roasting the potatoes, plus I think the presentation looks much nicer.

1. The ingredients in my Italian potato salad are: Roasted potatoes, some sliced, some whole depending on how big they are, roasted at 425F until fork tender.

2. Steamed green beans, I prefer haricort verts, red onion rings, kalamata olives and sliced cherry tomatoes.

3. Place everything into a large bowl and season with salt and pepper, granulated garlic and oregano, taste as you go to your liking.

4. The dressing is: 3 parts olive oil, 1 part red wine vinegar, 1 t. dijon, 1 garlic clove, 1 t.oregano, salt and pepper and a squeeze of fresh lemon. Whisk it up, drizzle and toss. Place the salad onto a nice platter.

 

red white and blue potato salad

Next is my Red, White and Blue potato salad, perfect for the 4th of July! Again I used those teeny colored potatoes and when you cut them in half the vibrant color really shows through.

forth of July potato salad

1.These are roasted as well in a 425F oven, drizzled with olive oil along with chunks of sweet red bell pepper, finished when fork tender.

2.  When they become fork tender, which doesn’t take long, toss them into a bowl and add chopped red onion or shallots, snipped chives, sliced scallions, fresh parsley, salt and pepper to taste with lots of grated strands of lemon 
3.Whisk up fresh squeezed lemon and olive oil for your dressing and pour it all over and toss, as it sits it just gets better and better as all the flavors start to absorb.

sweet potato salad

Next up is this Grilled Sweet Potato Salad, If you never grilled sweet a potato you’re missing out. Cooking sweet potatoes this way gives them a crisp charred edge and a slight smokiness that contrasts well with the sweetness of the potatoes, it’s delicious and a nice change.

  1. Preheat grill to medium. Peel sweet potatoes and slice into 1/2 inch thick rounds. Place on a grill that has been sprayed with olive oil spray.
  2. Also on the grill add some colored mini peppers and a couple of ears of corn because these will all be added to the salad along with the sweet potatoes. Remove when tender and slightly charred.
  3. When everything cools down, shuck the corn, slice the mini peppers and toss them into a large bowl with some chopped parsley, green onion and arugula.
  4. Arrange everything onto a pretty platter and drizzle with the dressing.
  5. Honey Mustard Vinaigrette: 1/2 cup olive oil, 2 T. apple cider vinegar, 2 T. Dijon, 1 T. honey, 1 garlic clove, whisk all together. Feel free to double or triple the recipe.  

All of these potato salads are a nice addition to your summer buffet table, they can sit out safely and they all taste delicious at room temperature, so enjoy!

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23 Ways to Indulge in Caprese Salads This Summer

caprese salad

If it’s one thing I look forward to in the warm summer months, it’s caprese salads! What’s not to love? Ripe juicy tomatoes of all different varieties and sizes, dreamy creamy cheese, fragrant garden basil and the best olive oil you can buy to finish it all off.

There’s so many variations of caprese salads this is just the tip of the iceberg, I could go on and on but this post would be extremely long!

Here’s a few of my favorites, some made for parties, get togethers, an appetizer, a lunch, even as an entree with good crusty bread is just enough on a hot summer day.

Mixing the colored green heirlooms with vine ripened red tomatoes makes for a pretty colorful looking platter, break open some burrata, add a drizzle of balsamic glaze, your best olive oil and whole leaves of basil.

caprese salad

I have this huge round platter and I always make this for parties, and you know what? None is ever leftover, everyone is crazy about caprese!

heirloom caprese

Use different colored heirlooms, not only for flavor but for a nice visual combination as well.

stacked caprese

Stack your caprese salads for individual sides or appetizers, this one was also layered with freshly made basil pesto.

roasted tomato caprese

Roast some tomatoes, tear open a ball of creamy burrata and grab some bread, this is lunch for me!

caprese crostini

Pass out these crostini to your guests and they will go bonkers, they’re crispy, creamy and dreamy topped with slow roasted tomatoes.

caprese salad

Fresh mozzarella or creamy burrata, it’s all good!

avocado caprese

Sometimes I might add some avocado into the mix, why not!

caprese salad

Here it is in all it’s glory, just sweet and simple.

party caprese

Fun to bring to a party, layers of bocconcini, sliced cherry tomatoes all in a row on top of a bed of spinach and arugula, dress it when you get to the party.

caprese saladbocconcini caprese

Can we talk about this for a minute? If you can find fresh, hand tied, homemade bocconcini like I can, don’t hesitate to buy a big container so you can make this caprese salad, one of my favorites! The flavors are out of this world!

swirl caprese

Sometimes I’ll add in some olives, why not?

heirloom and burrata caprese

I’m in love with those pretty colored heirlooms.

caprese salad

No words needed…

caprese with oliveseggplant caprese

Throw a caprese salad on top of nicely grilled eggplant, a wonderful appetizer to munch on.

vegetable caprese

Look close, there’s a caprese salad in that stack of vegetables, lunch anyone?

citrus caprese

Switch up your tomatoes for citrus sometimes, it’s bright and unexpected and especially good in the winter months.

orange capresemango caprese

Have you ever had a mango caprese? This one is layered with avocado and mint instead of basil, topped off with chopped pistachios, quite delicious and unique!

citrus and onion capresegrilled peach caprese

And finally, peaches are now in season, so grill some up, add a little prosciutto and enjoy this as your next caprese salad, it’s a meal in itself.

I could go on and on but these are some of my favorites, enjoy the best of summer eating with simple and delicious caprese salads!

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Fettuccine with Roasted Tomatoes and Burrata

roasted tomato fettuccine

This is the time of year that I really look forward to eating this special pasta dish, it’s made with fettuccine, roasted cherry tomatoes and burrata cheese, simple with few ingredients. Honestly there’s just nothing like it, the taste is so fresh and light with dreamy burrata melted throughout!

cherry tomatoes

Once I start seeing these gorgeous cherry tomatoes on the vine in the markets I shop at, I’m hooked and I know exactly what I’m making with them.

roasted tomatoes

I’ve been making this dish for years, I’m always switching up the type of pasta that I use, I even made it with zucchini noodles in the past, equally delicious!

This time I wanted to use fettuccine, I’ve also made it with short mostaccioli, rigatoni many times and a springy shaped pasta as well, it really doesn’t matter what shape you use just pick your favorite.

What does remain the same is how the tomatoes get roasted. Always on a rimmed cookie sheet lined with foil. The foil will insure that none of the juices get dried up or evaporated on the pan.

Sometimes I leave the tomatoes whole and sometimes I cut them in half, there’s always garlic added, usually shaved, lot’s of olive oil drizzled all over, salt, pepper and torn basil.

The tomatoes are roasted in a 400 degree oven until they start to blister and burst open. If the tomatoes are whole I just prick them in the middle of the roasting process so the juices can burst out and mingle with the olive oil, all those flavors together become your sauce for the pasta.

roasted garlic

Like I said most of the time I add shaved garlic, but if I prepare in advance I also like using roasted garlic as well.

roasted tomatoes

Just squeeze out a bunch of the roasted cloves and add it into the tomato mix while roasting, then before you toss in all those wonderful juices onto your cooked pasta, smash the cloves first so that the garlic flavor can release into the sauce even more, it’s extremely delicious!

roasted tomatoesroasted tomato fettuccine

When your pasta is cooked, place it into your serving vessel, scrape down every bit of the juice that accumulated in the pan, garlic and all and toss it all together.

To finish it off and bring this dish to the ultimate of flavor, break open one or two balls of burrata cheese and place it on top of the pasta.

Just a quick drizzle of olive oil all over and a nice grating of Pecorino or Parmigiana and of course extra torn basil all around, and you’ll have one heck of a meal!

Simple and delicious!

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Scallop Risotto with Spring Vegetables

scallop risotto

Many people are nervous about making risotto but I’m here to say don’t be! Making risotto is super easy, it just requires your constant attention and a little bit of time.

This scallop risotto is great for springtime entertaining, it’s filled with tender bay scallops, sweet peas, zucchini and the brightness of lemon, it’s elegant and easy to make.

risotto ingredients

When I make risotto I like to have all my ingredients set out, prepped and ready to go, it makes the flow of things go much faster.

making risotto

The scallops are cooked on one side only then, they don’t take long at all, then folded into and finished off in the warm risotto, of course you can substitute any other seafood you like such as shrimp if scallops aren’t your thing.

Bay scallops are the ones used here, they’re smaller and easy to find. No need to use the larger more expensive sea scallops in this dish. The bay scallops are perfect for this risotto, they’re sweet, buttery and delicate and bite size  and with the hint of lemon zest throughout it’s flavor perfection!

scallop risotto

Fold the scallops gently into the cooked risotto reserving some for garnish on top.

scallop risotto

If you haven’t made risotto yet I encourage you to do so, especially this scallop risotto with spring vegetables, I promise you’ll be in love with every decadent bite!

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Scallop Risotto with Spring Vegetables
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 lb. bay scallops, patted dry
  • 1¼ cups short grain arborio rice
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 2 medium zucchini, small diced and precooked in sauté pan with olive oil until golden ( may substitute chopped asparagus)
  • 1 cup peas, frozen or fresh
  • ½ onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1¼ cups shredded Parmigiano Reggiano
  • ¾ cup white wine
  • handful of chopped parsley
  • butter and olive oil
  • zest of 1 lemon
Instructions
  1. Have all your ingredients ready to go.
  2. Heat all the stock in a separate pan.
  3. Use a heavy bottomed pan to make and stir the risotto in so it doesn't burn.
  4. Add a knob of butter and drizzle olive oil at the bottom of the pan on medium heat.
  5. Add the onions and garlic, stirring to translucent.
  6. Toss in the rice and stir to coat for around 2 to 3 minutes
  7. Add the white wine, stirring until rice absorbs it..
  8. Add stock in 1 cup at a time, stirring constantly until it absorbs, then repeat with another cup of hot stock.
  9. In the meantime, heat a separate sauté pan until hot, add a little butter and toss in the bay scallops, don't turn them, let them cook for 2-3 minutes, set aside.
  10. Keep stirring and repeat adding stock 1 cup at a time until the rice absorbs the liquid and tastes al dente but not crunchy and hard. ( there might be a little stock leftover).
  11. Remove risotto pan from heat, add a tablespoon of butter, lemon zest and all of the grated cheese and stir until combined.
  12. Fold in the cooked zucchini and peas being gentle when tossing and most of the cooked scallops, reserve some for garnish.
  13. Put a lid on for 1 minute, so everything can meld together.
  14. Add chopped parsley and spoon into bowls.
  15. Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and the reserved scallops for garnish.
  16. Serve immediately and enjoy!

 

Signature

Ditalini Timbale with Spring Vegetables

ditalini timbale

In case you’re wondering what a timbale is, think of it as a mold. Food can be cooked inside it or food can be placed inside it to form the shape of the mold, that’s what I did in this recipe with my ditalini shaped pasta timbale.

ditalini timbale

Cooked ditalini along with some of my favorite spring veggies like asparagus, zucchini and peas get folded into the mix together, then pressed into a bowl lined and coated with toasted breadcrumbs, after it cools down a bit it takes the shape of a dome.

It’s a fun way to serve up a pasta dish and it’s a nice presentation on your buffet table.

timbale

I posted a similar pasta timbale a few years ago using smaller pastina shaped pasta, see how it’s pressed tightly into the bowl? You’re going to want to do the same thing with this version using the ditalini shape.

Small pasta shapes work best for this recipe so you can be as creative as you like by picking your favorite shape. You can add in some marinara  as I did in my previous post or not, add veggies like I did or even meat if you choose.

ditalini timbale

Cookout season is upon us with many outdoor picnics and BBQ’s coming up, this is the perfect side dish for you, no need to worry about it sitting out on the table because it’s delicious and safe at room temperature.

Easy to make with a fun presentation and it tastes really good!

4.0 from 1 reviews
Ditalini Timbale with Spring Vegetables
 
You can very the amounts of the ingredients, change things up to your liking and be creative!
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 lb. ditalini pasta or other small pasta of your choice
  • 2 zucchini, diced small
  • ½ lb. chopped asparagus
  • a good sized handful of peas
  • 6 or 8 cherry tomatoes quartered
  • ¾ cup grated pecorino romano, ( or Parmigiano Reggiano) plus extra for breadcrumb mix and garnish
  • 2 garlic cloves, grated
  • 1 heaping tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup good breadcrumbs
  • fresh basil and parsley
  • olive oil
Instructions
  1. In a skillet drizzle 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, add 1 grated garlic clove and over medium heat, saute till golden then pour in the breadcrumbs stirring until lightly toasted, 3 to 5 minutes. remove from heat, let it cool then add ¼ cup each of parsley and around 2 tablespoons of grated cheese, then drizzle 2 more tablespoons of oil, toss and mix.
  2. Brush a round bowl with olive oil, mine was 9 inches.
  3. Press breadcrumb mixture along the sides and bottom of the bowl evenly. Set aside. ( you might have some mix leftover)
  4. In a large skillet on high heat add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and then toss in the zucchini until you see it crisp up a bit, then toss in the rest of the veggies, asparagus, peas and tomatoes along with the other grated garlic clove. Keep stirring and watching it only takes a few minutes, then set aside.
  5. Boil your pasta according to package directions, don't overcook it then let it drain.
  6. When drained, toss it into a different bowl and add the heaping tablespoon of butter and the ¾ cup of grated pecorino, stirring fast till it melts and gets "sticky".
  7. Fold in all of the veggie mixture, some chopped parsley and basil, check taste for salt and pepper.
  8. Spoon the finished pasta mixture into the breadcrumb lined bowl, evenly distribute it along the sides and bottom, pressing down lightly so it's nice and tightly packed in.
  9. Let it rest for 15 minutes.
  10. Un-mold it onto a nice platter and decorate with basil, parsley and a little more grated cheese.
  11. Enjoy!

 

 

Signature

Springtime Panzanella Salad

springtime panzanella

Classic panzanella is made with bread and fresh ripe tomatoes and it’s a very popular dish to make in the summertime when tomatoes are at their peak. My springtime panzanella salad presented here, which is obviously a twist on the classic, highlights peak season asparagus and other spring produce that is available now.

This version features some cooked vegetables as well as raw, a dreamy vinaigrette made with a good quality olive oil and of course crispy chunks of toasted bread throughout.

springtime panzanella

This spring green version is crisp and light, it’s hearty enough to stand alone or pretty enough to be side by side next to the perfect main of your choice. So you might want to consider this for your next party , picnic or BBQ.

springtime panzanella

Grab a baguette, slice it up and toss with olive oil, a little salt and pepper and a touch of granulated garlic, place into a hot oven until nice and crispy, then break it into crispy chunks so you can scatter throughout the salad.

This springtime panzanella salad is filled with fresh asparagus that has been blanched and thrown into an ice bath then completely padded dry, ribbons of yellow squash made with a vegetable peeler, english cucumber slices, chunks of orange pepper, red onion, defrosted peas or fresh, radish slices, sliced cherry tomatoes, a handful of arugula topped with shaved parmigiano reggiano and fresh basil.

No need for exact measurements, depending on the size of your platter just fill it with the above mentioned ingredients placed evenly all around. You can easily add, remove or change up some of the ingredients and customize it to  your own personal liking, even changing up the bread if you so desire.

springtime panzanella

Now let’s talk about the vinaigrette, I like to make it in a small mason jar by adding 1 part red wine vinegar to 3 parts of your best olive oil, add in 1 teaspoon of mayo (yes mayo) a pinch of oregano, salt and pepper then shake, shake, shake.  That’s it! Just spoon it all over and serve immediately.

Serve this up to your family and friends with all the seasonal veggies that are available right now and enjoy every bite!

Signature

Easter Dinner Side Dishes

antipasto salad

With Easter right around the corner no doubt you have your main course already planned out but there’s always room for more sides! The side dishes are always my best loved part of the meal and the more the merrier!

I’m posting a few of my favorite side dishes here today with a variety of different flavors that would go perfect with the mains of your choice.

This Antipasto Salad is all things good on a platter, it’s a definite crowd pleaser that was inspired by my friend Stacey years ago.

roasted carrots

Roasted Carrots and Shallots with Olives and Gremolata, the gremolata gives the carrots and shallots a depth of flavor that makes the whole dish pop.

spring veggies in parmesan cream

Spring Vegetables in Parmesan Lemon Cream Sauce, because it’s always nice to have something creamy and elegant at the table.

orzo pasta

Orzo Pasta with Artichoke Hearts and Roasted Tomatoes, all mixed together with creamy parmesan cheese, so delicious and easy to serve.

 

peas and asparagus

Roasted Asparagus with Peas, no recipe needed just roast your asparagus and use fresh or defrosted frozen peas, then drizzle with a dressing of lemon and olive oil with lots of lemon zest, perfect for spring!

stuffed artichokes

Stuffed Artichokes, this is hands down our number one family favorite!

spring salad

Spring Salad with Asparagus, Goat Cheese, Lemon and Hazelnuts, this salad makes a beautiful centerpiece and tastes amazing!

spring pasta salad

Spring Pasta Salad, a pasta salad that screams spring with ribbons of zucchini and pretty farfalloni.

side dish

Special Occasion Side Dish, I call it this because it’s always been a staple throughout the years in my family, I serve it with almost everything, including pasta dishes.

farro salad

Loaded Farro Salad, chewy farro loaded with roasted vegetables, a side with great flavor and texture to grace your Easter table.

I hope you choose one of these different side dish options to round out your Easter feast!

 

Signature

Triple Zested Ricotta Cookies

triple zested ricotta cookies

Zesty and soft with a cake like texture these triple zested ricotta cookies will be your new favorite. What I love about ricotta cookies is that you can adapt them to any holiday or special occasion by changing up the frosting and sprinkles, but in general most ricotta cookies are lemon flavored.

This version has a little twist to it, they’re infused with the brightness of lemon, lime and orange zest inside and out, so they’re perfect to serve for your spring and summer parties as well as the Easter holiday which is right around the corner.

citrus zest

There’s nothing like the smell of freshly zested citrus, it screams springtime to me which is very welcoming after a long cold winter.

ricotta cookies

Ricotta cookies are surprisingly easy to make, not a lot of ingredients either which is a good thing, and everyone seems to gobble them up when they’re sitting out on a platter, they’re just irresistible!

triple zested ricotta cookies

With each bite you’ll taste a rich burst of citrus flavor because the zest is in the dough as well as the frosting which gets brushed on top.

 

triple zested ricotta cookiestriple zested ricotta cookies

Think wedding and baby showers, Mother’s Day, graduations, picnics, family gatherings and holidays, these ricotta cookies will fit right in for those special occasions.

triple zested ricotta cookiestriple zested ricotta cookies

I would say that these triple zested ricotta cookies are destined to become your new favorite cookie once you try them!

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5.0 from 3 reviews
Triple Zested Ricotta Cookies
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • orange, lime and lemon zest about 2 tablespoons each
  • 1 cup, ricotta (dry and drained of moisture. Instead of deli style look for a good brand that's packed in a container that you can buy in the refrigerated section because they're usually dryer in texture)
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • FROSTING
  • lemon juice
  • 1 cup, powdered sugar
Instructions
  1. Mix the zest together.
  2. Heat oven to 350F. and line a baking sheet with parchment.
  3. In a large bowl add the ricotta, softened butter, sugar, vanilla, salt and egg, mix them together on low speed until incorporated.
  4. In a smaller bowl add the flour and baking soda, use a whisk and incorporate by hand.
  5. Now on low speed add the flour mixture to the ricotta mixture making sure all is incorporated.
  6. Add in 1 tablespoon of the zest to the mixture and blend til it's throughout the dough.
  7. Take a teaspoon size piece of dough and roll it into a ball like a meatball and place onto the parchment lined baking sheet.
  8. Bake for ten minutes on lower rack then pull them out of the oven and take the back side of a flat spatula and gently press down on the tops, this is not necessary but my preference because it gives a nice surface for the frosting.
  9. Then place them back into the oven on the upper rack for 3 more minutes, make sure bottoms are nicely golden.
  10. Take them out and let them cool completely on a rack before frosting.
  11. FROSTING
  12. Mix the powdered sugar with lemon juice until you have the right consistency then take a pastry brush and brush each cookie one by one with the frosting, then sprinkle a pinch of the tripled zests that you mixed together on the tops of each cookie. Repeat until they're all frosted, one by one.
  13. Let them set for a couple of hours so frosting can dry, store in an airtight container between waxed paper. You can also freeze them, this recipe makes around 30 cookies.
  14. Feel free to double or triple the recipe!

 

Signature

Reuben Wraps

reuben wraps

If you wind up having leftover corned beef from your St. Patricks Day dinner here’s a fun way to repurpose some of the extra you might have, make reuben wraps!

These delicious reuben wraps have all the flavors of a hearty reuben sandwich, corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, Russian dressing for dipping and cabbage leaves to wrap it all up in.

This is perfect to serve for lunch or light dinner, which is what I did.

reuben ingredients

All you need to do is get a pot of water boiling together then dip your cabbage leaves in there for just 30 seconds, remove with tongs and lay them on a kitchen towel to dry off. I bought a bag of sauerkraut and a bottle of Russian dressing, you could make your own dressing if you prefer.

reuben wrap

Then it’s like layering a burrito, first the cabbage leaf, then the Swiss cheese, one or two slices, a few slices of the corned beef and then top it with a sprinkling of sauerkraut.

reuben wrap

Then just roll it up burrito style, how easy is that!

reuben wraps

Grab a wrap and then use the Russian dressing for dipping, so delish! Which reminds me, this recipe comes courtesy of delish, I saw this on one of their quick video’s and couldn’t wait to make it, these reuben wraps did not disappoint!

reuben wraps

This may not be “traditional” but I promise you that you won’t miss out on a bit of flavor, and besides they’re fun to eat!

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Sombrero Shaped Pasta Multi Colored and Stuffed

sombrero shaped pasta

Sometimes you just want to switch it up and try something different, that was the case with these sombreroni, they’re a sombrero shaped, multi colored pasta that I discovered while wandering into a specialty pasta shop, something I have never attempted to make.

 

sombrero shaped pasta

As soon as I picked up the bag I knew I was buying it, true artisan quality, made in Puglia Italy and the rainbow colors are made from all natural ingredients like beetroot, paprika, spinach and tumeric.

 

sombrero shaped pasta

Basically you treat these just like ravioli, you can stuff the hats with your favorite fillings, the round disks will then be placed on the bottom to seal everything inside.

sombrero shaped pasta

Both the hats and disks get boiled together for only 4 minutes, then scooped out gently, drained and rinsed with cold water to stop the cooking.

sombrero shaped pasta

Place the drained pasta onto a clean kitchen towel, let them dry a bit and then they’re ready to stuff. I used ricotta, basil, parsley, pecorino, mozzarella and an egg for my filling, but the possibilities are endless, just use your favorite ravioli filling.

You’re going to flip the hat over, pointy tip side down and stuff it to the top with your filling, then place the round disk on the bottom to seal it up, then flip it over gently and place it right side up into your baking dish with some sauce to cover the bottom.

I used a marinara sauce and mixed in a little cream for a tomato cream version but plain marinara or even a white bechamel would work just as well.

sombrero shaped pasta

At this point when your baking dish is filled it’s time to cover it completely with foil and place into a preheated 350 degree F oven for 30 to 40 minutes.

You might want to pull it out after 25 minutes and add a little sauce on the tips of the hats to help soften it. Other than that that’s all there is to it!

sombrero shaped pasta

Serve them in a little pool of sauce, drizzle a little on the cooked hats and add a sprinkling of grated cheese all over.

I’m happy to say that they kept their shape, the color was still vibrant and didn’t fade and not a bit of the filling seeped out!

sombrero shaped pasta

A fun presentation when you want to change it up a bit and wow your guests, they’re so delicious and unique.

I hope you seek them out and put your own special twist on them!

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Signature

Chicken Saltimbocca

chicken saltimbocca

Chicken saltimbocca is a restaurant quality meal that’s super easy to make at home with just a few ingredients to pull together. It’s quick enough for a busy weekday dinner or fancy enough to serve up for a dinner party.

There are many variations of this dish, you can use veal, chicken and even pork, but basically the protein that you choose is smothered with fresh sage leaves and then wrapped with thin slices of prosciutto. No wonder saltimbocca means to ” jump in your mouth” because that’s exactly what you’ll want to do when you prepare this!

chicken saltimbocca

I like using chicken tenders, they’re the perfect size, all you have to do is pound them down a little thinner with a meat mallet, so I would recommend using them instead of a whole chicken breast that you would have to cut down and slice.

Some versions say to dredge the chicken into flour first, that step is not necessary at all, I never dredge it in flour I think it takes away from the texture of the chicken and the rich flavors of the sauce.

Speaking of sauce it’s a combination of garlic, deglazed white wine, lemon juice, zest, and chicken broth and butter to gloss it up and thicken it, when all of this gets reduced down magic happens!

chicken saltimbocca dinner

Chicken saltimbocca is wonderful with a side of your favorite greens, broccoli, asparagus, potatoes, a salad, risotto or whatever your heart desires. I was lucky to find these pencil thin asparagus which I threw into my sauce for a couple of minutes to tender up and I also made a side of mashed cauliflower.

It turned out to be the perfect midweek dinner and the leftovers were just as good the next day!

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5.0 from 3 reviews
Chicken Saltimbocca
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • chicken tenders, pounded gently with a meat mallet to get get a little flatter
  • prosciutto, I like to slice each piece in half lengthwise
  • a bunch of fresh sage leaves
  • white wine
  • garlic, 3 cloves grated finely with a microplane
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • a cup or so of chicken broth
  • unsalted butter
Instructions
  1. Take your chicken and pepper each side, if you want to salt them do it sparingly because the prosciutto is salty enough.
  2. Lay one large or 2 small sage leaves on each chicken tender, take your meat mallet and tap it onto the chicken so it sticks.
  3. Wrap a slice of prosciutto around the tender covering the sage leaves but it's ok to have them peaking out. You might have to use one or two slices depending on how big your tenders are.
  4. When all the tenders are wrapped, put a knob of butter into a skillet and when the butter starts to bubble add the wrapped tenders sage side down first for about 3 minutes, the prosciutto will shrink and crisp up and hold that sage together on the chicken securely.
  5. Cook for a few minutes on that side then flip and brown the other side for another few minutes, be careful not to burn you want them golden brown.
  6. Remove chicken tenders and set aside under foil.
  7. In the same skillet add your garlic and cook until golden then deglaze with a good splash of white wine and let the alcohol cook down.
  8. Add the juice of 1 lemon and all the zest and a cup or so of chicken broth, let it reduce on a low flame then add in a good 2 tablespoons of butter to help the sauce thicken and get glossy, and I always add extra sage leaves for flavor infusion.
  9. Place the chicken back into the sauce and let it finish cooking and the sauce reducing. You never want to cover the chicken completely with sauce it should only be half way up the sides of the chicken and when it reduces it will be just enough to spoon over each tender and have exceptional rich flavor.
  10. Serve with your favorite side!

 

Signature

Blackened Shrimp with Citrus Salad

blackened shrimp with citrus salad

We’re still in the doldrums of winter here in the midwest and I feel like I’ve had my fair share of comfort foods already, and lately I haven’t been inspired to keep on making them. Even though spring is still a good month away, I’m ready for something lighter and brighter!

In comes this salad of blackened shrimp with citrus, it’s hearty enough, light enough and it’s enhanced by all the bright winter citrus that’s still available, it’s a wonderful combination of sweet and heat.

roasted chickpeas

I took the easy route and bought a good blackened seasoning for my shrimp which I tossed with olive oil and pan seared.

For added creaminess and crunch I roasted a can of chickpeas to toss in with the salad.

citrus

Segments and slices of winter citrus are tossed in throughout the salad as well as some of the slices for garnish. I chose cara cara and blood oranges for mine.

blackened shrimp with citrus salad

Creamy avocado, red onion and arugula for the greens all balance out perfectly with the spicy blackened shrimp, sweet and juicy citrus and the roasted, crunchy chickpeas.

blackened shrimp with citrus salad

A simple citrus vinaigrette to drizzle all over makes for the perfect dressing for this blackened shrimp with citrus salad, I hope you give it a try it’s a nice little break from all that winter comfort food.

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Blackened Shrimp with Citrus Salad
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 lb. shrimp, cleaned and de-veined and patted dry
  • winter citrus, I used cara, cara and blood orange, triangle segments from slices and some slices whole, maybe 3 depending on how big they are
  • blackened seasoning (storebought is fine)
  • 5 oz. box of arugula
  • 1 can of chick peas, rinsed, drained then set on a paper towel to dry off
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • ½ red onion, cut in half moons
  • some spices for roasting chickpeas
  • CITRUS DRESSING:
  • 1 part orange juice
  • 1 part white balsamic
  • 3 parts olive oil
  • 1 dollop djon mustard
  • 1 small garlic clove, grated on microplane
  • salt and pepper
  • Shake in a jar until incorporated, add more or less to your liking, ( you'll have more than enough, leftover dressing keeps well in the fridge)
Instructions
  1. Roast your drained and dried chickpeas in a 400 degree oven tossed with olive oil, granulated garlic, salt and pepper and a touch of paprika until crispy, set aside. ( You probably will not use the whole can, more likely just half)
  2. For the shrimp grab a zip bag, place the shrimp inside with your blackened seasoning and olive oil to coat, adjust seasoning to your taste.
  3. Heat up a skillet nice and hot then sear your shrimp on both sides until pink, remove and set aside.
  4. In a big bowl add the arugula, sliced avocado, red onion half moons and some of the citrus segments plus a handful of roasted chickpeas.
  5. Toss gently with dressing until well coated.
  6. Place salad onto a large platter and distribute the blackened shrimp all around, adding more citrus and chickpeas all over.
  7. Garnish the top with a few slices of citrus and spoon more if the dressing all around.
  8. Eat immediately

 

Signature

Strawberry Tiramisu (without raw eggs)

strawberry tiramisu

Strawberry Tiramisu is a twist on the famous classic dessert which contains raw eggs and coffee, this one has neither. It’s a variation where strawberries, creamy mascarpone and whipped cream reign supreme and it’s absolutely delicious!

This dessert is perfect for Valentines Day which is right around the corner, a romantic date night with your special someone, or it can be doubled up and made for your next party.

It’s an easy to assemble, no-bake dessert which can and should be made the day before so all the flavors can meld together in pure harmony.

 

strawberry tiramisu ingredients

Seek out the freshest and juiciest strawberries you can find, I always buy extra just in case I don’t like the way some look after I bring them home, ripeness is key to the over all flavor in this strawberry tiramisu.

You’ll also need some heavy whipping cream, magical mascarpone cheese and Savoiardi lady fingers which are the crunchy kind not the soft ones.

strawberry tiramisu

For best results stick with an 8×8 or 9×9 inch serving dish or something similar so you’ll have enough ingredients to make 2 layers, of course if you want to double the recipe go with a larger vessel.

strawberry tiramisu

The first layer is the lady fingers that have been soaked in strawberry juice, not quickly dipped but soaked well enough before they fall apart, this will give you the moisture that is needed for the cake.

Next you’ll spread the cream mixture all over the lady fingers and on top of that sliced strawberries scattered all over the top, then you’ll repeat everything one more time.

 

strawberry tiramisu

As I said before this dessert tastes best made the day before which makes it easy on the host because dessert will be done in advance, all you have to do is pull it out of the fridge and put the coffee on.

strawberry tiramisustrawberry tiramisu

Feel free to add in some liqueur like Kirsch, Framboise to your pureed strawberry juice for an adult version, I had some raspberry liqueur that I used in mine, but if you’re making it kid friendly it’s just as good without.

I hope you make this easy and luxurious dessert for your next party or date night in.

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5.0 from 2 reviews
Strawberry Tiramisu (without raw eggs)
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 3lbs. fresh, ripe strawberries ( you're going to have extra for sure) 2 full cups will be chopped and pureed in a food processor, some will be sliced for layers and a few whole for optional decorating of the top
  • Savoiardi lady fingers, the crunchy kind, 24 in a package, you'll probably only use one pack but again I always buy an extra package just in case
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 8 oz. mascarpone cream, room temperature
  • ¼ cup to ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 or 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons liqueur like raspberry, Kirsch or Framboise (optional)
  • ½ cup water
  • mint leaves for optional garnish
Instructions
  1. You'll need a 9x9 inch serving dish or something similar and it should be deep enough to hold two layers. Optional bowl might be a smaller trifle dish.
  2. TO MAKE STRAWBERRY JUICE FOR DIPPING LADY FINGERS
  3. Place 2 full cups of chopped strawberries into a food processor with ½ cup of water and puree until nice and smooth, taste and see if you think it's sweet enough, if not add a tablespoon or 2 of granulated sugar, at this time you can add in the option of a liqueur if you want, taste again adding the amount to your liking. Pour dipping mixture into a small deep dish wide enough so lady fingers can fit while soaking.
  4. TO MAKE THE CREAM MIXTURE
  5. In a bowl add the 8 oz. of mascarpone cheese and with a hand mixer beat until it smooths out.
  6. In same bowl add the 2 cups of heavy cream, the vanilla and the ¼ cup of powdered sugar, blend and beat until it thickens up like a firm whipped cream.
  7. SLICED STRAWBERRIES
  8. Thinly slice up enough strawberries to top the cream mixture on each layer all around
  9. READY FOR ASSEMBLY
  10. One by one soak lady fingers in the strawberry puree, turning and coating each side thoroughly not just a quick dip.
  11. Place single layer on the whole bottom of your serving dish.
  12. Now spread about half of the cream mixture on top of the strawberry soaked ladyfingers making sure all is covered.
  13. Place the thinly sliced strawberries all around the cream mixture.
  14. Repeat next layer with the soaked lady fingers followed by the cream mixture spread all over and then with the sliced strawberries scattered all around.
  15. You can be creative how you want to decorate the top maybe even using some whole strawberries.
  16. Wrap serving dish in plastic wrap and stick it in the fridge overnight for optimal results.
  17. Cut squares or scoop out when ready to serve.
  18. Enjoy!

 

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French Bread Pizzas Kicked-Up a Notch!

french bread pizza

When was the last time you had a french bread pizza? Back in the day they were pretty popular, some of you might remember the frozen ones you could buy and heat up for a quick dinner, they still sell them but they’re pretty basic with lots of unknown ingredients.

It’s so easy to make your own, grab a nice baguette, get creative and customize it with whatever toppings you want, add some sauce and cheese and you’re good to go!

Times have changed and now it’s fun to go a little gourmet with your french bread pizzas. Here’s a few ideas that might give you some inspiration and maybe something you might want to serve up at your upcoming Super Bowl party this weekend.

french bread pizza

You’ll want to have all your toppings prepped and ready to go, you can even use leftover veggies and protein you might have in the fridge. Here I swiped my bread with a red pepper sauce then added some roasted shrimp, roasted tomatoes, feta, a little shredded mozzarella, oregano and parsley.

french bread pizza

The crispy crust makes every bite super scrumptious!

french bread pizza

For another version I placed shredded mozzarella on top of the bread, added caramelized onions, roasted mushrooms, parsley and thyme.

french bread pizza

One of my favorites!

french bread pizza

I had some leftover chicken so I added that to the base of shredded mozzarella, then tucked in some jarred artichokes hearts, fresh wilted spinach and olives.

french bread pizza

Top them off with a drizzle of olive oil, place on a parchment lined baking sheet in a 400 F oven for around 15 minutes or so, you’ll know when they’re done because the top will be golden, the cheese melted and the crust nice and crispy.

french bread pizza

Of course I had to make one with cheese, sausage and peppers. The sausage and peppers were already pre-cooked, so again I swiped the bread with a red pepper sauce then added shredded mozzarella, sausage and peppers.

french bread pizza

Don’t forget to garnish your french bread pizzas with fresh and dried herbs, red pepper flakes and a drizzle of good olive oil, salt and pepper.

french bread pizza

This is the perfect party food, get a sharp knife and make slices for everyone to share, perfect for game day. It’s also a quick and very economical weekday meal for your family, kids can make their own with their favorite toppings and you can go ahead and kick it up a notch for yourself, and everyone will be happy!

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Stuffed Rainbow Colored Peppers with Cauliflower Rice and Italian Sausage

stuffed pepper

Who doesn’t love stuffed peppers? It’s old school comfort food at it’s best. It’s a weeknight family meal that’s simple to make with flavorful fillings packed into a rainbow colored edible vessel. They can be stuffed with starches, meats, cheese, beans or all veggies showcasing even different ethnic cuisines.

Needless to say the combinations are endless and for that reason stuffed peppers will be around for a long long time.

raw peppers

I love using an assortment of rainbow colored bell peppers, they still maintain their color and sweetness after baking, and the different colors make for a pretty presentation.

 

stuffed peppers

Cutting the peppers lengthwise allows for more of the filling to be packed into them. These peppers are packed tightly with Italian sausage, onions, garlic, mushrooms, chopped kale and I swapped out of white rice ( which you don’t even miss) for healthier cauliflower rice.

stuffed peppers

Of course some cheese is involved along with marinara which gives these stuffed rainbow colored peppers a delicious depth of flavor with a nice Italian twist!

stuffed peppers

Did I mention how good the leftovers are? Be sure to make enough so you can heat one up for lunch the next day you’ll be happy you did.

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5.0 from 2 reviews
Stuffed Rainbow Colored Peppers with Cauliflower Rice and Italian Sausage
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 4 rainbow colored bell peppers, cut lengthwise in half, then scoop out seeds and membrane
  • 1 lb. Italian sausage, casings removed and crumbled into small pieces
  • 2 cups frozen or fresh chopped riced cauliflower
  • 1 onion diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 handful kale or spinach, chopped
  • 6 large cremini mushrooms chopped
  • a handful of cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced
  • ¾ cup shredded mozzarella plus a little extra for garnishing the tops
  • ½ cup of grated pecorino
  • ½ cup marinara sauce for the filling and enough extra sauce to cover the bottom of a 9x12 baking dish
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon each, chopped basil and parsley
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 375
  2. Oil the bottom and sides of a 9x12 baking dish.
  3. Pour enough marinara sauce on the bottom of the baking dish to cover it all over.
  4. Place the 8 raw halves of the peppers into the baking dish.
  5. Brown the crumbled sausage in a pan until you see no pink at all, then remove and drain on paper towels.
  6. Wipe out pan of excess grease then add the onion, garlic and chopped mushrooms, riced cauliflower and cook til slightly soft then toss around and add the chopped kale to let it wilt.
  7. In a bowl add the drained sausage, cauliflower, cooked onion, garlic, mushrooms, kale, grated cheese, mozzarella, the sliced cherry tomatoes and the ½ cup of marinara sauce and herbs tossing well to incorporate everything.
  8. Fill each raw pepper with the filling, packing it in.
  9. Cover pan with foil and bake for 30 minutes then remove pan and change oven temp to 400
  10. Take the foil off, sprinkle the tops with a tablespoon or 2 of shredded mozzarella and some grated cheese.
  11. There will be a lot of moisture at the bottom of the pan from the foil being on but the higher temp will reduce it all.
  12. It's finished when you can say the peppers are nice and tender , test with the tip of a sharp knife and cheese is a little golden.
  13. Spoon some sauce on top of each and serve.

 

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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

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

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!

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

 

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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.

 

Signature

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 ( note: if it's thicker you just have to simmer it longer)
  • 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
  • ½ to 1 cup of white wine, depending on how much steak you're cooking
  • kalamata and cerignola olives, a good handful of each
  • 1 tablespoon or so, good quality oregano, dried
  • ½ cup water, Optional if sauce is too thick or if you think it's too thin add a few tablespoons of marinara
  • 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 along with the capers and olives.
  5. Deglaze with the wine and let it reduce a little.
  6. Add the sliced tomatoes.
  7. Add the steaks back in and let it simmer until the tomatoes burst and all the juices flow and thicken up a bit. Remember if too thick add a little water and if too thin add a couple tablespoons of marinara.
  8. Finished when steaks are fork tender.
  9. 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!

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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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