Pear Salad with Arugula, Prosciutto and Gorgonzola

pear salad To me summer is all about the salads, and do I have a good one to share with you today! It’s a combination of salty prosciutto, peppery arugula, creamy gorgonzola and sliced sweet pears, need I say more?

Abate pears The other day I discovered a new variety of pears called Abate ,( pronounced ah-BAH-tay) they have a unique shape, more oblong, taller and slimmer than the typical pears we’re use to. They originated in Italy and are said to be among the best in the world. I need to go back and get more before they disappear because I absolutely loved them.

They were perfect for this salad, not only were they sweet and juicy but they kept a nice firm shape when sliced. Of course any variety of pear will do for this salad, just make sure it’s not too overly ripe.

If you happen to come across some Abate pears, please give them a try!

pear salad I love salads that I can make or bring to a party, ones that I can arrange on a large platter with a pretty presentation, and this is one of them.

pear salad It looks pretty and it tastes even better, the flavor combination is out of this world good!

There’s no real recipe, just spread some arugula all over a platter, slice up some pears that have been cut in half lengthwise, cored and sliced. Arrange the pears all around, tuck in slices of prosciutto then crumble gorgonzola all over the top along with some toasted walnuts, that’s it!

Dress it right before serving, I used white balsamic and olive oil, a fifty fifty mix, just whisk it up add some salt and pepper and drizzle over the top, so delicious!

pear saladpear and prosciutto rolls

I call the above picture an Italian summer roll, something I saw Rachael Ray do but she didn’t add the gorgonzola. So using all the same flavors that were in the salad I made a roll out of it, here’s how:

Lay out a slice of proscuitto, add a small handful of arugula, one pear slice and a small chunk of gorgonzola then just roll it up, everything will stay together perfectly and it’s so easy to pick up and eat!

Either one of these would be great for Father’s Day this weekend, graduations or any of your upcoming summertime parties.

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Grilled Corn and Zucchini Summer Risotto

grilled corn and zucchini risotto This recipe is summer on a plate, it combines the classic creamy risotto with all the summertime flavors of garden fresh grilled corn and zucchini stirred right into it, and of course some fresh basil to enhance it all.

grilled corn and zucchiniIt’s really very simple to make especially when grilling veggies is at it’s peak this time of year, just set aside a couple of lightly grilled ears of corn as well as zucchini next time your doing some grilling. You’ll then be slicing the corn right off the cobs leaving some of those nice little planks as well as kernels, I just love those corn planks!
making risotto Have all your other ingredients prepped and ready to go, it’s time to start stirring!

grilled corn and zucchini risotto This is what I call the perfect one pot meal, classically creamy with the summertime freshness of the grilled corn and zucchini, and lets not forget the fresh basil!

grilled corn and zucchini risotto Are you ready to dig in?

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5.0 from 1 reviews
Grilled Corn and Zucchini Summer Risotto
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 3 ears of corn, grilled and then shucked leaving planks as well as kernels
  • 3 small zucchini, cut in half, grilled then diced
  • fresh basil
  • 1¼ cup arborio rice
  • 1 quart of a good quality boxed broth, low sodium, chicken or vegetable
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • ¾ cup of shredded parmesan
  • ¾ cup, white wine
  • 2 knobs of unsalted butter
  • olive oil
Instructions
  1. Simmer your broth on the stove in a separate pan.
  2. Take an additional pan with a heavy bottom,drizzle the bottom with olive oil then add in 1 knob of butter, cook until melted.
  3. Add in the onion and saute on medium until soft.
  4. Add in the rice, stirring until well coated, cooking for a minute or two.
  5. De-glaze with the wine, stirring until it has cooked in and evaporated.
  6. Start adding in the warmed broth, one cup at a time, continue to stir until absorbed.
  7. Repeat adding the broth and stirring until it gets absorbed all the time on medium heat.
  8. Rice should start to look creamy and when you taste it there should be a slightly al dente feel, you may have a little broth leftover.
  9. When finished add the other knob of butter, stir and combine.
  10. Add the cheese, stir and combine.
  11. Fold in your corn and zucchini, adding as much as you want leaving the planks to decorate the top, again you might have some of the veggies leftover, but that's a good thing!
  12. Take a handful of basil and cut it chiffonade style, then sprinkle it all over.
  13. Enjoy!

 

 

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Coffee Panna Cotta

coffee panna cotta Panna Cotta is a delicious Italian dessert, it’s served chilled and has a custard like consistency,  it’s ultra creamy and slightly sweet and you can infuse many different flavors into it. One of my favorite versions is coffee infused panna cotta, it’s the perfect finish to a lovely summertime meal.

coffee panna cotta The key to making the perfect coffee panna cotta with the utmost of flavor is to brew and use espresso, I repeat espresso, don’t bother trying to make it with regular coffee it won’t have any flavor at all, trust me.

coffee panna cotta I like to garnish mine with chocolate espresso beans, the more coffee flavor the better for me, but you could even use shaved chocolate, some chopped hazelnuts, a dollop of whipped cream, whatever you like.

coffee panna cotta Panna cotta is great for entertaining because you can make it the day before and have it chilling in your fridge and ready to serve to your guests when it’s dessert time.

Did I mention how easy it is to make? You only need a few simple ingredients which in turn will give you a very WOW presentation.

coffee panna cotta This recipe for panna cotta is one you don’t have to un-mold, so find your prettiest glasses to serve it in and they don’t have to be big ones either. Add a few cookies on the side and you’ll have the perfect summertime dessert!

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5.0 from 2 reviews
Coffee Panna Cotta
 
Recipe adapted from Jacques Pepin, Heart and Soul in the Kitchen
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 envelop of plain gelatin, like Knox
  • ¼ cup water
  • ½ cup hot espresso
  • 4 to 5 tablespoons sugar
  • 1½ cups of half-and-half
Instructions
  1. In a very small bowl bloom the gelatin with the water. Heat in microwave for 30 seconds to dissolve.
  2. Mix the sugar into the warm espresso in a medium bowl until dissolved. Add the gelatin mixture stirring well so it's not sticking to the bottom using a rubber spatula.
  3. Stir in all the half-and-half.
  4. Pour into four small glasses then refrigerate.
  5. Panna cotta should be set in around 2 hours or so.
  6. Garnish with chocolate espresso beans or a topping of your choice, right before you're ready to serve.

 

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Grilled Potato Salad

grilled potato salad Today I’m sharing this recipe for grilled potato salad because Memorial Day weekend is fast approaching and you just can’t have a BBQ without some kind of potato salad!

This is a little twist on traditional potato salad because no mayo is required and the potatoes are grilled which lends a nice, slightly smoky flavor to the salad.

grilled potatoes You can pretty much use any variety of potato but it’s important to know that you have to cook the potatoes first, you can’t just place raw potato slices directly onto the grill, it won’t turn out right.

You can boil, bake or microwave the potatoes, I prefer microwaving them. I had three big potatoes, mine were russet and they took only four to five minutes each, you’re looking for an al’ dente feel where you’re able to make a nice clean slice, they’ll finish cooking the rest of the way on the grill.

grilled potato salad

After the potatoes are grilled place them onto a platter lined with arugula then add sliced radishes, grilled corn, slivers of red onion, cherry tomatoes and lots of fresh basil.

The dressing is simple, just whisk two parts lemon juice to two parts olive oil, one minced garlic clove, a squeeze of Dijon mustard, salt and pepper.

grilled potato salad

Drizzle the dressing all around keeping it nice and light, don’t worry about keeping it chilled because it taste great at room temperature, nice and easy.

Happy Memorial Day!

Here’s a couple other grilled potato recipes you might want try, grilled red potatoes and grilled potato and asparagus napoleon.

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Grilled Pizza with Slow Roasted Tomatoes and Whipped Ricotta

pizza on the grill If you haven’t tried making grilled pizza yet I can honestly say you’re really missing out. Many people are intimidated by it, I was too when I first started making it a couple of years ago. I made many mistakes, especially when grilling the dough you have to get it just right in my opinion because it can make or break the whole pizza.

When grilled correctly the crust becomes crunchy with just the right amount of chew and the perfect platform for your toppings.

slow roasted heirloom tomatoes Speaking of toppings, for grilled pizza I wouldn’t use meat unless it’s been pre-cooked and sliced thin.

For me using veggies of any kind is the way to go, but again they should cooked and  prepped first. Pizza made on the grill goes really fast, you have no time to cook a meat on top, after you crisp up the crust you’re basically waiting for the cheese to melt. Usually  I’ll roast up some zucchini coins or thin slices of eggplant, mushrooms, peppers beforehand so I’m all ready when it comes to topping the pizza, you have to have all your toppings prepped and ready.

This time I decided I was going to use these beautiful heirloom tomatoes that I found which I had slow roasted a couple of days before. They’re basted with garlic and olive oil and slow roasted with fresh thyme or basil for four hours, I love having them tucked away in my fridge to use for appetizers or to top off a special dish or in this case grilled pizza, the flavor is out of this world.

This has now become my new favorite grilled pizza of all times!

ingredients for grilled pizza My ingredients were: One ball of pizza dough, ( I get mine from a good Italian store, but you can make your own of course), fontina cheese, fresh mozzarella, whipped ricotta, basil and the slow roasted tomatoes.

raw pizza dough I don’t like to grill one big pizza, I tried it many times but the crust never turns out the way it should. I like to cut my dough ball in half and make two pizzas. The dough needs to be at room temperature for best results otherwise it keeps springing back when your trying to spread it out and form it nice and even.

Brush both sides with olive oil, place them on a baking sheet and take them out to the grill.

making grilled pizza Heat your grill up nice and hot, burn up any bits, your grill grates should be impeccably clean, then take a paper towel soaked in oil and wipe it all over your grates.

I have a gas grill with three burners, all are lit but kept at medium heat. Now place your dough onto the grill, and don’t touch it!

making grilled pizza You’re going to see it start to bubble, that’s a good thing, let it bubble all around, now take your tongs, lift it and see how it’s doing, you can move it, turn it, but don’t flip it over!

You want to get it nice and crispy, only on one side for now.

making grilled pizza When it looks like this take it off and put it on your baking sheet cooked side up,it’s time to put the toppings on. Remember, the underside is still not cooked.

grilled pizza dough You can tell the dough is cooked in the photo above,  it’s not pale, it doesn’t look gummy or raw, it’s sort of crunchy and slightly hollow if you tap on it, and it’s sturdy enough to  stand up to your ingredients.

grilled pizza toppings I put the grated fontina down first, then cut and scattered my fresh mozzarella around, added the slow roasted tomatoes and fresh basil. The whipped ricotta goes on after the pizza is finished.

grilled pizza Go back out to your grill now and place the uncooked side down onto the grates, close the lid and let the cheese melt, keep checking so the crust doesn’t burn lifting it with your tongs, again you want it nice and crispy like the top with a firm feeling to it, not limp.

grilled pizza It only takes a few minutes so don’t walk away!

grilled pizza The bottom is now cooked and crispy, the cheese has melted, the tomatoes with the garlic oil have permeated the whole pizza and the basil just tops it all off.

But hold on we’re not done!

grilled pizza Time for the whipped ricotta, mix it up and place it in a zip bag, cut off the tip and squeeze fluffy dollops onto your pizza.

grilled pizza Just one bite and you’ll be smitten! There are no words…

grilled pizza

Here’s the link to make the slow roasted tomatoes and whipped ricotta, now get grilling!

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Fresh Strawberry Pie

fresh strawberry pie

It’s strawberry season, and one of my favorite ways to showcase them is in this fresh strawberry pie, it’s the perfect summer dessert!

fresh strawberry pie recipe card I have to admit I’ve been making this for years, it goes way back to the seventies, yes, the seventies’ when I was a young mother and wife. I would get so excited when I received my new batch of recipe cards from Betty Crocker, I would quickly file and categorize them into my lime green recipe box. Today that recipe card library is considered “vintage” or retro and I’ve even seen them show up on ebay every now and then.

When I look at those cards now I have to laugh at what use to be considered popular dishes back then, lots of saucy things, aspics, jello molds filled with everything under the sun even meat!

Times sure have changed but this recipe has always been a favorite, every time we had a summer cookout I would proudly serve this up for dessert and it was a hit each time, to this day I still make it at least a couple of times during the summer and you know what? It’s still a hit!

making fresh strawberry pie

The ingredients are classic and simple and still relevant for today,  fresh berries, a baked pie crust and a glaze made with the berries along with some sugar to sweeten and cornstarch to thicken it, that’s it!

fresh strawberry piefresh strawberry pie Serve it up nice and cold with fresh whipped cream floating on top, hello summertime!

fresh strawberry pie

You’ll be dreaming about this when there’s four feet on snow on the ground, I promise.

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5.0 from 2 reviews
Fresh Strawberry Pie
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 9" baked pie shell, either homemade or store-bought, cooled
  • 7- 8 cups of fresh strawberries, stems cut off
  • FOR GLAZE
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons of cornstarch
  • possible extra water
  • 2 drops of natural red food coloring, optional
  • whipped cream for serving
Instructions
  1. Blind bake your pie shell. prick it and place some parchment and pie weights on top so pastry doesn't shrink down on you, then set it aside to cool.
  2. Make your glaze by placing a heaping cup of strawberries into a small food processor or blender, process until it turns into a puree, then pour it into a measuring cup, it should measure 1¼ cups total, if not add some water.
  3. In a small sauce pan on medium heat add the sugar, cornstarch and berry puree and optional food coloring, stir until it thickens then let it bubble for 2 more minutes continuing to stir then take pan off the heat and let it cool down for 15 minutes.
  4. ASSEMBLY;
  5. Spread half of the glaze onto the bottom and sides of the cooked pie shell, then place fresh berries all around, cut side down filling the bottom, then take the rest and fill in the gaps on top of the berry base, piling them high, always cut side down for presentation.
  6. Spoon the remaining glaze all around and on top of the berries, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours so the glaze can set and it will be easier to cut.
  7. Be gentle when cutting it, then serve with fresh whipped cream.

 

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Pastina Timbale with Zucchini

pastina timbale with zucchini

This dish is called  pastina timbale , a timbale is is a mold and food can be cooked or placed inside it. A pasta timbale is great for entertaining and it’s such a fun way to serve up little tiny pasta, or pastina as we call it in my family.

Even though you can make this in individual ramekins I prefer the more dramatic presentation using one large bowl, and it’s easier!

pastina timbale with zucchini This is my version of Michael Chiarello’s recipe for pastina timbale, he used a pound of diced Italian sausage folded into the pasta and sauce, I prefer using zucchini  instead of meat, it’s lighter and I think it pairs well with the delicate pastina, but you can be creative in using your favorite ingredients.

You want to sautee the zucchini first getting it to a nice deep golden brown color, then fold it into the mixture of cooked pasta, cheese and a some marinara preferably flavored with garlic and basil, I always opt for homemade but if you can get a good store bought one go ahead, make your life easier!

This is perfect for a summer buffet because you don’t have to worry about it sitting out at room temperature because nothing will spoil.

pastina timbale with zucchini Line a bowl with crispy and flavorful breadcrumbs, then press the pasta mixture into your mold.

pastina timbale with zucchini Let it sit for fifteen minutes and then it’s time to un-mold.

pastina timbale with zucchini TA-DA! Isn’t she pretty and how easy is that? It’s all about the presentation here.

pastina timbale with zucchini

And it tastes crazy good!

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Pastina Timbale with Zucchini
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 lb of tiny pasta, I like the round shape
  • 4 medium zucchini, all seeds removed and then diced small
  • olive oil for sauteeing zucchini, crisping the breadcrumbs and for brushing
  • 1 cup of good bread crumbs
  • 2 garlic cloves, diced small or grated
  • ½ cup of chopped fresh parsley
  • ¾ cup of grated romano or parmesan cheese
  • a sprinkle or 2 of pepperoncino, (optional)
  • 3 full cups of prepared marinara sauce, garlic and basil flavored, homemade or an exceptional store bought
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • basil and parsley leaves for decorating
Instructions
  1. In a skillet drizzle 2 tablespoons of the olive oil,add the garlic over medium heat 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 the grated cheese, then drizzle 2 more tablespoons of oil, toss and mix.
  2. Brush a large round bowl with olive oil, mine was 8 inches.
  3. Press breadcrumb mixture along the sides and bottom of the bowl evenly. Set aside.
  4. In a large skillet, drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil and on high heat cook your diced zucchini until nice and golden, keep stirring and watching it only takes a few minutes, set aside.
  5. Boil your pasta according to package directions, don't overcook it,then drain.
  6. Heat your sauce at the same time.
  7. Get a different bowl then add the drained pasta, the sauce, the tablespoon of butter, the ½ cup of grated cheese and the additional ¼ cup of parsley, toss together then fold in the sauteed zucchini.
  8. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
  9. Spoon mixture into breadcrumb lined bowl, evenly distribute it along the sides and bottom, pressing down lightly.
  10. Let it rest for 15 minutes.
  11. Un-mold onto a platter then decorate with basil and parsley leaves.
  12. Enjoy!

 

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Grilled Seafood Salad and a Giveaway

summer seafood salad This grilled seafood salad is one of my all time favorites for light casual summer eating, it’s a combination of shrimp, scallops and calamari which lay on top of mixed greens and crunchy vegetables, it’s all tossed in a lemon vinaigrette that’s spiked with a little limoncello, which gives the dressing that extra zing!

All the seafood can be grilled ahead of time and then the salad can be composed at the last minute so it’s perfect for entertaining. Add some crusty bread and a bottle of wine and I promise you’ll be in for a scrumptious treat!

Lagostina round grill panRecently the folks who work for Italian cookware brand, Lagostina contacted me again and this time they asked if I would like to try out their round grill pan and guess what?they generously offered to give one away to one of my lucky readers! (CONTEST IS OVER)

This pan is gorgeous, you can feel and see the quality as soon as you pull it out of the box, I couldn’t wait to try it out.

PRODUCT DETAILS

Reflecting the Italian passion for cooking, this elegant stainless-steel pan has a heat-retaining aluminum core, so your favorite foods caramelize beautifully as they grill to juicy perfection. High ridges sear foods with attractive grill marks while elevating them above fatty drippings.

·         11″ diam.

·         Tri-ply construction ensures rapid, even heating and retains heat flawlessly.

·         Combines a polished 18/10 stainless-steel exterior with an aluminum core and nonreactive stainless-steel interior.

·         Ergonomic cast-stainless steel handles provide a steady grip.

·         Inclined edges make it easy to pour off drippings.

·         Ideal for use on any cooktop, including induction.

·         Made in Italy.

stove topped grilled seafood Quite honestly I don’t like grilling delicate seafood directly on top of the grates on my out door grill unless it’s on a plank or something to hold them secure, because with out fail something always falls between the grates and I have to try and pick it out before it burns, so I’ve always used an indoor grill pan for this grilled seafood salad.

I already own a heavy cast iron grill pan with a popular name that I thought I would use much more than I do, but it’s a pain to clean. I end up boiling water in it to loosen up the food that gets stuck between the grates then I have to take my time using a plastic scraper to try and remove it all, like I said it’s a pain!

stove topped grilled seafood Total opposite with the Lagostina grill pan, it was a pleasure to cook with, beautiful even cooking throughout, a nice wide surface, but my favorite feature was the clean up. I put it in my sink with a little hot sudsy water for just a few minutes and then wiped it clean, it makes me want to use it over and over again, and after it’s washed it retains it’s beautiful shine.

You can use it to sear steaks and chops and then finish it off right in the oven, you can pretty much use it for anything you want to grill.

summer grilled seafood salad Fresh, easy and pretty enough for a summer party, picnic or any get together of friends or family!

summer grilled seafood salad Arrange everything on a big platter with crusty bread all around and some of the grilled lemons and you’ll be sure to impress your guests.

Lagostina round grill pan

 

CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED

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4.9 from 71 reviews
Grilled Seafood Salad
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • Amounts will very according to your seafood preference, this is just an estimate on what I used for 4 servings.
  • SEAFOOD
  • 8 large shrimp, tails off
  • 8 oz. sea scallops
  • 1 lb. of calamari ( I leave the bodies whole and cut into rings later, it's easier
  • SEAFOOD MARINADE
  • 4 cloves of chopped garlic
  • the zest of 1 big lemon
  • a handful of chopped parsley
  • salt and pepper
  • drizzled olive oil to coat seafood
  • 2 lemons, cut into slices for grilling
  • SALAD
  • 2 fennel bulbs, sliced thin
  • 1 bunch of celery hearts with the leaves, chopped
  • 5 radishes, sliced thin
  • a handful of capers
  • assorted olives, sliced
  • cherry tomatoes, sliced
  • For the greens I used a mix of water cress and arugula,(mostly arugula)
  • LEMON AND OLIVE OIL DRESSING
  • 1 part lemon juice ( with a splash of limoncello, optional) to 3 parts extra virgin olive oil
Instructions
  1. Make sure all seafood has been padded dry before you marinade them, you should have no added moisture.
  2. Place all seafood in a glass bowl with all the marinade ingredients, toss and let it sit for 40 minutes.
  3. Grill all your seafood, which can be grilled up to a day ahead, let it cool down then refrigerate them separately, if you're doing them ahead, not all mixed together. Either way seafood should not be warm or hot for this salad, room temp or cold.
  4. Whisk up your dressing and set aside.
  5. When you're ready to compose your salad slice the scallops into quarters or in half according to their size.
  6. Cut calamari bodies into rings.
  7. Leave shrimp whole and the calamari legs.
  8. In a separate large bowl toss all salad ingredients together except for the seafood, you can add more or less or any other ingredient you would like to add, there is no exact rule with a salad.
  9. Add and toss your dressing, less is more, don't drench it, taste as you go.
  10. Grab a huge platter, place salad on top, arrange all the seafood on top of the greens, add in some grilled lemons slices.
  11. Don't forget toasted or grilled crunchy bread, it's a must!

 

 

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Fuss Free Entertaining

luncheon ideas Sometimes you just don’t need hours of planning and prepping in advance or cooking 3 days ahead of time when entertaining, especially in the summer months when things are more relaxed and casual. Here’s a few things I like to make when having friends or family stop by either on short notice or even planned in advance.

I love to spread everything out buffet style, once it’s laid out you can enjoy yourself and not worry about getting up and down to serve things.

Most of the ingredients I always have on hand either in my pantry or fridge, the others I usually buy weekly anyway and a couple of things I like to keep handy in my freezer. There’s no mayo required in any of this so you don’t have to worry about anything spoiling either.

focaccia sandwich ingredients Have you seen those round or square pre-made focaccia breads? I get mine at a local Italian market, but I’ve seen them in the bakery section at many different grocery stores, they keep really nice in the freezer and are easy to defrost. I’ve seen them topped with many things like olives, onions, jalepenos and chedder, they all look so pretty and they make a great sandwich.

My two favorites that I personally get are the ones topped with artichoke hearts and the simple crushed tomato topping, they taste so good as is, so I like to keep my deli meats simple. You’ll want to cut them horizontally with a serrated knife, just take your time and they will split in half fine.

What adds to the flavor of the sandwich is this oil based pepper spread, it’s a staple in my fridge, a mild combination of finely chopped veggies some spices and vinegar, like a giardiniera but only finely chopped, it’s spreads really nice and it’s packed with flavor. If you can’t find it finely chopped you can just pulse a regular jar of giardiniera in your food processor a few times to make it more spreadable.

focaccia sandwich I prefer not over packing my sandwich full of meats and cheese, just a simple layer will do, you have a lot going on in flavors with the topping and the spread. I used prosciutto and sliced Asiago on the artichoke topped one and  a rosemary ham also with Asiago on the other.

focaccia sandwich You can cut your focaccia sandwiches according to what other things you’ll be serving, out of one eight inch focaccia, I had six to nine servings.

caprese salad Who doesn’t like a caprese salad, the more it sits the better it gets! Even though it’s not officially tomato season, I was lucky to find some beautiful heirlooms and they tasted wonderful, in fact I’m going back for more.

shrimp and endive platter This endive salad is made with two bunches of endive, a half pound of cooked shrimp, an avocado, a hint of lemon,radishes, green onions, fresh basil and a light drizzle of olive oil all chopped into bite size pieces and folded together and then spooned onto individual endive leaves and arranged on a platter. So simple and so light and a nice presentation to boot, I could eat this alone for lunch!

pasta salad This pasta salad is also light and fresh, there’s no mayo in here,the creaminess comes from goat cheese and it’s all tossed in a light vinaigrette.

pasta salad It’s an old recipe from Martha, you can take the basic concept and add or take away any ingredients you personally like, I added red pepper strips to mine, but it’s delicious and it can sit out on a buffet without worry.

luncheon party

Add in some fresh fruit and olives then tell your friends to bring dessert, cannolis in my case!

Pour a glass of wine, sit and enjoy the time with your guests.

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Mediterranean Zoodle Salad

mediterranean zoodle salad It’s zoodle time again, zucchini noodles that is, but this time I placed them into a cold salad with a nice Mediterranean flare. It’s light, fresh and healthy and you can eat this all summer long. It can be the perfect side dish to whatever you’re grilling, a refreshing light lunch or you can even pack it up for a picnic.

mediterranean zoodle salad I’m telling you, the flavors, the pretty colors and all the curly zucchini strands is a thing of beauty, no one will resist this salad!

mediterranean zoodle salad May I suggest one thing, don’t put this in a bowl, you’ll bury all the ingredients and you won’t be able to see all the pretty curly zoodles. By layering everything onto a nice platter you’ll be able to see all the components which is so much more appealing to the eyes.

mediterranean zoodle salad The other thing I’m going to suggest, ( I’m being bossy today) go out and buy some white balsamic vinegar, not white wine vinegar, white balsamic. I’m obsessed with it, find a good Italian brand and pair it with your best olive oil and use that as your salad dressing, it will take your salads over the top, trust me!

Of course red balsamic is amazing and has it’s place for many salads but for a light and intensely flavored, especially a summer salad like this, get the white.

mediterranean zoodle salad

I’m just going to list the ingredients I used below, not the amounts, it depends how much you’re making, how much zucchini noodles you have. I like to mix one yellow squash along with the green zucchini for added color. Use quality ingredients, good olives, good feta, it truly makes a difference, and don’t forget the white balsamic please!

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5.0 from 3 reviews
Mediterranean Zoodle Salad
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • A mix of yellow squash and zucchini zoodles, AKA Zucchini noodles
  • mini colored peppers, cut into rings, (the mini's are the perfect size)
  • garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
  • Persian cucumbers, if you can find them, they're small, cut into small rounds. If you can't find them remove the seeds of a regular one and cut into half moons.
  • multi colored cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • assorted pitted olives, green and black
  • red onion, cut into thin half moons
  • assorted greens, I used arugula, spinach and a little radicchio
  • a few green onions sliced
  • artichoke hearts, marinated in a jar and drained well
  • feta cheese
  • feel free to add some pine nuts if you like
  • DRESSING:
  • white balsamic and olive oil
Instructions
  1. Place everything into a large bowl, add the greens last, sprinkle salad with a little oregano, salt and pepper and a little bit of granulated garlic if you have it.
  2. Toss with the white balsamic and olive oil dressing then place everything onto a flat platter for presentation.
  3. DRESSING RATIO
  4. part vinegar to 2 parts olive oil

 

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Eggplant and Burrata Lasagna

eggplant burrata lasagna Lets just start out by talking about burrata cheese because it’s the key ingredient in this lasagna, no ricotta is required. Burrata is quite popular now but if you’re unfamiliar with it burrata is a basically a fresh cheese made from mozzarella and cream. The outer shell consists of fresh mozzarella but when you gently tear into the middle it’s filled with soft cream filled curds, it’s heavenly!

If you can get a hold of the imported burrata straight from Italy, please do so it’s such a treat, smear it on some crusty bread and you’ll be speechless! The good news is it’s also produced here in the U.S. and it’s pretty easy to find and that type is perfect for this recipe.

eggplant burrata lasagna You’ll also need some roasted tomatoes and roasted eggplant slices, marinara and lasagna sheets, the kind you have to boil. I never got on that no-boil band wagon, I’ve tried them a few times and didn’t like the taste or texture it’s just not the same in my opinion, so for this recipe boil your pasta please!

eggplant burrata lasagna Serving the lasagna in individual gratin dishes makes for a nice presentation and it’s so much more special that way, don’t you think? Prepped and ready to go into the oven, which by the way you can prepare ahead of time.

eggplant burrata lasagna

If you have a smaller size dish you can always cut your lasagna sheets to fit it, after it’s boiled it’s easy to cut. I used three sheets per serving.

eggplant burrata lasagna

This is so light and luxurious, the creamy burrata is the shining star that takes this over the top and the eggplant and roasted tomatoes add so much depth of flavor.

It’s a winner, make it for someone special.

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4.0 from 1 reviews
Eggplant and Burrata Lasagna
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • Ingredients are for two servings, feel free to double or triple.
  • 3 balls of burrata
  • 1 medium eggplant cut into circles, roasted or pan sauteed in olive oil until golden crisp
  • 1 pint of colored cherry tomatoes, left whole, roasted in olive oil with fresh basil
  • 1 quart of marinara sauce, preferably homemade, (you'll have leftover)
  • 6 pasta sheets, three per serving, the kind you have to boil, cooked al'dente
  • fresh basil for garnish
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Brush 2 individual gratin dishes with olive oil.
  2. Spoon marinara on the bottom of each.
  3. Place one sheet of lasagna down and spoon marinara on top then add three slices of cooked eggplant.
  4. Gently tear into the burrata and place pieces on top of eggplant.
  5. Scatter the roasted tomatoes on top with some shredded basil.
  6. Then repeat two more times. pasta sheet, marinara, eggplant, burrata, tomatoes and basil.
  7. Place gratin dishes on a rimmed baking sheet for easy in and out of oven.
  8. Bake for about 15 minutes just until warmed and burrata has gently melted.
  9. Let it rest a few minutes before serving when sauce has stopped bubbling.
  10. Garnish with more shredded basil.

 

 

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Sausage Bread

sausage and rapini

This recipe of sausage bread connects me to my childhood, I remember my mom use to make this for special holidays and special occasions, even picnics.

When I was a kid I thought making this was such a big ordeal, but when I got married and started making it on my own I realized just how simple it was to put together.

sausage bread ingredients

You can create many variations to this sausage bread but one thing for sure is that you want to use a good quality Italian sausage, I tend to go with a spicy version because I feel you need it and the dough calms down the spice anyway.

You definitely need some shredded mozzarella and a nice sharp grated pecorino romano cheese. I also like using something green, I’ve used chopped parsley, wilted and drained spinach and sautéed broccoli rabe using the tips only, but if you prefer not using anything green, that’s good too.

layering on dough

The other important thing is the dough, you need a good quality pizza dough, a one pound ball. I have to admit working with yeast is not my favorite thing to do, I use to be more enthusiastic when I was younger, now I avoid it at all costs, I’d rather go out and buy a good quality pizza dough which fortunately I have many sources that surround me, but if you love making your own dough please do so.

You roll out the dough in a nice big rectangle, then layer with all your delicious ingredients, it’s as easy as that!

rolled up dough

Then roll it up jelly roll style, pinch the bottom together and bake it seam side down.

baked bread

You can form it into a curve or just straight.

sausage breadsliced bread

Each slice is filled with so much flavor from the cheese and sausage filling.

rapini slicebread and sauce

I guarantee you’ll want some warm marinara for dipping!

 

sausage bread  Every time I make this I say I should have added some additional red pepper flakes or more grated romano, so don’t be afraid to spice it up!

sausage bread

This post has been updated in 2021, the picture above shows it made using  just parsley for the green, I have since enjoyed using sautéed broccoli rabe, tips only.

You won’t believe how something so simple to make can taste like a million bucks, I hope you try this special sausage bread!

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

4.7 from 3 reviews
Sausage Bread
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 pound ball of pizza dough, good quality store bought or homemade
  • 1 - ½ lb. of Italian sausage, casings removed if you like spicy use that
  • 2 cups of shredded mozzarella, do not use fresh mozzarella.
  • ¾ cup or so of grated romano cheese.
  • 1 cup of rapini,( broccoli rabe) tips only, sautéed til tender, or chopped parsley, or chopped spinach, cooked and drained
  • black pepper
  • olive oil
  • extra romano and a little mozzarella to top on rolled dough
  • marinara for dipping
Instructions
  1. Heat oven first to 400, bake for 15 minutes then reduce oven to 350 and finish baking until deep golden around 30 minutes more.
  2. Place a piece of parchment on a rimmed baking sheet.
  3. Have your dough at room temperature before rolling out.
  4. Brown sausage in a skillet with a little bit of olive oil, cooking until you see no pink, breaking up the pieces into crumbles, let it cool down and drain on paper towel.
  5. Roll your dough into a large rectangle, as big as you can get it.
  6. Scatter cooked sausage all over dough leaving a 1 inch border all the way around.
  7. Sprinkle the shredded mozzarella cheese evenly all over sausage.
  8. Sprinkle grated cheese, evenly all over.
  9. Sprinkle chopped parsley, cooked rapini tips or cooked spinach all over.
  10. Grate black pepper on top of mixture, at this point you could add some additional red pepper flakes or more grated cheese, it's up to you, depending on the heat of your sausage.
  11. Start to roll the dough, jelly roll style, tucking in the ends as you're rolling so no leakage occurs while baking, pinching dough making sure it's sealed at the seams.
  12. Place large log or half moon shape unto a parchment lined baking sheet, seam side down. ( make sure seam is pinched and sealed.)
  13. Brush top and sides with olive oil, grate some black pepper on top, a sprinkle of romano and a little shredded mozzarella here and there.
  14. Bake as stated above but ovens do vary.
  15. Remove from pan and place on a rack to cool so it doesn’t get soggy on the bottom from moisture.
  16. Let it rest before cutting into it so that the cheese sets, use a serrated knife to cut your slices.
  17. Serve as a appetizer, lunch with a salad or an addition to any special meal.
  18. Serve it with some warm marinara for dipping

 

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Springtime Risotto

springtime risotto I know spring is here when I see tender asparagus, early peas and my beloved baby artichokes popping up in the produce aisles. Baby artichokes are so easy to prepare and with a little trimming  you’re able to eat the whole thing, there’s no comparison to the taste and texture of fresh verses frozen, jarred or canned, none at all!

spring time risotto One way I love to showcase them is with risotto, the creamy rice along with the tender veggies are just the perfect combination!

spring risotto ingredients With minimal prep work you can get this on your table in no time and what a treat it is, a one pan wonder in deed. Don’t be intimidated when making risotto it just needs a little nurturing  and constant stirring but you can’t beat the end result!

spring time risotto This meal will make you, your family and your guests very happy!

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5.0 from 2 reviews
Springtime Risotto
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 4 fresh BABY artichokes, trimmed and kept whole
  • 1 small zucchini, sliced into rounds
  • 1 lb. of fresh asparagus, tender and thin, trimmed and cut into thirds or fourths
  • 1 heaping cup of fresh or frozen peas
  • 1 small leek, cleaned and sliced
  • 1½ cups of arborio rice
  • 1 quart of chicken or vegetable stock, warmed and simmering on the stove
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 1 cup of parmesan cheese, finely shredded
  • handful of parsley
  • 1 tablespoon, butter
  • 2 or so tablespoons of olive oil
Instructions
  1. Prep veggies ahead of time, for the Baby Artichokes: Snap off the outer leaves until you reach the tender pale yellow green layers, then with a serrated knife trim the tip and stems. You can steam or boil, they take about 15 minutes, I usually boil placing them whole into the water with some lemon slices and a drizzle of olive oil. When finished, let them cool then place them tip side down and cut in half, you now will have 8 artichoke halves.
  2. For the Asparagus, roast on sheet pan at 400, don't let them get brown, it only takes a couple of minutes.
  3. For the Zucchini Rounds, saute in olive oil, medium high heat on top of stove until golden, just a couple of minutes it takes.
  4. Cook Peas accordingly.
  5. FOR THE RISOTTO:
  6. Have broth simmering on low heat in separate pan.
  7. In a heavy bottom pan heat olive oil and butter on medium heat, when melted add in the leeks, cooking until soft.
  8. Add in rice, stirring for a few minutes until well coated and hot.
  9. Deglaze with wine, let it cook down for a few seconds.
  10. Add in a ladle full of broth, stirring until it all absorbs.
  11. Continue adding in broth, same way, stirring it and letting it all absorb.
  12. You'll know when it's done because rice mixture will become creamy and tender with just a little bite, you don't want your rice to taste mushy.
  13. Pull off the heat, add in the cheese and stir until incorporated, add a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper to taste and gently fold in all the veggies.
  14. Garnish with parsley.

 

 

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Cannoli Pie

cannoli pie I know this may look like a cheesecake but actually it’s a little twist on my Sweet Ricotta Pie that I make every year for Easter. I normally make it in a deep dish ten inch pie plate with a pastry crust, but I thought I’d change it up a bit this year by making it in my springform pan, and instead of a pastry crust I used crushed cannoli shells for the crust, oh yes, it has all the flavors of a cannoli, so I call it a cannoli pie!

cannoli pie  The benefit of the springform pan is that you can release it and place it on a platter for a nice presentation, besides you want to be able to see that pretty cannoli shell crust all around it.

cannoli pie ingredients You can get your cannoli shells directly from an Italian bakery or an Italian food store that has an in house bakery, sometimes they even sell the broken pieces, just ask. My store even directed me to the cookie isle where I was able to find the ones I ended up getting. ( Caputo’s for my local peeps)

The cannoli shells were a breeze to crush in the food processor, just drop in and give them a good whirl!

cannoli shells and orange peels Chopped candied orange rinds is another important ingredient, if you can make your own that’s wonderful, if not you can purchase them, they even sell them on line, I always keep a couple of containers in my pantry.

cannoli pie You’ll treat the cannoli shell crust similar to a graham cracker crust, adding melted butter til it comes together and then pressing it along the bottom and up the sides of the pan.

cannoli pie I would advise you to make this the day before because after it comes out of the oven and cools down it has to be refrigerated, this way it will set really nice for you. I just kept mine in the pan, covered the top with tented foil and refrigerated it just like that, I had no problem un-molding it the next day and it’s much easier to make nice slices.

cannoli pie Then it’s all about adorning it with mini chocolate chips, chopped pistachio and a dusting of powdered sugar, just like a cannoli!

cannoli pie This would be a terrific dessert for Easter or any special occasion that’s coming up and it’s great that it can be made the day before.

cannoli pie It’s creamy, crunchy and dreamy just like a cannoli, make it and see for yourself!

cannoli pie

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5.0 from 4 reviews
Cannoli Pie
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 8 inch springform pan
  • FOR THE CANNOLI CRUST
  • 7 large cannoli shells
  • ¾ stick of melted butter
  • 1½ tablespoons of sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • FOR THE FILLING
  • 1½ lbs. of ricotta, drained well, not holding moisture
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon, vanilla
  • ¼ teaspoon, cinnamon
  • zest of ½ of an orange
  • ½ cup of diced candied orange peel, homemade or store bought
  • ¼ cup of semi sweet MINI chocolate chips, plus extra for garnish
  • handful of chopped pistachio's also for garnish
  • powdered sugar for sprinkling
  • NOTE: If you can't find candied orange peels use the zest of a whole orange.
Instructions
  1. Heat ovent to 350 degrees
  2. Butter the bottom and sides of your springform pan, then place pan on a rimmed sheet pan for ease of putting in and taking out of oven.
  3. FOR THE CRUST:
  4. Crush your cannoli shells in a food processor along with the cinnamon and sugar, then pour in the melted butter and process untill it all comes together, then press the crumb mixture into the buttered pan along the sides and bottom, making sure it's not loose but pressing it down firm with the bottom of a glass.
  5. FOR THE FILLING:
  6. In a large bowl add the drained ricotta, and sugar, beat until smooth.
  7. Add eggs one at a time beating well until all incorporated.
  8. Beat in the vanilla and cinnamon.
  9. Stir in the zest, candied orange peel and chocolate chips.
  10. Pour filling into prepared pan and bake until ricotta is set and toothpick comes out clean, mine took 90 minutes but ricotta varies so keep checking every 15 minutes after an hour if it's not done.
  11. Remove from oven and let it completely cool before you refrigerate it overnight, just keep it in the pan and tent with foil.
  12. NEXT DAY:
  13. Take a knife and carefully go around the rim of the pan, just making sure it's not sticking to the sides at all, then release the spring and place the pie on a platter.
  14. Decorate the top with mini chocolate chips, pistachio's and a sprinkling of powdered sugar.
  15. VARIATION:
  16. You can make this in a deep dish 10 inch pie plate instead of the springform pan, you might have some crumbs leftover. I would check it after 45 minutes to see if it's done, it will take less time than the springform pan which was much deeper.

 

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Making Cioppino

cioppino Cioppino is a fish stew that originated in San Francisco, California made popular by the Italian immigrants that lived there. Last September we traveled to San Francisco and the first thing I wanted to eat was cioppino. There’s something about enjoying a big bowl of this hearty stew that’s filled with fresh fish and seafood, especially when there’s a chill in the air, and San Francisco always seems to have a chill in the air.

 

I thought cioppino would be the perfect thing to make in my pretty new pot since it’s February and there’s still a chill in the air and it’s also Lenten season where fish is being served in many homes. It’s also a light and healthy meal that can be eaten casually or fancy enough for a special dinner party.

cioppino ingredients Developing a deep flavorful broth is key to a good cioppino because all that glorious fresh fish and seafood will eventually be sunken and infused into it, so it will take on all those flavors.

cioppino ingredients The fish I chose for mine were a mix of scallops, cod, shrimp, mussels, clams and one crab leg, but feel free to use some of your own favorites.

fish broth I like to start out by making a nice fish stock to add into the tomato base, so instead of using just plain clam juice I like to pump it up a little by adding the discarded  shrimp shells, some herbs and aromatics. After it steeps for a little while you’re going to strain everything out and reserve the infused fish stock to add into your tomato base, believe me it makes all the difference!

making cioppino And now the fun begins you’re going to start out by sautéing your veggies, when the veggies are soft and tender add in the tomatoes and fish stock, put the lid on and let it slowly simmer so all the flavors can meld together before you add in any of the fish or seafood.

I prefer a smoother tomato texture for my broth so I like to break it down with my immersion blender, and honestly I think it tastes even better because all the ingredients are scattered throughout the broth, but you can also strain the solids if you prefer.

simmering cioppino Clams and mussels will be dropped in first because they take the longest, then goes the shrimp, scallops, white fish and crab, just a few minutes more with the lid on.

cioppino This is happiness in a bowl!

cioppino And please don’t forget to serve some nice crusty bread to sop up all that wonderful brothy goodness!

 

 

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5.0 from 4 reviews
Cioppino
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • ASSORTED FISH AND SEAFOOD
  • 1lb of cleaned mussels
  • 1 lb shrimp, cleaned and deveined with tails left on (preserve shells for fish stock)
  • 6 sea scallops, sliced in half
  • ½ lb. of firm white fish like cod or halibut
  • 8-10 clams scrubbed clean
  • 1 small crab leg, optional
  • FISH STOCK
  • 2 cups, bottled clam juice
  • shrimp shells
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • handful of parsley
  • 2 bay leafs
  • ½ teaspoon each of black peppercorns and fennel seed
  • TOMATO BASE BROTH
  • 2 28 oz. cans of whole tomatoes, squished
  • 1 small carrot, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • ½ bulb of fennel, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 serrano chili, diced
  • a good pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup of good white wine
  • small bunch of fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • strained and reserved fish stock
  • olive oil
Instructions
  1. For the FISH STOCK, place all ingredients into a pot, bring to a boil and simmer for at least 30 minutes or until veggies are soft and tender. Strain, reserve the broth, discard all the solids.
  2. FOR THE TOMATO BASE BROTH
  3. Cover the bottom of a large heavy duty pot with olive oil.
  4. Saute onion, garlic, carrot, celery, fennel and serrano pepper. Add in herbs and red pepper flakes, cook until soft and fragrant.
  5. Add wine and let it cook down and reduce.
  6. Add tomatoes and reserved 2 cups of fish stock.
  7. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer, with lid, stirring occasionally for about 1- 1½ hours after you can use an immersion blender like I did or strain some of the solids to make a smooth brothy sauce. Remove bay leaf.
  8. ADDING SEAFOOD
  9. Heat tomato base to medium and drop the mussels and clams into it, place lid on and cook until they open then gently place remaining fish into the tomato base, place lid on and check to see if shrimp is pink and fish is cooked, it will only take a couple of minutes.
  10. Ladle into big bowls, garnish with chopped parsley and serve with crusty bread, I placed mine under the broiler, but don't walk away it browns quickly

 

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Chicken and Feta Phyllo Pie

chicken and feta phyllo pie

This is a gorgeous savory pie that’s filled with chicken, feta and parmesan cheese, fresh herbs, onions and garlic, and the best part is it’s nestled between a crunchy crust of phyllo dough.

I said it before and I’ll say it again, don’t be afraid to use phyllo, it’s so easy to use and so forgiving, even if you tear a piece no worries, no one would even know, trust me on that!

chicken phyllo pie ingredients You’ll need some precooked chicken which you can either roast yourself or to save time you can even buy a rotisserie chicken. Good quality Greek feta and parmesan cheese is a must for exceptional flavor.

chicken and feta phyllo pie The crunchy crust against the creamy, savory filling is such a delicious match, it’s rustic and fancy all at the same time.

chicken and feta phyllo pie

Serve this with a nice green salad and you’re good to go!

Don’t forget you can follow me on Instagram to see what else I’m cooking up during the week!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Chicken and Feta Phyllo Pie
 
Author:
Recipe type: Recipe adapted from Mediterranean Cooking
Ingredients
  • 1 lb and ½ of precooked chicken meat, preferably white meat chopped or shredded
  • 2 cups of chicken stock, boxed, low sodium, warmed
  • 8 ounces of feta cheese, crumbled
  • ½ cup of grated parmesan
  • ⅓ cup all purposed flour
  • ¼ cup each of parsley and basil
  • a few sprigs of thyme
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 3 or 4 green onions, sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 8 sheets of phyllo pastry
  • olive oil
Instructions
  1. Melt butter in a saucepan, add onions and garlic, stir until onions soften.
  2. Add flour and stir together for 1 minute then gradually pour in the warmed stock cooking over medium heat until it thickens. Remove from heat and let it cool down for 15 minutes.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and oil a 10 inch springform pan.
  4. In a large bowl place all the chicken, the cooled down sauce, eggs, all the cheese and herbs. Mix together until well combined.
  5. Brush 1 sheet of phyllo with oil, line the pan then top with remaining sheets which have all been brushed with olive oil as well.
  6. Pour in the chicken filling then roll the edges of the pastry and tuck down the side of the pan.
  7. Bake pie for about i hour and 15 minutes. Let it rest for at least 15 minutes befor releasing the pan and serving.

 

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Chocolate Pistachio Tartufo For Two

tartufo dessert What is tartufo you might ask? Well it actually has two meanings, it could be an edible fungus or an Italian dessert, in this case it’s dessert.

It’s an Italian frozen dessert usually composed of two or more flavors of ice cream and often with a strawberry, cherry or raspberry in the center and it’s usually covered in a shell made of chocolate, it’s divine! I’ve only had it once at a restaurant here in Chicago but it’s pretty popular in Italy, in fact if you Google it you’ll see many of the recipes in Italian. It’s also referred to as a chocolate bomb, and that it is!

tartufo dessert I recently saw this recipe in the current February issue of Martha and couldn’t wait to make it, it’s the perfect dessert for Valentine’s Day because it’s meant to be shared. Put it on a pretty platter, grab a couple of spoons and dig in with your honey!

tartufo dessert ingredients

Here’s the ingredients I used, pistachio and dark chocolate gelato, chocolate wafer cookies, dark chocolate for melting, frozen cherries, (you only need two, Martha used maraschino, but I’m not fond of them) and chopped pistachios for garnish.

tartufo dessert Basically you line a domed glass bowl with plastic wrap, that’s going to be your mold. Place your gelato or ice cream side by side, plop a cherry in the middle of each side, then wrap it up and stick it in the freezer for a couple of hours or more. Feel free to use any flavor ice cream combination you like, I’ve also seen cookies and nuts stuffed in the center.

making tartufo dessert

In the meantime take your chocolate wafers and finely pulse them in a food processor, when the two hours are up unwrap the gelato mixture and place the crumbs on top of the mixture, this is going to land on the bottom when inverted and will give you a nice crunchy texture, then re-wrap and place the bowl back into the freezer for another couple of hours until nice and firm, I repeat, nice and firm! Very important!

tartufo dessert When it’s completely firmed up, get your chocolate melted then take out your dome of gelato, fold back the plastic and invert on a wire rack, being careful to remove the rest of the remaining plastic. Pour the melted chocolate all over the dome then stick it back into the freezer so it can harden up. You can do this in advance and just wrap the whole dome in plastic until ready to serve, or serve it right after the outer shell gets nice and firm.

tartufo dessert

So if you’re staying in and avoiding the crowds this Valentine’s Day and making a special meal at home, here’s the perfect dessert to share with your loved one.

Here’s the link to Martha’s recipe. http://www.marthastewart.com/1140997/chocolate-pistachio-tartufo

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How To Make A Muffuletta Sandwich

muffuletta sandwich The muffuletta is an Italian sandwich that originated among the Italian immigrants of New Orleans, it’s a mighty, hefty sandwich that has only has three very important components, bread, a spicy olive salad and Italian charcuterie.

muffuletta sandwich With Super Bowl coming up next weekend I thought this might be the perfect addition to your game day snacking table, but if not, please keep this in mind for summertime, it’s great for picnics and get-togethers.

ingredients for muffuletta sandwich Don’t skimp on quality when making your muffuletta you want to make sure you have the best bread you can find, a round loaf is traditional, along with fresh meats and cheese. For my muffuletta I went with a good salami, some mortadella, a spicy capicollo and a picante provolone, all sliced thin, but feel free to use your favorite cuts.

olive salad The main component is really this olive salad, you can either make your own or buy a muffuletta mix from a good Italian deli/store. I do a mixture of both, I buy a mix but add fresh ingredients into mine, but basically the salad consists of, Italian black and green olives, and a giardiniera mix of different veggies. In addition I like to add roasted red peppers and artichoke hearts to mine and always fresh chopped celery, parsley, oregano and good olive oil.

muffuletta sandwich It’s very simple to make, don’t be intimidated! Slice your round loaf horizontally then pull out some of the dense inside of the bread because you need room for all that filling to fit inside, save those insides for fresh breadcrumbs.

Spread that delicious olive salad all over the bottom and top portions of your sliced bread, then it’s all about layering.

muffuletta sandwich I like to put the cheese down first over the olive salad, it seems to cover it nicely and gives you a nice base for your layers, then go from there. I added olive salad in between some of my layers but you don’t have to, you can just have it on the top and bottom.

muffuletta sandwich When you’re done layering, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and weigh it down, this is important because it will help distribute all the flavors together nicely. As you can see I used my heavy cast iron pan and added some cans on top to weigh it down even more.

Let it sit for two hours before unwrapping and cutting into it, don’t let it sit overnight because the bread might become soggy from the oils, you want to keep your bread nice and crusty.

muffuletta sandwich Then cut it into wedges and enjoy! I cut mine quite big for the picture but honestly a small slice is better when serving other things along side it, it’s so densely filled that you couldn’t possibly eat such a huge wedge unless this was your only main course. It’s definitely a show stopper and it also feeds a crowd!

5.0 from 2 reviews
How To Make A Muffuletta Sandwich
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 10 inch round Italian bread
  • olive salad, either a mix like I used, which I added more to, or you can make your own.
  • ½ lb each of mortadella, salami and capicollo or meats of your choice. ( you might have extra left over)
  • 1 lb or slicing provolone or a mixture of mozzarella and provolone
  • olive oil
  • WHEN MAKING YOUR OWN OLIVE SALAD, you will need;
  • a cup or more each of Italian black and green olives, chopped
  • a jar of vegetable giardiniera that has carrots, cauliflower and celery, drained and chopped
  • a jar of marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • a jar of roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
  • fresh parsley, 1 garlic clove and fresh crunchy celery and oregano
  • toss everything into a bowl and mix well together with good olive oil
  • IF USING A JARRED MUFFULETTA MIX
  • I always add fresh chopped celery, roasted red peppers, fresh parsley and artichoke hearts. I also drain the jars and add my own good olive oil to the mix.
Instructions
  1. Cut your bread horizontally and pull out some of the dense bread inside.
  2. Fill each side, the top and bottom of the cut loaf with the olive salad.
  3. Start to layer your meats and cheese, I start with cheese, adding olive salad in between the layers if you want
  4. When finished layering, put the top of the bread on and wrap in foil or plastic wrap.
  5. Compress the sandwich by weighing it down with a heavy pan filled with heavy cans.
  6. Let it sit for at least 2 hours before cutting but never overnight because the bread will become soggy and lose its integrity.
  7. Cut into small wedges for a crowd with other snacks or lager wedges for more of a main course.

 

 

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Pistachio Crusted Scallops with Winter Citrus Salsa

pistachio crusted scallops

I’ve been craving citrus lately, maybe it’s because January is such a cold and gloomy month and all that colorful citrus just brightens my day, I don’t know but I’m sure loving all the different varieties that are available right now. I recently made this salsa using my favorite cara cara, blood and navel oranges, the vibrant flavors pair wonderfully with sweet and buttery sea scallops, it was the perfect match, but if you’re not a fan  of scallops I’m sure any firm white fish would work just as well.

The scallops are crusted with finely chopped pistachio’s, a little butter and parsley, and I can only describe the two combinations as luxurious, and both the salsa and the scallops are ridiculously simple to make!

winter citrus salsa You can make your salsa earlier in the day and have that all ready to go, it takes a little time cutting the segments and removing all the pith, but other than that this whole meal comes together very quickly.

pistachio crusted salsa I only buy dry packed sea scallops and I still press them on paper towel to make sure they’re as dry as possible, dry scallops guarantee a beautiful sear.

pistachio crusted scallops

After your scallops are seared and finished cooking, which is only a couple of minutes, you press your nut mixture on top and spoon that lovely citrus salsa onto the plate.

pistachio crusted scallops

This is an elegant, light, scrumptious meal, like fine dining at home, a contender for Valentine’s Day for sure!

pistachio crusted scallops

I can’t wait to make this again.

(Want to see what I’m cooking up during the week? Check out Proud Italian Cook on Instagram )

5.0 from 1 reviews
Pistachio Crusted Scallops with Winter Citrus Salsa
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • CITRUS SALSA
  • 3 different varieties of orange citrus like cara cara, mineola, navel, blood orange, cut into small segments with pith removed.
  • 2 or 3 tablespoons of red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 green onions, finely chopped
  • half a clove of garlic, grated on a microplane
  • a small bunch of chopped parsley
  • a dash of red pepper flakes, optional
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • olive oil to loosen the salsa up
  • PISTACHIO TOPPING
  • half cup of pistachios, I used the toasted ones from Trader Joes, chop them up small in mini food processor or by hand
  • 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons of finely chopped parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 pound SEA SCALLOPS, dry packed, padded dry with paper towel and beard removed
  • additional butter for searing scallops, season with salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. In a bowl mix together all salsa ingredients, set aside.Salsa can be made ahead of time.
  2. For the pistachio topping, chop nuts and place into a small bowl. Melt tablespoon of butter then toss in the parsley, stir, then add butter mixture into the chopped pistachios stirring well to coat all of the nuts completely.
  3. For the scallops, heat your pan nice and hot, do not use a non-stick pan.
  4. Add 1 or 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter or a mixture of olive oil and butter to the hot pan, when fat begins to smoke then add scallops, make sure they are not touching each other.
  5. Do not disturb until the underside is browned and crisp around 2 to 4 minutes then turn over gently with tongs and cook another 2 minutes on the other side,remove to serving plate.
  6. Pat the nut mixture on top of each scallop.
  7. Spoon citrus salsa all around, serve immediately and enjoy!

 

 

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Veggie Ricotta Pie with Spaghetti Squash Crust

spaghetti squash crusted tart

Yes, you read that right, spaghetti squash crust, now who would have thought? It works like a charm and it’s a great alternative to a flour crust for a quiche, tart, or in this case a savory ricotta pie.

This is such a nice, healthy vegetarian dinner, especially if you’re still working on your New Years resolution to eating better in 2016, but even if your not it doesn’t matter, this is still a delicious meal you can serve up  at anytime.

spaghetti squash crusted tart

Basically you cook your spaghetti squash, let it cool, then scrape out the strands with a fork. You can season your squash as you wish, I tossed in a little thyme, salt and pepper then pressed it into my greased pie plate with a sprinkling of grated romano cheese on top for added flavor.

spaghetti squash crusted tart

Spread your filling all over the top of the crust, this has ricotta, herbs and a variety of veggies I had leftover in my fridge. I folded some zucchini, red pepper, wild mushrooms, broccoli and a few sundried tomatoes into the ricotta, it’s that simple!

spaghetti squash crusted tart

Let it cool down a bit then slice into wedges and serve with a nice green salad on the side and you’ll have a completely satisfying, healthy and delicious dinner for all.

5.0 from 3 reviews
Veggie Ricotta Pie with Spaghetti Squash Crust
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 medium spaghetti squash
  • 2 cups of well drained ricotta
  • 1 garlic clove
  • fresh herbs
  • ¼ cup grated romano cheese, additional for sprinkling
  • ¼ to ½ cup of grated asiago cheese
  • 3 beaten eggs
  • assorted sauted veggies
  • salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Cut your squash in half, scoop out the seeds, drizzle each side with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place cut side down on foil lined baking sheet and roast til tender and slightly firm in a 375 degree oven, do not over cook it, it will have too much moisture, don't forget it's still going to bake in the oven again.
  2. After the squash cools down pull the strands out with a fork and season with fresh herbs of your choice.
  3. Press squash on the bottom and up the sides of a greased 9 inch pie plate, sprinkle with romano then set aside. while you make your filling.
  4. As far as veggies go, use what you have or your favorites. In my case I used a handful of mushrooms, red pepper strips, 1 zucchini, a handful of cooked broccoli florets and a couple of sundried tomatoes in oil.
  5. I sauteed the zucchini and pepper strips before I added them, the other veggies I used were precooked already.
  6. In a bowl add the ricotta, garlic, fresh herbs salt and pepper and cheeses, taste for seasoning.
  7. Beat the eggs by hand then pour into the ricotta mixture mixing until all incorporated, then fold in all your veggies.
  8. Pour the filling on top of your spaghetti squash crust and bake at 400 degrees until tip of knife comes out clean in the center, mine took about 40 minutes or so, but keep checking, everyone's oven is different.
  9. Let it cool down before cutting into wedges.

 

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Winter Salad with Squash and Hardy Greens

salad of squash and winter greens I don’t know about you but I’m in desperate need of some healthy salads now that the holidays are behind us, in fact I couldn’t wait to run out and buy a bunch of greens. I settled on three gorgeous heads of escarole and my favorite, cavolo nero or Tuscan kale.

I never thought of using escarole in a salad because I normally eat it cooked, in a soup or with beans but I thought these two hearty greens would hold up well together when I layered strips of roasted butternut squash on top along with roasted chickpeas, walnuts and a few other things, and I was right!

I’ve always been a kale fan for salads but now I’m a newly converted escarole salad fan. It’s crunchy, it stays crispy (which I love), it’s hardy and it has a very mild, and an ever so slight bitterness that balanced out the buttery sweet squash. Please give it a try, you won’t be disappointed and besides,it’s really nice and refreshing to break away from the norm.

butternut squash shards

I love making shards of butternut squash and then roasting them, they look so pretty in a salad or tossed into some pasta, in a frittata or on top of a pizza. I try to buy a squash that has a long neck, because basically that’s the part you’ll be using for this. Remove the skin first with your vegetable peeler then continue making strips turning the neck part as you go.

Toss them gently in a little olive oil, salt and pepper and roast in a 400 degree oven, keep watching, they could burn quick. Sometimes I move them to the top rack to get rid of some of the moisture and keep a better eye on them.
salad of squash and winter greens

Let the squash cool down before you add it to the salad. There’s no real recipe here, just a list of ingredients that I used and that I could honestly say was so delicious and went very well together.

Along with the kale, escarole and butternut squash shards, I added roasted chickpeas, feta cheese, toasted walnuts and pomegranate seeds all tossed together with a vinaigrette made of olive oil and white balsamic.

This salad is hardy, healthy and just perfect to finish out the cold winter months, and don’t forget you can follow along with me on Instagram to see what I’m cooking up during the week!

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Shrimp and Lobster Ravioli with a Limoncello Cream Sauce

shrimp and lobster ravioli with limoncello cream sauce

I thought I’d make something special to bring in the new year, how about shrimp and lobster ravioli with a luscious  limoncello cream sauce?  It’s so full of flavor, not too heavy, and the light limoncello sauce just enhances all the chunky seafood tucked inside. It’s elegant and perfect for New Years Eve!

The effort to create this dish is well worth the time, it’s something you would make for a smaller group, maybe two couples or a romantic dinner for two. You may not have the time to make it right now, although it really doesn’t really take that long, please keep it in your memory bank for a future special occasion or upcoming Valentines Day.
shrimp and lobster ravioli with limoncello cream sauce

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’re not a fan of limoncello no worries, you can simply make a lemon cream sauce, equally as amazing!
cooking lobster

It may sound decadent or a little extravagent but it’s really not that expensive to make at all.  I bought two small lobster tails, six dollars each and one pound of shrimp and I was able to make thirty one ravioli that were packed nice and full.shrimp and lobster filling for ravioli

The filling is easy to make, you chop up your pre-cooked lobster and shrimp then quickly saute in a pan with garlic, olive oil and shallots. When that mixture cools down you fold in a little ricotta, mascarpone and chopped parsley.

making shrimp and lobster ravioli

You can either roll out your dough by hand, which is a little time consuming, or use a crank style pasta machine which works really well, or this handy pasta attachment to your Kitchen Aid, which will speed things up a bit, either way will work. After the pasta sheets are rolled out then cut your pasta into a three inch circle.

shrimp and lobster ravioli

Once you get the dough rolling, everything moves really fast, just fill and crimp!

shrimp and lobster ravioli

After one bite you’ll know it was worth all the effort, I promise.

shrimp and lobster ravioli with tomato cream sauce

I’ve also served this with a tomato cream sauce, easy to make by stirring some cream into your marinara, either way you choose I know you’ll love it!

Wishing you all a very Healthy and Happy 2016! Thank you for all your support this past year, all your comments, emails and friendships mean the world to me, and don’t forget you can always see what I’m cooking up during the week on Instagram!

5.0 from 2 reviews
Shrimp and Lobster Ravioli with a Limoncello Cream Sauce
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • RAVIOLI DOUGH
  • 2 cups unbleached flour
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • a little dribble of water until the dough comes together
  • additional egg for egg wash
  • FILLING
  • 2 small lobster tails, pre-cooked and chopped in small chunks
  • 1 lb of medium shrimp, pre-cooked and chopped into small chunks, when combined you should have 2 heaping cups of lobster/shrimp meat
  • 2 garlic cloves, diced
  • 1 large shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon, limoncello, or lemon juice
  • ¼ cup of ricotta
  • 1 heaping tablespoon, mascarpone cheese
  • 2 teaspoons, chopped parsley
  • LIMONCELLO CREAM SAUCE
  • 4 Tablespoons of limoncello
  • 2 or 3 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter
  • heavy cream to thicken it up
Instructions
  1. The dough comes together really fast when made in a food processor, put the dry ingredients in and pulse, then put wet ingredients down the tube and process until the dough forms a ball. You can also make it by hand. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and let it rest for 20 minutes. This one batch will make about 30 ravioli.
  2. Pre-cook both lobster and shrimp, then cut into small chunks.
  3. Add olive oil to saute pan, then add garlic and shallot, cook for a couple of minutes, then add in seafood and parsley, toss til coated, then let it cool down.
  4. Put the cooled down mixture into a bowl and add in the ricotta and mascarpone
  5. Roll out your dough and cut into 3 inch circles, brush top with egg wash and place a heaping teaspoon of filling on top.
  6. Fold dough circle in half, into a half moon, and crimp edge with a fork.Place them onto a sheet pan, ready to boil or to be frozen. Freeze them on sheet pan, individually then place into ziplock bag.
  7. For the sauce, simmer the limoncello and lemon juice together, or just plain lemon juice, then whisk in the butter until well incorporated, then pour in a little cream for thickness. You're just spooning on the sauce, not drenching it in sauce. You can double this and make more if you desire.

 

 

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Merry Christmas! And the Winner is…

cucidadi, Italian fig cookies

Just a quick post during this busy week to wish you all a very blessed holiday and a very Merry Christmas! I’ve baked enough cookies, especially those cucidati pictured above and now I’m ready to sit back and enjoy the time with my family and friends.

I’ll be back here after Christmas but if you want to see what I’m cooking up during the week, and especially this week, you can always find me on Instagram.

So without further adieu, the lucky winner of the beautiful Lagostina Risotto Pot is……… CHRIS MARCHESE!!!  Congratulations Chris, you’re going to love that gorgeous risotto pot!

I will be contacting you by email to get your address so the company can send it directly out to you.

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Seafood Risotto and a Giveaway (Retail Value $199. US)

seafood risotto

I was recently contacted by the folks who work for an Italian cookware brand, Lagostina. CONTEST IS OVER!

They asked if I could create a winter risotto recipe using the pot and to give an honest review, I thought about it for less than a second and said Yes!

Since it’s the holiday season with Christmas around the corner and New Years right behind I decided to make a seafood risotto with lobster, scallops and shrimp, why not, it’s the holidays and besides, this would be perfect for any special occasion.

Lagostina risotto pot

I have to tell you I was blown away by the high quality of this pot as soon as I took it out of the box and felt the weight. The lid is beautiful, made of solid cherry wood on the top with the word risotto carved into it, the bottom of the lid is made of heavy stainless and guess what, you can flip the lid over and use it as a trivet! It definitely passed the beauty test, now to see how it cooks up my risotto.

seafood risotto ingredients

I got all my ingredients all together, I decided to use Prosecco instead of white wine I thought it would pair well with the seafood and give it an extra special touch.  I wasn’t sure if I was going to use parmesan cheese or not, I normally do in all my risotto’s but after it was done and I tasted it I felt there was no need for it at all so it’s your call on whether or not you want to use some.

Also for the first time in my life I broke down a whole cooked lobster strictly because I wanted those claws for garnish on my risotto, when in doubt watch a YouTube, I did and it was easy to figure out after seeing it, I basically just used the tail and claws.

making seafood risotto

First I got my stock going in a separate pan, I bought some seafood stock and enhanced it with the peeled shrimp shells, after it simmered for a while I strained it real good and I was ready to begin making the risotto.

Before I received the lagostina  pot, the pan I always made risotto in was my heavy duty cast iron pan with the fancy French name and believe me it does a wonderful job, but honestly it doesn’t compare to this. The heavy stainless steel core produces precise and even heating, it has a wide rim which speeds evaporation and although I stood over the pan ready to stir with my wooden spoon it felt like I didn’t have to stir it as often as I do with my other pan.

seafood risotto

When all the stock was absorbed I just folded in my chopped seafood and placed the whole pot onto the trivet, very impressive!

This was by far one of the best risotto’s I have ever made, creamy and perfectly cooked!

 

CONTEST IS NOW OVER AND CLOSED

4.9 from 109 reviews
Seafood Risotto
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • Serves 2
  • 1 pre-cooked whole lobster using the claws and tail
  • 8 shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 6 large scallops
  • all seafood should be pre-cooked and diced into chunks
  • 1½ quart of seafood stock, either store bought or make your own by simmering water with shrimp and lobster shells, onions, celery, peppercorns and a little thyme, then straining twice.
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 2 large shallots
  • ¾ cup of Prosecco or white wine
  • 1 cup of canned or fresh diced tomatoes, drained of wet liquid
  • parsley
  • olive oil and butter
Instructions
  1. Cook the shrimp and scallops on a foil lined sheet pan, drizzle seafood with some garlic infused olive oil and a small handful of chopped parsley, roast at 425 degrees until pink and translucent, maybe 10 minutes, let it rest.
  2. Break down your whole lobster tail, removing the shell from the claws so they stay in tact, remove the shell from the tail and cut into chunks, place all the lobster meat into the juices of the cooked shrimp and scallops on the sheet pan.
  3. Place a knob of butter and a good drizzle of olive oil into the bottom of the risotto pot.
  4. Add shallots and cook until they soften.
  5. Add rice, stirring until coated and hot.
  6. Deglaze with the Prosecco or white wine.
  7. When liquid is absorbed then start adding your simmering warm seafood stock, one ladle at a time, stirring until it gets absorbed, then add another ladle full.
  8. Keep flame on medium heat and continue adding warm stock and stirring until absorbed and rice reaches a tender and slightly al dente bite, you'll know when it's ready.
  9. Turn off heat, add another knob of butter, a little olive oil, the drained chopped tomatoes and parsley, then stir to incorporate and finally add in your chopped seafood.
  10. Put the lid on and let it rest for 1 minute.
  11. When plating top each plate with one claw, garnish with more parsley

 

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Rosette Christmas Cookies

holiday rosette cookies

Do you remember rosette cookies? When I was a kid we would have these cookies every year around the holidays and then when I got married I had my very own set of rosette irons they were snowflakes, but somehow they vanished through the years and they’ve been nowhere to be found.

holiday rosette cookies

You really don’t see the irons in stores anymore but you can find them online, I ordered my set from Amazon, I thought the tree and snowflake would be perfect for the holidays but there are also so many other shapes available that you could use throughout the year, flowers, butterflies, bunnies, fish, birds, hearts, I could go on and on.

They’re very simple to make, you whip up a batter, sort of like a crepe batter which you can flavor with different extracts, I used vanilla with some added vanilla bean but you can also use, almond, anise, rum, lemon and even orange, whatever you like.

HELPFUL HINTS

Make your batter ahead of time and refrigerate it for a couple of hours or overnight, your cookies will be nice and crispy… Keep your oil at 365 for best results, so you’ll need a candy thermometer… Heat your iron in the oil for about 8 minutes before you start to dip them… They can be stored in an airtight container for months, they can also be frozen and if needed you can re-crisp them in a 300 degree oven.

holiday rosette cookies

On the back of the package you’ll find some helpful tips plus a recipe for the batter, but I didn’t care for the recipe they had so I slightly adapted my friend Paula’s recipe which turned out perfectly, not one cookie broke!

holiday rosette cookiesholiday rosette cookies

Placed on a pretty platter these rosettes would be the perfect addition to your holiday dessert table, don’t you think?

Follow along and see what else I’m cooking up during the week on Instagram, here’s the link.

4.8 from 4 reviews
Rosette Christmas Cookies
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1¼ cup of flour
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla or other extract or vanilla bean
  • oil for frying
Instructions
  1. For the batter beat all ingredients together until incorporated then refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight to ensure a crispy cookie.
  2. Place 3 inches of oil into a saucepan.
  3. Heat to 365 and keep temperature there.
  4. Attach iron to the handle and submerge in hot oil for at least 8 minutes.
  5. Lift iron out and blot on paper towel.
  6. Dip hot iron into the batter ¾ up the sides, let it coat the iron but do not submerge, it will not release.
  7. Keep it under the oil for a few seconds as you see it turning golden, then gently shake it a little and it will usually release, if it doesn't just take a fork and gently nudge it, then flip it over until golden brown on both sides.
  8. Lift it out gently and let it drain on paper towels.
  9. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.
  10. This recipe makes quite a bit, around 40

 

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Curly Long Spaghetti with Broccolini, Chilli and Homemade Breadcrumbs

curly spaghetti with broccolini and chilli

I haven’t posted a pasta dish in a while so I thought it was about time. This is so delicious and easy to make, you can get it on your table in no time at all. It’s a little twist on regular broccoli and pasta because it uses broccolini.

Broccolini is nothing like regular broccoli or broccoli rabe it has a much sweeter taste and when cooked it has a nice tender bite to it, and in this dish I love how the long thin stalks get intertwined with the pasta.

ingredients for curly spaghetti with broccolini and chilli

You can use what ever long pasta you like but I happened to have a bag of fusilli lunghi in my pantry better known as long fusilli or curly spaghetti. I also used a nice fresh red chilli instead of flakes, it’s really not that hot if you remove the seeds. The other important ingredient is homemade breadcrumbs, larger in size, filled with flavor that will give the finished dish a nice tasty crunch on top.

curly spaghetti with broccolini and chilli

You boil your pasta first then at the last five minutes you throw your broccolini in with the pasta, scoop everything out and into a pan with olive oil, lemon zest, garlic and the chilli and cheese, but don’t throw out all of the pasta water, that’s key to creating your creamy sauce!

curly spaghetti with broccolini and chilli

This would be a great dish to whip up quickly and serve to guests that might be dropping by during the holiday.

curly spaghetti with broccolini and chilli

And I must admit it looks a little festive with the red and green going on, don’t you think?

Follow Proud Italian Cook on Instagram and you’ll see what I’m cooking up daily!

5.0 from 3 reviews
Curly Long Spaghetti with Broccolini, Chilli and Homemade Breadcrumbs
 
A quick and delicious pasta dish that showcases broccolini Adapted from Taste.com AU
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 lb. long spaghetti, preferably curly
  • 5 garlic cloves, chopped and 1 more for breadcrumbs
  • 2 bunches of broccolini, trimmed
  • 1 or 2 long red chilli, deseeded and sliced thin
  • zest of 2 lemons
  • 1 cup of grated romano or parmesan cheese
  • olive oil
  • HOMEMADE BREADCRUMBS
  • breadcubes from a day old baguette, olive oil, 1 garlic clove smashed and fresh parsley
Instructions
  1. For breadcrumbs, take a small baguette or half of a large one, cut into ¼ inch chunks, drizzle and toss it into olive olive add a small smashed garlic clove and a handful of chopped parsley and place on a rimmed baking sheet in a 375 degree oven until golden and crunchy.
  2. Cook pasta in a large pot with salted water, cook according to directions on package adding the broccolini for the final 1 minute of cooking time.
  3. Meanwhile drizzle olive oil all over the bottom of a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the 5 chopped garlic cloves, chilli and zest, stirring until fragrant, just a few minutes.
  4. I like to use a spider and scoop out the pasta and broccolini leaving the pasta water, but if you don't have a spider and want to drain the pasta and broccolini be sure to save at least two cups of the water.
  5. Toss it into the saute pan mixing everything together, add the grated cheese, maybe some more olive oil, black pepper and little by little add some of the pasta water until it loosens up and creates a little sauce.
  6. You might not use all the water, just add it little by little.
  7. Place on a platter or individual bowls and top with your homemade breadcrumbs and adding more cheese if you wish.

 

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Anginetti, Italian Lemon Knot Cookies

anginetti, Italian lemon knots

Iced Italian cookies, lemon drops, lemon knots, wedding knots or anginetti, whatever your family calls them you’ll be sure to find these traditional Italian cookies at many special occasions and holiday cookie trays. Like most Italian cookies the cookie itself is not too sweet, it has a nice moist crumb and by frosting it you’ll get a more intense lemon flavor, which is a good thing!

anginetti, Italian lemon knot cookies

They’re like little puffs, they look the same color from the raw to baked state except they’ll get puffier and golden brown on the bottom.

anginetti, Italian lemon knot cookies

Honestly, there are so many variations to this cookie, just do a Google search and you’ll see what I mean, but the general idea remains the same. In the past I’ve made them with Crisco shortening, that’s what they used back in the day, then I tried some Organic non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening, which quite honestly turned out a little drier, I think if I upped the amount they would have been better, but this time I used all butter.

You’ll also see other flavorings used such as almond and anise as well as different colored frosting’s and sprinkles, but my family always sticks with lemon.

anginetti, Italian lemon knot cookies

Instead of colored sprinkles which I normally use, this time I wanted  to do a white on white look by using tiny white non-parells and white sparkling sugar and a little lemon zest for garnish, but you can just stir some zest into your frosting instead.

Speaking of frosting, this time I tried a limoncello frosting which was very good but the traditional with extract, lemon juice and zest is just as good!

anginetti, Italian lemon knot cookies

It’s time to get baking!

5.0 from 2 reviews
Anginetti, Italian Lemon Knot Cookies
 
A traditional Italian cookie served at holidays and special occasions.
Author:
Ingredients
  • 5 cups of all purpose, unbleached flour
  • 5 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • one and one half cups of melted butter that has cooled down, not hot. Or you can use a vegetable shortening of your choice
  • 1 cup of milk
  • a pinch of salt
  • zest of 1 lemon for cookie and zest of 1 lemon for icing
  • 1 1oz. bottle of lemon extract
  • sprinkles of your choice
Instructions
  1. If you prefer, dough can be made the day before which makes it nice and chilled to work with, or you can start scooping them right after you make the dough but probably you will have to chill it for a while as you're making the cookies and the dough stays out. I sometimes stick it in the freezer for a few minutes to get it to firm up again.
  2. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together until fluffy, add eggs one at a time, then the extract and zest.
  3. In a smaller bowl whisk the flour, salt and baking powder, then slowly add to the creamed mixture alternately with the milk, you might not have to use all the milk.
  4. When everything is incorporated, let the dough rest for 5 minutes or wrap and chill overnight.
  5. Heat oven to 350 degrees. and place cookies on a parchment lined baking sheet.
  6. To form the knots I like to use a cookie scoop so all will be similar in size, then take the scoop of dough and roll it into a log about 5 or 6 inches, it's the length of a bench scraper, that's how I measure mine.
  7. Then take one side of the log and spiral it into a circle, you can tuck the other end down or up, it doesn't matter.
  8. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes according to your oven, mine took exactly 12 minutes, you want the underneath to be golden brown, not dark brown.
  9. Cool on racks.
  10. LIMONCELLO ICING
  11. One and one half cups of powdered sugar
  12. Five tablespoons of limoncello Liqueur
  13. zest of 1 lemon
  14. TRADITIONAL LEMON ICING
  15. One and one half cups of powdered sugar
  16. zest of 1 lemon
  17. One half teaspoon of lemon extract
  18. and lemon juice to get the right consistency.
  19. I always taste my icing to make sure it has the right amount of lemon, you can always add more, and I also like to brush my icing on instead of dipping., personal preference.
  20. After frosting immediately put your sprinkles on and then let the whole cookie dry for about an hour.
  21. You can keep them in tins with wax paper in between, or you can freeze them in an airtight container right after they bake and cool down, then frost them a day or two ahead before you'll be eating them.

 

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Layered Roasted Vegetable Torte

layered roasted vegetable torte

If you’re a fan of vegetables then you’re going to love this recipe! Layers of your favorite veggies stacked into a springform pan and “glued” together by tasty shredded cheese, it’s a show stopper and it could work very well as a side dish to your holiday table.

The only thing you’ll need to do ahead of time is pre-roast your veggies, then it’s all about the assembly, which is really quite simple.

layered roasted vegetable torte

I used a 9 inch spring form pan which would give you six nice sized wedge portions. If you want to go for a bigger spring form pan, don’t be afraid, I’ve done it and it works great, just roast more veggies, add more cheese and you’ll be fine.

layered roasted vegetable torte

The key to a successful un-molding is to let it rest for at the very least 30 minutes, but an hour would be better, you could even make it the day before then take it out hours ahead of serving and allow it to reach room temperature.

layered roasted vegetable torte

By letting it rest properly you’ll be able to cut it into perfect wedges and everything will stay in tact.

layered roasted vegetable torte

I made a different version here, a few years ago, you can check it out to get an idea of other veggies you might want to use, but really just use your imagination!

I’m also on Instagram where you can follow me and see what else I’m cooking up!

5.0 from 3 reviews
Layered Roasted Vegetable Torte
 
Colorful layers of roasted veggies stacked into a torte, a great presentation for your table.
Author:
Ingredients
  • For this recipe I used a 9" spring form pan, that I brushed inside with olive oil
  • 1 butternut squash with a long neck, remove skin and slice thin. ( I only used the neck of the squash so I could get flat slices) you could also use the bulb part just slice thin also
  • 1 medium head of cauliflower, which I take my knife to and make slices
  • 1 head of broccoli, just the crown, sliced like the cauliflower
  • 1 delicata squash cut into half rings
  • a few collard green leaves, which I just happen to have, but you could use spinach or kale
  • grated asiago, grated mozzarella and grated romano for "glue"
Instructions
  1. Have all your veggies pre-roasted at 400 degrees until golden on each side. Depending on the size of your veggies and the size of your pan you might have some left over, but that's a good thing!
  2. Then take your oiled pan and place it on a foil lined baking sheet that's rimmed, it's going to leak a bit at the bottom and this will be such easy clean up.
  3. Start layering, I like to put something substantial on the bottom and top so I started with the slices of butternut squash, fill the whole bottom of the pan, try to have no gaping spaces.
  4. After each layer, sprinkle some of each cheese all around.
  5. Next layer, the cauliflower, place it all around filling all the open sides and spaces.
  6. Repeat with sprinkling of all cheeses.
  7. Another layer of butternut squash, then more cheese.
  8. Next layer the broccoli, more cheese, at this point gently press down the torte with the back of a tablespoon to make sure the layers are nice and compact.
  9. Next will be the delicata squash rings, then repeat with cheese.
  10. Next will be your something green, kale, spinach or collard leaves. ( you might want to wilt those in the microwave for a minute before) repeat with cheese.
  11. Last layer for the top I used butternut squash again, but you could also used roasted sweet potato.
  12. Top with cheese and place foil on top to cover.
  13. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes, then take foil off and bake another 15.
  14. Remove and let it rest for at least 30 minutes at the very least, an hour even better, very important so everything sets and you'll be able to cut into nice wedges.
  15. Then go around the edge of pan with a knife making sure nothing is sticking, then release spring on pan and remove and place on a platter with bottom of pan still in tact.
  16. You can make this the day before, just take it out several hours before serving to reach room temperature.

 

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Sage Embossed Fingerling Potatoes

sage embossed potatoes

Ok, I just want to say that I’m absolutely giddy about this recipe, well honestly it’s not a recipe but more like a simple how to, but imagine how gorgeous a platter of these pretty sage embossed potatoes would look on your holiday table!

I saw this in a BHG magazine on party foods, and I think this would be the perfect side dish to one of your holiday parties, it’s so eye catching!

fresh sage

First, get some fresh sage, I still have a ton growing in my garden, so I just went out and grabbed some.

fingerling potatoes

Next, buy a bunch of those cute fingerling potatoes, wash them, pat dry, then cut in half lengthwise.

Toss them into a bowl and coat with olive oil, a little pepper and some good flaky salt like Maldon.

I had sixteen potatoes, thirty two halves and I used 2 tablespoons of olive oil.

fingerling potatoes with sage

Take a baking sheet and line it with parchment paper, very important, you must line with parchment, now place one sage leaf on each potato half then quickly flip it over onto the parchment, the sage leaf will stick as it cooks.

Bake at 425 degrees for 15- 20 minutes, depending on your oven.

sage embossed potatoes

You’re looking for tender and golden, so lift a few up and check for that nice color just to make sure.

sage embossed potatoes

I’m in love with these beauties, they taste delicious and they’re insanely simple to make!

sage embossed potatoes

If I need to bring a dish to someones house, guess what? I’m bringing these!

sage embossed potatoes

Make them, you’ll be a rock star!

( The holidays are around the corner, follow me on Instagram to see what I’ll be making in my kitchen!)

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Savory Squash and Brussels Sprout Flatbread

brussels sprout and squash flatbread

I can’t tell you how much I love making making flatbread pizzas, every body seems to love them and when I’m pressed for time I can whip one up in a few minutes. What I like about flatbread pizza is that you can make them so many different ways, actually using whatever you have on hand in your fridge. They bake up with a nice crispy crust that’s able to hold up to whatever you place on top, think leftover chicken, veggies, cheese, you don’t need much of each, actually less is more. Here’s some other ones I’ve made in the past.

I use lavash bread, there’s many different brands and you can find them at almost any large grocery store, I keep a couple of packages in my freezer at all times. Honestly, even if you take them straight out of the freezer they only take a few minutes to defrost, which is great for busy days and unexpected guests.

making squash puree

Last week I bought a butterkin squash at my farmers market, which is now officially closed for the season, sniff sniff.  They told me I should try it, that it was creamy and delicious, a cross between butternut squash and pumpkin. I loved it and would buy it again, to me it tasted like a more intense butternut squash and it had an amazing orange color, so fall like!

I decided to make a puree from it by first roasting it then scooping out the cooked pulp and smoothing it all out in my food processor, you could actually do this with any type winter squash, it’s nice to have on hand and I’ve been using it in a bunch of different things all week.

brussels sprouts and squash flatbread

For instance, I used some of the puree for the base of my flatbread, I put a couple of tablespoons into a little ricotta and spread it on as my first layer, it was a nice little twist and enhanced all the flavors of the other ingredients that I used on top.

My next layer was shredded mozzarella, then pre-roasted delicata squash rings, ending with shaved, pre- roasted brussels sprouts that were tossed in olive oil and parmesan cheese, both were leftovers in my fridge and when all put together it was out of this world good!

A few tips for the flatbread, brush olive oil on both sides, place on a baking sheet, top with ingredients and bake at 400 degrees for no more then 10 minutes, that’s it!

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

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Warm Up with My Chunky Minestrone

chunky minestrone

What’s better than a steamy hot bowl of soup when the weather starts to cool down? A nice bowl of hot soup never fails to instantly warm me up on a chilly day. I love making a big pot and eating it all week for lunch or even having it for a light dinner. The thing about homemade soup is that there are no rules, you can add to it whatever you have on hand.

For me it always starts out with a heavy dose of vegetables, more variety than amount, one zucchini. a few carrots, a handful of peas, you get the picture, you don’t need a ton of each. I always have canned beans on my pantry shelf along with organic, low sodium chicken stock, as I write this I have seven boxes sitting on my shelf.

Don’t get me wrong I love making homemade chicken soup that has a rich, deep broth created from the bones of a whole chicken simmering on the stove for hours, but this is a quicker pot of soup that is just as comforting and nourishing and it’s chock full of chunky bite size vegetables and beans in a parmesan broth, and if you so desire, you can add in some mini meatballs and pasta, but you don’t have to, it can be strictly all vegetable.

a pot of chunky minestrone

Everything gets put into the pot at the same time, no sauteing anything ahead of time, you can literally throw it all together, quick and easy!

pasta, mini meatballs and cheese for minestrone

Since I make meatballs quite often around here I always roll up some mini ones to tuck away in my freezer during the fall and winter months, which is a good addition if you want to bulk up your soup. If I’m adding pasta, I always make it ahead of time and serve it on the side for those who want some added carbs, I never cook my pasta straight in the soup broth, I don’t like how it looks and tastes when it blows up and gets mushy, I prefer my pasta al dente.

Another thing you will always find in my freezer are parmesan rinds, I always save my own but mostly I pick up a couple of packages every time I go to my Whole Foods, very inexpensive, a couple of dollars for three or four in a package and usually they still have a lot of cheese attached, well worth the money, I use them all the time.

chunky minestrone soup

Please ditch those canned soups that are overly salty with ingredients you can’t identify, always make your own, your family will thank you.

chunky minestrone soup

Healthy and delicious, comfort in a bowl!

Follow me on Instagram, where I’m always cooking something up.

4.8 from 4 reviews
Chunky Minestrone
 
Chunky good for you glorious vegetable soup with beans and wonderful parmesan broth, mini meatballs and pasta, optional
Author:
Recipe type: Soup
Ingredients
  • Each ingredient is roughly 1½ cups each, cut into chunky bite size pieces.
  • broccoli florets
  • cauliflower florets, ( if i had it I would have used it)
  • yellow and green zucchini, a combo of both
  • leek
  • onion
  • carrot
  • peas
  • celery
  • butternut squash
  • brussel sprout leaves, or cabbage, or any greens of your choice
  • potato, ( I opted to double the butternut squash, but you can do both)
  • 15 cherry tomatoes
  • 3 large crushed garlic cloves
  • 5 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 can of cannelini beans, drained and rinsed
  • ½ can of butter beans, drained and rinsed ( butter beans are quite larger, if you can't find them do another bean of your choice)
  • a bunch of chopped parsley and some basil, or other seasoning you like
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 parmesan cheese rinds
  • 2 handfuls or so of grated parmesan or romano to toss into the broth when finished after removal of rinds, taste to your liking.
  • broth or stock, enough to cover all the vegetables and then some, you want enough so that when it's stirred it's loose, I used organic, low sodium, chicken stock in a box.
  • OPTIONAL ADDITIONS:
  • mini meatballs, precooked
  • pasta of your choice, precooked
Instructions
  1. Throw everything into the pot, raw.
  2. Cover with broth, add spices and herbs.
  3. Simmer on low until veggies are cooked through but not mushy
  4. Turn off heat, remove cheese rinds.
  5. Add in grated cheese and stir, tasting for desired amount.
  6. Ladle into your bowl and top with cooked mini meatballs and/or pasta, optional

 

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Butternut, Delicata, and Acorn Squash Gratin with Crispy Sage

winter squash gratin

Today I’m giving you a little inspiration for your Thanksgiving Day table, the holidays are right around the corner, so it’s time to start planning, can you believe it?

This deliciously creamy gratin combines three of my favorite winter squash, butternut, delicata and acorn.

winter squash gratin

They sit nice and pretty in a parmesan and garlic cream sauce and are adorned with crispy sage leaves, you couldn’t ask for a better combination of flavors!

winter squash

Besides tasting over the top amazing,  I love the presentation that happens by using the different squash shapes together.

winter squash

I pre-roasted my squash a little, then layered them into a buttered casserole dish.

winter squash gratin

The cream sauce is made ahead of time then carefully spooned all around the squash slices being careful to leave some squash peeking through, that’s what makes the presentation so pretty.

It’s a show stopper for the holiday season when we’re all allowed to indulge a little!

winter squash gratin

Wouldn’t this be dreamy sitting next to your Turkey this year?

Proud Italian Cook is on Instagram, follow me there to see what I’m cooking up daily!

5.0 from 3 reviews
Butternut, Delicata, and Acorn Squash Gratin with Crispy Sage
 
A winter squash gratin, the perfect side dish for the holiday season or just to impress your guests.
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 butternut squash, neck part only, skin removed, then cut into rounds
  • 1 delicata squash, skin on, then sliced into rings, remove pulp and seeds
  • 1 acorn squash, skin on, remove pulp and seeds, quarter it then make slices,
  • cut all squash about ¼ inch slices, not too thick and not too thin
  • 2 cups, heavy cream
  • 2 handfuls of grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 2 finely grated garlic cloves, done on a microplane
  • ¾ stick of unsalted butter
  • 1 bunch of fresh sage leaves
Instructions
  1. I pre- roasted all the squash just to make sure it wouldn't be hard, on a baking sheet at 400 degrees, drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper, just until al dente, where it still had a little bite.
  2. After they cool place squash into a buttered 13x9 casserole dish. (these first two steps can be done the day before and refrigerated overnight, before adding cream sauce.) If you do it the day before, take it out and get it to room temp, before adding sauce.
  3. TO MAKE THE CREAM SAUCE:
  4. In a small sauce pan on low flame, add butter and garlic, just until garlic is fragrant, not brown, then add cream, salt and pepper too taste.
  5. Simmer cream sauce just until the edges start to bubble, then turn off the heat and let it set up for a minute.
  6. Add the Parmigiano, stir well, then spoon the cream sauce all around the squash in casserole dish, leaving some of the squash exposed but spreading it all around and in between.
  7. Place casserole dish into a 450 degree oven until bubbly and nicely golden, keep checking.
  8. Garnish with crispy sage leaves, by melting a tablespoon or two of butter in a small pan, when butter is hot throw the leaves in and they will start to sizzle and get crispy, remove immediately.

 

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Polenta on a Board Topped with Butternut Squash and Mixed Mushrooms

polenta with mushroom and butternut squash

The weather has officially cooled down and now we’re well into the fall season, comfort foods are slowly creeping into my kitchen, and a meal that I love making in this cooler weather is, creamy warm polenta topped with pretty much anything.

I’ve posted polenta several times on this blog, but this time I’m serving it on a wooden board, yes a board, it’s casual, rustic, communal and a fun way to eat it.

Cook up your polenta, make it nice and creamy, then immediately pour it onto a wooden board, spread it around then top it with almost anything you can imagine. It’s the perfect base for sauteed greens, a nice meaty red sauce, roasted veggies, a wild mushroom ragu, even poached eggs, the list is endless!

You can use any size wooden cutting board that you might have, or buy a designated polenta board that is either round or a very long rectangle, both can be placed in the center of a table for a big polenta party, depending on the size you can either double or even triple the recipe, or you can use a pizza peel like I did, which is a good size for a smaller amount.

assorted raw mushrooms

I decided to top mine with oyster, crimini and beech mushrooms, I love the different variety of mushrooms I’m seeing all over.

roasted butternut squah

And of course butternut squash because they’re a match made in heaven!

roasted mushrooms with garlic and thyme

I roast both of the veggies ahead of the time and with the mushrooms I like to add some garlic and thyme.

polenta with mushroom and butternut squash

Place everything on top, put your board in the middle of the table, grab a spoon or a fork and dig in!

polenta with mushroom and butternut squash

Proud Italian Cook is also on Instagram, you can find me here.

5.0 from 2 reviews
Polenta on a Board Topped with Butternut Squash and Mixed Mushrooms
 
A casual and fun way to eat creamy polenta!
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 small butternut squash, cut into a small dice, then tossed in olive oil and pre-roasted on a sheet pan at 400 degrees until lightly golden
  • assorted mushrooms of your choice, at least 1½ lbs. pre-roasted at 400 degrees with 3 chopped garlic cloves and a few sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 cup of quick cooking polenta
  • 4 cups of liquid, I like to use 2 cups milk and 2 cups broth
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 handfuls of grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • a little butter and olive oil
Instructions
  1. Put the liquid and salt into a heavy pot, get it to boiling then reduce heat to a low simmer and whisk in the polenta, then get a wooden spoon and get stirring until nice and creamy.
  2. Take it off the stove add in a tablespoon of butter, a drizzle of olive oil and the cheese, stirring until incorporated.
  3. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Quickly spread onto your wooden board, then top with all your veggies.
  5. Drizzle more olive oil on top, and a little more grated cheese, serve immediately

 

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Scenes from Chicago Gourmet 2015

Chicago Gourmet 2015

This past Sunday I attended Chicago Gourmet, presented by Bon Appetit and as usual it did not disappoint, beautiful weather again set the scene for the perfect day.

Chicago Gourmet is a culinary food fest, not only does it showcase some of the city’s finest chefs and restaurants, it’s jammed packed with seminars, live cooking demos, book signings, gourmet tastings of desserts and food galore.

On the beverage side there’s an abundance of wine, beer, cocktails and spirits, it’s definitely an event for adults only.

One could not possibly taste and drink everything they have to offer, you have to pick and choose what’s calling your name that day, but it’s sure fun trying!

Chicago gourmet 2015

Honestly, I can watch the live demos all day long, it’s so fun and time goes by so fast, the venue is great, you’re close and up front and you’re able to talk to the chefs before and after in a casual, relaxed atmosphere.

Chicago Gourmet 2015Chicago Gourmet 2015

There are tasting pavilions and exhibitors all around, you name it they have it, every cuisine you can think of and yes, there’s ever present lines, but they move pretty fast, especially with a glass of wine in your hands!

Chicago Gourmet 2015

You have to pace yourself, I never eat the bread, you would be stuffed in ten minutes!

Chicago Gourmet 2015

The sweets are insane, I could post a hundred photos!

Chicago Gourmet 2015

I love the vibe, the beautiful backdrop of Millennium Park, the food, the wine, the whole package!

Chicago Gourmet 2015

See you in 2016!

You can follow me on Instagram too!

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Corona Beans with Sausage

corona beans and sausage

Are you familiar with Corona beans? They’re a large white bean way bigger than cannellini, an old fashioned heirloom bean from Europe, Italy has a fondness for them. They’re big to begin with in the dry state but when you cook them they become huge, the picture doesn’t really show how big they get but I measured them to be about an inch and a quarter in their cooked state.

They have a nice creamy texture similar to a potato.

slow cooked corona beans

I picked up a bag at the Rancho Gordo store in the Ferry building in San Francisco last week on our vacation, it can be difficult to find Corona beans in the stores most of the time but online you should have no problem.

You will find many producers of these beans but Rancho Gordo is one of my favorites, In fact I love all their beans, and I’m not getting paid to say that!

I decided to go out and buy a new crock pot since I never used mine and gave it away to my daughter, I wanted to slow cook my Corona’s after I saw my friend Cathy make a pot of Greek Gigante beans, which is also a large white bean. She tossed all the ingredients into the crock pot including the dry beans, not pre-soaked, but dry.

I have to say I wouldn’t recommend tossing in dry Corona’s they took forever to cook and to reach that creamy point, it was close to twelve hours, so next time I would definitely pre- soak them overnight to get them started and reduce the simmering time, like I said these beans are huge and they’re not exactly the same type as the Gigante beans that Cathy used, so my recipe instructions will be slightly different than hers.

corona beans and sausage

This is my Italian version of pork and beans! Beans flavored with parmesan, garlic, onions, bacon, thyme, tomatoes and red pepper flakes then after they’re cooked, topped with a ring of the best Italian sausage you can buy, which will be pan seared and placed on top for serving. This is comfort food, stick to your ribs food, a welcome to fall!

corona beans and sausagecorona beans and sausage

You have to be patient, this isn’t a quick meal, you can make the beans the day before if you want either in the slow cooker or simmering on top of the stove, I guarantee your house will smell amazing and it’s definitely worth the wait!

Proud Italian Cook is also on Instagram, you can follow me here.

5.0 from 2 reviews
Corona Beans with Tomatoes, Bacon and Sausage
 
Giant delicious white beans called Corona. Slow simmered until nice and creamy, comfort food all the way!
Author:
Ingredients
  • 8 oz. dried Corona beans that have been soaked in water overnight for at least 8 hours, then drained
  • 3 oz. bacon, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cups of chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 14 oz. can of diced tomatoes or squished whole tomatoes
  • 1 or 2 parmesan rinds
  • a small handful of fresh thyme sprigs
  • a big pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 4 tablespoons of olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 lb. cooked, pan seared Italian sausage to serve on top of beans when finished cooking
Instructions
  1. Place every single ingredient into a heavy pot or crock pot, simmer low and slow for hours, soaking the beans overnight will shorten the time. The true test for doneness is to taste at least 5 beans because beans all cook at different times.
  2. They should not be hard or have a crunch to the bite but rather they should taste creamy and soft like a potato.
  3. They could take anywhere between 3 - 6 or more hours depending on how high your flame is or how fast your crock pot takes.
  4. Keep tasting for salt, and remember they blow up, and the liquid will absorb them.
  5. Remember they should reach the creamy point!
  6. Serve them in pan with curved sides topped with the pre-cooked sausage ring.

 

 

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Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip

california coast

Sorry no recipe today just a little recap of my recent California trip. We’ve always wanted to do a Pacific Coast Highway road trip and we finally did it this past week, now I can cross it off my bucket list.

We flew into San Francisco and started our journey there, check out my Instagram account for some of the food we ate and the sites we saw in the bay area.

We continued on our road trip all the way down to San Diego, stopping along the way, staying overnight in beautiful cities along the coast.

california coast

The views were breathtaking, stunning and amazing!

california coast

Sometimes a little scary, but oh so worth it!

pebble beach

We even drove through Pebble Beach, seventeen miles of beauty all around.

california sea gull

Even the sea gulls were in awe.

california scenes

We stopped and stayed at various places along the way on famous Highway 1, like Nepenthe, Monterey, Big Sur, San Simeon, Solvang, Santa Barbara, Malibu, Santa Monica, LA, Long Beach, Venice Beach, Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, San Clemente, all the way down to San Diego.

It only takes about 8 hours to make the drive down to San Diego from San Francisco, we had seven days which gave us more than enough time to see and stay where ever we wanted.

Los Angeles tour

When we got to LA we went on a hop on hop off bus tour which gave us an overview of the city, we were free to get off and visit different touristy things as long as we wanted then hopped back on the bus when we were done, no worries about parking our car in all the different areas we wanted to see. I highly recommend doing that in a big city, it’s stress free!

chinese theater

We did so much it’s hard to show everything in a single post but let me just say I ate delicious, fresh seafood every single day! (Instagram)

If you’ve ever thought about taking a road trip down the PCH, I can just tell you, it’s worth every mile, so much to see, so much to do with gorgeous views.

Time to get back cooking in my own kitchen and some of the fall meals I can’t wait to make.

See you soon!

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