White Pasta Fagioli

white pasta fagioli

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

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

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

making soup

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

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

beans and bacon

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

white fagioli

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

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

 

 

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Italian Meatloaf

Italian meatloaf

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

Italian meatloaf

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

Italian meatloaf

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

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

Italian meatloaf

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

red pepper sauce

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

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

 

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Italian Wedding Soup with Escarole and Mini Meatballs

Italian wedding soup

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

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

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

turkey meatballs

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

My preferred meat to use is either ground turkey or chicken, since I’m using a chicken stock as the base anyway it makes sense. Also, when I’m making it from scratch I’ll shred up some of the chicken and add it into the soup as well.

chicken stockclear broth

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

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

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

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

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

Italian wedding soup ingredients

I also used escarole as my choice of greens but any hearty green will do, kale, chard or spinach as well. My favorite pasta to use is acini di pepe, little round and couscous shaped, but again any small pasta of your choice will do. True confession, I never boil my pasta in the broth of the soup, I don’t like it when the pasta blows up and gets mushy, so in my house it’s always cooked on the side.

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

making soup

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

meatballs

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

Italian wedding soupItalian wedding soup

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

Italian wedding soup

cooked pasta

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

 

Italian wedding soup

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

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

 

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Italian Specialty Sausage and Beans

Italian sausage and beans

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Quick and Easy Bolognese Sauce, True Comfort Food

bolognese sauce It’s January, mid winter and the weather still calls for some comfort food, and I say a nice pot of bolognese sauce simmering on the stove is comfort food at it’s finest!

Bolognese sauce is a meat based sauce that originated from Bologna, Italy. A classic bolognese usually consists of a mixture of meats, some pancetta, a soffrito of aromatic veggies, tomato, wine and milk or cream, it also requires many hours of simmering.

Over the years I found you can put together a darn good bolognese pretty quick and easy and in a little less than an hour.

mirepoix One thing for sure, and is a must when making your bolognese is that you want to include these veggies, a soffrito of finely chopped carrots, celery and onions and sometimes I include finely chopped mushrooms, I eliminate the pancetta all together.

If you want to speed things up instead of chopping the veggies by hand just pull out your food processor and pulse them until they turn into a small dice.

bolognese sauce For this quicker version I use only one meat and it’s usually a grass fed beef and when combined with everything else it creates a thick rich sauce with many layers of flavor, I can’t tell the difference if it was simmered for one or three hours, it’s that good!

pasta bolognese

Just about any pasta shape complements this meaty sauce, so just pick your favorite!

spaghetti squash bolognese

If you’re trying to watch your carb intake after all the holiday goodies, no problem, because it’s equally delicious on top of spaghetti squash, I actually love it that way.

You might want to double or triple the recipe because it freezes really well and it’s nice to have some tucked away in your freezer when comfort food is calling your name!

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5.0 from 4 reviews
Quick and Easy Bolognese Sauce
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 lb. ground beef, preferably grass fed or sirloin
  • 2 carrots, finely diced
  • 2 stalks of celery, finely diced
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • ¾ cup mushrooms, finely diced (optional)
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely diced
  • a pinch of red pepper flakes, (optional)
  • ½ cup white wine
  • ½ cup of whole milk
  • 1 28 oz. can of ground tomatoes
  • a few fresh basil leaves for added flavor
  • 2 tablespoons each of butter and olive oil
Instructions
  1. Dice up your vegetables into a fine dice either by hand or pulsed in your food processor.
  2. In a heated heavy bottomed pan add the butter and olive oil.
  3. Add all the veggies and garlic and cook until soft.
  4. Toss in the ground meat and cook until browned.
  5. Deglaze with the wine and let it evaporate.
  6. Pour in the milk and let it cook for a minute.
  7. Add the tomatoes plus salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Cook uncovered on a slow simmer stirring often.
  9. Should be done after 45 minutes or so.
  10. Serve with your favorite pasta or spaghetti squash.

 

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Braised Short Ribs with Red Wine and Roasted Garlic

braised short ribs Braised short ribs is what I call cold weather comfort food at it’s best. Meaty short ribs that braise in a hearty red wine, a little broth, roasted garlic and thyme. The meat becomes so tender and fall off the bone delicious, and the best part is you only do a minimal amount of work to get them ready then the oven takes over for a while.

In the meantime your house is guaranteed to smell amazing!

roasted garlic

I mentioned roasting garlic for this recipe, it’s a MUST, you have to do it because when your meat is done braising you’re going to smash the sweet mellow cloves right into the liquid and then strain everything so you have a nice smooth sauce that’s packed with so much flavor you can’t even imagine!

To save time I recommend roasting the garlic a couple of days ahead and storing it away in your fridge, I always make a little extra to use in other things like mashed potatoes, sauteed greens or simply smeared on crusty bread.

braised short ribs

You can serve this on top roasted garlic mashed potatoes, some thick eggy noodles or pappadelle pasta, or my favorite… creamy polenta, (too die for!) In fact the other day I posted a picture of  just that, a juicy, tender short rib on top of creamy polenta with a layer of  roasted garlic sauteed kale on my Instagram, check it out here.

Now go grab a heavy pot and start braising!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Braised Short Ribs with Red Wine and Roasted Garlic
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 4 whole heads of garlic, cut in half
  • 6 large meaty short ribs
  • hearty red wine
  • beef or chicken broth
  • ¾ of a cup of tomato puree, finely diced tomatoes, marinara or a couple of tablespoons of tomato paste
  • cremini mushrooms, 12 oz. package, cut in half
  • 1 small pack of pearl onions, blanched and peeled
  • (optional, for a little spicy heat, a teaspoon of harissa or Calabrian chili paste, I used harrisa, but again not needed just optional)
  • fresh thyme
  • olive oil, salt and pepper
  • fresh parsley for garnish or chopped scallions
Instructions
  1. Roast the 4 heads of garlic the day before by cutting them in half, drizzling them with olive oil adding fresh thyme, salt and pepper. Wrap in heavy foil and roast 45 minutes to 1 hour at 400 degrees
  2. Season short ribs with salt and pepper all over.
  3. In a heavy bottomed pan like cast iron get it nice and hot then drizzle with olive oil and add in the ribs and start searing them.
  4. Let ribs get a deep golden brown all over, not moving them too often, letting the fat render out.
  5. Remove ribs and pour off all extra fat, leaving brown bits on the bottom.
  6. Add ribs back in and add your tomato ingredient and optional extra spice, let it cook a bit.
  7. Pour in the wine enough to cover almost half up the sides of the short ribs, let it bubble and cook down for a little while, it should reduce a little.
  8. Add in the broth, again enough to reach halfway up the sides of the short ribs.
  9. Add in one whole head of the roasted garlic, two halves.
  10. Throw in some fresh thyme.
  11. Cover with lid or heavy duty foil and place into a hot, preheated 300 degree oven, they will take around 2½ hours.
  12. Half way through add in the onions.
  13. In a skillet, saute your mushrooms on medium high heat, set aside.
  14. When short ribs are finished cooking, and have become tender and fall off the bone, remove them gently from the pan as well as the onions.
  15. Smash all the garlic that came out of the head with a fork into the gorgeous liquid, it will be chunky looking.
  16. Strain the sauce through a fine mesh strainer, pushing and scraping the bits to get all the juice extracted, discard all pulp from garlic, you are left with a smooth sauce.
  17. Place smooth sauce back into the pan, add the short ribs and onions back in, at this point you can skim more of the fat off if you like, I did.
  18. Add the sauteed mushrooms and some fresh thyme.
  19. Garnish with fresh parsley and chopped scallions.
  20. Serve over creamy polenta, egg noodles, pappadelle pasta or roasted garlic mashed potatoes.
  21. Delicious with sauteed greens on the side.
  22. Enjoy!

 

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It’s a Chicken Cacciatore Kind of Day!

chicken cacciatore

It’s another frigid day here in Chicago, brutally cold weather with wind chill warnings, school closings and Artic air! You don’t have to convince me to stay inside. It’s definitely a comfort food kind of day, so a nice pot of slow cooked and braised Chicken Cacciatore it is!
fixings for chicken cacciatore Once the initial few steps are done, the browning of the chicken, sautéing your vegetables, deglazing, adding in your tomatoes, you can sit back for a couple of hours and let all the aromas fill your kitchen with comfort and warmth.

Chicken Cacciatore is a classic Italian dish also referred to as hunter’s stew, I make it a few times during the fall when the weather starts to turn and of course winter, and I just realized today that I never posted it on my blog, so here it is!

Carrots, onions, garlic, yellow and red peppers, assorted mushrooms, olives, spices, herbs, tomatoes and wine when slow cooked and reduced makes the most delicious sauce to soak into your chicken and the bonus is, it tastes just as good if not better the next day!

chicken cacciatoreA mixture of crimini and shiitake mushrooms add nice texture and flavor to the sauce as well as oregano, basil, parsley and thyme.

chicken cacciatore This is rustic food, family style, hearty and oh so satisfying! Boil up some pasta to soak up those juices or a nice creamy polenta.

chicken cacciatore Maybe some warm crusty bread? Either way I can assure you this dish is amazing and one of my family’s absolute favorites.

chicken cacciatore

Mangia! Mangia!

Chicken Cacciatore
 
Ingredients
  • 1 whole chicken, bone-in,skin on and each breast cut in half for smaller pieces
  • 8oz. mixed mushrooms, like crimini and shiitake
  • 1 onion, diced medium
  • 1 small yellow and red pepper, diced medium
  • 2 small carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 5 garlic cloves, shaved
  • pitted kalamata olives, a large handful
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 14 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 14 oz. can of tiny whole tomatoes or if not available just whole tomatoes.
  • Assorted herbs, parsley, basil, oregano and thyme
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Season chicken with salt, pepper and sprinkled oregano.
  2. Heat a heavy cast iron skillet, drizzled with olive oil.
  3. Place chicken skin side down and do not move it until it reaches a deep golden brown and it's easy to turn, brown other side for a few minutes. Remove chicken and set aside.
  4. Add vegetables, garlic, salt and pepper to taste, a few twigs of thyme, saute for 5 minutes.
  5. Add wine and let it reduce.
  6. Add chicken broth and tomatoes.
  7. Toss in 1 teaspoon of salt, pepper and chopped fresh basil.
  8. Place the chicken back into the pan and sink into the juices.
  9. Simmer on low, stove top, for a couple of hours or until chicken falls off the bone. Uncovered.
  10. Garnish with fresh parsley.
  11. Serve with cooked pasta, polenta or warm crusty bread.
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A Virtual Pot of Pasta Fagioli Soup for my Friends

As I sit in the comfort of my home taking heat and electricity for granted, I can’t stop thinking about all those who have been affected by Hurricane Sandy. Lives were lost, homes destroyed, total devastation, many still without heat and power, and to make matters worse, snow is now on the ground.
I have friends who are affected by this storm, if I were closer I’d make them all a big pot of pasta fagioli soup, it’s warm, comforting, a complete meal with crusty bread and it feeds a bunch.
I stock up on cheese rinds in the winter, ( thank you Whole Foods) I always have them on hand in my freezer, so inexpensive but makes a world of difference in flavoring your broth, it makes the best soup ever!
Ditalini, my pasta of choice!
Ingredients for my soup are;
Garlic, leeks, onions, carrots, red potato, zucchini, white beans, swiss chard, crushed tomatoes, broth, pasta and cheese rinds, rosemary and thyme.
I wish I could tell you I measure but I don’t! I start out with a big pan, drizzle the bottom with olive oil then saute the first 6 ingredients ( generous amounts of all, just 2 crushed garlic cloves though) then open up and pour in 2 cans of white beans and a 14.5 oz can of crushed tomatoes. Add your chard then fill your pot to the top with broth, homemade or boxed, and throw in 3 cheese rinds and the fresh chopped herbs.
I cook my pasta, and keep it separate, adding as much as I want into my serving bowl. I never add it to the big pot, I don’t like when it blows up really big and gets mushy.
Let it simmer for a good hour or so until veggies are tender then add a generous handful of grated cheese and stir.
I can’t be near to help those in need, but by donating to the Red Cross I feel it’s the least I can do, and so can you, here’s the link!

Linda, Stacey, Pat, Maryann and Barbara, this pot’s for you! xox

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Chicken Parmesan Meatloaf

I have to admit it was the name of this dish that first intrigued me! Sure I like chicken parmesan, so why wouldn’t I like it in a meatloaf form? I was convinced to try this after my sister-in-law from Florida gave it rave reviews recently while we were talking on Facebook.
What’s not to like, it’s tender, moist and loaded with so much flavor! You could definitely pin this under,
comfort food!
I served it with roasted veggies tossed in my favorite balsamic glaze, a delicious weekday meal it was!
What makes this meatloaf taste so good is a healthy scoop of marinara sauce mixed right into the meat,  then when it’s about 3/4 done, you spoon more marinara over the top and layer on fresh mozzarella, it’s a beautiful thing!
The husband loved it so much he wanted to eat the leftovers the very next day!

Ingredients
recipe adapted from Joelen
I used ground turkey and it was a little over a pound but you can also replace with ground chicken
2 finely chopped garlic cloves
1/2 chopped onion
2 eggs
panko crumbs, enough to just soak up the moisture
1/2 cup marinara sauce, homemade preferred, additional for top and to serve with.
3/4 cup of small cubed asiago cheese
a handful of grated romano cheese
fresh chopped basil and parsley
s&p, of course
Mix everything together and form into a loaf on a sprayed baking sheet. Bake at 375 for around 1 hour. Last 20 minutes spoon marinara over top and place fresh mozzarella slices over it. Garnish with fresh basil.

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Baked Rigatoni

My neighbors just welcomed a new baby boy into their home. Poor thing, shes been having serious back issues so the other day I walked over and brought some dinner for them. I decided to make a pan of baked rigatoni, because lets be honest there aren’t many things as comforting as a pan of baked pasta, are there? It takes less time than making a lasagne, without any sacrifice of flavor. I made this version meatless with 3 different cheese, mozzarella, ricotta with spinach and grated romano cheese, I’ve also made a meat version many many times in my life adding tiny meatballs between the layers, a big hit for a party because it all can be put together a day ahead of time and then heated right before serving. A big pan of baked rigatoni would also be a great addition to your Easter dinner, because you always need to have a little pasta, no?

I love the large ridged rigatoni it holds the sauce perfectly and visually it looks so good. The box says to cook the pasta for 14 minutes but you’ll want to under cook it since it will be baking in the oven. I cooked the one pound box for 10 minutes then drained the water and tossed the rigatoni into a bowl and gave it a quick drizzle of olive oil with a couple of ladles of marinara. Be sure to have enough marinara made because you don’t want the pasta to dry out in the baking process. If you’re buying your marinara in a jar I would buy two, but please try and make your own if you don’t normally do so, it’s such a difference!

I make my marinara very quickly using 6-8 cloves of chopped garlic sauteed in about 1/4 cup of olive oil, sometimes I add a small onion, sometimes I don’t, to that I add two 28oz cans of San Marzano whole tomatoes that have been squished beforehand, and my favorite ingredient of all time, fresh basil, lots of it! Let it simmer for 20 minutes or so.

I buttered the inside of a 13 x 9 disposable pan, ( since I was giving this dish away) spread homemade marinara sauce on the bottom and then 1/3 of the rigatoni, then with a make shift piping bag I added dollops of ricotta all around the layer of pasta as well as good sprinkling of shredded mozzarella, next added the grated romano cheese all over. Repeat 2 more times starting all over with the sauce again.

The ricotta mixture was made by folding a good handful of chopped spinach (squeezed and drained of all liquid) into a pound of fresh ricotta along with one egg, a healthy dose of grated cheese, salt and pepper.

I like to keep my baked rigatoni a little lighter by not covering the top with a layer of mozzarella, I think there’s plenty inside, but that’s just my preference.

Ready for the oven, lay a piece of foil on top and bake around 25 minutes at 360F, last 15 minutes remove the foil.

I found this bottle of wine, Rigatoni Red, I sure hope it was good because I strictly bought it for the label which I just loved, it was the perfect compliment to my dish don’t you think?

Have a great weekend, and Buon appetito!
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Comfort Food

It’s cold here today! Chicago is in the single digits and that requires some comfort food and I can’t think of a more fitting dish than Chicken with Fennel and Olives, and to make it even more comforting it’s served on top of Creamy Warm Polenta.
This is a simple rustic dish, nothing fancy, cooked in one pan and packed with flavor, I guarantee it will make you all warm and cozy inside.
I used chicken thighs but you can use whatever chicken parts you like.
Here’s the recipe.
Chicken with Fennel and Olives
6 chicken thighs
1 fennel bulb, sliced
1 onion, sliced
8 cloves of chopped garlic
1 14 oz can of cherry tomatoes ( or diced)
Jumbo green pitted olives
Parsley, thyme, oregano and basil
White wine
In a large oven proof skillet brown up your chicken which has been seasoned with salt and pepper until it has a nice deep golden color, remove and drain the fat. Drizzle in some olive oil and saute the garlic, onion and fennel and then deglaze with a healthy splash of white wine. Add in your herbs, salt and pepper then place the chicken back in. Spread your olives all around then place the pan in a preheated 375F oven for around 45 minutes uncovered.
Creamy Polenta
1 1/2 cups of half and half, cream or milk
1 1/2 cups of chicken broth
3/4 cup of polenta, I used the instant kind
1 tablespoon butter
Grated parmesan ( a nice size handful) and chopped basil
In a deep sauce pan heat your milk and broth until boiling then whisk in the polenta until it starts to bubble and splatter, be careful! Take it off the stove add in butter, cheese, snipped basil, salt and pepper to taste. Tastes best when served immediately, if it thickens up just add more liquid to loosen it up.
Enjoy your weekend, we’ll be home Sunday rooting for the Bears! Go Bears!
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Neck Bones and Gravy

A big pot of neck bones simmering on the stove is comfort food for my husband. I usually make this for him about once a year, sometimes with pasta, or sometimes just with string beans.

Neck bones to us is like Italian soul food, not fancy by any means, but gives you a warm and fuzzy feeling every time you eat them as you recall memories and smells of your childhood.

This is truely recession food, cheap eats that cost only a few bucks and feeds many.

Having run 6 miles that morning my husband justified the meal that was to come. He quickly called his brother and invited him over for dinner who became giddy with excitement. I cooked up some bucatini, made a salad, and warmed up some nice crusty bread.

No fancy china here, just two brothers sharing a meal together recalling memories of their mom.

The table wouldn’t be complete without a bowl for the picked over bones. You can get my family recipe here, but warning, you might need to wear a bib!

Of course there’s always room for dessert, and if you haven’t tried
Gina De Palma’s Ricotta Pound Cake you’re missing out. I’ve made this several times and it’s always a hit.
Buon Appetito
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Dinner for Two with an Italian Turkey Meatloaf


I brought this little care package over to the new parents the other day, a little comfort food to nourish them from lack of sleep, besides, it was great excuse for seeing my sweet little Granddaughter again!

I used ground turkey for this meatloaf, but you can certainly substitute ground beef. For 2lbs of turkey I used 2 eggs, a nice handful of grated romano cheese, 3 cloves of minced garlic, 1/2 of a chopped onion, 1/2 cup of grated carrot, 1 T. of basil pesto, 1/4 cup of white wine, 1/2 cup of diced fire roasted tomatoes, (drained of juice) panko breadcrumbs, 1/4 cup of small diced provolone or fontinella cheese, salt and pepper.

I baked 2 individual casseroles for my son and DIL and even had enough for me and the hubby for our dinner. Bake at 375F for about 1 1/2 hours or when thermometer reaches correct temperature. The sauce on top was a quick roasted red pepper sauce made by blending in a food processor, leftover roasted peppers, a small amount of marinara and a clove of garlic. If you haven’t tried a meatloaf with turkey yet you really should it’s so good!

I’m still getting some zucchini from my garden so I made this and it was delicious! Zucchini layered with roasted tomatoes, basil, panko breadcrumbs, and feta.


I’ve been seeing these square cut potatoes all over in the blogosphere, they’re called potato dominoes, check out Steamy Kitchen for a great step by step on how to make these. For mine, I decided to add a sweet potato along with the baking potato for a different twist, olive oil instead of butter, fresh snipped rosemary, salt and pepper. I will be making these again after I perfect my mandoline skills!

Enjoy your weekend, and Buon Appetito!

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Pumpkin Pastina

pastina In many Italian households children are first introduced to pasta by way of pastina. Pastina literally means “little pasta”. Today you can find shapes of many different forms, from tiny dots to stars, alphabets, and many more. My own kids grew up with pastina, simply made with a little butter, and grated cheese, but this recipe takes it over the top with a beautiful presentation in a pumpkin, hence the name pumpkin pastina.

To this day it’s the kind of comfort food that my family and I still crave today.

When I first saw this recipe in Michael Chiarello’s cookbook…The Tra Vigne… all my fond memories of pastina came rushing back, I just had to make this!

Tiny pastina cooked in a warm broth flavored with onion, & thyme, adding to that, creamy parmesan cheese, and roasted butternut squash.

I can barely describe how good this is, it almost didn’t make it to the table, I’m warning you you’ll be tempted to eat it right over the stove with a spoon!

roasted pumpkin By all means, you don’t have to serve it in a pumpkin like it’s featured here, but the presentation is so eye catching and very festive for this time of year, and besides, you have to roast your butternut squash anyway so why not do it all on the same baking sheet.
This recipe serves four, and the pumpkin I used was on the small side about 6 or 8 inches round. I was going to use the green one in the photo as well but decided against it.
Just cut the top, scoop out the seeds, oil it inside and out, and season with salt and pepper. Place the lids back on the top when baking.
For the butternut squash, I just cut it in half, scoop out the seeds, oil it inside and out add salt and pepper, and then place it cut side down on baking sheet.
Both will cook at 375F for about 40 min’s. You want your pumpkin still firm enough to stand up, so depending on what size you use, you might want to keep checking it.
NOTE: Do all of this earlier in the day to get it out of the way, the pastina cooks up fast.
autumn leaves This has nothing to do with the recipe at all, but I just wanted to show you the beautiful colors that were on these leaves that I saw when I was taking a walk the other day, I just love the fall colors!

pastina Michael added turkey in his recipe and cooked the pastina like risotto, adding the broth little by little. I didn’t do that.
You certainly could add turkey to it if you like, for a more heartier meal. I didn’t do that either. I might however, use his suggestion to chiffonade some chard or spinach into it next time.
FOR THE PASTINA:
In a pot, sauté about 1 cup of onion in olive oil, season with salt and pepper and fresh thyme.
Pour in 4 cups of stock (I used chicken) and bring to a gentle boil.
When stock is boiling pour in 3/4 lb. of your dry pastina or any tiny pasta.
When al dente, fold in about 1 cup of your roasted butternut squash that has been scooped out, and 1/2 cup of good parmesan cheese. Season it to taste with salt and pepper.
The consistency should be loose, so you might want to add more stock to it, so have extra on hand if need be.
Pumpkin pastina is the perfect meal to make this fall.
Buon Appetito!
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SAUSAGE AND LENTIL SOUP!!

 

soup bowl
There’s something so comforting about a big pot of soup simmering on the stove on a cold day or when maybe you just need a little more comfort in your life. The first time that I  posted this recipe was way back in 2007 when I started my blog. It’s now the year 2020 with my updated pictures and to tell you that I’m still making this wonderful soup.
pot of soup
This lentil soup can easily become a vegetarian version by using a vegetable broth base and eliminating the sausage, and believe me it’s just as good!
It’s hearty and filling and you really don’t need to serve anything else with it, unless you have a weakness for warm, crusty bread with butter like I do.
soup pot
This lentil soup comes together quickly because it’s made with pantry ingredients, dried lentils that cook up quite fast and staples like carrot, onion and celery.
One ingredient that I think really enhances this soup is dried, ground fennel. If you have whole fennel seeds you can grind them down into a powdery consistency with a coffee grinder, put it in a little jar and save it.
Try it, I think you’ll love it, if not you can double up on the other spices, no problem! I always like to taste as I go along anyway I’m always adjusting for salt, pepper and spices.
Lentils tend to blow up a little and they really absorb flavors so don’t be shy, I’ll give you basic guidelines but make it your own.

lentil soup

Easy, hearty with delicious Italian flavors all throughout, this soup is a classic and will never ever go out of style!
Follow me on Instagram to see what else I’m cooking up during the week.
SAUSAGE AND LENTIL SOUP!!
 
This recipe can easily become vegetarian, by eliminating the sausage and using veggie broth
Author:
Ingredients
  • 2½ cups dried, brown lentils, rinsed
  • ½ lb. Italian sausage, bulk, precooked so you no longer see any pink
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 celery stalks, diced
  • 2 or 3 cloves crushed garlic
  • 1¼ oz. fire roasted tomatoes, or chopped tomatoes
  • 2 or 3 quarts broth, chicken or veggie
  • 1 teaspoon each of dried thyme, dried oregano and dried fennel
  • pinch of red pepper flakes, optional
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • olive oil
  • grated Parmigiano for garnish
Instructions
  1. In a heavy bottomed pan drizzle with olive oil and add in the carrots, celery, garlic and onion.
  2. Saute til soft then sprinkle in all the spices mixing and coating everything well.
  3. Toss in the rinsed lentils, coating them with veggie mixture.
  4. Pour in the broth, 2 quarts, reserve the 3rd one if needed.
  5. Add the tomatoes and toss in the cooked sausage if using it.
  6. Bring it to a soft boil, then let it simmer until lentils soften.
  7. Taste for seasoning, adding more if needed.
  8. If lentils thicken the soup too much pour in a little more broth to loosen it all.
  9. Feel free to double the recipe, it's that good!
  10. Garnish your bowl with grated Parm and a drizzle of olive oil on top.
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MELROSE PEPPERS

melrose peppersmelrose peppers
I felt I had to write a blog about Melrose Peppers. They are my Hubby’s absolute favorite! He waits eagerly every summer when they appear at our local Italian store.
You won’t find them any where else, in fact many people don’t know what they are. I’ve had women and men come up to me as I was picking them out, asking “what do you do with these?” “how do you make them?” Well the answer is very simple. You have to rinse and dry them off, then you cut the tops off and scoop out the seeds, (don’t worry if you don’t get all the seeds out because they taste sort of good!)

Leave them whole, then sauté them in a hot pan with olive oil, salt and pepper and a little granulated garlic until they’re nice and  golden brown, then lower the heat and throw in a small 8oz can of tomato sauce.( Italian brand preferred), or some cherry tomatoes like I did above.

Cook them till they are nice and soft, NOT mushy. Every time I make melrose peppers  the smell brings my Hubby back to his childhood when his Mom use to make them. They’re not a fancy food, their plain and simple comfort food.

His famous words are (“I can make a meal out of these!”) And he does, with some good Italian bread and a plate of Melrose Peppers he’s a Happy Man!!

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