Summer is in full swing, and we all know what that means…TOMATO SEASON! I’m sure you all have a bountiful crop of tomatoes lying around from your garden..and if not, a plentiful supply of them from the farmers market or grocery store. So what better recipe to make with them than a gorgeous, easy Summer pasta dish?
Now I know this may sound weird, but I am not a fan of raw tomatoes. Never have, never will. Yeah, I am THAT person. But, when they’re cooked with a plethora of fresh ingredients to sweeten them up and break them down into a gorgeous sauce or salsa? I’m a huge tomato fan once they are transformed into some sweet and savory deliciousness…so here we go. Balsamic Tomato Basil Pasta with Fresh Ricotta.
This is truly Summer in a Bowl, my friends. This pasta dish is so simple and fresh you’re gonna love it. I made a lovely chunky sauce with a batch of chopped fresh tomatoes, simmered in 7 Barrels Balsamic Vinegar and their Sweet Basil Olive Oil (omg #LOVE!), with sautéed sweet onions and garlic, red pepper flakes and chicken stock. Then I tossed the pasta with a little bit of the pasta water, added the cooked balsamic tomato sauce, and topped it with fresh basil, some big dollops of fresh ricotta, and lots of Parmesan cheese. Juicy, sweet, tangy, savory perfection.
This is truly Summer in a Bowl, my friends. Made with fresh tomatoes simmered in 7 Barrels Balsamic Vinegar and Sweet Basil Olive oil, with sautéed sweet onions and garlic making a lovely chunky tomato sauce..topped with fresh basil and ricotta cheese and more Parmesan cheese! And it's so easy to make that you won't be slaving over the stove in this hot weather either. Juicy, sweet, tangy, savory perfection.
1 pound of pasta, reserving some of the pasta cooking water
1 tablespoon Seven Barrels Sweet Basil extra virgin olive oil
4-6 large tomatoes, diced
1 small onion, diced (about 1/2 cup)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1/2 cup Seven Barrels Traditional Balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup fresh ricotta cheese, for garnish
1/4 cup fresh basil, torn into pieces, for garnish
Freshly ground black pepper
Cook pasta according to package directions, drain and set aside.
In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add tomatoes, onions, garlic and red pepper flakes.
Reduce the heat to medium and cook 3 to 5 minutes over medium heat, until onions begin to get soft and lightly browned and tomatoes release some of their liquid.
Place balsamic vinegar, chicken stock, and cornstarch in a small bowl and whisk well. Carefully add it to the skillet and continue to cook for a few minutes more until the sauce slightly thickens; remove from the heat.
Add the cooked pasta to the skillet with the tomatoes, and toss together over low heat for an additional few minutes until the sauce coats the pasta. Add a small amount of the pasta cooking water if the mixture is too dry, to your desired sauce consistency.
Place the pasta in large bowl and top with fresh grated Parmesan, ricotta cheese, and basil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve hot, immediately with some crusty garlic bread.
Ah, it’s almost the end of Summer and I keep thinking, where has it gone? Along with Summer comes lots of fresh veggies like zucchini, bell peppers, mushrooms and yellow squash that I just can’t get enough of!
I recently received a lovely care package from my client Colavita, who sent me some delicious pasta, sauces, olive oils and vinegars to sample, which inspired me to make this Cheesy Baked Pasta with Sausage and Summer Veggies.
I used their Colavita Tomato Basil sauce mixed in to the pasta and veggies along with fresh oregano and basil. AND it has three (3!!) cheeses: ricotta, parmesan/asiago and mozzarella to make it super creamy and cheesy – all baked into a big pot of bubbly goodness.
Look. At. This. Cheesy Baked Pasta Goodness. YUM.
It’s the perfect dish for a quick and healthy weeknight dinner – and is great served with a green salad and some crusty Italian bread (dipped in Colavita olive oil and vinegar of course!) Enjoy!
Tip! Lately I came across this website www.vacuumsealerresearch.com and found foodsaver reviews with many good tips so I decided to try vacuum sealer. I really like it.
This is a tasty and healthy twist on traditional Baked Ziti, using Colavita Rotini pasta with Italian Sausage and lots of colorful summer veggies like zucchini, squash, mushrooms, onions and garlic! It also features Colavita Tomato Basil sauce mixed with three cheeses: ricotta, parmesan/asiago and mozzarella to make it super creamy and cheesy baked into a big pot of bubbly goodness. Perfect for a quick weeknight dinner served with a green salad and crusty Italian bread.
1 pound Colavita Fusilli pasta, uncooked
1 pound sweet Italian sausage, ground
2 tablespoons Colavita Extra Virgin olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon Colavita Chardonnay White Balsamic vinegar
1 cup yellow squash, chopped
1 cup zucchini, chopped
1 cup mushrooms, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1-16 ounce jar Colavita Tomato Basil sauce
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 cup Parmesan/Asiago cheese, grated
1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
1 large egg, beaten
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh oregano, chopped
1 teaspoon sea salt (add more to taste)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (add more to taste)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Cook pasta according to package directions (about 9 minutes for al dente), drain.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add one tablespoon of olive oil to the pan. Cook sausage until no longer pink, drain fat and set aside.
Add additional tablespoon of olive oil to the pan, and add squash, zucchini, mushrooms and bell pepper. Saute for 5-7 minutes until soft. Add minced garlic and balsamic vinegar and cook for another minute or two. Add the cooked sausage back into the pan.
Stir in the tomato sauce, 1/2 cup of mozzarella and 1/2 cup of Parmesan/Asiago cheese and reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and cook for another 5 minutes until cheese is melted.
Meanwhile, add the ricotta cheese to a mixing bowl and stir in beaten egg, fresh herbs, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes.
Place the cooked pasta in a large pot and add the sausage-veggie-tomato sauce mixture, stirring well. Fold in the ricotta-egg-herbs mixture until thoroughly combined.
Spoon the pasta mixture into an 8x8 square glass or ceramic baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan/Asiago cheese evenly over the top.
Bake at 400 degrees F for 15 minutes until cheese is bubbly and browned.
Let cool for a few minutes, serve hot with a green salad and crusty Italian bread.
You can also substitute Colavita penne, shells, farfalle or ziti for the fusilli pasta.
Note: I received complimentary products from Colavita but was not compensated for this post. All photos, copy, recipes and opinions are my own. Please do not share, distribute or use any content without my permission.
The New Year has arrived, and it’s time to start anew. I like to kick bad habits and start new resolutions, such as exercising more, dropping a few pounds, cleaning house, and of course eating healthier and lighter. I recommend to read some Vacuum Sealer Reviews, I got a vacuum thanks to them so now I’ll be pretty entertained.
I recently got the new KitchenAid® Spiralizer Attachment to go along with my KitchenAid® Stand Mixer and am so excited to experiment with it to make some healthier low-carb meals! It comes with five different blades for peeling, coring and slicing and is perfect for fresh fruits and vegetables. I love pasta and rice, but spiralized veggies are such a great substitute when I want to lighten up my recipes.
Because we are in the middle of winter, I thought a delicious comfort food dish with a healthy twist would be perfect. I made an amazing Red Beef Curry with Zucchini Noodles, with stewed beef, sweet potatoes, onions, garlic and green beans in a lovely curry sauce made with coconut milk, red curry paste, fresh lime juice, fish sauce, a little beef broth and a dash of Sriracha.
Super delicious and easy to make!
I also got an amazing new Professional Series 3.5″ Paring Knife that came with my larger set, perfect for chopping my onions and garlic. and Thai chilies and basil, which I used for garnish. The larger Chef’s knife was great for cutting up the large chunks of beef which he learn how to do with a blog post about knife on the internet, and sweet potatoes with it’s sturdier grip and large super sharp blade.
This is such a great Winter comfort food dish to make and it’s so easy with all the right tools! You’ll definitely want to make this Red Beef Curry for dinner – tonight!
Hello Summer! And hello to the season for lighter food and flavors and quality time at the beach and the pool (READ: also time for shorts and sundresses and to lose a few to fit into the bathing suit!)
I’ve been craving pasta lately because i’ve been cutting down on carbs a bit, but I’ve had this cool Veggettinoodle tool in my pantry for a few months and thought it would be the perfect opportunity to make some Zucchini Noodles (AKA “zoodles”), and tie in some fresh ingredients from the season such as shrimp and corn and basil.
This dish screams creamy comfort food, but is balanced out with a clean, citrus-y brightness with a Meyer Lemon cream sauce made with mascarpone cheese, Meyer lemon juice and zest, lemongrasschicken broth, whitewine, sweet basil olive oil and garlic. The lightness of these zucchini noodles are also totally amazing, rather than a heavy pasta that will put you to sleep in .02 seconds.
I love Meyer lemons because they are delicate and less sour than regular lemons and almost mimic the flavor of lemon and orange juice mixed together, which you can absolutely do if you can’t find Meyer lemons or they aren’t in season. I ordered mine on Fresh Direct which always has everything in stock and delivers on top of that!
Prep your zucchini noodles with a Veggetti or Spiralizer on a cutting board or over a large mixing bowl. I suggest squeezing out any excess water from them before sauteing (you can let them sit in a colander to extract water for about 15 minutes or so). You might also want to cut the strand piles in half to make them easier to manage and eat. Sauté the noodles in some olive oil with red pepper flakes and garlic for a few minutes and set aside.
Zest and juice one Meyer lemon to add to the cream sauce. Look at that vivid color! LOVE.
Sprinkle some salt and pepper over the shrimp and sauté in some olive oil for couple minutes until they are pink and set aside. Don’t overcook them though because you will add them back in to the sauce later on and you don’t want tough rubbery shrimp.
Prep ingredients for the Meyer Lemon Cream sauce and add the white wine, chicken broth, Meyer lemon juice and zest to the saute pan with leftover juices from the shrimp. Stir and simmer over medium heat for until the liquid reduces by half.
Add the corn, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper and cook for a few minutes until heated through. I used frozen sweet corn but you can use fresh corn too which might take a little longer to cook (or you can precook the fresh corn and add the kernels into the sauce).
Stir in the mascarpone cheese and blend together until it turns into a gorgeous, silky and creamy sauce. Toss in the shrimp and basil. Isn’t that pretty?
Serve over the zucchini noodles with additional basil and lemon zest and get ready to DEVOUR.
Alternatively you can toss the zucchini noodles in to the pan with the sauce and shrimp and corn and mix it all together to serve as a one pot dish. I prefer keeping the noodles separate from the sauce so they don’t get too mushy, personally.
Garnish with some extra basil and lemon zest and serve with a glass of white wine (I particularly like McBride Sisters Truvee Chardonnay who were kind enough to send me a sample which I LOVED), and some crusty bread to mop up that yum sauce, if you wish. Light, bright, healthy and delicious!
This is a super healthy and totally delicious low carb option to pasta. It features sautéed zucchini noodles smothered in a Meyer Lemon cream sauce with shrimp, corn and fresh basil. It's light and bright and the perfect dish for Summer with a glass of white wine and some toasty bread to mop up the sauce.
1/2-3/4 pounds medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
Garlic salt and Pepper, to taste
Meyer Lemon Cream Sauce:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon minced garlic
Zest and juice of 1 Meyer Lemon
1/2 cup white wine (Truvee Chardonnay)
1/2 cup chicken broth (Pacific Foods Lemongrass Bone Both)
2/3 cup Mascarpone cheese
3/4 cup sweet corn kernels (frozen or fresh)
Salt and Pepper, to taste
Fresh Basil, for garnish
Additional lemon zest, for garnish
Make the Zucchini Noodles:
Using a Veggeti or Spiralizer vegetable cutter, cut both zucchini into medium large noodles over a cutting board or large bowl.
Form the vegetable pasta into two piles and cut each in half to create shorter, easy to manage strands.
Heat olive oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat and sauté the garlic for a minute or so, being careful not to burn.
Add the zucchini noodles, crushed red pepper, salt and pepper and cook for a few minutes to your desired consistency.
Remove noodles from the heat into a medium bowl and set aside while you cook the shrimp.
Prepare the Shrimp:
In the same sauce pan, heat another tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat.
Sprinkle some garlic salt and pepper on to the shrimp, and add shrimp to the pan cooking for about 3 minutes, stirring often so they cook evenly.
Remove the shrimp with a slotted spoon and transfer to a small bowl while you make the Meyer Lemon cream sauce.
Meyer Lemon Cream Sauce:
Melt 6 tablespoons of butter in the same large sauce pan over medium heat.
Add the additional garlic and cook for about 2 minutes.
Add the lemon juice, zest, chicken broth and wine and let simmer down until reduced, about 3 minutes.
Add the corn kernels, salt and pepper and heat through another minute or two, then stir in the Mascarpone cheese until you get a silky, creamy sauce.
Add the cooked shrimp, zucchini noodles and basil; toss to coat. (You can also keep the zucchini noodles separate from the shrimp, corn and basil with Meyer Lemon sauce and spoon it over the noodles in bowls which keeps the noodles from getting mushy in the sauce which is how i prefer serving them.)
Serve with additional basil and lemon zest, and a glass of Chardonnay or dry Italian wine and some crusty bread to mop up the sauce.
This would also be a delicious sauce over any pasta, and if you're a vegetarian you could substitute the shrimp for another vegetable or legumes for some protein.
If you can't find Meyer lemons or they aren't in season, simply mix some orange juice into the lemon juice to give it a similar flavor.
Note: I received a sample of McBride Sisters Truvee Chardonnay for tasting which inspired me to create this recipe and share with my readers. All opinions of the product are my own and I was not compensated for this post.
So it’s Friday. And a lovely Spring day. I was in the mood to make something lovely to eat, preferably with a sweet and savory twist. I’ve also been on a baking kick lately, not sure why but I’m loving experimenting with different flavors and textures of pizzas and tarts and pies.
I decided to make a delicious rustic pizza made with some redgrapes, shallots, sharp white cheddar and mozzarellacheese, and some thin cut Italianham. I simply rolled out some refrigerated pizza dough and then topped it off with some olive oil, all the pizza ingredients, and some fresh thyme.
I popped it into a 450 degree oven for about 20 minutes until all the cheese and crust was bubbly and golden brown, then finished this beauty off with some sea salt, freshly cracked black pepper, some fresh basil and drizzles of honey.
This is the best thing I have ever tasted in my life. Seriously. The contrast of the sweet grapes, shallots and honey with the sharp and tangy cheddar cheese and salty, crispy ham are like a true love affair…in Paris.
I’m thinking the only thing better than this would be an actual trip to Paris..on the top of the Eiffel Tower at sunset. With a chocolate croissant and cafe au lait in hand. With a really cute French guy. Ooh La La.
Aaah – a girl can dream, can’t she? (Happy Friday!)
Rustic Pizza with Ham, Grapes, Shallots, Cheese, Honey & Thyme
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Serving Size: 1 slice/wedge
1 package of refrigerated pizza dough (or homemade if you prefer)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot, sliced thin
1/2 cup shredded Gruyere or Mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup shredded extra sharp White Cheddar cheese
4-6 thin slices Italian ham or prosciutto
1/2 cup red seedless grapes, cut in half
Red pepper flakes (optional)
Fresh basil leaves
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Honey for drizzling
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
Spray a pizza sheet with oil and stretch out pizza dough to the edges making a thin crust.
Drizzle the dough with olive oil and sprinkle with the shredded Mozzarella cheese. Add the sliced shallots, ham, grapes and White cheddar cheese on to the dough evenly. Top with some fresh thyme leaves and red pepper flakes.
Bake for about 20 minutes until cheese is bubbly and the crust is golden brown.
Top with fresh basil, sea salt, freshly cracked black pepper and drizzle with honey.
Cut into wedges and serve immediately.
You can also substitute prosciutto or bacon for the ham, and top with some fresh ricotta cheese if desired.
Baked calzones are one of my favorite Italian dishes to make when I want an alternative to pizza or pasta. Calzones are savory turnovers filled with meat, veggies and cheese, baked into little pockets of tasty goodness, served with a side of fresh tomato sauce for dipping.
For a recent KitchenAid recipe challenge for the Kitchenthusiast blog, I made some delicious Savory Veggie and Cheese Scones Filled with More Cheese & Meat – stuffed, baked calzones, but made with an herb and cheese scone dough that is light and buttery and super tasty.
They are filled with tons of fresh veggies: tricolor peppers, onions, garlic and spinach with a little spicy Italian sausage and more cheese inside.
I made the scone dough with my new KitchenAid 11-cup Food Processorthat I absolutely love – it does everything from making the dough, to chopping the veggies to shredding the cheese and making the homemade fresh tomato marinara sauce!
There’s nothing better in the Summer than a visit to the Farmer’s Market to get some super fresh veggies that are ripe in the peak of the season. Some of my favorites are fresh cherry tomatoes, zucchini and corn that are lightly roasted or sauteed tossed with some roasted garlic, fresh herbs, extra virgin olive oil and freshly grated parmesan cheese over pasta. It’s light, healthy and refreshing for a Summer dinner with a glass of wine with some friends at a table out on the back patio served with a green salad and some crusty bread.
Summer Veggie Pasta with Roasted Garlic, Tomatoes, Zucchini & Corn
A light and healthy Summer pasta dish with farm market fresh vegetables including roasted garlic, cherry tomatoes, corn and zucchini topped with fresh herbs and shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Delicious!
1 package fresh or dried spaghetti (can sub fettucine, penne or tagliatelle)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small to medium garlic bulb
4 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1 medium zucchini, sliced into ribbons
1 or 2 ears of corn, husked
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup fresh mint or basil leaves, torn
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
½ cup shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Shave off ¼” of the top of garlic bulb and peel away the outer layers of the garlic bulb skin. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and wrap in foil. Roast for 45 minutes up to one hour and let cool. Squeeze out the garlic bulbs, slice or mash, and place in a bowl to the side.
Bring a pot of water to a boil (you can add a teaspoon of sugar and milk to the water if you like sweeter corn), and add the corn, bringing water back to a boil (about 5-7 minutes.) Once water is back to a boil, remove the corn ears. Let cool, shave off kernels and set aside.
Cut zucchini in half lengthwise and then cut in half again into quarters. Shave zucchini into thin ribbons and set aside.
In another large pot, bring salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente. Drain; place pasta in a large serving bowl.
While pasta cooks, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add zucchini to pan; and sauté for 5-7 minutes until soft and cooked through, stirring often. Add cooked corn kernels and roasted garlic and sauté together for another minute or so.
Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan along with tomatoes and ½ teaspoon salt; cover and cook 4-6 minutes. Add tomato-garlic-corn mixture to the cooked pasta; toss to combine. Top with torn mint or basil leaves, shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and freshly ground black pepper.
Serve with a green salad and crusty bread and a glass of crisp white wine such as Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc.
We sat around a big table in a private room upstairs and learned the techniques, traditions and passions behind producing a perfectly thin crispy Neapolitan pizza while sipping on Italian wines and making new friends.
We learned the intricacies behind making and kneading our own dough accustom to the Neapolitan style by making wells of flour filled with yeast water and the patient process of kneading using only 2 fingers as the dough slowly came together by kneading, mixing and adding more flour and water.
We watched Chef Chris toss pizza dough in the air and even tried it ourselves (too fun!).
We then made our own Margherita sauce made with San Marzano tomatoes from Italy, and topped off the pizzas with cubes of fresh cow’s milk Mozzarella and fresh basil before our pizzas were thrown delicately into a 900 degree oven on a pizza peel to reveal a perfectly crispy gorgeous pizza of bubbly cheesy goodness.
Layer the dough with sauce…
Add some delicious Fresh Cow’s Milk Mozzarella and Basil…
Patiently waiting for the oven…
And let the deliciousness devouring begin.
The story behind Neapolitan pizza goes like this: In June 1889, a Neapolitan tavern owner Raffaele Esposito served the Queen of Italy, Margherita of Savoy, a special dish named in her honor. The wood-fired Flatbread was topped with Melted Mozzarella, Tomato Sauce and Basil leaves, symbolizing the colors of the Italian Flag. The Queen was so pleased with her meal that she had a wood-fired “flat-bread oven” built into the palace. And history was made.
The art behind making a perfect, true Neapolitan pizza has become a standard practice with strict rules of approval. The Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana is a non-profit official governing association in Italy that maintains the standards and regulations of all Pizzaioli and Establshments serving Vera Napoletana Pizza. It was founded in Naples in 1984 by the oldest and well-known Neapolitan pizzaioli, and according to the “rules” proposed by them, there are specific ingredients and techniques that must be used to pass the official Italian seal of approval.
So just what are the secrets behind making that crispy crust with gooey cheese and succulent sauce? Here’s a few secrets from Restaurateur/Chef and native New Yorker, Nick Accardi of Tavola in Hell’s Kitchen:
Measure by weight rather than volume to get the perfect water to flour ratio for your crust. Many elements can change the density of ingredients such as age, storage temperature, or environmental climate. Measuring by weight assures the perfect hydration ratio.
Use double zero (type 00) flour which is a highly refined flour that has been milled to a standard “00” and completely free of bran or germ.
Use natural Neapolitan yeast or brewer’s yeast, sea salt and water. (New York City tap water is the BEST secret ingredient in making the perfect pizza dough!)
Keep yeast refrigerated and check the expiration date on the package to make sure it’s fresh.
The dough must be kneaded by hand or with a low-speed mixer.
Allow the dough to rise for 24 hours at room temperature. The bare minimum standard is 6 hours (after mixing let the dough rise for 2 hours, then hand cut and roll into small balls, let rise for 4 more hours).
After the rising process, the dough must be formed by hand without the help of a rolling pin or other machine, and may be no more than 3 millimeters (0.12 in) thick. Use your hands to gently work the dough from the center outward.
Use San Marzano tomatoes, which grow on the volcanic plains to the south of Mount Vesuvius, for the pizza sauce like a bona fide pro (easy to find in grocery stores or Italian markets).
Vera Napoletana Pizza must be made using only fresh, all-natural, non-processed ingredients including Fior di Latte (Cow’s Milk) or Bufala Mozzarella, fresh basil and drizzled with real Extra Virgin Olive Oil. You can find Genuine imported EVOO also at Italian markets such as Eataly or Tavola in NYC.
Less is More: Don’t drown a pizza in sauce and toppings. The most delicious pies use smaller portions of the highest quality of fresh ingredients.
A thin crust is the signature trait of Neapolitan pizza. While having a wood fired oven at home is not common these days, making your crust as thin as possible will allow for fast cooking time, which intensifies and seals in the flavors of each ingredient. Note: The Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana requires the thickness of the crust to be 1-2 cm.
The pizza must be baked for 60-90 seconds in a 905°F stone oven with an oak-wood fire. When cooked, it should be crispy, tender and fragrant.
There are three official variants to Neapolitan pizza: Pizza Marinara, which is made with tomato, garlic, oregano and extra virgin olive oil, Pizza Margherita, made with tomato, sliced mozzarella, basil and extra-virgin olive oil, and Pizza Margherita Extra made with tomato, mozzarella from Campania in fillets, basil and extra virgin olive oil.
1 (28-ounce) can whole San Marzano tomatoes, passed with juices through a food mill
12 ounces Mozzarella di Bufala (see note) or mozzarella fior di latte cheese, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
4 large or 8 small basil leaves
Extra virgin olive oil
Medium coarse sea salt
Special equipment: a pizza stone and peel
Make the dough: Sprinkle yeast over water; let stand until yeast is creamy, 5 to 10 minutes. (If yeast does not become creamy, discard and start over with new yeast.)
In a large bowl, whisk together flour and salt; form a well in center. Add yeast mixture and warm water; stir until dough just comes together. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead vigorously, for 10 minutes. Cover with a damp dish towel and let rest for 10 minutes, then knead vigorously for 10 minutes more. Lightly oil a large bowl. Form dough into a ball, transfer to bowl and turn to lightly coat with oil. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
Punch down dough with your fist (dough will be stiff), then fold sides over one another, turn dough, tightly cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours.
Divide dough into 4 pieces; shape pieces into balls and place on a lightly floured work surface, leaving a few inches between balls. Loosely cover with a damp dish towel (not terry cloth) and let rise at warm room temperature until doubled, about 2 hours; time may vary depending on room temperature and freshness of yeast. If skin forms on dough while rising, lightly spray surface with water.
Heat Stone While Dough Rises: Position rack in lower third of oven. Place pizza stone on rack. At least 45 minutes before baking pizza, heat oven to maximum temperature (500 to 550 degrees).
Assemble Pizza: On a lightly floured work surface, press 1 dough ball with your fingers to begin to shape into a round. Use your fist and hands to gently stretch dough to a 10-inch round. (A floured rolling pin can be used to help roll out dough.) Transfer dough to a lightly floured peel; gently shake peel to make sure dough does not stick.
Working fairly quickly, spread a 1/3 cup sauce over dough, leaving about a 1/2 -inch border. Tear 3 ounces cheese into pieces and arrange on top of sauce. Tear 1 or 2 basil leaves into small pieces and arrange on top. Drizzle very lightly with oil and sprinkle with salt. Slide pizza onto stone. Bake until cheese is melted and bubbling in spots and edge of dough is crisp and golden, about 7 minutes. Using the peel and a large spatula or pair of tongs, transfer pizza to a plate and serve. Repeat with remaining ingredients.
Note: Soft “00” flour produces a pliable, easy-to-work-with pizza dough and a tender yet sturdy crust with a crisp yet not too dry edge. Mozzarella fior di latte has a firmer texture than Mozzarella di Bufala, which falls apart when cut, though both cheeses are creamy when melted. You can find “00” flour, San Marzano tomatoes, mozzarella di bufala, mozzarella fior di latte at Italian markets, specialty stores, and online.
There’s a great little place in my neighborhood called Todaro Bros. – a small, locally-owned deli and grocery store that sells fresh and imported Italian food and other gourmet groceries. I usually stop in at least once a week to peruse their cheese department and sample some of their fresh house-made mozzarella, just for kicks (it’s that good!).
It’s impossible to walk in there and just buy one thing – I’m like a kid in a candy store! So I found these gorgeous sun-dried tomatoes marinated in herbs and oil and picked up some fresh basil, oregano, chives, tomato sauce, cream and pasta to make a fresh, tasty summer pasta dish. I made it with spaghetti but you could serve this tasty Vodka Sauce with virtually any pasta you wish. It’s tangy, velvety and full of flavor, and the fresh basil gives it a peppery flavor which is rounded out by the creamy fresh mozzarella and sweet sun-dried tomatoes. I also threw in a few pieces of crumbled cooked bacon into the sauce to give it an extra layer of flavor (which is totally optional but also totally worth it!)
6-8 marinated sun-dried tomatoes, cut into halves or quarters
1 quart tomato sauce (store bought or homemade, pureed smooth)
1 cup of vodka
1/2 cup of heavy cream
1 teaspoon fresh oregano, minced
1 teaspoon fresh chives, chopped
Coarse sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
fresh unsalted mozzarella, torn into medium pieces, for garnish
fresh basil leaves, whole or torn, for garnish
red pepper flakes (optional), for garnish
1 pound package of cooked and drained pasta (spaghetti, linguine or penne)
Cook pasta in a large saucepan according to package directions (until al dente) and drain (reserving a few tablespoons of the pasta water for later); set aside. Meanwhile, cook the bacon over medium heat for about 15 minutes until crispy, drain and crumble.
Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large saucepan or pot. Add garlic and shallots, saute until soft and translucent, about 2 minutes. Add crumbled bacon and sun-dried tomatoes, add salt and pepper to taste. Saute for an additional 5 minutes and turn heat down to medium-low.
Stir in tomato sauce and vodka into the same saucepan and let simmer (approximately 20 minutes) until the sauce thickens and cooks down. Stir in the heavy cream, fresh oregano and chives and let simmer on low for another few minutes until sauce is heated through.
Return the pasta back to the large saucepot and ladle some of the sauce into it, along with a few tablespoons of reserved pasta water and toss to coat.
Ladle coated pasta into serving dishes and top with additional vodka sauce. Garnish with fresh basil leaves, mozzarella, red pepper flakes and salt and pepper to taste.
This is a lovely Thai dish, not only in taste but in presentation. I made this with some good friends of mine in Atlanta over Memorial Day weekend on their Big Green Egg grill. If you haven’t seen one of these things – its totally cool and easy to use. And it’s BIG. And GREEN. And looks like and EGG. It’s actually a ceramic grill and smoker that reaches temperatures up to 700 degrees F and has the ability to grill, smoke or steam everything on the planet in about 15-20 minutes. Very cool. Anyways, we decided to make this Thai Sea Bass in Banana Leaves recipe from their Big Green Egg Cookbook and took a trip over to the Dekalb Farmer’s Market (which is also totally awesome if you haven’t been there – you must!). We picked up some fresh Sea Bass steaks (you can also use fillets), herbs, red curry paste, and banana leaves (which actually come frozen and need to be defrosted and cut down to size first before using).
Banana leaves are often used in Thai cooking to wrap around fish and add subtle flavor to whatever food they surround. This recipe was surprisingly easy to make and had wonderful tasty Asian flavors from the fresh herbs (basil, mint, cilantro, ginger and garlic and Thai chile) and lime. The red curry sauce is also easy to make by adding some paste to coconut milk and chicken stock and letting it simmer down while you grill/steam the fish in the banana leaves on the Big Green Egg. You just lay down a strip of the herb mixture, top it with some fish and lime slices, drizzle a little bit of oil, salt and pepper and then wrap the fish up in the leaves into cute little packets and throw them on the Big Green Egg (or any covered grill will do). After about 15-20 minutes you just unwrap the little packets, and top the fish with the curry sauce and serve with a side of lemony buttered green beans and fresh corn on the cob to go with it. Fresh, healthy and delicious.
1 (15 ounce) can coconut milk
1 teaspoon red curry paste
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup firmly packed chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup firmly packed chopped fresh mint
1/2 cup firmly packed chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup grated fresh ginger
1/4 cup crushed garlic
1 thinly sliced red jalapeno or serrano pepper
4 banana leaves (cut to 12 inches square)
4 (6 to 7 ounce) sea bass fillets or steaks
1 lime, cut into 8 thin slices
2 tablespoons canola oil or spray
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat the EGG (or grill) to 350 degrees F.
Prep fish and lime and set aside to begin making coconut curry.
Red Curry Coconut Sauce
To make the sauce, combine the coconut milk, curry paste and chicken stock in a small saucepan. Simmer on the stovetop over medium heat for 10 minutes, then keep warm.
Combine all the herbs (basil, mint, cilantro, ginger, garlic and chile) in a medium bowl and mix well.
Lay the banana leaves out flat,
Sea Bass & Herbs on Leaves
and place 3 to 4 tablespoons of the herb mixture on the center of each leaf and top each mound of herbs with fish.
Fish, Herbs and Lime on Leaves
Top each packet with 2 lime slices and 1/2 teaspoon canola oil (or some oil spray).
Folding Banana Leaf Packets
Season with salt and pepper and begin folding packets by folding the sides of the leaf inward, then fold the top and bottom over and tucking the ends under (kinda like making a banana leaf fish burrito!!).
Folded Leaves ready for the grill
Secure each packet with butcher’s twine and brush or spray more oil on the outside of the leaves.
Place the leaves directly on the EGG porcelain-coated grid (or regular grill if using) and close the lid. Grill for 7 to 8 minutes per side, until the interior of the fish is opaque (unwrap a package and insert a knife into the fish to test). Transfer the fish to individual plates, remove the twine, open the top, and spoon the curry sauce over the fish. Serve while hot and with a side of buttery lemon green beans and fresh corn on the cob. For wine pairing, serve with a Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay.