Tag Archives: Italian cooking

Olive Garden unveils new ‘Tastes of the Mediterranean” menu

Olive Garden Tastes of the Mediterranean Menu

I had the opportunity to attend a special preview tasting of Olive Garden‘s new ‘Tastes of the Mediterranean’ menu this week at a lovely event held at Haven’s Kitchen in NYC with a group of other food bloggers, writers and journalists.

Media Preview Haven's Kitchen

Olive Garden Team

We sampled a (generous!) variety of delicious food and wine, and learned more about the new menu ideas and inspiration from the Olive Garden team and Executive Chef, Jim Nuetzi

Olive Garden Tasting Event

Inspired by the flavors of Italy’s Mediterranean Coast, Olive Garden is evolving its popular Lighter Italian Fare menu to the new ‘Tastes of the Mediterranean’ menu, which celebrates the flavors and cooking styles from the popular Mediterranean region of Italy with all entrees under 600 calories.

Chicken Margherita

Beginning Jan. 2, two new entrees – Chicken Margherita and

Linguine Di Mare

Linguine di Mare – will be available in restaurants. Following, the fully evolved ‘Tastes of the Mediterranean’ rebranded menu section, which includes guest favorites as well as the new entrees, will be introduced on Jan. 23.

Executive Chef Jim

“Healthier dishes at restaurants can often be perceived as boring or unsatisfying. However, our Mediterranean-inspired Shrimp Scampi with its flavorful ingredients was our second most popular entrée on the entire menu last summer,” said Jim Nuetzi, Executive Chef for Olive Garden. “The positive reaction from our guests further showed that we could create indulgent and craveable entrees that just happen to have the added benefit of lower calorie counts.”

Shrimp Scampi

The guest-favorite Shrimp Scampi, which was introduced to the Olive Garden menu last year, has exceeded any other Olive Garden lighter fare entrée in popularity. Many guests were surprised that the flavorful and satisfying dish was only 500 calories.

Grilled Chicken Parmigiana

The guest reaction to the Shrimp Scampi inspired chefs to explore additional ingredients that would excite guests in the same way, leading them to the cuisine of Italy’s Mediterranean coast. The region is long known for healthier lifestyles and cooking with light, flavorful ingredients such as seafood, olive oil, fresh vegetables, whole grains and Italian spices.

Chicken Margherita & Zucchini

Chicken Piccata

Herb Grilled Salmon

The ‘Tastes of the Mediterranean’ menu features:

Olive-Garden-Chicken-Margherita

  • NEW! Chicken Margherita: Grilled chicken breasts topped with fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, basil pesto and a lemon garlic sauce. Served with parmesan crusted zucchini.

Olive-Garden-Shrimp-Scampi

  • Shrimp Scampi: Shrimp sautéed in a garlic sauce, tossed with asparagus, tomatoes and angel hair pasta.

Olive-Garden-Linguini-di-Mare

  • NEW! Linguine di Mare: Shrimp and mussels sautéed with homemade pomodoro sauce and whole grain linguine.

Olive-Garden-Herb-Grilled-Salmon

  • Herb-Grilled Salmon: Filet grilled to perfection and topped with garlic-herb butter. Served with parmesan-garlic broccoli.

Olive-Garden-Chicken-Piccata-Dinner

  • Chicken Piccata: Grilled chicken topped with a lemon garlic butter sauce, sun-dried tomatoes and capers. Served with parmesan crusted zucchini.

Olive Garden Tilapia Piccata

  • Tilapia Piccata: Delicate white fish baked in a lemon garlic butter sauce with sun-dried tomatoes and capers. Served with parmesan crusted zucchini.

Entrees on the rebranded menu start at $14.29.

Warm Chocolate Baci Cake

And last but not least, we enjoyed a gorgeous dessert, Warm Chocolate Baci Cake with coffee..simply divine. 

Olive Garden

..and got some take home goodie bags with a bottle of wine and some wine glasses!

 ———–

ABOUT OLIVE GARDEN

Olive Garden is the leading restaurant in the Italian dining segment with more than 800 restaurants, more than 96,000 employees and more than $3.8 billion in annual sales. Olive Garden is a division of Darden Restaurants, Inc., (NYSE: DRI), which owns and operates more than 1,500 restaurants that generate over $6.8 billion in annual sales. Headquartered in Orlando, Fla., and employing more than 150,000 people, Darden is recognized for a culture that rewards caring for and responding to people. Olive Garden is committed to making a difference in the lives of others in the local community. As part of this commitment, Olive Garden restaurants have donated more than 35 million pounds of food to local community food banks across the country.

Guests can join the conversation and connect with Olive Garden at Facebook.com/OliveGarden, Twitter.com/OliveGarden and Instagram.com/OliveGarden. For more information and to find your nearest Olive Garden restaurant, visit OliveGarden.com.

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Cheesy Baked Pasta w/ Sausage & Summer Veggies

Cheesy Baked Pasta with Sausage and Summer Veggies

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!

Colavita

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. 

Cheesy Baked Pasta with Sausage and Summer Veggies

It’s a tasty and healthy twist on traditional Baked Ziti, using Colavita Fusilli pasta with sweet Italian sausage and lots of colorful summer veggies like zucchini, squash, bell peppers, mushrooms, onions and garlic. I sautéed everything in Colavita Extra Virgin olive oil with a splash of Colavita Chardonnay White Balsamic vinegar for some extra sweet and tangy flavor.

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.

Cheesy Baked Pasta with Sausage and Summer Veggies

Look. At. This. Cheesy Baked Pasta Goodness. YUM.

Cheesy Baked Pasta with Sausage and Summer Veggies

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!

Cheesy Baked Pasta w/ Sausage and Summer Veggies

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Yield: 6-8

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.

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions (about 9 minutes for al dente), drain.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Meanwhile, add the ricotta cheese to a mixing bowl and stir in beaten egg, fresh herbs, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Bake at 400 degrees F for 15 minutes until cheese is bubbly and browned.
  10. Let cool for a few minutes, serve hot with a green salad and crusty Italian bread.

Notes

You can also substitute Colavita penne, shells, farfalle or ziti for the fusilli pasta.

Schema/Recipe SEO Data Markup by Yummly Rich Recipes
http://www.theartfulgourmet.com/2016/08/05/cheesy-baked-pasta-w-sausage-summer-veggies/

Cheesy Baked Pasta with Sausage and Summer Veggies

Cheesy Baked Pasta with Sausage and Summer Veggies

Colavita has a great line of Italian gourmet food, olive oils, vinegars, pastas,  condiments and other specialty foods, which makes them one of my favorite brands for quality Italian cooking.

Check out their Facebook page, Twitter page, Pinterest and Instagram pages for more great recipes and cooking ideas!

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.

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Rustic Pizza with Ham, Grapes, Shallots, Honey & Thyme

Rustic Pizza with Grapes, Shallots, Ham & Thyme

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.

Rustic Pizza with Grapes, Shallots, Ham & Thyme

I decided to make a delicious rustic pizza made with some red grapes, shallots, sharp white cheddar and mozzarella cheese, and some thin cut Italian ham. 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.

Rustic Pizza with Grapes, Shallots, Ham & 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.

Rustic Pizza with Grapes, Shallots, Ham & Thyme

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 Grapes, Shallots, Ham & Thyme

Rustic Pizza with Ham, Grapes, Shallots, Cheese, Honey & Thyme

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 10 minutes

Yield: 6-8

Serving Size: 1 slice/wedge

Ingredients

  • 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 thyme
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Honey for drizzling

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
  2. Spray a pizza sheet with oil and stretch out pizza dough to the edges making a thin crust.
  3. 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.
  4. Bake for about 20 minutes until cheese is bubbly and the crust is golden brown.
  5. Top with fresh basil, sea salt, freshly cracked black pepper and drizzle with honey.
  6. Cut into wedges and serve immediately.

Notes

You can also substitute prosciutto or bacon for the ham, and top with some fresh ricotta cheese if desired.

http://www.theartfulgourmet.com/2015/04/17/rustic-pizza-with-ham-grapes-shallots-cheese-honey-thyme/

 

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Cheesy Baked Pasta w/ Sausage, Broccoli Rabe, Ricotta & Mozzarella

CheesyBakedPasta1

Spring is on the way, and there’s nothing I love to cook more than fresh greens. Broccoli rabe is one of my favorites, also known as cime di rapa (meaning “turnip tops”), rapini, broccoli di rapa and broccoletti in Italy. The young leaves of the plant are used in cooking along with the clusters of green buds that resemble small heads of broccoli. The flavor of the vegetable is slightly nutty, bitter and pungent and has tons of vitamin A, potassium, calcium and iron, with its peak season from fall to spring.

Broccoli Rabe

I decided to incorporate it into a cheesy baked pasta dish made with fresh sweet Italian sausage and three cheeses (ricotta, Parmigiano-Reggiano and mozzarella), along with some fun mushroom flavored pasta, tossed in truffle oil. I picked up some fresh broccoli rabe at the farmers market and sautéed it with some garlic, red pepper flakes and extra virgin olive oil until aromatic, then tossed it into a big casserole dish with the pasta, cheeses and a dash of nutmeg and lemon zest, and baked it into a big pot of golden bubbly brown goodness.

Sauteed Broccoli Rabe-Sausage

Pasta

Ready for Oven

The dish is a perfect light one-pot dish, and is  superb served with a glass of crisp Italian white wine, a simple Arugula salad tossed with lemon, S&P, and shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and crusty Italian bread with olive oil and red pepper flakes for dipping. Andiamo a mangiare!

Baked Pasta Dish

Ingredients

Kosher salt
1 bunch broccoli rabe, stems removed, chopped into large pieces
1 pound of pasta (dried ziti or penne, or chunky pasta of your choice)
2 tablespoons white truffle oil
Extra Virgin olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, minced or sliced
1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
1 pound ground sweet or hot Italian sausage
1 (15 ounce) container whole milk ricotta
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 egg, whisked
A dash of nutmeg
1 teaspoon of fresh lemon zest
Fresh ground black pepper
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped, for garnish

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9”x13” or 10” round casserole dish and set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and set up an ice bath in a large bowl to the side. Cook the broccoli rabe in the boiling water for 1 minute and immediately remove and plunge into ice bath to cool for another few minutes. Pat dry and set aside. Add the pasta to the boiling water and let cook until al dente, according to package directions. Drain and rinse pasta in cool water to stop cooking, while reserving ¼ cup of hot pasta water. Toss with white truffle oil and set aside.

Heat a large sauté pan with olive oil and bring the pan to a medium heat. Sauté the garlic and red pepper flakes for about a minute or two, until soft and aromatic. Add the broccoli rabe and toss with olive oil, add salt and heat through. Remove from pan and set aside.

In the same pan, heat more olive oil over medium high heat. Add chopped onion and sauté for about 3-5 minutes until soft and light golden brown. Add ground sausage and cook until browned, drain off any excess fat.

Return the cooked pasta and broccoli rabe into the large sauté pan with the sausage and onion mixture.

Toss the ricotta cheese with whisked egg, nutmeg, lemon zest, salt and pepper to taste. Add to the cooked pasta, broccoli rabe and sausage-onion mixture in the large sauté pan, mixing ingredients together well. Stir in ¼ cup of pasta water to make a light sauce.

Place the pasta mixture into the greased casserole dish. Top with shredded mozzarella cheese and bake for approximately 30-35 minutes until cheese is bubbly and golden brown. Let stand for 5 minutes, sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley and additional grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for garnish.

Serve with a glass of crisp Italian white wine, a simple Arugula salad tossed with lemon, S&P, and shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and crusty Italian bread with olive oil and red pepper flakes for dipping.

Serves 8.

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Secrets to making a true Neapolitan Pizza like a Master Pizzaiolo

 

Neapolitan Pizza
Handmade Neapolitan Pizza – by yours truly!

I recently took a really fun and cool pizza making class to learn the secrets of making a true Neapolitan Pizza (Vera Napoletana) with the Food Bloggers NYC Meetup Group sponsored by Vimbly.com.

Culinary Bad Boy & Nicole Garguilo
Culinary Bad Boy & Nicole Garguilo

The class was held at 180 Neapolitan Eatery in Little Italy and taught by Culinary Event host Nicole Garguilo and Food Network Star “Culinary Bad Boy” Chef Chris Nirschel.

Class having a blast making dough
Class having a blast making dough
NYC Food Bloggers Meetup Group
NYC Food Bloggers Meetup Group

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.

Making Pizza Dough
Making Pizza Dough

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.

Chef Chris throwing dough
Chef Chris throwing dough

We watched Chef Chris toss pizza dough in the air and even tried it ourselves (too fun!).

Chef Chris demonstrating how to sauce the pizza
Chef Chris demonstrating how to sauce the pizza

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.

Prepping our Pizzas
Prepping our Pizzas

Layer the dough with sauce…

San Marzano Tomato Sauce, Fresh Mozzarella & Basil
San Marzano Tomato Sauce, Fresh Mozzarella & Basil

Add some delicious Fresh Cow’s Milk Mozzarella and Basil…

Good Times constructing our pizzas
Good Times constructing our pizzas

Patiently waiting for the oven…

Pizzas ready for the Wood-fired oven
Pizzas ready for the Wood-fired oven
Look. At. This. Masterpiece. Creation.
Look. At. This. Masterpiece. Creation.

And let the deliciousness devouring begin.

Good Times
Good Times

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.

Pizzaiolo at 180
Pizzaiolo at 180

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.

The Perfect Neapolitan Pizza
The Perfect Neapolitan Pizza

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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!)
  4. Keep yeast refrigerated and check the expiration date on the package to make sure it’s fresh.
  5. The dough must be kneaded by hand or with a low-speed mixer.
  6. 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).
  7. 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.
  8. 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).
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
Neapolitan Pizza being devoured
Neapolitan Pizza being devoured

Neapolitan Pizza (Vera Napoletana) Recipe

Prep Time: 6 hours

Cook Time: 7 minutes

Total Time: 6 hours, 7 minutes

Yield: 2-4

A great home kitchen version of authentic Neapolitan pizza

Ingredients

  • For the dough:
  • 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1 1/4 cups warm water 100-110 degrees
  • 17 ounces (4 cups) unbleached “00” flour (see note) or unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 1-2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (for greasing bowl)
  • For the topping:
  • 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

Instructions

  1. 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.)
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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).
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

Notes

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.

Recipe by La Cucina Italiana Magazine

http://www.theartfulgourmet.com/2013/08/11/neapolitan-pizza-making-with-the-pros/

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• Check out more cool fun food events on Vimbly and the NYC Food Blogger’s group on Meetup.com

• Italian Resources and Specialty Products:

Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana: http://www.pizzanapoletana.org

Tavola’s Hell’s Kitchen: www.tavolashellskitchen.com

Teitel Brother’s: http://www.teitelbros.com

Eataly NYC: http://www.eataly.com

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Rochester-Style Chicken French & Lemon Broccolini

 

Rochester-Style Chicken French & Lemon Broccolini
Rochester-Style Chicken French & Lemon Broccolini

This is an amazing dish that is popular in my hometown in Upstate Rochester, NY. The Italian-American immigrants first introduced this dish in NYC and then migrated Upstate. The recipe stems from the French Veal Francaise or Chicken Francaise dish, which uses lightly-floured thin veal or chicken cutlets, which are then coated with a parsley-parmesan cheese-egg mixture and sauteed until golden brown. The luscious sauce is made with garlic, butter, lemon, white wine or sherry, and parsley which is served over the top of the golden brown chicken. I decided to serve this with steamed broccolini, a Chinese broccoli that is similar to Broccoli Rabe, and topped it with the lemon butter sauce and an extra splash of fresh lemon juice for a light and healthy dinner.

This dish has a lovely tangy and buttery flavor with the lemon, wine and garlic, and the flour coating is super light as I made it with an ultra-fine flour (Wegman’s Pan-Searing Flour) or you could use Wondra, then seasoned it with salt and pepper and a hint of cayenne. If you want to use sherry instead of a white wine, this will give you a sweeter flavor to the sauce. I made my sauce with a Marlborough New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc which is light and fruity and gives it a nice semi-sweet tangy flavor.

Serve the chicken and broccolini with some crusty french bread or some pasta (with more lemon-butter sauce, parmesan cheese and parsley over the top!) and a glass of white wine. Enjoy!

Chop the parsley

Mince the parsley for the egg, cheese and parsley mix.

Prep the wet and dry ingredients

Prep the wet and dry ingredients to dip the chicken in (flour first, egg-cheese-parsley mixture second).

Saute the chicken in olive oil for approx. 6 minutes on each side until golden brown.

Saute the chicken in olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat for approx. 6 minutes on one side.

Flip chicken over and saute another 6 minutes until golden brown.

Flip chicken over and saute another 6 minutes until golden brown. Remove from pan and set aside, covered in a foil tent.

Remove chicken and set aside. Saute minced garlic for 1-2 minutes.

Saute minced garlic for 1-2 minutes.

Add wine, and bring to a boil.

Add wine, scraping up brown bits from the bottom of the pan, and bring to a boil.

Add broth and lemon juice and turn heat to high, bringing to a boil.

Add broth and lemon juice and let cook for approx. 5-7 minutes to reduce liquid by half. Stir in cold butter and red pepper flakes.

Return chicken to the pan and bring to a boil, cooking for another 5 minutes to let liquid reduce and infuse flavors in the chicken.

Return chicken to the pan and bring to a boil, simmering for another 5-10 minutes to let liquid reduce further and infuse flavors in the chicken. Throw in some extra chopped parsley. Remove from heat.

IMG_3403

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Insert steamer basket with broccolini and steam covered for about 5 minutes.

Lemon Broccolini

Remove cover and let cook over boiling water for another 5 minutes or so, until broccolini is fork tender but still bright green.

Plate the chicken and broccolini and spoon the lemon-wine-garlic butter sauce over the top of both. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

Plate the chicken and broccolini and spoon the lemon-wine-garlic butter sauce over the top of both. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

Garnish with fresh lemon juice and chopped parsley.

Garnish with fresh lemon juice and chopped parsley.

Enjoy with a glass of white wine and some crusty Italian bread.

Enjoy with a glass of white wine and some crusty Italian bread or pasta (with some of that luscious buttery-lemon-wine sauce over the top).

Bon appetit!

Bon appetit!

Rochester-Style Chicken French & Lemon Broccolini

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 4

This is an amazing dish that is popular in my hometown in Upstate Rochester, NY. The Italian-American immigrants first introduced this dish in NYC and then migrated Upstate. The recipe stems from the French Veal Francaise or Chicken Francaise dish, which uses lightly-floured thin veal or chicken cutlets, which are then coated with a parsley-parmesan cheese-egg mixture and sauteed until golden brown.

The luscious sauce is made with garlic, butter, lemon, white wine or sherry, and parsley which is served over the top of the golden brown chicken. I decided to serve this with steamed broccolini, a Chinese broccoli that is similar to Broccoli Rabe, and then topped it with the lemon butter sauce for a fresh and healthy Sunday dinner. It has a lovely tangy and buttery flavor with the lemon, wine and garlic, and the coating is super light as I made it with an ultra-fine flour (Wegman's Pan-Searing Flour) or you could use Wondra, or a regular flour then season it with salt and pepper and a hint of cayenne.

If you want to use sherry instead of a white wine, this will also give you a sweeter flavor to the sauce. I made this with a Marlborough New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc which is light and fruity and gives it a nice semi-sweet tangy flavor.

Ingredients

  • CHICKEN FRENCH:
  • 1/4 cup olive oil/canola oil blend for sauteing (I used Colavita Garlic Oil Blend)
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast cutlets
  • 2-3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • Dash of cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
  • 1/2 cup of superfine flour (Pan Searing flour or Wondra)
  • LEMON BUTTER SAUCE:
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup white wine or sherry
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • Juice from 1 1/2 lemons (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into pieces
  • Lemon wedges, for garnish
  • 1-2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley, for garnish
  • BROCCOLINI:
  • 1 bunch broccolini, trimmed
  • Lemon Butter sauce (see above)
  • lemon, S&P for garnish

Instructions

  1. CHICKEN FRENCH:
  2. Heat oil in a large non-stick saute pan over medium heat.
  3. Meanwhile, whisk together eggs, cheese, salt and pepper, cayenne and fresh parsley in a large mixing bowl.
  4. Place flour in another flat bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Rinse and pat dry chicken breasts, then dredge each one in flour first (left hand), then egg mixture (right hand).
  6. Place chicken into the heated saute pan and cook for 6 minutes on one side. Flip chicken over and saute for another 6 minutes until golden brown.
  7. Remove from pan and set aside, covered with a foil tent.
  8. LEMON BUTTER SAUCE:
  9. In the same skillet, saute the minced garlic for 1-2 minutes, being careful not to burn.
  10. Add the wine and bring liquid to a boil over high heat, scraping up the brown bits in the pan.
  11. Pour in the chicken broth and lemon juice and red pepper flakes (if using) and let reduce by half, another 5-7 minutes.
  12. Stir in the butter and whisk until it melts.
  13. Add chicken back into the pan with the sauce and let simmer another 5-10 minutes.
  14. Place chicken on serving plate with the steamed broccolini and spoon lemon butter sauce over the top of both.
  15. Garnish with lemon wedges and additional chopped parsley if desired.
  16. BROCCOLINI:
  17. Steam broccolini for about 5 minutes, covered. Remove lid and steam for another 5 minutes until fork tender but still bright green.
  18. Top broccolini with Lemon Butter sauce, additional lemon, salt and pepper to taste.
http://www.theartfulgourmet.com/2013/03/17/rochester-style-chicken-french-lemon-broccolini/

Other recipes you may enjoy:

Veal Francese

Closet Cooking’s Chicken Piccata

Martha Stewart’s Chicken Paillards in Lemon Butter Sauce

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Chocolate Love: Baci Perugina Italian Chocolate Recipes & Giveaway!

Baci Perugina Chocolates

I recently attended an amazing chocolate class at Eataly, taught by food historian, author and chocolate expert, Francine Segan. The class was hosted by Baci Perugina and the legendary Perugina Scuola del Cioccolato in Italy.

Francine Segan for Baci Perugina Chocolate Class at Eataly

We had the opportunity to create our own Baci chocolate confections, including

Baci Perugina Chocolates

Baci Chocolates,

Baci Pie

Baci Pie,  

Baci Chocolate Cups

Chocolate Cups,

Baci Chocolate Dessert Pasta

and Chocolate Dessert Pasta

Sampling Prosecco making chocolate

while sampling bubbly Italian Prosecco.

Baci Perugina Chocolate

Baci, which means “kisses” in Italian, are still made from a coveted original recipe and consist of a dark, silky chocolate exterior that envelopes gianduia, a sensuous whipped chocolate filling blended with finely chopped hazelnuts, then topped with a whole hazelnut.

Baci: The Italian way to say I Love You

Baci was created by Luisa Spagnoli, co-founder of Perugina in 1922. Inspired by pure passion, she set out to create a unique confection as grand as her deep feelings of love for a special someone. Legend says that Luisa would lovingly wrap secret love messages around the Baci she created for her lover. Once introduced to the public, Baci became extremely popular, appealing to young lovers browsing sweet shops of Perugia, Italy. Nearly 100 years later, the original recipe remains unchanged, and each Baci remains ensconced in a love note that reflects the sentiments of love, affection and friendship – and is the Italian way to say “I Love You” worldwide.

Check out the great photos and recipes from the class below and keep scrolling to enter to win the Baci chocolate giveaway (2 lucky winners will receive a 15-piece box of Baci Dark Chocolates!)

Baci Chocolates Recipe

Yield: 12 pieces

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces Gianduia chocolate
  • 12 whole hazelnuts
  • 2 tablespoons ground hazelnuts
  • 3 ounces Perugina 51% cocoa dark chocolate

Instructions

  1. In a food processor, blend the Gianduia chocolate and ground hazelnuts together at low speed until they are well blended and a paste is created.
  2. Roll the paste into a rope about the width of a wine cork. Cut into 12 cylindrical pieces.
  3. Melt dark chocolate and heat to 104 degrees F. Drop 3/4 of the dark chocolate on to a marble or steel table. Temper the chocolate by melting it continuously with 2 spatulas until the temperature has reached 80.6 degrees F.
  4. Add the cooler tempered chocolate to the 1/4 tempered chocolate and mix well. The combined chocolate should have a temperature of 87.8 degrees F.
  5. Place a whole hazelnut on top of each cylinder of gianduia.
  6. With a fork, dip each confection into the dark chocolate twice before placing it on a piece of wax paper. Let it rest for about 5 minutes until the shininess has disappeared and the chocolate looks darker and crisp.
http://www.theartfulgourmet.com/2012/10/20/chocolate-love-baci-perugina-italian-chocolate-recipes-giveaway/

Baci Pie

Yield: 10

Ingredients

  • 1 piecrust, store bought or home made
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup, 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup Italian hazelnut liquer (such as Frangelico)
  • 18 Perugina Baci candies

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Line a 10-inch pie pan with rolled out pie crust.
  3. Using an electric hand mixer beat the flour, sugar, eggs, butter and liqueur in a bowl.
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared crust. Place the Baci candies, nut side up, into the batter.
  5. Bake for about 45 minutes until the top crust is set.
  6. Allow to cool to room temperature before cutting.
http://www.theartfulgourmet.com/2012/10/20/chocolate-love-baci-perugina-italian-chocolate-recipes-giveaway/

Coppe di Cioccolato (Chocolate Cups)

Yield: 6

Ingredients

  • 7 ounces + 9 ounces Perugina 51% cocoa dark chocolate
  • 1.5 ounces fresh dairy cream
  • 1 ounce butter
  • 1 ounce Liquor - hazelnut (Frangelico) or lemon (Limoncello)
  • 2 Baci Perugina candies, chopped

Instructions

  1. Melt 7 ounces dark chocolate and cream together in a double boiler.
  2. Add the butter and gently mix to incorporate. When done, add the liquor and set chocolate "ganache" aside.
  3. Melt the remaining 9 ounces chocolate and temper by melting it continuously with 2 spatulas until the temperature has reached 80.6 degrees F.
  4. Drop in a mold for pralines to create the cups.
  5. Fill each cup with the cream and chocolate ganache.
  6. Sprinkle the chopped Baci over the filled cups.
http://www.theartfulgourmet.com/2012/10/20/chocolate-love-baci-perugina-italian-chocolate-recipes-giveaway/

Baci Chocolate Dessert Pasta

Yield: 4

Baci are tossed with hot pasta, creating a rich, silky sauce, which pops with roasted hazelnut flavor. It's wonderful plain, but you can dress it up with a splash of hazelnut liqueur and a dollop of whipped cream.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound spaghetti
  • 12 Perugina Baci candies
  • Whipped cream or mascarpone cheese; hazelnut liqueur such as Frangelico (optional)

Instructions

  1. Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain.
  2. Put 1 whole Baci in each of 4 coffee cups, wine glasses or dessert bowls.
  3. Divide the hot pasta among them and top each with 2 more coarsely crushed Baci.
  4. Serve immediately, topped with a dollop of whipped cream or mascarpone cheese and splash with some hazelnut liqueur.
http://www.theartfulgourmet.com/2012/10/20/chocolate-love-baci-perugina-italian-chocolate-recipes-giveaway/

Baci Perugina Chocolate Giveaway!

*THIS GIVEAWAY HAS ENDED – CONGRATULATIONS TO OUR 2 WINNERS, TROY AND SIMON!

I’m proud to host a giveaway for 2 lucky winners to receive a 15-piece box of Baci Perugina Dark Chocolates courtesy of Baci Perugina and Bender Hammerling Group! All you need to do is leave a comment below telling me why you love chocolate and your favorite chocolate recipe idea.

*For additional entries, follow Artful Gourmet on Facebook and Twitter and let me know you’ve done so.

**Follow Baci Perugina on Facebook and Pinterest for even more giveaway entries, leaving separate comments below that you have done so.

Make sure to enter your email address (not public) with your comments so I can contact the winners to receive their Baci chocolates.

***Giveaway begins on Saturday, October 20th and 2 winners will randomly be chosen from the comment entries below on Thursday, November 1st at 12 pm EST.

Good luck and enjoy the recipes!

Look for Perugina and Baci Chocolate at Eataly and other fine shops, or online at Colavitastore.com

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An Interview w/ Italian Chef Pia Vallone :: Spring Vegetable Soup Recipe

Pia Vallone / Mascarpone Mousse
Chef Pia Vallone / Mascarpone Mousse with Almond & Cookie Crumb

I love Italian food. I mean really loooove Italian food.. And who doesn’t? But especially authentic, homemade Italian – cooked with fresh ingredients and simple, healthy recipes that are downright divine. I recently took a cooking class at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City with Chef and Culinary Instructor Pia Vallone, who teaches the Techniques of Italian Cooking course. It was a 5-week intensive class 6 hours long. Lots to learn in a short amount of time. Chef Pia, a native of Italy and graduate of ICE, taught us a a variety of recipes from different regions of Italy spanning the basic recipes and techniques.

Wild Boar Ragu w/ Matriaciani
Wild Boar Ragu w/ Matriciani

We made fresh pasta and risottos, hearty ragus and fresh and creamy sauces, roasted and braised meats, seafood dishes, soups and stews,

Baked Tomatoes with Oregano / Baked Shrimp with Garlic, Parsley & Crumbs
Baked Tomatoes with Oregano / Baked Shrimp with Garlic, Parsley & Crumbs

roasted and braised vegetables (my favorites were the Roasted Tomatoes and Stuffed Wine-braised Artichokes), desserts such as Classic Tiramisu, Mascarpone Mousse and Rustic Italian Apple Crostata,

Radish, Spinach, Romaine and String Bean Salad
Radish, Spinach, Romaine and String Bean Salad

and healthy, fresh Italian salads and small plates.

Making Fresh Ricotta Gnocchi
Making Fresh Ricotta Gnocchi

We always had red and white Italian wine and fresh Italian bread to accompany, and learned the customs of eating the way the Italians do – start with an “antipasti” (appetizer), next order a “primo” (first course usually consisting of pasta, risotto, minestrone or other soups), then pick your main “secondi” (second course usually a meat or fish dish), have a small bit of “formaggi” (cheese) after your main, then on to “dolci” (sweets/desserts such as cheese, fruit, sweet wine, and coffee/cappucino).

Sage Brown Butter
Sage Brown Butter

We made some of the most amazing Italian food during this class and learned classic authentic cooking techniques that I was able to bring home with me to prepare my own delicious Italian food. In fact, I was so impressed with Pia’s class that I had to interview her to share her culinary background and story along with a recipe with all of you! Enjoy.

  1. Can you tell me a little bit about your culinary training and professional background? What was your first job as a Chef and what was that like?

My first and only hands-on restaurant experience was in an Italian restaurant in London (cannot remember the name of the restaurant), near Victoria Station, in the summer of 1978. A friend of mine who worked as an executive chef there, offered me a job as a sous chef. After a month of hard work, I had to leave the restaurant, because my visa was about to expire and soon after, I returned to Italy. The second experience related to food, was working for several years as a bookkeeper for a restaurant and corporate catering. There I learned so much about food and was exposed to new ingredients and flavor profiles, although I worked in the establishment’s office. As for training, I graduated from The Institute of Culinary Education in NYC and hold a Culinary Arts diploma and a Pastry and Baking Arts diploma. I currently work at ICE as a Manager of Kitchen Assistants and as a Recreational Chef Instructor, though I have worked in different areas in the company, within the past 10 years.

  1. When did you realize you wanted to be a Chef? Who inspired you most as a young cook and what did you learn from them?

I always loved cooking and eating, but I began to spend time experimenting with recipes from various kinds of cuisines in my home kitchen, cooking for friends when I arrived to New York in 1980. Wanting to get involved with food and becoming a chef was a second career change for me, which began in 2001.

 My greatest inspiration was my father, who was a gourmand and a terrific cook. I spent many hours in the kitchen with him during my childhood, helping out, observing him and absorbing all the knowledge I could. From my father, I learned passion, love and appreciation of good food and the importance of using fresh ingredients.

  1. Can you tell us a little bit about your culinary style and what makes your menus and recipes unique?

My style is mainly rustic. I like rustic food for its simplicity and because it is nourishes the body and soul. My menus and recipes are unique, because the ingredients I use are accessible and inexpensive.

  1. Is there a difference in the recipes you create/the food you eat in Italy versus the Italian food here in the United States and what are the main differences?

The difference between food in Italy and food here…? Food in Italy is extremely fresh, mostly organic and seasonal. Its flavor(s) cannot be replicated in dishes cooked outside of the Country. Food in Italy is also quite simple. In fact, most of the best food I have ever eaten there was prepared with just a few ingredients. On the contrary, Italian American food is the result of ‘imported’ traditions and transformations, mostly due the immigrant’s longing for the ‘Old Country’. Immigrants, who arrived here tried to capture flavors and freeze memories, by utilizing similar ingredients grown in a different terroir. Nowadays though, great Italian chefs live here in the States, so the differences between Italian food in Italy and the US is narrowing down.

  1. In your opinion, what are the most important elements when creating a recipe from scratch?

The most important elements are: fresh ingredients, simplicity and focus, Make sure to tastes the food while cooking it.

  1. What is your signature dish or your favorite recipe?

My favorite dish is ‘Roman Style Tripe’, a dish that brings back childhood memories.

  1. What is your favorite spice or ingredient to cook with and why?

I love black pepper, which I use in all savory recipes. Besides liking its pungent flavor, I add it to dishes because it helps improve digestion.

  1. What is your favorite cooking gadget or kitchen item you can’t live without and why?

I own many gadgets and often buy the new ones that are the latest invention in the market, but always tend to use the familiar ones over and over. A gadget I cannot live without is a hand held grater, because it is efficient and does not use too much space in the kitchen.

  1. Do you have any advice for aspiring chefs and home cooks?

Start by cooking a simple recipe, one with 4 or 5 ingredients. Learn basic skills and techniques at first and then move on to a larger repertoire. Patience, practice and repetition are important to achieve success with cooking, as with other things in life.

  1. Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself?

Yes. I am always looking to inspire others to cook. It is a pleasure to see that people are interested in cooking and familiarizing themselves with ingredients. Sharing passion for food and cooking with people is an all-around relaxing experience for me.

Spring Vegetable Soup
Spring Vegetable Soup

Spring Vegetable Soup

Yield: serves 6

2 small carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 small zucchini, diced
1 small butternut squash, diced
1 bunch escarole, chopped
½ cup peas, frozen
1 tablespoon basil leaves, chopped
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
¼ cup Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for bread and for drizzling on soup
4 quarts chicken stock
1 small ciabatta bread
Sea salt to taste
Pepper to taste

  1. Sauté carrots, celery and onions in a large stock pot over medium heat, for approximately 5 minutes, making sure that you stir the vegetables while they cook.
  2. Add chicken stock to the pan. Increase the heat to high, cover the pan, bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook for 10-15 minutes.
  3. Slice bread into 1” thick slices. Brush slices with the additional olive oil on both sides and place in a sauté pan over low heat. Turn bread slices once and cook until they are golden brown. Place bread in a tray and lightly sprinkle with sea salt. Set aside.
  4. Add butternut squash to the stockpot and cook for 3 minutes.
  5. Add zucchini and peas to the stockpot and cook for 3 more minutes.
  6. Add escarole, basil, parsley, salt and pepper and cook for 4 additional minutes.
  7. Remove two ladles of soup from the stockpot and puree in a blender, then return the pureed soup to the pot (the puree will thicken the soup). Stir and cook for 1 minute, then turn off the heat.
  8. Add some grated cheese into the soup and stir. Ladle soup in individual bowls, drizzle oil and sprinkle additional cheese.

Recipe Copyright © Pia Vallone 2010.

Photo credits: Kristen Hess and Pia Vallone. 

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Ragu alla Bolognese w/ Handmade Tagliatelle :: Onion, Olive & Rosemary Focaccia :: Blood Orange Panna Cotta

ragu alla bolognese

A Classic Italian Dinner for any Special Occasion

The following collection of recipes are from an Italian cooking class I took recently with Chef Peter Johnson at The Institute of Culinary Education. The Ragu alla Bolognese we made is the official “Classic” Bolognese Ragu recipe (deemed official by the Accademia Italiana della Cucina in 1982). Bolognese Ragu originated in the city of Bologna in Northern Italy. This rich, chunky meat sauce is created with a base of finely chopped onions, celery, and carrots (the holy trinity otherwise known as ‘Mirepoix‘), white wine, ground beef or veal (or a mixture if you prefer), tomato paste, milk and a touch of cream and simmered on low for 1-2 hours to let all the flavors meld together. The key is to cook slow and low to ensure a tender flavorful ragu sauce.

Handmade Tagliatelle

We made the Tagliatelle Pasta from scratch, first making the homemade dough by slowly mixing eggs into a flour mound until all the flour and eggs are mixed through, then letting the dough rise for about an hour and running it through a pasta machine to create long, super thin bands of dough and finally cutting the individual pasta strips by hand. You’ll need a lot of space, a lot of time, a lot of patience, and a lot of love – but the handmade pasta is totally worth the effort!

rosemary_focaccia

We made a delicious Onion, Olive and Rosemary Focaccia Bread to serve with the pasta and Bolognese Ragu, so crispy and savory and good!

blood orange panna cotta

And of course we topped off the meal with a delicious Chianti and a Blood Orange Panna Cotta for dessert. Blood oranges have a crimson, blood-colored flesh, are smaller than an average orange and are grown in Texas and California, but originated in Sicily, Italy. They have a sweet-tart flavor that goes delicious with the sweet-tart Greek yogurt and cream in this light, refreshing dessert.

Ragu alla Bolognese w/ Handmade Tagliatelle :: Onion, Olive & Rosemary Focaccia :: Blood Orange Panna Cotta

Yield: Makes 2 cups; serves 6

Gorgeous savory homemade pasta and bolognese sauce paired with homemade focaccia bread and a blood orange panna cotta for dessert makes a delicious Italian meal for any special occasion.

Ingredients

  • Ragu alla Bolognese Sauce:
  • 1 (5 oz) piece pancetta, finely chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, finely chopped in a food processor
  • 1 small carrot, finely chopped in a food processor
  • ½ small yellow onion, finely chopped in a food processor
  • ¾ pound lean ground beef
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 ½ cups milk
  • 2 tbsp heavy cream
  • Salt and Fresh ground Pepper to taste
  • Homemade Tagliatelle:
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Onion, Olive & Rosemary Focaccia:
  • Dough
  • 2 ½ tsp (1 envelope) yeast
  • 1 scant cup warm mashed potatoes
  • 2 c warm water
  • ½ c plus 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 5 c all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ c extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ c water
  • Toppings
  • 2 tbsp fresh rosemary leaves
  • ½ c thinly sliced onions
  • ½ c pitted Kalamata or Gaela olives
  • ½ c grated Pecorino cheese
  • Blood Orange Panna Cotta:
  • 2 ½ cups blood orange juice (fresh squeezed, approx. 12 oranges), divided
  • 1 ¾ tsp unflavored gelatin
  • 1/3 c. sugar, plus 2 tbsp, divided
  • 7 teaspoons finely grated orange peel, divided
  • 2/3 c. plain Greek-style yogurt (Fage)
  • 2/3 c. heavy whipping cream
  • ½ tsp fresh lemon juice
  • ½ tsp cardamom seeds, crushed (from about 16 pods)

Instructions

  1. Put the pancetta into a heavy-bottomed medium pot (preferably terra-cotta) over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until its fat has rendered, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add the celery, carrots and onions and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and lightly browned, about 15 minutes (caramelize the mire poix over low heat).
  3. Add the beef and cook, stirring occasionally, until broken up and lightly browned and beginning to sizzle, about 5 minutes. Add the wine to the pot; cook until evaporated, about 4 minutes. In a small bowl, stir together the tomato paste and 2 tbsp water; add to the pot and stir well to combine. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the sauce, stirring occasionally and adding some of the milk, little by little, until all the milk is added and the sauce is very thick, about 1½ hours.
  4. Season the ragu with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Stir in the cream right before serving and toss with the pasta. Top off the pasta with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
  5. Homemade Tagliatelle:
  6. Form the flour into a mound on your work surface (stainless steel or cutting board) and create a well in the center. Sprinkle 1 tsp kosher salt over the flour. Add the eggs, yolk, olive oil and 2 tbsp water to the well.
  7. Using a fork, incorporate eggs and liquid in a slow circular motion, pulling in a small amounts of flour until dough becomes stiff.
  8. Knead dough, adding a little flour as necessary, to prevent sticking, until it’s smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Wrap in plastic wrap; let rest for 30 minutes.
  9. Cut dough into quarters.
  10. Flatten 1 quarter into a rectangle (cover the other quarters with a towel to prevent from drying out). Sprinkle some flour on your surface and on top of the dough and pass it through a pasta roller set (KitchenAid accessory or hand roller) set on the widest setting.
  11. Fold dough into thirds, creating another rectangle; feed open edge through pasta roller set at widest setting. Fold again; roll twice more using same setting. (Keep sprinkling some flour on both sides of the dough to keep from sticking as you go).
  12. Decrease setting one notch and roll pasta through again; repeat, decreasing setting by one notch each time until you’ve reached the second-to-last setting, creating a 1/16 inch-thick sheet. (The sheet will be quite long and continually get thinner as you go, so you’ll need two hands to do these last few rolls to keep the dough from ripping or sticking together).
  13. Sprinkle sheet with flour; halve cross-wise. Transfer to a flour-dusted parchment paper. Repeat with remaining dough, adding flour-dusted parchment paper between each layer.
  14. Tightly roll each sheet, from short end to short end; cut cylinder cross-wise into 3/8 inch-wide strips.
  15. Unroll strips and toss with cornmeal or semolina; spread on a floured parchment sheet and cover with a kitchen towel. Let dry for 30 minutes.
  16. Cook Tagliatelle in a large pot of salted boiling water until al dente, about 2 minutes. Drain; transfer to a bowl and toss with 2 cups of the Bolognese Ragu. Serve with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.
  17. Serve with warm Foccacia bread, an Italian green salad and a glass of Chianti. Mangia!
  18. Onion, Olive & Rosemary Focaccia:
  19. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  20. Add the yeast to warm water and stir to mix through. Let the yeast and water mixture sit for a few minutes. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the yeast mixture, potatoes, 2 cups of water, and ½ cup of oil. Add the flour and salt and using the paddle attachment, mix at a low speed for 2 to 3 minutes. The dough will be sticky and rough.
  21. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the dough to ferment until doubled, 45-60 minutes. Coat half a sheet pan with the 2 tbsp of oil and press the dough evenly into the pan. Let the dough rest periodically if it seems too elastic.
  22. Press the rosemary, onions, olives and cheese evenly into the surface of the focaccia and allow the dough to double, about 30 minutes. With the point of a pastry knife, pierce the dough gently at 2 inch intervals. In a squirt bottle, combine the remaining oil and water. Shake well and spray across the focaccia, moistening it well. Add your favorite toppings.
  23. Bake until well browned on the top and bottom, about 25 minutes. Let cool slightly, cut into squares and serve.
  24. Blood Orange Panna Cotta:
  25. Pour 1 cup juice into medium saucepan; sprinkle gelatin over. Let stand 15 minutes.
  26. Stir in gelatin mixture over low heat until gelatin dissolves, 1 to 2 minutes. Add 1/3 c. sugar and 5 tsp orange peel; stir until sugar dissolves, 1 to 2 minutes longer. Strain into medium bowl, pressing on solids. Discard solids in strainer. Cool juice mixture 10 minutes. Whisk yogurt, cream and lemon juice into orange juice mixture until smooth. Divide among six small goblets or sherbet glasses. Chill until set, at least 4 hours ahead.
  27. Stir 1 1/3 cups orange juice, 2 tbsp sugar, 2 tsp orange peel, and cardamom in medium saucepan over low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and boil until reduced to 6 tbsp, 16-17 minutes. Strain syrup into small bowl; chill.
  28. Spoon some of the syrup over each panna cotta and serve. For extra garnish, serve with some berries and some sprigs of mint.

Notes

Bolognese recipe from the Bolognese Chapter of the Accademia Italiana della Cucina, decreed as the official “Classic Ragu alla Bolognese” recipe in October 1982.

Blood Orange Panna Cotta recipe sourced from Bon Appetit, January 2011.

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http://www.theartfulgourmet.com/2011/03/04/ragu-alla-bolognese-handmade-tagliatelle-onion-olive-rosemary-focaccia-blood-orange-panna-cotta/

 

Bolognese Ragu

 

Handmade Tagliatelle

 

 

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A Taste of Tuscany

Eggplant Crostini

Tuscany is probably one of the most beautiful and scenic regions of Italy and the most popular places to visit, known for its rolling hills, mesmerizing sunsets,  rustic landscapes, vineyards, farmhouses and olive groves. I have not had the opportunity to visit there yet, but I love the cuisine and it’s first on my list when I plan my next trip to Italy (hopefully sometime next year!)

Tuscan cuisine is a simple and earthy way of cooking, which centers around fresh and local ingredients from the farming region such as olive oil, greens, poultry, beans, beef, pork, rabbit, lamb, and sausages. Crostini is a famous antipasti which are little toasted breads spread with toppings such as olive tapenade or chicken liver pates. Bruschetta is also a popular antipasti made with rustic bread, fresh chopped tomatoes and garlic. Other popular dishes from the area are Panzanella (bread salad), Minestrone soup, Pasta Fagiole (cannelloni bean and pasta soup) and Ribollita.

Because of the ample farm land in Tuscany and areas surrounding Florence, there is a large production of olive oil, grapes and wine, and a variety of fruits and vegetables and herbs such as pears, oranges, thyme, rosemary, tomatoes, wild mushrooms, artichokes, asparagus, spinach and beans – all main ingredients in Tuscan cooking. Risotto is an earthy dish that incorporates many of these vegetables and cheeses from the region. Fennel is another ingredient often used in salad and sautéed with meat dishes. In Florence, Pecorino (a salty sheep’s milk cheese) tends to have herbs, garlic and red pepper added for flavor and is served shaved in salads or as cut in chunks served with grapes, olives and rustic breads like Foccacia bread with rosemary and olive oil.

Almond and Anise Biscotti and Oranges in Marsala Glaze are standard desserts and most of the wine that originates in the area is Chianti, aged in small oak barrels. Another popular white wine is Vernaccia, ranging from light and crisp to full-bodied, made in a small medieval town known as San Gimignano.

The following is a sampling of some of my favorite Tuscan recipes that use rustic and earthy ingredients originating from a Tuscan Cooking class I took at the Institute of Culinary Education in NYC. If you’re interested in learning more about Tuscan cooking there are a variety of cookbooks sold online, as well as cooking excursions in Tuscany with local chefs and other sites dedicated to Tuscan cooking.

Mushroom Risotto

Wild Mushroom Risotto

Mushroom stock:

½ lb. cremini mushrooms

½ lb. white button mushrooms

½ lb. shitake mushrooms

2 quarts chicken stock

½ c. dried porcini mushrooms

4 tbsp butter

3 oz. Madeira wine

Risotto:

3 tbsp butter

2 shallots, finely minced

4 c. Arborio rice

¾ c. white wine

Mushroom stock (reserved)

1 tbsp. minced chives

1 tbsp. Italian parsley

¼ c. grated Pecorino Romano

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

To make the mushroom stock, wash and trim the stems of the fresh mushrooms. Reserve the stems and slice the mushroom caps for use later in the recipe. (Make sure to dust of the dirt first and don’t soak the mushrooms).

Combine the chicken stock, stems, dried porcini mushrooms in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer, and cook for 30 minutes over low heat. Strain through a cheesecloth and reserve the liquid for the risotto.

Heat a large sauté pan and add 4 tbsp of butter. Add the sliced mushrooms and sauté until browned. Deglaze the Madeira and reduce until almost all the liquid has evaporated. Reserve the mushrooms. (Try to let the Madeira glaze sit, don’t stir).

For the risotto, heat a wide pot or rondeau (flat bottom pot with tall sides) over medium-high heat and add 2 tbsp butter. Add the shallots and sauté until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the rice and stir the mixture together to coat the rice with the shallots and butter.

Add the white wine, lower the heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the wine has evaporated. Begin adding the mushroom stock, a large ladleful at a time. Continue to add the mushroom stock (slowly and continuously), stirring constantly until the rice is just cooked through and all the stock has been absorbed, about 20 mins. The rice should be slightly al dente but have a creamy consistency and not dry.

Stir in the reserved mushrooms, the remaining tablespoon of butter, chives, and parsley. Top off the risotto with Pecorino Romano and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 6.

Pork Chops with Fennel

Pork Chops with Olives and Fennel

¼ c. extra-virgin olive oil

4 cloves garlic, crushed

4 pork rib chops, bone in

Salt and black pepper to taste

1 tbsp. fennel seeds, crushed

1 c. white wine

2 fennel bulbs, cored and quartered or cut into eighths

6 plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded, roughly chopped

¼ c. Gaeta olives, pitted

1 spring rosemary

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet with sides over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until it turns brown, and remove the garlic. Season the pork chops with salt and add them to the pan. Cook until one side is brown, then turn and brown the other side. Remove and reserve until later. Add the fennel seeds to the pan and cook for 1 minute (toast them lightly to release oils and flavor, watch closely to not  burn them).

Remove the pan from the heat and deglaze with wine. Return the pan to the heat and cook until wine nearly evaporates. Add the fennel pieces, tomatoes, olives and rosemary.

Bring the liquid to a simmer and add the pork chops back to the pan. Cover the pan and cook for 15-20 minutes more or until the internal temperature reaches 150 degrees F. Remove the chops and if liquid is too runny, reduce until it coats the back of a spoon.

This recipe can also be made with veal chops, and for extra flavor and to ensure juicy chops that won’t dry out, soak them in a brine overnight made out of 2 quarts of water, 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of salt and throw in some chopped up herbs such as rosemary or thyme.

Makes 4 servings.

Pollo alla Toscana

Pollo alla Toscana (Tuscan Chicken)

2 c. dried navy beans, soaked overnight (or canned beans drained and rinsed)

1/3 c. diced slab bacon or pancetta

2 (4 lb.) chickens, cut up into 8 pieces each

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Flour for dredging

1 medium yellow onion, diced small

2 celery ribs, diced small

1 garlic clove, minced

1 cup white wine (dry and crisp, such as Chablis)

2 sprigs fresh thyme

1 tsp. freshly minced rosemary

3 canned plum tomatoes, chopped

2 tbsp freshly minced parsley

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Drain and rinse the soaked beans. Discard the liquid.

In a medium saucepan, over high heat, bring 5 cups of water to a boil and add the rinsed and soaked beans. Cook them until they are soft, but not mushy. Drain the beans, but reserve the cooking liquid.

Cook the bacon in a large rondeau or Dutch oven until just browned. Using a slotted spoon put the bacon on paper towels to drain, reserving the fat in the pan.

Pat the chicken pieces dry, season with salt and papper and dredge in flour, shaking off any excess. Heat the bacon fat over high heat and when it is hot, add the chicken and cook, in batches, turning the pieces once, until the skin becomes golden brown and crisp. Remove the chicken and set aside.

Add the onions, celery and garlic and cook until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and deglaze with the wine. Return the pan to the heat and bring it to a boil, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan and reduce by 1/3. Return the chicken and bacon to the pan, add the beans, thyme, rosemary, tomatoes, and 2 cups of the reserved beans cooking liquid (liquid should come half way up the pan, use more or less accordingly). Cover, place in the oven and cook for about 40 minutes, until the chicken is no longer pink and most of the liquid has absorbed. You may have to add more liquid if it looks dry.

Season with salt and papper to taste and garnish with parsley.

Makes 8 servings.

Cipolline Onions

Cipolline Agro Dolce (Caramelized Cipolline Onions)

2 lbs. Cippoline onions

6 tbsp sugar

½ c. red wine vinegar

8 sage leaves

¾ c. extra-virgin olive oil

Salt to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Prepare a large bowl of ice water and set aside.

Blanch the onions for 2 minutes in boiling water. With a slotted spoon, immediately remove the onions and place them in ice water. Remove when cool and peel removing the stem and first layer of skin.

In a large baking dish, mix the onions, sugar, vinegar, sage, olive oil, and salt making sure that onions are coated evenly (this makes a lot of liquid so you don’t need to use it all).

Bake in the oven for approx. 60 mins, or until the onions are well caramelized. Make sure to turn the onions and watch them while in the oven, taking care to not let them burn.

Makes 6 servings.

Pear and Fennel Salad

Pear and Fennel Salad

2 fennel bulbs, cored and cut into thin slices

8 cups mixed salad greens (red leaf, Bibb, Boston and Radiccio), washed and dried

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil

Freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon

3 red Bartlett or Bosc pears, cut in half, cored and thinly sliced

Combine the fennel with the salad greens. Refrigerate until ready to toss.

When ready to toss, add the salt and pepper, olive oil and lemon juice. Toss gently and arrange on individual plates or a platter. Top with the pear slices and serve.

Makes 6 servings.

Glazed Oranges and Biscotti

Oranges in Marsala Glaze

6 large navel oranges, peeled and pith removed (save one peel with pith removed)

¼ c. sugar

¾ c. sweet Marsala wine

½ c. Cointreau (orange liqueur)

12 mint leaves

In a small saucepan with boiling water, simmer the orange peel over high heat for 5 mins; drain and set aside. When cool, slice into julienne strips.

Separate each orange into sections, removing all membrane between sections. Place sectioned oranges in a large bowl, cover and chill.

In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, Marsala, and Cointreau. Bring to a boil over medium heat until the mixture has reduced by half or until it becomes syrupy. Add orange peel strips to the syrup and chill. To serve, spoon orange sections into individual dessert dishes. Top with Marsala glaze. Garnish with mint leaves.

Tip: this dessert is delicious topped over Vanilla ice cream and served with Almond and Anise biscotti on the side.

Makes 6 servings.

Other Tuscan recipes you might enjoy:

Panzanella (Bread Salad)

Peach Bellini

Crostini with Roasted Eggplant

Olive Tapenade

Chicken Liver Pate

Pasta e Fagioli

Minestrone

Ribollita (Bread Soup)

Bistecca alla Florentine (Tuscan Steak)

Almond and Anise Biscotti

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