lunedì 28 dicembre 2015


Appetizer or entree - Can be vegetarian (read footnotes)

This was part of the appetizers for our Christmas meal, at friends house, and was quite successful. I modified a recipe used for another dish in the past, and turned out really good!! In the footnotes, you will find some suggestions you may find interesting (I hope ;-) ) and the link to our video. It's not difficult to prepare, at all, it only takes time, which you should always allow, when making pizza and similar dishes.
(thank you to Vittorio of Viva La Focaccia for the original recipe)

500 gr. Italian 00 flour (4 1/2 cup)
340 gr. lukewarm water (1 1/3 cup), during winter time water should be warm, but not too much (you should be able to keep your hand in it without discomfort).
30 gr. Italian extra virgin olive oil (about 3 tbsp)
7 gr. dry active yeast (1 envelope or 1 1/2 tsp)
7 gr. salt (1 1/2 tsp)
5 gr. sugar (1 tsp)
Ham and mozzarella, both shredded or cut, as needed

In a big bowl put the entire amount of water and dissolve the yeast with sugar, then add oil and half of the of the flour. It is very important that salt doesn't touch yeast. Start mixing until you obtain a smooth cream, then add salt and all the remaining flour. Mix and knead for about 4-5 minutes until the dough doesn't stick to the bowl anymore.

Dust a work surface with some flour and transfer the dough onto it, dust your hands with flour and knead for a few more minutes (if dough sticks too much, dust your hands with some more flour, then start again).

When you have a smooth dough, oil a big bowl, place the dough in, oil it so it won't get dry, and to cover the bowl with a lid or plastic wrap.

Let it rise for about 2 hours (or until it doubles in volume). Punch it down, fold it a couple times, then repeat the rising.

Divide the dough into 10 balls and let rise on a greased surface, covered with a towel, for 30-40 minutes. This will make it really easy to work with!

Pre-heat oven to 385 F.

With oiled hands, flatten the dough carefully without stretching it.

Arrange ham and mozzarella on it and fold, sealing the edges carefully. Place on a greased baking dish and bake for 12-15 minutes (or until golden) and serve immediately.

This recipe made 10 mini-calzoni.

- Other stuffing could be mozzarella and sausage, or mushrooms (or a combination of all of them ;-) ): basically, whatever you like!!
- With the exact same dough, you can prepare focaccia (like the one in the video) or pizza. Only thing that changes is the thickness ;-)
- As far as pizza goes, you can make it with San Marzano Italian tomatoes and whichever toppings you may prefer.
- You can freeze them, before baking (I haven't tried that, I cooked ours right away): wrap it (with several layers) and freeze separately. When you want to cook it, pre-heat oven and, when ready, remove them form freezer and transfer in the oven immediately (no plastic wrap, obviously ;-) ). It will take a little longer to cook.
- You can also freeze the single balls before the last rise, thaw and let rise when you need them.
- With this amount of ingredients, you can make 4 regular sized calzoni.
- Do not use any meats and you'll have a vegetarian calzone!
- You can find a video for the dough here (just remember to rise the whole dough twice and once, when shaped into balls). This was made when we prepared the herb focaccia.

lunedì 21 dicembre 2015

TIRAMISU - revised!


Every year, at Christmas, tiramisu` is pretty much mandatory. Here below is our tested and tasted recipe, made more times than I can count, never failed once! You can use pandoro or panettone, instead of ladyfingers, but you have to really be careful when soaking the cakes, or they will break up and not hold the slices. You can use the cream, though, to accompany the slightly toasted panettone or pandoro slices, maybe topping them with chopped nuts and/or drizzling them with hot chocolate sauce. In case you don't know this already, “tiramisu`” means “pick me up”.

2 8oz cups Mascarpone
6 extra large eggs, at room temperature
6 tbsp sugar
1 pkg ladyfingers (17 oz)
Cold espresso coffee
Unsweetened cocoa powder

Divide the eggs: yolks in one big bowl and whites in another one. Put sugar in yolks and whisk them until they become pale yellow (near to white); at this point add mascarpone and whisk to combine.

Wash the beaters well and dry them. Add a couple good pinches of salt to the whites (it will help you and you won't taste it). Whisk whites until they hold peaks and, when turning the bowl upside down, they won't fall (as I show in the video).

Stir 2-3 tbsp of whites into the yolk mixture to lighten it up, since it's really dense.

Fold the remaining whites into the yolk cream and combine CAREFULLY, REALLY CAREFULLY, mixing from bottom up, NOT in circles.

At this point put coffee in a bowl and add liqueur if it's only for adults or milk if there are kids too.

Quickly dip ladyfingers in the coffee and line on the bottom of a deep serving dish, then cover with cream, dust with cocoa and repeat for another layer; do not top with cocoa powder until it's time to serve it.

Cover with plastic wrap (or lid, if your serving dish has one) and refrigerate overnight.

Serves about 10 people.

Traditional tiramisu`

Ricotta tiramisu`

- You can use rum, brandy or amaretto. Add the liqueur to your coffee, NOT to the cream.
- Always prepare it the day before: this way ladyfingers will soak all flavors and won't be dry.
- Always use room temperature eggs: it will be a quicker whisking. Adding salt to the whites will help you with that, and you won't taste it.
- You can use ricotta cheese, instead of mascarpone, if you like it. In the picture of the tiramisu` made with ricotta cheese, there is some shaved Italian dark chocolate.
- You can see our video here

martedì 15 dicembre 2015


Entree - Vegetarian - Gluten free

My absolute comfort food: every time we were sick as kids (and even as young adults ;-) ), mom would make this dish! Warm, creamy, comforting... made with love, which was its best therapeutic feature. I still make, even when nobody is sick, because of these memories.

(without saffron)

1 1/2 cup Carnaroli rice
2 cups frozen peas
8 cups vegetable broth, minimum
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
1/4 cup brandy
1 cup warm milk
3 tbsp Italian extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp cream cheese

Bring broth to a boil, then lower heat to simmer.

In a large non-stick skillet, warm up the extra virgin olive oil and sautee onions until translucent.

Stir in rice and peas, cook for about 2 minutes, stirring, then add brandy. Stir in warm milk, let it be absorbed by rice.

Keep cooking for about 17-20 minutes (depending on your taste), adding simmering broth a ladle at a time and stirring frequently, to avoid sticking.

Remove from heat, stir in parmigiano and cream cheese and serve immediately!!

This recipe serves 4.

(with saffron)

- You can add a little saffron, to the last ladle of broth (see picture).
- I didn't use butter, which is what should be used ;-). I normally substitute with cream cheese, not as fat (I have to watch calories).
- Carnaroli is the best rice for risotto, less starchy than arborio but easier to cook: it doesn't overcook too easily.
- This recipe is vegetarian and gluten free.

martedì 8 dicembre 2015


Soup - Lactose and gluten free - Can be vegetarian (READ footnotes)

This was the soup we made for Thanksgiving dinner: it was a success! It's on the sweet verge, but nicely countered by herbs and bratwurst. I love butternut squash (if you check my recipes, you'll find several with this ingredient) and I love chestnuts, too! It's good at room temperature, too, but the bratwurst crumbles need to be warm.

1 lb butternut squash, peeled and cubed
20 chestnuts
2 bratwurst links, casing removed and crumbled
2 rosemary sprigs
4 sage leaves
1 garlic clove, unpeeled
5 tbsp Italian Extra virgin olive oil
Italian sea salt
Chicken or vegetable broth

First of all cook chestnuts; arrange in a small saucepan, along with 1 sprig of rosemary, covered with water and bring to a boil. Once it boils, add a pinch of Italian sea salt and lower to simmer, cover with a lid and simmer until chestnuts are soft, about 40 minutes.

Arrange the diced butternut squash in a saucepan with lid, with the remaining rosemary and sage. Cover with broth and bring to a boil, add a pinch of Italian sea salt, then lower to simmer, cover with a lid and cook until the butternut squash is soft. Since it has to be blended into a cream, it doesn't matter how big the cubes are. Season with a little sea salt, if needed.

Once the chestnuts are done, drain and peel them (both outer and inner skin). Reserve 8 whole ones and transfer the other ones with the butternut squash. If you can, try to detach all the leaves from rosemary sprigs. Blend butternut squash (with chestnuts and herbs) into a cream and keep it warm.

In a small non-stick skillet warm 1 tbsp olive oil and sautee the garlic with the bratwurst crumbles. When it's almost golden, add the reserved chestnuts, broken into pieces and sautee everything together for a couple minutes. Discard garlic.

Serve cream into individual bowls, topped with the bratwurst-chestnut crumbles and drizzle with 1 tbsp olive oil.

This recipe serves 4-5

- I said that the size of butternut squash don't matter, the smaller they are, the quicker they'll cook.
- You may not need all the broth you cook the squash in: just add it little by little, as needed. It has to be a rather thick cream.
- You can use pre-cooked and peeled chestnuts, if you find them. In this case, use both rosemary sprigs while cooking the squash.
- Please, don't use Italian sausages unless you find them without fennel seeds: the fennel flavor does not combine well with this recipe.
- And... do not use Parmigiano, as well.
- Savory is a herb whose flavor is similar to oregano, but not as strong.
- It's lactose and gluten free. For a vegetarian version, use vegetable broth and leave bratwurst out.

How to peel and cut butternut squash:

martedì 1 dicembre 2015


Entree - Can be Gluten and Lactose free (READ footnotes!)

Our friends don't like turkey so, for Thanksgiving, this was the meat we decided to prepare. The original Italian recipe called for veal instead of pork, but I don't eat veal so... we served it with bacon-wrapped green beans and cranberry sauce. The original recipe did not talk about precooking carrots but theywere definitely too hard, so you'll need to boil tehm at least half the usual time.

1 pork loin, at least 4 lbs trimmed of excess fat
2 12-oz bags of frozen spinach
2 sausage links
5-6 sandwich bread slices
1/2 cup grated parmigiano
1 egg
3 carrots, diced
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 cups warm broth
a few tbsp of milk
Italian 00 flour to dredge
Italian sea salt
Italian extra virgin olive oil

Cook the spinach and drain it. If needed, once it's at room temperature, squeeze the excess water. Partly cook the carrot dices and set aside.

Cut the meat open, in order to obtain a big slice about 3/4" thick (butterfly). Then pound it, to try to flatten it evenly.

Bring broth to a boil and lower heat to simmer.

Remove crust form bread slices, then soak them (the slices ;-) ) in milk. Squeeze milk away and crumble in a bowl.

Add parmigiano, sausages (casing removed and crumbled), carrots and the egg. Mix everything, so it will combine nicely.

Line the meat with the spinach. Top with the sausage mixture and roll the meat. Tie with butcher string and dredge in flour, to coat evenly all the sides.

In a large saucepan with lid, over medium-high heat, warm 2-3 tbsp of olive oil and sear your roll on every side (sprinkling with some salt), deglaze with wine and cook until done through, turning it every once in a while and adding warm broth as needed.

Cut the roll in slices about 1" thick, blend the cooking juices and serve them together, with steamed or sauteed vegetables.

- Cut the meat in a single slice is not that complicated, you'll find many tutorials online or I can email you how to do that.
- If you have it, use some rosemary and sage (you can tie the to the meat): they're perfect with pork meat.
- Most likely, you can cook it in the oven; I haven't tried this so you have to experiment with temperature and time.
- To make it Gluten free, use GF bread and corn starch, instead of flour.
- To make it Lactose free, use water to soak bread and don't use parmigiano in the stuffing.

lunedì 23 novembre 2015


Dessert - Vegetarian

I love crostata and I love chocolate. This recipe was used at a cooking class I recently held (and I enjoyed very much!!). It's not super sweet, as most of my desserts, you can adjust the quantity of sugar to your liking. Just, as I always say, please try the orginal one the first time and taste it.

For the dough:
350 gr. Italian 00 flour
100 gr. sugar
3 extra large eggs
80 gr. butter, diced and chilled
1/3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

For the cream:
1 15-oz container ricotta
Unsweetened cocoa powder
sugar if desired
chocolate chips

In a bowl arrange all dry ingredients and mix them to combine evenly. Add butter and mix it roughly, pinching it with flour mixture; form a well and put the eggs in it. Mix all ingredients well but quickly in order not to warm up butter too much (which would result in a "hard" dough), you have to obtain a smooth "ball". Wrap it in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes at least.

In a bowl, mix ricotta, sugar and cocoa powder, if you feel it's too thick, add a couple tbsp of milk.

Preheat oven to 375.

Grease and dust with flour a 9" tart pan (or line it with parchment paper).

Take the dough out of the fridge, split it in two parts (one of them a little smaller) and roll both of them over a flour-dusted table, they have to be same thickness: about 1/4".

Put the bigger dough disk in the pan, poke it with a fork and put the cream in it. Cover with the smaller dough disk being sure to seal it really well. Make a few small cuts on the top, to allow steam to escape.

Bake on the central rack for 30-40 minutes, the top should become nicely golden.

- You can add to the ricotta cream some banana (diced) or pear (diced and briefly sauteed with a little butter).
- I always weigh the ingredients when baking or making pasta: it's the most accurate way to dose them.
- As said at the beginning, it's not super sweet. Use come confectioner's sugar or whipped cream, if you think it's not sweet enough.
- You can see here how to prepare the dough.

lunedì 16 novembre 2015


Soup - Complete meal - Vegan/vegetarian - Lactose free - Can be gluten free (READ footnotes)

I love ribollita, both warm and at room temperature. As its summer counterpart Panzanella, Ribollita too is a dish "created" by Tuscan paesants to utilize stale bread that could not be eaten or used in another way. The concept is to use whatever vegetables were available; it has been changed a little over the years and this is a fairly precise recipe. When I still lived in Italy, I used to go to the local fruttivendolo (grocer that sells mainly, if not only, fruits and vegetables) and asked her "ingredients for ribollita", Franca would do the rest, and this recipe is exactly what she taught me! With this weather, ribollita is perfect! This is a dish prepared in two separate times.

2 14-oz jars/cans Italian cannellini beans, drained and rinsed.
2 bunches black Tuscan kale (you can find it as Dinosaur Kale, most of the times), cut in strips
2 bunches Swiss chard, cut in strips
2 medium potatoes, thinly sliced
2 medium carrots, thinly sliced
1 fairly big onions, thinly sliced
1 Leek, thinly sliced (only the white part)
2 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
2 Celery sticks, sliced
1/2 head Savoy (or green) cabbage, shredded
1 14-oz can Italian San Marzano peeled tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 Italian artisan bread (preferably 2-3 days old and dry)
Italian extra virgin olive oil
Italian sea salt

In a really big pot put all the vegetables, not the beans, and water at least to cover all of them.

Bring the soup to a boil then lower the heat and let it simmer for at least 2 hours, add beans, season with salt and cook for another 10-15 minutes.

At this point, add the bread and let it absorb all the liquid.

The day after, warm up the soup again, letting it boil for about 30 minutes (ribollita means boiled twice) and serve it drizzled with extra virgin olive oil.

These quantities will make enough ribollita for 6-8

Ready for the freezer:

- Another way to serve this soup is layering bread, vegetables and olive oil. This way you can warm up the soup in the oven or freeze it, divided into portions, and warm up in the microwave.
- Being Tuscan kale quite hard to find, you can use 1 whole head of Savoy or green cabbage (or a mix of the two).
- Only use a high quality Italian - Tuscan - Pugliese - Ciabatta bread! The other breads like French, sandwich (even if labeled as Italian), buns or similar are NOT suitable!
- Instead of water, you can use chicken or vegetable broth.
- I always make more than I need and freeze it (which is what some of the pictures show).
- The use of parmigiano is actually not advised, so it won't cover all the other flavors.
- It's vegan/vegetarian (DON'T use chicken broth ;-) ), lactose free and can be gluten free, if you use GF bread.

martedì 10 novembre 2015


Side dish - Vegan/vegetarian, lactose and gluten free

I used this as a side dish for meat pockets with ham and cheese. We had friends over and loved them; the use of brandy makes a big difference! The pictures are of the dish ready, with the meat pockets whose recipe will be published soon.

12 oz baby bella mushrooms, quartered
8 oz white mushrooms, quartered
1 onion, cut in wedges
1/4 cup brandy
1 tbsp fresh parsley leaves, chopped
3 tbsp Italian extra virgin olive oil

In a non stick skillet, over high heat, warm up the olive oil; sautee onions until translucents, then add mushrooms.

Deglaze pan with brandy and cook until desired doneness (use some broth, if needed).

Season with salt and sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Serves 4-6

- You can add 2 oz of dried porcini, soaked in lukewarm water. Use the soaking water, carefully filtered, instead of broth to cook mushrooms: they will be much more flavorful.
- Use them as a side dish for any meat, but also as sauce for pasta!
- It's vegan/vegetarian, lactose and gluten free!

lunedì 2 novembre 2015


Dessert - Vegetarian

In Tuscany there is a pastry called "budino di riso" (rice pudding) but it is different than what its name can convey: basically it's a rice cream in an Italian tart shell. I found this recipe on the blog www.profumincucina.com and tried to recreate it. I won't give you the complete recipe (I still have to work on the cream) but I'll give you the shell's recipe; soon, I'll try the pastries again, as they're supposed to be made. Since the dough for the shell was too much, I made big cookies with the leftovers, and this is this week's recipe.

300 gr. Italian 00 flour (2 1/2 cup unsifted)
150 gr. sugar (2/3 cup)
150 gr. butter, cold (2/3 of a stick)
8 gr. baking powder (1 1/2 tsp)
1 tsp Italian sea salt
1 extra large egg
Grated zest of 1 lemon or orange

Dice butter and put it back in the refrigerator.

In a bowl arrange all dry ingredients and mix them to combine evenly. Add butter and mix it briskly, pinching it with flour mixture; form a well and put the egg in it.

Mix all ingredients well, but quickly, so butter will not warm up too much (which would result in a "hard" dough); you have to obtain a smooth "ball".

Wrap it in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes at least.

Preheat oven to 375. Line a cookie sheet with wax paper or grease it with a little butter and dust with flour.

Dust a working surface with some flour and roll the dough out about 1/4" thick. Shape the dough, or cut it with a cookie cutter, as you prefer, and bake for 10-15 minutes (or until golden).

- Keep in mind that "volume" measurements are NOT as accurate as "weight" ones: the quantities given in parenthesis are only approximate. Please, get a scale that weighs in grams: your baking will thank you!
- The quantity of cookies depends on their size.
- The original recipe called for 200gr. 00 flour and 100gr. rice flour. I decided to make the cake when I got home and didn't have any rice flour: the result was good anyway.
- I suggested using grated zest of lemon or orange, actually you can use both!

lunedì 26 ottobre 2015


Pasta entree - Vegetarian - Can be vegan, lactose and gluten free (READ footnotes)

I LOVE pasta with vegetables. In this case I cooked peas with pasta, so it can absorb part of the nutrients released in the water (something I do more times than I can actually count), and sauteed the other 2 veggies. If you're on a diet, it's a perfect dish: you can load the dish with zucchini and onions and reduce the pasta, so it will look fuller. If you don't want to sautee, you can just substitute the oil with water (in full or in part) and the deal is done!

1 lb Italian spinach-egg fettuccine
4 medium zucchini, shredded
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
1 cup frozen peas
3-4 tbsp pesto
Italian extra virgin olive oil
Italian sea salt

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. When it boils add salt and peas, then bring back to boil. When it's rapidly boiling, add your fettuccine. Wait about 1 minutes, before stirring your pasta, so it won't break.

In the meantime, in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil (a couple tbsp should be enough) and sautee zucchini and onions until tender, use a few tbsp of water, if necessary.

When fettuccine are al dente, about 4-5 minutes, drain them and transfer to the skillet with the vegetables. Sautee for about 1-2 minutes and remove from heat.

Toss with pesto, until uniformly coated. If pesto is too thick, use a little bit of the cooking pasta water to thin it.

Serve immediately.

This recipe serves 4-6

- Always reserve some of the pasta cooking water, you never know when it can become handy ;-)
- Given the fact that pesto already has parmigiano (or pecorino or both), it's not advised to use more. But then... it's your dish so serve it as you please!
- It's vegetarian. Can be vegan & lactose free, if you avoid using cheese in pesto. Can be gluten free if you use GF pasta, like the one we sell here.

lunedì 19 ottobre 2015


Entree - Lactose free - Could be gluten free (READ footnotes)

Shirley, one of our friends, asked me my recipe for limoncello chicken... ehm... I don't have any, so I started talking with Luciano (of Luciano's Restaurant here in Reno) and then with two other FB friends Giovanna and Eleonora, both Italian living in California. This is the very rewarding result. I can assure you it's beyond easy!!!

1 chicken breast, sliced quite thin (about 6-8 slices total)
1 lemon, juice and grated zest
1 tbsp Sicilian capers, packed in salt and rinsed
1/3 cup limoncello
Italian 00 flour to dredge
Italian extra virgin olive oil
Italian sea salt
Few leaves of lemon and bee balm, chopped.

Roughly chop the capers. Pound the slices, if they are too thick, then dredge in flour on both sides, shaking off the excess.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil then briefly sautee capers and lemon zest. Add chicken breast slices and sautee until golden on both sides, season with salt.

Pour both lemon juice and limoncello, lower to medium heat and cook until done, turning slices once. It shouldn't take longer than 4-5 minutes per side, by then the cooking juice should be thick enough.

Serve immediately, sprinkled with the herbs, with a nice salad or sauteed/steamed vegetables.

This recipe serves 3-4.

- This is a very delicate recipe, DON'T use capers in vinegar or brine: the aftertaste will ruin the final result. The capers packed in salt don't have that aftertaste; anyway, since they are pretty strong, don't use more than 8-10 pieces.
- I used both lemon and bee balm leaves because they are "lemoney" and pair perfectly with this dish. You can also use parsley, if you like it; I wanted to prepare something totally different.
- This is really easy and quich to prepare, the final result is slightly sweet, due to limoncello. If you think you may not like it, use a little more lemon and a little less limoncello.
- If, when meat is ready, your cooking juice is not thick to your desire, just turn heat on high and boil for a minute or two.
- It's lactose free and, in order to have it gluten free, use corn starch instead of flour.

lunedì 12 ottobre 2015


Soup - Vegetarian/vegan - Lactose free - Can be gluten free (READ footnotes)

It's really not cold enough, for soups, but you can always enjoy it lukewarm or at room temperature. I love soups anytime... even in summertime (which is exactly the feeling here, being unseasonably HOT in Reno right now).

2 14-oz can Italian chickpeas (ceci), drained and rinsed
1 lb Italian small pasta
1 cup Italian peeled San Marzano tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 10-12 oz. bag of frozen spinach (or fresh)
1 10-12 oz. bag frozen green beans
1 medium potato, diced
1/2 small onion, diced
4 sage leaves, 1 rosemary and 1 satureja sprigs
8-10 cups vegetable stock, hot
Italian extra virgin olive oil
Italian sea salt

Tie the herbs together. Set aside half of the chickpeas.

In a saucepan (with lid) pour 8 cups of the stock (keep warm the remaining ones); add all the vegetables, the San Marzano and the other half of the chickpeas.

Bring to a boil then season with salt, if needed, and add the herbs; cook until vegetables are tender (about 20-25 minutes); remove the herbs.

Blend with an immersion blender (ora a regular one), until you obtain a creamy consistency. Bring back to boil and add the reserved chickpeas and the pasta.

Cook until pasta is "al dente", stirring in more broth, if the soup is too thick. Remember to stir pasta constantly or, because of the tickness, it will stick to the bottom and burn.

Serve in individual bowls drizzled with Italian extra virgin olive oil.

This recipe serves 6-8

- If, while cooking, you see that the soup becomes too thick, add a little warm broth. Do that every time you need.
- You can use Italian farro, instead of pasta.
- San Marzano tomatoes are the best peeled tomatoes (and the ones we carry have no salt - no "nothing" added!!!).
- This soup is great also at room temperature. It can also be frozen, in order to have a good quick AND HEALTHY dinner.
- Satureja is a herb that smells like oregano... it is great to fight the chickpeas and beans (not so welcome) side effects ;-). Try to find it...
- It's vegetarian/vegan, and lactose free! For a gluten free version, either use a GF pasta or Italian carnaroli rice.

lunedì 5 ottobre 2015


Entree - Can be lactose and gluten free (READ footnotes)

This recipe is the application of the risotto (you can find it here) into a pasta sauce. I LOVE squashes, butternut squash more than others...

1 lb Italian penne pasta
1 sausages, casing removed and crumbled
8 oz white mushrooms, diced
2 cups butternut squash, diced
1 small onion, diced
2 oz cream cheese
1/3 cup brandy
2 tbsp Italian extra virgin olive oil
Italian Sea salt

Bring water to a boil, then add salt and pasta; stir for the first minute or so, to avoid sticking.

While you wait for the water to boil, prepare the sauce.

In a large saucepan, warm the extra virgin olive oil and sautee onions and sausages until onions are translucent and sausages are lightly browned; now add mushrooms and butternut squash and sautee for 2 more minutes.

Deglaze pan with brandy, when it's evaporated, add a few tbsp of water to keep cooking vegetables, stirring.

Melt the cream cheese with a few tbsp of water and stir it in the sauce, "smashing" some butternut squash pieces with a fork; stir until it's completely incorporated.

Drain pasta al dente (o a little earlier, actually) and transfer it to the saucepan with the sauce. Sautee for a couple minutes, so pasta absorbs the sauce flavor.

Serve immediately, sprinkled with fresh parsley.

This recipe serves 4-6.

- Always remember to save some cooking water, before draining pasta: it will help in case the sauce gets too thick.
- I prefer to use sausage without fennel seeds (bratwurst) because they are overwhelming flavor.
- I used fat free cream cheese, to give a creamy texture.
- For a lactose free version, blend some squash with the pasta cooking water, in order to have a creamy texture. For a gluten free version, use GF Italian pasta (as the one we carry).

lunedì 28 settembre 2015


Entree - Lactose free - Can be gluten free (READ footnotes)

I love fish, I love to cook (this should be clear, by now ;-) ). I found these Dover sole fillets (fresh and wild caught) at a killer price, so I decided to try this recipe, that I read on an Italian magazine and I tried to recreate it, based on my memory... I don't even know if I used all right ingredients! The final result, though, was good :-)

6 Sole fillets
8 oz cooked shrimp
1/2 cup non-flavored breadcumbs
1/3 cup almonds, chopped
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp hot pepper flakes
1 big orange, juice and grated zest (divided)
1/2 onion, chopped
1/4 cup brandy
2-3 tbsp Italian extra virgin olive oil
Italian sea salt

In a bowl, combine all the shrimp and the orange zest with about half breadcrumbs, almond, parsley and hot pepper flakes. In a different bowl the remaining breadcrumbs, almond, parsley and hot pepper flakes. Season both with a pinch of salt.

Lay the sole fillets flat and spread some of the shrimp mixture on halt of them, then fold as a pocket and secure with a toothpick.

In a non-stick skillet, over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil and sautee the chopped onion and, when it turns translucent, add the breadcrumb mixture (and whatever shrimp mix may be left from stuffing).

Sautee until breadcrumbs start getting lightly golden, then add the sole fillets and let them sear; flip carefully with a spatula, paying attention not to break them, these fillets are really delicate.

Once seard on this side, deglaze with brandy and let alcohol evaporate; pour orange juice in, let thicken for a few minutes, season with salt, if needed, and remove from heat.

Depending on the size of the fillets, you can serve 4-8

- You can serve this recipe with a nice salad or other vegetables (sauteed or steamed).
- You can actually bake the fillets, but not having tried this option, I can't tell you what the timing would be.
- If you don't have fresh parsley, you can substitute that and hot pepper flakes with 2 tsps of our dried mix that has parley, hot pepper flakes and garlic.
- You could also use an infused Italian extra virgin olive oil, instead of the traditional one. Yes, we carry that too :-)
- This recipe is lactose free, use gluten free breadcrumbs to make it safe.

lunedì 21 settembre 2015


Side dish - Vegetarian and vegan - Lactose and gluten free

I love vegetables and I love to eat seasonal ones. I prepare a similar mixed dish, all summertime, with eggplant zucchini and other... (recipe here, video here); I decided I wanted to try a fall version and came up with this one. DISCLAIMER: it's a rather sweet dish (read footnotes), but I absolutely LOVE the sweet-savory contrast so here it is.

1 small sweet potato
1 medium-big baking potato
1 carrot
1 celery stalk
1 big onion
8 oz baby bella mushrooms
1/3 butternut squash
Chopped fresh parsley, sage, oregano, thyme (1 tbsp TOTAL)
1/2 galic clove, chopped
Italian extra virgin olive oil
Italian sea salt

First of all, prepare the flavored oil: mix all herbs and garlic with 1/4 cup olive oil, let it marinate during the preparation of ingredients.

Peel and cube (sides about 1") both potatoes, carrot and onion; cut celery about same size.

In a wide saucepan (or skillet) with lid, over medium-high heat, warm up the herb-oil mix and sautee briefly (1-2 minutes), then stir in the prepared vegetables; lower heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently to prevent sticking, whil you prepare the remaining ingredients.

Clean and cut the mushrooms in half (or in 3-4 pieces, depending on their sizes), peel and cube the butternut squash.

Stir mushrooms and squash in the pan with the other vegetables, season with salt and a little nutmeg and cover with the lid. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until you reach your desired doneness.

This recipe serves 4-6

- Try to cut all the vegetable about same size: this way, cooking will be more even.
- You can substitute the fresh herbs, if not available, with a high quality Italian infused extra virgin olive oil (like the ones we have in stock); you could also use dried herbs, adjusting the quantities, since they are more flavorful than the fresh ones.
- This is a rather "sweet" side dish; you may want to play with herbs and non-sweet ingredients, to counter that sweetnes, if you don't like it too much.
- It's vegetarian, vegan, lactose and gluten free.

lunedì 14 settembre 2015


Entree - Gluten free

I LOVE stuffed vegetables, and this is a combination of 2 recipes I constantly prepare. They are pale (read footnotes) but I can assure you that the result is really good! Perfect for picnics, lunchbox, work lunch... they're good both warm and at room temperature.

3 Zucchini, medium-big
Leftover meats (rotissery chicken, roasted pork... whatever)
7 oz ricotta cheese
3 tbsp grated Parmigiano reggiano
1 extra large egg
Freshly chopped mint or parsley
Italian seasalt
Italian extra virgin olive oil

Cut zucchini in half, legthwise and scoop out the pulp. You won't use it for this recipe, in the footnotes, you'll find some suggestions on how to use it.

In a food processor, chop meats and transfer to a bowl. Add to the meats both cheeses, egg, mint or parsley, nutmeg and salt, if needed.

Mix all ingredients until nicely combined, then stuff your zucchini with it.

At this points you have 2 choices: you can bake them or cook them on the stove.

To bake, brush a baking dish with a little Italian olive oil, arrange them in it, add a little broth and cover with foil. Bake on central rack at 350F for 15 minutes. Uncover, top with some mozzarella cheese (or sliced provolone) and broil until golden.

To cook on the stove, coat a non-stick skillet or saucepan (with a lid) with a little Italian olive oil, arrange them in it, add a little broth and cover with the lid. Cook on medium heat for about 20 minutes.

Serves 2-3

- You can add some cold cuts, to the meat, if you like them (or have them).
- When cooking on the stovetop, 5 minutes before they're done, top with some mozzarella cheese (or sliced provolone) and cook until it melts. Or (if the skillet is ovenproof) broil them until golden.
- You can use the inner zucchini pulp for soups or also to prepare a pasta sauce. You can also sautee it, with sliced onions, in Italian olive oil and serve as a side for this meal.
- You can use dried parsley or mint, don't use both: mint will overpower parsley.
- My zucchini look rather pale because I used white meats and didn't have time to broil, since I used them for lunch here at the store.
- It's gluten free.

martedì 8 settembre 2015


Entree - Lactose free - Can be gluten free (READ footnotes)

This is an enriched version of a recipe I posted last year, and I got that recipe from our FB friend Elisa. I just slightly changed that recipe, I really changed it this time; we had a cold front coming through the area and I was craving for something "fall"...

1 lb Italian farfalle (bowtie pasta)
1/2 onion, roughly chopped
2 sausage links, casing removed and crumbled
2 oz. Italian dried porcini mushrooms
3 tbsp Italian extra virgin olive oil
2 cups red dry wine
Parsley, freshly chopped.
Italian sea salt

Soak porcini for 20 minutes (a little longer if you live in an area with dry climate) in lukewarm water. Then remove from water, squeeze them a little and cut the bigger pieces. Carefully strain soaking water, to remove any dust, and set it aside (you'll need it for the sauce).

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

In the meantime, warm up olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and sautee sausage, mushrooms and onions for about 4-5 minutes, then add the reserved mushrooms' soaking water and let it simmer until it's almost all evaporated.

Now add wine and let it cook, over medium-low heat, until it thickens.

When water boils, add salt and pasta, stir constantly for about one minute and cook until al dente (stirring occasionally). Drain, reserving some of the water.

Transfer to the skillet with the sauce and toss on medium-high heat for about 2 minutes until well combined (if the sauce is too thick, add a few tbsp of the reserved water).

Serve immediately sprinkled with freshly chopped parsley.

This recipe serves 4.

- I didn't have any fresh parsley, so it doesn't show in the photos. Given the use of porcini, I HIGHLY suggest to avoid Parmigiano.
- I use bratwurst, because I don't like the fennel seeds too much.
- I used Pinot Noir, this time. Remember to use ONLY high quality ingredients and a good wine. You have very little ingredients and they need to be good, if you want to have a good dish.
- The reason why I suggest to stir pasta constantly for the first minute because that's the best way to prevent it from sticking, without adding oil in the water (it would prevent pasta from sticking, but that would happen to sauce, also)
- If the sauce doesn't thicken, add 1/2 tsp of corn starch dissolved in a little bit of cold liquid.
- It's lactose free. Can be gluten free, if you use gluten free pasta.
- You can find the other recipe, mentioned at the beginning, here.
- The original recipe from Elisa called for butter, instead of olive oil, and she blended the sauce in order to have a smoother texture (I love bits of onions)

lunedì 31 agosto 2015


Entree - vegetarian and lactose free

Asparagus, for me, mean Easter lunch and this is what I prepared for that lunch. Anyway, I love them and use them anytime I can get my hands on some... sometimes I buy them frozen. When you really love something, you do all you can to eat it as often as you can ;-)

For the dough:
200 grams Italian 00 flour (aprox 1 1/2 cup)
200 grams Italian semolina, milled twice (aprox 1 1/2 cup)
4 extra large eggs

For the sauce:
1 pound fresh asparagus
1/2 small onion, thinly sliced
Italian extra virgin olive oil
Grated zest of half lemon
2 tbsp freshly chopped parsley (optional)

To minimize cleaning arrange flour in a bowl, create a “well” in the middle and place eggs in it.

Working with a fork, mix flour and eggs enough to be able to transfer “crumbles” on a lightly floured surface without messing your kitchen too much.

Knead, until you obtain a smooth dough, at least 10 minutes: the time depends also on the quantity of pasta you're preparing.

Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and let it rest for 30 minutes at room temperature. Flour gets “stressed” when you knead it and if you don't allow it to rest, it will compromise the results.

While your dough rests, prepare the sauce.

Snap asparagus in two and put both pieces in the water. Cook to your desired doneness, then remove from water (which is where you'll cook pasta), and turn the heat off.

When asparagus is ready, cut it in pieces, leaving the tips a little longer. Scrape the "pulp" of the asparagus' bottom and blend it with some cooking water, enough to obtain a smooth cream.

On medium-high heat, warm olive oil in a non-stick skillet and sautee onions for about 5 minutes, then add asparagus pieces. When sauteed, deglaze pan with brandy and, once alcohol evaporates, add a few tbsp of the cooking water.

Stir in the asparagus cream and let cook a few minutes, or until it's at your desired thickness. Set aside.

Cover your working surface (usually I work on my table) with an old but clean tablecloth, one of those you won't use anymore.

Cut a slice from the dough and flatten it so that it will fit through the rollers of a hand-cranked pasta machine. Set rollers at widest setting, then feed pasta through rollers 3 or 4 times, folding and turning pasta until it's smooth.

Arrange the pasta sheet on the cloth and keep going until you set all pasta trhough the widest setting.

Roll pasta sheets through the machine, decreasing the setting, one notch at a time (do not fold or turn pasta), passing all sheets through the same notch before decreasing it, until you reach your desired thickness.

Let pasta dry for about 10 minutes, flipping it once.

Now feed your dough through the fettuccine attachment and spread them on the cloth, to allow a little more drying time.

Bring the water you used to cook asparagus back to a boil.

When water boils, add salt then your handmade fettuccine and stir immediately.

Pasta will cook in about 2-3 minutes, depending on the thickness. Pull it out of the cooking water and transfer it directly into the skillet with sauce, toss to coat on medium heat, adding a few tbsp of cooking water, if needed.

Serve immediately, sprinkled with the lemon zest (and/or freshly chopped parsley).

- As a rule of thumb, when preparing fresh pasta, you should consider 1 egg per person.
- Please, don't use parmigiano with this dish.
- You can use dried Italian egg fettuccine or pappardelle, adjusting cooking time!
- Remember that fresh pasta needs a thiner sauce, because it absorbs a lot.
- You can find the video on how to make the pasta here (it was presented with a different sauce).

lunedì 24 agosto 2015


Entree - Gluten and Lactose free

Vitello tonnato is a typical summer dish (I used pork loin, instead of veal, for taste and cost effectivness). In the video I mention capers packed in OIL, but the recipe calls for capers packed in SALT: sorry for the mistake. The original version is actually made with veal tenderloin & hard boiled eggs, NO mayo. You blend the tuna, capers, anchovy paste and yolks with the cooking juices to create the the tuna cream.

1 pork loin, in a single piece
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Warm broth
1 5oz-can Italian tuna in olive oil and drained
1 tbsp Sicilian capers, packed in salt and rinsed
1 tbsp Italian anchovy paste

Tie meat with butcher's string in order to retain its shape.

In a deep saucepan with lid (barely bigger than the meat piece), over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil and brown all sides of your meat. Add broth, cover with lid, lower heat to minimum and simmer for at least 1 hour; a longer cooking at low temperature will have a tender meat as result. Lightly season with salt, carefully because of the other ingredients.

Let meat cool down into the cooking juice.

Prepare the tuna sauce.

In a food processor combine tuna, capers, anchovy paste and mayonnaise. Blend until you obtain a smooth cream. You shouldn't need salt in this sauce, due to tuna, capers and anchovies. I used an immersion blender, actually, that works perfectly.

Thinly slice meat, not thicker than 1/8", and arrange slices on a serving platter, slightly overlapping them.

Cover with tuna sauce.

Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, covered with plastic wrap; this way, the meat will absorb the tuna sauce flavor.

Serve with a fresh green salad.

- You can use beef or pork tenderloin, as long as they're lean and tender
- You can use anchovy fillets instead of the paste. Not everyone likes them, beacuse they tend to remain a little "sandy" compared to the paste.
- You can use a mix of mayo and plain yogurt for a lighter sauce.
- You can cook the pork loin in milk, instead of broth, adding some sage and rosemary.
- It's lactose free and gluten free.
- You can find the video of this recipe here.

lunedì 17 agosto 2015


Dessert - Lactose free (READ notes below) and vegetarian

Another recipe from my sister! Yes, she is a big recipe sharer and warned me about the sweetness of this cake. That's why I made the changes in the foot notes. It's typical of Viareggio, a seaside town in Tuscany.

300 grams sugar (aprox. 1 1/2 cup)
300 grams zucchini (aprox. 2/3 lb.)
150 grams Italian 00 flour (aprox. 1 1/3 cup)
1/2 cup corn oil
2 extra large eggs
Confectioners' sugar
Milk Optional

Thinly slice zucchini and place them in a bowl.

In a big bowl, lighly beat eggs, vanilla and oil, then add sugar and sift flour in (you should always sift flour, regardless of what the bag says ;-) ). You may need a few tbsp of milk, in order to be able to mix all the ingedients and combine them evenly.

Then stir in the zucchini, making sure they are all coated with the thick batter (use more milk, if necessary).

Preheat oven to 380F.

Line a large baking dish with parchment paper (wet or oiled) then transfer the zucchini batter on top and level it evenly.

Bake on central rack until edges and top are golden; if edges are golden but top isn't, you might want to broil the cake for a few seconds.

Remove from oven, sprinkle with confectioners' sugar, then broil until it almost caramelize.

Let it cool down to room temperature before serving, sprinkled with some more confectioners' sugar.

This is for a 16" round pizza dish. It has to be a very thin cake.

- This cake is unbelievably sweet. When I made it, I cut the sugar almost by half (180 grams) and did not use confectioners' sugar... and it still was really really sweet!
- Next time, I'll try "shredding" the zucchini instead of slicing them: it may be easier to mix ingredients.
- Also, next time I'll lower sugar some more and, maybe, add a little more flour.
- If you need to use milk, but can't because of lactose intolerance, use a little cold water or part water and part oil.
- I would actually use lemon (or mixed citrus) Italian extra virgin olive oil, instead of corn one... it would add a lemony taste that goes very well with zucchini.
- Wait until it's at room temperature to cut and serve it: it will be easier to detach it from the parchment paper, to which it will stick anyway, given the amount of sugar.

lunedì 10 agosto 2015


Entree - Pasta - Gluten free

I love to cook pasta in the same water I cook vegetables. Whatever nutrients are lost in the water are, at least partly, absorbed by the pasta, not to mention the veggies flavor!!!

1 lb Gluten free penne
1 bunch fresh asparagus
7 oz ham
1 cup cream
Italian extra virgin olive oil
Italian sea salt
Freshly chopped parsley

Bring a large pot with water to a boil.

Snap asparagus in two and put both pieces in the water. Cook to your desired doneness, then remove from water (which is where you'll cook pasta).

In the meantime, dice ham and preprare the sauce. In a large non stick skillet, over medium heat, warm up a little oil, and briefly sautee diced ham (not longer than five minutes).

When asparagus is ready, cut it in pieces, leaving the tips a little longer and add to the ham, stir and cook 2-3 more minutes.

Stir in cream, season with salt and turn heat off.

Add salt to the water you cooked your asparagus in and cook pasta.

Drain when pasta is al dente and transfer to the skillet with sauce. Sautee for a couple minutes.

Serve sprinkled with chopped fresh parsley.

This recipe serves 4-6

- Use heavy whipping cream
- You can substitute cream with ricotta or cream cheese and milk.
- I used Garofalo Gluten free pasta made with corn, rice and quinoa flours.
- If you can find it, use Italian cooked ham otherwise Black forest.
- I generally use the "pulp" of the asparagus' bottom in soups or sauces, blended with some milk or cream.