lunedì 21 novembre 2016


Appetizer - Vegetarian

I love butternut squash and always look for different ways to prepare it; my friend Raffaella in Rome had this recipe and shared it with me. Next time, I'll try a sweet version... stay tuned!!!

7 oz (1 cup) finely minced butternut squash
1/3 cup Italian 00 flour
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano
3 eggs
1/2 tbsp freshly chopped parsley
lemon zest (about 1/2 lemon)
Extra virgin olive oil to fry

Lightly beat eggs, then add parmigiano, flour, lemon zest and parsley. Mix to combine and add the squash, stir until all ingredients are nicely combined. You should obtain a dense batter.

Bring extra virgin olive oil to frying temperature (if you don't have a thermometer and want to know if the oil is warm enough, just put a little piece of bread in it: is has to "rapidly" fry).

Spoon batter into the olive oil (not more than 3-4 fritters at a time), and flip them a first time as soon as they start getting solid. Then turn another couple of times until golden on both sides.

Lay them on paper towels to absorb excess oil.

Serve immediately.

This will make about 20 fritters, depending on size.

- I didn't put salt in it, even though my friend Raffaella likes it.
- Sprinkle with salt, if you like it, AFTER frying!
- You can find the video recipe here

lunedì 14 novembre 2016


Soup - Gluten and lactose free - Vegan/Vegetarian

I made this minestrone for a friend, who informed us she was rather ill and would have loved this dish, but didn't have energy to prepare it. So I decided to make it for her (and quite a decent amount) so she can freeze it and eat it whenever she feels like it. Cooking for a friend who's not well, fills your heart with peace and love and, hopefully, this will be ingrained in what you cook. At least, I like to believe that! Anyway, this is an amazing comfort food, perfect for the cold front coming our way!!!

1 14oz can Italian Cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 14oz can Italian Borlotti beans, drained and rinsed
1 14oz can Italian Chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 14oz can Italian San Marzano tomatoes, cut in pieces or roughly chopped
12 oz carrots, diced
12 oz peas, fresh & shelled or frozen
12 oz spinach, fresh or frozen
12 oz cauliflower florets
12 oz broccoli florets
12 oz green beans, cut in 1" pieces
1 bunch Tuscan kale, trimmed and cut into strips
2 celery stalks, cut in strips
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
2 medium onions, peeled and diced
2 sage leaves
1 rosemary sprig
Italian extra virgin olive oil
Italian sea salt

Tie herbs together with butcher string.

Once you have all your vegetables ready, arrange all them (except for beans ad chickpeas) and the herbs in a big saucepan with lid and cover them with water or vegetable broth.

When it boils, add some salt, cover with lid and let simmer until all veggies are soft.

At this point, add the beans and chickpeas and bring back to boil; taste and, in case it's needed, adjust with salt.

Lower to medium, cook for 10-15 more minutes and remove from heat.

Serve in individual bowls, drizzled with some very good Italian extra virgin olive oil.

Servings... undetermined!!

- In order to minimize prepping, use frozen veggies (when possible): they are as good, but will be ready to go, which is not a minor detail ;-)
- These quantities will produce a large amount of soup: freeze it!!! It will make the perfect "dinner ready in minutes" and will be MUCH better and healthier than canned soup.
- You can add other vegetables (Swiss chards, leeks, Savoy cabbage and much more); also, you add a Parmigiano rind, which will give a lot of flavor!
- This recipe is vegan/vegetarian, lactose and gluten free.

martedì 8 novembre 2016


Entree - Lactose and gluten free - Can be vegan/vegetarian (READ footnotes)

I bought some stir fry beef and wanted to briefly cook it with bell peppers, mushrooms and other vegetable I had in the fridge. Turned out that the meat was not tender as I would have liked it, so I turned the "stir fry" into a "stir stew" and served with polenta :) During winter time, it's a perfect meal (and a complete one!) to warm you up and satisfy you completely! It's the perfect comfort food!!

For the "stir stew":
1 lb stir fry beef
2 large carrots, cut in 1" pieces
2 celery stalks, cut in 1" pieces
1 large onion, cut in 1" cubes
2 bell peppers, cut in strips
8 oz mushrooms, quartered
1 medium potato, sliced
1 oz dried Italian porcini mushrooms
1 28-oz can Italian peeled San Marzano tomatoes
1/2 cup red wine
1 rosemary sprig
3 sage leaves
3 tbsp Italian extra virgin olive oil
Italian sea salt

For Polenta:
12 cups water
1 lb. Italian coarse polenta flour (bramata)
1 1/2 teaspoon Italian sea salt

First of all, start preparing your stir stew, which will cook for a longer time. Also, soak porcini in lukewarm water for 20 minutes.

In a large and deep saucepan with lid (better one with a heavy bottom), over medium high heat, warm the olive oil and sautee meat cubes stirring to try to get them golden on all sides.

Remove dried mushrooms, squeeze them and set aside; carefully strain water to remove impurities and save it.

Deglaze saucepan with red wine and let alcohol evaporate. Add the San Marzano tomatoes with their juice and the herbs, stir in the porcini mushrooms soaking water, lower heat to simmer, cover with the lid and cook for 1 1/2 hours at least, stirring occasionally.

At this point, add all the vegetables, stir and season with salt to taste. Cook until vegetables are soft.

While your stew cooks, prepare polenta: bring a large pot of water to a boil.

When the water boils, add salt and slowly add polenta flour in a thin stream, whisking; reduce heat to medium and cook for 2 minutes whisking frequently; reduce heat to low and cook for 40-45 minutes, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon.

Serve polenta together with "stir stew" either on a side or on top of it.

This recipe serves 4

- If you want a softer polenta, use a little more water; if you want it harder, use a little less water or cook it for a longer time, so that water will evaporate more: there is NO overcooked polenta ;-)
- If you have leftover polenta, you can slice them and make a "lasagna" with the slices to be used instead of pasta.
- It's gluten free and lactose free.
- If you want a vegan/vegetarian dish, just stew the vegetables and serve your polenta with them.

lunedì 31 ottobre 2016


Entree - Gluten and lactose free

I found that pork chops here are quite tender and don't need too much liquid to cook in, in order to stay so. This said... I do love meat (pork chops in this case) cooked in pizzaiola style and I love using the sauce for pasta: it ends up being perfectly flavored!

3 pork chops, about 1/2" thick (at room temperature)
1 14-oz can of Italian peeled San Marzano tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 cup Italian strained tomatoes
2 tbsp Italian black olive spread
1/3 cup red wine (I used Merlot)
3 Italian anchovy fillets in olive oil
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp wild Italian oregano
2 tbsp Italian extra virgin olive oil
Italian sea salt

For an even cooking, have your meat at room temperature.

In a big saucepan put olive oil, anchovies and garlic. Sautee them for a couple of minutes (there will be a lot of sputtering ;-) ), then, add tomatoes, stir in olive spread and cook for another couple of minutes.

Season with salt, if needed, and sprinkle with oregano.

Add wine and, as soon as the sauce starts boiling, add the chops too. Lower to medium heat and cover with a lid. Flip chops once during cooking. The cooking time depends on how thick the chops are.

Serve immediately with the sauce.

This recipe serves 3

- This sauce is also perfect for pasta, especially if you have too much (and I make a point on having more than it's actually needed for the meat ;-) ).
- You can add Italian capers packed in salt and rinsed, if you like them. Add them to the sauce together with olive spread.
- You can substitute olive spread with Italian dried black olives and anchovy fillets with 1 tbsp of anchovy paste.
- It's lactose and gluten free.
- You can find the video here

martedì 25 ottobre 2016


Soup or Entree - Vegan/vegetarian - Lactose free - Can be gluten free (READ footnotes)

Almost 15 years ago, I married a Tuscan man! Everyone in town was raving about ribollita and, not only, I had never prepared it... I never ever ate it!! So I went to the local "fruttivendola", Franca, (grocer that sells mainly, if not only, fruits and vegetables) and asked her "the ingredients for ribollita": she would do the rest, and this recipe is exactly what she taught me! I love this dish, both warm and at room temperature. As its summer counterpart Panzanella, Ribollita too is a dish "created" by Tuscan peasants 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. 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 simmer for about 30 minutes (ribollita means boiled twice), stirring and serve it drizzled with extra virgin olive oil. Bread should look almost like a cream.

These quantities will make enough ribollita for 6-8

- 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.
- 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. It makes a perfect office/school lunch .
- 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.

lunedì 17 ottobre 2016


Soup - Complete meal - Lactose free - Can be Gluten free and vegetarian (READ footnotes)

I was chatting with my great friend Renata, in Wisconsin, and the subject was... guess what... FOOD! She told me about a potato soup she like to prepare and she loves. I decided to try it, but I wanted something more in the soup, so I made it into a complete meal as you can read here below. Her original recipe will be in the footnotes!!

200 gr. potatoes (3 small - about 7oz)
1 jar Italian borlotti drained and rinsed
150 gr peas, frozen (about 1 cup)
3 big carrots, peeled and diced
220 gr small Italian pasta, like elbows (about 1/2 lb)
1 small onion
3 bacon slices, center cut
3 sage leaves
10-12 rosemary leaves
10-12 savory leaves
1 liter chicken stock, at least (about 4 cups)
Italian extra virgin olive oil
Italian sea salt

Bring the stock to a boil.

Peel the potatoes, cook them in the stock and, when they are soft, remove with a slotted spoon. In the same pot, cook carrots and peas until desired softness, remove from the stock and keep the latter warm.

In the meantime, chop onion and the herbs together and cut bacon in thin strips. Press potatoes through a ricer and set aside.

In a large saucepan, warm 1 tbsp of olive oil, add the onion/herbs mixture and bacon; sautee until onion becomes translucent. Stir in the riced potatoes, borlotti beans, carrots and peas. Add a couple ladles of stock and let cook for a couple minutes, so all flavors combine.

Add pasta and more stock, enough to cover it by about 1/2". If your sauce thickens too much, add chicken stock a ladle at a time, like you would do with risotto; season with sea salt, if needed.

Constantly stir this soup, while pasta cooks, so it won't stick to the bottom.

Serve drizzled with a little Italian extra virgin olive oil.

This recipe serve 4

- Renata's actual recipe!! Chop onion, carrot and celery and sautee with bacon, add the potatoes, diced, salt (pay attention to bacon!!), rosemary and bay leaves; cover with chicken stock and cook until soft.
- If you want to make it gluten free, use Italian GF spaghetti (like the ones we carry) and break them in 1" long pieces. For a vegetarian version, avoid bacon and chicken stock.
- It's lactose free.

martedì 11 ottobre 2016


Dessert - Vegetarian - Can be gluten free (READ footnotes)

These fritters are usually prepared during carnival time but you can really make them whenever you prefer; an Italian friend gave me this recipe and that I changed it a little bit ;-) I made it several times, in order to get the best result.

220 gr. Italian Carnaroli rice (about 1 cup)
500 ml. milk (2 cups)
1 orange, grated zest and juice
1 lemon, grated zest
50 gr. sugar (about 1/4 cup)
100 gr. Italian 00 flour (about 1 cup)
1 egg
50 gr. ricotta cheese (about 1/3 cup)
1 tsp salt
Italian extra virgin olive oil to fry

In a saucepan pour milk and bring to a boil; add salt and rice and cook until liquid is almost completely absorbed (about 20-25 minutes). Set aside to cool.

Once it is at room temperature, add sugar, both grated zests, the squeezed orange juice, the egg and the ricotta cheese, then add flour until you obtain a dense batter; if it's too dry, add a few tbsp of milk, if it's too thin, add some more flour.

Place a deep skillet with oil over medium-high heat.

When the oil is ready, start frying: spoon the mixture into the oil and fry until golden on both sides. Line on paper towel to absorb excess oil.

Serve cold or slightly warm, sprinkled with sugar (regular or confectioner's).

- I prefer to weigh ingredients and most of my recipes have weighed ingredients. I converted in cups, but it's an approximate measurement.
- When frying, don't put too much batter in the oil, or it will cool down too much. It's better to fry 5-6 fritters at a time.
- The amount of fritters this recipe will make, depends on how big you're making them.
- This recipe can be gluten free (use corn or potato starch or rice flour) but can't be lactose free. It is vegetarian.

lunedì 3 ottobre 2016


Side dish or appetizer - Vegetarian/vegan, lactose and gluten free

Bell peppers are still very good, flavorful and everywhere. I had a few in the refrigerator, so I decided to make one of my favorite dishes: peperonata! You need few ingredients, but of very good quality, and it's very easy to prepare; I forgot to add the parsley, so you won't see it in the picture... Have fun!

3 big bell peppers (same colors or assorted ones - no green peppers)
1 big onion, cut in wedges
1 14-oz can Italian San Marzano tomatoes, pureed
1 tbsp capers, packed in salt and rinsed
2 tbsp Italian extra virgin olive oil
Italian sea salt
Fresh chopped parsley.

Wash bell pepper, halve them and remove seeds and inner white ribbings, then slice them.

In a large saucepan with lid, over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. When ready add onions and sautee a couple of minutes, then add bell peppers slices and stir. Sautee, on medium heat, for about 3-4 minutes.

Then add capers to the peppers and stir in tomatoes. Season with salt. Cover with lid and lower heat to low.

Cook about 25-30 minutes, or until pepper are soft.

Stir in chopped fresh parsley and serve immediately.

This recipe serves 4.

- If you don't rinse capers, wait until the end of cooking time to season with salt.
- You can add a few Italian dried black olives to your peperonata (when you add the capers): again, watch the content in salt...
- You may need a few tbsp of warm vegetable broth, if the peperonata is too thick.
- This recipe is gluten and lactose free, vegetarian and vegan.
- You can find a video for this recipe here

lunedì 26 settembre 2016


Entree - Can be Gluten free (READ footnotes)

I was scrolling down posts in a Facebook group I belong to (a lot of Italian women around the word sharing recipes and suggestions). I stumbled upon a photo of a dish made and posted by Angela and, thinking I had all the ingredients, I planned to fix it for dinner. It turned out I didn't have have a couple of them, so I made some substitutions. Check the footnotes for the original ingredients. THANKS ANGELA!

1 lb Italian penne pasta
2 cups frozen peas & carrots
1 small onion
3 oz Italian speck
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 tbsp Italian extra virgin olive oil
Italian coarse sea salt

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

In the meantime, thinly slice the onion and cut speck in strips.

In a large non-stick skillet warm the olive oil and sautee onion until lightly golden, add speck and sautee just about a minute. Stir in cream, let it warm up and remove from heat.

When water boils, add salt and frozen vegetables; cover with lid and bring to a boil again; now add pasta, stirring for the first couple of minutes, so pasta won't stick.

Once pasta is al dente, turn the heat on again under the skillet, drain pasta and transfer to the sauce; sautee, tossing to coat evenly.

Serve immediately sprinkled with some good grated Parmigiano, if desired.

Serves 4-5

- Angela's original recipe called for shallot and fresh peas, no carrots. I didn't have shallot so I used onion. I also used the mixed frozen peas and carrots, you can use fresh ones without big issues, just remember to adjust cooking times accordingly.
- Speck is a cured cold cut, similar to Prosciutto, but with it's smoked. I find it hard to substitute, honestly...
- To make it gluten free, use a good quality GF Italian pasta, like the one we carry.

lunedì 19 settembre 2016


Appetizer or salad - Vegan/vegetarian, lactose and gluten free.

I believe beans are very good, in many meanings ;-) I always make a bean salad when we have friends over for lunch or dinner and everyone appreciates. This is a basic recipe: you can add thinly sliced onions, if you like it, or other vegetables. It can also be served mixed with farro and some vegetables, making it a complete and healthy meal.

1 14-oz can Italian cannellini beans
1 14-oz can Italian borlotti beans
4 tbsp Italian extra virgin olive oil
Italian sea salt
3 sage leaves
savory leaves
rosemary leaves
1 garlic clove

First prepare the dressing. Halve garlic, finely chop rosemary, savory and sage and infuse them in olive oil, for at least 30 minutes: this will give the olive oil enough time to absorb all the flavors.

Drain and rinse the beans. Discard garlic from dressing.

Put about a tbsp of dressing on the bottom of a serving bowl, then add the beans and the remaining dressing.

Stir well so all ingredients combine nicely.

Refrigerate until serving, it's better if prepared a few hours to one day ahead of serving.

It serves 4 to 8 people, depending on what will be served with it.

And here with farro and vegetables

- It can be used as a salad or an appetizer.
- It is VERY important to rinse canned beans: this way you'll rinse some salt away and reduce your sodium intake.
- If you don't mind garlic pieces, chop it finely together with the herbs.
- It is vegetarian, vegan, lactose and gluten free.
- Given the fact that this is a dish made with few ingredients, it's imperative that their quality is very high. We DO sell the ingredients to prepare this salad (except for herbs and garlic).

lunedì 12 settembre 2016


Entree - Lactose and gluten free

We love salmon and had thawed some fillets, then I decided I didn't want to prepare it as usual and open the fridge: pulled out onion, zucchini and yellow bell pepper and decided to make skewers. I didn't want to fire a bbq for just 4 skewers so I cooked them on a cast iron griddle on the gas stove. I topped it with an Italian "salsa verde" and you'll find its recipe below.

For the skewers:
1 lb Salmon fillets
1 medium zucchini
1 medium onion
1 yellow (or whatever color you prefer) bell pepper
1 lemon, juice only

For the Italian salsa verde:
1 bunch Italian parsley
2 tbsp Italian capers, packed in salt and rinsed
3 Italian anchovy fillets in oil
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
Italian extra virgin olive oil

Cut salmon fillets in cubes about 1" thick, consider 4 cubes per skewer. Put the cubes in a bowl and marinate with the lemon juice, until it's time to use them.

Cut bell pepper and onion in squares and zucchini in rounds.

Skewer the salmon cubes alternating with vegetables, brush with a little olive oil and cook them until salmon reaches your desired doneness.

In the meantime, prepare the salsa verde: wash parsley, remove the leaves and arrange them in a blender with garlic, capers and anchovy fillets. Blend, adding oil in a thin stream, until you obtain the consistency of pesto.

I cooked them on a cast iron griddle, loosely covered by a foil sheet.

Serve them with fresh vegetables, in our case julienned carrots, dressed with Italian extra virgin olive oil, Italian balsamic glaze and Italian sea salt.

This recipe should serve 4 (depending on how big you cut your salmon ;-) ).

- You can bbq your skewers or bake them; I partly cooked the vegetables so that they would cook in the same time it took salmon, which cooks quickly.
- You can keep this salsa verde refrigerated (in a closed glass jar), covered with a thin layer of olive oil, for weeks.
- This sauce is great with boiled (or grilled) meat, fish, eggs... all ingredients that can complement your dish. You can also use it to toss pasta with, exactly like a traditional pesto.
- You can use anchovy paste (2 tsp) instead of the fillets, if you want. The quantities of the ingredients can be adjusted to your taste.

mercoledì 7 settembre 2016


Appetizer or Entree or Complete meal - Lactose free - Can be gluten free and vegetarian/vegan (READ footnotes) 

We love tomatoes; we love farro too, which is richer in fibers and protein than rice and with a distinct nutty flavor that goes perfectly with lots of dishes... I combined the things. Read the footnotes so you'll have vegetarian/vegan substitutions, if needed.

4 big tomatoes, ripe but firm
2 cups Italian farro, cooked and cold
1 can Italian tuna packed in olive oil
1/2 red onion
Italian sea salt

Cut the top of the tomatoes, empty the tomatoes and keep both the pulp and the top, sprinkle with a little salt and arrange on a colander upside down, to drain water.

Drain tuna from its oil and crumble it; reserve the oil. Dice the tomato pulp.

Thinly slice onions and place them in a big bowl, then add farro, onions and the tomato pulp; season with salt and the tuna oil. Toss to combine evenly.

Stuff tomatoes with the mixture, cover with the tomato "lid" and refrigerate until it's time to serve.

This recipe serves 4 (as long as tomatoes are big enough)

- You can add some freshly chopped (or dried) parsley to the farro mixture.
- You can prepare the tomatoes one day in advance and keep them in an airtight container.
- It's great in a mixed appetizer, if small, or also as entree.
- If you have too much stuffing, serve it by the tomato's side.
- Try to get Italian tuna (like the Tonnino we have in stock): it's of a higher quality and comes in chunks of fillets!
- It's lactose free and can be gluten free, provided that you use rice instead of farro which, being a grain, contains gluten.
- It can be vegetarian/vegan if you replace tuna withe Italian cannellini or borlotti beans. Dress the farro mixture with a high quality Italian extra virgin olive oil.

lunedì 29 agosto 2016


Complete meal - Can be lactose and gluten free, and vegetarian (READ footnotes)

Here we go with another recipe. Given the abundance of summer produce (and if you grow your own zucchini, you know WHAT I'm talking about ;-) ), I wanted to prepare them differently than usual, even just to change flavor a little... so here come cutlets! As said, they can be lactose & gluten free and also vegetarian!! Have fun!!

For the cutlets:
1 lb chicken breast, thinly sliced (about 1/8" thick)
2 medium eggplant, sliced lengthwise (about 1/8" thick)
2 zucchini, sliced lengthwise (about 1/8" thick)
3 eggs
1/4 cup milk
Italian 00 flour
Breadcrumbs (NOT seasoned or flavored)
Italian sea salt

To complement (optional):
1 28-oz can Italian San Marzano peeled tomatoes, with their sauce, roughly chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 cup Italian dried black olives
2 tbsp Italian capers, packed in salt and rinsed
2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

Italian extra virgin olive oil

First of all, prepare your sauce. In a saucepan over medium-high heat warm 2 tbsp olive oil and sautee onion, carrot and celery, until onion becomes translucent.

Add tomatoes, capers and olives and lower heat to simmer, cover with lid and simmer for at least 15-20 minutes; stir herbs in and cook 5 more minutes.

In the meantime, prepare the cutlets.

Lightly beat eggs with a pinch of salt and milk.

Dredge chicken breast in flour, then eggs, then breadcrumbs, pressing with your hand so that breadcrumbs stick firmly to your meat. Repeat with all meat slices, then vegetable slices.

Warm up enough olive oil to fry.

Fry all your cutlets (few at a time), turning them in order to get golden on both sides.

Transfer on paper towel to absorb excess oil.

Serve immediately, with the sauce on a side and mixed salad.

Serving depends on size of slices.


Zucchini (quite large ;-) )

Chicken tenders

- You can add marinated artichoke hearts to your sauce.
- DON'T sprinkle with salt while frying or you won't have a crisp cutlet.
- If you use chicken tenders, you don't need to cut them thinner.
- If you don't want to prepare your sauce, you can use a very good pre-made one like the Pomodorina we carry: you'll only have to add capers and olives.
- It can be lactose free, in case you use an extra egg and no milk; it can also be gluten free as long as you use GF breadcrumbs.
- For a vegetarian meal, avoid chicken breast.

lunedì 22 agosto 2016


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

This recipe is the original from Amatrice, town in Rieti province (not far from Rome) and should be prepared with guanciale (cured pork cheek). I've never been able to find it here in the U.S. so I prepared it with bacon this time. I know I should look for pancetta but I haven't been too lucky to find the one I actually want (the one in this photo of a previous time is the rolled one, then diced at the source: the actual pancetta should be flat); I was lucky to find a very good bacon, not overly smoked and quite lean, actually. It was labeled as "center cut", I don't know if it's the same for every brand. You should us bucatini, to make this recipe, but I left them at our store so I made it with linguine... truly good, overall!

1 lb Italian Linguine
6 oz bacon, center cut, diced
1 14-oz can Italian peeled San Marzano tomatoes, roughly chopped, with their sauce
4 tbsp pecorino romano, grated
1 pinch hot pepper flakes
1/4 cup dry white wine
Italian sea salt

Bring a big pot (better taller than wider) with water to a boil.

In the meantime put a big saucepan on high heat and sautee the bacon with hot pepper flakes for about 2 minutes, than add wine and let the alcohol evaporate.

Add tomatoes, lower the heat to medium, cover with a lid and cook for about 10 more minutes.

When the water boils, add salt (Italian coarse sea salt is better, because you'll use less) and pasta; cook for 8-10 minutes.

Drain pasta and reserve a few tablespoons of the cooking water; toss the pasta in the skillet with the sauce and sautee for a couple minutes. If the sauce is too thick, add some of the reserved cooking water. You can also take it out of the water as I do in the video, and transfer directly into the saucepan: this way, most likely, there will be enough humidity on the pasta.

Serve sprinkled with grated pecorino romano.

This recipe serves 4-5 people.



- As said in the introduction, pasta should be bucatini, same one I used in the video.
- Instead of Italian San Marzano tomatoes, I used a canned Italian sauce that is outstanding. It's called Pomodorina and it's worth every penny... Try it, if you can find it in a store near you.
- As said, preferably use pancetta, if you find it easily.
- I like onion, so I added 1/4 cup of roughly chopped onions, that I sauteed with pancetta and hot pepper flakes at the beginning (don't tell purists or they'll kill me ;-)).
- In case your pancetta or bacon is not too fat, use 1 tbsp Italian extra virgin olive oil, I did it
- Always cook pasta al dente, NEVER overcook it: it will raise your blood sugars more and it will be more difficult to digest.
- If you don't like pecorino, you can use Parmigiano reggiano (even though the purists will not like it ;-))
- You can make it Gluten free using GF spaghetti (good quality one, like the ones we carry) and lactose free by simply avoiding pecorino.
- You can see our video here (the one made with pancetta and bucatini)

lunedì 15 agosto 2016

MOZZARELLA IN CARROZZA (fried mozzarella sandwich)

Appetizer or Entree - Can be vegetarian and gluten free (READ footnotes)

I had not made this dish in 3-4 years, at least. Then I saw a picture on Facebook and decided to prepare it that Sunday... ehm... it was a Monday, of 2 weeks later! Nonetheless, I prepared it and it was as good as I remembered. It was part of an "all-fried" meal: zucchini, eggplant, chicken fillets, zucchini blossoms... and NO, we didn't eat everything in one meal: there was enough food for 2 meals at least. Check the foot notes, as usual, for potential substitutions and suggestions.

8 oz "dry" mozzarella (the drier one used for pizza)
4/8 ham slices (depending on size)
16 slices of sandwich bread (wheat, white, or the one you prefer)
2 eggs
1 cup of milk
Not flavored/seasoned breadcrumbs
Italian sea salt
Italian extra virgin olive oil to fry

Slice the mozzarella into 8 slices; divide each Ham slice in two, if you got the big slices; remove the crust from the bread slices.

Beat the eggs in a bowl with milk, salt and pepper (if you like it).

Make the sandwiches with 1 slice of mozzarella and 1 piece of ham, making sure to leave edges free of ham/cheese so that the bread slices will be in contact.

Dip them in the eggs/milk mixture and let the bread soak. Press it very well to make sure the sandwich will not open while cooking.

Place the sandwiches in the bread crumbs and let them stick on both sides.

Warm up olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.

Fry the sandwiches, turning them once only if possible, until they golden on both sides.

Serve immediately with a nice salad or other vegetables.

- If there is some eggs mixture left, don't throw it away: refrigerate it and use it to make an omelette. CAREFUL!! Make sure to use it the day after at latest: it won't keep long, even in the refrigerator.
- You may need to adjust the size of the ham slices to reflect the size of the "de-crusted" bread.
- I use the "pizza" mozzarella just because the fresh one, even though tastier, could be too wet. In case you want to use that, slice it and let it lose some of its moisture, patting the slices dry, if needed.
- You can easily make it gluten free, using GF bread slices and breadcrumbs.
- It's vegetarian, provided that you don't use ham.

lunedì 8 agosto 2016


Entree - Gluten free - Can be vegetarian (READ footnotes)

Since I had a backache for a few days, I could not check our zucchini plants accurately and I knew that I would have found at least one oversize zucchini. Yesterday I noticed the smaller one and thought "darn, a baseball bat! I knew it would have happened"... while harvesting it, I noticed the monster!!!!!!!!!! So then came the question... how do I fix the monster?? I opened the refrigerator and pulled out some homemade ricotta, some salame and parmigiano; went to the garden and grabbed some fresh parsley; got some tomato sauce and..... By the way... zucchini weight is in grams, for those of you not used to that system, it's 1.53lbs and 3.55lbs!!!

4 zucchini
1 container ricotta cheese, well drained
4 oz salami, diced
1/2 cup Parmigiano, grated
1 1/2 cup Italian tomato sauce
1-2 tbsp parsley, chopped
Italian sea salt

Cut zucchini in half, lengthwise, then remove its pulp and set it aside.

In a big bowl mix ricotta, salami, parmigiano, parsley and season with salt. Pay attention to the amount of salt, since you have salami and parmigiano.

Stuff your zucchini with this mixture.

Put a large saucepan with lid on medium-high heat and warm up the tomato sauce, arrange the zucchini in it and cook them, over medium heat cover with a lid, until they are soft.

This recipe serves 4.

- You can chop and sautee the pulp in olive oil with a little bit of onion, chopped as well. Let it cool down and add to the ricotta stuffing. Otherwise, as I did, you can freeze it and use it for soups in winter, when it's so hard to find some good ones (even because it's not their season ;-) )- As pasta sauce, I used Pomodorina, a ready to go sauce that we carry and is very very good!!
- You can cook them in the oven, too, if you like it.
- You can eat them at room temperature, too.
- You can freeze them, once cooked, and warm them in the microwave or in the oven, when needed.
- You can prepare them in advance and cook them when you need them; in this case you have to keep them refrigerated for not more than one day (because of the ricotta, that's very delicate) or freeze them.
- It's gluten free and, if salami is left out, it's vegetarian.

lunedì 1 agosto 2016


Dessert - Vegetarian - Can be lactose free (READ footnotes)

Last week Rita, a friend from Italy, and her family landed to leave a year here in Reno. So, since she landed on her birthday, we decided that cooking for her (them, actually) could have been a nice present. Given the heatwave in Reno, I prepared panzanella (video), tuna stuffed eggs (video), mixed vegetables from our garden (video), salad from our garden, cheese, salami, olives, bread and, of course, dessert: everything was cold. The mixed veggies and the panzanella were prepared the day before, as well as the dessert which, like tiramisu`, needed to be prepared the day before. Click on the links to see the recipes of the other dishes.

2/5 package ladyfingers (about 24 ladyfingers)
1 big ripe peach
Juice of 1 lemon
Red fruit juice
3 oz crunchy Italian amaretti cookies

For the custard:
3 eggs
3 spoons full of sugar
3 spoons full of Italian 00 flour
1/2 cup limoncello
2 1/2 cup milk
grated zest of 1 lemon

First of all, prepare the custard. Warm up milk with limoncello.

In a saucepan, mix sugar, flour and lemon zest, then add eggs and whisk to prevent lumps.

On medium heat add the warm milk/limoncello in a thin stream, mixing and bring to boil, whisking continuously.

It will take about 5-8 minutes (the warmer the milk, the quicker the cooking).

Never stop stirring, otherwise your custard will stick to the bottom and burn, giving it an unpleasant taste. Sprinkle a little sugar on top, so it won't form the "film" on top of your custard; let it cool down to room temperature.

Peel peach and cut it in small pieces, mix with lemon juice and set aside.

Crumble amaretti cookies.

When custard is at room temperature, drain peaches from juice and add to the custard.

Quickly dip ladyfingers in the juice, and line the bottom of an 8"x8" deep serving dish; pour half of the custard; repeat with ladyfingers and custard.

Cover with lid, if there is one, or plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Just before serving, sprinkle with the crumbled amaretti.

(and the rest of the meal ;-) )

- I used Alchermes, a deep red dessert liqueur (diluted with some milk) to dip ladyfingers. You can also use diluted pomegranate (or grenadine) syrup to dip them.
- As said, this dessert needs to be prepared the day before, so ladyfingers will soften.
- If you use a non-dairy milk, it will be lactose free, as long as you use dairy-free amaretti and ladyfingers (like the ones we sell).
- It is vegetarian.
- The mixed vegetables recipe linked above has a few more ingredients, but the process is exactly the same

lunedì 25 luglio 2016


Dessert - Vegetarian

I love crostata and prepare it in many ways. I got the idea of the limoncello custard by my Facebook friend Ada Tiso; I generally use regular custard but, since we were all adults and this custard intrigued me, I decided to try it (the fact that I love limoncello is NOT a secondary detail ;-) ); I only changed the way to measure the ingredients from the recipe she passed on me to the on I was more familiar with. This dessert is not super sweet, you can adjust the quantity of sugar to your liking. Just, as I always say, please try the original one the first time and taste it. To measure flour and sugar for the custard I use a soup spoon, NOT a measuring one!!

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

For the custard:
2 eggs
2 spoons full of sugar
2 spoons full of Italian 00 flour
1/5 cup limoncello
1 4/5 cup milk
grated zest of 1 lemon

Fresh fruit and gelatin to brush
Cheap dried beans

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.

Prepare the custard. Warm up milk with limoncello.

In a saucepan, mix sugar, flour and lemon zest, then add eggs and whisk to prevent lumps.

On medium heat add the warm milk/limoncello in a thin stream, mixing and bring to boil, whisking continuously.

It will take about 5-8 minutes (the warmer the milk, the quicker the cooking).

Never stop stirring, otherwise your custard will stick to the bottom and burn, giving it an unpleasant taste. Sprinkle a little sugar on top, so it won't form the "film" on top of your custard; let it cool down to room temperature.

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

Take the dough out of the fridge and roll it out, over a flour-dusted table about 1/4" thick.

Preheat oven to 375.

Put it in the pan, poke it with a fork and cover with parchment paper. Top paper with dried beans.

Bake on the central rack for 20-25 minutes; remove beans and paper then bake for 10-15 more minutes, until lightly golden on the edges.

Pour custard in the tart shell and top with your favorite fresh fruit; brush with gelatin then refrigerate 3-4 hours.

- 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.
- The beans are used as weight to avoid dough to be lifted by steam bubbles and keep it flat.
- Once you remove the beans, let them cool down and store in a ziplock bag: you won't be able to use them anymore for soups, but you can use them endless times for the same purpose.
- For a more yellow custard, use 1 egg and 2 yolks.
- Make sure to check the fruit you use: some won't make your gelatin set. I used peaches, apricots, banana, strawberry
- You can see here how to prepare the dough.

lunedì 18 luglio 2016


Salad - Entree - Lactose and gluten free - Can be vegetarian/vegan (READ footnotes)

Summer: the salad season!! I love salads in any way, and I play with them. This time I found fennel bulbs that were worthy of their name!!! We grow our own lettuce and arugula, the latter was peppery beyond belief, which made it perfect for the dish!! Then I added a protein source (read footnotes for vegetarian substitutions).

1 carrot
1 celery stalk
1/2 fennel bulb
1 big cucumber
2 ripe tomatoes
1 can Italian tuna in olive oil
Italian extra virgin olive oil
Italian balsamic vinegar
Italian sea salt

Wash carefully lettuce and arugola; if you're using romaine (or similar) break leaves in smaller pieces.

Thinly slice, with a mandoline, fennel and carrot; peel and slice the cucumber; slice tomatoes and celery stalk (a little thicker than the other veggies).

Arrange all vegetables in a big bowl. Drain tuna from its oil and crumble it into the salad bowl.

In a small bowl put salt and balsamic vinegar and stir until salt dissolves, then add the olive oil and whisk until foamy. Drizzle over your salad, mix well to coat and serve.

Serves 2 people

- I didn't put quantity of lettuce and arugula because I didn't measure. I love them, especially if home-grown, therefore there was a lot of them.
- I forgot to add onions: they would have been amazing in this salad.
- I always peel cucumbers; if you use pickling ones, consider at least 3 of them and it's up to you to peel them or not.
- This recipe can be vegetarian/vegan provided that you substitute tuna with hard boiled eggs or cheese or beans or chickpas (the latter ones being the perfect substitutions to obtain a vegan recipe)
- It's lactose and gluten free.

lunedì 11 luglio 2016


Appetizer & side dish - Vegetarian/vegan, lactose and gluten free

We had friends for lunch, Sunday, and I wanted to serve a vegetable dish, instead of the usual salad. I had just bought some bell peppers and wanted to make something with them (along with the panzanella - written and video recipes - and the handmade pici with Italian porcini mushrooms - written and video recipes with a different sauce -). It is a perfect Summer dish, that can be eaten at room temperature or cold. You can have it as an appetizer or a side dish; you can heat it up and  toss it over some pasta, or use it cold mixing it with some short pasta for a wonderful pasta salad!!! We closed the meal with a crostata with fresh fruit and limoncello cream (next week's recipe ;-) ).

3 bell peppers (yellow, red and orange)
1 medium onion
4-6 sundried tomatoes halves, packed in oil
10-12 Italian green olives
1 tbsp Italian capers, packed in salt and rinsed
Italian sea salt
Freshly chopped parsley, optional

Wash bell peppers, halve them and remove seed and white inner ribbings; cut them in 1" pieces; peel and cut onions about the same size.

Warm 4-5 tbsp of the sundried tomatoes' oil in a non-stick skillet with lid; add onions and, once they start turning translucent, add bell peppers. Sautee for a couple of minutes, then add olives, capers and sundried tomatoes; season with some sea salt, lower to medium-low heat and cook for about 20 minutes covered with the lid.

Serve, sprinkled with fresh chopped parsley, if you like.

- The servings of this dish depend on its use.
- The natural liquid contained by the vegetables and the steam produced by the cooking, and retained by the lid, should be enough to cook your vegetables; in case it's not, just add a few tbsp of water and it will do the trick.
- It's vegetarian/vegan, lactose and gluten free!

martedì 5 luglio 2016


Entree - Gluten and lactose free

Vitello tonnato is a typical summer dish made with veal tenderloin; I never use veal (and I never used it Italy, also) because pork loin is as tender, but more flavorful and cheaper! 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.

Once meat is cooked, let it 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.

- It's very important that your ingredients are top quality!
- You can actually prepare it the day before: it will be even tastier.
- You can use anchovy fillets instead of the paste. Not everyone likes them, because 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, or plain yogurt and hard boiled egg yolks.
- 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.

martedì 28 giugno 2016


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

It's a perfect appetizer, easy and quick to prepare. It is always successful and, not requiring any cooking (except for the bread toasting) it's perfect for summertime temperatures.

Italian artisan bread
1 cup Italian mixed mushrooms, packed in oil and drained
1 cup Italian artichokes with stems, packed in oil and drained

Slice bread at your desired thickness (not more than 3/4" though) and toast until lightly golden.

In a bowl, transfer mushrooms and 2-3 tbsp of mayonnaise and blend with an immersion blender to your desired chunkiness ;-)

Repeat with artichokes, but cut them in pieces, first :-)

Spread on the bread slices and refrigerate until ready to serve.

- This is a super easy recipe, no cooking required, only a toaster!
- Best breads for this recipe are Italian round, ciabatta and Pugliese.
- It's vegetarian and lactose free. Use a gluten free bread of equal texture, for the gluten free version.
- You can make it vegan by not using mayonnaise and blending the veggies with part of their preserving oil and vegetable broth.