Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Cheese Stuffed Bread Round

This easy appetizer will make your guests think you're a gourmet cook!

* 1 round loaf of Italian bread, about 6 inches in diameter
* 1 cup coarsely shredded Mozzarella cheese
* 3/4 cup Ricotta cheese
* 1 small green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped fine
* 1 small red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped fine
* 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
* 1 tsp ground cumin
* 1/2 tsp garlic powder
* 1/4 tsp salt
* 1/4 tsp pepper


1. Place oven rack in middle position in oven, and place a second rack in next lowest position, preheat oven to 400F. Slice 1 inch off the top of the loaf, and set it aside. Scoop out the center of the bread, leaving a 1/2 inch shell, set aside. Cut the scooped out bread into 1 and 1/2 inch cubes.
2. Combine Mozzarella and Ricotta cheeses, green and red peppers, Parmesan, cumin, garlic powder, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Spoon the mixture into the bread shell and replace the top. Wrap bread snugly in foil, then place on an ungreased baking sheet and bake for 1 hour on middle oven rack.
3. Spread the bread cubes on an ungreased baking sheet, place on lower rack, and bake, uncovered, until crisp and golden - about 10 minutes.
4. Carefully remove the foil, lift off the top, and stir the cheese mixture until creamy. Replace top, tilting it slightly to the side, and place loaf on serving platter. Surround with bread cubes for dipping. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Eggplant and Olive Pasta Sauce

This sauce is perfect for those times when you are in hurry, but still want to serve a tasty meal. Goes especially well when served over Penne or Ziti pastas.

* 6 Tbl extra virgin olive oil
* 1 small eggplant (about 1 lb) trimmed, peeled, and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
* 1 small (6 oz) can tomato paste
* 1/4 cup chopped green olives
* 1 Tbl capers, rinsed and drained
* 1 Tbl fresh basil, chopped
* 1 Tbl fresh parsley, chopped
* 2 tsp red wine vinegar
* 1/2 tsp salt
* black pepper to taste
* pinch of sugar


1. Heat 4 Tbl olive oil in large skillet over medium high heat, add eggplant. Saute, stirring constantly, until eggplant is tender and browned, about 10 minutes. Drain on paper towels.
2. Add remaining 2 Tbl oil to skillet. Stir in eggplant, tomato paste, olives, capers, basil, parsley, vinegar, salt, pepper, and sugar. Cover and summer 5 minutes. Toss hot pasta with sauce and serve immediately.

Spaghetti Alla Carbonara

This quick and easy recipe makes the Italian classic simple enough for even beginner cooks.

* 2 Tbl extra virgin olive oil
* 2 Tbl butter
* 4 oz pancetta, or 6 slices regular bacon, cut into 1/4" dice
* 1 lb spaghetti
* 5 eggs, well beaten
* 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese
* black pepper, to taste


1. Heat oil and butter in skillet, add pancetta or bacon, saute until golden, lift from pan with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
2. Cook pasta in plenty of boiling salted water until al dente (firm to the bite), about 10 minutes. Drian
3. Bet the eggs, 1/4 cup cheese, and pepper in a large bowl. Add pasta and toos well. Sprinkle pancetta or bacon on top with remaining 1/4 cup of cheese.

Elbows with Four Cheeses

This cheesy main dish is quick and easy - the kids will love it, too!

* 4 Tbl butter
* 1 garlic clove
* 15 oz Ricotta cheese
* 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
* 2 Tbl freshly grated Romano cheese
* 2 Tbl chopped fresh parsley
* 2 Tbl copped fresh basil
* 1/4 tsp nutmeg
* 2 cups elbow macaroni
* 1 cup Shredded Mozzarella cheese


1. Heat butter in medium skillet, add garlic, saute 1 minute. Stir in Ricotta, Parmesan, Romano, parsley,basil, and nutmeg. Cook, stirring, over low heat,, until heated through. Let stand on very low heat to keep warm. Cook elbows in plenty of boiling salted water until al dente (firm to the bite), about 12 minutes. Drain.
2. In large serving bowl, fold elbows with Ricotta mixture and Mozzarella cheese until well blended. Serve immediately.

Fresh Tomato Sauce with Ricotta

This quick and easy sauce goes especially well served over Rigatoni, Penne, or ridged Ziti pastas.

* 2 Tbl extra virgin olive oil
* 1 garlic clove, crushed
* 1 and 1/2 cups chopped fresh ripe tomatoes (about 1 lb)
* 2 Tbl chopped fresh basil
* 1 Tbl chopped fresh parsley
* 1/4 tsp dried oregano
* 1/8 tsp dried thyme
* 1 cup Ricotta cheese
* salt and pepper to taste
* freshly grated Parmesan cheese


1. Heat oil in medium skillet over low heat, stir in garlic, saute ! minute. Add tomatoes. Simmer, uncovered, until mixture boils and begins to thicken, about 10 minutes. Add basil, parsley, oregano, and thyme; whisk in Ricotta cheese until blended well. Heat, stirring, about ! minute. Add salt and pepper to taste,. Toss with hot pasta, serve with Parmesan cheese.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Beef and Spaghetti Surprise

This is a great way to use up that leftover cooked pasta.

  • 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing

  • 2 medium sized eggplants

  • 3/4 lb ground beef

  • 1 small onion, chopped

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced

  • 2 Tbl tomato paste

  • 1 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes

  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano

  • 1/2 cup sliced black olives

  • 1 bell pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped

  • 6-8 oz cooked spaghetti

  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan (or use Roman cheese for a little stronger flavor)

  • salt and pepper to taste

  • fresh parsley sprigs, for garnish

  1. Brush an 8 inch round cake pan with oil.

  2. Slice eggplants into 1/2 inch slices. Heat a little oil in skillet over medium heat, and fry eggplant slices for 3-4 minutes or until browned on both sides. Do this in batches, do not crowd slices. Drain on paper towels.

  3. Put ground beef, onion, and garlic in saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until beef is browned. Add tomato paste, tomatoes, Worcestershire, oregano, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Add olives and bell pepper and cook for an additional 10 minutes.

  4. Add meat mixture to the cooked spaghetti, add cheese, and toss well.

  5. Arrange eggplant slices on the bottom, and around the sides of the cake pan. Add spaghetti, press down firmly, and cover the top with the rest of the eggplant. Bake in 400F oven for 40 minutes. Remove from oven, and let rest for 5 minutes, then invert onto a serving platter. Garnish with parsley sprigs and serve.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Pasta and mussels Sauce

  • 14 oz shell pasta

  • 1 Tbl extra virgin olive oil

  • Sauce

  • 6 pints mussels, scrubbed

  • 1 cup dry white wine

  • 1/2 cup butter

  • 6 large garlic cloves, chopped fine

  • 5 Tbl chopped fresh parsley

  • 1 and 1/4 cups heavy cream

  • salt and pepper to taste

  1. Pull the beards off the mussels and rinse well in several changes of cold water. Discard any mussels that do not close when sharply tapped. Put mussels in large pan with the white wine. Cover pan, shake well, and cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes until mussels open.

  2. Remove pan from heat, lift out mussels with slotted spoon, reserving liquid, and set aside until they are cool enough to handle. Discard any mussels that have not opened.

  3. Melt butter in pan over medium heat, stir in garlic, and cook for 1 minute. Gradually pour in reserved liquid, stirring to blend well. Stir in parsley and cream. Season to taste and bring to a simmer.

  4. Cook pasta in large pan of boiling salted water, with the oil, for 8-10 minutes, or until tender. Drain pasta, return to pan, cover, and keep warm.

  5. Remove mussels from shells. Stir mussels into cream sauce. Place pasta in warmed serving dish, pour in the sauce, and toss well to blend. Serve hot, with warm, crusty bread.

Vermicelli and Clam Sauce

Quick and easy, this makes a great light meal!

  • 14 oz vermicelli pasta

  • 1 Tbl extra virgin olive oil

  • 2 Tbl butter

  • 2 Tbl freshly grated Parmesan shavings, for garnish

  • sprig of basil, for garnish

  • Sauce

  • 1 Tbl extra virgin olive oil

  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped

  • 2 (7oz) jars clams in brine

  • 1/2 cup white wine

  • 4 Tbl chopped fresh parsley

  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano

  • pinch of nutmeg

  • salt and pepper to taste

  1. Cook pasta in large pan of salted water, with 1 Tbl olive oil, for 8-10 minutes, or until tender. Drain the pasta and return to pan. Add butter, cover, and shake pan. Keep warm.

  2. For clam sauce, heat the oil in a pan over medium heat, stir in garlic and cook for one minute.

  3. Strain liquid from one jar of clams, pour liquid into pan with garlic,and add wine. Stir, bringing to a simmer, and simmer for 3 minutes. Drain brine from second jar of clams, and discard.

  4. Add clams and herbs to the pan, and season with pepper to taste and the nutmeg. Lower the heat and cook until the sauce is heated through.

  5. Transfer pasta to a warmed serving dish and pour sauce over pasta.

  6. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and garnish with a sprig of basil. Serve immediately.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Italian Soups

With the onset of cooler weather here, my mind has been on the wonderful, warming soups of my childhood. Here are a few of my favorites:

Creamy Italian Tomato Soup

  • 2 Tbl butter

  • 1 onion, thinly sliced

  • 2-1/4 lbs plum tomatoes, peeled. seeded, and sliced

  • 2 potatoes, diced

  • scant 1/2 cup heavy cream

  • salt and pepper to taste

  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, to serve at table

  • Croutons to serve at table

  1. Melt butter in pan, add onion and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes until softened. Add tomatoes and cook for 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste, pour in 3 cups water, add the potatoes, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for one hour. Transfer to a food processor or blender, and process to a puree, then return to pan. Reheat, then stir in cream. Pour into soup tureen, and serve with Parmesan and croutons.

Ricotta Dumplings in Broth

  • For the Ricotta dumplings:

  • generous 1 cup Ricotta cheese

  • 1 egg

  • 2-1/2 ounces all-purpose flour, plus extra for coating

  • pinch of nutmeg

  • 4 cups Beef Stock (see below)

  • 3 Tbl olive oil

  • salt and pepper to taste

  • Parmesan cheese, freshly grated, to pass at table

  • For the Beef Stock:

  • 1-1/2 lbs lean beef, cut into cubes

  • 1 lb, 5 oz. veal, cut into cubes

  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped

  • 1 carrot, coarsely chopped

  • 1 leek, trimmed and coarsely chopped

  • 1 celery stalk, coarsely chopped

  • salt to taste

  1. Directions for Beef Stock: Place meat in large pan, and add cold water to cover, bring to a boil slowly over medium low heat. Skim off any fat that comes to the surface, and add onion, carrot, leek, and celery - season with salt to taste. Lower heat and simmer for about 3-1/2 hours. Remove from heat, strain into a bowl, let cool, then chill in refrigerator. When fat has solidified on the surface, carefully remove and discard.

  2. Directions for Ricotta Dumplings: Beat Ricotta with a wooden spoon until smooth, then stir in the egg, flour, and nutmeg and season with salt and pepper to taste. Shape mixture into small dumplings the size of hazelnuts. Coat dumplings lightly in flour. Bring Beef Stock to a boil over low heat. Heat oil in skillet, add the dumplings, and cook until golden brown on all sides. Drain on paper towels. Put dumplings in soup tureen and ladle the stock over them. Serve immediately, passing bowl of Parmesan at the table.

Chicken Passatelli (Chicken Soup with Italian Dumplings)

  • 2 slices white bread, torn into rough chunks

  • 2 large eggs

  • I cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (I highly recommend Parmigiano-Reggiano), plus more to pass at table

  • Pinch of nutmeg

  • Salt and pepper to taste

  • 2 quarts prepared chicken stock

  • 2 Tbl minced fresh parsley leaves

  1. Preheat oven to 300F. Grind bread in food processor. Measure 1/2 cup bread crumbs onto a small baking sheet. Toast until lightly dried, about 5 minutes. Cool completely. Combine bread crumbs, eggs, Parmesan, nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste in a medium bowl. Refrigerate mixture until firm, about 15 minutes. With moistened hands, roll tespoonfuls of bread mixture into grape-sized balls. Bring the stock to a boil in a large stockpot over medium heat, then reduce heat to a gentle simmer. Drop the dumplings into the gently simmering stock and cook until they float to the surface, and are cooked, about 3-4 minutes. Stir in parsley, and adjust seasonings if necessary. Ladle soup and dumplings into bowls and serve immediately, passing extra cheese at the table.

Chicken Straciatella (Italian Chicken and Egg Soup)

  • 2 quarts prepared chicken stock

  • 4 large eggs

  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil or fresh parsley leaves (your preference - either give wonderful flavor)

  • pinch of nutmeg

  • salt and pepper to taste

  1. Bring the stock to a simmer in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir the eggs, Parmesan cheese,basil or parsley, and nutmeg together with a fork in a medium bowl. Stir the stock with a FORK so it is moving in a circle. Be sure to use a fork, and no other utensil, so the egg 'rags' will be properly formed. Keep stirring as you pour the egg mixture into the stock in a slow, steady stream so that shreds of coagulated egg form, about 1 minute. Let the egg shreds stand in the stock without stirring until they set, less than one minute. Once they have set, break up the egg pieces with a fork. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Roasted Bell Peppers (Pepperoni Arrosto)

These roasted peppers are a great addition to a nice steak dinner, or roast.


* 4 bell peppers (use yellow, green, and red for nicer presentation, and flavor variation)
* 3 garlic cloves, halved
* 12 fresh basil leaves
* extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
* salt and pepper to taste


1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line a roasting pan with foil. Prick bell peppers with a fork, place in pan, and roast for 1 hour. Remove from oven, wrap in foil, and let cool. Peel (skin will slip off easily) and halve the peepers and let drain cut side down on paper towels.
2. remove seeds and membranes, and cut into 1/4 inch strips. Arrange in layers in fairly deep serving dish, sprinkling each layer with garlic and basil and salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle with olive oil and let stand in cool place for 1 hour before serving.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Sausage Pizza Loaf

Here's a new recipe we tried tonight, courtesy of A Taste of Home Online It received a five-star review with us!

Sausage Pizza Loaf


* 1 pound bulk Italian sausage
* 1/4 cup each chopped onion, sweet red pepper and green pepper
* 2 packages (6-1/2 ounces each) pizza crust mix
* 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
* 1/2 cup chopped pepperoni
* 1 egg, lightly beaten
* 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
* 1 teaspoon dried oregano
* 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder


In a large skillet, cook the sausage, onion and peppers over medium heat until the meat is no longer pink; drain. Combine crust mixes; prepare according to package directions. With greased fingers, press onto the bottom of a greased 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking pan.
Combine the sausage mixture, mozzarella cheese, pepperoni and egg; spread over dough to within 1/2 in. of the edges. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese, oregano and garlic powder.
Roll up jelly-roll style, starting with a long side; pinch seams to seal. Arrange seam side down on pan and shape into a crescent. Bake at 400° for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Yield: 15 servings.


Calzone are best described as 'pizza turnovers'. This is just a basic Calzone recipe - you can adapt it to your taste, by using your favorite pizza toppings, or adding a little pizza sauce to the filling.

Serves 2

Extra virgin olive oil, for brushing
1 quantity Pizza Dough (see recipe below)
all-purpose flour, for dusting
2 oz. diced Mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup Cotto Salami, diced
3 Tbl Proscuitto, diced
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 Tbl Ricotta chesses, crumbled
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425F. Brush a cookie sheet with oil. Knead the dough for 1 minute. Roll out on a lightly floured board into 2 rounds. Combine the mozzarella, salami, ham, and egg, then season with salt and pepper to taste, and add the ricotta. Sprinkle the mixture on one side of each dough round and fold the round in half. Crimp the edges to seal. Place on prepared cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes.

**Pizza Dough

1 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 oz fresh yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water
Extra virgin olive oil, for brushing

Sift the flour and salt into a mound on a counter and make a well in the center. Mash the yeast in the water with a fork until very smooth and pour into the well. Incorporate the flour with your fingers to make a soft dough. Knead well, pulling and stretching until it becomes smooth and elastic. Shape into a ball, cut a cross in the top, place in a bowl and cover. Let rise in a warm place for 3 hours, or until double in size. Follow above directions for Calzone.