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Posts Tagged ‘Italian’

Bolognese Sauce

I’m not much of a meat eater.  But there are certain foods I much prefer with meat or the taste of meat.  Pasta sauce is one such thing.  (Sorry, my vegan and vegetarian friends.)

A traditional Bolognese sauce is not simply tomato sauce with ground meat, but one that involves milk and wine and hours of simmering.  Just a few ingredients, but the result is a complex, rich blend of flavors with incredible depth.  If meat sauce is what you crave, consider making a large batch of this sauce and freezing leftovers for a easy weeknight meal.  For us, nothing says homemade or “family dinner” like this.

Bolognese Sauce

 

Ingredients

1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes with juice or crushed tomatoes
3 tbsp olive oil
5 ounces pancetta or 5 slices bacon, finely chopped
1/3 lb beef chuck
1/3 lb ground pork
1/3 lb ground veal
1 small onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
1 carrot, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup dry red wine
1 cup milk (or heavy cream)
1 spring rosemary
1 tsp sugar
1 pound pasta of your choice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

  1. If using whole tomatoes, in blender or food processor, purée tomatoes with juice.  Set aside.
  2. In large, heavy pot over moderate heat, heat oil.  Add pancetta and sauté until golden brown, 5 to 6 minutes.  Add beef, pork, and veal and sauté, breaking up meat with back of spoon, until cooked but not browned, 7 to 8 minutes.  Add onion and carrot and sauté until vegetables are tender, 5 to 6 minutes.
  3. Stir in milk and simmer until milk is clear, about 1 minute.
  4. Stir in red wine and simmer, scraping up browned bits stuck to bottom of pan, until liquid is reduced by half, about 5 minutes.  Stir in tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Reduce heat to moderately low and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until liquid is fully absorbed, approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  5. In large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta until almost tender.  Drain well and toss with sauce.

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Growing up in the 1980s, tiramisu was ubiquitous at dinner parties and on restaurant menus.  And I consumed my share of them.  (With a Shirley Temple in my other hand, of course.  I wanted a “drink” like the adults.)  But in the intervening decades, my parents rarely ordered or prepared the Italian dessert – they were turned on to (and, hence, turned off by) the raw eggs and copious of heavy cream and mascarpone.  These days, I don’t come upon tiramisu often but when I do, I can’t deny a few bites of the Italian-American favorite.   

I can’t recall with certainty how or when I dreamt up this recipe.  I was thinking about tiramisu - and thinking that my husband doesn’t share my affinity for coffee and liquer-infused desserts.  Feeling (momentarily) indifferent about typical American dessert flavors, this idea was conceived.  Here, the ladyfingers are soaked in sweetened green tea and sandwiched between rich mascarpone cheese and nutty, sweet red bean paste.  Matcha powder is sifted between layers and atop the dessert as both a bitter counterpoint to the sweetened layers and as a garnish. 

How was it, you ask?  The texture of the dessert is much like a traditional tiramisu – creamy with a softened, moist cake layer.  There is a richness and creaminess from the mascarpone, a nutty sweetness from the adzuki bean paste, and a slightly bitter (but refreshing) contrast from the green tea.  Frankly, if you enjoy the flavors of green tea and red bean you’ll find this delightful – and addicting.  If the flavors aren’t your cup of tea (ha!), may I suggest lemon, strawberry, vanilla, or chocolate for your sweet tooth? 

Matcha Tiramisu with Adzuki Red Bean and Mascarpone, from Rice Kernel’s kitchen

Ingredients

1 cup boiling water + 1 tbsp macha powder + sugar (to taste).
16 Savoiardi biscuits (ladyfingers)
Matcha powder for dusting
1 cup (1/2 pound) mascarpone cheese (or cream cheese, or vegan cream cheese)
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp powdered sugar 
2 tbsp matcha powder for dusting
1/2 cup adzuki bean paste (thinned with a few tablespoons of water)

Directions

  1. Beat cream and powdered sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer until soft peaks form.  Fold in mascarpone.
  2. Pour 1 tbsp matcha and water mixture in a shallow bowl.  
  3. Dip both sides of half of the ladyfingers in the espresso and use them to line the bottom of a glass or ceramic baking dish.  Dust the ladyfingers with matcha powder.
  4. Spoon a third of the adzuki bean pasta atop the ladyfingers and spread in a smooth, even layer.  Follow with the mascarpone mixture.  Repeat with ladyfingers, adzuki, and mascarpone.  (End with the mascarpone.)
  5. Cover and refrigerate the tiramisu for at least 4 hours or overnight.
  6. Just before serving, sift the matcha powder over the top of the tiramisu.

Note:  Tiramisu can be refrigerated up to 2 days.

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Do you lament day-old, crusty bread?  After a few days on the countertop, I get a bit ansty about bread.  Not that we don’t eat slightly stale bread, but there are better uses for it than eating it straight up.  So I naturally begin thinking about stratas, homemade breadcrumbs, or croutons.  (The sweets-fanatic in me would entertain a bread pudding, but I’d be the only one consuming it.)  Recently, I recalled a simple and rustic tomato basil and bread salad we had years back in Rome.  I’ve added a color boost here with added vegetables, whole wheat bread, and grilled shrimp.  (Use any protein of your choosing or some cannelloni beans.)  It’s a resourceful way of using leftover bread and with tomato season coming up, it’s perfect for a weeknight meal, picnic or potluck. 

I also want to thank Jessie at CakeSpy for featuring Rice Kernel and my Mother’s Day Triple Strawberry Cheesecake.  As Jessie would say, that’s sweet stuff! 

Shrimp Panzanella Salad

This salad is very versatile – add your favorite fresh vegetables and protein.  The Lebanese version, fattoush, uses stale pita.  In Greece, a similar version called dakos features fetas, cucumbers, and stale bread. 

Ingredients

8 Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
3 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, peeled and halved
1 tbsp capers, rinsed and chopped
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper, divided
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 thick slices day-old whole-grain bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (or any bread – herb-flavored breads are wonderful in this salad)
2 large tomatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 medium cucumber, peeled (if desired), seeded and diced or cut into 1-inch pieces
1 large bell pepper, diced (color of your choice)
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil or parsley
1 1/2 tsp chopped fresh thyme or 3/4 teaspoon dried thyme or poultry seasoning
4 cups salad greens
Grilled shrimp or protein of your choice
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. To make croutons:  If you have fresh bread, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Drizzle 2 tablespoons oil on a rimmed baking sheet.  Mash garlic into the oil with a fork to infuse it with flavor; discard the garlic.  Stir bread cubes into the oil until lightly coated. Bake, stirring every 5 minutes, until very crisp, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool completely.
  2. In the alternative, if you have stale bread, you can skip the croutons and simply slice the stale bread into cubes or break apart with your hands.
  3. Whisk olives, vinegar, capers and 1/8 tsp pepper in a large bowl.  Slowly whisk in oil until combined.  Add bread, tomatoes, cucumber, onion, bell peppers and herbs.  Serve over salad greens and top with shrimp.

Note:  You can store the croutons in an air-tight container for up to a week.

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One of our favorite (and quickiest) “recipes” is an Italian standby of pasta, meat, and greens.  It’s adaptable to whatever you have around and always an easy, satisfying one-dish meal.  Our latest exploration of the theme combines a hearty, spicy Italian sausage with sweet napa cabbage and garden-fresh, peppery mustard greens.  (The latter being our most prolific vegetable of the winter planting season.) 

Any night you’re casting about for a quick and hearty one-pot meal, try a variation of this standby.  Tastefully simple  and balanced pasta, meat, and greens.

Penne with Sausage, Sweet Napa, and Peppery Mustard Greens, from Rice Kernel’s Kitchen

Ingredients

1 pound pasta
3/4 pound sausage
Olive oil
About 4 cups mustard greens and napa cabbage, cut into bite-sized shreds (kale, collard greens, and swiss chard would be delicious)
1/2 cup toasted pine-nuts (optional)
Parmesan or Pecorino to serve (optional)

Directions

  1. Heat a large pot of salted water to boiling and cook the pasta according to package directions.  When tender, drain and reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water.  Return the pasta to the pot and set aside.
  2. Heat a large sauté pan over medium high heat with a drizzle of olive oil.  When hot, add the sausage and cook for about 5 minutes or until well-browned. 
  3. Add the greens and cook until slightly wilted. 
  4. Combine pasta with greens and meat.  If necessary, add reserved 1/2 cup of pasta water to bind the ingredients. 
  5. Toss in optional nuts and cheese and serve.

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Italian Wedding Soup is so named because it refers to the meat and vegetables marrying well together.  And it truly is a harmony of flavors with savory, tender meatballs in an earthy, hearty vegetable soup.  Associated with Italy, most recipes today have pork, a leafy green, and some form of pasta in it.  This soup is a riff on that.  Our healthier take on the classic includes lots of greens and leaner meatballs.  Pre-made homemade stock creates the base for a simmering-for-hours-on-the-stovetop depth of flavor.  Depending on how fast the meatballs are formed and the veggies chopped, this complete meal soup will be ready in a reasonable amount of time on any weekday evening. 

(For a vegetarian version, substitute cannelloni beans for the meat and use vegetable stock.) 

Italian Wedding Soup

Ingredients for Meatballs

    1 pound organic ground beef, 85-93% lean (or pork, turkey or any mixture)
    1/2 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
    1/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
    2 tbsp parmesan cheese
    1 egg, beaten
    2 cloves garlic, minced
    1 tsp Italian seasoning
    1/2 tsp Kosher salt
    1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Ingredients for Soup

    1/2 cup carrots, diced
    1 large yellow onion, diced
    2-3 tbsp olive oil
    4 cloves garlic, minced
    1 tsp basil
    6 cups organic chicken broth
    1/2 – 2/3 cup pasta of your choice (preferably small)
    3 cups fresh greens, chopped (spinach, swiss chard, mustard greens, endive, kale, escarole)
    1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Directions

  1. Mix all the meatball ingredients together in a large bowl using a fork. Form into small meatballs about the size of a quarter using your hands. Set aside.
  2.  In a large soup pot saute onion and carrot in 2-3 tbsp olive oilover medium-low heat until soft and tender.   Season well with salt and pepper.  Add garlic and basil and cook an additional 1-2 minutes.
  3. Add chicken broth and turn up heat and bring to a slow boil.  When it begins to boil add meatballs carefully one at a time.  Add pasta and greens.  Season with salt and pepper.  Simmer for 20-25 minutes.
  4. Stir in parsley and additional Parmesan cheese, if desired.  Adjust seasonings as necessary.

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