Category Archives: Italian

Italian-Style Saffroned Lentil Soup (Minestra di Lenticchie e Zafferano)

Saffroned_Lentil_Soup1 (1 of 1)I have a “go-to” lentil soup recipe that I’ve been making for several years. It’s a typical lentil soup with carrots, thyme, etc., and it’s very good. I wanted to try a different version; I found this Italian lentil soup recipe, and it’s delicious! I think the toasted saffron steeped in warmed Cognac are what make this dish. I hope you’ll try it!

1 lb Italian or French (de Puy) lentils, rinsed and soaked in cold water for 1/2 hour
1/4 tsp saffron threads
3 Tbsp Congnac, warmed
2 Tbsp olive oil, plus a bit of additional for toasting the baguette slices
3 oz pancetta, diced
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 bay leaf
6 cups cold water
1 14-oz can diced tomatoes
2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 baguette, thinly (1/2 inch) sliced on the diagonal
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 tsp ground cloves
1 Tbsp chopped fresh Italian parsley

Lightly toast the saffron in a small, heavy skillet over high heat, then stir into 2 Tbsp of the warmed Cognac in a small bowl. Set aside to steep.

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta and saute for 5 minutes, stirring in the garlic the last 30 seconds. Add bay leaf, water, lentils, saffron/cognac mixture, tomatoes and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring well. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1/2 hour. Remove from heat and stir in the red wine vinegar. Season with additional salt, if desired (I added another tsp salt, and thought that was good). Let soup sit for a bit, uncovered.

Meanwhile, whisk together in a small metal bowl the cream, remaining 1 Tbsp Cognac and ground cloves until thick. Cover and place in refrigerator.

Heat about 1 Tbsp olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add baguette slices and lightly brown on both sides.

Ladle soup into bowls. Place a dollop of cream mixture over each and garnish with parsley. Serve with toasted baguette slices.

Serves 6.

Bolognese Meat Sauce (Ragù alla Bolognese)

Bolognese_Meat_Sauce1 (1 of 1)When I was studying in Italy, I would often go down to the mensa (university cafeteria) for dinner. When I started the year off, I was a bit shy, so anything comforting (like food) helped me along. I loved the pasta con ragù alla bolognese — delicious and very comforting! Italian restaurants that I’ve dined at here in the US that have this on the menu don’t seem to get it right, so made it my mission to find an authentic recipe for ragù bolognese. I found and adapted a recipe from Saveur Cooks, Authentic Italian, which is spot-on! Some may not prefer chicken liver, but it’s used in a small amount and it’s a must! The liver, prosciutto, milk, wine (and all the other ingredients) are what make this dish authentic to me. I hope you’ll try this dish!

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, peeled and finely diced
1 rib celery, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1 – 3 slices imported Italian prosciutto (about 3 oz), minced
1 chicken liver (about 1 1/2 oz), minced
1 1/2 ground sirloin
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup milk, heated (but not scalded!)
1 cup beef broth
1 28-oz can pureed plum tomatoes
1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
Freshly grated Italian parmesan cheese

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onions and saute until translucent (but not browned), about 4 minutes. Add celery and carrot and saute for another 3 minutes. Add prosciutto and chicken liver, stirring about 3 minutes.

Increase heat to high. Add ground sirloin, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Stir constantly, breaking up meat so that it is very fine (I press the uncooked meat with the back of a wooden spoon and stir, stir stir) for 5 minutes.

Add wine, stir and bring to a boil. Cook for 3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and add milk, stirring until milk has evaporated, about 4 more minutes.

Add broth and tomatoes; bring back to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low and simmer very gently for 2 1/2 hours. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper (I added another 1 tsp salt and thought that was perfect). Serve over rigatoni and sprinkle each serving with the parsley and parmesan.

Serves 4.

Naples-Style Braise of Beef

Naples_Braised_Beef1 (1 of 1)This dish seems like your typical pot roast, but it isn’t. It’s a delicious Southern Italian braise of beef, probably prepared as a Sunday afternoon dinner in Naples. The recipe called for bottom round, but I used top round instead, because I think it’s a bit more tender. Braising, the “low and slow” method of cooking, turns this relatively tough (but tasty!) cut of beef into a fork-tender, delicious roast. Although not very Italian, I like to serve it with home-made basel-herbed spaetzle.I hope you’ll try this dish!

2 oz salt pork
1 oz salame
1 oz prosciutto
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 lbs top round beef, tied with butcher’s twine 2-inch intervals
5 large yellow onions, peeled and thinly sliced
3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 cup tomato puree
2 tsp salt
1 1/3 cups dry white wine

Finely chop together the salt pork, salame and prosciutto to a paste.

Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium heat (the Dutch oven should be just large enough to accommodate the beef and rest of ingredients). Add the salt pork mixture and saute until fat is rendered (about 3 – 4 minutes).

Add the beef to the Dutch oven and brown on all sides. Remove beef and set aside on a plate. Naples_Braised_Beef2 (1 of 1)Add the onions, carrots and celery to the pan. Soften the vegetables, but don’t brown (about 5 minutes). The Dutch oven will be full at first, but the vegetables will cook down considerably.

Add the tomato puree, salt and wine. Deglaze pan while bringing to a boil for about 1 minute. Return beef to pan. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer gently for 2 1/2 – 3 hours (I let go for 3), or until beef is tender.

Remove beef and tent loosely with aluminum foil. Increase heat to medium high. Cook liquid until reduced by at least half (about 20 minutes. Season sauce to taste with salt and ground black pepper. Slice beef, place on a serving platter and pour sauce over top. Serve.

Serves 6.

Braised Pork Loin in a “Black” Tomato Sauce (Brasato di Maiale al Sugo Nero)

Braised_Pork_in_a_Black_Sauce1 (1 of 1)Now that autumn has arrived in New England, it’s time to get back to the heartier dishes. This is a Southern Italian dish, where you braise a pork loin in a simple but delicious sauce until it just about falls apart (remember, the braising method is “low and slow”). The name of this dish (I’m guessing) comes from the tomato sauce, which cooks down until it is almost “black.” You’ll enjoy the smell of this cooking in your kitchen — I hope you’ll try this dish!

3 – 4 lbs boneless, center-cut pork loin, trimmed and tied with butcher’s twine at 2-inch intervals
2 tsp salt
6 large fresh sage leaves
3 oz pancetta
3 large cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1/3 cup flat parsley leaves
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cups red wine
2 cups canned tomato puree

Rub the pork with the salt; slide the sage leaves under the twine evenly around the meat. Let stand for 1/2 hour.

Mince together the pancetta, garlic and parsley into a fine paste. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the pancetta/garlic mixture and cook for 3 minutes. Add the pork and brown on all sides (about 5 minutes). Add 1 cup of the wine; let evaporate. Add the remaining 1 cup wine and the tomato puree. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer gently for 2 hours.

Remove the pork from the pan;  remove twine and cover with foil. Let stand for 1/2 hour.

In the meantime, increase the heat for the sauce to medium high. Reduce the sauce until rather thick and “black,” about 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with pasta or bread.

Serves 6.

Braised Tuna Steaks in a Red Wine-Caper Sauce

Braised_Tuna_Steaks1 (1 of 1)This is a delightful Mediterranean tuna dish. The tuna steaks are seared, then braised in a very nice red wine-caper sauce with olives, tomatoes, garlic, onions and raisins, providing for delicate, slightly sweet/slightly sour flavors. I hope you’ll try it!

3 lbs tuna steaks, cut into 4-inch pieces
2 quarts cold water
2 Tbsp salt
1/2 cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely grated or minced
2 large onions, thinly sliced
2 lbs ripe tomatoes, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup capers, rinsed and drained
1/2 lb Spanish green olives, pitted and halved
4 oz (3/4 cup) golden raisins
1 1/2 cups red wine
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
Crusty bread

Combine the cold water and 2 Tbsp salt in a large bowl. Stir until salt is dissolved. Place the tuna braised_tuna1-1-of-1pieces in the water, and let stand for 1/2 an hour. Rinse under cold water, and dry with paper towels.

Heat olive oil in a large, shallow sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add the tuna pieces and sear on all sides. Remove from pan and let stand on a plate.

Turn heat to low. Add the garlic and onions;  saute for about 5 minutes, just until soft.

Add 1 tsp salt, capers, olives, raisins and wine. Turn heat up to high, partially cover and cook for 4 minutes. Add the vinegar.

Reduce heat to low. Add tuna to the sauce, partially cover and braise for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, and let stand for 1 hour. Season to taste with additional salt. Serve with toasted crusty bread slices.

Serves 6.

Bucatini with Parsley and Sage-herbed Chicken Meatballs

Bucatini_with_Chicken_Meatballs2 (1 of 1)This recipe is a different take on the standard “spaghetti with meatballs” dish that everyone is familiar with. Bucatini is basically hollow spaghetti, and adds an interesting texture. The herbed chicken meatballs are a fresh spin, and are delightful with the homemade tomato sauce. I hope you’ll try this dish!

 

2 28-oz cans whole, peeled tomatoes
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 cup loosely packed basil leaves
1 lb (uncooked) bucatini pasta

1 lb ground chicken
1 1/2 cups grated parmesan cheese (about 2 1/4 oz)
1 3/4 cups fresh white bread crumbs (about 3 slices, crusts removed)
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely grated or minced
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 Tbsp chopped fresh sage
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp olive oil

To make the sauce, place the tomatoes and their juice in a large bowl. Vigorously squeeze tomatoes with your hands until no large chunks remain.

Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a large sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add onions and saute for 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, bay leaves, salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Cover and bring to a good boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low and simmer, partially covered, for 1 hour (stirring occasionally).

Meanwhile, prepare the meatballs by combining the ground chicken, parmesan cheese, bread crumbs, garlic, egg, parsley, sage and salt in a bowl. Combine well (I use my hands). Form small balls from the mixture, occasionally dipping your hands in a separate bowl of warm water, as the meat mixture can become very sticky to work with. Cover meatballs with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a large frying pan. Saute the meatballs until golden brown, about 8 minutes.

Add the meatballs and basil to the tomato sauce, and simmer uncovered on low for an additional 15 minutes. Serve over bucatini pasta that has been cooked according to package instructions. Garnish with some chopped parsley and grated parmesan.

Serves 6.