Tag-Archive for ◊ Italian ◊

24 Feb 2017 Italian Wedding Soup

italian-wedding-soup

Italian Wedding Soup is easy to make, and is good as soon as it’s made (no need to sit overnight to intensify the flavors).  Not being Italian, I can’t claim this is just like my Nonna made. Nor can I claim to know the origin of the name, “Italian Wedding Soup”, but I did do a bit of Internet research.  Contrary to what some think, this soup is NOT served at Italian Weddings (although, because of it’s name, it is served at some Italian-American weddings in…Pennsylvania!).  Another theory is that the soup is a good “marriage” of ingredients, possibly green vegetables and meat. The most common story is the soup is easy enough for a new bride (or new groom) to make as one of their first home-cooked meals.  My non-Italian, non-traditional thought it that it’s great for a couple to make together.  One person could make the meatballs while the other makes the vegetable broth base.  Throw the vegetable broth and the meatballs together, simmer for a few minutes, and then sit down to enjoy a bowl or two of heart-warming Italian Wedding Soup.

This recipe is based upon one by Ina Garten, but I have changed Ina’s recipe somewhat.  The major change is I cook the meatballs in the broth, rather than bake them in the oven as Ina directs. I also make my meatballs out of ground beef instead of Ina’s ground chicken/ground chicken sausage combo.  I like a tastier meatball, and I think beef goes better with the Parmesan in the meatball than chicken does. I also added basil to the meatball. I don’t know why Ina forgot that!

I love soup. I can eat it for breakfast, lunch or dinner. One tip, every time I make a pot of soup, I freeze one or two individual servings.  It’s wonderful to have a ready-made, wholesome bowl of soup in the freezer for those days when you are rushing from points A to Z with no time to spare.  A bowl of soup in the freezer can keep you away from those fast food places. Honest.

Now go on, try it…Italian Wedding Soup!

Italian Wedding Soup

For the soup base

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 1/2 cups sliced carrots
  • 2 teaspoons dill
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (use more of the parsley in the meatballs)
  • 10-12 cups chicken broth (homemade is the best, of course)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup small pasta (orzo, tubetini, small stars, mini shells..)
  • 1 batch of meatballs (recipe below)
  • 12 oz. baby spinach, stems removed and leaves coarsely chopped
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • additional grated Parmesan, optional (for serving)

Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy bottomed soup pan.  Add the onion and saute until slightly caramelized, about 6 minutes.  Stir in chopped celery and saute for another 3 minutes. Stir in carrots, dill, parsley, chicken broth, and wine and bring to a boil. While soup is boiling, stir in pasta and meatballs.  Simmer for 8-10 minutes. Stir in chopped spinach and simmer for an additional 2 minutes.  Turn heat off. Taste broth.  Add salt and pepper as needed. Ladle soup into bowls and sprinkle with additional grated Parmesan, if desired.

For the Meatballs

  • 1 1/4 – 1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef (can substitute ground turkey or ground chicken, but the meatballs won’t taste as good!)
  • 2/3 cup fresh breadcrumbs (2 slices of bread, crusts removed, whirled in food processor OR, in a pinch, stir in bought bread crumbs or Panko)
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil, crushed
  • minced garlic, to taste (1 or 2 cloves, minced OR 1/2 teaspoon garlic OR onion powder)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • 3 Tablespoons milk
  • 1 egg
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Place ground beef, breadcrumbs, basil, garlic, parsley, cheese, and desired amount of salt and pepper in a bowl. Mix lightly with a fork (don’t use hands because the resulting meatballs will be too dense).  In another bowl, combine the milk with the egg and beat lightly.  Stir the egg/milk mixture into the meat mixture, again, using your fork. When all ingredients are evenly distributed, use a small scoop or a tablespoon to portion meat and form into about 40 meatballs. Roll the scooped meat gently in palm of your hand to form into a ball. Use meatballs as directed above.

 

20 Mar 2012 Cheesy Spinach Manicotti

I must admit, I make a pretty mean Manicotti.  I’d forgotten how good it is until I made some on the spur-of-the-moment this week.  My Manicotti is  probably not very authentic, seeing as I have no genuine Italian reference point at all.  I don’t think it helps much that the recipe here got it’s start from the back of a box of Manicotti noodles either!  Maybe I should just call this dish Cheesey Spinach Pasta Rolls and ditch the whole faux Italian thing!

The instructions below will guide you in putting together a whole pan of Manicotti, but the recipe part is just for the creamy cheesey gooey yummy manicotti filling.  You’ll need about 3 cups of your favorite spaghetti sauce to finish the dish (I make a hearty meat, mushroom, onion, red wine spaghetti sauce to serve with this dish, the recipe is posted on this site)  along with one box of  manicotti noodles (those really big. long pasta tubes).  I’ve used the filling below to stuff  large shell pasta, too, so you can use those if you can’t find the manicotti noodles.

BTW, leftovers  microwave wonderfully well. My my son has already zapped a few several times today. I hope he has left me some, leftover Manicotti is such a treat.

Cheesey Spinach Manicotti 

Approx 3 cups prepared spaghetti sauce, warmed

1 8 0z. box manicotti noodles, cooked according to package direction, rinsed and drained

For the filling:

  • 10 oz. box frozen chopped spinach, defrosted, and squeezed dry
  • 16 oz. carton ricotta
  • 8 oz marscapone
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 6  1 oz. packages of string cheese, cubed OR 6 oz mozzarella cut into 1/4 inch cubes
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 eggs
  • additional grated cheese, Parmesan and/or mozzarella, for sprinkling on top of baked casserole.
  1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Squeeze the spinach really, really dry and place in a large bowl.
  3. Stir in the cheeses: ricotta (I didn’t used to like ricotta, so I have substituted cottage cheese for the ricotta before),  marscapone, grated Parmesan, and cubed string cheese or part-skim mozzarella. Stir well.
  4. Lightly beat the eggs and add to the spinach-cheese mixture.
  5. Stir in the nutmeg.
  6. Fill cooked manicotti with the filling.  The best way to do this is to put all the filling in a large Ziploc bag.  Push the filling to one corner of the bag, then cut the corner off the bag–to make a sort of pastry bag-and squirt the filling into the manicotti. If this method doesn’t work for you, just use several long handled spoons (ice tea spoons work well) to fill the tubes.  Some of the manicotti will have split.  Try not to use the split ones, but if you have to just roll them tight and lay them seam side down in the pan.  I think there are two more noodles than will comfortably fit into a 9×13 pan in each manicotti package, so you are OK discarding two tubes.
  7. Place 1 cup of the warm spaghetti sauce in the bottom of the 9×13 pan.
  8. Arrange the stuffed manicotti on top of the spaghetti sauce.
  9. Cover the arranged manicotti in the pan with the remaining 2 cups sauce–you might need a little more or a little less sauce. If you have leftover sauce, you can always serve it, warmed, on the side.  Some people appreciate more sauce.
  10. Cover the baking dish with foil and place  in a preheated 350 degree oven. Bake for 30-35  minutes.
  11. Remove foil, sprinkle any remaining cheese over top of the casserole, increase heat to 425 degrees and bake for an additional 10 minutes or until sauce is bubbling and cheese has melted and nicely browned.
  12. Remove casserole from oven and let sit for approx. 10 minutes before serving.
Enjoy!  Invite the family over for dinner. Maybe serve an antipasto platter to kick off the evening?  I love antipasto, it’s a very social appetizer.  Dessert?  What is easier than a scoop of spumoni or gelato? Go ahead and gild the lily and  serve some biscotti and coffee on the side, too!  Can I come over?
Have fun, and thanks for stopping by my kitchen today.

 

 

 

24 Sep 2010 Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

Who eats jarred spaghetti sauce?  I hope no one.  I don’t. Not ever.  Well, I’ve had a spoonful here and there, so I do know how bad it is.  Too much vinegar.  I like wine, tomatoes, onions, fresh mushrooms and fresh meat in my spaghetti sauce.  I’ve never used a recipe.  I learned from watching my Dad, who learned from watching the Galloping Gourmet (I think he also got permission to drink during the day from the Galloping Gourmet, but that’s a whole other story.)

My daughter, Abby, has asked me to write down my “recipe” for Spaghetti Sauce.  I put the word recipe in quotes because when I make spaghetti sauce, I just go for it.  It’s never really the same twice, but it always works out  (I’m not Italian, so I make no claims to an authentic Italian sauce).   Last week, when I made a big batch of spaghetti sauce, I carefully wrote down what I did so Abby can make her own spaghetti sauce while she is away at college.

If you haven’t made spaghetti sauce before, perhaps this “recipe” can be your starting point. Use this as a guide to add and subtract ingredients to suit your tastes. Over the years the amount of meat in my sauce has decreased.  I’d like to cut it my 1/3 more, but my son would get upset.  We all like mushrooms, so I use a good amount.  I don’t like green or red peppers, so I leave them out completely.  One thing I wouldn’t change is the “Super Six”, the must-haves for seasoning spaghetti sauce:  sautéed onions, garlic, celery, parsley, basil and oregano.

After the sauce is made, I let is sit overnight and then we usually have it for dinner. And, if I give in to the pleading of my older daughter, I’ll make a tray of lasagna, too, and then we’ll eat that for the next few days.  The remaining sauce I freeze in 3 or 4 cup batches.  This recipe will makes 10-12 cups of sauce.

I hope you never buy jarred sauce again.  Nasty stuff.  Too many preservatives.  Not enough flavor. This is so much better, so much better.

My Mom Polly’s Spaghetti Sauce

Olive oil, as needed for sauteing
2 large onions, coarsely chopped
2 cups diced celery
1 tablespoon minced garlic
¼ cup minced parsley
2 28-oz cans crushed tomatoes (recently I have use the “Muir Glen” brand, but for years I used whatever was on sale at the grocery store.  If you have them, use blanched, chopped tomatoes from your garden.  If you don’t like  chunky spaghetti sauce, then substitute the same amount of tomato sauce.)
2 16-oz cans tomato sauce
2 cups water
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 ½ tablespoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt (add more later if needed)
1 teaspoon pepper
1 ½ lbs to 2 lbs of ground beef (or a mixture of your choice of ground beef, sausage, pork, veal.  Use at least 50% ground beef.  I have used ground turkey before, and don’t recommend it. I found the flavor to be too mild for this robust sauce)
1 lb sliced mushrooms
2 cups red wine (any robust red wine), optional, of course

Heat about 2 T. olive oil in a large skillet.  Stir in chopped onions and sauté for 6-8 minutes, or until the onions are translucent and starting to caramelize. Stir in chopped celery and sauté for another 3 minutes. Stir in garlic and parsley and sauté for another minute.  Do not let the garlic brown or burn.  Pour mixture into a large stock pot, and turn on heat to medium.  Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, water, basil, oregano, brown sugar, salt and pepper.  Simmer for 30 -60 minutes, stirring occasionally (the longer the simmer, the richer the sauce). Meanwhile, in the skillet, add another tablespoon or two of olive oil and sauté the sliced mushrooms.  Add the mushrooms to the tomato sauce after the sauce has simmered at least 30 minutes.  In the same skillet that browned the onions and the mushrooms, add the ground meat.  Brown the meat, and then drain the fat off (to drain put the cooked meat in a colander over a bowl).  Stir drained, cooked meat into the tomato sauce, along with 2 cups of red wine, and simmer for an additional 30 minutes.  Taste, and more salt, pepper and brown sugar if needed. Serve immediately over hot noodles and topped with grated Parmesan cheese, or let cool, refrigerate, and chill overnight. Warm up only as much sauce as needed for your next meal.

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today, I always like it when you stop by!  Leave a comment and say HI!

16 Sep 2010 Gingerbread Biscotti

The first of my gingerbread posts of the season: gingerbread biscotti. This biscotti is not sweet and it’s perfect crumbly, the perfect, light “little something” with a fall cup of tea or coffee. I am quite proud of this recipe.  I did my homework before I made it.  I looked at a lot of gingerbread biscotti recipes. I choose the highest concentration of ginger to flour and the highest concentration of overall spices to flour. I wanted something that screamed gingerbread, but didn’t offend. The finishing touch of white chocolate is optional, but I think it fancies up a plain biscotti quite nicely 🙂 .

Gingerbread Biscotti

1/3 cup butter at room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
2 tsp. baking powder
2 eggs
2 3/4 cup flour
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp ginger
3/4 tsp ground cloves

Icing

White chocolate (about 1 1/2 cups)
Cinnamon Sugar (1/4 cup sugar mixed with 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon)

  • Preheat oven to 375°F.
  • Beat butter with brown sugar and molasses until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes.
  • Stir in baking powder.
  • Beat in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  • In another bowl sift together flour, cinnamon, ginger and cloves.
  • Beat flour mixture into butter mixture.
  • Divide dough in half. With flour covered hands shape each half into a log about 12 inches by 2 inches.

  • Bake in a preheated 375°F oven for 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned.
  • Cool on cookie sheet for an hour.
  • Transfer log to a cutting board and cut each loaf on the diagonal into slices, each slice about 1/2 inch thick. Lay slices, cut side down, on a cookie sheet and bake at 325°F for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and turn slices over. Return to oven and cook for an additional 8 minutes. Cool slices on a wire rack.

  • Melt about 1 cup of white chocolate.
  • Finish Option #1: Dip the bottoms of each slice into white chocolate and then into cinnamon sugar mixture. Lay on wire rack to dry.
  • Finish Option #2: Place remaining chocolate in a heavy duty Ziploc bag and MW for 45-60 sec on 50% power. Squish chocolate to bottom corner of bag. Snip off corner and drizzle chocolate over one side of the biscotti. Let dry.

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today…, come back again soon!

11 Sep 2010 Zucchini Pasta

I have debated back and forth about posting this recipe…  Pros: it uses up zucchini, which is very important this time of year.  The pasta recipe is good.  Simple, straightforward. Good.  Cons: It’s not GREAT; it’s good, but it’s lacking Emeril’s “Bam”!  I made this for the first time at my friend’s beach house this summer.  We all liked it, but we all thought it needed something else.  Garlic?  Shallots?  Lemon Peel?  Egg yolk?  Not sure…

When we returned from the beach my friend kept asking for the recipe and I kept thinking about making it again.  So it had to have something, right?  I sent my friend the recipe (I had no intention of posting it), and I made it again.  The results were the same.  The pasta was good, not great, but…

…for the last two nights I have had leftover homemade pizza, leftover beef rice bowl, and leftover ribs in the refrigerator, along with the leftover Zucchini Pasta.  Two nights in a row I’ve chosen leftover Zucchini Pasta over all my other choices.  So this dish has to have something, right?  Maybe it’s just comfort food.  End of the summer comfort food.  Yes, that must be it.

This recipe is from a Pasta Cookbook I received as a birthday present and took to the beach to read. (I read cookbooks like novels. Who’s with me on that?) The cookbook is called “Homestyle Pasta” by Bay Books (I don’t think that’s a person and I couldn’t find a link!!)  I’ve changed the recipe a bit, but only to reduce the amount of pasta.  The original recipe called for 1 lb. of pasta.  That’s too much pasta, and not enough zucchini and cheese.

Did I mention how easy this is to make?  While the pasta boils, stir up the zucchini…

Did I mention that my two year old grandson can’t stuff this into his mouth fast enough?

Zucchini Pasta

1/2 lb. fettuccine (the original recipe called for 1 lb of pasta)
1/4 cup salted butter
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 lb. zucchini (about 3 medium), grated
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Cook the fettuccine in boiling salted water per package directions. Drain pasta and keep warm.  Melt butter in a large frying pan, saute the garlic for one or two minutes.  Stir in grated zucchini and saute until zucchini is soft, about 3 minutes.  Stir in drained noodles and grated cheese. Toss well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Good. Fast. Easy. End of the summer comfort food.  And you now have three less zucchini.  HEY! You could attach this recipe to the zucchini you drop off on your neighbor’s porch after dark tonight!

Enjoy these last days of summer.  Enjoy your harvest 🙂

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today!

10 Sep 2010 Crockpot Pizza Sauce (and yummy extras)

I’ve finally found something that the crockpot (slow cooker for those of you offended by the term “crockpot”) excels in.  Excels in!  This is not just a recipe that can be cooked in the crockpot. It’s a recipe that should be cooked in a crockpot.  Yes, a recipe that tastes best cooked in the crockpot!  I found this recipe in “Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook” by Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufmann (San Joseans!), on page 250.

I have made my fair share of pizza sauces and this is, by far, my favorite.  The flavor is so rich and consistent.  I’m in love!  What’s more, one batch of this recipe makes about 6 cups of pizza sauce.  Use one portion, freeze four! That’s my type of batch cooking.

Crockpot Pizza Sauce

2 12 oz. cans tomato paste
1 16 oz can tomato sauce
3 tablespoons olive oil
2-4 cloves garlic, crushed (to taste)
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried basil
1/4 cup minced fresh flat leafed parsley
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan (or similar) cheese
salt and pepper, to taste

Place everything but the cheese, salt and pepper in the crock pot.  Cover and cook on low for at least 10 hours and no longer than 14 hours.  If at all possible, stir the sauce every few hours.  If you are sleeping, don’t worry about it.

Unplug crockpot.  Taste.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Stir in cheese.  Let cool to room temperature.

I use just over 1 cup of sauce in my pizza.  Depending on the size of your pizza pan and your personal preference regarding the quantity of  sauce you might more or less than I do.

Sauce will keep, refrigerated, for at least four days.  Freeze for longer storage.

My Favorite Cheese Blend for Pizza

Like I said, I have made my share of pizza over the years.  I am finally getting good at it!  Last night’s pizza was fresh veggie…, sliced tomatoes, zucchini and basil, from my garden, and sliced fresh mushrooms and green onions.

Two of my three kids would holler, “Where’s the meat?”, but they are not home so I get to choose everything!

Whatever pizza I make, I always use this cheese blend.  I no longer have the cookbook I got it from, nor do I remember the name of the book, which is unfortunate now that I am going public with this blend.

2 parts shredded mozzarrella
1 part shredded smoked gouda
1 part shredded Italian Fontina
1 part freshly grated Parmigiana-Reggiano

Enjoy your creations! OH, you need a recipe for pizza dough, too?  Here you go… I hope you have a bread machine 🙂

Pizza Dough (for the bread machine)

1 1/3 cups water
1/4 cup olive oil
3 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons yeast

Place all ingredients in bread machine.  Press “Quick Dough” or “Pizza Dough” cycle. Use immediately (as directed below), refrigerate overnight or freeze for up to three months.  Let frozen dough defrost overnight in refrigerator.  Let refrigerated dough rest for 20 minutes at room temperature before using.

Remove dough to a work surface sprinkled with flour or cornmeal. Divide into 2 parts (for large pizzas).  Roll or press dough into a circle about the size of your pizza pan.

Use dough immediately to make a pizza, or let rise 30 minutes or so for a thicker crust pizza.

When you have it all assembled, bake in preheated HOT oven (500 degrees) for 12-15 minutes.

Have fun assembling the perfect pizza!  Thanks for stopping by my pizzeria today. See you tomorrow!  Remember how much I like feedback.  I’d love to read your comments about this, or your experience making pizza at home.