italian

Pasta with Sausage & Wilted Spinach

It’s getting cold out here in NYC, so after a long day at work and walking around the cold, busy city, sometimes you just need a rustic, comforting meal like pasta. I love pasta because the possibilities are endless and even something as simple as pasta with butter and parmesan cheese can be oh so satisfying. With pasta simplicity is sometimes best! This recipe is simple but the flavors are bold! The fennel seed in the Italian sausage combined with the spice from the red pepper flakes, the acid from the wine, the freshness of spinach and the creaminess of the cheese…it is just delicioso! This recipe is great because it takes about as much time as it takes to boil the pasta water and cook the pasta. The sauce only requires one pan and it doesn’t need to simmer for hours, super duper easy. Enjoy!

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Feeds about 2-3 People

Ingredients-

  1. 4 Italian Sausages (Medium size) (3 sweet and 1 hot, or more hot if you like it spicy)-Remove from the casing and crumble into small pieces.
  2. 1 Large Shallot diced small (or half a medium yellow onion)
  3. 1 Bay Leaf
  4. 1 Large Garlic Clove minced fine
  5. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  6. 1 Cup Dry White Wine
  7. ½ Cup Heavy Cream
  8. ¼ Cup Chopped Fresh Basil
  9. ¼ Cup Beef or Chicken Broth
  10. 4 Ounces Baby Spinach
  11. Pinch of Red Pepper Flakes
  12. ¼ Cup of Grated Parmegiano Reggiano Cheese (plus more to sprinkle on top when serving)
  13. Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste
  14. ½ Lb Fresh Pasta (Any type works- Tagliatelle, Fettucine, Rigatoni, Orecchiette)

 

 

 

Steps-

  1. While you are prepping the sausage boil the water for the pasta. Be sure to salt your water so the pasta is flavorful.
  2. In a large skillet on medium-low heat sweat the shallots and Bay Leaf in about 2 tablespoons of Olive Oil until they are soft and translucent. Add the garlic and Red Pepper Flakes just until fragrant.  
  3. Add the crumbled raw sausage into the pan and cook until cooked through and brown.
  4. Add the white wine and cook for about 2-3 minutes on medium heat. Add the chicken broth cream and a pinch of salt and pepper.
  5. Allow the liquid to reduce until it is “nappant” or can coat the back of a spoon. Set aside for a moment while you cook the pasta.
  6. Cook the pasta in the boiling water until al dente. IF you are cooking fresh pasta it should only take few minutes but follow the directions on the pasta packaging.  When you drain the pasta be sure to reserve some of the liquid and set it aside in a cup or bowl.
  7. When the pasta is ready put the sausage back on the stove on medium heat. Add the cheese and stir until combined. At the very end add the baby spinach until wilted but still green. Then toss in the chopped basil.
  8. Toss the pasta with the sausage mixture.  IF there is not enough liquid to coat the pasta, add a little of the hot pasta water. To serve, top the pasta with a little more parm cheese and more fresh basil if you like.

Enjoy!

**For a variation: Add some chopped marinated Sundried Tomatoes or even swap out the spinach for some Broccoli Rabe, Chopped Broccolini or Fresh Peas.

 

 

Neapolitan Egg Stuffing

One of my favorite parts of the holiday season is enjoying my family recipes that have been passed down for generations. For as long as I can remember I have been enjoying my grandma's Neapolitan style stuffing every Thanksgiving. The most unique part of this stuffing is that the main ingredient is not bread, it is actually egg. This stuffing will really give you a true taste of old world Naples, Italy, because it contains a few classic Neapolitan ingredients including Pine Nuts, Raisins and Prosciutto. This stuffing is sweet and savory and has a wonderful moist, eggy texture. You can make the stuffing and then put it inside the turkey before you cook the big bird, or you can make it separate like my family does. 

 

Ingredients-

  1. 10 Large Eggs (beaten in a bowl)
  2. 1 Small Mozzarella about 3/4 LB diced small (you can use a bran like Polly-O because it doesn't release as much water) 
  3. 1 Cup Raisins
  4. 1/4 Cup Chopped Fresh Flat Leaf Parsley
  5. Two 10 oz Boxes of White Mushrooms- You will be using the stems only! Remove the Stems and  boil them for 5-10 minutes or until tender. Drain and dry with paper towels. Then dice into small pieces. 
  6. Salt and Pepper to taste
  7. 1/3 Cup Grated Pecorino Romano Cheese (I use Locatelli)
  8. 1/3 cup Plain Breadcrumbs
  9. 1/4 Cup Pine Nuts, lightly toasted 
  10. 3 Thin Slices of Prosciutto Chopped into Small Pieces
  11. Olive Oil

 

Steps-

  1. Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl. 
  2. Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan (just enough to coat the pan).
  3. Pour the stuffing mixture all at once into the pan and use a wooden spoon to push the ingredients around as they cook just like you would scrambled eggs. 
  4. Once the eggs fully scramble and the ingredients come together and the cheese is melted etc. you are all done! If you make it ahead, just pour the stuffing into a pyrex dish and then reheat in a low oven.  You can also stuff your turkey with this stuffing and tie the legs of the turkey closed so it doesn't fall out. 

Three Bean Pasta Fagioli

Nothing is better than a hot bowl of Pasta "Fazool" on a cold winter day! Everyone knows February is award show month, and this is my "Award Show Meal."  I like to make a big pot of this and then cuddle up in sweats on the couch with my boyfriend and friends in front of the television. We sit and watch all of our favorite celebrities in awe, commenting on their wacky outfits and their butchered acceptance speeches...and the good ones too. 

Ingredients-

  1. 4 celery stalks diced small
  2. 1 cup carrot diced small
  3. 1 medium/large onion diced small (an onion about the size of a large orange)
  4. 4 pieces of bacon diced small
  5. 2 bay leaves
  6. 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  7. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  8. 2 Ounces Kale -Chiffonade
  9. 3 small garlic cloves minced
  10. 2 Sprigs of fresh rosemary chopped up finely
  11. 2 cups canned diced tomatoes with some of the juice 
  12. 1/3 cup dried brown or green lentils
  13. 14 oz canned Cannellini white beans
  14. 15.5 oz can of Chickpeas (Garbanzo beans)
  15. 14oz chickpeas 
  16. 6 cups Chicken stock/broth
  17. 1 cup white wine
  18. 1 Cup Small Pasta (I prefer Ditalini or small shells)
  19. Salt and Pepper to Taste
  20. Fresh Parmegiano Reggiano Cheese


Steps-

  1. Heat a large ceramic pot (like a Le Creuset if you have it) on medium-low heat. Add the bacon and cook until the fat renders, about 10 minutes. Remove the bacon and set aside (you will add it back in). Add the onion, carrot, celery, red pepper flakes and bay leaves and increase the heat to medium; cook, stirring frequently, until the onions become translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more, stirring constantly so the garlic doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan and burn.
  2. Add the wine and cook until it has reduced slightly. Add the bacon back to the pot along with the broth, beans, lentils, chickpeas, diced tomatoes and rosemary. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until the lentils are just tender, 15-30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper as needed.
  3. Use a slotted spoon to transfer 1 cup of the bean mixture and a little liquid to a blender or food processor. Hold a kitchen towel over the opening to prevent splatters as the liquid is very hot. Purée until smooth and add back into the pot.  This will help to thicken the soup slightly.
  4. Add the dried pasta to the pot and stir to incorporate. Turn the heat up to a gentle boil and cook until the pasta is tender but still firm to the bite, anywhere from 8-12 minutes depending on the type of pasta you used. The soup will thicken a bit by the time the pasta is cooked. Discard the bay leaves.
  5. Ladle the soup into bowls. Drizzle each portion with a touch of extra-virgin olive oil and grate a good amount of Parmegiano Reggiano on top.

I love to serve this with some homemade Focaccia bread. Check out Tyler Florence's recipe! I just use his bread recipe without his toppings and add lots of fresh rosemary and sea salt to mine  before baking and it compliments the soup perfectly. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/tyler-florence/fabulous-focaccia-recipe.html

Sweet Arancini- Fried Rice Pudding Balls


One year ago I was on the beautiful island of Sicily with my big, loud, Italian family.  There are many dishes that are specific to the Sicilian culture that I grew up eating, and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the “real thing.”  Canolis, Eggplant Caponata, Cassata Cake, Fig Cookies and of course Arancini.  Arancini are a popular street food in Sicily, so common that you can even purchase them at a gas station convenience store. Arancini are these dense, creamy, cheesy, fried rice balls that are often stuffed with things like ham, peas, ground beef and tomato sauce.  The Sicilians make these so well, that even when you purchase them from a sketchy “mini-mart” chances are they are still going to be down right delicioso.  I decided to reinvent Arancini and combine them with another classic rice dish, Rice Pudding.  My Sweet Arancini are crunchy, creamy bundles of gooey, rice pudding, coated in a blanket of delicious graham cracker crumbs and fried to perfection.  These bella balls are not complete without their silky, tangy Apricot and Peach dipping sauce.  Make these for your next soiree and I promise you everyone will not be able to take their hands off your rice balls.

 

 Ingredients-

  1. 2 cups water
  2. 1 cup  Arborio rice
  3. 2 1/2 cups whole milk (you can use any milk but whole works the best)
  4. 1/4 cup sugar
  5. 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  6. 1 egg
  7. Dash of Cinnamon
  8. Pinch of Nutmeg
  9. 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  10. 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  11. 2-3 eggs beaten
  12. 1 1/2 Cups Graham Cracker Crumbs- you may use a little less or more (you can buy the crumbs in a box in the baking isle or by the breadcrumbs or just crush plain graham crackers in a food processor)
  13. Canola Oil or Peanut Oil for frying
  14. Confectioners sugar for dusting

 Apricot Peach Dipping sauce-

Ingredients-

  1.  1 Cup Peach Preserves (jam)
  2. 3 Fresh Ripe Apricots (you can use any fruit you like!)
  3. 1 Tablespoon Butter

 Steps-

  1. First make the dipping sauce. Remove the pits from the apricots and chop the flesh into small chunks.
  2. Melt the butter in a small saucepan and add the chopped fruit. Cook down on low heat until some of the juices release from the fruits.
  3. Add the peach preserves and melt down until it thins out and becomes a sauce consistency. You may need to add some water if it is too thick. Place in the fridge until you are ready to use.  If the sauce gets too thick just add a little water and heat it up in a pot or the microwave for a few seconds until it is warm and thins out.

 Rice Balls-

Steps-

  1. In a medium pot, bring the water and rice to a boil. Stir, cover, and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the water has been absorbed. Add the milk and bring to a boil. Simmer gently, uncovered, for about 30 minutes, stirring frequently until the rice is tender. Set aside.
  2. In a bowl, combine the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and cornstarch. Add the egg and vanilla and combine with a whisk. Gradually pour this mixture into the rice pudding and cook for about 2 minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly, or until the rice thickens and becomes very sticky like risotto.
  3. Spread the rice in a baking pan or loaf pan and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for about 2 hours or until completely chilled.  This is a great thing to make the day before!  You want the texture to be very thick and gelatinous so you can form balls easily.
  4. Next, preheat the canola oil in the deep fryer on high temperature. Set a wire rack and paper towels aside.
  5. Place the flour, eggs, and graham cracker crumbs in three separate bowls. Set aside.
  6. With your hands, shape each ball of the rice pudding.  You want them to be a little bigger than ping-pong balls, but you can make them as big or as small as you like!  A small 1 1/2 inch ice cream/cookie scoop works well too! When doing them by hand flour your hands to prevent the rice from sticking to you. You can also stuff them with any sweet treat you would like if you wanted!
  7. Dredge the balls in flour and shake to remove any excess. Dip them in eggs and drain. Coat with the graham cracker crumbs.
  8. Fry the pudding balls, a few at a time until they are nicely browned and have a nice crunchy outside, about 2 to 3 minutes. Drain on the baking sheet and paper towels and continue with the remaining balls.
  9. Dust the rice balls with powdered sugar and serve slightly warm with the apricot peach dipping sauce!

 

Veal Rollatini- Veal cutlets stuffed with goat cheese, tomato & eggplant

Rollatini are a fantastic dish to make when you're having guests over for dinner or even on a day when you have limited time but still want a hearty delicious meal.  Rollatini looks very impressive and fancy, but it is very easy to make!  If you don't like veal, you can use thinly pounded chicken cutlets instead!  I often will make Rollatini with fish like flounder too but will stuff it with grilled zucchini, caramelized onion and tomato with no cheese for a lighter meal.  I serve my Veal Rollatini with tomato sauce for some moisture but you can eat it with Basil Pesto instead, a Marsala wine sauce or a Balamic reduction.

Ingredients-

  1. 1 Medium Eggplant  Peeled and Sliced into very thin rounds
  2. 3 ounces Goat Cheese (You can also use shredded mozzarella)
  3. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  4. Lemon Juice
  5. 1 Medium Tomato Sliced very Thin
  6. 2 Large Veal Cutlets Pounded Very Thin
  7. Balsamic Vinegar
  8. 1 Egg
  9. Seasoned Bread Crumbs
  10. Fresh Basil Leaves
  11. Salt and Pepper
  12. Canola/Vegetable Oil
  13. Tomato Sauce or Basil Pesto to top the Rollatini

Steps-

  1. Preheat the oven to 375F.
  2. Toss the sliced eggplant with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.  On a barbeque grill, grill pan or george forman style grill or panini press, grill the eggplant on both sides until it has nice grill marks and is very soft and tender. Set aside
  3. Next assemble the Rollatini by spreading about 1-1.5 ounces of goat cheese on one side of each veal cutlet.  
  4. Next place slices of eggplant on top of the goat cheese (enough to cover most of the veal cutlet. Then drizzle the eggplant with some Balsamic Vinegar and a pinch of salt and pepper.
  5. Next place about two very thin slices of tomato on top of the goat cheese. Squeeze a few drops of lemon on the tomatoes and sprinkle them with a little salt and pepper.  It is important to season each ingredient so you have flavor throughout.
  6. Place 2 basil leaves on top of the tomatoes. 
  7. Gently and tightly roll up the stuffed veal.  Use some of the goat cheese to glue the seam closed or secure with a tooth pick.  Sprinkle the outside of the rollatini with salt and pepper.
  8. Beat the egg in a bowl and then carefully dip the rollatini in the egg and then the seasoned bread crumbs to coat it.  
  9. Pour enough vegetable oil in a frying pan to coat the bottom in a thin layer.  Heat the oil on medium heat.  Once the oil is hot, place the rollatini in the pan seam side down.  Once the rolaltini is golden brown, flip it onto the other side and brown it on the other side.
  10. Remove the rollatini from the pan with a spatula and place it on a baking sheet seam side down.  Place in the oven for a few minutes or until the meat is fully cooked and the rollatini is hot throughout.  While the rollatini is in the oven, heat the tomato sauce on the stove.
  11. Plate the rollatini and spoon some tomato sauce over the top and sprinkle with some chopped basil.  If you do not want tomato sauce, you can drizzle some basil pesto over the top instead!
  12. ENJOY!