Agnolotti del Plin

Agnolotti, Pasta

Agnolotti del Plin (plin means pinch, which is how to form the shape of the finished product) are small pasta stuffed with roasted meat and spinach. This dish originates in Piemonte, a northwestern region of Italy. Traditionally the agnolotti is made with leftover roasted meat such as pork, beef, or chicken. You can, however, use freshly roasted meat just for the purpose of making the agnolotti.

Agnolotti are very similar to ravioli. This is why I think I was drawn to learning how to make them because ravioli are one of my family favorites. Growing up, my mother made ravioli only two or three times a year, and one of those times was Christmas day. One main difference between agnolotti and ravioli is that the agnolotti pasta, known as tajarin, is made with egg yolks only, and the egg/flour ratio is higher than that of regular pasta dough. Another difference is how they are assembled. Agnolotti are formed by one piece of pasta that is folded over and sealed, and ravioli are formed from two individual pieces of pasta placed one on top of the other and then sealed to form the ravioli. The tajarin pasta is typically served with a simple butter and sage sauce and freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano cheese. For a special treat you can shave fresh truffle over top (this is not really an option for most of us here in the USA), or you can use truffle butter, which can be found in many grocery stores.

Let’s start by preparing the roasted meat

Ingredients for roasted meat:

8 – oz. pork tenderloin
8 – oz. skinless chicken thighs
olive oil
1 – small onion
2 – cloves garlic
2 – sprigs fresh rosemary
1/2 – cup chicken broth
salt
ground black pepper

You can roast the meat the day before to save time.  Preheat the oven to 425°F.  While the oven is heating, sprinkle a little salt and black pepper over the chicken thighs and pork tenderloin. Heat a little oil in a skillet with garlic cloves, and add the meat to brown it on both sides.  Transfer the browned meat and garlic cloves into a roasting pan.  Peel and cut a medium sized onion into 4 pieces and add them to the roasting pan.  Next pour in the chicken stock, and add the sprigs of rosemary and sprinkle a little salt and black pepper over everything.  Cover the pan with foil and roast for about 30 minutes or until the inside temperature of the chicken is 165°F.  

Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.  If you roast the meat the day before, be sure to keep the onion and juices along with the meat in a covered container and refrigerate until you are ready to make the agnolotti.

Prepare the pasta dough

Ingredients for Tajarin pasta dough:

2 – cups all purpose flour
9 – large egg yolks only
2 – tbls olive oil
1/2 – tsp. salt
1/4 -1/2 – cup ice water

Place the flour in a large mixing bowl and make a well in the center. Add the egg yolks, olive oil, ice water, and salt into the center of the well. Take a fork and whisk the egg yolks as if you are making scrambled eggs. Once the yolks are broken down, continue to whisk the mixture, and gradually incorporate some of the flour into it with the fork.

Once all the flour is incorporated, clumps will form. Add a few drops of water at a time as necessary until the flour and eggs start to adhere. The dough will be a little dry. Once the dough takes form, turn the dough out onto a floured, flat surface.

Rub a little olive oil on your hands and knead the dough until it feels smooth and soft. This will take about 5 minutes. Now form the pasta into a ball and cover with plastic wrap. Set it aside at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before you roll out the pasta.

Meanwhile, it’s time to prepare the filling

While the pasta dough is resting, prepare the filling for the agnolotti.

Ingredients for the agnolotti filling:

12 – oz. fresh baby spinach
1 – large egg
1 – tsp. salt
1/3 – tsp. grated nutmeg
1/2 – tsp. ground black pepper
1 – tbls. butter
1/3 – cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Roasted meat you prepared earlier

Put the butter into a large skillet, and heat on medium just until it melts. Add the baby spinach and sprinkle with a little salt. Mix the spinach so it all gets coated with the butter and cook until it wilts. This will only take a minute or two. Remove the cooked spinach to a strainer and let drain into a bowl.

Remove the chicken from the bone and slice the pork tenderloin into several pieces. Use a large knife to chop the meat and the roasted onion into small pieces and place it into a large bowl.

Squeeze the excess water out of the cooked spinach, and use a knife to chop it into small pieces.

In a small bowl, add the egg, salt, nutmeg, black pepper, and Parmigiano cheese and whip with a fork until completely combined. Add the egg mixture and the spinach to the chopped meat and mix thoroughly.

Assemble the Agnolotti

Unwrap the pasta dough. It should be smooth and silky.  Cut the disk into four pieces.

Use a rolling pin to flatten one quarter of the pasta to put into the pasta machine. Cover the remaining pasta under a bowl to keep it from drying out. Sprinkle a little four onto the roll of the pasta machine, and set it to its widest setting (number 1).  Pass it through twice, then change the setting to number 2, pass the pasta through once, and continue to do the same with each consecutive number until you have rolled out the dough to its thinnest setting.  On my machine the thinest setting is number 7.

Place a small spoonful of filling on the rolled out pasta near the inside edge, spacing them about 2 inches apart.  Brush a little water on the outside edge of the pasta so that the dough will adhere better.

Start from the inside edge and stretch the pasta over the filling and press down the pasta to smooth out.  To form the agnolotti, use your thumb and forefinger to pinch together the dough between each of the spoonfuls of filling.  Next use a pastry cutting wheel, trim off the excess pasta by running the wheel along the entire edge of the dough.

Now use the pastry wheel to cut out each of the agnolotti.  Start at one end and cut in the middle of each agnolotti running the pastry wheel in one end and out the other.

Place the agnolotti apart on a floured surface until you are ready to cook them.

If you do not cook them the same day, flash freeze them on a cookie sheet for about 30 minutes.

Once they have set in the freezer, place them in a freezer friendly container. Line the container with parchment paper or waxed paper, and dust it with a little flour.  Place the agnolotti in single layers, separately the layers with the parchment paper, until the container is filled.  The agnolotti will last 4-6 months in the freezer.  Remember not to thaw them out before cooking.  They should be added to boiling water while still frozen.

Cook the Agnolotti

Fill an 8 qt stock pot about 3/4 full with water, and bring it to boil. Once the water is boiling add about one tablespoon of salt. Add the agnolotti one at a time being careful not to break them. Cook about 12 – 18 agnolotti at a time, so you do not over crowd the pot. You will need to cook them in batches. Once you have the first bunch in the water, use a wooden spoon to gently stir the agnolotti so they do not stick to the bottom of the pot or to each other. Once the water returns to a boil and the agnolotti rise to the surface, continue to cook them stirring occasionally so they do not stick together. Cook them for about 4-5 minutes. Test one to see if they are done before removing them from the pot.

Continue with each batch until you have cooked the desired number of agnolotti you want.

Prepare the Butter Sage Sauce

While the agnolotti are cooking, start to prepare the butter sage sauce. For 2 dozen agnolotti, place one stick of unsalted butter in a large skillet to slowly melt it. Once the butter is melted, add about 8 large leaves of fresh sage and cook on low heat to infuse the butter. Leave it on the lowest heat to keep it warm while you finish cooking the agnolotti.

Drain the cooked agnolotti and place them on a serving platter. Pour the butter sage sauce over them, and top with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Serve immediately.

Buon Appetito!

Makes 5-6 dozen agnolotti
Serves 8




Italian Sausage Roll

Italian Sausage Roll

Italian sausage rolls are one of my families favorite comfort foods, especially my husband. He orders a sausage roll in a pizzeria more often than not. The other day I was making pizza dough and memories of my youth came back to me when my mother would make pizza. She would often save some of the dough to make a sausage roll. She smothered the sausage with peppers, onions, and cheese. It was a special treat for us. So I decided to use only enough dough to make one pizza for my husband and I to share, and I saved the remainder of the dough to make sausage rolls the next day.

Although sausage with peppers and onions is very common, it somehow takes on a different appeal when it is wrapped up in a crispy pizza crust. The key is to use quality ingredients to make a delicious, decadent sausage roll without all the grease.

I start with the pizza dough. You can use my pizza dough recipe here, or you can buy it at your local pizza shop or grocery store. There are a lot of good frozen doughs as well. Next, choose your favorite Italian sausage, fresh mozzarella, and pecorino cheeses. Lastly, a fresh marinara sauce for dipping. You can use my marinara sauce recipe here, or any sauce of your choice.

Ingredients:

Pizza dough
1 – lb. Italian Sausage
1 – large red bell pepper
1 – medium onion
3 – cloves garlic
8 – oz. fresh mozzarella
1/2 – cup grated pecorino romano
Red pepper flakes (optional)
Garlic Powder
Salt
Ground Black Pepper
1 – egg
Marinara Sauce for dipping

Directions:

First, prepare the onions, peppers, and sausage. Remove the sausage from the casing and crumble it into bite sized pieces. Next, peel the onion and cut it in half, and then cut each half into thin slices. Lastly, cut the red pepper into thin slices in the same manner as the onion.

Heat about 1 teaspoon of olive oil in a skillet and add the sausage.  Cook the sausage through, stirring often so it does not burn. Once it is cooked, place the sausage on a platter on top of a piece of paper towel so it will absorb the excess oil.  Now, in the same skillet, then add the onions.  Sprinkle with a little salt and black pepper.  Sauté until they are translucent and start to caramelize. This will take about 5-7 minutes. Stir often so they do not burn.  Remove the onions to a bowl, and add the sliced peppers.  Repeat the same steps–sprinkle with salt and pepper, then sauté until they start to soften.

Assemble the sausage roll

You can make one large sausage roll, but I like to make two smaller rolls so cut the pizza dough for one pie in half. Spread a little flour on your board or counter and roll out the dough into a rectangle about 14″ x 7″. I like to work on top of a piece of parchment paper, and then I use the same parchment paper on top of the baking stone in the oven.

Now drizzle a little olive oil over the dough, and spread it out evenly with a pastry brush. Sprinkle the top of the dough with a little salt and garlic powder.

Spread half of the cooked sausage over the dough, leaving a 1″ edge on three sides and a 2″ edge at one end for folding.

Next add half of the sautéd red pepper and onion.

Take half of the mozzarella cheese and tear into small pieces and spread it evenly over the top of the sausage, peppers, and onion. Then sprinkle half of the Pecorino Romano and a little red pepper flake over the top.

Brush the exposed edges of the pizza dough with a little water. This will help it to stick together. Start from the top and roll tightly, tucking in the ends.

Continue until you get to the bottom and stretch the excess dough over the top of the roll. Press it together and pinch the ends to make sure the roll stays together. Set aside and prepare the second roll.

Once both rolls are made, place them with the parchment on a ceramic stone or cookie sheet. If you use a stone, you may want to place a pan underneath to catch any juices that may leak out.

Before you put them into the oven, take one egg and break it into a small bowl. Whisk it together, and brush it over the top of the rolls.

Place them into a pre-heated 400o oven, and bake for 25-35 minutes. The top of the roll should be golden brown.

Once they are done, remove from the oven and let set for 10 minutes before slicing.

Serve with Marinara sauce.

Buon appetito!




Chicken Parmigiana alla Caprese

Chicken Parmigiana Caprese

Chicken Parmigiana is an Italian American favorite. You can find it everywhere, from fine restaurants to the neighborhood deli. This also holds true in my family as this dish is one of my son, Andrew’s, favorite meals. Even so I have not made it in a long time, so the other day I decided to surprise him.

The key to a delicious Chicken Parm is quality ingredients–a fresh tomato sauce, fresh, quality mozzarella cheese, crispy and flavorful breading, and moist, tender chicken.

To accomplish these goals, it is important to choose the right ingredients. First, start with panko breadcrumbs for a crispier breading, and season them yourself. This will guarantee that the flavors are fresh and tailored to your taste.

Typically this dish is baked with the tomato sauce, but in my version I bake it with fresh tomato slices, and then when ready to serve it I place the chicken over a bed of fresh marinara sauce. Placing the chicken on top of the sauce at the time of serving, keeps the chicken from becoming soggy, and it presents very nicely.

Let’s get started . . .

The first thing I do is make the marinara sauce. The recipe is in my “essential recipes“. Here, for your convenience, are the ingredients you will need.

Ingredients for Marinara Sauce:

1 – 28 oz. cans Whole Peeled Tomatoes (San Marzano preferred)
1 – medium onion (about 1 cup diced onion)
3 – cloves garlic
6 – fresh basil leaves
1/8 – tsp. red pepper flakes
3/4 – tsp. salt
1/4 – tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 – cup dry white wine (optional)

Ingredients for the breading:

3 – cups plain panko breadcrumbs
1 – cup grated or shredded Parmigiano cheese (parmesan)
1 – tbls. dried oregano
1 1/4 – tsp. ground black pepper
1 1/2 – tsp. salt
3/4 – tsp. garlic powder

Ingredients for chicken cutlet:

8 – pieces of chicken cutlet (not the thin sliced cutlets)
1 – cup all purpose flour
2 – eggs
1/2 – cup milk
salt and ground black pepper to taste

Seasoning the breadcrumbs.

Directions:

Place all the ingredients into a large bowl and mix until completely combined.

panko bread crumbs

Now let’s prepare the chicken.

Directions:

Do not buy the thin sliced cutlets that you find in the grocery stores. These are too thin and will become dry and overcooked. Buy whole cutlets and slice them in half for the perfect thickness.

Rinse the chicken in cold water and pat dry with paper towel. Make an assembly line to bread the chicken. First in line is the flour on a flat plate; next in line is the egg and milk whisked together in a bowl or deep dish that will accommodate the size of the meat, and third place the seasoned breadcrumbs on a flat plate.

Sprinkle a little salt and ground black pepper on each side of the chicken cutlets, then coat one at a time with the flour. Shake off any excess flour and dip in the egg mixture making sure to coat the chicken completely. Next, coat the chicken with the bread crumbs to cover the entire surface. Press down the meat firmly into the crumbs so they adhere to the meat, and place the breaded pieces on a plate. Cover the breaded chicken with plastic wrap or waxed paper and place it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. The cold helps the crumbs to become more firm and they adhere better to the meat. This will help to prevent the breading from coming off during frying.

Now heat a little canola oil in a large skillet and add the chicken, but do not over crowd the pan. Cook on a medium flame until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes on each side.

Once it is browned on both sides, place it on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. You will finish cooking the chicken in the oven.

Complete browning all the chicken cutlets, then place them in a 400o oven and bake about 10 minutes. If you are not sure if the chicken is cooked, you can use a meat thermometer to check the temperature. The safe temperature for chicken is 165oF.

Remove the tray of chicken from the oven, and top each cutlet with Parmigiano cheese.

Then add two slices of tomato to each cutlet. Drizzle a little olive oil over the top, and sprinkle a little salt and oregano over the tomatoes and top off with fresh mozzarella cheese.

Turn the oven on Broil, and place the tray of chicken in the oven and cook until the cheese starts to brown. Watch it carefully so you do not burn the cheese.

Remove and sprinkle some chopped fresh basil on top.

Let’s assemble the plate

Place about two large spoonfuls of marinara sauce on the plate. Lay one cutlet on top of the sauce. This meal goes well with mashed potatoes, creamy polenta, and a vegetable of your choice. I served this meal with garlic mashed potatoes and roasted asparagus.

Chicken Parmigiana Caprese

Buon appetito!

Makes 8 servings




Lasagna Verde

Lasagna Verde

Lasagna Verde is a delicious and decadent pasta dish from Emilia-Romagna in Northern Italy. I have only been making this dish for about five years. Prior to that, I did not make lasagna because it was not my favorite pasta dish. As a matter of fact, it was not a family favorite growing up.  My mother only made it once or twice a year in the traditional Italian-American style layered with a meat sauce, ricotta, mozzarella, and pecorino cheeses, which was very good, just not a family favorite.

About nine years ago I became friends with Roberta, a young Italian woman from the region of Emilia-Romagna, in Northern Italy. The region is considered by many to be the gastronomical capital of Italy. Roberta and I worked together, and I was studying the Italian language and culture at the time, so it was common for us to discuss the food of Italy, and specifically the food of her region. Through these discussions, I learned how lasagna was made in Modena. She never actually gave me the recipe, but she did tell me how to make the béchamel sauce and what ingredients were typically used in the lasagna.

Her mother, Franca, visited her every summer in New York and usually made trays of lasagna for Roberta to keep in her freezer. One summer I was the lucky recipient of one of those trays. It was the best I had ever eaten. The layers of pasta verde (pasta made with spinach), béchamel sauce, and ragù alla Bolognese (meat sauce) blended together to form a luscious, creamy and savory pasta dish that melted in my mouth. I had never eaten lasagna like this before. Eating her lasagna gave me the model for my own. After a few attempts, I successfully made a traditional lasagna verde that I am proud to share with you now.

The recipe I am sharing with you is entirely made from scratch, including the pasta. You can certainly choose to use store bought lasagna noodles made with spinach. It will also be delicious, although I think the homemade pasta makes it extra special. If you choose to make everything yourself, you can do it in steps. I usually make the sauce a couple days before I plan to make the lasagna. If you choose to make it farther in advance you can freeze it. The pasta can be made the day before and kept in the refrigerator until the next day when you are ready to make it. This way you don’t have so much to do all at once. I suggest, though, that you make the béchamel sauce the day you assemble the lasagna.

What you need…

Bolognese Sauce:  The first thing you need is the Bolognese sauce (meat sauce). I have already posted Ragù alla Bolognese in another post, so instead of repeating it in this post, just click here for the recipe.

Béchamel Sauce: I have also posted Béchamel sauce previously. You can find it under Essential Recipes here.

Parmesan Cheese (I recommend Parmigiano Reggiano)

Next you need to make the pasta.

Spinach Pasta:
This pasta is used to make the sheets for the Lasagna Verde.  You can also use this pasta for ravioli or tagliatelle (ribbon-cut pasta).

Ingredients:
4 – oz. fresh baby spinach
2 ½ – cups all-purpose flour
3 – eggs
1/4 – cup water
1 – tsp. salt

Directions:
Add a couple tablespoons of water to a large skillet, and add the washed baby spinach and sprinkle a little salt over it. Cook over a medium flame for about 2 minutes until the spinach is tender. Drain the spinach in a colander and set aside to cool. Once it is cool enough to handle, use paper towel or a clean dishtowel in which to roll the spinach and wring out the excess water. Next, on a cutting board, chop the spinach into tiny bits or use a food processor to chop finely.

Place the flour on a large board or your countertop and make a well in the center. (You can use a large mixing bowl if you prefer.)

Add the eggs, water and salt into the center of the well.

Take a fork and whisk the eggs until the yolks are broken, then add the spinach.

Continue to whisk the egg and spinach mixture, and gradually incorporate some of the flour into it with the fork. Once you have incorporated enough flour to make a sticky dough, you can start to mix the dough with your hands.

Once the dough takes form (if using a bowl), turn the dough out onto a floured, flat surface and knead the dough until it feels smooth and silky. Add flour as needed.

Cover the dough with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before rolling out the noodles.  You can keep the dough in the refrigerator overnight for use the next day if you choose.

While the pasta is resting in the refrigerator you can make the Béchamel sauce.

Time to assemble the Lasagna

Put a large pot of water on to boil. Once it comes to a boil, add a teaspoon of salt.

Remove the pasta dough from the refrigerator and knead on a floured surface for about one minute.  Cut the dough into four or five pieces.  With a rolling pin roll out one piece of dough in order to put it through the pasta machine.

Be sure to put a little flour on the rollers of the pasta machine before you insert the dough. Put the setting on number 1 and pass the dough through twice, then move on to setting number 2, then 3 and so on until you reach setting number 6.  This will give you the right thickness for the pasta sheets.

Lay the finished sheet on a floured surface until you have rolled out all of the dough.

Cut the longest pieces in half and place the two pieces in the boiling water. Stir so that the pasta does not stick together.  Let come back to a boil and cook about 4 minutes. Remove the pasta and place on a clean dish towel.

Place a little sauce on the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish.

Measure and cut the cooked pasta to fill the bottom of the dish.

Put several spoons of sauce on top of the pasta and spread it evenly.

Next pour some Béchamel sauce and spread evenly, then sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Repeat the process until you fill the dish, which should be 5 layers.

Cover with foil and bake in a preheated 375° oven for one hour. Check after 45 minutes and remove foil. Cook until it get golden brown and bubbly.

Let rest at least 30 minutes before serving.

Buon appetito!




Beef Braciole with Peppers and Onions

Beef, braciole

Beef braciole is a common Italian-American meal, stuffed with cheese, herbs, and bread crumbs, made into rolls and cooked in tomato sauce. Growing up my mother prepared it in the same manner.  The sauce was used to dress the pasta and the braciole were served on the side along with the meatballs. Braciole can be made of any meat you prefer, beef, pork, lamb, and even chicken. My favorite is pork, but today I decided to use beef with a simple breadcrumb stuffing like Mom used to do.

Braciole is not only a great accompaniment to spaghetti, it also makes a great main dish. Today, instead of cooking the braciole in tomato sauce, I am making it with peppers and onions.  This recipe is easy and fast.

Ingredients:
1 – lb. flank steak (sliced into four thin slices)
2 – cloves garlic
2 – green bell peppers
1 – medium onion
1/2 – cup dry red wine
1/2 – cup chicken stock
Salt
Ground black pepper

Ingredients for stuffing:
1 – cup panko
1/2 – cup seasoned bread crumbs
1 tsp. – Herb de Provence
1 tsp. – oregano
1/2 tsp. – black pepper
1/4 tsp. – salt
1/2 cup pecorino romano
1 tsp. – garlic
1/4 – cup olive oil
1/4 – cup water
1/4 – cup fresh parsley

Directions for stuffing:
Mix all the ingredients together. The stuffing should be moist enough to hold together when you squeeze it in your hand. Add a little more water if it needs it.

Assemble the braciole:
Sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides of the steak. Spread stuffing down the center of the beef slices, leaving a one-half inch border all around.

Start at the widest end of the steak and roll tightly. Insert two toothpicks into the roll to hold it together.

In a large skillet, add a little olive oil and the garlic. Once the oil is hot add the braciole and brown it on all sides.

In the meantime, cut the peppers into medium sized slices, and slice the onion in half and then make thin half moon slices.

Once all sides of the braciole are browned, remove them to a bowl and set aside. Add the peppers and onion to the skillet, sprinkle with salt and black pepper, and sauté about 5 minutes until they start to soften.

Deglaze the pan with the wine, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen all the brown bits. Cook about one minute to cook off the alcohol then add the chicken stock and stir, then return the braciole to the pan.

Cover and cook on a low flame for 15-20 minutes until the peppers are tender. As the peppers cook down, the wine and chicken stock will make a delicious sauce.  Stir occasionally and turn the braciole to cover it in the juices.

Remove the toothpicks and serve the braciole over the peppers and onions, and pour some of the sauce on top.

Buon appetito!

Beef Braciole, Peppers, Onions, Stuffing




Pizza with Proscuitto and Arugula

Pizza, Proscuitto, Arugula

 

 

Who doesn’t like Pizza? My favorite is Napolitano style Pizza with Proscuitto and Arugula. Living in New York City, pizza is available practically on every corner.  Some of the best pizza in the world can be found here, but my favorite style is Napolitano. Even though New York pizza is so good, I sometimes prefer to make my own.  This way I can control the quality of the ingredients, and the result is a lighter, healthier pizza.

I tried for years to make my own pizza, but I was never satisfied with the pizza dough.  It was never quite right, until my friend, Roberta, gave me her recipe.  It is easy to make, and it comes out perfect every time for me.

Give it a try! Be creative–use any toppings you prefer.

Ingredients for pizza dough:
4 – cups all purpose flour
4 – tbls. olive oil
3 – tbls. sugar
1 1/4 -cups water
1 – envelope of dry yeast*
1 1/2 tsp. salt

Toppings:
Marinara Sauce
1/2- lb. Proscuitto (thinly sliced)
1 – lb. fresh mozzarella
3 – tbls. Pecorino Romano cheese (optional)

*I use an Italian brand of yeast called Livieto di Birra, by Paneangeli. This is the secret to my success with pizza dough. If you can’t find the yeast, however, you can substitute any brand you prefer.

Directions:
In a large bowl, add 4 cups of flour, and make a well in the center. Add the package of yeast, sugar, salt, olive oil, and 1 cup of water.

Mix with a fork to incorporate the ingredients and add the rest of the water if needed to bring the flour together. Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead until smooth and soft about 4 minutes.

Rub a little oil in the same bowl and place the ball of dough in the center. Top with a drizzle of oil on top of the dough to prevent it from getting hard.

Cover with a towel and set in a warm area to rise for two hours.

After about 2 hours, the dough should at least double in size, then you are ready to make the pizza.

Doubled in size

Time to Assemble the Pizza:

Place a ceramic pizza stone in the oven and preheat it to 500° (Use the Convection setting if you have it).

Divide the dough into three equal portions.  Spread a little flour on a board or countertop, and with a rolling pin, roll out the dough into a 12″-14″ roundshape.

Place the dough on a piece of parchment paper.  Spread a little marinara sauce, sprinkle with a little pecorino romano cheese (optional), and place small pieces of fresh mozzarella all over the surface.

Using a pizza paddle, slide it under the parchment paper and place it  in the preheated oven on top of the pizza stone.  Cook until the crush starts to brown and the cheese is melted and bubbly.  Do not leave the pizza unattended.  It cooks quickly.  It takes about 4-6 minutes depending on your oven.  Using the pizza paddle, lift the edge of the pizza to check the bottom.  It should be browned lightly.

Napolitano Pizza, Mozzarella

Remove the pizza and place it on a cutting board.  Place thin slices of prosciutto over the pizza and top off with arugula.  It’s ready to serve!

Buon appetito!

Pizza, Napolitano, Proscuitto, Arugula

 




Farro Vegetable Casserole

Farro, Cheese, zucchini, cannellini beans

You may have noticed by now that I like Farro. I am always trying to come up with new ways to serve it. My family likes casserole dishes because they are all-in-one meals, and easy to eat.  So I decided to create a casserole using Farro as the star.

This farro vegetable casserole is packed with flavor. It has everything that you could want.  The nutty flavor of the farro, combined with the vegetables, cannellini beans, and melted mozzarella cheese will delight your taste buds. It is truly a comfort food without all the guilt.

Ingredients:
1  1/2 – cups farro
1 – red bell pepper
10 -oz. white mushrooms
3 – cups diced zucchini
1 – can cannellini beans
1 – medium onion
2 – cloves garlic
3/4 – tsp. salt
1/2 – tsp. Herbs de Provence
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/3 tsp red pepper flake
1/2 – tsp. black pepper
1/2 – cup pecorino romano
2 – cups mozzarella cheese
1/2 – cup chicken broth

Directions:
Cook the farro according to package directions, but do not over cook (be sure to add salt to the water). When the farro is ready, drain and place it in a medium sized baking dish, and add a little olive oil and the chicken broth so it does not stick together.

While the farro is cooking, dice the red bell pepper, mushrooms, zucchini and onion, and peel the garlic. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil to a large skillet, add the garlic and red pepper flakes, and cook on a medium-low flame about 2 minutes until the garlic starts to brown. Now add the diced vegetables and season with the salt, black pepper, oregano, Herbs de Provence and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes.

When the vegetables are ready it is time to assemble the casserole. Add to the farro in the baking dish the pecorino romano cheese and 3/4 cup of grated mozzarella cheese, and mix well. Next, add the cannellini beans (drain first) and sautéd vegetables. Stir to distribute the vegetables evenly.

Top off the casserole with the remaining grated mozzarella cheese.

Bake at 375° for 30 minutes, until the cheese starts to become golden brown.

Serves 6

Buon appetito!




Stuffed Zucchine with Riced Cauliflower, Spinach and Sausage

Zucchine and cauliflower are two wonderful summer vegetables.  What better way to enjoy both than to stuff one into the other.  This recipe is easy, nutricious, and delicious.

Riced cauliflower makes the perfect base for the stuffing because it easily absorbs the flavors from the ingredients you add to it.

While this recipe is heavy on vegetables, it is also enhanced with flavorful Italian sausage.  You can easily make this a vegetarian dish by substituting the sausage with beans for added protein, and use vegetable stock in place of the chicken stock.

Ingredients:
2 – medium zucchini (approx. 8″ long)
1 – small head cauliflower
1 – cup chicken broth
8 – oz baby spinach
3 – cloves garlic
1 – tsp. Adobo Seasoning
1 – tsp. oregano
1/4 – tsp. salt
1/2 – cup pecorino romano cheese
3 – italian sausage links
Olive oil
Ground black pepper

Directions:
Rinse the zucchini and pat dry.  Cut off the ends and slice it down the middle lengthwise. With a spoon, scrape out the seeds in the center to make a pocket to hold the stuffing.

Place the zucchini halves in a baking dish and drizzle with a little olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt, ground black pepper, and oregano.  Place in a pre-heated 375° oven to pre-cook for 15 minutes while preparing the stuffing. Remove from oven until stuffing is ready.

While the zucchine pre-cooks, remove the leaves from the cauliflower, rinse and cut into small pieces. To turn the cauliflower into rice sized pieces you can either grate it on a box grater or use a food processor with the grating blade.

Once the cauliflower is riced, add it to a pot with one cup of chicken stock, the Adobo, salt, and oregano. Bring to a boil and cook on a medium-low heat for about 10 minutes until tender. Turn off heat and set aside.

While the cauliflower is cooking, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet and sautè the garlic cloves until they start to brown.  Add the spinach and stir to coat all the leaves with the oil. Sprinkle with a little salt and cook until tender, about 2 minutes.

When the spinach is ready, remove it from the skillet and set aside.

Remove the sausage from its casing and add a little olive oil to the same skillet.  Crumble the sausauge and cook until no longer pink.

Now combine the cauliflower, spinach, sausage, and pecorino cheese and mix well.

Stuff the zucchini with the cauliflower mixture. Sprinkle the top with some more pecorino cheese.

Return to the oven and bake for 30 minutes or until the zucchini is fork tender and the top is lightly browned.

You can serve it with a side of marinara sauce, but it is not necessary.

Serve immediately.




Caprese Salad

Caprese Salad, Mozzarella, Tomatoes, Basil

Caprese Salad

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Serves: 4-5

Caprese salad is made with only four main ingredients, so it is important that you use the best ingredients possible.  I like to use mozzarella di bufala (mozzarella made with buffalo milk). You can find an imported Italian brand in most warehouse clubs. Otherwise buy the best fresh mozzarella you can find from an Italian cheese store. I have been craving this salad since my recent trip to Italy. I went with my sister, niece and cousins. We had a great trip, but the one thing that my niece, Jasmine, had to have every day was Insalata Caprese. We visited Capri where this salad originates. The tomatoes were at their peak, and the mozzarella di bufala was the best we ever had. So, with this traditional Caprese recipe, I am reliving my trip to Italy.

Ingredients:
1 – lb. ripe Campari or vine ripened tomatoes
10 – oz. mozzarella di bufala
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 – fresh basil leaves
1/4 – tsp. dried oregano
Salt

Directions:
Slice tomatoes in 1/4 inch thick slices. Arrange them on a plate in a single layer. Sprinkle with salt and oregano, then drizzle about 2 tablespoons of olive oil over the tomatoes.

Campari tomatoes

Slice the mozzarella in 1/4 inch thick slices, and arrange them on top of the tomatoes. Sprinkle with a little salt and a pinch of oregano. Taste the mozzarella before you add salt to determine how much is needed. Drizzle a little olive oil over the cheese and top with pieces of basil. Tear the basil with your hands; do not cut it with a knife.

Tomatoes, mozzarella, basil

Serve immediately.

Buon appetito!
Caprese, Salad, Tomatoes, Mozzarella




Farro and Tuna Salad

Farro, Tuna, Tomatoes, Capers

Farro and Tuna Salad
This is a great any time meal that is healthy, hearty, and delicious. This recipe is easy to make and packs a lot of nutrition. Farro is my favorite whole grain. It has a nutty flavor with a nice bite to it. Not only is it delicious, but it is also high in fiber and protein and is a good source of vitamins and minerals.

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients:
1 cup farro
6 oz. can Italian tuna in olive oil
1/3 cup diced shallot
1/3 cup diced celery
1 cup grape tomatoes
1 tbls. capers
1 tsp. fresh thyme
2 tbls. fresh parsley
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. oregano
salt
ground black pepper

Directions:

Bring a small pot of water to a boil, add 2 teaspoons of salt, and cook the farro according to package directions. Do not over cook. It should be al dente. In the meantime, dice the shallot, celery and set aside. Chop the parsley and thyme, and slice the tomatoes in half.

When the farro is ready, drain it and place it in a large bowl. Add 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil and set aside to cool for about 15-20 minutes.

When the farro is cooled, add the rest of the ingredients and another 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil. Mix well. Taste it to see if it needs salt. Add salt and black pepper to taste.

Buon appetito!

Farro, Tuna, Salad, Capers, Tomatoes