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Archive for the ‘Italian’ Category

caesarwithpancetta

This is a lightened and eggless variation of one of my favorite Caesar salads from Ina Garten. I love Ina’s Caesar salad for entertaining. It’s great with home made croutons. We had Italian night last Sunday and I wanted to make this salad but was looking for something lighter and without the raw egg. I decided to take my favorite elements from her salad (the cherry tomatoes and crispy pancetta) and pair it with a Caesar dressing I found on Cooking Light.

I will admit that the dressing definitely doesn’t live up to Ina’s but it’s very easy and much lighter. I prefer to make my own dressings and I think it adds so much to a salad. And when it’s this easy…you really don’t have an excuse not to!

Lightened Caesar Salad with Pancetta and Cherry Tomatoes
(Recipe inspired by Ina Garten, dressing source Cooking Light)

Ingredients:

FOR THE SALAD
1-2 heads romaine lettuce (depending on size)
1/4 pound pancetta, sliced to a similar thickness to bacon
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
Salt
Freshly ground pepper

FOR THE DRESSING
1/3  cup  plain fat-free yogurt
2  tablespoons  fresh lemon juice
1  tablespoon  olive oil
2  teaspoons  red wine vinegar
2  teaspoons  Worcestershire sauce
1  teaspoon  anchovy paste
1  teaspoon  Dijon mustard
1/2  teaspoon  freshly ground pepper
1  garlic clove, minced

Directions:

Cut pancetta into cubes. Place in a skillet over medium-high heat and cook for about 10-15 minutes, until browned and crispy. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels.

Wash lettuce well and dry in a salad spinner. Cut into 1 1/2 inch slices. Place in a large bowl.

Whisk together dressing ingredients. Pour over salad greens and toss to coat. Top with tomatoes and pancetta. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Yield: 4 servings

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lasagnaveggierollfgts

I’m visiting my grandmother for a few days. When I arrived this afternoon she had planned Veggie Lasagna Rolls for dinner. My grandmother definitely shares my sentiment that not every meal has to include meat. I was really excited that she had chosen this dinner after indulging in lots of July 4th burgers and hot dogs yesterday.

She had prepped all of the ingredients so all I had to do was assemble everything. How nice is that? I would like a full-time sous chef please! These rolls are definitely much easier to prepare than traditional lasagna. You could do anything you are feeling with the filling. I think a traditional ricotta/Italian sausage combo would be excellent in these too. I personally loved the veggies and recommend you try these!

Veggie Lasagna Rolls
(Recipe adapted from Kroger My Recipes)

Ingredients:

7-8 lasagna noodles, cooked according to package directions and drained (number needed will depend on your roll size and filling amount)
1 cup low-fat ricotta cheese
1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded and divided
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated
1 egg white, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon dried parsley (or 1 tablespoon fresh)
1/2 teaspoon dried basil (or 2 teaspoons fresh)
1/2 teaspoon salt
Fresh pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup red pepper, diced
1/2 cup zucchini, diced
1/2 cup mushrooms, diced
1 cup fresh spinach, chopped
Cooking spray
2 cups marinara sauce

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare a 9 x 11 glass baking dish with cooking spray.

Combine the ricotta, 1/4 cup of mozzarella, Parmesan, egg white, parsley, basil, salt and pepper. Set aside.

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil and saute red pepper, zucchini and mushrooms for about 3 minutes. Add garlic and saute for another minute. Add chopped spinach and stir until wilts. Remove from heat and let mixture cool.

Combine vegetables with ricotta. Spread the cheese mixture over noodles in a thin layer, working one at a time. Like so…

lasagnaveggierollexample

Roll up and place in prepared baking dish, seam side down. You should have anywhere from 6-8 rolls. Spoon marinara sauce over each roll and cover with foil. Cook for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and top with remaining mozzarella cheese and bake uncovered for an additional 5-10 minutes, until cheese has melted.

Yield: 3-4 servings (if you’re piggy like me and eat 2 per serving!)

lasagnarollspan

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eggplantnapoleanpmarinara

I’m always looking for inspriation for new vegetarian dinners. I love eggplant and Brandon loves tomato, mozzerella and basil so I thought this creation would be a great compromise for us. I saw this recipe for Grilled Eggplant Napoleons on Lime in the Coconut. I wanted to put a little more of a “parmesan”-style twist on it and did mine in the oven since Brandon wasn’t around to man the grill.

All in all, I’m pleased with the way this turned out. I was happy to avoid breading the eggplant and even though I used a fair amount of fresh mozzerella I still felt like it was healthier than traditional eggplant paremsan. I would also be very interested to try the original recipe from Lime in the Coconut. It sounds delicious with the grilled eggplant and pesto!

Eggplant Napoleon Parmesan
(Recipe inspired by Lime in the Coconut)

Ingredients:

1 large eggplant
1 tomato, sliced
6 fresh basil leaves
6 slices fresh mozzarella
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup marinara sauce

Directions:

Preheat broiler on high.

Slice eggplant into 1/4 inch slices. Sprinkle with kosher salt and place in a collander or on a wire rack to weep for about 15 minutes. Blot with a paper towel to wipe off salt and soak up excess water.

Place eggplant on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil. Broil for about 3-5 minutes per side, until lightly browned. Remove from oven. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees.

Spoon marinara sauce into the bottom of a baking dish. Place eggplant on top of marinara. Layer with tomato, basil and mozzarella. Season with salt and pepper.

Place back in oven to cook for an additional 10 minutes. You can turn the broiler back on the last couple minutes of cooking if you want to brown your cheese.

Remove from oven. Serve with pasta and additional marinara sauce, if desired.

Yield: 3 servings

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beefbolognese

I grew up on good old fashioned spaghetti sauce. One weekend when I was in college I went home and my dad served beef bolognese.  It was incredible! I found myself craving it and asking for it when I came home to visit.

My dad emailed me the recipe a couple years ago and it’s now one of my favorite “comfort food” Italian dishes to make. While I still love basic spaghetti sauce and keep it in the freezer at all times, I’m glad to have this in the repertoire and make it a few times a year.

Beef Bolognese
(Recipe source my Dad)

Ingredients:

1 -3  tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
1-2 stalks celery, diceed
1 carrot,  shredded
3-4  cloves garlic, minced
1/4 pound pancetta, chopped
1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
1 cup red wine
1 cup whole milk
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1 14½-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
1/4 teaspoon red pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano, or 1 tablespoon dried
About 1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Kosher salt, to taste
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Freshly grated Parmesan, for garnish

Directions:

In a Dutch oven, over medium heat, cook ground beef until browned. Drain and set aside.

Wipe out Dutch oven and heat the oil. Add onion, celery and carrot and cook for about 5-8 minutes, until vegetables begin to soften and onion becomes translucent. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the pancetta and cook for 5 minutes, then add the beef back to the pot. Add the wine and the remaining ingredients and simmer on low heat for 45 minutes. (Note, the longer it cooks, the better it gets. Leftovers are even better).

Serve with cooked  tagliatelle or thin spaghetti pasta . Sprinkle with Parmesan.

Yield: 4-6 servings

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eggplantparm

I can count on one hand the number of times Brandon has requested eggplant for dinner…that would be zero. So imagine my shock when last week he said, “We should have eggplant parmesan for dinner sometime soon.” That was all the encouragement I needed. It was on the menu for dinner this week. I was extra lucky because I went to visit my parents last weekend in Atlanta and came home with great looking Japanese eggplant from the Delkalb Farmers Market.

Now, my greatest problem with eggplant paremesan is how unhealthy it is. The breading and eggplant soak up so much oil if you saute it. I decided to make it my mission to make a tasty baked eggplant parmesan. I think it turned out really well. The breading was crispy and the eggplant was cooked perfectly. Also, it didn’t take too long. I skipped the step of double baking (baking the prepared eggplant with the sauce and cheese). Instead I just added the cheese to the top of the eggplant the last few minutes it was baking and heated sauce on the stovetop and spooned it over the eggplant.

I served Brandon’s over pasta but had mine on its own along with a salad. Both serving methods were great!

Baked Eggplant Parmesan
(Recipe source Bakin’ and Eggs)

Ingredients:

2-3 Japanese eggplants or 1 large eggplant
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1/2 cup all purpose flour
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 eggs, whisked together
1 tablespoon water
1 1/2 cups plain bread crumbs (I used a mixture of regular and panko)
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1/4 cup shredded parmesan
Cooking spray
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 ounces mozzerella cheese, sliced thinly
2 cups marinara sauce

Directions:

If you’re using Japanese eggplant, cut in half horizontally and then cut each half into 3-4 strips (about 1/4 inch thick). If you’re using traditional eggplant, slice into rounds (about 1/4 inch thick). Place sliced eggplant into a large colander and sprinkle with kosher salt. Let sit for about 30 minutes (eggplant will “weep” some of the water it is holding).

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with foil and placing a wire rack on top. Spray rack with cooking spray.

Heat marinara sauce in a saucepan over medium-low heat.

Wipe salt off of eggplant. Line up three shallow dishes on workspace. Place flour in first dish. Season with salt and pepper. Place eggs and water in second dish. Place bread crumbs, Italian seasoning and shredded parmesan in third dish.

Dredge each eggplant slice in flour, then egg wash, then breadcrumbs. Arrange on prepared baking sheet with rack. Brush tops of each slice with olive oil.

Bake for 15 minutes. Flip eggplant slices and bake for another 10-15 minutes. Eggplant should be tender and easy to pierce. Add cheese to top and continue to bake for about 5 more minutes. If needed, broil cheese for a minute or two to brown.

Remove from oven. Serve over pasta or on its own. Spoon marinara sauce over eggplant slices.

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pastavodka

Brandon is in the middle of law school finals and I haven’t been seeing much of him lately. He’s been studying around the clock. He had a final from 6-9 last night and I wanted to have a simple dinner waiting for him when he got home. I’m not going to lie that the inspiration for this dish was a great bottle of Toscano Rosso that I tried while I was wandering around Whole Foods after work yesterday.  I picked up a bottle and decided it would be a pasta night.

I had all the ingredients on hand for Pasta with Vodka Sauce and it was perfect with ciabatta served alongside. I love how easy this dish is to put together – the touch of red pepper and fresh basil definitely set it off. Try this out next time you are looking for a simple pasta dish.

Pasta with Vodka Sauce
(Recipe source mostly Bakin’ and Eggs with guidance from the Joy of Cooking)

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup vodka
1 tablespoon butter
1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (depending on your spice tolerance)
1 15 0unce can of tomato sauce (pureed tomato)
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
Shaved Parmesan, for garnish
Basil, thinly sliced, for garnish
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2-3/4 box of pasta (a little less than 1 pound) ziti or penne recommended
1/2 cup reserved pasta water

Directions:

Heat oil in large saute pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook for about 3-4 minutes, until it starts to get tender and translucent. Add garlic and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Add vodka and let cook for about 2 minutes, until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Add butter and red pepper flakes. Let butter melt into onion mixture. Pour in tomato sauce and reduce heat to medium-low. Let simmer for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring salted water to boil in a large pot. Follow directions on pasta packaging for cooking. Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water in case you need to thin your sauce.

Pour cream into tomato mixture and stir to combine. Add drained pasta and toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish plates with Parmesan and basil.

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