Posts Tagged ‘Italian’

Caponata is an Italian eggplant dip that I love for parties. It’s more healthy than most of my party appetizers and it’s vegetarian, so everyone likes it. This version has some Sicilian flavors (where the cuisine is highly influenced by its proximity to Africa), including some cinnamon, pine nuts, and currants. Red pepper flakes give it a little kick, as well. I recently made it when we had people over after a concert, and it was a big hit.

Eggplant Caponata

1 onion, chopped into 1″ dice

1 eggplant, chopped into 1″ dice

3 tablespoons pine nuts

3 tablespoons currants

1 tablespoon chili flakes

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa

2 teaspoons thyme

1/4 cup tomato sauce (your own or your favorite bottled)

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons tomato paste

Saute the onion in a couple tablespoons olive oil until they soften. Add the pine nuts and currants. Continue to cook for a minute. Add the eggplant, sugar, cinnamon, cocoa, and thyme. Continue to cook for another 5 minutes, until the eggplant is softened. Add the tomato sauce, tomato paste, and balsamic vinegar. Stir to combine and allow to simmer for another 10 minutes, until all the flavors combine and cook down.


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The Feast of the Seven Fishes was definitely a feast. And a delicious one at that. Some of it was traditional, some was a little less so. Judging by the very few leftovers, everyone liked it all.

Shrimp Bisque - Meatballs&Milkshakes

We started with some marinated sardines on crostini, which was a nicely tart way to get our palates warmed up.

Then we moved to the table for the appetizers. We had a trio of scallop crudo, shrimp bisque, and clams oreganato (baked clams with oregano added to the stuffing mix). I substituted pancetta for the bacon and I added the leftover stuffing mix to my fresh breadcrumbs for the rest of my recipes since it was there….

Baccala alla Vicentina - Meatballs&Milkshakes

Next, we moved on to the mains. Or you could say the primi and the secondi but all together. We had linguine with clams, shrimp alla buzara, and baccala alla vicentina. On the side we had some roasted broccoli with slivered almonds and parmesan.

Then to finish, we had some chocolate pudding with sea salt. And by then, everyone was stuffed and happy. Time for presents.

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This is another traditional harvest recipe usually made with leftover grapes from the grape harvest. Earlier, I made the grape and rosemary focaccia. We picked up some delicious sweet and hot italian sausages from Eataly, my favorite. This was a really quick and yummy way to use them, and I will definitely be making these again. Maybe over some mashed potatoes or egg noodles.

Sausages with Grapes

2 hot Italian sausages

2 sweet Italian sausages

1 onion, sliced into half moons

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 cups red grapes

1/2 cup white or red wine

2 tablespoons chopped sage

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons olive oil

Poach the sausages in some water for 10-15 minutes after pricking them with a fork a couple times to let out some of the fat. Meanwhile, saute the onion in the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Add the garlic, grapes, and sage. Add the sausages and let them brown on the outsides for a couple minutes. Add the wine and cover. Cook for another 5-6 minutes while the wine cooks down and the sausages finish cooking through. Add the vinegar and cook uncovered for another minute or two.

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This was a quick weeknight recipe that I created to use what little was left in the pantry. It’s a little Italian like a chicken cacciatore, a little French with the vermouth and cream, definitely delicious. It ended up being my favorite dinner of the week. And with only boneless chicken breasts, it cooks really quickly. Add some egg noodles and some veggies and you have dinner in half an hour.

Chicken with Porcini Mushrooms

2 boneless chicken breasts, cubed

1 slice bacon, chopped

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 shallot, minced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon rosemary, minced

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 ounces sweet vermouth

1/4 cup marinara sauce

1 cup dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in hot water and reserve the water

1 teaspoon dried oregano

2 tablespoons heavy cream

Render the bacon for a couple minutes in the olive oil. Add the chicken and brown on all sides. Remove the chicken from the pan. Add the shallot, garlic, and rosemary and saute for a couple minutes. Add the tomato paste and let it brown for 1 minute. Add the vermouth to deglaze the pan.

Add the tomato sauce and strain the reserved mushroom liquid. Pour in about a cup of mushroom liquid and let it cook down a bit. You can add more as needed. Add the oregano and mushrooms and cook for a couple minutes. Return chicken to the pan and add in the cream.

Warm through and it’s ready. You can add some cooked egg noodles to soak up the sauce and some veggies or salad on the side.

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Risotto is much easier to make than most people think. I sometimes even skip warming up the liquid, because it doesn’t make that much of a difference if I’m in a hurry. I recently was in Los Angeles and Colorado, and had trouble finding arborio rice in regular supermarkets. I’m hoping that was unusual because the rice makes such a difference. Definitely seek out arborio rice for risotto, it’s the only way to get the creamy texture you’re looking for.

And the leftover possibilities are just as delicious (if you can manage to leave leftovers): risotto cakes and arancini. Roll them into balls and dip in breadcrumbs. For risotto cakes, flatten them out and saute in olive oil. For Arancini, dip in egg before the breadcrumbs and then shallow fry them.

Risotto with Spinach, Lemon, and Bay Scallops

1/4 onion or a shallot, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup frozen spinach or sauteed fresh spinach

1 cup white wine

1 cup chicken stock or water, heated to a simmer

1 cup arborio rice

1 lemon juiced and zested

2 tablespoons basil, torn

1/2 pound bay scallops

3 tablespoons olive oil

Saute the onion in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil with a pinch of salt. Add the garlic and saute until softened. Add the rice and let it toast for a minute or two. Deglaze with the wine. Add the stock or water in small increments so that the rice has some liquid but isn’t covered. Stir occasionally until the rice is almost al dente. Add the lemon juice and zest and the spinach. Add the scallops and cook for the final minute together. Off the heat, add the basil and the rest of the olive oil.

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Well, this was the post I was waiting to do. Spaghetti and meatballs is one my all-time favorite meals, and my blog is named after them. I was lucky enough to share this meal with some great friends, so it was a fantastic evening. Almost everyone loves spaghetti and meatballs, it’s really hard to go wrong. The secret ingredient in mine is actually in the sauce- the anchovies. I promise, you will never know they’re there but they make it so delicious. The meatballs soak up the flavor as they cook in the sauce, you can leave them in longer and they just get better and better. And because one of my friends is a vegetarian, I kept them separate at our dinner…it’s her loss though…(She had her own sauce, no anchovies)

I’ve started doing my meatballs in the broiler instead of frying them because it’s just so much easier. If you prefer, you can fry them in a frying pan with some olive oil until browned. I don’t particularly like baked meatballs because they don’t get the extra flavor from browning, and they don’t hold together as well unless you use more breadcrumbs and egg. And well, meat without the crusty brown bits just isn’t as tasty.


1/2 pound ground beef

1/2 pound ground veal

1/2 pound ground pork

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1/4 cup grated parmesan or pecorino

1/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs

1 egg

1 tablespoon Worchestershire sauce

1 tablespoon sage, minced

1 tablespoon parsley, minced

Mix everything except the meat together until combined (you leave the meat until the end so it doesn’t get overworked). Add the meat and combine with a fork until just mixed.

Make them into golf ball-sized meatballs, rolling between your hands. Place them on a baking sheet with some olive oil.

Broil them for 15 minutes or so, until they brown on the outside.

Tomato Sauce

3 anchovies

1/2 onion, chopped

1 carrot, grated

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 tablespoon sage, minced

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 cup red wine

1 can San Marzano whole tomatoes, crushed

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon parsley, chopped

3 tablespoons olive oil

Melt the anchovies in the olive oil until they have broken up. Add the onion and let them soften but not brown. Add the carrot, garlic, sage, and oregano and cook for a minute or two. Deglaze the pan with the wine and add the tomatoes and sugar. Let it cook down for 15 or 20 minutes.

For the spaghetti and meatballs, you would add the meatballs to the tomato sauce at this point and let them finish cooking together for 10 minutes. Cook some spaghetti according to the package instructions. Remove some of the tomato sauce to a saute or frying pan along with some of the pasta water. Let that cook down for a minute, then add the pasta to cook for the last minute together. Plate and put some meatballs on top. Sprinkle the parsley over and some grated parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil.

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