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Posts Tagged ‘parmigiano-reggiano’

This classic rustic Tuscan tomato soup is called pappa al pomodoro in Italy.  Bright, acidic tomatoes are combined with onions, garlic and basil, thickened with leftover bread and finished off with freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano.  It smells heavenly and tastes even better.

I’ve made this soup many times before, but just recently stumbled across a wonderful toasted bread and basil topping to sprinkle over the top.  The topping adds another punch to an already great tasting soup.  Thanks to Ina Garten – I am including the topping too.

I’m just back from a glorious week in Tuscany.  The weather was perfect.  The wine sublime.  The food rustic, simple and delicious.  The villa stunning.  All shared with cherished friends.  About as close to perfect you can get this side of heaven.

Oh…in case anyone is worried the tractor barreling down the lane toward us in this picture stopped just in time.  No  one was injured.  Have you ever tried to photo-shop a tractor out?!?  I’ve decided it adds some “interest” to our picture.

I know if given the opportunity to shop in Italy, most of us would swoon over the fine leather handbags and shoes available in Florence.  However, my passions lie elsewhere:

  Two whole liters of cold pressed extra virgin olive oil bought straight from a charming and delightful heritage farmer.  He let us wander through the grounds of his villa and olive grove.  He proudly explained his organic growing methods and also the artisinal extraction approach he uses involving a centuries old stone wheel which produces hands down the best oil I’ve ever tasted.  Liquid gold.  A little tricky to get back to the states, but well worth it.

I used my newly acquired Italian olive oil to make this batch of soup….oh my it was good!  My post today celebrates all I love about Italy.  Simple food prepared using the freshest ingredients and shared with friends and family.  Wines that compliment and match the flavors of the food.  A little candlelight, a little laughter….perfect.

Tuscan Tomato Soup  pappa al pomodoro

this makes 3-4 servings but can easily be doubled

Ingredients

1/4 cup olive oil

1 large yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup)

1 carrot, peeled and chopped

2-3 cloves fresh garlic, chopped

1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes (try to get an Italian imported tomato like the San Marzano)

2 cups diced rustic Italian bread cubes, about 1 inch each

2 cups chicken stock.

splash of Italian red wine (about 1/4 cup)

freshly grated parmigiano-regianno

For the topping:

another 2 cups of diced rustic Italian bread cubes, about 1 inch each

10-15 fresh basil leaves

sea salt

3-4 TBSP extra virgin olive oil

Method

Toss two cups rustic Italian bread cubes with 10-15 fresh basil leaves and layer on a sheet pan.  Drizzle with 3-4 TBSPS extra virgin olive oil.  Sprinkle with coarse sea salt.  Bake in a preheated 325 degree oven for 20 minutes.

It will look like this when you pull it out.  The basil will get dark but still tastes delicious.  Set aside to sprinkle on the top of the soup right before you serve it.

  Meanwhile heat 1/4 cup of olive oil in a large pan.  Saute the onions, carrots and garlic for about 10 minutes until tender.

Add the 2 cups diced Italian bread and saute for another 5 minutes.

Add the crushed tomatoes, chicken stock and red wine.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook it for 30 minutes.  Stir in freshly grated parmigiano reggiano and sprinkle the toasted bread crumb and basil mixture on top.

    Enjoy!!

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I originally got this Mozzarella Basil Tart recipe from my wonderful friend Michele years and years ago.  I love how it uses all the ingredients that are so fresh and tasty this time of the year.  It’s relatively simple to make, very versatile and tastes so fresh and wholesome.  I serve it either as an appetizer or side dish and often make it for breakfast (kinda like an egg-less quiche).  I couldn’t wait until the right opportunity came along to compose a post about one of my favorite recipes.

Some blog posts just burst out of me.  Some meander, lily-pad, noodle and wiggle their way out.  This one definitely would be the latter.  I’ve always said food is so much better with the stories, so here we go.

So…..my hubbie had business meetings in London on the Fourth of July this year.  Ughhh.  Yes dear, I do understand the Fourth of July is obviously not celebrated in England and it’s business as usual across the pond.  I did a great job keeping busy and occupied all weekend but had zippo plans on the 4th.  In lieu of a major pity party, I decided retail therapy was the answer.

I came across these great lime green place mats with a graphic print.  I’ve been completely obsessed with lime green and graphic prints lately so I had to snatch them up!  I knew the tart would look perfect with the place mats for a blog post – bright, crisp and clean.  I whipped up the tart, took my pictures and …..sigh, thought about the lonesome evening ahead.  No one to share my tart with.  I was completely delighted when an invitation to an impromptu neighborhood back yard cook-out came along.   (Thanks S&R!!)  I whisked my tart over and it was enjoyed by all.

Mozzarella Basil Tart

Ingredients

1 refrigerated pie crust

4-6 fresh Roma tomatoes

2 cups grated mozzarella cheese

1 cup loosely packed basil, chopped

2 cloves fresh garlic, crushed

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese

1/8 tsp white pepper

Method

I really think the key to the success of this dish is extracting some of the liquid from the Roma tomatoes before you start.  I just slice them thin, spread them out on paper towels and sprinkle them with salt (this helps draw out the moisture).  In about ten or fifteen minutes they are ready to go.  I’ve tried to skip this step and the moisture from the tomatoes makes the tart kind of soggy, so it’s definitely worth it to take the time to drain the tomatoes if you can.

I’ve made this tart many, many times with a thawed out, frozen pie crust shell still in it’s flimsy, tin foil pan and it tastes great.  I’ve also made this tart many, many times with my Mom’s made-from-scratch pie dough recipe and it tastes really great.  Today I am using a refrigerated pie dough sheet (the rolled up kind) and my adorable tart pan from Williams & Sonoma.  I rolled out the refrigerated pie dough sheet, draped it over the tart pan and then rolled the pin across the top of the pan to cut and remove the excess dough.

       Mix 1 cup of the grated mozzarella cheese, mayonnaise, grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese and white pepper in a bowl.  Set aside.

Layer the remaining cup of grated mozzarella cheese in the pie crust.

Top with the tomato slices.

Top with the fresh chopped basil and crushed garlic.

Dollop the mayonnaise-cheese mixture on top.

Gently spread it out over the tart.

Bake the tart for 35 minutes at 350 degrees.  Cut into pie slices and serve – hot or at room temperature.  Enjoy!!

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We’ve all got them.  Those tried and true, always getting accolades, could make them in your sleep recipes.  Where you can say to your friends – I’m bringing the orzo and they know what you mean.

The really cool thing about this recipe is you can serve it hot or cold.  If you toss the orzo while it is still hot with the fresh spinach, the spinach will cook, wilt and melt into the dish.  Or if you wait until the orzo cools down to toss it in, the dish tastes more like a pasta spinach salad – fresh and crisp.

Last week we attended a concert at The Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park on the Chicago lakefront.  A beautiful night with awesome friends.  We had a great picnic on the lawn while listening to Ray LaMontagne.  And no…..we absolutely did not sneak any lemon drop martinis into the pavilion.  (Here’s a picture of Ruth and Fred at the concert.  Ruth is doing a really good job hiding the lemon drop martini)

My very talented friend Kerri brought lemony orzo and spinach for the picnic and it was scrumptious!  I can’t wait to share it this recipe with you.

Lemony Orzo and Spinach

Ingredients

1 box orzo (rice shaped pasta), cooked and drained according to directions

6 oz fresh baby spinach, washed and dried

1 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese

1 cup crumbled feta

1 pint sweet grape tomatoes

Dressing Ingredients

1/3 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice

2/3 cup really good olive oil

1 TBSP Dijon mustard

3 large garlic cloves, crushed

3/4 tsp coarse salt

Method

Squeeze the fresh lemon juice and whisk all the dressing ingredients together until emulsified

I wash the spinach in the sink.  Be sure to pull the spinach out before you drain the water, then the grime and dirt from the spinach stays in the water.

If you do not have a salad spinner run, don’t walk to the store and get one as soon as possible.  I love my OXO salad spinner and use it just about everyday.  I have a little one to spin fresh herbs in too.

Toss the orzo (hot or cold), spinach, grape tomatoes, parmigiano-reggiano, feta and dressing all together.  Enjoy!!

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Very recently I discovered the Greek pasta dish Pastitsio.  How did I ever get to be my age without tasting this fragrant, spicy, simple bowl of exquisite-ness?  Traditional Pastitsio, which literally means “a mess”,  is assembled and baked like lasagna with layers of pasta, cheese, a meaty lamb tomato sauce flavored with a hint of cinnamon and topped off with Bechamel, a white cream sauce.  I like the lighter, simpler, somewhat “deconstructed” version on the menu at CityGate Grill. 

Our friends John and Mae own CityGate Grill, one of our favorite Friday night spots to decompress with good food and good wine after the craziness of the week.  Pastitsio, which also happens to be one of John’s favorite childhood dishes, is my favorite item on their menu.

The lamb and cinnamon together, which are so exotic and unexpected, are showcased in the Greek bolognese sauce prepared at CityGate.  The bolognese is then tossed with piping hot bucatinin pasta and Bechamel sauce, sprinkled with Parmigiano Reggiano and served.

Someday I will corner the chef at CityGate and garner the secrets to his Greek style Bolognese sauce.  It is so delicious and complex, I am guessing it involves lamb shanks and hours of braising.  However, until then, here is a quick weeknight version using ground lamb we just can’t get enough of at home.  I like using the ground lamb, however if feeling less adventuresome, ground beef can always be substituted.

If you can find Bucatini pasta it is very fun to use in this dish.  It is a thick, long noodle like spaghetti, but hollow in the middle like macaroni so it soaks up the sauce.  If you can’t find it then use a thicker, hollow pasta like penne so it holds up to the sauce.  This comes together quick, so I hope it becomes one of your weeknight favorites too.

Weeknight Greek Pastitsio

Ingredients

2 pounds ground lamb or beef

1 medium onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups dry red wine

1 TBSP dried oregano

1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

2 28 oz. cans crushed tomatoes

4 TBSP tomato paste

1 tsp (heaping) good ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1/2 cup heavy cream

salt and pepper to taste

1 pound Bucatini pasta, cooked according to directions

freshly grated parmigiano reggiano cheese

fresh, chopped basil leaves

Method

Saute the diced onions and minced garlic in a big skillet with a little bit of olive oil.  Add the ground lamb (or beef) and cook until nice and brown.  Pour the wine into the skillet and scrape up any browned bits of meat.  Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.  Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, oregano, red pepper flakes, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for another 10 minutes.  Meanwhile cook and drain the pasta.

Right before it is time to serve, swirl the cream into the sauce.  Simmer a minute until it is piping hot, then toss the sauce with the drained pasta, freshly grated parmigiano reggiano cheese and chopped basil.

Enjoy!!

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Shhhh…..I’ve got a secret.  Risotto is really not hard to make.  It’s easy!  If anyone tells you different they are sandbagging. Parmigiano-Reggiano Risotto is basic and classic and oh-so good just as its perfect self.  But….(drum roll please)… once completed you can add in any number of other goodies to the creamy rice like caramelized butternut squash or grilled lemon shrimp to take it up a notch.  But let’s save those risotto recipes for another day.  Today is all about never letting basic risotto technique intimidate you again!

Parmigiano-Reggiano Risotto

Ingredients

6 cups chicken stock (may need a little more or less)

4 TBSP butter cut in cubes

1 medium onion, small dice

2 cups Arborio rice (do not substitute any other rice- find it in the specialty Italian aisle at the market)

1 cup dry white wine

1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

salt and pepper to taste

Method


Empty the chicken stock into a sauce pan and heat it up to a simmer.  Reduce the heat to low and keep the stock warm on a side burner. We will use it in a minute.   In a separate large saute pan melt the butter and add the diced onions.  Cook over low heat for 8-10 minutes until onions are translucent and soft.

Unless you can get your hands on Italian risotto Aborio rice don’t attempt this recipe.  Look for it in the specialty Italian aisle at the market.  Add the Aborio rice to the onion mixture and saute for 3-4 minutes.  Sauteing the rice kernels first is a very important step and activates the starches in the rice to cook properly. If you don’t saute the rice first your final risotto will be mushy.

After the rice has sauted for 3-4 minutes add the white wine.  Cook over medium heat stirring frequently until the rice absorbs all the wine which will take 2-3 minutes.

It will look like this

Next add two cups of the hot stock.

Simmer stirring occasionally until rice absorbs all the liquid.  This will take about 8-10 minutes.  Repeat this method of adding hot stock and cooking the rice until it absorbs all the liquid twice using two cups of hot stock each time.  If you happen to use up all the stock and the mixture is still too thick (or maybe the rice has not cooked all the way yet) no worries –  just add a little hot water until you get the consistency you want.  Visa versa, if the mixture is too runny just cook it a little longer until the liquid is absorbed.

It should look like this when finished cooking.

Take it off the heat and stir in the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Serve immediately.

Heavenly & delicious!

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This salmon tastes so good and is so easy to assemble it takes the intimidation factor out of cooking fish at home.  My friend Jackie is a budding novice gourmand and can’t wait to try this recipe solo!

Herb Poached Salmon

Ingredients

1.5 lb Salmon Fillet (no skin)

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/2 grated fresh parmigiano reggiano cheese

3-6 TBSPS fresh chopped herbs (parsley, dill, & chives)

salt and pepper to taste

Method

I have really good luck buying fish at Costco.  Salmon is usually marketed as either farm raised or wild.  I like the farm raised because it tastes a bit milder.  Salmon is a rich, full flavored fish full of those good omega 3 fatty acids to boot.  The fish should smell fresh and exhilarating just like the sea.  The color should look bright, vibrant and appealing.  If it has an unpleasant strong fishy odor don’t buy it – it’s already old.  Costco prints the packing date on their fish package which helps immensely to gauge freshness.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  Place the salmon fillet in a casserole dish.  (If it is colder than room temperature add a couple extra minutes when cooking)  Make the poaching liquid by combining the wine and lemon juice and pour it over the fillet.

Make a dressing from the grated parmigiano reggiano cheese, mayonnaise, chopped herbs, salt and pepper.  If it seems too thick squirt in a little fresh lemon juice.

It will look like this.

Spread the dressing over the fillet.  Cover the casserole with foil.  Bake for 20 minutes.  After it comes out of the oven leave the foil on and let it rest for 10 minutes.

After the foil comes off it will smell absolutely amazing and looks so scrumptious.  The dressing has melted into the poaching liquid to make the most amazing sauce.  Spoon more of the poaching liquid back up over the fillet to blend the sauce.

Ta-Da!  Nothing intimidating about that.  Bon Appetit!

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Could it be?  Yes….today is just a bolognese day.  Snuggled back home after a particularly grueling computraining session (thanks to Raouf : 856 calories burned…really?)  I had nothing else on the docket which would induce me to venture back out.  Except I forgot to stop at the grocery store.  I am not going.  It is fa-reezing out there in Chicago today.  Dinner is definitely out of the pantry tonight.

And this is why classic Bolognese Sauce is a beautiful thing.  I almost always have the ingredients to make it in the pantry.  The real deal takes 3 or 4 hours to cook but there is very little prep time involved.  You can put it on to simmer and be oh so productive while the sauce fills your house with the most amazing aroma.  You only need to stop by every so often and give it a little loving before you are back tackling the “to do” list.

The Silver Spoon has been the best-selling cookbook in Italy for over 50 years and is considered the bible of authentic Italian cooking.  It was first published in English in 2005 which was a very happy day for me.  It is a phenomenal resource but runs a little short on the directional side.  I imagine the Italian grandmas assumed the progeny already knew what to do with the ingredients and were not compelled to write overly fussy instructions.  If you ever get a chance watch Anne Burrell’s Bolognese episode on Food Network’s Secrets of a Restaurant Chef.  Anne studied in Italy and in her own words – she “rocks the sauce”.  The Italian grandmas would be proud.  So with a nod to Anne and The Silver Spoon – here we go:

Classic Bolognese Sauce

(adapted from The Silver Spoon and Anne Burrell)

Ingredients

2 small onions peeled and cut in large chunks

2 large carrots peeled and cut in large chunks

3 ribs celery washed, stems and leaves removed and cut in large chunks

4 whole cloves fresh peeled garlic

2-3 TBSPS olive oil

3 pounds ground beef, preferably chuck

3 small cans tomato paste

3 cups hearty Italian wine like a Chianti

3 bay leaves

water

1/2 cup of fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese grated

1 box (1 pound) of spaghetti pasta.

Method

 

 

In a food processor add

  • 2 small onions
  • 2 large carrots
  • 3 ribs celery
  • 4 whole cloves garlic

Pulse the food processor 8-10 times to purée the vegetables

Coat a large heavy skillet with about 2-3 TBSP olive oil.   Bring to medium high heat and add the purée.  Season generously with salt.  Cook the vegetable purée for about 15-20 minutes stirring frequently.  The water will evaporate from the purée and the bottom of the pan will caramelize and be nice and brown.  The brown on the bottom of the pan is what makes the sauce so delicious so make sure to let it  develop before you go to the next step.Add

  • three pounds ground beef, preferably chuck.

Season generously with salt.  Cook the ground beef for another 15-20 minutes until it gets really brown (just like the vegetables).  Remember the brown is what makes the sauce taste so good!

It will look like this when it is ready

Add

  • 3 small cans tomato paste

Cook over medium heat until it browns – about 5 minutes

Add

  • 3 cups hearty Italian red wine (I use a Chianti or Barolo)

The wine deglazes the bottom of the pan and all the nice brown flavors developed are now in the sauce.

Cook for another 5 minutes and reduce the wine.  This will intensify the flavor even more.

Add

  • water to pan until it is 1 inch over the meat (about 4 cups)
  • 3 bay leaves

Season it again with salt.  Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer, stirring occasionally.

About every 45 minutes or so add

  • 2-3 additional cups of water

Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer , stirring occasionally.  When all the water evaporates again repeat adding water.  After 3-4 hours of repeating this process you will have a robust, hearty sauce with BIG flavor.  As the sauce is simmering and the water evaporating it permeates your house with the most amazing aroma.  Did I happen to tell you it smells really, really good?

Now here is a really fun secret I have withheld until this point!  We just made a double batch of Bolognese Sauce.  You can take half of the sauce and freeze it to enjoy later (or maybe share it with your neighbor).

It is almost time to eat!  Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and cook

  • 1 box (1 pound) of spaghetti pasta.

Grate

  • 1/2 cup of fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese

Add the drained, cooked spaghetti and cheese right into the skillet with the remaining sauce.  Add a little water if it is too thick.  Toss the pasta and coat it with the cheese and sauce.

Just pinch me…..it looks delish!

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