Category Archives: Appetizer

Tortellini at The Gulla’s

Tortellini at The Gulla’s

You know this labor of love is so worth the effort when you taste how tender and flavorful these homemade tortellini are! The delicate, circular shaped pasta are stuffed with a purée of sundried tomato, mozzarella, and Reggiano Parmesan and served in one of my all time favorites, a tomato-cream sauce.  I introduced Steve to another easy and scrumptious sauce, Gorganzola Dolce-Cream Sauce that’s garnished with fresh thyme and a drizzle of truffle oil! 

This past weekend I was at The Gulla’s house with Steve and his son Maximo making their homemade tortellini. Steve dedicates a few hours every Christmas Eve making these little gourmet bites for his family’s Christmas dinner. Making these tortellini is definitely a labor of love because you are creating each little amazing folded bundle of pasta by hand.

Having a Smart pasta machine like Steve’s really cuts down on the labor of making tortellini as the pasta comes out of the machine in long ready-made sheets in mere minutes. It’s a very cool process putting out smooth sheets of pasta in 3 minutes flat but you can also learn to make Steve’s tortellini using homemade pasta too if you don’t own an Smart pasta machine. I have a homemade pasta recipe below for all of us without a pasta machine who don’t want to miss out on learning how to make these incredible tortellini.

As Italian legend goes on how the shape of the tortellini came about dates back to the days when Venus, the Goddess of Love, was traveling to a small town in Italy between Modena and Bologna. She was staying at a tavern where the Innkeeper was so taken by her beauty he peeked thru the key to her room one night and got a glimse of her navel. He rushed to the kitchen and created a pasta in the likeness of her belly button. And that’s how the shape of the tortellini came about, the belly button pasta! Who Knew?

While you are working hard forming these wonderful tortellini you may need a little sip of something to get you through like a Metaxa Mojito! And for easy nibbles you can pick on some Mango Salsa, Sweet Potato Fries and Green Goddess Dip II,  Best Guacamole Ever or some delicious Mediterranean Layered Dip!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

INGRDIENTS for making PASTA in The Smart Pasta Machine:

  • 3 parts flour
  • 1 part semolina
  • 180 ml OR 3/4 cup of water for 2 lbs flour in pasta machine
  • 1 egg and 1 tsp water whisked in a small bowl – set aside until ready to form tortellini

INGREDIENTS for Sun-dried Tomato FILLING:                                                                                         NOTE: THIS FILLING IS UNBELIEVEABLY DELICIOUS!…try it on crostini OR on crusty bread!

  • 1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella – whole milk or part skim
  • 1/4 cup grated Reggiano Parmesan
  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil

Purée these ingredients with an immersion blender or add to food processor and pulse. Start with 2 tbsp of olive oil and add a little extra if needed to purée til smooth texture

DIRECTIONS FOR FORMING THE TORTELLINI WITH SHEETS OF PASTA MADE FROM THE PASTA MACHINE:

  1. Begin to cut 2″ circles with your cookie cutter out of the machine made sheets of pasta
  2. Brush top 1/2 of the circle edge with a whisked egg
  3. Place 1/4 tsp of sun dried tomato filling in the middle of the circle pasta
  4. Fold the circle in 1/2
  5. Press to SEAL the 1/2 circle of pasta…VERY IMPORTANT to SEAL this edge!
  6. Take 1/2 circle and wrap around your pinky having each end meet
  7. Press these two ends together to seal and form one continous circular shape
  8. Fold down top of circular pasta to form tortellini
  9. Place in a bowl as you finish each one until you gone thru all the pasta sheets
  10. Bring large pan of salted water to a boil and add fresh pasta
  11. Cook pasta for 8 minutes, test pieces of pasta for proper doneness
  12. Serve with tomato-cream sauce or Gorganzola Dolce-cream sauce, garnish with thyme and truffle oil … mmm!

INGREDIENTS FOR TOMATO-CREAM SAUCE:

  • 2 cloves finely chopped garlic
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 3 1/4 cup POMI “strained tomaotes” – 1 med box – 26 oz.
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Sauté finely chopped garlic in 2 tbsp olive oil for 3 minutes, add in POMI strained tomatoes, salt & oregano and simmer for 15 minutes. Add in 2 cups of heavy cream to tomato sauce. Bring to a simmer for 15 miutes more. Serve with cooked tortellini, garnish with fresh thyme (and truffle oil.

INGREDIENTS FOR GORGANZOLA DOLCE-CREAM SAUCE:

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup Gorganzola Dolce cheese
  • 1/4 cup dry vermouth
  • fresh thyme leaves
  • truffle oil

Add heavy cream, Gorganzola, and vermouth to a small sauce pan and bring to a simmer. When it comes to a simmer whisk the melted cheese into the cream and simmer 10 minutes. Serve with tortellini, garnish with a sprinkle of fresh thyme leaves and a drizzle of truffle oil.

INGREDIENTS for Easy Homemade-Handmade Pasta- (Recipe from “Pasta at Vin’s“)

  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 1/2  – 5 lg eggs
  • 1/4 tsp salt

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Put the kneading attachment on your food processor and add the flour
  2. Add the salt and olive oil
  3. Turn on the food processor to slow
  4. Add in 1 tbsp of water
  5. Begin adding in 1 egg at a time with the processor still on slow
  6. Add in the rest of the eggs
  7. Keep the food processor going on medium speed to begin kneading the dough
  8. Let knead for about 8 minutes until the texture turns into a smooth consistency
  9. Remove the pasta dough and place onto the counter
  10. Knead briefly with your hands and let sit for 1/2 hr.
  11. NOTE: Vin does not cover his pasta dough while it sits for the 1/2 so it can begin to dry out  a little bit
  12. Sprinkle some flour onto the counter or work surface and cut pasta dough into 8 pieces
  13. Begin to roll out each piece of dough to your desired thickness, into long lasagna-like sheets
  14. Sprinkle more flour on top of each thinly rolled out pasta piece and begin to cut out 2″ circles with your cookie cutter
  15. Brush top 1/2 of the circle edge with a whisked egg
  16. Place 1/4 tsp of sun dried tomato filling in the middle of the circle pasta
  17. Fold the circle in 1/2
  18. Press to SEAL the 1/2 circle of pasta…VERY IMPORTANT to SEAL this edge!
  19. Take 1/2 circle and wrap around your pinky having each end meet
  20. Press these two ends together to seal and form one continous circular shape
  21. Fold down top of circular pasta to form tortellini
  22. Place in a bowl as you finish each one until you gone thru all the pasta sheets
  23. Bring large pan of salted water to a boil and add fresh pasta
  24. Cook pasta for 8 minutes, test pieces of pasta for proper doneness
  25. Serve with tomato-cream sauce or Gorganzola Dolce-cream sauce, garnish with thyme and truffle oil … mmm!

 

 

#1 Meatball at Kevin & Jori’s

#1 Meatball at Kevin & Jori’s

It was definitely worth the wait to find out how to make Kevin and Jori Smith’s oh so sucullent and flavorful meatballs! It took a little patience to sync our schedules thru this busy holiday season but we were finally able to tape these #1 Meatball winners from the recent competition,  “Lisa & Vin’s 2016 Meatball Throw Down”! It’s a team effort between Kevin and Jori that produces one of the best meatball’s I have ever tasted. Watch out Dan Holzman from “The Meatball Shop” in NYC for these amazing meatballs will turn heads!

Come to find out Kevin and Jori won Lisa & Vin’s Meatball Competition the year before as well! Once you have your first bite into these melt-in-your-mouth meatballs you will know exactly why.

Not only were we eating Kevin and Jori’s amazing meatballs while taping the #1 Meatball show but Vin made is homemade pasta we call “The Trucals” from the show “Homemade Pasta at Vin’s”. Vin makes his pasta with a special roller called the trucal iron hence the name “The Trucals”.  This trucal iron that belonged to his grandfather cuts thick strands of pasta as you roll over it making for a hardy, chewy, yet tender strand of pasta.

If it couldn’t get any better then that Kevin added in an incredible garlic-basil bread and Jori her luscious tomato-basil salad with fresh Burrata cheese! Talk about the perfect meal…OMG! I am truly excited that I am able to bring you Kevin and Jori’s winning meatball reicpe. I know you will love them as much as I do!

You will need to have some amazing desserts up your sleeve to live up to these meatball standards like my Drunk Blondie Bars with a Caramel Bourbon Sauce, Chocolate Crackle Cookies, OR my Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe! Then there’s Death by Chocolate Meringue Pie or a Chocolate Pecan Pie where you’ll always need just one more little fork full! LOL.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Bottom photos courtesy of Gianni Esposito)

Ingredients for #1 Meatball Makes Approx 55 Meatballs:                                                                -Note: this is a large recipe… you can 1/2 the reicpe for a lesser amount of course and remember meatballs FREEZE really  well, raw or cooked!

  • 6 lbs meat: 2 lb. ground beef 80/20, 2 lb. ground veal, 2lb. ground pork
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh garlic
  • 2 whole heads roasted garlic (Keep garlic heads in foil the whole time for this meatball recipe)
  • 3 cups grated pecorino romano grated cheese
  • 2 3/4 cups homemade ciabatta bread crumbs – 2 loaves of ciabatta – the bottom 1/2’s
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped Prociutto di Parma
  • 4 lg basil leaves
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 7 eggs (Kevin likes 1 1/2 egg per lb of meat)

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400º
  2. Drizzle 2 heads of garlic with a tbsp of olive oil wrap in foil, place into oven for 35-40 minutes
  3. Slice loaves of ciabatta in 1/2, save tops for garlic bread – recipe for spread below
  4. Cut up bottom havles in small cubes, place on a cookie tray and bake until golden approx. 12 minutes
  5. Cool bread cubes then pulse to a crumb in a food processor
  6. Add ground beef, veal, and pork to a large mixing bowl
  7. Add in chopped prosciutto, salt, Percorino cheese, and bread crumbs
  8. Mix with hands to start combining
  9. Add in 7 lg eggs to meat and again mix with hands to combine, folding meat over and over
  10. Squeeze roasted garlic bulbs out of their sleeves and put into food processor or little chopper with olive oil and 4 basil leaves and purée
  11. Add this mixture to the meatball mixture and again mix folding over and over to combine
  12. Roll into 2″ size meatballs
  13. Pour 1/2″ high olive oil into large sauté pan and heat on med/high – MUST BE OLIVE OIL!
  14. Add in 8-9 meatballs at a time, don’t over crowd pan
  15. Cook on all sides until golden approx 6 minutes
  16. Remove to plate and serve with pasta, you can find Vin’s homemade pasta, “The Trucals” which are sooooo worth the effort!
  17. Serve with garlic bread too…mangia mangia 🙂

Garlic Bread Spread:

  • Ciabatta tops
  • 3/4 stick softened butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup pecorino grated cheese
  • 4 basil leaves chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves finely chopped

Mix all ingredients above, smear onto ciabatta halves and bake for 12-15 minutes on 375º YUM!

“Big Game” Party Food on CT STYLE!

“Big Game” Party Food on CT STYLE!

With Teresa Dufour & Ryan Kristafer on CT STYLE Set

Showing you some fun and refreshing foods to make for your “Big Game” or Super Bowl party was the first thing that came to mind when I was deciding what to cook on “CT Style” this week. I went with my Crab Cake Balls with Homemade Thousand Island Dressing, Mango Salsa, and Honey Dripping Greek Baklava because they are all scrumptious make ahead dishes! The key words here being “make ahead” are a huge deal when throwing a party because it helps to take the pressure off, let’s you enjoy your guests and maybe have time to whip up some specailty cocktails like yummy Metaxa Mojito’s!

Metaxa Mojito’s

The crab cake balls are actually from my crab cake recipe. We are just forming the crab into 1 1/2″ balls instead of disc’s. It’s a no nonsense kind of recipe without all the vegetable fillers. Chunks of crab, some seasoning and a few binder ingredients is all that make up this appetizer. Letting the crab cake balls set in the frig for a couple hours or even overnight let’s those flavors meld and the shape to really form making it easy to sauté. Then you briefly sauté them in a little butter and olive oil until golden and crispy on the outside.

The Bender Kitchen

You saw how easy it was to make my homemade thousand island when I had Teresa whisk together all the ingredients in just a few seconds. The secret ingredient in my dressing is adding in creamy horseradish to compliment the crab, like a “crab Louie”!

Make sure to buy a few mangoes a week before game day so they have time to ripen fully on your kitchen counter and they will make an amazing mango salsa. While you are at it check out the avocado’s to see how ripe they are and you may want to pick up a couple of those to leave on the counter as well.

Selfie Ritual w/Benny – CT Style Camera Man

As for the authentic Honey Dripping Greek Baklava recipe that comes from my good friend Maria, it’s to die for! It make’s the perfect party dessert cause you cut them up into little triangles…it’s always a crowd pleaser and again you if make it the day before it’s ideal!

I know you’ll have as much fun making these party dishes as I did with Ryan Kristafer and Teresa Dufour on CT Style! Just click on the link above and it will take you to the exact recipe page’s! Enjoy and I hope your team wins!

 

 

Lisa & Vin’s Meatball Throw Down

Lisa & Vin’s Meatball Throw Down

Wow! What an impression 9 simmering trays of meatballs made when you walked into Lisa & Vin Esposito’s kitchen this past fall for their 2016 Annual Meatball Competition! There were meatball’s with sauce, meatball’s without sauce, and some topped with hot cherry peppers. All I know is the aroma’s of the meatball’s, tomato sauce, basil, and garlic had you salavating in mere minutes in anticipation of sampling these delectable little morsels.

The Esposito’s actually started this meatball competition about 4 years ago with 22 meatball entries! Realizing that it was difficult to judge with too many to try in order to submit an objective ballot they are now down to 9 meatball entries in the competition.

It took a little patience to get thru the holiday’s to coordinate next week’s show, the winner of “Lisa & Vin’s 2016 Annual Meatball Throw Down” but it was worth it! Everyone loves a great meatball and I’m happy to say I had voted for the winner’s meatball in this competition! I’m excited to get you the recipe!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So be sure to stay tuned next week when I will reveal this 1st place winner and the winning meatball recipe from Lisa & Vin’s 2016 Meatball Throw Down! In the mean time you can check out my Turkey or Italian beef meatballs. Then there’s the giant meatballs with a Secret ingredient in the Meatball Recipe from Glenn’s New Haven Apizza. You could always keep with a beef theme with my Braciole and while you are making all these yummy Italian dishes you will need some Homemade Pasta and a Caesar Salad! Mangia, mangia 🙂

 

 

Feta-Basil Pesto

Feta-Basil Pesto

No doubt about it once you try this feta-basil pesto you will be hook! The creamy, French sheep’s milk feta pushes this pesto into a whole new arena! Combined with the fresh, floral basil leaves, Italian Reggiano Parmeggiano, extra-virgin olive oil and garlic are a creation that’s just born to go together! Done in mere minutes in a food processor there’s no excuse not to make this delectable sauce bursting with flavor every chance you get!

Making fresh feta-basil pesto can’t be any easier then the convenience of your food processor! There’s no need whatsoever lugging out the ole mortar and pestle making a huge project out of something that literally take’s 2 minutes to make. No cooking, no baking, no washing, NO FUSS, just load up the food processor and pulse. Voilà, you have a gourmet sauce that turns around any dish you add it to into gourmet.

One of the appetizer’s I like to make with feta-basil pesto are Crostini with Fresh Mozzarella and Roasted tomatoes. Let’s not forget to try the feta-basil pesto on seared Scallops, Swordfish or even Sweet Potato Fries! And then there’s the obvious, top EASY PEASY pasta or Zucchini spaghetti with the feta-basil pesto and you feel like a king. Any way you look at it this feta-basil pesto is a no brainer, a win-win situation! So get on it! lol … xoxo

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Ingredients:

  • 1/2 sheep’s milk feta cheese – from local cheese shop if you can! It’s the star of the show!
  • 2 packed cups – fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 packed Reggiano Parmasan – freshly grated if you can
  • 1 extra lg OR 2 medium garlic cloves put thru garlic press
  • 1/4 cup PLUS 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • a few dashes of your fav hot sauce

Directions:

  1. Place 2 packed cups of basil, 2 tbsp of olive oil, garlic thru garlic press, a sprinkle of s & p in food processor and pulse 6x
  2. Scrape down sides and add in Reggiano Parmesan and sheep’s milk feta and pulse 4x more
  3. Scrape down sides and add in a few dashes of hot sauce
  4. Drizzle in thru top opening of food processor 3 more tbsp of extra-virgin olive oil and pulse 3x more …voila you have feta-basil pesto! It’s as easy as that! 🙂
  5. Add this feta-basil to Crostini with Fresh Mozzarella & Roasted Tomatoes for an appetizer that’s sure to turn heads!
  6. OR EASY PEASY …Add the feta-basil pesto to some sautéed shrimp and pasta! YUM!

Pickled Eggplant at Nancy’s

Pickled Eggplant at Nancy’s

pickperfectThere’s nothing like homemade Pickled Eggplant with thinly sliced strands of eggplant delicately flavored by vinegar, garlic, red hot chili pepper’s, oil-cured black olives and capers all nestled in an olive oil bath. The oil-cured, black olives, add a burst of rich, meaty, sweetness and then there’s a little pucker from the capers. Similar to the oil-cured olives, the eggplant become’s sweet in the beginning of the pickling process when the salt pulls out all the moisture and bitterness.

When Nancy first gave me a jar of her delectable pickled eggplant I knew I would have to get the recipe. Not only is her pickled eggplant to die for but everything she cooks is of the same standard, absolutely delicious! Along with inspiring me in the kitchen, Nancy had the same effect on me on the golf course when I first started playing 8 years ago. She has such tenacity and determination when playing I call her the fiesty golfer! Considering how difficult the game of golf can be, she’s the perfect person to learn the game with.

I had so much fun at Nancy’s house last week making her pickled eggplant. It’s so worth the effort you put into making your own, a most rewarding process when you taste the final product. All of these incredible flavors come together to make an amazing eggplant appetizer like you’ve never had before! You just can’t buy this in the stores!

You may just want to turn your party into an anti-pasto party with other dishes to compliment your pickled eggplant like Guacamole Crostini, Roasted Garlic Bean Dip, Arancini Reubens Balls w/Homemade Thousand Island Dressing, Spanakopita w/Metaxa Mojito’s and, or Homemade Pesto w/Fresh Mozzarella & tomato Crostini! Yum! Hope to recieve an invite to your delectable party lol 🙂

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Ingredients:

  • 9 large eggplants
  • 10 cups distilled white vinegar – 3/4 of gallon jug
  • 10 cups water
  • 4 cups olive oil
  • approx 1/2 container of Mortons salt… use 1/3 cup per eggplant
  • 2 cups Italian black oil cured olives – seedless
  • 1 long hot red pepper
  • 2 tbsp capers
  • 8 lg garlic cloves coarsely chopped
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano OR 2 tbsp fresh oregano dried in the microwave
  • 1 large pickling crock
  • 2 clean white cotton pillow cases
  • 1 extra large bowl to tranfer wet eggplant in pillow cases back and forth from washing machine
  • a case of canning jars

Directions:

  1. Peel and slice all 9 eggplants into 1/8″ thick pieces
  2. Stack slices and cut into 1/8″ strips
  3. Place cut up strips into large pickling crock
  4. After the addition of each cut up eggpant sprinkle in about 1/3 cup salt and mix strips around with salt by hand
  5. Go thru all 9 eggplant making sure to spinkle 1/3 cup salt after addition
  6. Place a small dish on top of all the sliced eggplant so that the dish fits into the crock
  7. Place the gallon jug of vinegar onto dish and let sit 2-3 hours
  8. Remove vinegar bottle weight and plate from crock – at this point there will be a lot of dark brown juice extracted from the eggplant
  9. Transfer eggplant to a clean pillow case a handful at a time leaving behind the brown juice
  10. Divide all the eggplant into 2 pillow cases and tie off the ends into knots so as the eggplant doesn’t come out when you “spin” it in the washer
  11. Rinse out the pickling crock
  12. Take the two pillow cases full of eggplant to the washer and put on “spin” cycle only – NO WATER
  13. After spin stops, remove eggplant from pillow cases & place back into crock (save pillow cases in a large bowl ready to use one more time before cleaning)
  14. Add in chopped garlic cloves and sliced hot pepper
  15. Bring 10 cups vinegar/10 cups water to a rapid boil
  16. Pour vinegar/water mix over eggplant strands in crock
  17. Stir breifly to mix and cover
  18. Let ferment until cooled approx. for 3 hours giving the eggplant a stir at 1 1/2 hour mark
  19. When the eggplant is cooled remove from crock back into pillow caeses
  20. Divide up the eggplant and place back into the same two pillow cases you used on first spin
  21. At this point run all the jars thru dishwasher – time it so they are hot ready to jar the pickled eggplant after 2nd spin (give it about 1/2 hour-depending on timing of your own dishwasher)
  22. Put all the tops to the canning jars in a pan of water, bring to a boil to sterilze as well
  23. Place the eggplant strands back in the washer on “spin” cylce only again – NO WATER
  24. Rinse crock
  25. Microwave fresh oregano in a microwave for 1 minute, crumble the oregano leaves off the stem and set aside
  26. Add spun pickled eggplant back into the clean crock, add in 4 cups olive oil, 2 cups oil-cured black olives, 2 tbsps of caper and 2 tbsp of fresh microwaved oregano
  27. Take hot jars out of the dishwasher and begin to fill with eggplant
  28. Top off the pickled eggplant in the jars with a drizzle of olive oil keeping 1/2″ from the top
  29. Wipe the top of the jars clean with a clean paper towel and seal with the hot tops you boiled on the stove – Be Careful Not To Burn yourself here
  30. Approx 5 hours after putting the tops on the jars, gently push down on the middle circle to hear a small pop and complete the “seal” – NOTE: they may pop down completing that last seal all on their own
  31. The pickled eggplant is done and will keep for months at room temp
  32. I keep an opened jar in the fridge and bring to room temperature when ever I serve it…YUM!

 

 

Fresh Garden Tomato Sauce

Fresh Garden Tomato Sauce

When the aroma from your fresh garden tomato sauce smells exactly like a tomato plucked right out of your garden on a sultry summer day you know you have the right recipe! With all the beautiful weather we have had this summer everyone has an abundance of produce coming out of their garden’s. What a better way to dive right in and try your hand at making your very own tomato sauce. And when you taste how delicious the puréed tomatoes are as a raw sauce you may just stop right there. After that first taste of the raw tomato sauce there might not be any left over to go to the next simmering step!

I was very excited when some friend’s of mine, Becky and Mike, offered up a large bag of their fresh garden plum tomatoes. I knew I wanted to make fresh garden tomato sauce with them right off the bat. This is a bit nastalgic for me because it reminds me of when my mother used to make fresh garden tomato sauce for us when I was young.

It’s really an easy process of peeling, seeding and then puréeing the tomatoes with some sautéed onions and garlic. The more tomatoes you have the longer it well take but it’s so worth it. The fact that you can freeze the sauce for a later date makes it all worth while! What I love about making this fresh garden tomato sauce, other then the fact that it smells utterly amazing, is it’s just as delicious eating it raw as cooked. In fact, when I make this I can’t decide which I like better so I continue on to make both cause it’s so darn simple to do that once you are in the process.

Once you see how easy to make your own sauce it may become a new family staple for you. You just might get inspired to make it a family affair having everyone join in to make homemade gnocchi or zucchini pasta too. Don’t forget the gourmet Caesar salad and then of course there’s an amazing ricotta pie or go for the death by chocolate meringue pie!

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Ingredients:

  • 91 fresh garden tomatoes OR as many as you have
  • 1 tbsp sea salt, LESS if you have a smaller amount of plum tomatoes
  • 1/4 tsp finely ground pepper
  • 5 lg fresh basil leaves
  • 1 lg dried bay leaf
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1/3 cup red wine – for the simmered sauce
  • 1 tsp finely ground Italian seasoning
  • 1 small Vadalia onion finely chopped
  • 4 extra lg OR 6 medium size garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup white wine to de-glaze the sautéed onions and garlic

Directions:

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil adding in 1 tbsp of salt
  2. Core the stem side of all your tomatoes
  3. Get a large bowl of ice water ready to put the tomatoes in after you blanch them
  4. Add plum tomatoes to boiling water, 25-30 at a time and blanch for 30-45 seconds, it’s totally fine if it goes past 45 seconds cause it’s going to take you a minute or two to scoop the tomatoes out
  5. Remove the tomatoes from the boiling water and submerse into the ice water
  6. Repeat until you have gone thru all your tomatoes
  7. Begin to remove the loosened skins from the tomatoes then placing into another bowl as you go
  8. Cut or tear tomatoes in half with your hands and remove most of the seeds putting pulp in one bowl and tomato flesh in another
  9. Spoon off any excess water that rises to the top of the bowl with all the tomato flesh
  10. Sauté chopped onion and garlic cloves til tranlucent
  11. De-glaze onions and garlic with 1/4 cup white wine
  12. Let the alcohol burn off and reduce slightly
  13. Begin to purée tomatoes and sauteed onions in the food processor in batches
  14. Add the puréed tomatoes/onions back into the large pan that you blanched the tomatoes in as you go along
  15. When done puréeing add salt and pepper to taste and voilà there is your raw sauce
  16. FOR RAW SAUCE: top pasta with raw sauce and sprinkle some fresh julienned basil, Parmesan and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
  17. FOR COOKED SAUCE: Put the pot of puréed tomatoes/onion back on the stove and add in the 5 extra lg fresh basil leaves, bay leaf, sugar, Italian spices, red wine and simmer for 1-2 hours…mangia mangia!!

Best Guacamole Ever!

Best Guacamole Ever!

This best guacamole ever recipe will definitely change the way you look at that mixture they call guacamole at the market. I find most of the brands out there both watery and mysterious. Why chance quality. The simple fact is, when my best guacamole recipe is so simple to make why settle for second rate! Even the amounts of finely chopped sweet onion, tomato, jalapeño and cilantro in this recipe are minimal so there’s not a whole lot of prep going on either. These amounts are just enough to add hints of lovely flavors and not take away from the sweet creamy California avocado’s.

Avocado’s are on sale just about every other week at the market so take advantage of this and load up. You can never buy too many and they don’t all have to be perfectly ripened right at that moment. They will ripen on your counter in a matter of days.

If I am not serving this best guacamole ever right away I put one of the avocado pits back into the middle of the guacamole, cover it with saran wrap and put it into the refrigerator until I’m ready. The saran wrap should go directly onto the surface of the guacamole so as not to let the dip oxidize and turn brown. If part of it does oxidize just skim that part off with a spoon and there will be a fresh green surface underneath. And, when making guacamole it’s best when it’s eaten the same day, or definitely by the next.

If you are a big fan of avocado’s you really need to try chocolate avocado mousse! My pulled beef taco’s would be incredible with the best guacamole ever. Serve up a variety of appetizer’s for your get together and add in Sweet potato fries  and salmon gravlax, both incredibly delicious and fun eats! A chocolate pecan pie just might put the party right over the top! Enjoy! 🙂

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Ingredients:

  • 3 small/med size ripened California avocado’s
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped Sweet or Vidalia onion (Georgia onion)
  • 1/4 finely chopped sweet tomatoes any color (cherry tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes…your fav)
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro (fill 1/4 cup first with whole leaves then chop that)
  • 1/2 of a lg jalapeno, finely chopped with seeds removed, approx. 2 tbsp
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar “seasoned” – (rice wine vinegar and olive oil are my secret ingredients that give the guac that little someting extra!)
  • 1 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 Tsp salt
  • 1/4 Tsp Pepper
  • 2 dashes of your favorite hot sauce …I use Siracha (which is sold right next to the Tabasco)

Directions:

  1. Slice and remove avocado flesh from the skins as shown in the photo above and place in a large bowl, save one of the avocado pits to add to dip at the end
  2. Slice off any black or dark spots on the avocado’s and discard
  3. Finely chop sweet onion, tomatoes, jalapeno and cilantro and add to bowl with avacado’s
  4. Add in s&p and olive oil and rice wine vinegar
  5. Begin to slice halved avocado’s with a knife to help break them up
  6. Then begin to mash with a fork and stir around all of the ingredients
  7. Lastly add Siracha (hot sauce) and 1 tsp of lemon juice
  8. Mix gently to combine and add pit to the middle of the guacamole
  9. The pit helps to preserve guacamole until it get’s all eaten up 🙂
  10. Serve with chips, turkey or beef burgers, salsa …be creative!

Salsa 101


Salsa 101

When you learn to make my basic salsa 101 there will be no stopping you! It’s packed with flavor from the juicy summer tomatoes, sweet Georgia Vidalia onions, add in some fresh squeezed limes, chopped cilantro and jalapeño and you have yourself a fiesta!

When you know how to make a basic salsa the world your oyster! No food pun intended here, but seriously! From this salsa 101 recipe you can totally make it yours by adding in 1/2 cup of avocado, mango, pineapple or even cucumbers. Don’t be afraid to try adding your favorite’s to the basic recipe because that is how you learn to create, to taste different flavors. You can even try adding 1 cup of black beans to the salsa! YUM! Have fun and enjoy:)

Adding in the extra virgin olive oil and “seasoned” rice wine vinegar with the fresh squeezed limes keeps my salsa delicately balanced where one flavor isn’t over powering another. I love using the Georgia Vidalia onions because they are so sweet! If you are not a big onion fan these will surprise you for sure. You could also cut back on the amount of chopped onions even though I believe it’s a perfect amount in my salsa 101 when “finely” chopped. The beautiful thing about the salsa 101 recipe is you can use what ever tomatoes you want from heirlooms, to grape, to cherry, tiger tomatoes …what ever your little heart fancies!

You should try  Pulled Beef Taco’s to go with my salsa 101, or Zucchini Spaghetti, Roasted Garlic Bean Dip, or even Homemade BBQ Sauce on chicken wings and then end it with Drunk Blondies & a Bourbon Caramel Sauce and you will be The Belle of the Ball at your party!

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Ingredients:

  • 2 heaping cups – (12 Compari tomatoes-these are a med/small size, can use Heirloom tomatoes, cherry, grape …your favorite tomato!  finely chopped
  • 1 packed cup – 1/2 of extra large Vidalia onion finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp – 1/2 lg jalapeño extra finely chopped
  • 1 cup cilantro coarsely chopped
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp “seasoned” rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp fresh squeezed lime juice – 1 lime
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • OPTIONAL: dash of Siracha Hot Sauce or Franks or Tabasco

Directions:

  1. Finely chop tomatoes, Vidalia onion, jalapeño and cilantro
  2. Add to a large bowl
  3. Roll lime to get the juices flowing and squeeze over chopped veggie’s
  4. Add s & p, olive oil and seasoned rice wine vinegar
  5. Toss and serve with chips, chicken, fish, beef or pork!
  6. NOTE: Now that you have an incredible tasting basic salsa be creative and add 1/2 cup of chopped avocado, mango, pineapple, black beans, or cucumbers…Mangia Mangia!

Secret Meatball Recipe at Glenn’s New Haven Apizza

Secret Meatball Recipe at Glenn’s New Haven Apizza

One of the most delicious meatballs you’ll ever have and the mammoth size will knock you for a loop! Glenn Proto, at New Haven Apizza & Bakery, right here in our very own Madison, CT, shared his mother, Annette’s, secret meatball recipe with me this week. The ingredients he use’s in his meatballs couldn’t get any fresher because he even grind’s his own meats for these meatballs. Freshly ground brisket, short ribs, 80/20 beef and Longhini sweet sausage are the main ingredients in his meatballs. Oh, but let’s not forget what he calls his “secret” to the meatballs, his addition of finely chopped pepperoni! Glenn says this is what give’s these authentic Italian meatball’s that extra special something!

Once we get past all the freshly ground meat that goes into Glenn’s meatballs the love doesn’t stop there, he then caramelizes red onions, adds in Ricotta fina (a special and costly ricotta from the very best Liuzzi Cheese in North Haven,CT, eggs, grated Romano cheese, Italian cubed up bread soaked in heavy cream, and fresh garlic and herbs! Wow, he doesn’t hold back on quality that’s for sure. What an incredible ingredient list for these most flavorful and succulent morsels. Maybe I shouldn’t use the word “morsels” either because the size of these meatball’s are cray cray! It was a blast rolling the meat mixture into bigger then baseball size meatballs with Glenn and his son Dylan. Isn’t it wonderful how the tradition carries on as Dylan and his siblings grew up making these incredible meatballs just as Glenn did. And now, we can add some of this lovely tradition into our kitchen’s since Glenn was so kind as to share his family’s recipe with all of us. He believe’s traditions and recipe’s are meant to be shared so everyone can enjoy them!

Hope you enjoy this secret meatball recipe show and remember he serve’s up 3 of these colossal meatballs in one “spaghetti and meatball” order from his restaurant! You might want to start with a few appetizer’s like my crab cakes, buffalo chicken dip, Mediterranean layered dip, spanakopita or my hummus!

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Glenn’s Mammoth Size Meatballs – makes approx 10-12 Colossal Size…Can make them smaller to yield more meatballs!

  • 2 1/2 lbs. of ground beef (.75 lbs ea. of ground brisket, short ribs and 80/20 ground beef)
  • 1 1/4 lbs. Longhini sweet sausage
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped pepperoni
  • 2 cups Italian bread after soaked in heavy cream and squeezed slightly  (1 lb. about 1  loaf of Italian bread, cubed and soaked in heavy cream)
  • 2-3 cups heavy cream – to soak cubed up Italian bread
  • 3 lg eggs
  • 1 cup grated Romano cheese
  • 3/4 cup ricotta (ricotta fina if you can get it)
  • 3/4 cup fresh chopped parsley
  • 1/2 cup fresh chopped basil
  • 1/3 heaping cup finely chopped fresh garlic
  • 1/2 cup caramelized red onions (finely chop 2 med. size red onions and sauté on medium/high with 1 tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp butter for 5 minutes and then twenty minutes on low with adding 1 tbsp sugar and 1/4 tsp salt)
  • 1 tbsp plus 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tbsp plus 1 tsp finely ground pepper
  • 1 tbsp plus 1 tsp dried oregano

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400º
  2. Cube up the Italian loaf of bread to 3/4″ pieces
  3. Add cubed up bread to 2 – 3 cups heavy cream – should be enough to have all the pieces get saturated and soak for approx 15 minutes
  4. Add beef and sausage to a large bowl and combine with your hands
  5. Add in the pepperoni and the rest of the ingredients in the list and combine with your hands – Don’t over mixed meat …just until combined
  6. Begin to roll meat mixture into desired size meatballs dipping your hands in the left over the heavy cream to help smooth the edges of the meat while shaping them
  7. Place the meatballs onto a cookie tray..they can be right next to each other
  8. Note: the larger they are the longer you will bake them
  9. Bake for 45-60 until the tops are crispy and brown …mangia, mangia!