Category Archives: Cheese

mozzarella, swiss, brie, blue, parmesan, feta, goats, sheeps

CT Style in The Bender Kitchen with Teresa & Ryan Making Manicotti!

CT Style in The Bender Kitchen with Teresa & Ryan Making Manicotti!

With Easter right around the corner I was excited to be back on CT Style in The Bender Kitchen with Ryan and Teresa so I could share with you my family’s secret recipe for homemade manicotti. These delicate pasta crepes are the lightest manicotti you’ll ever have. They are oozing with mozzarella, covered in tomato-basil sauce and topped with grated Pecorino Romano cheese and are sure to turn heads at the dinner table!

Italian tradition always includes a yummy side dish to go along with the ham, leg of lamb, turkey, salmon or tenderlion like manicotti, lasagna, eggplant rollatini or parmesan. Comfort food bringing it all together, an Italian side dish makes such a nice compliment to what ever meat or fish you choose.

This homemade manicotti recipe is a poured crepe-like batter and in my opinion it’s a whole lot easier then making a tradition rolled out pasta. Making the pasta crepe is like making pancakes or French crepes. On my manicotti recipe page I show you detailed pictures of how to make them. The YouTube “Manicotti Show” that’s embeded there also includes very detailed instruction on how to make these walking you thru each step making it very easy for you to follow and learn.

I love cooking for everyone on the CT Style set who seemed to love the manicotti because there weren’t any left over…makes the chef very happy! The lettuce wedges with Roasted Blue Cheese & Buttermilk Dressing (stay tuned for an up and coming show on that one) and crumbled bacon were a big hit too and lets not forget those Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies! 

Once you introduce these delectable homemade manicotti into your family’s holiday dinner you’ll find it becoming part of your tradition too! Other wonderful side dishes you could add into your dinner, my Creamed Onions, Steak House Creamed Spinach or zucchini torta! Don’t forget about Ricotta Pie or Greek Baklava both crowd pleasers at parties! Enjoy and Happy Holidays! 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

Torta de Pollo with Chef Mark

Torta de Pollo with Chef Mark

Torta de Pollo is a delicious and innovative way to change up the ole chicken pot pie not to mention it’s a down right fun thing to do! That’s what Chef Mark has done here layering tortilla’s with chicken and vegetables instead using a traditional pie crust. A Spanish Dry Sherry, called Amontillado, certainly takes this chicken pot pie version to a new level. Using these tortilla’s will save you time from making and fussing with a pie crust and who doesn’t love that.

Chef Mark has some wonderful flavor building steps going on here in his Torta de Pollo as he graces us with his truffle salt and Himalayan salt rock.  Let’s not forget his de-glazing of the veggies with this Spanish Dry Sherry called Amontillado by Savory and James that every kitchen should carry for a mere $13 a bottle. It would be silly not to have this in your cubbard!

Using the tortilla’s instead of the pie crust gives this Torta de Pollo an almost creamy texture. Changing up a chicken pot pie recipe like this, swapping out the tortilla’s for the pie crust, is such a creative and easy thing to do. It reminds me of a couple other of my favorites like chicken enchiladas or chicken cordon blue because of the swiss cheese in with the layers.

No baking time is another wonderful feature of this recipe. Once you sauté the veggies and make the “special sauce” consisting of chicken stock, rosemary, heavy cream and Spanish sherry you then cover the torta with this delectable sauce and flash broil it for 3-5 minutes…voilà! You certainly won’t be disappointed with this one! Enjoy and have fun using your favorite vegetables!

My BEST Crab Cakes with Homemade Thousand Island Dressing would make a great appetizer addition to the Torta de Pollo, and, or my Baked Aparagus Wrapped in Prosciuto. Don’t forget to have a yummy salad on the side like a Caesar Salad with Homemade Croutons or Fennel and Citrus Salad with a Tangering Dressing! You’ll definitely need a sweet in your back pocket so go for the Death by Chocolate Meringue Pie and that should do the trick!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ingredients for Torta de Pollo:

  • 1 rotisserie chicken
  • 1 pkg 8″ flour tortilla’s
  • 3/4 cups Emmetaler Swiss cheese – NOTE: 1/4 cup is for “the special sauce”
  • 3/4 cups Comté cheese – NotE: 1/4 cup is for “the special sauce”
  • 1/2 cup each chopped broccoli and cauliflower
  • 1/4 each, julienne parsnips, chopped peppers & celery
  • 1/2 lb portabella mushrooms thinly sliced
  • 1/2 lb small assorted colored potatoes, purple & yellow THINLY sliced
  • 1/3 cup frozen peas
  • 1 lg garlic clove thru press
  • 1 shallots sliced
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1/3 cup dry sherry
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt (truffle salt if you have it)
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 9 x 13 baking dish (will be wider then the tortilla’s
  • fresh rosemary for “Special Sauce” – recipe below
  • 1 cup heavy cream for “Special Sauce” – recipe below

Directions for Torta de Pollo:

  1. Remove all the meat from the rotisserie chicken
  2. Slice up the chicken to bite size pieces and set aside
  3. Add remaining rotisserie chicken, the bones & the skin to a medium size pot and add 1 celery stalk, onion skin, and 1 carrot cover with water and bring to a simmer for 1/2-1 hr
  4. Warm sliced de-boned chicken in a medium pan with 1 cup chicken stock on low heat
  5. Put sliced mushrooms in a hot sauté pan and cook for 5 minutes, stir after a minute…don’t worry if they seem to stick it’s ok
  6. Now add 1/4 tsp salt to mushrooms
  7. Move sautéed mushrooms to the side and add in 2 tbsp olive oil with the slice potaotes
  8. Sauté potatoes for 3 minutes
  9. Then add parnips, peppers, celery, garlic, shallots and lemon zest
  10.  Add in broccoli, cauliflower, cook 1 minute
  11. Deglaze with 1/3 cup dry sherry
  12. Add in frozen peas, add 1 cup chicken stock, bring to a simmer
  13. Stir in 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp Berbere spice
  14. Let veggie reduce 5 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated
  15. Put wrapped 10-12 flour tortilla’s in foil in a warm oven
  16. Begin to layer Torta de Pollo
  17. Add 3 tbsp chicken chicken stock to bottom of baking dish
  18. Begin with tortilla, then 1/2 cup chicken & 1/4 cup swiss, then a tortilla, 1/2 cup veggies (without any excess juice), tortilla, and repeat until 10 layers – 4 or 5 chicken layers & 4 or 5 veggie layers. Note: push down slightly as you are layering to keep shape flatter
  19. Make “Special Sauce” -see below
  20. Pour all the sauce over the Torta de Pollo and place under the broiler for 3-5 minutes, til slightly bubbly
  21. Slice and serve with a drizzle of extra sauce over the top…mmm!

Ingredients & Directions for “Special Sauce”:

  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1/3 cup dry sherry
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup shredded Comte swiss cheese
  • 1/4 cup shredded Emmentaler swiss cheese
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp fresh chopped rosemary
  1. Using same veggie sauté pan add in first 3 ingredients, and bring to a simmer for 5 minutes
  2. Reduce slightly and then stir in cheeses, rosemary, s & p
  3. Pour over Torta de Pollo to place under broiler

 

Lazy-Man’s Lasagna! – World’s Best!

Lazy-Man’s Lasagna! – World’s Best!

This world’s best lazy-man’s lasagna is the ultimate pasta dish because there is no fussing, layering or baking. It has all the ingredients and flavors of a traditional lasagna but without all the work! It’s done all-in-one pot and takes two minutes to put together after the ground meat is browned. It’s made with a tomato-basil sauce, homemade or store bought for convenience, rigatoni pasta, ricotta, mozzarella and a sautéed ground meat of your choice. The hardest part here is browning the meat, then it’s easy peasy from there on in.

When I first had this lazy-man’s lasagna it was made with ground beef. That’s the beauty of this pasta dinner you can customize it by browning up what ever your favorite meat is. I’ve actually made it with ground turkey, beef, Italian sausage and even a meatloaf mix of meats. What ever you decide I promise you it’s going to be delicious! In the show I used my favorite sweet Italian fennel sausage from Liuzzi Cheeses in North Haven, CT. I took the the sausage out of the casing and then browned it.

Usually, I serve up this lazy-man’s lasagna immediately after I combine all those yummy ingredients. Although, you can easily pour it out into a baking dish and top with one cup of shredded mozzarella to bake immediately or cover with foil and into the frig until you are ready. Granted, I do love to put together a tray of layered lasagna for the holidays but for those in between days when you want those gourmet flavors but don’t want to go through all the work this world’s best lazy-man’s lasagna is your dream come true.

You can check out my Live TV Cooking Segment on “CT STYLE”, WTNH – Channel 8 where I make Lazy-Man’s Lasagna in The Bender Kitchen with hosts Teresa Dufour and Ryan Kristafer!

If you are looking for something hardy and gourmet you should check out my Boeuf Bourguignon or Indian Spice Tomato-Cream with Snap Peas, Pulled Beef Taco’s with Mango Salsa, or for a lighter note you could check out my Swordfish with Black Bean Salsa or Asian Shrimp and Noodle Salad and for something sweet you just can’t beat Pavlova! Mangia Mangia…enjoy 🙂

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Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. rigatoni pasta, zit rigati or your fav pasta!
  • My 20 minute tomato-basil pasta sauce recipe or a favorite store bought brand
  • 2 lbs ground meat OR 3 cups after browned of: ground beef, turkey, veal, pork, meatloaf mix, or sweet fennel sausage (Liuzzi makes my favorite sweet and spicy Italian fennel sausage)
  • 1 lb. whole milk ricotta (really easy to make your OWN HOMEMADE – check it out!)
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella – 2 cups to mix into the lazy-man’s lasagna plus additional 1 cup to sprinkle on top if you are going to put the pasta into a baking dish to bake later
  • grated Parmesan
  • fresh basil

Directions:

  1. Brown the ground meat in a sauce pan on medium high heat
  2. Drain the meat to remove excess oil in a small strainer over a bowl
  3. Put the meat back into the pan on medium high heat add 1/3 cup of red wine to de-glaze the sauce pan scrapping up the little brown bits stuck the bottom of the pan
  4. Keep the browned meat on warm
  5. Heat tomato-basil sauce through – you want it hot to melt the mozzarella
  6. Cook the pasta in salted water until al dente …(Having a pinch of firmness to it so it’s not overly cooked)
  7. Drain the pasta and put it back into the same pan
  8. Immediately add 2 cups of hot tomato-basil sauce, 1 lb. of ricotta, 2 cups of mozzarella, 3 cups of browned meat and begin to stir
  9. Add another 1-1 1/2 cups of tomato-basil sauce
  10. Mix ingredients until combined and pour out into a serving platter
  11. Sprinkle with Parmesan and julienne fresh basil…mangia mangia 🙂

Easy Gourmet Eggplant Parmesan

Easy Gourmet Eggplant Parmesan

My easy gourmet eggplant Parmesan is sweet, saucy and oozing with mozzarella getting even better the next day when it’s re-heated if that’s even possible! Eggplant Parmesan one of my very favorite things to make. I used to watch my mother fry eggplant when I was young and I have been making this homemade eggplant Parmesan for 30 years now. Eggplant Parmesan is one of those delicious Italian comfort foods that can be a little bit of work to prepare so I show you how to keep the process simple by spreading out the steps.

The secret to sweet eggplant Parmesan is slicing , lightly salting and weighting down the eggplant letting it sit in the refrigerator for 2 hrs to overnight preferably to remove the bitter purple juice making my homemade baked eggplant Parmesan as sweet as ever. This is a simple but ingenious way that’s been in my family for generations.

It will be much easier to try and fry up only one eggplant if it’s your first time just to get the hang of it. If you have gone through the frying process before I would suggest cooking up two or three large eggplants. I like to fry up 3 eggplants because I freeze the slices I don’t use right away when they are completely cooled in between layers of thick durable Bounty paper towels in freezer Ziploc baggies. This way all your base work is done for you and you are able to pull them out of the freezer and whip up an eggplant rollatini, eggplant Parmesan, or even eggplant lasagna. When you take them out of the freezer they pop apart easily thawing in minutes too ready for what ever dish you may have in mind.

I recommend making my quick and easy tomato-basil pasta sauce  or even my slow cooked pasta sauce to baked this easy gourmet eggplant Parmesan dish. I love the fact that it can totally be made days ahead, even weeks ahead and put into the freezer ready to thaw when you need it.

If you’re feeling ambitious you may want to venture off and try my homemade eggplant rollatini with vodka sauce and, or my homemade ricotta which you can also make the day before or just treat yourself and buy Liuzzi Cheese ricotta or your favorite store brand for the rollatini. Planning is sometimes the name of the game for taking the labor out of scrumptious food like this where if you get it done in steps it makes everything go so smoothly.

You may want to accompany this amazing Italian dish with some apps like crab cakes, a homemade Caesar saladMediterranean layered dip, or asparagus wrapped in Prosciutto and you could end it with the best chocolate cake you ever had that’s a snap to make! ENJOY! 🙂

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Ingredients:

  • Tomato-Basil Pasta Sauce or Slow cooked pasta 101 recipe
  • 2-3 large eggplants
  • 6-9 extra large eggs whisked (approx. 3 eggs per 1 extra-large eggplant)
  • 3 cups seasoned Italian bread crumbs – (use “seasoned breadcrumbs” then you don’t have to add that in)
  • salt
  • 1 16 oz. block of part-skim or whole milk mozzarella shredded or sliced thinly
  • 3 1/2-4 cups canola oil for frying
  • fresh basil leaves
  • grated Parmesan for garnish
  • Cookie racks
  • 1 whole roll of Bounty Paper Towels (it’s important to get quality paper towel so they will absorb the oil properly and won’t fall apart)
  • Candy thermometer to keep oil at 300º

Directions – Pre-heat oven to 350º:

  1. Slice the ends off the eggplants
  2. Using a potato peeler peel off all the skin of the eggplants
  3. Slice up eggplants on a slight bias (on a little bit of an angle) into 1/4″ slices (1/4″ for rolling up for eggplant rollatini BUT you can cut them a little thicker 3/8″ for eggplant parm!
  4. NOTE: If i plan on freezing the left over fried eggplant slice’s for future dinners (eggplant rollatini) I cut them length wise so as to have enough length to roll up with ricotta in the middle BUT if I’m just making enough for parm I cut the eggplant on a slight bias because I don’t need the length…I try to cut them all the same so cooking time is constant.
  5. Layer the eggplant slices in a large glass bowl
  6. In between each layer sprinkle 1/4 Tsp of salt, and keep layering eggplant, salt, eggplant, salt…
  7. Cover with Saran wrap and place a small plate on top and then some heavy fry pans or large tomato can to weight down the eggplant and into the frig for 1-2 hours up to 1 day
  8. Drain the purple juice from the bowl
  9. Take the eggplant and pat them dry in layers between Bounty paper towels
  10. Whisk eggs
  11. Get your line-up of bowls in order: eggplant slices – whisked eggs – bread crumbs
  12. Add 3 1/2 – 4 cups canola oil to a large sauce pan and begin to heat up on medium/high heat
  13. The oil needs to get to about 300º …The temperature will go down a little when you start filling the pan with breaded eggplant slices so start with the heat on med/high then after you start to fry you will have to turn it up a little to maintain the 300º
  14. Lay out 2-3 cookie racks covered with layers of paper towels to absorb oil for frying
  15. Add slices of eggplant to the egg bowl in batches – only add in the 4 or 5 slices that are going next into the oil and ready to go into the bread crumbs
  16. Then dip into the bread crumbs and into the heated oil
  17. Put 4 or 5 slices of breaded eggplant into the oil at a time…
  18. They will fry for about 2-3 minutes per side til golden then flip the slice over
  19. While the 1st batch is frying get the 2nd batch ready to fry dipping into the egg and then into the bread crumbs and let them sit there on the bread crumbs til they are ready to go into the oil
  20. Once the eggplant are golden place onto cookie racks with paper towels and dab them with fresh paper towels, flip and do the same to the other side to remove all excess oil
  21. Throw away oily paper towels and re-place with a new set of paper towels for the next and replace with each batch there after
  22. Then place the eggplant onto the wire cookie racks with out paper towels to cool
  23. Finish frying the rest of the eggplant going thru the same procedures
  24. Get out your favorite baking dish and cover the bottom with sauce
  25. Begin to layer sauce, eggplant, mozzarella and some fresh basil leaves til you are 1″ from the top
  26. Cover with foil and bake for 50-55 minutes appox. with foil til sides are bubbling and bake another 5-10 with out foil so mozzarella can get bubbly

FREEZING TIPS: I love, love, love to freeze my fried eggplant slices because all the work is done for you the next time you want to make parm or rollatini. BEST way to freeze your eggplant slices:  let all the fried slices COMPLETELY cool on a cookie rack, then layer as many slices in between BOUNTY (need a durable paper towel)  paper towels. Layer enough slices to fit a SINGLE layer in between each sheet of Bounty in a FREEZER ZIP-LOC baggie.  Begin with a sheet of Bounty in the Zip-Loc, then slices of eggplant-single layer, then another sheet of Bounty, then another layer of eggplant slices and so on until you can barely close baggie. Lay flat in you freezer and Voilà! Freezes great 4-5 months!

Gourmet Frittata

Gourmet Frittata

The Frittata first came about as practical dish in theory for using up those leftovers in our frig but when adding in some lovely melting cheeses and a pinch of dairy it turns into something much more then that. Not to mention this Italian egg dish is just as delicious served room temperature as it is warm.

Making a gourmet frittata is as easy as can be leaving you with lots of room to be creative. The measurements do not have to be exact at all to get wonderful results. You can use 10-12 eggs, and mix in heavy cream, half and half, sour cream, or even creme fresh. You can also change out the cheeses to one that you prefer. Use feta or goat cheese, cheddar, Monterey Jack, Pepper jack, Colby-jack, Swiss or Gruyère, Parmesan and so on. It’s nice to mix it up too using a combination of these cheeses. I really love using up the leftover veggies in the fridge and don’t mind sautéing up one or two more to enhance the leftovers.

By no means does this homemade frittata have to remain a vegetarian either! Pack in the meat using chunks or slices of ham, cooked sausages, bacon, steak and well that list goes on too. I think the trick here is not to fuss too much, be sure to add a little dairy and be sure not to over cook the frittata thinking that it’s not done enough because you see a little movement in the center when taking it out of the oven. Remember it will keep cooking after you take it out of the oven and it will also congeal a bit with the cooling process. Enjoy the show and making this yummy gourmet frittata! You may want to try some grilled Asian Salmon or Caesar Salad with this frittata too.

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Ingredients:

  • 12 extra-lg eggs
  • 1/2 cup half & half, heavy cream or creme fresh
  • 1 1/2 cup gruyere cheese ( 1/2 cup is for the topping) OR 1/2 cup cheddar, 1/2 gruyere with addtional 1/2 cup mix of each for the topping
  • 1/3 cup grated Reggiano Parmesan
  • 8 oz. pkg baby bella mushrooms sliced
  • 1 1/2 cup chopped or sliced onions
  • 6 small tomatoes sliced 1/8″ thick to decorate top of frittata before you bake it
  • 1 tsp salt (1/2 tsp into eggs & 1/4 tsp each for onion/mush. and 1/4 tsp when you add kale)
  • 1/4 tsp ground pepper
  • 1 tsp Siracha (or more…to taste)

Directions :

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350º
  2. Wash and dry kale leaves
  3. Remove kale leaves from the ribbing (stalk) as shown in show
  4. Slice mushrooms, onions, kale and tomatoes – set aside
  5. Whisk 12 eggs, then whisk in 1/2 tsp salt. 1/4 tsp finely ground pepper and half and half
  6. Add 3 tbsp olive oil to 10″ cast iron pan or oven proof pan on med/high heat
  7. Add onions and sauté for 5 minutes
  8. Add mushrooms to onions and 1/4 tsp salt, then sauté another 5 minutes on med/high
  9. Add in kale when juices begin to release from the mushrooms along with another 1/4 tsp salt and sprinkle of pepper, and a few shots of Siracha
  10. Sauté kale mixture for 5 minutes while stirring just to wilt slightly
  11. Add 1 cup of gruyere and 1/2 cup of parm to egg mixture and give it a quick stir
  12. Turn off heat on cast iron pan and add in egg mixture
  13. Give it a stir to the veggies and egg mixture
  14. Then top with 1/2 cup more gruyere cheese and decorate with sliced tomatoes
  15. Put into the oven and bake for approx. 23 minutes
  16. Take a peak at the 20 minute mark to make sure that the top hasn’t gotten golden
  17. You only want slight golden on outer edge
  18. Take out frittata and let sit for 20-30 minutes
  19. NOTE: the frittata will keep cooking after you remove it from the oven
  20. Slice and serve with a sprinkle of grated Reggiano Parmesan on top

Homemade Pasta Fagioli

Homemade Pasta Fagioli

This homemade pasta fagioli dish is a traditional Italian soup where the recipe differs from family to family and region to region. Every single version is different which makes it nice because it’s very personal that way. It’s what ever you were used to having in your own home or at your relatives growing up. Originally, pasta fagioli was made without meat, then there were versions that started the dish off by sauteing pancetta and now there are so many different recipes floating around. It’s what ever floats your boat really! It’s supposed to be easy gourmet…what ever you have in the pantry and refrigerator will work.

Pasta fagioli is a savory comfort food that I just love. It consist of several universal ingredients like ditalini pasta,  cannellini beans, some kind of tomato base and a liquid of either chicken, or vegetable and I have even seen water used. It’s been considered a soup which is perfect for dunking that crusty bread but there are versions that make it more like a thick saucy “pasta” dish. The liquids do evaporate quickly after the pasta is added to the pot and cooked through so you have to be careful at this point to keep an eye on that if you want it to have a looser soup-like consistency.

The pronunciation of the word has evolved to “pasta fazool”. Then again, there are many variations of that as well 🙂 So enjoy this Italian soup…I know you will love it. If you need an appetizer to go with this gourmet homemade pasta fagioli you may want to check out my sea scallops wrapped in bacon, scallop cerviche, or even a refreshing fennel and citrus salad with tangerine dressingAnd how about some Pavlova with fresh pineapple and berries for dessert!

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INGREDIENTS For Pasta Fagioli (makes enough for many…15-20 side dishes):

  • 2 cans cannellini beans
  • 1/2 -3/4 cup ditalini pasta ( 1/2 if you want it looser soup-like consistencey …remember it just keeps getting thicker even after you take it off the stove as the liquid evaporates)
  • 1 qt. (4 cups) chicken stock
  • 1 cup white wine-pinot grigio or what ever you are drinking -(1/2 to deglaze pancetta and veggies and 1/2 when you add stock
  • 1/3 cup each diced carrots, celery and onion
  • 3 tbsp finely chopped garlic
  • 2 cups whole peeled tomatoes with some juice, broken up with your hands – NOTE: USE 3 cups if you are not using a cup of “leftover pork & sauce”
  • 1 cup pork in tomato sauce OR 1 lb. sausage taken out of the casing ready to sauté OR omit all together
  • 2 1/4″ sliced of pancetta diced up
  • 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary and 2 of fresh thyme tied in up with string
  • Fresh basil -julienne to add at the end
  • grated Reggiano Parmigiano and some to shave for decoration
  • good olive oil to drizzle at the end
  • 1/2 tsp salt -add 1/4 tsp at the addition of sauteing veggies and 1/4 tsp when you add beans and broth
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes if you like a pinch of HEAT

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Add diced pancetta to a large pan and begin to sauté for 8 minutes on med heat
  2. Add in broken up sausage to brown with the pancetta If you do not have “pork in sauce”
  3. On med/low heat add diced carrots, onion, celery and garlic with 1/4 tsp salt (along with 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes if you want a little heat) to the same pot with 1 tbsp olive oil extra – sauté til veggies are tender 10 minutes
  4. De-glaze with 1/2 cup white wine and simmer 5 minutes
  5. Add in beans, pork-sauce, whole peeled tomatoes, herb bouquet, chicken stock, 1/4 salt, 1/4 pepper and simmer for 30 minutes
  6. Remove herb bouquet from soup
  7. Take 4-5 ladles of beans out of the soup to puree for a little creamier then adding back in
  8. Simmer 5 minutes and add in 1/2 cup ditalini pasta
  9. Cook til pasta is cooked – approx 7 minutes
  10. Plate up and drizzle olive oil, sprinkle parmigiano cheese and fresh basil and mangia mangia!

 

Gourmet Caesar Salad

Gourmet Caesar Salad

Caesar salads are probably one of my favorite salads of all time. So many wonderful flavors and textures in this combination from the crunchy garlic croutons (shown below) to the sharpness of the Reggiano Parmesano shaved on top. Then there’s a creaminess with the grated Parmesan and dijon in the actual dressing itself and a tang from the lemon and Dijon. Let’s not forget about that savory flavor in the undertones that you just can’t put your finger on with the anchovy paste and Worcestershire sauce. This Caesar salad is a winner all around!

You will really like how perfectly simple this recipe is and how you can totally make the croutons ahead of time, even weeks ahead. One of the reasons I love this recipe is the make ahead concept which makes our busy lives more enjoyable. You can make my homemade garlic croutons weeks ahead and keep them fresh in a Ziploc baggie in the freezer. Then make my gourmet Caesar salad dressing the morning of your event  storing it in a container in the refrigerator until needed. Last but not least the romaine, which you can clean and cut up the night before storing that in a Ziploc baggie while taking the air out ensuring the freshness as I show you in my VIDEO. Cutting up the romaine into 1/2″ strips is key to serving this at a party or picnic making it easy to eat  and eliminating the need for unnecessary utensils.

Now there’s the whole dilemma on whether or not to use a raw egg yolk. If I am having a small group of foodie friends over I would definitely add in a raw egg yolk to my Caesar salad dressing because it makes it that much more decadent. If you have never tried it with a farm fresh or organic egg yolk yet you should definitely treat yourself! When I do use an egg yolk I drizzle in the full half cup of olive oil and also add in an extra tablespoon or two of rice wine vinegar and lemon juice . Adding in a tablespoon extra of each will give it a nice balance. It’s basically to get the desired thickness you want because that added yolk offers up an extra thick and creaminess to the dressing this way you thin it out a pinch. For the most part when I make this gourmet Caesar salad for parties and picnics where I’m not sure if there will be someone there with an allergy I play it safe and omit the raw egg. And NO, I am not worried about salmonella with the raw egg because I only use farm fresh eggs directly from the farm or organic brown eggs from the food market. The ONLY time I would buy bulk white eggs from the store is when we are boiling and dyeing eggs for a holiday like Easter. You have to be picky about your ingredients, even the eggs are very important.

A large shallow dish like the one I have in the photos and in my video show is a great investment for salads like this. I have found many gorgeous platters and bowls like this at very economical prices at stores like Home Goods and TJ Max…you should definitely check out those deals! When I have many friends over for dinner I often serve the Caesar salad in that large shallow bowl and if it’s a more intimate dinner party I even plate up individual size portions which also make for a pretty presentation. 

Not only can this bold full flavored salad hold up on its own as an appetizer but you can certainly pear it up with some crab cakeslazy mans lasagna, lobster mac & cheese, or some pulled beef taco’s and ending with chocolate eclairs would just put it over the top!

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CAESAR SALAD DRESSING 

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CAESAR SALAD DRESSING RECIPE:

  • 1 large/2 medium cloves of garlic put thru garlic press
  • 1 egg yolk farm fresh or organic brown eggs ONLY – EGG YOLK OPTIONAL
  • 1 Tbsp Dijon – Grey Poupon or Maille
  • 1 Tsp anchovie paste
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp fine blk pepper
  • 2 dashes of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar “seasoned” (this comes original or seasoned …I prefer seasoned)
  • between 1/3 – 1/2 cup good olive oil
  • 1/4-1/3 cup grated Reggiano Parmesan
  • 2 good dashes of your favorite hot sauce (I use Siracha in this recipe)

DIRECTIONS for the CAESAR DRESSING:

  1. In a medium bowl add garlic thru press, anchovie paste, salt, pepper and Dijon
  2. Mash these items together with  the back of a spoon to combine and form a paste in a wooden bowl
  3. Transfer paste to a large glass bowl
  4. Add in 2 dashes of Worcestershire sauce, dash of Siracha and rice wine vinegar/ lemon juice mixture
  5. Separate egg yolk from white and add to glass bowl (EGG YOLK OPTIONAL) and whisk immediately
  6. Then very slowly whisk in olive oil so it emulsifies JUST DRIZZLE IN DROPS AT A TIME or IT WILL NOT EMULSIFY and you will have to start over
  7. NOTE: Adding in the egg yolk makes it super easy to emulsify the dressing
  8. Lastly, whisk in 1/3 grated Reggiano Parmesan
  9. Put the dressing into a canning jar for ease and pop it into the frig til you are ready to use
  10. Be sure to take out 30 minutes before you use the dressing so it can come to room temperature
  11. Will be good for a few days in the frig

DIRECTIONS- for Assembling the Caesar Salad:

  1. Cut ends off of romaine hearts then cut them in half length wise
  2. Wash and spin leaves
  3. Lay the leaves down on paper towels to catch any additional moisture
  4. Put 3 or 4 pieces at a time layered on top of one another and slice into 1/2″ strips which make it ideal for a party so there no need for a knife
  5. Here you can put the cut romaine pieces into large freezer Ziploc baggies and into the frig til you are ready to assemble the Caesar salad OR
  6. Put into a large shallow bowl, add dressing, and toss
  7. Top with shredded Parmesan and Italian garlic croutons (shown below) and mangia-mangia!

Garlic Croutons

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INGREDIENTS FOR GARLIC CROUTONS: Makes 12 -13 cups of Croutons – 1 Ex-Lg Ziploc Freezer Baggie of Croutons:

  • 1- 1 1/2  large loafs of good Italian bead (14-15 cups croutons-use 1/2 stick butter and 3 tbsp olive oil if you have 10 cup of bread cubes)
    • 4 large garlic cloves put thru garlic press
    • 1/4 cup olive oil
    • 3/4 stick butter (salted) melted
    • 4 tsp garlic granules (not powder) – Sprinkle 2 tsp per cookie tray
    • 1 tsp salt
    • A couple dashes of your favorite hot sauce Siracha -you can find this with the other hot sauces at the super market
    • 2 cookie trays

DIRECTIONS FOR GARLIC CROUTONS:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400º
  2. Slice bread into 3/4″ slices length wise
  3. Then slice into 3/4″ squares, you don’t want them to be perfect – that’s what’s lovely about hand made croutons they don’t look like they came from a box
  4. Melt 3/4 stick of butter
  5. In a large mixing bowl add 1/4 cup olive oil, 3/4 stick melted butter, 4 garlic cloves thru garlic press, 1 Tsp salt, and whisk  to mix
  6. Divide this mixture into two and pour onto the 2 cookie trays spreading them evenly all over the tray
  7. Divide up Italian bread cubes into 2 and put onto the 2 cookie trays right on the olive oil mixture
  8. Stir the cut up bread cubes all around the cookie tray to evenly coat and soak up all of the olive oil mixture. I use a pastry scraper (see photo) to do this…a tool which I use a lot!
  9. NOW sprinkle 2 Tsp of garlic granules on each of the cookie trays filled with Italian garlic croutons
  10. Put into the oven for 12 minutes til golden
  11. IMPORTANT – they go quickly at the end so you really need to watch them so they don’t burn
  12. Let the Italian garlic croutons cool before putting them into a Freezer Ziploc baggie
  13. I usually keep them on the counter for a few days then throw them into the freezer to store and keep fresh

BEST Manicotti Ever Recipe

BEST Manicotti Ever Recipe

Yes, I am giving up the good’s on this one and I know you will appreciate it because this is one of my very favorite secret recipes that has been in our family for generations! My mother Maria taught me how to make these homemade gourmet manicotti when I was young and now I am thrilled to pass this very special dish on to you.

These are the BEST homemade manicotti I have EVER tasted and I know you will love them too. They are a poured pasta, a crêpe so to speak and are light and fluffy.  I’m partial to Liuzzi’s homemade whole milk ricotta, and I user a mix of mozzarella’s from Scamorza, which is a slightly salted/dryer mozzarella to whole milk and skim milk mozzarella. I start off with either my tomato-basil pasta sauce or my pasta sauce 101 for the homemade manicotti. These are an especially festive and a special dish to make for the holidays.

This manicotti batter is poured like a crêpe. It’s light and airy like a crepe but definitely different in texture. The texture of the crêpe is a pasta texture, creamy and soft. These manicotti shells (crêpes) are truly gourmet and you’ll will appreciate how delicate a dish this really is when you make them for your own family and friends. My turkey meatballs would go great with this holiday dish also.  A spread of spiral ham or roasted lamb with gourmet manicotti and turkey meatballs …who’s better than you?!

It’s nice to serve a refreshing salad with pasta like my Caesar Salad then maybe an appetizer like crab cakes and sides like Roasted Beet Salad with Mint and Feta or Yogurt Chicken Kabobs. A light pavlova dessert with fresh pineapple and berries would make the perfect end for this manicotti dinner.

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Ingredients:

    • 1 cup all purpose flour
    • 1 cup water
    • 1/4 Tsp salt
    • 4 extra large eggs
    • 2-3 Tbsp olive oil
    • 3 lbs. Liuzzi whole milk or “fina style” (a finer ricotta), or your favorite
    • 5 0z. shredded whole milk, 5 oz. park skim and 5 oz. Scamorza mozzarella mixed together
    • (you can also do 8 oz. whole milk and 8 oz. part skim shedded and mixed)
    • 5″ cast iron pan or 5″ non-stick pan
    • Baking pan approx. 11″ x 16″

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl whisk 1 cup flour, 1/4 Tsp salt with 1 cup water (approx. 20 whisks)
  2. Add in 1 egg at a time and whisk about 5 whisks per egg
  3. Put cast iron pan on stove on medium/high heat (a 7 out of an 11)
  4. Put a couple of Tbsp of olive oil in a bowl with a paper towel
  5. Rub pan with olive oil-saturated paper towel in between cooking poured pasta batter
  6. Pour in a ladle of batter into hot pan, approx. a little less than 1/4 cup laddle
  7. Pick up pan and swirl around 3 times and place back down onto stove
  8. Wait about 25 seconds and flip pasta crepe over, you can use a flexible pastry knife to help you get under it…it will be easy to flip and will not ever be stuck
  9. You never want the pasta crepe to be golden on the edges-that would be over cooking them…they should look like the photo above light in color
  10. Immediately flip over onto floured board and flip a couple of times to cool a little
  11. Repeat dredging saturated paper towel into pan to coat and then pour another 1/4 cup ladle of batter into pan.
  12. Repeat this over and over until you run out of batter…this amount will make 16 manicotti
  13. When you are done lay out a work board to roll manicotti’s on
  14. Put ricotta in a bowl so it’s easy to work with
  15. Pour about 2 cup of tomato sauce into the baking pan
  16. Lay out manicotti crepe and scoop 1/4 cup ricotta going across the center of the circle as shown in the photo
  17. Lay a piece of mozzarella in the center and roll up manicotti
  18. Place rolled manicotti on top of sauce in pan and continue on until all the pasta crepes are done
  19. Pour another 2-2 1/2 cups of sauce on top of roll manicotti’s, sprinkle with parmesan and cover with foil
  20. Place in frig until you are ready to bake
  21. Or cover with saran and then foil and put into the freezer until your event is near and then pull out two nights before and put into the frig to thaw
  22. When you are ready to bake your manicotti put into a 350º oven and bake for 45 minutes
  23. The manicotti will be bubbly when you take it out of the oven and need to rest for 5 minutes before serving

Homemade Turkey Meatballs Recipe/VIDEO

Homemade Turkey Meatballs Recipe/VIDEO

OK, I know you are probably saying “where’s the beef” but just give these light and flavorful turkey meatballs a chance. They are meaty, garlicky, cheesy, moist and melt in your mouth after simmering in my tomato-basil pasta sauce for 2 hrs. Wait until you try these gourmet turkey meatballs in tomato basil sauce on a crusty sub that’s baked with oozing mozzarella and a julienne of fresh basil …do I have your attention now? That’s what I’m talking about  🙂

Good ole meatball subs are just one of those all american comfort foods that I have always adored. Although, I think the word “sub” referring to a “sandwich” is represented differently through parts of the US. It threw me a little when I first moved to California because when I would asked for a “sub” they had no idea what I was talking about because they use the term “hoagie” there. Another little play on words which would totally crack me up when I living in California was asking for the location of their nearest package store and they would send me to a mailing facility!

Anyhow, I am excited for you to make these homemade turkey meatballs because even though they are made exactly like my 100% Angus meatballs these aren’t as heavy.  I have been substituting out a lot of ground beef for turkey and it’s has really given me a new lease on cooking, a new avenue so to speak on the whole meat situation. To enjoy a meaty meal with the same herbs and spices but making it a lighter meal in the end.

I actually started making my lasagna with ground turkey instead of ground beef and it’s amazing! Once again using the turkey makes the lasagna a lighter dish then if it were made with beef. I brown the ground turkey and de-glaze it twice with a nice Cab (Cabernet) and by the time I’m done the color even looks like beef lol. My very picky daughter Bella, who loves my lasagna didn’t even know I had switched some time ago to turkey until I recently told her. She loves the taste of the lasagna so much that she’s totally OK with this…I call that a home run!

desEnjoy watching my “how to ” video on making these homemade gourmet turkey meatballs in an Italian meatball sub. And if you need something sweet and refreshing, easy to make and out of this world check out my Pavlova recipe!

 

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INGREDIENTS for Homemade Turkey Meatballs In An Italian Meatball Sub – (Makes 21 Small Meatballs):

  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • 1 extra-large egg (rule of thumb …1 egg per 1 lb. of meat)
  • 1/2-3/4 cup after soaked in milk – (1/2 loaf of 2 day old Italian bread soaked in 1 cup milk)
  • 1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated Reggiano Parmesan cheese
  • 1 lg. garlic clove put thru garlic press
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 Tsp salt
  • 1/4 Tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 recipe Tomato-Basil Pasta Sauce
  • 1 bunch fresh basil
  • 10 oz part skim mozzarella
  • fresh baguettes

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 425º
  2. Break up a 1/2 loaf of 2 day old Italian bread and place into a large bowl as shown in photo
  3. Pour 1 cup milk over bread and let it absorb for 10 minutes
  4. Wash, spin, dry and finely chop parsley, set aside
  5. Discard outer crusts from soaking Italian bread
  6. Begin to break soaking bread pieces apart with your fingers…if you feel any gooey pieces throw those away (if it sat out for a couple of days it won’t get gooey)…the bread should just fall apart easily
  7. Take 1/2-3/4’s cup of this soaking bread and add to a large mixing bowl
  8. NOTE: with turkey being as moist as it is you should squeeze a little more of the milk out (you don’t do this with beef because it’s drier)
  9. To this bowl add in Parmesan, chopped parsley, garlic clove thru garlic press, salt and pepper and 1 egg
  10. Whisk til just combined
  11. Add in 1 lb. of ground turkey and begin to mix gently with your hands…DON’T over work the meatballs you don’t want it to look fully combined like a meatloaf
  12. Using a cookie scooper begin to shape and roll mixture with your hands – they will be small about 1 1/2″…have a small bowl of water to the side to keep hands damp not wet (this makes it easier to rolls meatballs)
  13. Spray cookie tray with Pam canola oil and give a drizzle of olive oil for flavor
  14. Place 21 shaped meatballs onto the cookie tray and spray the tops of the meatballs
  15. Place them into the oven for 17 minutes
  16. Take out the turkey meatballs and set aside in a bowl, meanwhile add 1/2 cup red wine the cookie sheet (as long as the cookie sheet has 1″ sides) and scrape browned left over turkey meatball bits and pour this along with meatballs into tomato basil sauce
  17. Add turkey meatballs and wine with bits to my Tomato Basil Pasta Sauce and simmer for 1 1/2 – 2 hrs.
  18. Spoon tomato sauce onto baguette(s), then add turkey meatballs and top with mozzarella
  19. Bake in a 400º oven for 10 minutes or until cheese is melted, then add a julienne of fresh basil and slice up for several servings or keep whole…good luck and make sure to have plenty of napkins!
  20. Mangia mangia 🙂

 

Arancini Reuben Balls

Arancini Reuben Balls

My homemade Arancini Reuben Balls are absolutely gourmet. Arancini balls, also called risotto balls, are an Italian appetizer made with left over risotto, stuffed with mozzarella and prosciutto, then breaded and deep fried! Oh boy, they are out of this world. They are crispy on the outside, and creamy and cheesy on the the inside. You can eat them plain or serve them with a tomato sauce.

My homemade Arancini Reuben Balls are made with risotto, diced corned beef, Swiss cheese, cream cheese and sautéed jalapeño’s to incorporate that “popper” flavor! I serve them with my gourmet thousand island dressing which I make with Greek yogurt and a creamy horseradish to compliment the corned beef. The flavors of the risotto balls paired up with the thousand island dressing are outstanding!

Do you remember having poppers? You know, those deep fried jalapeno’s stuffed with cream cheese? Wow, I used to love those little morsels and I haven’t had them in ages so that’s why I thought it would be fun to put a twist on my Risotto Reuben Balls. It was a great idea too because the cream cheese lightens up the risotto balls and the jalapeno’s give it that something extra special!

You’ll be so happy when you make these homemade gourmet Arancini Reuben Balls with your left over St. Patrick’s Day corned beef. They freeze up really well too which will make for a nice little treat at a later date although I highly doubt you’ll have any left behind.

My thousand island dressing is fantastic as a dip for my baked sweet potato fries too. You might want some other appetizer’s to go along with the Risotto Reuben Balls like my crab cakes, or bloody Mary shrimp. You could even serve them as an appetizer to a homemade pasta dinner served with a Caesar Salad and some chocolate pecan pie for dessert! Hope you enjoy the show 🙂

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Risotto Ingredients and Directions – Total time to make approx. 30 minutes: (I halved my recipe specifically for the Arancini Reuben Balls but I usually make full (dbl) this amount) 

  • 1 cup Arborio Rice
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped sweet onion
  • 2 tbsp butter and a drizzle of olive oil
  • 1/3 cup white wine
  • 4 cups hot chicken broth – homemade or store bought
  • 1/2 cup grated Reggiano Parmesano

Directions: 

  1. In small pot heat 4 cups chicken stock til simmering
  2. melt 1 tbsp butter in different medium size pot 
  3. add onion to medium size pot and sauté on low til soft and translucent. 
  4. Turn up heat to med. and add in 1 cup Arborio rice and saute til the rice looks chalky while stirring all along
  5. Pour in 1/3 cup white wine, keep stirring and when wine is absorbed begin to add in 4 cups of the simmering chicken stock ONLY 1/2 cup at a time-it will be approx 4 minutes for each addition 
  6. ONLY add in chicken stock when previously addition is completely absorbed while STIRRING all the time
  7. Stir in 1 tbsp butter and 1/2 cup Reggiano Parmesano after the last of the chicken stock is absorbed, then let cool to make Arancini Reuben Balls.

Ingredients- Makes 20 – 1 1/2″ Arancini Balls:

  • 1 1/4 cup diced into 1/4″ pieces of corned beef
  • 2 cups cooked risotto (see below for recipe my recipe for risotto)
  • 4 oz. softened cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated and packed Jarlsberg swiss cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated and packed mozzarella cheese
  • 2 jalapeno’s finely diced and sauteed just til barely softened 2 minutes
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 2 lg eggs
  • 1 cup seasoned bread crumbs

Directions for Arancini Reuben Balls:

  1. Put all of the above ingredients into a large bowl and stir with spatula til mixed
  2. Use cookie scoop and from balls, roll in hands after scooping to get nice and round
  3. Whisk eggs in a med. bowl
  4. Add bread crumbs to another and begin the dip formed risotto balls into egg and them into bread crumbs and place on dish
  5. Put breaded risotto Reuben balls in frig for 20-30 minutes
  6. When the Reuben balls are chilled heat 1/2″ vegetable oil in medium size pan and begin to heat on low for 5 minutes and then turn up to med/high to 350º
  7. Add in Arancini Reuben Balls in 2 batches into hot oil
  8. Fry for about 2 minutes and then turn over for another 2 minutes til golden
  9. Remove to cookie rack covered with paper towels to absorb excess oil
  10. Plate up Arancini Reuben Balls with my homemade gourmet thousand island recipe below 🙂

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This Thousand Island Dressing is great on Reuben Wraps also

INGREDIENTS FOR THOUSAND ISLAND DRESSING:

  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise (I ONLY use Helman’s)
  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 1 Heaping tbsp finely chopped cornichons
  • 1 Heaping tbsp sweet relish
  • 1 Hesping tbsp grated sweet onion
  • 1 Heaping tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tbsp creamy horseradish
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp “seasoned” rice wine vinegar
  • 2 dashes of Siracha

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Put all ingredients into a large bowl and whisk til combined