Pasta with tuna, version 2 - a great recipe to make during lent!

Today I was so intent on my translating that I lost track of time and before I knew... it was time for lunch and I didn't have the slightest idea as to what to cook!
Tuna salad? Tuna melt? We were famished and I had no desire to chop celery, onions, add mayo, toast the bread, make the sandwich, broil it to make the tuna I ended up making a really quick version of my Pasta with tuna and olives recipe!

Ingredients for 2 servings
4oz short pasta
1 can of white tuna, I used water pack but you can use whatever you have in the pantry
Pitted green marinated olives, but you can use pitted black olives or pimiento stuffed olives
Olive oil
Hot pepper (if you like spicy food)
Fresh parsley, chopped
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Put a large pot of water on to boil.

Cut the olives into slices, peel a couple of cloves of garlic

Sauté the olives and garlic for a minute or two, add the tuna and flake it with a wooden spoon or fork.
Cook for a couple of minutes. Add the chopped parsley, I also added a splash of white wine. In my book, white wine makes almost any dish better! Remove from heat.

As soon as the water comes to a boil, salt it and put the pasta in to cook.While the pasta is cooking, grate some Parmesan cheese.

When the pasta is "al dente", drain and add it to the tuna and olives. Turn the heat up to high. Toss the pasta with the tuna and olives for a minute or two.
Serve with grated cheese or hot pepper.

Note that I did not add any salt to the olives and tuna... they are salty enough!!

and.. as Julia Child would have said had she spoken Italian

                                                                                        ....BUON APPETITO!


Gnocchi alla Sorrentina

I'm back! Antonio is back from his visit to the States and today I asked him what he would like for lunch and he said - Gnocchi alla Sorrentina.
I first tasted this recipe when our first "pizzaiolo" (pizza man) at Tre Pozzi (the restaurant I ran) made it for the staff for dinner one of the first nights he was there. I have since seen it in other restaurants and I have read different recipes, but his remains my favorite! If you have the time, make homemade gnocchi - they melt in your mouth! Otherwise, do like I did today and buy them at the supermarket!
 I don't know if they really make gnocchi this way in Sorrento, but they do come delicious!
So here we go with the recipe!

Ingredients for 2 to 3 portions:
1 lb fresh gnocchi
1 can plum tomatoes
A couple of handfuls of pitted black olives
1 small fresh mozzarella
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Extra virgin olive oil
Garlic, fresh basil, salt and pepper to taste

You may ask why I always make my sauce in a frying pan and not in the classic sauce pan. Simple, it cooks faster, there is a larger heated surface and the food cooks faster. Since I am always in a hurry, time is of the essence!!
Ok, let's make the sauce..
Heat a couple of tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a large fry pan, add a couple of peeled garlic cloves and let them sauté for a few minutes.

Crush the pitted black olives in your fist and add to the hot oil and garlic. Sauté for several minutes. In the meantime, open the can of tomatoes, pour them into a shallow dish and break up the tomatoes with a fork.

Add the tomatoes and basil to the pan. Salt and pepper to taste, lower the heat to medium, cover and  cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
While the sauce is cooking, bring a large pot of water to boil.
 Coarsely chop the mozzarella and grate about 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese.You should also have time to wash up the dishes and utensils you used to make the sauce.
 When the water comes to a boil, put the gnocchi in to cook. They will only take a couple of minutes.
 While the gnocchi are cooking, remove the lid from the sauce and lower the heat. This is what it should look like after about 10 minutes of cooking.
 When the gnocchi float to the top they are cooked. Carefully remove them from the water with a slotted spoon. If you drain them in a colander be careful because they break up easily.

 Put the gnoocchi directly into the sauce as you remove them from the pot and drain them with the slotted spoon.
 Gently toss the gnocchi in the pan so that they are coated with the sauce. If you can do this without the help of a spoon, your gnocchi will remain whole. If you can't toss them by making them "saltare" in the pan, the gently fold them into the sauce with a rubber spatula.
 Add the mozzarella, cover for a minute or two so the mozzarella melts.
Sprinkle with the grated Parmesan and garnish with fresh basil leaves. That's it! Serve them while they are hot. I guarantee that you will have no leftovers! Kids love this recipe!
And... as Julia Child would have said had she spoken Italian...

             BUON APPETITO!


Tortelli di Lucca "My Way" - Meat filled ravioli "My Way"

Here in Lucca one of the local treats are "tortelli" or meat filled ravioli.
I have always seen them on local menus served with a rich meat sauce and they are delicious like this, but the delicate flavour of the meat filling is overpowered.

The filling is made from several types of meat which are braised with white wine, herbs and spices until tender. Then the meat is ground and mixed with grated Parmesan cheese and eggs and is used to fill the tortelli. The tortelli have a delicate flavour with a note of nutmeg.

I wanted to serve these tortelli with a condiment that would enhanced and not overpower the filling. I came up with a delicate onion sauce. So here goes!

Ingredients for 2 portions
1 small carrot
1 medium onion
a couple of sprigs of parsley
a couple of leaves of basil
extra virgin olive oil
dry white wine
salt and pepper to taste

Ravioli with meat filling, if you can find a "homemade" version in an Italian Deli, go for it!

Put a large pot of water on to boil.

Pare the onion and carrot. Wash the parsley and basil.
Finely chop the carrot and onion (you can also add a small, tender stalk of celery).
Finely chop the parsley and basil and set aside.
Sauté the onions and carrot in a couple of tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. When the onion is translucent, add about a 1/4 cup of dry white wine, lower the heat and allow the vegetables to simmer for about 10 minutes.
At this point the vegetables should be soft, adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Put the ravioli in to boil. They will only take about 5 minutes to cook if they are fresh. If they are frozen, follow the directions on the package.
While the ravioli are cooking, put the cooked vegetables into a food processor and chop (do not puree them, the mix should still be a bit coarse).

Personal note: I just bought myself a mini processor. Before I would use a food mill or just not grind them at all.

Return the vegetable mix to the fry pan and add the chopped parsley and basil. You may want to add a tablespoon of butter for a richer sauce.
By now the ravioli are done, add them to the fry pan with the onion sauce and chopped parsley and basil. Toss over high heat for about a minute to coat the ravioli and amalgamate them with the sauce.

Serve with grated Parmesan cheese... and as Julia Child would have said had she spoken Italian...



Stacked Eggplant Casserole and Tossed Garden Salad

Everyone knows what Eggplant Parmesan is, or at least some version of it. The real McCoy is made with the small, long Italian eggplant, which is sliced very thinly longways, put under salt to remove the bitter juices, drained, rinsed and dried. Then the slices are floured and deep fried and then layered with tomato sauce, grated Parmesan cheese. It is then baked until bubbly and browned. The result is delicious but very greasy because the eggplant absorb so much oil during the frying. Of course each Italia "casalinga" or housewife has her own particular recipe. Some bread the eggplant, others flour it then dip it in egg and again in flour before frying, some use only Parmesan cheese, other add ricotta or mozzarella or both, some use plain tomato sauce and others use a meat sauce. Well... after 35 years of cooking and many  more years of observing others cook, this is my version! It is lighter because the eggplant is not fried but baked in the oven (like my mom taught me!). And then, in honor of my mom (who ALWAYS serves a salad with the meal), I made a deliciously different garden salad.

Ingredients for Stacked Eggplant Casserole for 2 dinner size portions or 4 side-dish portions

1 medium sized eggplant
1 small fresh low fat mozzarella
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Bread crumbs
1 egg
1 clove garlic
1 sprig of fresh basil, washed
1 small can tomato puree
Corn oil, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.

Procedure: Pre-heat oven to 450° F.
Wash, dry and slice the eggplant. I like to slice it on the thick  side because I like for the flavor of the eggplant to come through.

Break the egg into a small dish. Put the breadcrumbs in another small dish. Beat the egg and dip each slice of eggplant first into the egg and then into the breadcrumbs to coat well.

Line a cookie pan with oven or parchment paper and arrange the breaded eggplant slices in the pan.

Drizzle each slice with corn oil (or the oil you usually use for frying), then turn each slice twice so that both sides are oiled.
Bake in a very hot oven for about 15 minutes, turning the slices once while they are cooking.

While the eggplant is baking, make the tomato sauce. Sauté a clove of garlic in about 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil.
When the garlic is browned add the tomato puree, add salt to taste, freshly ground black pepper and the fresh basil leaves. Allow it to cook for about 15 minutes.
Watch the video below to see the sauce cooking and hear it bubbling. I can't let you smell it, but I am sure you can imagine how the aroma fills the kitchen!
By now your eggplant is done. It wont' be greasy and it will be perfectly crisp. Taste a slice like this! you may want to serve them sometime just like this as a delicious appetizer or side dish! You can make the casseroles in single serving ramekins or in a  9" square ovenproof dish. I used 2 ramekins.  
Slice the mozzarella into thin slices and grate the Parmesan cheese.Put a little sauce in the bottom of the casserole dish and start stacking the crispy eggplant slices, placing a slice of mozzarella on each eggplant slice, then more sauce, a sprinkling of grated Parmesan cheese, and so on, ending with an eggplant slice, sauce and cheese. 

Bake the eggplant in a 450°F oven for about 12 minutes.
While the eggplant is baking, make your salad.

For the salad you will need a mix of garden greens, a seedless orange, a handful of pitted black olives, a few shelled walnuts and almonds, extra virgin olive oil and the balsamic vinegar of your choice.
I cheat! I buy a mix of garden salad leaves that are washed, dried and ready to eat! Use the mix of greens that you prefer.

Peel and slice the orange, arrange the greens in a salad dish, garnish with orange slices, olives and nuts. Season salt and freshly ground pepper. Drizzle the salad with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I used a balsamic made from apple juice for a smoother, fruitier flavour

By now the eggplant casserole is done. Remove from oven and serve piping hot. You can serve the salad either before the meal, as a side dish or after the meal, however you prefer!

And... as Julia Child would have said had she spoken Italian...BUON APPETITO!!


Bresaola, one of Italy's lesser know taste treats!!

Bresaola is a delicious cold cut from northern Italy and frequently used as an antipasto.  Most typically it is served sliced paper thin on a bed of arugola with flakes of Parmesan cheese and seasoned with ground black pepper and extra virgin olive oil.
But today I wanted to something a bit more "extravagant"! Even though it is still quite chilly, I am already in a Spring mindset and have started to think about putting together some delicious no-cook meals for the warmer months!

Now since you may not be able to find Bresaola where you live, either you can check the list of similar products in the Wikipedia link above - or - you can substitute the Bresaola with smoked Tavern ham, Italian Prosciutto or Pastrami which I think would all be delicious in this recipe.

This is the first of my no-cook "inventions"! Whether you serve it as a tasty appetizer or as a light summer luncheon or dinner dish, you are sure to get rave reviews! So here goes!

Donna's Delicious Bresaola and Ricotta Rolls

Ingredients for a platter for 2 people
2 large mushrooms
1 bunch of arugola (in English, rocket or roquette in French)
1 small bunch fresh chives
1 small shallot (fresh scallions may be used)
1/2 cup low fat ricotta
8 very thin slices of Bresaola
Extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
First, wash and drain the arugola. Lightly season it with very little salt and extra virgin olive oil. Arrange it on a serving plate or you can prepare two individual plates. I fixed one platter to share with my husband.
 Next, clean the mushrooms and slice one of them very thinly.
Arrange the mushroom slices on top of the arugola.

 Next, finely chop the shallot and chives and add to the ricotta in a small dish.
 Now finely chop the other mushroom and add to the ricotta, shallots and chives.
Mix well with a fork. You  may add salt, but I don't because the meat is quite savoury.
 Take the thin slices of meat one at a time and
 spread each with 1/8 of the filling and roll up the slice of meat. Arrange the bresaola rolls on the bed of arugola and mushrooms. Drizzle a little extra virgin oil over the bresaola rolls and finish with some freshly ground pepper. That's all there is to it!
ahhhhh and as Julia Child would have said, had she spoken Italian....