Monday, July 30, 2018


The first time I tasted Bolognese sauce was my first visit to Italy in 1969. I had it again in a restaurant located near Dupont Circle, Washington, D.C. It was only on their "Primi Piatti" (first dishes) menu. I always ordered it for my main course. I worked on duplicating this recipe for 20 years. Penne translates to "quills" or "pens". You will find penne pasta in two forms, lisce (smooth) or rigate (furrowed). 

2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
1 large yellow onion, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic


2 T extra-light olive oil or avocado oil, divided
¼ lb pancetta, diced
2 lbs lean ground beef
½ lb ground pork
½ lb ground veal 
½ cup dry white wine
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup water
1 (13-oz) can tomato paste

4 T unsalted butter

2 cups whole milk
2 t dried oregano
8 leaves fresh basil, torn or chiffonade
¼ t nutmeg
½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ t red pepper flakes (optional)
Fresh basil, for garnish

In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, process the carrots, onion, celery, and garlic 
until finely minced.
In a Dutch oven or large pot, add the 1 tablespoon of the oil and cook the soffritto over medium heat for 10 minutes. Spoon mixture into a very large bowl and set aside.

In the same Dutch oven or large pot, over medium heat, add the rest of the oil and cook the 
pancetta until golden.
Add half of the ground beef and brown until crumbly, about 10 minutes.
As the meat cooks, break up any chunks with a wooden spoon into small pieces. 
Spoon into the large bowl with the soffritto
Repeat with the rest of the beef, then spoon into the bowl with the cooked vegetables.
Repeat with the pork and veal and brown; leaving in the pan.
Return the browned beef and soffritto to the pot.
Add the wine, stirring up browned bits on the bottom of the pan. 
Add the chicken stock, water, and tomato paste; mix in well.
Simmer very gently, partially covered, for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Add the butter and rest of the ingredients and simmer another 15 minutes.

Boil the penne in salted water until al dente "to the tooth"
Drain into a colander and then pour back into the pot. 
Spoon in some of the Bolognese sauce and stir to combine.
Spoon onto warm pasta bowl and add a little more sauce and garnish with fresh basil.

Sunday, July 22, 2018


This recipe for eggplant Parmigiana resembles southern-style fried green tomatoes, with all the crunch, and they are not fried. You stack them together and bake a final time for about 10 minutes until the cheese melts. I was inspired to make it this way after I had (one stack only) for lunch at Ristorante Tre Sorelle (Three Sisters) in Positano, Italy. 

1 recipe for marinara or tomato sauce

1 cup all-purpose flour
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs
2 T water or milk
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
2 cups panko breadcrumbs
1 ½ cups dry plain breadcrumbs
2 T chopped Italian parsley
2 t freeze-dried or chopped fresh oregano
2 t freeze-dried or chopped fresh basil
Extra-light olive oil or avocado oil
2 large, heavy eggplants, peeled and sliced crosswise into 12 slices, ¼-inch thick
1 lb mozzarella cheese, cut into 12 slices

Place flour into a shallow bowl and season generously with salt and pepper.
Whisk eggs in a medium bowl with the water and ¼ cup of the Parmigiano cheese.
Combine the panko, dry breadcrumbs, parsley, oregano, and basil in a shallow bowl.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Drizzle some oil on a large baking sheet and spread it around with a brush.
Dip eggplant slices in flour, shaking off excess, then dip in egg mixture and finally in breadcrumb mixture.
Place eggplant slices on the baking sheet and drizzle a little more oil on top.
Bake for 20 minutes, flip each one over and bake an additional 15 minutes.

On the same baking sheet, arrange four of the baked slices (not touching each other) in a row.
Add a spoonful of sauce, then some grated Parmigiano and a slice of mozzarella cheese.
Place another slice of eggplant on each and repeat one more time (each stack contains three slices) and place back 
in the oven for 10 minutes to melt the cheeses.
Garnish with a couple of basil leaves and serve.

Serves 2 to 4

Saturday, July 21, 2018

CHICKEN LOMBARDY - Pollo al Marsala Lombardo

In Italy, this dish is called Pollo al Marsala Lombardo (Chicken Marsala) and made without cheese. With the addition of cheese and green onions, it is an Italian-American version. The capital of Lombardia is Milan. The regional cuisine is based on butter, lard, pork, veal and of course Risotto alla Milanese. 
If you want to serve this for company, prepare it in the morning, refrigerate, and let sit on your counter for 30 minutes before baking.
Serve with risotto, or pasta, or even roasted potatoes and a green salad.

4 T avocado or extra-light olive oil, divided
10 cremini mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
1 small yellow onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, pressed
4 boneless chicken breasts
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup marsala wine
¾ cup chicken stock
2 T unsalted butter
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup shredded asiago cheese
¼ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 scallions, thinly sliced

In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium-high heat.

Add the mushrooms and cook until golden, about 10 minutes, stirring often.
Lower heat to medium and add the onion and cook another 2 minutes.
Add garlic and cook another minute.
Spoon half of this mixture into a baking dish and the rest in a bowl and set aside.

Cut each chicken breast in half lengthwise.

Pour flour in a shallow dish and dredge the chicken in flour, shaking off the excess.

In the same skillet, add 1 tablespoon of oil and brown half of the chicken on both sides 
until golden, about 4 minutes per side.
Place cooked chicken on top of mushroom mixture in baking dish.
Add the final tablespoon of oil to the skillet and brown the rest of the chicken on both sides until golden brown, about 4 minutes per side.
Spoon the rest of the mushroom mixture on top of the chicken.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Add the wine and chicken stock to the skillet and bring to a simmer.

Add the butter and simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Season to taste with salt and pepper and pour over the chicken in the baking dish.

Combine the cheeses with the scallions and sprinkle over chicken.

Bake uncovered for 30 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Serves 4

Tuesday, July 17, 2018


This is one of North America's favorite Italian dishes. In Italy, they make this with veal. 
I think of this as classic Italian-American comfort food.

Lee's Kitchen Tips:
You may wonder what the difference is between marinara sauce and tomato sauce.
Marinara sauce is a tomato sauce without any meat. Tomato sauce can be flavored with pancetta or other meat and then removed.

Marinara Sauce
3 T extra-light olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 (28-oz) cans whole peeled Italian tomatoes
½ t red pepper flakes
4 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
½ cup dry white wine
1 t granulated sugar
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup chopped fresh basil

Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium-low heat.
Add the onion and sauté for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

While the onions are cooking, pour the tomatoes in a bowl and hand-crush them, removing any hard center cores, and set aside.
Add the red pepper flakes and garlic to the saucepan and sauté another minute or two.
Pour the crushed tomatoes into the saucepan and cook, uncovered for 30 minutes, while you prepare the chicken.

2 boneless chicken breasts
½ cup all-purpose flour
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg
1 T water
1 cup seasoned dry breadcrumbs
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
¼ cup extra-light olive oil or avocado oil
6 oz freshly grated or torn mozzarella cheese
2 T thinly sliced fresh basil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut each chicken breast in half lengthwise. Now you will have 4 thin chicken cutlets.
Place chicken cuts, one at a time, in a large resealable plastic bag and gently pound to an even thickness.

In a shallow bowl, add the flour and season to taste with salt and pepper.
In another shallow bowl, add the egg and water and whisk with a fork to combine.
In a third shallow bowl, mix together the breadcrumbs, panko, and ½ cup of the Parmigiano cheese.
Set aside on a large plate or pizza pan, like I do.

Heat oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat.

Dredge each chicken cutlet into the seasoned flour, then dip into the beaten eggs and finally into the breadcrumb mixture. Set aside on the same large plate or pizza pan.
Cook chicken cutlets for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, until golden brown.
Spread enough of the marinara sauce to coat the bottom of a baking dish.
Arrange the browned chicken on top of the sauce.
Spoon a little more sauce over chicken and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese and top with the remaining ½ cup of Parmigiano.
Bake in the oven for 5 to 7 minutes, until cheese melts, the sauce is bubbling, and the chicken is cooked through.

Serves 2 to 4

Friday, July 13, 2018


The red sauce in this recipe is pureed red bell peppers from a jar. This is a new favorite pasta and clam dish for my husband. We do like grated cheese on our pasta and seafood dishes. My mother-in-law always told us not to serve grated cheese with seafood and pasta, but more people are doing it today, at least in the USA...probably not in Italy.

2 dozen littleneck clams
¼ cup extra-light olive oil, divided
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup dry white wine
3 roasted red bell peppers, in a jar
½ t red pepper flakes
1 bunch Swiss chard, stemmed and coarsely chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ lb spaghetti
2 T unsalted butter
Zest and juice of ½ lemon
Freshly grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Place clams in a bowl of cold water and let sit for 10 minutes. Then drain and set aside in a bowl.

In a large skillet, heat 2 T of the olive oil and add half of the garlic and sauté for 1 minute.
Add the wine and bring to a boil.
Add the clams, cover with a lid, and cook over medium-high heat for 6 to 8 minutes, or until the clams open. Discard any unopened clams.
Remove the clams with a large slotted spoon to a large bowl, cover and set aside.

Strain the cooking liquid through a sieve into a blender.
Add the roasted bell peppers and puree until smooth.

Wipe out the skillet and add the remaining 2 T of the olive oil and sauté the rest of the garlic for one minute.
Stir in the red pepper flakes and the greens. Cover and slowly cook 5 minutes.
Stir in the roasted red bell pepper broth and bring to a simmer.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the spaghetti until al dente, about 7 to 8 minutes.
Drain the pasta and add to the skillet.
Add the butter, lemon zest, and lemon juice.
Add the clams and spoon some of the sauce over the clams. Cover for a couple minutes to keep warm.
Divide between 2 heated pasta bowls and garnish with grated cheese.

Serves 2