Friday, March 6, 2020

CASA LASAGNE BOLOGNESE AL FORNO

I use a combination of Asiago and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese in this lasagne. Asiago is similar to Parmigiano because it has a slightly nutty and sweet flavor. The Ragù is enough for two lasagne or enough for another meal or two with pasta. I start out making the Ragù one to three days before I assemble the lasagne. Many times, I freeze the unbaked lasagne to have another evening. Just remember to bring it out to defrost before baking. This style of lasagne is also known as Tuscan Lasagne.  You can also substitute Pecorino Romano for the Asiago.



Ragù
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)

In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, process the carrots, onion, celery, and garlic 
until fairly fine; like a minced soffritto.

In a Dutch oven, 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 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 vegetables 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.


Besciamella (Béchamel)

6 T unsalted butter
6 T all-purpose flour
5 cups whole milk
1 ½ t sea salt
½ t grated nutmeg

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter until foaming; add flour and cook, 
whisking constantly for 2 minutes. Do not brown.
Gradually whisk in milk. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a gentle boil, while whisking constantly. Add salt and nutmeg, reduce the heat to the lowest setting, and
simmer 2 minutes, until it thickens slightly.
Turn off heat and set aside.

1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1 cup freshly grated Asiago cheese
Mix the above cheese together in a bowl.

1 lb fresh lasagne sheets


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.


Spread a layer of ragù in the bottom of a lasagna pan. 

Cover with a sheet or two of pasta, a layer of besciamella, a layer of grated mixed Parmigiano and Asiago, and a layer of ragù.
Repeat 3 more times, ending with a layer of besciamella.

Sprinkle the last of the grated cheeses over the top.


Cover loosely with parchment-lined aluminum foil or spray your inside of the foil with oil and bake in the oven for 1 hour. 
Remove foil, add a little more cheese, and continue to bake another 15 minutes
Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 to 12 minutes before cutting and serving.

Serves 6 to 8












Monday, February 17, 2020

PHILLY CHEESE STEAK SANDWICHES


 There has always been the debate over the type of cheese used on a Philly Cheese Steak. The three popular cheeses are Provolone, Swiss, White American, and the one I would never use - Cheez Whiz. Cheez Whiz was introduced because of convenience. I would say that the Provolone is my favorite cheese to use. I put slices on the bottom of the toasted roll and on top of the steak, onions, and peppers. 



1 lb Strip Loin, T-Bone, or Rib Eye Steak
½ t onion powder
½ t garlic powder
2 t extra-light olive oil
Sea salt and finely ground black pepper

Place steak in the freezer for about 2 hours. 
Slice the steak as thin as you possibly can with a sharp knife and then chop the meat.
Place in a bowl with the above ingredients, toss to combine, and refrigerate for one hour, while caramelizing the onions.

1 yellow onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
½ green bell pepper
½ red bell pepper
½ yellow bell pepper
1 T extra-virgin olive oil
8 thin slices Provolone cheese
2 Hoagie Rolls 

In a medium skillet sauté onions in oil over medium-low heat for about 15 minutes, stirring often.
Add peppers and sauté another 15 minutes, stirring often.
Spoon into a bowl set aside and cover to keep warm. 
In the same skillet cook steak on high heat for about 3 or 4 minutes, until brown.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Open rolls and place under a broiler for just a couple of minutes to brown. Be careful not to burn.
Add 2 slices of Provolone to the bottom of each roll.

Divide the steak between the 2 rolls, then add the sautéed onions and peppers, and top with the rest of the cheese slices.  

Heat under broiler for about one minute, or until cheese is melted but not burned.

Serves 2

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

ITALIAN ANTIPASTI

Antipasti translates to "before the pasta." It is a whole series of little bites while waiting for the next course. Puglia, Italy, is the land of antipasti, just like Napoli is the land of pizza.  



Wednesday, January 22, 2020

PAN SEARED SCALLOPS WITH PANCETTA & VERMOUTH OVER RISOTTO

If you've ever been to Digby, Nova Scotia, you probably have eaten those wonderful large scallops. They are harvested from the Bay of Fundy, which has the highest and lowest tides in the world. These scallops are so sweet and tender. If you can't find them, buy East Coast sea scallops.
I served them over risotto, but polenta or mashed potatoes would be equally delicious.




Low tide at the Bay of Fundy

2 oz pancetta, diced
10 Digby or East Coast sea scallops
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 T unsalted butter
1 T extra-light olive oil or avocado oil
1 shallot, finely diced
½ cup dry Italian vermouth
Juice of ½ lemon
2 T unsalted butter

Fry pancetta in a large skillet until crisp. Transfer to a plate and discard the grease.

Rinse scallops under cold water and place on a double layer of paper towels.
Pat completely dry.
Season scallops with salt and pepper on both sides.

In the same large skillet, heat the butter and oil over medium-high heat.
Add the scallops in a single layer, not touching each other.
Brown on one side for about 2 minutes.
Do move scallops until they are brown, you can peek under one to see.

Turn scallops over with tongs and brown on the other side for another 2 minutes.

Remove scallops to a plate and set aside.

Lower heat in skillet to medium-low and sauté the shallot for 2 minutes.
Add the vermouth and lemon juice.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Cook for a minute or two, stirring with a wooden spoon.
Add the two tablespoons of butter, then return the scallops to the pan and cook another few seconds to warm the scallops. Do not overcook the scallops.

Spoon sauce over scallops and top with diced pancetta.

Serves 2




Saturday, January 11, 2020

QUICK TUSCAN BEAN SOUP

There’s nothing like a steaming bowl of hot soup to warm you on a cold autumn or winter evening. This soup is made with canned beans instead of dried beans, making it quick and easy to prepare. Any variety of white canned beans will be great with this soup, from the smaller navy bean to the medium great northern bean and the larger cannellini bean. 


2 oz pancetta, finely diced 
2 T extra-light olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 sprigs fresh thyme, tied together with 
cotton butcher’s twine
2 bay leaves
8 cups chicken stock
3 (14 oz) cans great northern or 
any white beans, rinsed and drained 
1 (3-inch) piece Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese rind
Salt and freshly ground black pepper 
Chopped Italian parsley, for garnish
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese 
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

In a large pot or Dutch oven, fry the pancetta over medium heat until golden. Pour off most of the grease and discard.
Add the oil to the pot and sauté the onion until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. 
Add garlic and sauté another minute.
Add the thyme sprigs, bay leaves, chicken stock, beans, and cheese rind.
Season to taste with salt and pepper and simmer for about 25 minutes.

Remove the thyme sprigs, bay leaves, and cheese rind. 
Ladle soup into bowls and sprinkle with parsley.

Serve with grated Parmigiano cheese and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.

Serves 4 to 6 


Saturday, January 4, 2020

CLASSIC CHICKEN PICCATA

Chicken Piccata is on the menu in most Italian restaurants, and it is so easy to prepare at home. The recipe originated in Italy with veal. Serve this with pasta or Risotto alla Milanese.




2 medium lemons
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
½ cup all-purpose flour
2 T freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 T extra-light olive oil or avocado oil
1 small shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
¼ cup dry white wine or dry vermouth
½ cup chicken stock
¼ cup capers, rinsed and drained
3 T unsalted butter, room temperature
2 T chopped Italian parsley

Cut one lemon in half and cut the half into thin circles.

Squeeze the juice from the remaining one and a half lemons and set aside.
Cut each chicken breast in half, lengthwise and remove the tenderloin, saving for another use.
Using freezer wrap or zippered plastic bag, gently pound the meat with the flat side of a meat mallet to ¼-inch thickness.

In a shallow bowl, add the flour and grated cheese.

Season generously with salt and pepper. 

Dredge chicken in the flour mixture, shake off excess and set aside on a platter or pizza pan. 


Preheat oven to 225 degrees F.

Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet.
Add the chicken to the skillet and fry for about 4 minutes on each side, until golden. 

Transfer chicken to a heatproof platter and place in oven.
Add the shallot and garlic to the skillet and cook 30
seconds.

Add the wine to deglaze the pan while stirring.

Pour in the chicken stock, and lemon slices.
Simmer a couple of minutes.
Stir in the lemon juice and capers and simmer one minute.
Remove skillet from heat and stir in the butter and allow to melt. 
Pour sauce over cutlets, garnish with parsley and serve immediately.

Serves 2