Monday, September 18, 2017


Canning your own tomatoes is so rewarding. I actually had enough Roma tomatoes to make a total of 8 quart-size jars. That should keep me supplied in tomatoes for my Italian recipes through the autumn months. I have a total of 4 Roma tomato plants and 14 other tomato plants. I am still getting ripe ones off the vine and it's the end of September now.

4 to 5-quart size jars
80 to 85 medium-size Roma (plum) tomatoes
4 to 5 cloves garlic, 
16 to 20 large basil leaves
2 to 2 ½ t sea salt

Cut an “X” on the bottom of each tomato.
Bring a pot of water to a rapid boil.
Boil potatoes, in batches, for one minute and remove to a bowl of ice water, using a large spider or slotted spoon.
Place a strainer over a medium-size bowl and peel the skin from tomatoes over a strainer, to catch the liquid.
Cut tomatoes in half and remove the hard center cores.
Add a basil leaf to the bottom of each jar.
Pack in tomatoes and press down to release air with a wooden spoon handle.
Add a clove of garlic and 3 more basil leaves with some of the reserved tomato juice to within ½ inch of the rim.
Add ½ t salt to each jar, wipe the rim with a clean paper towel and add the lids.

Process in a boiling water bath for 40 minutes.
Remove and let cool, then adjust lids to tighten and let cool completely.

Store in a cool dark pantry.


Marie Noviello Casazza, Ted Casazza, and Sister, Gloria Casazza

Sunday, September 17, 2017


Grilled asparagus is a simple summer side dish. I used 2 long metal skewers and threaded the asparagus through the center. If you use wooden skewers, soak them in water for at least 30 minutes before using. A little oil, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and grated asiago cheese made these asparagus delizioso!

Lee's Kitchen Tips:

Don't use your good extra-virgin olive oil when you cook, especially on high heat. 
Extra-virgin olive oil has a smoke point of 375 degrees F.
Extra-light olive oil has a smoke point of 468 degrees F.
Avocado oil has a smoke point of 400 degrees F.

1 lb fresh asparagus
2 t extra-light olive oil
½ t garlic powder
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 t extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
2 T grated cheese, for topping (I used grated asiago)

Cut off tough ends of asparagus and thread through skewers.
Drizzle with oil and garlic powder.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Place over coals and grill for 2 to 3 minutes on each side.

Remove from skewers onto a platter, drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and top with grated cheese.

Serves 4

Friday, September 8, 2017


Ragù is a meat-based sauce that is commonly served over pasta. I like serving it over rigatoni. Ragù was created by Alberto Alvisi in the 18th century. This pasta sauce would also be great in lasagne. This would be more of a southern Italian pasta dish, not a Bolognese style dish. I think of it more as an Italian-American dish.

¼ lb pancetta, chopped
2 lbs lean ground beef
½ lb ground pork
3 links Italian sausage, removed from casings
2 T extra-light olive oil or avocado oil
10 cremini or button mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed and diced (optional, of course)
2 yellow onions, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 28-oz cans Italian whole tomatoes 
1 6-oz can tomato paste
1 cup dry red wine
1 t freeze-dried or fresh oregano
1 T sugar 
1 t kosher or sea salt
1 t freshly ground black pepper
½ t red pepper flakes
1 3-inch piece of Parmigiano-Reggiano rind (optional)
8 basil leaves, chopped

Basil leaves, for garnish
Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated

In a large pot or Dutch oven, over medium-high heat, brown the pancetta for a few minutes.
Add the ground beef, in two or three batches, and brown.
Remove the ground beef with a slotted spoon into a large bowl and set aside.
Add the ground pork and Italian sausage and brown while breaking it up with a wooden spoon.
Remove with a slotted spoon to the bowl with the browned meat and set aside.
Discard any grease in the pan and add the oil.
Sauté the mushrooms and onion for about 10 minutes.
Add the garlic and cook another minute.

Return the meat to the pot and pour the tomatoes into the same bowl. Hand crush the tomatoes, removing the hard center cores. Alternatively, use an immersion blender to chop the tomatoes.
Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for 2 hours, partially covered or with a splatter screen over the pot, until the sauce has thickened and all the flavors have blended. If sauce becomes too thick add a little of the pasta cooking water.

Boil pasta in salted water until al dente. Drain and pour the pasta back into the pot. 
Add a ladle or two of sauce and mix.

Divide among warm pasta bowls and add a little more sauce. Sprinkle with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and garnish with a few basil leaves.

Sunday, September 3, 2017


The dried mushrooms give the chicken stock a woodsy richness. This is truly a delicious wild mushroom risotto.

2 cups water
4 cups chicken stock
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1 t mixed or black peppercorns

4 T unsalted butter, divided

4 oz mixed fresh mushrooms, such as cremini, oyster, chanterelle, and shiitake, sliced
1 large shallot, diced
1 cup arborio rice
½ cup dry white wine
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Zest of ½ lemon
Juice of ½ lemon
½ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

¼ cup grated asiago cheese

In a 2-quart saucepan, add water and chicken stock.
Bring to a boil and add dried mushrooms and peppercorns.
Reduce heat to a slow simmer and simmer for 45 minutes.

Strain stock through a fine mesh strainer and pour back into the pot and keep warm.

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.
Cook mushrooms until lightly brown, for about 5 minutes.
Transfer mushrooms to a plate and set aside.
In the sauce saucepan, add the rest of the butter and sauté shallot until tender, about 5 minutes.
Stir in rice and cook 1 minute.
Add wine and cook another 3 to 4 minutes, until wine is completely absorbed.

Ladle 1 cup of the reserved mushroom stock over rice and cook, stirring often, until liquid is absorbed.

Continue to add stock, 1 cup at a time, stirring after each addition until liquid is completely used up.

Season with salt and pepper. 
Add lemon zest and juice.
Stir in grated cheeses and about one-third of the mushrooms.

Spoon into a warm serving dish and top with remaining mushrooms.

Serves 4