Tuesday, July 27, 2021

RIGATONI WITH ITALIAN SAUSAGE SAUCE

In my Italian-American cookbook, I make serve this Italian Sausage Sauce over pappardelle pasta.  I love the way the sauce gets into the rigatoni, and now this is my favorite pasta with this sauce.


1 lb mild or hot Italian sausages, about 5 links
1 cup good dry Italian white wine, such as Pinot Grigio, divided
2 T olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
2 (28-oz) cans whole peeled Italian tomatoes
1 t freeze-dried or dried oregano
1 t minced fresh basil or freeze-dried basil
1 t red pepper flakes, optional
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 lb rigatoni pasta
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese

Remove sausage from casings and place in a large bowl.
Pour in some of the white wine and crush with hands until sausage is in small pieces.
The wine makes it easier to break up the sausage.

Heat oil in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add onion and sauté for 5 minutes.
Add garlic and sauté another minute.

Add the sausages and cook for about 5 minutes, breaking up pieces with a wooden spoon.
Add the rest of the wine and cook until wine has mostly evaporated.

In the same large bowl, pour in the tomatoes and hand-crush them, removing the hard center cores. Alternatively, use an immersion blender to chop the tomatoes.

Add the crushed tomatoes to the pot along with the oregano, basil, and red pepper flakes.
Season to taste with salt and pepper and simmer 30 minutes.

Boil the pasta in salted water for about 8 to 9 minutes, until al dente.
Drain the pasta and pour back into the pot.
Add a couple ladles of the sausage sauce and toss.
Spoon into warm pasta bowls and add a little more sauce and sprinkle with grated cheese.

Serves 4


LEMON RICOTTA CHEESECAKE

This delicious cheesecake is light because of the ricotta cheese and creamy because of the cream cheese. There is no need to bake it in a water bath and you can put all of the cake ingredients into a food processor, almost all at once. It comes out perfect every time. This is a wonderful dessert to serve after a Sunday dinner.


2 (15 oz) containers whole milk ricotta cheese
1 T unsalted butter, slightly softened             
1 T sugar
2 T unseasoned dry breadcrumbs or matzo meal
2 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, room temperature, cut into cubes
2 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
¼ cup all-purpose flour 
3 T fresh lemon juice
Grated zest of one medium lemon
2 t pure vanilla extract
Pinch sea salt or kosher salt

Put ricotta in a large fine-mesh strainer set over a bowl and let drain for 30 minutes.
Every once in a while, gently press the ricotta with a large spoon to help release the liquid.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Butter an 8 to 9-inch springform cake pan.

Mix the 1 tablespoon of sugar and breadcrumbs in a small bowl; sprinkle over
buttered pan bottom to coat. Tap out excess crumbs.

Spoon ricotta into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade and purée for a few seconds.
Add cream cheese and eggs and purée a few more seconds.
Add the remaining ingredients and purée, scraping down the sides occasionally, until smooth. 

Scrape batter into the prepared pan.
Place on a baking sheet and bake cheesecake until golden brown and just set, about 1 hour and 20 minutes.

Transfer to a rack and let cool in pan.
Refrigerate uncovered until cool, about 4 hours.

Loosen cake by running a table knife around the edges.
Remove the cake pan sides and place on a serving plate.
You can also use a large thin spatula to remove the entire cake from the bottom of the cake pan and place on a serving plate.

Dust with powdered sugar and cut into wedges.

Serves 8

 

Thursday, July 22, 2021

ITALIAN CHOPPED SALAD

This is one of my favorite salads. Sometimes this salad is on the menu in a pizza restaurant.  Add whatever you like to make it your own. 




Garlic-Parmigiano Salad Dressing
2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1 T minced shallot
¼ cup red or white wine vinegar
2 T fresh lemon juice
1 t dry mustard
¼ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 t freeze-dried or dried oregano 
2 t freeze-dried or dried basil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salad
1 15-oz can chickpeas (garbanzos), rinsed and drained
2 heads Romaine lettuce, coarsely chopped
2 cups coarsely chopped arugula or spring mix
3 oz Sopressata or Calabrese salami
½ cup sun-dried tomatoes
6 pepperoncini, stems removed 
½ red onion, thinly sliced
½ cup pitted black Italian olives
¼ cup green olives, in a jar
8 oz shredded mozzarella cheese

¼ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for garnish


Place the salad dressing ingredients in a jar fitted with a lid and shake to combine.

Place the chickpeas in a bowl and pour about 2 tablespoons of the salad dressing over to marinate for 30 minutes.

Store dressing and chickpeas in the refrigerator until ready to dress the salad.

On a large cutting board pile up the lettuces and chop until bite-size pieces.
Transfer to a large salad bowl.
Do the same with the salami, sun-dried tomatoes, pepperoncini, onion slices, olives and mozzarella.
Chop through them all, until bite-size pieces.

Transfer to a large salad bowl, add toss with some of the Garlic-Parmigiano Salad Dressing.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Top with some of the garbanzo beans and sprinkle with the Parmigiano and serve.

You will have more salad dressing for another salad or two.

Serves 4





Tuesday, July 6, 2021

CLASSIC CAPRESE SALAD

This is the time of the year, if you live where it is now the summer season, to make Caprese salad at its best.  It is so simple and all you need are homegrown tomatoes, fresh basil, and mozzarella cheese.  Authentic Caprese salad does not have vinegar, of any kind, drizzled over it.  The only seasoning added is extra-virgin olive oil, salt, and black pepper.


3 medium-large homegrown tomatoes, sliced into ¼ inch slices
1 (1-lb) ball fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced or log of pre-sliced fresh mozzarella 
1 bunch of large basil leaves
Extra-virgin olive oil (best quality you can find)
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Start with a slice of mozzarella, place a slice of tomato in front of it and then tuck in one or two basil leaves.  Working around in a circle until the circle meets.  
Generously drizzle with olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serves 2 to 3