A staple in Mediterranean cuisine, rapini or broccoli rabe is known for its slightly bitter taste, which I mitigate by cooking with lemon and roasting. I also use rapini in place of broccoli or asparagus in soups, quiches, casseroles, and more. Give this versatile veggie a try, and I’m sure you’ll love the unique taste.
Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Set up a bowl of ice water. Drop the broccoli rabe into the boiling water and cook for 1 minute. Remove from the boiling water and plunge immediately into the ice water. Once cool, remove from the ice water and let dry. It can be used right away or held for future use.
Place broccoli rabe in a baking dish. Combine olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes and pour over rabe. Drizzle with lemon juice.
New England winters are snowy and cold. January can be harsh with blizzards conditions blanking the landscape with large snow falls keeping the natives snug and safe our homes. Outside the wind howls and the snow drifts against my front door, inside I simmer homemade soup to warm my thoughts. Nothing tops a hot bowl of soup on a wintery day!
I love to make soup and one of my favorites is Tortellini and Escarole soup. It’s delicious and easy to make. And naturally good. Also, very important to me is that it freezes well.
If you prefer a vegetarian soup use vegetable stock instead of chicken and omit chicken sausage. I suggest unsalted vegetable stock not broth; stock is more flavorful!
Tortellini and Escarole Soup
3 Tablespoon olive oil 3 cloves garlic crushed 2 shallots, chopped 1 head of escarole, thoroughly washed and cut into bite-size pieces 1 box ( 32 oz.) organic low salt chicken broth or 1 box (32oz.) unsalted vegetable stock, I like Kitchen Basics 1 package cheese tortellini(9 oz) fresh or frozen tortellini
Parmesan cheese (optional)
3 chicken sausages, cooked and sliced into 2-inch pieces, optional
Cook garlic and shallots in olive oil on low for 5 just until shallots are translucent. Don’t brown garlic (it taste bitter if you do). Add escarole, stir, coating escarole with olive, and cook for another 5 minutes just until the escarole is wilted. Add chicken broth, tortellini, salt, and pepper to taste. Bring to boil, then simmer for 20 minutes. I sometimes add chicken sausage to the soup. Brown and thoroughly cook three chicken sausages, slice into 2-inch pieces and add to the soup. Simmer an additional 2 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.
Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over individual servings if you want. Serve with fresh Italian bread and a salad for a beautiful winter meal.
The soup made with sausage and chicken broth
The soup made with vegetable stock and not sausage.
Cooking should be fun! I am amazed when I hear people say they hate to cook! Why would you dislike something essential to survival and can be so creative? I like everyone who cooks has experienced disasters in the kitchen. I once made a cake that, when I frosted, slid off the plate and onto the floor.
Every misshape has made me the cook I am today, and I am grateful for all my cooking experiences.
If you are tackling a new recipe, my first suggestion is to read the recipe in total. Then gather all the tools you need and the ingredients and arrange them on your countertop in order of their use. This makes it so easy to follow the recipe for a novice. Even though I am an experienced cook, I take out my tools and ingredients before cooking.
Cooking is like any other skill; the more you practice, the better you become.
Butternut squash is one of my favorite vegetables. And so delicious with kale in a vegetarian lasagna. I roast both to bring out the flavor; instead of a traditional tomato, I used bechamel sauce. No-boil noodles cut the preparation time.
Butternut Squash and Kale Lasagna
1 package (20 ounces) butternut squash
4 cups kale, cut into 2-inch pieces and stems removed
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
10 sage leaves
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups whole milk
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Unsalted butter, for the baking dish1 cup grated fontina cheese (about 4 ounces)
1 cup grated low-moisture mozzarella cheese (about 4 ounces)
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
15 ounces ricotta cheese (can be part-skim)
2 eggs, beaten
9 no-boil lasagna noodles
Make the vegetables: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Toss the squash and kale with 2 tablespoons olive oil on a baking sheet; season with salt.
Roast, rotating the baking sheets once until the vegetables are tender, 18 to 20 minutes; set aside. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.
Meanwhile, make the bechamel. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the sage and cook for 1 minute. Whisk in the flour until smooth; cook, whisking, until the flour is lightly golden but not brown, about 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in the milk until smooth. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, occasionally stirring, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Add parmesan cheese. Stir in the nutmeg.
Assemble the lasagna. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Toss the cheeses and the flour in a bowl; set aside 1/2 cup for topping. Evenly coat the bottom of the dish with 1/2 cup of the bechamel.
Lay 3 noodles side by side on top. Cover with one-third of the remaining bechamel. Sprinkle with half of the remaining cheese mixture, half of the ricotta cheese, and top with half of the vegetable mixture. Arrange 3 more noodles on top and repeat the layers (bechamel, cheese, ricotta, vegetables). Top with the remaining 3 noodles, then cover with the remaining bechamel; sprinkle with the reserved 1/2 cup cheese.
Loosely cover the dish with foil and bake until bubbly, about 45 minutes. Uncover and bake for 15 additional minutes until browned and bubbling. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.
To make ahead, cover the unbaked lasagna with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. To bake, remove the plastic wrap and follow baking instructions.
To freeze, cover lasagna tightly with plastic wrap, then aluminum foil. Freeze up to 3 months. To bake, remove the plastic wrap, cover with aluminum foil, and bake for 90 minutes. Uncover, bake for an additional 10-15 minutes.
Healthy eating during the Holiday Season is not an easy task, beginning with Thanksgiving and continuous munching to the New Year. Celebrating, enjoying food with family and friends is an essential facet of the season for me. To not become unhealthy and pack on the weight, I’ve created vegetarian options for our everyday meals that are flavorful and healthy. I make my vegetarian meatball Italian style to add to homemade tomato sauce. I make a large batch of marinara and freeze to have available for a quick meal. You can purchase a good quality sauce if you prefer. The link to my sauce is below.
2 tablespoon olive oil 1 (8 ounces) package mushrooms, I used portabella. 1/2 cup chopped onions 3 cloves chopped garlic 4 teaspoons Italian Herbs 1/4 teaspoons crushed red 1 can (15.5 ounces) chickpeas, drained and rinsed. 3 tablespoons tomato paste 1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese 1 cup plain bread crumbs or cooked Arborio rice 1 egg, beaten salt and pepper to taste
Pre-heat oven to 450F. Heat oil in a large skillet, add onions, mushroom, Italian herbs, and red pepper. Saute until onions are soft. Add minced garlic a saute a few minutes longer. Do not let garlic brown.
Transfer to a food processer. Add beans and tomato paste. Pulse until combined, not pureed.
Add parmesan cheese, pulse to combine. Next, add bread crumbs and pulse.
Transfer to a bowl and add beaten egg. The egg binds the mixture together. Once the mixture binds together, make the meatballs. I like my balls’ smalls. They can easily be made large, like big meatballs.
Place meatballs on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Lightly spray with cooking spray. Bake for 12-14 minutes until browned.
Add to tomato sauce for meatless spaghetti and meatballs.
Autumn has holds a special place in my heart. I was born in the fall, school starts in the fall (I loved school), and I mysteriously become energized, renewed with the changing of the leaves and the crisp fell of morning New England air. Along with the change in season, my cooking and baking use different ingredients and flavors.
I love hearty stews packed with veggies and flavor. I prefer to make my own soups and stews, and I can control the fat and salt content, making healthy dishes.
Kale can be tough, and lightly cooking before adding to a stew tenderizes the veggie. Colorful vegetables, fragrant fresh herbs, and a low salt vegetable broth make this a hearty, healthy option.
This recipe makes a large quantity of stew and freezes well. If I am not feeding a group, I like to freeze the stew in individual containers.
1 small bunch Tuscan or other kale, center ribs and stems removed Kosher salt ½ cup olive oil, divided, plus more for serving 2 medium carrots, peeled, finely chopped 2 celery stalks, finely chopped 2 leek, white and pale-green parts only, chopped 4 cloves garlic cloves, chopped ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes 2 cans diced tomatoes, no salt 8 cups low-sodium vegetable broth 3 15-oz. cans cannellini (white kidney) beans, rinsed 4 sprigs thyme 1 sprig marjoram or oregano 1 bay leaf
1 cup Italian farro, rinsed
2 inch piece of Parmesan rind (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper Shaved Parmesan (for serving)
Working in batches cook kale in a large pot of boiling salted water until slightly softened, about 3 minutes per batch. Rinse to cool. Squeeze out excess water; roughly chop. Set aside.
Heat ¼ cup oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add carrots, celery, and leek; stir often until softened, 8–10 minutes.
Add garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes. Cook, stirring frequently, until liquid is evaporated and tomatoes begin to stick to the bottom of the pot, 10–15 minutes.
Add broth, beans, thyme, marjoram, bay leaf, reserved greens, farro and partisan rind; season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until flavors meld and soup thickens slightly, 40–50 minutes. Discard sprigs and bay leaf.
DO AHEAD: Soup can be made 2 days ahead. Let cool slightly; chill until cold. Cover and keep chilled. Reheat before continuing. I also like to freeze in small containers for later.
Eggplant is so versatile. I grew up in an Italian American family where my mother cooked eggplant regularly. In the summer she used freshly picked eggplant from my grandparent’s bountiful garden. In addition to the traditional Eggplant Parmesan, my mother used eggplant creatively. We had roasted eggplant, in ratatouille, baked, all dishes that she just “threw together”. Her words, not mine. All equally outstanding!
I like to make baked stuff eggplant, hollowing out the soft meat, and using it as the base for the stuffing. Every time I make stuffed eggplant I tend to change the filling for a new adventure with eggplant. The recipe below is my Italian version of baked stuffed eggplant; olive, artichokes, capers, and mozzarella cheese. I love to experiment!
1 large eggplant
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 shallot, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon capers
1/4 cup chopped kalamata olives
1 can(14 oz.) artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1/4 cup plain panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
4 oz. fresh mozzarella sliced 1/8 inch thick
2 tablespoon parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 350F.
Cut the eggplant in half and scoop out the center, leaving enough meat inside the skin so that it holds its shape when baked. Chop the removed eggplant meat into cubes.
In a medium pan heat olive oil. Add shallot and garlic, saute for 5 minutes until the shallot is translucent. Add eggplant meat, season with salt and pepper. Continue cooking on medium for 5- 10 minutes. Stir while the eggplant cooks making sure it doesn’t stick to the pan. The eggplant should become soft but not browned. Add capers, olives, and artichoke hearts and cook for another 5 minutes.
Remove from heat. Add panko breadcrumbs and herbs to eggplant mixture, stir until combined. Fill bottom eggplant shell with 1/2 of the cooked eggplant meat. Layer half of the sliced mozzarella. Add remaining eggplant meat and then the remaining mozzarella. Place eggplant top over and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
If you want you can also divide eggplant meat equally between the top and bottom eggplant shells. Top each eggplant with half of the mozzarella and sprinkle with parmesan. Bake for 50 minutes. Mozzarella cheese should be melted.
While my husband and I have been social distancing during the pandemic, running out on a whim to purchase ingredients or locating specific products has been challenging. Instead I’ve been creative using what I have on hand to make dinner. I love to cook so I usually have certain stables in the pantry and garlic, shallots, olives are a necessity in my kitchen. If you stock your pantry with canned tomatoes, artichokes, olives, olive oil, pasta, and have garlic, shallots, or onions on hand, a meal is easy to put together without running to the store.
I also like to keep a few Asian ingredients for a quick easy meal but my repertoire isn’t very extensive. I realized during this time of social distancing that although I love Asian dishes we normally go out to a restaurant for Thai or Chinese food. Take out is an option, which we have tried during the pandemic. Now I want to expand my cooking and include more healthy Asian dishes. I love cooking with fresh veggies. I look forward to this new cooking adventure. Who knew that after all these years I could find more outlets for my cooking skills.
My favorite weekday meal requirements are simple: flavorful, easy, and little clean-up, two dirty pan limit! And my Veggie pasta is perfect!
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large shallot, chopped
1 can(14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes, no salt. I like Hunts tomatoes
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 crushed red pepper
1/2 can(14 oz.) artichoke hearts, drained and sliced in quarters
1/2 cup Castelvetrano Italian olives, I love Mezzetta olives
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
4 oz fresh mozzarella, chopped
1/2 box thin spaghetti
Heat olive oil in a medium pan. Add garlic and shallot, saute for 5 minutes until the shallot is translucent. Add diced tomatoes, and wine. Season with salt and red pepper. Simmer for 5 minutes. Add artichokes hearts, olives, and basil. Simmer for 5 minutes
While the tomato mixture is simmering, cook spaghetti according to package instructions. Drain and put in large bowl
Add mozzarella to the tomato mixture cooking just until the cheese starts to melt. Remove from heat and toss with spaghetti.
When I’m cooking with canned tuna I love to use Italian canned
tuna in olive oil, fabulously flavorful. Adding cauliflower and
tuna to pasta makes a deliciously easy mean that is ready
quickly for a weekday meal. And this is a healthy dinner for the
whole family. Serve with a large fresh salad, and crisp baked
16 ounces Cavatappi pasta
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small cauliflower head (about 2 1/2 pounds), cored and cut into
8 medium garlic cloves, minced
2 cans (4.9 oz.) Italian Tuna in olive oil, I use Tonnino Tuna
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, minced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons salted butter
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest, plus 2 tablespoons lemon
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
In a large pot, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Add pasta and 1tablespoon salt and cook to al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water, then drain and set aside. Add two tablespoon olive oil to a 12-inch skillet and heat to simmering. Add cauliflower, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring, until light golden brown and crisp and tender.
Stir in the garlic, tuna, rosemary, pepper flakes, and 2 tablespoon butter. Cook, stirring until the garlic is softened, 4 to 5 minutes.
Add the pasta cooking water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Toss in the pasta and the remaining 2 tablespoon butter.
Cook, tossing until the sauce has thickened and coats pasta, about 1 minute.
Remove from heat, stir in lean juice. Transfer to a serving plate and sprinkle with the lemon zest and parmesan cheese. Serve with more parmesan cheese
Traditional Pasta e Fagioli is made with a pork product such as pancetta, ham or pigs’ feet(old-time Italian) but growing up my mother always made meatless Pasta e Fagioli on Fridays. I have fond memories of eating Pasta Fagioli on crisp fall nights before rushing off to a Friday night football game or for lunch on a snowy winter day.
My mother’s version of Pasta e Fagioli, I like to call Pasta e Fagioli meets Boston Baked Beans, She used canned baked beans as the base. I have no idea why one time she decided to substitute baked beans, no problem we loved her recipe. Over the years I have added my own touches to my mother’s Pasta e Fagioli to make it an easy totally vegetarian meal.
Pasta e Fagioli
1 cup chopped shallots
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 cup dry white wine
2 (16 oz) cans vegetarian baked beans, Bushes
1 can (8 oz) no salt Tomato Sauce, Hunts
1 can (15.5 oz) Garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained, Goya
1 can (14 oz) vegetable broth
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 cup dried ditalini pasta
1/4 cup snipped fresh basil or 1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon snipped fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried oregano
Parmesan Cheese, optional
1. In large pot cook shallots, garlic and olive over medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2. Sir in wine, baked beans, garbanzo beans, vegetable broth, and crushed red pepper. Bring to a boil: reduce heat. Simmer, covered for 20 minutes.
3. Cook, pasta al dente(firm but not hard), drain. Stir cooked pasta, basil, oregano into bean mixture. Simmer for 5 more minutes. Pasta e Fagioli should be thick like stew not soupy. Add more broth if thick and cook a little longer if too thin.
Pasta, a most versatile ingredient, is a perennial favorite in my cooking repertoire. Pasta dishes are easy to make, feed a large group, versatile, and delicious. Now that my husband and I are empty-nesters, I make this Baked Ziti on Sunday for dinner then I package into smaller size portions. I freeze for future dinners when I don’t have time to cook.
If you don’t want to make your own sauce you can substitute a good store-bought prepared sauce, I would use two jars. Add sausage and simmer sauce for about 5 – 10 minutes. Then proceed with the remaining recipe.
You can substitute vegan sausage for chicken and make the baked ziti vegetarian. Release your creativity when you cook and follow your instincts for delicious dinners to share with family and friends. All you need to add to this meal is a salad and freshly baked bread. Oh, and don’t forget the wine!
Baked Ziti with Ricotta and Sausage
1 package ( 5 sausages) Chicken or Vegetable sausages
3tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1teaspoon dried oregano
½teaspoon fennel seeds, coarsely crushed
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1(28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes with their juices
1(14-ounce) can crushed or strained tomatoes
1 package (1 pound) ziti pasta
8ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into bite-size pieces
8 ounces whole-milk ricotta
⅓cup grated Parmesan
¼cup basil leaves
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Remove the sausage from the refrigerator 10 – 15 minutes before cooking to remove the chill from the meat. Layer the baking pan with parchment paper and place sausage evenly on the cooking sheet. Place pan in the oven on the middle rack. Bake sausages for 20-25 minutes. Cool then slice into bite-size pieces.
Lower oven to 375 degrees. Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high.Add garlic, oregano, fennel seeds, and red pepper flakes, and cook for 2 minutes until garlic is translucent not browned.
Stir in whole tomatoes and their juice, using a spoon to break them up. Add crushed tomatoes, bay leaves, and 2 teaspoons salt, and bring to a simmer. Add sliced sausage and simmer for 10 minutes to thicken slightly. Remove bay leaf.
Cook pasta according to package directions and drain.
Place a 1/4 cup of tomato sauce in a large baking dish. This recipe layers the pasta with ricotta, tomato sauce, and mozzarella. First, arrange 1/3 of pasta then add 1/2 ricotta. Next place 1/3 tomato sauce over pasta and ricotta. Top with 1/3 mozzarella. The next layer will again be 1/3 pasta, 1/2 ricotta, 1/3 mozzarella, and 1/3 sauce. For the final layer complete by layering the remaining pasta, sauce and finish with mozzarella. Sprinkle parmesan cheese over the top, then transfer to oven. Bake until pasta is tender when poked with a fork, and cheese is bubbly and lightly golden 30 minutes. (If you’d like a more deeply browned topping, run the pan under the broiler for 1 or 2 minutes.) Remove from oven and let cool slightly before serving.