I’m not Italian. I don’t make traditional Italian food. No little grandma to show me about marinara here, but I do love to tinker with the fare at home. Like a lot. Like when the holidays come around, and movie nights, and vacation fantasies, and pretty much every cookbook I browse at the bookstore. So, behold some of my tinkering: a mix of Rachael, Ina, Alton, and Giada’s versions (yes, at home I pretend we are all on a first name basis) – A muddled reinvention of their recipes all combined into something my husband and kids devour with delight. If you are Italian, just shake your head and grin….or feel free to adopt me and set me straight.
My favorite part of tomatoes and basil coming back in season. My favorite salad. Drizzle with a syrup like balsamic….mmmmmmm.
Sauces are one of those times when making from scratch really pays off. They are one of the first things you learn in cooking school and well, tomato is a mother. Take that any way you want.
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 yellow or sweet onion, small dice
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ cup drink worthy red wine (on the dry side)
- 28 oz can of high quality crushed tomatoes ( you can use peeled and crush yourself. Many say they are better quality)
- 28 oz can of high quality tomato puree
- 14 oz can of high quality diced tomatoes, rinsed & drained
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 Tablespoon dried Italian seasoning (sometimes I use ½ dried basil & ½ dried oregano) – in the summer, chop up some fresh herbs and sprinkle in the last few minutes of cooking
- 1 teaspoon sugar (can omit if you want)
- ½ -1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes ( depending on how spicy you like it)
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
To make: Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven or skillet. Sometimes I toss in a small pad of butter for good measure (and to keep my cholesterol up). Add onion and sauté over medium heat until translucent. Then add the garlic and cook for a minute or two more. Add the wine and increase the heat so the mixture is boiling away. Scrape up all the brown bits in the pan and cook until almost all the liquid evaporates. Add the tomatoes, herbs, salt, sugar, and peppers. Cover, and simmer on low for about twenty minutes. If you are braising the meatballs, add them in before you cover it.
I’ve made these with lean sirloin, ground turkey, and a mix of beef and pork; with spinach and without. They are delightful any way.
source: Men’s Health via Alton Brown many years ago
- 1 1/2 pound ground meat (I usually go for half pork/half sirloin)
- 5 ounces frozen spinach, thawed and drained thoroughly (make sure it’s super dry) – if Man’s not home…he’s not a fan of greens
- 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan
- ¼- 1/3 cup bread crumbs (depending on chosen meat)
- 1 egg, slightly beaten
- 2 cloves garlic, pressed
- 1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil (if there’s fresh in the garden, I use 2T fresh)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons dried parsley (if there’s fresh in the garden, I use 2T fresh)
- 1 scant teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 Tablespoons grated onion – if I have some on hand
To make: Be gentle with the meat and mix it just until everything is well combined. If you make large meatballs for a sub, cook 20 minutes at 400 and lower the oven to 300 until cooked through. If they are medium for pasta, bake 20 minutes at 400.
Man likes me to sear them on the stove and braise them in sauce until finished. This probably takes an hour or better.
Now what to do with all this awesomeness???
- Make some spaghetti and play old school Italian dinner by inviting the family.
- Pull up some TV trays and watch a mob movie, or if you need G-rated Lady & The Tramp.
- Grab some hoagies and provolone, put those meatballs on display and make subs!
- Sauté up some Italian sweet peppers and onions, grab a bun and some good Italian sausage & make Italian dogs.
- Freeze the leftover sauce and throw together a quick penne with peppers for meatless Monday.
Chicken Marsala Recipe
An easy but elegant chicken dish!
source: Savory Sweet Life w/ my own modifications
- 4 skinless, boneless, chicken breasts
- 1/2 cup all purpose flour or corn starch for gluten-free
- Salt & pepper and herb de Provence to season flour
- up to 1/4 cup olive or vegetable oil + 2T butter to sauté chicken
- 1/4 sweet onion or shallot, minced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 8 ounces container of mushroom, sliced and cleaned (baby Bella)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 cup sweet Marsala wine
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream (be generous)
- 4 tablespoons butter
- Sprinkle 1/8-1/4 cup cheap powdered Parmesan cheese
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Garnish with chopped parsley or oregano
- Italian blend cheese
- 1 head garlic, roasted in foil w/ EVOO for an hour on 375
Split each chicken breast through the middle to make 2 pieces. Place plastic wrap over them and pound each one flat using a meat tenderizer/mallet until they are about a quarter inch thick. Season a good amount of salt and pepper on both sides of each piece. Place seasoned flour on a plate and and dredge each piece of chicken in it.
Heat the oil over medium-high heat and when the oil is hot fry each piece of chicken for 5 minutes on each side until they are golden brown (this may require you to do this in 2 batches).
Remove chicken from pan and arrange in a single layer in shallow ovenproof pan carefully soak up any remaining oil with paper towels and discard.. Put in low oven (275-300 degrees) to stay warm.
In same pan:
Add 2 tablespoons butter onion and garlic to skillet and saute (do not brown) for a few minutes until soft. Add mushrooms and saute about 5 minutes making sure to season them with salt and pepper lightly. Add marsala wine & chicken stock about halfway through. Use slotted spoon to lift mushrooms out of skillet and arrange on top of chicken breasts. Sprinkle with cheese and put back in oven until you finish next step.
Add cream & parmesan w/ 4 T butter allowing the liquid to boil rapidly until reduced by half. Remove chicken from oven and pour wine mixture over the chicken and serve.
Served with rosemary mashed potatoes. 4-6 russets, 1/4c cream, 1/4c butter, 1/4c whole milk. Steep with 1 sprig rosemary. When drain potatoes-add cream mixture and 1 sprig minced rosemary.
Roasted Gnocchi and Vegetables
Adapted from https://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-crispy-sheet-pan-gnocchi-and-veggies-247360
Parchment paper liner
Olive oil, dried Italian herbs, salt, pepper
1 shallot, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, pressed
1 red pepper, halved julienne sliced
1 bag fresh prepped green beans
1 pint grape tomatoes
1 pint fresh sliced Monterrey mushrooms
1 package ready made gnocchi
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line sheet pan with parchment paper. Clean and prep veggies while you boil 4 quarts water in a large pan. Salt simmering water and prepare gnocchi to package directions. Drain well.
Meanwhile, add prepped veggies to the pan, toss with a generous drizzle of olive oil, the pressed garlic cloves, approximately 2 tablespoons of herbs, salt and pepper. Add cooked gnocchi to the pan. Roast for 18-20 minutes, stirring halfway.
How does your family celebrate the cuisine de Italia?