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Video: Try this comforting Italian menu

updated 1/4/2006 10:30:04 AM ET 2006-01-04T15:30:04

Recipe: Minestrone Soup with Prosciutto, Parmesan, Cannellini Beans and Vegetables

  • 1 4-ounce piece, fat of Prosciutto ham
  • 1 4-ounce rind, Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1 cup diced onions
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 pinch dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 2 quarts chicken stock (either canned or your favorite stock recipe)
  • 1/2 cup broccoli florets
  • 1/2 cup cauliflower florets
  • 2 cups cooked cannellini beans
  • 1/2 cup diced zucchini
  • 1/2 cup uncooked tubettini pasta
  • 6 to 8 thin slices Prosciutto, cut into julienne strips
  • 1 cup shaved Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup diced plum tomatoes
  • 4 to 6 sprigs fresh basil

Place the Prosciutto fat and the Parmesan cheese rind on a piece of cheesecloth. Make a “purse” by enclosing the bundle with a string. Set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté until it turns brown, about 1 1/2 minutes. Add the carrots, celery, and onions and sauté until the onion is glazed, about 4 minutes. Add the salt, pepper, oregano, and tomato paste.
Add the chicken stock and the cheesecloth sack. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes.
Add the broccoli, cauliflower, cannellini beans, and zucchini. Simmer for 1/2 hour, or until the vegetables are tender.
Add the pasta and cook for another 15 minutes, or until the pasta is al dente. At this point, the soup should have a nice thick texture. Remove the cheesecloth.
When ready to serve garnish each bowl with the julienned Prosciutto, shaved Parmesan, diced tomato, and a sprig of fresh basil.

Serving Size

4 to 6 servings

Recipe: Cheddar Cheese Risotto with Caramelized Onions and Smoked Ham

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 large onions cut into small dice
  • 2 ribs of celery cut into small dice
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 pound Arborio rice
  • 1 cup excellent quality smoked country ham cut into small cubes
  • 1 tablespoon thyme leaves
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 quarts white chicken or vegetable broth (either canned or your favorite stock recipe)
  • 3/4 pound Vermont cheddar shredded
  • salt and pepper

In a large sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons butter over high heat. Add onions and celery and cook slowly until caramelized; be careful not to burn. When onions and celery are done, add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add rice and sauté while stirring with a wooden spoon for 5 to 7 minutes at low heat. When rice begins to stick to bottom then add ham and fresh thyme and continue to stir.
Add wine and stir for 2 minutes, until nearly absorbed. Ladle about 1 cup of simmering stock into rice. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring often, until stock is almost completely absorbed.
Add more stock, a cup at a time, stirring gently until broth is absorbed by the rice, before adding the next cup.
After about 15 minutes, begin tasting the rice. At this point, add the stock with caution. The rice should be firm, yet cooked through in 18 to 20 minutes total cooking time.
Stir in all but 4 tablespoons of cheddar cheese and remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with cheese and serve.

Serving Size

6 servings

Recipe: Stewed Chicken with Mushrooms and Plum Tomatoes

  • 1 whole 3-pound chicken
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup button mushrooms, halved
  • 2 cups diced red and yellow peppers
  • 1/2 cup Kalamata olives, whole and pitted
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 cups tomato sauce
  • 1 cup chicken or veal stock
  • 1/2 bunch fresh basil, chopped fine

Cut the chicken into 8 pieces, leaving the bones in and skin on.
Season the flour with salt and pepper to taste and lightly dust the chicken pieces.
In a large sauté pan over medium heat, pan sear the chicken on all sides in 1/4 cup of the olive oil until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Set aside.
In the same pan, heat the remaining olive oil and sauté the garlic and onions until light brown, about 2 minutes.
Add the mushrooms, peppers, and Kalamata olives and sauté for 5 minutes, or until soft. Deglaze with the red wine vinegar.
Add the tomato sauce and chicken stock and simmer over low heat for 5 minutes. Add the chicken and cook for about 30 minutes, or until cooked. Add the basil and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serving Size

6 servings

Recipe: Veal Osso Buco with Creamy Polenta, Mushroom and Root Vegetable Ragu

  • For The Veal
  • 1/4 cup dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 6 1 1/2-inch thick veal shanks
  • 1/4 pound pancetta, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 cup finely chopped carrots (4 carrots)
  • 1 cup finely chopped fennel bulb
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion (2 large onions)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon rosemary
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 2 cups veal or beef stock (either canned or your favorite stock recipe)
  • 1 cup canned pureed tomatoes
  • 1/2 pound oyster mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • For The Polenta
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup instant polenta
  • 1/2 cup mascarpone

To make the veal
Soak the dried porcini mushrooms in hot water for 20 minutes, or until soften. Remove the mushrooms, reserve the liquid, and chop the mushrooms finely.
In a large sauté pan over medium heat, heat the olive oil until very hot. Brown the shanks, about 3 minutes on each side, cooking 2 to 3 at a time, depending on the size of the pan. Remove the shanks to a plate.
Drain the grease from the pan and put the heat on low. Add the pancetta and cook until the fat is rendered and the meat starts to brown, about 10 to 12 minutes. Add the carrots, fennel, onions, garlic, red pepper, and chopped rosemary to the pan and cook over low heat for 30 minutes, until the vegetables are soft and any liquid has evaporated. Add the wine, stock, porcini mushrooms, reserved mushroom liquid, and tomatoes and bring to a boil over high heat.
Preheat the oven to 350°. Place the shanks in a large roasting pan and pour the vegetable mixture over them, moving the shanks to let some cooking liquid under them. Braise covered for 2 hours, or until the shanks are very tender.
When the shanks are almost done, in a large sauté pan over medium heat, sauté the porcini, oyster and shitake mushrooms in 2 tablespoons of olive oil for 5 to 6 minutes, or until they have wilted and released their moisture. Remove from pan and let cool.
Remove the cooked shanks to a platter and keep them warm in the oven. Place the braising liquid and the vegetables, in a small saucepan and reduce to about 3 cups. Season if needed, add the mushrooms, and heat through. Set aside.

To make the polenta
Heat the milk and water in a large pot and bring to a boil. While it is simmering, slowly add the polenta. Stir constantly for 6 to 7 minutes, or until the liquid has been absorbed. Remove from heat and stir in the mascarpone.

To assemble
Serve the polenta on dinner plates, top with the veal shanks, and finish by spooning the mushroom sauce over the shanks.

Serving Size

6 servings

Recipe: Sicilian Cannolis with Bittersweet Chocolate, Candied Orange Peel and Pistachio Nuts

  • For The Cannoli Shells
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons mild olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sweet Marsala or other fortified wine
  • 1 1/2 quarts light or pure olive oil or vegetable oil, for frying
  • For The Ricotta Filling
  • 2 pounds firm whole-milk ricotta, commercial or homemade
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons citron or candied orange peel, chopped
  • 1 large egg white, lightly beaten, for sealing
  • 2 tablespoons chopped, blanched pistachios; and confectioners’ sugar, for finishing

To make the shells
Mix the dry ingredients together and rub in the oil. Mix the vinegar and Marsala and stir into the flour mixture. The dough will be very firm and dry. Form the dough into a rough rectangle about 1/2-inch thick, wrap in plastic, and allow to rest at room temperature about 1 hour.
Flour the dough and roll it out, pressing hard, to a 1/4-inch thickness. Pass the dough through a pasta machine’s widest setting repeatedly, folding it over on itself after every pass through the rollers, until it is smooth, about 12 or 15 times in all. Wrap and let rest again for 1 hour at room temperature. (The dough may be refrigerated a day or two at this point.)
Divide the dough in half and rewrap one half. Flour the other half and pass it through the pasta machine, beginning with the widest setting, then through every other setting, ending with the thinnest. Place the strip of dough on a flowered work surface and cover with plastic wrap to prevent it from drying and crusting. Repeat this process with the other piece of dough. Using a floured cutter or a small bowl as a pattern, cut the dough into disks. Each disk should be about 1 1/2-inches shorter than the length of the tube it will be fried on. Roll a rolling pin over each disk once to lengthen it slightly and make it oval.
To form the cannoli, place an oval of dough on the work surface and center a metal cannoli tube on it lengthwise. Wrap one edge of the dough around the tube, without stretching it, and moisten the top of the dough with a very small amount of the egg white, without letting the egg white drip onto the metal tube. Wrap the other edge of the dough around the tube to cover the first one and lift from the work surface, pressing the 2 edges of dough together well. Repeat with the other disks of dough. (If you do not have enough tubes for all disks, keep the extra prepared ovals of dough tightly wrapped with plastic until the tubes used to fry the first batch of cannoli have cooled; then form as before.)
Fry the cannoli a few at a time in oil preheated to 350 degrees until they are a deep gold. Place on a pan lined with paper towels and remove from the tubes immediately or they will shrink as they cool and shatter when taken off the tubes. With one hand, grip the fried shell with several thicknesses of paper towel, then pull out the metal tube with tongs or a pot holder held in the other hand. Cool the shells on paper towels.

To make the filling
Beat the ricotta and sugar until very light, either with a hand mixer set at medium speed or in a heavy-duty mixer fitted with the whip. Beat in the vanilla and cinnamon and stir in the chocolate and citron.

To assemble
No more than 1 hour before serving, fill the shells using a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain tube. Sprinkle the ends of the cream with the pistachios. Dust the cannoli with the confectioners’ sugar and serve.

Serving Size

makes 12 to 15 cannoli


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