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Italian-style Easter recipes

Before you finalize Easter dinner plans for your family, the Food Network's Giada de Laurentiis wants to share some Italian Easter dishes. Giada's first cookbook is out and it's called "Everyday Italian."
/ Source: Weekend Today

Before you finalize Easter dinner plans for your family, the Food Network's Giada de Laurentiis wants to share some Italian Easter dishes. Giada's first cookbook is out and it's called "Everyday Italian."

Grilled Lamb Chops

Easter is a real family holiday for Italians, and lamb was our usual fare for Easter supper—usually a leg or a crown roast. When it’s not Easter supper, though, I usually go for the smaller portions and simplicity of separate chops, as in this recipe. Rosemary and garlic are the perfect companions to lamb, and the paste below is a wonderful way to season the meat with a minimum of effort. This combo also works superbly with any cut of lamb; just double the quantities for a full rack, or triple them for a leg. 2 main-course servings.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 2 large garlic cloves1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves, coarsely chopped1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves1/2 teaspoon sea saltPinch of cayenne pepper6 lamb chops (each about 3/4 inch thick)

In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, blend the oil, garlic, rosemary, thyme, sea salt, and cayenne pepper to form a paste. Rub the paste over the lamb chops and marinate for at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours.

Heat a grill pan over a high flame until almost smoking. Add the chops and sear for 2 minutes on each side. Reduce the heat to medium and cook the lamb chops to desired doneness, about 3 minutes longer per side for medium-rare. Transfer the lamb chops to two plates, dividing equally, and serve.

Stuffed Tomatoes

I often serve these tomatoes at room temperature, and believe me, it’s a real relief to be able to serve a dish to which you have to do absolutely nothing while your guests are in your home, other than put it on a plate. That’s truly Everyday Italian cooking.

4 side-dish servingsSalt2/3 cup Arborio rice or medium-grain white rice1 teaspoon plus 2 tablespoons olive oil4 ripe but firm large tomatoes3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley1 garlic clove, minced½  teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the rice and simmer over medium heat until just cooked through, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Drain and rinse the rice under cold running water. Drain well. Transfer the rice to a medium bowl and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat an 8-inch square baking dish with 1 teaspoon of oil. Cut a ½ -inch-thick slice off the top of each tomato; reserve the tops. Scoop the seeds, pulp, and juice from each into a small bowl. Place the hollowed tomatoes in the prepared dish.

Add ¼  cup of the tomato pulp to the rice and toss to coat. Stir in the basil, parsley, garlic, remaining 2 tablespoons of oil, and ½  teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Stir in the Parmesan and season with more salt and pepper to taste. Spoon the rice mixture into the hollowed tomatoes, mounding slightly. Replace the reserved tops and bake until the rice is heated through, about 20 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature. (The stuffed tomatoes can be made up to 4 hours ahead.)

Farro Salad with Tomatoes and Herbs

Farro is a type of wheat that was an important component of the Roman Empire’s diet, but it fell somewhat out of favor when more refined wheat products became plentiful in Italy. You’ll still find it on a lot of Italian tables, though, and especially in soups and salads such as this one. Farro is available in Italian markets and gourmet grocery stores, but brown rice or barley could also be used in this recipe.

6 side-dish servings10 ounces farro (about 11/2 cups)21/4 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste1 large garlic clove, minced2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil2 medium-sized tomatoes, seeded and chopped1/2 medium-size sweet onion (such as Walla Walla), finely chopped 1/4 cup snipped fresh chives1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

In a medium saucepan, combine 4 cups water and farro. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat until the farro is almost tender, about 20 minutes. Add 2 teaspoons of salt and simmer until the farro is tender, about 10 minutes longer. Drain well, then transfer to a large bowl and let cool.

In a medium bowl, mash the garlic with 1/4 teaspoon of salt to make a paste. Whisk in the vinegar and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper, then the oil. Add the tomatoes, onion, chives, and parsley to the farro and toss to combine. Add the vinaigrette to the salad and toss to coat. Season the salad with more salt and pepper to taste. (The salad can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before serving.)

Sautéed Broccoli Rabe with Raisins and Pine Nuts

In my family, this is a traditional side during the holidays, but that’s just my family—it’s really perfect any time of year. The trick is to blanch the broccoli rabe in boiling water for a minute or so to get rid of some of the bitterness and partially cook it.

4 to 6 side-dish servings2 tablespoons pine nutsSalt4 bunches (12 to 16 ounces each) of broccoli rabe (rapini)1/4 cup olive oil3 garlic cloves, finely chopped1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper flakes1/3 cup raisins

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the pine nuts on a heavy baking sheet, and toast in the oven until the nuts are fragrant and light golden brown, stirring once, about 7 minutes. Let cool.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Working in batches, cook the broccoli rabe in the boiling salted water until crisp-tender, about 1 minute. Transfer the blanched broccoli rabe to a large bowl of ice water to cool. Reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid. Drain the broccoli rabe again and set aside. (The pine nuts and broccoli rabe can be made 8 hours ahead. Store the pine nuts airtight at room temperature. Cover and refrigerate the broccoli rabe.)

In a large, heavy skillet, heat the oil over a medium flame. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, and sauté until the garlic is golden, about 2 minutes. Add the broccoli rabe, raisins, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and toss to coat. Add the reserved cooking liquid and cook until the broccoli rabe is heated through and the stems are tender, about 5 minutes. Season with more salt to taste. Just before serving, toss the mixture with the toasted pine nuts. Transfer to a bowl and serve.

Fruit salad with Cannoli Cream

Cannoli (“pipes”) are said to be one of the unshakable rocks of Sicilian desserts, and these days they can be found in almost every Italian pastry shop in America. They are crispy fried pastry tubes that are filled with sweetened ricotta cheese or sometimes pastry cream. The tubes are time-consuming to make, but the filling is easy, and dolloped over fresh berries, well, it just brings me home.

4 servings1/3 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese 2 tablespoons plus 1/3 cup whipping cream3 tablespoons powdered sugarPinch of ground cinnamon12 ounces fresh strawberries, hulled and quartered (about 21/2 cups)1/2 pint fresh raspberries (about 11/4 cups)1 tablespoon sugar1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice2 kiwi, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces3 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted

In a medium bowl, stir the ricotta and 2 tablespoons of cream to blend. In a large bowl using an electric mixer, beat the remaining 1/3 cup of cream with the powdered sugar and cinnamon until semi-firm peaks form. Fold the ricotta into the whipped cream. (This mixture can be prepared up to 4 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

In a medium bowl, toss the strawberries, raspberries, sugar, and lemon juice to combine. Let stand until juices form, tossing occasionally, about 20 minutes. Add the kiwi and toss gently.

Spoon the fruit mixture into 4 dessert bowls. Dollop the ricotta cream atop the fruit, sprinkle with the almonds, and serve.