Pork Piccata – gluten free

This is the Secondi we will be making and serving, for the Halloween Italian Cooking Class/Pop Up Supper Club in Support of the Bastrop County Emergency Food Pantry.

Secondi means second course in Italian. It is the main protein course which consists of meat, poultry or fish. I decided to create a play on the classic veal piccata, by using Berkshire Pork tenderloin supplied to me by our neighbors, Rose & James, at Peach Creek Farm. I like supporting our local producers and going straight from The Ranch to The Table. Couldn’t get any more local than the neighboring ranch! 👍😃

Berkshire pork is a gourmet product from a breed of pigs that originated in the English county of Berkshire. The meat has shorter muscle fibers than regular pork, making the meat more tender. The meat is also highly marbled with intramuscular fat, making the meat more succulent and flavorful. Rose & James treat their animals with care. The pigs are not caged and no hormones or chemicals are used in raising them.

In making classic veal piccata, the veal is pounded thin and dredged in flour. I decided to not use flour so I can make the dish gluten free and keto friendly. The flour dredging is traditionally used to protect the thin, lean veal cutlet from drying out, to create a golden brown crust and to thicken the piccata sauce. I will be using Berkshire pork medallions that are 1.25 inches thick and are higher in fat than veal, so they don’t need flour dredging to protect them from drying out. I will get additional flavor and a golden brown crust by coating the pork medallions with my Italian Spice Mix. I will be able to thicken the piccata sauce by adding and whisking in butter at the end. This is a French sauce making technique called Beurre Monte. Which means to mount with butter.

In the test recipe I used bone less pork chops. They turned out well, but I decided to use center cut pork loin medallions for the cooking class/supper club because it is a more tender cut of meat. I will be serving two 1.25 inch center cut pork medallions per person. The pork piccata will be accompanied by roasted squash medallions and seasonal vegetables. Click on the link in the previous sentence for the roasted squash recipe. It has turned out to to be my most viewed post. The recipe was posted on November 17, 2017.

Ingredients: for 4 servings

  • 8 – 1.25 inch thick center cut pork medallions
  • 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil (1 to coat the pork, 1 to coat the pan, and 1 for the piccata sauce)
  • 1 tablespoon of my Italian Spice Mix
  • 3 pats of the best unsalted butter you can find
  • 2 tablespoons of small capers
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 cup vegetable stock
  • 1 cup of wine
  • 1 lemon
  • handful of Italian flat leaf parsley
  • sea salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

Prep:

  • Coat the pork with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and the Italian spice mix. Rub the spices into the pork. Cover with plastic and set in the frig while you do the rest of the prep. If you marinate the pork overnight it will be even better.
  • Mince the garlic and parsley leaves
  • Zest and juice the lemon

Cooking the pork:

  • Coat a large nonstick skillet with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and place on medium high heat.
  • Once the pan is hot place the pork medallions in the pan. Cook on first side for 2 minutes and then flip.
  • Cook on the second side for 1 minute. Do not over cook the pork or it will dry out.
  • Remove the pork medallions from the pan. Set aside and cover to keep warm. I used a crockpot container with its lid on to hold the pork warm.

Making the piccata sauce:

Add a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and a pat of butter to the pan you used to cook the pork medallions. Turn the flame to medium.
Sprinkle in the chopped parsley.

Taste the sauce. Adjust for salt pepper and acid. During the cooking process, I added only 1/2 the lemon juice. If you need more acid you can add it at this time. Once you are happy with the way the sauce tastes pour it over the pork medallions.

When I am doing a cooking class or a party, I hold the pork piccata in a warm crock pot until I am ready to serve. This makes it easier for all my guests to have warm plates of food, served simultaneously, so we can all eat together.

I have been told many times that the best part of our pop up supper club event is the camaraderie generated by sharing a meal together while supporting our community. It brings me a great deal of joy to be able to hold these events. 💕

Next week I will be posting the final recipe for our up coming cooking class/pop up supper club. Be on the look out for it. Until then ciao! 🖐😃

Italian Stuffed Vegetables – gluten free

This is the Antipasto (appetizer) we will be making and serving, for the Halloween Italian Cooking Class/Pop Up Supper Club in Support of the Bastrop County Emergency Food Pantry.

The event will be held on October 30, 2020. I will use the freshest vegetable I can find for the class, but for this recipe I used round zucchini squash that was grown by my neighbor in his garden. My neighbor, Billy usually brings us vegetables and we provide him with fresh eggs from our chickens. I love living in the country and having access to simple fresh ingredients. So when I say “Farm-to-Table”, I really mean it. 😃

Ingredients:

  • 2 round zucchini squash
  • 1 small red onion
  • 1 small tomato (in this photo I have a yellow tomato from the garden)
  • 1 small bell pepper
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 or 2 green chilies (optional – leave them out if you want to tone down the spice level)
  • 2 slices of fresh Mozzarella
  • 4 ounces of grated Parmesan
  • 3 sprigs of fresh herbs (here I have basil, oregano and thyme – I grow these in the sunroom just outside the kitchen)
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil (1 for coating the squash and 2 for coating the pan used for cooking the filling)
  • 1 tablespoon of my Italian Spice Mix
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Prep:

  • Remove the stems from the squash and cut them in half going from stem to stern
  • Hollow out the squash using a grapefruit spoon. Don’t throw out the innards. Instead, dice them and set aside. We don’t waste anything. The innards will become part of the filling.
  • Dice the onion, tomato, bell pepper and Mozzarella slices
  • Mince the chilies and garlic
  • Finely chop the herbs
  • Season the hollowed out squash with salt, pepper, Italian spice mix and olive oil

Cooking the filling:

Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a heavy duty stainless steel pan. Place the pan over a medium-low flame. Add the onion, bell pepper, chilies, garlic and herbs.
Sauté the vegetables until they are soft
Transfer the sautéed veggies to a bowl. Taste the filling and adjust the salt and pepper as needed. Let the filling cool to room temp. before mixing in the cheeses.
Stuff each squash half with the filling. Place on an oven safe tray or baking dish.
Bake in a 350 F oven until the squash is tender and the cheese is melted and golden.

Most Italian stuffed vegetables have breadcrumbs in the mixture. But I decided to leave out the breadcrumbs so that I could make this recipe gluten free and also fit my ketogenic lifestyle. Trust me, you won’t even miss the breadcrumbs.

I have also made stuffed peppers and mushrooms using a similar recipe. I took photos of the mushroom recipe and will post it at a later date. I posted Cauliflower Stuffed Peppers on November 7, 2018. The cauliflower stuffed peppers are also gluten free. Please click on the link in the previous sentence if you want to see the stuffed peppers recipe.

I am really looking forward to making this recipe with my students on October 30, 2020. My husband will be selecting a local Italian style wine to pair with this Antipasto course. Should be yummy and fun. 😋😃

Halloween Italian Cooking Class/Pop Up Supper Club in Support of the Bastrop County Emergency Food Pantry

Cooking With Love and Spices is so excited to be able to do another event in support of The Bastrop County Emergency Food Pantry. The event details are shown in the flyer below. All the recipes, except for the surprise Halloween cocktail, will be posted ahead of the event. I am doing this because many of the students, who attended the previous cooking classes, requested that I post the recipes in advance.

In May of 2020, I did an event planning survey, to find out what my students and guests would like for the next event. Most people wanted the next event to be Italian cuisine. So I have created an Italian menu with a Halloween flair.

We will start off with cocktails and crostini to honor the Italian tradition of Aperitivo. Aperitivo is a pre-dinner drink and small snack. My husband will be making his Chili Cherry Bourbon and an additional Halloween cocktail. The “ghoulicious” Halloween cocktail will be posted on Saturday October 31, 2020, on Halloween Day Of Course. 😈

The cocktails will be served with a very easy to make Cheesy Cranberry Pistachio Crostini.

Next we will be having an Antipasto (appetizer) consisting of Italian Stuffed Vegetables. The vegetable will vary depending on seasonal availability, but I will post the recipe for stuffed squash on October 10, 2020 to show the basic recipe for stuffing vegetables Italian style.

For the Insalata we will be having Golden Beet Salad topped with crispy goat cheese croutons. If you want to see the full recipe, click on the link above. This recipe was posted on January 13, 2018.

Following the salad, will be the Primo, which means first course in Italian. It usually consists of a risotto or pasta. We will be having Pumpkin Gnocchi with Collard Greens. This recipe was created in 2017 for our family’s Thanksgiving Dinner. For the full recipe, click on the link above. This recipe was posted on December 13, 2017. I just realized that was my dad’s 84th birthday. He loved that Pumpkin Gnocchi 😊

After the pasta course we will be having the Secondi, which means second course in Italian. It is the main protein course which consists of meat, poultry or fish. I created a very special gourmet Berkshire Pork Piccata for the main course. The Berkshire pork is supplied to us by our neighbors at Peach Creek Farm. Since I am a pescatarian, I don’t eat pork, so I will also have a fish piccata option. The full recipe for the Pork Piccata will be posted on October 17, 2020.

All of the above courses will be paired with local Texas Italian style wines from Duchman Family Winery. My husband will be selecting the wines for each course. We like supporting our local producers. For the last two events, we served wines from Messina Hof. This time we decided to work with Duchman.

Last but not least, to celebrate the Dolce Vita (sweet life), I created a unique dessert called Cranberry Tiramisu. It is made with Texas South Wind Cranberry Fruit Wine. The full recipe will be posted on October 24, 2020.

I am very proud of the Cranberry Tiramisu. I did a test low carb recipe. I invited a friend to come over and taste test it. If I do say so myself, it turned out so yummy that I just had to eat it. As written in my post entitled, “My Personal Story of Recovery,” I have been leading a ketogenic life style since February of 2019 so that I can control my blood sugar without medication. In all that time, this is only the third dessert I have eaten. I save my dessert eating for low carb, high quality desserts that are very special. I tested my fasting blood sugar the next day and it was fine. I was so happy. 😊

Just for the record, the first dessert I had was in May of 2019 in Killarney, Ireland. It was a fresh out of the oven, pear and almond custard tart. Still warm with a buttery crust, very flavorful and not too sweet. The second dessert I had was in November 2019 in Amritsar, India. My home town. It was Firni, a rice powder custard flavored with saffron, cardamom and pistachios. For special occasions, the top is garnished with silver leaf.

My grandmother used to make this all the time, so it brought back a lot of childhood memories. I will have to post the recipe for this some day.

Getting off memory lane and back to the event, the Cranberry Tiramisu will be paired with a champagne cocktail created by my husband. It will be a combination of Messina Hof Almond “Champagne” and the Texas South Wind cranberry fruit wine that I used in the dessert.

I had a lot of fun creating this menu. I hope everybody enjoys it. 💕

Patty Pan Parmesan

Patty Pan Parmesan is the signature Italian dish that I promised you last week.

Patty Pan Parmesan Feature

I created it in 2005 when we were living in California, and my husband had an abundance of Patty Pan Squash growing in the garden.  Now we live in Texas, and most of the vegetables we consume are grown by our neighbor, Billy.  When he brought me a basket full of Patty Pans, I was so excited to make this dish again.

Here is a slice of it plated with fresh basil on top.  Yum!!!😋 One of my favorite things to eat.  Its low carb, so I can still eat it.🙂  I started a ketogenic lifestyle in February 2019 so that I could control my blood sugar without medications.  If you are interested in the full story of my ketogenic journey, please read  My Personal Story of Recovery.

Patty Pan Parmesan Plated Feature

INGREDIENTS FOR PATTY PAN SLICES:

  • 8 large patty pans
  • 1/4 cup of my Italian Spice Mix
  • salt and pepper to sprinkle over patty pan slices
  • olive oil to coat the patty pan slices

PREPARING THE PATTY PAN:

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  • Remove the stem and flower ends off the patty pan with a small paring knife
  • Cut the patty pans into circular slices that are 1 inch thick
  • Place the slices on a lined baking sheet
  • Sprinkle each slice with salt, pepper and my Italian Spice Mix
  • Drizzle with olive oil
  • Rub each slice to evenly coat it with the spice mix and olive oil
  • Flip and repeat seasoning the other side with salt, pepper, Italian spice and olive oil
  • Place in a 400 F oven to roast for 10 minutes.  Flip the patty pan slices at the 5 minute mark, which is half way through the roasting process.

INGREDIENTS FOR ASSEMBLING THE CASSEROLE:

Patty Pan Parm Assembly Set Up

  • 24 ounces of marinara sauce (you can buy it or make it.  Click on Marinara Sauce – An Italian Essential, for my recipe.)
  • 1 large bunch of basil leaves
  • 10 ounces of fresh mozzarella cut into thin slices
  • 24 ounces of freshly grated Parmesan cheese

ASSEMBLY: the casserole is assembled in 2 layers

  • Coat the bottom of a 9 X 11 glass baking dish with a thin layer of marinara sauce.  This will prevent the bottom from burning.
  • Place a single layer of roasted patty pan slices
  • Top each patty pan slice with a piece of mozzarella and a basil leaf
  • Sprinkle on a layer of grated Parmesan cheese
  • Repeat, starting with another layer of patty pan slices

Bake uncovered in a 350 F oven until the casserole starts bubbling.  At this point, turn to a low broil setting to brown the top layer of cheese.  My oven has a high and low broil setting.  If your oven has only one broil setting go ahead and use it.  Whichever setting you use, turn the oven light on and keep a close eye on the casserole.  We want the top layer to broil without burning.

Remove the casserole from the oven and let it rest for at least 20 minutes before serving.  I like to make this casserole a day in advance because it tastes even better the next day.  It also sets nicely overnight in the frig, and can then easily be cut into pretty slices that hold together well.  Kind of like a gluten free, vegetarian lasagna.

Patty Pan Parmesan Plated Feature

This is a great vegetarian main dish.  Pair it with a fresh green salad to make a complete meal.  It can also be served with a protein and a green vegetable, to make a fancy plated entre.

Patty Pan Parmesan Plated Meal

Since I am a pescatarian, I plated a piece of the Patty Pan Parmesan with grilled shrimp and roasted asparagus.  I love this presentation.  We do eat with our eyes first.  Enjoy 😍

I can’t believe how fast this year is going.  Summer is almost over.  Next week is labor day weekend already!  In honor of labor day cook outs, I will be posting a recipe my husband made on the grill.

Until then Ciao 🖐 🙂

Gluten Free Eggplant Parmesan

My first visit to Italy was in 2005.  Our first stop was Bologna, the capital of the Emilia-Romagna region.  It is the home of University of Bologna, the oldest university in the world.  As I walked around the city during lunch time, I noticed a long line of university students waiting their turn to go inside a tiny bistro.  I decided to come back when the lunch rush was over and eat there.  This is when I had the most incredible roasted eggplant dish.

Gluten Free Eggplant Parm Feature

It has been one of my favorites ever since.  I recreated it when I got back home, and I make it a lot.  Fortunately for me, it is gluten free and keto friendly.  As I stated in a previous post, I started a ketogenic lifestyle on 25 February 2019 to control my blood sugar without any medications.  Since I have decided to lead a ketogenic lifestyle forever, I am glad that this favorite dish of mine can still be part of my life.

INGREDIENTS FOR EGGPLANT SLICES:

  • 4 small eggplants (these came from my neighbor’s garden.)
  • 1/4 cup of my Italian Spice Mix
  • enough kosher salt to lightly sprinkle over eggplant slices
  • olive oil to saute the eggplant

PREPARING THE EGGPLANT:

  • Using a serrated knife, cut the eggplant into 1/2 inch discs
  • Lightly sprinkle them with kosher salt on both sides
  • Place in a glass container and cover with plastic wrap
  • Refrigerate overnight to allow excess water to be extracted from the eggplant.  This process makes the eggplant absorb less oil.
  • Remove the eggplant slices from the glass container and place onto paper towel sheets to dry off excess liquid.  Discard the liquid at the bottom of the glass container.
  • Place the salted and dried eggplant slices , in a single layer, into a clean glass baking dish

Kachri Sliced

  • drizzle on some olive oil and sprinkle with my Italian Spice Mix.  Flip the slices over and repeat on the other side.
  • Add another layer of eggplant slices and coat with oil and spice mix.  Repeat until all the eggplant slices are used up.

Eggplant Slices Coated with Italian Spice Mix

  • Cover with plastic wrap and let marinate in the refrigerator for at least an hour or overnight.

COOKING THE EGGPLANT:

  • Coat a large non-stick skillet with olive oil
  • Turn the flame to medium heat and get the oil hot, but not smoking
  • Once the oil is hot add a layer of spiced eggplant slices.  Do not crowd the pan. Cook the slices till they are golden brown on the first side. Flip and repeat until the slices are brown and crispy on both sides.
  • The cooking time is longer than you think.  It is 10 minutes per side.  Once the eggplant is brown on both sides, test it with a fork. Once it is fork tender remove it to a glass baking dish.
  • Continue the process until all the eggplant slices are cooked.

When I am cooking a lot of eggplant, I use two pans on the stove.  This saves time.

INGREDIENTS FOR ASSEMBLING THE CASSEROLE:

Gluten Free Eggplant Parm Assembly Set Up

  • Cooked eggplant slices
  • 24 ounces of marinara sauce (you can buy it or make it.  Click on Marinara Sauce – An Italian Essential, for my recipe.)
  • 10 ounces of fresh mozzarella cut into thin slices
  • 1 large bunch of basil leaves, removed from their stems
  • 24 ounces of freshly grated Parmesan cheese

By the way, those beautiful dishes in the photo above are by Ceramiche d’Arte Carmela in Ravello, Italy.  One of my favorite places.

ASSEMBLY: the casserole is assembled in two layers

  • Coat the bottom of a 9 X 11 glass baking dish with a thin layer of marinara sauce.  This will prevent the bottom from burning.
  • Next place a single layer of eggplant slices
  • Place a piece of mozzarella on each eggplant slice
  • Top each slice of mozzarella with a basil leaf
  • Spread a layer of marinara sauce
  • Sprinkle on a layer of grated Parmesan cheese
  • Repeat, starting with another layer of eggplant slices

Cover with foil and bake in a 350 F oven until the casserole starts bubbling.  Should take about 20 to 30 minutes.  Take the casserole out of the oven.  Raise the oven temperature to 400 F.  Remove the foil and top with a final layer of Parmesan cheese.  Place back in the oven, on the top rack, and bake until the top layer of cheese turns brown.  Should take about 10 minutes.  Keep an eye on it so the cheese does not burn.

Remove the casserole from the oven and let it rest for about 20 minutes before serving.

Gluten Free Eggplant Parm Feature

The hardest part is waiting to let it rest.  It smells so good and looks so tempting that it is hard to wait.  I like making this for pot luck suppers, because I can make it in advance, and it tastes even better the next day.

I have also made this dish with other vegetables like spaghetti squash and patty pan squash.  I will post those versions next time I make them.

Here is a photo of my  “Spaghetti Squash Faux Lasagna” version, served for dinner with a large salad.  Easy breezy, gluten free, vegetarian, keto friendly and oh so delicious!!!

Spaghetti Squash Faux Lasagna with Salad

Hope you enjoy this.  Please let me know in the comment section.

Berries & Fennel Scented Zabaglione

Happy fourth of July!!!

Berries & Fennel Scented Zabaglione

Here is the very special red, white and blue low carb and keto friendly Italian dessert that I promised you in last week’s marinara sauce post.

This dessert was on the menu of my first Cooking Class/Pop Up Supper Club in Support of the Bastrop County Emergency Food Pantry.  I am now making the time to post the recipe in full.

Zabaglione is an Italian custard made with egg yolks, sugar and sweet Marsala wine.  The eggs are from our own chickens, making this custard extra special.  I played around with the traditional zabaglione recipe to find a way to cut down the sugar.  The classic recipe calls for 1 Tbsp of sugar for 2 egg yolks along with 1 Tbsp of sweet Marsala wine.  I was able to cut the sugar down to 1 tsp by adding a pinch of fennel powder.

FENNEL POWDER ADDS THE ILLUSION OF SWEETNESS ALLOWING YOU TO DECREASE THE AMOUNT OF SUGAR.  The fennel powder also works in this recipe because it is a classic Italian flavor.  I use the same trick in my marinara sauce. An Indian cooking trick carried over to Italian Cuisine.  I really like that.

INGREDIENTS:  Each serving requires 2 yolks.  I am going to list the ingredients for 1 serving.  Multiply the recipe for additional servings as needed.  For my cooking class/pop up supper club, I had 16 people so I used 32 egg yolks.

Berries & Fennel Scented Zabaglione Ingredients

  • Yolks from 2 eggs.  Save the whites for an omelette or another dish.
  • 5 medium sized strawberries (you can also use raspberries for the red color)
  • 3 oz of blueberries
  • 1 Tbsp of sweet Marsala wine
  • 1 tsp of sugar
  • 2 pinches of fennel powder (1 pinch for the custard and 1 pinch for the whipped cream topping.)
  • 1/4 cup of heavy whipping cream
  • a dash of vanilla bean paste for the whipped cream topping

PREP:

Berries Prepped

  • Leave the blueberries whole
  • Remove the green leafy tops of the strawberries
  • Chop them to match the size of the blueberries

MAKING THE ZABAGLIONE CUSTARD:

CC 1 making Zabaglione

  • Bring water up to a simmer in a pot
  • Use another mixing bowl, that is the right size to float on top of the simmering water, without touching the bottom of the pot that has the simmering water in it.  This is how you create a double boiler if you don’t have one.  We need to use a double boiler so that the custard can be brought up to temperature slowly while it is cooking.  This method will prevent the egg yolks from scrambling.
  • In the mixing bowl, place the egg yolks, sugar and fennel powder
  • Whisk to combine
  • Place the egg yolk mixture on top of the simmering water
  • Whisk while slowly drizzling in the Marsala wine
  • Keep whisking until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon

The photo above is from my cooking class.  One of the students, Roy is drizzling in the Marsala wine, while I am whisking.  If you don’t have someone to help you,  just add a little Marsala wine at a time.  I am using an electric mixer.  A hand whisk can also be used.

Once the Zabaglione custard is ready, transfer it to a bowl and cover it with plastic wrap.  Make sure the plastic wrap is touching the top of the custard.  This will prevent a skin from forming.  Let it sit at room temperature while you make the whipped cream.

MAKING THE WHIPPED CREAM TOPPING:

  • In a cold stainless steel bowl, add the heavy whipping cream, a dash of vanilla bean paste and a pinch of fennel powder.  NOTE: no sugar is added.  The high quality vanilla and fennel powder add so much flavor that the sugar will not be missed.
  • Whip to soft peaks

ASSEMBLING THE DESSERT:

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  • Start with adding a spoonful of zabaglione at the bottom of your glass serving dish
  • Next, sprinkle in a few berries
  • Then repeat twice

Top with a big dollop of the whipped cream topping, and a few berries for color.

Berries & Fennel Scented Zabaglione

This is a very low carb version of the original Berries and Zabaglione.  My students and guests couldn’t believe that is tasted so good despite the reduced sugar.

Other than myself, there was one more guest who also follows a Ketogenic Lifestyle.  She has actually lost over a 100 pounds and wants to keep it that way.  The two of us had just the berries and whipped cream topping.  That is the best dessert for Keto purists.

I know that many Keto desserts are made with sugar substitutes, but most of them upset my stomach or give me an unpleasant after taste.  I prefer to reduce the sugar and use high quality ingredients, for those few but special times that I have a dessert.

Please try this and give me your feedback in the comments sections.  Also, if you have any questions, I will be happy to help you with answers.

Ciao for now 🖐💕

Marinara Sauce – An Italian Essential

Marinara Sauce is a basic Italian ingredient that can be used in many recipes.  My  marinara sauce has no added sugar.  Ground up fennel seeds are used to give the illusion of sweetness.  This is actually an Indian cooking tip that I learned from my great grandmother.  TIPUse fennel powder to impart the illusion of sweetness without using any sugar or sugar substitute.  

Marinara Sauce Feature

When I was 12, my family moved to America.  We settled in Queens, New York.  We lived in a very Italian neighborhood.  Most of the Italian families were related to each other, and everyone had vegetable and herb gardens in their backyard.  I had never even heard of Italian food, much less tasted it.  The Italians I met were full of joy and very generous.  They loved to feed me whenever I visited.  This was my introduction to Italian food, where I learned how to make marinara sauce from one of the Italian grandmothers (nonnas.) They always seemed to have jars of homemade marinara in their cupboards.

I learned from the nonnas, the great TIP of having marinara sauce on hand because it can be used to make so many dishes.  I have already created and photographed two recipes using my homemade marinara.  They will post on July 11th and July 18th.  For the 4th of July, I have planned a very special red, white and blue Italian dessert that is low carb and keto friendly.  I named the dessert Berries & Fennel Scented Zabaglione.

INGREDIENTS:

Marinara Sauce Ingredients

  • 8 large ripe tomatoes ( these beauties came from my neighbor’s garden.  I have the best neighbors 😃)
  • a large handful of basil ( the basil in the photo was grown by me.  I grow herbs in pots in the sun room just outside my kitchen.  This way I can get fresh herbs when I need them.  I feel truly blessed to be able to have the luxury to do this.)
  • 1 large white onion (this one was grown by my neighbor.  He brings us vegetables and we give him eggs from our chickens and ducks.)
  • 3 Tbsp of the best extra virgin olive oil you are able to find (the can of extra virgin olive oil in the photo, was picked up in Tuscany while I was taking a pasta making class.)
  • 1 bell pepper and 1 Serrano pepper (optional.  I like adding the peppers for an extra kick.)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tsp of dried oregano
  • 1 tsp of red chili flakes (leave these out if you want to make the dish less spicy)
  • 2 tsp of fennel seeds ( grind these to a powder in a spice grinder)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 Parmesan cheese rind.  TIP: Keep leftover cheese rinds in the freezer and use them to add flavor when making marinara sauce.
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 cup of red wine
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

PREPPING THE TOMATOES:

 

  • Score an “X” mark in the skin at the base of each tomato
  • Boil a large pot of water
  • Get an ice bath ready
  • Blanch each tomato in the boiling water for 30 seconds
  • Immediately place the blanched tomato in the ice bath to stop the cooking process
  • Once the tomatoes are cooled, peel off the skin starting at the scored “X” mark.  It should peel off easily.
  • Dice the peeled tomatoes and place them in a crock pot

TIP: Use a crock pot to make the sauce so you don’t have to spend hours stirring the sauce like the Italian nonnas, who taught me to make the sauce did.  

Its a good time saver.  If you want to make it like the nonnas, feel free to make it the traditional way in a large sauce pot.

PREPPING THE OTHER INGREDIENTS:

Marinara Sauce Prep

  • Add the bay leaf and cheese rind to the tomatoes in the crock pot
  • Turn the crock pot to high, and put the lid on while you prep the other ingredients.
  • Dice the onion and bell pepper
  • Mince the garlic and Serrano pepper
  • Tear the basil into small bits

COOKING THE AROMATIC BASE (SOFRITO):

 

  • Coat a stainless steel pan with the extra virgin olive oil and place on medium heat
  • Add the onion, garlic, peppers, basil, red chili flakes, oregano and fennel powder
  • Saute until lightly brown
  • Add the tomato paste, stir it in and cook for another minute
  • Add the cooked sofrito to the crock pot that already has the tomatoes in it

COOKING THE SAUCE:

 

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  • Add 1 cup of red wine
  • Turn the crock pot to low and cook for about 4 hours.  At this point the sauce should have turned a deep red color.
  • Now add salt and pepper to taste
  • Turn the crock pot to warm and let it sit for 30 minutes to let all the flavors marry

I wait until the end to add salt and pepper because it allows me to balance the flavors once everything has already blended and come together.

You can use the marinara immediately for many recipes, or you can put it in mason jars and keep in the frig for up to 2 weeks.  It will keep in the freezer for 6 months.

On a final note, I want to credit Ceramiche d’Arte Carmela, in Ravello, Italy for making the beautiful bowl and plate that I used to present my Marinara Sauce.

Marinara Sauce Feature

I visited their shop when I was in Ravello and fell in love with their ceramics.  I ended up ordering a whole set.  I use it frequently and remember Italy fondly.  I get no compensation for mentioning Carmela’s lovely art work here, but I like giving credit where credit is due.

Please use the comments section to let me know what you think if this recipe.  I always love hearing from you.

Ciao for now.  🖐😃

 

 

Carrot Tops & Parsley Pesto Pasta

Carrot Tops & Parsley Pesto Pasta, is the fourth in a series of six recipes inspired by Vegetables From Down The Road.

Carrots Tops & Parsley Pesto Pasta Feature

The fresh carrot tops in my vegetable basket, inspired me to create a playful twist on the classic pesto made with basil.  Another twist is that I mixed in cabbage with the pasta.  The addition of the cabbage ups the nutritional value and lowers the carbohydrate content.  It also tastes great.

INGREDIENTS:

Carrot Tops & Parsley Pesto Pasta Ingredients

  • 1 large bunch of flat leaf parsley
  • 1 small bunch of carrot tops
  • 1 small head of green cabbage
  • 1 small red onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic–1 clove for the pesto and 2 cloves for the pasta base
  • 1/2 cup of pine nuts
  • 1 cup of grated Parmesan
  • 3 small sweet bell peppers
  • 3 twigs of thyme
  • 1 tsp of dried oregano
  • 1 Tbsp of tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup of white wine (use the same wine that you will have with the pasta.  This way the wine and pasta will pair perfectly.)
  • 1/2 a cup of extra virgin olive oil for the pesto.  A little bit extra to coat the pan for the pasta base.
  • 2 cups of dried gemelli pasta
  • salt and pepper to taste

PREP:

Carrot Tops & Parsley Pesto Prep

  • Separate the parsley and carrot top leaves from their stems–set aside for the pesto
  • Toast the pine nuts–set aside a handful for garnish.  The rest will be used in the pesto.
  • Chop the head of cabbage into strips that are about the same size as the pasta
  • Chop the red onion, peppers and garlic
  • Separate the thyme leaves from their woody stems

MAKING THE PESTO:

  • Add the parsley, carrot tops, 1 clove of garlic, and extra virgin olive oil to a small food processor
  • Blend till smooth

  • Add the grated Parmesan cheese and toasted pine nuts
  • Blend till smooth
  • Taste the pesto.  Adjust salt and pepper as needed.

COOKING THE PASTA BASE:

  • Coat a heavy duty stainless steel pan with extra virgin olive oil and place it on medium heat
  • Add the red onion, peppers, 2 cloves of garlic, thyme and oregano
  • Saute till lightly brown.
  • Make a hot spot in the center of the pan by moving the sauteed vegetables aside
  • Add the tomato sauce, let it cook down for 2 minutes
  • Deglaze the pan with the white wine
  • Add the cabbage and saute till it is ‘al dente’ (firm to the bite)
  • While you are cooking the cabbage base, cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water.  The pasta should also be cooked ‘al dente’.
  • Add the pasta to the cabbage and toss.

Since the cabbage is about the same size and shape as the pasta it doesn’t even get noticed.  Next add the pesto to the pasta and toss.

Adding the Pesto

Plate the pasta onto a beautiful platter and garnish with toasted pine nuts and extra grated Parmesan.

Carrots Tops & Parsley Pesto Pasta Feature

Serve with a glass of the same wine that was used during cooking.  You will be surprised at how good the cabbage in the pasta tastes.  It adds an unexpected twist of flavor and texture.

I hope you like this dish.  Next Saturday, I will be posting the fifth in a series of six recipes inspired by Vegetables From Down The Road.

I am having a lot of fun creating these recipes.  Let me know your thoughts in the comments section.  Bye for now 🖐