Polenta With Gorgonzola

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polenta and gorg 2 (3) with script

Buon giorno!

Most Italians are familiar with the custom of eating polenta on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Lent begins, or for Carnevale. (Mardi Gras) However, the most well known preparation is with sauce and little meatballs or even Braciole. This is considered the Southern Italian method.

Northern Italy is also known for their polenta, using more butter and cream than the south. They often serve it with the game that is so prevalent in the woods of the North. POLENTA WITH GORGONZOLA is one such northern recipe. It hails from the Northern region of Lombardia. This is a smooth and creamy version and, even with the sharper cheese, is still a mild dish with subtle hints from the cheese. It is a wonderful dish to serve as a first course or as a side to game, poultry, sausage, or grilled meats. It is simply a beautiful preparation which polenta lovers must have in their arsenal.

Long considered peasant food, polenta is now considered a refined dish, offered in so many ways, by the most accomplished chefs and finest restaurants. These days, the instant polenta, is so good that it is no longer necessary to stir for hours with the “paiolo” – a long handled Italian paddle like tool. I remember, as a child, engaging in the long stirring process by standing on a chair taking my turn at the “paiolo”.

Fast forward to today, I have paired this cheesy polenta with mushrooms, sauteed quickly with butter, vinegar, and a touch of sugar, a kind of quick and easy agrodolce. The idea here is to add a touch of acidity and sweetness to counter the butter and cheese. This coupling results in excellent balance.


Serves: 4

Prep: about 30 minutes


8 oz. Sliced Mushrooms – Wild or Button

2 Tbsp. Butter

1 Tbsp. Balsamic Vinegar

Pinch Sugar

Salt and pepper to taste

1 Package Instant Polenta (approx.9.2 oz.)

4 oz. Gorgonzola Dolce chopped – very mild and creamy (If you like sharper flavor, try Gorgonzola Mountain or a good Blue Cheese)

3 Tbsp. Butter

3/4 C. Heavy Cream, warmed

Salt and pepper to taste

Chopped Fresh Basil for garnish

Extra crumbled Gorgonzola for garnish (important to accent the flavor)


Saute the mushrooms in the butter, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper until caramelized and tender. Set aside.

Polenta and gorganzola 1

Make your polenta just before serving for best results.

Prepare the polenta according to package directions. Remove from heat.

When polenta is ready and piping hot, stir in the gorgonzola and butter until melted in.

Polenta and gorganzola 2

Then add the warmed cream and stir in quickly until incorporated. It should be very creamy.

Place in bowls and top with a few mushrooms on each serving.

Garnish with chopped basil and crumbled gorgonzola.

POLENTA WITH GORGONZOLA is best paired, in my view, with a light red wine like a Barbera or Valpolicella – both from the North of Italy where this polenta dish is traditionally served.


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Wild Mushroom Pasta with White Truffle Oil

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Mushroom Pasta 2 with script

Buon giorno!

Much is made of the worth and special distinction of the truffle – the roundish, lumpy “fungus” found under the roots of trees and sometimes hunted using very special pigs and dogs, with a sense of smell known only to the divine. However, the White Truffle, in particular, draws the oohs and ahs of most chefs and gourmands.  Even the French expert, Savarin, called them the “diamonds of the kitchen.”The White Truffle is considered one of the most revered of cooking delicacies. Of very special note is its use in the dishes of Northern Italy where the much valued White Truffle is found. Here, the use of this treasured ingredient in the form of oil, in the dish, WILD MUSHROOM PASTA WITH WHITE TRUFFLE OIL, is representative of many of the dishes of the Langhe area of the Piedmont region.

As with many prized ingredients, the White Truffle is not for everyone. It has a very “funky” and earthy smell and taste which is pronounced. It is often lightly grated on dishes, and it doesn’t take much of it to make its presence known once added. As much as it is valued, not all savvy foodies appreciate it. Sometimes I think it is because they experienced too much of it at once. A very small amount is sufficient. It is extremely expensive and puts it out of the price range of most food shoppers.

Along with wild mushrooms, the fall season usually heralds the arrival of the White Truffle in the finer Italian restaurants, it often makes a much touted entrance. I remember dining in a fine regional Italian restaurant and thought I almost heard trumpets sound the introduction of the White Truffle to the dining room. Well – maybe not trumpets – but the chef did emerge from the kitchen with an assistant in tow, pushing a cart clothed in white, featuring a tall glass dome with a tiny lump of a musty gray substance under it. They scurried over to one of the tables and proceeded to lightly grate the tiniest amount over some risotto–followed by an audible OOOOO and AHHHH. Quickly, they hastened back to the kitchen with the cart and domed prize only to disappear behind closed doors. This little fanfare bore a tidy price tag!

Well – so why would we want to mortgage the farm for this tiny bit of grated ecstasy? We wouldn’t! There is another way that we can appreciate the joys of the White Truffle – and that is using White Truffle Oil.

White Truffle Oil

It is sold in most specialty markets most often in small bottles. Yes, it is more expensive than Extra Virgin Olive Oil usually – but the idea is to use it in very small amounts. Less is indeed more! The very tiny amount is not only sufficient but also just enough to give the dish a sensational essence of earth without making you run for the exit. Tiny is all you need!

The fact is – when you use the oil properly and sparingly, as we will in this dish, it is quite lovely and transforms the mushroom pasta to something quite desirable. The combination of the White Truffle Oil and the wild mushrooms, is one of those marriages heavenly inspired. They join well with the butter, used so often in the dishes of the Piedmont to produce a very rich, serious, and quite beautiful fall dish you will love to serve in the presence of a roaring fire and a fine bold vino rosso.


Serves: 4

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook: 10-15 minutes


5 Tbsp. Butter

3 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1/3 C. Pancetta chopped

3 Cloves Fresh Garlic finely chopped

1/4 C. Finely chopped Shallot

3/4 Cup Dry Vermouth or Dry White Wine

1 lb. Assorted Cleaned and Sliced Wild Mushrooms such as Crimini, Porcini, Shitake, Oyster etc.

2 Tsp. White Truffle Oil + more for drizzle before serving

1 Tbsp. Fresh Thyme Leaves

2 Tbsp. Chopped Fresh Parsley

Grated Asiago or Montasio Cheese (Both of these cheeses are from Northern Italy and are perfect for the dish. Parmigiano may be substituted.)


Melt butter with the olive oil in a pan. Add pancetta and cook 2-3 minutes.

Wild Mushroom Pasta with White Truffle Oil 1

Add garlic and shallot and cook 2 minutes more.

Wild Mushroom Pasta with White Truffle Oil 2

Then add the mushrooms, White Truffle Oil, and herbs. Cook a couple of minutes more at medium high.

Wild Mushroom Pasta with White Truffle Oil 4

Pour in the vermouth and cook at medium high until it reduces down by 1/2.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Add the 2 Tbsp. butter to finish.

Wild Mushroom Pasta with White Truffle Oil 5

Add to the pasta and toss well to coat. (Fresh made Tagliatelle was used for the photo. Fettucine or Spaghetti are also fine for this dish.)

Salt and Pepper to taste

Add the additional 2 Tbsp. Butter and toss into the pasta.

Drizzle with a small amount of White Truffle Oil. Do NOT over pour with this oil. Just a small amount is sufficient. It is quite powerful.

Serve with the grated cheese.

Because I most often like to serve wines from the region of origin for a particular dish, I would pair WILD MUSHROOM PASTA WITH WHITE TRUFFLE OIL with a more serious choice of wine from the north, perhaps from the Langhe where the White Truffle is found, such as Barolo or even Barbera d’Alba. I like a high tannin presence with this dish to stand up to that funky quality of the truffle and the earthy nature of the wild mushrooms. Neither of these choices, I don’t think, would disappoint!


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November: Wild Mushroom Soup –

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Wild Mushroom Soup best


Buon giorno!

In our house, holiday recipes are set in stone. There is always a soup and it is usually of the mushroom variety as a perfect nod to fall. WILD MUSHROOM SOUP is a beautiful addition to any fall meal – especially a holiday one. I love wild mushrooms – any type. This soup combines an earthy blend of the wild ones with leeks to make a simple beautiful soup – appropriate to begin a meal – or as a meal in itself. As an added incentive – you can make it ahead and freeze it.


I grew up in a household that actually revered these little funghi. My father, Attilio, made it his personal mission to hunt for as many of the wild mushrooms in the varieties he knew that he could, so that my mother, Loretta, could freeze them for use during the months ahead. He only gathered the ones he was sure of and often went with his friend , Coco, from the First Ward area of Binghamton, who was considered an expert. We loved the wild ones. Read more about Attilio’s wild mushroom hunting in my Wild Mushroom Pizza post.

Wild mushrooms


Why wild? There is a difference in flavor – they are a little stronger – and better. There is also a difference in texture. Just bite into one and you’ll see. Fortunately, for all of us today, it is easy to go to most markets where we find so many different varieties available – even the dried kind which are very good when reconstituted. I like a nice variety of the wild mushrooms for this soup. They give the soup such a beautiful flavor and because they are pureed at the end, they create a creamy soup even though there is NO cream in the soup at all!


Don’t save this one for a holiday – enjoy it all winter long. You’ll love it!


Serves: 6-8

Prep: 25 minutes

Cook: 30-35 minutes


3 Leeks – cleaned and sliced thinly using the light green and white parts only

leeks - light green and white parts

4 Tbsp. Butter

2 Tbsp. Oil

3 Whole Shallots – chopped

1 Clove Fresh Garlic – chopped

1/4 Tsp. Red Pepper Flakes

2  Tbsp. Flour

1 lb. Assorted Sliced Wild Mushrooms ( Shiitake, Porcini, Crimini etc – whatever you like)

2 Tbsp. Fresh Sage – chopped

Pinch Fresh Ground Nutmeg

1/2 C. Dry White Wine

7  C. Chicken or Vegetable Broth

Salt and Pepper to taste

Fresh Sage for garnish

Optional: Balsamic Glaze – drizzle for garnish if desired. This can be strong – use just a tiny bit.


Clean leeks as directed HERE    & slice thinly.


Chop shallots and garlic and saute with the leeks and red pepper flakes in butter and oil – covered –  until tender for about 10 minutes at medium high heat.

Photo Sep 25, 2 56 06 PM

Add the flour and cook a couple of minutes more, stirring.

Photo Sep 25, 3 08 29 PM

Add sliced wild mushrooms, sage, nutmeg and wine – stir.

Add the broth and cook uncovered for about 20 minutes at a strong simmer.

Photo Sep 25, 3 22 43 PM

Next – puree the mushroom mixture. I like to use an immersion blender for this. It is easy and can be done right in your pan. You can also use a food processor, processing the mixture in batches . Either way –  puree the mixture until it is smooth. If there are a few mushrooms left floating, that’s ok.

Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.

Refrigerate or freeze until ready to use.

Garnish with fresh sage and a little drizzle of Balsamic Glaze, if you like ,for a little brightness. If you do use the glaze – be VERY sparing, as this has a lot of flavor, and you don’t want to overwhelm the delicate soup.

WILD MUSHROOM SOUP is a beautiful velvety soup that can be served as a first course or as a meal along with some crusty bread and salad.


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Sovana & the Mystery Dish

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Buon giorno!

How Antipasto di Melanzane e Peperoni came to My Italian Dish:

   Not long ago, Chick, a cycling friend of my husband Tom, asked if I knew about an extraordinary Eggplant and Peppers dish that he had experienced in Sovana, Italy. Chick, an avid cyclist, is naturally concerned about eating healthy foods that at the same time give him the energy to pedal on and pedal fast! This is one of those dishes. Chick mentioned that he and his group enjoyed this so much while visiting Sovana, that they asked the servers at the restaurant to please continue to bring more of it to the table. See the photo of Chick enjoying a splendid moment dining in Italy during a break from riding.


This “mysterious” dish had been in his mind every since. When he asked me about it, I was immediately intrigued as I knew little of Sovana. However, the dish he described was somewhat familiar in ingredients. Fortunately, he also provided a clear photo of the half eaten platter which offered a good view of the basics. I decided to accept the challenge, and I will be ever-grateful to Chick for bringing it to my attention. Besides, this kind of stuff just “makes my merry go round” or whatever!

To get a feel for the region and cuisine of the area, I first researched Sovana as I knew little about it. Sovana is a very small village in the province of Grosseto in the heart of Tuscany and near the Lazio region. It is not usually considered to be on the “beaten path” of most tourists, as it is tiny and rural with the open Tuscan terrain so classic and frequently photographed and painted . However, there is much history there. The village dates back to Etruscan times and is known for its tombs and the frescoes of the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore. It is also said to be the birthplace of Pope Gregory VII.

After much research and pondering, I took to the kitchen with my newly starched Linda’s Italian Table apron to attempt re-creation of this splendid dish that I call Antipasto di Melanzane e Peperoni. Chick described the flavors and ingredients to me which really helped. Let’s see…a saute of eggplant, peppers, mushrooms, olive oil, maybe parsley. It reminded me of two dishes my parents, Loretta and Attilio, used to make. One was a simple dish of peppers and oil served in antipasti – usually cold or room temperature. The other which my father more often made called for the addition of sausage  – the very classic Sausage and Peppers – served hot with crusty bread. While I wanted to remain true to the dish Chick described , I landed somewhere in between the dishes that were familiar to me as well.

The resulting recipe provided for Tom and me one of those perfect late afternoon fall lunches On the Patio that Tuscany has made famous – sunshine, crisp air, a balmy breeze, good wine, and simple yet memorable food. The added benefit here is that this dish is nutritious and vegetarian. There is very little fat in this dish, and the fat used is olive oil which provides its own benefits. On that lovely afternoon, it offered the perfect light course. The planets were aligned indeed!

I decided that this could be a perfect antipasto or even a side dish to meat – to be served hot, warm, or room temperature. It also occurred to me that the dish would be more flavorful if the vegetables were roasted first – HEALTHY – and would provide an opportunity for a fun and easy tutorial for roasting your own peppers.  By roasting the peppers first, you bring a slightly smoky flavor to the dish which will give it an added level of flavor. You can also roast them ahead if you wish. The roasted peppers will also be more tender because you remove the skins. Roast your own peppers, and it is not likely you’ll want to buy the jarred ones too often again! It is EASY and just takes a few minutes. There are several ways to roast the peppers from using a blow torch to holding them over an open flame on a gas stove. The method described below is SO EASY, can be used to roast and skin peppers for any dish, and requires no more equipment than your broiler. You will be amazed at the simplicity of this procedure.

We will also roast the eggplant which will again enhance its flavor. Also, eggplant tends to act as a sponge when frying, and roasting it first will eliminate the need for so much oil. You will be happy with this dish! It can be used in different ways, and you will see how easy it is to roast peppers. This antipasto is light, yet buttery tasting – without actually adding butter – and so delicious. I have added just a touch of fresh lemon juice to balance the flavors with a little acidity. This addition, I feel, is important. Aside from balance, the lemon adds complexity and freshness. Don’t you agree that a crusty bread merits a very necessary invitation to this party for dipping into the luscious sauce? Mmmmm. This recipe is full of nutrients and ALL VEGGIE! TROPPO BELLA!

Let’s begin!




4 peppers – one of each color: green, yellow, red, orange

Olive oil for brushing

Arrange the 4 peppers whole on a baking sheet – brush with olive oil on all sides.

Peppers Eggplant_02_s

Place pan in oven under broiler as close as you can get to the broiler without touching it.

When one side starts to blotch and blacken, using tongs turn the peppers and blacken each side. See photo. Watch them carefully, and do not let peppers get too black or scorch. Results are rapid. Don’t walk away. This is not a time to call your best friend to brag that you are roasting your own peppers. FOCUS!

Peppers Eggplant_03_s

When finished, using tongs, place the peppers in a bowl and quickly cover tightly with plastic wrap for 15 minutes. This will steam the skins and make removal easy.

Peppers Eggplant_04_s

Peel all of the skins off the peppers. They will slide off easily. Assist with a fork if needed.

Peppers Eggplant_05_s

Remove the stem from each pepper – this will practically fall off. Scrape the seeds off with a fork. You don’t want to see seeds in this dish.

Peppers Eggplant_06_s

Cut the peppers into large pieces- 2-3 inches. Do not chop in small pieces. See photo.

Peppers Eggplant_07_s

Set aside.

Peppers Eggplant_08_s


1 Med.-Large Eggplant – skinned & sliced, ready for pressing (see below)

Olive oil for brushing

Kosher Salt

Slice lengthwise in 1/2 in. thick slices – usually 4-6.

Peppers Eggplant_01_s

Then press the eggplant for a couple of hours as described in instructions in my post for Pasta Alla Norma <(Click to link directly to this post) This dish is sweet and you do not want any bitterness to detract from the sweet buttery flavor.

After pressing, place eggplant slices in pan and brush with oil. Sprinkle with a little Kosher salt. Roast at 425 degrees for 12 minutes. Turn once halfway through.

Cut eggplant into large pieces.

Peppers Eggplant_09_s


2 tbsp. oil

3 cloves garlic sliced lengthwise

Peppers Eggplant_10_s

2 1/2 c. Sliced Baby Bella or Cremini Mushrooms ( these give an earthier flavor)

Roasted Peppers

Roasted Eggplant

3/4 c. White Wine

1 tbsp Fresh Lemon Juice

1 tbsp Fresh Oregano (2 tsp if dried)

1/2 c. Fresh Flat Leaf Parsley

1 tsp Kosher Salt or to taste

Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste

Fresh chopped basil for garnish

Saute garlic in oil. When just becomes golden, add mushrooms and saute til just tender.

Peppers Eggplant_11_s

Add eggplant, peppers, wine, lemon and herbs, salt, pepper at med. high. Stir occasionally and let wine cook down. A lovely sauce should remain. If you “must” add butter, this would be the time – but only a tablespoon. I find it rich, delicious, and buttery without the added fat.

Peppers Eggplant_12_sPeppers Eggplant_13_s

Garnish with fresh basil.

Don’t forget the crusty bread and a lovely crisp white wine of your choice. I would suggest a Pinot Grigio – crisp and cold – ON THE PATIO!

Peppers Eggplant_14_s

Isn’t it gorgeous? This is so easy, and you will have created a beautiful and authentic dish with so many uses and much versatility. You can serve this warm or cold as an antipasto, first course, or side dish. Try something different by adding roasted zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, butternut squash, and/or roasted potatoes – even sweet potatoes. Serve it over roast chicken – so many options – all good for you.  Buon Appetito!




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