Risotto with Greens

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Risotto with Greens finish with script

Buon giorno!

Although risotto is more frequently thought of as a Northern Italian dish, the other regions of Italy have their favorite preparations of this dish. RISOTTO WITH GREENS is one such traditional preparation from Tuscany. It may seem to be a healthier alternative, with the addition of greens, in particular swiss chard, but it is no less tasty. This is a hearty vegetarian risotto not to be overlooked.

More often, this dish is considered for spring because of its use of spring greens. These days, with so many of the greens available all year long, we can enjoy the dish anytime. The Tuscans are known for gathering a number of different kinds of greens in the spring – arugula, dandelions etc. Actually though, any of your favorite greens can be used for this risotto. I have used swiss chard here because I simply love it for its tenderness and sweetness. (Either rainbow or silverbeet is fine.) You can also use spinach, broccoli raab, or the spring dandelions, chicory, or arugula. Even kale is an option. You choose!

As a tasty partner for this vegetarian risotto, I have added an idea for a quick and easy chicken recipe using Marsala. The addition of the chicken thighs, cooked quickly in Marsala wine offers a delightful flavor pairing. With or without the chicken – you will love this risotto!


Serves: 4

Prep: 20 minutes

Cook: 45-50 minutes


1/4 c. Olive Oil

1 1/2 Cups Arborio Rice – traditional for risotto

1 Onion chopped

2 cloves fresh garlic – chopped finely

5 Cups Greens: swiss chard as used here, or any other green of your choice (about 1 1/4 lb)

6-8 Oz. Wild Mushrooms ( or regular white button mushrooms, if you prefer)

6 Cups Warm Vegetable Broth

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 Cup Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil


Clean the greens well with cold water and drain well.

Risotto with Greens 1

Cook the onion, greens, and mushrooms for 5 minutes in the olive oil. It will appear that the amount of greens is huge but they cook down a lot.

Risotto with Greens 2

Add garlic and cook another minute.

Risotto with Greens 3

Add the rice and cook another 5 minutes, tossing and coating with the oil.

Risotto with Greens 4

Heat the broth so that it will be warm when ready to add it to the risotto without reducing the temperature of the ingredients.

Begin to add the warm broth a large ladle at a time allowing the liquid to cook off before adding the next ladle. Make sure to continue to stir as the liquid disappears. The rice will swell.

Continue this procedure of adding the broth slowly until all of the broth has been absorbed and the rice is tender to the bite.

Risotto with Greens 5

Turn off the heat, and correct the seasoning with salt and pepper.

Then add the grated cheese and incorporate.

Drizzle each serving with Extra Virgin Olive Oil and serve with plenty of grated cheese.

If you decide to pair the risotto with the chicken – see below for the recipe.


Serves 4

Prep: 35 minutes

Cook: 30 minutes


4 skinless and boneless chicken thighs

Salt and pepper

4 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1/2 Cup Marsala Wine

1 Tbsp. Fresh Parsley


Season the thighs with salt and pepper on both sides.

Place oil in the pan and heat.

Add the seasoned thighs and sear on each side.

Add the parsley and Marsala.

Risotto with Greens - chicken 1

Cover and cook at a strong simmer for about 30 minutes, turning occasionally during the cooking process.

The wine will cook off, and the thighs will glaze and acquire a lovely color and sheen.

Risotto with Greens - chicken 2

Serve along side of the RISOTTO WITH GREENS for a great authentic Tuscan meal.


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Green Beans with Tomatoes and Poached Egg

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Beans and Tomatoes finish with script

Buon giorno!

Sometimes the simplest and most wholesome of meals can be the very best. Italian cuisine is known for its simplicity but also for the importance it attaches to ingredients. With Lent, on its way, ingredients become even more important, as we look for meals that are hearty but light and that appeal to our senses with color, aroma, and, of course, taste. GREEN BEANS WITH TOMATOES AND POACHED EGG is a dish that hits all the marks. It is basically a one dish meal, it is amazingly delicious and satisfying and – it is actually good for you! It is also a good example of the use of fresh but simple ingredients coming together to forma typically rustic Italian dish that satisfies.

Vegetarians will love this one as it does not contain meat, but those who absolutely insist on a little meat can add 1/2 c. Chopped Pancetta to it. Actually, this dish will satisfy everyone without the meat. It is filling, soothing, satisfying, and comforting all at the same time.

Growing up, it was one of my favorite dishes. I loved to puncture the egg yolk with my fork and let it run into the sauce making the sauce velvety and rich. This is sooo good, I can just taste it.

The egg: As for the egg, my experience involved a poached egg, but you could just as easily serve the dish with a fried egg. The key is that yolk!

The veggies: FRESH Green beans are a must, however. You’ll want to cook them just to the point of tenderness. The tomatoes must be fresh as well for maximum flavor.

This is a mostly fresh dish that comes together rather quickly. You can serve it without the egg as a beautiful side dish, but we enjoyed it often as a main course with the egg adding protein and tremendous richness.

This dish loudly “speaks Italian” by nature, and the process will be familiar to many. MANGIA!


Serves: 4

Prep: about 20-30 minutes


1/4 C. Olive Oil

3/4 lb. Fresh Green Beans

1 Sweet Onion, sliced thinly

(1/2 C. Chopped Pancetta – if you must have meat)

2 Cloves Fresh Garlic, chopped

2 Tbsp. chopped Italian Parsley

1/4 C. Water

Pinch Red Pepper Flakes

10 oz. Fresh Cherry or Grape Tomatoes – sliced in 1/2

Kosher Salt and Pepper to taste

4 Poached Eggs (or fried)

Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Asiago Cheese


Cook the beans, onion, garlic, parsley, water, tomatoes, and red pepper in the oil for about 5 minutes at a strong simmer – medium high heat.

Then Cover and cook until tender (not soggy!) – about 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Prepare your poached eggs, and place one at the side of each serving.

To serve your GREEN BEANS WITH TOMATOES AND POACHED EGGS , make sure to have plenty of grated cheese on hand for the top. Prepare for simple joy!


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Pasta Al Pesto Trapanese

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Trapanese Sauce

Finish - Trapanese with script

Buon giorno!

As pesto goes – this is my all time favorite. The Sicilians have a lock on this one in any “Best Of Pesto” challenge, in my view. PASTA AL PESTO TRAPANESE is not only a delicious pesto sauce – it is one of the most delicious Italian sauces I have had.

One of the wonders of this sauce is that it is made FRESH – all in the blender. Yes – that’s right – all the ingredients go into the blender and whirl away to a beautiful thick sauce. It can’t get any easier, folks! Vegetarians and health conscious individuals will love it! The sauce consists of all good fresh ingredients which are really good for you. It is a very satisfying dish, while maintaining a lightness appreciated for warm weather dining.

This sauce is so versatile. It can be served hot or cold – making it a great summer dish  – great for patio dining – and terrific for a crowd. It is traditionally served with spaghetti, but when I serve it to a larger group buffet style where spaghetti would be difficult to manage, I turn to one of the short chunky pastas for ease of serving and eating. Here you see it served with Rotini pasta or “corkscrews”. It is just as delicious on Rigatoni or Penne. You choose! It makes a beautiful dish to serve for indoor “at the table” dining over spaghetti or pasta fresca. Its lovely pink color and creamy texture makes for a memorable presentation of an authentic regional dish from the island of Sicily.

Sicilian regional food has several differences from the other regions much of which relate to its history of conquerors. Over centuries, Sicily’s occupation by the Moors and the island’s proximity to North Africa account for the region’s use of many interesting ingredients and food preparations that are usually not found in the other regions of Italy. This is illustrated by the frequent use of dried fruits and nuts in Sicilian cooking. This particular dish is named for the famous Sicilian city of Trapani, a trade center, whose position on the coast is very close to Africa.

As Kay said in “The Godfather” – “This Sicilian thing has been going on for two thousand years”. Well, she may not have been referring to their food when she said it, but in that respect, these Sicilians really know what they’re doing! The proof is in the sauce!

The ingredients:Trapanese Sauce requires almonds – an interesting and very different ingredient that one would not think of connected with Italian sauces for pasta. Yet, because this sauce is really a form of pesto, the nuts really work and you don’t taste them much when eating this sauce. The tomatoes provide both color and flavor, and the very freshest and juiciest are advised. They give the sauce its pink color which sets it apart from the pestos we are used to seeing. I have found that Campari Tomatoes work well when I can’t get a really good ripe fresh tomato at the markets. They provide sweetness and the right amount of liquid. Fresh basil, of course, lends familiarity as an ingredient involved in most pestos. The Red Pepper Flakes provide a touch of heat that I particularly enjoy in the sauce – giving it a slight edge. For the cheese – I like a nice sharp Pecorino!

1 Ingredients

2 Almonds

3 Pecorino

This sauce is amazing – warm or cold – you will love serving it! Now if you really want to get serious about the “Sicilian Thing” – throw some capers over each serving! Bellissima!


Serves: 6

Prep: less than 30 minutes


1 lb. Pasta – spaghetti, pasta fresca, or even any of the short chunky pastas

1 – 1  1/3 lb. Fresh Ripe Tomatoes (plum, cherry, grape, Campari – anything ripe!) cut in pieces

1 C. Almonds – skins on are fine – toast them a little to bring out the flavor!

2 Fresh Garlic cloves

1 C. Fresh Basil Leaves

1/4 Tsp. Red Pepper Flakes

Kosher or Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper to taste (salt & pepper really bring out the flavor)

1/2 C. Extra Virgin Olive Oil (this is the time to use the good stuff!)

1/2 C. Grated Pecorino Cheese

FOR GARNISH: Some additional fresh Basil Leaves, Whole Almonds, or even some Capers!


Cook your pasta while you make the sauce.

Place all of your ingredients except for the cheese in a blender or food processor and whirl! (My word for “run the machine”!) You want to create a smooth puree. Use your spoon to get all of the ingredients incorporated. Taste for seasoning and adjust appropriately.

4 Ready to mix - Trapanese

Pour sauce over the cooked spaghetti or whatever type of pasta you are using and toss well.

5 Trapanese Sauce

Now add all of the cheese, and toss again.

Garnish as suggested above.

NO COOKING NECESSARY. This is a fresh sauce served over your warm pasta to serve warm or refrigerate the pasta and serve cold.

You won’t believe how good this is! If you have leftover sauce, all the better. Refrigerate it and serve it over rice or chicken.

The very best wine pairing I can think of with PASTA AL PESTO TRAPANESE would be a lovely Sicilian vino rosso – medium bodied like a Nero d’Avola.


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Harvest Pasta with Artichoke Pesto

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“Buona Festa Pasta”


Harvest Pasta finish with script

Buon giorno!

I am a believer in using seasonal ingredients as much as possible. Cooking with vegetables in season is always best, as you catch them at the peak of their flavor, goodness, and time in nature. HARVEST PASTA WITH ARTICHOKE PESTO  or (Buona Festa Pasta as I like to call it) is not only a great fall seasonal pasta to serve but it also provides a beautiful visual at your Italian table. Decidedly, this is  – hands down  – the most flavorful vegetable pasta  in my “arsenal”.

It is certainly easy, requiring just two steps: roasting your vegetables and making your artichoke pesto in a blender or food processor.

Choose your pasta for this one! In the photo, I’ve selected Fettucine Verde – for color and added veggie goodness. However, this recipe is one of those that is great on short chunky pasta as well – like penne, rigatoni, or farfalle. Whatever you choose – it won’t be lacking in flavor. This one is packin!  The Artichoke Pesto in this dish has so much incredible flavor. And, oh – the addition of White Truffle Oil, if you choose to use it is just perfection – remember just a few drops. Have fun with it!




Serves: 4

Prep: 30 minutes

Cook: 20 minutes to roast vegetables

Ingredients for Artichoke Pesto

1 1/2 Cans (14-15 oz. size) Artichoke Hearts, rinsed, drained, chopped

2 Tbsp. Fresh Sage – chopped

2 Cloves Fresh Garlic – chopped

2 C. Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese

3/4 C. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Freshly Ground Black Pepper


Place the artichoke hearts, sage, garlic and grated cheese in a food processor or blender.

Haarvest Pasta 2

Turn on the machine and while processing, gradually pour in the extra virgin olive oil in a stream until all is used and incorporated. It will be pasty. Add additional extra virgin if you think it needs it before serving. Set aside until ready to serve.

Harvest Pasta 3

Ingredients for Roasted Vegetables

2 C. Diced Fresh Butternut Squash

2 C. Chopped Fresh Brussel Sprouts

1/2 lb. Wild Mushrooms, sliced

Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper


Chop all vegetables and toss with some olive oil, salt and pepper.

Harvest Pasta 1

Spread them in a single layer on a pan and bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes until just tender.

To Serve:

Prepare 1 lb. pasta according to package directions– fettucine is used in the photos. You can use long or short pasta – up to you!

While still very hot -toss your pasta with the Artichoke Pesto coating well.

Idea #1: Add the roasted vegetables and gently toss.

Idea #2: Another choice is to spoon the vegetables over each individual dish of pasta – serving them on top as in the photo.

Serve with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and a drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil or White Truffle Oil – my favorite! As always with the White Truffle Oil – only a few drops per serving!


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November: Pumpkin Sauce

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Salsa di Zucca-

Penne 2 with script 

Buon giorno!

Have you hugged a pumpkin today? If not, you should. Technically speaking a fruit, but often referred to as a vegetable, these wonderful fall squashes provide an endless source of delicious and nutritious dishes for our Italian tables. In planning your fall dishes, PUMPKIN SAUCE or Salsa di Zucca is one sauce that you must have in your cooking arsenal. It is so easy to make and one of the most flavorful sauces I can offer or imagine.

Serving ideas: PUMPKIN SAUCE is a beautiful and velvety sauce for pasta or gnocchi. You’ll see it here with both. I recommend some sort of chunky pasta for this dish such as Penne pasta pictured above (with chestnuts). It is so delicious topped with crumbled Amaretti Cookies (available in bags at Italian markets and others such as Fresh Market) or crumbled roasted Chestnuts. If you can’t find Amaretti Cookies  – any crispy spice snap or even Biscoff Cookies available at most grocers are fine. The light sweetness of these items truly enhances your enjoyment of this dish. Another serving idea, though more savory, is crumbled Pancetta or even bacon, as a topping.

This sauce is also lovely  to use in Risotto along with some fresh sage and maybe some peas or mushrooms.

Buona Fortuna! It is your good fortune that this recipe makes enough sauce for 2 lb. of pasta or gnocchi. It freezes so beautifully! Just think, not only is it easy to make for one meal – but you can freeze the rest and have an amazing sauce to serve another night without doing a thing except defrosting! Mama mia!

Pumpkin Sauce finish 2 with script

With Gnocchi and Amaretti Cookies

A word about the pumpkin: Fresh pumpkin puree is always, of course, the best idea. However, in this case, I will say that canned pumpkin is a really great alternative to use in this dish. Fact: In case you didn’t know – canned pumpkin loses that “canned” flavor, we sometimes don’t appreciate, when it is cooked. This is true of its use in many cooked dishes. So do not dispair if you don’t have time to carve, peel, chop, and puree your pumpkin. No one will know – and your dish will still be SUPERB!

A note: Take a look at the prep and cooking time in the recipe below. Uh huh!! Just became a lot more interesting, didn’t it? Slave all day in the kitchen—NOT!

I love this sauce and always look forward to serving it!


(Salsa di Zucca)

Makes: sauce for 2 lb. pasta or gnocchi (freeze some)

Prep: 10 minutes

Cook: 15 minutes


3 Tbsp. Butter

2 Medium Shallots chopped

1/2 C. Dry Vermouth (or another dry white wine – the dry Vermouth is great though in this)

1 3/4 C. Pumpkin Puree (fresh or canned – NOT pumpkin pie filling!)

1 1/4 C. Chicken Broth

1/4 Tsp. Nutmeg

1 Tbsp. Finely chopped fresh Sage

1 Tsp. Orange Zest

Salt and pepper to taste

1 1/4  C. Heavy Cream

1 Tbsp. Butter

Fresh Sage for garnish

Cooked Crisp Crumbled Pancetta or Bacon


Crumbled Amaretti Cookies ( or spicy snaps or Biscoff cookies) for topping


Crumbled Roasted Chestnuts for topping

Grated Asiago or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese


Melt butter in a shallow pan.

Add shallots and cook a minute or two over medium high heat.

Pumpkin Sauce 1

Add the Vermouth and cook a couple of minutes more until it reduces down a little and cooks off the alcohol.

Pumpkin Sauce 2

Add the pumpkin puree, stir and cook 1-2 minutes more.

Pumpkin Sauce 3

Throw in the sage and orange zest.

Then follow with the chicken broth, nutmeg, and salt and pepper.

Cook 7-8 minutes, stirring, on medium.

Pumpkin Sauce 4

Reduce heat to low and when it stops bubbling – add the cream.

Pumpkin Sauce 5

Warm the sauce through while stirring.

At the end, add 1 Tbsp Butter and melt in – creating a velvety smooth sauce. Stir.

Pour over pasta and toss. Garnish and serve!

To serve your PUMPKIN SAUCE : Offer some Grated Asiago or Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese and a lovely dry white wine or a light red!


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Zucchini and Potato Flatbread

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Flatbread 8- finish

Buon giorno!

What to do with all that zucchini in the garden? Lookin’ for a great appetizer? Need an interesting bread for dinner? Lunch maybe? How about a few drop in guests on the patio? I have just the right answer to all these questions – ZUCCHINI AND POTATO FLATBREAD. Flatbread is a great and versatile thing. It can be an appetizer with wine or cocktails. It can accompany your meal as a rustic homemade bread. It can be lunch! You choose!

This is an easy and fun recipe. Get everyone in on the act – your grandchildren, your kids? You can even enlist those drop-in guests. They’ll love you for it. So fun – so easy – soooo good!

I had just this experience the other day when a neighbor dropped by for a Friday night Martini while I was preparing some of this incredibly delicious flatbread. I had her at the front door actually when she smelled the garlic roasting and then followed the aroma to the kitchen. She was amazed at how quickly it all came together and said she wasn’t leaving until she tried some. Well, she did – and followed her first bite with a loud OMG and eyes that I thought might just pop right out. ( FYI – this is always a good sign) In other words – success! It was amore!

The dough: I use my  mother, Loretta’s, pizza dough which is easy to make. Visit: Pizza – That’s Amore for the recipe – guaranteed to be the best pizza dough you’ll ever taste! OK so I’m just a little bit biased maybe? But, it’s not just me. My husband doesn’t like to order pizza anymore because he says the crust doesn’t measure up. My book designer, Doc, who lives in San Francisco and has access to good Italian food and ingredients, says I’ve spoiled him forever with this dough. He can no longer go out for pizza! It is very easy to make, and the flavor and consistency  – perfect. I like to make it when I don’t need it and freeze it for when I do need it. The recipe makes 4 loaves. I wrap each one individually and always have it available. I just pull it out of the freezer a few hours ahead and let it defrost.

The ingredients: Pretty straight forward here – freshness being of utmost importance as always. As far as ingredients go – this flatbread is all about layering them and achieving several levels of flavor that combine for maximum impact. In other words, YOU NEED ALL OF THEM!

The roasted garlic is VERY important here. It gives the flatbread a layer of flavor that you cannot duplicate without it. If you have followed my posts in the past, you know the high regard I have for roasted garlic. It is easy to make, has so many uses, and the roasting transforms it from strong to mild and nutty. The flavor of roasted garlic is nothing like the raw garlic, and those who may not appreciate it in its usual form should really give it a go. It is wonderful stuff!

Fresh garlic

This is a great way to use some of that good seasonal zucchini. The zucchini and potato are sliced paper thin. You can do this with a sharp knife or use a mandolin like I do – a handy tool that slices to the thickness desired in nothing flat! It is very easy to find in any store that sells cooking gadgets. This is what it looks like:

flatbread 1

The Rosemary – fresh as ALWAYS! Hopefully you have some growing in your garden. Maybe your neighbor has some you can steal when he/she isn’t looking – or yes ask to “borrow” some. If not, you can always find it at your grocer. The Rosemary is necessary. Do not substitute something else – not all herbs impart the same flavor!

The cheeses – Gorgonzola or Blue combined with the Parmigiano – these are the ones you want for this flatbread. The combo is fantastico!

And of course – the Extra Virgin drizzle is the ribbon that ties up this package. Choose a good one that has more of a peppery finish.

Some tips: This is not pizza. We are not making this on the grill and charring the edges and bottom like a Napoletano pizzaiolo. Instead, we make this in the oven with a little olive oil under the dough – baking at 450 until golden. We want a more bread like consistency with a little more oil dominance. Follow the directions – you’ll get the idea!


Makes:  one large flatbread (Serves 4-6)

Prep: 15 minutes + time to make the dough

Cook: 35-40 minutes


1 loaf pizza dough – Recipe HERE

2 Whole Bulbs Roasted Garlic ( instructions below)

Olive Oil

1 Medium Zucchini – skins on – sliced VERY thinly

1 Medium Potato or 2-3 small ones – skins on – sliced very thinly

3 Sprigs Rosemary – chop and use the leaves

3/4 C. Crumbled Gorgonzola or Blue Cheese

3 –4 Tbsp. Parmigiano – Reggiano Cheese – grated

Extra Virgin Olive Oil


Make your pizza dough – recipe noted in the ingredients list – highly recommended. You can make it ahead and freeze it like I do. If so – defrost it the morning of the day you intend to use it.

Roast two garlic bulbs: Take each whole bulb and peel off outer leaves leaving inner skins on and bulb intact. Cut off the top of the bulb at the “pointy” end exposing the tops of the cloves. Drizzle with olive oil and add a little salt. Place in foil and seal up like a package. Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 40 minutes. Remove from the foil carefully – they will be hot. Let the bulbs cool a little until ready to use.

Slice your zucchini and potato – paper thin. A mandolin is a good tool for this as shown and explained in the post. If you don’t have one – use a sharp knife.

Flatbread 2Flatbread 3

You are ready to make your flatbread!

Flatbread 4

Roll out your dough into a rectangle on a lightly floured board.

Take a sheet pan and rub it with a little olive oil. Then place the dough on the pan. Rub the top of the dough with a little olive oil.

Take your roasted garlic bulbs, turning them upside down – squeeze each bulb. The cooked cloves will slide right out onto the dough. Squeeze them all out. Then take a fork and mash them around on  the dough.

roasted garlic

Lay the zucchini slices, overlapping a little,  in a long row on the long edge of the dough. Follow this with a row of potato slices also overlapping slightly.

Repeat with another row of zucchini and potato.

Flatbread 5

Sprinkle on the Gorgonzola or Blue Cheese. Then follow with the Parmigiano.

Top with the fresh Rosemary leaves.

Flatbread 6

It’s time for a generous drizzle of a beautiful Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Bake this in a 450 degree oven for about 35-40 minutes until golden brown.



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Pasta with Swiss Chard

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Eat your greens!

Penne Swiss Chard

Buon giorno!

I don’t know how many times my mother, Loretta, would tell me “Eat your greens” – when I was growing up. Greens were a staple in our house. We had them all sorts of ways and most of them – sadly, I hated until I matured and grew a “palate”! However, one of those greens, Swiss Chard, always passed the taste test with me. Swiss chard is sweeter than most greens and can be used for — well – everything. Here, I offer PASTA WITH SWISS CHARD, which will more than surprise you in flavor and enjoyment, while at the same time presenting a healthy choice for dining.

My mother used to make a lovely concoction of Swiss Chard and tomatoes and served it over rice – which, by the way, she strangely preferred to pasta. Whenever she cooked it, I cheered, as I loved it so much. No meat – but amazingly satisfying anyway.

I suppose you could throw some meat into PASTA WITH SWISS CHARD – but you don’t really need it. The greens and tomatoes do all the work here, and trust me on this one – you carnivores won’t miss it. This is a light pasta dish – but no one goes home hungry – and yes – a perfect dish for a meal on the patio! Almost any pasta will do. If you prefer something long and stringy – go for the spaghetti types. I like a chunkier pasta with this – a penne, ziti, rigatoni –or even tortelloni – yum!

Italians and greens: Italians have had a long love affair with greens. From the noted “peasant dishes” harvested from individual family gardens to the more complex stuffed and creative items of  haute cuisine, Italians have incorporated them in their cooking for centuries. They eat them as sides – they make pasta with them – they use them in soups and on and on. It can be said that greens are one of the most common of staples found at the Italian table.

About Swiss Chard: For those unfamiliar, Swiss Chard is a green vegetable sold in bunches. You’ll find it with green veins, red, veins, or “rainbow” veins and stalks (red and yellow). They are very pretty to cook with. You can use any of these varieties for this recipe.

Rainbow-Chard-2a_thumb (1)

Working with Swiss Chard: Swiss Chard is so easy to use. It doesn’t need much prep. First, you should always clean it by rinsing or soaking in water – then draining. The chard is usually sandy so you’ll need to do the rinsing. It takes just a couple of minutes. I like to lay it out on paper towels to dry if I’m not using it immediately. You can use just the leaves, if you like. You simply tear them off the stalks into pieces. If you want to use the stems – they are quite tasty and can be chopped and used along with the leaves. Your choice. OR – you can tear the leaves off and use them alone.


Looking for something quick and easy? This is your huckleberry!

So in honor of every time you heard “eat your greens” growing up – let’s eat as the Italians do, and dive into a healthy and incredibly delectable pasta experience!


Makes: enough for a pound of pasta

Prep: 10 minutes

Cook: About 25 minutes


1 lb. Pasta cooked according to taste – I prefer a chunky variety like ziti, penne, rigatoni, tortelloni

3 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 Large Clove garlic – chopped finely

1 Large Bunch Swiss Chard – green, red veined, or rainbow (yellow and red) – cleaned – chop stalks, if using and tear the leaves into pieces

3 C. Chopped tomatoes – 2 14 oz. Cans or 1 28 oz. Can works. If tomatoes are whole – chop them or pull them apart with your hands!

Piece of rind of any delicious Italian cheese if you have one – adds soooo much flavor

1/8 Tsp. Red Pepper Flakes

Salt and pepper to taste

Some Fresh Parsley – chopped

Grated cheese for serving – your choice of Parmigiano-Reggiano, Pecorino, Grana Padano suggested


Clean your chard by soaking or rinsing and draining.

Chop your Swiss Chard as explained above in the ingredients section.

Place the olive oil in a large pan and add the garlic. Cook over medium heat for just a minute – do not brown or burn.

Add the Swiss Chard, tomatoes, rind, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper.

Swiss Chard

Simmer at medium high until most of the liquid has cooked off, turning occasionally. This takes about 20 minutes. You should have a thick and concentrated sauce with the greens left.

Toss with the pasta.

Serve with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, Pecorino, or Grana Padano.

Just want to share that my husband is one of those carnivores who thinks meat is necessary in every dish. This PASTA WITH SWISS CHARD is hands down one of his favorite dishes.. and he never misses the meat!


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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.

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

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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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Pasta and Beans

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Pasta and Beans03

Buon giorno!

PASTA AND BEANS was, in some form, a staple around our house when I was growing up. It was the “catch phrase” for pasta, beans, and a lot of other things. The beans could be any type that you liked, cannellini, garbanzo, borlotti etc. The pasta could be your choice. We liked farfalle (bowties) or shells. Many times the dish included greens of some sort – all kinds of cabbage, escarole, broccoli rabe etc. It was all called PASTA AND BEANS, regardless of whatever else you added, and was a common example of “peasant food” on the Italian table.

As with many of my mother, Loretta’s, dishes, we didn’t think much of the peasant aspect, as we knew it was good, hearty, and delicious. This was so typical of dishes she would serve us on meatless Fridays or “holy days” of abstinence. We never missed the meat!

Thinking about the PASTA AND BEANS of old, I changed the ingredients a little to include brussel sprouts – roasted, of course, knowing the great flavor they would bring to this old Italian favorite. They are chopped up in the food processor for this recipe, so they present a little more like cabbage. Those who say they don’t like brussel sprouts must never have tasted them roasted. They are amazing in this recipe and contribute to the overall buttery flavor of the dish. It’s tasty, easy, and healthy. Your family will love this!

Let’s take a look!


Serves: 4

Prep: 35 minutes


1 lb. pasta (I like farfalle or shells for this dish)

1 lb. Fresh Brussel Sprouts

2 Cloves Fresh Garlic, chopped finely

Kosher Salt & Pepper to taste for the brussel sprouts

Fresh Rosemary

Dash Red Pepper Flakes

Olive Oil for mixing the brussel sprouts

1-15 oz Can Cannellini Beans ( or you can use dry if you want to take the time to cook them)

Lots of Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano to taste

Kosher Salt and Pepper to taste for the pasta

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Golden Breadcrumb Topping:

    2 C. Fresh White Italian Breadcrumbs mixed with 2-3 Tbsp. Olive Oil and toasted under the broiler until golden.


Prepare your pasta according to package directions.

Make your breadcrumbs and set aside.

Clean your brussel sprouts, cut the ends off, and slice them in half.

Toss them with garlic, salt and pepper, lots of fresh Rosemary, the red pepper flakes and drizzle with olive oil.

Spread them in a pan and roast them in a 400 degree oven for about 20-25 minutes until fork tender.

Brussell sprouts

Place the brussel sprouts in a food processor and pulse a few times to chop coarsely. Do not grind them up. You want them chunky in small pieces.

Brussel Sprouts

Drain and rinse the beans.

Mix with the pasta, the brussel sprouts, beans, salt and pepper, and plenty of Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Generously drizzle the pasta mixture with lots of Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Top with the Golden Breadcrumb Topping described above.


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Lentil Salad

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Insalata di Lenticchie-

Lentil salad06

Buon giorno!

Italians love their legumes – i.e. peas, beans, and the like. They are, in fact, an important part of the healthy Mediterranean Diet. They particularly fond of lentils and use them all sorts of ways, such as in soups, stews, and side dishes. One of my favorite ways to use lentils is in salad – particularly LENTIL SALAD or Insalata di Lenticchie.  This is a great side dish for any menu, and also it makes a delicious meal on its own. It can be a great lunch item or just a nutritious and delicious snack.

Unfortunately, lentils are often like Sherlock Holmes’ “the dog that wouldn’t bark” in your pantry. They sit there, obvious, but unnoticed and unused for months on end, right under your nose, when they are the perfect choice in so many ways. Let’s get those lentils out and see what they’ll do for us aside from floating in our soup!

LENTIL SALAD is a healthy way to get some quick protein and also some healthy vegetables all in one shot. It is fresh tasting, and in the case of this recipe, it also packs a serving of fruit.  You can make it ahead and enjoy it for days. That is what we usually do around our house. In fact, in any given week, you can almost count on finding a bowl of it in my refrigerator just waiting to offer a quick jump start or fast meal.

There are all kinds of lentils: red, green, brown, yellow, confetti, etc. Try all of them. They’re great and equally good and interchangeable.

Lentils are one of those rare foods that are delicious and easy to eat and also are sooo healthy for you. They help lower cholesterol, help control blood sugar, are low in calories, are low in fat, and rich in protein, B-vitamins and dietary fiber.

This salad is easy to make and really tasty. What’s not to love?


(Insalata di Lenticchie)

Serves: about 6


1 lb. cooked lentils

Handful of baby carrots – chopped

1 Stalk Celery – chopped

1 Yellow Pepper – chopped

3 Tbsp. Purple Onion  – chopped or Fresh Chopped Chives

1 Tbsp. Orange Zest

1 Fresh Orange – cut up OR 1 can drained Mandarin Oranges

Salt and Pepper to taste

Fresh Basil Leaves for garnish

Dressing: 1/4 C. Extra Virgin Olive Oil and 1/8 C. White Balsamic Vinegar – Mix well.


Rinse your lentils.


Cook your lentils according to package directions.

Chop your vegetables and add them to the lentils along with the orange zest.

Lentil salad01

Lentil salad02

Chop your fresh orange and add it to the mixture or if using Mandarin Oranges, drain and add them.

Lentil salad04


Lentil salad03

Add salt and pepper.

Mix your dressing ingredients and add to the salad.


Lentil salad05

LENTIL SALAD will be your new best friend – easy to make – easy to eat – a quick snack – goes with almost any meal – and SOOOO HEALTHY! Make some!


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July: Frittata Margherita

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FRITTATA MARGHERITA, the July Recipe of the Month, has a little history. Sometimes you wonder how things get started. There are very few pizza lovers who are not aware of the famed Pizza Margherita. One might ask was there a real person for whom this pizza was named? Who was Margherita? Why does a pizza bear her name?

Well, she was indeed real. She even has a Facebook page! All of this “Margherita” hoopla honors Margherita of Savoy, Queen consort of Italy. She was the wife of Umberto of Piedmont, her first cousin…ahem! Her only child was Umberto, Prince of Naples, who became Victor Emmanuel III of Italy. It is believed that she deserves much credit for the unification of Italy with her enthusiastic promotion of things Italian and thus conducting her life in the traditional Italian style of the time including mode of dress, jewelry etc.

She was particularly beloved in Naples, and they named a pizza after her, the Pizza Margherita, which consists of a traditional thin crust with a topping of sliced fresh tomatoes, fresh basil leaves, and fresh mozzarella cheese.

FRITTATA MARGHERITA is similar in ingredients to its famous “pizza cousin”. It is a simple, healthy recipe, with a beautiful blend of fresh ingredients creating a versatile dish, lovely in its presentation of the vibrant colors of the Italian flag. It says “summertime” with its freshness, and, yes, it is one of those dishes that calls me to the patio again and again for brunch, lunch, or as a before dinner appetizer. It is best made in these summer months when tomatoes “talk back to you” with sweetness and flavor. The FRITTATA MARGHERITA is also my husband, Tom’s, favorite frittata!




Serves: 6 as an appetizer

4 as a brunch or lunch dish

Prep: 10 minutes

Cook: about 30 minutes


Olive Oil

2 cloves fresh garlic – chopped finely

9 eggs beaten together

1/4 c. heavy cream

1/4 c. Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese or Grana Padano Cheese

Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste

2 Large Fresh Tomatoes –  sliced

1-1 1/2 cups Whole Fresh Basil Leaves

8 oz. Fresh Mozzarella – sliced

Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste


Rub a 10 inch fry pan with a little olive oil.

You are going to build this frittata in layers.

Sprinkle a  third of the chopped garlic on the bottom of the pan and saute lightly a minute.

Lay some of the tomato slices on the bottom of the pan in a single layer. Sprinkle with some salt and pepper.

Then add half of the basil leaves over the top.

Sprinkle half of the mozzarella slices over the basil.

Follow with another layer of tomato slices – salt and pepper and chopped garlic.

Add another layer of basil leaves and mozzarella slices.

Gently beat the heavy cream and cheese into the beaten eggs, and add some Kosher Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste – mix together.

Then pour the egg mixture over the layers in the pan.

Put in on the stove at medium high. It will puff up a little. When the sides firm up and just the center is still liquid (about 10 minutes) – put the fry pan in the oven at 350 degrees until the frittata is firm in the middle – about 20 minutes.

Remove from the oven and invert onto a plate.

Serve warm or cold, slicing in wedges for brunch or lunch and squares for appetizers. If serving straight from the oven, let it sit for about 10 minutes before cutting.

For wine: A lovely Pinot Noir would suit if you would like to serve red. For white wine, I would enjoy a crisp cold Pinot Grigio or Soave.


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POLENTA–It’s so corny

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Buon giorno!

Since the annual pandemonium and pageantry of Carnevale has begun in Venice, Viareggio, Rio, Portugal, and… my house, I thought it might be fitting to chat about the food most representative of this celebration in Italy – Polenta. Because there is so much to say about Polenta – where it came from, how to prepare it, how to serve it, I will discuss it in two posts beginning today with its origins, use, and preparation. This post will be followed later in the week with some great ways to serve it. So don your mask and costume and yank last year’s parade float out of the garage and  – Andiamo!

What is Polenta anyway? Polenta, a simple cornmeal mush, dates back centuries. Those Nawthern Italians insist on laying claim to it, but you’ll find it in many of the other regions in Italy – though not quite as much in Tuscany. Its origins actually date back to the ancient Romans making theirs as a kind of porridge-like mush which was called pulmentum. When corn came on the scene in the 1600’s, Polenta became more like what we are used to seeing now. It is likened in consistency and appearance to the grits of the American South.


The source ingredient of Polenta can be found as several different types of flour or cornmeal throughout Italy.  The most common polenta flour is Bramata Fioretto which is very fine and makes a softer polenta. In Venice, the home of Carnevale, cooks most often use polenta bianca or white cornmeal. Along the Piedmont, you will sometimes even find it made with potatoes.  Some areas of Italy use buckwheat or chestnut flour. [Read more…]

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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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