“I’m not a chef, I’m Italian”- David Rocco

Monday, August 27, 2012

Ricotta Pancakes

Ahh, lazy Sunday mornings. A time to relax, catch up on some reading, go to the gym, relax some more and indulge in some pancakes.

I have always loved my heavy carbohydrate breakfasts. I honestly only started eating eggs in the past few years, so for me, it was always about French toast, waffles, oatmeal, you get the picture. But, I have found a way to have my pancakes and eat them too. Well, obviously. These pancakes are ricotta based and made with nut flour, therefore they are gluten free. I use hazelnut flour, which gives them a very nice texture and a slightly nutty taste, which really works with the ricotta. You can use whatever gluten free flour you like though or regular white or whole wheat flour if you have no gluten allergy.
They are light and fluffy and the edges get nice and crispy, just the way that I like my pancakes. These are fantastic for anyone. If you are allergic to gluten or if you’re on a low carb diet, you can enjoy these and they will satisfy you just as much as classic pancakes.

I have to tell you, I’ve served these to a lot of people. I’ve never said a word about the ingredients and I’ve always gotten rave reviews. No one has suspected a thing. They think they are just regular buttermilk pancakes.
If you are not watching your sugar intake you can have them with a little drizzle of maple syrup or honey and if you are, I like to whip together a little ricotta with a splash of milk and vanilla extract and serve it on top or serve with a nice pat of butter or a dash of cinnamon. Anyway you have, I guarantee you will love them.

Ricotta Pancakes
½ cup of hazelnut flour
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1 ½ cups of ricotta cheese
4 eggs
4 tablespoons of butter (Two for the batter and two for the griddle)

First, heat a nonstick griddle over medium-high heat. Then, separate your yolks and whites. Mix together the flour, vanilla, ricotta, and yolks in a large bowl until thoroughly combined. Beat your egg whites in a separate bowl until stiff. Fold the egg whites into the ricotta mixture. Put the butter on the griddle. You can make these pancakes as big or as small as like. Cook each side for around 2-3 minutes. Eat them while they are still nice and warm. Please let me know what you think, I love to hear from you all! Buon Appetito!!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Tuscan Grilled Lemon Rosemary Chicken

Today we will be traveling to Tuscany for supper.  You have the time, yes? Well, if you don’t, then just preparing this dish will bring a little piece of Tuscany right to your home.

I adore Tuscan cuisine. It is all about simplicity and fresh ingredients. Tuscan food is traditionally rich with legumes, fish, meat, fresh herbs, fruit and vegetables. As you can see by the ingredients, I find Tuscan cuisine lighter than some of the other regional cuisines (not that there is anything wrong with that, who doesn’t want a lot of cheese now and then?) so this is the perfect food if you are watching what you eat. This dish is perfect for almost all diets. High protein, low carb or healthy eating in general.

For today’s meal, I have prepared Tuscan grilled lemon rosemary chicken over a bed of fresh arugula. This chicken is so tender, moist and juicy. It is flavored richly by the marinade. It takes a bit of prep time, but that is part of what makes it so delicious, so don’t skimp on the time that you marinate it. I also use half chickens so that I can grill it under a brick, which is a Tuscan style of cooking. It flattens the chicken and somehow, I just find that it makes it taste better.

So, I invite you to my table to take a little bite of Tuscany with me.

Tuscan grilled lemon rosemary chicken

2 half chickens
Garlic (chopped, as much as you like, I love a lot of garlic)
½ cup of oil
Salt (Quanto basta!)
3 lemons
1 box of fresh Arugula

Start off by rinsing your chicken in saltwater and letting it sit there for around 20 minutes.

Chop your garlic and put it in a bowl. Add the oil, salt, pepper, rosemary and squeezed lemons with the garlic. Whisk together.

Put the chicken in the bowl with the marinade (or you can put the marinade and chicken in a zip lock bag, but be careful, it could get very messy!!). Let the chicken marinate for at least one hour!

Now, start preparing your bricks. Wrap your bricks in a lot of foil. Also take two extra pieces of foil t put directly on top of the chicken. Next, get out your flat grill pan and set on medium heat. Put the chicken skin side down on the grill pan, put the extra piece of foil on top of the chicken and then put the brick on top. Cook the first side for 30 minutes and then very carefully turn it to the other side and cook for another 30 minutes.  Once the chicken is done, take it off the pan to cool.
The chicken is so moist; I actually like to tear the chicken with my bare hands, as opposed to using a knife. You of course can use a knife though. On each portion, put a handful of fresh arugula on the plate and put the chicken directly on top of the greens. If the chicken is slightly warm, it will wilt the greens very nicely and all of the marinade from the chicken will act as a bit of a dressing.
Might I suggest this dish with a glass of Vernaccia di San Gimignano? It is considered Tuscany’s best white wine, so only the best for us, right? Buon Appetito!!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Capellini Verdi

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I love pasta.  One- It’s easy to prepare. Two- there are so many different pastas so it’s impossible to get sick of. Three-So many different sauce possibilities- Ragu, pesto, cheese, vegetable; anything your heart desires! Plus, you can make something so impressive without really putting all that much effort into it. It’s just that simple! I will never tire of pasta. It’s part of who I am. As an Italian I grew up eating pasta AT LEAST three times a week and I still do!!

In keeping with some healthier Italian options without sacrificing flavor, tonight I will be serving Whole Wheat Capellini Verdi. Capellini literally means thin hair (imagine really skinny spaghetti.)  If you can’t find Capellini, use spaghetti or angel hair or whatever you want!) I make mine with rocket (arugula), spinach, peas, parsley, pignoli, garlic and pesto. It is so delicious. What I like about these particular vegetables is that they don’t have a very intense vegetable taste that a lot of people don’t like (like our good friend, broccoli.)

You won’t miss the fact that there is no cheese, heavy cream sauce or meat. It will turn any carnivore into a vegetable believer!!! This is a wonderful healthy dinner option. You get all the good vitamins and nutrients from all the greens, all the benefits of garlic and pine nuts are a good source of magnesium and potassium. So that fact that it tastes so good AND is good for you, certainly can’t hurt!!

Capellini Verdi

2 tablespoons of olive oil
Salt (to taste)
Pepper (quanto basta)
Red Pepper (just a sprinkle!)
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 box of capellini
1 box of arugula
1 box of fresh spinach
1 box of peas
½ cup of Pignoli
Handful of parsley
4 tablespoons of Pesto

First, chop your garlic. Prepare a pan with olive oil, salt, pepper and red pepper over medium heat. Put your garlic with your oil mixture.

Next, start boiling your water, add salt! While the water is boiling, chop your arugula and spinach. I like to chop it very fine because then it blends really nicely with the pesto! Put the chopped greens in the pan with the oil mix.

Once the water is boiling, put the capellini in. Capellini, along with other thin pastas, usually cooks pretty quickly, so don’t overcook! You want it perfectly al dente, so just six minutes. Drain your pasta, but keep a little of the water. Put your pasta in the pan with the oil and greens. Add the box of peas and pignoli.

Very finely chop your pasley and put on top of the pasta. Add the pesto, a little pasta water and mix it all together. The combination of the water and pesto will create a nice creaminess but without the fat and calories of cream!! Let me know if this will turn you into a veggie believer. Buon Appetito!!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Grilled Vegetable Antipasto

In keeping with some of my recent posts about healthy food options (stuffed Italin pepper) and the healthy Italian lifestyle. today I would like to share with you my recipe for Grilled Vegetable Antipasto. To call it a recipe seems a little silly, since it is really just vegetables grilled with oil and garlic, but nonetheless, I will call it a recipe just so you know exactly how to prepare it to ensure that they come out perfectly.
Antipasto translates to before the meal.  It is a traditional first course of an Italian meal. Most antipasto features a lovely spread of olives, cured meats, mozzarella or provolone and grilled mixed vegetables like eggplant, zucchini and artichoke hearts.

The contents of an antipasto vary a lot according to regional cuisine. In the South of Italy they have saltwater fish and southern meats like soppressata (an Italian dry salami), but in the north it will have other cured meats and freshwater fish. The cheeses also vary depending what region you’re in.

I love antipasto because it is a wonderful way to start a meal. Vegetables, cheese and olives are a wonderful beginning to anything, right?? This version is completely vegan, but I will be sharing many different antipasto recipes in the next few weeks so everyone can feel included. I use eggplant, zucchini, red and yellow peppers that I got at my local farmers market. I also used some Brussels sprouts which are not Italian; I just really like Brussels sprouts. Most people don’t however, so I’m not going to include them in the actual recipe. You may use whatever vegetables you like, but I really suggest eggplant and zucchini, they lend themselves very nicely to this preparation.

This of course can be used as a side to some pasta or some nice grilled meat as well. You can also put it on some ciabatta, add some mozzerella and grill. However you prepare it, I guarantee you will love it.

Grilled Vegetable Antipasto
1 large eggplant
2 medium sized zucchini
2 red bell peppers
2 yellow bell peppers

¾ cup of olive oil
1 full head of garlic (chopped)
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper

First start off by cutting your eggplant, zucchini and peppers, the thinner they are cut, the faster they will grill.

Next chop all of your garlic. Add your olive oil, salt and pepper. Put the oil mixture in a zip lock bag and add the vegetables. Make sure all of the vegetables are thoroughly coated in the marinade. Let it sit for about an hour.

If you have a flat grill top, I would recommend using that. If not, a regular grill pan will do just fine. Heat it over medium heat. Add the eggplant first since that takes the longest to cook. I usually leave the eggplant to cook for around 15 minutes before adding the other vegetables. Next, add the zucchini and peppers. I like my vegetables very, very grilled (almost to the point that you would think they’re burned, but I assure you, they’re not!!) All together, let them cook for 45 minutes. Take off the pan and put on a serving plate and lightly salt. Let me know what you usually like in your antipasto! Buon Appetito!!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Fritto Misto

As I said in my previous post, I love fried food, so I will look for any reason or occasion to fry something. For example “Oh, it’s Tuesday, I should fry some broccoli” or “Oh, the mail didn’t come yet, better fry some string beans.” And no, this is not much of an exaggeration for me. I just really like my fried food. Which brings us to my Fritto Misto. (This is a dish of pieces of meat, seafood or vegetable dipped in a light batter and fried.)
I am so excited to be going back to Italy for Christmas. We will be going to Rome, Florence and Parma. I can’t wait to explore even more of the beauty and culture that the city has to offer and eat more of the glorious food. That includes getting a platter of Fritto Misto once a day (I’m not kidding)

The inspiration for this dish came the other day when I was deciding what to make for dinner. I had some nice whole wheat penne with pesto leftover, but I knew that wouldn’t be enough for a complete meal. I looked in the refrigerator and saw some zucchini, asparagus and yellow peppers. LIGHTBULB OVER HEAD MOMENT!! I also had enough ingredients to make the same light and luscious batter that I made for the zucchini the other night. So, I decided to fry all of these vegetables, which gives you….the Fritto Misto.

Fritto Misto
10 stalks of asparagus
 2 peppers
1 zucchini
1 cup of oil (for frying)

3/4 cup of cornstarch
¼ cup of flour
1 tsp. of baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons of salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon of garlic powder
½ teaspoon Italian seasoning
½ cup of water
1 egg

Clean your asparagus, zucchini and peppers and dry them. Cut the zucchini into very thin slices (You can make them however thin or thick you like, but they will fry better when they are thin and taste even crispier.) Cut the top of your pepper off and clean the inside, making sure to remove all of the seeds and white skin. Slice. Cut your asparagus (my trick for making sure I get the good asparagus is to just snap them by hand, where they naturally snap, is what you will want to get rid of.)

Mix all of your dry ingredients, the cornstarch, flour, baking soda, salt, black pepper, garlic powder and Italian seasoning. Then add your water and egg and beat lightly.

Use a deep enough pan to fry. Set your stove on high heat and put the oil in the pan. You will want to wait for it to really heat up before beginning to fry. Once it is hot, dip your vegetables in the batter and carefully immerse in the oil. Allow each side to fry for at least two minutes. Take the vegetables and put on a wire rack to cool. Salt lightly and enjoy!! As always, I encourage you to leave comments and let me know what's on your mind!!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Recipe Index

Ciao a tutti!! I thought it would be fun to post all of my recipes in a bit of an index form so it’s easier for you find them. Just click on the name of the recipe and it will bring you to the original page. I also have made notes next to each recipe if they are low carb, gluten free, vegetarian, etc. Enjoy!! And please let me know what some of your favorite recipes have been. Grazie mille!!


Foccacia Pizza- Vegetarian
Classic pesto and tomato pesto- Vegetarian, vegan

Il primo
Toasted Spinach Ricotta Gnocchi- Low carb, vegetarian, gluten free

Spaghetti Pie- Vegetarian
Cacio e pepe- Vegetarian

Stuffed Peppers- Low carb, vegetarian

Il secondo

Rosemary Lemon Roasted chicken- Low carb

Sausage Burger with pesto aioli- Low carb (if eaten without a bun)
Meatballs in MushroomMarsala sauce- Low carb

Ragu Bolognese- Low carb

Coffee Rubbed Steak- Low carb

Sausage and Peppers- Low carb

Easter Meat Pie

Il contorno

Cauliflower Siciliana- Low carb, vegetarian, gluten free

Summer Squash- Low carb, vegetarian, vegan, gluten free
Chickpea fritters- Low carb, vegetarian, gluten free          

Zucchini Chips- Vegetarian, low carb, gluten free (when made with chickpea flour)    
Cauliflower Pancakes- Vegetarian

Eggplant Balls- Vegetarian
Eggplant Cutlets- Vegetarian
Zucchini Flowers- Vegetarian

Il dolce

Torta Caprese- Low carb, gluten free  

Chocolateespresso mascarpone cheesecake with amaretti crust


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Healthy Italian Stuffed Peppers

I love Italian food. I think that is pretty obvious. What is not however, is the fact that I actually lead a very healthy lifestyle. Hard to believe considering all of this tempting food, right? But the truth is, I exercise everyday and the meals you see here are usually eaten once or twice a week. I also try to make little changes to all of my recipes to make them a little healthier. For example, you will notice that a lot of my recipes use chickpea flour (Chickpeafritters, fried zucchini) which is a healthier alternative to flour and is gluten free. Many of my recipes are low carb (spinach ricotta gnocchi, lemonRosemary roasted chicken) and I try to cook with a lot of vegetables (cauliflowerSiciliana, summer squash.) I also have many vegetarian recipes and even though it may sound silly, most of the time when I make something fried, I use whole wheat breadcrumbs. Even my pizza was made with whole wheat dough.  And as I said in my post about the Italian healthy lifestyle, it is all about moderation. But, I thought it would be a good idea to specifically post a healthy alternative. So I introduce…..the healthy Italian stuffed pepper.

I love stuffed peppers. You may think right off the bat that they are healthy, just by the fact that it’s a pepper, but on the contrary, it can actually be very fattening. If you make it with sausage or meatballs, mozzarella and regular breadcrumbs, as delicious as it may be, it’s not much better than having some eggplant parmigiana.  My version is completely vegetarian and it is stuffed with sautéed mushrooms, spinach, garlic, whole wheat bread crumbs and just a little Parmigiana cheese for flavor. One of the great things about Parmigiana cheese is that because it is a very intense, strong cheese, you can use less of it and you will still have a lot of flavor. While there is oil to sauté the vegetables, I always use olive oil because even though it has fat, it is the good kind of fat (monounsaturated fat.) The peppers are then topped with my homemade rustic garlic tomato sauce and baked. IDo not let the pictures fool you, these are amazing. I just don't have the best camera skills. You aren’t even going to miss the meat, trust me.

Healthy Italian Stuffed Peppers:

4 large peppers (red or green, your choice)
1 full pack of mushrooms
1 full bag of fresh spinach
1 head of garlic (minced)
2 tablepoons of olive oil
¼ cup of parmigiana cheese
½ cup of whole wheat bread crumbs
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper

Tomato Sauce:
15 ounce can of crushed tomatoes
¼ cup olive oil
6 cloves of garlic (or as much as you like)
Basil (finely chopped)
Crushed Italian herbs

First, clean your peppers thoroughly. Slice off the top and make sure you get rid of any of the seeds and white stems inside.

Clean your mushrooms and chop them very finely. Next, chop all of your fresh spinach. Chop your garlic.

Heat a pan over medium high heat and add the olive oil. Put the garlic in first and let it roast a little. Then add the mushrooms and let them shrink a little bit. Mix and add the spinach. Let all of the vegetables cook down, around 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the vegetables cool for a few minutes. Add the parmigiana cheese, bread crumbs, salt and pepper. Thoroughly mix.

Prepare your tomato sauce; here is the original post with the recipe.

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. Get out a casserole pan, big enough to fit 4 large peppers. Start to stuff the peppers with the filling, but please be careful not to tear them. Line the peppers in the pan and pour the tomato sauce on top. Cook for 25 minutes. I myself like to serve these with a fresh arugula, fennel and lemon salad. Buon Appetito!! 

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Scents of Summer: Sausage and Peppers

If you have ever walked through a street fair during the hot days of summer, you are met with the lovely, various scents of all the food around you.  Zeppoles, funnel cake, falafel, cotton candy, corn on the cob. But nothing quite makes my mouth water like the aroma of sausage and peppers.  You know exactly what I’m talking about. The smell of the roasted peppers, the caramelized onions, the hot and spicy smell of the sausage. Pure perfection. Honestly, as silly as it may sound, that smell always makes me think of summer, usually because that’s when the street fairs are around.

So, this past weekend for dinner, I made a classic sausage and pepper stir-fry. Nothing fancy. No tricks up my sleeves. Just prepared the classic way. Some things don’t need a new twist and to me, this is a perfect example. It’s simply amazing the way it is. One of the great things about sausage and peppers is that it’s very easy to prepare, there’s not a lot of prep time and not a lot of steps. Another thing I love about sausage and peppers is how many different ways you can use it. Of course, the classic street fair style is served on a nice, toasted Italian hero. You can also have it with pasta, over polenta, a salad, on top of pizza, use it instead of Bolognese in lasagna. I’ve also been known to go a little nuts and add it to an omelet with some mozzarella or make an Italian quesadilla with some parmigiana and mozzarella. Anyway you have it, it’s delicious.

Sausage and Pepper Stir Fry

1/2 lb Italian Sausage (sweet or hot, whatever you prefer)
1 Red Bell pepper, sliced fine
1 green bell pepper, sliced fine
1/2 of 1 large red onion cut
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Vegetable oil, for stir frying
Salt and pepper (Quanto basta)

Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet pan over medium-high heat, I recommend around 1-2 tablespoons of oil, since sausage is naturally pretty oily, you don’t need too much. When the oil begins to simmer, put the whole sausage in the pan. Continue cooking until sausage is browned on all sides and no longer pink in the center.

Drain sausage and let it cool for just a few minutes and then slice. I like thin slices, but you can obviously cut it the way that you like it. Add another tablespoon of vegetable oil to the pan and continue to heat. Add garlic and cook, make sure the garlic gets nicely roasted, but not burned. Put the sausage back in the pan. Add sliced peppers and onions and cook, stirring, until peppers are softened and onions are caramelized.

Season with salt and pepper and serve! Buon appetito!