You may have seen the news reports about the Mediterranean diet study just published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
People who eat lots of beans, nuts, fish, vegetables and fruits, use extra virgin olive oil and drink wine with meals have a lower incidence of heart disease and other medical problems.
In Italia, you’ll find locally grown, seasonal produce markets in every city neighborhood and town. Campo di Fiori is one of the most famous. I shop it often when staying in the historical center of Rome.
Italians cherish fresh produce. They eat fish often. Nuts often end a meal. Extra virgin olive oil is an Italian kitchen staple. Meat is eaten in moderation.
Italians eat most of of their food at the midday meal. Supper is a simple, light meal.
I get a lot of exercise every day in Italia, including a delightful passagata or stroll after the evening meal. I’ll be enjoying the local bounty in Italia soon. I’ll share what I cook in Rome and Naples with you.
I try to maintain an Italian diet here in North Beach. Luckily I have ample access to local, seasonal vegetables, fruit, and locally caught seafood. Beans and grains are a significant part of my diet. And, I always use extra virgin olive oil except when frying.
Adopt a Mediterranean lifestyle and you’ll never need another diet scheme to lose weight or stay healthy. Eat Italian. It’s delicious and it’s good for you. Try this simple vegetable recipe and fish recipe to get a taste for yourself.
In anticipation of tomorrow night’s Academy Awards I cooked up some Oscar-worthy eggs this morning.
Ever see Norman Jewison’s 1987 movie about a Brooklyn Italian-American family? “Moonstruck” won Oscars for Olympia Dukakis and Cher.
There’s a kitchen scene where Dukakis is making these eggs for herself and Cher.
“Moonstruck” eggs were a popular item on my restaurant’s brunch menu. There’s no better combination than peppers and eggs. We served them with roasted pork and fennel sausage.
In Italy this dish is known as “birds in a nest”. They are super simple and they make a big impression for that special Saturday or Sunday morning. Add your favorite potatoes and breakfast meat and that’s it.
Why go out for a “romantic” dinner on Valentine’s Day? The restaurants are crazy busy. Why tolerate the hassle of overbooked places and food pouring out of an overworked kitchen? All you’ll get is agita (heartburn).
Don’t go out. Stay home and cook Valentine’s Day dinner together. Start a new tradition. Enjoy your time cooking together and share food made with love.
Baked Ziti alla Sorrento is the star of this special dinner. It’s an Italian version of mac ‘n cheese from the sunny coast of the Bay of Naples.
The small pasta tubes are coated in creamy ricotta, soft melted mozzarella and marinara sauce then baked in the oven. I can’t resist picking off the nutty toasted ziti on top. Save the leftovers. Baked ziti is even better the next day. Aglianico, Nero d’Avola or Chianti go well with the ziti.
By making the marinara while the pasta water comes to a boil and the salad as the ziti bakes, dinner will be ready in about an hour.
And for dessert, top a big scoop of vanilla gelato with a shot of limoncello or your favorite liqueur. Who knows, after all that wine this might be just what you both need to get lucky.
Easy baked ziti is sumptuous. The pasta is coasted with creamy ricotta, mozzarella and marinara then baked in the oven until crispy on top.
Recipe type: Main
28 ounce can San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 large branch of fresh basil
1 tablespoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 pound ziti
1 pound ricotta
8 ounces fresh mozzarella
3 cups marinara sauce
5 basil leaves
1 cup grated parmigiano, pecorino or grana padano
Before you get started put a large pot of well salted water to boil over high heat. (Use about 5 quarts of water and at least 1 tablespoon of sea salt for a pound of pasta.) Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
Put the olive oil and garlic in a pan and over medium-high heat. Saute the garlic until it starts to take on some color.
Add the tomatoes, basil, oregano and salt.
Reduce the heat to medium-low, stir occasionally and cook until the sauce thickens, about 20 minutes.
Set the sauce aside.
Cut the mozzarella into 1-inch cubes.
Put the ricotta in a strainer to drain.
Cook the ziti in a large pot of well-salted rapidly boiling water. Drain the ziti just as it reaches al dente, about 10 minutes.
Put the ziti in a large bowl. Add the ricotta, mozzarella, ½ cup grated cheese, 2 cups of marinara sauce and basil leaves ripped in small pieces. Mix to coat the pasta well,
Cover the bottom of a baking dish with marinara sauce.
Spread the ziti evenly in the baking dish.
Top the ziti with the remaining marinara sauce and sprinkle with the remaining grated cheese.
Bake in the oven until the top of the baked ziti starts to turn golden, about 30 minutes.
I’m hoping for spring. The quince blossoms are in bloom so spring can’t be far away. For me, this classic salad from Sicily is a prelude to the change of seasons.
Start or end your meal with this perky salad. The licorice and sweet orange notes float in the citrus vinaigrette. The intense wrinkled, meaty, oil-cured olives add surprising complexity to this crunchy salad.
Usually I eat salad at the end of a meal but this one goes to the top. It’s fresh and complex and easily fills the bill as a simple first course or add it to your antipasti platter.
I’m in New York City and meeting up with friends. On a brisk, sunny Saturday morning we’re off to Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, the true NYC Little Italy.
We’ll spend the day cooking together, eating and drinking in northern Jersey. But first we have to decide on the menu and get everything we need to prepare our meal.
As is our habit, our first stop is Caffe DiLillo for a cappuccino and cornetto and to plan our menu. Our 4-course meal fell into place quickly.
My assignment is saltimbocca, the classic Roman dish, veal scaloppine topped with fresh sage and prosciutto and sauteed in butter and extra virgin olive oil. Saltimbocca is so good it’s moniker translates to “jump in your mouth”.
Saltimbocca is easy. I made enough for 8 at the table in about 15 minutes. The salty, crispy prosciutto enrobes fresh sage atop fork-tender veal scaloppine. Deglaze the pan with a dry, white wine to create a silky sauce and you’re done.
The dish works just as well with chicken. I used both veal and chicken scaloppine to satisfy the preferences of my table mates. Asparagus roasted with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt and lemon completed each plate. Yum.
Saute veal or chicken scaloppine topped with fresh sage and prosciutto in butter and extra virgin olive oil to create a dish that "jumps in your mouth."
Recipe type: Entree
1 pound veal (or chicken) scaloppine
¼ cup flour
3 tablespoons extra virgin oil oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
¼ cup dry white wine
Sprinkle the scaloppine with salt and pepper.
Depending on their size, lay 1 or 2 sage leaves atop the scallopine.
Cover the scaloppine with a thin slice of prosciutto.
Tap the prosciutto with the back of a knife to attach it to the scaloppine.
Lightly coat the scaloppine with flour. Tap off any excess flour.
Put the extra virgin olive oil and the butter in a saute pan over medium-high heat.
When the butter is melted and starts to foam, add the scaloppine and saute prosciutto side down until the prosciutto is golden and crispy, about 2 minutes.
Saute the other side about a minute.
Put the saltimbocca on a plate, loosely cover with foil and set aside.
Saute the remaining scallopine.
Over high heat, add the white wine and deglaze the pan, scraping up all of the crispy brown bits on the bottom of the plan and stir to dissolve the bits in the wine. Cook until the pan sauce thickens, about a minute.
Pour the sauce over the saltimbocca and serve immediately.