Recipes

CLASSIC CAESAR SALAD

Caesar salad was first created in 1924 by Caesar Cardini, who was an Italian restauranteur in Tijuana, Mexico. The original recipe was quite a production that was always prepared table side and mixed by hand. I’ve simplified the original version, making it a bit more fuss-free for home kitchens and family dinner. This is a salad that pairs well with most any main course and can be topped with salmon, chicken, or shrimp to make it a standalone meal.

Serves 4

  • 1 large head romaine lettuce, washed and dried

  • 2 cloves garlic

  • 6 anchovy filets

  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard

  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice (fresh is best)

  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

  • 2 egg yolks for large eggs, at room temperature

  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

  • Salt to taste

  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

  • 2 cups of your favorite croutons

  • ¼ cup Parmesan cheese, shaved or shredded for garnish

Chop the romaine into 1½-inch pieces. Refrigerate the lettuce while you prepare the dressing.

Place the garlic cloves, anchovies, Worcestershire, dry mustard, lemon juice, black pepper, and egg yolks in a blender or food processor and pulse until blended. Slowly drizzle in olive oil until a creamy mayonnaise type dressing forms. Taste the dressing and salt to taste.

Add the lettuce and grated Parmesan to a large bowl and toss with half the dressing, adding more as needed. Then transfer the salad to a serving bowl or plater and top with croutons and shaved or shredded Parmesan.

PARMESAN ROASTED BROCCOLI

I first made this broccoli recipe fifteen years ago when I was trying to get my family to eat more vegetables. The broccoli is laced with olive oil, pepper, and grated Parmesan cheese, which gives it a slightly crisp texture. It’s so tasty, sometimes it doesn’t make it from the baking sheet to the serving bowl.

Serves 4 to 6

  • 1½ to 2 pounds broccoli, trimmed into florets

  • 2 to 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • ½ teaspoon black pepper

  • ⅓ cup grated Parmesan cheese

  • Salt to taste

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place the broccoli in a large bowl and toss with olive oil, black pepper, and Parmesan. Transfer the broccoli to a parchment-lined baking sheet in a single layer.

Place it in the oven and let it roast for about 10 to 15 minutes or until the cheese has begun to crisp and the broccoli is crisp tender or to taste.

Remove from the oven and let it rest for about 5 minutes and then serve warm. Season to taste with salt. Serve with additional Parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top, if desired.

MEATLOAF FLORENTINE

This is definitely not my mother’s meatloaf recipe. It’s an updated version that always has my family running to the table for dinner. This recipe is filled with two different ground meats along with fresh Italian flavors and mozzarella cheese. I’ve added warm milk and bread crumbs to keep the meatloaf moist and tender and serve it with our favorite pasta sauce. Tutto bene!

 

Serves 6

  • 1 pound ground beef

  • 1 pound ground sweet Italian sausage

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian herbs

  • 2 teaspoons fresh chopped Italian parsley

  • ½ red onion, finely diced

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

  • ½ cup warmed milk

  • ½ cup bread crumbs

  • 1 cup chopped wilted spinach, squeezed, either fresh or previously frozen

  • ½ cup diced whole-milk mozzarella

  • 1 to 2 cups of your favorite tomato pasta sauce

  • Fresh chopped Italian parsley, for garnish

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a large bowl, add the ground beef, ground Italian sausage, salt, pepper, dried herbs, Italian parsley, diced onion, and garlic. Gently combine the ingredients, not being too heavy handed or your meatloaf will be tough. I usually use my hands to do this.

Next mix together the warmed milk and bread crumbs. Once the bread crumbs have soaked up the milk, mix lightly and then gently combine with the ground meat mixture.

Then add the spinach and mozzarella and gently combine. Once all the ingredients are nicely incorporated into the ground meat, form a loaf with the ground meat on a rimmed, parchment-lined baking sheet. I use a baking sheet rather than loaf pan so the meat loaf cooks evenly on all sides.

Place the baking sheet into the preheated oven and bake for about 45 minutes or until the meatloaf is done and reads 165 degrees F on a meat thermometer. Remove the meatloaf from the oven and let it cool for about 5 to 10 minutes.

Ladle about ½ to 1 cup of tomato sauce over the top of the meatloaf. Let it sit for another 5 minutes. Slice the meatloaf and then place it on a platter and serve with additional sauce. Garnish the meatloaf with fresh chopped Italian parsley.

RED AND GOLDEN BEET TART

This happens to be one of my favorite savory tarts. What could be more delicious than roasted beets over ricotta and goat cheese in a homemade crust? If you’re short on time and you need to use a store-bought crust, this tart will still be just as tasty. If you can’t find golden beets, use all red beets or maybe swap a few large roasted carrot slices to mix up the color. Consider serving this with a lightly dressed salad of spring greens and arugula.

Serves 6

  • 2 medium red beets, scrubbed clean

  • 2 medium golden beets, scrubbed clean

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

  • ½ teaspoon salt

  • 4 ounces cold butter, diced

  • 1 large egg

  • 1 to 2 tablespoons cold water

  • 1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese, drained

  • 4 to 6 ounces goat cheese

  • 1 egg, whisked

  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme

  • 1 teaspoon dried chives

  • ½ teaspoon salt

  • ½ teaspoon pepper

  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • Salt and pepper to taste

  • Fresh chopped thyme or lightly dressed spring greens, for garnish

                       

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place the beets on a large piece of aluminum foil and then rub them with the olive oil. Wrap the beets in the foil, tenting it so the beets can steam a bit.

Place the foil beet packet on a baking sheet and place the baking sheet in the oven. Bake for about 45 to 55 minutes or until done and can easily be pierced with a fork.

While the beets are roasting, mix together the pastry dough. In a food processor (or by hand with a pastry cutter) add the flour, salt, and cold butter and pulse until the flour resembles coarse crumbs. While the food processor is running, add the cold water. The mixture should form a dough. When the dough has formed and is not sticking to the sides, transfer it to a lightly floured work surface. Knead the dough a few times and then form a disc. Wrap it in plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

When the beets are done and cooled, peel the outer skin off the beets and then slice evenly making 6 to 8 slices per beet. Set aside until needed.

Whisk together the ricotta, goat cheese, egg, dried thyme, chives, salt, pepper, and lemon zest. Set aside until needed.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll it out large enough to fit into the tart pan. Once the dough is in the tart pan, spread the cheese mixture into the bottom of the pan over the dough. Drizzle the cheese mixture with a little olive oil and then bake in an oven preheated to 350 degrees F for about 20 to 25 minutes or until the pastry edges are golden brown.

Place the roasted beet slices, alternating red and gold, on the cheese layer until all the slices have been used. Sprinkle with freshly cracked black pepper and salt and serve at room temperature. Garnish with fresh chopped thyme or lightly dressed spring greens.

 

SPRING ASPARAGUS AND SWISS CHARD DUTCH BABY

Dutch babies are large, light, and fluffy pancakes—much like a popover. They’re typically served sweet with a dusting of powdered sugar; however, they can be made savory. This Dutch baby is filled with spring asparagus and Swiss chard and makes a lovely brunch, lunch, or evening meal.

 

Serves 4 to 6

 

  • 3 large eggs

  • ⅔ cup heavy cream

  • ½ cup grated Parmesan

  • ½ cup all-purpose flour

  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • ½ teaspoon black pepper

  • Pinch crushed red pepper flakes

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • ½ pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into bite-size pieces

  • 1 cup chopped Swiss chard

  • ½ cup shredded Gruyère cheese

 

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, Parmesan, flour, lemon zest, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Let the batter rest for about 15 minutes.

Heat the olive oil in a 10-inch cast iron pan or seasoned iron skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the asparagus and cook until crisp tender. Then add the Swiss chard and cook just until wilted. Sprinkle with the Gruyère cheese.

Next pour the batter over the vegetables and then place the skillet on the middle rack of the preheated oven.

Bake for about 12 to 15 minutes or until the Dutch baby is browned and puffed. With oven mitts, carefully remove the skillet from the oven and serve immediately. The Dutch baby will deflate after a few minutes, but it will still be tasty.

ROASTED ARTICHOKES WITH EASY LEMON AIOLI

These roasted artichokes couldn’t be easier to prepare. I’ve created a no-fuss recipe that will have these little beauties in the oven in no time and ready to eat in less than two hours. Artichokes don’t have to be trimmed down to half their size or the fuzzy choke pulled out prior to roasting. When using the smaller artichokes, simply trimming the tops and stems and then slicing in half works just as well. Roast and cool, and then serve them with this easy lemon aioli. They make a lovely appetizer or evening nibble.

Ingredients

Serves 4 to 6

 

  • 4 to 6 small to medium artichokes

  • Water

  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

  • Juice of 1 to 2 lemons

  • Salt and pepper

  • ½ cup good quality mayonnaise

  • Zest of 1 lemon

  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

  • 1 clove garlic, minced

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

With a very sharp knife, trim the tops of the artichokes about ¼ to ½ inch, just to snip the jagged edges at the tops, and then slice the artichoke in half through the stem. You can trim up the stem end if you like.

Place the artichokes in a baking dish and add enough water to barely cover the bottom of the baking dish—just enough to help the artichokes steam. Then drizzle with the olive oil and lemon juice. Season well with salt and pepper.

Cover the baking dish tightly with foil and then place it in the oven and roast for about 1 to 1½ hours. Check at 1 hour to see if they are soft. You want the leaves to fall off easily and the center to be fork tender.

Once the artichokes are done, remove them from the oven and take the foil off the baking dish. Let them cool.

While the artichokes are cooling, whisk together the mayonnaise, lemon zest, the 1 tablespoon lemon juice, garlic, and olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Remove some of the well-done outer leaves to reveal the more supple and softer leaves. Then place the artichokes on a platter or individual plates and serve with lemon aioli for dipping.

ZUCCHINI NOODLES WITH SPICY RAGU

I do love my veggies, and this is one enticing way to eat them. Making vegetables the main course can truly be delicious, especially with this spicy and slightly smoky ragu. A hint of smoked paprika gives the sauce a little extra flavor and makes this zucchini noodle dish sing. Top it with fresh shaved or grated Parmesan for a completely decadent spring meal.

 

Serves 4 

  • For the Zucchini Noodles:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • 4 medium zucchinis, washed (no need to peel)

  • ½ teaspoon salt

  • ½ teaspoon black pepper

  • For the Spicy Ragu:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1 medium red onion, finely diced

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley

  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano

  • ½ to 1 teaspoon smoked paprika (I lean toward ¾ to 1 teaspoon, but it’s truly up to your taste)

  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper

  • ½ cup dry red wine

  • 2 (14-ounce) cans tomato sauce

  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste

  • Shaved or grated Parmesan cheese

Using a spiralizer or a julienne attachment on a mandolin, create “noodles” out of the zucchini. Place the noodles in a colander and toss with a little salt. Let it sit over the sink or a bowl and omit the liquid.

While the zucchini noodles are draining, prepare the ragu. In a medium to large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.

When the oil is hot, add the onions and sauté until wilted. Then add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds longer. Then stir in the Italian parsley, dried oregano, paprika, and crushed red pepper.

Take the pan off the heat and stir in the red wine. Place the pan back over the heat and simmer until the wine is reduced by half. Then stir in the tomato sauce and tomato paste.

Cook the sauce for about 15 minutes and then season to taste with salt and pepper. If you feel the sauce is too “bright” or tangy, add a teaspoon of sugar to tame the tang. You can simmer this sauce for at least 30 minutes for a deeper flavor.

Squeeze the zucchini noodles or blot them with a paper towel until most of the moisture is gone. Heat a skillet over medium heat and then add 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the zucchini noodles and sauté for about 30 seconds to 1 minute, just until the zucchini noodles are slightly wilted. Remove the zucchini noodles and then divide them among four bowls.

Ladle a little sauce over each bowl and then garnish with shaved or grated Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.

Note: You can prepare this sauce and hold it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days prior to use.

Lemon Thyme Gin Lemonade

I’m always game for a lovely little cocktail—especially one that involves gin. This spiked herbal lemonade feels a little fancy but it’s super easy and makes an impressive “splash” in a pretty glass.

Makes 1 cocktail

  • 2 (3-inch) sprigs of lemon thyme

  • 2 slices lemon

  • 1 to 2 ounces good-quality dry gin

  • 8 ounces of your favorite lemonade

In the bottom of a cocktail shaker, muddle together 1 sprig of lemon thyme and one slice of lemon. Add ice, then the gin, and then top it with the lemonade. Give it a shake or two.

Then pour it into a pretty glass and garnish with the additional lemon slice and sprig of lemon thyme. Enjoy!

SPRING GREENS AND RICOTTA TORTE
This beautiful spring torte is like a quiche, but without the crust and prepared with ricotta cheese rather than heavy cream. This torte is light and lovely and makes an enchanting spring brunch, lunch, or breakfast. On occasion, I’ve been known to make this torte for dinner and serve it with the pea and prosciutto salad.

Serves 6 to 8

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1 medium leek, diced

  • 1 small shallot, minced

  • 1 clove garlic, minced

  • 1 (5-ounce) bag spring greens like baby kale, chard, spinach, beet greens, and collards (or, if you grow your own spring greens, about 3 to 4 cups)

  • 1 (16-ounce) tub whole-milk ricotta cheese, drained of any excess liquid

  • 4 large eggs

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • ½ teaspoon black pepper

  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme

  • Pinch crushed red pepper flakes

  • 1 cup shredded swiss cheese

  • ½ cup grated pecorino Romano or Parmesan

  • Crème Fraîche, for garnish (optional)

  • Buttered 9-inch round baking pan

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

  • In a large sauté pan, heat the oil over medium heat. When the oil is hot, but not smoking, add the leeks and shallots and sauté just until wilted. Then stir in the garlic and sauté 30 seconds longer.

  • Slowly add in the baby greens and then take the pan off the heat. Toss the greens with the shallots and garlic until the greens are lightly wilted and distributed with the shallots. Set the pan aside.

  • In a large bowl, whisk together the ricotta cheese, eggs, salt, pepper, dried thyme, and red pepper flakes.

  • Fold in the swiss and pecorino cheese. Drain any liquid from the greens and then fold the greens mixture into the ricotta mixture.

  • Pour the mixture into the buttered 9-inch baking pan or 9-inch-deep pie plate and then place the pan on a baking sheet. Place the baking sheet in the oven and let the torte bake for about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

  • When the torte is done, firm to the touch in the center, remove it from the oven and let it cool for about 20 minutes before slicing.

  • Serve warm with a dollop of crème fraîche if desired.

PEA AND PROSCIUTTO SALAD WITH SHAVED PECORINO AND FRESH BASIL

A salad of spring peas and prosciutto is a delightful first course for any spring meal. It’s light and fresh and looks like a perfectly tended garden on a plate. You can certainly use fresh peas in this salad, but if you can’t find them in your market, frozen spring peas are also a good option. Many salads fry the prosciutto. Here, I’ve left it chilled and simply torn. I prefer a naturally presented prosciutto on this salad and the texture complements the greens as well as the peas. Keep the prosciutto very cold until it’s time to use it as that will make it easier to tear and extra yummy on the salad.

Serves 4

  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

  • 1 tablespoon honey

  • Salt and pepper to taste

  • 3 cups fresh spring greens

  • 1 cup spring peas (steamed and cooled) or frozen peas (thawed)

  • 4 thin slices of prosciutto, torn into bite-size pieces

  • ⅓ cup shaved pecorino cheese

  • ¼ cup fresh basil leaves, torn

In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, and honey. Season to taste with salt and pepper to create a lemon vinaigrette.

Place the spring greens in a large bowl and drizzle with half the lemon vinaigrette. Then divide the dressed greens among four plates. Scatter the peas over the dressed greens, then scatter the torn prosciutto and shaved pecorino. Top with fresh torn basil leaves.

Drizzle a little more vinaigrette over each salad and serve.

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