RICOTTA MEATBALLS & GRAVY

A really flavorful and nice addition to this recipe is a batch of shallots or onions caramelized with mushrooms added to the gravy after the meatballs bake! YUMMY!

RICOTTA MEATBALLS

4 slices white bread, torn into small pieces
1/3 cup whole milk
2 pounds ground chuck
8 ounces deli ham, finely chopped
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
3 ounces FINELY grated pecorino Romano cheese
1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion, squeezed dry of moisture
2 teaspoons – 1 tablespoon FRESH ground sea salt
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon chopped fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon FRESH ground black pepper
4 LARGE eggs
2 tablespoons avocado oil
1 batch beef gravy (recipe below)

  • Preheat oven to 450°.
  • Place bread pieces in bowl and pour in milk. Using your hands press bread into milk and let stand 5 minutes.

 

  • In a large bowl arrange meat with a well in the center.
  • Add the ham pieces, onions, ricotta cheese, romano cheese, ham pieces, eggs, fennel, bread pieces, salt, oregano and pepper to the well.
  • Gently and gradually incorporate all together without overtaxing.

 

  • Spray baking dish with non-stick spray or brush with avocado oil.
  • Pour gravy into baking dish.
  • Form meat into 1 inch meatballs and arrange in the gravy 1 inch apart, turning to coat.
  • Bake 30 minutes until meatballs are golden brown and are cooked through.

BEEF GRAVY

1⁄4 cup butter
1⁄4 cup flour
1 tablespoon Better Than Beef Bouillon
2 cups beef broth
FRESH ground salt and black pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon Kitchen Bouquet (optional)

  • Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat.
  • Add flour and whisk together, making sure to get all visible lumps.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes or until mixture starts to turn light brown, be sure to stir constantly.
  • Whisk bouillon and beef broth together.
  • Reduce heat to low and SLOWLY add broth mixture, stirring constantly. It may spit & bubble so be careful.
  • Add optional Kitchen Bouquet.
  • Turn heat back up to medium.
  • Continue stirring until gravy boils and thickens.
  • Makes about 2 cups.

STUFFED BALSAMIC CHICKEN

STUFFED BALSAMIC CHICKEN – servings 4
Stuffed Balsamic Chicken is a twist on the more traditional Caprese salad. The hicken breasts are filled with both fresh AND Sun Dried Tomatoes for a flavor packed punch!

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
FRESH ground salt and pepper, to season
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
2 roma tomatoes, thinly sliced**
1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes in oil, cut into strips (reserve oil)
4 thick slices mozzarella cheese
12 basil leaves**
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup QUALITY strong balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons brown sugar

  • Preheat oven to 350°.
  • Slice a pocket about 3/4 quarter of the way through on the thickest side of each breast, being careful not to cut all the way.
Generously season chicken with salt, pepper, and dried herbs.
  • Pour 1 teaspoon of sun dried tomato oil over each breast, rubbing some of the seasoning inside the pockets.
Fill each chicken breast with 2 slices fresh tomato, 2 teaspoons of sun dried tomato strips, one slice mozzarella cheese and 3 basil basil leaves.
Seal with 3-4 toothpicks diagonally to keep the filling inside while cooking.
  • Heat 2 teaspoons of sun dried tomato oil (or olive oil) in a skillet or non stick, oven proof pan (preferably cast iron) over medium-high heat.
  • Add the chicken and sear for 2 minutes on each side until golden.
  • While the chicken is cooking, whisk together the garlic, balsamic vinegar and brown sugar in a small bowl.
  • Pour the mixture into the pan around the chicken; bring to a simmer while stirring occasionally, until the glaze has slightly thickened, about 2-3 minutes.
  • Transfer pan to the preheated oven and continue to cook for a further 10-15 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and the cheese has melted.
  • Remove toothpicks and drizzle with pan juices.

NOTE** In a pinch I use sliced grape tomatoes and Garden Gourmet basil paste and see no flavor difference in the overall taste.

BALSAMIC POMEGRANATE CAPRESE CHICKEN

While this recipe is an entree it turns into a salad for us. We usually go heavy on the micro greens and then cut up all the parts to toss with the sauce and YUMMY salad just magically appears before it quickly disappears!

BALSAMIC POMEGRANATE CAPRESE CHICKEN 
1 1/2 cups pomegranate juice
1/2 cup STRONG QUALITY balsamic vinegar
2 boneless, skin-on chicken breasts** (SEE NOTE)
FRESH ground Himalayan sea salt and black pepper
2 tablespoons avocado oil
2 heirloom tomatoes, sliced 1/4-inch-thick
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
fresh buffalo mozzarella, sliced 1/4- inch-thick
1/4 cup crushed pistachios
Fresh BABY basil leaves or micro greens, for garnish

  • Bring pomegranate juice and vinegar to a SLOW simmer in a small saucepan over low heat, then let cook until very syrupy, thick and reduced to about 1/2 cup, about 45 minutes. Season to taste and set aside to cool.
  • Preheat oven to 300°.
  • Generously Sprinkle chicken breasts liberally with FRESH ground Himalayan sea salt and pepper on both sides.
  • Add oil to a medium ovenproof skillet and heat over medium-high heat.
  • Place chicken in the skillet skin-side down and cook until the skin is nice and golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Flip chicken and cook for another 2 minutes.
  • Transfer skillet to the oven and roast until cooked through and juices run clear, 10 to 12 minutes.
  • Let rest for 5 minutes.
  • Slice the cooked chicken breast 1/4-inch-thick.
  • Layer tomatoes, onions, chicken and mozzarella on a platter.
  • Drizzle with the pomegranate reduction.
  • Sprinkle with crushed pistachios.
  • Scatter basil leaves or micro greens on top.

NOTE:  Skinless, boneless breasts cans be substituted, but the browned crispy skin is a MUST for us.  If you do substitute, be sure to also adjust the cooking time. You can also start with a thick slab of bacon under the chicken to create the illusion of crispy skin.

LOADED GARLIC BREAD

LOADED GARLIC BREAD
½ stick butter, softened
⅓ cup parsley, finely chopped
⅓ cup green onions, sliced
2 slices bacon, diced and cooked crisp
⅓ cup oregano, minced
5 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup shredded cheddar cheese
½ cup fresh mozzarella cheese, chopped
½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 8-inch baguette

  • Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C).
  • In a bowl, combine the butter, herbs, garlic, bacon pieces and cheese mixing until smooth.
  • Slice the baguette in half lengthwise, then spread the butter mixture evenly on the cut sides of the baguette.
  • Place the baguette a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes, until cheese is bubbly and starting to brown on the edges.
  • Slice, cool, and serve!

LEMON SHRIMP FETTUCCINE

LEMON SHRIMP FETTUCCINE

3/4 pound medium shrimp, cleaned and deveined
1 small fennel, cleaned, halved and sliced – save chop fronds and keep separate
12 ounces fettuccine, prepared al dente (save 1/4 cup hot pasta water)
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons avocado oil
1 cup sugar snap peas, trimmed and halved
2 Meyer lemons, Juice of LARGE Meyer Lemon + slices for garnish
FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper

  • Whisk together the cream, lemon juice and egg yolks.
  • Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  • Heat avocado oil in skillet over medium heat.
  • Saute shrimp for 90 seconds. Remove shrimp and set aside to keep warm.
  • Add the fennel pieces and saute for 2 minutes.
  • Add the snap peas and saute another 3 minutes until peas are tender and fennel is browned.
  • Add cream, 1/4 cup pasta water, prepared fettuccine and shrimp into pan.
  • Turn off heat and stir together until well blended and sauce thickens.
  • Season to taste.
  • Garnish with fennel fronds and lemon slices.
  • Serve immediately.

NOTE: Meyer lemons are a bit sweeter than regular lemons so if you can’t find a Meyer lemon, use half of a regular lemon and half of a tangerine.

CHEESY SOUR CREAM CHICKEN

CHEESY SOUR CREAM CHICKEN adapted from A Dish of Daily Life
4 chicken breasts or 2 pounds chicken tenders
1 LARGE shallot, peeled, halved and sliced thin
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon avocado oil
4 slices Mozzarella or Provolone
1 cup sour cream
3/4 cup Parmesan, freshly grated, divided
1 tablespoon corn starch
2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon FRESH ground salt
1/2 teaspoon FRESH ground pepper
chopped Italian Parsley, for garnish

  • Preheat oven to 375°.
  • Over medium high heat, melt butter and avocado oil.
  • Add onions and 2 minced cloves of garlic.  Saute’ until golden and cooked through.
  • Spray baking dish with non-stick cooking spray or avocado oil.
  • In a small mixing bowl whisk sour cream smooth.
  • Add 1/2 cup of the Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper, Italian seasoning, 2 minced cloves of garlic, garlic powder and cornstarch stirring to mix well.
  • Place sauteed onions in bottom of baking dish.
  • Lay chicken breasts over onions in baking dish in a single layer.
  • Top each with a slice of Provolone or Mozzarella  and smother the chicken with the sour cream mixture.
  • Top with 1/4 cup remaining Parmesan.
  • Cover with foil and bake 30 minutes.
  • Uncover and bake 30 minutes more until chicken is cooked through and cheese is golden.
  • Serve chicken over pasta.
  • Top with chopped parsley for garnish.

NOTE: If using chicken tenders, slice Provolone or Mozzarella slices into smaller pieces to fit.  You can also use grated cheese.

PEASANT CHICKEN


PEASANT CHICKEN – serves 4
1 1/2 pounds chicken tenders
1/4 cup WONDRA flour
FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper, to taste
3 carrots, peeled and diced
1/2 pound green beans, trimmed and cut
2 shallots, sliced thin
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon avocado oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup chicken broth
Juice of 1 lemon
rice or pasta, prepared per package directions using chicken broth as your water ingredient for more flavor

  • Heat oil and butter in large saute skillet over a medium-high heat.
  • Generously season chicken pieces with FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper.
  • Dredge chicken pieces in flour.
  • Add chicken pieces to skillet browning 2-3 minutes per side.  Remove chicken to platter and tent to keep warm.
  • Add carrots to pan and saute’ 5 minutes until beginning to soften.
  • Add green beans and saute’ 2-4 minutes more.
  • Add shallots and saute’ 2 minutes more.
  • Add garlic and saute’ 2 minutes more.
  • Stir in broth and lemon juice.
  • Add chicken back into skillet, simmering 5 minutes until chicken is cooked through and sauce is beginning to thicken.
  • Serve over rice or pasta.

 

ITALIAN DEVIL CHICKEN & TOMATO POTATO CASSEROLE

These two recipes go hand in hand for us.  The marinade on the chicken makes it sooooooooo tender and flavorful too. The tomato potato casserole is good, but add the sauce and it ALL comes together as GREAT & YUMMY! 😀

ITALIAN DEVIL CHICKEN & TOMATO POTATO CASSEROLE

ITALIAN DEVIL CHICKEN
1 pound Chicken tenders
2 ounces avocado oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
Juice of 1 LARGE lemon
2 tablespoons Frank’s Original Hot Sauce
FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper
Wondra flour for dredging
1 tablespoon butter

  • Whisk together the avocado oil, lemon juice, garlic and hot sauce.
  • Season chicken tenders generously with FRESH ground salt and pepper.
  • Add chicken pieces to a shallow dish and pour marinade over top.
  • Cover and chill 4-8 hours or overnight.

 

  • Melt butter in skillet over medium heat.
  • Drain marinade off chicken pieces.
  • Dredge chicken pieces in flour and add to skillet.
  • Sear chicken pieces 2-3 minutes each side until golden and cooked through.
  • Remove chicken pieces and keep warm while preparing sauce.

SAUCE
4 ounces tomato pesto
1 cup Marsala wine

  • In the same skillet add wine being sure to scrape up all the browned bits.
  • Whisk in tomato pesto and simmer on medium high 5-6 minutes until heated through and slightly reduced.
  • Serve sauce over chicken pieces.

TOMATO POTATO CASSEROLE
potatoes, peeled and sliced thin
Italian Roma tomatoes, sliced thin
Vidalia onion, sliced thin
FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper
Parmesan Cheese, grated
FRESH basil leaves, torn, to taste
5-6 tablespoons Avocado oil
1/4 cup water

  • Spray baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
  • Arrange potatoes in a layer, followed by a layer of onions and then a layer of tomatoes.
  • Sprinkle with basil leaves, to taste.
  • Season each layer to taste.
  • Repeat layers ending with the Parmesan cheese.
  • Sprinkle oil over cheese layer evenly.
  • Pour water over top.
  • Bake covered for 30 minutes.
  • Bake for another 30 minutes or until tender and cheese is golden.

ITALIAN PORK CHOPS

ITALIAN PORK CHOPS
4 boneless pork loin chops
1 tablespoons avocado oil
1 tablespoon butter
3 strips bacon, chopped and cooked crisp (reserve bacon grease for searing pork chops)
FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper
1 small red onion, halved and sliced
8 ounces button mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1/2 cup Marsala wine
1/2 cup beef broth
1/2 cup diced pastrami
1/2 cup heavy cream
Prepared egg noodles

  • Preheat oven to 275°.
  • Pound chops to 1/4-1/2 inch maximum.
  • Generously season chops with FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper
  • Add avocado oil and butter in skillet over medium high heat.
  • Sear chops 2 1/2 minutes per side and transfer to baking sheet to keep warm in oven.
  • Add onions and mushrooms to skillet, sauteing until starting to caramelize, about 10=15 minutes.
  • Add Marsala to pan and de-glaze and reduce until almost evaporated.
  • Add beef broth, pastrami and cream. Simmer until reduced by half and beginning to thicken.
  • Stir in bacon pieces.
  • Season to taste.
  • Serve over pork chops and noodles.

ROCHESTER CHICKEN ala ITALY

Chicken Francese is an Italian recipe that was originally made with veal and while delicious, I don’t cook with veal by choice and substitute chicken in any veal recipe. I recently read that because of the cost and availability or lack there of, immigrants substituted chicken for veal when they came to the U.S., specifically to Rochester New York. So, I call my version Rochester Chicken ala Italy.

ROCHESTER CHICKEN ala ITALY
1/2 cup all purpose flour
FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper, to taste
2 LARGE eggs
1/2 cup Panko crumbs
1/4 cup FRESH chopped parsley
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3 tablespoons UNSALTED butter
2/3 cup chicken broth
Juice of 1 LARGE lemon
1 lemon. sliced into wheels
Prepared egg noodles

  • Set up a dredging station with the flour, salt and pepper in dish one. In dish two beat the eggs with 1 tablespoon of water and in the third dish combine the Panko crumbs with the paprika and parsley.
  • Pound chicken breasts to 1/3 inch thickness between 2 sheets of plastic wrap.
  • Dip each chicken piece into the flour and press to coat well, followed by the egg dip and then the Panko crumbs. RESERVE 2 tablespoons of the  flour mixture.
  • Set aside on a platter. When you have them all coated, chill the platter 30-60 minutes.

 

  • In a large skillet (preferably cast iron) heat 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium high heat until sizzling.
  • Saute each breast about 4 minutes per side until golden.
  • Transfer to a warm platter.
  • Add the remaining butter to the pan.
  • Add 2 tablespoons of the reserved flour mixture and whisk until combined and golden.
  • Add the broth and lemon juice, stirring constantly until reduced and thickened into sauce.
  • Adjust seasoning to desired flavor.
  • Return chicken to pan and turn to coat.
  • Serve over prepared egg noodles.
  • Top with sauce and garnish with lemon wheels and parsley.

PARMESAN HERB MUSHROOM CHICKEN

PARMESAN HERB MUSHROOM CHICKEN adapted from Cafe Delites

CHICKEN
2 tablespoons butter
6 skin on, bone in chicken thighs*
PINCH of garlic powder, to taste
FRESH ground sea salt and pepper

  • Preheat oven to 400°.
  • Generously season chicken with garlic powder, salt and pepper.
Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium high heat.
  • Add butter. When melted sear chicken thighs 2-3 minutes on each side (skin side down last) until golden and crispy.
  • Transfer chicken pan to the oven and roast until completely cooked through, about 25-30 minutes.
Transfer to a warm plate and set aside.

SAUCE
2 green onions, sliced thin
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups sliced mushrooms (I like to substitute beech mushrooms for a nuttier flavor)
1 tablespoon FRESH minced basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons FRESH chopped Flat Leaf Parsely
1½ cups Half and Half
2 cups baby spinach
3/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese , divided
FRESH ground sea salt and pepper, to taste
1 KNORR chicken bullion cube, crushed
1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with
2 tablespoons Half and Half
1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley for garnish

  • Drain all but 2 tablespoons of some of the excess fat from the skillet.
  • Return skillet to the stove over medium-high heat and sauté the onions and garlic a minute or so in the pan juices until fragrant.
  • Add the mushrooms, herbs and 2 teaspoons of parsley, sautéing until mushrooms begin to soften.
  • Reduce heat to low-medium heat, add the half and half and bring to a SLOW simmer, stirring occasionally, and being careful NOT to boil.
  • Add in the bullion cube powder and season with salt and pepper to your taste.
  • 
Mix together the cornstarch and 2 tablespoons half and half.
  • Add cornstarch mixture to the center of the pan, and continue to simmer while quickly stirring the mixture through until the sauce thickens.
  • Add 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese; allow sauce to simmer for another minute until cheese melts through the sauce.
  • Add the chicken back into the pan and allow to simmer for 1-2 minutes in the cream sauce.
  • Taste test and adjust seasoning, if desired.
  • Fold in spinach leaves, stirring to coat and cooking JUST until they wilt.
  • Sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup of parsley and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.
  • Serve over mashed potatoes, rice or pasta.


NOTES – To substitute chicken breasts for the thighs there is no need to bake them. After adding the breasts back into the pan, continue simmering in the sauce until completely cooked through.

BEEF RAGU & PASTA ala SLOW COOKER and A LITTLE PASTA HISTORY

Strozzapreti AKA priest-choker or priest-strangler are an elongated form of cavatelli, a hand-rolled pasta typical of the Tuscany region of Italy.

The name has many theories as to the name. One of the theories is because of gluttonous priests were so enthralled by the savory pasta that they ate too quickly and choked themselves. Another explanation involves the “azdora” OR A  ”housewife” who “chokes” the dough strips to make the strozzapreti. It is presumed that the housewife would express such a rage possibly triggered by the misery and difficulty of her life that would fill her with enough rage to be able to strangle a priest!” And yet another legend suggests that wives would customarily make pasta for priests as partial payment for land rents (the Catholic church rented to many farmers) and their husbands would be angered enough by the priests eating their wives’ food to wish that the priests would choke as they stuffed their mouths with it. And yet another possible explanation is that the pasta resembles a clerical collar which is commonly referred to as a “Priest Choker”.

The more commonly accepted theory is that following Sunday mass, a priest would visit homes of the villagers and enjoy dinner with them. The more pleasant the experience for the priest the more often they would come back to that particular home. As a means for the family to let the priest know that he might have worn out his welcome, they would serve this pasta which later earned the name “Strozzapreti.”

The dough is first rolled out in thick flat sheets. It is then cut into strips. The strips are lightly rolled or twisted between the palms. The large pasta is separated into 3-4 inch pieces by pinching it. Unlike spaghetti or macaroni, this pasta is not uniform in size or shape.

Different regions makes this pasta slightly different. In Romagna it is made with wheat flour, water, salt and sometimes eggs. Where as in Emilia it is made from flour, water, Parmesan cheese and egg whites which are all beaten together. In Pici it is more similar to the Tuscan style which is hand rolled, solid fat tubes of dough that are cut, but not twisted giving it the appearance of a taut rope. In Corsica it is a large gnocchi made of cheese and vegetables and then baked.

Unless you make your own pasta regularly this is a difficult pasta to find in your average grocery store. I usually substitute the Barilla Campagnelle pasta which is a thinner cone shaped pasta with a ruffled edge and is often known as “little bells”.

BEEF RAGU ala SLOW COOKER
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
5-6 cloves garlic, minced
2 1/2 -3 pound chuck roast
1 tablespoon House Seasoning (see below)
28 ounce crushed tomatoes
1 cup beef broth
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 large carrot, peeled and grated
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 teaspoons Italian seasoning
Prepared pasta
Parmesan cheese, grated

  • Spray a large slow cooker with non-stick cooking spray.
  • Arrange the onions and garlic in the bottom of the slow cooker.
  • Sprinkle the roast with the house seasoning on both sides.
  • Arrange roast on top of the onions and garlic.
  • Sprinkle the carrots on top of the roast.
  • In a medium bowl, blend together the tomatoes, tomato paste, beef broth, red wine vinegar and Italian seasonings.
  • Pour over the roast.
  • Cover and cook on low 8-10 hours until the beef is EXTREMELY tender and falls apart.
  • Skim any fat from the top.
  • Use 2 forks to shred the beef.
  • Stir beef into the tomato sauce.
  • Adjust seasonings.
  • Re-cover and cook for another hour to allow the flavored to meld together.
  • Serve over prepared pasta and top with Parmesan cheese.

HOUSE SEASONING MIX

1/4 cup fine sea salt
1/4 cup garlic powder
2 tablespoons onion powder
1 tablespoon FRESH ground black pepper

  • Combine in a small bowl until well blended.
  • Store in an air tight container.