Tag Archives: Italian

prosciutto di parma on a wooden serving board

The History of Prosciutto di Parma, Plus Buying, Storing and Pairing Tips

Soft and supple, with a pleasant saltiness and just enough fat to melt delicately on the tongue, a thin slice of Prosciutto di Parma is an exquisite experience. The artisanal product can be found in many grocery stores, but knowing a few pointers when it comes to buying, storing and serving it can make a world of difference.

prosciutto di parma on a wooden serving board

The History of Prosciutto di Parma

This storied ham has a long history as a treasured ingredient enjoyed both within Italy’s borders and around the world, with a production method that can be dated back as early as 100 BC, when it was praised by Roman statesman Marcus Porcius Cato. The traditional process used for thousands of years incorporating salt, air and time is still largely followed by producers of Prosciutto di Parma today.

As with many foods made in Italy, terroir is especially important — so much so that Prosciutto di Parma, as well as prosciutto made in regions such as San Daniele and Toscano, is registered under a European Union protected designation of origin (PDO). These strict rules are upheld by the Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma, a group of 140 producers, and the product is traced from breeder to final inspection.

A Peek at Prosciutto Production
According to these rules, Prosciutto di Parma must be produced within the confines of the Parma region using specific breeds of heavy pigs and cured for at least 400 days from the date of first salting (a process that can go as long as three years). As the salt draws out moisture, the meat is tenderized and flavours are intensified. Hams are then tested in five places before being stamped with a crown signifying its origin.

What to Look For At the Grocery Store

When purchasing prosciutto, there are a few ways to ensure that you’re getting exactly what you want.

Related: Advice From a Cheese Master: How to Buy, Store and Eat Cheese

Guarantees of Authenticity
Whether you’re shopping for freshly sliced or pre-packaged prosciutto, there are signs you can look for that guarantee its authenticity. Prosciutto di Parma, for example, has a fire-brand of a five-pointed Ducal Crown on the skin which is always visible when displayed in the deli counter. On pre-sliced packs, look for the Ducal Crown within a black triangle, which is the packaging equivalent to the fire-brand.

Fat and Condition of the Meat
The fat on a piece of Prosciutto di Parma should be pure white, not yellow. It’s ok to see small white crystals, which are the tyrosine, an amino acid that comes from the breakdown of naturally occurring proteins in the prosciutto.

Specify Thickness
If you’re buying at the deli counter, you can ask for different thicknesses, depending on your planned use for the prosciutto. If you’re wrapping it around another ingredient, especially to cook, you may want a slightly thicker slice. For enjoying on its own, Prosciutto di Parma is best cut in paper thin or translucent slices. Ask the person cutting the piece to show you a test slice before proceeding with your order (typically sold by weight) and ask for a taste to see which producer you like best. Also, it’s best to leave the slicing to the professionals with a meat slicer, due to the difficulty of achieving a properly thin cut with a knife at home.

Related: Top 5 Kitchen Knives Every Home Cook Should Own

How to Store your Prosciutto

Make sure that you store it correctly to preserve the quality of the product. Freshly sliced Prosciutto di Parma from the deli counter is best eaten the day of purchase for the maximum effect, but can be stored tightly wrapped in the refrigerator to avoid oxidation.

A whole piece in a vacuum pack can be stored unopened at 8°C for up to six months, but once the packaging and meat are cut, that time shrinks to one month (be sure to tightly wrap the exposed end with plastic wrap). Pre-sliced prosciutto sold in packs should be enjoyed within three days, and kept well wrapped in the refrigerator.

Finding the Perfect Pairing for Prosciutto di Parma

With its balance of soft saltiness and nutty sweetness, Prosciutto di Parma pairs well with a large variety of ingredients and applications from brunch to dinner.

prosciutto di parma wrapped around breadsticks

Cooked Dishes
Although many people think of prosciutto as the star of a charcuterie board laden with cheese, fruit and nuts, it’s also a great supporting player in main course entrees to add flavour to cooked dishes, or as a complementary flavour to meat, seafood or produce. Try adding it to your favourite pasta dish or using it with celery, carrots and onion to build a better soffrito. When Prosciutto di Parma is crisped, it can also add lovely flavour to vegetables such as Brussels sprouts or green beans.

Get the recipe for Aglio e Olio with Peas and Prosciutto.

Fruit and Vegetables
From the traditional melon and figs to more unusual options, the mildness of prosciutto pairs nicely with your favourite seasonal fruit or vegetables, such as fresh spring peas or summer corn, autumn cranberries or winter pears. Try using Prosciutto di Parma to wrap spiced plums or gooey grilled brie with pineapple for a playful twist. For cold applications, prosciutto should be brought to room temperature for the best texture.

Get the recipe for Prosciutto-Wrapped Grilled Brie with Pineapple.

With a Drink
Prosciutto di Parma’s slight sweetness pairs extremely well with a variety of beverages, especially ones like an Aperol Spritz that have good acidity and fizziness to counter the rich mouthfeel of the fatty layer. For other Italian-inspired drink pairings, try the soft bubbles of a Lambrusco, your favourite Prosecco, or a lighter Italian Pilsner or Ale (for non-drinkers, a tonic water would achieve the same palate cleansing effect).

Get the recipe for a Thyme-Infused Aperol Spritz.

Viaggio Toronto - overhead shot of pizza, pasta and bomba sauce

3 Things You Need to Order From Viaggio in Toronto

Here’s a confession: both my dinner companion (content creator and host of Baking Therapy Sabrina Stavenjord) and I were eating low-carb diets when we met up for dinner. But when the two of us sat down at the marble tables on the spacious outdoor patio in Little Portugal’s Viaggio, we knew that it would not be a low-carb night – and if you’re going to break a diet, this is the way to do it!

Related: Tasty Indigenous Restaurants in Canada That You’ll Love

What You Need to Know About Viaggio

Viaggio is located in a historic building on the corner of Toronto’s Dundas and Lansdowne with a covered patio tucked away at the side of the building. They don’t take reservations so you’ll want to come early to avoid disappointment (because trust me, missing out on Chef Jon Vettraino’s classic yet oh-so-indulgent dishes would be very disappointing). Viaggio features a rotating menu of classic Italian fare made with the season’s best offerings. For a late-summer dinner, that meant options like Zucchini Flowers, Corn and Chanterelle Risotto and Strawberry and Earl Grey Budino in addition to classics like Cacio e Pepe and Margherita Pizza.

Burrata, pizza bread balloon, wine and cocktails at Viaggio
Burrata with figs, aged balsamic and candied pecans and the Pizza Bread Balloon

Must-Order Dishes at Viaggio

Stuffed Zucchini

Zucchini flowers Lightly fried, ricotta and parmigiano filled flowers, romesco sauce
Lightly fried, ricotta and Parmigiano-filled flowers served on Romesco sauce

If you’re lucky enough to eat at Viaggio when zucchini flowers are in season, these cheese-stuffed beauties are a must-try (but if not, look for anything cheese-stuffed on the menu and you’ll be just as satisfied). These were served with a lightly garlicky Romesco that was the perfect pairing for these delicate seasonal veggies.

See More: What’s in Season? Your Guide to Canadian Fruits and Vegetables

The Pizza

Prince of Bologna pizza with bomba sauce
Prince of Bologna pizza with bomba sauce

A perfectly chewy crust, loads of cheese and a smattering of toppings to suit your taste buds – these pizzas are a must-try. We had the Prince of Bologna, a mozzarella and Parmigiano-topped pizza with a generous helping of mortadella, pistachios and honey for a hint of sweetness. Served with the spicy bomba sauce, it was *chef’s kiss*. Pro tip: if you can’t decide between pizza or a pasta dish, try the Pizza Bread Balloon as a starter with an appetizer.

Tiramisu Pancakes

Viaggio Tiramisu Pancakes
Tiramisu Pancakes with Mascarpone cream, marsala and espresso syrup

If we had to pick just one thing (and wouldn’t that be a shame?) from Viaggio’s menu, this would be it. Luckily for diners, this is on both the dessert menu for dinnertime guests as well as the weekend brunch menu, because who doesn’t love a sweet start to their day? The fluffiest pancakes (think Japanese soufflé-style) are drizzled with espresso maple syrup and topped with a mountain of Mascarpone whipped cream for a heavenly dessert that you’ll come back for again and again (trust us!).

Photos courtesy of Sabrina Stavenjord.

How to Make Bruschetta in 15 Minutes (Plus the Best Bruschetta Bar for Nights Inside)

Nothing says staying indoors quite like a delightful seasonal spread bursting with fresh ingredients. We absolutely love to use the best of the season, and one summer and early fall favourite is tomatoes. Fresh, juicy and perfectly ripe at the end of summer, we’re always looking for ways to make them a star. Our new favourite is to assemble a quick and easy bruschetta bar when spending time inside with loved ones (because we’re desperate to switch things up these days!).  With a few simple ingredients, you can showcase the bright, herbaceous flavours of this beloved app and present an impressive spread in just a few minutes.

How to Make Bruschetta (And the Best Bruschetta Bar!)

bruschetta-bar-spread

Related: From Homemade Bread to Pickles, 20 Recipes to Master While Indoors

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:
4 tomatoes, seeded and diced or 12 cocktail tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup Vidalia onion, minced
1 clove garlic, grated
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
3/4 cup labneh or Greek yogurt
3/4 cup ricotta
3/4 cup hummus
1/2 cup chopped, toasted walnuts
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup chopped basil
1/2 cup shaved Parmesan
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1 Tbsp za’atar
1 baguette, cut into 1/2-inch slices
Olive oil

bruschetta bar assembled

Related: Ranking Canadian Retailers Offering Grocery Delivery Right Now, by Price

Directions:
1. In a medium bowl combine tomatoes, onion, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper.
2. Place labneh, ricotta, hummus, walnuts, parsley, basil, parmesan and pine nuts into small bowls and place on platter.
3. Sprinkle labneh with za’atar and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle ricotta with herbs, if desired.
4. Assemble all items on a platter and serve with plates for guests to assemble their appetizers.

Looking for more easy peasy recipes? Trust us: these snack plates are the easy dinner option you need this week!

Two Classic Desserts Join Forces in These Delicious Tiramisu Cream Puffs

My Baking Therapy cream puffs are inspired by one of my all-time desserts — tiramisu! Infused with coffee, filled with a luxurious, but light mascarpone cream and dipped in the easiest chocolate ganache ever. If you love tiramisu, I know you’re going to devour this handheld treat. How can such a simple combo of two desserts be so delicious?

Tiramisu Cream Puffs

Prep Time: 35 minutes
Rest Time: 30 minutes
Bake Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes
Servings: 16 to 18 cream puffs

Ingredients:

Cream Puffs
½ cup whole milk
½ cup coffee
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 tsp white sugar
½ tsp salt
2 tsp espresso powder
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 extra-large eggs, room temperature

Egg Wash
1 egg
1 Tbsp milk

Mascarpone Cream
1 cup mascarpone
1 ½ cup heavy whipping cream
6 Tbsp icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tsp water (optional)
1 tsp gelatin powder (optional)

Chocolate Ganache
½ cup heavy whipping cream
¼ tsp espresso powder
6 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, set aside.

2. Start your cream puff dough: in a medium saucepan, add milk, coffee, butter, sugar, salt and espresso powder and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Once the mixture is bubbling, take off the heat, add the flour in all at once and mix to combine. Place it back on the heat and cook for 1-2 minutes until the dough starts to come together and forms a thin film at the bottom of the pan. Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer to cool for 5 minutes.

3. Using the paddle attachment, add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. The dough will be smooth, shiny and thick, but pipeable. Transfer the dough to a piping bag with a ½ to ¾ tip or opening. Hold the piping bag upright and pipe the dough into 2-inch peaks about 2 inches apart. Dip your finger in some water and smooth out the peaks on top.

4. Whisk together the egg and milk for the egg wash and brush the tops of the dough. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, then rotate the pan, turn down the oven to 325°F and continue to bake for another 15 to 20 minutes until golden and crisp on the outside. Transfer to a rack and let cool completely.

5. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whisk together the mascarpone and heavy cream on medium speed to combine. Add the icing sugar and vanilla and whisk on high until the peaks are stiff. Make sure not to over whip or the mixture will start to separate.

Optional: To stabilize the cream filling, bloom the gelatin in water, let sit for 5 minutes then heat in the microwave for 10 seconds. Add 1 tsp to the cream when it has reached the soft peak stage.

Related: 21 Italian Desserts You Need to Try Before You Die

6. Transfer the mascarpone cream to a piping bag. Using a paring knife, cut an X at the bottom of the puff, insert the piping tip and fill the puff. You will be able to feel the puff fill with the cream.

7. Heat the ganache’s heavy cream over the stove. Dissolve the espresso powder and pour mixture over chopped chocolate. Let sit for 1 to 2 minutes to warm through, then stir together until thick and velvety.

8. Dip the tops of the cream puffs into the chocolate ganache and let set on a cooling rack. Alternatively, you can slice the cream puffs in half, pipe the cream into the centre like a sandwich.

Like Sabrina’s baking? Check out her easy recipe for soft rolls, along with her gooey overnight cinnamon buns and fudgy gluten-free sweet potato brownies.

Watch out for Sabrina’s baking videos on the Food Network Canada Instagram account.

Comforting Three-Cheese Cacio e Pepe in Spaghetti Squash Form

Cacio e Pepe translates to “cheese and pepper”, and is the ultimate no-nonsense pantry pasta consisting of freshly ground pepper, noodles, and good quality cheese. Spaghetti squash presents much like spaghetti noodles and is generally available all year-round, making for an excellent alternative for gluten-intolerants (more gluten-free dinner inspiration here) or those looking for a healthy low-carb twist on the classic. So grab your cheese grater, and start prepping tonight’s dinner.

Three-Cheese Cacio e Pepe Baked Spaghetti Squash

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 80 minutes (includes squash roasting time)
Servings: 4 (raw veg = 5 cups before mixing in cheese)

Ingredients:

1 spaghetti squash
1 Tbsp olive oil
½ tsp salt
1 ½  tsp coarsely ground black pepper, divided
2 Tbsp olive oil or butter
¾ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
¼ cup mascarpone cheese or smooth ricotta (optional)
Chopped parsley or basil

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Cut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds and strands with a spoon. Brush inside with 1 Tbsp oil and sprinkle with ¼ tsp each salt and pepper. Place cut side down on the prepared pan.

Tip: Don’t forget to save the squash seeds and roast them as a snack. Here’s how to roast tamari and sea salt pumpkin seeds (follow the same instructions).

3. Roast until a paring knife is easily inserted in the centre, about 45 minutes. Let cool.

4. Using a large spoon, spoon out and shred into long strands. Spread on a double layer of paper towel or clean kitchen towel to absorb any liquid.

5. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add oil and then the squash, remaining ¼ tsp salt and remaining 1 ¼ tsp pepper and toss. Stir in mascarpone (if using), stirring until just melted and combined. Remove from heat and sprinkle with the Parmesan and Pecorino cheese, tossing to combine.

Tip: Like its namesake, this dish is all about pepper and cheese. For the best pepper flavour, toast whole black peppercorns in a skillet over medium-low heat until fragrant, shaking the pan, 2 to 3 minutes. Let cool and crush with the bottom of a heavy bottom pot or skillet.

6. Divide among plates and sprinkle with parsley and more cheese, if desired.

Another cheesy pasta recipe with a twist: this winter greens mac & cheese will make you feel healthy. You’ll also devour this vegetarian spaghetti puttanesca with cauliflower. Lastly, test out these weeknight dinners where veggies replace carbs.

Spaghetti Puttanesca with Cauliflower is the Vegetarian Pasta to Beat

Spaghetti alla puttanesca is a classic Italian pasta dish that’s packed with the salty, umami flavours of capers, olives, tomatoes, Parmesan cheese and fresh herbs. For this spin on a staple, we add dimension with golden, lightly crispy roasted cauliflower and the sweetness of roasted tomatoes, making for a filling, delicious vegetarian main that’s simple, hearty and healthy. Enjoy!

Cauliflower Puttanesca

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
Serves: 4 to 6

Ingredients:

4 cups (2 pints) halved cherry tomatoes
1 small cauliflower, cut into florets (about 4 cups)
¼ cup olive oil, divided
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper, divided
450g long pasta, such as spaghetti, bucatini or linguini
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp tomato paste
¼ cup kalamata olives, chopped
2 Tbsp capers, drained and rinsed
½ cup chopped parsley
½ cup torn basil
½ cup shaved Parmesan

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
2. Place tomatoes on one half of a rimmed baking sheet, and the cauliflower on the other.
3. Whisk together 3 Tbsp oil, vinegar, salt and ¼ tsp pepper in a small bowl. Drizzle over vegetables; stir to coat (keeping the veggies separate will allow the cauliflower to crisp up when cooking despite the juicy tomatoes). Roast until cauliflower is golden and tender, about 25 minutes.

4. Cook pasta according to package directions in a large pot of generously salted water. Reserve ½ cup pasta water. Drain and set aside.
5. Heat remaining oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook until tender, about 6 to 8 minutes.
6. Add tomato paste and cook for 1 minute. Add cauliflower, tomatoes (and any juice), olives, capers, parsley, remaining pepper, pasta and pasta water; toss to coat.
7. Serve sprinkled with fresh basil and parmesan.

Craving more veg-friendly dinner ideas?  We’ve culled our 50 all-time best vegetarian recipes and 20 satisfying vegetarian casseroles.

A Slow Cooker Lasagna You Wouldn’t Believe is Gluten- and Dairy-Free

If you can’t eat gluten or dairy, it can be a little difficult to find a lasagna that you are able to eat. Look no further! This delicious vegan recipe will leave you feeling satisfied  even without the cheese! To make it even better, it’s easy to prep the ingredients and is completely hands-free once the slow cooker is turned on. While it cooks, the noodles remain tender and soft so they are less likely to dry out. Plus, you get to skip pre-cooking the noodles altogether. Make this recipe on days when you need some comfort food that tastes delicious and leaves you feeling healthy.

Prep Time: 30 minutes (plus soaking time for the nuts)
Cook Time: 3 hours
Servings: 6

Vegan and Gluten-Free Slow Cooker Lasagna

Ingredients:
1 package gluten-free lasagna noodles
1 jar marinara sauce
3 cups cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 medium zucchini, sliced into thin pieces
3 cups butternut squash, cut into cubes
½ box of baby spinach

Dairy-Free “Cheese”
1.5 cups cashews, soaked in water
1 tsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
¼ tsp sea salt
¼ tsp garlic powder
¼ cup water
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Directions:
1. Prep the dairy-free cheese first. Soak the cashews in a bowl of water for 4 hours. If you’re short on time, soak them in very hot water for 30 minutes.
2. Drain the cashews and add them to the food processor with lemon juice, nutritional yeast, sea salt, garlic powder, water and extra virgin olive oil. Blend on high until the cashews are chopped up well and the mixture is soft, similar in consistency to ricotta cheese.
3. Prep the vegetables next. Slice the cremini mushrooms. Slice the zucchini into thin pieces, about 2 inches in length. Chop the butternut squash into small cubes.


4. Place the mushrooms in a large skillet with a few spoonfuls of extra virgin olive oil and a pinch of sea salt. Turn heat to medium and let the mushrooms sit for about 5 minutes, without stirring them. This helps remove the excess liquid from the mushrooms, so they don’t become too mushy. Give them a stir and then remove from the skillet.
5. Next, saute the butternut squash with a spoonful of extra virgin olive oil and pinch of sea salt for about 5 minutes, to lightly cook. Remove from the skillet.
6. Rub the slices of zucchini with some extra virgin olive oil and a pinch of sea salt.

7. To compile the lasagna, it’s easiest to place all of the ingredients on the counter. Put the squash, mushrooms and zucchini on separate plates. Place the baby spinach on the counter as well. Have a spoon ready to ladle out the marinara sauce and the cashew “cheese.”
8. Start with spooning out a layer of marinara sauce on the bottom of the slow cooker.
9. Then place a layer of lasagna noodles. Since the slow cooker is not shaped as a rectangle, you’ll have to break some of the noodles into smaller pieces to fit in the curved places.
10. Add a layer of the cashew “cheese” using ⅓ of it and spread out ⅓ of the veggies over top. Place a layer of lasagna noodles on top and then spread some more marinara sauce over them.
11. Repeat this again twice to make additional layers. Pour marinara sauce over the top layer of noodles. Extra sauce is good to prevent the lasagna from drying out.
12. Cook on high for 3 hours.

For similar recipes, see our 20 Best Dairy-Free Dinners and 15 Extra-Creamy Vegan Pasta Recipes.

How to Make Italian Meatballs with Veal and Ricotta

Serve up an Italian classic that pleases a crowd, with the best recipe ever for spaghetti and meatballs. In this episode of Food Network Canada Chef School, Mark McEwan delivers tried and true tips for making the time-honoured comfort food speciality, including the requisite marinara tomato sauce, with ease. And, if you’re wondering how to make real-deal meatballs on a weeknight, Mark has the answers, guiding you through an Italian meatballs and spaghetti dinner, complete with salad and baguette, by utilizing your pantry and freezer.

 

How to Make Classic Italian Meatballs for Spaghetti

In Mark’s meatball recipe, you’ll see there’s more to meatballs than meat. Ricotta makes them tender, while Parmesan acts in lieu of breadcrumbs, elevating the mix and keeping everything neat and tidy when rolling. Onions, cooked and cooled, are added for depth, while a good bit of salt and pepper season the mix.

Mark favours a medium-sized meatball, which gets rolled in flour before being seared, creating a flavourful brown crust – at this step, he notes, it’s important to not overcrowd the pan so the crust can form.

Of course, the perfect meatball needs the perfect marinara sauce, the heartbeat of the Italian kitchen.

 

A Simple Tomato Sauce Recipe for Your Meatballs

Canned San Marzano tomatoes are preferred by Mark because their sugar content is dialled-in for pasta sauce perfection, picked and canned within 24 hours. For this ultimate spaghetti and meatballs recipe, they’re worth seeking out. A bit of butter in the tomato sauce enriches the dish and creates a glossy, restaurant-quality look and taste.

For the pasta, keep your noodles al dente, with a touch of bite in the centre. The starch from the pasta binds the sauce, bringing everything together. The three components briefly cook in one pan, melding to create something super-special and ultra-delicious.

How to Freeze Meatballs

For those who want to get ahead of the game, freezing meatballs is essential for making a cozy, gourmet weeknight meal, in a flash. And Mark knows the perfect way to prepare meatballs for the freezer.

“I would cook them and then freeze them [in] plastic sealed containers. My wife does this all the time, she’ll make 300 meatballs and she’ll make a big batch of San Marzano tomato sauce. And then she puts eight meatballs in each container and then she covers them in sauce, lets them cool, pops them in the freezer and we eat perfect meatballs all month long. It’s the greatest fast dinner.”

To defrost the frozen meatballs, he recommends bringing them out the day before or slowly defrosting in the microwave (on a low setting) before finishing heating on the stovetop.

“They’re just the most amazing thing to have in your freezer,” Mark adds.

Batch-Cook Your Way to Dinner

Batch cooking helps this Chef create homemade meals that feed and please a crowd, any night of the week. It’s all about planning ahead, creating a pantry, refrigerator and freezer that works in your favour.

“We keep actually we keep Bolognese in the freezer, meatballs in sauce, and we keep straight sauce in plastic containers so that we can do a quick little meal,” says Mark. “One Saturday you do a bunch of stock, one Saturday you do your meatballs, the next Saturday you do your Bolognese and then you do your San Marzano [sauce], or you can do those together. You create this great inventory of products and you can always make a wonderful meal.”

An Italian Feast, Thanks to the Freezer

Continuing with a well-stocked freezer, Mark likes to keep baguettes in there, which would also pair nicely with meatballs and tomato sauce, with or without the pasta.

“I always have a baguette that gets cut in half, wrapped in foil and then [put in zip-top] bags,” he says. “I have them in the freezer so I can always take a baguette out, thaw it in the microwave throw it in the oven, crisp up the crust on it and I have a fresh baguette.”

And no pasta dinner is complete without a bright, fresh salad.

To make this happen, Mark keeps a well-stocked pantry, filled with such things as, “Good vinegars and good oils for throwing together a simple vinaigrette. A little bit of mustard, a little bit of anchovy paste, tiny bit of garlic. Boom. Fresh greens tossed. So healthy, so simple and it escapes a lot of people because…they overthink it.”

With spaghetti and meatballs on the table, an effortless salad ready to go and a baguette at hand to tear up and soak up that glossy San Marzano tomato sauce, dinner is served. Of course, a bottle of wine to complement the meal is a nice touch, if you have one handy.

All that’s left to do is twirl, slurp and dig in.

Make your own Italian feast tonight. Get Chef Mark McEwan’s recipes for Spaghetti and Meatballs, and Classic Marinara with San Marzano Tomatoes.

squash-risotto-in-pot

No-Stir Baked Risotto with Chicken, Mushrooms & Squash Was Made For Weeknights

There’s nothing I love more than a home-cooked meal at the end of the workday. But spending a lot of time in the kitchen isn’t exactly what you’re looking for after a long day. What to do then? Comfort food for cold weather without all the fuss. Can it be done? I say, yes! Risotto, for example, is one of my favourite comfort foods, but many people are put off the idea of making this for a weeknight meal, placing it firmly in the category of Too Time-Consuming.  All that stirring and the need to stand by the stove the entire time it cooks is off-putting. The good news is that this recipe, while not the risotto of a purist, will change your mind.

Risotto on a weeknight is made doable when it’s oven-baked. There are a few minutes’ prep at the start (even easier if you have pre-chopped squash on hand), but the bulk of the work is done in the oven, leaving you around 30 minutes to prepare a salad, or just relax before dinner is on the table. I’ve chosen chicken and mushrooms to go with the classic fall flavour of squash, though this is a very flexible recipe and lends itself to many different interpretations. Once you’ve oven-baked one risotto, you’ll be a convert.

Squash Risotto

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 55 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Serves: 6 

Ingredients
Roasted Squash
1/2 butternut or red kuri squash, peeled and seeded, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp dried thyme or Herbes de Provence
1/8 tsp flaky sea salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper

Baked Risotto
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 clove garlic, minced
500 g boneless skinless chicken breast, cubed
1-1/2cups white mushrooms, finely sliced
1-1/2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine
4 cups warm chicken stock, more as needed
4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only, stems discarded
Zest of 1/2 a lemon
3/4 cup grated fresh Parmesan
Fresh thyme leaves
Flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to season

Directions

DSCF4436

Roasted Squash:

1. Preheat the oven to 375ºF.
2. Line a large baking tray with parchment paper and spread the squash pieces over the tray evenly. Drizzle with the olive oil, sprinkle with thyme or Herbes de Provence, salt and pepper and toss to combine.
3. Bake for 15 minutes, or until your risotto is ready to go in the oven, whatever’s fastest, until squash is just starting to get tender. The squash will go back in the oven alongside the risotto and will finish cooking at the same time.

Baked Risotto:
1. Heat oil in a large ovenproof dish or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until it’s just starting to get soft (remove from heat if garlic is browning).
2. Add chicken pieces and cook for 5 to 7 minutes until beginning to brown. Mix in rice and stir to combine until the rice is glossy and coated in oil.
3. Add wine and cook until evaporated, 2 to 3 minutes, then add stock and thyme. Stir well.
4. Bring mixture to the boil, then cover, remove from the heat and place in the oven. Bake risotto in same oven as tray of squash for 25 minutes.

Baked Risotto

Serving:
1. Remove risotto and tray of roasted squash from the oven. If the risotto is looking a little dry, add up to 1/2 cup of warm chicken stock (you may need less), stirring until it’s no longer dry. To the risotto, stir in the Parmesan and lemon zest, followed by half of the roasted squash, stirring carefully (so it doesn’t, well, get squashed!)
2. Serve the risotto immediately, topped with remaining roasted squash, salt, pepper and fresh thyme leaves.

Keep the effortless Italian theme going and serve up this arugula and radicchio salad on the side.

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vegetarian-Cacciatore-recipe

Vegetables Star in This Healthy, Comforting Cacciatore

Known as a “hunter” style meal, this Italian classic is typically made using chicken or rabbit, but our rustic take serves up vegetables as the star.  A mix of veggies and wine simmer together to create layers of flavour that become a perfect pair with pasta.  We’ve intentionally used an array of vegetables to offer lots of textures and tastes with each bite, but if you’re not particularly fond of one veggie, omit and replace with what you love.

vegetarian Cacciatore

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Serves: 2 to 4

Ingredients:
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 lb mixed mushrooms (cremini, shiitake, button), sliced
1 yellow onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 red pepper, sliced into strips
1 celery stalk, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 zucchini, sliced into semi-circles
1 Tbsp capers
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp red chili flakes (optional)
1/2 tsp sea salt
Pinch pepper
1 15-oz can diced tomatoes
1 cup vegetable broth
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped, for serving
2 to 3 cups pasta of choice, cooked

Vegetarian Cacciatore6

Directions:
1. Place a pot or deep skillet over medium heat and coat the pan with olive oil.
2. Add mushrooms and allow them to cook for 10 minutes, so they’ll release their moisture and begin to brown.

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3. Add onion, garlic, red pepper, celery, carrot, zucchini, capers, oregano, chili flakes, sea salt and pepper and allow to cook for 7 minutes.
4. Pour in the diced tomatoes, vegetable broth and white wine. Cover the pot, bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes.

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5. Top with fresh basil and re-season with sea salt and pepper to taste.
6. Mix with your favorite pasta and enjoy.

Vegetarian Cacciatore

Looking for tastier veggie-filled dinners? Try our All-Time Best Vegetarian Recipes.

semifreddo

How to Make Semifreddo, Italy’s Dreamy No-Churn Ice Cream

If you’ve yet to make ice cream’s cooler Italian cousin, semifreddo (roughly translated from Italian to mean “half cold”), before, now is the time to whip up a batch. Not only is this dessert delicious with its dreamy, frozen mousse-like texture, it’s easy to make (no ice cream maker required!) and even easier to customize.

Traditionally poured into a loaf pan, frozen and then served sliced like an ice cream cake all grown up, you can also portion the semifreddo mixture into individual bowls, or even simply freeze a batch in a large container and scoop it out, ice cream-style. Starting with a simple vanilla base, the world is your oyster when it comes to flavours you can swirl into the mix.

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Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Chill Time: 5 hours
Total Time: 5 hours 30 minutes
Serves: 6 to 8

Ingredients:
5 large eggs, yolks and whites separated
1¼ cups granulated sugar, divided
2¼ cups heavy cream (35%), divided
1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:

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1. In a large heat-safe bowl, whisk to combine egg yolks, 1 cup of sugar,  ¼ cup of cream and vanilla.

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2. Fill a medium saucepan with approximately 2-inches of water and bring to a simmer. Place bowl containing yolk mixture on top and whisk regularly for 6 to 7 minutes, until thickened. Check consistency by dipping the back of a spoon in mixture and run your finger through it; the mixture should form a clean line. If it’s still too runny, continue to cook for another minute or so. Once thickened, remove from heat and let cool, about 1 hour.

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3. Line a standard loaf tin or small baking pan with plastic wrap, leaving overhang.
4. Using a stand mixer, whip egg whites on high speed until frothy. Continue to whip on high speed while slowly adding ¼ cup remaining sugar. Stop whipping once stiff, glossy peaks form. Transfer whipped egg white mixture to a large mixing bowl.

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5. In the same stand mixer bowl, whip remaining 2 cups cream to stiff peaks. Transfer whipped cream to whipped egg white mixture.

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6. Pour cooked and cooled egg yolk mixture into the bowl of the egg white mixture and whipped cream, and fold with a spatula until all three components are combined. Pour mixture into prepared pan, cover top with overhanging plastic wrap and place in the freezer to set, about 4 hours.

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7. To serve, remove from pan, unwrap plastic and slice into thick slabs. Or use a scoop and serve mounded in bowls.

Peanut Butter and Banana Semifreddo

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Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Chill Time: 5 hours
Total Time: 5 hours 30 minutes
Serves: 6 to 8

Ingredients:
1 recipe plain semifreddo, prepared prior to freezing (steps 1 through 6, above)
1 cup chunky natural peanut butter (no sugar added)
¼ cup heavy cream (35%)
2 bananas, peeled and thinly sliced or mashed

Directions:
1. In a small saucepan over low heat, melt peanut butter. Transfer peanut butter to a small bowl and stir to combine with cream and bananas.

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3. Line a standard loaf tin or small baking pan with plastic wrap, leaving overhang. Working in alternating layers, pouring one-third of the semifreddo followed by dollops of one-third of the peanut butter mixture; repeat with remaining semifreddo and peanut butter mixture. Cover top with plastic wrap and place in the freezer to set, about 4 hours.
4. To serve, remove from pan, unwrap plastic and slice into thick slabs. Or use a scoop and serve mounded in bowls.

More Semifreddo Flavour Options:

– Salted caramel and diced green apple
– Honey-roasted apricots and dark chocolate shavings
– Macerated berries and mint
– Sautéed plums and crushed hazelnuts
– Lemon zest and crumbled shortbread
– Cocoa powder and chopped roasted almonds

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Don’t touch that oven! Here are even more no-bake desserts to satisfy your sweet tooth.

How to Host a Feast of the Seven Fishes Like Matt Basile

Until he was well into his teens, restaurateur and cookbook author Matt Basile had never tasted a Christmas turkey. Instead, the Italian-Canadian creator of the Toronto street food company, Fidel Gastro, spent his childhood holidays dining on Southern-Italian specialties, like fresh grilled shrimp and fettucine Pomodoro.

Basile’s family never called their holiday meal a ‘Feast of the Seven Fishes,’ but as he points out, “Italians — especially southern Italians — don’t really look to name a food trend; they just eat the best quality food.” Even among the Italian and Italian-American families who call their holiday dinner by the idiosyncratic name, there are no set rules for what must be served, although, as the title implies, seafood is appreciated.

Here are Basile’s tips for hosting a memorable and delicious Italian-Christmas dinner.

garlic shrimp

Start with Love (and Frangelico)

“Lots of love and food,” were always on the menu at Basile’s Nonno’s house, where his family would gather for a festive feast, always served family-style. “It’s just how you ate,” he says. “It forced you to be patient and to look at the person across from you and make sure their plate was topped up before yours. It taught you to share a meal with the people you loved versus just consume one.”

Before the generous meal, there was “always enough to feed an army,” says Basile — his family served Frangelico aperitivos.

Add Seafood (and Pasta, and Steak)

Grilled shrimp, grilled sardines with lemon, and crab legs were regulars on the Basile family’s holiday menu, often served alongside fettuccine pomodoro and steak. But it’s the zuppa di pesci, a fragrant seafood soup, that really gets Basile in the Christmas spirit. “The most nostalgic of the dishes was the zuppa di pesci — tomato broth with incredibly soft potatoes and carrots with clams, cod, salmon and shrimp,” he says. “It would be something I would absolutely crave every year. A few years ago when my girlfriend and I opened our restaurant, we invited both our families and I made a massive 20 litre pot of it.”

tiramisu

Don’t Forget to Espresso Yourself!

The Basile family capped their holiday meals with Sambuca-laced espresso,  a nice alternative to dessert. But just in case you and your guests still have belly room, consider serving one of these Italian holiday favourites: panforte, a spiced chocolate cake, crisp pizzelle waffle cookies, creamy tiramisu, or a towering fruit-studded panettone.

Whatever menu you choose, remember Matt Basile’s advice: setting a festive mood is more important than serving any particular dish. “If you have to follow rules like it’s biblical, then you’re doing it wrong,” he says. “It should be fun, first and foremost.” Good times are not just for guests, either — as the host, it’s essential for you to participate. After all, says Basile, “the more fun you have, the more fun your guests will have!”

6 different types of biscotti on a dark wood tabletop

1 Easy Biscotti Recipe, 6 Tasty Holiday Cookies

Biscotti is a classic Italian cookie that’s double baked to make a dunk-able coffee treat. While the classic flavours are delicious, we decided to try something new with six seasonal variations. From a crunchy version jam-packed with pretzels and hazelnut spread, to refined flavours like lemon, rosemary and cranberry, there’s a variation that everyone will enjoy. No matter what your sweet tooth is asking for, it can be found in one of these recipes.

Whip up a batch or two for your holiday hosting, and serve alongside your favourite hot beverage for a delightful after-dinner treat.

Italian Biscotti

Ingredients:
2 1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 °F. Prepare a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

2. Stir flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine butter and sugar. Beat until mixture is pale, light and fluffy. Add in eggs 1 at a time and then vanilla. Add in dry ingredients in 2 parts while mixing on low speed just until combined.

3. Divide dough in 2 equal portions. Roll into 2 logs, then flatten the top to resemble long rectangles, 2 inches wide and 12 inches long.

4. Bake logs 2 inches apart on baking in the centre rack of oven until logs are firm to touch and bottoms are beginning to golden, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool slightly.

5. Once logs are cool enough to handle, place them on a cutting board. Slice each log into 1-inch thick pieces on a slight bias. Lay the cut side down on prepared baking sheet and bake until cookies are firm, about 20 minutes.

Biscotti

Variations:

Cranberry, Lemon and Rosemary
Complete steps 1 and 2. Fold in 1 1/2 cup dried cranberries, zest of 1 lemon and 2 tsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped. Proceed with recipe.

Nut and Seed
Complete steps 1 and 2. Fold in 1/2 cup poppy seeds, 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds, 1/2 almonds, 1/2 cup sesame seeds, 1/2 pistachios (any combination of nuts and seeds is good). Proceed with recipe.

Hazelnut, Coconut and Pretzel
Stir 1/4 cup of hazelnut spread into dough just until marbled. Add in 3/4 cup unsweetened desiccated coconut and 3/4 cup roughly chopped pretzels. Proceed with recipe.

Mocha Latte
Omit 1/4 cup of flour and replace with 2 tsp espresso powder and 1/4 cocoa powder. Proceed with recipe. After steps 1 and 2, add 1 1/2 cups of white chocolate wafers. Proceed as per recipe.

Matcha Green Tea and White Chocolate
Add 1 Tbsp of matcha green tea powder with flour, baking soda and salt. After steps 1 and 2, stir in 1 1/2 cups of white chocolate chips. Proceed with recipe.

Cinnamon Roll
Mix 3 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 cup brown sugar and 3/4 cup chopped walnuts in a bowl. Divide dough into 2 portions. Roll one dough portion into a 10×10-inch square. Sprinkle 1/2 the cinnamon mixture over the dough and roll. Form roll into 2×12-inch log and place on cookie sheet. Repeat with remaining dough portion. Bake as per recipe.

Craving more baking inspiration? Check out Anna Olson’s Best Cookie Recipes.

Guy and Hunter’s European Vacation: How to Eat like an Italian

Guy and Hunter kicked off their family vacation in Athens, where the father-son duo learned how to eat like Grecians. This week, the two cruise through Italy on their vespas, and learn how to make the essential Italian dessert: gelato.

“Of all the countries to visit, I think  Italy is the most important,” Guy says, explaining it’s where his entire family originated.

It’s in Rome where the two Fieris learn how to make fig and banana gelato, which is a chilled Italian delicacy. Gelato is churned at a slower rate and served at a slightly warmer temperature than ice cream, making its texture silkier and smoother.

Guy and Hunter leave the sweets behind and head to Venice via gondola to check out the seafood markets for a big family reunion dinner. Guy decides to make some surf and turf for his cousins, as Hunter meets many of them for the first time.

No trip to Italy is complete without trying branzino, a popular silver-skinned fish sea bass. Guy stuffs his branzino with lemons and veggies, and garnishes with parsley. The Fieri’s Italian feast isn’t complete without plates of spaghetti and clams, a recipe which originates in Naples. Typically in North America, spaghetti is served with red sauce and loads of meatballs on top, but in Italy, the rule is it has to be white.

Take a trip to Italy like Guy and Hunter, and eat like an Italian with this inspired menu.

Appetizers:

Artichoke and Tomato Panzanella

Grilled Treviso with Citrus Bagna Cauda

Cheese Stuffed Dates with Prosciuotto

Crispy Ceci

Main DishesbranzinoBaked Branzino with Citrus Gremolata

Ferris’ Clam Linguine

Spaghettini with King Crab

Anna Olson’s White Pizza

Desserts:

Meyer Lemon Gelato, Beet Root Spongecake and Dark Chocolate Crisp

Fresh Citrus with Gelato and Almond Cookies

Pineapple Semifreddo

Torrone

Watch all new episodes of Guy & Hunter’s European Vacation Thursdays at 10:30 E/P. Catch up on episodes online.

Canada’s Multicultural Food City Is…

With its soaring mountains and beautiful ocean views, Vancouver boasts an enviable landscape, but for You Gotta Eat Here! host John Catucci, big mountains are a small part of Vancouver’s appeal.

“Sure, Vancouver’s a beautiful city, but you can’t eat scenery!” he says. “Lucky for me, it’s also one of the country’s most exciting food cities. Vancouverites can enjoy food from all over the world without having to leave the Lower Mainland. When you’re this good looking, the whole world comes to you.”

Here, in no particular order, are some of the Vancouver eateries that inspired him to name Vancouver his favourite Canadian city for multicultural dining.

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Calabash Bistro (Caribbean)
Fusion treats like the calabash poutine — jerk-dusted fries topped with melted Brie and jerk chicken — are washed down with delicious rum drinks at this laid-back Caribbean bistro. Visit late at night to enjoy your Caribbean meal with a side of live entertainment; Calabash hosts live reggae, hip hop, funk and poetry five nights a week.

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The Reef (Caribbean)
Trini Roti, Domenica Beef, and Maracas Bay Mahi showcase the Caribbean’s diversity of flavours. Can’t get to The Reef? We’ve got their recipe for Island Thyme Chicken boasting juicy bone-in chicken breasts marinated in coconut milk.

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DD Mau (Vietnamese)
Bahn Mi, or Vietnamese sandwiches, are the specialty at downtown Vancouver’s DD Mau. Favourites include the BBQ Roasted Duck, Crispy Roasted Pork and Lemongrass Tofu, washed down with an avocado smoothie. For a taste of DD Mau at home, try their recipe for Lemongrass Chicken Banh Mi.

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La Mezcaleria (Mexican)
This stylish spot on Commercial Drive is beloved for its organic brunches and fresh margaritas. Serving inventive creations like BBQ Tamarind Squid and Barbacoa de Cordero (lamb shoulder roasted in banana leaves and served in volcanic rock) alongside favourites like Enchiladas Classicas and Queso Fundido, La Mezcaleria has something for everyone. Try their recipe for Enchiladas Classicas at home!

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Nuba (Lebanese)
With several downtown locations, it’s easy to find a Nuba to satisfy your cravings for Lebanese treats. Favourites include standards like Chicken Tawook, Falafel and Hummus, as well as Grilled Halloumi Cheese served with fresh tomato, nuts and pomegranate mint dressing and Lamb Hushwie (sautéed minced lamb with onions and pine nuts, served on a creamy base of fresh hummus).

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Campagnolo Roma (Italian)
Simple, unfussy Italian is on the menu at Campagnolo, a busy East Hastings establishment serving comforting classics like Bucatini all Amatriciana (bucatini noodles with cured pork, tomato and Parmesan cheese), as well as fresh pizzas and house-made meatballs.

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Vij’s Rangoli (Indian)
Vancouver has many Indian restaurants, but Vikram Vij’s namesake spot, which features a fusion of classic Indian spices and local delicacies, is one of the most celebrated. Some favourites from You Gotta Eat Here!’s visit include Spicy Pulled Pork on Sautéed Greens with Sour Cream Chutney and Naan, and Split Pea, Lentil and Spinach Mash with Mogo Fries and Bengali Curry. For visitors on the go, Vij’s has an extensive menu of boil-in-the-bag takeout treats.

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Longtail Kitchen (Thai)
Fresh B.C. seafood meets classic Thai flavours in this New Westminster restaurant that serves modern versions of Thai street eats. Enjoy the variety of Thai curries, the classic Pad Thai with Prawns, or try the Som Dtam Green Papaya Salad at home.

Catch all new episodes of You Gotta Eat Here! Fridays at 9 E/P. Be sure to visit the location map to plan your next  multicultural dining experience. 

Ravioli Fatti

John Catucci on Why You Gotta Eat in Italy

Arrivederci, Canada! On Friday, April 8th, 2016, host John Catucci of You Gotta Eat Here! heads to Italy to sample some the finest cuisine the country has to offer.

First, John heads to Rome to discover three must-eat restaurants in the Eternal City.

john-in-italy

“It’s an incredible eating experience,” he says of the trip. “There’s a difference in just the freshness of the food. There’s something about the soil, about the sun. We can’t get it here.”

The host raves about one restaurant in Rome called Flavio that offers the most delicious pasta he’s ever eaten.

“They had a ricotta pasta with a fresh tomato sauce, it wasn’t cooked. It was just fresh tomatoes that [the chef] squeezed with his hands and put mint, thyme and a whole bunch of other fresh herbs and tossed the pasta in it. That was probably the most delicious pasta I’ve ever eaten!”

Flavio's Ravioli Fatti in Cas alla Velaveodetto

Ravioli Fatti in Cas alla Velaveodetto from Flavio

Unlike here in Canada, Italians believe in smaller portions. Dining is an experience and according to John, Italians don’t rush their meals like we often do.

“There’s no rush to turn over tables. They have an appetite for food. They want the best food possible and they’ll wait around for it. That’s part of the culture. It’s waiting around for a table, being seen, enjoying the moment and having a glass of wine with your meal.”

All'Antico Vinaio's Favalosa

Favalosa from All’Antico Vinaio

Just when he thought he was full, it was off to Florence where John tasted paninis — worth lining up all day for — at the busy All’Antico Vinaio. He notes the sandwiches, made fresh to order, cost only 5 Euros.

“There was one fennel-based salami that was so delicious. It was thin and shredded. The bread, they bake fresh all day. There are two other restaurants across the street, so they bake the bread there and bring it back across to cut it,” he says.

But what’s a trip to Italy without pizza? That’s exactly what John ate at Tonda.

Tonda's Capricciosa

Capricciosa from Tonda

There, they make their cacio e pepe pizza by shaping the dough, then laying ice on it before putting it in the  oven. This slows the cooking process of the top of the dough, leaving it moist, while the bottom becomes crisp. John adds that chef and owner Stefano Callegari uses 200-year-old sourdough for the tasty pies.

Tonda's Cacio e Pepe Pizza

Cacio e Pepe from Tonda

Tune in to a special one-hour episode of You Gotta Eat Here! Italy Edition on Friday, April 8 at 9 E/P. No passport required!

Chicken and Italian Sausage Cacciatore

Braising chicken is underrated. Everyone always wants to roast, fry, or grill, but braising gives the chicken time to absorb the utmost flavour and become extremely tender while staying moist.

Chicken cacciatore, a hunter-style one-pan braised dish that’s usually a humble mixture of chicken, herbs and peppers, gets turned up a few notches in this recipe.

Chicken_Sausage_Cacciatore_Danielle_Oron-4

This version of chicken cacciatore is made with the addition of sausage, peppers, garlic, potatoes, rosemary, bay leaves, olives and lots of red wine. It’s warming and luxurious, perfect for any winter table. I serve it with a chunk of crusty bread to soak up all of that delicious gravy, but it can also be served over rice or pasta. The garnish of lemon zest at the end brightens up the dish just enough.

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Serves: 4

Chicken_Sausage_Cacciatore_Danielle_Oron-1

Ingredients:
2 Tbsp olive oil
4 mild Italian sausages
4 chicken legs (thighs and drumsticks attached)
Salt and black pepper
1 large red onion, cut into ½” thick slices
1 large or 2 small green peppers, cut into ½” thick strips
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 Tbsp all purpose flour
2 cups dry red wine (like a Chianti or even a Rioja or Malbec)
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup strained tomato puree
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp fresh black pepper
4 medium Yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1” pieces
1 cup pitted green olives (I use Castelveltrano olives)
2 sprigs rosemary
6 bay leaves
Lemon zest
Crusty country loaf of bread

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Directions:
1. In a large sauté pan with a lid, heat the olive oil over medium. Sear the sausages for 3-4 minutes per side.
2. While the sausages are searing, season the chicken legs well with lots of salt and pepper.
3. Once the sausages are browned on all sides, remove them from the pan and place the chicken into the pan, skin side down first.
4. Sear the chicken for 4-5 minutes per side until nicely browned. Remove them from the pan.
5. Add onions and peppers to the pan, and sauté until softened and they’ve picked up a bit of colour, about 6 minutes stirring often.
6. Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute, then add flour and cook for 1 minute.
7. Deglaze the pan with the red wine, scraping the bottom to lift all of the flavour bits into the sauce.
8. Reduce the wine by half until there is about 1 cup left.
Stir in stock, strained tomatoes, salt and pepper.
9. Add in potatoes, olives, chicken legs and sausages to the pan. Be sure the chicken and sausages are in one layer. It’s fine if the potatoes are all underneath.
10. Add rosemary sprigs and bay leaves to the pan.
11. Bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer and cover with the lid. Simmer on low for 1 hour, undisturbed.
12. Uncover and continue to simmer for an additional 20 minutes until the gravy is thick.
13. Before serving, zest a lemon over top. Enjoy with a crusty loaf of fresh bread!

Chicken_Sausage_Cacciatore_Danielle_Oron-5

The Warming Gnocchi You Can Make Ahead of Time

By Cassandrea Gascoyne

Gnocchi has always been one of my favourite dishes. The first time my husband and I tried making it at home, it was on a winter night that was -30ºC, so now making and eating gnocchi always makes me feel warm and cozy. This recipe is a little different than traditional gnocchi in that it is made with a light tomato broth instead of a rich cream or cheese sauce.

When we were making the broth that cold winter night, the kitchen windows fogged up from the steam. The whole house smelled of tomatoes and garlic. The broth is light and complements the gnocchi well.

As we ate our heaping bowl of gnocchi and broth I can remember thinking this is the perfect winter dish! The best part is that the gnocchi and broth are freezable, so you can come home from work during a blizzard and know you can look forward to a warm bowl of comfort food that will be ready in just a few minutes.

Gnocchi in Tomato Broth, Courtesy of Cassandrea Gascoyne, chewsandbrews.ca, Spruce Grove, Alta.

This simple pasta dish is the perfect comfort food for dinner in the depth of winter.

 

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Prep time: 2 hours
Cook time: 1 hour
Yield: approximately 80 gnocchi and 2.5 cups (625 mL) broth

Ingredients
Gnocchi

4 russet potatoes
1 large egg, beaten
1 tsp (5 mL) salt
3/4 cup (175 mL) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (175 mL) whole-wheat flour

Tomato Broth
2 Tbsp (30 mL) olive oil
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 medium stalks celery, chopped
1 large yellow onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1/2 cup (125 mL) white wine
2 cups (500 mL) chicken stock
12 oz (341 mL) jar Italian tomato purée
handful fresh basil (plus more for garnish)
salt
pepper
Parmesan cheese

Directions
Broth
1. Meanwhile, in large pot over medium heat, heat olive oil. Add carrots, celery, onion and garlic. Sauté until vegetables have softened and onions and garlic have started to brown.
2. Pour in wine and stir, scraping up browned bits. Cook until wine has reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Stir in chicken stock, tomato purée and basil; reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Gnocchi
1. Bake potatoes in 400ºF (200ºC) oven for 1 hour or until easily pierced with a knife. Let cool.
2. Peel cooled potatoes and grate into large bowl. (Or use a potato ricer, instead of grating.)
3. Stir in beaten egg and salt. Add all-purpose and whole-wheat flours, 1/2 cup (125 mL) at a time, mixing until the mixture forms a soft dough that isn’t too sticky.
4. Turn dough out onto floured surface and knead for 3 to 4 minutes. Divide dough into quarters; roll each quarter into a long rope, about 3/4 inch (2 cm) in diameter. Cut rope into 3/4-inch (2 cm) pieces.
5. Place gnocchi on parchment paper–lined baking sheet. If desired, freeze gnocchi on tray, then transfer into a freezer bag.
6. To cook the gnocchi, drop into a large pot of boiling salted water. Cook the gnocchi about 2 minutes, or until they float. (If cooking from frozen, let them cook for 3 to 4 minutes.) Drain.
7. To serve, put 10 to 12 cooked gnocchi in each bowl and top with hot tomato broth. Garnish with fresh basil and grated Parmesan cheese.

Note:
-If you like a traditional-looking gnocchi, there are some neat tools you can use in Step 6 to add ridges, such as the Gnocchi Board or Gnocchi Stripper.
-A slice of garlic toast goes nicely as well, and can soak up any leftover broth at the end!

Chews and Brews
Cassandrea Gascoyne loves to cook and eat, and now has a passion for writing about and sharing everything she cooks and eats. She also enjoys wine, craft beers and good coffee. When she isn’t eating or drinking you can find her camping and hiking with her husband in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Her kids have four legs and are fuzzy and are named Bob and Sam.

SkilletLasagna

Skillet Lasagna in Under an Hour

By Kelly Kwok

Once the weather begins to cool down, my family starts craving comfort food. Anything with cheese or pasta is always a hit at our house.

My husband’s favourite pasta dish is lasagna, but I only make it on the weekends – it takes time to layer everything, and creates a huge mess and piles dishes to clean afterwards. During the week, one-pot meals are my favourite.

After some digging around in my pantry, this easy skillet lasagna was born. I added my own touches to make it lighter, and packed it with veggies, including zucchini and spinach. I even used low-fat Parmesan and cottage cheeses to cut down on the fat without sacrificing taste. The entire dish – pasta cooking and all – is done in the same skillet on the stove.

The best part? It was a hit with my family!

Easy Skinny Skillet Lasagna, Courtesy of Kelly Kwok, lifemadesweeter.com, Niagara Falls, Ont.

This easy one-pot meal is a surefire weeknight dinner.

SkilletLasagna

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 35 minutes
Yield: 5-6 servings

Ingredients
1½ tsp (7 mL) olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb (225-450 g) extra-lean ground turkey
salt, to taste
black pepper, to taste
2 medium zucchini, peeled and chopped (optional)
14 oz (398 mL) can diced tomatoes (San Marzano or fire-roasted)
8 oz (225 mL) can tomato sauce
2½ Tbsp (37 mL) chopped fresh basil, divided
1½ tsp (7 mL) dried oregano
½ tsp (2 mL) crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
2 cups (500 mL) water or low-sodium chicken broth
8 oz (225 g) bow-tie pasta
2 cups (375–500 mL) spinach, chopped (optional)
1 cup (250 mL) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
⅔ cup (150 mL) fat-free cottage cheese
⅓ cup (75 mL) low-fat ricotta cheese (optional)
2 Tbsp (30 mL) chopped fresh parsley
grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Directions
1. In extra-large skillet over medium-high heat, heat olive oil. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute or until fragrant.
2. Add ground turkey and cook, stirring, for 4 to 5 minutes or until browned. Drain excess fat.
3. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add zucchini, if using. Add diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, 1 tbsp (15 mL) of the basil, oregano and red pepper flakes.
4. Stir in water or chicken broth. Add pasta. Bring to boil; cover skillet with lid and reduce heat.
5. Cook, stirring every 3 minutes and adding more water or broth as needed, for 15 to 18 minutes or until pasta is tender. If using spinach, stir in after 13 minutes.
6. Remove from heat. Stir in mozzarella and cottage cheeses. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
7. Dollop ricotta cheese over top; cover skillet for 2 minutes, or until cheese is melted.
8. Sprinkle with chopped parsley, remaining basil and Parmesan cheese, if using.

Notes
This recipe allows for lots of creativity. You may choose to use a different protein or choose to substitute gluten-free or whole-wheat pasta. Cooking times may vary.

Life Made Sweeter
My name is Kelly Kwok. I am a wife and mom of two – and the writer, recipe developer and photographer behind Life Made Sweeter, where I share desserts, family favourites and healthy recipes.

1 Dish, 2 Ways: Easy No-Bake Weeknight Lasagna

In these final halcyon days of winter, I’ve mentally set fire to my coat and am two seconds away from dragging the BBQ out of the garage and starting an herb garden. And while these extended sunny evenings don’t exactly put me in the mood for cranking up the oven, I’m not quite ready to give up comfort food just yet.

Enter the no-bake lasagna. This dish boasts all the flavours of this heartwarming dish —homemade tomato sauce, melty cheese and succulent ground beef — in a fraction of the time.

While there’s no shame in simply breaking up plain old lasagna noodles for this recipe, I opted for prettily-shaped fiorelli pasta, which has lovely petal-like edges that not only reminded me of lasagne noodles, but expertly capture the sauce.

The best part of this dish is that you can stretch your leftovers to make a killer soup. A spoonful of ricotta on top is an unexpected topping that mimics the richness of your typical baked variety and the beefy tomato broth helps satisfy your inner cold-weather soup addict.

So go ahead and embrace winter just a little longer.

Easy-no-bake-lasagna-recipe-weeknight

Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Serving Size: 6

Ingredients

For the sauce:
1 can, San Marzano tomatoes
1 Spanish onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
4 large fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

For the lasagne:
3/4 package fiorelli pasta
1 lb. ground beef
1/2 yellow onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons, olive oil
kosher salt, to taste
fresh ground pepper, to taste

1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup spinach, chopped
1/2 cup ricotta

For the soup:
All of the above ingredients, plus…
6 cups beef broth
1 cup homemade tomato sauce (see above)
Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste

Directions for No-Bake Lasagna:

1. In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Sweat onions and garlic until onions are translucent, about five minutes.
2. Add canned tomatoes and gently stir, being careful not to break the tomatoes (it can make them bitter). Stir occasionally. Let simmer for at least 30 minutes. Add basil and puree with immersion blender. Set aside.
3. In a large skillet, add olive oil, onions and garlic and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, letting the oil get infused with the flavours. Add ground beef and break up with a wooden spoon. Cook until there is no more red in the ground beef, about 12 minutes. Drain fat from beef.
4. Ladle prepared tomato sauce into skillet with the beef and cook for an additional 10 minutes. Add cooked noodles directly to skillet and stir to combine. Stir in tomatoes, spinach and gently stir.
5. Serve in individual bowls and garnish with a spoonful of ricotta, grated mozzarella and basil.

Easy-no-bake-Lasagna-soup-recipe

Directions for Lasagna Soup:

1. Cook pasta to al dente according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
2. In a large saucepan, bring broth and tomato-ground beef sauce to a boil.
3. Add cooked noodles and stir. Ladle into bowls and garnish with a spoonful of ricotta, grated mozzarella and basil.

BonnieMo Bonnie Mo is a Toronto-based editor and the face behind Food Network Canada’s 1 Dish, 2 Ways column. She’s also a contributing editor over at slice.ca. For more recipe ideas, visit bonniemo.ca, or catch her on Instagram @bonniemo

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