Italian · Recipes

Homeade Marinara Sauce

There are many iterations and recipes about how to make a good Marinara sauce. Here is what I use – I prefer it because it is simple and a proven winner over the years.

You will need:

  • 1 28 oz can whole San Marzano tomatoes (certified DOP, if possible)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 7 garlic cloves, peeled and slivered
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 large basil sprig, fresh
  • pinch, crushed red pepper flakes

Step one:

Pour tomatoes in a bowl and crush with your (clean) hands or use a food processor. Pour 1 cup of water in the empty can and swish to get a little tomato juice. Save it for later.

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Step two:

In a large sauce pan or skillet, heat oil over medium – add garlic when it is ready. As soon as the garlic is sizzling (do not overcook), add the tomatoes. Then the reserved tomato water, the pinch of red pepper flakes, and salt. Stir.

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Step three:

Place the basil sprig (stem included) on the surface. Let it wilt and submerge into the sauce. Simmer until the sauce is thickened and oil on the surface is a deep orange, around 15 minutes.

Italian · Mediterranean · Recipes · Side dish

Orzo & Feta Salad

This is a very refreshing salad to bring to a party or serve at lunchtime. We used to have a grocery store that made an excellent version of this, and the recipe that follows is the inspiration. I also borrowed heavily from a version that Gia DeLaurentis makes. The beauty is you can add or sub in any ingredients you want. For example, there are versions with fresh tomatoes or garbanzo beans – whatever inspires you.

Recipe level: easy

Serves: 6

Time: 20 minutes

You will need:

  • 1 1/2 c. orzo
  • 4 c. Chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup red onion, minced
  • 3/4 cup feta
  • 1/2 cup sweet pepper, chopped fine
  • Sundried tomatoes, chopped fine
  • 1/4 c pitted kalamata olives, quartered

For the dressing:

  • 1/2 c. Red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 c. fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tsp honey
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 c. Virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 c. fresh basil
  • 1/4 c. Fresh mint

Step one:

Boil the chicken broth and add the orzo. Make sure to stir, because orzo can get starchy. Cook for about seven minutes and then drain and set aside.

Step two:

Assemble the dressing and then toss with drained orzo.

Step three:

Chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Italian · Recipes

Orecchiette and Sausage

This is a classic Italian winter dish. I really like to make it when it is cold outside, because the pasta is creamy and filling.  I also like to use spicy sausage instead of mild, or blend in a proportion of both. Broccoli rabe is the classic vegetable used in Italy , but regular broccoli is fine.  You can also substitute in kale which goes nicely with sausage. I’ve also seen a variation with cooked tomatoes that was especially delicious. There is a lot of variety to the dish, but what is below is closest to the classic version. This will feed around 5 to 6 people.

You will need:

  • 1 pound orecchiette
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 pound sweet Italian sausage, removed from casings (or spicy, if you prefer)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 reserve pasta water
  • broccoli florets or kale
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano, or Parmesan

Step one:

Begin cooking the pasta. If you cannot find orecchiette, substitute small shells. Cook it al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking water

Step two:

Once you have the pasta started, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large sauté pan and add the sausage.

Cook, breaking the meat up with a spoon, until the sausage starts to brown, 5-6 minutes.

Add the garlic and cook a minute more.

Add the reserve pasta water, remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, broccoli, chicken broth, salt and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring frequently, until the broccoli is tender-crisp, 3-4 minutes.

Stir in the butter until melted and simmer for a few minutes to reduce and concentrate the sauce.

Step three:

Add the cooked and drained pasta and toss well.

Fresh grated cheese really makes a difference here. It is really worth the extra step and effort. However,if you have to substitute it’s not the end of the world. If you can’t find Romano, it’s fine to substitute Parmigiano Reggiano.

Italian · Recipes

Homemade pasta

In the age of pasta machines and convenience, something gets lost in the translation. Making your own pasta is relatively easy, and you can find the same essential recipe all over the Internet – because sometimes you don’t need to improve a simple perfection. I’m not suggesting you make this on a school night, when there is a ton of chaos – but this is a lovely treat on the weekend or for a special occasion. This recipe makes about a pound of pasta.

Recipe level: easy

Time: hour total

You will need:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbs olive oil

Step one:

Whisk flour and salt together in a large bowl. Make a well in the center. Add eggs and olive oil.

Stir with a fork. Once the dough becomes too thick, knead it on a clean work surface until you have a stiff ball of dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and let it sit for at least half an hour.

Step two:

Unwrap and cut the dough ball into fourths.

Wrap three portions of the ball back in plastic. Liberally sprinkle the portion with flour and roll until it is very thin. You should be able to see your hand.

Step three:

Fold over and slice thin strips with a knife. Shake out strands and dust with a bit more flour.

Step four:

Cook pasta in salted, boiling water for about three minutes. Remember fresh pasta cooks much faster than dried.

Enjoy!