Posts Tagged ‘Italian cuisine’

Rustic Italian Tortellini Soup

Wednesday, October 28th, 2015
It's as delicious as it looks

It’s as delicious as it looks

Those of you who know me and follow the blog know I love soup. The weather is just beginning to cool off here in Tampa, and what better way to celebrate the weather change than a quick but deceptively easy soup. Make this on a night when time is limited and you’ll be surprised—it tastes like you’ve fussed for hours!




3 Italian turkey or chicken sausage links (4 ounces each), casings removed

1 medium onion, chopped

6 garlic cloves, minced

2 cans (14-1/2 ounces each) reduced-sodium chicken broth

1-3/4 cups water

1/2 cup of dry red wine

1 can (14-1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained

1 package (9 ounces) refrigerated cheese tortellini

1 package (6 ounces) fresh baby spinach, coarsely chopped

2-1/4 teaspoons minced fresh basil or 3/4 teaspoon dried basil

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 dashes crushed red pepper flakes

Shredded Parmesan cheese, optional

Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a preheated and sprayed stock pot. Crumble sausage into the pot; add onion. Cook and stir over medium heat until meat is no longer pink. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer. Stir in the broth, water and tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and add red wine.
Bring a separate pot of water to a boil and add tortellini. Cook for 7-9 minutes or until just tender, stirring occasionally, remove, drain, and set aside. Add the spinach, basil, pepper and pepper flakes to the soup. Cook 2-3 minutes longer or until spinach is wilted. Place tortellini in the bottom of the soup bowl and fill bowl with soup. Serve with cheese if desired.

Attribution: A Taste of Home


Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

A casserole of Ribolitta ready to serve.

In some areas of Tuscany, ham fat and bacon rind are added to the vegetables.

Tuscan Ribollita

Preparation:  1 hour

Total time from start to finish:  2 hours and 40 minutes

serves 8 to 10 people

I prepared this delicious, homey soup for the most recent Culture and Cuisine Club. In my version I used 3 cups of dried cannelini beans. I soaked them overnight, adding water once to cover them. The next day I drained the water and picked through the beans. I covered them with cold water, brought them to a boil, reduced the heat and cooked them for 40 minutes.


3 cups dried cannelini beans soaked overnight for at least 12 hours

1/4 cup finely chopped yellow onion

1 medium size leek

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 bunch Swiss chard leaves

8 ounces red cabbage

1 bunch cavolo nero, a speciality item

1/3 cup celery, cut into 1/4″ dice

1/3 cup carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4″ dice

6 ounces (3/4 cup) zucchini, cut into 1/2″ dice

1 cup canned whole peeled tomatoes with their juice, coarsely chopped

8 ounces white boiling potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2″ dice


Freshly ground black pepper

A slice of good crusty bread for each serving (optional)

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

This version is slightly different from mine, in a good way. My soup did not have enough liquid, and I also was missing some flavors, like tomato and chicken broth.

1.  Put the chopped onion and 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a 6 to 8-quart heavy bottomed soup pot and place over medium high heat.  Sauté until the onion turns to a light golden color, about 5 minutes.

2.  While the onion is sautéing, trim the leek by cutting away the root end and removing the tough green tops of the leaves.  Cut the leek in half lengthwise and then across into 1/2″ pieces.  Soak the pieces of leek in cold water to loosen any dirt.  When the onion is ready, add the leek and turn the heat down to medium low.

3.  Add each of the following vegetables as you prepare them, periodically stirring the contents of the pot.

Swiss chard: cut off the root end and shred it finely.

Cavolo nero: remove the stalks. Wash the leaves in cold water and chop them very coarsely.

Red cabbage: cut off the root and finely shred.

Celery: peel the back of the stalk to remove the tough strings, rinse under cold water and dice.

Carrot: peel and dice.

Zucchini: scrub under cold water and dice.

Canned tomatoes: chop coarsely or simply break them up with your hand.

Potatoes: peel and cut into 1/2″ dice.  Wash them by placing them in a bowl of cold water as you cut them.

Add the bacon rind and saute with the veggies for 10 minutes or so.

4.  When you have finished adding all the vegetables season generously with salt and pepper. Separate and puree about half the cooked beans with an immersion blender. Add the puree, the whole cooked beans, and the reserved cooking liquid to the pot with the veggies. Pour in the 5 cups of water or chicken stock, cover the pot, raise the heat and, when the soup comes to a boil turn the heat down so that it cooks at a gentle simmer.  Cook for at least 2 hours checking it about every 30 minutes to stir.  The soup is done when the vegetables are very tender, almost creamy, and the beans are soft. There is no such thing as al dente beans!

5.  When you are ready to serve the soup, toast or grill the slices of bread and place them on the bottom of each soup bowl.  Pour the soup over the bread and let it stand for about 5 minutes.  Just before serving, drizzle a little olive oil over each serving and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

Cavolo nero on the left and Swiss chard.

New Year’s Eve 2012

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

A 1 1/2 pound lobster and artichoke and parmesan risotto.

This New Year’s Eve we celebrated at home. The last three months of the year were a blur of family obligations, entertaining, travel, book clubs, and the launch of my new novel, “My Gentleman Vampire: The Undead Have Style.” Needless to say, I was exhausted and not up to hosting the annual bash we celebrate with C & C friends. Once I get the house organized I’ll make it up to everyone in spades!

Our dear friends the Cerillo family gave a stellar bottle of bubbly for Christmas. It is my favorite, Veuve Cliquot Ponsardin, made famous by a line in the movie Casablanca. I took out the best crystal, and we toasted the end of 2012 and the birth of 2013. We wish all of you the best in the New Year.

I decided to make a risotto to accompany the lobster. Risotto is a Northern Italian dish, and one that takes a lot of patience as you will see from the recipe. One of my culinary goals in 2013 is to explore Northern Italian cuisine. Perhaps, I can even escape the Top Chef risotto curse and cook a risotto that Tom Colicchio will love.


  • 5 1/2 cups (or more) homemade chicken stock
  • 3 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 8 baby artichokes, trimmed, halved
  • 1 1/2 cups arborio rice (about 10 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheeseBring stock to a simmer in saucepan.Remove from heat. Cover and keep warm.Melt 1 tablespoon butter with oil in heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add onion; sauté until soft and golden, about 8 minutes. Pat artichokes dry and add to pot. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover and cook until artichokes begin to brown, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Add rice; stir 2 minutes. Add wine; stir until absorbed, about 1 minute. Add 1 1/2 cups warm stock; cook until absorbed, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Add more stock, 1 ladle at a time, allowing each addition to be absorbed before adding next and stirring often, until rice is just tender and mixture is creamy, about 20 minutes longer. Remove from heat; stir in cheese and 2 tablespoons butter. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to bowl and serve.My notes: Risotto is not easy. You can not ignore it and go off to do something else while it cooks. When you have added the first cup and 1/2 of chicken stock set a kitchen timer for 20 minutes. This way you will not overcook it. As you add the stock you are looking for a creamy texture. This tells you that the stock is being absorbed. You do not need to wait until it is too thick, just until the rice is a lovely creamy color. A properly cooked risotto should spread smoothly, a little bit, when it is plated. If it stays in a “scooped” shape, you have overcooked it.

Baccala Mantecato on Polenta

Monday, June 18th, 2012

Baccala Mantecato

baccala mantecato on polenta

2 servings



For the baccalà:

  • 1 fillet salted cod
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 6 potatoes, peeled, diced and boiled until tender
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

For the polenta:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups whole-grain yellow cornmeal
  • Extra liquid (stock or cream) to taste
  • ½ to 1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana

For the Moscato sauce:

  • 3 ounces Moscato
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • Fresh truffles (optional)


Make the baccalà: Soak salted cod in water for 24 hours. Change water, and soak for another 24 hours. (Change water more often if possible.) Discard water. Heat fish and three cloves of garlic in 1 cup milk for about 10 minutes in a skillet.

Put salted cod, milk and potatoes in the bowl of a food processor. Drizzle in olive oil until it achieves a mashed potato type consistency. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Make the polenta: Place deep, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add olive oil. When oil is hot, add onions and garlic, and cook slowly until translucent. Add salt and pepper. Add wine and stock. Bring to a slow boil. Gradually add cornmeal to hot liquid, whisking constantly at first, then as the mixture thickens, stirring with a large wooden spoon. Reduce heat to low so that it is no longer bubbling. Stir for about 20 to 30 minutes until thickened. Add more liquid if necessary, either stock or cream. When finished, stir in cheese. Mixture should be creamy but not loose. Preheat the oven to 400°. Spread polenta on a baking sheet until it’s 1/2-inch-thick. Using a round cookie cutter, cut out 6 rounds (reserve the rest of the polenta for another use). Cook rounds on another baking sheet for about 10 minutes, just until the outside of the polenta is crispy; set aside.

Make the sauce: Bring Moscato to a boil in a skillet. Stir in butter until it emulsifies. To assemble: Arrange 1 polenta round on the plate. Cover with a layer of baccalà. Repeat with two more layers of polenta and baccalà. Pour Moscato sauce of the top, and garnish with shaved truffles. Serves 2

This recipe originally appeared on La Cucina Italian Magazine – here is the link:

Feed Your Readers

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

This post appeared previously at Indies

Posted on: March 26th, 2012 by 

“Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are.” – Brillat-Savarin

Title page, translated, of “The Physiology of Taste”, by Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Do you agree? I do. That is, of course, if you have the choice to consume whatever your little heart desires. Honore de Balzac was famous for the meals he consumed after the proofs of his novels were sent off to his publisher – his choice of a celebratory meal beginning with dozens of freshly shucked oysters washed down with beer. This appetizer merely whetted his craving for the ensuing feast. The school of French realism, populated with such greats as Balzac, Flaubert, Maupassant, Dumas and Zola glorified the sensual pleasure of a meal well-cooked and consumed with appreciative abandon. Can we transfer this love of food to our modern day novel and seduce our readers as these masters seduced theirs?

I started writing about food four years ago when I began my blog, The Culture and Cuisine Club. Ten friends decided to get together and cook the cuisine of one country, which was picked by the host of the evening. The host also provided the welcome cocktail, but I will reserve that tradition for another story. It was so much fun, and the food so good, that I began to write humorous posts of our evenings, and share pictures and recipes.  As a result of the positive feedback, I decided to include rather extensive descriptions of food in my first novel as an experiment, inviting my readers to sample the incredible fare enjoyed by my characters. This is my style and reflects my reader’s interests, and is certainly not for everyone. But, I know I am on the right track when people ask me to make rack of lamb for them, or remark that they were hungry every time they started reading my book.

Being of Italian ancestry, I admit to being obsessed with food. We are suspicious of people who do not attack their plate with gusto. Food is love, and if I cook for you, you know I love you. And as my time spent in front of the keyboard increased I began to think of how many different ways I could use food to reveal a character’s personality as obsessive, funny, meticulous, tragic – you get the picture.

A body-builder I know exemplifies the obsessive/control scenario. She carries several containers of cut veggies with her at all time, measured by weight. Does she look great? Well, if you find the replicants attractive in Bladerunner, she’s your gal. If I had to eat like this I would die.

There are people who become obsessed with eating one particular food, like Captain Crunch cereal. They will only eat that for days on end. Yum. They turn into a crunch berry. What insight does this food choice give to a character’s spirit of adventure?

How about the woman who eats her sofa? This example, sadly, is not fiction. To her, sofa stuffing doesn’t need salt or pepper – it is delicious in its pure state. Fluffy and sweet, just like cotton candy. Poor woman, I can’t find humor in this. But, I can create a character obsessed with chewing on the wooden legs of her dining room table.

Brillat-Savarin cheese wheel.

By making your character’s choice of meal a bologna sandwich on white bread you make a statement of food as a necessity, or a person who has no imagination. Change it to roasted red peppers, fresh mozzarella, basil and prosciutto on a crusty roll with a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar … see what I mean? Both character choices say something about them.

As you can see, I lose myself in the joy of food, whether I am cooking it, eating it, or writing about it. And so, my friends, I must go now. It’s lunchtime.

“A dessert without cheese is like a beautiful woman with only one eye.” – Brillat-Savarin