Meatless Vegetarian Pasta Sauce (Sugo Finto)

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Sugo Finto - "Fake Sauce" - uses celery, carrots and onion in a red wine tomato sauce to produce a rich, hearty flavor for pasta without meat. I learned this recipe at a Tuscan cooking class at Fattoria Corsignano near Siena, Italy. You won't miss the meat, I promise!

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Pasta Sauce, Meatless (Sugo Finto)
Cuisine Italian
Servings
Ingredients
Cuisine Italian
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Finely dice carrots, celery and onions.
  2. Sauté in olive oil until the onions are translucent and everything is well cooked and tender. Add a clove of diced garlic here if you like.
  3. Add red wine and stir in salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes to reduce.
  5. Add crushed tomatoes and cook, uncovered, for 30-45 more minutes to allow the flavors to blend, stirring occasionally.
  6. Add more salt and pepper if desired.
  7. Serve warm, over al dente pasta, and sprinkle with fresh-grated Parmesan.
Recipe Notes

Fresh basil leaves are a good garnish. Crusty bread and red wine are good partners!

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Flan, Crème Caramel, Crema Caramella or Crème Renversée Recipe

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Whether you call it flan, crème caramel, crema caramella or crème renversée, this creamy, custard dessert is a treat for family and guests.

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Flan Flan, Crème Caramel, Crema Caramella or Crème Renversée Recipe
Course Dessert
Servings
Ingredients
Course Dessert
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. In a medium pan, bring sugar, water, corn syrup and lemon juice to a simmer, without stirring, over medium-high heat. Wipe any sugar crystals off the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush because they can cause the syrup to be grainy. Continue to cook until the syrup turns from clear to golden, swirling the pan continuously for even browning until large, slow bubbles on the surface turn honey-caramel in color.
  2. Remove the pan immediately from the heat, and working quickly (and carefully - it's very hot!), pour a portion of the caramel into each of 8 ungreased 6-ounce ramekins. Allow the caramel to cool and harden, about 15 minutes.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (make sure rack is in the middle).
  4. Heat milk and cream in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until steam appears - usually 6-8 minutes- remove from heat.
  5. Meanwhile, gently whisk the eggs, yolks, and sugar in a large bowl until just combined.
  6. Off the heat, gently whisk the warm milk mixture into the egg mixture, adding vanilla and salt.
  7. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh cloth into a large measuring cup or a bowl with a pouring spout. Set aside.
  8. Place the ramekins in a large baking dish or roasting pan and divide and pour the custard mixture evenly into them.
  9. Fill the pan with about two cups of boiling water so that it reaches about half way up the sides of the ramekins. At this point you can cover the pans loosely with aluminum foil, allowing the steam to escape.
  10. Bake until a paring knife inserted halfway between the center and edge of the custards comes out clean, about 35 to 40 minutes.
  11. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool to room temperature.
  12. To unmold, slide a paring knife around the perimeter of each ramekin. Holding a serving plate over the top of the ramekin, invert and set on the work surface. Gently shake the ramekin to release the custard.
Recipe Notes

The room-temp, finished, baked flan can be chilled in the fridge (loosely covered with plastic wrap) for up to 2 days.

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Tuscan Bread Soup Recipe

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Authentic Tuscan hearty winter bread soup recipe and instructions straight from Italy.

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Soup, Tuscan Bread Recipe
Instructions
  1. Peel two whole garlic cloves and cut a bunch of fresh basil leaves into small ribbons.
  2. In a soup pot, saute' the basil and garlic in a couple of tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil for a few minutes to extract the flavor. Remove the garlic cloves.
  3. Add the tomato puree and water or stock and heat almost to a boil.
  4. Cut the stale bread into 1-inch cubes and add to the soup, stirring well. Most of the bread will melt into the sauce but some lumps will remain.
  5. Season to taste with a pinch of red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Continue stirring until the soup is hot through. Serve hot with a sprig of fresh basil on top.
Recipe Notes

As variations, you can add sliced onions to the saute and crush or chop the garlic and leave it in the soup.

You can also use fresh or canned whole tomatoes if you want to puree them yourself.

Bread soup pairs well with a medium-bodied or light full-bodied red wine. However, the soup has a fairly high acid content because of the tomato puree, so a softer, not-overly-tannic wine like Merlot works best (Miles’ opinion notwithstanding).

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Tuscan Ribollita Soup Recipe

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Authentic Tuscan recipe for ribollita, a wonderful bread sou straight from Italy!

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Soup, Tuscan Ribollita Recipe
Cuisine Italian
Servings
Ingredients
Cuisine Italian
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Peel and roughly chop the onion, kale or spinach, Savoy cabbage, chard, leek, potatoes, carrots, zucchini and celery.
  2. Saute' the onion in a little extra virgin olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat until tender.
  3. Add the rest of the chopped veggies to the pot and cook about 10 minutes more until softened.
  4. Mash half the beans in a bowl with a fork or potato masher. Add all the beans and their water to the soup pot and stir well.
  5. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Simmer about 2 hours. Add water if necessary to keep the soup from getting too thick.
  7. Cube the stale bread and stir into soup. Add more water, if necessary.
  8. Simmer 10 more minutes. Soup should be hearty and very thick.
Recipe Notes

Ladle into bowls, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and serve with crusty fresh bread on the side.

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Meat Ragù Recipe from Santa Giulia Wine Estate, Montalcino, Italy

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Homemade recipe for hearty meat ragu. I got the recipe straight from the winemaker's mother (via some translations!) in Italy at the Santa Giulia winery near Siena. Ladle over homemade tagliatelle and you're instantly transported to Tuscany!

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Pasta, Meat Ragù Sauce
Course Main Dish, Pasta
Cuisine Italian
Servings
Ingredients
Course Main Dish, Pasta
Cuisine Italian
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Mince the onion and saute it in olive oil in a heavy frying pan over medium heat until tender.
  2. Add the ground meat and cook until brown.
  3. Add red wine and cook for a few more minutes.
  4. Add tomato puree.
  5. Cook 2 hours on low heat, stirring occasionally. Add water or stock as needed during cooking time to keep the sauce liquid from sticking.
  6. Serve over pasta.
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Rosemary Pine Nut Crackers Recipe

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Make delicious, savory rosemary pine nut crackers at home from scratch. More tasty than commercial crackers plus simple and easy with this recipe.

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Crackers, Rosemary Pine Nut, Recipe
Course Appetizer
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20-25 minutes
Passive Time 1 hour
Servings
dozen crackers
Ingredients
Course Appetizer
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20-25 minutes
Passive Time 1 hour
Servings
dozen crackers
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Mix flour, cornmeal, sugar and salt in a bowl. Set aside.
  2. Use an electric mixer to whip the butter until light and smooth.
  3. Add half the flour mixture to the butter and mix just until combined.
  4. Add the rosemary, pine nuts, egg, egg yolks and pepper. Mix until just combined.
  5. Add rest of flour mixture until just combined. Dough should not be dry. If it crumbles, add 1 teaspoon of water at a time until it is moist and doesn’t crumble when pinched.
  6. Divide dough in half. Flatten it into thick rectangles. Wrap each rectangle in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  7. Preheat oven to 325 F (160 C).
  8. Unwrap one rectangle of dough on floured surface. Roll to ¼-inch (0.6 cm) thick.
  9. Cut out crackers with cookie cutter. Place on parchment-lined baking sheet.
  10. Bake until golden, about 20-25 minutes. Let cool and store in airtight container.
Recipe Notes

Use fresh rosemary and chop it very finely for max flavor and to avoid getting rosemary leaves in your teeth when you eat them.

This dough freezes well if wrapped tightly. It will keep for 2-3 months. Thaw it out and bake up the crackers if you need a gift or have unexpected guests.

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Rosemary Mozzarella Cubes Appetizer

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Another quick, easy, make-ahead appetizer to set on a buffet for holiday parties or any time. Goes great with wine.

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Mozzarella Cubes, Rosemary, Appetizer Recipe
Course Appetizer
Cuisine Italian
Servings
Ingredients
Course Appetizer
Cuisine Italian
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Combine cheese, rosemary, pepper, garlic and oil in a bowl.
  2. Toss to coat.
  3. Refrigerate for at least an hour up to 12 hours before serving. The longer it chills, the more intense the flavor.
  4. Stir again to coat and serve alongside crackers, pickles and other items on an appetizer tray.
Recipe Notes

Don't use fresh mozzarella for this; it's much better to use the low-moisture variety.

A fancy, flavorful, green olive oil is best to enhance the strong, Italian flavors of this recipe.

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Italian Rainbow Cookies Recipe

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Traditional Italian rainbow cookies; my New Jersey/Italian friends make these every year and this is their recipe. LOVE these almond-flavored goodies - so addictive. In addition to the wonderful flavor, they look marvelous, and you can make them any color combination you choose.

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Cookies, Italian Rainbow, Recipe
These instructions are for traditionally-colored Italian rainbow cookies. The photos are of my green ombré type. You can choose whatever colors you like for the layers; see the Recipe Notes at the bottom.
Course Dessert, Snack
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings
cookies
Ingredients
Course Dessert, Snack
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings
cookies
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Line three 9×13 cake or sheet pans with wax paper or parchment paper and grease with butter or spray with cooking spray.
  3. Break up almond paste in a large bowl, add butter, egg yolks, sugar and vanilla. Beat until light and fluffy. Beat in flour and salt. Set aside.
  4. In separate bowl, beat egg whites to stiff peaks. Fold into almond mixture.
  5. Separate batter into equal parts (about 1 1/2 cups each) in three different bowls. Add green color to one bowl and mix well. Add red color to another bowl and mix well. Leave third bowl plain.
  6. Spread batter into separate pans.
  7. Bake each pan for 8 minutes then turn and bake 7 minutes more, for a total of 15 minutes. Place pans on racks until completely cool.
  8. Invert green layer onto a large tray. Spread with half the raspberry preserves.
  9. Invert the plain layer on top and spread with other half of preserves. Invert red layer on top.
  10. Wrap in plastic wrap, place a heavy book or pan on top and refrigerate overnight.
  11. Combine chocolate chips, 4 tablespoons butter and light corn syrup over low heat and stir until melted.
  12. Cover the top of the cake with chocolate glaze and refrigerate until glaze sets. Turn over and cover the other side with glaze and let cool until that side sets.
  13. With serrated knife, trim edges of layers so they are squared.
  14. Cut the cake crosswise into eight sections about 1 1/2 inches wide. Then cut it lengthwise into twelve 3/4-inch sections to make about 96 small, layered cookies.
Recipe Notes

Make the cookies ombré by adding 5 drops of any color to one third of the batter, 10 drops of the same color to another third of the batter, and 15 drops to the final third. Eyeball it to see if you like the color gradation; remember that it's easy to add color, impossible to subtract it. Combine with darkest layer on plate, lighter layer in the middle and plain layer on top. Use seedless jam or preserves that match the color you choose or use a neutral-colored jam like apricot so the lines aren't distinct.

 

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Sundried Tomato Tapenade Recipe

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Recipe for a savory sundried tomato tapenade with garlic, olives and capers. A few minutes and a food processor yields this delicious antipasti appetizer that you can use for a bread spread, too.

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Sundried Tomato Tapenade Recipe
Spreadable, savory, tomato-ey dip, excellent for wine-tasting.
Course Appetizer, Snack
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 10 minutes
Servings
ounces
Ingredients
  • 1 12-ounce jar sundried tomatoes best is packed in olive oil with Italian or Mediterranean seasoning
  • 25 olives any type, pitted
  • 1 tablespoon capers drained
  • 3 cloves garlic peeled
Course Appetizer, Snack
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 10 minutes
Servings
ounces
Ingredients
  • 1 12-ounce jar sundried tomatoes best is packed in olive oil with Italian or Mediterranean seasoning
  • 25 olives any type, pitted
  • 1 tablespoon capers drained
  • 3 cloves garlic peeled
Instructions
  1. Pour oil off the tomatoes into a small bowl and reserve.
  2. Put everything into the food processor. Remove bay leaves, whole allspice or any other coarse seasoning that may have been in the tomatoes and shouldn't be ground up in the tapenade.
  3. Pulse for about 30 seconds until smooth and spreadable. Add reserved oil in small increments as needed to achieve a smooth texture.
  4. Serve immediately on toast or as a dip for crackers. Also makes a great bread spread for panini or other sandwiches.
Recipe Notes

Stores up to three days in the refrigerator tightly sealed.

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