Posts Tagged ‘italian’

I use this basic tomato sauce for many dishes including as a dipping sauce for mozzarella sticks, fried calamari, for meat or eggplant lasagna, spaghetti with meatballs, penne all’arrabiatta, vodka sauce, pizza sauce, soups and Mom’s one-pot-spaghetti among others.  It is very simple and versatile, just use your imagination.


Basic Tomato Sauce

(yields 3 cups)


2  14 1/2 ounce cans of diced tomatoes

1 tsp dried oregano or italian seasoning herb mix

1 1/2 tsp fine sea salt (up to 2 tsp if you want)


1.  Puree tomatoes in blender or with hand blender. Add to a small saucepan and simmer for about 15 minutes in med-low heat with herbs and salt. for a spicy sauce add a generous pinch of peperoncini or red pepper flakes.

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I love pasta!  Capellini is very thin spaghetti sometimes called angel hair pasta.  My favorite way to make it is short and simple; with olive oil, tomato, garlic and basil. Fresh, light and satisfying!  May be served as a side dish or as a light meal.  I also like to serve it cold from the fridge with salad. Yum!

Buon Appetito!

Capellini with tomato, garlic and basil


1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 pound capellini (8 oz.)

3 garlic cloves (minced)

2 roma tomatoes (diced)

about 6 fresh basil leaves chopped

2 tsp kosher salt

pepper to taste

freshly grated parmesan cheese


1.  In a medium sauce pan, bring water (about 6 cups) to a boil.  Add generous pinch of salt  and olive oil and start cooking capellini according to package instructions.

2.  Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan, heat extra virgin olive oil (medium heat) and add minced garlic.  Saute for about 2 minutes (do not  brown).

3.  Add tomato, basil and salt and pepper. Saute for about 3 minutes.

4.  Turn off the heat. Add drained capellini to saute pan and stir until well mixed. Serve immediately or refrigerate for later.

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This vegetable lasagna is sometimes called Lasagna Fiorentina or Florentine.   My version does not have tomato sauce, it only has Bechamel Sauce.  I must tell you, the fresh basil fills the kitchen with an inviting and delicious aroma while the lasagna is baking in the oven.   It is important that you use fresh spinach and fresh vegetables to make the filling.  I like to bake it as soon as possible but you may freeze the lasagna for a later occasion, just make sure the lid is tightly closed to prevent freezer burn. My friend Linda is a pro at this technique in which she wraps the lasagna in plastic wrap first and then three times with foil paper before freezing.  Make sure you completely thaw the lasagna before you put in the oven. Great alternative for boat trips or no hassle family gatherings.   I consider this a complete meal but you can accompany with garlic bread, more veggies, steak, salad or rice.

Buon Appetito!

Vegetable Lasagna



drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

1 pound fresh spinach

2 carrots peeled and thinly sliced

1/4 cup onions finely chopped

1/4 cup of red bell pepper finely chopped

10 crimini (baby bella) mushrooms sliced

3 garlic cloves minced

1/2 tsp worcestershire sauce

1/2  tsp dried oregano

1 tsp salt

pepper to taste

Béchamel Sauce (see recipe under sauces)

15 ounces ricotta cheese

2 1/2 cups of shredded mozzarella

9 leaves of fresh basil

12 lasagna strips (boiled or oven ready)

12 1/2 x 8 1/2 (approx.) glass or clay baking pan


1.  Sauté fresh spinach in a large sauce pan with drizzle of olive oil until it has wilted, stirring constantly (medium heat). At the beginning it will seem like a lot but, as it wilts you will end up with about a fifth of its original volume.

2.  Immediately, add vegetables, worcestershire sauce, oregano and salt and pepper.  Continue to sauté for about 7 minutes stirring continously.  You will end up with about 3 cups of veggies. Include the liquids. Set aside.

3.  Prepare Béchamel Sauce.

4.  Start assembling the layers of the lasagna by placing pasta (cooked or oven ready) in the bottom and spreading about 5 ounces of ricotta cheese with bottom of a spoon.

5.  Scoop one cup of cooked veggies and spread evenly with spatula or back of a large spoon.

6.  Pour 1/4 of Béchamel Sauce evenly over veggies and sprinkle about 1/3 of a cup of shredded mozzarella.

7.  Repeat steps 4, 5 and 6 two more times.

8.  For final layer spread place top lasagna strips and spread remaining Béchamel, basil and mozzarella cheese (in that order).  Cover with foil paper (not too tightly so that too much cheese doesn’t stick to it), or if you are using a clay/ceramic  pot with lid use the lid, and cook for approximately 30 minutes (or if the lasagna strips are oven ready, bake according to manufacturer instructions).  Remove foil paper and broil until cheese is golden brown.

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Marinara Sauce

Marinara Sauce is mainly used for pasta, but it can also be used as the basis or complement for many other dishes like lasagna, vodka sauce, fried calamari and veal parmigiana among others.  Since making fresh marinara sauce is so easy, you have no excuse to make it homemade every time! Many of you might think I am crazy, but give it a try.  Its so light and tasty and fresh that I haven’t bought a commercial marinara sauce in years (well… maybe once. Ja!).

Marinara derives from the italian word “marinaio”  which means from the sea or sailor. From what I have read, it was often served to sailors in Naples with pasta as a welcome back meal from fishing or travel. Of course this was after the Spaniards had introduced tomatoes to the European diet from the New World. It does not necessarily include fruits of the sea, but you can serve with sauté shrimp or add anchovies if you like.   Sometimes, I like to add a few pinches of red pepper flakes (peperoncino) to make the spicy sauce for penne all’arrabiata (my favorite!!!!).  I always keep in my pantry canned whole peeled tomatoes so that I have at hand “in case of emergency”. They are so versatile! I like the sauce to be “chunky” so I crush the tomatoes with my hands, but if you want the sauce to be more liquid and uniform you can pureé the tomatoes in a blender before adding to the sauce pan.  With “chunky” sauces like this one or bolognese, I use penne pasta, bucatini or any pasta with texture and/or holes so that the ingredients in the sauce fill them up and you get an explosion of flavor in every bite. With white or creamy sauces I like to use flat and/or long pasta or filled pasta.  These are just suggestions and what I usually do, but nothing is written on stone; you can serve as you like.

Here is my recipe for Marinara Sauce.  Enjoy!

Marinara Sauce

This recipe is for about 1 pound of pasta (4 cups of penne) and serves approximately 6 persons.


2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 large clove of garlic (minced)

1/4 cup of white or yellow onion (finely chopped)

1/4 cup of carrots (peeled and finely diced)

2 cans of whole peeled tomatoes (14.5 oz each)

1/2 tsp dried oregano

2 tsp of kosher salt

pepper to taste (for cooking the sauce and when serving)

4 or 5 fresh basil leaves (chopped)


1.  In a medium saucepan, head extra virgin olive oil (med-low) and add onions and carrots. Sauté for about 5 minutes.

2.  Add garlic and sauté for about 3 minutes.

3.  Add hand crushed tomatoes (or puree tomatoes in a blender if you want the sauce more liquid than chunky), oregano, salt and pepper. Cover and let simmer for about 20 minutes stirring occasionally.

4.  Add basil and cook uncovered for about 5 minutes or until desired consistency has been reached.  Add to pasta. Mix well and serve immediately with fresh grated parmesan cheese. (If preparing as a complement for another recipe, store in refrigerator until ready to use.)

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“NO! THIS IS NOT A LEGAL DOCUMENT.” ja! That ‘s what I have to tell people when they ask for my pizza dough recipe and I hand them a copy or send them an email attachment. I know it’s long, but it’s worth the time.

I have been involved in sports throughout my whole life.  I play tennis, golf and volleyball. I also love to swim and am a yoga fan. A few months ago I invited my volleyball team mates (group of oldies but goodies!) to my house and we had a bbq pizza party.  The pizza dough takes some time to make but homemade pizza is the best!  Each of them made their own pizzas and I had a variety of toppings available  to suit everyones’ tastes. You can make it in the oven or in the bbq (my favorite!!!).  I must mention that my brother Joaco has become an expert at this craft.  His bbq pizza parties are legendary! The most important thing is to heat the pizza stone at 450-500º at least for 45 minutes before starting to cook.

I have been making this recipe for the past five years. It is adapted from a recipe I found in http://www.theartisan.net.  For those of you interested in culture and history, what we consider in America to be basic pizza (a pie with tomato sauce and mozzarella) is not in Italy.  If you wish to order this kind of pizza in Italy you will have to say Pizza Margherita. This kind of pizza became popular when Queen Margherita, wife of King Umberto I, visited Naples in 1889.  She noticed the poor and peasant people eating flat bread with different toppings and became curious.  She summoned Raffaele Esposito, a pizza-maker from Naples, to make different pizzas for her to choose from and she chose this one because it had the colors of the Italian flag (red-tomatoes, white-mozzarella di buffala, green-basil). Word spread throughout her kingdom about how much she liked to eat pizza.  Before this moment, pizzas were only topped with a white sauce, spices or vegetables. It is believed the greeks made the original version of pizza, a flatbread topped with olive oil and spices, which Italians adopted and improved.  Of course, in the beginning tomato was not the main ingredient of pizza because tomatoes are native of the Americas like chocolate and corn.  Today, they use pureed uncooked San Marzano (plum) tomatoes and fresh mozzarella di buffala. In Naples the crust of the pizza is thicker than in Rome because they add more ingredients like whole cherry tomatoes and fish and sometimes liquid ingredients like egg.  Also, if you buy pizza from a pizza stand they will sell it to you by the kilo.

Buon appetito!

Pizza Dough


2 tsp active dry yeast

¼ cup warm water

¾ cup unbleached all-purpose flour


1 cup water

2 ¼ cups of unbleached all-purpose flour (some extra for hands and surface)

1 tsp salt (substitute with same amount of sugar when using whole wheat flour)

Tomato Sauce:

15 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes

1 tsp salt

pinch Italian herbs


To make starter, dissolve yeast in warm water and allow to stand for approximately 5-10min.  Add flour and mix until flour is absorbed.  Cover starter with a cotton towel and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour.

For the dough, mix the the salt with the flour.  Place the starter mix in an electric mixer with the dough hook and add the additional water.  The water  should be at room temperature.  ( If you don’t have an electric mixer you can do this by hand)  Add the flour/salt mixture and continue to mix the ingredients to the consistency of a soft dough. Once, everything is incorporated finish kneading by hand with additional flour for hands until smooth and elastic.

Divide dough in three portions.  Shape into a ball.  Dust a board with flour.  Place the 3 portions of dough on the dusted surface.  Cover with cotton or linen towel and allow to rise until double their original size approximately 1 ½ – 2 hours.  After this stage, depending on when the kneaded portions will be used, they can be wrapped individually in plastic and placed in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for several days or frozen up to 2 months.  If so, allow the portions to come to room temperature before rolled out and used.

As the dough is rising,  place the baking stone in the oven at 500f.  Allow oven to heat for 30 min.  If you are baking the dough in a gas or charcoal grill, you may heat it at 450º f using a special baking stone that has a metal frame. (you can find it at Williams Sonoma stores or Marshall’s)

Fold the edge of each portion of the dough toward the center, kneading it gently while maintaining a round shape.   Place each portion into a floured work surface.  Work with each portion individually.  Roll the dough into a circular shape aboub 10-12 inches in diameter.  Drizzle with at least 1 tbsp of olive oil over the pizza dough spreading it with a brush, your hand or back of a spoon.  All of the surface except for an inch around the edge should be covered with a thin layer of olive oil.  ( for additional flavor make a mixture of mashed garlic and olive oil to  coat the pizza’s surface).  This  coating serves a number of purposes:  it coats the dough thereby making it impermeable to the water in the tomato or other toppings.  Thus, the pizza has less tendency to become soggy and to stick to the peel.  Additionally, the olive oil heats faster and assists in the cooking of the ingredients.

The initial topping, except in Pizza Bianca, should consist of 3-4 tbsp of crushed fresh or canned whole peeled tomatoes (see pizza sauce recipe above).  This should be spread thinly over the olive oil with the back of a large spoon.   It should be thick enough for you to see the dough underneath.  Toppings like cheese,  sausage, mushrooms, prosciutto or anchovies, should rarely be thicker than  the dough itself and should not cover the edge of the pizza base.  Toppings should be added to enhance the flavor of the base not overwhelm it.

I recommend you roll the dough into shape in a wooden board or marble surface but transfer it to a well dusted baker’s peel when you are going to put the toppings, so it is easier to slide on the baking stone, at least until you master this technique.

Remove pizza from fire and cut into individual slices using a pizza cutter.  Serve immediately.  Makes 3 pizzas.


You can also make whole wheat pizza by substituting amount of flour and add one tsp of sugar.  You might need a  bit more water.

Neapolitan Pizza is thicker (over 1/8  of an inch because they have more fluid ingredients which need to be contained.)

Roman Pizza is thiner (less than 1/8 of an inch because it has less ingredients that do not need a rim to contain them.)

Pizza Margherita:  tomato sauce, mozzarella di buffala, basil.

Pizza Bianca:  Olive oil w/ garlic, rosemary, mozzarella, kosher salt and pepper

Nutella:  Only topping is a spread of Nutella over the dough (no olive oil)

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