Tag Archives: Italian

Sausage, Fennel, and Broccoli Risotto


As I’ve previously mentioned, Ben has a rather…interesting palate for a guy who doesn’t turn 2 until August. Tonight was a leftovers night, so he had a combination of leftover palak paneer and pizza. Totally normal diet. One thing that this kid likes is rice. Whenever he sees it he says, “Rye-sh? Rye-sh?” like the seagulls in Finding Nemo. Last night, I made risotto (“Rye-sh?! Rye-sh?!”) and Ben was pleased. He tapped his plate and said, “Morch?” We’re working on his Parseltongue accent.

Fair warning, it’s hard to make risotto healthy. I did my best. 🙂

Sausage, Fennel and Broccoli Risotto

 (Baby approved! 4-6 servings)

1 ½ cup of Arborio rice

5-6 cups of chicken stock

1 cup of white wine (I used Pinot Grigio), divided

4 Tb butter, divided

2 Tb olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped and divided

4 cloves garlic, divided

2 spicy Italian sausages (I used turkey), casings removed

1 bulb fennel, sliced

4 cups of broccoli florets

Juice of one lemon

1 tsp crushed red pepper

½ cup Parmesan cheese

salt and pepper to taste

  1. Over medium-high heat, brown the sausage in a large pan. Set aside, add enough olive oil with the left over grease to get 2 tablespoons.
  2. Add half of the onion to the pan with 2 cloves of garlic and sauté for 1 minute.
  3. Stir in the fennel and broccoli and coat with the olive oil, garlic, and onions. Add in about a ¼ cup of the wine and stir. All of the wine should be absorbed by the vegetables.
  4. Season with salt and pepper and cook the vegetables until the stalks of the broccoli have become a bright green.
  5. Meanwhile, in a medium pot, heat the chicken stock over a medium heat. Reduce the temperature to keep it warm.
  6. In a large pan, heat two tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add the ½ of the onion and 1 clove of garlic. Sauté for 2 minutes.
  7. Pour in the rice and coat with the butter, garlic, and onion mixture. Stir in remaining ¾ of a cup of wine. Keep stirring the rice until all of the liquid has been absorbed.
  8. Ladle the chicken stock into the rice a little at a time. Stir until all of the liquid has been incorporated before adding in the next ladle. The amount of stock can vary depending on your tastes. If you like a more “al dente” risotto, use less stock. If you like a softer risotto, use more.
  9. Throughout the cooking process, gradually season the rice with the crushed red pepper, salt and pepper until you get to your taste.
  10. When the risotto is done to your liking, add in the remaining 2 Tb of butter and stir until incorporated.
  11. Before combining the vegetables and sausage with the risotto, add the lemon juice to the vegetables and stir.
  12. Combine the rice, vegetables, and sausage in a large bowl and mix in the Parmesan cheese. Enjoy immediately!
Enjoy with a delightful glass of wine

Enjoy with a delightful glass of wine


Sunday Funday-Dining Al Fresco


Sundays are a big deal in my world. Sundays are for hanging out and enjoying your family. Today, Husband, Ben, and I did just that. The day started out delightfully with Ben sleeping until 8:00 after getting his pacifier at 6:00. He is also developing cold number 75 of the year, so he slept a lot today. Here he is during his first nap. This sleeping position is very reminiscent of my own.

Sleeping with your butt in the air is where it's at.

During Ben’s nap, Husband went for a nice long run and I hung out watching trashy TV–namely the Royal Wedding. I am a giant geek. Oh well. Later in the afternoon, after we were all well rested, Husband suggested that we go to the batting cages. The Faculty v. Student softball game is rapidly approaching, so I need to get my hitting in order. I will definitely not be batting clean-up, but we had fun at the cages!

Ben and I getting our baseball on

After the batting cages, we came home and I went for a wussy run. Just wasn’t feeling it in the late afternoon. What I was feeling was dining al fresco. I made a nice spring risotto with broccoli, asparagus, and lemon chicken. I jazzed up my Spring Risotto recipe and cut out some of the butter and olive oil. The only real change is that you mix in the blanched vegetables and baked chicken (take 2 chicken breasts and cover with lemon pepper seasoning and bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes) at the very end.

One bunch of asparagus cut into 1 inch segments and 2 cups of broccoli florets blanched

While I was cooking, husband set-up our outdoor dining set and turned on some Frank Sinatra. We all (including Jack) had a delightful dinner in the late April evening. After dinner, Husband (who is great) made surprise Thin Mint milk shakes. I’m not totally sure what he did, but they tasted awesome. The whole day made me itch for summer! Four more weeks!

Risotto with Chicken, Asparagus, and Broccoli

Orecchiette with Spinach and Ricotta

Orecchiette with Spinach and Ricotta

I did it! This is one of my greatest culinary feats of all time. I have loved a dish at Casale’s restaurant in Itasca, IL (my hometown) for many, many years. It is one of the many culinary delights that I demand when I return to the motherland. However, I have never been able to recreate the flavor until tonight. The spinach in this week’s Washington’s Green Grocer box inspired this attempt to recreate the dish, and I am forever grateful.

Orecchiette with Spinach and Ricotta
1/2 lb orecchiette pasta
1 bunch spinach
1 Tb olive oil
2 Tb butter
2 Tb flour
5 cloves garlic, minced and  divided
2 cups milk
dash of nutmeg
black pepper
garlic powder
3/4 cup ricotta, divided
1/2 cup marinara or favorite red sauce

  1. Saute spinach with olive oil just until wilted. Season with salt, black pepper and garlic powder to taste. Set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, set a large pot of water to boil. Once water boils, cook pasta according to package directions.
  3. In a medium sauce pan, melt butter. Add 3 cloves minced garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add in the flour and cook for 3 minutes.
  4. Gradually whisk in the milk to ensure that there are no lumps from the roux. Once all of the milk has been added, add in the nutmeg and season with salt and pepper. The sauce should be slightly thin, but not pure milk thin. Add in remaining 2 cloves of garlic.
  5. Stir in 2 Tb of ricotta to thicken the sauce slightly.
  6. Once pasta is finished, drain thoroughly and pour into a bowl while still hot. Pour white sauce over pasta and mix in spinach. Drop in the ricotta by spoonfuls into the pasta. Mix, but not enough to melt into the sauce.
  7. Add the red sauce on top. It adds color and a little acidity to the dish. Whenever I make red sauce, I save and freeze some. This dish is a great use of said frozen sauce.
  8. Serve with crusty bread and some merlot.

Spring Risotto

Spring Risotto

Yesterday was probably one of the most magnificent evenings I have had in a long time. We got out of school early due to meetings that I wasn’t a part of (score!) and it was a beautiful, almost record-settingly warm day out. Therefore, when I went to pick up Ben from daycare, we headed out to the park. It was so gorgeous. It was 78 with a light breeze and a sun that was just warm enough for comfort, but not too hot to burn. Life could not get better. Ben played on the blanket that we brought and I read my book for the first time in awhile. It was total bliss. Here’s a little picture of Ben getting ready for baseball season:

When we got home, I dove into the box that we got from Washington’s Green Grocer. We got some beautiful leeks this week and I still had some green beans left over from last week, so what better thing to make than a lovely spring risotto? Serve with some seared scallops and you have a wonderful spring meal.

Spring Risotto

1 1/2 Tb olive oil

3 Tb unsalted butter, divided

3 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts (2 leeks)

1 1/2 cups Arborio rice

2/3 cup dry white wine (And an extra 1/2 cup for tasting :). I used pinot grigio)

5 cups simmering chicken stock

1/2 cup marinated artichoke hearts

2 cups green beans

1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest (2 lemons)

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Juice of 1.5-2 lemons

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for serving

  1. Heat the olive oil and half the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.

  2. Add the leeks and saute for 5 minutes then add the artichokes and continue to saute for 2 minutes, until tender.

  3. Add the rice and stir for a minute to coat with the vegetables, oil, and butter.

  4. Add the white wine and simmer, stirring constantly, until most of the wine has been absorbed.

  5. Add the chicken stock, 2 ladles at a time, stirring almost constantly and waiting for the stock to be absorbed before adding more. This process should take 25 to 30 minutes.

  6. Meanwhile, either blanch the green beans in salted water, or, if you’re lazy like me, nuke them in the microwave for two minutes with a couple of tablespoons of water. Whether you blanch or nuke, take them out and douse them with cold water to stop the cooking process.

  7. When the risotto has been cooking for 15 minutes, drain the green beans and add them to the risotto with the lemon juice, lemon zest, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Continue cooking and adding stock, stirring almost constantly, until the rice is tender but still firm.

  8. When the risotto is done, turn off the heat and stir in the Parmesan cheese and the rest of the butter. This will make it extra yummy and creamy.

I served this with some seared scallops, which I highly recommend. Basically, heat a pan over medium high heat. Coat it with olive oil (about 1 Tb). Cook scallops that have been patted dry and seasoned with salt, pepper and garlic powder for about 2.5 minutes per side. When you flip, hit them with the juice of half a lemon. Enjoy!

Sweet Potato Gnocchi Florentine

Sweet Potato Gnocchi Florentine
Winter is almost over here in the D.C. area so it’s one of the last times we have something super heavy and decadent. Therefore, I decided to make some sweet potato gnocchi, which I supplemented with some Yukon gold potatoes. I was initially very nervous about the reviews on this recipe. I don’t know if Husband has ever had gnocchi and he generally doesn’t like cream sauces. However, I was pleasantly surprised. Here are some comment gems: “I love the texture. It’s like a mashed potato packet, but better” and “I like it because it’s like eating Play-Doh.”
Gnocchi (I borrowed this recipe)
1 pound sweet potatoes and Yukon Gold potatoes
6 ounces fresh ricotta cheese (I used non-fat)
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups (about) all-purpose flour
Sauce Ingredients (makes 2 cups):
2 cups milk (I used skim)
2 cloves garlic
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 tsp nutmeg
3 Tbs unsalted butter
3 Tbs all-purpose flour
1 cup Gruyère cheese, shredded
3 spicy Italian turkey sausages, casings removed
1 cup frozen spinach, defrosted
1 tsp garlic powder
For the gnocchi:
  1. Rinse and scrub potatoes and pat dry.  Pierce holes into potatoes with fork in a few places.  Place on plate and microwave on high until tender, about 5-6 minutes per side. Cut in half and cool.
  2. Scrape out potato into medium size bowl and mash.
  3. Transfer to large bowl. Add ricotta cheese and stir until combined. Add Parmesan cheese and 1 teaspoon salt and stir until combined.
  4. Mix in flour, about 1/2 cup at a time, until soft dough forms.
  5. After the dough comes together, turn it out onto floured surface and divide into 4 equal pieces.
  6. Roll between palms and floured work surface.  Form each piece into 18-inch-long rope that are about 1 inch in diameter (think making snakes with Play-Doh), sprinkling with flour as needed if sticky.
  7. Cut each rope into pieces (about 1 inch long). Roll each piece over tines of fork to indent.
  8. In a large pot, boil the gnocchi in batches until they start to float (5-6 minutes). I basically did one “rope” at a time.
  9. Once the gnocchi are done, use a slotted spoon to remove. Run them under cold water to stop the cooking process.

For the sauce:

  1. In a large skillet, brown up the Italian sausage. When the sausage is almost done, throw in the spinach and season with garlic powder. Set aside.
  2. In a large pot, melt the butter and add in the minced garlic. Sautee for a few seconds and whisk in the flour to make a roux.
  3. Gradually add in the milk, whisking constantly until sauce begins to thicken. Add in the salt, pepper, and nutmeg and continue stirring.
  4. Once sauce gets to the desired thickness, remove from the heat and stir in the cheese until melted.
  5. Mix in the spinach and sausage mixture and pour over pasta.

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Pumpkin Risotto, aka Bringing Down the Zebra

Pumpkin Risotto, aka Bringing Down the Zebra

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Growing up, I was lucky enough to have a stay-at-home-mom. Every night she had a delicious dinner on the table by 5:00 when my step-dad got home from work.  She was awesome at it. On the other hand, my best friend’s used to say that her mother cooked once a week/month and “brought down the zebra.” By bringing down the zebra, she was referring to the fact that the family would be able feed off of the one meal for a week. Now, I would love to be like my mom and have something unique and different every night. However, reality dictates that I have to “bring down the zebra.”

Last weekend, I had a bunch of leftover pumpkin from the pumpkin cheesecake brownies and stumbled across a recipe for pumpkin risotto. Risotto is actually surprisingly easy to make and will feed you for a few days. To jazz it up a little, I added in some garam masala and some Italian sausage (Husband likes meals with meat even though I could very happily be a selective vegetarian). Many Indian and Italian grandmothers would freak out because of this meal, but I think it’s delightful. Here’s the dish:

Garama Masala Risotto

3 Spicy Italian turkey sausages
1.5 c Arborio rice
5 c-ish of chicken stock
1 c pumpkin puree
2 Tb butter
1.5 c diced onion
3 medium cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp garam masala (you can get it at some grocery stores or Indian spice markets)
2 tsp garlic powder (you can use less if you’re not a garlic fiend like me)
1/4 tsp each of thyme, ginger, dried parsley, and celery seed
3 Tb heavy cream
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
salt and black pepper to taste

  1. In a separate pan over medium-high heat, brown the sausages just enough to crisp the casings. Take them off of the heat and slice them width wise to make disks. Brown the disks then set aside.
  2. Melt the butter in a preheated skillet over medium heat. Sautee the onions and garlic for about 1 minute, until fragrant. Meanwhile, heat the chicken stock in a sauce pan.
  3. Once the onions and garlic have become fragrant, add the rice and coat with the butter, garlic and onion mixture.
  4. Dump in the pumpkin and the spices, stirring all the while.
  5. Start adding in the chicken stock one ladle-full at a time. Add a new ladle or two once the rice has absorbed all of the liquid. Make sure that you’re stirring it a lot. The stirring helps release the starches in the rice. It’s a gradual process and you may use more or less stock, depending on the level of doneness you like. Husband and I enjoy our risotto to be a bit more “done” than others. If you like yours a little more al dente, use less stock and less stirring.
  6. Once your rice is at the doneness level you prefer, pull it off the heat and stir in the cream and Parmesan cheese.  You can either top the risotto with the sausages, or mix them in like I did. Either way is great!