Italian Food

Like I said, I've still been busy in the kitchen during my absence from blogging. I've tried some great new recipes (and new recipe hosts, too) that I love and wanted to share. These Italian recipes come from Giada De Laurentiis, host of Everyday Italian and Giada at Home, on foodnetwork.com. One of my FAVORITE recipes so far is her tomato sauce, used in the first recipe below. You WILL NOT be disappointed! Trust me. It is very light, but has a creamy texture and I plan to make an extra batch to freeze for later!

Simple Tomato Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 (32-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, optional
In a large casserole pot, heat oil over medium high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until soft and translucent, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add celery and carrots and season with salt and pepper. Saute until all the vegetables are soft, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add tomatoes and bay leaves and simmer uncovered on low heat for 1 hour or until thick. Remove bay leaves and check for seasoning. If sauce still tastes acidic, add unsalted butter, 1 tablespoon at a time to round out the flavors.

Add 1/2 the tomato sauce into the bowl of a food processor. Process until smooth. Continue with remaining tomato sauce.* I used my blender here.

If not using all the sauce, allow it to cool completely and pour 1 to 2 cup portions into freezer plastic bags. This will freeze up to 6 months.

Yield: 6 cups

And now on to three of my favorite recipes from Giada. I've tried all three of the following dishes and loved them, but of course, I made my own modifications. I included pictures of the ones I remembered to snap while I was making the dishes, but some of the pictures, obviously, are courtesy of foodnetwork.com. Enjoy!

Spaghetti with Olives & Tomato Sauce:
  • 1 pound dried spaghetti
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/4 cups mixed olives, pitted and halved (I used black and pimento)
  • 1/2 tablespoon red pepper flakes, plus more if desired
  • 3 cups tomato sauce, recipe follows
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1/2 cup basil leaves, shredded (I used dried basil, a couple teaspoons)
 I served with baked chicken seasoned with Italian herbs

Close-up shot if this goodness!

In a large pot, bring 6 quarts of salted water to a boil. When water comes to a boil, add pasta, stirring constantly for the first minute to help prevent spaghetti from sticking together. Cook until al dente, about 8 to 10 minutes. 

In a large saute pan, heat oil. When almost smoking, add olives and red pepper flakes. Saute for 3 minutes over medium high heat. Reduce heat to low and carefully pour in tomato sauce and simmer for 10 minutes.

Drain pasta in a colander, reserving 1/4 cup pasta water. Add pasta to the sauce and toss to coat completely. Add pasta water if you need to thin out the sauce a bit. Plate pasta and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and basil.

Click HERE to print this recipe.

Tomato-Basil Bread Pudding:

  • Butter, for greasing the baking dish
  • 1/2 (8 ounces) multi-grain loaf, cut into 3/4-inch cubes (I used sourdough bread)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large or 2 small shallots, thinly sliced (I omitted these, for personal preference)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 12 ounces cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 packed cup chopped fresh basil leaves (I used dried)
  • 1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded Parmesan


  • 6 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup whole milk (I used skim)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Filling: Put an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter a 9 by 13 by 2-inch glass baking dish. Add the bread cubes and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and garlic. Cook, stirring constantly until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cook until slightly soft, about 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the basil. Pour the tomato mixture and Parmesan cheese over the bread cubes and combine well.

Custard: In a large bowl, beat the eggs, milk, salt, and pepper together until smooth. Pour the custard over the bread mixture and gently toss to coat. Bake until slightly puffed and golden, about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove the pudding from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve.

Click HERE to print this recipe.

Linguine with Avocado & Arugula Pesto:
  • 1 pound linguine pasta
  • 2 medium avocados, halved, peeled, and seeded (about 12 ounces total)
  • 3 cups baby arugula leaves (3 ounces) (I had spinach, so I used it, instead)
  • 1 packed cup fresh basil leaves(I couldn't find this at my local store, so I used a few tsp dried basil)
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice (from 2 large limes)
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan (4 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted (I omitted these) 


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and reserve about 1 cup of the pasta water. Place in a serving bowl.

Using a spoon, scoop out the flesh from the avocados and place in a food processor. Add the arugula, basil, lime juice, garlic, salt, and pepper. Blend until smooth.

Pour the pesto over the pasta and toss together. Add the cheese and almonds and toss together until coated, adding the pasta water, as needed, to loosen the sauce.

Click HERE to print this recipe.

I sure hope you enjoy these Italian dishes as much as I did! Next, I'll be sharing my recipe for Pepperoni Piggies. All you Hog fans be sure to check back in and get the recipe before football season starts. You'll want to take this one to your tailgate!!!


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