Sunday, April 10, 2011

Anna Nurse's Lamb Shanks in Tomato Sauce with Orecchiette


6 cups canned plum tomatoes (2 28-ounce cans)
1/2 cup Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
1 to 1/4 pounds (about 4) meaty lamb shanks
4 cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
3/4 cup dry red wine
3/4 cup tomato paste
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
Dried red pepper flakes to taste
5 large fresh basil leaves
1 pound orecchiette, store-bought or homemade
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons water
Grated Pecorino cheese for sprinkling


Puree the tomatoes with their juice in a food processor, blender, or food mill. Transfer the tomatoes to a pot large enough to hold the lamb shanks. Bring the tomatoes to a boil, reduce the heat to simmer, and allow the tomatoes to cook while preparing the lamb shanks.

Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan large enough to hold the lamb shanks. When the oil is hot, add the shanks and brown them evenly on all sides. Transfer the lamb shanks to the pot with the tomatoes. Discard all but 1/3 cup of the oil remaining in the sauté pan.

Add the garlic to the sauté pan and cook over medium-low heat until the garlic is golden brown. With a slotted spoon, remove the garlic and add it to the pot with the tomatoes and lamb shanks. Add the onion to the oil and cook over medium-low heat until the onions are soft, about 15 minutes. Increase the heat to medium, pour in the wine, and allow it to evaporate, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste with a wooden spoon and scrape up any bits of meat that are stuck to the bottom of the pan.

Add the onion mixture to the tomatoes and lamb; stir in the salt and red pepper flakes; cover the pot and allow the ingredients to simmer gently. Stir occasionally. When the meat is fork-tender but not falling from the bones, remove it to a dish, cover, and keep warm. Stir the basil into the tomato sauce.

Cook the orecchiette in 4 to 6 quarts of rapidly boiling water to which 1 tablespoon of salt has been added. Orecchiette take a little longer to cook than other types of dried pasta because of their concave shape. They are cooked when there is no trace of white flour remaining when cut into; the orecchiette should retain their shape and be al dente, firm but cooked.

Drain the orecchiette, reserving 2 tablespoons of the cooking water. Transfer the orecchiette to a serving dish. Mix 2 cups of the tomato sauce with the 2 tablespoons of water and pour it over the orecchiette. Mix well. Serve the pasta immediately as a first course with a sprinkling of grated Pecorino cheese. Serve the lamb shanks as a second course.

This recipe is from CIAO ITALIA - BRINGING ITALY HOME by Mary Ann Esposito, published by St. Martin's Press in 2001.


Polenta, or cornmeal cooked in milk or water, is to be found in the northern Italian regions of Lombardy, Piedmont, the Trentino, and Riuli-Venezia-Giulia.

Polenta requires constant vigorous stirring to achieve its characteristic smooth consistency. Be strong! It's a great workout



4 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups coarsely ground cornmeal
1 1/2 teaspoons salt


In a large heavy pot, bring the water to a boil. Add the salt. Add the cornmeal in a thin stream, stirring vigorously all the while with a wooden spoon. Cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat until the mixture thickens and begins to leave the side of the pan, about 15 to 25 minutes, depending on the coarseness of the cornmeal.

Immediately pour the polenta onto a lightly oiled wooden board or platter. Let it cool for 15 minutes, and then cut into slices.

Serve in place of bread, noodles, or lasagna.

Spinach-Stuffed Chicken Breast


Nutmeg, spinach, and Fontina cheese are favorite ingredients in northern Italian cooking. Chicken cutlets stuffed with a mixture of the three and served with a white wine sauce make a perfect company dish. Prepare a few hours in advance if you like and then reheat before serving.


8 chicken cutlets (about 2 pounds)
Two 10-ounce bags fresh spinach, stemmed, rinsed, and drained
4 1/2 tablespoons Colavita™ Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 large clove garlic, diced
1 cup diced Italian Fontina cheese
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons unbleached all- purpose flour
2/3 cup homemade chicken broth
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Fine sea salt to taste


With a meat pounder, flatten the cutlets to a 1/4-inch thickness, being careful not to tear the meat. Set aside.

Place the spinach in a dry large skillet, cover, and cook over medium heat until wilted, about 5 minutes. Drain and squeeze dry. Coarsely chop and set aside.

In the same skillet, heat 2½ tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the onions and garlic and cook until the onions are lightly browned. Add the spinach and cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and let cool slightly. Wipe out the skillet and set aside.

Stir the cheese, nutmeg, and salt into the spinach. Spread the mixture evenly over the cutlets. Roll each one up like a jelly roll and tie with string or fasten with toothpicks.

Return the skillet to medium-high heat and heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the chicken rolls and cook until nicely browned on all sides, about 5 minutes. Remove the rolls to a serving dish and cover to keep warm.

Reduce the heat to medium and melt the butter. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring, until the mixture forms a paste, about 1 minute. Slowly add the broth and wine, whisking until the sauce is smooth. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice and salt. Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve immediately.

NOTE: The dish can be prepared a few hours in advance, covered with foil, and refrigerated. To serve, heat, covered, for about thirty minutes in a preheated 350ºF oven.

This recipe is from CELEBRATIONS ITALIAN STYLE by Mary Ann Esposito, published by William Morrow and Company, Inc., in 1995.

Bucatini Pasta the Romana Way


1/2 pound fresh bucatini pasta
8 ounces fresh baby mozzarella balls
1 cup yellow pear tomatoes
1 cup red grape tomatoes
2 tablespoons fresh basil, cut in thin strips
Colavita Extra virgin olive oil


Cook the bucatini in boiling salted water. Drain and place cooked pasta in a serving bowl. Add mozzarella, both types of tomatoes and fresh basil to the bowl, incorporating carefully with the pasta.

Finish by tossing the pasta mixture with olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix gently and serve immediately.

Sicilian Fig Cookies


4 cups King Arthur™ Unbleached, All-Purpose Flour
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup vegetable shortening
1 large egg
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 cup milk
2 cups dried figs, soaked in water
2 cups dried dates, pitted (About 14 Medjool dates)
3/4 cup raisins
1/2 cup honey
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup orange marmalade
2/3 cup walnuts or almonds, coarsely chopped
1 large egg white beaten with 1 tablespoon water for egg wash
Colored sprinkles


Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together into a large bowl. Add the sugar and stir well. Cut in the shortening with a fork and work the mixture until it looks like corn meal. In a bowl, beat the egg, vanilla, and milk together. Add to the flour mixture and work the mixture with your hands into a rough dough.

Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead for 5 minutes, or until smooth. The dough will be soft. Cut the dough into 4 pieces, wrap each piece in plastic wrap, and chill for 45 minutes.

To make the filling, grind the figs, dates, and raisins in a meat grinder or in a food processor until coarse; or coarsely chop. Place the mixture in a bowl, add the honey, cinnamon, marmalade, and nuts and mix well. The mixture will be thick. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Lightly grease 2 cookie sheets.

Divide the dough into quarters and work with 1 piece of dough at a time, keeping the remaining dough covered. On a floured surface, roll out each piece of dough to a 12-inch square. Cut the dough into 4-X-3-inch rectangles, and spoon 2 tablespoons of the filling mixture down the center of each rectangle. Carefully fold over the long edges of each rectangle to meet in the center, then pinch the seam to close it securely, and turn the cookie seam side down. Pinch the ends closed and fold the ends under. Shape the cookies into crescents and place seam side down on the cookie sheets. Make 2 or 3 diagonal slits in the top of each crescent with scissors. Brush with the egg wash and sprinkle with colored sprinkles.

Bake for 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Transfer to wire racks to cool.

Note: I wrap the crescents individually in plastic wrap, twist the ends, and tie them with ribbons. They make wonderful Christmas presents. They can be made ahead and frozen.

Note: You may eliminate the egg wash and make a confectioners' sugar glaze; when the cookies are still warm, drizzle the glaze over them and sprinkle with the colored sprinkles.

This recipe is featured on show 1909 - Sicilian Cookies.

Dill Dip


  • 2 cups mayonnaise
  • 2 cups sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons chopped onion
  • 1 teaspoon seasoning salt
  • 3 teaspoons dried dill weed
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar


  1. In a medium bowl, mix together mayonnaise, sour cream, chopped onion, seasoning salt, dill weed, and white sugar. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours before serving to blend flavors.

Seafood Melange

Prep Time:
10 Min
Cook Time:
10 Min
Ready In:
30 Min


  • 4 sole, patted dry
  • 10 bay scallops, raw
  • 3/4 cup crabmeat
  • 3/4 cup cooked shrimp
  • 1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika


  1. Butter two 2-cup au gratin dishes. Place 1 fillet on bottom of each, then layer with scallops, crabmeat, shrimp, cheese and a second fillet; set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C).
  3. Melt butter. In a medium mixing bowl, combine yolks, lemon juice, mustard and salt; mix on high and slowly add butter in a steady stream until sauce is thick and creamy. Pour sauce over fillets.
  4. Bake in preheated oven for 10 to 15 minutes; sprinkle with parsley and paprika. Serve.

Seafood Newburg

Prep Time:
5 Min
Cook Time:
10 Min
Ready In:
15 Min


  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry
  • 1 pinch paprika
  • 3 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 dash Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 (6 ounce) cans small shrimp, drained


  1. Combine butter, flour and salt in a saucepan. Cook for two minutes. Slowly pour in milk and bring mixture to a boil.
  2. Stir sherry into the mixture (to taste), paprika, catsup and Worcestershire sauce. Place seafood in the saucepan and heat thoroughly. Serve hot.

Seafood Mocequa

Seafood Mocequa

Prep Time:
30 Min
Cook Time:
30 Min
Ready In:
1 Hr


  • 2 pounds firm white fish, such as monkfish, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons dende oil (red palm oil), or canola
  • 1 onion, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 long, hot peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 cup fish stock
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 bunch green onions, diced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons hot pepper sauce (e.g. Tabasco™), or to taste
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk


  1. Toss fish and shrimp together with salt and pepper to taste; set aside. Heat dende oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in onions and cook until softened and translucent. Add the garlic, and continue cooking until the onions turn golden brown.
  2. Stir in tomato and cook for 5 minutes, then stir in the red and hot peppers; continue cooking until softened. Pour in fish stock, cilantro, green onions, bay leaves, and hot sauce. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to medium, and simmer until reduced by 1/4.
  3. Pour in the coconut milk, then stir in fish. Simmer until the fish is firm and opaque. Serve immediately