Basil Spread

Servings: 4-6

Ingredients

  • Kosher Salt
  • 4 cups packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup packed fresh parsley leaves
  • ¼ cup pine nuts, toasted (slivered almonds would also work)
  • 1 large clove garlic, crushed and peeled
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • One 15 ½ ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • ⅓ cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano

Instructions

  1. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil.  Add the basil and blanch until bright green and wilted, about a minute.  Cool in an ice bath, drain, and wring very dry.
  2. Place the basil, parsley, pine nuts, garlic, and a large pinch of salt in the work bowl of a food processor.  Pulse to make a chunky pasta. 
  3. With the processor running, add the oil in a steady stream to make a thick sauce. 
  4. Add the beans, and process to make a smooth bright green puree.  Sprinkle in the grated cheese, and pulse to incorporate. 
  5. Serve at room temperature.

Recipe Adapted from Felidia:  Recipes from My Flagship Restaurant (By Lidia Bastianich, Fortunato Nicotra, Tanya Bastianich Manuali; Alfred A. Knopf, 2019)

Hummus Quesadillas

Quesadillas are not typically Italian, but I like a good quesadilla-style sandwich for lunch on weekends.  My daughter started eating hummus in high school, so I started feeding her my version of hummus, a basil and white bean puree.    And why the chickpea tortilla?  I love that it’s gluten free, but I also grew up eating panelle (chickpea fritters) in Sicily. It’s a little nostalgia in every bite.  

Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of Basil Spread (or store-bought hummus)
  • Four 8-inch chickpea tortillas (regular or whole wheat tortillas can also be used)
  • ½ cup of arugula (you can use Italian arugula, rocket arugula, sylvetta arugula or kale)
  • 2-3 beefsteak tomatoes, sliced
  • ½ cup of toasted almonds (optional)
  • 12 slices of medium tofu (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil to brush the pan

Instructions

  1.  Spread the Basil Spread (or hummus) over half of each tortilla. Lightly cover with equal amounts of arugula and tomato slices.  (If you’d like, add the almonds and/or tofu for a little extra protein.)
  2. Fold the blank half of the tortilla over to create a half-moon shape.
  3. Brush a non-stick skillet with the olive oil oil or vegetable oil, and preheat over medium heat.
  4. Place the folded quesadilla in the pan.  With the palm of your hand, press lightly to make sure it’s adhering to the pan.  Cook until the bottom is lightly golden and crisp.  Carefully flip and cook the other side. (You can also use a grill pan to toast your quesadillas.)
  5. Transfer the quesadilla to a cutting board, and finish cooking the remaining quesadillas.  Allow each quesadilla to rest for a couple of minutes before cutting into three wedges with a chef’s knife or pizza cutter .  Serve immediately. 

Nutella Crepes

Servings: 6

Ingredients

For the crepes:

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon or lime
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly + 2 tablespoons of cold butter for the pan

For the filling:

  • 12 tablespoons nutella
  • 1 tablespoon crushed hazelnuts (optional)
  • 1-2 scoops of vanilla ice cream

Instructions

  1. Whisk together the eggs, flour, milk, salt, and lemon zest in a large bowl until well blended and smooth. Make sure there are no lumps from the flour.
  2. Drizzle in the melted butter and whisk until the batter has thickened. It should have the consistency of melted ice cream.
  3. Set a crepe pan or medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until it is hot.  Butter the pan with your cold butter and immediately ladle in a ½ cup of the batter. Tilt and swirl the pan so the batter coats the bottom, and set the pan on the burner.
  4. Lower the heat to medium, and cook the crepe for a little less than a minute, until the underside is lightly browned in a lacy pattern.  Flip it over with a spatula, and continue to let it cook for ½ minute or longer, until the second side is lightly browned, then remove it to a warm platter.  Keep in mind that sometimes the first crepe cooks a little bit unevenly or becomes too brown along the edges. It gets easier as you continue and temper the pan.
  5. Heat the empty pan briefly, then butter it again. Repeat the process and ladle in another 1/2 cup of the batter to make another crepe. Repeat the sequence, stacking up the finished crepes on the platter, until all the batter is used up.

To Serve:

Fill and serve the crepes as soon as possible, while they are fresh and warm. Take one crepe off the stack, and place it with its lacy-patterned side down.  Spoon a generous 2 tablespoons of nutella in the center of the pancake and spread it over the surface, leaving an inch-wide border.  If you want to “chef it up”, scatter a spoonful of chopped hazelnuts over the chocolate layer for some added texture. Then fold the round in half, hiding the filling, and fold again into a plump quarter-round.  Fill and fold all the crepes the same way. Serve each crepe with a scoop or two of vanilla ice cream.  

Feel free to experiment with different fillings like fruit jams, melted chocolate or even a combination of peanut butter & jelly.

Pasta With Garlic and Oil

Spaghetti with Garlic and Oil has very few ingredients, is simple to make, but does take practice to master.  A good spaghetti with garlic and oil is a great weeknight dinner, weekend lunch or even late night dinner after entertaining with friends and family.  

The typical pasta with garlic and oil is made with long pasta like spaghetti and uses only olive oil, garlic, and peperoncino or hot chili flakes.  To build on the flavor, you can add toasted breadcrumbs or grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano Reggiano at the end; I sometimes like to add chopped basil and/or chopped parsley to either of these combinations.   

Servings: 6

Ingredients

  • Kosher salt
  • ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 cloves garlic, crushed, and skin removed
  • 1 pound spaghetti or other long pasta like linguine or bucatini
  • ¼ teaspoon peperoncino flakes (red pepper flakes), or more to taste
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano OR ¾ cup of toasted breadcrumbs (optional)
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley (optional)
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano (optional)

Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta. 
  2. In the meantime, in a medium-large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat.  Add the garlic and cook, making sure it does not burn, until softened and pale golden- about 3 to 4 minutes.   
  3. While the garlic is cooking, add the pasta to the boiling water and give it a stir.  Add the peperoncino to the garlic and oil and let toast for a minute. Then add 2 cups of the pasta water to the pan and bring the sauce to a rapid boil.  Season with a little additional salt and peperoncino.  
  4. Once the sauce has reduced by about half and the pasta is al dente, remove the pasta from the boiling water with tongs and add it to the sauce.  If you choose to add parsley, add it now and stir.  Otherwise, turn off the heat, add the toasted breadcrumbs or grated cheese and stir with the tongs.  You can also add the fresh basil and stir if you choose to use it.  Add a final drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, plate the pasta and serve immediately.  

CHEF IT UP:  Once you have mastered this this simple pasta dish, I suggest doing the following for an even more delicious, creamier sauce. After you begin cooking the pasta, ladle 1 cup of the pasta cooking water into a blender, add the garlic and oil from the saute pan and half of the grated cheese.  Blend until smooth, add parsley, then blend again and pour into a large skillet.  Then once your pasta is al dente, remove it with tongs to the skillet.  Turn off the fire, sprinkle with remaining cheese and toss to coat the pasta in the sauce.  If the pasta sauce seems dry, you can add another ladle of pasta water.  Plate and serve immediately.

To serve:

When the pasta is al dente, remove with tongs to the skillet.  Sprinkle with the remaining cheese.  Toss to coat the pasta in the sauce, adding a little more of the pasta cooking water if it seems dry.  When plating, use the tongs to twirl the pasta into the shape of a bird’s nest into the shallow bowl to help keep it warmer.  (You can also do this with a large serving fork and ladle).