Tag Archives: Basil

Bruschetta al Pomodoro (Tomato Bruschetta)

8 Jun

Bruschetta (broo-SKAY-tah) is a perfect appetizer to serve with an aperitif; it’s fast and easy to prepare. The ingredients are simple: bread, tomatoes, olive oil (extra-virgin of course), basil and garlic, but the result is wonderfully flavorful. The type of bread that I use is homemade bread from Puglia or Tuscany. The quality of tomatoes is very important; they should be mature, sweet and full of flavor. They should also have a thin skin, because they should not be peeled. Bruschetta is a native of Rome, where “bruscare” means simply “to toast” in the Roman dialect. Originally a simpler version existed: only bread and olive oil. Today it is also a typical dish all over central Italy – Umbria , Tuscany and Abruzzo – and is prepared using tomato, too. I personally prefer this version; I find it more tasty and inviting, perfect for a summer cook out.

BRUSCHETTA AL POMODORO (TOMATO BRUSCHETTA)
Preparation time: 10 min. Servings: 6 people Bruschetta al pomodoro INGREDIENTS
12 slices crusty bread
8 ripe tomatoes

18 basil leaves
4 garlic cloves
Salt
Extra-virgin olive oil

DIRECTIONS
1. Wash the tomatoes and dice them into small pieces. Place in a bowl and season with a pinch of salt, 5-6 basil leaves and a clove of garlic cut in half. Allow to stand for 10 min. Remove the liquid and drizzle with some olive oil
2. Slice the bread ( 15x5cm, 6x2inch thickness 2.5 cm, 1 inch). Toast it on the grill or under the broiler. Rub with a clove of garlic cut in half and cover with the tomato mixture. Garnish with a basil leaf and serve warm. Paola

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Insalata di Lenticchie (Lentil Salad)

7 Aug

This lentil salad with fresh vegetables is a refreshing, summertime dish that you can enjoy either as a main course accompanied by cheese, or served as a side dish. This is a recipe you can prepare in advance and stored in the refrigerator for 12-24 hours. It is quick and easy, in fact, it is not necessary to soak the lentils for several hours before cooking them.  It is best served fresh, “just made”, at room temperature, but you can also refrigerate it and enjoy it cold the next day. Surely this salad is healthy and nutritious. Lentils, in fact, like all legumes, are an important nutritional source of proteins and carbohydrates (in the past they were known as “la carne dei poveri” the meat of poor people), but they are also low in fat. They are also rich in iron, potassium, phosphorus and dietary fiber which are important to keep your cholesterol levels in check. Lentils are ancient legumes, consumed by the Egyptians and present in different quotations from the Bible. In the past, they were peasants’ food because of the high nutritional value and low cost. These tasty and versatile legumes, often found in vegetarian cuisine, are good in salads, soups and other recipes. Do not forget that lentils are a symbol of luck and wealth, therefore let’s eat them in abundance!

INSALATA DI LENTICCHIE (LENTIL SALAD)
Preparation time: 30 min. Cooking time: 20 min. Servings: 4

Insalata di Lenticchie
INGREDIENTS
280 g (10 oz) dry lentils
1 bay leaf
300 g ( 11 oz) cherry tomatoes
1 cucumber, diced
1 white onion, diced
1 medium pepper, diced
1 bunch of basil
4 tablespoons of olive oil (Extra Virgin)
Salt and freshly ground pepper

DIRECTIONS
1. Rinse the lentils under running water, put them in a pot with the bay leaf and plenty of water, and boil until they are crisp, about 18-20 minutes. A few minutes before they are done, add some salt. The cooking time should be indicated on the packaging. Drain and allow to cool
3. While the lentils are cooking, cut the tomatoes in half, dice the cucumber. Mix together in a bowl and let stand for about 15 minutes at room temperature to remove the water
4. Drain the tomatoes and cucumber with a strainer. Cut the onion and pepper. In a large bowl mix all the vegetables
5. In a small bowl prepare the dressing with olive oil, salt and pepper
5. Add the lentils and some basil leaves to the vegetable mix, toss well with the dressing. Leave for 10-15 minutes and serve at room temperature.   -Paola

Lasagne al Pesto (Pesto Lasagna)

11 Oct

Lasagne, one of the most popular Italian dishes, has a long and interesting history.  A popular tradition traces its origin to the ancient Greeks. In fact, the name “lasagna” is actually not Italian at all!  It comes from the ancient Greek language and means dish or bowl, but over time, the term lasagne has come to refer to layers of thin pasta that are cooked with and separated by different ingredients such as meat, fish, vegetables or cheese, as well as besciamella, or béchamel, sauce, of course.  You have may tried the traditional Lasagne with Bolognese sauce, but maybe not the Lasagne al pesto that I am going to present today.  The pesto sauce makes lasagna even more special and delicate, a tasty delight for your palate, and is an excellent vegetarian dish (remember, however, that it does contain eggs and dairy products).  You can enjoy this dish as a first course (like we Italians do) or as a main dish.

LASAGNE AL PESTO

Preparation time:  1 ½  hrs.          Baking Time:  30 min.
Servings:  4

 

INGREDIENTS
1 l (approx. 4 cups) besciamella sauce
180 g (¾ cup) pesto
6 sheets of Lasagne pasta (20 x 10 cm; 8 x 4 in)

Pesto
3 medium sized garlic cloves
60 g (2 cups) fresh Sweet basil
40 g (⅓ cup) pine nuts
70 ml (⅓ cup) olive oil (Extra Virgin)
50 g (½ cup) grated Parmesan cheese
Sea salt to taste (optional)

Besciamella Sauce
1 l milk (approx. 4 cups)
100 g (⅔ cup ) all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon of salt
30 g (2 tablespoons) unsalted butter
Freshly ground pepper and freshly grated nutmeg to taste

DIRECTIONS
Preheat the oven to 170°C (350°F)

Pesto (makes about 1 cup)
1.Toast the pine nuts for about 5 to 6 minutes on a baking sheet in a preheated oven at 170°C (350°F) or stirring constantly in a non-stick skillet on the stove.  Set aside
2.Wash the basil and dry it.  Drop the garlic in a running food processor.  Add the basil and pine nuts until it becomes a grainy mixture
3. Slowly add the olive oil in a constant stream while the food processor is on to reach the desired consistency
4. Add the Parmesan cheese and pulse until blended.  Add a pinch of salt to taste and set aside.

Besciamella Sauce (makes about 4 cups)
1. In a medium saucepan mix the milk and the flour well with a whisk until smooth.  This will prevent any lumps from forming
2. Add the salt
3. Cook 3-4 minutes (medium-high heat) stirring constantly
4. Lower the heat as soon as the mixture reaches a slow boil and then continue to cook for about 10-12 minutes, stirring constantly to the right thickness (smooth and creamy).  Add the butter.  Stir constantly to ensure that it doesn’t stick or burn
5. Remove from the heat.  Mix well the besciamella sauce with pesto.

In an 11-cup baking pan (23 cm x 18 cm; approx. 9 in x 7 in), spread a paper-thin layer of besciamella mix.  Arrange the pasta sheets side by side, covering the besciamella in the bottom of the baking pan (about 2 lasagna sheets).  Break the pasta, if necessary, to make a complete layer from side to  side.  Spread some of the besciamella (about ⅓) evenly on top of the pasta, followed by another layer of pasta.  Repeat this process until you have a total of three layers of pasta and finish with the remaining besciamella.  Bake for about 30 minutes, until top is brown and bubbly (follow the suggested baking time on the lasagne package).  Let it rest at room temperature for about 8-10 minutes before serving.  Sprinkle some toasted pine nuts on top and serve.

Note: Pesto is not too difficult to make, but tasty and fresh basil is not easy to find all year round.  Pesto is a pasta sauce which originates from Genova, in the Liguria region of northern Italy, and is made with fresh Sweet basil (Mediterranean basil) and pine nuts.  If you don’t want to make fresh pesto, then look for a  good Italian brand in the grocery cooler or with the canned sauces.  One final word of caution!  Make certain that the ingredient list on the package specifies “olive oil”!  –Paola

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