Tag Archives: Red Chili Pepper

Insalata di Farro e Verdure (Farro and Vegetable Salad)

28 Apr

The fresh vegetables make this salad a perfect and colorful dish to celebrate the flavors of spring.  Farro is an ancient grain, a variety of wheat called emmer.  It was used by the Etruscans, Egyptians and the Romans. Nowadays it is cultivated especially in northern Tuscany, in the province of Lucca. Farro has a delicious nutty and earthy texture that makes it a wonderful choice for entrees, soups, side dishes and salads. It is a versatile ingredient, as well as being highly nutritious. Farro is rich in proteins, dietary fibers and magnesium; it is a good source of vitamin A, C, E and vitamin B complex, and it is low in fat. It has a very low glycemic index, making it also suitable for diabetics. I use farro perlato (pearled farro, from which a portion of the outer bran has been removed) instead of whole farro for my recipes, because it cooks faster and does not requiring soaking. In fact, farro perlato cooks in only 20 minutes. This is a quick, easy and tasty recipe to prepare, something you can eat either warm or cold. The sautéed and sweetly flavored vegetables combined with the nutty farro make an irresistible vegetarian dish.

Preparation time: 35 minutes                            Servings: 8

Insalata di Farro

320 g (1 ½ cups) farro perlato
8 tablespoons olive oil (Extra Virgin)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves
1 red chili pepper, finely sliced
3 carrots, finely cubed
1 red pepper, finely cubed
1 fennel, finely cubed
3 zucchini, finely cubed
250 g (2 cups) fresh peas (or frozen)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Parsley, basil or mint for decoration

1. Rinse the farro in cold water and drain
2. Bring 4 cups of salted water (about 7 g,  1 ½  teaspoons of salt) to boil, add the farro, reduce heat and cook covered with a lid for 20 minutes (cook according to the directions on the package).  It should be firm and chewy
3. While the farro is cooking, in a non-stick pan sauté scallions, garlic and red chilli pepper in olive oil over medium heat for 4 minutes, stirring frequently
4. Add the carrots and pepper, toss for a few minutes
5. Add the fennel and zucchini, cook for 5 minutes. At this point add the peas and cook for additional 3-4 minutes stirring a few times to prevent burning. The cooking time for the vegetables can vary according to your taste: crispy versus soft and well cooked.  I go for crispy!
6. After 20 minutes drain the farro and add it to the vegetables. Toss to mix all the ingredients well! Add salt and pepper to taste.  You can serve it either warm or cold. Decorate with parsley, basil or mint.

Note: Instead of farro perlato you can use regular farro (cooking time is different) or any large grain. I would suggest brown rice for a gluten free version. -Paola


Orecchiette con Cime di Rapa (Orecchiette Pasta with Broccoli Rabe)

10 Apr

Orecchiette with broccoli rabe or rapini is one of the most representative dishes of Apulia (especially of the Bari area), and symbolizes the region’s so called “cucina povera” (peasant cooking).  It is a tasty and healthy dish made with orecchiette pasta and broccoli rabe.  The slightly bitter flavor of this leafy dark green vegetable blends well with the starchy taste of pasta and the hot bite of fresh chili pepper.  Orecchiette means “little ears” because of their shape; they are little concave disks.  Orecchiette are made with semolina, flour and water.  They are prepared by pressing a small amount of dough with one’s thumb pressure to create the characteristic depression. According to some legends, their shape also recalls the roof of the trulli constructions, the typical Apulian houses. The best orecchiette are, of course, homemade, but good ones also produced by some Italian pasta makers. The broccoli rabe, a leafy green vegetable and typical of Southern Italy, is very tasty and suitable for several pasta recipes.  There are mainly two types, one from Bari with a tough stalk and a lot of leaves and another one from Naples  (also known as friarielli) with a more tender stalk. If you prefer a milder taste you might use broccolini or regular broccoli. I personally love the bitter taste of broccoli rabe.  Apulia is not only known for its delicious food, but also for its traditional ceramics. You can admire the artistic decoration of the ancient plate (more than 100 years old) shown in the picture below.

Preparation time: 25 minutes    Cooking time: 20 minutes         Servings: 4

Orecchiette Piatto_small


600 g (21 oz ) broccoli rabe
450 g (16 oz) fresh orecchiette pasta
6 tablespoons olive oil (Extra Virgin)
2 garlic gloves, coarsely chopped
2 fresh hot chili peppers, seeded and finely sliced
4 salted anchovies, rinsed and coarsely chopped
4 tablespoons freshly grated pecorino

1. Wash the broccoli rabe, trim away the stalk, conserving the blossoms and leaves.  Cut the leaves into 5 cm (2 ½ inches) pieces
2. Bring about 3 l of water to boil.  Add 1 ½ tablespoons cooking salt, add the broccoli rabe.  Stir well and cook for about 10 minutes.  Remove the broccoli rabe with a fine mesh strainer.  Set aside
3. Bring the broccoli water back to boil and add the pasta.  Cook for about 5-6 minutes (until “al dente”)
4. While pasta is cooking , in a large frying pan over medium-low heat, sauté garlic, chili peppers and chopped anchovies in olive oil for 1 minutes. Mix in broccoli rabe and sauté for 2 minutes, stirring constantly to mix all the ingredients well
5. When the pasta is done, drain it and add it to the vegetable mix.  Toss it for 1 minute
6. Place the pasta on a serving plate and serve with freshly grated pecorino cheese.

 Note: When you buy broccoli rabe make sure that the bottoms of the stems are relatively firm and green.  If you prefer using dry pasta instead of fresh, you should reduce the amount to 350 g (12.5 oz).  -Paola

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca (Spaghetti Puttanesca)

26 Feb

Spaghetti puttanesca is a tasty and piquant dish. It is one of the more popular recipes of Italian cuisine, originally from Lazio and Campania but now spread all over the world. This recipe, fast and simple, is prepared with fresh tomatoes, garlic, olives, anchovies, capers and red chili pepper. The moderate amount of anchovies gives a slight fishy taste to this recipe without overpowering the distinct flavor of the other ingredients. The term puttanesca comes from a legend in which the “brothels” served this appetizing and aphrodisiac dish to attract customers. In fact, you may already know of the stimulating, vasodilator and aphrodisiac properties of red chili pepper (Capsicum annum). In addition to these effects, this spice has other healthy benefits: it is an antibacterial and antifungal agent, it is rich in vitamins C and E, it helps digestion, and it is a strong antioxidant. This plant is indigenous to America and was used by the natives there in ancient times (5500 BC) in several dishes. In Europe, the red chili was brought back by Christopher Columbus and it is now one of the main spices of the Mediterranean cuisine. It is used especially in Italy’s southern regions to prepare various recipes, adding flavor and spiciness to many dishes. In fact, the name Capsicum, seems to come from the Greek word “kapto“, to bite, referring to one biting his tongue because the strong taste.

Preparation time: 20 minutes           Cooking time: 10 minutes            Servings: 4

Spaghetti Puttanesca

340 g (12 oz) spaghetti (artisanal pasta)
600 g (21 oz) ripe tomatoes, S. Marzano or Roma (peeled and diced)
75 ml (5 tbsp) olive oil (Extra Virgin)
2 cloves garlic (crushed)
110 g (¾ cup) black olives or green olives (pitted and sliced)
3 tablespoons Taggiasche olives
3 tablespoons capers (preserved in salt)
8 anchovy fillets (preserved in salt, coarsely chopped)
1-2 dried red chili pepper (finely chopped)
1 tablespoon parsley (finely chopped)

1. Blanche the tomatoes in boiling water, peel and cut into cubes
2. Rinse capers and anchovies under running water. Pat dry with paper. Cut anchovies coarsely
3. Cut black olives into slices
4. In a saucepan, bring 3 liters of salt water to boil
5. In a non-stick skillet on medium-low heat sautè with olive oil garlic, olives, capers and anchovies. Add the tomatoes and red chili pepper, and cook over medium heat for approx. 15 minutes. Add the parsley
6. In the meantime, while the sauce is cooking, boil the spaghetti for approx. 10 minutes (according to the instructions on the package). Drain the spaghetti and pour into the pan with the sauce, heating all together for a few seconds, then serve. If you prefer you can also add the sauce separately to individual plates of spaghetti.

Note: The traditional recipe calls for black olives from Gaeta but I prefer to replace them with green olives and Ligurian Taggiasche olives that have a sweet and delicate flavor. You can choose the type of olives that better suites your taste. The Neapolitan recipe omits anchovies. In addition you can substitute to regular olive oil with olive oil infused with hot chili pepper. This makes your dish even hotter!!! -Paola

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