Category Archives: Italian

Tiramisù with Strawberry Sauce

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Photo Credit: NickStellino.com, 2017

Recipe adapted from:

Nick Stellino
Cooking With Friends, 2011

Serves 8 to 10

Ingredients
For the Tiramisù:
2½ cups strong coffee, cooled
½ cup Kahlúa coffee liqueur
2 packages ladyfingers cookies
9 eggs, yolks and whites separated
1¾ cups sugar, divided
1½ pounds mascarpone cheese
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
½ cup sweet cocoa powder

For the Strawberry Sauce:
(Yields 1 Cup)
One 10-ounce package whole frozen strawberries, partially thawed
2 tablespoons crème de cassis liqueur
¼ cup sugar

Directions:
Mix the cold coffee and the liqueur in a large bowl. In batches, dip the ladyfingers in the coffee mixture. You want them to be moist on the outside but still crunchy on the inside.

Beat the egg yolks with half of the sugar until the mixture is thick enough to form a long ribbon when you lift the beater out.  Note: If you are concerned about using raw eggs, once you have beaten the egg yolks, cook them in a double boiler, whisking constantly until they become as thick as a custard cream. Be careful not to overcook them, or they will become scrambled eggs. After cooking the yolks, proceed with the recipe.

Add the mascarpone and beat for 2 to 3 more minutes. Set aside.

Beat the egg whites, adding the remaining sugar a bit at a time, until they form stiff peaks and have a glossy sheen, about 4 minutes.

Gently fold the egg whites into the mascarpone mixture until the mixture is all the same color. Add the vanilla and chopped semisweet chocolate, and gently fold them into the mixture.

In a 9 x 17-inch glass baking dish, assemble the dessert. Layer the bottom of the dish with the soaked cookies. Top with a layer of the mascarpone-chocolate mixture. Repeat the procedure to make 1 more layer.

Using a flour sifter, cover the top of the tiramisù with a thin layer of sweet cocoa powder.

Place the tiramisù in the refrigerator and let it rest for at least 5 hours; it’s even better if refrigerated overnight.

To make the strawberry sauce, place the frozen strawberries in a food processor. Add the cassis and sugar. Pulse until pureed. Taste and adjust for sweetness of needeed. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer or cheesecloth-like strainer to remove the seeds and pour into a small serving container until the tiramisù is ready to serve.

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Pizza Margherita

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The secret to a great Pizza Margherita is to use the best ingredients you can find—and to approach them with restraint. For this pizza, just because a little cheese is good doesn’t mean a lot will be better! The Pizza Margherita is is all about moderation. Start  with your all-time favorite pizza dough recipe making it a slightly wet dough The mositure of the dough baking on a hot pizza stone, produces a crisp yet chewy crust, the perfect canvas for bright homemade tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, and verdant basil leaves.

For a twist on the taste nduja, a spicy, spreadable pork salumi paste was added to the fresh tomato sauce.

 

Serves 4

Ingredients:
For the Dough:
One  1/4-ounce package active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoon)
1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, divided, plus more for dusting
3/4 cup warm water, divided
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon olive oil

For the Sauce:
5-6 whole fresh Pomodorini tomatoes*
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
3 Tablespoons nduja paste
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 bunch fresh basil, chopped
1/8 teaspoon salt

For the Topping:
4-6 Fresh basil leaves
6 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices

Special Equipment:
A pizza stone

Directions:
Make the dough: Stir together yeast, 1 tablespoon flour, and 1/4 cup warm water in a large bowl and let stand until surface appears creamy, about 5 minutes. Note: If mixture doesn’t appear creamy, discard and start over with new yeast.

Add 1 1/4 cups flour, remaining 1/2 cup water, salt, and oil and stir until smooth. Stir in enough flour (1/4 to 1/3 cup) for dough to begin to pull away from side of bowl. The dough will be slightly wet.

Knead on a floured surface, lightly re-flouring when dough becomes too sticky, until smooth, soft, and elastic, about 8 minutes. Form into a ball, put in a bowl, and dust with flour. Cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel (not terry cloth) and let rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled, about 1 1/4 hours.

Make tomato sauce while dough rises: Pulse tomatoes  in a blender briefly to make a chunky purée.

Cook garlic in oil in a small heavy saucepan over medium-low heat until fragrant and pale golden, about 2 minutes. Add the nduja and stir until the nduja melts into the oil. Add tomato purée, basil, sugar, and 1/8 teaspoon salt and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until thickened and reduced to about 3/4 cup, about 40 minutes.  Taste and adjust the seaonsing with salt and  set aside to cool.

Heat pizza stone while dough rises: At least 45 minutes before baking pizza, put stone on oven rack in lower third of electric oven (or on floor of gas oven) and preheat oven to 500°F.

Shape dough: Do not punch the dough down. Dust dough with flour, then transfer to a parchment-lined pizza peel or large baking sheet. Pat out dough evenly with your fingers and stretch into a 14-inch round, re-flouring fingers if necessary.

Assemble pizza:Spread sauce over dough, leaving a 1-inch border (there may be some sauce left over). Arrange cheese on top, leaving a 2- to 3-inch border.

Slide pizza on parchment onto pizza stone. Bake until dough is crisp and browned and cheese is golden and bubbling in spots, 13 to 16 minutes. Using peel or baking sheet, transfer pizza to a cutting board. Cool 5 minutes. Sprinkle with some basil leaves before slicing.

Cook’s Notes:
Dough can be allowed to rise slowly in the refrigerator (instead of in a warm place) for 1 day. Bring to room temperature before shaping.

*If fresh Pormdorini tomatoes are not available in your local area, you can use any type of fresh tomatoes or you use one 14-ounce can of Pomodorini, San Marzano or Roma Tomatoes in their juices. Add the entire can of tomatoes with their juices and pulse tomatoes with juice in a blender briefly to make a chunky purée.

Tomato sauce can be made 5 days ahead and chilled.

Nduja paste is available at your local Whole Foods Markets. If nduja is not available, finely chopped pepperoni can be substituted in the sauce.

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Italian Sausages with Bell Peppers and Polenta

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This dish  offers the classic Italian-American combination of sausage and peppers on a bed of polenta enriched with Parmesan cheese. By putting the emphasis on the peppers and onions, it makes an indulgent meal a healthy one, as well, with 34 grams of protein and just 31 grams of fat.

Serves 2

Ingredients:
½ cup polenta
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 mild pork sausages
1 yellow onion, sliced
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
2-3 Italian frying peppers, sliced, seeds discarded
1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
2-3 springs fresh rosemary, chopped
1/2 bunch Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 bunch fresh basil leaves, torn

Directions:
To cook the polenta,  add 4 cups of water to a 2-quart sauce pot over high heat and bring to a boil. Whisk in the polenta and let the water return to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook, stirring frequently, until the polenta thickens and absorbs most of the water, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the parmesan and season with salt and pepper.
While the polenta cooks, prepare the sausage and peppers.

In a 12-inch frying pan over medium-high heat, warm 1 tablespoon oil until hot but not smoking. Add the sausages and cook until well browned, about 5 minutes on each side. Transfer to a plate. Do not wipe out the pan.

In the same pan used to cook the sausage, warm 1 tablespoon oil over medium high heat until hot but not smoking. Add the onions, season with salt, and cook until the onions begin to caramelize, about 15 minutes. Add the peppers, garlic, and rosemary, and continue cooking until the peppers start to soften, about 5 minutes. Add ¼ cup wine, if using and cook until the wine has almost completely evaporated. Stir in the tomato paste and 1½ cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, and cook until the liquid has thickened, about 5 minutes. Slice the sausages and add them to the pan, turning once or twice until heated through, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the parsley and season with salt and pepper.

To serve, transfer the polenta to serving bowls and top with the sausage and peppers. Garnish with torn fresh basil.

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Stuffed Chicken Breast a la Caprese

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Serves 4

Ingredients:
Four 7-ounce chicken breasts
Salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon each of dried oregano and dried basil
2 roma tomatoes, sliced thinly
¼ cup sun dried tomato strips in oil
4 mozzarella cheese slices
12 basil leaves, divided

For the Sauce:
4 cloves garlic, minced or finely chopped
⅓ cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons brown sugar

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Using a sharp knife, cut a pocket about ¾ quarter of the way through on the thickest side of each breast, being careful not to cut all the way.

Season chicken with salt, pepper, and dried herbs. Pour 1 teaspoon of sun dried tomato oil over each breast, rubbing some of the seasoning inside the pockets.

Fill each with 2 slices fresh tomato, 2 teaspoons sun dried tomato strips, one slice mozzarella cheese and basil leaves.

Seal with 3-4 toothpicks diagonally to keep the filling inside while cooking.

Heat 2 teaspoons of sun dried tomato oil (or olive oil) in a cast iron skillet or non stick pan over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook for 2 minutes on each side until golden brown.

While the chicken is cooking, mix together the garlic, balsamic vinegar and brown sugar in a small mixing cup. Pour the mixture into the pan around the chicken; bring to a simmer while stirring occasionally, until the glaze has slightly thickened, about 2-3 minutes.

Transfer pan to the preheated oven and continue to cook the chicken for a another 10-15 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and the cheese has melted.

Remove the chicken from the oven and allow to rest 8-10 minutes. Remove the  toothpicks.

To serve, slice the chicken breast in half and place on the center of a dinner plate. Drizzle with pan juices and garnish with basil.

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Braised Chicken with Tuscan Kale and Andouille Sausage

chicken and kale.jpgA traditional Italian dish of braised chicken nestled in a bed of earthy kale and sweet red peppers makes a perfect combination with the spiciness of Louisiana Creole andouille sausage, giving you a one-skillet meal packed with lots of flavor!

Serves 6

Ingredients:

For the Chicken:
6 chicken thighs on the bone with skin, about 2 pounds total
1/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly black ground pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for the bread
1 large sweet onion, quartered, thinly sliced
1 large red bell pepper, cored, seeded, diced
7 ounces fully cooked andouille sausage, sliced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
6 cups (10 ounces) roughly chopped Tuscan kale*
½ cup dry white wine or chicken broth

For the Crostini:
6 thick slices French or Italian bread
3 tablespoons crumbled feta
Fresh chopped parsley leaves, for garnish

Directions:
Season chicken generously on all sides with salt and pepper. Heat oil in large (14-inch) nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken, skin side down, in single, uncrowded layer. (Use two pans if necessary.) Cook until nicely browned and skin is crisped, about 12 minutes. (Turn on the exhaust fan and use a splatter guard to keep mess to a minimum.) Flip chicken; brown the other side, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate skin side up so it stays crispy.

Spoon off and discard all but 2 tablespoons of the fat in the skillet. Add onion and red pepper. Cook, stir occasionally, over medium heat until onion is nicely golden, about 8 minutes. Add sliced sausage and garlic; cook, 1 minute. Stir in kale. Cook, stirring, until wilted, about 3 minutes. Stir in wine to mix well. Nestle the chicken, crispy skin side up, into the kale mixture leaving the skin uncovered. Cook, uncovered, on low until chicken juices run clear, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat broiler. Brush bread slices on both sides with olive oil. Broil bread, 4 inches from heat source until golden, about 1 minute. Flip; top with a little feta cheese. Broil the second side until golden, about 30 seconds.

Sprinkle chicken with parsley leaves. Serve chicken with the bread for mopping up all the pan juices.

*Cook’s Note:
Polish sausage can be substituted for the andouille for a milder dish. Cleaned and cut Tuscan kale, also known as black or lacinato kale, is sold in 10-ounce bags at some grocers. If Tuscan kale is not available in your local area, you can substitute 2 small bunches (about 1 pound total) kale, then trim off tough stems before cutting into 2-inch pieces.

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Grilled Chicken & Mozzarella Ravioli

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A simple filling of grilled chicken meat and mozzarella cheese, makes a delicious ravioli that goes perfectly with a creamy Alfredo sauce for a light lunch or dinner. Fresh herbs like parsley and thyme sprinkled over as a garnish also adds color and flavor to the dish.

This was an experiment and exact measurements were not used, but I am perfecting the recipe, everything from scratch and will be sharing it with you all.

 

 

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Grilled Red and Green Chicken

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Adapted from
Joshua McFadden
Food & Wine Magazine
June 2017

This clever grilled chicken recipe was adapted from Chef Joshua McFadden of Portland, Oregon and is currently featured in the June 2017 issue of Food & Wine Magazine. This spectacular dish involves making two simple sauces—a spicy red one with ’nduja, a spreadable pork sausage; and a green one packed with fresh herbs and briny capers and anchovies—that are brushed on the chicken and served alongside. Both sauces are incredibly versatile, so keep those leftovers for other dishes yo may have on your menu or you can try the red sauce smeared on a grilled cheese sandwich and the green drizzled over grilled vegetables or mixed with more olive oil and white wine vinegar for an herbaceous vinaigrette for grilled fish.

 

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:
For the red sauce:
1/2 cup ’nduja (See Cook’s Notes)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste

For the fresh green herb sauce:
1 cup each lightly packed parsley, mint, cilantro, tarragon and basil leaves
4 scallions, chopped
1/4 cup drained capers
4 anchovy fillets
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste

For the chicken:
Canola oil, for brushing
One 3 1/2-pound chicken, cut into 8 to 10 pieces
Kosher salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
Lemon wedges, for serving

Directions:
Make the red sauce In a food processor, pulse the ’nduja with the tomato paste and vinegar until nearly smooth. With the machine on, drizzle in the olive oil until incorporated. Scrape the sauce into a medium bowl and season with salt and pepper. Clean the food processor.

Make the green sauce In the food processor, pulse the herbs, scallions, capers and anchovies until very finely chopped. With the machine on, drizzle in the olive oil until incorporated. Scrape the sauce into a medium bowl and season with salt and pepper.

Light a grill and oil the grate. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Grill over moderate heat, turning occasionally, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest piece registers 155°F, about 25 minutes. Brush half the chicken with some of the red sauce and half with some of the green sauce and continue to grill, turning and brushing with the sauces, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest piece registers 165°F, 7 minutes longer. Transfer the chicken to a platter and serve with lemon wedges, passing the remaining sauces at the table.

Cook’s Notes:
The sauces can be refrigerated separately overnight.

‘Nduja is a spicy, spreadable pork sausage made out of prosciutto. You can find it at the cheese counter at your local Whole Foods.

 

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Chicken and Black Truffle Sausage with Broccoli Rabe

Sometimes, you just get inspired by what is left over in your refrigerator, like this experimental dish full of Italian flavors and Spring vegetables.

This dish is a little like one of my Grand’s creations. She never measured anything exactly and her dishes and desserts always came out perfectly with a” little of this” and a “little of that” and a “handful of this”. But for those who need exact measurements, I am still working on the perfect amounts for this particular creation in the “laboratory”.

The goodness is that the family loved it, the bad news is that there were no left overs…. lol!

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Shrimp Pomodoro

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Crespelle alla Fiorintina

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catherine_de_medicisThe culinary historical trail leads to Catherine de’ Medici, the Florentine Queen of France, for introducing these savory crepes to French cuisine with the help of her Tuscan chefs.

In 1533, at age fourteen, she was married to Henry of Orléans, the future king of France.
When she moved to France, an entourage of friends, servants, and waiters accompanied her. The Florentine cooks who went with her brought with them the secrets of Italian cooking to France, introducing peas, beans, artichokes, canard a l’orange, (duck a la orange) and carabaccia (onion soup). The pastry makers also demonstrated their innovative genius with sorbets and ice creams, marmalades, fruits in syrup, pastry making, and pasta. A certain Sir Frangipani gave his name to the custard and the tart known in France as Frangipane. Is is not ironic that all these dishes that are considered so quintessentially French, are actually Italian in origin.

Catherine also brought with her to the French table a new protocol, such as the separation of salty and sweet dishes, at a time when sweets were still consumed together with meat and fish in the medieval style all over Europe. Everyone in France was amazed by the Florentine elegance she  introduced, including gracious table settings and dining, fine linen with elegant embroidery, as well as luxurious silverware and crystal stemware.

At the time, French cooking was already a rich, evolving discipline, and the presence of the new style profoundly influenced French cuisine over the next few centuries. Catherine and her army of Florentine chefs reformed the antique French cooking of a medieval tradition and transformed the food we know as today as the modern French cooking. As time went on, French cooks improved and magnified the Florentine contributions. While many dishes and techniques were being forgotten in Italy, the French made them into international cuisine.

And based on the  various  evidence in the culinary literature, it suggests that crepes were also Florentine in origin and the French adapted them into what we now enjoy  today, in both sweet and savory forms. Crespelle  appears to be like Cannelloni, which are pasta tubes filled with spinach and ricotta, but the crespelle is actually a very thin pancake crepe made of flour and eggs instead of a thick sheet of pasta.

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Photo Credit: Josephine Guerriero, Pezzole delle nonna, Posta La Ricetta

In the Tuscan countryside, this dish was formerly  called “pezzole delle nonna.” Pezzole is the Tuscan way of saying “fazzoletto” which means “handkerchief”  and so pezzole delle Nonna  can be translated as  “Grandma’s Handkerchiefs“. Pezzoles can be described as omelets or crepes stuffed with ricotta cheese and vegetables covered with a Béchamel sauce. They are neatly folded into quarters and served family style in a dish, looking very much like handkerchiefs in a stacked in a drawer.  Given its past, and its modern incarnations, this  dish is definitely a home-style comfort food and is  found in extremely traditional Tuscan trattorias.

Serves 8

Ingredients:
For the Crespelle batter:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon melted unsalted butter
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole milk

For the filling:
1 pound fresh spinach, washed, stems removed
1/2 pound ricotta
3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg

For the Béchamel:
4 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons flour
1 3/4 cups milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg

To Finish:
About 2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1 cup tomato passata or  prepared tomato sauce (See Cook’s Notes)

Directions:
For the crepes: In a bowl whisk together all the ingredients to form a smooth, thin batter. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before proceeding. Heat a small skillet or crepe pan and when hot, brush lightly with butter. Ladle about 1/4 cup of crepe batter into the pan, tilting the skillet to evenly coat the pan. Cook until golden brown on the bottom and the top begins to look dry, 1 to 2 minutes. Using a spatula, carefully turn the crepe and cook the second side until the bottom colors slightly, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a plate and cover loosely to keep warm. Repeat with remaining batter to yield 8 crepes

For the filling:  Bring water to a boil in a saucepan and blanch spinach for a few minutes. Drain and dry  the spinach with a kitchen towel by squeezing the spinach to extract any remaining moisture, then coarsely chop to yield about 1 cup. In a bowl, combine the spinach, ricotta, Parmesan, eggs, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and stir to thoroughly combine. Set aside.

 Preheat the oven to 375 ° F.

Lightly butter a 1  1/2 quart casserole dish.

Divide the spinach filling evenly among the crepes, using about 1/3 cup filling for each. Roll the crepes, like enchiladas, up around the filling and place in the buttered dish. Set aside while preparing the sauce.

For the Béchamel sauce: In a saucepan,  melt the butter. Whisk in the flour until smooth and continue to cook for 3 minutes, being careful not to brown. Slowly whisk in the cold milk, and cook, stirring, until the sauce comes to a boil and thickens, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking until the floury taste is gone, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

To finish: Pour the béchamel over the crepes, drizzle with butter, and bake for 20 minutes, until lightly browned on top. Serve hot, with a little tomato passata spooned over the top of each serving.

Cook’s Notes:
You are probably asking yourself, “What is passata?”  Well, passata is basically just an uncooked sauce made with crushed and sieved tomatoes. What makes it so special? Usually, high quality ripe tomatoes are used for passata, resulting in a well flavored tomato base that is generally superior to standard canned tomatoes. Passata is an excellent base for sauces and perfect as a pizza sauce.

Passata is available in Italian delis and specialty gourmet markets. In Europe, passata is widely available in supermarkets. You will find it near the pasta sauces and canned tomatoes. Usually it is sold in a tall jar or a carton. But for some reason, although it is found all over Italy and Europe in general, passata does not seem to be sold widely in the United States. That’s a pity because it’s a great store-cupboard ingredient to have on hand. If you are having trouble getting your hands on passata, you can purchase it online. Amazon stocks good quality Cento Tomato Passata made from Italian San Marzano tomatoes.

How To Make Passata: If you do not have the real thing, you can make a reasonable substitute at home. Use the best quality tomatoes you can find, drain them and sieve or purée in a food processor. But do not use tomato paste, because it is thick, concentrated and highly processed. You can also add salt and other seasonings to taste, like basil or oregano.

Sources:
Orieux, Jean. Catherine de Médicis, ou, La reine noire. Paris: Flammarion, 1986.

Volpe, Anna Maria. “Caterina de Medici: A Tuscan Queen In France.” Caterina de medici, http://www.annamariavolpi.com/caterina_de_medici.html. Date Accessed: 16 December 2016.

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