This month, we are kicking off our World Cuisine Spotlight series by featuring brilliantly fresh and flavorful meals from the country of Italy.
Italian food is known for its regional diversity and variety of flavors. In fact, it is probably one of the most popular cuisines in the world with influences abroad. Italian dishes are characterized by their simplicity, with many dishes using fewer than ten ingredients.
Indulge in these delightful recipes, bring a little Mediterranean flare into your kitchen and enjoy both new and old Italian flavors.
Add color to baked penne ziti with fresh vegetables like zucchini, squash and mushrooms. This dish is sure to satisfy your pasta craving with its creamy cheese and wonderfully sweet and smoky flavor. This versatile recipe can be easily adjusted based on your favorite vegetables or what you have on hand.
As it’s said in Italy, buon appetito!
2 red peppers, cored and cut into 1-inch wide strips
2 zucchini, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 squash, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1-inch cubes
4 cremini mushrooms, halved
1 yellow onion, peeled and sliced into 1-inch strips
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt, divided
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 tablespoon dried Italian herb mix
1 pound penne pasta
3 cups marinara sauce
1 cup grated fontina cheese
1/2 cup grated smoked mozzarella
1 1/2 cups frozen peas, thawed
1/4 cup grated Parmesan, plus 1/3 cup for topping
2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
- Preheat oven to 450 ° F.
- On a baking sheet, toss the peppers, zucchini, squash, mushrooms and onions with olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and dried herbs. Roast until tender, about 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook for about 6 minutes. Since you will be cooking the pasta a second time in the oven, you want to make sure the inside is still hard. Drain in a colander.
- In a large bowl, toss the drained pasta with the roasted vegetables, marinara sauce, cheeses, peas, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Using a wooden spoon, gently mix, until all the pasta is coated with the sauce and the ingredients are combined.
- Pour the pasta into a greased 9 by 13-inch pan. Top with the remaining 1/3 cup Parmesan and butter pieces. Bake until top is golden and cheese melts, about 25 minutes.
For those who are looking for something other than a delightful roasted vegetable penne, this delicious recipe captures the flavors and simplicity found in sun-drenched cuisine from the Mediterranean. The lightness of white wine contrasts with garlic, onion and herbed tomatoes in this dish, while simmered chicken is highlighted with the distinct taste of Kalamata olives.
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine
6 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
2 tablespoons dried Italian herb mix
3 cloves garlic minced
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup white wine
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup kalamata olives
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
Sea salt and pepper to taste
- Heat the oil and 2 tablespoons white wine in a large skillet over medium heat. Sprinkle Italian herb mix on chicken breasts. Add chicken and saute 4 to 6 minutes on each side, until golden. Remove chicken from skillet and set aside.
- Saute garlic in pan drippings for 30 seconds, then add onion and saute for 3 minutes. Add tomatoes and bring to a boil. Lower heat, add 1/2 cup white wine and simmer for 10 minutes. Add thyme and basil and simmer for 5 more minutes.
- Return chicken to skillet and cover. Cook over low heat until the chicken is cooked through and no longer pink inside. Add olives and parsley to the skillet and cook for 1 minute. Season with sea salt and pepper to taste.
If you think Italian cuisine is set in stone, puttanesca sauce didn’t exist until the 1960’s. There are several colorful stories about its creation, but all point to a flavorful and chunky tomato sauce flavored with olives, oregano and capers. In this recipe, pair the delightful sauce with meaty grouper, or flounder, if preferred. For more authenticity, add an anchovy or two to the sauce.
As the Italians say, buon appetito!
4 (6-ounce) grouper or flounder fillets
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup thinly sliced onion
1 tablespoon bottled minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1 (14-ounce) can chopped tomatoes, drained
1/3 cup chopped pitted kalamata olives
2 tablespoons capers
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (optional)
- Heat a nonstick grill pan over medium-high heat. Sprinkle fish with salt and pepper. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add fish to pan and cook for 5 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork.
- While fish cooks, heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook for 4 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. Add garlic, oregano and tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 6 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in olives and capers and cook for 1 minute.
- Spoon tomato mixture over fish. Sprinkle with chopped parsley, if desired.