Italian dinner soup

1 pound lean ground beef
1 quart water
1 cup finely cut onions
1 cup finely cut celery
1 cup finely cut carrots
1 quart diced tomatoes
2 cups thinly sliced zucchini
1 cup uncooked broken spaghetti
1/2 teaspoon Italian spices
1 cup peas

Cook and drain ground beef. Using a large kettle, pour in water, add onions, celery, carrots, tomatoes, zucchini, spaghetti and simmer 20 minutes. Season with Italian spices and add peas.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Italian cinnamon sticks

3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup ground walnuts
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup butter, softened
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 egg, beaten

Combine first 3 ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

Beat butter and cream cheese until creamy; gradually add flour, mixing until well blended. Shape dough into a ball; wrap in plastic wrap, and chill 30 minutes.

Divide dough in half; place one portion between 2 sheets of lightly floured wax paper, and roll into a 10 inch square (about 1/8 inch thick). Brush with egg, and sprinkle with half of sugar mixture. Cut into 5 x 1/2-inch strips; twist strips, and place on ungreased baking sheets. Repeat with remaining dough and sugar mixture. Bake at 350 degrees F for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden and crisp. Transfer to wire racks to cool.

Servings: 4

Italy: Italian sour cream horns

Dough
1 package active dry yeast (regular, not rapid rise)
3 tablespoons warm water (110 to 115 degrees F)
4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Powdered sugar

Filling
3 egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Powdered sugar

For dough: Dissolve yeast in warm water. Sift flour; add salt. Add butter, eggs yolks, sour cream, vanilla and dissolved yeast mixture to flour mixture; work with hands until a moist dough forms. Cover and refrigerate 1 to 2 hours, or overnight.

Divide dough into eight pieces. Dust rolling pin and work surfaces with powdered sugar. Working with one piece of dough at a time, roll out dough to about 1/8 inch thickness (slightly thinner than pie dough, more like noodle dough).

Cut dough into a circle approximately 8 inches in diameter. (You may want to use a stainless steel bowl and just press out a circle). Refrigerate dough circle. Continue rolling and cutting remaining dough, refrigerating circles as you go. Re-roll leftover dough pieces and cut into circles.

Cut each circle of dough into 16 triangular pieces or wedges.

For filling: Beat egg whites until foamy. Gradually add sugar; beat until stiff. Fold in pecans and vanilla.

Spread 1/2 teaspoon filling on each triangle of dough; roll up, beginning with largest end. Place roll, small end down, on greased cookie sheet.

Bake in a 350 degrees F oven 10 to 12 minutes, or until slightly browned on bottom. Immediately transfer to racks to cool.

Sift powdered sugar over cooled cookies. Store in airtight container.

Yield: About 10 dozen cookies.

Italy: Grilled stuffed grape leaves with goat cheese and black pepper

12 bottled grape leaves, rinsed and dried
1 pound soft, fresh goat cheese, preferably Coach Farm
2 tablespoons freshly grated black pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves

Spread 12 grape leaves on the countertop.

In a mixing bowl, blend the goat cheese and black pepper well mixed. Place a generous tablespoon of goat cheese in the center of each leaf. Fold in the sides of each leaf, then roll up burrito fashion and tie with kitchen string. Drizzle 1 teaspoon olive oil over each and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Preheat the grill or light a charcoal fire.

Place the chilled packets over the medium hot part of the grill and cook until the leaves are just starting to char all over, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Place 3 packets on each plate, drizzle with a teaspoonful of balsamic vinegar and a dusting of fresh thyme, and serve immediately. (You may remove the strings before serving if you wish, but in Italy they’d probably leave them on.)

Serves 4.

Italy: Garlic and basil gnocchi

3 cups cooked potatoes (cut potatoes into
small cubes and boil until tender)
3 tablespoons basil
2 tablespoons Italian parsley
5 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 cup ricotta cheese (cottage cheese can
be substituted)
1 cup parmesan cheese
4 egg whites
3 cups flour

Using a food processor (you may have to work in batches or cut the recipe in half unless you have an extremely large one) or an electric mixer, beat all ingredients together in order listed to form a sticky dough. Place dough in an oiled bowl, cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (you can make the dough a day ahead of time).

After dough has chilled, divide it into 8 pieces. On a well floured surface, roll each piece into a log about 1″ thick. Cut the log into 1-inch pieces. Using your hands, roll each piece into a small ball. Store the balls in a single layer on a baking sheet (use waxed paper between layers and stack, if necessary).

Bring a large pot of water (or 2 pots if you want to work more quickly) to a rapid boil. Working in batches, drop gnocchi into the water. Be careful, you only want to add enough so that they can’t touch or stick together while cooking. Cook for 10 to 12 minutes (gnocchi will start to float as they cook). Remove cooked gnocchi with a slotted spoon or strainer. Store in an oiled bowl until all are cooked. Serve with the sauce of your choice.

Makes about 120 dumplings – serves 6-8

Italy: Cartellate o rose

Dough
3 1/2 cups fancy durum flour
1 large egg
1/3 cup very warm olive oil, plus some for frying
1/2 cup warm white wine

Filling
3 1/2 cups grape jelly or red currant jelly
2/3 cup honey
About 2 cups dry red wine or dessert wine
Oil for frying

Decoration
Ground cinnamon
Ground cloves
Thousands and Millions (candy sprinkles)

To prepare the Dough: Place flour in a mixing bowl. Add the egg and mix well. Add the warm oil all at once and mix well again. Add the wine and mix well. the dough should be look like regular pasta dough, if not add more wine as needed. After the dough is well mixed, knead (even if in the electric mixer) 4 minutes. Wrap in clear plastic paper and let sit for 15 minutes.

Roll out the dough, like you would to make pasta, by hand, or with a pasta machine. the dough should be just a little under 1/8 inch thick. with a pastry wheel cut into strips about 1 1/2 inches wide and about 12 inches long. Using a brush moisten the top edge lengthwise with a little wine. Place the tip of your index finger vertically 1 inch from either end, lift and pinch the top and bottom edges around your finger to form a cup. Continue the process the length of the dough ( you should have 8 or 9 openings of about 3/8 of an inch between openings. with pinched dough in between each one. curl the dough into itself by holding one end and spinning the other end until it looks like a flat rose. Carefully place rose on a cookie sheet and proceed with remainder. Continue until you have used all the dough. Let roses set uncovered overnight. They will be hard and dry by the next day.

Prepare the filling: Place all the filling ingredients except oil in a saucepan for about an hour or until all is smooth and liquid, to sample place a little bit on a cool dish and let cool completely. If it is the consistency you like and will hold its shape (it must be firm enough to set up like thick honey, but not too firm where it is lumpy), proceed with recipe, if not, cook down a bit and then test again. If it gets too thick, add more wine and thin again. If you do this, make sure to add the wine a little at a time because it takes a while for for it to absorb the mixture properly. When it is just right keep it hot over very low heat watching it carefully.

To fry the “Roses”: Heat oil to 375 degrees F in a deep 8- inch pan, Place 2 or 3 of the roses in at a time and fry until they are an even very light gold color. Drain them upside down on a rack with a pan or kitchen towels underneath. When they are drained and still hot, submerge each rose into the filling mixture for a minute or two. Carefully lift them out with tongs or a slotted spoon and set right side up with all the little openings filled with the jelly mixture on a draining rack.

Proceed with the others and arrange them on a plate.

Before serving they should be sprinkled with a bit of ground cinnamon and perhaps a bit of cloves. If desired, toss a handful of thousands and millions on.

Italy: Frank sinatra’s eggplant parmigiana

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 medium eggplant, peeled and cut crosswise in 12-inch slices
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup (1 1/2 ounce) grated Parmesan cheese
6 ounces mozzarella cheese
Tomato Sauce (recipe follows)

Prepare Tomato Sauce and set aside.

Combine flour and salt. Dip eggplant in egg, then in seasoned flour. Sauté eggplant slices in hot oil in large skillet for 3 minutes on each side, adding more oil if necessary. Drain slices well on paper towel. Place 1/2 of eggplant in single layer in a 10 x 6 x 2-inch baking dish, cutting slices to fit. Sprinkle with 1/2 of Parmesan cheese, 1/2 sauce and 1/2 mozzarella cheese. Cut remaining mozzarella into triangles. Repeat layers. Bake, uncovered, at 400 degrees F for 15 to 20 minutes or until hot.

Serves 6.

Tomato Sauce
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped celery
1 small clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 (14 1/2 ounce) can tomatoes, cut up
1/3 cup tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon parsley flakes
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
1 bay leaf

Prepare tomato sauce and set aside.

Italy: Rum custard cake

Orange cake
4 eggs, separated
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup sifted flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons hot water
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons grated orange peel
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

Orange-Rum Syrup
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
6 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon grated orange peel
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1/3 cup light rum

Custard
4 eggs
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 pint half and half
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons light rum
1 cup whipping cream

Frosting
1/2 cup whipping cream
Sugar

Grease and lightly flour a 9- to 10-inch springform pan, at least 2 3/4 inches deep. In a large bowl, beat egg yolks until thick and light-colored; gradually beat in sugar, beating until thick and pale. Sift flour with baking powder and salt. In small bowl, combine hot water, lemon juice, and orange peel. Add flour mixture to beaten egg yolks alternately with hot water mixture, stirring to blend after each addition.

Using clean beaters, beat egg whites with cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Stir a fourth of the beaten egg whites into flour mixture, then fold in remaining egg whites carefully but thoroughly. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 40 to 45 minutes or until cake is golden brown and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan and springs back when touched lightly in the center. Let cool completely in pan on wire rack.

To make syrup, combine sugar, water, orange peel, and lemon peel in a small pan over high heat. Bring to a boil then cook rapidly for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Blend in the 1/3 cup rum.

To make custard, place eggs and sugar in the top of a double boiler and mix thoroughly. Scald half and half; gradually stir into egg mixture. Place double boiler over gently simmering water. Cook, stirring constantly, until custard coats a meta spoon in a velvety smooth layer (10 to 15 minutes). Remove from heat and mix in vanilla extract. Place top of double boiler into ice water to stop cooking; stir custard frequently until cool. Stir in rum. Whip 1 cup of cream until soft peaks form when beaters are lifted. Fold into cooled custard.

To assemble dessert, remove pan side from cake, leaving cake on base. Carefully cut cake horizontally into 3 equal layers and lift off the top two layers. Replace the pan sides around pan bottom holding the remaining cake layer.

Drizzle cake bottom layer with a third of the syrup, then cover with a third of the custard. Carefully place the middle layer of cake in the custard, sprinkle this layer with another third of the syrup, then another third of the custard. Set top cake layer in place. Sprinkle with remaining syrup, pour on remaining custard, and spread evenly. Cover cake lightly to protect top. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours or until the next day.

Remove pan sides. Whip the 1/2 cup whipping cream until stiff. Sweeten slightly with sugar and spread on cake top and sides. Cut into wedges.

Makes 10 to 12 servings.

Italy: Semifredo

1/2 cup dried cherries
1/4 cup Amaretto or Kirsch liqueur
1/2 cup honey
2 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1 1/2 cups chopped shortbread cookies
3/4 cup chopped Frango mints or semisweet chocolate
Fresh cherries, raspberries or strawberries for garnish (optional)
Mint leaves for garnish (optional)

In a small heavy saucepan, combine cherries, liqueur and honey. Heat over medium heat and bring to simmer stage, Remove from heat and let stand until it reaches room temperature.

Spray a 9-inch (6 1/2 cup) ring mold with cooking spray. Line the mold carefully with plastic wrap and smooth out wrinkles.

Combine cream, powdered sugar, cinnamon and allspice in a medium bowl. With an electric mixer, beat cream mixture to stiff peaks. Fold in shortbread, Frango mints or chocolate, and cherry mixture until well blended. Pour into mold, cover with plastic wrap and freeze 6 hours or until firm. ( Mixture will keep in the freezer for up to 3 weeks.)

Remove pan from freezer and invert on a serving platter. Let stand 5 minutes and gently bang mold on the counter. Remove mold and smooth out with butter knife. Garnish and serve.

Italy: Osso bucco

6 tablespoons butter or margarine
4 veal shanks, cut about 3 inches long
1 tablespoon seasoned salt
1/2 teaspoon coarsely-ground black pepper
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes
1 tablespoon dried celery flakes
2 small carrots, diced
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
3 tablespoons tomato paste or 1 cup canned tomatoes
1 cup hot water
1 teaspoon beef flavor base
Parmesan cheese

Melt butter in deep skillet. Rub veal shanks with seasoned salt and pepper; dredge with flour. Brown slowly in butter; add remaining ingredients except cheese. Cover. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 1 1/2 hours or until meat is very tender but not falling from the bone. Turn shanks over while cooking and add small amount of water if necessary.

Remove cover; if sauce is still quite thin, cook uncovered to reduce liquid, or thicken with flour, by stirring in a smooth, thin paste made by mixing together equal amounts of flour and water, using 1 to 2 tablespoons of each.

Serve hot over buttered noodles with poppy seed. Pass grated Parmesan cheese and extra sauce at the table.