Italian Farro Salad – a healthy ancient grain!

Take a culinary voyage to the Mediterranean with farro, a hearty grain that was a mainstay of the daily diet in ancient Rome. Some say farro is the original ancestor of all other wheat species—“the mother of all wheat.” In ancient Rome, farro was a staple food that provided the main source of nourishment for the Roman legions, and it was even used as a form of currency. Today this Old World heirloom grain is still highly regarded in Italy, where it has been grown for generations by Tuscan farmers and is featured in many traditional dishes.

Italian farro salad
Italian farro salad

Farro Salad with Cherry Tomato and Arugula
Serves 6 or so
1 1/2 cups farro (3/4 pound)
1/3-cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
Kosher Salt and cracked pepper
1/2 pound cherry tomatoes, halved
2 bunches of arugula (3/4 pound), stemmed and torn into bite-size pieces

In a large saucepan of boiling salted water, cook the farro until al dente- about 25 minutes. Drain well. Transfer to a bowl and let cool to room temperature.

In a bowl, mix the olive oil and vinegar.
Add the tomatoes, arugula and dressing to the farro and toss well. Season with salt and cracked pepper and serve at once.

The cooked farro can be refrigerated overnight.

The farro salad calls for a dry white Italian wine with character.

butternut squash, radicchio, spinach pasta sauce

butternut pasta
paccheri pasta

Pappardelle or Paccheri Pasta with Butternut Squash, Spinach and Radicchio
These Beautiful colors = good for you!

6-8 ounces pasta (or about half of 1 pound box)
1 small butternut squash (about 1 pound) can substitute sweet potato or acorn squash
5 cups packed spinach leaves (about 1 bunch) plus radicchio optional
2 garlic cloves
1-tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan (about 1 1/2 ounces)

Fill 4-quart kettle three fourths full with salted water and bring to a boil for cooking pasta.
Quarter, seed, and peel squash. Cut squash into 1/2-inch cubes. Coarsely chop spinach and mince garlic.
In a large heavy skillet heat oil over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking and sauté squash with salt to taste, stirring occasionally, until almost tender, about 7 minutes.
While squash is cooking, cook pasta in boiling water until al dente. Reserve 1/2-cup cooking water and drain pasta in a colander.
Add spinach, (radicchio if using with a squeeze of lemon juice to retain color) and garlic to skillet with squash and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until any liquid is evaporated. Add pasta and reserved cooking water and bring to a boil. Season pasta with lemon juice, salt and pepper. Toss pasta with Parmesan off heat. Can sprinkle toasted chopped hazelnuts or pecans for a little crunch if you like

Wine pairing: Pinot Grigio or chardonnay

HOW TO KEEP BASIL GREEN after you cut it! Prevent basil from turning black! I have discovered the trick!





So I researched the internet, cut lots of basil, then cut more, basically stripped my herb garden of all the basil! I had read that cutting basil was bad and it’s better to tear it. But even when I tore it it turned black and sometimes I want a boatload of basil and don’t want to get arthritis tearing it! Plus I get bored easily and like shortcuts- a lot! I did everything from coating the leaves in oil, cutting with the thinnest knife etc etc- The edges of the chiffonade still turned black after a few minutes! Then when I read that it’s the reaction of the stainless steel with the oils in the herb I thought to use a ceramic knife along with coating the leaves in EVOO (extra virgin olive oil). It totally works!!!

so bottom line to keep basil green is:

don’t cut ibasil right after washing it- it should be completely dry- you should just wipe with a damp towel or dip in water and blot
coat leaves in oil
stack leaves and roll up like a cigar
thinly slice with a ceramic knife-no steel!
and you have a beautiful, green basil chiffonade for a long time!

I had it out for an hour and it was still green- did not turn black at all!

I guess when they used a mortar and pestle back in the day they never had this issue, so if you make pesto and want it to stay green that would be the
way to go, avoiding any steel blade.

I am so happy!

Seared Crispy Fried Chicken Italian Style Cotoletta alla Milanese


Breaded Veal  or Chicken Cutlets

Cotoletta is usually served with a lemon wedge to cut the fried-in-butter goodness, but after all that work to get the perfectly golden, crisp breadcrumb coating, some may think it’s a bit counterproductive as it immediately turns your work soggy. Better would be to serve it with a glass of wine — a sparkling Franciacorta would do the trick. Also, while veal is the classic – this same method of breadcrumb coating is great with pork chops or chicken too.

For 4 people:
• 4 veal chops, such as bone-in rib eye I use chicken breasts pounded to ½ inch or less (cooks faster and fills the plate)
• Flour
• 2 eggs
• 1 ½ cups breadcrumbs
• 1 cup clarified butter- see below for recipe- less likely to burn this way
• Pinch of salt

Pat the veal cutlets well with kitchen paper so they are as dry as possible and set aside while preparing the coating. In a shallow bowl, crack the eggs and beat. In another bowl, place the breadcrumbs.
Dust the cutlets first with flour, then dip in the beaten egg, letting any excess egg drip off before placing in the breadcrumbs to coat entirely. Pat down the breadcrumbs well.
Place the clarified butter in a skillet over medium heat. When the butter begins turning a caramel color, place the cutlets in the butter and fry until golden brown. Turn, the cutlets, and continue frying until cooked through, about 6-8 minutes per side – less if you have thin cutlets. You may need to cook just two at a time; if doing this, use half the butter for every pair of cutlets.
Remove from the pan and place on a wire rack to rest the meat. You may want to place it somewhere to keep warm, such as in a low oven (or an oven that was heated and then turned off), but do not cover it or place it directly on a plate as it will become soggy. Season with salt and serve warm with a wedge of lemon (if you’re going that way) or a glass of wine.

Essentially, a veal cutlet is passed through beaten egg, then breadcrumbs and the cutlet is fried in a shamelessly large amount of clarified butter until crisp. It’s easy to make and good results are achieved when following these few golden rules:
• Although traditionally cotoletta alla milanese is made with just egg and breadcrumbs, passing it through flour before the egg helps to keep on the breadcrumb coating.
• Don’t salt the meat or put it in the coating as it will lead to the breadcrumbs falling off. Season at the end, preferably with nice, flaky salt.
• Leaving the breadcrumbed cutlet to rest in the fridge for at least thirty minutes before frying will result in a crisper coating.
• Use clarified butter. It’s really easy to make  but you can definitely do it without
• Pan fry on medium heat. Too cool will result in a soggy breadcrumb coating and too hot will burn. If you notice your pan getting too hot, adding some cold butter is a good way to even out the temperature quickly.
• As soon as you put the chop in the pan, do not touch it until it’s ready to turn. One turn only. Messing about with it while cooking can ruin the coating.

Big Batch Basic and Fast Italian Tomato Sauce

 Big Batch Basic Italian Tomato Sauce – some now – more for tomorrow

for about 6 pasta dinners for 6 people or more!

papardelle with fresh tomato sauce
Pappardelle al Pomodoro (tomato sauce)

This is the recipe I use when fresh tomatoes are not in season. Make sure to use a good quality canned tomato like San Marzano tomatoes.  Mutti is the preferred italian brand the good restaurants use and you can get it online.  Otherwise I love Pomi (comes in a box- from Italy)  Nina Italian tomatoes I find at Costco are great and next would be Muir Glen.  I will post my fresh tomato sauce closer to the season. Btw that’s a roasted potato on the side

6 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for garnish
12 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
Pinch red pepper flakes (I use a whole peperoncino chopped into pieces)
6 (28-ounce) cans chopped tomatoes
Sea salt
1 pound pasta
1 bunch fresh basil, chiffonade, for garnish
1 (8-ounce) wedge Parmesan or Grana Padano cheese, grated or shaved, for garnish


In a large heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
Add the garlic and cook until fragrant but not browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the pepper flakes and tomatoes, bring to a simmer, and cook until thickened slightly, about 10-15 minutes. Season with salt to taste.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in boiling, salted water until al dente. Drain reserving 1 cup pasta water.

In hot pasta pot add another tbsp. of EVOO, add pasta and 2 – 3 cups sauce (just enough so that it coats the pasta). Incorporate sauce into pasta stirring over medium high heat until steaming hot, adding pasta water if it dries up too much.  Keep stirring until the sauce is coating the noodles.  Serve with a sprinkle of basil, and cheese.

Let extra sauce cool completely and then seal in airtight containers. Refrigerate for up to 1 week or freeze..