2014-02-14 / Columns

Cooking on Purpose

Italian is the way to go for a crowd
By Connie Wendell
Special contributor

Italians really know how to feed a crowd. I think they invented recipes for large families and friends to gather ‘round the table and enjoy a scrumptious feast.

I’ve included some recipes that are the essence of Italian, however, some have been modified for a bit healthier version. So the next time you have a gang over, give them Italian and they will be happy.

Sicilian potato and green bean salad

1 lemon; 1 ½ pounds tiny red new potatoes, quartered; 8 ounces fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 1 ½-inch pieces; 1/3 cup olive oil; 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and drained; 3 anchovies, mashed with a fork, or 1 to 2 teaspoons anchovy paste; 2 cloves garlic, minced; ¼ teaspoon of ground black pepper; 2 hard-cooked eggs, each cut into 6 wedges; 1 cup grape tomatoes, quartered, coarsely chopped roma tomatoes or roasted red sweet pepper strips; 1/3 cup green Italian olives, pitted and quartered, or pitted large ripe olives, quartered; ¼ cup packed fresh basil leaves, cut into very thin strips; salt; and ground black pepper.

Finely shred peel from lemon; measure 2 teaspoons lemon peel. Juice lemon; measure 3tablespoonsjuice. Setaside.Ina4quart Dutch oven combine potatoes and enough salted water to cover. Bring to boiling over high heat; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 12 to 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender, adding green beans for the last 4 minutes of cooking. Drain. Let stand at room temperature about 1 hour or until cool.

For the dressing, in a screw top jar combine oil, the 2 teaspoons lemon peel, 3 tablespoons lemon juice, capers, anchovies, garlic and pepper. Cover and shake well.

In a large bowl toss potatoes with half the dressing. Add eggs, tomatoes, olives, basil and remaining dressing; toss gently to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Pasta carbonara

8 ounces of dried multigrain spaghetti; 1 pound broccolini, chopped (about 5 cups); 1 cup frozen peas; 4 slices turkey bacon; 2 tablespoons butter; 2 cloves garlic, minced; ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese; 2 tablespoons flour; 1 ounce evaporated low-fat milk; 2 tablespoons of snipped fresh Italian (flat leaf) parsley; grated Parmesan cheese; and salt fresh ground black pepper.

Cook spaghetti according to package directions, adding broccolini and peas to the last 5 minutes of cooking. Drain, reserving the cooking water; set aside.

In a medium skillet cook turkey bacon according to package directions. Transfer bacon to paper towel-lined plate. Cool bacon; break bacon into bite-size pieces.

For sauce, in a small saucepan melt butter. Add garlic; cook for 1 minute. Whisk in the ¼ cup Parmesan cheese and the flour. slowly whisk in the evaporated milk. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Boil gently, uncovered until sauce has thickened. Remove from heat. Stir in turkey bacon pieces. Place spaghettivegetable mixture in a large bowl. Pour sauce and ½ cup reserved cooking water over top. Toss gently to combine. Thin to desired consistency with more of the reserved cooking water. If desired, top with snipped parsley and additional grated Parmesan cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Individual stacked cannolis with chocolate sauce

¾ cup whipping cream; 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder; ¼ cup granulated sugar; 1 teaspoon vanilla; 3 tablespoons granulated sugar; 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder; 6 sheets of frozen phyllo dough (14X9-inch rectangles) thawed; ¼ cup butter, melted; 1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese; 1/3 cup miniature semisweet chocolate pieces; ½ cup powdered sugar; 1 teaspoon vanilla; and ½ teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel.

For chocolate sauce, in a heavy medium saucepan combine cream, 1/3 cup cocoa powder, ¼ cup granulated sugar and 1 tablespoon vanilla. Bring to a boil over high heat, whisking until well mixed. Gently boil for 2 to 3 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat. Transfer to a small bowl; and cool completely.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; and set aside.

In a small bowl combine the 3 tablespoons granulated sugar and 1 tablespoon cocoa powder. Unfold phyllo dough; remove one sheet of the phyllo dough. (As you work, cover the remaining phyllo dough with plastic wrap to prevent it from drying out.) Place sheet of phyllo dough on a cutting board. Using a pastry brush, brush the entire surface with melted butter. Sprinkle about 2 teaspoons of the sugar mixture over phyllo sheet. Top with another phyllo sheet; brush with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar mixture.

Repeat until all six phyllo sheets are stacked on top of each other, brush with butter and sprinkle with sugar mixture. Cut the phyllo stack into six equal pieces. Transfer the stacked phyllo pieces to the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown and crisp. Cool on baking sheet on a wire rack.

For cannoli filling, in a large bowl stir together ricotta cheese, chocolate pieces, powdered sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla and lemon peel.

To serve, place a dot of the cannoli filling on each of 6 dessert plates. Cut one of the stacked phyllo pieces diagonally into two triangles. Place one of the triangles on one of the dessert plates. Top with some of the remaining cannoli filling. Arrange the second phyllo triangle on top of the cannoli filling. Repeat with the remaining stacked phyllo pieces and the remaining cannoli filling. Serve with chocolate sauce.

Ciao.

Connie Wendell can be reached at conniewendell27@gmail.com.

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