Pane Bianco Torsione (Italian White Twist Bread with Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Garlic and Basil)


Pane Bianco Torsione (White Twist Bread with Sun Dried Tomatoes, Garlic and Basil) | Culinary Compost RecipesI stumbled upon this recipe in an effort on further honing my bread-making skills. It is shown here, verbatim on King Arthur Flour’s website.  Quite simply stated, it blew me away and was a huge hit with my family. The preparation is tedious, but not overly complicated. The visual presentation is stunning and if you follow the directions step-by-step, it’s virtually impossible to screw up. Trust me, if I can make this, anyone can. In my version, I added a bit more salt and also added sugar to the dough, based on other bread recipes from my family.

 

INGREDIENTS:

~For the Dough:

3 cups King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour
2 tsp. instant quick-rise yeast (one package)
1-1/2 tsp. salt
2 tbs. white sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup lukewarm milk
1/2 cup lukewarm water
3 tbs. XV olive oil

~For the Filling:

3/4 cup shredded Italian-blend cheese
1/2 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes (1/2 of a 7-oz. jar)
3 to 6 cloves garlic, roasted, peeled and minced
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil

 

PREPARATION:

Prepare the dough by combining all of the ingredients shown in a large mixing bowl. Using a silicone spatula, fold by hand until the dough starts to pull away from the bowl.
Remove and set on a floured work surface. Fold and knead by hand for six to ten minutes, until the dough has firmed up. Add a bit more water or flour if needed. The consistency of the dough should be tacky and soft. Gently form it into a ball and transfer to a greased bowl about double in size of the dough ball.

Place the bowl in your oven and turn on the oven light. Cover with a towel dampened with warm water. Let rise for 45 to 60 minutes, until doubled in size. Your time may vary.

While you are waiting, drain the tomatoes on a paper towel. Squeeze out the excess olive oil. Mince and set aside.
Finely chop the basil and set aside.
Measure the shredded Italian cheese and set aside.
Roast, peel and finely chop the garlic. Add to the tomatoes and mix to incorporate.

After the dough has risen, gently deflate and then roll into a 22″ x 8″ rectangle. Spread the cheese, basil, tomato and garlic evenly over the entire surface.

Carefully roll the dough into a 22″ log by turning it the long way. You will need to turn it over itself at least once. Crimp the edges together and pinch the ends shut.
Turn it so the seam side is down. Carefully place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Using a kitchen shears, cut a slit down the length of the loaf, at the top, stopping about 1″ from each end.
Twist the log into an “S” shape and tuck the ends under the center of the loaf, forming a figure-8, while keeping the slit to the top.

Cover with plastic wrap and let the loaf rise in a warm place until double, 45 to 60 minutes.
While the loaf is rising, preheat the oven to 350°F.
Uncover the bread, and bake it for 35 to 40 minutes, tenting it with foil after 20 minutes to prevent over-browning.
Remove the bread from the oven, and transfer to a rack to cool.

Enjoy warm or at room temperature, drizzled with quality XV olive oil. Store, well-wrapped, at room temperature for a couple of days; freeze for longer storage.

Serves 6
Makes one loaf

Pane Bianco Torsione (White Twist Bread with Sun Dried Tomatoes, Garlic and Basil) | Culinary Compost Recipes

Pane Bianco Torsione (White Twist Bread with Sun Dried Tomatoes, Garlic and Basil) | Culinary Compost Recipes

Pane Bianco Torsione (White Twist Bread with Sun Dried Tomatoes, Garlic and Basil) | Culinary Compost Recipes

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Creamy Mushroom Risotto


Creamy Mushroom Risotto | Culinary Compost Recipes

Carefully cook the Arborio rice until al dente, so it retains a firm, creamy texture.

This is a comforting, hearty Italian recipe loosely based on several by Mario Batali and Ina Garten. You’ll note that in my version, the process and ingredients are simplified. This recipe makes a wonderful side dish. It can also be served as a main course meal with a nice, crusty Italian bread and butter or XV olive oil for dipping.

You don’t need to constantly stir the risotto in order for it to turn out correctly. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

3 tbs. XV olive oil
2 large cloves minced garlic
1 small white onion, diced
1 strip bacon, diced
1/2 pound sliced and stemmed crimini mushrooms
1.5 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
48 oz. chicken stock
1/2 stick salted butter
2 tbs. minced flat-leaf Italian parsley, OR  4-6 stalks minced fresh summer chives
2 leaves fresh Italian basil, minced (optional)
Kosher salt to taste, about 1 tsp.
1/2 tsp. fresh-ground black pepper
1/2 cup fresh-grated hard Parmesan cheese (plus a bit extra for serving)

 

Directions:

In a heavy saucepan, heat the chicken stock until simmering. In a large, heavy, 5-qt. cast-iron Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat, and add the diced bacon. Saute for two minutes until the fat starts to render out. Add 2 tbs. of the butter, the onion, garlic and mushrooms and continue to saute, until the onion is translucent, about five to seven minutes. Do not carmelize the onion or scorch the garlic.

Add the rice to the pan and stir to coat. Continue to stir for two minutes until the rice is very lightly toasted. Reduce heat on the Dutch oven to medium-low. Add the white wine, salt and pepper and continue to cook until reduced. Next add six ounces of the heated chicken stock to the rice and stir occasionally until most of the liquid has evaporated. Continue to add stock in six-ounce increments, stirring occasionally, and cook for at least 25 minutes. At this point the rice should be cooked al dente and appear creamy.

Remove the Dutch oven from the heat and add the remaining butter, parsley or chives, the basil and the 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese. Mix well to incorporate. Serve immediately in large bowls with more grated Parmesan cheese on top, as a garnish.

Serves 6

Creamy Mushroom Risotto | Culinary Compost Recipes

Adding the Arborio rice to the mushrooms, onion, garlic and bacon.

Sauteing the mushrooms, garlic and onion and bacon.

Sauteing the mushrooms, garlic and onion and bacon.

Roasted and Stuffed Italian Acorn Squash


Roasted and Stuffed Italian Acorn Squash | Culinary Compost Recipes

The final product, after topping with shredded hard Parmesan cheese.

This is a recipe based on one from an Italian friend who uses halved zucchini. After receiving verbal instructions on the preparation, I winged it with an acorn squash I had on hand. Precook the squash in the oven before stuffing it with the sausage and vegetables to ensure it is fork-tender and mellow.  It takes time to set up, but you’ll be impressed by the result. This is an amazing mid-summer garden recipe your whole family will enjoy.

 

Ingredients:

1 large acorn squash – about 8-9″ in length and 6″ in diameter
2 tbs. XV olive oil
2 Johnsonville mild Italian sausage links, casings removed and crumbled
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 medium-sized green or red bell garden pepper, seeded and diced
1 medium-hot Hungarian wax garden pepper, seeded and diced
2 medium vine-ripe garden tomatoes, diced
2 large, fresh garden basil leaves, minced
Small handful fresh garden Italian oregano leaves, minced
1/2 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup shredded hard Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. garlic granules
Kosher salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste
Cayenne pepper to taste

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400°-F. Cut and prep all ingredients so you have them on hand and ready to go.

Wash and pat dry the squash. Using a very sharp chef’s knife and a steady hand, carefully slice the squash in half around the middle, perpendicular to the stem. Use EXTREME CAUTION so you don’t slip and cut yourself. The flesh and outer rind are very tough. Remove the seeds and membrane with a soup spoon. Cut a narrow section off of the base of each half so they sit flat. Place in a medium-sized shallow baking dish with the cupped interior facing up. Brush with 2 tbs. olive oil and season lightly with Kosher salt and black pepper. Bake uncovered in the oven for 15 minutes.

While the squash halves are baking, fry up the Italian sausage over medium heat in a heavy cast-iron skillet, breaking it apart as it browns with a spatula. Drain off the fat. Add the chopped onion. Stir until just translucent, about 7 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Add 1 tsp. garlic granules. Add the cayenne pepper. Add the diced bell and Hungarian pepper. Continue stirring until slightly softened. Remove and transfer to a mixing bowl. Add the diced tomatoes, basil, oregano and Mozzarella cheese. Fold in lightly to combine.

Reduce oven temperature to 375°-F.  Using thick oven mitts, carefully remove the baking tray from the oven. Spoon in the mixture, dividing between the two squash halves.

Place the baking dish back in the oven and bake uncovered for an additional 30 minutes at 375°-F.

Remove again and carefully top each half with the shredded Parmesan cheese. Bake again uncovered for ten minutes, until the cheese has melted.

Remove, let stand for ten minutes and serve.

Serves 2

NOTE: When perfectly done, the texture of the squash should not be mushy or soupy. It should easily peel away from the outer rind with a spoon, but still have some firmness.

Roasted and Stuffed Italian Acorn Squash | Culinary Compost Recipes

Roasted and Stuffed Italian Acorn Squash | Culinary Compost Recipes

Pre-baking the squash at 400°-F with a little olive oil, salt and pepper.

Roasted and Stuffed Italian Acorn Squash | Culinary Compost Recipes

Preparing the Italian sausage mixture in a mixing bowl.

Roasted and Stuffed Italian Acorn Squash | Culinary Compost Recipes

The sausage mixture after roasting in the squash for one-half hour at 375°-F.

Pasta Puttanesca with Pan-Fried Chicken Breast


This is a recipe reputedly served by ladies of Italian bordellos. They would place a large bowl in the window of their room, tempting hungry patrons to pay a visit.  I fell in love with it (um — instead at a local restaurant…) because of the contrasting salty/briny flavor imparted by the signature minced anchovies and green olives.

It is fantastic paired with pan-fried or grilled chicken breast – sliced and then gently tossed in with the sauce and pasta.  It’s only a bit of extra work.

Serve with a side of thinly sliced Italian or French bread, good quality XV olive oil and a green salad.

Ingredients:
2-3 tbs. XV olive oil
1 pound pasta – spaghetti or angel hair – cooked al dente according to package directions
2 large boneless and skinless chicken breasts
1 tin King Oscar whole anchovies – removed from brine and finely minced
6 large cloves garlic – peeled and minced
20-30 brined green and/or Kalamata olives, removed from pits and roughly chopped
3 tbs. capers, drained
5 Crimini mushrooms, washed, stemmed and thinly sliced
1/4 red onion – thinly sliced
1/2 cup rinsed and trimmed flat-leaf parsley – finely chopped
1 tsp. finely chopped fresh oregano
1 28-oz. can whole or crushed tomatoes
1 14.5-oz. can diced tomatoes
Dash of red cayenne pepper flakes, to taste
Dash of kosher salt, to taste
Dash of red wine
Freshly shredded hard Parmesan cheese

For the Marinade~
3 large cloves garlic – peeled and minced
Bottled Italian salad dressing; about 3/4 cup

 

Directions:

Marinate the chicken breasts at least 3-6 hours prior to cooking in a ziplock bag, coated in Italian salad dressing and three minced garlic cloves. Rotate occasionally.

Remove the breasts and transfer to a dinner plate. Sprinkle each breast generously on both sides with shredded hard Parmesan cheese. Allow to warm to room temperature.

Prepare the remaining 6 cloves of minced garlic, the anchovies, onion, Crimini mushroom, flat-leaf parsley, olives, oregano and capers. Set aside.

Coat a cast-iron Panini pan with cooking spray and preheat until medium hot. While the pan is heating, place the tomatoes in a heavy cooking pot and heat until just simmering, stirring occasionally.

In a large cast-iron flat bottom skillet, heat 2-3 tbs. of olive oil on medium-high heat. Add the anchovies, garlic, mushrooms, onion, olives, oregano and capers. Sautee for about 5-7 minutes. Add the red wine to deglaze the pan. Transfer contents to the sauce pot with the tomato sauce. Season with red pepper, kosher salt to taste. Stir.

While cooking the above ingredients, place the chicken breasts in the Panini pan and cook about three minutes per side until golden with some char marks. Remove, set aside for five minutes and then slice in 1/2″ strips. Don’t fret if the chicken isn’t cooked all of the way through – you will simmer it with the sauce.

Prepare the pasta and cook al dente. Do not overcook. Drain and keep warm.

After the sauce has simmered for 15 minutes, add the chicken and cook until heated through. Add the flat-leaf parsley.

Add the sauce to the pasta and toss until just mixed through. Serve immediately garnished with grated hard Parmesan cheese.

Serves 6

Grilled Italian Sausage with Marinara Sauce over Penne Pasta


Grilled Italian sausage with marinara sauce over penne pasta

Who’s up for making a made-from-scratch marinara sauce with fresh summer garden herbs?  Sounds like a lot of work?  It’s easier than you think.
This is a classic spicy red sauce prepared in the old world Italian tradition. We’ll serve it with grilled Italian sausage and Crimini mushrooms over a bed of penne pasta.

The sausage takes center stage — made locally in Johnsonville, a town in Eastern Wisconsin (their brats are legendary!)  Many large retail grocers will carry it.

My family loves this recipe. I’m trusting yours will too.

For another version of homemade marinara using garden tomatoes, click here.


Ingredients:

1 package Johnsonville® mild Italian sausage (5 links)
2 28-oz. cans Red Gold® tomatoes (one crushed and one diced)
4 large cloves fresh garlic; peeled and minced
6 large Crimini mushrooms; washed, stemmed and sliced
1 small onion; peeled and sliced lengthwise into 1/4″ strips
1/2 cup fresh Italian oregano leaves; minced
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves; minced
1 green bell pepper; cored and sliced
1 red bell pepper; cored and sliced
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. beef boullion granules
Sea salt, to taste
Hot red pepper flakes, to taste
1 pound penne pasta, cooked al dente according to package directions (about 11-12 minutes)
XV olive oil
Grated fresh hard Parmesan cheese

 

Directions:

Preheat an outdoor charcoal grill with enough coals for a medium-hot fire. Mound the briquettes and fire until white hot; about twenty minutes. Cook the sausage links covered over indirect heat with the top vent partially choked down.
Turn every 5 minutes until firm and evenly browned. Remove and set aside.

In a 3-quart heavy enameled cast-iron sauce pot, heat 1/4 cup XV olive oil until shimmering, then add the minced garlic. Stir constantly so the garlic doesn’t burn. Cook for three minutes. Add the sliced Crimini mushrooms and cook for an additional three minutes, then add the sliced onion and a pinch of sea salt. Cook until the onions are tender and translucent. Add the two cans of tomatoes, the oregano and basil and stir. Add the sugar, red pepper flakes and beef boullion. Simmer on low, partially covered, stirring occasionally for at least two hours. You cannot rush a good marinara sauce! After the first hour, add the sliced red and green bell pepper. Cut the Italian sausage at a bias in 1/2″ chunks and add to the pot. The sauce can be left to simmer for at least six hours with great results. Just make sure to keep the heat at an absolute minimum.

Boil 3 quarts of water in a separate stock pot. Add 1 tsp. of sea salt. Cook the penne pasta until just al dente. Drain well and serve with the sauce, topped with shredded hard Parmesan cheese.

Serves six comfortably
Total cooking/prep time: 4-6 hours

fresh garden basil blossoms

Fresh basil with flowering blossoms

 

Garden Marinara Sauce with Italian Sausage


I love fall, because my garden is setting many heirloom tomatoes — the perfect time to make a pot of made-from-scratch Italian marinara sauce. This recipe also calls for grilled or pan-fried Italian sausage served over pasta. The marinara is based, in part, on a recipe from a friend who is first generation Italian – his family hails from an area just outside of Rome.

Easier than you thought, eh?  Enjoy.


Ingredients:

2 tbs. olive oil
1 tbs. rendered bacon fat
8 cups pureed garden tomatoes (blanched and peeled)
2 cloves garlic – peeled and minced
1 medium spanish onion – fine chopped
1 stalk celery with leaves – minced
1 sweet bell red pepper, diced
1 carrot – peeled and grated
1 tsp. salt, to taste
Pinch of sugar
12 dried chiltepin peppers, to taste, crushed in a mortar
1 tsp. dry ground Turkish oregano
1 tsp. dry ground basil
1 tbs. dry ground parsley flakes
2 dry bay leaves

5 mild Italian sausage links, grilled or pan-fried and cut into chunks at a bias
Your choice of pasta noodles, cooked al-dente


Directions:

Using a 3-quart heavy non-reactive enameled cast-iron pot, add the olive oil and rendered bacon fat. Heat on medium and then add the onion, garlic and celery, stirring for about 20 minutes until translucent.

Blanch and peel the garden tomatoes and pulse in a food processor until smooth. (To blanch tomatoes, wash and add to a pot of boiling water for thirty seconds, then plunge into ice-cold water. The skins will peel off.)  Core, process and add to the pot and increase the heat until a low simmer is achieved. Add the carrot, bell pepper and dry spices. Simmer on very low heat, partially covered for about six hours, until most of the water is rendered out, stirring occasionally. While the sauce is cooking, grill or fry the Italian sausage and then cut into chunks and add to the pot, during the last two hours of cooking. Stir every half-hour.

Serve over your choice of pasta, cooked al-dente.

Makes about 2.75 quarts. Serves 4-6

Note: to cut the acidity of tomatoes, sugar is added. Shredded carrot is also used. Taste and adjust to your preference accordingly. A touch of dry red wine may be added, but is not necessary.

Classic Italian Meatballs


This is my version of a classic Italian meatball recipe. The key is to use equal parts of ground beef and pork sausage, which imparts a really great, rich flavor.
If you have a fresh herb garden with the ingredients shown below, you’re in luck. Otherwise, there is nothing wrong with using storebought “fresh” or dry spices.

Use the cayenne pepper to make them as spicy as you like, and combine with your choice of pasta sauce.

Ingredients:

1 pound lean ground chuck
1 pound mild ground Italian Sausage
2 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup buttermilk
2 tbs. Worchestershire sauce
1/4 stick salted butter, softened at room temperature
3/4 cup unseasoned bread crumbs

6 fresh basil leaves, minced
1/4 cup loose, fresh oregano leaves, minced
Handful of fresh celery leaves, minced
1/4 cup loose, fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley, minced
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped

1 tbs. beef base powder
2 tsp. garlic powder (not garlic salt)
1 tsp. salt, to taste
2 tsp. fresh-ground black pepper
Cayenne pepper flakes to taste

 

Directions:

In a large mixing bowl, add the ground beef and Italian sausage. Add the rest of the ingredients and fold together using your hands until mixed well.

Working in batches, form into 1″ to 1.5″ diameter meatballs and fry in a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat until nicely browned. Remove and transfer the meatballs to a heavy, covered stock pot, kept warm in the oven at 180-F.

Prepare your choice of red sauce and add the meatballs during the last two hours of cooking.
Stir occasionally using care so you don’t break them.

Makes about 30 meatballs.