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.

Mike’s Greek Pasta Salad


Mike's Greek Pasta Salad | Culinary Compost RecipesHere’s a great pasta salad that can be prepared in very little time. For this recipe, I cheated on the dressing; using a storebought vinaigrette instead of making it from scratch.

Over the years through experimentation, I’ve learned two secrets: First, adding just a bit of finely-grated hard parmesan to the dressing results in a richer base – it sets up better when chilled, and adds a depth of flavor and texture that’s lacking without it. Secondly, the brine from the Greek Kalamata olives adds a bit of “zing” that cannot be duplicated by just using salt. You’ll miss it if you don’t include it.

Exact proportions of the main ingredients can be adjusted to your preference — Enjoy!

 

Ingredients:

12oz. bowtie pasta, cooked al dente in salted water
Fresh, small grape tomatoes – about 1.5 cups
1/2 pound pitted Greek Kalamata olives – with 3 tbs. brine reserved
1 diced sweet red bell pepper
1/2 red onion, sliced in fine rings and then quartered
7 brined pepperoncini peppers, or to taste
1/2 cup finely-grated hard Parmesan cheese
1/2-3/4 cup Kraft® Greek vinaigrette dressing, to taste
1/2 cup crumbled Feta cheese
2 tbs. minced Italian flat-leaf parsley
Kosher or Lawrey’s® seasoned salt, to taste
Dash of garlic powder, to taste
Fresh garden oregano and basil, minced, to taste
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste

 

Directions:

Boil the bowtie pasta in salted water (al dente) according to package directions. Drain and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process. Ensure that it is drained thoroughly and then place in a large mixing bowl.

Add the Kalamata olives to the pasta and reserve 3 tbs. of the brine. Add the tomatoes, bell pepper and red onion. Add the dry spices, Italian parsley, oregano and basil slowly while folding the contents to ensure even distribution. Next add the brine, fine-grated hard Parmesan and the dressing. Mix gently.

Add the pepperoncinis and fold gently to incorporate, taste and correct the seasoning if needed. Top with crumbled feta cheese.

Chill for at least three hours before serving, so the flavors have time to set up.

Serves 6-8

Buttered Fettuccini Noodles with Parmesan Cheese


This is a super-simple side dish that my family really enjoys. You can make the pasta as shown, or dress it up with steamed spinach or sauteed vegetables, parsley, red pepper flakes and garlic.

It is also a fantastic compliment to a variety of main course Italian favorites like grilled swordfish or broiled shrimp.

Ingredients:

1 pound fettuccini noodles
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup shredded hard parmesan cheese
1/4 cup sour cream
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Boil the noodles al dente, according to package instructions. Drain and add back to the pot. Melt the butter and add to the noodles. Add the sour cream, salt and pepper. Cover to heat through and stir lightly to incorporate. Add the cheese and stir one last time. Serve immediately.

Serves 4-6

Pasta with Garlic Sauce


If you love garlic you will love this authentic Italian recipe. It goes well with a number of main dishes including swordfish or shrimp scampi.

Ingredients:

Angel hair pasta
1/4 – 1/2 cup XV olive oil
4-6 fresh garlic cloves, peeled and fine chopped
1/4 – 1/2 cup fresh parsley, washed and minced
Red pepper flakes to taste
Salt to taste
1/2 cup hard Parmesan cheese, grated

Directions:

Boil the noodles al dente according to package directions and time them so that they are done with the sauce.

Sauce: Combine the olive oil and fine-chopped garlic, saute until garlic just starts to turn a golden color. Add 3/4 of the parsley, salt and red pepper.

Toss immediately with the noodles. Top with remaining parsley and Parmesan cheese.

Prep time: 1/2 hour
Cook time: 7 minutes
Serves: 4

Chicken Marsala


Oh how I love this recipe. I was first introduced to it in Milwaukee about seven years ago. I’ve kicked myself ever since for not trying it sooner.

This is a best-of combination of four different versions. If your sauce gets too thick, simply add a little more chicken stock.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. fresh ground pepper
1/2 tsp. dried oregano

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 tbs. olive oil
1/2 cup Marsala wine (I use dry Florio or Pellegrino)
1 8 oz. package fresh mushrooms, washed, stemmed and sliced
2 cups chicken stock
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 stick butter
3 tbs. flour for sauce
2 tsp. fresh parsley

Directions:

Place the first four dry ingredients in a shaker bag and mix well. Coat the chicken evenly using the bag and place each breast in a heavy pan with the olive oil.

Brown chicken on medium-high, until no longer pink, and transfer to a covered warming dish.

Reduce the heat on the skillet and form a roux by adding the butter and flour. Stir constantly to avoid scorching.
Add the wine, stock and lemon juice. Reduce liquid slightly and add the mushrooms.

Add the chicken and coat well. Serve immediately over your choice of pasta. Top with fresh parsley.