Butternut Squash Soup

img_1796While you may not think of Butternut Squash Soup in the category of Italian, part of being Italian is using everything that can be grown to strengthen and grow your own family. A garden is part of life and for my great-grandparents who were the first generation to come to the United States, the garden is what got them through the year and able to feed large families.

For the very first time last fall, I planted our family garlic. Garlic that has been passed down for generations. You know it first by it’s color-it has a purple shell on it- and then by it’s scent. It is a sweet garlic that doesn’t have the usual bite that most garlics can give.

Anyways, back to the soup at hand. If you do a random search for Butternut Squash Soup, garlic is not a typical ingredient you will find. Maybe it’s because we expect this soup to be buttery and sweet. Maybe it’s because the rest of the culinary world doesn’t think that garlic doesn’t need to be a main ingredient in everything. Or maybe it’s just a tradition.

But I’m about to break that tradition. I love garlic in this soup. I think it gives just the right balance and if you’re like me and don’t enjoy things too sweet, you’ll appreciate the addition. I hope you enjoy this soup during the fall months and that it brings you joy…after all…food is not just about consuming calories-it’s enjoying the flavors life has to offer.

32 oz chicken broth
1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed
3 cups 90-100 calorie almond milk-lower calorie count is much more watery (keep some extra on hand)
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 medium clove of garlic
3 small Yukon gold potatoes
2 stalks of celery, diced
2 large carrots, diced
Pinch of Thyme
Pinch of Nutmeg
2T. Butter/butter substitute
Pinch of Salt

Make the Soup:

  1. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic. Sauté until onions are translucent.img_1793
  2. Add carrots, celery and butter nut squash.Sauté for 5-7 minutes.
  3. Add potatoes, chicken broth, almond milk and salt. Bring to a boil.
  4. Add Thyme and nutmeg. Stir, cover and lower heat, letting soup cook for 25 minutes.
  5. If you have an immersion blender, blend your soup! If you don’t have an immersion blender, scoop soup into a blender to blend all of the vegetables together.
  6. Your soup is ready to serve!

Gluten and Dairy Free Crab and Shrimp Fettuccine Alfredo

IMG_1594Alfredo is always something that has held a special place in my heart. Though it is not a recipe that I learned from my family, it’s still something that I ate often during childhood.

Anytime we went out to eat, I would beg to go to an Italian restaurant just so I could get Fettuccine Alfredo. Some people like mac and cheese, but I prefer Fettuccine Alfredo. The combination of salty sweet that the cheeses make is delicious and I think it really is an Italian comfort food.

I have the same amount of love for seafood as I do for Fettuccine Alfredo, so crab and shrimp just make the experience all the more better. As usual, I didn’t make my friends a separate sauce, so when they said, “If you hadn’t told me it was gluten and dairy free, I never would have known,” I knew it was a home run.

If you’re not into seafood, just leave that part out and you’ll enjoy a delicious Fettuccine Alfredo.

Ingredients (this makes enough for about 1 & 1/2 pounds):

  • 1 cup of dairy free butter
  • 6 small to medium cloves of garlic, minced
  • handful of parsley, chopped
  • 2 cups of original almond milk
  • 2 Tb of cornstarch, mix with 1 T warm water right before use
  • 1 compressed cup of daiya mozzarella style shreds
  • 1 cup of Go Veggie! grated parmesan style topping (break the lumps)
  • 1 pound of shrimp, uncooked
  • 2, 6-oz cans of crab, drained
  • 1 & 1/2 pounds of gluten free fettuccine, cooked al dente
  • Additional pinch of parsley for garnish

Melt the butter in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for about a minute, but don’t let the garlic brown.IMG_1590

Add the parsley. Let cook another minute.

Add milk to the pan. Once mixture starts to bubble, add the cornstarch/water mixture and whisk continuously for two minutes.

Add both cups of cheese to pan, continuing to whisk so that it becomes an eveIMG_1591n, smooth mixture.* (It may get a little stringy for a bit, but it will smooth out!)

Once your mixture starts to bubble again, add the shrimp** and the crab. Stir the sauce every 30 seconds until the shrimp have become nice and pink. This can take anywhere from 8 to 14 minutes depending on how hot your sauce is, so watch for the pink in the shrimp.

Once the shrimp have turned pink all the way around, your Alfredo sauce is ready! Mix with the fettuccine and sprinkle with some fresh parsley for garnish. Mangia!

*If you don’t want to add the seafood, let the sauce bubble for five minutes while stirring and then your Alfredo is ready!

**If you are using cooked shrimp, first add the crab to the sauce and let bubble for five minutes while stirring. Then add shrimp until heated through and you’re done!

Sunday Sauce

DSC_1059Pasta, macaroni, spaghetti-whatever you call it-I don’t have a memory that doesn’t include it. Pasta was, and still is, a large part of my life. Growing up, we ate pasta on Sundays and Thursdays. It’s what we did. Twice a week. Every week. A habit that not even a gluten allergy can break.

I call it Sunday sauce, because regardless if we were eating at our house or my Nonni and Pap’s on a Sunday, Sunday’s pasta always had a delicious, simmered on the stove all day, red sauce on it. The kind of sauce that cooked on the stove for hours, filling the whole house with a delicious, intoxicating smell. The kind of sauce that I used to get chased out of the kitchen for for “tasting” once an hour while it was cooking. The kind of sauce that gets three kids running to the family dinner table on a Sunday night to recap the weekend before a busy week.

Sunday sauce has been in our family for years. My Nonni is Sicilian and232323232-fp93232-uqcshlukaxroqdfv;596=ot-232;=68-=3-8=XROQDF-27747--826247ot1lsi I would guess that if you tasted her Sunday sauce and compared it with another Sicilian’s sauce, they’d probably have a pretty similar taste. It’s classic and simple.

After watching my mom and Nonni make sauce for years, sometime in college I decided it was time for me to learn as well. One of the most important things that I learned is that infusion is the key step to any good sauce. You take your garlic, basil, parsley, onion and meat, and you let it infuse the olive oil with a delicious flavor before you even think about adding any tomato into that saucepan. Try not infusing it one time and you’ll taste the difference.

One thing I do a little differently than both my mom and Nonni, is that I use bone marrow for my meat base whenever it is available at the deli. Beef bone marrow, after simmering in the sauce for hours, creates a buttery, smooth flavor that is unlike any other. My mom uses ground beef and my Nonni uses pork ribs or pork butt. They all work great, but some of my best batches of sauce have come from a bone marrow base.

Below is my recipe for Sunday Sauce that comes from generations of practice, lots of children happily fed and amazing times spent around the family table. Remember that you can use any meat for a base and if the harvest is overflowing at the end of the summer, you can also use zucchini as your “base meat” and get just as delicious of a flavor.
If you go that route, just make sure to add a little fennel to your veggie mix-it’ll give it a bold flavor and help bring out the other spices.

Sunday Sauce Recipe:

  • 1 and a half small onions, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • a good swirl of olive oil (probably 2T)
  • 2 three-inch pieces of bone marrow or a 1/2 pound of pork ribs or ground beef
  • handful of chopped parsley
  • 8 basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 29 oz (big can) tomato sauce
  • 1 29 oz (big can) tomato puree
  • 1 28 oz (big can) diced tomatoes
  • 1 28 oz (big can) crushed tomatoes
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of black pepper
  • pinch of oregano

In a large sauce pot, heat up your swirl of olive oil on medium/low heat. Add garlic, onion and meat and simmer for about five minutes until the onions are translucent. Don’t forget that this is when the infusion really takes place, so make sure those flavors have time to sink in!

Add the parsley and basil. Let cook another five minutes.

Add sauce, crushed tomatoes, puree, and diced tomatoes and stir really well. Add salt, pepper and oregano. Stir well again. Reduce to low heat.

Let sauce simmer for at least three hours on a low heat. This sauce doesn’t use any sugar because simmering it all day on the stove will remove the acidic taste from the sauce. Stir about every half hour to 45 minutes to keep the flavors infusing.

Then, you’re all done!

Clam Linguine-Because it’s Summer!

DSC_0681My cousin Henry is one of the most loving and intelligent people I know.  He’s a retired history teacher and in my world, a master gardener. Our family spent a week at the beach with his family growing up, and that’s the first time that I had clam linguine. It should really be a staple of summer food, along side crab and corn-on-the-cob.  It’s light, delicious and goes great with any white wine and really… any beach setting! It’s super easy to make…anything under 10 ingredients is a win in my book, and it’s a crowd pleaser. You’ll learn as you read this blog, that I’ll show you how to make easy updates for friends that may not have food allergies. I’ll always note the differences, which really usually come down to the type of pasta. For the clam linguine, we both cleared our plates and there were lots of “Yummmms” to go around. Also, always know that I cook what works for me. If you find a product that doesn’t make the cut, don’t use it! I’m allergic to casein, the protein in cow’s milk and I read every label. In the U.S., casein is routinely used as a binding agent in products that are marked “dairy free.” While I don’t have a “take me to the ER” reaction, I still manage to get hives from these products.  So, cook for you. Don’t worry about labels, etc. That’s the best part about food.  You can make it work for you and make it delicious! Ingredients:

  • One pound of Linguine Pasta-your choice! I LOVE Wegman’s Gluten free fettuccine (See? I’m already making the food work for ME!)
  • 4-6.5 oz cans of clams in juice (rinse the salt off of those bad boys and save the juice for the pasta sauce ingredients)
  • 1/4c or 1/2c Parsley depending on how much you like parsley (I LOVE parsley, so I’ll always use the high end in my recipes)
  • 1 stick of non-dairy butter (I used blue bonnet Lactose free, but there are a lot of DSC_0666these out there now)
  • 1 large white onion
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic, minced, chopped (However you like to see them in your pasta)
  • 1 and 1/4 cup of white wine (table white works great, along with chardonnay and sauvignon blanc-again-this is one of those things, use a white that you like!)
  • 2 T Sour Cream (Tofutti makes a great sour cream alternative)
  • A pinch of black pepper
  1. Cook the Linguine to Al Dente as you’re cooking the sauce. Add a little salt to the water when you put the pot on the stove. Once you add the pasta, add a few drops of olive oil toDSC_0670 help keep the pasta from sticking when you drain.
  2. Add the butter to the pan at a medium-high heat to melt. Add the garlic and onion to the pan and cook until tender. During this few minutes, you’re infusing the flavors of the onion and garlic into the butter-one of the key steps to keep the flavor throughout the cooking!
  3. Once that’s cooked through (3-5 minutes), add the wine and let simmer. I turn the heat down to medium low. Keep it there for 10 minutes.
  4. Add the rest of the ingredients and turn back up to a medium heat for 20 minutes. You should see the boil bubbles come back during this 20 minutes.
  5. Pour the sauce over the linguine and garnish with some extra parsley.
  6. EAT!

My friends and I tried the pasta with and without Parmesan and we both agreed that the Linguine has enough flavor without parmesan, but feel free to keep on the side for guests who are not the biggest clam fans. Also, I made My friends whole wheat pasta for this and it was still highly enjoyed! Mangia! Lisa