Italian for dinner – CHICKEN CACCIATORE

Chicken cacciatore is a classic Italian comfort dish.

As with most Italian dishes, each family has its own version of sauce, pasta dishes, and desserts that are passed down from generation to generation.

As the recipe is passed down, some family members (meaning me), and at times (meaning me, most of the time) the family member will tweak and put their own spin on the dish.

This is my version for a succulent Cacciatore that will fill your house with warm, comforting aromas.

INGREDIENTS:

2 small carrots, sliced
1 celery rib, chopped
1 Vidalia onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
extra-virgin olive oil
6 ounces tomato paste
6 chicken thighs, bone-in, and skin
¼ cup all-purpose flour
10 plum tomatoes, drizzle with olive oil, sea salt and roast in oven, until done
3 TBSP fresh basil, chopped
5 cloves garlic, roasted and squeezed out
½ cup red wine (wine you would drink yourself, not cooking wine)
salt to taste
crushed red pepper flakes to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Slice, dice, and chop, carrots, celery, onion, pepper, set aside.

In a Dutch oven (or large skillet) heat olive oil on medium high.
Season the chicken thighs with salt, and lightly coat each thigh with flour.
Brown chicken in the pan; 3 to 4 minutes each side (until chicken is browned).
Remove from the skillet and set aside.

Add; onion, carrots, celery, pepper to the skillet, scraping the chicken juices from the pan, and cook for 6 minutes.

Add tomatoes, tomato paste, roasted garlic, chicken and wine to the vegetables in the pot, and stir to combine.
Set heat on low and let simmer until chicken is cooked through to an internal temperature of 165F.
Stir occasionally, and taste so you can adjust the salt and pepper flakes.

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SUBSTITUTIONS:
You can use chicken legs instead of thighs. Chicken breast won’t work as well, as dark meat works best for this dish. You can choose to use skinless thighs or legs.
Any sweet onion will work if you don’t have Vidalia.
You can substitute use red, orange or yellow bell pepper
If you don’t want to roast your own plum tomatoes, you can use 1 large can of plum tomatoes
You can use chicken broth instead of wine


Buon appetito

Comfort Food: Italian Style

Winter is the time for fleece-wear, a roaring fire, page -turning books, and delicious aromas swirling around the kitchen as your comfort food is simmering or baking.

We all have favourite dishes that feel like a hug as we relish each bite; and for me, it’s Italian food.

One of my favourite meals to whip up for a self-care dinner is a simple dish with humble ingredients: Pasta Aglio e Olio (pasta with garlic and oil).

I had some polpette e sugo (meatballs in sauce) leftover from Christmas in the freezer. When I make meatballs, I make a huge batch and freeze them for those days when I need a hug from an Italian staple.

Here’s the recipe for you to try so you too can get your own comfort-food-hug Italian style:

Pasta Aglio e Olio with Polpette

I use homemade pasta, however, you can use whatever type of pasta you have on hand (packaged or homemade), and the same with your sauce–use whatever tomato sauce you normally would use, or no sauce at all, it’s a flexible recipe.

This recipe will serve four. Cut the ingredients in half if making for two.

Ingredients:

1 head of garlic, roasted. You can use raw garlic, if you do, thinly slice 6 cloves
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Kalamata Olive oil (or any other type of Extra Virgin olive oil)
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes, or less if you don’t like spicy, or eliminate
1 cup finely grated, Romano cheese (this is my preference, but you can use Parmigiano or a combination of both)
1 pound uncooked pasta (your choice)
Salt to taste

Directions:

1. Roast the garlic, remove and squeeze out the garlic.

2. Warm up a large pasta bowl.

3. Cook your pasta, according to package directions in a large pot of salted water, al dente. If using fresh pasta, cook only for a few minutes until it’s firm to the bite.

4. Drain and transfer pasta to the warmed pasta bowl.

5. Warm the oil on medium heat in a skillet. Once oil is hot, add the garlic and lower heat to low, stirring the garlic in the oil for 10 minutes, then remove from the heat.

6. Add pasta to the skillet, and toss so that the pasta is coated with the garlic-oil, and sprinkle with salt (to taste).

7. Put pasta back in the bowl, and add pepper flakes, and the grated cheese, and stir well until cheese is combined.

8. Serve with additional grated cheese.

If you’d like to serve the pasta with meatballs, you can find my meatball recipe on my blog. Please click here.

Italianizing a British Favorite

 

Bringing two cultures together in one delicious dish

My husband and I are both first generation Canadians as our families immigrated from across the ocean—mine from Italy, his from England.

Remember the movie, Big Fat Greek Wedding? Substitute Greek for Italian and you have our families in the same situation. The rambunctious, informal side meets the formal-high-tea, quieter side. However, it didn’t take long for my husband to become an I.B.M. (Italian by Marriage) and for his family to join in with our family’s boisterous get-togethers. they even embraced the way I enjoy Italianizing many dishes—including their beloved traditional British fare….(at least that’s what they tell me), 🙂

One of the dishes I put an Italian spin on is Shepherd’s Pie.

This is an unforgiving (put your own twist, substitute the herbs or type of vegetables and/or meat if you wish) no-fail recipe. This is a delicious crowd pleaser, I hope you’ll give it a try.

ITALIAN SHEPHERD’S PIE

 

Ingredients:

For the vegetable layer:

3 zucchini (green or yellow or a mixture of both)
2 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup Italian-seasoned bread crumbs

  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Wash, dry and slice zucchini into approx. 1/4 inch rounds and put in a bowl
  3. Drizzle zucchini rounds with olive oil, and stir to coat all the rounds
  4. Add bread crumbs and toss to coat all the zucchini
  5. Spread the coated zucchini onto a parchment lined baking sheet (or a baking sheet sprayed with non-stick spray).
  6. Bake for 15 minutes.
  7. Set aside.

For the meat layer:

 

1 lb. lean ground beef
1/2 lb. Italian sausage (spicy or mild, your choice)
1 shallot, minced
1/4 cup tomato sauce (or if you don’t have any, tomato paste)
1/4 vegetable broth (or chicken or beef broth, whatever you have on hand)
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped

1 sweet red pepper, chopped

  1. In a skillet, cook the meat until browned and cooked through.
  2. To the skillet add the sweet red pepper, shallot, tomato, broth, and stir well.
  3. Bring the meat mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, simmer for 10 – 13 minutes (you want the liquid to evaporate as much as possible)
  4. Once done, remove from stove, stir in the fresh basil and set aside.

For the potato layer:

1 ½ lbs. potatoes (I use Yukon Gold, you can use whichever variety you enjoy)
1 cup milk
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup grated shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (this will be used later, when assembling the dish)
salt to taste

  1. Bring a large pot of cold water (add salt to water) to boil.
  2. Peel and rinse potatoes, cut in about 1-inch chunks and add potatoes to boiling water.
  3. Cover pot until water boils again.
  4. Reduce to medium heat and simmer until potatoes are tender enough to mash.
  5. While potatoes are cooking, add milk and minced garlic to a pot. On medium-low heat, cook milk and garlic, stirring—for five minutes.
  6. Once potatoes are done, drain them and return to the pot, then add: milk-garlic, oil, mozzarella cheese, and mash until creamy and smooth. You can add a bit more milk if desired.
  7. Taste, and if needed, add a bit more salt.

ASSEMBLING THE DISH:

  1. Preheat oven to 375F
  2. Spray a baking dish with non-stick spray (I use a 9 x 13 one, or you can use an oval one, whichever you have on hand)
  3. Spread the meat mixture at the bottom, as evenly as possible.
  4. Add the zucchini slices on top to cover the whole dish
  5. Top with the mashed potatoes to the edge of the baking dish, which creates a seal, preventing any of the juices from bubbling over.
  6. Add Parmesan cheese all over the top, then smooth potatoes with spatula.
  7. Place on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 25 – 30 minutes—until the potatoes are browned on top.
  8. Let sit for 5 minutes, then serve with bread, salad or a side of your choice.

 

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