Italian Sausage-Stuffed Eggplant

Italian Sausage-Stuffed Eggplant can be made with pork or turkey Italian Sausage. The stuffing can be made a day ahead and refrigerated.

Italian Sausage-Stuffed Eggplant
(Mark Kelly, 2017)

Serves 6

3 large eggplants, halved lengthwise
3 medium zucchini, peeled, 1/4-inch dice
3 large shallots, peeled, sliced into slivers
5 large garlic cloves, minced
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 lbs. Italian sausage, browned and crumbled
6 Tbsp flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped, plus more for garnish
1 Tbsp dried Italian Herbs
1 15-oz. can diced tomatoes
1 Tbsp tomato paste
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Cooking spray
2/3 cup coarsely chopped Romano cheese
6 oz. fresh mozzarella, torn into 3/4-inch pieces
Freshly grated Parmesan

Preheat oven to 400F.

Place the eggplant halves on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet with a wire rack. Score the cut side off each eggplant 1/2-inch apart lengthwise and crosswise taking care not to cut through the skin. Season generously with salt and spray the cut side with cooking spray. Bake for 40 minutes. Remove and cover loosely with foil. Allow to cool before handling.

Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add shallots and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Add zucchini and season with salt, pepper, and Italian herbs. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 4 to 6 minutes. Add tomato paste and stir into zucchini mix. Add diced tomatoes with their juice and cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated about 8 minutes. Add the crumbled Italian sausage, chopped Romano, and parsley and stir to combine. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper.

Lower oven heat to 350F.

Using a spoon scoop out most of the flesh from each eggplant, leaving about 1/2-inch of skin and flesh. Fill each hollowed out eggplant with one-sixth of the Italian sausage mixture. Return to the prepared baking sheet without the wire rack. Bake for 30 minutes. During the last 5 minutes, dot each eggplant with the fresh mozzarella pieces.

Serve warm with Parmesan and parsley garnish.

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Eggplant Parmesan Casserole

Eggplant Parmesan Casserole is gooey, cheesy version of this classic Italian dish. It takes some time to prepare but it is worth every minute.

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Eggplant Parmesan Casserole
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of BonAppetit.com, 2016)

Makes 12 servings

For the Marinara:
1/4 cup olive oil
1 head of garlic, cloves crushed
1 large red onion, chopped
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1/4 cup dry white wine at room temperature
2 28-oz. whole peeled tomatoes
1/4 cup torn basil leaves
1 tsp dried oregano
Kosher salt

For the Eggplant and Assembly:
4 medium to large eggplants, peeled, sliced lengthwise 1/2-inch thick
Kosher salt
3 cups Panko
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups finely grated parmesan, divided
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
5 large eggs, beaten until just blended
1 1/2 cups extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped basil and parsley, plus more basil for serving
6 oz. low-moisture mozzarella, grated (about 1 1/2 cups)
8 oz. fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced

To prepare the Marinara: Preheat oven to 350F. Heat oil in a large ovenproof pot over medium. Cook garlic, stirring often until golden, about 4 minutes. Add onion and red pepper flakes and cook stirring often, until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and cook stirring often, until slightly darkened, about 2 minutes. Add wine and bring to a boil then cook until almost completely evaporated, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes, breaking up with your hands, and their juices; add basil and oregano and stir to combine. Swirl 1 1/2 cups water in one of the tomato cans and then the other and add to the pot. Season with salt. Transfer the pot to the oven, roast the sauce uncovered for 2 to 2 1/2 hours until thick and the tomatoes are browned on top and around the edges. Allow the sauce to cool and process in a food processor until smooth. Taste and season with salt, as needed.

For the Eggplant and Assembly:
Lightly season eggplant slices all over with salt; place in a single layer on several layers of paper towel inside a rimmed baking sheet. Continue adding layers of paper towel and eggplant topping the last layer with paper towels. Place another baking sheet on top and weigh down with a heavy pot. Let the eggplant sit until it has released excess liquid, 45-60 minutes.

Meanwhile, pulse panko, oregano, pepper, and 3/4 cup of parmesan in a food processor until finely ground. Transfer to a shallow bowl for dredging.

Preheat oven to 350F.

Place flour in another shallow bowl and eggs in a third shallow bowl. Working one at a time, dredge eggplant slices in flour, then dip in egg, allowing excess to drip off. Coat in breadcrumb mixture, shake off any excess, Place on wire racks.

Heat 2/3 cup oil in large skillet or Dutch oven, over medium heat. Cook as many slices as will comfortably fit, turning once, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to paper towels and immediately press with more paper towel to absorb oil. Working in batches, repeat with remaining slices, adding remaining oil and wiping out skillet, as needed. Let cool. Taste and season with more salt.

Toss chopped herbs, grated mozzarella, and remaining 3/4 cup Parmesan in a medium bowl. Spread 1 cup sauce over the bottom of a 13X9 baking pan; top with a layer of eggplant (trim as needed). Drizzle 1 cup sauce over and sprinkle with one-third of cheese mixture. Add another layer of eggplant, followed by 1 cup sauce and half of the remaining cheese mixture. repeat with the remaining slices sauce and cheese mixture. Cover with foil and bake on a rimmed baking sheet for 1 hour.

Remove from oven and arrange fresh mozzarella over the casserole. Increase oven temperature to 425F and bake, uncovered, until cheese is bubbling and browned in spots, 15-20 minutes. Let rest for 30 minutes before serving. Top with basil leaves just before slicing to serve.

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Pork Chops Pizzaiola

Pork Chops Pizzaiola derives a pizza-like flavor from its garlicky, oregano-seasoned tomato-based Pizzaiola Sauce.

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Pork Chops Pizzaiola
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of Michele Scicone’s “1000 Italian Recipes)

Serves 2

2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 thick-cut bone-in pork chops, about 1-inch thick
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice
2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium heat. Season chops with salt and pepper. Place chops in the hot skillet and brown both sides. Remove to a platter and set aside.

Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add tomatoes, oregano and crushed red pepper. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the sauce thickens, about 25 minutes.

Add the chops back to the sauce and cook until internal temperature reaches 140F, about 10 minutes.

To serve: Transfer chops to serving plate. Spoon the sauce over top and garnish with parsley.

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Roasted Cauliflower Lasagna

Roasted Cauliflower Lasagna is a meatless variety of this popular pasta casserole that features cauliflower that has been oven-roasted and caramelized before being baked into the dish

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Roasted Cauliflower Lasagna
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of FoodNetwork.com, 2016)

Serves 4

8 cups cauliflower florets (from 1 head, about 2 1/2 lbs)
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 28-oz. can whole plum tomatoes
3 garlic cloves (2 sliced, 1 chopped)
1 large red bell pepper, diced
4 oz. button mushrooms, chopped
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 cup fresh basil leaves
8 oz. no-boil, whole wheat lasagna noodles
1 cup part-skim ricotta
1 large egg
1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Preheat oven to 425F.

Toss cauliflower in a large bowl with 1 tablespoon oil and a pinch of salt. Spread the florets in an even layer on a foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet, turning the florets over once midway through, until tender and golden brown in spots, 30 to 35 minutes. Allow to cool.

Put the tomatoes in a medium bowl and, using your hands, crush them. Rinse the can with 1 cup of cold water and add it to the bowl of tomatoes.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the 2 sliced garlic cloves and a pinch of salt and cook until the garlic begins to sizzle, about 2 minutes. Add pepper and mushroom and cook, stirring, until soft, about 8 minutes. Add tomato paste and stir to incorporate, about 30 seconds. Add the crushed tomatoes and their juice and 4 large basil leaves. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thickened, about 40 minutes. Will yield about 3 1/2 cups of sauce.

Meanwhile, in a food processor, combine the ricotta, egg, 1 1/2 cups of roasted cauliflower and the chopped garlic and pulse until evenly pureed. Tear the remaining basil leaves into small pieces, add to the processor and pulse 3-4 more times. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl.

To assemble the lasagna: Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce on the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch pyrex dish. Place a layer of noodles over the sauce. Spread half of the cauliflower-ricotta mixture, followed by half of the roasted cauliflower, one-third of the remaining tomato sauce, one-third of the mozzarella, and one-third of the Parmesan. Top with a layer of noodles. Spread the remaining cauliflower-ricotta mixture, followed by the remaining roasted cauliflower, one-third more of the tomato sauce, one-third more of the mozzarella, and one-third more of the Parmesan. Top another layer of noodles then add the remaining tomato sauce, mozzarella, and Parmesan. Cover with foil and bake at 425F until bubbly and hot, about 20 minutes. Remove the foil and cook until the cheese begins to brown, about 10 minutes more. Allow to rest 10 minutes before serving.

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Cannellini and Sausage Risotto

Cannellini and Sausage Risotto is a different type of risotto than Ample Bites has made before. Usually my risotto has mushrooms or vegetables in it or it might include some sautéed shrimp but almost never meat. In making the risotto, I normally use warmed chicken or vegetable stock but in this recipe I use the water reserved from the cooked beans.

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Cannellini and Sausage Risotto
(Mark Kelly, 2015)

Serves 6

8 oz. dried cannellini beans (by weight), about 1 1/2 cups, soaked overnight
6 whole sage leaves
2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and coarsely chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
5 cups bean cooking water
6 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
12 oz. Italian sausage, skins split and sausage removed
2/3 cups white wine
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
3 Tbsp finely grated Parmesan
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Best quality olive oil for drizzling

Drain the beans and put them in a large pan with sage, tomato, and garlic. Cover with fresh cold water, bring to a boil and cook for 1 hour, until soft. Drain the beans and reserve 5 cups of the cooking water. Keep this liquid warm while you make the risotto.

Heat half the oil in a large saucepan and, when hot, add half the onion. Cook until lightly golden, then add the ground sausage. Brown the meat and continue to cook until any liquid has evaporated. Remove from the heat and use a slotted spoon to remove the sausage and onion. Set aside in a bowl.

Heat the remaining oil in the pan. When hot, add the rest of the onion and cook until soft. Add the rice to the pan and toast it for a few minutes, until the grains are covered in oil and the onions are translucent. Add the wine and let it reduce. Ladle in hot bean water and continue to cook the risotto.

When the risotto is almost finished, stir in the beans and sausage and onion mixture. Stir in the butter and cheese. Cover the pan, turn off the heat, and let rest until serving, up to 15 minutes. When serving, drizzle with best quality olive oil.

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Chicken Stuffed with Asparagus and Ham in White Wine Sauce

Chicken Stuffed with Asparagus and Ham in White Wine Sauce is worth the preparation. It takes some time and patience to pound out the chicken breasts and wrap them with the ham and prosciutto around the asparagus spears. After that, the rest of the meal is a breeze and quite the crowd-pleaser. Serve with a side of Cannellini and Sausage Risotto and you’ve got yourself a meal.

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Chicken Stuffed with Asparagus and Ham in White Wine Sauce
(Mark Kelly, 2015)

Serves 6

2 lb. asparagus spears, ends removed
6 thinly sliced chicken breasts
12 thin slices cooked ham
6 oz. Parmesan shavings
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
12 slices prosciutto
4 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
12 sage leaves
1 cup dry white wine, at room temperature

Par cook the asparagus in the microwave in a plastic-wrap-covered in a Pyrex dish with about a cup of cold water. Chill the asparagus in an ice bath to stop cooking. Drain on paper towels. Drain and reserve the cooking water.

Pound out the chicken breasts until they are between 1/4-inch and 1/8-inch-thick. Cut each of the 6 in half to create 12 pieces to wrap around the asparagus bunches. Lay the chicken breast scallops on a work surface. Top each with a slice of the cooked ham. Place 2 to 3 asparagus spears on each. Trim the asparagus so that it doesn’t extend beyond the scallops. Reserve any leftover asparagus and chop it into 1/2-inch pieces. Top each with parmesan shavings and season with salt and pepper. Roll each up and secure them by wrapping a piece of prosciutto around each one.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add oil. When it shimmers, cooking in batches, brown the rolls on all sides with the sage leaves in the skillet. Remove the rolls, as they are cooked and set them aside and cover them with foil. Deglaze the pan with the reserved asparagus water and wine and allow to reduce for 15-20 minutes. Add the rolls back to the sauce with the asparagus and cook for a few minutes. Season to taste.

To serve: Slice each roll in half on the diagonal and arrange four halves per plate. Pour sauce over and garnish with additional shaved parmesan.

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