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Cucina Pasta-bilities - The Best Valentine's Day Meal , 0 Comments

Love is in the air! And one of the best ways to celebrate love is through delicious meals. We have an authentic Italian Wedding Soup recipe that is warm, comforting, and appropriately named for Valentine's Day! 

So gather with your loved one and enjoy a nice bowl of Italian Wedding Soup! Happy Valentine's Day! 

Ingredients:
For the Meatballs -

  • 8 oz ground beef
  • 8 oz ground pork
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1.2 cup bread crumbs (1 slice fresh bread, crust trimmed, and torn into small chunks)
  • 1/2 cup Pecorino Romano, grated
  • 1/3 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp. garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • Ground pepper 

For the Soup: 

  • 1 lb. escarole
  • 10 cups chicken stock/broth
  • 1 cup ditalini or other small pasta
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup yellow onion, minced
  • 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • Other diced vegetables to your preference 

Preparation:

1. In a large bowl, combine onion, bread crumbs, parsley, egg, garlic, and salt and pepper. Stir in ground meat and cheese until well combined. 

2. Using your hands or a teaspoon, shape the meat into 1-inch balls. 

3. Place on a lined baking sheet and bake for about 30 minutes, until cooked through and lightly browned. 

4. For the soup, heat the olive oil in a deep soup pot. Add the onion and escarole (and other vegetables) and saute until tender, about 6 or 8 minutes. 

5. Add the chicken stock and white wine and bring to a boil. 

6. Add the pasta to the boiling broth and cook until nearly tender, about 5 minutes. 

7. Add the meatballs and let simmer for a few minutes to let the flavors blend. 

8. Ladle into bowls and serve with more grated Pecorino Romano. 


Cucina Pasta-bilities: Gourmet Utensils - Crepe Pan , 0 Comments

Stacked crepes
Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday is just around the corner and that means celebrating with all things butter and dairy! Of course, this means everything crepes! Traditionally, crepes are fried on a cast iron pan, and if you’re intent on splurging on a French iron crepe pans (like this one from Le Creuset) you will not need butter or oil for frying the crepes. To season pan scrub it, heat on top of the stove over medium heat and when the pan is hot rub it with a light cooking oil. Allow to cool. Reheat and rub with oil twice more. The crepe pan is ready to use. It should only be wiped or rinsed clean after use, never scrubbed with soap or detergent.

 

If you’re in a time crunch, or don’t feel like investing in a particular pan for one particular dish, any other shallow frying pan with a heavy bottom will suffice. These pans will require a little butter or oil for frying the crepes.

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups (or more) milk (do not use low-fat or nonfat)
  • Melted butter

Preparation:

  1. Whisk eggs and salt in large bowl. Gradually whisk in flour, then 1 1/4 cups milk. Strain into medium bowl. Let stand 1 hour.
  2. If necessary, add more milk by tablespoonfuls to batter until it reaches the consistency of heavy whipping cream. Heat crepe pan over medium-high heat. If using Brush with melted butter. Pour 3 tablespoons batter into skillet and swirl to coat bottom evenly. Cook until top appears dry, loosening sides of crepe with spatula, about 45 seconds. Turn and cook until brown spots appear on second side, about 30 seconds. Turn crepe out onto plate. Repeat with remaining batter, brushing skillet with butter and stacking crepes on plate.

Cucina Pasta-bilities - Italian Pasta Pie , 0 Comments


Photo by Theresa Fernandez Photography
Food styling by Sofia Carbajal
Pastiera
“Pasta Pie” 
Pasta pie is a type of Neapolitan tart made with cooked wheat, eggs, and cheese. Chef Neil and his family make this recipe for Easter, and it was one of their favorite meals! According to Chef Neil, there are several ways to prepare the pasta pie, but here’s a traditional recipe from his sister: 
Ingredients:
  1. 4-5 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus 1 tsp.
  2. 1 lb. thin spaghettini or angel hair pasta (the thinner the better)
  3. 4 large eggs
  4. 3 tbsp. Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano, grated
  5. Kosher salt
  6. Black pepper
Preparation: 
  1. Cook the spaghettini in salted water until al dente. Drain and toss with 1 tsp. of olive oil to prevent pasta from sticking. Set aside until cooked.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine cooked spaghettini, eggs, grated Parmigiana-Reggiano, salt and pepper to taste, and other desired ingredients until well mixed. 
  3. Heat olive oil in a round, 12-inch skillet (use just enough oil to coat the bottom of the skillet).
  4. Pour the combined ingredients into the skillet and spread it evenly over the skillet. Cook over medium heat. 
  5. The pastiera will combine into a thin pie. Cook on each side until lightly crispy and golden brown (aproximately 7 minutes on each side). To make flipping easier, use a large non-stick spatula and flip quickly and carefully. 
  6. Use a pizza cutter or sharp knife to slice the pastiera into pieces and serve.  

Cucina Pasta-bilities - Cook like an Italian with these Essential Cooking Tools! , 0 Comments


The Italian chef trusts in a few good kitchen utensils in order to make delectable meals. Master the art of Italian cuisine with these few essential kitchen items--

1. A Chef’s Knife: invest in a brand such as Wustoff will dice, mince and slice and with constant sharpening it will last you years-- and do the job right!


2. Pots and Pans: it is essential to invest in good pots and pans. Stainless steel pans will last a lifetime because they are durable and perform beautifully. We recommend owning a frying pan, saute pan, grill pan, and casserole dish to ensure you have the perfect pan for your meal!

         


3. Tongs- a stainless steel tong will toss your salad, turn foods while frying, and mix your pasta. The tong is an essential multi-use tool that will step up your Italian cooking game!


Cucina Pasta-bilities - Gourmet Utensils: Poacher Alternatives , 0 Comments

Poached eggs are a delicious, simple, but elegant dish. The eggs are cooked in low heat water (lower than simmering) until the egg white is solidified, but the yolk is still runny. These can be used in Eggs Benedict, Eggs Florentine, or the Middle Eastern Shakshuka made with a spicy tomato sauce.Poached Eggs breakfast

Traditionally, the egg is cracked into a cup or bowl then gently slid into a pan of water at just under simmering heat. A difficulty with this method is keeping the egg white from spreading all over the pan. One method to minimize this is to swirl a vortex into the almost-simmering water just before placing the egg in the water. However, there are different tools such as special pans or cups  that would be a great addition to any gourmet kitchen.

Alternatives:

Now you don’t really need a special pan or cups to get perfectly poached eggs. You can achieve the same results with individual custard cups or ramekins, biscuit cutters, cookie cutters (think themed breakfasts like heart cookie cutters for Valentine’s Day), or even mason jar lids. Follow the instructions below to get started on your elegantly gourmet breakfasts!

Instructions:

  • Fill a saucepan about 2/3 full with water and bring to a boil.
  • Turn the heat down and let the water relax into a brisk simmer. You should see bubbles coming up to the surface, but it won't be rolling. (It's easier and quicker to control the simmer if you bring it to a boil first, then reduce the heat rather than trying to get it to the perfect simmer from the get-go.)
  • Crack the egg into a small measuring cup, preferably one with a long handle. This will help you ease the egg into the water. Tip: To help your eggs retain shape, submerge the ramekins, cookie cutter, or jar lids into the water and cook the egg inside the form. See below if you’re poaching multiple eggs.
  • If you want to poach multiple eggs at once, make sure your pan is big enough to accommodate all your eggs without crowding them; poach in batches if necessary. Crack each egg into its own measuring cup before you start and slip them into the water one after the next. Add an extra 30 seconds or so to the cooking time for each extra egg.
  • The final cooking time for a poached egg is very much up to you, and it depends on how well you like your eggs done and how hot the water is. But 4 minutes, give or take, in lightly simmering water, will give you a firm white and a gooey but still runny yolk.
  • Remove the egg from the water using a slotted spoon.
  • Optional: pat the egg dry lightly with a paper towel.
  • Enjoy with toast, on a salad, or however strikes your fancy!

Cucina Pasta-bilities - Best Videos of 2016! , 0 Comments

We're welcoming the new year with healthy, authentic food! And get ready for a New Year of cooking videos!

We compiled a list of our favorites of 2016, so that you can join in on the Italian love of cooking!

Here's to another delicious year! 

Rosemary and Sea Salt Focaccia Bread Recipe

 Pumpkin Broccoli Rabe Cannelloni 

Apple-Cranberry Pie with Streusal Topping

Cranberry Balsamic Chicken and Broccoli 

 Zuppa di Scoglio 

Holiday Spicy Crockpot Meatballs

Holiday Meatball Soup 


Cucina Pasta-bilities: Advent in Italy , 0 Comments

Italy is full of rich traditions, especially during Advent, the time of preparation before Christmas. Because of this time of preparation, the Italians, based on their Catholic heritage, celebrate many feast days that help them get into the Christmas spirit of selfless giving.

St. Nicholas - December 6th 

St. Nicholas, the inspiration for Santa Claus, was born in Turkey to a wealthy family. Tradition has it that as a young man, St. Nicholas heard about a young family whose father was unable to provide for the children. He climbed on the roof and threw bags of gold down the chimney to help the family. According to the story, one of the bags fell into a stocking or a shoe that was by the fireplace. To this day, different cultures still celebrate St. Nicholas’ feast day on December 6th by placing little gifts for each other in stockings or shoes.

Immaculate Conception and Presepe – December 8th

St. Francis of Assisi first commissioned the construction of a Nativity scene or Presepe in 1223. From that year, on December 8th, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, Italians have continued the tradition of setting up elaborate presepe often with the entire scene or village. 

St. Lucia – December 13th

On December 13th  Italian’s celebrate the feast of St. Lucy, a young girl from the early days of Christianity, who gave up her life for her faith. Traditionally, St. Lucy visits homes on the evening before December 13th, on the back of a donkey, bearing gifts for good children. The children will prepare food and drink for  her and her donkey, as refreshment on their nighttime journey. They go to bed early because the know that if they’re awake, she’ll pass by their house without stopping!

La Befana - Epiphany

Even after Christmas, Italians continue celebrating the Christmas season with the 12 Days of Christmas, which culminates on Epiphany, or January 6th. One of their traditions is that of La Befana, the good witch who got lost and dropped off presents. According to tradition, the Magi stopped for the night at an old woman’s house. They explained that they were following a star that would lead them to a newborn king. When they continued their journey in the morning, they invited her to join them but she declined because she was busy cleaning. She later realized the newborn king was the long-awaited Redeemer and tried to follow them but lost her way. Since then, her regret at not joining the Magi was so great that she continues to wander, giving her gifts to good children on Epiphany.


Cucina Pasta-bilities - The Feast of St. Nick , 0 Comments


Cucina Pasta-bilities - Giving Tuesday , 0 Comments


Cucina Pasta-bilities: Get Creative with Extras , 0 Comments

Creative meals

Cucina Pasta-bilities - The Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey , 0 Comments

If you're in a rush to buy a turkey the night before Thanksgiving and need a quick recipe - no worries! We have the perfect Zesty Rosemary Dry Brine! 

Wednesday:

We picked up a fresh turkey from Whole Foods Market 

Then prepared our brine: 

  • 1 tsp Orange Zest
  • 3 tbsp salt
  • 3 sprigs Rosemary, chopped

After rubbing the turkey, we kept it overnight, uncovered in the refrigerator. Tip: leaving the turkey uncovered helps dry out the skin, which makes it extra crispy! 

Thursday:

Turkey time! Take the turkey out at least 2 hours before cooking it, because the turkey should be at a warm temp before cooking! 

Insert a meat thermometer and begin the roast and cook until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees! 

The Zesty Rosemary Turkey was juicy and delicious, with a refreshing zest. Best of all: it was hassle free! 

 

Happy Thanksgiving! 


Cucina Pasta-bilities: The original superfood - Cranberry , 0 Comments

Cranberries

Last week we conducted a Cucina Antica office poll on Thanksgiving’s favorite condiment – Cranberry Sauce. I’m sure you’re all familiar with Cucina Antica’s tart and tangy Cranberry Sauce which was a strong contender in the poll, but old family traditions and recipes die hard and cranberry sauce is no exception!  

Why do we eat Cranberry sauce alongside the turkey meat on Thanksgiving? Europeans generally made sour fruit sauces to pair with meats, generally wild fowl or game, and most likely adapted their recipes to incorporate the local cranberry, introduced to them by the Native Americans. As turkey became the centerpiece at the Thanksgiving table, the cranberry sauce became the necessary condiment for the Thanksgiving dinner.

Cranberries are also high in nutritional value, with a high percentage of antioxidants. Some Native American tribes used cranberries to treat a number of illnesses – fevers, childbirth illnesses, or cramps. Along with their antioxidant properties, they are also high in Vitamin C, fiber, and Vitamin E.

Now that you know about the cranberry’s high nutritional value, feel free to pile a little more on your plate this Thanksgiving!


Cucina Pasta-bilities - Join our Thanksgiving Giveaway! , 0 Comments

The smell of a pie in the oven can’t be beat, and the varieties are practically endless--from apple pies to meat pies... pie is always a priority on Thanksgiving! And we want to hear from you: what is your favorite type of pie?

 Follow us on Instagram @CucinaAntica or like us on Facebook and comment with your favorite type of pie for a chance to win a brand new Pyrex pie pan just in time for your Thanksgiving festivities! Head on over to Instagram or Facebook, comment on the picture, and let the pie loving begin.  

Check out our Tuscany Pumpkin Pot Pie recipe using our Tuscany Pumpkin Pasta Sauce!

Tuscany Pumpkin Pot Pie Filling:

  • 1 lb of chicken breast
  • 1 tsp fresh rosemary, minced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup sweet potato, dice
  • 1 cup carrots, diced
  • 1 cup broccoli florets, chopped
  • 1 cup of cauliflower florets, chopped
  • 1 jar Tuscany Pumpkin Pasta Sauce

 For Crust:

  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil, melted
  • 6 tbsp almond milk
  • 2 cups almond flour
  • 4 tbsp ground flax seeds
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • Salt, to taste

 Preparation:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Boil a big pot of water on the stove top over high heat. Put the chicken into the water and let it boil over medium heat for 30 minutes.
  3. While the chicken is boiling in the water, cover a baking sheet in aluminum foil. Put the sweet potato, diced carrots, broccoli and cauliflower into a large boil and coat in olive oil. Mix the vegetables together and then pour them onto the lined baking sheet, making sure each vegetable is touching the bottom of the cookie sheet. Put in the oven for 20 minutes. Once the 20 minutes is up, let the veggies cool.
  4. Remove the chicken from the water and place onto a plate. Shred the chicken using two forks. Top the chicken with 1 tsp of rosemary and mix around. Set the chicken aside.
  5. Warm the Tuscany Pumpkin Sauce, then add all of the roasted veggies and shredded chicken to the sauce. Place in 9” round
  6. Combine all crust ingredients into a bowl and mix until combined. The mixture should clump together, but if t seems dry, add a little more almond milk or water. Place crust mixture on top of pumpkin pot pie filling.
  7. Bake for 30 minutes. Let cool a bit and enjoy!

 

Per Instagram rules, this promotion is in no way sponsored, administered, or associated with Instagram, Inc. By entering, entrants confirm that they are 13+ years of age, release Instagram of responsibility, and agree to Instagram’s terms of use.

*This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed, or administered by or associated with Facebook.
*Contest valid for U.S. residents only.


Cucina Pasta-bilities - 3 Reasons to Jump on the Pumpkin-Wagon , 0 Comments

Throughout this month it seems that everyone has joined the Pumpkin Craze. From Pumpkin Spiced Latte’s to  Pumpkin Pancakes/ Donuts/ Waffles/ Scones , everyone has pumpkin on the brain! Well, perhaps people aren’t as crazy as they seem, because there are some surprising health benefits to adding a little more pumpkin to your diet!

Did you know…

  1. 1 cup of cooked pumpkin has over 200% daily value of Vitamin A – great for eyesight health!
  2. Pumpkin is a great source of fiber, which can help you lose weight as more fiber in your diet helps you stay feeling full longer!
  3. Pumpkin is a great source of potassium! Instead of reaching for a banana, adding a cup of cooked pumpkin to your after-workout meal can give your body even more of a boost in potassium, which helps balance out electrolytes and keeps your muscles going strong! 

Cucina Pasta-bilities - National Pasta Day! , 0 Comments

Today is National Pasta Day and we are definitely celebrating. Visit our Instagram page @CucinaAntica for a chance to win a jar of our award winning Tuscany Pumpkin Pasta sauce! It's easy to win: just post a picture of your pasta dish along with the hashtag #CucinaAnticaPastaParty. The prize goes to the tastiest looking pasta! 

Today we made Italian Sausage and Broccoli Rabe Fusilli using our Cucina Antica Imported Italian Fusilli. Check out the recipe below, and have fun cooking one of the world's most favorite foods. 

Ingredients:

½ cup olive oil

8 ounces spicy Italian sausage

12 ounces Cucina Antica Fusilli

Salt

3 cups broccoli rabe, chopped

2/4 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano

Freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Preparation:

Cook Italian sausage in a saucepan over medium-high heat. In a separate saucepan, add the olive oil and cook broccoli rabe over medium-high heat. Remove broccoli rabe and set aside. Add the butter to the saucepan until it is a light brown color, and transfer broccoli rabe back into the saucepan. 

Remove the Italian sausage and chop into small bits. Add the sausage to the saucepan with the broccoli rabe.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling water until just shy of al dente. Using a ladle, transfer the fusilli into the sauce pan along with ¼ cup pasta cooking liquid and mix until the fusilli is covered in the sauce. 

Remove and serve with Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Buon Appetito! 


Join our Pasta Party for a Chance to Win! , 0 Comments

It's #NationalPastaMonth and we are hosting a Pasta Party on October 17th:  National Pasta Day! Enter for a chance to win a jar of our award winning Tuscany Pumpkin Sauce.

It's super easy to participate and enter a chance to win! Just follow us on Instagram @CucinaAntica and post a picture of your pasta on Oct 17th along with the hashtag #CucinaAnticaPastaParty. RSVP by liking our Instagram post! 

The prize package will go to the most delicious-looking pasta made with innovative ingredients! May the best chef win!


Per Instagram rules, this promotion is in no way sponsored, administered, or associated with Instagram, Inc. By entering, entrants confirm that they are 13+ years of age, release Instagram of responsibility, and agree to Instagram’s terms of use.


Food For The Poor - Donations for Victims of Hurricane Matthew , 0 Comments

Hurricane Matthew Emergency Relief

View of the immense devastation in Jeremie in southwest Haiti. (Photo/Food For The Poor)

Hundreds of people were killed by Hurricane Matthew, and Haitian officials estimate that at least 350,000 people need help, with 28,000 homes damaged. This devastating tragedy has caused starvation, loss of crop, and a shortage of food.

Food For The Poor, a faith based charity and global movement dedicated to helping 17 Latin American and Caribbean countries, launched an urgent campaign in order to help the victims of Hurricane Matthew.

About Food for the Poor:

Food For The Poor is one of the largest international relief and development organizations in the United States. Their work is motivated by their faith in God as they minister to the poorest of the poor in 17 countries throughout the Caribbean and Latin America. Food For The Poor provides lifesaving food, secure housing, clean water, healthcare, emergency relief, micro-enterprise projects and education opportunities, in order to give the poor a better future, and show them God’s love.

How Can We Help?

Cucina Antica will be donating 10% of the online sales now until the end of October. Please help us assist Food For The Poor fulfill their mission and continue to provide hope and assistance to those suffering in Haiti as the country faces this tremendous tragedy.

For more information about Food For The Poor, visit here


Cucina Pasta-bilities - It's All in the Name , 1 Comment

It’s National Pasta month and we’re brushing up on our Italian! As we all know, Italian food is delicious as it is simple, and pasta is no exception. Even the names that differentiate the types of pasta are simple in their origin, usually drawing from what they resemble!

For example, the pasta spaghetti is the plural of the Italian word spaghetto, based on the word spago, which means "thin string" or "thin twine."

The pasta Calamarata named after the calamari dish since their shape resembles the thick slices of squid in calamari.
These cute lumache pastas are named after the mollusks they resemble!
Penne pasta is derived from the Italian word penna, which means "feather" or "quill." The shape of penne pasta resembles the shaft of the feather and most likely inspired the name!
Farfalle is the Italian plural for "butterfly," due to it's almost identical look.
The conchiglie pasta is named after the exoskeleton (shell) of a gatropod, which it resembles.
Vermicelli directly translates from Italian to English as "little worms."
WWhat's your favorite type of pasta?

Cucina Pasta-bilities - It's National Pasta Month! , 0 Comments

October is officially here: leaves are changing, the weather is crisp and cool and—it’s National Pasta Month! It’s time to get in touch with our inner Italian and prepare to make great pasta:

  • Starting from the Bottom: pour about two tablespoons of olive oil in the bottom of the sauce pan and add aromatics such as garlic and onion. Get creative and add all of the vegetables you desire and cook until tender.  Also, since it’s fall, it’s the perfect time to heat our Tuscany Pumpkin Sauce for the perfect autumn pasta sauce (mmm!)
  • Pasta Time: drop your noodles in salty water and cook until it's just a few minutes before al dente. What is al dente? It literally means “to the tooth” in Italian. It should be soft, but not soggy, with a bit of firmness. Toss the pasta along with a ladleful of water into your sauce pan. This will allow your pasta to continue cooking immersed in your delicious sauce.
  • Pasta and Sauce: Toss until  pasta is al dente and each strand is coated with your sauce, while stirring in some finely grated cheese--such as Parmesan or Asiago--until it melts evenly.

Continue following our blog as we share our favorite pasta recipes. Happy National Pasta Month! Buon Appetito! 


Cucina Pasta-bilities - Break for Breakfast , 0 Comments

How often have we heard that eating breakfast is the key to a healthy lifestyle?

It is a popular refrain, yet it is based more on observational studies than on scientific proof.

The truth is, eating a healthy breakfast does improve mood, because you will be less hungry, less cranky, and more attentive!  

And, it is also likely that if you have a good breakfast, you will be less likely to be so starving at lunch that you simply cannot resist the siren call of a McDonald’s Big Mac or a plate of greasy fries!

Breakfast may not have any life-changing powers, but it does have the ability to give you a warm and inviting start to your day, so we vote to break for breakfast!

Making your breakfast the night before (or even a week before!) so that you don't have to choose between saving time and having breakfast is key.  

Here is one of our favorite fall breakfast ideas and it can be prepared Sunday evening. All you have to do is wake up, grab a cup of granola with or without milk, and enjoy the pumpkin flavors and fall spices come alive!

Ingredients
3 cups rolled oats 
1 1/4 cups raw pecans
1/3 cup cranberries
3 tbsp sugar
¼ tsp of sea salt
3/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice 
1/4 cup coconut or olive oil
1/3 cup maple syrup 
1/3 cup pumpkin puree

Preparation
Preheat oven to 340 F. Mix the oats, nuts, cranberries, spices, sugar, and salt together in a large bowl. In a saucepan over medium-low heat, warm the coconut oil, maple syrup and pumpkin puree and mix together. Pour over the dry ingredients and mix with a spoon.
Spread the mixture evenly onto two baking sheets and bake for 25-35 minutes, stirring a bit near the halfway point. Once the granola is golden brown (usually about 25 minutes), remove from oven and let cool. Transfer to an airtight container and enjoy!


Cucina Pasta-bilities - Falling for Fall Produce , 0 Comments

With a new season comes new possibilities for cooking. Crisp air brings an abundance of fresh produce and seasonal goodies that are both healthy and delicious. Read about a few of our favorite autumn produce in order to cook with the season and enjoy the freshest food that fall has to offer!

Apples: apples are delicious whether it be in a salad or a pie, or as a snack on the go. When buying apples, look out for the firm and unblemished ones. There are many different varieties, but each of them pack a great deal of nutrition and are definitely a fall favorite.

Beets: besides being a beautiful vegetable, beets can be eaten in an assortment of ways. Try blending them in a smoothie for a healthy snack, or wrapping them in aluminum foil and roasting them in the oven. Raw or cooked, enjoy some beets for a nice kick of Vitamin-C and fiber. 

Sweet Potato: the natural sweetness of the sweet potato makes them a must in a dessert or a hearty fall meal. Sweet potatoes are wonderful roasted, baked, or pureed. Try cutting them up and roasting with brussel sprouts and carrots in order to reap the benefits of its healthy sweetness. 

Pumpkins: It goes without saying that pumpkins are a fall favorite whether it be a decoration, dessert, dinner, or snack. Among many health benefits, pumpkins are rich in alpha and beta carotene, which promote healthy vision. And the best part is? You can use pumpkin in virtually anything, and it will taste delicious--pumpkin bread, waffles, pancakes, sauce. And check out our very own Tuscany Pumpkin Sauce for a savory and versatile pumpkin sauce! Go forth and carve a pumpkin and eat it for a healthy fall favorite, and fall into fall with these delicious produce ideas.

Buon Appetito!


Cucina Pasta-bilities - Preparing the Table , 0 Comments

Now that you have stocked your kitchen with the necessary ingredients from our Ingredients list, mastered how to go Back to the Basics of building flavor, and learned how to Set the Stage in an Italian meal with various courses-- it's time to prepare your dinner table!

Setting the table for an Italian meal is simple and enjoyable, just like the food! When preparing an Italian dinner, it is important to know that the table is set for a leisurely dining experience. In order to dress your table like an Italian, it only takes a few items to prepare the table for a delectable evening with Italian cuisine!

What You’ll Need:

Tablecloth: the tablecloth is usually a white or a pale colored linen.

Centerpiece: the center piece can be either flowers or fruit in order to add a pop of color to the table.

Wine: wine is an essential item for any Italian meal. Italians usually pair white wine with fish and red wine with meat.

Utensils: The forks are placed on the left: the furthest one away is for the salad and the one closest to the plate is for the dinner. The dinner knife is placed to the right of the plate and the soup spoon is placed to the far right of the knife. The dessert spoon and dessert fork are above the dinner plate, horizontally.

Plates: the dinner plate is placed on the table when the course is served and the salad plate is to the left of the forks.

Wine glass and water glass: the wine glass sits above and to the right of the water glass, which is placed near the hand. 

Napkin: the napkin is placed on the plate or to the right of the knife.

Buon Appetito!


Cucina-Pastabilities – Setting the Stage , 0 Comments

A true Italian meal is eaten in stages or courses, and enjoyed slowly with family and friends! Your kitchen is ready and stocked with all the necessary ingredients – if not, check out our Ingredients list. You’ve also mastered the basics of building your base flavor (check out our Back to Basics article if you need a refresher). Now you’re ready to dive into the different stages that make an Italian meal!

An Italian meal can be as simple as a spread of bread, cheese, cold cuts, and fresh fruit, but a well-planned Italian meal consists of multiple courses, served individually, which complement each other.

Aperitivo: means “to open” in Latin and signifies the “opening of the stomach”, to encourage you to feel hungry. Drinks with low alcohol content such as Prosecco or Vermouth served with olives, nuts, and cheeses usually make up the aperitivo.

Antipasti: This is the starter course (the appetizer) and is a little heavier than the aperitivo. Common antipasti are bruschetta or charcuterie.

Primi or Minestre: This is the first course to contain hot food and usually consists of food heavier than the antipasti. The primi does not contain any meat, though, and usually consists of a pasta, soup, or risotto dish.

Secondi: After a little time has passed to enjoy some wine and reset the taste buds, the secondi is served. This course consists of the meat, which can be a simple chicken roast, a lighter fish or seafood dish, or a more robust beef or game dish.

Contorni: The secondi is accompanied by the contorni, which means “to contour”. This usually consists of a vegetable dish or two which complements the meat dish and rounds out the course.

Insalata: It’s possible the insalata may be skipped if the contorni contains many leafy vegetables. This course allows the palate to recoup after the previous courses, getting ready for the dessert course.

Formaggi e Frutta: For some meals, this course may also double as the dolce or dessert as well. Otherwise, the formaggi e frutta is part of the light interlude between the heavier courses and dessert. It also allows time for local and in season cheese and fruit to shine.

Dolce: The dessert course can range from baked cakes to more palate-cleansing options such as gelatos or sorbets. Local specialties like Rum Baba or Cannoli might also be served.

Caffe: Unlike American coffee, Italians drink a strong and very hot espresso at the end of meals. These are served in very small cups and drunk very quickly.

Digestivo: The digestivo concludes the meal and are meat to ease digestion after consuming much food. Limoncello is a popular digestive from Southern Italy.

Not all Italian meals consist of all these courses. A simpler Italian meal may consist of the Primo, Secondi, Contorni, Insalata, and Formaggi e Frutta; reserving the remaining courses for a more festive occasion.  


Cucina Pasta-bilities - Back to Basics , 0 Comments

The flavor of Italian cuisine is built from the bottom up. There are three techniques—battuto, soffritto, and insaporire—which are the methods of building flavor in order to produce the base for your dish.  Building from the bottom up allows the beautiful aromas and enticing flavors to culminate into the principle ingredients of the meal.

Follow these steps to immerse yourself in the delectable art of Italian cuisine.

Step One:

Battuto: The word stems from the word “Battere,” which means “to strike,” and this is the process of finely chopping the raw ingredients for the dish. The ingredients you choose depend on your dish, but traditionally it would include parsley, onion, garlic, and lard. These finely chopped vegetables are called the battuto.

Step Two:

Soffritto: the soffritto is the moment when you gently cook the battuto  in a pot or skillet over olive oil or butter in order to enliven the flavors. The onion is sautéed first and then the garlic, because the vegetables cook at different speeds, and it will allow for a richer flavor. Once the onion is translucent and the garlic is pale yellow, the rest of the battuto is added. This step is very important for the end result of your dish, because when the battuto is cooked correctly it allows the flavors to blossom.

Step Three:

Insaporire: this word literally means “bestowing taste.” It is the moment of intensely sautéing the vegetables or other key ingredients (i.e. meat for your meat sauce) under high heat until they are drenched with the flavors from the soffritto.

These three steps are the beginnings of a wonderful dish. Learning how to build your flavor from the bottom up gives a strong foundation for your meal and unlocks the beautiful world of Italian cuisine. Buon Appetito!


Cucina Pasta-bilities – Ingredients for an Italian Kitchen , 0 Comments

A meal can only be as good as its ingredients. The key to the amazingly delicious Italian meals lies in fresh, quality ingredients.  True Italian dishes are surprisingly simple, but infinite care and patience is put into the selection of ingredients and building a flavor base to create the wonderfully aromatic dishes.

We’re excited to share a few tips with you stock your Italian kitchen with all the best and necessary ingredients to turn a simple dish into a delicious meal. And after your Italian pantry is set, stayed tuned for next week’s post on building your flavor base for the best Italian meals!

Spices, Herbs, and other Italian Pantry Essentials

Fats

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil – store in a cool, dark cupboard. Experts recommend using a bottle within a year and a half of bottling, and within 6 weeks of opening for best results.
  • Butter and Vegetable Oil – if the taste of olive oil will be overpowering for your dish, Italian cooks combine butter and a vegetable oil. The combination allows cooking at higher temperatures without burning the butter.

Spices

  • Nutmeg – used in both savory and sweet; freshly ground nutmeg has the best flavor and aroma
  • Pepper – Black peppercorn is preferred as it has a more rounded taste than the white. Always use freshly ground pepper as it loses its aroma soon after grinding.

Aromatics

  • Onion – onions are indispensable to Italian cooking and once upon a time, was the main ingredient to the base flavor of Italian dishes (more on base flavors in next week’s post!). The most common preparation for onions is to finely chop and sauté in olive oil until caramelized before adding the other ingredients.
  • Oregano – This herb is popular in Southern Italian cooking and is especially found in pizzas and sauces.
  • Rosemary – This herb comes second to oregano in usage within Italian cooking. Practically indispensable to roasts and delicious on breads like focaccia. Best when fresh from the garden, rosemary is a very hardy plant and easy to grow - try planting some in your garden or in the kitchen.
  • Sage – This used to be a medicinal herb but has grown to be a favorite in Italian cooking. As with rosemary, best used fresh with the whole leaf. Best paired with game birds, veal, and often with beans.
  • Parsley – Italian parsley is much more pungent than the curly leafed variety and is used as flavoring rather than garnish
  • Basil – best used fresh; basil is most fragrant with the least amount of cooking, added at the very end of the cooking process.
  • Bay Leaves – this is a wonderfully versatile herb that can be used in almost any Italian dish. Purchase whole and dried bay leaves, which have an indefinite shelf life.
  • Garlic – Italians use garlic as a subtle flavor, never overpowering other flavors. The most gentle flavor comes from the whole (always unpeeled) clove, and the strongest comes from a finely chopped clove.

Others

  • Olives – Black olives are more suited to Italian cooking than the Greek Kalamata olives. Cooking too long accentuates the bitter flavor in olives, so it’s best to wait til the end of the cooking period to add olives.
  • Capers – pungent but not harsh, capers can be used to brighten up sauces for meats and fish, or used in stuffings

Italian ingredients/flavor base varies region by region, each place incorporating locally available ingredients, so don’t be afraid to improvise with locally grown ingredients. 

Stay tuned to learn about Italian cooking techniques - battuto, soffritto, and insaporire. Buon Appetito!


Help Provide Mary's Meals to Schoolchildren in Malawi , 0 Comments

 

Crisis in Malawi, Africa

6.5 Million People in Malawi, Africa are in need.

A disastrous combination of flooding and a devastating drought has destroyed the majority of the Malawians’ food sources and the Malawian government has declared a state of national emergency.

Mary’s Meals, a Catholic charity and global movement dedicated to provide hungry children with one meal every school day, launched an urgent campaign called Crisis in Malawi in an effort to lessen the impact of the country’s food crisis.

About Mary's Meals

Mary’s Meals was founded by Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow in Scotland in 2002 after he was moved by compassion upon hearing a 14 year old boy who asked for only “food to eat and to be able to go to school.” MacFarlane-Barrow founded Mary’s Meals with the mission and vision that everyone deserves an education—and enough to eat. 

Mary’s Meals largest school feeding program is in Malawi, where they currently provide meals to over 800,000 children. The Crisis in Malawi campaign asks for support to ensure that the children who already depend on their school feeding program can continue to be fed.

How Can We Help?

Cucina Antica Foods, Corp. will be donating 10% of the online sales  now until the end of August to Mary’s Meals to help fulfill the mission of Mary’s Meals and continue to provide hope and assistance to those suffering in Malawi as the country faces their worst food insecurity in many years.

For more information about Mary’s Meals and the Crisis in Malawi, visit here.


Join our Lasagna-making Party for a Chance to Win! , 0 Comments

Do you love making lasagna? Do you consider your pasta skills on par with any Italian-born mama? If yes, then you should join our Lasagna Pasta Party on National Lasagna Day [July 29th @ 6:30pm Central Time] for a chance to win a box of Cucina Antica pasta sauces and a Cucina Antica Apron!

It's super easy to participate and enter a chance to win! Just follow us on Instagram @CucinaAntica and RSVP under our invitation. The first 5 people will receive a complimentary pasta sauce!

Follow the steps below to attend and enter a chance to win!

1) Follow us [@CucinaAntica] and “Like” this Photo on Instagram

2) RSVP in the comment section

3) Only July 29th, make your most delicious lasagna and take a pic

4) Share on Instagram with your ingredients and tag us with #CucinaAnticaPastaParty

The prize package will go to the most delicious-looking lasagna made with innovative ingredients!


Per Instagram rules, this promotion is in no way sponsored, administered, or associated with Instagram, Inc. By entering, entrants confirm that they are 13+ years of age, release Instagram of responsibility, and agree to Instagram’s terms of use.


"La Pasqua" - 5 Reasons to Celebrate Easter Like the Italians , 0 Comments

1. Besides Christmas, it’s the most important holiday of the year

In fact, some might even argue that Easter is even more important than Christmas. The holiday has religious importance as the celebration of the Resurrection of Christ and therefore the fulfillment of His birth. Even if they aren’t specifically religious, most Italians still embrace this significance and follow the traditional celebrations. Some might even compare Easter’s historical importance in Italy to Thanksgiving in America (and we all know how we feel about Turkey-Day).

2. It’s been a long time coming

Sure, it’s been a year since last Easter, but most Italians (following religious custom), have been anxiously waiting for Easter during the season of Lent, a 40 day period of fasting before Easter. They usually abstain from foods like meat and sugary sweets on certain days, meaning that when Easter finally rolls around, it’s the perfect reason for feasting and celebrating.

3. The celebrations are huge

So your family has an elaborate Easter egg hunt in your backyard? That’s nothing compared with a 24-hour parade or a giant fireworks show in the middle of the city. In most towns and cities throughout Italy, Good Friday – the Friday before Easter – is marked with processions or parades commemorating the death of Christ. And yes, some last up to 24-hours. You might think that a parade is a strange way to commemorate a death. But since Italians believe Christ's death is an essential part of the Easter celebration, to them, a parade is the proper way to commemorate it. Come Sunday though, the celebrations get even bigger. Just take the “Scoppio del Carro” in Florence, a traditional celebration in which a giant cart full of fireworks is lit on fire. Florentine lore says that a good explosion promises good luck for the coming year. 

4. It doesn’t just end on Sunday

Sure, we might celebrate Easter Monday by sleeping-in, but in Italy “La Pasquetta” (literally, “Little Easter”) continues the celebration. Many Italians enjoy picnicking with friends or getting out of the city to the country-side. In one town in Umbria, they celebrate by rolling giant blocks of Ruzzola cheese down a hill. Don’t ask us, it’s a thing.

5. And of course, it’s all about the food

So maybe Italians don’t do chocolate Easter bunnies – but when was the last time you finished yours? Instead, they celebrate with elaborately decorated chocolate eggs, usually hollowed out and filled with prizes. The “Colomba di Pasqua” is a dove shaped cake made from almond paste and sugar. A colorful Easter bread (like this one) is also a favorite. For the main course, roast lamb takes the center stage. 

Other Sources:

Lifeinitaly.com
WalksofItaly.com


The People of Durgi, India are Thankful to You! , 0 Comments

This year, the boys of St. Joseph’s Orphanage celebrated Christmas with a tree, a nativity scene, gifts, and games. For the first time, they were also able to draw water from their own well.

Father Joseph, the vicar of a small parish in Durgi, India, provides housing, food, clothing, and education to over 40 orphaned or abandoned boys from the surrounding villages. St. Joseph’s Orphanage is a safe house and a home for these boys, most of whom have nowhere else to go. Father Joe does his best not only to give them a place of sanctuary, but also to offer them the opportunity to escape poverty through education.

But with a full parish also in his care, his resources are often limited, especially because of the harsh weather and living conditions of the region. In 2015 and 2016, the region has experienced extreme drought. With no running water and few wells in the village, the community in Durgi and St. Joseph’s Orphanage were under tremendous need.

Cucina Antica has assisted St. Joseph’s Orphanage with facility repairs and in providing clothes, supplies, and furniture. At the end of last year, we were able to provide Fr. Joe with the resources to build a well for the orphanage. The children were able to draw a limited supply of water for their daily use. But the water the well produced was not enough to sustain the local community as well.

In 2016, Cucina Antica will be devoting a portion of its resources to helping build a well for the community of Durgi, India. It is through your loyalty to our company and support of our products that we are able to make these contributions. Know that when you purchase a Cucina Antica product, you are directly helping the children of St. Joseph’s Orphanage and the people of Durgi. Thank you for your continued support.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you would like to learn more about helping St. Joseph’s Orphanage and Durgi, please email us at info@cucina-antica.com with the subject “St. Joseph’s Orphanage.”

 


7 Ways to Keep Your New Year’s Resolution , 0 Comments

Keeping New Year’s resolutions can be hard work! According to British psychologist Richard Wiseman, 88% of attempted New Year’s resolutions are never achieved. That’s a scary thought. So in order to help you reach your goals this year, we’ve put together a list of tips we find helpful.

1. Narrow it down

Studies have shown that focusing on just one goal or resolution at a time can increase the likelihood of positive results.When we try to focus on too much at a time, we tend to lose the self-control that helps us accomplish tasks. So rather than trying to quit smoking and eat healthy at the same time, pick one goal and stick with it.

2. Be specific

Elaborating on resolutions will make them more manageable. “Lose 15 pounds” sounds daunting. But “Go to yoga class every Wednesday and only eat sweets on the weekend” sounds much more feasible. Be sure to break your resolutions down into specific, achievable goals.

3. There’s an app for that

Apps are a great way to stay on top of your resolutions. Here are some of our favorites:

Mint - This app will help you keep track of your finances and stay on budget.

Sworkit - This one is a free fitness app that encourages you to live a “no excuses” lifestyle by offering gym free workouts created by professional personal trainers.

Wholesome - This one is an award winning app that provides you with healthy recipes and gives you recommendations based on your nutritional needs.

Stop, Breathe, & Think - Another award winning app, this one offers guided meditation, promoting mindfulness, kindness, and compassion.

Google Keep - This app helps you keep track of your to-do list, grocery list, notes, etc. It also allows you to set reminders for items on your to do list and share your lists with friends and family.

4. Don’t be afraid to fail

One of the biggest reasons resolutions don’t often work out is because people give up after one little slip up. Ok, so you didn’t go to the gym today because you had to stay late at work and it was rainy. Instead of throwing in the towel, do a quick, at home workout or workout an extra 30 minutes tomorrow. Don’t use small setbacks as an excuse to give up on your resolutions. Just remember, if it were easy, everyone would do it.

5. Reward your progress

Giving yourself little rewards can encourage progress. Just be sure your rewards aren’t reversing all the headway you’ve made. If your resolution is to eat better, don’t reward yourself with cake. Instead try going to that movie you’ve been meaning to see or buying yourself a new pair of running shoes.

6. Practice makes habit

While past research has shown that it takes as little as 21 days to form a new habit (or break an old one), more recent studies are claiming that the average is closer to 66 days. Either way, we can all agree that the longer you stick with something, the more natural that behavior will become. So keep at it!

7. Keep it a secret

Keep your resolutions to yourself, says a study published in Psychological Science. According to the 2009 study, telling people about your goals gives you an instant sense of relief, reducing the amount of motivation you feel to actually achieve your goals. While having a workout partner or a friend who will push you to reach your goals can be beneficial, we suggest keeping the list of people you tell about your goals to a minimum.

Is your resolution to eat healthier? Try some of these recipes to help you stay on track.


Cranberry Sauce and Cheese Pairing , 0 Comments

What’s better around the holidays than a plate of creamy cheeses? Mix up the flavor with some crunch and sweetness. Here, we’ve put together a list of cheeses that go perfectly with Cucina Antica Cranberry Sauce. Serve with other cheese and fruit pairings as desired. 

For the crackers:

Maple crackers – depending on the brand (or recipe), these crackers are flavorful, sweet, and often buttery. Pair them with saltier cheeses.  

Water crackers – these crackers are subtle in flavor and very crispy. They pair well with spreadable cheeses with a lot flavor.

For the cheeses:

Fresh Crottin – made from pasteurized goat cheese, fresh crottin has a firm texture and a nutty after taste. Slice it thinly and dip in Cucina Antica Cranberry Sauce, or layer on maple crackers.

Brie Cheese – sometimes called the “Queen of Cheeses,” brie is a soft, creamy cheese, delicious when served warm (preheat the oven to 350 and place the brie, covered in parchment paper, on a cooking pan. Bake for 5 to 7 minutes, until oozing but not fully melted). Spread the melting cheese on a water cracker and top it with a spoonful of Cucina Antica Cranberry Sauce.

Cranberry Cheese – you can find varieties of this cheese with a sweet, fruity flavor and honey undertones. Dapple it with Cucina Antica Cranberry Sauce and serve with maple crackers.


"La Befana" and 7 Fishes: Proof that Italians Really Know How to Celebrate Christmas , 0 Comments

The story goes that the three Wise Men were lost on their way to visit the Christ child. They came to the home of a strange old woman. With a long nose, warty skin, and scraggly gray hair, she was far from beautiful. But the three Magi told her about their journey – how they were looking for a great king and were bringing him lavish gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. They asked the old woman if she knew where to find the child, but she did not. So they asked her if she would like to join them in their search for the king. She only laughed, probably thinking these strange Magi had lost their minds. She refused to go, so they continued on their journey without her. 

When night came again, she saw a great light in the sky – a star brighter than any she had seen before. Suddenly, she regretted not going with the Wise Men. She decided she would try to follow after them. All she had to bring to the baby king were the toys of her children, who had died many years ago. She gathered these up in a sack, put on her cloak to keep warm, and then mounted her broomstick. After all, if she was going to catch up to the Wise Men, she would need to fly.

But as the old woman flew through the night, searching and searching, she could not find the great king child anywhere. Centuries later, she still flies through the night with her toys in a sack. Every year, on January 6 – the feast of the Magi, or the Epiphany – as she searches for the Christ child, she brings toys to young boys and girls in Italy.

…Or so legend would have it. “La Befana” is just one of many Christmas traditions celebrated by Italians. While Santa Claus is still more of a northern European and American tradition, La Befana is not the only one known for bringing gifts in Italy. Some Italians believe that the blind St. Lucy brings gifts to children on her feast day on December 13. Others celebrate on Christmas day with gifts from the Christ child Himself. The idea in Italy is that Christmas is more than a single day. It is an entire season of celebration, beginning in early December and running until January.

And of course, at the center of any true Italian Christmas celebration is the food.

While Christmas is basically an all-day feast, Christmas Eve is a celebration of particular Italian significance. Known as the Feast of the Seven Fishes, it is technically a day of fasting. According to Italian Catholic custom, you shouldn’t eat meat the day before a major feast day. Fish, however, is perfectly acceptable. As Italians would have it, the day of fasting eventually became a night of feasting, with a 7 (or 10 or 13) course meal. Fish, of course, is the main ingredient in most dishes.

It’s unclear why “7” is the important number. Many (including our own Chef Neil) think it may have something to do with the Seven Sacraments. Others celebrate with 10 courses in honor of the 10 Stations of the Cross, or 13 in honor of the 12 apostles plus Jesus. Any number you choose, the point is to remind you of the reason for the season and to celebrate the coming of Christmas with family and friends. 

Some of Chef Neil’s favorite dishes form the centerpieces of the Feast of the Seven Fishes. The best seafood comes from the southern, Campania region of Italy, where Chef Neil grew up. There’s nothing like fresh Mediterranean seafood and shellfish over a bowl of al dente pasta, drizzled in cold pressed olive oil and tossed in San Marzano tomato sauce. For Chef Neil, it brings him back home, which is where everyone wants to be on Christmas Eve.

While we don’t have a whole feast laid out for you, you can try Cucina Antica Linguine Scoglio for a taste of an Italian Christmas Eve. 


9 Mouth Watering Bruschetta and Crostini Recipes , 0 Comments

We’ve put together a few crostini and bruschetta recipes for your holiday appetizer menu. But before you crunch into them, it might help to know the difference between the two seemingly identical Italian starters.

“Bruschetta” comes from the Italian word “bruscare,” which literally means “to roast over coals.” Don’t worry. Our bruschetta recipes don’t require any coals. Typically, bruschetta is made by rubbing sliced bread with garlic cloves, drizzling the slices with olive oil, then heating them. It can be served with various toppings (see below).

“Crostini” means “little toasts” in Italian. Typically, crostini is made of thin bread brushed with olive oil and toasted. Crostini tends to be crunchier than bruschetta, but the toppings can be just as varied.

You can read more about the difference between crostini and bruschetta here.  Now on to the recipes. 

Basic Bruschetta Recipe:

Use this bruschetta recipe for each of the bruschetta toppings that follow (1-5)

INGREDIENTS:

PREPARATION:

Preheat the broiler. Rub each slice of bread with a peeled garlic clove on both sides. Place bread slices on a baking dish and brush with olive oil. Broil for about 2 minutes on each side (until golden brown). Remove and top immediately.

Basic Crostini Recipe:

Use this basic crostini recipe for each of the crostini toppings that follow (6-9)

INGREDIENTS:

PREPARATION:

Preheat oven to 350. Place baguette slices on a large baking sheet and brush thoroughly with olive oil on both sides. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until golden, flipping toasts to crisp undersides as necessary. Remove and allow to cool before topping.

 

1) “Traditional” Tomato Basil Bruschetta:

We put traditional in quotation marks because there isn’t really a traditional recipe for bruschetta. This one just happens to be one of the more common varieties.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 large Roma tomatoes
  • 20 fresh basil leaves
  • 2 to 3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil 
  • Coarse salt
  • Freshly ground pepper

PREPARATION:

Half, seed, and dice tomatoes and place in a large bowl. Pile basil leaves on top of each other and roll together. Thinly slice basil rolls into short “confetti” strips. Toss with tomatoes. Add some coarse salt and ground pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Toss tomatoes and basil together to coat. Serve as a dip or use to top bruschetta.

 

2) Broccoli Rabe Bruschetta:

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 ½ lb. broccoli rabe
  • 5 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 tbsp. walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • ¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
  • Salt to taste

PREPARATION:

Heat about 3 tbsp. olive oil in a medium skillet. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and saute for about 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add broccoli rabe and cook on high, adding more broccoli rabe as the first batch wilts. Season with salt. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes, or until wilted. Remove from heat and add remaining olive oil. Combine ricotta and chopped walnuts. Spread cheese mixture over bruschetta pieces and top with sautéed broccoli rabe. Drizzle with extra olive oil.

 

3) Prosciutto and Parmesan Bruschetta

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup diced prosciutto
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • ½ cup pine nuts, toasted (toast in broiler for 5 to 10 minutes, until golden brown)
  • Ground black pepper

PREPARATION:

Cream the butter in a medium sized bowl. Blend in prosciutto, parmesan cheese, pine nuts and pepper. Spread toasted bruschetta with butter mixture.

 

4) Ricotta, Orange, and Dark Chocolate Bruschetta

For this one, don’t put garlic on your bruschetta when you toast it. It might make this dessert aperitif taste a little funny.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1-2 tbsp. white cane sugar (depending on how sweet you want it)
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 2 oranges
  • 1 oz. bittersweet chocolate, grated

PREPARATION:

In a medium sized bowl, combine ricotta, sugar, and salt. Grate 1-2 tsp. of orange zest into the ricotta mixture. Peel the oranges and slice crosswise into two rounds, then quarter those rounds (you’ll have lots of small orange chunks). Spread the bruschetta with the cheese mixture and top with orange pieces. Sprinkle with grated chocolate.

 

5) Cranberry and Brie Bruschetta

This one is so easy, you may just have to make two batches! 

 

INGREDIENTS: 

  • 1-2 cups Cucina Antica Cranberry Sauce
  • 1 large brie block, sliced into thickly 

PREPARATION:

Lay brie on prepared bruschetta. Top with Cucina Antica Cranberry Sauce. Serve with extra for dipping. 

 

6) Gorgonzola, Arugula, and Mushroom Crostini

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup soft gorgonzola
  • ½ cup ricotta cheese
  • 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ oz. dried porcini mushrooms
  • 10 oz. cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 3 cups baby arugula
  • 1½ tsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1 ½ tbsp. butter
  • Fresh dill to garnish 

PREPARATION:

Soak porcinis in ¼ cup hot water and let sit for 15 minutes. Drain and reserve liquid. Chop porcinis. In a medium saute pan, saute cremini mushrooms in 1 tbsp. olive oil, stirring occasionally until browned (about 5 minutes). Add porcinis and gradually stir in reserved water (strain out sediment). Add butter and stir until mushrooms are tender. In a separate bowl, combine ricotta and gorgonzola. In another bowl, toss arugula in red wine vinegar and remaining 1 tbsp. olive oil. Spread crostinis with cheese spread, top with arugula, and finish with mushroom sauce. Garnish with dill. 

 

7) Smoked Salmon and Asparagus Crostini

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 lb. asparagus
  • ½ lb. smoked salmon
  • Cracked black pepper
  • Coarse salt

PREPARATION:

Bring a quart of water to a rolling boil. Blanch trimmed asparagus for about 3 minutes. Remove and place immediately in an iced bath. Once cooled, remove and slice into 1-inch pieces. Slice salmon into ½ inch chunks. Top crostini with asparagus and salmon and top with freshly cracked pepper and coarse salt.

 

8) Cannellini Beans with Rosemary Crostini

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 can cannellini beans (14 oz.), drained
  • ½ cup frozen corn, defrosted (or red peppers, roasted) 
  • 3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 tsp. fresh rosemary
  • 1 garlic clove
  • ½ small onion, thinly sliced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Parmesan cheese, grated 

PREPARATION:

Mix onion and lemon juice in a medium sized bowl. Mix in corn kernels. Allow to sit. Heat extra virgin olive oil in a medium saucepan. Grate garlic over olive oil. Add rosemary and stir for 1 minute. Add beans and cook until just warm, then add parsley. Add salt and pepper to taste. Top crostini with bean mixture and then top with onion and corn mixture. Finish with Parmesan cheese. 

 

9) Hazelnut and Honey Crostini

INGREDIENTS:

  • 8 oz. package cream cheese
  • 1 cup hazelnuts, toasted, husked, and chopped
  • Honey

PREPARATION:

Preheat oven to 350. To toast hazelnuts, place on a large baking sheet and bake for 10 to 15 minutes (skins should be lightly colored and cracking). Wrap warm hazelnuts in a towel to allow to steam. Rub nuts in towel and remove loose skins. Spread cream cheese over crostini, top with hazelnuts, and drizzle with honey.

 

Proper Produce Care , 0 Comments

We feel pretty good about ourselves when we eat a lot of produce. Produce is good for us, right? We SHOULD feel awesome when we're eating it!

Of course, we should also make sure that we're getting the most - and the best - from our produce.

From washing to cooking, we've put together a little guide for you on the care that you need to give the produce you have so prudently decided to eat...

Washing:

For the bulk of your produce, simply rinsing with cold, running water will do the best job. According to studies, just simple, cold water is highly effective at removing most bacteria on produce.

For tough-skinned produce, you can also feel free to use a produce brush, as it can remove any offending clumps of dirt or soil that you want GONE.

As far as produce that has lots of places for bacteria or dirt to hide, you can soak these (and you can actually soak most produce) for 1-2 minutes in cold water - be careful with fragile produce, though! If you are afraid that your produce will fall apart when you soak it, just spray it with cold water instead.

Now, an easy mistake to make is believing that there is no need to wash produce if you're just going to peel it anyway, but we advise against this shortcut. When your peeler or knife goes through the skin to the inner flesh of your produce, it can carry bacteria with it. So, a word to the wise, just go ahead and rinse your produce pre-and-post-peel (it's worth the few extra seconds!).

And, boy, do we have good news for you! In case you haven't heard (and don't feel bad, some of us hadn't heard, either) it is A-OKAY to rinse mushrooms! Gone are the days of wiping down

EVERY.

SINGLE.

MUSHROOM.

Go ahead. Rinse those puppies. It's all good.

Cooking - or not:

There is a lot of information out there concerning how best to preserve nutrients in produce, and many opinions for and against various cooking methods. We've done some homework to try and bring you a reasonably weighted explanation of the beneficial methods of cooking BUT, the main point we want to stress is this:

Cook (or don't) your produce the way that will help make you WANT to eat it. With the exception of frying (delicious, but we know it's not very good for us), the consensus seems to be that most cooking methods are not going to make a huge difference in the health-levels of your produce and, since it is SO imperative to eat produce, the most important thing is that you are, in fact, eating it!

In case you're curious, though, here are some things you may not know about cooking produce...

  • Microwaving: microwaving has actually been proven as a beneficial cooking method for most vegetables, because it helps them to preserve their antioxidants. The relatively short cooking time of microwaving also leads to less nutrient damage than some other, lengthier methods.
  • Sauteing: like microwaving, sauteing is a brief, high-heat method for preparing your veggies, helping to preserve particular nutrients and to retain some vitamins and minerals - especially in vegetables that are tender. Don't be afraid to add a little oil, either! Heart healthy oils can help you get the most out of the fat-soluble nutrients in vegetables, as well as making them tasty enough for you to want to eat a whole bunch!
  • Baking/Roasting/Grilling: these cooking methods can help to improve or to retain some of the nutrient levels of particular vegetables such as artichokes, asparagus, green beans, and corn; baking/roasting/grilling vegetables with a little oil can really enhance the flavor, too, because of the charring and/or caramelization that occurs. This is especially helpful if you're not a veggie-love by nature!
  • Steaming: if you're a fan of steamed vegetables, be glad to know that steaming can break down cell walls, thereby making nutrients more readily available to our digestive system. Blanching (steaming for about 30-60 seconds and then immediately moving the food to cold water) is also a good way to stop your vegetables from developing the taste that can make them bitter.

So...what's the caveat?

Take all the information you receive about cooked versus raw with a grain of salt. Some of the nutrients in your produce do better cooked, some do better raw. Some produce is healthier overall when cooked, some is better raw. What you really need to make sure you're doing is just eating it!

 

Sources and more resources:

www.bestfoodfacts.org/food-for-thought/fruit-vinegar

www.fda.gov/Food/FoodborneIllnessContaminants/BuyStoreServeSafeFood/ucm114299.htm#prep

www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/02/03/the-right-way-to-washing-mushrooms_n_6591432.html

www.livestrong.com/article/556477-boiled-vegetables-vs-steamed/

www.onegreenplanet.org/natural-health/best-ways-to-cook-your-veggies-for-the-most-nutrition/

www.prevention.com/food/healthy-eating-tips/revamp-your-veggies-these-recipe-and-snack-ideas

www.rodalesorganiclife.com/food/how-cook-vegetables

 


The Best Way to Reuse your Tuscany Pumpkin pasta sauce jar , 0 Comments

You've made some delicious pumpkin sauce recipes and scraped your jar clean. But now what do you do with it? Luckily, our glass jars are perfect for reusing and recycling. Here, we've come up with our favorite way to reuse our Tuscany Pumpkin pasta sauce jar that just happens to be perfect for the season. 

Step 1: Wash your jar. You can remove the label if you want, but we think the pumpkin drawing makes it extra festive! 

Step 2: Gather your tea candles. They don't necessarily have to be tea candles, they just have to fit into the jar. 

Step 4: Light your candle and drop it into your jar. If you prefer, use a lighter with a long nose to light the candle once it is inside the jar. 

Step 5: Admire how pretty your jar looks with a glowing candle inside of it. 

Step 6: Carve your pumpkin. You should probably actually start with this step so your candle doesn't melt by the time you finish. Just be sure to clean out the insides and to make your pumpkin look awesome (we have no specific instructions on how to do this). 

 Step 7: Place your glowing jar(s) inside your pumpkin(s), replace the pumpkin stems, and stand back and watch your jack-o-lanterns come to life. No need to worry about that candle falling over and burning the inside of your pumpkins. Your lovely jar is protecting them. 

 


Gluten-Free Diet Awareness , 1 Comment

What is gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and triticale that helps to give shape and elasticity to food, and traps carbon dioxide during the fermenting process of bread-making that then helps the bread dough to rise. 

Why do some people have to avoid it?

For those suffering from celiac disease - an autoimmune disorder - ingestion of gluten is dangerous because their body mistakes the gluten for a virus or bacteria, causing their immune system to attack the small intestine.

The list of possible symptoms related to celiac disease or gluten-intolerance is long, but there are a few signs that can suggest you might be suffering:

For children, issues with digestion could be indicators of celiac disease.

In adults, issues such as bone/joint pain, anxiety, anemia, and fatigue can be indicators of celiac disease.

The only treatment for celiac disease that has been conclusively deemed effective at this time is a completely gluten-free diet. Though there are studies devoted to finding a simpler testing method and, perhaps, even hope for a vaccine or some alternative treatment in the future, for now, gluten-avoidance is still the only viable option. 

NOTE: Before concluding that you or your child may have celiac disease and switching to a gluten-free diet, it is VERY important to contact a physician and consider being tested. Drastic changes in diet can always put you at risk for inadequate nutrition.

Gluten Containing Foods:

Unless otherwise specified, most pastas, baked goods, bread, crackers, cereals, salad dressings, flour tortillas, beer, and sauces such as gravy typically contain gluten. While specialty gluten-free products are now becoming more widely available, there are still many ingredients that are restricted from a gluten-free diet.

Naturally gluten-free foods:

Luckily, though, there are also some really great (and really healthy!) foods that are gluten free by nature! Fruits, vegetables, meat and poultry, seafood, dairy, beans, nuts, rice, corn, potatoes, certain vinegars like apple cider vinegar, rice vinegar, wine and balsamic vinegars, and grains such as quinoa and millet are all GLUTEN-FREE! Cucina Antica pasta sauces, salad dressings, cranberry sauce, and organic ketchup are GLUTEN-FREE as well!

Now, because November is Gluten-Free Diet Awareness Month, we would like to show support and solidarity for those who have to avoid gluten. In order to do so, we're going to be sharing recipes that can fit a gluten-free diet with ease!

 

Sources and more resources:

https://celiac.org/

https://celiac.org/celiac-disease/symptomssigns/

www.celiaccentral.org/

www.csaceliacs.org/vinegar.jsp

www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/gluten-free-diet/art-20048530

www.med.uio.no/klinmed/english/research/news-and-events/news/2015/simplified-diagnosis-coeliac.html

www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/09/150924112526.htm