Parmesan Garlic Shells with Spinach, Zucchini and Ham
This is a super easy and tasty dish that I whipped up one night with some of the ingredients I had on hand. It’s a light and savory pasta dish made with large shell pasta, sauteed spinach, zucchini and ham with garlic and a creamy parmesan alfredo sauce, with a few sprinkles of red pepper flakes, sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Perfect dish for a weeknight dinner, with some crusty French or Italian bread, a green salad and glass of wine. You can also substitute whole wheat pasta in any shape or size you please. Cooked diced bacon or prosciutto are also delicious in place of the cooked ham. If you want to experiment with the veggies, try broccoli or peas or yellow squash, what ever your heart desires!
Parmesan Garlic Shells with Spinach, Zucchini and Ham
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
1 bag of medium-large shell pasta (fresh or dried)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 large zucchini, sliced 1/4 inch thin and halved
1 bag of fresh spinach (leaves), chopped
1-2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
1 cup of cooked Virginia ham, diced (can sub cooked prosciutto or bacon)
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
PARMESAN GARLIC SAUCE:
1 tablespoon butter
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons flour
Sea salt, to taste
1 cup low-fat milk
2 tablespoons neufchatel or cream cheese
1 cup parmesan cheese
Fresh parsley, chopped for garnish
1 green onion, sliced for garnish
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add pasta shells and cook according to package directions until al dente (about 8 minutes dried, 3 minutes fresh). Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of cooking water and set aside.
Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a medium-large saute pan and add zucchini. Sprinkle with salt and fresh ground pepper to taste and cook for about 8-10 minutes until zucchini is soft. Add 1 tablespoon of garlic and saute for another minute or so until garlic starts to brown. Remove zucchini-garlic mixture from saute pan and set aside in a medium-large mixing bowl.
Add another tablespoon of olive oil to the saute pan and heat for a minute or so. Add the fresh chopped spinach, salt and pepper to taste, and red pepper flakes, stirring through. Saute spinach about 3-5 minutes until wilted. Add the cooked diced ham and saute another few minutes until browned. Remove spinach and ham from saute pan and add to cooked zucchini in mixing bowl.
To make the Parmesan Garlic Sauce:
Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.
Add the garlic and cook until soft and lightly browned, about 1 minute.
Add in the flour and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, another minute.
Whisk in the milk, a sprinkle of sea salt and cook, whisking constantly, until just thickened, about 3 minutes.
Add the Neufchatel and parmesan cheese; whisk until melted, about 1 minute.
Combine the cooked pasta shells, 1/2 cup cooking water from pasta, sauteed zucchini, spinach and ham to the alfredo garlic sauce, stir thoroughly to mix ingredients for another minute or so.
Sprinkle additional salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste into the pasta mixture. Remove from saute pan and place in a large serving bowl. Top pasta with chopped fresh parsley and green onions, and top with more parmesan cheese to taste.
Serve the pasta with some crusty bread, a green salad and glass of wine.
You can also substitute whole wheat pasta in any shape or size you please. Cooked diced bacon or prosciutto are also delicious in place of the cooked ham. If you want to experiment with the veggies, try broccoli or peas or yellow squash, what ever your heart desires!
I always look forward to the season change to Autumn – there’s something calming to the beautiful colors of the leaves, the cooler temperatures, and sunny skies. It’s a time of harvesting and celebration of autumnal fruits of the earth mixed with a sadness for the upcoming cold Winter months.
I love the heartier, warming foods Autumn brings, and there’s nothing better than a delicious bowl of homemade soup. It reminds me of when I was a kid – my Mom would always have a big pot of soup simmering away on the stove to warm us up after a day outside romping in the leaves in the brisk, cool weather. Mom’s soup was always something to look forward to and a safe haven to come home to.
This recipe for Italian White Bean, Vegetable & Pasta Soup is a simple and nutritious soup chock full of fresh vegetables and herbs, pasta and Italian Great Northern white beans. It’s great topped with some freshly grated cheese, served with crusty bread and a leafy green salad.
The good news with vegetable soup is you can substitute just about any veggies you want – throw in some kale or spinach, zucchini, green beans, peas, corn; whatever your heart desires. It’s healthy and filling and warming to the soul.
And it’s definitely worth taking a romp in the leaves if you know there’s a pot of goodness on the stove waiting for you.
Freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese (for garnish)
In a large stock pot or Dutch oven, heat olive oil and sauté onions, tomatoes, carrots, celery, bell pepper and zucchini over medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Add the minced garlic and sauté another 1-2 minutes.
Add the pasta, white beans, salt and pepper to taste, paprika, fennel seed, chopped fresh herbs, water and vegetable stock; cover and simmer over medium-low for 30 to 40 minutes until cooked through and vegetables are tender. Add additional salt and pepper to taste, and extra stock or water to adjust desired consistency and thickness.
Garnish with fresh thyme leaves and freshly grated cheese; serve with crusty Italian bread and a leafy green salad.
Feel free to substitute or add any veggies you like to the soup: Zucchini, Green Beans, Squash, Corn, Peas, etc.
Adjust thinness or thickness of soup by adding more or less broth and/or water to the soup while it cooks down.
On a recent trip to San Diego with a group of friends, we made an awesome dinner one night, and definitely one to remember. We rented an amazing house right on the ocean at Mission Beach that had gorgeous views of the sunset - -
a huge round disk of bright orange, yellow and red hues sinking into the horizon – absolutely breathtaking..
Chicken, Spinach & Wild Mushroom Lasagna
My friend (Paula) showed up with a delicious recipe for Chicken, Spinach & Wild Mushroom Lasagna (by Daniel Boulud) which was an amazingly creamy, savory dish to die for! The lasagna is made with a creamy base of sauteed celery and onions, white wine, nutmeg, flour and cream mixed with fresh spinach, wild mushrooms (we used Chanterelles but you can use any mix of wild mushrooms you prefer) and chicken breast. We topped off the lasagna noodles and chicken and mushroom mixture with several gooey layers of Fontina and Parmesan cheese, and baked it into a bubbly pot of goodness in the oven.
We served it with some Parmesan-Garlic Crostini and a green salad, and of course a few bottles of white wine to accompany. Daniel Johnnes, wine director of Daniel Boulud’s restaurants suggests choosing a wine from the Campania region of Italy, such as the 2009 Fiano di Avellino from Feudi di San Gregorio ($19). An alternative is Occhipinti SP68 IGT Sicilia Bianco 2009 ($26). Both of these choices are medium bodied with bold flavor and a soft texture.
**Note*** Men should definitely stay out of a female-dominated kitchen to avoid a big noodle slap when making a dish as good as this! Enjoy
Parsley and Fontina Cheese
Lasagna Ready For Oven
Parmesan Garlic Crostini
Oh, and don’t forget the rooftop with great friends and an amazing view to top it all off. We had such an awesome time I’m already planning my next visit back to this gorgeous beach..
Dusk, Mission Beach San Diego
Until then, I’ll just keep dreaming about that fiery red glowing sunset… :)
California Dreamin’ :: Chicken, Wild Mushroom & Fontina Cheese Lasagna
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
5 tablespoons EVOO
2 medium onions, diced fine
2 celery stalks, diced fine
1 pound wild mushrooms (chanterelles, black trumpet, hen of woods), trimmed and washed, roughly chopped
1/2 pound spinach leaves, torn and washed, no stems
4 tablespoons butter, plus extra grease to pan
2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup heavy cream
3 cups milk
1/2 bunch Italian parsley leaves, chopped
Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
16 dried lasagna noodles
1 pound of Fontina cheese, diced or cut into medium-thin slices
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Prep all vegetables (chop onions, celery, spinach, mushrooms, parsley), cut up chicken and pat dry.
Measure out all wet and dry ingredients (wine, cream, milk, flour, nutmeg, salt and pepper, grated Parmesan).
Cut Fontina cheese into small dice, or medium-thin slices for layering.
Sauté celery and onions with salt and pepper over medium-low for 3 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high, add mushrooms, cook and stir for 3 minutes. Add spinach, salt and pepper, cook until wilted and mushrooms are tender. Remove from heat and reserve.
Add butter to same pot, adjust heat to medium. Season chicken on all sides with salt and pepper, add to butter. Cook stirring 6 minutes until chicken is browned. Add wine, simmer until almost reduced. Sprinkle flour over the chicken and cook, stirring for 5 mins, allowing flour to coat the chicken and absorb the liquid.
Gradually stir in cream and milk, scraping pot, stirring with a whisk to break up cooked flour. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring constantly, allow liquid to thicken. Reserve 1 cup of liquid and remove pot from heat, add cooked mushroom and spinach mixture. Add parsley, season with nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste.
Cook lasagna noodles 8 mins in salted water. Drain and rinse in cold water. Toss with 2 tablespoons EVOO.
Preheat oven to 350. Butter a 9x13 baking pan. Layer 4 noodles on bottom. Top with 1/3 chicken mixture and 1/3 Fontina cheese. Repeat layers twice, finish with layer of noodles. Spread reserved sauce over noodles and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. (can put in fridge or freezer at this point, tightly covered with aluminum foil or plastic wrap).
Cover with foil or lid and bake for 30 minutes. Increase heat to 400 degrees and remove foil and cook until golden brown and bubbly, another 10-15 mins.
To make the Parmesan Garlic Crostini:
Slice a loaf of Italian bread into 1/4-1/2 inch slices and drizzle with olive oil, shredded Parmesan cheese, garlic powder and bake in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes or until lightly golden brown and crunchy.
Sprinkle the lasagna with chopped parsley, some extra grated cheese if desired, and serve with the parmesan garlic crostini.
Serve with a leafy green salad with a vinaigrette dressing, some crusty garlic bread and a dry white wine such as Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio.
The lasagna can be made a day ahead to save time, just keep it tightly covered with plastic wrap of foil and pop it in the oven when ready to bake.
Freezes well too - wrap in plastic and foil in individual portions and reheat in the microwave or oven.
Veal Saltimbocca is one of my favorite dishes, and makes a simple, elegant meal for any dinner occasion. This traditional Roman dish uses thinly pounded veal scallopine cutlets which are sautéed in butter and oil, then topped with crispy prosciutto and sage with a buttery white wine sauce.
This Romanesque Italian dish is usually served with a side of mashed potatoes or Piselli alla Romana – savory buttered peas sautéed with onion and pancetta (recipe follows). Make it a complete meal by serving with an Arugula salad, topped with shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano and a dressing of EVOO and lemon juice and some fresh cracked black pepper. Enjoy with a glass of dry white wine and crusty Italian bread.
Veal Saltimbocca with Buttery Wine Sauce (Saltimbocca alla Romana)
1 lb veal scaloppine, ¼ inch thick
Salt and freshly ground pepper
12 to 14 sage leaves
¼ lb thinly sliced prosciutto, slices halved
4 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp olive oil
½ cup dry white wine
Sage leaves, for garnish
Place veal cutlets between 2 pieces of plastic wrap and with a meat pounder or heavy sauce pan, pound veal to 1/4 inch thick. Cut scaloppine in half crosswise and season on both sides with the salt and pepper.
Place 1 sage leaf on top of each scaloppine and cover each with a half piece of the prosciutto.
In a large skillet, combine 2 tbsp of the butter and the oil and heat over high heat. When the mixture starts to brown, add the scaloppine, prosciutto side down first for 1 minute. Reduce the heat to medium and flip over scaloppine, sauté turning as needed, until the scallopine are evenly browned and cooked through about 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer the scallopine to a warm platter and tent with foil to keep warm.
To make the sauce, add the wine to the skillet and with a wooden spoon scrape the pan bottom to deglaze it. Increase the heat to high and allow the sauce to reduce until golden and syrupy, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the remaining butter. Season with the salt and pepper, and pour over the veal. Garnish with the remaining sage and serve warm.
Roman Sauteed Peas
Roman Sauteed Peas with Pancetta (Piselli alla Romana)
1/2 cup butter
1 medium onion, chopped fine
4 cups peas, fresh and shelled (or 1 package frozen peas*)
1-1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
4 tbsp. chicken stock or water
6 thick slices pancetta, chopped fine (can also use bacon or prosciutto)
1/4 tsp. sugar
Place butter and onion is a saucepan and saute over medium-low heat until the onion is soft and translucent. Add peas, salt, pepper, stock and pancetta; cook until peas are tender and pancetta and onions are cooked through. Add sugar, mix well and serve hot with Veal Saltimbocca.
*If frozen peas are used, follow cooking directions on the package after cooking the onion.
Recipes from Techniques of Italian Cooking, Institute of Culinary Education.
Watch the video as Kristen Hess interviews Chef de CuisineJimmy Canora at Valentino’s on the Green – the legendary fine dining Italian restaurant in Bayside Queens. The Chef demonstrates his infamous dish Chicken Breast Valentino with Creamy Polenta, Wild Mushrooms, Roasted Spring Vegetables and Madeira Wine Sauce and discusses his background and history as a Chef and Cookbook Author.
Valentino's on the Green
Valentino’s on the Green is a romantic fine dining Italian restaurant in a beautiful old mansion in a neighborhood rich in history, culture and style. This elegant establishment pays homage to Italian-born silent film legend and former resident, Rudolph Valentino. Valentino was America’s first sex symbol derived from his provocative roles in films such as The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921) and The Sheik (1921). He helped launch the new era of film and film stars and was one of the most iconic figures of Hollywood. Valentino’s on the Green combines this romantic history and Italian culinary expertise into a one-of-a-kind dining experience.
Giorgio Kolaj & Don Pintabona
Headed by restaurateur Giorgio Kolaj, and renowned chef and cookbook author, Don Pintabona, who helped Robert DeNiro launch Tribeca Grill in NYC, Pintabona has served as Executive Chef for over a decade. Jimmy Canora, an award-winning chef, also formerly of Tribeca Grill and Delmonico’s; has brought his culinary mastery to Valentino’s on the Green and created an exceptional menu for this gorgeous historical landmark.
Valentino’s on the Green has several dining rooms inside elegantly furnished with chandeliers, grand mouldings, burgundy leather and mahogany furnishings and large windows. They have a gorgeous outside patio for dining in the warmer months, overlooking a golf course and beautiful park. They serve lunch, dinner and brunch on Sundays and have a spectacular dessert menu as well as a special Mother’s Day brunch annually. Reservations are accepted for private parties in the banquet hall with space for up to 220 guests, and catering is also available.
Start your meal with an Appetizer of fresh seafood including Shrimp or Crabmeat Cocktail, Grilled Octopus and Oysters or an Antipasti platter, soup or salad. Their Pasta is fresh made daily – Braised Short Rib Ragu with Mixed Mushrooms, Ricotta and Rosemary and Sweet Pea Mascarpone Ravioli or Lemon Tagliatelle Frutti Di Mare are just a few of their popular selections.
For Main Course, Valentino’s offers classic entrees such as Veal Marsala, Chicken Parmesan, Shrimp Scampi, Grilled Swordfish, Herb Crusted Lamb Chops, Steaks, Pork Braciole “Valdostana”, and their infamous Chicken Breast Valentino, stuffed with Fontina Cheese, Prosciutto and Spinach cooked in a buttery Madeira wine sauce with mushrooms and served with luscious creamy polenta and grilled Spring vegetables (recipe below). Last but not least they have an amazing dish of Spicy Chili Glazed Lobsters, with Spring Onion and Bay Scallop Risotto, Asparagus and Brandied Lobster Sauce that is out of this world.
Appetizers range from $8-29, Soups and Salads range from $7-$13 and Dinner Entrees range from $16-49. They offer a $24 Three Course Lunch Prix Fixe and Mother’s Day Brunches run at $49.50 per person. Reservations are accepted and recommended via phone or OpenTable.com.
Chicken Breast Valentino
Chicken Breast Valentino
6 boneless chicken breasts, pounded ¼” thin
1 c Seasoned all purpose flour
¼ c unsalted butter
¼ c extra virgin olive oil
½ c Madeira wine
1 c chicken stock, as needed
1 c veal stock, or low sodium beef broth, as needed
6 slices Prosciutto Di Parma, thinly sliced
6 slices Fontina cheese, thinly sliced
3 tbsp Parmiagiano Reggiano, grated
6 fresh Sage leaves
1 c cooked mixed mushrooms, (Oyster, Portabella, Crimini & Shitake)
1 small leek, white part only, diced and blanched
2 c cooked polenta, (Mascarpone, Parmesan, Chicken stock, Cream)
2 c roasted Spring veggies (baby zucchini, patty pan squash & baby carrots)
¼ c fresh chopped parsley, garnish
6 springs fresh thyme, garnish
Season and lightly flour chicken breasts, shaking off excess flour.
In a large skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil/butter, 2 tbsp at a time and when butter starts to foam, add the chicken breasts in batches, sauté until lightly browned about 2 minutes per side. Remove and set aside, and repeat until all chicken is cooked.
Increase the heat and add the mushrooms and leeks and sauté until the release of their liquid and start to crisp, about 1 minute, then add the Madeira wine and simmer to reduce to ¼, adding in the stock along with some more butter, salt and pepper.
Reduce heat to very low and top each chicken breast with a slice of prosciutto, sage, Fontina and sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese.
Return to the skillet until the cheese melts and chicken is warmed through.
Serve with hot polenta and roasted Spring vegetables and sauce each plate with the Madeira Mushroom sauce. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley and a spring of fresh thyme for garnish.
Kristen Hess is a NYC-based food stylist and photographer, writer.
Her professional background is in advertising, design and creative direction, marketing and social media for many well-known food and beverage brands.
She is passionate about food and travel, art and design, photography, theatre and film and all things creative.
Food Styling & Photography Portfolio: http://www.kristenhess.com