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Pancetta and Beans with Spinach

December 13, 2016 Entrees, Menu No Comments

With the cold winter weather rolling in, now’s the time to start planning some good, old fashioned, stick-to-your-ribs kind of meals. The dish that I’m sharing with you today is one of my all time favorites. The simple, yet classic ingredients make for a wonderfully tasty and hearty comfort dish. Old-school Italian soul food at its best!






Pancetta and Beans with Spinach

4 oz pancetta, diced
1 small onion, diced
1 14.5 oz stewed tomatoes, drained
1 15 oz can cannellini or garbanzo beans (I use a mixture of both)
1 bag spinach
olive oil (if needed)
1/4 to 1/2 cup chicken broth (if needed)
salt and pepper

Sauté pancetta in a large pan over medium heat until crispy and fat is rendered, about 7-10 minutes. Remove pancetta and set aside.

Add onion to rendered fat in the pan, sauté until soft and translucent (you can add some olive oil if needed). Add tomatoes and beans, stir together, cook until heated.

Add the spinach, stir together. You can add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of chick broth if needed, to help cook down the spinach.

Once the spinach is cooked down, add the pancetta back to the pan. Stir together, season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve and enjoy with a loaf of crispy Italian bread!




Pasta e Ceci (Pasta with Chickpeas)

October 27, 2015 Pasta, Soup No Comments

With the cooler fall air rolling in, now is the time of year that I enjoy making soups and stews. This past weekend’s brisk weather was the perfect time for me to make a pot of Pasta e Ceci (pronounced as pasta & chichi), which is a cousin to the famous Pasta e Fagioli. Instead of using the traditional kidney or cannelloni beans, this recipe uses garbanzo beans, also known as chickpeas. Many pasta e ceci recipes use ingredients similar to other pasta and bean dishes, such as pancetta, fresh rosemary and thyme, and a mirepoix (sautéed carrots, celery and onions). My recipe is a bit abbreviated, but I promise you it does not lack in heartiness or rich flavor! My version of this dish can be prepped and served in just under an hour, which makes it a practical and comforting dish for any chilly weekend or weekday meal.



Pasta e Ceci

1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbspn olive oil
2 bay leaves
1 14oz can stewed tomatoes
1 16oz can garbanzo beans/chick peas, drained
1 32oz can/container of low sodium vegetable or chicken broth
1 tbspn grated parmesan cheese, plus additional for serving
1 cup short cut pasta, such as dilatini or elbow macaroni
salt and pepper

Heat oil over medium heat in a large pot. Add onion, stir to evenly coat. Let simmer until onions become soft and translucent. Add garlic, stir. Simmer for 30 seconds, until garlic becomes fragrant. Add stewed tomatoes and their juices, along with about 1/3 can of beans. Add bay leaves, stir together. Let simmer for about 5-7 minutes. Using a potato masher, rough-smash the tomatoes and beans, making a chunky broth. You can also use an emulsifier or remove the beans to puree them and add them back into the soup for a creamier texture, but I prefer to mash them along with the softened tomatoes. Add the remaining beans, along with 3 cups of the broth. The soup will thicken up as it cooks, so you can add the remaining broth as needed. Add 1tbspn grated parmesan, stir. Cover the pot, reduce heat to medium low and let simmer for about 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add pasta, stir well. Again, the soup will thicken up as the beans and pasta cook and expand. You can slowly add more broth or water as needed, or to your liking. Heat another 5-10 minutes until pasta is cooked. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Serve with crusty bread. Top with additional grated or shaved parmesan cheese.

The basic ingredients...plus a little wine!

The basic ingredients…plus a little wine!

Early stages of the soup.

Early stages of the soup.

Rough-smashing the beans and tomatoes.

Rough-smashing the beans and tomatoes.

Served with shaved parmesan cheese and crusty bread.

Served with shaved parmesan cheese and crusty bread.


Broiled Rainbow Trout with Cannellini Beans and Pancetta

November 27, 2012 Entrees, Menu No Comments

After getting through yet another Thanksgiving weekend filled with way too much food and celebration (what other kind of holiday weekend is there, really?) I decided yesterday to switch gears completely and go with a healthy (ok, healthier) dinner. One of the meals that I enjoyed a few weeks back while on vacation in Disney World was broiled rainbow trout served over a mixture of white beans, arugula and bacon. It was definitely on my ‘to do’ list to recreate this dish, and yesterday was the perfect opportunity.

Instead of using bacon, which is always paired nicely with rainbow trout, I opted for one of my favorite Italian go-to accent ingredients…pancetta! I also wanted to substitute a more hearty green for the arugula, and went with a nice side of broccoli rabe. You can also use a more leafy green, such as sauteed swiss chard or escarole and incorporate it into the bean mixture. Because broccoli rabe is more of a chunky green, it works better as a side dish in this instance.

Assembling this dish was fairly easy: first sauteing the pancetta and beans in a skillet, then seasoning and broiling the trout. Plating this dish rustic style is the best way to serve it – simply place the broiled trout filets over the bean mixture, and drizzle with a balsamic reduction. The rustic presentation will make for a nice dish to serve this holiday season at a dinner party…or better yet, as part of your Feast of the 7 Fishes.

Broiled Rainbow Trout with Cannellini Beans and Pancetta

1 15 oz can cannellini beans
4 oz (or two 1/4″ thick slices) pancetta, sliced into small cubes
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth (your choice)
2 filets rainbow trout
olive oil
salt and pepper
1 cup balsamic vinegar

Step 1: Prepare the Beans
In a large skillet over medium heat, add 2 tbspns olive oil. Add the onion, stir and cook until translucent. Add the pancetta and stir together. Cook over medium heat for about 8-10 minutes, or until pancetta becomes slightly crisp. Add a bit of the broth as needed to keep the pancetta from sticking to the pan. Drain the beans, then add to the pancetta. Stir and cook for about 3-5 minutes until beans are warmed, again adding more broth as needed to keep from sticking to the pan. Remove from heat, cover to keep warm. You can also add sauteed greens to the mixture, such as swiss chard or escarole.

Step 2: Prepare the Rainbow Trout
Turn your broiler to 500˚, placing the cooking rack closest to the top. Lightly oil the filets on both the meat and skin side, season with salt and pepper. Cover a baking dish with aluminum foil and lightly oil. Place the filets on the dish, skin-side down. Broil for 4-5 minutes, or until the trout starts to flake. Check it often to make sure it does not burn. Carefully remove from broiler. The skin should peel off easily at this point (you can also remove the skin as you serve the fish).

Step 3: Plating the Meal
Using a large serving dish, spread out the bean mixture evenly. Place the filets on top of the beans. You can break the filets into smaller pieces for easier serving. Drizzle with a balsamic reduction*. Serve with a nice, crisp white wine.

*Balsamic Reduction
To reduce balsamic vinegar simply means to cook it in a skillet or pan until it starts to thicken. Because it reduces, you want to use about 4 times as much as you will need for drizzling. For this recipe, you will use 1 cup balsamic. Pour the balsamic into a skillet over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer until it starts to thicken up (about 3-5 minutes total). It will continue to thicken up after you remove the pan from the heat, so be sure to remove it from the heat while it’s still a just a bit thinner than you prefer. Drizzle over the fish.

And speaking of Disney….

I finally got to personally meet and spend some quality time with my favorite celebrity chef!



Escarole and Beans

September 10, 2012 Appetizer, Menu No Comments

Traditional side dishes are often my favorite part of a big Italian meal. The simplicity of sauteed greens (such as swiss chard, broccoli rabe or mustard greens) are always the perfect balance to the main course. Today I am sharing with you one of my favorites, sauteed escarole with beans.

Escarole is a mild green that is often used in soups – escarole and bean soup being one of the more common Italian soups. In my version, the escarole and beans are heated separately, then combined to make a delicious, creamy side that is perfect for serving with crusty Italian bread. You can add cooked sausage, bacon or ham to this dish for additional flavor.





1 large head Escarole, thoroughly cleaned and chopped
2 tbspn olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 16 oz can cannellini or garbanzo beans, undrained
salt and pepper to taste

In a large skillet, heat one tbspn olive oil. Add garlic. When fragrant, add chopped escarole, tossing well until all leaves are coated. Stir for about 10 minutes, or until tender. Remove from skillet, season with salt and pepper. Place in a covered bowl and set aside.

Rinse skillet for reuse. Heat remaining tbsn olive oil, again adding garlic when oil is heated. Add the beans and their juices. Stir and simmer until a creamy sauce develops, about 10 minutes. Add escarole to the pan, toss and simmer for a few more minutes.

Serve on a platter with crusty Italian bread.


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