Category Archives: Side Dishes

Stuffed Artichokes

Stuffed artichokes are one of the dishes that I make on almost every major occasion since it’s something everyone always asks for and enjoys (including the kids!).  It’s tasty and easy to make, not taking more than 10 minutes to prepare and 30 minutes to cook.

Stuffed artichoke time

Artichokes are an incredibly versatile vegetable, and this is just one recipe that I use them (we’ll make others in the future).  The artichoke originates in the Mediterranean region and has been cultivated in Sicily for hundreds of years, dating back to pre-Roman times.  So it comes as no surprise that it is a staple in every Italian kitchen and certainly is in my Sicilian kitchen.

I have great memories of the family sitting around the table, drinking wine (red wine goes great with artichokes), scraping the “meat” off the artichoke leaves and the kids vying over who will get the prized artichoke hearts that the adults elected to give away.

You’ll need the following ingredients for this recipe:

Put the seasoned breadcrumbs in a bowl.  Drizzle a half a cup of olive oil into the breadcrumbs and mix.  The oil should mix thoroughly throughout the breadcrumbs.

Clean the artichokes by cutting away any loose leaves.  Cut off the stem (you can stuff the stem inside the artichoke if you’d like– it tastes just as good as the hear– or you can throw it away).  Wash the artichoke thoroughly.  Bang the artichoke against a solid surface, which will help the leaves open up for you to wash them and eventually stuff them.

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Serve stuffed artichokes hot. Right out the pan is great!

Once washed, dry the artichokes off.  Get a small spoon and start placing the breadcrumbs in between the leaves of the artichoke.  You won’t be able to stuff every leave, but you should get good coverage of the the whole artichoke.  Once completed, place in a large pan.  Repeat with the rest of the artichokes.

Once all the artichokes are in pan, drizzle about a cup of olive oil the top of the artichokes.  Sprinkle salt and pepper, then add a 1-1.5 cups of water into the pan.  Place the pan on high heat on your stove and cover.

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Stuffed artichokes are great as a side dish or appetizer.

Cook the artichokes for about 30 minutes, checking on them every 10 minutes or so.  Add more water (1-1.5 cups) to the pan once the other water evaporates.  Your goal is to get the leaves and the heart of the artichoke steamed enough so they are soft.  You can test how done they are by removing a leaf and tasting it.  If the vegetable slides off the leaf easily into your mouth, then it is done.  When done, remove from the pan and serve!

I hope you develop your own memories and traditions with this recipe.  Let me know how it goes!

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Stuffed Zucchini

Zucchini is one of the most versatile (and tasty) vegetables in the Italian kitchen.  In Episode 18 we shared with you Zucchini Italiani, and in Episode 19, we continue with this wonderful vegetable and share with you another way to prepare it– stuffed.  Stuffed zucchini makes a great appetizer or a side dish.

Stuffed zucchini, hot and ready to serve!

Stuffed zucchini takes about 30 minutes to prepare.  As always, we recommend using the freshest ingredients, preferably home-grown from in your garden.  Otherwise, fresh vegetables from the market will work, too.  You’ll need the following ingredients for this recipe:

  • 1-2 large zucchini, remove the seeds.  The zucchini needs to be large enough for you to stuff, so find the biggest one you can.  Homegrown or farm stands are usually the best place to find such large beasts.
  • 1 small zucchini, peeled and diced.
  • 2-3 celery stalks, diced.  Dice up some of the stalk leaves as well.
  • 1-2 potatoes, diced.
  • 1 medium onion, diced.
  • 1 clove of garlic, diced.
  • 1 cup of tomato sauce.  You can make your own by dicing up 1-2 large, fresh tomatoes or use plain, unseasoned tomato sauce
  • 1 cup of pignoli or pine nuts
  • 1 1/2 cups of seasoned breadcrumbs.  See Episode 1 for how to prepare the breadcrumbs.
  • 6-7 green olives, pitted and diced up
  • 2-3 spoonfuls of provolone cheese, diced or shredded
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of oregano
  • salt & pepper to season

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare the zucchini

Start off by slicing the zucchini length-wise and cleaning out the seeds.  Cut out some excess zucchini to create a hollow center in the zucchini in which you can place the stuffing.  Dice up the pieces of excess zucchini you used to hollow the center, or if you don’t have enough, peel and dice up a small zucchini.  Place about 3-4 spoonfuls of the diced up zucchini into the hollowed center.  Place the zucchini halves on a flat, oven-safe pan and set aside.

Prepare the stuffing

Heat 2 spoonfuls of olive oil on the stove in a large frying pan.  While the oil is heating, place the diced garlic in a bowl with the diced onion, then place the onions and garlic in the frying pan.  Mix the diced celery into the pan as well.  Stir and saute until tender.  When finished, place in a bowl and set aside.

Heat some more olive oil in the pan.  When heated, place the potatoes into the pan.  Saute until soft.  When finished, mix the garlic, onion and celery mixture int the potatoes. Stir them together.  When mixed together thoroughly, add the seasoned breadcrumbs and stir.  Next, add in the pignoli nuts, dice olives and shredde provolone cheese.  Mix together thoroughly over a medium heat on the stove.  You want to make sure the mixture is moist, so add some more olive oil if it’s too dry.

Stuff and bake the zucchini

Spoon the stuffing into the hollowed out zucchinis.  Stuff them all the way to the top, feeling free to overstuff them a bit if you’d like!  When done stuffing, spoon tomato sauce over the top of the stuffed zucchini.  Sprinkle oregano over the top. Drizzle a little bit of olive oil on top as well.

Add about 1 cup of water to the bottom of the pan before placing into the oven.  This is necessary to assist in cooking the zucchini all the way through, including on the bottom.

Place the pan into the oven and let bake for about 15-20 minutes.  You’ll know it’s done when the zucchini is tender all the way through and the stuffing is browned on top.

Serve while hot.  I typically serve it as an appetizer or a side dish, slicing it into generous portions.   Buon appetito!

Broccoli Rabe

Vegetables play an important role in the Italian kitchen– from tomatoes to beans to garlic to asparagus.  One of the most beloved is broccoli rabe or also known as broccoli rapini.  It’s also quickly gaining popularity in the US, and for good reason– it’s a tasty, versatile vegetable.  The flavor is nutty, bitter and delicious. When mixed with some garlic and sauteed in olive oil, it’s absolutely fantastic.  And that’s how we prepare it in episode 14 of the Cooking with Mama Lombardo show.

Broccoli rabe, a staple vegetable in Italian cooking, particularly in southern Italy

This recipe, like all the others I’ve shared with you, came directly from my mother, who was born and raised in Sicily.  Broccoli rabe sauteed with garlic is something she’d make as a side dish, but it can make a meal unto itself– making for a great meal with some crunchy Italian white bread.

The recipe is simple, and should take you about 15-20 minutes to prepare.  For this recipe, you will need 2 fresh bunches of broccoli rabe, 5-6 cloves of garlic, salt, pepper, and about 1/2 cup of olive oil. You can find broccoli rabe in most grocery stores.  Make sure you buy it fresh.  Avoid wilted, older looking broccoli rabe.  You can prepare one or two bunches (or more), depending upon how many people you are serving– just adjust the ingredients accordingly.  This recipe calls for two fresh bunches of broccoli rabe.

Start off by preparing the broccoli rabe by cutting off the bottom stems and peeling the sides.  Once you have done that, wash the broccoli rabe thoroughly.  I usually use a pan as well as a colander to fully wash and drain the leaves.  Once the leaves are washed, put about an inch or an inch and a half of water at the bottom of a large pan.  Place the washed leaves in the pan and place on the stove at high heat.  Steam the broccoli rabe for about 5-8 minutes, until the leaves are fully soft.  You’ll see the “loft” of the leaves go down and into the bottom of the pan.  You want to avoid over-steaming them.

Take the finished steamed broccoli rabe and drain out all the water.  Let the leaves drain and dry out thoroughly.  You want to make sure all the excess water is off of the leaves.  Sometimes using a paper towel to wipe up the excess water can help speed up the process.

Broccoli rabe: serve as a side dish or as a delicious meal with Italian white bread

While the broccoli rabe is drying, peel the garlic cloves and dice them up.  Place them aside for later use.  Next, place a large frying pan on the stove at high heat, and add the olive oil.  Once the olive oil is heated, place the broccoli rabe into the pan.  The broccoli rabe should immediately start crackling in the oil.  Once you’ve got the surface of the pan covered with the broccoli rabe, continue to snip the longer pieces into smaller pieces with a scissors, which will help make it less “stringy” when eating.  From a circle of the broccoli rabe in the pan with a spoon, and then place the garlic into the circle.  Spread the garlic out and mix it with the broccoli rabe.

Flip the broccoli rabe over a few times while cooking for about 6-10 minutes.  Get it crispy and brown on both sides.  Once it’s well cooked, place onto a pan and serve hot!  I like to serve it with crunchy Italian white bread– an absolutely fantastic combination.  Enjoy!