Zuppa Toscana from Northern Tuscany, Hearty Winter Soup Recipe

Zuppa Toscana (Northern Tuscany)

This recipe was contributed by Michele Molinari, whose great-grandmother was from southern Reggio Emilia on the border with Northern Tuscany. She used to call it Zuppa Toscana because she said that was the way it was prepared in Tuscany; Michele has no precise details as to where it originated for sure.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup millet
  • 1 cup borlotti beans
  • 2 cups chickpeas
  • 2 cups lentils
  • 2 cups farro
  • water
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 white onion, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 5 sage leaves
  • 10 plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 bay leafs
  • 1 cup green peas
  • salt and pepper
  1. Soak the millet, borlotti beans, chickpeas, lentils and farro in water overnight, changing the water 2 or 3 times if possible. Rinse and drain.
  2. Place them in a pot, cover with water, and bring to boil. Then simmer for about 2 hours, covered. Add salt towards the end of the cooking time.
  3. Meanwhile, heat 1 cup extra virgin olive oil in a saucepan, add onion, garlic, celery, carrots and sage. Fry for a few minutes over a medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon. When the onion and the garlic begin to darken, add the tomatoes. Simmer until the excess water from the tomatoes evaporates. Turn off and wait for legumes to be ready.
  4. When legumes are cooked, take about 2 cups of the legumes and pure in a food processor or food mill. Return the pure to the pot.
  5. Add the bay leaves, green peas and the olive oil mixture, simmer for 1 hour semi-covered. Add boiling water if needed to reach the preferred thickness.

For a perfect taste, serve the following day after preparing the soup. Serve hot with a swirl of extra virgin olive oil, ground pepper, and a couple slices of slightly toasted bread.

Buon appetito!

Raw Greek Bulgur Salad

Today I will give you a very easy summer recipe that can be prepared in no time flat. And it is raw. And vegetarian. And can be made vegan.

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This salad uses the juices from tomatoes and cucumbers to “cook” the bulgur, so there is no actual cooking. This makes it perfect for summer when we don’t want to cook AND for lunchboxes because it is ready in no time flat (there is some resting time in the recipe, but you can shorten it). Plus it is a healthy and fresh dish that would work as a side or a light main course.

Raw Greek bulgur salad and where I was

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup bulgur
  • 2 medium heirloom tomatoes
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 cup feta
  • 5-8 black olives
  • salt

Directions

  1. Peel the cucumber and dice it. Place in a bowl.
  2. Add the diced tomatoes to the bowl and the peeled garlic clove cut in half. Add salt and mix well. Let rest for 10-20 minutes so that the vegetables can start loosing water.
  3. Add the raw bulgur, the feta and the olives. Put the bowl in the fridge and let rest for at least 2 and up to 12 hours. The vegetables will keep loosing water that will be absorbed by the bulgur which will “cook” in the vegetable juices.
  4. Mix again before serving and adjust salt to taste.

Summer pasta with arugula

Let’s try to get back on track and share another recipe before next year….

lately I have been cooking a lot of simple dishes. Mostly salad or pasta salads. It is probably the beginning of summer heat (although today it is kind of cold here), but I really crave light, bright dishes.

I’ve been using raw or lightly cooked ingredients a lot, added in bright dressings based on lemon juice and stayed largely vegetarian. This pasta was no exception: barely cooked tomatoes and arugula, a little olives and mozarella for flavor and nothing more.

Simple, yet delicious!

Summer Pasta with Arugula

Ingredients

  • 7 oz. short pasta (I used cellentani)
  • 20-30 cherry tomatoes
  • 8-12 pitted kalamata olives
  • 6-10 mozzarella cherries
  • 1-2 cups arugula
  • salt
  • olive oil

Directions

  1. Boil water and cook pasta al dente according to instructions.
  2. Meanwhile, slice the cherry tomatoes in half and cook in hot oil for a couple of minutes.
  3. Add the olives and the arugula and let cook until the arugula is wilted (5-10 minutes).
  4. Drain the pasta well al dente and add it to the sauce adding a spoon or two of cooking water.
  5. Add the diced mozzarella and turn off the heat – Mozzarella tends to become gummy if you heat it too much, so don’t wait to turn off the heat, the heat of the pasta will be enough to melt the cheese.
  6. Mix well and serve hot.

Tuna, fennel and beans salad

Today I am presenting a new take on an Italian summer classic: tuna and bean salad. This dish is a delicious and simple summer lunch that is typically put together by mixing canned tuna, canned beans and onions for flavor. Dress it simply with olive oil and maybe a tad of balsamic vinegar and you have a winner!

For this version, I used butter beans and added fennel to the basic ingredients. Of course given how simple this dish is, you have to really pay attention to the ingredients. In particular, the tuna that has to be of good quality or it might be too dry. Since most of the flavor in this salad comes from the onion, choose an onion you like. A white onion will be milder, a purple one will be stronger.

Give it a try and you won’t be disappointed!

Tuna, fennel and beans salad

Ingredients

  • 1 can solid packed tuna (better if it is preserved in olive oil)
  • 1 can beans (cannellini, northern, navy or butter beans work best)
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 fennel
  • olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar or lemon
  • fennel barbs (optional)

Directions

  1. Slice the fennel and the onion as thin as you can (you can also use a mandolin or a meat slicers for this).
  2. Place the onion in a bowl with hot water and salt for 10-30 minutes if you want to mellow it out.
  3. Combine in a bowl the fennel, the onion, the drained and washed beans and the drained tuna.
  4. Dress with olive oil and balsamic vinegar or lemon. Sprinkle with some chopped fennel barbs if you like it.
  5. Mix well and serve.

Pasta with capers, tuna and lemon

And today I’m going to give you a simple pasta with a salty-lemony dress that I made a couple of times last week. It is simple and fresh and is a great simple lunch for summer.

And for today that’s all folks! Brief and to the point.

Pasta with capers, tuna and lemon

Ingredients

  • 7 oz. pasta (I used fusilli)
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp capers
  • 4 anchovies
  • 1 tbsp chopped cilantro
  • 1 can tuna
  • 1 tbsp panko
  • olive oil

Directions

  1. Boil water and cook pasta according to box instructions.
  2. Chop the capers, anchovies, cilanto and the zest of the lemon in a fine mince.
  3. Squeeze the lemon and add it with the oil to a bowl. Mix well.
  4. Add the tuna and the chopped capers, lemon and cilantro and mix well.
  5. Add the drained pasta, mix well and sprinkle with panko for some crunch.