Ciao Italia Five-Ingredient Favorites: Quick and Delicious Recipes from an Italian Kitchen

Ciao Italia Five-Ingredient Favorites: Quick and Delicious Recipes from an Italian Kitchen

by Mary Ann Esposito

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In Mary Ann Esposito's new book, Ciao Italia Five-Ingredient Favorites, she shows home cooks how to turn just five ingredients into an easy, delicious and economical Italian dish for the family dinner table. Mary Ann Esposito knows that the genius behind great Italian cooking is the simple philosophy of using just a few quality ingredients to create something delicious. In Ciao Italia Five-Ingredient Favorites, she shows home cooks how to make that philosophy work for them so that they can save time and money without sacrificing flavor. With seventy five authentic Italian recipes--from antipasti to pastas, main courses and desserts -Esposito draws on the Italian culinary tradition of simplicity in the kitchen to create such effortless and tasty dishes as:

- Prosciutto di Parma, Fontina and Fig Wraps
- Spicy Soppressata Tartlets
- Cheesy Stuffed Meatballs
- Pistachio Dusted Pork Chops
- Oven-Poached Halibut with Shallots and Fennel
- Escarole Salad with Mustard Dressing
- Chocolate, Hazelnut, and Banana Tartlets
- Buttermilk Panna Cotta Infused with Vanilla

With Ciao Italia Five-Ingredient Favorites, Mary Ann Esposito serves up a surefire way to please family and friends with easy recipes that are quick and delicious.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781429931526
Publisher: St. Martin''s Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/22/2010
Series: Ciao Italia
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 160
Sales rank: 750,821
File size: 205 KB

About the Author

MARY ANN ESPOSITO is the host of the long-running PBS series "Ciao Italia." She is the author of nine successful cookbooks, including Ciao Italia Slow and Easy and Ciao Italia Pronto!. She lives in Durham, New Hampshire.

Mary Ann Esposito is the host of the long-running PBS series Ciao Italia. She is the author of eleven successful cookbooks, including Ciao Italia Five-Ingredient Favorites, Ciao Italia Pronto!, and Ciao Italia Slow and Easy. She lives in Durham, New Hampshire, with her husband, Guy.

Read an Excerpt

Ciao Italia Five-Ingredient Favorites

Quick and Delicious Recipes from an Italian Kitchen

By Mary Ann Esposito

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2009 Mary Ann Esposito
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-3152-6


Five Favorite Foods for Thought

* * *

I want you to think differently about the way you approach cooking. What if you had a limited amount of food ingredients to cook with? How would you use them? Think about where you keep food ingredients: in your cupboard or pantry, refrigerator and freezer, right? What would you consider as the five top ingredients to have in each of those locations? That will tell you a lot about the way you cook. Well, here is what I would have, and how I would use them with a little enhancement from everyday staples like salt, pepper, and flour. I can get a lot of variety from the list below by drawing on the five ingredients from the pantry, refrigerator, and freezer, proving once again that less often means more.


Olive Oil
Assorted Dry Pasta
Canned Plum Tomatoes
Red Wine

Olive oil is the common denominator when it comes to Italian cooking; it is used to sauté, bake, dress salads, and drizzle over fish and meats. It is also the base for creating sauces and emulsions. No Italian kitchen is without a selection of extra-virgin olive oils, meaning oil that is derived from olives that are cold pressed and have less than 1-percent acidity. There are numerous extra-virgin olive oils, all with regional characteristics depending on climate and olive type. Like wine, you need to decide what your palate prefers. In the case of extra-virgin olive oils, there are dense and fruity ones from the south of Italy and lighter and milder tasting varieties from the central and northern areas. Buy a few bottles from different regions and try them in your cooking. Olive oil leads to the next must-have in the pantry, an assortment of dried pasta from tiny soup acini di pepe to ziti. It stands to reason that if you have olive oil, onions, and tomatoes, you can make great sauces and do wonders with these ingredients in soups, stews, and rice, vegetable, and bean dishes. And red wine is as essential for cooking as it is for enjoying with your meal. Many a dish I make, from risotto to sauces for meat to poaching liquids for baked pears, plums, and cherries, get a needed boost from red wine.


Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Cheese
Ricotta Cheese
Spinach or Lettuce

I always have a chunk of pancetta, unsmoked bacon, on hand. I use it to give flavor to lean cuts of meat when sautéing. I like it mixed with onions when I am making a risotto, or I use it with eggs to make a frittata. A hunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano or pecorino knows no bounds in the kitchen. Eaten out of hand with a glass of wine, it is pure heaven and the simplest antipasto when guests drop in. And if that were not enough, when it is grated it is perfect not only over pasta, but also mixed into vegetables or soups. When it is shaved, it is the perfect special something on top of a salad or in a panino. If you have eggs, you have it made; eggs are a near-perfect food; boil them, poach them, fry them, turn them into a frittata. Or make eggs in purgatory with tomato sauce and serve them on a bed of wilted spinach and supper is fine and full of richness with little effort. Ricotta cheese, what can I say; eat it as is for a healthy lunch, or serve it warm with honey and nuts for dessert; use it in fillings, or make a ricotta, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and spinach sauce for pasta. On Sunday mornings, I like to treat my family to ricotta cheese blintzes. Got lettuce? Mix the leaves with good olive oil, salt and pepper, and top with fried pancetta croutons. Throw on a sliced hard-boiled egg, and lunch is ready! And all of that is within the five basic ingredients in the fridge.


Prepared Puff Pastry
Whole or Cut-up Chicken
Prepared Pizza Dough
Chicken, Vegetable, or Beef Stock

I know you are busy and that is why it is always good to have prepared puff pastry on hand. With it, you can make a chicken pot pie with onions, peas, chicken stock, cheese, and spinach. Or use it to line a pie pan with to make a torta, and fill it with a mixture of eggs, ricotta cheese, spinach, and pancetta. Frozen pizza dough can be topped with tomato sauce and cheese, or turn it into a calzone filled with ricotta, spinach, and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and serve with tomato sauce on the side. You can make a loaf of bread or dinner rolls or bread sticks sprinkled with Parmigiano-Reggiano or pecorino cheese out of it, too!



* * *

Antipasto Piccante

Spuma di Mortadella end Parmigiano-Reggiano


Formaggio alla Milanese

Panini di Mortadella e Fontina alla Griglia

Involtini di Prosciutto di Parma Fontina e Fichi

Pizza di Prosciutto e Pignoli

Tortine de Soppressata

Paté di Fegato alla Toscana

Anticipating Antipasto

* * *

What? No antipasto course? These stressful questions were aimed at me while I was preparing an anniversary dinner for an Italian couple living in Tuscany. All their friends were coming to a party, and the pressure was on. After shopping all day in the pristine outdoor market at Sasso Marconi, near the town of Polverara, I got to work prepping for the first course: plump cheese-filled tortellini to be served in broth. The second course, a succulent stuffed veal roast laced with herbs, would be served with appropriate vegetables, which I had not yet decided on, and the dessert course would be a peach and plum crostata. Emma and Franco, the honored guests, kept right on quizzing me about the menu, and as I explained it, the furrows in their brows ran deep. I had not mentioned antipasto! Unthinkable! Un-Italian and disastrous! I bowed a deep mea culpa and said "Ma certo, faró gli antipasti."

Antipasto, meaning to go before the meal, has always been an integral part of the Italian dining experience, and can be a small or large parade of small foods, a tasting meant to get the palate revved up for what comes next. That was then.

Times have changed in Italy since I prepared that meal. Now the antipasto bar, Italy's answer to fast food, is a huge attraction. Step into a ristorante these days and before your eyes lays a highway of prepared dishes, both hot and cold, including such classics as marinated seafood salad, a gallery of mixed grilled vegetables, stuffed and fried olives, succulent artichokes, eggplant involtini, marinated sardines, wafer-thin slices of prosciutto di Parma, assorted salumi locali, juicy herbed mushrooms, and more. This idea is taking hold in many Italian cities because time to cook a multicourse meal is a luxury, and this is a great way to get variety, value, and vindication from the kitchen! Meet your friends, sip wine, enjoy antipasto, and call it a day.

The ritual of preparing and serving antipasto may be changing, but there are subtle rules that will always remain constant. Use quality ingredients and prepare them without much embellishment. Let the character of the food shine on its own. And above all, enjoy them in an unhurried atmosphere.


* * *

1) Variety is key and gives interest to an antipasto spread that includes such things as cold meats, marinated fish, tiny hot meatballs, and grilled vegetables.

2) Offer both hot and cold foods that can be made ahead.

3) Keep hot foods hot by using hot trays or slow cookers.

4) For an antipasto party, keep the size of food small so that no more than a fork or your fingers are needed.

5) It is always a good idea to have an identifying label for each dish in case there are allergy concerns.

Antipasto Piccante

Spicy Antipasto Wrap

* * *

You won't feel guilty eating this delicious, spicy, antipasto wrap! It is filled with things you would find on a typical antipasto like tomatoes in olive oil and sweet marinated bell peppers. Vary the filling, too, using eggplant, marinated zucchini, marinated mushrooms, even anchovies!

In a bowl combine the peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, and 2 tablespoons of the oil from the tomatoes. Season the mixture with salt to taste. Set aside.

Place the romaine leaves on a cutting board and divide and sprinkle the cheese evenly over each leaf. Divide and spoon the pepper-tomato mixture evenly over the cheese. Divide and sprinkle the arugula over the pepper mixture.

Roll each leaf up tightly on itself like a jelly roll. Stick a toothpick in the center of each wrap to hold it, and place on a serving dish.

This recipe can be doubled.

Makes 4

* 1 large roasted and marinated sweet red bell pepper, cut into ¼-inch strips

* 8 sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, drained, cut into pieces, oil reserved

* 4 large romaine lettuce leaves

* ½ cup grated pecorino cheese with peppercorns

* ½ cup arugula, shredded

Spuma di Mortadella e Parmigiano-Reggiano

Whipped Mortadella and Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese Bites

* * *

Spuma means whipped and a spuma of mortadella and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese makes the perfect light spread for sweet red pepper slices or slices of ripe pears. Mortadella is a cooked pork sausage from the region of Emilia-Romagna that is studded with chunks of creamy white fat and black peppercorns, not pistachios! It is usually served in chunks as part of an antipasto, but is delicious when made into a paste for spreading on vegetables and fruits as part of a new way to serve it as an antipasto.

Grind the mortadella in a food processor until it is in coarse bits. Add the mascarpone cheese and process until a paste forms. Transfer the paste to a bowl and stir in the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Season with salt to taste. Set the paste aside.

Cut the bell peppers or pears lengthwise and remove the seeds, or cores, and stems. Cut the peppers into 1-inch pieces, or the pears into ¼-inch- thick slices.

With a small spoon, spread about 2 teaspoons of the spuma on the peppers or pears. Sprinkle with the nuts. Arrange the slices on a serving dish. Serve at room temperature.

Serves 8

* ¼ pound sliced mortadella with pepper-corns

* 4 ounces mascarpone cheese, at room temperature

* 3 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Fine sea salt

* 2 large sweet red bell peppers, or two large ripe Anjou pears

* ¼ cup finely chopped pistachio nuts

* CHEF'S SECRET: Spuma also makes a great filling for wraps.


Italian Cheese Fondue

* * *

Fonduta is, as its name implies, a fontina cheese dish, or fondue, from the Piedmont and Val d'Aosta regions of northwestern Italy. It is a soft, mild-tasting cow's milk cheese that is typically served as part of an antipasto with slices of toasted bread and a glass of wine. Be sure to ask for authentic Italian fontina, with its reddish brown rind, to make sure you are buying the real thing.

Combine the cheese and milk in a medium saucepan and allow it to sit, off the heat, for 2 hours.

Add the butter to the milk and cheese mixture. Cook the mixture over medium-low heat, stirring with a whisk, until the cheese is smooth. Increase the heat to medium-high and, whisking constantly, add the egg yolks one at a time, making sure that each is well incorporated before adding the next. The mixture should be very creamy.

Pour the fonduta into individual dishes or plates and surround with the pieces of toasted bread.

Serves 8

* 1 pound Italian fontina cheese, cut into bits

* 1 cup whole milk

* 2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter

* 4 large egg yolks

* One 1-pound loaf of rustic-style country bread, thickly sliced into 1-inch pieces, and toasted

* CHEF'S SECRET: Soft cheeses like fontina are best cut with a serrated tomato knife, also called an angel food cake knife.

Formaggio alla Milanese

Fried Cheese, Milan Style

* * *

What could be better than a grilled cheese sandwich? How about fried cheese, without the bread? Use a good melting cheese like mozzarella or fontina.

Coat the cheese chunks in the flour then dip them twice in the beaten egg. Coat each chunk in bread crumbs.

Heat 3 cups of the oil in a deep two-quart saucepan until the temperature reaches 375°F on an instant read thermometer.

Fry the chunks in the hot oil until golden brown. Drain them on paper towels and serve hot.

Serves 4

* 8 ounces mozzarella or Italian fontina cheese, cut into thick 1-inch chunks

* All-purpose flour, for coating

* 2 large eggs, lightly beaten

* Fine dry bread crumbs, for coating

* Canola oil, for frying

Panini di Mortadella e Fontina alla Griglia

Grilled Mortadella and Fontina Cheese Panini

* * *

Panini, little sandwiches, have taken over the lunch counter! The popular way to have them is grilled, and the most important part of the sandwich is the bread! It must be of good quality, hearty, and with a tight crumb like a sourdough or whole-grain bread. A soft loaf will just fall apart. These mortadella and fontina cheese panini get extra flavor when they are spread with parsley butter. Mortadella, a pork product, is the true baloney of the region of Emilia-Romagna, and fontina is a fantastic cow's milk cheese from the Val d'Aosta region in northern Italy. Both are perfect for these sandwiches and both are readily available in your grocery store. Or use your imagination with any number of possible fillings from ham to roasted vegetables.

Combine the parsley leaves and salt in a food processor and pulse until the leaves are coarsely ground. Add the stick of butter, and pulse for a minute or two until a smooth spread has formed. Transfer the parsley butter to a small bowl, and set it aside.

Preheat a panini maker according to the manufacturer's directions, or heat a medium nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat.

Spread 4 slices of bread with the parsley butter. Divide and top each slice with the mortadella and fontina cheese. Top each with the remaining bread slices. Place the sandwiches on the grill, a couple at a time, and grill until the bread is crusty and the cheese has melted. Serve at once.

If using a nonstick frying pan, add 2 tablespoons of the remaining butter and allow it to melt. Place as many sandwiches as will fit easily in the pan. Using a wide metal spatula, press on the sandwiches until they are browned on the bottom. Turn the sandwiches and brown the other side. Continue making sandwiches, using the remaining butter, if needed.

Makes 4

* ½ cup flat-leaf parsley leaves 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt

* 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus 4 tablespoons

* 8 slices good-quality bread, cut into ½-inch slices

* 1 pound mortadella, thinly sliced

* ½ pound Italian fontina cheese, thinly sliced

Involtini di Prosciutto di Parma Fontina e Fichi

Prosciutto di Parma, Fontina, and Fig Wraps

* * *

Wraps are all the rage, and a healthier way to have a sandwich without a lot of extra carbo-loading bread. Take it a step further with involtini (rolled bundles), substituting lettuce leaves for the bread! Use large romaine, Boston Bibb, or radicchio leaves to encase a filling of prosciutto di Parma, fontina, and figs.

Prosciutto di Parma is an artisan ham, made from the hind leg of the pig and produced in specified areas of the region of Emilia-Romagna. It must meet rigid standards as to the breed of pig, how they are raised, what they are fed, how much they weigh at time of slaughter, and how they are cured. Only when all criteria have been met does a prosciutto di Parma receive its recognizable official branding, the five-pointed ducal crown.

Place the romaine leaves on a cutting board. Brush each one with a teaspoon of the honey. Place two slices of prosciutto di Parma on top of each leaf. Add four pieces of cheese and top with 4 fig slices. Sprinkle with salt to taste.

Roll each short end of the romaine leaves up tightly on itself like a jelly roll. Stick a toothpick in the center to hold it, and place the wraps on a serving dish.

Makes 4

* 4 large romaine lettuce leaves

* 4 teaspoons honey

* ¼ pound prosciutto di Parma, thinly sliced

* ½ pound Italian fontina cheese, cut into small bits

* 4 fresh figs, each cut lengthwise into 4 thin slices

Fine sea salt


Excerpted from Ciao Italia Five-Ingredient Favorites by Mary Ann Esposito. Copyright © 2009 Mary Ann Esposito. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


FIVE Favorite Foods for Thought,
Big FIVE Antipasti,
Big FIVE Soups,
Big FIVE Pasta,
Big FIVE Sauces,
Big FIVE Meat and Poultry,
Big FIVE Fish,
Big FIVE Vegetables,
Big FIVE Salads,
Big FIVE Sweets,
Big FIVE Seasonal Five-Course Menus,

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