What could be better than an authentic Italian dinner like this that takes only thirty minutes to prepare?
Little Ciabatta Toasts with Ricotta and Salami
Skillet Breaded Pork Chops with Rosemary
Cherry Tomatoes with Leeks and Thyme
Dried Figs in Red Wine
From years of cooking in her Ciao Italia television kitchen, Mary Ann Esposito understands what many people with busy lives, as well as those just beginning to learn their way around the kitchen, want to know: How do I prepare an authentic Italian meal without spending hours in the kitchen? In Ciao Italia, Pronto!, Mary Ann shows everyone how to prepare an authentic Italian meal in thirty minutes with more than eighty mouthwatering recipes from the entire gamut of Italian cuisine. She's gathered together a treasure trove of antipasti, soups, pasta dishes, main courses, vegetable side dishes, pizzas, calzones, and deserts that make easy and delicious meals for family and friends. Besides recipes for dishes like quick chicken cacciatore, macaroni with a rich lamb sauce or Cornish game hens with tomatoes and potatoes, Mary Ann shares her how-tos of cooking Italian quickly and authentically:
· how to maximize your time in the grocery store
· how to create a Pronto! pantry filled with staples
· how to have a cooking plan and multitask as the preparation gets underway
· how to get several meals out of a single preparation
· how to use seasonal fruits and vegetables to greatest effect.
For good measure, Mary Ann adds a dozen Pronto! menus to show readers how to combine the dishes, as well as a select list of mail order and online sources for specialty items. So, instead of bringing home fast food or prepared frozen dishes from the grocery story, involve the whole family, spend thirty minutes with Mary Ann, and bring a little la dolce vita---as Italians would say, "the good life"--- to your kitchen. Without fuss or bother, Mary Ann Esposito shows you how to bring an authentic taste of Italy to the table for your friends and family.
About the Author
Mary Ann Esposito is the host of the public television series Ciao Italia, now in its fourteenth season. She is the author of seven successful cookbooks, including Ciao Italia in Umbria and Ciao Italia--Bringing Italy Home. 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
Nothing fascinated me more as a child than my Sicilian grandmother's walk-in pantry. To this day I can still vividly recall the smells of garlic, cheese, olive oil, wine, and onions lining the shelves. My grandmother's pantry was large, and everything she needed for her cooking was right at hand. She never wondered what there was for supper because she knew what was in that pantry.
I have a large walk-in pantry, too, with an extra refrigerator and freezer, partly because I need it for my work as a chef and partly because it is my food security blanket. I stock it with items I use all the time, from spices to grains to olive oils, tuna, anchovies, wine, pasta, and many other things. I believe in pantries, large or small, to help the cook save time. For me it is the most important place in the kitchen because that is where you will find the foundation for everyday meals. A pantry is an open invitation to cook, to be creative. A pantry keeps you organized, lets you see what your cooking preferences are, helps you plan ahead, and can challenge you. Open the cupboard or pantry door and inspiration stands before you. Even if your kitchen is small, there should be some space that is reserved for basic staples, things that are common ingredients for lots of your favorite dishes. And a pantry is not just where you store your cereal; think of your refrigerator and your freezer as extensions of the pantry.
Here is a suggested list of ingredients found in the recipes in this book. Some belong on a pantry shelf, others on your refrigerator shelf, and still others on your freezer shelf. If you have them, or at least some of them, you will never be in that unsettled quandary about what to cook for dinner. A pantry is food in the bank, so to speak, that you can draw from anytime. So take stock in your pantry items, the building blocks of fast but good food.
Almonds. Whole roasted, unsalted. Once opened, keep refrigerated.
Anchovies in olive oil.
Anise extract. Be sure it is pure extract, meaning 35 percent alcohol.
Basil. Very perishable. Keep it with stems, not leaves, in water in a container on your counter; it will wilt under refrigerator conditions. Freeze the leaves in small plastic bags for use in soups, sauces, and stews but not for salad, as the leaves will be limp when defrosted. Throw them frozen into whatever you are making.
Bay leaves. Turkish are most flavorful; find them in the spice aisle.
Bouillon cubes. Vegetable, chicken, beef.
Broths, canned low-sodium. Chicken, beef, and vegetable.
Capers in salt or brine.
Celery salt. Gives great flavor to soups and stews.
Chocolate, bittersweet. Good brands are Lindt and Callebaut.
Clam juice, bottled.
Cornmeal. Stone ground is best but all-purpose will do, or use the already prepared polenta sold in a cylinder shape; just cut and sauté or heat and use as directed in recipes.
Fennel seeds. Great in pork dishes.
Flour, unbleached all-purpose. King Arthur flour is used in recipes in this book.
Fruits, dried. Apricots, figs.
Garlic. Keep it in a garlic keeper or mesh bag in a cool, dark spot.
Jelly, apple. Works well when melted and used as a glaze for tarts.
Mustard, Dijon. Use in marinades.
Olive oil, extra-virgin. Think about your palate; do you like fruity-tasting olive oils? Then go for the ones from the south, from Umbria, Puglia, Molise, or Sicily. If you prefer light-tasting oil, go for those from Tuscany or Liguria.
Olive oil spray. Colavita is a good brand.
Olives, oil-cured black jarred.
Onions. Keep in a dark, cool place.
Oregano, dried. The only herb to ever use dried.
Panko bread crumbs. These Japanese crumbs are best for coating and frying since they are big and flaky. Or use good day-old bread; dry it out in a 250°F. oven until it is hard, then whirl it in a food processor to make fine crumbs, or put the bread in a bag and use a rolling pin to pulverize it.
Pasta. The following types should be kept on hand: ditalini (a small pasta used for soups), fettuccine (ribbonlike noodles), fusilli (corkscrew pasta), no-boil lasagna (I prefer Del Verde), orzo and pastina (tiny soup pasta), spaghetti, and vermicelli (thin pasta). Colavita, Del Verde, Barilla, and La Molisana are good brands.
Pepper, coarse black. Buy it already ground or use a pepper mill and grind whole peppercorns.
Potatoes, all-purpose white (for soups), russet (for baking), Yukon Gold (for mashing), and red-skin (for oven roasting) are my favorites. Keep in a dark area but not in a tightly closed bag; otherwise they will sprout.
Red pepper flakes, hot.
Rice. Arborio is a short-grain starchy rice used for making risotto; long-grain rice is used for soups and stuffings.
Salt. Use fine and coarse sea salt.
Tomatoes, canned plum. Peeled and crushed.
Tuna in olive oil, canned.
Vanilla beans. The seed of an orchid plant; find it in the baking section.
Vanilla extract, 35 percent alcohol. Do not use Mexican vanilla; use Madagascar. Good brands are Nielsen-Massey and Rodelle.
Vinegar, balsamic. Authentic tradizionale will cost over $75; use it sparingly as a condiment for meat, cheese, and dessert. Use a grocery store commercial type (which is really wine vinegar with a little balsamic thrown in) for everyday salads and marinades.
Vinegar, red wine.
Wines, red and white: Do not use cooking wines; they contain more sulfites and salt than regular wines and are more expensive. Buy inexpensive reds and whites such as Corvo, Folinari, and Regaleali. My rule: any wine you drink you can cook with. Store opened bottles in the refrigerator and invest in a vacuum seal pump, which you can find in wine stores.
Yeast, dried. If you make a lot of yeast dough, buy yeast in bulk and keep it in the refrigerator; otherwise buy the small packets. Store in a dry spot.
Refrigerator Pantry Basics
Butter, unsalted. Unsalted is fresher than salted.
Carrots. Baby carrots cook faster; find various cuts in the produce section from coins to julienne.
Celery. Use the leaves in soups and egg salad; wrap celery in paper towels to keep it crisp under refrigeration.
Caciocavallo is a cow's milk cheese that is good for eating, grating, and melting.
Gorgonzola dolce, which is very perishable, is a versatile cheese with many uses, from sauce to a great dessert with ripe pears and a few walnuts. Gorgonzola forte is aged gorgonzola, and it has a stronger taste.
Mascarpone cheese is a full-fat soft cream cheese used in desserts like tiramisu and in cream sauces.
Fior di latte mozzarella cheese (a cow's milk cheese that is especially good for melting) is indispensable. You may also be able to find mozzarella di bufala, which is imported from Italy and has a delicate texture and taste and makes a wonderful caprese salad.
Parmigiano-Reggiano and pecorino cheeses are primarily used for grating, but are also eaten in small chunks or chips. Wedges of parmesan and pecorino will keep a long time in the warmest part of your fridge if they are wrapped in damp cheesecloth, then plastic wrap, and lastly in foil. Bring them to room temperature before eating.
Provolone cheese is great in sandwiches and on an antipasto platter.
Ricotta cheese is best if freshly made, but pasteurized will do.
Scamorza cheese is a smoked or unsmoked cow's milk cheese.
Eggs, large. Keep in their carton, not on the refrigerator door shelf.
Egg Beaters. For when you are really in a hurry.
Fennel, fresh. Licorice-tasting Italian celery in the salad department.
Lemons. Bring to room temperature before using to extract more juice.
Lettuces. Romaine, arugula, escarole, radicchio.
Nuts. Pine nuts, walnuts. Toast them first in a dry nonstick sauté pan until lightly browned to really bring out their flavor.
Oranges. Bring to room temperature before using.
Pancetta. Italian unsmoked bacon. Can substitute for ham in recipes.
Parsley. Flat leaf, not curly, which has no flavor.
Radicchio. A chicory with a slightly bitter taste used for grilling and salads; find it in the produce section.
Rosemary. Small packages are available in the produce department. Keep a plant at home in a cool spot. It does not like to be near a heat source.
Sopressata. Or other hard salami.
Thyme. See note for rosemary.
Freezer Pantry Basics
Artichoke hearts. Great in pasta dishes, frittata, or on pizza dough.
Breads, artisanal. Whole grain and sourdough types. If you don't need to use a whole loaf, slice it and freeze slices in a zip-lock bag; that will make defrosting easy.
Pizza dough, store-bought. Not as good as homemade but good enough when you are pressed for time.
Shrimp, cooked and cleaned.
Tomato sauce, prepared. Made from scratch in batches and frozen.
Datteri con Parmigiano-Reggiano e Noci (Dates Stuffed with Parmesan and Nuts)
Crostini di Ciabatta con Ricotta e Sopressata (Little Ciabatta Toasts with Ricotta and Salami)
Involtini di Zucchine e Zucca (Zucchini and Summer Squash Bundles)
Mozzarella in Carrozza (Fried Mozzarella Sandwiches)
Scapece (Marinated Fish)
Spiedini di Mozzarella con Prosciutto e Pomodoro (Mozzarella, Prosciutto, and Tomato Skewers)
Torta di Cozze e Gamberi (Mussel and Shrimp Tart)
Tortine di Formaggio (Little Cheese Tarts)
Antipasto is like the prelude to a good orchestral score. It is meant to get you in the mood and builds the anticipation of a great meal with small offerings of a variety of foods that lead to a crescendo of more elaborate things to follow. It usually means foods that are served at room temperature, and can be something as simple as oil-cured olives, pickled zucchini and sweet peppers, marinated artichokes, or cured meats such as prosciutto or salami. And many of you, I am sure, are familiar with the classic prosciutto with melon or figs.
Occasionally I make a meal just out of antipasto, especially in warm weather months when it is best to keep the kitchen cool. The beauty of antipasto is that it can be assembled ahead of time. For a party, why not make all the recipes in this chapter and let guests help themselves to variety and fun.
Datteri con Parmigiano-Reggiano e Noci
Dates Stuffed with Parmesan and Nuts
I love this antipasto (or even dessert) idea from Nancy Radke, the director for the Consorzio del Formaggio Parmigiano-Reggiano. Plump Medjool dates stuffed with chips of Parmesan cheese and pecan halves are ready in minutes and there is no cooking! Plan on serving two per person as these are rich and addictive.
24 whole dates
With a small knife make a slit down the center of each date. Remove and discard the pit. Stuff the cavity with 1 chip of the cheese and 1 pecan half.
Arrange the dates on a tray and serve with a glass of champagne or Italian dessert wine.
Crostini di Ciabatta con Ricotta e Sopressata
Little Ciabatta Toasts with Ricotta and Salami
Crostini (little toasts) are always popular nibbles for an antipasto. But simple as these are to put together, the results depend entirely on good, dense bread, the kind in which the crust almost cuts the roof of your mouth. I use that analogy because soggy, spongy bread will simply not work for crostini, since the bread is toasted and then rubbed with a garlic clove. The bread must be sturdy enough to act as a grater when the garlic is rubbed over it. Ciabatta bread, a flat bread, is sturdy and readily available. It holds a spread of seasoned creamy ricotta cheese sprinkled with zippy and sassy sopressata, a dried pork salami.
1 cup fresh ricotta cheese
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Mix the cheeses, basil, salt, and pepper together in a small bowl. Set aside.
Place the bread slices on a baking sheet and bake them until lightly brown or toasted.
Transfer the slices to a cutting board and rub the garlic clove several times across the surface of each one. Spray each slice with olive oil.
Spread some of the ricotta mixture over each slice. Place the slices on a serving dish. Sprinkle some of the sopressata over each one. Serve.
Involtini di Zucchine e Zucca
Zucchini and Summer Squash Bundles
No zucchini? Unthinkable in an Italian kitchen. That is why this beloved vegetable is so open to interpretation. Sauté it, pickle it, boil it, grill it, and you have some of the classic preparations. But here is a technique that is just a little on the edge of cucina alta (gourmet cooking), a neat bundle of grilled zucchini and summer squash sandwiched together with a delicate ricotta cheese, lemon, and walnut filling. Sometimes the unexpected can be a refreshing change from the ordinary. Serve this as an antipasto, a lunch with a side of salad greens, or a light supper.
Saving time: Make and refrigerate the filling up to 2 days ahead.
1 cup ricotta cheese, well drained Zest of 1 large lemon
Beat the ricotta cheese with a hand mixer until light and fluffy. Stir in the lemon zest, parsley, thyme, salt, pepper, and walnuts and set aside.
Preheat an indoor or outdoor grill.
Trim the zucchini and squash ends. Slice each into 4 lengthwise strips 1/4 inch thick and place them on a baking sheet. Spray the slices with the olive oil on both sides and place them in a single layer on the grill. Grill on both sides until the strips are soft but not mushy. Transfer them to the baking sheet to cool.
Top a summer squash strip with a zucchini strip; trim the ends if necessary to make them even. Spread a thin layer of the ricotta cheese mixture on top of the zucchini strip. Start at one end and roll the strips up together like a jelly roll. Make 7 more. Place 2 rolls on each of 4 plates.
Warm the olive oil in a small saucepan and pour a little over each plate. Serve.
Note: If you do not have a grill, place the strips on a baking sheet, lightly sprayed with oil, and bake them in a preheated 350°F. oven for 5 to 8 minutes or until they soften. Then proceed with the recipe.
Mozzarella in Carrozza
Fried Mozzarella Sandwiches
Mozzarella in carrozza translates to the ultimate fried or grilled cheese sandwich and is a specialty of the region of Campania, where creamy mozzarella balls are made from buffalo milk. Mozzarella di bufala is best consumed di giornata, on the day it is made. Even though it is available here, the taste is not exactly the same, due to transportation. This is the perfect antipasto, and perfection is achieved by using the best buffalo mozzarella cheese and coarse bread. (Cow's milk mozzarella, known as fior di latte, is readily available and can be substituted for buffalo mozzarella.)
2 (8-ounce) balls buffalo mozzarella, or fior di latte cheese, cut into 8 slices
Place 2 slices of mozzarella between each of 2 slices of bread to make 4 sandwiches. Set aside.
Lightly beat the eggs, salt, and milk with a fork or a whisk in a wide bowl.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a nonstick skillet large enough to hold at least 2 sandwiches.
Coat the sandwiches in the egg batter and fry them in batches on both sides in the oil until they are golden brown and the cheese begins to melt. Add additional oil as necessary if the pan becomes dry.
Serve hot, cut into quarters, as part of an antipasto or individually as sandwiches.
Excerpted from "Ciao Italia Pronto!"
Copyright © 2005 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
FOREWORD BY NANCY R. RADKE,
PRONTO MAIN DISHES,
PRONTO VEGETABLES AND SALADS,
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