Archive for the Italian Category

Red Lentils & Red Wine Soup

Posted in Italian, soup with tags , , , , on November 7, 2010 by Cooking For Mark

I love lentils.  I could seriously eat them for every meal.  Problem is Mark is not too fond of them.  But I think I have solved the problem!  This was my first time using red lentils. These are much smaller than green lentils, and I found they weren’t as overpowering.  Because of their miniature size, they are not front-and-center.  The soup really looked more like a vegetable soup, which doesn’t really help me much since Mark does not really like soup either.  I was prepared for Mark’s picky self to refuse to eat dinner, but to my surprise he ate his entire bowl, and then asked for another!  He did note, however, that these would be even better with spicy portuguese sausage.  And I agree. Even though I don’t eat meat, I think the addition of sausage would be fantastic in this soup.

What makes this lentil soup special is the addition red wine, balsamic vinegar, and yams. The balsamic and yams give the soup a slight sweetness to it, while the red pepper flakes gives it heat (the spicy sausage would also serve this purpose). Best lentil soup I have made thus far.

Lentil Soup Ingredients:

  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, grated
  • 4 celery stocks, diced
  • 3-4 carrots, diced
  • 1 sweet potato or yam, diced
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 package spinach, thawed
  • 1 1/2 c. red lentils (or 1 c. green lentils)….red lentils are smaller than the green ones
  • 4 c. water
  • 3 c. chicken or veg. stock
  • 1 c. red wine
  • 1/2 c. balsamic vinegar
  • Seasoning: salt, pepper, oregano, italian seasoning, cumin, red pepper flakes
  • Topping: plain yogurt (or sour cream), parmesan cheese
  • (optional) spicy italian or portuguese sausage

Directions: Saute veggies for about 10 minutes in light olive oil.  Add lentils and crushed tomatoes.  Add liquid and spices. Cover and cook on med heat for about 1 hour. Serve with plain yogurt (or sour cream) and parmesan cheese.


Baked Eggplant Parmesan with Gin Marinara and Basil Fettuccine Alfredo

Posted in Italian with tags , , , , , , on August 28, 2010 by Cooking For Mark

I used to make chicken parmesan often, being one of Mark’s favorite meals.  Since going vegetarian I have been wanting to make eggplant parmesan. I love eggplant, but Mark and I are not on the same page on this one.  After a day of hiking we were on our way home, tired and hungry.  Mark came up with the idea of making both chicken and eggplant parmesan.  He agreed to help so I gave in.  We only needed 1 onion and 1 chicken breast from the store so we made a quick stop. I ran into the store, waited in the butcher line only to find out they didn’t sell chicken. I visited the packaged chicken section for the first time in 3 months and I could not justify spending $6 for more chicken then we needed.  I left with my onion thinking that Mark could go to another store while I started cooking.  Surprisingly he said he would just eat the eggplant. I don’t think it was his changing attitude, however. I am willing to bet everything I have on pure laziness.  Anyways, this forced him to eat the eggplant.  He liked it, but he said it just didn’t taste like chicken.  Really?? Are you sure the taste wasn’t similar? I mean, they look similar, don’t they? I don’t know what he was expecting. I mean, it is “eggplant” parmesan. He did eat it though, he just wasn’t jumping with happiness.  I, on the other hand, loved it and had it again for lunch the next day. It was awesome.

The gin marinara sauce and the basil fettuccine alfredo were excellent as well, and Mark definitively agreed.  The most consuming part about this dish is waiting for the marinara sauce to reduce (about 30 minutes total). The rest of this dish is super easy. Give it a try!

Gin Marinara Sauce

Gin Marinara Sauce Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, grated
  • salt + pepper
  • 1 tsp italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp red chili pepper flakes
  • 1 big can whole tomatoes, drained
  • 1/3-1/2 c. red wine
  • 1 shot gin or vodka
  • Handful chopped basil
  • 2-3 tbsp parmesan cheese


  1. In hot olive oil add onions and a bit of salt. Add garlic, black pepper, and italian seasoning.
  2. Add canned whole tomatoes, squeezing each tomato to break apart. Do not add remaining tomato juice in can.
  3. Add red wine and gin.
  4. Add chopped basil.
  5. Heat on med/low heat for about 30 minutes. Season with more salt to taste.
  6. Blend with emersion blender and add parmesan cheese.

Baked Eggplant Parmesan

Eggplant Parmesan Ingredients

  • 2 eggplants, peeled and thinly sliced
  • Flour
  • Salt + Pepper + italian seasoning
  • 1 egg
  • Panko bread crumbs
  • Marinara Sauce
  • Mozzarella cheese


  • Pre heat oven to 425
  • Place peeled and sliced eggplant in cold water for about 20 minutes while you make marinara sauce
  • After 20 minutes, remove from water and sprinkle a bit of salt on both sides of eggplant
  • Combine flour, pepper, salt, and italian seasoning in bowl
  • In 2nd bowl combine egg and 1 tbsp water
  • In third bowl add panko bread crumbs
  • Dip parmesan in flour, then egg mixture, then panko
  • Place eggplant in greased casserole dish
  • Heat for 5-7 minutes and flip over for another 5 minutes
  • Take out of oven and add marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese
  • Heat for another 7-10 minutes

Basil Fettuccine Alfredo

Basil Fettuccine Alfredo Ingredients

  • 1/2 package fettuccine, cooked with 1 tbsp olive oil to prevent sticking together
  • 1/2 c. heavy cream
  • 1/3 c. milk
  • 3 cloves garlic, grated
  • 1/3 package cream cheese
  • 1/2 c. parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 c. mozzarella cheese
  • salt + pepper, to taste
  • A pinch of nutmeg


  1. Boil fettuccine in salted water until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drizzle 2 tbsp olive oil on pasta and set aside
  2. In saucepan, place cream, milk, garlic, cream cheese, parmesan, salt + pepper and heat on low.When cheeses are melted and sauce thickens, add mozzarella and nutmeg.
  3. Combine pasta and alfredo sauce. Add basil leaves.

CPK’s Chipotle Pizza–Made Even Better!

Posted in Italian, Mexican with tags , , , , , on August 10, 2010 by Cooking For Mark

Mark’s been trying to test me to see if I can recreate some of his favorite restaurant foods. When he likes something he will ask me if I can make it at home. Most of the time my answer is “I think so”. But when he really wants me to make it, all he has to do is doubt my “I think so” with a “yeah right, I bet you can’t”. This almost guarantees immediate results, even though I know he knows exactly what he is doing. He knows me all too well and at times he uses it to his advantage. But I have to admit I love the feeling of making something that’s even better than the original.

I think what makes this pizza better than CPK’s was the chipotle pizza sauce which gives it a stronger smokey chipotle flavor (I don’t think CPK has a sauce under the cheese). The zesty lime sauce is definitively better with more depth, and although I didn’t taste the chicken Mark said it was super tender and flavorful.

Also, you can make this pizza as spicy as you want, which is another plus. I added sliced chipotle peppers with the cheese and added Serrano peppers in the lime sauce–we like it spicy!


  • Wolfgang Puck’s pizza dough (click here).
  • Chipotle Pizza Sauce, recipe below
  • Cheese: pepper jack and cheddar
  • Zesty Lime Sauce, recipe below
  • Black Bean & Corn Salsa, recipe below
  • Chipotle Marinated Chicken, recipe below (optional)
  • Egg yolk, to brush on crust

Chipotle Pizza Sauce

  • About 2 tbsp sour cream
  • 1-2 tsp lime juice
  • 1-2 tbsp Chipotle sauce, from can (to taste)
  • Cayenne  pepper, paprika, or achiote powder (to taste, optional)
  • Salt + pepper, to taste

Zesty Lime Sauce

  • 2 tbsp sour cream
  • 2 tbsp mayo
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • Handful of cilantro
  • Serrano pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Salt + pepper, to taste

Zesty Lime Sauce Directions: Blend everything in food processor or blender until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use. To garnish pizza, place in ziplock bag, puncture a whole and squeeze out.

Black Bean & Corn Salsa Ingredients:

  • Black beans
  • Corn
  • Tomato
  • Avocado
  • Serrano peppers
  • Red onion
  • Chives
  • Lime
  • Salt + Pepper
  • Buffalo Sauce (optional)

Directions: Mix everything together.

Chipotle Chicken Marinade:

  • Chipotle sauce or peppers
  • Canola or vegetable oil
  • Lime juice
  • Garlic
  • Salsa (I used Ranchera salsa which comes in a little can, but you can use whatever you have on hand)
  • Salt + pepper
  • Optional: cayenne powder

Directions: Blend everything together. Coat chicken and marinate in fridge for at least 1 hour, but the longer, the better.

Assemble The Pizza:

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place a thin layer of chipotle pizza sauce on dough.
  2. Top with cheese and chopped chipotle peppers
  3. Bake in lower rack for 5 minutes, and in top rack for 5 minutes.
  4. Take pizza out of oven, garnish with cilantro
  5. Add zesty lime sauce using ziplock bag in zigzag pattern
  6. Add bean & corn salsa to middle
  7. Add leftover chipotle sauce (optional)
  8. Top with grilled chipotle chicken

Leftovers? Make chipotle chicken tacos with black bean & corn salsa, topped with chipotle sauce and zesty lime sauce.



Croque-Monsieur Veggie Panini

Posted in French, Italian with tags , , , , , on August 2, 2010 by Cooking For Mark

Like a lot of people, I had never heard of croque-monsieurs until the recent box office hit “It’s Complicated” with Meryl Streep. For those of you who still don’t know what i’m talking about, I’ll save you a wikipedia visit. A croque-mosieur is a french version of a ham and cheese sandwich–but much, much better. After making a regular ham and cheese sandwich (using good cheese, as the French do), the french also add a creamy, cheesy béchamel sauce on top and bake it until the cheese melts all over the sandwich. As you can imagine, after a croque-monsieur, a regular sandwich will never be the same.

Similar things can be said about the Italian panini. Which sandwich is better? I don’t like to play favorites, so I decided to combine the two and have the best of both worlds: a grilled veggie sandwich smothered with hot bubbly cheese…yum!

This panini was made by using whatever I had on hand, and it was still extremely tasty. Inside the panini I used pesto and artichoke spread, grilled zucchini, purple potatoes, red onion, tomatoes, spinach and gouda cheese. I grilled the panini and added the creamy cheesy béchamel sauce, made with mozzarella, parmesan and blue cheese. The only thing that could have made this panini better would be to add feta cheese inside. Definitively next time.

I served this with a light summer salad made with tomatoes, strawberries, grapefruit, avocado and mint. The dressing was balsamic vinegar with a bit of olive oil. Perfect company to the perfect sandwich.

Panini Ingredients:

  • Your favorite bread
  • Spread: pesto and artichoke tappenade
  • Veggies: zucchini, purple potato, tomato, red onion, spinach
  • Cheese: gruyere, but feta would have been delicious!
  • Bechamel sauce (below)

Step 1 Directions: Slice veggies and cook. Spread pesto to one bread, and artichoke tappenade on the other. Top with veggies and cheese. Place sandwich on panini maker or on grill.

Béchamel Sauce:

  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp flour
  • 1/2 c. milk
  • 2 tbsp parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 c. cheese (I used mozzarella, but you can use provolone, swiss, gruyere, fontina, etc)
  • Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg
  • Optional: I also added a bit of blue cheese which added a lot of great flavor

Step 2 Directions: melt butter, add flour and cook for 1 minute. Add milk and cheese. Cook until cheese melts and sauce thickens.

Step 3 Directions: Turn on oven to 450 degrees. Add bechamele sauce to top of panini and top with a bit of shredded cheese. Place in oven and bake for 5 minutes. Turn on broiler and bake for another 3-4 minutes. Serve with a light side salad.

Panini Veggies

Assembling the Paninis….

Grilled Panini…

Croque-Monsieur Veggie Panini

White Wine Clam Linguini

Posted in Italian, Seafood with tags , , , , , on July 26, 2010 by Cooking For Mark

I saw the movie Ratatouille on TV last night. I adore that movie. I specially like when the food critic explains to Linguini his passion for food: “I don’t like food, I love it. And if I don’t love it, I don’t swallow!” I should have taken the critics advice and not swallowed this evil, bad clam.

I always wanted to make clams. They look so appetizing to me. The first time I saw this dish was in the island of Ischia, Italy on a beachfront restaurant Mark took me to. I can’t remember what I ordered that day, but I do remember what the people next to me ordered. It was a big bowl of linguini with bright red grape tomatoes, topped with clams still intact to their shells. It looked absolutely wonderful. 5 years later I still had not tasted clams…until last week when I made this recipe.

Maybe I didn’t cook the clams right, or maybe I got some bad clams, but it was a terrible experience for me. When the clams were cooked I decided to take a quick taste and picked out the smallest one out of the bunch. It was chewy, but not bad. A few minutes later I had my second one. This clam was much different, and one I will always regret eating.  I still want to gag when I think about it’s thick creamy center that was clinging to the back of my tongue, as if I had eaten a clam filled with shortening. I tried washing it away with water, to no avail. I can’t imagine people liking clams if that is truly what they taste like, which leads me to believe that maybe that was just one bad clam. Dinner time commenced was ended without Mark nor I having the strength to taste another one. It will take one extremely appetizing clam cooked by an acclaimed chef to get me to try again. Once we picked out the clams we had some fantastic spaghetti, thank god! (I know, I said it was linguini…but I lied. Spaghetti and clams just does not sound good…).

A much better seafood substitution would be shrimps. Yum! So below you will find the recipe for White Wine Shrimp Linguini (or spaghetti).

Wine Sauce Ingredients:

  • Olive oil
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1-2 shallots, minced (or 1/2 onion)
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt + pepper
  • 1 lime + zest
  • 1/2-1 c. dry sherry or any dry white wine

Additional Ingredients:

  • Linguini or spaghetti
  • Shrimps (or clams if you are brave)
  • Kalamata olives (or a combination of green and black olives)
  • Capers (found in olive section)
  • Italian flat-leaf parsley


  1. Add about 2 tbsp olive oil and 2 tbsp butter to pan. Add shallots and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Add sherry or wine. Zest lime or lemon and add to the wine. Add 1/2 of lemon juice, and let simmer for about 10 minutes. (If you want to add clams, add to wine sauce and cover. In about 10 minutes they will have opened).
  2. Meanwhile, boil pasta until just under al dente (about 7 minutes…it will continue to cook in the sauce).
  3. Add shrimps to sauce once it was simmered, and cook for about 2 minutes on each side.

4.  Add the pasta into the white sauce. Add the rest of the lime juice. Add the kalamata olives, the capers and the parsley.

Serve with bread…

And a side of caesar salad.

NOTE: if you want to make the clams, clean them first by placing in a bowl of cold water and a tbsp of vinegar for about an hour. This will get rid of a lot of the sand inside the clams.

Creamy Gorgonzola Marsala Gnocchi with Portobello Mushrooms

Posted in Italian with tags , , , , , on July 21, 2010 by Cooking For Mark

Remember my bottle of Marsala wine post? (If you don’t, click here). When I wrote that post I had only tried the gorgonzola marsala ravioli made with wanton wrappers. This weekend I made the same sauce but added gnocchi and portobello mushrooms…delicious!  It was super fast to make and super good. So give it a try!

If you want to make the gnocchi by hand, check out these video. I have made gnocchi from scratch once and it turned out pretty good. It’s a little time consuming but it’s not too difficult.

  1. Ricotta Gnocchi
  2. Potato Gnocchi

12 Minute Flat Bread Greek Pizza

Posted in Greek, Italian with tags , , on July 9, 2010 by Cooking For Mark

Short on time? Don’t know what to make? How about a 12 minute pizza! It will take you 2 minutes to assemble, and 10 minutes to bake. If you choose to make your own flat bread, it will take you a bit longer but you will save about 3 bucks.

My favorite ingredients of all time are in this pizza: spinach, kalmata olives, and feta. As such, this is my favorite type of pizza, without a doubt.  Although I think it is the absolute best, I know some people who prefer a plain pepperoni pizza. If that is you, what are you thinking? Ok, i’m not here to judge, you can make your pizza as you like. If you want to try my version, here is what you will need:


  • Homemade or store-bought flat breads
  • Homemade or store-bought pesto (optional)
  • Artichokes
  • Spinach
  • Kalmata olives
  • Red onion
  • Pepper Jack Cheese
  • Feta Cheese


Pre-heat oven to 400 Degrees. Layer ingredients on flat bread. Bake for about 10 minutes until cheese is melted. Serve with tzatziki sauce.