Cook Up the Deliciousness of Italy
Without Leaving Your Home
March 2023 Issue
By Leslie Rohland
Photography by Lucy Rosen
When it comes to deliciousness, Italy has cornered the market. One of the most popular cuisines in the world, an Italian menu is always a safe bet if you’re looking for a meal sure to please almost everyone. There are so many different delectable dishes, styles, and regions of Italian cuisine from which to choose, the hardest part is often deciding what to cook!
What is it about Italian food that gives it such widespread appeal? Well, it’s fresh, delicious, and easy! Italian food is chock-full of fresh, readily-available ingredients easily found at grocery stores and gourmet Italian specialty markets. These simple, everyday ingredients, like sweet onions, fresh garlic, tomatoes, basil, oregano olive oil, cheeses, and pastas are accessible year round. Now let’s talk easy: Italian cuisine is typically simpler to cook than other cuisines, which means less time in the kitchen and more time enjoying the food and company.
Can you already smell the fabulous, fresh Italian aromas wafting through your imagination? I hope I’ve inspired you to plan a themed “Italian Night” at home. It’s easy to create the magic of Italy simply by serving spectacular food. From a make-your-own pasta bar with a variety of pastas and sauces, to preparing foods that celebrate a specific region, there are numerous ways to celebrate with bona fide Italian cuisine. And, don’t forget the wonderful wines of Italy! Italian wines paired with Italian food instantly adds to the authenticity of the festivities.
Here are some of my special recipes that have brought the flavor and festivity to many of my own at-home Italian nights. All of these are now available as “take and bake” meals at my latest venture, the all-new Village Pasta Shoppe (www.villagepastashoppe.com) in Bluffton. From fun-to-serve Tortellini Skewers, to new takes on old favorites with my Mozzarella Baked Ziti and Italian Mac and Cheese, to a traditional Cannoli that adds a sweet finale to any meal, Italian Night has never been easier to enjoy.
MOZZARELLA BAKED ZITI
Serves 4 | Pictured above
1 1/2 lbs Ziti pasta
1/2 cup Water from cooked pasta
4 cups Tomato sauce
2 cups Low-moisture Mozzarella, shredded
2 cups Fresh Mozzarella balls
Ground black pepper
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
Fresh basil leaves
Preheat oven to 400°F and position rack in center. Boil pasta in a medium pot of salted boiling water until about halfway cooked. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta cooking water, then drain pasta. In a large mixing bowl, combine pasta with 2 1/2 cups tomato sauce, reserved 1/2 cup pasta cooking water, low-moisture mozzarella, and 1 cup mozzarella balls. Season with salt and pepper and stir to combine. Place pasta mix into a baking dish and flatten slightly.
Drizzle remaining 1 1/2 cups tomato sauce over top of pasta. Scatter remaining mozzarella balls and the Parmigiano-Reggiano over top, cover with aluminum foil, and bake for 30 minutes. Increase oven to 450°F, uncover baked ziti, and cook until just starting to brown on top, about 10 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes. Top with basil leaves, spoon onto plates. Serve immediately.
Skewers, 6” each
1 (9oz) pkg. Cheese tortellini
1 10 oz pkg Cherry tomatoes
1 (8 oz) pkg Fresh Mozzarella balls
1 3 oz pkg Pepperoni, sliced
1 (15 oz) can Large black olives, drained
Balsamic glaze for drizzle
1/4 cup Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
Cook the tortellini according to package directions, being careful not to overcook. (It will fall apart when skewered if overcooked; you may need to slightly undercook it.) Drain and run cold water over the tortellini to stop the cooking and to chill the pasta. Thread 1 tortellini followed by a tomato, mozzarella ball, pepperoni slice, and an olive, and repeat until skewer is full. Place the skewers on a serving platter or tray.
Drizzle the skewers with the balsamic glaze.
ITALIAN MAC AND CHEESE
½ cup Heavy cream
1 lb. Serpentine or Tubetti pasta
½ cup Provolone
½ cup Mozzarella, low moisture
½ cup Parmesan Ground Black Pepper
Following pasta package instructions, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. As soon as the water comes to a boil, add the pasta, and stir. Cook pasta to al dente, about 10—13 minutes, While the pasta cooks, prepare the cheese mixture. Heat the cream in a saucepan over medium-low heat until it is steaming but not bubbling. Add the cheeses and black pepper and stir until it melts. Keep at medium heat until the pasta is ready. Undercook the pasta just a little (it will finish cooking in the cheese mixture).
Once the pasta is al dente, drain and add it to the cheese mixture. Let it cook in the sauce for 2 minutes. Stir often. Pour pasta and cheese mixture into a baking dish, sprinkle with more Parmesan and lightly sprinkle breadcrumbs over the top.
1 (8 oz) Ricotta cheese
1/4 cup Confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp Vanilla extract
1/2 cup Mini chocolate chips
8 Cannoli shells, store bought
In a medium bowl, stir together the ricotta cheese, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla extract. and chocolate chips. Turn a resealable plastic storage bag inside out and spoon filling into one end. Carefully turn the bag right side out and snip a small hole in end containing filling.
To pipe into shells, start from the center of the shell and pull outward to the end of the cannoli shell then repeat on opposite side. Dust with additional confectioners’ sugar.
Leslie Rohland, owner of the Cottage Cafe, Bakery and Tea Room in Old Town Bluffton, is an award-winning recipe creator who is known for her delicious and ever-changing menu at her extraordinary restaurant. She is also the owner of the popular healthy eatery The Juice Hive and the micro-roastery May River Coffee Roasters. For more information about The Cottage Cafe, visit www.thecottagebluffton.com or call 843-757-0508.