Giada’s easy cheesy risotto cake

This is a very easy and tasty recipe and perfect for those summer get-togethers.

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Serves 6 to 8

Butter, for greasing the pan.
2 cups Marinara or tomato-basil sauce
1 cup Arborio rice

Bechamel Sauce
3 tbsp butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups whole milk, at room temperature
1/4 tsp Kosher salt
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg

To assemble
1/2 cup plus 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 oz thinly sliced prosciutto, coarsely chopped
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
4 large eggs, at room temperature, beaten
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup plain breadcrumbs

Place an oven rack in the center of the oven.Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Butter the bottom and sides of a 9 inch spring form pan. Wrap the outside of the pan with foil.

For the rice:
Bring the marinara sauce and rice to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 6 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool.
For the bechamel sauce:
Melt the butter in a 1 quart saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the flour and whisk until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Gradually add the milk, whisking constantly to prevent lumps. Simmer the sauce over medium-low heat, whisking constantly until the sauce is thick and smooth, about 7 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the salt and grated nutmeg.

For assembly:
Mix together the bechamel sauce, rice mixture, 1/2 cup of the Parmesan and the prosciutto and peas in a medium bowl. Slowly mix in the eggs, salt and pepper.
Pour the mixture into the prepared spring form pan and cover with foil. Place in a shallow roasting pan. Add enough hot water to come halfway up the side of the spring form pan. Bake for 1 hour.

Preheat the broiler. Remove the foil and sprinkle the top with the remaining 1/3 cup cheese and the breadcrumbs. Broil just enough to melt the cheese and create a crispy crust, about 3 minutes/
Cool for 15 minutes.
Loosen the risotto from the sides of the pan by running a thin metal spatula around the edge. Remove the sides of the pan. Cut into wedges and serve.


Zucchini Parmesan

This is a simple layered casserole with three elements: roasted zucchini, a really good homemade tomato sauce and Parmesan.
Roasting, rather than frying the zucchini, allows you to cut down on olive oil and time.
Thanks to Martha Rose Shulman

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6 servings

For the tomato sauce:
2 to 2½ lbs fresh ripe tomatoes
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 to 4 garlic cloves (to taste)
Salt and pepper
1/4 tsp sugar
2 good sprigs fresh basil
1 & 1/2 tbsp chopped fresh basil

For the zucchini Parmesan:
2 to 2¼ lbs zucchini
Salt and pepper
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
½ to 1 tsp red pepper flakes, to taste
¾ to 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan

If you have a food mill, quarter tomatoes. If not, peel, seed and chop them. (See step 5.)

To make the tomato sauce, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat and add onion. Cook, stirring often, until tender, about 5 minutes.
Add the garlic. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 seconds to a minute, and add the tomatoes, salt, pepper, sugar and basil sprigs. Increase the heat to medium-high.

When the tomatoes are bubbling briskly, stir and reduce heat to medium. Cook, stirring often, until the tomatoes have cooked down and are beginning to stick to pan, 15 to 25 minutes, depending on consistency. Remove the basil sprigs; taste and adjust seasoning.
Heat oven to 450 degrees.
Line 2 sheet pans with parchment. Trim the ends off the zucchini and cut in half crosswise, then into lengthwise slices, about 1/4 to 1/3 inch thick. Season on both sides with salt and pepper and toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Arrange the zucchini slices on baking sheets in one layer and sprinkle with red pepper flakes. Roast for 12 minutes, until lightly browned and easily pierced with a knife. Remove from the oven and reduce heat to 375 degrees.

If using a food mill, put the sauce through a medium blade. If not, pulse the sauce in a food processor fitted with a steel blade until just coarsely puréed. Stir in the chopped basil.

To assemble the dish, oil a 2-quart gratin with olive oil. Spread 1/4 cup tomato sauce over the bottom of dish. Arrange a third of the zucchini in an even layer over the tomato sauce. Spoon a third of the remaining sauce over zucchini and sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan.
Repeat with 2 more layers, ending with 1/4 cup Parmesan.
Drizzle on the remaining tablespoon olive oil.
Bake 30 to 35 minutes, until bubbling and browned on the top and edges. Remove from the heat and allow to sit for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Simple parmesan roasted cauliflower with garlic and onion.


Last night I didn’t feel like much to eat, certainly not any meat and as I was looking in the fridge for inspiration, I noticed a very large cauliflower lurking in the back of one of the shelves.
It was still okay, but just starting to react to the restrictive plastic wrapping and time sitting in the fridge, so I decided to turn it into nutty, cheesy slices of roasted cauliflower.
MY, was it good! I even had the leftovers straight from the fridge for breakfast.

Serves 4
Preheat the oven to 425 F
Cut 1 head of cauliflower into florets or slice straight through the whole cauliflower making 3/4 inch “steaks”.
Toss these (don’t worry if the “steaks” fall apart.) in a large bowl with 1 medium chopped onion, 4 thyme sprigs, 4 – 6 tbsp olive oil, 4 unpeeled cloves of garlic (or garlic powder to your liking) and salt and ground pepper.
Toss around gently with your hands until well coated and tip onto a baking tray, roasting and tossing occasionally until almost tender, 20 mins or so.
Grate 4 to 5 heaped tbsp parmesan cheese straight onto the 1/2 cooked cauliflower and return to the oven for another 20 mins or until they are tender when pierced with a fork and browned and crispy. Remove the thyme stalks, squeeze the garlic out of it’s peel, or leave in it’s peel and serve. The onions should be starting to blacken which gives an even nuttier flavor.



Chestnut risotto with butternut squash

It’s my favorite time of year for being in the kitchen with all the wonderful comforting dishes to make!

Serves 4

6 cups chicken or turkey broth
1/4 cup Riesling or other wine on the sweeter side
1 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp butter, divided
1 large shallot, finely chopped
1/2 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1 1/2 cups (10 oz) Arborio rice
2 cups peeled, roasted chestnuts, or jarred chestnuts, finely chopped
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
1 tsp chopped fresh marjoram
1/2 to 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp chopped fresh Italian parsley

Bring the chicken broth to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover and keep warm.

Meanwhile, heat the oil and 2 tbsp butter in a heavy, large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, chestnuts and squash. Cook until the onion is translucent, stirring often, about 10 minutes.

Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, being careful not to burn it.

Add the rice to the onion-squash-chestnut mixture and coat the grains with the butter, cooking for about 2 to 3 minutes until the rice is translucent at the edges but still opaque in the center.
Add the wine and cook, stirring, until the liquid evaporates.

Add 1 cup of the warm broth, simmer until almost absorbed, stirring often for about 4 minutes.
Add more broth, 1 cup at a time, allowing each addition to be absorbed before adding the next one, until the rice is just tender, stirring frequently, about 25 minutes total.
Stir in the thyme and marjoram.
Remove from the heat, stir in the remaining 1 tbsp butter, cheese and parsley.
Season the risotto with salt and pepper and serve

Easy and tasty pesto croutons

We had a couple of composer friends for lunch a while ago and the salad course was a Caesar, but just for a change I decided to make my own croutons and added pesto sauce.
They must have been successful as one of our friends who doesn’t usually like croutons loved them and recently asked me for the recipe.

1 loaf of ciabatta bread, chopped into chunks for the croutons. I leave the crusts on.
1 cup good pesto sauce, either homemade or commercial.
1/2 cup good extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic (at least) crushed
1 handful finely chopped fresh basil, if the pesto is commercial.
salt and pepper.

In a large bowl, add the pesto sauce, garlic, olive oil, basil, salt and pepper. Stir well and add more olive oil if it’s too thick.
Throw the bread chunks into the bowl and toss well.
Lay out croutons onto a large shallow baking tray and roast at 350 F for about 20 to 30 minutes until golden brown.
Watch incase they burn though.
Remove from the oven and cool.
Serve if you haven’t already eaten them all!

Tomato and potato gratin

Simple, rustic and delicious!

Serves 2 as a main course and 4 as a side

5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
6 cups thinly sliced onions, (about 1&1/2 lbs)
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves, divided
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1&1/4 lbs yukon gold potatoes, peeled if you want
1/2 cup heavy cream
2&1/4 lbs ripe tomatoes
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup shredded basil
4 cloves garlic, minced
Kosher salt and ground pepper

Heat a large saute pan or Dutch oven over high heat for 2 minutes
Add 3 tbsp olive oil, then the onions, 1 tsp thyme, 1 tsp salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Cook for 6 minutes, stirring often then turn down the heat to medium.
Add the butter and cook for 15 minutes, stirring and scraping with a wooden spoon until the onions start to caramelize. Turn the heat down to low and continue to cook the onions for another 10 mins or so, stirring often until the onions are a deep caramel color. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 F

Use a mandolin to slice the potatoes into 1/8 inch rounds. Toss them with the cream, 1tsp thyme, 1 tsp salt and ground pepper.
Cut the tomatoes into 1/4 inch slices and arrange on a plate and season them with salt and pepper.

Place half the caramelized onions evenly on the bottom of a 9 x 9 inch gratin or baking dish.
Arrange one layer of potatoes on top of the onion layer and sprinkle with 1/3 of the cheese and half the garlic.

Arrange a layer of tomatoes on top of this, then sprinkle 1/2 of the basil, 1/2 tsp thyme, salt and pepper, and drizzle 1 tbsp cream from the potatoes

Scatter the rest of the caramelized onions over this mixture, arrange another layer of potatoes, then top with 1/2 of the remaining cheese and remaining garlic.

Arrange another layer of tomatoes (attractively) over the potatoes. Pour remaining cream from the potatoes over the tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper, remaining thyme and basil.

Press the vegetables down with your fingers. The cream should come up through the layers and coat the vegetables evenly.
Sprinkle with any remaining cheese.

Cover the baking dish tightly with foil and bake for about 2 hours or until the potatoes are tender when pierced.

Remove the dish from the oven, uncover it, turn the oven up to 450 F and put it back in for about 25 to 30 minutes more until the juices have thickened and the tope is browned and bubbly


Spaghetti with garlic and olive oil

Although this is a simple dish, made primarily with pantry ingredients, it’s one of the tastiest fast meals you can have. I have made it when people turn up at the last minute for dinner and it always gets the “wow” factor. The main thing here is to have good quality ingredients. Pay the extra for the good olive oil and the best parmesan cheese. It’s worth it

Serves 4

1 lb spaghetti
12 garlic cloves
1/4 cup of your best olive oil
1&1/2 cups chicken broth
1 heaped cup of finely chopped Italian parsley
freshly ground black pepper
1&1/2 tbsp salt
lots of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Peel the 12 garlic cloves. Mince 6 of them and set aside.
Slice the remaining garlic.
Heat the olive oil in a small skillet and very gently saute the sliced garlic until golden brown, stirring. Take the skillet off the heat and set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to the boil and add the salt. Add the spaghetti and cook until just al dente (DON’T overcook as you are cooking the pasta again later)
Drain the pasta and put into a large pot or skillet. Add the chicken broth to the pasta and simmer, stirring, until most of the chicken broth has been absorbed.
Add the heated olive oil with the sliced garlic to the pasta and the chopped parsley and minced garlic and toss thoroughly.

Divide the pasta evenly among heated bowls. Pour any remaining broth over the pasta and serve with generous amounts of grated parmesan cheese and ground black pepper.