Risotto with Asparagus and Pesto

Risotto with Asparagus and Pesto
  1. 7 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  2. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  3. ½ cup minced onion
  4. Salt to taste
  5. 1 garlic clove, minced
  6. 1 ½ cups Arborio rice
  7. ½ cup dry white wine
  8. ¾ pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1” lengths
  9. ¼ to 1/3 cup pesto, to taste
  10. 2-4 tablespoons Parmesan, to taste
  1. Bring the stock to a simmer over low heat.
  2. Heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and a generous pinch of salt, and cook gently just until tender (3 minutes). Stir in rice and garlic and stir until the grains separate and begin to crackle. Add wine and stir until it is no longer visible in the pan. Begin adding simmering stock about ½ cup at a time. The stock should just cover the rice and should bubble. Cook, stirring often, until it is just about absorbed. Add some more stock and continue to cook, adding more stock and stirring when rice is almost dry.
  3. After 10 minutes, add asparagus and continue to stir and add stock for another 10-15 minutes until rice is al dente. Add another ladleful of stock to the rice, stir in the pesto and additional cheese and remove from the heat. Taste and adjust seasonings. Mixture should be creamy. Serve while hot.
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

White Pizzas with Arugula

White Pizzas with Arugula
For the dough
  1. 1 1/4 cups warm (100 to 110) water
  2. 2 packages dry yeast
  3. 1 tablespoon honey
  4. 3 tablespoons good olive oil
  5. 4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for kneading
  6. Kosher salt
For the garlic oil
  1. 1/2 cup good olive oil
  2. 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  3. 5 sprigs fresh thyme
  4. 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
For the topping
  1. 3 cups grated Italian fontina cheese (8 ounces)
  2. 1 1/2 cups grated fresh mozzarella cheese (7 ounces)
  3. 11 ounces creamy goat cheese, such as Montrachet, crumbled
For the vinaigrette
  1. 1/2 cup good olive oil
  2. 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  3. Freshly ground black pepper
  4. 8 ounces baby arugula
  5. 1 lemon, sliced
  1. Combine the water, yeast, honey, and 3 tablespoons olive oil in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. When the yeast is dissolved, add 3 cups of the flour, then 2 teaspoons salt, and mix on medium-low speed. While mixing, add up to 1 more cup of flour, or just enough to make a soft dough. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes until smooth, sprinkling it with the flour as necessary to keep it from sticking to the bowl. When the dough is ready, turn it out onto a floured board and knead it by hand a dozen times. It should be smooth and elastic. Place the dough in a well-oiled bowl and turn it to cover it lightly with oil. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and allow the dough to rise at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Garlic oil
  1. Place 1/2 cup olive oil, the garlic, thyme, and red pepper flakes in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over low heat. Cook for 10 minutes, making sure the garlic doesn't burn. Set aside.
  1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. (Be sure your oven is clean!)
  2. Dump the dough onto a board and divide it into 6 equal pieces. Place them on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and cover them with a damp towel. Allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes. Use immediately, or refrigerate for up to 4 hours.
  3. Press and stretch each ball into an 8-inch circle and place 2 circles on each parchment-lined sheet pan. (If you've chilled the dough, take it out of the refrigerator approximately 30 minutes ahead to let it come to room temperature.) Brush the pizzas with the garlic oil, and sprinkle each one liberally with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the pizzas evenly with Fontina, mozzarella, and goat cheese. Drizzle each pizza with 1 tablespoon more of the garlic oil and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until the crusts are crisp and the cheeses begin to brown.
  1. Whisk together 1/2 cup of the olive oil, the lemon juice, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. When the pizzas are done, place the arugula in a large bowl and toss with just enough lemon vinaigrette to moisten. Place a large bunch of arugula on each pizza and serve immediately.
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics by Ina Garten
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics by Ina Garten
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

Take it Slow by Lynn Dugan

Savor – Relax – Reflect – Connect – Cherish – Celebrate – Delight – Share

lynnblog1These words are often compromised in our fast-paced culture.  But last month, when I had the opportunity to visit my Great Aunt Angie in Italy, I was reminded of how important they are to remember to prioritize in our busy lives. Angie and my Uncle Gino used to own a neighborhood restaurant in Chicago.  After Uncle Gino passed, she returned to Lammari, her small Italian hometown in Tuscany.  In August, I was able to see her for the first time since she left Chicago twenty years ago!

Angie lives on a property that she shares with her sister Renatta, Renatta’s grown children, and their families. They invited my oldest daughter and I to their homes for dinner and we had the chance to meet and share a meal with Angie’s extended family for the first time.

We spent several hours at the alfresco dining table, surrounded by all of the family, greeting each other, eating, talking, laughing, and reminiscing. In fact, if it had not lasted several hours, we would not have been able to enjoy all of the delicious food they prepared for us. The first course was a hearty lasagna followed by a pair of salads – tomato with red onions and leafy greens. Next we were served plates of thinly-sliced roast pork and roast beef with gravy, and sides of oven-roasted potatoes and a zucchini frittata. Of course we enjoyed local wine and to top off the feast, we indulged in almond tart and coffee for dessert.

lynnblog3It was magical to be part this multi-generational meal; everyone brought a plate to the table that they had prepared in their own kitchen.  There was a little competition between everyone’s dishes, a little teasing of the presentation, but lots of love. It was remarkable to see the way they lingered at the table, even the young children, all enjoying each other’s company. There was not a single distraction during dinner from any electronics. I treasured the culture surrounding the meal and hope I can bring this Tuscan experience into my own family by slowing down at mealtime, allowing more time for conversation, and taking time to connect, relax, reflect, and celebrate.  Although an experience like this cannot be fully recreated, even a little change towards taking it slow would make a big difference. And now that my own kids are getting older, this is more doable than a few years ago!

As you try to do the same, enjoy this recipe for Renatta’s Zucchini Frittata.  Even more recipes from Tuscany will be shared at Marcel’s Midday “Tuscan Country Kitchen” that I am teaching on October 26th.   I hope to see you there!

Renatta’s Zucchini Frittata
Serves 6
  1. 5 large eggs
  2. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  3. Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  4. 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  5. 4 tablespoons olive oil
  6. 1 large onion, diced
  7. 1 pound zucchini, cut in half lengthwise and into 1/4–inch slices
  8. 2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, chopped
  9. 2 tablespoons fresh basil, cut into chiffonade
  1. Preheat broiler.
  2. Crack and beat eggs in a bowl. Add grated cheese and season with salt and pepper, set aside. In a 10-inch skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil. Sauté onion until it begins to caramelize - about 5 minutes. Add zucchini to the skillet and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes until zucchini is tender but not soft, and excess liquid is cooked off (drain off any extra liquid if present when zucchini is finished cooking). Add parsley and basil. Drizzle remaining olive oil around pan and heat while evenly distributing pan contents.
  3. Give eggs a quick stir and pour into pan. Immediately reduce to low heat and cook until eggs are just set, about 12-15 minutes.
  4. To finish the cooking, slide pan 6 inches under broiler until the top is golden (1-2 minutes). Please be careful not to overcook.
  5. The frittata can be slid onto a serving plate after edges are loosened with a knife. Serve warm or cold, cut into wedges. Enjoy slowly, just as Renatta, Angie, and all of my family in Italy would do!
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/


  1. Pizza dough (see recipe below)
  2. Italian sausage, hot or mild, browned and drained of fat
  3. pizza sauce or marinara
  4. diced/sliced onions, peppers, olives and mushrooms, browned, if desired
  5. ricotta
  6. mozzarella, shredded
  7. 1 slightly beaten egg, mixed with 1 tsp. water
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Divide dough into 6-8 pieces.
  3. On a floured surface, roll each into an 8” circle. Spoon some sausage, some pizza sauce and vegetables onto half of each circle. Top with some ricotta and a sprinkling of mozzarella. Moisten edge of dough with egg wash. Fold in half; seal edge by pressing with a fork. Slash top and brush with egg wash.
  4. Bake on a parchment lined baking sheet for 30-35 minutes.
  1. Pizza Dough - Makes 2 ten inch pizzas or 6-8 calzones
  2. Stir together: 2 t. dry yeast ½ cup warm water
  3. Add and mix well: ¼ cup flour ¼ cup rye flour
  4. Allow this mixture to sit until quite bubbly, about 30 min.
  5. Mix together in another bowl: 3¼ cup flour 1 t. salt Stir this into the yeast and flour mixture along with: ¾ cup cold water ¼ cup olive oil
  6. Mix thoroughly by hand or electric mixer. Knead until dough is soft and elastic, about 5 minutes. If dough is sticky, add more flour, but only enough to form a soft, slightly sticky dough. You want a very soft, slightly moist dough.
  7. Place dough in large oiled bowl and cover. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1-2 hours. (or place in oiled Ziploc bag overnight in refrigerator). Bring to room temperature before forming into pizzas or calzones.
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

Spicing Things Up by Robin Nathan

BucatiniPancettaOk, so the holidays are over. It’s dark at 4:30. It’ll be months until the weather’s warm again. We can moan about it, or we can pick up our pans and do something about it!  I say, fight dreary with flavor!

I’ve got the first salvo right here. A classic pasta dish from the central Italian town Amatrice, a few hours east of Rome, it’s traditionally made with bucatini pasta and pancetta, but you can substitute bacon or even turkey bacon for the pancetta. Bucatini is a long, round noodle – about the size of spaghetti, but it’s hollow. The first time I ate it, I quickly realized you can’t slurp it – the hollowness makes it like a straw! You can slurp, but nothing happens! So eating it is a great way to brush up on your pasta twirling skills.  You won’t get much practice, though. It’ll be gone faster than the 10 minutes it takes to make!

Bucatini all’ Amatriciana
Serves 4
  1. 8 oz. pancetta, diced
  2. olive oil
  3. 1 yellow onion, diced
  4. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  5. ½ t. dried red chile flake
  6. 12 oz. whole San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand, juices reserved
  7. 1 pound bucatini pasta
  8. grated Pecorino Romano
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. When it boils, add the pasta and cook 7-8 minutes, or until al dente.
  2. Meanwhile, put the pancetta into a large skillet and render it for about 8 minutes, until some of the fat has melted off, but the pancetta is still on the soft side. Add a little olive oil if you need to keep it from sticking at the beginning. Drain off all but 2 Tablespoons of the drippings. Add the onion to the skillet and cook until translucent, then add the garlic and chile flake and cook 30 seconds. Pour in the tomatoes. Season to taste with salt. Simmer gently.
  3. Drain the pasta and add it directly to the skillet with the sauce. Toss for a minute or two to combine.
  4. Tong into bowls and garnish liberally with Pecorino Romano.
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

Grapes and Espresso

Grapes and Espresso
Serves 4
  1. (2) 1.5 oz strong Espresso
  2. 1 T. olive oil
  3. 1 pound red and white grapes
  4. 5 oz. sweet white wine (Sauternes or Gewürztraminer)
  5. 3 sticks of cinnamon
  6. 1 T. honey
  7. ½ T. balsamic vinegar
  8. ½ T. butter
  1. Heat the olive oil in a medium-sized frying pan. Add the grapes and sauté for one minute. Add the espresso, white wine, cinnamon sticks and honey. Stir for two minutes and then remove from the heat.
  2. Add the vinegar and butter to the pan and stir until the butter melts. Serve warm.
  1. This elegant dish is a splendid blend of colors and tastes.
  2. Serve as an accompaniment to an Italian meal of roast meat or poultry with polenta or as a light dessert with cheese and biscotti.
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

The Best Gnocchi

The Best Gnocchi
Light, fluffy, melt-in-your-mouth perfection.
  1. 3-4 large Idaho potatoes (2 lbs.), scrubbed
  2. 1 whole egg, beaten
  3. 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  4. 2 T. grated Parmesano-Reggiano
  5. 1 T. extra-virgin olive oil
  6. 1 T. unsalted butter, melted
  7. 1 t. salt
  8. ¼ t. course ground black pepper
  1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 425°F.
  2. Prick each potato several times with a fork and place on a baking sheet or in a roasting pan large enough to hold them all in a single layer. Bake in the oven until the potatoes are tender enough to be easily pierced with a small knife (50-60 minutes).
  3. Remove the potatoes from the oven and let them cool slightly—just enough so that you can handle them, not more. They should still be steaming when you cut them open ( about 6 to 10 minutes). (If you let the potatoes get too cold, the proteins in the egg won’t bind with the potatoes, and your gnocchi will fall apart). Cut each potato in half lengthwise and scoop out the flesh with a spoon. Pass the potato flesh through a food mill or press through a ricer set over a medium bowl. Using a wooden spoon, gently stir in the beaten egg, Parmesan cheese, olive oil, melted butter, salt, and pepper, and 1 cup of flour, reserving the rest. The mixture should be stirred only until the ingredients are combined: anything more will overwork the dough, and your gnocchi will come out tough (like the frozen-in-a-bag variety). Work the mixture into a smooth ball; if the dough seems a little too moist for this, add a touch of flour (the moisture level in every potato is different, so every batch of gnocchi will be a bit different, too).
  4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Working quickly, cut the dough into inch-wide slices, using a dough cutter if you’ve got one, a regular dinner-table knife if you don’t. Roll these between your hands to make them into a ball. The dough should feel soft, slightly tacky but not sticky—sort of warm and sexy. Roll out each piece into long logs (or “snakes,” as we call them in the kitchen), approximately 14” to 16” long, about ¾“ thick. (This isn’t a precise measurement. You can make your gnocchi whatever size you want) Cut each on in half and roll it out again, thinner, to the same length. Sprinkle the rolled-out snakes with flour to keep them from sticking, and keep adding more flour to the work surface as you go to help as you roll the dough. Cut each snake into gnocchi-sized pieces ( I like mine to be about 1 inch x 1 inch), and place the pieces on a lightly floured baking sheet. Cover this with a cloth or plastic wrap until you’re ready to cook the gnocchi, so they don’t dry out.
  5. To Cook the Gnocchi: This step is just as important as the preparation: tender gnocchi require careful attention.
  6. Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the gnocchi all at once (or as close to it as possible). Stir once gently all around, so that the water is aerated and the dough doesn’t become glued together like one big gnoccho. Let the gnocchi cook until they rise to the surface (about 1-2 minutes); wait one more minute and then, using a slotted spoon or a spider, remove the gnocchi. (Don’t ever dump the gnocchi out into a colander the way you would spaghetti: that’s a disaster. All the gnocchi crash onto each other and break.)
  1. Gnocchi are delicate little things; fresh gnocchi should be cooked the day they are made or, at the very latest, the next day. Frozen and stored in an airtight container, they’ll keep for up to a month.
  2. Serve with your choice of sauce: Tomato, Pesto, Browned Butter, Ragu...
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

Make Do With What You Have by Jamie Bordoshuk

With both kids out of the house, my wife and I decided to try our hand at living in California for a couple of weeks. Why not? We had nothing keeping us here. The thought of warm weather, sunshine and the beach was all the convincing that I needed to book those two airline tickets out of this Midwestern icebox.

Two weeks in someone else’s kitchen. Our beautiful rental home in Santa Barbara, two blocks from the beach, boasted a “gourmet kitchen”. True, it had a six burner Viking range. But, where was the overhead light? The built-in Sub Zero refrigerator was huge. But, only one shelf? Tons of cabinets and drawers, but not a single spatula to be found. No cheese grater, but enough lemon and lime squeezers to put a full-service margarita bar to shame.

As my mother used to say, you just have to “make do with what you have”.  Despite the meager supplies, I decided to forge ahead with Friday’s dinner party for our California friends and family. I would make two lasagnas – one for the California vegetarians, the other for us Midwestern meat lovers.  Thursday was sauce day. I literally opened every drawer at least three times looking for tools, pots, pans and serving pieces. At home, it was second nature to locate everything without even thinking about it. I quickly realized that I would have to improvise if I was going to pull this off.

Two mismatched pots sat side by side on the Viking range. One tall, dark and non-stick. The other was squat, bright and stainless steel. The sauces simmered all afternoon and by 3 o’clock, the kitchen smelled absolutely amazing – just like home. I turned off the pots to cool and we went out for our daily walk on the beach.

tgl-lasagnaFriday morning came around and it was time to build my lasagnas. As every good chef knows, preparation is the key to success. I guess that warm ocean air had gotten to me, as I didn’t think to look for two 13 x 9 pans BEFORE I decided on the lasagna. After 20 minutes of opening up every cupboard and drawer again and again, I remembered my mom’s wise advice. Make do with what you have.

I grabbed a 5×8 loaf pan and a pie tin and got to work.

Classic Meat Lasagna
Serves 8
  1. 1⁄2 box lasagna noodles, no-boil
  2. 1 lb. ground beef
  3. 2 t. Worcestershire sauce
  4. 1 small onion, small chop
  5. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  6. 1 T. dried oregano
  7. 1 can 28 oz. crushed tomatoes
  8. 1 can 14.5oz diced tomatoes
  9. 1 lb. Ricotta cheese
  10. 1⁄2 lb. Provolone cheese, sliced
  11. 1 lb. shredded Mozzarella cheese
  12. Kosher Salt
  13. Fresh cracked black pepper
  1. In a sauté pan, heat oil. Add onion and sauté until translucent. Add garlic and sauté until it begins to brown. Add ground beef with some salt and pepper and sauté until cooked through. Stir in crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, oregano and Worcestershire sauce. Cook on a simmer until thickened slightly - approximately 25-30 min. Remove from heat.
  2. In a 9x13 pan, spread a small amount of the meat sauce on the bottom of the pan. Layer in the following order: Lasagna noodles, sauce, thin layer of ricotta, provolone, a sprinkled layer of Mozzarella, another layer of uncooked noodles. Repeat layering process to the top. (The last layer will be Mozzarella)
  3. Cover lasagna pan with foil & place on a cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees until nice & bubbly (approximately 45min.). Remove foil & continue cooking until cheese on top begins to brown slightly.
  4. Remove from oven & allow to sit for 20 minutes. Cut & serve.
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

Let Italians Save Your Dinner: A Recipe for Pasta Carbonara by Robin Nathan

It’s dinner-time and you’ve been running all day. The kids will be home in a few minutes, your other half is right behind them, and all they want to know is “what’s for dinner???”  Allow me to introduce you to your new dinner best friend … pasta carbonara.

“Carbonara?” you say. “I’ve been eating that for years. What the heck is so special about that??” Well, my friends, you only think you’ve been eating it for years. If you order it in a restaurant and one of the ingredients is heavy cream, it’s not an authentic carbonara. The classic, authentic Roman creation contains only 4 ingredients – pasta, eggs, romano cheese, and bacon. That’s it. For many of us, these are ingredients that are always in our fridge and pantry. Welcome to dinner. Or brunch. Or midnight post-party snack.

The first time I had this dish was in the kitchen of a former Italian boyfriend, and man, was it a revelation. (The pasta, not the boyfriend.) So simple, so soulful, so satisfying.  (Again, the pasta, not the boyfriend.) Just cook the pasta (I love it with fettucine or pappardelle), cook the bacon. Drain the pasta, put it back in the pan with a tablespoon of bacon drippings. Pour in beaten eggs and grated Romano cheese, and use a tongs to toss and stir. The heat of the cooked pasta turns the beaten egg into a thickened, satiny sauce in about a minute. Tumble in the cooked bacon, tong it through. Pile into bowls with loads of grated Romano cheese on top. The boyfriend is a memory, but the pasta remains. Dinner is served!!

Pappardelle a la Carbonara
  1. 12 oz. Pappardelle
  2. 5 Strips thick cut bacon, cut into ½” dice, cooked slowly until crispy-chewy and rendered
  3. 5 eggs, beaten to blend
  4. 2 T. Grated Pecorino Romano cheese (plus more for garnish)
  5. 1 T. reserved bacon drippings
  6. Black pepper to taste
  1. Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until barely al dente. Cook the bacon while the pasta cooks. Scoop out the cooked bacon pieces and discard all but 1 T. of the bacon drippings. Beat the eggs with the 2 T. grated cheese in a bowl. Season with black pepper.
  2. When the pasta is barely al dente, drain it and put it back into the pot. Pour in the warm bacon drippings, and quickly toss. Add the egg mixture all at once and toss with tongs for one-two minutes, until the egg mixture becomes slightly thickened, satiny and clings to the pasta (This must be done off heat, otherwise you’ll have scrambled eggs and pasta. No bueno.) Tumble in the cooked bacon pieces and toss once more.
  3. Tong into serving bowls with a generous handful of grated Pecorino Romano. Buon Apetito!
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/