Written By: Kim A. Fuqua

The preparation and enjoyment of fresh and flavorful meals consumes a generous part of the day. How do they find the time? Italians eat only two meals a day, typically skipping breakfast in favor of a nice cup of cappuccino. If you’ve ever spent time dining in Italy you know the Italians do not rush through those two meals. Rather, they slowly savor each course over a bottle or two of wine and good conversation. The pacing of a meal is purposefully leisurely so that one can fully enjoy and digest the wonderful food.

The typical Italian five-course meal allows for a good balance of flavors, textures, and colors: fresh tomatoes and basil, homemade pasta with a deeply flavored sauce, oven-roasted vegetables, a savory meat dish, and a beautiful dessert. Don’t forget the crusty bread with olive oil, a staple of every Italian meal. You may choose to make your own bread from scratch using the recipe provided or, if short on time, pick up a freshly made loaf at the market. The dishes chosen for a meal are typically dependent upon what’s fresh in the garden and at the market on a given day.

Wine is also a must; the Italians drink wine much like we do water, and in fact many sip it from small water glasses. Keep in mind that the family table wines consumed in Italy tend to be lower in alcohol than a lot of what we drink in North America. Wine pairings have been suggested for each course to enhance your Italian dining experience. Start with a bubbly white, move on to some more robust reds, and finish with a sweet dessert wine.

For this five-course Italian meal, the dishes chosen showcase a variety of flavors, textures, and colors following the simple rules of an Italian meal. You’ll find the recipes surprisingly simple, as the freshness of the ingredients is the key to all the wonderful flavors of this meal. Two ingredients you’ll be utilizing quite a bit in preparing this menu are extra virgin olive oil and sea salt. Best not to compromise on quality for either of these items!

Buon appetito!

Crusty Italian Bread

Serve with small dipping bowls of extra virgin olive oil. Feel free to add your favorite herbs and spices to the oil, such as crushed red pepper and oregano.

Prep Time: 5 1/2 hours; Cook Time: 40 minutes; Servings: 2 loaves

2 1/2        cups warm water
2               tablespoons active dry yeast
8               cups all-purpose flour
1               tablespoon salt
                 yellow cornmeal
1               tablespoon water
1               egg white

Pour warm water into a warm mixing bowl; sprinkle with the yeast. Let stand for 5 minutes, then stir in about 2 cups of the flour. Beat well; add salt and gradually beat in all but about 2 cups of the flour. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and cover with a clean dish towel; let rest 10 minutes. Knead by hand for 20 minutes or until dough is very elastic, kneading in as much of the remaining flour as necessary for smooth dough. Place dough in a lightly buttered bowl, turning to grease the entire dough surface.

Cover bowl with foil then cover with a dish cloth and let rise in a warm place for about 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in bulk. Punch dough down and let rise to double again, about 1 hour longer. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide in half and from each portion into a ball. Cover with a dish cloth and let rest for 10 minutes. Roll each half of dough into a 15-by-8-inch rectangle about 1/2-inch think. Roll up tightly, starting with the short side, sealing as you roll. Taper ends by rolling out with hands until loaf is 10 to 11 inches long.

Place loaves seam side down on buttered baking dishes that have been sprinkled with yellow cornmeal. Add 1 tablespoon water to egg white in a bowl and beat lightly; brush over and along sides of loaves. Cover the loaves with a damp cloth without touching dough by placing glasses or cups around loaves and placing the cloth on the glasses. Place pans in a warm place to rise until doubles in bulk, about 1 hour.

Place a shallow pan on bottom rack of oven; fill with boiling water. Bake loaves in center of preheated 375 degree oven for 20 minutes. Brush with egg white mixture again and continue baking for 20 minutes longer, or until well-browned and done.

Insalata Caprese

This light salad of tomato, basil, and mozzarella is the perfect start to a multicourse Italian meal. Known in Italy as Insalata Caprese, the name literally means “sald of Capri,” which is where it originated. Use the best sea salt you can find to bring out the flavor of the tomatoes.

Prep Time: 10 minutes; Serves: 4

4           large, ripe tomatoes
1           pound fresh cow’s milk mozzarella cheese
1          cup fresh basil leaves, washed and dried
            sea salt, to taste
            freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2         tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Wash and slice tomatoes into 1/4-inch-think slices. Slice fresh mozzarella into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Place on tomato slice on a serving plate. Top with a few basil leaves and slice of fresh mozzarella. Repeat layers and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Drizzle with 1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil. Repeat on three additional plates with remaining tomato, basil, fresh mozzarella, and olive oil. Serve immediately.

Mozzarella Twist: Feel free to use buffalo mozzarella instead of cow’s milk mozzarella if you prefer.

Wine Pairing: Prosecco di Conegliano. Kick off your meal with this crisp, clean Italian sparkler, similar to Champagne; it pairs wonderfully with salads and other light meal startes.

Linguini Puttanesca

The chopped anchovies in the sauce practically dissolve into the oil when sauteing them, so you don’t have to worry about tasting anchovies of you have an aversion to them. But please do not leave them out or you will miss the depth of flavor they bring to this sauce from the Campania region.

Prep Time: 10 minutes; Cook Time: 30 minutes; Serves: 4

2            tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1            clove garlic, chopped
6           anchovy fillets, chopped
1            35-ounce can imported Italian plum tomatoes, crushed, with their juices
1            tablespoon capers
12         Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
1/2       teaspoon dried oregano
1/2       teaspoon crushed red pepper
             freshly ground black peppers, to taste
1/2      cup water
1           pound linguini

Heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and anchovies and cook until garlic is lightly browned. Add tomatoes and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, then reduce to a simmer. Add capers, olives, oregano, red pepper, black pepper, and 1/2 cup water. Simmer for 20 minutes.

While the sauce is simmering, bring a pot of generously salted water to a boil. Add the linguini and cook uncovered over high heat until al dente. Drain pasta, toss with sauce, and serve garnished with a sprinkle of oregano.

Wine Pairing: Barbaresco. The robust intensity of this wine holds up well to the strong flavors of the puttanesca sauce.

Veal Piccata with Artichokes

Who doesn’t love artichoke hearts? The flavors of the hearts, capers, and lemon meld beautifully with the veal.

Prep Time: 10 minutes; Cook Time: 30 minutes; Serves: 4

1 1/2        pounds veal cutlets, pounded to about 1/8-inch think
1/2          cup flour
                sea salt to taste
                freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2             tablespoons olive oil
1/2         cup dry white wine
1             cup chicken stock or broth
               juice of 1 lemon
2            tablespoons capers
1/2        cup artichoke hearts
1             lemon, cut into thin slices

Chef’s Hint: Pound the cutlets by placing them between two sheets of plastic wrap and pounding them with a mallet or the back of a large spoon. Pound them until they are about 1/8-inch think.

In a wide bowl or pan, mix the flour with some salt and pepper. Dip the cutlets into the flour and coat them thoroughly. Pat off the excess flour.

Heat oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Place the cutlets into the pan (in batches if necessary; do not overcrowd the pan) and brown on both sides. Remove from the pan and keep warm.

Pour off the excess fat, leaving just a thin film and the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the wine and stir with a wooden spoon until the browned bits come of the bottom and begin to dissolve. Add chicken stock and continue cooking and stirring until reduced by half (you only want a couple of tablespoons of sauce per serving).

Add lemon juice, capers, artichoke hearts, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook until all the ingredients are heated through. dd the cutlets to coat with the sauce.

Garnish each portion with a couple of lemon slices and serve.

Wine Pairing: Brunello di Montalcino. The persistent bouquet of this ruby-red wine nicely complements the flavors of the tangy Piccata sauce.

Oven-Roasted Asparagus

The asparagus gets a slightly nutty flavor from roasting, which makes this easy and elegant dish even more appealing.

Prep Time: 10 minutes; Cook Time: 15 minutes; Serves: 4

1           pound asparagus
1 1/2    tablespoons olive oil
1/2       teaspoon sea salt

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cut off the woody bottom part of the asparagus spears and discard. To prevent the asparagus from being stringy, use a vegetable peeler to peel off the skin on the bottom 2 to 3 inches of the spears.

Place asparagus on a foil-lined baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt. Roll asparagus around until they are evenly coated with oil and salt. Roast for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the thickness of your stalks and how tender you like them. They should be tender when pierced with the tip of a knife and the tips should be browned.


Literally translated, Tiramisu means “pick me up,” which probably refers to the jolt you get after eating espresso- and alcohol-laced ladyfingers! This is a great make-in-advance dessert recipe, as it can be frozen for up to 2 weeks; just let it thaw in the refrigerator for 24 hours before serving.

Prep Time: 45 minutes; Chill Time: overnight; Serves: 4

6           egg yolks
1/2       cup granulated sugar
1/3       cup brandy
1/3       cup Marsala
1           pound mascarpone
1 1/2    cups whipping cream
3/4      cup strong coffee
24        giant Italian ladyfingers
4          ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

In a large bowl, beat egg yolks with sugar until light, about 5 minutes. Whisk in 1/4 cup each brandy and Marsala. Transfer to double boiler over gently simmering water; whisk for about 7 minutes or until thickened. Let cool.

Beat mascarpone until smooth; fold in egg mixture. Whip cream; stir 1/4 of it into cheese mixture. Fold in remaining cream. Combine coffee and remaining brandy and Marsala.

Arrange half the ladyfingers in an 11-by-7-inch glass baking dish; brush with half the coffee mixture. Spread with half the cream mixture. Repeat layers. Top with chocolate.

Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Wine Pairing: Malvasia. This sweet white dessert wine pairs wonderfully with the Tiramisu.

Cooking Together


Recipes By: Laura Swayne; Written By: Kim A Fuqua

What could be better than discovering a way to spend more precious time with your family, and with your friends? That’s what “group cooking” is all about – getting together with friends and cooking a number of meals together to freeze for family dinners.

Some home cooks, like Swayne, may find themselves skeptical of the idea at first. Swayne initially found ti hard to believe that she and her friends could prepare enough interesting, tasty, quality meals that the time and energy put into the process would be worth it. Needless to day, Swayne has since been converted. Over a six-month period, she and her four friends have met three times to try out the group cooking concept. Here’s how the process works in Swayne’s group: For each group cooking night, two participants are responsible for creating a menu of 12 dishes, typically consisting of ten entrees and two dessert. Those two participants must print out all of the recipes and buy all of the groceries for the whole group. With five participants, you simply multiply each recipe by five, so that each person takes home one of each dish for her freezer.

Swayne’s group gathers at one house around 5 p.m., after the husbands and/or sitters have arrived. The group makes the plans to be together for 6 to 7 hours, during which each participant chooses a recipe to begin preparing and makes it for all five families. Each person then packages their designated meals for freezing, and then moves on to another recipe, until the group has all 12 recipes prepared and ready to go home in their individual coolers.

Swayne’s group typically orders something easy for dinner, such as pizza, for their group cooking events. The best part, though, is having all of those delicious dinners that can be thawed and prepared in no time for weeks to come.

The following dishes are just a sample of what Swayne’s cooking group has prepared and enjoyed so far.


  • If freezing vegetables, blanch them quickly before doing so
  • There are numerous packaging options available in most grocery stores; the sturdier, the better. The kind you can put directly in the oven or microwave is particularly nice
  • Make sure to release any extra air in your Ziploc bags before zipping. If you are covering a dish with saran wrap, add an extra cover of aluminum foil on top of it
  • When thawing, place frozen items in the fridge the night before you plan to use them. You can also thaw items in cold water in the sink. If not packaged in metal containers, they may also be defrosted in the microwave


Grilling over indirect heat allows the fist to stay moist and take on a subtle smokiness

Servings: 9; Prep Time: 40 minutes; Cook Time: 10 minutes

1/2       cup rise vinegar
1/2       cup soy sauce
2           tablespoons honey
1           teaspoon ground ginger
1/2       teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3          garlic cloves, minced
1           lemon, thinly sliced
1/4      cup chopped green onions
1          tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted

Combine vinegar and next 6 ingredients in a large Ziploc bag, seal. Shake to combine. Add fish; seal. Freeze, or if using same day, marinate in refrigerator 30 minutes, turning once.

If fish is frozen, remove from freezer to thaw. Preheat grill to high heat. Spray with cooking spray. Remove salmon from marinade and place on grill. Lower grill temperature to medium. Cook 5 minutes on one side, carefully lift, spray grill again with cooking spray, and turn filet over. Fish should flake easily when done. Garnish with chopped onions and toasted sesame seeds.


These tangy chops are great served with the pineapple-cashew rice

Serving: 4; Prep Time: 10 minutes; Cook Time: 25 minutes

            juice of 2 limes
           juice of 2 oranges
2        tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2        tablespoons honey
1        tablespoon Dijon mustard
1        tablespoon paprika
1        teaspoon garlic, minced
1        teaspoon black pepper
1/2    teaspoon salt
4       pork loin chops. trimmed of fat

Mix together all ingredients except pork. Pout into a Ziploc bag. Add pork chops and turn to coat. Freeze if not using that day.

Thaw overnight in fridge. Heat a large skillet over high heat. Spray with cooking spray. Add pork chops and reserve marinade. Cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Turn over and cook another 5 minutes, or until brown. Add marinade. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and cook 7 minutes more, or until middle of chops is no longer pink.

Transfer meat to a plate and cover to keep warm. Increase heat to high and cook marinade, stirring frequently for 3 to 5 minutes until thickened. Spoon over pork chops and serve.


Make this side dish a meal by adding baby shrimp, chicken breast, ham, or a combination of all three. Serve in a pineapple shell for extra flavor!

Servings: 4; Prep Time: 15 minutes; Cook Time: 30 minutes

1            tablespoon butter
1            tablespoon vegetable oil
1/4       cup yellow onion, finely chopped
1           cup white rice
2           cups chicken broth
1           12-ounce can pineapple chunks, drained
1/4       cup cashews, toasted and chopped
1/4       cup carrot, diced
1           teaspoon salt
1/4      teaspoon red pepper flakes

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In an oven-proof skillet, heat butter and oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Add rice, and stir to coat. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Cover and bake about 30 minutes, until liquid is absorbed. Let stand covered for 5 minutes before fluffing. To freeze, let cool, then place in Ziploc bag or freezer container. To us, thaw in fridge, add 2 tablespoons water, and microwave 2 minutes, or until heated through.


Save the time by substituting a 16-ounce jar of your favorite picante sauce for the homemade version here.

Servings: 4; Prep Time: 15 minutes; Cook Time: 30 minutes

Picante Sauce
1            10 1/2-ounce can tomato puree
1            4 1/2-ounce can chopped green chilies
2           tablespoons onion, minced
2           tablespoons green bell pepper, chopped
1           clove garlic
1           teaspoon white vinegar
1/2       teaspoon salt
1/4       teaspoon celery seed
1/4       teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/8       teaspoon hot pepper sauce
Peanut Sauce
1/4      cup peanut butter
2          tablespoon honey
2          tablespoon orange juice
1          teaspoon soy sauce
1          teaspoon fresh ginger
8          ounces fettuccine, cooked al dente
1           teaspoon vegetable oil
3          boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in 1-inch pieces
1/4      cup cilantro, chopped
2          tablespoons chopped peanuts
1          cup red, yellow, and orange bell pepper, sliced

If preparing your own picante sauce, combine ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce, and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat.

Combine 1 cup picante sauce and peanut sauce ingredients. Cook over low heat until smooth. Remove from heat. Toss cooked fettuccine with 1/4 cup picante/peanut sauce mixture. Place in serving bowl and set aside.

Heat oil in a large skillet and saute chicken until brown and cooked through, 4 to 6 minutes. Add remaining picante/peanut sauce to chicken and stir well. Arrange chicken on fettuccine. Sprinkle chicken with cilantro, peanuts, and colored peppers. Serve hot or at room temperature with any extra picante on the side.

To freeze this recipe for easy preparation later, simply store the picante/peanut sauce in a large Ziploc bag. In smaller Ziploc bags, store chicken pieces, peppers, and peanuts. Thaw in the fridge on the day you plan to serve. Cook your fettuccine and chicken as described above, chop up some cilantro, and serve!

Rice Twist: Substitute cooked rice for the fettuccine if you like.


Oats add crunch, and apricot spreadable fruit gives this cookie bar a rich fruit flavor

Servings: 12; Prep Time: 15 minutes; Bake Time: 30 minutes

3 3/4       cups flour
1 1/2        cups sugar
1 1/2        cups baking soda
3/4          teaspoon salt
3 3/4       cups oats
2 1/4       cups melted butter
1               30-ounce jar apricot or raspberry preserves
1               cup flaked coconut

Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, oats, and butter to make crumb mixture. Reserve one cup.

Press remaining mixture into greased 9×13 pan and spread with apricot preserves. Sprinkle remaining crumb mixture and coconut on top. If freezing, cover tightly with plastic wrap and aluminum foil. Before baking, remove from freezer to thaw. Bake 25 to 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Nutty Twist: For extra crunch, add 2 cups ground almonds to the mix.


This recipe couldn’t be easier, but it tastes like a special treat!

Servings: 12; Prep Time: 5 minutes

11         ice cream sandwiches
1/2      cup Kahlua
1          Skor bar or other favorite candy bar, crushed
1          large carton Cool Whip

Cover the bottom of a 9×13 pan with ice cream sandwiches; cut to cover entire bottom. Sprinkle Kahlua over ice cream sandwiches. Mix crushed Skor over ice cream sandwiches. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze. Cut into squares and serve whenever you like.