Janice Therese Mancuso

Cooking, decorating, and Italian living

JTMancuso

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email: jtm@jtmancuso.com

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Italian Cooking Tips

Italian cooking is easy and the recipes are delicious. No secret ingredients, just a combination of flavors that compliment each other and create a magnificent meal.

Olive oil, red pepper flakes, and garlic are often used in Italian cooking, especially in recipes from southern Italy. Considerable variations in olive oil—based on the region and olives—will affect the flavors of the food. Choose whatever you prefer. The heat in red pepper flakes may differ. Garlic varies, too, from mild to strong. Whatever garlic you use, it should be fresh, not bottled.

 

GARLIC TIP

Don’t crush the garlic into the cutting board. Instead, cut off both ends. Place tip of knife under skin and the skin should peel right off. If not, slice the garlic lengthwise down the center. The skin will slip off.

PASTA TIP

Prepare pasta ahead of time or make extra to serve later in the week. Cook 1 pound of pasta as desired. Drain, place back in pot, and pour in 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil. Toss to coat. Let cool, stirring every five minutes to dissipate steam. When ready to serve, heat in microwave or reheat in pot over low heat. Place remaining pasta in a large container and cover. Store in refrigerator for up to one week. When ready to serve, stir, heat, and flavor.

ROASTING VEGETABLES

Roasting vegetables brings out the sweetness and intensifies flavor. The vegetables can be mixed with pasta; added to sandwiches, eggs, potatoes, and rice; a pizza or focaccia topping, or served as is. Heat oven to 450 degrees. Wash and dry vegetables and cut or slice, about ½-inch thick. Place in a single layer on an oiled baking sheet, keeping all of one vegetable together. Roast 20 to 25 minutes, turn and continue to roast until both sides have browned. For an easy way to roast peppers, click here.

BRUSCHETTA

Thick slices—¾ inch to over 1 inch—of bread grilled, brushed with a fresh-cut garlic clove and olive oil.

 

CROSTINI

Thin slices—¼ inch to ½ inch—of bread, brushed with olive oil and baked, or fried in olive oil.

POLENTA TIP

For a fast, easy way to make lump free polenta, add cornmeal and water to the pot at the same time. Stir until all cornmeal has dissolved. Continue to stir until polenta has thickened. Recipe here. (Scroll down.)

PESTO

Pesto means “pound” or “crush,” and refers to the technique used to make it. Using a mortar and pestle is traditional, but using a food processor is faster and easier. Pesto can be made with many different ingredients, however, the classic Genovese Pesto, from the region of Liguria, is made with basil. Recipe here.

Recipe for

Pizza alla Margherita

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