Baked Rice

Ross-il-forn is a very popular Maltese dish very much like Arancini Scicilani is to the Sicilians. The concept is similar except,in this case,the rice is cooked separately,combined with a flavorful meat sauce, eggs and topped with cheese then baked.Just rustic and super delicious. It is ideal to prepare with left over rice and some ground meat.I often use Buffalo or lamb to change it up a bit.

Photograph by Rahul Mahtani

1 cup short grain rice, cooked

1 lb ground meat,such as Buffalo or lamb

1 small can tomato paste

a few sprigs each Oregano, Basil and parsley, chopped

2 cloves garlic,finely minced

1 small onion,finely minced

1 cup red wine

1 bay leaf.

3 eggs beaten

1/2 cup each freshly grated pecorino romano and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

Heat a saucepan and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil.Allow to heat,then saute onion till translucent. Add garlic and saute 2 more minutes.

Add meat and use wooden spoon to break up meat. Cook on medium heat until meat browns. Stir in tomato paste and saute 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in chopped herbs and bay leaf. season with salt and pepper.

Pour in wine and allow to simmer 10 to 15 minutes on medium low heat, covered. Turn off heat and allow meat to cool.

Preheat oven to 350*F

In a separate dish beat eggs.Season with salt and pepper. Stir in half of both cheese. Add in the cooked rice and stir gently so as not to break up the rice.

Stir in the cooked meat, once again to incorporate but not break up the rice.

Pour into baking dish and top with the balance cheese.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until set and cheese melted. serve.


Rao’s famous lemon chicken

Pollo al limone is a classic dish I grew up with.Sadly,my mom’s recipe was lost during a storm that flooded our basement when we had just ,moved into our home.Luckily,years later,I came across this amazing recipe from the famous Rao’s restaurant in east harlen NY,it is a small,whole in the wall restaurant,where you have to wait a life time for a reservation,sadly never had the luck. This recipe is so simple to prepare,yet so delicious.Love it served with a simple spinach and tomato salad,some classic roasted potatoes and,ofcourse,crusty bread to mop up the sauce.

Serves 6

Photograph by Rahul Mahtani

2  2  1/2 to 3 pound broiling chickens,halved

1/4 cup chopped parsley

Lemon sauce

To attain maxium heat,preheat broiler for at least 15 minutes before using.

Broil chicken halves,turning once,for about 30 minutes or until skin is golden brown and juices run clear when bird is pierced with fork.

remove chicken from broiler,leaving broiler on.Using a very sharp knife,cut each half into about 6 pieces(leg,thigh,wing,3 small breast pieces).

Place chicken on a baking sheet with sides,of a size that can fit into the broiler.Pour Lemon sauce over the chicken and toss to coat well.

Return to broiler and broil for 3 minutes.Turn each piece and broil for an additional minute.

Remove from broiler and portion each chicken onto each of 6 warm serving plates.

Pour sauce into heavy saucepan.Stir in parsley and place over high heat for 1 minute. Pour an equal amount of sauce over each chicken and serve with lots of crusty bread to absorb the sauce.

LEMON SAUCE2 cups lemon juice (Please use freshly squeezed,it really makes a difference)

1 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1  1/2 tsp minced garlic

1/2 tsp dried oregano ( I use fresh Greek oregano in the summer,about 1 T)

Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients together and whisk .Cover and refigerate until ready to use.Whisk vigorously before using.

Mum’s fantastic classic baked ziti

Pasta makes me happy . There is a real comforting sound of cheese and sauce bubbling away in the oven that keeps me salivating for dinner time . My mum made the best baked ziti , simple , straight forward cheesey baked goodness . she , ofcourse , made her own simple marinara sauce , but store bought is fine too . She also used the best freshly grated parmigiano reggiano cheese and thinly sliced Fontina , it has a superior melting texture and , naturally what is a baked ziti withour Rikotta , the fresher the better . To freshen up the dish she added freshly torn basil leaves to the dish just before assembly , that kept the flavor of the herb fresh all through .

Serves 4 to 6

Photograph by Rahul Mahtani

1 lb cooked ziti or penne ( cook for half the reccomended time and set aside).

4 cups home made or store bought marinara sauce

1 lb fresh rikotta cheese

1 cup freshly sliced Fontina cheese

1/2 cup freshly grated parmigiano reggiano cheese

15 to 20 fresh basil leaves roughly torn

pinch red pepper flakes , ( optional )

Preheat oven to 350*F .  Set aside a 13 by 11 baking dish.

Toss the cooked pasta with 1 cup of sauce . Stir in red pepper flakes ( optional ) and fresh basil. Set aside.

Pour in 1 cup of sauce in the base of the baking dish , spread it out to cover the entire base of the dish . Pour in and spread the sauced pasta .

Top the pasta with spoonfuls of rikotta , make sure to cover the pasta evenly , top with more basil .

Top the pasta and basil with 1 cup of marinara sauce , spread it to cover the pasta well . Sprinkle on 1/2 the Parmigiano cheese and half the fontina cheese .Cover with the final cup of sauce and the rest of the cheese . This may seem excessive sauce but , during baking , as the pasta continues to cook , the dish will dry as it cooks without adequate liquid .

Bake for 20 to 30 minutes , until the cheese is bubbling and lightly browned . Serve

Marconi Tomato sauce

I found this 100 year old recipe from Bobby Flay’s Throwdown cookbook and gave it a try . It was coupled with the meatballs , which I did not try as I have my own mum’s family recipe I always use . This sauce was as good a sauce as I have ever tried . It was naturally sweet from the tomatoes with a really good balance of garlic and fresh basil . Plus it is so easy to make , you will want it all the time .

Photograph by Rahul Mahtani

1/3 cup olive oil ( I use Monini)

12 cloves garlic , finely sliced

1 large Spanish onion , finely diced

2 ( 28 oz ) cans imported crushed tomatoes

1 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp freshly ground white or black pepper

1 large handful fresh basil leaves , thinly sliced

Heat oilve oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat until it begins to shimmer . Add garlic and onion and cook until soft and slightly browned , about 5 minutes . Add the tomatoes , salt and pepper and stir . Allow the sauce to come to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes . Remove from heat and add the basil .


Mum’s Buffalo meatballs

Meatballs are a staple in a variety of cusines , but the Italian version always springs to mind first , draped in a zesty tomato basil sauce and topped with freshly gated parmesan cheese . Cook up some pasta , and you are ready to eat . This is a homestyle , ” sunday ‘ type dinner in our home , simple , rustic and so satisfying .  These are baked and not fried as we like to keep fat to a minimum . Please remember buffalo meat is naturally very low in fat so do not overbake them or they will be dry.

Photograph by Rahul Mahtani

1 lb ground Bison ( Buffalo meat )

2 large eggs , beaten

1 cup fresh bread crumbs

1 small bunch fresh flat leaf parsley , finely chopped

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves

1 small spanish onion , finely chopped

5 garlic cloves , minced

1 tbs heavy cream

1 cup freshly grated parmigiano reggiano cheese

salt and black pepper , to taste

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes ( optional )

Preheat oven to 350*F . Spray a foil lined baking tray with olive oil or Pam cooking spray .

Mix all the ingredients together in a mixing bowl . Do not squeeze , keep the mixture well mixed but not tight . Form teaspoonfuls of meat mixture into meatballs and place them on the prepared baking tray.

Bake till just cooked through , about 20 minutes .


Pasta e Fagioli

I know there are several similar versions of this timeless classic out there , but , of all , this is my favorite . When its cold outside , soup’s on on the inside . I simply cannot imagine anything more comforting than a hot bowl of soup , drizzled with a flavored olive oil ( I use Monini truffle oil , but a good garlic or herb olive oil is great too ) . I top the soup off with grated parmigiano reggiano cheese or sometimes with pecorino romano . This recipe can be vegan if the butter is substitued for olive oil and a vegan cheese is grated over the top to finish .

Photograph by Ashish Mahtani

A few sprigs fresh thyme , 1 sprig rosemary and 1 bay leaf , tied together with twine .

2 tbs olive oil

1 tbs butter

1 small yellow onion , chopped

4 cloves garlic , minced

1 small carrot , peeled and chopped

1 stick celery , chopped

6 cups vegetable broth ( home made or I like Swanson organic vegetable broth )

1 can red kidney beans , drained and rinsed

1 can cannelini beans , drained and rinsed

1 can whole San Marzano tomatoes

pinch red pepper flakes , optional

Freshly ground black pepper and salt , to taste

1/4 lb small pasta

Freshly grated Parmigiano reggiano cheese for topping

Flavored oil of your choice , for topping

Heat the olive oil and butter in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat . Add onion , carrot , celery and garlic , saute till tender , 3 to 4 minutes . Add stock , beans, tomatoes, and herb bundle . Cover and bring to a boil . Reduce heat and allow to simmer about 15 minutes . Off heat .

Remove herbs . Place half the soup and beans in a blender and return the rest of the soup to the boil . Add pasta and cook in the soup until just done .

Puree soup in blender and add to soup in pot with cooked pasta . Season with salt and pepper .

Drizzle with olive oil and top with parmigiano reggiano cheese to serve.

Chicken with Mustard Mascarpone Marsala Sauce

If there is one Italian chicken dish my family adores , its this one . It is versatile and satisfying in any season . During the summer I serve it with a medly of fresh seasonal vegetables and in the winter , I use different herbs and perhaps add some sun dried tomatoes and rosemary . Also I like to saute the chicken with salt , pepper , a little fresh rosemary and a little balsamic vinegar , I feels it lends a depth to the chicken . Whatever happens , though , we almost always serve this luscious chicken over spinach linguini ( delverde is our family favorite).

Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

Photograph by Rahul Mahtani

Serves 4 to 6

1  1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breast , cut crosswise into 3 pieces

Salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tbs olive oil

5 tbs butter , divided

3/4 cup chopped onion ( I use shallots )

1 lb cremini mushrooms , sliced

1/2 cup sundried tomatoes , sliced ( optional )

2 tbs minced garlic

1 cup dry Marsala wine

1 cup ( 8 oz ) marcarpone chees

2 tbs Dijon Mustard

2 tbs chopped fresh Italian parsley

1 tbs chopped fresh rosemary ( optional )

1 tbs balsamic vinegar ( optional )

pinch red pepper flakes ( optional)

12 oz dried fettucini

Sprinkle chicken with salt , pepper , rosemary and balsamic ( if using ). Heat oil in a heavy large skillet over high heat . Add the chicken and cook just until brown , about 4 minutes per side . transfer the chicken to a plate and cool slightly .

While the chicken cools , melt 2 tbs of butterto the same skillet over medium high heat , then add onion or shallots and saute until tender about 2 minutes . Add mushrooms and garlic and saute until mushrooms are tender and juices evaporate , about 12 minutes . Add wine and simmer until it is reduced by half, about 4 minutes . Stir in the Marscarpone and mustard. Add red pepper flakes ( if using ).

Cut the chicken breasts crosswise into 1/3 inch thick slices . Return the chicken and any accumulated juices to the skillet . Simmer , uncovered , over medium low heat until the chicken is just cooked through and the sauce thickens slightly , about 2 minutes . Stir in the chopped parsley . Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper .

Meanwhile , bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the fettuccini and cook until al dente . Toss the fettuccini with 3 tbs of butter and season to taste with salt and pepper . Swirl the pasta onto serving plates . Spoon the chicken mixture over top . Garnish , serve .