Easy Miso Soup Recipe

San Diego Food Finds

Recipe and Photography By Maria Desiderata Montana

While shopping at Trader Joe’s, I make it a point to pick up a box or two of their Miso Ginger Broth. It’s the perfect base for my favorite Miso Soup With Tofu and Mushrooms. After all, nothing tastes better then a light and healthy soup for lunch or dinner!

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Simple Potato Soup Recipe

I like to keep foods simple and pure! I was inspired today by plain russett potatoes and Italian oregano from my garden. Enjoy my Simple Potato Soup recipe from my rustic Italian kitchen.

Simple Potato Soup

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2/3 cup bacon bits
  • 6 scallions, finely chopped
  • 2 cups chopped carrots
  • 6 whole russet potatoes, boiled and roughly chopped
  • 4 cups water
  • 4 teaspoons chicken seasoning
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • Fresh Italian oregano, for garnish

Add oil to a large pot. Add bacon bits and scallions; cook over low heat for 1-2 minutes. Add carrots and potatoes and cook, stirring often, for 2-3 minutes. Add water and chicken seasoning; simmer on low-medium heat for 10-12 minutes. Stir in heavy cream and simmer for another 2 minutes. Add soup to bowls and garnish with oregano.

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Wild Rice Stuffed Peppers

(Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)

(Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)

Stuffing peppers with nutrients: Protein-rich wild rice in peppers makes a powerful, tasty and colorful everyday meal

Shake up your routine this school year with a healthy and delicious weeknight meal the whole family will enjoy.

All too often, a family’s busy routine doesn’t allow for much time to create a meal the kids will enjoy, especially if the meal involves a vegetable. I’ve created an affordable recipe of fresh green peppers stuffed with a wild rice mixture that’s topped with marinara sauce. It is a colorful dish that’s also a real time saver in the kitchen.

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Chicken recipe is light but full of flavor

(Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)

(Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)

My mother’s southern Italian cooking is rustic and fiery, with recipes often calling for sweet tomatoes and hot peppers, the perfect ingredients for an authentic sauce.

Since one of my mom’s favorite dishes is baked Chicken Parmesan in a marinara sauce, I decided to wow her for Mother’s Day with a modern take on this nostalgic dish that is light and healthful.

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My Not So Creamy Seafood Fettuccine

San Diego Food FindsMy seafood fettuccine is a very light dish that’s easy to prepare. My version isn’t as creamy as you would normally expect. I like to keep it simple with extra-virgin olive oil, butter and fresh herbs. Make sure to get a fresh baguette for extra dipping.

Get 25 of my authentic Italian recipes in my new book San Diego Italian Food: A Culinary History Of Little Italy And beyond.

Not So Creamy Seafood Fettuccine

Serves 4

  • 2 cans minced clams
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 ounces cocktail shrimp, precooked
  • 6-ounce can crab meat
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped Italian parsley
  • Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 1 pound fettuccine, cooked according to package instructions
  • Pecorino-Romano cheese, grated (as much as you like), for garnish
  • Handful of freshly chopped basil, for garnish

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Grandma’s Italian Soup Recipe Is Still A Family Favorite

Growing up in a large Italian family, I learned how to respect tradition and embrace family ties through cooking. My mother took the fresh produce my father created and taught me how to prepare cucina Italiana by smell, touch and taste. As a child watching her in the kitchen, I was fascinated with the movement of her hands as she wove intricate details into preparing the made-from-scratch, mouthwatering meals that her mother had served, and her mother before her.

I’ve provided some of my favorite Italian recipes in my new book San Diego Italian Food: A Culinary History of Little Italy and Beyond.  Many of the recipes were handed down from my mother’s kitchen, including the following Italian soup.

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Roasted Tomato Bruschetta Recipe

Roasted Tomato Bruschetta Recipe

Photo and recipe by Maria Desiderata Montana

Roasted Tomato and Mascarpone Bruschetta

INGREDIENTS

6 Roma tomatoes, halved lengthwise, cores and seeds removed
Extra–virgin olive oil, for drizzling
1 teaspoon sea salt
Black pepper, to taste
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 baguette
8 ounces mascarpone cheese
3 tablespoons chopped pistachios
Handful of pea tendrils

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Southern Style Italian Meatballs

Italian Meatballs

Recipe and Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana

My Italian upbringing meant meatballs in the house—meatballs covered with marinara, fried meatballs, baked meatballs, meatball sandwiches—you name it. These meatballs are easy to prepare, the ingredients are affordable, and it’s the ideal meal for lunch or dinner. Your family will love it so much that you’ll want to make these often.

Southern Style Italian Meatballs

Serves 4

  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • ½ cup Italian breadcrumbs
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 (24-ounce) jar marinara sauce (or Maria’s Marinara Sauce; see recipe)

Preheat oven to broil. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl; incorporate thoroughly. Roll the meat between the palms of your hands to desired size. Place meatballs on a broiling pan, and cook in the oven, turning often, until brown and cooked through. Serve with marinara sauce.

Maria’s Marinara Sauce

It was my father who started his own slow-food revolution in our family, a revolution I carry on in my family today. He picked olives and tended his large organic garden of fruits and vegetables, including fava beans, escarole, rapini and broccoli, he cherished the Roma and plum tomatoes as his most prized possession. Buy some organic tomatoes at the farmers’ market and make this sauce. Serve it over pasta, over your favorite vegetables or simply for dipping with a crusty Italian baguette. I guarantee you and your family will love it.

Serves 8-10

  • 12 medium-size ripe tomatoes
  • 2 (6-ounce) cans tomato paste
  • Red wine (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons dried basil
  • 3 tablespoons dried parsley flakes
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • Chicken bouillon, to taste
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Arrange the tomatoes on the sheet pan and roast for 30–35 minutes. When tomatoes have cooled, remove peel and core. Place in a blender, in small batches, and puree until smooth. Transfer tomato puree to a large saucepot; bring to a slow boil and add tomato paste. Using a whisk, add water until you reach desired consistency (You can substitute a bit of red wine for some of the water). Add remaining ingredients; cover and simmer over low heat for about 25–30 minutes.

For the pasta:

  • 1 (16-ounce) package whole wheat spaghetti, cooked according to package instructions
  • 1 small block Parmesan Cheese, grated, for garnish

Place the pasta in a large bowl. Ladle some sauce over pasta and toss gently. Garnish with Parmesan.

Recipes by Maria Desiderata Montana

Italian Cabbage Rolls

Cabbage Rolls Recipe Maria Desiderata Montana

Recipe and Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana

There was no such thing as fast food in our home; ingredients were simple and straightforward, and this recipe is no exception. This was one of my favorite recipes that my Italian mother made for me often, simply because I asked her too!

Cabbage Rolls With Brown Rice and Marinara

Serves 6

Preparation

18 Chinese cabbage leaves
½ pound ground veal
½ pound ground Italian sausage
1-1/2 cups prepared brown rice
¼ cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Pinch of chili flakes
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 jar of your favorite marinara sauce

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Stew Has A Lighter Side

(Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)

(Recipe and Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)

Lamb is a tasty substitute for beef in this slow-cooked recipe (U-T San Diego)

I have always enjoyed a good beef stew, but lately I’ve been experimenting with other kinds of meat in my slow cooker. A version with lamb is my new favorite.

I don’t like a heavy stew, and this one is light enough that you won’t feel weighed down after you eat it. With myriad colorful vegetables, it makes for a nice meal any time of the year.

I have a garden in my backyard where I like to grow garlic and a variety of seasonal herbs and vegetables. As I was trimming the rosemary the other day, I thought lamb would be the perfect pairing for it.

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Perfectly Baked Lasagna Recipe

lasagna

Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana

When it comes to the perfect casserole dish, baked lasagna tops my list. This dish of alternating layers of pasta sheets, topped with a flavorful sauce and cheese, is easy to assemble, tastes delicious and is always a crowd-pleaser.

There are a number of theories on where the popular name was born, but most references agree the word originated in the Greek language for flat, unleavened bread or pasta dough cut in sheets. The Romans used a similar word lasanum, the Latin word for “cooking pot,” to describe the pan in which the dish is made. Later, the name was adopted for the food itself.Different regions in Italy serve lasagna in various ways. In Northern Italy, a typical lasagna recipe has a Béchamel sauce as its base, with the addition of vegetables such as spinach, eggplant or mushrooms. I prefer the Southern Italian version with its hallmark use of ricotta cheese and a traditional Bolognese sauce that can include ground beef, pork sausage or veal.

I serve my lasagna with red wine and a crusty Italian bread. Add a fresh green salad of escarole and romaine lettuces dressed with balsamic vinaigrette and dinner is served.

Buon Appetito!

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Maria’s Marinara Sauce

Recipe and Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana

Recipe and Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana

Maria’s Marinara Sauce

Makes 8-10 servings

12 medium-size ripe tomatoes, roasted (directions follow)

2 6-ounce cans tomato paste

Red wine (optional)

3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

Chicken seasoning powder (Knorr recommended), to taste

1 teaspoon sugar

6 bay leaves

3 tablespoons dried basil

3 tablespoons dried parsley flakes

1 tablespoon fennel seeds (optional)

Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Arrange the tomatoes on the sheet pan and roast for 30 to 35 minutes. When tomatoes have cooled, remove peel, core and purée in small batches in a blender.

Transfer tomato purée to a large saucepan. Bring to a slow boil and add tomato paste. Using a whisk, add water until you reach desired consistency. (I like to substitute a bit of red wine for some of the water). Add remaining ingredients. Simmer over low heat covered for about 25 to 30 minutes.

Recipe by Maria Desiderata Montana

Maria’s Almond Tiramisu Recipe

almond tiramisu recipe

(recipe and photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)

Also known as a “Tuscan Trifle,” tiramisu, which translates to “pick me up,” is a luscious melt-in-your-mouth Italian layered cake.

The origins of tiramisu are a bit murky. Legend has it that a tiramisu-like dessert was created in Siena during the 17th century. But the known facts point to the dessert’s history as being fairly recent. The first documented tiramisu recipe appeared in 1983, in a book by Giovanni Capnist called “I Dolci del Veneto” (The Desserts of Veneto).

Since then, this dessert has become popular all over Italy and the United States. Different variations of the recipe exist, with ladyfingers, eggs, espresso and mascarpone cheese as the key components.

I don’t like the use of eggs in this recipe, since there is a slight risk of salmonella or other food-borne illness when consuming raw or lightly cooked eggs. So I have created a version without eggs that has a wonderful almond flavor, is light and airy, tastes authentic and is easy to prepare.

Buon Appetito!

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My Calabrian Christmas

In this Italian-American family, food isn’t just a holiday tradition, it’s a celebration of life itself.

Growing up in a large Italian family, I learned how to respect tradition and embrace family ties through cooking.

I think my passion for cooking started when I was 7 years old, waking up early Christmas Eve morning to make homemade ravioli for our big Christmas dinner. When I say early, I mean the crack of dawn. You see, my mother couldn’t rest until the ravioli was finished. It was as if she, a perfectionist by nature, just couldn’t wait to see how beautiful they would turn out.

While the rest of the house was quiet, my mom would play soft Italian music really low and share her childhood stories, as my sister and I helped roll out the pasta dough. Forget about the men in my family ever helping in the kitchen. Our Italian tradition was that the cooking was for the women only.

Today, we all live down the street from each other, and my mother and sister come to my house to help my daughter and me make the ravioli, while I play Italian music and throw in some of my own cooking tips. We prepare the ravioli a few days ahead of time and freeze them for Christmas Day.

On Christmas Eve, we celebrate the feast of the seven fishes, a Roman Catholic tradition observing abstinence from the consumption of meat as well as a tribute to the midnight birth of the baby Jesus. It is not Christmas Eve in my family without baccalà (Italian salted cod) that must be soaked for at least two days in cold water to remove the excess sodium.

Every year, my parents and I take a trip to Little Italy, and I leave it up to my mom to pick out her perfect piece of baccalà. My mother fries the fish and tops it with fresh tomatoes, onions, Moroccan olives and hot red peppers. I prepare an easier version of this recipe, substituting Alaskan white cod for the baccalà. (See recipe). Other fish dishes we enjoy include deep-fried jumbo shrimp, calamari, sea scallops, crab, mussels and linguine with clam sauce.

Our Christmas celebration also includes a variety of nuts and fruit, including fresh figs, pomegranates, persimmons and tangelos. I also make Italian desserts, including cannoli, a fried pastry shell filled with a sweet, creamy filling of ricotta cheese and confectioners’ sugar; chocolate pizzelle, large, round waffle cookies from southern central Italy; amaretti, almond-based cookies; tiramisu, an Italian cake; and biscotti.

To fully appreciate our Christmas traditions, you need to know a little more about my family.

Born and raised in the town of Cirella, near the capital city of Reggio Calabria in Italy, my father and mother immigrated to the United States in 1957 and raised five children. Although they were far removed from their homeland, they were passionate about keeping their traditions intact.

My parents taught me that food is essential to the Italian culture and eating with family and friends is a celebration of life itself. I learned first from my father, the Italian farmer, to grow and enjoy foods in their natural state.

It was my father who started his own slow-food revolution in our family, a revolution I carry on in my family today. From picking olives and tending to his large organic garden of fruits and vegetables, including fava beans, escarole, rappini and broccoli, he cherished the Roma and plum tomatoes as his most prized possessions.

There was no such thing as fast food in our home; ingredients were simple and straightforward, yet rustic and fiery. The staples in our Italian pantry included pasta, bread, olive oil, sausage, prosciutto, goat cheese and hot peppers. Oven-baked bread with a vine-ripe tomato and a chunk of Pecorino Romano cheese drizzled with extra-virgin oil is all a Calabrese needs to stay happy and satisfied.

My mother took the fresh produce my father created and taught me how to prepare cucina Italiana by smell, touch and taste. As a child watching her in the kitchen, I was fascinated with the movement of her hands as she wove intricate details into preparing the made-from-scratch, mouthwatering meals that her mother had served, and her mother before her.

Even though none of the recipes is written down, they all remain in my memory and turn out the same delicious way every time. My mother is amazed at how I remembered everything just by watching her. She was a remarkable teacher and is still my mentor today.

I was always fascinated with how my mother described the food she prepared. For example, she could tell her pasta or pizza dough was perfect by the way it felt in her hands. She was animated with the food and emotionally attached to it, as if it had a life of its own. The day was not complete unless there was a beautiful meal on the table for her family. She infused love into each dish. That was her gift to us.

Anyone who visited was inaugurated with several helpings of handmade spaghetti and meatballs. I remember my husband, John, visiting often when we were dating, and bypassing me for the kitchen. You know the old saying: The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. I met John 30 years ago in high school, and we now have two grown children — Lucia and Frank.

The food and fun doesn’t end with Christmas Day. I love to cook for my family, and we celebrate life all year long. I hope you will, too. Mangiare bene, vivere bene! (Eat well, live well!)

(Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)

(Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)

BEEF AND SPINACH RAVIOLI

Makes 8-10 servings

For the ravioli dough

9 large eggs (reserve two eggs for egg wash)

4 tablespoons extra- virgin olive oil

4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

All-purpose flour, for dusting

In a mixer, beat the eggs and olive oil until foamy. Change to a dough hook, add the dry ingredients to the bowl and mix until it forms a ball. On a lightly floured work surface, knead the dough until smooth. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest for about 30 minutes.

FOR THE FILLING

2 pounds raw, lean ground beef

9 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

2 cups Italian bread crumbs

5 large eggs

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 10-ounce package chopped frozen spinach, thawed and drained of excess water

Add all the ingredients to a large bowl and incorporate thoroughly.

To make the ravioli: Divide dough in half. On a floured surface, roll each piece of dough into a 24-by-24-inch sheet about ¼-inch thick. In a small bowl, prepare egg wash by beating the remaining 2 eggs until foamy. Brush egg wash evenly over one entire sheet, then carefully spread the meat filling evenly over the top. Place the other sheet on top of the sheet with the meat mixture and press down on the edges with your fingers to create a seal. Generously dust flour over the top of the sheet (this helps the dough from sticking to the ravioli roller).

With a wooden ravioli roller, carefully roll over the dough from edge to edge, applying gentle pressure to ensure the two dough sheets connect to make the squares. Cut each square with a ravioli cutter and place on a baking sheet lined with plastic wrap and dusted with flour (this keeps the ravioli from sticking). Repeat with plastic wrap and flour as needed. Cover ravioli and place in freezer. Once frozen, remove ravioli squares from baking sheet and place in resealable freezer-safe plastic bags. No need to thaw frozen ravioli before cooking. Gently place ravioli in a large pot of salted boiling water and cook on medium to medium-high heat for approximately 35-40 minutes (see note) or until meat inside is thoroughly cooked. Ravioli will expand and float to the top, so be sure to use a pot with plenty of room. Remove ravioli with a strainer or slotted spoon and serve with your favorite jar of marinara sauce or my marinara (see recipe). Top with grated Pecorino Romano Cheese.

Note: Fresh ravioli take a little less time to cook, approximately 25 to 30 minutes or until meat inside is thoroughly cooked.

MARIA’S MARINARA SAUCE

Makes 8-10 servings

12 medium-size ripe tomatoes, roasted (directions follow)

2 6-ounce cans tomato paste

Red wine (optional)

3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

Chicken seasoning, to taste

1 teaspoon sugar

6 bay leaves

3 tablespoons dried basil

3 tablespoons dried parsley flakes

1 tablespoon fennel seeds (optional)

Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Arrange the tomatoes on the sheet pan and roast for 30 to 35 minutes. When tomatoes have cooled, remove peel, core and purée in small batches in a blender.

Transfer tomato purée to a large saucepan. Bring to a slow boil and add tomato paste. Using a whisk, add water until you reach desired consistency. (I like to substitute a bit of red wine for some of the water). Add remaining ingredients. Simmer over low heat covered for about 25 to 30 minutes.

(Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)

(Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)

ALASKAN WHITE COD WITH TOMATOES AND MOROCCAN OLIVES

Serves 6

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided

6 Alaskan white cod fillets (6 ounces each) (boneless and skinless)

Sea salt and black pepper, to taste

3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced

1 large white onion, sliced

6 ripe Roma tomatoes, chopped

11/2 cups Moroccan olives, pitted

Handful of hot red peppers (for garnish)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Place fish in baking dish. Season fish with salt and pepper and drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Scatter garlic and onions over the top. Cover baking dish with foil. Bake approximately 20 minutes or until fish is cooked through. Remove from oven and top with tomatoes, olives and red peppers. Cover and let rest 5 minutes before serving.

CANNOLI WITH BING CHERRIES AND PISTACHIOS

Serves 8

8 store-bought cannoli shells

2 cups whole-milk ricotta cheese

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

Juice of 1 orange

Zest of 1 orange

1 tablespoon amaretto

1/4 cup chocolate chips, finely chopped

1/4 cup pistachios, finely chopped

1/4 cup dried Bing cherries, finely chopped

8 maraschino cherries, halved

Powdered sugar, for dusting

In a large mixing bowl, stir together all ingredients (except shells) until well combined. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour to let flavors set. Do not fill the cannoli shells until ready to serve.

Spoon cannoli filling into a pastry bag with an open tip and stuff cannoli shells. Garnish each end with a half of a maraschino cherry. Lightly dust with powdered sugar and serve.

Recipes by Maria Desiderata Montana

*This story by Maria Desiderata Montana first appeared in the U-T San Diego.

Italian Meatball Soup Recipe

Italian Meatball Soup Recipe

(Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)

Soup with a bite: Italian meatball soup recipe is family-favorite comfort food

My Italian upbringing meant “meatballs in the house” — meatballs covered with marinara, fried meatballs, baked meatballs, meatball sandwiches, you name it. I thought making meatballs had been explored at every angle imaginable, until I discovered my mom’s meatball soup.


Italian meatball soup is comforting, delicious and easy to prepare


Back in the day, when I came home from school, a pot of simmering goodness was often waiting for me. Smelling the aroma of fresh garlic, I remember lifting up the large lid off the soup pot and seeing little meatballs floating about in a sea of greens and bright orange carrot slices. It was even more special than traditional meatballs covered with sauce, because it was a fun way to eat soup.

A tad earthy and all-around comforting, delicious, and a bit unexpected, this is one of the best soup recipes from my mother’s kitchen. It’s easy to prepare in just one pot, the ingredients are affordable, and it’s ideal for lunch or dinner now that fall is in the air.

Your family will love it so much that you’ll want to make it often.

Italian Meatball Soup With Organic Mixed Greens

Makes 8 servings

  • 12 cups chicken broth
  • 8 ounces organic mixed greens and spinach salad mix, rinsed and drained
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons dried parsley
  • 1½ cups bread crumbs
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Pecorino-Romano cheese, for garnish

1. Pour chicken broth into a large sauce pot and set aside.

2. Rinse and drain the mixed greens, set aside.

3. In a large bowl combine ground beef, garlic, parsley, bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese and eggs. With your hands, incorporate all ingredients until thoroughly combined.

4. Roll meat mixture into meatballs, as big or as little as you like. Place meatballs on a large plate.

5. Increase heat to high and bring soup to a boil. Reduce heat just a bit and carefully drop meatballs in, one at a time.

6. Add mixed greens, carrots and olive oil. Cover and let soup simmer until greens are wilted and meatballs are cooked through, about 15 minutes.

7. Ladle soup into bowls and serve. Garnish with grated Pecorino-Romano cheese.

*This story by Maria Desiderata Montana first appeared in the U-T San Diego

Italian Meatball Soup RecipeGet more of my Italian recipes in my newest book San Diego Italian Food: A Culinary History of Little Italy and Beyond

As ethnic neighborhoods in other cities assimilate to American life, the exuberant local flavor of San Diego’s Little Italy remains both culturally and culinarily distinct. Tucked between Interstate 5 and San Diego Bay southeast of San Diego International Airport, the blocks surrounding the landmark Our Lady of the Rosary Roman Catholic Church contain many of the most notable eateries and gourmet cafés in “America’s Finest City.” Join Maria Desiderata Montana, a daughter of that Italian heritage and one of the city’s most notable food writers, on this savory tour through the zesty Italian food traditions, businesses and recipes both in Little Italy and across San Diego.

Italian Crostata Recipe

Crostata is one fruit-filled pastry that doesn’t require a lot of fuss

Recipe and Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana

Recipe and Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana

If you love a great fruit tart but think it’s a job best left to your grandma or the local bakery, think again. I’ve created a traditional and satisfying Italian crostata that’s quick easy, and perfect for summer. Oftentimes, I’ve noticed that restaurant pastry chefs will create works of art that are as complicated to make as they look and taste. Who has the time or ingredients to create those complex confections?

When a bite of something warm and delicious is something you crave, this dessert is one of the simplest recipes to manage, with only a few steps to prepare the dough, an even easier assembly and no special experience necessary.

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Kale and Strawberry Salad Recipe

Recipe and Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana

This light and healthy Kale and Strawberry salad is the perfect side dish for those sultry summer days!

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Rosemary Biscuits Recipe

Rosemary Biscuits Recipe

Recipe and Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana

Springtime recipe takes advantage of the season’s strawberry crop

With spring in the air, I’m yearning for strawberries hand-picked from a local farm or fresh from the farmers market. These luscious strawberries taste even sweeter when roasted with balsamic vinegar and paired with a creamy mascarpone filling.

Thinking about strawberries always makes me think about warm biscuits, the kind that lures my family into the kitchen on Sunday mornings. Even if you’ve never made a homemade biscuit in your life, I urge you to give my recipe a try.

I’ve added fresh chopped rosemary and orange zest to these biscuits, but in the past I’ve added anything from chocolate chips and walnuts to crumbly pieces of bacon and cheddar cheese. Be adventurous, and don’t be afraid to experiment with your favorite ingredients.

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Candied Lemon and Ginger Slices

Candied Lemon And Ginger Slices

photo by Maria Desiderata Montana

I have an organic lemon tree in my backyard that yields more lemons than I know what to do with. This recipe adds a hint of ginger for a subtle, yet spicy kick. There is enough sugar in this recipe to keep the lemons tasting tart, but not too sweet. If you like it sweeter, feel free to add more sugar. I also like to dry the lemons out a bit in the oven for a slightly chewy texture.

Candied Lemon and Ginger Slices

Ingredients

  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup granulated sugar (more if desired)
  • 2 teaspoons grated ginger root
  • 3-4 lemons, cut into thin slices
  • Powdered sugar, for garnish

Preparation

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

Place water, sugar and ginger in a medium skillet; bring to a boil, stirring constantly, until all sugar is dissolved. Lower heat to medium-low and add lemon slices in 1 layer.

Steep the lemon slices for about 15 minutes, or until the rind is translucent. Carefully remove lemons with tongs and arrange slices in one layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake lemon slices until dried, approximately 30 minutes. Dust with powdered sugar. Store in an airtight container.

Recipe by Maria Desiderata Montana

Homemade Ravioli Recipe

raviloi

Beef and Spinach Ravioli (Photo and recipe By Maria Desiderata Montana)

Beef and Spinach Ravioli Recipe

Makes 8-10 servings

For the ravioli dough
9 large eggs (reserve two eggs for egg wash)
4 tablespoons extra- virgin olive oil
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
All-purpose flour, for dusting

In a mixer, beat the eggs and olive oil until foamy. Change to a dough hook, add the dry ingredients to the bowl and mix until it forms a ball. On a lightly floured work surface, knead the dough until smooth. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest for about 30 minutes.

FOR THE FILLING
2 pounds raw, lean ground beef
9 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 cups Italian bread crumbs
5 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 10-ounce package chopped frozen spinach, thawed and drained of excess water.

Add all the ingredients to a large bowl and incorporate thoroughly.

To make the ravioli: Divide dough in half. On a floured surface, roll each piece of dough into a 24-by-24-inch sheet about ¼-inch thick. In a small bowl, prepare egg wash by beating the remaining 2 eggs until foamy. Brush egg wash evenly over one entire sheet, then carefully spread the meat filling evenly over the top. Place the other sheet on top of the sheet with the meat mixture and press down on the edges with your fingers to create a seal. Generously dust flour over the top of the sheet (this helps the dough from sticking to the ravioli roller).

With a wooden ravioli roller, carefully roll over the dough from edge to edge, applying gentle pressure to ensure the two dough sheets connect to make the squares. Cut each square with a ravioli cutter and place on a baking sheet lined with plastic wrap and dusted with flour (this keeps the ravioli from sticking). Repeat with plastic wrap and flour as needed. Cover ravioli and place in freezer. Once frozen, remove ravioli squares from baking sheet and place in resealable freezer-safe plastic bags. No need to thaw frozen ravioli before cooking. Gently place ravioli in a large pot of salted boiling water and cook on medium to medium-high heat for approximately 35-40 minutes (see note) or until meat inside is thoroughly cooked. Ravioli will expand and float to the top, so be sure to use a pot with plenty of room. Remove ravioli with a strainer or slotted spoon and serve with your favorite jar of marinara sauce or my marinara (see recipe). Top with grated Pecorino Romano Cheese.

Note: Fresh ravioli take a little less time to cook, approximately 25 to 30 minutes or until meat inside is thoroughly cooked.

Maria’s Marinara Sauce

Makes 8-10 servings

12 medium-size ripe tomatoes, roasted (directions follow)
2 6-ounce cans tomato paste
Red wine (optional)
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
Chicken seasoning, to taste
1 teaspoon sugar
6 bay leaves
3 tablespoons dried basil
3 tablespoons dried parsley flakes
1 tablespoon fennel seeds (optional)
Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Arrange the tomatoes on the sheet pan and roast for 30 to 35 minutes. When tomatoes have cooled, remove peel, core and purée in small batches in a blender. Transfer tomato purée to a large saucepan. Bring to a slow boil and add tomato paste. Using a whisk, add water until you reach desired consistency. (I like to substitute a bit of red wine for some of the water). Add remaining ingredients. Simmer over low heat covered for about 25 to 30 minutes.

RECIPE: Coconut Raspberry Muffins

coconut raspberry muffins


Maria Desiderata Montana’s recipe for Coconut Raspberry Muffins is featured in the February 2015 issue of Fine Magazine.


San Diego is a vivacious and active food community whose eating habits are unpretentious yet familiar, conspicuous yet simple.  Famous for supporting a health-conscious lifestyle, with an abundant supply of fresh and organic products at their fingertips, the attitude of the chefs and diners alike is friendly and laid-back.

From kitchen celebrities and James Beard recognized chefs, to those who simply just love to cook, priding themselves on being eco-conscious, using only sustainable meats and seafood, the restaurants in San Diego are quickly becoming enchanting places, suitable for even the most discerning of palates. The colorful California modern cuisine will tempt your taste buds with fusions of imaginative textures and flavors. With recipes for the home cook from over 60 of the city’s most celebrated restaurants and showcasing around full-color photos featuring mouth-watering dishes, famous chefs, and lots of local flavor, San Diego Chef’s Table is the ultimate gift and keepsake cookbook.

Maria Desiderata Montana is the publisher of the award-winning food blog San Diego Food Finds (sandiegofoodfinds.com). She is a nationally published and award-winning author, freelance food and wine journalist and editor and photographer who learned how to cook and appreciate European cuisine from her parents who were born and raised in southern Italy. Maria is the author of Food Lovers’ Guide to San Diego (Globe Pequot Press), San Diego Chef’s Table: Extraordinary Recipes From America’s Finest City (2014 San Diego Book Award winner for Best Published Lifestyle Book Cooking & Home, Lyons Press), San Diego Italian Food: A Culinary History of Little Italy and Beyond (History Press), Market Restaurant + Bar Cookbook (Lyons Press) and The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe Cookbook.

Italian Fava Bean Salad

Italian Fava Bean Salad

Recipe and Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana

Italian Fava Bean Salad

Makes 2 servings

  • 2 cups shucked fresh fava beans
  • 1 cup pear tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup sliced or cubed Italian salami
  • 1 teaspoon crushed garlic
  • 2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Fresh oregano, for garnish

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the fava beans and cook until just tender, about 8-10 minutes. Rinse and drain under cool water. Place the beans in a medium size bowl. Add tomatoes, salami, garlic, olive oil and salt. Lightly toss. Garnish with fresh oregano and serve.

Maria’s tip: SHUCK, BAG, AND FREEZE. If you have extra shucked fava beans and want to cook them later, place in a freezer safe bag and freeze for up to 4 months.

Italian Cannoli Recipe

Italian Cannoli Recipe

Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana

Italian Cannoli Recipe

Cannoli are a Christmas tradition in my Italian family. However, sometimes we just can’t wait until the holidays to devour this crispy, cookie-like shell stuffed with a creamy ricotta cheese filling. The amaretto flavoring makes this cannoli a truly irresistible delight that the whole family will enjoy.

Italian Cannoli with Bing Cherries and Pistachios

Serves 8

2 cups whole-milk ricotta cheese
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
1 orange, juiced
1 orange, zested
1 tablespoon amaretto
¼ cup chocolate chips, finely chopped
¼ cup pistachios, finely chopped
¼ cup dried Bing cherries, finely chopped
8 store-bought cannoli shells
8 maraschino cherries, halved
Powdered sugar, for dusting

In a large mixing bowl, stir together all ingredients (except shells, maraschino cherries and powdered sugar) until well combined. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour to let flavors set. Fill cannoli shells right before serving. Spoon the cannoli filling into a pastry bag with an open tip and stuff cannoli shells. Garnish each end with ½ of a maraschino cherry. Lightly dust with powdered sugar.

sandiegofoodfinds.com*This recipe by Maria Desiderata Montana appears in her new book: San Diego Italian Food: A Culinary History of Little Italy and Beyond.

AMAZON

My Calabrian Christmas

My parents, Lucia and Natale, on their wedding day in 1957 in Italy.

Growing up in a large Italian family, I learned how to respect tradition and embrace family ties through cooking.

I think my passion for cooking started when I was 7 years old, waking up early Christmas Eve morning to make homemade ravioli for our big Christmas dinner. When I say early, I mean the crack of dawn. You see, my mother couldn’t rest until the ravioli was finished. It was as if she, a perfectionist by nature, just couldn’t wait to see how beautiful they would turn out.

While the rest of the house was quiet, my mom would play soft Italian music really low and share her childhood stories, as my sister and I helped roll out the pasta dough. Forget about the men in my family ever helping in the kitchen. Our Italian tradition was that the cooking was for the women only.

Today, we all live down the street from each other, and my mother and sister come to my house to help my daughter and me make the ravioli, while I play Italian music and throw in some of my own cooking tips. We prepare the ravioli a few days ahead of time and freeze them for Christmas Day.

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