Let pasta feast take you to sunny Mediterranean

Let pasta feast take you to sunny Mediterranean


The Country Chef travels to the sunny Mediterranean for today’s delectable dishes.

Pasta stars in some elegant and satisfying recipes that need only a couple of โ€œgo-withsโ€ and a bottle of wine to make the dinner table more inviting than ever. Enjoy!

Manicotti with Ratatouille Sauce

8 ounces uncooked manicotti

32 ounces ricotta cheese

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 eggs, slightly beaten

1/2 cup chopped parsley

Salt and pepper, to taste

Ratatouille sauce (recipe follows)

Cook manicotti using package directions; drain. Place in single layer of waxed-paper lined surface to cool.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine cheeses, eggs, parsley and seasonings in bowl; mix well. Spoon into manicotti.

Spoon half of the ratatouille sauce into 9×13-inch baking dish. Arrange filled manicotti on top. Spoon remaining sauce over manicotti. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until bubbly.

Serves 8.

Ratatouille Sauce

4 eggplant cups, chopped and peeled

2 cups sliced โ€‹โ€‹green onions with tops

2 cups green bell pepper strips

4 cloves garlic, minced

6 tablespoons olive oil

4 cups sliced โ€‹โ€‹zucchini

1 oregano teaspoon, minced

1 teaspoon basil, minced

1/2 marjoram teaspoon

Salt and pepper, to taste

2 15-ounce cans of tomato sauce

2 15-ounce cans stewed tomatoes

Sautรฉ eggplant, onions, bell pepper and garlic in olive oil in skillet 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients; simmer 5 minutes longer or until vegetables are tender-crisp.

Make 7 cups.

Savory Jumbo Shells

3 tablespoons sliced โ€‹โ€‹green onions

2 tablespoons melted butter

1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained

1 cup EACH chopped cooked chicken and ham OR

1 cup crabmeat

1 cup artichoke hearts, shopped

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 eggs, beaten

3/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1/4 teaspoon pepper

16 jumbo pasta shells,

cooked, drained, slightly cooled

Garlic cheese sauce (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine all ingredients through pepper in a bowl; mix well. Spoon into shells. Spoon 1 cup garlic-cheese sauce into 9-inch round baking dish; arrange shells over sauce. Spoon remaining sauce over top. Bake 20-25 minutes or until bubbly.

Serves 8.

Note: This recipe adapts to meat or fish-vegetarian wishes. For a complete vegetarian dish, omit the crab and add 1 cup chopped sautรฉed eggplant.

Garlic Cheese Sauce

1 clove garlic, minced

1 1/2 tablespoons butter

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons flour

dash of pepper

2 cups half-and-half or milk (regular or unflavored soy)

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Sautรฉ garlic in butter and oil in saucepan for 1 minute; stir in flour and pepper. Add milk gradually, stirring until thickened, then stirring constantly.

Add cheese, cook on medium-low till cheese melts, stirring gently. Make 2 cups.

Serve either of your pasta dishes with this good bruschetta.

Parmesan Bruschetta

3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided

1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts, divided

3/4 cup olive oil, divided

1/2 loaf baguette or narrow French bread

Preheat oven to broil.

Combine 1/2 cup Parmesan, 1/4 cup walnuts and 1/4 cup olive oil in processor or mortar and pestle until almost smooth.

Cut bread diagonally into 1/2-inch slices and brush each side with remaining 1/2 cup olive oil; place on baking sheet.

Toast under broiler about 30 seconds on each side.

Spread with the Parmesan mixture, sprinkle evenly with remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan and 1/4 cup walnuts, and return to broiler for 30 seconds or until cheese begins to melt.

Makes 8 servings.

A simple salad of sliced โ€‹โ€‹tomatoes dressed with oil and vinegar and sprinkled with fresh minced basil or parsley is really all you need to complete this dinner. However, if you’ like to stick with authenticity, have a platter of traditional accompaniments on the table.

Some suggestions include olives of all sorts โ€” green, both whole and stuffed with anything from pimiento to garlic, almonds or orange peel, black, Kalamata; peperoncini and other, hotter, peppers, and slices of red, yellow and green bell peppers; thin slices of prosciutto, rounds of pepperoni, scallions and red onion rings, and of course, tomatoes โ€” grape, cherry, and halved Roma or fresh local slicers.

Of course, your platter should contain a variety of cheeses such as bel Gioso, Fontina, Gorgonzola and other traditional Italian specialties, including a bowl of grated Parmesan for sprinkling over most everything.

Americanize your platter if you wish with sliced โ€‹โ€‹avocados, cucumber, and celery and carrot sticks. Dips are optional.

For dessert, serve bowls of spumoni or Neapolitan ice cream, or simply a platter of icy melon slices and grape clusters.

(Editor’s note: For many years, Valle Novak has written gardening and cooking columns for the Daily Bee. โ€œWeekend Gardenerโ€ and โ€œCountry Chefโ€ became renowned for their humor, information and common sense advice on how to do everything from planting to cooking . While she recently retired, she has shared a number of columns to delight her many fans. This is one such column, originally published on Aug. 19, 2007.)

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