Tag Archives: italian

Brooklyn Eats: Nostro Ristorante

Location: Greenwood Heights, Brooklyn

Cuisine: Napoli-style Italian food; rustic feel; fresh pasta

My husband and I got married in March of 2015. I am a teacher/special education coach and my husband is an accountant, therefore we don’t have many times to go away, let alone a lot vacation like a honeymoon. During this summer in particular, I embarked on a 5-week intensive for an administrative program called LEAP and met some of the most incredible humans that are still my close friends to this day. This only gave us a smaller window for our vacation, August. Where the hell were we going to go in August? Oh wait, Italy sounds like a good idea. We had the time of our lives: eating so much fresh pasta, pizza, drinking loads of vino rosso and enjoying the sights. Our love for Italian cuisine only grew from our 2 weeks of Italian bliss.

Tuscany, Florence

Two years later, our love of Italian food holds strong; it’s probably my go-to when cooking and creating recipes, as well as our order-in cuisine. We stumbled upon a restaurant maybe seven months after it opened, literally up the block from our apartment. We decided to give it a try after hearing raving reviews from our neighbors. We were immediately blown away. Our hearts were singing, our bellies dancing, and quickly became friends with the owner, Romena. Each table is served fresh focaccia bread as guests impatiently wait for their food to be served, and can take in the scenery of the beautiful pictures of Italy around the restaurant.

Since trying this restaurant in 2017, we have gone back more times than we can count, even more so when I “forget to take out chicken to make for dinner.” I have tried almost everything on the menu, and still have more to go. Of course, there are some staples and my favorite items that I’ll share here.

This calamari is some of the crispiest, most delicious serving I have ever had. Ever. Served with cocktail sauce and hot peppers, this is a must as an appetizer. Heck, order two.

Polipo, or Portuguese charred octopus. I must say, I was hesitant when I first ordered, but DAMN does this rock. Tender, juicy, and healthy!

Crostini Burrata: literally heaven on a serving board. Four slices of crostini smothered with pesto, roasted red peppers, topped with the most insanely tasteful burrata. Your taste buds will thank you.

Chicken parmesan: I know, this is nothing fancy; however, this chick parm is cooked to perfection. Tender, perfectly sauced, and oozing with cheese. Pair with pasta, sautéed kale, or with veggies. So. Many. Options.

Fettuccini Amore: Guys, no joke, I ate 3x slower when I had this dish. Squid ink fettuccini tossed with fresh lobster and shrimp, smothered in a pink cream sauce and garlic. MIND BLOWN!

For those who prefer lighter options, like myself 85% of the time, they have delicious vegetable sides, like this mixed veg. Seasonal and available vegetables sautéed in olive oil and garlic, presented in the most precious cup of awesomeness. This actually goes well with anything, so just order it because I say so.

Eggplant parmesan: You can never go wrong with an eggplant parm. Perfectly tender eggplant slices, layered with mozzarella and tomato sauce. It’s on another level. Fo sho.

Phew, now that I am officially starving again, BRB, about to go get me some amore and mixed veg. If you’re in Brooklyn, or even if you’re just looking for quality eats at affordable pricing (also, this place was originally BYOB, but does have wine available too), this is THE place to visit. Buon appetito!

Pesto

Brrrrr, is it cold today in NYC. The wind is howling, the trees look depressed, and my dog had to get a shot. It’s Sunday, and Sunday is for meal prep. I did a lot of cooking, errands, cleaning, food shopping, and prepping foods for my first week on my new reset; I enjoyed every second. Last night, I had a few friends over for a dinner party, and purchased a carton of basil. A concern I have with basil is, it either gets used, or it doesn’t and goes rotten. I am vowing this year to be more cognizant of the foods in our fridge and do weekly “clean out” meals… so tonight is no exception. Hence, the pesto.

Pesto is a blend of herbs, oils, fats, and of course, basil, as it’s principle ingredient. Nowadays, people toy around with varieties of pesto including spinach pesto, kale pesto, walnut asiago pesto; the list is endless. I’m a traditionalist with a lot of recipes (unless I am making things healthier, hence cassava instead of breadcrumb), and pesto is one that I stick to the basics: garlic, basil, olive oil, and grated parmesan cheese.

I have to admit, I’m biased to pesto because I love the color green, and I also really appreciate the taste and aromas of garlic. Garlic is incredibly powerful and nutritious: it helps with heart disease, cholesterol levels, and is a great brain food too! Basil is one of those ingredients you can never go wrong with as well. To start, I pulled apart 3-4 bushels of basil and ripped the leaves into smaller seconds. I placed these pieces into a small food processor. Then I added in the parmesan (I’d say about 1/3 cup of cheese). I pulsed the processor until the cheese and basil combined and became a rice mixture.

Next, I added in the olive oil. BE GENEROUS HERE. First of all, olive oil is one of the most healthiest things to cook with and eat. If you haven’t already, please watch SALT.FAT.ACID.HEAT on Netflix, the FAT episode talks all about olive oil and its properties. I added the oil and blended in the processor until the consistently became smoother. My last step was to add the minced garlic. I used only two cloves and this was plenty. Pulse the mixture again, and you may need to add more cheese, a touch more oil, etc. until the consistency is to your liking. Me? I like pesto be on the thicker, chunkier side.

Pesto is most often tossed with pasta (show here with organic brown rice pasta from Trader Joe’s), but can be added to fish, chicken, on top of lamb skewers, or on bruschetta toast. Enjoy and NOMaste 🙂

Tuscan Chicken with Roasted Red Peppers and Spinach

When you think of creamy, cheesy, rich foods, what comes to mind?  I immediately think of a thick cream sauce or a buttery garlic sauce.  Tuscan chicken does a beautiful job of combining strong ingredients and melding them together to create this perfectly decadent sauce to go atop seared chicken.  Of course, throwing a vegetable in like spinach, basil, and sweet roasted peppers only enhances the dish.  This was my FIRST time making this, and I must say, I can’t wait to try this sauce over other proteins soon!IMG_0380.JPG

In preparing for this meal, I had to really think about what makes a creamy sauce, creamy.  Of course, I immediately jumped to heavy cream and cheese.  This is a very traditional way of making a “tuscan” creamy sauce by combining all the dairy components together, simmering on low, and layering it on top of pan seared chicken.  That is exactly what I did.  I started by taking chicken breasts and seasoning them with a generous amount of salt, pepper, and oregano.  I say generous because when chicken breasts cook, they tend to lose all the tenderness, so over-seasoning can capture the juices and make this particular cut of chicken tender and tasty! I heated a pan and then added in some avocado oil (has a higher smoke point and makes food taste badass) and began to pan sear the chicken.  Each side cooked for approximately 4-5 minutes, the chicken will finish cooking when added to the cream sauce.

For the cream sauce, I started with wilting some fresh spinach in 2 tablespoons of butter.  Once the spinach became soft and dark green, I  poured in the heavy cream and parmesan, stirring and letting the sauce bubble.  Once the liquid started to reduce, I added in sweet roasted red peppers and some sprigs of basil.  I mixed it altogether and sprinkled in n some salt and pepper.  Lastly, I added back the chicken and let the entire dish simmer for a few minutes (around 5-7m).

Served with some mashed potatoes, or homemade fries, maybe some brussel sprouts, and you’ve got yourself an awesome sauce (haha, get it?) meal!  Nomaste 🙂

Tuscan Chicken with Spinach and Roasted Peppers

Course Dinner
Cuisine American, Comfort, Italian
Keyword Chicken, creamy, parmesan, red peppers, spinach, tuscan
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 2 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pkg chicken breasts can buy thin sliced already if desired
  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup parmesan grated
  • 1 pkg fresh spinach
  • basil leaves
  • 2 halves sweet roasted red peppers from a jar, can slice them
  • 2 tbsp avocado oil or olive oil
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • salt
  • pepper
  • oregano

Instructions

  1. Clean and prep chicken breasts (either filet them or pat dry the already filed breasts).  Season with salt, pepper, oregano on both sides.

  2. Heat a large pan on medium, add avocado oil and let coat bottom of pan.  Add in chicken.  Sear on each side for 4-5 minutes until sides are browned. Taken chicken out and set aside.

  3. In the same pan, add the tbsp of butter and melt.  Add in fresh spinach and cook until leaves are wilted. Pour in heavy cream and parmesan cheese.  Mix together and let come to a gentle boil (soft bubbles form).  Simmer on low.

  4. Add in basil and roasted red peppers.  Stir together.  Place chicken into cream sauce and ladle sauce on top of the chicken.  Let simmer for 5-7 minutes.

  5. Serve with favorite side of potatoes, with rice, or simply roasted veggies.

Ma’s Chicken Scampi

It’s my husband’s birthday on November 20th, and ever since we’ve moved in together 6 and a half years ago, I’ve made this dish for him every birthday.  This recipe is called Ma’s because it’s my mom’s recipe. I always loved when she made it, and I’m so grateful to have seen the women in my life duplicate it so I can have it etched in my memory forever.

I have a love-hate relationship with this one, because it tastes so damn delicious, but it takes forever to prepare.  Sure, I can go the easy route and just bread cutlets and cut them up afterwards, but where’s the fun in that?  The term “Scampi” actually refers to tiny shrimp from the seas, but nowadays, the term Scampi refers to the style of cooking: a light fry in a shallow pan in oil until golden.  Traditionally, this dish is made with garlic, butter, and white wine, with a pinch of parmesan and cream.  I leave out some ingredients and stick with the big guys: garlic and crap-ton (yep, it’s a word) of buttah!fullsizeoutput_1066

Let me start by saying the trick with this dish is pacing – you have to be cognizant about timing the chicken and the pasta water, and how long the pasta cooks so it all finishes at roughly the same time.  I start out by taking 3 meaty chicken breasts and slicing them into “nugget” form.  I dip the chicken nuggets into the beaten egg, then into breadcrumbs (no skimping out on the carbs here), and set aside.  Olive oil is the choice of fats for frying the chicken, but start out with a small amount, just enough to coat the bottom (the oil with sputter if it’s not evenly distributed).

Fry a few pieces at a time and, this is important, be quick with the chicken.  They’re small pieces so they’ll burn fast.  Each piece takes about 2m per side.  As the second batch of chicken cooks, I turned the pasta water on to boil. This dish is always best with fresh pasta, which we’re grateful for at our little Italian market that opened up the block.  The water boils, add in salt, and dump in the pasta (we used Rigatoni).  Continue to fry the chicken and set aside on a paper-towel-lined plate.

Once all the chicken is done, take the garlic (3 cloves roughly chopped) and add to the pan with 3 (yes THREE) tablespoons of butter to melt.  I really feel like garlic and butter are the perfect combination for any recipe, especially as a sauce.  This dish calls for a lot of oils and butters, which thankfully is part of my diet on the regular, so no difference to me.  Mix around with a spoon and scrape the bottom of the pan to get the remnants of the chicken mixed in as well. *Wipes drool from mouth*.  Throw in the chicken to mix around in the butter-garlic sauce, strain the pasta (about 9-10m until al dente), then add the pasta directly to the sauce/chicken.  Stir together until all noodles are coated.  If you need more butter, DO IT.

Serve immediately with garlic bread, some roasted veggies, and top with a dollop of ricotta. Buon Appetito!

Ma's Chicken Scampi

Course Dinner
Cuisine American, Italian
Keyword Chicken, italian, pasta, scampi
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Resting time for chicken 5 minutes
Total Time 1 hour

Ingredients

  • 1.5 lbs Chicken breast or 3-4 breasts
  • 2 cups breadcrumbs
  • 1 pkg (16 oz) pasta fresh is better!
  • 2 eggs beaten
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 3 cloves garlic rough chopped
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. In a large pan or skillet, drizzle the olive oil into the pan to coat the bottom.

  2. Clean the chicken breasts, trim of excess fat, and slice into "nugget" style.  Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

  3. Pour breadcrumbs onto a plate and crack and beat the eggs in a separate bowl.

  4. Create your assembly line: (left to right)

    Chicken - Egg - Breadcrumbs.

    Dip the chicken into the egg and then into breadcrumbs, coating both sides well.  Put breaded chicken nuggets on a separate plate.  Repeat until all chicken is breaded.

  5. Turn stove on for the pan with oil to medium.  Place 6-7 pieces of chicken in the oil at a time, monitoring the chicken as it cooks.  Chicken will cook quickly; turn chicken pieces over when sides are lightly brown (about 2m).  repeat for all chicken and set aside on paper towel/plate.

  6. Meanwhile, take a large pot and fill with water.  Place on stove. Turn flame onto high to boil water. Add salt pasta to boiled water and cook for time described on package (9-10m).  Drain pasta and set aside.

  7. Take chopped garlic and 3 tbsp of butter and add to pan that chicken cooked in.  Heat on medium-low flame and melt butter, sautéing the garlic.  Add chicken back into garlic-butter sauce and stir.  Add in pasta and stir to coat all noodles. Serve immediately.

Recipe Notes

We used fresh ricotta to add to the pasta on top, if this fits your fancy, feel free to do so!

Bolognese with Sweet Potato and Garlic Butter Zucchini

Alright, I must admit, this is not my recipe. *GASP*.  It’s my husband’s recipe and in fact when he makes it, his version always tastes better (you’re welcome babe.) Bolognese is something that can’t be done in 15-20m, but it’s possible in an hour.  The slow simmer of the meat and sauté of fresh veggies filling the air with scents that remind me of vacation in Florence.  The faint scent of sweet potato in the oven brings so much happiness to my belly and to my pooch who LOVES sweet potato (side note: sweet potato is one of the best starches for all species, more on that in a different post…)

What’s fun about bolognese is that it can be done with a variety of ingredients. We’re rather traditional and like our meat sauce to be marinara or tomato-based with fresh garlic (I throw in minced garlic too for the flavor), oregano, red pepper flakes, and garlic powder.  I start with browning the meat first as traditional bolognese sits on a low flame for hours and grows saturated with all the flavors.  I prefer to cook with grass-fed beef.  My reason? The quality, the taste, the COLOR is so much richer than conventional beef, and the animal it comes from is treated in a humane way and literally only fed grass, as they’re supposed to.  I usually buy my beef/chicken from Whole Foods or ButcherBox and their grass-fed beef is 10/10 every time.  I brown the meat in some oil with minced garlic and then add some jarred low sugar marinara sauce, stir it around and then add spices (oregano, red pepper flakes, garlic powder, and sea salt – can either be fresh or dried.. I use dried). Once this simmers for 15 minutes, I add my parmesan and creamer – this will thicken the bolognese and make it creamier! I like to use coconut creamer from Trader Joe’s because it just has a nice smooth texture with not a lot of coconut flavoring.  Continue to simmer for another 30 minutes. note: the bolognese can get salty and oily quickly, mind your oil and salt here!

I’m a sucker for zucchini in all forms, but sliced, sautéed in butter with garlic is my ultimate favorite.  I try to stick with organic or local produce as much as possible.  I am a firm believer that local is better and supporting small farms in the area really benefits more than just my family, but theirs and our community. These are from Whole Foods and were perfectly crisp as I sliced them. I sautéed in butter (#kerrygoldFTW) and sprinkled garlic powder right when they turned translucent (approx. 10m on med-low heat, covered).IMG_3649

The last few months I have tried to stay away from rice and pastas (heavier carbs and I are not BFFL anymore) so I find alternatives…alas, the sweet potato!  I love the bright orange color and how this potato is versatile: mashed, sautéed, fried, baked, the possibilities are endless!  I start with slicing them rather thin (1/4in), then cut the slices into quarters – they bake easier.  I toss in some avocado oil, lay on a pre-oiled pan, sprinkle some sea salt, and place in the middle rack of the oven.  I suck at timing things, but I’d say it takes about 15 minutes (on 325*) to really get the potatoes just soft enough to taste awesome. Enjoy this recipe y’all.. it’s one of my favs 🙂

 

Bolognese with Sweet Potato and Garlic Butter Zucchini

Bolognese with Sweet Potato and Garlic Butter Zucchini
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 2

Ingredients

  • 1 lb grass-fed or whatever you have available beef
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes sliced then quartered
  • 2 medium zucchini sliced thin
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 3 tbs butter
  • 2 tbsp oil for beef
  • Cooking spray for pan for sweet potato
  • 1 jar low-sugar marinara sauce
  • 1/2 c grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 c cream or nondairy creamer
  • Oregano - to taste
  • Red pepper flakes - to taste
  • Garlic powder - to taste for beef and for zucchini
  • Sea salt

Instructions

  1. In a large pan, heat oil on medium heat. Add beef and break up into smaller pieces/to your liking. Stir the meat until 90% is browned. Here, add minced and chopped garlic. Continue to stir. Pour in marinara and stir around to coat the ground beef. Mix in your seasonings (red pepper flakes, salt, garlic powder, and oregano) and stir it all in! Let simmer for 15 minutes on medium low heat. After 15 minutes are up, pour in your creamer and parmesan cheese.
  2. Turn oven on to 325 degrees. Rinse and slice your potatoes to 1/4in circles, then cut the slices into quarters. Throw into a bowl and toss with your favorite oil (I like avocado or EVOO). Pour over a pre-greased pan and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake for 15 minutes on 325 (can lower heat if it's cooking too quick to 300) in middle rack of oven.
  3. Turn another pan onto medium heat with 3 tbsp butter to melt. Place zucchini slices into pan, toss to coat zucchini evenly. Let sauté for 5 minutes, toss again. Cover pan and let sit. Continue to check on zucchini ever 2-3 minutes as it will become translucent fast and start to burn. When most rounds are see-through, add garlic powder and turn down heat to low. Cover and cook for another 5-7 minutes, checking every so often to toss and stir. Once most pieces are tender, turn off flame and plate separate from the bolognese and sweet potato.
  4. Assemble bolognese with sweet potato at bottom, ladle two scoops of bolognese on top, and sprinkle with garnish such as cheese, more grated parm, or leave as is 🙂 Bon Appétit!

Recipe Notes

You do NOT need to add creamer if you don't want to! Please make this recipe your own. Add in different spices like coriander or maybe even cinnamon to give it a different taste. Making dinner for a larger family? Double the recipe (2lbs of meat instead of 1, etc.)