Category Archives: Italian Inspired Recipes

It’s Gnudi Time!

Photo: Gnudi with meatballs and pasta sauce

Sometimes I learn about something and wish that I had known about it sooner in my life. Gnudi (pronounced nudee) fit in that category. I saw Giada Di Laurentis make these on television and decided I had to try them. They are similar to the filling in gnocchi, but really, it tastes like the center ricotta layer in lasagna. So delicious!

And they are easy to make. I adapted them only slightly to be low carb, which meant swapping out the regular wheat flour for low carb flour. I used Dixie Diner’s All Purpose Flour. I expect that coconut flour might work well in this also. I plan to try that the next time I make them. Since coconut flour absorbs more liquid, use only 1/4 cup in the ricotta mixture. If the dough gets too stiff, add a little egg white or water.

Use freshly grated Parmesan cheese, not the canned variety that’s been sitting in the cupboard for two months. It’s worth it. This recipe is adapted from one I found at thekitchn.com.

Ricotta Gnudi

1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
2 cups Whole-milk Ricotta Cheese
1 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper
1 tablespoon Garlic and Herb Seasoning
1 cups Low Carb All-purpose Flour, divided
1-1/2 cups Marinara or Pasta sauce, store-bought or homemade
Fresh Baby Spinach

Place freshly grated Parmesan cheese in a large bowl then add ricotta cheese, eggs, salt, pepper and seasoning salt. Stir together, then add 1/2 cup low carb flour and stir until combined.

Put parchment paper or aluminum foil on top of a rimmed baking sheet. Dust with 1/3 cup flour. Using a 1-1/2 tablespoon cookie scoop or an over-filled tablespoon, scoop out golf-ball sized gnudi and place on the baking sheet. You can shape them into balls with your hands if they aren’t rounded. Repeat until all the dough is used.

Sprinkle the remaining flour over the tops of the dough. Place the baking sheet in the refrigerator to chill for 20 to 30 minutes. The more chilled they are, the better since the low carb flour breaks down in the boiling water more than regular flour.

Fill a large pot with water, add about a teaspoon of salt, and bring to a boil. While waiting, get out the spinach and cut or tear into pieces for garnish. Warm the pasta sauce in a pan.

Use a slotted spoon to lower five or six gnudi into the water, one or two at a time. Try not to get too much extra flour with each one. Boil until the gnudi float and are firm to a light touch, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the water with the slotted spoon and put on a serving bowl or plate. Repeat until all the gnudi are cooked.

Spoon warmed pasta sauce over the top, garnish with additional Parmesan Cheese and the spinach leaves.

If you wish, you can add a couple of meat balls to the plate as I did.

Image: Gnudi in pan with butter and spinach

The other way you can serve gnudi is with a melted butter sauce. I heated my day-old gnudi up in the butter, lightly browning them. Melt a stick of butter, add 1 teaspoon minced garlic and let the butter get slightly browned. If you wish, you can add 1/2 to 1 cup of baby spinach while you’re stirring the butter. Spoon over the gnudi to serve.

This is great with roast chicken or pork chops as well as the meatballs.

Makes 24 gnudi. I used 4 gnudi per serving.

Leftovers can be put in plastic bags with the air gently pushed out as you seal it, or you can put them in a flat plastic container with a tight lid. They will keep up to three days in the refrigerator.

Image: Nutrition

 

Perfect Time for Meatloaf

Photo: Italian-style meatloaf

Fall is here and the temperatures are beginning to drop a bit, so it’s time for another comfort food recipe. There’s nothing quite like meatloaf for a cozy and simple meal.

A few weeks ago, this delicious-sounding recipe made the rounds on Facebook. I decided I had to try it and, of course, make it low carb. With only a few changes to amounts and one real substitution, this meatloaf is delicious and lower in carbohydrates than the original. For the bread crumbs, I used one of my low carb sandwich rolls, but you can make a basic magic muffin, lightly toast it, then put it through a food processor to reduce it to crumbs. For the pasta sauce, I used Classico Vodka Sauce, which is about 8 carbs per half cup.

For a quick to make dinner with lots of Italian flavor, this meatloaf is perfect. It makes enough servings to leave a little extra for meatloaf sandwiches if you’d like.

Photo: Full shot of meatloaf

Italian-Style Meatloaf

1 pound Ground Beef
1/2 pound ground Mild Italian Sausage
1/2 cup Onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup chopped Bell Pepper
1 teaspoon Olive Oil
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Garlic, minced
1-1/2 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
1 Egg, beaten
3/4 Low Carb Bread Crumbs
1 T. Cream or Half and Half
1 cup shredded Mozzarella Cheese
1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese
3/4 cup Pasta Sauce

Preheat oven to 400 degrees (F.)

Heat a small skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil and let it get hot. Add the onion and chopped peppers and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat.

In a medium mixing bowl, add the ground beef and sausage along with the onions, peppers, olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, egg, bread crumbs, Italian seasoning, and cream. Mix together with your clean hands or a wooden spoon. Add 1/2 cup pasta sauce, Parmesan Cheese, and 1/2 cup of the mozzarella. Mix well.

Put the mixed meatloaf into a loaf pan or a deep baking pan about 9″x6″ and form into an even loaf. I used my Copper Chef Loaf Pan with an inset that allows for the excess grease to drain below the bottom, so I can get a nice crust and less oils on the bottom. But it isn’t necessary.

Spoon 1/4 cup of the pasta sauce on the top and spread it around. Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes. Pull it out and top with the remaining mozzarella cheese. Put it back in the oven and cook for another 10 minutes to melt the cheese.

Baking time may vary depending on how thick your loaf is. If you have a larger round but shorter than 3″ loaf, it may take less time, so check on it after about 25 minutes. If you have a meat thermometer, it is done at 160 degrees.

Makes 6 servings.

 

Italian Vegetable Sauce pairs with spaghetti squash

Image: Italian Veggie Sauce

Looking for a little comfort food on these cold winter nights? Want to keep on your Meatless Monday plan? Look no further!

This yummy meatless sauce with Italian seasonings and zucchini pairs well with spaghetti squash to give you a delicious and low carb alternative to pasta. While it comes in a little higher in carbs than I usually aim for with my recipes, it is still only 13.5 net carbs per serving.

If you’re just not into a meatless sauce, then feel free to add ground beef and/or Italian sausage to the dish. It works great either way.

Italian Vegetable Sauce with Spaghetti Squash

1 teaspoon Olive Oil
1/4 cup Onions, chopped
3 Sweet Mini-Peppers
1 teaspoon Garlic
1 15-ounce can Diced Italian Style Tomatoes
1 tablespoon Italian Seasoning Blend
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 ounces Red Wine
3 cups Spaghetti Squash
1 cup Zucchini, diced
1/2 cup Mushrooms, sliced
1 cup Spinach, fresh

Preheat oven to 385 degrees (F.)

Cut the spaghetti squash in half, remove the seeds, rub with a little olive oil, and place face down on a foil-covered baking pan. Bake for about 40 minutes until a fork inserted into the squash goes through easily. Remove and set aside to cool.

In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil, then add onions and garlic. Cook and stir for about 2 minutes until the onion sweats. Add tomatoes, seasonings, and wines. Stir and cook for a few minutes, then lower the heat to simmer and cook about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. The sauce should be thickening. Add zucchini and cook about 10 minutes until it is almost tender. Add the sliced mushrooms and cook another few minutes.

Use a fork to separate the spaghetti strands of the squash and warm in the oven or a microwave for about three minutes.

Add the spinach to the sauce and stir it in until it is limp.

Put 3/4 cup of spaghetti squash on a plate, and top with 1/4 of the vegetable sauce. Grate Italian cheese over the top. Serve with a salad.

Makes 4 servings.

Image: Nutrition Info

 

Meatless Pizza Monday

Photo: Zucchini, Eggplant, & Beets Pizza

Who doesn’t love pizza? And what do we miss when trying to stay low carb? You betcha! Good news. We have pizza crust alternatives that work very well for making pizza. If you haven’t tried any of these, give them a shot. First, there’s the cauliflower crust, which you can make yourself or now buy at places like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. For that matter, you can order them online from Amazon. However, check the carbs on these as some of them are higher than making them yourself.

You can also make a pizza crust using low carb flour. I use LC Foods Pizza and Calzone mix to make this delicious crust, but I have also used DCC All Purpose Flour to produce an equally good, but slightly sweeter crust. You can also use a large portobello mushroom as a pizza base. While white meat chicken makes a great pizza base, that doesn’t work so well on Meatless Monday. You can also use a low-carb tortilla to make a fairly crispy crust, but be careful not to overcook it.

For this recipe, I’ve provided the toppings only and the carb count is just for them, so add in the count for the pizza base. My pizza recipe makes two personal-size pizzas, but you can make a larger eight-inch pizza and cut it in half. I like to cook my pizza on a rack since that allows the underside to brown evenly as well as the top. I really like this combination of vegetables and seasoning, but you can adapt it to others if you like. When buying pasta sauce, check the carb count. I used one that comes in at 3.5 net carbs for 1/4 cup.

Zucchini, Eggplant, and Beets Pizza Toppings

2 small Pizza Crusts
1/2 cup Zucchini, 1/4″ slices
1/4 cup Golden Beets, diced
1/4 cup Japanese Eggplant, thinly sliced
1/4 cup Spinach, fresh
1/4 cup Pasta Sauce
1/3 cup Mozzarella Cheese, shredded
Mrs. Dash Garlic and Herb Seasoning

Preheat oven to 425 degrees (F.)

Cook pizza crusts for 5 to 10 minutes if it isn’t already partially cooked.

Cook diced beets in a microwave for one minute. You can use the zucchini and eggplant raw or sauté them in a pan with a splash of Olive Oil for a couple of minutes to soften.

Spread 2 tablespoons of the Pizza Sauce on each pizza crust. Arrange the zucchini and eggplant slices on top of the sauce, then distribute the beets on top of them. Arrange enough spinach leaves over the tops to cover them. Sprinkle cheese over the top.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until the cheese is melted and the crust is browned.

Serves two.

Photo: Nutrition Count for Pizza Toppings

Links to recipes for Low-Carb Flour Pizza Crust and Cauliflower Pizza Crust.

Creamy Tuscan Chicken for Two

Photo Creamy Tuscan Chicken

I make most of the meals at my house into small portions for two people. This is the case with this recipe for delicious creamy Tuscan-style chicken. If you want to make it for more people, it’s easy to double the amounts. If you have one very plump chicken breast, you can probably cut it across the middle as if you were butterflying it to make two chicken pieces. If the chicken is too thick, over 1/2″, then you should cut it to thinner slices, so it cooks thoroughly.

This recipe uses sun-dried tomatoes, but you can also use about six to eight cherry tomatoes cut in half.

Creamy Tuscan-Style Chicken

3/4 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, thinly sliced
1 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1/2 cup Heavy Cream
1/4 cup Chicken Broth
1/2 teaspoon Garlic Powder
1/2 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese
1/2 cup Spinach, chopped
1/4 cup Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Add olive oil to a medium-sized skillet over medium heat and cook the chicken pieces for 3 to 5 minutes on each side or until they are browned. Remove to a plate and set aside.

To the skillet, add heavy cream, chicken broth, Italian seasoning, and Parmesan cheese. If you are using cherry tomatoes, add them in now also. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring briskly with a wooden spoon until the sauce begins to thicken. Add spinach and the sun-dried tomatoes and stir them in. Turn to a simmer and cook until spinach begins to wilt. Add the chicken and any juices on the plate back to the pan and cook another three or so minutes until the chicken is heated.

Makes two servings. Serve with riced cauliflower or zucchini noodles. I served mine with a delicious riced golden beets side dish. Recipe follows.

Image: Nutrition Info

 

Savory Riced Golden Beets

Photo: Riced Golden Beets

I’ve tried the frozen riced purple beets, and they are yummy with the earthy taste that the dark beets have and make a great side dish. However, I prefer golden beets with their lighter flavor. So, I riced up a beet and added a little chicken broth and seasoning. Voila! Delicious couscous-like pearls of delight. Along with the chicken, they really provided that extra touch of the Mediterranean flavor.

1 medium-sized Golden Beet, cleaned and peeled
1/4 cup Chicken Broth
1/2 teaspoon Italian Seasoning (optional)
1 tablespoon Butter

Rice golden beet in a food processor, using the pulse until it is the size of rice kernels. You can also use a grater to grate the beet, but the food processor is much easier.

In a small skillet, melt butter then add riced beets. Add about 1/4 cup of water and cook over low heat until the water almost evaporates. Add the chicken broth, seasoning, and salt, reduce heat to simmer and continue to cook until the beets are done about 15 to 20 minutes. Stir often and add additional water if they get too dry.

Makes two servings.

Image: Nutrition Info