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If you have been to Greece, you cannot have missed the Classic Mussakàs made with eggplants and meat sauce, a one-course meal rich dish that I thought I would revisit to create a lighter, vegetarian version: here is my
Vegetarian Mussakàs
.

This Vegetarian Mussakàs is the perfect substitute for Lasagna for the warmer months when light recipes rich in seasonal vegetables are preferred, but it is also loved by everyone in the family, including the little ones. It is also very useful for those who have to organise family meals, as it can be prepared in advance and then cooked with 30 minutes to spare.

If you don’t like peppers or find them indigestible, replace them with courgettes!

Remember that you can also prepare this recipe lactose-free by replacing the milk in the béchamel with vegetable stock: all other ingredients are lactose-free!

When you have eggplants in season, this recipe will be a dinner-saving one-course meal for every family need: enjoy!

mussakas-vegetariano

Vegetarian Mussakàs

9.26g carbohydrates per 100g

Ingredients for 6 servings

  • 1kg eggplants
  • 450g potatoes
  • 300g red pepper (or courgettes)
  • 200g tomato sauce
  • 150g carrots
  • 120g onions
  • Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated
  • breadcrumbs*
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • basil
  • sage
  • salt and pepper

Ingredients for the béchamel sauce

  • 350g milk
  • 35g brown rice flour*
  • 35g grated Parmesan cheese
  • 30g extra virgin olive oil
  • salt

*Ingredients whose labels must read “gluten free” (or, in Italy, present on  Prontuario AIC)

Preparation

  1. Slice the eggplants and place them on a baking tin lined with parchment paper,  bake in a convection oven preheated to 180°C for about 20 minutes.
  2. Boil the potatoes with their skins on until they are soft enough to be sliced.
  3. Prepare the vegetable ragout browning the garlic in a little oil, then add the diced carrots and peppers; season with chopped basil and sage, add the tomato sauce, season with salt and pepper and cook for 15 minutes.
  4. Prepare a béchamel sauce by mixing the rice flour with the oil, then gradually add the milk so that no lumps form and heat until the mixture starts to thicken. Remove from the heat, add the Parmesan cheese, mix well and add salt to taste.
  5. Take a rectangular oven dish, form a layer of vegetable ragout, cover it with the wilted eggplants, the sliced potatoes, a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese and start the layers again: you should have two layers of aubergines and ragout and only one layer of potatoes. Finish with a layer of béchamel sauce and a sprinkling of breadcrumbs.
  6. Bake the Mussakàs in a convection oven preheated to 190°C for 20-30 minutes until crispy.

mussakas-vegetariano

Version with gluten of Vegetarian Mussakàs

Replace gluten free breadcrumbs with standard breadcrumbs; the rest of the recipe is naturally gluten-free, so no adaptation is needed for the version with gluten.

 

 

When you discover a product that you have never tasted and never heard of before, it is a bit like receiving a gift: so let me introduce Couve Manteiga, the cabbage originally from Brazil, now also grown in Italy, which I have cooked in two mouth-watering versions, namely in Pesto and in Vegetarian rolls with Couve pesto, perfect also for the little ones at home.

Couve Manteiga is a broad-leaved plant that is reminiscent, especially in its use and scent, of kale. Its leaves are beautiful and scented and, turned into pesto, give us a truly inviting emerald green colour, while eaten raw they are crispy and spicy with a typical bitter aftertaste.

la foglia di couve manteiga

Couve Manteiga leaves

It is a vegetable rich in vitamins, minerals and fibre, which is excellent for the diet of those with diabetes as well as for low-calorie diets since 100g contain only 5 carbohydrates and 32 kilo calories.

Personally, I discovered it thanks to the editors of Cuoci Cuoci, a platform where you will find lots of news and recipes, in addition to my proposal of Vegetarian rolls with Couve pesto.

If you want to order Couve, you can contact Azienda Agraria Evangelisti  (gabrieleeva@tiscali.it) or order it by phone at: +39 346-324-5132).

Vegetarian rolls with Couve pesto

21.5g carbohydrates per 100g

Ingredients for the pesto (you will use about half)

  • 200g already blanched Couve Manteiga leaves
  • 30g Pecorino cheese, grated
  • 30g almonds, peeled
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Ingredients for the rolls

  • 300g tomato sauce
  • 200g Stelline Massimo Zero pasta**
  • 8 leaves of Couve Manteiga
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper

**Ingredients specific for celiacs

*Ingredients whose labels must read “gluten-free” (or, in Italy, present on  Prontuario AIC)

Preparation of pesto

  1. Wash the Couve Manteiga leaves well, remove the central rib and blanch the rest in boiling salted water for about 1 minute, then with a skimmer remove the leaves from the pot and throw them into cold water.
  2. Place the Pecorino cheese and almonds in a blender and blend to a flour.
  3. Add to this flour, 200g of the blanched and slightly squeezed leaves, a drizzle of oil, a pinch of salt and pepper. Add a little of the cooking water and process in the blender until creamy.

il pesto di couve manteiga

Preparation of rolls

  1. Blanch a further 8 Couve leaves cut in half at the central rib, which you have removed. As with pesto, once blanched, toss the leaves in cold water, then drain and lay them on a tray to dry slightly.
  2. Boil the Stelline pasta in plenty of salted water and, once drained, season them with Couve pesto: the amount prepared is larger than the amount needed to season the pasta, so you can also enjoy the pesto on a slice of toasted bread as an appetiser!
  3. Pour a little oil in a non-stick pan, add the tomato sauce, season with salt and let it cook for a few minutes.
  4. In the meantime, spread out the Couve leaves and stuff them with the Stelline pasta, closing them to form rolls.
  5. Place the rolls in the pan with the tomato sauce, let them season for 5 minutes, turning them and serve hot or warm.

involtini di couve manteiga

Version with gluten of Vegetarian rolls with Couve pesto

Replace the Stelline Massimo Zero pasta with a durum wheat pasta, while no other adaptation is necessary.

If you want to surprise your friends with simplicity, this Tomato Bruschetta sauce can be an idea: with 3 ingredients and the aromatic herbs from your garden, you can have a topping that is as irresistible as cherries!

With so few ingredients, the secret for success is their quality and especially peeled tomatoes make the difference. My recommendation is for you to try Ciro Flagella Peeled Tomatoes that you will never forget after trying once.  Then, if you really want a treat, prepare 2 sauces following the same procedure, but using red tomatoes for one sauce and yellow tomatoes for the other: it will be like having a cone of Gelato with two scoops of your favourite flavours.

For a perfect Bruschetta sauce, remember to remove all the seeds from the peeled tomatoes and avoid pieces of aromatic herbs: use a specific bag or container for the herbs so that they can release their essential oils, but not lose leaves or seeds.

And if you have time to chop some extra shallot, make some extra sauce and store it in a jar in the refrigerator to serve with starters or main courses.

ingredienti

Tomato Bruschetta sauce

6.6g carbohydrates per 100g

Ingredients for 4 servings

  • 500g peeled tomatoes
  • 150g shallot
  • 50g extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 bunch of aromatic herbs (rosemary, thyme, marjoram, summer savoury)
  • extra virgin olive oil, chilli pepper, garlic, salt

Preparation of the Bruschetta sauce

  1. Cut the peeled tomatoes in half, remove the seeds and dice the flesh.  Chop the shallot finely and sweat it with 50g olive oil, then add the diced tomato, the garlic and the aromatic herbs bouquet in a bag or colander so that it just releases its aroma.
  2. Allow to cook over low heat until the tomato has become creamy and the liquid has completely evaporated, therefore at least 1 hour.
  3. Use the sauce to top Bruschettas or with meat or fish.

salsa di pomodori gialli

Version with gluten of Tomato Bruschetta sauce 

The recipe contains only naturally gluten free ingredients, so no adaptation is necessary for its version with gluten.

Rolls are a bit like meatballs: one leads to another! Here is an idea for preparing delicious Romaine lettuce rolls with a tasty and colourful filling that you can also prepare with me by by watching the video recipe.

I wanted to propose a vegetarian filling because we know that healthy eating guidelines recommend consuming meat no more than 3 times a week (1 time red meat, 2 times white meat), so I am always looking for tasty alternatives to meat so that the rest of the family will not notice its absence. Another idea? Also try the Vegetable au gratin.

Even the choice of lettuce is designed to change the flavours as much as possible, in short, variety is the key!

Romaine lettuce rolls

14.91g carbohydrates per 100g

Ingredients

  • 250g Romaine lettuce
  • 200g grated cheese (choice of Caciocavallo, Parmesan, Pecorino, etc., also mixed together)
  • 100g breadcrumbs Nutrifree**, and a little more to dust the surfce with
  • 2 eggs
  • 50g dried tomatoes
  • 15g dried Porcini mushrooms
  • vegetable stock
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • pepper

**Ingredients specific for celiacs

*Ingredients whose labels must read “gluten-free” (or, in Italy, present on  Prontuario AIC)

Preparation

  1. Wash the leaves of Romaine lettuce and blanch them for less than a minute in slightly salted boiling water. Drain the leaves using a slotted spoon and plunge them in very cold water. Take the leaves out of the water and lay them on a tray or cloth so that they drain a bit.
  2. Prepare the filling. Heat the stock and use it to scald the breadcrumbs, which should be moist but not creamy. Let it cool down.
  3. Blend the dried Porcini to a powder; chop the dried cherry tomatoes.
  4. Add 170g grated cheese to the breadcrumbs, also incorporate cherry tomatoes, Porcini mushrooms and the whole eggs. Stir and add pepper (salt should not be needed).
  5. Take the lettuce leaves, remove the centre rib, place a roll of stuffing in the centre and wrap it, forming a roll for each leaf. Place the rolls in an oven dish, sprinkle with the remaining grated cheese, breadcrumbs and a drizzle of oil and bake au gratin in a static oven preheated to 200°C for about 15 minutes.

involtini di lattuga

Version with gluten of Romaine lettuce rolls

Replace the Nutrifree breadcrumbs with an equal amount of conventional breadcrumbs, while all other ingredients remain unchanged.

A year later, I virtually set off again towards Rieti to meet with bloggers, journalists and cooking enthusiasts to discover other products of the Alta Valle del Velino area through the first recipe: Chestnut and grass pea soup.

This soup is naturally gluten-free and the presence of pulses helps to better control the carbohydrates provided by dried chestnuts and potatoes, foods that require some attention for proper blood sugar management.

The journey of flavours in the heart of Italy: Chestnut and grass pea soup

zuppa di castagne e cicerchie

The local tourism and culture project was designed by the Rieti Viterbo Chamber of Commerce in cooperation with the Azienda Speciale Centro Italia Rieti and is aimed at highlighting the area’s excellence. Also look at the recipes cooked last year: Amatriciana and Pulse pasta with Rascino lentils.

The main ingredients of Chestnut and grass pea soup are two types of chestnuts and dried grass peas.

The chestnuts of the Rieti area are Chestnuts from Antrodoco and Rossa del Cicolano, both valuable varieties that have always been linked to the economy of these areas and thus one of the main components of the diet of mountain populations along with the rich selection of pulses. In our soup, we used dried chestnuts from Atrodoco, left to soak in water for about half an hour, and partly sliced raw to add a delicious fresh scent and a crunchy touch to the preparation.

The grass pea or Indian pea (an expression that betrays its provenance from distant lands) is a pulse whose cultivation is valuable in areas prone to drought and famine, so it ensured subsistence for farmers even in years when other products failed to bear fruit, thus important despite the difficult harvest.

Grass peas have a sweet taste, similar to that of chickpeas, that easily conquers the palate, but since they grow on stony ground it is important to subject them to a careful visual inspection before putting them in the pot: restaurants in this part of Italy are often equipped with a good insurance policy to cover any expenses for a dentist’s surgery after a tasty stop at the table!

So are you ready to discover the heart of Italy with another recipe? Let’s arm ourselves with pots and ingredients and cook it together.

Chestnut and grass pea soup

16.04 g carbohydrates per 100g

Ingredients for 4 servings

  • 1.2 litres of water
  • 300g dried grass peas (soak for at least 8 hours)
  • 100g dried chestnuts (soak for 1 hour)
  • 100g potatoes
  • 20g extra virgin olive oil, plus oil for serving
  • 4 whole chestnuts
  • 1 clove garlic
  • bay leaf
  • parsley
  • rosemary
  • salt and pepper

Preparation

  1. Put extra virgin olive oil in a pan and season with chopped garlic and parsley. Add the soaked and well-drained grass peas and allow them to gain flavour for a few minutes, stirring them with a wooden spoon.
  2. Add water and cook for about 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, cook the soaked dried chestnuts for about 20 minutes in lightly salted water with a bay leaf. Drain and roughly chop them, then add them to the grass peas together with the diced potatoes and finish cooking.
  4. Take 2 ladles of soup and put them in a blender, then pour the resulting cream back into the soup so that the mixture is nicely thick.
  5. Peel the raw chestnuts, cut them into thin slices and serve the soup with the chestnut slices, chopped rosemary and parsley and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Complete with bread croutons to your taste.

zuppa di castagne e cicerchie

Version with gluten of Chestnut and grass pea soup

The recipe contains only naturally gluten free ingredients, so no adaptation is necessary for its version with gluten.

 

Sicily is undoubtedly one of the most popular destinations for art and cuisine, and one of its gastronomic symbols is undoubtedly Sicilian Caponata , of which I share the recipe of dear friends from Carini, near Palermo, whom we feel are part of our family. The only change I made is not frying aubergines… I hope you’ll forgive me!

Precisely because of its Italian character, I chose the Caponata recipe as the star of a fantastic project to make the international public aware of what the products of a virtuous cosmetics company contain, Davines which uses Slow Food Presidia to extract its active ingredients. So you can watch the video made in the Davines Scientific Garden to discover that the ingredients of Caponata are also the ingredients of solid shampoos that are as friendly to humans as they are to the environment.

So have a good trip to discover a recipe that makes us beautiful inside and out!

Non fried Sicilian Caponata 

9.34g carbohydrates per 100g

Ingredients for 6-8 servings

  • 830g aubergines, preferably round or striped
  • 550g tomato sauce and peeled tomatoes
  • 300g onions
  • 225g celery
  • 150g pitted green olives*
  • 60g raisins
  • 40g pine nuts
  • 30g salted capers
  • 10g sugar
  • extra virgin olive oil, white wine vinegar and salt

**Ingredients specific for celiacs

*Ingredients whose labels must read “gluten-free” (or, in Italy, present on  Prontuario AIC)

Ingredienti della caponata

Preparation of Non fried Sicilian Caponata

  1. Wash and peel the aubergines, then dice them, sprinkle them with a pinch of fine salt and leave them to drain in a colander for a couple of hours. Blot the aubergines to remove the water they have released and fry them in a non-stick frying pan with a little oil (this is the step that makes the difference to the original Sicilian recipe in which the aubergines are deep fried).
  2. Soak the raisins in water.
  3. Meanwhile, cut the celery in pieces and cook it for about 5 minutes in boiling water, then drain it (without throwing away the cooking water) and set it aside.
  4. Cut the pitted olives in half and set aside.
  5. In a non-stick frying pan, pour a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and sauté the sliced onion, then add the celery, olives and well-desalted capers and leave to gain flavour for about ten minutes.
  6. In the meantime, in another non-stick pan, cook the tomato sauce and peeled tomatoes for about 15 minutes so that they shrink, adding sugar and a pinch of salt. Finally, pour in the vegetable mixture, aubergines, wrung out raisins and pine nuts. Stir and cook for about a minute, then remove from the heat and add white wine vinegar to taste. Adjust salt if necessary and serve Caponata warm or cold.

Caponata

Version with gluten of Non fried Sicilian Caponata 

The recipe contains only naturally gluten free ingredients, so no adaptation is necessary for its version with gluten.

Are you short of time, but fancy something tasty and versatile? Mini buckwheat breadsticks will be a delightful surprise. Watch how to prepare them on my YouTube channel!

Very few ingredients, quick and easy to prepare, you can use them as an aperitif or to make the bread basket even richer, perhaps by combining them with some Buckwheat and corn focaccia.

The base is a brisè crust whose flavour is enriched by blended sesame seeds that allow us to reduce the amount of salt contained, but let’s not forget that these are buckwheat mini breadsticks that contain butter, so let’s not eat too many… as they are irresistible!

Finally, sesame seeds are rich in calcium, as well as containing Omega 3 and Omega 6, so they are good supplements for lactose intolerant people and to prevent osteoporosis.

Mini buckwheat breadsticks   

carbohydrates 49.7g per 100g

Ingredients

  • 130 g gluten free bread flour mix, brand Nutrifree**
  • 60g buckwheat flour*
  • 80g butter
  • 40g water
  • 1 egg white
  • 20g sesame seeds
  • 1 pinch of salt

**Ingredients specific for celiacs

*Ingredients whose labels must read “gluten-free” (or, in Italy, present on  Prontuario AIC)

Preparation of Mini buckwheat breadsticks

  1. Put the sesame seeds in a blender and blend to a flour.
  2. In a bowl, mix all the ingredients: the sesame flour, bread flour and buckwheat flour, a pinch of salt, the cold butter in small pieces, the egg white and the water and stir to obtain an even mixture.
  3. Form a ball with the dough, wrap it in cling film and place it in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
  4. Take pieces of dough and form them into cylinders 1cm in diameter, cut them into pieces 3-4cm long and lay them on a baking tin lined with parchment paper.
  5. Bake the breadsticks in a static oven preheated to 180°C for about 20 minutes.
I mini grissini al saraceno pronti per essere gustati come stuzzichino

The mini buckwheat breadsticks ready to be enjoyed as appetisers

Version with gluten of Mini buckwheat breadsticks

Replace the gluten free flour with 150 g bread flour and reduce the amount of water if the dough is too soft.

Nature is coming back to life all around us with an explosion of flowers and plants, including edible wild herbs and aromatic herbs, so what better idea than to prepare irresistible Vegetable omelettes with herbs?

They are the perfect solution for preparing a healthy, naturally gluten free and carbohydrate freedinner to accompany other seasonal vegetables and a slice of fragrant fibre rich bread: don’t you think so?

Furthermore, if you find some dandelion or some wild hops do not hesitate to pick some to add to your vegetable omelettes or to prepare other vegetarian recipes.

Vegetable omelettes with herbs   

negligible carbohydrates per 100g

Ingredients for 4 omelettes

  • 8 eggs
  • 170g Swiss chard (just the green part)
  • 140g Tropea red onions
  • 120g peeled tomatoes
  • 60g Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated
  • 1 bunch of parsley
  • 1 clove garlic
  • dried oregano
  • a few marjoram and thyme leaves
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper

Preparation

  1. Clean the red onions and slice them. Wash the Swiss chard and cut them into strips.
  2. In a non-stick pan, brown the garlic in a little oil, then add the onions and Swiss chard, season with salt and pepper, then cook with the lid on for a few minutes.
  3. Coarsely chop the peeled tomatoes and add them to the vegetables in the pan; cook for another 5 minutes to completely dry the water from the vegetables and remove the garlic.
  4. Beat the eggs in a bowl, add 2 teaspoons of chopped parsley, oregano, aromatic herbs and the cooled down vegetables. Finally, add the grated Parmesan cheese.
  5. Heat a non-stick frying pan of 18-20cm diameter with a little oil and pour in one fourth of the mixture, cooking the omelettes for 2 minutes on each side.
  6. Serve the omelettes accompanied by raw and cooked vegetables to taste.

Frittatine di verdure alle erbe

Vegetables omelettes with herbs ready to be enjoyed

Version with gluten of Vegetable omelettes with herbs

The recipe is naturally gluten-free, so no adaptation is needed for the version with gluten.

If winter means soups, soups in January mean winter vegetables, of which cabbage and potatoes are surely the most common example, and this Cabbage, potato and shallot soup is also the symbol of peasant cuisine par excellence, enriched with an idea for a zero waste recipe.

Even if the Christmas holidays of 2020 were not all about socialising and big family meals, the rich menus of tradition are too good not to tempt us, and so, as a recipe for Epiphany that makes us turn off the lights of celebrations, I propose a simple dish, prepared with what is hardly missing in the kitchen in winter: the long-lived vegetables that love the cold and dark winter days, namely cabbage, potatoes and various onions.

Added to this is also a necessity. After preparing kilos and kilos of succulent fillings made from stewed meat and Parmigiano Reggiano of two different maturations for Anolini or Cappelletti alla parmigiana, my fridge is full of cheese rinds that it would be sacrilegious to throw away, so I urgently need ideas on how to make the most out of them, and soups are always a good solution.

And since it is customary to consume pulses, particularly lentils, as a wish for wealth and abundance for the New Year, I thought I would complete the soup by adding Barilla Legumottithe fantastic grains made with lentil, chickpea and pea flour, which in just 9 minutes give us the full and authentic flavour of pulses in the form of pasta: you know I am a real fan of Legumotti, which I have also proposed in other mouth-watering recipes.

With the simplicity of a zero waste dish, vegetarian and prepared with few ingredients, I wish you a 2021 of health, serenity and… lots of work for everyone!

Le verdure della zuppa

Cabbage, potato and shallot soup

6.65g carbohydrates per 100g

Ingredients for 4 servings

  • 1lt vegetable stock
  • 500g cabbage
  • 230g potato
  • 125g Barilla Legumotti*
  • 100g shallot
  • 50g rinds of Parmesan cheese
  • 1 clove garlic
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • pepper
  • salt

*Ingredients whose labels must read “gluten-free” (or, in Italy, present on  Prontuario AIC)

Preparation

  1. Cut the shallot into thin slices and brown it in a pan with a little extra virgin olive oil. Add the finely diced potatoes and chopped garlic clove and season for a few minutes. Finally, add the cabbage cut into strips, mix well and cover with the vegetable stock.
  2. Also add the Parmesan cheese rinds: use a knife to scrape the outer surface to remove any dust, then cut them into pieces of a few centimetres. Put the lid on and cook for 20 minutes.
  3. Adjust salt, throw the Legumotti into the soup and add vegetable stock if there is not enough liquid to cook.
  4. Serve the soup with a drizzle of oil and a grinding of pepper.

Zuppa di cavoli, patate e scalogno

Version with gluten

This recipe is naturally gluten-free.

 

 

Here in the Po Valley, the fog has been with us for a few days and do you know what dish I love on these days? Onion soup au gratin.

Hot, fragrant, with melted Pecorino cheese and crispy on the surface, the whole family loves it and it is perfect as a one-course meal.

For the onion soup au gratin, you will only need very few ingredients, a diving mask (I’m joking of course, but it’s the only tool to keep you from crying while slicing the large amount of onions you need!) and a cooking time of 40 minutes, which you will have to plan. After that, enjoy this fantastic dish!

I forgot, you can also follow the recipe step by step in the video that kept us company in the spring lockdown: enjoy the video.

Onion soup au gratin   

11.88g carbohydrates per 100g

 Ingredients

  • 1kg white onions
  • 1lt vegetable or meat stock
  • 200g fresh Pecorino cheese
  • 4 slices of bread** (in my case 160g, i.e. 40g per slice)
  • 50g matured Pecorino cheese
  • 30g extra virgin olive oil
  • 20g brown rice flour*
  • salt and pepper

**Ingredients specific for celiacs

*Ingredients whose labels must read “gluten-free” (or, in Italy, present on  Prontuario AIC)

Preparation

  1. Peel the onions and cut them into very thin slices, perhaps with the help of a mandoline. Heat the oil in a crock pot, add the onions, salt and let them stew slowly with the lid on for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Sprinkle the onions with the sifted flour, stir well so that no lumps form, pour in the boiling stock, cover the pan again and cook for another 40 minutes.
  3. Divide the soup among 4 ovenproof single-portion bowls, cover them with a slice of toasted bread with a slice of fresh Pecorino cheese and put the bowls under the oven grill until the cheese has melted. Once removed from the oven, top with grated matured Pecorino cheese and a grinding of pepper.

zuppa di cipolle gratinata

Onion soup au gratin ready to eat

Version with gluten

Simply replace the gluten-free bread with standard bread.