Fresh Homemade Bruschetta

bruschetta

There is nothing I love more in the summertime than fresh homemade bruschetta. It’s light, healthy, flavorful and goes great with so many different foods such as chicken, crusty crostini, fresh mozzarella and more! It’s also one of the easiest things to make and doesn’t require any hard and fast measurements. Everything is done to taste and you really cannot get this wrong, I promise!

The key to really good bruschetta is to start with fresh, perfectly ripe ingredients. You want to choose beautifully ripened, juicy, red tomatoes as well as crisp red onions and fresh, bright basil. The better the ingredients, the better the bruschetta! Once you have your veggies the only other ingredients you’ll need are Kosher salt, ground black pepper, extra-virgin olive oil and a good balsamic vinegar. That’s it! Super simple, super delicious. If I have it on hand, I will sometimes stir in a few teaspoons of homemade pesto too!

I LOVE to eat bruschetta on top of a good, crusty crostini brushed with olive oil and fresh garlic. It is so good and flavorful and a great summer appetizer! I also love it on top of grilled chicken or on thick slices of fresh mozzarella. It’s even delicious tossed with a little fresh pasta and served chilled. Bruschetta is the perfect accompaniment to so many of your summer dishes, it’ll really brighten almost any meal. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 4-5 ripened tomatoes, any variety 
  • 1 medium red onion, diced
  • handful of fresh basil, torn
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, to taste
  • Balsamic vinegar, to taste
  • few teaspoons of fresh pesto, optional

Instructions

Dice the fresh tomatoes and place in a large bowl. Add the diced red onion and torn basil. Add Kosher salt, ground black pepper, a little drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and a little drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Gently toss to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Can be served cold or at room temperature.

**Tip – The longer you let the bruschetta sit, the more the flavors will come together resulting in a more flavorful bite.**

Quick and Easy Tomato Sauce

Quick Saucen

Growing up in an Italian household homemade tomato sauce was a given, I didn’t even know what “jar sauce” was as a kid. But really good tomato sauce takes time and sometimes time is the last thing I have. So when I need sauce in a pinch, whether it be for a pasta meal or to just toss on some meatball heroes, I make this Quick and Easy Tomato Sauce. It’s done in only minutes and it tastes great, far better and fresher than any jar sauce in my opinion.

You can use a can of regular crushed tomatoes in this recipe but I find that using really good quality tomatoes is actually better since the sauce doesn’t have hours to simmer and develop flavor. I like to use a can of whole, peeled San Marzano tomatoes, I just give them a quick squeeze to crush them up before adding to the pan. They are excellent and with the addition of just a few choice ingredients, you have a delicious tasting and quick sauce perfect for whatever Italian dish you’re serving up. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup grated onion
  • 2 tbs unsalted butter
  • 1/2 tsp parsley
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
  • 1/4 tsp sugar
  • Handful of fresh chopped basil
  • 1 tbs extra-virgin olive oil

Instructions

Melt butter over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until slightly softened, about 2 minutes. Add parsley, salt and pepper and cook another 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for an additional minute.

Add to the pan the crushed tomatoes and sugar. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to a simmer . Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove the sauce from the heat and add in the fresh basil and olive oil. Adjust seasonings and serve.

**Tip – This can be used as the base for a slow cooking “Sunday Sauce” as well. Start by browning one pound of sweet or hot sausage (removed from the casings) in a little oil. Remove the sausage from the pan leaving the fat behind. Skip the butter and sauté the onions in the sausage fat. Add in the spices and garlic and after sautéing for a minute, add in 1/2 – 1 cup of good red wine to deglaze the pan. Cook until most of the alcohol is burned off. Continue to follow the steps above allowing the sauce to simmer for 2-3 hours, or longer, for best flavor.**

Easy Peasy Ala Vodka Sauce

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If you’re looking for a quick, easy and delicious pasta meal this will be your next favorite recipe! Whenever I am short on time, not in the mood to make “Sunday Sauce” but want pasta and need something my kids will love, this is my “go-to” dish. I love to add prosciutto to the sauce however, it’s just as yummy if you don’t have any on hand. The key to making this scrumptious is fresh basil, lots of grated cheese, and an extra splash of heavy cream.

I feel this sauce is best over a ridged, sturdy pasta because it allows the sauce to stick really well and get in all of the yummy nooks and crannies of the pasta. I usually do a  nice penne rigate but you can also use rigatoni if you prefer. I’ve also made it will gemelli pasta which was delish as well.

One quick cooking tip, you can make this sauce ahead of time however, I recommend NOT adding the cream until you’re about to serve the pasta. Ala vodka sauce has a tendency to separate if the cream is cooked too long in the sauce so a few minutes before your pasta is done, add the heavy cream and warm the sauce through. This recipe is enough sauce for exactly one pound of pasta. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 3-4 tbs unsalted butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 6 oz diced prosciutto, optional
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup vodka
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
  • One can of crushed tomatoes
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 – 1 cup grated cheese
  • handful of fresh chopped basil
  • Parsley, for garnish
  • 1 lb pasta

Instructions

Bring a pot of water to a boil for the pasta. Heat the butter over medium heat until melted. Add the onion (and prosciutto if using) and cook until softened, about 7-8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook a minute or two more.

Slowly add in the vodka, allowing the alcohol to burn off for a minute or two. Add in the crushed tomatoes, red pepper flakes, Kosher salt, black pepper and cheese. Stir, bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to low and simmer, about 10-12 minutes.

Boil the pasta while the sauce is simmering.

Right before serving, add in the heavy cream and fresh basil and stir gently until well combined. Allow the sauce to heat through, about 2-3 minutes. Toss with the hot pasta and serve. Garnish with parsley.

ala vodka gemelli

“Saucy” Italian Sausage and Peppers

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Being Italian it will come as no surprise that one of my top favorite foods, hands down, is sausage and peppers and it just so happens that I make a seriously kick ass version! What makes this meal so good is the way the meatiness of the sausage mingles so well with the flavors of the peppers and onions and when done right, it’s an absolutely perfect dish! Scoop it out onto some warm, fresh Italian bread and you have yourself an out of this world sandwich experience. 

I prefer to make my sausage and peppers with red sauce and well browned slices of sausage over one that is more on the oily side and served with a giant, full sausage link. I find the versions cooked in just oil to be a little flavorless plus, I am just not a fan of biting into a huge hunk of meat either. Therefore, I always brown my sausages first while they are whole, then I slice them fairly thin and throw them back into the pan until they are browned on both sides and slightly crispy. Once the sausage is cooked through I remove them, saute the veggies in the sausage fat, add the sausage back in, adjust the seasonings, and toss with tomato sauce. It’s perfect EVERY single time and it really is super easy to make!

Naturally, the key to any great meal is to start with great ingredients. Cheap, fatty, unseasoned sausage will do nothing but bring the dish down therefore, I always get my sausage at a high quality Italian deli in my area. The sausages are far more flavorful and leaner than anything you will find in the supermarket. Also, I highly recommend getting sweet sausage with fennel because it adds such a nice complexity to the overall flavor of the dish. However, if you’re really not a fan of fennel you can skip it and plain sweet sausage will be just as delicious but give the fennel a try, you might be pleasantly surprised!

Ingredients

  • 2.5 – 3 lbs of pork sausage with fennel
  • 2 green bell peppers, seeded and sliced into strips 
  • 2 red bell peppers, seeded and sliced into strips
  • 2 large sweet onions, sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • extra virgin olive oil, as needed
  • 10-12 oz of plain canned tomato sauce
  • Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 tsp of oregano
  • pinch of red pepper flakes

Instructions

Drizzle about 2 tbs of olive oil into a pan and turn the heat to medium. Separate the sausage links by cutting the strings in between. Do not cut too close to the base of the sausage or you will slice the casing . When the oil is shimmering and the pan is hot add in the sausage. Cook the sausages, turning frequently, until they are browned on all sides, about 10-15 minutes.

Remove the sausage from the pan. Using a fork to hold each link steady slice it up into 1.5″ slices. Once all of the sausages are sliced, return them to the hot pan. Add in a little more oil as needed so they don’t stick and burn. Continue to cook the sausage slices until they are nicely browned on each side and cooked through, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from the pan, cover and set aside.

Add to the hot pan the peppers, garlic and onion. Saute them in the sausage fat, adding extra oil as needed, until they are tender and browned. Season them with Kosher salt, pepper, oregano, and the red pepper flakes. Once the veggies are done, add the sausage back into the pan along with the tomato sauce and heat through, stirring gently to combine. Adjust the seasonings as needed. If a “drier” sausage and peppers is preferred, use less tomato sauce and conversely, add more to make it moister. Serve hot.

**Tip** – Sausage and peppers is actually even better if made the day before serving because the flavors have a chance to mingle. To reheat simply place the pan of sausage and peppers in a 350 degree oven and stir occasionally until warmed through or heat on low in a Crock-Pot.