Recipes and Ramblings in Italy

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Recipe of the Week (January 26, 2016)

Posted by William Abruzzo on January 25, 2016 at 12:30 AM


Polenta in Forno con Funghi e’ Fontina (Baked Polenta Casserole with Sautéed Mushrooms and Fontina Cheese) 


This week’s recipe take us to the region of Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, where the Julian Alps rise above a coastal plain that stretches towards the vast Venetian Lagoon. This area lies northeast of Venice, where corn is an abundant crop on the coastal plains. Here, dried corn is milled into a meal called polenta. The polenta is then turned into a porridge and eaten as a starchy side dish. The polenta can also be cooked firm, spread flat to 1/2 inch thickness, and then sliced into squares.  The squares can then be grilled, deep fried or simply eaten. A bowl of polenta topped with melted cheese or a hearty beef ragu is the perfect meal on a cold winter day in Friuli. Here is a quick and easy recipe that you are sure to love. The polenta is prepared soft and topped with sautéed mixed mushrooms and plenty of creamy, delicious Fontina cheese. Enjoy it with a glass of white Pinot Grigio wine from the mountains of Friuli or a hearty Istrian red.  



Olive oil for sautéing

Green Onions 4 (chopped)

Garlic 2 cloves (chopped)

Mushrooms -Cremini, Shitake & Oyster 2 lbs (sliced)

White Wine ¾ cup

Thyme 1 tbs (chopped, packed firm)

Italian Flat Leaf Parsley 1 tbs (chopped, packed firm)

Butter 2 tbs (softened)

Instant Polenta 1 box

Fontina Cheese 2/3 lb (shredded)


       Coat the bottom of a large frying pan with olive oil, set it on a medium low burner and saute the green onions and garlic until soft. Next, add the mushrooms, white wine and herbs, season with salt and black pepper, turn the burner to medium and continue sautéing until the mushrooms are soft and most of the cooking liquid has been absorbed back into the mushrooms (about 15 -20 minutes). Then, stir in the butter and remove the frying pan from the burner. 


       Prepare a batch of soft polenta (enough for 4 to 6 individuals) following the instructions on the box. Spoon the polenta into individual, oven-proof casserole dishes, filling each dish about 2/3 full. Then, top with plenty of mushrooms and fontina cheese. If you prefer a crispy topping, sprinkle over some grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Place the casserole dishes in a preheated 425 degree oven for 5 to 7 minutes or until the fontina cheese has melted or the top is crisp and golden.

Categories: Vegetable Dishes, Pasta and Risotto

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Reply Joy Settelino
5:33 PM on February 26, 2016 
Hi There! I love polenta in the winter. This was a great recipe.
Reply ScampieLover
12:16 AM on February 23, 2016 
Love mushrooms, love this recipe. Took no time at all to make. Thanks.
Reply mariabella
1:09 AM on January 28, 2016 
Only two words for this recipe. . . . . Easy and Delicious!!!!!

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Bill's Cooking Tip of the Month

Roll Out Pie Dough with Ease Using Plastic Wrap

This is an old trick I learned years ago from my mother. The next time you bake a pie, roll out the dough between sheets of plastic wrap. This will prevent the dough from sticking to your rolling pin and will make it easier to transport the dough from your work surface to the pie dish or baking sheet.

Cover your entire work surface with plastic wrap and sprinkle it lightly with flour. Turn the dough onto the wrap, pat it down to 1 inch thickness, sprinkle it lightly with flour, and then cover it with a second layer of wrap. Roll out the dough to just less than ¼ inch thickness and remove the top layer of wrap. Lift the dough using the bottom layer of wrap, turn it on to a lightly greased pie dish or baking sheet, and then remove the wrap. Its quick and easy! 

Tips on Italian Ingredients

 Frying Tomato Paste Enhances the Flavor and Adds Depth to Your Dish

Many recipes direct you to stir tomato paste into a sauce, soup or stew. However, frying the tomato paste first fully develops its flavor and eliminates any raw or metallic taste. It is a quick and easy way to enhance the flavor of your dish. Tomato paste should always be added at the beginning of a recipe, rather than at the end. This allows its flavor to marry with the dish. Add it immediately after sautéing your aromatics in olive oil or rendered fat. When the aromatics are soft, push them to one side of your pot or frying pan. Place a dollop of tomato paste on the other side, tilt the pot or frying pan to pool the oil around the tomato paste, and let it gently sizzle for about 2 minutes.  After the tomato paste has fried, incorporate it into the aromatics and then add the liquid and other ingredients to complete your sauce, soup or stew. 

Just Picked From My Italian Vegetable Garden!

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My Italian Heritage

 My Great Grandparents, Vita and Onofrio Abruzzo, from the town of Santa Margherita di Belice, Sicily pictured here with my grandfather Vito "Bill" in the center.

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