Zucchini and meatballs in tomato sauce

I love all stuffed veggies and I have to say that these ground beef filled zucchini in tomato sauce are one of my favourites. Buy some more ground beef and make meatballs to cook in the same tomato sauce. Delicious.

prep time 20 min

cook time 30-40 min

ingredients for 4-5

  • 350g ground beef
  • 4 medium to large zucchini
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 100g breadcrumbs
  • 25g grated Parmigiano
  • handful of chopped flat leaf parsley
  • flour to coat the meatballs
  • 400g tomato sauce
  • 1/2 onion
  • extra virgin olive oil

  1. Start by washing and tapping dry the zucchini. Cut off the edges and then cut them in half or into 3 pieces.
  2. Use a zucchini corer or an all-purpose corer to gently hollow out a tunnel through the zucchini. Put the zucchini flesh aside.
  3. Mince the zucchini flesh and put it into a bowl. Add the ground beef, breadcrumbs, parsley, grated Parmigiano, one egg, salt and pepper. Use your hands to combine everything thoroughly.
  4. With your fingers or a small spoon, fill the zucchini cavities with the stuffing, taking care not to pack them too tightly. Use the leftover stuffing to make meatballs.
  5. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add thinly sliced onion and sauté for a few minutes. Add the tomato sauce or a tin of crushed tomatoes, add some salt and let simmer for a few minutes.
  6. Add the stuffed zucchini to the pan, cover and let cook for 15 minutes. In the meantime coat the meatballs with flour.
  7. After 15 minutes, add the meatballs to the pan with the zucchini and let cook for another 15 to 20 minutes on medium low. Serve warm or tepid.

Enjoy your stuffed zucchini and meatballs in tomato sauce.

BUON APPETITO!

Greek stuffed tomatoes

Greek stuffed tomatoes, gemista, are similar to the Italian ones, mainly the Pomodori a riso alla romana, but there are some differences. And as with most recipes, there are variations based on the region and one’s grandmother 🙂 These healthy and juicy gemista are traditionally vegetarian but some use also ground beef or pork. Remember to use a good quality extra virgin olive oil which is key to a Greek ladera dish (prepared with oil).

prep time 20 min + 60 min for marinating    cook time 90 min
ingredients for 4
  • 4 large ripe tomatoes
  • 125g rice (for risotto)
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • handful of fresh dill
  • handful of fresh mint
  • 1 Tbls tomato paste
  • extra vergin olive oil
  • juice of one lemon
  • ground black pepper
  • dahs of ground cumin
  • sweet paprika
  • ground cayenne pepper or peperoncino
  • salt
  • dash of sugar
  • 1-2 potatoes
  • 300 ml water
  • 1 Tbls tomato paste
  • 1-2 Tbls olive oil
  • salt, pepper, dried oregano

1.  Wash and pat dry the tomatoes. Cut off the top part of all the tomatoes and put aside. With a pairing knife help loosen the tomato flesh, scoop it with a spoon and put in a bowl. Place the tomatoes in a baking dish where you have put some olive oil on the bottom. Choose a baking dish where the tomatoes fit snuggly.

2.  Blend the tomato flesh with an immersion blender in a fairly large bowl. Add the minced onion, chopped dill and mint, the lemon juice, tomato paste, the cumin, sweet paprika and cayenne pepper. Season with salt and pepper and add a generous drizzle of olive oil. Mix and add the rice. Let marinate at room temperature for about an hour.

3. Peel and cut the potatoes into rounds (or wedges or cubes), put in a bowl, add 300ml of water and tomato paste. Season with oil, dried oregano, salt and pepper.

4. Pre-heat oven at 190C.

5. Add now a dash of sugar to the tomatoes and also a dash of salt. Fill them with the rice mixture which has by now absorbed most of the liquid in the bowl. Cover tomatoes with the tomato tops.

6. Place the potato slices now on top and around the tomatoes. Pour the liquid in the pan, about half way. Bake at 190C for 45 minutes covered, then uncover and bake for additional 45 minutes. Check to see if some more liquid is needed.

BUON APPETITO!

Roasted winter vegetables

This is a mixture of comforting winter veggies that can be served on its own, as a side dish or as a component of a frittata or pasta. Add chickpeas and it becomes a whole dish.

prep time 30 min     cook time 35 min
ingredients
  • 2 fennel bulbs
  • 3-4 large carrots
  • 1-2 red onions
  • 1 radicchio (red chicory) head
  • 350g big button mushrooms
  • 1 can (400g) chickpeas
  • salt and pepper
  • rosemary and marjoram (or other herbs)
  • extra virgin olive oil

1. Preheat the oven to 190 C and line a baking sheet or a roasting pan with parchment paper.

2. Cut the fennels into slices, the carrots into rounds and quarter the mushrooms. Wash, dry and cut the the radicchio into strips and slice the onions.

3. Toss the veggies in a large salad bow, add salt and pepper and spread the vegetables in an even layer on the baking sheet.

4. Rinse the chickpeas and scatter them on top of the veggie mix. Add a lug of olive oil and sprinkle the herbs on top.

5. Bake about 30 minutes.

BUON APPETITO!

Zucchini parmesan

This is a light version of zucchini parmesan, no frying or grilling and no tomato sauce. Maybe we should call it zucchini casserole. In any case it is very easy to make with just 4 main ingredients.

prep time  10 min     cook time 35-40 min
ingredients
  • 500g (3 medium) zucchini
  • 300g mozzarella or scamorza cheese, diced or coarsely grated
  • 100g ham, shredded or thinly sliced
  • 3-4 Tbsp grated Parmigiano
  • salt
  • bread crumbs
  • parsley, minced
  • extra virgin olive oil

1. Slice thinly the zucchini with a mandolin or a knife.

2. Mix the parsley, a little bit of salt and the grated Parmigiano into the breadcrumbs. Coat the zucchini slices on both sides with the breadcrumb mixture.

3. Put some oil in a baking dish and start with the zucchini slices then add ham and mozzarella. Make two more layers. Sprinkle a little bit of the remaining breadcrumbs and some Parmigiano on top.

4. Cover the pan with aluminium foil and cook at 180C for 25 minutes. Take the foil off and keep cooking for another 10-15 minutes until golden.

BUON APPETITO!

Briam

Briam, Greek roasted vegetables, is an example of how you can transform the simplest ingredients with no effort into a mouthwatering dish. Briam falls under the category of Greek dishes called ‘ladera’ meaning dishes prepared with only olive oil, no addition of other fat. Make sure to use some good quality extra virgin olive oil.

prep time 15 min     cook time 90 min
ingredients 5-6
  • 1/2 kg zucchini
  • 1/2 kg eggplant
  • 1/2 kg potatoes
  • 2 onions
  • 3-4 carrots
  • 1/2 kg ripe tomatoes or a can (400g) of peeled tomatoes
  • 100g extra virgin olive oil
  • parsley, mint and/or oregano
  • salt and pepper

1.  Preheat the oven to 180 C.

2. Wash and cut the zucchini and eggplant into 1,5cm rounds. Then quarter the eggplant rounds.

3. Peel and cut the potatoes into 1 cm rounds and quarter, or cut into chunks.

4. Peel and quarter the onions. Peel and cut the carrots into thick rounds.

5. Wash and halve the tomatoes if using ripe ones.

6. Place the veggies into a  large baking pan so the veggies are not layered too deep. Or use two pans. Season with salt, herbs and pour the oil on top. Mix with a wooden spoon or use your hands.

7. Place the pan in the oven covered with an aluminum foil for the first 45 min.

8. Uncover and let cook for the remaining 45 min. If need be, you can raise the oven temperature to 200 C for the last 10 minutes. If using two baking pans, change their place about half way through.

9. Serve as a side dish or a main with a chunk of feta and some good crusty bread.

BUON APPETITO!

Ajapsandali

Ajapsandali is a traditional Azerbaijani, Georgian and Armenian dish consisting of onions, eggplant, tomato, bell peppers and herbs. Ajapsandali will have a better look if you use peppers of various colours. To preserve vitamins and colour, do not stew vegetables for a long time. Some variations include also potatoes and chili peppers. This is a fabulous hearty one-pot meal. You can pair this with good salty feta unless you want to keep it strictly vegetarian.

prep time 25 min     cook time 45 min
ingredients for 6-7
  • 3 large eggplants
  • 2-3 sweet peppers
  • 1 green pepper
  • 3 onions
  • 4 big potatoes
  • 2 carrots
  • 4-5 big tomatoes (or a can of peeled or crushed tomatoes)
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • chili pepper or peperoncino
  • fresh dill
  • fresh coriander
  • salt and pepper
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • optional: feta cheese

1. Cut the eggplant into cubes, sprinkle salt on them and let sweat while you prepare the other vegetables.

2. Cut the peppers into long strips, the carrots into large rounds and the potatoes into chunks. Slice the onions, chop the garlic and the herbs.

3. Pat dry the eggplant cubes and fry them in olive oil for a few minutes. Turn the heat on low.

4. Add the potatoes, sprinkle some salt and pepper on top. Keep adding in layers the onions and tomatoes, then the peppers and garlic. Add some salt and at the end 1-2dl of water.

5. Turn up the heat to a boil and  then simmer on medium for 35-40 minutes without the lid until the vegetables are cooked and some liquid has evaporated. At the end add the chopped herbs.

6. Serve with crusty bread and some feta cheese.

BUON APPETITO!

Fried friggitelli peppers in tomato sauce

Friggitelli peppers are small, slender, mild flavoured southern Italian peppers which are great for frying.

They can be just fried adding a fair amount of salt on top which is the way I usually serve them. But this time I wanted something a little different so I made them southern Italian style with tomato sauce.

prep time 10 min     cook time 15-20 min
ingredients for 4-5
  • 500g friggitelli peppers
  • 200g cherry tomatoes
  • 200g (small can) crushed tomatoes
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • peperoncino optional
  • salt
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • peanut oil for frying

1.  Wash and dry well the peppers one by one. The authentic way to cook these is to leave the stem and seeds on.

2. Pour peanut oil until it covers the bottom of a large skillet and heat it over high heat. Fry the peppers in two batches until they are turning brown (about 3-4 min) on all sides.

3. Remove them and add a fair amount of salt.

4. Clean the skillet and heat a few tablespoons of olive oil. Add garlic and after a few minutes add cherry tomatoes cut in half. After a few more minutes add crushed tomatoes and some salt and let cook on low for 15 minutes.

5. Add peppers to the pan and let simmer for a few minutes more.

6. Serve with crusty bread and be sure to wipe up all the sauce. I make this always as a main but if served as a side dish, this amount yields more.

FOR GLUTEN-FREE option, leave out the bread or use appropriate bread.

BUON APPETITO!