Cuisine: Italian

Beyond Meat ® Bolognese Sauce by Foodie’s Chef Laura Brennan


I was slow to ‘join the bandwagon’ of plant-based protein meat-substitutes, then a purveyor gave me samples, and I thought I should give it a try. These are not your typical ‘veggie’ burgers.  These are patties made with green pea protein and with a texture and mouth feel thought to imitate ground beef.


I made a couple of traditional ‘burgers’; pan-sautéed with traditional burger toppings. The texture was indeed very ‘meat-like ‘and it looked like a sautéed beef patty in the pan, but the flavor was a bit more vegetal than beefy.  


And then I wondered how Beyond Meat® could be used in other ways…how about a traditional Italian Bolognese meat sauce for example?  Would the tomatoes and other traditional Bolognese sauce ingredients make a satisfying sauce without the addition of pork, beef or my beloved pancetta?


Well, you be the judge. 


The following is my version of a Beyond Meat® Bolognese sauce. 


Without the beef.  Without the pork.  And without the pancetta.


And yes…… I can hear you Italian purists scoffing at me!



ANTIPASTO SALAD by Foodie’s Chef Laura Brennan

Something crunchy, something colorful and something savory to bring to a last-of-the-season cookout, or a first-of-the-season tailgate party.
There is barely any cooking to do: the cherry tomatoes are slightly roasted, the broccoli crowns are tossed with extra-virgin olive oil and grilled along with some crusty French or Italian bread.
The rest of the work required improves your knife-skills.1

Strollin’ Stromboli: Italian Sausage & Broccoli Rabe by Foodie’s Chef Laura Brennan


There are varying online discussions about the difference between a calzone and a Stromboli.


And each have there ‘own story and are sticking to it’.


First, Stromboli is a place.  It’s a small island in the Tyrrhenian Sea, off the north coast of Sicily; with a not completely dormant volcano.  And It is an American invention from a famous Philadelphia pizza shop; apparently conceived to eat your pizza, ‘sandwich-style’.


And, calzone, or ‘pants leg’, like pizza, was born in Naples and meant for eating-out-of-hand while strolling. (Apparently, pizza was always eaten at the table with a knife and fork!)


The fillings being pretty much equal; it seems to be a question of shape.   If your stuffed pizza is folded over and crescent- shaped, then it is a calzone.  On the other hand, if you’re stuffed pizza is rolled and log-shaped, then it’s a Stromboli.


…And I won’t even get started on the sauce-inside or on-the-side debate.



Zucchini ‘en Saor’ – Sweet and Sour, Venetian-style by Foodie’s Markets Chef Laura Brennan

I recently re-watched an episode of “I’ll Have What Phil’s Having” that was filmed in Venice. Phil ate a really gigantic pounded pork chop that was breaded and cooked in an abundance of oil: pan-fried as opposed to deep-fried; not unlike our Southern-fried chicken. To finish, most of the cooking oil was poured off and it was liberally doused with white wine vinegar. This is ‘sweet and sour’, Venetian-style. The same technique is applied to cooking sole and sardines and the vinegary filets are marinated for a day or two and eaten at room temperature. With an abundance of vegetables in the market or your garden, try this recipe with zucchini, or peppers or eggplant.
To make a more substantial dish, I tossed the finished ‘zucchini en saor’ with cooked potato gnocchi and fresh mozzarella and parmesan cheeses.
But…it’s equally delicious served on its own as a vegetable dish.

A Frittata Savory Custard for your lunch box by Foodie’s Market’s Chef Laura Brennan


My old-school Italian grandmother, Giuseppina, always had a frittata or the makings of a frittata on the stovetop.  I say this because there was ALWAYS a pan of sautéed peppers around.  I was intrigued by the pile of glistening strips that always seemed more ‘animal’ than ‘vegetable’.  If it was summer, they were just waiting to be turned into a frittata; a quick-cooking supper dish which wouldn’t make the kitchen any hotter.


I have modernized her frittata a bit:  the peppers are dehydrated, I’ve used two different cheeses and I have baked them in muffin tins in the oven in a water-bath.  They are now suitable to be packed up for lunch on-the-go.


(And a frittata would typically be made with leftover bits & pieces of vegetables and cheeses; it was frugal as well as efficient. Food was not wasted.)



Pasta with Pesto, Green Beans and Crispy Potatoes A Dinner Against the Clock Recipe By Foodie’s Markets Chef Laura Brennan


Pasta with pesto, green beans and potatoes is a classic dish from the Liguria region of Italy. This region comprises a narrow crescent of land that curves around the sea at the ‘top of the boot’ and stretches from the French border into Tuscany.


This dish was one of my favorites at cooking school; I made the pesto by hand using a mortar and pestle.  And of course, I made fresh pasta as well.  A labor of love.


Fast forward a few decades and I now buy pre-made pesto, and use excellent quality dried Italian pasta, either linguine or trenette, a fettuccine-shaped flat noodle, traditionally served in Liguria.  I look for pesto that is made with at least 50% extra virgin olive oil and is sugar-free.  Read labels.   And I have substituted crispy potatoes for the boiled potatoes.  The crunch of the crispy potato is a great contrast to the overall softness of the dish.  This truly is a quick dish to prepare…you could have dinner on the table in 35 minutes or less.



Red Lentil Turkey Bolognese Sauce by Foodie’s Chef Laura Brennan


Winter is not quite over……. sigh.


So, there’s still time for one more Bolognese sauce. 


This one’s a bit lighter, using ground turkey and red lentils in lieu of the usual suspects.  There’s no cream and a bit of bacon, only if you fancy it.  It cooks up more quickly than its more traditional counterpart and is best served over a shaped-pasta (‘macaroni’) instead of a long pasta (‘spaghetti’).  And, while fresh-made pasta certainly has a place at the Italian table, this sauce needs the ‘al dente’ bite of dried durum wheat pasta.  Choose your favorite shape.



ITALIAN EASTER ‘QUICHE’ by Foodie’s Markets Chef, Laura Brennan

My first-generation Italian mother and aunts negotiated yearly about who was going to make the “Pizza Gana”. This was a rustic ‘pie’ enclosed in pastry, 4-5 inches deep, with a three-pound filling (!) of ricotta, hard-cooked eggs and assorted salamis, sausages and cheeses. It was very dramatic when sliced and very delicious to eat.
No one makes it anymore. Then my sister invited me to Easter Brunch and slyly asked if I knew how to make it. A challenge of sorts! I thought about it and decided that I would make a lightened version of the dish. In my version, the amount of meats and cheeses are decreased, there is only a bottom pastry crust and the whole pie is reduced to about 2-inches in depth. The traditional flavors remain, but it is restrained (think Chanel, not Versace).
I made it in a traditional ceramic French quiche dish with an approximate 11-inch diameter, about a 2-inches depth, a flat bottom and fluted sides. An ‘American’-style pie dish with sloping sides would also work.
I think this dish would best prepared in the style of my mother and her sisters; that is, divide the work over a couple of days. At the least, make the pastry dough a day or two before.

French Green Beans (Haricot Vert) with Herbs and Grilled Baguette Crumbs by Foodie’s Markets Chef Laura Brennan

A simple and delicious side dish for upcoming holiday tables. It combines herby-citrus freshness with crunch and snap. This recipe can be prepped ahead the day before and quickly heated through and finished for serving. The dish’s simple and clean flavors offers a counterpoint to other heavier dishes on the table.

Schiacciata (skee-ahh-chaa-tah) with Grapes by Foodie’s Chef Laura Brennan

“Schiacciata”: to squash or crush (Italian)
This is a rustic sweet flatbread made with red grapes, sugar, extra virgin olive oil and often with fresh rosemary or fennel seeds. It’s a seasonal treat in Italy, made in the autumn during the wine grape harvest, using a few simple, on-hand ingredients.