* HERBED MEATBALL MINESTRONE
1/2 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon oregano
6 ounces very lean ground beef
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 cup sliced onion
1/2 cup sliced carrots
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 cup canned low-sodium, whole tomatoes (including juice)
1 cup low-sodium tomato juice
2 cups fat-free, low-salt chicken broth
2 cups water
1/2 cup acini pepe, pastina or other very small pasta
1/2 cup canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 cups washed, ready-to-eat spinach
1/2 cup fresh basil torn into small pieces
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Mix fennel seeds and oregano into ground beef. Add a little salt and pepper and form into meatballs about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Heat oil in a medium-sized, non-stick sauce pan over medium-high heat. Brown meatballs on all sides, about 5 minutes. They will be cooked through.
Remove to a plate and add onion, carrot and garlic to pan. Sauté 2 minutes without browning the vegetables. Add the whole tomatoes, including juice, and break them up with the edge of a spoon. Add the tomato juice, chicken broth and water. Bring to a boil. Add pasta, reduce heat slightly and cook gently for 10 minutes, stirring once or twice to make sure the pasta cooks freely in the liquid.
Add chickpeas, spinach and basil to soup. Return meatballs to the soup, stir and cook to wilt spinach, about 30 seconds. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve in large soup bowls with Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.
Per serving: 432 calories (21 percent from fat), 10.1 grams fat (3.5 grams saturated, 4.2 grams monounsaturated), 112 milligrams cholesterol, 34.6 grams protein, 52.8 grams carbohydrates, 7 grams fiber, 778 milligrams sodium.
* Acini pepe or pastina are tiny pastas that are used for soup. If you have difficulty finding either, use orzo or any small pieces of pasta.
• Raw eggs (one per person)
• Canned chicken broth
• Fresh raw spinach, chopped into small pieces
• (Optional) slices of toasted Italian or French bread
Crack one raw egg into each soup bowl. You can use local North Fork eggs - one of the few local ingredients available year-round. I like to use the Ty LLwyd eggs, on Sound Avenue in Mattituck, which is not far from my house.
In the meantime, heat up the chicken broth until it's really hot: boiling. Add the chopped fresh spinach and cook for about a minute.
Ladle some of the hot broth into each bowl, covering the raw egg with the hot liquid.
Now here's the trick. The hot liquid will cook the raw egg a bit, but I find that it doesn't really cook the egg enough – the egg white is still very raw. So I put each bowl of soup into the microwave for about 30 seconds or a minute – just enough to cook the white a little more, but the yolk stays soft.
It's good with a piece of Italian or French bread toast floating in it too.
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Slice your mozzarella thickly. Slice your tomatoes to the same thickness. Plate the tomatoes first, top with the mozzarella slice and then a whole basil leaf on the top. Repeat for each guest, these are individual salads. Over each of them drizzle olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and lightly salt and pepper. Serve family style with several salad towers and each guest can serve the insalata on their plate.
Capellini Pomodoro, or tomato capellini, combines a light sauce with long, thin pasta and is the simplest three ingredient dish you’ll ever make. It pairs perfectly with Insalata Caprese, a traditional caprese salad famous for the perfect mix of tomato, basil and cheese.
10 medium sized tomatoes, dice 8, slice 2
2 heads of garlic, diced
1 bunch of fresh basil, slice all but four large leaves
1 package of mozzarella cheese, sliced
1 package parmesan cheese, grated
1 bottle balsamic vinegar
1 bottle olive oil
Ingredients from the Cabinet or Local Grocery Store:
1 package of angel hair pasta
Salt/pepper to taste
Capellini Pomodoro: Heat several tablespoons of good olive oil in a saute pan. Add eight chopped tomatoes and let them begin to cook down. After a couple minutes, toss in your two heads of diced garlic. Add salt and pepper to taste and allow this mixture to simmer for 15 minutes, or until the tomatoes are completely cooked down. For the pasta water, add enough salt so it tastes like salt water. This will help flavor your noodles. Toss in the angel hair, and let it cook “Al dente,” or “to the bite,” which means your pasta will be firm but not hard. The pasta will retain heat and continue to cook outside of the water. This is why Italians emphasize cooking pasta until it is Al dente, so when it finally hits your mouth, it’s not too soft. Angel hair will cook fast so keep a close eye on it. Once your pasta is ready, drain it. In a separate bowl, combine equal amounts of pasta and pomodoro sauce. Fold together and top with grated parmesan and basil ribbons. Also, for extra presentation, add several whole leaves of basil to the top. Serve family style.