Delicious Italian-inspired fare

Italian cuisine is rustic, filling, and simple in ingredients. It’s no wonder Italian foods have such a wide appeal. Pictured: Shrimp pasta.

Most of us have a favorite Italian food. Favorite choices might include pizza, minestrone, spaghetti, gnocchi, ravioli, or fettucine, or maybe osso buco, lasagna, or bruschetta are at the top of your list. The desserts like tiramisu, cannoli, and panna cotta are delicious and should not be missed. My list is quite long; in addition to every food already mentioned, I must add calamari and caprese salad. Pasta, in general, is so versatile and can be served as an entrée dish, added to soup, or incorporated in a salad. You may have developed a “family secret” sauce recipe that you prepare for spaghetti or lasagna; my secret sauce involves three different types of meat and a couple of surprise ingredients. And what about pizza toppings? It is a highly contestable subject. If you are craving pizza locally, try the unique and even nontraditional flavors at Barone’s Pizza and Arcade, such as the hot wing or loaded baked potato pizza. Whatever you choose to add to your pizza, pasta, or salad, whether it’s salami, olives, or fresh mozzarella, be sure to add a drizzle of good quality olive oil; it is a must to make your Italian feast truly authentic. Prepare a mouthwatering Italian-inspired meal this week, but be sure to greet your friends or family with a traditional “Buon appetito!” (“Enjoy your meal!”) greeting when they sit down to eat. I am confident you will receive a “Grazie!” in return.

Meatballs

You can’t have spaghetti without the meatballs!

• 3 slices of white bread, crusts removed

• ½ cup milk

• 1 lb. lean ground beef

• 1 lb. ground pork

• ¼ cup shredded Parmesan cheese

• 1 large egg

• ½ TBSP. minced onion

• 1 garlic clove minced (or ¼ TSP. garlic powder)

• ¾ TBSP. dried parsley (or use fresh chopped parsley)

• 1 tsp. sea salt

• ½ tsp. black pepper

• Olive oil

Place bread slices in a bowl with the milk and allow to moisten, about 5 minutes. Mash with a fork. Add to the bowl the ground beef, ground pork, cheese, egg, onion, garlic, parsley, salt, and pepper. Stir the ingredients together but don’t overmix, and roll into meatballs, about 2 TBSP. of the mixture. Spray a lined baking sheet with olive oil. Place meatballs on prepared pan and bake at 400 degrees for 20-23 minutes. Makes about 18-20 meatballs. For added flavor, sprinkle in some basil or Italian seasoning to the meatball mixture.

Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo

You can add sautéed broccoli or crispy bacon to Alfredo sauce.

• 12 oz. fettuccine noodles

• 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts

• Olive oil

• 6 TBSP. butter

• 1 TBSP. minced garlic

• 2 TBSP. flour

• 1 ½ cups heavy cream

• 1 ½ cups whole milk or a combination of milk with half and half, or 1 cup of milk and 4 oz. cream cheese

• 1 cup grated Romano and Parmesan cheese blend

• Salt and pepper to taste

• Fresh parsley to taste

• Freshly shredded Parmesan cheese

Boil fettuccine noodles in a pot of salted water and drain well. Slice chicken into strips, sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, and cook in a deep skillet with 2 TBSP. olive oil (add a TBSP. of butter if needed) for 6-8 minutes. Keep the chicken in a warm pan or cover with foil. Melt 6 TBSP. butter in a deep pan over medium-high heat and sauté the garlic for a few minutes; whisk in flour. Gradually add the cream, whisking constantly, and then add the milk; cook about 6-8 minutes. Reduce heat to low; sauce will thicken as it simmers. Remove from the heat and gradually stir in the cheese. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with shredded Parmesan cheese and parsley.

Creamy Shrimp Pasta

Use penne, farfalle, or cavatappi pasta for this dish.

• 8 oz. pasta, cook according to the package directions; save ¼ cup of the pasta water

• 1 lb. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

• 1 TBSP. minced garlic

• 1 ½ TBSP. olive oil

• ½ cup sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained and chopped

• 1 ½ TBSP. minced garlic

• 1 cup half and half

• 1 ¼ cups mozzarella cheese, shredded

• ¾ TBSP. basil

• ½ tsp. red pepper flakes

• ¼ tsp. Italian seasoning

Pinch of paprika

• ¼ cup reserved cooked pasta water

• ¼ tsp. sea salt (to taste)

Over medium-high heat, cook the shrimp and 1 TBSP. minced garlic in a skillet with 1 ½ TBSP. olive oil (salt to taste) until tender, about 5-8 minutes or until pink in color. Remove the shrimp from pan and add the chopped sun-dried tomatoes and 1 ½ TBSP. garlic; sauté for a few minutes. Add the half and half to the pan and bring to a boil. Slowly stir in the mozzarella cheese and reduce heat to a simmer. Stir until cheese is melted and sauce begins to thicken; add reserved pasta water (or a little half and half) if it gets too thick. Stir in all spices and increase heat to medium; stir in the cooked pasta and add the shrimp back to the pan. Simmer for a few minutes before serving.

— Amy Fischer lives in Fort Payne, Alabama, and is a Southern food enthusiast who loves to spend time in the kitchen creating tasty recipes. You can contact her at facebook.com/MySouthernTable.

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