Recipes for You from Chef Antonia Lofaso

Bacon, Brussels Sprout and Goat Cheese Pie

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Italian Rice Balls

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Grandma’s Lasagna

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Bacon, Brussels Sprout and Goat Cheese Pie

I love making the Brussels Pie during the holidays because it’s a great savory seasonal dish and a pie…that’s not dessert! It is also a great addition to any party menu because it can be served at room temp. Brussels sprouts provide a great way to get kids involved in the kitchen- they can trim the stems and see how the sprouts grow. As a side note, I make this recipe every year for Xea’s school to demonstrate to the other parents just how easy a fresh pie crust, sweet or savory, can be.

Serves: 10 to 12
Total time: 90 minutes

Pie Crust Ingredients:

  • 2 sticks (1 cup) cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/2 cup ice water

Pie Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 pound smoked bacon, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts, stems removed and quartered
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 piecrust (from above)
  • 1/2 cup shredded fontina cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese

Piecrust Directions:

Combine the butter, flour and salt in a food processor and pulse for 1 minute. Once the butter has been chopped, set the processor to spin and drizzle in the ice water. Blend for no more than 45 seconds. The dough should form a ball in the food processor. Remove the dough, flatten it like a disk and wrap it in plastic. Let it rest in the fridge for at least 20 minutes or up to a day.

Pie Directions:

In a 10 to 12 inch saute pan, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the chopped bacon and cook until slightly crispy. Remove from pan. Add the Brussels sprouts to the pan and season them with salt. Cook in the bacon fat and oil for 4 to 6 minutes, until golden brown and soft. Strain to remove the excess oil; otherwise the pie dough will become soggy when you add the filling. Transfer the Brussels sprouts to plate of bacon and cool in the fridge while preparing the dough.

Remove the dough from the fridge and give it a few minutes to warm up. On a dry, lightly floured surface, press your rolling pin down in the dough, rolling upward and downward. Turn the dough a quart turn and repeat the process all the way around to make a circular shape. You want to have about 2 inches of crust overhanging your pie pan. Roll the crust onto the pin and gently roll the pin across the pie pan, draping the crust into the pan. Once the crust is arranged in the pie pan, roll the pin across the ridge of the pan. This will cut off the excess crust and leave a clean edge.

In a medium bowl, combine the fontina and mozzarella cheeses. Layer half of the cheese on the crust. Top it with the bacon and Brussels sprouts. Layer on the rest of the mixed cheeses so the Brussels sprouts are completed covered. Sprinkle on the goat cheese.

Bake the pie for 45 minutes, rotating it halfway through the baking time. The pie crust will turn a golden brown color. Serve warm or at room temperature.

 
 

Italian Rice Balls

These are a staple in every Italian Long Island family’s daily life. They’re in ever Long Island deli and they’re a part of traditional Italian cooking. I’ve made them every Thanksgiving and Christmas since I was a kid. My mother would set up a little assembly line of ingredients, and I’d do the work. I loved the job. Working with the rice was like playing with Silly Putty.

Serves: 15 to 18 rice balls
Total time: 40 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Arborio rice (risotto rice)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 cups grated or shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 3 tablespoons chopped sun-dried tomatoes
  • 3 cups vegetable oil
  • 2 cups dried plain bread crumbs
  • 1 1/2 cups cubed firm whole-milk mozzarella cheese

Directions:

In medium pot, combine the rice, water and salt and bring to a simmer. Cover the pot and let the rice cook for 12 minutes, or until the water is absorbed. When done, spread rice out on a baking sheet. Use a rubber spatula to move the rice around, allowing the steam to escape and the rice to cool.

In a medium bowl, mix the egg yolks and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Add the egg and cheese mixture, parsley, basil and sun-dried tomatoes to the cooled rice. Use a rubber spatula to incorporate these ingredients. It will be very sticky. Put the bread crumbs in a medium bowl.

In a 4-quart pot, heat the vegetable oil to 350 F, verifying the temperature with a candy thermometer. Set up the sheet of rice next to the mozzarella cheese and bread crumbs. The kids will roll the rice balls, but Mom or Dad should handle the frying. Use a 2-ounce ice cream scoop or a 1/4 cup measuring cup to portion out the rice. Roll 1 scoop in wet hands to shape it into a ball. Push two cubes of mozzarella cheese into the center of the ball. Reshape the rice to close the ball around the cheese. Coat each ball with bread crumbs and set on a plate until ready to fry.

Fry 4 or 5 rice balls at a time for 2 to 3 minutes, until they’re golden brown. Remove from oil using a slotted spoon and set to drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Serve with your favorite marinara sauce.

Tip: Be careful not to buy the semisoft fresh mozzarella you often see in the store. Purchase firm mozzarella cheese in a block and cut it into cubes.

 
 

Grandma’s Lasagna

As for the Lasagna, it gets served at all Lofaso family holidays. For example at Thanksgiving, there would be turkey…and then lasagna and tons of other Italian food. I always thought it looked so out of place as a child, but my grandparents were trying their best to adopt American traditions without giving up their own.

Serves: 6 to 8
Total time: 85 minutes

Sauce Ingredients

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup chopped garlic (about 8 cloves)
  • 3 (16-ounce) cans of peeled, whole plum tomatoes
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar

Lasagna Ingredients

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 ½ pounds ground turkey (dark or white meat, or a mixture of both)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons dried Italian seasoning, or 4 teaspoons fresh marjoram or oregano
  • 1 (9-ounce) package of no-boil, oven-ready lasagna noodles
  • Sauce (from above)
  • ½ cup shredded or grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 2 cups whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • 4 cups shredded whole-milk, mozzarella cheese
  • 3 Roma tomatoes, sliced into 6 to 8 slices each
  • 12 medium to large fresh basil leaves

Directions:

For the sauce, head the olive oil in a 4-quart saucepot over medium heat. Add the chopped garlic and just as it starts to brown around the edges, throw in the canned tomatoes. You don’t want the garlic to burn, so have the cans open and ready to go beforehand.

Add the salt and sugar and whisk it all together. Let the sauce simmer on medium-low for 40 minutes while you prep the other ingredients. If any foam rises to the top of the sauce, skim it off. That’s the acid from the tomatoes, and your sauce will taste better without it. Using a hand blender or counter top blender, blend on medium until smooth.

Preheat oven to 375 F. In a 10-inch sauté pan heat the olive oil on medium-high. Add the ground turkey and the salt. Cook the turkey for about 5 minutes, until it’s browned throughout. Just as it’s finishing the cooking process, stir in the Italian seasoning. Drain any excess fat or liquid from the pan.

Cover the bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking pan with 3 sheets of pasta. Ladle 1 cup of sauce over the noodles. You don’t want the sauce to soak through, so you don’t need to overdo it. Layer on half of the meat, followed by half of the Parmigiano-Reggiano, and half of the ricotta cheese. Sprinkle on one-third of the mozzarella and arrange one-third of the fresh tomatoes on top of it. Top with one-third of the basil.

Repeat the process for the next layer: 3 sheets of pasta, a cup of sauce, the rest of the meat, the rest of the Parmigiano-Reggiano, the remaining ricotta, a third of the mozzarella, a third of the fresh tomatoes, and another third of the basil. The last layer is your presentation layer, so make it pretty. Add three more sheets of pasta. Top the noodles with the last of the sauce, mozzarella, fresh tomatoes and basil.

Bake uncovered for 40 minutes, rotating halfway through. The top should be a crispy golden brown when the lasagna is done, and the pasta sauce around the sides of the dish should be thick, not runny. Let the lasagna stand for 10 to 15 minutes before serving. If you cut into it while it is still piping hot, it will fall apart.