10 Italian meals ideas to obseve Lent in a relaxed way

I’ve already told you that most Italians are catholic (even though the number of atheists has increased a lot lately), and because of our historic legacy with Vatican, Italians have grown up being taught mainly Catholicism. I am catholic as well, and I do observe fasting from meat starting from Ash Wednesday and every following Fridays until Easter, so I would like to share with you some of my favorite recipes that I prepare to make sure my family follows this religious tradition every year. These recipes will make your menu appealing (and different from the boring “FISH AND CHIPS”) even for your possible guests or member of the family that doesn’t follow any religious rule, without spending a fortune, and variating from seafood to vegetarian dishes.. I would add that skipping meat every now and then is also very healthy, so even if you don’t plan to follow Lent fast, well, you may enjoy this “meat free” list anyway!

1. TUNA FISHBALLS : Easy, fast, kids friendly and perfect for a cold lunch or light supper. 2. TUNA PASTA SALAD  : Fill the bellies of those more hungry with a delicious and fresh pasta, ready in 20 minutes, light and cheap.

3. OVEN BAKED SALMON: Baked in twenty minutes, kids friendly, super tasty and healthy.

4. BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND PORCINI RISOTTO: make sure you use vegetable stock and here you go a filling meal, perfectly suitable for a fancy  “meat free” dinner.

5. WHITE WINE RISOTTO: If you are fond of “risotto”, this options is absolutely perfect even if you promised to give up drinking alcohol for Lent. All the wine will evaporate while cooking, but the risotto will keep the wine aftertaste. And if you need to review the rules for a perfect risotto, give a quick look here.

6. EGGPLANT LASAGNA: you will load your plate with a scrumptious “meat and carbs free” entrée, and enjoy it to the very last bite.

7. CAULIFLOWER AU GRATIN: Another delicious way to bake veggies in a healthy way and that will conquer even the more demanding palates.

8. ITALIAN COLORS SANDWICH: In case you need a meal to go, this sandwich is perfect and delicious, and, obviously, meat free. 9. ITALIAN BRUSCHETTA: while watchin a sports match, or just on a lazy (cooking free) Friday night. 10. VEGETABLE SOUP, BUTTERNUT SOUP, PORCINI SOUP, LEEKS SOUP: Very good for detoxing, energizing, fasting, of course soups are always a smart meal to warm up yourself and stay light.

I could go ahead and list more menu ideas, but first I would like to know if you found this one useful at all… Did you? If you’d like more Italian idea for a good “meat free meal” just leave a comment, and I will collect more good recipes just for you! 

Talk to you soon!

Silvia

Rice salad (Insalata di Riso), “to go” or “to stay”, delicious anyway!

IMG_3244

I would say, without question, that Rice Salad (“Insalata di Riso”) is the SUMMER ITALIAN CLASSIC – as much as “Italian meatballs” are a WINTER ITALIAN CLASSIC! Every Italian, from Sicily to the North of Italy, knows what an Insalata di Riso is, and all cook it in the same way (with maybe a few exceptions due to the local products of the various Regions). It is a fresh dish, super easy to prepare, and able to be prepared ahead of time. A rice salad would never be missing from any Italian summer party or picnic.

As any other rice salad, this dish is composed by a base of boiled white rice, enriched with meat (frankfurters and ham), fish (tuna), veggies (pickled, fresh, or frozen), eggs, and cheese. Very quick to prepare, perfect for picnics or lunch boxes (as is the tuna and lemon pasta salad) and particularly suitable for parties (as much as “Tartine“) not only because it can be served cool, but especially because it looks colorful and tempting.

As for all the ingredients that this salad needs, I usually make a big bowl of it, so we can consume it during all the week, and my husband loves it because is the perfect alternative to a sandwich to be eaten for lunch at the office.

Even though I usually try to be very precise with the quantities, I would suggest you make this salad by adjusting the ingredients according to your individual tastes (I mean, if you don’t like tuna, you can skip it, and add more ham instead, or viceversa). I will try to give you an idea of how I make it, using pictures, and approximate quantities.

INGREDIENTS for a big bowl

3 cups white rice cooked “al dente”

6-8 frankfurters

2 big cans tuna in oil

1 small pack ham cubes

1 small pack frozen peas, boiled

1 jar Italian mix giardiniera

1 handful cappers

1 cup green olives chopped

half jar cocktail onions cut in two

a handful of sweet roasted peppers

a handful of Asiago cheese cut in cubes

a couple of sliced eggs

mayonnaise to decorate

 

DIRECTIONS

Cook the rice as it was pasta “al dente” (don’t forget to salt the water!), drain it, and rinse it under cool water. Be careful not to overcook the rice because if you let it cook too long, once drained all the grains will stick together, ruining both the taste and appearance of the salad.

I took a pictures of all the ingredients together, but you don’t need to dirty so many dishes, as I did! 😉

IMG_3242

Just add all the ingredients to the rice, and mix them together!

Put the salad in the refrigerator and enjoy it when cooled.

Add to your portion some Asiago cheese cubes, few slices of boiled egg, and – if you like some extra taste – a few lines of mayonnaise.

IMG_3246

LEARNT IT, MADE IT, LOVED IT!

IMG_3247

 

TIPS: – If you decide to make this rice salad for a cook out (which sounds like an awesome idea), remember not to mix the mayonnaise with the salad, as to avoid it spoiling too quickly in the heat.

– If you make this salad for a party, use the eggs and mayonnaise not only as ingredients but as decorations: your dish will look gorgeously alluring!

– According to my personal experience, kids don’t appreciate this plate. My daughters like most of the ingredients of this salad separated, but once mixed all together, they just don’t want to take even a bite!

I really hope you like this recipe, and please, if you do,

share it, like it, leave a comment, subscribe, and help support my blog!

Much thanks,

Silvia

 

 

 

 

Tuna, cappers and lemon juice pasta salad

IMG_3230

 

This tuna, cappers and lemon juice pasta salad is one of those dishes that reminds me of my youth. Picnics, summer parties, and quick summer lunches at home were all frequently characterized by a pasta (or a rice) salad.  I can not give a specific origin of this recipe, and I cannot even say that it’s a typical Italian dish; I just know that my mom always made it for my brother and me, so here I am, sharing it with you!

This recipe is one of my favorite summer meals for many reasons:

1) It is super fast to make (not more that 15 minutes).

2) Few ingredients are required.

3) It is pretty light (not too high in calories).

4) It’s refreshing and delicious!

The cappers and lemon juice in the pasta salad help to balance and tone down the typically strong taste of tuna, and the lemon juice acts as light dressing, giving to the dish a pleasant, fresh aroma- perfect for summer!

I can confirm that this dish is ideal for picnics, cook-outs, or a lunch box, and can be prepared a day before. The ingredients do not spoil quickly (like many of the typical American salads made with mayonnaise), so it’s a safer option when food will be sitting out in the heat for a bit.

It can be prepared as a cool dish, like a salad, or still warm immediately after mixing all the ingredients together. I personally love the second option, but this is just my humble opinion. Why don’t you try it both ways and let me know which is your favorite one?

 

INGREDIENTS for 2 servings

2 cups Penne Rigate (or other kind of short pasta you like most)

the juice of half lemon

1 tsp. cappers

2.5-3 oz. canned tuna (in water or in olive oil)

optional: a handful of chopped green olives

 

 

DIRECTIONS

Bring 3 quarts of water to boil, add 2 tbs. of coarse salt (for more details, check out “How every Italian cooks pasta”) and the penne rigate (or whatever kind of pasta you chose).

In the meanwhile, prepare the following: in a bowl combine the tuna, the lemon juice, and the cappers. (Before combining the capers, be sure to squeeze them out using your hand.)

When the pasta is cooked (according to the package instructions, or your desired degree of tenderness) drain and RINSE IN COLD WATER.

Mix all the ingredients together, and serve. Or, if you wish to serve it as a cold pasta salad, place it in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Here we go- now you’re off to your summer picnic to relax and enjoy the company of good friends and great food! Enjoy!!

IMG_3231

LEARNT IT, MADE IT, LOVED IT!

 

TIPS: If you like GREEN OLIVES, chop a handful of them and add it to your pasta salad… it will be even better!

 

I really hope you like this recipe, and please, if you do,

share it, like it, leave a comment, subscribe, and help support my blog!

Much thanks,

Silvia