With the Lenten season in full swing, many will be preparing dishes for meatless Fridays until Easter. Italians have traditionally used this opportunity to create delicious meals using fish, eggs, cheese, beans and vegetables. Classic Italian favorites such as uova in purgatorio – eggs in purgatory, are staple Lenten meals and remind many of the days when there was no meat on any Friday! Each week until Easter, we will include delicious meatless recipes that are sure to keep you fully satisfied, making the whole family long for Lenten Fridays all year long.
Uova in Purgatorio
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
1 can (14.5-ounces) whole tomatoes with juices
1 tbsp dried parsley
1 tbsp dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp Parmigiano cheese, grated
6 eggs, large or extra-large
Hand crush the tomatoes. Heat the olive oil in a medium-sized skillet over a medium flame. Add onions and sauté until tender. Add the tomatoes, parsley, oregano, salt and pepper to taste. Cook until the tomatoes have broken down and most of the liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with one tablespoon of the Parmigiano cheese. Break the eggs, one at a time, into a small bowl and add to top of sauce. Cover; simmer until set, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with the remaining Parmigiano and serve.
Pasta alla Norma
Although Lent is a time for reflection and abstaining from having meat on Friday’s, there are certain ones that are such classics, with texture and flavors and are mouthwateringly good. Eating such an entree is not a sacrifice at all. Pasta alla Norma is certainly in that category.
1 medium-sized eggplant
2 cloves garlic, minced
10 ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
sea salt and pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
1 lb mezze penne
4 oz aged, salted ricotta, grated
10-12 basil leaves
Cut the eggplant into slices and place on a tilted cutting board so it can drain. Cover with salt and place a heavy object on top of the eggplant for one hour, until the bitter juices seep out.
Lightly brown the garlic in a tablespoon of olive oil over a medium flame until fragrant, then add the tomatoes and a bit of sea salt to taste. Bring to a simmer and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has been reduced by 1/3. Add a pinch of pepper. Remove from heat and set aside.
Wash and pat dry the eggplant slices. In a large heavy bottom skillet, heat the remaining olive oil over a medium-high flame until hot, but not smoking. Fry the eggplant slices in the oil until browned on both sides. Place on paper towels to absorb the excess oil, then chop coarsely and set aside.
Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted water until al dente. Drain and quickly place in a large skillet, over a high flame with half of the tomato sauce, the eggplant, a few leaves of basil and half of the grated cheese. Remove the pasta to a serving dish, then cover with remaining half of the sauce and cheese. Sprinkle with a few more torn basil leaves and serve.
Shrimp with Cannelloni Beans
3 cups canned cannelloni beans
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
16 large shrimp with tail, peeled and deveined
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
15-20 whole basil leaves
1 tbsp lemon juice
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped
extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Drain the cannelloni beans over a bowl and reserve the liquid. Place the beans in a large skillet with just enough of liquid to moisten them. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and bring the beans to a low simmer. Keep them warm while you prepare the shrimp.
Heat 1/4 cup oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the shrimp, season with salt and cook for about 1 minute, tossing frequently. Remove the shrimp with tongs to a bowl. Add the garlic to the pan and sauté over a medium flame until the garlic browns, about 3 minutes. Add the crushed pepper flakes and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomato and basil. Stir briefly and then add the lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for about 1 minute and then stir in the shrimp. Toss well and cook briefly to reheat the shrimp. Remove the shrimp mixture to a plate and sprinkle with parsley. Spoon the white beans onto individual plates. Drizzle with olive oil and then top with the shrimp.
Pesce all’Acqua Pazza
The name of this recipe translates as “fish in crazy water.” The ingredients make the cooking method intensely flavorful and keeps the fish moist and tender. The recipe itself comes from the Naples area and became hugely popular on the Isle of Capri a half century ago.
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
3 tbsp olive oil
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1-1/2 cups dry Italian white wine
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 tsp thyme, finely chopped
3 tbsp capers
salt and pepper
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 lb halibut fillets (or use sea bass, sea bream or cod)
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
Heat the oven to 400°F. In a heavy, ovenproof pan, heat the oil over a medium-high flame with the crushed red pepper flakes. Allow the flavor to infuse in the oil for a minute or two, but do not allow the oil to smoke. Add the onion, celery, carrot and garlic and cook until tender, 5-6 minutes. Add the wine, rosemary, thyme, capers and tomatoes with a pinch of salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Add the fish fillets and spoon some of the vegetables over them. Place the pan in the preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes or until the fillets are completely cooked. Remove the rosemary sprig before serving and garnish with fresh parsley.