Italian cooking is the ultimate comfort food. Whether it's spicy, sweet, hot or cold, it somehow always warms the heart -- especially when it's a cherished recipe passed down for generations. If you don't have any sacred Italian recipes in your family's recipe box, why not turn to the Kitchen Boss for advice? Buddy Valastro -- famous for his original TLC show "Cake Boss" -- has traded in his baker's hat for a chef's hat. On his new show, "Kitchen Boss," Buddy shares Italian recipes inspired by his family and his love of Italian food. With two seasons' of Kitchen Boss recipes to choose from, we've handpicked 10 of our favorite Italian dishes. Plus, with Buddy's helpful videos and tips, these tasty recipes will be a cinch to make.
10: Whole Wheat Vegetable Lasagna
Italian comfort food doesn't have to be a guilty pleasure. While lasagna is typically considered a cheesy, calorie-filled splurge, Buddy's puts a healthier spin on the Italian classic. Using whole wheat pasta, this traditional Italian dish is chock full of vegetables, including onions, mushrooms, bell peppers, zucchini, yellow squash and spinach. And while it's lower in fat than the typical lasagna, it certainly doesn't skimp on flavor. If you want an even lighter dish, try substituting full-fat cheeses and milks with low fat versions. You'll indulge even more with every cheesy, sinful bite of goodness knowing you won't regret it in the morning.
9: Bruschetta With Tomatoes, Olives and Capers
Start off your Italian feast with this traditional appetizer -- with a Buddy twist, of course. Tomatoes, basil and garlic are the staples of conventional bruschetta. Even onion, red peppers and olives can make an appearance without raising any eyebrows. But the capers in this bruschetta cannot go unnoticed. They give this appetizer a salty, tangy pop that will have your guests begging for more. Fresh basil is also a must for this recipe -- don't improvise with dried. If you're preparing this for party guests, make it a day ahead. The flavors will meld together and become even more powerful in the fridge. You can also grate your fresh Parmesan ahead to make final assembly even easier.
8: Stuffed Artichokes
This recipe is one of Buddy's more complicated endeavors, but the final dish is well worth the effort. These artichokes are stuffed with a mixture of breadcrumbs, pecorino, prosciutto, parsley and spices, and you won't be able to stop yourself from enjoying this often-forgotten vegetable. The most difficult chore of this dish is cleaning the artichoke. Make sure to properly trim the thorns from the edges to prevent an unappetizing crunch. Once the chokes have been properly prepped, stuff them with the delicious mixture and remember, patience is a virtue. They take 30 to 35 minutes to cook to perfect tenderness.
7: Sweet and Spicy BLT
Are you bored to death by lunch? If so, Buddy has the perfect kick in the mouth for you. His sweet and spicy BLT brings together five simple ingredients in a way you've never imagined. Start off with sweet and peppery bacon, baked to a crispy crunch with brown sugar and fresh cracked pepper. Add an unexpected peppery bite with arugula, instead of traditional lettuce, and a creamy boost with sliced avocado to round the flavors and textures out. Stack all of this on crusty Tuscan bread and Buddy's herb-filled dressing. With one bite, you'll never go back to your boring BLT sandwich again.
6: Veal Osso Buco
Osso buco is a mouth-watering Italian classic that's often overlooked in standard Italian cookbooks. But Buddy lets this elegant, Italian version of pot roast shine on his season one show. An intoxicating mixture of tomato, white wine, rosemary, thyme, lemon zest and vegetables slow cook alongside veal shanks until the meat falls off the bone. The key to this recipe is browning the shanks before the other ingredients are added. Don't forget to salt your meat and refrigerate it overnight to ensure tenderness. The addition of gremolata on top adds the perfect finishing touch.
5: Italian Spiced Oven Fries with Homemade Ketchup
Italian through and through, Buddy can put his classic spin on anything -- even the all-American French fry as evidenced by our No. 1 Kitchen Boss recipe. Not only does he bring the flavor to this fried favorite with Italian spices like oregano, basil, garlic and a surprising dash of coriander, he even doctors up the ketchup. Heinz 57, step aside; the Kitchen Boss is in and shaking things up! Two different vinegars give the homemade ketchup just the right tang, while the brown sugar and allspice round it out with a little warming sweetness. Buddy says the recipe feeds four, but once these babies are out of the fryer and you take your first dip, you won't want to share.
4: Caesar Salad with Homemade Croutons
How could we make a list of the best Italian recipes without including Caesar salad? If you love ordering this salad when you're out to eat, you'll love the homemade recipe even more. Buddy's classic version of Caesar dressing has all of the usual ingredients -- Parmesan cheese, lemon juice, garlic, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire, and yes, anchovy paste. But before you run for the hills, feel free to leave the anchovies out if you think you can't stomach them. The dressing will be just as delicious without if you do; you'll just have to season it to taste. The dressing also calls for a raw egg, which might seem like disaster waiting to happen. But, if you can find pasteurized eggs in your grocery store, you can feel safe knowing you're not serving salmonella along with your salad.
The component that really puts this recipe over the top is Buddy's homemade croutons. Just make sure to make some extras to snack on, so you'll have enough left when dinnertime rolls around.
3: Juicy Tomato Vinaigrette
If you've never made your own salad dressing before, be careful with this recipe. Because once you try this homemade dressing from the Kitchen Boss, you'll never want to go back to the store-bought kind. Buddy's juicy tomato vinaigrette has all of the makings of typical vinaigrette -- shallot, garlic, sherry vinegar, olive oil, even Dijon mustard. But, in true Kitchen Boss style, he couldn't stop there. The addition of basil and fresh, vine-ripe tomatoes add just want this salad dressing needs to bring the party to your mouth. It's sweet; it's tangy; it's fresh. And it's not as difficult as you might imagine. Making your own salad dressing is a simple task with a big return for your efforts. Don't forget to make a batch of Buddy's homemade croutons really kiss your boring salad days goodbye.
2: Fried Zeppoles
Zeppoles are another amazing sweet treat that shows Italians really know how to live "la dolce vita" -- the sweet life. Zeppoles are fried dough with powdered sugar, an Italian version of the New Orleans beignet. Can you think of a better combination? Buddy uses a slightly sweet version of his pizza dough recipe. But, if you're in a hurry, any pizza dough will do. You can ask your grocery store's bakery or your local pizza joint if they'll sell you some of the day's fresh dough.
These are the perfect fried indulgence for birthday parties, a girls' night in or even a Valentine's Day treat with your honey. Speaking of honey, don't be afraid to dip these bite-sized goodies in your favorite jelly, chocolate or honey to give them your own Kitchen Boss flair.
1: Ice Cream Parfaits with Warm Berry Sauce
We all love dessert, but think of how much more enjoyable it would be if you put a little more effort into it than just grabbing a spoon and popping off the lid of your favorite pint of ice cream. Well, thanks to Buddy's recipe for ice cream parfaits with warm berry sauce, you can add a little pizazz to your favorite late night treat. In the summer, fresh blueberries and strawberries will make this dessert even more delicious. But frozen berries will work just as well if you can't find ripe ones. The lemon juice and cinnamon are the key ingredients in bringing the sauce together. And the cookies on top add just the right crunch to round out the warm sauce and cold, creamy ice cream. Put the extra sauce in the freezer, so you can enjoy this sweet treat another night with even less effort.
Lots More Information
- 10 Frugal Cooking Tips
- 5 Tips for Saving Fresh Herbs
- 5 Tips for Saving Fresh Tomatoes
- Buon Appetito! The Great Pasta Quiz
- Hortillosa, Summer Dawn. "Hoboken's 'Cake Boss' to star in new Italian cooking show, 'Kitchen Boss.' The Jersey Journal. January 5, 2011. (2/20/12) http://www.nj.com/hobokennow/index.ssf/2011/01/hobokens_cake_boss_to_star_in.html