A Vegetarian Italian Fare.

The other night, Tommy and I made a very simple Italian inspired meal for dinner.

Usually protein takes centerstage for most of the dishes we create so we wanted to make some vegetarian dishes instead. Even though it was vegetarian, we still used lots of different cheeses (because we freakin’ love cheese) so it made up for the fact that there was no meat or seafood in anything.

Antipasto: Winter Caprese Salad.

Usually Caprese salad consists of fresh tomatoes, Mozzarella cheese, and basil. Since it’s winter time, tomatoes are nowhere to be found or they lack any kind of juiciness and sweet flavor. These Roma tomatoes were seasoned with olive oil, salt, pepper, sugar, marjoram, and garlic and then slowly roasted at 200ºF for three hours. Cooking the tomatoes at a low temperature for a long period of time concentrates the tomato flavor until it’s complex and sweet, similar to a sun dried tomato. Once the tomatoes are done, just add your favorite kind of Mozzarella cheese, I used Mozzarella di Bufala (Burrata cheese would work as well), top with basil pesto, fresh basil sprigs, and fruity olive oil. This dish is super easy and sure to please everyone.

Primo: Pear, Mascarpone Cheese, and Ricotta Cheese Fiocchetti with Saint Agur Blue Cheese Sauce and Pine Nuts.

This dish is inspired by one of our favorite pasta dishes that we would always eat at Café Coquinarius and Ristorante Natalino in Florence. If you’re a cheese lover, you’ll be in heaven! These little purses of pasta were pretty easy to make. The stuffing is made with bartlett pears that are barely sautéed, mixed with Ricotta cheese, Mascarpone cheese, grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, fresh marjoram, and salt and pepper. The sauce is just some half and half with Saint Agur cheese and a little cornstarch to thicken it. The fiocchetti are garnished with toasted pine nuts and fresh raw pieces of pears. We also roasted some broccolini, baby carrots, and cipollini onions with fresh herbs and lemon zest for a side dish.

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