Tony’s Featured Recipe: Caprese Orzo Salad

Caprese Orzo Salad This morning on North Dakota Today, Tony featured the recipe for one of our favorite summertime salads, Caprese Orzo Salad. To watch his video demonstration, CLICK HERE.

The small, oval-shaped orzo noodles add uniqueness and elegance to this pasta salad, making it stand out from more traditional versions. Tony tosses the pasta with halved grape tomatoes, torn basil, cubes of fresh mozzarella and a simple dressing of extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. Toasted pine nuts are used to garnish, and voila – the perfect summer salad is born.

Caprese Orzo Salad ingredients (640x480)

This salad can be made a day in advance, and is perfect for graduation parties, barbecues and picnics. We love to serve it with walleye or grilled chicken, but it’s so versatile it will go with anything. Simple, easy, elegant and delicious – brought to you today from The Lost Italian. Enjoy!

Say Farewell to Winter with Bow Tie à la Provençale


Spring is just around the corner and we are excited for the seasonal change this will bring to the recipes we share with you each week. But, before we say farewell to Old Man Winter for another year, we’re going to send him off in style with our winter recipe finale: Bow Tie à la Provençale.

Bow tie à la Provençale originated at Sarello’s when we first opened nearly fifteen years ago, and I fell in love with it as soon as I tasted it. It has long been a favorite among our regular clientele, many of whom are responsible for its repeated return to our winter menu. In fact, you’ll find it at Sarello’s all this week as our featured entrée special.

The dish was inspired by and received its name from the cuisine of Provence, France; more specifically, the style of cooking found in Nice and its surrounding area, which is heavily influenced by its close ties to Italy. Pasta dishes are common here.

A typical Provençale sauce would consist of tomatoes, olive oil and garlic, and our sauce is further enhanced by the use of blue cheese and heavy cream. White wine is another component, but only as a flavor builder since the alcohol content fully evaporates during the cooking process.

Bow tie ingredients in pan pretoss

To make this dish really sing, we add sundried tomatoes, cooked chicken breast and fresh spinach once the sauce has thickened. Tony embraces the use of sundried tomatoes in winter, when the quality of fresh tomatoes can vary greatly, and you can find them packed dry in bags or in a jar with olive oil. Both are fine for this recipe, just be sure to soak the dry variety in warm water for about 20 minutes before using. If using the oil-packed kind, shake off any excess oil before adding them to the sauce.

Don’t let the fancy name fool you – bow tie à la Provençale is simple enough for even a novice cook to master. I should know, because it’s also become a favorite at home for our son, Giovanni, and this dish is now firmly in my repertoire.

Chicken is a main ingredient, and for this dish we use four whole breasts, each cut in half horizontally and then lightly pounded with a meat mallet until each cutlet is ¼-inch thick. This extra step ensures that the chicken will be tender and moist when cooked. As an added bonus, the chicken can be cooked and refrigerated for up to two days before using.

Chicken cutlets

This dish has some heft to it, so when making the sauce be sure to use a pan or pot large enough to accommodate an entire package of cooked pasta (1 pound), because there’s no going back once you begin tossing the pasta with the sauce. We use bow tie-shaped pasta, also known as farfalle, in this recipe, as its pretty shape is pleasing to the eye and well-suited for a cream sauce. Penne, rigatoni, cavatappi or any medium-sized noodle with ridges will also work well.

Bow tie à la Provençale is rich, tangy and elegant, yet hearty enough to satisfy even the hungriest teenager. The recipe can easily be doubled, and leftovers, if there are any, reheat nicely in the microwave. To usher out winter, we plan to enjoy this pasta dish later this week with a simple salad of mixed greens and red wine vinaigrette, some crusty bread and a good Chardonnay. Welcome, spring!

Tossed bowtie in pan

Bow Tie Pasta à la Provençale

Serves: 4 to 6

4 chicken breasts, sliced in half horizontally, cooked and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 lb. bow tie pasta, cooked
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
¾ cup dry white wine
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup blue cheese, crumbled
1 cup sundried tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 cups fresh spinach leaves
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese to garnish

Slice each chicken breast in half horizontally and use a meat mallet to lightly pound each piece to ¼-inch thickness. Dredge each cutlet in flour, coating both sides, and fry in vegetable oil over medium-high heat until lightly browned and fully cooked, about 2 minutes on each side. Remove from pan, cover and cool for ten minutes and then cut each cutlet into 2-inch medallions. Use same day or refrigerate up to 2 days.

Next, cook the bow tie pasta in boiling water according to directions on package. Drain and set aside.

Use a large sauté pan or stock pot (large enough to hold one pound of cooked pasta),and  cook the olive oil and minced garlic over medium-low heat for one minute.

Add white wine and continue cooking on medium-low until the liquid is reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Add the cream and increase the heat to medium, and cook for another three minutes until the mixture begins to thicken.

Add the crumbled blue cheese and continue cooking over medium heat for another 2 minutes until cheese is melted. Reduce heat to medium-low and stir in the sundried tomatoes. Cook for 3 minutes to infuse their flavor into the sauce; add chicken medallions and cook for one more minute until chicken is heated through.

Add the cooked pasta and toss well so that all the noodles are evenly coated. Season with salt and pepper and adjust as desired. If the sauce appears somewhat dry, add some water, starting with ¼ cup and cook for one minute.

To finish, add the spinach leaves and toss until the leaves just begin to wilt. Transfer to serving platter or bowls and garnish with the Parmesan cheese.

Irish Cream Cheesecake with Homemade Irish Cream

Irish Cream Cheesecake collage no green

This morning on North Dakota Today Tony shared one of our favorite St. Patty’s Day recipes: Irish Cream Cheesecake. To watch Tony’s demonstration, just click HERE.

We featured this recipe last year in our weekly column in The Forum newspaper, along with our recipe for Homemade Irish Cream liqueur. Both are great on their own, but when they’re combined they’re even better. The Irish cream liqueur is simple to make and tastes so good you’ll never buy it from the store again. Enjoy!

Irish Cream Cheesecake Recipe
Homemade Irish Cream Liqueur Recipe

Irish Cream Liqueur


Irish Bread Pudding & Whiskey Sauce

Bread Pudding closeupThis week we’re sharing the recipe for one of our favorite desserts, spiked with an Irish twist just in time for St. Patrick’s Day: Bread Pudding with Irish Whiskey Sauce.

We love to make bread pudding for several reasons, especially for dinner parties or bruncheons. For one thing, it’s a large-batch dessert and ridiculously easy to make, and can be made in advance and refrigerated, or even frozen, until ready to serve.

Next, it’s a great way to utilize stale or leftover bread, tastes delicious and is always a crowd-pleaser. In fact, we’ve yet to meet anyone who doesn’t enjoy a good bread pudding. We prefer to use artisan-style breads like the French bread or baguettes from the Fargo Breadsmith store, but rustic dinner rolls or even Irish soda bread would also work great. Stay away from ordinary sliced bread, as it just doesn’t have the heft to create an excellent bread pudding.

This is a classic bread pudding recipe which can be served as is or embellished in myriad ways by adding raisins or other dried fruit. F or this special occasion we’re keeping it Irish by adding a tablespoon of Jameson Irish Whiskey  and serving it with an Irish whiskey sauce.

Whenever we include a liquor in a recipe we will invariably receive an email asking if it’s safe for kids to eat. This is such a good question. As long as the liquor is cooked into the recipe, as it is here in both the bread pudding and the sauce, or in a savory sauce, then the alcohol content evaporates during the process, making the dish safe for any age to enjoy.

Because of the high egg content, bread pudding is typically cooked in a water bath at a low temperature, in this case, 300 degrees. The water bath is essential as it keeps the eggs from scrambling and ensures that the dish will be gently and evenly baked.

The Irish whiskey sauce requires a little more technique but is well worth the extra effort. It can be served immediately or refrigerated for several days, or even frozen for up to one month. The base of the sauce is a classic vanilla sauce, also known as a crème anglaise.

To make the sauce, you’ll need to scald the milk first, which helps to infuse any added flavors into the milk, in this case, the vanilla extract. Scalding is not scorching – cook the milk over medium heat just until it starts to boil and becomes frothy, then remove immediately from the heat and cool at room temperature for several minutes.

Next, egg yolks and sugar are whisked together until the mixture becomes very thick and pale yellow in color. Tony uses a whisk to mix his sauce, but it takes several minutes for the sauce to thicken and his muscles are bigger than mine, so I prefer to use my electric handheld or stand mixer instead.

The two mixtures are then combined by adding the cooled milk in a slow, steady stream to the egg and sugar mixture, and then the sauce is returned to the sauce pot to cook over medium-low heat until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Add the Irish whiskey, stir and serve by pouring over the bread pudding.

Irish Whiskey Sauce

Have a Happy St. Patty’s Day and may the luck of the Irish be ever with you!

Bread Pudding with Irish Whiskey Sauce

7 large eggs
1½  cups heavy cream
1½  cups milk
1 tbsp. honey
½ cup sugar
1½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon Irish whiskey (optional)
¾ lbs. cubed day-old bread – use artisan-style breads or dinner rolls, or even Irish soda bread, but NOT sliced bread

Pre-heat oven to 300° F.

Combine the eggs, cream, milk, honey, sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla in a large bowl and whisk until fully incorporated. Add the bread cubes and mix together. Cover with a damp towel and let the mixture soak for 30 minutes at room temperature. Bake at 300° F for one hour in a water bath until golden brown.

Cool slightly and serve with Irish Whiskey Sauce.

To Store: Keep in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to one week. Bread pudding can also be frozen before or after baking. For best results, reheat in microwave before serving whether refrigerated or frozen.

Tony’s Tips:

  • To check for doneness, insert a toothpick into the thickest part of the pudding – when it comes out crumb-free, it’s ready.
  • For an easy sauce, melt a good-quality vanilla ice cream and add the whiskey once it’s liquid.
  • Jameson whiskey is our preference, but any Irish whiskey will do.

Irish Whiskey Sauce

1 teaspoon corn starch
1 cup milk
½ teaspoon vanilla or seeds from 1 vanilla bean
3 egg yolks
3 ½ tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons Irish whiskey

Dissolve corn starch in 2 tablespoons of milk and set aside. In a small sauce pot, scald the remaining milk and vanilla over medium heat until the edges start to bubble. Remove from heat and add the corn starch mixture into the scalded milk. Stir to incorporate then cool at room temperature for at least five minutes.

Use a whisk or electric mixer to mix the egg yolks and sugar together until thick and pale yellow in color, about five minutes. Keep whisking and add the cooled-down milk in a slow, steady stream until fully combined.

Return the mixture back to the sauce pot and gently cook over medium-low heat while stirring, until the sauce has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon. Be careful not to bring the sauce to a boil. Stir in the Irish whiskey and remove from stove.

Serve immediately over bread pudding or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to five days. Reheat before use if desired.

Tony’s Tips:

  • Sauce can be frozen for up to one month.
  • Irish cream liqueur or any other flavored liqueur would also work great.