Today’s Holiday Recipe: Sun-Dried Tomato Crostini

Sun-Dried Tomatoes are a great way to enjoy the flavor or tomatoes during the winter months, and this appetizer is one of our favorites to feature during the Christmas season.

Not only are these crostini big on flavor, combining sun-dried tomato pesto, fresh basil and fresh mozzarella, but these red, white and green ingredients also mirror the colors of the season. The pesto is super easy to make and can be done several days in advance of serving. How’s that for merry and bright?

Sun-Dried Tomato Crostini

Serves: 4 to 6

Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto:
2 cups dehydrated, or oil-packed, sun-dried tomatoes
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
2 tablespoons pine nuts
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt

If you are using dehydrated sun-dried tomatoes, soak them in warm water for 30 minutes to rehydrate them before using. Strain and use.

Combine all ingredients in a food processor, except the olive oil, and mix until well blended. While the machine is running, add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream until a smooth consistency is achieved. Add the salt and adjust as desired.

To store the pesto, place in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks, or freeze for up to two months.

To assemble the Crostini:
12 Crostini
12 slices fresh mozzarella
12 large basil leaves
Sun-dried tomato pesto

Place a slice of fresh mozzarella on each crostini, top it with a leaf of basil and finish with a heaping dollop of the sun-dried tomato pesto.

Today’s Holiday Recipe: Gio & Tony’s Norwegian Meatballs

When you’re married to one Sicilian, and mother to another, it’s easy to become infected by their passion for all things Italian. In fact, I often refer to myself as an I.B.M. – Italian by Marriage. But my grandfather, Don Mathison, was 100% Norwegian and proud of it, and every now and then we find a way to honor my heritage, too.

Earlier this fall, Tony and Giovanni were invited to present three food demonstrations in the Nordic Kitchen at the annual Norsk Hostfest celebration in Minot. Tony’s initial reaction amused me. “Do they know I’m Italian?” he asked. “What am I supposed to prepare?”

Norsk Hostfest is North America’s largest Scandinavian festival, and some of Scandinavia’s most popular chefs were scheduled to appear in the Nordic Kitchen. I’ve been hearing about this festival since I was a little girl, but I’ve never had the opportunity to go. The prospect of watching my son prepare Norwegian food with his Italian dad was just too good to pass up.

“You have to do it,” I said. “We already have some great Norwegian recipes to share – just focus on what you know.” I pointed out that he could use his heritage to his advantage, and play upon the similarities between food across cultures.

Smoked or cured salmon is almost as popular in Italy as it is in Norway, so our recipe for Norwegian gravlax was a natural fit. And krumkake, when filled with whipping cream, is very similar to the classic Sicilian cannoli. For this occasion, Tony featured my krumkake recipe with a twist – instead of using whipped cream, he would use the sweetened ricotta filling of a cannoli.

For the third presentation, I suggested that he create his own version of a Norwegian meatball, an idea which Gio just loved. Last year Gio and I created our own Italian meatball recipe, Gio’s Meatballs, which has since become a family favorite, and I’m not even Italian. “Dad,” he said, “We can do this!”

Tony researched extensively to learn the secret to making authentic Norwegian meatballs, and discovered what many of us who were born and raised here already know: Norwegians are heavy users of exotic spices, particularly nutmeg, ginger, and allspice. These spices are the key to making Gio and Tony’s Authentic Norwegian meatballs.

Contrary to popular belief, allspice (also known as Jamaican pepper), is not a blend of various spices but is, instead, a legitimate spice. Allspice comes from the berries of a tropical evergreen tree, and was brought back to Europe by Christopher Columbus. It has aromatic properties of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, and thus received its name, allspice.

Meatballs are popular in many cultures, and Tony was surprised to discover that they are a common food in the Norwegian diet. The more he researched, the more determined he was to get the recipe right. And, if the reactions from the mostly-Scandinavian crowd at Norsk Hostfest were any indication, they succeeded.

The meatballs alone were delicious, but it’s the sauce, or gravy, that really makes them special. Tony knew this as he was crafting his recipe, and he spent a good deal of time working on the balance of ingredients and perfecting the texture. I loved the final version: Immensely comforting, this gravy is silky smooth, not too thick, with a lovely light brown color and savory aroma.

Gio and Tony’s Norwegian Meatballs are easy to make, utterly delicious, and authentically Norwegian. They will make their family debut on our Christmas Eve buffet this year, and I know that my proud Norwegian Grandpa Don would definitely approve. Vær så god!

Gio and Tony’s Norwegian Meatballs

Ingredients – Meatball Mix:
1 lb. ground beef, 85% lean

1 egg
½ cup whole milk
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
1 cup panko (Japanese-style) breadcrumbs (or plain breadcrumbs)
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup canola oil

Preheat oven to  400 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix the breadcrumbs and milk together until combined. Add the ground beef, egg, onions and spices and use your hands to mix them together. Season with salt and pepper and mix again until ingredients are incorporated.

Shape the meatballs to desired size (we recommend making balls 1-inch in diameter, which makes about 30 meatballs). Heat the oil in a saute pan over medium heat and cook the meatballs until browned on all sides.

Place the meatballs on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil and bake in a 400-degree oven for about 10 minutes to finish cooking.

Ingredients – Meatball Sauce:
2 cups beef broth

¼ cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons roux
1 pinch kosher salt
1 pinch black pepper

Place beef broth in a sauce pot and cook over medium-high heat. Once the broth starts to boil add the roux and whisk until broth thickens to a sauce consistency. Finish by adding cream and season with salt and pepper. Add the meatballs to the sauce and cook for another 5 minutes. Serve and enjoy!

Tony’s Tips:

  • Mix the meatball mixture by hand for at least five minutes to enhance the texture and bind the ingredients together.
  • For a gluten-free version, use a slurry of 2 tablespoons corn starch and 2 tablespoons water instead of the roux to thicken the gravy. Omit the breadcrumbs in the meatball mixture and mix the meat for a few more minutes.


Today’s Holiday Recipe: Panettone Bread Pudding

It’s December 1st, and for the next 24 days we’ll be featuring a different holiday recipe for you here on our blog. Today’s recipe features a traditional Italian fruitcake called Panettone, which originated in the city of Milan. Not to be confused with our American version of fruitcake, Panettone is a light, moist, flavorful cake more like a bread, with candied orange peel, lemon zest and raisins. It is wonderful served in slices after a meal, or even for breakfast. On this occasion, however, Tony uses it to spice up a traditional comfort dessert, with his recipe for Panettone Bread Pudding.

“Panettone is the King of Christmas Cakes in Italian culture,” Tony says. “In Etobicoke, the Toronto neighborhood where I grew up, the grocery stores and bakeries would be stacked with huge displays of Panettone. Big, bright boxes in every color, tied with fancy ribbons, all ready to give to your friends and loved ones. To me, Panettone signifies, hey, Christmas is here now.”

“Bread pudding is a popular dessert found in many countries, and originated as a way to use leftover bread.” Tony says. “I like using the Panettone for this recipe, because the bread is already filled with the flavors of the holiday season.”

“We use bread pudding in both savory and sweet dishes at Sarello’s,” Tony says. “But what I like about bread pudding even more than its versatility, is how easy it is to make .”

Soaking the Panettone in the wet ingredients before baking ensures that every piece of bread is moist. To further ensure the outcome, place your baking dish in a water bath to prevent the bread pudding from burning, curdling or drying out during baking.

For this occasion, we served the bread pudding with fresh berries and a dollop of vanilla gelato. But you can also enjoy it with our homemade Caramel Sauce.

With only 23 shopping days left before Christmas, keep your baking schedule easy and fun with these simple, yet crowd-pleasing, recipes. To get today’s recipes, just click on the link provided below.


Tony’s Panettone Bread Pudding

7 large eggs

1½  cups heavy cream
1½  cups milk
1 tbsp. honey
½ cup sugar
1½ tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
¾ lbs. Panettone, cut into cubes

Early Preparation: 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 Panettone cubes and mix together. Cover with a damp towel and let the mixture soak for 30 minutes.

Pour the mixture into a 9×13 baking dish. Place the baking dish into a larger pan (like a roasting pan), and fill with hot water until it reaches half-way up the sides of the baking dish. This water bath will help to prevent burning, drying out or curdling of the mixture.

Bake at 300° F for one hour. When ready, the top should have a nice, golden crust. Place a toothpick into the center of the dish to test for doneness. Remove from oven and allow to cool for fifteen minutes before serving, if serving warm.

To Serve: Cut into squares, sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve with ice cream and fresh berries. Or drizzle some of Homemade Caramel Sauce over the top for some added comfort.

To Store: Wrap tightly with plastic or place in an airtight container for up to 5-7 days. Reheat in the microwave to warm it up before serving.

RECIPE: Savory Red Pepper Soup

Soup season has arrived, and we have some great soup recipes for you to enjoy this fall, which you can find by visiting our RECIPES page. We also have a great video with Tony demonstrating how to make one of our favorite soups, Red Pepper Soup, recently on North Dakota Today. Just click on the play button below to watch Tony, or click HERE for the recipe.