Three of my all-time most popular recipes get a healthy makeover!
In a funny kind of way, recipes are a bit like people: even the most dazzling dishes could benefit from a refresh after a while—a nip- and-tuck here, a bit of an update there. Just as with fashion, tastes and styles in food change, and what once hit all the right flavor notes sometimes seems a bit out of step a decade later. But that doesn’t mean that they should be taken out of rotation permanently. Often all that is needed is a little tweak to turn an old standby into a brand-new classic.
I recently decided to revisit some of the dishes I’ve been making for years, since I published my very first cookbook, Everyday Italian, in 2005. Many of those recipes are straight-up classics, and I wouldn’t change so much as a grain of salt; IMHO they are pretty much perfect the way they are. (Hey, folks in Italy have been eating these dishes for centuries; who am I to say they need improving?) But since writing that book some things have changed in my life. I’ve become a mom, my metabolism and I both turned 40, and I’ve become even more conscious of how certain nutrients like gluten, sugar, and fat affect the way I feel and look. Viewed through that lens, there are definitely a few recipes that could use a culinary makeover.
Take the awesomely rich and decadent mac and cheese from Everyday Italian. Make no mistake, this recipe still kicks serious comfort-food butt and is something I absolutely crave now and then— just not every week or even every month. I wanted to come up with a dish that is much lower in fat and calories but just as creamy and satisfying. And to up the degree of difficulty even further, I wanted to make it gluten free! Made with rice pasta and two sharp cheeses rather than four creamier ones, I think this new version hits the spot without the guilt.
Chicken Parm is another dish that I have reluctantly had to nudge into the occasional-indulgence category; breaded, sauced, and loaded with cheese, it was undeniably a bit of a gut buster. After its makeover, the 2017 version has lost its breaded coating in favor of a nicely browned exterior and a more restrained sprinkling of cheese, but it still delivers the tomatoey, cheesy, chicken flavor that launched a thousand subs. In fact, this version is so slimmed down you could definitely slip it into a roll for a very delicious chicken parm hero and not have to spend the rest of the week at the gym working it off!
Lastly, I wanted to come up with a twist on the all-American burger that was a little bit lighter and a little bit less heavy but every bit as juicy and flavorful. Fresh salmon, pulsed quickly in the food processor and jazzed up with herbs, is a great alternative to a beef burger that even non-fish-lovers will eat. To cut down on the carbs, I serve the patty on a slider bun (who needs all that bread anyway?) and top it with lots and lots of fresh fennel slaw, which is a lot crunchier and tastier than the usual soggy lettuce leaf and sad tomato slice.
Enjoy these updates and if there are other recipes you’d like to see me make over in a future issue, drop me a comment below!