Easy Italian Recipes for Fall

Born and raised in Sicily, Andrea Soranidis, creator of popular food blog The Petite Cook, grew up in admiration of her mother’s ability to quickly put together delicious and classic Italian meals. After she became a mom herself, Andrea could no longer spend hours in the kitchen experimenting with ingredients and recipes each night for dinner, so she found herself gravitating back towards the traditional – and quick – meals of her childhood. In her first cookbook, 20-Minute Italian, Andrea shares 75 delicious, healthy, and traditional Italian recipes that readers of all levels of experience can prepare just as fast as her own mom did, in 20 minutes or less. Below are five of our favorites.

1. Fast Oven-Baked Chicken Cotolette (Breaded Chicken Cutlets)

Chicken cotoletta is basically the Italian version of breaded chicken. This is the kind of comfort food I grew up with; every Italian family has a personal version of cotoletta, and they all taste equally good. This version I’m sharing is inspired by my mum’s chicken cotoletta: She adds garlic, aromatic herbs and a generous grating of Parmigiano Reggiano into the coating mix, then fries the cotolette until golden and crispy. I pretty much follow her recipe, but I prefer a quick oven-baked version for a lighter meal. To make my life easier, I also use panko breadcrumbs instead of Italian breadcrumbs from the bakery. I’ve been living in the U.K. for a long time and it’s not easy to find the same quality of breadcrumb. I find that using panko breadcrumbs is a good compromise and consistently delivers, whether you live in London, Los Angeles or Milan. These chicken cotolette make a lovely meal all year round. I like to serve them along with a vibrant New Potato, Green Bean & Tuna Salad (page 147) in winter time or paired with a ten-minute panzanella (page 11) for a nutritious summer meal.
Serves 4
Ingredients
4 Tbsp. (60 ml) extra-virgin olive oil, divided
4 (1-inch [21⁄2-cm]) slices chicken breast (I recommend organic)
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
2 medium eggs (I recommend organic)
3/4 cup (85 g) panko breadcrumbs

4 Tbsp. (22 g) grated Parmesan cheese
1⁄2 clove garlic, grated
2 Tbsp. (5 g) fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 lemon, cut into wedges

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C, or gas mark 5). Line a large baking tray with baking paper, and brush with half the extra-virgin olive oil.
  2. Season the chicken slices with sea salt and black pepper on both sides. Whisk the eggs on a large, shallow plate.
  3. Combine the panko breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, garlic and parsley in a separate plate. Season with sea salt and black pepper to taste.
  4. Dip each chicken slice in the egg mixture, then dredge it in the seasoned breadcrumbs until fully coated. Place the chicken cotolette onto the prepared baking tray, and drizzle the remaining extra-virgin olive oil on top of them.
  5. Bake for about 15 minutes, turning them halfway through cooking, or until crispy and golden on top. Remove the chicken cotolette from the oven, arrange them on a serving plate and serve with lemon wedges on the side.

Tip: Panko breadcrumbs are available in most major supermarkets and Asian food stores. For extra flavor, try substituting the Parmesan cheese with Pecorino Romano.

2. Sicilian Pasta alla Norma

This is the queen of all Sicilian recipes, beloved by grown-ups and kids alike. According to the legend, this pasta recipe was SO good, it deserved to be named for the opera Norma by the great Italian compositor Vincenzo Bellini. Tomatoes, eggplant, basil and ricotta salata—which translates to “salty aged ricotta,” normally available online or at any Italian deli or large stores—are the few simple and inexpensive ingredients you need to make the classic Norma. It’s a super easy and satisfying meal, perfect for busy weekdays or to please a large and hungry crowd.
Serves 4
Ingredients
1 large eggplant
1 cup + 1 Tbsp. (240 ml + 15 ml) extra-virgin olive oil, divided
5 whole canned plum tomatoes
1 clove garlic

1⁄2 cup (120 ml) warm water

4 basil leaves, divided
A pinch of brown sugar
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
12 oz (350 g) spaghetti or short pasta, such as penne
3 Tbsp. (45 g) grated ricotta salata cheese

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
  2. Finely cube the eggplant, and pat the cubes dry with paper towels.
  3. Heat 1 cup (240 ml) of extra-virgin olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the eggplant in a single layer, and fry it until it’s crispy and golden on both sides, about 4 minutes in total. Remove the eggplant with a slotted spoon and arrange the cubes in a single layer on a dish covered with paper towels. Dab the cubes with a paper towel to absorb the excess oil.
  4. Slice the tomatoes in half, and remove the seeds. Heat a large pan with the remaining 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of extra-virgin olive oil and the garlic over medium heat. Fold in the tomatoes and stir-fry them for 5 minutes. Stir in the warm water, 2 basil leaves and the pinch of sugar, cover with a lid and cook for 10 to 15 minutes. Discard the garlic, and season the sauce with sea salt and black pepper to taste.
  5. Lightly salt the boiling water, and add the pasta. Cook until al dente, according to package directions, about 8 minutes. Drain the pasta. Add it to the pan with the tomato sauce, followed by the fried eggplant cubes and the remaining basil leaves.
  6. Stir all the ingredients together and sprinkle the ricotta salata all over the pasta.

Tip: If you can’t find ricotta salata, substitute with classic Parmesan cheese.

3. Creamy Pumpkin Soup with Fried Sage and Amaretti

On cooler days, there’s nothing better than digging into a big bowl of this comforting soup. Pumpkin and amaretti cookies may seem like an unusual combo, but they go beautifully together! In Italy, these two ingredients are traditionally combined to make delicious filled pastas such as ravioli or tortelloni. Being a busy mum, I often find myself craving the flavor of those pumpkin ravioli, but I rarely have time to make filled pasta, and I rely on this soup to satisfy my craving. And boy it delivers! Sweet and aromatic, with a refreshing twist courtesy of the fried sage, this pumpkin soup is an absolute keeper.
Serves 4
Ingredients
For the Soup
2 Tbsp. (30 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow or white onion, chopped
2 lb. (900 g) pumpkin flesh, finely cubed
1 medium potato, peeled and finely cubed
1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
4 cups (1 L) vegetable stock
1⁄2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
3/4 cup (60 g) amaretti cookies, crumbled, for serving
For the Fried Sage Leaves
1⁄4 cup (60 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
Handful of fresh sage leaves

Sea salt flakes or fleur de sel

  1. Heat the extra-virgin olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add in the onion, pumpkin and potato, followed by the thyme leaves. Sauté the ingredients for 5 minutes or until the vegetables begin to soften, then season with sea salt and black pepper to taste.
  2. Pour in the stock and sprinkle with the nutmeg. Cover the pot with a lid and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are cooked through.
  3. Heat 1⁄4 cup (60 ml) of olive oil in a small frying pan over medium heat. Add in 6 to 8 sage leaves at a time in a single layer and fry them until crispy and bright-green, about 2 to 3 seconds. Remove the sage leaves with a fork. Arrange them in a single layer on a plate covered with paper towels, then season with a pinch of sea salt flakes.
  4. Remove the pot from the heat, and take 1 cup (240 ml) of stock out of the pot. Transfer the soup to a blender or use an immersion blender to blitz all the ingredients until it reaches your desired consistency, adding the reserved stock if necessary.
  5. Divide the pumpkin soup among four bowls and sprinkle with the crumbled amaretti cookies. Decorate with the fried sage leaves and serve immediately.

4. Mushroom and Kale Frittata Crepes

A thinly cooked frittata can be easily transformed into a posh crêpes-look-alike. These frittata crêpes can be served as a side or as an appetizer, but they’re nutritious enough to satisfy as a main paired with a large salad. Fill them up with tender kale, earthy wild mushrooms and melt-in-your-mouth Fontina cheese for a hearty fall dish that you’ll want to make on repeat.
Serves 4
Ingredients
6 Tbsp. (90 ml) extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 small shallot, finely minced
5 oz (150 g) fresh kale, roughly chopped
5 oz (150 g) fresh or defrosted mixed wild mushrooms
A pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
6 fresh large eggs
4 Tbsp. (22 g) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
4 thin slices Fontina cheese

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of extra-virgin olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the shallot, kale and mushrooms. Stir-fry all the ingredients for about 5 minutes, or until the kale is tender and the mushrooms are cooked through. Season with a pinch of nutmeg, and salt and black pepper to taste.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, beat the eggs together with the Parmesan cheese, and season with sea salt and black pepper.
  3. Heat a small frying pan over medium heat, and grease with 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of extra-virgin olive oil.
  4. Pour a ladleful of egg mixture into the small pan and immediately start swirling it around the pan to get a nice even layer. Allow the thin frittata “crêpe” to cook for 2 minutes, then carefully flip it onto the other side with the help of a large spatula.
  5. Fill the frittata “crêpe” with a couple of spoonfuls of the kale-and-mushroom mixture, top it with 1 slice of Fontina, then fold it in half twice to form a triangle. Remove the frittata from the heat, and transfer it onto a serving plate. Repeat the process with the remaining ingredients, greasing the pan with 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of extra-virgin olive oil each time.

5. Easy Awesome Beer Turkey Meatballs

I love prepping all sorts of meatballs: they’re easy, comforting and take no time to prepare. But I tend to make these beer turkey meatballs more than any other meatball recipe because my family goes absolutely crazy over them—dueling with forks over the last meatball kind of crazy. The beer adds such a delicate, refreshing aroma to the luscious, velvety sauce, and the meatballs explode with flavor in your mouth. For soft, full-of-texture meatballs, I like to add some leftover steamed floury potato (Russet potatoes work great!) into the meatball mix. If you don’t have it on hand, you can substitute with a thick slice of ciabatta bread briefly dipped into milk and torn by hand. And if you want to add an extra layer of flavor, sneak a tiny bit of good-quality organic butter into the sauce right before serving.
Serves 4
Ingredients
1 large egg, beaten
1 cup (100 g) panko breadcrumbs
4 Tbsp. (22 g) grated Parmesan cheese
1 medium-small steamed floury potato (such as Russet), peeled and chopped
1 Tbsp. (3 g) fresh parsley leaves, finely minced (plus more for serving, optional)
101⁄2 oz (300 g) ground turkey meat
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
3 Tbsp. (23 g) all-purpose flour

3 Tbsp. (45 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
1 shallot, finely sliced
5 oz (150 ml) good-quality blonde beer

  1. In a large bowl, combine the egg, panko breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, potato and parsley. Add the ground turkey, and season generously with sea salt and black pepper. Mix gently, but thoroughly, with your hands to combine all the ingredients.
  2. Take a small piece of the meat mixture, and gently roll it between your hands to form 1-inch (2 1⁄2-cm) meatballs (about 1 full tablespoon [15 g] each).
  3. Place the flour into a shallow dish. Roll the meatball gently in the flour until lightly covered, and arrange it on a baking tray. Repeat the process until all the meat mixture is used.
  4. Heat the extra-virgin olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the shallot, and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the meatballs and leave them undisturbed until they are brown on one side. Shake the pan to loosen the meatballs, then turn each one with tongs to brown the other side. Keep turning with tongs until they are completely and evenly browned.
  5. Pour the beer into the pan and cook over high heat for 2 minutes. Cover the pan with a lid and continue to cook for 5 minutes, or until the sauce is reduced to your desired consistency.
  6. Top with extra parsley and black pepper if desired.

Tip: You can also freeze these meatballs for a quick last-minute dinner. Thaw in the fridge overnight before using them.

Andrea Soranidis has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants and currently runs the popular food blog she founded, The Petite Cook, which has been ranked one of the top food blogs in the UK with millions of visits to her site and over 700,000 followers on social media. Her work has been featured in publications like The Guardian, Parade, Country Living, Elle and Great British Chefs.

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