Whitesburg KY

Italian Stuffed Strawberries are elegant and easy to make

This photo shows Italian stuffed strawberries. (Sara Moulton via AP)

This photo shows Italian stuffed strawberries. (Sara Moulton via AP)

I developed this recipe to take advantage of strawberry season. Some of you are naturally scratching your head. “Strawberry season? Name a time of year that isn’t strawberry season.” And it certainly can feel that way.

Strawberries are grown in all 50 states and, depending on the state, the season can be as short as a few weeks or as long as 11 months. But the heart of the strawberry season — the sweet spot of the year when you can count on finding juicy, delicious and locally grown strawberries at your supermarket or farmer’s market — is April through June.

Now that the goodies are at hand, here are a few tips about how to buy and store them. Start by selecting the specimens that are unblemished and smooth and, most important, bright red from tip to tail. Then, pick one up and take a whiff. It should smell strongly of … strawberries.

When you get the winners home, put a layer of them in a shallow bowl lined with paper towels. Cover and store the berries in the refrigerator and try to eat them within a few days. (Local strawberries are more perishable than the commercial varieties.) Do not wash or hull the berries until right before you’re ready to eat them.

When the moment arrives, simply put the strawberries in a colander and run some cold water over them. Then lift them out and let them drain on paper towels.

What makes this recipe Italian? The filling used to stuff these berries is a twist on the mixture of ricotta cheese, candied orange and chocolate that’s piped into cannoli. The difference is that I substituted Neufchatel for ricotta because it’s tangier and more assertive and teams up better with the berries.

This dessert is a simple and elegant way to end a meal now that spring has sprung — and it only takes 20 minutes to make. You can even prep the strawberries and stuffing ahead. But don’t stuff them until the last minute. You don’t want the sugar in the filling to make the berries soggy.

Start to finish: 20 minutes
Servings: 4
1 pound strawberries
2 ounces Neufchatel or
one-third less-fat cream
cheese (about 1/4 cup),
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 ounce bittersweet
or semi-sweet chocolate,
finely chopped
1 teaspoon grated orange zest

Cut each strawberry in
half lengthwise through
the cap. Arrange the strawberry halves, cut side up,
on a serving plate. Trim
a thin slice from the bottom if necessary to make
each half sit evenly. Using
a small spoon or melon
baller, scoop out a hollow
in the center of the cut side
of each strawberry. Reserve
the strawberry scraps for
another use (or eat them).
In a small bowl combine the cream cheese and
sugar; stir in the chocolate
and orange zest. Divide the
cream cheese mixture into
the hollows in the strawberries and serve.
Chef’s Note: You can
prepare the strawberries and the filling several
hours ahead of time but do
not stuff the strawberries
until right before serving.

Nutrition information
per serving: 104 calories;
50 calories from fat ; 6 g
fat (3 g saturated; 0 g trans
fats); 10 mg cholesterol; 47
mg sodium; 12 g carbohydrates; 2 g fiber; 9 g sugar;
3 g protein.

Sara Moulton is host of
public television’s “Sara’s
Weeknight Meals.” She was
executive chef at Gourmet magazine for nearly
25 years and spent a decade hosting several Food
Network shows, including
“Cooking Live.” Her latest
cookbook is “HomeCooking 101.”

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