October:Bolognese Sauce

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Bolognese Sauce finish with script

Buon giorno!

One of my favorite regions of Italy is Emilia-Romagna – an area perhaps most prominent as a source for the most common and revered of Italian cooking ingredients. This is the land of Parma Ham, Balsamic Vinegar, tortellini, sfoglia, Parmigiano-Reggiano and on and on. It is no wonder that it is often called the “gastronomic heart” of Italy. Many of its signature recipes are rich in butter in lieu of olive oil and lean less on tomatoes. Strangely, you find fewer of Italy’s well known wines coming from this region.

Perhaps the most famous recipe of the region is Bolognese Sauce  – a sauce that has become one so notoriously ill-prepared in the US. So often, it is portrayed on menus as the real deal when the resulting sauce contains no more than tomato sauce and ground beef. Do NOT be fooled! These imposters do not even come close to the complexity of flavor in an authentic Bolognese Sauce which traditionally has very little tomato and includes a combination of meats, butter, and even milk or cream – all cooked “low and slow” – only to deliver the richest flavor one can imagine in a sauce for pasta.

Recipes for this sauce will vary in their use of bacon, pancetta, or sausage. This recipe calls for both Pancetta and sausage. You will notice that the authentic recipes for this sauce do not use tomatoes – but opt for tomato paste instead.

Traditionally, this sauce is served over Tagliatelle Pasta or Bucatini. In my view, this sauce is best served over homemade Tagliatelle!

When made properly, this sauce is one of Italy’s most memorable. In short, it is splendid!

BOLOGNESE SAUCE

Makes: sauce for about 1 lb. pasta

Prep: about 30 minutes

Cook: about 1 3/4 hours

Ingredients

3 Tbsp. Butter

2 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1/4 lb. chopped Pancetta (or bacon)

1 onion, chopped small

1 Carrot or 5 baby Carrots, chopped small

1 Stalk Celery, chopped small

2 Cloves, fresh garlic, chopped finely

1/2 lb. Ground Pork

1/2 lb. Ground Beef

1/4 lb. Loose Sweet Italian Sausage meat

1 cup Dry White Wine – Dry Vermouth is good

1/4 Cup Tomato Paste

1 Cup Beef stock or broth

1/2 Cup Heavy Cream

2 Tbsp. Butter

Salt if desired

Fresh Flat Leaf Italian Parsley – chopped coarsely for garnish

Instructions

In a pot,cook the Pancetta, onion, carrot, celery, garlic, in the butter and oil until the vegetables are tender.

Bolognese Sauce 1

Then add all of the meats, browning them, while breaking them up with a fork.

Bolognese Sauce 2

Add the wine, scraping the bits from the pan bottom and cook a couple of minutes at medium high.

Add the beef stock or broth, reserving a little of it to mix with the tomato paste to dilute it – Then add the paste and broth to the pot also.

Bolognese Sauce 3

Stir well and cover. Bring to bubbling and reduce the heat to low, covered, letting it simmer for 1 1/2 hours. For a denser sauce with less liquid, uncover the last 1/2 hour!

Now add the cream and let cook on medium-low for a couple of minutes. Add the butter and allow to melt in, stirring.

Taste for seasoning. Salt to taste – you may not need any!

Pour over cooked pasta: tagliatelle or bucatini (perciatelli) are traditional choices.

Garnish with fresh Italian parsley.

I like to serve Barbera d’Alba with Bolognese Sauce.

PARLA COME MANGI!

Comments are welcome in the “Speak Your Mind Area” beneath this post online.

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February:Amatriciana Sauce

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Buon giorno!

Some of the most memorable Italian dishes are also the cherished standards of regional cooking. These are authentic representations of the very best the region offers and need no embellishment or gilding. One such signature dish from the region of Lazio (the region of Rome) is AMATRICIANA SAUCE  – a recipe named for the town of its origin, Amatrice. I prefer to call it “magical sauce.”

On the surface, the recipe is really simple and perhaps it is not immediately evident as to why this sauce is such a big deal. If we look a little deeper at the ingredients and think for a moment, the fog lifts and it is easy to see where the magic of this dish lies. As with all good Italian cooking – the secrets are just beneath the surface in the ingredients themselves. I often opine over the importance of ingredients in Italian cooking. This recipe is a perfect demonstration of how one ingredient can make or break a dish.

The secret in this dish – Look no further than the use of pancetta. Now look at the amount used – 1/2 pound. Hmmm..really? This is one of those times when no other ingredient other than a good dose of pork fat can be substituted – not ground meat – not sausage. For absolute authenticity, guanciale is the traditional meat used in this dish. Very little of this meat packs a huge jolt of flavor to any dish. Guanciale is a cured meat product made from pork cheek or jowl. However, it is sometimes very difficult to find it. What to do? The best and closest choice of substitution is pancetta which is readily available almost everywhere – – and yes, a half pound is necessary! Case in point – go ahead and make the sauce without the pancetta and compare – the difference will be HUGE! Something happens when the fat from the pancetta is rendered into the sauce and simmers for just a few minutes. Magic? Perhaps! Whatever you want to call it, the truth is that when the sauce transforms during the simmer, it becomes something quite different from the expected.

The pasta – Traditionally the pasta of choice for this sauce is bucatini. This is the long tubular noodle with a tiny hole in the middle. Perciatelli is much the same and can be used interchangeably. When the sauce creeps into that tiny hole.. well.. oh my! Of course, if you cannot locate this type of pasta, spaghetti will do.

You will simply not believe how much flavor lurks in this sauce. If you want to really grasp the notion of “magical sauce”, try this experiment. Make the dish and serve it with no fanfare. Then wait for the raves from your guests. Take your bow!

AMATRICIANA SAUCE

Makes: enough sauce for a pound of pasta

Serves: 4

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook: 30 minutes

Ingredients

1 lb. Bucatini, Perciatelli or spaghetti prepared according to directions

4 Tbsp. Olive Oil

8 Oz. Pancetta – chopped (easier to chop when frozen) Or Guanciale if you can find it!

1 medium onion – chopped

3 Cloves Fresh Garlic – chopped finely

Pinch of Red Pepper Flakes

1 28 oz. Can  Whole Peeled Tomatoes (San Marzano always best) processed lightly in blender or food processor – keep the tomatoes chunky no smooth

Kosher Salt and lots of black pepper

Grated Pecorino Romano cheese is preferable

Fresh chopped Basil for garnish

Instructions

Begin by heating your oil in a  pan. Then add the onion and cook about 3 minutes.

2016-01-28 16.19.25 (2)

Now add the pancetta, garlic, and red pepper flakes.

2016-01-28 16.21.37 (2)

Cook until pancetta releases its fat – do not brown or crisp. This takes about 8 minutes at a strong simmer. Stir frequently.

2016-01-28 16.29.26

Add the tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste, simmer at medium for approx. 30 minutes – until sauce reduces and thickens and liquid cooks off. Stir occasionally.

2016-01-28 17.00.57

Add this amazing sauce to your pasta and toss well.

Garnish with fresh Basil and serve with plenty of grated cheese.

This AMATRICIANA SAUCE is one of the very best of traditional Italian sauces. While a Toscana would be a very good choice to pair with this dish, my pick would be a beautiful Barbera. To me it is a coupling meant to be!

PARLA COME MANGI!

Comments are welcome in the “Speak Your Mind Area” beneath this post online.

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Agresto Sauce And Pork Braciole

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Agresto finish with Script

Buon giorno!

The Tuscans have a knack for getting some things right in the food department. Sometimes they “knock it right out of the park”. It is my view – that they certainly did it with AGRESTO SAUCE. This is a simple and rustic sauce that is made quickly with fresh ingredients in a blender or food processor. You can even make this wonderful sauce a couple of days ahead. It has a very different and pleasing flavor. You can liken it to pesto, but it is much more. It is richer and far more flavorful than pesto. When you taste it – you’ll notice that, as with wine, there is the immediate effect in your mouth – and then the finish – which leaves you actually wanting more.

This sauce has so many uses. See it here in a form of braciole using PORK TENDERLOIN BRACIOLE – stuffed with smoked mozzarella and arugula. But –  it is wonderful served on crostini as an appetizer and as a sauce for pork or veal chops, chicken, or game hens. It also can be a lovely condiment on soups and stews and also with risotto. Try it on a simple sliced tomato salad – divine! It is just one of those “miracle” sauces! As always, I prefer the heritage pork tenderloins from Circle B Ranch  – humanely raised and prepared. You just can’t beat them!

This sauce from Tuscany can be traced all the way back to the Middle Ages. Of course, not having our modern appliances, they used a mortar and pestle to crush the items involved. There is one ingredient that makes this sauce truly unique and gives it its special flavor. That is – grapes! Yes, grapes! Actually, the true Agresto is made with a juice extracted from grape “must” – called verjuice. This ingredient can be found in bottled form but is not common in the US. No worries though – you can make a form of it yourself that is quite good using seedless grapes, lemon juice, and white wine vinegar. This homemade example of verjuice is what I use, and it can be whipped up very quickly in your food processor. The resulting sauce is great – with the freshness of the ingredients plus a very slight sweetness from the grapes coming together to make an unusual sauce sensation that will be an immediate hit.

ANDIAMO!

AGRESTO SAUCE WITH PORK TENDERLOIN BRACIOLE

Makes: at least 2 cups

Prep: about 40 minutes

Cook: 20-25 minutes for pork

Ingredients for Sauce

1 Cup Seedless Green Grapes

Juice of a Large Fresh Lemon

1 Tbsp. White Wine Vinegar

3/4 Cup Toasted Walnuts (toast them lightly under broiler or fry pan)

1/2 cup Toasted Almonds

1 Fresh Garlic Clove

1 Cup Fresh Parsley

1 Cup Fresh Basil Leaves

2 Teaspoons Fresh Thyme or Lemon Thyme Leaves

Salt and pepper to taste

1 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1/4 Cup Water

Instructions

In a blender or food processor – Process the grapes, lemon juice, and vinegar and set aside.

Agresto 1

Agresto 2

Next place the nuts, garlic, parsley, basil, thyme, salt and pepper in the processor and process until finely chopped and combined.

Agresto 3

Agresto 4

Then process again while adding the Extra Virgin Olive Oil in a stream.

Agresto 5

Next add the juice previously made from the grapes and the water in a stream while processing or blending again.

Agresto 6

You can add a little more water if too thick  – taste and correct the seasoning if needed.

Cover tightly and refrigerate. This can be made a day or two ahead and will keep well for a few days in the refrigerator if tightly covered before it begins to darken and oxidize. Heat before using. If the sauce becomes to thick for you when ready to use it – just add a little more water, taste, and stir. The tasting is fun and one of the perks of making this great sauce!

FOR THE PORK TENDERLOIN BRACIOLE USED HERE:

This is a serving suggestion that is really great with the sauce.

There is enough sauce for a couple of pork tenderloins – 1.3 – 1.5 pounds each. You will probably have leftover sauce.

Butterfly them (or have your butcher do it) by slicing part of the way through and then again on each side to achieve an open and flat piece of meat. Pound it a little and drizzle with olive oil – Add Kosher salt.

Next add a handful of arugula and place down the middle of the meat followed by sticks or slices of Smoked Mozzarella – about 1/3 lb. per tenderloin. If you are unable to get the smoked version – use the regular fresh Mozzarella.

Agresto Pork 1

Tuck in each short end and then roll the tenderloin over onto itself like a jelly roll. Tie with string – as much as you need. Wrap in foil and refrigerate. You can do this a day ahead.

Agresto Pork 2

When ready to cook – place on an oiled pan and drizzle the meat with olive oil – add s & p. Top with some sprigs of fresh Rosemary.

Agresto Pork 3

Roast for 20-25 minutes in a 450 degree oven. Let sit for about 15 minutes before snipping off the strings and slicing into thick slices. Serve with the AGRESTO SAUCE.

This AGRESTO SAUCE WITH PORK BRACIOLE is truly a wonderful dish to serve. Not many of your guests will have experienced it, and you can have the pleasure of introducing them to a beautiful and interesting Tuscan sauce that absolutely everyone will love. Then have fun finding new and different ways to use this versatile sauce. For pairing: I like to serve this dish with a lovely Toscana or even a Dolcetto – nothing too heavy.

PARLA COME MANGI!

 Comments are welcome in the “Speak Your Mind Area” beneath this post online.

LINDA’S ITALIAN TABLE

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September: Salsa di Noci

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Walnut Sauce – 

Noci Finish with script

Buon giorno!

Let’s put our “regional Italian cooking “ hats on and speed off to yet another extraordinary, yet sometimes neglected, region of Italy – Liguria! This region is often missed in the great attention given to Tuscany and Northern Italy etc. It is located on the northwest coast of Italy, with the port of Genoa, among the cities well known, and also is the city credited for ravioli. Of course, the fish and coastal dishes are big in this area and, in addition, this region gave birth to pesto! However, one of the signature dishes of Liguria is definitely a standout – a heavenly and creamy sauce made of walnuts – SALSA DI NOCI.

In Liguria, this sauce is most often served with pansotti, a triangular shaped ravioli. This dish originated in a small town called “San Martino di Noceto”. Noceto refers to walnut groves. The pansotti are traditionally filled with herbs and native greens which are not easily found in the US where pansotti are usually filled with cheese and spinach or some other market green. Here in our photo, you see the walnut sauce served with pasta fresca or fresh pasta in the form of a spaghetti.

The sauce is so rich and wonderful that it does not need much embellishment, when serving, beyond plenty of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. The walnuts and ricotta come together to form a sauce that is simple yet satisfying and lightly sweet. It is simply a glorious sauce.

Unfortunately, the color of the sauce along with the pasta lacks contrast and does not make for a dramatic photograph. However, the drama is all in the flavor of this elegant sauce. It is beautiful beyond words, and the Ligurians rightfully claim it as their signature dish and one so worthy.

SALSA DI NOCI

Makes: enough sauce for over a pound of ravioli or dried or fresh pasta

Prep: about 20 minutes

Ingredients

1 lb. pasta or ravioli cooked

1/2 lb. Walnuts

1/3 Cup Pine Nuts (pignoli)

1 Clove Fresh Garlic

3 Tbsp. Fresh Parsley – chopped

1/2 Tsp. Kosher Salt

1/2 Cup Whole Milk Ricotta

1/2 Cup Whole Milk

1/2 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

4 Tbsp. Butter

3 Tbsp. Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

About a cup of pasta water (water in which you have cooked your pasta)

Extra Grated Parmigiano for serving

Fresh Parsley for garnish

Instructions

Place in the bowl of your food processor: the walnuts, pine nuts, garlic, parsley and Salt.

Noci 1

Process until these ingredients turn into a paste. This takes just a few minutes.

Noci 2

Add the ricotta and milk, processing to combine.

Add the olive oil in a stream as the processor is running. The results will be very thick.

Melt the butter in a pan and then add the thick contents of the food processor. Stir into the butter along with the 3 Tbsp.of Parmigiano while heating through.

Noci 4

Add the pasta water and stir in. Add more or less of the water according to your taste. The water will thin the thick sauce.

Taste for seasoning, and add more salt as desired.

Serve with extra grated cheese.

This SALSA DI NOCI is so rich that I like to pair it with a light red wine instead of the expected white. It is most often served with a white wine of the Ligurian region called Pigato. However, for me, a light red like Dolcetto seems to stand up well with the depth of this sauce without dominating it.

PARLA COME MANGI!

 Comments are welcome in the “Speak Your Mind Area” beneath this post online.

LINDA’S ITALIAN TABLE

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Orecchiette with Crema di Ceci

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Chickpea Sauce!

Orecchiette with Crema di Ceci - finish with script

Buon giorno!

Today we travel to the region of Apulia or Puglia – the “heel of the boot” of Italy, geographically speaking. Well, which is it – Apulia or Puglia? Actually both are correct – the Latin form of Apulia and the contemporary name of Puglia. So you choose!

While we visit, we will sample what some might call its signature pasta – Orecchiette or “little ears” because of the shape. This area is well know for this lovely pasta made of semolina. They enjoy it with many sauces – but the one we will concentrate on here is ORECCHIETTE WITH CREMA DI CECI. This is a simple sauce and easy to make from chickpeas or ceci. No not your cousin “Cheech” from New Jersey – Ceci – prounounced (chechee) The sauce is actually a thick puree of the chickpeas with a little tomato added along with some garlic and rosemary. It is healthy and vegetarian. So simple – so delicious!

Apulia is an often forgotten area of Italy that has not been as well travelled as Tuscany, for instance, that gets all the press. However, this is an extraordinarily beautiful area of amazing seaside landscapes, providing an abundance of shellfish and also almonds, olive oil, and vegetables of note.  It is definitely a region of distinctive wine production with Negroamaro and Primitivo grapes taking the lead.

Orecchiette pasta is very commonly found these days at most grocers in the US. This dish is especially good with this pasta, although you can use other shapes if you like.

ORECCHIETTE WITH CREMA DI CECI

(Orecchiette with Pureed Chickpea Sauce)

Serves: 4

Prep: 20 minutes

Cook: About 40 minutes

Ingredients

1 lb. Orecchiette Pasta (shaped like little ears or saucers) prepared according to package directions

2 16 oz. Cans Chickpeas, drained

4 Tbsp. Olive Oil

2 Cups Chicken Broth

2 Cloves Fresh Garlic – chopped finely

1 Medium Onion Chopped

2 Sprigs Fresh Rosemary

3 Bay Leaves

Dash Red Pepper flakes

1/4 C. Additional Olive Oil

5 Tbsp. Tomato Paste diluted in 1 – 14 oz Can of Chopped Tomatoes. You can Puree the tomatoes or add them chopped for a more chunky appearance.

Salt and Pepper to taste

Instructions

Cover, bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook at a strong simmer: the chickpeas, olive oil, broth, garlic, onion, Rosemary, Bay Leaves and red pepper flakes for about 15 minutes.

Orecchiette with Crema di Ceci 1

Remove the Rosemary springs and the Bay Leaves and discard them.

Cool the ingredients a bit and then add all from the pan into a blender, Vitamix, or food processor. Process adding 1/4 C. Olive Oil in a stream until the  entire mixture is a smooth puree.

Add the puree back to the original pan and then add the Tomato Paste and tomatoes.

Orecchiette with Crema di Ceci 2

Add Salt and Pepper to taste and cook at a simmer for about 15 minutes covered. The sauce will be thick when finished and is supposed to be. You can add some water if you require it thinner.

Be sure to taste for seasoning, adding adequate salt and pepper to bring out the flavors.

Serve with grated Provolone or Parmigiano – Reggiano.

The perfect wine to serve with your ORECCHIETTE WITH CREMA DI CECI would definitely be a Primitivo from Southern Italy. The Primitivo is very similar to Zinfandel and is a lighter red. Cantele and even Layer Cake offer nice ones.

PARLA COME MANGI!

  Comments are welcome in the “Speak Your Mind Area” beneath this post online.

LINDA’S ITALIAN TABLE

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May: Bucatini with Sicilian Tuna Sauce

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Bucatini al Tonno e Capperi

Sicilian Tuna Sauce finish with script

Buon giorno!

Sicily is known for so many dishes and several can make the claim of “ signature dish”. BUCATINI WITH SICILIAN TUNA SAUCE or “Bucatini al Tonna e Capperi” is one of them. Many who came from Sicilian kitchens will remember this Tuna Sauce made from canned tuna. CANNED? Yes – the authentic dish is prepared with canned tuna packed in oil. The flavor of this sauce cannot be overlooked. It has the essence of the sea without being fishy. It is a beautiful sauce that qualifies as “peasant food” because of its simplicity. Even so, you can tell from the photo that this sauce is well suited for guests at your table and a special dining event. I highly recommend this as one of your “on the patio” dishes for the warmer season ahead. As an added benefit, as with so many Mediterranean dishes, this is a healthy example.

Ahhhhh, Sicilia!

View from Erice - ancient city-hour south of Palermo

The tuna: Even the Sicilians use the canned tuna for this recipe, although they are on an island surrounded by all that beautiful blue water where fish abound. However, your choice of canned tuna is important. I recommend the White Albacore packed in oil. The water packed variety will not give you the level of flavor desired here. You will drain the tuna so don’t worry too much about the oil. Although any White Albacore Tuna packed in oil will do, I like to use a particular brand that I find at Fresh Market by “Wild Planet”. The tuna is “pole caught”! Yes they actually fish for it!  The flavor is really lovely, and it is packed in olive oil. It is a little more expensive that your usual brands but so worth it if you can find it.

Other ingredients: While many may remember this dish prepared in their kitchens much more simply with merely canned tuna, tomatoes, and perhaps garlic or onion, the more authentic preparation includes capers and sometimes olives. The capers are drained but not rinsed as in many recipes, as you want a touch of the brine to flavor your dish. The olives are your choice. The pitted black ones are used here, but I often make this with the Sicilian Castelvetrano Olives – which you know as the beautiful vibrant – bright green olives found in olive bars and even in jars among your grocer’s condiments these days.

Castelvetrano-Olives_thumb.jpg

Of course, the fresh herbs more than make this dish. You simply will not achieve the fresh and truly authentic flavor using dried herbs here. Reminder: no cheese is necessary or desired with this lovely dish of the sea.

The pasta: Bucatini or Perciatelli is the traditional pasta type use for this dish. The tiny hole running through each strand traps the goodness of the sauce. This type of pasta is just MADE for the tuna sauce. You can also use Capellini or Linguine – as both are used often successfully for fish sauces and would be fine for this one. However, I like the traditional, and you see the imported Bucatini used in the photos.

BUCATINI WITH SICILIAN TUNA SAUCE

Serves: 4

Prep: 20 minutes

Cook: about 20 minutes

Ingredients

1 lb. Bucatini or Perciatelli Pasta – cooked according to package directions

1/4 C. Olive Oil

1 Onion chopped

1 Fennel Bulb chopped (optional)

3 Cloves Fresh Garlic – chopped finely

2 Cans (5 oz.) White Albacore Tuna packed in oil (see above for my favorite tuna for this dish) – chopped just a little

1/4 C. Fresh Basil chopped

2 Tbsp. Fresh Italian Parsley – chopped

1 28 oz. Can San Marzano Whole Peeled Tomatoes – drained with 1/2 cup of juices reserved

1/4 Tsp. of red pepper flakes

1/4 C. Capers, drained – not rinsed

1 Cup Whole Pitted Black Olives or Castelvetrano Olives (bright green Sicilian ones)

Kosher or Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper to taste

Extra fresh Basil for garnish

Instructions

Heat oil in a pan and add the onion and fennel.

After cooking about 6 minutes on medium high, add the garlic and cook another minute.

Then add the tuna and the herbs– do not chop the tuna too finely. Just give it a few whacks with the knife.

Sicilian Tuna Sauce 1

Add the 1/2 Cup of reserved tomato juices along with the tomatoes after crushing them with your hands or in blender. Do not puree the tomatoes. This should be a very chunky sauce which is why I like the hand crushing method.

Add the red pepper flakes, and cook at a strong simmer for about 15 minutes (cooking out much of the liquid and concentrating the flavors).

Sicilian Tuna Sauce 2

Add the capers and olives for the last 5 minutes of cooking. Gently stir so you won’t break up the tuna too much.

Sicilian Tuna Sauce 3

Serve with lots of fresh chopped Basil!

Another finish with script

You and your family and guests will be surprised and happy with your BUCATINI WITH SICILIAN TUNA SAUCE. No one will believe so much flavor and finesse came from canned tuna. Grazie to the Sicilians for knowing best on this one. Grab yourself one of the lovely Rosés available for warm weather dining and enjoy. One taste and everyone at your Italian table will say “BRAVA!”

PARLA COME MANGI!

  Comments are welcome in the “Speak Your Mind Area” beneath this post online.

LINDA’S ITALIAN TABLE

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April: Baked Rigatoni with Lamb Sauce

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Baked Rigs Finish with script

Buon giorno!

Italians are known for their endless baked pasta ideas. It seems like everyone has one or more. This one is a little different as the sauce is made with ground lamb instead of pork, sausage, or meatballs. What’s the difference? Let’s look closely at this recipe for BAKED RIGATONI WITH LAMB SAUCE to find out.

Begin with the lamb: Italians eat a lot of lamb especially in the spring. It is simply a tradition. Could you just as easily use ground beef in this recipe? Well…yes you could do that, but the flavor would be very different. That is what is so unique and amazing about cooking with lamb. Where you start is not necessarily where you end up. Beef cannot possibly achieve the level of flavor that you will get from the ground lamb. Before simmering the sauce has a completely different flavor. When you finish – it is a different story entirely.

The preparation: This is a simple dish – and easy to put together. It is built in layers and comes together in about 40 minutes. It is one of the more flavorful baked pasta dishes mostly because of the use of lamb instead of beef or even sausage. As almost always, I recommend using fresh herbs.

You, your family, and guests will just love it.

BAKED RIGATONI WITH LAMB SAUCE

Serves: 4

Prep and Cook: About 40 minutes

Ingredients

1 lb. Rigatoni, Mezza Rigatoni ( as you see in the photos), Ziti, or Penne – cooked according to package directions

4 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 Onion Chopped

2 Cloves Fresh Garlic – chopped finely

1 C. chopped baby carrots – chop into small bits

2 Stalks Celery – chop into small bits

2 Tbsp. Fresh Sage – chopped

2 Tbsp. Fresh Rosemary – chopped

1 lb. ground lamb

1/2 C. Dry White Wine

1 14 oz. Canned Tomatoes – crushed or blended slightly

Kosher Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

3 Tbsp. Heavy Cream

1/2 C. Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese

10 oz. Fresh Mozzarella Cheese – cubed

Chopped fresh Italian parsley for garnish

Instructions

Cook the onion, garlic, carrots, celery, and herbs in the olive oil for about 5 minutes at med. high heat.

Baked Rigs - Lamb 1

Add the ground lamb to the pan and brown – about another 5 minutes.

Add the wine to the pan and cook another minute.

Pour in the tomatoes and add the salt and pepper.

Then cook about 15 minutes more.

Baked Rigs - Lamb 2

When finished remove from the heat and let sit a minute to cool. Then add the cream and stir in until blended.

Baked Rigs - Lamb 3

Add the sauce to the pasta and pour into a 15 x 9 inch rectangular baking dish.

Sprinkle on the Parmigiano-Reggiano and mix in.

Distribute the mozzarella cubes around the pan and gently mix in.

Baked Rigs - Lamb 4

Baked Rigs - Lamb 5

Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes until the mozzarella is melted and “oozy”.

Garnish with Fresh Chopped Italian Parsley and serve!

*For an interesting addition – try adding a small scoop of warm ricotta cheese, flavored with a little grated Parmigiano, black pepper, and chopped fresh parsley an on each serving.

I like a lovely Barbera D’Alba with this BAKED RIGATONI WITH LAMB SAUCE.

PARLA COME MANGI!

  Comments are welcome in the “Speak Your Mind Area” beneath this post online.

LINDA’S ITALIAN TABLE

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Tagliatelle Della Duchessa

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Duchessa finish with script

Buon giorno!

In my next life, I want to come back as an Italian “duchessa”. They seem to have all the fun. They have dishes named for them that are rich and memorable. TAGLIATELLE DELLA DUCHESSA from the region of Emilia-Romagna is one of them. There are too many of these “duchessas” to list, but one of note, Maria Luigia d’Austria, the duchess of Parma and Piacenza is said to have visited a town in the region’s Samoggia Valley, called Bazzano, and the rest, as they say, is history. The dish of dishes which we discuss here was named in her honor.

A little tutorial: Regional Italian dishes are my passion, and the region of Emilia-Romagna provides a bounty of  interesting recipes. This region is probably the best known in the arena of incredibly rich regional foods. Called the “gastronomic heart of Italy, the region is plentiful in the some of the most prized ingredients of Italian cuisine: Parmigiano-Reggiano, Balsamico, Parma Ham, mortadella, white truffles and the frequent use of butter and cream in cooking. The calories from this region are ripe for the ingesting, and you only have to inhale to begin the experience! Yes, the food is undeniably rich but unforgettable.

Another important food of note from the region is pasta – but isn’t pasta everywhere in Italy? Si! That would be true, but it is even more prominent and important in this region. Pasta fresca  (homemade pasta) is revered here. The famous pasta dough from Emilia-Romagna, or sfoglia  (sheet of pasta), is known the world over – eggs and flour.

Pasta Sfoglia, also from this region, is a kind of puff pastry which  is used for pastries like the well known sfogliatelle.

The Pasta: The most authentic version of this dish, is made with fresh Tagliatelle, which you see here as a semi wide noodle. You could, however, use another pasta, if you like.

The Sauce: This is a really beautiful dish and is so easy to prepare in the tradition of Emilia-Romagna with butter and cream. The chicken livers are just browned and sauteed a little in the butter which a signature preparation of many foods in Emilia-Romagna. There are not many ingredients required, but those that are – come together to make a rich and wonderful sauce for the pasta. A little fresh parsley and you’re done!

The dish is simple really. Just look at the list of ingredients. However, they come together to create a heavenly traditional example of the one of the best of preparations for this region.

TAGLIATELLE DELLA DUCHESSA

Serves: 4

Prep: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

1 lb. Cooked Tagliatelle  – fresh made or another similar pasta

5 Tbsp. butter

3/4 lb. Chicken Livers

(1 Cup of Green Peas can be added  – although they are not in the authentic preparation. I add them sometimes just because they work and I like them!)

3 Egg Yolks, room temperature

2/3 C. Warmed Heavy Cream

1 C. Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese, grated (the premier cheese from the region)

Salt and Pepper to taste

Lots of Fresh Italian Parsley for garnish

Instructions

Prepare your pasta. You will want it to be timed to be piping hot when you add some of the ingredients below.

Pat the chicken livers dry with paper towels. This is a MUST, so they do not steam. Then cut them into pieces.

Duchessa 1

Cook the chicken livers in the butter in a shallow pan until they are browned and cooked through – about 8 minutes.

Duchessa 2

Duchessa 3

Add some salt and pepper.

(This would be the time to add the peas if using them.)

Make sure your pasta is hot at this point!

Immediately add the livers to the pasta and toss.

Duchessa 4

Mix the egg yolks with the cream and add to pasta right away, mixing well. The yolks will cook on the hot pasta.

Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano and toss.

Duchessa 5

Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed.

Garnish with lots of fresh flat leaf Italian parsley and serve!

This beautiful TAGLIATELLE DELLA DUCHESSA begs for a vino rosso that is bright but not too heavy like a Toscana or a Barbera. The perfect regional pairing would be a DRY Lambrusco from the area, but they are hard to find in the US. If you happen upon one – Buona!

PARLA COME MANGI!

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Gnocchetti with Shrimp Sauce

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Celebrate Carnevale!

Shrimp Sauce with Gnocchetti finish 1 with script

Buon giorno!

Carnevale begins in Italy and with it come the hearty luscious and tastefully extravagant dishes everyone loves at this time of year – lasagna, gnocchi, tortellini etc. The heavier the better is expected during this time of revelry and otherwise throwing all caution to the wind especially regarding food. Along with the masks and costumes come the favorite dishes of each region. Everyone is mindful that when Carnevale ends, Lent begins, along with abstinence from the foods we love best. Let’s celebrate this festival season with GNOCCHETTI WITH SHRIMP SAUCE – a both decadent and comforting dish which is wonderful to eat and serve anytime but especially in celebration of Carnevale and the weeks leading up to Lent and its more, shall we say, spartan dining.

Gnocchetti?? Most of us are familiar with gnocchi, but what are gnocchetti? They are simply tiny gnocchi in the shape of little balls. They are made in exactly the same way – using the potato dough. The difference is that you cut them in a smaller size and roll them into little balls instead of leaving them as pillows or rolling them in more of a cavatelli shape as many are used to. This is very easy to do. You can make them ahead and freeze them by laying them out on a tray in a single layer – freezing them and then dropping them in plastic bags  to keep frozen until ready to cook.

For more information on gnocchi making, see this post: Gnocchi – It’s Pillow Talk!

Cooking gnocchi and gnocchetti: If frozen, defrosting gnocchi or gnocchetti before cooking is not only unnecessary but not advised. You simply drop them frozen into boiling water and wait a minute or two for them to rise to the top – then scoop them out with a slotted spoon or strainer. I like to cook them in a shallow pan instead of a big pot – maybe a third at a time. This prevents clumping and sticking together.

The Shrimp Sauce: This is a beautiful sauce – just perfect for gnocchi or gnocchetti. It has tremendous flavor and has a great comfort factor. The best part is that it is easy to make!

This is a terrific way to usher in the joyous Carnevale season, but this is far too special a dish to save for once a year. Serve this one all year round!! A truly beautiful dish!

GNOCCHETTI WITH SHRIMP SAUCE

THE GNOCCHETTI

Makes: About 3 lb.

Prep: 90 minutes

Cook: about 2 minutes

Ingredients

5 Russet or Baking Potatoes (the BEST potatoes for making gnocchi or gnocchetti)

2 1/2 Cups All Purpose Flour + a little extra for rolling

1 Tsp. Salt

2 Large Egg Yolks

Instructions

Boil the potatoes to fork tender – takes about 30-40 minutes.

When ready – let the potatoes cool for JUST a few minutes. Then peel them. A fork helps, but the skins come right off with little coaxing. I sometimes like to use disposable gloves to keep from burning my fingers.

Once peeled, put the potatoes through a ricer and let the riced potatoes fall onto a board in a mound. This is a very easy and quick step.

Gnocchi_0013a-300x225Gnocchi_0017a-300x225

Next add your flour and salt and work into the potatoes.

When partially combined, add the egg yolks and finish forming your dough to a smooth finish. This takes place pretty quickly and is a much easier dough to handle than pasta. No kneading necessary. As a matter of fact, it is discouraged for tender gnocchi. You can add a  LITTLE extra flour if needed  and your dough is too sticky to handle – but do NOT add too much.

Potato Gnocchi dough

Divide your dough into 4 balls. You can divide each ball again for easier handling if you like.

Roll each into a “snake” or rope.

Rolling Potato Gnocchi

With a knife cut the rope into 1/3 inch pieces for gnocchetti – into 1 inch pieces (pillows) for regular gnocchi. It helps to add a little flour to your knife.

Cutting gnocchetti

For gnocchetti, roll the pieces in the palms of your floured hands into little balls and place on a floured surface.

Gnocchetti balls

If freezing, freeze first in a single layer to keep them from sticking, and then place them in a plastic bag to freeze for later use.

For more instructions on step by step regular size gnocchi making like the ones below, visit this post on making gnocchi: HERE

Gnocchi_0046a-300x225

To cook the frozen gnocchetti or gnocchi, add them to boiling water straight from the freezer. Do not defrost ahead. I have had more success with using a shallow pan to cook them in rather than a large pot – less sticking. They take just a couple of minutes to cook. Once they rise to the top – they are ready for you to remove them. Use a strainer, spider, or slotted spoon. I don’t like colanders for this.

Add your sauce and garnish and enjoy!

THE SAUCE

Serves: 4

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook: 20 minutes

Ingredients

1 lb. Gnocchi or Gnocchetti – cooked

3 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 Chopped Onion

1 lb. Shrimp, cleaned and shells removed

4 Cloves Fresh Garlic – chopped finely

1 Bay Leaf

1/2 C. Parsley + some for garnish

3 Sprigs Fresh Thyme

1/8-1/4 Tsp. Red Pepper Flakes

1 Tbsp. Tomato Paste

1 Cup Dry White Wine

1 Slice Fresh Lemon Peel

1/2 C. Crushed Tomatoes (I prefer to crush my own.)

Kosher Salt and Pepper to taste

1/3 C. Mascarpone Cheese

Fresh Parsley for garnish

Instructions

Heat the olive oil in a pan and cook the onion for about 5 minutes.

Shrimp Sauce 1

Add the shrimp, garlic, Bay Leaf, parsley, thyme, red pepper flakes, and toss in the pan a couple of minutes to begin cooking.

Shrimp Sauce 2

Dissolve the tomato paste in the wine, and add it along with the Lemon Peel slice to the pan. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer about 4 minutes.

Shrimp Sauce 4

Add the tomatoes and salt and pepper.

Shrimp Sauce 5

Cook at a simmer for about 5 minutes. Then turn off the heat and let sit a minute to cool a bit.

Remove the Bay Leaf and Thyme sprigs and discard.

Turn your heat back on at a low level and add the Mascarpone. Stir in as it melts. DO NOT ALLOW TO BOIL – SAUCE MAY SEPARATE!

Shrimp Sauce 6

Garnish with parsley.

You can use this sauce with Gnocchetti as shown or gnocchi.

Shrimp Sauce with Gnocchetti finish 2 with script

Serve your GNOCCHETTI WITH SHRIMP SAUCE with a crusty Italian bread. You might consider frying some of the bread slices in a little olive oil and serving a couple with each dish. BELLISSIMA!

PARLA COME MANGI!

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October: Risotto With Seafood Sauce

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Risotto Seafood finish 1 with script

Buon giorno!

There is nothing better than an Italian Seafood Sauce well prepared. It has so many uses – risotto, pasta etc. Today’s RISOTTO WITH SEAFOOD SAUCE is a great representation of the Italian Seafood Sauce at its very best – prepared with fresh clams, shrimp, and crab.

Often you will see this sauce as “alla scoglio” which means of the rocks or in the style of the rocks. This refers to the use of seafood which lives in the rocks of the Mediterranean – clams, shrimp, crab, and sometimes mussels, crab, or lobster. This sauce preparation is found throughout the coastal areas of Italy – claimed by the North and the South.

As always – good ingredients wins the day with this sauce – fresh clams, crab, and shrimp and fresh herbs!

The sauce captures the essence of the sea in the “creatures” you choose to put into it. The aroma is distinctively Mediterranean. When you prepare it, you may even want to play the songs of the coastal fishermen in the background for extra ambience. You know the ones – “Santa Lucia”, “Torna a Surriento”, “Vieni Sul Mar”…

My father, Attilio, would often sing as he cooked. He sang the traditional songs of Italy and seemed to choose them according to what he prepared. I can still hear him..

“Vide’o mare quant’ e bello, spira tantu sentimento…”

ITALIAN SEAFOOD SAUCE

Seafood sauce with script

Prep: 10 minutes

Cook: 40 minutes

Ingredients:

2 Cloves Fresh Garlic

3 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 28 oz. Can San Marzano Tomatoes ( this is a type of tomato, not a brand – the very best)

2 Tbsp. Tomato Paste

2 Tbsp. Fresh Parsley Chopped

2 Tbsp. Fresh Chopped Basil

1 Tbsp. Fresh Oregano

1/4 Tsp. Red Pepper Flakes

Salt and Pepper to taste

1/2 Cup Clam juice

1/2 Cup Dry White Wine or Dry Vermouth

1 lb. Cleaned Shrimp, shells removed

2 Dozen Littleneck Clams, shells scrubbed

8 Oz. Lump Crabmeat (Lump or Jumbo Lump is best)

Instructions

Cook the garlic in the oil a minute – do not burn!

Add tomatoes, tomato paste, herbs, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, clam juice and wine.

Cook at medium to medium high bubbling until much of the liquid cooks off – about 30 minutes.

Add shrimp and clams  –  cook about 10 minutes or a couple of minutes more until all shells have opened. Discard any clams that do not open.

Risotto with Seafood Sauce

Seafood sauce

RISOTTO FOR SEAFOOD SAUCE

Risotto for seafood sauce

Serves: 4

Prep: 10 minutes

Cook: 45 minutes approx.

Ingredients

2 1/2 Cups Arborio Rice

3 Tbsp. Butter

2 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 Onion – chopped

1/2 Cup Dry White Wine

6 Cups Liquid: 5 Cups chicken broth, 1 cup Clam Juice

Pinch of Saffron Threads

2 Tbsp. Butter

1/4 C. Parmigiano-Reggiano Grated

Fresh Basil for garnish

Instructions

Warm your broth and clam juice and add the saffron threads to the liquid, crushing them with your fingers a little before adding.

Melt butter in oil, and add the onion and stir, cooking at medium high about 5 minutes.

Add rice to the pan. Stir the rice and coat well – cooking for about 5 minutes.

Now add the wine, stir and let it cook down.

Continuing at medium high heat, add about a cup of the warm broth and clam juice with the saffron to the pan and continue to stir. When most of the liquid is gone add another  1/2 cup and stir. Continue adding the liquid by the same amount until you use all of it, slowly stirring as you add. Once the liquid is gone and cooks into the rice, it should be done.

Turn off the heat and stir in the butter and then the cheese. The risotto is ready and should be a beautiful golden color from the saffron threads.

TO SERVE: Spoon some of the hot sauce over each bowl of risotto along with some clams and shrimp. Top with some of the Lump Crab and fresh basil.

There is no better pairing with RISOTTO WITH SEAFOOD SAUCE than a crisp Terradora di Paolo Falanghina from Campania – an Italian white wine that was just made for seafood! “Vieni sul mar…”

PARLA COME MANGI!

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Pork Tenderloin with Peach Composta

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Peach Sauce finish 2 with script

Buon giorno!

Anyone familiar with the Italian culture of cooking or has grown up, as I have, in an Italian home, knows how Italians value pork. More than any other meat, this is always mentioned in Italian cookbooks and the old traditional recipes. Italians just love their pork!

A couple of piggies from my father’s hometown – Casale, Italy!

Pigs - Casale

It seems fitting to talk about using up some of those amazing peaches in the markets right now and maybe to “marry” some of them to a delicious and easy cut of pork – thus PORK TENDERLOIN WITH PEACH COMPOSTA!

How can you miss? Cook your pork tenderloin in your favorite way – roast or grill. Reminder not to “over dress” or over flavor your pork as you don’t want it to fight with the composta and to also let the peaches “shine”. Remember that pork tenderloin does not have a lot of flavor on its own because of the lack of fat. Ride to the rescue with the Peach Composta – by creating a delicious and tangy peach concoction that is sweet and gives that usually tasteless lean pork cut a kick!

This sauce or composta is so easy to make. Aside from serving it with pork, it gives an amazing lift to grilled veal chops or chicken as well.

As always – I depend on the best in Heritage pork for all of my pork dishes – and that is –  pork cuts from Circle B Ranch Where you get your meat is so important. The pork from Circle B is superior in tenderness and flavor reflecting how the pigs are raised. As my mother, Loretta, used to say referring to upbringing – “They were just raised right!”

Let’s hop to it! Andiamo!

PORK TENDERLOIN WITH PEACH COMPOSTA

Serves: about 4

Prep: 15 minutes for sauce

Cook: about 15 minutes for sauce

Ingredients

PORK

1 1/2 lb. Pork Tenderloin

Fresh Garlic for rubbing

Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper

COMPOSTA

2 Tbsp. Olive Oil

2 Shallots, chopped finely

2 Large Fresh Peaches, peeled chopped in cubes – can use an extra peach if you like

1 Tbsp. Brown Sugar

1 Tsp. Dijon Mustard

Pinch of Allspice

Pinch of Red Pepper Flakes

1/2 Tbsp. Balsamic Vinegar

1/8 C. Water

1/2 C. Dry White Wine

1 Tbsp. Chopped Fresh Basil

Salt and Pepper to taste

Capers for garnish

Instructions

PORK

Rub the pork tenderloin all over with a cut side of a piece of fresh garlic.

Drizzle all sides with a little olive oil.

Salt and Pepper all sides of pork.

Roast or grill the pork as you usually like. (Roast at about 450 for 15-20 minutes approx. Grill time will depend on how hot your grill is.

Make sauce ahead or while pork cooks.

Roast or grill your pork tenderloin.

Let the meat rest about 10-15 minutes to retain the juices before slicing.

COMPOSTA

Cook the shallots in oil for about a minute.

Peach Sauce 1

Add the peaches, brown sugar, mustard, red pepper, vinegar, allspice.

Cook about 2 minutes.

Peach Sauce 2

Add the water and wine, basil, salt and pepper.

Cook another few minutes on medium. You want the mixture to cook down and thicken a bit.

Peaches b

Taste for seasoning and adjust – remembering that salt is key here. You want enough in there to bring out all the flavors.

Slice the pork thickly. It should be slightly pink in the center – not overcooked! Let the meat swim with the peaches in the beautiful sea of composta!

Although some characterize pork as a white meat, it has enough “heft” to go with a good light or even medium bodied red. It is most often what I personally serve with this dish. Serve this PORK TENDERLOIN WITH PEACH COMPOSTA  with a lovely Valpolicella  or Dolcetto and you can’t go wrong.

This recipe also makes interesting pork sliders, paninis, or sandwiches with the delicious peach sauce. Veal chops “love” this preparation as well.

PARLA COME MANGI!

  Comments are welcome in the “Speak Your Mind Area” beneath this post online.

LINDA’S ITALIAN TABLE

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Pasta Al Pesto Trapanese

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Trapanese Sauce

Finish - Trapanese with script

Buon giorno!

As pesto goes – this is my all time favorite. The Sicilians have a lock on this one in any “Best Of Pesto” challenge, in my view. PASTA AL PESTO TRAPANESE is not only a delicious pesto sauce – it is one of the most delicious Italian sauces I have had.

One of the wonders of this sauce is that it is made FRESH – all in the blender. Yes – that’s right – all the ingredients go into the blender and whirl away to a beautiful thick sauce. It can’t get any easier, folks! Vegetarians and health conscious individuals will love it! The sauce consists of all good fresh ingredients which are really good for you. It is a very satisfying dish, while maintaining a lightness appreciated for warm weather dining.

This sauce is so versatile. It can be served hot or cold – making it a great summer dish  – great for patio dining – and terrific for a crowd. It is traditionally served with spaghetti, but when I serve it to a larger group buffet style where spaghetti would be difficult to manage, I turn to one of the short chunky pastas for ease of serving and eating. Here you see it served with Rotini pasta or “corkscrews”. It is just as delicious on Rigatoni or Penne. You choose! It makes a beautiful dish to serve for indoor “at the table” dining over spaghetti or pasta fresca. Its lovely pink color and creamy texture makes for a memorable presentation of an authentic regional dish from the island of Sicily.

Sicilian regional food has several differences from the other regions much of which relate to its history of conquerors. Over centuries, Sicily’s occupation by the Moors and the island’s proximity to North Africa account for the region’s use of many interesting ingredients and food preparations that are usually not found in the other regions of Italy. This is illustrated by the frequent use of dried fruits and nuts in Sicilian cooking. This particular dish is named for the famous Sicilian city of Trapani, a trade center, whose position on the coast is very close to Africa.

As Kay said in “The Godfather” – “This Sicilian thing has been going on for two thousand years”. Well, she may not have been referring to their food when she said it, but in that respect, these Sicilians really know what they’re doing! The proof is in the sauce!

The ingredients:Trapanese Sauce requires almonds – an interesting and very different ingredient that one would not think of connected with Italian sauces for pasta. Yet, because this sauce is really a form of pesto, the nuts really work and you don’t taste them much when eating this sauce. The tomatoes provide both color and flavor, and the very freshest and juiciest are advised. They give the sauce its pink color which sets it apart from the pestos we are used to seeing. I have found that Campari Tomatoes work well when I can’t get a really good ripe fresh tomato at the markets. They provide sweetness and the right amount of liquid. Fresh basil, of course, lends familiarity as an ingredient involved in most pestos. The Red Pepper Flakes provide a touch of heat that I particularly enjoy in the sauce – giving it a slight edge. For the cheese – I like a nice sharp Pecorino!

1 Ingredients

2 Almonds

3 Pecorino

This sauce is amazing – warm or cold – you will love serving it! Now if you really want to get serious about the “Sicilian Thing” – throw some capers over each serving! Bellissima!

PASTA AL PESTO TRAPANESE

Serves: 6

Prep: less than 30 minutes

Ingredients

1 lb. Pasta – spaghetti, pasta fresca, or even any of the short chunky pastas

1 – 1  1/3 lb. Fresh Ripe Tomatoes (plum, cherry, grape, Campari – anything ripe!) cut in pieces

1 C. Almonds – skins on are fine – toast them a little to bring out the flavor!

2 Fresh Garlic cloves

1 C. Fresh Basil Leaves

1/4 Tsp. Red Pepper Flakes

Kosher or Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper to taste (salt & pepper really bring out the flavor)

1/2 C. Extra Virgin Olive Oil (this is the time to use the good stuff!)

1/2 C. Grated Pecorino Cheese

FOR GARNISH: Some additional fresh Basil Leaves, Whole Almonds, or even some Capers!

Instructions

Cook your pasta while you make the sauce.

Place all of your ingredients except for the cheese in a blender or food processor and whirl! (My word for “run the machine”!) You want to create a smooth puree. Use your spoon to get all of the ingredients incorporated. Taste for seasoning and adjust appropriately.

4 Ready to mix - Trapanese

Pour sauce over the cooked spaghetti or whatever type of pasta you are using and toss well.

5 Trapanese Sauce

Now add all of the cheese, and toss again.

Garnish as suggested above.

NO COOKING NECESSARY. This is a fresh sauce served over your warm pasta to serve warm or refrigerate the pasta and serve cold.

You won’t believe how good this is! If you have leftover sauce, all the better. Refrigerate it and serve it over rice or chicken.

The very best wine pairing I can think of with PASTA AL PESTO TRAPANESE would be a lovely Sicilian vino rosso – medium bodied like a Nero d’Avola.

PARLA COME MANGI!

  Comments are welcome in the “Speak Your Mind Area” beneath this post online.

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March: Ricotta Gnocchi with Wild Mushroom Sauce

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Cousin Bebe’s Ricotta Gnocchi-

Ricotta Gnocchi with Mushroom Sauce - finish 1 with script

   Buon giorno!

I have this Cousin Bebe, who is an amazing mother, wife, and friend. She also cooks like a dream and is into hunting for the very best ingredients. You can already tell that we are sympatico in the ingredients department. Although – I must admit that she would walk farther for good baking chocolate than I would! Mostly, I love her because she makes me laugh on a regular basis – for that alone I would be ever grateful!

During one of our marathon conversations recently, she shared a dish with me that she loves with ricotta gnocchi and mushrooms that really sparked my interest. She said that a chef- friend of hers turned her on to it, and she was passing the idea on to me. I loved the idea immediately and ran with it! I tweaked it a little adding my own twist here and there, and my version of RICOTTA GNOCCHI WITH WILD MUSHROOMS was born. Bebe will find many changes to the original recipe. I hope she enjoys the new “take” on this dish!

About 5 star dishes at our house: I have a tough crowd in my kitchen with not only me critiquing dishes, but also my family. My husband, who has gained a more discerning palate over time, has ranked this dish among his “5 star” picks! He just loves it. It was kind of surprising, as he is not a big gnocchi fan – but these gnocchi changed all that. He simply loves this!

Some thoughts on this dish: It can be vegetarian although chicken broth is called for in my recipe. Change to vegetable broth if you like. I prefer the chicken – but no harm – no foul. One suggestion is that I like the gnocchi ingredients to be room temperature before making them. Also – and the Italians from birth in the crowd can appreciate this distinction – often gnocchi are fashioned ,after cutting, into “cavatelli- like” shapes by using the two finger method. In this case, I stop after cutting, leaving them in the little pillow shapes. I just like them that way in this dish – a better visual – and I think they remain light, not acquiring more flour. I find than Ricotta Gnocchi are a little lighter than potato, and weighting them down with more flour does them an injustice, I think. Believe me on this one – you can’t mess these up!

About the mushrooms: It is no surprise that I elected to use Wild Mushrooms for the sauce, as I run with any opportunity to use them. It is a love affair with me and these wild ones as many of you know having followed my recipes. I roast them first to give them a deeper flavor and added a surprise ingredient – a little Balsamic Vinegar before roasting which is subtly detectable in the finished sauce and offers another level of flavor that is only achieved by the caramelization. This addition makes the difference between just a mushroom sauce and one that immediately piques interest when it hits the palate.

Wild-mushrooms_thumb

I think of this dish as in the Northern Italian style, especially with the use of butter and mascarpone as the cooks of the regions of Emilia-Romagna and Lombardia might suggest. In Lombardia, they would probably use the wonderful Porcini mushrooms, plentiful in the lake area.

This dish requires a little time in the making of the gnocchi. The sauce – on the other hand – comes together quickly.

The gnocchi may be made ahead and frozen by spreading them out on a sheet pan – freezing them in a single layer. Then you can transfer them, once frozen, to a ziploc bag until ready to cook. Do not defrost before cooking. Drop them into the boiling water straight from the freezer.

My enthusiasm for this dish runneth over!! These gnocchi simply rock! I can’t wait for you to try them!

RICOTTA GNOCCHI

Serves: 4

Prep: 40 minutes

Cook: 3 minutes

Ingredients

2 Cups Flour +  Flour for the board

2 Large Eggs

2 Cups Ricotta Cheese – Whole Milk please

Instructions

You can start the old fashioned way by pouring the flour onto a board – making a well and placing the eggs and ricotta in the middle. Proceed by mixing the dough with clean hands.

Ricotta-Gnocchi-with-Mushroom-Sauce-1_thumb.jpg

BUT

It is much faster and easier to put the flour, eggs, and ricotta into your food processor and with a few turns, the dough comes together almost immediately! It will be sticky. Put some flour on your hands and place some flour on your board or surface. Take some of the dough out of the processor bowl with your floured hands – make a ball and roll into a 1/2-3/4 inch thick rope on your floured surface.

rope

With a sharp knife, cut the rope into small 3/4 inch sections or “pillows”. (They will look like little pillow shapes)

finished gnocchi

Continue with all of the balls until you use all the dough. Sprinkle the gnocchi with flour. (I like the gnocchi for this dish to remain in pillow shape. Often we roll the pillows each more time through flour with two fingers to roll them or over the tines of a fork. If you prefer to do this you can.)

You can make the gnocchi ahead and freeze them which makes this a very easy dish to prepare for guests. To freeze: lay the gnocchi in a single layer on a sheet and put them into the freezer. When frozen, put the gnocchi in a ziploc bag, seal and place in freezer until ready to use them. Do NOT defrost them before using.

Drop the gnocchi into rapidly boiling water (straight from the freezer if frozen). I like to boil them in 1/3’s giving them a stir after dropping them in. Remove them to a serving dish when they rise to float at the top of the water – about 3-4 minutes. Very quick!

WILD MUSHROOM SAUCE

Serves: 4

Prep: 20-25 minutes total

Ingredients

1 lb. Assorted cleaned wild mushrooms of your choosing (Regular button mushrooms can be used, but the wild ones offer a more earthy flavor to the dish.)

Olive oil to drizzle mushrooms for roasting

Balsamic Vinegar to drizzle mushrooms for roasting

Salt and Freshly ground black pepper

2 Tbsp. Olive Oil

2 Tbsp. Butter

2 Cloves Fresh Garlic – finely chopped

2 Tbsp. Fresh Rosemary Leaves

1 Tbsp. Porcini Powder  – Optional (sometimes hard to find)

3/4 C. Dry White Wine or Dry Vermouth

3/4 C. Chicken Broth

1/3 Cup Mascarpone Cheese (optional)

Grated Asiago Cheese to serve

Instructions

Spread the cleaned mushrooms on a baking sheet. Drizzle them with olive oil and then follow with a light drizzle of Balsamic Vinegar. Add salt and pepper. Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 10-15 minutes.

Ricotta Gnocchi with Mushroom Sauce 4

Remove from oven – slice or leave whole and set them aside along with any juices that flowed during roasting.

Put olive oil and butter in a large fry pan, melting the butter.

Add the mushrooms, juices, garlic, rosemary, porcini powder if using, wine, and broth to the pan. At medium high heat, rapidly bubble for 6-8 minutes or until the liquid is reduced down to 1/2 and slightly concentrated. The liquid will thicken slightly.

Ricotta Gnocchi with Mushroom Sauce 5

Turn off the heat. At this point, if you are using the mascarpone,which I recommend because the sauce becomes so velvety and rich – add it, stirring, and melting into the hot sauce. If you choose not to use the mascarpone – the sauce is still lovely though not as rich.

Ricotta Gnocchi with Mushroom Sauce 6

Pour the sauce and mushrooms over the cooked gnocchi. Garnish with a little Rosemary and serve with grated Asiago.

RICOTTA GNOCCHI WITH WILD MUSHROOM SAUCE is such a beautiful dish to serve.It is one of those dishes you dream about later. Yeah, it’s THAT good! Although the preparation is simple, the flavors are complex. I have to agree with my husband when he says “this is a 5 star dish!”

PARLA COME MANGI!

 

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Lamb Meatballs

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Lamb Meatballs finish with script

Buon giorno!

Meatballs are a welcome sight at anyone’s Italian table. These LAMB MEATBALLS are no different in that respect. These little balls of flavor are sure to delight all who sample them.

To Italians, meatballs can be a quite a personal thing. Everyone has a method –  everyone has a secret – everyone’s Nonna or Mama makes the best. Some use dry breadcrumbs – some swear by soaking the bread – some use eggs – some don’t. For the record, in my heart and mind, my mother, Loretta, most definitely cornered the market with her simple moist and delicious meatballs. While I’m not here to dispute that any of your meatballs or my mother’s are indeed the very best, I would like to offer something a little bit different.

These LAMB MEATBALLS are definitely different than the usual Italian meatball. They are chock full of interesting ingredients that pop and stand out individually when you bite into them. They are delicious in your “Sunday Sauce” but also can serve an interesting and different purpose – as an appetizer!

These little balls of flavor are made in one bowl – with everything thrown in together. You can make them ahead and freeze them if you like. (You can even freeze them in the sauce!) You’ll notice that I use dry breadcrumbs. For the smaller meatballs with so many chunky ingredients, the dry seem to hold them together better. They moisten up in the sauce. You can fry them or bake them. I like to fry them a little and then finish them off in the sauce. The fact that they contain some very interesting and perhaps different ingredients makes them a perfect item for a cocktail buffet or an extra item at a holiday table. Use them any way you like – but they will disappear!

I have made them here in a smaller form as appetizers. You can use them any way you like.

When used as appetizers, I recommend a Sweet Tomato Sauce with a hint of mint which I include here. Perhaps a sprinkle of feta cheese at the end to serve?

Just for fun – see these same meatballs made with ground ELK!

Elk Meatballs

LAMB MEATBALLS

Makes: 55-60 1 1/2 inch balls as an appetizer

Prep: 25 minutes

Cook: 3-4 minutes (fried) – about 12 minutes – baked

Ingredients

1 lb. Ground Lamb – ( if you don’t see it at your grocer, ask them to get it for you)

2 Links (about 7-8 oz.) Italian Sweet or Mild Sausage  – out of the casings

3/4 C. Dry Plain Breadcrumbs – yes dry! The smaller balls with all the chunky ingredients hold better using them. They will moisten up in the sauce.)

1/4 C. Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Provolone Cheese

1/4 C. Chopped Sundried Tomatoes packed in oil

1/4 C. Currants or Chopped Raisins

1 Clove Fresh Garlic – chopped finely

1/4 C. Toasted Pignoli (pine nuts)

Herbs: 1 Tbsp. Fresh Sage, 1 Tbsp. Fresh Parsley, 1 Tsp. Fresh Mint – all chopped

1/2 C. Crumbled Feta Cheese

Salt and Pepper to taste

1 Lightly Beaten Egg

Oil for frying – if frying.

Sweet Tomato Sauce when serving as appetizer – recipe below.

Crumbled Feta for garnish

Instructions

I like to use clean hands for all mixing with meatballs.

Mix ground lamb and sausage together in a large bowl.

Lamb Meatballs 1

Add: breadcrumbs, grated cheese, sundried tomatoes, currants, chopped garlic, toasted pignoli, herbs. Mix together well.

Lamb Meatballs 2

Add feta and mix gently.

Lamb Meatballs 3

Season with salt and pepper as needed.

Add egg and mix.

Roll meatballs with your hands. For appetizer size – about  1 1/2 inch size – using about  one and one half  Tbsp. of mixture per ball.

Lamb Meatballs 4

Fry in oil and drain on paper towels – about 3-4 minutes. Keep them moving in the oil for more even cooking. If baking – 350 degrees for about 10-12 minutes – do not over bake. They will cook more in the sauce.

Lamb Meatballs 5

SWEET TOMATO SAUCE WITH MINT

Ingredients

3 Tbsp. Olive Oil

2 Cloves Fresh Garlic – chopped finely

1 28 oz Can San Marzano Tomatoes – crush with hands if whole tomatoes

3 Tbsp. Fresh Basil – chopped

2 Tbsp. Fresh Mint – chopped

1 Tbsp. Balsamic Vinegar

2 Tbsp. Sugar

Salt and Pepper to taste

Instructions

Heat the garlic about a minute in the hot oil. Do not burn or brown the garlic!

Add the tomatoes, herbs, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper.

At medium high heat – bring to a strong bubble and then lower the heat.

Cook at lower temp., stirring occasionally, about 25 minutes until the sauce is thick and concentrated. Much of the liquid will cook off.

Add the meatballs to the sauce – gently toss so that all are coated. Cook another 5-7 minutes. Leave the meatballs in the sauce to serve, refrigerate, or freeze until you are ready to use them.

These LAMB MEATBALLS will be difficult to resist! The sauce is sweet and with a subtle hint of mint. These are amazing as appetizers and also delicious over orzo! Of course you can make larger ones and drop them in your own favorite tomato sauce.

PARLA COME MANGI!

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November: Pumpkin Sauce

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Salsa di Zucca-

Penne 2 with script 

Buon giorno!

Have you hugged a pumpkin today? If not, you should. Technically speaking a fruit, but often referred to as a vegetable, these wonderful fall squashes provide an endless source of delicious and nutritious dishes for our Italian tables. In planning your fall dishes, PUMPKIN SAUCE or Salsa di Zucca is one sauce that you must have in your cooking arsenal. It is so easy to make and one of the most flavorful sauces I can offer or imagine.

Serving ideas: PUMPKIN SAUCE is a beautiful and velvety sauce for pasta or gnocchi. You’ll see it here with both. I recommend some sort of chunky pasta for this dish such as Penne pasta pictured above (with chestnuts). It is so delicious topped with crumbled Amaretti Cookies (available in bags at Italian markets and others such as Fresh Market) or crumbled roasted Chestnuts. If you can’t find Amaretti Cookies  – any crispy spice snap or even Biscoff Cookies available at most grocers are fine. The light sweetness of these items truly enhances your enjoyment of this dish. Another serving idea, though more savory, is crumbled Pancetta or even bacon, as a topping.

This sauce is also lovely  to use in Risotto along with some fresh sage and maybe some peas or mushrooms.

Buona Fortuna! It is your good fortune that this recipe makes enough sauce for 2 lb. of pasta or gnocchi. It freezes so beautifully! Just think, not only is it easy to make for one meal – but you can freeze the rest and have an amazing sauce to serve another night without doing a thing except defrosting! Mama mia!

Pumpkin Sauce finish 2 with script

With Gnocchi and Amaretti Cookies

A word about the pumpkin: Fresh pumpkin puree is always, of course, the best idea. However, in this case, I will say that canned pumpkin is a really great alternative to use in this dish. Fact: In case you didn’t know – canned pumpkin loses that “canned” flavor, we sometimes don’t appreciate, when it is cooked. This is true of its use in many cooked dishes. So do not dispair if you don’t have time to carve, peel, chop, and puree your pumpkin. No one will know – and your dish will still be SUPERB!

A note: Take a look at the prep and cooking time in the recipe below. Uh huh!! Just became a lot more interesting, didn’t it? Slave all day in the kitchen—NOT!

I love this sauce and always look forward to serving it!

PUMPKIN SAUCE

(Salsa di Zucca)

Makes: sauce for 2 lb. pasta or gnocchi (freeze some)

Prep: 10 minutes

Cook: 15 minutes

Ingredients

3 Tbsp. Butter

2 Medium Shallots chopped

1/2 C. Dry Vermouth (or another dry white wine – the dry Vermouth is great though in this)

1 3/4 C. Pumpkin Puree (fresh or canned – NOT pumpkin pie filling!)

1 1/4 C. Chicken Broth

1/4 Tsp. Nutmeg

1 Tbsp. Finely chopped fresh Sage

1 Tsp. Orange Zest

Salt and pepper to taste

1 1/4  C. Heavy Cream

1 Tbsp. Butter

Fresh Sage for garnish

Cooked Crisp Crumbled Pancetta or Bacon

OR

Crumbled Amaretti Cookies ( or spicy snaps or Biscoff cookies) for topping

OR

Crumbled Roasted Chestnuts for topping

Grated Asiago or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Instructions:

Melt butter in a shallow pan.

Add shallots and cook a minute or two over medium high heat.

Pumpkin Sauce 1

Add the Vermouth and cook a couple of minutes more until it reduces down a little and cooks off the alcohol.

Pumpkin Sauce 2

Add the pumpkin puree, stir and cook 1-2 minutes more.

Pumpkin Sauce 3

Throw in the sage and orange zest.

Then follow with the chicken broth, nutmeg, and salt and pepper.

Cook 7-8 minutes, stirring, on medium.

Pumpkin Sauce 4

Reduce heat to low and when it stops bubbling – add the cream.

Pumpkin Sauce 5

Warm the sauce through while stirring.

At the end, add 1 Tbsp Butter and melt in – creating a velvety smooth sauce. Stir.

Pour over pasta and toss. Garnish and serve!

To serve your PUMPKIN SAUCE : Offer some Grated Asiago or Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese and a lovely dry white wine or a light red!

PARLA COME MANGI!

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