Friday, January 31, 2014

Penne con Broccoli Arriminati (Penne and Cauliflower Hodgepodge)

I've made Penne con Broccoli Arriminati, page 124 of the Primi section (first courses) in È Pronta by Benedetta Parodi.  Benedetta states this recipe has its origins in Sicily.  Although the name implies broccoli is used, in actuality, it's cauliflower.  The word arriminati translates to mescolare, which means confused, concocted, or mixed up.  Hodgepodge is a good description.

I really wanted to make this recipe. I bought a nice fresh tin of anchovies (Italian) from Trader Joe's and a bag of organic California raisins. I had cauliflower in the fridge.







I followed the directions perfectly. I tasted the sauce before mixing with my precious penne pasta, which I just bought last November in Italy. I didn't really love the sauce, but it was still missing two ingredients, the pasta and the toasted bread crumbs. 

Being cautious, I used a fresh pan and mixed only half the penne with half the sauce, which I had lightened with a spoonful of hot pasta water. I plated it and sprinkled on the bread crumbs. I took a picture, blessed the food and took a bite. Giving it one more chance, I took another forkful. 

I returned to the kitchen and rinsed off the pasta. With another pan (the fourth), I sauté a garlic clove, hot dried pepper, a bit of parsley from the freezer and made a delicious Pasta aglio, olio e pepperoncino.




The sauce and its cauliflower has been placed in a garbage bag and removed to the trash bin outside.


Penne con Broccoli Arriminati (Penne and Cauliflower Hodgepodge)

Serves 4

300 g penne pasta
1 cauliflower
2-3 anchovies fillets, packed in olive oil
1 handful raisins
1 handful pine nuts
1 package of saffron
3 t grated parmigiano or grana cheese
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove clove, finely chopped
olive oil, extravirgin
water from cooking pasta salt
Wash the cauliflower, divide into small florets.  Add to a pan of water and bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, start the sauce. Finely chop the onion and garlic together and saute in a medium sized saucepan.  When the onion is translucent, add the finely chopped anchovies and let them melt into the mixture.  Add the raisins, whole pinenuts, tomato concentrate and saffron. Simmer a few minutes.

When the cauliflower is tender, lift it from the water and transfer it to the sauce.  Add the pasta to the water which cooked the cauliflower.  Set timer for pasta to cook.  Gently mix the cauliflower with the sauce. Add the grated cheese.  Toast the breadcrumbs in another pan.

When the pasta is cooked, add it to the sauce and simmer a minute.  Serve to plates and garnish with toasted breadcrumbs.  

~~~.~~~.~~~.~~~.~~~.~~~.~~~.~~~.~~~.~~~.


Ingredienti Pasta
per 4 persone: 

300 gr di penne
 1 cavolfiore
 2-3 filetti di acciughe sott'olio
 1 manciata di uva sultanina
 1 manciata di pinoli
 1 cucchiano di concentrato di pomodoro
 1 bustina di zafferano
 3 cucchiano di parmigiano o grana
 1 cipolla
 1 specchio d'aglio
 olio extravergine
 acqua di cottura qb sale


Procedimento
  1. Lessare i cavolfiori in acqua bollente, poi scolarli e nella stessa acqua mettere a cuocere la pasta.
  2. Tostare il pangrattato in una padella.
  3. In un'altra padella rosolare la cipolla tritata in olio, poi unire le acciughe e farle sciogliere.
  4. Unire anche uvetta, pinoli e cavolfiori al soffritto.
  5. Aggiungere anche lo zafferano stemperato in un goccio di acqua di cottura e il concentrato di pomodoro.
  6. Schiacciare leggermente i cavolfiori in padella.
  7. Scolare la pasta e ripassarla nel sugo ai cavolfiori.
  8. Mantecare con burro e parmigiano e unire il pangrattato. Completare con una macinata di pepe.


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Pasta al Pesto di Pistacchi -- Pasta with Pistachio Pesto

It's not easy preparing something new for dinner on a Tuesday work evening but I had been looking forward to this meal all day. Reading the Italian recipe was not an issue but I arrived home really hungry and afterwards the kitchen cleanup was tiring. Luckily, I made a serving for two, so I will have a quick dinner tomorrow night.

I prepared Pasta al pesto di pistacchi, page 107 of È Pronta by Benedetta Parodi. Just a few simple ingredients are transformed into a meal fit which would be perfect for guests also. I will be making this again!

As with most pasta sauces made today in Italy, the sauce can be prepared during the time it takes to boil water and cook the pasta. The penne I used tonight required 10 minutes cooking time. 

Buy Italian made pasta, with only two ingredients: durum wheat and water.  The  pasta should not have a shiny appearance, which indicates it was formed by Teflon dies. I used to come home from Italian trips with a suitcase full of pasta. Now, it's becoming easier to find a good product here. Read the label before you purchase. 

After making this dish, I found a video of Benetteta making it for her TV show. I used California dry roasted pistachios. Her Sicilian pistachios had a much brighter green color than mine. In addition to the milk, she also adds a ladle of pasta water to the sauce. 

Just checked on-line for Sicilian pistachios. Super expensive...I will need to add them to my Italian trip shopping list. 






I like pancetta cooked almost but not quite crisp.  I also drain most of the fat off before adding the onion. 

I always use red onions. Marina and I have discussed this too. The onions she uses in Cremona have a mild sweet flavor. The standard yellow American onion is too strong, in my opinion.  









Pasta al Pesto di Pistacchi (Pasta with Pistachio Pesto)
Serves 4

350 g penne pasta
100 g shelled pistachio
75 g smoked pancetta or bacon
1 onion
1/2 glass whole milk
50 g Grana or Parmigiana cheese
Olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Begin water to boil for the pasta.  Add the pasta when the water begins to boil.  Salt the water.

Meanwhile, chop the pistachios.  Sauté the diced pancetta and drain.  In the same pan add a little olive oil and sauté the onions.  When the onions are translucent, add back the pancetta.  Stir in pistacchios.  Add a little milk to and stir to make a sauce. Watch the video below to see how Benedetta makes this.  She stirs the sauce constantly, while waiting for the pasta to cook.  Add a spoonful of pasta water, if the sauce is too thick.

When the pasta is done, drain (retaining a little pasta water) and add the pasta to the pan containing the sauce.  Stir and simmer for 1 minute.  Add pasta water if the sauce seems too thick.

Dish the pasta and top with grated cheese. Serve immediately.  Buon Appetito!



Ingredienti 
per 4 persone: 

350 gr di penne
100 gr di pistacchi 
75 gr di pancetta affumicata a dadini
1 cipolla
olio extravergine
1/2 bicchiere di latte
50 g di grana o parmigiano
sale e pepe 

Procedimento
  1. Lessare la pasta in acqua salata.
  2. Tritare la cipolla e rosolarla in padella con l'olio e la pancetta affumicata.
  3. Sbucciare e pelare i pistacchi, poi tritarli al mixer e metterne una manciata da parte alcuni interi.
  4. Aggiungere ai pistacchi tritati il sale, parmigiano e olio e frullare nuovamente.
  5. Unire il pesto di pistacchi alla pancetta, aggiungendo anche un po' di latte e di acqua di cottura della pasta e girare sul fuoco finché non raddensa un po'.
  6. Scolare la pasta e aggiungerla al pesto a fuoco spento.
  7. Impiattare completando con granella di pistacchi, parmigiano e pepe a piacere.


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Tozzetti -- Hazelnut Biscotti

It's Saturday morning and the first day of Italiarama, my favorite Italian conversation class at the Istituto Italiano di Cultura at Los Angeles. Today we start 10 weeks of two hour classes, after having been on a winter break since Christmas. I want to take a little treat to class.

A recipe I have marked to try is Tozzetti, page 329, in the Dolci (Sweets) section of È Pronta by Benedetta Prodi.

The word Americans typically use to describe this type of cookie is biscotti, which means twice cooked. In Italy, these cookies are called by their specific names, not the generic name biscotti. 


Recipes vary from region to region. Most Italians prefer to buy their sweets from their favorite local baker. 

Bernadetta states Cantucci are always made with almonds, while Tozzetti are made with hazelnuts (nocciole). Both cookies have similar appearances. Both are biscotti because they are twice cooked.  I'm recalling as a young child I loved a commercial brand of cookie, but my mother's food budget never included buying them often enough.

Just as I do now when I crave a favorite food, I found a recipe for that Anise Toast, which I now know to be Biscotti all'anice.  My family loved them and I made them often. They were simple to make, using only flour, sugar, eggs and anise seeds. My instinctive love for Italian things started at an early age! Curious about that commercial cookie I loved, look what I just found...Italian roots:   Stella D'oro Cookies

This morning I was ready to bake. I had a half bag of hazelnuts in my freezer and a fresh organic orange, from family orchards in Alta Loma. 

Preparation time for the Tozzetti was about 1.5 hours. Tozza by the way translates to squat. 

Roast and husk the hazelnuts

Before beginning the biscotti, I roasted the hazel nuts on a cookie sheet for 10 minutes at 350 F (180 C).  Toss the hot nuts onto a clean wet dish towel.  Enclose the nuts inside the now steamy towel, carefully rolling the nuts, back and forth for a few minutes. When the towel is opened, you will see most of the skins have come off. Don't worry about the few which still have skins. 



















I would do two things differently next time making Tozzetti:  

1.  Chop the hazel nuts by hand, instead of using the Cuisinart chop setting.  They were too pulverized.
2.  Just a little, smooth out the texture of the dough logs before baking. 

I liked the idea of making the logs in different widths. It allows for different sizes of cookies. Be sure to cut the logs on an angle. 

Tozzetti

250 g white flour
130 g hazelnuts
125 g white sugar
50 g unsalted butter 
2 eggs
Zest from 1/2 orange
1/2 packet of lievito per dolci (8 g baking powder) 

Melt the butter and set aside to cool. 
Prepare the nuts. 
Beat the butter, sugar, eggs and orange zest together in a large bowl. Add the chopped nuts. 
Sift together the flour and baking powder and stir into the liquid mixture. 

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Form three long logs of dough on the parchment paper. 

Bake 350 F (180 C) for 20 minutes. 
Carefully move the logs to working surface. With a sharp knife, slice on the diagonal, every inch. 

Place the sliced dough back into the same parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Bake another 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. 

Cool on rack. 


Tozzetti

Ingredienti


2 uova 
125 gr di zucchero 
50 gr di burro 
scorza di 1/2 arancia 
130 gr di nocciole tostate 
250 gr di farina 
1/2 bustina di lievito 
1 pizzico di sale

Procedimento
  1. Mescolare in una ciotola le uova con lo zucchero, il burro fuso e la scorza d'arancia.
  2. Unire le nocciole tostate e tritate grossolanamente e girare.
  3. Aggiungere anche la farina con sale e lievito e mescolare bene.
  4. Trasferire sul piano di lavoro infarinato e lavorare per qualche minuto, poi dividere l'impasto in quattro parti.
  5. Formare dei rotolini con queste quattro parti e disporli su una placca con carta forno.
  6. Mettere in forno a 180 gradi e cuocere per circa 20 minuti.
  7. Tagliare i biscotti con il classico taglio in diagonale dei cantucci e rimettere in forno a 180 gradi per 10-15 minuti.
~~.~~

Friday, January 24, 2014

Pizzoccheri Tradizionale, real comfort food

It's Friday night with extra time to make a special dinner. I bought a beautiful fresh head of Savoy Cabbage last night to make Pizzoccheri Primavera, page 162 of È Pronto!

The pasta, I bought in Italy. For cheese, I found a fontina-like cheese, with truffles from Trader Joe's. I thought the truffles might be totally off base, but they're not!  I just saw a recipe using them, on the Italian website for Moro. I'm craving truffles and this cheese is the real thing, from Italy.  Thank you Trader Joe's.


Alessandro brought me a box of Pizzoccheri della Valtellina, but I never used it, always hoping he would fix this traditional dish for me. It was fun to spend a Friday night preparing this, with Alessandro close to my heart. Sort of like a date night. 

Pizzoccheri is a buckwheat pasta, a specialty from the northern Italian region of Lombardia. The traditional recipe calls for a local cheese called Valtellina Casera cheese, but a mild semi-cooked cheese such as Fontina, Montasio, Raclette or Gouda can be used. I see that other vegetables and also be used: Spinach, green beans or bok choy.

Before starting, I checked on Giallozafferano and watched their video on preparation. They suggest warming the serving dish in a nice hot oven, which I did. That was a great idea. The cheeses melted immediately, right into the pasta. No baking is necessary, although some recipes call for a short 10 minute bake or a minute under the broiler.

I made half a recipe, hoping to have a serving for two. I could not bear to use all the butter called for (1/2 cube!). I used 12 g of butter. But I did follow the amount of cheese called for. An enormous amount of cheese for two servings. 

When I had finished preparing the recipe, it actually looked like enough for four people. This dish is 100% comfort food. Fabulous! I had to restrain myself from over-eating. I think this dish would appeal to everyone, even children. 









I did not use Benedetta's recipe after all. She had substituted green beans for the traditional savoy cabbage. Instead, I followed the recipe on the box of Pizzoccheri. 

Traditional Pizzoccheri
Serves 4-6

320 g Pizzoccheri pasta
160 g potatoes, cut into cubes
125 g butter (25g was ok)
125 g Savoy cabbage, sliced
160 g semi-soft cheese, such as Fontina
100 g Parmigiano or Grana, grated
2 cloves garlic, peeled and halved

Warm a serving dish in the oven. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

Add the potatoes and cabbage. Boil for 5 minutes. 

Add the pasta to the vegetables and boil 12-15 minutes, until the pasta is tender. 

Meanwhile, melt the butter on very low heat, along with the halved garlic cloves. 

Cube the Fontina and mix with the grated Grana.

When the pasta is done, drain it. Then layer it with the cheeses, in the hot serving dish.  Discard garlic and drizzle the browned butter over the entire dish. 

Serve immediately. 


Pizzoccheri Tradizionale

Porzioni per 4 persone

320 g di Pizzoccheri
160 g di patate
125 g di burro
125 g di verze, coste o spinaci
160 g di formaggio semigrasso (consigliamo Valtellina Casera)
100 g di parmigiano
2 spicchi di aglio
pepe

Preparazione:
In una pentola con abbondante acqua salata, gia' portata a ebollizione, versate le patate tagliate a dadini e le verdure a piccoli pezzi.

Dopo 5 minuti aggiungere i Pizzoccheri.  Fare bollire per 12-15 minuti.  Scolare con un mestolo forato e metterne una parte in una teglia.

Cospargere con parmigiano e fettine sottili di formaggio e proseguire alternando i componenti.  Versare il burro fuso soffritto insieme all'aglio.  Pepare a piacere e servire in piatti caldi.


~~.~~

Altre ricette in italiano!  Store Valtellina ricette


From wiki:  Pizzoccheri
Pizzoccheri are a type of short tagliatelle, a flat ribbon pasta, made with 80% buckwheatflour and 20% wheat flour. When classically prepared in Valtellina or in Graubünden, they are cooked along with greens (often Swiss Chard but also Savoy cabbage), and cubedpotatoes. This mixture is layered with pieces of Valtellina Casera cheese and ground Grana Padano or Parmigiano Reggiano, and dressed with garlic and sage that are lightly fried in butter together.[1][2]

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Farinata -- L'Oro di Pisa

I'm ready to make "La Bella Calda" or La Farinata from the cookbook:   È Pronto! By Benedetta Parodi (Page 77).

I've loved Farinata from the very first moment I tasted a piece. I was standing in front of a wood burning oven in Strevi, Italy. It was probably 15 years ago, when I  hardly understood a word of Italian.

My adopted grandfather asked me if I wanted to taste some morsels of food which were sizzling in his huge open oven. I nodded yes, enthusiastically. First he caught a sausage with his long fork. He sliced a piece and handed it to me on a napkin. Juicy and almost too hot to eat, real country food. So so good.

Just outside the kitchen door, I saw neatly tied bundles of cut grape vine trimmings. This was the fuel for the oven. Nothing is wasted in the countryside.

Then he pulled a pizza style pan from the oven. The pan contained something I had never seen before. It looked a little like the corn meal mush my grandmother used to make. But the taste was not that of corn. It resembled a big crepe with texture.  I never forgot its taste and I've desperately craved it. 



Foto from: 

After years, and a better grasp of Italian, I  discovered the name of this fabulous food:  Farinata or Cecina (in Tuscany)

I've never eaten it again in Italy.  Perhaps because I haven't returned to Strevi since our sweet Nonno passed away.

One day, I saw a picture of Farinata in a magazine and finally knew its name.  I researched and armed with knowledge I decided to purchase its ingredients and make it myself, at home.

Last year, while visiting my family in Cremona, I bought a package of organic Farina di Ceci (garbanzo bean flour). 



We had a lively family discussion that evening! When I revealed my plan to make Farinata at home, Marina (her father was my adopted Nonno) firmly stated it could not be done. Impossible. I would need a wood burning pizza oven. Lucky Marina, she spent her childhood, exploring and learning how to cook in her parents' restaurant in Strevi. 

Primo, Marina's husband, asked me what I had in mind? It might work he said. Marina was so cute, she waved her hand and turned away from the discussion, with a meaning of 'good luck trying the impossible.' 

I did make it last year. It wasn't perfect, but it was edible. I've been waiting to make it again, using a different recipe. I only have enough flour left for two more tries.

My idea now is to cook it in a cast iron pan in a really hot oven. Benedetta's recipe did not disappoint. My cast iron flat pan however, was not deep enough, but I am closer to getting this right. 

I will buy a deeper skillet and make Farinata again next weekend. 







La Farinata

Serves 4

250 g garbanzo bean flour
700 ml water 
Fresh rosemary, one stem
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Place flour in a large bowl. Slowly add water, mixing continuously with a whip. Drop in the rosemary stem. 

Cover and let rest for 1 hour or more. Can rest overnight. 

Discard rosemary and skim off bubbly surface layer. 

Gently stir in oil, reserving 2 T for the pan. 

Preheat oven to 430 degrees. 

On stovetop, preheat a cast iron skillet. Drizzle the 2 T olive oil to coat the pan. Do not let oil smoke. Pour batter into pan and carefully transfer pan into oven. 

Bake 25-35 minutes until top is browned. 

Turn out onto cutting board. May top with freshly ground pepper. Cut as you would pizza. Serve hot or warm, right from the oven. 

Farinata 
per 4 persone

Ingredienti

700 ml d'acqua
100 ml di olio
250 gr di farina di ceci
rosmarino
sale e pepe

Procedimento
  1. Mettere l'acqua in una ciotola con un po' d'olio.
  2. Aggiungere poco per volta la farina di ceci mescolando con la frusta a mano cercando di evitare la formazione di grumi.
  3. Unire il rosmarino e sale e lasciare a riposare per circa mezzora.
  4. Versare il composto in una placca rivestita di carta forno unta d'olio.
  5. Infornare per 10 minuti circa a 220 gradi, poi ripassare per qualche altro minuto al grill.
  6. Tagliare a rombi condire con pepe e consumare calda.

~~.~~
From the late Kyle Phillips:  


Next, a bit of history:
Farinata is said to have been discovered after the battle of Meloria, between Pisa and Genova, when the victorious Genoese fleet was hit by a storm so violent the barrels of chickpea flour in the holds were broken open and mixed with the seawater that was coming in. When the waters calmed the sailors scooped up the mess -- they couldn't throw it away because it was all they had -- and spread it on the decks to dry. It was so good that when they got home they began baking it, calling it L'Oro di Pisa, Pisan gold.

The final thing to note is that though this chickpea farinata is considered Ligurian, you will also find it along the Tuscan coast, where it is called cecina or torta di ceci, in the French Costa Azzurra, where it is called socca, in Piemonte (introduced by genoese traders), where it is called belecauda, in the Genoese colonies of Sardinia, where it is called fainè, and in Gibraltar, where it is called calentita.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Italian Cookbooks Cooking Project 2014 -- Book 2

It might have been a mistake to chose this next cookbook, because I want to try everything! I just purchased this book in November and I had not yet really read it.  I save these precious Italian books to savor.



I opened 'È Pronto!' by Benedetta Parodi, published in 2013 by Rizzoli. 

I turned each page and with sticky tape, marked interesting recipes. I had to bypass some for lack of ingredients, like fresh porcini mushrooms, lardo, octopus and cheeses which I cannot buy here. Anything with fresh peas too, which are on my life-long, refuse to eat list. Even eating in Cremona, I have to push those pearls to the side. 

I received my first Benedetta cookbook as a gift from Marta and Rosa in Cremona. Benedetta cooks in a dress and heels and makes it all look so easy and delicious. She's always happy and organized. 

Benedetta has her own television show and website and a blog in the Corriere della Sera newspaper.


This cookbook is amazing. Each left sided page contains a picture of the recipe shown to the right. 250 recipes and most all of them appeal to me. 

I've marked over twenty recipes which look interesting. I'll give myself two weeks with this book and try as many as I can fit in. 

Today is Monday. Checking my freezer supplies, I found just the perfect recipe to make right away for lunch.  I have a small amount of homemade ricotta cheese and a piece of real guanciale, which I buy at McCall's Meats and Fish Company, in Los Angeles. 

I made a serving for one and it was fabulous. So simple. 



Penne alla gricia with ricotta

Serves 4

350 g mezze penne pasta
160 g guanciale, cut into small pieces
125 g fresh ricotta cheese
Grated pecorino, to taste
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt

Bring water to a boil and begin cooking the penne pasta. 

In a saucepan, sauté the guanciale pieces in a little olive oil, taking care not to let it smoke or burn. Drain off extra fat. 

Drain pasta, setting aside some of the pasta water.  Add pasta back to the guanciale and stir in the ricotta, over low heat. Add pasta water, as needed, to make a creamy sauce. Stir vigorously. 

Turn off fire and add grated cheese. Serve immediately. 


Penne alla gricia con ricotta

per 4 personne

350 g di mezze penne
160 g di guanciale
125 g di ricotta
pecorino qb
olio extravergine
Sale

Mettere a cuocere le mezze penne e intanto risolare in padella il guanciale a pezzetti con l'olio. Una volta pronta la pasta, scolarla e ripassarla in padella con il guanciale, farla insaporire, unire la ricotta continuando a mescolare e se necessario aggiungere acqua di cottura.  A fuoco spento mantecare con il pecorino grattugiato. 

~~.~~.~~
I looked up the word 'gricia' and found this interesting information. 


From the New York Times


THE MINIMALIST; Three-Way Pasta
By Mark Bittman
Published: November 8, 2000

As popular as spaghetti alla carbonara may be, most American cooks don't realize that its essential element is meat. The crispy bits of cured pork that elevate the eggy sauce are actually the building blocks for three of the great classic pastas made in and around Rome.

The most basic of them, pasta alla gricia, contains no more than the meat and grated sharp cheese. With eggs added to the sauce, it becomes the familiar spaghetti alla carbonara, named for the charcoal makers who created the dish. And if you add the sweetness of cooked onions and the acidity of tomatoes, you have pasta all'amatriciana, from the town of Amatricia.

For years, authors of cookbooks and articles about Italian cooking suggested that the ''genuine'' meat for these recipes was pancetta: pork belly that is salted and cured but not smoked. Pancetta is available in any decent Italian deli and many specialty stores, although bacon -- which is also pork belly, cured and smoked -- is an adequate substitute.
But in Italy the first choice for these dishes is guanciale, which is also salted and cured but not smoked. It is made with pig jowl, a fatty and exceptionally delicious cut.

Those lucky enough to be in Rome can find guanciale not only in salumerias but also in supermarkets. In New York, it's a little harder to find, but worth the effort. You can buy guanciale at a few specialty markets, including Salumeria Biellese (376 Eighth Avenue at 29th Street; 212-736-7376), a 75-year-old institution that also produces good pancetta and sausages.

Guanciale is typically sold in pieces weighing a pound or a little more. Because it is cured until nearly dry, it will keep for months, and you can hack off a bit anytime you want to make one of these dishes.
 
All these sauces are great, if different, with any of the three meats.

As for the cheese, which is the second dominant flavor in each sauce, pecorino Romano is essential to pasta alla gricia, Parmesan is the most common cheese in carbonara and the amatriciana-style sauce is at home with either.
 
But, again, you can choose whatever you like -- no one is looking.

 
PASTA ALLA GRICIA

Time: 30 minutes
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup minced guanciale, pancetta or bacon (about 1/4 pound)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound linguine or other long, thin pasta
1/2 cup grated pecorino Romano, or more to taste.
1. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. In a small saucepan, combine olive oil and meat, and turn heat to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, until nicely browned, about 10 minutes. Turn off heat.
2. Salt water, and cook pasta until tender but not mushy. Reserve about a cup of water before draining pasta.
3. Toss drained pasta with meat and its juices; stir in cheese. If mixture is dry, add a little of the pasta cooking water (or a little olive oil). Season with plenty of black pepper, and serve.

Yield: 3 servings as a main course or 6 as a first course.

Variations: 

Spaghetti alla carbonara: While pasta is cooking, beat 3 eggs in a large warmed bowl. Stir in about 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan and the meat and its juices. When pasta is done, drain and toss with egg mixture. If the dressed pasta is dry, add a little reserved cooking water. Add plenty of black pepper and more Parmesan to taste, and serve.

Pasta all'amatriciana: Remove pancetta with a slotted spoon and, in the juices left behind, saute a sliced medium onion over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until well softened, about 10 minutes. Turn off heat, and let mixture cool a bit to avoid spattering. Stir in 3 cups chopped canned tomatoes and turn heat back to medium. Cook sauce, stirring occasionally, while pasta cooks. Drain, and toss with tomato sauce, reserved meat, and at least 1/2 cup freshly grated pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese.







Sunday, January 19, 2014

Gnocchi di zucca (Butternut squash gnocchi)

This is the last recipe I've marked to try for this Italian cookbook. The measurements seemed at first glance to be ok. 

I made only half a recipe. Using a full sized squash would have made eight dozen!



The recipe had been translated to pumpkin gnocchi, but I decided to go with the word squash, which is more accurate. Even the picture accompanying this recipe shows squash.

I tracked down the current location of the painting "Grapes and Pumpkin" which was formerly in storage in the Palazzo Pitti in Firenze but now on display at the Museo della Natura Morta. (Still Life Museum) at Poggio a Caiano, a former Medici family villa. 


I cooked the squash yesterday and stored it still peeled in the fridge overnight. It took about one hour today to make 4 dozen gnocchi.  

I served myself two platefuls: one with browned butter sage as suggested in the recipe and the second with gorgonzola-butter sauce, as I normally would eat potato gnocchi in Italy.

I found I had cut the first batch of gnocchi into pieces which were too large.    

I cut all the remaining gnocchi in half. I will freeze them (uncooked) in a freezer bag. 

I preferred the gnocchi with the gorgonzola sauce. For dessert I had a fresh pear.
 
I would make these again, but only served with the gorgonzola sauce. Very yummy. It seemed like I was eating gnocchi in Italy. 
















Gnocchi di zucca (Squash Gnocchi)

1/2 pound (226g) fresh butternut squash
1 C (124 g) white flour, sifted 
1/2 beaten egg 
Nutmeg, several pinches

Butter 
Gorgonzola cheese

Cut the squash into segments, scrapping out seeds and fiber. 

Place squash, skin side down in an oven proof dish. Cook for one hour at 350 F or until tender. 

Let the squash cool. Remove peel. Pass pulp through food mill. (Approx. 141 g of pulp). 

If purée is too watery, let it dry out on the stove. 

Add egg, nutmeg and most of flour to pulp. Put the mixture on a pastry board and knead into a smooth dough, working in the rest of the flour. Only add enough flour to allow handling of the dough. 

Hint from Letizia Mattiacci (Madonna del Piatto): only add enough flour to hold the dough together. Test cook several gnocchi. If they don't fall apart, you've added enough flour.

Cut dough into thirds and roll one third  at a time into a long rope. Cut into small pieces. If desired, roll along the tongs of a fork to make ridges. 

Place pieces onto parchment paper and dust with flour. 

Bring a generous amount of water to boil in a saucepan. Salt water. When the gnocchi float to the surface, let them cook a additional 30 seconds. With slotted spoon remove to a pan containing gorgonzola melted with butter.  Toss gently and serve in pasta bowls. 

May freeze uncooked gnocchi.