Pasta alla Norma

This will be the last recipe I blog from Lucca until the end of summer! I will be going home for the summer, so I may blog some recipes from my mom's kitchen! In the meantime, this is my variation of a famous recipe for pasta with a delicious tomato and eggplant sauce.

 Ingredients for 4 servings:
6 to 8 oz of rigatoni or other large macaroni (shells are also good)
1 small can of plum tomatoes
Extra virgin olive oil
2 small Italian eggplants (the long skinny ones)
About a cup of olives, I used a mix of black and green seasoned olives cut off the pits, but pitted black are the classic choice
A couple of cloves of garlic
Several sprigs of fresh basil
1 small, fresh mozzarella
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
 I generally don't salt and drain the eggplant, but I do for this recipe otherwise the eggplant comes too soft. Chop the egg plant in to cubes (1 - 2 inch cubes). Place in a colander, on plate, and sprinkle the eggplant generously with salt. Let them sit for about 15 to 20 minutes.
 After about 20 minutes you will see the drained liquid in the plate. Now you can rinse, drain and squeeze the liquid out of the eggplant.
 This is what the eggplant should look like after this process.
At this point put a large pot of water on to boil, for cooking the pasta.
 Now, sauté the eggplant in several tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil over medium high heat  in a large non stick fry pan until it starts to brown. At this point add the garlic and continue to brown. When the eggplant is browned on all sides, add the pitted olives and continue to sauté for another minute or two
 This is how your vegetable mix should look.
 Add the pureed tomatoes and several sprigs of basil. Cover and cook over medium low heat for about 10 to 15 minutes.
 While the sauce is cooking, cut the mozzarella into 1/2" cubes.
By now the water is boiling. Add salt and cook the pasta "al dente".
 You sauce should look about like this. Taste it and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.
Add the pasta to the sauce in the pan and toss well to coat. Now add the mozzarella dice, making sure it is evenly distributed over the top of the pasta. Put a lid on the pan and let it rest for about 2 min.

Remove the lid and toss the pasta to mix in the melted cheese... serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese

and as Julia Child would have said had she spoken Italian...

            BUON APPETITO!


Real homemade tomato sauce with tagliolini (narrow ribbon noodles)

We are starting to see the real "primizie" (first fruits) of the summer season here! I say "real primizie", because greenhouse strawberries and tomatoes and apricots, peaches and plums from South America have been on the supermarket shelves for a couple of weeks now. Actually, this is a fairly new practice in Italy. Up until a few years ago most of the fresh fruit and vegetables were grown in Italy and so they followed the seasons. But before I get off on that tangent... my local Pizzicheria had fresh San Marzano tomatoes and fresh basil this morning - so I bought some of each, as well as fresh tagliolini and now I want to show you just how easy it is to make "real" homemade fresh tomato sauce. So, here we go!

Ingredients for four servings:
1 to 1.5 lbs fresh, ripe plum or other San Marzano type tomatoes
The advantage to this type of tomato as opposed to Jersey or salad type tomatoes is that they are firm, flesh and have little juice. This is important for a thick, rich sauce.
1 or 2 cloves of garlic
a couple of sprigs of fresh basil
3/4 lb fresh tagliolini or tagliatelle (you can substitute with spaghetti)
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

This recipe requires a good old-fashioned food mill! If you don't have one, ask your mom or aunt or grandmother to lend you hers!

Wash and cut the tomatoes into chunks, place in a stainless steel or other non-aluminium saucepan and sprinkle with about a 1/2 teaspoon of salt. I use coarse salt but regular table salt will do. The salt helps the tomatoes to release their juice. Cook over medium high heat, stirring constantly for about 5 minutes until the mixture is nice and juicy, then lower to medium low, cover and allow to cook for 5 more minutes.
 You should obtain something that looks like this.
Put the food mill over a stainless steel, glass or ceramic bowl; put the cooked tomatoes into the mill and mill them. This separates the cooked tomato pulp from the skin and seeds. If you don't have a food mill, you can poach the whole tomatoes for a few minutes, remove the skin, cook for another 5 to 10 minutes and then blend the cooked tomatoes.
 This is what you should have left in the food mill after you pass the tomatoes through it...
 and this is what you should have in the bowl.
Now put a large pot of water on to boil for the pasta. Put a couple or three tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a large fry pan. Lightly sauté the split garlic cloves. Don't let them brown or burn as this will make the sauce bitter!
 Add the cooked tomatoes and the leaves from a couple of sprigs of fresh basil to the pan.

Cook the sauce over medium high heat for about 10 minutes, stirring often. It should really bubble and boil so some of the water evaporates. Cooking it more will "kill" the delicious fresh tomato flavour!
By now the water is boiling, so salt it and cook the pasta following the instructions on the package if you use bought pasta. If you are really good and you made your own pasta, cook it for a minute or two.

Drain the pasta and add to the sauce in the pan. Toss well to coat with your delicious, fresh, homemade tomato sauce. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese and...

as Julia Child would have said had she spoken Italian...


Tortelloni with fresh tomatoes and Parmesan -Another great summer time pasta salad!

 Today time was short as usual, but I have been amiss in my food blogging so I looked in the fridge and found the Tortelloni, then I ran across the street to my local "Pizzicheria" and bought the fresh tomatoes and I put together this quick, delicious recipe that can be eaten hot as a main dish, or at room temperature as a delicious side dish salad. It's the perfect picnic recipe - no mayonnaise! And it is low in fat and calories!

Ingredients for 2 healthy main dish portions or 4 side dish portions:
1 lb of ricotta and spinach filled tortelloni or ravioli
(you can substitute with a pound of shell macaroni)
a bunch of small, sweet tomatoes - any variety will do!
Parmesan cheese
Basil - fresh, frozen or dry
salt and pepper to taste

Wash and cut the tomatoes into bite size pieces. Clean 1 garlic clove and cut into large pieces. Coarsely grate the parmesan.
Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package.

Add the pasta and the Parmesan to the tomatoes. Add basil, salt and pepper to taste. Add about 3 to 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil.

Toss lightly to mix.  Serve hot as a main dish, or cool to room temperature and serve as a delicious alternative to macaroni or potato salad!

 and.... as Julia Child would have said had she spoken Italian instead of French...