Ragù in Bianco - My Style

Sometimes you want tagliatelle al ragù but without the tomato! or at least at my house we sometimes do!
I really have no set recipe, it all depends on what I happen to have on hand... today it went something like this
1 pork chop
1 slice tender lean beef
1 small carrot
a few mushrooms
fresh parsley
1 clove of garlic, 1 small onion
Put a large pot of water on to boil.

Finely chop carrot and garlic. You can also chop the onion, but I just cut it in half and add it to the "soffritto" for the flavor.
Sauté over medium heat in a couple of tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
While the vegetables are sauteing, finely chop the mushrooms and parsley.
Clean most of the fat and bone from the pork chop and then coarsely chop the pork chop and the slice of beef. If you have a meat grinder and you don't mind washing it afterwards, you can use it to coarsely grind the meat.
Add the meat to the pan with the vegetables and lightly brown. Then add the mushrooms and continue to stir and saute. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Now add the parsley and a small glass of a dry white wine.
Lower the heat and cover. Allow to simmer for 5 minutes or so.
By now, the water should be boiling. Add salt to the water and cook your pasta. I used fresh tagliatelle, but this is also delicious with spaghetti or even short macaroni.
 When the pasta is cooked, remove the lid from the pan with the meat and vegetable mix, add another tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Drain the pasta and add to the pan with the "white ragù" and toss well.

Top with grated parmigiano cheese and BUON APPETITO!!


Sausage, peppers and pasta!

Sausage, peppers and pasta!
(makes 2 servings)

This was today's experiment in the kitchen! My fridge has the end of the week blues, so the choices were few! I had a couple of links of sausage, a red pepper and some Fontal cheese (any mild, melting cheese will do) and grated parmigiano cheese. Here is what I did:

Wash pepper, remove stem and seeds, cut into 1/2" dice, peel 2 cloves of garlic, remove 2 small sausages from their casing, finely chop a handful of fresh parsley leaves, coarsely grate a 2" cube of Fontal (a mild Colby or Swiss will do), 1/4" freshly grated parmigiano cheese,  4 to 6 oz small pasta.

Put a large pot of water on to boil for the past. Put about 1 T extra virgin olive oil in  a large non stick frying pan, add garlic and diced peppers, saute over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the peppers soften (about 10 min); add the sausage links and break them up with a wooden spoon as they saute, when the sausage is browned you can add a splash of white wine if you like. By now the water is boiling, salt the water and put the pasta in to cook. Remove the pasta when it is "al dente", strain and add to the frying pan with the sausage and peppers, add 1 T extra virgin olive oil, chopped parsley and grated cheese. Turn the heat up to high and toss the pasta with the sausage and pepper mix until cheese melts. That's it! Buon appetito!


"Testarolo" with Pesto Sauce

Ok, this is from the series "Italian Recipes Most Non-Italians (and even some Italians) Don't Know"!
A great summer recipe if you have a bumper crop of basil in your garden or if you can buy fresh basil in large quantities. This recipe requires a food processor, unless you want to use a mortar and pestle.

The "Testarolo" is a typical flat bread of the Lunigiana region of Tuscany. That would be the most northern tip of Tuscany that borders on Liguria to the east and Emilia Romagna to the west. Basically it is a batter about the consistency of pancake batter that is cooked on a terracotta (or cast iron) "testo", a special baking dish used directly on hot coals. Fortunately, for me, I can buy it at the grocery store. 
If you can't find a "testarolo" or don't want to make one fresh, you can serve your pesto with pasta.

This will make a large quantity of pesto, which you can keep for several days in the refrigerator.
about 2 cups of loosely packed fresh basil (about 2 ounces)
a scant half cup of extra virgin olive oil
about 6 walnut meats (the original recipe calls for pinoli nuts, but in my house no one likes them so I use either walnuts or pecans)
1 clove of garlic
50 grams Parmigiano or Grana Padano cheese (about 2 oz)
pinch of sea salt (regular will do)

Wash and dry the basil leaves
break the cheese up into small pieces, remove skin from garlic clove

Place the nuts, garlic and cheese in the processer and process on high until it starts to form a crumbly paste

Add about half of the basil, half of the oil and the salt to the processor. Process on high until a cream starts to form.

Add the rest of the basil and oil to the processor and process on high until the pesto is the consistency you want.

It should look something like this. 

Put a large pot of water on to boil, and if you are using a testarolo cut it into 1" pieces 
When the water comes to a boil, add the cut up testarolo. It only has to boil for a minute or two. Drain as you would for pasta, season with pesto (you will need about 1/3 of the amount this recipe yields) and serve.
If you are using pasta, cook 4 servings of pasta according to the package directions, season with about 1/3 of the pesto sauce and serve.

Buon appetito!! 


Pasta with Red Bell Pepper Sauce

This is a delicious and really easy summer pasta recipe!

1 large red bell pepper per person
1 clove of garlic per person
Extra virgin olive oil
80 grams (about 3oz) of short pasta per person (I used rigatoni)
chopped parsley
grated Parmesan cheese

Wash and clean the peppers removing all of the seeds and white membrane from inside the pepper.
Coarsely chop the peppers and place them in a frying pan (size will depend on the amount of peppers you are cooking), add 1 to 3 T extra virgin olive oil (again depending on the amount of peppers you are cooking), add garlic.

Cook over high heat until the peppers start to sizzle, lower to heat to a simmer, place a lid on the pan and cook slowly for about 20 minutes or until the peppers are soft and the skin starts to come away from the flesh of the pepper. Stir frequently while the peppers are cooking so that they do not stick or start to brown.

While the peppers are cooking, grate the cheese and finely chop the parsley. I cooked 3 peppers for 3 people and I used about a cup of grated cheese and 1/4 cup of chopped parsley.

Put a large pot of water on to boil. When the peppers are cooked, put them through a food mill to eliminate the skin. When the water boils, cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain the cooked pasta and in a large frying pan season the pasta with the pureed peppers. Add the cheese and parsley, toss over high heat for about a minute and serve. That's it! Buon appetito!!

  Buon appetito!!


What exactly is "authentic" Italian cooking??

Well! A lot has happened since my last blog post in September 2012!! I would like to share a personal note with you before I get to my cooking craziness for the day!
 I left Italy for the states in early November to spend some time with my Dad and mom. Daddy's health had been failing quickly in the months prior to my trip and every time I would talk to him, he would ask me, "when are you coming?" I really didn't know when would be the best time.. I was thinking about Christmas with the family. Then one day when he asked me when I was going to go "home" for a visit, I said "in the fall, Dad. I'll be there in the fall". I really hate to fly... and I kept putting off purchasing that ticket. I had a knitting workshop planned for mid October and I knew that if I didn't pick my dates soon.... so in mid October, right before leaving for the workshop I got online and purchased my tickets, with a departure date of November 8th. I really didn't pick that particular date.. I just put in the first week of November as my departure and the second week of December as my return. Then, with incredible logic ;) I picked the cheapest flight that Lufthansa had! God works in mysterious ways, and most of the time we are not privy to his plans! I was able to spend about 2 months with my Dad and mom. When I saw that Dad was failing fast, I changed my return flight so I could be with him and my mother as long as they needed me. Daddy went "home" to his Father on December 18th. Had I waited for Christmas I would have missed out on a couple of great months with my parents. Mom came back to Italy with me in mid January and we continued our mother-daughter visit on into mid February. One of the things I enjoyed doing most with my mom was going into town every morning to "shop"... we would go to the green grocer and look at what was available, build our lunch and dinner menus around what we saw there. Then off to the baker for some fresh bread, then maybe some fresh pasta and so on. So you see in the end this little personal note of mine ties in with my question: "what exactly is "authentic" Italian cooking?"

I am by no means a food snob! However... authentic is a hard word to use when describing an ethnic recipe. Let's take Pasta alla Carbonara for example. How do you fix it? Bacon, onions, cream, eggs, cheese? or maybe just bacon no onion, white wine, eggs cheese? However you fix it, I am willing to bet it is a far cry from the "authentic" recipe, which is often contaminated even in Italy!
I don't want to write a treatise here on pasta alla carbonara.. so suffice it to say that the recipe probably originated among the "carbonai" from the Lazio region of Italy. The carbonai were men who went into the hills, collected wood, made carefully constructed mounds out of it which then then allowed to burn very slowly to make charcoal. this was a long process and they would spend weeks or even months away from home. Their food was very simple and based on whatever they had with them, usually eggs (they probably brought chickens with them for the eggs), guanciale (a cured fatty meat made from pig's jowl) conserved with salt and black pepper, "cacio" (a sharp, hard cheese made from sheep's milk) and pasta. They would render the guanciale in a frying pan over the fire, boil the pasta; when the pasta was cooked they would add it to the pan with the guanciale, crack a couple of eggs over it, add a good grating of "cacio" - toss and eat. A far cry from the not so authentic dish proposed in the menus of many "authentic" Italian restaurants!

Well, today... I made a not so authentic, but very Italian pasta and beans dish (pasta e fagioli). I found beautiful fresh borlotto beans at the grocery store this week (mom would call them "fagioli della Regina" - the queen's beans, a colloquial name for this variety of borlotto beans). The price was right, they are delicious and nutritious.. so into my cart they went! Today I decided to make them with "maltagliati" - a homemade pasta that you cut with a knife into little squares or diamonds without the aid of a pasta cutter, hence "maltagliati" or... poorly cut! I have always seen this dish made with onions, beans and tomato sauce. The pasta is usually the typical egg pasta, cut by hand into diamonds. But I prefer my beans "in bianco" or white, with no tomato and I love pasta made with buckwheat flour! So here goes my not so authentic, but very Italian pasta and beans recipe!

 Ingredients for 2 people

For the beans
about 1 lb of fresh unshelled borlotto beans (the weight includes pods and all, forgot to weight them after they were shelled!)
2 or 3 cloves of garlic
a couple of sprigs of Italian parsley (not the curly kind, but the kind with flat leaves, not to be confused with cilantro)
salt to taste
black pepper to taste
extra virgin olive oil to taste

Shell the beans and put them in a pot with enough water to cover them by about 2 inches. Salt the water to taste, bring to a boil and cook for about 30 minutes or until you can squash a bean against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon. When the beans are cooked, add salt if needed, add the garlic cloves, peeled but not cut, 2 or 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Cover and set aside.

For the pasta
about 3 to 4 oz. of flour, I used half buckwheat and half white, but if you can't find buckwheat flour you can use all white, or half whole wheat and half white.
1 egg
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

So, I unauthentically put the flour, egg and oil into my food processor and processed it for about 30 seconds on high. 

This what your dough will look like, more or less.

Remove from processor to a wooden board, add a bit of flour and knead it for about 5 minutes until it is smooth
This is what it will look like - it should be fairly soft, but not sticky

Now use a pasta machine to roll out the pasta. I make mine pretty thin. This is up to you. I don't like my homemade pasta too thick.

Now you should have sheets of pasta that look more or less like this on your board.

 Use a very sharp knife to cut the sheets of pasta into diamond shapes that are about 1.5 x 1.5"

The diamonds or squares should be more or less this size.

Dust with flour so they don't stick together. Now bring your beans back to a boil. You may or may not want to remove the garlic cloves. i take them out so I don't have to hear someone complain "why do I always get the garlic?!" Smash some of the beans against the side of the pot for a creamier consistency. Add just enough water to cover the beans and when it comes to a boil, add the pasta. If you use buckwheat or whole wheat flour, you should let the beans and pasta cook for about 4 or 5 minutes. If you use white flour, it should only take a minute or two.

Continue to stir as the pasta cooks so it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pot. You may need to add some water if it is too thick or is sticking to the pan. You can make it as soupy or as dry as you like it. We like it creamy but not soupy. Add the minced parsley. Taste it and correct the seasoning. Serve with a swirl of olive oil and Buon appetito!!