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Marcella Hazan’s Ragù Bolognese

Before there was Lidia, there was Marcella. I’m talking about Marcella Hazan, who reigned as the doyenne of Italian cuisine until her death in 2013. Her cookbooks are classics in the Italian food repertoire and are the first place I go to when I’m looking for a traditional recipe like basil pesto or gnocchi alla romana. Born in Italy, she wrote her cookbooks in Italian, and her husband, Victor Hazan, translated them into English. Married for 58 years, theirs is a love story that continues even after she is gone. Victor has taken over Marcella’s Facebook page since her death, and occasionally posts beautiful tributes to her, including these lines: “I am at life’s end and in looking back I can see how Marcella and I were squeezed from a single lump of clay.” Or these: “Where cooking was concerned she didn’t need to check how others were doing it. She didn’t have to because Marcella didn’t have doubts, she knew, and out of that knowledge, whose mysterious creative source had always been a wonder to me, she produced the pure, expressive taste of her cooking.”

I don’t know why it took me this long to make her ragù Bolognese, but I’m glad I finally tasted for myself what Marcella followers have known for decades. It doesn’t get better than this. It takes a long time to simmer, but it’s worth the long wait.

Start by sweating the vegetables in olive oil and butter – carrots, celery and onion,

Add the ground meat and cook until it loses its pink color, then add the wine.

Next comes the unusual step of adding milk and seasonings that include a generous grating of nutmeg. It looks curdled at first, but after it cooks and the milk gets absorbed into the meat, it will look more blended. Be patient, it may take a while for this step.

The tomatoes are added last, after the milk has become absorbed. Turn the heat to low and let it simmer for at least three hours – even longer if you have time.

After the lengthy cooking at low temperature, you’ll be left with this rich, dense ragù.

Perfect for adding to a bowl of pappardelle, as I did, or if you prefer, use tagliatelle, or fettuccine.

The recipe makes more ragù than I needed for the pound of pasta I cooked, so I served the leftover ragu another night with a bowl of polenta. It was equally as good and soul satisfying. Grazie Marcella, for this gem of a recipe. And grazia, Victor, for keeping those memories alive through Marcella’s Facebook page.

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Marcella Hazan's Bolognese Ragù
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons chopped yellow onion
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons chopped celery
  • 2 tablespoons chopped carrot
  • ¾ pound ground lean beef, or a combination of beef, veal and/or pork
  • salt
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 cups canned whole tomatoes, chopped, with their juice
  • 1 pound pasta - tagliatelle or pappardelle (you'll have leftover ragu)
Instructions
  1. In a Dutch Oven or large heavy pot, add the onion with the oil and butter and saute briefly over medium heat until translucent.
  2. Add the celery and carrot and cook for 2 minutes.
  3. Add the ground beef, crumbling it in the pot with a fork.
  4. Add 1 teaspoon salt, stir, and cook only until the meat has lost its red, raw color.
  5. Add the wine, turn the heat up to medium high, and cook, stirring occasionally, until all the wine has evaporated.
  6. Turn the heat down to medium, add the milk and the nutmeg, and cook until the milk has evaporated. This may take a while.
  7. Stir frequently.
  8. When the milk has evaporated, add the tomatoes and stir thoroughly.
  9. When the tomatoes have started to bubble, turn the heat down until the sauce cooks at the laziest simmer, just an occasional bubble.
  10. Cook, uncovered, for a minimum of 3½ to 4 hours, stirring occasionally.
  11. Serve with tagliatelle, or pappardelle, and a good sprinkling of grated parmesan cheese.
 

Beet Ravioli with ricotta and goat cheese filling

 Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and this recipe is perfect for winning over the hearts (and stomachs) of your loved ones. Or just treat yourself to a special home made meal. You deserve it! The ravioli dough is made with beets, although it hardly retains any of the beet flavor. But it does look rather festive, and was a good way for me to salvage some of the beets I had dreadfully overcooked this past weekend. You see, I planned to make pickled beets and I placed the beets to cook atop the stove in a pot of water. I like to undercook beets since they get cooked a bit more in the pickling process, and I prefer some “bite” to the finished product. But I left the house to see the HD performance of “Carmen” live from the Met, and forgot about the pot simmering on the stove. I didn’t realize it until nearly three hours later, well after Carmen entices Don Jose with her guiles, but before he gets his revenge on the alluring gypsy.

You know it’s verboten to phone or text in the theater during a performance, but I covered by head and torso with my jacket and texted my husband to ask him to immediately drain the water from the beets. Thank goodness for husbands who are loyal to their alma mater and stay home to watch the basketball game on TV. Go Pirates!

I know it could have been avoided had I roasted the beets, but I always have trouble peeling beets when I roast them. Besides, I might have forgotten them in the oven and come home to dehydrated, or worse, burnt spheres of my favorite root vegetable.

So anyway, here I was with lots of mushy beets to use up. I’ve always wanted to try making pasta with beets so this gave me the perfect excuse. Let’s get started.

Whiz the beets in a food processor until smooth.

Add the eggs, flour and other ingredients. I used 00 flour, the kind that Italians traditionally use for making pasta. If you don’t have it, use regular flour, or add some semolina flour to regular flour. However, it’s easy enough to find 00 flour online, if you don’t have an Italian grocery store, or specialty food shop near you.

The dough is stickier than normal pasta dough – possibly because of those darn overcooked and water-logged beets of mine. So I had to knead in a little more flour on the wooden board. Cover it with plastic wrap and let it rest for at least an hour.

I placed the dough through the pasta machine, spreading a little more flour over the dough each time I passed it through a different thickness. Using a heart-shaped cookie cutter, cut out the heart shapes.

Place a tablespoon of filling over each heart and then using your finger, or a small paint brush, brush a little water around the perimeter of each one. By the way, the goat cheese adds a nice tang to the ricotta and the lemon zest brings a nice “brightness” to it. Don’t skimp on the fresh thyme or the grating of nutmeg either. It’s a delicious combination of flavors.

Cover with a second piece of the pasta, and crimp the edges with a fork.

This dough recipe makes enough for about four dozen ravioli, but frankly, I was getting hungry and wanted to get moving with dinner. So I stopped at about two dozen ravioli and made fettuccine with the rest of the dough. I had some leftover filling, but I’ll use it in a frittata.

Boil the ravioli in abundant, salted water. These were ready in only three or four minutes.

Meanwhile, melt the butter, and add the thyme and hazelnuts. When the ravioli are cooked, transfer them with a slotted spoon or spider to the pan with the butter and hazelnuts. Don’t drain the pasta really well; It’s good if a little water comes along to add to the sauce.

Carefully spoon the pasta into a heated dish and sprinkle some parmesan cheese over everything.

Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone!

 

Click here to find out what’s cooking in Ciao Chow Linda’s kitchen each day (and more).

Image result for hearts

Beet Ravioli with ricotta and goat cheese filling
 
Author:
Recipe type: Pasta - First Course
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 3-4 dozen ravioli
Ingredients
  • FOR THE PASTA:
  • two medium beets (or about 8 ounces pureed beets)
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 large whole eggs
  • about 2½ cups 00 flour
  • salt, to taste
  • FOR THE FILLING:
  • ¾ cup ricotta cheese, drained (preferably overnight)
  • 5 ounces soft goat cheese
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme
  • grated rind of one lemon
  • salt, pepper and the grating of a bit of fresh nutmeg
  • FOR THE SAUCE:
  • ¼ cup butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
  • ⅓ cup roughly chopped hazelnuts
  • parmesan cheese, for sprinkling
Instructions
  1. TO MAKE THE PASTA:
  2. Cook the beets, either by boiling or roasting.
  3. Once they are cool, remove the skin and puree the beets in a food processor until smooth.
  4. Add the salt, and eggs to the beet puree in the food processor, then start adding the flour a little at a time, until the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the food processor bowl.
  5. Remove it onto a well-floured board and knead until smooth and it loses its "stickiness."
  6. Wrap in plastic wrap and let it rest for at least an hour.
  7. TO MAKE THE FILLING:
  8. Drain the ricotta overnight or at least an hour, to remove some of the water.
  9. Place the cheeses and other ingredients in a food processor and mix.
  10. MAKING AND ASSEMBLING THE RAVIOLI:
  11. Cut the dough into four parts and work with one of the pieces, keeping the rest covered.
  12. Run the dough through the pasta machine, flattening and flouring each piece as you go along. Start with the widest setting , dusting the dough each time you feed it through a narrower setting.
  13. On my KitchenAid pasta machine, I stopped at the number four setting.
  14. Using a heart-shaped cookie cutter, cut out heart shapes, then fill with a tablespoon of the cheese filling.
  15. Moisten the edges of the pasta, then place another heart shaped pasta piece on top of the filling.
  16. Crimp the edges with a fork.
  17. Drop into boiling, salted water and cook until the pasta is al dente. For me, this took only about three to four minutes.
  18. TO MAKE THE SAUCE:
  19. Meanwhile, melt the butter in another saucepan, add the thyme and the hazelnuts.
  20. When the pasta is cooked, using a slotted spoon or "spider" drop them into the pan with the butter and hazelnuts.
  21. Don't worry if the pasta is not totally drained. A little water is needed to help make the sauce.
  22. After all the ravioli are in the saucepan, gently toss them to disperse the butter, nuts and thyme.
  23. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and serve.

Lobster Fra Diavolo, 10 Years of Blogging, and a Giveaway

I don’t know about you, but I can’t get my fill of lobster – whether it’s steamed and dipped in butter, or whether it’s lobster fra diavolo, as in this recipe. Some people claim it’s an Italian American invention, but I’m not so sure, after eating it several times on my recent trip to Italy, including one night in Rome with this version:

And a couple of times in Sardinia, as in this interpretation:

and this one below. In Italy, they’re called astice, the Mediterranean version of North American lobsters. Italy also has aragosta, similar to North American lobsters, but without the large claws.

When we returned back to the states, I was determined to make this dish at home. It’s not at all hard to make, but can be pricey depending on the size of the lobsters. But it’s a great meal for a special occasion and can be partly prepared ahead of time, making it easy for entertaining.

A few weeks before making the lobster fra diavolo, we enjoyed a Fourth of July steamed lobster feast with friends, from which I saved and froze some of the carcasses. The broth you can make from these adds a great depth of flavor to the lobster fra diavolo, but if you don’t want to fuss with it (or don’t have the lobster shells ahead of time), use bottled clam juice. I simmered this broth for a couple of hours before straining through cheesecloth. It made way more than I needed for this recipe, so I froze the rest, to be used for other recipes in the future, such as a lobster or shrimp bisque.

I love the sweetness of cherry tomatoes and there were an abundance of them in our garden, so for the sauce, I roasted a bunch with some olive oil at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes, until they split open.

If you don’t want to use fresh cherry tomatoes, or don’t have any, use the canned. The ones packed in Italy are so deliciously sweet, I like to keep a few cans on hand for other recipes too, like my codfish and chickpeas in tomato sauce.

Follow the instructions for the sauce in the recipe below, and simmer for about an hour. You can even do this the day before.

The best way to make this dish is with fresh lobsters. If you don’t have fresh lobsters near where you live, then frozen lobster tails will make a nice substitute. If you do live near a good fish store, your fishmonger can use a knife to quickly dispatch the live lobsters, then clean them and split the tails in two. I also asked him to break off the tails and claws from the main body, and crack the claws so it would be easier to remove the meat once the dish was served. He was more than happy to do it.

When the sauce is cooked, add the lobster pieces. In the time it takes to boil the water for the pasta, the lobster pieces will be cooked. Remove the lobster pieces to a dish and keep covered to stay warm, then add the pasta to the sauce and mix. Place the pasta in a serving bowl and surround with the warm lobster pieces.

Provide plenty of napkins and some way to crack the shells further, if they don’t open enough.

Eating this dish was almost like being back in Italy (almost).

Buon appetito.

And now for the blogiversary and giveaway. Hard to believe that ten years have gone by since I started this blog. I’ve taken a few breaks from blogging now and then when life has thrown me a curve ball, but even then, getting back to blogging has been a catharsis for me. I’ve met so many wonderful people in person because of Ciao Chow Linda, and it has given me a forum to showcase a few things I love doing – traveling, cooking, writing and taking photographs.

In the beginning, my only readers were family, but through the years, so many of you have come aboard the Ciao Chow Linda train and left comments, or sent me emails and I am eternally grateful for your support. I read all of them and they really encourage me to keep doing what I love best.

As a thank you to one of you (I wish I could do this for all of you), I’m offering a giveaway of a $100 gift card to LobsterGram, so you’ll be able to make this lobster fra diavolo or any other recipe you like, using fresh live lobsters sent directly from Maine. All you have to do is leave a comment on the blog telling me what recipe you’d like to see on Ciao Chow Linda (NOT by email), with a way to contact you if you’re chosen (by a computer generated random number). To increase your chances of winning, follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Pinterest, and say so in the comments.

Good Luck!

 

Lobster Fra Diavolo
 
Ingredients
  • To Make The Lobster Broth (This will make a lot and you can freeze what you don't need. Alternatively, you could buy bottled clam juice.):
  • lobster shells from 2 or three lobsters
  • water to cover amply
  • 2 celery sticks
  • 1 or 2 carrots
  • 1 onion
  • a couple of bay leaves
  • salt, pepper
  • To Make the Sauce (This makes more than you'll need for 1 pound of pasta, but you can freeze what you don't use.)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¼ cup minced onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 1 celery stick, minced
  • 3 cans cherry tomatoes (14 ounce cans) - or an equivalent amount of freshly roasted cherry tomatoes
  • 1 cup tomato puree
  • ½ cup dry white or red wine
  • salt, pepper
  • fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • dried red pepper flakes, to taste
  • ¼ to ½ cup lobster broth
  • 2 1½ pound lobsters
  • 1 pound linguini or spaghetti
Instructions
  1. Buy two fresh lobsters and ask your fish monger to kill them while they are still alive.
  2. If you don't have access to fresh lobster, you can always use frozen (and thawed) lobster tails, but fresh is always best.
  3. Have the fish monger remove and crack the claws, and break off the tail, then cut it in half lengthwise.
  4. You won't need the part with the lungs and there is so little meat in the legs (also impossible to extract), so don't bother with those.
  5. Make the lobster broth by placing the lobster shells, onion, carrot, celery, bay leaf, salt and pepper in a large pot, covering amply with water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for a couple of hours and reduce slightly to let the flavors intensify.
  6. Drain through a cheesecloth, discarding all but the broth.
  7. You will need only a small part of this broth.
  8. Save the rest to make other recipes, including lobster or shrimp bisque.
  9. To Make the Sauce:
  10. Sauté the onion in the olive oil until soft.
  11. Add the garlic, celery and carrots and sauté over low heat until softened.
  12. Add the tomatoes, the puree, the wine and seasonings and let simmer for about an hour.
  13. Remove about 1½ cups - 2 cups of the sauce and set aside.
  14. You may want to add some back to the pot later when you add the pasta, but you should have enough to put some in the freezer later for another recipe.
  15. To the remainder of the sauce in the pan, add the lobster broth.
  16. Simmer for another 20 minutes.
  17. Add the lobster pieces to the sauce and cook with the sauce over low to medium heat, with the lid on.
  18. While the lobster is cooking, cook the pasta in boiling (salted) water until al dente.
  19. When the pasta is nearly cooked, remove the lobsters from the sauce and set aside on a covered dish.
  20. Drain the pasta, and add it to the pot with the sauce.
  21. Swirl the pasta in the sauce, allowing it to absorb all the flavors.
  22. The pasta should have enough sauce to cover, but not be swimming in sauce.
  23. If necessary, add some of the reserved sauce.
  24. Place the pasta in a serving bowl or dish, and place the lobster pieces all around.
  25. Serve at once.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Malloreddus alla Campidanese

 

If there’s one dish that’s synonymous with Sardinia, it’s the pasta called “malloreddus.” They’re similar in shape to cavatelli or gnocchi, and in fact you can find them in Italian specialty food stores labeled “gnocchetti Sardi.” But unlike gnocchi, no potatoes are used — just flour and water. And unlike cavatelli, they’re made with semolina flour, not regular flour, giving them a more “toothy” feel.

Depending on whom you ask, the word malloreddus is a diminutive of a Southern Sardinian word “malloru,” which translates to “chubby baby calves.” Another explanation (that makes more sense to me) is that it comes from the Latin word “mallolus” meaning “morsel.” Either way, they are delicious.

You can make the pasta at home using flour, water (and sometimes strands of saffron), but if you’re not up to the challenge, you can buy them in stores or online too.

I ate malloreddus several times during our recent trip to Sardinia, including at an agriturismo, where they were one of two pasta dishes served as primi piatti. The malloreddus are on the right, and a specialty pasta stuffed with potato called “culurgiones” is on the left. More on the agriturismo and the wonderful meal we ate there in another post.

A classic Sardinian recipe, served at all special occasions or for family dinners, is malloreddus alla Campidanese, using saffron in the sauce, rather than in the dough itself, and sausage. In Sardinia, the dish is as ubiquitous as pecorino cheese, another essential ingredient when serving this pasta.

If you use store purchased malloreddus, the dish comes together quickly, and is a real crowd pleaser, even if the crowd is just you and your husband!

Before leaving Sardinian, I want to introduce you to another symbol of this beautiful island in the Mediterranean Sea. It’s the structure called “nuraghe.” Nuraghi (plural of nuraghe) were built between 1900 and 730 BCE (way back in the Bronze Age) by peoples of the Nuragic civilization, of which little is known. There’s no consensus on what these stone structures were used for, but many believe they were used for either military purposes, as homes for rulers or ordinary people, for religious rites or a combination of the above.

It is thought that there were once 10,000 Nuraghi scattered across Sardinia, and the remains of about 7,000 nuraghi can still be found. However, it’s dangerous to visit many on your own because of hazardous conditions. (You wouldn’t want to have huge boulders fall on you!) The one pictured below, Su Nuraxi at Barumini, in the south-central part of the island, is well maintained, however, and a guide takes you through the various levels describing the structure.

You’ll need little guidance however, to dig into this dish of malloreddus all campidanese, so I hope you give it a try:

Malloreddus alla Campidanese
 
Ingredients
  • 1 pound malloreddus pasta
  • ¾ pound sausage
  • 3 T. olive oil
  • ¼ cup minced onion
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 3 cups tomato pureé
  • a few strands of saffron
  • 2 T. water
  • ¼ cup red wine
  • a few fresh basil leaves (or a t. of dried basil)
  • salt, pepper
  • grated pecorino cheese
Instructions
  1. Soak the saffron strands in a tablespoon or two of warm water.
  2. Remove the casings from the sausage and sauté it in the olive oil, breaking it up into small pieces.
  3. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until softened.
  4. Add the tomato puree, the wine, the saffron and the water, the basil, salt and pepper.
  5. Simmer all together for about ½ hour to 45 minutes.
  6. Boil the pasta and add the ragu a little at a time, making sure you don't "drown" the pasta in sauce.
  7. Sprinkle grated pecorino on top before serving.
 

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Lemon Pasta with Roasted Broccoli

I’ll bet a lot of you are like me and decide what’s for dinner by looking in your fridge or pantry to see what’s on hand. In this case, it was a small head of broccoli and a bag of pasta that got my creative juices flowing. But it wasn’t just any pasta – it was this lemon pasta I bought at Claudio’s in Philadelphia a few months ago. I’ve used it before and it’s really as yellow as this photo and perfect for this dish. It’s available by mail order here.

And what better occasion to pick a lemon from my small lemon tree than for this recipe? This plant, which enjoys warm sunshine and moist sea air during the summer, comes indoors for the winter. I’ve had the plant for a few years and while it bore fruit last year too, I waited too long to pick it because I hated to lose the decorative look of the yellow fruit hanging from the branches. By the time I got around to plucking the lemons last year, they had dried out, a mistake I wasn’t going to make this year.

The sauce comes together quickly while the pasta is cooking, so get the broccoli into the oven and start making the sauce, sautéeing the leek and garlic, then adding wine, lemon rind and lemon juice. Add the pasta to the pan just before it gets to the al dente stage, pouring in a little of the pasta water to help it finish cooking.

When it’s al dente, add a small amount of cream and stir to meld all the flavors together. Don’t worry if the sauce is a little loose. Once you add the parmesan cheese, it will thicken a bit.

When the pasta is cooked, add the roasted broccoli, parmesan cheese and mix well. Serve in a warm bowl so the pasta doesn’t cool down too quickly.

 

Lemon Pasta with Roasted Broccoli
 
Ingredients
  • ½ pound pasta
  • a small head of broccoli florets, bottoms peeled
  • olive oil, salt and pepper to season the broccoli
  • 1 leek, sliced (or one large shallot)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1 T. butter
  • rind of half a lemon, minced
  • ½ cup white wine (or Prosecco)
  • juice of half a lemon
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • pasta water
  • ¼ cup parmesan cheese (or more to taste)
Instructions
  1. Roast the broccoli in a 425 degree oven, smeared with olive oil, salt and pepper, for about 15 minutes.
  2. Start the pasta to boil while you make the sauce.
  3. Saute the leek and garlic in the olive oil and butter until softened.
  4. Add the white wine and cook at high heat until reduced.
  5. Lower heat and add the juice of half a lemon (or less if using a "lemon" pasta as I did.)
  6. Cook the pasta until it has about one minute to go, leaving it "al dente" or even a little harder.
  7. Add the cooked pasta to the pot and finish cooking in the liquid, adding pasta water to continue the cooking.
  8. When the pasta is fully cooked, but still al dente, add the heavy cream, and stir in the roasted broccoli florets and parmesan cheese.
 

Pasta With Basil Pesto And Zucchini

Pasta with Basil Pesto and Zucchini

 Is the basil in your garden reaching its peak, but the tomatoes nowhere near being ripe?
Just when you’d like the basil to cozy up to those tomatoes in a salad bowl, these crops never mature at the same time.
If
you prune your basil now however, it will re-sprout a second crop in
time to use with those tomatoes that will ripen in a few weeks.
Don’t cut off all the basil leaves however – just trim back to a
juncture above a pair of leaves.
If
you don’t prune your basil (or at least pinch the tips when they start
to flower), the basil will go to seed and you’ll lose the opportunity
for that second crop.
But what to do with the armful of basil you pick now when they’re aren’t fresh tomatoes for a salad?
That’s easy. Make pesto!
I’ve written posts on pesto before, including pesto with shrimp (click here), and a basic pesto primer (click here) that shows you how to make a real pesto alla Genovese, and how to keep your pesto a bright green color.
Since
I recently had some zucchini from the farmer’s market looking for a
home, I combined it with the pesto and served it over fusilli pasta.
If
you’re a traditionalist (or a glutton for punishment), try making pesto
with a mortar and pestle – the way I had it the first time I ate it in Italy at the home of one of
my cousins.

Not up for so much elbow grease? No problem. It’s a snap to make in a food processor.

You can whir everything together, then start the pasta cooking while you sauté the zucchini.
In the time it takes to boil the pasta, dinner can be on the table.
Buon Appetito!
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Pesto with Zucchini
(enough for one pound of pasta)
2 medium zucchini, sliced into rounds about 1/4 inch thick
2 tablespoons olive oil
These amounts aren’t exact. A lot depends on how firmly you pack the basil
into the measuring cup, how large the garlic cloves are, and of course,
your taste buds.
4 cups basil, loosely packed
2 large cloves garlic
1/4 cut pistachios (or pine nuts)
extra virgin olive oil (as much as two cups, as needed to obtain a loose pesto)
1/4 cup – 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1
pound pasta – trofie, linguini or trenette are common in Italy with
this sauce, but farfalle (bowties) or fusilli (pictured above) are nice
too.
Sauté the zucchini rounds in the olive oil, adding salt and pepper to season. Cook until softened, but not mushy.
Start the water boiling for the pasta while you prepare the pesto sauce.
If using a food processor: Tear leaves from stem, wash, dry and
place in a food processor, along with the garlic, nuts and a small
amount of the olive oil. Start with 1/2 cup and keep adding more until
it flows smoothly when you dip a spoon into it, but not so thin that it
falls off in a stream. Use your judgment.
 Add parmesan cheese if serving immediately. If you’re planning to freeze
it, don’t add the parmesan cheese until after you defrost it and are
ready to serve.
If using a mortar and pestle, start with the washed and dried
basil leaves, garlic and nuts and add a small amount of coarse salt to
help break down the leaves. Pound with the pestle and slowly add a
little bit of olive oil. Keep working the mixture with the pestle and
add the rest of the oil as needed. The process takes a lot of patience
and time.
After
the pesto is made and the pasta is cooked, drain the pasta, holding
onto a half cup or so of the water. You can use this to thin out the
sauce when you’re mixing the pesto into the pasta.

Mix
the pesto with the pasta, then add the sautéed zucchini. Toss
everything together, adding more pasta water if you need to thin out the
sauce. Serve with additional parmesan cheese, if desired.

Penne Alla Vodka

Penne Alla Vodka

It’s anybody’s guess whether this dish is really Italian or not. Some claim the dish was invented at Dante’s, a restaurant in Bologna, Italy. Luigi Franzese, a chef at New York’s Orsini restaurant in the 1970s is also sometimes credited. But other sources relate that a certain James Doty, a graduate of Colombia University, was the originator.
While its origins are murky, the flavor is not.
I’ve never seen it on a menu in Italy, but it’s certainly ubiquitous here in the states and for good reason — it tastes delicious.
It’s also perfect for the home cook owing to its ease of preparation. The whole dish comes together in less than 30 minutes.
It’s also perfect for those of you thinking of meatless dishes to prepare for Lent.
So what are you waiting for?
Pour yourself a Bloody Mary, but set aside a little of that vodka for Penne Alla Vodka.

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Penne Alla Vodka
printable recipe here1 lb. penne pasta

2 T. olive oil
1/2 cup minced onion
3 cloves garlic
4 cups tomato sauce (1 lb. 13 oz. can)
1/2 cup vodka
salt, pepper
red pepper flakes
1/4 cup cream
fresh basil, minced
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for the table.Sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil until wilted. Add the tomato sauce, vodka, salt, pepper and a little of the basil, saving some whole leaves to decorate with at the end.
Cook the sauce over high heat until it starts to “sputter,” then lower immediately to a simmer for about 15 minutes to a half hour, stirring occasionally.

Bring the water for the pasta to a boil, adding salt. Dump the pasta into the boiling water and cook according to package instructions.

While the pasta is cooking, stir the cream into the sauce at low heat. When the pasta is al dente, drain it from the water and add it to the pot with the sauce. (I like to take out a little sauce from the pot in case it is too much sauce for the pasta. I don’t like my pasta to be “swimming” in sauce – just dressed lightly. You can always add it back in if it’s not enough).
Stir the pasta into the sauce while you have it over a simmer, until the sauce is permeated through the pasta. Turn off the heat and add 1/4 cup parmesan cheese.
Serve with more grated cheese at the table.

Christmas Snowflake Pasta

Christmas Snowflake Pasta

 During a recent visit to Williams-Sonoma, I spotted bags filled with this snowflake (fiochi di neve) pasta and knew it would be perfect for this holiday season.

  I have a weakness for pasta shapes, and there are always at least five or six different kinds in my cabinet.
There are umpteen ways you could dress this pasta, but I thought it deserved a festive red and green treatment with Christmas just around the corner. Using just what I had in the fridge and freezer (part of a red pepper, half a bag of peas, some ricotta and parmesan cheese), dinner was on the table in the time it took to boil the pasta.
Of course, you can make this recipe with any pasta shape, but the snowflakes are just so apropos for this time of year. If you do use this snowflake pasta, with this recipe or any other (click here to buy it) take a photo and email it to me. I’d love to see your creation.
Buon Natale!

Christmas Snowflake Pasta
printable recipe here
makes two very generous portions

8 ounces (half a bag) snowflake pasta (available from Williams Sonoma)
1/2 to 3/4 of a red pepper (about 1/2 cup), diced
about 3/4 cup frozen peas
1/4 cup minced onion
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
salt, pepper to taste
red pepper flakes (optional)
pasta water
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
minced parsley

Cook the pasta in salted, boiling water until almost done. It will cook a little longer in the sauce. While the pasta is cooking, make the sauce. Sauté the onion and pepper at low to medium heat in the olive oil until softened. Add the frozen peas and stir. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and red pepper flakes, if desired.
Using a slotted spoon or “spider” tool, drain the pasta right into the pan with the peas and red peppers. It’s ok if some of the pasta water gets into the pan too. In fact, you’ll need to reserve about a cup of the pasta water for this recipe. You may not use all the water – maybe only half of it – but it’s good to have it on hand.
After draining the pasta into the red peppers and peas mixture, add spoonfuls of the ricotta cheese and some of the reserved pasta water. Stir and blend everything together. You want it to be moist, not dry, and you may need to add more pasta water as the pasta continues to absorb it. Keep stirring in the rest of the ricotta and pasta water (at low heat)  until you have the desired consistency – not soupy, but not dry either). Turn off the heat and stir in the parmesan cheese, leaving some to serve at the table. Sprinkle with a little minced parsley and serve.

Corzetti With Pine Nut Sauce

Corzetti with Pine Nut Sauce

 One of the true joys of traveling is discovering people who are maintaining culinary traditions that might otherwise be lost. One of these is undoubtedly Pietro Picetti, who seems to have almost single-handedly breathed new life into the centuries-old tradition of making pasta using a corzetti stamp, sometimes spelled crozetti, corzeti, crosetti, or cruxettu. 

 
 However you spell it, corzetti are delicious, and were traditionally served with a meat sauce, Mr. Picetti said, but now are more likely to be served with a basil pesto or a pine nut sauce.
A banker for 35 years, Mr. Picetti has been hand-carving these beautiful pasta tools for the last 20 years, resurrecting a lost art and a form of pasta that was almost relegated to history.
Three hundred years ago, he said, every family had its own stamp, and noble families had theirs imprinted with the family coat of arms.
The pasta shape is older than that however, since documents in the archives in Genoa attest to the presence of corzetti at a banquet held for the king of Morocco in 1362. But through the centuries, the custom was lost, even in Mr. Picetti’s home town of Varese Ligure, where the local people had nearly forgotten what corzetti were,  he said.
Mr. Picetti owns several corzetti stamps that hail back to past generations of his family, including his great grandfather’s. He even owns one dating back to 1700.
The wood used is either pear, chestnut or beech and the designs are as varied as Mr. Picetti’s imagination. Some are traditional, but others spring from his mind and hands as he’s working the wood.
His customers come from around the globe, including Kazakhstan, Australia, and Korea – at least 50 countries around the world.
Some are special requests, such as restaurants who have a personal emblem, or companies that want their logo imprinted on the stamp. He’s had requests for logo designs of international companies like Alfa Romeo and Trussardi.
I asked Mr. Picetti to make one using my blog name, and this is what arrived in the mail three weeks after I visited his workshop:
Mr. Picetti doesn’t own business cards. Instead, he said, his business card is his corzetti stamp, with his signature printed on the underside of the cutting edge. By the way, never wash the stamp with water, he advised, but just wipe clean with a dishtowel.
I’ve already put my newly purchased stamp to work a couple of times since I got back from Italy less than 10 days ago.  After you cut out the circles with the sharper edge, take one of the pasta disks and place it between the imprinting sections, then press hard. The dough needs to be soft, but covered with a light dusting of flour so it won’t stick to the wood.
Another day, I took the stamp to my dad’s, (and I gave him one of his own too) and we set to work making the recipe included with the stamp. It’s an unusual recipe, to me at least, because when I make pasta, I use only flour and eggs, or only flour and water, but never flour, water and eggs, as Mr. Picetti’s recipe calls for. But I followed the recipe and the dough came out perfectly. (However his lack of measurement in the recipe that includes “a glass of water” left me wondering exactly how big that glass would be.)
The recipe made a lot, and I forgot to count the total amount, but I’m sure it was at least 100 corzetti. We were serving six people at my dad’s house and had plenty.
In the photo below, you can see the imprint of “Ciao Chow Linda” and the fancy design on the other side of my corzetti stamp.
We made two kinds of sauces for our pasta last week — one platter with basil pesto, and the other with pine nuts, parmigiana and butter, just like I ate in Varese Ligure. I think it’s become my new favorite pasta dressing.
Click on the video below and listen to Mr. Picetti speak about corzetti.
For more about corzetti, visit Adri Barr Crocetti’s terrific food blog. She’s written extensively about them and is a great source on all things corzetti. Click here to view one of her posts on corzetti.
And if you can’t get to Mr. Picetti’s workshop, you can order a corzetti stamp from Artisanal Pasta Tools in California. Click here for their website.
And finally, a big thank you to Pamela Sheldon Johns, for sharing lunch with me in Liguria, and for leading me to Pietro Picetti. Click here for more information on her B&B in Tuscany and here for her culinary tours in Italy.



Printable recipe here
Corzetti Dough (Mr. Picetti’s recipe – he says it’s enough for four people, but that would have to be four very hungry people because it makes at least 100 corzetti)
600 grams flour (about 4 cups)
3 eggs
1 glass of salted water (about 8 oz., but don’t dump it all in at once)

Mix the flour eggs and half of the water in a food processor. Turn on the processor and slowly add enough water until you get a soft dough. Remove it from the processor and knead it on the counter until it feels smooth. Cover and let rest for at least 20 minutes. (Alternately, mix by hand by putting the flour into a bowl or on a kitchen counter. Create a “well” and crack the eggs into the center, beating them with a fork and blending them into the flour, adding the water, a bit at a time. Continue kneading for several minutes until the dough is smooth, then let it rest for about 20 minutes).
Run the dough through a pasta machine (or roll by hand) until the dough is thin, but not so thin that it falls apart when pressed on the stamp. Cut out circles using the sharpest edge of the stamp, then place the circle of dough on the stamp and press down.
Cook the corzetti in boiling salted water for about six or seven minutes, and top with sauce and parmigiano cheese.


Pine Nut Sauce  (adapted from Mr. Picetti’s recipe – enough for four people)
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/2 clove garlic (optional)
a couple of sprigs of fresh marjoram or fresh oregano
4 T. butter
a few tablespoons of milk, if necessary
parmesan cheese

Place the pine nuts, garlic and marjoram into a small chopper or food processor. Blend until crushed. Melt the butter in a saucepan, then add the pine nut mixture. If necessary, thin it out with some milk.
Toss with the pasta, and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

Busiati With Pesto Trapanese

Busiati with Pesto Trapanese

  The tomato love continues — Here’s yet another way to use up some of those tomatoes ripening by the bushel in your garden. For those of you without your own vegetable gardens, get yourself to a farmer’s market or roadside stand to buy some, because this recipe is not only delicious, but fast and easy to prepare. A food processor is all you need – no cooking required, except for dropping the pasta into boiling water (and when Italians are ready to boil the pasta, they say “butta la pasta” which literally means “throw the pasta”).

In this case, I used busiati, a long, twisty, corkscrew-like pasta, but if you can’t find it, use fusilli.

Busiati is the traditional pasta shape that’s used with pesto Trapanese, a sauce that hails from Trapani, a city on the western coast of Sicily. The origins of the dish are unclear. Some say it was inspired by pesto Genovese, from Ligurian sailors who were stopping off at Trapani’s port. Others claim it’s derived from Liguria’s agliata, a pasta dish using only olive oil, garlic, walnuts and tomatoes.

Whatever its origin, it’s now become part of my summertime repertoire when tomatoes are plentiful and at their peak.
Here are the cast of characters for this dish: cherry tomatoes (you can use plum or heirloom or any type, really), extra virgin olive oil, whole almonds, garlic, salt, basil, and red hot pepper flakes. I used parmesan cheese but you could also use pecorino cheese.
Keep some of that hot pasta water handy in case you want to thin out the sauce.
My favorite way to eat this dish is hot, although it tastes good lukewarm or cold too.
Everything gets thrown into a blender and whirred until it’s creamy. It may not be the most attractive looking pesto, but it sure tastes great.

 

The sauce is also delicious on broiled or baked chicken or fish, or vegetables, or even as a spread on sandwiches.

But first try it on pasta. I’ll bet it becomes one of your favorite summer meals.



Ciao Chow Linda is also on Instagram, as well as Facebook and Pinterest. Click here to connect with me on Facebook, here for my Pinterest page, and here for my Instagram page to see more of what I’m cooking up each day.
And if you live in the Central N.J. area, join me this Saturday, August 29 at 11 a.m. at the West Windsor Farmer’s Market, when I’ll be on a panel discussion with other food writers and photographers, including Rome-based Katie Parla and NJ Monthly columnist Pat Tanner.



Pesto Trapanese
From Lidia’s Italy
printable recipe here
¾ pound cherry tomatoes, very ripe and sweet
12 leaves fresh basil
⅓ cup whole almonds, lightly toasted
1 garlic clove, crushed and peeled
¼ teaspoon peperoncino
½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for cooking the pasta
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound pasta
½ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated

Rinse the cherry tomatoes and pat them dry. Rinse the basil leaves and pat dry.

Drop the tomatoes into the blender jar or food processor bowl followed by the garlic clove, the almonds, basil leaves, peperoncino and 1/2 tsp salt. Blend for a minute or more to a fine purée; scrape down the bowl and blend again if any large bits or pieces have survived.

With the machine still running, pour in the olive oil in a steady stream, emulsifying the purée into a thick pesto. Taste and adjust seasoning. (If you’re going to dress the pasta within a couple of hours, leave the pesto at room temperature. Refrigerate for longer storage, up to 2 days, but let it return to room temperature before cooking the pasta.)

To cook the spaghetti, heat 6 quarts of water, with 1 tablespoon salt to the boil in the large pot. Scrape all the pesto into a big warm bowl.

Cook the pasta al dente, lift it from the cooking pot, drain briefly, and drop onto the pesto. Toss quickly to coat the spaghetti, sprinkle the cheese all over, and toss again. Serve immediately in warm bowls.