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Muffaletta

Are you wondering what to serve up for Superbowl Sunday? Admittedly, the pandemic has scaled back everyone’s plans, and you might not be gathering in a large group. But just in case you’ve got your own pandemic bubble to feed, or even if you want to make this and give some to neighbors, this sandwich is always a hit.

It’s said to have been created by Italian immigrants in New Orleans. However, many years ago, I was reading a classic Italian book called “Il Gattopardo” and surprisingly came upon a reference to it, when the protagonist, a prince, is on a hunting excursion with the local church organist. “Bevevano il vino tiepido delle borracce di legno, accompagnavano un pollo arrosto venuto fuori dal carniere di Don Fabrizio con i soavissimi muffoletti cosparsi di farina cruda che don Ciccio aveva portato con se.” In English, the title translates to “The Leopard” and the text is as follows: “They drank tepid wine from wooden bottles with a roast chicken from Don Fabrizio’s haversack, with the sweet muffoletti dusted with raw flour which Don Ciccio had brought with him.” If you haven’t read the book, it deals with the changes in Sicilian society during the risorgimento — Italy’s unification movement. It’s one of the most important novels in modern Italian literature and is widely translated in many languages, including English. It was even made into an excellent movie with Burt Lancaster and Claudia Cardinale.

But I digress. Back to the muffaletta as we know it, which many say was first made here in the U.S. at Central Grocery Co. on Decatur Street in New Orleans by Salvatore Lupo, an immigrant from Sicily. My son-in-law and his wife, who live in New Orleans, sent us a jar of olive salad last year from Central Grocery, so naturally we needed to follow through and make our own muffuletta. This jar made enough for two muffaletta sandwiches. If you can’t find olive salad at a store near you, you can even order it from Central Grocery here or even from Amazon, here. 

I added some other ingredients to the olive salad, including fresh celery, parsley, marinated artichoke hearts, and roasted red peppers. You can choose to add more or less of whatever you like. There are no rules.

Aside from the olive salad, you need good bread, Italian cold cuts, and cheese.  A muffaletta is traditionally made with a round loaf, and in fact, I’ve made it in the past with a round loaf as you see below. I used mortadella, Genoa salami, coppa and capicolla, but a finocchiona, prosciutto or soppressata would be delicious here too. I used provolone cheese, but feel free to choose fontina, mozzarella or whatever floats your boat.

You can break with tradition and use a long ciabatta loaf instead of a round one, as I did the last time I made it. My local bread shop had a great assortment.

I came home with this beauty and sliced it in half lengthwise.

I scooped out some of the insides, but you can leave as much or as little interior bread as you like. Then I spread some of the olive salad on the bread.

I added a layer of the meats and cheese, then more olive salad, another layer of the meats and cheeses, finishing off with the olive salad next to the bread.

You’ll need to weigh it down with something heavy, so I covered both sides with parchment paper and placed a heavy cast iron grill pan on top. It went into the refrigerator for at least two hours. You can leave it even longer, but if you keep it weighed down in the refrigerator overnight, you risk getting the bread too soggy from the olive salad.

Last year I took it to my cousin’s Superbowl Party and the ciabatta sliced up easily into at least ten generous pieces.

Or just enjoy Super-Bowl size portions with your own small family.

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Muffaletta
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 large round loaf, or long ciabatta
  • ¼ lb. of Genoa salami
  • ¼ lb. of capocollo
  • ¼ lb. mortadella
  • ¼ lb. of coppa
  • (orr use any combination of Itaian cold cuts you want, including soppressata, finocchiona, prosciutto etc.)
  • ¾ lb. provolone cheese (or fontina or mozzarella)
  • 1 jar of olive salad
  • POSSIBLE ADDITIONS TO THE SALAD:
  • ¼ cup sliced celery
  • 1 small jar of artichoke hearts, chopped
  • roasted red peppers, chopped
  • a few tablespoons minced parsley
  • chopped up jarred giardiniera
Instructions
  1. Slice the bread lengthwise and scoop out some of the interior bread.
  2. Mix the add-ons you like to the jarred olive salad, and spread some of it on the bottom of the bread.
  3. Add a layer of each of the sliced meats, a layer of cheese, more of the olive salad.
  4. Repeat with the meats and cheese, ending up with the olive salad.
  5. Cover with the top portion of the bread, then place some parchment paper, or plastic wrap on top.
  6. Press down with a heavy weight and refrigerate at least two hours to compact the sandwich and blend flavors.
  7. Be careful not to leave it pressed more than six or eight hours or the bread may become too soggy.
 

 

 

 

 

 

Easy Sheet Pan Sausage Dinner

Some days you just don’t feel like fussing too much but want a good, home-cooked meal. This one, that takes just a half hour’s time from start to finish, fits the bill perfectly. In addition to Italian sausage, I choose to add fennel, one of my favorite vegetables, plus small Yukon gold potatoes, red peppers and onions. Everything gets tossed into a sheet pan, drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted at 450 for 30 minutes. I was inspired to make this after seeing a post from my friend Stacey, who used cabbage with the sausage, which also works really well.  Feel free to use cabbage, fennel, peppers, mushroom chunks or even Brussels sprouts. They would all taste great with the sausage.

Stacey also made a mustard sauce that paired well with the sausages, so I followed her lead. I didn’t use the soy sauce the recipe called for, but it was delicious anyway with just the other ingredients. Even though we’re just two people at dinner these days, I always cook at least five or six sausages. We normally finish all the vegetables, but there are always a couple of sausages left over that make great lunch sandwiches the next day. Forget corned beef and cabbage that’s boiled to death — this is so much better – and a dish you’ll want to make again and again. Beer optional, but highly recommended.

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Easy Sheet Pan Sausage Dinner
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • Five or six large links of Italian sausage
  • vegetables of your choosing:
  • small Yukon gold potatoes
  • onions
  • fennel
  • red peppers
  • cabbage
  • Brussels sprouts
  • olive oil
  • seasoned salt (I make this every year by drying my fresh herbs and mixing with Kosher salt)
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • FOR THE SAUCE:
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp grainy mustard
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • sea salt & pepper
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Place the sausage in a large pan.
  3. Slice the potatoes in half and place them cut side down on the pan so they will brown well.
  4. Slice the red peppers in large pieces and scatter around.
  5. Cut the fennel into large chunks an place on the pan.
  6. Cut the cabbage into quarters and place on the pan.
  7. Drizzle a little olive oil on everything (not too much because the sausage will release some oil too).
  8. Sprinkle some seasoned salt and pepper over everything.
  9. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes, flipping everything after 15 minutes.
  10. Meanwhile, while the dinner cooks, make the sauce by combining all the ingredients and whisking together.
  11. Serve separately on the side, or drizzle over everything if you prefer.
 

Passatelli In Brodo

No, it’s not mealworms, as one of my readers on my Instagram page suggested. They’re passatelli, a specialty from the regions of Le Marche and Emilia Romagna, where my mother is from. They’re considered a pasta, but there’s no flour in the dough — unless you count the bread crumbs. In addition to bread crumbs, they’re made with parmesan cheese and eggs, and they’re typically served in a chicken or beef broth. I used a recipe from Pasta Grannies Cookbook and there’s even a video of one of the grannies making passatelli here. You mix all the ingredients together until you have a stiff dough that you can roll into a ball. I used leftover bread crusts from mostly whole wheat bread, hence the brown color. If you prefer a lighter color, use only the interior of white bread that’s been dried on the counter for a while until it crumbles easily in a food processor. After adding the parmesan cheese and egg, it will be a lighter beige, or pale yellow color.

You then press it through a potato ricer, or passatelli maker. I used to have a wimpy ricer and unfortunately, the metal bent much too easily with a stiff dough. But since buying this new one from Fante’s in Philadelphia (they do mail order), it’s not a problem. Alternately, if you have a meat grinder, use that, as one reader of my Instagram page suggested. Still, the dough was so stiff I found it hard to push it through the ricer, until I moved the ricer handles to the edge of my table and used my body weight to press down on it. I kept a plate on the chair below to catch the passatelli as they came out.

I ended up with this amount, perfect for two people.

Drop them into gently simmering chicken broth (if it’s a vigorous boil, they’re likely to disintegrate), and cook only a minute or two, until the passatelli pop up to the surface.

Serve at once, with more grated parmesan cheese on the side. It’s comfort food on steroids, what my husband claims hits him at “the cellular level.”

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Passatelli In Brodo
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 40 grams (1/3 cups) dry bread crumbs
  • 50 grams (1/2 cup) parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • hot homemade chicken broth
Instructions
  1. Mix all the ingredients together until they form a stiff dough.
  2. Roll it into a ball and let it rest for at least ½ hour.
  3. Take some of the dough and place it in a potato ricer or meat grinder.
  4. Press hard to push through until the passatelli start coming through.
  5. Cut them off and place on a plate until ready to cook.
  6. Have the chicken soup at a low simmer.
  7. If it's boiling, the passatelli may disintegrate.
  8. Lower the passatelli into the hot chicken broth and cook only for about a minute or two, or until they float to the surface.
  9. Serve immediately with extra parmesan cheese.
 

 

Pork Chops in a white wine-mushroom sauce

There are days when you have no idea what to eat until an hour before dinner when you open the refrigerator to see what’s languishing in its depths. This recipe springs from such a day, when I had defrosted the pork chops and found some mushrooms in the fridge, on the brink of spoiling. Hunting around for the other ingredients was easy since there’s always wine and chicken broth in the house. If you haven’t got any chicken broth go ahead and substitute a little water instead. If you haven’t got white wine, dry sherry or marsala could easily be substituted, although the taste would be dramatically different with the sweetness of marsala. Get the rice going before you start this dish though, because it will take you only a half hour start to finish.

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Pork Chops in a white wine-mushroom sauce
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 2 pork chops, trimmed of most of the fat around the edges
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • salt, pepper
  • ½ lb. sliced mushrooms, crimini or baby portobello (or whatever you like really)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • ¼ cup chicken stock
  • 1 small squirt of Kitchen Bouquet, optional
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch, mixed with a little water or chicken broth
  • salt, pepper, minced parsley
Instructions
  1. Pat the pork chops dry with a paper towel and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Add the olive oil to a skillet and when it is hot, add the pork chops and let them brown for a couple of minutes on each side.
  3. Remove after they start to turn brown.
  4. Do not cook them all the way through.
  5. Add the butter to the skillet, then the sliced mushrooms.
  6. When the mushrooms start to become a little limp, add the shallots and garlic, season with salt and pepper, and cook until transparent.
  7. Put the pork chops back into the skillet with the mushrooms then pour in the wine and chicken stock.
  8. Add the Kitchen Bouquet, if you have it.
  9. Lower the heat to a slow simmer and cook just until the pork chops are cooked through. It should take no more than five minutes.
  10. Mix the cornstarch with a little water or chicken broth and add to the pan a little at a time, until the sauce starts to thicken.
  11. Sprinkle with parsley and serve with rice or noodles or mashed potatoes.
 

Dutch Baby/German Pancake with Spiced Apples

I’ve been wanting to make one of these eggy treats – called Dutch baby or German pancake –for quite a while and it wasn’t until I saw it being made on America’s Test Kitchen that I finally got around to it. Well, that’s not exactly true. I tried making one about a year ago and it wasn’t exactly photogenic, unless you consider this a beauty (which I don’t).

But I should have had a bit more faith, since the center started to deflate after a minute or two of removing it from the oven, bringing in the sides to form a high ridge above the custardy center. I was starting to become a believer. By the time I spooned all the apples to the interior, it was a vision of deliciousness and we couldn’t wait to dive in.

The key to this Dutch baby’s success has a lot to do with an unusual approach to oven temperature. It seems counter intuitive, but you start it in a cold oven, cranking it to 375 degrees only after you place the pan in the oven. Starting it in a cold oven allows for a slower build-up of heat, so the center can start to set before the oven reaches the temperature necessary to give the highest lift to the rim (which takes about 25 -30 minutes). A lot of Dutch babies have a very thin base, but this technique allows for a thicker center, which is more satisfying to eat and better able to serve as a base for the apple topping. It slipped out very easily from the cast iron skillet I used onto a serving platter.

This apple Dutch baby recipe also calls for the apples to be cooked separately in a saucepan, rather than cooked with the batter, ensuring that you don’t end up with a heavy, leaden pancake.

Spoon the apples over the Dutch baby, then either sprinkle with powdered sugar or serve with maple syrup. Cut a slice or two for yourself. It would be a delicious way to start the new year.

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Dutch Baby/German Pancake with spiced apples
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 ¾ cups (8¾ ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 ½ cups milk
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • FOR THE APPLE TOPPING:
  • 2 large apples
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ⅓ cup water
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
Instructions
  1. Whisk flour, 3 tablespoons sugar, lemon zest, salt, and nutmeg together in large bowl.
  2. Whisk milk, eggs, and vanilla together in second bowl.
  3. Whisk two-thirds of milk mixture into flour mixture until no lumps remain, then slowly whisk in remaining milk mixture until smooth.
  4. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position.
  5. Melt butter in 12-inch ovensafe nonstick skillet over medium-low heat.
  6. Add batter to skillet, immediately transfer to oven, and set oven to 375 degrees.
  7. Bake until edges are deep golden brown and center is beginning to brown, 30 to 35 minutes.
  8. While the pancake is cooking, prepare the apples..
  9. Peel them and cut into ½ inch slices
  10. Add 2 tablespoons butter to a skillet and melt.
  11. Add ½ cup water, ¼ cup brown sugar, ¼ teaspoon cinnamon and ⅛ teaspoon salt.
  12. Cook until the sugar is dissolved.
  13. Add the apples and cover the pan, simmering for five minutes.
  14. Remove the lid and cook for another five to ten minutes, allowing the most of the water to evaporate and the syrup to thicken.
  15. Remove the skillet with the pancake from the oven, and carefully lift out of the skillet onto a serving dish.
  16. Spoon the cooked apple slices to the center of the pancake.
  17. Cut into wedges and serve.
 

Chocolate and Nut-Covered Toffee

Looking for a last minute gift for friends, neighbors or relatives? You still have time to make this, and it’s really great to give away — not just because it’s delicious and a nice thing to do at holiday time, but also because it’s so darn addictive, you’ll have to get it out of the house before you eat it all. It makes a lot, so you’ll have plenty for passing to sweets lovers.

The hardest part is making the toffee, because it can easily burn if you’re not keeping an eye on it. Conversely, if you don’t cook it enough, it will be too soft and won’t have that crunch you associate with toffee. If you have a candy thermometer, you’re one step ahead of the game. I found mine broken in a drawer, so I had to rely on another way to gauge whether it was ready  — dropping a bit from a wooden spoon into a glass of ice water. If it’s still pliable after you’ve dropped it in the water, it’s not done. If it snaps crisply, it’s done, so you can pour the syrup over the nuts and chocolate.

Spread half of the nuts (toasted to bring out the best flavor) over a sheet of parchment paper, then spread  half of the chocolate that you’ve broken up either by hand or in a food processor. Pour the syrup over everything.

After you’ve poured the syrup over the nuts and chocolate, then spread the remaining chocolate over the syrup. Wait a few minutes for the chocolate to soften, then smooth it over the candy with a spatula. Sprinkle the remaining nuts on top and wait for it to cool.

Take a knife, and cut into pieces. If you’re like me, you’ll have a lot of loose bits that won’t look too great as gifts, so save those for yourself to eat out of hand, or for using as an ice cream topping.

Place into attractive boxes, tins or jars, and spread some good cheer to others before you eat it all.

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Chocolate and Nut-Covered Toffee
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 16 tablespoons (227g) unsalted butter, cold
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1½ cups (298g) sugar
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder, optional; for enhanced flavor
  • 3 tablespoons (43g) water
  • 1 tablespoon (21g) light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda, optional (see "tips," below)
  • 2 cups (227g) diced pecans or slivered almonds, toasted
  • 2⅔ cups (454g) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped; or chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. In a large, deep (3 quart) saucepan, melt the butter.
  2. Stir in the salt, sugar, espresso powder, water, and corn syrup, and bring the mixture to a boil.
  3. Boil gently over medium heat, without stirring, until the mixture reaches hard-crack stage (300°F on an instant-read or candy thermometer; you'll be taking it off the heat a few degrees sooner).
  4. The syrup will bubble without seeming to change much for awhile, but be patient; all of a sudden it will darken, and at that point you need to take its temperature and see if it's ready.
  5. (If you don't have a thermometer, test a dollop in ice water; it should immediately harden to a brittleness sufficient that you'll be able to snap it in two, without any bending or softness).
  6. This whole process should take about 10 to 12 minutes.
  7. Pay attention; too long on the heat, and the syrup will burn.
  8. While the sugar is boiling, spread half of the nuts in an even, closely packed layer on a parchment-lined 9" x 13" pan.
  9. Top the nuts with half the chocolate.
  10. When the syrup has reached 295°F, remove from the heat and stir in the baking soda; it will foam up, so use caution.
  11. Pour the syrup quickly and evenly over the nuts and chocolate.
  12. Top with the remaining chocolate and let sit for 2 to 3 minutes, until it softens; spread the chocolate with an offset spatula in an even layer and immediately sprinkle the remaining nuts on top.
  13. While the candy is still slightly warm, pull it out of the pan and use a thin spatula to loosen it from the parchment.
  14. When completely cool, break into uneven chunks.
 

 

 

Ravioli

If there’s a holiday or special occasion in my household, ravioli are bound to be on the menu. They’re my husband’s favorite pasta, conjuring childhood memories of helping his mother by pressing a fork into the edges of each pillow of dough to help secure the filling.

Ravioli also lend themselves to many different stuffings, and I have written posts about them several times —  about pumpkin-filled ravioli in a walnut sauce; about beet ravioli stuffed with goat cheese; and about ravioli stuffed with pears and pecorino cheese.

But when I thought about making them last week to help my dad usher in his 99th orbit around the sun, I realized I’d never really blogged about the basic ravioli in tomato sauce that is the hands-down favorite in my family. I’m here to correct that now, with this bountiful platter of ricotta and parmesan cheese-filled ravioli. I sometimes deviate slightly and add greens to the traditional cheese filling (spinach, swiss chard or even the wild greens I forage for in the spring and freeze) and I’ve included that in the recipe below. Whether I add the greens or just fill them with the cheese, they disappear from the platter before you can say abbondanza.

Let me show you how I make them and hopefully get you inspired. If you take it in steps and make the sauce ahead of time, it won’t seem so daunting. I usually make a big pot of sauce with meatballs and sausage every couple of months, and freeze enough for four or five meals. It’s easy to pull a container from the freezer and just concentrate on the pasta-making itself. For the basic meatballs and sauce recipe, click here.

The dough can be made a day or two ahead of time too, and stored in the refrigerator in plastic wrap. I used to make it the old-fashioned way, by forming a mound of flour, then making a well, adding the eggs, and kneading it until smooth. But years ago, I started using the food processor to do most of the work, and haven’t looked back since. You still have to knead it a little when you remove it from the food processor, but it’s very little labor compared to doing it all by hand. It does need to rest at least a half hour before you proceed to roll it out and shape it into ravioli.

You can roll it out by hand with a rolling pin if you’re a purist (or a masochist), or you can get one of these hand-cranked pasta machines. I’ve had mine for 50 years (yea, I’m old) and it still works great. I keep it at  the shore house for when I’m inspired during the summer.

The rest of the year, I roll out the pasta with the attachment to my KitchenAid mixer, which makes things go a lot quicker.

I have the filling all ready to go though, before starting to roll the pasta. Make sure to drain the ricotta a few hours or overnight. I have used cheesecloth, or even coffee filters to hold the ricotta, with weights on the top. You’d be surprised at how much water comes out. And I always buy the full-fat ricotta cheese. Don’t skimp on the calories here please. The filling in the photo contains wild greens, but as I said, you can omit the greens and just go with the cheeses.

Here’s another nifty tool that I started using a few years ago. It makes much more uniform ravioli, plus you won’t be likely to have ravioli with too much dough around the edges, as you might if you formed them by hand. But this too, is totally unnecessary, and in some ways, the hand-formed ones have a certain nostalgic charm, bringing back more vivid memories from my childhood, as I watched my mother shape them at the kitchen table.

 

 

Here you can see what to do when you make the ravioli using the form. I generally spray the form first with PAM, or brush lightly with oil. Then you place a sheet of the dough over the form, add a spoonful of the filling, wet the edges of the dough with water, and place a second sheet of pasta over the filling.

Press down carefully, starting from the center, to eliminate any air bubbles. Cut off the excess dough from the edges, then flip it out, and cut between each raviolo.

You’ll have perfect, uniform ravioli this way.

Alternately, if you don’t have the ravioli form, place a sheet of dough directly on your counter or board, add dollops of filling, and moisten between the filling with a brush of water, before adding a second sheet of pasta and helping it to adhere.

Then press down gently to eliminate air bubbles, and use a rolling cutter, or a knife, to cut between the individual ravioli.

You don’t really need to make the fork indentations if you’ve sealed between the layers of dough and pressed down properly, but my husband likes this job, and it’s a little more “insurance” to keep the ravioli from bursting open when you cook them in water. By the way, after they come to an initial boil in the water, lower them to a simmer,  since a vigorous boil could also cause them to rupture.

With the leftover scraps, I roll out the dough again, but the more you add the leftover scraps together and reroll them, the tougher they get. So I cut them into small “quadretti” to use in soups, where the texture is less important.

I made the ravioli last week to bring to my dad, who lives about an hour away, with his wife. (I also kept a bunch for my husband or there would have been mutiny). My dad was recovering from some dental work and could eat only soft foods, but it was also part of my gift to him to celebrate his birthday. It’s hard to fathom that he was born nearly 100 years ago — the year Warren Harding was inaugurated president of the U.S.; the year Babe Ruth achieved 139 home runs; the year of the first Miss America contest in Atlantic City; and the year that the police in Sunbury, Pennsylvania, issued an edict requiring women to wear skirts at least 4 inches below the knee!  Until the pandemic, he was still occasionally playing golf and beating guys much younger than he. I hope I’m as nimble and sharp-witted when (and if) I get to be his age!

I love making pasta, I love maintaining family food traditions, and I love my dad.

I hope you make ravioli for someone you love too.

It’s a win-win for everyone — including you, especially if you give yourself a big serving!

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Ravioli
 
Author:
Serves: Makes about 40-50 ravioli
Ingredients
  • FOR THE FILLING:
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 pound whole milk ricotta cheese, drained overnight if possible
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese
  • a few sprigs of parsley, finely minced
  • optional - ¾ cup chopped spinach or wild greens, or broccoli rape, cooked and squeezed tight of liquid
  • salt, pepper
  • nutmeg
  • FOR THE PASTA:
  • 1½- 2 cups flour, adding more as needed
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 eggs
Instructions
  1. Mix the ingredients for the filling. If using frozen spinach, don't cook it. Let it thaw, then squeeze all the liquid, or as much as possible from the spinach. If using wild greens or broccoli rape, cook in water until tender, then drain, cool, and squeeze out all water possible. Mince and mix with other filling ingredients.
  2. For the pasta, blend everything in a food processor. It's best to start with less flour and add more as you need, since it's much more difficult if you have too much flour and not enough liquid. Blend everything until the dough comes together in a ball. If it's too wet, add more flour. Knead a little more on a floured surface until it's very smooth, like a baby's bottom. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rest at least a half hour.
  3. After it has rested, roll it through a pasta machine, starting with the thickest setting and ending up about two settings short of the thinnest setting. Try to roll it out so that you have an evenly long piece of dough that will fit across your ravioli form. If you're not using a ravioli form, just lay out the dough on the counter, drop about a tablespoon of filling, evenly spaced across the dough, then cover with another layer of dough. Spread a little water with your finger, along the edges, to help the sealing. Starting from the middle, press down on the spaces between the ravioli, working out to the edges. Using a pasta/pastry crimper (or a knife if you don't have one), crimp the dough between the filling, then separate the ravioli, and use a fork to crimp along the edges, ensuring the ravioli don't open when boiled.
  4. When cooking in the boiling water, lower the temperature so that the ravioli just come to a low simmer, or low boil. If they boil too vigorously, you risk bursting the ravioli.
  5. Serve with your favorite sugù, or sauce.
 

 

 

Crumiri (Cornmeal cookies)

Need a coffee break after all that shopping and wrapping gifts? Ma certo! And you’ll need something to go with that, no? These crumiri cookies, traditional in Italy’s Piedmont region, are the perfect treat to accompany a good cup of espresso. They’re sweet, but not overly sweet. In fact, a sprinkling of powdered sugar or drizzle of chocolate adds just the right touch to make these cookies stand out. They’d also make a great gift to ship to some of those friends and relatives you can’t see due to the Covid pandemic.

The hardest part is squeezing the dough through a piping bag. After my initial attempt, when I put all of the dough in the piping bag, I realized it would be easier if I put only about 1/4 of the dough at a time. It was pretty easy after that adjustment. But if you don’t have a piping bag, you can just roll the dough into logs, then shape into “horseshoes” and bake that way.

You won’t get the ridges that give the cookies the distinctive shape that comes with a piping tip, but they’ll still be delicious. I used white cornmeal because that’s the only type I had on hand, but if you have yellow cornmeal, they’ll be a prettier color and closer to the traditional crumiri you see in Italy.

To drizzle with chocolate, just melt a few squares of dark chocolate (or milk chocolate, if you prefer), and scoop it into a pastry bag. You don’t need a special tip, just snip a bit off the bottom of the bag.

Then drizzle some, and leave others just coated with confectioners’ sugar.

Don’t forget to get the espresso brewing!

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Crumiri (Cornmeal cookies)
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • recipe from Carol Field's "The Italian Baker"
  • 1½ sticks plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • pinch of salt
  • ⅔ cup plus 1 tablespoon fine yellow cornmeal (I had only white so that's why my cookies aren't yellow in the photos)
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar in a mixer bowl until very lkight and fluffy.
  3. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition.
  4. Sift the flour, salt and cornmeal together and sift again over the batter.
  5. Mix well.
  6. To shape the cookies, I used a pastry bag with a large star tip and piped the dough into curved horseshoe shapes.
  7. If you prefer to roll them, you can roll pieces of the dough, each about the size of a large walnut, then bend each rolled log into a horseshoe shape.
  8. Bake at 325 until lightly golden, which for me took about 15 minutes.
  9. Cool on racks and sprinkle with confectioner's sugar or stripes of melted chocolate.
 

Pumpkin Mascarpone Pie

Are you “pumpkined-out?” I can’t blame you if you are since you’ve probably been gobbling the remaining leftovers since Thanksgiving — and I know for a fact that some folks (you know who you are) have even raided the refrigerator for a pumpkin pie breakfast. Still, this recipe (adapted from Everydaypie.com) is so delicious I just couldn’t wait until next Thanksgiving to share it. There’s no shame in baking another pumpkin pie before the season is out. I used a “cheese pumpkin” for this recipe, which gave it an exceptional flavor, but you can certainly use canned pumpkin instead. Actually, you could even make this pie with different squashes too, or even pureed sweet potatoes. Whatever you do, make sure you prick the crust and blind bake it before filling it or you’ll end up with a wet bottom — and who wants that?

To blind bake the crust, I usually butter one side of a piece of aluminum foil and place it into the uncooked pie crust, then gently pour in some beans to weigh it down. These beans have been reused countless times over the decades. They’re at least thirty years old, if not older.  I just store them in a tin until I need them again. Follow the instructions in the recipe below.

Place dollops of the mascarpone filling atop the pumpkin, then swirl them in using a knife, or chopstick. Since I was using some pumpkin I had leftover from another recipe, I had only about 1 1/2 cups and it really didn’t fill the crust as high as I would have liked. Try to use about 2 cups of pumpkin, which is what you’ll get from a 15 ounce can.

I have to say that this was really one of the best pumpkin pies I’ve ever eaten, and I don’t know if it was because of using the cheese pumpkin, the addition of mascarpone, the mixture of spices, the perfectly baked crust or a combination of all of them. I do know that I’ll be making this again and I won’t wait for next Thanksgiving to do so. I hope you try it too. Don’t forget to add the whipped cream on top!

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Pumpkin Mascarpone Pie
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1–9″ pie crust, homemade or purchased, blind baked (see instructions below)
  • 1 cup (8 ounces; 227 grams) mascarpone cheese, room temperature
  • ¼ cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs, divided
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (This turned the mascarpone a beige color, so I might eliminate it next time and just add the vanilla to the pumpkin instead.)
  • ½ cup packed (100 grams) light brown sugar
  • 1–½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
  • Pinch cloves
  • 1 (15 ounce) can 100% pumpkin puree (I used 1½ cups of freshly cooked and drained pumpkin but 2 cups would have been better)
  • heavy cream for whipping and decorating the top of pie
Instructions
  1. TO ROLL AND BLIND BAKE THE PIE CRUST:
  2. Roll out the pie dough to an 11″ circle and line a 9” pie plate, crimping the edges as desired.
  3. Prick the bottom of the dough all over with a fork to let steam escape during baking. Place the pie in the freezer for 30 minutes to let the pie dough chill.
  4. While dough is chilling, preheat oven to 375ºF.
  5. Remove the pie from freezer and line the pie dough with a parchment round piece of paper (or aluminum foil that is greased on the side that touches the pie dough) and then add pie weights (or dry rice or beans or lentils) to fill the pie shell, making sure to push pie weights to the edges.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes on the lower rack, then remove from oven and remove the parchment and pie weights.
  7. Return to oven and bake for an additional 10 minutes.
  8. Set aside until ready to use. Lower the oven to 325ºF.
  9. ASSEMBLE THE FILLING:
  10. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the mascarpone and the sugar, until smooth.
  11. Add in 1 egg and beat until thoroughly combined.
  12. Scoop out ½ cup of the mascarpone mixture and set aside.
  13. Then, add to the mascarpone mixture the remaining eggs, vanilla, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and pumpkin puree.
  14. Beat together until fully combined.
  15. Add half of the pumpkin filling to the fully baked pie crust.
  16. Spoon in a few dollops of the set aside mascarpone filling to the pumpkin mixture.
  17. Then, pour the remaining pumpkin mixture over the top. Spoon drops of the remaining mascarpone mixture.
  18. Using a knife, chopstick or toothpick gently swirl through all layers of the pumpkin filling to achieve a marble effect.
  19. TO BAKE:
  20. Bake the pie on the middle rack for 45-55 minutes, or until the pie reaches a temperature of 180ºF and the outer edges have started to puff up but the center is still slightly wobbly.
  21. Remove from the oven and let cool at room temperature before placing in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours to finish firming up.
 

 

Pappardelle with Beef Ragù and Chestnuts

OK, now if this pasta dish has you drooling, let me tell you it’s really easy to make and so delicious you’ll be eating seconds and thirds and fending off marriage proposals from anyone who tries it. Of course, that assumes you make your own pappardelle, following the instructions here. But if you don’t have the time or inclination to make your own pasta and instead buy a good quality pappardelle, and serve this ragù as the accompaniment, you’re still likely to have suitors filling up your dance card after they fill their stomachs.

It all starts with that beef stew I recently posted. I asked you to put some aside in the freezer for a reason (before adding the peas and carrots.)

When you defrost it, add a 1/2 can of Italian cherry tomatoes with the juices. It’s not the same with fresh cherry tomatoes, so make sure you buy the canned ones. If it’s hard to find canned cherry tomatoes where you live, you can buy them online at many places, including here. By the way, I have no financial interest in this brand or any other, so choose whatever brand you like.

 

 

After you’ve added the tomatoes, some wine, chestnuts and a little seasoning, let everything simmer for another 1/2 hour to 45 minutes to blend the flavors. You’ll get a thick and flavorful ragù that is just begging for some pasta to keep it company.

I was lucky to find fresh chestnuts from Italy in the produce section at my local grocery store. You’ll see plenty of sealed bags of chestnuts on the shelves that are already peeled and cooked, but they come from China, and I’m leery of the quality control, so I always seek out the Italian ones. The fresh ones are not that hard to cook and clean. Just cut a slit or make a cross cut in each chestnut; place them in a pan with cold water; let it come to a boil; boil for two or three minutes, then drain the water and roast the chestnuts in a 425 degree oven for about 15-20 minutes. They should be fully cooked by then. It’s easier to peel them when they’re hot, and some of the skins will peel off easily. Others are a little more resistant, but for this recipe it doesn’t matter if the chestnuts come off in one piece. You’ll be breaking them up to put in the sauce anyway. (But munch a few with a good glass of wine while you’re peeling them too!)

Get the pasta water boiling (“Butta la pasta,” as we say in Italian) and add the pappardelle, then toss the pasta with the sauce.

My mouth is watering just looking at this dish. By the way, you can freeze any of those chestnuts if you’ve cooked more than you need for this recipe. With chestnut season so short, you’ll be glad you did. As the dish below says, take your photo first, then dig in.

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Pappardelle with Beef Ragù and Chestnuts
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 2 cups leftover beef stew (without carrots or peas or potatoes - just the meat and the sauce)
  • 1 cup canned cherry tomatoes with the juice (1/2 of a 14 oz. can)
  • ½ cup red wine
  • 1 teaspoon of finely minced fresh rosemary
  • 1 cup cooked chestnuts, broken into pieces
  • pappardelle (about 1 lb.)
Instructions
  1. Take the leftover beef stew, and cut, or shred the chunks of beef into small pieces.
  2. Place the beef in a saucepan with the canned cherry tomatoes, the wine, the chestnuts and the rosemary and let it all simmer for about ½ hour to 45 minutes.
  3. Boil the pasta until it is cooked and toss gently with the sauce.