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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.
 

 

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.
 

 

 

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.
 

 

Saffron Fazzoletti with Sausage and Mushrooms

Fazzoletti (the Italian word for handkerchiefs) is a pasta I’ve been wanting to make for a long time, after eating it years ago at Le Virtù, a favorite Philadelphia restaurant. I finally got in the fazzoletti-making mode a couple of weeks ago and decided to channel fall flavors, with sausage and mushrooms in the sauce. But to kick it up a further notch, I added saffron to the dough. Saffron is expensive here in the states, but a little goes a long way. It’s a lot less expensive in Italy, and it’s much fresher if you buy it near the source (Abruzzo is famous for its saffron from Navelli). So whenever I’m in Italy, I buy saffron, whether in a pretty little ceramic container, as I bought in Santo Stefano di Sessanio, or in paper packages, that you can find in any supermarket in the country. One of my very favorite ways to use it is in the classic risotto alla Milanese, a recipe I wrote about here.

The dough is made with OO flour, the gold standard when making pasta, with its fine, soft grain and high gluten content. I added two of the small glassine envelopes of saffron to the dough, after dissolving it in a tablespoon of warm water. And yes, you can taste the saffron in the pasta, although it is subtle. Dump everything into a food processor, leaving some of the flour aside because when you’re making an egg/flour pasta,  it’s much easier to add more flour to a wet mixture than add more eggs to a dry pasta mixture. Feel free to mix it on the countertop, but you’ll need a lot more muscle. Even with the food processor, take it out and knead it on the counter, adding more flour if it’s too sticky, and kneading it until it’s as soft as a baby’s bottom. Cover it and set aside for at least a half hour, which gives the gluten time to relax and do its thing. It’ll be much easier to work with as a result.

This is the amount of pasta I made using the recipe below. As you can see, I made about a dozen fazzoletti, that each measured 4″ x 4″, plus a lot of pappardelle that I plan to use in a separate recipe. Of course, you can always buy packaged pasta, or even fresh pasta in the refrigerated section, but you’ll have a hard time finding fazzoletti pasta, and there’s nothing quite so delicious as home made. I had a few scraps left over and cut them into thin spaghetti that I’ll most likely use in chicken soup.

The sauce comes together quite quickly, with some olive oil, herbs, sausage, shallots and mushrooms, all cooked in one pot.

Lift the cooked fazzoletti from the boiling water directly into the sauce, letting some of the water come along with it. Stir and mix everything together gently so you don’t rip the pasta. Add more of the pasta water, if needed.

Serve on a large platter, sprinkled with a drizzle of olive oil, some parmesan cheese and minced parsley.

Wait till you bite into this toothsome, yet silky pasta with these complementary flavors. If you’re like me, you’ll have a hard time stopping at one bowl.

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Saffron Fazzoletti with Sausage and Mushrooms
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • FOR THE PASTA:
  • 2 cups flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 packages (glassine envelopes) of saffron
  • 1 tablespoon hot water
  • FOR THE SAUCE
  • 1½ links of sweet Italian sausage (about ½ pound)
  • 8-10 small portobello (or cremimi) mushrooms
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ olive oil
  • fresh sage leaves
  • fresh thyme leaves
  • salt, pepper
  • minced parsley
  • a little pasta water
  • parmesan cheese
Instructions
  1. Dissolve the saffron in the hot water.
  2. Place the flour (keep ½ cup of the flour aside) and eggs and the watered down saffron into a food processor (or mix by hand if you have the strength).
  3. If the dough is too sticky, add the rest of the flour, a little at a time.
  4. When the mixture has turned into a ball, remove to a wooden board.
  5. Knead a bit more (keeping flour on the board) until the dough is smooth.
  6. Shape it into a ball (or two balls) and wrap in plastic wrap, or keep covered under a bowl.
  7. Let the dough rest for a half hour.
  8. When ready to shape the dough, roll it by hand to a thin consistency, or using a pasta machine, roll it to the smallest number on the setting.
  9. For the fazzoletti, cut into 4 inch squares.
  10. This recipe makes a lot of fazzoletti, but you can shape some of it into fettuccine, or pappardelle or other shapes and reserve for other meals.
  11. I used 12 fazzoletti for two people and it was plenty for a meal.
  12. If you're making it as a first course, you will want fewer fazzoletti for two people.
  13. Boil the fazzoletti in ample salted water and add to the sauce.
  14. FOR THE SAUCE;
  15. Add half the olive oil to a large saucepan.
  16. Heat to a medium heat, and add the sausage, crumbling it into pieces, and removing the casing.
  17. Wash the mushrooms and cut into quarters.
  18. Add the mushrooms to the sausage and when almost cooked, add the minced shallot and garlic.
  19. Add the fresh sage leaves and thyme leaves and let everything cook for about 10 minutes.
  20. Start cooking the fazzoletti in the boiling water.
  21. They should take only a few minutes to cook.
  22. Meanwhile, if the sauce looks too dry, add some of the pasta water.
  23. Drain the fazzoletti and add to the sauce.
  24. Don't worry if some of the water comes along with it.
  25. Gently stir the pasta into the sauce, letting it absorb the flavors, and reducing the water.
  26. Season with salt and pepper.
  27. When the water is nearly all gone, add the rest of the olive oil.
  28. Toss gently into a serving bowl, and sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese and minced parsley,
 

 

Foglie D’Ulivo with Browned Butter Pine Nut Sauce

Aren’t they cute? I was enchanted by this shape of pasta and learned to make it following a video by Rosetta Costantino on her excellent Instagram page. They’re called foglie d’ulivo (olive leaves). This pasta shape is widely known across Italy, but originally is from the Apulia region. It’s made similarly to orecchiette, another specialty of Apulia, but instead of forming round little “ears,” the leaf-like shape requires a different technique.

You can make this with plain white or whole wheat flour, but I added spinach to the dough to attain the bright green color, mimicking actual leaves. After making the dough, (and letting it rest at least a half hour), roll it out into snake-like shapes, then cut into small pieces, which you then roll into smaller “logs” that are slightly more lumpy in the center.

Here is a step by step demonstration of me shaping the pasta leaves.

It takes a little practice, but after a few minutes of trying, you’ll be an expert and these adorable little leaves will be the beautiful result of your labor.

I served them in two different ways – with a browned butter sauce and pine nuts, plus a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.

Another time I tossed them with a summer salsa verde that was featured in Food 52 and includes mint, parsley, basil and capers. We liked it, but thought we might like the salsa better over fish or vegetables.

We much preferred the browned butter/pine nut sauce over this pasta, or a traditional basil pesto. You might also like it with a red sauce, but I would keep it light and use fresh tomatoes (maybe even small cherry tomatoes) so the color and shape of the green leaves don’t disappear in the sauce.

If you’ve never made pasta at home before, foglie d’ulivo may seem a bit daunting. Want to increase your knowledge of making pasta, with a really comprehensive guide to everything pasta – from the ingredients to the techniques?  It’s an online cooking school run by two sisters in Rome, Benedetta and Valeria, who started their company, Local Aromas, to teach people about Italian food. Knowledgeable, enthusiastic and passionate about Italy and its food, they conduct food tours in Rome in addition to their online slate of classes.

They started with courses on pasta and gnocchi but plan to expand in the future to include other foods and wines too. In their classes, you’ll learn why certain flours are used for certain pastas, how to make the dough and shape it to specific types of pasta, from farfalle to fettuccine and much more. Especially during this pandemic, if you can’t get to Italy and are looking for a great way to learn a new skill, sign up for a class at Local Aromas.

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Spinach Foglie D'Ulivo with Browned Butter Pine Nut Sauce
 
Author:
Serves: 4 servings
Ingredients
  • FOR THE PASTA:
  • 1 10-ounce box frozen spinach, thawed
  • 2 cups 00 flour
  • 2 eggs
  • pinch of salt
  • FOR THE SAUCE:
  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
  • parmesan cheese, to taste
Instructions
  1. FOR THE PASTA:
  2. Drain the spinach thoroughly, squeezing out all the water you can with your hands.
  3. Then press it with paper towels to get out any remaining water.
  4. Place the spinach and the two eggs into the food processor to break down the spinach.
  5. Start adding the flour.
  6. You may need as little as a cup and a quarter of flour.
  7. It's easy to add more flour later, but much harder to work the dough if you place too much flour into the food processor.
  8. Add just enough flour and process until the dough comes together into a ball.
  9. It will be sticky.
  10. Place the dough onto a wooden work surface, add more flour until the stickiness disappears and the dough seems more "homogenized" and softer.
  11. Cover the dough with plastic wrap or a bowl and let it sit for at least ½ hour.
  12. To make the foglie, take a piece of the dough and roll it out to a snake-like shape, about ½ inch thick and about 6 to 8 inches long.
  13. If you roll it too long, it's harder to handle.
  14. Cut off small bits of the snake-like roll.
  15. Roll the small bit so it is a bit thinner on the ends than in the middle,
  16. Holding one part of the dough with one hand, use a knife or spatula in the other hand and press down on the dough, sliding the knife or spatula along the dough.
  17. Shape with your fingers to make the ends more like a "point" of a leaf if you like.
  18. Cook the pasta in abundant salted water.
  19. If you let the pasta dry overnight, it will take longer to cook, maybe as long as 15 minutes, depending on the thickness.
  20. Meanwhile, take the butter and place it in a saucepan.
  21. Cook it on medium heat until it starts to turn tan.
  22. It can burn easily, so be careful not to let it get to that point.
  23. Add the toasted pine nuts, then the drained pasta and toss everything together.
  24. Place in a serving bowl, then sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
 

Summer Minestrone

It doesn’t matter whether it’s winter or summer, but for me, soup is always welcome at the table. And when you’ve got summer produce like zucchini, beans and corn at their freshest, why not make a minestrone soup and combine them all, adding some carrots and celery along the way? Don’t forget the pasta too, which in this case was some homemade pasta scraps I cut out and left to dry after a ravioli-making session a while ago. If I hadn’t used homemade pasta bits, I would have tossed in some store-bought ditalini or orzo pasta or maybe even elbow macaroni. I normally cook the pasta in a separate pot of water and add it to the soup when I’m doling it out into the bowl. Otherwise, if you’ve got leftover soup and have added too much pasta to start with, you’re likely to end up with hardly any broth. By the way, this soup is even better the second day, when it’s had more time for all the flavors to blend and the starch from the beans is released to make it a bit thicker.

There is no meat in this soup recipe, but feel free to use some chicken or beef broth if you like. But it’s got plenty of flavor without it, especially if you’ve added the corn cobs to the broth and a parmesan rind or two. Don’t forget to take them out before serving though, or someone could be in for a surprise! Also, the amounts and varieties of the vegetables are up to you. If you want more corn, add it. Or if you don’t like beans, leave them out. Mix and match with whatever suits your fancy.

By the way, I was so thrilled to post this soup using this bowl, which brought back memories of my mother and something she used to say quite often at the table when I was growing up.

For those of you who don’t speak Italian, here’s the translation: “Either eat this soup, or jump out the window.” Fortunately my mom was a great cook, hence we had no window jumpers in my family.

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Summer Minestrone
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup minced onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 stalks of celery, minced
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1½ cups chopped green beans
  • 2 cups chopped zucchini
  • 8 cups water
  • a parmesan cheese rind
  • 1 cup pureed plum tomatoes
  • 1 can white beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can red or black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 ears of corn, stripped off the cob, but retain the cob to put in the pot
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • fresh basil, thyme and parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • ditalini, elbows or orzo pasta
  • parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top
Instructions
  1. Place the olive oil in a large pot, and sauté the onion, garlic and celery until soft but not browned.
  2. Add the carrots, green beans, zucchini, water, parmesan cheese rind and tomatoes.
  3. Add the salt, pepper and fresh and dried herbs.
  4. Cook everything together at a low simmer for 45 minutes, adding the corn cobs.
  5. Remove the corn cobs from the pot and add the beans and the corn kernels.
  6. Cook for another ½ hour.
  7. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in water in a separate pot.
  8. When the vegetables are cooked, add some of the pasta to the soup and serve in bowls.
  9. If you're not serving all the soup at once, wait to add the pasta, otherwise the pasta will become overcooked and mushy when you reheat it.
 

Spaghetti with Tuna Fish

I don’t know about you, but if you’re trying to avoid contracting the dreaded Coronavirus, you’re taking far fewer jaunts to the supermarket these days.  I’m trying to stretch out my trips to every ten days or more, (and I enter the store donned in a mask and gloves) and that’s mostly to stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables. I’m sure that even before this health scare, I had enough provisions in my pantry to keep us fed for a couple of weeks — dry beans, pastas, canned tomatoes, rice, canned sardines, tuna and even some canned artichokes are all staples I normally have on hand. I decided to put some of the tuna and pasta to work and make a meatless meal on a Lenten Friday. It’s a recipe that I learned from my Abruzzese mother-in-law decades ago but I hadn’t made in ages. Now seemed just the right time to dust it off, with a few additions of my own. It comes together in the amount of time it takes to boil the pasta, so it’s a great time saver and kids generally love it too. I added scallions and capers to mine, which my mother-in-law never did, but they amp up the flavor quite a bit. You could even add some anchovy if you like, as I saw in a recent New York Times recipe. The recipe is very adaptive to what you have on hand, so don’t make a special trip to the store for anything. If you haven’t got scallions, use minced onion or shallot, or leave them out altogether. I also used a fair amount of parsley and chives that seem to have sprung up overnight in my deck planter. Feel free to substitute and improvise with other herbs if you don’t have those handy. Even dried herbs will work in a pinch.

Mix all the ingredients together while the pasta is boiling, then add the cooked pasta to the pan just before it reaches the al dente stage, along with some pasta water. Stir everything together for another minute or two, adding more water if necessary, to finish the cooking to the al dente stage.

Sprinkle with more fresh herbs just before serving and dig in. Stay healthy readers. And wear a mask if you must go out in public.

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Spaghetti with Tuna
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 large cloves garlic
  • 6 small scallions (or three large ones)
  • 1 5 oz. can tuna fish, drained
  • two tablespoons capers
  • ¾ cup pasta water, more or less
  • freshly minced chives and parsley
  • a sprinkle of red pepper flakes
  • ½ pound spaghetti or linguini
Instructions
  1. Place the oil in a saucepan and add the garlic and scallions.
  2. Meanwhile, start cooking the pasta.
  3. Sauté until soft, then add the tuna, breaking it up with a fork.
  4. Add the capers, red pepper flakes, half the herbs and about ¼ cup of the pasta water.
  5. Finish cooking the pasta until almost al dente and add the drained pasta nto the pan with the tuna.
  6. It's fine if a little water comes with the pasta since you'll want to add more water anyway.
  7. Add some of the pasta water and swish the pasta thoroughly through the sauce, adding more water if necessary to finish cooking the pasta.
  8. Add the other half of the herbs and serve immediately.
 

 

Pear and Pecorino “Ravioli”

Many years ago, when my daughter was a student in Florence, Italy, she took us to a restaurant called “Quattro Leoni” where I first ate little bundles of pasta wrapped around pear and pecorino cheese. I’ve been wanting to make them at home for years and finally got around to trying, inspired by the restaurant in Florence.

I’ve got time on my hands these days, as many of you do, with so many people quarantined due to the Coronavirus outbreak. I hope and pray that the deaths around the world will soon taper off and stop, especially for Italy, where more people have died from the illness than anywhere else in the world. Meanwhile, stay indoors and keep “social distancing” when you need to go out. Wear a mask if you have one, even if it’s not an N-95. My brother-in-law, who is a leading aerosol scientist in the world and studies movements of aerosols (small airborne particles), says that spray droplets are huge and that almost any cloth should stop them effectively. If you must be in situations where you encounter people, breathe through a cloth covering of some sort. There are many links on Youtube showing how to sew your own mask like this one, even some that don’t require sewing, like this one.

A great stress reliever in these troubling times is pasta making. I won’t give a primer on how to make the pasta, but there are instructions in the recipe below and if you want more detail, click here on how to make homemade pasta. I used “OO” flour from Italy, or you could use a combination of semolina and all-purpose flour. In a pinch, all-purpose flour will do.

My version is slightly different from Quattro Leoni, in both the shape and the sauce. Their’s look more like little purses, but I decided to try shaping mine into these small bundles instead. And their sauce was made with taleggio cheese and asparagus – so delicious but I had neither in the house so used butter, sage and walnuts with a sprinkling of pecorino on top.

After you’ve kneaded the pasta dough, you need to let it rest a half hour, so take that time to make the filling. I used a mixture of pear, pecorino and ricotta cheese, with a little white pepper.

Mix it all together very well.

Dab a teaspoonful onto each 3″ x 3″ square. In the background, you can see I pieced together some strips of pasta so I could make continuous strips without having to knead the scraps back together and roll them out a second time. Each time you roll the pasta, it will get tougher, so try to avoid doing that. Just make sure you wet the edge of the strips so the pasta adheres. You don’t want it separating when you cook it in the boiling water.

To help you shape the pasta into the little bundles, I made this short video with instructions:

The recipe below makes enough for about 20-22 bundles, and I made small “quadretti” with the scraps, to use in some soup.

While the pasta is boiling, put together the sauce by melting some butter, adding sage and chopped walnuts.

Drain the pasta loosely, leaving a little water on each one as you place it directly into the pan. Add more butter and more of the pasta water if you want more sauce, but this was a rich dish and I didn’t feel the need for additional calories.

This serves two people generously as a main meal, and would even be enough for four if you’re serving it as a first course. But if you’re cooking for more people, you can easily double the recipe. Sprinkle grated pecorino on top and enjoy.

Click here to connect with me on Instagram and find out what Ciao Chow Linda is up to in the kitchen (and other places too.)

Pear and Pecorino "Ravioli"
 
Author:
Serves: makes about 20-22 ravioli
Ingredients
  • FOR THE PASTA:
  • 1¼ cups flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • FOR THE RAVIOLI STUFFING:
  • 1 cup grated pecorino cheese
  • ½ cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 pear, cut into small dice
  • ¼ tsp. white pepper
  • pinch of salt
  • FOR THE SAUCE:
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • some fresh sage leaves
  • ¼ cup walnuts, chopped
  • fresh pecorino cheese to grate on top
Instructions
  1. FOR THE PASTA:
  2. Put the flour into a food processor, along with the eggs and salt.
  3. Process it for a couple of minutes until the mixture comes together.
  4. If it's too sticky, add more flour. If it doesn't seem to adhere to itself, add a little water.
  5. Knead it on a board for a few minutes, then let it rest for ½ hour, covered.
  6. Roll out the dough, either by hand or in an electric pasta roller.
  7. Don't roll it to the thinnest setting though, or the filling might break through when you're handling it.
  8. Place the dough on a board and cut it into 3 inch squares.
  9. Patch some of the long pieces together so you don't waste the dough, or so that you don't have to re-roll and re-cut it.
  10. The more you handle the dough, the tougher it will get.
  11. Place a teaspoon of the filling in the center and press the edges together, as in the picture, until you have a square shape with the four points meeting at the top center.
  12. Boil gently in water until cooked, which may take 5-8 minutes.
  13. Make the sauce, adding butter to a pan until it melts, then add a few fresh sage leaves and the chopped walnuts.
  14. Remove the ravioli from the water with a strainer, but don't worry if some of the water adheres -- it will help with the sauce.
  15. Gently stir the ravioli in the sauce, tossing them to coat with the butter sauce.
  16. Remove to plates and sprinkle more pecorino cheese on top.
 

 

Spinach linguine with clams, corn and pancetta

This dish has got to be my favorite thing that I made all summer. I know it’s a long blog post, and it involves making your own pasta, but the end result is worth it. If you want to eat something divine and be crowned with a halo from your family and friends, you have to make it. But — and this is a big but — only if you live in a place where corn and clams are in season right now. Don’t try this with canned corn or canned clams or I will get the “freshness police” after you. The pancetta is crucial too, but I know some of you may not have access to it. A decent substitute is slab bacon, but it will have a smoky taste, whereas pancetta does not. I’ll give you a pass and say you can use boxed pasta but ONLY if you don’t have a pasta machine. Otherwise, you must, must, must make your own pasta. I’ve made it different ways, from rolling it out by hand, to using the automated KitchenAid attachment, to using my nearly 50 years-old crank machine that you’ll see in the photos below. I’ve made plain pasta many times (tutorial here) and beet-flavored pasta too, but this was my first time making homemade spinach pasta and it was a game changer. What a toothy and delicious texture and flavor, not to mention the vibrant color. I made this dish earlier in the month with store bought pappardelle and everyone loved it, but that’s because they hadn’t yet eaten it with the homemade spinach pasta. Excuse me for tooting my own horn, but it’s no exaggeration to say the homemade pasta version was sublime, compared to just delicious with the store bought pasta. So I may be making spinach pasta on a regular basis. Or at least until my pants zipper gets harder to close. I know my husband won’t complain.

I used a 10-ounce box of frozen spinach. Don’t cook it. Just let it thaw on the counter, and squeeze the bejesus out of it. Using your hands, make sure you squeeze every bit of water from the spinach you can. Then press it between paper towels to get any other moisture out. Place the spinach in the food processor with the eggs and give it a whir. Look at that pretty green color.

Then add the flour and a pinch of salt until it forms a ball. (Your food processor is not going to be happy and will probably start “dancing” on the counter.) Stop it at this point and put it on the counter.

It will still be a bit sticky, so knead in more flour. Use 00 flour from Italy if you can find it (it’s easily available online.)

After a few minutes, it will develop a smoother texture. Cover it with a bowl, or in plastic wrap and let it sit for about a half hour, to let the glutens rest.

Then cut off a piece, squish it with the palm of your hands, flour both sides a little, and pass it through the pasta machine, starting with the largest opening and going down a few notches (but not to the thinnest. I stopped at two numbers before the last on the dial).

Then take the long piece of pasta, flour it a bit on both sides again, and pass it through the linguine cutter (or the smaller spaghetti size if you prefer.)

You could make “nests” with pasta and place them flat on linen or paper towels, or hang the pasta from clothes hangers, as my kitchen helper did for me. (Smile, you’re on Ciao Chow Linda!)

OK, now that the pasta making is out of the way, start on the sauce. Scrape the corn from the cobs, mince the garlic, pancetta and herbs and set aside while you prepare the clams. I used littleneck clams, the smallest available where I live. If this were Italy, I’d be using the even smaller vongole. If only!

After rinsing and scrubbing the clams, place them in a pan, turn the heat to high and cover.

If you don’t have a cover large enough, use another pan that’s the same size to cover the bottom pan.

Steam the clams in their own juices and remove immediately when they start to open. It will take only a minute or two once the pan is hot. The clams won’t be fully cooked and that’s fine. You’ll finish cooking them later. The reason to cook them partially is to open them up and pluck some of the clams out of the shell to mix with the pasta, and you also want to strain the liquid from the clams to use in the sauce. There was still a lot of sandy sediment, even after scrubbing the clams before cooking. Use a coffee filter, or a paper napkin on top of a sieve to strain out the sediment. I cooked the clams in two batches to give them enough room to open. Don’t worry that they’ll get cold. You’re going to heat them and cook them further with the pasta later.

After removing the clams, and straining the liquid, I used the same saucepan to cook the pancetta (you can see the splatter from the clams on the sides).

When the pancetta is nearly crispy, add the garlic and the clams (both the ones you plucked out of the shell and the ones in the shell.)  Cook for a minute or two to soften the garlic. Add the olive oil, the white wine, the reserved clam juice (it should be about 1/2 cup) and season with salt and pepper. I also added a tablespoon of butter (because butter always makes everything taste better.)

Meanwhile cook the pasta. If it’s freshly homemade, it won’t take longer than two or three minutes. Save about a cup of that pasta water before you drain the pasta.

After draining the pasta and getting rid of the water (except for that cup you saved), put the pasta back in the pot and dump all the clams, pancetta and raw corn into the pot. Mix everything really well, adding some of the pasta water, and a bit more olive oil to make sure you have a bit of  “sauce.”

It shouldn’t be drowning in the sauce, but just enough to moisten the pasta and keep it from sticking to itself. Add in the minced parsley and basil just before turning into a platter or bowl.

Serve immediately and receive your kudos. This recipe makes enough for four to six people, depending on appetites. My husband and I each had two servings, and the family of three living next door to us were happy to consume the rest.

Buon Appetito!

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Spinach linguine with clams, corn and pancetta
 
Author:
Serves: 4-6 people
Ingredients
  • FOR THE PASTA:
  • 1 10-ounce box frozen spinach
  • 2 cups 00 flour
  • 2 eggs
  • pinch of salt
  • FOR THE SAUCE:
  • 3-4 dozen clams
  • ¼ pound pancetta, cut into small bits
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • ¼ cup white wine
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • ½ cup reserved clam juice
  • 2 ears of fresh corn, stripped off the cob
  • pasta water
  • black pepper
  • a generous handful of minced parsley
  • a generous handful of minced basil
Instructions
  1. FOR THE PASTA:
  2. Drain the spinach thoroughly, squeezing out all the water you can with your hands.
  3. Then press it with paper towels to get out any remaining water.
  4. Place the spinach and the two eggs into the food processor to break down the spinach.
  5. Start adding the flour.
  6. You may need as little as a cup and a quarter of flour.
  7. It's easy to add more flour later, but much harder to work the dough if you place too much flour into the food processor.
  8. Add just enough flour and process until the dough comes together into a ball.
  9. It will be sticky.
  10. Place the dough onto a wooden work surface, add more flour until the stickiness disappears and the dough seems more "homogenized" and softer.
  11. Cover the dough with plastic wrap or a bowl and let it sit for at least ½ hour.
  12. FOR THE SAUCE:
  13. Place the clams in one layer a pan over high heat and cover.
  14. Cook for a couple of minutes or until the clams have opened.
  15. Once open, set aside on a plate and repeat with remaining clams, draining the liquid from the clams.
  16. Strain the liquid from the clams to remove any sediment.
  17. Remove half the clams from the shells but leave the rest in the shell.
  18. Set the clams aside and the liquid aside.
  19. In the same pan, saute the pancetta until nearly crisp.
  20. Add the garlic and cook until softened.
  21. Place the clams (the ones in the shell and the ones out of the shell) in the pan and add the white wine, butter, olive oil, clam juice and black pepper.
  22. Meanwhile, cook the pasta and drain, but reserve about a cup of the pasta water.
  23. Put the pasta back into the large pot and dump the clams and pancetta over the pasta, adding the raw corn as well.
  24. Add the parsley and basil and mix all together.
  25. If it seems too dry, add some of the pasta water and swirl around a bit more.
  26. If the liquid seems too thin, add a bit more butter or olive oil.
  27. Serve immediately,.
 

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.