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Paglia e Fieno with Prosciutto, Peas and Parmigiano Cheese

Paglia e fieno literally translates to straw and hay in Italian, and it’s not hard to find these “nests” of green and yellow pasta already made in specialty stores or good supermarkets where I live. However, like most things, homemade is best, so if you have the time and inclination, make your own pasta. I made a big batch of both regular egg fettucine and spinach fettuccine on Easter Sunday, which is when we ate this dish. If you want a recipe for making spinach pasta, click here.   For plain egg pasta, the fine OO flour from Italy is best, combined with fresh eggs. You can make a well on a board and mix it the old-fashioned way, but these days, I mostly use a food processor and dump the flour and eggs in there, starting with about 1 1/2 cups of flour and two eggs. Add more flour until it forms a ball in the food processor bowl, then remove it and knead it some more, adding a little flour if necessary. When it’s smooth as a baby’s bottom, cover it and let it rest for at least a half hour, then roll it out with a pasta machine, or by hand, and cut it in the fettuccine shape.

The sauce is a classic — and also a waist expander, but if it’s a special occasion, who cares? It’s worth every calorie. Sorry I don’t have any photos while I was making the sauce, but it comes together so fast and we were all so hungry that I failed to snap any photos. You make the sauce while the pasta is boiling in the water– it’s that quick to do. Start by cutting up the prosciutto into bits and cooking it briefly in the butter. Add the cream and peas and let the cream reduce a bit. However don’t let it thicken too much because  the parmesan cheese will naturally thicken the sauce. Drain the pasta, but retain a cup or more of the pasta water in case you need to loosen the sauce. Add the drained pasta to the cream, prosciutto and peas and bestow it a healthy amount of freshly ground black pepper. Swirl everything around and if it seems too thick, add some of the pasta water and swirl a bit more. Turn off the heat and add the parmesan cheese, incorporating it into the dish. Serve with additional parmesan grated on top.

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Fettucine Paglia e Fieno
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1½ pounds paglia e fieno pasta
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 pint (2 cups) heavy cream
  • ¼ pound (or more if you like) prosciutto, cut into small bits
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups freshly grated parmesan cheese
Instructions
  1. Cook the pasta in ample salted water and drain, but save about a cup of the pasta water.
  2. Make the sauce while the pasta is cooking.
  3. Cut the prosciutto into small pieces.
  4. Melt the butter in a saucepan and cook the prosciutto bits until they start to crisp.
  5. Add the cream and the frozen peas and cook a couple of minutes.
  6. The cream will start to reduce.
  7. Don't reduce it too much.
  8. It will thicken more when you add the parmesan cheese.
  9. Add the cooked pasta to the sauce, sprinkling with a generous amount of freshly ground pepper.
  10. Swirl the pasta in the sauce.
  11. If need be, add a little of the reserved pasta water.
  12. Turn off the heat, and add the parmesan cheese.
  13. Swirl to blend it through, then add more once on top once it's in the serving dish.
 

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.
 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Melon Salad with Prosciutto and Mint Vinaigrette

With temperatures hovering in the 90s here in the Northeast, who wants to turn on the oven or slave over a hot burner?
Not I, and probably not you.
When I saw this beautiful salad in Coastal Living magazine, I knew this would be perfect for one of those steamy days as we’ve had this week. Picking a ripe melon is difficult, but I let both the cantaloupe and the honeydew sit on the counter for a few days to be sure they were at their peak.
The combo of sweet melon in season, with fragrant salty prosciutto isn’t a new one, but the mint vinaigrette takes it to a new level.
Got a partner with a he-man appetite who requires a heftier meal? Then just add a couple of hard-boiled eggs on the side, a hunk of good cheese, or both.
Breadsticks are always a good idea too, especially when they’re covered in lots of seeds.
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Summer Melon Salad with Ham and Mint Vinaigrette
recipe from Coastal Living
2 Tbsp. sherry vinegar (I used white balsamic)
1 Tbsp. minced shallot
1/2 Tbsp. honey
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
3 Tbsp. olive oil
2Tbsp. chopped fresh mint, divided
1 small cantaloupe (about 3 lb.) halved lengthwise
1 small honeydew melon (about 3 lb.) halved lengthwise
2 oz. (I used 1/4 lb.) thinly sliced prosciutto
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1. Whisk together vinegar, shallot, honey and salt in a small bowl. Add oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking until incorporated. Stir in 1 tablespoon chopped mint. Set aside.
2. Remove and discard seeds from 1 half of each melon; cut each into 2-inch-wide radial spokes, about 6 slices each. Reserve remaining melon halves for another use.
3. Using a sharp knife, follow the natural curve of the melon to remove the rind.
4. Arrange melon pieces and prosciutto slices on a platter. Drizzle vinaigrette over the top; sprinkle with black pepper and remaining 1 tablespoon mint.

Grilled Pizza with Figs and Other Delights

Whoever thought of making pizza on the grill deserves a medal from the culinary medal committee. The grill can get much hotter than my inside oven, delivering that crunchy, nearly burnt crust that’s so loved and so authentic. I’ve made it several times in the past, always placing the pizza dough directly on the grates. This time, I wanted to heat up my pizza stone on the grill and toss the dough onto the stone. It really does produce a more even browning, and it’s much easier to handle when it comes time to flip it over. The only problem is that until you recognize just how hot the pizza stone can get, you’re likely to burn your first attempt. That’s what happened to the first round of dough I placed on the stone. It burned in only one minute. That didn’t keep my neighbor’s daughters, Janie and Annie, from munching on the burnt offering while we were putting together round two of the pizzas.
Get all the toppings ready ahead of time because the cooking goes really fast. In this case, we were making a couple of pizzas – first the pizza with figs, prosciutto and other goodies. I posted about this pizza in my early blogging days when I had no readers other than my family, and it’s so delicious I thought it was worth a repeat here.
Stretch out your pizza dough (purchased or home-made – this one is from a local pizza shop). Toss it on the grill or pizza stone and keep a close watch on it. It will take only a couple of minutes to brown.
Flip it over and cover with the cheeses, chopped walnuts and the sliced figs.
Remove it from the grill and add the sliced prosciutto and arugula. Last time I posted about this pizza, I added all the toppings and cooked them together, but now I much prefer to layer the prosciutto and arugula after the pizza is cooked. They taste much fresher that way. Drizzle with a little extra balsamic “essenza” or glaze if you’ve got it. If not, don’t fret. It’s delicious even without it.
Figs and gorgonzola not your favorite? Just go with a classic topping of tomatoes – in this case grape tomatoes from the garden – mozzarella cheese and basil. A grinding of salt also enhances.
Grilled Pizza
Buy pizza dough or make your own.
Heat up the grill to highest setting. As it turns out, the highest setting on my grill was too hot and burned the first batch of dough. Experiment to see what temperature works for you.
Cook the first side of the dough directly on the grates or on a pizza stone that you’ve heated on the grill.
Flip it over and add any toppings you like.
In these two cases:
Pizza with Figs, Prosciutto and Gorgonzola
Cook the first side of the dough as described above. Flip it over onto the grill or pizza stone. I placed figs, chopped walnuts, about two ounces of gorgonzola and four ounces of mozzarella on top and let the cheese melt. It took another two to three minutes and the other side of the dough gets cooked and browned.
Remove to a platter and top with slices of prosciutto and arugula that’s been tossed in some oil and vinegar.
Pizza with Grape Tomatoes and Mozzarella
Cook one side of the dough on the grill or pizza stone. Flip it over and top with grape tomatoes, about four ounces of mozzarella, fresh basil and a sprinkling of salt. If I had thought about it ahead of time, I might have cooked the tomatoes whole to caramelize a bit before placing on the top. Either way, it’s pretty irresistible.

Prosciutto Log Appetizer

This recipe comes to you from my friend Titti, an enthusiastic member of a group I belong to called “Le Matte del Lunedi,” or “The crazy ladies of Monday.” We meet each week to chit-chat in Italian, drink espresso (and sometimes prosecco, I won’t kid ya’) and eat wonderful food prepared by that week’s hostess. It makes you
want to learn Italian just to be part of the group and eat the scrumptious food. Titti is always ready to help out anyone who needs an extra hand and frequently arrives with a special treat to help the hostess, as in the case, the prosciutto log.

The group is comprised of accomplished women who hail from nearly all parts of Italy. Titti is from the Liguria region, others from Lombardy, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, Lazio, Campagna, and more. The discussion can range from family to politics, but almost always touches on the subject of food. With so many good cooks from so many regions of Italy, the food at the weekly meetings is always special. Once a year, we invite the husbands for an annual picnic where the ladies (and men) really pull out all the stops, culinarily-speaking. It’s an event no one wants to miss. I’ll be sharing more of the ladies’ recipes in the blog in the coming months. With New Year’s approaching, you might want to include Titti’s prosciutto log on your menu.

The recipe calls for prosciutto cotto, which translates to cooked ham. The cured prosciutto most of you know and love is called prosciutto crudo, or raw ham. Don’t use that in this recipe. Look in a specialty food shop for prosciutto cotto. If you can’t find real prosciutto cotto from Italy, used boiled ham instead, not smoked ham like a Virginia ham. Another substitute that is very close to prosciutto cotto is something that my local market sells called “French ham.” It’s as delicate in flavor as prosciutto cotto, but you’ll want to trim the fat and gelatin around the edges first. At many supermarkets, you’ll find something called “parmacotto,” but that’s not quite right for this recipe, since it normally contains a lot of other flavorings.

Prosciutto Log

1 pound prosciutto cotto, sliced
2 sticks softened butter
2 tsps. cognac
freshly ground black pepper
20 green olives, cut into small pieces

In a food processor, place the prosciutto cotto, butter, cognac and black pepper. Pulse until everything is smooth and well blended. Add the green olive bits and mix in with a spoon. Roll into a log shape and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Chill for a few hours before serving. Serve with bread rounds. To make a prettier presentation, trim the slices with a scallop-shaped cookie cutter, and decorate the plate with fennel fronds, as Titti did.