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Saffron Fazzoletti with Sausage and Mushrooms

  • October 28, 2020

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.

Click here to connect with me on Instagram and find out what’s cooking in Ciao Chow Linda’s kitchen each day (and more)

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,
 

 

Gnocchi with Butternut Squash, Mushrooms and Crispy Sage Leaves

  • October 12, 2020

I love carefree summer days at the beach, but when autumn rolls around, and some of my favorite foods are at their peak — like butternut squash — I enjoy spending more time in the kitchen. Pumpkins and squash are so redolent of crisp fall days, of Halloween, heartier cooking and family time. Unfortunately, Covid has severely limited family time, although we were all tested recently so we could gather for my granddaughter’s second birthday – YEA!!! I decided to make gnocchi for the occasion, one of my husband’s all-time favorite meals, and I knew it would be equally welcomed by my son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter. The recipe is included below, but if you want a photographic step-by-step tutorial on making potato gnocchi, click here.  If you haven’t got a gnocchi paddle, a little wooden implement that makes these ridged impressions, you can easily use a fork to roll them, as my mom always did when I was growing up — or even the rough edges of a cheese grater.

Getting the right consistency is the key to successful gnocchi, and it helps to have a “feel” that comes after you’ve made them a number of times. Too much flour and they’re leaden. Too little flour and they disintegrate in the water. So after you’ve mixed the dough, make a few gnocchi and test them out by boiling them in water. You’ll know right away if you need to add more flour. It’s so much easier to add more flour, but if you’ve already added too much, then you’ve got a problem. You can make these ahead of time, but refrigerate them on floured dishcloths if you’re making them the day before you serve them. You can freeze them too, but in my experience, they sometimes attract too much water from the freezer and fall apart when later boiled in water. Instead, I boil them to start with, drain them on paper towels or dishcloths, then lay them on cookie sheets and put the cookie sheets in the freezer. After the gnocchi have individually frozen, you can pull them off the paper towels or dishcloths, and pop them in plastic bags, ready to be reboiled again whenever you want to serve them. They seem to retain their consistency better, at least for me.

I wanted to showcase some fall flavors with the gnocchi, so I cut up some butternut squash (I’ve used honeynut squash too, which I love) and some mushrooms. Roast at high temperature after you’ve drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper. You can do this ahead of time too, even the day before, and just set it all aside in the refrigerator until you need it.

Fry up some sage leaves in olive oil, drain on a paper towel, and sprinkle with salt. They’re hard to resist as a crunchy snack, so make a bunch if you have enough sage to spare.

Melt the butter in a large pan, add some fresh sage leaves and let the butter absorb the sage flavor for a couple of minutes. Then add the roasted squash and mushrooms, and scoop the cooked gnocchi directly from the boiling water into the pan with the butter and vegetables. Don’t worry if some water comes along with it. In fact, reserve a bit of water to add in order to get a little more “sauce.” Toss everything gently, and remove the sage leaves, which have become soggy. Serve with grated parmesan cheese sprinkled on top, and some crispy sage leaves on the side.

It’s a family favorite, as you can see from my little granddaughter. They was worth making just to see her sweet little smile.

Click here to connect with me on Instagram and find out what’s cooking in Ciao Chow Linda’s kitchen each day (and more)

Gnocchi with Butternut squash, Mushrooms and crispy sage
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • FOR THE GNOCCHI:
  • 5 large brown-skinned baking potatoes
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 t. salt
  • ¼ t. white pepper
  • pinch of grated nutmeg
  • ½ c. parmesan cheese
  • 2 cups flour (or more if needed)
  • FOR THE ROASTED SQUASH AND MUSHROOMS:
  • 1½ cups honeynut or butternut squash
  • a handful of mushrooms (cremini, baby portobello or button mushrooms)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • seasoned salt, pepper to taste
  • FOR THE SAUCE:
  • 8-12 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • a dozen sage leaves
  • some water from boiling the gnocchi
  • grated parmesan cheese
  • FOR THE CRISPY SAGE LEAVES:
  • olive oil
  • sage leaves
Instructions
  1. FOR THE SQUASH AND MUSHROOMS:
  2. Cut the squash into small pieces, cut the mushrooms into halves, or quarters if large, and toss with the olive oil and seasonings.
  3. Roast in a 475 degree oven for 10 minutes, or until the pieces are tender.
  4. FOR THE CRISPY SAGE LEAVES:
  5. Place a little olive oil in a shallow saucepan and when it's hot, add the sage leaves.
  6. Fry for a minute or two and flip, removing to a paper lined plate.
  7. Sprinkle salt on them immediately and set aside.
  8. FOR THE GNOCCHI:
  9. Bake the potatoes uncovered in a 375 degree oven for about an hour or until done.
  10. Remove from oven and when you can handle them, peel them.
  11. Put chunks of the potato through a ricer and spread on a cookie sheet.
  12. Let it cool completely, then mix with the eggs, salt, pepper and nutmeg and cheese.
  13. Add flour, ¼ cup at a time.
  14. You may not need all 2 cups flour, or you may need more.
  15. Just add enough until the dough comes together and you can easily roll it into a big “log.”
  16. Cut the log into four or five pieces, then take each piece and roll it out like a snake, about ½ inch to ¾ inch thick.
  17. Using a knife, cut off some pieces of the roll, maybe about ½" each.
  18. Take each ½" gnocco and make an imprint on it, using either a fork or a gnocchi paddle.
  19. At this point, you can refrigerate if not using immediately -- even overnight.
  20. Bring water to a rolling boil, add salt and the gnocchi and let simmer gently until they rise to the top.
  21. The recipe makes about 225 gnocchi so freeze half if you like.
  22. If I'm planning to freeze some, I actually cook them all in the water, then drain them on paper towels, place half on a cookie sheet and put those in the freezer. When they have frozen hard, I move them to a plastic bag and keep them in the freezer until I need them.)
  23. FOR THE SAUCE AND TO ASSEMBLE:
  24. Melt the butter in a saucepan, then add the sage leaves, letting them simmer a few minutes to impart their flavor.
  25. Then using a slotted spoon, remove the gnocchi from the water and place them directly into the pan with the melted butter and sage leaves.
  26. Don't worry if a little water comes along when you ladle out the gnocchi, in fact, it's good to add a little of the water to the sauce.
  27. Add the roasted squash and mushroom pieces, and gently stir everything together.
  28. Place everything into a serving bowl, sprinkle with parmesan cheese and scatter the crispy sage leaves on top.
 

Stuffed Fried Sage Leaves and Zucchini Blossoms

  • July 18, 2019

 

Who would have thought you could stuff and fry sage leaves? Not I, until a few months ago, when I ate them at a restaurant in London. Since then, I’ve been counting the days until the leaves on our sage plants were large enough to pick. With the plants now at their peak, the timing was perfect. They’re so easy to make, it’s not really much of a recipe, but I’ll take you through the steps.

First, smush some anchovies over  one leaf.  Please don’t tell me you don’t like anchovies – this is so darn delicious and addictive it will make you a convert.

Then cover with another leaf of the same size and press down hard.

Hold the sage leaf “sandwich” by the stem and swipe each side of the leaf in a batter. The batter is made with only flour and sparkling water (San Pellegrino is my water of choice). There’s no need for baking powder or eggs. Just mix the flour and water until you have a consistency like thick pancake batter.

Have some vegetable oil heating in a skillet while you prepare the leaves, then when it’s good and hot, place the leaves carefully into the hot oil. Fry on one side until golden, then flip and do the same with the other side of the leaf.

While I was at it, I also stuffed and fried some zucchini blossoms I got from my son and daughter-in-law’s garden. I posted the “recipe” online way back in the early months of this blog, more than a decade ago. But why not repeat it now since you may have access to some of these lovely, edible flowers. It’s best to pick them first thing in the morning, when the blossoms are wide open and you can pull out the stamen (and any critters that may be inside).

Cut a piece of mozzarella cheese and push it down into the center of the flower, along with a small piece of anchovy. Press the flower shut and twist it a little near the end of the flower. It won’t be completely sealed, but don’t worry because after you dip it into the batter (the same one you use for the sage leaves), the batter will form a seal and keep the stuffing from oozing out.

Fry in some hot, deep vegetable oil, turning once, until they’re golden all around.

Dig In. These are so crunchy and delicious, it’s a good thing we didn’t pick more sage leaves or blossoms, or we’d have eaten ourselves sick!

For other ideas on what to do with zucchini blossoms, click here.

Click here to connect with me on Instagram and find out what’s cooking in Ciao Chow Linda’s kitchen each day (and more)

Stuffed Fried Sage Leaves and Zucchini Blossoms
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • sage leaves
  • anchovies (salted, in oil)
  • zucchini blossoms
  • mozzarella cheese
  • flour
  • sparkling water
  • a pinch of salt
  • vegetable oil
Instructions
  1. BATTER:
  2. Just mix enough flour and enough sparkling water until you get a mixture that’s the consistency of pancake batter. It’s best to let it sit at least 15 minutes to help make it smoother.
  3. FOR THE ZUCCHINI BLOSSOMS:
  4. Pull the stamen from the inside of the zucchini blossoms.
  5. Cut a piece of mozzarella into a small strip and place it inside the zucchini blossom, along with a salted anchovy.
  6. Dip the flowers into the batter, and deep fry in hot oil.
  7. FOR THE SAGE LEAVES:
  8. Smush some anchovies onto one side of a sage leaf.
  9. Cover with a sage leaf of a similar size and press down.
  10. Holding the leaves by the stem, swish it in the batter, covering both sides of the leaves.
  11. Fry in hot, deep oil.