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Christmas Snowflake Pasta

  • December 21, 2016

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

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

Christmas Snowflake Pasta
printable recipe here
makes two very generous portions

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

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

Cranberry Orange Spice Bundt Cake

  • December 6, 2016

  I’m not sure why I don’t make bundt cakes more often because they’re delicious, easy to put together and serve a lot of people. With the holidays approaching, and my Italian chit-chat group meeting at my house yesterday, I was inspired to dig out this Christmas tree bundt pan from my basement, given to me by a friend a few years ago. 

I scoured the internet to find a festive recipe for it and landed on this one from Williams Sonoma’s website.
 It’s studded with a streusel interior made from dried cranberries simmered in orange juice, pecans and brown sugar. As if that weren’t enticement enough, the moist cake is perfumed with spices and orange peel and brushed with a drizzle of sweetened orange juice.
Ready to try it?
 You don’t have to use a pan with a Christmas tree design – any Bundt pan will do. Or even a loaf pan. But if you’ve got one of these, finish it off with a dusting of powdered sugar and decorative candies, like these m&m’s.
You’ll be wishing for snow covered trees the whole year through.

 

Cranberry Orange Spice Cake

Ingredients:

For the cranberry streusel:

  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 2 Tbs. firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans

For the cake:

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbs. ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 16 Tbs. (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbs. grated orange zest
  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk

For the glaze (optional):

  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar

Directions:

Have all the ingredients at room temperature.Position a rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat to 325°F. Grease and flour a holiday tree Bundt® pan; tap out excess flour.

To make the streusel, in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the cranberries and orange juice. Bring to a simmer and cook until the liquid is nearly evaporated, about 5 minutes. Let cool, then coarsely chop the cranberries. Transfer to a small bowl, add the brown sugar and pecans and stir to combine. Set aside.

To make the cake, over a sheet of waxed paper, sift together the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, baking powder and salt; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy and smooth, about 30 seconds. Add the granulated sugar and orange zest and continue beating until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the milk and beginning and ending with the flour. Beat each addition until just incorporated, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Spoon one-third of the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle with half of the streusel. Repeat the layering, then spoon the remaining batter on top. Bake until the cake begins to pull away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 60 to 65 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the cake cool upright in the pan for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the glaze: In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the orange juice and granulated sugar. Heat, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat.

Tap the Bundt® pan gently on a work surface to loosen the cake. Set the rack over a sheet of waxed paper, invert the pan onto the rack and lift off the pan.

Using a pastry brush, brush the warm cake with the glaze. Let the cake cool completely, at least 2 hours, before serving. Serves 16.

From Williams-Sonoma Kitchen.