Category Archives: pasta

Layered Crespelle with Spinach, Prosciutto, and Parmesan Cheese

 

Probably one of the best dinners ever. It takes awhile to make, but is so well worth it, just look how pretty it is and oh, is it delicious! Crespelle are really just crepes. In Italy, just like in France, they are stuffed with different fillings. We followed a recipe from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking– my Italian cooking Bible.

I’ll give a crepe recipe below, but you can use any recipe you’d like. This recipe also calls for Bechamel Sauce (a white sauce). This takes a little while to make. You can make this and even the crepes one day in advance and refrigerate them. If making the crepes one day in advance, weave wax paper through the layers so they do not stick.

Crespelle Recipe:

Ingredients:

1- 1 cup milk

2- 3/4 cups flour

3- 2 egss

4- pinch salt

5- non stick cooking spary

6- 8 ” nonstick skillet

Directions:

1- Put the milk in the bowl and gradually add the flour while whisking to avoid lumps. Make sure the batter is blended.

2- Add the eggs, one at a time, until blended

3- Spray the skillet and heat over medium low

4- Pour 2 tablespoons of the batter into the pan and swirl to distribute evenly. As soon as the batter firms, flip and cook the other side.

5- Layer them on a plate. Even though I wasn’t refrigerating them, I still layered wax paper between each one.

6- Set aside.

Bechemal Sauce:

The recipe can be found here: (https://dessertcomesfirst.wordpress.com/2011/04/18/lasagna/)

Scroll to the middle of the page.

Filling Recipe:

Ingredients:

1- 1 lb fresh spinach

2- 1 tablespoons butter

3- non stick cooking spray

4- 1/2 cup chopped prosciutto

5- 1 1/4 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano

6- 3 tablespoons onion, chopped very fine

7- salt

Directions:

1- Clean the spinach and cook in salted water until tender. Drain it and squeeze as much water as you can. Chop it and set aside. Get the oven pre heated to 450 degrees.

2- Put the butter and chopped onion into a pan and cook over medium heat until the onion is pale gold. Add the prosciutto and coat it, cook for 1 minute. Add the spinach, stir, and cook about another 2 minutes. Put everything into a bowl and add about 1 cup of the Parmesan, a pinch of salt and about 2/3 cup of Bechemal Sauce, or enough to make the spinach mixture sticky. Make sure everything is well combined.

3- Get a baking dish and divide the crespelle into 2 even piles (about 8 per pile). Spray the baking sheet with non stick spray. Put one crespelle down on the baking sheet and thinly coat it with the spinach mixture (make sure to divide it so you have enough), cover with another crespelle, and again coat with the spinach mixture. Go through the rest of the first pile. Start again with the second pile. Cover both piles with the remaining Bechamel Sauce and top with the cheese.

4- Bake for about 5 minutes then broil for about a minute, or until there is a nice crust on top.

Savour all of you hard work with a great bottle of wine. We just received a delivery from Wine Woot…three bottles of Zinfandel (2005, 2006, and 2007). With this dish we had the ’05. It’s full and rich, with a nice berry aroma- perfect complement to such a savory dish!

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Tomato Sauce with Olive Oil and Sauteed Vegetables

It rained the ENTIRE day yesterday without break. It was grey, it was humid, it was wet. We didn’t want to go out to the beach to surf, we didn’t want to walk outside, puppy Dexter didn’t want to walk outside, it was just icky, so we cooked. We cooked all afternoon. The first thing I made was this sauce to freeze for a later date. I love homemade sauce. It is definitely well worth the little bit of extra time to make sauce at home. You don’t get all the sodium and you know everything is fresh. When school starts next week, I plan to eat just as well as we’ve been eating. This probably means making up sauces in my free time and freezing them, just like we did yesterday. This sauce is perfect because it pairs well with any pasta shape, store bought or homemade. Actually it pairs particularly well with penne or rigatoni because it gets inside the nooks and crannies. Once the little bit of chopping is done, the sauce is a breeze because all’s you do is simmer it for 45 mins. Once done and cooled, divide it in half and pop it in to freezer bags. There will be enough for 4 portions. Don’t forget to mark the type of sauce and when you made it.

Ingredients:

1- 28 oz can Italian plum tomatoes (Rienzi), cut up with juices

2- 2/3 cup chopped carrots

3- 2/3 cup chopped onion

4- 2/3 cup chopped celery

5- 1/3 cup olive oil

6- salt

Directions:

1- Add the olive oil to a saucepan and heat over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until pale gold. Add the carrot and celery and cook at a higer heat for a minute. Stir just to coat all veggies.

2- Turn the heat back down to medium and add the tomatoes and a large pinch of salt. Turn the heat down and allow to simmer for 45 mins.

3- Turn heat off and either toss directly with pasta or let cool and divide into freezer bags.

Tomato Sauce with Onion

I chose this sauce last night mainly because of how easy it is to prepare and quite frankly, I was feeling lazy. This sauce has an amazingly pure, sweet taste and it can’t get any easier to prepare, although the suggested simmering time is quite long. It’s a perfect sauce for potato gnocchi, but it is also superb on spaghetti or penne. I decided to be a bit contumacious and went against the suggestions of the queen of Italian cooking (in my mind), Marcella Hazan, and actually served this sauce with bowtie pasta because who can deny how fun bowtie pasta is?!  They’re in the shapes of little bowties!

There are a few basic ingredients:

1- one large can of Imported plum tomatoes with juices(spring and get the ones that are actually imported from Italy)

2- 2 tablespoons butter

3- 1 medium onion, peeled and sliced (you can either dice or cut into strips)

4- salt

Directions:

1- This is the messy part. You have to pluck the tomatoes from the can and cut them up into rough thirds. Make sure to save the juices!

2- Slice or dice the onion. Make the amount of onion you slice proportionate to the tomatoes.

3- Put the tomatoes, onion, and butter in a saucepan. Add some salt and remember, you can always add more later.

4- Allow to simmer over a low flame for about 45 minutes. Stir the sauce every so often. If you see large bits of tomato, mash it with a spoon.

5- Once done, toss with your pasta.

I served my pasta and sauce with garlic bread and salad.

And to drink we had:

Magic Hat Not Quite Pale Ale- No thoughts really on this beer. I like it and thought it went well enough with the dish. I’m not a huge fan of  Pale Ales because they’re pretty hoppy, but I like this one. Maybe because it’s not quite a pale ale….

Homemade Pesto

The container garden on our terrace is really starting to thrive. I’ve picked some lettuce leaves already and my carrots are starting to mature, my beets are coming up, and so are my chives, but not my basil and oregano. I wanted to make pesto awhile back, but thought I’d wait for the basil in my garden to grow, but after two plantings, my basil has yet to pop up, so I finally broke down and bought basil at the supermarket to make my pesto. The basil had a very pleasant smell but probably not as pleasant had I of picked it from my own garden! I don’t understand what I’m doing wrong. I thought herbs were the easiest thing to grow. I must be doing something right since everything else is growing. It’s a mystery. I think I’ll give it another try though.

Anyway, the recipe for pesto is very easy. Originally pesto was created by the Genoese as a way to use their extremely fragrant basil. Traditionally basil was made using a mortar and pestle. Actually the name pesto comes from the word pestare, which means to grind. I, like many people, just used a food processor and got very desirable results.

Traditionally you have pesto with spaghetti or potato gnocchi. The Genoese serve the pesto with a type of pasta identical in shape to fettuccine. I served the pesto with angel hair pasta and a side of salad made with arugula.

The recipe:

Ingredients:

1- 2 cups tightly packed fresh basil

2- 1/2 cup olive oil

3- 3 tablespoons pine nuts

4- 2 garlic cloves, chopped fine

5- salt

6- 1/2 cup finely grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese

7- 3 tablespoons butter, softened to room temperature

Directions:

1- Wash and thoroughly dry the basil.

2- Put the basil, olive oil, chopped garlic, salt, and pine nuts in the food processor. Process to a smooth consistency.

3- If freezing the basil, put in a ziploc bag and freeze at this point. If using fresh, continue to the next step.

4- Put the pesto in a bowl and add the cheese and butter stirring to distribute the ingredients evenly.

5- After cooking the pasta, reserve a few tablespoons of the starchy cooking water in the pot of pasta. Spoon the pesto directly over the pasta and distribute with tongs.

And to drink:

We had Samuel Adams Summer Ale. The pepper and citrus flavors paired very well with the pasta. It also paired well with the arugula, which has a peppery taste.

Entirely Homemade Lasagna (even the pasta) with Bolognese Sauce

I read an article in the NY Times recently about how as a society we no longer value the benefits of personal interaction. We are so addicted to our little gadgets that even dinner is no longer really dinner because as soon as one person stops to text, check their email, or even take calls, the whole table also pulls out their phones. The author of the article quipped that the dinner table is really just a chance for a mass of people to gather and engage in a big old thumb wrestling contest with their little gadgets. Then as soon as one person puts their phone away, the rest follow suit. and the conversation moves on as if nothing happened. It’s so funny because it’s so true. A majority of people can rarely go a full day without their gadgets, myself included. I definitely feel like there’s something missing when I do not have my phone. This brings me to my point which is: Italian cooking. Italian cooking, when done totally from scratch, presents an amazing opportunity to put everything down and just concentrate on the intricacies of the food, the smell, the ingredients, the taste. It demands your attention. Not to mention it is amazingly satisfying to know you made an entire meal with your own hands. Is it time consuming? Of course, but that’s the beauty of it. It’s a chance to put everything down and put all your attention on this one thing.

The day we made this dish, it was absolutely miserable outside. There were 50 mile per hour winds, sheets of rain, and an angry ocean, but inside a Bolognese sauce was simmering lazily just waiting for the paper thin green noodles we were putting through the pasta roller. Lasagna made the “American” way, I have come to find out after making this, is so overstuffed and the noodles are so starchy. Properly made lasagna should have delicate noodles and not be overly stuffed. You should be able to taste the flavors you worked so hard to put together. A typical lasagna lasts two people about 3 evenings, that’s 2 nights without cooking, so why not take the time to make something you can enjoy and be proud of?

These recipes are from the book Essentials of Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan. We ended up getting the book as part of of the free gift from Bed Bath and Beyond for buying the All Clad Stainless Steel cookware set (we also got a free All Clad lasagna pan and a pair of oven mitts!!). While the pots and pan are very very awesome, the book is even more fantastic. It outlines the history of Italian food by region, the many ingredients, and of course gives the recipes, three of which I used for the lasagna. The Bolognese Sauce doesn’t have to only be paired with the lasagna. The people of Bologna also enjoy this sauce with tagliatelle, a very wide noodle because it soaks up the sauce so well.

At last, here are the recipes needed to make this wonderful lasagna.

What you need to know before starting:

The Bolognese needs to simmer for at least 3 hours, so start that earlier.

About 2 hours before you want to eat, start making the noodles. You may need less time…we’re slow.

About 30 mins before you want to eat, make the white sauce.

Lasagna Ingredients

1- Full amount Bolognese Meat Sauce (See below)

2- Bechamel Sauce (See below)

3- Green Pasta dough (See below)

4- 1 tablespoon salt

5- 3/4 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese

To prep ahead:

1/2 cup chopped onion

2/3 cup chopped celery

2/3 cup chopped carrot

1 1/2 cups canned plum tomatoes, cut up with their juices

3/4 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese (refrigerate for the lasagna later)

Bolognese Meat Sauce

Ingredients:

1- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (don’t use olive oil because it imparts too much flavor)

2- 3 tablespoons butter

3- 1/2 cup chopped onion

4- 2/3 cup chopped celery

5- 2/3 cup chopped carrot

6- 3/4 lb ground beef chuck (80% lean)

7- Salt and pepper

8- 1 cup milk

9- Nutmeg

10- 1 cup dry white whine (ex- Chardonnay)

11- 1 1/2 cups canned plum tomatoes, cut up with their juices

Directions:

1- Add the oil, butter, and onion to a small saucepan. Turn the heat on medium and cook until the onion is transparent. Add the chopped celery and carrot and cook for another 2 minutes. Make sure to coat the veggies well.

2- Add the ground beef with a large pinch of salt. The salt helps to draw the juices from the beef. Break the meat up and cook until all of the redness is gone.

3- Add the milk and let it simmer. Simmer until all of the milk is evaporated (no more white should be visible). Add a dash of nutmeg at this point and stir).

4- Add the wine and let it simmer until it has evaporated. You’ll be able to tell this has happened by both sight and smell.

5- Add the tomatoes and mix everything together. Allow the sauce to begin to bubble, once it does, turn the heat down to a very low simmer. You should only see the intermittent bubble. Cook uncovered for three hours or more. Give a good stir every so often. If the sauce begin to dry out while cooking, add a 1/2 cup of water. This didn’t happen to me though. At the end of the 3 hours, taste the sauce and add more salt if needed. Don’t be afraid of the salt.

While this simmers, go do something fun! If you need to leave while the sauce is simmering, turn off the heat and leave, but not for too long. Continue simmering upon your return. Be sure to finish the sauce in the same day.

At 2 hours before dinner, start the noodles.

Noodle Ingredients:

1- 1/3 package frozen leaf spinach, cooked in a pan with a small amount of water and wrung totally dry. Chop into small pieces. The spinach won’t look too appetizing after it’s dry, but it’s going straight into the dough.

2- 2 large eggs

3- 1 1/2 cups flour

Directions:

1- Put the flour on a clean work surface. Create a well in the middle. Add the eggs and the spinach to the well.

2- With a fork, beat the eggs and the spinach. As you beat the eggs, draw in the flour. As soon as the eggs are no longer runny, start using your hands to draw in more flour. Don’t draw too much in at one time. Continue drawing in flour until the dough is no longer sticky. Chances are you will not use all the flour on the table.

3- Wash your hands. To test the dough for doneness, stick your thumb in the dough, if it comes out clean, it is ready for kneading.

4- Kneading: Knead for 8 minutes. When kneading, make sure to go in one direction. Fold the dough in half, turn, fold, turn, fold. Go like that for 8 minutes. The dough should be as smooth as a baby’s butt when you’re done.

5- Now for rolling the dough out. You can either hand roll or put it through your pasta roller. Either way, you want the dough to be paper thin. Flour the dough before rolling so it doesn’t stick.

6- After rolling, lay the noodles on a towel. You can cut the noodles later. We were a little afraid because we had so few noodles when we first rolled them out. We ended up making the lasagna in a smaller pan in order to build up the layers. In the end, we had 6 layers. After all the noodles are on the towel, start the Bechamel Sauce (See Below).

Bechamel Sauce:

Ingredients:

1- 2 cups milk

2- 4 tablespoons butter

3- 3 tablespoons flour

4- 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions:

1- Bring the milk to the point of boiling over medium low heat.

2- In another pan, melt the butter. Over low heat, mix in the flour with a wooden spoon. Continue mixing until it is dissolved. Do not let it turn brown.

3- Take the pan off the heat and start adding in the milk, 2 tablespoons at a time. Stir until the milk is dissolved then add another 2 tbsp. Continue in this method until you have added 8 tbsp total. Then add a 1/2 cup at a time.

4- Place pan back over low heat, add the salt, and stir constantly until the mixture is thick.

5- If not ready to use yet, place the mixture over a double boiler and set the heat as low as it will go. Stir every so often.

Now cook the pasta and prepare the lasagna.

To cook the noodles:

1- Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil. Add salt. Bring back to a rolling boil.

2- While the water boils, put a second bowl with cold water next to the pot on the stove. Also put a clean towel on a work surface.

3- Add the noodles, allow the water to come back to a boil, and boil for a few seconds. Take the noodles out, plunge in the cold water, and then run them under cold water. Put the noodles on the towel to dry for 5 minutes.

Prepare the lasagna:

Preheat the oven to 425.

1- Coat the bottom of the pan with white sauce. Stir the remaining white sauce into the Bolognese Sauce.

2- Place noodles on the white sauce, spread Bolognese on top of the noodles, followed by a layer of cheese. Continue like this (noodles, sauce, cheese).

3- Bake for 15 minutes. If after 8 minutes, you don’t notice a crust forming, boost the heat up by 15 degrees.

4- Remove and let sit for 10 minutes before serving! Serve with bread, salad, and the rest of the wine from the Bolognese!

Enjoy eating and savour the time spent creating such a fabulous meal!

Oh and for dessert, it’s chocolate fudge brownies with peanut butter frosting.

Hand-Rolled Pasta

I love pasta. I love pasta with sauce, pasta with olive oil, pasta with vegetables, cold pasta, hot pasta, really any type of pasta. But, until recently, I’ve never made homemade pasta. I thought it was too hard and way off my limited culinary radar, but NO! It’s time consuming, yes, but easy and quite satisfying to see racks of pasta hanging about. The following is a recipe from Urban Pantry by Amy Pennington. It’s a great little book with lots of recipes suitable for those with little space. I got her book from the library, fell in love with it, and was too cheap to buy my own copy off Amazon, so I went to Kinko’s and made copies of the pages I wanted to keep. This recipe is one of those copies and it’s definitely a keeper. My new recipe file folder is growing bigger by the minute.

There are tons of homemade pasta recipes out there. I’m not saying this one is the best, but I’ve had lots of luck with it. For this recipe, I used my stand mixer with the dough hook attached, but really all’s you need are your hands and a rolling pin.

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour (Next time I want to try “00” flour, which is finer, and, according to lots of people, makes a superior pasta)

1 cup semolina flour

5 eggs

Directions:

1- Mix all of the ingredients in a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook on low speed until the dough sticks the hook, about 5 minutes.

2- Knead on a lightly floured surface

for about 4 minutes, or until the dough is shiny and elastic.

3- Wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 mins.

4- Remove the dough and divide it into 3 pieces. Use one piece at a time and keep the others wrapped up. Shape the piece of dough into a flattened rectangular disc. Flour the counter and roll out the dough. Try to keep the rectangular shape. Roll the dough until it is quite thin (about 22″ long and 10″ wide). Be sure to turn over the dough so it does not stick. Remove any excess flour from the dough. Don’t worry if you think it’s getting too thin, it should be about as thin as a stick of gum.

5- Once the dough is rolled, start cutting your pasta. I like to use a pizza cutter, but a knife works too.You can either cut

it rolled out flat or fold the dough in half and cut it that way. I prefer the latter method because it is easier to get straight lines.

6- After the pasta is cut, decide how you want to store it. There are several methods: Today, I hung it up to dry. You can hang it on anything you can find. I used plastic hangers that I cleaned with my environmentally friendly cleaner. Once totally dry, you can store it in an airtight container for 2 months.

The other method is to twist it up and put it in the freezer as soon as it’s cut. Be sure to use within 4 months.

Or, of course, you can cook and eat it fresh as soon as it’s cut.

6- Cook as you would normal dried pasta. Bring lightly salted water to a rolling boil and cook 8-10 minutes.