Tag Archives: Italian

Carbonara

carbonara tastefood

~ Spaghetti Carbonara with Sweet Peas ~

If there is an Italian equivalent to the classic Jewish chicken soup, then I think it would be Pasta Carbonara. You can’t get more comforting than a deep bowl of noodles slicked with an egg-rich cheesy sauce redolent of bacon. The optional addition of sweet peas to carbonara is essential in my opinion. Peas add freshness and a sweet counterpoint to the salty bacon, while providing the vegetable component to call this a complete meal in a bowl. A sating and soothing meal at that – pasta carbonara for the belly and soul.

Spaghetti Carbonara with Sweet Peas

The heat from the pasta will help to cook the eggs when combining. Be sure to do this away from the direct stove heat to prevent the eggs from scrambling.

1 pound spaghetti or bucatini

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
6 ounces thick-cut bacon, cut in 1/2-inch pieces
2 large eggs
1 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for sprinkling
1 cup (or more if desired) frozen sweet peas, thawed
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the spaghetti and cook until al dente. Drain.
While the pasta is cooking, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon, stirring to separate the pieces, and cook until fat is rendered and bacon is golden brown, about 4 minutes. Transfer the bacon with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with a paper towel.
While the bacon is cooking, whisk the eggs and cheese in a bowl until smooth; set aside.
Drain off all but 2 tablespoons fat from the pan. Add the peas, garlic and red pepper flakes  and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the pasta and stir to coat the noodles. Remove the pan from heat and quickly add the eggs and cheese, stirring constantly to coat the pasta and to prevent the eggs from cooking. Return the bacon to the pan and stir once more. Serve immediately with extra cheese for sprinkling.

Spaghetti with Sausage and Grape Tomato Ragout

sausage ragout pates
I  know it’s summer, but sometimes a nice meaty pasta dish just hits the spot. I’ve lightened up this ragout by adding fresh grape tomatoes to the sauce. As the sauce simmers, the tomatoes will begin to break down adding garden-fresh brightness to this satisfying dinner.

Spaghetti with Sausage and Tomato Ragout
Serves 4

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 pound Italian sausage, casings removed, crumbled
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes
1 medium red bell pepper, seeds and membranes removed, cut in 1/4-inch dice
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
1/2 cup medium-bodied red wine
1 (15-ounce) can Italian plum tomatoes with juice
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 to 2 teaspoons granulated sugar, optional

1 pound spaghetti
Grated Parmigiano cheese
Chopped Italian flat leaf parsley

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add sausage and sauté until golden. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with a paper towel. Discard all but 1 tablespoon fat in the pan. Add tomatoes,  red pepper, garlic, oregano and chili flakes. Sauté 2 minutes. Add the wine. Bring to a boil and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half. Add the plum tomatoes, tomato paste, bay leaf, salt and pepper. Cover and simmer 30 minutes. Taste for seasoning. If needed, add sugar.
While the sauce is simmering, bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add spaghetti and cook until al dente. Drain. Serve hot with the sauce spooned over. Garnish with cheese and parsley.

If you like this, you might enjoy these TasteFood recipes:
Roasted Vegetable Lasagne
Shrimp Puttanesca
Linguine with Cherry Tomatoes and Breadcrumb Gremolata

Broccolini Sausage Pasta

broccoli sausage pasta tastefood

~ Italian Sausage, Broccolini, Plum Tomatoes, Pecorino, Basil ~

This little pot of pasta is a quick and healthy weeknight dinner you can whip up in 30 minutes. It’s a great option when you want something fresh and substantial with minimal effort that relies on the pantry and freezer for ingredients. I had fresh broccolini spears waiting for use in my fridge and dipped into my stash of sausages I keep on hand in my freezer, because, well, one should always have a stash of sausages in the freezer. A can of Italian plum tomatoes and a box of pasta later, voila, we had a meal for 4.

Spicy Sausage, Broccolini and Tomato Pasta
Serves 4

1 pound pasta, such as gemelli, fusilli, penne
Extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 pound spicy Italian sausage
3/4 pound broccolini, cut in 1-inch pieces
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
1 (28-ounce) can Italian plum tomatoes with juice
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup basil leaves, loosely packed, torn in half if large
1/3 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus extra for sprinkling

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente, about 9 minutes. Drain and transfer to a serving bowl.

While the pasta is cooking, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausages and brown on all sides. Remove from pan and transfer to a cutting board. When cool enough to handle, slice in 1/4-inch pieces.

Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from the same skillet and add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add broccolini and sauté over medium heat until bright green but still crisp, about 1 minute. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes, salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, breaking tomatoes apart with a spoon. Return sausages to the skillet. Stir to combine and cook until thoroughly heat through. Remove from heat and pour over the pasta. Add basil and cheese and toss to combine. Serve immediately garnished with extra cheese.

Sunday Soup: Italian Minestrone

Minestrone Soup TasteFood

~ Italian Minestrone Soup ~

Sometimes, all that’s needed is a bowl of soup…to feed your family, to clean your vegetable bin, to warm and to nourish. Minestrone is an Italian vegetable soup that combines any number of vegetables, including tomatoes, leafy greens and potatoes. Beans are also often in the mix – or little pasta tubes called ditalini. I make this soup because I know it tastes great and will handily use up any odds and ends in my refrigerator. While some of the vegetables vary, I always include a hunk of Parmigiano rind in the simmering stock, which will slowly break down and give body and flavor the soup.

Italian Minestrone
Serves 4 to 6

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 carrots, cut in 1/4 inch pieces
1 medium yellow potato, peeled, cut in 1/4 inch dice
1 small fennel bulb, trimmed, fronds removed, cut in 1/4 inch dice
1 small zucchini, cut in 1/4 inch dice
6 cups chicken stock
1 15-ounce can chopped tomatoes with juice
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt, plus extra to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 2-inch chunk of rind from Parmigiano or Pecorino Romano cheese
1 15-ounce can cannellini or northern beans, drained
3 large kale leaves, ribs and stems removed, coarsely chopped
Grated Parmigiano or Pecorino Romano cheese for garnish
Fresh Italian parsley leaves for garnish

Heat oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until beginning to soften, 2 minutes. Add carrots, rutabaga, fennel and zucchini. Sauté until vegetables brighten in color and soften slightly, 3 minutes. Add stock, tomatoes, bay leaf, oregano, thyme, salt and pepper. If soup is too chunky, add more stock to desired consistency. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to a simmer and submerge cheese in soup. Cover and simmer until vegetables are tender, 2o minutes. Add beans and simmer an additional 10 minutes. Taste for seasoning. Add chard and simmer until  chard is wilted, 2 minutes. Ladle into warm bowls. Garnish with grated cheese and parsley.

If you like this, you might enjoy these recipes:
Kale and Farro Soup from TasteFood
Spring Onion Soup from Sippity Sup
Matzoh Ball Soup from Elana’s Pantry
Lentil Soup from TasteFood
Roasted Tomato and Vegetable Soup from Kayotic Kitchen

Minestrone

Minestrone is a classic Italian vegetable soup. What’s nice about minestrone is that there is no set recipe for it, except to use whatever vegetables you have on hand, which is my favorite way to make a soup. Often it contains beans and pasta, which when combined are an economical and efficient source of protein. Sometimes it’s more luxuriously embellished with meat. In this recipe I have the requisite beans but no pasta and no meat. Any embellishment comes from the chunk of Pecorino cheese I like to add for extra flavor and body. Finally, when I make a minestrone, I try to cut all of the vegetables in uniform dice. For some reason, I think this makes the soup taste better, perhaps because it’s easier to get a little bite of everything in each spoonful.

Minestrone
Serves 6

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 carrots, cut in 1/4 inch pieces
1 celery rib, cut in 1/4 inch dice
1 small rutabaga, peeled, cut in 1/4 inch dice
1 small fennel bulb, trimmed, fronds removed, cut in 1/4 inch dice
1 small zucchini, cut in 1/4 inch dice
6 cups chicken stock
1 15-ounce can chopped tomatoes with juice
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt, plus extra to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 2-inch chunk of rind from Parmigiano or Pecorino Romano cheese
1 15-ounce can cannellini or northern beans, drained
2-3 large Swiss chard leaves, ribs and stems removed, coarsely chopped
Grated Parmigiano or Pecorino Romano cheese for garnish
Fresh Italian parsley leaves for garnish

Heat oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until beginning to soften, 2 minutes. Add carrots, celery, rutabaga, fennel and zucchini. Sauté until vegetables brighten in color and soften slightly, 3 minutes. Add stock, tomatoes, bay leaf, oregano, thyme, salt and pepper. If soup is too chunky, add more stock to desired consistency. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to a simmer and submerge cheese in soup. Cover and simmer until vegetables are tender, 2o minutes. Add beans and simmer an additional 10 minutes. Taste for seasoning. Add chard and simmer until  chard is wilted, 2 minutes. Ladle into warm bowls. Garnish with grated cheese and parsley.

Homemade Italian Sausage and Broccolini Pasta (and the Search for the Elusive Casing)


A recipe for Sausage and Broccolini Pasta and a tale of the Elusive Casing

Charcutepalooza Round #6
The Challenge: Homemade Italian Sausage

Should you choose to accept this Challenge, you must be prepared to traverse the county, futilely cold call farmer’s market purveyors, and face rejection at multiple Whole Foods stores and independent markets in search of the elusive casing a.k.a. pig intestines – or the sacred vessel that contains the cherished meat in the form of a sausage.

Should you choose to accept this Challenge, you shall be prepared to pay dearly for said casing when located, because either:

  • The local supermarket is flummoxed when it comes to charging for an empty casing, and, at the risk of compromising highly sensitive payment technologies, will charge you the price of a whole sausage. Yes, that’s right: You will be required to pay for a sausage without meat.
  • You belatedly order from the stalwart Charcutepalooza ally, D’Artagnan, thereby assuming full responsibility (and overnight shipping charges) due to your procrastination, in order to avert a last minute crisis and Charcutepalooza meltdown.
  • Or you flee your suburban confines for the lure and anonymity of the big city  – and the Ferry Building – which entails paying bridge tolls, parking fees, and extraneous charges in the form of lunch and shopping. (Hey, it’s the Ferry Building.)

If you succeed in obtaining the elusive casing you will be jubilant and nearly home free, until you unpack your brand new meat grinder and sausage stuffer and realize you must decipher a cryptic code to correctly assemble the tools to achieve your desired results. Your trusted assistant, a.k.a. spouse, will selflessly risk life, limb and marital conflict, while cautiously advising you on all matters of RTM (that’s code for Reading The Manual). You will soldier on and prevail, sausages and marriage in tact, another Chaructepalooza challenge met with glorious and grillable results.

~
Given the amount of effort required to find the sausage casing, it’s not without irony that many recipes including sausage in pasta or on pizza, recommend discarding the casings and crumbling the meat. Well, rest assured, this recipe requires no such thing.

Italian Sausage and Broccolini Pasta with Basil
Serves 4 

1 pound pasta, such as orecchiette, penne, pipette rigate
Extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 pound spicy Italian sausage links (see below)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
3/4 pound broccolini, cut in 1 inch pieces
1 (28-ounce) can Italian plum tomatoes with juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup basil leaves, torn in half, plus extra for garnish
1/3 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus extra for garnish

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente; drain. While the pasta is cooking, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausages and brown on all sides. Remove from pan and transfer to a cutting board. When cool enough to handle, slice in 1/4 inch pieces.
Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to the same skillet and heat over medium heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes. Sauté until fragrant, 1 minute. Add broccolini and continue to sauté until bright green but still crisp, 1 minute. Add tomatoes, salt and pepper. Simmer 3-4 minutes, breaking tomatoes apart with a spoon. Add pasta and sausages to the skillet. Toss to combine and thoroughly heat through. Remove from heat and stir in basil leaves and cheese. Serve immediately garnished with extra cheese and basil.

~
Homemade Italian Sausage
Makes about 3 1/2 pounds sausage, or 12 links

I followed Hank Shaw’s sausage making technique in this post from Simply Recipes  and used these ingredients  for the filling:

3 pounds pork shoulder
1/2 pound pork fat
4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons fennel seeds, toasted, finely ground
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup minced  fresh sage leaves
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
1/2 cup dry red wine

What is Charcutepalooza?

An inspirational idea hatched by Cathy Barrow and Kim Foster and partnering with Food52 and Punk Domestics. It celebrates a Year in Meat, where participating foodies and bloggers will cure, smoke and salt their way through Michael Ruhlman’s bestselling cookbook Charcuterie.

Fregola Sarda with Asparagus and Lemon

fregola tastefood

If you have never tried Fregola Sarda, then you should. Fregola (also known as fregula) is a semolina pasta hailing from Sardinia, Italy. It’s quite similar to pearl couscous which is made of wheat. It consists of tiny rolled balls which have been sun-dried then toasted, lending a satisfying and unique nutty flavor and mottled texture. Fregola is delicious on its own, served simply with olive oil, sea salt and a dusting of cheese, in  soups, or combined with vegetables and fresh herbs as a side dish or light meal.

Fregola Sarda with Asparagus and Lemon

Serves 4

1 pound fregola
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
Salt
1/2 pound thin asparagus
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup finely grated Pecorino cheese
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the fregola and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes or per package instructions. Drain and transfer to a large bowl. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, the lemon zest and 1/2 teaspoon salt and toss to coat.
Cut the stalks of the asparagus into 1/2-inch pieces while keeping the tips intact. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallot and saute until softened, about 2 minutes.  Add the garlic and chili flakes and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the asparagus stalks and tips. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Saute until asparagus brightens in color, about 2 minutes. Add the chicken stock and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until asparagus are crisp tender and most of the liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat and add to the fregola. Add the Pecorino and toss to combine. If the fregola are too sticky, add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Serve warm with additional black pepper. 

Spaghetti and Meatballs


Spaghetti and Meatballs

One would think that since I have a food blog, dinner is always a happening, gastronomic event in our home. Wouldn’t that be nice? However, as any multi-tasking writer/parent may attest, after a day of meeting deadlines, planning a cooking class, driving kids to and from activities, bringing the dog to the vet and paying bills, dinnertime rolls around and the “what’s for dinner?” question looms with a blank stare in response. The most unfair aspect of this situation is that the supermarket was bypassed on the way to the vet, and I have spent a good part of the day immersed in the food web drooling over photos and recipes by many talented bloggers. So to add misery upon misery, not only is the family famished and the refrigerator empty, I am craving a delicious home-cooked meal worthy of TasteSpotting.

Yesterday this was the case. It was 6 pm, and I had no idea what to make for dinner. We were hungry, and the usual salad with cheese seemed so … wimpy. I pictured something warm and filling, a sturdy meal to feed a family. Peeking in the freezer, I spied a pound of frozen beef, and suddenly envisioned a Lady and the Tramp style platter of spaghetti with steaming red sauce and meatballs. The cook in me said, “Why not?” All the necessary ingredients were in the pantry. It would take less than an hour to prepare the meatballs and sauce, while filling the kitchen with tantalizing aromas as it simmered. I would rally and fight my fatigue. The reward was a perfectly delicious and rustic family-style dinner to launch the new week.

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Adapted from a recipe by Ina Garten. I used all beef for the meatballs (that’s what was in the freezer!) Feel free to substitute some of the beef with veal or pork. Serves 4.

For the meatballs:
1 pound ground beef (or 1/2 pound beef, 1/2 pound veal or pork)
3 slices prosciutto, minced
1 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 tablespoons finely chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 large egg, lightly beated
1/3 cup warm water
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

For the sauce:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 –  28 ounce can Italian plum tomatoes with juice
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 pound spaghetti, cooked according to package instructions
Finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for serving
Whole basil leaves for garnish

Combine the beef, prosciutto, breadcrumbs, cheese, parsley, oregano, salt pepper and nutmeg in a bowl. Add the egg and water and mix in with your hands. Lightly form into 1 1/2 inch meatballs.
Heat olive and vegetable oil in a skillet over medium heat. Carefully add the meatballs in batches, without overcrowding. Brown on all sides, turning gently with tongs or a spatula. Remove and set aside on a plate lined with a paper towel. When all of the meatballs are browned, pour off the oil. Without cleaning the skillet, add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add onion and saute until softened, 3 minutes. Add garlic and saute 1 minute. Add wine and cook, scraping up any brown bits, until reduced by 2/3. Add tomatoes, breaking them up with a spoon. Add tomato paste, oregano, salt and pepper. Return meatballs to the skillet. Cover and simmer over low heat until the meatballs are cooked through, about 30 minutes.
Serve over cooked spaghetti, garnished with grated cheese and basil leaves.

Spaghetti alla Norma: Sicilian-Style Pasta with Eggplant, Tomatoes, Basil and Ricotta

Alla norma

This divine Sicilian pasta dish often elicits the question: Who is Norma?  Theories abound, and one of them is that the dish was named in honor of Bellini, a native of Catania, Sicily.  Bellini’s opera “Norma” was so popular with his compatriots, that it inspired the creation of a new superlative – una vera Norma – to sing praise of any good deed or object.  Years later, the author Nino Martaglio tasted this traditional dish from Sicily and was so delighted by it that he called in Spaghetti alla Norma.  You will agree that this dish is una vera Norma.

Sicilian-Style Pasta with Eggplant, Tomatoes, Basil and Ricotta  Spaghetti alla Norma
Serves 4

1 large firm eggplant (aubergine)
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
I small yellow onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 28 oz./800 g. can Italian plum tomatoes
2 teaspoons dried oregano
Pinch of sugar

1 lb./500 g. dried spaghetti

1/2 cup shaved Ricotta Salata or Pecorino Romano cheese, plus extra for garnish
Handful fresh basil leaves
Fresh buffalo mozzarella, cut in slivers

Prepare the eggplant:
Trim ends.  Cut horizontally in 1/4″ slices. Arrange in one layer on baking tray.  Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Grill in oven, turning once, until browned and softened.  Remove.  Cut the slices in thirds.  Set aside.

Prepare tomato sauce:
Heat two tablespoons olive oil in skillet over medium-high heat.  Add onion and sauté until it begins to give off juices, about 2 minutes.  Add garlic and sauté one minute.  Add tomatoes with juices and oregano.  Simmer 10 minutes, stirring to break up tomatoes.  Add sugar.  Stir in eggplant slices and simmer additional 10 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

While the sauce is cooking, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add spaghetti and cook until al dente.  Drain.  Return spaghetti to pot and add eggplant mixture.  Add 1/2 cup ricotta salata.  Toss to combine.  Serve garnished with fresh basil leaves, slivers of buffalo mozzarella cheese and extra ricotta salata.