Archive for April, 2013

Pici pasta challenge

April 20, 2013

pici

I love to challenge myself to make new recipes. My BFF got me hooked on my new favorite cooking show on the cooking channel called Extra Virgin. If you haven’t seen this show yet I highly recommend it. Not only are the recipes amazing and authentic Italian family recipes, but the couple, Gabriele and Debi are so fun to watch. They inspire me to cook more with my hubby in the kitchen.

I recently saw an episode telling the story of pici pasta, hand rolled noodles that are a tradition in the Florence region. I googled and found a great rustic recipe that looked authentic like the Extra Virgin episode version. Last night we made the pici and I have to say they came out delicious. It was so fun making the noodles all together as a family, as I usually micromanage and kick everyone out of the kitchen. It was a bit of a time consuming process rolling each noodle by hand, but well worth it for the taste and the experience, if you like to challenge yourself as a cook, like I do. The tip in the recipe about rolling the pasta dough into grape sized balls really did help to make process go smoother.

pici2

Pici Pasta with Spare Rib Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium Spanish onion, chopped into 1/4 inch dice
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 4 ounces pancetta (thinly sliced), finely diced
  • 1 bunch basil, leaves only, finely chopped
  • 2 lbs pork spare ribs, cut into 1/2 inch pieces by butcher
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 1/2 cups basic tomato sauce
  • 1 recipe pici pasta – posted below
  • Semolina or cornmeal, for dusting
  • Parmigiano Reggiano, for grating

Cooking Directions

In a 10 to 12 inch deep sauté pan, heat the olive oil over high heat until almost smoking. Add the onion, carrot, pancetta and basil, reduce the heat to medium high and cook until the pancetta has rendered its fat.

Season the ribs with salt and pepper and add it to the pan, cooking until they are browned on all sides.

Add the wine and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the tomato sauce and bring to a boil. Then lower the heat to a simmer and with salt and pepper. Cover and simmer gently until the meat is tender, about 1 hour.

After you make the pici pasta dough as instructed below, shape small bits of the pasta dough into grape sized balls. One at a time, on a surface very lightly dusted with flour, roll each one into a rope 1/8 inch thick and 6-8 inches long and set aside on a baking sheet dusted with semolina. This is a time consuming process so plan ahead. If you don’t have extra time, this dish would be great served over orzo, fresh fettuicine or any of your favorite pasta.

Bring 6 quarts of water to boil in a large pot and add 2 tablespoons salt.

Drop the pasta into the water and cook until tender, yet al dente, about 7-8 minutes.

Do not pour the pasta in a strainer, strain in small batches with a small strainer over the pot of water and toss right into the pan with the sauce and stir gently over medium high heat for 1 minute. By adding the pasta right from the water to the sauce you marry the two together.

Divide evenly among four warmed pasta bowls to serve. Top with freshly grated parmigiano (or Romano, you know I prefer that) and serve.

Pici Pasta

Ingredients

  • 2 cups semolina flour
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 to 1 1/4 cups tepid water

Place both types of flour in a large mixing bowl and stir to mix well. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the water a little at a time, stirring with your hands until a dough is formed. You may need more or less water, depending on the humidity in your kitchen.

Place the dough on a floured work surface and knead it like bread until smooth and elastic, about 8 to 10 minutes. Cover the dough and let it stand for 10 minutes at room temperature.

Shape small bits of the pasta dough into grape sized balls. One at a time, on a surface very lightly dusted with flour, roll each one into a rope 1/8 inch thick and 6-8 inches long. Place the pici on a sheet tray that has been dusted with semolina flour, cover the pasta with a clean dish towel, and set aside until ready to use. At this point, the pasta can be frozen for several months.

Gnocchi di’ Melanzane – Eggplant Gnocchi

April 8, 2013

gnocchi

I love my usual go to gnocchi recipe I posted before but tonight I decided to branch out and challenge myself and make some eggplant gnocchi aka Gnocchi di’ Melanzane.  The secret is you puree roasted eggplant and put it in your gnocchi dough. The best part was that my kids ate it and I got eggplant into their tummies! I topped it with my favorite sauce, my leftover cacciatore sauce. After you make a big pot of cacciatore there is always leftover sauce.

According to my research, gnocchi are little dumplings that can be varied by adding cheese, vegetables, herbs, or even fruit to the basic dough. Just look for whatever is in season and blend it into the dough for a special treat.

This gnocchi was relatively easy to make. I loved the technique of piping the gnocchi out of a pastry bag and cutting them with pastry scissors, this was much easier than hand rolling them.  I would say if I made them again I would probably add a bit more flour to make the dough a little thicker, as it did not hold together as well as usual gnocchi dough does, but it still came out good. So if you want to add an extra Italian flavor to your gnocchi, try this eggplant version

Gnocchi di’ Melanzane – Eggplant Gnocchi

2 pounds of firm eggplant

coarse salt

olive oil

1 pound of Idaho potatoes

1/3 cup of freshly grated parmesan or romano (I prefer)

2 eggs, beaten

1 1/4 teaspoons of salt

1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground pepper

12 leaves of fresh basil, minced

2 cups of flour

Preheat oven to 375 degrees, halve eggplant lengthwise and brush olive oil on, then put cut side down on foil lined baking sheet and bake about 40 mins, till tender (or less if you are using several small eggplants). While eggplant is cooking boil potatoes in salted water for about 30 mins till tender. When it is cool enough to handle peel eggplant and puree in food processor. Allow puree to cool completely. When cool enough to handle, peel potatoes and use potato ricer to squeeze them into a large bowl. Add the eggplant puree and the cheese and mix well. Add the eggs, salt, pepper, and basil and mix to blend. Add flour and mix to incorporate, but do not overmix.


pot

Bring large pot of salted water, about 6-8qts, to boil. Fill pastry bag with eggplant mixture and when the water boils, pipe 1/2 inch long pieces, cutting using pastry scissors, dropping them into the boiling water. Work rapidly until all the dough is used up. Allow gnocchi to cook until they float to top and then drain on a slotted spoon and place in a bowl. Butter lightly and keep warm. Top with your favorite pesto, alfredo (my pistachio alfredo would be great), red sauce and freshly grated cheese and manga!

A great fresh tomato sauce from scratch is featured here, by one of my cooking idols, Lidia Bastianich

Baking Bonanza

April 4, 2013

banana

I got home from work today and decided I was in the mood, to bake that is. Sometimes I think that might be even more exciting to my husband, as he loves my baking, haha! I didn’t try out anything new, just stuck to some trusty go to recipes I love to make. I love making my homemade easy pizza dough and so does the family. Best part was I had leftover  of my mom’s famous roasted sausage, peppers and onions, so I had a great topping to add.

Also, any time I have ripe bananas sitting around I can never just toss them, I always have to whip up my favorite banana bread. I don’t mean to be redundant but I recently noticed that I have had my blog for 3 years and I had not posted my banana bread recipe since 2010, so here it goes:

Flour’s Famous Banana Bread

Ingredients
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup oil
3 1/2 bananas, very ripe, mashed
2 tablespoons creme fraiche or sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped or Chocolate chips
Directions
Set oven to 350 degrees F. Line the bottom of a loaf pan with parchment paper.
Sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Beat sugar and eggs with a whisk until light and fluffy, about 10 minutes. Drizzle in oil. Add mashed bananas, creme fraiche, and vanilla. Fold in dry ingredients and nuts. Pour into a lined loaf pan and bake for about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Cook Tara’s note: this recipe is super easy and moist and delicious, I used sour cream this time as I did not have creme fraiche and I always substitute chocolate chips instead of nuts, I am not a banana nut bread fan… oh and this was a top secret recipe from a bakery in Boston that was revealed on FN on Giada’s Weekend Getaways. A little schmear of Nutella makes anything hot out of the oven taste even better, BTW