Pork All’Arrabbiata

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The other day I read an email from New York Times Cooking, What to Cook this Weekend, by Sam Sifton, that I only occasionally read. I say occasionally, because I dislike the format of the highly-packed food and cooking info in the emails. But a photo caught my eye so I read on.

I’m probably in the minority, but I think Sam Sifton must be an arrogant man. Or maybe he’s just too smart for me, but I would bet he’s someone who likes the sound of his own voice.

According to Wikipedia, “Sam Sifton is the food editor of The New York Times, the founding editor of NYT Cooking and a columnist for The New York Times Magazine. He has also served as the national editor, the restaurant critic and the culture editor.”

Okay, so he does know a few things. But he still seems show-off to me.

Mr. Sifton has a cookbook out, called “See You on Sunday.” It’s about Sunday meals, and has high reviews. Some reviewers suggest that the book is for novice cooks, and I’d have to agree. In the chicken section, are Tuscan chicken, chicken Milanese, beer can chicken, chicken paprika, chicken Provençal, chicken Shawarma… there’s just nothing new or exceptional.

The recipe in the email that caught my attention in the NYT Cooking email, from 2-21-2020, was braised pork All’Arrabbiata, by Ali Slagle. According to the recipe’s information, “this spicy pork shoulder’s long-simmered flavor is one you’ll crave all season long.”

Ut’s basically pulled pork, but instead of barbecue sauce, it’s cooked in a spicy red sauce. I served it as sandwiches. Delicious.

I substituted prepared Arrabiatta sauce for the fire-roasted tomatoes listed, but a good marinara like my Marinara would work just as well.

I also didn’t use wine. See printable recipe below for original recipe.

Braised Pork All’Arrabbiata
slightly adapted

3 pounds boneless pork shoulder, trimmed of more than 1/4″ fat
Kosher salt and black pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin oil
10 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne chile pepper flakes
42 ounces Arrabiatta or marinara sauce

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Season the pork all over with 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper.

In a large Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-high. Add the pork shoulder and sear until browned on all sides, 8 – 10 minutes.

Reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the garlic and cayenne flakes to the oil and stir to combine. Add the marinara sauce, season with salt and pepper as necessary, then bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

Cover, then transfer to the oven and cook until the pork falls apart when prodded with a fork, 3 hours.

Working directly in the pot, use two forks to shred the meat into long, bite-sized pieces. Stir the pork into the tomato sauce until it’s evenly distributed.

This lucious pork can be served in quite a few ways. As a sauce over pasta, served over polenta, or as sandwiches, similar to how you’d serve meatball subs.
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I added grated mozzarella and Parmesan to the sandwiches before heating.

I thought these were way more fun than meatball subs, personally.


On another day, I prepared polenta and served the pork on top. That was also wonderful!

 

 

 

 

Lamb Balls in Red Sauce

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A while back I saw a recipe for lamb meatballs, cooked in a red sauce. It really appealed to me because I love lamb. And, I think I could eat shoe soles cooked in red sauce.


But did I print this recipe? Or even take notes as to where I found it? Stupidly no, although I’m typically organized about such important things as recipes.

So I’m creating the recipe for slightly Greek-inspired lamb balls, baked in a red sauce, along with goat cheese. The meat balls are gently seasoned with oregano, allspice, and a hint of cinnamon.

Lamb Balls in Red Sauce with Goat Cheese
Makes about 36 meatballs

Approximately 42 ounces favorite red sauce or simple Marinara
2 pounds ground lamb
3 eggs, mixed well
1/3 cup panko crumbs
4 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/4 medium onion, diced
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
Panko bread crumbs, approximately 1/2 cup
10-12 ounces soft goat cheese
Freshly chopped parsley, optional

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Pour the red sauce into a 9 x 13″ baking dish; set aside

In a medium bowl, mix together the lamb, egg, panko crumbs, parsley, salt, oregano, cinnamon, allspice, and pepper.

In a large skillet, (you’ll be using it for another purpose), sauté the onion over medium-low heat until soft. Stir in the garlic, then remove the skillet from the burner. Let the mixture cool, then add to the lamb mixture.

Using the same skillet, add approximately 2 tablespoons of olive oil and heat over medium-high heat. Have a bowl of panko crumbs next to the meatball mixture. Form the lamb into medium-sized meatballs, I used a 1 1/2” scoop, roll in the bread crumbs, then sauté them in the skillet, about 8-10 at a time.


When the balls have browned well on all sides, use a slotted spoon to remove them from the skillet and place them in the baking dish with the red sauce. This should only take about 5 minutes over medium-high heat.

Repeat with remaining meatballs. If you have any bread crumbs leftover you can sprinkle them over the meatballs in the red sauce.

Bake the meatballs for approximately 20-25 minutes and remove the baking dish from the oven. Turn off the oven.

Add the goat cheese to the meatballs, adding a generous tablespoons interspersed amongst them, eturn the baking dish to the oven to allow the cheese to melt, approximately 10-15 minutes.


Before serving, sprinkle the lamb balls with freshly chopped parsley.


Serve directly from the baking dish, if desired, along with crusty bread.

Make sure there’s a generous amount of red sauce served with the lamb balls.

If desired, the meatballs and red sauce can be served over pasta or polenta, but today I used pasta.

The meatballs are tender, with a slight crunchy firmness on the outside.

The goat cheese is spectacular with the lamb and red sauce.

The crusty bread is a must!

My Favorite Pasta

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It could be said that one doesn’t need a book on pasta to cook pasta. I mean, start with garlic, add fresh tomatoes and basil to pasta, and you’ve got a fabulous dish. Add some Italian sausage and Parmesan to it and it gets even better. No recipe required.

But then, one could say that about a lot of different kinds of cooking. Especially everyday cooking, because often the recipes are created based on what you just picked up at the grocery store and what’s in your pantry.

But I have many Italian cookbooks, as well as pasta cookbooks, and it’s the only way to discover traditional recipes and unique ingredients.

One of my favorite Italian cookbook authors is Giuliano Bugialli. And this pasta recipe comes from his cookbook, Bugialli on Pasta, published in 1988. He’s especially funny to me because he abhors Americans who put cheese on all forms of pasta. He gets quite indignant about it, in fact.

pasta9

Fortunately, he has never visited me in my kitchen to see what I do and don’t do with pasta, because although I love his recipe, I’ve also adapted it. And, I serve it with cheese. The original recipe in the book is called Malloreddus alla Campidanese, or Sardinian Pasta with Sausages.

This is a photograph of his actual recipe using the “correct” pasta called malloreddus. I’ve always thought that this pasta shape looks like maggots! But I finally got my hands on some so that’s what I’m using!

pasta8

This is Malloreddus.


If you can’t find malloreddus, or find them too maggotty, use any ruffly pasta shape like radiatore or trumpets.


So here is my slight adaptation of Mr. Bugialli’s recipe.

Pasta Alla Campidanese
Pasta with Sausages

12 ounces pasta of choice
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound Italian sausage
1 onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 – 26.46 carton (Pomi brand) chopped tomatoes
2 teaspoons dried basil (during winter months)
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pinch saffron
1/3 cup cream
Freshly grated Parmesan
Fresh basil leaves, chiffonaded (during summer months)

Place a large pot of water on the stove over high heat. When the water boils, add the pasta, and cook according to package directions. Then pour everything into a large colander.

Pour the olive oil in the same pot that you used to cook the pasta. Heat it over medium high heat, then add the sausage. Use fairly large pieces; you don’t want it to look like ground sausage. Cook until well browned, then remove them from the pot with a slotted spoon and place the sausage in a bowl.

Turn down the heat slightly, then add the onion to the pot and sauté for about 5 minutes.

Add the garlic and stir for about 10 seconds, then add the tomatoes.

Give everything a stir, and cook for about 5 minutes to reduce slightly. You don’t want to reduce too much; you want extra sauce so the noodles can absorb it. Then add salt, saffron, and dried basil, if using. Stir well.

Stir it in, then add the sausage to the sauce. Cook for a few minutes, then add the cream.


Then add the pasta. Stir well but gently to combine.


Serve hot, topped with grated Parmesan and fresh basil, if available.

In reality, pasta puttanesca is my personal favorite, but it’s not for everybody. This recipe with Italian sausage and the red sauce is more generally enjoyed by everyone.

I like to prepare the pasta about an hour before serving, so the pasta has a chance to soak up the lovely sauce.

This pasta reheats pretty well, but you might have to add some broth or more cream and heat on the stove gently and slowly.

Besides the Parmesan, it’s really good topped with cayenne chile pepper flakes.

Fettuccine al Burro

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I didn’t grow up with Italian cuisine, which is interesting, considering my French mother cooked various global cuisines over the years, like Ethiopian and Chinese, as well as French. Somehow, Italian got overlooked.

It could have been on purpose now that I think of it. Her first husband, my father, was from Sicily. That marriage didn’t end well.

Fortunately, thanks to the comprehensive Time-Life Foods of the world set of cookbooks that my mother gave me when I got married, I gradually learned about the world of Italian cuisine.

My exploration taught me quickly that the cuisine was not anything like Americanized Italian food that I’d experienced at “bad” Italian restaurants.

Creating Osso Buco and Scaloppine al Marsala, and discovering pesto, were revelations. But one recipe really stood out in “The Cooking of Italy” cookbook, and that was Fettuccine al Burro.

It was and is still for me one of those “to die for” recipes. Practically equal parts butter, cream and cheese melted into fettuccine. What’s not to love?

This recipe is probably what’s better known as Alfredo sauce, but I’ll always call it by the name I first learned, which translates to fettuccine in butter.

Fettuccine al Burro
Egg Noodles with Butter and Cheese
Slightly adapted

8 tablespoons butter, softened
1/4 cup heavy cream, plus a little more
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
12 ounces fettuccine
1 canned white truffle, sliced very thin, optional
Extra freshly grated Parmesan

Cream the softened butter by beating it vigorously against the sides of a large, heavy bowl with a wooden spoon until it is light and fluffy. Beat in the cream a little at a time, and then, a few tablespoons at a time, beat in 1/2 cup of grated cheese. Set aside.


Bring the water and salt to a bubbling boil in a large soup pot. Drop in the fettuccine and stir it gently with a wooden fork for a few moments to prevent the strands from sticking to one another.


Boil over high heat, stirring occasionally until the pasta is tender. Use the package instructions for guidance.

Immediately drain the fettuccine into a colander then transfer it at once to the bowl the toss until every strand is well coated.

Taste and season generously with salt and pepper. I use white pepper.

Stir in the optional truffle, if using. I know for a fact that 30+ years ago I never used truffles because I was pretty confused as to why one would put chocolate in pasta!!! I also could never have afforded them…


Serve the fettuccine at once.

Pass the extra grated cheese in a separate bowl.


If the fettuccine dries up a little before serving, add a little more cream, cover the bowl, and let the pasta sit.

Some day it would be fun to add some lovely slices of white truffle to this pasta, but it’s certainly rich and satisfying as is.

note: I typically buy a 4-5 pound chunk of Parmesan Reggiano at Whole Foods and store it for when I need to freshly grate some. For some odd reason, this really irks them, and I have no idea why. But how people can be happy with little 3 ounces plastic-wrapped chunks of Parmesan that are obviously cut along the rind is beyond me. So I break down my large chunk when I get home, store it in cheese bags, and grate as needed.

I love this gadget that I got at Amazon, of course, and it’s easier on the hands than a traditional grater. It’s a manual rotary cheese grater with 3 different graters. Just FYI.

Boeuf Bourguignon

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Back when I was single, I’d often cook myself beef liver for meals. It was cheap and I loved it, especially with eggs, which were also affordable. I had no other meat experience. Nor with vegetables, other than salad.

So I marry at 25 and know I need to learn how to cook and put daily meals together for my husband and myself. Plus, my husband didn’t eat liver.

Fortunately I was fearless in the kitchen. I jumped into this set of cookbooks from Time-Life – called Foods of the World – that my mother gifted me when we married, and proceeded to cook. My naïveté helped me.

Peking duck? Sure! Tempura? Of course! Rogan Josh? Certainly. Nothing intimidated me, except crazy desserts and pastries, which still do…

When it came to the Provincial French cookbook, I dove in with the same enthusiasm I had for every other cookbook, with glorious results.

Take this boeuf bourguignon. Every aspect of this dish is prepped separately prior to being added together at the end.

I learned how to use salt pork, a new ingredient for me, poaching it first to get rid of all of the salt. I learned how to respect mushrooms, those water-gorged fungi. I peeled pearl onions, not my favorite chore. And I quickly learned how to use good wine in cooking, not one that turns everything purple.

So if you’re willing to spend a little more time to create an outstanding French Burgundian specialty, you will be so happy you did. Nothing is hard, well, except for those darn pearl onions. This recipe just takes a bit of time.

Boeuf Bourguignon
Beef Stew with Red Wine
To serve 6 – 8

To ensure that no one element in your boeuf bourguignon is overdone, cook the onions, mushrooms and beef separately before finally combining them. Although the different steps may be taken simultaneously, it is easier to deal with them one at a time.

The onions
1/2 pound lean salt pork, cut into strips about 1 1/2” long
and 1/4” in diameter
1 quart water
1 tablespoon butter
18 – 24 peeled white onions, about 1” in diameter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. To remove excess saltiness, the salt pork should be blanched by simmering it in 1 quart of water for 5 minutes; drain on paper towels and pat dry.


In a heavy skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over moderate heat, and in it brown the pork, stirring the pieces frequently, until they are crisp and golden. Remove them with a slotted spoon and set aside to drain on paper towels.

In the rendered fat left in the skillet, brown the onions lightly over moderately high heat, shaking the pan occasionally to roll them around and color them as evenly as possible.

Transfer the onions to a shallow baking dish large enough to hold them in one layer, and sprinkle them with 3 tablespoons of pork fat. (Set the skillet aside, leaving the rest of the fat in it.) Bake the onions uncovered, turning them once or twice, for 30 minutes or until they are barely tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife. Remove from the oven and set aside.

The mushrooms
3 tablespoons butter
3/4 pound fresh mushrooms, whole if small, sliced in large

While the onions are baking or after they are done, melt 3 tablespoons of butter over moderate heat in a skillet. When the foam subsides, cook the mushrooms, tossing and turning them frequently, for 2 or 3 minutes, or until they are slightly soft.


Add the mushrooms to the onions and set aside.

The beef
3 pound lean boneless beef chuck or rump, cut into 2” chunks
Bouquet garni made of 4 parsley sprigs and 1 bay leaf, tied together
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
1/4 cup very finely chopped carrots
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup hot beef stock
2 cups red Burgundy
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley

Make sure the oven is preheated to 350 degrees F. Pour almost all of the rendered pork fat from the skillet in which the onions browned into a small bowl, leaving just enough to make a thin film about 1/16” deep on the bottom of the pan.

Over moderately high heat, bring the fat almost to the smoking point. Dry the beef with paper towels, then brown it in the fat, 4 or 5 chunks at a time to avoid crowding the skillet.

Add more pork fat as needed. When the chunks are brown on all sides, remove them with kitchen tongs to a heavy, flameproof 5-6 quart casserole. Bury the bouquet garni in the meat.

After all the beef if browned, add the chopped shallots and carrots to the fat remaining in the pan and cook them over low heat, stirring frequently, until they are lightly colored. Stir in the flour. (If the mixture looks dry, add a little more pork fat.)


Return the skillet to low heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the flour begins to brown lightly, but be careful it doesn’t burn. Remove from the heat, let cool a moment, then pour in the hot beef stock, blending vigorously with a wire whisk.


Blend in the wine and the tomato paste and bring to a boil, whisking constantly as the sauce thickens.

Mix in the garlic, thyme, sautéed pork strips, salt and a few grinding of black pepper, and pour the sauce over the beef, stirring gently to moisten it thoroughly. the sauce should almost, but not quite, cover the meat; add more wine or stock if needed.



Bring to a boil on top of the stove, cover tightly, and place the casserole in the lower third of the oven. Let the beef cook, regulating the oven heat so the meat simmers slowly, 2 – 3 hours, or until the meat is tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife.

Then gently stir the browned onions and mushrooms, together with any juices that may have accumulated under them, into the casserole.

With a large spoon, gently mix the beef and vegetables with the sauce in the casserole. Continue baking for another 15 minutes.

To serve, remove the bouquet garni, and skim off any fat from the surface.

Taste the sauce and season it with salt and pepper if needed. Sprinkle the beef with parsley and serve it directly from the casserole.


In the past I’ve served this luscious stew over fresh pasta, but this time I was lazy and cooked some fettuccine.

It’s also wonderful, as you can imagine, over any kind of potato – mashed, roasted, a gratin…

The full flavors of this beef stew are so intense. It’s rich in a way, but rich with flavors of wine and thyme. The onions and mushrooms add delightful texture as well.

Use a good wine – something you’d serve with this dish.

You can serve the stew as you would chili, in a warm bowl without toppings, of course, but I prefer a base of pasta or potatoes.

Stracciatella

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My husband and I first experienced heavenly stracciatella at the restaurant Manzo, which is located in Eataly, New York City. It was served to us for lunch simply drizzled with olive oil, alongside grilled bread. We also ordered prosciutto for our antipasti.

Stracciatella, we learned, is the inside of buratta. It’s the creamy goodness that spills out when you cut into the ball of buratta. If you love buratta, and haven’t yet experienced stracciatella, just wait. You will think you’ve gone to heaven.

After the wonderful lunch at Manzo, I found stracciatella in Eataly, but didn’t buy it because we were a few days from flying home.


When I got home and searched for stracciatella, I had some trouble. Turns out, according to Wikipedia, “Stracciatella is a term used for three different types of Italian food.”

1.Stracciatella (soup), an egg drop soup popular in central Italy
2.Stracciatella (ice cream), a gelato variety with chocolate flakes, inspired by the soup
3.Stracciatella di bufala, a variety of soft Italian buffalo cheese from the Apulia region

I ordered stracciatella from Murray’s cheese recently, since I can’t get it locally, and I’m so glad I did. But how did I want to serve it?

I thought of the typical ways buratta is served, like with salads, on pasta, or over grilled vegetables. But I wanted to experience it again just like we had a few years before, simply with grilled bread.

What I purchased for the cheese is a Tuscan loaf. White and plain, and perfect for grilling.

Stracciatella is so soft it’s pourable.

I grilled bread and got together a few goodies to highlight the stracciatella.

And I drizzled the stracciatella with good olive oil, just like at Manzo, except that my left handed pour job sucked.

I included dried apricots, walnuts, and Prosciutto on the antipasti platter along with the grilled bread.

There is an experiration date on stracciatella so pay attention to that when you purchase it.

It was as good as I remembered it. Even my husband joined in on the fun!

The cheese is a little messy because it’s so soft. We didn’t care! I’m just so glad I know where I can find this delicacy!

Shrimp with Greens

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Some of my Instagram friends may remember when I discovered anchovy syrup on Amazon one day and posted a photo of it. I’d never heard of it before, and there was lively discussion about how it compared to Asian fish sauce. However, it’s an Italian product.

I was so intrigued bought a little bottle of it, even with mixed reviews. It’s a 3-ounce bottle for $35.00, but you don’t use much.

It’s recommended for pasta, pizza, soups, in dressings, or sauces. Because I use anchovies quite often, I though this product could be quite handy as a pantry staple.

From Chef Shop: Colatura di Alici is the modern day descendant of an ancient and greatly prized Roman condiment called garum.

The method of making Colatura di Alici is the same now as it was then: by slowly curing Mediterranean anchovies with salt and extracting the liquid that drains from them. This part of the process takes 9-12 months to complete, a process that is as closely regulated as the DOC-controlled production of balsamic vinegar or champagne. The liquid is then aged in oak barrels for 3-4 years. It is then filtered and placed into jars.

Cetara, a small fishing village south of Naples, regards their Colatura di Alici as an heirloom food. It is an example of a foodstuff holding out against the modern age, and Slow Food Italy embraces it as an important regional specialty.

The IACA (whose Italian name translates as “Friends of the Anchovy”) is one of a few authorized producers of this heritage ingredient. It has only recently appeared in the United States, where chefs have enthusiastically taken it to their kitchens.

What especially intriguing about anchovy syrup is that although it’s made from anchovies, there’s no fishy-in-your-face quality to it, unlike fish sauce. In fact, it has a delightful aroma – truly. Anchovy syrup would be hard to identify it in a smell test.

To test the anchovy syrup, I decided to make a simple pasta with sautéed greens, topped with shrimp. Here’s what I did.

Pasta with Greens and Shrimp

4 ounces pasta, such as angel hair
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic minced
5 ounces mixed greens, coarsely chopped
3/4 pound raw shrimp, cleaned, shelled

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat in a skillet large enough to hold the pasta and sautéed greens. Add the shallot and cook for about 4-5 minutes. Then add the garlic and stir for a few seconds.


Add the greens and stir them into the aromatic oil, making sure all of the leaves are coated. Turn down the heat to the lowest setting and allow the greens to wilt. Then add the cooked pasta to the greens and gently stir to combine.

Add some anchovy syrup. I was going to get a pouring shot, but I can’t do anything with my left hand, and I can only use my camera with my right hand. (Where is my assistant?) So after I set down the syrup and camera I then put a little drizzle into the pasta and greens, and again stirred; set this aside.

Place the last tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet, and cook the shrimp, only about one minute per side, depending on how big they are. Transfer them to a plate, and finish cooking all the shrimp. Sprinkle the shrimp with a little salt and some cayenne pepper flakes.

To serve, place the pasta and greens mixture on plates, and top with the shrimp.

Well, I could barely taste the anchovy syrup, so I had to add more!

Wow, this stuff is amazing.

And I have to say that this recipe turned out great.

Oddly enough, I tasted the anchovy syrup, twice actually, and it’s basically salt. The flavor doesn’t match the aroma!

Basil Pesto

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Basil pesto is such a huge deal in my house. Mostly because my husband could eat it on ice cream, practically.

To me, pesto is an extremely versatile ingredient. This flavorful, emerald-colored paste can be added to soups, breads, meat, seafood, salad dressings, sauces, marinades, and so many other dishes.

The only thing is, you have to make it. You can buy prepared pesto, but it’s expensive; home made is better.

All you need are a few basil plants, some dirt, a little water, and lots of sun. I’ve been growing basil for over 35 years in Texas and Oklahoma, and I don’t end up with basil plants – I have basil bushes. And the weather in these states can be brutal. So trust me – there’s no green thumb requirement for growing basil.

Today I’m making a batch of traditional basil pesto based on how it’s made in the Ligurian region of Italy where basil grows in abundance, called pesto alla Genovese.

I’ve always heard that the best Italian pesto is made only from baby basil leaves, but I use the larger leaves as well, as long as they’re not “leathery.” And I just buy domestic basil plants locally.

The only other thing I do when I make a batch of pesto is not add cheese. Omitting cheese saves space in my freezer; it probably cuts the pesto volume by 50%. Then when I use pesto and want cheese, I freshly grate it.

Also, with having non-cheesy pesto, it is basically another ingredient than the cheesy version. For example, the non-cheesy pesto can go in soups, in a vinaigrette, or a marinade, where cheese isn’t a necessary component.

Here’s my recipe for a batch of pesto, when you have an abundance of fresh basil. There’s no exact recipe, and you’re welcome to alter it to your own tastes.

After I pick the basil branches in the morning, I set them outside to let the creepy-crawlers escape. I don’t know if it really works, but it makes me feel better.

Basil Pesto (Cheeseless)
Makes about 72 ounces

4 ounces of pine nuts, I toast mine
Approximately 10 ounces of good olive oil
2 heads garlic, cloves peeled
Basil leaves – from a giant armful of branches

Place the pine nuts, olive oil, and garlic in a large blender jar. Blend until smooth. This is an important step so the rest of the pesto-making process is only about adding leaves.

Then begin adding leaves, making sure they are soft, and void of damage, bugs, or webs.

There’s a point when you can barely blend in the last leaves, as in the photo above. If you must, add a tablespoon of oil, and play with your blender to get the pesto nice and smooth. Then you will end up with this.

Spatula the pesto into sterilized jars. The pesto can be refrigerated but I freeze until needed, and thaw one jar at a time.

Now to the pesto pasta. Choose a 1-pound package of pasta, and cook it to the package directions.

Drain the pasta, then place it back the still-hot pot. Add some pesto, I used about 1 cup of what I’d just made, but we like it strong. Add about the same amount of grated cheese, or to your liking. Then gently stir.

Serve the pasta while it’s nice and warm and the cheese has melted. You can also add some evaporated milk, goat milk, or cream to the pesto for a creamier pasta dish.

If you’ve never made pesto, this one would be a good recipe with which to start.

Pesto oxidates easily, but just on the surface area. Stir it up and the pesto will still be emerald green.

To prevent this in the jar, pour a little olive oil on top of the pesto.

Once you get the hang of pesto, it’s fun and easy to switch out the herbs, and use different nuts and even seeds, to create unique pestos.

Here are some other ways I’ve made and used pesto.

Trottole Trapanese

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This is a pasta post, based on my discovering the cutest twirly pasta ever, called Trottole. I purchased the spinach variety, for color.

As is my pattern, apparently, I purchase a unique pasta, then figure out what sauce to put on it. For the trottole, I decided to again make a Sicilian pasta sauce I wrote about five years ago. It got some attention, but not enough.

This sauce is so crazy wonderful and different than anything I’ve ever come across on other food blogs, that you folks need to discover it, too. So here it is again.

The sauce, called Pesto Trapenese, is an uncooked, Tunisian-influenced tomato sauce, that originated in Trapani, Sicily. The sauce is ready before the pasta has finished cooking. I discovered it in Nigella Lawson’s cookbook called Nigellissima.

Ms. Lawson uses fusilli lunghi when she makes Pesto Trapanese, otherwise called telephone cords, but I think these trottole will be a perfect substitute.

Trottole with Pesto Trapanese
Or, Sicilian Pasta with Tomatoes, Almonds, and Garlic

1 pound fusilli lunghi (or other pasta of your choice)
salt for pasta water (to taste)
9 ounces cherry tomatoes
6 anchovy fillets
1 ounce golden sultanas
2 cloves garlic (peeled)
2 tablespoons capers (drained)
2 ounces blanched almonds
2 ounces extra virgin olive oil
Parmesan
1 small bunch fresh basil (approx. 20g / 1 cup, to serve)
Cayenne pepper flakes

Put abundant water on to boil for the pasta, waiting for it to come to the boil before salting it. Add the pasta and cook according to packet instructions, though start checking it a good 2 minutes before it’s meant to be ready.

While the pasta is cooking, make the sauce by putting all of the 7 ingredients through the olive oil into a processor and blitzing until you have a nubbly-textured sauce.

Tip the drained pasta into your warmed serving bowl. Pour and scrape the sauce on top, tossing to coat (add a little more pasta-cooking water if you need it).


Serve immediately and strew with basil leaves.

Grated Parmesan and cayenne pepper flakes are optional.

I’m so in love with the trottole. And they hold their shape beautifully.

And you can bet I’ll keep making pesto Trapanese. At first you taste the bite from the garlic, then the saltiness from the anchovies, then the tang from the capers, and then some raisin sweetness, and finally, the texture from the almonds. The tomatoes are hardly noticeable, yet provide a good base for the goodies.

Try this sauce!!!

 

 

Easy Peasy Pasta

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There are some specific criteria to being a successful home cook. The most important thing, in my opinion, is to have food in the house! That may not sound very profound, but no one, not even Gordon Ramsay, can prepare food without basics in the pantry and refrigerator. It’s just impossible.

It’s not only necessary to have ingredients available, it’s so much less expensive to cook with those ingredients, instead of going out for restaurant food or contacting a delivery service.

Some staples I must have in my pantry include pasta, grains, and legumes.

Canned products are essential, especially canned tomatoes. I also love canned beans because I feel they’re a quality ingredient, and I always have canned tuna on hand.

I like to keep milk products like canned coconut milk, evaporated milk, and goat milk on hand as well.

Besides canned products, it’s necessary to have staples such as oils and vinegars, or at least one of each! Plus sweeteners and unique pastes.

Refrigerated items that are important to me are sauces and condiments. If I want to make any kind of dish with Asian ingredients, like a quick noodle soup, I can simply reach for hoisin sauce, smoked sesame oil, fish sauce, soy sauce, and Gochujang. But if you only want mayo and mustard, that’s fine too!

The refrigerator is also where I keep my nuts, seeds, and dried fruits. Butter, eggs, and cheese are definite refrigerator staples for me, as are demi glaces. But cream, yogurt, and even ricotta can help in a pinch, whether you’re cooking an Italian dish such as a pasta, or an Indian curry.

The freezer comes in handy, also, for storing frozen vegetables and stock.

Which brings me to this pasta dish. It’s a perfect example of preparing a quick and easy meal with just a few basic ingredients. It’s a dish that can be made on a weeknight after work, or after a vacation when you’re too tired to put much effort in to whipping up a meal, and have no fresh produce.

Easy Peasy Pasta
printable recipe below

12-16 ounces pasta, a pretty shape or color
1 – 15 ounce carton whole-milk ricotta, at room temperature
12 ounce package of frozen peas
Parmesan, optional

Boil a large pot of salted water, and cook the pasta according to the package directions. Meanwhile, scoop the ricotta cheese into a large, heatproof bowl; set aside.

Gently heat the frozen peas in the microwave. I place a little folded paper towel in the bottom of the bowl for excess liquid, but drain them if there’s a significant amount of water.

Drain the pasta when it’s cooked, then add it hot to the bowl with the ricotta. Stir gently.

If necessary, thin with a little milk or cream, or even a little butter. (All staples!) Or, use a little pasta water.

Add the peas and incorporate. Taste for salt and pepper.

Place the pasta in individual bowls or a serving bowl. Sprinkle with Parmesan, if desired.

I used a few toasted pine nuts on top of the pasta for some texture. And that’s it! (Also another staple of mine.)

This recipes shows how good a very simple and basic cooking can be, using what you have in your kitchen.

Now, for a heartier meal, you can add some garbanzo beans from a can… from your pantry! I love the heartiness of pasta and beans in the same dish.

Also, rotisserie chicken or even smoked salmon would be wonderful added to the pasta. Or, canned tuna.

Cooking truly isn’t difficult, and it definitely doesn’t have to be time consuming.

Keep your pantry and refrigerator stocked with basics. That way, you’re naturally creative in the kitchen, not wasteful, and can cook in a pinch!