Maltagliati Pasta with Pistachio Pesto

Maltagliati con Pesto al Pistacchio

Maltagliati

Today’s post is one of odds and ends, literally. Sure, there are two “recipes” to be shared but neither is deserving of its own post, both being incredibly easy to prepare. One, in fact, is traditionally nothing more than scraps, giving more proof to the adage that nothing is wasted in an Italian kitchen.

Maltagliati is a pasta of irregular shapes, the name of which is derived from the Italian words for badly cut, male taglio. (Thanks, Francesca, of Almost Italian). It is the end pieces and leftover bits of pasta that result from a day of pasta making. Like snowflakes, no two pieces are alike, each being randomly cut. The fact that there would be enough scraps to prepare a dinner is an indication of the difference between our two countries’ eating habits.

By one estimate, the average per capita consumption of pasta in Italy is 59 pounds per year, while in the US it’s only 19 pounds apiece annually. Yet we have an obesity epidemic. The reality is that a one pound package of pasta will yield 8 servings in most Italian kitchens. They will serve one such serving with most evening meals, the primo piatto. Here, we’ll get 5, 4, or even 3 mega-servings from a single pound. That serving is often the main course, with the addition of a salad, bread, and possibly a dessert.

Most of our pasta is manufactured and store-bought. Up until recent times, the vast majority of pasta served in Italian homes was made by hand. If you make enough pasta so that everyone in your household is going to eat 59 pounds of pasta per year, you are bound to have a lot of scraps to deal with. Those scraps can become maltagliati and will be served in any number of ways, usually determined by the amount at hand.

Very often, they’re served with beans, taking the place of the ditalini used in last week’s Pasta e Fagioli recipe. If you’ve plenty, they can be served with a hearty meat sauce, as was served to Zia and me one evening in Rome, where I first heard of this pasta. Here, I’ve chosen to serve them with a new version of pesto, simply because I needed a pasta narrative to accompany the recipe for today’s pesto. It would have been an incredibly short post, otherwise.

*     *     *

Yes, that’s the first, lonely crocus to bloom in my front garden. Spring is finally taking hold and 1st Bloomwith the new season comes an offer from my blogging friend, Mary, of Love – The Secret Ingredient. She is creating surprise boxes that will contain various gourmet items, small kitchen products, and recipes which will use the enclosed items. A box will be delivered every season and you can purchase them separately or all four at once. The part that caught my attention is that Mary will donate 10% of the annual profits to Feed The Children, an organization dedicated to providing hope and eliminating hunger. You can learn all about Mary’s Secret Ingredients by clicking HERE.

Note: Although I’ve ordered and paid for a surprise box, I have not received any form of compensation for mentioning Mary’s offer. I saw this as an opportunity to help a fellow blogger and worthwhile charity at the same time.

.*     *     *

Freshly Made Maltagliati*     *     *

How to Make Maltagliati Pasta

  • If you make a full recipe of Mom’s Pasta Dough, you will have about 1.5 pound (680 g) of pasta dough. That will make quite a bit of pasta, so, you may wish to halve the recipe or cut it into 3rds or 4ths. For this post, I cut the pasta recipe in half.
  • Take a portion of the dough and run it through the pasta machine rollers until it is as thin as you like. My rollers start at 1, the thickest setting, and I continue to roll the dough, up to and including the 6 setting. You may like your pasta thinner. If so, continue to advance the setting as you roll the dough.
  • Lay the dough strip out flat on your work surface, dust lightly with flour, and allow to rest for a few minutes.
  • Pastry WheelsUse a straight-edged pastry cutter to divide the strip into 3 equal strips. No need to worry about it being a perfect straight line. Just do the best you can. Do not separate them but leave them as-is.
  • Now, take your pastry cutter and beginning in the upper left corner, make a series of diagonal cuts, approximately parallel to each other. Once done, starting in the upper right corner, make diagonal cuts going the other way, repeatedly,  You will end up with a collection of triangles and trapezoids, no two exactly alike — not to mention a better appreciation of your Geometry teacher who predicted that “one day this ‘stuff’ will be useful.”
  • Place them in a single layer on a wax paper covered baking sheet that’s been lightly dusted with flour or corn meal.
  • Repeat until all the dough strips have been cut. If you like, use a fluted-edged pastry wheel to cut the pasta, as well as the straight-edged. This will further the illusion of this being a pasta dinner made from scraps. (see Notes)
  • To cook, bring a large pot of heavily salted water to boil, add the maltagliati, stir, and allow to cook for a few minutes. Being freshly made, they should be fully cooked within minutes. Taste one when all have risen to the top of the pot of boiling water.
  • Drain and dress with pesto, recipe to follow. (See Notes)

*     *     *

Maltagliati 2*     *     *

Notes

Not everyone has time to make pasta, even when the process is as easy as this. Should that be the case, take some store-bought lasagna noodles and snap them. Just don’t get carried away, for it is easier to dine on larger pieces than tiny ones.

Being flat, maltagliati have a tendency to stick together once drained, so, you must work fast. Once the pasta has been drained, quickly give it a light coating of olive oil before dressing it with the pesto. If using a red sauce, there’s no need for the olive oil but you still must quickly add it to the drained noodles.

*     *     *

So, now that you’ve got a scrappy little pasta at your disposal, it’s time to dress it.

I certainly won’t pretend to speak for everyone but I will say that by this time of year, I’m desperate for any kind of Summer dish. Pesto for me is one such dish. In Summer, I can get a wedding-sized bouquet of basil for a couple of dollars at the farmers market. This time of year, I’m lucky to get a few stems for the same price. Today’s pesto recipe gives me my Summer fix without breaking the bank, for not only does it use half the basil, it substitutes pistachio nuts for the über expensive pine nuts, pignoli. (Just last month, I saw a 4 oz package (113 g) of imported organic Italian pine nuts with a price of $12.99. That’s $52.00 a pound!!!)

Whether you’ve made pesto before, you shouldn’t have any problems preparing this recipe.

 *     *     *

Pistachio Pesto*     *     *

Pistachio Pesto Recipe

Ingredients

yield: 1 cup pesto

  • 1.4 oz (40 g) fresh basil leaves (See Notes)
  • 1.1 oz (30 g) fresh, flat leaf parsley leaves
  • .5 oz (15 g) roasted, unsalted pistachio nuts
  • 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese – Parmigiano Reggiano may be substituted
  • 3 oz (79 ml) extra virgin olive oil – more or less to taste
  • salt & pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Place everything but the olive oil, salt, and pepper in the bowl of a food processor.
  2. Let it process until a thick paste is formed.
  3. While the processor is still running, add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream until the pesto reaches the consistency you prefer.
  4. Taste and season with salt and pepper, as required. Pulse the processor to blend the seasonings with the pesto.
  5. Your pesto is ready for use.

*     *     *

Notes

The reason for the odd amounts of basil and parsley is because of how both were purchased. I bought a 2 oz package of basil that, once the stems were removed, actually weighed 1.4 oz. Similarly, I bought a bunch of parsley that, once cleaned, weighed 1.1 oz.

Traditionally, pesto is made using a mortar and pestle rather than a food processor. I do not own a mortar large enough to do this, so, I use a food processor. The fact that it is so much easier this way has nothing to do with it.

I used my pesto recipe as the basis for today’s version. You can use your own pesto recipe, just be sure to replace 25 to 50% of the basil with parsley and, of course, use pistachio nuts instead of pine nuts.

Refrigerate unused pesto in an airtight container, after topping with a thin coat of olive oil. Use it or freeze it within a few days.

If I’m going to freeze this or any pesto, I do not add cheese to it while it’s being made. I’ve found that the cheese doesn’t thaw well and the pesto’s consistency suffers. Instead, I’ll add the cheese to the pasta when the pesto is added.

If you have frozen pesto containing cheese, mix it with a bit of hot pasta water before using it to dress the pasta. The hot water will help make the pesto more smooth and easier to evenly coat the pasta.

*     *     *

It’s déjà vu all over again …

Insalata With lawns going green and last Fall’s bulbs breaking the ground’s surface, it can only mean one thing. It’s dandelion picking season! What you may consider a blight on your lawn, a Bartolini sees as a crisp salad. Click HERE to see the lengths traveled by my Dad to enlist our help picking the greens for our Sunday night dinner.

*     *     *

Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Lamb Shank PreviewLamb Shanks

*     *     *

Pasta and Beans

Pasta e Fagioli 

Pasta e Fagioli 3Beans, fagioli, are grown throughout the Italian peninsula and Sicily, with most regions having their favorites. With such a good source of protein so readily available, beans form a substantial part of the traditional Italian diet and you’ll find them served in every way imaginable — raw, stewed, baked, steamed, you name it. As one might expect, each of Italy’s regions adds its own distinctive flair to the many basic recipes and that’s certainly true of today’s recipe.

Now, having said that, I must confess that this dish, Pasta e Fagioli, was never served back in the old two-flat. I’ve no idea why but it just wasn’t part of the Bartolini playbook. So, how did I come to prepare it?

The first Christmas after I moved out of my parent’s home, Zia and Uncle gave me a cookbook, “The Romagnoli’s Table”. It was the first cookbook I owned and it remains a cherished possession. What sets this book apart, aside from how it came to be mine, is that it’s the only one that I’ve found that contains recipes that begin with a battuto, just like so many of the Bartolini recipes from back in the day. (You may recall that battuto is a type of Italian soffritto consisting of onion, parsley, garlic, and salt pork.) Well over a dozen years ago, I followed their recipe to make Pasta e Fagioli for the first time and, though I’ve made a few minor changes along the way, I still follow it today.

Like so many wonderful Italian recipes, this is not a complicated dish to prepare nor are the ingredients hard to find, save one. I’ve mentioned before that “good” salt pork is very hard to find. In fact, I’ve given up the search. Here, I’ve chosen to use guanciale. If you cannot find it, you can substitute pancetta or bacon, just so long as it isn’t smoked. A smoked pork product could very well overpower the dish.

Lastly, you may be wondering why I’ve chosen to share this recipe now, at the beginning of Spring, and not during the dead of Winter. There are two reasons for that. In the first place, it’s the beans. While we can get dried beans year-round, fresh beans are only available in the Summer months. Using them to make Pasta e Fagioli adds a wonderful flavor to the dish and should definitely be tried. Secondly, our friends in the Southern Hemisphere are heading into their cooler months and this dish will be welcomed. For them, I’m right on time.

*     *     *

Pasta e Fagioli 5*     *     *

Pasta and Beans Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 celery stalk
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 or 2 garlic cloves
  • about 1/4 c fresh parsley
  • 2 oz (57 g) guanciale (salt pork, pancetta, or non-smoked bacon may be substituted)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 plum tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 8 oz (230 g) dried Borlotti beans (See Notes)
  • rind from a chunk of Pecorino Romano cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano rind may be substituted)
  • 2 cups pasta (see Notes)
  • grated Pecorino Romano cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano may be substituted)

*     *     *

*     *     *

Directions

  1. The night before, place the beans in a container and add enough water to cover them by 3 inches. The next morning, pour off the liquid and rinse. The beans will be ready for use.
  2. Make the battuto:
    • Coarsely chop the onion, celery, garlic, and parsley. Add to the guanciale.
    • Heat the blade of a very sharp knife using the burner of your stove.
    • Once hot, begin chopping the mixture of meat and vegetables. Keep chopping/dicing/mincing until a relatively smooth paste results.
  3. Heat olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot.
  4. Add battuto and sauté until very lightly browned and fragrant.
  5. Add the tomatoes and continue to cook for a few minutes until they begin to soften.
  6. Add the water, beans, and cheese rind, raise the heat to med-high, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium and cook until beans are softened and thoroughly heated. (See Beans)
  7. Add the raw pasta and continue to cook until done. Stir frequently to prevent scorching.
  8. Add hot water if too thick.
  9. Taste and season with salt & pepper, as needed.
  10. Remove the cheese rind and discard.
  11. Serve immediately, garnished with grated Pecorino Romano cheese.

*     *     *

Pasta e Fagioli 1*     *     *

Beans

Beans can be purchased 3 ways.

  1. Canned, which only require rinsing before use. In this recipe, they will only need to be thoroughly heated as they are already soft.
  2. Dried beans can be prepared in two ways. No matter which method you choose, they will take about 90 minutes to cook.
    1. Place the beans in a large bowl and add enough water to cover by about 3 inches. Leave overnight, When ready, rinse before using in the recipe. Alternately,
    2. Place dried beans in a pot with enough water to cover, bring to a boil, simmer for 2 minutes, and then turn off the heat. Beans will be ready in one hour. Drain before use.
  3. Fresh, which can be added to the pot as you would pre-soaked beans. They should be cooked within 20 to 30 minutes.

*     *     *

Notes

Pssst. Don’t tell Zia that I used a mini-chopper to prepare the battuto.

Because this battuto uses celery, it is a far lighter shade than normal.

I used Borlotti beans in this recipe. You may know them as Roman or cranberry beans. You could, also, use red, kidney, or even cannellini beans, if you like. In short, use whichever beans are available. No Nonna is going to run to the store for Borlotti beans when she has cannellini beans in the pantry.

This recipe used 2 cups dried Borlotti beans. 1 can of beans may be substituted or, if you’re lucky enough to find fresh beans, use about 1.5 pounds (680 g).

Water, not stock, is used here because the battuto will add a great deal to the dish, whereas stock may muddle the flavors.

No need to treat the beans gingerly. Those damaged during the cooking process will only serve to thicken the final dish.

Any small pasta will work here. I used ditalini.

*     *     *

It’s déjà vu all over again …

Sack o' Little NecksOne of my all-time favorite ways to serve pasta is to prepare it with clams. It is a tasty dish, one that I cannot resist when I see fresh clams at the fishmonger’s. I’ve shared 2 recipes for pasta with clams, one with a “white” sauce and the other “red”. Today I’ll send you back to the white sauce recipe post, which you can see just by clicking HERE.

*     *     *

Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Maltagliati PreviewMaltagliati Pasta with Pistachio Pesto

*     *     *

Mom’s Tuna Noodle Casserole

As most of you well know, we North Americans are facing a Winter unlike any seen in decades. With severe drought in the West and Arctic cold, record snows, and ice storms to the East, you’re either praying for rain or cursing the cold. Whether this Winter is truly one for the record books remains to be seen but it sure is a great excuse for making comfort food.

*     *     *

Tuna Casserole 2*     *     *

These past few weeks, I’ve said good-bye to any thoughts of post-holiday dieting and broke out the Dutch oven and stock pot. I’ve made soups, tomato sauce, chili, stew, braised short ribs, baked pastas, and pulled pork. Not only that, I’ve baked more bread these past few weeks than I have in ages. In short, I’ve done all that I can to warm both me and my kitchen which, for reasons known only to my home’s previous owner, has no heating element other than the oven. Heaven bless that oven.

Since you really cannot make beef stew for one, soup by the bowl, or pulled pork for a single sandwich, you can well imagine that my fridge and freezer have been well-stocked with leftovers, not that there’s anything wrong with that. Even so, after my third dinner of beef stew or fourth lunch of a bowl of chili, and with temps still in negative territory, I began to crave something different and searched for some long-forgotten comfort food recipes. Enter tuna noodle casserole.

Before going any further, I need to mention this recipe’s origins. After all, I did call today’s post “Mom’s Tuna Noodle Casserole”. Although there is no direct link to Mom, I think there’s plenty of evidence to support my claim.

First off, I found it in the oldest recipe file that I own, one that I created on my first PC back in the 90′s. That file has survived a short-circuited motherboard, head crash, my conversion to Apple, and a transfer to my second iMac. Though forgotten until now, it contains a few gems from Mom but, I admit, this bit of evidence is highly circumstantial.

Perhaps the most convincing evidence can be found within the recipe itself. Although all the ingredients are listed, the amounts required for some of them are missing. This is a hallmark of the Bartolini family recipes and a major reason for this blog being created. I could only be more certain of this recipe’s provenance if an amount or two was listed as “a handful of” this or “a good pinch of” that. Members of the jury, there is no doubt in my mind that this is Mom’s recipe. I rest my case.

Now, a word of warning. This is an old recipe and some may not appreciate it. First of all, it contains mayonnaise and there are those who cannot abide the stuff. I don’t like cilantro, so, I’d say we’re even. It, also, contains a can of condensed soup, the bane of many a modern-day foodie. Well, I’m guessing this recipe comes from the 60′s and we didn’t have foodies back then. We had gourmands — and the Galloping Gourmet but never mind him. Lastly, the final two ingredients, though optional, are listed as frozen. In this part of the continent, when it’s casserole season, there are few, if any, fresh peas to be found, and, for those of us living in the Corn Belt, buying what passes for corn in the off-season is sacrilege. If, however, you’ve access to tasty, fresh peas and sweet corn in Winter, by all means use them instead of frozen.

*     *     *

Tuna Casserole 1*     *     *

Mom’s Tuna Noodle Casserole Recipe

Ingredients

  • cooked noodles, buttered
  • olive oil
  • 1 large can ( 12 oz, 340 g) water-packed tuna fish, drained & flaked
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 can (10¾ oz, 305 g) cream of mushroom soup (I use cream of celery)
  • 1 package ( 8 oz, 226 g) cream cheese
  • 1/3 c mayonnaise
  • 1/3 c milk
  • cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 c bread crumbs
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • frozen corn (optional)
  • frozen peas (optional)

Directions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375˚ F (190˚ C).
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine cooked noodles, tuna, cheddar cheese, corn, and peas.
  3. Sauté onions and mushrooms in a little olive oil until onions are translucent. Add to the mixing bowl and stir to combine.
  4. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the milk, soup, and cream cheese, stirring until hot and well-mixed. Add to the mixing bowl and stir to combine again.
  5. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the bread crumbs and toast until golden brown. Immediately remove from heat.
  6. Pour the tuna mixture into the baking dish, top with the toasted bread crumbs, and cover with aluminum foil.
  7. Bake, covered, for 45 minutes before removing the foil. Bake another 10 to 15 minutes to further crisp the topping.
  8. Allow to sit at least 5 minutes before serving.

*     *     *

Tuna Casserole*     *     *

Notes

The amounts for some of the ingredients will depend upon the volume of noodles you’ve prepared. I’ve found that if I use a full pound (450 g) of noodles, for example, a single large can of tuna fish may not be enough. You’ll find that the “cream sauce” is rather thick and can overpower the rest of the ingredients. More tuna is needed to compensate.

Be sure to brown the bread crumbs before sprinkling them atop the casserole. If you rely on the oven to fully brown them, you’ll run the risk of drying out the casserole.

Any broad noodle may be used here, though shorter ones work best. I happened to have a bag of farfalle, butterflies, and used it.

I think you could easily substitute chopped, roasted chicken in place of the tuna.

*     *     *

It’s déjà vu all over again …

Steak PizzaiolaOne common theme running throughout this blog is my love of pasta. I’ve certainly made no effort to hide it. With temperatures so terribly frigid, today’s Blast from the Past is particularly welcome in my kitchen, for it involves both a lengthy braise in the oven and a large pot of boiling pasta water on the stove top. Combined, they are just what’s needed to warm my kitchen and keep it that way well into the evening. Best of all, I end up with a great pasta for dinner. You can learn how to prepare Steak Pizzaiola by clicking HERE.

*     *     *

Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Beef Cheeks Preview Beef Cheeks

*     *     *

Linguine with Seafood in Parchment

Linguine ai Frutti di Mare al Cartoccio

Linquine ai Frutti di Mare al Cartocci - 1

Yes, everyone, it’s Christmas Eve and, as many of you who’ve been with me for at least one Christmas already know, it’s a night of great anticipation and luscious seafood for many of us Italians. In fact, more than a few households will celebrate tonight with the Feast of the Seven Fishes. In the past, I shared a rather tongue-in-cheek story of the origins of this Feast but, instead of sending you there, I thought I’d reprint it for you here. What’s this? You already know the tale? Well, just skip the paragraph that follows and head straight to the video. That should keep you occupied until the others catch up. So, here is one version of how the Feast of the Seven Fishes came about …

Prior to the changes brought by Vatican Council II in the 1960′s, Christmas Eve was a “fast & abstain” day, meaning only 1 main meal could be consumed and no meat was to be eaten all day. For most Catholics around the World, it was a day of contemplation and that one meal was nothing special. With Christmas coming within hours, all eyes — and appetites — were focused on the big day — and dinner — soon to come. Not so the Italians.  If tomorrow’s a big holiday and today you can only have one meal, why not make that meal special? And so they did. Can’t have any meat? No problem. With Italy being both peninsula and island, fish was very often more readily available than many meat products. And so it became a seafood banquet. Wait a minute! The Church may frown upon so grand a celebration on the eve of the birth of the Christ Child. Again, no problem. They made a point of serving seven fish, each one representing one of the Seven Sacraments of the Christian Faith. In one masterstroke, their seafood feast became an Act of Faith. What priest, bishop, or even Pope would dare interfere with these devout Catholics as they used the day’s only meal to commemorate the Seven Sacraments? (The fact that the clergy themselves were probably dining on an even more spectacular seafood supper didn’t hurt “the cause” either.) And so the Feast of the Seven Fishes was born and survives to this day wherever Italians call home.

*     *     *

*     *     *

OK then. Is everybody here? Let’s continue …

I first saw this dish prepared almost 20 years ago. An Italian chef, Nick Stellino, hosted a cooking show on PBS. That one episode not only showed me how to cook seafood pasta, Pasta dei Frutti di Mare, but it introduced me to the wonders of using parchment paper to envelope a dish. Since then, although I’ve made this dish a few times, I’ve made seafood pasta often and baked fish and/or vegetables in parchment or foil even more frequently.

*     *     *

Now, this one dish will give you 5 of the 7 fish needed for your feast. Please resist the urge to go for broke and add 2 more fish to the pot. All that will do is muddle the flavors or, worse yet depending on the seafood chosen, completely overpower the others. If you’re looking for suggestions, how about oysters on a half-shell, a nice octopus salad, a small salad with seared tuna, or a bit of baccalà salad. (A serving of baccalà in some fashion being the overwhelming choice of many Italian families.) Still not happy? Then do what I once did. Late one Christmas Eve afternoon, I was among the horde in a grocery store when I realized I was 2 fish shy of the required 7 for my own little feast. Not willing to spend any more time in the store while I weighed options, I went to the sushi counter and picked up a spicy tuna roll, before heading to the deli section to get a jar of pickled herring.  Fish are fish, after all.

*     *     *

Speaking for my Zia and the rest of the Bartolini Clan,

We wish you a very Merry Christmas!

*     *     *

Frutti di Mare - Crudo

*     *     *

Linguine with Seafood in Parchment Recipe

yield: 3 servings (See Notes)

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb (225 g) fresh linguine, spaghetti, or tagliatelle — dried pasta may be substituted
  • 4 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced or grated, divided
  • 4 tbsp chopped parsley, divided
  • 2 tbsp basil, chopped
  • 1 small can (14.5 oz; 400 g) diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 c white wine, divided
  • 1/2 cup clam juice or shrimp stock (see Notes)
  • 1 tsp dried marjoram (2 tsp if fresh)
  • 6 mussels, (see Notes)
  • 6 cherry-stone or manila clams, (see Notes)
  • 6 scallops, cut in half (see Notes)
  • 9 shrimp (see Notes)
  • 3 calamari (see Notes)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • chopped parsley and basil for garnish

*     *     *

(Click any photo to enlarge)

*     *     *

Directions

  1. At least 30 minutes before you are to begin preparing the sauce, place the clams in a bowl filled with cold water. Change the water at least once and be sure to brush the clam shells before cooking them.
  2. Prepare a simple tomato sauce:
    1. Place 2 tbsp olive oil in a small sauce pan over med-heat. Once hot, add the onion, season with salt & pepper, and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes.
    2. Add 2 cloves of garlic and 2 tbsp of parsley, stir, and continue to sauté for another minute or so.
    3. Add 1/4 c wine, the tomatoes, 1 tbsp basil, season with marjoram, salt & pepper, and bring to a boil before lowering heat to a simmer.
    4. Allow to simmer until sauce has deepened in color and thickened, about 30 to 40 minutes. Taste for seasoning and adjust, if necessary.
    5. Put aside 1/2 cup for the recipe and reserve the rest for another day.
  3. Pre-heat oven to 375˚ F (190˚ C).
  4. In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta until 2 minutes before the package indicates it will be al dente. (See Notes)
  5. In a large, deep fry pan with a lid, add remaining olive oil over med-high heat. Add remaining oil, garlic, and parsley to the pan and sauté until fragrant, about a minute or so. Add the clams and mussels, cover the pan, and sauté for 2 minutes.
  6. Add the squid, shrimp, scallops, clam juice, tomato sauce, and the remaining basil and wine to the pan. Cover, increase the heat to high, and boil the ingredients for about 2 more minutes.
  7. Using a slotted spoon, remove the seafood from the pan, and place in a covered bowl. Reduce the sauce by half,
  8. By now, the pasta should be drained. Add it to the boiling sauce, stir to evenly coat, and sauté for a minute.
  9. Add the reserved seafood to the pan, mix, and heat till warmed throughout. At this point, discard any shellfish that have yet to open.
  10. Meanwhile, take a large piece of parchment paper — or aluminum foil — fold in half and place on a large serving platter.
  11. When the seafood and pasta are ready, place them along the fold of the parchment paper. Garnish with parsley and basil. Working quickly, use interlocking folds to join the top and bottom halves of the parchment paper. (See Notes)
  12. Alternately:
    1. Use separate sheets of folded parchment paper, one per serving.
    2. Split the pasta and seafood evenly among the sheets. Garnish with parsley and basil. Fold each, as indicated in Step 11 above.
  13. Place the parchment packet(s) on a baking sheet and place in the middle of a pre-heated oven.
  14. Bake for 5 minutes and remove to a large serving platter or individual plates. Do not pierce the parchment until at the table.
  15. Serve immediately and watch as your dinner guests open their parchment presents and get a whiff of that steam. This is why you go through the trouble of putting seafood pasta in parchment.
  16. Do not serve with grated cheese for it will overpower rather than enhance most of the dish’s seafood components.

Inspired by Nick Stellino, “Cucina Amore”, Pasta al Cartoccio di Mare

*     *     *

Linquine ai Frutti di Mare al Cartocci - 2

*     *     *

Notes

To store the fresh seafood

If you are to prepare this on Christmas Eve, the last place you want to be that afternoon is standing in line at the fishmonger. Fresh seafood will easily keep in your fridge for 24 hours if treated properly. I would not recommend storing beyond 24 hours.

  • Remove the clams and mussels from their packaging and place in a colander. Cover with damp — not sopping wet — paper towels. Place the colander in a bowl in which some ice as been set. Do not use so much ice that it will immerse any of the colander’s contents when it melts or the mollusks may drown. Place the bowl with colander into your refrigerator until needed.
  • Leave the shrimp, squid, and mussels in their packaging and store in the coldest part of your refrigerator. Do not freeze.

To prepare the seafood:

  • The Clams: At least 30 minutes before they are to be used in the recipe, place in a bowl of cold water and soak. (Some believe adding a couple tbsp of corn meal to the water will cause the clams to eliminate any sediment.) Change the water at least once before the clams are needed. Just before use, scrub clean the shells with a small brush. Discard any that are open and that won’t close on their own power.
  • The Mussels: Before use, remove the beard (a thread mass on one side) and use a brush to clean the shells. Discard any that are open and that won’t close on their own power.
  • The Shrimp: remove the shell including the tail section, if desired. Save the shells to be used to make shrimp stock. Use a sharp paring knife to slit the top of each shrimp. This will reveal a dark-colored vein that should be removed.
  • The Scallops: these may be sold with a muscle attached to one side. It is about an inch long and /14 inch wide. This should be removed as it is tough and unpalatable.
  • The Squid: Use a sharp knife to cut each tube, creating rings that are a half-inch wide. If using the tentacles, cut them in half or quarters.

*     *     *

Homemade Linguine Cut Two Ways

*     *     *

You may find it easier to enclose your seafood in aluminum foil rather than parchment paper. The choice is yours to make.

Do not forget — as I did — to add a garnish of parsley and basil to each packet just before you seal them. Their presence adds to the aroma upon tearing the parchment.

Timing is everything with this dish. The seafood cannot be kept waiting for the pasta to be cooked lest it become tough and rubbery. If you feel that you cannot properly time the dishes together, go ahead and cook the pasta so that it finishes within a few minutes of starting the sauce. Pasta should be cooked about 2 minutes shy of al dente, as indicated on the package’s instructions. Drain the pasta, return it to the now-empty pot, coat very lightly with olive oil, and cover until needed.

You needn’t be an origami expert to fold and seal the parchment packets. That’s why the gods gave us staplers and don’t be afraid to use one.

As written, this recipe will give you 3 nice servings. If you wish, it will yield 4 primo piatto-sized servings, though you may want to adjust the amounts of seafood used.

The keen-eyed among you may have noticed that there seemed to be more seafood in the photos than was required by the recipe. You’d be correct. I usually buy a couple extra clams and mussels to account for any that may be spoiled and must be discarded. Not knowing that I had already done so, the fishmonger added a couple more, for the same reason. When I joked that the scallops looked “bad”, he agreed and added another 2 scallops to their previously weighed container. He then added 2 shrimp and another squid to their respective containers. This is how you earn life-long customers.

If you like, you can skip the parchment packets altogether and use this recipe to prepare a very good frutti di mare pasta. To do so, follow the recipe but cook the pasta for another minute before draining. Place the drained pasta into the sauce, as before, but cook it for only a minute before adding the seafood. Stir to combine, heat everything through, and serve immediately. Garnish with chopped parsley and basil.

This dish does not make good leftovers. None of the seafood will re-heat well at all. Try to prepare just enough to ensure your dinner guests are satisfied without having anything left on the serving platter.

As you may have noticed, I used a pastry brush to lightly coat the sealed parchment before placing it in the oven. There was no discernible effect to the parchment paper by doing this. Perhaps it’s because the oven temp was relatively low and the packet was in the oven so briefly. Whatever the reason, I won’t do it again for this recipe and excluded it from the recipe’s directions.

*     *     *

It’s déjà vu all over again …

Zuppa Inglese - 1No series looking back at my family’s traditional Christmas dishes would be complete without including our recipe for Zuppa Inglesi. This highly anticipated dessert consisted of lady fingers that were “lightly flavored” with alcohol before being covered in lemon-flavored custard. There’s even an alcohol-free version so that no one seated at the table need go without. You can take a look at the recipe for this family favorite just by clicking HERE.

*     *     *

Coming New Year’s Eve to a monitor near you …

Two Cellos and a Cherry

Booze

*     *     *

Turkey Risotto

Risotto con Tacchino

This is not a true holiday dish but it does grace my dinner table at least once over the holidays. Guaranteed. You see, I have a “thing” for turkey sandwiches and you might be surprised at the lengths I’ll go to make sure that I have turkey sandwiches every Thanksgiving.

*     *     *Turkey Risotto

*     *     *

As an adult, the highlight of my Thanksgiving Day Feast has always been the midnight turkey sandwich. Built with slices of turkey (white & dark meat, of course), a healthy portion of stuffing, and cemented together with cranberry sauce, this is the “sammich” of which my dreams are made. No matter what I’m eating throughout that day, I never lose sight of that night’s prize.

Now, when I host the dinner, having enough turkey to make a sammich is no problem. In fact, I buy a bird twice as large as needed so that every guest goes home with a platter of leftovers. Each then can either relive the dinner — sans my buoyant personality, of course — or make at least 2 healthy sammiches. And I will have at least enough turkey for a few sammiches, as well as a good-sized portion destined for the freezer for sammiches to be built at a later date. That’s if I host the dinner. Things can go quite differently, however, if I’m enjoying Thanksgiving dinner away from home.

Over the years, I’ve been invited to some lovely Thanksgiving feasts where the company was warm, the dinner fantastic, and the wine flowed freely.  I could say the very same thing about those occasions where friends and I gathered at a restaurant for dinner. Both situations allow me to relax and enjoy my friends and the meal without the stress of having to juggle 6 side dishes on a 5 burner stove top; remember that there are bruschette under the broiler; and keep an eye on Max who’s been keeping his eyes on the tented bird on the counter. Both options  sound wonderful except for one little detail. There are no leftovers and without them there can be no sammich. Oh, the pain!

After going sammich-less for a couple of years, I’d had enough. (Well, actually, I’d had nothing.) I decided to roast my own turkey, no matter what, sometime during Thanksgiving week. Granted, when the bird is meant for me alone, I look for the smallest, fresh turkey available, usually 9 to 10 lbs. That’s less than half the size of the behemoth that I prepare when I’m hosting. Even so, I get all the sammiches I want, half of the bird gets wrapped and frozen for another time, and I still have the carcass to play with.

Ah, the carcass! When I remove the meat from its bones, I make sure to leave some behind. Then, when it’s time to prepare the stock, I find and retrieve those bits. As you’ll soon see, they, along with the stock, will be used in my risotto. It really is a nice arrangement. I have a turkey dinner — maybe two! — I enjoy plenty of sammiches, and I have turkey stock to make my “holiday” risotto.

When you read today’s recipe, it may be that I prepare risotto differently than you do — and that’s ok. If you’ve a proven method for making risotto, don’t change for this recipe. The important thing about this risotto is not how it’s made but what is used to make it. In this recipe, turkey stock is used in place of chicken, and, chopped turkey is used instead of any other type of protein or even mushrooms. I don’t want anything to mask the flavors of roast turkey and, if the bird was stuffed, the hint of stuffing.

*     *     *

Risotto Cooking

*     *     *

Turkey Risotto Recipe

Ingredients

  • 6 cups turkey stock, recipe to follow
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 7 oz (200 g) roast turkey, chopped
  • 1 3/4 c Arborio rice
  • 4 oz (60 ml) dry white wine
  • Pecorino Romano cheese, grated

Directions

  1. Keep the turkey stock hot, though not boiling. (See Notes)
  2. Add butter to a large pan over med-high heat. Add onion and sauté until translucent.
  3. Add turkey to the pan and continue to sauté until heated through.
  4. Lower the heat to medium, add the rice to the pan, and toast the grains, about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the wine and stir. Continue to cook until the wine is all but evaporated.
  6. Ladle by ladle, add the turkey stock, stirring with each addition and allowing the stock to be fully absorbed before adding another ladle of stock.
  7. Taste the rice for doneness after about 20 minutes. It should be nearing completion.
  8. When the rice is al dente and just shy of being done, add another ladle of stock, cover, and turn off the heat.
  9. Allow to rest for 5 minutes before adding 2 handfuls of Pecorino Romano cheese.
  10. If rice is too dry, add a bit more stock before serving. (See Notes)
  11. Garnish with more Pecorino Romano cheese and serve.

*     *     *

To make the turkey stock

In a large stock pot over med-high heat, add the roast turkey carcass, a large onion (quartered), 2 celery stalks with leaves (roughly chopped), 2 carrots (roughly chopped), a few parsley sprigs, and enough water to cover – about 5 or 6 quarts. Bring to a boil before reducing the heat to maintain a soft simmer. I let the stock simmer for at least 3 hours, adding water if too much evaporates. The object is to have at least 2 quarts (2 L) of stock when all is said and done. When finished, strain stock through a fine strainer. Refrigerate stock overnight and then remove any fat that may have risen to the surface. Stock is now ready to use in your favorite recipe or to drink, warm, by the cupful.

*     *     *

Turkey Risotto 2

*     *     *

Notes

When making risotto, I use a ratio of 3:1. That’s 3 parts stock to every 1 part of rice. I usually have an extra cup of stock ready but, if I run out, I’ll add some hot water. Bear in mind, that I’m only using a little water, certainly not even a cupful.

You may think it odd that I used 1 3/4 cups of rice but that’s because it was the end of the package’s contents. I didn’t see the point of reserving a quarter cup of rice. So, use as much rice as you like but keep the above ratio in mind.

Do keep the stock hot, but not boiling, when adding it to the pan of cooking rice. Boiling stock will hit the hot pan and evaporate before it can be absorbed by the rice. On the other hand, if it is too cool, it will delay the cooking process.

We prefer our risotto to be on the moist side. You’ll find that the rice will continue to absorb the stock even as it sits in the serving platter.

It’s déjà vu all over again …

Just as surely as you’d find a platter of ravioli on our Christmas dinner table, you could count on there being a platter of biscotti on that very same table, served after dessert while Biscotti with Pecansthe castagne, chestnuts, were being roasted. Both recipes that I shared came to my family about 50 years ago. Mom’s Biscotti with Pecans, was a family recipe of a friend who was 90 years young at the time. We know that recipe is at least 100 years old. Zia found her recipe for Anisette Biscotti in a local newspaper. Both are simple recipes and are as traditional to our holidays as is that Christmas tree in the corner waiting for the Feast of the Epiphany (Little Christmas). You can find both recipes by clicking HERE.

*     *     *

Coming Christmas Eve to a monitor near you …

Linquine ai Frutti di Mare al Cartocci - Preview

Linguine with Seafood in Parchment

*     *     *

This Recipe has Legs: Strangozzi Pasta with Octopus

Strangozzi al Polipi

Recentlyour good friend Tanya, of Chica Andaluza fame, shared a recipe for Carpaccio of Octopus. (Do check out that recipe and, while you’re at it, take a few minutes to explore the rest of her fantastic blog.) I’d not thought about octopus in years and that post reminded me that my family once cooked octopus, polipo. I spoke to Zia about it and we decided to prepare it the next time I visited her. That visit took place last month and, with Monday having been Columbus Day, I thought octopus would make a fine way to commemorate his voyage across the Atlantic. After all, there were those that believed his ships would be sunk by a giant octopus long before they fell off the edge of the Earth.

*     *     *

Strangozzi al Polipi

Strangozzi al Polipi

*     *     *

It’s been quite some time since an octopus was given the place of honor at a Bartolini dinner — more than half a century, but who’s counting? We really have no reason for it not being served since then. The dish is delicious, reminiscent of calamari in umido, and it isn’t at all difficult to prepare. No matter. The dish was prepared by my family at one time and thereby has earned a page on this blog.

Back in the day, we would have prepared the octopus in umido, which in this case means stewed in a tomato sauce. Served in bowls with a chunk of good, crusty bread, the dish is delicious and, in some homes, is one of the dishes on the menu for the Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve. Originally, I had planned to prepare today’s recipe in umido until reality intervened.

As of now, I know of only one place to buy octopus and that’s at my Italian market. Unfortunately, they only sell very small or very large octopi and each poses a problem for us. When you cook something in umido, it is best that the protein be in large pieces. This is not a soup but a stew, after all, and the pieces should reflect that. Well, the small octopi are so small that it would take 4 to equal a pound (450 g). When chopped, the

Octopus over Polenta

Octopus over Polenta

pieces are far too small for in umido presentation. In fact, Zia and I attempted to serve them over polenta and, though tasty, all but a few pieces were too small even for that. On the other end of the spectrum, the market sells frozen octopi that are 4 and 5 lbs. apiece. Though that would be wonderful to prepare for a Bartolini family dinner, an octopus that size is far too large for a meal for Zia and I. So, although we had to change the dish to suit the circumstances, the search is on now for an octopus weighing 1 pound. When I find one, I’ll either create a separate Polipo in Umido post or amend this one to include that recipe. Bear in mind, though, that the ingredients used in the in umido recipe are the same as those used here for this sauce. Differences, if there are any, will be in the amounts listed. I’ll only be sure of that once I find an octopus in the right size.

Since we couldn’t serve the octopus as we had originally intended, in umido, Zia and I served it over polenta. As I mentioned earlier, that dish didn’t quite work as well as we Bartolini Strangozzi Pastathought it would. Again the octopus pieces needed to be larger. Once home, I bought 3 more small octopi and decided to serve them over pasta. As luck would have it, a few weeks earlier my blogging friend, Lidia, had noticed something while shopping and sent her discovery to me. (Not only does she share the name of one of my favorite chefs, Lidia has a wonderful blog, Oh Lidia, and I hope you take time to have a look.) You can imagine my surprise when I opened the carton and found 3 pastas manufactured by a company called “Bartolini”. I can’t think of a better pasta to serve with this old family recipe than one that shares our family name. So, of the 3 sent, I chose to prepare strangozzi.

In an earlier post, I demonstrated how to make strozzapreti pasta and gave an account of how it got its name. (See It’s déjà vu all over again … ) Strozzapreti, you see, means priest choker and one legend states that this pasta was so delicious that priests choked when eating it for the first time. What does this have to do with strangozzi? Well, it is thought that the word strangozzi is derived from the Italian word for shoelaces, stringhe, yet this pasta has come to mean priest stranglers. Huh?  Stay with me. Centuries ago, in Umbria, the clergy was not looked upon kindly by the villagers. Legend says that they chased down the worst of the clergy and those that were caught were strangled with their shoelaces. These long pasta ribbons are thought to resemble those shoelaces. Death by shoelace immortalized in pasta. Ya gotta love it!

In reality, strangozzi are about the size of what we would call linguine, the only difference being in their thickness. Our linguine are cut from thin pasta sheets; strangozzi is cut from sheets twice as thick. The result is a hearty pasta that is perfect for heavier or meat-based sauces.

*     *     *

Before beginning the recipe, the octopus must be cleaned and readied. The head is actually a hood and the contents of its interior need to be removed. It is easy enough to do and you can slice its side to make it even easier. Next, the eyes must be removed. Make a small slice on either side of each eye, creating a small wedge. Remove each wedge and the eye with it. Since these octopi were so small, I sliced the octopus just above both eyes and again below, creating a ring. I then cut the eyes off of the ring. One last thing to be removed is the beak. Turning the octopus upside-down, you’ll notice a small whole at the center of the 8 legs. With your fingers, carefully feel the beak and note its size. With a sharp knife, cut around the beak and remove. Now that it’s cleaned, cut the legs section in half, creating 2 parts with 4 legs apiece. Cut those pieces in half again, and then again. In the end, you will have separated all 8 legs. Do not chop them but leave them whole and proceed with the recipe.

*     *     *

Click to see any/all photos enlarged.

*     *     *

Strangozzi Pasta with Octopus Recipe

Ingredients

  • octopus (See Notes)
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (more or less to taste)
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
  • 1/3 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 large can, 28 oz (800 g), whole tomatoes – hand-torn
  • 1/2 tsp dried marjoram (2 tsp fresh)
  • 3 to 4 oz dry white wine
  • 1 lb  (450 g) cooked Strangozzi pasta — or whatever pasta you prefer — cooked al dente
  • reserved pasta water

Directions

  1. In a medium saucepan over med-high heat, bring to boil enough water to cover the octopus. Add the octopus and allow to simmer for 1 to 2 minutes after the pot returns to the boil. Small octopus should boil for 1 minute. Larger should be allowed to boil closer to 2 minutes. Remove the octopus and place in an ice bath to stop the cooking process and reserve. Once cooled, see Notes for chopping considerations.
  2. Over med-high heat, add olive oil in a medium sauce pan.
  3. Add red pepper flakes, onion, garlic, and parsley. Season with salt and pepper before sautéing until the onion is translucent and garlic fragrant — about 6 to 8 minutes.
  4. Add the tomatoes, wine, and marjoram, stir to combine. Bring to a boil before reducing to a soft simmer.
  5. After the sauce has thickened and darkened a bit — about 30 minutes — add the chopped octopus and continue to simmer.
  6. If using small octopi, it should be finished cooking in about 20 minutes. Taste a piece after 15 minutes to test for doneness and to check the seasoning. If necessary, add some of the reserved pasta water. (See Notes)
  7. Meanwhile, the pasta should have been cooked al dente and strained. Be sure to reserve some of the pasta water.
  8. In a large bowl or serving platter, combine the octopus sauce with the cooked pasta and mix. If the pasta seems too dry, add some of the reserved pasta water.
  9. Serve immediately.
  10. Like all mildly flavored seafood pastas, grated cheese is not recommended for it will overpower the dish.

*     *     *

*     *     *

Notes

The dish will determine the size of the pieces when chopping the octopus.

  • For pasta dishes, I would suggest chopping small octopi into pieces about 3/4 inches (2 cm). These pieces will shrink a little during cooking and will be easily managed no matter what pasta you choose.
  • For in umido, a larger octopus should be used and, when chopped, the pieces should be larger. Ultimately, the size will depend upon how comfortable you are dealing with the pieces while eating. Even so, I would suggest that all pieces be no less than an inch (2.5 cm) long. (Since this recipe was posted, I did find and prepare a 1 lb. octopus in umido. You can see that recipe by clicking HERE.)

No matter the preparation or the size of the pieces, do try to keep them all the same size. Doing so will ensure that all the octopus is evenly cooked.

Understandably, the larger the octopus, the longer it should simmer in the tomato sauce. A small octopus should take 15 to 20 minutes, as was stated in the recipe above. Larger octopi will take up to 30 minutes, maybe more. Be careful not to overcook lest the octopus become rubbery. If in doubt, taste a piece to see if it is cooked to your liking.

For reasons unknown to me, we’ve always discarded the water used to blanch the octopus. Even though the octopus is in it only briefly, the water does darken in color.

*     *     *

It’s déjà vu all over again …

Strozzapreti with Pesto

Strozzapreti with Pesto

With all of this talk of strangling priests, it’s only logical that today’s look back would be to the strozzapreti post. Not only will you learn how to make the pasta by hand, you’ll also learn how a few of the common pastas got their names. All this can be yours just by clicking HERE.

*     *     *

Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Damson Plum Jam Preview

Damson Plum Jam

*     *     *

Ramps Ravioli with Morel Mushrooms

Ravioli della Cipolle Selvatiche con i Funghi della Spugnola Ramps Ravioli with Morel Mushrooms

You may recall that I visited my Zia last May and returned to Chicago with a number of recipes to share. Though it may have taken a while, today’s post is the last of those recipes, even if not quite what I had planned.

I had a devil of a time finding ramps this past Spring. My normal vendor didn’t harvest any and I was always just a bit late with my other sources. (Evidently ramps, like porcini mushrooms, are in big demand by the area’s restaurants.) Surprisingly, at the very end of the season, my fishmonger had some for sale. I bought up what he had, hoping that they would “keep” the 4 days before I left for Michigan and they did — kinda. Upon my arrival at Zia’s, I unwrapped the ramps, only to find the leaves to be a wilted, soggy mess. I quickly discarded them and kept the bulbs. This meant I would need something green for my ravioli and Zia and I decided fresh spinach would make a nice substitute. My attention now focused on the morels.

Known to but a few, there is a place near Zia’s home where morel mushrooms grow. Living 400 miles away, it is purely a matter of luck for me to be present when the pock Old Morelmarked fungi appear. Nonetheless, everyday I trotted out to the morel patch to see if anything had sprouted and everyday I returned home empty-handed. On the 4th day I gave up. Having had an inkling that this might happen, I had brought a package of dried morels with me to Michigan and used them in today’s dish. By the way, I continued to check the patch everyday until I left and none ever appeared. I did find one morel, however, far past its “use by” date, growing right next to Zia’s porch. I left it alone so that its spores could work their magic. I’ll be back next Spring.

Now, I know that it’s a little late in the year to be posting this recipe, both ramps and morels being out of season, but I did promise to post it. If you wish to prepare this now, you can follow my lead and use dried morels — a far cheaper substitute — and you can use shallots instead of the ramps. No, shallots and ramps are not the same thing but the shallots are readily available year-round and you won’t be at all disappointed with the ravioli.

*     *     *

Ramps Ravioli with Morel Mushrooms 2

*     *     *

Ramps Ravioli and Morel Mushroom Sauce Recipes

Ingredients

For the Ravioli Filling

  • 1/2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups packed, chopped fresh spinach
  • 1/2 cup ramps diced
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp sea/kosher salt, or to taste
  • 1/8 tsp pepper, or to taste
  • 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
  • 8 oz (226 g) ricotta cheese, well-drained

For the Sauce

  • 1/2 oz (14 g) dried morels, re-hydrated, liquid strained and reserved
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • t tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 new garlic bulb, diced
  • 1 to 3 oz of dry white wine
  • 1 cup mushroom soaking liquid
  • 3 thyme stems
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • salt & pepper

*     *     *

Ramps Ravioli

*     *     *

Directions

For the Ravioli Filling

  1. In a frying pan, heat the butter and olive oil over med-high heat. Add the spinach and sauté until cooked through.
  2. Use a slotted spoon to remove the spinach to cool.
  3. Using the same pan, sauté the diced ramps until translucent, remove from heat, and allow to cool.
  4. Once cooled, place the spinach in a clean kitchen towel and wring out as much liquid as possible.
  5. In a mixing bowl, add the spinach, ramps, nutmeg, ricotta cheese, Pecorino Romano, salt, and pepper. Mix thoroughly.
  6. Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight to allow the flavors to meld and the cheese to firm, making it easier to work with later on.

To make ravioli using ravioli dies/molds, please click HERE to see an expert at work. There you’ll, also, find directions for cooking the pasta pillows.

*     *     *

Three morels

*     *     *

For the Morels “Sauce”

  1. In a frying pan, add the butter and olive oil over med-high heat. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 90 seconds.
  2. Add the morels and sauté for a few minutes, just long enough to give them a little color.
  3. Add the wine and sauté until all but gone.
  4. Add the mushroom soaking liquid and thyme and reduce until the consistency you like for the ravioli.
  5. Add the remaining butter and season with salt & pepper to taste.
  6. Use to lightly dress the ravioli prepared above.
  7. Serve immediately garnished with grated Pecorino Romano cheese.

*     *     *

Ramps Ravioli with Morel Mushrooms 3

*     *     *

Notes

Be aware that there are 2 types of mushrooms, known as false morels, that resemble morels but that are inedible. Do not go foraging for morels unless you know exactly what you are looking for. As is the case with all mushrooms, if in doubt, throw it out.

Morels should not be eaten raw. Stomach distress may result if they are not fully cooked before being eaten. Soaking them is not cooking them.

To re-hydrate morels, soak them in lukewarm water for 30 to 60 minutes before needed. Unlike most mushrooms, it wouldn’t hurt to first briefly hold them under running water to clear any grit that may be in the dimples.

*     *     *

It’s déjà vu all over again …

Tomato and Bread Soup

Tomato and Bread Soup

This is the time of year when gardens in this area are producing tomatoes of all shapes, sizes, and colors. If you don’t stay on top of the situation, you’ll soon be swamped with ripe tomatoes — and that’s true even if you’ve an Evil Squirrel to battle. Today’s blast from the past is a delicious way to utilize the excess. In fact, the more ripe the tomatoes, the better the dish. Pappa al Pomodoro, is a delicious soup that could not be easier to prepare. Just click HERE to learn all about it.

*     *     *

Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Tart Cherry Frozen Yogurt

Tart Cherry Frozen Yogurt

*     *     *

The Bartolini Family Risotto

Risotto della Famiglia di Bartolini

Risotto 1

This is it! The twice-delayed, much-anticipated, and another of the Bartolini Crown Jewels, my family’s risotto recipe. Though it’s been a long time coming, I think you’ll find it appealing, even if it is unlike most that you may know. You see, the Bartolini risotto is missing a couple of the dish’s standard ingredients and includes one that most do not — but we’ll discuss that in a bit.

Our risotto had quite a reputation among the branches of my family that did not reside in the two-flat. When our relatives from Cincinnati, at the time the southernmost members of the Clan, came for a visit, they had a standing request that this risotto be served as part of their welcoming dinner. I remember Mom making it for Dad’s Mother during her visits with us and risotto was often served when either of the two-flat’s families entertained. What made the Bartolini risotto so special? Chicken gizzards, an ingredient that was lacking from almost all other risotto recipes. If you liked gizzards, you loved this risotto. Of course, if you didn’t, well, you’d probably go hungry that night. The latter point being responsible for the greatest cover-up in the long and storied history of the Bartolini.

As popular as this dish was with the adults seated at the table, there was one member of the family, my sibling, who would have none of it. The child — henceforth referred to as “It” to protect “Its” identity — refused to eat them. Mom, in an effort to get the child to at least eat the risotto, told the child that they were “dried mushrooms” and “It” should put them aside and eat the rice. Knowing that the child balked at eating dried mushrooms, there’s no way so much as a grain of rice would have been eaten if “It” knew there were gizzards on that platter. Out of earshot of the child, Mom then turned to me and my other sibling, commanding we keep quiet about this, “Or else!”

Now, there’s nothing so unusual about what Mom did. After all, Mothers since the dawn of time have cajoled, bribed, and, yes, lied to their children, all in the name of good nutrition. (How many broccoli crowns have been hidden in meatloaf throughout the millennia?) No, the truly surprising thing about this tale is how long the ruse lasted.

We had all gathered at my Parent’s home for a family dinner, an event that had become more and more rare. When “It” noticed that Mom was preparing risotto, “It” asked Mom if dried mushrooms were to be included. Hearing that, I started to laugh and, much to Mom’s dismay, the cover-up was exposed. The astonishing fact is that the child was now in “Its” 30s! That’s right: 30′s! One “Or else!” from Mom and my sibling and I kept quiet for 3 decades. Kids today have it easy.

*     *     *

Our risotto is a bit more complicated than most. The gizzards, after all, must be cooked first. To do this, they are sautéed before being used to create a stock. As you’ll see in the recipe below, both the gizzards and the stock are then used to create the risotto. You’ll also note that 2 cups of Arborio rice are used. This will make a rather large platter of risotto. You may wish to reduce the amounts.

Risotto Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 lb (455 g) chicken gizzards & hearts (see Notes)
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 tbsp butterSautéing
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • water
  • 2 cups arborio rice
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 small – medium onion, diced fine
  • 10 button or cremini mushrooms, chopped (see Notes)
  • 7 to 8 cups stock (see Notes)
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • Pecorino Romano cheese

Directions

  1. Add the butter and olive oil to a saucepan over medium heat. Add the cleaned chicken gizzards to the pot and sauté for about 10 minutes. The object is to give them a bit of color, not fry them till fully cooked.
  2. Turn the heat to high before adding the onion, celery, carrot, and 2 quarts of water.
  3. Bring to a boil and reduce to a soft simmer. Continue to simmer for 90 minutes, removing any foam that may rise to the top.
  4. After 90 minutes, strain and reserve the stock. Remove the gizzards and set aside to cool. Remove the vegetables and discard.
  5. Once cooled to touch, chop the gizzards to your preference.
  6. In a large sauce pan or deep frying pan, melt the butter over med-high heat. Add the onion and sauté for about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  7. Add the mushrooms and sauté for a few minutes until some color is achieved.
  8. Add the gizzards and sauté until heated through. The onion should be translucentSimmering away by this time. Season with salt and pepper.
  9. Add the rice and sauté for another 5 minutes or so to toast it. The grains should be partially opaque.
  10. Reduce the heat to medium, add a ladle or 2 of hot stock, and stir the rice. Though you needn’t stir it constantly, you shouldn’t leave it for more than a couple of minutes.
  11. When the stock is all but gone, add another ladle of stock and stir. Repeat this process again and again until the rice is just about cooked. This should take about 20 minutes and the risotto should not be gummy but very moist, though not so much as to be a soup.
  12. Taste and add salt & pepper, as needed.
  13. Turn off the heat, add a final ladle or 2 of stock, cover the pan, and let the risotto rest for 5 minutes.
  14. Add a handful or 2 of grated Pecorino Romano cheese, stir to combine, and place on the serving platter.
  15. Garnish with more grated cheese and serve.

*     *     *

Risotto 3

*     *     *

Variations

In many versions of risotto, white wine and saffron are added to the rice, although neither are used in my family’s risotto recipe. At a later date, I will post a recipe for Risotto alla Milanese, in which both ingredients are required.

Notes

In my area, chicken gizzards are sold in 1 lb packages. Before cooking, they must be rinsed and trimmed of any fatty and/or dark parts. Try to keep the fleshy parts as intact as possible. These will be chopped once cooked.

If you’re trying to “disguise” the gizzards, it’s best to chop the mushrooms in about the same size as the chopped gizzards, keeping in mind that the mushrooms will shrink when cooked.

The standard ratio of rice to stock when making risotto is about 1 to 3½, meaning for every cup of rice you’ll need 3½ cups of stock. It never hurts to have extra stock on hand just in case more is needed to cook the risotto.

The stock created with the chicken gizzards is relatively simple, with the few ingredients left in large pieces. This makes it far easier to retrieve the gizzards once cooked.

When ready to start cooking your risotto, combine  the stock made when cooking the gizzards with enough homemade chicken stock to give you the amount required in the recipe. Of course, store-bought, low-sodium, chicken stock may be substituted.

Keep the stock hot but not boiling. If kept boiling, much of it will immediately evaporate upon hitting the hot risotto pan without having a chance to be absorbed by the rice.

*     *     *

It’s déjà vu all over again … Corn RelishIt’s that time of the year again. In this part of the country, every grocery, market, and vegetable stand features at least one bin filled to over-flowing with ears of fresh corn. If you’re at all like me you just cannot get enough of the stuff. That’s all well and good for now, but what are you going to do come Fall when today’s surplus is but a memory? Well, with today’s blast from the past, you’ll be laughing all the way to the pantry. Zia’s Corn Relish is a great way to preserve today’s corn for tomorrow’s meals. It’s a simple recipe and you can find it by clicking HERE.

*     *     *

Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Ravioli with Morels

Ravioli made with Ramps and Dressed with Morel Mushroom Sauce

*     *     *

Farmers Market Pasta

Pasta Primavera

It happens every Spring. After having spent the Winter avoiding most fresh vegetables because they’ve seemingly spent more time in transit than in some distant fields, the farmers markets open and I can barely contain myself. I go with a general idea of what I’d like to buy and return home with two bags full of produce and a loaf of bread. As I unpack Saturday’s harvest, I begin to plan my meals.

In the past, I’ve commented on a couple of blogs that I’m amazed at how we all could look at the same ingredients and “see” different dishes. Nazneen, for example, could take these ingredients and have no trouble creating a tasty pullao. BAM, on the other hand, could easily prepare a flavorful GF stir fry. Then, of course, there’s Katherine and Greg. Heaven only knows the dish they’d create but I guarantee it would be delicious and I wouldn’t be the only one to bookmark the recipe. Me? Every week I break out the flour and start making pasta. The only question in my mind is what vegetables to use for which pasta. And when all is said and done, on Thursday or Friday night, I use leftovers and whatever vegetables remain to make a fresh egg frittata. Come Saturday, with a newly cleaned-out refrigerator, I head back to the market and start the process all over again. Today’s recipe is one of these farmers market pastas.

*     *     *

Primavera is the Italian word for Spring. Pasta Primavera is a dish that celebrates the freshest of ingredients. It is a true marriage of flavors, with no single taste dominating  the rest. To dress the pasta, the “sauce” can be cream-based, oil or butter-based, and even include tomatoes. In short, a pasta primavera can be whatever you would like it to be, so long as the ingredients are fresh.

For today’s recipe, I rendered some guanciale and used the resulting fat as the base of my sauce. Since I was adding scapes, there was no need for garlic but I did add a couple dried red peperoncini to add some heat to the dish. Beyond that, fresh peas, asparagus, and a few mushrooms were added, with a splash of white wine to round out the dish. And just to make sure that they didn’t get “lost”, I grilled the scapes and asparagus spears before adding them to the pasta. Then, after adding a sprinkle of cheese, dinner was served.

And to my fellow Americans, have a happy and safe 4th of July.

*     *     *

Farmers Market Pasta Recipe

Ingredients

  • 3/4 lb (340 g) cooked trenette — any “ribbon” pasta can be used
  • 6 to 9 garlic scapes
  • 9 to 12 asparagus spears
  • 3 oz (113 g) guanciale, chopped — pancetta, prosciutto, bacon, or ham can be used
  • dried peperoncini (optional)
  • 1/2 lb ( 227 g) fresh peas
  • 8 to 12 small mushrooms, halved or quartered depending upon size
  • white wine
  • salt & pepper
  • Pecorino Romano cheese, grated, for serving — Parmigiano Reggiano can be substituted.

*     *     *

100_4649

*     *     *

Directions

  1. Clean and heat the barbecue or grill pan
  2. Lightly coat scapes and asparagus with olive oil
  3. Place the scapes and asparagus atop the hot grill surface. Cook each vegetable to your liking before removing from heat. When cool, roughly chop both vegetables.
  4. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil.
  5. Add the guanciale to a large frying pan over med-high heat. Continue to cook until the fat has rendered and the guanciale is not quite fully cooked.
  6. Crumble the dried peperoncini by hand before adding to the pan.
  7. Add the mushrooms and continue to sauté for a few minutes.
  8. Lower the heat to medium, add a couple of ounces of wine and the peas. Continue to sauté.
  9. Time the pasta to be just shy of al dente at about the time that the peas are cooked to your satisfaction.
  10. Drain the pasta, reserving a cup of the pasta water, and add the pasta to the frying pan.
  11. Add the chopped scapes and asparagus, mix well, and continue to cook until the pasta has reached al dente. Add pasta water if the pan’s contents are too dry.
  12. Remove to a serving platter, garnish with grated cheese, and serve.

*     *     *

*     *     *

Notes

Be careful not to use too much guanciale. If you do, the taste will become predominant and you’ll be unable to taste much else. I’ve made that mistake and although it is still a very flavorful pasta, it’s also a waste of garlic scapes.

I like a little heat in the dish so I crumbled 2 dried peperoncini that came from the heart of Italy’s peperoncini region, Calabria. You could easily substitute red pepper flakes or skip them entirely, if you like.

Before using the scapes, I trim an inch or two off the bottom of each scape and, because they can get hard and unpalatable when grilled, I trim off each top just above the flower bulge.

I used 3/4 lbs. of trenette pasta because that’s the amount of dough I had left over when I made last week’s ravioli. Use as much, or as little, pasta as you like. The same holds true for the rest of the ingredients.

As the Summer progresses  the ingredients will change to include broccoli, chard, cauliflower, and/or whatever else catches my eye as I walk around the market. You can and should do the same with your pasta primavera.

*     *     *

A word about the pasta …

I have an attachment for my pasta machine that will cut trenette pasta. Used throughout Genoa and Liguria, trenette — not to be confused with trennette — are one of the flat, “ribbon” pastas, this one being about “a silly millimeter thinner” than linguine. Although trenette is traditionally dressed with Pesto Genovese, I like the pasta because it most closely resembles the pasta Mom & Zia cut by hand when I was a boy. I can almost hear Mom’s knife as she quickly cut the rolled sheet of pasta, sfoglia, all the while having a conversation with whomever was in the room or seated at the table. The speed of that blade was truly a marvel, at a rate easily 5 or 6 times my best. And the noodles were all uniformly cut, something I cannot do even when working at a snail’s pace. So I cheated. I bought myself a trenette pasta machine attachment — and one for Zia — and now we can enjoy a dish of pasta just like back in the day.

*     *     *

Cheaters do prosper sometimes …

When this year’s seedlings didn’t fare so well, I bought heirloom tomato plants from the farmers market. Lo and behold! For the first time in years, I’ll be eating home-grown  tomatoes, even if only the tiniest of cherries, on the 4th of July.

*     *     *

It’s déjà vu all over again …

Lucky for us, all is not vegetable at the markets. We are now in cherry season and this year I’m twice blessed. Not only are Michigan’s tart cherries hitting the markets but I’ve a friend that surprised me with enough cherries to make a fantastic pie. Now, I can eat sweet Bing cherries by the fistful but these tart red beauties are meant for pies, muffins, and jam.  Pictured on the right is a bit of the pie I made with my friend’s gift. You can see the recipe I followed by clicking HERE.

*     *     *

Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Rack of Spring Lamb

*     *     *

Asparagus, Crimini Mushroom, and Ricotta Ravioli Filling

Yes, it’s another ravioli filling recipe, though not the one I had originally intended to post. Today’s filling recipe was to include ramps, a dish Zia and I developed during my last visit home. Well, ramp season has passed and I doubt that any of the wild onions are to be found anywhere. Asparagus, on the other hand, is still around, though it’s numbers have greatly decreased over the last 2 weekends. (The ramps post is written and will be published soon.) Seeing that asparagus season is also fleeting, I thought it best to post a recipe using the spears now, while you can still get some that are locally grown. In fact, all 3 recipes presented in today’s post will take advantage of the current harvest. The “Déjà vu” recipe will feature strawberries, while “Coming soon” is a pasta recipe that includes a number of fresh ingredients. 

Today’s post will only detail how to make asparagus ravioli filling. If you’re interested in seeing how to use ravioli molds/dies to create the stuffed pasta pillows, you can see step-by-step instructions by clicking HERE. For serving suggestions, see Notes below.

*     *     *

*     *     *

Asparagus, Crimini Mushroom, & Ricotta Ravioli Filling Recipe

Yield: See Notes below. 

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 8 oz (228 g) fresh asparagus, chopped
  • 8 oz (228 g) fresh crimini mushrooms, chopped
  • 3 oz (86 g) Spring onions, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced or grated
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/8 tsp white pepper
  • 3/4 cup (12 oz, 340 g) ricotta, well-drained
  • 1/2 cup Pecorino Roman cheese, grated

Directions

  1. Clean and roughly chop the asparagus (see Notes), mushrooms, onion, & garlic
  2. Heat olive oil and butter over med-high heat. Add asparagus, mushroom, and onion, lower heat to medium, and sauté until mixture just begins to change color — about 6 or 7 minutes.
  3. Add garlic, salt, and pepper, and continue to sauté until liquids are gone. Do not allow to burn.
  4. Remove from heat and allow to cool fully before proceeding.
  5. If using a food processor:
    1. Place the asparagus mixture into the processor, add the ricotta and Romano cheeses, and process until uniformly smooth.
  6. If not using a food processor:
    1. Chop the asparagus mixture as finely as possible.
    2. Add the cheeses and stir to thoroughly combine.
  7. Filling may now be used with your favorite stuffed pasta recipe.

*     *     *

*     *     *

Notes

Using this recipe and my large, 2 inch (5 cm), ravioli die/mold , I made 90 ravioli. You might make more or less, depending upon the size of the die or stamp used.

Whether you use homemade or store-bought ricotta, place the cheese in a clean coffee filter, where it can drain for at least a few hours to remove the excess liquid.  The drier the better. 

You can serve your asparagus ravioli in a number of ways. I’ve found that a brown butter and sage sauce works very well, as do cream and “light” tomato sauces. For those who really enjoy asparagus, simply sauté a few chopped asparagus spears in butter and use that to dress freshly cooked ravioli. A bit of lemon zest on top works very well. In all the examples given, grated cheese should be sprinkled atop the dressed ravioli.

*     *     *

Testing, testing, 1, 2, 3

I’ve made this and a couple other ravioli fillings over the course of the past couple of  months and it gave me an opportunity to experiment with a few things.

  1. All Purpose V Double 0 Flour. Last Fall I, finally, located a source for “00″ flour, doppio 0. This is the finely ground durum flour used to make pasta and pizza dough in Italy. Although it’s roughly twice as expensive as AP flour, both Zia and I agree that using it creates pasta dough with a great feel. When cooked al dente, the pasta has a good bite, just as it should, and I’ll continue to buy and use it. Decisions have consequences, however, and I now have yet another container of flour in my kitchen. For those keeping track, that makes  6 — AP, bread, wheat, spelt, semolina, and now 00.  
  2. Attachment V Ravioli Die/Mold. I decided to pull out the KitchenAid ravioli maker and give it another shot. In the past I’ve found it less than perfect and, frankly, more trouble than it’s worth. All along, I thought that the fault may lie with the fillings I used, that the attachment would work best if a softer filling was in the hopper. Today’s asparagus ravioli filling was used to test my theory. I must admit that the ravioli maker worked better than it ever has and waste — which was a big problem with earlier trials — was minimal. Even if a bit cumbersome to operate, probably due to my inexperience, it did produce row after row of perfect ravioli. All’s not well, though. In order to get perfect ravioli, the dough sheets must be thick, more than double the thickness that we normally would use. That means you need to make at least twice the amount of pasta dough than would normally be required when using ravioli molds/dies. It, also, means the ratio of filling to pasta is different from the ravioli to which I’m accustomed. (Yes, my generation of Bartolini are a spoiled lot.)  In short, the ravioli attachment is back on the shelf, waiting for me to give it another go, probably in 2015 sometime.
  3. Chicken V Duck Eggs. Recently, while waiting to buy eggs at the farmers market, the customer before me bought a half-dozen duck eggs. Prior to this, I thought they were only sold by the dozen. So, I 86′ed the chicken and went duck. A couple of days later, I used them to make the pasta dough used in the ravioli pictured throughout this post. For those unfamiliar, Mom’s pasta dough recipe calls for 4 eggs and enough water to make a cup of liquid. Because they’re larger, only 3 duck eggs plus less than a tbsp of water will yield the required cup of liquid. Once made, the dough was much more yellow than normal but, to be fair, that may be due to the eggs’ freshness more than anything else. As for taste, I really could not detect a difference but, then again, without side-by-side taste tests, I should really say that I don’t “remember” a difference. Given that duck eggs are twice the price of chicken eggs, I’m not sure that I’ll be a regular customer for them anytime soon.

*     *     *

It’s déjà vu all over again …

As was mentioned, we’re just about at the end of asparagus season here in the Chicago area. The tables upon tables of the tasty spears have been replaced — by strawberries! Pictured on the right is just one vendor’s berries at the Evanston farmers market. Believe me, there are many more and I defy anyone, save those with allergies, to walk around that market without buying at least one quart. So, what will you do with these sweet & juicy red gems? Why, make strawberry jam, of course! You can see Mom’s recipe by clicking HERE.

*     *     *

Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Farmers Market Pasta

*     *     *