Homemade Garganelli Pasta

Garganelli Fatti in Casa

The draft of today’s post has been waiting a couple of years to be posted. This is, in fact, the 4th intro that I’ve written for it. Something has come up to prevent its publication every time I’ve penciled it into my schedule. This, though, is definitely its time. You see, I was “introduced” to garganelli while in Rome — twelve years ago with Zia.

Rome was the last stop of our vacanza and I found a restaurant with the same name as that of my family’s surname. Mind you, it’s not like we have the Italian version of “Smith” or “Chang” as a surname —  quite the contrary. Yet, there is a restaurant or trattoria with our name above the door in just about every city in Italy and in many major cities here, across The Pond, as well. Be that as it may, I noticed a dish of penne being delivered to a nearby table and, when the time came, mentioned to our waiter that I would like the same as my primo piatto. He politely pointed out that it was garganelli and not penne. I decided right then and there to learn how to make garganelli once I got home — and get my eyes checked. Not long after, I was back home making garganelli — but the story doesn’t end here.

Last May, upon arrival to our flat in Rome, the owner went out of her way to make us feel at home, describing in detail each of the flat’s amenities. She was especially anxious to show us the terrace. With a view of the Colosseum, the dome of St. Peter’s, and the Vittorio Emmanuel II Monument, it was easy to see why she couldn’t wait to show it to us.

*     *     *

A Flat with a VIew*     *     *

When we returned from the terrace, she presented us with her own guide-book to Rome, paying particular attention to the flat’s locale. When we got to the page with her restaurant recommendations, the first on the list was a restaurant bearing my family’s surname. I thought it a coincidence — until we arrived there later that evening. The route looked so familiar, especially a long flight of stairs along the was very much like the one that had troubled Zia a dozen years before. Any lingering doubts I may have had vanished upon entering the establishment. This was, indeed, the same restaurant in which Zia and I dined and where I “discovered” garganelli. Surely, this was a sign that I should finally publish my garganelli post as soon as I returned to WordPress.

*     *     *

Similar in shape to penne, garganelli are a tubular pasta that come from the Emilia-Romagna area of Italy. With Bologna as its capital, Emilia-Romagna is known for its hearty meat sauces. (Pasta Bolognese, anyone?) Garganelli, like penne, is particularly well-suited for such sauces and its use has spread to other areas of Italy because of that. In fact, Abruzzo, a mountainous province just south of Marche, is known for its lamb ragu and very often garganelli is the pasta of choice. Lamb not your thing? Well, go north a bit and into Tuscany. There you’ll find they make a rich veal ragu and it, too, is used to dress garganelli. Before you start googling, I can save you the keystrokes and send you to  Rufus’ Food and Spirits Guide, for a veal ragu recipe that’s about as authentic as you’ll find anywhere on the web. (Greg, by the way, introduced me the movie, “Big Night“, in which garganelli is handmade in preparation for the film’s climactic feast.)

Whereas it’s quite difficult to create perfect penne by hand, garganelli is very often handmade and has a “flap” where the pasta is joined to create the tube. Just like penne rigate, garganelli traditionally have ridges on each tube’s outer surface; the better to hold on to that rich tomato sauce. Now, you can search the web and you’ll find gadgets made just for putting ridges on your garganelli, but not me. Years ago, much to the amusement of Mom & Zia, I bought a gnocchi board that is used to put ridges on gnocchi. (In my defense, I needed a few more dollars in my order to qualify for free shipping and a gnocchi board was just the ticket.) As you’ll soon see below, and I was quick to point out to Zia, putting ridges on garganelli is yet another (of two) uses for this wonderful kitchen gadget. Now, don’t fret if you haven’t this nifty little gadget taking up space in a junk drawer. You can just as easily use the back of a fork, like you would when making gnocchi, or leave them smooth, like normal penne. No matter. Don’t let the absence of a few ridges cause you to miss out on this great tasting pasta!

*     *     *

How To Make Garganelli

Begin by making a batch of Mom’s Pasta dough. That will give you 1.5 pounds (680 g) of dough. Roll the dough to a thickness of 6 or 7 on a pasta machine, where 1 is the widest setting. Pictures will tell the rest of the tale.

Note: I use a straight edge here because I could neither cut nor draw a straight line if my life depended upon doing so.

Use a straight edge to divide a dough sheet into 2 strips about 2 inches wide

*     *     *

Use the straight edge to cut the strips into 2 inch squares

*     *     *

Place a square on the gnocchi board and moisten the lower corner

*     *     *

Use the dowel, begin with top corner, and roll the square to form a tube

*     *     *

Create ridges by applying pressure while square is rolled to bottom of board

*     *     *

My garganelli have ridges, thanks to my gnocchi board!

*     *     *

A Gaggle of Garganelli

*     *     *

Just One Thing More

Some of you have requested that I post photos from my trip and I’m in the process of getting them all identified and organized. As you may well imagine, I’ve literally dozens of photos shot during my recent holiday and I intend to share some of the more memorable ones. Unfortunately, several dozen were “lost” when I tried to upload them to my iPad and the Cloud. (Ironically, I was uploading the photos to insure I wouldn’t lose them should I encounter a problem with one of my flash memory cards.) As a result, I have only a few pictures of Bologna and San Marino. Luckily, the photos of my family were spared, as they were on another flash card and I discovered the problem before I attempted to “save” them. I guess I’ll just have to go back to Italy so that I can re-shoot those pics.

*     *     *

Bologna proved to be a wonderful start for my holiday. It’s an old city and there are plenty of medieval structures still remaining. At one time, some 180 towers reached for the skies, though only about 20 remain today. Of those, the Two Towers, Due Torri, are the most famous and dominate the city’s skyline. Walking about the city, you can’t help but notice that many of its walkways are covered, with columns forming the street-side “wall”. They’re a photographer’s dream, so long as you don’t botch the memory card upload. (Sigh.)  As capital of Emilia-Romagna, Bologna offers the best foods of the district and, some would say, all of Italy. I certainly found no evidence to the contrary. I really enjoyed my time there and hope to return one day. I’ll be sure to stay longer, though, so that I can more fully explore the city.

*     *     *

(Click to enlarge)

*     *     *

It’s déjà vu all over again …

michigans bountyIt’s tart cherry season once again in my former home state of Michigan. Having a season of barely 3 weeks, now’s the time to head to the orchards and get your share. If you miss out, the best you’ll probably be able to do is to buy them canned or in jars. In the past, I’ve used them to bake pies and muffins, as well as to make jam. Click on each item to see its recipe.

*     *     *

Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Fried Sage PreviewFried Sage

*     *     *

 

Be It Ever So Humble …

IMG_1018As bad as that photo might be — I should know better than to try to snap a shot through my windshield while driving 70 mph — its meaning is clear. I’m back home again after a wonderful visit with my Zia in Michigan. She loved hearing about my trip and many of my photos reminded her of our Italian holiday a dozen years ago. We both laughed — as did my siblings earlier — whenever I mentioned my Zia in San Marino. She really did keep me entertained and I cannot help but smile when I think of my stay with her and my cousins. I cannot wait to get back to San Marino but, next time, I’ll stay longer.

While in Michigan, Zia and I cooked up a storm, as we always do. As luck would have it, though, only one dish, roast duck, will make it to the blog. The recipes for the rest of what we ate — from homemade sausage to pasta e fagioli to risotto — have already been posted. I really have shared quite a bit of the Bartolini cookbook.

*     *     *

Fetch!*     *     *

Though the weather was a bit cool, even for that part of Michigan, we did have one nice warm day and Max and I headed for the beach. That dog loves the water and playing fetch is a great way to burn off some of his excess energy.

Due to the severity of last Winter and the fact that all 5 of the Great Lakes were completely ice-covered, the water levels are the highest they’ve been in years. One report predicted that Lake Huron’s water level will rise at least 8 inches this year. This part of Lake Huron’s shore has a very gradual slope going into the water. You can walk 50 yards and the water isn’t even waist deep. With a slope so slight, a rise of only a few inches can really eat up the beach. The photo on the left (click to enlarge) is of the cement pier in Fall, 2012. The shoreline is about 25 feet beyond the pier’s end. (It’s interesting to note that, at one time, the water level was high enough to keep the pier top wet. At some point, each of us fell on it, slipping on its algae-covered surface.) The photo on the right is the pier’s end today, with the water’s edge just several feet beyond. Looking at the left photo again, the water now reaches up to the point where the reeds first started to grow. Inch by inch, the lake is reclaiming the beach.

*     *     *

Pier 2*     *     *

Now for some unfinished business …

In my last post, I wrote that I’d sent an email to WordPress Support because I was no longer receiving a blogging friend’s posts. While I was in Europe, they “fixed” it and I no longer received notifications for all but a few posts. Sometime while I was in Michigan, the missing notifications started appearing in my Google mail spam mailbox. I’ve no idea what WordPress could have done to get all of them treated as spam within Google Mail. Some days later, the notifications started showing up in my inbox, just as they should. In the end, I’ve got almost 1800 messages in my Google spam mailbox and some 500 in my inbox. I know I’m still missing some of you and will have to seek you out. Oh! And the blog that I first wrote to WordPress about? It’s still missing. Go figure.

See you in a few weeks.

*     *     *

 

 

 

Briefly …

Fontana 2

Bernini’s “Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi” (Fountain of the Four Rivers), with the “Obelisk of Domitian”, Piazza Navona, Rome, Italy.

Yes, I’m back! Although it was wonderful revisiting Florence and Rome with my two good friends, the highpoint of my holiday was reconnecting with my family in the Republic of San Marino. They treated me royally, making sure that I saw all the sights, including a tour of the tiny country; the medieval castle that now serves as its government’s seat; a day on the beach at Riccione on the Adriatic; and a visit to the property that was once my family’s farm. I must say that it was quite an experience walking about places that I only knew from stories told to us by Dad. It was truly remarkable.

Thank you all that followed my trip’s progress on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram. Your “likes” and comments were all greatly appreciated. I’m not “back” yet, though, as I’m preparing to leave for a much-anticipated trip to visit Zia in Michigan. I hope to return to WordPress in July — if some problems can be resolved.

Prior to leaving for Italy, I notified Support that I was not receiving notifications of a blogging friend’s posts. I know this is a fairly common problem and had hoped I could pass along their resolution to any who needed it. Well, we traded a few emails, each of theirs requesting further clarification. Their final request was for a screen print, which I supplied. Aside from a “form” email asking me to rate their response, that was the last I’ve heard from them about the matter.

While I was away, the problem grew worse and now I am only receiving notifications of no more than 5 blogs that I follow. I have sent another email to Support and await their response. Since I’ll soon be in the Land that the Internet Forgot, there’s little I can do about the situation, no matter their response. I do hope this will be resolved before my planned return in July and will let you know of any progress, or lack thereof.

Thank you all for your understanding and I look forward to “seeing” you in July.

 

On the Road Again …

On the road again… Virtually speaking, at least for now.

My good friend, Judy, Savoring Today, recently underwent surgery and asked a few of us to write guest posts for her while she convalesces. How could anyone refuse? Not only is her fantastic blog filled with plenty of mouth-watering recipes, Judy is about as nice a person you’ll meet in the blogosphere. Of course I agreed to help out and scheduled a post about making garganelli at home. Well, events got in the way and, with an unexpected bounty of fresh ramps in my possession, I was suddenly creating ramps pesto and a post detailing the recipe. Being ramp season is so short, I substituted the pesto post for the garganelli. You can learn how to make this earthy pesto for yourself by heading over to Judy’s blog to read my recipe for Ramps Pesto.

 *     *     *

Ramps Pesto Preview *     *     *

One more thing. The Kitchens will remain closed for several weeks while I do a little touring. Consider this a belated 60th birthday gift to myself. You can learn a bit more of my upcoming travels over at Judy’s place.

Take care and I’ll see you soon.

*     *     *

Egg-Filled Ravioli

Uova da Raviolo

Ravioli-7

Although my family made plenty of ravioli, only two filling recipes were prepared, one for ravioli served in tomato sauce and the other for cappelletti served in soup. I’ve been told that Mom and Zia experimented with cheese-filled ravioli but were never satisfied with them and gave up trying after a few attempts. Then, a few years ago, after having mastered the recipe for Bartolini sausage, I used it to fill ravioli and I was off and running. Since then, I’ve made a number different fillings, most dependent upon what was fresh and in-season at the time. Never, though, did I make today’s recipe, Egg-Filled Ravioli, Uova da Raviolo.

Last year, my blogging friend, Sarah, prepared these delectable ravioli using chicken eggs. Though she no longer maintains her blog, the memory of that dish stayed with me and I decided to surprise Zia with the dish. Since my family never made ravioli large enough to encompass the yolk of a chicken egg, I thought that if I used quail eggs, the ravioli would be much smaller and more in line with my family’s traditions. Well, when I went to buy the quail eggs in September before my trip home for honey, the vendor at the farmers market didn’t have any. My plans would have to wait until my next trip. In the meantime, my friend Celi posted her delicious recipe for these extraordinary ravioli and, not long after, my friend Eva posted her “delightful” recipe. Luckily, Zia saw neither post so my plans remained secret. Weeks later, before my last trip home, I went to the vendor to buy the quail eggs. Not only did the vendor remember me, she gave me 2 packs of eggs for the price of one. Already into November and with her birthday to come in a few weeks, my surprise dinner became Zia’s birthday dinner, with these ravioli as primo piatto.

 *     *     *

Uova da Raviolo, served

*     *     *

In the past, I’ve mentioned that Mom loved Swiss chard (silverbeet), even managing to secure a small piece of Grandpa’s prized garden to grow some. Although our ravioli recipes normally use spinach in the filling, I substituted chard as a means of bringing Mom to Zia’s birthday dinner. The substitution worked so well that Zia mentioned she may use chard the next time she makes ravioli.

Now, when you look at the recipe, you’ll undoubtedly notice that there are few, if any, ingredient amounts listed. The fact that I didn’t have a proper scale is part of the reason but certainly not the sole cause. The proportion of the ingredients will rely upon the amount of chard that you have and your own tastes. Once the chard is cooked and readied for use, add the Pecorino Romano cheese and then enough ricotta until it tastes and looks like you prefer. At this point, there are no raw eggs in the filling, so, you can taste it without fear of becoming ill. Just remember the filling should be stiff enough to support an egg’s yolk.

 *     *     *

ETA

Since this was published, my good blogging friend, Minnie of The Lady 8 Home, posted an entry using scissors to open quail eggs. If you’re interested in making these ravioli, be sure to check out Minnie’s post.

*     *     *

Ravioli Filling Ingredients*     *     *

Uova da Raviolo Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1/2 recipe of Mom’s Pasta Dough — recipe to be found HERE
  • 1 dozen quail eggs — you’d be wise to purchase a few extra (See Notes)
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard, leaves only, chopped
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • ricotta cheese — recipe to be found HERE
  • Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
  • ground nutmeg, to taste
  • Salt & pepper
  • butter

Directions

Prepare pasta dough, set aside to rest, and make the filling.

to make the filling

  1. Melt 2 tbsp of butter in a sauté pan over med-high heat. Add the Swiss chard, season with nutmeg, salt, pepper, and sauté until cooked. Allow to cool, place in a clean kitchen towel, and wring out as much liquid as possible. Set aside.
  2. To your food processor, add the cooked chard, ricotta cheese, and a handful of Pecorino Romano cheese. Process until smooth. Set aside.

to make the ravioli

  1. Place a strip of thinly rolled dough on a lightly floured work surface. (See Notes.)
  2. Most machines create strips that are 6 inches wide. Place a tbsp of filling, at about 3 inch intervals, in a straight line about 2 inches from the strip’s edge.
  3. Use a spoon to indent each tbsp of filling, creating a nest.
  4. Carefully break each quail egg, separate the yolk, and place one yolk in each filling nest.
  5. Use a pastry brush to lightly moisten the opposing side of the pasta strip.
  6. Carefully cover the nests with the moistened side of the pasta strip. Use a glass or biscuit cutter to seal and cut each raviolo.
  7. If air is trapped in a raviolo, use a toothpick to pierce the underside, being careful not to damage the enclosed yolk. Gently squeeze the trapped air out of the raviolo.
  8. Place ravioli on a lightly floured, wax paper covered baking sheet. Cover the ravioli with a clean kitchen towel. Ravioli should be cooked as soon as possible. Keep refrigerated until ready for use.

to cook and serve

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil over high heat.
  2. Add the ravioli and when the boil returns, lower the heat and gently cook the ravioli for about 2 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, melt a few tbsp of butter in a sauté pan over medium heat.
  4. Use a spider strainer to remove the ravioli, placing them in the sauté pan with the melted butter.
  5. Gently toss the ravioli until all are well-coated with butter.
  6. Serve immediately, garnished with a sprinkling of Pecorino Romano cheese.

*     *     *

*     *     *

Variations

Although I served the ravioli dressed with melted butter, they may also be served with a sage-brown butter sauce or a fine extra virgin olive oil. Just be sure to garnish the dish with a sprinkling of grated Pecorino Romano cheese.

*     *     *

Notes

The pasta should be rolled very thin. The thicker the pasta, the longer it will take to cook the ravioli and you’ll run the risk of over-cooking the eggs. The yolks should be runny and not at all hard.

I had planned to serve these ravioli with a sage-brown butter sauce. When it came time to prepare the sauce, however, the sage went missing. With dinner already started and the nearest supply of fresh sage some 30 miles away, I decided it really wasn’t all that necessary and used butter and cheese to dress the pasta. As luck would have it, I was back here in Chicago when Zia came across the sage in her fridge, right where I’d left it.

These were served as a primo piatto. Frankly, there aren’t enough hours in a day to make enough of these ravioli for a main course. I had intended to make 6 per serving but, some time and a number of broken yolks later, I decided that 5 per serving would be plenty.

Quail eggshells are remarkably strong and the inner membrane is even more durable. Together, they make it difficult to break each egg and get to the yolk without it breaking. Buy more quail eggs than needed to allow for the inevitable loss of a yolk or two or three or …

Chances are, once you’ve made your ravioli, you’re going to have some pasta dough left over. Don’t throw it away but follow Mom’s example. She used the scraps to make quadretti pasta, which she kept sealed in an airtight container, adding to it every time she made pasta. These little pasta squares were added to broth and made a great meal. Click HERE to see step-by-step instructions for making quadretti pasta.

*     *     *

Tutto Fatto

*     *     *

It’s déjà vu all over again …

In the old two-flat, it wouldn’t be Christmas if there wasn’t a platter of ravioli on the table. WIth today’s post sharing a new ravioli recipe, I thought today we’d also look back to the original Bartolini Ravioli Filling recipe, as well as the instructional post demonstrating how to use a ravioli form to make the pasta pillows. You can see each post by clicking on the caption under each photo below.

*

Filling Recipe for Bartolini Ravioli

*

How to use a Dye/Mold to Make Ravioli

*     *     *

Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Turkey Risotto Preview

Turkey Risotto

*     *     *

What I Did During My Fall Vacation

On the Road

I’m back from what was, for the most part, another wonderful visit with my Zia. We cooked, we talked, we talked about cooking, and, as one might expect, I’ve a few recipes to share in the weeks to come.

First, having located the surprisingly illusive 1 lb. octopus, I revisited the recipe posted a couple of weeks ago and prepared “Polipo in Umido“, Stewed Octopus. Although I won’t create a new post for the recipe, I’ve added the recipe to the end of this post and have added a link to the original post. I will not include the recipe for the bread I baked that afternoon simply because I evidently failed to bookmark the webpage’s address.

RIccetteOn another night, I reached into the box of Bartolini pastas that our ever-so-thoughtful friend, Lidia, had sent us, and prepared a Pasta alla Verdure, Pasta with Vegetables. It’s a delicious vegetarian dish — if you’re willing to overlook the guanciale that was rendered in the first step.

Since I’ll be unable to visit Zia for her birthday at the end of this month, I prepared a birthday dinner for the two of us. Our primo piatto was L’Uova da Ravioli, Egg-Filled Ravioli.  Our secondo was Osso Bucco, Braised Veal Shanks, while our dessert was a Pear Tarte Tartain. I do not plan on sharing the tart recipe for it wasn’t my finest hour. Knowing that a number of you had recently posted recipes, I attempted to find one of them but the 10 minute/post load time wore me out, so I sought help from the Almighty, the one and only Martha Stewart. Her recipe produced a tasty dessert but my “flip” was a matter of great disappointment and resulted in a presentation that was anything but “a good thing.” So, we took off our eyeglasses and enjoyed it immensely.

*     *     *

*     *     *

One thing you may not know about my Zia is that she enjoys a bit of jam every now and Strawberry-Cranberry Jamagain. Well, recently, our good friend BAM, of Bam’s Kitchen fame, shared her recipe for Bammer’s Jammers. Made with cranberries, strawberries, and ginger, this quick jam is delicious. The mix of tart and sweet is a winning combination, if ever there was one, and Zia loved it. Be sure to check out her recipe and, while you’re there, have a look around BAM’s blog. Guaranteed, it will be time well-spent. And a big “Thank You!” to BAM for the recipe.

*     *     *

Unfortunately, all was not good food and talk during my visit. While I was with Zia, we received word that my Dad’s remaining Brother, Uncle Leo, “Zio Leo”, passed away in a suburb of Detroit. Zia and I travelled to the wake later that week. You may recall that the Apple Cake recipe that I shared 2 weeks ago belonged to his Wife, my Aunt Mary, “Zia Mariolla”.  He was a kind, wonderful man, as was Dad’s other Brother, Uncle Dominic, “Zio Mingo”, who passed away just 5 weeks earlier in his home in San Marino. Both men will be missed terribly. May they rest in peace.

*     *     *

I hope to resume posting recipes next week. I live in a two-flat and the back porches and stairwell needed repair and a fresh coat of paint. I soon learned that, though repairs could be performed, our building codes have changed recently. It would be best to replace it all now, rather than in a couple years. As I type, workers are removing the old structure, just beyond the wall behind me. Max, thankfully, is in doggy daycare for the day — but he’ll be here tomorrow. Admittedly, this is nowhere near the scope of the construction projects some of you have endured over the past few months. Even so, there are foundations to be dug, cement to be poured, and a structure to be built, with a couple of inspections along the way. Whether I post the Green Tomato Relish recipe next week will depend on how the re-build progresses and Max’s reaction to seeing workers in his yard.

*     *     *

Stewed Octopus Recipe

(Polipo in Umido) 

Ingredients

  • 1 one pound (500 g) octopus
  • reserved blanching water
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (more or less to taste)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or grated
  • 1/3 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 large can, 28 oz (800 g), whole tomatoes – hand-torn
  • 1 small can, 14 oz (400 g) whole tomatoes – hand-torn
  • 1/2 tsp dried marjoram (2 tsp fresh)
  • 3 to 4 oz dry white wine
  • fresh, crusty bread for serving

*     *     *

Polipo in Umido

*     *     *

Directions

  1. In a medium saucepan over med-high heat, bring to boil enough water to cover the trimmed octopus. Add the octopus and allow to simmer for 2 minutes after the pot returns to the boil. (Small octopi 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. Reserve the blanching liquid, too. (See Notes) (Refer to Strangozzi post for further details on prepping the octopus.)
  2. Place the blanching liquid back into the sauce pan and, over med-high heat, reduce it by half.
  3. Over med-high heat, add olive oil in a medium sauce pan.
  4. 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.
  5. Add the tomatoes, wine, and marjoram, stir to combine. Bring to a boil before reducing to a soft simmer.
  6. After the sauce has thickened and darkened a bit — about 30 minutes — add the chopped octopus and reduced blanching liquid before continuing the simmer.
  7. Taste a piece of octopus after another 15 minutes to test for doneness and to check the seasoning. If necessary, continue to simmer another 5 minutes before tasting again.
  8. Serve immediately, accompanied with crusty bread. Alternately, some prefer to ladle the octopus over a slice of bread in the bottom of each bowl.
  9. Like all mildly flavored seafood dishes, grated cheese is not recommended for it will overpower the dish.

*     *     *

Notes

As mentioned above, more complete instructions for cleaning and chopping the octopus may be found HERE, the only difference being the size of the chopped pieces of octopus. For an in umido preparation, we prefer the pieces to be from 1.5 to 2 inches (3.5 to 5 cm). That means the octopus you buy should be about 1 lb. in weight. Anything less will require a smaller chop and, in our estimation, won’t be as suitable for an in umido preparation.

The idea for reserving and reducing the blanching liquid came from a suggestion from our blogging buddy, Stefan. It worked like a charm, adding additional flavor to the sauce. Thanks, Stefan! You can find out what other good things Stefan has to offer by visiting his fantastic blog, Stefan’s Gourmet Blog.

*     *     *

Making A Beeline for Honey

Honey

By the time most of you read this, I will be well on my way to Michigan. It’s Honey Time in Zia’s neck of the woods and the Kitchens will be closed this week and next. Sorry for the short notice but the Honey Man is only open for business one weekend every year and once again my calendar comprehension skills failed me. Anyway, Zia and I will be buying a few gallons of honey, enough to keep our family and friends sweet for the next 12 months — we hope.

With no recipe to share, I thought I’d take this opportunity to introduce the newest member of my rose garden, a Floribunda Rose, Iceberg Burgundy.

*     *     *

Iceberg Burgundy

“Iceberg Burgundy”

*     *     *

Although it’s doing quite well since being planted in May, there’s a Chicago Winter looming in the distance. If it makes it through this first test, it should do very well after that. Like any new rose to my garden, it will get an extra thick layer of mulch this Fall and I’ll keep my fingers crossed until March.

See you all in 2 weeks.

*     *     *

The Bartolini Have Hit The Road!


Going for a Ride

If there’s one thing we Bartolini enjoy as much as a dish of pasta, it’s a good old-fashioned road trip. So, when one such opportunity presented itself, I shut down the Kitchens, packed up the car, and headed out — to Washington D.C.

Now, I just didn’t pick D.C. as a destination out of thin air. No, the Kitchens’ good buddy and fellow blogger, Jed, recently invited me to guest host at his blog, sports-glutton.com. There he leads a team of sportswriters that covers the world of sports, offering ego-free commentary and well-reasoned conclusions. With every post, each of these gentlemen offers true insight into his respective field of expertise. Sounds pretty good, huh? Yeah? Well, wait! There’s more.

Jed and his wife, Liz, share recipes that are sure to appeal to the latent glutton in each of us. From appetizers to desserts, and all dishes in-between, these two know their way around a stove — and campfire.  And just when you think sports-glutton.com couldn’t get any better, Thursday arrives. That’s the day that Jed reviews, one bottle at a time, a wide variety of beer and wine. Whether you’re in the mood for a Japanese ale or a Chilean Pinot Noir, not to mention a Wyoming micro brew or whiskey from Utah, this is the place to check before you go shopping for spirits.  Drat! I’ve gotten ahead of myself. You see, every Monday Jed starts off the week with a bit of humor. Think of it as you would a refreshing sorbet, preparing you for his posts to come.

How’s that for a blog? There’s quite literally something for everyone.

So, as you can well imagine, when asked to take part in his  MLB Recipe Series, I could hardly refuse the honor and jumped at the chance. Now, for the uninformed, every Wednesday of the Major League Baseball season, Jed celebrates a different team by offering a recipe that, in some way, is connected to that team. Being a Cubs fan, I contributed my recipe for Jack Brickhouse Chicken, for reasons that will become clear when you follow me to Jed’s place by clicking here to read my guest post. Once you’ve checked out my recipe, be sure to take a look around. You’re sure to find something of interest.

Thanks, Jed, for the honor of participating in your series, allowing me to share a recipe commemorating our Cubs. One of these years …

*     *     *

Regular programming will resume at the Bartolini Kitchens next week, once I figure out a way to explain to Max that we’re not really going anywhere.

Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Asparagus Ravioli made with Duck Egg Pasta

*     *     *

What I did on my Spring Vacation. (The short answer: I ate.)

Formal introductions are forthcoming

*     *     *

Home again! 

After an all-too-brief visit, Lucy, Max, and I returned home to find things not quite the way we left them. (More about that later.) My time spent with Zia was wonderful, though the weather, much like that area’s like the internet service, wasn’t at all cooperative. One had me wishing I’d brought my Winter coat and the other had me seriously considering driving the 30 miles to get access to free WiFi at the nearest McDonald’s. As a result, there were no walks on the beach with Max and I only showed Zia a couple of your blog posts. I couldn’t get them to load on my iPad and this was the first time I brought my iPhone to Michigan. My experience with WP on the device is really quite limited. Even so, I wouldn’t necessarily consider an iPhone’s displays “Zia friendly” and I did much of my reading alone. And before anyone thinks I’m picking on my Cara Zia, I wouldn’t call the displays “John friendly” either. You should have seen me trying to “Pin” or “Like” one of your posts. (I don’t know how you do it, Eva!)

You may be wondering, with it cold and damp when it wasn’t flat-out raining, what does one do in rural Michigan? Well, I can’t speak for others but we cooked … and we cooked … and we cooked again. True, I did take my daily walk looking for morel mushrooms and ramps but returned home empty-handed each time. (Not to worry, I came prepared.) So, with several great meals prepared and, as the title suggests, devoured, I thought I’d share a couple of the recipes today, with a promise to post the rest in the weeks to come.

*     *     *

I can count on two things whenever I arrive at Zia’s home. Once I’ve unpacked the car, there will be a Manhattan waiting for me. (Zia is the original “Hostess with the Mostest”.) With my thirst quaffed, Zia will then get to work on the traditional Bartolini risotto.

*     *     *

*     *     *

Made with fresh mushrooms and chicken gizzards, this dish has long been a family favorite. In fact, there were relatives that traveled hundreds of miles and, upon each and every arrival, asked for a risotto dinner. Of course, not everyone likes chicken gizzards, so, just tell them that the offending bits are nothing but a few dried mushrooms. More about that, and the risotto recipe, will be shared in a future post.

*     *     *

Although most lunches were simple sandwiches made with the Italian lunch meats and bread I brought with me, there were 2 notable exceptions. On Sunday, like always, we had brunch after Mass with a few of Zia’s neighbors and fellow choir members. (Yes, Zia is a member of her church’s choir.) The 2nd time was when I prepared Asparagus in the style of Milan, Asparagi alla Milanese.

*     *     *

*     *     *

There will be no future recipe for this dish because it is so very simple to prepare. Season fresh asparagus spears with salt, pepper, and a bit of olive oil. Place the spears on a heated barbecue, hot grill pan, or baking sheet that’s placed in a hot (425˚ F, 218˚ C) oven. Meanwhile, fry an egg or two per serving and season with salt & pepper. If, like us, you like your yolks runny, the eggs should be prepared sunny-side up or over easy. And that’s it. When both the asparagus and eggs are cooked to your liking, arrange a serving of asparagus spears on a dinner plate, place the eggs on top, and, if you like, garnish with a bit of grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. It couldn’t be easier but it sure is a great tasting light lunch or fantastic primo piatto.

*     *     *

Now, we just didn’t spend all of our time eating lunch. We did work for our suppers, too. In fact, Zia’s pasta board got quite a bit of use over the course of my visit. One day, we made ravioli and linguine.

*     *     *

*     *     *

Using a filling of ramps, fresh spinach, and goat’s cheese, Zia and I spent the afternoon making pasta pillows. That night, we feasted on these very same ravioli, prepared with morel mushrooms in a white wine sauce.

*     *     *

*     *     *

Those recipes will be coming your way.

*     *     *

Another day brought out the pasta board again and we spent the afternoon making gnocchi.

*     *     *

*     *     *

That night’s dinner was probably the best of my entire visit. Our primo piatto was gnocchi dressed in a rich gorgonzola cream sauce.

*     *     *

*     *     *

That night’s secondo was grilled rack of Spring lamb, while contorni of grilled asparagus and a tossed salad rounded out the meal.

*     *     *

*     *     *

Later that night, I surprised Zia with cannoli that I’d brought from my Italian market. Recipes for the gnocchi, gorgonzola cream sauce, and lamb will soon be posted, too.

*     *     *

Lastly, I could hardly go home for a visit without bringing something from the fish monger. This visit I brought whiting, merluzzo, with me.

*     *     *

*     *     *

Rather than risk ruining them on a grill with which I’ve had little experience, these little fishies were prepared with the Bartolini breading mixture and baked, with excess breading mixture placed on the baking sheet, roasted, and used to garnish a platter of hand-cut linguine aglio e olio with baby artichokes, spinach, and ramps. The merluzzo recipe was already shared HERE

*     *     *

*     *     *

To make the pasta dish, place 1/3 cup olive oil in a hot pan over med-high heat. Add red pepper flakes, to taste, along with chopped ramps. Sauté till ramps are soft, add 2 to 4 bulbs of diced Spring or new garlic, and continue cooking for another minute. Add the trimmed and quartered fresh artichokes, a half cup of white wine, bring to a boil, and reduce to a soft simmer. Allow the artichokes to braise until soft and the sauce has reduced, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, cook pasta until two minutes shy of package directions or, if using fresh, until the pasta is a bit firmer to the bite than your prefer. Reserve a cup of the pasta water, drain the pasta, and add to the frying pan along with  a handful or two of fresh spinach. Toss to coat the pasta and continue to sauté the pan’s contents until the pasta is cooked to your liking, adding pasta water as needed to maintain the sauce. To serve, garnish with breading mixture that remains on the baking sheet that was used to roast the merluzzo. Of course, if merluzzo isn’t on that night’s menu, your pasta may be garnished with grated cheese or bread crumbs toasted in a bit of olive oil.

*     *     *

So, there you have it. We cooked, we chatted, we worked out the kinks in a recipe or two, and we spent a very nice time together. And, best of all, there are recipes to share for anyone that’s interested. Would that I could end this post here and now but, alas, there’s a bit more to tell.

Late on the night of my arrival in Michigan, I received a telephone call telling me of some storm damage at my home. Thankfully no one was hurt and there wasn’t any structural damage. Since a picture is worth a thousand words and our friend Celi has challenged us all to post a view from our back porches, here’s mine.

*     *     *

"This is as close to indoor plumbing as I'm ever going to get!"

With the exception of a potted palm that died under the most suspicious of circumstances in the living room, this is about as close to indoor plumbing as Max will ever get.

*     *     *

That green thing is not some prop from a 50′s sci-fi thriller. It’s a trumpet vine that the wind knocked down, blocking the path to the garage and alley, not to mention landing atop a few roses. (Hopefully the dog run’s fence took the brunt of the force from the falling vine.) Here’s the view from the porch landing above.

*     *     *

Believe it or not, buried within that tangled mess are the remnants of a wooden trellis.

*     *     *

As you can see, mine is a typical city yard here in Chicago, made even smaller because of the 2 car garage and dog run … um … and the now-fallen vine. As of this writing, I’m waiting to hear from a few landscapers for bids to remove the vine and haul it away. On the plus side, once it’s removed, there’ll be space for a clematis vine and another rose.

The Kitchens are open again, with a new recipe, Baked Haddock, coming this Wednesday.

*     *     *