Archive for the 'Italian' Category



Bucatini with Sausage and Peas

Bucattini with Sausage and Peas

If you haven’t been paying attention, I tend to post a lot of pasta recipes. Here’s one more to enhance my collection.

This recipe actually comes from Sting’s personal chef (or so it was stated in Food & Wine).  Appropriately, when I started to make this and turned on the radio, a Police song came on.  I considered that a good omen.

There’s nothing complicated or special about this recipe.  It is simple but in its simplicity there is taste and quality.  It is a pasta should be.

The dominant flavor in the pasta is the sausage; the sausage ends up providing most of the seasoning to the sauce.  The tomato sauce and the peas merely compliment the sausage.  There’s no need to use actual bucatini; any spagheti-like pasta will do.

When I made this, Angela was out of town.  I made a full recipe any way and ate it for the next two days for lunch. It reheated well and made a good lunch (as long as I remember to bring along some cookies for dessert).

Parcooking Tomatoes

Bucatini with Sausage and Peas
Adapted from Food and Wine September 2007

2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 lbs. Italian sausage, casings removed
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small shallot, minced
2 1/2 cups tomato purée
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup frozen baby peas
salt
1 lbs. bucatini or spaghetti
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

  1. In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. When the olive oil is hot, add the sausage, breaking it up with a spoon, until the sausage is well browned, about 8 minutes.
  2. Pour out the excess oil and discard. Add the garlic and shallots and cook until softened, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add the tomato sauce and bring to a simmer. Cook, partially covered, at a low simmer for 30 minutes.
  4. Stir in the peas and heavy cream and simmer for 10 more minutes. Add half the parmesan cheese and season to taste with salt.
  5. While the sauce is cooking, cook the bucattini in boiling salted water for 1 minute less than the manufacturer recommends.
  6. Add the pasta to the sauce and cook at a simmer for 1 minute more.
  7. Serve immediately topped with the remaining parmesan cheese.

Serves 4 to 6.

Watermelon Sorbetto

Watermelon Sorbetto

With the coming of summer, I’ve been tempted by all the various melons at the farmer’s market. It’s hard for me to resist those juicy orbs.

Unfortunately, I have the distinct tendency to bring a newly purchased melon home, put it in the refrigerator, and then promptly forget to eat it. Normally, discovering that I had some form of melon that I didn’t know I had (well, not too long after I bought it), isn’t a bad thing but I still have to figure out what to do with it.

I usually intend to chop it up and take it with me to work for breakfast. My problem is that at night, I’ll tell myself I’ll cut it up in the morning. And in the morning, I don’t feel like cutting it up in my half-awake state and that I’ll cut it up that night for the next day. Rinse, repeat, ad nauseum, and I wind up with the forgotten melon.

I finally had enough of the watermelon accusingly staring me in the face every time I opened the refrigerator and decided to do something about it. Hence, watermelon sorbetto.

This isn’t actually the first time I made a watermelon sorbet. I tried one sometime last year (I don’t remember what recipe I used) but I don’t remember being impressed by it. I think it might have been a texture issue. I find that texture is very important in frozen desserts so I made sure to strain the watermelon purée which made for a very smooth sorbet.

The sorbet ended up tasting more like watermelon than eating the watermelon straight did (which was good as I realized the watermelon was much closer to tasteless than I like). The mini-chocolate chips add a nice contrast to the sorbet as well as looking like seeds. Be aware that the sorbet freezes very hard and needs to be allowed to soften for several minutes before eating (or you may break your spoon).

Watermelon

Watermelon Sorbetto
Adapted from Perfect Scoop: Ice Creams, Sorbets, Granitas, and Sweet Accompaniments

3 lbs. watermelon, seeded and cubed
1/2 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp vodka
2 tbsp mini chocolate chips

  1. Purée the watermelon in a food processor or blender. Run the watermelon purée through a fine mesh strainer. Measure out 3 cups of watermelon juice.
  2. In a small saucepan, heat approximately 1/2 cup of the watermelon juice along with the sugar and salt until the sugar has thoroughly dissolved. Remove from the heat.
  3. Combine the watermelon juice in the saucepan with the other watermelon juice and place in a medium sized bowl. Stir in the lime juice and vodka.
  4. Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator.
  5. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions. During the last minute of freezing, pour in the chocolate chips.
  6. Remove from the ice cream maker’s bowl and place in a container. Place the container in the freezer to finish freezing.
  7. Several minutes before eating, remove from the freezer.

Makes about 1 quart

Fettucine con Salsa di Gorgonzola (Fettucini with Gorgonzola Sauce)

Fettucine with Gorgonzola Sauce

Angela left me to my own devices this past week as she was out of town attending a wedding.  Some may look at this as a tragedy; I merely look at it as an opportunity to eat things she doesn’t like.

In college, I independently developed something similar to this recipe.  It developed as an elaboration of a fettucine alfredo recipe I found in a Betty Crocker cookbook that was owned by my roommate.  I no longer make that recipe as I’ve moved on to better and (to my thinking at least) more authentic recipes.

However, there’s a bit of a story to that fettucine alfredo recipe.  It was one of the first things I ever cooked from a published recipe.  But, more importantly to me at least, was that it was the first thing I ever cooked for Angela.

As documented in the about page, this was an effort to impress here. And apparently it worked.

But that has very little to do with this recipe as Angela doesn’t like Gorgonzola cheese (or really any blue cheese) which is why I made this recipe when she was gone. It’s a rather simple recipe. The most time was taken up in making the pasta.

My pasta making technique has been modified a bit now.  I tend to add a little bit of olive oil and salt to the dough.  I’m not sure if I can taste a difference or not but it’s been working for me.  I also use large eggs now as I’ve started buying the dark yolk eggs from Trader Joe’s.  If anything, the dough has been easier to work with with large eggs as opposed to extra large eggs.

The Gorgonzola sauce is quite good if fattening.  The flavor of the Gorgonzola definitely ripens as it is allowed to sit at room temperature but the sauce itself is very well balanced.  It went well, for me, with a 2005 Palmina Dolcetto.

Homemade Pasta

Fettucine con Salsa di Gorgonzola (Fettucini with Gorgonzola Sauce)
Adapted from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking

1/4 lbs. Gorgonzola, left at room temperature for at least 6 hours
1/3 cup whole milk
3 tbsp butter
salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/4 lbs. fresh fettuccine (preferably homemade)
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese

  1. In a large saucepan, place the gorgonzola, milk, and butter over low heat.  Stir with a wood spoon, breaking up the gorgonzola.  Cook for a minute or two or until the butter melts.
  2. Add the heavy cream and increase the heat to medium-low.  Cook until the heavy cream has thickened slightly, about 2 minutes.
  3. Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until slightly undercooked.  Add the pasta to the sauce.
  4. Cook the sauce for 1 minute more, stirring in the pasta.
  5. Stir in the parmesan cheese.
  6. Serve immediately with extra grated parmesan cheese on top.

Serves 4.

Mock Porchetta

Mock Porchetta Served

Ever since I had heard of porchetta, I have lusted after it. A whole pig stuffed with garlic, herbs, and other seasonings? Yes, please! It’s almost like an Italian version of barbeque.

Despite my pretensions, there’s no way I’m going to cook a whole pig, particularly in my small apartment kitchen. I don’t think it would fit in my oven for one.

Mock Porchetta Cooking

This isn’t a real porchetta. Given I have no baseline for real porchetta, I don’t even know how it compares. It is, however, good and I think it might be a good approximation.

I waited to make this until I had a “special occasion” (a.k.a. when it would be more than just Angela and I for dinner). The opportunity presented itself when my parents came to visit.

This is actually a great meal to make when having company. While it takes a long time to cook (and does require advanced preparation), it requires little in the way of real work. Most of the cooking is done unattended and only needs to be checked on once every hour or so. Having a whole meal in one dish doesn’t hurt.

The only proof you should need that the mock porchetta is good is that my mother asked for a copy of the recipe.

I served the mock porchetta with a homemade baguette and a bottle of 2004 Dopff & Irion Riesling Schoenenbourg. Dessert was homemade orange ice cream.

Mock Porchetta seasoned and tied

Mock Porchetta
Adapted from The Zuni Cafe Cookbook: A Compendium of Recipes and Cooking Lessons from San Francisco’s Beloved Restaurant

1 2-1/2 to 3 lbs. pork butt roast
salt
1 tbsp capers, rinse, soaked, dried and chopped
1 tsp chopped lemon zest
3 garlic cloves, coarsley chopped
12 fresh sage leaves, crushed and chopped
2 sprigs rosemary, leaves stripped and chopped
2 tsp fennel seeds, crushed
1 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2 lbs. peeled and sliced potatoes, carrots, and red onions
olive oil
2/3 cup pork stock or chicken stock
2 tbsp dry vermouth

  1. In a bowl, combine the capers, lemon zest, garlic, herbs, fennel seeds, and pepper in a small bowl. Mix well.
  2. Trim all but 1/4″ of fat off the sides of the pork butt. Cut into the pork butt to open up as much surface area as possible while only opening up natural seams in the meat. (If you use a portion near the bone, the natural pocket left by the bone may suffice for this portion).
  3. Season the inside of the pork with salt evenly. Rub the herb mixture all over the inside of the pork. Season the outside of the pork.
  4. Tie the pork to form a uniform shape.
  5. Cover the pork and allow to sit in the refrigerator for 1 to 3 days.
  6. Remove the pork an hour before cooking to allow it to come to room temperature.
  7. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  8. Toss the vegetables in a minimum of olive oil, so that they are barely coated. Season with a few pinches of salt.
  9. Heat a dutch oven over medium heat until hot. Add the pork roast and surround with the vegetables.
  10. Place in the oven and bake for 1 hour.
  11. After an hour, turn over the meat and rotate the vegetables.
  12. Bake for 1 hour more.
  13. Add 1/3 cup of the stock, return to the oven, and bake for 15 to 30 minutes more, to 185°F.
  14. Remove from the oven. Remove the pork and vegetables, cover with aluminum foil.
  15. Deglaze the dutch oven with the vermouth and remaining stock. Bring to a simmer and scrape any browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Simmer to reduce the sauce slightly.
  16. Slice the pork and serve garnished with the vegetables and sauce.

Serves 4 to 6.

Sanguinaccio (Bittersweet Chocolate Pudding)

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Chocolate pudding invariably brings back memories of childhood. I doubt that there have ever been children that dislike pudding. It’s got a cream texture and it comes in so many flavors that there has to be one that you enjoy.

During my childhood, I didn’t get the pudding in the now familiar pudding snack form (which my wife still likes). My mom would make pudding from the Jello box (and never the generic brand).

Every few months, I’d notice that there was a bowl of pudding chilling in the refrigerator and I knew it would appear on the table after dinner for dessert (which, despite the fact that he rarely made it, my dad insisted on presenting). Or better yet, I’d get to eat it for breakfast.

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This, however, is not the pudding of my childhood. It’s much richer and more chocolaty. The spices also make it a bit different. But, at it’s core, it’s still chocolate pudding.

I failed to properly melt all the chocolate in the pudding so there were small chunks floating around. Personally, I enjoyed having a bit more texture to the pudding but it isn’t the intended effect so, assuming you want smooth pudding, make sure to stir until all the chocolate has melted.

I liked the pudding, both for dessert and breakfast. It went particularly well with some whipped cream.

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Sanguinaccio (Bittersweet Chocolate Pudding)
Adapted from Molto Italiano: 327 Simple Italian Recipes to Cook at Home

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
4 1/2 cups whole milk
12 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon

  1. In a bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder, flour, and sugar. Slowly whisk in the milk until it forms a paste than whisk in the remaining milk.
  2. Transfer the milk mixture from the bowl into a sauce pan and bring to a simmer over medium heat.
  3. Remove the milk mixture from the heat and return to the bowl. Stir in the chocolate, vanilla, and cinnamon and whisk until the chocolate is completed melted.
  4. Allow the pudding to cool to room temperature then chill in the refrigerator.
  5. Serve the chilled pudding topped with whipped cream.

Makes 10 servings.

Pollo al Diavolo (The Devil’s Chicken)

Pollo al Diavolo

Some recipes manage to surprise me. Pollo al diavolo is a fairly common recipe for Italian (and Italian-American) cookbooks. Usually, it’s just a spicy chicken that’s either sautéed or braised. It’s rarely bad but it’s become normal and expected.

This recipe was not at all what I was expecting. To be honest, I was sold on this recipe merely because the picture of it looked good (unfortunately, I don’t think my pictures turned out as well). I saw the name and recognizing that it implied spicy food, I figured it’d make a good dinner.

Except, this was significantly different than any version of Pollo al diavolo I had ever had. Most are spicy through red pepper flakes; this is spicy through the black pepper it’s cooked with as well as a spicy oil (olio picante) that you can optionally drizzle over top (I chose to, Angela didn’t).

Despite the relatively short period of time that the black pepper mixture is on the chicken, the pepper taste is absorbed by the chicken. Unlike my experiences with steak au poivre (which I would happily accept as mistakes in my cooking), the pepper did not overpower the taste of the chicken but merely complemented it. I found that the olio picante also complemented the chicken but it tastes primarily of jalapeños with a surprisingly muted heat.

The brining of the chicken is my addition to this recipe (it wasn’t in the original). It did help to make the chicken nice and juicy. If I were to make it again (and I probably will so this can be considered a note to myself), I’d probably add crushed black pepper corns to the brine.

I enjoyed the parsley salad although the parsley portion of it was my least favorite. I’d be happy to substitute a different leafy green for the parsley and I can’t imagine it wouldn’t improve the outcome. The vinaigrette nicely contrasts with the spiciness of the chicken.

As I said, my overall impression of this was surprise. It was less spicy than I expected and the spice was completely different. It’s a much more elegant version of a normally pedestrian dish.

Roast Pollo al Diavolo

Pollo al Diavolo (The Devil’s Chicken)
Adapted from Molto Italiano: 327 Simple Italian Recipes to Cook at Home

Brine:
1 gallon water
1 cup/225 grams kosher salt
1/2 cup/125 grams sugar

1 three-to-five lbs. chicken
1/4 cup ground black pepper
6 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp dijon mustard
1 cup chopped Italian parsley
1 red onion, thinly sliced
12 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
olio picante

  1. In a sauce pan over high heat, combine all the brine ingredients. Bring to a simmer, stirring until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Put the brine in the refrigerator and allow to chill. Add the chicken and brine for 8 to 12 hours. Remove the chicken from the brine, rinse, and pat dry with paper towels. Allow the chicken to rest in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  3. Truss the chicken and baste it all over with the olive oil.
  4. Place in a roasting pan and roast in the oven for 40 minutes.
  5. Combine the 1/4 cup black pepper, a pinch of salt, and the mustard and whisk together. Drizzle in 1 tbsp of olive oil, whisking until blended.
  6. Remove the chicken from the oven and brush the chicken with the pepper-mustard mixture all over. Return the chicken to the oven for another 30 minutes.
  7. Remove the chicken from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
  8. Meanwhile, combine the parsley, onion, tomatoes, vinegar, 3 tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper in a bowl and toss well.
  9. Carve the chicken and serve it with the parsley salad and drizzle it with the olio picante.

Serves 4.

Parsley Salad


Olio Picante (Spicy Oil)
Adapted from
Molto Italiano: 327 Simple Italian Recipes to Cook at Home

1 cup olive oil
4 jalapeños, seed and diced
1 tbsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tbsp Spanish smoked paprika

  1. In a saucepan, combine all the ingredients and heat until the oil reaches 175ºF.
  2. Remove from the heat and allow to stand overnight.
  3. Strain the solids out of the oil.
  4. The oil will keep for up to 3 weeks in a cool, dark place.

Makes 1 cup of oil.

Gnocchi di Patate (Potato Gnocchi)

I think they tasted better than they look (aka one of those foods)

I owe it to a college roommate to make this recipe. He loved gnocchi and would order them in any Italian restaurant that he could. When I went to Italy, I was determined to try them but, for whatever reason, I didn’t like the ones that I had. In retrospect, I don’t think it was the gnocchi that I disliked. But I did send him an email with my conclusion and he was incredulous. I figured gnocchi deserved another chance.

And, while I hate admitting I’m wrong, I was and my roommate was right. Gnocchi are good. They remind me most of dumplings. I like the lightness and fluffiness of them.

They also seem to be the ultimate poor food. When you can’t afford flour for pasta, you have to substitute potatoes. But, given that they’re good, who am I to complain?

There are a number of possible sauces to use with the gnocchi but I settled on a simple tomato sauce. This one is particularly good (and easy).

Unfortunately, the gnocchi really liked to stick together

Gnocchi di Patate (Potato Gnocchi)
Adapted from Molto Italiano: 327 Simple Italian Recipes to Cook at Home

3 lbs. russet potatoes
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 large egg
1 tsp kosher salt

  1. Put the potatoes in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a low boil, and boil for 45 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Drain the potatoes.
  2. Peel the potatoes and then run them through a food mill onto a flat work surface.
  3. Make a well in the center of the potatoes and sprinkle the potatoes with the flour.
  4. Add the egg and salt to the well in the potatoes.. Use a fork to slightly beat the egg.
  5. Using the fork, slowly incorporate the potato into the egg.
  6. Once the potato is fully incorporated into the egg, knead the dough until it forms a ball. Continue kneading for 4 minutes.
  7. Divide the dough into sixths. Roll each piece of dough into a rope 3/4″ in diameter. Cut the rope into 1″ lengths. Roll each piece down the back of a fork to create the ridges.
  8. Boil the gnocchi in copious salted water until the float, about 1 minute. Drain the gnocchi.
  9. Toss the gnocchi with warmed sauce and serve.

Serves 4.