Ravioli di Zucca – Pasta With Pumpkin Filling (and More) …

As I looked around today, there was a lot of orange about … it is Halloween after all, even here in Italy where the occasion was never celebrated by children in weird costume and get-ups until relatively recently (20 years ago, something like that?).  And yes it has become a consumerist bonanza here as elsewhere but how can one resist the whole idea of “trick or treat” ?

It’s a bit like Christmas presents … as long as Father Christmas/Santa is about, then presents are not a ‘reward’ for which one must say “thank you” and be fake-grateful for.  Santa Claus is ‘magic’ and he and and his elves like to give children presents ‘just because’ … Don’t get me wrong, I love good manners and I think that keeping a grateful outlook on life is good for one’s health (seriously, there has been a lot of research in this field).  But ‘having to be grateful’ for a present that is a reward for good behaviou is very very different from receiving a super present for no reason whatsoever !  Think about it.

I used to absolutely loooove Yuletide and all that that entailed, when our kids were little and still believed in Father Christmas.  My husband and I went to great lengths to dissimulate participation in the parcels that arrived after dinner on Christmas Eve as we all sat and mooched around the table after a special dinner.   At length, the door bell would ring (finally!); one of the dinner party who had to leave the room unnoticed, and never my husband or I, would do this as stealthily as possible after having arranged all the boxes and parcels on the stairs to our front door … and our kids would rush to open the door in eager not to mention frantic anticipation and take in the bounty.  Oh the excitement !  As they grew older, their spoil-sport contemporaries did all they could to disavow them of the magic; didn’t they know, they would proclaim and insist, that Father Christmas did not exist?, that it was the parents who bought all the presents? No way, our kids would answer … “Our parents couldn’t possibly afford all these presents”.  Sweet.  More about our family’s Christmas stories another time.

And so … there was I last Sunday, at home, on my own, after having worked non-stop from 10:20 a.m. to about 3 p.m . with a group of tourists.  I had showed them around town, recounting some of its history (quite a lot of history to Frascati, you’d be surprised), and then we went to the winery (Minardi Winery) where we walked around the vineyard; and then I sat them down to a nice lunch.  We wine and dine ’em, and tell stories, that’s what we do chez Minardi.  And nearly everyone who comes along is in a good frame of mind, either on holday and visiting Italy, or living in Rome and wanting to escape for the day to somewhere more bucolic, to Rome’s nearby countryside.  So the atomosphere is always a jolly one.  But it is still ‘work’ for me, and requires that I keep a sharp look-out on things, making sure that everyone is okay and well fed and that glasses are replenished.  Am I grateful for this job? Of course I am.  Do I like it? Of course I do.  Is it also tiring? … Next question.  You have to give it your all to make it work, and that’s all I’m saying.

Last Sunday, I don’t know what got into me once I got home …  I became all wistful.  Christmas came to mind. The fact that our son lives in Milan came to mind.  That my husband had been away down in Puglia for nearly a week.  Came to mind. That both my sisters live in England (i.e. far away) came to mind.  That our daughter was very busy and I hadn’t seen her in a good while.  Came to mind.  I was sliding down the slippery slope of self pity, wallowing in feelings that never lead to anywhere positive.

What to do, what to do?  My recourse? Cooking.

I decided to make home made pasta.  Not just that.  A pasta recipe that no one in my family likes, because no one in my family likes pumpkin.  Everything from scratch. I patted myself on my back metaphorically speaking when I got around to eating it. There IS compensation in food and eating.  Usually, my joy in cooking derives from cooking for others.  Last Sunday … it was about me.  It was for me.

If you, unlike the rest of my family, like pumpkin/squash and fresh pasta … do please take a look at this recipe.  There are lots of ‘steps’ … but none of them difficult or overly fussy. I don’t ‘do’ fussy.

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INGREDIENTS

FOR THE PASTA: 2 whole eggs and 1 egg yolk plus 200g of flour.  I used 100g of Italy’s famed 00 wheat flour, and 100g of durum wheat, also known as semolina flour.  Extra flour to dust on the work surface/countertop.

FOR THE FILLING: Some pumpkin that needs to be cooked. You could steam it too I suppose but I baked it in the oven.

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Wait for it to cool.  It’s not a bad idea to cook it the day before.  Which is exactly what I did.

Also required are:

Mostarda di Cremona – maybe orange marmalade might do instead of this? If you can’t get hold of mostarda that is.  Parmesan cheese.  Freshly grated nutmeg.  Fresh sage leaves.  Crushed amaretto biscuits.  Grated parmesan.

For the sauce to cook the ravioli in: cream, sausage, fresh sage

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Mostarda is basically all about candied fruit.  Sometimes this mostarda comes in spicy mode – something akin to wasabi or horseradish.4

Pear mostarda is the best choice for this recipe but I just used what I found in the store-cupboard.5

Chop it up.2

Process the cooked pumpkin.7Add salt and pepper and plenty of freshly grated nutmeg.

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These are amaretto biscuits – made with bitter almonds.  Very crisp and just the business and TOTALLY called for in this recipe.

10Bash the biscuits to pulverise them.11

Add them to the mix.

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Add some fresh sage – sliced up.

Put it in the fridge.  The firmer the mixture the better and the easier to stuff the ravioli later on.  You could, indeed, make this stuffing the day before.

MAKING THE PASTA

13Once you’ve made the fresh pasta, let it rest in a bowl for about half an hour to one hour, covered with a tea towel.  Allowing it to ‘rest’ will make it a lot easier to stretch it with the rolling pin later on. The resting time makes it more elastic.

14I love how my pasta sheet got so big, I had to ‘dangle’ it over the edge of my countertop.

16Use a glass to cut out some circles.  Discs.  Whatever you want to call ’em.  You could use a cookie-cutter if you preferred.17Fun, hey?  And what a lovely color the pasta is.

1918Out comes the filling, out of the fridge.  Use two spoons .. and spoon the mixture into the middle of the discs.  Then fold them in half.  The shape will now be a half-moon.  Join the corners of the half moon together and fold the edge over.20

And this is what you end up with.  YOU might end up with somethine prettier than this. I was happy enough with what I managed that evening.

MAKING THE SAUCE

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Olive oil in the saucepan, a sausage taken out of its casing … some fresh sage … half a glass of wine.

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Hubble bubble … toil and … add some tomato sauce.  Even out of a tube.  Mine was home-made.

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Taste and add some salt and pepper, as required.

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A splash of fresh cream and a good dollop of butter.  Butter always helps.  It brings everything together.  The Italians use the word ‘legare’ for this, and ‘legare’ means to tie together.  Butter helps to ‘tie together’ the sauce.

COOKING THE RAVIOLI

Cook the ravioli in boiling salted water – only a few minutes, since this is fresh pasta we are talking about.

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Then drain the ravioli straight into the saucepan with the simmering sauce.

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We are talking about a minute or two to reach perfection.

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Plate up.  Spray with freshly milled pepper.  Some parmesan.

28-scaled-2560.jpgI can’t tell you just how good these ravioli are … they are redolent of a medieval cuisine when sweet and savoury were part and parcel of the same food course.  There was no distinction as such in those days.  Yet there IS a distinction in this mix – and that’s what makes this a choice for  a sophisticated palate.

29Deeply, deeply yummy.

Comfort food in the extreme.

Pasta Alfredo Frascati Spring Veggies Style: Peas, Asparagus and Broadbeans

Well, the original title was going to be “Paschal Pasta” because I served it on Easter Sunday a few weeks ago.

The idea of adding fresh peas, broadbeans (fava beans) and asparagus to my version of Pasta Alfredo (see link below) came to me as I sweated over the menu.  There were going to be ten of us for lunch including my in-laws who always expect some kind of pasta course at lunch, especially a festive version for a festive occasion.  There were absolutely loads of nibbles and appetizers and starters which were a meal in itself but I knew the drill – no meal would have been complete without the ‘primo’, the pasta course.  As I pondered how intricately busy our lives have become, a situation I now describe as the “Gulliver Syndrome” (we are all tied down by a barrage of minutiae on a daily basis), I realized that I had to come up with something super simple.  And Pasta Alfredo Frascati Style came to the rescue.

INGREDIENTS – Outlined in Bold below, after the photos

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10I got my greengrocer to shell the peas and broadbeans for me – phew.  Asparagus are easy enough to deal with.  I snipped the end bits of the asparagus spears, and sliced the rest of them into rounds.  I cooked the vegetables in separate batches, because they all have different cooking times.  I thought I was being practical using the same cooking water, and that it would impart a je ne sais quoi to it to when the pasta was going to be added.  And so it was.  The only suprise was the colour of the cooking water once I did add the broadbeans – it went a weird dark pinky-red colour.  Fortunately it did not ruin the end result.  But next time I will cook the broadbeans separately altogether.

I knew that leftovers were going to be hotly fought over the following day so I decided to cook more pasta than was effectively necessary for lunch.  So that came to 1 kg of pasta (600g would have been sensible).  Also, I opted for egg noodles because they take much less time to cook.  I bought two tubs of mascarpone, 500g each.  I ended up using about 750g in the end.  Italian sausages: 6 altogether, skinned.  Some olive oil.  Lots of freshly grated and equal parts of grated parmesan and pecorino, fresh mint, and salt and pepper of course.

DIRECTIONS

Add plenty of water to the pasta pot, add salt (10g of salt per 1 liter of water), and cook the three vegetables in separate batches.

Skin the sausages and start cooking them, mashing them all the while so that it looks liked minced meat.  Add very little olive oil to the saucepan to cook the meat which will release its own fat naturally.

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If you don’t own a wooden fork like that in the photo, use the tip of a whisk to break up the sausage meat.  I discovered this trick via my colleage, chef Luigi Brunamonti (we both collaborate at the Antico Casale Minardi).

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You are looking at a large saucepan and the equivalent of six sausages.  It does not take very long for them to cook.  Do NOT overcook, otherwise the texture will be ruined.

4Now add the mascarpone which will be very thick at first.  It needs to be loosened up.  The heat will help.

6Now add all the previously cooked veggies.

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I am not sure, but I think I detect some rosemary? Who knows.  I can’t remember.  But it wouldn’t hurt is all I can say.

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Meanwhile the fettuccine (egg noodles) have cooked – see what I mean about the weird colour that the broadbeans added to the cooking water?  Drain the fettuccine straight into the saucepan.  Add the parmesan to the sauce as well as some cooking water – so that you end up with a very creamy consistency.

11It doesn’t look very creamy here and that’s because I had to get on with the business of finishing it off and there was no obliging soul in the kitchen to take a photo for me.  All you need to know is that I kept adding cooking water a little at a time until I reached what I wanted.

10Remember this?  This is grated pecorino and fresh mint leaves.  I plated up the pasta and finished each plate off with some pecorino and the mint.

Again – no obliging soul to take any photo once we sat down to eat this pasta.  So I took some photos myself, the next day.

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14I had run out of fresh mint so you are just going to have to use your imagination.

I expect that vegetarians could enjoy a similar version just by cutting out the sausage meat.  In that case, I would add some garlic to the procedure early on.

My mother pronounced this the best pasta she had eaten in her life, bless her.  And indeed it was most Eastery and satisfactory … and … as you have seen … relatively easy peasy to make !  I hope I have convinced you?

https://frascaticookingthatsamore.wordpress.com/2018/01/29/pasta-alfredo-frascati-style/

 

 

Merry May Fettuccine with Spring Greens

One can only imagine with what a hurrah! welcome! the arrival of Spring would have been greeted generations ago – not only because it heralded warmer temperatures but also because there would be an increase in the variety of food one could eat.  A bit of novelty for the poor ol’ palate.

We all take fridges and freezers for granted, don’t we, as well as the transportation of food across countries and continents.  Can you imagine having to do with just salted or brined fare for months on end? Doesn’t bear thinking about.  So I expect that the sense of gastronomic expectation previous generations had with the break of Winter lingers on still, even though we live in an age where formerly summer-only crops are available all year round now (think tomatoes, salads, aubergines, courgettes etc).

Where I live in Italy, within spitting distance of Rome, it is only artichokes, peas and broad beans (fava beans in American English) that are not available all year round, properly ‘seasonal’ I mean.  They are ingredients that are all about Spring, and rebirth and regeneration.  For the rest, one can find nearly all the other vegetables in stalls and supermarkets, and these veggies are either grown in greenhouses or imported (green beans from Morocco for instance).  One of the reasons I began boycotting supermarkets was when I read the label on the provenance of lemons one day.  Italy is bursting with lemons and yet these were imported from Argentina! Nearly all the garlic to be found in Italy hails from Spain, again a conundrum for me since I am sure that garlic can grow extremely well on this peninsula.  And one final moan: tomatoes (tasteless ones at that) from Holland.  Seriously … I am not against the export/import of foods as such, so that’s not it.  But surely it doesn’t make sense to import food(s) that one can grow perfectly well in one’s own country?

Enough of this rambling, and on with the recipe.  The point I wish to underscore is that fresh, seasonal vegetables are an absolute delight and inspire one to treasure their transient presence at our table.  They are there to remind us to be grateful for variety.

I was also inspired by having favourite son visiting us for the weekend.  As it happened, my husband could not join us for the Sunday lunch but I thought I would make a ‘special’ pasta anyway for our two kids (we also have a favourite daughter).  I decided that ‘fresh’ had to be the theme, and that included my making my own fettuccine.  Home-made pasta is a treat and not difficult to make (basically 100g of flour per egg per person).

INGREDIENTS FOR THE PASTA SAUCE

Courgettes, asparagus, broad beans, tomatoes, guanciale/pork jowl (pancetta or Italian sausage or even a little bit of bacon will do if you can’t get the pork jowl), peas (I used frozen because that’s all I had) fresh rosemary, basil, marjoram and mint, lemon zest, parmigiano (parmesan cheese) and pecorino cheese.

The tip I would like to point out today is to create a sort of ‘broth’ in which to cook the pasta.  If you season the cooking water this way, the final pasta will take on an especially tasty flavour.

I did not, as is my wont, take a photo of every single step as I cooked but I am sure it won’t be a problem for you.  The procedure for this pasta sauce is far from problematic.  True, there are a number of steps and ingredients involved, yes there are, but any care or difficulty is to be gleefully thrown to the wind!  Winter is over, let’s hear it for Spring!

Ready?

Cut the asparagus about an inch or slightly more below the tip.  Then slice the tips into two or three or even four parts and set aside.  Use what is left of the usable asparagus to make up the broth.  I cut up these stems into smaller pieces because that will make it easier to process the broth at a later stage.

1Place the asparagus inside the pasta pan.  Cover with water but don’t put the whole amount of water you would normally use to cook the pasta – only about half the amount.  This will make it easier for you to process the asparagus once they are cooked.  And do add a little salt too.

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When the asparagus are cooked, use a hand held immersion blender and process them into a broth.  Now add extra water.

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Also add a sprig of rosemary – this will also impart a nice flavour to the asparagus ‘broth’ in which to cook the pasta.4I got favourite son to shell the broad beans for me.  I had simmered them for less than 10 minutes.

5And here they are stripped of their outer skin.  Set aside.

6Do you know what this is? I hadn’t known.  It’s fresh garlic.  My first time.  If you can’t find fresh garlic I expect that an onion would be a good substitute for this recipe (rather than ordinary garlic).

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Chop up the fresh garlic – not all of it mayble, just enough to smarten the dish up with.

8And now it’s time to get serious.  Put the pasta broth on the boil and add extra salt when it starts simmering.  Also, pour some olive oil into a large saucepan and add some thinly sliced guanciale (again – pancetta or bacon or Italian sausage will do if you can’t find guanciale/pork jowl). Gently cook the guanciale.

9Start by adding the garlic  and cook for about two minutes …

10Now courgettes sliced into happy discs …

11Next come the slices of asparagus tips.

12And now a smattering of peas (frozen is all I had), two small quartered tomatoes and the broad beans.  Time to sprinkle some salt.

13Marjoram and basil go into the pan too.

14Toss the vegetables about gently as they cook and become acquainted with one another. At this point add a ladleful of the asparagus  broth.

15Also add a teaspoon or a wee bit more of butter.

16Add the smallest amount of lemon zest (put more in if you like – I don’t like too much of the stuff in my cooking, just enough to give the dish a little lift without overwhelming with its citrusy clout).

17When you think the veggies are nicely cooked and ready to receive their royal highnesses the fettuccine … lower the latter into the simmering and salted asparagus broth.  It won’t take long for fresh pasta to cook.

18Drain the pasta directly into the saucepan with the veggies.  Add a bit more asparagus broth.

19Now is the time to sprinkle a little grated parmigiano (parmesan cheese) into the mix and combine till the cheese is totally blended with the sauce.

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When plating up, add a few  mint leaves on top of the pasta.

21Final touch: sprinkle grated pecorino cheese and serve.

And, naturally, enjoy!!!

P.S. Frank Fariello has recently written a post on a very similar dish.  Great minds think alike ! http://memoriediangelina.com/2018/05/11/fusilli-primavera/

Paschal Lamb Ragù (that’s good any time of year really)

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I dedicate this post to Kathy Ayer because it was with her that I bought some fresh pasta from the town of Artena.  Artena is famous for its bread, as is Lariano, but I reckon its flour makes some of the best fresh pasta I’ve ever tasted, with a delicious bite to it.  We are very lucky to find it at the farmers’ markets in the Castelli Romani.  In Ariccia on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, and near Frascati on Fridays.  She and I were in Ariccia on the Wednesday and I asked the vendor whether the pasta would last until the following (Easter) Sunday.  The answer was yes.  I was to leave the pasta in its plastic container, but the lid was to be kept open.  Hmmm.

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Having always challenged the mantra my mother chanted throughout my childhood, and that is “to trust is very good, to not trust is even better”, I found myself annoyingly assailed by doubts that this pasta would indeed be good enough to eat five days after it had been prepared.  On the other hand, I knew I had plenty of other dry pasta at home so it wasn’t going to be the end of the world if I would have to do without it after all, on the appointed day.

The day was Easter Sunday, and in Italy, despite Berlusconi’s protestations as he had himself photographed hugging a baby lamb, Easter usually does mean lamb.  So I thought I would make a Paschal ragù using lamb and a few asparagus.  I asked the butcher to mince the meat for me (leg of lamb) and kept the bone too, to help with both the sauce AND the water with which to cook the pasta.

Are you ready?  This is not at all a difficult recipe but it does call for a little attention.  It tasted really good, so I shall make it again.  Try it some time.

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The above is about 350g of minced lamb, taken from the leg.  Of course, we are talking about Italian lamb here, agnello or abbacchio, and this is really baby  baby lamb.

INGREDIENTS

Leg of lamb, with the meat minced and the bone chopped into smaller pieces, asparagus stems (use the tips for something else), onion, garlic, olive oil, peppercorns, red wine (white if you prefer), rosemary, sage, mint, butter, parmesan or a mixture of parmesan and pecorino cheese, fresh pasta (dry if you haven’t any), salt and pepper. Two saucepans. One to start the sauce with, and a much larger one for the end results.

The first thing I did was soak the bones in plenty of water:

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The water goes red, so change it once or twice.

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And that’s what the leg of lamb pieces looked like after their bath.  Please note that there is still some meat attached to the bone (not a lot).

6I filled a large pasta pot with water and added bits of the bone that were meat free.

8I added some rosemary and sage to the water, and turned the heat on, with the lid on.

9Chop an onion, and place it in a nice saucepan together with some peppercorns, olive oil and the bits of bone with meat on ’em.  Start cooking, over a low-medium heat.

10Keep an eye on the onions – we don’t want them to go brown.

11When they are golden, remove them and transfer to another saucepan, in anticipation of the grand finale.  A BIG saucepan that will be able to accommodate all the pasta at the end.

12Back to our smaller saucepan.  Carry on cooking the bones, instead, on a lively heat … they will roast to a burnished colour.

1314When the bones have roasted enough, remove them, and deglaze the pan with some nice red wine.  When finished, transfer the juices too to the other, big saucepan.

15Remove as much of the meat from the bones as you can – and this is mighty tricky, let me tell you.  Not at all easy.  I might get the butcher to do it for me next time.

17And add those bones too, now, to the pasta water.

16Chop the meat you managed to remove from the bones.  Pur this chopped meat into the larger saucepan.

18Back to our initial saucepan which is looking rather the worse for wear – but that’s okay, no cause for concern.  Dribble more olive oil and put a couple of roughly squashed cloves of garlic in the pan. Turn the heat on and wait for the garlic to go golden.

19Now add the minced meat.  Sprinkle some salt.  Carry on cooking the meat until it turns a nice brown but not burnt colour.

20And now, this is what the bigger saucepan is up to at this stage: it contains the (1) previously cooked onions, (2) chopped meat I managed to extract from the bones, (3) deglazed juices, and (4) some rosemary needles.  Salt. Sprinkle salt.21

Now add the cooked minced meat to the bigger pan.  I apologise for the angle of this photo but I don’t know why wordpress uploaded it this way.  You’ll have to crick your neck to see it ‘properly’.  No  matter, you get idea, don’t you?

22I added a nice lump of butter.  I do love butter and a little bit of butter works wonders when there is a pasta sauce that does not have a lot of ‘liquid’ (such as tomato sauce) to it. Remove the pan from the heat for now.

24I removed all the bones and herbs from the pasta water.  All these ingredients had been useful as a kind of broth, and had imparted whatever flavour they could. Time to say bye bye.

2325I put the chopped asparagus and the pasta into the boiling cauldron of flavoured pasta water and waited for them to cook.  About 5-6 minutes.  Notice who ‘oily’ the pasta water is!

26Turn the heat back on …

27Drain the pasta and asparagus and put them into the saucepan.  Add some of the cooking water.

28Combine all the ingredients, adding more cooking water if necessary, and then season the pasta with some grated parmesan.  Use a wooden spoon to help you.  Or two large forks.

2930Taste. Taste, taste and taste.  A twist of pepper.  Maybe a little bit more salt? A few mint leaves?

31Serve and enjoy.

There was more grated parmesan on the table for people to add if they wished.

I normally rabbit on about loving the leftovers.  Well, there were no leftovers that Easter Sunday.  We polished off the lot.

 

Brodo Bonanza – Hats off to “Cappelletti”

About ten years ago, I attended a cooking class at the Gambero Rosso premises just off Viale Marconi. The interior was new and exciting, escalators and three floors, shops and wine bar etc., and there was a fab atmosphere at the time.  The theme that night was regional specialiaties from Emilia Romagna and pride of recipe place went to the making of tortellini.  It was conducted by chef, food historian and writer Sandro Masci who now runs another cooking school in Rome (Les Chefs Blancs) and it was thanks to his charm and good will and sheer didactic proficiency that I was able to even get through the trying process of rolling teensy weensy meat balls (think the size of a finger nail) and then couching these balls in doll-sized handkerchiefs of stretched pasta (3cm by 3cm).    They tasted fantastic, however, I have to say – nothing like the shop bought ones I normally would use which were never ‘bad’ as such – just not nearly so tasty.

And so, nothing loath, a few weeks later I ventured to recreate them at home.  I started out enthusiastically enough, I have a good relationship with enthusiasm, but it was short lived.  It was easy enough to make the home-made pasta and roll it out (I’m good at that). Weighing and cooking the filling, also easy peasy.  But then came the Lilliputian hand-rolling routine and it didn’t take long before I got flustered.  Much sighing, raising of eyes up to heaven, biting of lips in frustration.  So much so that I called upon my next door neighbour, inveigled her into coming over for a cup of tea and a chat, and innocently asked her to kindly give me a hand with the dastardly dwarfish meaballs.  How could she not comply?  We chatted for well over an hour, put it that way: that’s how long it bloody well took.  So these days, when darling husband goes to Bologna for work, I make sure we buy the tortellini from there.  They come at around Eu40 per kg, so not cheap, but then neither is medication for high blood pressure, now, is it?

What to do? What to do? is the head-scratching question as regards stuffed pasta in delicious bouillon.  And ‘brodo’ is the Italian word for bouillon or meat stock/broth.  Answer: change region – nip over to Lazio and make “cappelletti”, meaning “little hats” instead!  The filling is more or less the same but aha! the size isn’t ! Yeay! These little hats are much larger and easier to deal with than their cousins, the finicky Venus’s belly-button-inspired tortellini. Hats off to that!  (Would anyone care to count the number of exclamation marks in this paragraph … that is my sense of enthusiasm escalating).

Just the other day, even though the temperatures didn’t warrant it, I thought I’d make soul-warming brodo and home-made cappelletti.  The meat stock of the brodo produces a lovely soup for the cappelletti to cook and be served in.  Number one.  Then, the meat used to made the brodo can be eaten as as “picchiapo” Number Two, and as “polpette di lesso”, Number Three, both of which are typical Roman dishes (one can also eat the boiled meat accompanied by a salsa verde or by the spicy candied fruit in syrup, known as Mostarda di Cremona – and that would be recipe Number Four).

I call this abundance of recipes a bonanza, a Brodo bonanza.

INGREDIENTS FOR CAPPELLETTI FILLING:

100g Parma ham, 100g Mortadella,  100g pork loin (the Butcher looked at husband in disbelief when he ordered that amount of meat and my husband had to reassure him that it was for a good recipe reason!) 1 bayleaf, 20g butter, 1 egg, 135g parmigiano reggiano cheese, freshly grated nutmeg, freshly grated white pepper.

If you look at the following photos, it will be easy to understand what needs to be done. The cheese needs to be grated.  The pork loin needs to be cooked on both sides in the butter flavoured with the bayleaf.  Allow to cool and then add all the ingredients minus the bayleaf in a processor and use the pulse to turn them into a sticky mince.  Place in the fridge for at least one hour.  It can be frozen too by the way, for future use.

And then the pasta has to be made: 100g flour per 1 egg is the rule of thumb.  I used two kinds of flours, half and half, one was 00 Italian flour and the other was the Semola flour (durum wheat flour, the kind used for making dry pasta).  I didn’t take photos but I assured you that I placed the flour and eggs in the food processor and blitzed them into a dough.  Easy enough to do with a total of 300g of flour and 3 eggs and a tiny dribble of olive oil.  I then wrapped the pasta in clingfilm and put it in the fridge.  Normally I wouldn’t do that.  I would just let it rest at room temperature – but since I was going to roll out the pasta the next day, the fridge made more sense.  And roll it out I did too … 24 hours later.

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It was getting on for 7 p.m., or Wine o’Clock as I call it.  I asked my husband to put some music on after he kindly grated some parmigiano … he picked something from long ago that he knew had a special meaning for us, and eventually felt inspired himself to play some music.  He got out his sax and accompanied the songs.

2It was truly a really nice atmosphere.   Listening to music, playing to music, nice converstion and a sip of wine.  Now that’s the way to cook!  I  have always been convinced that people’s moods and ‘energies’ go into their food preparation.

So … the mood was good.  So good that I decided to cut corners and prepared these cappelletti in a no-no-no that’s-not-the-way-to-prepare them way –and aesthetics be damned.  Take a look and laugh will you, laugh with me and not at me !

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I actually got out my tape measure and made slits 4 cm apart, horizontally.

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I then measured 4cm vertically, and used a plain ol’ paring knife to cut the rolled out pasta into 4cm squares (well … roughly 4cm, and roughly ‘squares’ too – sometimes they looked more like rectangles).  Yes, yes, I know.  I could have used a cutter … but I couldn’t for the life of me remember where my cutters were exactly, and at that point I didn’t really care.

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Once I had cut out all my squares … I proceeded to make long sausage shapes out of the filling.  And that was pretty ‘fiddly’, let me tell you.  It helped when I wet my fingers.  And as you can see, there is one little rolled up ball of filling in the centre of a pasta square.

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I was getting good at this! I picked up speed after a while …

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And now to shape the cappelletti.  Fold the pasta square in half, and make a triangular shape.  Careful not to place too much stuffing inside it.

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Get the left ‘ear’ and the right ‘ear’ to meet in the middle, press hard … and Bob’s your uncle!  It doesn’t look very good, and that’s cos I put too much stuffing inside this cappelletto.

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There … these look better.

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I could see that there were plenty of cappelletti … so I stopped making any more.

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Just to give  you an idea: I had used about one quarter of the entire filling mix!  So as you can see, a little goes a very long way with this recipe.  The amounts I gave you are enough to feed 8 very hungry people or 10 normally hungry dinner guests.

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This is a photo attempting to show the cappelletti simmering in the brodo.  Very steamy as you can see.  Time to eat.  The cappelletti don’t take long to cook: about 5 minutes.  Serve in a bowl and shower more grated parmigiano over them.

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Very much worth making, I promise you.  They can be made in advance and can be frozen.

I am dedicating this post to my newphew Oliver.  He so young and already such a great talent in the kitchen.  Who knows, he might be inspired to make cappelletti one of these days?  Here is a previous post where you can read all about how to make the brodo:

https://myhomefoodthatsamore.wordpress.com/2011/11/18/taking-stock-over-making-stock-olivers-brodo/

Pressure in the World Grand Prix Motorcycling Race – No Pressure Making Sunday Lunch’s Bolognese with the Pressure Cooker

39Many people who are a dab hand in the kitchen are of the opinion that pressure cookers are passé and (secretly, laughably) temporally naff, embarrassing even.  Well, I disagree.  My trusted pressure cooker saved the day today, as it has done on many an occasion.  When the adjective ‘slow’ is cause for inward groaning, i.e. on those occasions when timeliness and swiftness are of the essence, a pressure cooker can be a gal’s best friend.  Here is my story today.

What’s a poor gal to do.  She knows that her boys want to watch the MotoGP Finale on TV, the one to be held in Valencia on Sunday afternoon, beginning at 2 p.m.  Which is that time of day that signals a quasi atavistic pull of what goes into family-bonding lore – the Sunday lunch, ‘il pranzo della domenica’, as nostalgically spoken of in hallowed terms in Italy as is its counterpart in the United Kingdom , the famous Sunday Roast.  Traditionally, the pranzo della domenica is the preferred meal of older folk, because they weren’t used to eating a large meal in the evening.  It heralds and permits gastronomic specialities and even excess, it revels in conversation, debate and catching up, and sometimes includes card playing and favorite TV programmes to follow, not to mention furtive or blatant siestas.  Sunday declares it is not a day of work, it is a day to forget about the woes in life, it is supposed to be a day of rest and recuperation.  Time slows down on a Sunday.

The only hitch,  truth be told, is that the traditional pranzo della domenica actually entails a lot of work and scotches the very notion of a comfy lie-in to catch up on any sleep lost from the surfeit of Saturday night’s carrying on.  If  you don’t mind doing all the shopping and schlepping on the Saturday, and then getting up early on the Sunday morning, to do the rest of the cooking, set the table and fiddle dee dee … then indeed it can be truly delightful.  It’s not often that I cherish waking up early on a Sunday morning, however, and that is why we rarely have a proper ‘pranzo della domenica’ in our home.   We are more Sunday supper kind of people.  That said, a feeble essence of what should constitute a Sunday en famille has always clung to me.   We owe it to ourselves to make one day in the week a little special for us.  It’s a civilised thing to do.  My last post was all about how I attempted to make a plain courgette risotto a little ‘special’ on a Sunday, and I probably wouldn’t have bothered to do that had I had to make the risotto on any other day of the week.

Anyway, back to today.  The boys announced that they were going to be gripped by a whole afternoon of live-sports TV watching – first the exciting motorcycle world championship final and then the ordinary Sunday football matches (the Roma-Lazio match being very close to the knuckle today).  I don’t know much about either but I did know that Valentino Rossi is the big name in motorcycling racing, and when I innocently ventured to ask why he was not in starting the race in pole position … I got an earful of explanations that were quite beyond me.   All I managed to understand was that there had been some hanky panky behaviour on the part of another motorcyclist Marc  Marquez in a previous race in Malaysia and that some of the protagonists of these races were not above chicanery and trickery (Read more about it at this link: http://www.bbc.com/sport/0/motorsport/34731253).  Human nature is human nature, I suppose, in whatever guise it presents itself, be it in the world of racing or in plain everyday life.

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(The boys engrossed in the MotoGP finale in Valencia showing live on TV)

Friends had invited my husband and me to a spiffing dinner last night, one that we overindulged in because every single plate and dish was just so tempting.  I don’t normally go for puddings and desserts and yet even I ended up tucking into freshly made panettone by Rome’s purveyor of gastronomic goodies,  Roscioli … on top of a passion fruit, chocolate and ricotta pudding, home-made chocolate and pistachio log and dessert wine both bubbly and still.   All this to say that the last thing I wanted to think about this morning was … food.  And yet, it’s a funny thing … people get hungry again, even after large meals – go figure!

So off I trotted to the Sunday farmers’ market at Ariccia, and bought some veggies and spuds and good bread and fresh fettuccine.  It was well past one o’clcok when I got home and started to get on with the lunch.  Some would call me ambitious or silly or both.  Me? I know I can rely on my trusty pressure cooker on occasions like today.

But you have to be disciplined and organised too.  Start by putting the ingredients together:

1 carrot, 1 celery stalk, 1 onion for the soffritto, 500g of minced/ground beef mixed in with 2 Italian sausages, evoo, tomato sauce (passata) 660g, 2 tablespoons of tomato concentrate out of a tube, half a glass of milk, 1 glass of red wine, butter, parmesan cheese, salt, nutmeg

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The first thing to do is get the soffritto going… which I  started off straight away in the pressure cooker.
1a I put the water on to the boil, and added some bay leaves and another celery stick that was lurking about in the fridge.  The bay leaves and the celery would add a je ne sais quoi to the cooking water … but they are not a necessary ingredient.2 The minced and sausage meat …3 Sprinkle salt over the meat, together with just a hint of nutmeg.4 5 6 Squeeze the tomato concentrate directly into the glass of red wine.7Give it a good stir.
8Add a good ‘pinch’ of salt to the milk.10 Grate plenty of parmesan cheese.

Okay, now that the soffritto got going, and I had all the ingredients to hand, I got on with the recipe.

12 This was the time.13Pour some evoo into a frying pan, and add a few peppercorns and 1 clove.  Add the minced meat and cook it over a high heat.14 Meat cooking on the left, soffritto almost cooked on the right.15 When the meat has browned, 16Add the wine all in one go.  17 Use the wooden fork to un-clump the meat, to loosen it as it were.18 Now add the passata.  Stir it in.  Once it has combined (in less than a minute, surely?), switch off the heat.  Transfer all of this to the pressure cooker.19 Combine the meat, its sauces with the soffritto.  Stir well.20 Remember the milk?21 Time to add the milk. Stir.22 I liked the idea of adding some parsely stems.  Again, stir.23 Secure the lid of the pressure cooker … and away we go.24 What’s the time?  Right …25 The pasta water is bubbling merrily away …26I decide to make some hummus while I wait.  I may as well, it doesn’t take long.  I can hear the boys in the other room exclaiming and groaning and commenting like crazy.  Much good it will do me, don’t understand a thing about this race other than poor Valentino Rossi has been penalised.  What ‘s the time now?
28 Ten past two.  The pressure cooker has been on for 20 minutes.29 Switch off the heat.  Move the pressure cooker to another burner that is not hot.  Release the steam etc and open up the lid.30 Now place the opened-up pressure cooker to a burner with the heat on, to simmer. While the fettuccine cook.

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The fettuccini take less than 5 mintues to cook.31 Remember the first frying pan?  It’s still streaked with some of the sauce.  Add a knob of butter.  Fellow blogger Stefan (http://stefangourmet.com) commented on the generous portion of butter added to my risotto last week.  This is to show him that it’s not just risotto that stands to benefit from butter, tee hee 🙂 !

Time to dish out!  It’s nearly ready!
33 Put some of the ragù in the frying pan.  Turn the heat on.  The butter will start to melt straight away, because the ragù is hot.34 Drain the cooked fettuccine straight into the large pan.35 Use a wooden spoon and a wooden fork to combine everything.  Make liberal use of the pasta water when you see things drying up a bit – don’t worry about adding too much, egg pasta is notoriously greedy when it comes to pasta water, it will absorb it with gusto.36 Do add more ragù too … until you reach the proportion of meat sauce/fettuccine that pleases you.37 Add a teensy bit more on top.38 Shower with parmesan.39 40 And yes … I love food and I love cooking food for the people I love.41 Fettuccine with ragù alla bolognese … served in a lovely hand-painted ceramic plate (c/o Giardini di Sole) and served on a bog-standard IKEA plastic tray, ahem.  Is there a better way of watching a race on TV?

 

And later on … phew … the Roma team beat Lazio 2-0.42Lefotvers for tomorrow … or to freeze.

Spare Ribs and Sausage Sauce for Home Made Pasta

Here are photos of another of my home-made pasta endeavours recently … the photos speak for themselves.  The sauce was what was left over from the night before’s dinner, spare ribs and sausage to accompany polenta.  The grated cheese in question was pecorino romano.  What a shame we can’t convey tastes over the blog !1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9Here are photos of another of my home-made pasta endeavours recently … the photos speak for themselves.  The sauce was what was left over from the night before’s dinner, spare ribs and sausage to accompany polenta.  The grated cheese in question was pecorino romano.  What a shame we can’t covey tastes over the blog !