Baked Rigatoni with Savoy Cabbage and Fontina

Rigatoni, Savoy Cabbage, Fontina

Growing up, my mother would make savoy cabbage with spaghetti in a garlic and oil sauce.  It was one of my favorite pasta dishes.  We would have it regularly, at least once a month.  The savoy cabbage is similar to the regular green cabbage you may be used to, but the leaves are curly and the flavor is slightly sweeter than green cabbage.  This makes it a great accompaniment to the pasta.  So, when I came across this recipe by Loukie Werle, I had to try it.

This dish is made with fontina cheese, which comes from the
Val d’Aosta region in Italy. Fontina cheese has a soft texture, with a rich and
creamy flavor. It is perfect for melting. Be sure to buy the imported fontina
for the best flavor. 

I changed the recipe slightly with some of my own twists to
remind me of the flavor of my mother’s pasta.

Ingredients:

¼ – cup extra virgin olive oil
1 – cup onion diced
2 – cloves garlic minced
6 – sage leaves
¼ – tsp. pepperoncino (crushed red pepper flakes)
1 – lb. rigatoni
1 – large russet potato
5 – cups shredded savoy cabbage
2/3 – cup Fontina cheese grated
¾ – cup parmigiano Reggiano grated
Salt
Ground Black Pepper

Directions:

Peel the potato and cut into ¾ inch pieces.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add salt and the potatoes and cook until fork tender. Remove the potato with a slotted spoon and set aside until ready to assemble the pasta. Retain the boiling water for the rigatoni. Keep the flame on simmer until you are ready to cook the pasta.

Prepare the ingredients:

While the potatoes are cooking, dice the onion and garlic
and set aside.  Cut the cabbage in half
and remove the core.  Cut each half in
half again, and make think slices to shred the cabbage.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or pot.  Add the diced onion and garlic and sauté on medium heat until the onion starts to become lucid.  Reduce the heat a little, then add the sage leaves and pepperoncino. Cook for one – two minutes, making sure not to burn the sage. 

Next add the shredded cabbage, and season with salt and pepper.  Stir and sauté until the cabbage begins to wilt. 

Add the potatoes to the cabbage, mix well.  Set aside until the pasta is ready. Once you add the cabbage to the skillet, add the rigatoni to the boiling water and cook as directed on the package or until al dente.

Assemble the pasta:

Rub butter over the bottom and sides of a large baking
pan.  Add half of the cooked
rigatoni.  Top with half of the cabbage
mixture, then spread half of the grated fontina cheese and half of the
parmigiano cheese. 

Add the remainder of the rigatoni and top with the remainder
of the cabbage and fontina and parmigiano cheeses.

Drizzle a little olive oil over the top and bake in a 350˚ oven for 45 minutes.  Check at 30 minutes.  It should be bubbling and lightly browned on top.

Buon Appetito!




Lasagna Verde

Lasagna Verde

Lasagna Verde is a delicious and decadent pasta dish from Emilia-Romagna in Northern Italy. I have only been making this dish for about five years. Prior to that, I did not make lasagna because it was not my favorite pasta dish. As a matter of fact, it was not a family favorite growing up.  My mother only made it once or twice a year in the traditional Italian-American style layered with a meat sauce, ricotta, mozzarella, and pecorino cheeses, which was very good, just not a family favorite.

About nine years ago I became friends with Roberta, a young Italian woman from the region of Emilia-Romagna, in Northern Italy. The region is considered by many to be the gastronomical capital of Italy. Roberta and I worked together, and I was studying the Italian language and culture at the time, so it was common for us to discuss the food of Italy, and specifically the food of her region. Through these discussions, I learned how lasagna was made in Modena. She never actually gave me the recipe, but she did tell me how to make the béchamel sauce and what ingredients were typically used in the lasagna.

Her mother, Franca, visited her every summer in New York and usually made trays of lasagna for Roberta to keep in her freezer. One summer I was the lucky recipient of one of those trays. It was the best I had ever eaten. The layers of pasta verde (pasta made with spinach), béchamel sauce, and ragù alla Bolognese (meat sauce) blended together to form a luscious, creamy and savory pasta dish that melted in my mouth. I had ever eaten lasagna like this before. Eating her lasagna gave me the model for my own. After a few attempts, I successfully made a traditional lasagna verde that I am proud to share with you now.

The recipe I am sharing with you is entirely made from scratch, including the pasta. You can certainly choose to use store bought lasagna noodles made with spinach. It will also be delicious, although I think the homemade pasta makes it extra special. If you choose to make everything yourself, you can do it in steps. I usually make the sauce a couple days before I plan to make the lasagna. If you choose to make it farther in advance you can freeze it. The pasta can be made the day before and kept in the refrigerator until the next day when you are ready to make it. This way you don’t have so much to do all at once. I suggest, though, that you make the béchamel sauce the day you assemble the lasagna.

What you need…

Bolognese Sauce:  The first thing you need is the Bolognese sauce (meat sauce). I have already posted Ragù alla Bolognese in another post, so instead of repeating it in this post, just click here for the recipe.

Béchamel Sauce: I have also posted Béchamel sauce previously. You can find it under Essential Recipes here.

Parmesan Cheese (I recommend Parmigiano Reggiano)

Next you need to make the pasta.

Spinach Pasta:
This pasta is used to make the sheets for the Lasagna Verde.  You can also use this pasta for ravioli or tagliatelle (ribbon-cut pasta).

Ingredients:
4 – oz. fresh baby spinach
2 ½ – cups all-purpose flour
3 – eggs
1/4 – cup water
1 – tsp. salt

Directions:
Add a couple tablespoons of water to a large skillet, and add the washed baby spinach and sprinkle a little salt over it. Cook over a medium flame for about 2 minutes until the spinach is tender. Drain the spinach in a colander and set aside to cool. Once it is cool enough to handle, use paper towel or a clean dishtowel in which to roll the spinach and wring out the excess water. Next, on a cutting board, chop the spinach into tiny bits or use a food processor to chop finely.

Place the flour on a large board or your countertop and make a well in the center. (You can use a large mixing bowl if you prefer.)

Add the eggs, water and salt into the center of the well.

Take a fork and whisk the eggs until the yolks are broken, then add the spinach.

Continue to whisk the egg and spinach mixture, and gradually incorporate some of the flour into it with the fork. Once you have incorporated enough flour to make a sticky dough, you can start to mix the dough with your hands.

Once the dough takes form (if using a bowl), turn the dough out onto a floured, flat surface and knead the dough until it feels smooth and silky. Add flour as needed.

Cover the dough with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before rolling out the noodles.  You can keep the dough in the refrigerator overnight for use the next day if you choose.

While the pasta is resting in the refrigerator you can make the Béchamel sauce.

Time to assemble the Lasagna

Put a large pot of water on to boil. Once it comes to a boil, add a teaspoon of salt.

Remove the pasta dough from the refrigerator and knead on a floured surface for about one minute.  Cut the dough into four or five pieces.  With a rolling pin roll out one piece of dough in order to put it through the pasta machine.

Be sure to put a little flour on the rollers of the pasta machine before you insert the dough. Put the setting on number 1 and pass the dough through twice, then move on to setting number 2, then 3 and so on until you reach setting number 6.  This will give you the right thickness for the pasta sheets.

Lay the finished sheet on a floured surface until you have rolled out all of the dough.

Cut the longest pieces in half and place the two pieces in the boiling water. Stir so that the pasta does not stick together.  Let come back to a boil and cook about 4 minutes. Remove the pasta and place on a clean dish towel.

Place a little sauce on the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish.

Measure and cut the cooked pasta to fill the bottom of the dish.

Put several spoons of sauce on top of the pasta and spread it evenly.

Next pour some Béchamel sauce and spread evenly, then sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Repeat the process until you fill the dish, which should be 5 layers.

Cover with foil and bake in a preheated 375° oven for one hour. Check after 45 minutes and remove foil. Cook until it get golden brown and bubbly.

Let rest at least 30 minutes before serving.

Buon appetito!




Pappardelle alla Bolognese

Pappardelle, Ragù alla Bolognese, Pasta

Pappardelle is a long, broad, flat, hearty noodle that makes it perfect for a bold ragù alla Bolognese.  This ragù originates from Bologna, Italy, and is typically served with tagliatelle, but any wide noodle works nicely with it.  It is also used for traditional lasagna alla Bolognese.

This sauce is satisfying and delicious.  It is easy to make and freezes well too.

Ingredients for the ragù:
1 – lb. ground pork
1 – lb. ground beef
1 – medium onion
2 – carrots
2 – stalks of celery
2 – cloves garlic
1 – cup red wine (can also mix ½ red and ½ white)
1 – 28 oz. can of whole peeled tomatoes
1 – tsp. salt
1/2 – tsp. fresh ground black pepper
1/2 – cup whole milk

Other Ingredients:
1 – lb. pappardelle pasta
1/2 – cup pecorino romano cheese (plus more for serving)

Directions for the ragù:
Peel the carrots, garlic and onion and cut off the tops of the celery stalks and rinse in cold water.

Now make the soffritto.  Cut the vegetables in quarters and add them to a food processor to finely chop them (you can finely dice everything by hand if you do not have a food processor). Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large heavy pot on medium heat, add the soffritto. Cook on a medium flame for about 7 minutes until tender, stirring often to avoid it sticking to bottom of the pan.

Push the soffritto to one side of the pot and add the ground meat. Break it up with a wooden spoon and cook it on medium heat until lightly browned, stirring often.

Once the meat is brown, combine the meat with the soffritto and add the wine. Cook for 2-3 minutes until the alcohol has cooked off and the liquid has reduced by about half.

Add the whole peeled tomatoes to a blender and blend until smooth. Then add it to the meat mixture and stir. Add salt and black pepper.

Heat to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook covered approximately 1 hr. Stir occasionally to make sure the sauce does not burn or stick to the pot.

Now add the milk and stir to incorporate it thoroughly, and cook another 40 minutes.

Prepare the Pasta:

About 20 minutes before the ragù is finished, put on a large pot of water to boil.  When the water is boiling add 1 teaspoon of salt and add the pasta.  Stir to separate the pasta so it does not stick together.  Cook until al dente (a little bite) or according to the package directions.  Drain the pasta thoroughly.  In a large bowl add about half of the ragù, add the pasta and mix through.  Add more sauce if you want and about 1/2 cup of pecorino romano cheese.  Mix thoroughly.  Serve immediately.

Buon appetito!




Fettucine with Egg, Garlic and Olive Oil

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Fettuccine all’uovo, aglio e olio di oliva

This dish is simply delicious. The closest dish to which I can compare it is Spaghetti alla Carbonara without the guanciale (bacon).  Growing up we called it “white pasta”. No one could make this dish like my mother. Although the ingredients are very basic, they pack a lot of flavor. When mom served this dish, it was a real treat. It was and still is the ultimate comfort food for my family. It was not unusual for some of my cousins to ask Mom to make it for them when they visited. It’s so simple that you always have the ingredients available. However, as simple as it is, it takes some practice to get it right. I have put together step-by-step instructions, so give it a try, you will not be disappointed.

Ingredients:
1 – box (14.oz) fettucine (or any long spaghetti you like)
5 – cloves garlic
1/2 – cup extra virgin olive oil
2 – eggs
1/2 – cup pecorino romano cheese (more for serving)
1/2- tsp. ground black pepper
1 – tsp. dried oregano
1/8 – tsp. peperoncino (red pepper flake)
1 – tbls. salt

Directions:
Put a large pot of water on the stove to bring to a boil. In the meantime prepare the other ingredients. Peel the garlic and smash it with the side of a large knife and set aside. In a small bowl add the two eggs, 3/4 teaspoon oregano, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, and 1/4 cup pecorino cheese and whisk well. Set aside until the fettuccine is cooked.

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When the water comes to a boil, add 1 tablespoon salt and the fettuccine. Cook until al dente (a little bite) or according to the package directions.

While the pasta is cooking, heat about 1/2 cup olive oil in a small skillet, then add the peeled garlic. Sauté on a medium-low flame until golden brown (do not let the garlic burn). After a few minutes as the garlic begins to soften, use a fork to smash the garlic to release more flavor. Be careful with the hot oil.

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Remove the garlic from the oil and discard. When the fettuccine is just about ready, add a pinch of pepperoncino to the hot oil and 1/4 teaspoon oregano. Reduce the flame to low to keep the oil warm.

When the fettuccine is ready, before draining the pasta, reserve two cups of the pasta water in a small bowl and set aside. Place the fettuccine into a serving bowl and add the whisked egg mixture, and one cup of the pasta water and mix well.

Add egg mixture to pasta
Adding egg mixture to pasta

Adding pasta water
Adding pasta water

Next add the hot oil to the pasta.

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The hot pasta water and hot oil will cook the egg.  Mix through and add another 1/4 cup pecorino cheese.

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The cheese and egg should make a creamy sauce.  If it seems dry you can add a little more pasta water if needed.

Mix well and serve immediately.

Buon appetito!




Farfalle with Pesto

Pesto, Parfalle, Pasta
Farfalle al pesto

Traditional Pesto alla Genovese is made with seven specific ingredients, basil Genovese, Ligurian extra-virgin olive oil, pine nuts, parmigiano reggiano, pecorino cheese, garlic, and salt.

There are, however, many variations of pesto that are delicious. I find a mixture of vegetables and nuts make a delicious alternative to the original recipe.  You can use basil, spinach, kale, and parsley; whatever you have available.  Pesto is a great after work dinner choice or for those impromptu guests. It is easy and fast to make, and it also freezes very well. I’m sure you have had to buy a large bunch of basil in your local grocery store when you only needed a handful. Basil, unfortunately, does not last long in the refrigerator. It has been my experience that even when it is put in water, it wilts within 24 hours. So, every time I have too much basil I make pesto and freeze it.

You can freeze about one cup servings that will be the perfect amount for one pound of pasta. To freeze the pesto, spoon one cup, of it into a small glass or plastic container that can go into the freezer. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the pesto to keep out the air so that it will not oxidize. You can keep it in the freezer for up to six weeks.

Ingredients:
1 – lb. Farfalle pasta
1 – cup packed basil leaves
1 – cup packed baby spinach leaves
2 – cloves garlic
1/4 – cup walnuts
1/4 – cup almonds
1/8 – cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 – tsp. salt
1/4 – tsp. fresh ground black pepper
Pecorino Romano Cheese or Parmiggiano Reggiano

Directions:
In a food processor, blend the nuts and garlic until finely ground. Add the basil and spinach leaves. As you blend the leaves add the olive oil a little at a time until creamy. If it seems too dry add a little more oil. Add salt and black pepper.  I do not add the cheese to the pesto, but add it instead to the pasta when I put it together.  Set the pesto aside until the pasta is ready.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once it is boiling, add 1 tsp. salt and the pasta. Stir so that the pasta does not stick together. Bring back to a boil and cook according to the package instructions. If you want the pasta al dente  (a little firm to the bite), then check the pasta about 2-3 minutes before the time directed.

In a large serving bowl, add 1/2 cup of the pasta water and the pesto. Mix together. Drain the pasta, but be sure to save one additional cup of the pasta water in case you need it. Add the pasta to the pesto and mix. Add the cheese. If the pasta seems too dry, add a little more pasta water. Serve Immediately.

Buon appetito!




Penne alla Vodka

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Penne alla vodka is a popular Italian-American dish.  The sauce is rich, creamy and delicious.  I like to use pancetta to give it a little extra flavor, but you can also use prosciutto.

Ingredients:

1 – medium onion diced
3 – cloves garlic smashed
4 – oz. pancetta finely chopped
1 – 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1/4 – tsp. pepperoncini (red pepper flake)
2 – tbls. butter
1/3 – cup vodka
1/4 – cup heavy cream
1 – lb. penne pasta
4 – fresh basil leaves
2 – tbls. fresh chopped parsley

Directions:

Put on a large pot of water to boil.   Dice the onion and peel the garlic.  Heat 2 tbls. extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet.  Add the diced onion and garlic and sauté until translucent, about 4-5 minutes.

Slice the pancetta in small, very thin pieces.  Push the onions and garlic to one side of the skillet and add the pancetta and cook it until it begins to brown.  Add the pepperoncini and cook one minute more.

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Pour the vodka into the skillet to deglaze the pan.  Use a spatula to loosen all the browned bits and stir until mixed well.  Lower the heat and simmer until the liquid is reduced by one-quarter  Add the crushed tomatoes, salt, black pepper, basil and parsley.  Continue cooking about 10 minutes.

At this point the water should be boiling.  Add salt to the water and the pasta.  Cook until al dente (a little firm to the bite).  Continue cooking the sauce until the pasta is ready.

Just before the pasta is ready, remove the garlic from the sauce and add the cream and butter, stir to mix into the sauce.

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Drain the pasta, add it to the sauce and mix.  Top with parmigiana-reggiano cheese and fresh parsley.

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Serve immediately.

Buon appetito!




Spaghetti with Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Cannellini Beans and Zucchini

 

img_0403Spaghetti con pomodori secchi, fagioli, e zucchini

This pasta dish is one of our favorites at home. It is my “go to” when I do not have any other ideas for dinner. I generally have all the ingredients in the house so it is convenient.  Whole wheat spaghetti is also a delicious option if you prefer to use whole grains.

Ingredients:

 1 – lb. spaghetti
6 – oz. sun-dried tomatoes (packed in olive oil)
1 – 15 oz. can cannellini beans
2 – medium zucchini
2 – cloves garlic
1/2 – tsp. crushed red pepper
1/4 – tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 – tsp. salt (or to taste)
1/2 – cup pecorino Romano cheese

Directions:

Put on a large pot of water to boil. In the meantime, slice the zucchini in rounds, about 1/8 inch thick. If it is a large zucchine, slice the rounds in half and set aside. Cut the sun-dried tomatoes in slices about 1/4 inch wide. Peel the garlic and smash both cloves with the side of a wide knife. This will release the flavor.

Heat a large skillet and add extra virgin olive oil, enough to lightly cover the bottom of the pan. Add the garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, and crushed red pepper. Sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Use a low flame so not to burn the tomatoes. Stir often. Add the zucchini, salt, and black pepper. Stir and cook about 6 – 7 minutes, then add the cannellini beans (drain first). Stir and cook until the zucchini is tender, but not limp.

Meanwhile, the water should have come to a boil, add about 2 tsp. salt. Add the spaghetti, stir to make sure it does not stick together. Bring back to a boil and cook according to the package directions. Check the pasta about 2 minutes prior to what the directions say in order to check if it is al dente. It should be a little firm to the bite.

Drain the pasta, but reserve 1 cup of the pasta water. Add the pasta to the zucchini mixture and stir, adding about 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Stir in the pecorino, add more pasta water as needed to make a thick sauce. Do not use more water than necessary. Drizzle the top with olive oil and serve immediately.

Buon appetito!




Bucatini all’Amatriciana

Bucatini, Pasta, Amatriciana, Pancetta

Bucatini all’Amatriciana is a classic Roman dish. The sauce is hardy and pairs perfectly with the thick bucatini pasta.  This is one of my family’s favorite meals.  When we visited Rome this is one dish that we ate multiple times.  This recipe is also very popular with my niece, Jasmine.  She asks me to make this for her every time I visit her.

The sauce is simple to make, and uses only a few ingredients.  I am making the dish with pancetta (Italian bacon) instead of the traditional guanciale (pork cheek) because it is easier to find.  I think the taste is equally good.

Ingredients:

1 – lb. bucatini pasta
1 – 28 oz. can San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes
1 – medium – large onion
3 – cloves garlic
6 – oz. pancetta
1/2 – tsp. crushed red pepper flake (or to taste)
1/4 – tsp. salt
1/4 – tsp. fresh ground black pepper
1/2 – cup pecorino romano cheese

Directions:

Cut the onion in half, then make thin half-moon slices.  Heat a large skillet and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil; add the onion and sauté until translucent.  In the meantime, dice the pancetta into small pieces and mince the garlic.  Once the onions are translucent, push them to one side of the skillet and add the pancetta.  Cook until lightly browned; add the garlic, crushed red pepper and cook about 1-2 minutes more.

Blend the whole peeled tomatoes in a blender, just for a couple of seconds.  Pour the tomatoes into the skillet and add salt and pepper and stir.  Be careful not to use too much salt because the pancetta is salty.  You can always add more later.  Once the tomatoes start to bubble, turn down the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for about 20-25 minutes.

Put on a large pot of water to boil.  Add salt and throw in the bucatini.  Cook as directed on the box, but check it about 2 minutes prior to the time the directions suggest. The pasta is best if it is cooked al dente (it should be a little firm to the bite).

Drain the cooked pasta and place in a large serving bowl.  Add the sauce and pecorino cheese and serve.

Enjoy!