Sunday, June 30, 2013

Tour of Italy: Quick Tomato Sauce with Black Olives and Cream

To wrap up our fresh pasta sauces we will end with a wonderful red sauce.

This fresh and delicate sauce can't be beat during the summer!  Using wonderful plump tomatoes, a little onion, and adding some black olives and cream for flavor makes this a stand out sauce.  

Again, this is simple to make.  Serve it over store bought or my homemade pasta.  The ingredients should be the best you can find as the seasonings are minimal and you wants all the brightness of the ones you have to stand out.  

There's more to come from Italy.  Florence is up next!


Quick Tomato Sauce with Black Olives and Cream

  • 3 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1 sweet white onion such as Vidalia, finely diced
  • 1 leek, white portion only, rinsed well and finely diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • Tiny splash of brandy or cognac
  • 1 can (35 oz.) plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Leaves from 2 or 3 large fresh thyme sprigs, minced
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup pitted Mediterranean-style black olives, halved
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Leaves from 3 or 4 large fresh flat-leaf parsley sprigs, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano- Reggiano cheese
In a large fry pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and leek and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant and very lightly golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the brandy and let it boil away. Add the tomatoes, bay leaf and thyme. Increase the heat to high and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the olives and cream to the sauce. Simmer gently over low heat for a few minutes to blend the flavors.

Add the parsley and toss gently.  Serve over pasta.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Collection Series, Pasta, by Erica De Mane (Simon & Schuster, 2001).

Friday, June 28, 2013

Basil Lemon Pesto

Time to dress that homemade pasta!

As part of the "Tour of Italy" classes I took we explored homemade pasta and fresh sauces.  You can find the recipe for the pasta here.  We made a wonderful egg pasta and cut it into fettuccine.  So fresh and tender it was amazing!
Today we are talking about pasta sauces.  These are sauces that are fresh, light, and flavorful.  One thing I've noticed is that you don't need to pile on the sauce over your pasta.  A dredging or a small amount goes along way.  You want to be able to taste the pasta, as well as the flavors of the sauce without drowning it.

This first sauce is a killer!  Bring on the flavors of summer with a light and lemony variation of a traditional pesto. (We are referring to the green sauce in the picture above) This version combines parsley and basil, along with lemon.  It is just excellent!  My favorite new sauce.  It's perfect over pasta, but you could also use it over chicken or fish. 

Remember it's all about freshness.  Simple fresh ingredients that take no time to put together.  I'll be bringing you another sauce shortly so stay tuned.   

Basil Lemon Pesto

  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 3 Tbs. toasted pine nuts
  • 1 1/2 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1 tsp. lemon zest
  • 1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
In a food processor, combine the garlic, pine nuts, basil, parsley, cheese, lemon zest and lemon juice. Pulse until ground to a fine paste, about 1 minute. With the machine running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until the desired consistency is reached. Season with salt and pepper. Makes 1 1/4 to 1 3/4 cups.

Adapted from a recipe by Sandra Cook, Chef and Food Stylist.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Fresh Egg Pasta

Hi there!  Time to continue our journey through my cooking classes on Italian cuisine.

I've brought you several wonderful recipes from Rome.  Did you make any of them?  I absolutely loved the Braciole and how about that Bucatini All Amatriciana?

My next hands-on class at Williams-Sonoma was making fresh pasta. Used all over Italy.  Now I mean fresh as in from hand.  Not using a pasta machine, KitchenAid attachment, or any type of food processor.  Flour on the board with eggs in the middle, by hand! And's really not that hard.  A little messy, but certainly easy enough to do over again, and again!  

There's nothing better than homemade it?  Good!  You can't get the same texture or tenderness with any dried or "fresh" store bought pasta out just can't!  So making your own is so worth it.

We mixed the dough by hand, but we did have a little help in stretching out the dough to the correct degree of "thin-ness" with a wonderful pasta machine with rollers.  We decided to make fettuccine with our dough which was perfect for the sauces we were going to make to go with it.

I'll bring you the wonderful fresh sauces next time.  It's all about freshness...fresh ingredients go a long way to bring outstanding flavor to your pasta.

Oh! I forgot to mention, the pasta cooks up in no time.  So after you spend some time making it, you can cook it up right away.  No waiting around for it to dry.  Great fun at a party, having the guests each prepare a batch, rolling it, and cutting it out.  

I hope you do as the Italians do and make your own fresh pasta at least's heaven!

Fresh Egg Pasta
  • 2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour,  plus more as needed
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • Semolina flour for dusting
Place the 2 1/4 cups flour in a mound on a work surface. Make a well in the center large enough to hold the beaten eggs and pour the eggs into the well. Using a fork, begin gradually incorporating some of the flour from the sides, taking care not to break the flour wall. When the eggs are no longer runny, you can stop worrying about the wall. Continue working in more flour until the dough is no longer wet.

Begin kneading the dough by hand, adding as much additional all-purpose flour as needed until the dough is smooth and no longer sticky, 3 to 5 minutes. Scoop up any remaining flour and pass it through a sieve to remove any large particles. Set the sieved flour aside.

Dust baking sheets with semolina flour. Divide the dough in half. Keep one half on the work surface, covered with a kitchen towel to prevent it from drying. Set up your pasta machine alongside another work surface. Lightly flour the work surface with some of the reserved sieved flour. Using a rolling pin, flatten the other dough half into a rectangle thin enough to go through the rollers at the widest setting. Pass the dough through the rollers once, then lay the resulting ribbon down on the work surface and flour it lightly. Fold into thirds lengthwise to make a rectangle and flour both sides lightly. Flatten the dough with the rolling pin until it is thin enough to go through the rollers again. With one of the two open edges going first, pass the dough through the rollers nine more times at the widest setting; after each time, flour, fold and flatten the dough as described. After 10 trips through the wide rollers, the dough should be completely smooth and supple.

Now you are ready to thin the dough. Starting at the second-to-widest setting, pass the dough through the rollers repeatedly, setting the rollers one notch narrower each time. When the pasta ribbon gets unwieldy, cut it in half and continue rolling one part at a time until the dough reaches the desired thinness.

Arrange the finished pasta sheets on the prepared baking sheets and cover with kitchen towels to prevent drying. Repeat the entire process with the second half of dough. Cut the pasta by hand or machine as desired. Makes 1 lb. dough.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Lifestyles Series, Classic Pasta at Home, by Janet Fletcher (Time-Life Books, 1998).

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Braciole - Tour of Roman Food

Ready to continue on our tour of Roman food?
Me too!

The other day I took an excellent class at Williams-Sonoma where we are touring Italy.  First stop was Rome.  We had a feast, I tell you.  I felt like an Italian mama cooking in a rustic kitchen for an large family gathering.  It was wonderful!  The class was hands-on so we really made our own meals.  This is such a great way to learn as you go.  So make sure to check out the schedule of classes for your local Willimas-Sonoma to see if they offer these wonderful classes.

Several days ago I brought you an excellent pasta, Bucatini all' Amatriciana.  Wow! that is some tasty pasta.  Today we are exploring another secondi, or main dish which is Braciole.  Pronounced (bra zhul).  Braciole are rolled slices of beef or veal that are filled with a savory stuffing and slowly simmered in a tasty tomato sauce.  Usually using a less than tender cut of meat that turns out fork tender when it's done.   

We used skirt steak as our meat, however flank, or top round would be a good choice as well.  I will tell you this dish is a little more involved with the preparation of the meat.  You add the stuffing and roll it all up, followed by tieing the meat to hold the stuffing in.  Once that is done you are almost there.  A little browning and sauteing and then adding the ingredients for the sauce and the rest is done with little attention from you.  The meat will braise in this wonderful sauce and become succulent and tender! Oh my, I'm getting hungry thinking about it. 

We ate this with a side of our Bucatini all' Amatriciana.  The meal was perfect, the beef was tender and full of flavor.  The filling...heaven.  You have to try this.  It's well worth the effort.


serves 4

1 lb. skirt steak, top round, or flank steak, cut across the width into 4 slices
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste 
4 slices prosciutto 
4-8 slices of provolone cheese 
2 Tbs. pine nuts 
2 Tbs. raisins 
1 garlic clove, minced 
1/4 cup olive oil 
1 yellow onion, chopped 
1 cup dry red wine such as Barolo 
1 cup beef broth 
4 large fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped, or 1 can (15 oz.) chopped plum tomatoes with juices
1 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley 
3 or 4 fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces 

One at a time, place the beef slices between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and pound gently with a meat pounder until 1/4 inch thick. Sprinkle the pounded slices on both sides with salt and pepper. Lay prosciutto and cheese on each beef slice. Sprinkle the slices evenly with the pine nuts, raisins and garlic. Roll up the slices, tucking in the ends, then tie the rolls at 1-inch intervals with kitchen string.

In a chef pan or dutch oven, over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the beef rolls and cook, turning as needed, until browned on all sides, about 15 minutes total. Add the onion and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes longer. Pour in the wine and deglaze the pan, stirring to scrape up any browned bits from the pan bottom, about 2 minutes.

Add the broth and tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer, turning the rolls occasionally, until the beef is tender when pierced with a knife,  about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Check from time to time to see if the sauce is becoming too dry and add water if needed.

Uncover, scatter the parsley and basil evenly over the rolls, and cook for 2 minutes more. Transfer the rolls to a cutting board and cut into thick slices, removing and discarding the kitchen string. Transfer the slices to warmed plates, spoon the sauce over the top and serve immediately. 

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Italian by Michele Scicolone (Oxmoor House, 2007).


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