Tag Archives: pasta

Pasta Cacio e Pepe

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This was the most simple pasta sauce to prepare…and it was absolutely delicious! Traditionally it is made with long thin noodles, but my orrechiette (little ears) was delicious as well (even though some will think I committed a sacrilegious act by using the incorrect pasta shape!!) This dish is a typical Roman dish and the important thing is to reserve some of the pasta water in order to make the sauce! The starch in the water helps the sauce bind to the pasta.

Ingredients:

1 lb. pasta – I used orrechiette (little ears), but I think anything would work well

200 g. pecorino romano – freshly grated (Trader Joe’s has a great one!)

Pepper to taste

Directions:

Cook the pasta as directed.

While the pasta is cooking, grate the cheese into a large bowl.

Add some of the pasta water, a little at a time, to the grated cheese. Mix it up until it melts into a nice consistency. Do not make it runny!

Add the cooked pasta and lots of pepper. Mix well and serve

Italy at Costco?

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For those of you that don’t live here in the USA, you may not be familiar with the Costco warehouses. They are huge buildings where you can shop for all sorts of products (from electronics, to food, to garage doors…and everything in between!). They are a membership only place (meaning that you have to pay a yearly membership fee in order to shop there), but the savings outweigh the cost of the membership (as long as you buy a lot!). They sell mostly in bulk, so if you don’t have places to store the items, it’s probably better not to shop there! I’ve been guilty of buying things (because they are such a deal) and then having them sit around in my pantry for years!

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But every once in a while, Costco has some pretty unusual, and very good, food products from Italy! It’s always fun to see what new things they have on the shelves.

Meandering in the freezer section a few weeks ago, I came across this frozen medley of wild mushrooms and asparagus – imported from Italy. I’m always up for anything “wild mushroom”, and then to have it be from Italy, I knew I had to try it.

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A few more aisles over, in the sauce aisle, I found another treasure from Italy – this porcini and truffle butter.

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Voila! A meal was beginning to form in my head for a tasty wild mushroom pasta dish!

Last night, that pasta dish came to be! I took 2 Italian sausages (also purchased in bulk at Costco), sliced them up and cooked them over medium heat in a frying pan. At this point, I didn’t add any oil or butter – I just dry cooked the sausages until they were done. Once done, I took them out of the pan and put them aside. Then I added some olive oil to my pan and sauteed some sliced garlic until fragrant. Then I added the frozen mushroom/asparagus mixture and cooked it, slowly, until it was all melted and some of the water was released from the mushrooms. I seasoned with salt and pepper, and added back the cooked sausages. I sautéed it a bit over low heat. I then added my cooked pasta (I used about 1/2 lb of egg noodles, but really any kind of pasta you desire would be great) and mixed it all together. Once it was all combined, I added a spoonful of the truffle/porcini butter and melted it in. You can adjust the amount of butter to your taste…it’s very flavorful, so a little goes a long way.

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I served it hot with some freshly grated Parmesan cheese on top. It was a hit with the famiglia 🙂 I love it when experiments work out!  This served up about 5 healthy portions.

Poor Man’s Spaghetti

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Last night, I made Spaghetti Poveri (or Poor Man’s Spaghetti) for dinner and it was DELICIOUS! I’m not sure why they actually named it “Poor Man’s Spaghetti” but probably because it is made up of ingredients that were always in the house and nothing special needed to be purchased! This is a simple pasta dish with tasty ingredients that isn’t heavy on the stomach! I love these kinds of pasta dishes as they don’t leave you feeling overly full after you’ve eaten them.

I got this recipe from the Giallo Zafferano website. It was in Italian, so I’m translating it here for you. The ingredients will still be in the metric units, so sorry to all my American readers out there 🙂

Spaghetti Poveri

1 medium red onion, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
100 g of olives, finely chopped
3 sprigs of parsley, finely chopped
30 g of capers, drained and chopped
100 g. of anchovy fillets in oil
40 g. of fine breadcrumbs
Some red pepper flakes
400 g spaghetti
Olive oil

Cook the spaghetti until they are done, al dente.

While the pasta is cooking, heat olive oil in a pan (use enough to cover the bottom of the pan).

Add the onion and garlic and sauté until the onion begins to soften.

Add the capers and the anchovies and cook until the anchovies begin to melt (they actually dissolve – something I didn’t know would happen!).

Add the red pepper flakes and the olives. Cook for a little while and then add the parsley. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In a separate small pan, heat some olive oil and add the breadcrumbs. Cook until they begin to toast.

Once the pasta is cooked, add it to the pan with the sauce. Add the toasted breadcrumbs and mix it all well (over low heat to blend the flavors).

Enjoy the pasta immediately, while it is hot. You can add some parmesan cheese if you’d like.

Fettuccine alla Papalina

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Affectionately known as the “Pope’s Fettuccine”, this delicious pasta recipe was the favorite of Pope Pius XII back in 1939.  It’s nice to know that we can still use the same fresh ingredients as they did back then.  Even though it’s probably not the most heart-healthy of pasta sauces, it’s genuine ingredients are the hallmark of true Italian dishes.  As long as we keep our portions small and don’t eat rich dishes like this every day, it’s OK to indulge every so often….especially when it’s SO good.

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Fettucine alla Papalina

1 white onion

3 1/2 oz. sliced prosciutto

5 1/2 T. butter

3 eggs

3 heaping T. grated parmesan cheese

2 T. heavy cream

14 oz. fresh egg fettucine or pappardelle

Salt and pepper

Finely chop the onion and cut the prosciutto into narrow strips.  Brown the onion and prosciutto in the butter until the prosciutto is golden brown and crispy.

Meanwhile, mix the eggs in a food processor.  Add 2 T. of the parmesan, the cream, and some salt and pulse until smooth.

Cook the pasta in boiling, salted water until al dente.  While the pasta is cooking, melt the rest of the butter in a small pan and pour it into a bowl.  When it is a little cool, add the egg mixture – mixing all the while so that the egg does not cook.  Add this into the prosciutto mixture and mix all together.

When the pasta has cooked, drain it well.  Add it to the pan with the prosciutto mixture and turn the heat to low – mixing all the time to incorporate the sauce well without cooking the egg.

Remove from the heat and toss the pasta with the remaining Parmesan and some pepper.  Enjoy!

This recipe serves 4 people.

Pasta al Gratin con Funghi e Mozzarella

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I found this wonderful recipe on an Italian site and decided to try it for dinner….it was a giant hit!  I tried to reduce the calories with a very low-fat version of the beschamel sauce, but if you don’t mind the real thing, then by all means use it!  I didn’t think that using non-fat milk deterred from the taste of the final product 🙂

Pasta al Gratin con Funghi e Mozzarella

320 g. of short tubular pasta, like rigatoni

1 1/2 cups of beschamel sauce (recipe below)*

200 g of shredded mozzarella

20 g of dry porcini mushrooms

2 thinly sliced green onions or 1/2 thinly sliced  leek

40 g of grated parmesan cheese

3 fresh thyme stems

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

1.  Soak the mushrooms in warm water until soft.  Once they have softened, rinse them in warm water and chop them.  Strain the soaking water and reserve for use later, if needed.

2.  Saute the mushrooms and sliced onions in some about 2 T. olive oil for about 5 minutes.  Season this with salt and pepper, and add a few thyme leaves.

3.  Turn off the heat and add the mushrooms to the beschamel sauce.  If the sauce is too dense, add a little of the mushroom soaking water.

4.  In the meantime, boil some salted water for the pasta and cook the pasta according to the directions, keeping them a bit on the al dente side.

5.  When the pasta is cooked, add it to the pan with the beschamel and mushroom mixture.  Mix it well.

6.  Lightly butter the bottom of a large casserole dish.  Add the pasta and spread it out evenly in the dish.

7.  Sprinkle the pasta with the grated mozzarella and parmesan cheeses.  Add the remaining thyme leaves.

8.  Broil the pasta dish until the cheese melts and turns golden brown.  Serve hot!

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Beschamel sauce

1 1/2 c. non fat milk

1 bay leaf

1 T. butter

1/8 c. flour

2 T. grated Parmesan cheese

Salt and white pepper to taste

Optional:  dash of ground nutmeg

Warm the milk with the bay leaves in a small saucepan. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When melted, stir in the flour to make a smooth paste. Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon until roux smells toasty but has not darkened in color, about 4 minutes. Pour in the hot milk, whisking to avoid lumps. Bring to a simmer, whisking until thickened, about 5 minutes. Season with the salt, nutmeg and pepper. Remove from heat, and whisk in the grated cheese.

Pasta al Aglio e Olio

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Sometimes for me, the simplest ingredients make for the best meals.  This is precisely why I love Italian food – the ingredients are fresh and simple, yet the meals created are full of flavor and delicious.  And, after following the Mediterranean diet now for about 4 months, so healthy for you.  This particular pasta dish is a no-brainer and the ingredients are always in my pantry.  Whenever I don’t know what to cook for dinner, I whip this up and it satisfies all my cravings!!  Last night was one of those nights.  I came home late, and I didn’t want to deal with too many preparations for dinner.  So Pasta al Olio e Aglio it was!  Delizioso!

Begin by chopping up some garlic. 

Use a fair amount (for one pound of pasta, I chopped up about 7 cloves). 

Saute the garlic in a generous amount of olive oil

and salt until it begins to brown. 

Remove the pan from the heat and add 3 T. chopped parsley,

some red pepper flakes, 2 T. of pasta water,

and 2 t. lemon juice. 

Once the pasta is cooked, add the pasta to the pan. 

Add a bit more olive oil and about 1/4 cup of more pasta water. 

Toss it all to combine and serve it with

some grated Parmesan cheese! 

Voila!  It couldn’t be simpler!

These types of simple meals with ingredients that are readily available and  inexpensive are affectionately labeled by my Italian mamma as pranzo alla casalinga (housewife’s dinner) or pranzo al contadino (farmer’s dinner).  Either way, they reflect the simple bounty of the earth turned into a savory pasta sauce that can be enjoyed by all.