Posts Tagged ‘Italian’

Simple Pasta with Garlic, Chilies, and Lemon | Relishing It

This dish takes me back to my college years, except this is the grown-up version.  One of my go-to meals in college was a bowl of pasta with a splash of olive oil and a sprinkle of fresh parmesan– eaten with some of my girlfriends, of course.  There was rarely a time that I wasn’t in the mood for it and it always hit the spot.  So very simple.  A few many years later, this still remains a favorite comfort meal of mine, with a few tweaks, of course.

Simple Pasta with Garlic, Chilies, and Lemon | Relishing It

A delicious stunner of a meal doesn’t have to be complicated or take up your entire night to prepare.  This dish takes only minutes. In fact, in the time it takes to boil the water and cook the pasta you are finished.  Not bad, right?

Simple Pasta with Garlic, Chilies, and Lemon | Relishing It

The robust flavors are what make me love this dish.  Pungent garlic, spicy chili peppers, bright lemon juice and zest, fresh nutty parmesan, vibrant parsley, and even an anchovy (if you are so inclined) give this meal a wonderful depth.  You can customize it to fit your family’s needs, of course.  Not into spicy food?  Go ahead and skip the peppers.  I generally double the amount of spice when I make it for myself– I can’t get it hot enough.  The main trick of this dish, is to know that the finished pasta has to be thinned out with some reserved pasta water.  This is key.  The pasta water (containing all of its starches) clings to the pasta and creates a light, creamy sauce with the parmesan and olive oil.  It’s magical.  So, don’t be afraid to loosen it up with that water– it’s a necessity!

Simple Pasta with Garlic, Chiles, and Lemon | Relishing It

Another tip to know is that the garlic, onion, chili pepper, lemon zest, and hot pepper flakes need to be sautéed in the olive oil while the pasta is cooking.  This is important because it infuses the oil with a ton of flavor, but you’ll want to keep the temperature on the low side, so the garlic doesn’t burn.  This is a perfect meal when you are in the mood for delicious comfort food, but are a bit short on time.  Admittedly, this is not one of Radd’s favorite pasta dishes, which stuns me because it’s so amazing (he tends to lean toward the meat-full varieties), so I’ve written the recipe to serve one.  You can easily adjust if you are aiming for a larger portion.  Hope you enjoy!

Simple Pasta with Garlic, Chilies, and Lemon | Relishing It

The Recipe: Simple Pasta with Garlic, Chilies, and Lemon

(serves 1)

3 ounces long pasta (thin spaghetti works well here)

about 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, use more if needed

2 tablespoons finely minced red or white onion, or shallot

2 garlic cloves, finely minced

1 small anchovy, finely minced (optional, of course)

1 red chili pepper, finely minced (scale back or add more according to taste)

sprinkle of hot pepper flakes

zest of 1 lemon

juice of 1/2 lemon

1/4 cup good quality parmesan or grana padano cheese

large handful of freshly chopped parsley

1 cup of reserved pasta water (you most likely will not use all of it)

salt and pepper

Fill a large saucepan with water and bring to a boil.  While the water is heating, chop the ingredients.

Add the dry pasta to the boiling water, be sure to add salt.

While the pasta is cooking, heat a small skillet with olive oil and add the garlic, onion, chili peppers, hot pepper flakes, lemon zest, and anchovy (if using).  Sauté over low-medium heat, stirring regularly.  Keep a watchful eye, so the garlic doesn’t burn.  You want to infuse the olive oil with all the flavors.  The vegetables should be tender by the time the pasta is finished cooking, or even a bit before.

Reserve about 1 cup of the cooking water and set aside.  Drain the pasta and add it to the skillet with the vegetables.  Add most of the cheese (reserving some to sprinkle on top), lemon juice, and a bit of the pasta water.  Combine using tongs.  Add more water, if you want it looser.  Season with a bit of salt and pepper, and top with the remaining parmesan, fresh parsley, and more red pepper flakes.  Enjoy!

Thanks for stopping by Relishing It!



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Homemade Spaghetti Sauce with Mushrooms and Garlic | Relishing It

I’ve mentioned here before that my husband and I were high school sweethearts.  We’ve been together for many years, and if there is one dish that describes “us”, it is this spaghetti sauce.  We’ve been making it together for as long as I can remember.  And even though it has gone through a few subtle changes over the years (because I certainly wasn’t canning my own tomatoes in my dorm room), it has remained much the same as it did those many years ago.  Many of you have been asking for this recipe, so I figure it’s time to to finally write it down and share it.  I mention on here fairly frequently that one dish or another is a family favorite.  But this one is the family favorite.  If the kids get to choose a meal, this is what they pick.  Valentine’s Day rolls around, and this is what we have.  It’s a bit odd, because this dish is ordinary, yet very special to us.

Spaghetti Sauce with Mushrooms and Garlic | Relishing It

Spaghetti Sauce with Mushrooms and Garlic | Relishing It

A couple of things need mentioning.  As I’ve said, I can my own tomatoes.  I use roasted roma tomatoes for this sauce.  I love how thick and rich they become, compared to regular tomatoes with their abundance of water.  This sauce can be made with any variety of tomatoes, though I’ve settled on roasted romas as my favorite.  The key here is to know what to do if your sauce has extra liquid in it that you don’t necessarily want. Watery spaghetti sauce is, to be honest, gross.  Too much liquid, and it just doesn’t cling to the pasta.  My point, is that you should do your best to find some good quality canned roasted tomatoes.  Muir Glen is my recommendation, if you don’t can your own.  Canned San Marzanos are also another excellent choice.  Whatever type of tomatoes you choose, crushed or whole, etc– give them a few pulses in a food processor to break them up (or use your hands) so they aren’t chunky.  If the sauce is too watery near the end of the cooking time, remove the lid and let it reduce a bit.  Adding another dollop of tomato paste will also help.

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce with Mushrooms and Garlic | Relishing It

One more thing,  I normally don’t use fresh basil in this sauce– instead I pull a bit out of my freezer that I’ve preserved for the winter.   In the summer, when my basil is plentiful, I chop it and freeze it in muffin tins and ice cube trays.   Then I vacuum seal it.  When I need a bit of basil in the winter, I  just pull one out and pop it into whatever it is that I’m making.  I love this method.  So, if you happen to have a freezer full of the same, use it!  If you don’t, I’ve tested it with fresh basil, so you will know how much to use– feel free to add more, if you like.  Just please don’t used dried– the flavor is not even comparable.

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce with Mushrooms and Garlic | Relishing It

This sauce has a wonderfully earthy flavor from the herbs, garlic, and the crimini mushrooms.  It’s a complex array of flavors that I heighten by using a bit of anchovy.  As I’ve mentioned before, don’t be scared to use it.  It adds such a nice umami flavor.  The other integral ingredient is the bay leaf.  The almighty bay leaf, in my opinion.  It adds such a unique flavor that this sauce relies upon.  When the sauce is finished simmering, swirl in a tablespoon or two of good olive oil– it’s the perfect finish to the sauce.  I hope you and your family enjoy this dish as much as we do.

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce with Mushrooms and Garlic | Relishing It

The Recipe: Homemade Spaghetti Sauce with Mushrooms and Garlic

(serves 4-6)

2 pounds grass-fed ground beef

1 medium white onion, chopped

1 large bulb of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped  (yes, the entire bulb!)

1 quart roasted roma tomatoes, crushed

1 dried bay leaf

1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

5-6 teaspoons kosher salt

1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano

2 heaping tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil (about 17 large basil leaves)

1 tablespoon double-concentrated tomato paste

1/2 teaspoon finely chopped anchovies

8-9 ounces crimini mushrooms, thickly sliced

1-2 tablespoons good quality extra-virgin olive oil, for finishing ( California Olive Ranch, is my favorite)

Parmigiano-reggiano cheese and hot pepper flakes, for serving

In a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat brown the ground beef, then drain the fat.  Return the pan to the heat and add the onion, garlic, salt, and pepper to the beef.  Sauté for a couple of minutes until the onions are somewhat tender, stirring frequently.  Then add the crushed tomatoes, oregano, basil, tomato paste, anchovies, and bay leaf.  Stir.  Then finally add the mushrooms.   Reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer for about 30-40 minutes, covered.   Stirring frequently and carefully, as you don’t want the mushrooms to break apart.  Monitor the amount of liquid near the end of the cooking time.  Remove lid to reduce, if it seems too watery.  If it seems too thick, be patient– the mushrooms release a lot of liquid during the simmering time.  When it is done, remove the bay leaf and stir in 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Adjust seasonings, if necessary.  Serve with freshly grated Parmigiano-reggiano cheese and hot pepper flakes, if desired.  Leftovers keep well in the refrigerator, or freezer.  Enjoy!

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My family loves Italian food, though neither my husband or I are Italian.  If we’re celebrating a special occasion, there’s a good chance we’ll be making pasta.  For years we relied on dry, packaged pasta for spaghetti, lasagna, and seafood dishes.  My husband bought a pasta maker some time ago, and while we were first a bit indimidated by the work involved in making fresh pasta, now we’re hooked.  Rather than look at it as extra time and effort, we separate out the tasks and make it a family affair:  I prepare the dough and the sauce, while my husband and four-and-a-half year old son crank out the noodles.  My two-year-old daughter provides moral support– or more accurately does her best to disrupt the process.  My hope is that the group effort makes nice “food” memories for my family and that they’ll always remember our time in the kitchen.

The pasta recipe here comes from one of the queens of Italian cuisine, Lidia Bastianich.  The pasta is silky, beautifully firm, and has that genuine “toothiness” when you bite into it.  If you’ve never had fresh pasta, you’re missing out as the texture is so different from boxed dry noodles.  This particular pasta pairs well with slow-cooked meat sauces.  They cling to it beautifully.  One of my favorites is a bolognese-style sauce.  I’ve made several from cook books, but they’ve never been exactly what I was looking for, so I took my own route for this recipe.  I’ve discovered that ‘bolognese’ sauces can be quite varied.  Some recipes and restaurants use lots of tomatoes, while others rely on them sparingly.  Some call for simmering in milk for long periods of time, while others add cream at the end of the cooking process.  I created this sauce to fit my own tastes– some tomatoes, yet different from a traditional tomato-based sauce.  I slowly simmer it in milk for a few hours to allow the flavors to fully incorporate.  Note that there are no herbs in the sauce, so the meat (especially the pancetta) and vegetables are the stars.

Homemade Tagliatelle: 

(Makes one pound of pasta)

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 egg yolk (from a large egg)

3 large whole eggs

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Making the dough in a food processor:

Fit the regular cutting blade in the bowl of a processor  (these batches are too small for the dough blades of most machines).  Measure the flour into the bowl; process for a few seconds to blend and aerate.  Drop the eggs and egg yolk into a spouted measuring cup , or a bowl; beat briefly with a fork to break them up.  Mix in the oil  (you should have 7 fluid ounces).   To minimize the chance of overheating the dough, use eggs right from the refrigerator.

Start the machine running with the feed tube open.  Pour the wet mixture into the bowl quickly; scrape all the egg drippings out of the cup into the processor too.

Let the machine run for about a half minute.  The dough should form quickly; most of it should clump or ball up on the blade – some may spread on the sides of the bowl –  where it will twist and knead.  Let the machine knead the dough for about 10 seconds (no more than 40 seconds total processing).  Turn the dough out onto a very lightly floured surface, and knead by hand for another half minute or so, until it’s smooth, soft and stretchy.  Wrap and rest the dough at room temperature for at least a half hour.  Store, very well wrapped, in the refrigerator for a day; or a month or more in the freezer.  Defrost frozen dough slowly in the refrigerator, and let it return to room temperature before rolling.  Defrosted dough will need a bit more flour.

If you have problems in the food processor – if there’s no apparent clumping after 30 seconds, or the dough stiffens up very quickly – stop the machine and feel the dough.  Adjust for stickiness or dryness by working in either flour or water in small amounts.  You can continue to work the dough in the machine, but don’t process for more than a total of 40 seconds – or turn the dough out to correct the consistency and finish kneading by hand.

Rolling the dough by machine:

I used a manual pasta machine for this.  Have your dough at room temperature for rolling.  Cut 1 pound of dough into four pieces.  Work with one piece and keep the others covered to prevent drying.  Have a large tray or baking sheet nearby (or two if you have them) lightly sprinkled with flour, on which to lay thin dough strips.  Smooth kitchen towels are also useful as resting surfaces and to seperate layers of strips.  Have flour for sprinkling and a knife handy, too.

Turn the knob to the widest setting– you’ll work at this setting for awhile.  Roll the first dough piece out with a rolling pin into an rectangle so that it’s thin enough for the machine to grab on the widest setting.  Roll it through the machine two times.  Fold the now elongated rectangle in thirds, and turn the dough 90 degrees  (so the fold is on the side, verticle), and roll it through.

Catch the dough; fold it and roll it through again with the fold on the side.  Repeat the folding and rolling six more times to strengthen and smooth the dough.  Like kneading, this will make it more resilient and workable.  Lay the first piece down, sprinkle it with a tiny bit of flour on both sides, and cover it (with plastic wrap or a towel).  Put the remaining pieces of dough through the same steps of rolling and folding.

Reset the rollers to the third setting (I roll pasta at every other setting from wide to narrow).  Roll your first strip through, but don’t fold in thirds again.  Let the rollers grab and move the dough– don’t push it or pull it through– and catch it with your hand as it comes out.  Roll the strip again to stretch and widen it; lay the strip down (on the lightly floured tray) and stretch the others in the same way.

Reset the machine even narrower; you should be on the fifth setting by now.  If the rollers fail to grab the dough, apply just a dab of water to the tip of the pasta dough.  Pass the first strip through once; it will lengthen rapidly, and you will need to catch and support it as it comes through the rollers.  Flour the strip lightly if it is sticking to the rollers.  After the second pass, if the strip is 20 inches or longer (and it really should be so), cut it crosswise in half, to get two shorter strips of about 10 to 15 inches.  Lay these down (not overlapping) and dust with flour; roll and cut the other strips in the same way.

You should have eight long strips at this point, each 5 -inches wide (nearly the width of the rollers).  I’ve found that this is generally the thickness that I want.  If you have a different pasta maker, and the noodles are 1/8 – inch thick (and the strips are shorter then 12- inches), you should pass them through the next narrow setting.  Roll the dough as thin as you like, as long as it doesn’t tear or fall apart.  If it does tear, fold the strip in half or thirds (making it shorter and enclosing the tear) and reroll at wider setting.

Set the finished strips down, lightly floured and not overlapping, in the big trays.  If necessary, cover a layer of strips with a floured kitchen towel, and rest more strips on top.

Keeping cut pasta:

You can cook the pasta as soon as it is cut, or let it sit and dry at room temperature until you are ready, but use them within a day.  Lay them out on trays, lightly floured and separated so they don’t stick together.  Arrange the pasta into “nests”.  Pasta that has been air-dried will take a bit longer to cook.

To freeze cut pasta for storage, set the nests  on trays that fit into your freezer.  After they’re solidly frozen, pack them in small airtight plastic bags or containers.  Don’t defrost before cooking; simply drop the pasta into the boiling water.

Cooking the pasta:

For 1 pound of pasta, bring 6  quarts of water to a full boil and stir in 1 tablespoon kosher or sea salt.  The dough has no salt, so it is particularly important that the cooking water be well salted.

Before adding pasta to the water, shake off any excess flour.  Drop the pasta into the boiling water in several batches, stirring with each addition to separate the pieces.

Keep the high heat, but don’t cover the pot.  Cook at a boil at least until the pasta rises to the top.  It should take 2-3 minutes.  Remember, fresh pasta is not cooked until  al dente like dried pastas.  Cook them until they are tender and cooked all the way through.

Source: Homemade Tagliatelle adapted from Lidia Matticchio Bastianich’s Lidia’s Family Table.  Bolognese recipe is my own.

Ragu alla Bolognese

(Simmer time: the longer the better.  At least 2-3 hours for optimum flavor)

2 teaspoons kosher salt

Freshly cracked black pepper

1 dry bay leaf

6 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup onions, finely chopped

1 cup carrots, peeled and finely chopped

1 cup celery, finely chopped

1/4 pound pancetta or bacon, diced

1 pound  free-range ground pork

1 pound grass-fed ground beef

6 tablespoons double-concentrate tomato paste

2 cups puréed canned tomatoes ( I can my own, I would suggest buying something low in sodium)

2 cups whole milk

3/4 – 1 cup white wine, such as Soave or Pinot Bianco (both Italian whites)

In a large Dutch oven, brown the beef and pork over medium-high heat.  Drain and discard the grease and remove the browned meat from the pan.  In the same pan, cook the pancetta or bacon until crisp.  Remove pancetta from the pan leaving the drippings behind.  Sauté the vegetables in the bacon drippings until tender, about 6-7 minutes.   Season with salt and cracked pepper.  Add the ground beef, pork, and pancetta to the pan.  Mix in the vegetables and the tomatoes, tomato paste, milk, bay leaf, and wine.  Bring to a boil, then cover and immediately turn down to low for a long, slow simmer for at least 2 hours, but hopefully a bit more.  The longer you can simmer this sauce, the better it will taste.  3 hours makes it delicious.  Remove cover near the end, if it needs to reduce/thicken  a bit more.  Adjust salt and pepper if necessary.  Combine the bolognese and tagliatelle and top with freshly grated parmesan.  Serve immediately.  Enjoy!

Have a fabulous day, everyone!  Thanks for stopping by, and as always, I appreciate any feedback.


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