Italian Archive

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

pasta and white beans with garlic-rosemary oil

pasta, white beans, garlic-rosemary oil

If you have a thing for chocolate, the world is your oyster. On this very site, 86 of the just over 800 recipes boast a significant chocolate component and entire sections of bookstores will be happy to fill in any cravings I missed. If you have a thing for bacon, the internet would be overjoyed to find you places to put it, zillions, even, although I’d proceed with caution before auditioning a couple. But if you have a thing for something slightly less of a prom king/queen ingredient, say, tiny white beans, well, it can be tough. It’s not there are no uses for them, it’s just that when you’re very much in love, there are never enough ways to be together. And if you’re me — someone who sometimes ups and makes a mega-pot of white beans just because you feel like it, presuming you’ll find things to do with them later — you sometimes end up scrambling, yanking down nearly every cookbook in your collection but still coming up bereft of uses outside the well-trodden soup-and-salad territory.

sometimes i cook beans and figure out why later

So tell me: What are you favorite uses for beans outside the ever-popular realm of chili, tacos, soup and salad? Really, I’m hankering for more inspiration. I ended up finding some — but never enough — in this month’s Bon Appetit, in a stack of pasta recipes you will find it impossible to choose among from Sara Jenkins of Porchetta and Porsena (and green bean salad, sigh) fame. I was so charmed by the short tubes of pasta with chickpeas, I made it almost immediately but maybe it was because I’ve overdone it on chickpeas this month, but I kept thinking it would be nice with something… daintier. And considering that it is an established fact (um, in Italy, where I suspect both my white bean and artichoke obsessions could roam free) that white beans, garlic, rosemary and olive oil are a combination sent from above, I had a hunch they’d be happy here too.

parsley, garlic, onion, carrot, celery

Continued after the jump »

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

gnocchi in tomato broth + more book tour

gnocchi in tomato broth

I realize that when it comes to January Food — carrot sticks, soup, legumes and other things I suspect, what with it being the third week of the month, you are already tiring of — gnocchi, thick dumpling-like pasta made from potatoes, hardly makes the cut. It’s, in fact, not even invited to the party, having no place among the sweatband-ed, pumped up, high-topped aerobicized… okay, maybe my brain went straight past “earnest attempts at resolution-inspired rebalance” to a Richard Simmons video, circa 1982. These things, they happen.

readying the tomato broth
a hearty tomato soup's elegant leavings

But a kale-apple-ginger smoothie, gnocchi is not. And yet, this dish from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook is one of my favorite things to make after a month of holiday gluttony because it is both light and filling, yet warm enough for the coldest day. The thing with gnocchi is that it’s so plagued by a reputation of being bad for you that it’s presumed that if you’re eating it, your arteries/girth/sense of proportion must already be doomed so let’s just ladle on the blue cheese, okay? And, indeed, most restaurants will serve it with butter, cream, cheese and other rich ingredients, such as truffles, probably with more butter. It’s not my thing; I think such preparations wreck the delicacy that’s at the heart of perfect gnocchi, which is featherlight, dumpling-like and best appreciated in a puddle of intensely flavored broth. It’s true: I turned the Italian classic of gnocchi and red sauce into a riff on matzo ball soup, and I’m not even a little sorry.

a snowdrift of riced potato

Continued after the jump »

Sunday, February 12, 2012

lasagna bolognese

lasagna bolognese

This, this is my culinary Mount Everest. This twenty-layer striation of noodles, ragu, béchamel and cheese, repeated four times and then some took me more than five years to conquer. To be honest, six years ago I didn’t know what it was. Sure, I had heard of lasagna but I wasn’t terribly fond of it because I don’t much care for the texture of ricotta once it has baked. (Ricotta, I’d argue, is best rich, fresh, and cold on toast.) But I was galloping through a post on an Italian food blog and I stumbled upon a parenthesised side-thought that stopped me dead in my tracks. It said something along the lines of “I don’t know whose idea it was to put ricotta in lasagna but… shudder.” And I thought, but wait! What’s supposed to go in lasagna? But there was no answer, so I set out to find one.

minced mirepoix (love this step)
browning the meat, vegetables

Lasagna alla Bolognese is an epic dish. Oh sure, it looks like an ordinary broiled mass of cheese, pasta and meaty tomato sauce but it’s so much more. To make it as I dreamed from that day forward I wanted to, everything gets a lot of love and time. The ragu is cooked for hours. The béchamel (ahem, besciamella), although the simplest of the five “Mother Sauces,” is still a set of ingredients that must be cooked separately, and in a prescribed order. The pasta doesn’t have to be fresh, but I figured if I was going to do this, I was going to really, really do this and I wanted fresh, delicious sheets of pasta to support the other cast members I’d so lovingly craft. And the cheese? There’s just one, Parmesan, and it doesn’t overwhelm.

simmered and dreamy

Continued after the jump »

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

naked tomato sauce

naked tomato sauce

Every year at just about this time I renew my obsession with tomato sauce. It’s late August, after all, and just about anyone who has ever gardened or knows people who garden is drowning in tomatoes and I am here, with my virtual bucket, eager to help you out. Don’t be too fooled by my so-called benevolence, however, as it’s really a selfish endeavor; I find spaghetti with tomato sauce to be one of the universe’s perfect meals, so I’m hardly kicking and screaming my way to the kitchen the next time the whim for a new one strikes me.

a basket of plum tomatoes
peeling tomatoes

But I always think that the new one will be the one that closes the book on tomato sauce, that it will be done, that I will be able to move on and find new codes to crack in the kitchen knowing that I’ve locked in my tomato sauce nirvana. Unfortunately, these moments of spaghetti calm are increasingly short-lived. This baked tomato sauce made me happy for a few years, before curiosity got the better of me and I fell for Marcella Hazan’s famous tomato sauce with butter and onions. Even then, I couldn’t leave well enough alone, and but seven months later was taking pity on the cheap buckets of “ugly but tasty!” tomatoes at the market, creating a heartier sauce that could be made with any tomato, whether a prom queen or not.

just tomatoes, cooked until saucy

Continued after the jump »

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

roasted peppers with capers and mozzarella

with mozzarella

Most of the time, I don’t choose the recipes I share here, they choose me. I’ll be bumming around, reading my epics, keeping to myself when suddenly the urge for rhubarb muffins will come upon me, and I will have no choice but to address it, or remain distracted until I break down and, you know, address it. Other times, the market controls me, as will happen when you live in a climate that deprives you of field-fresh produce for over half the year, leaving you to go completely berserk and overdo it in the months that you’re graced with it, bringing home buckets when you only have enough stomachs in your family to require a small armload. But with a 20 months of parenting under my belt, I’m long overdue to introduce a new reason to cook: my toddler; he’s got cravings too.

red, orange and yellow bells
roasted and blistered

It started one night at Motorino when he was in the middle of another of his hunger strikes conscientious dissenting against his mama’s cooking phases where he’s just not that hungry and we ordered both the roasted pepper salad and appetizer meatballs in hopes to quietly tempt him into eradicating crankiness through the consumption of life-sustaining calories enjoying good food. And lordy, he went nuts for the peppers. Slurp, slurp, slurp, it was hard to believe that just hours before he’d overturned his lunch in disgust. A week later, we returned (I’m currently fixated on a certain pizza, you see) and the peppers elicited the same reaction. And so it only made sense that I would recreate the dish at home.

peeling, not so pretty

Continued after the jump »


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