Penne Con I Broccoli – Penne with Broccoli

Penne with Broccoli

 

This is our second recipe from our cookbook “Italy, The Beautiful Cookbook”, and one that my daughter chose.  I wasn’t very surprised, as she loves broccoli, but then I read the rest of the ingredients and thought, she obviously only read the title.  I was quite perplexed at the combination of ingredients as well, broccoli, tomatoes, onions, raisins, anchovies, pine nuts…….in my brain, these ingredients really shouldn’t go together.  But they did, marvelously well, and we were all really surprised.  My hubs mentioned that he felt that it was because there were really no overpowering flavors, it was just the right amount of each ingredient for it to be harmonious, delicate even!

This recipe is from the southern Italian region of Apulia (Puglia).  As the south of Italy was conquered and influenced by the Arabs, this recipe started to make more sense, it was an obvious melange of Arabic and Italian cooking!  The use of savoury and sweet is very Arabic, hence the pine nuts and raisins, but then combining it with broccoli, tomatoes, garlic and anchovies is redolent of southern Italian cooking.  Many of you will want to omit the anchovies, as I know that not everyone is on that bandwagon, but I ask you to try it out, if my daughter, who hates all things fishy, couldn’t tell and was waxing poetic about this recipe, I am positive you won’t either.  Because the recipe calls for you to mash it and then fry it in the olive oil with the garlic, it basically melts in the oil, and adds just a hint of salt and umami to the dish.  If you are still hesitant, reduce the amount, but don’t leave it out!

So here is what you’re going to need:

Serves 6

1/4 cup raisins

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 onion, chopped

1 can (1lb/500g) whole, peeled tomatoes

salt and freshly ground pepper

1/2 head broccoli

500g Penne pasta

6 anchovy fillets in oil, mashed

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1/4 cup pine nuts

Grated Pecorino cheese

Soak the raisins in lukewarm water to cover until needed.  Heat half the oil in a large skillet over moderate heat.  Add the onion and sauté until translucent.  Add the tomatoes, season with salt and pepper, cover and cook for about an hour to reduce the sauce.

Meanwhile, separate the broccoli into florets and stems.  Peel and slice the stems.  Drop into a saucepan of boiling water and cook until the penne are al dente.

Fry the anchovy fillets gently with the garlic and pine nuts in oil, until the garlic is fragrant, about 3-4 minutes.  Add to the tomato sauce.  Mix in the strained raisins, broccoli florets and a spoonful of the cooking water from the pasta, cover and cook over low heat for about 10 minutes, or until the broccoli is tender, stirring frequently.

Add the strained penne to the skillet, and raise the heat to high, stirring frequently to incorporate all the sauce.  Serve immediately with the grated Pecorino cheese.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Penne with Smoked Salmon and Vodka Cream Sauce

 

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Hi fellow friends and bloggers, it has been a loooong time since I updated my blog!  For good reason though, this summer has been crazy busy.  In June I married my amazing fiancé and then embarked on our honeymoon to Asia!  What a wild ride, I wish I could do it all over again, but alas, my child needs schooling and so all good things must come to an end.

It’s been 8 months since we moved to Madrid, and that also has been super crazy, making new friends, my daughter is in a new school, hubby in a new job……and me, well I have a new blog!  From now on, all my sweet baking confections will be on San Luis Baking Co.  I hope you enjoy and visit!

So, for our recipe.  Another new adventure has been my potted tomato plants.  We eat tomatoes like they go out of style, but most importantly, my hubs and used to go crazy because finding Italian tomato varieties here is close to impossible.  On one trip to Italy, I bought three types of tomatoes, Pacchino Cherry, which is an heirloom from Sicily, small, but sweet as sugar; San Marzano, which hails from Campania (around Naples, Italy) and is one of the best varieties to make sauce; and Costoluto Fiorentino, which is a large heirloom from Tuscany which makes for a killer salad tomato!  I harvested the seeds, planted in the beginning of May, and voila! This has been my first foray into tomato gardening, and it has had its ups and downs, but I am amazed at the yield that I have had!  So our recipe today includes my cherry tomatoes, straight from the vine.  I know most of us don’t have tomatoes at home, so try to find the ripest, sweetest cherry tomatoes to make this dish.  The tomatoes’ acidity balances well with the mellow cream, and the smokiness of the salmon pairs perfectly in this dish, it’s a winner!

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So here’s what you’re going to need:

Serves 3-4

300g Penne Pasta

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp chili flakes

3 garlic cloves, smashed

1 tbsp tomato paste

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

Pinch of salt

1/4 cup Vodka

200 ml heavy cream

100 g smoked salmon, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces

Pinch of freshly ground black pepper

2 tsp fresh Italian parsley, minced

In a large stockpot, put water and 1 tbsp salt to boil.  In a medium sauté pan over medium low heat, add the olive oil.  When hot, add the chili flakes and the garlic.  Cook until fragrant, about 4 minutes, making sure it doesn’t burn.  Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, for another 2 minutes.  Add the cherry tomatoes, salt and a 1/4 cup of water, and lower the heat to low.  Cook for about 10 minutes, or until the water has evaporated by half.

Raise the heat to high, and add the vodka and carefully light to flambe; to burn off all the alcohol.  Lower the heat to a minimum, and add the cream and stir.  Take off the heat and add the salmon, pepper and give it a good stir.  Set aside.

Cook the pasta according to package directions.  When it is done, strain all but a tbsp of the water, and toss it in the pan with your sauce.  Raise the heat on your pan, and cook on high for about 2 minutes, until all the pasta is evenly coated with the sauce.  Sprinkle with the parsley, and serve immediately.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Spinach and Four Cheese Baked Pasta

Spinach and 4 cheese pasta

 

The only way I can get my daughter to eat spinach is to pair it with cheese.  So, I did.  Pasta al Forno, or Baked Pasta, I guess could be considered the great granddaddy of Mac & Cheese.  My family adores Pasta al Forno, so whenever I can, I try to come up with interesting variations.  One of the most important parts of this recipe is making a great béchamel.  Bechamel is silky and creamy, if done properly.  The only thing it requires, is time, a good amount of stirring and a proper roux.

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Making a roux is easy, ruining it is even easier.  This part of the process requires you to be completely aware and not leave it for a second, because it can and will burn!  The key is cooking it over very low heat, and stirring constantly.  Another tip, is to always slowly stream COLD milk (or cream, if you’re feeling really sinful) into the roux, while stirring vigorously.

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Your béchamel should be perfect in about 10 – 15 minutes.  When it’s done, take off the heat, and add the salt, pepper and all the cheese you want!

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I used a mix of Gruyère, Ricotta Salata, Emmenthal (a.k.a. Swiss Cheese) and Old Amsterdam, which has a slightly nutty flavor, similar to a mild cheddar.

Whatever combination, I am sure this will be a winner at dinner!

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So here’s what you’re going to need:

Serves 6 approx.

1 lb pasta, I used gnocchetti

200 g frozen spinach, boiled and drained

4 tbsp butter

4 tbsp all-purpose flour

3 cups cold milk

1 cup cold heavy cream

4 cups mixed, grated cheese

Salt and Pepper, to taste

Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste

1 cup bread crumbs plus 1 tbsp butter, melted

Boil pasta according to package directions, draining one minute before the time on package.  Set aside.  In a heavy stockpot over very low heat, melt the butter until foamy.  Add the flour and whisk.  Cook over low heat for about 5-6 minutes, whisking constantly.  Slowly pour in your cold milk (or milk and cream), whisking all the time to make sure there are no lumps. Now switch to a wooden spoon. Cook over low heat for about 10-15 minutes, stirring all the time, until thickened.  Take off the heat and add the salt, pepper, nutmeg and the cheeses.

Add the spinach and pasta to the cheese sauce, mix well.  Preheat the oven to 180 C.  Add the pasta to a large baking dish, set aside.

In a small bowl, mix the breadcrumbs with the butter until thoroughly combined.  Sprinkle on top of the pasta evenly.

Place the pasta in the oven and cook for about 25-30 minutes, or until bubbling and the breadcrumbs are nice and golden.  Take out of the oven and let rest 10 minutes before serving.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Rigatoni with Cauliflower

Rigatoni with Cauliflower

It is amazing how many variations of sauces there are for pasta.  Although there are some that can be found throughout Italy, such as carbonara, ragu bolognese, al pommodoro, there are some that are truly autochthonous to a certain region.  For example, the only place that I have seen pasta to be eaten with lentils, is Naples.  This one, rigatoni with cauliflower, is from Sicily.

My household wasn’t very excited at the prospect of having cauliflower with their pasta, probably because my fiancé Paolo is from the north, and you just Don’t. Put. Cauliflower. On. Pasta. Period.

But, I need them to eat their veg, and I figured under the tomatoes and anchovies and breadcrumbs, it would be well masked.  This dish is great for anyone that want to get their vitamins and some omega 3′s in a plate of pasta.  Seriously, isn’t that the best way?  (Unless you are allergic to gluten, that is!)

This is another recipe from the book that I mentioned in my last postThe Country Cooking of Italy, by Colman Andrews.  I have to admit, I was unsure of how it was going to taste, since I never actually ate this anywhere in Sicily, but to all of our surprise, it was really delicious!  If you aren’t fond of anchovies, you can omit or lessen the amount.  I personally love them, but I know they aren’t everyone’s favorite!

So here’s what you’re going to need:

Serves 4-6

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 cup toasted breadcrumbs

1 small head of cauliflower, separated into florets and finely chopped

6-8 anchovy fillets, finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 tsp peperoncini

salt and pepper to taste

5 whole canned san marzano tomatoes, coarsely chopped

1 lb rigatoni

Heat 1 tbsp of the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat.  Add the breadcrumbs, stir well, and cook, stirring frequently, until they are well toasted, about 15 minutes.  Set them aside.

Add the remaining oil to the same frying pan over medium heat.  Add the cauliflower and cook, stirring frequently for about 10 minutes.  Stir in the anchovies, garlic, and peperoncini and season with salt and pepper.  Stir in 1/2 cup water, cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook for about 20 minutes more.

Add the tomatoes to the cauliflower mixture, stir well, and continue to cook, uncovered, until the tomato liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.  Add the pasta and cook until al dente, 8-12 minutes.  Drain the pasta well and return it to the pot.  Stir in the cauliflower mixture and transfer to a warmed serving bowl.  Pass the breadcrumbs at the table.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Fusilli with Goat Cheese Cream Sauce, Bacon and Pistachios

Fusilli with goat cheese cream sauce, bacon and pistachios

 

Lately, with my dieting, work, guest blogging, wedding planning, exercising and dieting, I have been very uninspired to blog.  I mean, who would want to read a post about another chicken breast with spices and a salad????  That is my boring food life at the moment.

Last night though, after a grueling workout, I decided I was going to treat myself.  And treat myself I did.  Not only did I have pasta, that forbidden fruit in dietland, I had it with cream and cheese and bacon.  Yes folks, I went all out, threw caution to the wind and had myself a mini smorgasbord! I was actually planning on having another salad, I had some beets roasting in the oven, the goat cheese ready, the pistachios chopped, just waiting on my rucola to arrive, when I suddenly had a massive craving for pasta.  So, I combined the goat cheese, cream, pistachios with some bacon, and poured that goodness over some pasta.   Let me tell you, my family was happy.  They are not excited at all to be partaking in my diet.

So, if you’re not dieting and you feel like treating yourself too, here’s what you’re going to need:

Serves 4

500g Fusilli pasta

1/2 tbsp Olive oil

4 slices of Bacon, finely chopped

2 tbsp of Pistachios, shelled and chopped

250ml Cream

Goat cheese, to taste

Parmesan Cheese

Salt and Fresh ground black pepper, to taste

In a large stock pot, bring water to boil.  Cook the pasta according to package directions.  In the meantime, in a large sauté pan over medium heat, add the olive oil and bacon, and cook until it is crispy but not burnt.  Add the chopped pistachios and stir, cooking for another 3 minutes.

Lower the heat to low, and add the cream, goat cheese and salt.  Cook, stirring constantly until the cheese has melted completely.  Turn off heat.

Drain pasta, and toss with sauce.  Sprinkle with some black pepper and parmesan cheese.  Serve immediately.

 

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

 

 

Lightened up Mac & Cheese

Mac & Cheese

 

Yup.  I’m on a diet.  That is probably the most loathed word in my vocabulary.  I hate to diet, but I need to.  You see, in about four months, I will be wearing a white dress….and you know how unforgiving white is.  I mean, even my chef white’s are black.

Anyhoo…..so, since I have been so completely undisciplined and totally accustomed to eating my heart’s content, I started to dig up some recipes that I know are in Martha Stewart magazines, namely, the Fit to Eat section.  The first one I came across was this one…..and I love me some Mac and Cheese.

I was really dubious about this lightened up version, in the magazine it looks creamy, but after reading the ingredients, I really wasn’t sure how it would hold up.  And, my daughter and Paolo being pasta connoseiurs….oh boy.  I was setting myself up to fail.  But I did it anyway, and let me tell you….it was amazing!  Ok, it obviously isn’t your typical rich mac and cheese, but damn, this was good!  The main component is Butternut Squash, boiled with chicken stock and nonfat milk, then mashed.  Just a teaspoon of olive oil, and 1 cup of full fat cheddar, this dish screams deliciousness.  And at only 350 calories per serving?  Sold!!!!

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So, if you’re watching your weight, or just want to make a healthier version of a comfort classic, look no farther than this!

Here’s what you’re going to need:

Martha Stewart Living Magazine January 2003

Serves 6

1 small butternut squash (about 1 lb), peeled, seeded, and cut into 1 inch cubes

1 cup homemade or low sodium chicken stock, skimmed of fat

1 1/2 cups nonfat milk

Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Pinch of Cayenne pepper

3/4 tsp salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 lb elbow macaroni

4 oz. extra sharp cheddar cheese, finely grated (about 1 cup)

1/2 cup part skim ricotta cheese

4 tbsp Parmesan cheese, finely grated

2 tbsp fine breadcrumbs

1 tsp olive oil

Olive oil cooking spray

1.  Preheat oven to 375F.  Combine squash, stock and milk in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce heat to medium; simmer until squash is tender when pierced with a fork, about 20 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Mash contents of saucepan; stir in nutmeg, cayenne, and salt, and season with black pepper.  Stir to combine.

2.  Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add noodles; cook until al dente according to package instructions.  Drain, and transfer to a large bowl; stir in squash mixture, cheddar, ricotta, and 2 tbsp Parmesan.

3.  Lightly coat a baking dish with cooking spray.  Transfer noodle mixture to dish.  In a small bowl, combine breadcrumbs, remaining 2 tbsp Parmesan, and oil; sprinkle over noodle mixture.

4.  Cover with foil, and bake 20 minutes.  Remove foil, and continue baking until lightly browned and crisp on top, 30 to 40 minutes more.  Serve immediately.

Per Serving:  35o Calories, 6 G Fat, 18 MG Cholesterol, 57 G Carbohydrate, 505 MG Sodium, 16 G protein, 2 G Fiber

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

 

Tuna Noodle Casserole

Tuna Noodle Casserole

 

When I told my daughter I was going to make her a dish that would make her like tuna, she said to me, “There are two things I hate about what you’re going to make.  Tuna and Casserole.”   Poor casserole.  Already got a bum rap and she didn’t even know what I was talking about.

To my utter delight, she actually loved the dish (as I knew she would) and ended up repeating several times.  I generally don’t make tuna noodle anything, but since I am now on survival mode/use up everything in my pantry mode, I figured this would be perfect.  And, apart from the tuna, it was chock full of other veggies sneaked into one recipe so it was a double whammy for mom!

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As I’ve mentioned before, we never ate such classics when I was a kid.  People actually thought our food choices were really weird.  Nothing screams outsider like Colombian, Italian and Arabic food in the Bahamas, let me tell you.  My mom had this really great volume of Time-Life cookbooks, and I might have spied this for the first time in one of those, and once in college I recreated it.

I actually really like it.  I remember not being sure how the whole tuna/noodle/cheese/béchamel thing was going to work out, but you know what, it does.  And now that I know my picky teen will gobble this up, I think it will be a repeat offender at my house from now on!

So here’s what you’re going to need:

Serves 6

2 tbsp olive oil

1 small onion, diced

1 celery rib, sliced

1 cup fresh shelled peas (if you can’t find fresh, frozen will do)

1 cup quartered cremini or button mushrooms

3 tbsp flour

2 tbsp butter

2 cups milk

Salt and Pepper to taste

Pinch of cayenne pepper

Pinch of nutmeg

1.5 cups cheddar cheese, grated

1 can tuna, drained and flaked

200 g egg noodles, cooked according to package directions, strained

1/2 cup breadcrumbs (or torn up pieces of white bread, like mine above, if you don’t have breadcrumbs)

In a large frying pan, heat olive oil over medium low heat.  Add the onions, celery and peas.  Saute until softened, about 8 minutes.  Raise the heat to high, and add the mushrooms and the salt.  Saute until the mushrooms are soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the 2 tbsp of butter, and mix until melted.  Lower the heat to medium, and add the flour and mix well.  Cook for about 2-3 minutes.  Add the milk, stirring constantly, and cook until thickened.  Season with the salt, pepper, cayenne and nutmeg.  Take off heat and mix in 1 cup of the cheddar cheese and mix well.  Add in the tuna and the noodles and mix well.

Transfer to a baking dish.

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Top with the remaining 1/2 cup cheddar, and then top with breadcrumbs.  Bake in a 350 F (180C) oven for about 20-25 minutes or until crumbs are golden and it is bubbling.  Remove from oven, and let cool 10 minutes, serve.

 

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

 

Bucatini all’ Amatriciana

Bucatini all"Amatriciana

This is another one of those favorite tried and true recipes of mine.  Frankly, the first time I tried Amatriciana I was in Miami, and how far from the reality it was.  The best Amatriciana I have ever had, is obviously, in Rome.  Hands down unbelievable.  That trip to Rome sealed my fate forever, because my daughter learned what a good Amatriciana and a good Carbonara was……so mom better learn how to perfect them quick, cause boy, she’s a food snob if there ever is one!

As many Italian dishes, it has dubious origins, some say the Swiss canton of Grisons, some say Amatrice…..and also, there is the onions/no onions?  Chili pepper/no Chili pepper?  I prepare it the way the Romans do.

Chili Pepper, one of these beauties that I brought back from Napoli

Chili Pepper from Napoli

 

And the other key ingredient, Guanciale (cured pork cheek).  Not bacon my friends, guanciale is the stuff of Gods.  If you’re not vegetarian that is.  Then it’s devil’s speak.

GuancialeAs you see, there is a lot more fat on pork cheek.  I mean, if you think about it, no one ever does cheek workouts……except for when we eat, so I guess that’s why there’s that teeny sliver of non fatty meat, for chewing effort.

And, I do use onions.  Only a bit, but that is how the Romans prepare it.  There is also a debate on what type of fat, olive oil, or lard?  Well, if you’re not afraid of it, go ahead and lard it up!  I do, it gives it a damn incredible pork-y taste, and hell, you’re not going to eat this everyday, so give your diet a break and eat some fat!

That said, it is a very very easy dish to prepare.  The beauty is in the simplicity of the ingredients.  The best tomatoes, the best guanciale, and of course, Pecorino Romano!  Don’t be putting on the northern neighbor Parmigiano, or some Roman might come flying into your kitchen and scream “ ti spacco la faccia!!! ” *

So, if you are so inclined, here’s what you’re going to need!

Serves 4

100g Guanciale, sliced or diced

1 small onion, minced

1 chili pepper, chopped

1/2 tbsp pork fat or olive oil

450g crushed tomatoes

Salt and Pepper to taste

400g Bucatini Pasta

Grated Pecorino Romano

 

In a large sauté pan, place the guanciale, onion and chili pepper, and pork fat or olive oil over medium high heat.  Cook until the onion is translucent, and the guanciale is golden.   Add the tomatoes, salt, and lower the heat to a simmer.

Bring the water for the pasta to boil.  Cook the pasta to 2 minutes before package directions.  Strain, reserving about 1/4 cup of the boiling water.  Add the Bucatini and the water to the sauté pan where you have the sauce, and turn up the heat to medium.  Cook, tossing the bucatini with the sauce until it coats it all evenly.

Serve with the freshly grated pecorino and pepper.

Buon Appetito!

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

* That in Italian means, I smacka you face!

 

 

 

Naples and The Amalfi Coast Pt. 2

Neapolitan Food

Eating in Italy is a religious experience.  Eating in Campania, well…..let’s just say it is one of a kind.  What is great about the food in Naples and it’s surroundings you say?  Wellllllll…….Let’s start off with the basics.  Tomatoes.  The best tomatoes in the world come from this area.  Namingly, the “Pommodori di San Marzano”

Tomatoes, Italy, Campania, San Marzano

This is the queen bee of sauce tomatoes.  Much like the roma, or plum, it is slightly longer and thinner, and juicy so perfect for that “Marinara” sauce on your pizza, or pasta.

Then there’s “Mozzarella di Bufala”.  This also hails from this region.  Delicious, sometimes tangy taste of pure Buffalo milk.

Mozzarella Cheese, Bufala, Italy, Campania

And then of course there’s “Pasta di Grangnano  trafilata al Bronzo”…..which is basically, excuse my home region of Emilia-Romagna, the best dry pasta, or Pasta Asciutta, your money can buy.

Faella, Pasta, Grangnano, Italy, Campania

And of course, I cannot forget all the seafood.  From squid, mussels, clams, octopus, and the queen of the sea, Ricciola, or Greater Amber Jack as we would call it.

But there is also the lemons….to make Limoncello, Granita, Salads, Lemonade……it is really a rich and diverse food basket that serves all of Italy, and the world.

Well, you know that one of the main reasons I went there was to eat.  So eat we did.  Here is the best of the best that we found in Napoli and around!

Our first night we were basically directed by a young lad to try “Oste Pazzo” restaurant, near the Lungomare and right below the “Castell dell’ Ovo”.

The waiters basically harassed (well, not too much, I mean, in terms of food you really don’t have to push me too far) to try the “Antipasto Tipico Napoletano”  This was basically comprised of a few octopus and squid salads with the typical “Fritti misti di pesce”.  That is mixed fried seafood.  I love me some fried food.  And it was awesome.

Fried Mixed Seafood, Italy, Naples

On the left is fried baby squid, quite like what we get here in Spain, but they were absolutely tiny and tender, and the batter was crazy good, crunchy, just a tad spicy, perfect.  In the middle we had two fritters with “neonati”, basically little fish in a delicious parsley spiked batter.  And on the right, fried white anchovies.  Paolo, my sweetie, wasn’t a big fan of these, he thought it was too fishy.  I however, loved it.  Something about munching on these, or any anchovy, is truly delicious.

Next up on the friend band wagon, is the Arancini.  I love arancini, and have featured them before on my blog.  But I have always eaten the Sicilian variety.  Never had I tried the Neapolitan ones.

Arancini, Fried Rice Balls, Italy, NapoliOn the left is the anemic looking “Arancino Bianco”, or white arancino, and on the right is the, you guessed it, “Arancino Rosso”, red arancino.  I was in for a huge surprise.  What looked like the bland, plain white arancino, turned out to be the tastiest one!  The white one stuffed with a pork sausage type of filling, and the rice was chock full of pepper and cheese.  It was absolutely amazing.  The red one, on the other hand, was more balanced, but also, less flavourful.  It is red because they cooked the rice with tomato sauce, and then it stuffed with a tomato meat sauce.  Both were delicious, but the white one won!

Neapolitans love their fried food.  Nary a street corner or restaurant menu that wasn’t filled with these guilty pleasures! Even for breakfast.  Upon arriving to the hotel we were instructed to go to a café called “Scaturchio”, a hundred year old café that has some pretty amazing pastries, and Napoli’s most famous, the Sfogliata.  Sfogliata is a filo-type pastry filled with sweet ricotta and candied fruits.  And one of the bonuses, is it’s served warm!

Scaturchio, Pastries, Naples, Italy

The pastry selection at Scaturchio

Sfogliata Pastry

Sfogliata Pastry from Scaturchio

It was delicious!  Crispy and buttery on the outside, warm, dense and moist on the inside.  Perfectly warm, so all you had to do was enjoy it without letting a drop of the ricotta fall!

In Capri, I mentioned we had a lunch with a view.  But obviously one of the things I wanted to eat in Capri was the Caprese Salad…..I mean, that is its birthplace!  So simple, but let me tell you, it was the best Caprese I have ever had.

Caprese SaladGorgeous, juicy, vine ripe “Cuore di Bue” tomatoes, with perfect spheres of “Mozzarella di Bufala”, accompanied only by a bit of rucola, extra virgin olive oil, and some salt and freshly cracked pepper.  Perfection on a plate!

We also enjoyed the “Insalata di Polipo con Agrumi”.  Octopus salad with citrus fruits.  This dish was made for summer in Naples.  Meaty, tender octopus bathed in lemon juice.  So refreshing for the unbearable heat!

Octopus salad with lemon dressingPaolo decided to go for the pasta, which was equally delicious, but I was trying to be “good” that day.  He had a very typical pasta that I have only tasted on this trip, called Sciallatielle.  This is a thick, flat, medium long noodle.  This pasta had been made fresh that day, and topped with Shrimp and cherry tomato sauce.

Sciallatielle Pasta with ShrimpThe shrimp in Naples are less briny than our mediterranean counterparts, equally delicious, but sweeter, and it complements the absolute star of this dish, the tomatoes.  Bursting with flavor!

Now the dessert here at Punta Tragara deserves special mention.  I was not very impressed by the title, Almond Crumble with Limoncello pastry cream.  But Holy Moses!!!!!  What an incredible dessert it is!  It is part lemon meringue, part lemon curd, part cheesecake crust!  All topped with the most beautiful and colorful summer berries.

Almond crumble with Limoncello Pastry Cream

In Positano, we went to a restaurant called “Le Tre Sorelle” that a friend of mine recommended.  It was a perfect beach-side lunch.  Although, Paolo chose the better (in terms of beachy-ness) option, but I just couldn’t be that close to Sorrento and not have “Gnocchi alla Sorrentina” which has to be one of my favorite dishes in the world.

Gnocchi alla Sorrentina

Gnocchi alla Sorrentina is gnocchi with a tomato and mozzarella sauce.  But this was definitely the best I have tasted.  Again, it comes down to the tomatoes my friends……I am having withdrawal symptoms already.

Paolo ordered the fish, with an “Aqua Pazza” Sauce.  The fish was perfectly cooked, fork tender and juicy.  Again….with amazing tomatoes and this time, potatoes!

Fish with Aqua PazzaThe presentation is gorgeous too, I have to say.

 

Oh my goodness….I can’t believe I forgot our starter at Tre Sorelle…..Zucchini Flowers stuffed with mozzarella and prosciutto.  Just sublime.  I mean, it doesn’t get any better than this lunch.  Until the next one I guess.  Ok, I am a sucker, they are all really good.

Zucchini blossoms stuffed with mozzarella and prosciutto

 

And on our last night, we went uphill in one of Naples’ ritzier and more residential areas to a restaurant called “La Sacrestia”.  The menu looked amazing, the views were breathtaking, of the bay and Vesuvius.  Unfortunately I didn’t get a good picture of the view, because the sun had already set….but here’s one so you can imagine!

Bay of Naples Also unfortunately, the restaurant was due to close the next day for holidays, so they didn’t have many of the dishes on the menu.  One of the dishes I wanted to eat was the Ricciola, the fish I had spoken about before.  But instead, they brought out a little tasting dish of pasta that really amazed me!  And I ended up recreating it at home.  I was really, really surprised because when they described it, it just sounded, well, blah.  It was Pasta with Mussels, Cherry tomatoes, Pepperoncino and Pecorino.

I loved it.  Obviously, the ingredients are the best of the best, so why bother adding more things that are unnecessary?  Gorgeous.

Well kids, I hope you enjoyed my culinary extravaganza of a trip through Campania.  Tomorrow…….PIZZA!

Carla

 

 

Beet Gnocchi with Four Cheese Sauce

I’ve never made this before, but now I know it will definitely become one of my regular dishes.  Aside from being visually stunning, it was incredibly amazing tasting too.  Why had I never thought of this before?  I’ve made spinach gnocchi, pumpkin gnocchi, but this takes the cake.    I love spinach gnocchi, but find it tasting pretty much the same as potato gnocchi.  And I love pumpkin gnocchi, but you have to be careful with what you pair it with, because the pumpkin is very sweet, and you can’t just top it with any sauce.  Beets are another beast altogether.  Yes, they are sweet, but it is an earthier sweetness.  The natural sugars aren’t as prevalent as the pumpkin in this dish, and I think I can mix this with lots and lots of sauces.

My true meter of how good something is, is my daughter.  She isn’t finicky, let’s called her particular in her tastes.  She knows what she likes, and she likes good things.  She eats a whole heap of different vegetables, but it totally depends on their preparation.  After she finished her plate, she looks at me, almost incredulously, and asked, “WHY haven’t you ever made this before??”  And subsequently went on to have it again for dinner.  Now that, my friends, is a true triumph in my book!

When I first started making gnocchi, it was an absolute disaster.  They were either too gummy, or would just fall apart.  Gnocchi, once mastered, is quite easy to make.  But, it is a hands on preparation, and there is no one recipe that will be perfect.  Because it all depends on the potatoes you use, and as my Italian uncle (who taught me how to make perfect gnocchi) told me, you have to use just enough flour that the potatoes “take”.  This basically means, you need to practice your recipe and play with the amounts, and as you are mixing, you hands will tell you when it is ready.  I will list the ingredients I measured out, but please bear in mind, that no two potatoes are the same, and you have to feel it.  You will know when the gnocchi will be perfect because as you are mixing them with your hands, you’ll realize they are still too soft and you need more flour, or that you have added just enough.  It isn’t complicated, it’s actually quite fun.  I think the first person to make this was a genius, but was also having fun with his play dough and said, hey….why don’t I make pasta this way!  It also always reminds me of that Far Side cartoon where you see God making clay animals, and he gets to the snake:

Anyhow, I digress.  I also thought that a four cheese sauce would be awesome with the beet gnocchi.  I used parmesan, Emmenthal (swiss), stracchino (which is a creamy italian cheese, more pungent than mascarpone, less than gorgonzola) and gorgonzola.  It was a perfect match!

Stracchino Cheese

Please, please, please make this at home.  I think you will fall in love with it as much as I do!

So here’s what you’re going to need:

Serves 4

For the gnocchi:

1 large beet, pureed and then strained to take out all the excess water (reserve the beet water to use in something else)

1.5 large russet or Yukon gold potatoes, boiled and peeled, then mashed through a potato ricer

1 egg

1.5 cups of Double zero flour (if you have it, if not, sifted all-purpose flour)

1 tsp of salt

For the sauce:

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

3/4 cup grated Emmenthal cheese

1/2 cup Stracchino Cheese, cubed

1/2 cup Gorgonzola Cheese, cubed

1 cup cooking cream (not heavy cream, half and half I suppose)

1 tsp freshly ground Black pepper

Salt to taste

Pinch of freshly grated Nutmeg

 

Mix your mashed potato with the pureed beets until thoroughly combined.  Add the egg, salt and mix.

Now make a well in the center, and start adding the flour, half a cup at a time, until it “takes”.  I used 1 1/4 cup of flour, but depending on how much water content your potato has, it could be more or less.

Form the dough into a ball, and let it rest for 10 minutes.  In the meantime, make the sauce and place a large stockpot of water to boil with 1 tbsp of salt.  To make the sauce, in a large skillet, over medium heat, add the cream and heat, but do not let it boil.  When it is starting to thicken, add the cheeses and stir.  Take off heat, add the pepper, salt, nutmeg and reserve.

On a clean work surface, bring out everything you will  need, such as some flour for dusting, your gnocchi board if you have one, and a tray with some flour and semolina (if you have it) to place the gnocchi after they are made.

Cut the dough into 4 pieces, and roll out each piece into a long snake shape.  (This is the fun part!)

Then cut into 1 inch squares, and roll them over your gnocchi tool thing, or the back of the tines of a fork, and place into the tray with the semolina and flour.

When the water is boiling, drop them into the water carefully, so it won’t splosh back on you and burn you (like I did).  Boil until the gnocchi just rise to the surface.  With a slotted spoon, take the gnocchi out and place them in a dish lined with paper towels.

Can you believe this color??????  Now, heat up your four cheese sauce again, and toss the gnocchi into the skillet with the sauce, until thoroughly heated up and mixed.  Serve immediately.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla