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My Five Inexpensive Kitchen Essentials

Beet Ravioli with Goat Cheese

Sunday
Feb242008

Bolognese Sauce

Ask ten Italian cooks for their Bolognese recipes, and you will get ten different recipes. Similar, but different. Some add milk, some don't. Some use a combination of meats, some use only beef. It goes on and on. I've made a lot of meat sauces, but this is my favorite. I have to say, though, I really don't measure anything, so it's a little different every time. But that's the fun of it. The basic technique is the same, though. You begin with a soffritto (aromatic vegetables), cook that until it's soft, add your meat, then add some wine, let that cook off, add your tomato and broth and seasonings. Let all that cook low and slow for a very, very long time. This is the basic recipe.

Bolognese Sauce

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • olive oil
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 1/2 cup diced carrot
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 3 cups beef broth
  • 1 (15 oz) can of tomato puree or crushed tomatoes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • fresh thyme
  • 1 pound pasta

Instructions:

In a heavy pot, brown the meats. Remove the meat, drain the fat.  Do not wipe the pot.

In the same pot, add some olive oil and add the onion, carrot, celery. Let that cook slowly, for about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for a couple of minutes. Add your meat back in. Turn up the heat a little. Add the red wine and let the liquid cook off. Add the beef broth and then the tomatoes and herbs. Turn the heat to low and let this simmer, uncovered for at least a couple of hours. The longer the better. If it gets too dry, just add a half cup of water and keep cooking, letting the liquid cook off. Taste and salt and pepper as you like it.
Serve over pasta.

Yes, I grind my own meat. I know exactly what's in it that way. The KitchenAid grinder attachment works great. I couldn't do a lot of things without that KitchenAid mixer.  It's a wonder.  This is the one I have and I love it.

 

 

 


 

 

Favorite Pot used: Le Creuset Bouillabaisse Pot
KitchenAid Mixer: Professional 600 Series Bowl Lift Stand Mixer

 

Saturday
Feb232008

The Dreaded Grocery Store Egg

Anyone who really knows me knows that I adore eggs. They're my favorite thing. I could eat eggs three times a day. I love them cooked every way - but when they are scrambled, they absolutely have to be very softly scrambled, not completely cooked until they are firm, which is the mistake most nonegghead people make.  I love them softly boiled, hard boiled and over easy. But, sadly, I allow myself exactly one egg a day. That's it. (Except on vacation.) I have to keep such a craving in check. But this one egg a day is the very best egg I can buy - an organic, high quality farm fresh egg.

I have two resources for my farm eggs. The first is a foodie lady who lives down the road who raises beautiful chickens at her home. And they are beautiful. Some have black and white feathers, layed out like stripes. She picks them up and pets them. They lay beautiful eggs and when I buy them from her, I open the cartons and there is a mix of brown eggs, white eggs and different shades of blue green eggs, from her Araucana chickens. It looks like Easter. But her hens got too old and stopped laying and so I'm waiting for her new chicks to start laying. That will probably be in the spring. During this time, I have been using my backup resource, which is the family farm where I buy my meat and poultry. Their hens produce very large, brown eggs that are delicious. But they did not make any deliveries for February, because of the weather here. So I haven't been able to get any farm fresh eggs this month. That's one of the reasons it's been a long, long winter for me this year.

I have had to resort to buying the dreaded grocery store egg.

All you serious foodies out there know what I mean. There is a huge difference in the eggs at the grocery store and the fresh eggs from a farm. One is thin with a pale yellow yolk. You eat them and you wonder why you bothered. Here is the grocery store egg:

The other is a firm egg with a yolk that is a deep orange, bordering on orangish red. And it tastes sooo eggilicous. (I'll post a photo of a good egg when I'm able to get them again.) They are a joy to bake with and they make all the difference in homemade pasta. In the spring and summer when the chickens can scratch around outside and eat bugs and grass, the eggs taste even better. If you love eggs, try to find a resource in your area where you can get them. In the spring and summer, most Farmer's Markets will have vendors who sell them. That's the very best time to enjoy eggs.


And I will - one egg a day. If spring ever arrives...

Tuesday
Feb192008

What's So Scary About Risotto?


Don't we all love risotto? It has been so cold here in Michigan for so long now that it's really time for some risotto. There are so many people, though, who would love to be able to make it but are scared to try. They've heard it's difficult, takes forever to cook and requires constant stirring (this part is sort of true - it does require a lot of stirring, but not constantly). It's actually very simple to make and, once you master a basic recipe, there are endless variations you can try. It's easy to experiment with whatever you have on hand.

You can serve risotto as a side dish or use it as a main course, although Italians primarily use it as a primo piatto - when they would normally eat a small pasta course. (This is true unless you eat at Dino and Tony's in Rome, where Tony loves to serve you both a risotto and a pasta course.)

 


Don't try to substitute regular rice in risotto - it just won't work. Regular rice does not contain the kind of starch needed to make a creamy risotto. The rice used most widely for risotto, and the easiest to find, is Arborio rice from Italy. It is a short plump grain that is perfect for risotto. My favorite rice, though, is Carnaroli, when I can find it. Carnaroli has the highest amount of the particular starch needed for risotto, making it very creamy and absorbing lots of liquid.

You need two pots to make risotto - one to cook the dish and one to keep the broth warm that you will use. You will choose which kind of liquid to use depending on what kind of risotto you are making. Marcella Hazan believes that you should never use chicken broth for risotto (Mario does!) but that is what is frequently used to make the traditional Risotto Milanese. For the risotto, I like to use a pot which has sloping sides, like a chef's pot (see below) or a bouillabaisse pot, for a large batch. It makes the stirring of the risotto much nicer.

Risotto Milanese is a nice side dish to serve with meats. It's wonderful, of course, with Osso Bucco. As a general guide, I allow 1/4 cup of dry rice for each person as a side dish. And don't omit the saffron - it's really what defines this traditional risotto.

Risotto Milanese
 

 

serves 4 as a side dish

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup onion, diced finely
  • 1 cup Arborio or Carnaroli rice
  • 1 large pinch saffron threads
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan

Instructions:

Bring the chicken broth to a simmer. Lower heat, keep warm.

In the risotto pan, add the olive oil and onion. Cook the onion slowly for several minutes, until soft but do not brown. Add the rice and cook the rice for a couple of minutes. Add the saffron. Add the white wine and cook for a couple of minutes until the liquid has cooked off.

Start adding the broth. Add a couple of ladles initially and stir. Use a rubber spatula instead of a spoon. This really is the best tool - you can really lift the rice off the bottom of the pan. When you begin adding the broth, start timing the risotto. It should take between 20-25 minutes. You should stir the rice as much as you can, not allowing it to stick to the bottom of the pan. Do not boil the rice, just keep it on a simmer. As soon as the liquid has cooked off, keeping adding the broth by the ladleful. After about 20 minutes, taste the rice. It should be soft, but still retain a little firmness. When you think it is done, do not add any more liquid. Four cups of broth is usually just right. When the rice has absorbed the liquid, turn off the heat and add the parmesan. Serve hot and add more grated parmesan to the top if you like.

Tip: Use real Parmigiano Reggiano, if you can, and grate it yourself. Look to make sure the rind has the Parmigiano stamp on it. I use this cheese myself and I do not throw the rinds away after I have used all the cheese. I will cut off a chunk of the rind and throw it in when I make risottos and let it cook along with the rice, flavoring the risotto. 

Favorite pan for risotto: Mauviel's copper chef's pan

 

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