Tag Archives: pasta

Recycling Beet Greens – an idea for Pasta

Beet Greens Pasta

Beet Greens Pasta

I often make Beet based veggie burgers (recipe here). They are pretty awesome. Having not eaten them in a while, I’d asked the missus to pick up some Beets when she went to the grocery store. She came back with the few that still had their leafy greens attached to them. After disregarding the initial impulse of chopping and discarding them, I did some diging and realized that these greens are very rich in nutrients and can be cooked.

So following a basic recipe that I found in NY Times (here) I made them today. The greens definitely fall on the Spinach end of the taste spectrum but taste much richer. I tossed them with some Penne and sent it for lunch with the kiddos today.

The kids liked it. Given the pickiness of our older daughter that is a pretty resounding endorsement.

If you haven’t had them, they are well worth a try especially given how easy they are to cook.

 

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Spaghetti with Tomato Crudo

Spaghetti and Tomato Crudo

Spaghetti and Tomato Crudo

Every cuisine around the world has its comfort food. To my limited knowledge almost all of Italian food feels like comfort food. It tastes great, is simple to make, is unpretentious and hits all the right spots. This recipe is a classic example of what, to me, defines comfort food.

Crudo in Italian means “Raw”. Traditional Crudo dishes tend to involve dead animals. For instance, you have Sea Bass Crudo and Salmon Crudo. However, we discovered to our delight that there is also a Pomodoro Crudo. This dish is a hearty sauce made with fresh tomatoes, garlic and basil and served with Spaghetti.  The “raw” in this dish comes from using fresh tomatoes. The last time we had Pomodoro Crudo was at Rathskeller in Fredricksburg in the Texas Hill Country over the New Year and I had been itching to make it since then.

Even though Rathskeller calls the dish Crudo, they did not use fresh tomatoes. Since we are in the middle of winter, I decided to use canned tomatoes as well –  I started with my trusted favorite – Red Gold Diced Tomatoes. A little plug for Red Gold here. For Italian cooking, they are a great option to the more expensive Italian imported tomatoes. They are not available everywhere, but if you can find them, do give them a try. And, I just discovered, they have a tie up with Huy Fong (the Rooster sauce people) and make a Sriracha Ketchup as a joint initiative – Red Gold, which was already a favorite with me, has gone up several more notches in my book. Bravo!

The recipe itself is very basic but it makes for a very hearty meal. Here goes.

INGREDIENTS (for 4 people)

Good quality extra virgin Olive Oil – use generously – 3-4 Tbps

Chili Flakes – about 1/4 to 1/2 tsp – to taste

3-4 cloves of garlic

1 14.5 oz can of no-salt added diced tomatoes

Sea Salt – to taste

Some fresh ground black pepper – to taste

Some torn fresh basil (if you have it. I didn’t) or Dry Basil

Spaghetti – cooked al dente – as per instructions on the packet

Parmigiano Reggiano

STEPS

  1. Heat the Olive Oil in a saucepan
  2. Add the chili flakes and garlic cloves and cook till the cloves are just starting to change color
  3. Add the tomatoes and cook till they are heated through and soft – about 8 mins
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste
  5. Add the cooked spaghetti and cook till it is hot. Add torn Basil (or dry Basil if you like)
  6. Serve hot and grate some Parmigiano Reggiano on top if you feel like it.
  7. Finish eat and then repeat from Step 1.

 

 

 

 

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Pomarola Sauce – a Tuscan Tomato Sauce

 

Pomorola Sauce

Pomorola Sauce

Tomato Sauce and Italian food to me are like Peas and Carrots. They go hand-in-hand. I can’t think of one without the other. Clearly there are plenty of Italian dishes that are not tomato based but I would argue that the Tomato Basil sauce, from Pizza to Pasta, is probably THE signature sauce for Italian cooking.

In the US, the land of convenience, there are plenty of pre-made sauces available in stores from brands like Ragu. Oversalted, loaded with chemicals and low on flavor, these are terrible. I realized many years back that making a decent Tomato Basil sauce is not difficult and I haven’t gone back to store bought sauces since. However a recent trip to Tuscany (and a cooking lesson at Organic Tuscany) brought back the realization that a) I was still overprocessing the sauce, and b) Pureeing the sauce with a hand blender is not a good idea.

Italian cooking (and Punjabi cooking to some degree) follows the KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) principle. The cuisine is largely unfussy but relies on quality ingredients to bring out the flavors. With that philosophy, we were taught this excellent sauce by Manuela at Organic Tuscany. Manuela being the purist she is, did not think this sauce works well on Pizza, but her husband and I think it is a great all purpose Tomato Sauce for Italian cooking, including Pizza.

INGREDIENTS (Enough Pasta Sauce for 8 people, much more for Pizza)

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

3 Lbs Tomatoes (use an assortment – Cherry, Roma, Heirloom) – roughly chopped

1 Medium Red Onion – peeled and roughly chopped

1-2 sticks celery – washed, peeled on the rib, and roughly chopped

1-2 Carrots – peeled and roughly chopped

5-6 cloves garlic – whole (whole cloves impart a subtle flavor)

20-25 Basil leaves

Salt and Pepper to taste

STEPS

1. Take a large saucepan and pour enough Olive Oil so it covers the bottom.

2. Heat oil on medium heat.

3. Add the vegetables and garlic, and let them cook, stirring often, till done. It takes about 30 minutes – you’ll know when it is done because the carrots would be soft.

4. Using a food mill, puree the sauce. NOTE: A food mill separates the seeds and skin from the sauce. A hand blender purees everything and results in a more bitter sauce.

5. Heat the sauce again and increase thickness (by evaporating the liquid) or decrease it by adding water.

6. Tear up the Basil leaves into the sauce.

7. Add salt and pepper to taste and you are done.

NOTE: You can make this sauce in large quantities and freeze it for use later.

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Another simple dish – Farfalle with Grilled Veggies

Farfalle with Grilled Asparagus and Red Pepper

Farfalle with Grilled Asparagus and Red Pepper

As parents of school going kids, we are always looking for ways to put together healthy lunches for our kids that taste good cold. I am discovering that there is a whole world to be explored in Italian cooking that does exactly that. This morning is a perfect example of a dish that is easy to put together and works beautifully. All it needs is some TLC and good olive oil. NOTE: Be very careful of the olive oil you use. It is a key ingredient in this dish. Some olive oils taste bitter and should be avoided.

This is an easy dish to put together. Pretty much if you can boil water to make pasta, you can make this. I made everything from scratch this morning and I was done in under 20 mins (while parallel processing making breakfast for the kiddos).

All you need to do is grill some veggies (or meat) on a grill or stir fry with a little oil and set aside to cool. When cool, chop into bite sized pieces.

Grilled Asparagus

Grilled Asparagus

Mince some garlic, boil some Farfalle pasta (or Penne or Rotini or anything else you like).

Toss it all with some Olive Oil, Black Pepper, Salt and freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano and you are ready to go.

 

 

 

 

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Homemade Spaghetti with a Creamy Tomato Basil Sauce or Do Not Freeze the Pasta Dough

Homemade Spaghetti with a Creamy Tomato Basil Sauce

This post is about some lessons learned related to pasta.

I recently came across Jamie Oliver’s guidance on making pasta – 1 egg for every 100g of flour. This allows me to make manageable portions of pasta for our family of four. Till then, though, the recipe I used called for 3 eggs. The recipe, while good, resulted in way too much dough. In the past, whenever I had used the recipe, I had used up the entire dough but not last time. In a flash of brilliance, I decided to freeze the leftover dough the last time. That was a terrible idea. Freezing completely dries up pasta dough rendering it unusable. Lesson number 1 – DO NOT FREEZE PASTA DOUGH. Make fresh dough and use up all of it.

With that lesson learned, when I had extra dough left over from making Butternut Squash Ravioli (recipe here), I made some spaghetti and refrigerated it. The next day, using some leftover tomato basil sauce (recipe here), to which I added some cream, I made Spaghetti with a creamy tomato basil sauce. It was wonderful and used up ingredients I had made for other recipes. The creamy tomato basil sauce can also work as a soup. Lesson number 2 – use leftovers creatively, don’t be afraid to experiment. Remember that Italians were frugal and did not waste precious ingredients. Approach your dishes with that mindset.

Lesson number 3 – Never fully boil the pasta. Finish the pasta in the sauce. This was something that I learned on the Food Network and in hindsight it is pretty obvious. Cooking the pasta in the sauce lets the pasta soak up the sauce and makes for a much better dish. You will consciously need to undercook the pasta in water and in the sauce if you want it “al dente” because the pasta will continue to cook in the sauce even after you take it off the heat.

Pasta is not complex but a little care in how you cook it takes it from ho-hum to divine.  I have discovered that if I use less ingredients but ensure they are fresh, the results are generally pretty good. Anyway, enough talking, gotta run and make some pizza. Buon appetito!

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Butternut Squash Ravioli with Brown Butter Sauce and Sage

Butternut Squash Ravioli with Sage and Brown Butter Sauce

I have been a recent convert to homemade pasta. Once you have tasted it, there really is no going back. The dried boxed variety just doesn’t cut it. It really is very easy to make. Millions of Italians do it every day. There really isn’t any reason why you shouldn’t bring out your inner Antonio (or Gina) and join them. While there are tons of recipes out there, by far the best guide I have come across is Jamie Oliver – 1 egg for every 100g of flour. 00 Italian flour works best. You can see a video here of how to make pasta. A much better (repeatable and quicker) way of making pasta is to use a food processor to initially make the dough and then work it by hand.

Anyway, fall is here and with that has come squash. Many glorious varieties. I use butternut squash often. Usually for a soup. This time I went ahead and decided to make butternut squash ravioli with brown butter sauce. This was pure experimentation and so I don’t have exact proportions. Here goes. Play around with it and do let me know if you make any changes.

INGREDIENTS (Enough for 10 large ravioli)

1/2 butternut squash

Italian seasoning

Salt

Pepper

1/4 chopped onion

Butter

Sage

Homemade pasta sheets – about 2 sheets (5 inches by 2 feet) NOTE: You can also use pre-made wonton sheets I am told by reliable sources.

STEPS

1. Cut the butternut squash in half. Scoop out the seeds.

2. Sprinkle Italian seasoning, salt and pepper on the cut halves and bake the squash in the oven at 450F for about 40 minutes. Finish off by broiling till the squash bubbles (see picture below).

Beautiful roasted butternut squash

3. Scoop out the squash from the shell and mash it.

4. In a saucepan, heat about 1 tsp of olive oil and cook the chopped onion till transparent.

5. Mix in the butternut squash and adjust seasoning. Keep aside. This is your stuffing.

6. Cut squares of pasta about 4 inches across.

7. Scoop a tsp of filling in the middle of the square and fold across to make triangles. You may want to wet it around the edges to seal them.

8. Boil a pot of water, cook ravioli in rolling boiling, salted water till it floats to the top (about 2 minutes). DO NOT OVERCOOK.

9. In another saucepan, heat 3 Tbsp of unsalted butter till it browns. Essentially you are making ghee here.

10. Drop in a few sage leaves and let them fry in the butter till they are crisp.

11. Spoon a little bit of the butter on each ravioli and top with sage leaves.

12. Serve immediately.

NOTE: This is a dish to be consumed fresh. Do not even attempt refrigeration and nuking with this one. My wife, much to her chagrin, came to this conclusion.

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Mozarellasura Linguini Stotram – Brilliant!

Krish Ashok, a blogger from Chennai cracks me up. His observations on contemporary Indian life (with a distinctly web-savvy bias) are absolutely spot on. Check out his Facebook Mahabharat (an Indian Epic, considered a religious text by Hindus) and his expose on airline food.

All that is fine and dandy but what has that got to do with a food blog and so why am I writing this post. Well, knowing that there was clearly a unmet need in the Italian-Indian fusion segment Krish Ashok just came up with a Carnatic Music (South Indian Classical Music) chant set to words from the Italian culinary tradition. Brilliant.

It can be heard here. The words are

Ai Funghi Linguini Foccacia Capellini Pizza Fettucine Lasagna Penne
Spinaci Bolognese Pesto Minestrone Cannelloni Porfirio Asparagi

Ravioli Spaghetti Alfredo Pescatore Fresco Pomodoro Tagliatelle
Tiramisu Arabiatta Farfalle Stagioni Calzone Gamberi Pepperoncini

Ai Frutti di Mare Quattro Formaggio Risotto con Pollo Paesana Roma
Napolitana Fagioli alla Checca Gorgonzola Gnocchi Carbonara

Enjoy!

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