Friday 14 August 2015

Pasta recipes

Here are some pasta recipes I posted on my previous blog from January 2010 till February 2015.

Fettuccine al ragù

How to make home-made fettuccine and traditional ragù.

Thanks for the support I received for ‘Christmas in Italy’.  Here I am again with a well known recipe: Fettuccine al ragù (fettuccine with ragù).

What I usually do is buy the fresh egg fettuccine in the section of Italian food at the supermarket.  They are soft, tasty and cook quickly.

But if you wish to endure the trial of making them at home, have a go.  You need eggs, flour and a pinch of salt.  Some people add a bit of olive oil or water. For four/five people you need 500g. flour and four eggs.  If the eggs are big you may need less.  Make a heap with the flour with a hole in the middle and pour the eggs in the hole.  Mix them with a fork and then with your hands. Knead the dough for about ten minutes then roll it out.  This is the difficult part: you need to make the sheet of dough thin, but not too thin, and smooth, but not too smooth or too dry.  Only twenty or thirty years of experience can tell you when it is just right.  To do it you can use a rolling-pin, as my husband’s grandmother used to do till a few years ago, but now she is ninety and she feels her wrists are too weak for this work.  Or you can use a pasta machine.  I had one once when I was a newly married woman and I wanted to impress my husband making home-made pasta.  I gave up as soon as my first child was born.  I don’t think my husband regretted it as his mum’s fettuccine is unbeatable.

To make the strips, roll up the sheet of dough and cut it in strips or use the pasta machine to do it.  I remember my grandmother used to lay the fettuccine on a clean linen on her double bed for one hour before cooking them, to let them dry.   Cook them in boiling water with salt and be careful to not overcook them because they cook more quickly than the durum wheat pasta.

To make ragù for four/five people using 500g. of fettuccine you need 700g. of Italian passata or pureed tomatoes, 200g. of minced beef steak, oil, one stalk of celery, one small carrot, one small onion, a clove, salt and pepper.  Finely dice the celery, carrot and onion, saute them in a pot with the oil, add the meat and the clove.  When the meat starts to turn brown, pour in the passata and if it is too thick add half a glass of water.  Add salt and pepper according to taste.  Let it simmer for half an hour or more. 

If you like it you can add 50g. of minced pancetta or bacon to the beef meat.

We usually serve fettuccine al ragù sprinkled with parmigiano and/or fresh parsley and ground pepper.


Pasta alla puttanesca

A dish for all seasons

Do you remember the Baudelaire children preparing Puttanesca sauce for Count Olaf and his acting troupe in A Series of Unfortunate Events?  Well, that’s what you need to do, hoping you are receiving better treatment than Klaus, Violet and Sunny.

The original recipe is from Naples but we are going to follow a variation typical of Rome by adding anchovies. The sauce is made with all the bits and pieces you can find in your garden or in your fridge.  In an Italian context the name is easily associated with the Italian word for a *****, a lady who  is not a perfect lady. (As one of my teachers used to say, Italians pronounce the word 'beach').

For the sauce for four people you need 500 g. of Italian passata or chopped tomatoes, two tbsp of olive oil, one clove of garlic, five stoned black dry olives, chopped, five green olives in brine, chopped, one tbsp of capers, two anchovies, parsley, half a chilli or chilli powder, oregano, salt and pepper.

First pour the oil in a pot and add garlic, parsley, chilli and oregano. Let them warm for a minute, pour the passata or the chopped tomatoes and stir up. Add the black and green olives, capers and chopped anchovies. Salt and pepper according to your taste. Let it simmer for half an hour or more. If the passata is too thick you can add two or three tbsp of water. Taste the sauce from time to time to see if you need to add salt.

In the meantime cook the spaghetti or macaroni (about 400/500 g. for four people) in boiling water with salt. When the pasta is ready strain it and mix with the sauce. Serve it warm and sprinkled with cheese.  We use parmigiano and pecorino, a sheep's cheese, for puttanesca.

Believe me this is a tasty, spicy dish, ideal for change.

Tomato sauce with ricotta
An original recipe tomato sauce
I bought ricotta at the supermarket some days ago without knowing what to do with it.  I did not want to spend the whole day making homemade ravioli or other complicated dishes with ricotta fillings.  I wanted something simple, tasty and quick, an ideal solution for a busy housewife like me, half Italian tutor and half scribbler-with-hobbies.  And I wanted a change as well.

I have a lot of different seasonings in my cupboard.  Apart for the most common ones like oregano, parsley, basil and rosemary which I use every day, I also have some exotic ones like coriander, cumin and cinnamon which I bought for my son’s Food Tech. sessions. I keep them there hoping to have a chance to use them for a special party or in a future career as a chef.
At home I started to experiment with my ricotta. I poured two tbsp of olive oil in a pot, added a clove of garlic, ½ tsp of oregano, chili powder and some coriander seeds. When it started to warm up I poured 500g. of tomato passata and stirred.  I let it simmer, adding salt and pepper to my taste. In the meantime I cooked 500g. of penne pasta in boiling water with salt. After half an hour I added 250 g. of ricotta to my tomato sauce and stirred. I let it cook for ten more minutes. Finally I seasoned my penne with the tomato and ricotta sauce and sprinkled them with parmigiano as well.
My husband is the food authority of the family and if he does not like something his upper lip curves in a typical way that I have learned to spot in years of shared life. Sometimes he tries to be kind and says he likes some food that he actually doesn’t like at all, but his upper lip betrays him every time.
So I served my pasta with tomato sauce and ricotta and waited.
After ten minutes of munching sounds I dared to ask: “How is it?”
“Very good,” he mumbled.
I checked his upper lip, it was relaxed and busy chewing his penne.
My new dish had passed his test. Try it!

Spaghetti col Pesto

A simple, quick and tasty dish.

Pesto is a sauce to season pasta typical of Genoa cookery. The first recipe for pesto dates back to the nineteenth century but it is likely that a similar recipe  has been in existence since Renaissance times.

You can prepare your pesto with fresh basil and pine kernels. It is quick and easy and it tastes much better than the one you buy ready made, believe me.

For four people you need 130g. of basil, 30g. of pine kernels (some people prefer nuts instead), one clove of garlic, fourteen tbsp of olive oil, 50g. of parmigiano and 30g. of pecorino (or 80g. of parmigiano if you can’t find pecorino, which has a stronger flavour), half a tsp of salt.

Prepare the pesto while you are cooking the pasta so it is quite fresh when the pasta is ready and it doesn’t become oxidized. We usually have spaghetti or trenette, similar to linguini, or gnocchi with pesto. The traditional way to prepare pesto is grinding the ingredients in a mortar with a wooden pestle. I usually have many irons in the fire so I use a blender. At first you have to grind the clove of garlic, pine kernels and cheeses, then add salt, olive oil and basil. If the sauce is too thick you can add two or three tbsp of the water in which you are cooking the spaghetti.

Season the spaghetti with pesto as soon as you strain it and serve warm. Add more parmigiano cheese if you like. According to tradition you can also add a peeled and diced potato and some runner beans to the boiling water when you cook the pasta to give a whole taste to your dish.

Try it and post me your comments.

Tagliatelle Paglia e Fieno
A rich pasta for Christmas time and a poem
Paglia e Fieno is white and green tagliatelle.  The green ones are not artificially  dyed but the colour is hopefully due to minced spinach mixed with the ingredients of pasta.
It literally means ‘straw and hay’, reminding us of Jesus’ manger.  Besides the richness of the seasoning I am suggesting, it makes an ideal dish for winter festivities.
For four people you need: 500 g of white and green tagliatelle , 200 g of extra thick double cream, 200 g of mascarpone, 200 g of peas, 200 g of mushrooms, 100 g of ham, four tbsp of olive oil, salt, pepper, parsley and parmigiano.
First prepare the peas cooking them in salted boiling water and the mushrooms in another pan with two tbsp of olive oil, a bit of water, salt, pepper and parsley.
Cut the slices of ham in cubes about one inch across, mix them with the double cream and mascarpone and warm them in a little pot.  Cook the tagliatelle in boiling water with salt; when it is ready strain it and pour two tbsp of oil in it and mix.
Add the mixture of mascarpone, cream and ham, the peas and the mushrooms you have already prepared, and mix all.  Serve warm sprinkled with parmigiano.
And here is the poem:

Before Christmas
Inside the smell of chrysanthemums withering,
the warmth of central heating
and the music you play alone in the study.
Green and red decorations stretch on furniture
the fake pine tree is overloaded with bells and tinsel
the shepherds in the crib are on their way.
We wait for the children, for the dinner and the presents.
Again, after so many times it can’t be new,
only a repetition creeping closer.
Outside the snow is melting.

A cosy Christmas to everybody!

Linguini with anchovies
 A tasty spring dish
I am always looking for tasty dishes with fish, especially now that spring is coming and I don’t feel like eating as much meat.  Here is a pasta dish.  It is easy, quick and extra-delicious.  I am going to try it out on my parents who are coming for Easter.  I hope they like it.
For four people you need:
500 g linguini, 50 g anchovy fillets in oil, one clove peeled, crushed garlic, 15 g chopped fresh parsley, two tbsp oil, 50 g butter, salt, pepper, chilli powder (optional), and grated parmigiano.
Cook the linguini in plenty of boiling water with salt; in the meantime melt the butter with the oil in a small pot.  Add one clove of garlic, pepper and chilli. Then add the anchovies smashing them in the pot with a fork till you have a smooth mixture. Season the pasta with it and finally sprinkle it with finely cut fresh parsley and grated parmigiano.
My mouth is watering!

Pasta al forno, part 1
Baked pasta with cream and ham
I often make pasta and cook it in the oven (forno).  It is a delicious dish right through the year, quick to prepare with the advantage that you can make it earlier and put it in the oven before dinner.
For four people you need: 500 g of maccaroni  or rigatoni, 150 g of double cream, 150 g of ricotta or another soft cheese, 150 g of ham cut in pieces, two tbsp of parmigiano, three tbsp of olive oil, salt, oregano and white sauce (see below).
You can make the white sauce by mixing 30 g of butter, half tsp of salt, some pepper and nutmeg, 400 ml of milk and three tbsp of flour.  Cook through and keep stirring it till it boils and thickens.
Cook the pasta in water and salt.  When it is ready drain it and place it in a rectangular dish.  Mix it with the oil and add cream, ricotta, ham, oregano and parmigiano.  Mix in the white sauce.  Cook the pasta in the oven, 150° C, for twenty minutes/half an hour.

Pasta al forno, part 2
Baked pasta with tomato sauce
This is a more traditional kind of pasta, with tomato sauce cooked in the oven.
For four people you need: 500 g of fusilli, 200 g of mozzarella, white sauce (see Pasta al forno, part 1), two tbsp of parmigiano, tomato sauce (see below).
For the tomato sauce you need: two tbsp of extra virgin olive oil, one clove of garlic, 500 g of chopped tomatoes or tomato passata, salt, basil, pepper and oregano.  Pour the oil into a pot, add the garlic, pepper, basil and oregano; pour the passata as well (add water if it is too thick) and salt.  Let it cook slowly for about half an hour.
Cook the pasta in boiling salted water with salt.  When it is ready drain it and set it in a rectangular dish.  Add the mozzarella, white sauce, tomato sauce and parmigiano.  Mix well and cook in the oven for about half an hour 150° C.

Ricotta ravioli with orange tomato sauce
Wandering about Paris last summer we found a first-rate Italian restaurant in Rue Brey (Samesa restaurant), not far from the Arc de Triomphe. We dined there twice in one week and the most intriguing dish was square shaped Sardinian ravioli called culingionis with potato filling. The big hit was the tomato sauce that seasoned them. It had a delightful orange aftertaste. It was so good that my daughter and I tried the dish at home, filling the ravioli with ricotta. Here is the recipe for four people.
For the pasta you need: 400g white flour and four medium eggs.
For the filling you need: 250g of ricotta, one egg, grated nutmeg and pepper.
For the tomato sauce you need: 500g sieved tomatoes or passata, extra-virgin olive oil, one peeled clove of garlic, basil, mint, 1 tsp salt, pepper and the zest of one orange.
First prepare the tomato sauce, mixing all the ingredients in a pan and letting them simmer for about an hour. If it is too thick add water.
Mix the white flour with the eggs to make the dough. Knead the dough till it is soft and dry (add more flour if needed). Roll it out with a pasta machine till it is thin enough (usually until the penultimate notch of the pasta machine).
Prepare the filling, mixing all the ingredients. A teaspoon of the ricotta mixture would be enough for one ravioli. Wet the pasta around the filling, fold the pasta over the filling and press to seal, then cut it with a knife or a pastry wheel.
Cook the ravioli in salted boiling water for about five minutes. Season them with the tomato sauce adding parmigiano and a leaf of basil.
Have a good Christmas.

Crêpes with ricotta and spinach
In Italy I was invited to a friend's house for dinner. They made a light version of ravioli using thin crêpes and baking them with tomato and white sauces. They were very good.
For the crêpes you need: four eggs, 100 g of flour, 6 tbsp of milk, 2 tbsp of melted butter and half a tsp of salt.

Mix the ingredients in a bowl and whip them until smoothly mixed. Cook the crêpes in a special pan or small, ordinary frying pan, lightly oiled, pouring in a little of the mixture each time and swirling it round the pan. Turn once
When the crêpes are ready prepare the filling with 250 g of ricotta, 100 g of cooked drained spinach, two eggs, salt and nutmeg.
Mix all the ingredients and put half a tbsp of the ricotta and spinach mixture in the centre of each crêpe, folding it twice to make a square shape, then set it in a greased baking tray.
When all the crêpes are ready, spread some tomato sauce (a simple tomato sauce made with tomato passata, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper and basil) and white sauce (500 ml of milk, two tbsp of flour, half a tbsp of salt, 20 g of butter, pepper and nutmeg, all cooked while stirring) on top. Bake for twenty minutes at 150° C.
Other tasty fillings you can try: mushrooms and mozzarella, ham and cheddar, prosciutto and mozzarella, parmigiano and tomato passata,...or whatever you like.

Sunday dishes, part 1, Fettuccine   
Over weekends and holidays we all have more time to go out, relax on the couch with a good book or by watching TV....or cooking!  Making handmade pasta is both relaxing and rewarding, it doesn’t take much time and it really tastes different from the supermarket version.  And it is cheaper.
My mother wasn’t used to making handmade pasta but my parents-in-law are big fans of it and when we go to see them they prepare all kinds of pasta: fettuccine, cannelloni, lasagne, ravioli and gnocchi.
Here is a recipe using 500 g of flour, which is enough for four to six people: it just depends how hungry they are.
For 500 g of flour you need five medium eggs.  If the eggs are small you may need six; if they are large maybe four.  Mix them with the flour in a bowl and then knead it.  The dough needs to be smooth and dry, but not too dry or too hard.  If it is sticky add more flour.  Let it rest for half an hour covered with a tea towel.
To roll it out you can use a rolling pin or – better and easier – a pasta machine. With the pasta machine you need to pass small amounts of dough through the rollers starting with the larger notch (in my pasta machine it is 6).  At first you will have a thick sheet.  Fold this and pass it through the rollers again two or three times.  If it is sticky sprinkle a little flour on both sides.  Then reduce the space between the rollers, adjusting one notch at a time, and pass the sheets through again till you reach the right thickness (in my pasta machine it is 2,  next to last).
To make fettuccine you also need the cutter accessory.  Pass the sheet through the fettuccine cutter rollers and you will have perfect strips about 6 mm wide. Set them on a tray and sprinkle some flour over to prevent them from sticking.
Cook them in plenty of salted boiling water. Beware: they are ready in only a few minutes.
You can season the pasta simply with oil, butter and parmigiano, or try ragù (in this blog on previous pages, 27-01-2010), or you can mix cream and tomato sauce and warm it through for a few minutes.  Don’t forget to sprinkle it with parmigiano.

Sunday dishes, part 2, Lasagne
My family love lasagne.  They are never tired of it and always have a big  portion each, and would have a second helping if there were enough but there never is.  I don’t make it very often because it takes some time to prepare all the ingredients.
To start you need some sheets of pasta: you can buy it ready made or follow the recipe you find in this blog (Sunday dishes, part 1).  I usually cook the sheets of pasta before preparing lasagne, but some people don’t.  I cook it in boiling water with a few drops of olive oil, one sheet at a time.  I leave it in boiling water for two to three minutes then set it on a tray or a chopping board to cool.
The lasagne is made of layers of pasta alternated with whatever you like.  This  is how I make it, but there are several different variations.

Before cooking the sheets of pasta I have some ragù, white sauce and grated mozzarella ready.  You can find my recipe for ragù in this blog on previous pages.  For the white sauce see Pasta al forno, part 1.
Start with a layer of pasta sheets then pour some ragù followed by some white sauce, then sprinkle some grated mozzarella.  Lay another layer of pasta and repeat the procedure: ragù, white sauce and mozzarella.  Assemble at least four layers and end with ragù.
This is a traditional type of lasagne, but you can fill it with whatever you like, as I said before.  My grandmother used tiny meatballs, tomato sauce and parmigiano.  My parents-in-law use finely cut ham.  Some people like it with fish or even vegetables.  Maybe you can also try fruit.  Be creative!

Sunday dishes, part 3, Cannelloni
This is another special Sunday dish, but this time you have tubes of pasta to fill instead of the layers between sheets of lasagne.

Similarly to lasagne, you can fill cannelloni with whatever you like: ricotta and spinach, cheese, fish, vegetables and even fruit.
This is the way I make it.
For four to six people you need fresh pasta, handmade (the recipe is on this blog, Sunday dishes, part 1) or you can buy it ready made.
For the filling you need: 500 g of steak mince, three eggs, salt, parsley and 3 tbsp of grated parmigiano.
You need two sauces: tomato sauce ( a simple one made with tomato passata, olive oil, a clove of garlic, salt and two or three leaves of fresh basil) and white sauce (see recipe in this blog Pasta al forno, part 1).
Mix the ingredients of the filling.  Prepare pasta sheets and cut out rectangles of about four inches by five inches and a half.  Set the mince mixture in the middle and roll up the pasta sheet to make cannelloni.  This should make about eighteen cannelloni.  Set them in a greased tin, overlap on the underneath, and pour over them first the tomato sauce and then the white sauce.  Bake for 30-40 minutes at 150° C.  You’ll taste a very special dish.

Sunday dishes, part 4. Fettuccine with Mushrooms
This is a pretty easy yet tasty dish, the secret being in the way you cook the mushrooms. My mother calls them trifolati. You can make your fettuccine (see Sunday dishes, part 1) or buy it. You also need 150 ml of double cream and 250 g of mushrooms.
For the mushrooms you need: 3 tbsp of olive oil, one peeled clove of garlic, parsley, salt and white pepper.

Pour the oil in a saucepan, peel and cut the mushrooms in slices, add some water and the clove of garlic and let it cook, covered, for a few minutes. When they are half cooked add the rest of the ingredients and stir. Let them cook with or without the lid (some of the water needs to evaporate, but not all of it). When they are ready remove the clove and mix in the double cream.
You can mix your cooked fettuccine with the cream and mushroom sauce, adding grated parmigiano if you wish.

Sunday dishes, part 5: Special Ravioli
My parents in law make some traditional home-made ravioli which taste extra delicious and are their piatto forte (main course) for every festivity.
They make them with home-made pasta dough (see Sunday dishes, part 1), fill, and cut half-moon shaped ravioli about four inches long. They really look like little half moons in the plate.
The filling is simple: 500 g of ricotta, 150 g of spinach or chard (lightly boiled and drained), two eggs, nutmeg, salt, pepper and 2 tbsp of parmigiano.
You need some sheets of fresh pasta, cut into circles, and then mix all the filling ingredients. Put half a tablespoon of the ricotta mixture in the circle. Wet the pasta around the filling, fold the pasta over the filling and press to seal, then trim it with a knife or a pastry wheel.
Let the ravioli cook for a few minutes in salted boiling water and drain them with a draining spoon. Season them on the plate with tomato sauce and parmigiano.
It’s a real treat.

More pasta
Farfalle with prawns
My parents-in-law are coming from Italy and I need to prepare a tasty and original menu.  Here is a pasta variation I have recently tried out.  My husband is crazy about it.
For four people you need:
500 g of pasta (farfalle), 180 g of peeled prawns, 150g of mascarpone, 150 g of extra thick double cream, chopped parsley, 30 g of butter, paprika, salt, pepper and parmigiano.
Cook the prawns in water with salt and pepper.  In another pot melt the butter and add the mascarpone and the cream.  When they are melted add the prawns, parsley and paprika and let it simmer for ten minutes.  In the meantime cook the farfalle in boiling water with salt.  Strain the pasta and season it with your mixture.
Serve warm with parmigiano sprinkled on top.  If you like you can try chopped smoked salmon instead of prawns.
Hope my parents-in-law will like it.

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