Italians Never Die, They Just Pasta Away

9 Nov

I guess you could say this has been a relatively tame week as far as my adventures go! Of course I realize for you that this may be a bit disappointing,  even I am not too proud to admit that they do make excellent blog posts, but now and then I do gladly welcome a week filled with normal occurrences!

In fact I think the craziest undertaken I participated in this entire week was making pasta!  I have had an interesting relationship with pasta over the past few years. When I was young I was crazy about all things pasta, pesto pasta, spaghetti in My Mom’s homemade tomato sauce simmered for hours, even macaroni and cheese, pasta was positively my favorite food ever! Then I went to Italy a few years ago and my love for pasta grew even greater, for the first time I tried pasta dishes with unique sauces that I had never even heard of before, lasagna layered between pesto and topped with a  rich and creamy bechamel sauce, spaghetti in a thick and creamy pistachio sauce, and of course gnocchi in a gorgonzola sauce. Then I went home and pasta just didn’t taste as good, this is also the same time that I really began to suffer with my stomach and decided to cut out all dairy products thanks to a  diagnosis of Lactose Intolerance, so the pasta dishes I once loved (the one’s topped with the caloric full cream sauces were now a no go). Then I became a vegan and pasta became a forbidden food (as most pasta dough contain egg)! Then this summer after continuous suffering with my stomach I decided to go Paleo, a diet which promotes eating a caveman like diet consisting solely of  meat, fresh fruit and vegetables and absolutely no grains! But since being here in Italy I’ve decided not to deprive myself of anything so I am eating a variety of all different types of food and I am happy to report I am feeling great!

Now unlike my fellow American peers who often days seem to find themselves in a pasta like coma, I am no pasta addict, I have found consuming too much of one thing to never be a good thing. So in fact I rarely order pasta out, instead I usually opt for a well-balanced meat dish usually accompanied by vegetables. However the one time I do allow myself to have pasta is when I frequent the homes of italian, and in fact I will admit I have become quite fond of  pasta, most likely because I have had the pleasure of being able to try the most flavorful and freshest dishes prepared in the homes of my italian friends which in my opinion far surpass any dish served up in even the best restaurants in Italy.

So when my cooking instructor informed our class that we’d be making homemade pasta accompanied by two of the simplest and most popular Tuscan sauces I was ecstatic, after all as a foodie and amateur cooking student there’s no way I could return home without knowing how to make pasta, the italian staple food!

We started by making Tagliolini con sugo di pomodori freschi, a thin spaghetti like pasta topped with a simple fresh tomato sauce. We made two preparations of the pasta one using semolina and one using typical white flour. The pasta made with semolina had a harder texture and turned out more al dente when cooked while the pasta made with white flour was more soft and delicate, I preferred the pasta prepared with semolina, although both  were delicious! I was also delightfully surprised to find that making pasta is quite easy, although I advice you to work with a partner especially when passing the dough trough a pasta machine (two hands are simply not enough)!

The tomato sauce was also delicious and light and simple but bursting with flavor. The thing I like best about italian cooking is the simplicity of it, recipes usually only consist of a few ingredients (two ingredients always being olive oil and salt) of course the remaining ingredients are all easily realizable items in their natural state (never items with unpronounceable names and tons of preservatives), and the best part is the recipes are simple and take hardly anytime to prepare making me wonder why we don’t all adopt this lifestyle of eating simple, whole foods!

Also I learned that the traditional preparation of a fresh tomato sauce of course includes fresh tomatoes, diced, seeded, and peeled with either chopped garlic or onions not both, ironic how in American the so-called “traditional italian tomato sauce” includes both!

Next we prepared gnocchi con ragu also know as bolognese sauce. For those of you who have been living under a rock and don’t know what gnocchi are they are like potato dumplings, very delicate, soft, and pretty much amazing! Another think that I found ironic is that in america a typical italian bolognese or ragu sauce is more like a tomato sauce with ground meat where as in Italian cooking the typical preparation  of the sauce is more of a ground meat sauce flavored with finely chopped sautéed vegetables and only a tablespoon portion of tomato paste. Of course depending on the different regions in Italy these sauces may be prepared differently for example in the north a typical preparation of Bolognese sauce includeds adding a bit of cream to thicken the sauce. However, in my opinion the typical tuscan preperation of this sauce is flavorful enough as is!

Now i’ve been told once you try homemade pasta it is presumably very difficult to go back to the mass-produced pasta int he grocery stores, looks like i’ll be buying a pasta maker!

Tagliolini Con Sugo di Pomodori Freschi

 

 

 

 

With While Flour

1 1/2 cups of flour

3 medium eggs

a pinch of salt

water as needed

With Semolina

1 1/2 cups of semolina

1 tbsp of olive oil

water as needed

Method

1) Mix all the pasta ingredients together and form a ball, let rest for a half hour

2) Using a pastry knife cut dough into 5 pieces, roll out into sheets, fold in half  and pass through the pasta machine on a low setting, continue to fold the dough in half each time before passing through the machine on this very low setting. pass through about three times, then continue to work up to the highest setting, passing the dough through once (do not fold the dough) Pat the dough with flour

3) Pass each long strip of dough through the blade with the spaghetti like marks, place on a floured like baking sheet and continue to repeat until all the dough has been used, place in salted boiling water and let cook for 5 minutes, drain and set aside

The Sauce

8-10 medium sized tomatoes (blanched and peeled), seeded, and diced

2 cloves of garlic finely chopped

Olive oil as needed

1 sprig of basil

salt

Method

1) Pour olive oil into a skillet, let heat, add in garlic and saute until fragrant, add in tomatoes, salt and let simmer over low heat until tomatoes wilt and the mixtures becomes more sauce like, cook until it has the desired texture (less time if you enjoy fresh tomatoes, more time if you prefer a thinner and smooth sauce) sprinkle with basil, add in cooked pasta and toss with sauce and serve warm.

Gnocchi con Ragu

 

 

 

Gnocchi

33 oz of yellow potatoes

2 cups of flour

2 egg yolks

salt

Method

1) Wash potatoes and cook with skin on in salted water, peel and mash when hot, once potatoes have cooled  work on a  table and add the flour, salt and egg, form a dough ball. Using a pastry knife cut dough, roll out into pieces and cut into small pieces, use a fork to make lines on the gnocchi.

Stock

5-7 cups of water

1 celery stalk cut into pieces

1 onion quartered

1 carrot cut into pieces

animal bones

Method

let stalk simmer for 1-2 hours

Ragu Sauce

1 celery stalk chopped finely

1 carrot chopped finely

1 onion chopped finely

1/3 cup of red wine

1 bay leaf

1 cup of ground beef

1 cup of ground pork

extra virgin olive oil

1 tbsp of tomato paste

salt and pepper

Method

1) Heat skillet and add olive oil, once warm add in vegetables and saute, once soft add in meat and let brown

2) add in red wine and let evaporate, combine tomato paste and stock and also add to sauce, season with salt and pepper and let simmer

3) add in stock as needed to make more of a sauce and let simmer, the sauce should simmer for 1-2 hours,

4) add fresh gnocchi to salted boiling water, once the gnocchi begins to float remove from heat and drain, toss gnocchi in ragu sauce and serve warm.

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