Category Archives: Pasta

Mushroom and Pepper Pasta Sauce

Mushroom and Pepper Pasta Sauce

I got this recipe from a friend who got it from a food page on Facebook. No amounts were given but what I’ve listed here works pretty well. Since the ingredients aren’t written in stone, I suggest that you adjust the amounts according to your taste. Mushroom and Pepper Pasta Sauce is rich, thick, and hearty with some intense flavors.
Mushroom and Pepper Pasta Sauce
Ingredients:
  • 1 medium onion cut into ¼ moons
  • 1 red bell pepper sliced
  • Olive oil – enough for frying
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 2 cups sliced mushrooms – your choice
  • 3 or 4 Italian sausage cut into small pieces*
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 28 oz. can tomato puree
  • 1 lb. pasta – something small

*When you have to cut sausage or any soft meat, it helps to keep it in the freezer for 20 minutes first.

Mushroom and Pepper Pasta Sauce
Mushroom and Pepper Pasta Sauce
Start a pot of salted water on a burner for the pasta.
Sauté the pepper and onions in oil until they begin to soften. Season with salt and black pepper. Add the paste and blend. Continue cooking until peppers and onions just begin to brown and remove them from the pan.
Add some more oil and cook the mushrooms until they soften and brown. Remove them from the pan.
Mushroom and Pepper Pasta Sauce
Add the sausage to the pan and brown. Add oil as you need it. When almost done add the garlic. Blend and add the puree and return the onion, peppers, and mushrooms. Taste for seasoning. Stir and simmer partially covered for 20 minutes.

Mushroom and Pepper Pasta Sauce

Drain and serve the pasta.  Add some pasta water if the sauce is too thick. Serve with grated parmigiana.

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Pisarei e Faso’

Pisarei e Faso’

Pisarei e faso’ is a traditional dish of Piacenza in Emilia-Romagna. It’s small bits of pasta in a tomato sauce with beans. Sort of an Italian Chili.

For the Pisarei:
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup unseasoned breadcrumbs
  • About ½ cup warm water
Place the flour and breadcrumbs in a large glass bowl and thoroughly mix.
Pour in enough warm water a little at a time and blend with your hand until dough is formed. Shape it into a ball, cover the bowl and let it rest for an hour.Pisarei e faso’
Cut off pieces of the dough and roll into thin cylinders with half an inch diameter.Pisarei e faso’
Slice the cylinders into small pieces and make an indentation in the middle of each by rolling it with your finger.Pisarei e faso’
For the Sauce:
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3-4 oz. pancetta, chopped (or lard)
  • 16 oz. tomato sauce *
  • 16 oz. can white cannelloni beans, rinsed
* Tomato Sauce
 Lightly sauté the onion in the oil and then add the pancetta. When the onion is translucent and the pancetta fat renders, add the tomato sauce.
While the sauce is simmering bring water for the pasta to a boil in a large pot. Add the pisarei . Don’t crowd the pot or they’ll stick together. After about 8-9 minutes, when they float to the top they are ready.Pisarei e faso’
Take them out of the water with a skimmer and place them in the pot with the sauce. Sauté’ for a few minutes and add the beans. Simmer for another few minutes and serve Pisarei e faso’ with parmigiana and a drizzle of olive oil.

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Pasta Primavera


Pasta Primavera

I’m pretty sure that Pasta Primavera is something that was made up in an Italian restaurant in America. My mother used to make pasta with various vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, squash) as a type of minestra. Usually she used only one vegetable but if she felt like it, she’d use a variety of what was available. She never included cream and cheese was only added at the table. My mother called it ‘Pasta with Vegetables.’ I’ll call it ‘primavera’ – that means Spring.Pasta Primavera

Pasta Primavera

Start a pot of salted boiling water that you’ll eventually use for the pasta. Boil the vegetables 1 or 2 at a time until almost tender and remove them to a bowl.Pasta Primavera
When the vegetables are done add some more salt to the boiling water and begin cooking the pasta. After cooking  the vegetables in that water it’s now like vegetable stock. While the pasta cooks in one pot, in a second pot sauté the garlic in the oil. Add some salt, black and red pepper and the parsley.
Pasta Primavera
Pasta Primavera
Add the cooked vegetables and toss to coat with the garlic, parsley and oil on low heat. When the pasta is almost done add it to the vegetables, mix and add 1 & 1/2 cups of pasta water and mix well. Place in a serving bowl, drizzle with some olive oil and serve with grated Parmigiana cheese on the side.

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Red Wine Pasta

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Red Wine Pasta

This one is adapted from David Tanis, New York Times – City Kitchen. Don’t use a very expensive wine for this but one at least good enough to drink. You can use Chianti, Merlot or Pinot Noir.
Put on a pot of salted water to boil. Add a cup of the wine and lower the heat.

Sauté the pancetta in the oil. Remove it when it browns. Then add the onion, salt and pepper. Fry the onion until its softened. Add the garlic and tomato paste – stir and coat the onion. Then the bay leaf and the rest of the bottle of wine. Raise the heat and let it reduce – about 10 minutes.
Bring the pasta water back to a boil and cook the pasta until almost done. Reserve a cup of pasta water and drain the pasta. Add the pasta to the sauce and stir as it absorbs it. Add some pasta water if the sauce is too thick.
Stir in the browned pancetta, the butter, parsley and Parmigiana. Check for seasoning. Serve with more grated Parmigiana.

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Minestra con Piselli Caiano

Minestra con Piselli Caiano 

Minestra con Piselli  Caiano  translates to something like Soupy Pasta with Pigeon Peas. It sounds better in Italian.

Piselli Caiano Minestra

Ingredients:
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • A handful of cherry tomatoes sliced in half or a large tomato roughly chopped
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 lb. shells or other small pasta
  • 15 oz. can of pigeon peas
Fry the garlic in oil. Add the tomatoes and cook until slightly soft.

Piselli Caiano Minestra

Add the broth, bay leaf, and the pasta. Keep adding heated water, maybe 2 or 3 cups, to keep a soupy consistency. When the pasta is almost done, add the peas, stir and cook for a few minutes. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil.

Piselli Caiano Minestra

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Sauce vs. Gravy

Sauce vs. Gravy

It’s an argument that will probably go on forever among Italian-Americans. Is it sauce or gravy? Most non-Italians couldn’t care less and it doesn’t really bother me but I’m going to add my opinion anyway.
In any dictionary, gravy and sauce have almost identical definitions although it seems that to be called “gravy” there must be some meat, or meat juices or drippings involved.
In Italian, there’s sugo (thin sauce/gravy made with meat) and ragu (thick sauce/gravy made with meat). Then there’s salsa, not made with meat and which I would translate as sauce.
When people think of gravy it’s usually brown and often made with meat drippings and a bit of flour to thicken it. Well, why can’t it be red and made with meat drippings and tomatoes instead of flour?
When my mother had a pot of bubbling tomatoes on the stove filled with meatballs, braciole, and sausage she called it “gravy.” When she made marinara, that’s tomatoes with no meat, it was “sauce.”
So that’s my take on the unending sauce-gravy argument. And here’s a recipe for a ragu. You can call it what you like.

Sauce vs. Gravy


Pork Ragu

Sauce vs. Gravy

*Italian trinity

Sweat one cup of trinity in oil and then add and lightly brown the pork. Add the crushed tomatoes and sachet. Simmer for at least one hour.
Put on a pot of water for the pasta. Add the peas to the tomatoes and pork and simmer for another 10 minutes while the pasta is cooking. Taste for seasoning.
When the pasta is almost done drain and add it to the ragu to finish cooking. If it’s too dry add some pasta water.  Serve with grated cheese.

Sauce vs. Gravy


Sunday Gravy

There are a lot of variations for this one – but always meat and tomatoes. Here’s a simple, basic recipe which you can vary.

Sauce vs. Gravy

Ingredients:
  • Olive oil
  • Sausage – hot or sweet
  • Oxtails
  • Dried sausage or soprasade
  • Garlic (2 chopped cloves)
  • Crushed tomatoes
  • Salt and black pepper

Sauce vs. Gravy

Brown the sausage and oxtails in oil. Do it in batches and don’t crowd the pan. Remove and add the dried sausage and garlic. Don’t burn the garlic. Add the tomatoes and bring to a boil. Lower heat, taste for seasoning and simmer for at least one hour.

Sauce vs. Gravy

Sauce vs. Gravy

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Pasta with Goat Cheese and Cherry Tomatoes

Pasta with Goat Cheese and Cherry Tomatoes

Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis Cavatelli with Gorgonzola and Cherry Tomatoes
 
We had dinner with our nephews Stephen, Francesco and Doug. They put together a great meal but I loved the pasta most. I think maybe my niece Danielle had something to do with this too. They used a Giada DiLaurentis recipe.
So here it is – delicious. I used goat cheese instead of gorgonzola. Giada said that would be OK.
PASTA WITH GOAT CHEESE AND CHERRY TOMATOES
Ingredients:
  • ½ lb. cavatelli (or something similar)
  • 8 oz. pancetta, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • Olive oil
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 8 oz. cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 4 oz. gorgonzola (or goat cheese)
  • 5 oz. baby spinach, roughly chopped

Start a pot of boiling water for the pasta.

Add the pancetta and olive oil to a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring often until the pancetta is crispy, about 8 minutes. Add the shallots and cook another minute until fragrant. Add the tomatoes and season with salt. Cook, stirring often until the tomatoes begin to soften, about 4 minutes.

When the pasta is almost done (reserve 1 1/2 cups of pasta water) add it to the skillet along with 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Scatter the cheese over the pasta and stir to combine. Continue to stir, adding pasta water as needed, until a light creamy sauce is formed. Add the spinach and toss until it wilts.

PASTA WITH GOAT CHEESE AND CHERRY TOMATOES

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Pasta cu Mudica

 A village in the Alburni Mountains of Salerno


Pasta cu Muddica – adapted from Lidia’s recipe

Here’s another good example of Cucina Povera.  Stale bread and pasta with a little garlic and oil – simple and cheap but delicious.

Pasta cu Muddica

Put a pot of water on to boil for the pasta.
For the breadcrumbs – Cut off the crust of a loaf of day-old Italian bread and break what’s left into irregular shreds about 1/4-inch or a bit larger. Leave it on a kitchen towel for a few hours to dry and get crisp.

Pasta cu Muddica

Once you start cooking the pasta put the torn bread crumbs into a pan with ½ cup of oil seasoned with salt, black and red pepper. Be sure the oil is hot enough so that the crumbs fry and don’t get soggy. Stir and coat the crumbs with the oil until they just start to toast and then add the garlic slices. Continue stirring and tossing and don’t let the garlic get brown. Remove the crumbs and garlic from the pan.
If the pan looks too dry add some more oil and toss the cooked pasta in it until it’s coated. Add the oregano. If the pasta seems dry, drizzle over more oil and/or a little pasta water but not too much water because the crumbs will get soggy.
Return the toasted breadcrumbs to the pan and add the parsley.  Toss well and serve.

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Venison Ragu

Still Life with Dead Game by Frans Snyders 1579-1657

Venison Ragu

Venison Ragu

My friend Susan gave me some ground venison for my birthday. This is the first recipe I tried with it. Venison ragu is a hardy winter dish. If you can’t get venison use pork. If you do use pork, you can leave out the duck fat. That’s only necessary with lean venison.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Italian trinity
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. duck fat
  • 1 lb. ground venison
  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 15 basil leaves cut chiffonade
  • salt and black pepper
  • 1 lb. short pasta
Put on a pot of water for the pasta.
Sweat one cup of trinity in oil, then add 2 tablespoons of duck fat and lightly brown the venison. Add the crushed tomatoes and bay leaves and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the basil to the sauce and simmer for another 10 minutes while the pasta is cooking.Venison Ragu
When the pasta is almost done drain and add it to the sauce to finish cooking. If the sauce is too dry add some pasta water.  Serve with optional grated cheese.

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