Category Archives: Italian
My mom gave me a cookbook a few years back – Rosalie Serving Italian. Rosalie is an Italian American woman who just decided that she needed to share her family recipes…and thank God she did.
The thing about authentic Italian food is that it’s not ingredient-packed. There’s not really a “secret spice.” Fresh tomatoes, fresh herbs and great cheese can all speak for themselves — its just mostly a matter of the technique used to combine them.
Gnocchi means “knuckle” in Italian, which makes sense because that’s kind of what they look like. I’ve been wanting to make gnocchi for a long, long time. The problem is that I don’t have a potato ricer, which you definitely need to make classic potato gnocchi (shameless buy-me-this plug). But Rosalie’s cookbook offers a recipe for ricotta gnocchi, a traditional Florentine dish. This was an attractive idea to me because a) it’s lighter, b) it doesn’t require kitchen equipment that I don’t have (shameless plug strikes again), and c) I’d never had it before. Also, the flavor of ricotta is so light that it can be easily melded with just about anything.
Since the ricotta flavor is so mild, I’d recommend flavoring them up a bit, like I did with basil. You can most definitely do that with a jazzy sauce, but I chose to let the gnocchi stand alone for the most part.
adapted from Rosalie Fiorino Harpole
1 eight-ounce container of ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
8-10 fresh basil leaves, chopped
1/2 stick butter and 3 cloves garlic, chopped
1. Mix the ricotta, eggs, flour and cheese in a large mixing bowl. Refrigerate for at least an hour to let dough firm up.
2. When dough is firm, it should be a little sticky…but not too sticky to work with. Sprinkle flour on a clean surface and split the dough in half. Working in portions, roll the dough into a rope about 1/2 inch thick. Cut the ropes crosswise, making about 1/2 inch dumplings. Keep the gnocchi floured while you’re working to avoid them sticking together.
3. Boil a large pot of salted water and drop in the gnocchi. (I did this in two batches to avoid clumping). Cook the gnocchi while stirring gently until a few minutes after they’ve risen to the top of the boiling water.
4. To make garlic butter sauce, melt the butter in a sauce pan. Throw in the chipped garlic and saute until fragrant. Toss dumplings in sauce, garnish with basil and serve immediately.
I am home in Naperville for the holidays and here for a week.
Every year I make my dad’s favorite cookies: oatmeal raisin. A few Christmases ago, I tried to make them with white chocolate chips and dried cranberries. He wasn’t thrilled…so now we stick to tradition.
>Tonight was d-day for the ravioli.
I made sauce last night because I wanted to cook it for a looooooooooooong time. The secret to a good marinara is carrots. I cook them down with garlic and the onions just to add some sweetness. Then I add: tomato puree, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes (Italian style), and tomato paste to thicken. I also wash out the cans with some water and add that to the pot.
Another thing that makes a good sauce: cook it as long as possible. After it simmered on the stove for a few hours, I transferred it to the Crock Pot and went to bed. And then I let it cook all day while I was at work. So almost 24 hours later, all the flavors and seasoning (salt, pepper, basil, oregano) married together beautifully.
The other rule to live by…
When you’re cooking Italian, keep it simple. That’s true Italian — cheese, tomatoes, carbs of some sort. There’s always garlic, and there’s often basil or oregano – but there is not much need to add several spices to your sauce. Simplicity is perfection.
Moment of truth (drum roll please):
The ravioli were….ok. Really doughy. I know it takes a lot of practice, but I’m also blaming this on Colorado. The dryness at this altitude sucks. I think it turned my dough into cardboard. They were not inedible – but they weren’t Ethel’s. Jon says by the time I’m a grandma I’ll have it down to a science. I hope I don’t have to wait that long!
This thing made him crazy. He tried to kill it. Look at that handle, it’s like I’m fishing and caught the big one.
>Tonight’s challenge: my grandmother’s ravioli.