Wednesday, December 5

Ultimate Pasta

There is always more to say about pasta. My recent cookbook find, opened again more food horizons for me. Julia Della Croce's "Ultimate Pasta" cookbook takes you truly to the next level of pasta ideas and creativity. 
So, for this post, I picked, in my opinion, the most ultimate of the ultimates: from soup to sweet pasta dishes.

Buon Apetito!

 If you want to know more about homemade pasta go to my Cooking 101 page.


(Bread dumplings)

Who doesn't like, at this or any time of the year, bowl of warm chicken soup with amazing dumplings made of prosciutto, Italian sausage and cheese?!

These dumplings, influenced by Slavs and Austrians are popular in Northern Italy as a great way to use up old bread. They can be served also as a side dish or in a soup, how I did.
Any way you serve them, they'll probably be the tastiest dumplings you have ever tried!

1/2 lb 250 g stale bread finely shred
4 eggs + 1 egg white
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup milk
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
60 g prosciutto chopped
60 g Italian salami chopped
4 tbsp flour
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley and scallion tops
freshly ground pepper
freshly grated Parmesan

meat broth(chicken or beef)/soup, preferably homemade

Combine eggs and egg white, nutmeg, salt milk and bread in a bowl, until is soaked . If it's too liquid, add more bread.
On a stove saute onion, add prosciutto and salami. Take it off the stove after short cooking and mix in with egg mixture. Add all other ingredients, except broth/soup.
Make the broth boil and put in teaspoon sized dumplings. When they start floating, they are ready. Serve them with a broth or meat etc.. with a Parmesan atop.

Gnocchi al Gorgonzola

Pumpkin/ Sweet potato Gnocchi with Gorgonzola sauce

This variation made with pumpkin is typical of the cooking traditions in Northern Italy and is consumed mainly in fall, when pumpkin is in season but you can use instead sweet potato or yam as described in Julia’s cookbook.

11/2 lb (750g) pumpkin/yam/sweet potato
1 cup Italian "00" flour or all-purpose flour
1 egg
salt to taste
1/8 tsp ground white pepper
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

Gorgonzola sauce:
150 g young Gorgonzola cheese*
3 tbsp unsalted butter
¾ cup heavy cream
Pinch of salt
½ cup (60g) freshly grated Parmesan
ground white pepper, to taste


In double broiler, melt butter and add cheese. Dissolve it completely in butter. Add the cream. Heat and stir until it gets thick and then add salt and Parmesan. White pepper should be added at a very end.

Begin by preparing the pumpkin. Cut it in half, without removing the peel, and place in a baking dish. Cover the pumpkin with aluminum foil and cook at 350F/180C oven for about an hour. Once the pumpkin is tender, remove it from the oven and let cool.
Heat a oil in a pan over a stove top and add a pumpkin/yam, cook more until water evaporates then peel and pass through a potato masher.
To make the dough for the pumpkin gnocchi, place the mashed pumpkin on a flat work surface. Add 1/2 tsp salt, pepper and Parmesan. Mix together with the flour. Check the consistency of the dough: it should be soft and light and not sticky to your fingertips.
At this point, shape the gnocchi. Dust the work surface with a little flour and cut off a small amount of the gnocchi dough. Roll this into a log and cut into small cylindrical pieces.
Cook the gnocchi in a large pot of boiling salted water. When they start floating at the top, they are ready. Drain them and serve with prepared sauce.

* Gorgonzola should be young not aged because aged has overpowering taste for the sauce.

Sweet Pasta


Chestnut ravioli from Calabria

Chestnuts are my favourite fall sweets and in this combination with coffee, liquor and chocolate-just magical!

¾ lb (375g) fresh chestnut or
 300g canned or pureed chestnuts
2 tbsp strong liquid black espresso coffee
30 g quality dark chocolate
2 tbsp sweet sherry
3 tbsp sugar or to taste
¼ tsp ground cinnamon

The dough:
1 cup (125 g) unbleached flour
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tbsp sugar
Pinch of salt
1 tbsp water
1 beaten egg, to seal ravioli

Oil for baking

Honey or confectioners’ sugar for dusting

If using a fresh chestnuts, place them in a water and boil until tender – about one hour. Chestnuts should be cut with a knife in X shape before starting to cook, to avoid exploding.
Peel and puree them. Melt the chocolate in a pan and add coffee. Mix well and add chestnut puree, blending well. Add more sherry if the mixture is too dry, it should be consistency of mashed potato. Add sugar if necessary.
Make the dough like explained on my Cooking101 and Pasta page. When dough is ready, cut it in half and roll as thin a s possible on a pasta machine (set 7) or by hand, into long strips. Place 1 tsp of chestnut filling over the dough strip, 2in (5cm) apart. Cover with second part of dough, but first brush egg whites around every piece, before topping with other part of dough. Seal every ravioli by hand. Cut them and reseal again.
Heat the oil and fry them until golden on both sides. Drain on paper towel and serve with honey or confectioner sugar.

My tip: If you don’t like frying, like me, you can cook these in boiling water like regular ravioli. It will still taste great!

Tagliatelle con Noci

Christmas Sweet Tagliatelle with Cinnamon and Hazelnuts from Umbria

This pasta dessert is the best when pasta is homemade I added few my own tips: substitute homemade pasta for cocoa pasta and add mascarpone lemon sauce*

my twist for this is lemon mascarpone sauce*



nut mix

1 cup (125g) roasted hazelnuts
¼ lb (125g) lightly toasted breadcrumbs  
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp cinnamon
150g melted unsalted butter
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp sweetened cocoa powder (optional)

1 lb/ 0.5 kg fresh egg pasta cut in tagliatelle strips

Mascarpone lemon sauce:
100 gr mascarpone cheese
2 tbsp milk
1 tbsp lemon juice
lemon zest
2-3 tbsp sugar (to taste)

Toast hazelnuts in the oven or a pan, lightly, for about ten minutes, peel them and grind coarsely. Combine nuts, breadcrumbs, lemon zest and cinnamon.
Cook pasta and drain. While is still dripping slightly, return to the pan add nut mixture and pour over melted butter and sugar. Toss well to get nuts and sugar equally spread on every noodle. Spread with sweetened cocoa if you like or my mascarpone lemon sauce*.

If you make cocoa spaghetti see instructions here.

Mascarpone lemon sauce: heat ingredients at the stove and mix them until smooth and melted together.

Torta dolce di spaghetti

Sweet spaghetti pie with raisin sauce

This torta is served originally, without sauce, for Easter Sunday in poor Neapolitan families. Raisin sauce can be used for many other sweets, as the addition.

For the pie:
½ lg (250g) thin spaghetti, broken up
2 tbsp oil for pasta water
1 tbsp salt
3 eggs
½ cup (125g) sugar
Juice and grated zest of 1 orange
1/3 cup (60g) sultana raisins
1 tbsp grated Parmesan
1 tbsp melted unsalted butter, plus extra

Sauce (optional):
1 lb (500g) raisins
3 cups (750g) water
1 cup (250 ml) port vine
½ tsp ground each cloves and cinnamon
½ cup (170g) honey

Sauce: Boil raisins for one hour in the water Put the boiled raisins in a processor to get about 2 cups of syrupy sauce. Return raisin sauce in a pan and add port, cloves and cinnamon and honey. Simmer about ½ hour. Cool.
Pie: Preheat the oven to 350F-180C. Meantime, cook the broken spaghetti until tender. Rinse with cold water. Drain. Combine remaining ingredients except melted butter in a large bowl. Add spaghetti and mix well. Transfer into buttered pan and drizzle with melted butter. Bake for about 45 minutes until golden. Do not overcook so spaghetti don’t get “crispy”.

Serve with raisin sauce if desired.

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