Egg-topped Pasta

     This might, at first glance, seem a bit odd, but it’s really delicious!  You can basically start with ANY olive oil-based sauce, add pasta and vegetables and top with an over-easy egg for a simple and hearty meal.  Here’s what I made just the other night:

Ingredients:

  • Whole-wheat angle hair pasta (cooked al dente)– I used about 8oz
  • 1 Cup of fresh arugula
  • 1 Cup of fresh spinach
  • 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes (cut in half)
  • a few leaves (to taste) of fresh sweet basil (sliced thinly)
  • 3 cloves of fresh garlic (thinly sliced)
  • 3 Tablespoons Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • grated parmigiano reggiano cheese (to taste)
  • Eggs (one for each bowl of pasta served)

Preparation:

  1. In salted, boiling water, cook pasta until it is al dente
  2. Once cooked, strain the pasta and set aside.
  3. In a not-stick skillet, heat olive oil over med-low heat and add sliced garlic (be sure to watch the garlic closely so that it doesn’t burn) and heat until you can start to smell the cooked garlic (it shouldn’t take long)
  4. To the hot garlic-oil add the fresh spinach and arugula
  5. Add a pinch of Kosher salt and a bit of freshly cracked pepper
  6. Using tongs, turn the fresh greens in the oil so that they start to wilt just slightly.
  7. To this, add the tomatoes and the strained pasta and fold all ingredients together, coating the pasta with the olive oil and (as best you can) evenly distributing the greens and tomatoes among the pasta.
  8. Place pasta in bowls and set aside.
  9. In the same non-stick skillet, add just a touch of olive oil (or you can use butter) to the pan and heat to a medium-high heat (not too high as olive oil has a low smoke point and can burn easily!)
  10. Cook your eggs “over-easy” and season with salt and pepper.
  11. Once cooked, place the hot eggs on top of your pasta (one for each bowl of pasta served)
  12. Top with grated parmigiano reggiano  and fresh basil
  13. Serve immediately as you want the yolk to remain runny when you cut into it so that it runs down over the pasta, adding flavor and substance to the sauce– as it sits atop the hot pasta, it will continue cooking, so you really want to be quick about serving!

*To this recipe, some people like to add crispy bacon– delicious addition!egg-topped pasta

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Classic Ingredients of Italian Cuisine

italia

Most people think of tomatoes and bread when discussing the basics of Italian food. But did you know that tomatoes were not a staple in Italy until they were introduced into Europe in the 16th century? Before the introduction of tomatoes it was common to see Italian cooks using flatbread, olive oil, garlic, fish, game meat, cheeses, and seasonal fruits and vegetables in their cooking. Now tomatoes, cheese, and pasta create the base for most Italian dishes. Even Italian desserts commonly use creams and cheeses to create rich textures and flavors.

Cheeses and Herbs
Cheese is a vital ingredient in Italian cooking. Some of the common cheeses include asiago, gorgonzola, mozzarella, parmigiano-reggiano, pecorino, provolone, and ricotta. Many of these cheeses are dry and used to shave over pasta dishes or sprinkle into a cheese mixture. Cheese mixtures are often flavored with popular herbs such as parsley, oregano, and basil. Italians also frequently use capers and bay leaves.

Italian Spices

  • CORIANDER  [coriandolo]
 Crushed coriander seeds are used in various meat dishes, particularly lamb and pork.
  • GINGER [zenzero]
 This spice is rarely used in Italian cooking, except in the region of Apulia and Basilicata in southern Italy, where it is very popular.
  • NUTMEG [Noce moscata]
 The Italians are fond of this spice, both in sweet and savory dishes. Ground nutmeg has none of the fresh flavor and aroma of the freshly grated kind, therefore whole nutmegs should be bought and grated directly into the dish at the time of cooking. Nutmeg is a common ingredient in ravioli and dishes which contain spinach or cheese.
  • PEPPER [pepe]
 Black peppercorns should always be used. Grind them fresh at the time of cooking or serving; never use ready-ground pepper.
  • SAFFRON [zafferano]
 This is used mostly in risotto and in fish soups and stews. Saffron is very expensive and therefore used sparingly. Saffron threads are probably the easiest and most economical way of using saffron: they should be steeped in a little warm water until the color and aroma are extracted; the water should then be strained and added to the dish.
  • SALT [sale]
 Sea salt is used throughout Italy. Coarse sea salt rather than table or cooking salt is the type to use.
  • VANILLA [vaniglia]
 Vanilla is a popular flavoring in sweet dishes, and vanilla sugar sold in sachets is frequently used with ordinary sugar to give flavor to cakes and pastries. The Italians use vanilla pods (beans) rather then essence (extract).

Italian Herbs


Fresh herbs are normally used in Italian cooking.  If not using fresh herbs, they should be stored in the freezer or hung up to dry in a cool, airy place away from damp. Once dry, they should be stored in airtight containers.

  • Basil (basilico)
 There are numerous varieties of this spicy, aromatic herb, but sweet basil and bush basil are the most common. It is used mostly in dishes that contain tomatoes, and in salads, soups and on pizzas. Freshly chopped basil should be used whenever possible, as dried basil makes a poor substitute. If buying dried basil, however, always choose the sweet kind; its flavor is much less pungent than other varieties.
  • Bay Leaves (lauro) 
Bay leaves are used as a flavoring for casseroles, soups and sometimes roasts.
  • Borage (borragine) 
Borage has a flavor not unlike cucumber. It grows all over Italy, and is used both as a flavoring and as a vegetable. Ravioli is stuffed with borage in Genoa. Borage leaves are also served like spinach or dipped in batter and deep-fried as fritters.
  • Fennel (finocchio)
 Fennel is used in three ways in Italian cooking. The bulb, known as Florence fennel or finocchio, is used whole, sliced or quartered as a vegetable, and either braised or baked au gratin. It is also chopped raw in salads.  Fennel seeds are a common flavoring in spiced sausages and other cooked meats, Finocchiona salame being the best known of these.
  • Juniper (ginepro) 
The berries of the juniper bush are used in pork and game dishes and in marinades. If they are to be included in a dish such as a stuffing they should always be crushed first. Use juniper berries sparingly as their flavor can be bitter if used in too large a quantity.
  • Marjoram, Sweet (maggiorana)
 This herb is sometimes used in soups, stews, vegetable and fish dishes. If necessary it can act as a substitute for oregano.
  • Oregano (origano)
 This is also known as wild marjoram. It is an essential ingredient in many Italian dishes, including pizzas, sauces and casseroles, but its flavor differs slightly from one region to another.
  • Parsley (prezzemolo)
 Italian parsley is the flat-leaved variety as opposed to the curly “moss” variety common in Britain and the United States. Flat-leaved parsley can usually be found at continental stores, where it is often called “continental parsley”. Its flavor is far more pungent than curly parsley, and for this reason it is generally used as a flavoring in Italian dishes rather than as a simple garnish. For Italian recipes where parsley is specified, try to obtain the flat-leaved variety; other parsley can be used as a substitute, but the flavor of the finished dish will not be quite the same.
  • Rosemary (rosemarino)
 The Italians are very fond of flavoring lamb and suckling pig with rosemary. It is also used liberally in soups and stews. However it is wise to treat this herb with a little caution, since its distinctive flavor can easily overpower ingredients with more subtle flavors.
  • Sage (salvia) 
Sage is commonly used in liver and veal dishes.

Fresh Marinara Sauce

tomato sauce

This  recipe is my own take take on an America’s Test Kitchen recipe.  I LOVE making my own marinara sauce– it’s so simple and tasty that I doubt you’ll ever buy a jar of spaghetti sauce again!

 

  • In a large saucepan or pot, melt two tablespoons of unsalted butter over medium heat.
  • Once the butter is melted, but before it starts to bubble, add 1/3 cup of finely chopped or grated white onion. (The larger-sized grate is fine for this.)
  • As the onion cooks, add either fresh (chopped) oregano, or you can use dried oregano–to taste (You could also use marjoram).
  • Sometimes, I chop some fresh parsley and add it at this point– whatever you like.
  • Once the onion is cooked-through and soft, add minced garlic.  (You can use a couple of cloves, but since I love garlic, I would probably use 4 or 5!)
  • To this, now you can add a pinch or two of of salt (I use kosher salt).
  • You don’t need to cook the garlic much at all.  In fact, I would go ahead and have the other ingredients ready to throw in within a minute or so of adding the garlic to the onions.
  • After just a minute or so, add freshly cracked black pepper (or you can use dried red pepper flakes)–to taste.
  • Next, add 1-2 can(s) of crushed tomatoes. (I like Muir Glenn Fire Roasted crushed tomatoes!)muir glenn
  • Then, add about 1 tablespoon of tomato paste and about 1/2 cup of water (optional).
  • Stir together, then let the sauce simmer on low for at least 10 minutes, or until the sauce thickens to your liking.
  • After the sauce has simmered, add salt to taste, but be sure to taste the sauce before salting. (Remember, other ingredients in the sauce have already been salted, and using canned tomatoes, while tasty and convenient, often have some salt in them already.)  If you added water and have the time to let it simmer, you can let the sauce cook down for as long as you like– the longer it cooks, the more flavor develops! If the sauce ever gets too thick, just add a little more water and stir to incorporate.
  • Sometimes, I use an immersion blender to blend the sauce into a smooth consistency– it all depends on your taste and liking.
  • Once you’re done simmering the sauce, turn the heat off of your pan and stir in about 1/2 cup of freshly chopped basil.
  • If you have any other vegetables that you cooked prior to making the sauce, this is when you’d want to add them: sautéed mushrooms, roasted peppers, capers, etc.
  • Finally, add about 2 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil and stir in to incorporate. (Adding the olive oil at the end will give you that olive oil flavo while keeping your sauce from having a bitterness that can come from over-worked olive oil.)

* Special Hint: the pasta you serve will be all the more delicious if you cook it just until it’s al dente, and then combine the (cooked, un-rinsed) pasta and sauce together.  Let it sit for just a few a few minutes before serving.  Top with freshly grated parmesan cheese and a little fresh basil– to taste.

tomato sauce ingredients

I hate puns, but the name describes this sauce perfectly

I hate puns.

No, really.  I hate them.  My husband would have you believe otherwise, but it’s really true.  Unfortunately, and much to my husband’s delight, I’m sure, as it helps to prove his case, there is no better name for the dish that I’m about to share with you other than,

PASTA FAUX-LOGNESE!

(I’ll give you a moment.)

This is a recipe for a marinara sauce that would traditionally be made with ground beef, therefore, making it a “Bolognese“.  However, because I have been, for several reasons, sticking to purchasing very little meat for our family, I had to improvise.  Thus was born a tasty treat made with beans instead of meat!

I’ve made this dish a few times, and each time, the types of beans used were a little different depending on what I had on hand.  The following recipe is my favorite version thus-far:

The BEANS:

  • Start by soaking 1 cup of dried beans overnight.  I prefer a combination of red beans and garbanzo beans at a ratio of about 4:1 respectively.
  • After the beans have soaked, put them in a pot of cold water, and bring it to a boil.  The beans should be boiled, uncovered, until they are thoroughly soft (notal dente“). This can take some time, depending on the beans used and the amount.
  • You may want to note that boiling raw beans that have been dried usually requires skimming the foam and film that is produced early in the boiling process.  Also, DO NOT add salt at this point– that will dry out the beans and make them crumble.
  • Once the beans are thoroughly cooked, take them off the heat and set them aside, keeping them in the hot water in which they were boiled.

The SAUCE – this taken, mostly, from an America’s Test Kitchen recipe

  • In a large saucepan or pot, melt two tablespoons of unsalted butter on medium heat.
  • Once the butter is melted, but before it starts to bubble, at 1/3 cup of grated white onion. (The larger-sized grate is fine for this)
  • As the onion cooks, add dried oregano to taste (I also use marjoram).
  • Sometimes, I chop some fresh parsley and add it at this point– whatever you like.
  • Once the onion is cooked-through and soft, add minced garlic.  (You can use a couple of cloves, but since I love garlic, I would probably use 4 or 5!)
  • To this, now you can add a pinch of salt (I love cooking with kosher salt).
  • You don’t need to cook the garlic much at all.  In fact, I would go ahead and have the other ingredients ready to throw in within a minute or so of adding the garlic to the onions.
  • After just a minute or so, ladle the cooked beans into the sauce pan using a slotted spoon so as to keep from adding too much of the water (though you might need it later if your sauce gets too thick for your liking).
  • Stir together, and add pepper to taste.  I like a bit of cracked black pepper and also a couple of teaspoons of red pepper flakes.
  • After the beans have been incorporated, let it all cook together uncovered for about 3-5 minutes.
  • If at any time during this process you find that the vegetables and/or beans are sticking to the pan, you can add a little more butter or a touch of canola oil– you’ll want to wait to use olive oil!
  • Next, add 1 can of crushed tomatoes. (I like Muir Glenn Fire Roasted crushed tomatoes!)
  • Stir together, then let the sauce simmer on low for about 10 minutes, or until the sauce thickens to your liking.
  • After the sauce has simmered, add salt to taste, but be sure to taste the sauce before salting. (Remember, other ingredients in the sauce have already been salted, and using canned tomatoes, while tasty and convenient, often have some salt in them already.)
  • Take the sauce off the heat, and stir in about 1/2 cup of freshly chopped basil.
  • Add about 2 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil and stir in to incorporate. (Adding the olive oil at the end will keep your sauce from having a bitterness that can come from over-worked olive oil.)

The PLATE

  • In a wide bowl, start with a handful of fresh baby spinach leaves.
  • On top the bed of spinach, add a hot serving of your favorite pasta (this works well with spaghetti, penne, or rigatoni– just to name a few).
  • To your bed of pasta and greens, ladle on a helping of the hot fauxlognese sauce.
  • Top with grated Parmesan and/or Pecorino and a sprig of parsley for color.

Et Voila!