Pasta alla carbonara recipe

So carbonara is like my favorite dish and here I have seen recipes that more often than not butcher this awesome dish with the addition of anything but the kitchen sink. Now, is not like you cannot modify the dish, but onions, shallots, garlic, chili pepper or flakes do not belong in there. Never. Under no circumstances.
I have to confess I am not from Rome, so technically speaking I am not entitled to say anything about carbonara. but I cooked my carbonara to people from Rome, and although skeptical at the beginning, they were pretty happy with my dish after they tried it.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb pasta
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cups total of grated pecorino and parmesan cheese
  • 5 oz. bacon and/or zucchini
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • pepper
  • salt

Directions

  1. So start out by bringing water to a boil for the pasta. While water warms up start on the sauce. Ideally you should use diced guanciale (almost impossible to fine in the US), next best is pancetta (you can find it at specialty stores and good supermarkets) and finally you can always use bacon. Dice the cured meat you are using and put it in a hot pan with no fats. Let the meat render the fat and drain the drippings.
  2. In a separate bowl mix one egg per person with grated pecorino cheese, a bit of grated parmesan cheese, a spoon of milk, pepper and salt. Go easy on the salt as cheeses and bacon are already pretty salty.
  3. For the cheeses the proportion should be at least half pecorino half parmesan, but you’ll se versions with pecorino only, I usually do something like 80% pecorino 20% parmesan. In total it should be about 1/3 cup of grated cheese per person and the mixture should be pretty thick.
  4. The milk I add to make the sauce a bit creamier, but it shouldn’t be more than a couple of spoons, definitely you don’t want more milk than egg or even the same amount of eggs as milk.
  5. Drop the bacon and a teaspoon or so of its drippings in the egg mixture.
  6. At this point the water should be boiling: add salt and pasta. Traditional shapes are bucatini or rigatoni, but spaghetti (better if thick) and penne work well too. When it is ready drain the pasta and while it is still super hot mix the pasta well in the egg mixture so that the pasta is throughly coated in the egg mixture.
  7. If you are wary about not perfectly cooked eggs what you can do is to mix the pasta and the egg mixture in the hot pan, you used to boil pasta. The heat from the pasta, combined with the heat from the pot, is usually enough to cook the eggs through.
  8. A pretty common and perfectly acceptable variation of this dish is substituting bacon for zucchini or adding zucchini to the bacon. What you do in this case is to cook sliced zucchini with the bacon (or instead of the bacon) and then add those to the egg mixture, the same way you did with the bacon. Of course if you substitute the bacon you should add some oil to cook your veggies. Occasionally I would do savoy cabbage instead of zucchini, and that works pretty well too.
  9. Awesome dish, someone believes it is the perfect hangover fix.

Ragù alla bolognese recipe

Just finished having some leftover polenta with some leftover ragu’…mmmmmmmhhhh awesome. Yesterday I was thinking I should cook proper ragu’ and bake lasagne more often. I remember when my mom did lasagne for lunch and the 3 of us kids would eat 3 or 4 helpings in no time. I studied at my mom school and I learned the secret of an awesome ragu’ is to let it cook for at least 2 hours. Plus, of course, putting in the right ingredients.

With an awesome ragu’ you can do awesome lasagne, awesome pasta and even eat it over polenta like an awesome chili. Yesterday I used my ragu’ as a sauce for pasta and today I put it on my leftover polenta, but I am now thinking I have to make a new batch soon and use it to make some Lasagna: it has been far too long since last time I had some proper good lasagna…. but I am digressing… Let’s go back to the ragu’, saving lasagne for a separate post.

Ingredients

  • 1lb of lean ground beef
  • 1 bratwurst or 1 breakfast sausage
  • 1-2 oz of mortadella or hot dog/ beef frank
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 2 oz of pancetta (or bacon)
  • 2-3 carrots
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 1 medium onion
  • red wine
  • salt
  • pepper
  • EVOO

Directions

  1. First take a pot with an heavy bottom or even better a dutch oven and pour in a couple of spoons of oil. Chop in a blender 2-3 carrots, 2-3 stalks of celery, 1 medium onion or half a large onion and a couple of ounces of pancetta (you can substitute with bacon, but in this case you will get a strong smoky taste to your ragu’ which is not typical of the original version). Pour the chopped mixture in your warm oil with a couple of bay leaves, add salt and cook for about 5 min or until the vegetables are tender and fragrant.
  2. Add your lean ground meat (about 1 lb), 1 bratwurst or a breakfast sausage without its skin and an ounce or 2 of ground mortadella (can be more or less substituted with a beef frank or an hot dog).
  3. Stir everything so that the meats combine and when the meat is well browned add 1/2 a cup or so of red wine. Let the wine evaporate and then add your tomatoes. For this quantities about 1 cup of tomato sauce should be plenty. You don’t want the meat to swim in tomato, you just want the meat to cook in tomato so it absorbs all that nice tomato taste.
  4. Season to taste with salt and pepper cover with a lid and let cook.
  5. …and let cook
  6. …and let cook
  7. Basically you want the sauce to cook on low heat for 2 to 5 hours, the more you cook it the better it is, but really you should cook it for at least 2 hours. You only have to occasionally stir the sauce and eventually add a bit of water once in a while to avoid burning the sauce.
  8. I usually cook ragu’ after dinner and let it cook until I go to bed. When I go to bed I turn it off and let it sit over night. The next day I use it to do whatever I wanted to do with it and the flavor is even better than the night before, because the flavors have had the time to come together and develop.
  9. Great now I really want Lasagne!

Cotolette alla milanese (Pan-fried schnitzels)

One of the typical dishes from north Italy is cotoletta alla milanese which is basically a winenerschnitzel but we dress it with some fresh tomatoes, which I don’t think the Austrians do so much. It is not clear who copied whom, but it is probable that the dish moved between the two cities (Milan and Vienna) during the Austrian domination in the XIIX century.
I decided I wanted to make cotolette using the traditional veal instead of the more common modern day version which uses chicken breasts. Note 99.9% of the times I do cotolette I use chicken breast, but for some reason this time I really wanted veal. Anyway, I think it all started after seeing Manu’s post. I had no peace until I bought the meat and made some!

Cotolette alla milanese (Pan-fried schnitzels)

Ingredients

  • 1 slice of veal or beef meat per person
  • 1 tomato per person
  • plain breadcrumbs
  • flour
  • 1 or 2 eggs
  • salt
  • oregano
  • EVOO

Directions

  1. I start out by preparing three dishes one full with flour, one with plain breadcrumbs and the last one with beaten eggs seasoned with just a bit of salt. Then I pounded the meat as thin as I could. The thin meat is then dipped first in flour, then in egg, then in the breadcrumbs and then again in eggs and finally in breadcrumbs. The double dipping allows for a crispier, thicker crust. The cutlets are then fried in shallow oil in a pan until cooked and crispy. After frying, I usually pat the meat dry with some paper towel to get the excess oil off and salt them. Finally, I cover the cooked meat slices with some diced tomatoes dressed in oil, salt and oregano. This cold tomato “sauce” gives the dish a brightness that offset the heaviness from frying and make the dish a great dish also for warm days.
  2. I find this version of the dish to be great in winter, while I prefer to use chicken for the summer. Cotolette are also great eaten cold in a sandwich with just a couple of slices of tomato and one big lettuce leaf.

Pasta alla puttanesca

Another classic pasta recipe that is simple to make and is very tasty. This pasta is typical form south Italy and has kind of a weird name: literary translated it means pasta whore style. There is no consensus on the origin of the name and someone suggests it used to be served in brothels while others suggest it refer to the simple nature of the sauce which consist of ingredients thrown together with no particular care.

Anyway, the secret in this sauce are the anchovies that are melted in the oil and provide a salty and tasty base for the sauce.

Ingredients

  • 3-4 oz. pasta per person (spaghetti are the best choice, but this sauce is pretty versatile)
  • 4-5 anchovies
  • 1/2 cup black roasted olives
  • 1 tbsp capers
  • 1/2 can tomato sauce
  • 1 clove garlic
  • salt
  • pepper
  • EVOO
  • chili flakes (optional)
  • oregano (optional)
  • parsley (optional)

Directions

  1. Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the box. While pasta is cooking, prepare the sauce.
  2. In a small pot warm up some oil. When the oil is hot add the anchovies and the crushed garlic clove (do not mine it, just crush it using your knife). If you are sing them you can also add the chili flakes and the oregano. I find the chili flakes take away from the anchovies by covering the anchovies flavor but if you are a fan of spicy go ahead and add your flakes.
  3. Let the anchovies melt down in the oil, this is the key step and what provides the sauce with is typical taste. When the anchovies are all melted, add the olives and the capers (wash the capers if they are preserved in salt) and let them roast for a minute.
  4. Finally add your tomato sauce and season it to taste with salt and pepper. Let the sauce simmer and reduce for as long as you want. 15 minutes or so of simmering is already a fair time 30 minutes will give you a great sauce.
  5. When the pasta is ready drain it and mix it with the sauce. Theoretically at this point you should sprinkle with parsley, but I am really not a fan of parsley so I always leave it out. Serve hot without adding any cheese!

Fusilli alla norma (with eggplants and ricotta salata)

The other day I was at Costco and I found ricotta salata. Ricotta salata is a cheese typical from sicily and is basically salted ricotta. fresh ricotta is salted so that it can be preserved for a longer time.

Of course I had to get some! And I had to cook it with some other typical sicilian ingredient like eggplant and create one of the most iconic sicilian dishes: pasta alla norma.

And of course I forgot to take pics until about half way through my meal, so sorry about the pics, but this pasta is so good I could not help myself!

I have just discovered Presto Pasta Night a great weekly event in which pasta from all over the blog sphere is shared with other bloggers and I decided there could not be a pasta event without me! So for my first participation I am sharing this pasta! Thanks to Simona of Briciole for hosting next week round-up

Fusilli alla norma (with eggplants and ricotta salata)

Fusilli alla norma (with eggplants and ricotta salata)

Ingredients

  • 3-4 oz pasta per person
  • 1 large or 2 small eggplants
  • 1/2 can tomato sauce
  • pasta
  • basil
  • ricotta salata
  • salt
  • pepper

Directions

  1. Start by cutting your eggplant in thin slices or in dices. Put the eggplant in a colander and salt them so that they can loose the vegetation water. Let them drain for about 30 minutes and then squeeze the eggplant, rinse them and pat them dry.
  2. Warm some oil in a pan and shallow fry the eggplants until perfectly cooked (about 5 minutes) then fish the eggplant out and place them on a dish lined with paper towels to remove the extra oil. In the same pan where you fried the eggplants, warm up the tomato sauce after about 5 minutes add the eggplants in the sauce and add a couple of shredded basil leaves. Season to taste with salt and pepper and let cook for about 15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, cook your pasta according to the instructions on the box. Choose short pasta such as penne, fusilli or rotini. Drain the pasta and dress with the sauce. Finally shave or grate ricotta salata on your pasta and serve hot.