Showing posts with label first course. Show all posts
Showing posts with label first course. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Original Italian Ragù with Fresh Tomatoes

Ragù is made very differently in each part of Italy.  Up north ragù is usually made with ground beef whereas in the south whole pieces of meat are typically used creating one dish used both as a first course (condiment for the pasta) and second course (involtini or "braciole" as typically referred to in the south).

Today I am happy to share with you our original family recipe for freshly made tomato sauce and Braciole that is a main dish served almost every Sunday in many many Southern Italian households, as well as my honey's favorite dish of all time.

I have to be completely honest with you, this is not one of my preferred dishes simply because I'm not a big fan of tomatoes but it is always a hit and never EVER gets left over...

Ok so for this recipe you will need a sauce strainer and if you have a pressure cooker you with significantly reduce the cooking time.

I'm not going to be too specific with quantities because this really is a "taste as you go" recipe based on many variable factors such as sweetness and acidity of the type of tomatoes you use, the type of meat you choose to use, etc. 

In this case I used 5 thinly sliced pieces of beef making 4 Braciole and cutting up the 5th slice into 4 sections adding it to the sauce as I will show you shortly.

Begin making the Braciole. Lay out the slices of meat adding a small piece of Pecorino Romano cheese to the center. Add a dash of salt and pepper to each slice.

Now fold the meat in half and fold in the sides eventually wrapping it up and holding it in place with a tooth pick as shown here:

Now chop up half of a medium size onion and add to the pot with about three table spoons of olive oil.

Let the meat simmer and make sure the heat is on low because you don't want to burn the onion, you simply want it to soften up and eventually melt into the sauce so the heat has to be very low.

You should see that the meat will slowly release water during cooking.

In a separate pot add the washed tomatoes cut up into pieces, the rest of the onion and a few fresh basil leaves.  I used 2 San Marzano tomatoes and 5 vine ripened tomatoes. Do not add any water, any oil or any salt. You are simply letting the tomatoes cook on their own and you will see that they too release lots of water once cooked. The tomatoes should cook on medium heat for no more than 10 minutes.

This is what they should look like after 10 minutes on medium heat.

Once cooked you want to filter them using the sauce strainer. Just add the tomatoes to the strainer and filter into a bowl making sure to scrape the rest of the pulp off the bottom.

Now you have your freshly made tomato sauce that you can add to the meat.

In the meantime the meat should have released some water and once you hear it start to simmer go ahead and add the sauce.

Make sure to stir everything together and add a half a cup of water. At this point go ahead and taste it to see if it needs any extra salt, pepper and if you like you can add some chili pepper to spice it up.

You can now put the lid on the pressure cooker and leave it cook for about 30 minutes.  If you don't have a pressure cooker you will have to cook on very low heat for a good 2 hours. The meat needs to really break down and become super tender in order to have a good ragu.

When the 30 minutes are up let the steam out from the valve, turn off the heat and open up to see what you have.

Look at that delicious ragù! If the sauce is too thick you can add another half cup of water and heat uncovered until you reach the right consistency.
Now you will find the meat breaks down very easily and is extremely tender. With this sauce you can dress any type of pasta and it will be fantastic, I assure you.

On another note, I bought a beautiful hutch for my dining room over the weekend!

Now since everybody who knows me knows that the term patience and I have absolutely nothing in common.... I had to take it home with me immediately and would in no way wait for transportation and the people at the furniture store were very nice and totally understood my immediate need for this hutch sooo they put the bottom half in my trunk and the top half on top on my car....securing it with...tape.

Yes, tape.

I was a little worried I have to admit ...but the guy was like "Lady, we've done this a million works...just go slow..."

And that I did...I went very VERY slow.

You gotta love southern Italy...




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Monday, April 4, 2016

Hello Spring!

This is my favorite time of year...the weather is perfect, neither too hot nor too are blooming all around and some of my favorite fruits and vegetables are in season. 

It's funny how as soon as April comes around, I start to really take my healthy eating and working out seriously. I bought a Nutribullet last week and I am so in love with it! It is NOT the same as a blender at all. 
It's small yet powerful and my smoothies taste so much better. I don't know what it is...I think it's because it really blends everything well and doesn't leave any chunks (which I hate!). I've been having a green smoothie every morning for breakfast and am amazed at how much my energy level has improved. 

I usually add some strawberries, celery or spinach, an apple and lemon juice. I'll throw a banana in there every once in a while and that's pretty much it. I can't get over how good it is. I just feel so healthy after having one in the morning. Starts me off on the right track I guess. 

So what else have I been up to? I mentioned before how much I miss the foods that I can easily find in the States but that are not easily found here... one of those foods are fajitas! 

Whenever I fly to the States my first stop is this little Mexican restaurant near my house. It's a family owned restaurant and I absolutely love it. I was craving some chicken fajitas and decided to make them myself, tortillas and all! 

I found a recipe online and was surprised at how easy it is to make homemade tortillas. 

Basically all you need is 250 grams of all purpose flour, 120 grams of water, 30 grams of olive oil, a dash of salt and that's it. 

Mix everything together, divide the dough in four sections and let sit for about 30 minutes. 

Then all you have to do is roll the dough out very thinly with a rolling pin and heat in a wide flat skillet on high without greasing the surface at all. 

You'll see it start bubbling up a bit and that's when you gently flip it over. They really only take a couple minutes to cook. The recipe makes 4 tortillas.

I cut some chicken breasts into strips and made a quick stir fry with onions and added some spicy paprika. 

I didn't add any cheese or sauce...just kept it simple with some lettuce and cherry tomatoes. 

It was light and I didn't feel as guilty after eating it as I would have if it was smothered in sour cream and guacamole...

I suggest you make the tortillas as soon as you're ready to eat the fajitas since they do tend to dry up after sitting out for too long. 

This weekend the weather was wonderful and I had been eying a gazebo at Ikea for a couple summers now. This year I caved in (well, my honey did) and he bought it as an early birthday present for me. I love it. I'll do a separate post on my outdoor patio and get some better pictures soon.  It needs some more work before showing and telling :-)

We set up the furniture and decided to have Sunday lunch outside since the weather was so nice.

I made the salmon that I shared with you in this post and made baked gnocchi with mozzarella cheese. 

Sooo good!

I pretty much just added two layers of gnocchi, tomato sauce small mozzarella balls and grated Parmesan cheese and baked for 25 minutes at 175°.   

I'm really excited about the warmer spring weather and ready to get out more. Sunshine always puts me in a good mood. 

Hope you all are well. 

Until next time xoxo


Monday, February 22, 2016

Fisherman's Risotto

Good morning and Happy Monday to you!!!

Today I am excited to share my favorite recipe of all time with you! This is what I usually order whenever I go out to an Italian seafood restaurant and is a big favorite of mine.

I really enjoy making risotto's and I've shared some recipes with you before. Here is my pumpkin risotto recipe and here you can find my asparagus risotto.

Using just one main ingredient for a risotto (like porcini mushrooms, asparagus or even spinach) makes things a lot easier because the cooking time doesn't vary; but when you're using more than one ingredient and especially when using seafood, you have to be extra careful with the different cooking times.

Ingredients for 4 people:

 - 300 grams of uncooked white rice
 - 500 grams of mussels
 - 500 grams of clams
 - 1 fresh calamari
 - 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
 - 1 shallot
 - 1 tablespoon of butter
 - 1 litre of vegetable stock
 - one  spoonful of fresh chopped parsley
 - pepper to taste

Start by preparing the calamari. Rinse it well and cut into small pieces. You don't have to be precise here but keep in mind that they shrink a bit while cooking.

Next prepare the mussels and clams by cooking them on medium heat as done in my Seafood Cavatelli recipe.   Remove the shells and filter the juice with a sifter and napkin to catch any sand that is inside the fresh clams. Set aside.

Now that you have prepared your ingredients, you can heat the chopped up shallot in olive oil until translucent. 

Next add the calamari and let that cook for a couple minutes making sure to stir continuously. Then add the rice.

Let the rice heat up a bit in the skillet then proceed by adding a couple ladles of stock. When you see the rice start to dry up add another ladle and so forth.

Again, the secret to a great risotto is to give it time and let the broth absorb into the ingredients. Check the cooking time indicated for the rice you are cooking with and at the half way point add the mussel and clam juice. 

Taste the rice as you add the broth so you make sure not to overcook it. When the rice is almost done and you can feel it is still a bit firm (usually after 12-14 minutes) add the mussels and clams. Turn off the heat and add the butter and parsley. Keep stirring and let sit for about 5 minutes before serving. Add some pepper if you wish...but no salt is necessary.

If you like seafood, I hope you'll give this a try. I'm sure you'll enjoy it as much as I do!

I wish you all a great week ahead :-)

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Thursday, January 7, 2016

A Fresh Start

Well, break is officially over for me as of today and this is my first post of 2016. I am back at work and back in the rhythm of things. This holiday season wasn't the greatest for me. Usually I go to the States for the holidays because I want to be with my sister who I don't get to see very often and I know that when she sees me she is happy and the world is right again. This year however we were apart. We were all apart actually. My father was in the south, my brother was east and my mom was in the west and I was in Italy...  

Strangely I'm very happy to be back to normal life.  Knowing that your family is far away can be quite sad and the holidays are great but if you don't get to spend them with those you love they can suck pretty bad. 

Apart from that...I decided I wanted to start the year off right and hopefully it will be a positive auspice for the rest of the year. I decided not to drink a lot on New Years Eve as I usually go out and celebrate but this year I wanted to feel good on New Years Day and not hung over so that's what I did and it felt great. 

I stocked up on fresh veggies and am making an effort to eliminate dairy from my diet and cut down on the carbs that I have been eating too much of. I also have been on the tread mill almost every day for about 45 minutes. Even if I don't run for the whole 45 minutes I'll power walk with light weights. I'm making sure to take my daily multivitamin and I'm just getting back on track with my overall health. I'm feeling much better than I have in a long time and I have found that a healthier lifestyle is good for the mind as well. 

This is what I had last night for dinner. I made a stir fry with zucchini, onions and mushrooms. I felt so full afterwards, but a healthy full, you know what I mean?

When I eat better, I'm in a better mood.  I'm calmer and less irritable. It might be all in my head but I just feel better all around. Don't ask me how long this will last because I have no idea.  I'm hopeful that it will last through the year and that I can make it a lifestyle change rather than a temporary "new years resolution". I really don't like that seems like when I call something a new years resolution it's bound to fail sooner or later so I don't want to call it that. I want to call it a fresh start. I like that better :-)

So what's new in my home....let's see. I bought some new art work for my living room that I LOVE! I kept eyeing this piece but it cost too much so when I saw it on sale I snatched it up and hung it in my living room. I just love it! What do you think? I know I know, there's a hole in the wall that needs patching up...I'll get around to it eventually. 

Then I bought some new lamps for the night stands in the bedroom which were on sale as well.  I really like these and I was able to get them at 80% off!! 

We had a little New Years Eve party at my house with just a small group of people. It was a nice New Years Eve with lots of good food and good people. What more can you ask for right?

This was our table setting. 

It was a seafood dinner and I made lobster linguine, European sea bass and stuffed mussels. The lobster was alive when my Mr. brought it home....I almost passed out when I saw it because I knew I would have had to kill it. Oh was not easy at all. I was watching YouTube videos for about an hour watching all of the "how to humanly kill a lobster" tutorials.... Basically you have to jam a knife in the head to kill it humanely....yeah....I'll let you imagine. It was not fun. But I did it and this is the lobster after it was done cooking. 

Cute little guy, huh? 

This is the lobster linguine that we had as a first course meal. It was fantastic! It was my fist time cooking a lobster. This linguine was soooo good!

Then we made oven baked stuffed mussels with bread crumbs, herbs and spices.  These were our appetizers and they were so yummy!!

As our second course I prepared three big European Sea Basses cooked in the oven with cherry tomatoes, olives and white wine. A very light second course that didn't leave us feeling too full. 

That was pretty much our meal. I didn't take other pictures because I didn't want to be the antisocial one that was always on the phone but we had lentil soup as a starter as well as pig's trotter (which I really don't like) but these are the "Italian good luck foods" that you must at least taste on new years eve or else it's bad luck for the whole year. Sooo I had a little taste. 

What did you guys do on New Years? Whatever you did I want to wish you all a year of Peace and Serenity. Because I truly think that if there is peace and tranquillity in one's heart, that means that all the other stuff is where it should be... The other stuff being Love, Health, Prosperity and so forth.... so on that note...

I wish you a Happy 2016 dear friends. 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Spaghetti in Garlic Clam Sauce

Ahhhh Spaghetti alle Vongole (vongole means clams in Italian btw)! One of my favorite dishes to both eat and prepare. Whenever I go out to eat this is a usual order for me. This dish and Fisherman's Risotto (recipe coming soon). I love to see how different Italian restaurants make this and I have noticed that each restaurant makes it a little differently. Some of them have a creamier sauce others use a little spice in theirs but however this is made, it usually is fantastic either way!

Spaghetti alle vongole is a very popular dish in the southern central part of Italy. I would say from Rome down into Naples. Obviously you want to make sure the clams are fresh and left to flush out the sand for a period of time. I usually put the fresh clams in a bowl with salt water and let them sit for about an hour or so. If they are fresh you will see them spit out the sand that they have in their bellies LOL. Don't laugh...

Once this is done you can just rinse them off with clean water and open them up in a large pan on medium heat. I used one kilogram of clams for two people. 

So once they have opened up you can turn off the heat. This usually only takes about 5 minutes. Don't overcook them because they will be cooked again with the pasta. 

You will see that they release some water once they have all opened up. Save the water and filter it using a sifter and a napkin to catch any more sand that wasn't flushed out previously. 

Remove about half the clams from thier shells and leave the other half in their shells. Set aside. 

Now bring some salt water to a boil and cook your spaghetti. Cook about 300 grams of pasta. 

In the same pan that you heated up the clams in, heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and two cloves of garlic cut in half. 

I like to tilt the pan on it's side so that the garlic heats up all around and the olive oil is able to capture the flavor of the garlic cloves. When the edges of the garlic cloves have browned lightly (do not let them burn) remove the cloves.

Once the pasta is al dente, drain it and add the clams, clam juice and pasta to the pan. I also like to add a half a cup of water from the pasta in order to make the sauce creamier. 

Once the sauce has reached the consistency that you like (more or less creamy) you can sprinkle some freshly cut parsley on top and serve with a nice glass of white wine. My favorite! :-)

Enjoy and buon appetito!