Tag Archives: pasta

Once More to the Table

Food so beautiful you can’t believe your eyes, food so good you can’t believe your tastebuds.

If you grow up and come of age at the dinner table in Michigan, the way I did, it can be hard to fathom the variety of foods in Italy.

For 40 some years now I’ve been plumbing those depths, coming up for air with a smile on my face, then diving deeper.  In these next few blog posts, I’m going to try to warm up to this subject; in words and pictures, sharing some of the food fun we have when we come to Italy.   Continue reading

Pasta with Young Poppy Leaves (le Rosole)

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It’s not the same, but almost. And mind-blowing good to eat.

In Santarcangelo, where legend has it the Sangiovese grape gets its name, my wife and I have lunch and dinner at Trattoria del Passatore. We go there for many things, chief among them ravioli served with a rosole sauce.

Rosole, also known as papavero in Italian, are young poppy leaves. You see fields of poppies in Italy, with their brilliant red flowers. The leaves are harvested and used in a pasta sauce, well before the plant flowers. Continue reading

The Ragu Hour

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It’s time well spent.

Ragu recipes abound. Here’s what works for me: An onion, a dab of ground meat, wine and peas, tomato puree. This recipe makes ragu that will sauce pasta for four people.

In olive oil saute half an onion the size of a tennis ball. Bigger is better. Onion adds sweetness and soul to a sauce. Chop the onion, roll it in olive oil until it takes on that transparent look.

chopped-onion

Next break up a quarter pound of ground meat. Beef is fine. Veal is fine. Pork or lamb or buffalo are fine. Some recipes call for a combination of meats. Break up? Scatter bits of the meat over the onion bed, raise the heat, jab and roll the mix for five minutes or so. Salt and pepper.

Lower the heat and cover the pan, cooking the meat down a little more. You’re lightly browning it; you’re releasing and activating the fat in the meat. (Note: if you use a lean meat like buffalo, you’ll need to add a little more olive oil.)

Wine makes this sauce fragrant. I add a third of a cup of red wine. Some recipes call for white. Do what works for you (or use what you have on hand). I like a deep dark sauce, which makes me a red man. Cover and cook ten minutes or so on medium heat. You’re cooking the wine down and should get something that looks like this:

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Now half a jar of tomato puree. And now, if peas agree with you, half to three-quarters of bag of frozen peas.

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Raise the heat to get your mix cooking, then cover the pan and lower the heat. It cooks. In 30 minutes it looks like this:

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Spurn spaghetti or linguini when you have a gutsy ragu like this. For this sauce you want a wide noodle, like tagliatelle or fettucine, or a pasta that “holds” the sauce like garganelli, wheels, or campanelle.

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See how those peas get nestled in the pasta? There is no greater food than pasta with ragu. Shown above: pork ragu with campanelle.  Oh, baby.

No clams? No problem!

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How to make a great pasta sauce in 30 minutes

In my wife’s region in Italy—San Marino and Romagna—you’re likely to find pasta served with tuna sauce. Wait, let me revise that statement. In my mother-in-law’s kitchen, and in the kitchen of my wife’s old aunt over there, you would be very likely to find pasta served with tuna sauce–like the local spaghetti with clams, only tuna. And red.  It is crazy delicious. Where we live, in the US Midwest, you don’t find clams. Well, they’re there. But if you’re picky about clams, you’ll picture a “do not touch” sign, in neon, close by. Tuna, on the other hand, is available. Continue reading

Penne with accidental pork sauce

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How I made a mistake take really good

“What I would do now,” my chef buddy said, “is take those ribs out of the pot, cook the sauce down, and serve it with tagliatelle.” They were baby back ribs, braised long enough to get soft, the meat falling off the bone. We did what he said. It was the right thing to do.

Later I thought, of course. Some years back I had tagliatelle in a rabbit sauce in Siena. Same idea. Long cook the rabbit alla cacciatore, extract the pieces, use the sauce with a pasta for primo piatto. Then serve the rabbit as secondo. Continue reading

Pasta with sausage and leeks

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A quick sauce that tastes of Tuscany

Rainy day food. Any day food. Pasta with a meaty sauce makes me feel good. This number takes 35-40 minutes. Take down this number.

This recipe is a variation on a sauce I first enjoyed in Montepulciano, the one is Tuscany. That sauce had no tomato. This one does. Continue reading