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Fettuccine with Four-Herb Pasta 9-19

Fettuccine with Ligurian Four-Herb Pasta

Among the few souvenirs we brought home from our honeymoon were two small cookbooks that now sit on our shelf.  They are in Italian, and while I can barely speak the language, one of the ways I’m attempting to learn is by reading the recipes in order to pick up vocabulary and the like.  They appealed to me because they had interesting recipes and gorgeous photography, to be sure, but also because the dishes they contained seemed different than anything I’ve come across in the Italian cookbooks we currently own (with the likely exception of The Silver Spoon).

One of our two Italian-language cookbooks

One of our two Italian-language cookbooks

When I saw “Trofie with five-herb pesto,” I had to say I was intrigued; I was in the mood for fresh pasta and this pesto relied on pistachios to provide the nutty flavor.  Our normal fresh pasta dough was not quite right to make the hand-rolled twists, however, so we stuck with reliable linguini as we knew it would hold up well to the stiff sauce.  I also forgot to buy thyme so we only used four herbs to make this pesto, but we didn’t miss it that much; in the future we could add some lemon zest instead to provide the flavors in a pinch.  Come to think of it, adding zest would make this even more inspired from Liguria—as we learned during our stay, lemons (and subsequently limoncello) are one of the few things that they do well.

In keeping with the evening’s theme, we paired the pasta with simple breaded shrimp skewers that are so easy to make:  marinate peeled and deveined shrimp in some olive oil, garlic and parsley for about an hour, toss with breadcrumbs, spear them onto skewers, and broil for about 6 minutes until they are pink and delicious.  Served with lemon wedges, few things felt more appropriate for the last official weekend of summer.

Broiled Shrimp Skewers

Broiled Shrimp Skewers

We naturally made much more than we’d eat in one sitting of both things, and while the shrimp was saved to snack on for the next day or two, I was fortunate in being able to lug a sizable plastic container of the stuff to enjoy for my last two lunches, though to be civilized (and also to exert a little portion control lest I eat the entire container in one sitting) I use a little bowl from Pottery Barn that I purchased after I landed my first post-collegiate position.  It’s traveled with me to several offices since then, and is as sturdy as ever:

Ligurian pesto at the office!

Ligurian pesto at the office!

Ligurian Four-Herb Pesto with Fettuccine (adapted from La cucina grande:  Pasta):

  • 1 bunch parsley, leaves removed from stems/stalks
  • 1 bunch basil, well-washed with leaves removed from stem
  • 10 springs marjoram, leaves removed from stem
  • 15 mint leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • ¼ cup shelled pistachios
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • ½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Olive oil (about ¼ cup to ½ cup, depending on preferred consistency)
  • 1lb fresh pasta

In a blender or food processor, combine herbs, pistachios, garlic along with some salt and pepper (though go easy here—season as you go along until you get the taste you want), then slowly add the olive oil in order to get a smooth, pasty consistency.  Once the mixture is smooth, add the cheese and blend again to incorporate—adding it too early will make the sauce too thick too quickly.  Toss with fresh hot pasta (we made enough to serve four), and serve with extra cheese to top if desired.

Fresh Tortelloni with Shallot and Butter Sauce

Fresh Tortelloni with Brown Butter Shallot Sauce

Bruschetta with Fresh Mozzarella

Bruschetta with Fresh Mozzarella

The first of our three dinners over Labor Day weekend was relatively simple, as there’s something to be said for not doing too much all at once.  We had made our first shopping trip and done some exploring on the way back as well as furiously unpacked many of our boxes; the prospect of rolling out fresh pasta (even with help from the Kitchen Aid) and then bending over a counter to individually fill raviolis or the like was not an appealing one that particular day.  So when Michael suggested some fresh pasta from Whole Foods to pair with some tomatoes we got at a fair price, I was in no mood to argue, so we settled on making some bruschetta (probably the best of the entire season) and finishing the pre-made pasta (provolone and prosciutto tortelloni) with some shallots and butter.  I made the addition of some fresh mozzarella to the mix to make it a touch more substantial, but overall it was a simple, yet satisfying meal.

Besides:  how can you go wrong with occasionally indulging in what the Italians define as fast food?

On Friday, July 31, I defended my doctoral thesis and naturally, my folks were in town for the event.  After a night of celebration, we (my mom, dad, Elizabeth and I) felt that a nice quiet day and a massive home-cooked dinner was in order for Saturday.  We swung by a brand-new farmer’s market only a few blocks from the TBYK homebase and set to work.  Here’s what we came up with.

Primo piatto- pasta fresca:

My mom was the first one to teach me to make fresh pasta and this felt quite appropriate.  I have changed the method a bit (I cannot do the flour well to save my life) and I tend to mix up the dough in my stand mixer (although last night I saw Iron Chef Kobe use a spatula- wow!).

Vast Expanses of Pasta Fresca

Vast Expanses of Pasta Fresca

Instead of cutting them in the machina di pasta, I took the long, thin sheets, rolled them up and cut them with my knife (I think this is pappardelle?).  I made a simple sauce out of cooked fresh tomatoes, ricotta and basil.

Pappardella with tomatoes, ricotta and basil

Pappardelle with tomatoes, ricotta and basil

Secondo piatto- roast chicken:

I don’t know if roast is the correct adjective, maybe baked is a better term, but baked just makes me think of cakes.  This was also a twist on one of my mother’s (and indeed, grandmother’s) recipes. I cooked a pan of kosher chicken thighs with red wine, olive oil, sage, rosemary with just a touch of butter on top in the oven, call that what you want (fricassee? semantics and nomenclature were never my strong suits).  This dish is pretty fail-proof, but in particular, this batch was *really* good.  It may have been opting for the kosher chicken instead of standard, it could have been the sage, but whatever the difference,  it *rocked*.  I added a some sauteed mushrooms deglazed with a bit of brandy, but honestly, had I known how the chicken was gonna turn out, I wouldn’t even had bothered.

Chickens Before

Up Chickens!

Down Chickens!

Down Chickens!

Looking back, I realize that the entire meal became an unintentionally homage to my mother- taking our family recipes and putting my own spin on them.  I never intended this to be the case, but the outcome is still very gratifying.  So, until next time friends- Ciao!

Fresh taglatelle with homemade ragu and peppered mascapone

Fresh tagliatelle with homemade ragu and peppered mascapone

The missus and I have been on a fresh pasta kick lately, culminating in nearly innumerable weekend dinners beginning with little more than a pile of fresh raviolis and ending in two heavily sated diners.  The night in question above was slightly different, instead of stuffing my pasta, I opted for tagliatelle.

The switch is simple.   I made my pasta sheets as per usual for ravioli, but instead of laying them out for stuffing, I gently folded them over themselves, almost like rolling them up.  Then all I had to do was slice them across the front so that when the slices unrolled, they were long strands.  Tagliatelle is a nice, thick noodle so close, mincing slices were not necessary.  I must advise you to flour the pasta sheets as you fold them up, other wise the noodles will stay stuck on themselves and peeling them apart will be… frustrating.

I paired a nice, hearty tomato ragu with the pasta.  I removed the casings from about a 1/4 lb of fresh sausage from Romeo’s, crumbled and browned it in olive oil.  Next I added some garlic and two cans of my favorite petite cut tomatoes and just reduced, reduced, reduced.  After 30 minutes I added the basil leaves and mixed in the tagliatelle and let it cook in the sauce for a minute or two.  The cream on top is just fresh black pepper mixed into mascapone cheese, meant to be mixed into the pasta right before consumption.  I found this preparation to be unbelievably satisfying and just a little easier than ravioli because you don’t need to make all the stuffings and egg-wash the little guys shut.

If you were toying with the idea of trying fresh pasta, but were perhaps still a little intimidated, these tagliatelle might be a good stepping stone before tackling raviolis or tortellini.  Ciao!

…and for the third time in less than a month, we’ve made fresh pasta.  This is for our “Easter” dinner tonight at the in-laws, and my stomach is currently being tortured by the aroma of red sauce simmering on the stove.

Here’s a shot of Michael in action:

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We’ll have more on fresh-pasta making soon–in the meantime, Buona Pasqua if you celebrate; otherwise, happy rest of weekend!

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