madonna del piatto

Italian family cooking


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asparagus 101

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spring on the plate: soft scrambled eggs with fragrant wild asparagus

With all the running around, worries and excitement about the new house I forgot to post my April article in The American in Italia magazine featuring another of my favorite recipes, Parmesan and asparagus eggs.

Please remember that if you don’t have wild asparagus or the season is over, you need to choose fairly thin green asparagus and use them as soon as possible so they stay fresh and crunchy. Remove the woody part of the stem, toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil per 1/2 pound asparagus and broil them for 15-20 min until just cooked through and slightly charred.Remove from under the grill, add some crushed garlic, cover and let them infuse for at least 10 min.

I use this method of preparation as a lovely side dish and for most of my asparagus recipes like risotto, spaghetti, and beef. I also chop them, mix them with equal weight of fresh ricotta and a couple of tablespoon grated Parmesan to use as a filling for ravioli or as a spread on crostini.

The picture below has nothing to do with the recipe. Its an Apsara, a heavenly dancer I got to know about during our winter trip in Cambodia. It’s just that I have this crazy name association between their name and my favorite vegetable. It’s becoming an obsession, but I promise, no more asparagus until next year!

An Apsara, a heavenly dancer of Hindu Mithology


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gluten free ravioli

they look like the real thing, don't they?

they look like the real thing, don’t they?

There is so much good food to discover and enjoy.  A lifetime is not enough to fulfill this scope. Even though I have food intolerance, I love to make food for others. I make all sorts of foods, even those I can’t eat and I do it with joy.

In fact – probably more than others – people with intolerances know that having good, fresh, healthy food is a privilege, something to treasure and respect every day.

When I first wrote this article, over 3 years ago, I had lots of digestive issues but I did not know I was wheat intolerant. I made these for someone who wanted to attend to one of my cooking classes and watch others making ravioli without being able to eat them. “No my dear – I said – you also must eat”.

Years later and after a lot of pondering, mistakes and experiments, I have come to accept that I’m among the many that can’t eat wheat anymore. It’s OK really, there’s lots of wonderful food to be had.

Now that I start to know a new way of cooking – gluten-free cooking – I can have as much pasta as I want, just like before. And make it for others. None can stop me, not even the gluten.

Recipe

for ravioli

  • 200 gr (7 oz) gluten-free cake mix
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon (6 gr) psyllium husks
  • 1 teaspoon (4 gr) xanthan powder

for the filling

  • 120 gr. (4 oz) spinach or swiss chard
  • 60 gr (2 oz) ricotta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan or pecorino

For the filling, blanch spinach or other leaf vegetables in boiling water for 3 min. Drain. Cool under cold water and squeeze very dry. Chop greens finely and transfer to a bowl. Mix in ricotta and grated cheese.

For the dough, you can also use a commercial GF flour. Note that each flour mix absorbs a different amount of liquid, so adjust accordingly. If you use a commercial GF flour mix, omit the xanthan and psyllium as most likely there is already a binding agent in the mix.

You can make gluten-free pasta using approximately the same method of fresh regular pasta (please see pictures here and a video here).  The main difference is that the dough is soft, tears easily and dries very fast so you need to speed up the whole process.

Not only do you need to roll the dough quickly, you must keep the sheets a little thicker than those made with regular wheat dough. If the pasta sheet is too thin it will  tear. When the sheets are ready, make the ravioli as soon as possible. If they dry you will not be able to fold and to seal them.

In a food processor blend the flour, oil and egg until the mixture just begins to form a ball. Depending on the size of the egg, it might be necessary to add a little hot water in order to obtain a soft but not sticky dough. Transfer the dough onto a worktop but keep it covered under a plastic bowl.

Set the rollers of a pasta machine on the widest setting. Cut a golf-ball size piece of dough and  flatten it quickly into a square with a rolling pin.  Feed it through the rollers. Fold the square in half and feed it through the rollers again to give it a regular shape.

Each time you fold it, dust with rice flour to prevent sticking. Don’t overwork it or it will start breaking apart.

Turn dial down to an intermediate (narrower) setting, dust with rice flour and feed the dough through rollers without folding. See details on how to do with the machine settings in the pasta dough article.

Turn the dial one last time, reducing the space between the rollers until the second to the last of the narrowest settings. Roll one last time.

Cover the sheets with a cotton tea-towel to prevent drying. Arrange a sheet of pasta on a large wooden board. Place teaspoons of the filling about 5 cm (2 inches) apart on the sheet so that you can make a “parcel” by folding it over.

spoon filling on the pasta sheets, make sure to leave enough space to seal

Using a pasta cutter seal each parcel by cutting on three sides (the fourth is the fold). Dust a large tray or your worktop with flour and carefully place the ravioli on it taking care that they do not overlap.

a zig-zag cutter is essential to seal the ravioli

Cook in salted, boiling water until al dente, 1 min. Taste them and cook max. one additional minute if necessary. GF pasta dough overcooks easily so you must be careful. Drain and toss ravioli with butter and lemon or a tomato sauce. Distribute onto 2 plates, top with grated Parmesan (or pecorino) if desired and drizzle with a fruity extra virgin olive oil.

Serves 2-3

delicious ravioli made with gluten free flour

delicious ravioli made with gluten free flour


21 Comments

pear and pecorino ravioli

homemade ravioli with a pear filling and aged balsamic dressing

homemade ravioli with a pear filling and aged balsamic dressing

RAVIOLI CON PERE E PECORINO. I love homemade ravioli, these little pockets of delight. Pear and cheese is a classic combination, but it’s not traditionally used on pasta. This recipe is a good example of Italian modern cuisine. For me this is defined by a few traditional ingredients of excellent quality  used in a novel way and brief cooking to preserve flavors. The result is light, balanced and utterly delicious.

To obtain the right texture you need pears with firm smooth flesh, not the grainy and soft ones. Then you need seriously aged balsamic vinegar, I use 15 years old .

Recipe

For the ravioli:

  • 250 gr./8 ounces fresh  ricotta
  • 1 pear
  • 60 gr (2 ounces) grated Parmesan
  • grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 recipe basic pasta dough

For the sauce:

  • 60 gr (2 ounces) butter
  • 30 gr (1 ounce) thin shavings of Parmesan or aged pecorino
  • 1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar/person or raw honey

Peel, slice and cut the pear in very small pieces, saute briefly in 1 teaspoon butter and cool. Add to the ricotta cheese, lemon zest and grated Parmesan.

Divide the pasta into balls of the size of a large egg. Using a pasta machine roll them out into long thin strips.
Put teaspoons of the pear and cheese filling about 5 cm (2 inches) apart on the sheet so that you can make a “parcel” by folding over the pasta sheet. Using a pasta cutter seal each parcel by cutting on three sides (the fourth is the fold). Dust a large tray or your worktop with flour and carefully place the ravioli on it taking care that they do not overlap.

Cook in salted boiling water until al dente, about 3 and 1/2 min. Cooking time depends on the thickness of the pasta and on how dry the ravioli are. Drain and toss ravioli with the remaining butter. Distribute onto 4 plates, top with Parmesan (or pecorino) shavings and drizzle with balsamic vinegar or honey.

To make vegetable ravioli, substitute pear with 500 gr./1 pound spinach leaves, blanched in boiling water, squeezed as dry as possible and very finely chopped. Another delicious alternative is to dice 3 medium zucchini and sautè in olive oil until just golden. Add one finely minced garlic clove and a few thorn basil leaves. Pulse chop in a food processor together with the ricotta and two tablespoons Parmesan until creamy.

Makes about 50 ravioli, serves 4.


40 Comments

food-processor pasta dough

authentic Italian home made pasta, fresh, silky, delicate

authentic Italian home made pasta, fresh, silky, delicate

All my cooking class guests marvel at how easy is to make a fresh pasta dough. I use a food processor and few simple ingredients . The dough is ready  in a few  minutes.

Recipe

  • 100 gr (3/4 cup) 00 or plain pastry flour
    plus additional for kneading
  • 1 large egg

In a food processor blend the flour and eggs  until the mixture just begins to form  a ball. Depending on the size of the eggs, it might be necessary to add more or less flour in order to obtain a soft but not sticky dough. Alternatively, mix the ingredients on a lightly floured surface, then knead the dough, incorporating additional flour as necessary, until smooth and flexible, minimum 20 minutes. The dough can be used immediately but may be made 1 hour in advance and covered with a cotton tea towel. This resting period relaxes the gluten in the dough and makes it easier to roll it.

a quick an easy pasta dough made in the food processor

a quick an easy pasta dough made in the food processor

To roll the pasta dough:
Set the smooth rollers of a pasta machine on widest setting. Cut the dough into several pieces. Flatten one  piece of dough into a rectangle and feed through the rollers. Fold the rectangle in three and feed through the rollers. Then fold again in half, roll and repeat  3 or 4 more times. Fold each time and dust with flour  but only if  necessary to prevent sticking.
Turn dial down to next (narrower) setting and feed the dough through rollers without folding. Continue to feed the dough through, without folding, making the space between the rollers narrower each time, until the narrowest setting is reached.

how to fold and feed pasta dough through a pasta machine

how to fold and feed pasta dough through a pasta machine

Arrange the sheet of pasta  on a dry kitchen towel or large wooden board. Roll out the remaining dough in the same manner. The pasta should dry a few minutes and up to 30 min. before cutting.  You should however prevent it from becoming brittle.

rolling and cutting the beautiful pasta sheets

rolling the pasta sheet to narrowest setting and cutting the thin pasta sheets

Feed the sheets through the cutter and return the pasta to the kitchen towels. It should  dry. at least 10 min. before cooking.

Serves 1  (2 for ravioli as a small entrée)

PS. you can’t really make spaghetti with a pasta roller, but you could try to grow them

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