March 24, 2020

Pasta e Fagioli - Bolognese Style

TASTE OF ITALY 2020
A hearty and delicious soup, every Italian region has their own version; in Bologna it is made up of creamed borlotti beans, ham, garlic and rosemary. You can leave out the ham, I sometimes do - and instead add small squares of Parmigiano Reggiano rind- and no one at home notices! 
In Bologna we add egg pasta to our soup, generally the maltagliati (literally means poorly cut) which often are the leftover bits or rimasugli of your pasta making. If you don’t have any, then some quadrucci, little squares, are perfect. 
Although I prefer to use dried beans for this soup, I always have canned beans in my pantry so I can quickly prepare this soup, if need be. 

It is so easy you don’t really need a recipe but if you’ve never made it before, here is what I do:
INGREDIENTS
1-1 and 1/2 cups dried beans or 2-3 cans borlotti (pink beans)
EVOO
A large clove fresh garlic
a sprig of fresh rosemary
100g or 3oz fresh pancetta, cubed
water
salt &
pepper
100-200g of egg pasta maltagliati
bits of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese rind, optional

Special equipment: sumergible mixer

METHOD
  1. Soak beans overnight if using dried or drain liquid from canned beans
  2. Cook dried beans following package directions 
  3. peel and smash garlic and place in large enough pot with a generous swirl of EVOO
  4. remove leaves off rosemary sprig and add to pot with garlic and oil
  5. add cubed pancetta to pot
  6. saute’ items in pot over medium heat until they begin to get colored, stirring once in a while - it smell really good, doesn’t it? :)
  7. Add cooked beans and enough water to cover beans, continuing to cook for about 20 minutes
  8. Remove several tablespoons of the beans and set aside for now.
  9. Taste and adjust to taste with salt & pepper and water if necessary.
  10. Remove from heat and using a sumergible mixer, whir everything in the pot to obtain a cream. 
  11. Then put the pot back over the heat, add the beans you set aside and if using, bits of Parmigiano Reggiano rind, now is the time to add it.
  12. Add egg pasta, stir in and keep over heat until pasta is done, largely depends on pasta used but a dried egg dough can take 5 minutes while fresh egg dough will take 2-3 minutes.
  13. Pour into bowls and if you like, add a nice swirl of extra tasty extra virgin olive oil to your soup.

It is easy to make the soup #vegetarian or #vegan. This soup uses #pantry items as well as foods other people would throw out: ugly little pasta bits (they should be similar in size and thickness for similar cooking time) and Parmigiano Reggiano rind (which has no wax).


#iocucinoacasa #iorestoacasa #keepcalmandmakepasta #mybologna #emiliaromagna #italianrecipes #ricettefacili #cucinaitaliana #italianfoodporn #foodies #pastafresca  #foodstagram #foodiesofinstagram #foodblogger #lacucinadellamamma #cucinadellanonna #vegetarianrecipes #recipesforlent #lentrecipes #meatlessmonday #cucinatradizionale #cucinaromagnola #italiancuisine #italiancooking #sustainable #easyitalian #easypeasy #easyrecipes 

March 19, 2020

Fried Italian Caprino or Pecorino Cheese


FRIED ITALIAN CHEESE
This is a super easy dish you can prepare in no time with ingredients you likely already have in your pantry. Perfect as an appetizer or second course over a bed of fresh, crisp greens. If serving as a second course, plan on serving larger pieces or two pieces per person.

The first time I had this for lunch in the mountains near Merano in Alto Adige (Italy) I was amazed at how ridiculously easy yet delicious this dish was. The hard part was finding cheese like theirs: mild flavored, with just the right amount of melted (not gooey) and not salty at all. Heavenly!

Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS
  • 4 pieces of 1 to 11/2 cm (about 1/2 inch) thick cheese per person. See Cooking tips regarding ideal types of cheese to use.
  • 1 whole egg or 1 egg white
  • 125g (4 ounces) of dry breadcrumbs 
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • Frying oil (see Cooking Tips) 

METHOD
Prep: 
  1. Pour breadcrumbs into a deep dish and add salt & pepper to taste, blend well.
  2. Remove crust from cheese and cut the cheese into squares or rectangles for more eye appeal
  3. Break egg into a bowl and beat well
  4. Pour enough frying oil so that it fills up the bottom with 2cm (3/4 inch). The frying pan should have high sides to prevent splashing, heat oil until pretty hot. 
  5. Cover a large plate with paper towels to hold your fried cheese
  6. Prepare serving plates with washed greens or salad.

When oil is hot - remember to turn ON your kitchen hood’s fan, proceed as follows:
  1. Dip one piece of cheese into beaten egg and turn over to ensure that it is well coated then ->
  2. Dip into the seasoned breadcrumbs, turning over to ensure that it is well coated then ->
  3. Place into the frying pan and cook for a few minutes until it is golden on one side and turn over to cook on the other side. 
  4. Do not overcrowd your frying pan, you need enough space to turn your pieces of cheese. 
  5. When golden on both sides, remove cheese from pan and blot excess oil on paper towels. 
  6. Place still hot cheese in the center of prepped plates with salad.
  7. Eat immediately.

COOKING TIPS
If you keep the cheese vacuum packed in the refrigerator, it will last for months, allowing you to “whip up this dish” at a moment’s notice, like a true Italian.

A pair of tablespoons may be best to turn the breaded cheeses, as I found the tongs tend to break the crispy bread crust. Have a spatula ready in case your cheese slices stick to the bottom - to prevent this to begin with, I suggest adding plenty of oil to your frying pan (see Prep point 4 under Method).

The right cheese. Although you could use most cheeses with this recipe, this particular dish calls for an Italian cheese that is not too young, not too old. A Caprino (goat) or Pecorino (sheep) cheese between 2-5 months is ideal. Too young and the cheese will melt before the breading becomes golden, too old and the cheese is likely to be too salty.

The Frying oil. When frying, choose an oil with a high smoke point such as peanut, grapeseed, safflower, soybean, sunflower, canola, or extra light olive oil are all good choices. 

Substitutions

You can make this dish Gluten free by substituting with GF breadcrumbs

March 10, 2020

Tagliatelle al Prosciutto

A stunning pasta dish whose secret lies in its top quality ingredients; it is also quick and easy to put together. .

Ingredients PER PERSON (multiply as needed) 
about 100g/3.5 oz of fresh tagliatelle (egg noodles) 
60g of minced Prosciutto Crudo di Parma*
1 walnut sized nob of sweet, unsalted butter
2-3 tablespoons of 26 months or more Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated
*If you can’t find it already minced, then mince it yourself with a mezzaluna or in a food processor.
Method
  1. Prep your ingredients
  2. Make the pasta … and roll it thin! (you can do this several hours beforehand) 
  3. Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat, toss in the prosciutto and break it up, toss around for a minute or so
  4. Cook the fresh pasta in boiling, salted water (about 2-3 minutes)
  5. Drain pasta and toss with butter and prosciutto
  6. Sprinkle the parmigiano cheese on top
  7. Dig in: rejoice in all things simple!

A note about the ingredients and balance:
The difference between a “just okay” and “amazing” dish has EVERYTHING to do with the quality of your ingredients. Herein lies the secret of Italian food, get the best ingredients you can get your hands on. It doesn’t have to be expensive, it has to be very good though.
So make sure that you are using the best tasting sweet, unsalted butter; it should taste creamy. The the prosciutto crudo should NOT be salty, if it is genuine Prosciutto di Parma (look for the distintive crown marking on the ham or package) it won’t be salty. The Parmigiano Reggiano cheese should be freshly grated and aged over 24 months, preferably 30 -36 months old. Why? because the taste of Parmigiano Reggiano changes as it ages: the younger 12-18 months has creamy and caramel type notes whereas the older 30-36 months has nutty notes and has more umami (do I dare say that?). 
The reason why this dish works so well is that the sweet butter is in perfect harmony with the sweet and savoury Prosciutto and the umami-rich Parmigiano. It is a perfect balance of flavours. One subpar ingredient and you’ll find yourself having to “fix” this dish with other ingredients. Fix it if you must but don’t deny yourself the pleasure of this sensory experience with the right ingredients. When #lessismore
Staying busy during the #coronavirus emergency: #Istayhome #iorestoacasa #keepcalmandcookon #keepcalmandmakepasta #covid19 #covid19Italia
#pastaia #sfoglina #pastaalmattarello #qualityingredients #Italianfood #italianrecipes #ricettefacili #ricettacolprosciutto #cucinaitaliana #pastaworkshop #nopastamachine #italianfoodporn #foodies #pastalover #pastamaker #pastaeveryday #handmadewithlove #myrecipes #pastafresca #pastaalluovo #foodstagram #foodiesofinstagram #foodblogger #tasteofitalyrecipes

February 27, 2020

Corona Virus Situation in Italy


I feel the need to do my part in providing accurate and clear information about the situation here in Italy. There is no need to be alarmed but we all do need to be careful. Please read on and share these posts among your family and friends, hopefully it will calm people down.
I will do regular updates here and on my Facebook page : www.facebook.com/TasteItalyBologna/

HOW IT IS TRANSMITTED
  • The virus enters your body via nose, eyes and mouth 
  • The virus does NOT enter your body through your skin
  • by micro drops from infected persons: when they cough, sneeze or talk (yes, we all spit a bit when we speak) so keep some distance from other people.
  • by shaking their hands if they’ve JUST sneezed or coughed into their hands (and did not wash their hands) and then you touch your eyes, mouth and nose.
  • not everyone who has the virus has symptoms so it is important that EVERYONE observe the prevention measures (see below) so you don’t spread it if you have it and don’t get it if you don’t have it! 
PREVENTION
The prevention measures for the Coronavirus are the same for anyone who wants to avoid catching influenza or the cold!
  • wash hands thoroughly for at least 40 seconds, with soap and water or hand gel with high content (60%+) of alcohol 
  • When you sneeze or cough do so covering your mouth and nose with a paper handkerchief OR cover your mouth and nose with your elbow 
  • dispose paper handkerchief in a wastebasket
  • Wash hands thoroughly immediately after
  • Avoid eating raw or meats/seafood that are not thoroughly cooked
  • wash fruits and vegetables before eating
  • drink liquids only from bottled sources
  • avoid contact with anyone who shows symptoms of respiratory illness
  • avoid crowded places where you would be in tight quarters with people you don’t know.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU SUSPECT YOU MAY HAVE THE VIRUS
  • do not just show up at the hospital or doctor’s office: you do not want to either infect anyone or get infected.
  • call and talk to a health professional who will provide instructions or check your health department’s website for instructions on how to proceed.
WHO IS AT RISK?
  • Anyone with a delicate health situation (cancer, heart problems, HIV, etc)
  • older adults (60+)
  • Technically children also are at risk because they have not developed a full set of antibodies but so far we haven’t seen deaths amongst children
   
MASKS or NO MASKS?
One could divide masks into 2 groups : 
  1. the FFp2 or FFp3: those that have the filter and a piece of metal above that needs to be tightened around the nose. 
  2. and all the others: some with metal clip but no filter as well the other masks without the metal clip.* 
Those who definitely need masks are people in contact with sick people (doctors, nurses, pharmacists) and people who are sick.
->These people need the super protective masks that have the filter and a piece of metal above that needs to be tightened around the nose. 

Everyone else really doesn’t need to wear a mask. 
Having said that, if you cannot avoid a crowded place such as public transportation, then do by all means wear the second type of mask. 

 *Attention: this mask's main function is to keep YOU from touching your nose, eyes and mouth! as soon as you arrive where you are going, wash your hands.

CORONA VIRUS FAQs
For your information: all the Italian deaths to date (25/2/20) have involved elderly people (with a weak immune system) and/or already sick with other health problems.

So why does Italy have so many cases?
- because Italy is testing a lot more people (10,000 tests as of 25/2/20) therefore, the more you look for something, the more you will find. We don't doubt that other countries have a similar amount of CoVid19.
  • Unfortunately some Italians from the quarantined areas don’t have symptoms and have not respected their quarantine and have travelled. This has created a number of issues outside of Italy.
Why have entire towns been quarantined? 
  • The towns that have been quarantined are where people with the CoronaVirus have lived/been in. 
  • because the virus can only survive through human contact. If we limit human contact, the virus dies out.
  • while a quarantine is a definite nuisance, there are definitely worse problems
Why have other towns closed schools and cancelled public events if they do not have people sick with CoVid19?
  • The towns and regions that have taken these PRECAUTIONARY measures are in close proximity to the quarantined areas. 
  • because the virus can only survive through human contact. If we limit human contact, the virus dies out.
  • while this is a nuisance, there are definitely worse consequences
Should I cancel my trip to Italy? or any travel plans?
  • honestly I would take a wait and see approach. There are measures being taken and we will soon see if they are effective.
  • if you are generally a “weak” person when it comes to your health or are elderly; I would definitely wait and see how this plays out. 
  • If it’s on a cruise ship, the answer would be YES, cancel
Why are people panicking? 
  • firstly because the information available is little, incomplete or just plain wrong; this creates confusion and thus alarm. 
  • the media is not taking a calm and informative approach to the news
  • There is disagreement amongst the medical community. Some virologists are claiming that the flu kills more ppl per year (true) while others explain that the real issue is that 20% of infected ppl end up in intensive care and most countries health system is not prepared to have 20% of their population in Intensive care (also true)
  • if we follow the prevention measures, we should be okay.
Why are people buying lots of food and even water?
  • I believe that some people have panicked and forget that you can have food delivered home by shops, supermarkets and restaurants
  • Others prefer to go to the supermarket (a crowded place) now while the virus hasn’t arrived in our towns and stay indoors (and away from potential crowds).
  • Our water is perfectly good so it is hard to understand the need to purchase water
Good to know
  • your pets won’t get the virus
  • objects don’t carry the virus (there is a German study out that disagrees but it wasn’t done on CoVid19)
  • if you do proper prevention you have little chance of getting sick

February 7, 2020

Orange Marmalade, Candied Peels and Orange Powder


I recently posted a photo of some of my experiments on Instagram and so many people asked me for the recipes, I decided to post them here where it is easier to type. 

It all began at the end of December when I tried the recipe for Candied Orange Peels by my friend Flavia of @SpaghettiABC (on Facebook and Instagram). The candied peels were really easy to make and they were SO good. 

I decided to make them again but make more since we had already finished the small batch I'd made and I wanted to make marmalade with the pulp. I also wanted to try my hand at making orange powder since I had scorched my first batch!



Orange Marmalade
For the marmalade I used the Silver Spoon's recipe, leaving out the peels since I planned to use them elsewhere. The recipe calls for 1 kilo (2.2 lbs) of pulp. Unfortunately the recipe appears to be only in Italian but you only need to look at the ingredients and proportions and follow someone else's recipe for orange marmalade. Obviously you also need to ensure you follow hygiene so make sure you have sterilized jars at the ready. For your information, 1 kilo of pulp turned into half a kilo, 500g or about 1lb of jam!
The recipe is here: marmellata di arance



Orange Powder
The idea began I finished my powdered Cuban adobo which has orange powder in it. It adds a nice zest to pork and poultry. I wondered if orange powder would work in other recipes: say sprinkled on seafood or in a delicate pasta sauce or pasta filling. 

As I mentioned above, I scorched my first batch. My second try went perfectly. I took all the ugly peels from the next recipe (hahaha) and some large & odd pieces and put them on a tray with parchment paper. Place into the oven at the lowest setting and check at 10 minute intervals. As soon as they are dry, remove them from the oven. Once they are cool, you can pulverize them in your food processor or in a mortar.
Pro Tip: do not put the peels directly on your oven trays as the peels will irreparably stain them! 

Candied Orange Peels
Candied orange peels
Candied orange peels are a luxurious treat when dipped in dark chocolate, on your cannolis, gelato or as a cake decoration. Hey, I even drop them in my tea as a little self-care treat on a cold day! 
Candied orange peels are very easy to make: you only need 3 ingredients. There are several ways to get rid of the bitterness in the peels, one is to boil the peels another is to soak them. I soaked mine and the kitchen smelled so sweet.
The original recipe is here: Flavia's candied orange peels

Below is my adaptation with a few tips ;)
I suggest using organic oranges (that haven't been sprayed with toxic substances).
Pro Tip (aka don't make my mistake - hahaha) : do not add syrup after the oranges have begun simmering, because you will not get the supple and glossy finish if you do. 
Ingredients
Oranges, as many as you'd like but at least two.
Sugar, same amount as the weight of the softened orange peels
Water, same amount as the weight of the softened orange peels
Procedure

0. Rinse and pat dry the oranges (this should be obvious)
1. Cut the orange rind the way you'd like them: thin strips, wide strips, small squares or even the whole rind. Remove the zest and the white part.
2. Put the peels in a large bowl and cover with water. Let the peels soak for 3 days. You will see the water turn cloudy and orangey, its normal.
3. Remove the peels from the bowl and let them drain off the water.
4. Weigh the peels; this is the amount of water and sugar that you will need.
5. Put all the ingredients in a wide enough skillet so that you have a single layer and bring to a simmer. Simmer until the peels have soaked up the syrup. About 20 minutes.
6. Place the peels over a board, marble top or even parchment paper (what I did) keeping them mostly separated. I used tongs to do this, just to keep my fingers from getting too sticky.
7. Allow the peels to cool for at least 1 hr. Then you can put them in an airtight jar.