September 17, 2020

Update!

Ciao! Hi there!, 

You may have noticed that I haven't spent a lot of time on this website. That's partly because I have been

busy creating almost daily content for Facebook and Instagram...Yes, and because the Coronavirus put a stop to my business at the end of February, I decided to open a YouTube channel, too. 

A bit much, perhaps but it is a way to hopefully keep teaching, which I love. But learning to make decent videos has been challenging, although I believe I am at a good point with my latest "How to make Green Pasta" video (did you watch it? what did you think?) Check out my last post (below) to watch the video. 

This website will be completely redone soon! Until the new website arrives, I suggest you follow me on Instagram or Facebook where I post Italian recipes, videos and provide travel and cultural information ALMOST EVERY DAY. 👀

Once the new website is up and running, the website will become the center of my attention once again. 😊

Below you will find the addresses (these are not links) where you can find me and my photos, recipes, and videos about Italy:

Where to find me on Social Media


Feel free to share any of my posts you like with your family and friends. The more, the merrier!

If you have a suggestion, comment, request or question, you can write under any of my posts. I personally read all of them. 

I look forward to connecting with you on social media!

Ciaoooo! Maribel

 

 

 

 

The BEST Summer Pasta Dressing with Eggplant, Tomatoes and Sheep’s Cheese

This is such an amazing pasta dressing! 


This pasta dressing explodes with Mediterranean flavors! It reminds me of sunny Puglia in southern Italy and its amazing Mediterranean vegetables. It has juicy, tasty tomatoes; mild aubergines/eggplants, some chili peppers and garlic, lots of fresh basil, wonderful, savoury seasoned ricotta (ricotta salata) and fresh, fruity olive oil from Puglia. Its perfect for meatless Mondays or vegetarian days. I promise you won't miss the meat!

It is equally delicious with handmade fresh egg pasta or dry, hard wheat pasta.

With Egg Pasta Farfalle

With Hard Wheat Rigatoni


I suggest reading through the entire recipe and my notes before cooking this. I recommend seeking out the “sweet” variety of aubergines/eggplants which are either striped (violet and white), all white, or violet with white tinges by the stem area on the outside and completely white on the inside. These varieties do not require salting to remove bitterness because they are not bitter. 

It is not necessary to cook the tomatoes, specially on a hot day. Raw tomatoes that are ripe and tasty are wonderfully refreshing and also give you a nice variation on this dish.

Ricotta salata is a dairy product from the Puglia region of Italy. Although we treat ricotta salata like a cheese, it is technically not a cheese but a dairy product. It is made from the whey left over after making cheese with, usually, sheep’s milk. The whey is cooked a second time, thus giving it its name; ricotta literally means cooked twice or cooked again. It is less fatty and much less caloric than cheese. Ricotta salata literally means salty ricotta and while it tastes somewhat salty, its main characteristic is that it is hard because its been seasoned for 30 days and lost up to 50% of the water regular fresh ricotta has. 

If you cannot source ricotta salata you can substitute it with Pecorino Romano (hard sheep’s cheese from Rome) or good quality Greek Feta cheese (made with either sheep or goat or a blend of the two). While these two cheeses have different consistencies, they both confer the tasty sharpness required in this dish.


Aubergines, tomatoes, garlic, basil and ricotta salata

RECIPE

Serves 4 persons as a first course or 3 as a single course meal. 

Ingredients

1 -2 cloves garlic, peeled

1-2 dried hot Italian peppers (pepperoncino)

12-16 sweet cherry tomatoes (see notes)

600g or 2 medium sized sweet aubergine/eggplants

a large bunch fresh basil

100/3.5 oz grams of Pecorino Romano cheese, Ricotta salata or very good quality Feta cheese

Extra virgin olive oil for cooking

Excellent quality extra virgin olive oil to finish  

350 grams of hard wheat pasta or fresh egg pasta. A short shape with some sort of cavity is ideal such as rigatoni, orecchiette (little ears), bowties or garganelli.

NOTE: Keep in mind that hard wheat pasta takes longer to cook than fresh egg pasta. Fresh Egg pasta takes between 2-3 minutes for flat types and up to 5-7 minutes for fresh stuffed pastas while dry hard wheat pasta can take up to 15 minutes, check package directions for exact time.

Procedure

Prepare all the ingredients as follows and set aside, each in its own bowl or dish: 

Wash, dry and cut aubergines/eggplants into bite sized cubes,

Wash cherry tomatoes and cut into small bites sized pieces, 

Grate cheese, I like to grate in the larger holes of the grater,

Rinse and dry basil. Tear up the basil into small piecesith your hands. 

Ready to cook

Take a non-stick skillet and drizzle with a bit of regular olive oil (extra virgin but not the expensive stuff). 

Crush the garlic with the flat side of a large knife, remove its green germ and immediately place in the skillet with the the olive oil. 

Crush the hot peppers directly into the olive oil. 

NOTE: Wash your hands immediately because anything you touch will sting (eyes, mouth, nose)!

Warm the skillet over med-low heat and as it cooks the garlic will begin to become golden (do not let it brown though - that would be a different flavor profile). Once it is golden you may remove it as its done its job of flavoring the olive oil. 

At this point add the aubergine/ eggplant and raise the heat to med-high, stirring regularly to prevent it from sticking. This step requires frequent turning over the cubes of aubergines to ensure it cooks evenly. 

NOTE: Do not add extra olive oil because the eggplant will absorb the oil and then it becomes a heavy dish. If necessary, lower the heat.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. When water is boiling add some coarse salt (never add oil to the water).  If using packaged pasta, add it now and check package directions for cooking time. 1

After the aubergines are almost cooked (see note below), add the cut tomatoes and cook for another 5 minutes or so. Salt lightly and lower the heat.

NOTE: The Aubergines are done when the exterior is opaque white and/or browned. You could also put a toothpick or knife through it to test it. If it goes through without resistance, it is done. 

Cook your pasta in boiling salted water. Drain when cooked (taste to test doneness). 

Time to assemble the dish

Immediately toss pasta with aubergine/eggplants and tomatoes. Toss well.

Then add the grated cheese and hand-torn basil and toss some more. 

Add a generous drizzle of high quality olive oil and toss thoroughly. 

NOTE: The tossing between prevents the ingredients from clumping together. 

You may add extra cheese to each individual plate. Serve immediately and enjoy!


All recipes and comments are by Maribel Agulló except where expressly attributed to others.

Do not publish or distribute the recipes without previous, written consent.

September 10, 2020

How to Make Green Pasta Naturally, the Italian Way!


Making natural green colored pasta is traditional in many parts of Italy. In the Emilian part of the Emilia-Romagna region (Piacenza, Parma, Reggio-Emilia, Modena, Ferrara and most of the metropolitan city of Bologna) spinach and young swiss chard is used to color the dough. 

In the Ligurian region and lower part of the Piedmontese region (the provinces of Asti, Alessandria and Cuneo) borrage is used to color the dough green.

In the spring, these as well as other fresh pasta making regions use young and tender nettle leaves to give their dough a natural green color.

Remember that one of the founding principles of Italian cooking is that people cooked with what they had readily available: so it was ALWAYS fresh, local and seasonal. Cooking this way also makes it more tasty, more nutritious, less costly and sustainable. That's a win-win for everyone! 

While I do provide quantities, it really is up to you: it depends on your personal preference. Generally we use 100g of fresh spinach or young swiss chard leaves per every 100g of flour, plus one egg. If using frozen greens, use 30g of frozen spinach or young swiss chard leaves per 50g of flour.

If using fresh borrage or nettle leaves, plan on using 50g of fresh leaves for every 100g of flour plus one egg. 

The amounts in ounces are as follows:

100g =3.5oz

50g = 1.76oz

30g= 1oz

25g = .88oz

Serving size: plan on one 100g of flour per person. When making green dough, have an extra 50-60g of flour on hand, just in case it is needed. See notes below. 

PROCEDURE

1. Before you use the vegetable, you must wash it, cook it and remove as much water as possible. 

2. Then you mince it, either by hand with a knife or in a food processor. If using a food processor, you get better results if you add the eggs in as well.

3. You make a well and add the egg and minced vegetable. 

4. Work in the flour a bit at a time, proceeding as you normally would when making fresh pasta.

5. Keep adding flour until you obtain a nice and bouncy ball of dough. 

**It is of utmost importance to have more flour than you think you might need on hand because the cooked vegetable adds some moisture to the dough and you will need to add flour to the dough until you have a nice and bouncy ball of dough. It is practically impossible to know beforehand exactly how much flour you'll need. I like to keep about 60g extra on hand per every egg's worth of dough I'm preparing.  **

6. The dough should rest at least 30 minutes at room temperature; if you can't roll it immediately after, then refrigerate and let it come to room temperature before rolling out.

You will find detailed information about working with dough, kneading and rolling with the pasta machine  in the video below. Remember to subscribe so you won't miss my new videos. 



green pasta dough, green pasta, natural green dough

June 29, 2020

Peach with Balsamic Vinegar and Parmigiano Reggiano Salad

peach, balsamic vinegar and parmigiano salad



Today I am sharing with you my favorite summer salad! What makes this salad special is the unique combination of peaches (or nectarines), parmigiano reggiano and balsamic vinegar. This salad is pretty, delicious, refreshing, and real quick to put together. It goes really well with grilled seafood, poultry, meats and grilled … anything! 

OK let’s get on with the recipe! The video is below...


INGREDIENTS
No quantities are listed as you can make a salad for one or 50.

You'll need

. a chunk of aged Parmigiano -Reggiano cheese: the older the better: Ideally between 30 and 36 months which has a nutty undertones vs caramel undertones of the mild 12 month old Parmigiano. We are looking for contrast between the peach and cheese, this is why an older cheese is preferred

. 1 Ripe peach or nectarine (every 4 servings) : ripe means that its juicy and sweet, it might still have some tangy notes in there

. lettuce : The lettuce’s mild flavor is important to help balance all these sweet, tangy and savoury flavours. So choose greens that are mild flavoured such as butter, round, red leaf, oak leaf and Boston Bibb lettuces. Remember that the flavor needs to be mild.
Therefore, avoid greens that will compete with the flavours just mentioned. So a big NO goes to kale, arugula, cress, radicchio, iceberg, cabbage, spinach, as these lovely but strong tasting greens would mask the the flavor of the Parmigiano & Balsamic vinegar

. Salt & freshly grated pepper

. Balsamic vinegar from Modena. Not all Balsamic Vinegars are worthy of that name. There is PDO Balsamic Vinegar from Modena which is fabulous and then there is wild west of balsamic vinegars where you never know what you are buying until you taste it. Below you will find 2 links to some nice PDO Balsamic and some very decent but not expensive balsamic vinegar.

Remember that a Balsamic vinegar should not taste like vinegar. It is more like a tangy grape syrup ; it should taste smooth, creamy with tangy and sweet notes.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil 
 - there are many wonderful types of extra virgin olive oil: fruity, less fruity, etc.
They are all good, I’d only avoid using using just “been bottled” olive oils as some types, in my experience, tend to be bitter (they do mellow out after a month or two).  

Naturally, we also want to avoid using rancid olive oils. So before you pour it on, TASTE it.

That’s it! There's only 5 ingredients! The success of this dish depends its ingredients, I will provide suggestions on how to choose the right ingredients as we go through the recipe.

PROCEDURE

1. We begin by shaving an old Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese preferred.

You can shave the cheese ahead of time and cover if not using immediately. This is a salad that we put together right before serving.

2. Put the clean lettuce in a wide pretty bowl and dress add salt and pepper with a good drizzle of EVOO and good balsamic vinegar. Toss salad.

3. taste a piece of lettuce to ensure that its properly dressed and adjust seasonings if necessary 

4. Right before serving slice the peach. It is important that you do not do it ahead of time as Ive noticed that cut peaches and nectarines color turns the longer it sits out. Slice the peach thinly - not paper thin but pretty close
5. place peach slices on salad in a pattern so that its pretty to look at

6. we will top each piece of fruit with a a thin shaving of parmigiano reggiano cheese 

7. place a drop (or drizzle) of balsamic vinegar over each slice of cheese
8. this salad is ready to serve as is, no further tossing should be done. to serve, don’t toss but use your serving utensils to dig deep into the bowl and pick up some salad with fruit & cheese on top. 

Buon appetito!

Recommended Balsamic Vinegars: 
(These are NOT an affiliate link as I don't know how to do that YET  :S)

This is the GOOD stuff- for special friends & loved ones. 
PDO Traditional Balsamic Vinegar from Modena (here)

THIS is my everyday and awesome Balsamic vinegar. Its not made the traditional way but it tastes pretty close to the good stuff (here)
If you would like to see me prepare this salad - follow this link 


For more authentic Italian food (the way its done in Italy), visit my channel and consider subscribing - remember to also click on the bell to be notified everytime I upload a video. All the videos are on my YouTube Channel

AUDIO: Please forgive my audio, still working on improving it. This is only my 5th video and am working hard to learn as fast as possible and create videos all by myself during the pandemic!