Category Archives: Italian

Ricotta Gnudi with Mortadella Polpetti and Nona’s Fresh Tomato Sugo

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mortadella

Artisan Meat Share Mortadella

Ever since I saw Craig Deihl’s post on Facebook, showing his house made mortadella at Artisian Meat Share, I have been looking forward to trying it. I am inspired by Chef Ken Vedrinski’s (Tratoria Lucca) Ricotta Gnudi with Mortadella Polpetti (little meatballs). Tratoria Lucca is one of my favorite Charleston restaurants and the reason is Ken Vedrinkski. He is a hands on chef owner who absorbs himself in his cuisine in a way that most chefs simply do not hold a candle to. He sources many Italian delicacies on his frequent trips across the Atlantic, finding the most special olive oils, wines and cheeses to bring  back to Charleston. He also has special relationships with fishermen, ranchers and farmers who bring their goods to the back door of his restaurant.

Ken-Vedrinski

Gnudi are gnocchi-like dumplings made with ricotta cheese instead of potato, with very little or no flour. The result is often a lighter, “pillowy” dish, unlike the often denser, more chewy gnocchi.

There are three elements to this meal, they come together in a perfect symphony of flavor and texture.

Tomato Sugo Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 generous pinch crushed red pepper
  • 8 plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded and crushed
  • 10-12 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 1/2 cup of butter
  • Salt to taste

Method: 

  • Place olive oil in a pot over medium heat.
  • Add garlic and chili flakes
  • Saute 2-3 minutes
  • Add tomatoes and butter, blend well and add salt to taste
  • Reduce heat, cover and simmer about 30 minutes. Remove from heat.

Butter in the sauce

Mortadella Polpetti Ingredients: 

  • 4 slices of day-old ciabatta, crust removed
  • 2 cups milk
  • 5 ounces ground pork
  • 5 ounces ground mortadella (if you cannot find it, then use good quality bologna and finely chopped pistachios along with some black pepper)
  • 1/4 cup porcini powder
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup ground Parmesan
  • 3 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley

Method:

  • Soak cubes in milk for 5 minutes,then squeeze dry.
  • In a large bowl add remaining ingredients until well combined. Cover bowl, then refrigerate 1 hour.
  • Form Polpeti into 1 inch balls.
  • 45 minutes before serving time, add the polpetti to the sauce and put on a simmer burner at very low temp.

Meatballs cooking

Gnudi Ingredients: 

  • 16 ounces good quality fresh ricotta
  • 5 ounces microplaned Locatelli Pecorino Cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2/3 cup 00 flour (available at Italian specialty stores or online), plus more for dusting.

Gnudi Method: 

Gnudi before boiling

  • Mix all ingredients in a large bowl till a dough forms. Be gentle when mixing. cover bowl and chill for 1 hour
  • Dust the bottom of a sheet pan with flour.
  • Place dough on a floured work surface and roll into a 1 1/4 inch diameter log. cut on the bias into one inch pieces.Place on the floured surface
  • Bring a large pot of salted water to boil
  • Shake extra flour from gnudi. gently place in the pot cooked till cooked through. Put in a bowl and toss with the sauce.
  • Serve with freshly grated parm.

gnudi in sauce

Bucatini two ways!

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Bucatini

Bucatini is one of my favorite pastas. It is a long noodle (#6) and it is hollow. This makes a chewy and delicious pasta dish. The first method is with bread crumbs, garlic, olive oil and herbs, topped with cheese and bread crumbs. The second has a sauce of butter roasted tomatoes with anchovies and garlic. Both are super fast and easy. Both have two layers of garlic flavor, utilizing fresh garlic and Vik’s Garlic Fix, one of my favorite products.

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Bucatini with breadcrumbs

Bucatini with Bread Crumbs and Garlic, serves 4

Ingredients:
1 cup fresh bread (Italian or sourdough is best for this) crumbs toasted in a pan with 2 TBS butter
10 cloves garlic, chopped
2 TBS Vik’s Garlic Fix
1 TBS fresh cracked pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1 bunch of fresh parsley or 1/4 cup dried parsley
crushed red pepper flakes to taste
1/4 cup parmigiana, grated
1/2 package bucatini pasta, cooked al dente

Method:

garlic and oil

The sauce is made as the pasta cooks. While your pasta is boiling place the olive oil, Vik’s and the red pepper in a frying pan and sear till the garlic is soft and lightly browned.

breadcrumbs

When the pasta is done strain and toss with the sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste. Then add the cheese and top with bread crumbs and parsley! It is delicious!

Bucatini with breadcrumbs
Next method: Butter Roasted Tomato Sauce, serves 4

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Ingredients:

8 cloves of garlic
1 TBS Vik’s Garlic Fix
2 cups cherry tomatoes
1 28 ounce can of chopped tomatoes (and juice)
6 small anchovies in olive oil
1/4 cup Sweet Onion Sugar
2 Tbs Italian Herb Blend
6 Tablespoons of butter cut into small pieces
Salt and Black pepper
1/2 package Bucatini Pasta, cooked al dente

Fresh Italian Parsley or Basil for garnish.
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In an oven proof pan with deep sides, place all ingredients. Roast at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. After removing from the oven, smash the garlic, tomatoes and anchovies with a fork to achieve a thick chunky sauce. Toss half of the sauce with the bucatini and a ladle of pasta water. Then dish up and put remaining sauce on the pasta. Garnish with the fresh herbs.

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Meyer Lemon Focaccia

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baked

It is Meyer Lemon season. I have been in love with Meyer Lemons since I was a little girl. My great grandmother had an ever bearing Meyer. Coming from a citrus family has advantages. I wonder how that 60+ year old tree in Glendora, California  is doing now. I do lots with the lemons on my tree and those I buy to supplement my habit. Here is what I did with some of them yesterday.

Meyer Lemon Focaccia

Ingredients:

Makes 1 focaccia.

  • 1 package (1/4 ounce) instant yeast or 2 1/2 teaspoons if you use bulk
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour, preferably organic
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • Olive oil, for bowl and baking sheet
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella or pecorino toscano thinly shredded
  • 2 lemons, very thinly sliced crosswise
  • about a tablespoon of fresh rosemary
  • 1-2 meyer lemons sliced thinly and seeded
  • Parmigiano Reggiano cheese to grate over the top
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (more if you like a kick)
  • thinly sliced sweet onion

3-4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (I use smoked)

*Note: It is best to use very fresh lemons for this, as older lemons rinds become difficult to chew.

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Method:

  1. In a large bowl, or in a bowl of a stand mixer, combine yeast and 2 1/2 cups flour with 2 cups water; whisk to combine. Let stand 15 minutes.
  2. Add remaining 2 1/2 cups flour and salt; mix until well combined. Change to the dough hook if using a stand mixer. If using the mixer, knead with the mixer. If doing by hand, turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface; knead until wet and tacky, but not sticky, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a well-oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let stand until doubled in size, 3 1/2 to 4 hours.
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  3. Scatter semolina on a large rimmed baking sheet and press dough evenly into baking sheet. Let rise until puffy, about 1 hour.
  4. Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
  5. “Dimple the dough with your fingers  Drizzle some olive oil on the dough. Cover dough lightly with Pecorino or Mozzarella  and lemon slices, then sprinkle with rosemary and pepper; drizzle with more extra-virgin olive oil. Gate a little Parm over the top.
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  6. Transfer to oven and bake for 15 minutes. Rotate baking sheet, and continue baking until lemons and crust are golden brown, about 15 minutes more.
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  7. Remove bread from baking sheet and transfer to a wire rack to cool at least 10 minutes before serving.
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Smoked and Braised Pork Shoulder Latin Style

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plate 2 This recipe has been one I have used for years. I used to make it at my cooking school for Cuban Night. I change out a few things here and there to go more Italian or more Cuban. Even if you do not have a smoker this is delicious braised or done in a slow cooker or dutch oven. You simply make a paste in the food processor and then make slits in the pork shoulder (bone in or out, your choice). Marinate it over night, smoke the next morning and then finish it off in a crock pot or in a dutch oven in the oven.  Note: I do not add salt before cooking, but I offer it at the table. 

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Ingredients:

1 cup each of packed cilantro and flat leaf parsley

1/3 cup each of coriander, cumin and fennel seeds toasted

30 cloves of garlic

1/4 cup crushed red pepper (the kind you put on pizza)

1/4 cup pink pepper berries (optional)

1 tablespoon hickory powder if you are not smoking the meat

1/4 cup olive oil (I use smoked oil that I make)

1 5-7 pound pork shoulder (get them on sale and freeze)

2# Yukon Gold Potatoes

3 large onions, quartered

2 cans of beer

1/4 cup Spice and Tea Exchange Sweet Onion Sugar (optional)

Method:

Put the cilantro, parsley seeds, garlic, pepper berries, crushed red pepper, hickory powder if you are not smoking and the olive oil in a food processor. Pulse till you have a thick paste.

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Put on latex gloves if you have them, this gets messy. Cut 1 1/2 inch slits into the meat on all sides. Stuff the slits with the paste. If you have any paste left over, smear it on the meat. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate 12-24 hours.
porchetta
Remove the meat from the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature. Meanwhile set up your smoker and turn your grill on high.

Sear the meat on all sides on the grill. Then place in the smoker at about 200 degrees over a drip pan and smoke for 6 hours. If you do not have a smoker, go directly to the slow cooker or roaster but cook for 8-10 hours on low.

Porchetta out of the smoker

Prepare the roaster or slow cooker by placing a bed of Yukon Gold potatoes (small ones or cut larger ones in half) and the onions. Sometimes I add other root vegetables too. Place the meat directly on the bed of veggies. pour two cans or bottles of beer over the meat. Sprinkle the sweet onion sugar all over.

Roast at 350 degrees covered with foil or in a dutch oven. Or you can use a slow cooker on high for 4 hours (either method).  It is just that easy. The leftovers are sometimes my favorite part… tamales, tacos pulled pork sandwiches. 🙂

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Roasted Tomato & Fresh Mozzarella Ravioli

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Wonderfully easy and fresh Ravioli! So easy 40 minutes from oven to table. You can also roast the tomatoes ahead of time and make this even faster.

The tomatoes are mostly small grape tomatoes, but I tossed in a few others too. The ravioli dough is actually won ton wrappers. I cannot find my ravioli cutters after the move, so I used a biscuit cutter. This recipe serves 2, but you could easily double it.

Ingredients:

  • 1# of ripe cherry or grape tomatoes
  • Olive oil
  • Vik’s Garlic Fix (or fresh garlic minced with a sprinkling of Kosher salt)
  • finely chopped Italian Parsley, Basil and rosemary (about 3 tablespoons total)
  • 8 nice leaves of Italian Parsley and Basil for the raviolis
  • 8 small balls of fresh mozzarella
  • 1 package of wonton wrappers
  • 1 cup of dry vermouth (or chicken stock)
  • Reggiano Parmesan for grating
  • Additional seasoning to taste for the sauce, smoked salt, Vik’s Garlic Fix, coarse black pepper & crushed red pepper.

Cut the tomatoes in half. Place on a cooking sheet with rim. Drizzle with olive oil, Vik’s Garlic Fix, a spring of rosemary leaves and black pepper.

Roast at 350 for 30 minutes

Remove and cool slightly

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On a floured counter, lay out 8 wonton wrappers and place one parsley leaf, one basil leaf, one tomato half and one ball of mozzarella ball on each. On 8 other wonton wrappers, brush the egg wash and then place on top of the “loaded” wrappers. Seal carefully and then cut with a ravioli cutter or leave square. Place these on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper and allow to dry a bit. 10 minutes is optional, but 5 is fine.

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While the ravioli is drying, put remaining tomatoes and juices in a saute pan and simmer with the vermouth and additional basil, parsley and rosemary. Season to taste.

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In a pot of boiling water, cook the ravioli for 3-4 minutes in small batches. Use a slotted spoon to plate and cover with sauce and top with cheese.

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Prickly Pear Sorbet

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This recipe is quite simple. You will need an icecream maker of some kind, but even the very inexpensive ones work well for this. You will also need a fine sieve.

8 Prickly Pears (they call these Tuna) in Mexican markets. They come in yellow, orange and pink. My favorite is pink.

1 cup of simple syrup (half water/half sugar till sugar melts) or light agave syrup. Sometimes I put fresh mint in the syrup too.

Juice of three limes

1/4 cup raspberry liqueur  such as Framboise. This step can be eliminated if you do not want the liquor.

Often times you can find these pears growing wild and in gardens. In Mexico they also candy them. In Italy they are used to make gelato ad sorbet in the fall.

When making your simple syrup, you can add spices, in this case I used one cardamom pod, mint, a cinnamon stick and 3 star anise. These just flavor the syrup slightly.

Using a fork, cut off the ends of the prickly pear. Commercial pears like you would find in a hispanic grocery will have the little prickles removed. If you harvest them your self, you will need to be more careful. Hold the fork on one end, stand the pear on the other end and using a sharp knife cut just the skin from the pear. Then cut into large chunks and place in a food processor. Pour in the simple syrup, lime and liqueur. Pulse until the mixture is smooth.

Strain carefully, there are a lot of seeds inside. Cool the mixture.

Process as you would in any ice cream or gelato machine. Pack tightly in freezer containers. It will be ready to eat within a couple of hours.

Pesto: Summer’s Gift

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There are few things that can compare to home made pesto. It evokes the essence of the garden, all of that basil and garlic… but it also has a richness and depth because of very good olive oil, lots of Parmigiano Reggiano and most importantly pine nuts and pistachios! As my basil plants dictate (it takes ARMFULLS of basil), I make a big batch and freeze it. It does keep well in the refrigerator too, at least 6 weeks.  I never use a recipe, but I paid attention this time to the amounts so you too could make some of the best “green sauce” in the world. If you have a smaller amount of basil, you can divide this recipe. Just remember to taste the pesto for balance and seasonings. It should have a little tang to it and also be rich and slightly crunchy. Some people use other nuts, such as walnuts, but I promise nothing can compare with the combination of pine nuts and pistachios. The are expensive, but really worth it in this instance. And a little pesto can go a long way too! 

Ingredients:  

1 1/2 cups pine nuts

1 1/2 cups pistachios

16 cups of basil leaves and flowers if you have them. I sometimes add parsley and arugula to the mix, but the predominate flavor needs to be basil. 

Zest and juice of three large lemons

3 heads (not teeth, full heads) of garlic, skinned and cut into chunks

1 1/2 -2 cups of good olive oil you judge when the consistency is ideal

2 tablespoons smoked sea salt (non smoked is fine too)

3 tablespoons fresh cracked pepper

1 tablespoon raw sugar

1-2 tablespoons crushed red pepper

3 cups freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano (you can do this in the food processor ahead)

 

You will need a food processor for this. If you do not have one, a blender works, but you will have to do it in smaller batches. I have a very large Cusinart, so I do a big batch at one time. 

Method: 

Get all ingredients in place. Toast the nuts in a dry skillet. Do not crowd them too much. I did two batches for this recipe. 

While the nuts are cooling, fill the processor bowl with basil, slightly packed, but not too tight. You should have some basil left over, this will go in after the first part is ground. 

Add the salt, pepper, red pepper, 1 cup of olive oil, garlic, all of the lemon zest and juice. Pulse till the basil is reduced in volume, add the rest of the basil and more oil. The oil and the lemon juice allow the basil to be ground down into a paste. The lemon juice is used for flavor, but also to keep the pesto bright green. Add all of the nuts and process again, adding olive oil as needed to make the paste. Add the cheese and more olive oil as needed. It should be a thick paste, but one that easily drops from a spoon. Once you have it all ground up, taste, add more seasoning if you need it. 

Freeze in containers the size that you are likely to be using it. I find that about 1 cup servings are good for two people. This is great on pasta, pizza, fresh mozzarella, ricotta, crostini, chicken, steak and even on scrambled eggs.  I also like to dip bread sticks in it. However, my favorite way to eat it is over pasta.