Tuesday, November 27, 2012

spaghetti carbonara


In the New York Times Food Section of November 21, famed writer and foody Calvin Trillin reported that he has no use for turkey for Thanksgiving. His choice: spaghetti carbonara. We can understand the selection. We rate the dish as one of our top five all-time comfort food dishes, so why not go for comfort on Thanksgiving. (the photo above is from that edition of the NYT: photo by Daniel Krieger at the Locande Verde restaurant).
Calvin's recipe is a little different from most, but according to writer Ian Fisher, that is not surprising. He reports that an Italian food historian claims there are over 400 versions, "from the most classic Roman to variations that are delicious but drive traditionalsts mad." Calvin uses pancetta, fontina and prosciutto.
This superb article gives a lot of fascinating detail about carbonara, it's history (after 1944) and the arguments over ingredients. One of the major arguments is about cream: In Rome Never!! The proper Roman version, according to the article, has only five ingredients: pasta, guanciale, egg yolk, pecorino Romano and black pepper.
David Downie in Cooking the Roman Way allows for pancetta or bacon instead of the classic gianciale. He also uses a combination of pecorino and parmigiano, and he also agrees that the variations in carbonara are endless.
Our classic version (see www.classicpasta.com) does use a little garlic, goes with any of the three meat options, and does use a little white wine. Some hints from the Times article: make in small batches (one pound of pasta maximum at a time); do not let the meat get too crispy, follow directions on mixing the pasta with the egg mixture to avoid scrambing the eggs, by all means reserve some of the pasta water to add to the pasta if necessary, and do not skimp on the pepper.
Here is the "official" verson from the NYT. (we like our variation a little better - be sure to look it up).
2 large eggs and 2 large yolks
1 ounce packed Pecorino Romano plus additional for serving
1 ounce grated Parmesan
ground pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 pound (4 oz) of guanciale, pancetta, or bacon, sliced into pieces about 1/4 inch
thick by 1/3 inch square
12 ounces spaghetti
In a mixing bowl whisk together the eggs, yolks and cheese, with a pinch of salt and some freshly ground pepper

Get a big pot of water boiling.

In a saute pan heat the oil and saute the pork of choice until the fat comes out and just before it gets crisp. Set aside.

Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente (test by tasting). Reserve a cup of the liquid and drain.
Reheat, for a moment, the pork, if necessary. Add the pasta to the pork and stir. In a heated bowl, put in the pasta/meat mixture. Stir in the cheese/egg mixture. Add reserved liquid as necessary to keep it somewhat creamy, and not dry. Serve immediately  (very important), with extra cheese and pepper.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

california olive ranch

Here is one of the most informative and fun email-ers in our "Eating Italian" landscape. In addition to lots of information on olive oil generally -- it is not all commercial -- there are great recipes and a host of other assorted facts and figures.

Go to their web site: www.californiaoliveranch.com and sign up for the enewsletter. The emails are frequent but, in this camp anyway, always anticipated with much pleasure.

If you sign up right away (this is November 1) you will get the email with a great interview with the Canal House publishers. These are the same wonderful women you met on this blog -- just scroll back -- with their background, interests, and some terrific recipes, which they present in absolutely beautiful books

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

penne with peppers and bacon

We believe that Marcella's Italian Kitchen is the most under-appreciated of all her wonderful cook books. The wonderful pasta recipes are worth more than the price of admission. Here is an incredible taste treat we have adapted from one of the recipes in this book. Simple, fabulous and you will love it.

for the sauce:

  • four tablespoons of butter
  • three tablespoons olive oil
  • two good-sized red bell peppers
  • one half cup onion, chopped
  • one clove garlic, peeled and minced
  • six ounces bacon, sliced and chopped into quarter inch pieces
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • one quarter cup freshly grated pecorino (or parmesan)
  • two tablespoons chopped parsely
for the pasta:
  • one pound of penne or similar tubed pasta
Cut open the peppers and seed them and get rid of the core. Then slice and chop the peppers into quarter inch squares.

Put a tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet and saute the bacon until it is starting to brown but not yet crisp. Remove from the skillet and set aside on paper towels. Use a tablespoon of the fat as below (optional).

In another saute pan put in the remaining two tablespoons of olive oil and two tablespoons of butter, over a medium high heat. (If, like us, you like that flavor of fat, also add the reserved tablespoon of fat from the bacon). Add the garlic and onion and cook until the onion starts to turn  soft. Add the peppers and cook for ten minutes or so until the peppers are soft but not mushy. Add the bacon back into the pan and salt and some freshly ground pepper. Stir and saute another minute.

Meanwhile bring 4-5 quarts of water to a boil. Add two tablespoons of salt. Drop in the pasta and stir. Continue cooking until al dente. Save a cup of the pasta cooking liquid. Drain.

Add the pasta to the reheated sauce and stir. Add the tablespoon of butter and the parmesan and stir. Add from the reserved pasta water as necessary to keep the sauce moist. Cover and turn the heat to high and steam for one minute to get the pasta very hot.

Put the finished pasta in warm serving bowls, top with parsley, and serve immediately.

Then get Marcella's Italian Kitchen  and check out all the other great pasta recipes for yourself!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Canal House Cooking . . . 

Thanks to my friend Nach Waxman and his great book store: Kitchen Arts & Letters, I found this book, one of a series, called Canal House Cooking Volume No. 7. This is their Italian volume.

"They" are two talented ladies, Christopher and Melissa, who have a studio, workshop, and atelier devoted to "good ideas and good work relating to the world of food", in a red brick warehouse alongside a canal in Lambertville, New Jersey.

This Italian book is a result of staying several months in a remote farmhouse in Tuscany and also traveling throughout the country they love. When they returned home, Volume 7 (shown above) was the result. The book, not large but carefully selected,
 is as useful and intriguing as it is beautiful.

The book opens with a terrific essay on Italian sparklers -- spumante, prosecco, and many others, and goes on from there. 

Here is one of the opening recipes, which we did immediately: 

prosciutto and arugula tramezzini

Beat eight tablespoons room temp unsalted butter in a bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about one to two minutes. Set aside. Makes about 8-12 half sandwiches.

Use plain white sandwich bread. Trim the crusts off three slices. Spread some whipped butter on each of the three. Put one thin slice of prosciutto on each of two slices. Top them with small arugula leaves. Stack them on top of each other, arugula side up.Top this stack with the third slice of bread, butter side down. Cut the sandwich in half on a diagonal. Presto: two half sandwiches.

Their web site is "thecanalhouse.com".   You can order the book from Kitchen Arts & Letters, 1435 Lexington, NY NY 10128 (kitchenartsandletters.com).