First Courses

Making Basil Pesto in a Blender

This article is about basil pesto, the second most famous Italian pasta sauce, of course after tomato sauce. However, this is not about the traditional way to make “Pesto Genovese” – using a mortar; there are plenty of good resources on that (as greatly summarized on Food Lover’s Odyssey). This article is about the more … Continue reading “Making Basil Pesto in a Blender”

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Paccheri with Mushrooms, Gorgonzola, and Mascarpone Cream

Paccheri are undoubtedly the most majestic kind of short pasta one can find! With a diameter of 1 ½ inch (4 cm), thick walls, and a rough surface, each guarantees an unbeatable bite, or two! The Paccheri shape originates in the Campania region of Italy, which is also where you find Gragnano – a town … Continue reading “Paccheri with Mushrooms, Gorgonzola, and Mascarpone Cream”

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Baked ‘Ndunderi (Gnocchi di ricotta alla Sorrentina)

I was recently interviewed by Jo Mackay from Bookings For You. In addition to the great questions she had for me, Jo asked me: Do you have a recipe that you’d be happy for us to feature on our blog? My answer was my version of a dish from the Amalfi coast I have been … Continue reading “Baked ‘Ndunderi (Gnocchi di ricotta alla Sorrentina)”

Herb and Ricotta Ravioli with Sage Butter Sauce

Butter and Sage sauce is often what comes to mind when showcasing ricotta-filled ravioli, and especially spinach and ricotta ravioli. In Italy, meatless preparations like this are sometimes called “di magro” (literally, “of lean”), with reference to the foods that are allowed during lent according to the Christian tradition. Really, though, this dish is anything … Continue reading “Herb and Ricotta Ravioli with Sage Butter Sauce”

Mushroom and Cheese Crespelle, the Italian Crepes

Crespelle are the relatively unknown Italian equivalent of the world-famous French crepes. Although very similar to crepes, crespelle are often baked in the oven with other ingredients. Both in crepes and in crespelle, the batter is mainly made of milk, flour, and egg. The proportions, however, can vary considerably from recipe to recipe. The version … Continue reading “Mushroom and Cheese Crespelle, the Italian Crepes”

asparagus risotto

Asparagus Risotto with Parmesan Rind

Among the many risotto variations, asparagus risotto (‘risotto agli asparagi’) is one of the most successful, and one of my favorites. There are a few different ways to incorporate asparagus in a risotto. In my recipe, diced asparagus are added in stages, from the bottom of the stalks to their tops, to ensure uniform cooking … Continue reading “Asparagus Risotto with Parmesan Rind”

mascarpone tomato gnocchi

Buckwheat Gnocchi with Mascarpone Tomato Sauce

This recipe was inspired by a dish I had last summer at Farmer’s Apprentice, a great Vancouver restaurant. For my interpretation, I made rustic gnocchi by mixing in some buckwheat flour, and used mascarpone as a base for a creamy tomato sauce. The result speaks for itself! The dish is really easy to make, but … Continue reading “Buckwheat Gnocchi with Mascarpone Tomato Sauce”

chard and spinach gnudi

Chard and Spinach Gnudi, the Naked Ravioli

This recipe was adapted from Domenica Marchetti’s “Swiss Chard and Spinach Ravioli Nudi”, part of her great cookbook The Glorious Vegetables of Italy, entirely dedicated to the prominent role of vegetables in Italian food. I chose this recipe because I wanted to recreate the gnudi I tasted in a restaurant in Florence during a recent … Continue reading “Chard and Spinach Gnudi, the Naked Ravioli”

squash risotto

Squash Risotto, a Comfort Dish for Winter

Squash risotto (or risotto con la zucca), is a traditional risotto common in all northern Italy. The squash gives an especially mealy texture, and a sweeter flavor to it, along of course with a beautiful orange color. But what is squash, exactly? Along with melon, watermelon, cucumber, zucchini, pumpkin, and gourd, squash belongs to a … Continue reading “Squash Risotto, a Comfort Dish for Winter”

pesto alla trapanese

Pesto alla Trapanese, with Almonds and Fresh Tomatoes

I’m from northern Italy – only been to Sicily once – and I only had heard about this dish before moving to Canada. Thanks to my friends food-bloggers, however, this dish tickled my attention, I starting making it, and I think it has already become part of my repertoire! What I love about Pesto alla … Continue reading “Pesto alla Trapanese, with Almonds and Fresh Tomatoes”

spätzle-style passatelli

Spätzle-style Passatelli Sauteed with Radicchio, on Cheese Fondue

Passatelli are a variation of “stracciatella”, an ancient soup that can be found in various parts of Italy. To make stracciatella, a mix of egg, cheese and (optional) breadcrumbs is whisked into boiling broth, resulting in bits of ripped dough that resemble small tore rags (“straccetti”). To make passatelli, instead, the dough is forced through … Continue reading “Spätzle-style Passatelli Sauteed with Radicchio, on Cheese Fondue”

Mediterranean Pasta with Capers, Olives, Cherry Tomatoes, and Mozzarella

This is a summer dish, but if you can find ripe cherry tomatoes, then it can be made every season. And it’s one of those pasta dishes where the sauce is so quick it can be made as the pasta cooks – my favorites when I don’t have time to plan ahead. Despite its disarming … Continue reading “Mediterranean Pasta with Capers, Olives, Cherry Tomatoes, and Mozzarella”

Shrimp, Zucchini and Saffron Linguine

This dish is a summer classic featuring an incredible flavor combination: roasted zucchini, shrimp and saffron, in a creamy wine sauce. Like other crustaceans, shrimp tend to spoil quickly and are often frozen at sea or even sold cooked. Whole shrimp deteriorates even quicker because the cephalothorax (the “head”) contains the midgut gland (corresponding to … Continue reading “Shrimp, Zucchini and Saffron Linguine”

Truffles Uncovered

I am very excited to announce that I have been invited to participate in a food lit event that will take place in Turin (Piedmont, Italy) this coming September. The event is titled “Turin Epicurean Capital” and will revolve around the universal meaning of food in life – naturally, a topic I feel strongly about. … Continue reading “Truffles Uncovered”

Radicchio Risotto with Parmesan Rind – Yes, it’s Edible!

Part of the spirit of Cucina Povera (the Cuisine of the Poor) is frugality and eating anything that can still be eaten. For some ingredients, this even involves a special preparation or a process to make them more edible. And this is certainly the case with Parmesan rind, which is safe to eat, but too … Continue reading “Radicchio Risotto with Parmesan Rind – Yes, it’s Edible!”

Tagliatelle Timbale with Wine Gravy – Baked Pasta in Pizza Crust

A few weeks ago, I was thrilled to be invited by Roz from La Bella Vita to write a guest post for her blog. She asked if I could present a traditional Italian Christmas dish. I didn’t really have a dish that is only for Christmas, so I chose a recipe for really special occasions … Continue reading “Tagliatelle Timbale with Wine Gravy – Baked Pasta in Pizza Crust”

Saffron Penne

Roasted zucchini and/or shrimp are common additions to saffron-based pasta sauces. This recipe, however, is about the simplest saffron sauce, which is just made of saffron and cream. The fat contained in the cream has the ability to bind with parts of the saffron compound that are not water-soluble, thus extracting even more saffron flavor. … Continue reading “Saffron Penne”

vodka pasta

Vodka Pasta (Made Vegetarian)

I’ve been away for so long that I feel almost ashamed of myself! Luckily, this is not sufficient to stop me from posting again 🙂 As you can see from the pictures below, I’m cooking in a different kitchen 🙂 – this is part of the reason for my prolonged absence: we have moved to … Continue reading “Vodka Pasta (Made Vegetarian)”

vegetarian carbonara

Egg and Smoked Scamorza Pasta – A Carbonara-Inspired Vegetarian Dish

This vegetarian dish is inspired by the renowned Carbonara. I would not call it “Vegetarian Carbonara” though, as there is no such thing in Italy. If you are interested in the original Roman dish, many Cannolo Award winners have recipes for it, including Memorie di Angelina’s Spaghetti alla carbonara. Aside from how it should be called, … Continue reading “Egg and Smoked Scamorza Pasta – A Carbonara-Inspired Vegetarian Dish”

Handmade Tagliolini with Mushrooms

Most Italians would be perfectly happy to eat pasta every day, and some probably do! Everyday pasta is normally dried durum pasta, delicious when of good quality and properly cooked, and also convenient as it can be stored for months in the cupboard. Fresh pasta, on the other hand, is generally regarded as more sophisticated, … Continue reading “Handmade Tagliolini with Mushrooms”

Egg Pasta with Green Beans and Mushrooms

The combination of green beans and mushrooms makes for a vegetarian recipe with amazing depth of flavor. The earthiness of the mushrooms perfectly marries with the green beans, which also add texture to the dish. But the secret star of the show is the wine – its complex aroma is essential to bring all the … Continue reading “Egg Pasta with Green Beans and Mushrooms”

canederli

Canederli, the Italian Knödel

Canederli are bread dumplings only found in the north-east of Italy (Trentino-Alto Adige, Friuli, and part of Veneto), where they are served as a first course or as a main entree. Variations of this dish are common in all south-eastern Europe, where they are also served as an accompaniment to meat stews and roasts. The … Continue reading “Canederli, the Italian Knödel”

baked shells

Baked Shells Pasta with Ricotta and Spinach

As mentioned in the Pasta 101 article, baked pasta has an important role in Italian cuisine. For this cooking style, larger cuts of pasta are layered or stuffed with filling and baked in a pan along with a sauce. The most known examples are lasagna (sheets of egg noodles, layered with Bolognese sauce and Parmigiano), … Continue reading “Baked Shells Pasta with Ricotta and Spinach”

Pasta alla Norma

Pasta alla Norma – A Sicilian First Course with Character

Pasta alla Norma is a staple Italian first course almost unknown in North America. The dish, native to Sicily, is especially known in southern Italy but can be found all around the country. Alla Norma sauce (likely named after the opera Norma, by Sicilian composer Vincenzo Bellini) can be recognized from other eggplant-based sauces for … Continue reading “Pasta alla Norma – A Sicilian First Course with Character”

Saffron and Leek Risotto

Leeks (‘porri’, in Italian) have thickening properties and a more complex flavor profile than onions, thanks to the cabbage hints of their upper leaves(1). When replacing onion for leek in a risotto, the resulting dish is creamier and with more depth. Saffron is traditional in Milanese style risotto, but also a spice that goes amazingly … Continue reading “Saffron and Leek Risotto”

Bell Pepper Pasta

Italians rarely get tired of a good tomato sauce, but when they do they often resort to a tomato sauce variation. This recipe is based on the simple addition of roasted bell peppers, and of chili for some heat. The resulting sauce is great on pasta, but it also doubles as a tasty dip for … Continue reading “Bell Pepper Pasta”

Pesto, Potatoes and Green Beans Pasta

This recipe describes a common variation of the classic pesto pasta. In Liguria, pesto pasta is often had along with potatoes and green beans, a hearty version sometimes called ‘enriched’ pesto. Please see the Making Pesto in a Blender article for tips on how to make the pesto base simply and quickly. Pesto, Potatoes and … Continue reading “Pesto, Potatoes and Green Beans Pasta”

Insalata di Riso

Insalata di Riso

‘Insalata di Riso’ (rice salad) is an informal Italian dish that is especially popular in the summer as an appetizer or as a refreshing first course, particularly for lunch. Its main component is Parboiled rice, which is the most appropriate for this preparation as its grains remain firm and separated when cooked, and stay soft … Continue reading “Insalata di Riso”

tortiglioni all'arrabbiata

Tortiglioni all’Arrabbiata

Sugo* all’Arrabbiata is a classic pasta sauce from central/southern Italy that can be prepared very quickly, while the pasta cooks. This sauce is traditionally quite spicy, and this is at the origin of its name (all’arrabbiata, in Italian means ‘angry-style’). If desired, a milder version can be made, but a certain amount of heat is … Continue reading “Tortiglioni all’Arrabbiata”

Spaghetti Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino – The Staple Midnight Pasta

Aglio (pronounced ‘ah-llyo’), Olio e Peperoncino (Garlic, Oil and Chili Pepper) is one of the simplest and most popular Italian pasta sauces, and one of the most delicious. Its simplicity is unmatched for showcasing perfectly cooked, high-quality spaghetti, the cut of pasta that it best goes with. Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino is really more of … Continue reading “Spaghetti Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino – The Staple Midnight Pasta”

Pasta with Gorgonzola

This quick and versatile recipe is another great representative of the cuisine of northern Italy. With any kind of strong, creamy cheese and a handful of always-ready ingredients, this delicious sauce can be whipped together from scratch in minutes. In Italy, there is absolutely no Alfredo sauce! The most famous dish that makes use of … Continue reading “Pasta with Gorgonzola”

Pizzoccheri della Valtellina

Pizzoccheri is a Northern Italian dish almost unknown in North America. It originates in Valtellina (known as Valtelline or Val Telline in English), a valley at the very top of Lombardy. Despite the name, Pizzoccheri has nothing to do with pizza. It is a first course centered around a special pasta made of buckwheat flour, … Continue reading “Pizzoccheri della Valtellina”

Potato Gnocchi

Potato gnocchi are a common alternative to pasta in first courses. They are made by mixing riced potatoes with flour and egg. There are, however, several other types of gnocchi, such as ‘gnocchi alla romana’ (typical of central Italy) which are made with semolina flour (and without potatoes). In the area near the Austrian border, … Continue reading “Potato Gnocchi”

Risotto with Porcini Mushrooms

Risotto is a staple northern Italian dish obtained by toasting the rice in the pan and then slowly adding liquid and mixing until absorbed, for as long as the rice takes to cook. Even though the recipe requires constant stirring, the procedure is very easy and guaranteed to produce perfect results as long as the … Continue reading “Risotto with Porcini Mushrooms”