Jen loves Italian food, especially pasta. This is good b/c I love making Italian food and pasta. Everything is simple and impressive if done well. For Mother’s Day, I made an Italian feast with recipes adapted from Batali.
For appetizer, winter caprese salad…I know it’s not winter, but if you can’t get good ‘maters and you love them, this is the way to go! The key is slow-roasting the ‘maters which concentrates and enhances the flavor.
For 4 servings
6 plum tomato halved
3 cups basil leaves
~ 12 bocconcini (little mozzerella balls)
2 T pine nuts, toasted
1/2 cup EVOO
~ 1 oz parmesean cheese
S & P
For tomato: Heat oven to 200 degrees. Toss with a drizzle of olive oil, S &P, and place cut-side down on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roast for about 2 1/2 hours. Let cool and remove skin. You can refrigerate these with some of the olive oil for about a day before serving.
For the basil sauce/pesto: Combine torn basil leaves and parmesean in a blender or food processor until well chopped. Add oil and blend until smooth.
To serve: Place 3 half tomatos cut-side down on an appetizer plate, arrange 3 bocconcini around the ‘maters. Drizzle the basil sauce around to your liking and sprinkle with pine-nuts.
This pesto stuff is especially good as a dipping sauce for warm, crusty Italian bread. Tastes alot like the sauce used at Bone Fish Grille.
Next, pasta. Who knew that homemade pasta was so easy? All you need are eggs, flour, a pinch of salt and maybe some olive oil or water. Basic recipe is 100 grams flour to 1 large egg. Traditionally you would make a well in your flour and beat the egg in slowly with the tines of a fork, followed by about 10 minutes of kneading. Traditionalists will wax and wane poetically about kneading doughs…I say screw those guys, I use a food processor and then my KitchenAid stand mixer to do the kneading. The Italians use 00 flour, which I’ve never seen in my life. AP works fine, as does “pasta” flour which has durum semolina that gives a texture more like dried pasta. For 4 servings increase to 400 grams flour and 4 eggs. You can experiment, like I did here for a richer dough…I used 3 eggs + 3 egg yolks + 400 grams flour. It’s also fun to add some blanched/chopped spinach. The green dough lends itself well to lasagna. After about 10 minutes in the KitchenAid, the dough looks like this.
Let the dough rest in the fridge for about and hour and then break out the pasta roller. Cut dough into managable pieces, a flattened piece about the size of your palm usually works well and run thru the widest setting on the pasta roller about 10 times, folding into thirds before each time. This kneads the dough a bit more and makes a silkly smooth, elastic pasta. Repeat atleast 5 times on the next 2 settings, then only once on the rest of the settings until the dough is the desired thickness…I like to go to #6 for fettucini, #8 or #9 for ravioli. Here’s my pasta roller…
Cut the sheets into managable pieces and lay between some dish towels dusting lightly with flour until all the dough has been rolled.
Finally, cut your pasta, twirl into nests on a kitchen towel, dusting liberally with flour to prevent stickage. Sit aside until ready to cook.
To cook bring a huge pot of water to a rolling boil with a handful of salt. Drop in the fresh pasta and cook only for a few minutes, tasting every minute. If you use AP flour, the pasta will cook in about 90 seconds or so. If you use the “pasta” flour and use a thick setting like I did, expect about 5 minutes.
The dish: Fettuccine with oyster mushrooms, sweet garlic and arugula adapted from Mario
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
15 cloves garlic
2/3 cup sweet red vermouth
10 ounces oyster mushrooms
4 T unsalted butter
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch arugula, stemmed, washed and dried
1/3 cup freshly grated pecorino cheese
Bring 6 qts of water and 2 T salt to a boil in a large pot meanwhile, in a 10 – 12″ sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat until almost smoking. Add the garlic and sauté until lightly browned on all sides. Remove from heat and add the vermouth. Replace the pan onto the burner, add the mushrooms and butter, and bring to a boil. Reduce by half then remove from the heat and keep warm. Cook the pasta until tender and then drain. Add to the mushrooms and stir gently over medium heat for about 1 minute to coat the noodles. Add the arugula and toss until wilted. transfer to serving dish and toss with the cheese.
I finished the meal with veal marsala and a tirimisu from the Fresh Market…Jen was pleased. If you want to know how I made the veal…I can post that later.
PS. I have lots of problems with formatting on this blog. Note the spacing problems. Is there a formatting tool somewhere?