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Posts Tagged ‘pasta’

Lamb Ragu with Capsicums

Lamb Ragu with Capsicums

One of the Italian restaurants that my husband and I love  is A Tavola in Darlinghurst.  The restaurant serves fantastic Italian fare and is famous for their handmade pasta and the beautiful sauces that go with it.  When I learned that the CIRA cooking school was having Eugenio Maiale, who is chef and owner of A Tavola to teach “The Art and Sculpture of Pasta”, I knew couldn’t miss it.   Pasta is something I’ve made before, but my husband has always wanted to learn and who better to teach than the chef of our one of our favourite restaurants?  So for over three hours on Saturday morning we learned from Chef Eugenio and his team a basic pasta recipe and how to shape them into pappardelle, farfalle, capelletti, mezzalune and tortellini to name a few.    It was such a treat to watch him and his team talk about pasta with so much passion.

One of the unforgettable dishes we  made that day was Maccheroni alla chittara con ragu d’agnello e peperoni.  This was a typical dish from Abruzzo, where Eugenio’s family came from.  The “chittara” is a special rectangular wooden board with wire strings attached to it.  The sheets of dough are placed on the board and then a pressed through the strings with a rolling pin to create strands of pasta.  The ragu, made with lamb and capsicums, is simply out of this world.  My husband loved it so much that he went up to Eugenio to ask for seconds. And,  as if two bowls wasn’t enough, tonight we made the ragu again using the freshly made rigatoni that the chefs at A Tavola gave us to take home!

So here is Eugenio’s recipe.  If you’d like to learn more from Eugenio, you can check out his videos here.

Lamb Ragu with Capsicums

Lamb Ragu with Capsicums

Ragu of Lamb and Capsicums

From Eugenio Maiale, A Tavola

  • 500 grams lamb shoulder, trimmed of fat and sinew, cut into 2.5 cm pieces
  • 1.5 teaspoons salt
  • pinch pepper
  • 50 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • 250 ml dry white wine
  • 100 ml chicken stock
  • 400 grams canned Italian tomatoes, diced
  • 1 red capsicum, cut into long thin strips
  • 1 yellow capsicum, cut into long thin strips
  • 1 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh parsley
  • 400 grams dried pasta (i.e. penne) or 2 quantities of this fresh pasta recipe
  1. Toss the lamb in a bowl with the salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.
  2. Heat a large frying pan over high heat, add oil, when hot add the lamb. Brown the lamb all over, this will take around 5 to 7 minutes. Make sure to stir often. Add the garlic and the bay leaves and cook for another minute.
  3. Add the wine and stir well to remove any bits at the bottom of the pan.
  4. Once the wine has evaporated, add the tomatoes and the stock.
  5. Allow the sauce to simmer around 30 minutes, then add the capsicums. Allow the ragu to simmer for another 1 to 1 and a half hours, until soft.
  6. To serve, cook the pasta, add the sauce and top with the cheese and chopped parsley.

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Penne Pasta with Chicken, Bacon and Mustard Sauce

Penne Pasta with Chicken, Bacon and Mustard Sauce

This pasta dish makes regular appearances in our home.  It was given to me by my Aunt Jenni – who has a reputation for dishing some of the most delicious yet simple to prepare meals.  I have a feeling she may have adapted it from a Jamie Oliver but I’m not entirely sure.  In any case, this is our adaptation.  The original recipe uses roast chicken, but we’ve substituted smoked chicken instead.  The addition of mustard is something unusual but it does provides some oomph.  In any case, this can be prepared in 30 minutes or less and is great for a quick weeknight meal.

Penne Pasta with Smoked Chicken, Bacon, Peas and Mustard Sauce

Serves 4

  • 500 grams penne
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 2 rashers bacon (around 175 grams), rind removed, cut into 1 cm pieces
  • 2 smoked chicken drumsticks (around 450 grams), cut into 1 cm pieces
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 100 grams parmesan cheese
  • 75 grams frozen baby peas
  • 200 ml cream
  1. Bring a pot of water to the boil for the pasta.
  2. Heat the olive oil and add the diced onions and garlic, cook out until translucent, around 5 minutes over a medium heat.
  3. Add the bacon rashers and cook for about 5 minutes, add the chicken, mustard and finally the cream. Allow the sauce to simmer around 10 minutes to thicken.
  4. In the meantime, salt the water and add the pasta once the water comes to a boil. Cook as per the directions on the box.
  5. Once the pasta sauce has simmered, add the parmesan cheese and peas.
  6. When the pasta has cooked, drain and add to the sauce. Serve immediately.

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Goat's Cheese Tortellini with Prawns, Pinenuts and Raisins

Goat's Cheese Tortellini with Prawns, Pinenuts and Raisins

Where do I even begin?  We last left of when Bizou died. I never told what exactly happened.  I guess five months ago it was difficult for me to put in in writing.  Even today, I get teary just thinking about it, but hopefully this will explain my absence for so long.

The morning that Bizou died, my friend Calley and I were meant to have a Doggie Donation Day for Monika’s Doggie Rescue.  We were going to have a stand infront of the supermarket to collect old dog toys, beds and other accessories for the event.  We had spent the whole night putting up posters for the event and when I got home, I decided that I was going to make sunflower cupcakes for a gold coin donation.  That morning, as we set up our stand, I had only brought half the cupcakes so I told my husband that we had to go back home to get the rest.  He said that I should just stay and finish setting up while he went back home to pick up the rest.

That’s when it all happened.  As he carried the cupcakes to the car, she slipped out of the gate and was hit by a car.  The rest, you already know.

Not meaning to sound too dramatic, but I truly felt that life was so cruel.  It was ironic that  Calley and I had gone out of our way to do something to help rescue dogs and in the process had lost my own.  When you have something special taken away from you so soon, you want to find ways to explain why it happened.

I blamed it on the cupcakes. If I hadn’t baked them, they my husband wouldn’t have needed to go home and get them and Bizou would have not ran out of the gate.  I couldn’t step into the kitchen without being reminded of Bizou.  And so, as much as I could, I stayed out of the kitchen.

So many things have happened since then that I don’t really know where to start.  I guess it will take a few posts to get you up to speed.

But let me begin by telling you about this little bundle lying at my feet as I write this story.  For the first few months of her life she scared me.  So much so that not a day would pass where I wouldn’t ask myself “what have I done?”  A number of times I thought about giving her back.  I thought that getting a new puppy would make it easier to move on.  Little did I realize that instead, this would be one of the hardest things I’d ever done.

Meet Pash.

Pash

Pash

I ate out a lot over the last few months.  There is a little cafe near where I lived that served this dish regularly and it was one of our favorites. I remember the first night we ordered it, we were going to share a plate, we ended up ordering three plates. It was that good. The original recipe is from Neil Perry – he serves this at his Rockpool restaurant. Making the pasta is not for the faint hearted. It’s not easy making pasta using only potatoes and flour (no eggs to help bind the mixture) but the results are well worth the effort. If you can’t be bothered, feel free to use regular pasta, or otherwise, I suspect wonton wrappers would work as well.

Goat's Cheese Tortellini

Goat's Cheese Tortellini with Potato Gnocchi Dough

King Prawn and Goat’s Cheese Tortellini

From Neil Perry’s Rockpool Cookbook, Serves 6

  • 12 large prawns, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 cup raisins soaked in hot English Breakfast Tea
  • 1/4 cup roasted pinenuts
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese to serve

For the Tortellini

  • 200 grams butter
  • 350 grams floury potatoes (I used Desiree)
  • 150 grams baker’s flour
  • 150 grams fresh goat’s cheese
  • 1 lemon
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. To make the tortellini, boil the potatoes in salted water for about 20 minutes until you are able to pierce the flesh all the way through with a knife.
  2. Place the goat’s cheese, lemon zest, and some lemon juice to taste in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  3. When the potatoes are cooked, drain them and peel the potatoes and push them through a potato ricer. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and the flour. Mix until the dough forms a cohesive mass. Place half the dough in a bowl covered with a tea towel to keep warm. Take the other half and dust with a little flour as you put it through the pasta machine to ensure it doesn’t stick. Run it through the largest setting a few times until the dough comes together. The dough will not look as smooth as pasta made with flour and eggs.
  4. Continue to lower the setting of the pasta, ensuring that you use just enough flour to ensure that the pasta doesn’t stick to the machine. Stop when you reach the third to the last setting (it won’t be as thin as regular pasta). Lay the pasta sheet on the bench and trim the edges with a pizza cutter or sharp knife. Cut the pasta into four inch squares as you will be folding the dough over to make triangles for the tortellini.
  5. Pipe a bit of the goat’s cheese mixture toward the top left hand corner of each square. Fold the bottom right hand corner to the top to form a triangle enveloping the goat’s cheese. You should have the triangles on the bias with the point facing away from you to the top left. Fold the base of the triangle lengthwise so it is level with, and covers, the top point. You will have a long skinny piece of pasta with a bump in the middle.
  6. Pick up the pasta and wrap it around your index finger with the top point of the triangle facing away from you. Squeeze the two ends together where they overlap and remove your finger. Place on a floured tray and continue with the rest.
  7. To finish the dish, place some olive oil in a pan and heat. Add the prawns and cook for around one minute on each side, until cooked through but make sure not to overcook the prawns.
  8. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the tortellini and remove from the pot with a slotted spoon once they float to the top. Set aside and keep in a warm place.
  9. To serve, place around 4 to 5 pieces of the tortellini around the outside of a plate and the prawns in the middle. Sprinkle with the raisins and pinenuts. In the same pan used to cook the prawns, heat the butter until it starts to foam and smells nutty. Spoon the butter over the prawns and tortellini. Finish with grater parmesan cheese.
Goat's Cheese Tortellini with Prawns, Pinenuts and Raisins

Goat's Cheese Tortellini with Prawns, Pinenuts and Raisins

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Pumpkin and Ricotta Lasagna

Pumpkin and Ricotta Lasagna

I had a friend who was visiting for a few days and I found out that she had stopped eating meat since the last time I saw her.  On a whim, I told her that I too would give up meat.   If you read my blog, you’ll notice that I’ve always loved cooking/eating meat and there are a considerable number of recipes penned here.  So while the decision to do this was initially born out of curiosity to see if I could last a few days, I knew lasting more than a week wasn’t going to be easy.  I don’t know how long this will last – a few more weeks?  Months perhaps?  Forever?  I’m not really sure but for the meantime, I’m starting to enjoy the challenge of making tasty and meatless dinners.

This is one of those meatless dishes that I could happily eat everyday.  Think layers of creamy pumpkin puree and ricotta in between sheets of homemade pasta – believe me – it’s enough to convert any carnivore.

A little note about the recipe – it’s very simple to put together – unless you’re like me where you want to complicate things and make your own pasta (it’s worth it though) – but if you’re pressed for time, use store bought lasagna sheets.  Also, the pumpkin puree is delicious as a side dish too.

“I’m vegetarian!” I told proudly told a  work colleague during drinks one day.

“Since when?”  he asked.

“Wait a second,” another friend interrupted.  “Didn’t you just put that pate in your mouth?”  She asked.

“Ahh… actually I still eat chicken… and sesafood.” I clarified.

Vegetarian… almost.

Pumpkin and Ricotta Lasagna

Pumpkin and Ricotta Lasagna

Pumpkin and Ricotta Lasagna with Sage, Hazelnuts and Burnt Butter Sauce

Serves 4

  • 1 kilo Pumpkin
  • 150 grams unsalted butter plus 50 grams butter
  • 1 vanilla bean, scraped
  • 400 grams ricotta
  • 1 egg
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 recipe pasta (see here)
  • 100 grams parmesan cheese
  • 10 sage leaves
  • 20 grams toasted hazelnuts
  1. To make the pumpkin puree, peel the pumpkin and diced into 2 inch cubes. Heat the 150 grams of butter in a pan and add the pumpkin once the butter is melted. Add the vanilla bean and scraped seeds and cook the pumpkin until soft enough that you can cut it with a spoon, around 20 minutes. Stir the pumpkin once in a while to make sure that the pumpkin doesn’t catch to the bottom of the pan. Once the pumpkin is soft enough, blend or process the pumpkin until smooth. Set aside.
  2. Mix the ricotta, egg and nutmeg together in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside
  3. Grease a baking pan with some olive oil and lay sheets of cooked pasta to cover the bottom of the pan. Layer a third of the pumpkin puree and top with more of the lasagna sheets.
  4. Top with a third of the ricotta mixture and the cover again with more lasagna sheets.
  5. Now add half of the remaining pumpkin puree and cover with the lasagna sheets. Add half of the remaining ricotta and again, more lasagna sheets. Finally, spread the remaining pumpkin puree and on top of this add the rest of the ricotta. Top with parmesan cheese.
  6. Bake the lasagna in a pre-heated oven at 180c (fan forced) for 30 minutes, or until the cheese is golden brown.
  7. Heat the remaining butter along in a small sauce pan until it goes nutty brown. Add the sage leaves and to crisp them up. Top with the toasted hazelnuts.
Pumpkin and Ricotta Lasagna

Pumpkin and Ricotta Lasagna

On another note, the Council of Italian Restaurants Association (CIRA) has just posted their latest class schedule for June/July/August.  If you are interested in attending any of their classes, email cira@cira.com.au or follow @italcira on twitter for more details.

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How to make pasta

How to make pasta

A funny thing happened last weekend.

My husband and I were having dinner at a new Italian restaurant and half way through the meal I asked him “Did you bring any money?”

I can’t remember what prompted me to ask but his answer, “Of course”, was enough to appease my concerns.

When the time came to ask for the bill, my husband gave his credit card and the waiter looked down and said the dreaded five words no one wants to hear “We don’t take American Express.”

The waiter was kind enough to allow us to go back home and get some money but needless to say, it’ll be awhile before we recover from the shame.

(more…)

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Fettuccine alla Carbonara (Recipe from Family Italian)

Fettuccine alla Carbonara (Recipe from Family Italian)

When I was a child, I dreamt of being adopted by an Italian family.  I loved their accents, the way they sounded like they were shouting at everything when in fact they were carrying on a normal conversation, I loved how they always called me Bella and of course, their food.

Fast forward to my first year of high school where I spent the summer travelling around Europe with my family.  Italy was my favourite of the ten countries we visited that summer, and this time I had dreams of marrying a vespa driving, cappucino drinking, dark eyed Italian as my ticket to that Italian family.

Through the years, I figured the only way to get my Italian family was to amass an unusually large number of Italian cookbooks.  So when I told my husband that I had a copy of John Lanzafame’s Family Italian cookbook to review, he said what any practical husband would say “Don’t you have enough Italian cookbooks already?!”

So here in my hands was an Italian cookbook from that Italian family I never had but always dreamed of having.

So to answer my husband’s question whether I have enough Italian cookbooks?  There’s always room for one more, especially when it’s inspired by Mum’s cooking.

(more…)

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Pumpkin Gnocchi with Sage, Burnt Butter and Balsamic Vinegar

Pumpkin Gnocchi with Sage and Burnt Butter

There are moments in our life that stand out because we make promises to ourselves and say:

One day…

Then there are moments in our life that also stand out because we say to ourselves:

Never ever…

In 2002 I was visiting my husband in New York and we decided to have dinner at a fancy Italian restaurant with his schoolmates.  I forget the name of the restaurant but will never forget reading the menu and feeling a sense of anxiety.  For one thing, everything seemed so expensive compared what I was used to, so I decided to order a pasta dish which seemed cheaper than having a main.  My cause for distress was from wanting to order something I’d never heard of before, the Pumpkin Gnocchi.

“What the hell is gnocchi?” I thought to myself.   I realized I had an even bigger problem – how was I going to order this dish when I didn’t know how to pronounce gnocchi?  Was it Guh-noki?, Nyo-chi? I wasn’t too sure and in front of seemingly more sophisticated New Yorkers I was too embarrassed to ask the waiter what was pumpkin gnocchi and even more embarrassed to order Guh-noki (my first guess) out loud.   So when the waiter came to take my order I simply pointed at the gnocchi dish and said “I’ll have this one.”

(more…)

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