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Pasta Is Always In Season!!

My Cousin...possible the best Pasta Cook on Earth!!

     Pasta is often on the menu in our house, all year long.  However, the way I see it, Fall = Cooler Weather = Pasta.  This is the perfect time of year to ease into our favorite comfort food.  So, if you ever needed a reason to experiment with and eat more pasta, this is it.  Not long ago I came across an article in the Huffington Post with some excellent, classic pasta recipes that most everyone loves and everyone needs to know.  With few adaptations here and there, I’ve taken a few of my favorites and made them Fast & Easy just for you.  You will also find our classic recipes for Red Sauce (a/k/a Sunday Gravy) in our
"Recipes By Nation"/Italian Section at DebsFood - for a bit more detail and variety.  

 

SPAGHETTI ALLA CARBONARA, Serves 4-6.

*Note: photos taken from the www.huffingtonpost.com

     Another one of my favorite pasta dishes; it is luscious and wonderfully indulgent.  But it takes hardly any time to make and The ingredients are simple, just pasta (preferably spaghetti), pancetta or bacon, eggs, Parmesan cheese, olive oil, salt and pepper.  Your silky sauce should NOT include cream.  When I see this in some restaurants, I am truly disappointed.  Authentic “Carbonara" is created when the beaten eggs are tempered and tossed with the hot pasta and the rendered fat from the pancetta or bacon.  In this way, although you begin with raw eggs, the egg, cheese & seasoning mixture is cooked while tossed into the pasta, and you are treated to a silky indulgence that can only be “Carbonara.”  (photo by Elise Baur, on Pinterest)
INGREDIENTS
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil or half oil & half unsalted butter
1/2 pound pancetta or thick cut bacon, diced
1/2 shallot, finely minced*
4 whole eggs
1 cup grated parmesan or pecorino cheese
1 pound pasta (usually spaghetti or fettuccine)
Salt and black pepper to taste
DIRECTIONS
      1.  Cook pasta in large pot of salted water, reserving 1 c. pasta water.
    2. While pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over high heat. Add the bacon or pancetta and cook until crispy. Add the minced shallot and cook another minute or two, then turn off the heat and put the pancetta and garlic into a large bowl (which will then receive the cooked pasta).
    3. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs well, with about half of the cheese. 
     4.  By now your pasta should be cooked just about al dente (still a little firm, not mushy); Use tongs to move it to the bowl with the bacon. Move the pasta from the pot to the bowl quickly, as you want the pasta to be hot (and a little pasta water is ok, as it will add to the sauce).  
     5.  Toss everything to combine. Then temper the egg mixture a bit with the pasta water, a few tablespoons at a time and add the beaten eggs with cheese to the pasta mixture and toss quickly with long handled tongs.  The heat of the pasta will heat the eggs sufficiently to create a creamy sauce. Add salt to taste.
     Serve at once with the rest of the parmesan and freshly ground black pepper, or crushed red pepper if you like.
*Many recipes call for garlic, which I do not prefer in my Carbonara.  If you do, add 1-2 garlic cloves, minced, about 1 teaspoon, in place of or in addition to the shallot.

PASTA PESTO A LA GENOVESE, Serves 4

     Author Notes: From Emiko Davis, of Food52.com, we have the basis of one of the freshest, most fragrant dishes in all of Italy. What pasta should you use pesto with? Typically something from Genova such as trenette or bavette (similar to linguine), or even try potato gnocchi, tagliatelle, or trofie (pictured). 
INGREDIENTS
1 or 2 cloves of garlic
A pinch of coarse sea salt
2  ounces of basil leaves (one large bunch of basil)
2 tablespoon pine nuts
2  tablespoons grated pecorino cheese
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 lb dried pasta such as linguine (see notes above)
extra virgin olive oil for serving at the table
DIRECTIONS:
1.  In a mortar**, pound the garlic with the sea salt to a paste. 
2. Add the basil leaves (picked, washed with cold water and pat dry) and pound until very fine and begin to seep their bright green juice. 
3.  Add the pine nuts and grind until creamy, then the cheese (for a milder flavour, go for all Parmesan). 
4.  Finish with the extra virgin olive oil, added in small dribbles at a time until you have “the consistency of creamed butter” to use Elizabeth David's words.  Your pesto will be room temperature, this is fine. 
5.  In a large bowl, place the pesto, diluted with some of the water used for cooking the pasta to create a sauce. Add the cooked pasta and toss until combined.  Serve immediately garnished with a dainty sprig of fresh basil, shaved parmesan and an extra dribble of olive oil. Serve immediately.
**This can be done even more quickly in a food processor (which I do not use), just be sure to pulse intermittently so you don’t over-process and turn your pesto into soup!
     If not using immediately, place in a jar and let sit until the oil makes its way to the top; if it does not make a sufficient 'film' over the top of the pesto to protect it, add a little bit more to seal the pesto. It will keep in the fridge well for three days. Pesto also freezes well; freeze it in an ice cube tray for portion control. 
     Alternative Idea:  ***A rather old tradition still enjoyed throughout Liguria is the addition of cooked potatoes and green beans, a dish known as Pesto Ricco.  To make Pesto Ricco, boil a large pot of water. Add a generous pinch of salt.  Use a pasta with a bite like Gemelli, slightly crunchy greens and well cooked potato. Typically, this means, putting the pasta into the pot first, then adding the sliced potatoes a couple of minutes later, then the green beans for the last 5-6 minutes.

ORECCHIETE WITH BROCCOLI RABE AND SAUSAGE, Serves 4

     This is a very traditional dish from Southern Italy's Puglia region. (and one of my favorites)  According to Jenifer Mangione Vogt, “the Puglians invented Orecchiete, which means 'little ears' and its not uncommon to still see Italian Nonnas (Le Nonne) making them by hand (a time-consuming task!) In Italian this recipe is called 'Orecchiette con la cima di rapa e salsiccia.’” Here, we adapt Jenifer’s recipe so you can make it any day of the week in 20 minutes! 
INGREDIENTS:
1  packet Orecchiette (or Gemelli if you prefer), 
   cooked al dente, per pkg instructions (1 c. pasta water reserved)
1  pound ground loose Italian Sausage, or casings removed
1  Bunch of Broccoli Rabe, rinsed & trimmed of any thick stems
1/2  cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil 
1  tablespoon Butter
2  Tbsp minced garlic in oil (or garlic paste)
1/4  cup Freshly squeezed lemon juice
Salt & Pepper to taste
1 handful Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and extra for shaving.
DIRECTIONS
     1. While pasta is boiling, brown sausage in half the olive oil over high heat until just cooked through and crispy on the outside.  I use a deep 12” Calphalon searing skillet for this, as its also non-stick and simplifies your cooking and clean-up) .  
     2.  When the sausage is browned and just about done reduce the heat to medium and add the garlic, the rest of the olive oil and the Broccoli Rabe, sauté 2 - 3 minutes, then cover for five minutes. Then add the butter, lemon juice, salt and pepper and stir and cover for about another minute.  The broccoli rabe should retain that bright green coloring, yet be tender enough to eat, so be sure not to overcook it. 
     3. When the Broccoli Rabe is done the sausage will be also, and by now your pasta should have been cooked and drained.  Add the pasta to the pan along with a good handful of grated cheese and a bit of the reserved pasta water, toss over medium heat a minute or 2 to form the sauce.  
     5. Serve with freshly-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese to taste.
 

BUTTERNUT SQUASH RAVIOLI & BROWNED BUTTER SAUCE

Photo by JenneySteffens.com

        This recipe combines the subtle sweetness of the squash mixed with the creaminess of the parmesan cheese and gentle spice of nutmeg. The Sage butter is the perfect compliment - you don't need much of a sauce with such a bold ravioli.  We thank Jenny Steffens Hobic from JennySteffens.com for this delicious and simple dish.     You cannot be intimidated by making homemade ravioli if you stick with my simple shortcut: Fresh Wonton Skins from your local grocer. (If you do want to make it all from scratch, all you need a rolling pin or a simple hand-crank Pasta Machine like the ones you get at Williams-Sonoma.  For the severely challenged, if you don’t want to attempt the homemade ravioli at, make the same the filling and stuff it into cooked giant shell pasta and serve it with the sauce drizzled over!

INGREDIENTS:
1 pound of Butternut Squash
Olive Oil 
1/4 cup of parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg
salt & pepper
1 stick of butter 
10-12 sage leaves
2 Packages Fresh Wonton Skins - OR:
[For the adventurous:  1 recipe of Homemade Pasta, rolled into sheets (below)]
FOR THE FILLING:  Begin by cutting the squash into cubes and placing them on a baking sheet.  Coat them with olive oil, salt & pepper.  Roast the squash at 425 degrees for 25 minutes until it is tender.  Put it in a bowl and mash it with a fork. Add parmesan cheese, nutmeg and salt & pepper, if needed.
Place tablespoons of the filling down the center of the pasta dough that has been rolled into long sheets.  Brush the dough around the filling with water, then fold the dough over lengthwise (making the filling of each ravioli be on one side, surrounded by dough on three sides.  Cut the ravioli apart.
FOR THE SAUCE: melt the butter in a sauce pan.  Add sage leaves. Cook on medium-low for 2-3 minutes, just until the butter starts to brown.  Remove from the heat and set aside.
Heat a large pot of water for the ravioli. Cook the ravioli in the boiling water for 2 minutes, until it is floating.  Remove from water and add directly to butter sauce.

HOMEMADE PASTA RECIPE

Photo by JennySteffens.com

     Its actually quite simple to make your own homemade pasta for ravioli:  **Tho', to be honest, I personally use the wonton skins!

Ingredients:  2 cups of flour & 3 eggs

Directions:  Start with a KitchenAid mixer fitted with the dough hook.  Dump in the flour, then top with the eggs.  Put the mixer on medium and let the ingredients roll together until they form a ball.   

*You may need to add a little bit (1-3 tablespoons?) of water or flour if the dough is too wet or too dry.  

After a ball is formed, let the dough 'knead' on low-medium  in the mixer for 5-7 minutes until the dough is elastic.  Cover it with plastic wrap and let it sit for 20 minutes.When it is finished kneading, turn the dough out onto a floured board and kneed it by hand a couple of times. 

From this stage, you can roll it out by hand with a rolling pin (or bottle of wine!), or put it through a pasta rolling machine:
By Hand : Roll the dough, flipping it, folding it and rolling it until it is about 1/8 of an inch thick.  Cut it into 1" pieces with a knife, or a pizza wheel.  After cutting, you can cook it immediately, or let it dry on a baking sheet sprinkled with flour too keep the dough from sticking. 


With Pasta Machine : Separate the dough into 6 pieces.  Flour the machine and dough well to keep it from sticking.  Feed it through the rolling/flattening part of the machine starting on the largest setting and progressing to a smaller setting each time you feed the dough through.  I find that flouring it each time helps to keep it from sticking.  After it has gone through the smallest (or 2nd to the smallest) setting, lay it flat.  It is ready to but cut into any shape or used for ravioli. 

DEB'S TAKE ON SAUCES, The Basic Sauces You Need To Know:

1. SIMPLE LIGHT TOMATO SAUCE:  First thing, I don't believe that homemade Gnocchi or pasta is always best. Its fresh, and fun to make, but most of us simply don't have the time.  Spend your time on a good sauce, and a good boxed pasta will suffice.  For a Fast & Easy Tomato Sauce,  Saute' a few tablespoons of garlic & onion in a bit of olive oil, add fresh diced tomatoes and fresh basil, take it off the stove. You don't need a lot of measurements here. You can even use canned diced tomatoes if that's all that is available. With this one, you can't go wrong.

2. PESTO SAUCE RECIPE:
Pesto is a fresh sauce made from basil leaves, garlic, pine nuts, cheese and olive oil. This pesto sauce recipe is perfect for pasta and gnocchi.

2 cups fresh basil leaves, washed and dried (about 1 large bunch)
3 cloves garlic
½ cup pine nuts (or walnuts)
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup freshly grated Pecorino cheese
½ cup olive oil
Kosher salt to taste
Combine all the ingredients except the cheese in a food processor. Pulse until the pesto is blended into a slightly coarse paste. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the cheese.To serve with pasta, you can toss the cooked pasta directly with the pesto. Or, if you want to thin out the pesto sauce a little, add a spoonful or two of the hot pasta water to the pesto, then toss with the cooked pasta and serve right away.

3. CLASSIC MEAT SAUCE RECIPE
This classic Italian meat sauce is amazing for spaghetti and other pasta as well as lasagna. This meat sauce recipe is made with ground beef and pork for a rich, meaty flavor. Sometimes we will use meatballs instead of ground beef, or for a different flavor, chicken insteat of beef and pork.
28-oz cans crushed tomatoes, with liquid
½ cup olive oil
¾ lbs. ground beef
¾ lbs. ground pork
2 cups beef stock
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 tsp dried oregano (or to taste)
1 tsp dried basil (or to taste)
1 tsp dried parsley (or to taste)
1 Tbsp Kosher salt (or to taste)
2 tsp sugar
In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the olive oil for a minute over medium heat. Add the onions and carrots, and sauté for a bit until the onions are translucent but not brown. Add the tomatoes and the garlic. Bring to a simmer and cook for 30 to 45 minutes, uncovered, until the sauce is slightly reduced.
Meanwhile, brown the meat in a separate skillet in a small amount of oil. Remove from heat and set aside.
Add the browned meat along with the stock and herbs, and water if necessary. Simmer for 1 hour, uncovered.
Adjust thickness with additional stock if desired. Season to taste with Kosher salt and sugar, and serve right away.
Makes about 2 quarts of meat sauce


4. SIMPLE ALFREDO SAUCE RECIPE
The classic Fettuccine Alfredo is made with this alfredo sauce recipe. Add some cooked chicken to make Chicken Alfredo. As you can see, the list of Alfredo Sauce ingredients is pretty basic. But the flavor will come through in a big way.
2 cups heavy cream
1 stick butter
1½ cups freshly grated parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp chopped fresh Italian parsley
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

In a large sauté pan, heat the butter and cream over medium-low heat until it starts to bubble. Lower heat and simmer gently for about 15 minutes or until the sauce has reduced somewhat. Remove from heat and cover.
Add the cheese and toss until fully mixed. Adjust consistency with additional cream if necessary.
Stir in the chopped parsley. Season to taste with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Toss with the hot cooked pasta of your choice and serve right away.


5. TOMATO CREAM SAUCE
This simple tomato cream sauce is perfect for any kind of pasta.

2 28-oz cans crushed tomatoes, with liquid
4 oz (1 stick) butter
4 carrots, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the butter for a minute over medium heat. Add the onions and carrots, and sauté for a bit until the onions are translucent but not brown.
Add the tomatoes and the garlic. Bring to a simmer and cook for 30 to 45 minutes, uncovered, until the sauce is slightly reduced.
Add the cream and simmer for an additional 15 minutes. Season to taste with Kosher salt and sugar and serve right aw
ay. Makes about 2 quarts of tomato cream sauce.