Spaghetti alla CARBONARA: one of the most famous Italian pasta dishes

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Although the target audience of this blog is intended to be Americans and those not already familiar with Italian cooking and customs, a consistent part of my audience is, in fact, Italian! And it has been a while since my Italian followers made fun of me because I haven’t yet published the recipe of Carbonara Pasta. You see, together with “Spaghetti al pomodoro, bucatini all’amatriciana, e tagliatelle al Ragu”, Spaghetti alla Carbonara is one of the most famous pasta dishes in Italy! So now that the taunting has subsided, ;-) I will share with all of you the recipe for this Italian classic!

Like many other popular Italian dishes, this pasta dish requires just few fresh ingredients (bacon or better- pork jowl, eggs, spaghetti and parmesan cheese).  It’s super-easy, quick to prepare (ready in 20 minutes), and would be perfect for any kind of occasion. It is absolutely “kid friendly” (my daughters love it), appealing to even the pickiest eaters. I mean, who- especially in the U.S.- doesn’t love bacon and cheese?!?

Just like the Spaghetti all’Amatriciana, the main ingredient of this sauce should be pork cheek or jowl (“guanciale”). However, it could be hard to find or a bit expensive. So since bacon here in the U.S. is really DELICIOUS, you have my blessing to go ahead and make it with bacon! Even Italians often make it simply with bacon! Whichever you choose, I assure you that by making this spaghetti sauce you will for sure bring a breeze of Italy to your table!

Since this recipe is pretty popular, before writing my post, I pried on some American cooking websites to see how knowledgeable the American audience is of how to make an authentic Carbonara. Well, no matter what you may read, Italians don’t use any parsley, onion, peas or tomatoes in this recipe. The only variant I’ve known (typical from Rome’s area) is that you can use Pecorino cheese instead of Parmesan.

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4 serving INGREDIENTS

1 package spaghetti

3 egg yolks (of medium-sized eggs)

1 medium sized egg

about 10 slices bacon (approximately half a pound)

1 tsp. black pepper

3 handfuls of parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS

Start heating a pot of salted water to cook the spaghetti (if you want to be sure to cook your pasta in the authentic Italian Style, follow these easy directions).

In the meanwhile, cut the bacon into small cubes.

When the water reaches boiling, toss the spaghetti in to cook. Then move the bacon into a pan (no oil or butter, just let the bacon cook in its own grease) and saute at medium heat for about five minutes, or until it looks crisp and the fat is rendered.

Drain the fat from the bacon, throwing away the grease.

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In a good sized bowl (you will need to fit all the spaghetti and bacon in it) beat the yolks and the egg. Add the parmesan cheese and the black pepper and mix altogether, stirring very well. Honestly, when I cook for my family, I avoid the black pepper at this stage, and instead my husband and I just add it on top of our spaghetti once it’s plated.

When the spaghetti is cooked, drain well. Then, while the pasta is still very hot, mix it into the bowl with the egg mixture using a fork. The heat of the pasta will cook the raw eggs into a creamy sauce. (Be sure you do NOT do this in the pot or on the stove or you will be eating “Spaghetti alla Frittata” ;) instead of Carbonara!) Add in the bacon and continue mixing quickly, until the eggs thicken.

That’s it!

Serve your Carbonara with some extra parmesan cheese and black pepper on the table (in case somebody would like to add a bit more) and Enjoy!

LEARNT IT, MADE IT, LOVED IT!

Tips:

– Prepare the dressing while the pasta is cooking,  to ensure that the spaghetti will be hot and ready at the same time as the dressing.

– It is very important that the pasta is still very hot when you add it to the egg mixture, so that the heat of the pasta cooks the raw eggs, and just as important, that the beaten eggs are never combined with pasta on the stove because the eggs would cook too quickly on the bottom of the pot, ruining the creaminess of the sauce. The eggs MUST be mixed with the drained pasta, in the bowl where they were beaten.

– This pasta is very rich- both in taste and calories- so it would work perfectly as a complete meal.

– If you enjoy having a breakfast of bacon and eggs, this could also be considered as a “parachutes” choice when you have no idea what’s for dinner, or a way to use some leftovers.

 

I really hope you like this recipe, and please, if you do,

share it, like it, leave a comment, subscribe, and help support my blog!

Much thanks,

Silvia

 

Baked Salmon and potatoes, let’s give this Easter a different taste!

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I know Sunday is going to be Easter, so many of you have probably already chosen the menu for this special holiday. So why am I suggesting to you a different option?

Colomba Pasquale
Colomba Pasquale

To begin with, I should inform you that, in Italy, the typical Easter meal is a baked lamb (as a Catholic tradition), with many side dishes and a special dessert called “Colomba Pasquale” (Easter Dove). It’s no wonder that, every year at this time, many animal rights associations start advertising against this practice, and suggest vegan or vegetarian alternatives.

When I moved here I learnt that a typical Midwest Easter meal is a huge baked ham, which I had the chance to taste at a friend’s house- it was definitely delicious!!! And I have to admit that, so far, I haven’t heard any kind of animal rights association protest in defense of piglets’ rights. (Why in the world would they inspire less pity than lambs?!?!) Anyway, I am curious- is baked ham also part of the Easter tradition in your area?

Since both the dishes I’ve listed above require many hours to be prepared, they could jeopardize the time you get to spend celebrating the holiday with your family. So perhaps, instead of missing all the fun of Easter morning so you can cook, you could opt for a quick but fancy lunch!

This baked salmon and potatoes will be ready in about one hour, will make a colorful and festive impression to your family, and for sure will make everybody happy (the potatoes will turn out as chips, but more healthy!).

Just one suggestion: when it is time to pick the salmon, consider spending a little more for a “wild caught” instead of a “farm raised” (7 reason to avoid farm raised salmon), so you’ll be sure to eat food which is good for you!

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INGREDIENTS FOR 4 to 6 SERVINGS

1 big salmon fillet (better if fresh)

4-6 medium red potatoes (I usually consider 1 potato per person)

1/2 medium sized white onion

2 tbs. canned diced tomatoes (drained)

2 tsp. thyme (fresh or dry)

3 tsp. rosemary (fresh or dry)

1 tbs. crushed red pepper (optional)

4 tbs. olive oil

sea salt to taste

DIRECTIONS

 Marinate your salmon by brushing it with a couple tbs. of olive oil, dusting it with the herbs (2 tsp. thyme and 2 tsp. rosemary) and if your family likes spicy food, add also the crushed red pepper. You can cook the whole filet or cut in in slices. In a separate bowl, drain the diced tomatoes from all their water.

In the meanwhile,  peel the skin off the potatoes and cut them very thin (I would say about 0.3 inch). If you want them to be perfectly the same thick, use a slicer.  Peel and cut the onion into very thin crescents.

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In a big bowl, combine the potatoes with the sliced onion, 1 tsp. rosemary, a couple of pinches sea salt, the diced tomatoes, and the remaining olive oil. (I’ve suggested you a quantity but of course, the more olive oil you use to dress your potatoes, the more crunchy and tasty they will be.)

Heat the oven to 420 F. Cover a baking  sheet with parchment and arrange the potatoes as spread-out as you can on the sheet you have, leaving a spot for the salmon (you may need a second baking sheet for the extra potatoes, if the salmon takes up a lot of room).

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Since the potatoes take longer to bake, you will put the trays with *just the potatoes* in the oven and cook them for about 35 minutes first. After 35 minutes they should look golden on the top, so take them out of the oven, flip them upside down (for cooking them also on the other side) and then place the salmon in the spot you left for it.

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Cook in the oven for about another 20 minutes. Here two pictures with the whole filet or slices, the first with no herbs at all (how I have to cook it to get my kiddos to eat it!!!), the second marinated as suggested!

Doesn’t it look delicious?! I promise IT IS delicious!

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LEARNT IT, MADE IT, LOVED IT!

TIPS:

– Don’t overcook the salmon or it will become dry and tough. You can tell that the salmon is ready when it changes shade of pink, and form a kind of white coating. If you picked a frozen salmon, you may check it after 15 minutes because it could cook faster than a fresh one.

– If you want to be sure that your potatoes get super crunchy, the last 15 minutes of baking use the “broil” option of the oven if you have it.

– Be sure to serve your salmon with some extra sea salt (if somebody would add a bit), and serving it with some sauces aside like mayo or cocktail sauce would be a nice touch, as well.

– Just to be completely informed about Italian Easter Tradition, you should know that (brace yourselves!) we don’t have an Easter Bunny and we don’t do Easter Egg Hunts. I know, what a waste of fun!! Nevertheless, kids receive from parents and relatives huge chocolate eggs, with a surprise hidden inside (usually a toy). Italian Easter Eggs look like these:

I really hope you like this recipe, and please, if you do,

share it, like it, leave a comment, subscribe, and help support my blog!

Much thanks, and have a Happy Easter!

Silvia

Home made fresh pasta: My Secret Family Recipe Revealed!

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One of the most vivid memories of my youth (of course, it’s concerning food!) is watching my mom and grandmother making fresh pasta for lasagna and fettuccine. A kind of ritual they repeated for every festivity or special occasion, it was a tradition where all of us rediscovered the joy of sharing and working together.

What I realized as a grown-up is that my mother has unfortunately never given me the right quantities to make the dough (my grandmother and she always eyeballed the ingredients!), and so I was worried I wouldn’t ever be able to recreate their awesome (and quite simple) recipe.

Thank goodness in these days my mom came from Italy to visit, so I forced her (;-)) to make her fresh pasta for me, and I watched carefully, not only paying attention to the process, but even more to the quantities, so I could share with you the most clear and exact recipe possible. At this point you should feel very privileged, since I’m revealing to you our precious secret family recipe!

What I’ve learned for sure is that you can dare to make the dough- even with kids around! They will love playing with the dough machine and leaving floury fingerprints all around the kitchen! But for your sanity, and the best results, it is better if you call a friend or relative to help you, because the faster you follow the recipe’s steps (in particular during the “cooking phase”), the better the fresh pasta will turn out.

Here are some shots of my daughter having fun helping us (the little half body on the left is my youngest daughter, that wanted to be in the pic, but just half of herself, ha ha!).

Lastly, (and perhaps obviously) the thing I would add is that you will definitely need a pasta rolling machine, which is quite easy to find in any kitchen supply shop.

 

Ingredients

4 medium eggs

about 4 cups all-purpose flour

1 Tbs. olive oil

1/4 cup water

1 Tbs. coarse salt (to salt the water)

A pasta roller

DIRECTIONS:

(You will notice the pictures show 7 eggs and not 4, but this is because my mom is an expert and she can handle making 7 eggs of fresh pasta in a row!)

 In a large bowl, put 3 cups flour (the remaining 1 cup you will need to work the dough), and make a well in the center. Break the eggs inside the well, add the olive oil and the water.

Knead first with a fork until the eggs are no longer runny. Then move the mixture onto a clean counter or table top, lightly dusted with flour, to begin kneading.

Knead the ball of dough by hand as you would bread dough, folding it over, and pushing it down with the heel of your hand.

Continue kneading until the dough is smooth and satiny, homogeneous and no longer sticky (about 5-7 minutes).  If the dough feels sticky, add small quantities, a little at a time, of the remaining 1 cup of flour. Be aware that it is not mandatory to use all the flour, but just enough so the ball is no longer sticky. The consistency of the dough is affected by many factors such as the air humidity, the weather, and the density of the eggs. Shape the dough into a loaf.

In the meantime, clear off a good amount of space to be able to lay out the many pasta sheets you are about to create. You will also need to fill a big pot with water (I would say, the more the better, but at least a half-gallon), begin heating it to a boil, and add the coarse salt.

Now take the loaf, cut it into half-inch slices, and dust both sides of the slices with a pinch of flour (so they won’t stick to the machine).

Use a pasta roller to make long sheets of pasta 1/8 inch thick.

Using my pasta machine, I roll the pasta slices out progressively, beginning with the dial on the first (thickest) setting, then put it through again on the third, the fifth, and finally one last time through on the sixth (#6) setting. If the slices become too long, just cut them in two before you proceed to the next setting.

When you have all the slices n. 6 thin, cut them all about 5 inches long.

As you can see, this pasta-making process requires lots of room!

Fill a big bowl with very cold water and set aside. (You will use this to cool the pasta once it’s cooked.)

As soon as the pot of water comes to a boil, you may place the dough slices, not more than 9-10 at a time, into the pot. Return to a boil, then cook for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Using a slotted spoon, lift the pasta out of the pot, and into the bowl full of cold water. When the pasta is completely cooled off, lay it neatly over the edge of a colander to drain. Be sure to change the bowl of cold water each time, so it is ready for the next round of cooked pasta.

To know if the pasta dough is cooked properly, keep in mind that when it is over-cooked, it crumbles, when it’s too raw, it is thick and hard.

Once all the pasta is cooked, you can start making your lasagna or arrange the fresh pasta in a dish, cover with plastic wrap, and keep refrigerated until you are ready to make your lasagna.

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I would suggest preparing the lasagna as soon as possible (if not immediately) to avoid the pasta sheets sticking to each other.

I promise, making home made pasta is way easier than explaining it, but I can understand that the first time you try to make it you’ll feel nervous: that is exactly how I felt my first time!

LEARNT IT, MADE IT, LOVED IT!

Tips:- If instead of lasagna pasta you would prefer making fettuccine, just use the specific setting on your pasta roller, and arrange the rows of fettuccine on a clean cloth to dry, keeping in mind they will expand. When they look dry, you can cook and enjoy them or store in a plastic bag in the freezer.

– Since we only make our lasagna from scratch with fresh ingredients, my mom usually prepares the ragu’ sauce and the porcini stew a day ahead. So on the day she makes the fresh pasta, she can also arrange the lasagna.

– When I mentioned that having a helper makes this process easier, I was expecially referring to the moment when you have to cook the dough sheets. You have to be very quick in cooking the pasta, moving it into the cold water, then to the colander, and at the same time be ready  to cook the remaining sheets and change out the warm water with fresh cold water.

– Now that you know how to make the pasta sheets, stay tuned for next weeks when I will post all the steps to put together the perfect Italian Lasagna!

I really hope you like this recipe, and please, if you do,

share it, like it, leave a comment, subscribe, and help support my blog!

Much thanks,

Silvia

 

Italian bruschetta: make your SuperBowl red and green!

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I was recently approached by Nuts.com to join in on the 1st Annual Healthy Snack Bowl!

Nuts.com has an awesome healthy snacks page full of delicious and nutritious snack options for kids, vegans, and for those of us on-the-go.  You’ll be sure to find a yummy snack over at Nuts.com.

Since, typically during Super Bowl parties, a day’s worth of calories are often consumed in greasy and fried food, I wanted to contribute to the promotion of healthy eating, sharing with you and with Nuts.com a healthy snack alternative to enjoy during the most famous American Sport Event, with a touch of “Italianity”!

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I hope it does not come across predictable, but I want to share with you a recipe for the most famous and popular Italian Appetizer: Bruschetta! It’s a delicious combination of a handful of healthy ingredients, for an explosion of taste and freshness that appeals to almost anyone! And at just 128 calories per serving (50 gr. of bread, 10 gr. olive oil, and a 200 gr. tomatoes)  it’s full of powerful antioxidants (lycopene), healthy mono-unsaturated fat, protective oleic acid, and a variety of vitamins and minerals. It is also super easy and fast to prepare, and quite inexpensive. Italian diets (often referred to as Mediterranean diets) are notoriously full of fresh foods and recipes made from natural ingredients- bruschetta is the perfect example! Italians enjoy bruschetta at all sorts of venues, from the most casual meals at home, to even the most fancy meals at expensive restaurants.

Just to share with you a little about Italian habits, you should know that we eat Bruschetta in two different ways: either toasted bread, rubbed with a peeled garlic clove and brushed with virgin olive oil and dust of sea salt, or toasted bread rubbed with a peeled garlic clove and covered with chopped red tomatoes (dressed in Italian dressing, of course). If I should be asked to choose, I wouldn’t be able to pick, they are both my favorite!!!

I will give you the approximate quantities, per person, for the version with tomatoes, but obviously you can use the same quantities (without tomatoes), to make the plain version of Bruschetta.

Ingredients per person

1 slice fresh baked bread (better if Italian Style)

1 medium sized red tomatoes (ripe but hard, in this season my favorite are on-the-vine tomatoes)

1 peeled clove of garlic

2 leaves of basil (one for the dressing and one for decoration)

1 pinch of sea salt

1 tsp. virgin olive oil

1 tsp. red wine vinegar

DIRECTIONS

 Cut the bread in slices, and peel the garlic. Wash and core the tomatoes, and chop them in small cubes.

Move the tomatoes into a bowl and dress with sea salt, virgin olive oil, vinegar, and the basil leaf, cut in few pieces. Stir the mix and let it rests at least ten minutes for the flavors to mingle.

In the meantime, toast the bread in the oven (at 365 F for about 5 minutes each side), or in the toaster (faster and as good as in the oven).

Now arrange your bruschetta:

a) for the plain version: just rub the warm bread with the peeled clove, brush with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt, and enjoy!

b) for the tomato dressed version: rub the warm bread with the peeled clove, cover the slice with chopped tomatoes, and if you like, decorate it with a basil leaf.

Delicious, healthy, fast and easy… so you can ENJOY YOUR SUPERBOWL NIGHT!

LEARNT IT, MADE IT, LOVED IT!

TIPS:

  • If you are planning to make more than a serving, consider that with a couple of garlic cloves you can rub more that 10 slices of bread;
  • If you like the idea, you can add to the tomatoes dressing a tsp. of crushed red pepper (I love a little bit of spice!);
  • Bruschetta of course tastes better if eaten warm, but as an appetizer can be served even when the bread has cooled off;
  • for other healthy idea for your Super Bowl buffet, check my appetizer page, or visit nuts.com:
  • If you think that it would be even healthier to add some protein to this dish, why not serve it with some fresh Burrata! Here how your dish would look:

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 *I was not paid or sponsored for this post.  All content and opinions are my own.  This post is affiliated with Nuts.com to simply provide healthy snack alternatives for the 1st Annual Healthy Snack Bowl/Super Bowl.

I really hope you like this recipe, and please, if you do,

share it, like it, leave a comment, subscribe, and help support my blog!

Much thanks,

Silvia

Italian Style Cheese cake

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You are probably thinking, “How are you writing about cheese cake on an Italian food blog, considering that the most famous cheese cakes were created in New York?!? In the USA!”  The answer is: “YOU ARE RIGHT!”… but the first cheese cakes were actually made in ancient Greece, before the time of Christ by the Romans. Regardless, even if it never occurred to you, many Italians look around to pick up on other countries’ food traditions (and  I, for sure, am one of those Italians!). And as I have already mentioned, I think Italians have many things to learn from Americans!

By the way, this recipe has been in my recipe book forever, so I’m not sure exactly where it comes from or its true historical origin.

What I know for sure is that once you really like a certain dish, you try many alternative ways to make it, and become a connoisseur of sorts. So even if I believe this cheese cake is SUPER DUPER DELICIOUS,  I don’t have the vanity to say that it is the best of all cheese cakes ever. But, if you enjoy cheesecake, I humbly beg you to try out this recipe- you will not be disappointed! And, if you would leave me feedback after trying it, I would greatly appreciate it!!

Making this cheese cake takes three steps, and about one hour of cooking: first preparing the base; second, preparing the cheese cake batter, then last to bake it. Easy, pretty fast, and foolproof!

 

INGREDIENTS for a 12″ round cake (10-12 servings)

2 packs graham crackers (or other plain butter cookies)

2 blocks of cream cheese (8 oz each, softened)

1 pint (473 ml) heavy whipping cream

4 oz. or 1/2 cup sugar

3 eggs

1 stick melted unsalted butter

3 tbs. all-purpose flour

canned cherries (or chocolate or caramel) for garnishing

 

DIRECTIONS
For the crust :
Put the crackers or cookies into a food processor bowl, and pulse until finely ground.

Move the ground crackers into a mixing bowl and add the melted butter. Knead by hand to allow the butter to be evenly absorbed, but expect the mixture to remain grainy.

Line a 12-inch diameter round pan with parchment paper. (Ideally, use a spring-form pan, where the sides release from the base.) Then press the cracker-crumb mixture into the bottom of the pan, flattening it evenly.

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For the cream:

Whip the whipping cream and save it for later (remember to keep it refrigerated!)

Separate the three eggs yolks from the whites and, using an electric whisk, whip the whites until stiff (keep the whites aside for later).
With the same electric whisk (no need to rinse), beat the egg yolks with the sugar until they become fluffy and shiny.

Incorporate the cream cheese using an electric mixer. (I use a hand mixer with a rigid wire whisk/ beater, like those in the picture below, but if you are using a flimsy/ flexible electric whisk, you will need to switch to a more rigid whisk/ beater.)

Now fold in the egg whites- by hand, always gently and from the bottom to the top, to avoid the cream becoming watery.

 

Finally fold in the whipped cream, always stirring gently. Finally- only at the end- you stir in the sifted flour.

 

To arrange the cake:

Spread the cream evenly on top of the graham cracker crust.

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Bake in preheated oven at 320 F. (160 C.).
After 20 minutes, increase the temperature to 365 F (180 C.) and bake until the cake rises and becomes golden.

Before serving:
Let the cheese cake cool completely. Release the sides of the spring-form pan, then carefully peel off the parchment paper and arrange the cake on a nice dish.

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Garnish it with whatever you like- canned cherries or other fruit, jam, syrup, caramel, or melted chocolate.

Refrigerate at least a couple of hours before serving.

Serve the cake cold or at room temperature, according to your taste (my family likes it better cold).

LEARNT IT, MADE IT, LOVED IT!

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Tips: –  Since this cheese cake is rich in taste and calories, I suggest serving it in small slices.  You may have the occasional friend who asks for a second slice, but most will be satisfied with just a little bit of this decadent dessert.

–  This cheese cake, if kept refrigerated, tastes even better the day after (so don’t hesitate to make it in advance) and can last up to a week. I would discourage freezing it, because the cream cheese tends to change consistency and ruin the taste.

I really hope you like this recipe, and please, if you do,

share it, like it, leave a comment, subscribe, and help support my blog!

Much thanks,

Silvia