I know you are all wondering what is it that we are planning for THE GREAT BLOGGERS’ BAKE-OFF 2020!!! Well there are two features this year – a double bubble of family fun for the international blogging community to join along with! This is the first of two posts with all the details of this year’s BAKE-OFF!
THE BAKING CONTEST
For those who have been able to find baking essentials on local supermarket shelves, there will be a BAKE-OFF just like last year. Our kitchen guru and baking legend Jeanne, the creator of A Jeanne in the Kitchen will be judging this year’s contest.
Remember: THE BAKE-OFF IS 18/19TH JULY 2020
(But please send your photos in anytime between now and then!)
Last year we gave you a specific challenge, but this year we thought we would lift the restrictions (we are all a bit fed up…
I have never been jealous about my family cooking experience, traditions, and recipes, and the first proof of it is this blog! Nevertheless I confess lately I’ve been feeling guilty because many friends keep asking me why I haven’t posted yet my original ITALIAN RAGU SAUCE recipe (otherwise known as “BOLOGNESE” sauce), since it is probably the most popular worldwide! Well, the recipe is not a secret, simply the true is that:
1) I cannot promise that the recipe I am sharing with you could be considered the “only and original Italian Ragu Sauce” because in every different Italian region they have different methods and main ingredients to make their “Ragu Sauce” (Bolognese Sauce). For instance, in Emilia Romagna (the Region of Bologna) to make Ragu Sauce they use minced loin of pork, beef, bacon and ham; in Campania (the Region of Naples) they use pork and beef as well, but not minced (and needs to be cooked for at least 6 hours!); in Veneto (Venezia Region, and the one I come from), they make Ragu Sauce either out of duck, turkey or pork with the particularity to make the sauce more creamy by using whipping cream…. I could go on for each of the 20 Italian Regions!!!
2) My mom never gave me an official lists of ingredients she uses to make her amazingly delicious Ragu’ Sauce, nor the quantities, but I have always watch her eyeballs the ingredients and use some of them (broth or wine for example) according to their availability at that moment. So my Ragu Sauce (Bolognese Sauce), is cooked differently each time I make it, but I will try to sum the most important part here, so you will be able to make YOUR original Italian Style Ragu Sauce!
Since it takes many hours to make Ragu Sauce (and be aware: Italians don’t use the slow cooker, actually they absolutely don’t know it exists), I usually make a big pot of it (approximately 4 pounds), because I know that even if I’m not using it all immediately, I can freeze it without loosing any in taste or texture. My Ragu Sauce recipe is quiet quick (not more than three hours of cooking), easy about the ingredients (just ground beef and Italian sausage), and of course, according to my family, the best Ragu Sauce ever!!!
2 lb. ground beef
1 lb. Italian sausage (ground pork, without fennel seeds)
1 medium sized white onion
1 big (or 2 medium sized) carrots
2-3 sticks of celery
salt to taste
pepper to taste
1 tbsp. dry rosemary
1 pinch nut meg
1 pinch dry thyme
1 pinch dry sage
2 can plain tomatoes sauce
1 cup water
about 4 tbs. olive oil (or 1/2 stick of unsalted butter)
1/2 cup red wine or meat stock
optional: 1 meat bouillon
Peel the onion and wash carefully celery and carrots. Chop it all very finely. (You can use your food processor). With a fork, split the mince meat (beef and pork) as much as possible.
In a big nonstick pot, pan fry at medium heat the onion, celery, carrot in the olive oil (or butter if you prefer that option). When the vegetables look cooked, add the meat, turn up the heat and brown the meat until it changed color and its liquid is evaporated completely. Stir every now and then and season with the spices (rosemary, thyme, nutmeg, sage), and salt and pepper to taste.
When the meat has changed color, add a glass of red wine (or meat stock) and allow it to evaporate in the mixture. Then add the tomato sauce and a cup of water. Reduce the heat so you don’t burn the meat but keep it high enough for the sauce to keep the boil, and simmer for at least two more hours. After the first half hour, taste the sauce and if it seems too bland, adjust with sea salt and add a beef bouillon. Again, every now and then check your sauce and stir it.
The sauce is done when all the liquid of the tomatoes and water are evaporated and the meat have the color and consistency as shown in these pictures.
At this point you can spread a slice of fresh bread with Ragu Sauce and enjoy it on the spot (I am guilty of that). When the sauce is completely cooled off, you can store it in the refrigerator for up to a week, or in the freezer.
Remember to heat up well the sauce before dressing your noodles or tagliatelle.
LEARTN IT, MADE IT, LOVED IT!!
Tips and anecdotes:
– As with any Italian traditional recipe, every family has its own and generally the Ragu Sauce (or Bolognese Sauce) is lauded as the best family ever. When I lived in Italy I don’t know how many times I’ve heard the sentence “my mom’s Ragu sauce is the best” or “the ragu that I do it’s not like yours” 😉. Obviously this depends on whether the family recipes are adapted to the tastes of their components, to meet the consensus of them all.
– Besides “tagliatelle”, Ragu Sauce is the best to dress home made lasagna (for my family home made fresh past recipe click here), or home made gnocchi. My daughters love Ragu Sauce on top of a slice of fresh bread (as I do, after all!)
– If you are wandering how to store the sauce, I use sandwich sized Ziplog bags, fill them with about 1 lb. of sauce and freeze it. With 1 lb. sauce you can dress up to 1.5 lb. tagliatelle.
I so hope you will find this recipe interesting, appealing and easy enough to be followed.
I believe this is the perfect recipe to try during this period of mandatory social distancing!
I would love to know how you are coping with this dark period of our history and
which are the recipes you like to prepare the most in these days!
Greetings everyone! This past week I wrote a post for the QUAD CITIES MOM’S BLOG, to help anybody who are planning to prepare a romantic home made Valentine’s dinner, in an easy and affordable way.
If you trust my cooking experience, and don’t mind the idea… keep reading!!!!
“It seems like yesterday we celebrated Christmas, and yet it is already time to get ready for Valentine’s Day. Here is an idea to surprise your significant other in an easy, affordable and very romantic way: a private “Italian Style” home-cooked dinner, where the cooking part is the gift to each other! In my years as a private cooking class teacher and private dinner chef I’ve been invited many times by couples that wished to learn how to cook some basic Italian dishes, but I believe that your night will be more romantic if you cook together and enjoy your Valentine’s dinner without any intrusion. More special, and much more affordable! So here is the step by step guide to arranging an easy (but perfect), affordable and romantic Italian Style Valentine’s dinner at your house:
Ask in advance for grandparents, best friends or godparents to babysit your children for a few hours. Of course, it would be amazing having the whole evening alone, but most of the time it’s impossible, so plan to spend about three hours alone together. The first two will be dedicated to cooking and eating, the third one… your choice!
Shop at the Dollar Tree for a few cute and cheap Valentine’s things to decorate the table. It could be heart-shaped charger plates, centerpiece or candle holders, or matching aprons. It’s important to set the right atmosphere for romance.
Have an easy menu in mind. Read the recipes multiple times and have the groceries ready by the night before and … your easy and affordable Italian Style private Valentine’s dinner is set!
But let’s take a step back and find the right menu that could be easy, fast and romantic for you. I think around here, most of us like bacon, so here are my choices for authentic Italian dishes for you for on this special occasion:
WHILE YOU ARE COOKING: A middle-age aperitif could be perfect to warm the atmosphere before starting the cooking phase. It’s not too alcoholic to blur your judgment, so you should be good following cooking directions even while sipping it! This cocktail is quite simple to prepare but collecting all the ingredients may be complicated since they are hard to find locally. If you don’t feel like making things too complicated, just skip this and pass directly to the main menu (I will talk about the “wine pairing” later).
Time of preparation: 20 minutes. Resting time: 30 minutes in the freezer.
Level of difficulty: easy.
Ingredients cost: about $8 (if you already have Rum at home).
Now that I’ve listed the recipes I’d pick, I would like to disclose some tricks and tips to manage your time while cooking these dishes as a couple-in a fun way-but mostly, with the certainty of an excellent dinner!
ABOUT THE ORGANIZATION of the COOKING: for your easy and affordable romantic, Italian Style, home-cooked Valentine’s dinner to turn out exactly how you desire, follow these tips:
1) First half an hour, let one of the puff pastry sheets thaw out on the counter and in the meantime prepare the dessert. (If your coffee is super hot, don’t worry, the rum will balance it and get it to room temperature).
2) When the dessert is made, put it in the freezer and begin arranging the starter. (It will not take more than 10-15 minutes).
3) Once the puff pastry hearts are in the oven, start the pot of water for the spaghetti on the stove. It should reach the boil once you are done eating your appetizer, and while the noodles are cooking (it usually takes about 13 minutes for the thick spaghetti) you will have time to prepare the pasta sauce. If you want to make sure you are cooking the spaghetti in the authentic Italian way, read this quick tutorial.
4) Enjoy the dessert at any time you please.
5) Please avoid the temptation to cook all at once, and then eating all at once, because a) it is very “not Italian”- eating all different kinds of food at the same time b) each recipe I suggested (besides the dessert) tastes delicious only if eaten still warm.
ONE LAST IMPORTANT DETAIL: The wine pairing. I would like to suggest to you a couple of wines that you can find at ALDI that are absolutely affordable, terrific in taste and authentic Italian. The first one is “Prosecco di Valdobbiadene“- it will be perfect as “aperitif” while you wait for your appetizer to be done, and again while enjoying your dessert. It’s dry with a little sparkle. I think it’s impossible not to fall for it. The second one is the “Alberone“- it’s a red wine, not too full-bodied, but yet very aromatic and absolutely delicious if enjoyed with the spaghetti!
I believe I’ve shared with you all my best suggestions for an easy and affordable romantic, Italian Style home-cooked Valentine’s dinner, but please, if you need more information or have any questions don’t hesitate to leave a comment!
Happy Valentine’s Day!”
I really hope you enjoyed this post, and I would love to know if your’ll decide to prepare this menu on Valentine’s Day or any other day!!!
Buon giorno a tutti! Now that I am back to my routine, I catch myself thinking about my Italian vacation pretty often, and of course many of these memories are about food and one in particular sounds perfect for this time of the year: my family’s “Pesto Alla Genovese sauce” recipe, which my mom prepared for us right after having harvested her beautiful basil from her garden.
Before starting with ingredients and method, I should share with you those 10 simple tricks that would make your pesto the best one ever: the whole point, of course, is using the fresher basil possible, but there are other factors that would help your sauce to be more tasty and bright, avoiding it to turn darker and sour:
If you grow a garden, harvest your basil only few minutes before preparing the sauce;
If you can choose, use basil with small leaves, or big and large leaves but avoid the type with long and narrow leaves because it tastes a little like mint;
I know it sounds gross, but if you grow your own basil and don’t use chemical, don’t rinse the leaves under water because you will loose a lot of its taste and perfume. You can just pat gently the leaves with a clean cloth trying not to break them: the more you press, the more you’ll ruin the leaves, more likely your basil will get black spots (oxidize) and give your pesto a sour aftertaste.
Even if the ancient would use a mortar and pestle to prepare the sauce (which for sure will be the more authentic way to prepare it), it’s ok to use the food processor. BUT – always to contain the chances of oxidation – keep the food processor’s blade in the refrigerator or freezer for at least half an hour before preparing your sauce.
Use only coarse salt: it will help the chopping process.
Don’t process the sauce too much: it has to be crumbly and not too smooth. And be fast at preparing it: one of the causes of oxidation is the exposition to oxygen… the faster your work, the less chance you have to oxidize your sauce.
Commonly the Genovese pesto requires the use of pine nuts, but don’t be surprise if you’d hear from other Italians that you should use walnuts instead: every Italian family has – in the years – modified the original recipe.
Commonly Pesto sauce requires Pecorino cheese as main ingredient, but personally I prefer using only Parmesan, or possibly Parmesan and Pecorino. Your choice, follow your taste!
If you can, take away the interior part of the garlic clove (in Italy we call it the garlic “soul”), because that part itself is a little sour and would leave that taste to the sauce.
Use the best Extravergin olive oil available: the sauce is raw, so the taste of the oil will not be covered by anything. The best the oil tastes, the best your pesto will taste as well!
Now that I’ve annoyed you with my mom’s tip for the best pesto sauce ever, here the ingredients to dress about 1.5 lbs of pasta or 6-8 pasta servings (P.S. I had to spy on her and force her to weight the ingredients because – of course – she always eyeballs those!!!)
INGREDIENTS for a sauce which would dress 6-8 servings of pasta
1 pinch (about 10 gr. – 0,3 oz.) coarse salt
about 3.5 oz. (100 gr.) fresh basil
2 garlic cloves peeled an deprived of the “soul”
about 3.5 (100 gr.) parmesan (or half parmesan half pecorino)
about 3.5 oz. (100 gr.) extravergin olive oil
about 1 oz. (30 gr.) pine nuts
In your food processor with a freezing cold blade, place IN ORDER the basil, garlic and coarse salt and nuts first: chop intermittently for few second (the heat of the food processor could oxidize the basil).
Next add the pecorino or parmesan grated or cut in cubes and keep chopping until your sauce looks even but still crumbly (again, chop intermittently, few seconds at a time).
Only at the end pour the olive oil a little at a time, activate the food processor for a few seconds. And you are done.. dress your pasta… and enjoy this deliciousness!
LEARNT IT, MADE IT, LOVED IT!
TIPS: – IF YOU HAVE TO, you can store the fresh made sauce in a sealed container for not more than 2-3 days making sure the top of the sauce is completely covered by a layer of olive oil.
– The sauce can be frozen, and should let thaw in the refrigerator or at room temperature (no microwaves please!).
– Pesto sauce can be used also on top of pizza, or with bruschetta. There are really many ways to eat it!
– In LIGURIA (the Italian Region where pesto tradition comes from), they sometimes dress the pasta with both tomatoes sauce and pesto. OMG it’s delicious!
– Always in LIGURIA they cook the pasta (usually the short kind called “trofie” – see picture below) with potatoes cubes and green beans, and when cooked they mix it with Pesto sauce…. OMG this is even better!
WHAT DO YOU THINK? What’s your favorite or traditional pesto recipe?
I hope my (or better, my mom’s) little tricks will help you mastering you pesto sauce!
I really hope you liked my recipe this week, and if you did, please share it, like it, and support my blog! And if you haven’t done it yet, don’t forget to subscribe: it’s completely free and you will receive my (almost) weekly recipe directly at your email address!
I have no idea why I haven’t posted this recipe yet since it is a very popular one in Italy AND in my family, either with the two variants: the “white” or “red*” version. A quick pasta ready in 20 minutes, flavored with panfry canned (in olive oil) tuna, crushed red pepper, white cream and parmesan. Super creamy, delicate and with a hint of spicy, really suits any taste and can be kept as a “last minute” meal whenever you are out of ideas for dinner.
4 servings INGREDIENTS
1 pack maccheroni (my favorite are the thickest available at the store)
3tbs. olive oil
2 cans (5 oz. each) tuna in olive oil
1/4 small sized onion finely chopped
2 cloves garlic
crushed red pepper to taste
2-3 tbs. whipping cream or cream cheese
a generous handful of grated parmesan cheese
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, in a medium sized pan heat the olive oil with the chopped onion and the cloves of garlic. Open the canned tuna, dry it from its oil and crumble it in the pan as soon as the onions looks translucent. Add the crushed red pepper.
This sauce doesn’t need to cook much. In few minutes you will see the tuna changing its color so add the whipped cream (not whipped) and the grated parmesan and let it cook for a couple few minutes. Alternatively, you can melt in a couple of tbs. of cream cheese (plus, obviously, the parmesan). Switch off the heat: your sauce is ready.
As soon as the water reaches the boiling point, start cooking the pasta. When the maccheroni are done, dry it very well in a colander keeping some of the cooking water for the sauce, in case in the meanwhile it got too dense. Take away the garlic cloves from the sauce, add few tbs. of the Maccheroni water if needed. Mix the maccheroni with the sauce directly in the pan, and serve still hot. YUM! DELICIOUS!
Learnt it, made it, loved it!TIPS: – This sauce can really be pared with any kind of short or long pasta: even the spaghetti would turn out delicious dressed with it!
– If you prefer the idea of a red* version of this sauce, use a small pot instead of a pan, and once the tuna has changed its color, add a can of tomatoes sauce and follow the same instructions needed to make “Italian Tomatoes sauce“, so you will also know the truth about “Marinara sauce”.
– This pasta dish really needs to be served still warm (once reheated in a microwave it will keep the taste but get too much dry) but if you are looking for a “cold tuna pasta salad” for a cook out or as sack lunch, try this awesome “tuna, lemon and cappers pasta salad”.
– Of course this is another handy recipe during Lent time, and if you need a list of more, check out this post about “10 Lent meal ideas“.
– My favorite “tuna in olive oil” brand that I can easily find here in the Mid West is the GENOVA one (this is not an affiliate link so If you buy from here I won’t earn a penny 🙂 ): it is not as delicious as the one we can buy in Italy (which is tuna in Extravergin Olive oil), but honestly it is, in my humble opinion, the most decent substitute.
Thank you so much for stopping by my blog once again this week, it really means a ton to me! If you like to received every week for free one of my new recipes, subscribe here with no other obligations!
And please, feel free to share this recipe and leave your comment:
this will support my blog and encourage my self-esteem (LOL!).
This week we move on to the main courses with an Italian classic recipe – Ricotta and beef meatballs.
In the collective mind of Americans, spaghetti with meatballs is one of the most popular Italian dishes.
Actually, this is partly true, considering that in Southern Italy they do dress spaghetti with meatballs and sauce.
But since I come from Northern Italy, I grew up eating just the meatballs as a main dish, possibly accompanied by mashed potatoes. The meatball recipe I’m excited to be sharing with you this week is one of my grandmother’s “classics”!
She used to make a lot of meatballs all at one time, and then she cooked part of them immediately by simply frying them in olive oil. The rest were cooked…
Ravioli (Italian pronunciation: [raˈvjɔːli]; singular: raviolo) are a type of dumpling comprising a filling enveloped in thin pasta dough. Usually served in broth (commonly called “tortellini”) or with a sauce (typically tomatoes sauce or ragu’ sauce) they originated as a traditional food in Italian cuisine. Traditionally, ravioli are made at home and their filling varies according to the area where they are prepared. For instance in the north of Italy the filling is usually made with beef and charcuteries (mortadella or prosciutto crudo) or pumpkin and Amaretti cookies. In the middle Italy the most common filling is ricotta cheese, spinach, nutmeg and black pepper. In Sardinia instead, ravioli are filled with ricotta and grated lemon rind.
Ravioli can also have different shapes: circular, rhomboid, square. The ravioli my grandma taught me to make are more “triangle shaped” and the filling she made was extremely good but everytime made with different ingredients (depending of what leftover she found in the refrigerator) so I inherited the technique to make the ravioli, but as for the filling, I had to experiment before to find my favorite one, and I have to tell you that my first choice is the classic version with ricotta cheese and spinach, which is also the easiest to prepare worldwide, since the simplicity of the ingredients needed. I would say that once you have mastered the ability of making the pasta, to prepare this delicious ravioli won’t take more than an hour, and the good thing is that you can prepare ravioli whenever you have free time, freeze them once filled, and cooked them (still frozen) whenever you decide you would like eating them!
Ingredients for about 24 big or 48 small ravioli
FOR THE DOUGH
2 eggs and 1 yolk (about 124 gr.)
1 1/3 cup (200 gr.) all purpose flour
FOR THE FILLING
about 3 tbs. olive oil
1/2 cup (125 gr.) ricotta cheese
1 bag (8 oz. or 130 gr.) fresh spinach
1.5 oz. (50 gr.) finely grated parmesan
1 garlic clove
1/4 small white onion
sea salt to taste
black pepper to taste
nut meg to taste
FOR THE DRESSING
melted unsalted butter to taste
fresh or powdered sage to taste
PREPARE THE DOUGH: In a bowl combine the flour with the beaten eggs. Stir the mix first with a fork and once the eggs are absorbed, start kneading by hand in a floured surface for about five minutes (read my post about the secret method for a perfect home made pasta to learn the right kneading technique). You know that the dough is ready only when it looks shiny and homogenous, not too dry or too wet and sticky, and only if when you apply a hole with your finger, the dough comes up right away. If the dough sounds too wet, add a bit of flour. If it sounds too dry, rub it with few drops of warm water and keep kneading. When the dough it’s ready, shape it an a ball and wrap it up in plastic paper. Let it rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes (while you are preparing the filling).
PREPARE THE FILLING:
In a pan, heat at medium heat the olive oil, the onion finely chopped and the garlic. Once the onion gets translucent, and always at medium heat, add the spinach (previously washed and well dried), a pinch of salt and pepper and a dust of nutmeg. Let cook for about five minutes, stirring continuously to avoid burning.
Take away the garlic and let the spinach cooling off in strainer, so they will loose all their water (apply some pressure with your fingers if necessary). Try to get rid off the ricotta water by placing it in another strainer.
Cut finely the spinach and in a bowl mix it with the drained ricotta, grated parmesan and egg yolk and – if needed – adjust with some more salt, pepper and nut meg. Mix the ingredients very well and set aside for later.
MAKE THE RAVIOLI
Cut your ball of pasta in two. Keep one half and wrap the other in plastic paper and place it in the refrigerator. With the first slice, and using a pasta roller, make two sheets of pasta 1/8 inch thick.
Using my pasta machine, I roll the pasta slice out progressively, beginning with the dial on the first (thickest) setting (#0), then put it through again on the following numbers until one last time through on the eight (#8) setting. It’s very likely that the slice becomes too long around number five (#5): just cut the slice in two before proceeding to the next setting. When you get to the last setting (#8), dust your working surface with semolina flour so the slices of pasta won’t stick to the surface when filled with the spinach mix. Don’t skip this part, it’s very important!
Now, using a measuring teaspoon, arrange a tsp. of spinach filling along one of the pasta slice in a zig-zag pattern. Carefully and possibly by using a cooking brush, brush the area around the spinach with water and flip the other pasta slice on top of the filled one, using your finger to eliminate all the air.
Using a cooking rolling cutter, shape your ravioli. It doesn’t really matter what shape you pick, what matters is that the sides of the ravioli are very well closed and free of any air (otherwise they will break once put into boiling water to cook).
Place the ravioli in a tray dusted with semolina flour and cover in plastic wrap. Repeat the process with the other half of pasta.
COOKING AND SERVING THE RAVIOLI
Bring a big pot of water to boiling point. Poor about 15 ravioli at a time in the boiling water and let them cook for about 5 minutes. While the ravioli cooks, in a large pan melt 3 tbs. unsalted butter and few sage leaves (or about 2 tps. powdered sage). I prefer using powdered sage because it leaves a wonderful flavor without any “piece of green” in the plate (and that is essential if I want my kids to eat the ravioli). Using an holed ladle take the cooked ravioli out of the water into the buttered pan, stir them gently to spread the butter evenly, and serve the ravioli still warm with a dust of parmesan cheese.
LEARNT IT, MADE IT, LOVED IT!
TIPS: – You can freeze the ravioli and cook them still frozen. It will take few more minutes to get cooked, but will taste wonderful anyway.
– When you are done shaping the ravioli, and you place them in a floured (with semolina) tray, wait at least 20-30 minutes to cook them, so they will dry a bit and more likely keep their filling when you cook them.
– You can fill the ravioli with different fillings, but make sure the filling is never too wet to avoid ruining the dough.
– Spinach and ricotta cheese ravioli have a very delicate taste, but if you’d like a more tasty dish, dress the ravioli with Italian tomatoes sauce.
I really hope you enjoyed my recipe this week, and I also hope that (besides my bad English), I was able to explain you the method as clear as possible. Please, If you have any question, of if you just would like to give me a feedback, leave a comment, or a like, and support my blog!