Orange creamy butternut squash soup, energize your mood and satisfy your palate!

When fall approaches, I always feel the urge to start decorating my house and front door with pumpkins, hay, cute fall-colored ribbons and wreaths, scarecrows, and corn. I love this period of the year, when all the leaves change and nature gives its last blast of colors before winter comes.  I also start finding more pleasure in cooking warm and comforting food, and bringing some of these colors to the table! Orange, especially, is a lovely bright color that represents strength and endurance. The spectrum of this sunny color can enhance a bright and energizing mood as well as richly warm the comforts of home. And the healthy aura of orange doesn’t stop there – thanks to the plethora of nutrients associated with orange-colored fruits and vegetables, consuming them can help your overall health.  The abundance of antioxidants, vitamins, fiber and phytonutrients in orange foods are good for your skin, eyes and heart, and they may also decrease your risk of cancer.

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If I haven’t convinced you to try this recipe by listing all the good effects of orange food (here more specifically, the 10 reasons orange food is good for you), well, at least try this soup for the following two reasons:

  • because after Halloween, or rather, in between the Halloween candy and Thanksgiving pie 😉 you will need to depurate yourself or perhaps just like to look and feel your best going into the Christmas holidays, and eating this low carb (but absolutely delicious) soup will help cut down the daily calories. (This soup would be perfect to alternate with my other favorite vegetable soup to achieve this health goal.)
  • because it is really delicious, creamy, quick and easy to make, and, especially this time of the year, absolutely cheap, with squash and other such vegetables in-season!

About the cooking time: to cook the vegetable soup takes no more than 30 minutes, but you’ll need a little bit of extra time before, to chop the veggies.

INGREDIENTS for a 1/2 gallon pot

1 big sized white onion, finely chopped

1 big carrot

2 medium sized yellow squash

1 medium sized butternut squash

2 tbs. olive oil

sea salt  to taste

2 tsp. dried or fresh rosemary (plus a pinch to dust each serving)

1 vegetable bouillon (you can find it in the organic section of the grocery store)

parmesan cheese (for dusting)

1/2 gallon of water

optional: 1 Tbs. cream cheese per bowl

DIRECTIONS

Start by washing and cutting all of your vegetables. Peel and chop both the onion and carrots. Clean up the butternut squash by taking away the hard skin (being careful not to cut yourself!), scooping out the seeds, and cutting it into little cubes. Leave the peel on the zucchini and chop these as well.

In a big pot (I use a steel one), heat about 2 Tbs. olive oil on medium heat.  Add the chopped onion and cook until translucent, and then add the chopped carrots.

Wait a little until the carrots brown with the onion, stir a few times and then add the chopped yellow squash and butternut squash.

Let the vegetables cook few minutes and then cover with the water, add the vegetable broth seasoning (buillon), and the rosemary .

Cover the pot with the lid and as soon as the water starts boiling, put the pot at lower heat for not more than 30 minutes.

Your soup is ready!

Actually, since the best characteristic of this soup, in my opinion, is its velvety consistency, before serving, I recommend blending it with an immersion blender to make it nice and creamy…

Considering the amount of water you use, and all the vegetables, you will obtain enough soup to eat all week (unless you are a 10-person family ;-)). If refrigerated, this soup can keep up to a week, and can be frozen too.

When you serve it, remember to offer at least one tablespoon per soup bowl of the best grated parmesan, and (for whom like the idea), a dusting of black pepper.

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LEARNT IT, MADE IT, LOVED IT!

TIPS: – If you are not struggling with calories, once you’ve blended the soup, dish up what you wish to eat immediately, add 1 Tbs. cream cheese, and let it melt before serving the soup. It will turn the soup into a sweet, irresistible cream!!!

– What is really great about this soup is that you can make it anytime of the day, and just reheat it before your meal.

-Even if I prefer my soup just dusted with parmesan cheese, when dinner time comes close I usually cook inside the soup some small pasta (i.e. rigatini, small soup shells, or Acini di pepe) so it will be more sustaining for the rest of the members of the family (men’s bellies are not so easy to fill up!) ;-).

– Be aware of one thing: once frozen and thawed, the taste of the soup won’t change, but it won’t be as creamy and velvety as it was fresh.

 

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

share it, like it, leave a comment, and subscribe to receive a new recipe each week for free,

and help support my blog!

Much thanks,

Silvia

FRESH TOMATO FETTUCCINE: Bring on the tomato bounty!

Summer is coming to an end, which means two things: the kids are back in school, and gardens are overflowing with a favorite Italian staple-tomatoes! If you have your own garden, or have a kind friend or neighbor who shares their garden bounty with you, right now you probably have more beautiful, meaty, red tomatoes than you know what to do with! It can be an overwhelming blessing when all those tomatoes ripen at the same time- especially if canning is not an option, or an option you prefer. ITALIAN GOODNESS TO THE RESCUE 🙂 !!

Just a few days ago a dear friend gave me a bag of fresh organic tomatoes so perfect, I couldn’t help but take a picture! So I decided to make one of my favorite pasta recipes- one that calls for up to a pound per person of fresh tomatoes, and creates a delicious, nutritious, inexpensive, and family-friendly dinner. If you think you may like my idea, harvest your tomatoes and get ready to cook!

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Just two warnings: 1) if you want this dish to come out best, use only fresh, firm tomatoes (just picked very recently)  2) this recipe requires just 30 minutes to create, but tomatoes need to be cleaned and drained at least *three hours* before cooking.

INGREDIENTS for 2-3 servings

2/3 pack of fettuccine or spaghetti (about 300 gr.)

about 2-3 lb. fresh tomatoes

1/2 finely chopped medium sized white onion

1 clove garlic

1 pinch of crushed red pepper

2 tsp. rosemary (fresh or dry)

2-3 leaves fresh basil (or a couple of pinches dry basil)

              olive oil (enough for the pan)

              sea salt (to taste)

DIRECTIONS:

At least 3 hours before cooking:

Wash the tomatoes, take away any green parts, cut them in two, and squeeze them to eliminate all the seeds. Put the tomatoes in a drainer until it is time to cook the pasta. I know, it will look like a tons of tomatoes, but believe me, after few minutes on the stove they’ll halve their volume.

At dinner time:

Cut the tomatoes in cubes. In a big pan (the biggest you have, so all the tomatoes will touch the olive oil at least on one side), pour enough olive oil to evenly cover the bottom of the pan, and at medium heat, brown the onion and the clove of garlic. In the mean time put the water pot for the spaghetti (or fettuccine) on the stove to boil.

As soon as the onion become translucent, add the fresh tomato cubes. The best sauce will be obtained if the tomatoes saute’ in a single layer, not stacked upon each other. If they don’t touch the hot oil directly, they will instead become boiled. Keep the tomatoes at high heat: they should release their water which will prevent them from burning. In about ten minutes the tomatoes should start getting dry. This will be about the time the pot of water for the pasta starts boiling and you are ready to add in the pasta and salt. And, about this time, you will be inebriated by the appetizing smell the sauce will emit all around your kitchen! 😉

At this point, flip the tomatoes cubes upside down, and let them cook (always at high heat) until all their water is absorbed. You’ll notice that once you’ll flip the tomatoes cubes, they will release water again which will prevent your tomatoes from burning to the pan. It will take about ten more minutes.

Switch off the heat, sprinkle with sea salt, and stir in the crushed red pepper, rosemary, and basil.

Once the pasta is cooked and drained well, add it to the pan of tomatoes, and stir gently to distribute the sauce evenly.

  And that’s it!! Your colorful, aromatic, extraordinary dish is ready to be enjoyed! So easy, and SO delicious!

 LEARNT IT, MADE IT, LOVED IT!

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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

Tips:

– In my personal experience, this recipe appeals to all the family members’ tastes…but it can happen that the kids eat just the spaghetti and push the tomatoes cubes aside. That is fine: you can use the leftover to make a special bruschetta!

– As I already mentioned in the recipe, spaghetti and fettuccine are perfect for this kind of dressing, but almost any noodle would be ok. However, I personally would avoid short shaped pasta like maccheroni and penne, because they wouldn’t give justice to the taste of the sauce.

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

Home made fresh pasta: My Secret Family Recipe Revealed!

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

 

Rice salad (Insalata di Riso), “to go” or “to stay”, delicious anyway!

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I would say, without question, that Rice Salad (“Insalata di Riso”) is the SUMMER ITALIAN CLASSIC – as much as “Italian meatballs” are a WINTER ITALIAN CLASSIC! Every Italian, from Sicily to the North of Italy, knows what an Insalata di Riso is, and all cook it in the same way (with maybe a few exceptions due to the local products of the various Regions). It is a fresh dish, super easy to prepare, and able to be prepared ahead of time. A rice salad would never be missing from any Italian summer party or picnic.

As any other rice salad, this dish is composed by a base of boiled white rice, enriched with meat (frankfurters and ham), fish (tuna), veggies (pickled, fresh, or frozen), eggs, and cheese. Very quick to prepare, perfect for picnics or lunch boxes (as is the tuna and lemon pasta salad) and particularly suitable for parties (as much as “Tartine“) not only because it can be served cool, but especially because it looks colorful and tempting.

As for all the ingredients that this salad needs, I usually make a big bowl of it, so we can consume it during all the week, and my husband loves it because is the perfect alternative to a sandwich to be eaten for lunch at the office.

Even though I usually try to be very precise with the quantities, I would suggest you make this salad by adjusting the ingredients according to your individual tastes (I mean, if you don’t like tuna, you can skip it, and add more ham instead, or viceversa). I will try to give you an idea of how I make it, using pictures, and approximate quantities.

INGREDIENTS for a big bowl

3 cups white rice cooked “al dente”

6-8 frankfurters

2 big cans tuna in oil

1 small pack ham cubes

1 small pack frozen peas, boiled

1 jar Italian mix giardiniera

1 handful cappers

1 cup green olives chopped

half jar cocktail onions cut in two

a handful of sweet roasted peppers

a handful of Asiago cheese cut in cubes

a couple of sliced eggs

mayonnaise to decorate

 

DIRECTIONS

Cook the rice as it was pasta “al dente” (don’t forget to salt the water!), drain it, and rinse it under cool water. Be careful not to overcook the rice because if you let it cook too long, once drained all the grains will stick together, ruining both the taste and appearance of the salad.

I took a pictures of all the ingredients together, but you don’t need to dirty so many dishes, as I did! 😉

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Just add all the ingredients to the rice, and mix them together!

Put the salad in the refrigerator and enjoy it when cooled.

Add to your portion some Asiago cheese cubes, few slices of boiled egg, and – if you like some extra taste – a few lines of mayonnaise.

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LEARNT IT, MADE IT, LOVED IT!

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TIPS: – If you decide to make this rice salad for a cook out (which sounds like an awesome idea), remember not to mix the mayonnaise with the salad, as to avoid it spoiling too quickly in the heat.

– If you make this salad for a party, use the eggs and mayonnaise not only as ingredients but as decorations: your dish will look gorgeously alluring!

– According to my personal experience, kids don’t appreciate this plate. My daughters like most of the ingredients of this salad separated, but once mixed all together, they just don’t want to take even a bite!

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