Mangia Questo!

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Garden Risotto May 29, 2009

Filed under: Italiano,one-dish,vegetarian — mangiaquesto @ 11:21 am

GdnRisotoThis risotto is full of vegetables and makes a nice main or side dish.  It uses red vermouth instead of wine, which gives it a rich flavour and means you don’t have to mess around with spicing to get a nice flavour.  To make 4 servings as a main dish, you’ll need:

4 cups of chicken stock (you might not use it all) – You can substitute vegetable stock for a vegetarian version

2 tablespoons of butter

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1 small onion or a shallot

2 cloves of garlic, minced or grated

1-1/2 to 2 carrots, quartered then sliced (1/8″ thick)

1 zucchini, quartered then sliced (1/8″ thick)

1/3 cup frozen peas

1-1/2 cups of arborio or carnaroli rice

1/4 cup of red vermouth (I’m sure white vermouth would be fine too)

1 tablespoon of parmesan cheese

Before you start, here are some basic risotto tips.  The biggest thing is not to rush it.  You can’t add all of the stock at once, but rather need to add it a ladle-full at a time.  Another difference between this and most dishes is that it needs your full attention.  Don’t leave it on the stove and go do something else.  You should be stirring almost the whole time.  

Prep all of the vegetables.  Heat the chicken stock in a pot over medium-low heat.  You’ll need to keep it warm throughout the risotto cooking process.  In a deep pan, melt the butter over medium-low heat and add the olive oil.  Add the garlic, onion, carrots, and zucchini.  Sauté for 3-4 minutes then add peas.

Pour the rice into the pan and toast it for 1-2 minutes (it should start to look somewhat transparent).  Add the vermouth and a ladle full of the warm chicken stock.  Stir regularly until all of the liquid has been absorbed.  The rest of the risotto making follows the same pattern:  Add a ladle full of warm stock, stir and wait for it to absorb, add a ladle full of stock, stir and wait for it to absorb…you get the idea.

Once the rice is no longer crunchy, but still a bit al dente (“to the teeth” = just a bit chewy), stop adding stock and stir in the parmesan cheese.  The risotto should have a creamy texture.  Serve immediately.  Buon appetito!



Home-Made Pumpkin Ravioli with Sage and Walnuts January 18, 2009

Filed under: finds,grill/bbq,Italiano,one-dish,Uncategorized,vegetarian — mangiaquesto @ 1:23 am

Pumpkin and squash season is winding down, so here’s a way to use them while they’re at their best.  This recipe is more of a project than an everyday meal idea, but the good news is that it’s not something you can really mess up.  It might take a while, but you’ll like the results…and you’ll feel like a master chef.  I find this kind of cooking therapeutic, and more of a hobby than a necessity.  If you’re in a rush, but still want a similar end result, I’ve included some time-savers in case don’t want to make the recipe completely from scratch.  To make four servings, you’ll need:

Home-Made Pasta, 1 batch

If you don’t want to make your own pasta from scratch (I don’t blame you, it’s fairly labour intensive), you could use wonton wrappers, or buy the fresh lasagna sheets from the refrigerated pasta section.


One pie pumpkin or other squash (butternut, acorn, hubbard…whatever is available)

1/3 cup of grated parmesan cheese

a pinch of nutmeg

salt & pepper, to taste

I haven’t tried it, but I don’t see why you wouldn’t be able to use canned pumpkin puree instead of fresh pumpkin, as long as it’s not seasoned.


1/3 cup butter

1 tbsp olive oil

40 fresh sage leaves

1/3 to 1/2 cup of walnut pieces

If you’re using fresh pumpkin or squash, the first step is to roast it.  Preheat the oven to 400°F.  Pour some water into a shallow baking pan (a cookie sheet with edges is fine, you just need enough water to cover the bottom).  Break off the stem of the squash or pumpkin, cut it in half and remove the seeds and stringy inside (this isn’t part of the recipe, but roasted squash and pumpkin seeds are delicious, so you could soak them in some water to clean them off, wrinse and drain them, then salt them lightly and spread them on a cookie sheet and bake at 350°F for about 20-25 minutes).  Back to the current recipe:  Bake the pumpkin or squash halves cut-side down for about 1 hour, until soft (you can tell they’re done when you can easily piece the skin with a fork)

Once the pumpkin has cooled, scoop out the flesh and place it in a medium mixing bowl.  Mash it well with a fork or use an immersion/hand blender.  Add the parmesan cheese, nutmeg, salt and pepper.

Now the real magic happens.  If you made your own pasta, I suggest flattening out one sheet of pasta at a time and laying it on your counter.  Use a round glass to cut circles out of the pasta sheet, making them as close together as possible.  Like cookie dough, you could roll the scraps into a ball when you’re done and run them through the pasta machine to make another sheet.  If you’re using wonton wrappers you can have square ravioli instead.  On every second pasta circle, place a little bit of the filling (about a tablespoon), leaving about a quarter inch of edging all the way around so you can close the ravioli.  Place another pasta circle on top and press the edges first with your fingers, then with a fork to make a good seal.

Once the ravioli are made, place them in a large container (or on a plate) lined with damp paper towel and cover it with damp paper towels as well.  Separate layers of ravioli a with more damp paper towel.

In a large pan, melt the butter in a pan over medium-low heat with the olive oil, sage leaves and walnut pieces.  Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it well.  Add the ravioli and cook for 3 minutes.

Drain the ravioli (don’t rinse!) and add it to the pan with the sage butter sauce.  Serve and enjoy all you hard work!

P.S…This is also pretty good reheated in the microwave.


Home-Made Pasta December 8, 2008

Filed under: Italiano,staple,Uncategorized,vegetarian — mangiaquesto @ 11:43 pm
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Making4There’s something amazing about fresh pasta that you just can’t get with pre-packaged grocery store pasta.  It’s a bit of work, but a pasta machine helps.  You can do it without (and I have), but I don’t recommend it unless you’re looking for a really serious arm workout.  I suggest getting a pasta machine with a crank handle and the basic lasagna and fettucine/spaghetti cutters, nothing too fancy (I got mine for about $20 at Benix in Toronto).  Once you taste homemade pasta I’m sure you’ll be using it a lot!  To make four heaping plates of amazing fresh pasta, you will need:

3 cups of all-purpose flour

4 large eggs



The traditional way of making pasta is to make a mound of flour on your marble counter and make a well in it.  Then you crack the eggs into the well and very gently beat them with a fork, gradually incorporating flour into the centre well.  I’ve tried this twice with zero success: The flour levy always breaks and I end up with egg all over my counter.  If, like me, you’re a pasta novice, I suggest doing the above in a large mixing bowl.  I think you get the same results, minus the eggy mess on your counter. 


Once the egg and flour are incorporated, add water a tiny bit at a time until the dough holds together nicely and is neither sticky nor crumbly.  Knead it for 3 to 5 minutes, then place the dough back in the bowl. Cover the bowl and let the dough rest for at least half an hour, then break out the pasta machine.  


In case you got a pasta machine with no instructions, here’s how to use it: Take a piece of dough about the size of your fist and flatten it down into a disc.  The key to getting it to run smoothly through the pasta machine is lots of flour.  Sprinkle flour on both sides of the dough and spread it around with your hand.  Set your pasta machine to 7 using the adjuster (or whatever makes the gap between the rollers the widest) and start trying to squish the dough disk between the rollers as you turn the crank.  It helps to really squish down the lip of the dough and let the roller take care of the rest.  Run the dough through at 7 twice, then reduce the dial to 6.  Run it through once on each setting, reducing the space between the rollers each time until you get to 1.  Run it through more times as needed if the dough gets twisted or folded.  You may need to sprinkle more flour on the dough if it starts feeling sticky as you go.  Once you have a nice flat sheet of pasta, you can attach the fettucine cutter.  On my pasta machine, you have to take the crank handle off and move it to another spot to turn the fettucine cutter.  Feed the sheet of pasta through the fettucine cutter to make noodles.  If you aren’t in the mood for fettucine, you can use the sheets of pasta for lasagna, cut them into large rectangles and roll them into manicotti or canelloni, cut the pasta randomly to make maltagliato (literally, “badly cut”) pasta, or use a round glass to cut it into circles for ravioli. 

For fettucine, sprinkle flour over the cut noodles to keep them from clumping up.  If you’re making sheets to use for ravioli, etc., place them on a plate and cover with a slightly damp paper towel, then layer more pasta over the paper towel, cover that with paper towel, and so on. Fresh pasta needs very little cooking time (only about 3 minutes), but it still expands a lot through cooking.  Cook the pasta in a large pot of heavily salted boiling water.  Serve with your favourite sauce.

This recipe makes a lot of pasta (probably enough for two generous meals for two people, plus leftovers each time).  If you don’t have time to roll out and cut the rest of the pasta you can freeze the dough in a zipper freezer bag, probably for about a month.  If you can stick it out and roll out and cut all of the noodles, make sure they’re generously floured then lay them on your counter to dry for about an hour.  You can then roll them into little nests (if they’re fettucine or spaghetti) or just toss them in a container before putting them in the freezer.  Enjoy! 



Butternut Squash Risotto October 18, 2008

Filed under: Italiano — mangiaquesto @ 3:35 pm
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A few weeks ago I went to an amazing cooking demonstration at the LCBO where the sous chef from Mistura (Massimo Capra’s restaurant in Toronto) was cooking with vermouth. I like vermouth in Negronis, but had never thought of cooking with it…genius!  Apparently you can use it anywhere you use wine.  As I see it, vermouth has a few advantages over wine.  First, it’s cheaper, and second, it keeps almost forever (unlike wine, which has to be used fairly soon after opening it).  Another reason (that the chef pointed out) is the complex flavour it gives dishes: vermouth is made from a blend of herbs, so it makes seasoning easier.

I decided to try out the vermouth idea last night, and I’m glad I did.  The result was a rich butternut squash risotto…my kind of comfort food.  Risotto demands a lot of attention.  It’s not something you can just let cook and go watch tv.  The key to getting a creamy (not clumpy, not crunchy) risotto is in adding the warm stock to the rice very gradually.  I like to use a soup ladle and add one ladle-full at a time, waiting for it to be completely absorbed by the rice, then adding another ladle-full, and so on.

To make two huge heaping plates with a bit leftover, you will need:

1 medium sized butternut squash

1 teaspoon of butter or margarine, or cooking spray

1 1/2 cups of arborio or carnaroli rice

4 tablespoons of butter

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

3 to 3 1/2 cups of chicken stock

1/4 cup of red vermouth (Martini Rosso)

2 tablespoons of grated parmesan cheese

Preheat the overn to 350°F.  Wash the squash and cut it in half with a large, sharp knife so you have two symmetrical halves.  Grease a baking sheet (with the butter, margarine, or cooking spray) and place the squash on it cut-side down.  Bake for 50-60 minutes.

When the squash has been cooking for about 40 minutes, begin warming the chicken stock in a sauce pan over medium heat.  In a medium to large heavy frying pan, melt 3 of the tablespoons of butter.  Add the garlic and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes, being careful not to let it brown.

Add the rice to the pan and stir, then let it cook for 1 to 2 minutes.  Add the vermouth and a ladle-full of the warm chicken stock.  Stir the rice mixture and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and continue stirring and simmering (uncovered).  Once all of the stock has been absorbed, add another ladle-full.

When the squash has been cooking for 50 minutes, check that it is done by poking through the skin at the stem with a fork.  If it feel tender, remove one half from the oven, and leave the other to bake for another 5 to 10 minutes.  Peel and cube the first squash half, and add it to the rice in the pan.  Continue adding stock and letting it evaporate one ladle-full at a time.

Remove the other squash half from the oven and peel it.  Mash this half and add it to the pan.  When you’ve only got a ladle-full of stock or less left in the pot, taste the risotto to see if it is still crunchy.  At this point it should be just slightly chewy (al dente) but not crunchy.  If you’re happy with the texture, add the remaining tablespoon of butter as well as the parmesan cheese.  If you want the rice to be softer, add the rest of the stock and let it absorb before adding the parmesan and butter.  Buon appetito!


Orecchiette or Gnocchi with Broccoli Sauce August 22, 2008

Filed under: Italiano,vegetarian — mangiaquesto @ 12:07 am
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This is a recipe straight from Italy that I learned while living in Milan last summer. The original recipe uses orecchiette, a kind of pasta that gets its name from its shape, like “little ears”. Tonight, though, I was craving gnocchi, so I tried that instead and it was almost as good. These two kinds of pasta work well because they go nicely with the mushy consistency of the sauce.

The picture shows the dish made with bacon, but I’ve also made it with thickly cut and cubed maple turkey breast (ask for about 3-1cm thick slices at the deli), pancetta, or no meat at all. All are excellent, depending on your tastes.

You need:

A bunch of broccoli (2 crowns)

1 kg of gnocchi or 500g of orecchiette

1/2 to 3/4 of a pack of bacon (or the turkey, or 10 or so slices of pancetta, or nothing)

2 tablespoons of olive oil

a pinch of chili flakes or powder (optional)

salt and pepper

If you’re using bacon, I suggest baking it. Preheat the oven to 400F. Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil and set a wire rack on it. Lay the strips of bacon on the rack, trying not to overlap. Bake for about 20 minutes, then break into pieces once it’s crispy. If you’re using pancetta or turkey breast, pan-fry it to brown it.

While the bacon is cooking, cut up the broccoli (big pieces are alright). Bring a large pot of water to a boil (use a lot of water as it will be boiling for a long time). Boil the broccoli until it is very soft and falling apart, then salt the water lightly and add the pasta to the same pot. Gnocchi takes less time than orecchiette, so if you are using orecchiette you can add it a bit earlier in the cooking process but the broccoli should be very soft first.

Once the pasta is cooked, drain the whole works (broccoli and all). Put the broccoli and pasta back in the pot and stir in the olive oil, bacon and chili flakes (or powder). Add as much salt and pepper as you like. Buon appetito!


A Healthier Alfredo July 22, 2008

Filed under: Italiano,one-dish,vegetarian — mangiaquesto @ 4:13 pm
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If you’re like me, you may have wondered in the past who buys evaporated milk, and what they use it for.  I was watching TV the other day and Rose Reisman was doing some kind of cooking segment.  She said you can use evaporated milk in place of cream in any recipe!  I’ve been patiently waiting to try this out and tonight was finally the night.  The recipe that follows is for pappardelle (wider than fettucine and made with egg) alfredo with zucchini and mushrooms.  You need:

1 1/2 cups of sliced mushrooms or so

1 1/2 zucchinis, cut in half lengthwise and sliced in semi-circles

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1/8 cup of butter

1 tablespoon of olive oil

250 grams of pappardelle pasta (long, wide egg noodles), or fettuccine, or whatever you have

1 can of evaporated milk (2% worked for me)

1/4 cup of grated parmesan or romano cheese

6 leaves of fresh basil, if you have it

3 tablespoons of salt

black pepper

pinch of nutmeg

Start with a big pan (you’ll end up tossing all of the pasta and sauce in it) and heat the olive oil.  Add the sliced mushrooms and zucchini and cook over medium heat.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  When the mushrooms and zucchini are a bit soft, add half of the butter and all of the garlic.  Salt the boiling pasta water (I use about a palm-full) and add the pasta.

Add the evaporated milk, parmesan or romano, and the rest of the butter to the veggies in the pan.  Turn the heat up to high and bring this to a simmer, stirring often.  The goal is to reduce it a bit so it becomes creamier.  Drain the pasta when it is al dente.

When the sauce is a little bit less runny (about the same time the pasta is done), add the pepper, nutmeg and basil (I think the nutmeg and basil are totally optional).  I have to say I thought my sauce was way too runny, but when I put it over the pasta it was perfect, so don’t worry.  Drain the pasta and toss it in the pan with the sauce.  Serve and feel good about yourself for using milk and not cream, and about half the butter called for in regular recipes.  This serves 2 very hungry people with a bowl of leftovers for lunch.


Calzoni…ok, Calzones. July 21, 2008

Filed under: Italiano,one-dish,vegetarian — mangiaquesto @ 1:36 pm
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Tonight I made calzoni. They’re basically giant homemade pizza pops. I started by making the dough using a recipe for pizza dough I’ve used a couple of times. If you don’t feel like making your own you can buy pre-made dough in the frozen foods section.

You will also need:

Tomato sauce (I used Ragu pasta sauce because that’s what I had)

Mozzarella cheese – about 1 1/2 cups to 2 cups, grated/shredded

Filling: I used about 6 mushrooms, sliced and a small zucchini

1 tbsp olive oil

Fresh basil leaves

Preheat the oven to 450 F.

Ok, so first you need to pre-cook the veggies. Heat the olive oil in a pan. Cut zucchini lengthwise and slice, and slice mushrooms too. Put them all in the pan and cook until soft.

If you’re making the dough, divide it into two balls. Take one ball of dough and stretch it by hand until it’s somewhat round and about 1/4″ thick. Spread tomato sauce on the circle of dough, leaving a one-inch perimeter. Next add half of the cheese to the circle. Now put the veggies on only half of the sauce/cheese-covered area and put basil leaves on top.

Fold the circle in half and pinch the edges to make a pocket. Then roll the edges up tightly so there won’t be any leaks. Repeat. Bake on a cookie sheet for 20-25 minutes until the crust is golden.