Mangia Questo!

No purists beyond this point.

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!



Crustless Broccoli Cheddar Quiche April 4, 2009

Filed under: vegetarian — mangiaquesto @ 10:25 pm
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CrustlessQuicheOnce you try this, you’ll wonder why you ever bothered making a regular old quiche with a crust.  Save time and unnecessary fat and calories by making this healthier alternative.  You need:

1 bunch of broccoli (2 crowns)
4 large eggs
1 cup milk (I used 1%)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1-3 dashes of hot sauce
2 tablespoons of all purpose flour
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt generously.  Chop broccoli and add to the pot.  Blanch for 2 minutes, then drain and shock (rinse under cold water).

Grease a glass or ceramic pie dish with margarine or cooking spray.  In a medium bowl, beat eggs and add milk, salt, pepper, hot sauce and flour.  Stir well to get rid of lumps.

Add the broccoli to the pie dish and cover with the grated cheese.  Pour the egg mixture over the broccoli and cheese.  Bake for 35-45 minutes.  You’ll know it’s done when a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.  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! 



Spaghetti Squash with Garlic and Butter September 18, 2008

Filed under: healthy,vegetarian — mangiaquesto @ 6:51 pm
Tags: , , , ,

I was so excited to see the huge pile of beautiful Ontario squash at my local grocery store last week.  Like  Ontario corn, squash makes me feel better about the end of summer.  When choosing a squash, look for one that is heavy for its size and has no serious marks or gouges in the skin.  Try pressing your fingernail into the skin.  If it’s fairly hard, it’s ready.  If you can mark it easily, try to find a firmer one.  You can store the squash out of the fridge for a few weeks.

Spaghetti squash is easy to prepare and delicious.  This is just one of the many ways you can enjoy it.

You’ll need:

1 spaghetti squash

4 cloves of garlic

1 tablespoon of butter (or margarine)

cooking spray (Pam?)

salt  & pepper to taste

First, preheat your oven to 450 degrees F (I made my squash in a big toaster oven).  Cut the squash in half the long way using the biggest, sharpest knife you have.  Take the loose papery skin off of the garlic but don’t peel it.  Spray a baking sheet with the cooking spray (you could also grease it with margarine or butter).  Place the squash halves cut-side down on the pan and slip two cloves of garlic under each squash half.  Bake the squash-garlic combo for about an hour, until you can pierce the skin easily with a fork.

When the squash is cooked, flip it onto its shell and butter each half.  Then squeeze the roasted garlic out of its peel and mash it slightly with a fork.  Spread the garlic onto both squash halves, then salt and pepper them lightly.  Using a fork, fluff the squash so the spaghetti strands come apart.  Taste and add more salt/pepper/butter as desired.  You can serve it right in the squash halves for a cute fall dish.


Beginner Pie Crust August 31, 2008

Filed under: staple,vegan,vegetarian — mangiaquesto @ 12:54 am
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You’ve probably heard how impossible pie crusts can be, or at least how easy it is to mess them up. I want to dispel these myths (or at least half-truths). You CAN make pie crust as long as you have a small amount of patience and a little bit of extra time. I think the results are worth it, and much better than pre-made pie crusts.

This is the first pie crust recipe I tried, and it worked so I’m sticking with it. A lot of people shun shortening, preferring the more classic butter pâte brisée. I started out with this recipe because I wanted something dairy-free. I also think the shortening is more forgiving than the butter, which is important if this is your first pie crust.

I’ve tried this recipe with regular and with golden shortening, and find that the golden shortening gives the crust a nicer flavour and colour. Keep your shortening in the fridge for best results. If you’re making a pie like apple or pumpkin you could also add some cinnamon and sugar to the flour mix for extra flavour.

For a single pie crust, you need:

1 1/3 cups of all-purpose flour

1/2 cup of cold shortening

1/2 teaspoon of salt

4 tablespoons of ice cold water (and possibly a bit extra)

Put the flour in a medium bowl along with the salt and stir. Cut off what you need from the brick of shortening and cut that into a couple of thick slices. Drop the shortening into the bowl with the flour.

I did some serious research before I tried to make my first pie, and learned that a pie crust is very different from other baked goods (cakes, muffins, cookies, etc.). When you make a pie crust, your goal is not to mix all of the ingredients thoroughly. Think of it more as coating all of the fat in flour. This also explains why it’s important to keep your shortening and water cold: If the shortening warms up too much it will become soft and liquidy and will mix too much with the flour (don’t panic, this has never actually happened to me, just explaining the “science” behind all this madness).  

I like to keep things low-tech in the kitchen. Sure you can make this with a stand mixer or whatever, but who’s got one of those? Not me. If you don’t either, take one knife in each hand (just the normal ones you would use for dinner) and cut across the mixture in opposite directions at the same time, rotating the bowl and stirring so you cut up all the big lumps of shortening with your knife (cutting in the shortening). Keep going until the shortening chunks are about the size of a pea.  When you bake the dough, these little pea-sized bits of shortening will melt, creating the flaky texture you’re aiming for.

The next step is to add the water. I always find I need more water than the recipe calls for, so use your judgment. Add the water one tablespoon at a time, stirring with the knives and trying to limit touching the dough with your hands (because of the whole warming up the shortening thing). When you have added 3 tablespoons of water, see if the dough is moist enough by squeezing it with your hand. If it holds together decently it’s probably ready. If not, add more water half a tablespoon at a time. It doesn’t have to be doughy, but just has to hold its shape a bit.

When you can form it into some sort of ball, do so. Don’t worry if there are a few little dry crumbly bits as long as most of it will hold its shape. Place a piece of plastic wrap on your counter and put the dough ball on it. Flatten the dough ball into a disc, wrap it up and place it in the fridge. It needs to sit for at least an hour to relax, which helps to make the crust more tender and flaky.


After the dough has rested for a while, unwrap it and place it on a well-floured surface. Roll out the dough with a well-floured rolling pin until it is about 1/4″ thick and about 2″ wider all around than your pie pan.

Here are two good ways to get your dough into the pie pan once it is rolled out:

1) (My favourite) Put one of those really thin and cheap bendy plastic cutting boards on your counter, sprinkle it generously (this is super important!) with flour and put a little extra on the counter in case the dough extends beyond the plastic sheet. Roll out the dough on top of the plastic sheet.

Lift up the plastic sheet and quickly flip it over onto the pie pan, then peel off the plastic sheet. Press the dough down into the pan. Easy, n’est-ce pas?

2) If you don’t have a cheap plastic cutting board but you do have a rolling pin, try this: Starting at one end of the dough circle, roll the dough around the pin, lift, place over pan and unroll. Also fairly easy.

After you’ve pressed the dough down into the pan, tear off the extra dough so there is about an inch of dough to roll into a lip. Roll it up and press little divots into it with your finger. Don’t worry about making it perfect, it will look rustic and charming. If you have extra dough left over you can lay it on a cookie sheet and sprinkle it with cinnamon and sugar then bake for 10-12 minutes on 350F.

Some final notes: If the crust gets torn in the whole transferring to the pan process, just patch it up with some of the extra stuff torn off of the edges. The dough shouldn’t be sticky at all. If it is, sprinkle flour over it as you roll it out. Even if you think you’ve completely ruined it and are about to despair, don’t. Just add more water if it’s too dry or add more flour if it’s sticky and you’ll be fine. Hopefully everything worked out and your crust is flaky and delicious. As a friend of mine once said, “Now you can be known as a pie person!”


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!