The Morning After

Close-up of a plate of Fettuccine Carbonara
While I like Carbonara made with spaghetti, fettuccine or linguine may be used. The long strands of pasta better absorb the mixture and make for an enhanced taste. – tangledpasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi | @MaryAnnaVioli

One of my favorite go-to recipes is for Spaghetti Carbonara. No only is it easy, it is also delicious! The “Carbonara” in its name comes from the freshly ground black pepper used in the recipe. Growing up, pasta of any shape was doused with a hearty red sauce, a la Southern Italy, Calabrese-style. As I ventured forth into the world, well, at least to Northern and Central Italy, my gustatory senses awakened to the variations on Spaghetti Carbonara. It was cathartic! Spaghetti Carbonara is also cheap eats, depending upon the cook’s preference for pancetta [pricey], or bacon [not so pricey]. Another factor in cost is the type of cream one uses, if indeed, one adds cream at all, which the Romans do not. It depends upon my mood as to whether or not I use cream. If I decide I do, then I prefer half-and-half versus heavy cream. Whether or not one purchases the organic variety [a bit pricier than the non-organic version] may also ramp up the thriftiness of the pasta dish.

Imagine my delight on New Year’s morning when I read the NPR piece on Bacon, Eggs, Cheese – And Spaghetti? The Italian Twist on Hangover Cure! The essay gives some historical perspective on this classic dish at http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2017/01/01/507566978/bacon-eggs-cheese-and-spaghetti-the-italian-twist-on-a-hangover-cure.

No matter how you opt to make Spaghetti Carbonara, it will not only lessen the after effects of a hangover, but will taste delizioso! Below is my riff on the ubiquitous pasta dish.

Spaghetti Carbonara.

1-pound good quality spaghetti [De Cecco pasta is my favorite,]

1-2 tablespoons good quality olive oil

6-8 ounces pancetta, or good quality bacon

4 eggs [I prefer brown eggs, cage-free, grain fed]

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese [Parmigiano-Reggiano is my preference.]

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Cook the spaghetti according to the package directions.

As the spaghetti cooks, in a large frying pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Be careful not to burn the olive oil! Add the pancetta or the bacon. Cook until lightly browned, 3 minutes or so.

Take a large pasta bowl, and then beat and blend the eggs and cream. Next, stir in ½ cup of the Parmesan cheese the ground black pepper. Pour the drained spaghetti into the pasta bowl and mix together with the eggs and cream. Blend in the pancetta or bacon, and the drippings. Be sure to coat the spaghetti well with the wet mixture and the pancetta or bacon.

Serve hot.  Garnish with Italian flat leaf parsley. Pass the grated Parmesan cheese, and even additional ground black pepper on the side to taste. Buon appetito!

Ciao for now.

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Genius: Pasta

Pasta With Fried Eggs lends itself to different shapes of pasta-www.tangledpasta.net
Pasta With Fried Eggs lends itself to different shapes of pasta-www.tangledpasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi | @MaryAnnaVioli

One of the most versatile of Italian foods is pasta. Pasta comes in various shapes, each with its own unique taste. Two of my personal favorites are linguine and rigatoni. Quality of the pasta makes a difference. My own pastas of choice are De Cecco and Whole Foods’ Organic 365. A link to De Cecco’s recipes on its website offers up a number of its pasta offerings with seafood. The De Cecco family founded its pasta business in the Abruzzo region of Italy, along the coast of the Adriatic Sea where fresh catches were readily available.

http://www.dececco.it/us_us/ricettario

Most homemade pastas of yore found the freshly made pasta drying in the sun. Sun drying, coupled with high quality flour and eggs, made all the difference in the taste. Of course, now pasta manufacturers have invented techniques to dry the pasta for mass-market consumption, attempting not to sacrifice taste and quality. Certainly De Cecco pasta has succeeded in this regard.

One of my preferred go-to pasta recipes is from Mark Bittman, of the Cooking section of The New York Times. I usually make a recipe as is the first time, and then I add my variations on the theme. Bittman recently opted to consume less meat; now quite a few of his recipes work for vegetarians. Part of the beauty of pasta is that a cook can raid the pantry and refrigerator to concoct lunch or dinner. I even know those who eat pasta for breakfast! Italian pasta pretty much tolerates most ingredients a cook throws at it, although ketchup as a “sauce” may offend one’s cultivated pasta palate!

Spaghetti With Fried Eggs

By Mark Bittman [with my variations]

 Ingredients                                                  

Salt

½ pound thin spaghetti [or linguine]

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 large cloves garlic, peeled and smashed [or onion granules]

4 eggs

Freshly ground black pepper

Freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino [or Grana Padano] cheese[Green vegetable such as broccolini or broccoli florets or fresh spinach or peas]

Preparation

 Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Add the pasta when the water boils. Follow the package directions for how long to cook the pasta until it is al dente.

Start making the sauce.

Combine garlic [if using onion granules, add these to the eggs] and 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Cook the garlic and press it into the oil to release its flavor; it should barely color on both sides. Remove the garlic, and add the remaining olive oil.

Fry the eggs gently in the olive oil until the whites are about set and the yolks are still quite runny. Drain the pasta. Toss the pasta with the eggs [and onion granules if not using garlic] and olive oil. The eggs will finish cooking in the heat of the pasta. Season with pepper to taste, and serve immediately.

Serve with the Italian cheese, and with a green vegetable.

Buon appetito!

Ciao for now.

 

 

An Italian Café

 

Go To Go by Lucrezia 's Bruschetta Duo tasted delicious!-www.tangledpasta.net
Go To Go by Lucrezia ‘s Bruschetta Duo tasted delicious!-www.tangledpasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi | @MaryAnnaVioli

This Memorial Day weekend, my plans included time with my newly minted Law graduate. Whilst she is fully engaged in studying for the Bar Exam, Anjelica carved out time for an afternoon for us to kick back and catch up.

We decided to explore a small bistro I had not yet been to: Good To Go by Lucrezia. One of my all time favorite places to dine is at Lucrezia Café and Restaurant in Chesterton. Good To Go by Lucrezia carries sublime artisanal olive oils and vinegars like its parent café. One of the draws for me was that Good To Go immediately reminded me of a small, tucked away café in Venice and Rome I frequented on my sojourns to Italy. The dark wood interior, faux granite countertops, bistro tables and chairs, with a bar-lined wall on one side and an oil and vinegar selections lining the other, gives a charming Italian vibe, except in Italy these dining gems use marble countertops and often tabletops as well.

Good To Go by Lucrezia’s luncheon menu provided us with an eclectic assortment from which to choose. We selected the following for our leisurely luncheon: Inko’s unsweetened Blueberry ice tea; I drank the White Lemon. We ordered a Small Plate of the Bruschetta Duo with Salsa Cruda and Roasted Vegetables. It was like a riff on caponata with artisanal olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I decided on the Triple Cheese Panini with French Gruyère, Vermont Cheddar, and American cheese with onions sautéed in Balsamic vinegar, served on 13-grain whole wheat bread with butter infused EVOO. Included was a side of coleslaw, which I normally dislike, but Good To Go’s was made with oil and vinegar. Tasty. A great mug of the soup of the day, Italian Wedding Soup, was also included. For her section, Anjelica chose the Apple Artisan Flatbread made with fresh sliced apples, whole milk Mozzarella, and Amish Gorgonzola was topped with a fresh arugula and chopped walnut salad with the house walnut infused EVOO.

Check out the lunch and dinner menus at http://goodtogobylucrezia.com/. The café is located at 54 W. Lincolnway, Valparaiso IN 46383; phone 219.286.7668; fax 219.286.7669; web address: goodtogobylucrezia.com. It is well worth the drive. Buon appetito!

Ciao for now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Italian Comfort Food

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The pasta bowl was filled to the top with Pasta e Fagioli, but I was hungry, and I had eaten most of it when I remembered I needed to snap a photo. – http://www.tangledpasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi | @MaryAnnaVioli

Maybe it had something to do with the death of one of my 48 first cousins last week. Perhaps the up and down warm and chilly weather affected me, or my usual spring melancholy at the end of a teaching semester accounted for it. Whatever the reason, I craved a Southern Italian food I had not made in a while: Pasta e Fagioli, otherwise known as Pasta and Beans. This filling, comforting dish of Italian tastiness is not complicated to make. In fact, Pasta e Fagioli can most likely be created from pantry items at home. Its ingredients are those I keep on hand. If I run out of an item, it is purchased the next time I stop at the grocery.

My guess is that I rather lost my taste for this classic Italian peasant dish when it became popular among affluent upscale types. Collectively those people were enough to make me lose my appetite when they seized upon our traditional food. After seeing my beloved Pasta e Fagioli on a restaurant menu priced at $5.00 to $10.00 a bowl, depending upon which part of the country I was in, it felt like a death knell had tolled. Having Pasta e Fagioli on a legitimate Italian restaurant menu did not faze me; it was seeing it printed on non-authentic Italian restaurant menus that saddened me.

Growing up in an Italian Catholic household, Pasta e Fagioli was standard Friday night fare since we were forbidden to eat meat or fowl in those years, although we could eat fish. There are as many variations on this Southern Italian classic as there are on vegetarian chili: every cook indulges in the chef’s prerogative when it comes to ingredients and consistency. Some prefer a thick Pasta e Fagioli, while others like it more in a soup form. I have always preferred it thick and hearty. However, now when I make Pasta e Fagioli, I use far less tomatoes than in years past. This is noted in the recipe included below.

Pasta e Fagioli

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped [or 2-teaspoons onion granules]

1 24-ounce bottle organic strained Italian tomatoes [or a 30-ounce can crushed Italian tomatoes]

1-1/2 teaspoons dried oregano

¼ teaspoon dried red pepper flakes

2-1/2 cups organic chicken stock

2 15-ounce cans cannellini beans

8 ounces organic elbow macaroni [or 8 ounces mini-farfalle]

1-teaspoon salt

1-teaspoon ground black pepper

Grana Padano cheese to taste

  1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Add garlic, and cook about a minute more, but do not burn the garlic. Stir in strained tomatoes, oregano, dried red pepper flakes, and chicken stock. Cover and cook to heat through, about 5-6 minutes. Add cannellini beans and simmer 10 minutes or so.
  2. Cook elbow macaroni in a large pot of salted, boiling water until nearly cooked, about 6 minutes. Add to mixture, and cook 20 minutes. Add salt and ground black pepper.
  3. Serve in pasta bowls with grated Grana Padano cheese on the side.

Buon appetito!

Ciao for now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eating Through the Weekend

Pasta Carbonara is a classic Italian quick dinner to put together.-www.tangledpasta.net
Pasta Carbonara is a classic Italian meal that goes together quickly.- http://www.tangledpasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi | @MaryAnnaVioli

As the weekend draws to a close, I am reminded that I did a fair amount of cooking, which is something I love to do. In a sense, though, we rather ate our way around a part of the world.

On Friday night we dined on Shepherd’s Pie, which is quite out of character for an Italian, but periodically, I like to eat outside of the box. There is something lovely and comforting about a British Isle food that is smothered with mashed potatoes on its top. Saturday morning I made Julie Child’s Quiche aux Oignons for brunch with fresh blueberries on the side. Delicious, if I do say so myself! Her Mastering the Art of French Cooking is one of my favorite cookbooks in my collection.

Much later that day we would up at O’Rourke’s Pub. It was overflowing with people, but we managed to snare table. After watching the servers carry plates of food past us several times, we settled on Angus beef burgers. I chose smoked Gouda cheese and sautéed mushrooms on mine. My daughter opted for Cheddar cheese on hers and the sautéed mushrooms. A post-hockey game crowd was drawn to the pub. It was loud, with music blaring, and multiple screens showing different games nationwide. After a couple of hours, I was ready to vacate the premises since I wanted to unbutton the top of my jeans from the effects of garlic-laced French fries and pretzel bun cheeseburger overload.

This sunny Sunday morning, I made buttermilk and honey pancakes because we apparently didn’t ingest enough carbs the previous day. I worked on book revisions yesterday and today, finally deciding we needed to partake of UV rays in the great outdoors. Tonight’s dinner consisted of Pasta Carbonara with Whole Foods’ as-pure-as-one-can-get bacon, half and half, Parmesan cheese, parsley, lemon, and olive oil. On the side we had spinach with olive oil and fresh lemon. All in all, we feasted on British, Irish [beer, anyway], French, and Italian food over the weekend.

I’m thinking we may need to order sushi for tomorrow….or Panda Express.

Ciao for now.

Salad Days

With the heat soaring to 100 degrees again in the Heartland, salad has been figuring prominently on our table. This afternoon represented our new typical:  We dined on salad at an Italian bakery and restaurant. We felt like wilted Romaine lettuce from the heat walking from the car to the entrance door.  Usually we dine on a Panini in the deli café after purchasing Italian meats, cheese, and pastries.  Today we opted for its restaurant decorated with faux grape arbors, but lovely scenery overlooking voluptuous potted plants on the patio.

Cobb salad, Cafe Bellagio, Las Vegas – tangledpasta

Salad is not the food about which I dream.  Aside from an artfully crafted Caprese Salad with tomatoes that actually taste like tomatoes, not those tasteless hothouse ones, fresh mozzarella this side of paradise topped with fresh basil, salads do not figure prominently on my horizon.  Truth be known, I indulge periodically in a refreshing Cobb Salad too.  Fruit, on the other hand, quenches my thirst, and is colorful and delicious when newly plucked.  Upon fruit, I may wax poetic; on salad, not even a limerick emerges.

Kelley, my multi-talented sister-in-law, makes world-class salads that are rhapsodies in themselves. Even though she willingly shares her recipes with me, I seem to lack the salad knack she possesses.  Even my daughter makes salads an event, like her aunt.  My talent, I like to point out, lies elsewhere in the culinary landscape.

Even though I may be left in the salad stems, I plan to continue to partake of salads my family members make, relishing with gusto each bite.

Ciao for now.