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    THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

    Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

    This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on TheNibble.com,
    the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Pasta/Pizza

RECIPE: BLT Pasta Salad

blt-pasta-salad-davidvenableQVC-230

Like BLTs? Here’s a BLT Pasta Salad. Photo
courtesy QVC.

 

“Everyone needs a good pasta salad recipe for the summer,” says QVC chef David Venable. Here’s a fun pasta salad: a BLT Pasta Salad with Arugula, Bacon & Feta Cheese.

It deconstructs a BLT sandwich, using baby arugula for the lettuce and adding cheese and chicken so it has the protein to serve as a luncheon or dinner salad.

But, you can leave out the cheese and chicken and serve it as a side salad.

David advises, “If you want to serve it as a side salad, this recipe is a flavor-packed side dish that would pair perfectly with anything from ribs to grilled salmon.”

Add optional croutons for a fully deconstructed BLT sandwich.

 
RECIPE: BLT PASTA SALAD

Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • 16-ounce box farfalle (bow tie) pasta
  • 1/2 pound bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 1/4 cup green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2-3/4 pound baby arugula
  • 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (substitute goat or blue cheese)
  • 1 cup cooked or grilled chicken pieces (optional)
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon rind, grated
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Optional: homemade garlic croutons
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COOK the pasta according to the package directions. Drain well.

    2. TRANSFER the pasta to a large serving bowl. Add the bacon, green onions, cherry tomatoes, and arugula to the warm pasta. Add feta cheese and optional chicken and toss.

    3. WHISK together the balsamic vinegar, lemon rind and mustard in a small bowl. Gradually add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking until blended. Whisk in the salt and pepper, to taste.

    4. POUR the vinaigrette into the pasta salad and toss until well coated. Serve warm.

     
    Find more of David Venable’s recipes at QVC.com.
     
      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Firecracker Macaroni & Cheese

    It’s not red, white and blue, but it has extra
    heat for a “firecracker” punch. Photo
    courtesy Dietz & Watson.

      Heat things up on July 4th with this special mac and cheese from Dietz & Watson, which used its peppadew and Cheddar with Jalapeño & Habañero products.

    RECIPE: FIRECRACKER MACARONI & CHEESE

    Ingredients For 4 to 6 Servings

  • 2 pounds 100% semolina ziti
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 cups milk
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground white or black pepper*
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 3/4 pound peppadew*, grated or finely chopped
  • 1/4 pound Cheddar with Jalapeño & Habañero, grated or finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Hungarian paprika, for garnish
  •  
    *You can subsitute pimiento (roasted red peppers) for the peppadew, but the latter is tangier. You can use black pepper instead of white pepper; the difference is that black flecks will show in the recipe. White pepper was created (by removing the spicy black skin of peppercorns) for aesthetic reasons, that are no longer so important in current times. Black pepper delivers more heat.

     

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 375°F, and butter a 2-quart ovenproof casserole dish.

    2. BRING a large saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil and toss in the ziti. Boil until just slightly firm (al dente), drain in a colander (do not rinse) and set aside momentarily.

    3. MELT the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat, stir in the flour to form a smooth paste (roux), and cook for about 1 minute. Pour in the milk, whisking constantly, and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, season with salt and white pepper, and add the nutmeg and thyme. Stir in the cheeses a bit at a time until incorporated and smooth.

    4. ADD the ziti to the cheese sauce, stirring gently to coat, and pour into the prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle the top evenly with Parmesan cheese and bake for 10 minutes.

    5. REMOVE the casserole from the oven and place under the broiler until bubbly and golden brown. Watch carefully to prevent the top from burning. Sprinkle with paprika, and serve hot.

     
      

    Comments

    JULY 4th: Bacon Flag Pizza

    Blogger Bev Cooks of Kansas City designed this celebratory snack for Independence Day. It’s so nifty, there’s temptation to find more occasions to eat this flag!

    RECIPE: BACON FLAG PIZZA

    Ingredients

  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup jarred Alfredo sauce (or make your own with this recipe)
  • 1 tube (11 ounces) Pillsbury thin crust pizza dough
  • 1 pinch coarse salt
  • 4 small purple potatoes, sliced thinly with a mandoline
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 7 slices bacon
  •    

    You’re a grand old pizza! Photo courtesy BevCooks.com.

     

     

    Purple potatoes

    Also use purple potatoes in a red, white and blue potato salad. Photo courtesy BevCooks.com.

     

    Prepration

    1. ARRANGE the raw bacon slices on a cooling rack. Place the rack on a rimmed baking sheet and then into a cold oven.

    2. PREHEAT the oven to 400°F. Set the timer for 20 minutes. When the timer rings, remove the bacon from the oven. Leave the oven on. In the meantime…

    3. HEAT the oil in a medium skillet. Add the sliced potatoes and sauté until they brown and become slightly crispy, about 7 minutes. Add a pinch of salt.

    4. DRAIN the bacon fat from the baking sheet and flip it over. Lightly grease the underside. Roll the dough onto the sheet. Prebake for 6 minutes.

    5. SPOON the Alfredo sauce over the crust. Arrange the potatoes in the upper left hand corner of the pizza. You can overlap them or lay them side by side. Arrange the bacon to the right and under the potatoes, creating stripes.

    6. SPRINKLE the cheese between the bacon stripes. If you want, you can create little cheese stars on the potatoes. Bake pizza an additional 6 to 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted, browned and bubbly.
     
    MORE

    Check out this crudités American flag.

     

    See the step-by step photos on Tablespoon.com.

    Check out more of Bev’s wonderful recipes at BevCooks.com.

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Vegan Pesto From Sauces ‘n Love

    Sauces-n-Love_Vegan-Pesto-230

    Vegan, lactose free and cholesterol free
    pesto. Photo courtesy Sauces ‘n Love.

     

    Keeping a good jar of pre-made pesto at hand can make any dish extraordinary in only a matter of minutes.

    Pesto sauce, traditionally consists of basil, garlic, olive oil, pine nuts, Parmesan and Pecorino cheeses and salt for seasoning. Add a dollop to dinner and suddenly you’re a fancy cook who understands how to dazzle with delicate herbs. Pesto is vegetarian, low in carbs and packed with fresh ingredients: a bright, healthy addition to your meals.

    Pesto originated in the Italian province of Liguria, 220 miles of crescent-shaped Mediterranean coastline that is sometimes called the Italian Riviera. Liguria, the capital of which is Genoa, is home to superb produce, most notably the sweetest, mildest basil. Its people enjoy one of the freshest, healthiest cuisines in all of Italy.

    Just as pesto can be made with different nuts (hazelnuts, pistachios, walnuts) and greens (arugula, spinach)—or even non-greens, like red pepper pesto—it can be made vegan instead of vegetarian. One way to do this is to substitute vegan Parmesan.

     

    But Sauces ‘n Love has creating a pesto condiment, dip and sauce that eliminates the cheese or cheese substitute. Using only extra virgin olive oil, sunflower oil, basil, pine nuts, garlic, salt and black pepper still creates a delicious pesto.

     

    Why vegan pesto? Aside from accommodating the growing number of vegans, it’s a boon for non-vegans who are lactose intolerant, those cutting back on cholesterol, and kosher consumers who want to serve pesto with meat-based meals.

    Sauces ‘n Love, a NIBBLE Top Pick of The Week is one of our favorite lines of Italian-style sauces, sold fresh in the refrigerator case. A sister line, Scarpetta, is shelf-stable and will stay fresh without refrigeration for nine months. Learn more at SaucesNLove.com.
     
    MORE ABOUT PESTO

  • Pesto Overview
  • The History Of Pesto
  • Pesto Serving Suggestions
  • Homemade Pesto Recipe and Pesto Prep Tips
  • More Favorite Pestos
  •  

    Pesto-SalmonCakes-230

    Beyond pasta: Pesto can be used to enhance most savory dishes. Photo by Guyer Wood | IST.

     

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Tortellini En Brodo

    Tortellini en brodo (often misspelled in the U.S. as tortellini in brodo) is a classic Italian dish. Some Americans call it tortellini soup.

    It is served as a first course—chicken broth with a few tortellini—or as a main dish packed with tortellini. It’s a cousin of dumpling and chicken soups from Jewish chicken soup with kreplach to Chinese wonton soup, not to mention American chicken-noodle soup.

    While most Americans eat tortellini with a red or white sauce and grated Parmesan, en brodo is a lighter way to enjoy the little loops of pasta.

    The dish, which originated in the northern Italian region of Emilia-Romagna (more about that below), is warming in cold weather, but light enough to be summer fare. You can make it from scratch or purchase the components. Both the tortellini and the broth can be made ahead and reheated.

    While a flavorful bowl of chicken broth and tasty tortellini are comfort food in any season, if you don’t add veggies and herb garnishes, you’re leaving a lot off the table.

  • Add lots of fresh herbs. Parsley will do; but you can pick your favorites, from cilantro to dill. They may not be authentic Italian herbs, but this is your show (and they taste great with the dish).
  •    

    http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photography-tortellini-soup-delicious-vegetable-image30876662

    Tortellini en brodo in its simplest form, with fresh herbs. Photo by Aas2009 | Dreamstime.

  • Root vegetables add fragrance and flavor the broth. Also consider spinach or kale.
  •  
    Customize your recipe:

  • Combine both white and green tortellini. Mixing up different fillings offer a pleasant surprise with each bite.
  • In spring, add fresh peas or other seasonal vegetables such as asparagus.
  • Make it a heartier dish with strips of poultry or pork, or tiny meatballs.
  • Spice it up with a garnish of sliced fresh jalapeño.
  • Go fusion with a garnish of tortilla or wonton strips.
  •  

    sauces-tortellini-230

    The next time you make tortellini, try it en
    brodo
    instead of with traditional sauces.
    Photo of Randazzo’s tortellini and sauces by
    Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

     

    THE HISTORY OF TORTELLINI

    Tortellini are made by filling long strips of pasta, rolling them into tubes and cutting individual pieces, which are pinched together with the thumb and forefinger. The famous “loop” shape is said to be based on the belly button of the Venus, the Roman goddess of love.

    One of the most famous versions of the legend, written in the 14th century, tells us that that Bacchus, Mars and Venus came down to earth to intervene in a 12th century war between Bologna and Modena (in Emilia-Romagna). They spent the night at an inn in Castelfranco, a small town located between the two cities.

    In the morning, Bacchus and Mars arose early to visit the battle site. When Venus awoke and could not find her companions, she called for the innkeeper, who arrived to find the goddess of love naked. Inspired by her navel, he created a new shape of pasta. (Seriously, Mr. Innkeeper—her navel inspired you?)

    Tortellini are made in a size that fits easily onto a soup spoon. There is a recipe for tortelli, larger tortellini, that dates back to the 12th century. The first recipe for tortellini alla Bolognese, tomato and meat sauce, appeared in Bologna in 1550 and became a signature dish in that city. (Note that Tuscans also claim tortellini as their regional pasta.)

     
    Tortellini en brodo was the traditional Christmas soup, made with capon broth, which was favored by the ruling classes. The broth was made rich by cooking all the meat in it. The meat was then turned into a stuffing with Parmigiano-Reggiano, prosciutto crudo and/or mortadella.

    Today you can find tortellini filled with everything from cheese blends to meat and cheese to pumpkin.
     
    THE CULINARY LEGACY OF EMILIA-ROMAGNA

    If you love great Italian food, consider a trip to Emilia-Romagna. It’s the birthplace of, among other culinary pearls:

  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano and Grana Padano cheeses
  • Prosciutto di Parma
  • Pasta cuts including cappelletti, garganelli, gramigna, lasagne, strozzapreti, tagliatelle, tortellini and tortelli alla lastra (ravioli)
  • Wines such as Lambrusco, Sangiovese and Trebbiano
  • Zuppa inglese, a trifle-like custard dessert
  •   

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Gnocchi For Breakfast

    pan-fried-gnocchi-fried-egg-giovannirana-230

    Pasta for breakfast! Photo and recipe
    courtesy Giovanni Rana.

     

    Here’s a fun idea for breakfast or brunch: “Gnocchi Homefries,” made with potato gnocchi instead of sliced potatoes, in yummy sage brown butter.

    Sauté with pancetta, onions and rosemary; or add sausage, and freshly-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Or add it all, topped with a poached or fried egg.

    This recipe is courtesy of Giovanni Rana, which used its delicious Gnocchi di Patate (potato gnocchi) Home Fries with Pancetta and Sage Brown Butter Fried Eggs for a romantic brunch. Find more recipes on the website.

    RECIPE: POTATO GNOCCHI HOME FRIES

    Ingredients

    For The Home Fries

  • ½ – 8.8-ounce package Giovanni Rana Gnocchi di Patate
  • 2 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 ounce pancetta or bacon, cut into ¼” strips (easier to cut when frozen)
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • ½ teaspoon finely chopped rosemary or sage
  • 2 teaspoon vegetable oil, such as canola
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
  •  
    For The Eggs

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 6 leaves fresh sage
  • 2 eggs
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  •  

    Preparation

    1. SAUTÉ pancetta or bacon over medium/low heat with extra virgin olive oil in a nonstick pan. When crispy, remove to a paper towel to drain. Add onions and chopped rosemary and sauté over medium heat until tender and starting to brown; about 7-9 minutes. Remove to a bowl and wipe pan clean.

    2. HEAT 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in the nonstick pan over high heat until almost smoking. Add the gnocchi and sauté, constantly tossing to prevent burning, until they are golden brown. Turn off heat.

    3. RETURN onions and pancetta to the pan. Add 2 tablespoons unsalted butter and toss until butter is melted. Empty contents of pan into a bowl. Add Parmigiano-Reggiano and toss.

    4. MELT 2 tablespoons unsalted butter in a small nonstick pan over medium heat. Add fresh sage leaves and swirl pan until the butter begins to brown. Turn heat off and allow the pan to cool slightly; about 1 minute. Add the eggs and season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Fry the eggs on medium/low heat to desired doneness, spooning some of the brown butter over top of them a few times; about 2-1/2 minutes for sunny side up.

     

    sauce-pasta-bag-230

    Giovanni Rana’s potato gnocchi are just one of the company’s delicious fresh pastas and sauces. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

     

    5. PLATE the home fries and top with fried eggs.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Breakfast Pizza

    Still pondering what to make for Mother’s Day breakfast? Perhaps this is the year to skip the bagels and lox, pancakes, quiche and waffles and opt instead for a glamorous breakfast pizza.

    Just plan ahead and make the dough one day in advance; it needs to be refrigerated overnight (it can be made up to 2 days ahead). Keep it chilled until ready to use.

    This recipe, sent to us by Savor California, is by cookbook writer Jill Silverman Hough.

    You can turn it into bacon-, ham- or sausage-and-eggs pizza by adding your favorite breakfast meat.

    RECIPE: BREAKFAST PIZZA WITH EGGS,
    ROASTED PEPPERS, OLIVES & ARUGULA

    Ingredients For 4 Servings
     
    For The Dough

  • 2 tablespoons warm water (115°F)
  • ½ teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
  • ½ cup cool water (65° to 70°F)
  • 1 teaspoon coarse/kosher salt
  • Olive oil
  •  

    Egg-Olive-Pizza-mishagravenorphotography-savorcalifornia

    A special breakfast for a special day. Photo by Misha Gravenor Photography.

     

    For The Topping

  • Cornmeal for sprinkling
  • Olive oil
  • ¾ cup drained roasted red peppers, cut into 1/3-inch strips
  • 1/3 cup black olives, pitted and quartered*
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese shavings
  • 1½ teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 4 large red onion rings, each 3-1/2 to 4 inches in diameter and 1/2 inch thick
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 cups arugula, lightly packed
  •  
    *Jill used Olivos del Mar Organic Honey Balsamic Olives that have been flashed brined overnight in a mixture of organic lemongrass rice vinegar, organic balsamic vinegar, and a mixture of Italian herbs. You can similarly brine your olives overnight.

     

    bacon-strip-igourmet-230

    Add some bacon or other breakfast meat to
    your pie. Photo courtesy iGourmet.com.

     

    Preparation

    1. MAKE the dough. Pour 2 tablespoons warm water into large bowl of stand mixer fitted with dough hook; sprinkle yeast over. Let stand until yeast dissolves, about 15 minutes (mixture will not be foamy).

    2. ADD both flours, 1/2 cup cool water and 1 teaspoon coarse salt; mix on medium-low speed 4 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes, then mix on medium speed until dough is smooth, elastic, and slightly sticky, about 3 minutes.

    3. LIGHTLY OIL a medium bowl. Gather dough into ball and transfer to prepared bowl; turn to coat with oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature 30 minutes. Chill dough overnight. When ready to bake…

    4. TRANSFER bowl to warm, draft-free area and let dough rise, covered, until very slightly puffy, at least 2 hours. Place a pizza stone or rimless baking sheet in oven; preheat to 500°F.

     

    5. SPRINKLE pizza paddle or another baking sheet generously with cornmeal. Roll out dough on lightly floured surface to 12-inch round; transfer to paddle.

    6. BRUSH dough with oil; scatter peppers, then olives, over the top. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and rosemary. Arrange onion rings atop pizza, spacing apart. Slide pizza onto stone or baking sheet in oven. Bake until lightly browned but not crisp, about 7 minutes.

    7. REMOVE pizza from oven and gently crack 1 egg into each onion ring. Return pizza to oven and continue to bake until eggs are softly set and crust is golden, about 6 minutes. Sprinkle pizza with salt and pepper. Scatter arugula over top and serve.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Crabtini, A Simple & Elegant First Course

    A delicious crabtini. Photo courtesy Ruth’s
    Chris Steakhouse.

     

    When you’re cooking a fancy dinner, there are tricks to shave time and effort. We typically do this by making first courses and desserts that are simple yet impressive.

    One of our go-to first courses is a slice of store-bought pâté with a lightly-dressed mesclun salad, cornichons, pickled onions and some halved grape tomatoes for color. Another is a crabtini.

    A crabtini is a crab cocktail served in a Martini glass. Thanks so much to Lynne Olver of FoodTimeline.org, whose research indicates that the originator of the concept appears to be Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, circa 2005.

    The crabtini has inspired chefs to create even more elaborate preparations like this molded crab cocktail. But, seeking the quick and easy, we emulated Ruth’s Chris to make our own crabtini:

    RECIPE: CRABTINI

    Ingredients For 6-8 Servings

  • 1 pound lump or white crabmeat (types of crabmeat)
  • 1/2 cup capers, drained
  • 1/4 cup red onion, minced
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
  • Optional: 1/2 teaspoon Creole seasoning
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Herb vinaigrette (recipe below)
  • Romaine
  • Garnish: salmon caviar, red tobiko or tiny dice of
    red bell pepper; lemon or lime wedges
  • Preparation

    1. GENTLY toss the crab with capers, onion, parsley, Creole seasoning, salt and pepper and vinaigrette. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired.

    2. PLACE romaine leaves upright in a Martini glass. Place a mound of the crab salad in the glass.

    3. GARNISH with caviar and serve with lemon or lime wedges.
     
    RECIPE: HERB VINAIGRETTE

    Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup mixed leafy fresh herbs: basil, mint, parsley, tarragon
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 cup lemon or lime juice
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1-1/4 cups extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • A few shakes Worcestershire sauce
  •  
    Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.
     
    WINE PAIRING

    Enjoy your crabtini with a festive glass of sparking wine—another quick and easy way to add glamor to a simple course—or a clean, crisp dry white wine.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Pillow Pasta

    Butternut-Squash-Ravioli-pom-wonderful-230

    Butternut squash ravioli. Photo courtesy Pom
    Wonderful. Here’s the recipe.

     

    When studying culinary history, you learn lots of fun food facts. For example, in the history of pasta, Marco Polo may have brought pasta back from China—but it wasn’t spaghetti or other “long cut” pasta, and it wasn’t “short cut” pasta like farfalle (bowties) or penne.

    Credit for the spread of boiled pasta in the West is given to Arabs traders who packed dried spaghetti-type pasta on long journeys over the famed “Silk Road” to China. It was easy to reconstitute into a hot meal along desolate trails. They brought it to Sicily during the Arab invasions of the 8th century and planted the seeds of an Italian culinary breakthrough.

    There are records of pasta in Italy before Marco Polo returned from the Far East (he set out in 1271 and returned in 1295). In 1279, in his last will and testament, a Genoan soldier named Ponzio Baestone bequeathed “bariscella peina de macarone,” a small basket of macaroni.

    So what part did Marco Polo play? The record is so scant, we’ll never know; but it is conjectured that he brought back “pillow pasta”—boiled dumplings that evolved into agnolotti and ravioli.

     
    Polo returned from the Far East at the very end of the 13th century. The earliest mention of ravioli appears in the writings of Francesco di Marco, a merchant of Prato in the 14th century, and other 14th century mentions follow. (Source: Wikipedia)

    Here’s a brief history of pasta.

    TYPES OF PILLOW PASTA

    Pillow pasta is stuffed pasta, but not all stuffed pasta is pillow pasta. The other sub-category includes the large tubes that are stuffed and baked, like manicotti. (Other tube pasta, such as penne, rigatoni and ziti, are too small to be stuffed but are covered with heavier sauces, which are meant to catch in the hollows of the tubes.)

    Pillow pasta comprises fresh pasta sheets stuffed with a filling. The filling is placed on the flat sheet of pasta, another sheet is placed on top, the shapes are cut and the edges are sealed.

  • The pasta can be stuffed with almost any kind of filling, either single or combinations of different meats, cheeses, vegetables, seafood and herbs.
  • They can be sauced, tossed with butter or olive oil, or added plain to soups.
  •  
    How many of these pillow pastas have you had?

     

    Agnolotti: Small stuffed pasta in the shape of a half moon, similar to mezzalune and pierogi. The term is Italian for “priests’ caps.” Photo.

    Cannelloni: Rectangular sheets of pasta dough that are filled and rolled into tube shapes. The name is Italian for “large reeds.” They can easily be confused with manicotti, which are pre-formed tubes that are stuffed (the word comes from the Italian word manica, sleeve).

    Mezzalune: Literally “half moons,” a crescent-shaped stuffed pasta.

    Ravioli: The original “pillow pasta” can be oval, rectangular, round, square, sunflower-shaped (called girasole) and triangular (called pansotti). There are also specialty shapes, from fish to hearts. The name is a diminutive of rava, little turnip, which may or may not have been an early stuffing.

    Raviolini: Miniature ravioli. They can be served as a pasta dish, hors d’oeuvres or put into soup, like won tons.

    Ravioloni: Very large ravioli. They can be as large as three-inch circles and four inch squares or rectangles. In this photo, you can see that the piece at the right is almost as long as the fork.

     

    sauce-ravioli-2-230

    Giovanni Rana’s tasty ravioli and sauces. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

     
    Sacchette: Sacks, or “beggar’s purses.” (More)

    Tortellini: Thin strips of raw filled pasta pinched to form a navel-like shape. A popular dish with sauce, it is also served in soups, as in the classic dish, tortellini in brodo. We serve them as cocktail party appetizers with a dip. More.
     
    GIOVANNI RANA PASTA

    We recently celebrated March 20th, National Ravioli Day by pigging out on a huge supply of Giovanni Rana pasta, along with another fresh pasta brand.

    Hands down, Giovanni Rana was the winner. The venerable Italian artisan producer—who now makes most of the products for the U.S. market here—uses ingredients that are top-knotch; you can taste the difference. We were sent four of the seven varieties ravioli: Artichoke, Cheese “Delicato,” Cheese “Forte” and Spinaci e Ricotta, plus four sauces.

    The other flavors including Caprese (basil and mozzarella), Chicken Rosemary and Mushroom. We’ll be seeking them out. (The company also makes tortellini, long cut pasta and gnocchi.)

    The ravioli, sold fresh in bags, cook up in two minutes—it takes longer to heat the sauce! The sauces are very dense; a little goes a long way.

    Ravioli Vs. Tortellini: A Revelation

    After tasting the prosciutto tortellini at the same time as the ravioli, we’ll probably never buy tortellini again.

    With all due respect to this popular dish and the quality of Giovanni Rana’s product, we had a revelation: It’s too much pasta and not enough filling. Since one eats pillow pasta for the filling, there’s too little of it in tortellini to deliver on expectations.

    Check out all of the delicious pastas at GiovanniRana.com.

    If you’re in New York City, head to Chelsea Market, where Giovanni Rana has a restaurant (cucina) and fresh pasta shop (pastificio).

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Two Riffs On Lasagna

    One of the fun things about cooking, we think, is that you can develop riffs on favorite dishes that always keep them fresh and interesting. Even if everyone loves your brownies, potato salad or whatever, try variations on it (like adding contrasting flavored baking chips or different nuts to the brownie batter, or minced jalapeño or a fresh herb medley to the potato salad).

    Look at what you’re cooking tonight and see how you can do a variation—divide the recipe in half and serve both. See what everyone thinks.

    Here are two riffs on that family favorite, lasagna. The one at the bottom is actually “faux” lasagna, called pasta al forno.

    RECIPE: SPINACH LASAGNA

    Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon dried basil
  •  

    Print

    How to get your family to eat more spinach: spinach lasagna! You can substitute kale. Photo and recipe courtesy Westside Market | NYC.

  • 2 10-ounce packages frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed of excess water
  • 2 cups non-fat ricotta or cottage cheese
  • 8 ounces part skim mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 large egg
  • 8 ounces no-boil lasagna noodles (make it “double spinach lasagna” by using spinach noodles)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT oven to 350°F.

    2. HEAT olive oil in skillet. Add onion and garlic; sauté for 2 minutes. Add spinach, oregano and basil. Set aside.

    3. MIX ricotta/cottage cheese, mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses in a large bowl with parsley, salt, pepper and egg.

    4. SPREAD half of the spinach mixture in 8 x 8-inch ovenproof baking dish. Spread half of the cheese mixture on top. Add one layer of lasagna noodles. Repeat. Cover with foil and bake for 35 to 40 minutes.

    5. REMOVE foil and bake another 15 minutes. Let sit 10 minutes before serving.

     

     

    Print

    Pasta al forno: lasagna without the lasagna
    noodles. Recipe and photo courtesy Westside
    Market | NYC.

     

    RECIPE: PASTA AL FORNO

    Pasta al forno, which means “pasta in the oven” or baked pasta (and defines lasagna), is a variation that provides the flavor and relative appearance of lasagna without the effort of cooking and layering lasagna noodles.

    Ingredients

  • 1 pound sweet or hot fresh Italian sausage
  • 8 ounces pasta, such as ziti or penne, cooked and
    drained
  • 1 25-ounce jar or homemade marinara sauce
  • 3 cups shredded mozzarella
  • 1 10-ounce package frozen peas
  • 1 cup ricotta
  • 6 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano or
    Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 8 tablespoons Pecorino Romano
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  •  

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT oven to 375°F. COAT a 2-1/2-quart baking dish with vegetable cooking spray.

    2. REMOVE Remove from casing, break up into pieces and sauté in a skillet until sausage loses its color.

    3. COOK pasta. While the pasta is cooking, combine marinara sauce, 1-1/2 cups mozzarella, peas, ricotta, 6 tablespoons Pecorino Romano/Parmesan, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Stir in pasta and sausage, and pour mixture into the baking dish.

    4. STIR together in a small bowl 1-1/2 cups mozzarella, 2 tablespoons Pecorino Romano and oil. Sprinkle over top of pasta. Bake until hot, about 25 to 30 minutes. Let pasta sit for 10 minutes before serving.

      

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