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Archive for Pasta/Pizza

TIP OF THE DAY: Walnuts On Pizza

Apple Walnut Pizza

Blue Cheese Walnut Pizza

Chicken Alfredo Pizza

Top: Apple Cheddar Pizza With Walnuts from OhMyVeggies.com. Center: Pear, Blue Cheese & Walnut Pizza from 2Teaspoons.com. Bottom: Chicken Alfredo Pizza With Walnuts & Gorgonzola from Pillsbury.com.

 

We’d never had walnuts on a pizza—or even thought of it—until a recent excursion to Paulie Gee’s pizzeria in the Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn.

The restaurant serves both conventional pizzas (arugula, mushrooms, pesto, sausage, etc.); but we can get those elsewhere. Instead, we go for the more unusual selections, such as:

  • Gouda, Sliced Canadian Bacon & Maple Syrup
  • Beef Brisket, Pickled Red Onions & BBQ Sauce
  • Mozzarella, Gorgonzola, Prosciutto, Dried Bing Cherries
    & Orange Blossom Honey
  • Speck & Pickled Pineapple (a better version of ham-and-pineapple pizza)
  •  
    This time, we chose a “special” topped with walnuts, goat cheese and baby spinach. We loved the toasty, nutty crunch—plus the opportunity to deny the carbs we were consuming by focusing instead on the added nutrition of the walnuts: protein, fiber and different phytonutrients (types of antioxidants).

    We then returned to the office to research other approaches to walnut-topped pizza.
     
    We found quite a few pizza recipes that combined walnuts with different cheeses—blue, cheddar, goat and others—with fruits (apples, pears) and with more conventional pizza toppings (bacon, ham).

    So this tip is for home pizza makers: Try some of these ideas for a gourmet Super Bowl experience or for a new take on the comfort food.

    You can also add some of the ingredients to delivery pizza and frozen pizza.
     
    TAKE A BITE OF WALNUT PIZZA

    So many walnut pizzas, so little time to try them all!

  • Apple Cheddar Pizza with Caramelized Onions & Walnuts Recipe
  • Arugula, Goat Cheese & Walnut Pizza Recipe 1 and Recipe 2
  • Blue Cheese, Pear & Walnut Pizza Recipe 1 and Recipe 2
  • Caramelized Onion, Walnut & Goat Cheese Pizza With A Beer Crust Recipe
  • Chicken Alfredo Pizza With Gorgonzola & Walnuts Recipe
  • Gorgonzola, Pear & Walnut Pizza Recipe 1 and Recipe 2
  • Mushrooms, Goat Cheese, Arugula & Walnut Pizza Recipe
  • Walnut Pesto and Zucchini Pizza Recipe
  •  
    SUMMER WALNUT PIZZAS

    These are summer recipes that require seasonal ingredients such as fresh tomatoes and summer squash (yellow squash, a close relation* of zucchini).

  • Summer Squash Pizza with Goat Cheese and Walnuts Recipe
  • Walnut Pizza with Arugula and Yellow Tomatoes Recipe
  •  
    Today we’re making the Caramelized Onion, Walnut & Goat Cheese Pizza,; and we have fresh baby arugula so we’ll add that, too, when the pie comes out of the oven.

    What’s your choice?
    __________________________________
    *Both zucchini and yellow squash are varieties of the species Cucurbita pepo, which also includes crookneck squash, scalloped squash, straightneck squash, vegetable marrows (no relation to bone marrow, but a name given to the mature fruit (see below), zucchini and cocozelle, a type of zucchini with pale green or yellow stripes. Zucchini and yellow squash are picked from the vine before they are mature, but are are tender. If they remain on the vine and grow to maturity, they are larger, drier and tougher—and referred to as marrow.

     
      

    Comments

    SUPER BOWL RECIPE: Football Calzone

    What have you planned for the Super Bowl? How about this Football Calzone: layers of pizza crust topped with pepperoni, sauce and mozzarella.

    It was created by Beth of HungryHappenings.com for Tablespoon.com, part of Pillsbury. Beth who says that it is “super simple” to make and recommends it as a hearty appetizerg.

    First, you’ll need a Wilton First And Ten Football Pan. Made for cakes, it’s also happy to bake your calzone.

    A calzone is essentially a “pocket pizza”: It has the same ingredients as pizza, but the crust is folded over, similar to an empanada or turnover.

    You also can stuff more ounces of ingredients into a calzone than you can add to a pizza crust. Although Beth doesn’t include ricotta in this recipe, we love to pile in ricotta as well as mozzarella.

    RECIPE: FOOTBALL CALZONE

    Prep time is 20 minutes, cook time is 20 mimutes.

    Ingredients For 12 Servings

  • Cooking spray
  • 4 tubes Pillsbury refrigerated thin pizza crust
  • 3 ounces pepperoni, sliced
  • 3 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1-1/2 cups pizza sauce
  • 1 string cheese
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 425°F. Spray a football-shaped cake pan with cooking spray.

    2. UNROLL 2 pizza crusts onto baking sheets and bake for 8-10 minutes, until golden brown. Cut football shapes out of crusts, one larger than the other, which will fit inside the cake pan. Tip: First cut a football shape from parchment, check the size against the pan, and use it as a cutting template.

     

    Football Pizza

    string-cheese-daytondailynews-shutterstock_46018177-230

    Top and middle: Football Calzone. Photos courtesy Tablespoon.com. Bottom: String cheese for the football laces. Photo courtesy DaytonDailyNews.com.

     
    3. UNROLL and drape the third tube of pizza dough over the inside of football pan. Sprinkle on 1/3 of the pepperoni, cheese, and sauce. Top with the smaller football crust. Sprinkle on 1/3 of the remaining pepperoni, cheese, and sauce. Top with larger football-shaped crust. Sprinkle on the remaining pepperoni, cheese, and sauce.

    4. UNROLL and drape the fourth tube of pizza dough over top of the pan. Cut off the dough around the edge of pan and pinch the dough together along the edge.

    5. BAKE for 15 minutes. Then turn the oven off, cover the calzone with foil, and leave in oven for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, cut the string cheese to create the laces of the football.

    6. REMOVE the calzone from the oven and un-mold it onto a serving platter. Add “laces” of string cheese. Serve hot.

     
    HERE ARE STEP-BY-STEP PHOTOS AND INSTRUCTIONS.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Cacio E Pepe

    In addition to National Pasta Day on October 17th, there’s a National Spaghetti Day and it’s today, January 4th. Today’s tip is to celebrate a preparation that is rarely found on restaurant menus: Cacio e Pepe.

    Cacio e Pepe, “Cheese and Pepper,” is a Roman dish from central Italy. Cacio is a dialect word for a sheep’s milk cheese (like Pecorino Romano), and pepe refers to black pepper. The recipe is that simple: long, thin spaghetti*, grated Pecorino Romano cheese, and freshly-ground pepper.

    The only other ingredient in the dish is a bit of olive oil to bind the ingredients. It whips up very quickly when you don’t have time or energy to make a more elaborate recipe.

    SUBSTITUTES

    If you don’t have the ingredients in the classic recipe—or prefer others—here’s what we would substitute:

  • For the spaghetti: any thin flat noodle such as bavette, bavettine, fettucelle, linguine, linguettine, tagliatelle, taglierini.
  • For the Pecorino Romano: any hard Italian grating cheese.
  • For the black pepper: red chile flakes, dried chipotle or jalapeño flakes.
  •  
    RECIPE: CACIO E PEPE

    In this recipe from Good Eggs, the Pecorino Romano cheese is blended with some Parmigiano-Reggiano for more depth of flavor.

    Ingredients

  • 10 ounces fresh spaghetti (substitute dried)
  • 1-3/4 cups of Pecorino Romano cheese, freshly grated
  • 1/2 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated
  • 10-12 grinds of black pepper peppercorns, or 1/2 to 1 teaspoon dried chile (more to taste)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  •    

    Cacio e Pepe

    Pecorino Romano

    Top photo: Cacio e Pepe, a classic Roman pasta dish. Photo courtesy Good Eggs. Bottom photo: Pecorino Romano cheese from Fulvi, the only company still making the cheese in greater Rome. Photo courtesy Pastoral Artisan.

     
    *Long, thin spaghetti has different names in different regions of Italy; for example, capellini, fedelini, spaghetti alla chitarra and tonnarelli. In the U.S., you’re most likely to find spaghettini, vermicelli and of course, spaghetti. The widths of all of these strands vary, but not in a significant way to impact the recipe.
     
    Preparation

    1. FILL a large pot with water about 3/4 full. Add 1/4 cup of salt and taste the brine. The rule of thumb is that the cooking water should be as salty as ocean water. Add up to an additional 1/4 cup salt as desired—but don’t over-salt, since the cheese is very salty. Cover the pot and bring it to a rolling boil over high heat. Meanwhile…

    2. GRATE the cheese into the bottom of a large bowl. This will be the bowl in which you’ll toss and serve the pasta, so choose accordingly. When the cheese is grated, add about 10 grinds of fresh black pepper to the bottom of the bowl and set aside.

    3. REDUCE the heat and add the pasta to the boiling water. Fresh pasta will take about 3-5 minutes to cook, while dried spaghetti will 10-12 minutes, per package directions. When the pasta is at the right state of al dente, dip a mug into the pot to reserve a bit of the pasta cooking water; then strain the pasta in a colander. (Why do cooks reserve some of the pasta cooking water for blending? The heat melts the cheese, while the starches in the water help to bind the cheese and pepper to the pasta.)

    4. ADD the strained pasta to the bowl, along with a splash of the pasta water and a drizzle of olive oil. Use a large fork or soft tongs to toss the pasta, pepper and cheese. (We love our silicone pasta tongs). When the spaghetti is well coated, taste it and adjust the cheese and pepper levels as desired. If the texture is a little dry, add another splash of pasta water or a bit more olive oil. Serve immediately.

     

    Pouring Olive Oil

    Cacio e Pepe has no formal sauce; just a bit
    of olive oil that binds the grated cheese into
    a coating. Photo courtesy North American
    Olive Oil Association.

     

    ABOUT PECORINO ROMANO CHEESE

    Pecorino Romano is a hard, salty, full-flavored Italian cheese made from sheep’s milk (pecora is the Italian word for sheep). An ancient cheese, Pecorino Romano was a dietary staple for the Roman legionaries. Today’s Pecorino Romano is made from the same recipe, albeit with pasteurized milk.

    The method of production of the cheese was first described by Latin writers like Pliny the Elder, some 2,000 years ago. It was made in Roman countryside until 1884, when a city council ruling over cheese salting in shops caused producers to move to the island of Sardinia.

    One brand, Fulvi, is still made in the countryside outside of Rome. It is known as genuine Pecorino Romano. Like Parmigiano-Reggiano, Pecorino Romano is made in very large wheels, typically 65 pounds in weight.

    Today, the designation “Pecorino Romano” is protected under the laws of the European Union. [Source]

    Pecorino Romano is often used in highly flavored pasta sauces, particularly those of Roman origin such as Bucatini all’Amatriciana and Spaghetti Alla Carbonara.

     
    Like Asiago, Parmesan and other grating cheeses, Pecorino Romano is often served on a cheese plate, accompanied by some hearty red wine. Typically, a younger cheese (five months of maturation) is used for table cheese, and a more mature, sharper cheese (eight months or longer) for grating and cooking.
     
    Don’t Confuse These Cheeses

    There are two other well-known pecorino cheeses, which are less salty and eaten as table cheese or in sandwiches. Don’t confuse them with Pecorino Romano:

  • Pecorino Sardo from Sardinia
  • Pecorino Toscano from Tuscany
  •  
    And beware of “Romano” cheese sold in the U.S. This is a mild, domestic cow’s milk cheese, bland and not right for this recipe. If you can’t find Pecorino Romano, the best bet is to substitute Asiago or Parmesan.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Breadcrumb Topping On Pasta

    Macaroni & Cheese With Breadcrumbs

    linguine-bread-crumbs-all-ondaFB-230

    TOP PHOTO: Mac & cheese, crumbed for
    crunch and glamour. Photo courtesy Morgans
    Hotel | NYC. BOTTOM PHOTO: Linguine
    tossed in olive oil, Parmesan and herbs,
    topped with bread crumbs. Photo courtesy
    All’onda | NYC.

     

    If you peruse recipes for mac and cheese, you’ve likely noticed that the better recipes—certainly those by name chefs—regularly add a sprinkle of toasted breadcrumbs on top of the dish. Chefs like Marcus Samuelsson and Michael Symon have contributed crumbed mac recipes to this website.

    While mac and cheese may not be a southern Italian tradition, toasted breadcrumbs are, often replacing grated cheese as a garnish for the pasta.

    As we close out National Pasta Month, our tip is: Go southern and garnish some of your pasta dishes with breadcrumbs instead of cheese. If you can’t live without grated Parmesan, toss the pasta with it before topping with breadcrumbs.

    In its simplest form, just toss cooked pasta in olive oil, plate it and sprinkle with breadcrumbs. If you like anchovies, try the classic recipe with anchovies and chile flakes below.

    THE HISTORY OF BREADCRUMBS ON PASTA

    According to Academia Barilla, the tradition of pasta with breadcrumbs in Southern Italy was created by poorer people who could not afford pricier ingredients like cheese.

    They would prepare the breadcrumbs using stale bread leftovers. Those who had them also added kitchen staples, salted anchovies and dried chili peppers.

    Over time in the region of Calabria, people began to prepare this dish on Christmas Eve, which was traditionally fish or seafood (or, in the Feast Of Seven Fishes, both).
     
    MAKE YOUR OWN PANGRATTATTO BREADCRUMBS

    When we have enough bread ends left over, we make pangrattatto (“grated bread”) instead of buying gourmet seasoned breadcrumbs. This classic Italian garnish consists of breadcrumbs toasted in olive oil and seasoned.

    Feel free to use your favorite seasonings. Anchovy paste, cayenne, chili flakes, garlic, herbs, lemon zest, Parmesan cheese and parsley are traditional; but you can try curry, nutmeg or whatever you think adds pizzazz to your pasta recipe.

     

    The type of bread doesn’t matter; a combination of different loaves only adds to the flavor. If you don’t have enough bread ends saved up, you can dry out fresh bread (details follow) or default to panko, Japanese breadcrumbs.

    In addition to pasta topping, use the crumbs on casseroles and gratins, in meatballs and meatloaf.

     

    Preparation

    1. PLAN ahead. Store all the ends and leftover slices from loaves of bread in a heavy-duty freezer bag. You can keep it in the freezer or not. When you’re ready to make breadcrumbs…

    2. LET the bread sit at room temperature overnight or until it gets hard enough to grate into breadcrumbs. (Our Nana kept the ends in a breadbox for weeks until she had enough to make crumbs.) If your bread isn’t hard enough, you can dry it in a 250°F oven.

    3. GRATE the bread on the grating disk of a food processor to the desired texture, or with a hand grater. We prefer a coarser crumb that provides crunch, rather than the fineness of commercial breadcrumbs.

    4. STORE the crumbs in an airtight jar. When ready to use, measure out what you need for the recipe.

    5. HEAT a bit of olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat (1/4 cup olive oil for 4 tablespoons crumbs). Add the breadcrumbs and seasonings. Toast the breadcrumbs for 2 to 3 minutes, or until they are golden.
     

     

    bucatini-anchovies-crumbs-theculinarychronicles-230

    This version of Bucatini With Anchovies & Chilies uses anchovy paste and adds kale, with a light dusting of crumbs. Here’s the recipe from The Culinary Chronicles.

     
    RECIPE: BUCATINI WITH ANCHOVIES & CHILI FLAKES

    This Calabrian dish, courtesy of Acadamia Barilla is made with bucatini, a thick spaghetti-like pasta with a hole running through the center. The name comes from the Italian buco, “hole” and bucato, “pierced.” You can substitute any ribbon pasta.

    This dish is traditionally served on—but not confined to—Christmas Eve. You can make it in just 25 minutes, anytime you have a hankering for anchovies.

    If you don’t want the brininess of anchovies but want a depth of piquant umami flavor, substitute anchovy paste.

    Serve the dish with a full-bodied red wine.

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 1 pound bucatini
  • 4 salted anchovies (substitute 1 heaping tablespoon anchovy paste)
  • 4 tablespoons breadcrumbs
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pinch red chili flakes (more to taste)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. BRING a large pot of water to a boil. While it heats…

    2. RINSE the anchovies well under running water and debone them. Place a pan over low heat and add half the olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add the anchovies and cook for a couple of minutes, until the anchovies break down. While the anchovies are cooking…

    3. PLACE another pan with the remaining oil over medium heat. Add the breadcrumbs and chili flakes. Toast the breadcrumbs for 2 to 3 minutes, or until they are golden.
    Once the water is boiling…

    4. ADD the salt and cook the bucatini following the package instructions. Drain the pasta when done and toss with the anchovies and toasted breadcrumbs.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Asian-Style Pasta (It’s Called Noodles)

    Pasta originated in China. Scholars credit the Chinese with making noodles from rice flour as early as 1700 B.C.E., the 17th century before the common era (or before Christ, if you still use the old system).

    The pasta-centric Italians believe pasta dates back to the ancient Etruscans, who inhabited the Etruria region of Italy (the central western portion of Italy, what now are Tuscany, Latium and Umbria). They occupied the area from the Iron Age into Roman times (the 11th century B.C.E. to the 1st century B.C.E.).

    Around 400 B.C.E., the Etruscans began to prepare a very wide, lasagna-type noodle made of spelt, an early version of wheat.

    The Romans who followed made what they called lagane, a kind of lasagna, from a dough of water and flour. However, both the Etruscans and the Romans baked their noodles in an oven; boiled pasta had yet to be born in Italy. Here’s more on the history of pasta.

    But let’s circle back to Asia. What happened to pasta in that large region?

    It’s called noodles, and it’s plentiful. Different Asian cuisines developed different types of noodles; not just from wheat, as in Italy, but from other starches that happen to be gluten-free, such as rice, sweet potato, arrowroot starch, bean curd skin, potato starch and tofu. You can feast on Asian noodle dishes in a splendid variety.

       

    asian_noodle_bowl_with_seared_tempeh_lightlife-230

    Asian rice noodle salad with pan-fried tofu. Cook the noodles and tofu, toss with vegetables of choice, rice vinegar, a bit of oil (we like sesame oil) and cilantro. Add an optional sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds or shichimi togarashi, a Japanese mixture of dried chiles and other spices. Photo courtesy Lightlife.

     

    ABOUT ASIAN NOODLES

    We’ve done our best to put together the list below. You may see some familiar names, but there are a lot of Asian noodle types to get to know. You can find them in Asian markets and of course, online.

    The one challenge is that there is no standardization. Spellings will vary by region, as will the width of the noodles. We’ve included analogous Italian pasta names to give you an approximate visual.
     
    The Differences Between Asian Noodles & Italian Pasta

    Although they may look similar, Asian noodles and Italian pasta have key differences. Most pasta is designed to be cooked to an al dente texture, but Asian noodles vary widely: Some are meant to be eaten soft; others have a firm bite. Some are chewy, others are springy.

    A second difference: Italian pasta is boiled in water or broth (even baked pasta is boiled first). Chinese noodles can be boiled in water, cooked in soup or stir-fried. And third, unlike Italian pasta, most Asian noodle dishes do not have a sauce on top. If there’s a sauce, they are tossed in it. Asians also add noodles to salads, a treatment not typically found in the West.

    Unlike the short cuts developed in Italy (bowties, elbows, tube pasta, etc.), all Asian pasta is strand or ribbon pasta. Finally, some Chinese noodles contain eggs, but the majority of Asian noodles do not.
     
    Types Of Asian Noodles

  • Wheat Noodles: Chow Mein (Chinese, like spaghetti but often cut and stir-fried), La Mien (Chinese, hand-pulled, like spaghetti or spaghettini), Lo Mein (Chinese, flat like linguine), Mee Pok (yellow and flat like fettuccine, a Chinese-style noodle used in Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand), Misua (salted Chinese noodles from Fujian, very thin like angel hair), Naengmyeon* (Korean long thin handmade noodles like spaghettini), Ramen (Japanese soup noodles, often the thickness of spaghetti**), Soba (Japanese buckwheat noodles), Udon (thick Japanese soup noodles, like spaghettoni), Wonton Mee (a Chinese soup noodle like spaghetti, not the same as wonton dumplings)
  • Rice Noodles: Chee Cheong Fun (a Cantonese rolled rice noodle), Chow Fun (wide, flat Chinese noodles like pappardelle), Mi Xian (a Yunnan rice noodle made from ordinary [non-glutinous rice], generally sold fresh), Kway Teow (rice cake strips from Malaysia and Singapore), Lai Fun (or bánh canh, long or short Vietnamese noodles the thickness of spaghettoni [there is also a wheat-based Chinese version]), Rice Paper Noodles (these are the thin rectangles used to roll Vietnamese spring rolls), Rice Sticks (thin, flat Thai noodles the thickness of linguine), Rice Vermicelli (thin, flat noodles the width of angel hair, used in almost all Asian cuisines), Silver Needle (like Lai Fun, but with a tapered end), Tteok (Korean rice cakes made with glutinous rice flour, like gnocchi)
  • Other Starches: Jap Chae (Korean sweet potato noodles the shape of spaghetti), Mung Bean Threads (cellophane noodles), Shirataki (spaghetti-like Japanese noodles made from the konjac yam)
  •   
    Hungry? How about a stellar version of the Americanized chicken chow mein? This recipe is from Melissa’s The Great Pepper Cookbook, now available in paperback.
     
    *They can be made from buckwheat, but also from potatoes and sweet potatoes.

    **We’re talking real ramen, not the instant fast food.

     

    Chicken Chow Mein

    Chicken Chow Mein, the way it should be. Photo courtesy Melissas.com.

     

    RECIPE: CHICKEN CHOW MEIN

    Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup soy sauce, divided
  • 3 tablespoons hoisin sauce, divided
  • 3 teaspoons oyster sauce, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 3/4 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs
  • 1 pound dried chow mein noodles
  • 3 tablespoons peanut oil divided
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/4 (1 cup) pound button mushrooms, quartered
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 green onions, trimmed and sliced diagonally
  • 1/2 pound fresh cherry belle† chile peppers, stems and seeds removed,thinly sliced
  • 1/4 pound sugar snap peas, strings removed, halved crosswise
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  •  
    *†Substitute any cherry pepper or mild to medium chile.
     
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE 1/4 cup soy sauce. 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce, 1 teaspoon oyster sauce, and chile and sesame oils in a large bowl. Add the chicken and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Place in the fridge and let marinate, stirring often, for 1 hour.

    2. PREPARE the noodles according to package directions. Rinse with cold water; drain.

    3. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Heat 1 tablespoon peanut oil and the butter in a large wok or ovenproof skillet. Add the chicken and cook 2 minutes per side. Transfer to the oven and bake until the chicken is completely cooked through and a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part reads 165°F, about 15 minutes. Cool the chicken until it can be handled, then shred it.

    4. HEAT the remaining 2 tablespoons of peanut oil in a wok or large skillet over high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes.

    5. ADD the garlic and the remaining 1/4 cup soy sauce, and the remaining hoisin and oyster sauces, the noodles, green onions, chiles and sugar snap peas. Cook, stirring constantly, until the vegetables are crisp-tender.

    6. ADD the shredded chicken to the pan and cook until heated through. Stir in the salt and black pepper to taste. Serve.
     
    HOW TO SHRED CHICKEN

    1. COOL the cooked chicken until you can handle it; it should still be warm. Remove any skin.

    2. USE one hand or a fork to steady the chicken. With the other hand, use a second fork to scrape and tear the flesh into shreds. When the fork gets clogged with chicken shreds, use your fingers or another fork to move them into a bowl.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Top 10 Pasta Cooking Tips

    It seems like a no-brainer to boil pasta, yet there are several “best practices.”

    For National Pasta Month, here are some basic pasta tips that many people—including our interns—don’t know.

    1. USE A LARGE, LIDDED POT. Pasta needs room to cook without sticking: 4-5 quarts of water per pound of pasta. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, after the pasta is added, a larger pot of water will return to a boil faster. Especially with long cuts (strand or ribbon pasta), more water helps to reduce sticking, by washing away the exuded starch* from the pasta surface more efficiently. A six-quart stock pot is perfect for boiling pasta.

    2. SALT THE WATER. Salt the water before you boil it—1-2 tablespoons for a large pot. You need the salt or the pasta will be bland.

    3. NEVER ADD OIL TO THE POT. This longstanding “tip” was a marketing ploy from a salad oil company back around the 1960. The company sought ways for consumers to use more oil, and convinced many people that adding oil to the water prevents the pasta from sticking. However, the practice covers the pasta with a slick of oil so the sauce doesn’t stick.

       

    Stock Pot for Pasta

    This six-quart stock pot from Tramontina has a removable drain spout: No colander is needed to drain the pasta.

     

    4. PLACE A LID ON THE POT to EFFICIENTLY bring the water to boil. It takes long enough boil with a lid holding in the heat. You’ll be waiting forever (and water will evaporate) without one.

    5. SCOOP UP A CUP OF PASTA WATER and set it aside before you drain the pasta. This starchy water can thicken your sauce. Add a tablespoon to the sauce, or more as desired. This is especially important with egg-based sauces like carbonara, since it also helps prevent the egg from curdling when it touches the hot pasta.

    6. NEVER RINSE THE PASTA AFTER YOU DRAIN IT. This washes away the remaining surface starch, which you need in order for the sauce to stick to the pasta.

     

    bucatini-steak@whisky-230

    Another tip: Cut down on carbs by serving smaller portions of pasta as a first course, followed by a protein course. Photo courtesy Steak & Whisky.

     

    7. QUICKLY TOSS THE HOT PASTA WITH THE HOT SAUCE. While restaurants in the U.S. often place the sauce on top of the pasta, that’s a visual enhancement rather than a flavor enhancement. A top restaurant will serve the pasta already tossed with the sauce. The hotter both the pasta and the sauce are, the more flavor the pasta will absorb. Have the sauce heated in a covered pot (or in the microwave), ready to go when you drain the pasta.

    8. USE THE POT TO BLEND THE PASTA AND SAUCE. After you’ve drained the pasta pot, dump the pasta back in, along with the sauce. Cover the pot and let the pasta absorb the sauce for a minute; then stir again and serve immediately.

    9. ADD SOME MINCED FRESH HERBS. You can toss them with the pasta and sauce, or use it as a garnish on top of the dish. We also have a peppermill filled with crushed red chili flakes, to grind into the pasta or for self-service at the table.

    10. USE REAL PARMESAN CHEESE. The best way to get the most robust cheese flavor is to keep a wedge and pass it around the table with a grater, so people can freshly grate as much as they like.

     
    HOW MUCH PASTA DO YOU NEED?

    Here’s advice from Barilla:

  • One pound of dry short-cut pasta (bow ties, elbows, penne, rigatoni, etc.) yields nine cups cooked. One pound of spaghetti or linguine yields seven cups cooked.
  • As a main course, plan for 1/4 cup of dried pasta (4 ounces) per person. A one-pound package should provide four dinner-size servings.
  • If you’re serving pasta as a first course or a side dish, plan for 1/8 cup of dried pasta (2 ounces) per person.
  • The final cooked amount will vary by shape. Spaghetti and macaroni shapes (short cuts) can double in volume when cooked. Read the package information. For example, it may say that 1/2 cup elbow macaroni = 1 cup cooked pasta, 3/4 cup penne = 1 cup cooked pasta, 1/8 pound spaghetti = ¼ cup cooked pasta, etc.
  • Egg noodles do not expand significantly when cooked; and fresh pasta, which contains a lot of moisture, doesn’t expand at all. For these varieties, plan three ounces for a first course or side dish and five ounces for a main dish.
  •  
    Rule Of Thumb Measurements

  • Small to Medium Pasta Shapes (bow ties, elbow macaroni, medium shells, mostaccioli, penne, radiatore, rigatoni, rotini, spirals, twists, wagon wheels): 8 ounces uncooked = 4 cups cooked.
  • Long Pasta Shapes (angel hair, bucatini, fettuccine, linguine, spaghetti, vermicelli): 8 ounces uncooked or 1½ inch diameter bunch = 4 cups cooked.
  • Egg Noodles: 8 ounces uncooked = 2½ cups cooked.
  •  
    MATCHING PASTA WITH THE RIGHT SAUCE

    GLOSSARY OF PASTA TYPES

     
    *When you drop pasta into a pot of boiling water, the starch granules on the surface of the pasta instantly swell up and pop. This discharges the surface starch and briefly, the pasta’s surface is sticky with the released starch. Most of this surface starch will dissolves into the water.

      

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    RECIPE: Veal Meatballs With Vodka Sauce

    veal-meatballs-nielsenassey-230

    Veal meatballs with vodka sauce. Enjoy them
    in a multitude of ways. Photo courtesy
    Nielsen-Massey.

     

    Want to try a new meatball recipe for National Pasta Month? Looking for something more sophisticated to serve on game day? How about veal meatballs?

    Meatballs can be served as an appetizer or a main course, as an accompaniment to pasta, or on a hero roll or other sandwich bread.

    As opposed to the more familiar beef-pork meatball blend in a garlicky red sauce, this recipe from Nielsen-Massey for Breaded Veal Meatballs with Vodka Sauce is elegant, while remaining hearty.

    In addition to the sexy ingredient, vodka, a combination of cheese and cream, and an assortment of vegetables, herbs and spices, create a rich sauce that pairs nicely with pasta or rice. Or, the meatballs can be served in smaller appetizer sizes with toothpicks.

    If you don’t want veal meatballs, you can substitute beef—ideally, grass fed.

    You can also eliminate the vanilla bean paste; but it provides a lovely flavor element. The mellow qualities of the paste enhance the full flavors of veal and herbs to create meatballs that are far from bland. And you can use it in many other recipes (see below).

     
    RECIPE: BREADED VEAL MEATBALLS WITH VODKA SAUCE

    Ingredients For 18 Meatballs & 4 Cups Of Sauce (Serves 6 As A Main Course)

    For The Meatballs

  • 1 pound ground veal
  • ¼ cup whole milk ricotta
  • ¼ cup finely grated carrot
  • 2 small green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon organic garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground oregano
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
  • Garnish: fresh Italian parsley, chopped (garnish)
  •  
    For The Breading

  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1½ cups plain panko bread crumbs
  • ½ cup freshly grated Romano cheese
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  •  
    For The Vodka Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • ½ cup vodka
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil leaves
  • 1¼ teaspoons salt
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon ground oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon organic garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 can (28-ounces) whole tomatoes, drained
  • ¼ cup freshly grated Romano cheese (you can substitute Parmesan)
  • ½ cup whipping cream, warmed
  • Garnish: chiffonade of fresh basil leaves (here’s how to chiffonade)
  •  

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil. Place a wire rack atop/inside the sheet and coat the rack with cooking spray. Set aside.

    2. COMBINE the meatball ingredients in a large bowl. Form the mixture into meatballs, about 1 inch in diameter. Set aside.

    3. BREAD the meatballs, using three medium bowls. In the first bowl, add the flour. In the second bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk. In the third bowl, add the bread crumbs, Romano cheese and melted butter and stir to combine. Dust each meatball with flour, dip in the egg wash and coat with the seasoned bread crumbs.

    4. PLACE the breaded meatballs on the wire rack and cook until done, about 30 minutes.

    5. MAKE the vodka sauce: Add the olive oil to a large sauté pan and heat over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the vodka, basil, salt, vanilla extract, oregano, garlic powder and pepper; cook until reduced by half.

     

    nielsen-bourbon-paste-230

    Vanilla paste. Photo by Claire Freierman | THE NIBBLE.

     

    6. PLACE the whole tomatoes in the bowl of a food processor or electric blender. Add the reduced sauce mixture; cover and process or blend until smooth. Pour the mixture into a large saucepan and place over medium heat. Add the grated Romano cheese and cream; stir until thoroughly combined. Simmer for 3 minutes, or until heated through.

    7. SERVE the vodka sauce with meatballs: atop pasta, on a hero-size slice of baguette or on a plate over rice, other grain or egg noodles. Garnish with fresh basil.
     
     
    USES FOR VANILLA PASTE

    Vanilla is a concentrated substitute for vanilla extract in paste form, made from combining ground vanilla with vanilla extract, along with a natural thickening agent (a gum); some products contain sugar.

    It is a replacement for whole vanilla beans for people who want authentic vanilla bean flavor and appearance, but don’t use whole beans often enough (whole vanilla beans will dry out and become hard over time, while vanilla bean paste has a very long shelf life). One tablespoon of vanilla bean paste is equal to one whole vanilla bean.

    Unlike vanilla extract, vanilla paste contains the ground seeds/pods that provide “specks” in lighter-colored dish.

      

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    FOOD FUN: Spaghetti & Meatball Sundae

    For National Pasta Month try this “spaghetti sundae” inspired by a dish from VP3 Restaurant in Jersey City, New Jersey.

    RECIPE: SPAGHETT & MEATBALL SUNDAE

    Ingredients

  • Spaghetti or linguine
  • Pasta sauce
  • Optional: meatballs or sausage
  • Grated Parmesan cheese
  • Minced fresh basil “sprinkles”
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COOK the spaghetti according to package directions and drain, reserving a few tablespoons of the pasta water. While the pasta cooks, heat the sauce and the meatballs.

       

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01_data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/spaghetti meatballs burrata VB3 ps 230

    Spaghetti and meatball “sundae.” Photo courtesy VB3 Restaurant | Jersey City.

     
    2. RETURN the drained pasta to the pot and add the sauce. Mix to coat all the pasta with sauce. If the sauce is too thick, add the reserved pasta water, tablespoon by tablespoon, to reach the desired consistency.

    3. MOLD the spaghetti into a tower. You can do this freehand with tongs and a large fork, or use whatever mold you have. We used a chinois (SHEEN-wah—French for “Chinese,” referring to the Chinese-style strainer). You can also try a large funnel, jumbo martini glass or a sundae dish.

    4. ADD the meatballs, sprinkle with the grated cheese and top with the mozzarella ball. For a final touch, add the basil “sprinkles.”

     

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01_data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/chinois foxrunAMZ 230

    We used a chinois to create the pasta tower. It’s actually a great kitchen tool for straining. Photo courtesy Fox Run.

     

    SPAGHETTI & LINGUINE: THE DIFFERENCE

    The easiest way to differentiate them: Spaghetti is round, linguine (the proper Italian spelling–linguini is an incorrect Americanization) is flat. It is sometimes referred to as flat spaghetti.

    All pasta evolved regionally into different shapes and sizes.

  • Spaghetti and linguine are “long cuts.”
  • Round long cuts like spaghetti are called strand pasta; flat long cuts are called ribbon pasta.
  • Short cuts are shapes like elbows, shells, wagon wheels, etc.
  • The better-known round pasta ribbons, from thinnest to thickest, include: angel hair, capellini, vermicelli, spaghettini, spaghetti and bucatini.
  • The better-known flat/ribbon long cuts are, from thinnest to thickest: linguine, fettuccine, tagliatelle, pappardelle, mafalda and lasagna.
  •  
    DIFFERENT MOZZARELLA SIZES

    For the “cherry on the sundae,” you want a mozzarella ball, not a slice. Fortunately, mozzarella balls are made in several sizes, from perlini, the size of pearls, to bocconcini, large bites. They are sold fresh in water by Bel Gioso, Lioni and other companies.

    You can use any size with this recipe. We prefer the largest, bocconcini, because it will sit on the top of a mound of pasta, as in the photo at the top of the page. But even the smallest size, perlini, can be scattered around the base of the plate.

    mozzarella-balls-sizes-lionimozzarella-600

    From left to right: perlini, perle, nocciolini, ciliegini, bocconcini, ovoline, half pound, one pound. Image courtesy Lioni Mozzarella. Visit their website for a greater description of the different sizes of mozzarella.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Cherry Tomato Pasta Sauce

    October is National Pasta Month, and we’ll be sharing different takes on pasta. We start with tomato sauce.

    Some people use fresh summer tomatoes to make their sauce, freezing batches to last through the year. Others used canned tomatoes year-round. Less often, cherry tomatoes are employed.

    For us, since lush summer tomatoes have drifted into memory until next year, cherry tomatoes are the go-to for homemade sauce.

    While cherry tomatoes can be puréed into a conventional smooth sauce, first up is a version that roasts the cherry tomatoes and uses them whole, rather than cooking them on the stove top and pureeing in a conventional sauce.

    Essentially, your sauce is seasoned whole roasted cherry tomatoes in olive oil; and beyond pasta, it can accompany rice and grains, polenta, eggs, grilled cheese, burgers and sandwiches, even savory waffles.

    Since the cherry tomatoes keep their shape, this is especially beautiful when made with mixed-color heirloom cherry tomatoes, or a combination of red and gold.

       

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01_data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/ravioli cherry tomato saucedelfinarestaurant 230

    Colorful cherry tomatoes are a beautiful accent to beige pasta. Photo courtesy Delfina Restaurant | San Francisco.

     
    You can simply sauté cherry tomatoes in olive oil with seasonings. Or, here are two recipes that impart a bit more complexity.

    RECIPE: ROASTED CHERRY TOMATO SAUCE

    Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 pounds cherry tomatoes, washed and patted dry
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 2 teaspoons packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • Optional: chopped or sliced, pitted olives (2 tablespoons); drained capers (1 tablespoon); lemon zest (1 tablespoon); minced, seeded jalapeño (1-2 tablespoons) or crushed red pepper (1/2-1 tablespoon)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 325°F. Place the tomatoes in a nonreactive* 9-by-13-inch baking dish and sprinkle with the garlic. Whisk together the oil, vinegar, thyme, brown sugar, salt and optional ingredients in a bowl. Drizzle over the tomatoes.

    2. BAKE for about 1 hour, until the tomatoes are softened and caramelized. Serve warm or at room temperature.
     
    *Reactive vs. Non-Reactive Cookware: Aluminum, cast iron and copper are popular for cookware because of their superior heat-conducting properties. However, these metals can react with acids in a recipe (citrus, tomato, vinegar, etc.), imparting a metallic taste and discoloration of light-colored foods. This is also true with mixing bowls and utensils. Non-reactive materials include enameled metal, glass, plastic and stainless steel.

     

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01_data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/Spaghetti chunky tomato sauce ps 230r

    Here, 1 pint of the cherry tomatoes have been quartered instead of pulsed, for a chunky sauce. Photo courtesy McCormick.

     

    RECIPE: CHUNKY CHERRY TOMATO SAUCE

    In this recipe, the tomatoes are pulsed in the food processor so do not maintain their shape, as in the recipe above. The reason to use them is because of superior flavor in the off season, and/or to take advantage of good prices.

    Ingredients For 4 Cups

  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
  • 1 medium onion, large dice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 pints cherry tomatoes, rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper
  • Optional: chopped or sliced, pitted olives (2 tablespoons); drained capers (1 tablespoon); lemon zest (1 tablespoon); minced, seeded jalapeño (1-2 tablespoons) or crushed red pepper (1/2-1 tablespoon)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PURÉE the garlic in a food processor. Add the onion and pulse 3-4 times, until finely chopped.

    2. HEAT the olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. When hot, reduce the heat to medium and add the onion and garlic mixture. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they soften, about 5 minutes.

    3. CLEAN the food processor bowl, add 1 pint of the cherry tomatoes and pulse 3-4 times, until coarsely chopped. Transfer to a large bowl and repeat to process the remaining 2 pints of tomatoes.

    4. ADD the chopped tomatoes to the skillet. Simmer, stirring frequently, until they turn into sauce (about 15-20 minutes). Add salt and pepper to taste.

      

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    RECIPE: Caesar Salad Pizza

    caesar salad pizza

    A grilled Caesar Salad Pizza from Chef
    Marcus Samuelsson. Photo © Paul Brissman.

     

    When we saw this photo on the website of Chef Marcus Samuelsson, we couldn’t wait to make one.

    The grilled pizza combines the ingredients of Caesar salad—romaine, olive oil, anchovies, garlic, citrus juice, egg—with pizza crust standing in for the croutons. And the dough incorporates garlic and basil, like seasoned croutons.

    It’s a bit of work, but well worth the effort. You can save time with premade crusts and tomato sauce.

    RECIPE: GRILLED CAESAR SALAD PIZZA

    Ingredients For 4 Servings (2 Oblong Pies)
     
    For the Dough

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 envelope active dry yeast
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2½ to 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  •  
    For the Caesar Dressing

  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3 anchovy fillets
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • Juice of 2 limes
  •  
    For The Pizzas

  • 1 large tomato, seeded and chopped (about 1 cup)
  • ½ cup plus 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • ¼ cup tomato sauce
  • ¼ cup sliced black olives
  • ¼ cup roasted red peppers
  • 2 cups grated mozzarella
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 cup arugula
  • 1 cup shredded romaine lettuce
  • Optional: 4 poached eggs
  •  

    Preparation

    1. MAKE THE DOUGH: Put the water in a bowl, stir in the yeast and sugar, and let sit until frothy, about 10 minutes. Add the salt, olive oil, and 2½ cups of the flour and mix until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth, about 8 minutes, adding up to ½ cup more flour if the dough seems too wet.

    Put the dough into a well-oiled bowl and cover a damp cloth. Set aside to rise until doubled, about 1 hour. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and knead in the garlic and basil. Put it back in the bowl, cover with a damp cloth, and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

    2. MAKE THE DRESSING: Put the egg yolks, mustard, chopped garlic, and anchovies into a blender. Blend until smooth. With the motor running, pour in the oil in a slow, steady stream, then pour in the lime juice and blend until emulsified, about 1 minute. Scrape the dressing into a bowl, cover, and refrigerate it until you need it. It will keep for about 3 days.

     

    Caesar Salad

    A conventional Caesar Salad. Here’s the history of Caesar Salad, the original recipes and variations. Photo courtesy McCormick.com.

     

    3. MAKE THE PIZZA: While the dough rises, preheat the oven to 250°F. Put the tomato on a small rimmed baking sheet and toss with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, the black pepper, and the sugar. Bake until the tomatoes have dried, about 1 hour. Put the remaining ½ cup olive oil in a small bowl. Add the minced garlic and microwave for 30 seconds.

    4. PREHEAT a gas grill to high heat. Punch down the dough and divide in half. Shape each half into a ball and pat down on a lightly floured surface. Use your fingers to stretch the dough into 10-inch oblongs; it is nice if you leave a slightly thicker rim.

    5. TURN half the grill down to medium heat. Brush 1 piece of dough with the garlic oil and place it, oiled side down, on the high-heat side of the grill. The dough will begin to puff almost immediately. When the bottom crust has lightly browned, use two spatulas to turn the dough over onto the medium-heat side of the grill.

    Working quickly, brush the garlicky oil over the crust and then brush with half of the tomato sauce. Scatter with half of the roasted chopped tomatoes, half of the black olives, and half of the roasted red peppers. Sprinkle with 1 cup of the mozzarella and half of the basil. Close the lid and cook the pizza until the cheese melts. Remove the pizza from the grill and set it aside while you prepare the second pizza with the remaining ingredients.

    6. MAKE the optional poached eggs. Toss the arugula, romaine, and some of the Caesar Dressing together. Cut the pizzas in half, pile the salad and eggs on top, and serve right away.

      

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