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Archive for Pasta/Pizza

TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Cracker Barrel, The Best Boxed Mac & Cheese

Why do so many American households make macaroni and cheese?

It’s easy, cheap, fast (9 minutes!) comfort food—at least in modern packaged form. But in the many centuries before boxed mac & cheese, it was as laborious as most other cooking.

THE HISTORY OF MACARONI & CHEESE

The first written known record of pasta and cheese casseroles dates to medieval cookbooks of the 14th century.

The first modern recipe for the dish was published in Britain, in Elizabeth Raffald’s 1769 book, The Experienced English Housekeeper.

Raffald’s recipe calls for a mornay sauce—a secondary mother sauce that’s a béchamel sauce with cheese—in this case, cheddar cheese. The sauce is mixed with cooked macaroni, sprinkled with parmesan, and baked until golden.

The recipe from scratch requires cooked macaroni (now referred to by its Italian name, pasta); plus milk, butter and flour and cheese to make the cheddar or parmesan sauce.

Almost a century later, in 1861, the popular Victorian cookbook Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management offered two recipes for the dish, one topped with the bread crumbs still used today. Both books are available in reprints: Just click the links.

Thomas Jefferson encountered pasta in Paris while Minister to France (1885 to 1889), and in his travels to Italy. Back in the U.S., he imported both macaroni and parmesan cheese in order to enjoy cheesy macaroni.
 
Mac & Cheese Gets Its Name

The first recipe called “macaroni and cheese” was published in the U.S. in 1824, in Mary Randolph’s influential cookbook, The Virginia Housewife. More American “macaroni and cheese” recipes followed, in the 1852 Hand-book of Useful Arts, and the 1861 Godey’s Lady’s Book.

By the mid-1880s, midwestern cookbooks included recipes for macaroni and cheese casseroles. Labor-intensive, the dish was enjoyed by the more affluent [source].
 
Mac & Cheese Gets A Box

Once it became available in dry packaged form in the first half of the 20th century, mac and cheese became affordable to the masses—and thus less interesting to the affluent. Launched in 1937 in the midst of the Great Depression, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese advertised that a family of four could eat for 19¢, the price of a box. Consumers bought eight million boxes in the first year [source].

A whopping 50 million boxes were sold during World War II, when meat and dairy were in short supply, and one food ration stamp could be exchanged for two boxes of macaroni and cheese.

Today, the original packaged form is joined by frozen heat-and-eat versions and cheddar cheese sauce is sold in jars. The dish can be cooked on the stovetop, in the oven or in a microwave.

In the United States, July 14th is National Macaroni and Cheese Day. Now that we’re up to date…
 
 
WELCOME, CRACKER BARREL MACARONI & CHEESE

Up-front disclosure: We’re really picky about our food, and have never enjoyed powdered cheese sauce. Our mom made mac and cheese from scratch, grating cheddar, gruyère or parmesan into her béchamel.

She used bricks Cracker Barrel cheddar, her brand of choice. Back then, specialty cheese stores were few and far between; and even today, it’s not easy for many people to find the finest farmhouse (artisan) cheddars (and if you found them, the best use would not be grated into a cheese sauce).

So we were more than interested to see what Cracker Barrel would present as a packaged mac and cheese.

It’s the cheese that makes the biggest difference in preparations, and Cracker Barrel does not disappoint. Its cheese sauce is not mixed from powder, but is ready to eat, squeezed from a package onto the cooked elbow macaroni.

Smooth, creamy and full of flavor, it has a distinctively superior taste, creating what you’d expect from a casual restaurant instead of a boxed product.

 

Macaroni & Cheese Breadcrumbs

Macaroni & Cheese Broccoli

Lobster Mac & Cheese

BLT Mac & Cheese

Cracker Barrel Macaroni & Cheese

[1] A bread crumb topping was suggested in Mrs. Beeton’s 1861 cookbook. [2] Sneaking in broccoli and riced cauliflower. [3] Go upscale with added shellfish; here, lobster (photo courtesy Blake’s). [4] BLT mac & cheese (photo courtesy WMMB). [5] The best boxed mac and cheese, new from Cracker Barrel.

 
And while it comes in a box, Cracker Barrel is not meant to compete with other boxed mac and cheese (Kraft owns Cracker Barrel as well as the number-one brand, Kraft Macaroni & Cheese) but with prepared dishes from the refrigerated section of the grocery store, and with restaurant dishes. (Kraft, which owns the Cracker Barrel trademark, has no relation to the Cracker Barrel Old Country Store.)

People with sophisticated palates will notice the quality. Yet, the price is not much more than other boxed meals.

There are four varieties of Cracker Barrel Macaroni and Cheese, featuring different cheese options:

  • Cheddar Havarti
  • Sharp Cheddar
  • Sharp Cheddar & Bacon
  • Sharp White Cheddar
  •  
    You can dress up the dish with anything you like. We enjoy it plain with fresh-cracked pepper and some grated parmesan, but also loved:

  • Bay scallops and toasted crumbs—shades of Coquilles Saint Jacques.
  • BLT-style, with a topping of bacon, baby arugula and diced tomato.
  • Ham and cheese—we had some baked ham as well as serrano ham. We julienned the former, shredded the latter and snipped some fresh herbs on top.
  • Veggie supreme, made with all our leftover vegetables. Tip: put the veggies on the bottom and they’ll be coated with cheese sauce.
  •  
    DOES MAC & CHEESE REQUIRE ELBOW MACARONI?

    No: You can use any pasta. Elbow macaroni most likely became the standard because it was easy for children to eat with a spoon.

    We heard one of our favorite chefs—Gordon Ramsay—chew out a chef on TV for making mac and cheese with penne, insisting that it must be made with elbows.

    Not so, chef!

      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Pizzeria Pronto Stovetop Pizza Oven

    September 5th is National Cheese Pizza Day, honoring the original modern pizza, the Margherita. It was named after Queen Margherita, consort to Umberto I, King of Italy from 1878–1900.

    As the story goes, during a visit to Naples, she asked the best pizza maker in town, Don Raffaele, to make her a pie. He made it in the colors of the Italian flag, a simple but delicious pie of basil, mozzarella and tomatoes. Here’s the history of pizza.

     
    WHAT’S A STOVETOP PIZZA OVEN?

    Simply this: a steel case that sits on top of a gas burner and cooks your pizza atop pizza stones. There’s no electricity, no wood chips, no nuthin’ but the Pizzeria Pronto and your gas range.

    We love it: from the pizza stones that create an oh-so-delightful crust to the top quality ingredients we used. As long as we have dough in the fridge, we can have a pizza anytime we want, better than anything delivered. efficient new way to make pizza at home.

    Pizzeria Pronto is made by Companion Group, a company that began more than 30 years ago with the original Charcoal Companion charcoal chimney starter. The line now includes other grilling tools and accessories, and the Pizzacraft® line of artisan-quality pizza stones, pizza ovens, tools and accessories.

    In 2013 the company launched the first propane-fueled outdoor portable pizza oven, which pre-heats in 10 minutes and cooks the pie in 5 minutes. In 2016, the indoor Pizzeria Pronto® Stovetop Pizza Oven was released nationwide—the first gas range-powered indoor oven.

    Small but mighty, Pizzeria Pronto transforms your favorite dough and toppings into perfectly-cooked pizzas in just minutes (after all, the name means “pizza in a hurry”). With its heat-efficient design, it traps and reflects heat to harness the power of your gas range, creating an optimal cooking environment of up to 600°F. Yet, the room is no warmer than if you used your oven.
     
    How To Use Pizzeria Pronto Stovetop Pizza Oven

  • Simply place the round oven over a gas burner and turn on the flame.
  • The inside of the oven reaches 600°F, much higher than a conventional oven.
  • It preheats in 15 minutes and cooks a personal-size pizza in 6 minutes. TIP: If you want to keep the first pizzas hot while you cook more, keep them warm in a conventional oven preheated to 500°F.
  • You also need a personal-size pizza peel to insert and remove the pizza from the oven. The company sells one separately.
  •  
    The electric plug-in pizza ovens we’ve tried can’t hold a candle to it.

    It’s well worth the space it requires if you’d like to make pizza weekly or more often. We don’t have extra room in our kitchen so we did a bit of housecleaning. So long, old backup food processor and biannually-used waffle iron.
     
    WHERE TO FIND IT

    Pizzeria Pronto is available at major retailers such as Bed Bath & Beyond, Sur La Table, Williams-Sonoma and online. Williams-Sonoma carries a gray-top model instead of the standard red-orange model shown in the photos.

    Prices vary but it’s currently $106.27 on Amazon (a deep discount off the MSRP of $179.99).

     

    Pizzeria Pronto

    Pizzeria Pronto

    Pizzeria Pronto

    Pizzeria Pronto

    [1] Place the oven on the stovetop and turn up the flame to preheat. Add the pizza. [2] Close the oven door. [3] Cook for six minutes. [4] Remove the pizza, fragrant and bubbling. Photos courtesy Pizzeria Pronto .

     
    Before buying, take a minute to look at the bottom of this page to see if your gas burners will work.

    OUR FIRST PIZZERIA PRONTO PARTY

    We invited the crowd over for a pizza party and bought (or over-bought, as is our won’t) the ingredients: regular and whole wheat doughs, sauces and cheeses for red and white pies.

    We provided lots of toppings: anchovies, garlic, jalapeños, mini meatballs, mushrooms, olives, onion and zucchini. But the crust (dough purchased from Fairway), sauce (the Classico brand Riserva line [not Bertolli Riserva]), mozzarella and ricotta (Bel Gioso) were so good that most people opted for a plain pie.

    We personally, however, had anchovies from Cento: not salty, just right.
     
    FEATURES & TIPS

    Features

  • Steel casing with a heat-efficient design (you won’t feel that it’s 600° of heat).
  • Ttwo Cordierite baking stones diffuse the heat and deliver a perfect crust.
  • Very little assembly required. You need no technical skill whatsoever.
  • The built-in thermometer tells you when it’s time to add the pizza.
  • A moisture vent on top prevents the crust pizza from becoming soggy.
  • Dimensions: 16.93 inches x 14.25 inches x 6.69 inches. Weight: 14.7 pounds, which we (non-athletic female) had no trouble lifting.
  • Not for use with electric or induction stoves.
  •  
    Tips

  • You’ll need cornmeal (semolina), so the bottom of the crust doesn’t stick to the stone plate.
  • Be sure to have a good pizza cutter and a brush to clean the pizza stone afterward.
  • One package of store-bought dough (we bought the fresh dough that comes in a plain plastic bag), meant for one large pie, makes two personal pizzas.
  •  
    HAVE FUN WITH IT!

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Ratatouille Pizza

    Ratatouille (rah-tah-TWEE) is a vegetable side dish that originated in the Provence region of France. The classic recipe consists of sautéed eggplant, onions, tomatoes, yellow squash, zucchini plus garlic and herbs.

    It is traditionally summer dish, when tomatoes, zucchini and yellow squash are plentiful and at peak.

    Ratatouille is delightfully colorful when you use red, yellow and/or orange bell peppers and tomatoes/cherry tomatoes. To make ratatouille as a side dish, check out this recipe.
     
    RECIPE: RATATOUILLE PIZZA

    Ingredients For 1 Large Pizza

    You can save time by purchasing the dough or a prepared crust (we sure did—and saved half the steps in the preparation). But Lisa, of Flour De Lisa made hers from scratch, using a pizza dough recipe from Bobby Flay. She adapted the ratatouille from Smitten Kitchen; we further adapted it.

    This can be a vegan recipe; but we adapted it by adding both ricotta and mozzarella. We put the mozzarella under the vegetables to showcase the colors. We also created a breakfast pizza version by adding eggs, which bake on top of the pizza.

    Without the cheese, the recipe is dairy free and low fat. Use a whole wheat crust and skim-milk cheeses and you have a pizza that’s on the “better for you” list.
     
    Ingredients For The Dough

  • 1-3/4 to 2 cups flour (bread flour for a crisper* crust, all-purpose for chewier)
  • 1 tsp instant yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 3/4 cup lukewarm water (around 100°F)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  •  
    For The Ratatouille

    Slice the vegetables to a width of 1/8 to 1/16th inch.

  • 1 zucchini, sliced
  • 1 yellow squash
  • 1 Japanese eggplant
  • 1 long red bell pepper or 6 mini red bell peppers
  • 1 cup tomato paste
  • 1/2 yellow or red onion, sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Red pepper or chili flakes, salt and pepper to taste
  •  
    Optional Garnishes

  • Capers and/or olives
  • Small or medium eggs
  • Herbs: fresh basil*, rosemary, thyme, other
  •  
    For The Optional Cheese Layer

  • 2 cups whole or part skim ricotta
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 handful† flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella or provolone
  • 10 fresh basil leaves, 1/2 cup, shredded
  •  

    Ratatouille

    Fried Egg Ratatouille

    ratatouille-theformerchef-230r

    Tian Recipe

    [1] Ratatouille pizza (photo courtesy FlourDeLisa.Wordpress.com). [2] Bake eggs on top of the pizza, or fry or poach them in a pan to turn a ratatouille side into a main (photo courtesy Elegant Affairs Caterers. [3] courtesy TheFormerChef.com. [4] A tian, also from Provence, is another way to enjoy ratatouille ingredients (All-Clad gratin pan photo courtesy Williams-Sonoma.)

     
    ________________
    *You can scatter 10 medium basil leaves or 1/2 cup shredded basil atop the pizza when it comes out of the oven.

    †A handful is one of those imprecise measures that says: Use how much you want. More or less of the ingredient is not critical to the recipe’s outcome.
     
    Preparation

    1. MAKE the pizza dough: Combine 1-3/4 cup flour with the yeast, salt, and sugar. Add the oil and water, i.e. slightly warmer than your body temperature. Mix until the dough starts to form a ball. scraping down the bowl. If the dough is too wet, slowly add more flour. If dough becomes too dry, slowly add more water.

    2. TURN out the dough onto a lightly floured or oiled surface. Knead for a few minutes until it is smooth and elastic. When you poke it, the dough should spring back readily; when you hold the ball of between your palms, it should hold its shape. Lightly oil a clean bowl, place the dough in the bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel. Set aside in a warm place to rise for about an hour, until the dough has doubled in size. While waiting for the dough to rise…

    3. MAKE the ratatouille. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread the tomato paste, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, minced garlic, sliced onion and a dash of red pepper flakes on the bottom of a 8- or 9-inch diameter springform pan. Alternatively, you can cook the ratatouille on top of the rolled out pizza dough, but the vegetables won’t be as tender or flavorful due to the significantly less cooking time.

    Optional cooking method: We steamed the vegetables separately to al dente, and then were able to pick them up with fingers and layer them perfectly, as in the photo.

    4. LAYER on top of the tomato paste mixture the zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant and bell pepper, alternating the colors. Start with the inside perimeter and move inward. If you have extra vegetable, save them for a salad, omelet, etc. Drizzle the remaining tablespoon of olive oil over the assembled ratatouille. Season with a dash of salt and pepper and thyme or rosemary. Cover the pan with foil and bake for 45 minutes, increasing the temperature of the oven to as high as possible (450°F or 500°F on most ovens) within the last 5-10 minutes. While the ratatouille is baking…

    5. TURN back to the pizza dough. When the first rise is completed, turn out the dough onto a large sheet of lightly floured or oiled parchment paper. Punch out the air and form a disk. Roll out the dough into a circle about 10-12 inches in diameter. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let it rest for about 10 minutes.

    6. MIX the ricotta with the garlic, parsley, salt and pepper to taste.

    7. REMOVE the finished ratatouille from the oven, uncover the pizza dough and place it on a baking sheet. Parbake the pizza dough for a minute or two and remove from the oven. If using ricotta, spread it over the crust, followed by the mozzarella. If you prefer, use the mozzarella to top the pizza.

    8. RELEASE the springform pan carefully—it can be hot! Use one or two spatulas two to gently slide the ratatouille onto the center of the pizza. If you can do it evenly, great. If not, it will still taste delicious. Lightly brush the exposed pizza crust with olive oil.

    9. BAKE the pizza for 8-12 minutes, until the pizza crust is a golden brown. Slice and serve.
     
    CRISPER VS. CRISPIER

    Many people use the adjective crispier when they mean crisp.

  • Crisper is the comparative of crisp, i.e., “The crust is crisp but I’ll make it crisper next time.
  • Crispier is the comparative of crispy, i.e., the crust was nice and crispy but could have been even crispier.
  •  
    It’s a small difference, but a difference nevertheless.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: The Pasta For Summer, Zucchini “Pasta,” Enhanced

    August 8th is National Zucchini Day. Last year, we featured the Spiralizer, a gadget that started the zucchini noodle craze by making it easy to make long pasta-like strands from firm vegetables, along with a recipe for Zucchini Pasta With Crab.

    The concept took off in the media and in kitchens across the country. Who wouldn’t like a better-for-you pasta experience? At 20 calories per cup of zucchini and 40 calories for a half cup of tomato sauce, one could have a big plate of “pasta” of better-for-you complex carbs for 100 calories—including the grated Parmesan.

    Some people, though, still longed for the toothsome texture and flavor of Italian pasta. So today’s tip is:

    Mix the two noodles together: half standard pasta noodles (wheat) and half zucchini noodles.

    The concept is very versatile: the combination of starch and vegetable lends itself to many more sauces than standard pasta sauces.
     
    SAUCES

    You can use any pasta sauce, or turn to global cuisines for another approach.

    Asian sauces work particularly well here, but there are plenty of other options including:

  • Chimichurri sauce
  • Compound or plain butter sauce
  • Garlic and olive oil sauce
  • Fresh or cooked tomato sauce
  • Mushroom sauce
  • Parsley sauce
  • Ponzu or teriyaki sauce
  • Thai peanut sauce
  • Yogurt sauce
  •  
    PASTA TOPPINGS

  • Brined vegetables (capers, olives)
  • Cheeses: boconccini (mozarella balls), crumbled goat or feta, shaved Parmesan
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Cooked vegetables (edamame, peas, etc.)
  • Fresh herbs
  • Spiraled beet, carrot, cucumber, green papaya or other raw garnish
  • Seafood: anchovies, sardines, shrimp (boiled, grilled, sautéed)
  •  
    RECIPE: MIXED NOODLE PAD THAI

    Match the zucchini size to the pasta size you buy, e.g., linguine (thin) or pappardelle (wide).

  • You can mix green and yellow squash. You can also make this recipe with 100% zucchini or 100% pasta noodles.
  • You can serve the dish hot/warm, room temperature or chilled.
  • Also check out our recipe for mixed zucchini and pasta noodles with crab.
     
    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 2 cups raw zucchini “noodles”
  • 4-6 ounces wheat or rice noodles
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • Juice from 1 lime (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce (substitute Worcestershire or a bit of anchovy paste)
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 3 green onions (scallions), sliced
  • 1/4 bunch fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped (substitute flat-leaf parsley)
  • 1/4 cup chopped peanuts (the standard is unsalted, but you can use whatever you have, including honey roasted or flavored)
  • Optional protein: grilled shrimp or chicken
  • Optional garnish: lime wedge
  •  
     
    Preparation

       

    Zucchini Pasta

    Zucchini Noodles

    Zucchini Noodles

    Zucchini Pad Thai

    [1] Zucchini and fettuccine noodles with shaved Parmesan cheese (photo courtesy Elegant Affairs Caterers. [2] Zucchini and linguine noodles in olive oil-garlic sauce (photo courtesy Good Eggs). [3] Zucchini noodles with Bolognese sauce (here’s the recipe from SheKnows.com). [4] Chicken Pad Thai with zucchini noodles (here’s the recipe from ImBored-LetsGo.com).

     
    1. BRING a pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the wheat noodles and cook for 7 to 10 minutes or until tender. SCOOP the noodles out with a mesh strainer, reserving the water; add them to a large bowl and set aside.

    2. ADD the zucchini noodles to the water and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer and test after 5 minutes. Do not overcook. When ready, drain, reserving a bit of the pasta water and add to the wheat noodles. Stir to combine.

    3. HEAT the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes, until tender.

    3. WHISK the eggs lightly with a fork or mini-whisk; add them to the skillet and lightly scramble. Cook the eggs until they just solidify but are still moist. Remove the skillet from the heat and set aside on a trivet or other counter protector.

    4. MAKE the sauce: In a small bowl combine the soy sauce, lime juice, sugar, fish sauce and red pepper flakes. Add the sauce into the scrambled eggs in the skillet. Pour/scrape into the noodle bowl and toss to coat. At this point, if you want to serve the dish hot or warm, microwave briefly before adding the garnishes.

    5. ADD the green onions, cilantro, and peanuts over the noodles. Toss lightly to combine and serve.

     

    WonderVeg Spiralizer

    Beyond zucchini, the WonderVeg Spiralizer can transform any hard vegetable into long strands for “pasta” or for raw vegetable salads and garnish. Consider beet, carrot, cucumber, turnip and zucchini, plus others such as green papaya (photo courtesy WonderVeg.com).

     

    ZUCCHINI HISTORY

    Zucchini, Cucurbita pepo, is a member of the cucumber and melon family, Cucurbitaceae. It originated in Central and South America, where it has been consumed for thousands of years. It grew in different shapes, including round balls that can still be grown from heirloom seeds. But the variety most of us are familiar with was developed at the end of the 19th century near Milan, Italy.

    The word squash comes from Narraganset language of the Native Americans of Rhode Island, who used askutasquash, “a green thing eaten raw. The Pilgrims had difficulty pronouncing the whole word, and shortened it to squash. Either way, it was an extremely valuable source of food for both peoples, and one that we also heavily rely on as a source of nutrition for a large part of the season.

    The word zucchini comes from the Italian zucchino, meaning a small squash (zucca is the word for pumpkin). In the wonderful world of food fusion, the word squash comes from the Indian skutasquash meaning “green thing eaten green.” Christopher Columbus originally brought seeds to the Mediterranean region and Africa.

     
    The French turned their noses up at zucchini (courgettes) for a long time until cooks learned to choose small fruits, which are less bland and watery. The same tip still applies: the smaller, the better.

    While a botanical fruit*, zucchini is treated as a vegetable. With the exception of zucchini bread and zucchini muffins, both made with sugar, it is typically cooked as a savory dish or accompaniment. has its ancestry in the Americas. However, the varieties of squash typically called “zucchini” were developed in Italy, many generations after their introduction from the Americas.
     
    __________________
    * Zucchini is a fruit, as are all squash, cucumbers and other members of the Cucurbitaceae family. It is the swollen ovary of the zucchini flower; zucchini blossoms are also eaten, stuffed and sautéed.

      

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    RECIPE: Pasta With Artichoke Hearts & Olives

    In this Mediterranean medley, pasta combines with artichoke hearts and olives in a light dressing of extra virgin olive oil and lemon.

    Or is it an artichoke and olive salad with pasta? Either way, this main dish, which can be served hot or cold, is layered with flavor.

  • You can use leftover, unsauced pasta or cook the pasta for the occasion.
  • You can use bits of leftover proteins: beef, chicken, lamb, pork, seafood, soy-based, etc.
  •  
    We adapted this recipe from one created by Lightlife, which used a package of its vegan Smart Strips Chick’n as the protein.
     
    RECIE: PASTA WITH ARTICHOKE HEARTS & OLIVES

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 6 ounces cooked protein of choice
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) uncooked pasta (yields 4 cups cooked pasta)
  • 2 jars (6.5 ounces each) marinated artichoke hearts, drained
  • 1/3 cup sliced Greek-style green and black olives
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon freshly-grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  •  

    Pasta With Artichokes & Olives Recipe

    Serve this pasta dish hot or cold. Photo courtesy Lightlife.com.

  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper
  • Garnish: freshly shredded Parmesan or other Italian grating cheese
  • Optional herbs: oregano, parsley, rosemary sage, thyme, tarragon (or julienned baby arugula or basil)
  • Serve with: breadsticks, foccacia or garlic bread
  •  
    Preparation

    1. BOIL 4 to 6 quarts of water to a boil in a Dutch oven. Add the pasta, stir gently and return to a boil. Boil uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 9 minutes (for al dente pasta). Remove from the heat, drain well and place the pasta in a large mixing bowl. For a hot dish, cover to keep warm. If serving a warm dish…

    2. WARM the proteins Otherwise, leave them chilled or at room temperature. Add them to the mixing bowl.

    3. ADD the remaining ingredients except the cheese. You can mix the herbs into the pasta, or sprinkle them as a garnish. Mix the pasta well and plate; sprinkle with grated cheese and serve.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Try Some Pelmeni

    Pelmeni

    Pelmeni Stuffing

    Pelmeni Mold

    Top: Pelmeni with Russia’s favorite herb, dill (photo Amazon). Center: Meat stuffing in a pelmeni mold (photo Amazon). Bottom: Ready to cook (photo MumsPrefer.com).

     

    You may have had Polish pillow pasta—pierogi—but how about their Russian cousin, pelmeni (pell-MEN-ee).

    As with dumplings the world over—including ravioli—a simple dough rolled out and stuffed with beef, cheese, chicken, mutton, pork, seafood or vegetables. Or, they can be a blend: A traditional recipe combines beef, mutton and pork. In Europe, add some garlic, onions and pepper to the mix.

    THE HISTORY OF PELMENI

    Historians agree that pelmeni originated among the indigenous Siberian people and later became part of Russian cuisine; they are also called Siberian dumplings in Russia. The word translates to “ear bread”: The bite-size dumplings can be seen as little ear pasta (although not nearly as ear-like as Italian orrechietti, which have the advantage because they aren’t stuffed).

    Pelmeni were a particularly good way to preserving meat during the six months of Siberian winter, with temperatures as low as -47°F and snow on the ground through April. It became a tradition in Siberia households to make thousands of pelmeni as soon as temperatures fell below freezing, in November. Long before electric refrigeration, Siberians had natural refrigeration, i.e., in an unheated barn or shed. A bonus: Livestock could be harvested before the freeze, eliminating the cost to feed them over the long winter.

    Pelmeni have evolved from labor-intensive food prepared by housewives to quality frozen versions to the Russian student substitute for instant ramen noodles!
     
    Pelmeni Cousins

    European stuffed boiled dumplings may be a simplified version of Chinese wontons. The list of cousins includes Chinese jiaozi, Georgian khenkali, Italian ravioli, Japanese gyoza, Jewish kreplach, Korean mandu, Middle Eastern shishbarak, Mongolian bansh, Nepalese and Tibetan momo, Polish uszka, Turkish and Kazakh manti, Ukrainian vareniki and Uzbek chuchvara, among others.
     
    EASTERN EUROPEAN DUMPLINGS: THE DIFFERENCE

    In the U.S., the term pierogi is often used to describe every type of Eastern European dumplings. Of course, there are differences: in shape, size and thickness of dough (these are the differences between all dumplings, as well as cooking technique: boiled versus fried, boiled in water vs. broth or stock).

  • With pelmeni and vareniki, the dough is as thin as possible, and the proportion of filling to dough is high.
  • Pelmeni fillings are usually raw, while pierogi and vareiyki can be sweet.
  • Pelmeni are bite-size, like raviolini.
  •  
    MAKE THEM OR BUY THEM

    Similar to making ravioli, you can short-cut the process by purchasing a pelmeni mold in plastic or aluminum—and make other types of stuffed pasta with it.

    Or, look for a good brand. We recently tried Popkoff’s, and were very pleased. Use the store locator to find the nearest retailer.
     
    POPKOFF’S PELMENI & VARENIKI

    These delicious dumplings, full of Old World flavor, are easy to prepare. It takes just 5 minutes from boiling water to plate. The simplest preparation is a traditional one: butter and sour cream, with fresh dill.

    The dumplings can be served as an appetizer, side or main dish. Or, add a bit of smoked salmon and caviar for a luxurious hors d’oeuvre.

    Why do Popkoff’s pelmeni taste so good?

    Their “farm to frozen” pelmeni and vareniki are made from 100% all-natural ingredients from the best vendors: King Arthur Flour, Mary’s Free Range Chicken, Meyer Natural Angus Beef, Marcho Farms Veal and Good Nature All-Natural Pork. All ingredients are domestic and the dumplings are made in California, and are packaged in GoGreen sustainable packaging.

    The meats are antibiotic-free and hormone-free, the fruits and vegetables are locally grown and non GMO. There are no artificial colors, flavors or preservativess.

    We tried four varieties of pelmeni, all so good that we can’t wait to try the vareniki. Traditionally, pelmeni are filled with meat and vareniki, a Ukranian variation, were filled with cheese or vegetables; vareniki are larger, like ravioli. Popkoff’s choices:

    PELMENI VARIETIES

  • Pelmeni With Beef
  • Pelmeni With Chicken
  • Pelmeni With Farmer’s Cheese
  • Pelmeni With Pork & Beef
  • Pelmeni With Veal & Pork
  •  
    VARENIKI VARIETIES

  • Vareniki With Beef
  • Vareniki With Cabbage & Carrots
  • Vareniki With Cheese & Cherry
  • Vareniki With Chicken
  • Vareniki With Potato & Onion
  • Vareniki With Sweet Farmer’s Cheese
  •  

    PELMENI & VARINIKI TOPPINGS

    Pick a topping, pick a sauce. Some of these are traditional, and some reflect modern tastes.
     
    TOPPINGS

  • Raisins or other dried fruit
  • Fresh chives, dill or parsley
  • Lemon zest
  • Onions: caramelized, frizzled or sautéed
  • Sliced almonds
  •  
    SAUCES

  • Horseradish sauce
  • Melted butter
  • Mushroom sauce
  • Mustard sauce
  • Plain yogurt
  • Sour cream
  • Soy sauce and chopped chives or green onions
  • Tomato sauce
  • Vinegar sauce
  •  
    You can also add pelmeni to broths and green salads. They are traditionally boiled; vareniki can be boiled or pan-fried.

    Also, check out our 50 ways to serve pierogi and adapt them to pelmeni.
     
    RECIPE: PELMENI IN MUSHROOM SAUCE

    You can make this recipe from Chef James Bailey from scratch (recommended), or take a shortcut with canned cream of mushroom soup.

    It’a a variation of the famous Russian dish that originated in the mid-19th-century rage, Beef Stroganoff, which has a sauce made with sour cream (smetana in Russian).

    Prep time is 15 minutes, cook time is 20 minutes.
     
    Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • 10 ounce package Popkoff’s Beef Pelmeni (or other flavor)
  • 2 cups button mushrooms, sliced
  • ½ cup onions, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 16 ounces low sodium beef broth
  • Garnish: fresh dill leaves, minced
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MELT the butter over medium heat; add onions and cook until softened. Add the garlic and mushrooms; stir and cook for 3-5 minutes until the mushrooms have softened.

    2. ADD the beef broth and cook over medium heat until the liquid is slightly reduced. Add the heavy cream and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 2-3 minutes until the sauce is combined.

    3. BRING a large pot of water to boil and add a pinch of salt. Carefully add Popkoff’s Beef Pelmeni and cook for 5 minutes until cooked through. Drain and reserve.

    4. MIX in sour cream and chopped parsley into mushroom stroganoff, portion dumplings onto plates and top with sauce, optional toppings and dill garnish.
     
    DESSERT PELMENI & VARENIKI

    Pelmeni stuffed with delicate farmer’s cheese is a charming dessert or a sweet lunch.

    Vareniki are typically used for dessert because the cheese can be sweetened. Cheese pelmeni has no sweetener.

    But with sweet toppings, you won’t even notice. We enjoy dessert pelmeni with a few of the following:

  • Cherry preserves
  • Brown sugar, cinnamon sugar or powdered sugar
  • Dried fruit (blueberries, cherries, cranberries, raisins)
  • Fruit purée
  • Grated chocolate and hand-whipped cream
  • Honey or maple syrup
  • Mascarpone
  • Mixed fresh fruits
  • Plain or sweetened sour cream
  • Sliced almonds
  • Sweetened chestnut purée and hand-whipped cream
  •  

    Popkoff's Pelmeni

    Pelmeni In Soup

    Pelmeni In Mushroom Sauce

    Pelmeni  With Tomato Sauce

    Vareniki With Cheese & Cherries

    Dessert Vareniki

    Blueberry Vareniki

    Top: A package of Popkoff’s Pelmeni. Second: Pelmeni in miso soup. Third: Pelmeni in mushroom sauce. Fourth: Pelmeni with Moroccan-spiced tomato sauce. Fifth: Vareniki with farmer’s cheese and cherries. Sixth: Dessert vareniki. Photos courtesy Popkoff’s (see the recipes). Bottom: Vareniki stuffed with cottage cheese and blueberries, with blueberry sauce. Here’s the recipe from ToDisCoverRussia.com.

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Stir-Fried Pasta With Leftovers

    Stir Fry Pasta Recipe

    Stir Fried Spaghetti

    Stir-Fried Leftover Bowtie Pasta

    Top: Stir-fried fusilli and shrimp from Tes Photchaman Yuphin of TesAtHome.com. Here’s her recipe. Center: Stir-fried spaghetti from Annie Chun. Bottom: Stir-fried bowtie pasta, Asian-style. Here’s the recipe from KaluhisKitchen.com.

     

    If you can make fried rice from leftover rice and other leftover grains, why not fried pasta? You can serve it as main course or a side.

    You can use any un-sauced pasta or noodle with any other ingredients, and give it the spin you want—Italian versus Asian, for example. You can use pasta with tomato sauce if you select add-on ingredients that would taste good together in an omelet.

    You can use any ingredients you have on hand. We’ve used sausage and fresh mango, and ham and pineapple, for example.

    RECIPE #1: STIR-FRIED PASTA, FREESTYLE

    Here are options for free-styling (combining whatever you want). Or follow the measured recipe below.

    Ingredients

  • Leftover pasta
  • Leftover meat, poultry, seafood; fresh tofu; diced or julienned
  • Egg: raw (mixed into the stir-fry pan or wok to cook) or fried or poached as a topper
  • Sauce: crushed tomatoes, fish sauce, peanut sauce, soy sauce, teriyaki sauce
  • Veggies: bell pepper, broccoli florets, carrots, celery, corn kernels, green beans, mushrooms, onion or scallion (green onion), peas (green, snap or snow), shredded cabbage, spinach, etc.
  • Asian veggies: baby corn, bean sprouts, bok coy, Chinese broccoli, edamame (shelled), mushrooms (black, tree ear/wood ear), snow peas, pea pods, water chestnuts
  • Nuts: cashews or peanuts
  • Stock or broth
  • Olive oil, other cooking oil and some dark sesame oil (optional)
  • Fresh herbs: basil, cilantro, parsley
  • Spices: curry, ginger, minced garlic, red pepper flakes (or minced fresh chiles or hot sauce), toasted sesame seeds
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Garnish: lime wedge
  •  
    Preparation

    1. ADD the olive oil and vegetables to a large pan. If using dark sesame oil, add a small amount—it is very strong. Sauté over the medium heat until the veggies are al dente.

     
    2. ADD the sauce components of your choice and stir to integrate. Add vegetable stock and increase the heat to high. When the sauce is bubbling, add the shrimp (if you use raw shrimp, cook until they turn pink and curl up).

    3. ADD the pasta and meat/seafood and mix well. Add the fresh herbs, stir and serve.
     

     

    RECIPE #2: CRISPY LEFTOVER PASTA WITH EGGS, ONIONS & PEPPERS

    This recipe from PatsaFits.org uses ingredients most of us have around the house. You can also use leftover pasta with a tomato sauce in this recipe.

    Ingredients For 4 Main Servings

  • 12 ounces cooked leftover pasta, at room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups/8 ounces onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cups/8 ounces red pepper, finely chopped
  • 8 eggs, well-beaten
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha or other hot sauce, or to taste
  • ¼ cup/¼ ounce fresh parsley, chopped (substitute basil, cilantro or other fresh herb)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. HEAT a large nonstick sauté pan over medium heat. Add the oil and sauté the onions and peppers until softened and starting to brown (about 3 minutes).

     

    Plain Spaghetti

    Leftover cooked spaghetti. Here’s how BackToHerRoots.com used it in a frittata recipe.

     
    2. STIR in the eggs and sriracha and use a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to using to scramble the mixture. When eggs are mostly cooked but still look a little wet, stir in the spaghetti (about 3 minutes). Continue to cook until the eggs are fully cooked and the spaghetti is warmed through (about 2 minutes more).

    3. DIVIDE among 4 bowls, sprinkle with parsley and serve.
     
    FRIED RICE RECIPES

    Have leftover grains instead of pasta? Here are three ways to stir-fry them.

  • Fried Rice With Kimchi
  • Americanized Fried Rice
  • Stir-Fried Quinoa
  •   

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    RECIPE: Beef & Broccoli Pizza

    We love fusion dishes, and this Beef & Broccoli Pizza from McCormick tops a pizza crust with a Chinese restaurant fave. Use a whole wheat crust for maximum nutrition.

    Western broccoli was not available in China, and for a long time Chinese broccoli, kai-lan, was not available in the U.S. Thus, Beef & Broccoli is “American Chinese,” or known in the U.S. simply as Chinese food.
     
    RECIPE: BEEF & BROCCOLI PIZZA

    IngredientsFor 6 Servings

  • 1 prepared thin crust pizza (12-inch)
  • 1/2 cup marinara or pizza sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground ginger*
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 pound boneless beef sirloin steak, cut into thin strips
  • 2 cups broccoli florets
  • 1 teaspoon sesame seed (ideally toasted)
  •  
    Side Dish

  • Green salad with Italian dressing (recipe below)
  •  
    __________________________
    *We had fresh ginger root on hand, so substituted very thin slices of it for the dried ground ginger. Instead of mixing it in, as in step 2 below, we added it to the broccoli stir-fry.

       

    Beef & Broccoli Pizza Recipe

    Chinese Cabbage, Kai-Lan

    Top: Italy, meet China in this fusion dish. Photo of Beef & Broccoli Pizza courtesy McCormick. Bottom: Chinese broccoli, kai-lan, is a different species with leafy tops instead of florets. Photo courtesy Jing Fong Restaurant | NYC.

     

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 450°F. Place the pizza crust on a baking sheet. Spread the tomato sauce over the crust; then sprinkle with 3/4 cup of the mozzarella. Set aside.

    2. MIX the water, soy sauce, cornstarch, ginger and garlic powder in small bowl until smooth. Set aside.

    3. HEAT the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the beef; stir fry 3 minutes or until no longer pink. Remove the beef from the skillet.

    4. ADD the broccoli to the skillet; stir-fry for 3 minutes or until tender-crisp. Return the beef to the skillet. Stir the soy sauce mixture and add it to the skillet. Stirring constantly, bring to a boil over medium heat and boil for 1 minute, or until slightly thickened.

    5. SPOON the stir-fried beef and broccoli evenly onto the pizza crust with a slotted spoon. Sprinkle with remaining 3/4 cup of mozzarella. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until cheese is melted. While the pizza bakes…

    6. TOAST the sesame seeds for much more exciting flavor. Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add the sesame seeds; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until golden brown and fragrant. Immediately remove seeds from the hot pan to avoid over-toasting.

    7. SPRINKLE the pizza with the sesame seeds and serve.
     
    VARIATIONS

  • For a spicier kick, sprinkle with crushed red pepper.
  • For more vegetables, stir-fry 1/2 cup each of thinly sliced onion and red bell pepper, along with the broccoli.
  •  

    Wishbone Italian Dressing

    Wish-Bone, the original Italian dressing in the U.S. Photo courtesy Pinnacle Foods.

     

    ITALIAN DRESSING RECIPE

    Just as cooks in China don’t use American broccoli, cooks in Italy don’t make American-style Italian Dressing.

    Italian dressing is a vinaigrette with minced bell peppers; herbs including dill, fennel and oregano, plus sugar or corn syrup and a touch of salt. Minced onion and garlic, fresh are dried, can be added for more layers of flavor.

    It is often bought bottled, or prepared by mixing oil and vinegar with a packaged flavoring mix consisting of dehydrated vegetables and herbs.

    American-style Italian dressing is believed to date back to the Wishbone Restaurant in Kansas City, MO, in 1948. The recipe was based on the owners’ family recipe from Sicily, which combined oil, vinegar, herbs and spices.

    Demand for the salad dressing proved so great that the owners started a separate business to produce it commercially. The brand was eventually purchased by Lipton and and is currently made by Pinnacle Foods. [Source]

     
    RECIPE: HOMEMADE ITALIAN DRESSING

    This dressing can be prepared a day ahead, covered and refrigerated.
     
    Ingredients For 1/2 cup

  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons minced red bell pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil, crumbled
  • Pinch of dried oregano
  • Optional: 1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • Optional: Pinch of sugar or splash of agave
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the ingredients in small bowl and whisk to blend. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

    2. DRESS your favorite green salad.
     
    The difference between homemade and Wish-Bone:
    Wish-Bone Ingredients: WATER, DISTILLED VINEGAR, SOYBEAN OIL, SUGAR, SALT, CONTAINS 2% OR LESS OF EACH OF THE FOLLOWING: GARLIC*, ONION*,RED BELL PEPPERS*, XANTHAN GUM, SPICES, SORBIC ACID AND CALCIUM DISODIUM EDTA (USED TO PROTECT QUALITY), DL ALPHA TOCOPHERYL ACETATE (VITAMIN E),REB A (PURIFIED STEVIA EXTRACT), LEMON JUICE CONCENTRATE, CARAMEL COLOR, MALTODEXTRIN (CORN), MODIFIED CORN STARCH. *DEHYDRATED

      

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    FOOD HOLIDAY: The History Of Ravioli For National Ravioli Day

    Lobster Ravioli

    Cutting Ravioli

    Fazzoletti Ravioli

    Ligurian Pasta

    Sardinian Ravioli

    Fried Ravioli

    Lobster & Crab Ravioli

    Chocolate Ravioli

    (1) A classic dish of ravioli with tomato sauce (photo courtesy CBCrabcakes.com). (2) An illustration of why ravioli is also called “pillow pasta.” (3) Fazzoletti, meaning “handker-chiefs,” at Osteria Morini | NYC. (4) Casoncelli, the twisted shape of Liguria (photo TripAdvisor.uk.co.). (5) Culurgione, Sardinian stuffed pasta shaped like wheat (photo It.Wikipedia). (6) Ravioli can be fried and served with a dipping sauce (at Giovanni Rana | NYC). (7) Lobster and crab ravioli in duo-tone pasta sheets (at Nuovo Pasta). (8) Chocolate ravioli for dessert. Here’s the recipe from Fashion Newbie.

     

    When we were growing up, our mom had access to an Italian restaurant supply store, from whom she purchased a copious amounts of ravioli: in pinked but uncut sheets, four layers to a cardboard carton. When tossed into boiling water and they’d magically separate for an brief swim, until ready to drain and sauce.

    Each week we had Ravioli Night. In those days it was meat or cheese with Mom’s homemade pasta sauce. Lobster ravioli, pumpkin ravioli, and even spinach ravioli were still in the future. She did, however, have a wedge of Parmesan cheese, which she grated over our dishes.

    There has always been ravioli in our life. But who invented ravioli?
     
    THE HISTORY OF RAVIOLI

    China gets the credit for inventing not only strand pasta—thin chow mein noodles like Italian angel hair, thin wonton noodles like Italian linguine, lo mein noodles like Italian pappardelle, and wide wonton noodles like Italian fettuccine—but filled pasta.

    Those stuffed wontons (boiled in soup or steamed separately) or pot stickers (pan-fried) wrapped wheat dough around a filling. Other Asian countries followed suit, and also made pasta from rice and from mung bean threads.

    When it arrived Italy, stuffed pasta was called ravioli (another name is pillow pasta). Some food historians believe the name derives from the old Italian word riavvolgere, to wrap. Others believe that the dish was named after a renowned 13th-century chef by that name, who lived in what is now the Italian region of Liguria), who is credited with the invention of the dumpling composed of two layers of thin pasta dough with a filling sealed between them.

    Today, you can find pasta shaped in circles, novelty shapes (fish, hearts, stars, etc.), rectangles, squares, triangles and other shapes. But let’s start at the beginning.

    When Did Pasta Get To Italy?

    Many have credited Marco Polo, who returned from China in 1295 after 17 years of service in Kublai Khan’s court. But more recent archeological discoveries in Southern Italy have uncovered examples of square ravioli dating to the 9th century. They recipe initially arrived during the Arab conquests of Sicily in the 9th century, which also brought that iconic Italian food (via Arabia via China), spaghetti.

    Of course, in those days communications weren’t great over large distances, and it could be that the Venetians didn’t know about stuffed pasta until Marco Polo returned.

    Like the Chinese, Italians served ravioli (singular: raviolo) in broth, or with a pasta sauce—oil- or cream-based. Tomatoes, which arrived from the New World in the late 16th century, were used as houseplants, believed to be poisonous, and not eaten in Italy until the 18th century.
     
    The Creativity Begins

    By the 14th century, all kinds of pasta ripiena (filled pasta) began to appear throughout Italy. Each region would fill them with local ingredients and give them local names.

    The creative chefs of wealthy families expanded on the square ravioli idea shape to circles, half-moons, hats and other shapes, creating agnolotti, cappelletti, tortelli, tortellini, tortelloni and a host of other shapes. Affordable by all economic classes, stuffed pasta grew in popularity during the Middle Ages.
     
    Whatever the shape, stuffed pasta was made from very thin layers of a dough consisting of wheat flour, water and sometimes eggs (egg pasta was popular in the north and central regions, less so in the southern regions). A bottom sheet of dough was dotted with filling, the top sheet added and the individual pillows scored and crimped.

    Fillings could include:

  • Eggs
  • Cheese: Parmigiano and related cheeses (Asiago, Gran Padano), ricotta, sheep’s milk (pecorino) and other soft cheeses
  • Fish or seafood
  • Fruits, nuts, breadcrumbs
  • Herbs: borage, garlic, marjoram, parsley
  • Meat: boar and other game, beef, chicken, cured meats, deer, lamb, pork, sausage
  • Vegetables: mushrooms, pumpkin or other squash
  •  
    Regional Specialties

    Emilia-Romagna, called “the capital of filled pasta” by some, served tortellini (also called cappelletti or tortelli) in beef or capon broth. Other preparations included meat sauce (ragù alla Bolognese) and fresh cream with Parmigiano-Reggiano. Traditional fillings were mortadella or prosciutto with Parmigiano, nutmeg and pepper.

    Here are some of the numerous specialties from other regions:

  • In Abruzzo, tortelli abruzzesi di carnevale was served on the last Sunday of Carnival and other occasions. With a filling of sheep ricotta, eggs and cinnamon, they were cooked in a meat broth and served with grated pecorino cheese.
  • In Piemonte (Piedmont), agnolotti, stuffed, bite-size squares, were served in beef broth, sauced with the juices from roasted meats or tossed with browned butter with sage. The pasta was topped with Parmigiano-Reggiano.
  • In Liguria, casoncelli (a twisted shape reminiscent of Jewish kreplach) and pansotti (triangular ravioli) were popular shapes, served in beef broth.
  • In Lombardia (Lombardy), casoncelli were served with butter and sage. A famous dish from the region, tortelli di zucca [pumpkin] mantovani [from Mantua], was filled with pumpkin, crumbled amaretti biscotti and mostarda (fruit mustard).
  • In Molise, a traditional filled pasta was ravioli scapolesi (after a village called Scapoli). The egg dough filling was complex: chopped chard, roasted ground meat, sausage, beaten eggs, ricotta and pecorino cheese. These large ravioli were first boiled, then topped with a pork and sausage ragù, then baked.
  • In Sardinia, culurgioni were filled with fresh goat or sheep ricotta, eggs and saffron. Sometimes, pecorino cheese, chard or spinach were added. And then, something unique: They were molded to resemble the tip of a stalk of wheat, boiled and served—these days, with a fresh tomato and basil sauce. In Sardinia, the local aged pecorino is shaved on top instead of the Parmigiano of the continent. A variation of the filling uses fresh (day old) pecorino cheese, mashed potatoes and mint, onions or oregano.
  • In Toscana (Tuscany), tortelli alla lastra was originally cooked on a sheet of sandstone (lastra) over a fire. Large squares were filled with mashed potatoes, sometimes with added pancetta, and topped with a sauce made of braised carrots, celery, onions, tomatoes, garlic and sage.
  •  
    Today, the different shapes, fillings and sauces are available throughout Italy.

    Surprise: Sweet Accents

    Until the 16th century, pasta of all types was customarily served with a sweet accent—crumbled amaretti biscotti, currants, marmalade and/or sweet spices (cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg). These ingredients could also be added to the filling.

    While cooking in broth was a common preparation, the ravioli could be fried and served with spices, sugar or honey.

     
    But today, full-fledged dessert ravioli is available, from chocolate and vanilla dough to fillings of chestnut, chocolate, fruit and tiramisu. We even have a recipe for peanut butter and jelly ravioli.

    And there’s no end in sight.

    Many thanks to Piergiorgio and Amy Nicoletti for their scholarship on the history of ravioli.

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Leftover Pasta For Breakfast

    Spaghetti

    Pasta For Breakfast

    Angel Hair With Fried Egg

    Top: Start with unsauced pasta (photo courtesy Wikihow.com. Middle: A breakfast version of Spaghetti Carbonara from TheViewFromGreatIsland.com. Bottom: A fried egg tops pasta mixed with cherry tomatoes and chives, at Popsugar.com.

     

    Pasta for breakfast? Yes, although not cold or reheated with sauce.

    We’ve previously published recipes for gnocchi topped with a fried egg and breakfast pizza.

    But plain leftover pasta, unsauced, can be served up as breakfast with a fried or poached egg, plus any cooked veggies you have on hand: broccoli florets, mushrooms, peas, spinach or other leafy greens, for example. Got cherry or sundried tomatoes? Toss ‘em in.

    Our favorite leftover pasta for breakfast is angel hair pasta (capelli d’angelo) or other thin ribbon (capellini, spaghettini). If we’re cooking it for dinner, we make extra for breakfast or brunch. It will keep for a few days, if you don’t want to follow one pasta meal with another.

    You can also use standard linguine or spaghetti; and, while they don’t hold a fried egg as evenly, any cut of pasta from tubes (penne, rigatoni) to shapes: bow ties (farfalle), shells (conchiglie), wagon wheels (ruote) and so forth. (See the different types of pasta.)

    We adapted this recipe from TheViewFromGreatIsland.com, a blog by Susan Moran, who calls it “pure satisfying comfort food.” She enjoys it with her coffee.

    Don’t forget the toast!

     
    RECIPE: LEFTOVER BREAKFAST PASTA

    Ingredients For 2-4 Servings

  • 3 cups cooked pasta
  • 1 cup diced ham
  • 4 slices cooked bacon (or substitute another 1/3 cup of ham, sausage or other breakfast meat)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or sliced
  • Olive oil as needed
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • Black pepper or red chili flakes to taste
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley (substitute fresh basil or cilantro)
  • Salt to taste
  • Optional garnish: extra parsley and cheese
  •  
    Preparation

    1. REMOVE the pasta from the fridge and let it warm on the counter.

    2. COOK the bacon until crisp. Add the ham and garlic and sauté for 3-4 minutes, adding some olive oil if the bacon didn’t render enough fat to cook the garlic. If you’re using only ham, you’ll need about 2 tablespoons of olive oil.

    3. COMBINE the Parmesan and eggs in a small bowl, with fresh-ground black pepper to taste.

     
    4. HEAT the pasta in the microwave at 30-second intervals until hot. Add the pasta and the egg mixture to the skillet and toss, along with the parsley.

    5. COOK until the eggs and cheese become a creamy sauce. If it is too thick, you can add some milk or cream. Taste and add salt as desired (or let each individual add his/her own salt to taste).
     
     
    THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF PASTA

     
      

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