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Archive for Pasta-Pizza

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 FashionNewbie.com (/chocolate-ravioli/).

 

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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    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.

     
      

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    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.

      

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    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.

      

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