Ever since I got back from Italy, I have been going on and on to GGD about the lemon and speck sauce that I learned how to make with Taste of Italy in Bologna. I knew it would be right up her alley because she loves lemon, cured meat, and simplicity. Last night we were both feeling pretty beat after a long, fun weekend and this pasta was the perfect Monday evening comfort food. And to make things even more splendid, I spotted some squash blossoms at the market and couldn’t resist stuffing them with the delicious ricotta mixture that I also learned to make during my Taste of Italy lesson. Maribel and Sissy would be so proud!
Ricotta Stuffed Squash Blossoms (serves 2)
- 8 blossoms
- 2/3 cup ricotta, preferably made from sheep’s milk
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 1/4 cup Italian parsley, finely chopped
- 1-2 TB freshly grated Pecorino Romano
- 1 TB butter
In a small bowl, mix the ricotta, nutmeg, parsley and pecorino until combined. Taste for seasoning and add salt and more nutmeg if you prefer. Prepare the blossoms by removing the leaves on the stem, carefully slicing into the flower, and removing the stamen (as demonstrated in this video). Carefully stuff them using a teaspoon, then wrap the leaf around the flower and twist the end. In a medium nonstick pan, heat the butter over a medium-low flame. Cook the squash blossoms for 2-3 minutes on each side then serve while still warm. Delicious!
Fresh Pasta with Lemon and Speck Sauce (serves 2-4)
- zest of 1 Meyer lemon
- 1/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 lb of speck (ask your butcher to slice it 1/8-inch thick)
- 2 shallots, finely chopped
- 1 lb fresh pasta (spaghetti or linguine is good)
- freshly grated Pecorino Romano
- freshly cracked black pepper
The first thing to do is grate all the zest of the lemon into a small dish. Add the olive oil and let it sit for about 20 minutes so the flavors blend. Meanwhile, slice the speck into thin strips and cut to about 2 inches long (I cut around the fat and just use the lean part). Speck is a certain type of Italian Prosciutto, and if your butcher doesn’t have it then imported Prosciutto is a fine substitute.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, adding a dash of salt once boiling. Heat a large, deep nonstick pan over a medium flame. Add 1 TB of the lemon olive oil, reserving the zest. Once hot, add the shallots and saute for 5 minutes, or until soft (be careful not to burn). Add about half of the lemon zest from the oil, lower the heat and continue to saute.
Once the water is boiling, add the pasta and cook for 2.5-3.5 minutes. Fresh pasta cooks very quickly, so be sure to taste it and make sure it’s the desired consistency. GGD and I ended up using some vegan spaghetti by Phoenix Pastificio, which I highly recommend if you can find it (though, I think it’s native to the Bay Area). Reserve about 1/2 a cup of the pasta water, then use tongs to transfer the pasta to the pan with the shallots. Add some of the pasta water to thicken the sauce, then the speck and the remainder of the lemon oil with the zest, tossing to combine. Transfer to pasta bowls and top with Pecorino and black pepper, then serve!
As I suspected, GGD loved this pasta dish, and it was just as tasty as I remember it from Bologna. It’s almost like a healthier, brighter rendition of Carbonara – though, that might be a stretch! We paired the pasta with a bottle of Zardetto Prosecco Brut. The light citrus flavor in the sparkler brought out the lemon zest, and the minerality of the Prosecco went well with the salty speck. I was so pleased to be able to recreate my favorite Bologna meal at home, and I hope that you can too!