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Category Archives: Italy

Shrimp Fra Diavolo

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Last week I splurged and bought the $17.99 frozen Wild Argentinian Red Shrimp from Trader Joe’s. They don’t always carry them at my local Trader Joe’s, so I usually pick a bag up if I can spot them. I suppose it’s a high price tag for TJ’s, but a pound of frozen shrimp goes a long way when you’re cooking for one. I usually use 4 shrimp for one meal since they’re so big, or double it up if I plan on having leftovers. To defrost, place how ever many shrimp in a sealed ziploc bag and put in a large bowl of warm water for about 30 minutes, or until no longer frozen. Then cook and use in a salad, stir fry, as an entree, or in a pasta.

Last night I was in the mood for something tomatoey, so I decided to make Shrimp Fra Diavolo. In place of canned crush tomatoes, I picked up a pint of assorted cherry tomatoes at my local farm stand, along with some fresh basil. The rest of the ingredients were on hand, and I even got to use a mini bottle of Limoncello that I had been saving for some sort of Italian occasion!

tomatoes

Shrimp Fra Diavolo (serves 2)limoncello

  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 1/2 lb jumbo shrimp (about 8), peeled and deveined
  • 6 oz dried linguine
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup Limoncello
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp salt-free Italian seasoning
  • 10 basil leaves, julienned
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Parmesan, for serving

Set a medium-sized pot of water to boil. Once boiling, add linguine and cook for 8 minutes. Strain and run a bit of cold water over the pasta to keep from sticking. Set aside in strainer.

pasta

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a nonstick pan over medium-high flame. Generously season shrimp with salt and pepper. Once the pan is hot, sear shrimp for two minutes on each side. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté for 30 seconds, then transfer shrimp to a plate.

shrimp

Add Limoncello and wine, then stir in tomatoes. Add lemon juice and Italian seasoning and sauté for 3 minutes. Crush the tomatoes using a slotted spoon, and cook for another 3 minutes. Taste for seasoning, and add salt and pepper if needed.

fra diavolo

Add shrimp back into the pan and toss to coat with sauce, then add pasta and toss to combine. Top with basil and serve with grated parmesan.

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I enjoyed this meal with the white wine that I used to make the sauce, Navarro Vineyards 2012 Mendocino Chardonnay. It’s light and bright with subtle oak flavors and hints of citrus; very adaptable in regards to pairing with food. I was very pleased with this pick since I didn’t have a lot to choose from – most of my wines are packed up for my impending move to Napa… but that’s another story.

Revisiting Signorello

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I spent this past weekend touring Napa with some gal pals from my hometown in NY, including a pair of Italian sisters and a recent San Francisco convert. Back when they started planning this in early May, I offered to plan out their entire Winetinerary. They graciously excepted the offer, as long as I could join them for Saturday and Sunday. To sweeten the deal, they hired a driver for the weekend from My Napa Valley Driver (which I highly recommend). How could I say no?

The sisters posing in the vineyard at Robert Biale

The sisters posing in the vineyard at Robert Biale

The weather was beautiful both days, and although we had a bit of a rough start on Sunday – due to a wee too much wine at dinner the night before – the girls perked up when we arrived at Signorello Estate. If you haven’t been to Signorello yet, you’re seriously missing out. The iconic view from their infinity pool patio is not to be missed, but it’s the wine that keeps drawing me in.

Panorama of the infinity pool

Panorama of the infinity pool

I first visited Signorello back in 2009 when I started making regular trips to Napa Valley. I was in awe of their friendly and knowledgeable staff, matched with their beautiful views of Oak Knoll District and their distinctive French-style wines. I’ve always had a great time at Signorello and never wanted to leave, once staying until the reflection of the sky was a mirror image on the surface of the pool. Until this past weekend, I hadn’t been to Signorello in more than two years. So you can imagine how excited I was to revisit this special spot on the hills of Silverado Trail.

My first visit to Signorello in  May 2009

My first visit to Signorello Estate in May of 2009

Taken in November 2010, with an early sunset over the Sonoma mountains

Taken in November of 2010, with an early sunset over the Sonoma mountains

Signorello offers a variety of tasting experiences to please your palate. Since we were short on time, we opted to sit on the patio (sans umbrella) and take our tasting outside. Our server, Chris, poured six current releases, including the Seta, Hope’s Cuvee, the Carneros Pinot Noir, Estate Syrah, and a side by side comparison of 2008 and 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon. Each wine was better than the last, but they all possessed a unique Bordeaux-meets-Napa style of winemaking (thanks to their French winemaker, Pierre Birebent), and were ideal representations of the vineyard in which they were grown. We all loved the Hope’s Cuvee, a tribute to owner Ray Signorello’s mother who passed away in the mid-1990’s. The wine was the perfect combination of elegant French oak and delicate hints of citrus – my kind of Chardonnay!

I thoroughly enjoyed the side by side comparison of the Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. Chris reminded us that 2011 was a rough year for Napa, with two very bad rain storms. But the winery worked hard to monitor the growth of the vines and achieve balance in the finished wine – and it shows! The resulting wine is slightly tannic at first taste, but improved as it opened up in the glass; the initial aroma of bell pepper transformed into dark cherry. Alternatively, 2008 was a great year for Napa Valley and their Estate Cabernet was lush and full-bodied with promising aging potential. If you ever have an opportunity to taste side by side vintages of the same wine (also known as a vertical tasting), I highly recommend it! It is the ultimate viticulture assessment for the effects of a factor that is out of our control: climate

All of us posing by the pool

All of us posing by the pool

Served with our wines was a basket of crostini and a selection of local cheeses and dried fruit. Pairing any type of food with a wine tasting goes a long way in my book. This style of tasting is the traditional practice in Italy and other parts of Europe. Not only does it enhance the flavor of the wine, but it also reminds your palate that wine is and has always been meant to be paired with food. With a deep understanding of this notion, Signorello offers several different food and wine pairing activities at their estate. In addition to cooking classes and private dining events, they have created Enoteca Signorello, a private fine dining experience offered by appointment only and curated by in-house chef Britny Sundin. It’s been described as “one of Napa’s best dining experiences” by Mary Orlin of the Huffington Post. I’ve only been able to experience it vicariously through her review of the meal, but I’m eagerly waiting for the right occasion to partake in this special opportunity.

Be sure to make an appointment at Signorello for your next visit to Napa Valley, and if you splurge for Enoteca Signorello, let me know how it goes! Don’t forget to take a photo of the glorious infinity pool – but dare not dip your toes in because that’s the fastest way to get kicked out! And you certainly wouldn’t want that.

A Slice of Italy in Healdsburg

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This past weekend was the annual Morrison Family Wine Weekend, which takes place every February somewhere North of San Francisco. Unfortunately my brother was not able to attend this trip, because he had some educational business to attend to. And while he was missed at all the fantastic meals and wineries, I had an incredible time with my parents in Sonoma – beginning with Thursday night at Campo Fina in downtown Healdsburg.

I didn’t make reservations anywhere for Thursday night, because I wasn’t sure what time my family would be getting up to Healdsburg. We stayed at Best Western Dry Creek Inn, which was about a four minute drive from Downtown Healdsburg. After a few glasses of Robert Sinskey’s Vin Gris in my parents Tuscan-inspired suite, we started researching dinner options. There was some debate over price range and cuisine style, but we eventually agreed to check out Campo Fina, a casual Italian pizza restaurant.

Wood burning brick pizza oven

Wood burning brick pizza oven

We arrived and decided to sit on the heated patio in the back of the restaurant, which also features a full-size bocce court that is open for anyone to use, including children. The pizza is made in a wood-fired brick oven that gets up to 800 degrees Fahrenheit. Although there are only 6 pizza options (including a special), they are prepared and cooked to perfection with the freshest ingredients.

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After starting off the night with a few Negroni’s (now my dad’s new favorite cocktail) and castelvetrano olives, we shared a dozen Beausoleil oysters and a large mixed green salad with ricotta salata and white balsamic vinaigrette. My dad then ordered a bottle of Sicilian Nero D’avola to go with our two pizzas: Pizza Campo and the special of the night, a white pizza with braised pork belly. The Pizza Campo had tomato, mozzarella, anchovy, garlic, chili flake, chard, pine nuts, currants and red onions. Both of them were fantastic and so different from each other! The restaurant also served a homemade chili oil that we drizzled over the pizzas – amazing.

Pizza with pork belly and kale.

Pizza with pork belly and greens

Campo Pizza

Pizza Campo

After dinner we took to the bocce court for a game, my mother and I versus my father (she is a beginner so I let her play with me). It was a close game, and we only played to 5 points, but my dad threw the winning shot. Luckily we were able to get on the court because the restaurant wasn’t too crowded on a Thursday night in February, but I’ll bet it gets a little crazy on the summer weekends.

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The food was delicious and just what we were looking for, but I was particularly fond of the inviting staff and enthusiastic pizza chefs. The atmosphere is warm and energetic with fast and friendly service. You definitely get a family vibe from the place, as also evidenced by several small children running around when we first got there.

I would certainly recommend this restaurant to anyone looking for a casual and fun place to dine in Healdsburg. It’s great for families, large groups or a bunch of friends looking to throw down on the bocce court.

Classic Pairing: Osso Buco & Risotto Milanese

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I’ve been back on the East Coast for the last week, visiting my family for Christmas and New Years. It’s been a whirlwind of delicious meals cooked by my mother, and paired with incredible wines from my father’s cellar – including dueling 2001 and 2002 Chappellet Signature Cabs, a pair of 2008 A.P.VIN Pinot Noirs, and 1994 and 1995 Chateau Montelena Estate Cabs. Thanks, Dad!

But he saved my favorite set of wine for last night: 2007 and 2010 Paloma Merlot Spring Mountain. And since this week has been so focused on pairs, I knew we would have to match the wines with a top-notch meal. My mother and I selected two great recipes that are classically paired together from Canal House Cooking Vol. 7, one of my favorite cookbooks (thanks to GGD). I took the reins on Osso Buco (first time making it) while my mother made Risotto Milanese. Both dishes were a little time consuming, but not very difficult and totally worth it – especially when paired with the Palomas!

Osso Buco (serves 4)

  • 4 veal shanks, 2 inches thick, tied with kitchen string
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 TB olive oil
  • 2 TB butterveal shanks
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 2 celery ribs, diced
  • 1 medium Vidalia onion, diced
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 14-oz can whole peeled plum tomatoes in juice
  • 2-3 cups beef stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • small handful of fresh parsley leaves
  • grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 clove garlic

Risotto Milanese (serves 4)

  • 4-5 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 3 TB butter
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 TB finely chopped prosciutto
  • 1 cup arborio, carnaroli, or vialone nano rice
  • 1/2 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano
  • salt and pepper

The Osso Buco takes about 3 hours to prepare and cook, so be sure to give yourself enough time. Start by preheating the oven to 350 degrees. Generously season the shanks with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat the olive oil in a heavy, large, oven-safe pot with a fitted lid over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot and with the lid off, brown the shanks for 8-10 minutes on each side. Transfer the shanks to a large plate, and remove the pot from the flame. As the oil cools, scrape the blackened bits out of the pan and wipe everything out of the pot.

browning the shanks

Return the pot to medium heat and melt the butter. Add the carrots, celery and onions and cook until softened – about 15-20 minutes. Stir in the wine and return the shanks to the pot, along with any accumulated juices. Add the tomatoes, crushing them with your hands as you drop them in the pot. (We didn’t have whole tomatoes so I used chopped tomatoes, which was fine). Pour in enough stock to nearly cover the shanks, adding a little water if necessary. Season with salt and pepper and tuck in bay leaves.

Cover the pot and braise the shanks in the oven for 2 hours, basting them halfway through, and adjusting the lid to partially covered for the second hour. The meat should be very tender and almost fall of the bone, but the string holds it in place.

Meanwhile, prepare the gremolata. In a small food processor fit with a steel blade, chop the garlic. Add the lemon zest and parsley and process to combine. Using a rubber spatula, transfer to a small dish and set aside.

Begin preparing the Risotto when there is about an hour left to the Osso Buco. Start by heating the chicken broth in a medium pot, bringing to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and keep the broth hot. Put the saffron in a small dish and add 1/2 cup of the simmering chicken broth. Set aside to infuse.

risotto

Melt the butter in a heavy, deep saute pan over a medium-high flame. Add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until soft and translucent – about 3 minutes. Stir in the prosciutto then add rice, stirring until everything is coated with butter.

Add 1/2 cup of the simmering broth, stirring constantly to keep the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Push any rice that crawls up the sides of the pan back down into the liquid. When the rice has absorbed all the broth, add another 1/2 cup of simmering broth. Continue this process until you have added half the broth, about 20 minutes, then add the saffron-infused broth.

I love the color that the saffron adds to this dish!

I love the color that the saffron adds to this dish!

Keep adding broth by the 1/2 cup and stirring. Taste the rice; it is done when it is tender with a frim center. The fully cooked risotto should be moist but not soupy. Once you have reached this desired texture, add the parmigiano and stir until it has melted into the rice. Taste, and season with salt and pepper, if needed.

Osso Buco can be served with a chunky sauce as is (with all the vegetables in tact), or the sauce can be passed through a sieve, pressing the vegetables through. I asked my family which they preferred, and they all agreed on chunky. To serve this way, add about half of the sauce to a deep serving dish. Carefully place the veal shanks into the dish, immersing them into the sauce. Add spoonfuls of the vegetables to each of the shanks, then top with a generous portion of the gremolata.

osso buco

osso buco

Serve the risotto in a separate dish and let your guests serve themselves, or plate the risotto on the bottom with the shanks and some sauce over it. Either way, it will taste delicious when the sauce hits the risotto.

osso buco and risotto milanese

I was pretty critical of this dish, it being the first time I made it. I think it could have used a little more salt, and I would have cooked it longer to reduce the sauce further and make it more thick. But my family loved it, and my brother said it was “one of the best meals he had all month” – which means A LOT since my talented mother cooks for him nearly every night!

The Paloma Merlots went very well with this dish, in particular the 2007 because it was more ready to drink. This dish would also pair well with Rioja Reserva or Chianti Classico Reserva. Either way, it should be a well-balanced wine with a good fruit-acid ratio – nothing too heavy since the veal and risotto are quite rich.

If you don’t have a volume of Canal House Cooking, I suggest getting at least one! Their recipes are easy to follow and use basic ingredients that you can find at your local butcher or grocery store, or that are already in your pantry.

Now, I must get ready for a New Years Eve party! Cheers to 2013, and best wishes for 2014!

Tortellini with Sage Butter Sauce

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This week I met with my Italian teacher to reminisce about my travels and catch up on other life updates – including her recent engagement! By the time I got home from drinks and after all our talk about Bologna, I was craving tortellini. Luckily I brought back a small bag of meat filled tortellini with me from Bologna. Tortellini are so small and delicate, and the filling should be a burst of flavor in your mouth. I remembered Maribel’s suggestion to serve tortellini with a simple sage butter sauce rather then a tomato-based sauce because the acidity would overpower the filling. And as she promised, it turned out deliciously!

Tortellini with Sage Butter Sauce (serves 2)

  • 1/2 lb meat filled tortellini
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 TB unsalted butter
  • 1 small shallot, diced
  • 8 sage leaves
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano

Bring a medium pot of chicken broth and water to boil. Add a pinch of salt and the tortellini and cook for about 8 minutes, or until filling is cooked but pasta is slightly al dente. Reserve half a cup of the broth before draining the pasta.

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Meanwhile, melt butter over a medium-low flame in a skillet. As butter melts, add shallots and continue to saute to prevent the butter from burning. Once the butter browns slightly, add sage leaves and saute for another minute. Add lemon juice and remove from heat.

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Once pasta is cooked, add to skillet with sage butter and bring back up to medium heat. Add the reserved pasta broth and saute for a couple of minutes, or until some of the broth evaporates. Turn off heat and grate in the Pecorino. Stir to combine and serve immediately.

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I loved the way this dish turned out. The addition of the chicken broth to the pasta water added an extra layer of flavor in the sauce, and as the pecorino melted into the pasta the sauce thickened. I loved getting a bit of a sage leaf in each bite, and wish I had added a couple more leaves when cooking the sauce.

I would pair this dish with an off-dry Chenin Blanc or a White Burgundy. It would also go well with a buttery Chardonnay, if that is your style. And of course, Prosecco! If you would rather serve a red wine try a Barbera, as it would go well with the assertive sage and shallots. Enjoy!

Back to Bologna

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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!

squash blossoms

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.

lemon oil

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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!

pasta

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!

Taste of Italy, or The Greatest Day of My Life

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Sissy and I agreed on something that was absolutely necessary while traveling in Italy: cooking lessons. While we both consider ourselves good cooks, neither of us had any experience making pasta from scratch and that was something we knew we would learn best from a classic Italian cook. Our mutual friend had done a class with Taste of Italy in Bologna, so we got the info from her to make our own booking during our stay. When we reached out to Maribel (owner of Taste of Italy and my new favorite person) and told her what we were looking for, she suggested the foodie lesson that included a market tour. It was a bit of a splurge, but I was able to convince Sissy it was the only way to go. And we are both so grateful for this incredible experience, or as we now refer to, “the greatest day of our lives.”

We arranged to meet Maribel at 8:30am near the Bologna food market district. Before going food shopping and exploring the market, we discussed what kind of food we wanted to make that afternoon. Since it was a foodie lesson, we had a little bit more flexibility. We also were able to convince Maribel to let us do more than the typical lesson because we are both super efficient cooks (she later agreed with our testament). So we decided on three pastas, three sauces, and a dessert. Since I am clueless when it comes to dessert and baking, I really wanted to learn how to make a simple panna cotta. Sissy is obsessed with ragu, so she wanted to learn how to make a classic Bolognese sauce. And since we were in Bologna, we both agreed that we must learn to make tortelloni (ideally we would have learned to make tortellini, the smaller kind, but it takes way to much time and expertise), which would be stuffed with a ricotta mixture and served with a butter-sage sauce. Maribel suggested a lemon and speck sauce for the tagliolini (thinner noodles than tagliatelle, which we also made for the ragu sauce), which sounded delicious. Now that our menu was set, it was time for shopping!
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20130718-124531.jpgWith her expert guidance, we navigated the market place and she showed us all the different meat and cheese shops, and what they are known for. We also explored the specialty pasta shops and spice shops, as well as a place that was known for their desserts and vinegars. And of course, all the stands of fresh produce where we learned your not supposed to touch the products, but have the owner of the stand come out and select the items for you. They are very honest farmers and will only provide the best quality ingredients. Maribel told us she was once looking for a pineapple, ad the merchant wouldn’t sell her the one he had because it was not ripe enough. When we were visiting the produce stands, my eye caught some zucchini blossoms that looked beautiful. I asked Maribel if we would be able to squeeze in an appetizer of stuffed blossoms if we were super duper efficient, since I had always wanted to learn to make them. She laughed at us for our persistence, with her kind smile, and said sure! Since we already had purchased the sheeps milk ricotta for for the tortelloni, it wasn’t too much of a hassle.
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20130718-124545.jpgAfter hour 90 minute market tour, we had seen a new side of Bologna and purchased all the necessary ingredients for our meal: ricotta and parsley for the tortelloni; cream and sour cherries for the panna cotta; pork sausage, ground beef, onion, celery, carrot for the ragu; Amalfi lemon and speck for the tagliolini, and squash blossoms for my special appetizer, which would be stuffed with the same ricotta for the tortelloni. Maribel teaches her lessons at home in her own kitchen, where she had other important ingredients, such as flour and eggs for the pasta, pecorino, olive oil, butter, sage, etc. We caught a taxi to her house, just outside the old city walls, and got to work on our pasta making!

Pasta making is certainly a labor of love. We started by making a mountain with our flour, and scooping a hole in the middle for our eggs, so it looked like a volcano. We slowly combined the flour and eggs with a fork and scraper, until our dough was the right consistency. Then we kneeded it by hand into a ball until the stickiness was perfect, lightly coated with flour and wrapped it up to sit until we were ready to roll it out.
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20130718-125043.jpgMeanwhile, Sissy got to work on the Bolognese sauce and I started working on heating the cream for the panna cotta. Panna cotta is pretty simple, actually. You heat the cream, add the sugar, continue to stir, add the gelatin and vanilla, raise the heat and stir some more, blow on it so it doesn’t overflow, and when it reaches the right consistency (about thirty minutes of stirring) you transfer it to ramekins and let cool for about 45 minutes before transferring to the fridge. Presto!
20130718-125204.jpgNext we mixed the ricotta and repaired our squash blossoms. Maribel purchases sheeps milk ricotta because it’s richer in flavor and easier on the stomach, and SO DELICIOUS. We blended it with finely chopped parsley, fresh ground nutmeg and pecorino. Reserving some for the tortelloni (and to spread on crackers for an extra snack), we set aside the rest for stuffing the blossoms. Maribel taught us how to trim and cut the blossom to prepare it for stuffing, as shown in this video that I recorded. Once the blossoms are cut, you stuff them with a heaping teaspoon of ricotta and sauté them in some butter. Very simple and so, so delicious! This is what I love most about Italian cooking.
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20130718-125550.jpgThe last things to do before rolling out the pasta were to prepare the cherry sauce for the panna cotta and the lemon speck sauce for the tagliolini. In the interest of efficency, I worked on the cherry sauce between rolling out my dough. You just heat cherries with some sugar over low-medium heat for about 30 minutes. You could also use strawberries or blackberries, whatever is in season!
20130718-125211.jpgFor the lemon speck sauce, the first thing you do is zest lemon into the olive oil, then let it sit for a while to let the flavors blend. The speck doesn’t need to be cooked because it’s already cured, so when it’s time to make the sauce you just sauté shallots and garlic in a bit of the olive oil, then add the rest of it (with lemon rind) at the end before combining with the speck. Superb!

When the time came to roll out the dough, Maribel made sure to show us the correct posture when rolling out our dough, so we wouldn’t hurt our back or neck. We used long, heavy rolling pins on huge cutting boards, rolling out the dough, rotating it, rolling it again, stretching it, rolling it some more… It was certainly a process! But Maribel’s guidance made us feel confident and composed, and in the end we produced some excellent dough for the pasta making.
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20130718-130417.jpgMine was a little dry because I had been by the window, so we used mine for the tortelloni. Sissy had more dough and was thinner than mine, so we used it for the tagliolini and tagliatelle. Maribel taught us to roll the dough to meet in the middle, then to cut it in thin slices, and use the side of the knife to lift up your noodles. Easy peasy!
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20130718-130542.jpgFor the tortelloni, we learned to fold the ricotta into the cut squares and twist them into a tortelloni shape, or which we referred to as baby gnomes. They were so cute! Each pasta was cooked in the same pot of water for the appropriate time, and carefully transferred to the appropriate sauce. We had them in courses with a delicious white wine, and I was sure to pace myself so I could leave room for the panna cotta!

Everything was supremely delicious and fresh tasting, and I loved the wine that Maribel selected for the meal. Other than the squash blossoms, my favorite dish was probably the tagliolini with the lemon-speck sauce, which seems the easiest to recreate and I will be sure to post about it once I do! The meal was made even better by Maribel joining us, and telling us stories of her cooking experience and her life in Italy. She is a very interesting, friendly person with great patience and a lifetime of experience in the kitchen. Sissy and I agreed that not only did we learn to make great Italian food that day, but we both made a new friend!
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I chose not to include all the details of each recipe, so that I didn’t give away all of Maribel’s secrets! But I encourage you to schedule a foodie lesson with her if you ever visit Bologna. She also travels to the states occasionally to do group lessons or special events. In the meantime, stay tuned and I may feature some recipes in future blog posts. Special thanks to Maribel for an incredible day and for teaching us the best way to make pasta!

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