Spaghetti Carbonara

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Full disclosure: this is not my favorite pasta dish, however, it is quick easy, and most people LOVE it.

You most likely have many of the ingredients for spaghetti carbonara on hand, and I believe that it can be a recipe open to interpretation. It basically involves pasta, cured pork, hard cheese like parmesan or pecorino, black pepper, and eggs. To me, it’s similar, in some ways, to the Roman pasta dish pasta cacio e uova.

Supposedly this dish first burst on the scene in 1950, which I believe, because it smacks of the 20th century. It is absent from my favorite Italian cookbook, Ada Boni’s 1930 La Cucina Romana (her regional cookbook is available on Amazon in English, the Romana is in Italian) one of the best cookbooks of all time. I don’t make it often, but it appeared on the internet recently as “Carbonara Day” on instagram which I found rather humorous. Even funnier was that I actually made it. Talk about being influenced! I am embarrassed to say I was.

So here’s my recipe, I am sure you’ll love it. It’s comforting and creamy, like bowl of mac and cheese tossed with a little crispy bacon. It actually reminds me of breakfast: bacon, eggs and cheese with spaghetti. No wonder people love it.

Spaghetti Carbonara
Serves 4

You will need:
– 1 lb.  dried Spaghetti
– 8 ounces Speck, proscuttio, or bacon. Basically, a cured pork product cut into bite size pieces
– 3 large eggs scrambled
– 1 cup grated parmesan cheese, pecorino, or any hard cheese
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
– 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

To prepare:

Set a large pot of water to boil (for pasta). In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 8 to 12 minutes; transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate.

Salt boiling water generously; add a tablespoon of salt to the water. Once boiling, add pasta and cook until al dente, according to package instructions.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together eggs and parmesan. Set aside.

Using a spider, remove pasta from the water and place it into the bowl, leaving some water clinging to it. Working quickly, add hot pasta to the egg mixture. Add bacon; season with salt and pepper, and toss all to combine (heat from pasta will cook eggs). Serve immediately, sprinkle with additional Parmesan cheese.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Classic Italian Recipe: Torta Pasqualina

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A few years ago, when DesignSponge was *the* blog, I contributed a unique classic Italian recipe: the torta pasqualina. This recipe comes from the Liguria region. It will remind you of a decadent quiche. Let me know if you give it a try for Easter.

Torta Pasqualina
Serves 6–8

For the Crust:

You will need:
– 4 cups all-purpose flour
– 1 cup olive oil
– 1 tablespoon salt
– 3/4 cups ice water

To prepare:
Make crust in a food processor. Put flour in the bowl and add oil and salt. Pulse until pebble-sized crumbs appear, and as you pulse, add water through the chute until dough comes together.

*Note: You may need to add a little more water to the dough — it should form a soft ball of dough. Set the dough aside and make the filling.

For the Filling:

You will need:
– 1/2 medium red onion sliced thinly
– 3 tablespoons olive oil
– 6 cups chopped fresh spinach
– 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
– 3 cups fresh ricotta cheese
– 1 tablespoon dried marjoram
– 1 egg
– salt and pepper to taste
– 4 eggs + 1 for egg wash

To prepare:

Preheat the oven to 375ºF.

In a large sauté pan, add olive oil. Slice the red onion into thin slices, sauté with the oil. Once the onions have become transparent, add the spinach. Add salt and pepper.

Sauté mixture until spinach is wilted, about 10 minutes. Cook off as much liquid in the pan as possible. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine cheeses, marjoram and 1 egg.

When the spinach mixture has cooled for about 10 minutes, squeeze excess liquid from the mixture and add to the cheese mixture. Combine well and set aside.

Assemble the pie:

Divide crust into two parts, put flour on a board and roll dough out to 1/4 inch disk. Place this disk into a 12” pie form or a ceramic pie dish. Make sure the edges of the dough overlap the side of the dish. Fill with the spinach mixture, smooth the top and make four indentations into the spinach mixture with a spoon. These indentations will hold the eggs. Crack an egg carefully into each indentation.

Roll out the remaining crust and place on top. Pinch all around the edges and finish with egg wash on top.

Bake in a 375ºF oven for 1 hour.

xx Annette

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5 Reasons to Watch “Stanly Tucci: Searching for Italy”

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Hi everyone! It’s Nicole, Annette’s web manager and friend, and I am here to share something shocking:

I hated traveling to Italy.

It’s blasphemy around here, I know. And before you worry about my job security, Annette is fully aware of my feelings, too. In fact, I think it’s one of the reasons she keeps me around: so she can one day try to change my mind. And to be honest, after nearly seven years of working together, she’s finally wearing me down. Well, Annette along with Stanly Tucci.

The first and only time I found myself on the streets of Italy was June of 2009. My best friend and I were teachers at the time, and we made the very responsible decision to use our first tax refund check of our adult lives to purchase a Greek cruise bookended by a few days in Milan, Florence and Venice. School ended, we hopped on a plane for what was going to be the trip of our twenty-something lifetime, and we landed in Milan.

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From the top of the Duomo in Milan, taken by me in 2009!

The streets were bursting with people, the duomo casting a shadow over everyone below. Cars, bicycles and Vespas zoomed left and right. The sun pressed down on us. I was sweaty. I was tired. I was not impressed. This was basically New York City…but in Italy. I cried to my now-husband that I was already ready to come home. It had been 3 hours.

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Me, left, and my BFF Lindsay, right in Florence.

Florence captured my attention only slightly better, thanks to various art museums and markets. Venice…well, I found it to be about as pleasant as Annette does. Other than the Italian food, of which we have plenty in America, I decided Italy was not AT ALL for me.

I confessed this during my interview with Annette in 2014. She vowed to change my mind, and I have to say, it’s working. Before the pandemic, I had, rather hesitantly, started doing my research to visit Annette at La Fortezza. But to be honest, I wasn’t too disappointed when it paused my travel plans.

Last weekend, after watching more than my share of Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and even Disney+, I decided to give a new CNN show a try: Stanly Tucci’s Searching for Italy, released one episode at a time, old school style. Within one episode, I was happily hooked, and already singing Italy’s praises to Annette, ready to book a ticket. Truly. That’s how good it is. Besides completely converting me, an Italian naysayer to an Italian wanderluster, here are 5 other reasons to watch the show:

Stanly’s voice is soothing. I watch The Barefoot Contessa nearly every weekend right when I get up because I find Ina Garten’s voice such a pleasant sound to wake up to. Stanly Tucci’s voice is no different. It ebbs and flows in such a way that you barely notice that he curses every time he takes a bite of pasta. It must be good.

The Italian pride is palpable. After reading, Italy is My Boyfriend, I think I came to understand the great pride within Italians. But seeing it on screen takes it to an entirely new level. There are restauranteurs who have carried on their family recipes for hundreds of years. There are butchers protecting the name and preparation of prosciutto, so phonies cannot trick the public. There are families who still gather around a table every single Sunday for supper, serving the main course as their ancestors did, no matter how antiquated it might seem.

There is a depth to every region. I think this is what has struck me as the most interesting aspect of the show. We might be familiar with the bright colors and stunning seas of the Amalfi Coast, but what we don’t realize is how poverty-stricken it is. Or how Napoli’s infamous pizza was born out of a pandemic. There’s more to Italy than Milan, Florence, Venice, Rome and Pisa. This show takes us there.

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He’s the Rick Steves of 2021. I have to say the most enjoyable moments of my 2009 trip were when my BFF and I busted out our trusty Rick Steves’ book when exploring. We found the most amazing pizza down the scariest alleyway in Venice, and rested our heads only in Steves’ recommended lodgings. Even though Stanly isn’t a food writer on a budget, he is bringing viewers to some obscure places, and for that, I love the show even more.

We meet Stanly’s wife. Did you know Stanly Tucci is married to Emily Blount’s sister? It’s true! Emily and Stanly met while filming The Devil Wears Prada. He was later invited to Emily’s wedding. There, Emily introduced Stanly to her sister, Felicity. Stanly and Felicity were married two years later. Felicity is the woman behind the camera for all of Stanly’s cocktail posts on Instagram. Now, we see her in front of the camera on the show.

Will you watch? I hope so! Let me know what you think.

xo, Nicole

 

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My Tortellini Recipe

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Ciao everyone! I hope you were able to join Tina Prestia and me on Friday for our IG Live cooking class. We chatted all things pasta and specifically, tortellini. You can watch the class/interview itself here. Below, you’ll find one of my favorite recipes for tortellini. It’s a staple in my house and is not as hard as it seems to make. Give it a try! Enjoy.

xx Annette

Greens and Ricotta Stuffed Tortellini with Walnut Pesto
Serves 4

Pasta: For Tortelli Pasta, use the Basic Pasta recipe. Find it here.

For the filling, you will need:

– 3 cups baby kale
– 2 cups  baby arugula
– 1 cup baby spinach
– 1 1/2 cups ricotta
– 8 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan
– 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
– 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
– 1 eggs

To prepare the filling:

Fill a 4-quart pot 3/4 full with water. Add 1 tablespoon salt. Bring water to a boil. Fill a bowl 3/4 full with ice water. Add the kale, arugula, and spinach to the boiling water blanch them quickly about  30 seconds to 1 minute. Pull the greens from the pot and plunge into the ice water.

Drain the greens in a sieve and then squeeze the liquid out of them by pressing into the sieve over the sink to remove excess liquid. In a food processor place chilled greens, ricotta, parmesan, pepper, one teaspoon salt, and nutmeg. Blend until a smooth, about 30 seconds. Add 1 egg, and blend. Place the mixture into the fridge until ready to fill the Tortellini.

For the walnut pesto, you will need:

– 1 cup shelled walnuts, reserve 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts for garnish
– 1 clove of garlic
– 2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan, + ¼ cup for topping
– 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
– 1/4 teaspoon of salt

To prepare the walnut sauce:

Preheat the oven to 350° degrees F. Put the whole walnuts on a sheet tray, and put on the middle rack in the oven to lightly roast them to golden brown, about 3-5 minutes watch them so they don’t burn. When the walnuts cool, chop the walnuts *set aside 2 tablespoons of chopped walnuts. Combine walnuts and garlic in a food processor, and pulse about 30 seconds. Add  parmesan, olive oil, and salt, and blend for 30 seconds to a minute, until combined, it should be a loose consistency.

To prepare tortellini: 

Use the directions of the pasta recipe, you should have 4 sheets. Using a  2  “ round cutter to cut the pasta cut our rounds.

Place the filling into a pastry bag. Using the pastry bag place a 1 inch dollop of filling into each circle of dough. When all the rounds are filled. With a finger dip into a bowl of water and then brush water around the filling fold in half press gently to seal, then take the 2 points and pull them to connect press together to form the shape of a tortellini.

Cooking tortellini:

Fill a 7 to 8-quart pot 3/4 full with water and add 3 tablespoons salt. Bring to a low boil over high heat, and then reduce to medium-low retaining the gentle boil. Drop tortellini in the water to cook for 4 to 6 minutes. Remove the tortellini using a slotted. Place them in a 4 quart mixing bowl, toss with the Walnut Sauce. Serve immediately.

To serve:

Spoon the Tortelli onto four bowls, top with grated parmesan.

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Truffle Pasta

After Monday’s post all about truffles, I’ve been dreaming about this truffle pasta from the archives. It’s delicious and a great way to enjoy the flavors of truffles. You can sub zucchini for any other seasonal squash, or another veggie of your choice. Get creative with it, and let the truffles take center stage!

Truffle Pasta
serves 4

You will need:
– – Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 pound whole-wheat dried spaghettini
– 3/4 pound zucchini sliced into coins
– 1/4 cup olive oil
– 2 tablespoons minced garlic (NOTE: I always use a micro planer to grate the fresh garlic into the oil)
– 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
– 3 tablespoons truffle oil

To prepare:
Cut the zucchini into thin coins then put oil and grate fresh garlic into a skillet. Heat oil and garlic and add zucchini, saute on high heat until the zucchini is evenly browned. In the meantime, boil the pasta on high, until al dente. Drain and add the pasta to the zucchini, and toss with cheese.
Pull off heat and put pasta into a bowl, finish with the truffle oil, salt and pepper. I also like adding truffle salt if you have it. Serve hot with a nice salad.

Serve and enjoy!

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