Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Bonus Recipes from Italy!!

2 Bonus Recipes for You

You are so lucky :)  Because I love you all for looking at my blog and well, just being supportive, I am giving you even more yummy Italian recipes!!  The reason I even have a blog is because of my friend and neighbor - Stephanie O'Dea.  A few years back she decided to embark on an adventure/new year's resolution where she used her slow-cooker EVERYDAY FOR A YEAR.  Really, she did.  Her blog, A Year of Slow Cooking , became super popular and led to cookbook offers and now she is starring in the Ninja Cooking System infomercials :)  Cool, huh?  Anyway, she did all this and more (click on her link to see all her other accomplishments) while raising her 3 kids and being a great mom.  So, I am using her as my model to be a working stay-at-home mom AND stealing one of the recipes from her website to cook for you.  Actually, I changed an ingredient or two and I bet mine is even better :)  Should we have a crock-pot cookoff challenge?!

Pasta Fagioli - Slow-Cooker style

For the recipe you will need:

  • 1 lb. mild italian sausage.  Ours were in casings but I cut them off and chopped up the sausages
  • 1/2 large onion - chopped
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 2 celery stalks - chopped
  • 2 cans (14.5 oz) of diced tomatoes in juice or one box of Pomi Italian tomatoes- never tried them before but Italian tomatoes are supposed to be more flavorful
  • 1 can kidney beans - drained and rinsed
  • 1 can white beans - drained and rinsed
  • 4 cups beef broth - I used 3 cups beef and one vegetable cuz that's what I had
  • 1 jar (gasp) pasta sauce or a few cups of homemade sauce. I'm really not a sauce snob - I'm just kidding :)
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 1 or 2 cloves garlic - minced
  • 1 T Tabasco sauce
  • 1/2 tsp salt or more if you used sodium free broth like I did
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 c dry pasta - I think I used more and it was a bit thick but still super delicious!
1.  I have a small crockpot (4 qt) so I divided the ingredients and froze half for another meal.  Stephanie suggests 6 qt or larger.
2. Brown the sausage on the stovetop (or if you get that new Ninja cooker from the infomercial you can do it in the same pan)
3. Chop up carrots, onion, celery and put in crock.  Same with the beans, tomatoes,.....actually everything except the pasta goes in the crock!
4.  Cover and cook on low for 8 hrs or high for 4.  About 40 mins before you want to eat it add the pasta - I started mine at 9 am and we ate it at 4 (because it smelled so good and we had an ice-cream social at the school at 6) 

Everyone (except my daughter who doesn't eat red sauce) really enjoyed it - especially with some parmesan cheese on top and some crusty bread on the side!!  Thanks Stephanie for the delicious recipe!

Bonus #2 - Panna Cotta with Berries
This recipe is all over the websites so I'm not crediting any one person with it.  It is very creamy and delicious and was super easy to make! You will need:

  • 1/3 cup fat-free milk (I'd have to imagine 1 or 2% would be fine also)
  • 1 packet unflavored gelatin (.25 ounce)
  • 2 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 granulated sugar or sugar substitute if you're diabetic
  • 1 1/2 t vanilla extract
1. Pour milk in small bowl, add gelatin and let sit for a few minutes
2. In saucepan, put cream and sugar and bring to boil - stir to dissolve sugar. 
3. When boiling, pour gelatin/milk mixture into cream and stir completely and constantly for one minute. 
4. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.
5. Pour into 6 individual ramekins or one large one (I don't have six ramekins) and let cool uncovered on the counter. 
6. When cool, cover with plastic wrap and place in fridge for at least 4 hours. 
7.  Decorate with fresh berries.  Hand everyone a spoon and ENJOY!!!!!

 My son doing an excellent job decorating it (he only ate HALF the bowl of berries)

   Isn't it beautiful!!! Can you see where I hid the bite I took with a berry?
I was afraid we would eat the whole thing so I asked the neighbors to try it...guess they liked it :)

Mangia! Some Authentic Italian Food

mmmmmm, Italian Food!!

Close your eyes and think of your favorite Italian food.  It wasn't hard to come up with one was it?  That's because Italian foods like spaghetti, pizza, and lasagne seem almost as American as apple pie. But as a true Italian (which I am not) would tell you - jarred pasta sauce is not REAL pasta sauce.  Not like Mama would make :)  So we will get a recipe for an authentic, homemade pasta sauce AND, since my daughter doesn't like red sauce, we will make a Carbonara!  You are so lucky to be reading this!  Quick, tell everybody you know!! 

But first, a little history on Pasta.  I had always heard that pasta was brought to Italy by the explorer Marco Polo on his journeys to China - WRONG!  Apparently that was a myth.  Pasta has been mentioned in writings from Italy since the 1st century AD, and the dried version we know today has been around since the 8th century.  The dried version seems to have been introduced by the Arabs to Sicily during one of its many invasions and quickly became an Italian staple since the climate is perfect for growing the durum wheat used in pasta.  Now the tomato is a different story.  They WERE brought to Italy by explorers.  Not Marco Polo from China but Christopher Columbus (or someone on his crew) from the New World.  But alas, they were still not eaten until much later because they were thought to be poisonous, the plant is a member of the deadly Nightshade variety.  It wasn't until around 1839 that the first mention of pasta with tomatoes was documented.  Wonder who was brave enough to try it first?  Tomatoes soon became very popular and the rest, as they say, is history..........

Cooking Project: Tomato Sauce and Pasta Carbonara

As I mentioned before, my daughter won't eat red sauce (even though for the first 3 years of her life she LOVED it - but that's another story we won't go into here), so I found a great website called Real- Italian - Recipes. com where you can go and find some very delicious sounding sauces.  I especially thought the Italian Tomato Sauce with Tiny Meatballs  sounded delicious.  Please give it a look if you are in the mood for sauce like Mama (again, not my Mama- we aren't Italian) used to make.

We ARE going to make the Pasta Carbonara recipe I found on the site though- because it has Pancetta, which is like bacon, and my family loves BACON!

 For the recipe you will need:
  • A few tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 lb. thick cut Pancetta - cut in chunks  OR thick cut bacon
  • 4 eggs
  • Grated Pecorino or Parmesan (we're using Parmesan)
  • Black pepper to taste
  • Pasta (spaghetti or rigatoni) we cooked the whole bag and it was perfect amount for 4 people.
1. Heat oil to medium heat in large frying pan and add Pancetta - don't let it burn - should be pink with golden edges- or it tastes bitter.  Once done, turn off heat and let cool.
2. Start you pasta to cook in lots of rapidly boiling salted water. The directions are on the label for cooking times.
3. Mix eggs in bowl and add cheese and a pinch of salt.
4. When pasta is cooked add to pan with pancetta.  Add raw egg and mix it all together on low heat for 3 to 5 minutes- just until egg is cooked and coating pasta. 
5. Give it a dash of pepper and some more cheese and ENJOY!!!!!!

A real kid-pleaser!!!