Archive | January, 2012

Clearly Carbonara: Pasta with Cheese, Ham and Eggs

25 Jan

Some of the recipes in T’s book are slightly old-fashioned or not necessarily en vogue.  And some others are totally hip and way more common than they were 30 years ago when the book was published.  But they’re now known by their Italian name, rather than the 1980’s Americanized name that T might have used when she originally wrote this.

We’ve been cooking carbonara in my family for as long as I can remember, but it took me FOREVER to find it in T’s cookbook, because it’s listed under the extremely generic “Cheese, Ham and Eggs Pasta” recipe.  And while ham may have been appropriate for the American palate in 1982, we always used pancetta.  I encourage you to do the same.

2 or 3 slices ham, cut into strips or cubes (alternatively, 8oz. pancetta, cut into strips or cubes)
2T butter (only if using ham)
3 eggs
1C grated Parmesan cheese
Approximately 1/2 pint heavy cream
Freshly ground black pepper (grind slightly more than you think you need)
1lb pasta (I use linguine, but T likes seashells)

Lightly saute ham in butter (if using pancetta, omit butter and drain off some of the grease).  Combine room temperature eggs with grated cheese and room temperature cream, reserving some cream.  Cook pasta in salted water, drain and place in a deep bowl.  Add egg mixture and the meat and toss quickly until egg and cheese have formed a sauce that sticks to the pasta.  Add freshly ground black pepper and toss again quickly.  If mixture is too thick, add more cream.  Serve at once with additional grated cheese.









NOTE: my mother always added cooked peas to the pasta with the black pepper.  I haaaaaate peas, so I don’t do that.  But if you want to add a vegetable, this is a great option.

This recipe is so good, I had my Pilates teacher over for dinner last night and she (and I) had two helpings each.  If she can splurge, so can you.  Mangia!

Winter Warmer: Chicken a la King

19 Jan

It’s supposed to rain in Los Angeles this weekend.  And I hear there was hail (and tornado sirens!) in St. Louis this past week.  It’s snowy back in Boston (where I lived once upon a time) and cold and cruddy in Pittsburgh (another former home base).  Weather-wise, I have it pretty good here in Southern California, and I never miss the snow.  But I do miss the excuse to hunker down with some good, old-fashioned comfort food.

This isn’t Italian, but it is something my mom used to make for my family all the time during the dark days between autumn and spring.  It is super-duper old school.  Which means you have to do old-school things before eating.  Play outside, make snow angels, admire your snowmen, and so forth.  Then, pull off your parkas, get into the kitchen and cook up something warmly winter-appropriate.  Mangia!

Rose and Annette show off their masterpiece

1/2C finely chopped onion
1/4C finely chopped green pepper
2t butter
1 8oz. package cream cheese, softened
1 10 1/2oz. can cream of mushroom soup
1 4oz. can sliced mushrooms, undrained
Dash freshly ground pepper
2C cooked chicken, diced
2T dry sherry
6 large biscuits (homemade or heated)

Saute onion and green pepper in butter.  Blend in cream cheese, soup and pepper.  Stir in cooked chicken and mushrooms.  Heat to boiling and add sherry.  Serve over hot biscuits.

Teenager Trouble: Rigatoni with Fontina Cheese

12 Jan

Admit it; even the nicest people in the world go through a big, fat, sourpuss phase.  My teenage years were not rebellious– I didn’t drink, do drugs, or smoke and I was always home by curfew.  But, man, was I a back-talking pain-in-the-neck.  I guess some things never change.  I suppose it must run in the family– my mom, Rose, appears to be a piece of work, circa 1964, judging from some select archival photographic proof.

The only thing I seemed to like at that time was macaroni-and-cheese.  My mom used to joke that if they cut open my veins, powdered orange “cheese” would pulse through it.  Which, naturally, made me mad.  So in honor of your hormonally-charged bad attitude, today I encourage you to indulge your inner teenager.  Enjoy a cheese-loaded, carbohydrate-filled pubescent delicacy.

Rose with Grandmas Carolyn and Rosie. What a doll.

Me before a high school dance. Just delightful.











1lb rigatoni
6T butter
1/2lb Fontina cheese, thinly sliced or grated
2 pinches nutmeg
1C grated Parmesan cheese
Coarsely ground black pepper, to taste

Cook rigatoni in boiling salted water until almost cooked.  Drain and place in a large bowl.  Add 4 tablespoons butter, 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese and nutmeg; toss until all of the pasta is coated.

In a buttered baking dish, make a layer of pasta, a layer of Fontina, sprinkle with grated Parmesan and repeate until all the pasta is used, ending with a layer of Fontina on top.  Sprinkle with grated Parmesan and black pepper and dot with remaining butter.  Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes, or until the top is bubbly and golden brown.

This version of macaroni-and-cheese isn’t the stuff from a box, but you’ll love it, trust me.  Even if you sneer the whole time you’re eating.  Mangia!