Tag Archives: Pasta

Pasta Party: Fresh Tomato Sauce with Beef and Lamb

7 Sep

I recently went to visit my family and welcome my newborn niece Claire into the world.  In my estimation, all newborns can do is eat and sleep, so our activities were kept pretty close to the house.  Luckily, my two-year old niece Gia puts on quite the show; singing original songs, dancing on the back porch, etc.  She especially loves helping in the kitchen.

So my brother and I had a homemade pasta-making competition; he would probably disagree, but I was the clear winner.  But he did whip up a delicious meat sauce to cover the strands of fettucine, so he got major points for that.  While the photos I took are mostly of the homemade pasta, the sauce at the end is the money shot.

Prepping the pasta

Someone loves to knead

This recipe is pretty simple and fun to make when you’re just hanging out in the kitchen all day.  If you’re having an ethical dilemma or entertaining vegetarians, you can omit the veal or meat altogether.  But we like it this way.

TOMATO SAUCE WITH BEEF AND LAMB
4lbs. ripe fresh tomatoes
1/4C olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, chopped
2 sprigs fresh basil, chopped (or more to taste)
1t sugar
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Mix of ground beef, veal and lamb, equaling 1lb.

Cut tomatoes into small pieces and cook in a large pot for 10 minutes over medium heat until tomatoes are soft.  Cool and put through food mill, or blend with immersion blender.  Saute garlic and onion in olive oil until onion is translucent, being careful not to burn the garlic.  Add tomatoes, basil, sugar, salt and pepper.  Cook in a covered pot over low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  If sauce is too thick, add a little water.  If it’s too thin, cook a little longer uncovered (or add a tablespoon of tomato paste if you have it).  Once sauce is cooked to your liking, saute meat in a pan until it is mostly cooked, then add to sauce.  Simmer for 45 minutes.

Working the machine

“I want pasta!!!”

As the sauce cooks, prepare the pasta (homemade or otherwise).  You can also do what my mother does, and sneakily dip a piece of bread into the sauce and snack all day long.  She thinks we don’t know about this habit.  But we do.  Mangia!

Ta da!

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Lazy Weekend: Rigatoni with Fontina Cheese

14 May

It’s been a crazy month here at For Antonina central, with out-of-town visitors, travel, work and activity-filled weekends.  So I was happy to slow down and plan just a few things over the past few days, one of those things being a dinner in with a gal pal.

Yep, it’s another variation on macaroni and cheese from T’s cookbook (there are several recipes for it, which is just fine by me, as a self-proclaimed mac and cheese expert).  This recipe is simple, portable, easy to re-heat, good hot or at room-temperature, and, for the more adventurous types, easy to modify to your tastes and preferences (that’s what I did).  So the next time you have the chance, sit back, relax, hang out with the ones you love and serve up something that’s always a culinary favorite.

Lazy weekend, T and me

RIGATONI WITH FONTINA CHEESE (Serves 6)
1lb rigatoni (or preferred tube-shaped pasta)
6T butter
1/2lb Fontina cheese, shredded
2 pinches freshly-ground nutmeg
1C grated Parmesan cheese
Generous cranks freshly ground black pepper (to taste)

Cook pasta in salted boiling water until LESS THAN al dente (it should be really firm, about four minutes cooking time).  Drain and place in large bowl.  Add 4T of the butter, 1/2 of the grated Parmesan, the nutmeg and pepper; toss until all of the pasta is coated, then add almost all of the Fontina cheese, reserving a few handfuls.  Pour mixture into a buttered baking dish, sprinkle remaining cheese on top, dot with remaining butter and bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until the top is golden brown and bubbly (don’t panic if it takes longer– more time to hang out!).

I varied the recipe by doing a mix of equal parts Fontina, extra sharp Cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses.  I also mixed in one head of cleaned, chopped, uncooked broccoli, just before I popped it into the oven.  Finally, I used pipette, since I couldn’t find rigatoni at the store.

It was so easy, and so perfect for a lazy Saturday night dinner, with a bunch of store-bought appetizers and bakery cupcakes for dessert.

And it turned out so delish, my friend’s first words after her first bite were simply, “Holy shit.”  Mangia!

Proposal Pasta: Penne with Squid and Eggplant Sauce

29 Feb

Love is in the air at For Antonina headquarters.  Within the past few months, not one, not two, but ALL THREE of my younger girl cousins (we’ll call them “The Capassoettes”) have become engaged.  Robin first, followed by Margaret a few weeks ago and topped off with little Gina, just this past weekend.  Three lucky fellows are getting into this fabulous family, indeed!

Robin and Gus, sweet and happy

Margie and... her fiance is German, so, Europe!

Gina and Josh (Gina is clearly bored by the whole thing)

In celebration, I present to you a fancy pasta dish, capable of warming the heart of even the coldest spinster residing in me… uh, all of us.  Perfect for a proposal, a hot date or a night watching movies and drinking excessively with your sexy single pals.

PASTA WITH SQUID AND EGGPLANT SAUCE (Serves 6 to 8)
1lb eggplant, peeled and cut into 3/4 inch pieces
1/2C olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2lbs small squid, cleaned, bodies cut into 1/8 inch rings and tentacles chopped (you can usually find these already prepped at the grocery fish counter)
3 large tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1C dry red wine
1/4t dried thyme
1/4t oregano
1/3C parsley, chopped
1t salt
1/4t red pepper flakes
1lb penne pasta

Heat the oil and saute the eggplant, onion and garlic over moderate heat in a 2-quart pot until golden.  Add the squid, tomatoes, wine, thyme, oregano, parsley, salt and red pepper flakes.  Bring to a boil and simmer, covered, for 45 minutes.

Cook penne is salted boiling water until al dente.  Drain and toss with sauce.

The sauce simmers for a while so, while you wait, you can shop for wedding gifts online.  Congratulations, Capassoettes!  Now who’s ready for their fondue pot?  Mangia!

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RIGATONI WITH FONTINA CHEESE (Serves 6)
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!

Toss That Turkey: Baked Lasagna

24 Nov

Confession time: I loathe Thanksgiving food.  Always have.  I despise turkey, detest stuffing and would not choke down a sweet or mashed potato unless threatened with physical harm.  This is appropriate because 1.) It’s Thanksgiving Day and 2.) Through the process of researching this website and cookbook project, I discovered I am not alone.

My mom tells me that her whole life growing up, the Capasso clan NEVER ate turkey on Thanksgiving. Every year, they had lasagna.  That is, until she turned 19 and met my dad (who, you might remember, loves himself some Italian food).  Dave Roberts was tall, blue-eyed and all-American and my mother was mortified by the idea that she might have to invite him over for the most all-American of holidays and eat (gasp!) cheesy, sauce-y, squares of baked pasta.  So, she begged T to make their first-ever Thanksgiving turkey.  My grandfather did not like it at all and my aunts, 20, 14, 12 and 9 at the time, were confused, but accommodating.  Like good assimilated Americans, my family has been eating it every year since, despite Popo’s loud protests and my intense hatred of it.  Hilarious– because my dad would probably have liked the lasagna all the same.

So this year I encourage you to toss that turkey… or, since you’ll probably be burned out on it by Monday, switch it up at some point and try our family recipe for lasagna, which is perfect every time (I’m not joking– anyone can make it), delicious and meatless.

BAKED LASAGNA (Serves 8-10)
1 batch Basic Tomato Sauce (recipe follows)
1lb ricotta cheese
2 eggs
1t sugar
1/2t salt
Pinch nutmeg
1 10-oz. package frozen chopped spinach, cooked and well-drained
1/2lb shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2C grated Parmesan cheese
1/2lb lasagna noodles

Prepare tomato sauce.  Mix together ricotta, eggs, sugar, salt, nutmeg and spinach.  Cook lasagna noodles in boiling salted water only to soften (do not overcook); drain.  In a large baking dish, spread a thin later of pasta, some of the ricotta mixture, some of the mozzarella and and Parmesan cheeses, and cover with tomato sauce.  Reapeat until all of the lasagna noodles are used.  Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Cut into squares and serve with more sauce and more grated cheese.

BASIC TOMATO SAUCE
3T olive oil
1/2 large white onion, chopped
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 6-oz. can tomato paste
1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes
2 1/2C water
1 bay leaf
2T chopped parsley
Fresh basil leaves, chopped, to taste
2t sugar
2t salt
1/4t pepper
Pinch baking soda

Saute onion and garlic over medium heat in olive oil until onion is soft.  Add tomato paste, crushed tomatoes and water, stirring to mix.  Add remaining ingredients, bring to a boil, lower heat, cover and simmer for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove bay leaf and serve over pasta.

Mangia!

Gianna’s Gigantic Appetite: Ravioli Two Ways

11 Nov

Of late, my obsession with food has been rivaled by only one thing: Gianna Rose Roberts.  The arrival of my first niece 18 months ago is, from what I can tell, just about the most exciting event to happen in my family in approximately three decades.  Deservedly so, of course.  The first child of my only brother and his wife (who is an only child) “Gia” is a perfect little human; blue-eyed and blonde and hilarious– in exciting new developments, she has just started saying her own name and indicating her age by holding up one tiny index finger right next to her face.  A genius, clearly.

Not for nothing, this girl loves to eat.  Sweet potatoes and bananas and blueberries and Cheerios (of course).  But no food compares to the excitement she exhibits when faced with her favorite, ravioli.  I’m telling you, the result is an epic freakout.  She’s the size of a large cat and last I saw her, she had 13 in one sitting. Thankfully, I avoid diaper duty.

So, in honor of my little niece, Gia, give T’s recipe for homemade ravioli a try.  You’ll have to make your own pasta dough, but I think that’s kind of fun to do on a chilly Sunday afternoon.

NOTE: this dough recipe is for most traditional pasta shapes, but you will need to double the amounts listed here to make ravioli.

BASIC PASTA DOUGH (Makes about 1 1/2 pounds pasta)
4C all-purpose flour
2t salt
3 large eggs
1/4C lukewarm water– approximate
1T olive oil

Place flour in a large bowl (or on a large flat surface) and make a well in the center.  Put all remaining ingredients into the well and start blending the flour into the egg mixture until all the flour is incorporated.  Gather dough together and place on lightly-floured large bread board.  Knead until smooth, about 10 minutes.  Cover the dough with the bowl and let rest for 10 minutes.

MEAT FILLING
4T finely chopped onion
3T butter
3/4lb finely ground veal (or a mixture of beef and pork, for the non-veal eaters)
1 10-oz. package frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
1/2C grated Parmesan cheese
Pinch nutmeg
3 eggs, slightly beaten
Salt

Saute onion in butter until it is soft and translucent.  Add meat and cook, stirring until meat is no longer pink and liquid has evaporated from pan.  Transfer to mizing bowl and stir in spinach, cheese, nutmeg and eggs.  Season with salt to taste.

CHEESE FILLING
1C ricotta, well-drained
1/2C frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
1/2C grated Parmesan cheese
2T grated onion
3 egg yolks
1T salt

Put all ingredients into a bowl and mix well.

TO ASSEMBLE RAVIOLI
Divide the dough ball into six equal parts (makes 50-60 ravioli, depending on their size). Roll out each of your six dough segments into paper-thin rectangles of equal size; cover the dough you’re not using with a damp cloth to prevent drying.  Lay out the first rectangle and place little mounds (about a teaspoon) of filling two inches apart in rows across the dough.  With a pastry brush dipped in water, draw straight lines between the mounds (this will act as a bond to seal ravioli).  Press a second dough rectangle over the top and down between the mounds to seal.  Use ravioli cutter (or pizza cutter, if that’s all you have) on pressed lines to separate ravioli.  Repeat with remaining dough and filling.

Cook in salted boiling water for about eight minutes.

Phew!  You worked hard on these, so if you want to top with your favorite jarred sauce, I won’t tell anyone (recipe for Basic Tomato Sauce coming soon…).  Sprinkle with grated Parmesan and don’t be surprised if your friends and family react like Gia does.

Who Likes Ravioli? from Katherine Roberts on Vimeo.
Mangia!