Category Archives: Italian

Mozzarella, Tomato and Basil Ricotta Gnocchi

Gnocchi is truly a comfort food. The best thing is that it feels really special but is really fast and easy to make. You can flavor it a million different ways, but when I crave it, the classic mozzarella, tomato and basil takes the cake.

Mozzarella, Tomato and Basil Ricotta Gnocchi
2 large eggs
15 oz ricotta, just under 2 cups
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cup flour
8 oz can of tomato sauce
½ lb mini mozzarella balls, quartered
1 bunch basil leaves, chiffonade
4 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated
salt and pepper

Heat a large pot of lightly salted water, to boil on high heat.

In a metal bowl, beat the eggs. Add in the ricotta, cheese and spices. Mix thoroughly with a fork, make sure to break up all of the cheese clumps. Add in the flour and stir to combine. Generously flour your work surface then finish mixing the dough with your hands, it will be pretty wet. Cut the dough in half and roll it in the flour, to coat the outside. Then roll it out into a long snake, till it is about 1 inch in diameter. Using a small paring knife, cut into 1 inch pieces.

Once the water comes to a boil, drop the first batch of gnocchi into the boiling water, making sure not to over crowd the pan. Let it boil for about 5 minutes till done. It will all rise to the top and the water will start to boil higher. While the first batch is cooking, roll out the other batch and cut it. Remove one piece of gnocchi and run it under cold water and taste it to make sure it is cooked through. Using a slotted spoon, drain the first batch to a colander, rinse quickly in cold water to keep it from sticking. Add more water to the pot and return it to a boil. Once boiling, add in the second batch of gnocchi and cook it till done. Drain the cooked gnocchi.

Heat the can of sauce on medium high heat. Taste it and add salt and pepper if needed. Add the mozzarella, basil, grated cheese and gnocchi into the sauce. Toss everything together and serve immediately.

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Squidy Goodness

Squid is one of my favorite foods. However, I try to order it for takeout in my hood and it is always sub par. I ordered this once from the Italian takeout joint around the corner and it was so lack luster that I had to make it better myself.

Sautéed Calamari

5 slices of thick cut bacon, chopped
½ onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
4 tomatoes, chopped
½ tablespoon Italian seasoning
salt and pepper
1 pound squid, cut into rings
10 black olives, chopped
½ lemon

Heat the bacon in a large skillet on medium high eat. Sautee until its crispy and golden brown. Drain off most of the fat and add the onions and garlic. Keep stirring and cooking until the onions are translucent and soft. Add the tomatoes, seasoning and salt and pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes until the tomatoes turn into a sauce. Add the squid and olives and keep cooking, for about 5 minutes, until the squid looks done. Squeeze the lemon over the squid and serve.

Honing My Skills

There are certain things in the kitchen that scare me to death. Homemade gnocchi tops the list. I can never seem to get it right even when I use pre-made gnocchi. However I was poking around and saw a few posts on the ease of ricotta gnocchi. This came out perfect. Its so simple and clean and most of all satisfying.

Sage and Brown Butter Ricotta Gnocchi

2 large eggs
15 oz ricotta, just under 2 cups
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cup flour
½ stick unsalted butter
20 fresh sage leaves
Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated for garnish

Heat a large pot of lightly salted water, to boil on high heat.

In a metal bowl, beat the eggs. Add in the ricotta, cheese and spices. Mix thoroughly with a fork, make sure to break up all of the cheese clumps. Add in the flour and stir to combine. Generously flour your work surface then finish mixing the dough with your hands, it will be pretty wet. Cut the dough in half and roll it in the flour, to coat the outside. Then roll it out into a long snake, till it is about 1 inch in diameter. Using a small paring knife, cut into 1 inch pieces.

Once the water comes to a boil, drop the first batch of gnocchi into the boiling water, making sure not to over crowd the pan. Let it boil for about 5 minutes till done. It will all rise to the top and the water will start to boil higher. While the first batch is cooking, roll out the other batch and cut it. Remove one piece of gnocchi and run it under cold water and taste it to make sure it is cooked through. Using a slotted spoon, drain the first batch to a colander, rinse quickly in cold water to keep it from sticking. Add more water to the pot and return it to a boil. Once boiling, add in the second batch of gnocchi and cook it till done. Drain the cooked gnocchi.

In a large skillet, start to melt the butter. Once the butter is completely melted, add in the sage leaves and stir. Once the leaves look like they are getting crisp and the butter is starting to turn a light brown, add the cooked gnocchi to the pan. Quickly toss to coat in the butter then let it sit for 1 minute to brown. Gently toss the gnocchi again and leave to brown for another minute.

Serve the gnocchi in a bowl, including some of the sage leaves and sprinkle with the freshly grated cheese.

Mustache King

My best friend David is in a weird kayaking contest where he has to grow a silly mustache. It is so sleazy. But despite how he looks right now, he is still quite sophisticated. Several years back he devised a killer pasta dish with shrimp and Portobello mushrooms. Here is my simplified version that still packs all of the flavor.

Shrimp and Portobello Linguine

1 lb linguine
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 cloves garlic
2 lbs pealed shrimp
6 Portobello mushroom caps
1 cup grated Parmesan
salt and pepper

Set a large pot of salted water to boil.

In another large non-stick pot, heat the olive oil on medium high. Smash and chop the garlic. Add it to the hot oil and turn the heat off. While the garlic is getting soft and just a little golden brown, prepare the shrimp by washing them, removing the tales and de-veining if needed. Turn the heat back on and add the shrimp and salt and pepper. Stir to coat with the oil. Using a spoon, remove the gills from the mushrooms and coarsely chop the mushroom. The shrimp will turn pink and when it is close to getting done, add the mushrooms. You may need to add more olive oil if the pot is very dry. Once the water started to boil, add the pasta and stir. If it is whole-wheat pasta, it will take about 10 minutes to cook so you should add the pasta half way through cooking the shrimp. Once the pasta is cook and the mushrooms and dark and soft, add the drained pasta to the large pot with the sauce. Sprinkle the pasta with the cheese, toss and serve.

Now That’s a Spicy-a-Scallop!

Alex took us on a small excursion to Queens for some classic Italian. Though I had to order the veal as it called to me, the seared scallops looked amazing. So when I saw that scallops where on sale at Whole Foods, I knew exactly how to cook them. This is a great light meal for a warm summer night.

Italian Pan-Seared Scallops

1 tablespoon olive oil
4 large cloves of garlic
1 lb fresh, large scallops
few pinches of salt
1 teaspoon dried parsley
¼ teaspoon red chili flakes
2 cups baby spinach leaves
balsamic vinaigrette

Heat the olive oil in a large non-stick pan on medium high. Coarsely chop the garlic. Sprinkle the scallops with the salt. Add the garlic to the pan and before it gets brown, place the scallops in the pan, flat side down. Don’t over crowd the pan or the scallops won’t sear properly. Sprinkle the scallops with the parsley and chili flakes. Once the first side is brown, flip the scallops over and sear the other side. Toss the spinach lightly with the balsamic vinaigrette and divide it between two plates. Once the scallops are fully cooked, divide them between the two plates and place on top of the spinach. If needed reduce the pan liquids a little bit, and pour the pan drippings over the scallops and spinach.

Valentine’s in New York

Today is Valentine’s Day. It is freezing out. The streets are lined with roses spilling out of the Korean bodegas and everyone seems to be in a couple but me. Therefore I’m going into hibernation mode. Glorious warm hibernation. This dish was inspired by the need to clean out my fridge and cabinets but I think the results turned out so much better than I expected. Serve it with a crisp green salad to convince yourself that you are eating healthy. Also pop a good bottle of wine or bubbly and forget that it is a marketing holiday.

To make regular mac and cheese, omit the Bolognese and seasonings, and substitute elbow pasta for the shells and cheddar for the mozzarella.

Italian Mac and Cheese

1 lb package of whole wheat Conchigliette (shell) pasta
1 stick butter, reserve 1 tablespoon for the topping
1 cup flour
1 quart milk
1 tablespoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon parsley
3 cups Bolognese sauce
8oz grated mozzarella cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons French friend onions

Boil the pasta according to package directions. Sit it aside in a colander to drain. Preheat the oven to 350 degrease.

In the same large pot that you cooked the pasta, melt the stick of butter. Once the butter is melted, add in the flour, whisking to combine. Slowing whisk in the milk so that no lump forms. Add all of the seasonings and continue whisking as the mixture thickens. Add in the Bolognese sauce and whisk to combine. Add in the cheese and continue whisking so that nothing sticks to the bottom. Taste the sauce to check for seasoning. Once the cheese has started to melt, fold in the pasta and transfer everything to a large glass ovenproof dish. Melt the reserved butter and mix with the breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese and friend onions. Sprinkle over the top of the casserole, trying to seal to the edge.

Bake the casserole for about an hour till the mixture is hot and bubbly and the topping is nice and golden brown and crispy.

Subzero Hibernation

It’s cold, really cold, in New York. I’m held up in my infinitesimally small studio apartment avoiding the elements. The only thing I want to eat is something starchy, creamy and rich. This doesn’t require a lot of effort and always hits the spot.

Butternut Squash Risotto

1 butternut squash, pealed, cleaned and cubed into bit size pieces
olive oil
salt
pepper
garlic powder
1 medium sweet onion, finely chopped
4 tablespoons butter, divided
1 ½ cups short grain rice
1/2 cup white wine
1 quart chicken stock
parmesan cheese
fresh thyme, sage or parsley

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

On a large baking pan, toss the squash pieces in olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic powder. Roast in the oven for 1 hour, turning 40 minutes into the cooking time

In a large pan, on medium high heat, sauté the onions in 2 tablespoons butter and some olive oil till clear. Add the rice, stirring and cooking till the edges also turn clear. Season the rice lightly with salt.

Add the wine. Stir until it is absorbed into the rice. Slowly add the stock, one ladle at a time, stirring the rice till it is absorbed. Do this until the rice is almost done, maybe 30 minutes? You want to rice to be done but not mushy. It should have the typical creamy risotto texture.

Fold the roasted squash, Parmesan cheese, remaining butter and fresh herbs into the rice. Check for seasoning and serve immediately.