Tag Archives: spaghetti

My goodbye to summer: tomato, olive and eggplant spaghetti

Tomato, olive and eggplant spaghettiIt is time for me to let it go. Summer is my favorite season. It is when I feel my best. Every day I pick a pretty dress (preferably with a floral pattern) and a pair of ballet flats (I have way too many of them!) even if I just have to go grocery shopping. Oh by the way, is there someone out there that can explain to me once and for all why men (including my beloved husband) think that only women wearing high heels are sexy and feminine? How can’t they possibly understand that flats are very difficult to wear because they do not elongate the leg but it’s the leg itself that must be proportionate? Does the name Audrey Hepburn ring any bell? Wasn’t she feminine and chic with all her flats? I believe she was one of the most glamorous women on earth!

But I’m digressing. Back to summer. I drink lots of water and I eat tons of fruit and vegetables. I can easily follow a very healthy diet and lose a few pounds. This year I managed to lose about 14 pounds which – of course – I’m going to regain in the next few weeks because that’s just how my body reacts to the cold weather. I feel like mama bear preparing for going into hibernation, and I need a layer of fat to keep myself warm! ūüėČ

Unfortunately, mother nature has her own agenda. Everything is turning brown and orange and temperatures are lowering. Don’t get me wrong: fall is a wonderful and colorful season, but I’d rather enjoy it from the warmth of my house. ūüôā

So, I have decided to kiss my summer goodbye by sharing a recipe where tomatoes are the main character. I’m talking about those incredibly red tomatoes, so juicy and flavorful and whose scent is able to capture your nostrils from a distance. In Italy we called them “sauce tomatoes” and all by themselves they manage to turn the simplest tomato sauce into a winner! Of course, I couldn’t find sauce tomatoes in October, but the tomatoes that I used were really decent and so I said to myself: What the heck! Let’s draw the curtains over summer in style!. ūüôā

Tomato, olive and eggplant spaghetti

Ingredients:

1,5lb, fresh tomatoes
2 garlic clovers
5 Tbsp and 1/2 cup, extravirgin olive oil
10 leaves, basil
1/2 cup, black pitted olives, cut in half
6/7 oz, spaghetti
1 eggplant
salt

Directions:

Wash the tomatoes and cut them up into 1 inch pieces. Set aside.

Rinse the basil leaves and shred them. Set aside.

Tomato, olive and eggplant spaghettiUsing a citrus zester, cut some strips out of the eggplant skin. Add some salt (to taste) and set them aside.

In a large skillet, heat 3 Tbsp of olive oil. Add the tomatoes, the garlic, the basil, some salt (to taste) and cook on a medium heat for about 10 minutes.

Remove the garlic from the skillet and add the olives. Keep cooking on a low heat until the water from the tomatoes has completely evaporated. Remove the skillet from the stove and add 2 Tbsp of olive oil.

Put a pot of salted water over the stove to boil. While the water is warming up, in a small pot, heat 1/2 cup of olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the eggplant strips and cooked them until they brown. Remove the strips from the pot and place them on some paper towel.

When the water is boiling, add the spaghetti and cook until al dente, stirring occasionally. Drain the spaghetti, put them in the skillet with the tomato sauce and toss to coat.

Put the spaghetti into the serving plates and add some eggplant strips on top of each plate.

I wish you all a great end of the workweek and a wonderful weekend!

Francesca Xx

Spaghetti alla Carbonara ‚Äď Recommended Wine Pairing

Les Cr√™tes, VdA Chardonnay Cuv√©e Bois DOCThis wine pairing post for Francesca’s mouth-watering Spaghetti alla Carbonara has been long overdue – apologies if it took me so long, but my Italian spumante series in view of the end-of-year festivities kind of got in the way ūüôā

Without further ado, let’s now get to it: picking up where we left off in response to a prophetic question from Chiara (the gracious and posh image consultant who authors the¬†“effortless style” blog Kiarastyle) in the comment section of Francesca’s recipe post, my suggestions are to either pair it with a structured Chardonnay with some oak-aging, good acidity and minerality¬†or go for a red wine with good acidity,¬†gentle tannins and ideally some minerality, such as a Pinot Noir from the North-Eastern region of Alto Adige.

St. Michael-Eppan, A.A. Chardonnay Sanct Valentin DOCThere is not much to say that is not already widely known about the two grape varieties that I picked, since they are both international varieties (as opposed to grapes indigenous to Italy). However, something worth mentioning is that¬†in regards¬†to Chardonnay you will notice that my recommendations span pretty much across the entire Italian territory, literally from Valle d’Aosta to Sicily, while¬†my Pinot Noir choices focus on one specific region, Alto Adige.¬†This is because, while Chardonnay has been very successfully grown in different terroirs in North, Central and even Southern Italy, the same is not true for Pinot Noir, whose best results are attained in the region of Alto Adige first and foremost, and then in Lombardia and Valle d’Aosta. This is hardly a surprise considering how finicky a grape variety Pinot Noir is compared to the great versatility and adaptability of Chardonnay grapes.

Elena Walch, A.A. Beyond the Clouds DOCWith that said, let’s get down to the recommendations, starting from our mini-tour of Italy showcasing some of my all-time favorite Italian Chardonnays:

  • Les Cr√™tes, Valle d’Aosta Chardonnay Cuv√©e Bois DOC from Valle d’Aosta (100% Chardonnay; in my view a phenomenal wine with a wonderful bouquet of wildflowers, jasmine, pineapple and¬†butter – hats off to the producer who invested the energy and resources necessary to achieve a density of 7,500 vines/HA in the vineyard used to create this magnificent wine)
    *
  • St Michael-Eppan, Alto Adige Chardonnay Sanct Valentin DOC from Alto Adige (100% Chardonnay; with scents of Mirabelle plum, butter, vanilla and almond)
    *
    Castello della Sala, Bramito del Cervo Umbria IGT
  • Elena Walch, Alto Adige Beyond the Clouds¬†DOC from Alto Adige (“predominantly” Chardonnay blended with other white grape varieties based on a proprietary recipe; with scents of peach, pineapple, almond, butter and vanilla)
    *
  • Jermann, W? Dreams¬†Venezia Giulia¬†IGT from Friuli Venezia Giulia (97% Chardonnay, 3% other grape varieties kept it a secret by the winery; with aromas of Mirabelle plum, citrus, vanilla and a smoky hint – a special note of merit to the producer who achieved a density of almost 8,000 vines/HA in the vineyards used to create this excellent wine)
    *
  • Tenute Folonari, La Pietra Tenute del Cabreo Toscana IGT from Toscana (100% Chardonnay; with scents of peach, butter, honey, hazelnut and flint)
    *
    Planeta, Chardonnay Sicilia IGT
  • Castello della Sala, Bramito del Cervo Umbria IGT from Umbria (100% Chardonnay; with fine aromas of wildflowers, pineapple, Mirabelle plum, butter, vanilla¬†and hazelnut)
    *
  • Planeta, Chardonnay Sicilia IGT from Sicily (100% Chardonnay; with complex and elegant scents of wisteria, peach, apple, honey, butter, vanilla, hazelnut¬†and chalk)

Finally, these are some of my favorite Italian Pinot Noirs for their quality to price ratio (note that all of the wines below are 100% Pinot Noir):

  • Elena Walch, Alto Adige Pinot Nero Ludwig¬†DOC (with scents of rose, wild strawberry and plum)
    *
    Elena Walch, A.A. Pinot Noir Ludwig DOC
  • St Michael-Eppan, Alto Adige Pinot Nero¬†Riserva DOC (with aromas of wild strawberry,¬†raspberry and soil)
    *
  • Manincor, Alto Adige Pinot Nero Mason DOC (with scents of wild strawberry, raspberry and cranberry)
    *
  • Hofst√§tter, Alto Adige Pinot Nero Mazon Riserva DOC (with aromas of wild strawberry, cherry¬†and cranberry)
    *
  • Muri-Gries, Alto Adige Blauburgunder Abtei Muri Riserva DOC (with scents of wild strawberry, cranberry and¬†plum)

That’s all for now – enjoy some good wine and as always let me know if you get to try any of these wines!

Muri Gries, A.A. Blauburgunder Abtei Muri Riserva DOC

Spaghetti all'Amatriciana

I’m Rome born and raised so pasta all’amatriciana is in my DNA. There is no Roman cook that doesn’t make it. There is no Roman trattoria that doesn’t offer it in its menu. There is even a famous restaurant called Il Matriciano… quite expensive though. If you happen to be in Rome, you may want to pay it a visit.

The recipe that I am about to share with you presents a few deviations from the original recipe and this is because some of the ingredients are almost impossible to find in the United States (unless you live in big cities where you can find truly Italian food stores). Therefore, most likely you will have to go for a substitute ingredient which is as close as possible to the original one.

Nonetheless, I think it is important that I give you a little information about the original recipe. The reasons for that are twofold: the first is that when you talk to Italian people about this pasta, you can show them that you really know what you are talking about (without getting that judgmental look!) and the second is that if you are lucky enough to find all of the original ingredients, you know how to handle them.

The recipe originates from Amatrice, a town located in the Lazio region, the same where Rome is. Originally, it did not include the tomatoes, which where added at the end of the 18th century. Some people mistakenly think that the Amatriciana belongs to the Roman cuisine tradition; however, it was the shepherds from Amatrice who brought the recipe to the Capital during their seasonal wanderings across the Roman countryside.

The key ingredient of this recipe is “guanciale”, a cured meat deriving from the pork’s jowl or cheek. Unfortunately, since it is impossible to find it in the place where I live, I have no choice but to go for a substitute which, in this case, would be pancetta (a cured meat deriving from the pork’s belly), hoping that Italians understand my predicament! ūüėČ

The other key ingredient is grated pecorino cheese from Amatrice, which must not be confused with Roman pecorino cheese as the flavor of the former is much more delicate than the latter’s. Finding Amatrice pecorino in the United States would be tantamount to an odyssey and, therefore, the suggested substitute is Parmigiano cheese instead of Roman pecorino whose strong flavor would alter the taste of the sauce.

In terms of cooking fat, the original recipe required the use of “strutto” (i.e., pork lard). However, nowadays its use has drastically diminished and contemporary cooks use much healthier olive oil instead. And since we are at it, the way real Amatriciana is done calls for you to use an iron pan (as opposed to a non-stick one) so that the guanciale or pancetta gets really nice and crisp.

As for which kind of pasta to use, De Cecco Spaghetti no. 12 is the way to go. If you happen to visit Rome, you’ll notice that all the trattoria signs “scream” at you loud and clear: “bucatini all’amatriciana” … just so you know, the use of this type of pasta is a Roman deviation from the original recipe. The only other kind of pasta that some cooks, and I underline some, allow as substitute to spaghetti is rigatoni: that’s because they are a ribbed pasta and, therefore, the sauce adheres to them well.

Last but certainly not least the seasoning. The secret seasoning ingredient of this recipe is… absolutely NOTHING. Not only does the recipe not contemplate the use of any onion, but it even bans the use of garlic. You may want to think of the Amatriciana pretty much as a vampire: you want to kill it? Add garlic. Yeah, yeah I hear you, garlic fan club. I know, I know, you love garlic so much you would put it on your buttered toast in the morning and eat it for breakfast. Plus, we are talking cooking here and what is cooking other than being creative and experiment with ingredients and flavors? Well, let me express my opinion. When it comes to spaghetti all’amatriciana, there is nothing to experiment about: centuries ago, the shepherds did a hell of a job for the sake of the palate of the human species. The shepherds’ recipe was a masterpiece centuries ago, it still is today and it will be for centuries to come! Trust me on this one and just give it a try, will you?¬† ūüėČ

Ingredients:

7 lb fresh tomatoes
10 slices of pancetta, ¬ľ inch thick
¬ľ cup extravirgin olive oil
1 fresh chili pepper
¬Ĺ cup of dry white wine
1 lb De Cecco Spaghetti no. 12
5 Tbsp grated Parmigiano cheese
Salt

Directions:

Wash the tomatoes and make a cut in the shape of an x on the bottom of each of them with a  knife. Bring a large pot of water to boil and put the tomatoes in the water for 30 seconds (be watchful, because you do not want to cook them). Strain the tomatoes and rinse them with very cold water. Pull the skin of the tomatoes away and cut them in half. Remove all the seeds and cut up the tomatoes into 1 inch pieces. Set aside.

Cut up the pancetta into bits (between ¬Ĺ and ¬ĺ of 1 inch).

In a large iron skillet, heat the oil and add the pancetta and the pepper. After a few minutes, add the wine and cook, stirring occasionally, until the wine evaporates and the pancetta gets golden and crispy.

Add the tomatoes, season with salt (to taste) and cook for about 20 minutes or until the sauce thickens. Remove the pepper from the skillet.

In the meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil, add the spaghetti and cook until al dente, stirring occasionally. Drain the spaghetti and put them in the skillet with the sauce. Add 3 Tbsp of Parmigiano cheese and toss to coat.

Put the spaghetti into the serving plates and dust the top of each plate with the rest of the Parmigiano cheese.

If you make it, I would love to hear from you how you like it since this is a recipe I am very fond of!