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Tuesday
Jul152014

Casarecce Pasta with Pesto, Eggplant and Slow Roasted Tomatoes (and a Barilla Pasta Giveaway!)

Did you know there are hundreds of different pasta shapes in Italy?  Each region seems to have a special shape or two which is popular in that area.  Thanks to the good folks at Barilla, you will be able to experience some of these shapes because they are introducing five new pasta shapes with Barilla® "Collezione" pasta. I'm so excited about this line of pastas. And Barilla is even offering a giveaway gift basket for you, which includes each pasta shape plus goodies from Williams Sonoma, to a lucky reader.

There are many pasta shapes that are associated with certain regions of Italy.  On the new Collezione pasta boxes, Barilla has shown you a map of Italy and where that particular pasta is popular.  I love that - it gives you a sense of where that pasta is from.  When we travel in Italy, I'm always amazed at the local preferences for certain shapes. Each region has their special way of making and serving pasta.  These are the five new shapes:

Spaghetti alla Chitarra:   A square shaped spaghetti. The word "chitarra" means guitar and the pasta has this name because of the tool used to make it by hand in the Abruzzo region of Italy - it looks like a guitar.  Barilla's version is a terrific pasta that is just the right width and thickness.  I made a couple of dishes with this new pasta and we all loved it. I'm going to keep this stocked in my pantry.

Gnocchetti: On the island of Sardinia, they make a little pasta shape called "malloreddus".  It actually looks like a tiny gnocchi.  Such a fun little pasta shape and it holds sauce well, too.  My mom and I used to make them by hand but it's a lot of work and time consuming. Now you can buy some from Barilla and enjoy them anytime.

Bucatini:  This is a long pasta shape that you will see on a lot of menus in Rome, which is in the Lazio region of Italy.  It is like a big, thick spaghetti that is hollow.  It is the traditional pasta shape to make Bucatini all' Amatriciana.   Every time I'm in Rome, I have this dish at least once!

Casarecce: This pasta has its origins in Sicily, where my mom was from. The shape is like a twisted little roll.  It's good with pestos and meat sauces.  Or anything.  

Orecchiette:  One of my all time favorite pastas.  These little discs hold chunky sauces perfectly.  They are like tiny little bowls and hold sauce so well.  This pasta has its origins in Puglia, a southern region of Italy.

 

It's fun to use and experiment with different pasta shapes. The recipe I am sharing with you today uses the Casarecce.  Because this pasta is from Sicily, I thought it fitting to use ingredients that are so popular in Sicilian cooking:  eggplant, tomatoes, capers and basil.

Don't make the common mistake of oversaucing pasta - the pasta is the star of the show!


Not only are these new pasta shapes fun, but Barilla is making them using bronze dies.  When pasta was made by hand in Italy in the old days (and some people still do it this way, of course), the pasta was rolled out onto a wooden pasta board.  The little tiny ridges in the wood made an impression in the pasta and gave it a coarse, rough texture that was perfect for holding sauces well.  When you see machine made pastas made by extruding the dough through bronze dies, they are trying to replicate this rough texture.  I was so glad to see Barilla using this method - bronze die pastas are truly exceptional.

**Barilla is offering a great giveaway to a lucky reader - a variety of Collezione samples, (two boxes of each new shape), a $25 gift card from Williams Sonoma and a Barilla apron or cooking utensiils from Williams Sonoma.  To enter to win, simply leave a comment on this post asking any question about regional Italian cooking or recipes and Barilla's executive chef, Lorenzo Boni, will e-mail you an answer!  A winner will be randomly chosen.**

Giveaway will run Tuesday, July 15th  to Friday, August 8th.  Open to U.S. Residents only, age 18 or over.

Barilla Collezione is available at grocery stores nationwide this July!

 

Casarecce Pasta with Pesto, Eggplant and Slow Roasted Tomatoes 

 

for a printer friendly recipe, click here

Don't make a common mistake and overdress pasta.  The star of the show here is the pasta and the sauce should complement it.  The pasta should be thoroughly but not heavily coated with sauce.  You'll enjoy it more that way.

serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, about 2 cups
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 small to medium eggplant, cut into ½ inch cubes, about 3 cups
  • 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1½ ounce chunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1 ounce raw unroasted almonds (just less than ¼ cup) 
  • 1 cup packed fresh basil leaves, plus more for garnish if desired
  • 8 ounces Barilla® Collezione Casarecce pasta 
  • 1 tablespoons capers packed in salt, rinsed

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350° F.  Line two rimmed baking pans with heavy duty foil. Lightly spray with cooking spray. Slice cherry tomatoes in half, lengthwise.  Place on one baking sheet, cut side up. Sprinkle with about ¼ teaspoon sea salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper.  On the other sheet, place the eggplant cubes and toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon sea salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper.  Toss thoroughly.  Place the pans in the oven and roast the eggplant for 30 minutes, until soft. Roast the tomatoes for 45 - 50 minutes, until the tomatoes have collapsed and some are crisping at the edges.  

While the vegetables are roasting, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta and make the pesto.  In a food processor, place the chunk of Parmigiano cheese and the almonds and grind until fine.  Add the basil and a pinch of sea salt and pepper and process just a little.  Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil, slowly, in the feed tube and process just until blended.  

Boil the Casarecce pasta for about 10 minutes, until just al dente. Remove the pasta with a strainer to a large bowl (do not get rid of the pasta water).  Add the pesto and toss thoroughly.  It will be thick, so add about ¼ cup of hot pasta water to the pasta and keep tossing, until the pesto loosens up and has thoroughly coated the pasta. Keep adding hot pasta water, just a tablespoon at a time, if you need to.  Add the roasted eggplant, tomatoes and capers and toss gently.  Taste and add more sea salt if desired. Garnish with fresh basil leaves if desired.

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This is a sponsored post on behalf of Barilla, however, my opinions are entirely my own and I have not been paid to publish positive sentiments towards Barilla or their products.


Tuesday
Jul012014

Five Inexpensive Kitchen Essentials

I have a lot of tools and gadgets in the kitchen that I use a lot and feel like I can't do without.  I couldn't give up my KitchenAid mixer or my MagiMix food processor. You need good quality pots and pans, of course.  A few good sharp knives are essential.   These are all fantastic items but are pricey.  What about the tools in the kitchen that make my life easier but are not expensive?  These are my top five that I would be lost without when I'm cooking!

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Tuesday
Jun172014

Ruth Reichl's Asparagus with Green Sauce


ceramic platter from Fifty One and a Half

 

Everyone needs a new recipe for asparagus just about now, right?  Asparagus season is great but after a while, you need something new to do with this vegetable.  This sauce is the answer.  It's a breeze to whip up and chances are your guests have never eaten this.  It's a delicious blend of fresh herbs, chopped eggs, capers, vinegar and olive oil. The French and the Italians both have their versions, but this version comes from the Queen of Food herself, Ruth Reichl.   

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