Follow/Be a Fan

Follow

Honeymoon Ravioli

Nutella Bread for Dessert or for Breakfast!

 

Learn to Make Fresh Pasta (with a video!)

Easy Italian Pulled Pork

I love to sew - come on over and see what I'm making!

Make Homemade Limoncello

 

These Aren't Pasta Noodles - They're Zucchini Noodles!

Tips for Homemade Marinara Sauce

Breakfast Fruit Walkaway is a family favorite

A Delicious Vegetarian Dish: Pasta alla Norma

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Love knitting? Come read my knitting blog, Italian Dish Knits.

Eating Our Way Through the Amalfi Coast

My Camera Bag that does not look like a Camera Bag!

Make Whipped Cream That Lasts

My Favorite Chocolate Cake Recipe

SUBSCRIBE for free and never miss a post:

 

 

or Use Key Words to Search this Site

Lemon Cake from Capri

Cacio e Pepe

Spring Asparagus Appetizers

Thoughts About Making Espresso

 Thanks, Mom!

 

Cranberry Cake

 

Green Bean, Potato, Pasta Salad with Pesto

Learn How to Make Artisan Bread with no Kneading for Pennies

 

Strawberry Cheesecake Parfaits Require No Baking

Make Pie Dough in 60 Seconds!

Make Your Own Vanilla Extract

 

Spicy Bucatini all'Amatriciana - a Roman Classic

My Mom's Pork Chops

Chocolate Panna Cotta

 


My Five Inexpensive Kitchen Essentials

Beet Ravioli with Goat Cheese

Thursday
Feb282008

Pizza: the Homemade Kind


Having a real wood burning pizza oven in your home is fantastic. The oven can reach temperatures that a regular oven just can't. And that's one of the secrets to having great homemade pizza. Oh - okay, well, that's not me in the picture and no, that's not my pizza oven. But wouldn't it be great to have one? For all of us who don't, and that's just about everyone I know, you can still do great homemade pizza. At the McCardel household, every Tuesday night is pizza night. We've made an awful lot of pizzas and learned a thing or two.

There's not much to making pizza dough. If you've got a couple of hours to let it rise and some flour, yeast, olive oil and salt, that's really all you need for the dough. I do use a combination of regular unbleached all purpose flour and Italian 00 flour. It makes a superior crust. Italian 00 flour is a very finely milled flour that is still high in gluten (don't substitute cake flour or White Lilly soft flour! It's not the same thing.)  But you can certainly use just regular all purpose flour.

Now, I know you probably want a recipe for dough. And I'm not going to give you one!

Don't be scared. This is the way I make all of my doughs - pasta dough, focaccia dough and pizza dough. I measure the wet ingredients and then the flour added is as much as the wet ingredients will take. This is because when working with doughs, there are a lot of variables.  Even how humid the room is can affect the dough.   In the case of pizza dough, I allow about 1/3 cup of water for each person. We roll our pizzas very thin, so if you want a thicker crust, you might want to allow 1/2 cup water per person.

For pizza for three people, I put a cup of warm water in the bowl of my mixer and attach the dough hook. I then pour what looks like about a couple of teaspoons of Rapid Rise yeast in the water. I add a couple of good glugs of olive oil (aren't my measurements easy to follow!) and turn the mixer on. I start adding flour, usually 2 parts flour to one part 00 flour. I probably add about 1/2 cup at a time or so. After I've added a little flour, but my dough is still wet, is the time I throw in about a teaspoon of kosher salt (Martha Stewart said once that salt directly contacting yeast can kill it, so now I'm afraid for them to "touch" right away!) Keep mixing on low and adding flour until the dough comes together in a nice ball and is the right texture - not too dry, not too sticky. This just comes with practice.

Now I'm going to give you a very important piece of advice right here - add the flour towards the end just a little at a time. If you let the dough get too dry, you cannot add more water at this point. The dough is ruined. Yes, ruined. You have to start over. So when I know the dough is almost right but is still too sticky, I just add a scant spoonful at a time and keep mixing. You can always add flour to a too sticky dough, but not the other way around. After you've made it a while and have the hang of it, you really get a feel for the dough and you will know.

Take the dough out - I knead it by hand just a little bit because I like the feel of it - and then put it in an oiled bowl and cover it with a towel and stick it in a nice warm place. And it must be warm, or your dough won't rise well at all. In the summer, I stick it out in the sun. In February in Michigan, I stick it in my oven (my oven has a nifty "Proof" setting just for rising doughs). I let the dough rise for about an hour, but there's no exact set time. You can let it rise longer. Then I punch it down, break it into three pieces and roll those pieces into balls and set them on a floured jelly roll pan. I cover those with a towel and let those rise for another hour. They come out looking like this:

In the meantime, I have cranked up my oven to 450 degrees and put a pizza stone on the lower rack. You have to give this time to preheat - I usually give it a good half hour. And yes, you have to have a pizza stone. If you don't have one, go out and get one right away. They sell them everywhere - Williams Sonoma, Target, etc. They make a hugh difference in the crust. And do not wash your pizza stone! Not ever! The stone is absorbent. All you want to do after it is cooled is scrape it off. That's it. If you don't believe me, this is what our looks like:

This is what your pizza will cook on if you come over to our house.

Sprinkle some cornmeal on the pizza peel. Roll out one piece of dough on the counter, using flour so it doesn't stick. Transfer to the pizza peel. Put tomato sauce on the pizza, the cheese, and then your toppings. Slide the pizza off the peel onto the pizza stone in the oven with a jerk. It should just slide off, because of the corn meal. Bake for about 8 minutes. Your oven may vary, so just check on it.

I like to top my pizza with arugula, so I add that after it's out of the oven.

Questions? Feel free to e-mail me.

Tip: You can make the dough and stick it in your fridge the night before you need it. Then, when you want it, just bring it to room temperature and let it do its first rise from there.

UPDATE: For a more complete discussion on what kinds of flour to use when making pizza, click here.

00 flour: Caputo Tipo 00 flour

Equipment Needed:
Pizza Stone: Williams Sonoma baking stone
Pizza Peel:
Williams Sonoma pizza peel

Monday
Feb252008

Pasta With Shrimp and Sicilian Pesto


I've been reading
Faith Willinger's newest book, "Adventures of an Italian Food Lover."  It's quite a fun read.  She takes you all over Italy and profiles lots of her friends and includes "254 recipes from my very best friends."  And she's not kidding.  She knows everyone.  For those of you not familiar with Faith Willinger, she is quite famous in the Italian foodie world.  She is an American who has been living in Florence for 25 years.  She's written a number of cookbooks and she travels and speaks and gives cooking lessons out of her home in Florence.  She does "market to table" lessons where she takes the class to the produce stands and selects what's fresh that day and everyone goes back to her home to cook.  I just had to try this pasta from Osteria Antica Marina in Sicily.  It's a light, delicate dish.

Pasta with Shrimp and Sicilian Pesto
serves 6
Ingredients:

  • 1 pound large shrimp, with shells
  • 4-6 cherry tomatoes
  • salt
  • 2 Tbls. chopped almonds
  • 2 Tbls. pine nuts
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh mint
  • 2 Tbls. chopped fresh basil
  • 1 garlic clove 
  • 14-16 ounces short pasta.
Instructions:
Peel and clean the shrimp.  Combine the shrimp shells, tomatoes, and 2 cups water in a large saucepan.  

Simmer for 30 minutes, then strain the mixture and reduce the broth over high heat to obtain 3/4 cup stock. Adjust for salt.

 

Combine the almonds, pine nuts, mint, basil, garlic, and 1/4 cup of the stock in a blender or puree with an immersion blender.

Bring a pot with 6 quarts of water to a boil. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of salt and the pasta. Cook the pasta until if offers considerable resistance to the tooth, around three-quarters of the package recommended cooking time. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water.

Transfer the pasta to a large skillet or a 3 or 4 quart pot. Add the pesto, 1/2 cup stock and the shrimp. Cook over high heat, stirring gently and frequently, until the past is cooked through and the shrimp are hot. Add the pasta water, 1/4 cup at a time, if the sauce seems dry.  Add salt to your taste.

Tip:  Yes, they are serious when they tell you to add 2 to 3 tablespoons of salt to the pasta water.  In Italy, they believe the pasta should be cooked in very salty water, to flavor the pasta, and it should have the "taste of the sea".  


 Tip:  When simmering the shrimp shells to make the stock, simmer very gently and if you are losing too much liquid, put a lid on the pot.

Pasta used: Rummo Lenta Lavorazione Tubetti Mezzani Rigati

 

 

Sunday
Feb242008

Bolognese Sauce

Ask ten Italian cooks for their Bolognese recipes, and you will get ten different recipes. Similar, but different. Some add milk, some don't. Some use a combination of meats, some use only beef. It goes on and on. I've made a lot of meat sauces, but this is my favorite. I have to say, though, I really don't measure anything, so it's a little different every time. But that's the fun of it. The basic technique is the same, though. You begin with a soffritto (aromatic vegetables), cook that until it's soft, add your meat, then add some wine, let that cook off, add your tomato and broth and seasonings. Let all that cook low and slow for a very, very long time. This is the basic recipe.

Bolognese Sauce

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • olive oil
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 1/2 cup diced carrot
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 3 cups beef broth
  • 1 (15 oz) can of tomato puree or crushed tomatoes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • fresh thyme
  • 1 pound pasta

Instructions:

In a heavy pot, brown the meats. Remove the meat, drain the fat.  Do not wipe the pot.

In the same pot, add some olive oil and add the onion, carrot, celery. Let that cook slowly, for about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for a couple of minutes. Add your meat back in. Turn up the heat a little. Add the red wine and let the liquid cook off. Add the beef broth and then the tomatoes and herbs. Turn the heat to low and let this simmer, uncovered for at least a couple of hours. The longer the better. If it gets too dry, just add a half cup of water and keep cooking, letting the liquid cook off. Taste and salt and pepper as you like it.
Serve over pasta.

Yes, I grind my own meat. I know exactly what's in it that way. The KitchenAid grinder attachment works great. I couldn't do a lot of things without that KitchenAid mixer.  It's a wonder.  This is the one I have and I love it.

 

 

 


 

 

Favorite Pot used: Le Creuset Bouillabaisse Pot
KitchenAid Mixer: Professional 600 Series Bowl Lift Stand Mixer