July 2020 Challenge - Italy

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Pasta Aglio e Olio is the most common way Italians in Italy eat their pasta. It was a staple in my house growing up and one of my favorite after school snacks. When I came home from school, I could smell the garlic before I stepped foot in the driveway and that's how I knew my mother was making this for me.

I haven't made this dish in years. The smell of the fresh parsley and garlic really brought me back. It was almost as if my mother was there in the kitchen with me and she's been gone now for nigh three decades.

Its truly wonderful how food, especially the delicious smells of the foods we love, can instantly transport us to times and places we shared with the people we love.

Is there a better job in the world?

What you will need:

1 lb pasta such as spaghetti, thin spaghetti or angel hair (larger pasta works better);
2 cups chopped, picked flat leaf parsley;
1.5 cups extra virgin olive oil;
1 bulb garlic, thinly sliced;
1/2 cup pepper flakes;
Kosher salt;
Fresh ground black pepper

Bring a pot of salted hot water to a boil. Since salt is not used in the oil, don't be bashful when salting the pasta water. While waiting for the pasta water to boil, heat the olive oil and garlic in large pan just to the point where the garlic begins to sizzle, Reduce heat and add the pepper flakes.

When the pasta water boils, add the pasta and cook until the pasta just reaches al dente. Using tongs, place 1 to 2 portions of pasta into the olive oil over low to medium heat. Continuously toss the pasta in the olive oil until it absorbs the oil and softens a bit more taking care not to let the pasta sizzle.

Once the pasta reaches the desired level of doneness, add the chopped parsley and toss until the parsley is evenly distributed. Salt and pepper to taste, if desired.

I garnished with prosciutto and pepperoncini.

Enjoy!

Aglio e Olio 1.jpg Aglio e Olio 2.jpg Aglio e Olio ingredients.jpg
 
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This pasta dish is a recipe I picked up while I was in Rome. Its called "Pasta alla Gricia." Like many Italian dishes, this one varies from region to region. However, traditionally, the sauce in the dish is made up of three ingredients: guanciale, Pecorino Romano and freshly ground black pepper. Its common, however, for Parmesan to substitute for the Romano as the Parmesan has milder flavors. The better quality cheese used, the better the end result.

Long pasta such as spaghetti, fettucine and even pappardelle are typically used. However, other pastas such rigatoni, farfalle, shells, orecchiette and penne' are also used.

Since guanciale is not widely available, ham or bacon can be substituted. For this recipe, however, I used a combination of guanciale, pancetta and prosciutto to garnish.

Note: since the guanciale or cured meat have plenty of salt, use a bit less salt in the pasta water.

What you will need:

2 cups guanciale, cut into cubes or strips (dealer's choice)
1 lb pasta
2 cups finely grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for garnish;
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Up to 4 cups of pasta water reserved

Bring lightly salted pasta water to a rolling boil. Add the pasta and cook until it just reaches al dente. Meanwhile, over gentle heat, fry the guanciale to render out as much fat as possible. When the guanciale turns golden and begins to create a fond, remove from the heat and spoon out all but two or three tablespoons of the fat and reserve.

Over low to medium heat, Deglaze the pan with 1 - 2 ladles of the pasta water. Add 1 - 2 servings of pasta to the deglazed pan and toss until the water is absorbed. Add the reserved guanciale fat along with another cup of pasta water and remove from the heat. Let stand for about 30 seconds to cool the pan slightly. Add half of the cheese and toss. If the water is absorbed, add another 1/2 cup of pasta water and continue to toss adding the pasta water in 1/2 cup increments. The water and the cheese will emulsify and form a creamy sauce. If the cheese melts and sticks to the wooden spoon, the heat in the pan is too high. Repeat the process of adding 1/2 cup at a time of pasta water and tossing until the pasta stops absorbing the water and a creamy sauce forms. The sauce will thicken as the pasta cools.

Serve in warm bowls and garnish with extra cheese and freshly ground black pepper.

I added prosciutto and pepperoncini even though they are not traditionally part of the dish.

Pasta alla Gricia 1.jpg Pasta alla Gricia 2.jpg
 
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Boy, that seemed like a lot of work. Not the Feast of Seven Fishes, but 3 seafood items are involved. Actually 4, given the anchovies.

The Players

You've already seen what went into the ricotta and the pasta dough.

20200729_095800.jpg

Shrimp, scallops and snow crab clusters.

20200729_100528.jpg

Anchovies, scallions, lemon, shallot, capers, some amazing pancetta and some excellent parm.

The Process

While the dough was resting I worked on the filling. Those crab legs sure make for an appetizing picture. But given the effort it takes to pick the meat, I think next time I'll buy a tub or prepared crab meat. Or maybe not, depends on the dish. I really want to do something with a whole, live, Dungeness some day, of of my all time favorites.

To start the filling, I dice up some of that pancetta and get it rendering in a small pan. Cut up a couple of scallions fairly finely. Once the pork has released a lot of the fat and started to brown, in go the scallions.

20200729_103512.jpg

That pan in the back, off the heat, is some melted butter, olive oil, finely sliced garlic and crushed red pepper, rehydrating a bit as it awaits the shrimp. Once the scallions have softened up, the heat is turned off, the pan left to cool a bit. Then the extracted crab meat, maybe half a cup,is added along with a similar amount of home made ricotta. A quick splash of lemon juice, a good stir and it sits, awaiting its turn to shine.

The pasta dough is next on the schedule.

20200729_113840.jpg

One can save time and effort by buying tubs of picked crab meat. And if one has a nice Kitchenaid stand mixer, one could buy a pasta rolling attachment for it that does not require 3 or 4 hands to keep it from flopping around and spitting out the cranking handle every few seconds. But I persevered.

20200729_114029.jpg

I saw this on some cooking show, where basil leaves were laid on the pasta, covered with another sheet of pasta and run through the machine a couple more times. Good in theory, real world results might not be that spectacular. Anyway, got the pasta done, laid it out.

20200729_114445.jpg

Spooned some filling onto it, brushed the edges with water, put on the top sheet and worked on pressing out any air pockets and forming the individual raviolo. Meanwhile had a pot of salted water on to boil, and a skillet with more of the diced pancetta rendering down with the diced shallots..

20200729_121816.jpg

No pictures of some of the next steps. Put the anchovies in the skillet with the panchetta and shallot, put that pan with the garlic and red pepper on the heat. Once bubbling got the shrimp 90% cooked, set them aside, poured the garlic pepper butter into the pan with the ravioli sauce. Got a little cast iron skillet hot for the scallops, got those seared off.

Put about half a cup of wine in the skillet with the sauce, reduced that down. Added a cup or so of chicken stock and the capers. Put the ravioli into the boiling water, cooked a few minutes,

20200729_123808.jpg

Not very impressive looking, are they?

Put the shrimp and ravioli into the skillet with the sauce for a few minutes, lemon juice drizzled.

The Product

20200729_124534.jpg

My pasta making skill needs improvement. The edges of the ravioli were a little thick and chewy. The crab and ricotta filling was quite tasty. The cook on the shrimp and scallops was not perfect, but close enough. I could have done something to thicken up the sauce a bit, though flavor was spot on.

It took more effort than I first expected to produce that plate, and sometime in the future I'll probably do it again.

mjb.
 
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Mrs. Hank's great grandfather immigrated from Lucca where her family has lived for 700 years when they were chased out of Florence by the Medici. Her cousin Daniele shared his recipe for Pasta alla Melanzane when we visited in 2015.

He used the small (approx. 5 or 6 inch long, 1 1/2 inch diameter) eggplant, unpeeled, and chopped into fine dice. First saute chopped garlic over medium heat until it begins to brown. Add the eggplant, increase the heat to medium high and cook, repeatedly adding small amounts of water as necessary to prevent burning, until the eggplant is very soft. About 10 to 15 minutes.

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Yes it's ugly, but fear not. Add cherry tomatoes cut only in half and herbes de provence and cook about 10 minutes more to soften the tomatoes.

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Meanwhile cook the pasta three minutes less than done and reserve some pasta water. Add the pasta and cook until done with some of the pasta water.

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Garnish with Parmesan and fresh basil. ( Daniele did not add the basil.) Proportion 1 each small eggplant, clove garlic, cup tomatoes, teaspoon herbes de provence, and half a pound of pasta per two people.

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Boy, that seemed like a lot of work. Not the Feast of Seven Fishes, but 3 seafood items are involved. Actually 4, given the anchovies.

The Players

You've already seen what went into the ricotta and the pasta dough.

View attachment 68339

Shrimp, scallops and snow crab clusters.

View attachment 68340

Anchovies, scallions, lemon, shallot, capers, some amazing pancetta and some excellent parm.

The Process

While the dough was resting I worked on the filling. Those crab legs sure make for an appetizing picture. But given the effort it takes to pick the meat, I think next time I'll buy a tub or prepared crab meat. Or maybe not, depends on the dish. I really want to do something with a whole, live, Dungeness some day, of of my all time favorites.

To start the filling, I dice up some of that pancetta and get it rendering in a small pan. Cut up a couple of scallions fairly finely. Once the pork has released a lot of the fat and started to brown, in go the scallions.

View attachment 68341

That pan in the back, off the heat, is some melted butter, olive oil, finely sliced garlic and crushed red pepper, rehydrating a bit as it awaits the shrimp. Once the scallions have softened up, the heat is turned off, the pan left to cool a bit. Then the extracted crab meat, maybe half a cup,is added along with a similar amount of home made ricotta. A quick splash of lemon juice, a good stir and it sits, awaiting its turn to shine.

The pasta dough is next on the schedule.

View attachment 68342

One can save time and effort by buying tubs of picked crab meat. And if one has a nice Kitchenaid stand mixer, one could buy a pasta rolling attachment for it that does not require 3 or 4 hands to keep it from flopping around and spitting out the cranking handle every few seconds. But I persevered.

View attachment 68343

I saw this on some cooking show, where basil leaves were laid on the pasta, covered with another sheet of pasta and run through the machine a couple more times. Good in theory, real world results might not be that spectacular. Anyway, got the pasta done, laid it out.

View attachment 68344

Spooned some filling onto it, brushed the edges with water, put on the top sheet and worked on pressing out any air pockets and forming the individual raviolo. Meanwhile had a pot of salted water on to boil, and a skillet with more of the diced pancetta rendering down with the diced shallots..

View attachment 68345

No pictures of some of the next steps. Put the anchovies in the skillet with the panchetta and shallot, put that pan with the garlic and red pepper on the heat. Once bubbling got the shrimp 90% cooked, set them aside, poured the garlic pepper butter into the pan with the ravioli sauce. Got a little cast iron skillet hot for the scallops, got those seared off.

Put about half a cup of wine in the skillet with the sauce, reduced that down. Added a cup or so of chicken stock and the capers. Put the ravioli into the boiling water, cooked a few minutes,

View attachment 68346

Not very impressive looking, are they?

Put the shrimp and ravioli into the skillet with the sauce for a few minutes, lemon juice drizzled.

The Product

View attachment 68347

My pasta making skill needs improvement. The edges of the ravioli were a little thick and chewy. The crab and ricotta filling was quite tasty. The cook on the shrimp and scallops was not perfect, but close enough. I could have done something to thicken up the sauce a bit, though flavor was spot on.

It took more effort than I first expected to produce that plate, and sometime in the future I'll probably do it again.

mjb.
You did good, its ambitious. Maybe roll the dough thinner.
I have the same roller, they sell a motor for it, cheap on amazon.
Even with the hand crank you can get the dough paper thin such that it will cook ravioli in 60 seconds.
 
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Joined Jan 4, 2011
OK ... Closing up the month of CHALLENGE with a desert ...

TIRAMISU


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That dish-towel is hiding my hack ... the special ingredient. ... Here's a hint ... NO eggs.

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The mascarpone, most of the whipped cream, the powdered sugar ... and a tub of carmel-cream yogurt all go into the stand-mixer and blitzed for a while; scraping the sides and cleaning the whisk a few times.

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The coffee mix starts with 50% Cold-Brew concentrate adding 25% each butterscotch schnapps and amaretto. The plastic squirt bottle costs less than $1 and is very well the effort.

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The trick here is to swipe a glob of cheese-mix down the center of the plate to hold the ladyfingers.

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Squirt the coffee-mix over the cookies. It's kinda fun. After doing it a few times you get into a rhythm Any mistakes just get eaten and are never heard from again. The cheese-mix gets piped over the cookies. It doesn't have to be perfect because more cookies are gonna be added.

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I like 3 layers. More coffee and cheese goes on top. The cheese is smoothed out and then a layer of whipped cream tops the dish.

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The top gets dusted with the cocoa powder and away it goes ...


*** I'll share with everyone a slice pic later after it's been served up.

HERE IT IS ... A DOUBLE ROW FOR ALL MY FRIENDS ...

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"We work in kitchens. ... It ain'te rocket surgery.".
 
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WOOOW!! I just returned from my vacation and what do I see? That it's going to be impossible to choose the winner tomorrow morning. Excellent job everyone so far!
 
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One last go. Stromboli alla Papa Tarantino.

In the late 80's we were regulars at a place called Tarantinos in Pasadena, CA. They had nightly all you can eat specials. My favorite night was stromboli, but it wasn't typical of that term today. It was rolled and then cut before baking forming what is best described as a large (a strapping young 20 something could not really eat two!) savory cinnamon roll shape but with the dough closer to pizza crust than bread. I got it in my head to make it once the lockdown started, I think, and here is my 5th try. It's not quite right yet, but all attempts have been good as in the end its some sort of bread, cheese, veg, and meat, and a marinara sauce :)

IMG_1149.JPG

It was a fun place. Small, with a continuous long table down the middle and two tops on one side and four tops on the other. If you were lucky Papa Tarantino would come out and sing near the end of the night. I visited again when on a college hunting trip with my daughter several years ago. I understand he passed in his late 90's and his grandson has the place now, but his son still is around the kitchen as well.
 
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Joined May 4, 2005
One last go. Stromboli alla Papa Tarantino.

In the late 80's we were regulars at a place called Tarantinos in Pasadena, CA. They had nightly all you can eat specials. My favorite night was stromboli, but it wasn't typical of that term today. It was rolled and then cut before baking forming what is best described as a large (a strapping young 20 something could not really eat two!) savory cinnamon roll shape but with the dough closer to pizza crust than bread. I got it in my head to make it once the lockdown started, I think, and here is my 5th try. It's not quite right yet, but all attempts have been good as in the end its some sort of bread, cheese, veg, and meat, and a marinara sauce :)

View attachment 68368

It was a fun place. Small, with a continuous long table down the middle and two tops on one side and four tops on the other. If you were lucky Papa Tarantino would come out and sing near the end of the night. I visited again when on a college hunting trip with my daughter several years ago. I understand he passed in his late 90's and his grandson has the place now, but his son still is around the kitchen as well.
I live in Pasadena but haven't tried the place. I almost got take out from there recently but opted for peruvian instead. I will try it soon and report back!
 
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I ran through the pages and noticed no one made soup . . . so I made this . . .



And oh my was it good - EVOO, leek, garlic, peperoncino, zucchini, white wine (I boil mine off), tomatoes, parsley, salt and little neck clams. Served with a crisp toasted sourdough bread - a heavenly sopping tool.



Funny story - when I was at the store to buy the clams I was talking to the fish guy and we get along well talking about cooking this and that. I asked for two dozen, but he bagged one because you know we were shooting the breeze so I mention I wanted two so he puts another dozen in the same bag and hands it to me. Turns out he gave me 26 little necks for the price of 12 - it pays to be nice to people.
 
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And so we're at the end, I think it's August now everywhere around the globe. A big thanks to everyone who took part in this challenge, you did an amazing job!

I kept checking on the thread on my vacation and I dreaded and looked forward to this moment at the same time - it's just really difficult to pick the winner. I liked many dishes that Iceman and teamfat prepared, I loved brainshaw's courgette and sausage pasta, of course, sgsvirgil's focaccia (plus the carbonara), several of hank's dishes (especially loved the biscotti, that was unexpected). The winner could be anyone, really.

In the end, however, I need to pick someone and I'll go with my gut (heart? stomach?) feeling - for the swordfish pasta, prawn and courgette pasta, several other dishes, but especially, because Veneto cooking brings back good memories for me, the bigoli in salsa, I choose mike9 as the winner.

So it's on you now, mike9, congratulations! :)
 
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Good job Mike9 !

I was impressed with the number of entries we had this month, nice to see a higher level of participation. Oddly enough, there some things I didn't see, like more soups - lemon and egg, Italian wedding, minestrone. Veal or chicken scallopini. Maybe mike9 mike9 will be in a fowl mood and pick poultry for August. Also I was thinking we'd see more hand made pasta, and an egg yolk ravioli. Since I have some leftover pasta dough, I'll be making a couple more dishes, maybe the egg yolk one.

But the last week or so of browsing through the picture gallery for this thread always made me hungry!

And thanks to slayertplsko slayertplsko for hosting a good one!

mjb.
 
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Joined Mar 1, 2017
Good job Mike9 !

I was impressed with the number of entries we had this month, nice to see a higher level of participation. Oddly enough, there some things I didn't see, like more soups - lemon and egg, Italian wedding, minestrone. Veal or chicken scallopini. Maybe mike9 mike9 will be in a fowl mood and pick poultry for August. Also I was thinking we'd see more hand made pasta, and an egg yolk ravioli. Since I have some leftover pasta dough, I'll be making a couple more dishes, maybe the egg yolk one.

But the last week or so of browsing through the picture gallery for this thread always made me hungry!

And thanks to slayertplsko slayertplsko for hosting a good one!

mjb.
Soups are my favorite. Summer is always a tough time for soups. But, never fear! Fall is rapidly approaching and with it soup season!! :)

Congratulations, mike9 mike9 ! Your entries were outstanding!

Cheers!
 
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Joined May 4, 2005
Congrats Mike9!!

I wanted so bad to embrace this challenge. I love to make fresh pasta and all things Italian. Time sure got away from me thanks to trying to start a business and a 4 month old baby. I hope to participate more in the next challenge.
 
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Good Job mike9 mike9 . ... Lots of work going on this month. You did a great job pulling out the win. ... Give us another big challenge for August.
 
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