Sunday, February 21, 2021

CASA BOLOGNESE SAUCE

The first time I tasted Bolognese sauce was my first visit to Italy in 1969. I had it again in a restaurant located near Dupont Circle, Washington, D.C. It was only on their "Primi Piatti" (first dishes) menu. I always ordered it for my main course. I worked on duplicating this recipe for 20 years. Penne translates to "quills" or "pens". You will find penne pasta in two forms, lisce (smooth) or rigate (furrowed). Bolognese sauce is also delicious with tagliatelle or papparelle pasta.

You can make Bolognese sauce with just ground beef, if you prefer.



Soffritto
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
1 large yellow onion, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic

Ragù

2 T extra-light olive oil or avocado oil, divided
¼ lb pancetta, diced
½ lbs lean ground beef
½ lb ground pork
½ cup dry white wine
3 cups beef broth
2 cups water
2 (6-oz) cans tomato paste
1 ½ t sea salt
½ t finely ground black pepper

4 T unsalted butter

1 cup whole milk
2 t dried oregano
8 leaves fresh basil, torn or chiffonade
¼ t nutmeg
½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ t red pepper flakes (optional)
Fresh basil, for garnish

In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, process the carrots, onion, celery, and garlic 
until finely minced.
In a Dutch oven or large pot, add the 1 tablespoon of the oil and cook the soffritto over medium heat for 10 minutes. Spoon mixture into a very large bowl and set aside.

In the same Dutch oven or large pot, over medium heat, add the rest of the oil and cook the 
pancetta until golden.
Add a third of the ground beef and brown until crumbly, about 10 minutes.
As the meat cooks, break up any chunks with a wooden spoon into small pieces. 
Spoon into the large bowl with the soffritto
Repeat with half of the rest of the beef, then spoon into the bowl with the cooked vegetables.
Repeat with the last of the beef.
Finally, brown the pork, leaving in the pan.
Return the browned beef and soffritto to the pot.
Add the wine, stirring up browned bits on the bottom of the pan. 
Add the beef broth, water, tomato paste, salt, and pepper; mix in well.
Simmer very gently, partially covered, for 3 hours, stirring often.

Add the butter and rest of the ingredients and simmer another 15 minutes.

Boil the penne in salted water until al dente "to the tooth"
Drain into a colander and then pour back into the pot. 
Spoon in some of the Bolognese sauce and stir to combine.
Spoon onto warm pasta bowl and add a little more sauce, if desired, and garnish with fresh basil.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

CASA LASAGNE BOLOGNESE AL FORNO

I use a combination of Asiago and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese in this lasagne. Asiago is similar to Parmigiano because it has a slightly nutty and sweet flavor. The Ragù is enough for two lasagne or enough for another meal or two with pasta. I start out making the Ragù one to three days before I assemble the lasagne. Many times, I freeze the unbaked lasagne to have another evening. Just remember to bring it out to defrost before baking. This style of lasagne is also known as Tuscan Lasagne.  You can also substitute Pecorino Romano for the Asiago.



Ragù
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
1 large yellow onion, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic
2 T extra-light olive oil or avocado oil, divided
¼ lb pancetta, diced
2 lbs lean ground beef
½ lb ground pork
½ lb ground veal 
½ cup dry white wine
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup water
1 (12-oz) can tomato paste

4 T unsalted butter

2 cups whole milk
2 t dried oregano
8 leaves fresh basil, torn or chiffonade
¼ t nutmeg
½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ t red pepper flakes (optional)

In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, process the carrots, onion, celery, and garlic 
until fairly fine; like a minced soffritto.

In a Dutch oven, add the 1 tablespoon of the oil and cook the soffritto over medium heat 
for 10 minutes. Spoon mixture into a very large bowl and set aside.

In the same Dutch oven over medium heat, add the rest of the oil and cook the pancetta until golden.
Add half of the ground beef and brown until crumbly, about 10 minutes.
As the meat cooks, break up any chunks with a wooden spoon into small pieces. 
Spoon into the large bowl with the soffritto
Repeat with the rest of the beef, then spoon into the bowl with the cooked vegetables.
Repeat with the pork and veal and brown; leaving in the pan.
Return the browned beef and vegetables to the pot.
Add the wine, stirring up browned bits on the bottom of the pan. 
Add the chicken stock, water, and tomato paste; mix in well.
Simmer very gently, partially covered, for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Add the butter and rest of the ingredients and simmer another 15 minutes.


Besciamella (Béchamel)

6 T unsalted butter
6 T all-purpose flour
5 cups whole milk
1 ½ t sea salt
½ t grated nutmeg

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter until foaming; add flour and cook, 
whisking constantly for 2 minutes. Do not brown.
Gradually whisk in milk. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a gentle boil, while whisking constantly. Add salt and nutmeg, reduce the heat to the lowest setting, and
simmer 2 minutes, until it thickens slightly.
Turn off heat and set aside.

1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1 cup freshly grated Asiago cheese
Mix the above cheese together in a bowl.

1 lb fresh lasagne sheets


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.


Spread a layer of ragù in the bottom of a lasagna pan. 

Cover with a sheet or two of pasta, a layer of besciamella, a layer of grated mixed Parmigiano and Asiago, and a layer of ragù.
Repeat 3 more times, ending with a layer of besciamella.

Sprinkle the last of the grated cheeses over the top.


Cover loosely with parchment-lined aluminum foil or spray your inside of the foil with oil and bake in the oven for 1 hour. 
Remove foil, add a little more cheese, and continue to bake another 15 minutes
Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 to 12 minutes before cutting and serving.

Serves 6 to 8











Saturday, February 6, 2021

PASTA & BEANS - Pasta e Fagioli

This is the classic soup of pasta and beans from Southern Italy, especially popular in Napoli and the Amalfi coast. Don't be a fool...eat pasta fazool! It is truly amore!


2 oz pancetta, diced
2 T extra-light olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ t red pepper flakes
½ cup dry white wine
2 T tomato paste
2 quarts chicken stock
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 (3-inch) piece Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese rind 

2 (14 oz) cans cannellini beans with liquid
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup ditalini or ditali pasta

Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese


In a large pot or Dutch oven, fry the pancetta over medium heat until golden.
Add the oil to the pot and sauté the onion until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. 
Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté another minute.
Add wine and simmer 3 minutes.
Add tomato paste, chicken stock, sprig of thyme, bay leaf, and cheese rind.
Simmer 20 minutes. 

Add beans and simmer 10 more minutes.
Remove the sprig of thyme, bay leaf, and cheese rind; season to taste with salt and 
pepper. 
Add pasta and simmer another 5 to 6 minutes.

Serve with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and some grated Parmigiano cheese. 


Serves 4 to 6 



Friday, February 5, 2021

CHICKEN LOMBARDY - Pollo al Marsala Lombardo

In Italy, this dish is called Pollo al Marsala Lombardo (Chicken Marsala) and made without cheese. With the addition of cheese and green onions, it is an Italian-American version. The capital of Lombardia is Milan. The regional cuisine is based on butter, lard, pork, veal and of course Risotto alla Milanese. 
If you want to serve this for company, prepare it in the morning, refrigerate, and let sit on your counter for 30 minutes before baking.
Serve with risotto, or pasta, or even roasted potatoes and a green salad.


4 T avocado oil
10 cremini mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
4 boneless chicken breasts
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup marsala wine
¾ cup chicken stock or broth
2 T unsalted butter
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup shredded asiago cheese
¼ cup grated Parmigiano-reggiano cheese
2 scallions, thinly sliced

In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium-high heat.
Add the mushrooms and cook until golden, about 10 minutes, stirring often.
Lower heat to medium and add the onion and cook another 2 minutes.
Add garlic and cook another minute.
Spoon half of this mixture into a baking dish and the rest in a bowl and set aside.

Cut each chicken breast in half lengthwise.

Pour flour in a shallow dish and dredge the chicken in flour, shaking off the excess.

In the same skillet, add 1 tablespoon of oil and brown half of the chicken on both sides 
until golden, about 4 minutes per side.
Place cooked chicken on top of mushroom mixture in baking dish.
Add the final tablespoon of oil to the skillet and brown the rest of the chicken on both sides until golden brown, about 4 minutes per side.
Spoon the rest of the mushroom mixture on top of the chicken.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.


Add the wine and chicken stock to the skillet and bring to a simmer.

Add the butter and simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Season to taste with salt and pepper and pour over the chicken in the baking dish.

Combine the cheeses with the scallions and sprinkle over chicken.

Bake uncovered for 30 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Serves 4 to 6