Homemade Ravioli

I’ve wanted to try homemade ravioli ever since I figured out how to make homemade pasta. A Valentine’s Day with wind chills in the negative degrees provided a perfect opportunity to stay home and accomplish this somewhat scary goal– and the hubby even helped! The pasta part really is a two person job. It is also time consuming but SO worth it. The best part is you can use any filling your heart desires. I couldn’t decide what to do so I made 4: 1) mushroom, truffle & goat cheese, 2) spinach, arugula and basil, 3) broccoli rabe and 4) ricotta and basil. This recipe made us about 50 ravioli. Keep in mind they are great to freeze so if you’re putting in the work, you might as well make a lot!

Ingredients:
For the pasta:

  • 5 cups of flour
  • 8 eggs at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup water

For the fillings:

Make sure you buy high quality cheese–fresh ricotta if you can. This will make a big difference in the final product.  
Truffle Mushroom & Goat Cheese:

  • Sautee one package of mixed mushrooms in oil and truffle butter. Season with sea salt and cracked pepper. Put the mushrooms in a blender and pulse. Then put in a bowl and add about 3 oz of goat cheese and some fresh parmigiano cheese.      

Broccoli Rabe & Garlic

  • I bought fresh roasted broccoli rabe and garlic with red pepper flakes from A&S fine foods in Stamford. I can’t make a better broccoli rabe and it takes out a few steps. If you are going to do it yourself you should par boil the broccoli and then sautee. Then put it in a blender and pulse. I added ricotta and fresh parmigiano cheese.  img_4879

Spinach, Arugula & Basil

  • Sautee spinach and arugula in some olive oil. You have the option to add chopped garlic as well. Put in processor and pulse. Add ricotta and parmigiano.  img_4881

Directions:

Make a well with your flower in a bowl and add the eggs and water to the center. Scramble the eggs with a fork and slowly bring flour into the egg mixture. This process takes a while. Be patient- you will probably think you did something wrong because the flour isn’t combining right away. Just keep working it.


Once you have incorporated all the ingredients, sprinkle some extra flour on the counter and knead the dough with your hands. You will probably have to put some flour on your hands so it doesn’t stick. You should work the dough for quite a few minutes with your hands until it smoothed out.

 Then place it in a bowl, put a dash of  olive oil on it and rub it all over the dough. Then cover the bowl with a dish towel. Let it rest.

My great grandmother used to roll the dough with a large rolling pin when she made pasta every week. That, I can’t imagine! I use my grandmother’s pasta machine which is much easier. I feed the pasta through twice on 8, twice on 6, twice on 4 and once on 2.

Although now they do make machines to do it for you–whichever way you choose is fine. pasta maker
When you are ready, roll the dough into a log and cut evenly into pieces.

You may want to cut only one piece at first to make sure it’s the right width. Making ravioli isn’t a science but I can already tell that the more you make these, the easier it will become.

Spoon out your mixture on to the pasta sheets. We learned after a few times that pressing the filling down to flatten it out will make a better ravioli.
  

We started by making square ravioli which we were messier to eat but it’s really just a matter of preference.

I don’t have fancy ravioli tools so I grabbed a pizza cutter and a fork. It worked!

What worked even better was when we found a small glass jar to cut the round ones.

I placed them on parchment paper with cornmeal to prevent them from sticking.

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To cook: bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. You don’t want a very high boil as it could damage all the work you just did! They cook in roughly 3 minutes.

For sauce: I found truffle butter and parmesan cheese on the mushroom ones were amazing! I also made a white wine and butter sauce with shallots and parsley that was delicious. And we had a few with tomato sauce. You can’t go wrong!


The cooked product! Yum!

And some with sauce…. Yum, yum, and yum!


  

 

One year later on Christmas day we made these again. It’s such a fun family activity–I highly recommend it! This time we made a pesto sauce and a red sauce. Mmmm mmm mmm!

 

 

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Real Deal String Bean Casserole with Home-Fried Crispy Onions

We have all eaten some version of string bean casserole. Campbell’s advertises their cream of mushroom soup around the holidays just for that purpose. You’ll even find a recipe on the back of the can. I happen to find canned creamy soup unappetizing so I set out last Thanksgiving to make string bean casserole from scratch–no preservatives or canned anything.  It was worth the extra effort. I promise.

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Photos courtesy of Lisa Effren Photography.

*You can make this in a cast iron pan but we don’t have one big enough.

Ingredients:

Crispy Onions
2 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced (use 3 if you want to snack-it’s hard not to eat them)
1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons panko breadcrumbs
Salt & Pepper
Canola oil, for frying

Mushroom Sauce
3 tablespoons or so butter
1 package of mushrooms, chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
Kosher salt
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream or similar substitute

1.5 lbs of fresh string beans, trimmed and cleaned

Instructions:

Using a mandolin, cut your onion into thin strips.

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Toss the onions with the flour, bread crumbs, salt and pepper.

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Heat about 1/2 inch of oil in a pan and test the temperature by dropping one onion in. It should sizzle.

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Only cook a handful or so at a time in small batches. Place the finished ones on a paper bag lined with paper towels to soak up the excess oil. *Beware: hide these somewhere while you compile the rest of the dish- or they will somehow disappear.

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Par boil the string beans in salted water and then place in a ice bath to stop the cooking. The last thing we want are mushy string beans.

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

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To make the mushroom sauce:

Over medium-high heat, melt butter in the bottom of a pan or cast iron skillet. Add the mushrooms, salt and pepper and saute them for 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic, shallots and saute one minute more.

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Add the flour and combine.

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Add the broth a little at a time and keep stirring. Let it simmer for a minute or so, add the cream and bring to a simmer again while stirring. In about 5 minutes or so the sauce should thicken.

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Pour the mixture over the string beans in a baking dish. Add onions and bake until everything bubbles – about 15 minutes.

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Nanny’s Homemade Manicotti

Growing up, Nanny often made manicotti for the holidays and special occasions. Soft crepe like tubes, stuffed with ricotta cheese, topped with sauce and more cheese; it’s quite heavenly. Don’t confuse it with cannelloni which is more of a pasta type dough that is stuffed typically with meats and baked in a bechamel sauce.

Each year for Christmas day, Mom and I like to take on a cooking challenge. We have all day, we aren’t getting out of our pajamas, so why not cook something fun? We made just under 100 manicotti and of course froze some for Nanny and other family members. In my opinion, if you are going to put in the work, you might as well make a lot. We paired them with roasted racks of lamp chops (recipe to come later) and sautéed zucchini–a well-balanced holiday meal that hit the spot! These delicate cheesy bites of heaven will satisfy any crowd and you can have fun doing it!

Note: We altered Nanny’s recipe a little as she traditionally puts mint in her ricotta stuffing. We opted to put parsley, basil and mint which worked out well!

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Ingredients & Directions:

Stuffing-

  • 4 lbs of riccota cheese
  • 1 bag of shredded mozzarella cheese
  • About a cup of grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
  • Salt
  • 2-3 eggs
  • Fresh chopped basil, parsley and mint

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Manicotti Batter- (should make roughly 100)

  • 12 eggs
  • 2 cups of flour
  • 2 cups of milk

If you want to cut the recipe down to 74, us 9 eggs, 1 1/2 cups of flour, 1 1/2 cups of milk.

Place your ingredients in a bowl and set your mixer to 15 minutes on a low speed.

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The batter should be on the thin side and smooth. Now here comes the tricky part… making the manicotti.

Mom and I wish Nanny was with us to help guide us through the many batches of trial and error. It takes a certain technique. Is it thin enough? It’s too thick. It’s too long or it’s not fat enough. Eventually we got the hang of it. Don’t lose hope.

Heat your griddle or flat pan to about 300 degrees. Nanny says grease it once and once only. The batter will cook fast but you don’t want it to brown/burn. It will bubble slightly and should easily come off the griddle with a spatula.

We used a metal spoon and poured the batter in a horizontal line and using the back of the spoon pushed the batter around in the shape seen below.

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Next to your stove lay out some cooling racks. Transfer your finished manicotti to the cooling racks for a few minutes. You should have lined your counter with wax paper which you will then move the cooled manicotti too (seen below).

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Next comes the stuffing! Don’t be skimpy. Place the filling at the edge and then loosely roll it shut. Don’t roll it tight like a burrito.
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If you are going to freeze some for leftovers, place them in a box on wax paper.
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For the ones you are eating. Place a layer of sauce in the bottom of a baking dish. Then add the manicotti, top with sauce and parmesan cheese and bake covered at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes.

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Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm! Mangia!

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Mom’s Amazing Latkes

Latkes. Fried potato goodness dipped in sour cream and/or apple sauce. We eat them once a year on Hanukkah. They are worth every single calorie and every minute of frying. Of course if you are only cooking for a small family, it’s not that labor intensive. But if you are like us, and want to make 50+ latkes, it takes a bit of time…

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There are many, many variations on latkes. This year since Hanukkah falls on Thanksgiving, we are seeing lots of sweet potato latke recipes with sweet and fun toppings. We are sticking to the traditional. We only have them once a year and I want them the same way I’ve been enjoying them for the last few decades. 🙂 However, I highly recommend adding zucchini and even some garlic powder for some extra flavor and goodness. Using less potato and more vegetable is obviously a good thing, and you can’t taste the difference. It’s a great way to hide some veggies and make your kids eat them! 🙂 More photos to come post Thanksgivukkah!

Ingredients:

  • 6 medium potatoes (or substitute one or two potatoes with zucchini)
  • 1 onion
  • 2 eeggs, slightly beaten
  • 3 tbsp. flour – add more as needed
  • Salt & Pepper (season liberally!)
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • Vegetable oil for fying
  • Garlic powder (optional)

Instructions:

Peel and rinse potatoes in cold water. Half the potatoes to fit in the grater and then grate the potatoes and onion- I recommend a food processor with a grating disc. You can do them by hand but why bother? We use the julienne grater so our latkes have texture. Otherwise they’re like mush.

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Strain out the liquid. Add eggs, flour, salt, pepper and baking powder. Mix well.

You’ll want to keep your mixture cold if you aren’t frying immediately–especially if you have a large batch like us. Place ice in a large bowl and set your bowl with the mixture in it, in the ice bath.

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Using a slotted spoon, take a small spoonful of the mixture to the frying pan. I suggest using another spoon to press down on the latke making it thin and squeezing out any excess liquid. We like thin and crunchy latkes (see photo). If you want thick potato pancakes, look elsewhere. Then slide the mixture off the pan into the oil.

Taste one of your first latkes. You may need to add more salt so now is the time to test it 🙂

Fry until golden brown on each side. Drain on paper towel-lined brown grocery bags.

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Serve with applesauce and/or sour cream. We made a delicious sour cream topping by adding parmesan cheese and truffle salt.

Homemade Ricotta Gnocchi with Pesto

Homemade gnocchi has been on my food bucket list for some time now and the potato version remains on the list, but I can now cross off the ricotta thanks to my Mom’s birthday dinner wish! We didn’t follow the recipe exactly because well I hate directions, and who has hours to wait for their dough to rest??? I actually got out measuring cups for this one though and I guess it was worth it. Absolutely delicious!

I have quite a few different pesto recipes on my blog. For tonight’s dinner, Mom made a basil and parsley pesto which was delicious. Remember when making pesto, buying the best and freshest ingredients because they will yield the best results.

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Ingredients:

  • 1lb fresh ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated fresh

Directions:

Place ricotta in a strainer set over medium bowl. Chill in the fridge until the ricotta has texture of wet clay, about 1 hour.

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Mix ricotta, 1/2 cup of flour, egg & next 5 ingredients in medium bowl, adding more flour by tbsp until dough is slightly sticky.

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Cover and chill for 30 minutes.

Sprinkle rimmed baking sheet with flour.

Transfer the dough to lightly floured surface. Cut into 4 equal pieces.

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Using your hands, roll 1 piece on floured surface into 3/4 inch-wide log.

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Cut log crosswise into 1-inch pieces. Place gnocchi on prepared baking sheet, spacing apart. Repeat with remaining dough. Cover gnocchi with plastic wrap and chill at least 1 hour or up to one day. ( Ours chilled for maybe a half hour and we cut them afterwards)

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In a large skillet, melt the butter and keep warm.

Working in two batches, add gnocchi to large pot of boiling salted water, stirring to prevent sticking. Boil until gnocchi rise to surface of water, then continue boiling until cooked through, 1 1/2 to 2 mintues longer. Using slotted spoon, transfer gnocchi to skilled with melted butter. Toss with pesto and fresh grated cheese and serve! 20131118-105543.jpg

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Crispy Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

I love pumpkin seeds. And until you’ve made them at home, and have eaten them right out of a hot oven, you don’t know what you are missing. This past weekend my sister and her boyfriend were visiting and we decided to carve some pumpkins and make some delicious crispy, salty pumpkin seeds. She took the beautiful photos.  I encourage you to go buy a pumpkin and get your hands a little dirty–it’s fun and it will bring you back to your childhood! Disclaimer: my pumpkin seed making skills far surpass our pumpkin carving skills–or maybe I should say “my” skills so not to offend my sister and her boyfriend. 🙂  My pumpkin is bottom right.

pumkins and seeds finished

Ingredients:

  1. Seeds from a pumpkin (we used 3 medium-sized pumpkins)
  2. Olive oil
  3. Kosher salt

Directions:

Clean your pumpkin seeds well in a strainer by running cold water through them and make sure to get all the pumpkin out of the seeds.

Put your pumpkin seeds in a large pot of salted water on the stove. Bring to a boil and then reduce and simmer for 5-10 minutes. This method supposedly makes the outer shell crisper when you roast them.

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Strain the seeds and dry with a towel. They don’t have to be totally dry but do the best job you can. They will stick to the towel a bit but you can easily shake them off.

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Lay them flat on baking sheets so they don’t overlap each other. Coat in some olive oil (don’t drench them) and finish with kosher salt.

Bake in a 325 degree oven for about 10 minutes. Watch them and taste them every few minutes. Just because the outer shell isn’t browned, it doesn’t mean you aren’t burning the inside seed.

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EAT! These are delicious, crunchy and salty. I think they taste a lot like popcorn and they are very good for you! Pair with a nice fire, a movie and some beer. Enjoy!

Oh- and display your pumpkins proudly!

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Tri Colore Matzo Balls

A staple dish for Jews round the world is matzo ball soup. When I was in Venice I managed to find a Jewish quarter with a little deli that made some of the best matzo ball soup I’ve ever had! It’s comforting and oddly delicious. My family makes it every year for different holidays but always on Passover for our Seder. This year we decided to try something slightly different and put an Italian twist on the matzo balls by making them red, white and green, in true “Jewtalian” spirit. These are not your traditional balls.

A word of advice, when making as many balls as we did, don’t try to cook them in one pot because they won’t cook properly and fluff up like they should. That’s what we get for drinking the manischewitz wine before the Seder… They were still delicious even though they weren’t as fluffy as some might like- these would be considered sinkers, not floaters.

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Photos Courtesy of Snap Photography

You can follow the instructions on the box as we did and make the easy adjustments to get the pretty colors and added flavor of the tri colore matzo balls. I thought the red ones in particular had great flavor! We made one batch per color, roughly 63 matzo balls in total.

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Instructions for color:

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Verde (Green)
-Place a cup or so of fresh baby spinach, a bunch of parsley and a small garlic clove in a blender with a dash of olive oil. Strain he liquid out using a cheese cloth and reserve to use instead of water in the next step. Continue per the instructions above and add a dash of onion powder.

Rosso (Red)
-Add 2 tablespoons red tomato paste, garlic powder and onion powder to original recipe.

Bianco (White)
-Follow instructions on the box.

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After you cook your matzo balls put them in a big bowl of home made chicken soup and serve topped with fresh parsley. Enjoy!!

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And here is a photo of our beautiful Seder tabled decorated by mom:

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Italian Latkes?

This Jew decided to make Italian inspired latkes from a recipe by Giada on Christmas Eve which coincidentally was also Hanukkah.  I brought these as an appetizer to my aunt’s house.   Giada’s recipe sounded too good to ignore! And while I have tried using zucchini and other vegetables for a healthier alternative to all potato latkes, I haven’t ever tried the rest of her suggestions.

I used very little rosemary in my version and instead opted for some fresh Italian parsley and basil.  Instead of standing over  pan frying individual latkes for an hour, Giada baked them!  This recipe couldn’t be more perfect for me.  It’s just too bad they didn’t come out as great as I anticipated!  (Note: Since I wasn’t serving them immediately I decided to do step 1 at home- put them in the frying pan to toast up the bottom and then put it on a baking sheet to bake when we arrived.  I think it would have been smarter to complete all the cooking at home and re-heat upon arrival.  This might just be a recipe to cook at home and eat at home!)

The latkes tasted delicious but were under cooked in the middle.  They did get crispy on the outsides (I was somewhat weary the texture wouldn’t be the same with out all the frying!).   My advice to you when making these, be sure your very large latke isn’t too thick in the pan or it will be hard to cook through into a nice crispy latke in the oven (the way I like them!).  It might have been better to start smaller in a trial run.  I also would recommend cutting them in somewhat larger pieces as they easily get messy when cutting into bite sized pieces.

I can’t wait to try these again!!

Giada’s recipe can be found here: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/crispy-zucchini-and-potato-pancakes-recipe/index.html

Photo Above Courtesy of Snap Photography

In the picture below are original zucchini and potato latkes I made earlier in the week (without the Italian influence) and fried in a pan with extra virgin olive oil.  These easy latkes were made with potato, zucchini, onion, salt, pepper, flour, baking powder and egg. Serve with applesauce and/or sour cream, you can’t go wrong!