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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Italian Antipasto Crostini

In search of a new fun appetizer, I spent some time on Pinterest and Food Gawker this week. I was going to a coworker’s house for a BBQ after a 9 hole golf tournament so I needed something I could make in advance and pack in a cooler. I came up with a combination of ingredients that go together seamlessly after seeing many different inspirational dishes online. The key here is your ingredients must be fresh!! You can opt for a store-bought pesto but I don’t think it’s quite the same.

This is a multi-step recipe and a little time consuming (but you can multi-task) so I recommend you make extra of these ingredients. Keep them in the fridge to integrate in other meals throughout the week–especially the caramelized onions and pesto!

Serve to your guests with toasted slices of bread and let them assemble their own crostini masterpiece!

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Ingredients:

  • Fresh Basil
  • 3 bell peppers
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 log of goat cheese
  • 1 container of cherry tomatoes
  • 3 large sweet onions (more if you want extras)
  • 1/4 cup or so of pine nuts
  • Few tablespoons of parmesan cheese
  • Fresh arugula (1/2 cup)
  • Olive oil
  • 1 baguette cut into slices
  • Kosher sea salt & fresh cracked pepper
  • Balsamic glaze (highly recommend purchasing this even if it is pricey, it’s a great finishing sauce for many dishes)

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Roasted Tomatoes and Peppers

Preheat your oven to 250 degrees. Cut your cherry tomatoes in half and cut your peppers into small strips. Place on a cookie sheet lined with tinfoil (less cleanup) and add olive oil until the vegetables glisten. Add salt & pepper and mix well. Place in the oven for 2 hours. (If you don’t have as much time you can turn your oven to a higher degree like 350 for an hour.) Taste your pepper to make sure it’s soft and sweet. If you bite into a pepper and there is a crunch, they are not ready.

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Caramelized Onions:

Caramelized onions can be made at any time and kept in the fridge for sweet and savory additions to meals throughout the week. Cut your onions into thin strips (for guidance click here). Place in a hot pan with olive oil and season with salt. Cook on medium to high so they brown (be careful not to burn!). You can’t over cook them on low heat-they only get sweeter. About 20-30 minutes is a good time frame for a delicious final product.

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Pesto:

Fill the food processor to the top with fresh basil and then add oil, salt, pepper, pine nuts and a bit of arugula (optional). Turn it on for a few seconds to get most of the mixture combined. Then add cheese and combine again.

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Plating:

Make sure all your ingredients are cooled. Add the roasted tomatoes and peppers to the outside of your dish. If you place a bowl in the center it will help guide you. Then add onions still leaving a place in the middle for your pesto. After you spoon in your pesto mixture (don’t be shy to pile it in there – people looove pesto) then top with your log of goat cheese. I recommend cutting your goat cheese into pieces to make it easier. Serve with toasted bread.

Give your guests a spoon and let them make their own crostini!

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Basil and Pistachio Nut Pesto Grilled Chicken

With the arrival of warm weather, the grills start firing up. Walking around my condo complex I can smell the different meats and marinades-it makes my mouth water! The grill is great for healthy eating and it gives flavor to your proteins and veggies that cannot be substituted on the stove.

While Kyle was out golfing last weekend and the sun was shining, I decided to surprise him with a healthy lunch. My basil plant was overgrown but I didn’t have the traditional pesto ingredients. After looking around my kitchen I came up with a substitute that did the trick.

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 1 onion cut in 4 thick slices
  • 2 cups fresh basil
  • 10 or so pistachio nuts
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Red Pepper Flakes
  • Juice from 1/2 of 1 lemon
  • Olive oil
  • 1 tbsp of parmesan cheese (or more if you’d like)

pesto

Place all the ingredients in a blender and purée until smooth.

Brush the pesto on the chicken and onions and place on the grill (just a thin layer).

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When your chicken and veggies are done, immediately smother them in pesto so it really takes on the flavor.
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Serve with a fork and knife.

Fettuccine con Pesto

In continuing my theme of using ingredients from the garden, my friend Alex and I recently made pesto sauce. It’s a great time of year to make pesto and it is extremely easy to make. You can switch up ingredients depending what you have on hand making it a very versatile recipe.

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My favorite kind of pesto is a mixture of basil and arugula. Sometimes I use parsley or spinach but since I have a huge fresh basil plant, I wanted that to be my primary ingredient today. I also happen to have a small bagful of arugula in my fridge which I added. Pesto is great on pasta and you can easily add it to proteins such as grilled shrimp or chicken. You can marinate them in pesto or brush it on after it comes off the grill.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup pignoli (pine nuts) lightly toasted
  • 1-2 garlic cloves (remember the garlic is raw so the flavor will pack a punch and you don’t want to overpower the pesto)
  • 1-2 cups of fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup arugula
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup good olive oil depending on how much pesto you are making. You want your mixture to be smooth.
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese

Directions

Put a large pot of water on the stove, bring to a boil and salt well. Add your pasta. In the meantime, prepare your pesto.

Toast your pine nuts in a small pan until they start to produce an aroma and turn golden brown.

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Using a small food processor add the basil, arugula, pine nuts, red pepper flakes salt and pepper. Blend for roughly 15 seconds. I don’t have a machine that allows you to pour olive oil in while it is running. If you do, this is a great time to use it. If not, just simply add the olive oil and blend until smooth. Finally add the cheese and blend until smooth again.

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When your pasta is al dente strain it and set aside until your pesto is ready. Toss all together in a large bowl and serve with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.

If you have leftover pesto, put it in a small glass jar in the fridge and use it as seasoning on future meals. For example, the next morning I had a nice piece of Italian toast and put 2 slices of tomatoes on top from the garden. I then added a smear of pesto to each tomato. I topped the sandwich with a fried egg over easy. When you cut into the egg it will warm the pesto and you have yourself a fresh and delicious breakfast.

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Adult Grilled Cheese

They call it grilled cheese for a reason. Trust me. It should be made on a grill.

My sister came over to eat dinner with us on a beautiful Friday night and we decided to grill on the back deck. After debating several options we thought it would be fun to make adult versions of the childhood classic grilled cheese. There is little I enjoy more than the combination of bread, butter and cheese and with probably a million options of topping combinations it wasn’t easy picking the finalist. In the end a few favorite Italian staples won out: pancetta, pesto with gruyere and tellegio cheeses. Wow. Enjoy a crunchy, cheesy, salty and savory dinner, with your vegetable protein and starch, all between two slices of bread.

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INGREDIENTS:
Pesto
-basil (about 1 cup)
-spinach
-arugula
-1/2 avocado
-1 or 2 cloves garlic
-parmesan cheese
-olive oil
-salt & pepper

Sandwich

Crusty Italian bread, sliced (Don’t underestimate the importance in picking out good fresh bread that is sturdy enough to hold the sandwich. It’s critical to the success of your grilled cheese)
-Gruyere cheese
-Tellegio Cheese
-Pancetta, sliced thin and sautéed until crisp
-Butter

INSTRUCTIONS:

Spread butter on the front and back of each piece of bread. I recommend a butter with olive oil in it for easy spreading and extra flavor. If you only have regular butter just set it out before using so it softens a bit.

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In a blender add basil, arugula, spinach (or whatever combo you have/prefer), olive oil, salt & pepper and parmesan cheese. Blend together. Add half an avocado for extra creaminess and blend again for a few seconds until combined.
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Spread the pesto on the bread.
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The first layer should be the cheeses and then add the pancetta. Top with more cheese and close the sandwich.
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Turn your grill on and get it nice and hot. Place your sandwiches directly on the grill (the butter will prevent sticking). Cook for 90 seconds and then move each sandwich to get the x marks from the grill. Cook for another 90 seconds. Flip and repeat. Make sure to use your spatula and push down on each sandwich to help it meld together. Turn the heat on low and cook until cheese is melted.

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Grillin outside on a beautiful night, drinks in hand=perfect.

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Cut in half and serve.

What’s better than this?

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