Sunday, 29 December 2013

Lasagna

A very festive recipe! Your lasagna will be appreciated by everyone! They are wonderful as a first course, as we use in Italy, or as a main dish as you use abroad. Not all the recipes are alike, but this is the traditional one, made with the original ingredients, why do not try to stick to the traditional recipe for once? If you are not an expert it will take at least two hours, but it is worth it!





With  the home made fresh egg pasta the results are great, but if you are worried about time, you can opt for ready to cook pasta.

These are the main ingredients, you should cook/prepare them in advance to have all ready when you start preparing it.


- the pasta

- the bolognese sauce
- the bechamel sauce
- 80 grs grated original Parmigiano Reggiano (or Grana Padano)
Butter to grease the pan

Lets prepare it for 4


For the bolognese sauce (follow the instructions here)

300 gr./  0.66 lb minced meat
250 grs./0.55 lb  peeled tomatoes (one small  tin)
1/2  carrot -  chopped
1 stick of celery as long as the carrot -  chopped
1/2 onion -  chopped
- 30 grs./1 oz. pancetta
- wine or milk
salt and pepper

For the bechamel sauce (follow the instructions here)

500 ml/2.11 cups  milk
50 gr./1.76 oz butter
50 gr/ 1.76 oz plain flour
Salt


 For the pasta (sfoglia) (follow the instructions here

2 large eggs
200 grs /7 oz flour


Ready with everything?! Most of the job has been done!



1) Grease you pan with the butter.

 It can be a pirex glass or metal one cm. 14X28 (5.5X11 inch) .
Pre-heat your oven 180° C/350° F

2) Cut the sfoglia into squares and big as you hand (or open the box of you what you bought).





3) Bring the water to the boil: add salt (10 grs/liter /1 tea spoon for 5 cups of water) and a spoon of vegetable oil. Put 2-3 squares at a time and let  them cook until smooth for 2-3 minutes.





4) Drain the pasta on a tea towel and smooth it to dry perfectly. Caution: hot water can burn you! but if pasta dries with wrinkles you will not be able to work with it!


I know you like this tea towel! It is 100 years old, it was hand made by my grand-grand mother!!!

5) Start composing the lasagna:




1st layer: pasta









2nd layer: Parmigiano Reggiano







3rd layer: Bechamel sauce










4th layer: Bolognese sauce








Then again pasta, parmigiano, bechamel sauce, pasta....

until the pan is nearly full.
The last layer should be bechamel, on which you should sprinkle the Parmigano. If your last layer is pasta add a little of butter too.




Now put the lasagna in the oven and let it cook until you see it boil (20 min. approx).

Take it off the oven and wait few minutes to allow the lasagna cool a little bit and the bechamel sauce to settle.

Serve with a glass of Sangiovese or Chianti!



Tip: You can prepare it in advance and keep in the fridge for one day. You can also freeze it, protecting it with a cling film, and let it defrost before cooking it. Also, you can freeze any leftover... (if you really have them.....) in an air tight container and warm it in the microwave....


See also /http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03613ww

Tagliatelle
































Tagliatelle are typical of the Emilia Romagna region, where I come from. The longer they are, the better they are considered so keep your "sfoglia" as large as possible!
You can start from the basic recipe for fresh egg pasta.
Tagliatelle can be dressed in may different ways. The most common is to use bolognese sauce, see the recipe described in here, or mushrooms sauce (with or without tomato).




Ingredients for 4 people:
(if you are 4 hungry adults use 4 eggs and flour in proportion...)


3 large eggs
300 gr flour (approx)

How to:


Follow the instruction for fresh egg pasta.











Let it dry until becomes no longer sticky but you can roll it easily.








If you have more than one sfoglia, roll it on your pin, and unfold it on a clean cloth on a table or flat surface to let it dry until you make a second one....










Start cutting and ...




Open them well....

Then put them on a tray dusted with flour or on a tea towel.




You can make them dry  completely, if the air is very dry, but I suggest you eat them the same day  after a short boiling in abundant hot, salted water (10 gr. salt /liter) for 2-3 minutes.








You might also like:

Bolognese sauce
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03613ww






Home made fresh egg pasta

To make your own pasta can be quite an experience! The fantastic smell and the delicious taste of it will reward you of the little fuss.
You can involve your children as well: they will enjoy putting their hands in the flour and use the rolling pin.
I will always remember when my grandmother taught me, she worked hard in the family farm, and she had very little time to cook during harvesting time, so I helped her with home cleaning and cooking.
She never weighted anything, and I am a little bit the same, so, when I describe a recipe, I often weight after I got the right quantity.


All you need to make fresh egg pasta is flour and fresh eggs, preferably free range eggs because their yolk is orange and the color of the pasta will be more attractive.
If you do not have a large wooden board (the Italian traditional one is at least 140 cm x 60 cm) you can do it on any clean flat surface, if it is very smooth, put a little bit more flour on it because it will be more sticky.  

If you have a pasta machine roller, everything will be very easy, but from my point of view, the pasta will be a little more smooth and the sauce will slip away. In this case I suggest you use at half flour and half semolina.

The recipe you find hereunder is for the basic egg pasta, if you want to make stuffed pasta such as ravioli or tortellini you will have to keep it more wet and thinner.
But let’s start with something easy today!

Ingredients
(makes tagliatelle for 4)

3 large eggs
Approx 300 grs. / 10.58 oz  00 flour (or all purpose flour)  (or half flour and half semolina mixed well)


How to:

1)    Througly wash and dry the surface you are going to use.

2)    Crack the eggs in a bowl and weight them, then weight the same amount of flour which you will use for the first dough;




       3)    Mould this flour on the counter and create a well in the centre and pour the eggs in the crater.



       4)    With a fork or the tip of your fingers break the eggs and start to mix incorporating the flour from inside (you can make it in a bowl as well – but it is not the same …)










      5)    Now you got the first wet, sticky dough.










      6)    Dust the surface and your hands with some flour and start to knead the dough with the heel of your hand after the other for about two minutes until the dough is very smooth. Keep adding flour now and them because the dough should not be sticky at the end.
Now your dough is nearly done and you       need to make it silky and not rough.





             7)    Clean the working surface scrapping with a knife and wash and dry your hands.





8)    Put some more flour on the surface and knead it for an other minute: it is a great workout for your back and shoulders and you will feel nicely hot when finished!

9)    Wrap you dough in a clean napkin or, if your air conditioning/heater is on, in cling film to prevent it from drying and let it rest for half an hour. (in the meanwhile you can start making Bolognese sauce, for example!)




     This is the final dough.












10)  When you feel ready, dust your work surface with some flour, take a lump of pasta dough the size of an orange, make it round and press it flat with your hand.



11) If your rolling pin is short, take less than half of it and make “stripes” instead of the round one.

Make sure to have enough room to work it out


Take the rolling pin and start rolling with good energy, turning the dough 90° every time you pass on it , so you can get a nearly perfect round pasta. Dust with flour both working surface and the top of the pasta now and then. If the working surface is very smooth  I prefer semolina to flour tipo 00. Here is your sfoglia! 





Consider that the first time it will not be perfect, nor the second, but do not give up: after cutting you will not see it any longer, so no problem! ;-)

Now: how thin should it be? As said it depends on which kind of output you want. For lasagna, tagliatelle and farfalle go on until you reach the thickness of a playing card, while for stuffed pasta you with need it very thin, you should be able to read through it.









You may also like:

Tagliatelle
Lasagna
Bolognese sauce


Friday, 27 December 2013

Bechamel sauce (White sauce)

    This creamy, delicious sauce is one of the most common sauces used in the European cooking. With this simple sauce and some Parmigiano you can give a great taste to boiled vegetables such as cauliflower or fennel, and, of course, this is one of the basic ingredients for your lasagna!




Ingredients:

500 ml/2.11cups  milk
50 gr./1.76 oz butter
50 gr/ 1.76 oz plain flour
Salt 
Nutmeg (depending on the recipe - great when serving on boiled vegetables)

How to:

1)     Heat milk until just about to boil.
2)     In an other medium saucepan with a heavy bottom heat and melt the butter. Add the flour and stir until smooth (roux). Over the medium heat, cook it until light golden - about 5 min. -, mixing now and then. (You will smell it – something like fresh baked bread). This means that the flour is cooked. Careful not to burn it!



3)     Remove the saucepan from the fire and add one dipper of milk. This is the most difficult part of the recipe: the roux will become hard and tend to form lumps: mix very quickly and with great energy with the whisk and add more milk only after the previous one is perfectly incorporated.




4)     Add an other dipper of milk and incorporate it as well. - Can you see how fast the whisk moves?




5)     When all the milk is incorporated, put the saucepan back over a medium heat and bring it to the boil for 30” mixing now and then.
6)     Season with salt.



Tip: 1) When finished, if you notice that the lumps did not dissolve completely, you can work the sauce with an immersion blender. With practise this will not happen anymore.

Tip: 2) If you do not respect the exact proportions between the ingredients the sauce will have a different thickness: less flour or more milk will result in a more liquid bechamel,  good for your vegetable but which will not be hard enough for your lasagna.




You may also like:

- Lasagna
- Gratinated Cauliflower

Monday, 18 November 2013

Bolognese sauce







Ragu alla bolognese, Bolognese sauce as they call it, is one of the most loved recipes of all Italian cooking tradition. Around the world it is declined in many different ways – not all of them very tasty – but I want to give you the original recipe – registered in the Chamber of Commerce of Bologna – were the name comes from.
My family recipe my family also includes some milk and peeled tomatoes instead of tomato paste.
This sauce is excellent for home made tagliatelle (an other typical dish of the Bologna area), pappardelle (same shape - a little bit larger), penne and in making lasagna (lasagne alla bolognese) in which is one of the world’s Italian favorite.

Recently (28-10-2015) there was a nice tv program on BBC.Please have a look!
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03613ww



Ingredients for 6 to 8

2/3 table spoons of oil
½ onion (40 grs.)
1 small carrot (40 grs)
1 stick of celery (50 grs)
700 grs of ground beef (85% lean)
700 grs /1,5 pint tomato sauce or 3 spoons tomato paste
50 gr oz. thinly sliced pancetta, finely chopped
3 Tbsp. tomato paste / (OR 1 tin peeled tomatoes approx. 400 gr.)
50 gr oz. thinly sliced pancetta, finely chopped
½ glass dry red wine or ½ glass of milk (my family recipe)
1 small pinch nutmeg
salt and pepper

How to:

1)  In a food processor or by hand finely chop the carrot, onion and celery.

2)  Put the oil in a large heavy pot over medium/high heat,bring it to the boil    and add the chopped vegetables. Stir well and sauté until soft (8-10 minutes).    Add the pancetta and let it cook.
           
  
    

    3)  Add the minced meat and let it brown, breaking the meat with a fork forabout 15 minutes.The meat should change its colour.



4)   Add the wine and let it evaporate (If you opted for my family versionadd   the milk and let it evaporate).






5) Add the tomato paste with at least 6 spoons of water (or the peeled   tomatoes with their juice) and let it simmer over the low heat for about an hour. (In case you used the peeled tomatoes, break them with the fork).



The sauce  should boil making small craters. Mix now and then until done. Taste it and add more salt if necessary.





Tips:

This sauce can be made in advance and keeps well in the fridge for 2-3 days or can be frozen in air tight containers.


Monday, 11 November 2013

Ossobuco

The "osso buco" (bone with  a hole) is one of my daughter’s winter dishes, but as it takes at least 2 hours to cook, I usually prepare it on Sunday morning, while she sleeps and my husband plays basketball.

It is a typical dish of Northern Italy where tomatoes were not largely used. The original recipe has very little tomato, but as we like a lot the rewarding sauce of this dish, we prefer to add a little bit more to season the rice or polenta which comes with it.
The perfect side dish for Osso buco is Milanese Risotto (risotto alla Milanese) made with the best Carnaroli rice, but my girl does not like saffron as well so plain boiled rice could go.


Ingredients for 3 (not different for 4 except for the quantity of meat)

n. 3 slices of veal shank approx. 1 inch thick (or slices of turkey leg cleaned from the tendon). The bone must have its meat inside.
1 small carrot,
½ onion
1 stalk of celery as long as the carrot
flour
50 gr. Butter
2 cups of hot vegetable/meat stock (lightly salted)
150 ml tomato sauce
Salt and pepper

To finish (gremolata)
Grated zest of one lemon
½ cup of finely chopped parsley leaves
½ clove of grated garlic  (not mandatory)


How to:

1)    Chop the vegetables very finely by hand or in the food processor;
2)    Melt the butter and bring it to a light boil;
3)    Put the chopped vegetables in the butter and let them cook until the carrot becomes yellow and soft;




4)    In the meanwhile season the meat with salt and pepper on both sides and flower it;





5)    Put the meat in the pan and let it brown for 2-3 minutes, then turn without piercing it to brown the other side;

6)    Move the meat, raise the heat and add 1 ladle of stock and bring it to the boil. 
It should form a sort of thick sauce on the bottom of the pan. Add more  stock, cover the pan with a lid and let it cook for 10-15 minutes, turning the meat every now and then and mixing well the vegetables and sauce;



  7) After that, open the lid, the stock should be evaporated and add the tomato sauce. Bring to the boil again, and let it cool until the sauce is thick – mix it now and then to avoid the flour and vegetables to get stick to the pan;


   8) When ready, keep it warm, close the lid and prepare the finish, grating the zest of one lemon, the garlic and adding the chopped parsley;













9) Serve immediately with Risotto (see under) or plain rice;


Risotto alla Milanese
Ingredients for 4

If you are making it for the ossobuco, use a smaller quantity….

350 gr. Rice (Carnaroli or Arborio)
100 gr butter
1 shallots (40 grs. Approx) finely chopped
2 little envelops Italian saffron or pistils of saffron
1 liter of HOT meat stock (salted)
1 glass white wine
50
1 the meat inside the bone – if you can find it.
50 gr. of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (shredded)


How to:

1)     Put half of the butter in a heavy pan hand let it melt. Add the chopped shallot and let it get soft. Add the meat inside bone and let it melt it;
2)     Add the rice and toast it for 2-3 minutes turning it with a wooden spoon;
3)     On a high heat put the wine and let it evaporate completely. Then add the 1/3 of the boiling stock and mix it well. Let the rice absorb it nearly completely and add more;
4)     When only 1 cup of stock is left, dissolve the saffron in it and pour it in the rice;
5)     Mix until completely dry;
6)     Switch the heat off, add the cheese and the remaining butter and mix sharply for few seconds, Let it rest for a minute or two.


7)     This is a great first course as well!