Category Archives: Italian

Fresh Fettuccine with Hooligan Marinara Sauce

My local library was showcasing their newest cookbooks last week. I checked out “Passione: Gennaro Contaldo’s Italian Cookbook” because it looked authentic and, let’s face it, I liked the font. When I saw his simple recipe for pasta dough, I had to try it. Flour, semolina and eggs. It sounded more authentic than pasta dough recipes I’ve made in the past. That he provided the gram weight of the flours made me think it was going to turn out perfectly. And it did.

My friend Ivan came over with a jar of smoked hooligans he and a friend had caught and canned last summer. They tasted a little like anchovies so my thought was to make a simple marinara with the umami flavor of the hooligans in the background. After simmering the sauce for a few minutes I tasted it and knew it needed one special ingredient to make it just perfect – capers. The sauce instantly became a bright, flavorful combination that reminded me of my dad’s puttanesca sauce.

Combine that with the best homemade pasta I’ve ever created and we had a heavenly dish that I think Gennaro Contaldo would be proud of.

Fresh fettuccine with simple marinara from alaskaknitnat.com

Fresh fettuccine with a hooligan caper marinara

Serves 4-6

Ingredients for pasta dough adapted from “Passione: Gennaro Contaldo’s Italian Cookbook”:

  • 300 grams (or 2 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 100 grams (or 2/3 cup) semolina flour
  • 4 eggs

For the sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1, 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 smoked hooligans, chopped (sub anchovies)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • handful of fresh basil, chopped

Directions for pasta dough:

In a Kitchen Aid mixer, combine the flour and semolina. Make a well in the center and add the eggs. Using the paddle attachment, mix the ingredients till combined and a shaggy dough forms. Turn onto a counter and knead for 3-5 minutes until a smooth ball forms. It should be firm and not sticky. Dust with flour and continue kneading if it’s too sticky. Divide into two balls. cover in plastic wrap and let sit for 30 minutes.

For the sauce:

In a large skillet, add the oil and heat over medium. Add the garlic and sauté until garlic is soft and fragrant, about two minutes. Be careful not to let it burn. Add the tomatoes, sugar, salt and pepper, hooligans and capers. Bring to a simmer. Let simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, while you make the pasta.

Place a large pot of salted water to boil.

Using either a hand-crank pasta roller or a Kitchen Aid pasta roller, begin to make your pasta. Divide each ball of dough into four equal balls, covering the ones you aren’t working with. Flatten the ball with your palm. Run it through the largest setting on the pasta roller. Fold the piece into thirds and roll it through again. Do this about five times till the piece is evenly shaped and smooth. If it’s too sticky dust each side lightly with flour.

Move the roller to the next setting and run the dough through once. Continue running the dough through each smaller setting till it’s the thinnest it can possibly be. On the Kitchen Aid roller it’s setting 8. Drape the sheet of pasta on a laundry drying rack while you continue rolling out the remaining balls of dough.

When all the dough is rolled out, switch to the fettuccine roller. Roll all the sheets onto a tray dusted lightly with semolina. Boil the pasta for just a couple of minutes, until al dente.  If your pot isn’t large enough you may need to boil in two batches. Reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta water and add it to the sauce along with the chopped basil.

Drain the pasta and toss with a little bit of the sauce to keep the noodles from sticking. Grate some fresh pecorino Romano cheese over your pasta and serve with a simple salad.

Fresh fettuccine with simple marinara from alaskaknitnat.com

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Squash and Spinach Ravioli

Sometimes a dish is too good to blog. I’m so busy eating it I don’t think to photograph it. But then some dishes are so good that I have to make them two days in  a row just to blog about it.

Last night a friend came over so I could show him how to make ravioli. I winged the filling by using ingredients I already had: delicata squash, frozen chopped spinach, cottage cheese and pecorino Romano cheese.

Squash and spinach ravioli | DIY fresh pasta recipe from Alaskaknitnat.com

These tender, flavorful morsels were so good, I just had to make them a day later and share them with my best friend, Kelly.

Squash and spinach ravioli

You will want/need a pasta rolling machine for this recipe – or a wine bottle and a lot of patience.

Serves 3-4

Ingredients for the dough:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs + 1 yolk
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • pinch of salt

Ingredients for the filling:

Squash and spinach ravioli | DIY fresh pasta recipe from Alaskaknitnat.com

  • 1 medium delicata squash (sub pretty much any other kind of squash here)
  • 1/2 cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed
  • 1/2 cup cottage cheese (sub ricotta if you’d like)
  • 1/2 cup grated pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut the squash in half lengthwise. Cut each half in half. Scoop out the seeds and rub all over with olive oil. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Place on a cookie sheet and bake for 45 minutes or until flesh is pierced easily with a fork. Remove from oven and cool.

While squash is cooling, make the dough. Place the flour in a large mixing bowl and make a well in the center. Add the eggs, milk and salt to the well and whisk together, slowly incorporating the flour until a shaggy dough forms.

Remove from bowl and knead on a floured surface for a couple of minutes. The dough should be smooth and elastic. If it is too wet, add more flour. If it’s too dry, add a little more milk. Continue to knead for a few more minutes, then wrap the dough ball in plastic wrap and let sit for 30 minutes.

Squash and spinach ravioli | DIY fresh pasta recipe from Alaskaknitnat.com

Heat a small pan with the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Place into a medium mixing bowl.  Squeeze as much of the liquid out of the spinach as you can and add to the bowl. Scrape the squash into the bowl and add the rest of the filling ingredients. Mix with a fork until well combined. Set aside.

Set up your pasta roller and put it on the biggest setting. Take a palm-sized piece of dough and pat it flat. Run it through the pasta roller one time. It may be tough but it’s ok to press it through unevenly. You’ll be using this largest setting to knead the dough for you.

After the first time through, fold the dough in half and run it through again. Continue folding the dough and running it through four or five more times. Now advance your pasta roller to the next setting and run the dough through once.

Squash and spinach ravioli | DIY fresh pasta recipe from Alaskaknitnat.com

Continue narrowing the roller and running the dough through once each time until it’s your desired thickness. Each pasta maker is a little different. With my KitchenAid roller I go to setting 6.

Lay your dough on a lightly floured surface or drape it on a bamboo clothes drying rack while you finish the other pieces of dough.

Squash and spinach ravioli | DIY fresh pasta recipe from Alaskaknitnat.com

Now it’s time to assemble your ravioli. First, put a salted pot of water on to boil. Take one strip of pasta and place 1 teaspoon of filling across the bottom of one side, about one inch apart with a 1/2-inch space from the edge.

Squash and spinach ravioli | DIY fresh pasta recipe from Alaskaknitnat.com

Fold the long side of the dough in half over the filling and start pressing lightly all around, pushing out air as you go. Press around all the filling so the pasta sticks to itself.

Using a pastry scraper or pizza cutter, cut your dough into individual ravioli. Be sure to cut the long edge because the cutting actually seals the pasta.

Squash and spinach ravioli | DIY fresh pasta recipe from Alaskaknitnat.com

Boil your ravioli in two batches. Once the pot returns to a boil, simmer the pasta for just a few minutes until it’s al dente. I like to take a ravioli out of the pot and cut off a corner to test the doneness.

Squash and spinach ravioli | DIY fresh pasta recipe from Alaskaknitnat.com

Use a large slotted spoon or spider to remove the ravioli from the pot. Place into shallow serving bowls. Top with a little butter, good olive oil, more pecorino Romano cheese, and a generous amount of freshly ground pepper. Serve with green beans and Italian sausage.

Squash and spinach ravioli | DIY fresh pasta recipe from Alaskaknitnat.com

Baked Tortellini Skillet

I’m cutting to the chase with this recipe. This baked tortellini skillet has all the flavors of lasagna without the cumbersome noodle wrangling. Plus the cheese from the tortellini adds some extra flavor to the overall dish.

This is a perfect weeknight meal!

Baked tortellini skillet | a weeknight meal by Alaska Knit Nat

Baked tortellini lasagna

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 6 oz. dried cheese tortellini
  • 6 oz. cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 10 oz. frozen spinach, thawed and drained
  • 2/3 cup whole milk cottage cheese
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 1 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan
  • 2.5 cups marinara
  • salt and pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Place a large pot of salted water to boil and cook the tortellini three minutes shy of their recommended cooking time. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the oil and butter in a 12-inch oven-safe pan. Add the mushrooms and a pinch of salt. Sauté until the moisture is evaporated and the mushrooms start to brown, about 5 minutes. Set aside.

Mix together the cottage cheese, 2/3 cup mozzarella, 2/3 cup Pecorino Romano, and salt and pepper to taste.

Coat the bottom of the pan with 1 cup of marinara. Toss in the tortellini and spread out evenly in the pan.

Next add the cheese mixture, spreading it out with a rubber spatula. Layer on the mushrooms, then another 1.5 cups of sauce. Top with remaining cheese.

Bake for 30 minutes until bubbly and slightly browned. Serve with Italian sausage and a simple garden salad.

Baked tortellini skillet | a weeknight meal by Alaska Knit Nat

 

Homemade Pancetta

Now that summer has come to a close, my family takes to the kitchen to stock up for winter. Blueberry jam, cranberry marmalade, crabapple sauce are some of what we use with our annual harvest, but lately my dad’s been experimenting with bacon and pancetta.

If you haven’t been introduced to my father, he is the owner of Sausage Mania, a website with thorough tutorials on sausage making, lox, pesto and more. Here’s a photo of the Sausage Meister in action:

He hasn’t added pancetta to his site yet so I thought I’d take this opportunity to post on his behalf.

Continue reading Homemade Pancetta

Weeknight alphabet vegetable soup

When was the last time you had alphabet soup? Now that I think of it, I can’t remember ever having it, yet I always see the cute bag of dried alphabet pasta at the grocery store and think about making it.

My 5-year-old son has been showing an interest in cooking lately so we went to the library last week to check out kids cookbooks. One of the recipes was a tomato-based alphabet soup. He really wanted me to make it.

Fast forward to 4:30 p.m. today when I was driving home with zero plans for dinner. Thankfully I had already done the shopping for this meal. It came together in a jiffy!

Alphabet vegetable soup is a crowdpleaser - and it's good for you too! Recipe from Alaskaknitnat.com

This soup is packed with flavor and nutrition. The reason for the flavor? Pancetta and parmesan rind. Both add wonderful depth to the soup.

I also made chicken meatballs and dropped those in while cooking. I didn’t include the recipe for those, but you could use Italian sausage or any meatball recipe you prefer.

The verdict? My son and husband gobbled up this soup! Plus, we all had fun trying to spell words in our bowls. So much fun.

Alphabet vegetable soup is a crowdpleaser - and it's good for you too! Recipe from Alaskaknitnat.com

Alphabet soup with vegetables

Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 oz. pancetta, diced small
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 carrots, diced small
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 4-5 leaves of swiss chard, chopped
  • 1, 28-oz can of crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1.5 cups frozen green beans
  • 1 chunk of parmesan cheese rind
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoons dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 can of canellini beans, liquid reserved
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 6 oz. dried alphabet pasta, or small pasta of your choice
  • 1 pound of meatballs or Italian sausage

Directions:

Add a little olive oil to a large dutch oven and turn the heat to medium-high. Add the pancetta and sauté until cooked but not browned. Add the onion, carrots, chard and celery and cook till onions are translucent, about 7 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, beef stock, chicken stock, bay leaf, garlic powder, oregano, basil pepper flakes, parmesan rind and a generous amount of freshly ground pepper. Cover, bring to a simmer and turn heat to medium-low. Add raw sausage or meatballs and simmer, partially uncovered, for about 15 minutes. Add the frozen green beans and return to a simmer for another 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, drain the beans and reserve 1/4 cup of the liquid. Whisk the flour into the bean liquid and add this to the soup to thicken it slightly.

Add the beans and pasta to the soup and simmer for 7 minutes or until pasta is done.

Alphabet vegetable soup is a crowdpleaser - and it's good for you too! Recipe from Alaskaknitnat.com

Serve with generous amounts of freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Alphabet vegetable soup is a crowdpleaser - and it's good for you too! Recipe from Alaskaknitnat.com

 

Perfect stuffed mushrooms

The best stuffed mushrooms | a simple recipe from alaskaknitnat.com
Photo Credit: Stacy Spensley Flickr via Compfight cc

Perfect stuffed mushrooms

Ingredients:

  • 1 carton of Costco baby portobello mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup panko flakes
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 of an onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 pound Italian sausage
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
  • 4 oz. cream cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Remove the stems from the mushrooms. Chop stems finely and mix with the onions. Heat 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and onions until the liquid has been drawn out of the mushrooms and the onions are soft, about 7 minutes. Set aside to cool in a mixing bowl.

In the same pan, add another tablespoon of butter and stir in the panko flakes. Sauté until the flakes are lightly browned, about two minutes. Place flakes in the mixing bowl with mushrooms and onions.

In the same pan add the loose sausage (remove from casings if necessary). Cook until meat is browned, about 7 minutes. Place the meat on a cutting board and chop finely. Add to the mixing bowl.

Toss in the Parmesan, parsley and cream cheese and mix thoroughly (hands are best). Add salt and pepper.

Stuff each mushroom with a heaping amount of filling and place on a baking sheet. Top with more grated Parmesan.

Bake for about 30 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve immediately.

Quick dinner: creamy pesto with chicken

Pesto. I love pesto. I’m a traditionalist and tend to prepare it in the classic Genovese way but recently a friend told me his method, with cream and white wine, and I thought I’d try it.

I loved it! Pesto can sometimes have an overpowering garlic taste (it does contain raw garlic) so this version provides the flavor of pesto but is a little smoother.

If you use the Costco basil pesto then it’s a super quick meal, just perfect for a weeknight.

Looking for a flavorful weeknight meal? Try this simple creamy pesto with chicken from Alaskaknitnat.com

Weeknight meal: creamy pesto with chicken

Ingredients:

Looking for a flavorful weeknight meal? Try this simple creamy pesto with chicken from Alaskaknitnat.com

  • 1 lb. spaghettini
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup white wine
  • 2/3 cup pesto
  • 3/4 pound leftover rotisserie chicken, torn into bite-sized pieces
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • lemon (optional)

Looking for a flavorful weeknight meal? Try this simple creamy pesto with chicken from Alaskaknitnat.com

Directions:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. While pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a large sauté pan over medium-high flame. Add the cream and bring to a simmer. Turn down the heat. Add the wine and let simmer for about 3 minutes.

Turn off the heat and add the pesto and chicken.

Drain the pasta. Add to the sauté pan and toss till evenly coated with sauce. Add salt and pepper. Squeeze a lemon over the top. Serve with a side salad.