Thursday, December 15, 2011


These little devils pack a lot of punch. So I learned when I absentmindedly tossed a bunch into a simmering red sauce. Let's just say the sauce wasn't as angry as it was furious. The next time I carefully counted out the peperoncini—just six of them—to achieve a pleasant warm heat, the perfect level of arrabbiata.

Cavatelli with Angry Tomato Sauce
Printable Recipe

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 ounces pancetta, diced
½ small yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
6 dried peperoncini, minced
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 recipe Fresh Cavatelli
Grated Pecorino Romano or Parmegiano-Reggiano, for serving

Heat a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat until very hot but not smoking. Add the oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pot. Add the pancetta and fry, tossing frequently, for 4 to 5 minutes, or until golden brown. Using a slotted spoon, remove the pancetta to a plate. Add the onion to the pan and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes, or until soft. Add the garlic and peperoncini and sauté for 30 seconds, or until fragrant. Return the pancetta to the pan, add the tomatoes (along with their liquid), and simmer, stirring occasionally and breaking up the tomatoes with the back of a spoon, for about 45 minutes, or until thickened and saucy. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Cook the cavatelli in a large pot of boiling, salted water for 10 to 12 minutes, or until al dente. Drain the cavatelli when it is al dente. Add the cavatelli to the sauce and toss to coat. Arrange on individual plates, top with plenty of cheese, and serve immediately.

Serves 4. In Italy, chiles are known as peperoncini. Fiery and flavorful dried peperoncini can be found at well-stocked Italian markets. Quality ones are pliable and easy to mince. If they are unavailable, use several pinches of red chile flakes in their place. You can substitute 1 pound store-bought pasta for the Fresh Cavatelli, if you must. A splash of heavy cream is nice addition to the sauce.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Pleasures of Pasta Dough

Remember the joy of playing with Silly Putty as a kid? It was squishy, mushy, sticky, stretchy, bouncy impossible-to-put-down fun! Almost equally irresistible were Play-Doh, glarch, and that sticky gum-like substance my teachers used for hanging up posters. I loved all that stuff.

And it turns out I never outgrew it. Just yesterday as I was making a big batch of cavatelli for dinner, it dawned on me that the reason I enjoy making pasta by hand is it appeals to the little girl in me who loved playing with Silly Putty. It's the same sensation, only pasta tastes better. How's that for a deep thought?

Homemade cavatelli, by the way, is the current favorite pasta around here. I adore it because it's so much fun to make and each individual piece of pasta scoops up just the right amount of sauce. My husband prefers it for its resilient, satisfying chew. We can't get enough cavatelli!

Fresh Cavatelli
Printable Recipe

16 ounces semolina
7 ½ ounces warm water

Combine the semolina and water in a large bowl and mix until a rough dough forms. The dough will seem very dry at this point, but resist the temptation to add more water. Transfer to a work surface and knead for about 10 minutes, or until smooth and elastic. Wrap in plastic wrap and let rest for about half an hour.

Cut the dough into eighths. Keeping the remaining dough covered as you work, roll 1 portion of dough into a ½-inch thick rope. If the dough springs back as you roll it, cover it with plastic wrap and let it relax for a few minutes before continuing. Using a table knife, cut a ¾-inch piece of the rope. With the side of the knife, press down on the cut side of the piece of dough, dragging it toward you at the same time. Unroll the resulting little cup of dough. Make more cavatelli with the remaining dough in the same manner. As you work, arrange the cavatelli in a single layer on lightly floured parchment-lined baking trays. Let dry for a few hours.

Makes about 1 ¼ pounds, enough for 4 to 6 main-course servings. Cook as you would any other pasta, in a large pot of boiling, salted water for 10 to 12 minutes, or until al dente. Cavatelli can be turned inside out to form orecchiette (watch me make orecchiette in this video).

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Lasagna Love

My pasta kick continues. There's no doubt that making Lasagna Bolognese from scratch is a labor of love, but all the time and effort results in nothing less than a small miracle.

Trust me when I say people will bow down to you in thanks and admiration.

Want to work culinary wonders of your own? Join me in the kitchen to learn how! Registration for fall Clark College classes just opened. I'll be teaching Money Saving Bulk Aisle Cooking, Chocolate Desserts, Island Dreaming, and Potato Gnocchi, and I hope you can come. Current class listings can always be found in the Cooking Classes, Book Signings & Appearances sidebar on the right.

Lasagna Bolognese
Printable Recipe

2 ounces (½ stick) unsalted butter, diced, plus more for greasing the baking dish
2 ounces all-purpose flour
1 quart milk
½ small yellow onion
1 bay leaf
1 clove
Generous pinch freshly grated nutmeg
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 recipe Fresh Egg Pasta lasagna
6 cups Ragu Bolognese
6 ounces grated Parmegiano-Reggiano

Heat the butter in a small, heavy saucepan over medium heat until it melts, bubbles, and the foam subsides. Add the flour and cook, whisking constantly, for 2 to 3 minutes, or until it begins to smell toasty. Whisk in the milk. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly, add the onion, bay leaf, clove, and nutmeg, and simmer for 20 to 22 minutes, or until thick. Remove from the heat, strain through a fine mesh sieve, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Let cool.

Cook the lasagna in 5 or 6 batches in a large pot of boiling, salted water for 1 to 2 minutes, or until it begins to soften. When the lasagna begins to soften, using a wire skimmer, transfer it from the pot to a large bowl of ice-cold water to stop the cooking process, and then drain it thoroughly. Layer the lasagna between clean kitchen towels to dry.

Preheat the oven to 375˚F. Butter a deep 9×13-inch baking dish. Spread ¾ cup of the ragu in the bottom of the baking dish. Arrange a single layer of lasagna in the dish, spread evenly with ½ cup of the white sauce and then a heaping ¾ cup of the ragu, and sprinkle evenly with ¼ cup of the Parmegiano. Make more layers with the remaining lasagna, white sauce, ragu, and Parmegiano in the same manner, finishing on a layer of Parmegiano. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling around the edges. Cover with foil to keep warm and allow to rest 20 to 25 minutes before serving.

Serves 8. The lasagna should be boiled until it begins to soften but not until it is al dente. Undercooking the pasta in this way ensures that it doesn't become too mushy once it's baked.
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