Risotto di asparago, carciofi e funghi

When guests don’t show up for dinner (last minute changes), well then you simply get a larger portion. If they knew what we had for dinner, I’m sure they’ll regret not coming over. Cause they missed out on this awesome asparagus, artichoke and mushroom risotto. I wouldn’t have thought to put this combination together. Actually, scratch that. I did put roasted artichokes into a pasta dish where it mingled nicely, so I probably would have imagined roasted artichokes as a great addition to a asparagus and mushroom risotto. I bet fresh artichokes would be even better. It’s just that I haven’t trimmed artichokes before, I’ve always been too intimidated. But I’m sure you could come up with all kinds of artichoke risotto combinations.  Jamie Oliver has a recipe for a very basic artichoke risotto (boy, that photograph is terrible), this recipe makes a fresh artichoke and pesto risotto, or how about this recipe from Gourmet for artichoke, prosciutto and bell pepper risotto? Yum. The asparagus, artichoke and mushroom combination was so delicious, this will surely be a new staple in the family (yes, another smitten kitchen recipe). Risotto is one of those things – it has to be stirred constantly, a good broth makes a world of a difference, it really should be served al dente and then eaten right away. My parents never really got the point of making risotto since their restaurant risotto experiences weren’t that great. But now, now they are converts. A good risotto is a great thing, especially when it’s not too heavy. It’s a great accompaniment, but also great on its own. My aunt makes these risotto balls, which are another great way of eating risotto. This risotto was quick and easy, especially since I used those marinated artichokes. Dad is allergic to mushrooms so I just separated out some risotto at the end, after adding the asparagus and the artichokes. The mushrooms were then added to the remaining batch. That’s an easy way to modify a risotto, but also all kinds of recipes if you have someone with allergies, but you really want to also eat the original version.

Asparagus, artichoke and mushroom risotto


Lazy Ravioli

I love ravioli. I especially like to eat them when going out for food. When everything works together – filling, accompaniment and sauce, with the pasta al dente, it’s just divine. It’s just that so often, the ravioli aren’t that good. They’re cooked to long and fall apart on your plate. Or the sauce is just too heavy. The filling ends up pasty. Or the ravioli are too big.

I could go on and on, but really, it’s my own fault. I should make my own ravioli. It’s just that the process seems so intimidating that I haven’t made any so far. Plus, I’m the only one around here who really loves ravioli. Oh, and another huge obstacle: I don’t own a pasta roller. I imagine it would be very difficult to hand roll the pasta dough evenly enough, even though it’s the traditional method. I also haven’t made the wonton wrapper version since that balance between pasta and filling is so important to me. I can’t imagine the wonton wrapper taste being quite right.

Ravioli with peas, salami & tomatoes

So what’s a girl to do if she wants ravioli and doesn’t want to eat out constantly get her ravioli fix in? Our friendly Trader Joe make a pretty good ravioli version. They’re not frozen so you don’t have the issue of them falling apart when thawing and cooking. You still need to be careful when cooking so you don’t end up with kaputt ravioli, but the finished product is pretty darn good.

garlic and garlic press

The classic preparation – sage and brown butter – is always a hit. Ravioli with pesto or with an arrabiata sauce are great as well, as long as the balance is right. But then I found this recipe for creamy ravioli with peas and salami. Salami in my pasta? That was just too interesting to pass up. The recipe calls for alfredo sauce, but I’m not a great fan of it, especially the kind out of the jar. It’s just too heavy and thick. Instead it’s easy to just add a little butter, cream and parmesan, and you should get the same result.

You know me, I just had to tinker a bit with the recipe. I used fresh ravioli filled with white and green asparagus and ricotta. I was a bit skeptical how these would work out, but they were delicious. (Yes, they weren’t from Trader Joes – I made them when I was in Germany). I started to type up my modifications, but I think it’s easier if it’s in recipe form:

Modified Creamy Ravioli with Peas, Fresh Tomatoes and Salami (original recipe from Val So Cal)

For 4 people:

500g ravioli
100g frozen peas
6 thick slices of good quality salami (I used 1/2 thick slices)
a handful of red and yellow cherry tomatoes each (sorry, I didn’t weigh them)
fresh thyme

Very light alfredo sauce:

1 1/2 tbsp butter
1/4 cup of whipping cream (you don’t have to use heavy whipping cream)
1/4 cup grated parmesan, plus parmesan for decoration
3 fresh garlic cloves (adjust to your taste)
3/4 – 1 cup of pasta water (from your ravioli)
pinch of salt

Add the ravioli to salted boiling water carefully , and cook according to package instructions, being careful not to overcook them. In the meanwhile cut the salami into small cubes. Fish the cooked ravioli out of the pasta water carefully – I scooped them out individually – then place in a dish and cover to keep them hot. Add the frozen peas to the hot water and let them cook briefly til they’re lovely plump and green, approximately 2 minutes. Drain, but save 2 cups of pasta water for the alfredo sauce.

Return empty pot to heat. Let pot heat a bit til the water has evaporated, then add butter (if you don’t wait, you’re adding fat to hot water – not a good idea). Add whipping cream and let the butter and cream mingle over medium heat. Once cream is warm add garlic – you can easily use however much and whatever form of garlic, although I wouldn’t suggest garlic powder. Let the mixture heat through, then add about 3/4 cup of pasta water. The mix should be a pale creamy sauce – if it’s too watery, add a bit more cream. Add a pinch of salt – the salami and the parmesan both are salty, so really only use a pinch. You can always add more later.

tomatoes & fresh garlicReturn the peas to the pot, then add the salami. If you forgot to cook your peas earlier, you could also just add the peas to the pot now and cook them very briefly. Reduce the heat to low – you want the salami warm, but not too hot that the fat starts rendering. Add the parmesan. Mix all ingredients, then very carefully add the ravioli back to the pot (I added them individually). Add 1/2 tsp of thyme, to taste . This is the time adjust your ingredients, if you want to – salt, more thyme, more cream or more pasta water, pepper if you’d like and so on. Add the halved cherry tomatoes, stir carefully. By adding the tomatoes at the end, you ensure that the tomatoes are warmed through, but the skin hasn’t separated. And then you’re ready to serve. Place ravioli in shallow plate, ladle sauce over the ravioli. You can also serve them in a big dish, just make sure you layer the ravioli and the sauce. The sauce should be light and creamy, not heavy.

Garnish with parmesan and thyme, and a light drizzle of good olive oil. This is a dish that tastes very light dish (despite the use of cream and salami and butter) where the ingredients are really highlighted. That also means that good quality ingredients make the dish, and you really won’t need much in the way of spices and herbs. Make sure you use good salami, where the fat doesn’t taste weird. It’s a wonderful dish and really whips up quickly and is ridiculously tasty. Props to Val So Cal for the awesome original recipe.

fresh thyme, salami, butter and peas

Featured image shows raw beetroot ravioli from G Living.

Aglio e olio with cilantro

My friend Pietro had made a big bowl of pasta aglio e olio for us sometime ago, and we inhaled every bite. Of course we then reeked of garlic, but the pasta was so good that we didn’t care. He used parsley – curly leaf parsley – in his aglio e olio version, which he crushed together with the garlic. He did that by putting some salt on top of the parsley and the garlic, and then smushed them down, using the salt to pretty much grind down the garlic and salt.

Well, the other day our fridge was pretty empty. Not much was left except for some snow peas. No parsley either. So I first thought of making Pasta cacio e pepe (pasta with pecorino and black pepper). I only had some grana padano, but I thought that would be a decent substitute. Then I remembered I had some cilantro. I hadn’t used cilantro in my pasta before (shocking, I know), but I figured I’d give it a try. And I’d use the idea of using the cheese as in the cacio e pepe recipe to let the cheese and pasta water to come together and give the dish some creaminess. Without using cream or any other heavy thing to create creaminess.

Can I just tell you that cilantro is an awesome substitute? It’s stronger than the parsley, but the flavor works just as well in this dish. I wonder if it’s a good substitute in other dishes as well? And letting the pasta water and cheese come together is just genius. The dish was light and tasteful, without any of the heaviness that would have come from the use of cream. Heaven.

a modified classic

Pasta Paradiso Perduto

I ♥ Mario Batali. I miss Molto Mario, his show on Food Network. He was on the Next Iron Chef for a while, but I don’t think he cooks there anymore (right? Correct me if I’m wrong). I love his Pasta recipes – although I once made a recipe of his that called for hazelnuts in a simple tossed pasta version, and that just didn’t work for me. I’m guessing though that the fault lay with me, since my hazelnuts likely weren’t fresh enough. Of course I can’t find the recipe now. Sigh.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand. We made this pasta together with a roasted tenderloin for my father’s 65th birthday. We decided on this pasta recipe because we had radicchio on hand and didn’t want to make a radicchio salad. Despite some initial skepticism the dish worked out perfectly (we used fettucine). The lemon lights the bitterness of the radiccio, and you really should ‘cook’ the radicchio too much, otherwise it wilts and looks sad. But it still tastes delicious. It’s become a go-to pasta for us.

lost paradiso

the radicchio has wilted too much, but it's still yummy

Mother’s Day

(Since Mother’s Day is over, it’s safe to post this)

As mother’s day was approaching, I was struggling to figure out what to get my Mom. My first choice, an awesome book on bread and bread baking by Linda Collister, is completely out of print. Bummer. I didn’t really have enough time to knit something for here, since I had a few other WIP on the needles. Last year I made scones with strawberries two ways (as jam and as a salad) for her, and it was a huge hit. So this time I decided to make something edible again, but of the savory sort. I first thought of making fresh pasta, but since I don’t have pasta maker, I’d have to roll out the pasta by hand – not a good idea for a first time pasta maker. Then I came across this amazing smitten kitchen recipe on how to make gnocchi, and decided that I could do that. Between roasting the potatoes for an hour, grating them and then getting the dough to the right consistency it took some time. Btw, grating the potatoes idea is genius – it really results in a lovely light dough. The actual shaping, cutting, and fork-roll action was a snap. Oh, and instead of rolling the gnocchi over the fork, I just rolled the fork over the gnocchi. It was a bit faster, and I liked the resulting shape better.

gnocchi and fork

gnocchi shaping

I made a deconstructed pesto and tomato sauce/salad – basically I tossed all the classic pesto ingredients and a few cherry tomatoes together with the gnocchi, with a teeny bit of oregano, and voila! An awesome mother’s day meal. I like gnocchi, but I didn’t realize what a huge difference it would make to taste fresh, home-made gnocchi. And the sauce/salad was so fresh, and the individual flavors really did shine. It really is true, good ingredients make for good finished products.

finished gnocchi dish

gnocchi, yum!

The remaining gnocchi went to live in a little baggie in the freezer, to be thawed, cooked and enjoyed on another day. All in all, and unqualified success.