Cavatelli From Scratch – My I-talian Sunday

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As an Italian American I am very (almost obsessively) fond of pasta. Especially the freshly made kind. I’ve shared my ravioli and gnudi making adventures in other posts and now I have embarked on a cavatelli adventure as an experiment. I’m hoping to recreate today’s success for my dad (who was born in Italy – Soveria Manelli) on his birthday because he so appreciates these kinds of things, probably even more than I do. For the un-initiated, cavatelli are almost like gnocchi but they’re made from ricotta and a lot of flour, and they have the effective sauce-catching divet in the middle (see photo above) whereas gnocchi are more like little pillows. Though versatile, I really prefer cavatelli served with a hearty meat sauce because this pasta is built to stand up to that kind of task. The homemade version is hardy without being heavy and makes for a really good Sunday meal.

Making cavatelli is easy but very labor intensive. I definitely wouldn’t attempt to make them on your own because it’s a lot of work, but this makes an excellent family bonding activity even if, like me, your family currently just consists of you and your hubby. I imagine a future time when I can do this with the help of the little bun that’s in my oven and my hubby (and a bottle of wine) and lots of good music playing.  But I digress…

The recipe I used is here and it is an excellent one, with step by step instructions and photos. My hat’s off to the author as I didn’t need to modify a single thing. The recipe makes close to 2lbs of cavatelli.  I found that working with the dough in very small pieces was easiest, and everything had to be floured and re-floured, etc, as the dough is a bit sticky.  I used a cheese knife instead of a pastry cutter:

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DSC_1104The important thing is that the utensil you use for shaping the cavatelli is somewhat sharp-edged and metal – the plastic pastry cutter we have didn’t work. We allowed the cavatelli, well floured, to rest and dry out on cookie sheets for at least an hour and then half went into the fridge in a ziploc for dinner and the other half is in the freezer. It took roughly 3 full minutes for the cavatelli to cook and the result was magnificent. We made a simple tomato sauce with lamb sausage simmered in it and topped the finished dish with some grated parm. Heaven.

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Random Bag Night – Pasta with Sausage, Favas and Greens

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We have finally gotten the first installment of our farm share this week, and I am beyond excited about what this will mean for the rest of our summer. The veg, which we are getting from Luna Farm here in Massachusetts, is GORGEOUS. Oh, and it’s organic too.  We are sharing the farm share with our neighbors so it’s pretty cost effective too. The above dish is a combo of farm share greens – almost the whole delivery this week was greens – and Trader Joe’s prepared fava beans (so easy!) + some leeks we had in the fridge + leftover pork sausage from 2 nights ago. I am now stocking my pantry with the brown rice pasta (also from Trader Joes) which I have come to really like in lieu of whole wheat pasta. This sauce took about 15 minutes to make (the time it takes to boil the pasta basically) and was quickly thrown together so my measurements are only an approximation and this was enough to cover about 1/2 pound of pasta:

1 package Trader Joes prepared fava beans (or you can use any canned bean here)

2 leeks, chopped

1/2 cup white wine

1 cup chicken stock

1 generous handful of your favorite greens

salt to taste

5-6 tablespoons olive oil

2 cooked Italian sausages, cut in chunks

Place the oil in a sauce pan, big enough to hold the greens, etc. Add the leeks and a pinch of salt and turn the heat to medium high. Saute the leeks until they are soft and translucent and then add the beans, the wine and the chicken stock. Keep the heat on medium high to allow the liquids to cook down. Once the liquids have reduced by at least 1/3, add the sausage and the greens and stir to combine. At this point you can lower the heat to a simmer and allow the sauce to bubble a bit while the pasta finishes cooking.

If you don’t have cooked sausage on hand, you can use raw sausage, just toss it in at the beginning after you have softened the leeks and allow it to brown a bit before adding the beans, etc. You could also substitute bacon or pancetta instead and do the same. The sauce needs the heft of the meat flavoring otherwise it’s quite bland.

Serve over a short pasta of your liking and doused with some parmesan.

Random Bag Night – Mushroom, Bean & Barley Pilaf

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After a whirlwind weekend of too much food, booze and air mattress “sleeping” we got home yesterday looking for something easy, relatively healthy and most of all, didn’t involve getting back into the car. Turns out we had some homemade sausage in the freezer from my father-in-law and in the pantry, I had a container of pearl barley which had probably been in there a while since neither of us could recall when it was purchased. Additionally I had bought some mushrooms last week and we always keep a stock of canned beans, chicken broth and dried mushrooms in the house (to the best of our abilities – whenever we get low on these and other critical pantry items we write it on the chalk board in the kitchen so it doesn’t get forgotten come grocery list time).  So combining these items, the barley pilaf was born. This version is VERY mushroom-y, so for folks who are not really into mushrooms, this is not your dish. I think the barley needs a strong flavor pairing, as it’s kind of bland itself. 

The nice part about the pilaf version is that it is not as hands on as risotto so you can do other things or, like me, hang out on your front porch and soak up as much amazing weather as you can while you periodically pop back inside to check on the progress of dinner.

1 cup pearl barley

1 cup dried mushrooms (I have a mix of wild + shitakes)

1 package white button mushrooms, chopped

1 onion, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 can white beans (any kind is fine), drained and rinsed

3 cups chicken (or veg or beef or…) stock

1 cup white wine

2 tablespoons butter

3-4 tablespo0ns olive oil

1 handful fresh chopped parsley (+ other herbs – basil or chives would be great)

salt + pepper to taste

parmesan cheese – to top the finished dish

Take dried mushrooms and soak them in about 1.5 cups of warm water – preferably for an hour or so, but at least until they are soft. Once they are done soaking, remove the mushrooms, chop them into small pieces, and set aside the mushroom “broth” as you will be adding that to the dish:

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In the meantime, dice the onion and garlic and add it to a medium sized sauce pan (with a lid) along with the butter and about 3 tablespoons of olive oil on medium heat. Stir frequently and saute until the onions are nice and soft – 5 to 7 minutes. Once the onions are soft, add the barley and stir to coat it for about 1 minute. Add the beans and both the dried and fresh mushrooms and stir to coat, add a generous pinch of salt as well. 

Allow the ingredients to cook, while you stir, for another minute and then add the mushroom broth, the chicken broth and the white wine and turn the heat to medium high. Allow the liquids to come to a boil and then lower the heat to a simmer and cover with your lid. I checked every 10 minutes or so on the progress and to stir the pilaf. It took about 40 or so minutes for the barley to get soft. Once the barley is soft, add the chopped fresh herbs and stir for another minute or two with the lid off. If you have excess liquid at this point, you may want to turn the heat up a little and stir until some of it evaporates.

When you are ready, serve with some parmesan cheese.

Random Bag Night – Ravioli with Super Light Tomato Broth

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Sometimes I think I should rename this blog “thedrunkentomato” instead of “theripetomato” because if you just do a search for wine you will see that I use it, A LOT, in my cooking. This recipe is no exception. I am fairly proud of myself for the ingredients in this dish. For one, the tomato used is puree of fresh tomatoes from last summer, grown and purchased locally and then skinned & seeded and frozen by me for use throughout the year. Second, the basil is from my garden out front – it is just getting big enough for me to start using it sparingly so I am very very excited. And third, the ravioli are homemade from this recipe, the leftovers of which I froze and they held up perfectly. Lastly, the wine is homemade by my dad and it is super tasty. On the downside, I used store bought (free range) chicken broth, so I am definitely not completely homegrown/local/fresh, but I’m definitely making progress!

So I cooked the ravioli, frozen, in some salted water for about 5 minutes. The following broth takes about 20-25 minutes to simmer down (more if you have time) because using fresh tomatoes it takes a while to get that rawness out of the flavor and develop a more tomato-y taste. You could substitute canned tomato puree here and it works just as well.

1 shallot, sliced thinly (1/2 an onion is fine)

4-5 cloves of garlic, smashed

1.5 cups of tomato puree

2 cups broth (I used chicken)

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

6-7 fresh basil leaves minced, or a generous pinch of dried basil

1/2 cup dry red wine

salt & pepper to taste

Saute the shallots & garlic in the olive oil on  medium high heat until the shallots are soft- maybe 4-5 minutes, stir often. Add the red wine and allow it to simmeron the medium high heat for about 2-3 minutes. Add the tomato, the broth, the basil and a generous pinch of salt. If you are using canned tomato, you will need less salt because the canned ones are already high in sodium. Allow the whole thing to simmer on medium heat for a good 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Ladle it over the ravioli and top with some grated cheese.

You could use this as a light soup by itself, maybe even blending the whole thing with a stick blender so it’s smooth. You could also use orzo or some other kind of small pasta instead of ravioli.

Fresh Homemade Baguettes

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From the stats that I receive from WordPress I can safely say that many of my readers are bread fans, namely the No Knead recipe I posted here a while back. I agree, that bread is fantastic and very easy to execute. My hubby, the chief dough maker in the house, decided to graduate to something a little bit more complicated: the baguette. Today he made several mini baguettes, including a “stuffed” one filled with provolone cheese, using this recipe from King Arthur Flour. It was significantly more work than the no-knead bread but the results are fantastic and you can make enough bread to freeze for later. It requires advanced planning – the dough needs to rise and re-rise and re-rise … etc… 

The stuffed loaf, pictured above, was delicious, though next time we may try additional stuffing items like prosciutto or something similar. Also, the bread was baked on parchment paper and we allowed it to cool in the oven until it was nice and crispy. 

If you have time to kill over a weekend, this is definitely a great recipe to try.

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