Posts Tagged ‘pine nuts’

Spaghetti with Sicilian Meatballs

January 13, 2013

IMG_9502When we were in Italy, what struck me most is that there truly isn’t “Italian” food. Rather, their food is identified by the region you are in. Spaghetti and clams in the Italian Riviera. Boar in Tuscany. Pizza in Naples. That is why I was so intrigued when I saw a recipe for Sicilian meatballs in Bon Appetit.

The food of Sicily has a Greek and sometimes African influence, making it have more olives, capers and currants than you would find in the “boot.” So when looking at the meatball recipe, at first glance it seemed very traditional. Sausage meat (which was an interesting twist on the typical beef, veal, pork combo), breadcrumbs in milk, garlic, onion, etc. Yet, then they add pine nuts and currants to make it have a bit of nutty sweetness. They are baked, and then smothered in a traditional Italian red sauce.

This dish has that same warm, comforting result as typical Italian meatballs, but they do have an interesting sweetness to them that makes them have a “hmm, what’s that?” factor. It is a great alternative to a typical bowl of spaghetti and meatballs, and will be making its way to our dinner table as a great Sicilian (not Italian!) dish!

SPAGHETTI WITH SICILIAN MEATBALLS
Serves 4-6

Sauce:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 28-ounce cans diced tomatoes in juice
4 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Meatballs:
2/3 cup fresh breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons milk
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 large egg
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 pound sweet Italian sausages, casings removed
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
2 tablespoons dried currants

1 pound spaghetti

For Sauce:
Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-low heat. Add onion; sauté until golden, about 10 minutes. Add garlic; stir 1 minute. Add tomatoes with juices and 2 tablespoons basil; bring to boil. Reduce heat; simmer until sauce thickens, breaking up tomatoes with fork, about 1 hour. Mix in 2 tablespoons basil. Season with salt and pepper. Set sauce aside.

For Meatballs:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly oil baking sheet. Mix crumbs and milk in medium bowl; let stand 5 minutes. Mix in Parmesan, onion, basil, egg, garlic and pepper. Add sausage, pine nuts and currants; blend well. Using wet hands, form mixture into 1 1/4-inch balls. Place on baking sheet. Bake until meatballs are light brown and cooked through, about 30 minutes. Add to sauce.

Cook spaghetti in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite. Drain. Mound in dish. Bring sauce and meatballs to simmer. Mix with and spoon over spaghetti.

Pasta with Basil Pesto

November 18, 2010

Until spending time in Cinque Terre, Italy, I hadn’t had much pesto in my life. Not sure if it was the intimidating color, the name’s meaning (means “to pound,” yikes!) or the fact that my husband claimed he was never a big pesto fan.

Yet, on our first night in Vernazza, sitting at a restaurant on the sea, we followed an antipasti plate of fresh fish with a big, heaping bowl of spaghetti topped with the greenest, freshest, most flavorful sauce I have never had. And it was, of course, pesto.

As you can imagine, upon returning from the trip when I contemplated making my own pesto, I had no arguments from my husband. We had found a new love and new appreciation for this sauce that originates in the Ligurian coast of Italy.

I pulled this recipe from La Cucina Italiana (have I mentioned I am obsessed with this magazine?). Seemed simple and authentic – pine nuts, basil, parmigiano reggiano and pecorino romano, garlic, sea salt and olive oil. But the mistake I made was trying to make it the authentic way – without authentic tools.

Pesto is made is a mortar and pestle. Why not? If that is how the Italians do it, then that is how I will do it. The small problem (well big problem) was, that I didn’t have one. My substitution was a muddler, and it was a sad replacement. So, alas, my pesto ended up in a food processor. The result tasted fantastic, but it made me put a mortar and pestle (authentic marble, of course) on my Christmas list so I can be a true Ligurian next time I indulge in this green goodness.

Authentic tools or modern luxuries – either way I encourage you to try this simple sauce next you want to vary your color palate and your culinary palate.

PASTA WITH BASIL PESTO
Serves 4

¼ cup pine nuts
2 cups tightly packed basil leaves
2 garlic cloves, lightly smashed, peel removed
Coarse sea salt
6 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 tablespoons freshly grated pecorino romano cheese
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 lb pasta of your choice

Place pine nuts in a medium skillet and heat over medium-low heat. Cook, occasionally shaking the pan back and forth over the heat, until nuts are toasted, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer nuts to a plate to cool completely.

Rinse basil and gently, but thoroughly, pat dry with paper towels. Place in a mortar with cooled pine nuts, garlic and pinch salt. Using the pestle with a rotary movement, grind ingredients against the wall of the mortar, until ground to a paste. Add both cheeses and grind into mixture to combine.

Transfer mixture to a large bowl. In a slow and steady steam, add oil, whisking constantly.

Pesto is best used the same day but keeps, its surface covered with a thin layer of olive oil and tightly covered, chilled, for 3 days.

To dress pasta, dilute pesto with a tablespoon or two of pasta cooking water, toss with hot pasta (just cooked and drained), add a tablespoon or two of butter and toss again. Serve at once.

Pasta with Asparagus, Pancetta and Pine Nuts

March 7, 2010

As a seasonal cook, I fully realize it is way too early for this recipe. Asparagus is such a spring dish and the bright lemon and lack of a heavy sauce makes this perfect for warm weather. Perhaps making this dish is my way of having some wishful thinking, since it is only early March.

However, this recipe will certainly be in my list of “light, warm-weather pastas.” I envision eating it with a light, crisp glass of white wine, sitting on my back patio in the warm evening. This time we had it inside on a Thursday night while watching TV, but hopefully it a month or two, we can give this dish the ambiance it deserves.

Thanks to Cooking Light for this one – they have had a lot of great recipes lately. Once thing to note, a lot of recipes have me scratching my head – how is this cooking light? Take a minute and read the serving size and it will all be made clear to you. The challenge is always adhering to it, of course!

SIDE NOTE: This was the first time I had ever baked pancetta, and oh my goodness – it gets extra crispy and has a concentrated flavor! You could always throw it on the stove with oil, if you wanted, but I recommend giving the oven a try.

PASTA WITH ASPARAGUS AND PINE NUTS
4 Servings

8 ounces uncooked cavatappi pasta
1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut diagonally into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1 teaspoon minced garlic
3 tablespoons pine nuts
2 ounces diced pancetta
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup (1 ounce) crumbled Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Preheat oven to 400°.

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; add asparagus to pan during last 3 minutes of cooking. Drain. Sprinkle pasta mixture with garlic; return to pan, and toss well.

Arrange pine nuts in a single layer on a jelly-roll pan. Bake at 400° for 3 minutes or until golden and fragrant, stirring occasionally. Place in a small bowl.

Increase oven temperature to 475°.

Arrange pancetta on jelly-roll pan. Bake at 475° for 6 minutes or until crisp.

Combine lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper, stirring with a whisk. Drizzle over pasta mixture; toss well to coat. Sprinkle with pine nuts, pancetta, and cheese.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: