martedì 3 febbraio 2015

Small talk about pasta

Why in Italy we use so many different types of pasta? Are they not all the same?
Ehm, well, no.. they are not all the same!

First of all let´s distinguish in 2 big families: pasta with and without eggs.
Here somebody can already be surprised, because not all italian pasta contains eggs. But what all pasta shall contain is durum wheat. This ingredient, often absent in the low quality pasta purchasable aboard, is fundamental for the right pasta texture. The pasta prepared with normal wheat goes from raw to overcook without getting the right al dente cooking consistency.  I have the feeling it is also more difficult to digest.
Let´s go back to eggs. The noodles containing eggs are only the ribbon shaped ones like tagliatelle and pappardelle with the exception of the sheets to prepare lasagna (which also have eggs) and due to this they are all named “pasta all uovo” (egg pasta). This type of pasta can also be prepared at home if you feel highly motivated, or you can buy ready both dry and fresh. The point to consider is that the nutritional income of this pasta is higher because of the eggs and due to this the portions should be smaller than for normal pasta. This is a type of pasta typically served on feat days or to guests.
In general for both types of pasta, with and without eggs, an important parameter is the roughness of the surface. Do not get scared, here it is no rocket science, just the simply idea that rougher surface will hold more sauce, on a smoother surfaces more sauce will slip away. So the good pasta is the one with the rougher surface.  
And then last but not least, very important is the shape. Because even if the “raw material” is the same, the different shape plays a big role in the final texture of the pasta and in the interaction with the sauce. It is because of this that different shaped pasta is fitting better to certain sauces. In particular think about how fusilli or noodles with cavities (like the conchiglie) are trapping the sauce in comparison to spaghetti. 
Now, how to choose the right pasta shape?
I would say mainly on your taste. Secondary based on what you have in the kitchen pantry. And then also check the recipe recommendation, since some couplings are traditional (and maybe there is a reason behind) like spaghetti carbonara o penne all´arrabbiata.

Different is how to choose pasta when you buy it. Please, do not choose Italian pasta only because an Italian flag is painted on the package. Here your secret power is the label. Read the label. Read the ingredients. Decent Italian pasta shall have durum wheat. And if it is not ribbon shaped pasta, it shall not have eggs. Once you know these 2 points, you are quite on the right way for a good purchase and you cannot make too big mistakes.
I also live in a foreign country and I know how many false Italian pretended packages are available for sale. For me it is easy to choose because I am Italian but now I hope it is a little bit easier also for you.

lunedì 29 settembre 2014

15 minutes Nutella tiramisù

Yes, it is another tiramisu variation!
I love the classic and plan tiramisu but I like also to play with it and make different versions. Also because it is easy, there is no baking and I can taste on the way to adjust everything.
This is a great recipe if you need to prepare a yummy dessert for an occasion and you are running out of time because it needs short preparation time and almost no rest time.
Or also it is a great recipe if you are a chocolate or a nutella lover :-)
You can use the same nutella cream also for other creations, for example to fill a cake

200g Ladyfinger (Savoiardi) biscuits
500g Mascarpon
400g Nutell
3 espresso or 1 cup caffee (cold)
Cocoa powder

Prepare the café and let it cool down in a soup plate.
Blend the nutella in the mascarpone with a wood spoon until pretty uniform.
Dip the biscuits shortly in the cold caffee and align them in a tray to create a first bottom layer.

If you plan to eat the tiramisu in short time (few hours) make the biscuits pretty wet, if indeed you plan to eat the dessert the day after dip the biscuits only quickly because anyhow they will get the moisture from the cream and the few café will have plenty of time to get spread.

Cover now the biscuits layer with half of the cream. Create a second layer of biscuits and finish with the rest of the cream.
With the help of a spoon shape the top of the cream in small waves. Sprinkle with cocoa powder and store in the fridge until moment of serving.

martedì 2 settembre 2014

This is not carbonara! Panna e prosciutto

Few posts ago I was complaining about how carbonara is so often mistreated aboard.
The funny thing that I noticed is that the normally foreign served carbonara is actually an Italian food, it is just not carbona. It is the so called “panna e prosciutto”, i.e. simply cream and ham. A very easy and simple recipe often used like quick and easy dinner if the fridge is empty and I am late.
Let´s see how a panna e prosciutto sauce is prepared so that you can see the big difference by yourself with a carbonara.
Remember, the key ingredient in the carbonara sauce is the eggs! Now read the recipe below and compare. 

For 2
250g pasta
80g ham cut in a thick slice (3-5mm)
200ml fresh cream

Start heating the salted water and when boiling add the pasta and cook according time on the package 

In the meanwhile place ham pieces on a nonstick pan and after couple fo minutes add the fresh cream. sprinkle a pinch of salt and cook at low heat until the sauce get thick. Take care to not let the cream reach the boiling point (like indeed in the picture below :( )

When ready grate some nutmeg and remove from fire.

Strain the pasta and blend with the sauce. If too dry add 1 or 2 spoons of noodles water.
Add generously parmesan and enjoy!

Good noodles for panna&prosciutto are penne. An other very classic (and very good!) combo is with the tortellini!

lunedì 25 agosto 2014

Strawberries tiramisù

Before the strawberry season is definitely over, I absolutely have to share the recipe of this easy tiramisu variation which makes it a colorful and fresh dessert.

If available I prefer to use bio strawberries, because it is not a fruit that you can peel or that you can wash for too long. So most of the pesticide and the preservatives are laying on the outside and you cannot get rid of them. Due to this I like to go for bio strawberries in the hope that they are less poisoned. And also eggs especially when are used raw I always take them organically growth.

The recipe itself is absolutely not complicated since it is a simple variation of the basic tiramisu recipe that I presented some posts ago. But the outcome is spectacular and you can use it also for a special occasion.

I used a small oval pan, about 25cm long.
4 portions

2 eggs
200g mascarpone cheese
3tbs sugar
aprox 150g strawberries
1 glass milk
1tbs rum (based on taste)
red coloring

Give a look to the previous tiramisu post, and prepare the cream according exactly the same directions, just in half amount. (2 eggs, 2tbs sugar and 200g mascarpone, pinch of salt)

Then prepare the liquid to wet the bisquits by adding 1tbs sugar to the milk, the rum and the red coloring.  

A small variation can be done on the syrup. If you plan to serve the dessert to children just stay on the milk and sugar version skipping the rum, but if you like a more fresh variation substitute the rum with limoncello (or lemon base liquor).

Chop the strawberries in halves or quarters depending on the size of them. 

Now wet the biscuits in the liquid and align them on the pan. Pour gently half of the cream on the biscuits layer and place half of the strawberries

Repeat the operation a second time or until you finish the cream amount. In the last strawberries layer align them gently and create a small decoration (eg wheel spokes shape), finish with a pistachio sparkle.