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Pithy and Cleaver » italian

Archived entries for italian

Layers of Fall: Pumpkin and Sausage Lasagna

It doesn’t look like much, but this Sunday spin on lasagna was pretty terrific. I was craving a pumpkiny pasta and wanted to have something around the house to feed us on late-working nights. It’s pretty rich, so I think it’s likely to last all week, till we don’t want to ever see another sausagey-pumpkiny bite again.

The sage, spicy sausage, and wine mingle nicely with the savory side of pumpkin, softened with milk and fresh ricotta. A bechamel version would be lovely, too, but I just couldn’t fuss tonight, and this was still satisfying and warming, brimming with Autumn flavors.

At Serious Eats we’re talking about Thanksgiving already. Feels like just a moment ago I was stirring up this stuffing and watching Shiv’s amazing Turkey Day play-by-play. Have you settled into fall? Are you dreaming up mashed potato and cranberry sauce recipes?

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When in Rome

I’m back! And I’ve missed you! A week in Rome does a lot to whet the appetite for cooking and writing, though my appetites for eating and drinking and taking in the sights were very, very well satisfied. It was glorious. And beautiful. The light. The buildings painted in sunset-tones. The cobblestone alleys.

We were nearly alone in the Raphael rooms of the Vatican Museum (reserve and go early!), and jostled among the crowds in ancient Trastevere at night.

We wandered and circled around the neighborhoods, stuffing ourselves with plates of pasta and towering cones of gelato. Thimbles and thimbles of perfect espresso.

We ate so well, thanks to recommendations from a few of you. I appreciate it so much, and wanted to pass a few of our food favorites to anyone who may find themselves hungry in Roma sometime soon.

Food guide after the break. For more photos, click here
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Alone in the Kitchen with a Zucchini

My fiancé is a pretty flexible eater. He often picks the weirdest thing on a restaurant menu to order. He’s ok with cobbled-together meals of steamed greens and turkey meatballs (the sort of thing my father Would Not Enjoy.)

There a just a few things Matt doesn’t like: olives (though we’re working on that), shrimp (they remind him of bugs, I think), mayo (which I don’t eat either), and sour cream (ditto. Our love is like, totally meant to be, right?)

And zucchini. For some reason, he’s just not that into it. Early in our relationship (and my cooking experiments) I innocently tucked a few slices of zucchini in a vegetable lasagna. He asked me—truly disturbed—why I’d made the choice to put pickles in the pasta.

I’d never really given zucchini much thought, but now I’m oddly drawn to the forbidden squash. Matt was out of town all week for a conference, so I made a meal of it. A pasta with more zukes than spaghetti, rich with a Carbonara-style sauce (minus the meat), with generous grindings of pepper and the nearly-final shavings of the prize Parmigiano my friend Will brought me from Rome. (Good thing I just bought a ticket to go there and get some more!)

Was the zucchini the best I’d ever had, or has it just been too long since my last taste? I picked perfect tiny ones at the farmer’s market—narrow, only six or seven inches long—figuring they’d be the most flavorful and sweet. They were fresh and herbal tasting, delicate and delicious.

For half an hour, I hardly missed him.

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Spiking Dessert: Eggless Tiramisu with Marsala and Kahlua

Everyone is writing about Twitter these days, perhaps because it’s really happening, or perhaps because everyone wants to figure out what the heck it’s good for. Quick answer: it’s great for wasting time. But I’ve also found that Twitter is a pretty interesting way to connect with people I may not have gotten to chat with otherwise, as well as a chance see a behind-the-scenes look at bloggers I admire. And it’s a useful forum for asking for advice on recipes and restaurants.

I was daydreaming about dessert when I asked my twitter-people (tweeps? Are we really calling them that?) whether they had any tips on tiramisu ingredients or technique. The kind person who contributes to Twitter for Everyday Food magazine responded, volunteering an easy recipe for me to try. How cool! But to me, their recipe just isn’t the real thing. These days, mascarpone is easy enough to find (especially in New York) so there was no way I was substituting a bar of reduced-fat-cream cheese. I wanted to grate some nice dark chocolate into it, too, not just use cocoa powder. Instant espresso isn’t really my game (it just tastes off to me, even in baked goods) and the recipe didn’t call for any alcohol!
We here at Pithy and Cleaver don’t mind baking with booze. Shiv did invent a Mint Julep Pie, after all. I was further encouraged when I stopped at the farmer’s market for a bottle of fresh cream. The woman from Milk Thistle Farm who sold me a bottle of lovely heavy cream offered her advice: for that true sophisticated tiramisu taste, I should go to a nice liquor store and buy a decent bottle of marsala. It just wouldn’t be the same without it. “One last thing,” she warned. “Don’t soak the ladyfingers too long. And don’t overbeat the cream, it’s so full of milk fat, it will turn into butter.”

Trying not to think of the giant tub of near-butter I was about to serve my unsuspecting guests, I headed for the liquor store with a plan. For this grown-up tiramisu, there would be not one, but two kinds of booze. Good freshly whipped cream, good chocolate, real coffee (spiked with Kahlua!) and real mascarpone, with a touch of marsala. Decadent, for sure.

And really delicious. Like, eye-rolling, expletive-dropping delicious.

This is the perfect dessert for company, since it requires no oven and must be assembled a few hours ahead. It’s dramatic looking—your guests will be so impressed, they cannot imagine what a breeze it was to put together. It’s rich, but not cloying. Traditionally, tiramisu has raw egg yolks in it, but this nearly-eggless version is worry-free. (If you’re allergic to eggs, you’ll need to find an eggless version of savoiardi, but if you’re just nervous about raw eggs, like me, then this recipe is perfect.) Don’t be scared of all the alcohol, the taste is just sophisticated, not too potent.

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Dinner from the Pantry: Orzo with Garlicky White Beans and Chicken Sausage


At Supper restaurant in the East Village, they treat every table to a bowl of white beans soaked in garlicky olive oil. Piled onto bread, these beans may very well be one of the best dishes the restaurant has to offer. (Though you shouldn’t miss the Priest Stranglers or the perfect roast chicken.) I learned to reproduce those beans for a quick appetizer by trial and error when I first moved to the city, and “the bean thing” has since become a staple in our household. Having a can of white beans and a head of garlic around means I’ll never be without a snack for surprise vistors, or short on food for a party.

But a girl cannot live on bread and beans alone, so I whipped up an extended remix, full-meal version here. Garlic, beans, and olive oil are still the stars of the show, but this hearty dish has a bit more to offer: salty sausage, fresh herbs, and sweet leeks flavor the pasta. A squeeze of lemon and a shaving of parmesan finish it off.


You may have everything in your pantry and freezer to make this right now. You may even be trying the eat-down-the-pantry challenge that everyone’s writing about on Egullet and The Washington Post. Here is my offering to those watching their budgets and to those whose tiny apartment freezers and pantries are just too crowded. Just make sure anyone you might want to kiss has a bite of the garlicky stuff too.

Orzo with Garlicky White Beans and Chicken Sausage
serves 2

4 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped roughly
3 tablespoons olive oil
8 fresh sage leaves, washed and torn
1/2 tsp fresh oregano leaves
2 or 3 leeks, washed carefully and chopped
3 spicy italian chicken sausages, sliced in rounds (the ones I used were fully cooked)
1/2 cup wine or pasta water
1 can white beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 lb orzo
salt
parmesan and lemon wedges for serving

In a large saute pan or 3.5 qt dutch oven, saute garlic, sage, and oregano in olive oil until garlic begins to turn translucent. Add leeks and saute several minutes until softened. Meanwhile, boil water for the orzo. When leeks are softened, push them to the side of the pan. Add sliced sausages to open space and cook, turning occasionally, until brown (if you started with raw sausages, check to make sure sausage looks cooked through.) Salt pasta water generously and cook pasta according to package directions. Deglaze saute pan with wine or pasta water ladled from the cooking pasta. Add beans, cook 10 minutes. When pasta is cooked al dente, add to bean mixture and toss. Salt generously and serve with parmesan and a lemon wedge for squeezing.



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