Buccatini in Sweet Potato Sauce

photo 2Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing I love more than pasta in a traditional tomato based sauce. It’s my ultimate comfort food.

However, sometimes it’s great to mix up your favorite cut of pasta with the ingredients you have on hand to make something new, exciting, and unexpected.

Today I have a Pleadings & Pasta original recipe for you that’s just that! The following is a recipe for pasta in a sweet potato sauce. Yes you read that correctly. It’s creamy, comforting, and jam packed with antioxidants, Vitamin A, and other nutrients.

The best thing is, this has the rich creamy consistency of an alfredo or heavy cream sauce, but without the extra calories and heavy feeling afterwards. If you are lactose intolerant you can leave out the cheese, and this sauce is still just as delicious.

Buccatini con Sugo di Patate Dolci (Buccatini in Sweet Potato Sauce)

by Pleadings and Pasta, 2013

5 sweet potatoes (peeled, cut, and boiled)

Half of a yellow onion, chopped

3 cloves of garlic, chopped

1/4 cup of soy milk (can use almond or regular milk as well)

1/4 cup chopped basil

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup of freshly grated parmigiano reggiano (parmesan)

Half package of pasta (I used DelVerde bucatini No. 6, really picked up the sauce nicely!)

A high quality olive oil for sautéing (I used Lucini Extra Virgin Olive Oil)

1. Boil the sweet potatoes until soft. Drain and put in a cup so you can use a hand blender/emulsifier to blend the vegetables.

2. Sautee garlic, onions, and basil in olive oil for 2-3 minutes until tender.

3. Bring water to a boil and put pasta in. Cook for 6-10 minutes until “al dente.” The DelVerde pasta I used is handcrafted in Italy in the Abruzzo region, and really seemed to pick up the sauce nicely.

photo 24. Remove the sautee from the heat and stir in with the boiled vegetables in the cup. Add the soy milk and blend with the hand blender until smooth. Add more basil if you would like and add salt and pepper to taste.

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5. Stir in parmesan and mix and taste. Add more if you would like.

6. Strain pasta, and put back into the pot. Drizzle a little bit of olive oil on top and add the sauce. Toss, and serve hot.

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Enjoy this with a fresh summer salad, refreshing glass of white wine, and wonderful company.

Lastly, I would like to thank La Cucina Italiana Magazine for selecting me to serve as one of their Blogger Ambassadors. Delverde and Lucini, both Italian brands, were kind enough to send over some of their products for me to try and I was excited to incorporate them into one of my new favorite original recipes. Grazie mille!

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Lucini’s Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Tuscany provided a robust nutty flavor to the dish.

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Delverde pasta, from the Abruzzo region, is made using bronze dies to cast the shape of the pasta. This makes for a pasta that truly clings to the sauces, making for a nice clean presentation. The pasta was perfectly al dente.

Eat with all of your heart,

G

This recipe is posted as an entry in the Delverde DISH YOUR BLOG recipe contest to try to win a trip to NYC. Some entrants may have received free sample products in addition to the opportunity to compete for the prize.

Zucchini Flower Poppers

photo 3One of the delicious Calabrese traditions I grew up with was sitting down for a plateful of Nonna’s famous fried zucchini flower fritters before our main course. If you haven’t tried a zucchini flower before, you are missing out! These flowers are delicate, flavorful, and beautifully colored, and make for a great appetizer to any  meal.

Since my zucchini plant has been blooming with many flowers this season, I took it as a sign that it was time to fry up the delicious zucchini flower fritters I grew up on, but with my own Pleadings & Pasta twist.

photo 2So I took to reconstruct the traditional recipe but with a more modernized pub flair. I am a big fan of jalapeño poppers, but often find them to be a bit too heavy for my liking. So, instead, I took the concept of the jalapeño popper, “Mediterraneanized” it, and arrived at the delicious and comforting Zucchini Flower Poppers recipe below.

The great thing about this recipe is it’s customizable, easy to make, and is a perfect summer recipe to accommodate all of the summer blooming zucchini blossoms. Also, it gives you that to die for combination of warm gooey cheese in the middle of fried goodness, but with a lighter feel. Watch out though, that means you’ll probably want to (and be able to) eat more of them!

Zucchini Flower Poppers

by Pleadings & Pasta © 2013

Ingredients

  • 12-13 zucchini blossoms; delicately rinsed and stamens removed*
  • 6 ounces goat cheese
  • 1 tablespoon chopped basil or your other favorite fresh herbs
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2/3 cup of flour
  • 3/4 cup of beer (whatever is on hand, preferably a lighter or wheat beer)
  • Olive Oil
  • Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese, grated
Instructions
  1. Rinse off your flowers and let them dry completely. This will help in the frying process. You can let them air dry on a paper towel or alternatively in the fridge to keep them fresh and prevent wilting
  2. Continue by mixing the goat cheese, chopped herb, salt and pepper together and set aside
  3. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the flour and beer  together. Add a pinch of salt to the mixture. The consistency should be like that of pancake batter.photo 1
  4. Start filling the zucchini blossoms with a mound of the goat cheese mixture.. Be careful not to tear the flower petals. I noticed it was easiest to insert a rolled up ball of the  mixture right inside that wasn’t too large so it sat at the bottom inside of the flower. Push the petals together to close up the flower so the filling doesn’t escape during frying.
  5. Fill a pan or pot with several inches of olive oil or frying oil of choice. Heat to medium heat, or approximately 350 degrees.
  6. Place the filled zucchini blossoms into the batter until fully coated, then lay them into the hot pan of oil. After 2-4 minutes the first side will be brown, and you can flip them over for another 2-4 minutes. Remove from the heat once golden brown and let them drain on a plate lined with paper towels.
  7. Sprinkle with Parmigiano Reggiano cheese as a finishing touch and serve!

photo 2This Pleadings & Pasta original was by far one of my favorite creations, and it’s sure to become a favorite of yours too. And of course, wash down the delectable poppers with the beer you used for the batter to bring the pub atmosphere into your very own kitchen.

A quick gardener’s note for those using flowers from their own garden. I am a new gardener, and I was hesitant to start picking the beautiful flowers I worked so hard to take care of before they became bright green zucchini.photo 1 However, rest assured you can pick the male zucchini flowers (skinny stem with stamen in the middle) as they only serve the purpose to pollinate the female flowers and never will become zucchini. So once your female flowers are pollinated, don’t let them the male flowers go to waste and fry up a few with the recipe above!

Eat with all of your heart,

G

Rustic Mussels in a Light Tomato Broth

The beautiful thing about food is that we associate it so much with our memories, that just a single bite has the ability to transport you to a completely different place or time. Making a dish that we once enjoyed on a vacation or during a family holiday can bring back those fond memories and give us a quick “getaway” in the midst of a hectic work week.photo 1

When I think back to my time in Italy, what I remember most was sitting on the coast of Sicily eating some of the freshest mussels the world has to offer. In Italy, I had the “cozze” or mussels prepared a variety of ways, from a buttery garlic sauce to a fresh tomato broth. Italians prepare mussels in such a lavish and abundant style, and anytime I ordered them abroad they were alway served fresh in a gigantic black “cauldron” that spans the entirety of the table. Everyone digs in with freshly baked bread to sop up the delicious broth, and as you sit back in a food coma, you can’t believe that that wasn’t your meal but only the appetizer.

Once I got back to the states, it was hard to come by fresh mussels. A lot of the mussel offerings are frozen, which is fine, but I wanted to buy those that don’t have pre-made sauce packets with tons of sodium. I longed for the rich yet light broth I tasted in Italy, and so I set out to make my own Cozze.

So after much research, combining multiple recipes, and several taste tests, I found a delectable way to prepare your mussels that will make you feel like you are dining in a small coastal Italian city without a care in the world other than how many more mussels you will be able to eat in one sitting.

Rustic Mussels in a Light Tomato Broth

by Pleadings & Pasta © 2013

Ingredients

  • 1 pound of fresh mussels (make sure they are all closed, and if any are wide open they are bad and should be discarded. If you find partially open ones, tap them to see if they close. If they do, you can cook them)
  • Several cloves of garlic
  • One onion, chopped
  • Fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • Several pours of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 can of chopped tomatoes OR 3 chopped fresh tomatoes
  • 1 cup of white wine (Chardonnay or the like, and cook only with wine you would drink! High quality wine makes for a high quality meal)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Sourdough Bread

1. Clean the mussels. Make sure that all beards are removed, and rinse well.

2. In a large pot or deep skillet, sauté butter, olive oil, finely chopped garlic, and onion until fragrant

3. Add tomatoes, parsley, and wine and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes. You may want to add a bit more wine or a dash of water depending on if you like your broth to be more liquified. Add salt and pepper to taste.

4. Try to contain yourself from dipping bread into this delicious broth before your dinner is complete. Trust me, I had to control myself several times because your kitchen is going to smell divine.

5. Meanwhile, toast slices of sourdough bread (in the oven or toaster). I particularly like to butter both sides of the sourdough and toast it quickly on the stove top in a skillet. It makes for a beautiful golden brown toast, and it’s a fantastic companion to the broth.

6. Add the mussels to the broth and immediately cover the pot. Let steam for 5-7 minutes or until all the shells open up.

7. Immediately serve the mussels in broth in small bowls and top with more fresh Italian parsley. Place one generously sized slice of bread in each bowl and enjoy!

Now remember, you can serve this as is, or mix it in with a pasta of your choice (preferably a linguine). The key to this recipe is to give the broth the time it needs to simmer on a low heat so all of the flavors can mix together. This gives the broth depth and will make for a much tastier end result.

Also, you can leave out the tomatoes and ramp up the garlic in the recipe and make a garlic based broth instead which you can serve with a few slices of lemon to compliment the flavor.

Pair your mussels with a nice glass of wine (the same wine you just used for the broth, since it’s open why not!) and enjoy.

Eat with all of your heart,

G

The right ingredients

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Much like having the right facts and laws in prepartion for filing a brief, you need to start with the right ingredients in preparation for making a carefully constructed dish if you want a stellar final product.

Perhaps my view is a bit skewed, and I should divulge my biases up front. For me, food is one of the best ways to spend your hard earned money. If you get a few key ingredients such as a good extra virgin olive oil and quality spices, and always have the essentials on hand (i.e. garlic, onions, etc.) then you can whip up a decent meal any night of the week depending on what you’re in the mood for. Plus, with a strong home base of ingredients it gives you enough security to venture out slowly into uncharted territories or types of cuisine, without falling too flatly on your face. I will explain this theory in my Pad Thai post when I first had to use “tamarin” and let me tell you that was an adventure.

Also, it’s very important to cook with what’s fresh and in season. I learned this when I studied abroad in Italy, although I didn’t realize it until I got back to the states. You see when I was abroad I would go to the market everyday and cook whatever was fresh and on special.

My dishes were always bursting with flavor, and the leaving it up to fate of picking up what was in season helped push my creative limits as a cook.

For the average professional, shopping for groceries everyday is unrealistic. I know, I feel you. But if you make smart choices in your grocery selections, several ingredients can last you all week! Yes, it’s doable.

Best of all, if you live somewhere that will allow you to grow plants of your own, you can even grow your own ingredients. No pesticides, all natural!

Now I know what you’re thinking. G, I am a busy person, I don’t have time to grow my own ingredients! And you know what? You may be right. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to at least grow one thing to get yourself started. Herbs are an excellent place to start. When you’re only cooking for 1 or 2, sometimes buying a ton of parsley or basil at the market is just a waste of money because it ends up wilted in your fridge after a few days. Spend the same amount of money on a basil plant at say, Trader Joe’s, put it in a pot and water it, and you’ll have basil all summer.

I recently ventured into growing my own ingredients, and I have to admit, I’ve become quite addicted to it. You’ll see on this post some cherry tomatoes, basil, sierra lettuce, and shallots.

No matter where you get your ingredients, start with the right ones. The old saying goes, “only get drunk on good wine” and although it’s actual meaning has to do with mate selection, I think it applies here as well. If you’re going to get full, get full on good food! And good dishes require good ingredients.

Eat with all of your heart,

G