“Béchamel” Pumpkin Pasta

 

 

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Pumpkin, Pleadings, & Pasta. October will be featuring all kinds of fun ways to dress up the basic ingredient of pumpkin!

 

Today’s feature is something I whipped up when I was craving a festive pasta alfredo. Now, a few words on alfredo. Since I eat dairy free, it’s not something I can enjoy regularly. Further, it’s usually calorie ridden, heavy, and isn’t the most authentic Italian cuisine.

 

Enter bechamel. For those of you that don’t know what a bechamel sauce is, it’s actually a foundational component of a lot of french cooking.  Traditionally it is a roux of butter and flour cooked in milk, and infused with herbs sometimes.

 

I started with a bechamel-esque base (for those purists, it’s far from the original since I used almond milk and not a lot of butter), and built from there. The result was light and satisfying, yet comforting. It makes for a great addition to a cozy fall evening.

 

“Béchamel” Pumpkin Pasta

By Pleadings & Pasta 2013

1/2 cup almond milk

1/2 cup of pumpkin puree

2-3 oz of goat cheese

1 tablespoon of butter

1.5 tsp of flour

Several cloves of garlic

A few springs of fresh rosemary

Salt and pepper to taste

a dash of cinnamon

Pasta of your choice

 

1. Melt butter and whisk in flour. Add garlic cloves (crushed)

2. Heat through for 2 minutes then add almond milk and rosemary and bring to a boil

3. Once fragrant, add pumpkin puree and simmer until thickened.20131003-185523.jpg

4. Add goat cheese at the end, salt and pepper to taste and whisk smooth.

 

 

20131003-185536.jpg5. Boil pasta in salted water until al dente. Drain and add immediately into the “bechamel” pumpkin sauce.

6. Serve hot and enjoy!

Feel free to test run the recipe with other herbs too, including sage which is always a nice compliment to pumpkin.

Eat with all of your heart,

G

Mac and Goat Cheese

Sometimes the 10 year old inside of me craves a big, heaping bowl of Mac n’cheese.

It’s then that the adult in me reminds me that although satisfying in the moment, I won’t feel so good afterwards.

So, to satisfy my craving for this indulgent comfort food, I whip up a healthier and more lactose friendly version I like to call Mac and Goat Cheese.

Mac and Goat Cheese

By Pleading and Pasta 2013

2 small logs of goat cheese (one herbed and one regular)

1/4 cup of almond milk

1 lb of pasta (I like elbow macaroni but you can sub your favorite cut including whole wheat and gluten free varieties)

1 package of sweet cherry tomatoes (or some from your garden!)

1 cup of chopped fresh basil

Salt and pepper to taste

1. Chop the cherry tomatoes in half and set aside.

2. Cook the pasta in salted water until al dente.

3. Strain the pasta. Leave in colander and put the pot back on low to medium heat. Add almond milk and goat cheese. Stir until somewhat melted then add pasta, tomatoes, and basil.

4. Keep stirring until fully incorporated.

5. Serve hot and enjoy!

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This dish is quick, easy, and really hits the spot. Mix it up with different flavors of goat cheese or other garnishes!

Eat with all of your heart,

G

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.

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

Tagliatelle fatte a mano (Handmade Tagliatelle)

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It’s only appropriate that my first recipe on Pleadings & Pasta be, you guessed it, a pasta recipe.

As a first generation Italian American, I grew up eating my Nonna’s fresh lasagna with homemade sheets of pasta that almost melted in between the layers of rich simmer-all-day tomato sauce, hand grated mozzarella, and fresh basil from our yard.

There was something notably different about the homemade pasta versus the store bought. It was lighter, richer, and seemed to dance off the plate and into your mouth.

I let far too much time go by before learning how to make my own pasta from scratch. However, I made up for that lost time once I started law school and realized cooking, one of my favorite past times, was actually one of the best stress relievers available to me. The beautiful thing was by the end of the creative cooking session,I was more relaxed, and got to eat the fruits of my labor! You can’t beat being full and relaxed.

Now let me disclaim: Making your own pasta is difficult. At least the first few times. Once you realize how the texture should feel, get a sense of the proper rolling techniques, and develop an eye for when the pasta is “al dente” (it cooks much faster than dried store bought pasta) you will proudly sit over your steaming bowl of tagliatelle with a smile on your face that says “I did it!”

Here’s the basic recipe adapted from a combo of Nonna’s recipe and Bob’s Red Mill Flour recipe:

  • 1/2 cup Semolina Flour
  • 1/2 cup Unbleached Flour
  • 2 eggs
  • A generous pour of olive oil (about 2 tablespoons)
  • A pinch of salt
  • 2 table spoons of water

1. Mix the flour and salt in a bowl. If you want to do this old school style, do it on your kitchen counter and make a small little canyon in the mound of flour. You can also do this in your bowl as well.

2. Crack the eggs into the canyon along with the olive oil and water.

3. Incorporate the mixture until the dough is stretchy. It may be a little sticky but avoid adding more flour at this stage.

4. Cover the dough or place in a plastic bag and let sit for 20-30 minutes.

5. Remove dough and lightly flour your rolling surface. Begin to roll the dough to the desired thickness and shape and cut. To make tagliatelle, I rolled the pieces thin and cut long strips in a larger width. (Readers…here’s where I made the biggest mistake over and over. Unless you are looking for an upper body workout, rolling the entire piece of dough is going to wear you out to the point of being too tired to enjoy your pasta. If possible, cut up the dough into smaller pieces so you can easily roll it thin with a rolling pin. Better yet, invest in a pasta machine! It will make for consistently smooth and even pieces of pasta)

6. Put a generous pot of boiling water on the stove. With fresh pasta you want the water to be nicely salted and in a big enough pot to give your beautifully rolled pasta space to cook.

7. Drop the pasta in the boiling water and once it floats to the top (approximately 2-5 minutes depending on cut) it’s done!

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Goat Cheese Herb Ravioli is so easy to make. Just mix plain goat cheese with freshly chopped herbs of choice, and spoon onto squares of dough. Place another square on top, press firmly with a fork to close and boil.

8. Drain well and add sauce of choice.

Yes, it’s that simple. The beautiful thing is you can vary this recipe with all unbleached flour, or all semolina. You can add dried basil or other herbs. You can make a beautiful goat cheese and herb mix and stuff your squares of pasta to make ravioli. I would love to hear what kinds of variations you all make on homemade pasta dough recipes. It’s basic enough that you can truly make it your own.

Go forth, be creative, and mangia la pasta!

Eat with all of your heart,

G

Benvenuti!

Hello all,

Benvenuti! Or “Welcome” in Italian. You’ve stumbled upon this blog because perhaps, like me, you find food more than just nourishment, but a reason to live. A way of life. A creative outlet for your expression.

I was brought up in a family surrounded by amazing cooks and professional eaters and raised under the theory that food brings people together. Needless to say, I was bound to grow up into a young woman who finds her greatest joy in creating her own dishes.

Now as I embark on my career as an attorney, I am committed to keeping this part of myself very much thriving. A long, exhausting day of work can be remedied with a delicious meal. I’m convinced it has healing properties, to be quite honest with you.

A lot of people shy away from cooking, or from cooking certain types of meals for fear it will take too long, or be too hard. I am here to debunk that myth for you. No, this isn’t another “30 Minute Meals” blog (no copyright intended, all rights are to Food Network, Rachel Ray, and any other interested parties.)* Rather, this is a blog where I let my imagination guide my creations. I find challenges, and I conquer them (and sometimes fail at conquering them) in the quest for feeding myself and those I love with delicious food that warms our hearts and fills our bellies.

So thank you for coming here today, and I hope you enjoy this journey. Perhaps this blog will never be read, perhaps it will be read by many. At the end of the day, I hope it at least can serve as a time capsule that I can share with those I love later on in life so that they can be inspired to create, and share these recipes with their loved ones as well.

Eat with all of your heart,

G

*I promise that’s the last bit of legal jargon you will see on my blog.