When making pizza at home I tend not to stray from the norm. Fresh mozzarella, tomato sauce and basil on a thin crispy crust, commonly known as a pizza margherita is what I usually make.
As we all know, pizza can adapt to almost any ingredient and outside of Italy this is usually the case. Crazy concoctions with almost any food are thrown on a flat dough, baked and voila...a pizza. In a sense I admire people's creativity but when I see things like "Buffalo chicken wing pizza" it drives me insane.
When I do stray from the everyday basic pizza, I like to use ingredients that are within the realm of flavors typical to Italian cooking.
Smoked ricotta I received this summer from my wife's uncle visiting from Calabria had been sitting in my fridge as I wondered what to do with it. Typically it is eaten with salumi or shaved over pasta but I was itching to try and cook with it. I quickly discovered that it had no real melting capabilities, rather it dried up a little more and the smokiness was intensified. When I sliced and baked it, it browned nicely on the surface but retained a baked potato like texture on the inside.
Not wanting the cheese to over power the pizza I figured I had to pair it with other boldly flavored ingredients. Oven roasting a tomato concentrates its flavor making it rich, smokey and a great match to the smoked ricotta. The tomato loses much of it's moisture, concentrating the sugars but remains more plump than a sun dried tomato. Since the cheese and tomatoes were slightly dry and lacking in cheesy, saucy gooeyness I added some roasted red pepper for moisture and sharp flavor.
Basil pesto, fried garlic, red onion and good quality extra virgin olive oil balance nicely with the cheese, tomato and peppers.
1 pizza dough
Smoked ricotta sliced 1/8 of an inch thick ( as much as you like )
6 canned san marzano tomatoes -oven roasted (see above)
1 roasted red pepper cut in thin strips
3-4 Tbsp basil pesto
3 cloves of garlic, lightly fried
1 small red onion finely sliced
Extra virgin olive oil
Drizzle lightly with olive oil and place in a 400f oven.
Bake pizza until crust and smoked ricotta are golden brown.
Allow pizza to cool slightly before cutting.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Friday, September 17, 2010
Many great chefs can make wonderful creations with various ingredients and bring them all together with whimsical presentation. On the other hand, I enjoy seasonal ingredients and just let the flavors of the season make for a great combination. Whether they are local to your area or come from across the ocean, seasonal ingredients are readily available. As I often find when it grows together, it goes together.
Vibrant butternut squash, earthy roasted chestnuts and creamy sheep's milk ricotta combine to create a taste that lets you know fall is here and it's harvest time. Although ricotta is available all year long, fall is when I enjoy it the most. Nuttiness from the chestnuts partners great with the sweet rich taste of a roasted squash.
Why make ravioli when you can go out and buy them? First of all we never truly know what is in them and secondly this recipe will show you a trick to making quick and easy ravioli using fresh pasta you can buy locally.
Using fresh lasagna purchased from from my neighbourhood pastificio I take the leg work out of making the pasta my self. When creating a stuffing for your ravioli, let your imagination run wild using seasonal flavors you enjoy together.
8 sheets of fresh lasagna
1 cup of fresh sheep's milk ricotta
1 cup roasted butternut squash, skin removed (400f oven for 1hour)
1/4 cup ground roasted chestnuts
1/2 cup grated parmigiano cheese
Flour for dusting
1 egg beaten with 2 Tbsp water
Once squash has cooled, place it in a bowl with ricotta,chestnuts and parmigiano and mix well.
In a frying pan on medium heat, melt some butter until lightly brown then add fresh sage leaves and a very small pinch of freshly grated nutmeg.
Pour sauce over ravioli and plate with shavings of parmigiano reggiano.
If large ravioli are made, serve 3-4 per person.
Sunday, September 12, 2010
Fall is here and peppers of all shapes, sizes and colors are ready to be eaten. The bell pepper is used in most notable cuisines around the world. The variety of colors lend spectacular visual effect in any dish and the taste is often the star of any great recipe they are used in. Although the colors can be vastly different, the flavors are only mildly different.
Peppers can be stuffed with an endless number of ingredients not unlike the toppings on a pizza. For this recipe I chose to use a hand full of Italian ingredients with flavors that go great together. Most Italian cooks would use red or green bell peppers to be stuffed but I use Hungarian bell peppers. I find the Hungarian pepper to be a little sharper in peppery flavor than red or green but still keep the traditional recipe intact.
Mild Italian sausage, mozzarella, parmigiano and tomato sauce go extremely well together to blend with arborio rice and be infused with the wonderful taste of the bell pepper.
All this results in a fantastic little package that is like an entire meal filled with the 4 basic food groups.
6 bell peppers ( any color can be used)
4 Mild Italian sausages, casings removed
2 cups Arborio rice
4 cups Tomato sauce
1 LB. Mozzarella, grated
1 cup Grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1 Onion finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Begin by boiling Arborio rice until al dente. At the same time saute sausage and onion in a frying pan until nicely browned. Drain rice and place in a large bowl with cooked sausage and onion. Add tomato sauce and both cheeses then season with salt and pepper. All ingredients should be well mixed and can then be stuffed into bell pepper.
Be sure to use a generous amount and pack well into each pepper half.
Place peppers in a covered baking dish and into a pre heated 400f oven.
Cook peppers for 1 hour and 15 minutes then remove cover and bake an additional 15 minutes.
If you prefer a really soft roasted pepper, extend covered baking time an additional 20 minutes.
Prep time 35 minutes
Cooking time 1 1/2 hours
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
As harvest time comes around the great Canadian countryside is filled with apples, potatoes and succulent pork.
Earthy potatoes, sweet apples and smokey bacon pair extremely well with aged white Canadian cheddar, goat cheese and onion. The twist in this pie comes from the pistachios carefully massaged into the crispy, flaky, buttery crust which tenderly cradles all these amazing ingredients.
The results will surprise you with a symphony of melding flavors and textures, making it very difficult to have only one slice.
1 Russet Potato, boiled until tender
1 Apple peeled , cored and sliced
6 Slices of bacon, cut in 1 inch pieces
1 cup Shredded, aged white cheddar
1/4 cup Unripened goat's milk cheese
1 small Red onion, thinly sliced
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups All purpose flour
1 cup butter cut in cubes
1/2 cup Chopped pistachio nuts
1 tsp salt
8 Tbsp Ice water
To make crust combine flour, pistachios, salt and butter in a bowl. Using a fork, gently mash together until fully combined. Add water and mix together until all the flour in taken from the sides of the bowl and a dough ball has formed. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 1/2 hour.
On a floured surface, roll out dough until it is big enough to fit a 9 inch pie dish. Gently place dough in greased pie dish and set aside. ( This recipe will create a fairly thick pie crust )
Filling Pie- Sprinkle some grated cheddar into the base of the crust. Slice potato 1/4 thick and layer over the cheese, covering the entire base of the crust. Sprinkle remaining cheddar over potato and begin layering apple slices. Cover apple slices with bacon, goat cheese and onion then sprinkle with black pepper.
Place in a pre heated 375f oven and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly before serving.
Prep time 1 hour
Cooking time 1 hour and 15 minutes
Monday, September 6, 2010
Growing up in an Italian household was like living in a 5 star kitchen. Food was what everything revolved around. Not just any food, great food. It wasn't just for parties or big events either. Coming home everyday from school and walking in the door was a treat just smelling the scent coming from the kitchen...ahh what a feeling.
Anticipation was the next feeling as we patiently waited for mom's creation to come to the table, even though we could recognize exactly what was cooking ( from the scent). Like a finely tuned Ferrari each dish
came to the table looking beautiful, tasting amazing and made just the way you knew it would always be....perfect.
Lasagna is one of those traditional dishes that transports you into the wonderful world that is Italian food. Even most non-italians can relate as they bite into what is probably one of the most recognizable and all round loved dishes of the world. The different textures tasted in just a single bite with the sauce, meat and stringy melted cheese is one of the reasons people love it.
It is these same ingredients, paired with fresh pasta that convey the wonderful feelings created by Italian food.
Many people would never attempt to make a lasagna but the truth is, with a few simple ingredients and a little time anyone can recreate this amazing, traditional classic.
8 sheets of fresh lasagna ( available in most supermarkets or your local pastificio)
6 cups Tomato sauce
1 lb. Ground beef
1 lb. Mozzarella
1 cup Freshly grated Parmigiano cheese
2-3 Hard boiled eggs
Saute ground beef until browned, drain any liquid then add to tomato sauce.
In a baking dish begin layering sauce, pasta, mozzarella, parmigiano and sliced hard boiled egg.
Repeat this step until you have used all your ingredients.
Place lasagna in a pre-heated 375f oven and bake covered for 50 minutes.
Remove cover and bake an additional 10-15 minutes or until top is golden brown and bubbling.
Once cooked, allow the lasagna to cool slightly before cutting and serving.
As with all Italian cooking, ingredients may vary from region to region.
Prep time 20 minutes
Cooking time 1 hour
Friday, September 3, 2010
Sinfully delicious extra dark chocolate and creamy mascarpone smother sweet maple syrup infused pears all cradled by a light and crispy puff pastry crust. Wow, that is a mouthful but you will definitely want more than a bite when you sink your teeth into this. Decadent is the first word that comes to mind describing this treat.
Fall is here and juicy Bosc pears are ripe and ready. They transform into something wonderful as they bathe in a warm bath of Canadian maple syrup. Luscious mascarpone and dark chocolate already notoriously good in many desserts, complete the combination and the result is heavenly.
A simple preparation and assembly is all it takes to create this stunning tart but your guests will easily believe you stopped by a patisserie to pick it up.
1 block of puff pastry
3 ripe Bosc pears cut into1/4 inch slices
1/2 cup Maple syrup
1 cup of mascarpone cheese
1/4 cup chopped dark chocolate
2 Tbsp water
Place tart in a preheated 375f oven and bake for approximately 40 minutes or until puff pastry crust is golden brown and flaky.
The tart pairs extremely well with a nicely chilled Canadian ice wine.
For more great wine info check out: