Italian


So I realize this is the second “Risotto Sundays” post in a row, however GreenBEAN delivered these beautiful mushrooms and my mind immediately went to this great wild mushroom risotto I had last month — in Rothenberg, Germany of all places!  If you find yourself in Rothenberg, make sure you stop by Pizzeria Roma (Galgengasse 19) for an authentic Italian meal.  One can only eat pork for so long while in Germany, and this family owned restaurant has been cranking out traditional Tuscan fare in Rothenberg since the 70s!…. but I digress.

Mushroom and Pancetta Risotto

Mushroom and Pancetta Risotto

Ingredients:
2 TB extra virgin olive oil
1 cup diced pancetta
2 cups chopped crimini mushrooms
2 TB butter
1 cup arborio rice
1 cup Chardonnay
1 quart chicken broth
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano
1-2 TB of truffle oil

Method:
1. In a large skillet heat up the olive oil and cook the pancetta till it starts to crisp up. Place pancetta on a plate lined with paper towels and set aside.
2. To the skillet add the chopped mushrooms and cook through for about 10 minutes, stirring them frequently. Remove mushrooms from the skillet and set aside.
3. Add the butter to the hot skillet, let it melt and add the arborio rice. Cook till rice goes from translucent to slightly toasted. Add the wine and reduce the cooking temperature to a low-medium setting.
4. After the wine has cooked through, start adding the broth. Continue to add the broth, 1/2 cup at a time. Only add more when the previous addition has been absorbed by the rice while constantly stirring.
5. Right before the last addition of the chicken broth (approx. 35 minutes into the cooking time), fold the pancetta and mushrooms into the risotto. Add the remaining broth and let it cook through.
6. Add the milk, stir and add the Parmigiano Reggiano.
7. Drizzle with the truffle oil and serve immediately.

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I love making this! While it may seem a bit of an involved process, it really isn’t if you organize yourself well and have everything laid out. Simple enough for a weekday meal, yet elegant and simply delicious. Add some wild rice and seasonal vegetables and is a great dish for entertaining.

Saltimbocca Ingredient Lineup

Saltimbocca Ingredient Lineup

Ingredients – Serves 4
4 TB extra virgin olive oil
3 TB butter, divided
8 sage leaves
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
4 slices provolone cheese
8 slices prosciutto
salt and pepper
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 cup white wine
1/2 cup chicken stock

Sauteeing - Prosciutto Already Browned

Method
1. In a large skillet heat up the olive oil and “fry” the sage leaves, about 30 second per side.
2. Remove from the skillet and set on paper towels.
3. Cut each breast into two half pieces and flatten with a meat mallot.
4. Lay two sage leaves on top of each breast half. Top with cheese and then prosciutto. Secure the prosciutto to the chicken with toothpicks.
5. Season the flour with salt and pepper.
6. Turn the chicken onto the flour and coat both sides, make sure to shake excess flour. Put aside on a dry plate.
7. Return to the skillet to the heat and add a tablespoon of butter.
8. When the oil and butter mixture starts to bubble up, place the chicken on the pan, pancetta side down. Brown for three minutes on each side and remove from the pan.
9. Add remaning butter, wine and stock.
10. Return chicken to the pan and cook on medium heat for 15 more minutes, turning the chicken halfway through cooking.
11. Plate and top with the remaining pan juices.

Saltimbocca Success!

Saltimbocca Success!

This recipe has been “somewhat in development” for a while.  I have made gnocchi with mushrooms many times over, different varieties depending on the season, always finished with a garlic aioli and fresh parm.  I always thought I should make a winter version of it by adding a hearthy cream sauce.  Well, I was in Amsterdam last November and found just the right inspiration here. This velvetty cream sauce has just the right consistency and such delicate flavor. I set to replicate what I tasted at Pianeta Terra and can now share it with you. By the way, if you are ever in Amsterdam, you have got to try this place. Hands down, best Italian food I have had outside of Italy.

Gnocchi al Tartuffo

Gnocchi al Tartuffo

Ingredients
2 TB butter
1 cup chopped onions
2 cups chanterelle mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 pkg gnocchi, about 4 cups dry
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup whole milk
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup shredded parmessan cheese
2 TB truffle oil

Method
1. In large skillet with tall sides melt butter and sautee onions till softened. Add mushrooms and continue to cook over medium heat. Season with salt and pepper.
2. In a medium stock pot bring water to boil, add salt and gnocchi.
3. Cook gnocchi till doness according to package, typically 4 minutes.
4. While gnocchi cooks, to the skillet add the heavy cream, milk and cheese. Season again with salt and pepper and bring to a slow simmer.
5. Remove the cooked gnocchi from the stock pot using a slotted spoon and put directly into the skillet with the creamy mushroom sauce.
6. Cook for an additional 3-4 minutes until the sauce starts to thicken.
7. Drizzle with truffle oil and enjoy!

Chef’s Notes
– Chanterelle mushrooms are the best choice for this dish, but when not available, criminis work nicely.
– In the absence of truffle oil, you can always use high quality extra virgin olive oil.
– This is a great stand alone main dish, first course, or side dish to filet mignon or roasted lamb chops… I have tried them all!

This may be one of my more time consuming recipes. Noticed that I said, time consuming, not difficult. To that end, when you take the time to make this, prepare two lasagnas. Enjoy one on the day you make it, and freeze the other one. They freeze beautifully and taste freshly made up to a month later.

Writing this up was also time consuming, but I took care of that for you!

The pieces of this puzzle are: no-boil lasagna noodles, bolognese sauce, ricotta mixture, spinach bechamel.

Ten Layer Lasagna

Ten Layer Lasagna

Ingredients – Bolognese Sauce
2 TB olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 lbs lean ground sirloin
14 oz top quality canned crushed tomatoes, like San Marzano*
salt and pepper
2 TB tomato paste
3 TB chopped green olives
3 TB chopped roasted red peppers
2 TB capers, rinsed
2 teaspoons dried french thyme
6 fresh basil leaves, thorn by hand

Method
1. To a saute pan add the olive oil and heat up. Add the onion and cook till translucent, about 3 – 5 minutes. Then add the garlic and the ground beef. Cook till the meat begins to brown.
2. Turn up the heat and add the remaining ingredients, except the thyme and basil, waiting 1 – 2 minutes before each addition.
3. Turn the heat down to medium and cook covered for 15 minutes. Add the thyme and basil, stir and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Remove from the burner.

Ingredients – Spinach Bechamel
2 TB unsalted butter
2 TB all purpose flour
1 cup milk
6 oz Boursin cheese**
1 pkg frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained

Method
1. In a heavy saucepan melt the butter. Add the flour and combine well. Cook for a couple of minutes.
2. To the flour mixture add the milk and continue to stir until the mixture starts to thicken. Add the boursin cheese and cook for 5 minutes until the cheese melts and is well incorporated.
3. Add the spinach and cook for another 5 minutes. Set aside.

Ingredients – Ricotta Mixture
2 cups part skim ricotta
1 cup grated parmessan
2 TB dried oregano
1 teas red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste

Method
1. Stir all ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Assembly & Bake

This is the easiest part! Start by spraying a pan, that is at least two inches tall, with non-stick spray. Put a thin layer of the bechamel sauce in the bottom of the pan and then add your first lasagna sheet. From there the layers go in this order:
– bolognese
– ricotta
– bechamel
– noodles
– bolognese
– ricotta
– noodles
– bechamel

Once assembled, bake in a 375 oven for 45 minutes, covered. Even if you plan on freezing the lasagna, I have found that it is better to bake immediately and then freeze.

*Alternatively, if you have a kcik-ass, home made marinara sauce, substitute here. When I have time, I use my oven roasted garlic & tomato sauce.
** If Boursin is not readily available, plain whipped cream cheese may be used.

We do a lot of risotto around here from spring to fall; and it mostly happens on Sundays. We simply love it, and Sunday its about the only day when I have time to dedicate time to one dish. Also, our local Farmer’s Market runs on Saturday, and well, nine times out of ten, some of my market purchases ends up in the risotto.

I first tasted Rissotto al Limone a couple of years ago in Florence. It was our first meal after an entire day of train travel from Munich. I found the combination of lemon and prosciutto intriguing, ordered it, and I am glad I did. I have played around a bit with this recipe and now I have an exact replica of Trattoria Za Za’s recipe!

Risotto al Limone

Risotto al Limone

Ingredients:
2 TB butter
1 cup prosciutto, diced
1 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine such as Chardonnay
40 oz chicken stock
juice of two lemons
1 cup half and half
2 TB grated parmessan

Method
1. In a large skillet, melt the butter and sautee the prosciutto for 5 minutes. Take the prosciutto out of the pan and set aside.
2. Add the arborio rice to the pan and stir frequently until golden. Add the wine and stir till the wine is absorbed.
3. Add the chicken stock, one cup at a time and stir frequently. Continue to add the broth as the previously added broth evaporates. In between broth additions, add the lemon juice. This process will take 30 – 40 minutes.
4. Once rice is cooked to “al dente”, add the half and half and stir.
5. Add the parmessan cheese after the half and half is fully absorbed. Garnish with lemon and serve.