Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Well, what did you think I could possibly have in the oven after cooking all that ragu’ the other day? A cake? Obviously not.
This makes me look so "average Italian", I know that, but what can I say? I'll admit it: I enjoy the occasional Lasagne. There, I said it. Look how pretty my babies look, while they are cooking:

And yes, the right spelling is LASAGNE, with an E at the end, and it's plural. There: I threw in the Italian lesson for the day at the same cost. What a deal!
Seriously, though, Lasagne is a great dish, who can deny that? It's rich, complete, filling, comforting, and makes wonderful leftovers.
But I especially love them right out of the oven, with that crunchy brown top, all that cheese and creamy bechamel sauce (no ricotta cheese and tomato sauce in my Lasagne. Only good ragu', bechamel and cheese). They smell soooooo good too, can't you tell from the picture? ;-)

I know, with all this talking I made you hungry, didn't I? Here, have your slice and Buon Appetito!

For my friends who come to the cooking classes: I will soon have a group class on Lasagne as requested. It might not be original, trendy, sophisticated...but it's just plain good!

Saturday, November 22, 2008


I could be making ragu’ on a Wednesday afternoon, a Monday evening or any other day, it does not even matter: to me it always smells like “Sunday Morning” anyway. That was the day my mom used to make it, almost every week, basically for our Sunday lunch, traditionally the most important meal of the week, but also to freeze it and have it ready some other day for a quick pasta, being the working woman she has always been.

Making ragu’ is considered an art in Italy, a pretty complicated one too, especially in Napoli and around it. I come from up North instead, so you will forgive me if, as usual, I keep it nice and simple.

When I want my ragu’ to taste as much as possible as mom’s I use very little spices, if any at all: onion-celery-carrot-garlic, to begin with, beef and pork meat combined, wine, tomatoes, tomato paste, salt and pepper. When in season, maybe some basil. That’s it. Or actually no, that is not it. I am missing the main ingredient. That would be TIME. And I did not misspell thyme: I actually refer to those three or four hours that the sauce needs to slow cook in order to become a real ragu’. At least according to my mom, that is.

I used to get discouraged by long preparations of any sort but now I don’t feel that way anymore. I just do other things in the meanwhile to keep my anxiety and impatience under control. Of course I don’t do these kinds of things very often and when I do I make a lot so that I can have it ready to use whenever somebody in the family craves some special spaghetti, tagliatelle, lasagne or gnocchi. And in my family “special” means that they must smell like “Sunday Morning”.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Falling in Love with a Crust

I found out that puff pastry is not that common in the US stores as I thought it would be. At least not as common as it is in Italy, so I find it pretty hard to find it in stores and I never even thought of trying and make my own! Too long and complicated. So it had been a while since I last made my easy and tasty antipasto with that kind of crust.
On my favorite Italian cooking site I recently found a recipe for the crust, though, that I must say I like much more than puff pastry itself, it is easy to make and only requires a reasonable quantity of butter! It's made of flour, egg, butter and ricotta cheese, so it's lighter than your average pastry and still very, very good. I tried it today and I simply loved it.
In those Chiffels in the picture I added some paprika seasoning to the dough too and then filled some of them with pieces of wiener, some with cheese, some with ricotta and spinach and some with ham. I decided this has officially become my base for quiches and savory tarts from today on.