Spaghetti Alle Vongole

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This is one of my favorite pasta dishes and an Italian classic. I hardly ever order it at a restaurant just because it takes no effort to make at home. It is prepared in about 15 minutes. By the time the pasta is cooked, the vongole is ready and you just have to combine it all.

As cravings go with me, most of the times they don’t disappear like they do for my hubby. They keep hunting me until I satisfy them. A couple of years ago, we were in Italy on holiday. On our last dinner there, I saw this dish on the menu and all of the sudden I had to have it. Unluckily for me, they were sold out! As soon as we were back home, I went to get some vongole and made the dish at home.

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I’ve been craving vongole lately so I have made this dish 3 times in the past month. If you are not familiar with cooking vongole, make sure that the shells are not open when you buy it. You’ll discard of the ones that are open, so you want to get your money’s worth. I like to squeeze some lemon juice in the end, even though it is traditionally not added. I made it last on a Saturday in which after running errands all day, I didn’t feel like spending much time cooking. It was gone in less than 5 minutes. Yes, I eat very fast!

This recipe serves 2.

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Ingredients:

500gr of Vongole

2 cloves of garlic, minced

14 cherry tomatoes, cut in half

½ bunch of parsley, chopped

250ml white wine

2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

260gr of spaghetti

Chili flakes to taste

Salt to taste

Pepper to taste

Juice of 1 lemon (optional)

 

Rinse the vongole under cold water for a couple of minutes. Discard of any that are open and don’t close when you tap them.

Mince the garlic, cut the cherry tomatoes in half and chop the parsley.

Cook the pasta as instructed on the package.

While the pasta is cooking, add the olive oil to a large pan with a lid. Over medium heat, add the garlic and tomatoes. Cook for about 2 minutes. Then add the vongole and the white wine. Cover with the lid and let it cook till the vongole start to open, about 4 minutes. Stir. Discard of any that haven’t opened. Turn the heat off.

By this time the pasta should already be done. Add the drained pasta to the pan with the vongole. Add salt, pepper and chili flakes to taste. Then add the lemon juice and parsley. Stir until everything is combined. Serve right away.

 

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Farfalle Aglio e Olio with Charred Cauliflower & Breadcrumbs

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I’ve been craving a lot of charred cauliflower lately. I’ve been adding it to pasta dishes, salads and also just eating it by itself as a snack with some lime juice on the side. I love simple pasta dishes like aglio e olio. Adding charred cauliflower and spicy breadcrumbs, are nice little extras that give some more bite to the dish.  They say toasted breadcrumbs are the poor man’s parmesan but I don’t think there is anything poor about it. Toasted in olive oil with some salt, already adds a nice taste and if you want more, you can add any kind of herbs. It’s crunchy, salty goodness. An easy vegetarian dish, perfect for a weeknight dinner!

This recipe serves 3.

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Ingredients:

For the cauliflower:

1 cauliflower, cut into florets, then thinly sliced

2 tablespoons of olive oil

Salt

Pepper

For the breadcrumbs:

3 slices of toasted bread

Dried chili flakes, to taste

3 tablespoons of olive oil

Salt

For the pasta:

400gr of farfalle pasta

1/3 cup of olive oil

3 garlic cloves, minced

Salt

Pepper

For the toppings:

1 bunch of parsley, chopped

Zest of 2 lemons

Juice of ½ a lemon

 

Place the cauliflower slices in a bowl, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss to combine. Then place it on a pan, over medium-high heat. Cook until the cauliflower gets charred, stirring from time to time. This will take about 7 minutes. Set aside.

While the cauliflower is getting charred, cook the pasta as instructed on the package.

To make the breadcrumbs, place the toasted bread in the food processor. Pulse until you get crumbs. Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil to a pan, over medium heat. Place the breadcrumbs, add salt and dried chili flakes to taste. Cook until the breadcrumbs get a golden color. Set aside.

Add 1/3 of a cup of olive oil to a pan, over medium heat. Add the minced garlic cloves. Cook for a minute or 2 until the garlic becomes fragrant. Then add the cooked pasta, charred cauliflower, salt, pepper and toss to combine. Finish it by adding the parsley, lemon zest and lemon juice. Mix it well. Taste for salt and pepper.

Divide the pasta into 3 plates and top each plate with some of the breadcrumbs.

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Sweet Potato Ravioli with Sage Butter

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This is a quicker way to make ravioli. Instead of making the pasta from scratch, you can use gyoza or wonton wrappers.  It works really well and saves you some time.  The roasted sweet potato pairs very well with the sage butter. I find it a very filling wintery dish. This recipe serves 3.

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Ingredients:

4 sweet potatoes, roasted

1 package of gyoza or wonton wrappers (284grs)

½ cup of Ricotta

60gr Parmesan, grated (plus extra for serving)

Zest of 1 lemon

Pinch of cayenne

Salt

Pepper

6 tablespoons of butter

Fresh sage, about 12 leaves

Egg wash

 

First roast the sweet potatoes in the oven until tender (about 1 hour at 180C/350F). Allow them to cool down. You can roast them the night before.

Mash the sweet potato and mix it with the ricotta, parmesan, salt, pepper, lemon zest and cayenne.

I find it a bit faster to do the ravioli in an assembly line, 6 at a time.

I place about 6 wrappers on a cutting board. Dip one finger in the egg wash and paint with it the outer edges of each wrapper.

Then do a quenelle with the sweet potato mixture using two teaspoons. Place it in the middle of the wrapper. Repeat until all 6 wrappers have a quenelle.

Then grab one of the wrappers and seal it pressing with your fingers. It is important to apply some pressure so it is sealed correctly, otherwise they can open while boiling. Try not to leave any air inside. Repeat for the rest.

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Once they are all assembled. Cook them for 1 ½ to 2 minutes in boiling salted water. Do it in batches.

Melt the butter in a large pan and add the sage.  Place the cooked ravioli in the butter sauce and stir until all of them are coated. Serve straight away with extra parmesan on top.

 

 

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Gnudi with Arugula Greek Yogurt Pesto

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A few weeks ago I was zapping through the TV and stopped at a Jamie Oliver’s show.  He had just begun to do a gnudi recipe. I remembered trying a different kind of gnudi a long time ago at a restaurant and since I remembered liking it, I thought I would give it a try.

Only after it went on commercial and came back did I realize that it was from his Comfort Food book.  The same book that was laying around in my living room. So far I had only browsed through it very quickly and was meaning to get back to it at some point. I guess I just needed some TV persuasion!

I slightly adapted the gnudi recipe because the ricotta mixture was too moist to roll into a ball, so I added some flour which made it a lot easier. I also added more parmesan and lemon pepper. I decided to serve it with an arugula Greek yogurt pesto instead of the sage butter from the book.

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Keep in mind that the gnudi has to be made the night before. It is rolled in semolina and needs to sit overnight in the fridge uncovered. The semolina will suck out the moisture from the ricotta and create a nice layer all around the gnudi.  It is really not much work, it took me 5 minutes to make the gnudi the night before and then the next day you just cook them in boiling water for 3 minutes.  So don’t be discouraged because it needs to be made in advance.

This recipe makes about 20 gnudi, enough for 3 servings.

Ingredients:

For the Gnudi:

500gr Ricotta

120gr Grated Parmesan

1 teaspoon Lemon Pepper (optional)

Pinch of nutmeg

Pinch of salt

3 tablespoons of All-purpose flour

Semolina for rolling (about 300gr)

For the Arugula Greek Yogurt Pesto:

125gr Arugula

75gr Pine nuts, toasted

50gr Grated Parmesan

250gr Greek Yogurt

Zest of 1 lemon

Juice of ½ lemon

2 tablespoons of Olive Oil

Salt

Pepper

 

For the gnudi, mix all of the ingredients in a bowl (excluding the semolina).

Place some of the semolina in a large plate. Sprinkle some of the semolina on a tray as well.

Grab about 1 ½ tablespoon of the ricotta mixture and roll it into a ball with your hands. Then roll it into the plate with the semolina. Once it is completely coated in the semolina, place the gnudi in the prepared tray. Repeat for all of the ricotta mixture.  Once all the gnudi are done, sprinkle more of the semolina on top and put the tray in the fridge. Leave it overnight uncovered.

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When you are ready to cook the gnudi, first make the pesto. Just place all of the ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.

To cook the gnudi, bring a large pot with water and salt to a boil. Once it is boiling, cook the gnudi in batches for 3 minutes at a time.  It is important to do it in batches because they are very delicate and can break. Once the 3 minutes are up, remove them from the water using a slotted spoon and set aside.

Warm up the pesto in a pan. Then pour the pesto into the serving plates, place the gnudi on top and sprinkle some extra parmesan.

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Pecan Pasta Sauce

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I love this rich pecan sauce. It’s not something I eat very often but when I do, it is so satisfying. Especially during these cold months.  It is one of those dishes that I would ask my mom to make me as a kid. But with time I kind of forgot about it.  It is not until a couple of years ago that I started to make it. It is super easy to make.This recipe serves 3.

Ingredients:

3 medium white onions, sliced

2 tablespoons of olive oil

4 sprigs of thyme

1 garlic clove, minced

100gr of pecans, chopped

250ml cream

½ cup of milk

40gr of grated parmesan

Salt to taste

Pepper to taste

¼ cup of the pasta cooking water

400gr of the pasta of your choice

 

Over medium heat, add the olive oil to a large pan. Add the sliced onions and thyme. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring from time to time. Then lower the heat and cook for another 4 minutes.  Add the garlic, pecans, cream and milk. Stir and then put it all in a blender. Add the grated parmesan and blend.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Cook the pasta as instructed on the package.  Reserve ¼ cup of the pasta cooking water to loosen up the sauce.

Add the reserved pasta water to the sauce and mix until combined.

Mix the cooked pasta with the sauce and serve it right away. If you want, you can add a bit of chopped pecans and some thyme leaves to decorate the plate.

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