Thursday, December 18, 2014

Lasagna Pugliese Style

If you grew up Italian and living in the United States or Canada, you know what I am talking about here.  It's just not Thanksgiving or any other Holiday without Lasagna as a first course.   The meat sauce is simple and is nothing but a typical meat sauce you would have on pasta every Sunday growing up.  You can make your meat sauce in advance. You can even double the recipe.  You can either freeze it or refrigerate it for a few days until you are ready to assemble your Lasagna.   The important factor to remember is to invest in a good quality dry pasta, if you can not make your own.  I have never understood, why some people insist on cheap quality pasta.  Spend a few extra dollars.  It is a Holiday afterall. 
I bought mine from William Sonoma Outlet.  

Forget the no boil Lasagna, unless you desire and prefer the taste of rubber.  It's all in the assembly.  Yes, it takes a little extra time but some things in life are worth it.   Happy Thanksgiving Everyone.  
About 5 cup of Meat sauce (If you choose to make the meatballs, crush them before assembly.  I added ground beef to my sauce recipe).  Follow the link for the sauce here.
One 13 inch x 9 inch heavy duty Lasagna tray
One tablespoon of butter to line the tray.
One pound plus half pound Lasagna sheets
One pound fresh mozzarella sliced (place your mozzarella in wax paper and then in the freezer for 30 minutes before slicing). 
8 ounces of Parmigano Reggiano cheese plus extra for the table
12 ounces whole milk ricotta 
pinch of nutmeg
Several cups of starchy water you can collect while the pasta sheets are cooking.
Follow the cooking instructions on your package.   It should be a little bit ahead of al dente.  Do not worry about this.  Keep in mind that the pasta will continue to cook, covered in the oven.   You need not overcook it. 
Drain and cool.  Don't forget to save some of the water. Separate the pasta sheets by draining them and letting them hang off the side of the colander.  
Collect your ingredients and get them ready for assembly.
 Mix your ricotta and Nutmeg.  Add a pinch of salt and set aside.
Cook your pasta in rolling boiling water.  Don't forget to salt your water before adding your pasta to the pot.   Follow package directions.  In the meantime, smear  the bottom of your lasagna pan with butter.  Place a about a cup of sauce mixed with ground beef or smashed meatballs on the bottom of the pan.  Begin lining your pan with the Lasagna sheets, Then sprinkle some cheese, layer some mozzarella across the bottom then add some sauce.   Follow with another layer of pasta going in the opposite direction.   Then, place several dollops of your ricotta mixture across the sheets.  Do not worry if they are uneven.   While the lasagna cooks, everything will melt some and spread evenly.   Just do your best to spread it across the lasagna sheets.  Repeat again with Parmigiano cheese then sauce.   Do not place mozzarella on this layer.   Place the sheets again over your sauce, then add a layer of mozzarella cheese.   Continue with each layer in the opposite direction until you reach the top.  If you layers seem uneven, keep a scissor handy or sharp knife to cut down your pasta sheet to fill in where you need to.  Be sure and keep the ruffled edge uniformed.  When it's cut, it will be prettier in the plate.   

 Cover tightly with aluminum foil.  I have not baked mine yet.  Refrigerate until ready to bake.   Be sure and remove it from the refrigerator one hour before you plan on cooking it.   Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.   Keep it covered and bake for 45 minutes with the cover on.   Remove the cover and cook for 15 minutes more.    Remove from the oven and let cool 15 minutes before serving.   
Buon Appetito!


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Daddy's Pinoli Cookies

 Buon Natale! Merry Christmas!  By far, the most popular post on the blog.
These Pinoli cookies are so easy, just takes a bit of pratice and patience.  Remember, good food can not be rushed.  Buon Appetito!

8 ounces almond paste Made fresh or available out of can (See previous post on Home Made almond Paste). DO NOT USE THE TUBE VARIETY.
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
approx. 8 ounces pinoli loose in a bowl
2 large egg whites
In a bowl of a food processor, pulse your almond paste a few seconds to break apart. Then add your sugars and pulse. Cover the top of your bowl while you do this for a few seconds. Slowly add your egg whites with your machinue running on low. In a few seconds, notice your mixture softening and creamy. Set aside for few minutes in the refrigerator if it looks to creamy. You should be able to pick it up with your fingers. If yo yu can't, add some more flour. It's very forgiving. Wet your hands some. Using a tablespoon, scoop up some of the mixture. Using your hands, roll lightly and flatten. Pass the cookies in the pinoli. The pinoli will stick to the cookie. Don't worry about the mess. They will not burn if you keep an eye on them. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet / several inches apart. I made about 20, 1-1/2 inch cookies.
Bake in a 300F, preheated oven for 25-27 minutes. The bottoms should be golden, but your tops should be a lighter color. You will also notice a slight crackling of the cookie itself.  Do not worry, let cool and Enjoy!
Pass the Amaretto please!
(Please watch that cooking time, as ovens will vary).
Thank you to Italian Food Forever for the Reminder and a great recipe post that made me give this a test and a try. I have tweeked it just a bit. You know how I love tradition here at Sunday at the Giacometti's. This recipe can be made Gluten free too. Omit the Flour entirely if you like. You will not get a fluffy cookie, but it will still be delicious. Buon Natale!