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lunedì 25 gennaio 2016

CROSTOLI & CROGETTI: 2 ITALIAN CARNIVAL FRITTERS

Dessert - Vegetarian and lactose free

These are two of the typical fritters made during carnival time in Italy!!!! I have slightly revised the recipe I sent about a year ago (after all this is carnival period ;-) ), in order to be a little easier. You can make the thinner ones (crostoli) with the pasta roller or the rolling pin; if you use the pin, they'll be a little thicker, actually. Quantities are in grams and US quantities are approximate, if you can, please buy a cheap digital scale :-). The video is the old one, so please, watch it considering the preparation and not the quantities for ingredients. Some of the changes will be noted in the footnotes.

                                  (crostoli)                                 (crogetti)


For crostoli:
200 gr. 00 Italian flour (1 1/3 cups)
2 jumbo eggs
2 tbsp Italian extra virgin olive oil (used 1 in the video)
2 tbsp Italian white wine vinegar (used 1 in the video)
2 tbsp sugar (used 1 in the video)
2 tbsp grappa


For crogetti:
275 gr. 00 Italian flour (2 cups)
130 gr. sugar (3/4 cup)
2 jumbo eggs
2 tsp baking powder
2/3 shot grass of vin santo (limoncello in the photo used last time, brandy used this time)
grated lemon zest (1 lemon)


Italian extra virgin olive oil to fry
confectioner's sugar


1 Start working on the crogetti.

In a bowl, quickly mix flour (sifted with baking powder), sugar and lemon zest, then add eggs and vin santo. Mix a little more to minimize the "mess".

Transfer on a floured surface and knead until you obtain a smooth dough: it will be really sticky, so keep your hands and surface floured.

Wrap in FLOURED plastic wrap and let it rest for about 30 minutes in the refrigerator.

2 In the meantime, get your crostoli started.

Mix sifted flour and sugar in a bowl, then create a well and add eggs, oil, vinegar and grappa; mix all ingredients then transfer onto a surface and knead until you obtain a smooth dough.

Wrap in plastic and let rest for 30 minutes.

3 Remove crogetti dough from the refrigerator and roll it with a rolling pin to about 1/4" thick. Do this onto floured plastic wrap (you can check my video to see how I do it), always dusting with flour so the pin won't stick too much.

Dust with flour again and cover with some more wrap. Set aside, until ready to fry.

4 Get back to crostoli

Roll out as thin as possible, if you use a pasta machine, go to the thinnest possible.

Cut dough in squares, make three cuts in the squares and have sides fold into the external cuts.


                                                     (ready to fry)

5 Warm up olive oil in a deep saucepan and fry them.

Crogetti will puff up in the oil, thanks to the baking powder. Turn them once or twice, to get them golden on both sides. Try not to have your oil too hot or they won't cook inside without burning the outside.

Crostoli, being very thin, it won't take long, flip them once or twice in order to become golden on both sides. I usually start with crogetti, but you can do as you please.

Transfer them on paper towel to absorb excess oil, then arrange on a platter and sprinkle with confectioner's sugar.

These quantities will make about 40/50 pieces each, depending on thickness and size.


- Originally crostoli should have 1 egg but I always have problems kneading the dough. This time I used 2 eggs and it went much better. If you still feel it too dry to knead, add 1 extra tbs of grappa.
- Vinegar will NOT be tasted, it will only give more crispness.
- The thinner you roll crogetti out, the faster the frying will be (absorbing even less oil).
- Don't keep your crogetti too thick or they may not cook completely.
- They are both lactose free and vegetarian.
- If you are interested in Crogetti only, follow steps 1-3-5; if you are interested in Crostoli only, follow steps 2-4-5
- You can find a video for this recipe here (please note the info in the introduction of the recipe)

martedì 19 gennaio 2016

PASTA E FAGIOLI - BEANS AND PASTA SOUP

Soup or entree - Vegetarian, vegan, lactose free. Can be gluten free (read footnotes).

I get many requests for my pasta e fagioli (pasta and beans) soup. As well as lasagna, there are probably as many recipes as the number of Italian families... So this is mine. I use borlotti beans, typical of northern Italy, because more flavorful than the cannellini beans. I love it regardless of the season or the temperatures, being it great even at room temperature. I hope you'll give it a try and I'm sure you'll enjoy it.


1/2 lb Italian spaghetti, broken into 1" pieces
1 cup Italian dried borlotti beans
1 small potato, peeled and diced
1 cup strained Italian San Marzano tomatoes
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
4 sage leaves
1 rosemary sprig (leaves only)
8 cups vegetable broth
4 tbsp high quality Italian extra virgin olive oil
Italian sea salt


Soak borlotti beans for 12 hours (overnight). In places with drier climate, like Nevada, you will have a better result by soaking beans 24 hours.

In a big saucepan with lid over medium heat, transfer soaked beans (drained from soaking water), onion, carrot, potato dices, sage and rosemary. Add broth at least enough to cover all ingredients; cover with lid and bring to a boil.

When boiling, add the tomatoes, bring back to boil, then lower to simmer and cook, covered, until beans are done (1 1/2 hr. at least). If broth evaporates too much, add warm broth as needed.

When beans are done, bring back to boil, ass salt and pasta. Stir and cook until pasta is al dente.

Serve immediately, drizzled with olive oil (it's good served at room temperature, too).

This recipe serves 4.



- It is very important to cook beans at a very low temperature (simmer), this way their skin won't toughen as if cooked in a rapidly boiling liquid. You can also add a pinch of baking soda to the soaking water, to get a softer skin.
- For a quicker dish, you can use 2 cans of Italian borlotti, drained and rinsed and the cooking time will be cut to the time actually needed to cook carrot, onion and potato dices.
- If you want a thicker texture, blend some of the beans and veggies.
- You can use a short cut Italian pasta like ditalini or elbow.
- You could also substitute pasta with farro or rice.
- It is considered a complete meal. You can serve some salad, if you like.
- It is a vegetarian/vegan and lactose free. To make it gluten free, use either gluten free pasta or rice. Don't use farro: it's a grain!

lunedì 11 gennaio 2016

RISOTTO WITH RED RADICCHIO

Entree - gluten free - vegetarian - Could be lactose free (READ footnotes)

I LOVE rice, in every form. For sure risotto is my favorite... creamy, almost soupy, with few simple (but high quality) ingredients. I haven't made this for quite some time, given the price of radicchio, until I found out that Raley's sells it for $1.99 per head, not bad. So I got it and decided to have this risotto for dinner. Don't get fooled by the color: it tastes better than it looks!!!


1 1/2 cup Carnaroli rice
1 head red Radicchio, shredded
8 cups vegetable broth, minimum
1 medium red onion, roughly chopped or cut in thin wedges
1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
1/2 cup red wine
3 tbsp Italian extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp cream cheese


Bring broth to a boil, then lower heat to simmer.

In a large non-stick skillet, warm up the extra virgin olive oil and sautee onions until translucent.

Stir in rice and radicchio, cook for about 2 minutes, stirring, then add red wine.

Keep cooking for about 17-20 minutes (depending on your taste), adding simmering broth a ladle at a time and stirring frequently, to avoid sticking.

Remove from heat, stir in parmigiano and cream cheese and serve immediately!!

This recipe serves 4.


- I didn't use butter, which is what should be used ;-). I normally substitute with cream cheese, not as fat (I have to watch calories).
- Carnaroli is the best rice for risotto, less starchy than arborio but easier to cook: it doesn't overcook too easily.
- The use of red wine will make your rice "pink-ish", don't worry: it will taste great anyway ;-)
- This recipe is vegetarian and gluten free. If you're lactose intolerant, just skip parmigiano and cream cheese (or butter)... it will be good anyway :-)

lunedì 4 gennaio 2016

STUFFED MUSHROOM CAPS

Appetizer - Entree - Gluten free

This was part of our Christmas dinner. Our friend wanted to try stuffed mushrooms and we came up with this one... As many of you know, I use bratwurst instead of Italian sausage, because fennel seeds are overpowering; I've been told that Italian sweet sausages (not mild, SWEET) do not have them.


8 big mushrooms
2 sausages, (casing removed) crumbled
2 tbsp grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1 egg
Nutmeg
Shredded mozzarella to top
Italian Extra virgin olive oil
Italian sea salt


Prepare the stuffing. In a bowl mix sausage, parmigiano, egg and a pinch of nutmeg. Set aside.

Detach the mushrooms' caps from the stems. Save stems for future use.

Sprinkle mushroom caps with a pinch of salt, then stuff with the sausage mixture.


Preheat oven to 385F.

Grease a baking dish with olive oil, then arrange caps on it and bake for 15-20 minutes. Top caps with mozzarella and continue baking for 10 more minutes (or until cheese melts).

This recipe serves 4

- Baking time depends on the size of mushrooms' caps.
- Use the stems for other dishes; we made risotto with the stems and some dried Italian porcini. You can also make soup (recipe here).
- Always add mozzarella at the end of cooking, so it won't burn.