pasta

Spätzle

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I was really proud of myself when I first officially cooked on Bounty, not just cooking one meal, not filling in for a few days, but really cooking for a length of time. We were in Maine and I was really glad to move into the galley instead of scrap barnacles off the hull of the ship with the rest of the crew. I went to a local book store and bought myself a cook book as a little treat, I bought a book all about pasta, it was something that I didn’t know much about at the time. With my new found confidence I felt I could tackle a challenge and make ravioli for everyone, oh boy, even me now knows how bad of an idea that is. There were only about 15 of us, but there was only one of me who didn’t know a whole lot and it took forever just to make a few for everyone.

Even though I was discouraged I was still feeling this pasta kick so I looked for something easier and came across spatzle, a fresh egg noodle that requires no kneading, rolling or forming into fancy shapes. A thick gooey batter is poured onto a cutting board and with a wet knife you slice thin ribbons of the noodle batter into boiling water. With this method you end up with thick chewy noodle strands, they are good but using a proper spatzle maker does the trick, you get cute noodles as my friend’s kid says. A little box sits on top of a grate, like a cheese grater and you push the box back and forth pressing the batter into boiling water creating small droplets of noodles.

The only trick to this recipe is finding the correct consistency for your cooking method. If you slice them off a cutting board then you’ll want your mixture thicker so it’s not running away without you. For the spatzle maker it can be a bit looser, but if it’s too loose then I find the noodles end up as long teardrops instead of little blobs. I like my batter to fall off my mixing utensil smoothly, but slowly, no thick blobs blopping off and not running like pancake batter. It’s easier enough to adjust as you go and experiment to see where you like the batter.

Last but not least the one unique thing I like to add to my batter is a heavy pinch of turmeric, I like the color that it lends to the finished product. I’ve also played around with the idea of adding pureed spinach or peas for a bright green color could be fun and peas would add a lovely sweetness to the noodles. Have fun experimenting!

 









Spätzle


Ingredients

  • 1 ½ c flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 -4 Tbsp. water
  • ½ tsp. turmeric (optional)
  • butter, caramelized onions, herbs or cheese for serving

Directions

  1. Put a large pot of salted water on to boil.
  2. Mix all of the ingredients together in a large bowl, add more water as needed depending on the consistency you are going for and the size of your eggs
  3. When the water has come to a boil place your spatzle maker over the pot, pour some batter into the dispenser cup, push the cup back and forth across the holes until there is nothing left and stir the noodles.
  4. When all the the noodles have floated to the surface cook for one minute. Use a spider or small strainer to remove the pasta from the water and continue with small batches until the batter is all cooked.
  5. Serve the spatzle with butter, caramelized onions, herbs or cheese, you can even fry it crispy.

The post Spätzle first appeared on Seasoned At Sea.

Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese

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Part of my endless quest for exciting flavors extends to mac and cheese, as I’ve said before it’s a great canvas for experimenting. Early on in my cooking career I came upon this mash up and quickly made it my own, hot wings meet mac and cheese. A base of cheddar mac and cheese is enriched with pieces of chicken tossed in Frank’s hot sauce and topped with chunks blue cheese. If you really want to take this dish all the way serve it along side a carrot and celery coleslaw.

 








Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese


Ingredients

Chicken

  • ¾ lb chicken breast or tenders
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp. Frank’s RedHot Sauce

Cheese sauce

  • ¼ c butter
  • ¼ c + 1 Tbsp. flour
  • 3 c milk
  • 8 oz cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 4 oz white cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 c grated parmesan
  • 2 tbsp. Frank’s RedHot Sauce
  • ½ tsp. salt

Assembly

  • 1 lb elbow macaroni pasta, cooked and drained
  • Chicken
  • Frank’s RedHot Sauce
  • Blue cheese crumbles

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375F.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, in the meantime cook the chicken and make the cheese sauce.

Chicken

  1. Cut the chicken into small bite size pieces and add to a preheated pan along with salt and pepper, cook for about 5 minutes stirring occasionally. Add the hot sauce and cook until most of the liquid has cooked off, set aside until the rest of the recipe is prepped.

Cheese sauce

  1. In a saucepan melt the butter and then add the flour whisking to combine into a smooth paste. Cook for a few minutes until the flour starts to brown and smells toasty.
  2. Add the milk whisking constantly, cook for a several minutes until the the milk starts to thicken, turn down the heat and gradually add the cheese.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients for the cheese sauce, taste and adjust seasoning.

Assembly

  1. By now the water should be boiling, cook the pasta until it is al dente, if you happen to over cook the pasta drain it quickly and rinse under cold water.
  2. Fold the pasta into the sauce, add the chicken and pour the whole lot into a casserole dish smoothing out the top.
  3. Garnish the top of the casserole with drizzles of additional hot sauce and a sprinkle of blue cheese crumbles.
  4. Bake at 375F for 30-45 minutes or until the edges have gained a little color and the sauce is bubbling.

Caramelized Shallot Orzo Salad

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If you dream of caramelized onions but need more substance than this is the pasta salad for you, but I refuse to call it pasta salad. In truth I hate pasta salad, well not every pasta salad, but most of them, they are greasy, gloppy and worst of all their main ingredient is cold pasta, that’s the part I hate. Cold pasta sticks to your teeth in a weird way and isn’t a pleasant texture, but depending on the pasta you use you can combat that problem. Orzo is the answer, the tiny little oval shaped pasta that people mistake for large rice.

Along with a bunch of caramelized shallots, onion’s fancy cousin, you have lots of lemon, bright green onions, spinach and crunches of toasted almond. This salad is great served at any temperature but I like it best slightly warm to room temperature, it also pairs well with seafood like my grilled halibut with citrus butter.

 





Caramelized Shallot Orzo Salad


Ingredients

  • 8 shallots or 1 large red onions
  • 8 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 10 green onions, sliced
  • ½ c whole almonds, toasted and chopped
  • 4 c packed spinach (½lb), roughly chopped
  • 1/2 c packed parsley, chopped
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • zest and juice of 1 lemons
  • 1/3 c olive oil
  • 2 ½ c uncooked orzo

Directions

  1. Put a pot of water on to boil while you prep the salad ingredients.
  2. Slice the shallots into half moons and caramelize on medium low heat with a little oil and pinch of salt. When they start to gain color and stick to the bottom of the pan add the garlic and sauté for another two minutes. Add the cooked shallots to a large mixing bowl.
  3. To the mixing bowl add sliced green onions, toasted and chopped almonds, spinach, parsley, salt, lemon zest and juice and the olive oil.
  4. When the salad ingredients are ready cook the orzo, once done drain and add to the salad ingredients, the heat from the hot orzo will wilt the spinach.
  5. Mix together, taste and adjust for seasoning, serve at any temperature, I like it at room temperature.

Italian Ricotta Mac and Cheese

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I grew up on both homemade mac and cheese and the box stuff. When it came to the box stuff my brother and I would eat it out of the pot together sitting on the floor; when we had the fancy cartoon shaped pasta we’d share it as evenly as possible. You take three noodles, I take three noodles, we’d share like that back and forth until the end of the pot and lick it clean with our fingers. But my mom’s homemade mac and cheese was way better, creamy, thick and with lots of sauce to envelope the wagon wheel pasta she preferred to use.

Classic mac and cheese with sharp orange cheddar cheese has its place, all mac and cheese is great but it is also a convenient canvas to try out new flavors and additions. Sometimes it’s a matter of what cheese I have on hand and it’ll end up being a 6 cheese wonder or I’ll craft the dish based around another dish like hot wings. This time around I’m taking inspiration from a favorite pizza that focuses on the cheese and no additional vegetables or meat. The pizza starts with a tomato base sprinkled with parmesan, torn pieces of fresh mozzarella, dotted with spoonful of ricotta and dusted with Italian seasonings. It’s a simple thing but I think of it as a classy cheese pizza and that dusting of Italian seasoning really makes it spark.

This cheese sauce is creamy, lightly perfumed with Italian seasoning, bites of chili flakes and the occasional floral hint from the crushed fennel seeds. The casserole is topped with crisp panko bread crumbs tossed in butter and lemon zest, you could also add herbs to the topping or some pesto for color.

 










Italian Ricotta Mac and Cheese


Ingredients

Mac and Cheese

  • ¼ c butter
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 5 tbsp. flour
  • 3 c milk
  • 1 c grated parmesan
  • 1 c shredded mozzarella
  • 1 c ricotta
  • 1 ½ tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. ground pepper
  • ½ tsp. chili flakes, crushed
  • ½ tsp. fennel seeds, crushed
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1 lb elbow macaroni pasta

Bread crumb topping

  • 2 tbsp. butter, melted
  • zest of half a lemon
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 1 c panko bread crumbs

Directions

Mac and cheese

  1. Preheat an oven to 375F.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, in the meantime make the cheese sauce.
  3. In a saucepan melt the butter, add the chopped garlic and then the flour, whisk everything together. Cook for a few minutes until the flour starts to change color become a pale golden brown.
  4. Add the milk slowly whisking constantly, cook the milk mixture until it thickens and is streaming, stir occasionally to prevent the bottom from scorching.
  5. Add in the cheese, seasoning, spices, everything except the pasta.
  6. Cook the pasta until it is al dente, you want there to be enough of a bite that the pasta won’t turn to mush after you’ve baked the casserole. Drain the pasta and run cold water over it to stop the cooking process.
  7. Mix the pasta and the cheese sauce together, taste and adjust the seasoning. It may look like a lot of sauce, but the pasta will absorb some of the liquid as it bakes.
  8. Pour the pasta and cheese mixture into a 9×13” baking dish.

Bread crumb topping

  1. Combine all of the ingredients for the topping and sprinkle evenly over the top of the pasta, make sure to spread it out to the edges of the pan.
  2. Bake at 375F for 30-45 minutes until the bread crumbs are golden brown and there is bubbling around the edges.

Growing up Italian: The taste of Memories

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My Paternal Grandfather (Nonno) Alfredo was an extremely talented man. A visionary, an entrepreneur, a leader. A little too far ahead for his own times, industrious, frugal and lover of all~things~perfect.

Born at the very beginning of the century, he died in his 80s having survived two wars, the hardship that went with those, and having seen the economic boom in Italy after WWII. It is, infact, during the ’60s that he started a company in which he was actively involved well after my father took over and Nonno was “technically” retired.

He loved the people, things, and ideas in his life deeply in a non~pompous kind of way. He had strong passions, and amazing hobbies like making Violins!

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Nonno was a skilled Violin Maker: Maestro Liutaio.
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Nonno with Uto Ughi, famous Italian violinist and Conductor. Uto was a fan of Nonno’s Violins.

 

He lived his life in a meaningful way, fostering life-long friendships, and valuing his family circle. He was a busy man, even after my grandmother died well into their 60 years of marriage.

Nonno ate healthy, made his own wine, raised his own chickens, and grew his own garden. He taught me how to pick wild herbs, like Pimpinella (Burnet) which is super delicious in salads. A few years back I planted Pimpinella in my garden here in Oregon,to add a splash of cucumber~like taste to my salad, and some pleasure from my childhood sense memories.

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Pimpinella. It grows everywhere!

We would pick Dandelion Greens and Wild Chicory (Cicoria selvatica or Dente di Leone or Tarassaco). He would make  infusions, I liked it wilted with bread. Now, I use Dandelion flowers to enhance the look of my salads…see!? Told you my Nonno was ahead of his time!

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Wild Chicory and Dandelions. More than just pretty wild flowers

From him I learned to accept some things as simply “facts of life”: Life, death, work.

Some other things, he said, we can control, and we can put our two cents in: what we eat, what we do, how we spend our time.

My Nonno rode his bicycle everywhere. He was a very tall distinguished gentleman, who wore a Fedora hat every day of the year. He wore different hats throughout the year: A lighter one for summer, or a woolen winter version. He always wore a long sleeve shirt and a jacket, with shiny leather shoes.

When he rode the bike in winter his attire would see the addition of a cashmere vest,under which he layered a few sheets of newspaper so he would “keep the cold out”. I love that.

He suffered from  kidney stones and he would spend a week every year at the “TERME di Fiuggi” near Rome, known in Italy for its history and various healing properties.

Nonno Alfredo seemed to be living unperturbed. He wasn’t as generous with compliments as he he was with criticisms. He didn’t dispense laughter, or physical affection. His presents were meant to impact one’s life in the long run like a savings account in which my sister and I could put our “birthday money” and save it for College, or ~his best gift ever~ his knowledge.

Being a little child and copiously learning life skills from him, in retrospect, was the greatest legacy a grandparent could have left behind, he left to me, a gift that keeps giving, and I hope never to end.  From Nonno Alfredo I inherited my love for Espresso, for anything homemade, for good wine, cats, tomatoes, pasta and a sweet tooth.

Spring time was special for me and Nonno. He would know when to plant the seeds, and transplant the tomatoes in the garden. He would know that the fragile new plants would fear the early summer chilly nights. So, Alfredo would ride his bicycle  back to the garden in the evening and cover each plant with a bucket, and ride back in the morning to uncover them.

With Nonno I had the best tomatoes of my life. Ripe and warm from the sun. Sweet like a carefree day.  There is not a summer that goes by that I don’t think of him, his long tapered fingers showing my the fruits, and …the buckets.

His “Cuore di Bue” or Oxheart type tomatoes were juicy, meaty, creamy and sweet.

They were the best just rubbed onto a day~old bread slice, with a drizzle of oil and a pinch of salt.

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Pane “Strusciato” with fresh tomatos, a drizzle of EVOO, balsamic reduction, sea salt and fresh Oregano from the garden.

Great memories, to me, taste like Tomatoes and grapes. A culinary syllogism if you wish.

For as much as Nonno loved tomatoes, he did enjoy a good glass of homemade wine at every meal. “Bevi vino campi cent’anni” he used to say:  “Drink wine and you’ll live to 100”

Spaghetti was his favorite, second only to my Grandmother’s homemade noodles. As a child I did enjoy the occasional sip of wine, here and there. I distinctly remember the sharp flavor of the UVA CORNICELLA ( the variety of grapes called Cornicella) or Table grapes, Uva da tavola that we had growing everywhere, seemed like, around the house.

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1967, My Godfather Gabriele is holding me in the backyard. You can see the vines to the left and just behind me. Uva Cornicella!

 

Uva Cornicella
Golden green in color, large, juicy, crunchy…super delicious eaten right off the wine in a hot summer day.

The vines are long gone, leaving more room for a car port with far less maintenance.

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Me, in 1989 walking under the pergola of grape leaves in the backyard.

The memories, though, are still alive. Leaving behind a sense of nostalgia for that girl who was happily raised on espresso and wine and who  now is  a middle aged woman with a superb appreciation for both.

So, even if my Nonno would not have waisted some good  housemade “vino da tavola” (table wine) on a pasta sauce, I do!

It tastes rich, delicious, unique. It tastes like the backyard of my childhood, my Nonno’s cellar at the end of summer, and my Grandma’s kitchen on a Sunday.

[gn_box title=”PASTA AL VINO ~ DRUNKEN PASTA” color=”#D03″]DSCF6612 This is how memories taste to me, these days.

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

  • 1lb of Spaghetti like DeCecco
  • 4 to 5 Cups of good Red wine (or white)
  • 6 T EVOO
  • 3 cloves of galic, minced
  • 3/4 C diced Pancetta
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Red pepper flakes~optional
  • Finely chopped Parsley and Grated Pecorino Cheese to garnish.

DIRECTIONS

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and cook the pasta for 3 to 4 minutes ONLY!

While pasta is cooking, add the wine to a second large pot, and bring it to a boil.

Drain the pasta well, adn add it to the pot with red wine and continue to cook and additional 6 to 7 minutes, or until the pasta il “al dente”.

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While the pasta is cooking in wine, in a frying pan, heat the oil and cook the pancetta to crisp. Add the garlic, stir well and remove from heat. It should be very fragrant.

Season with chili peppers if desired.

Drain the pasta once more of whatever wine is left (most will be absorbed by the pasta, though) add the pasta to the pancetta and oil. Toss well to coat for about 1 minute.

Garnish with Parsley and Cheese. Serve immediately.

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Until next time, Mangia! and Ciao!

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For more of my recipes do not forget to check my previous posts on EDN here:

http://eugenedailynews.com/author/purple13/

or go to my FB page

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Growing-up-Italian/1495225440728606?ref=hl

Growing up Italian: A Pasta Story

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“Life is a combination of pasta and magic” Fellini once said.

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Homemade deliciousness.

So, it goes for me. The Pasta gene is profoundly embedded in my soul. I learned this art before I learned how to write, watching and sharing the kitchen with women who enjoyed both the process, and the art itself.

I have some childhood memories, a little blurred. The sensory recalls, however, are still sharp.

Nunzia, my nanny, was the woman Mom picked to raise my sister and me.

Both my parents worked outside the home and being just 16 months apart, me and little sister needed supervision. Nunzia started working with us (not FOR us) in 1968. I remember Nunzia giving us nightly baths, or making us warm milk when we were too sick to go to school. Her milk and cookies seemed to taste better than mom’s. (Yes, you guessed, same milk and same cookies..)

Nunzia took care of the house with mom, cooked with mom, and made the most incredibly perfect pasta dough. So much that she was in charge of it every time we had special guests or there was an holiday to celebrate. Freshly made pasta was something ONLY Nunzia was allowed to do in the house. Period.

She made it look as easy as breathing, since she must have made pasta almost every day of her life. I would grab a chair and roll some dough next to her, observing her soft,  gentle hands going through the motions, like a dance. Her body leaning and pushing on the dough. Striking and  caressing the “sfoglia” (dough) to feel its texture. She didn’t even need to look down to the rolling pin and pasta board anymore. Her hands were her complete compass, telling her what to do, and when.

The dough would not stick to her hands, she knew exactly how much water to use.

Upon completion of the pasta making the board was as clean as when she started. Of course.

It took me many years, millions of moves, kneads and strokes and my fare share of failed batches, to become a little closer to her perfection. Still…close, but not cigar!

I write it off as being a Messy Martha, who likes to enjoy the process with a glass of wine, while freestyling and shaping the noodles. Nunzia was the real pasta-police. Nothing else was going on while making the dough. Her whole body was involved in the process. She taught me that the dough “breaths” while resting under the glass bowl.

She would hold up the rolled dough and place it against the window pane to check it for transparency, then move the big rounds of thin rolled dough to a bigger room which my mom would not heat in winter. The colder room (la sala) seemed to act like a gigantic refrigerator for all things to dry out. I remember opening the door and being submerged by the fresh dough smell. After what Nunzia deemed to be an appropriate drying time, she would roll the circles like huge cigars and slice it to make fettuccine. Then, the pasta was coiled pretty, to resemble nests and to dry. Nunzia’s pasta would last like that, for days.

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Beets infused pasta

Over time, the “sala” room would slowly lose its fresh dough fragrance, and the pasta boards and rolling pin would get stored away, tucked under the kitchen table. Secretly hidden tools to an art whose origins are lost in time.

To this day, I believe that the personal body energy we use to make pasta, stays into the dough. It goes into the plate when we serve the guests and in some ways stays with them, even when they go home. Actually, the time I spend making pasta, I’ll never get back:It’s the ultimate culinary act of love and generosity.

Nunzia retired when I turned 25, and when Mom passed away both my sister and I leaned on her. She was, afterall, the closest person to a mom- having raised us for so long.

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Visiting Nunzia in 2008 after my mom’s passing.

Her tall and solid figure got more fragile with time, but her spirit and sparkly eyes are still there and remind me of the magic I got to witness in my childhood kitchen by the hands of a woman who sincerely cared about food.

So, when people tell me if I use a mixing machine or any electric devices to make pasta, I smile. I think nobody would, if they’d  had a Nunzia in their lives.

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Ingredients: for ONE person

  • 100gr of AP flour with a good amount of gluten such as King Arthur’s
  • 1 large egg- at room temperature
  • a pinch of salt
  • A glass of lukewarm water-Use as needed

Directions:

Make a well with your flour, the crater in the center should be the same size of a large orange.

DSCF2057 If one is adding any flavor this is the time. Add it to the flour or the eggs.

 

Place the egg in the crater, sprinkle with salt.

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Starting with a fork, poke the egg and start incorporating the flour into it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Fellini’s quote, in Italian

If you are right handed, use your left hand to make sure the flour walls do not collapse.

Once the dough becomes too thick, put away the fork and start kneading. Add small amount of water and stop way before you think you should. The dough will get too sticky if you don’t.

It will all depend on the weather, the room temperature and the speed at which you need.

You will figure it all out, with time. Guaranteed.

I recommend kneading 5 minute per egg, up to 20 minutes. The pasta will change in texture and smell. Roll out and fold the dough over your fingers. Use the heel of your palm, not the tips of your fingers-like you were folding in air into the dough. Put your body weight into this!

Let the dough rest under a bowl for about 30 minutes, or in the refrigerator for up to 12 hours wrapped in clear syran.

DSCF3220 Kale, carrots…anything goes when making pasta.

Roll, cut and shape according to your fancy.

Just remember, don’t rush the process. It’s an act of love. Enjoy it, embrace it…have some wine!
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Mangia! and Ciao!

Growing up Italian: The Frigidaire

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It never occurred to me, until later in life, that Frigidaire was just a name brand, and not the proper noun for the big, fat, boxy, noisy and shiny white appliance that sat in our kitchen corner for almost 30 years.

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Me and Mr Frigidaire in the kitchen corner: partners in “time-out”.

Mom could only call it Frigidaire. Why, I don’t know and never questioned it. I think that our subconscious minds wrote it off as some sort of exotic “pardonne moi caprice” from a woman who spoke fluent French.  Our Frigidaire moved into its corner spot in our kitchen the day my parents got married and for years I thought that it would never leave us. On a mechanical deathbed more than once, it always seemed to spring back into its chilling action in part due to the expert hands of our trusted electrician Guidone, in part due to the fact that appliances in the 60’s were meant to last longer than a decade. ( Including the pedal that would prompt the door open, like a modern trash can! )

Frigidaire served us well. It even survived a kitchen remodel. When its white and banged up exterior didn’t match the new kitchen walls anymore, my dad sandblasted it outside, under the car port,  and the cooling monster re-emerged from its own ashes like a Phoenix. Mustard yellow, eggshell finish with a wooden handle. What a treat!

Eventually Frigidaire died a natural death, and we got to upgrade to a Freezer-Refrigerator combo. Never again did my mother referred to it as Frigidaire. His new name became simply “Frigo”.

The end of an era.

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Me and Mr “Frigo” to the right.

Frigidaire and Frigo had totally different looks, but also some similarities. They both were pretty much the only large electrical appliance in the kitchen, since both the stove and the oven ran on gas. Oh… a gas oven! That deserves a story on its own.

Yes, we had a TV set. Black and White, of course,  until the early 80’s when we “splurged” on a Color TV with a remote control the size of Texas. We thought that THAT was the cat’s meow since we didn’t have to get up all the time to change channels. Mind that, at the time, our choices included only two Channels: Rai1 and Rai2! My mom would only turn the TV on at nighttime since during the day my sister and I were too busy playing outside in the summer months, or studying during the winter ones.

Dad purchased one of the first Cuisinarts for mom, who instantaneously proceeded to rename that as well. The food processor’s new acquired household name: “il Robot” (the robot) Mom didn’t like the even-steven uniformly sliced pieces of vegetables. She loved freestyle chopping, and she almost lost an index finger to it.

Other small appliances included an electric cheese grater. Italians, as one can imagine, have to have their Aged Parmigiano cheese freshly grated on a daily basis. Microwave? Of course not!! From brain cancer to impotency (for men only, oddly enough) the array of debilitating diseases attributed to the usage of this piece of appliance is endlessly fascinating.

The same goes for air conditioners. To this day, it is a rarity to find either a microwave or an air conditioner in older homes. The new generations are trying to figure out a way to coexist with them, unclear, though, on the future of their brains and testicles.

In 2003 Mom came to visit me in Eugene. She got totally taken by my microwave, enticed by its operational speed, but still not sure. She never used it.

After all, one can take a woman out of Italy, but Italy never leaves the woman.

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Hiking the Oregon dunes with Mom. Florence OR, summer 2003

Back to the Frigidaire.  Frigidaire came with the ancestral aluminum ice trays and a faint light that died long before Frigidaire did. What I remember the most about the interior was the spareness of it. Besides the usual staples: Milk, egg and a few vegetables, it was pathetically bare at all times. We used to say that Mom’s fridge looked like Ghandi’s. Always empty, yet it could magically feed an army at a last minute’s notice.

How?

Well, today’s recipe will explain it. It requires only a few ingredients, most of which are in your pantry right now, I bet. Also, they could be interchanged with the season. Zucchini could turn into Eggplant or Squash. The herbs we had in the garden, and if we were missing something, Corrado, who owned the only local grocery store, and Benito, the butcher, would let us kids pick up items on credit.

This sauce is the quintessential Umbrian sauce, since we are famous for our meat curing traditions, and Pork is something that has garnished our tables since before the Roman Empire. On our love affair with pork, I will devote another chapter.

Until then: Ciao! and Mangia!

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Tomato, sausage and zucchini sauce
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Serves 6

Ingredients:

1/2 onion, chopped small
1 clove of garlic, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons of butter
3/4 – 1 pound good sausage, ground (NO fennel)
1/2 cup white wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 small to medium zucchini, grated and kept straining to release the water
4  tips fresh rosemary, each about 3″ long finely chopped
1 28 ounce can Italian tomatoes
salt to taste
1/2 cup cream

Shavings of nutmeg- optional

1 pound hearty pasta, such as penne rigate or rustic linguini
fresh-grated Pecorino cheese to garnish

In a medium skillet, pour the oil and add the butter. Let melt. Add the onion and garlic, and sautee until the onion gets little bits of brown caramelization being careful not to burn the garlic.  Add the sausage and mash into small bits. Cook at a medium/low heat until the exterior looses its raw, pink color and the sausage has released all its water. Deglaze  with wine, and raise the heat to medium.

Add the tomato paste and let it cook until it turns a dark purple color.

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When you add the tomatoes the zucchini and sausage will look like the picture above-left.

When the wine has mostly evaporated from the sausage mix, add the zucchini and rosemary and cook until the zucchini is soft.

Add the tomatoes and their juice, mash well, and cook until the liquid created by the zucchini and the tomato water condenses. Taste for salt and add if needed. The quantity will depend on how seasoned your sausage is. Let the sauce reduce to a thick one with no visible water or moisture. It could easily take 30 minutes to condense. Cooking requires patience.

Drink some wine!

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add enough salt so that when tasted (yes, you have to taste the pasta water) its flavor reminds you of the ocean water.

Remember, don’t be shy on salt. It’s the only way you get to salt the pasta from the inside-out.Besides, the noodles will only absorb a fraction of it.

Once all the liquids have evaporated from the sauce, add the heavy cream. The sauce now is done. Add salt and pepper if necessary.

Cook the pasta according to package directions, minus 2 minutes. (I.E. if the package says cook the pasta for 10 minutes, cook it for 8). The pasta will keep cooking while you coat it with the sauce, but won’t overcook and stay “al dente”. Do NOT rinse the pasta.

Place the tossed pasta in a large serving dish. Sprinkle the grated Pecorino  cheese on top and finally one could drizzle some Extra Virgin Olive Oil on top too.

Eat immediately. Enjoy.

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Extra Virgin Olive oil and Italian Tomatoes. Italian Staples!