Saturday, March 30, 2013

Easter is Coming (part 2)

I sit here smiling all the good memories of the pretty dresses you would get to wear on Easter, the egg hunts, even coloring the eggs before the big day.  yet it all comes back to one thing, the food, the memories the laughter all centers around the table and the food.  All in all that is not a bad thing because the warmth, the heart and soul of this home has been and always will live there.

I know last week I spoke of the memories of this time of year, especially the food.  Of course I was getting ready to cook, this year I may not be cooking for Easter but I can still bring back the flavors.  

Throughout the week grandma would bake her pies, and the meat pie also known as Pizza Rustica would be made by Friday.  Oh then there were those manicotti, those light as air melt in your mouth, cheese filled pasta you just can't get enough of.  I hope you enjoy the rest of the recipes that would fill out our holiday menu.  Happy Easter! 

Home-Made Manicotti

1 cup flour
1 cup milk
1 beaten egg
1/2 tsp salt

  1. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl, blending and stirring until batter is smooth. 
  2. Spray a 6 inch non-stick skillet, then place over moderate heat.
  3. Ladle out 1/4 cup batter into the heated pan, and swirl to cover the bottom.  
  4. The crepe should set almost instantly.
  5. As soon as the edges begin to dry and pull away from the pan, remove the crepe (this can be done with the fingers) and turn it over allowing the other side to cook quickly. This will only take a few more seconds.


1 lb fresh ricotta or, 
1-15-oz container whole-milk ricotta cheese
3½ cups Tomato sauce 
Manicotti Crepes, (See above recipe)
2 large eggs
1 tsp salt
1½ cups fresh mozzarella, cubed 
1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
½ cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
¼ tsp pepper
pinch freshly ground nutmeg
1-1/4 cups fresh mozzarella, grated (optional)

  1. Spoon the ricotta into a large, fine-mesh sieve or a colander lined with a double thickness of cheesecloth or a basket-type coffee filter. Set the sieve over a bowl and cover the ricotta well with plastic wrap. Let the ricotta drain in the refrigerator at least overnight, or up to 24 hours. Discard the liquid in the bottom of the bowl.
  2. Make the tomato sauce and the crepes or pasta squares. (The crepes may be made up to one day in advance; the pasta squares up to several hours in advance.)
  3. Whisk the eggs and salt together in a large bowl until foamy. Add the drained ricotta, the mozzarella cubes, 1/2 cup of the Parmigiano-Reggiano, the parsley, pepper and nutmeg. Stir well until blended.
  4. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Coat the bottom of each of two 13 x 9-inch baking pans (or any two pans into which the manicotti will fit comfortably) with 1/2 cup of the sauce. Working with one crepe or pasta square at a time, spoon 3 full tablespoons of the ricotta filling about 1 inch from the edge closest to you. Roll loosely into a cylinder, smoothing out the filling along the length of the tube as you roll.
  5. Arrange the manicotti, seam side down and side-by-side, over the sauce in the baking pans. Spoon the remaining sauce over the manicotti and sprinkle them with the remaining 1/2 cup of the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Cover the baking dishes loosely with aluminum foil and poke the foil several times with a fork.
  6. Bake 20 minutes. Uncover the dishes, scatter the grated mozzarella, if using, over the top of the manicotti and bake until the edges are bubbling and the cheese topping is golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Pastiera Napoletana di Grano (Easter Wheat Pie)

2 cups flour, sifted
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup butter
3 egg yolks
1 Tbsp milk

1 can wheat
1/4 cup milk, scalded
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sugar
1/4 cup citron, diced (optional)
1/4 orange peel, diced
1 1/2 lbs ricotta
1 cup sugar
6 eggs, separated
1 Tbsp orange water
1 tsp vanilla
2 Tbsp confectioner's sugar

  1. Mix flour, salt and sugar. Cut in butter evenly through flour mixture. Stir in egg yolks one at a time. Work until dough is manageable. 
  2. Add milk. Turn onto a lightly floured board and knead until smooth. Form into a ball and chill for 30 minutes. Divide the ball in half, roll on lightly floured board to about 1/8" thick (large enough to line a deep 10" pie plate). Butter pie plate and line with pastry, leaving 1/2" overhang. 
  3. Roll out other piece of dough and cut into 3/4" strips for lattice topping. 
  4. In the scalded milk, mix wheat, salt and sugar. Boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add citron and orange peel, set aside. 
  5. To prepare filling, beat ricotta and sugar, then add egg yolks, vanilla and orange water, blend well. Stir in prepared wheat and fold in beaten egg whites. Pour into pie shell. Arrange lattice topping over filling, flute the edge. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 1 hour or until firm in center. 
  6. Let cool in oven with door open. Refrigerate. To serve dust with confectioner's sugar.

Pizza Rustica

 4 1/2 cups unbleached flour
3/4 tsp salt
1-2 tsp pepper
 3 sticks ice-cold unsalted butter, diced
 1/2 to 2/3 cup ice water

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. Combine flour and salt. Use a pastry blender to work butter into flour mixture, and form coarse crumbs.
  3. Gradually add enough water to form a dough that just sticks together. Wrap dough in waxed paper and refrigerate while preparing filling.

(All meats and cheeses should be thickly sliced and diced into 1/2 inch cubes.)

1/4 lb prosciutto
1/4 lb Genoa salami
1/2 italian sausage, removed from casing and cooked
1/2 lb soppresatta salami
1/4 lb ham cappicola
1/4 lb pepperoni
1/2 lb mozzarella
1/4 pound fontina cheese
6 hard cooked eggs
2 cups whole-milk ricotta, drained well
6 eggs
Freshly ground pepper to taste

For Glaze
1 egg yolk, beaten with 1 tablespoon milk

  1. In a large bowl, combine all meats and cheeses; set aside. In another bowl, beat together ricotta, eggs, and black pepper; set aside.
  2. Divide dough in two, with one piece slightly larger than the other. On a lightly floured board, roll out larger piece of dough, and gently fit it into a 10 inch springform pan; leave an overhang of an inch or two of dough. Roll out second piece of dough to fit over top; set aside.
  3. Pour combined meats and cheeses into pastry-lined dish; pour ricotta-egg mixture over the filling.
  4. Moisten the edge of the bottom crust with water. Add top crust. Roll edges of top and bottom crust together; flute edges.
  5. Brush top crust with egg/milk glaze. Cut a circle in top crust to allow steam to escape. 
  6. Place pan on baking sheet. Bake for 75 minutes or until the tip of a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
  7. Place on cooling rack; allow to come to room temperature before slicing. Serve at room temperature or cold. Refrigerate any leftovers.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Easter is Coming! (Part 1)

As Easter moves closer to us, it stirs more and more memories within me, that they just all seem to jumble up.  Forget about getting prepared for the holiday, because it just seems I never know where to start.  Yes I did just say that, I do not know where to start.  

I remember grandma starting, heck a couple of weeks before, planning what she was making, for both Easter, and Palm Sunday.  Each had their own specific, ritualistic meal, that as I sit here was pretty much the same, yet we spent weeks planning for. 

Palm Sunday always includes Pasta ca Muddica, basically her version of the dish is a pasta that is topped with blend of toasted bread crumbs, garlic and olives. She would also use the same breadcrumb mixture to stuff her artichokes, and the Italian frying peppers she would serve later in the meal. As for the meat, usually it was something simple like roast chicken, cooked to pure perfection. I sit here smiling and even though there is nothing cooking the house right now, I can smell every dish as if she were here cooking it right now.

No sooner would Palm Sunday be over and all the preparation would go into the following Sunday's dinner for Easter.  Now this had to start during the week since it there was plenty of baking that had to be done.  Such as her Italian grain pie called Pastiera di Grano, her ricotta cheesecake, let me not forget her most amazing meat pie known as Pizza Rustica.  One more preparation would round out the week and that would be her lighter than air manicotti shells, that when you eat them they just seem to melt in your mouth.

As this is Palm Sunday I thought I would share the recipes of what we would make today with you and hope that you may enjoy them as much as we do.  

Gracie's Pasta ca Muddica

1/4 cup plus 3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

8 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cups bread crumbs,( freshly grated, plain, or panko)
1/2 cups flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Coarse salt and coarse black pepper
1/4 cup chopped Spanish green olives, chopped
2 Tbsp of olive juice
1 pound linguine, fettuccine, or tagliatelle, fresh or dried, cooked to al dente in salted water

  1. In a very large skillet over medium heat, add 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, add chopped garlic. When the garlic starts sizzling in oil add bread crumbs. Then add olives and their juice and a liberal amount of salt and pepper, about 1 teaspoon of each.
  2. Stir bread crumbs until deeply golden in color, add parsley.  Transfer bread crumbs to a dish and reserve.
  3. In a large bowl, add cooked pasta to the skillet and toss with some olive oil . Then add a sprinkle of bread crumbs and toss thoroughly to combine and evenly distribute the mixture. Taste, to adjust seasonings, sprinkle more crumbs on top and serve.

Stuffed Artichokes

4 large artichokes
2 lemons, halved
1-3⁄4 cups of above bread crumb mixture
3/4 white wine
5 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

  1. Using a serrated knife, cut off artichoke stems to create a flat bottom. Cut top thirds off artichokes, pull off tough  utermost leaves, and trim tips of leaves with kitchen shears. Open artichoke leaves with your thumbs to make room for stuffing; set aside.
  2. In a large pot add enough water to submerge artichokes, squeeze 1 lemon and add to water.  Cover and bring to boil, reduce to simmer for about 20-30 minutes until a knife pierced in the base goes in easily.  Then remove and let cool.  
  3. Heat oven to 375°. Spread the artichoke open so you can get to the center, remove middle leaves and scrape out spiny choke.
  4.  Working with one artichoke at a time, sprinkle one-quarter of bread crumb mixture over the artichoke and  ork it in between leaves. Transfer stuffed artichoke to a shallow baking dish. Drizzle each artichoke with 1 tbsp. oil. Mix the juice of the remaining lemon, olive oil together and pour around and drizzle over artichokes.  
  5. Then  cover with aluminum foil, and secure tightly around dish and bake for about 35 minutes. Remove foil, and switch oven to broil. Broil until tops of artichokes are golden brown, about 3 minutes.

Italian Stuffed Frying Peppers

1-1/2 to 2 lbs Italian frying peppers
1 1/4 cup of above crumb mixture
drizzle of olive oil

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Cut top off peppers and remove seeds.
  3. Then stuff peppers, just use a small spoon or your fingers to fill.
  4. Drizzle a casserole dish with olive oil place peppers side by side then drizzle top with a little more olive oil.
  5. Cover with foil and bake until fairly soft. Remove foil and brown.