PASTA ALLA CHITARRA    
  
 
  
    
  
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  Saluti a tutti dall’ Italia e buon anno!   Cheers to everyone from Italy, and happy new year!   During the holidays, we focus on the important things in life: cooking with family and cooking what is fresh! We are back in Italy this week drinking in the local wines, soaking up the pasta sauces with homemade crusty bread, and taking in all the traditional recipes from our family’s Christmas and New Year’s Eve parties.  Today, our day started by driving to the sea to search for fresh fish for our evening meal. When we got to the beach, there were almost no fishermen out on the boardwalk selling seafood. Usually, the street is full of local vendors, but early this morning it was a little stormy, so only the bravest (or craziest?) of the town's fishermen were out on the water. Lucky for us, those few brought back some delicious looking clams and mussels. We grabbed a bunch, scooted home, plucked the fresh parsley from the window sill, and borrowed a few fresh spicy peppers from our Aunt and Uncle next door.  Outside our home in Southern Italy, the parsley plants are still growing strong and--most importantly--the spicy pepper plants (peperoncino) are still alive and well. So, deciding what to have for dinner becomes easier when the perfect ingredients are fresh and right in our backyard!  Tonight, we'll make “Pasta alla Chitarra con Cozze e Vongole” (clams and mussels over chitarra pasta). For this traditional holiday fish recipe with a few twists, we collaborated with Gregorio’s Sister, Genny. Pasta alla Chitarra is a thick pasta that gets its name from the tool used to cut the long strips with squared off edges. It has a coarse edge, which is great for soaking up all the juice from the clams and mussels. The recipe is simple, but when those flavors combine, they lift each other up and become amazing all together.  As always, we're thrilled to share a recipe from our Italian family with everyone back in the States. If you try it out, let us know how it goes! Hashtag your photos with #dinnerinthefield, so we can see how your family created Pasta alla Chitarra con Cozze e Vongole.    RECIPE SERVES 6  Ingredients:    1 pound chitarra pasta (or linguini if you can not find chitarra)    5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil    ¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley    3 cloves garlic, minced    1 cup white wine (Pinot Grigio)    1 bird’s eye chilies, minced    20 little neck clams, cleaned    20 mussels, cleaned    Sea salt and white pepper    Directions for Pasta:      Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.  Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite.  Remove from the heat and drain all but 1 cup of the pasta water.    Drizzle pasta with 2 tablespoons of oil, mixing the pasta so it does not stick together.     Directions for Sauce:    Add remaining olive oil, parsley, garlic and chili to large skillet and cook on medium heat for 2 or 3 minutes stirring frequently.    Add the clams and the mussels, white wine, and a large pinch of salt and pepper to the pan.     Simmer until the liquid has reduced by half (about 3 minutes) and then cover with a tight fitting lid and let cook until the shellfish have opened (about 5 to 8 minutes). Discard any unopened shellfish.     Remove the shellfish from the pan using tongs.  De-shell half of the mussels and half of the clams, saving the meat in the bowl with the remaining shellfish and discarding the extra shells. It is nice to have some of the seafood in the shells for the presentation and some with no shell so they are easier to eat.    Simmer the remaining cooking liquid in the pan for 4 to 5 minutes to concentrate the flavor.      Season to taste with salt and pepper.  The sauce usually needs about 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper.     Add the chitarra pasta and shellfish to the sauce and continue to cook for 3 minutes all together, so the pasta absorbs some of the sauce as it finishes cooking with the shellfish.     Once everything is ready to go, make sure to serve and eat the pasta while it’s hot!  Pasta waits for no man, so encourage your guests to start eating once it hits the table.  When it comes to pasta, minutes matter and really make the difference between a good dinner and a dish that becomes a family favorite.   Please let me know how your pasta turns out.  If you have any questions, feel free to reach out with comments here on the recipe page, on Facebook, or on Instagram.  I will get back to you with tips and tricks ASAP. Buona cena!      

PASTA ALLA CHITARRA

Outside our home in Southern Italy, the parsley plants are still growing strong and--most importantly--the spicy pepper plants (peperoncino) are still alive and well. So, deciding what to have for dinner becomes easier when the perfect ingredients are fresh and right in our backyard!

Tonight, we'll make “Pasta alla Chitarra con Cozze e Vongole” (clams and mussels over chitarra pasta). For this traditional holiday fish recipe with a few twists, we collaborated with Gregorio’s Sister, Genny. Pasta alla Chitarra is a thick pasta that gets its name from the tool used to cut the long strips with squared off edges. It has a coarse edge, which is great for soaking up all the juice from the clams and mussels. The recipe is simple, but when those flavors combine, they lift each other up and become amazing all together.

        SWEET POTATO GNOCCHI & SAGE BROWN BUTTER  Buona vacanza and season’s greetings from our family in Italy, to you and yours in Richmond, VA!  We are breaking out the Sweet Potato Gnocchi for this year’s Thanksgiving Party.  It is our way of introducing the American Italian side of my family to my husband’s Calabrian Italian traditions.  The holiday draws us together and provides the perfect opportunity to celebrate family, the cool crisp air, brightly colored falling leaves, and our garden’s fall harvest.  We were able to pull most of the ingredients from the ground just hours before cooking, but if your garden is done for the season, we recommend going to the farmers' market.  It is the perfect time of year to be loading up on sweet potatoes and you can even harvest sage fresh from the plant for that minute-off-the-vine taste.      RECIPE SERVES 6  Ingredients for Gnocchi    2 (1 pound) red-skinned orange inside sweet potatoes    1 (12 oz.) container fresh ricotta, strained in a sieve for over 1 hour    1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese    2 teaspoons sea salt    2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour    Ingredients for Sage Brown Butter    1 stick (8 Tablespoons) unsalted grass-fed butter    ¼ cup loosely packed sage leaves    ½ teaspoon sea salt    ¼ teaspoon white pepper    ¼ cup freshly shaved Parmigiano Reggiano cheese for finishing the plate    Directions for Gnocchi    Grab your fresh from the farm sweet potatoes and scrub the remaining earth from their skin.    Then take your fork and stab in a circle all over the potato.    No need to preheat the oven or peel the potatoes. Place aluminum foil on the bottom rack of your oven to prevent drips from sticking and then place the sweet potatoes directly on the middle oven rack above the aluminum foil. Bake for 45 minutes with the oven set to 425 degrees.    Mash the potatoes or I suggest running the roasted sweet potatoes through a ricer. The ricer adds air as it mashes the potatoes.    Place the sweet potato mash onto a clean work surface then fold in the strained fresh ricotta.    Fold in Parmigiano cheese and salt, and then start adding the flour, ¼ cup at a time until very loose dough forms. Shape the dough into a large ball.    Take a baseball sized scoop of dough and on a floured work surface, roll out a 1 inch diameter coil.    Cut the coil into 1 inch long sections and then take each section and delicately roll the 1 inch by 1 inch piece over the back of a fork or a gnocchi board to create lines for the sauce to hold onto. If the gnocchi starts to stick add more flour to your work surface and feel free to continue to flour work surface, the fork, or gnocchi board to prevent sticking.    Place the finished gnocchi pieces on a lightly floured cooking sheet. Forming gnocchi is just like cooking pancakes, the first one is always the toughest.    Repeat steps 7 through 9 until all dough is formed into finished gnocchi pieces.*At this point let your gnocchi rest and make the Sage Brown Butter sauce (recipe below).    Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add ¼ of your gnocchi to the boiling water, once they float back up to the surface, about 1 minute, remove them with a slotted spoon and repeat until all the gnocchi are cooked.    Toss the warm gnocchi with the Sage Brown Butter Sauce and garnish with the shaved Parmigiano cheese.    Directions for Sage Brown Butter    Melt the grass fed butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally.    Cook until it begins to turn a golden brown color, about three minutes. Turn off the heat and add the sage leaves.    Turn off heat under the butter and finish cooking the Sweet Potato Gnocchi.    Tackling gnocchi for the first time takes confidence and persistence!  If your dough seems too loose, keep on going! If you’re having trouble using the fork to add lines, keep on going! By the end of the dough ball you will get the hang of things and after you cook the gnocchi pieces, the look no longer matters.  It is the taste that you and your guests will remember!                     

SWEET POTATO GNOCCHI & SAGE BROWN BUTTER

Season’s greetings from our family in Italy, to you and yours in Richmond VA!  We are breaking out the Sweet Potato Gnocchi for this year’s Thanksgiving Party.  It is our way of introducing the American Italian side of my family to my husband’s Calabrian Italian traditions.  The holiday draws us together and provides the perfect opportunity to celebrate family, the cool crisp air, brightly colored falling leaves, and our garden’s fall harvest.  We were able to pull most of the ingredients from the ground just hours before cooking, but if your garden is done for the season, we recommend going to the farmers market.  It is the perfect time of year to be loading up on sweet potatoes and you can even harvest sage fresh from the plant for that minute off the vine taste. 

        
  
 
  
    
  
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    PARMIGIANA    
  
 
  
    
  
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  Studying in Italy changed my life.  While I was there I fell in love with the food and met my husband Gregorio.  I studied under award winning chefs and cooked many delicious plates. However, the food I loved the most was not the delicate plates, it was the rustic Italian meals prepared by the grandmothers, mothers, and daughters of my friends and family.  After my Culinary Master’s program ended, I decided to stay and learn from those same women who introduced me to Southern Italy’s authentic rustic cuisine.  Luckily for me, they also introduced me to my husband Gregorio.  Parmigiana was the first recipe we ever made together.  His mother taught it to his sister, his sister taught it to us, and now we are sharing it with you.       RECIPE SERVES 12  Ingredients for Red Sauce   12 cups homemade conserved Italian Roma tomatoes OR 1 Stanislaus Tomato Magic #10 can(the closest thing to what our family jars in Italy)  2 garlic cloves  1 large bundle of basil (about 30 leaves)  2 cups all purpose flower  5 medium to large Italian eggplant  1 ½ lbs provolone cheese  ½ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese  ½ cup olive oil  3 cups water (use up to 3 cups water to thin out the sauce after cooking if needed)  1 Tablespoon salt for the sauce  2 teaspoons salt for the eggplant  2 quarts vegetable oil   Directions for Red Sauce   Peel garlic cloves and crack each one open by smashing them with the bottom of a pan.  Sautee the smashed garlic cloves in extra virgin olive oil for a few minutes on medium heat until they are slightly brown.   Remove the garlic cloves from the oil then add in the tomatoes, about10 basil leaves, and 1 Tablespoon of salt and sauté for 20 minutes on medium heat.   Directions for Fried Eggplant   Peel the eggplant and cut into round slices 3/4th inch thick.   Salt the top and bottom of the eggplant slices and then let sit for 2 hours to remove water and bitterness from the slices.  Dust the eggplant slices in the flour.  Fry eggplant in a pan with 1-inch deep vegetable oil (Be careful while frying!).  Place the eggplant on a sheet tray lined with paper towel to absorb the extra oil.   Directions to assemble and bake Parmigiana   Spread the cooked red sauce a centimeter thick on the bottom of a rectangular pan.  Next, spread a layer of fried eggplant covering the bottom of the pan so you can no longer see the red sauce.  Layer half of the sliced provolone cheese over the eggplant.  Evenly distribute 10 basil leaves over the cheese.  Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.  Repeat steps 1 through 4 and then finish with all the remaining Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.  Cook in the oven at 350 degrees for 20/25 minutes until golden brown.  Let the parmigiana rest for 10 minutes before serving.  You can easily cook this a day in advance, and then reheat before you serve.  It really only gets better!

PARMIGIANA

Studying in Italy changed my life.  While I was there I fell in love with the food and met my husband Gregorio.  I studied under award winning chefs and cooked many delicious plates. However, the food I loved the most was not the delicate plates, it was the rustic Italian meals prepared by the grandmothers, mothers, and daughters of my friends and family.  After my Culinary Master’s program ended, I decided to stay and learn from those same women who introduced me to Southern Italy’s authentic rustic cuisine.  Luckily for me, they also introduced me to my husband Gregorio.  Parmigiana was the first recipe we ever made together.  His mother taught it to his sister, his sister taught it to us, and now we are sharing it with you.