Penne panna prosciutto e piselli

I wish you could hear Marco say the name of this dish! It’s a fast, tongue-twister sounding collection of words that tantalizes with fun and frivolity. Translated, it means “pasta in the penne shape-cream-ham-peas”. The prosciutto is short for prosciutto cotto. As you know, prosciutto is a cured meat that is uncooked, so, the Italian for ham literally means “cooked prosciutto“.  

Actually, you get to hear him say it by clicking the play button below:

 

This is a classic Italian dish that you’ll find in almost any Trattoria. It’s a plate of pasta that will appeal to most kids and adults with your favorite roasted ham flavor, the mild taste of peas, sweet spice of shallots and the creamy goodness of panna. It’s quick to make for a weeknight meal, a family lunch, or, tasty enough to impress your guests for a weekend first course or a main with a side salad.

Ingredients for 4 people:

  • penne 280 g
  • olive oil
  • 1 large shallot
  • 1 cup of peas
  • 1 cup of cubed ham
  • 1/2 cup of cream
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Parmesan cheese (optional)

Process:

  1. heat the olive oil on medium heat and sauté the shallots till lightly brown
  2. add the peas and 1/4 cup of cooking water and let it simmer for a few minutes
  3. add the ham and saute for a couple of minutes
  4. salt and pepper to taste
  5. add the cream and let it simmer till the sauce is creamy
  6. drain the past and combine it with the sauce
  7. sprinkle with Parmesan cheese if desired

Buon appetito!

Soul and stomach

My sister just got back from a week in Italy. We were texting and I typed, “buon rientro!”, which is “happy return to work from vacation” in Italian. She responded that Italy must be good for her soul, because the adjustment back to work went a lot smoother than usual.  We then made dinner plans to swap Italy stories and chose our favorite, Firenze (click here), where, I told her “. . . it will bring you right back there!. . . with your soul and stomach!”

Italy is good for the soul. There is something about the relaxed pace, the warmth of the people, the timeless beauty, the down-to-earth goodness that feeds the soul.

And, Italy is good for the stomach! By that, of course I mean that the food is wonderful. I think that Italians have an innate respect for the ingredients that make a meal. It is possible to make a delicious dish with minimal quality items that combine to produce a satisfying flavor. There is also a natural mindfulness to eating where the awareness of flavor and the noticing of texture afford a truly pleasurable experience that satisfies the senses.

The lasagne pictured here is one of my favorites. I learned this from Marco’s mother and you can make it by clicking here. The bolognese sauce, béchamel, fresh ground nutmeg, mozzarella, grana padano, and lasagne are the few ingredients that combine for this version of the classic dish. On a cold winter day this food will feed your stomach and your soul!

Buon appetito!

Stimulating the senses

The film “Call Me by Your Name” is as much about the setting in which it takes place as it is about the characters and their stories. “Somewhere in Northern Italy” are the words scrawled across the screen in the opening credits.  What follows is a sensuous love story and an intimate, detailed journey that, not only brings you into the character’s lives, but into the lazy hazy summertime of northern Italy.

The scenes were shot nearby Marco’s hometown of Cremona and capture 1983 with care and attention, bringing him back to his childhood, reminiscing. The tone perfectly captures the warmth and passion of Italian lifestyle, and, I think, the sentiment that travelers to Italy often savor. There is an earthy and beautiful lust for life portrayed in the romance and in the setting itself.

Italian food also has this simple carnal beautiful quality evoked in the film. It reminds me of what I love about Italian cooking:  the lust for life, the earthy goodness of ingredients, the juicy ripe fruit, the physicality in the making of a meal, and the resulting pleasure to the senses.

Pasta is a perfect example of this. The basic semolina wheat, salt and water mixed together and kneaded with hands that produces edible shapes to dress with sauce. It is a process where the body is fully immersed in the act of producing, a physical dance with earth’s bounty, resulting in pleasure. Click here for how to make this pasta.

The craft of filmmaking in “Call Me by Your Name” is clearly on display in this film. The cinematography, the acting, the music, the editing all work together to promote this beautiful portrait of northern Italy. The craft of photography in my blog is important to me and is usually limited by my iPhone photos. This week we have the pleasure of a guest photographer, our friend Martin Provost of Montreal, who composed the images we have here. Please check out more of his art by clicking here.

Buon appetito!

Snow day treats

Marco and I do not like the cold weather! I hesitate to use the “h” word here, but, we do love so much more the hot temperatures. The cold cramps our laid back, Italian due passi (two steps), strolling along the corso (main drag), lifestyle that we love in the warmer weather.

We are also both pretty positive people, so, we make the most of the situations that we face. The recent “bomb cyclone” that hit the coast of New England provided us with a snow day home from work, and a chance to turn the cold around to our benefit.

So, I got up and baked bread for our breakfast (click here for recipe). Then, I put  a smoked, uncured ham, from our local farm delivery service (click here for their delivery service) in the oven for a slow cook. While in the oven, Marco and I took a blizzard walk which was painful, but at least got us moving and exposed us to some “fresh” air. Marco roasted some vegetables (click here for how). Then, I made some homemade limoncello with the grain alcohol-infused lemon zest that I had prepared several days ago (click here for recipe).

We enjoyed a wonderful meal, finishing off with the limoncello. I napped while Marco read. We watched a couple of good films. Marco made the almond Nutella cookies pictured here for an afternoon snack with milk. For the first time, we experienced a  couples meditation from our “buddhify” app. We ended the day by trekking back out through the blizzard to dinner with friends at a local restaurant that stayed open with local employees. 

The day after this experience, I read, “How to Win at Winter When You Hate Winter”, an article in the New York Times by Lori Moore (click here to read), and it actually made the point of our day very nicely. . . it’s important to make the best out of the realities we face. . . and even do some things that you might not get to do if the weather wasn’t so cold.

Now, to the cookies, which were easy and tasty. The bottom part is simply a mix of almond meal, egg white and sugar. A dollop of Nutella is placed on the top and then baked. The nut crunch texture of the bottom is a perfect foil for the creamy smooth of the chocolate top. Check out the recipe below and click here for a short video!

Ingredients:

  • 1 egg white
  • 100 g sugar
  • 200 g almond meal
  • Nutella 

Process:

  1. turn the oven on at 360 F
  2. mix egg white with sugar until well combined
  3. add the almond meal and mix well
  4. create individual balls (25 g each) and place them on a cooking sheet lined with parchment paper
  5. with your thumb, press the center of each ball to create a small dip where you will add a teaspoon of Nutella
  6. place in the oven for 10-15 min (we did 12 min)

Buon appetito!