Enlightenment on sumac

Any time you mention sumac you think of poison sumac also known as poison oak. Sumac while related to poison oak is related to the sumac spice. Sumac is the berry from a shrubby little plant growing in the middle east and parts of Italy. The spice looks black, but the berries when fresh are a brick red. You can buy them ground or whole dried berries. The leaves and bark of the plant was used for tanning leather. It is tart rather astringent and has been used as a souring agent. The spice is rather delicious on grilled meats, fish, ligumes, veggies and even rice. If you’d like to try using it, it can be found in any well stocked middle eastern market place.

Middle eastern grilled monkfish with flat bread dip

2 monkfish filet (about 2 pounds)
4 Tablespoons ground sumac
8 Teaspoons toasted sesame seed
8 Tablespoons thyme
2 Teaspoon fine pink himilayan salt
olive oil to coat fish filets

Wash the monkfish filets under cold water. Find and trim off the blue membrain as it’s inedible. Coat monkfish in olive oil and dredge in the remaining spices. Place on grill of a medium heat (it is ready when you hold your hand 1 inch off the grate and count 1 mississippi, 2 mississippi, 3 mississippi, ouch). Allow to cook 5 to 6 minutes per side.

Flat bread dip

1 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons sumac

whisk together and enjoy with a bread of your choosing.


The art of pasta


Pasta (Photo credit: HatM)

Durum Wheat crop

Durum Wheat crop (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


I am in awe of people who think a box of pasta secca or factory made pasta serves as italian along with a jar of sauce.  I will share some of my knowledge on pasta with my readers.

Pasta fresca or fresh pasta is an art. Fresca doesn’t mean fresh usually, it signifies moist, or just made. This art begins with the flour used to make the pasta. There is 5 types of flour used for making pasta. They are:

1. Strong flour – a good strong white bread flour is the most commonly used flour for pasta making. The pasta can be made with or without eggs because there is enough strength in the gluten in a good flour to hold the pasta together. The eggs are not essential and merely make a richer pasta.

2. OO flour – this is the one that the purists use and is also the one I like and even make pizza from. A bag of OO flour usually says on it “di grano tenero” which means soft grain. OO signifies very fine so what we’ve actually got is a fine soft white flour. Because it is a soft white, it will be low in gluten and will therefore need something to hang it together and that means you have to use eggs as a binder. The “dentiness” of pasta meaning that pasta al dente should have some firmness, almost crunchiness, to it and should not be just pastey. A very high gluten flour can manage this on it’s own, but as OO is low gluten, the eggs provide that degree of firmness required as well as holding the pasta together.

3. O flour – is a halfway house between a strong flour and OO flour. It is usually a blend of a very strong flour such as durum flour and a softer white wheat flour. Because of the strong flour, it will contain more gluten than OO flour and will generally make pasta without the addition of eggs. However the pasta itself will be less firm if the eggs are left out. It will require less egg than OO because it already contains more gluten. The balancing act between eggs and gluten will determine the final texture and really it comes down to personal preference and how rich you want the pasta to be. In short, the more Os that there are in the name of the flour, the more eggs it will need. If you want to put lots of eggs in, go for a OO. If you only want a little egg in, go for the O or the strong flour. If you are not bothered about egg at all, then use the strong flour.

4. Durum flour – comes from durum wheat which is a very hard high gluten variety of grass/wheat. It is used commercially for blending with other flours and for the manufacture of dried pastas. Many varieties of dried pasta list their ingredients as durum flour or durum wheat semolina (in pasta terms it’s the same thing) and that is all. It is generally not used in a home cooking situtation many italians prefere to use a good strong bread flour for pasta and many can not recall ever seeing an Italian cook or housewife making her pasta with semolina. Having said that, it’s most common form is as durum wheat semolina and it can be added to any strong flour to bump up the strength.

5. Semolina – comes from the heart or endosperm of the wheat grain. Durum wheat semolina is used for dried pasta because it is very high in gluten and because as semolina it is ground fairly coarsely, rather like ground rice, so it absorbs less water. It therefore dries faster whilst maintaining it’s shape and will cook without falling apart. It needs no eggs and so from a commercial point of view is far easier to handle (in other words they break the italian cooking commandment, NO SHORT CUTS! My great grandma would rise from her grave an strangle me for short cuts, as would any italian’s grandma). In a home situation where the pasta is to be used fresh, it is not really suitable to be used on it’s own as it can be dreadfully difficult and a lot of work to handle. It can easily be added to another flour, as an experiment if for no other reason. If buying semolina for this purpose, confirm that it is durum wheat semolina. In a supermarket, it probably won’t be unless specified as such because most people are cooking things that don’t require a top grade wheat.

I recommend a beginner to use 1 part semolina to 3 parts of strong flour.

Now a key factor is the differences between the two types of pasta. A fresh pasta will absorb sauces, where a factory made pasta transports it. So think about what you want your pasta to do. In lighter sauces such as a clam sauce, I like my pasta to be fresh so it absorbs the light watery sauce flavoring the pasta. I like to make my own dried pastas for the heavier sauces. This way these heavier sauces make it to my mouth…though inevitably some makes it to my lap or in my case my shirt.

When aiming for authenticity or tradition. Most pastas from Emilia-Romagna and, to a lesser extent, Abruzzo, Lazio (my ancestral homeland), Marche, Tuscany, and Umbria, make their pastas with only eggs and flour and don’t use any salt or water at all. In other areas of the north, Liguria, Piedmont, and Veneto, fresh pasta is made with flour, water, and fewer eggs (one exception being Piedmont’s rich tajarin, which is made with a lot of egg yolks). In the south, (anything below lazio/latium is considered southern Italy.) fresh pasta is made from a dough of semola [semolina – ground durum wheat] and water, but no eggs. So keep in mind there is room to experiment with the dough.

There is many types of pasta you can make. The two main ones are pasta liscia or smooth pasta, and then there is pasta ripiena or stuffed pasta.

Pasta liscia like the name implies have a smooth surface. Examples are pappardellefettuccineorecchiettetrenettetagliatelle, and taglierini, the latter two derivatives of the Italian verb tagliare [to cut].  It is also cut into square shapes, like Liguria’s lasagne. Thats right, lasagne noodles are a type of Pasta Liscia. My favorite type of pasta is maccheroni alla chitarra. This involes cutting mixed dough, rolled out by hand, and it is cut by laying a sheet of dough over a device called a chitarra which means guitar and pressing it against those strings.

Now Pasta ripiena allows for a cook’s special creativity and there are multitudes of fillings for every shape imaginable of pasta. (lobster stuffed heart shaped ravioli for example, or crawfish or even catfish.)  Found throughout northern and central Italy, stuffed pasta is virtually unheard of in the South.  Pasta made for stuffing needs eggs for strength and structure.  Historically, there has never been a lot of eggs in the poorer southern regions of Italy, so pasta ripiena never caught on until recent times when the poor are able to get eggs.

Some good examples of Pasta ripiena include agnolotti from Piedmont – squares with ruffled edges, stuffed with meat and cabbage, agnolini from Emilia-Romagna are halfmoons stuffed with meat and vegetables, and Liguria’s pansoti, filled with wild greens and fresh sour cheeses.  Central Italy has tortelli – large squares filled with spinach and ricotta.  And, of course, Bologna has its cappelletti, small rings of pasta filled with a rich meat mixture, parmigiano-reggiano, and nutmeg.

So the recipe depends on what you want to do with your pasta.

Now I wanna talk about the eggs. First and foremost, WASH YOUR EGGS EVEN IF YOU GET THEM FROM THE STORE. The shell is where salmonella resides, and cross contamination is your biggest threat. You can get salmonella in the egg it’s self but by boiling the pasta past al dente you remove the risk in my opinion. If your using eggs there is many types of eggs you can use. Yes there is more then 1 type of hen egg. There are many varieties of chicken, some are rare breeds. The eggs differ from one another like people do. Hen eggs your best bet is to get what ever is local. The best-tasting eggs are those that are the most nutritious!  Whenever possible, use organic, free-range eggs.  “Cage-free” can mean a lot of things, but don’t necessarily mean the chickens are ever let out of the barn.  Also beware of vegetarian-fed eggs; chickens are natural omnivores, meaning they need protein in their diet, like bugs and worms, which they can only get as they happily run around clucking and scratching and pecking at the ground during the day, in the sunlight (which gives them a natural rhythm that is necessary for egg-laying).  These types of eggs are the most nutritious and will produce excellent pasta! Another is the yolk. The larger the yolk the richer the pasta. There is a breed in Italy that is rare and by rare I mean nearly none existant, while I forget the name it has a pink shell and a large rich yolk. The species was all but wiped out because of the modern commercial chickens who laid eggs at a faster rate. They are now making a come back in artisanal pasta.

Though play around with the eggs you got locally see what works for you. I like duck, goose, or even emu eggs. I think my favorite eggs are duck eggs. They are richer then hen eggs. Bigger, oiler, larger yolk, make for a very good pasta. You need 1 duck egg for every 2 hen eggs. I can find many duck eggs, and there are many local duck farms. We also have a guy who raises emus, and geese. A emu egg is worth 10 normal chicken eggs. Emu eggs are 10 times thicker then your chicken eggs. I tend to use the back of my butcher knife to crack them open. There really isn’t much difference between emu and chicken eggs from the store.  Goose eggs are worth 3 eggs and again absolutely delicious. The yolk of a goose egg is more like a custard or crisco when raw. They will really make your pasta yummy. Just try not to over cook the pasta with goose eggs. You’ll get a strong sulphur taste if you do. Last but not least, Ostrich eggs. They are 24 eggs that’s right 2 dozen eggs if your making pasta with them. They are very artisanal and very rare to come by. I highly recommend them if your going to make a load of pasta for a family event. They are just so wonderful. It’s like heaven in your mouth. Now you know how to substitute eggs which will come in handy when I give a few basic recipes later on.

One thing many people say to me is making pasta at home is hard. No it’s not, it’s terms are complex, but if you understand everything so far, you will find it is really easy. Some say it’s expensive, flour and eggs not very expensive at all. It lasts longer if you make it at home. Thats right, I will tell you how to make homemade pasta last for several months! The best thing is, fresh pasta taste so much better, face it everything done at home tastes better. It’s the love and joy that make it so much better.

Now you get this big lump of dough. You need to flatten it out. There’s 2 ways to do this. One is by hand with a rolling pin and the other is a pasta rolling machine. For beginners I recommend investing in the pasta rolling machine. Having mastered the rolling pin, I can say from experiance it can drive a saint stock raving mad. It takes a long time to master. If you don’t roll your pasta out to an even thickness it can cook unevenly leaving a bad taste in your mouth so to speak. Sorry little pasta humor. Mastering the rolling pin results in a higher quality pasta. It is common place to find a 3 foot long wooden rolling pin in an Italian kitchen. The trick other then quickness is speed. You need quick motions with a rolling pin which stretches the dough. The grain from the wood also leaves a series of small ridges in the pasta which really adds to the texture.

Now here’s where things get debatable and often in Italian families become bitter enemies. The ingrediants. Salt, olive oil, water, and eggs are all argued over. One thing is certain and we Italians all agree, flour is used in making pasta.

Many don’t believe salt is to be used, since many Italians boil their pasta in salted water. Many agree lightly salted water is best vrs unsalted water with salt added to the pasta. Now here’s where the debate really gets heated. Water, some believe adding water results in a pasta that is more gummier. I’ve added water and enjoyed the results myself. Now here’s where Italians come to blows. Olive oil, it is believed olive oil ruins the texture of the pasta and this makes it impossible for the sauce to be absorbed. I think there is room for you to play around with these ingredients and find what you like. Me, it depends on what I’m doing. I like olive oil if I’m making a rich, thick hearty sauce. I never add salt and occationally I will use water. Experiment find what works transporting you to pasta zen.

Now back to the flours. They are very important.

  • Protein content. Egg pasta in the style of Emilia-Romagna requires low-gluten (and thus low protein) flour in order to achieve its soft, tender, and absorbent quality.  High protein flours are better used for breads, which give them a strong gluten web structure that withstands the powerful yeast gases that produce a good rise.  These would include bread flour, durham flour (semolina [semola di grano duro]), and whole wheat flour.
  • Consistency.  The protein content of wheat varies from harvest to harvest. Only the national brands have successfully achieved consistent protein content year after year, with King Arthur having the best reputation among commercial bakers.  Regional brands can also work well and many times have lower protein contents.
  • Texture. For egg pasta, the finer the grind the better.  Grainy flour, such as semolina, is difficult to work with and nearly impossible to roll out with a rolling pin.  Semolina is used in factory-made pasta, where powerful machinery works the dough into beautifully-shaped varieties.
  • Ash content. Ash content (sometimes called “mineral content” on the package) refers the outer layers of the wheat berry, where the minerals are concentrated.  Flours that are processed closest to the bran will have higher ash content and are darker in color due to particles of bran.  A high mineral content will develop more intense fermentation and flavor, which is wonderful for bread, but not for egg pasta.  Flour from France typically has higher ash content than Italian or American flour, which gives French breads their distinctive flavor.
  • Extraction rate. This refers to the flour obtained from the milling process and is related to ash content.  A 100% extraction (or straight-run) is wholemeal flour that contains the entire wheat berry grain.  Lower extraction rates render whiter flours from which progressively more of the bran and germ (and thus B vitamins and iron) are excluded, down to a 72% extraction, which is typical American white flour.

There is no magic ratio. It is ready when it comes together to form a dough. Play around with it in order to develop a sense of the dough’s optimal consistency to ensure successful pasta. The ratio will depend upon upon the size of the eggs, how much moisture the flour will absorb, which in turn is dependent upon the kitchen environment, such as temperature and humidity level.

Now pastas go by many names, but the dough is different. For example if your making strangozzi then your going to start with a 4 egg dough as an example.

Now we got the ingredients out of the way, let’s get the techniques down.

The technique is quite simple. Measure out your flour onto a clean dry work space. Like a pizza stone or a cutting board. Make a depression in your flour and make sure the walls are thick. Crack into this well in the flour your eggs. Depending how many eggs your using, the well will need to be brought to size to hold them. I like to use my hands but break the yolk and mix it together so that the yolk and the whites are blended together. When I was young my great grandma gave me this job and I excelled at gushing the eggs together with my hands. Once your eggs are mixed slowly begin to bring in the flour into the eggs. Keep slowly taking more and more flour into the eggs while you mix them. I am however getting ahead of myself. While regular pasta is great, who wants just regular pasta all the time? You can add things to your pasta. Flavorings, herbs, color.  Here’s just some ideas that I use.

Green Pasta with Spinach Puree – Steam or blanch about 1/2 pound of spinach or swiss chard leaves (stems removed) until they are soft and bright green. Puree in a food processor until smooth and press out as much extra liquid as possible before mixing with the eggs. I also like to go further by adding roasted garlic into the food processor.

Red Pasta with Beet Puree – Roast two small or one large beet in aluminum foil in a 375° oven until very soft. Peel and puree in a food processor. After you can pickle the beets. Nothing should go to waste.

Black Pasta with Squid Ink – Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of squid ink to the eggs before mixing. Squid ink is available online and in many gourmet food stores. Be prepaired to pay a pretty penny for spanish inks.

Yellow Pasta with Saffron – Add a 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon of ground saffron or ground turmeric to the eggs before mixing. (prefere the turmeric it’s much cheaper! This adds a spicy semi bitter flavor excellent paired off with a sweet sauce.)

Speckled Green Pasta with Fresh Herbs – Finely chop about enough fresh green herbs to equal about six tablespoons and mix them with the eggs before mixing. There’s no need to blanch or puree fresh herbs. Any fresh herbs can be used, either singly or in combinations, but think about which sauce you’ll be pairing with the herb pasta to make sure they work well together. I love a little dill in my rich hearty meat sauce.

Brown pasta-cuddle fish or octopus ink.

The inks (squid, cuttle fish, octopus) are ment for a number of things. They add a flavor of the sea, they add a nice saltyness, just use a little. It goes a long way. To make your own, you just need to catch them clean them and remove the ink from their sacks. This ink must be used within 30 days and has to be refrigerated. They also add color. A little goes a long way. You can find ink usually squid ink in well stocked cool super markets.

Now after adding our flavorings or colors we bring the flour slowly into the eggs mixing it together to form the dough. Once this is done move it to a clean spot and wash your board while leaving the dough covered by a towel. Now many people over look this, but you must knead the pasta. It makes it very cloud like. Pressing, folding, turning:  this is kneading.  With the heel of your hand, firmly press into the center of the dough ball.  Grab the far end with your fingers and fold it toward you, as if folding the dough in half.  Then give it a quarter turn.  Repeat  – over and over – and always in the same direction.  Use one hand, both hands, or alternate hands.  This may take 7-10 minutes depending on the flour. Now we must let it rest. Wrap the dough ball in foil or plastic film and let it rest at room temperature for 15 minutes or up to two hours.   This resting period will allow the gluten to relax and ensure thorough and even absorption of the egg’s moisture into the flour.

To dry your pasta you will need a large surface area to dry the pasta.  If you have a large counter space, that works, as does your kitchen or dining room table, or as my great grandma did, use your bed!  Spread several thin towels or even an old sheet over the area. Roll the pasta out. If you got a pasta rolling machine, this is where you need to consult the instructions for attatching it to your work surface. (sorry but I have never used one, just my trusty rolling pin. So read the insturctions from cover to cover.)

I tend to divide my dough based on the number of eggs. If I used 5 eggs I divide the dough into 5 equal portions. Using a quick back and forth motion to get the pasta rolled out. (sorry I can’t be any more descriptive, it’s extremely hard to put into words.) If you were using a pasta roller, you’d set it to the desired thickness and run each dough section through your roller as you turn the handle. You might do this once or twice or even three times on different settings. Be ready to catch the dough comming out from the back of the machine. Once we got it flat we must let it rest 10 to 15 minutes under a dry towel. Resting time varies depending on the kitchen’s heat, humidity, and ventilation. Don’t be afraid to turn it over to help it dry evenly. DON’T OVER DRY them, as they will become too dry and crack when you cut them. There are many machine cutters. I never have used them. It’ll be like your pasta machine though.

Some examples of machine cuts are Fettuccine and tonnarelli.  Fettuccine [Little ribbons] – Use the broader set of cutters for fettuccine; the pasta can initially be rolled as thick or thin as you’d like. Tonnarelli is from lazio and is a  versatile style is square; i.e., the depth and width are equal.  Therefore, when running the dough through the rollers, continue doing so until the width matches that of the cutter’s depth, so the end result will be square.  You may need to experiment with your machine to determine which setting is ideal.

I tend to make hand made pastas using any none serrated knife. Typically my butcher knife. A few of the ones I make are:

  • Pappardelle – This noodle originated in Bologna and is typically ¾” to 1” wide.  Lay a sheet of pasta on your work space and cut with a fluted pastry wheel.
  • Tagliatelle – Also originated in Bologna, this noodle is typically wider and perhaps thinner than fettuccine, say ½” wide (fettuccine is ¼”).  The easiest way to cut this pasta is to loosely roll a pasta sheet lengthwise, then cut crosswise every quarter inch.
  • Maltagliati [Badly cut] – This small, random-shaped pasta is great for soups, especially pasta e fogioli [pasta and beans].  It is usually a mixture of various triangles, squares, and trapezoids.  The only important thing here is that the shapes are roughly the same size so they will cook to the same consistency.  Roll a pasta sheet lengthwise like tagliatelle.  Using your sharp knife, make a point on one of the ends by cutting each corner.  Then cut crosswise to make a small triangle.  Continue doing so until the whole roll is cut.

If you look around online you can find tons of machines and cutters that will allow you to make all sorts of shapes. The type of pasta sometimes requires you to take and cut the pasta as it’s comming out of the machine. Like elbow maccaroni they are extruded from the machine and sliced to size as they are comming out.

http://www.consiglioskitchenware.com/store/pc/viewCategories.asp?idCategory=384 Has pasta machines starting at 20 dollars. They also got a few types of rolling pins, chittaras, peirogi and dumpling makers.  You may have to stop around for other types of attatchments. Again I don’t got a machine so not sure where to source them.

To me the best way to dry your pasta is in nests grab several ribbons of pasta and form into a small nest.  Dry them overnight (in dry climates) or for a full 24 hours (in more humid climates).  Any less drying time will result in mold forming on the pasta.  Once completely dried, the nests can be placed in shoe boxes (with a few ventilation holes cut in them) layered with a paper towel in between.  Maltagliati can be stored in a sealed plastic bag after it has been completely dried in my experiance.

There is no need to refrigerate completely dried pasta – keep in a dry cupboard or pantry.  The pasta, when boiled, will produce the same luscious result as if cooked immediately after it was made!

Now for what you’ve been hankering for. The recipes!

Beginners doughs
Basic northern 5 egg dough

  • 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for kneading
  • 5 large eggs

Emu egg dough

  • 6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for kneading
  • 1 emu egg

Intermediate doughs
Goose egg dough

  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup of semolina flour
  • 1 goose eggs
  • 1 hen egg
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lukewarm water

Duck egg dough

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 duck egg
  • ¼ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons water

Expert doughs-Lots of ingredients and can be overwhelming and need a very large surface

Ostrich dough for a wedding

  • 15 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 5 1/4 cups semolina
  • 1 ostrich egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon milk

Ostrich dough# 2

  • 5 1/2 pounds type ’00’ flour (about 20 cups!)
  • 1 ostrich egg

Now you’ve made your dough. Time to cook it…I got some tips for how to do it the right way. These are the Pasta commanments.

  1. Cooking time is about 3-4 minutes for fresh pasta.
  2. To stop cooking the pasta before draining, pour in a bit of Ice cold water (1 cup per pound of pasta).
  3. Egg pastas are porous and soak up water, so it will weigh a lot after cooking! Don’t throw your back out lift with your knees not your back!
  4. Use your biggest pan! It gives the pasta room to move and prevents sticking.
  5. Two thirds of the pan is water, don’t use less! Ostrich doughs you may need to cook in batches!
  6. Add a teaspoon of salt to the water unless the pasta has salt in it.
  7. The sauce must be made in a pan big enough to hold the sauce and the pasta. You add pasta to sauce, not sauce to pasta.
  8. Taste the pasta before the stated cooking time is up: it may be done sooner. Al dente means to the tooth.
  9. Drain the pasta fast. The longer it sits the more it absorbs and won’t absorb that yummy sauce you spent all day making….unless you got it from a jar.
  10. Never rinse cooked pasta – you’ll wash off all the starch which is essential for the texture of the sauce.
  11. Allow a gallon of water per pound of pasta. Even when boiling a small amount of pasta, use a minimum of three quarts water. Failure to do so will result in clumping and a gummy texture.
  12. Never add olive oil to the water to prevent clumping. (This is an american technique and a major no no for us italians.)
  13. It is an American practice to attempt to thicken the sauce with pasta water. This will render the sauce dull, starchy, and even alkaline. Don’t spoil the balance of your beautiful pasta and sauce with pasta water.
  14. If your sauce is butter or cream-based, add a pat of butter to the pasta while tossing.
  15. Serve and enjoy while it’s still hot.

There you have it. Homemade pasta….but wait more recipes!

How can you just have pasta without sauce. When making a tomato based sauce there is three types.

Long simmering sauces achieve a rich, complex flavor. Cooking time can range from two hours to all day, depending on how thick and caramelized you like your sauce.

Barely-cooked sauces have a lighter flavor more recognizable of fresh tomatoes, but a little bit of cooking softens the tomatoes and brings out their sweetness. Briefly cooking the sauce helps retain the tomatoes’ fresh, tart-sweet taste, but also heats them long enough to add depth of flavor. Caramelize some onions, sauté garlic, and simmer herbs long enough to infuse the sauce with their flavors.

Uncooked sauces are bright and refreshing, and are best made with thoroughly ripe summer tomatoes. o make it, use fresh tomatoes at their peak of ripeness, when they are sweet and juicy and bursting with flavor.

Long simmering
Sauce #1

  • 10 ripe tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 cup Burgundy wine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste

Ragu Bolognese

  • 2 pounds ground pork
  • 1 pound guanciale or panchetta
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
  • 2 – 28 ounce cans crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup tomato paste (secrete recipe but you can find out how to do your own here: http://www.pickyourown.org/canning_tomatopaste.htm I can tell you it uses roma tomatoes.)
  • 3 ribs celery, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup red wine or chicken stock,plus extra
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • grated Parmesan for serving
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • olive oil

Place celery, carrot and onion in a food processor and pulse till finely chopped. Saute the vegetables in olive oil in a large heavy bottomed pan over medium heat for 6-7 minutes. Raise heat to high and add the ground meats. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, breaking up the meats as they cook.

When the meats become a light golden color (approximately 6-8 minutes), add the wine or chicken stock and scrape the bottom of the pan as it deglazes. Cook until the wine has almost reduced then add the tomato paste, tomatoes and more wine or stock if needed. Bring to a boil then simmer about 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Add the milk during the last half hour of cooking.

At this time the sauce will be a medium thick consistency. If it’s too dry, add more wine or stock. If it’s not thick enough, allow to simmer longer to reduce and thicken.

Barely cooked


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can peeled and diced tomatoes
  • 1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Sautee onion and garlic 2-4 minutes in olive oil. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Tomato pepper

  • 4 large tomatoes
  • 2 large red bell peppers, seeded and diced
  • onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • salt and pepper to taste

Peel and crush tomatoes, add remaining ingredients and simmer 20 minutes. (Boil tomatos till the skin splits to peel them, then cool under cold running water, and peel off the skin.)

Fresh sauce

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 6 tomatoes, chopped
  • 3 onions, minced
  • 2 green bell peppers, minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons white wine
  • salt and pepper to taste

Mix everything together simmer for 30 minutes.

Uncooked sauces

Alla checca

  • 5 tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • salt to taste

Combine all ingredients and let sit for 2-10 hours covered in a bowl with plastic wrap. Add your pasta and toss.

Blender sauce

  • 5 cloves garlic, roasted
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 6 small tomatoes
  • 1 (16 ounce) jar roasted red bell peppers
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil

Take a head of garlic, slice off the tops of the garlic bulb drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil at 450 degrees F for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Allow to cool. Squeeze garlic out into blender. Add in remaining ingredients and puree till smooth.

Summer sauce

  • 2 pounds vine ripened tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup cream sherry

Add all ingredients into a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap after mixing together and let stand for 2 to 10 hours mixing every hour.

There you go pasta sauce. Now your ready to go out there and make your own pastas right down to a pasta sauce.

Taglia il pane, Apri il vino, Buon appetito.

Cut the bread, open the wine bottle, have a good meal.

several pecorino cheeses


Pecorino (Photo credit: Monica Arellano-Ongpin)

Pecorino di Pienza (Italy)

Pecorino di Pienza (Italy) (Photo credit: RomeCabs)

These tempratures are in celsius!





Bagnolese Pecorino Raw produced cheese pecorino with latte coming from sheep of the population dictates “bagnolese or malevizza” constantly to the used pasture it is coolness that seasoned like cheese from table or grattugia.

Latte of the milking of the evening and the mattino successive
Heating of the latte ones to 37-40° C
Addition of lamb rennet
After 30 minuteren breach of the curd
Clearing of the serum
Mold preparation of the pecorino in fuscelle
Recovery of the serum
Heating of the serum (90°C) and production of the annealed one
Putting in fuscelle of the annealed one
Pressatura of the pecorino
Salt out of the pecorino

Pecorino Salaprese
“The latte ones come carried to approximately 36 degrees, aggiungendovi rennet.
it coagulates in 20 – 30 minuteren. After the breach of the curd to dimension of a chicco of rice one lets in rest for some minute, then is put in pressandola form in order to let out the serum. Passages 3-4 hours the forms come scottate in the hot serum. The salt out is carried out approximately to dry for 24 hours. The forms come placed to mature in fresh and ventilated atmosphere, and are ready to the consumption after a short drying in atmosphere to constant temperature.”

Latte of the milking of the evening and the mattino successive
Heating of the latte ones to 37-40° C
Addition of lamb rennet
After 30 minuteren breach of the curd
Clearing of the serum
Mold preparation of the pecorino in fuscelle
Recovery of the serum
Heating of the serum (90°C) and production of the annealed one
Putting in fuscelle of the annealed one
Pressatura of the pecorino
Salt out of the pecorino

Pecorino stagionato nello Ziro – seasoned with ziro
This “Pecorino” is produced with latte of pasteurized entire sheep to 70-72 °c, cooled to 38-40°C, comes added to lactic ferments us and stirred for half hour, a called time joins to natural rennet in powder (“the presura”) and it lets to rest for half hour; then with the spino the curd is broken off and it is put in the stamps.

Stew in the room to vapor to +38-40°C comes for approximately 3-4 hours and salato by hand. The forms are put to mature in frigorifera cell to 8-12 °c on aces of fir wood. After three months of stagionatura it comes dealt with oil and here the particularitity, according to an ancient Tuscany tradition the others three months of stagionatura comes job lot made putting the forms inside of antichi ziri (orci) of terracotta where it continues the stagionatura, but the characteristic that assumes is that of a cheese from the soft and vellutata paste. This characteristic comes to it conferred from the atmosphere and the enzymes that are developed inside of the ziro of terracotta. The forms assume a beautiful yellow color paglierino, with a soft paste from the determined taste. Ingredients: latte ovine pasteurized, rennet, knows them, lactic ferments us. Suggestions: Optimal accompanied from little mostarda sweet or piccante sauce of fichi

Pecorino semi secco – Dry Pecorino seeds

This “Pecorino Cheese” is produced with latte of pasteurized entire sheep to 70-72 °c, cooled to 38-40°C, comes added to lactic ferments us and stirred for half hour, a called time joins to natural rennet in powder (“the presura”) and it lets to rest for half hour; then with the spino the curd is broken off and it is put in the stamps. Stew in the room to vapor to +38-40°C comes for approximately 3-4 hours and salato by hand. The forms are put to mature in frigorifera cell to 8-12 °c on aces of fir wood. After three months of stagionatura it comes dealt with oil and natural coal This cheese comes seasoned in order at least 90 days, the forms assumes a beautiful color gray anthracite, the paste is compact from the saporito taste. Ingredients: latte ovine pasteurized, rennet, knows them, lactic ferments us. Suggestions: It is accompanied splendidly with pears or marmellata of fichi. Confection: Forms from 1,300 Kg. approximately.

Pecorino of the Marzano Mount
The pasture with its damage to the cheese of the sapori and appreciable typical smells variegate essences is in the fresh cheese that seasoned

The latte ones munto of the evening and the raw morning, leaked and miscelato, come heated place in the caccavo and till a temperature of 38-40 °C with fire to firewood.
After to have heated for the coagulation rennet of kidskin or lamb (of business or acquired production joins on the market) in the measure of 30gr/ql of latte.
The rennet before being inserted in the latte ones comes melted in lukewarm and filtered water.
After approximately 30 minuteren from the addition of the rennet it comes carried out the breach of I coagulate I use through it of the ruotolo with energetic movements till to reduce the paste in grains of the dimension of chicco of maize or rice.
The left curd to rest under serum for some minute, pressa with the hands in order to favor the clearing of the serum. The rassodata curd comes manually extracted from the boiler and deposited in the fuscelle of wickers, with a frugatura operation (operation exercised in the psta in fuscella with fingers) favors the spillage of the serum.
After to have inserted the curd in the fuscelle, the forms come dipped in the obtained warm sheet after the extraction of annealed having a temperature of approximately 80 °C for a variable time from 1 to 10 minuteren. The scalding of the forms contributes to the drying of the cheese and the formation of a homogenous crust.
After approximately 24 hours, in which the cheese comes rivoltato in fuscella many times over, the salt out to dry is carried out and/or in pickling brine with it according to knows them large for a variable period from the 3 to 6 days dimensions of the form.
At the end of the saltura the forms opportunely washed and cleaned up of know them in excess, come placed in the premises of stagionatura for the minimal period of 2 months.
In the period of stagionatura the cheese many times over is turned, washed and dealt with oil of olive and vinegar.

Pecorino di Carmasciano
Latte of the milking of the evening and the mattino successive
Heating of the latte ones to 37-40° C
Addition of lamb rennet
After 30 minuteren breach of the curd
Clearing of the serum
Mold preparation of the pecorino in fuscelle
Recovery of the serum
Heating of the serum (90°C) and production of the annealed one
Putting in fuscelle of the annealed one
Pressatura of the pecorino
Salt out of the pecorino

Pecorino Of Laticauda Sannita
The latte ones fresh as soon as munto, or coming from the milking precedence, it comes filtered and place in boiler for being heated till a temperature of 35/40 degrees, therefore the rennet of lamb of Laticadua is introduced.
As a result of the breach of the curd, lumps are formed of the little ones that removed manually, are placed in fascere; the product thus obtained comes pressato with the fingers, till to obtain a compact mass.
The cheese comes therefore put in pickling brine for being commercialized after various times to second of the tipologia: coolness 2gg, semiseasoned 2 months, seasoned minimum 4 months. During the phase of stagionatura the form comes washed with hot serum and water of sink. When the cheese is mature and begins “sudare”, that is emits some drop of liquid, comes greased with extra oil vergine of olive.
The pecorino of laticauda it is introduced of typical cylindrical form, with sizes that go from 300 gr. for the fresh cheese, till approximately 5.5 kg. for the seasoned cheese.
Al term of the stagionatura, whose duration oscillates between the 4 and twelve months, the product introduces a hard consistency, farinosa, at times not adherent to the instrument of cut, with fine grain and fracture to scales, deprives of inner cavities and imperfections. The varied color from the yellow paglierino to the shining yellow, in relation to the tenor of fat people. Of intense smell gradevole and of latte pecorino, it has a slightly piccante sapore.


Guanciale, from the italian word guancia meaning cheek. This is a type of bacon from Italy made from the cheeks, or jowls and the neck of a pig. If you can find it. It is expensive. 60 bucks for 3 pounds is not uncommon. Guanciale comes from umbria, lazio, central Italy. So since my relative came from Lazio and Campania to me it is very special. You see many recipes calling for pancetta. Pancetta is very good, but it lacks the delicateness that Guanciale has. So I’m going to teach you how to make Guanciale at home. Thats right at home!


2lb pork jowl/cheek or neck

70 grams kosher salt (7% of meat weight)

70 grams sugar (7% of meat weight)

15 black peppercorns

1 large bunch of thyme

70 grams fennel seed

2 bay laurel leaves (look for genuine bay laurel, not the pungent Californian bay)

4 juniper berries

Grind up the juniper, peppercorns, fennel seeds and bay laurel in a spice grinder until reasonably fine. Combine with the salt and sugar. Remove the leaves from the thyme, discard the stalks, and finely chop. Add to the salt mixture, and stir to combine.

Using a sharp boning knife or pairing knife remove any glands from the meat.  These will look like small off-white bumps that are reasonably hard. Some might be hiding under some fat. Yes you will have to feel the meet up looking for them hard glands.

In a zip lock bag combine the cure ingredients and the jowl. Rub the cure into the meat on all sides thoroughly. Seal the bag, or the tupperware and pop in the fridge for 7 days. After 3 days into the 7 day period redistribute the cure over the meat just by rubbing the meat again.

After 7 days the meat should feel firmer. Take it out of the fridge, and rinse it in cold water to remove the cure. Some of the herbs might stick to the meat and fat, that is fine just extra flavor, and then just give a good rub over to get the cure off, you can wipe it with a towel as you dry the meat off.

Make a hole in one end, not too close to the edge of the meat, you want it about an inch from the edge (since it will shrink). Tie some butchers string through the hole, and hang at 55F 75% humidity for at least a month, possibly two.

You will know when the jowl is cured because it should feel firm to the touch. The fat will feel softer than the meat, that is fine. It is essential that the temprature is 55F and 75% humidity. Anything else just won’t do.

Once cured it should keep in the fridge easily for a few weeks, or if you  freeze it longer. You can keep it hanging at 55F and 75% humidity too if you wish which will result in the meat hardening more, but it will develop an even stronger flavor.

Give this a try, subsitute this for pancetta in your next recipe….throw it in your slow cooked bake beans….the uses are endless.


Pecorino del pastore E della tuscia

This is translated from notes I was given by family in Italy. Thanks my familia! This is an Ovini or sheep cheese. The name Pecorino del pastore e della tuscia means Pecorino Cheese of the Shepherd and the Tuscia. Tuscia is a historical region of Italy that was comprised of the southern territories under Etruscan influence. While it later came to coincide with today’s province of Viterbo, it was originally much larger, including the whole Region of Tuscany, a great part of Umbria and the northern parts of Lazio, aka latium.

Raw material- sheep’s milk, fat 8.5-9% of race Sopravvissana pure or cross (mainly with Bergamo and Frabrianese), Sicilian, Comisana and Sardinian. Feed Supply: pasture from 50 to 90 %, rest fodder (natural of the place). What this means, is they must graze in a pasture of grass to make up 50-90% of their diet, and the fodder is food they’d be able to forage and eat, things like wild herbs, wild grasses, etc.

Sopravvissana, bergamo, fabrianese, sicilian, comisana, and sardinian are all breeds of sheep. Link to see photos of each breed.

http://eng.agraria.org/sheep/bergamasca.htm (bergamo), http://eng.agraria.org/sheep/comisana.htm (comisana)
http://eng.agraria.org/sheep/fabrianese.htm (fabrianese)
http://eng.agraria.org/sheep/sopravissana.htm (Sopravvissana)
http://eng.agraria.org/sheep/sarda.htm (sardinian)

Technological Processing- Milk filtered and heated from 27 to 35 degrees (these are in celcius) in copper vessel galvanized. Addition of lamb rennet in pasta. Coagulates in 20 minutes. After these operations, the mass is left deposit for 20 minutes and put into the molds. The form of a hole in the center to bring out the whey and work into the mold with the hands for a further 20 minutes. The salting is carried out with dry salt medium or big, or in brine for about 12 hours, at least 24 hours after the preparation of forms. Yield 20% (20 gallons of milk, 1 gallon worth of cheese)

Lamb rennet in pasta….pasta can translate as a noun, n. dough, paste, spread; pastry; macaroni, pasta. I left it as I am unsure, but I think lamb rennet is added in a paste or spread like fashion. I’m leaving it for right now as the original translation.

Seasoning-from 4 or 5 months in the cellar, sometimes covered by a installation of oil that preserves. During this period the forms are turn and subsidiaries (the seasoning and only for family use).

Characteristics of the finished product- height: cm 10; diameter: cm 12; Weight: 1 kg, 4-5 kg; shape: round classical; crust: golden yellow; pasta: white compact or slightly grainy look with the tear of the oil; fat:48 %; spores: sweet and strong

Production area- province of Rieti, Frosinone AND Latina. Particular varieties of viterbo.

Production Calendar- from 8 months to a year if the parties are in rotation.

Notes – the tradition of every family has handed down a recipe for processing of this product which, when derived from Sopravvisana is very fat and spores very decided due to the high solubility of Latin protein, a production expands, thanks to a certain tendency to relaying. The variety of viterbo – that of Tuscia – accounts for about 4-5,000 2,024 its fresh (matured for 20 days) is used for consumption on the table at the end of a meal or for crostini with anchovies. The semi-seasoned (3 months) is intended for the beans and pears or for the “pizza cheese”. Seasoned (six months) and for grating.

(News kindly provided by Italo Rams, author of Tuscia At the Table, and the President of the Accademia della Cucina di Viterbo). A time the rennet cardo strove for clotting Caciofiore Aquilano cheese and cheese Viterbo (Investigation Jacini, 11, I, 289). Enjoy!