Learnin’ to Cook Italian

 

(For those fans of Space Ghost out there, I trust you read the title in the voice of Brak.)

 

A photo essay on my recent kitchen channeling of the Italian grandmother I don’t have:

Presto Pesto:

 

Step 1: Put on Italian music.  Andrea Boccelli works beautifully.

Step 1: Turn up some Italian music. Andrea Boccelli works.

Step 2: Sauté a few cloves of garlic in EVOO.

Step 2: Sauté a few cloves of garlic in EVOO.

 

Step 3: Add your 1/2 cup of pine nuts and sauté until it's all roasty-toasty.

Step 3: Add a 1/2 cup of pine nuts and sauté until it's all roasty-toasty. Let cool.

 

Step 4 (or 1, depending on how you start): Pick your basil leaves, enough for a packed 2 cups (1 big bunch).

Step 4 (or 1, depending on how you start): Pick your basil leaves, enough for a packed 2 cups (1 big bunch).

 

Step 5: Pour your garlic, pine nuts, a 1/2 cup of freshly-grated parmesan, and your basil to a bowl.

Step 5: Put your garlic, pine nuts, a 1/2 cup of freshly-grated parmesan, and your basil into a bowl.

 

Step 7: Blend it all.  (Oops.  I guess I should've mentioned that you could be doing this in a food processor or blender, neither of which we have.  If you don't have those either, an immersion blender is an excellent substitute.

Step 6: Blend it all. (Oops. I guess I should've mentioned that you could be doing this in a food processor or blender, neither of which we have. If you don't have those either, an immersion blender is an excellent substitute.)

 

Step 6: While your blending mechanism is running, slowly pour in a 1/2 cup of EVOO.  (No action shot here since it was a two-handed procedure.)  It should be nice and smooth by the time you're all in.

Step 6: While your blending mechanism is running, slowly pour in a 1/2 cup of EVOO. (No action shot here since it was a two-handed procedure.) It should be nice and smooth by the time you're all in. Season with salt and pepper as desired.

 

Presto!  You’ve got pesto!

This makes for a fair bit of pesto.  It will keep for about a week in the refrigerator (add about a 1/4″ of olive oil on top of it all in its container to keep it from discoloring).  

 

If you don’t have an army to immediately feed, you can freeze any extra:

 

Grease a muffin pan with EVOO and pour in your pesto.  Cover with plastic wrap and freeze until solid (a couple hours or overnight).  Most folks recommend doing this in ice cube trays, but a muffin tray works just fine too.  If you use plastic ice cube trays, be forewarned that the pesto scent may linger; you might consider designating specific savory ice cube trays to avoid ending up with pestoey ice cubes in your next beverage.

Grease a muffin pan with EVOO and pour in your pesto. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze until solid (a couple hours or overnight). Most folks recommend doing this in ice cube trays, but a muffin tray works just fine too. If you use plastic ice cube trays, be forewarned that the pesto scent may linger; you might consider designating specific savory ice cube trays to avoid ending up with pestoey ice cubes in your next beverage.

 

When they're solid, pop your pesto pucks out of the pan (They should slide out of the pan fairly easily with the nudging of a spatula, or you can set the base of the pan in a larger pan of warm water to loosen them up.) and store them in a freezer bag until your next pesto craving.  It's not a bad idea to label your bag so you can identify these little green pucks later on.

When they're solid, pop your pesto pucks out of the pan (They should slide out of the pan fairly easily with the nudging of a spatula, or you can set the base of the pan in a larger pan of warm water to loosen them up.) and store them in a freezer bag until your next pesto craving -- instant single serving sizes! It's not a bad idea to label your bag so you can identify these little green pucks later on.

 

Gnocchi:

 

Homemade potato gnocchi (is there any other kind??)

Homemade potato gnocchi (is there any other kind)

OK.  No recipe/photo essay here, but I’ll say a few things about making gnocchi from scratch:

1. I think it would probably be significantly easier if you had a potato ricer/masher, but it can be done with a good ole fork.  It just might be a little chunkier.

2. To freeze your freshly made gnocchi, lay them out on parchment paper-lined baking trays and cover with plastic wrap for a couple hours (or overnight).  When they’re frozen solid, pop them into a freezer bag and label the bag for later.  [If you throw ’em all into a bag straightaway, you’ll end up with one giant gnocchi — maybe not the desired result.]

3. No need to thaw your frozen gnocchi before cooking.  They’re kind of like won-ton or ravioli or other frozen dumpling-like items.  Just toss ’em in boiling water.  They’re ready when they’re floating.

 

Mixed Mushroom, Tomato, & Basil Sauce:

 

Mmm...homemade pasta sauce!

Mmm...homemade pasta sauce!

Quit using that stuff from the grocery store, all full of mystery ingredients and preservatives!  Make your own sauce!   It’s super easy (don’t forget the Italian music!), especially if you use canned tomatoes.  (Saucing tomatoes were super cheap at the local store, so I used fresh tomatoes, a random mix of mushrooms, and leftover basil from the pesto-fest.)  I used this recipe  from Epicurious, but really, you can hardly go wrong with some canned tomatoes, garlic, Italian seasonings, and whatever else you like in your sauce.

 

freezer-ready sauce

freezer-ready sauce

You can make a big batch of sauce and freeze the rest for later, so you have a healthy sauce at the ready.  To freeze, let your sauce cool, and then spoon it into big freezer bags.  Lay the bag(s) flat in your freezer, so they freeze into a thick sheet.  When you’re ready to use it, just break off a section of the sheet and keep the rest in the freezer.  Too easy!

 

Mangiare!

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~ by ... on 7 March 2009.

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