One of my favorite Italian dishes to make is Gnocchi, also known as “little dumplings”.    Typically these are made with potatoes, semolina or flour, eggs, and served with a sauce.  I prefer the lighter ricotta version.  I have to say, these are SO easy to make, you only need 30 minutes and you will have an amazing dinner for your family and friends.  I sometimes make these with spinach and sometimes not.  My recipe and photos are for both.  I hope you enjoy!

You will need 16 ounces of whole milk ricotta, 2 eggs, 1 ½ tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, ½ cup grated parmesan cheese, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, ½ teaspoon white pepper and 1 cup of cooked chopped spinach (all the water must be removed).

DSC_0003It helps to have a gnocchi board, you can purchase one on Amazon for about $5.00.

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Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
Combine the ricotta cheese, Parmesan, olive oil, eggs, spinach (if desired) salt, and pepper with a wooden spoon in a large mixing bowl. Add the all-purpose flour in 3 parts, stirring after each addition.  You want the dough to be slightly sticky, add more flour if needed.
Bring the dough together in a ball and cut off one-quarter of it. Dust the work surface with all-purpose flour to prevent sticking, and roll the cut-off piece of dough into a dowel shape about 5/8 inch in diameter. Cut the dowel into 5/8-inch pieces. Dust some parchment paper with polenta or corn meal.  Roll each dumpling on the gnocchi board.

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Place the gnocchi on the prepared sheet pan.  Repeat with the rest of the dough, quarter by quarter.


Place the prepared gnocchi in the refrigerator until ready to use.

To make the Pancetta Cream Sauce, you will need 1 6 ounce package pancetta, 2 tablespoons oil, 1 tablespoon butter, 1 shallot chopped, 2 gloves garlic, minced,  ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (if desired) 1 14.5 ounce can Red Gold Petite Diced Tomatoes, ½ cup heavy whipping cream.

Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta and cook until the fat has rendered and the pancetta is crisp, about 5 minutes.

IMG_5208Remove the pancetta from the pan and reserve, leaving the fat behind.
Add the oil, butter, diced shallots and garlic to the hot pan and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the shallots have softened, about 5 minutes.  IMG_5209

Add the can tomatoes, cover and bring to a simmer. Cook for 20-25 minutes.  Add the reserved pancetta and heavy cream,  cook an additional 2-3 minutes (or until the cream is hot).

Cook the gnocchi in the boiling water for 2 minutes. Serve tossed with a bit of the Pancetta Tomato Sauce, top with chopped basil and freshly grated Romano cheese.  Alternatively, you can freeze the uncooked gnocchi for up to 2 weeks.

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Ricotta/Spinach Gnocchi:
2 cups whole milk ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 large eggs
1 1/4 – 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 cup cooked chopped spinach, squeezed dry (if desired)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon white pepper

Pancetta Cream Sauce:
6 ounces thick-cut pancetta (about 3 1/4-inch slices), diced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 shallot, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt & pepper to taste
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
One 14.5 ounce can Red Gold Petite Diced Tomatoes
½ cup heavy whipping cream
4-5 fresh basil leaves, cut into chiffonade

Combine the ricotta cheese, Parmesan, olive oil, eggs, spinach (if desired) salt, and pepper with a wooden spoon in a large mixing bowl. Add the all-purpose flour in 3 parts, stirring with after each addition.  You want the dough to be slightly sticky, add more flour if needed.

Bring the dough together in a ball and cut off one-quarter of it. Dust the work surface with all-purpose flour to prevent sticking, and roll the cut-off piece of dough into a dowel shape about 5/8 inch in diameter. Cut the dowel into 5/8-inch pieces. Dust some parchment paper with polenta or corn meal.  Roll each dumpling on the gnocchi board. Place the gnocchi on the prepared sheet pan.  Repeat with the rest of the dough, quarter by quarter.Place the prepared gnocchi in the refrigerator until ready to use.

To make the Pancetta Cream Sauce, heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta and cook until the fat has rendered and the pancetta is crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove the pancetta from the pan and reserve, leaving the fat behind.
Add the oil, butter, diced shallots and garlic to the hot pan and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the shallots have softened, about 5 minutes. Add the can tomatoes, cover and bring to a simmer. Cook for 20-25 minutes.  Add the reserved pancetta and heavy cream,  cook an additional 2-3 minutes (or until the cream is hot).

Cook the gnocchi in the boiling water for 2 minutes. Serve tossed with a bit of the Pancetta Tomato Sauce chopped basil and freshly grated Romano Cheese.   You can freeze the uncooked gnocchi for up to 2 weeks.

Buon Appetito!

Ricotta/Spinach Gnocchi with Pancetta Tomato Cream Sauce



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This dish easily wins the award for one of the fastest, easiest and most delicious recipes out there.  Total time – 45 minutes, which includes 10 minutes to peel and devein shrimp.  I bet most people have all the ingredients in their cabinet, except the shrimp.  :o)

Prep time:  10-15 minutes
Cook time:  30 minutes

Ingredients:

1 lb. raw shrimp (20-25 count), peeled and deveined
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup butter
½ onion or 1 shallot, finely diced
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
2 14.5 ounce cans of Red Gold, Petite Diced Tomatoes
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1 teaspoon fresh basil
Black pepper to taste
¼ cup chicken stock
¼ cup heavy cream
1 lb. capellini, cooked al dente, drained – reserve a few tablespoons of the cooked pasta water*
2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
Good quality Romano or Parmigiano-reggiano cheese, shaved or grated

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and oil.  Add chopped onion (or shallot), garlic and red pepper flakes.  Reduce heat to low and cook until onions are soft and transparent, about 10 minutes.

Add diced tomatoes, fresh thyme, basil, black pepper and chicken stock.  Increase heat to medium low and continue cooking 20-30 minutes.  Add raw shrimp, cook until shrimp turns pink, about 5 minutes.  Add heavy cream and reserved pasta water, simmer 2-3 minutes.

Place cooked pasta in a large serving bowl, pour sauce over pasta and top with fresh chopped parsley and grated cheese.

*Make sure you GENEROUSLY salt the pasta water before cooking your pasta, about 2-3 tablespoons.

Buon Appetito!

 

Capellini with Tomatoes and Shrimp


Grilled BBQ Pizza

Grilled BBQ Pizza

When most people think of October, they think of football, apples, cooler temperatures, fall foliage (New England), Halloween, comfort food, shorter days and more football.  When I think of October, I immediately think of “National Pizza Month”.

“Anyone in the business of serving pizza probably does not need to be reminded that October is National Pizza Month here in the United States. While the contribution of the first pizzerias in this country cannot be ignored, it was really the returning American soldiers who fought in Italy during World War II that brought a hunger for pizza home with them and pushed its popularity over the top. America’s love of pizza continued to grow and now October is the official National Pizza Month across most of North America.

First observed in the United States during 1984 (although many people incorrectly claim it was 1987), October was designated as National Pizza Month by Gerry Durnell, the founder of Pizza Today magazine, who chose that month because the first issue of his magazine debuted in October of that year. Durnell was a pizzeria owner in the small town of Santa Claus, Indiana when he realized there were no periodicals or tradeshow publications to support his growing pizza business or the industry in general. Creation of a national pizza-oriented magazine along with the introduction of a national pizza month served his purposes perfectly and solved the problem.

Today, National Pizza Month is observed each October across the USA and in much of Canada too. The designation might be a bit redundant in this country though, as nearly every month could be considered Pizza Month in the United States these days. People don’t really need a special month for pizza in a country where there are an estimated 63,000 pizzerias and 94% of Americans eat pizza at least once a month. The figures equal the consumption of about 45 slices of pizza per person in the U.S. each year and show that Americans definitely love their pizza as evidenced by devouring 100 acres of pizza per day, or 350 slices per second.”
– See more at: pizza.com

One of my favorite kind of pizza to create is Barbecue Pizza.  You can use either chicken or pork, and it is always great cooked outside on a grill, or on a preheated pizza stone in the oven, click on the link below for the recipe and grilling technique.

BBQ Pizza

I also thought I would share some of my favorite pizza photos with you.  I hope these photos encourage you to create your own pizza at home, once you do, it might be a while before you ever purchase pizza out again.

National Pizza Month

National Pizza Month

Bon Appetito!

Happy National Pizza Month – October


Spinach Ravioli, Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Pancetta Butter Sauce

Spinach Ravioli, Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Pancetta Butter Sauce

This is my favorite Christmas dinner Italian course and has become a tradition for more than 10 years.  I always love the bright red color of the sun-dried tomatoes combined with the green spinach filling of the pillows, aka ravioli, with a touch of fresh basil.  So festive.  If you do not have the time to make you own ravioli, another tradition, you can always purchase some fresh spinach ravioli at your local grocery store.  This sauce is made in about 5 minutes time.  I pair this with a beef tenderloin with a mushroom wine reduction sauce, Dauphinoise Potatoes, and some fresh haricot vert, blanched and sautéed with lemon infused olive oil.  This years dinner will be complete with a festive Peppermint Cheesecake, recipe forthcoming.

 

Pasta Dough:
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
(for red pasta dough, add 1 tablespoon tomato paste and omit the salt)

Ravioli filling:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (10-ounce) bag spinach, stems removed
salt & pepper to taste
1 (15-ounce) container ricotta cheese
1 large egg
¼ cup parmesan cheese, grated
1 cup shredded mozzarella

Sun-Dried Tomato-Pancetta Butter:
1 (4 ounce) package thinly sliced pancetta, coarsely chopped
½ stick butter
¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, diced
½ teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 teaspoons fresh basil, chopped, for garnish

See my blog for directions on how to make the pasta dough, spinach filling, and forming the ravioli.

https://foodsinthefastlane.me/2011/12/04/spinach-and-ricotta-cheese-filled-ravioli

To make the sauce, place the chopped pancetta in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Cook until crisp and brown, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, removed the pancetta to a paper towel to drain. Add butter, sun-dried tomatoes, thyme, and black pepper to skillet and cook over medium heat until butter is melted. Add reserved pancetta, toss sauce with cooked ravioli. Top ravioli with fresh basil and freshly grated parmesan cheese, if desired.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and Bon Appetito!!!

Spinach Filled Ravioli with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Pancetta Butter Sauce



Rob’s Favorite Stuffed Bread

Stuffed breads are such a BIG hit in the east coast!  After moving to the mid south, I started baking my own.  My son Rob’s favorite is broccoli and pepperoni stuffed bread.  So easy to make, below is the “quick” version made with Simply Homemade® County White Bread Mix (found in the baking aisle of your favorite grocery store).

Simply Homemade® Country White Bread

Simply Homemade® Country White Bread Mix

Follow the direction on the back of the box for making this yummy bread, cover bread with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot until doubled (if you have time), about 1 hour.

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Now comes the really fun part, creating your bread…one of my favorite sayings is “you are only limited by your creativity”….this is especially true when stuffing a bread, because you can stuff it with just about anything.  But, today I am making “Rob’s favorite”, so I am stuffing my bread with broccoli, pepperoni, shredded mozzarella, grated parmesan cheese and a little sun-dried tomato pesto sauce, just to “kick it up a notch”….oh yeah, and of course, red pepper flakes.

For the broccoli, chopped two bunches of broccoli crowns, place in a micro-wave bowl, add 2 tablespoons water, salt & pepper, I LOVE Tones® Roasted Garlic Sea Salt…

2 crowns chopped broccoli

2 crowns chopped broccoli

Micro-wave for 5 minutes.  Drain and put aside until needed.

On a clean work surface or a silicon roll pad, lightly dusted with flour, place bread dough and pat down or roll dough out to a  14″x8″rectangle.   Top dough with pesto sauce (if desired) leaving a 1-inch edge.  Top pesto sauce with 1 ½ cups shredded mozzarella, cooked broccoli and ¼ cup chopped pepperoni.  Sprinkle 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese over pepperoni.  IMG_2766

Brush egg wash along outer edge (this helps prevent ingredients from bursting out).  Starting with the side closest to you, roll up jelly-roll style; about ½ way,  fold in edges and continue rolling to end.

Stuffed Bread

Stuffed Bread

Place bread on a sheet pan or pizza peel dusted with polenta (or corn meal), this will add a wonderful crunch to the bottom of the bread.  If time permits, cover and let rise an additional 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400°F.  For optimal flavor use a pizza stone, preheated for 45 minutes.  Brush bread with egg wash and top with toasted sesame seeds, if desired.  Make several ¼-inch slices diagonally on top.  Slide bread onto pizza stone, or place baking sheet in preheated oven.  Bake 20-25 minutes until golden brown.  Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.

Baked Bread

Baked Bread

This is a GREAT appetizer to bring to any party….Buon Appetito!

Rob's Favorite Stuffed Bread

Rob’s Favorite Stuffed Bread

 

1 Package Simply Homemade® Country White Bread Mix

Prepare bread mix according to package directions. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot until doubled, about 1 hour.

On a clean work surface or a silicon roll pad, lightly floured with flour, place bread and pat down or roll out to a 14 x 8 inch rectangle.

Add bread stuffing (see below). Egg wash edges of bread and roll tightly, tucking in the ends before you finish rolling up. Egg wash outside of bread and sprinkle with sesame seeds if desired.

Bake in a preheated 400°F oven on a pizza stone for 20-25 minutes. Remove bread and place on a wire rack to cool before slicing.

Broccoli Filling

2 crowns chopped broccoli (microwave for 5 minutes or until soft) drained
1/4 lb. wafer sliced pepperoni)
1 ½ cups shredded mozzarella cheese
2-3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
Red pepper flakes to taste
Optional: ¼ cup tomato pesto sauce

Ham & Tomato Filling

1/2 lb. sliced ham
1/4 to 1/2 lb. Provolone or Italian Cheese Blend
Red pepper flakes to taste
Sun-Dried tomatoes or fresh tomatoes