Friday, September 30, 2011

Pasta with squash, our summer & fall "minestra"

Do you know how to cook "pasta con la zucchina a minestra"? I already told you about pasta a minestra in general, now we are preparing a specific minestra with squash. This is a great summer and autumn dish.

I know I know, everyone thinks that in summer you only have to eat cold or refreshing food, but Sicilian tradition do not agree with that. Infact in Summer we also prepare some types of pasta made with broth, like a soup, and this is exactly one of them. You may not have it too liquid (like it is in the pic above, but that depends only on your personal taste!) Even better is having it in this season, when the first rains arrive.

Ingredients & preparation for 4 people:
1 half of a squash (if very long)
1 small onion
400 gr. broken spaghetti (Ital. spaghetti spezzati)

4-5 ts of tomato sauce
80 gr. matured caciocavallo cheese in small pieces
salt (or a bio stock-cube if preferred)
olive oil
a small piece of dried red pepper

1. You peel the squash (pic on the left), cut it in half and then in thin slices. 2. On a medium heat put a large pan with half the water. 3. As soon as the water boils put salt (or a bio stock-cube if preferred), onion and the squash in pieces. 4. After about 12-14 minutes put the pasta and the tomato sauce. For this dish we use the "spaghetti spezzati" type of pasta, which are simply broken spaghetti.
5. When the pasta is almost cooked (usually after 10-12 minutes) put the little pieces of caciocavallo cheese inside the soup, so that they have the time to melt a bit (matured caciocavallo is very hard).This local cheese is very salty and tasty, so is the perfect contrast with the delicate taste of the squash.

If you want to try this lovely pasta don't hesitate: it's simple, healthy and tasty. Perfect for vegeterians or even health food nut people :) Enjoy!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Fresh homemade tomato sauce: it's worth doing it!

Do you know how to make a fresh delicious homemade tomato sauce? Have you ever tried?

The making of tomato sauce (in Italian salsa di pomodoro) definetely reminds me of my childhood summers spent in our country-house along with my family and my maternal grandparents.

My mum and my grandma sometimes were doing the "salsa" (literally means sauce and when we say the word alone it only means tomato sauce). I used to watch the process, not the entire one though, as it was very long and after a while I inevitably got bored; so I was coming and going from the kitchen from time to time.

Last week after so many years I decided to prepare once again some fresh tomato sauce. Contrary to what I used to think when I was 10, it didn't seem to me neither long nor boring. That's good! 
It took me just an afternoon (cooking time included) and the result was great! I was so proud :-)

1 kg ripen tomatoes

1 onion
1 full teaspoon of salt
1/2 spoon of caster sugar

black pepper
olive oil
fresh basil
cinnamon in powder

1. Wash the tomatoes under running water, then roughly cut them and put them in a sauce pan together with the sliced onion. Let cook the two together for about 30 minutes on a very low heat with a lit.
2. After that
 it's time to mash them up. To help you speed up the process you can first blend the mix; this will facilitate the squeezeing phase. 
3. To squeeze them put them in a strainer. I have an electric tomato strainer (or squeezer... I am not sure how you exactly call it) so it's very easy (See the pic here on the left). When you have finished the squeezing phase, the liquid that you have gathered in the sauce pan is very watery and needs to be reduced to the proper thickness of the tomato sauce, so it has to cook again on a very low heat for at least two hours and half or until it is not watery anymore.

4. As soon as the liquid is becoming more and more "sauce" than water add all the ingredients to make it tasty: salt, sugar, a pinch of black pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon and some fresh leaves of basil. Taste it and adjust with salt and sugar if needed.

In the end add also a drizzle of extravergin olive oil... and that's pretty much it, your fresh homemade tomato sauce is ready!!!
You can use it on your pasta, bruschettas, pizza or wherever you like. You will be proud too! ;-)