pasta

Dinner on Lake Como

 

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I recently spent a week in a villa on Lake Como in the Italian Alps. On our last night we had a local chef come in to cook us dinner. He was the brother of the villa’s owner and worked for a restaurant in Bellagio. He suggested a menu made up of local foods and, with a few adjustments to our group, we eagerly agreed.

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Lake Como is in the Lombardy region of Italy and is known for its risottos and polentas. They boast a wide variety of cheeses and the fish in the lake is abundant. We watched people fishing just outside our villa and it took them less than a minute to catch something. Normally fish would have been on our menu but some in our group couldn’t eat it.

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We started with a typical Antipasto of meats and cheeses including mortadella, salami, mushroom pate and local cheeses accompanied by a local white wine “Le Calderine” from the Angelinetta Winery in Domaso.

 

 

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The next course, we were told, was a local peasant dish called Pizzocheri. It was a pasta made with buckwheat flour. The chef and his sister hand rolled it into fat wormlike noodles. These were boiled and finished with cream, herbs, walnuts, and cheese. This was the dish we all liked the least. It was heavy and a bit sour. We all thought it might have been better if it was cooked a bit longer but having nothing to compare it to, we couldn’t be sure. Most of us could not finish it.

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Our main course was roast pork shank with porcini mushrooms and a polenta cake. The pork was magnificent. It fell off the bone and melted in your mouth and the mushrooms were the perfect accent to the dish. We asked if the mushrooms were fresh, they were so delicious, but were told they were not in season. They had been preserved locally in jars. A “ca del Mot” red wine from the same local winery accompanied this dish.

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For dessert we had frittelle stuffed with apples and raisins. These are deep fat fried yeast risen pancakes similar to a doughnut and sometimes called Venetian Doughnuts. The frittelle were served hot, dusted with sugar and cocoa and drizzled with honey. They were quite good but kind of heavy on top of a heavy dinner.

 

 

 

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The grand finale was the Grolla. It originated in a region to the west of Lombardy also on the Swiss border, the Valle d’Aosta. It is a drink that requires a special container, or Grolla, the cup of friendship. It is carved out of one piece of wood and has openings for each person at the table to drink out of. The saying goes that the people who drink from the same Grolla will be united in eternal friendship but everybody must drink from their own opening and the entire contents must be finished.

The traditional recipe is one cup coffee and one cup hot grappa and a spoonful of sugar per person, add an orange peel, a lemon peel and light. When the flame burns out, let it cool a bit and start drinking.  I’m not sure this recipe was followed exactly but the drink was delicious and we enjoyed it very much.

Food Friday: Farfalle Salad

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Farfalle Salad

Cook per directions:

12 oz Farfalle Pasta

Drain and cool

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Combine:

6- 7 oz each

Roasted Red Peppers, coarsely chopped

Sun Dried Tomatoes, coarsely chopped

Feta Cheese, crumbled

 

1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

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Dressing:

Whisk together:

2 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar

1/4 cup Olive Oil

2 tsp prepared mustard

salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients

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Food Friday: Spinach Lasagna

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Last week I was in a hurry after work and decided to make a quick and easy spinach lasagna.  Unfortunately, I got distracted and ended up overcooking it so my final product was not that great.  I hope you pay attention and do a better job!!

 

Spinach Lasagna

6 oz fresh spinach, chopped

2 eggs

1 lb ricotta cheese

8 oz mozzarella cheese, shredded or sliced

25 oz tomato sauce

3/4 cup parmesan, grated or shredded

1/2 pound lasagna noodles  (I use the kind you don’t have to cook first.  If you have to cook it, then cook it first.)

Combine the ricotta and the eggs.  Throw in some black pepper to taste.

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Take a 9X13 glass baking dish.  Lightly cover the bottom with tomato sauce.  Cover with noodles.

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Pour the ricotta mixture on top and cover with spinach.

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Put another layer of noodles on top.

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Cover with tomato sauce and the Mozzarella cheese.

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Put another layer of noodles with remaining tomato sauce on top.

Sprinkle parmesan on top.

Bake in 350 degree F oven for about 45 minutes.  It should be just brown and bubbly.

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Food Friday: Pesto

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Today we are in Italy.  This is super easy and  very delish.  It makes a lot so could feed 4-6 depending on if you have teenagers in the house.

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Artichoke Tomato Pesto

1/2 cup dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained

10 oz jar artichoke hearts, drained

1.5 cup romaine lettuce

1/3 cup parmesan

2 Tablespoons pine nuts

2 cloves garlic

2-3 leaves fresh basil

1/2 cup olive oil

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I had this genius idea to try this in the blender.  I do NOT recommend it.  Use a food processor.

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Puree artichoke hearts, dried tomatoes, lettuce leaves, Parmesan cheese, pine nuts and garlic until smooth.

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Slowly pour olive oil into mixture while motor is running.  Blend until smooth.

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It doesn’t look too pretty but it smells wonderful!

Serve over Pasta.

Enjoy!