Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Showing my Roots...

I'm Italian.  'Duh' some of you are thinking, 'we know that.'  All right, know that.  I'm proud of it...damn proud.  So much so that I downplay the Polish heritage in me (which is bad).  I don't do it on purpose. Maybe it's because I always felt that the Italian side was at the forefront growing up.  Living in an Italian neighbourhood.  Having a dad that actually came from ITALY.  Across the ocean, for god's sake! Hearing dad talk to his sisters, brother, parents, nephews, etc in Italian.  Even though I didn't understand a word of it (and only learned Italian a couple of years ago), I loved hearing it.  I was fascinated.  It was romantic...foreign...strange.

One of my aunts had two kitchens.  The 'normal' one upstairs that was adjacent to the dining room, then the one in the basement where ALL the good stuff happened.  The baking of bread, the making of pasta and huge pots of sauce.  I remember a big table in that kitchen.  At least it was big to an 8-year old.   The door leading out to the small back yard where you could see the garden with its tomatoes, peppers, zucchini.  The ubiquitous glasses of 7-Up offered to me.  It was all so magical.  Like you had to be 'in' on the secret.  How to bake the best loaf of bread.  Crusty outside, soft and airy inside.  How to make the perfect pasta.  Semolina dough rolled and cut to the right proportions.  The Old Country Secret Sauce. The slow simmer of sauce on the stove, the air laden with the scent of ripe tomatoes and garlic.

Maybe that's why I never tried making pasta before.  I didn't know if I would be able to capture the magic.  It was always one of those things that seemed out of reach in all the cooking I've done.  I used the excuse that I didn't have a pasta machine.  (Though at one point over the years I did and never did a damn thing with it other than donate it to the Goodwill during a Spring Cleaning binge).  Guess what?  You don't need a pasta machine to make pasta.  Shocking.  Or maybe I just realised that I was ready to give it a shot.  Hell, if it turned out crappy, you'd never be the wiser.  No mention would be made.  No pictures taken.  There would be no evidence of my kitchen covered in flour.

I bought a bag of semolina a couple of months ago.  I'm still going to make pasta with it...someday.  Probably sooner than later now that I know I can make the easy stuff.  Gnocchi...those little pillows of dough.  Chewy, dense and delicious.  Ricotta gnocchi.  I'll still have to make potato gnocchi, but when you have ricotta in the fridge, well, with cheese is always better than food without, right?

Ricotta gnocchi....and to take it that one Italian notch higher....with homemade pasta sauce (one of the first things I ever learned to make on my own).

Easy Ricotta Gnocchi
From The Kitchn

*Note:  I used a combination of grated Pecorino Romano and Aged Asiago for the half cup of cheese.

Little Pillows of Dough

Covered in Secret Pasta Sauce
After Cooking


  1. Oh. My. God. Thank you for this recipe. I wish I had some RIGHT NOW! That looks sooooo good.

  2. It's super have to make it!