Monday, February 21, 2011

Corsi di cucina

Hello all. It's a beautiful Monday morning here in Roma, and I am looking forward to another exciting week in this wonderful city full of surprises.

Last week, something that I did not mention, was that I took a cooking class on Tuesday night. It was a lot of fun and I learned how to make some delicious food. We made homemade gnocchi in a slow-cooked beef and pork ragu sauce, Saltimbocca all Romana, and Torta della Nonna (Grandma's Custard Pie... yum!). Needless to say, cooking was difficult without nibbling and tasting, and I had a great time learning and tasting all the different food with the 5 other girls at the class.

I got to mix the dough for the pie crust, help with the cutting the vegetables for the ragu sauce, roll gnocchi, and mix the custard. It was all very fun. You can see me (hand) mixing the dough for the pie crust in the picture here.

I was lucky enough to bring home some leftovers and have ragu sauce on paste for two nights after the class, quite a treat as I haven't been eating much meat in my time here. It was absolutely delicious, and I plan on making all of these things again during my time here in Rome (and even back home, as well!)

Anyway, I've decided to include the recipes in case anyone would like to try to make these things at home. It's a fun way to try some new food, and a great way to have fun with friends or family!


1. First Course: Homemade Gnocchi splashed into slowly cooked ragù sauce

Ingredients for the dough (serving 4 people):
- 1/2 lb Potatoes (the one that fits this recipe are called Idaho or Russet potatoes back in the States, or for the other countries just get old potatoes and not fresh and watery ones......remember that the more water is contained in the potatoes, the more flour you need to add and the heavier the potato dumplings will be!)
- 2,5 cups all purpose flour
- 1 egg
- pinch of salt

Ingredients for the sauce (serving 4 people):
- 1 lb of grounded mixed meat (70% beef and 30% pork)
- 5 tablespoons of E.V. olive oil
- 1 tablespoon of salt
- one carrot, one stalk of celery, one yellow onion
- 1 cup of dry white wine (Chardonnay or Sauvignon are preferred)
- 1 lb of whole peeled tomatoes (like San Marzano quality)
- fresh herbs like rosemary, bay leaves, and sage

To make the gnocchi you have to cook potatoes in a large pot of salted boiling water until tender, for about 20-25 minutes. Drain and slip off the skin, then mash until smooth. Gradually stir in the egg yolks, salt, and enough of the flour (I usually use ¼ of the quantity of potatoes) to obtain a smooth dough that is just a little sticky. Now you can take a piece of dough and roll it on a lightly floured work surface into a rope about 1/2 inch (2.5 cm) long. Repeat with all the dough and you can give the gnocchi the shape you prefer. Usually to give them the gnocchi their special grooves, twist around the tines of a fork.
In the meantime, in a large frying pan over low heat, stir in the "soffritto" made from carrots, celery and onion with E.V. olive oil and cook until it starts to brown. Then you can add minced beef mixing with minced pork and let it cook for about 10 minutes. When it’s browned, turn on the heat over medium-high and stir in some dry white wine and cook it until it'll evaporate (please never use any sweet wine, it's disgusting!). Now you can add your chopped tomatoes and cook it for about 1 hour and 30 minutes, up to 2 hours (depending on how much sauce you're cooking).
To cook the gnocchi, put a large pot of boiling water over high heat. When the water is boiling, toss in few tablespoons of salt with the gnocchi. Stir to keep the gnocchi from sticking, and when they'll rise to the surface scoop them out with a slotted spoon.
Saute your gnocchi with the ragù sauce, and drizzle with Parmesan cheese to coat your dish. Serve hot. It's gonna be delicious!!!

2. Second course:  Saltimbocca alla Romana (Saltimbocca roman style)
Note: Saltimbocca, the word translates as “jump in the mouth”

Ingredients for 4 servings:
- 1 lb / 500gr thinly sliced beef cutlets (scallopini or tenderloin)
- 10 slices thinly sliced prosciutto
- 10 slices thinly sliced edamer cheese (american cheese, swiss cheese or sliced mozzarella cheese is fine as well.....remember it has to be soft and mild cheese)
- 20 fresh sage leaves, plus more for garnish
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Put the beef cutlets side by side on chopping board. Lay a piece of prosciutto on top of each piece of beef and cut it into small squares. Gently flatten the cutlets with a rolling pin or meat mallet, until the pieces are about 1/3 inch thick (about 0,5cm thick) and the prosciutto has adhered to the beef. Then lay the cheese and a couple of sage leaves in the center of each cutlet square.
Weave a toothpick in and out of the beef to secure the prosciutto, cheese and sage.
Heat the oil and in a large skillet over medium flame. Put the beef in the pan, prosciutto-side down first. Cook for 3 minutes or until crisp it up and then flip the cutlets over and saute the other side for 2 minutes, until golden. Transfer the saltimbocca to a serving platter, remove the toothpicks, and keep warm. Don't season with salt or pepper since prosciutto is salty and you don't need to add more seasoning to your plate.
Pour the sauce over the saltimbocca, garnish with sage leaves and serve immediately.
3. Dessert: Torta della nonna (Custard Pie or Grandma's Cake)
Custard filling Ingredients & Instructions:
- 7 egg yolks
- 1 litre of milk
- 140gr / 1 1/3 cup of sugar
- 140gr / 1 ¾  cup all purpose flour

To make the custard all you have to do is mixing egg yolks and sugar in a bowl whisking until smooth and soft. After add the flour and in the meantime over medium heat bring the milk to a boil. Add the milk to the flour mixture as soon as it will start boiling and put back over the flame stirring for a few minutes, until thick and creamy. Remove from the heat and let sit until cool.

To make the dough you have to mix 5 cups all purpose flour (if you get an american brand, then you have to sift it as it has a different density than the one we use in Italy), 2 sticks of butter, 2 cups of sugar and 2 eggs, a pinch of salt. Mix everything powerfully on a slightly floured marble surface, and leave in the fridge for 10 minutes to let your butter get less soft and the dough more suitable to stretch and easy to handle. Heat the oven to 350°F/180°C. Roll dough on the bottom of a spring pan, place a border around the edges with foil around it and place in over for about 10-15 minutes. Take out, let it cool for a few minutes and then place the custard filling and pine nuts in the pie. Put it back in the over for another 15 minutes until the custard becomes firm without the foil so the edges become more golden brown. Take it out and place powdered sugar on time. Serve warm or cold!
I really hope you all enjoyed the lesson and I wish you all fun and a great dinner!!! Hope to see you soon at my family's restaurant for the 10 euro student's menu, it was a great pleasure to get to know you all!!!

Ciao e buon appetito! 

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