Ribollita

When I was meal planning for Italian week I knew I wanted to make a soup because we were expecting a cold front that week. I’m weird in that I prefer to eat soup when it’s cold outside. Eating soup when it’s warm or hot outdoors makes me feel really gross because I feel like it heats my insides to match my outside and yes, I know it’s crazy, but that’s how I feel. And don’t even get me started on cold soups. I don’t care how many great cold soups there are out there and how you think I’m missing out, I don’t buy it. Soup should be hot. End of story. Well, my story, at least. If you want to incorporate cold soup into your story, go for it, you’re the author. I’ll just skip that chapter when I’m reading your book.

So anyway, we were expecting a cold front that would lower the temps into the thirties so I knew it was perfect soup weather! Googling “Italian soup” brought up a lot of what I’ve seen at Olive Garden or soups with sausage but I was craving something veggie so when I found the recipe for ribollita, I was really happy! Ribollita, which roughly translates to “reboiled,” is another peasant dish that originated in Tuscany. It’s main ingredients are leftover bread, cannellini beans, and kale; preferably you would use Tuscan bread and kale but, yeah, use what you can! It’s also best eaten after it’s been sitting out for a couple of days but I obviously didn’t go that route. I had some the next day for lunch and I don’t think it was any better than the night before. Probs because I didn’t use Tuscan anything…

Since I knew I’d need days old bread, it gave me an excuse to bake my favorite loaf of bread, an Italian crusty bread. I first made this bread about four years ago and I found the recipe on some survivalist website. Don’t ask why I was on that website…Anyway, I bookmarked the recipe on my phone and always meant to print it out but never did. Then I got a new phone and lost it! I searched and searched and couldn’t ever find the exact recipe I used before but I did find one that was pretty close and have used it since. I love this bread mostly because I don’t have to knead it. I HATE kneading bread because I have zero upper body strength and I’m impatient. Kneading bread requires both strength and patience. So yeah, no kneading but you do need time because it has to sit and proof for twelve to eighteen hours before you can bake it. The recipe I now use is a little tougher than the first one but it makes the bread perfect for soups. So I baked my bread about two days in advance and then got to soup making!

It doesn’t get any easier than this recipe but it is time consuming. Thankfully it doesn’t require much attention so much of the time spent is just letting the soup boil but if you’re looking for a quick fix, this is not the recipe for you. I didn’t include chard like the recipe suggested but I doubt it made a difference. I also added cheese to my soup because I read “This soup is traditionally served without Parmigiano-Reggiano” as PUT ALL THE CHEESE ON YOUR SOUP.

This soup was perfection! It was so very cold that day and this soup warmed up the house and us and we were all so happy after eating it! Yeah, the girls even ate this! The four year old pulled out every piece of kale and mostly ate the beans, bread, and carrots but she ate it and that’s what counts! It was a little creamy and I think that was due to the pureed beans and the soft potatoes. It had a slight buttery flavor which, again, I’m putting on the beans and maybe even the kale. The kale really softened up and lost all of its tough texture, which was nice. I will definitely make this again and if I am on a time crunch, I’m gonna buck tradition and use canned beans. I’m sorry but, c’mon, how often do I have four and a half hours to make dinner???

Recipe, Recipe

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Carbonara

*Spoilers ahead for Netflix’s “Master of None” so if you’re not caught up on that show or haven’t watched it (in which case, what’s wrong with you?!), skip this post until you have*

At the end of Netflix’s “Master of None” Aziz Ansari’s character, Dev, makes fresh carbonara and this leads to the discovery that he’s really good at it so he moves to Italy to learn how to make pasta. Ever since I saw that episode, the show premiered in November of 2015, I’d been craving homemade carbonara. I’d never even eaten carbonara but Aziz/Dev made it look delicious so I was like “I gotta get on that!” When we decided to embark on this project, one of the things I was certain about was I was going to make carbonara during Italian week. I had originally hoped to make the pasta myself, just like Dev (!), but after the ramen disaster, I decided to buy my spaghetti pasta and then just focus on getting the best ingredients.

Carbonara is considered a peasant’s dish and due to that, it’s very simple. It consists of pasta, eggs, cheese, and bacon. That’s it. I guess some people add cream to it but from what I’ve read, that’s a big no-no. Also, some people add peas? Gross. Peas are delicious but I don’t think they would work with this dish unless you get fresh peas and who has fresh peas?! Anyway, I couldn’t get fresh eggs because our farmer’s market is only open on Saturdays and I planned on making this meal later in the week so the eggs would lose their freshness; same thing with the cheese. With all that, I made it my mission to get the best bacon possible! Most of the recipes I saw suggested using guanciale bacon and I was going to drive into central Austin and buy some but then I remembered my HEB sells pancetta, which is a decent alternative, and my HEB is only two miles away. Central Austin, with traffic, is a half hour away. I think you know where I ended up…Well I should have made the damn trek because my HEB didn’t have pancetta, for TWO DAYS IN A ROW. I was very frustrated but not so frustrated as to actually drive into town so I ended up buying regular bacon.

The biggest obstacle in making carbonara is making sure the eggs don’t scramble when you add the egg/cheese mixture to the pasta. The way to avoid this is to stir very quickly and add water when needed. I followed the recipe exactly and I did not end up with scrambled eggs. Look at that! I’m a mini-Dev!

It was so good, so, so good! It was saltier than I expected and even though I didn’t used to be a fan of salty food, that changed over the course of the year. Because of that, I loved this dish, salt and all! It wasn’t overpowering but just more than I expected. It was creamy and I loved the crunchiness of the bacon here and there. The girls gobbled it up but I knew they would because it was pasta. Those girls love their carbs!

Definitely check out Master of None and then celebrate your binge-watching by making this dish. It will make all that time sitting on the sofa worth it!

Recipe

Manicotti

Seeing as how we had eaten so much Italian influenced food during Argentina week, it only made sense to follow it up with Italian week. We’ve had our fair share of Italian food so it was difficult to find things we hadn’t eaten. When I’ve had difficulty finding recipes in the past, I’ve turned to friends who have first hand knowledge of the cuisine so this go around, I contacted my friend Kym for some help.

I actually “met” Kym through her husband, Tim, and I “met” Tim through our blogs over ten years ago. Yep, we’re cyber friends! If memory serves me well, Tim and Kym weren’t even engaged when I met him but I think they got engaged shortly after. Regardless, it’s been awesome to see their journey and it’s probably been the same for them watching mine and James’. Now that I think about it, I’ve turned to Kym numerous times for advice on things like planning our wedding, getting things ready for the birth of the girls, and how to survive parenthood. Kym, you have been a fountain of knowledge and I appreciate you so much! Thank you!!!

This manicotti recipe is one Kym uses with a few changes.  For the filling she uses two pounds full fat ricotta, half pound shredded mozarella, a half pound pecorino-romano, and two eggs. She also adds oregano and basil to her mixture but did mention that’s not necessary if you’re using a flavored sauce. You can use pre-made tomato sauce but it’s really easy to make your own so I highly recommend it. I always make my own sauce from a can of San Marzano tomatoes (pricier but worth it for the flavor), garlic, S&P, and oregano and basil. If I’m feeling frisky, I add in shredded parmesan. Oh, and she also doesn’t use oil in the crepe batter. She said the key is to make the batter thin enough to where you can put a spoon in it and the batter pours out.

I’d never made crepes before but I made masala dosa (I will never stop bragging about that) and they’re basically one and the same so I wasn’t worried. My batter came out thin just from following the recipe and Kym’s note to not add oil so I was grateful for that. It took a few crepes before I got good at making them a decent round shape but once I did, I was on a roll. The recipe said it makes 24 crepes and it was not wrong, I got exactly 24. Then it was just a matter of filling them and baking them. I will note that the recipe says this will feed eight to ten people but there were only four of us so I halved the recipe for the filling.

So my manicotti didn’t come out looking like the pictures on the recipe but they were still delicious. When I posted on Instagram and FB, I mentioned they looked like enchiladas and Kym said they’re basically Italian enchiladas so yay, I got it right! The girls love tortillas, like LOOOOVE tortillas, so the way I got them to eat the manicotti was by telling them they were stuffed tortillas. I think they each ate half a manicotti and then asked if they could just eat the tortillas; they each ate about three.

These things were filling but they were so good! I thought they would be harder to make but it was actually pretty easy. Yeah making the crepes took some time but whatever, it wasn’t terrible. I had about twelve crepes leftover and I refrigerated them in the hopes of using them for breakfast crepes a couple of days later but that didn’t happen. But just so you know, you can refrigerate them for up to a week and freeze them for up to six months so it’s not a complete waste of food.

Thanks to Kym, the first night of Italian week was amazing! I’m definitely saving this recipe because it’s so easy and it’s way better than using the pre-made shells. Also, I learned how to make crepes.

Recipe