Category Archives: Pasta

My Book, Authentic Italian, Is Now Available

Authentic Italian

Authentic Italian: The Real Story of Italy’s Food and Its People

by Dina M. Di Maio

Available from Amazon.com

Pizza. Spaghetti and meatballs. Are these beloved foods Italian or American?

Italy declares pizza from Naples the only true pizza, but what about New York, New Haven, and Chicago pizza? The media says spaghetti and meatballs isn’t found in Italy, but it exists around the globe. Worldwide, people regard pizza and spaghetti and meatballs as Italian. Why? Because the Italian immigrants to the United States brought their foodways with them 100 years ago and created successful food-related businesses. But a new message is emerging–that the only real Italian food comes from the contemporary Italian mainland. However, this ideology negatively affects Italian Americans, who still face discrimination that pervades the culture–from movies and TV to religion, academia, the workplace, and every aspect of their existence.

In Authentic Italian, Italian-American food writer Dina M. Di Maio explores the history and food contributions of Italian immigrants in the United States and beyond. With thorough research and evidence, Di Maio proves the classic dishes like pizza and spaghetti and meatballs so beloved by the world are, indeed, Italian. Much more than a food history, Authentic Italian packs a sociopolitical punch and shows that the Italian-American people made Italian food what it is today. They and their food are real, true, and authentic Italian.

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Two for Tuesday: Gnocchi

Gnocchi are fast and easy to cook for dinner.  Recently, I saw a gnocchi recipe in the December 2013 Food Network magazine and made it along with one of my long-time favorite gnocchi recipes.  The Food Network recipe isn’t posted on its site yet, but all it is is baking a package of gnocchi with olive oil, kale and parmesan cheese (I used pecorino romano).  It’s really good.

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My favorite gnocchi recipe is gnocchi with gorgonzola sauce.

Gnocchi With Gorgonzola Sauce

1 package gnocchi

1 tablespoon butter

2 cups half and half or whipping cream with 1 tablespoon cornstarch

3 tablespoons gorgonzola

Melt the butter in a pot.  Add the half and half.  Let it come to a boil.  Lower.  Add gorgonzola.  Mix and heat through until it becomes a creamy sauce.  Add to cooked gnocchi.  (Gnocchi cook fast, so you can start boiling the water for them while you make the sauce.)

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Shirataki: The Zero-Calorie Noodle?

I’ve seen shirataki noodles in women’s magazines touted as the zero-calorie noodle for pasta lovers.  I figured I had to try it.  I found it at the Japanese grocery Sunrise Mart.  It is made from yam flour.  (There are versions made from tofu, but shirataki is made from yam flour.)  One of these brands says it is 0 calories, 0 fat and 0 carbs.  However, other brands say there are 10 calories per serving and 3 grams of carbs per serving (2 of those fiber).  In one bag, there are two servings, so that would be about 20 calories and 6 grams of carbs (4 of fiber).  If you look at the nutritional value of various spaghetti brands, you will see that 2 ounces of dry spaghetti is 210 calories and 42 grams of carbs (only 2 of those fiber).

Shirataki
These noodles do have a fishy-type smell, but that goes away once they are rinsed in water. Boil them for about 3 minutes in boiling water. I served them like spaghetti with tomato sauce and pecorino Romano cheese.  I thought they tasted good–almost like I was eating a plate of spaghetti.  The only difference was the texture of the noodle.  It’s a hard-squish al dente, not sure how else to describe it.  It reminded me of making spaghetti squash spaghetti, but it’s definitely a noodle not thin strands like the spaghetti squash.

shirataki spaghetti
I do think it’s filling, and I also think it’s a great substitute for pasta/noodles if you are counting carbs, cutting back or trying to avoid gluten or wheat.

A Tale of Two Gnocchis

When one thinks of gnocchi, she thinks of the potato gnocchi, a dense and filling dish often served in a tomato or cream (gorgonzola) sauce.  Here is an example I had at a recent Union Square Cafe lunch, Potato Gnocchi with Gorgonzola Fonduta, Radicchio, and Vin Cotto:

Another variation is the ricotta gnocchi, in which ricotta is used instead of potato.   I had not had these prior to dining at Union Square Cafe.  I was eager to try their Ricotta Gnocchi, Tomato-Basil Passatina, Pecorino Romano:

Both variations were perfectly prepared and flavorful.  Of course, the biggest difference is the lightness of the ricotta gnocchi as opposed to the denseness of the potato.  Normally, I can’t finish a serving of potato gnocchi because it is so heavy, so ricotta gnocchi is a light alternative.  However, especially with the tomato sauce, it had a very ricotta flavor.  My family sometimes serves a dollop of ricotta on top of certain pastas with tomato sauce, and it reminded me very much of that flavor.  I’d like to maybe try ricotta gnocchi with a different type of sauce though I’m not sure what–just something besides tomato that is also light.  In all, both dishes were delicious and I probably prefer the taste and texture of potato gnocchi better, but I found the ricotta gnocchi to be a refreshing take.