Will the real Alfredo please stand up?

My Dad with his father from Sicily, his stepmother from Sicily, and his sister Vera

My Dad with his father from Sicily, his stepmother from Sicily, and his sister Vera

My Dad’s name was Alfredo. Alfredo Bernani Ernani Licitra (I might be missing one name). He was named after a character in the Verdi opera “La Traviata”…Alfredo Germont.

But dad was not the inventor of Fettuccine Alfredo. (Neither was Signor Germont.)

Fettuccine Alfredo

Fettuccine Alfredo

There are a couple of Alfredo’s running around Roman Italian history who say they created the dish. And two restaurants in Rome (not too far from each other) are named “Alfredo” …each claiming to be the originator.

An Alfredo restaurant in Rome

An Alfredo restaurant in Rome

If you’re in Rome you may as well try them both. If you’re not in Rome here’s a recipe for you to try.

When I teach Fettuccine Alfredo in my cooking classes people are surprised to discover the recipe has no cream. No. Cream. It’s a creamy dish. But you don’t use cream.

So how does the pasta get so lusciously creamy?

Butter.

butter

butter

And parmigiano.

parmigiano

parmigiano

And pasta water. That’s it.

pasta water

pasta water

There’s a little finesse to acquire. The right softness of the butter. Adding the right amount of cheese and pasta water. At the right moment. Enthusiastically tossing.

Becoming a master happens fast. And then you get to eat it, too.

True Fettuccine Alfredo 

1 lb. fettuccine

½ lb. unsalted butter (2 sticks), room temperature

2 – 2 ½ cups grated parmigiano

salt & pepper to taste

Fill a large pasta pot with water and bring to a boil. Add salt. Add fettuccine. Stir with a large fork (to keep strands from sticking together) until the water comes back to a boil.

Meanwhile, slice the butter into thin pats and lay them out in the bottom of a large shallow serving bowl. Hold bowl over boiling water to soften butter (not melt it).

Cook fettuccine until al dente. Reserve ¾ cup of the pasta water. Drain pasta.

Place the drained pasta on top of the butter and sprinkle 1/4-1/3 cup of the cheese on top. Using a large fork and spoon (or two forks) toss the pasta quickly, coating it with the butter and cheese. Add some of the pasta water—about half. Continue to toss. Add more cheese, sprinkling it lightly, tossing, sprinkling lightly again. Add the other half of the water. Keep tossing until the pasta is coated in the creaminess of the butter-cheese-water combination. Add more water if it’s too thick of a mixture. Taste for seasoning. Add some black pepper. Serve hot.

Rome: umbrella pines and ruins

Rome: umbrella pines

How to Make a Quick Simple Tomato Sauce

quick tomato sauce

quick tomato sauce

Maybe when I was 17, away at college, and wanting to feel like a cook…maybe…I bought a jar of Ragu. I know I can imagine what it tastes like, so I must have bought one once.

But never again. What’s the point? When you can outdo that taste so easily. When you can make your own tomato sauce in 15 minutes.

I had so much fun making this short video of how-to make your own simple quick (and delicious) tomato sauce.

I’ve probably bubbled this up thousands of times. Not only for pasta, but to slip in a few fillets of fish. Or spoon on an eggplant parmigiano. Or to top a pizza. It goes everywhere!

Simple Tomato Sauce

2-3 tablespoon olive oil

1 small onion, cunt into small dice

1 garlic clove, minced

1/4 cup dry white wine

1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes

3-4 sprigs fresh herbs, i.e. basil, sage or oregano (optional)

salt & pepper to taste (pinch hot pepper, optional)

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan. Add the diced onion. Cook until softened, about 3-4 minutes. Add the minced garlic. Cook for about a minute until fragrant (but not browned). Add the wine. Let it almost completely evaporate. Then add the tomatoes. Stir to combine. Season with salt & pepper. Simmer for about 10-15 minutes. Add  fresh herbs before serving.

Is it a class or a dinner party?

Well, both.

pasta-making

pasta-making

When I hold a cooking class I always feel like I’m hosting a dinner party.

A dinner party where everyone cooks.

And, of course, everyone eats.

We’re all in the kitchen.

cooking class

cooking class

Someone is chopping, someone sautéing, someone zesting, someone stirring,

someone seasoning…we’re all busy.

students whip perfect egg whites

students whip perfect egg whites

Chatting, laughing, learning about each other’s lives as we put together each dish…

in the kitchen

in the kitchen

…as we crank the handle on the pasta machine…

making fettuccine

making fettuccine

…as we teach our fingers to shape orecchiette and farfalle.

busy in the kitchen

Chef Paulette busy in the kitchen

Roll ropes of gnocchi. Roll out pliable pastry dough.

 

pastry

pastry

And any number of small and big tasks that go into making a great dinner.

And then we eat.

Yum!

Yum!

 

Got Eggplant? Here’s a very quick parmigiano!

eggplant

eggplant

Okay I’ll admit it. I’m not a big fan of eggplant. (Please don’t boo so loudly.) I’m Italian-American and 3 quarters of my background is Sicilian and Sicilians love eggplant. But I’m not one of them.

However. There are times when an eggplant dish just hits the spot. I try hard to make that happen so that even I like eggplant.

Here’s one of those dishes/times.

It all came about because an eggplant in the refrigerator was going to turn from good to bad. I had to cook it quickly and didn’t want to take too much time doing it.

I sliced the eggplant thinly (peel and all). Placed the slices in one layer on a sheet pan (foil-lined), drizzled olive oil, sprinkled salt & pepper. Baked it till soft and a bit golden. (400 degrees, about 20 minutes)

sliced eggplant ready for the oven

sliced eggplant ready for the oven

I made a quick tomato sauce. Sautéed minced onion in olive oil and I had a few mushrooms, so I broke them into small pieces and added them to the sauté. (As well as a few minced sage leaves-happened to have some.)

onion & mushrooms

onion & mushrooms

A splash of white wine, let it evaporate, then a 15-oz can of crushed toms.

crushed tomatoes

crushed tomatoes

quick tomato sauce

quick tomato sauce

In a casserole dish I spread some sauce. Layered the eggplant. Sprinkled some shredded mozzarella and some grated parmigiano, more sauce, and repeat. (I also happened to have some cooked broccoli rabe in the fridge, so I put that in! Totally optional.)

building the eggplant parm

building the eggplant parm

 

eggplant w cheese

eggplant w cheese

Bake for 25-30 minutes. It’s GOOD. This eggplant I like. Tastes rustic, earthy, old world. My kind of eggplant.

baked eggplant parmigiano

baked eggplant parmigiano

Zucchini Agrodolce Recipe from Venice

Herbs at the Rialto Market

Herbs at the Rialto Market

Here’s a short video of my cooking segment on Channel 4’s More at Midday WSMV-TV Nashville…includes a brief glimpse of video from the Venice trip…but I will be posting MORE soon!

 

Zucchini Agrodolce from Venice on WSMV TV Nashville