Italian | pasta

For the Love of Food and Travelling

By on September 19, 2013


Pardon that you’d be bombarded with pasta dishes in the following posts. ūüėÄ Still part of our Italian tour, we visited Bologna, which is year 2000’s European capital of culture¬†and¬†the capital¬†of the¬†Emilia-Romagna¬†Region in¬†Northern Italy as the last stop.

Hubby jokingly said that he would have its infamous dish, pasta with ragu alla bolognese¬†for sure…I said we would probably be tired of eating pasta by then having tried a lot in the other 4 cities. Truth be told, I was already tired that I do not have the delight to sightsee anymore. We spent most of our time at the hotel which is not exactly in the city proper of Bologna and we’ll need to take a taxi every time we go – that added to my laziness.

bologna buildin and church
walking about in Bologna (photo by hubby)

Summing it up, we probably only had a total of 4 hours enjoying the historical city. I felt short of my mission to actually travel and enjoy food the city is known for. But, hubby didn’t back out on his earlier joke, we dined at a trattoria we found while exploring (my god, I totally forgot the name), he got his ragu alla bolognese while I had grilled swordfish (too lazy to talk about it now really).

I think, I am injecting in this post the lazy feeling I had while wandering about in Bologna. It was like walking back in time, to its early existence since the 9th century BC. Of course, it is a more modern comune  now but the antiquity is all over the streets, the walls, each and every corner. It was both a pleasurable and a melancholic experience.

hubby’s spaghetti alla bolognese


That being said, I admire foodie-travelers who seem to go on from city to city exploring not just the landscape but also that what could tickle their palate. One of them is Chantal Royer. Chantal enjoys traveling and cooking. She combines these two interests by traveling around the world and learning about regional cuisine in the countries she visits. Italy, Greece and Spain are some of the European countries she has visited. She traveled to Morocco during a trip to Africa. Her culinary journeys have taken her across the world to Australia and New Zealand.

Royer became interested in traditional Italian food after visiting Italy. She developed a taste for traditional Italian food after a trip to Bologna in the Emilia-Romagna region. Cannellini beans are one of the Tuscan foods she likes. Her family and friends enjoy her pasta dishes. Seafood, eggplant and pesto are some of the ingredients in these dishes. Royer cooks pasta with imported olive oil. Learning how Italian traditions have influenced cuisine in the United States is one of her interests.

Visiting Greece helped Royer develop an interest in Greek dishes. She also learned about Greek cuisine when she traveled around the United States and Australia. Royer found great Greek food in Chicago’s Greektown neighborhood. Part of her time in Australia was spent eating at Greek restaurants in Melbourne and other Australian cities. Her travels in search of great Italian food in the United States have taken her to New York, St. Louis, Chicago and Boston. Royer has enjoyed traditional Italian cuisine served at New York restaurants in the boroughs of Queens, Staten Island and Brooklyn. One of her favorite pizza places is on Chicago’s Harlem Avenue. She has traveled to the Western states to sample the Italian food in Seattle.

mixed grill
The nearest I have been to Greece is through this mixed seafood grill ^_^

Royer’s international travels have also allowed her to enjoy recreational hiking. She has hiked in Greece, New Zealand and Italy. A trip to Morocco gave her the opportunity to hike and drive through that country’s mountains and desert. Royer was able to spend time with nomadic tribes while she was in the desert. Casablanca, Fez and Rabat were some of the cities she visited during her trip. She spent some of her time in Casablanca browsing through the city’s markets. The Canary Islands and the island of Lanzarote were also on her itinerary during this trip.

I somehow could relate to Chantal in this area albeit I am a newbie. Like my previous post where I recreated a dish (well, I tried) I had in Florence, I am sharing with you a recipe of rag√Ļ¬†alla bolognese. Mind you, like carbonara and lasagne, bolognese has been twisted far from the original recipe. Although it is fair to have evolved, the variation we mostly know is very different – and I think most food does anyway.

The recipe registered by the Academia Italiana della Cucina  with the Bologna Chamber of Commerce in 1982 calls for tomato paste, celery, carrots, onion, pancetta, finely chopped or ground beef, sea salt, pepper, white wine, milk and water or chicken stock! Whew! And with all that, preparation takes about 4 hours Рactually more but the cooking process takes 1/3 of that!

ragu alla bolognese
pardon, no garlic needed, use butter instead of olive oil…
pancetta, white wine, tomatoes, onion, cheese (not in photo:beef, celery, carrots)

So here’s what you’ll need and what you should do:

Soffritto or mirepoix: the holy trinity of Italian and French cooking composed of celery (2 stalks), onion (1 head) and carrots (2 large) – well for this dish just those but it’s not always as much with other recipes

Butter: little bit, maybe a tablespoon

Pancetta: bacon ūüôā or pork belly meat that is salt cured and seasoned with peppercorns – about 8 slices, dice them nicely

Sea salt and black pepper: adjust according to taste

Beef: lean ground beef – half a kilo

Milk: surprise! The milk gives bolognese sauce the orange color…just 1 cup.

Tomato paste: there’s specifically the San Marzano – I guess they are the origin of tomato pastes, so if you can’t find them raw, look for them in a can ūüôā

White wine: a glass will do

Water or chicken, maybe beef stock – your adjustments ūüôā

Parmiggiano-reggiano cheese, grated

Pasta:  Ideally, tagliatelle is used but bolognese sauce can also be used with other broad, flat pasta shapes, such as pappardelle or fettuccine, or with short tube shapes, such as rigatoni or penne.

Here’s how:

1. Melt butter in a saucepan. Add pancetta, carrot, celery and onion. Saute for about 10 minutes.

2. Add meat into the mixture and mix, in a way breaking the lumps. After 10 minutes or so, add wine…Lower the heat at this point and allow the wine to evaporate.

3. If there’s part of the mixture that gets stuck to the pan, put a little water or stock and scrape it off.

4. Stir in tomatoes or tomato paste, milk, beef or chicken stock, salt and pepper.

5. Cover the pan. Let simmer on low heat and half-covered – about 3 hours but, ideally? It should actually be four! Add more water if needed and let simmer. It should be really, really thick.

6. Cook pasta per package directions. It is best to cook the pasta when you are almost done with the sauce so it is still hot enough.

7. Serve with pasta, top with cheese. Enjoy your pasta alla bolognese!

use thicker pasta

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Italian | pasta

Florence – of Scents and Flavors

By on August 28, 2013


Foggy morning

The last week of July was spent with so much walking I felt like I lost 5 kilos as I go…then again, it was also spent eating here and there that the kilos lost came back too soon! And where did our itchy feet took us, you might ask? Hubby and I went to five cities in a one-week stretch and drank history along with art, old architecture, cars, Vespas and heat in sunny, sophisticated, busy Italy.

Among the cities we’ve seen, Florence – dubbed as the Athens of the Middle Ages impressed me the most. Being on the streets walked upon by the artists responsible for the Renaissance, I had a good feeling I might be able to write my own book while there (lol). Seeing the spots Robert Langdon and Sienna Brooks trailed made Inferno a much more tangible story for us both.

walking about

Morning walks -I just love¬†the empty streets, the cool breeze and that distinct scent that only those certain times of the day bring…no matter which city. The nostalgia, the cobblestones and the foggy horizon makes up for a perfect mood.

Though we are walking buddies, hubby and I would spend some hours apart sightseeing by ourselves, taking photos of what we would see. I ended up exploring ¬†the streets leading to¬†Il Duomo¬†while hubby went over to the side of¬†Ponte Vecchio. And just like in any city, I did another thing I enjoy most: people-watching. Shooting scenes (and crowd), Florence’s old-world architecture and charm – here and there, it took me a full two hours.

Hidden garden and display

Within those two hours, I had another quest – find an appropriate restaurant perhaps and get a taste of the region’s take on pasta, a wee bit. Ahh, writing about the food experience while travelling is another thing I love to do! It’s like having a chunk of locality – relishing a cuisine that a particular city is known for. So walk I did and of course a number of trattoria, ristorante, gelateria and pizzeria abound. Italy’s rich food culture ¬†can be perceived literally in the open- the streets. There’s garlic, pungent and welcome-y sauteed in olive oil, lemony fresh peels just off the board and you’ll catch some fresh basil blending along the busy kitchen rush!

Just a stone’s throw away from the Il Duomo I found a restaurant with a¬†hidden garden ¬†– a perfect spot to have a quiet lunch amidst the busy, touristy streets. Well, the garden was very quiet, so eat, I did. That’s at Little David (I’ Daviddino) at Via de’ Martelli.

Farfalle, salmon, caviar = last pasta meal lol....
why do I forget to properly take a photo of my food? :/

My first choice up the menu is anything with salmon and caviar –¬†I have always been fond of fish on pasta (can’t remember how many times I’ve reiterated this) that I have often featured¬†dishes to cook with salmon¬†in this blog. The offering on the menu is farfalle with white sauce, so I had that.

I’m not a big eater so I was ok with the serving but others might say it wouldn’t suffice a hungry tummy or someone who did a walkathon –¬†under the Tuscan sun. And who would complain about al dente pasta, rich thick sauce, salmon bits and caviar bursting wonderfully into a yummy spoonful? Not me.¬†You might argue that I should have also gotten a¬†Bistecca Fiorentina¬†or¬†Ribollita…well, hubby called just when I was finishing ¬†and said we would be eating dinner at a lovely restaurant he saw – so we did have those for dinner but let’s save them for another post.

Far from forgetting the flavors and scents, I’ve made a similar dish at home recently. This time, I could generously topple a plateful with lots of caviar…

And here’s what you need:

half a kilo Farfalle (bow-tie pasta, cooked per package directions)
¬ĺ cups butter
2 cups whipping cream
¬Ĺ kilo smoked salmon, sliced to pieces
salt and pepper to taste
parsley, minced


1. In a sauce pan, melt butter and add cream. Stir constantly and bring to a boil.

 2. Lower heat and continue cooking until the sauce thickens.

3. Add salmon, parsley, salt and pepper (caviar could make it for salt though). Simmer a bit and remove from heat.

4. Pour over pasta and toss gently.

5. Serve, top with a spoonful of caviar or how much you like and garnish with more parsley. There, one hearty meal to remember the Italian coast by.

pasta salmon caviar
just making it colorful ^_^


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Italian | pasta

Hampers and Tricolor Pasta with White Sauce

By on October 1, 2012
bundled up

Gift giving is truly a wonderful thing. Not only for the receiver but most especially for the giver. What’s more pleasurable in being cheerful is when your gifts get appreciated. To some, jewelry, perfume even apparel are top gifts on list. Most people though enjoy chocolates as gift, others enjoy books, still others enjoy both and not just a certain book but a cookbook at that…chances are, that person could be a food lover or a foodie.

Most, if not all foodies would certainly appreciate those all-season if not Christmas hampers from Clearwater, complete with goodies and what a foodie loves. Though I am not a real foodie as I would like to be,  I enjoy a lot of dishes and I always have fun following recipes. Yes, I would love to receive one of those hampers, even those that I have seen from the grocery nearest us which include a number of items fit for, well, snacking and cooking. For one, a hamper full of assorted chocolates, chocolate chip cookies, cheeses, dips, Champagne or white wine would be perfect.

Speaking of white wine, I received a bottle or two from my mom-in-law (not in a hamper though :/ but better than none of course). I opened one of the bottles recently to make this creamy white wine sauce that I’ve been craving for. Though I was going for a thicker finish, I had taken the sauce out of the pan too soon that it turned out too milky. It’s fun that I had this tricolor curled pasta which the kids love. They had fun with this dish.

Sauce recipe for 5 Servings

1/2 cup and 2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup and 2 tablespoons white wine
1 tablespoon and 3/4 teaspoon all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley (but try having fresh too)

pasta of your choice
bacon bits

1. Cook pasta per package directions, set aside.

2. In a medium saucepan over medium high heat, combine the cream, wine, flour, salt and parsley.

3. Stir all together bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until thickened. ¬†Thus, thickened means when the amount is reduced to half, which I probably didn’t have patience for at the time.

4. Serve over pasta and garnish with bacon bits and parsley.

pastipasta, hampers
load with bacon bits

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Italian | pasta

Gnocchi, Tuna and Ricotta

By on December 3, 2011

gnocchi2I’ve recently found a food fondness (alliteration not intended) that has been long forgotten. Gnocchi, those thick, soft dumplings I like eating with tuna sauce reintroduced itself in our kitchen after a year of absence. ^_^

I think I’ve been overlooking that particular shelf…hmm more of I can’t see it for the height of me. Yep, I sometimes ask someone to help me get the item from up the shelf. I’m 5’3″ and shelves are made for taller people. hihi.

So as simple as this recipe gets you’ll need:

a can of tuna
a can of tomato sauce
a pack of gnocchi (you can make them too)
olive oil
basil leaves
quattro formaggi (optional)

If you bought gnocchi, simply follow the cooking instructions. ¬†If you’d like to make them on your own, here’s Mario Batali’s Gnocchi recipe. There are gnocchis that have ricotta already so if you get those then opt the ricotta out.

Saute garlic and onion on olive oil.
Pour tomato sauce and let simmer.
Stir in ricotta and tuna flakes.
Flavor with pepper and set aside.
Pour sauce mixture over gnocchi, garnish with basil leaves and cheese.

Serve as is or with baguette.

Food Friday

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Featured | Italian | pasta

Simple Carbonara

By on November 4, 2011

I would like to call this simple dish four-ingredient Carbonara but counting everything in – including pasta, there’s actually more and I forgot to include ¬†two other ingredients in this photo – parmesan and pepper. So let’s say four-ingredient Carbonara sauce. ^_^ Italian Carbonara doesn’t have cream; that’s what I’ve been reiterating in my posts and I’m sorry I just have to say it again. Then again, it always gets creamier with well, cream…and that’s perhaps what we we’re used to having.

Carbonara sauce has 4 basic ingredients, that’s egg, bacon, cheese and black pepper. Going more particular, the bacon used is either guanciale¬†or¬†pancetta but hey any bacon is ok. For the cheese, Parmigiano-Reggiano/parmesan is preferred but I sometimes use the more similar Grana Padano.


Here’s what you need:

250g pasta of your choice (I often have Spaghetti or Tagliatelle)
100g bacon
100g parmesan
2 eggs


olive oil

To cook, saute bacon in olive oil. Prepare pasta per package directions. In a bowl combine raw eggs, a drop of olive oil, cheese and pepper, mix well.

Put pasta in pan while still hot but remove the pan from heat. Stir in raw eggs mixture with pasta. Season with salt and pepper but I find the bacon salty already so I opt to leave out salt. Top your Carbonara with lots of parsley.

This is where your preferences come in. You can add peas, mushroom, broccoli or other vegetables. I sometimes put in tuna in lieu of bacon. Will have to share that recipe too. Enjoy your meal!



Food Friday, Yummy Sunday

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Desserts | Italian

Panna cotta

By on April 28, 2011
panna cotta with berries

With hopes to reconnect to a childhood favorite, I attempted to make panna cotta at home.

I am still not able to achieve that perfect consistency I really like, but this is the closest I can get. Hopefully in time and with practice I will. Here is an adapted recipe from an online cooking source. The sauce is a bottled strawberry concoction.


1 envelope of unflavored gelatin (approx. 2 teaspoons)

1/2 cup milk (if you use condensed milk, omit the sugar)

2 1/2 cups heavy cream*

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 vanilla bean or 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 cup fresh berries, gently washed, drained, and sweetened to taste**

6 sprigs fresh mint

*Half & half, buttermilk, whole milk, and/or sour cream may be substituted for part of the cream.


Any assortment of fresh, seasonal fruit may be served with panna cotta, but berries are especially nice. To use other ripe, soft fruits, such as cherries, peaches or apricots, just remove the stones and peels as necessary and cut them into thin slices or bite-size pieces. They could be made into jam-like sauces as well.

In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over 1/2 cup milk; let stand until the gelatin is softened, about 5 minutes.

In a large saucepan, combine heavy cream and sugar. Add vanilla extract or vanilla bean. If using a vanilla bean, slice the bean lengthwise and scrape out seeds into cream (add whole bean to cream for additional flavor). Bring cream just to a simmer (do not let it boil), whisking occasionally until sugar has completely dissolved; remove from heat and remove vanilla bean pod. Add the softened gelatin mixture and whisk to completely dissolve the gelatin.

Strain hot cream mixture into a large glass measuring cup with a pouring spout; pour into ramekins or custard cups.

NOTE: Don’t skip the straining step as it removes any bits of undissolved gelatin and insures a nice smooth dessert. Also, don’t let the cream mixture cool before straining. If using a vanilla bean, lightly swirl the cream to distribute the seeds evenly. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.

To unmold and serve, carefully dip bottom of each ramekin in a baking pan of hot water briefly. Run a thin knife around edge of each ramekin to loosen it from the inside of the bowl. Wipe the outside of the mold dry and place on individual chilled serving plate (topside down). Invert the custard onto the plate and carefully lift off ramekin (shake gently to release). Garnish with berries or fruit or a favorite sauce of your choice.


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