Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Italian Schmatalian

As I have mentioned in earlier posts I have an infatuation with Italian food to the point where I could eat it almost everyday of the week…almost. I love all things pasta, one of the most versatile culinary products on earth easily adapted to myriad gastronomic contexts. Although I am French, and hold steadfast to my culinary heritage, I have a secret love affair with Italian cuisine. I rarely cook Italian with the exception of a lazy single course meal of spaghetti carbonara or ravioli pomodoro after work or a long day at the library. I have recently been experimenting with Italian dishes that I typically reserve for Italian restaurants like gnocchi, carciofi (fritti or crudo), and lasagna. The last dish, that creamy, cheesy, tomatoey delight really gets my motor running. Lasagna is one of those things that seems so easy to make though I have had my fair share of disappoints especially those falsely advertising a mamma or grandmamma connection to Italy. Although I should not judge because I happen to think that my mamma makes the best lasagna and one day about seven or eight years ago I asked her for her secret recipe. It turns out that the tasty treat I looked forward to once or twice a month was none other than the recipe printed on the box of de Cecco lasagna noodles. I had a craving recently for something cheesy and nostalgic and lasagna seemed to fit both criteria perfectly. This version was made with kale and chard as a filling, a vegetarian alternative to go with all that delicious ricotta, mozzarella, pecorino, and parmesan. I simply sautéed chopped kale and chard with a little thinly sliced garlic in olive oil before blending it with the four cheeses. To accompany the noodles and filling I prepared a rustic tomato sauce with chopped onions, garlic, crushed tomatoes, fresh basil, and chili flakes. It was a really good dish and I am proud to say that I totally winged it even though I was cooking with the insights garnered from my childhood. I would go as far as to say it is seasonal, with the usage of kale and chard, nutritious, despite the pound and a half of cheese, and above all mouthwateringly good. As always, I encourage you to enjoy and share delicious food and home cooked meals with yourself and others!

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