The Roaming Foodie

Posts Tagged ‘Italian

First, let me just get this out of the way. Gnocchi is such a fun word to say. Just say it a few times. Do you need another reason to make gnocchi other than just to have a reason to repeatedly say gnocchi?

If you do need another reason, then the fact that ricotta gnocchi is quick, easy, and delicious should cover it.

I first saw ricotta gnocchi being made by Anne Burrell one of those days I was visiting home and was getting my fill of the Food Network/Cooking Channel. I don’t get those channels at school, so I watch them as much as I can when I’m home. But I digress. Anne made ricotta spinach gnocchi with a quick tomato sauce. It looked wonderful, and easier to make than potato gnocchi, and tastier than potato gnocchi, since I’m not a huge fan of potatoes.  This was a few months ago when I saw her make these, and I never got around to making them, even though the thought was always at the back of my mind.

Last night, I was in a mood to cook.  I have  a brand new chef’s knife (a Wusthof, and it’s freaking awesome) and so I’m looking for excuses to chop things.  This was the night I decided to try my hand at ricotta gnocchi. Most of the recipes I looked at either took some time to make, or you had to wait for the ricotta to drain.  I wanted something quick. So I adapted it myself. And it actually turned out pretty good. I served the gnocchi with a red pepper (one might not can tell from the blog, but I am OBSESSED with red bell peppers), onion, and tomato sauce. I think you can serve it anyway you want thought: tomato sauce, pesto, and I even saw a few recipes that served it with a brown butter sage sauce. Yum.

Ricotta Gnocchi
adapted from several recipes, but mainly this one:

One container of ricotta cheese (the one I used was 15 ounces)
1/4 to 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
about 1 tsp salt
About 1/2 cup flour

Bring a pot of water to a boil.

Drain off some of the liquid from the ricotta, mainly just the stuff sitting at the top.  Stir together the ricotta cheese, Parmesan, and salt.  Add the flour little by little, until the mixture starts to come together and look a little firmer. It will be quite a sticky dough.

If you’re making the sauce, start now. The gnocchi will start to get sticky if you wait until after you’ve rolled them and cut them (but it’s not the end of the world if you forget)
Flour a board really well. You’ll need to add more flour as you go probably.  Take a spoonful of ricotta, roll it in the flour on the board until it’s coated pretty well, then roll it out to about a 1/2 inch thick log. The flour will make it keep it’s shape. Cut it into about 1/2 inch long pieces, or however long you’d like. Repeat with remaining dough.
Add a palmful of salt to the boiling water and put a few of the gnocchi in. Don’t put too many in, or they’ll stick together. Stir the gnocchi a few times so they don’t stick to the bottom. The gnocchi is done when they float to the top. Use a skimmer, spider, or slotted spoon to remove the gnocchi.

Toss the gnocchi VERY GENTLY with whatever sauce you are using.

Red Pepper and Tomato Sauce

2 red bell peppers, chopped
1/2 an onion, chopped
1/4 cup of marinara sauce
a few basil leaves, chopped

Saute the red bell peppers and the onion in olive oil until they are soft. Add just enough marinara sauce to get the peppers and onions wet, about 1/4 of a cup.  Add salt and pepper to taste, then throw the fresh basil into it.


Sorry for the lack of posting. Senior year has started, and it’s been pretty hectic so far.

Thursday night, the night before my first Chemistry test, I was struck by the mood to cook dinner and de-stress a bit, since I was freaking out about the test. I couldn’t put too much time into cooking though…I needed to put most of my time into studying. So I decided the best compromise between my desire to cook and studying would be to go to Trader Joe’s, pick up some ready made fresh ravioli,  a jar of pesto, and a red pepper and throw them all together. Not exactly cooking (hate to break it to you, Sandra Lee) but it satisfied and relaxed me all the same. Oh, and it satisfied mine and Andrew’s stomachs. 🙂

By the way, I love Trader Joe’s. They have great things there. Just don’t go when you’re hungry, or else you’ll end up buying these chocolate covered peanut butter filled pretzels (chocolate+peanut butter+pretzels are like crack to me) and there’s just no way to turn that into a good situation.

Ravioli with Chicken, Red Pepper, and Pesto

2 packages ravioli (I mixed spinach and ricotta and artichoke)
1 jar pesto
1 red bell pepper, chopped
extra virgin olive oil
1/2 a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store (1/2 because we already had that left over. You could use a whole one and just add more pesto. Or you could use half and save the rest. Or you could get chicken breast and cook it)

Bring a pot of water to a boil.

Heat the olive oil over medium high in a large pan. Add the chopped bell pepper, a dash of salt and a dash of pepper and cook until the pepper is soft. Cube or shred or chop the rotisserie chicken and add it to the peppers to heat through.

When the water is boiling, add a palmful of salt (about a tablespoon) and cook the ravioli according to package directions. Drain, and add to the chicken and peppers. Add the jar of pesto and toss to coat.

My boyfriend had his 22nd birthday this past Saturday. Of course, that meant eating a lot of good food. I mean, that’s what I do on my birthday, at least, and that’s what we did on his. (I should just get to the food…it’s late and my introduction isn’t making any sense)

Friday night, Andrew insisted that I take him to one of my favorite restaurants instead of him picking where he wanted to go (way to be difficult). Since I couldn’t decide on what my favorite Atlanta restaurant is, I decided to try Iberian Pig in Decatur (yay for my college town!), per my brother’s suggestion, and my brother’s restaurant recommendations haven’t failed yet. I didn’t tell Andrew that I’d never been to this place, since he had given me specific instructions. It’s one of my favorite restaurants now…so I didn’t exactly go against what he asked.
Anyway, here’s what we had.
Charcuterie and Cheese
Jamon Iberico—cured Iberian pig meat. Maybe it’s my unrefined palate for meat, but it just tasted like prosciutto. Not to say it wasn’t very good, but it wasn’t as good as what we paid for it.
To go along with that, we had some Manchego cheese (a very yummy semi-hard cheese) and some sort of cheese that was like a Spanish version of brie.
We ate a salad that was the special for the night, so I couldn’t tell you the name of it. I do know that it was arugula dressed in Meyer lemon vinaigrette, with Meyer lemon wedges, strawberries, onions, toasted hazelnuts, and goat cheese. It was good and refreshing, and without doubt the lightest thing we ate all evening.
We ordered two tapas.
1) Pork Cheek tacos–if you go to Iberian Pig, you must order these. In fact, go specifically for these. They. Are. Phenomenal. And I don’t even care for pork that much. The tacos are in a hard shell, which I normally don’t like, but they’re small and the shells were light and crispy, not really thick like most taco shells are. The roasted pork cheek was slightly sweet and smoky, and incredibly tender. And the roasted corn salsa was great…but I love roasted corn to begin with. I woke up the next morning wanting more of the tacos…that’s how good they are.
2) Calamares—this was alright. It was calamari stuffed with vegetables and cooked in tomato sauce (which was basically a spicy vegetable stew) and topped with some cheese. Not my favorite thing we had, probably because to me it just tasted like vegetable soup. It was good…but seriously. It was vegetable soup with squid in it. Nothing astounding.
Main Plate
I guess I should mention that, again per Andrew’s instructions, I picked everything above for us to eat. He wouldn’t choose, but he did agree to choose the main plate. He chose Spanish Lamb Ribs. Our waiter came back and told us they were out of lamb. So then Andrew made me choose again. And I, for some reason, chose the Bone-In Ribeye. I don’t eat steak generally, so I don’t know what possessed me to order it. But whatever part of my brain said “Ooh, choose the steak!” I would really, really like to thank it.
The bone-in ribeye was cooked medium rare (Andrew did choose that, which I was happy with…if I’m going to eat steak, it’s gonna be medium rare) with “roasted garlic and port wine butter, caramelized fennel and shallots” with the Manchego Macaroni and Cheese on the side. Okay. Roasted garlic and port wine butter??? how could this steak not be fantastic??? I thought it was outstanding, even if steak generally isn’t my thing (I seemed to be in a carnivorous mood that night…I ordered pork and steak in the same meal, and I never really eat those). I think he thought it was good too…he managed to get every bit of meat off that bone. Basically, we demolished that steak. The mac and cheese was good, but I still prefer the good ol’ Cheddar cheese kind.

So, that was the end of eating for Friday night. Iberian Pig is a really cool restaurant. It was really crowded, so I definitely recommend making reservations (I did, and I’m glad I did). It was also loud, just from the sheer number of people in there, but it wasn’t obnoxiously loud (trust me…I’ve been in obnoxiously loud restaurants). Our waiter was very personable, but spoke a little too fast to catch everything he said about the evening’s specials, but after he found out when we first stepped in that it was our first time, he was kind enough to offer to guide us through the menu and the ordering process, or to let us fend for ourselves. We took him up on his offer, but I thought it was cool of him not to just take over without asking us what we wanted to do.  He was also very attentive, despite the crowd. The bar seemed really cool, so I definitely want to go back when I’m 21 and see what that’s like. Next time I go, I think I’ll skip the main plate and stick to the tapas. And definitely stick to the Pork Cheek tacos. Yum.

Saturday night, on his actual birthday, we went out with his family to Maggiano’s. It’s an Italian restaurant in Buckhead. Nothing fancy (it must be to high schoolers though…there a ton of prom parties there that night). Just a typical Italian restaurant…it’s by no means the best Italian I’ve ever eaten (that’s reserved for the random Italian restaurant my mom and I stopped in when we were in Little Italy in NYC, that I’m not sure I could find again if I wanted to), but it’s good, and Andrew really likes it. Plus, it’s good for a group. They have this cool thing called a family style dinner where you get to pick two appetizers, two salads, two pastas, two entrees, and two desserts, then they bring it out to you, and you share it as a group for a fixed price per person, depending on what type you get. They’ll also keep refilling your plates. We picked the “Light” option, which consisted of two appetizers, two salads, and two pastas, and instead of two desserts they bring you these amazingly delicious little lemon cookies (must learn how to make those). It was way more than enough food, with leftovers. We had Tomato Caprese (tomato slices topped with fresh mozzarella slices, fresh basil, and balsamic vinegar) and Bruschetta. For salads we chose the Caesar and the Spinach. I didn’t really eat the Caesar salad, but the Spinach salad was great. It had bacon, roasted red peppers and sauteed onions, and gorgonzola on it. I could eat that salad every day. Seriously. That and pork cheek tacos (okay…maybe not every day now that I think about it more. But I could eat them both a lot and be very happy) We had cheese ravioli (delicious!) and Chicken Pesto Linguine for our pastas. The cheese ravioli is really really good, but the chicken pesto linguine wasn’t anything special, in my opinion. I’ve had better.
I also made Andrew a cake for his birthday, also having been given specific instructions as to the ratio of yellow cake (and don’t call it vanilla cake mix by accident…he will correct you) to chocolate icing. More cake than icing, the icing has to be a thin layer. I think I did pretty well, considering I’m definitely a frosting girl (really. I could care less about the cake…it’s only there to hold up the frosting). He seemed to like it, and I was lame enough to put two candles on his piece when I brought it to him. I had thought about sticking 22 candles on the entire cake, but I didn’t really want to burn down his apartment, so I settled with two candles on one piece. Not as fun, but definitely more safe.

I thought it was a pretty good weekend. But it wasn’t about me this time, so I really hope he had a good birthday weekend 🙂

The Iberian Pig on Urbanspoon

Maggiano's Little Italy (Buckhead) on Urbanspoon

Quite an introduction, right?

It’s absolutely true. I have no fear that I will give this pizza too much hype, because I know for a fact that it is the best pizza. Ever.

No, it’s not in New York. Or Italy. Or Chicago. I’ve been to New York at least, eaten pizza there, and still think this is the greatest pizza ever.

It’s at a place called Antico, in little old Atlanta. It’s on 14th Street and Hemphill Avenue (which, I thought was on Georgia Tech’s campus, but was thoroughly corrected by my boyfriend and my best friend’s boyfriend, who are both friends, and are both Techies. So I guess they’d know. But if you’re like me and just want to generalize the location, it’s pretty much Tech’s campus).

Anyhow, my brother (I proclaim him my Atlanta food expert) had recommended this place to me several times, telling met that it was the best pizza he’d ever eaten. I was skeptical, after he had taken my boyfriend and me to Varasano’s, which I thought was the best pizza ever. He told me that Antico was a million times better than Varasano’s (which is saying A LOT, as Varasano’s is very good).

So, Friday night, I found myself ordering from Antico. We ordered the Margherita (tomato sauce, mozzarella, and basil) and the Cappriciosa. I’m pretty sure they accidentally gave us the Margherita and the San Gennaro (sweet red peppers, sausage, and buffalo mozzarella), now that I look back at the menu.

We didn’t eat in the restaurant, instead taking our pizzas back with us, but the vibe of the place is pretty cool. There’s some countertops, a big communal table, and overflow seating in the kitchen. The kitchen seating sounds kinda weird, but my brother sat there and said it was really cool being able to watch them make the pizzas in the brick ovens and such. It’s also very much a BYOB joint. Seriously. A guy walked in with a bottle of wine in one hand and glasses in the other. One guy walked in with a case of beer. So there you go.

We secured our pizzas, after waiting for a short time for them to be cooked. We called and placed our order ahead, but they don’t make it until you get there, because it takes a very short amount of time to actually cook, since they’re cooking it in a high degree brick oven. But if you call ahead, you can walk on up to the front of the line (if there is one…we didn’t have that issue when we went) and tell them your ticket and they’ll make it asap.

My brother did not disappoint. It really is the best pizza I’ve ever had. The crust is absolutely amazing, some parts charred by the brick oven fire, other parts really soft. the sauce was good but not overpowering, and there wasn’t too much of it (I’m not a fan of a lot of sauce, so this was perfect for me). Everything was fresh and high quality. The Margherita was everything it should’ve been and more (I love tomatoes and mozzarella, and this was probably the best thing I’ve had with that combination on it) But the best thing was the red peppers on the San Gennaro. They were incredibly sweet, but also spicy at the same time. I could’ve eaten a whole box of those peppers alone. I’ve never tasted anything like them. The sausage on the pizza was alright, but I’m not much of a sausage person. My boyfriend seemed to think the sausage was amazing though. And the crust is so thin, that you don’t feel miserably full after eating a lot of it (trust me, you will eat a lot of it) I’m already craving it again…The pizzas are a tad on the pricey side, especially for a college student like myself, but you pay for what you get, and what you get is amazing, well cooked, absolutely perfect and authentic pizza topped with fresh and high quality ingredients.

So, if you’re in Atlanta, go to Antico right now. Or as soon as you can. And if you’re not in Atlanta, find a way to get down there, and go to Antico to eat.  I’m telling you…it’s completely worth it

Antico Pizza Napoletana on Urbanspoon

This weekend, Andrew and I decided that for dinner we should do a really simple meal that required no cooking. That lead him to suggest getting prosciutto and french bread and some cheese. So, we went out to Whole Foods on a mission for those three things.

Of course, I added stuff to it (because I must make things more complicated than they are). We ended up with a French Baguette, a pack of roasted red peppers, strawberries (they looked beautiful in the package, so I had to get some), cantaloupe, honeydew, a quarter pound of prosciutto, a small wedge of Brie, and a small wedge of aged provolone. Acquiring the prosciutto was probably the hardest part, as I have never ordered fresh sliced prosciutto (I usually just go for the prepackaged, since the only time I’ve really used it, it’s been cooked into a pasta dish). When I ordered, I asked for half a pound, since that’s what I usually get when I ask for deli meat. Luckily, the man slicing it was nice enough to suggest that perhaps I should look at what a quarter pound looked like, as it is sliced very thing but adds up. I’m so glad he did…it ended up being more than enough! (by more than enough, I mean we ate all of it, but were comfortable full).

We brought it back, heated up the bread, heated up the brie, sliced and washed the strawberries, and voila, we had antipasto. Or, our version of it. I don’t think Italians use brie or French baguette in their antipasto. It was such a fresh and satisfying meal. I don’t know what Andrew did, as I was too busy eating to watch him combine the different components, but I found that aged provolone and roasted red peppers go beautifully together, prosciutto and melon is a fantastic and refreshing salty sweet combination, and brie and French baguette…well, I mean, those always work together.  The strawberries (not as sweet as they looked in the package but were fine when sprinkled with a touch of sugar) served as our dessert. Kind of wish I’d come up with something a little more impressive for dessert, but oh well. Perhaps next time.

I really enjoyed having this kind of light but filling dinner. It was satisfying, but not so heavy that it weighed me down (though I should probably not eat as much of the bread next time…but WF makes some really awesome French bread).