Let’s Try This Again….
Remember when we used to have a blog? And post recipes, photos, serving suggestions and articles daily? If you’re answer is no, fair. It’s been a while (ok, a very long while). Why the prolonged silence? Eek, running a business took over! That and maybe a wee bit of procrastinating/ laziness/ life/ and concentrating efforts elsewhere. That said, let’s see if we can pick up where we left off. Before doing so we’ll fill you in on a few key details from the last couple years of our blog’s dark days….
We moved, twice! From CropCircle Kitchen, onto Southie, and now in Boston on the Roxbury line.
We multiplied! Rachel & Jordan brought a beautiful baby boy, Marshall James, into the world on May 20th, 2014. He’s already attended the Fancy Food Show in NYC and is quite the fan of his Mummy’s ravioli (cut into wee Marshall-sized pieces)
We won! We added another sofi Award to our collection (of 1…hey, still good!). Our Brussels Sprout, Caramelized Onion & Asiago Ravioli took home the silver and now we each proudly display a sofi Award in our home kitchens.
We refined! See our website lately? It’s new! We completely revamped our site to highlight each variety with serving suggestions, wine pairings, new articles, where to find feature and more. That, along with refreshed Farmers Market signage, Edible Boston Magazine ads and sell sheets. Sometimes you just need a make-over, am I right?
We expanded! Greater Boston, for sure, but now you can find our ravioli throughout New England! With our new distributor, if you don’t see
our ravioli in your favorite place to buy groceries and specialty foods, just ask for us and they’ll likely stock our products (always reach out to us if you have a request!).
What else? I’m sure here’s plenty that we’re forgetting, but we’ll stop there and just say we’re excited to be back.
In an ongoing attempt to try new things, today we made an egg-free Strozzapretti, meaning “priest strangler” in Italian (you cant make this stuff up). While strozzapretti is not the most widely known shaped pasta, its hand twisted shape makes a great vegan variety that can be dried, packaged and stored without breaking. Its starts much like a farfalle– folding your long sheet of pasta dough into a small rectangular package, slicing it into thin strips and unrolling each long strip. Next comes the fun part: simply take the long strip of pasta between your palms and roll, breaking the small sections of rolled pasta off at about 2 inch long increments. The result is a rustic-looking, twisted, short pasta variety that conveniently soaks up and stores any yummy sauce added to it in its spiral coils. Today’s strozzapretti was made with a whole wheat and fresh rosemary dough cooked and flavored simply with a small pat of butter, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of parmiggiano reggiano. We’ll experiment with these “priest stranglers” over the next week, trying out both a fresh egg pasta variety and finessing our dried, egg-free recipe.
Well, I don’t know about brilliance, but a mighty tasty snack! In an attempt to fully dry our vegan farfalle to package and present at a meeting scheduled for the following day, we laid out the hundreds of bowties on cookie sheets and placed them in a warm oven… or what we thought was a warm oven and really turned out to be a too warm oven. You can imagine the surprise and guilt I felt as I pulled out 2 full trays of slightly browned, puffed up bowties…. a full 2 hours worth of work, ruined. While I buried my face in my hands, Rachel picked up one of these browned bow-ties and popped in her mouth (crunch!). And with that crunch, the Nella Pasta Cracker was born. We admittedly had no intention on moving on from pasta to crackers, but we can both attest to the fact that these baked bow-ties are an attractive and delicious snack perfect for dipping, topping soup, or the perfect accompaniment with wine and cheese. After our first batch (nicknamed the oops crackers), I went home to try another batch, this time intentionally. To borrow a phrase from Emeril, I kicked up it up a notch by flavoring a dough made of white flour and semolina with seasoned salt, freshly grated parmigiano reggiano, fresh thyme and white truffle oil. The aroma alone made the second batch well worth making. We think these little bowties are so delicious, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them alongside our linguine, tortellini and ravioli on our table at the Farmer’s Markets this summer. Stay tuned for more pictures of serving suggestions.
Getting Down to Business…
Nella Pasta is moving right along schedule with an estimated debut date for the first of May. In our test kitchens, you’ll find pasta in every size, shape and color covering every square inch of counter space. On the business front, our filing cabinets are quickly filling with forms, applications and agreements. We’ve had a wonderful response from local Farmer’s Markets interested in our concept for fresh, local pasta and we’re looking forward to nailing down our schedule for the 2009 season within the next week or so. With only a month to go, we’re focusing on ordering and designing our packaging, developing NellaPasta.com and finalizing recipes (read: frantically scribbling down fractions, bulking up our deltoids rolling out dough, going through countless eggs and pounds of flour and eating a solid day’s worth of calories in taste testers alone…it’s a tough job, my friends, let me tell you).
With our official launch drawing near, I cant help but to think back to the time when Nella was a mere daydream to get us through the workday… Rachel and I sitting with our backs to each other, eyes glued to computer screen. One of us would send to the other our typical daily instant message “today’s the day, I’m quitting, done…mark my words, I’m walking out after lunch.” It was then that we initiated “the vision.” It went a bit like this: “just think…. the sun, warm on your face, the smell of ripe tomatoes and vibrant basil swirling in the air, happy people strolling, talking…..” The idea was simple: we would imagine ourselves in a summer Farmer’s Market, our “happy place” and it would get us through the day. Four short months later, our dream is quickly becoming a reality. Ok, its still cold and we’ve had no income since, but hey, we’re close enough and couldn’t be happier.
My Goodness, My Guinness!
In pasta?! Ohh yes, we took it that far. Taken straight from the Guinness website, when used in cooking, “GUINNESS® intensifies flavour, adds depth, enhances texture and when it boils down to it, just tastes great”– we agreed, but decided to prove it (just to be sure, of course). First up- the pasta. We made a dough using unbleached, unbromated white flour, semolina, and salt, then substituted half of the eggs with Guinness. The dough maintained the same consistency and feel as a regular egg pasta, but had a slight golden brownish hue and Irish Pub-esque aroma. As the dough rested, we started a Guinness Bolognese to accompany our pasta. Much like a typical Italian (we know, not Irish, but come on! Our name is Nella!) bolognese, we started by browning up some pancetta in extra virgin olive oil and adding a mire poix (onion, carrots and celery). Next, a combination of ground sirloin and veal and some chopped garlic. We let the meat cook through, and when lightly browned, we added the star ingredient– Guinness– and let it reduce. Next up, a mixture of tomato paste blended into beef broth, a few splashes of Worcestershire, and of course salt and pepper and we let this (dare I say Irish-Italian fusion?) meat sauce simmer for the next couple hours to meld its flavors. Before serving, we added a splash a cream to the sauce and cooked the pasta for apx. 4 minutes in rapidly boiling, “salty like the sea” water. To serve, we combined the sauce with the Guinness-flavored pasta, added a sprinkle of parmigiano reggiano and chopped parsley, and sat down to enjoy this steaming, aromatic bowl of a classic Italian dish with an Irish twist. And my goodness, my Guinness was a St. Patty’s day success!
Sweet Potato Ravioli with Flax Pasta
Spotted in Nella’s Test Kitchen– a flax specked, whole wheat ravioli. Whole wheat and flax, you say? Sounds pretty crunchy granola to me. Add to it a filling of mashed sweet potatoes with no butter or cheese?? Iiiiick.
Health nuts- rejoice! Skeptics, sit back and wait to be dazzled…Nella Pasta has created a delicious and healthy (no, seriously!) ravioli made with a whole wheat pasta dough packed with fiber, lingan and omega-3 rich flaxseed meal and stuffed with roasted sweet potato seasoned with salt, pepper, nutmeg and just a pinch of brown sugar. The result is a nutty, flavorful pasta with a sweet, melt-in-your-mouth filling that happens to be jam-packed with fiber, omega-3 and a number of antioxidants. We cooked up these nutritional beauties and served them with a reduced balsamic sauce and a sprinkle of parsley. Pair it with a glass of wine and cheers to better health– thanks to pasta!
Crossing boundaries….one dessert Ravioli at a time
Yes I know, it sounds weird. Google thought so too….I don’t think I’ve ever searched for anything that turned up fewer successful results. Anyways, the idea for a dark cherry pasta was stuck in my head and the thought just wouldn’t subside.
Since we started Nella Pasta, we constantly try to think of imaginative ways to turn pasta into something special. Last night I topped some Trader Joe’s Organic Ginger Snap Cookies with a smear of mascarpone and a frozen cherry… Cherries have a gorgeous deep reddish-purplish hue quite like beets….quite like the outstanding photo (thanks TT!) of homemade beet tortellini that tops this blog…Cherries, then, could be pureed and made into a pasta dough to resemble that of beet pasta, no?? Oh we’ll see about that! Long story short (too late), the cherry pasta dough– much like a simple pasta dough recipe, but with the addition of pureed cherries and sprinkle of sugar. Next I had to determine the filling for a ravioli made with this inventive cherry dough. I knew I wanted a combination of mascarpone and ricotta– two Italian cheeses that work beautifully prepared in both sweet and savory dishes. To this combination I added vanilla, honey, orange zest and then, as Emeril calls it, the bam! In this case, crushed ginger snap cookies, and only enough to add that subtle gingery-sweet, “mmm what’s that?” effect. After rolling, stuffing and sealing, I cooked the purple specked ravioli in boiling water and added them to a hot pan with sauteed sliced pears and butter. After browning slightly for a minute or two, I plated the ravioli and pear mixture and topped it off with a healthy (in quantity, that is) sprinkle of crushed ginger snap cookies.
First Nutella, then dark chocolate pasta, today, cherries. I do believe we have proved that ravioli deserves a spot on any dessert menu. And you know what, Google? I’d say these cherry ravioli should make it to the top of your list, even if there are no results that follow.
Nella has a brand new toy– The Atlas Regina Pasta Extruder. We are pleased to annouce that we will now be able to use the same fresh, local, and organic ingredients to create handmade Rigatoni, Maccheroni, Maccheroncini, Bucatini and Fusilli. For the first attempt we kept it simple by trying out the Rigatoni. They came out perfectlly– an authentic, matte finish you can only find in gourmet shops and Italian markets. The difference– ingredients. Now you can have shaped pasta with the great taste and texture that comes with using an egg dough. The first batch of rigatoni is ready and waiting in the freezer to be cooked up with a homemade tomato vodka sauce– stay tuned for photos!
With the success of last week’s dried, cracked pepper linguine, I thought it was time to take the idea of dried, eggless pasta to the next level: Farfalle. Farfalle, or “butterflies” in Italian, is a popular Italian pasta shaped like a bow-tie. Commonly known as bow-tie pasta here in the good ‘ol USA, farfalle is a versatile shape used with chunky tomato or cream based sauces and pasta salads alike. Much like last week’s linguine, I started with a dough made of whole wheat flour, white flour, semolina, water, extra virgin olive oil, salt and freshly cracked pepper. After a 15 minute rest on the counter top wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and a kitchen towel, I rolled out the dough to the second thinnest setting and folded the long sheet into a neat rectangle, about 4″ wide. I then cut the rectangle to make 4, 1″ wide strips, un-folded the long strips and used a fluted-edge round roller to cut the strips into 1 1/2″ long, small rectangles. Pinch the center of this rectangle together with your thumb and index finger and voila! Farfalle! I spread these bow-ties across the table for a good 6 hours to dry, turning occasionally, and if completely dried, these bow-ties can be stored in a plastic bag or other resealable container for up to 6 months.
PS. We are now the proud owners of NellaPasta.com, yet to be designed, but stay tuned! When the Nella website is up and running, you’ll be able to access this blog right from our homepage.
March 3, 2009 Update– See below for Farfalle batch #2– spinach!
Gnocchi Ai Porcini
Potato Gnocchi with Porcini Mushrooms- a dish combined with delicate, earthy mushrooms and paired with a mascarpone herb sauce than finished in the oven. I was first introduced to the term Gnocchi, simply meaning “dumpling,” when I was in Italy taking a cooking class. It was prepared with a mixture of potato and semolina flour, than completed with a basil pesto sauce. To form the grooves, we used the authentic Italian technique of running the gnocchi across the tines of a fork. Surprisingly, it required a great amount of time and technique to make them look presentable. Last week during my food basics class at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts, I was astounded to learn about the gnocchi board–a small wooden paddle with vertical grooves used to create the same effect as the classical fork technique– but in a much easier way!
To create the dish, a combination of mushrooms were sauteed with olive oil, garlic, parsley, lemon juice and seasoned to taste with salt and pepper. The sauce was a mixture of sauteed shallots, mascarpone cheese, parsley, sage, thyme and marjoram. The potatoes were roasted until tender and the pulp was removed and put through a food mill. All purpose flour was added to potato and seasoned with salt, nutmeg and parmesan cheese. The dough was kneaded lightly to form a smooth, somewhat elastic dough and shaped into a long log. Than small portions were rolled it into long ropes, approximately 8- x 1/2 inch-wide. Afterwards, they were cut into 1 inch pieces and rolled down the gnocchi board. The technique of using the board is simple- you take the piece of dough and position it at the top portion of the board, placing your thumb at the top of the dough. Then, in one motion, roll the dough downwards until the two ends slightly touch, having a hollow inside. Lastly, the gnocchi’s were cooked in boiling water until floating, and combined with the sauteed mushrooms and the mascarpone herb sauce in baking dish than finished in the oven. The result was a delicious gnocchi casserole with bold flavors from both the mushrooms and herb sauce, combined with delicate, savory gnocchi’s!