Homemade Pesto Sauce

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Our garden has been a hit this year!  Especially for fresh, homemade pasta sauces.  This was my first venture at making my own pesto sauce, and I have to say, it turned out pretty darn good!  Not to mention, it was super easy to make.  Thanks Mom!

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What you need:

2 cups fresh basil leaves

3 or 4 garlic cloves

olive oil – I don’t really measure…enough so that the mixture ends up like a sauce and not chunky

1/4 pine nuts

1/2 cup Romano cheese

blender or food processor

1/2 cup heavy cream (if you want to make pesto cream sauce)

How to make it happen:

Put about half of the basil leaves in a blender or food processor with the olive oil to grind up.  Once it’s smooth, add the other ingredients (except the cream) and remaining basil and olive oil to grind up.  Make sure it is all well blended and smooth.

You can either freeze or use fresh.

Transfer the sauce to a small pot to heat it up.  If you want to make pesto cream sauce, you can whisk in the heavy cream right before turning off the heat.

Boil up your favorite type of pasta, and top it with this delicious sauce!  Once the pasta is boiled, I drain it and then coat it with a layer of the sauce so that it doesn’t dry out and stick together.  Serve it up in bowls, and then top with as much added sauce as you like.  I also add some extra grated Romano cheese to the top, because I’m a cheese fanatic.

Delish!

Hope you enjoy, and would love to hear if any of you try this recipe out.

Happy Monday.  Have a great week everyone!

XO,

Gina

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Garden Fresh Homemade Tomato Sauce

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It’s that time of the year!  The time when our tomatoes are coming up in the garden, and more importantly…time for fresh pasta sauce!  I typically make my own homemade sauce (carrying on the family tradition) all year long using cans of tomatoes, but there is something about those fresh tomatoes that really make the world go ’round.  I have tried both all fresh and all canned versions of this recipe, but my preference is actually a 50/50 method of half fresh, half canned.  For some reason, that packs the best punch of flavor in my book, and it’s just the perfect combo for an amazing sauce.

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The recipe is quite simple.  Most of it is all about taste and preference.  I hardly measure anything, and I kind of pinch and throw in as I go.

What you need:

4-6 cloves of garlic chopped (or whole, but I chop mine)

chopped yellow onion (or white or spanish) – I use about 1/4 of a medium size onion

extra virgin olive oil

fresh tomatoes from the garden (I used about 12)

canned tomatoes (my favorite brand is the Sclafani crushed, I used 1 can for this batch, because that was about how many fresh tomatoes I had, and I wanted it to be a 50/50 mix)

fresh basil from the garden to taste (I used about 10 leaves)

salt

pepper

dried italian herbs (if you have more fresh, the better!)

sugar (my secret ingredient)

How to Make it Happen:

First prep the fresh tomatoes by dicing them up to remove all the seeds (the more seeds you have the more bitter the sauce is, so I remove them all from the fresh tomatoes).  Then, you can either put them in a food processor to blend or keep them as is (again your preference of texture!) and put them aside.

Saute the garlic and onions in the olive oil in a large pot on medium heat for a couple minutes or until the onions are translucent.

Add the fresh tomatoes and the can of tomatoes to the pot and stir, stir, stir.  Lower heat so it’s not popping bubbles of sauce all over the kitchen.

Next, stir in the basil, salt, pepper, extra Italian herbs, and sugar to taste.

Let it sit, stirring frequently, and tasting frequently.  You may find you want to add a few herbs, a little more sugar, etc. as it cooks.  You can really cook it as long as you want.  The flavors will change a bit as time wears on, and you may want to add more to it.  I am all about the quickness, so unless I have a very large pot of sauce, I don’t really cook mine for more than 20-30 minutes.  I am usually just cooking for two, so it can cook pretty quickly.

Boil up your favorite type of pasta while you are waiting for the sauce.  Once the pasta is ready, drain it, and coat it with a few large scoops of sauce so that it doesn’t dry out and stick together.  Serve it up in bowls, and add as much extra sauce as you like!  I top mine with grated Locatelli Romano cheese as well, and voila!  Dinner is served.

Buon Apetito!

XO,

Gina

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Pasta Fagioli

“When the stars make you drool, just like pasta fazool, that’s amore…” – Dean Martin

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On New Year’s Day, I spent my time exercising, doing laundry, and whipping up a big ol’ pot of pasta fagioli! (pronounced “pasta fazool” by us Italian Americans.)  Like a lot of other favorite Italian dishes, this one also started out as a peasant dish, being composed of inexpensive ingredients (i.e. pasta and beans).  Families have since passed down their recipes from generation to generation, and each family has their own little twist on this tasty little soup.

I remember eating this dish at my grandparent’s house when I was a kid, and this winter I had the sudden urge to recreate this in my own home.  My grandmother passed the recipe down to my aunt who then in turn passed it down to myself.  This was my first crack at making pasta fagioli, and according to my husband, it turned out wonderful!  Of course, being me, I added a few of my own twists and turns to the recipe that I will share with you.  Warning: I had to break out the lobster pot (my largest pot), and we ate this soup for an entire week (even after giving a large batch to my neighbors!)  Be prepared, this produces more soup that you might think!

Ok here we go…

1 – 16 oz. bag of navy or cannellini beans (or any white beans)

1/4 cup olive oil

1 large diced onion

4-6 cloves crushed garlic

4-6 stalked chopped celery

4-6 chopped carrots

1/2 small boneless ham (cubed)

2 – 28 oz. cans of diced tomatoes

3-4 bay leaves

1 bottle white cooking wine

32 oz. chicken stock

salt and pepper

oregano

crushed red pepper

1 lb. small macaroni (or pasta of choice)

Romano cheese (topping)

Wash beans in a colander.  Put beans in a pot and cover with water 2 inches above the beans.  Boil for approximately 2 minutes.  Let it cool and sit for one hour.  Return beans to colander and rinse well under cold water.  Set aside.

In a large pot, saute the garlic, onions, celery and carrots in the olive oil for 3-5 minutes until onions are iridescent.  Add ham, beans, 1 can of tomatoes, salt, pepper, oregano, red pepper.  Also add some white cooking wine, chicken stock, and water to taste.  (You don’t have to use the full bottles at this time.  I ended up using it all eventually as the soup cooked down, but I started with just enough liquid to cover all the ingredients.  The original recipe just called for water to cover the ingredients, but I decided to kick up the flavor with the white cooking wine and chicken stock.)  Cook until the beans are tender.  This took me about 1 1/2 – 2 hours.  Keep checking!  As the liquid cooks down, add the second can of tomatoes (original recipe called for one can, but again, I wanted more tomato flavor), more cooking wine, chicken stock, and water to taste.  You can add as much or as little as you want depending on how thick vs. brothy you want the soup to be.  The important thing is to make sure the beans are fully cooked.

Cook the macaroni separate, then add as much of it to the soup as you want per portion.  I ended up putting all of the cooked pasta right into the soup pot, but some people might want less pasta in their portion.  Serve in bowls.  Last but not least, top the dish off with some freshly grated Romano cheese!  As you can see from my photos above, I like a lot of cheese.

If you decide to serve up some pasta fagioli using my family recipe this winter, please let me know how it goes!

Buon Appetito!

Gina

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Seven Fishes

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The Feast of the Seven Fishes is an Italian Christmas celebration.  The dinner features seven different types of seafood and commemorates the wait, or vigil, for the midnight birth of the baby Jesus.  The most famous dish that Southern Italians are known for is baccala, or codfish.  Italians today also incorporate many other different types of seafood into their meal.

My family has been celebrating this tradition since before I can even remember.  What used to be a feast at my Grandparent’s house for many years has now moved to my Aunt and Uncle’s due to spacial reasons.  The family keeps growing!  Christmas Eve is a night that my cousins and I look forward to all year long.  It’s a time where the whole family is together, we drink delicious drinks, eat the best meal of the year, share gifts, and take our annual family photos.

This year was no different.  We shared many laughs, pumpkin martinis, cherry bomb spritzers, pesto rockfish, breaded baccala, escargot, clams, mussels, shrimp (ok so we had six, not seven, but close enough!), broccoli, garlic bread, the amazing corn pudding, brie, homemade cookies, awkward family photos, presents, and silliness.

I always hate departure time, but I was able to end the night knowing that we would be seeing everyone in less than a week for a family wedding before the new year!  Hope everyone had a Merry Christmas.

Buon Natale!

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