Penne for your Sauce

It’s Complicatedly Simple
A mainstay of Italian cooking is a good marinara sauce. Every family has one, two or more of them. Some are done in a few minutes others take days. Homemade ones differ in the store bought counter parts in that homemade ones are fresher and denser in flavour and made by hands who love what they are doing.
We, here in our kitchen, are a loving lot and wanted to teach a friend how to make a good marinara sauce. The aromatics, onion, celery and carrot took a day to cut up; every knife stroke cutting these into a mince. I would have typically used my food processor to achieve this but I choose to do it by hand so that I could report more clearly on the process.
But first we had to have the best tomatoes. I went to two stores to find Roma’s or Italian plum tomatoes. The first place I found them they were a little pale but cooking them would improve their flavour. The next store the tomatoes were deeply red and smelled like a tomato. Roma’s are preferred because they are fleshy compare to others. Since we would be making only enough for one meal our total weight was a little over 2 kilo’s or 2.25 pounds.
Next I had to uncover my family’s recipe. I looked through all of my files and books and found it oddly enough on my computer. The complete recipe is posted below. Because one of our team, the photographer, wasn’t able to make it to the kitchen today, photos aren’t available. I’ll be making it again soon and those photos will be posted.
Here is the recipe:
You will need:
2 Kilo’s plum tomatoes coarsely chopped
1 medium Onion very finely chopped
1 medium carrot very finely chopped
1 stalk of celery very finely chopped
¼ cup olive oil
1 large garlic clove roughly chopped
1 teaspoon chopped dried chilli pepper (remove seeds)
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon each dried Basil, Oregano and Thyme
1 cup good tomato paste
Salt and Pepper to taste (I used 1 table spoons of pepper crushed)
No exotic ingredients here. This should tell you that technique is going to be important.
To do:
Cut tomatoes into quarters and place in heavy sauce pan and cook on low until the tomatoes are soft and skins are pulling away from the tomato. About 30 minutes. Let cool before continuing.
Next put the tomatoes through a food mill on fine to remove the skins and seeds. If you don’t have a food mill you can peel the tomatoes first and then cook. Some people do not mind the seeds in their sauce, but I’ve always found them to turn bitter in the cooked sauce. Some have told me that they use a colander for this process and others say that they push the cooked tomatoes through a wire strainer.
With the tomatoes strained put them back in the pot and turn on the heat just above simmer.
When you begin to see little bubbles peculating the surface then add the onion, celery, and carrot and stir in. (The reason you wait until the bubbles appear is because you want the vegetables to begin cooking right away to conserve their flavour). Once the mix begins to simmer again add the herbs and spices plus the garlic. Stir in and begin the cooking of the sauce. After an hour or so the sauce with become thick and bubbly add the tomato paste (this imparts a deep tomato taste) and stir until incorporated and cook for another 15 minutes.
We poured the sauce onto some penne pasta that was nearly cooked topped it completely with sauce, then cheese. This goes in a 350 oven and bakes for 15 to 20 minutes.
Serve with wine and good crusty bread and you’re set for a great family treat.

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Friday Drabble

My Sister is a World

My sister sat at her table, by the lamp, reading a small red book every night for 2 weeks? I asked her after 1 what is in this tiny book that would keep her so occupied. She merely answered, “Poetry”. After she had gone to school, I peeked at the book and found it only contained 12 pages, old and ragged.
I reckoned that poetry must be a full language of codes I couldn’t understand. I got older and found it contained metaphor and imagery and was full of worlds. She somehow knew I had peeked for our conversations deepened.
Paolo

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My Love is a Rock Start

Many know how much I love my friends and that it is my practice to let them know often. I also happen to love their children also very much. I’ve been trying to teach this wonderful kids what I know about cooking. The greatest gift you can give to a child, male or female is to teach them to cook. Teach someone to cook, and it is assured that you will be present in their lives, for the rest of their lives. It is my hope that they pass this gift along to another when it is time. In the end the wisdom of cooking will be a part of their lives. I worked this recipe out for Jonny Norton because he is a really wonderful guy to me. It will also make him look like a kitchen rock star.
Agnolotti with Cream Sauce
Pasta Dough
You will need:
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 tablespoon water

Pasta Filling
You will need:
2 Tablespoons olive oil
.25 cup onion finely chopped
.25 pound of ground meat
1 egg
1 cup cooked chicken breast finely chopped
.25 pound prosciutto finely chopped
.25 teaspoon Rosemary crushed
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
Cream Sauce
3 Tablespoons butter (not margarine ever)
6 Tablespoons flour
Salt/pepper to taste
1 ½ cups chicken broth
1 ½ cups half and half
½ cup parmesan cheese freshly grated
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
How to do this:
Prepare pasta dough. Combine flour and salt in a mixing bowl. Combine eggs, oil and water and mix well. Add to flour, mix to form stiff dough. Turn out the dough on a floured table or counter and knead for 5 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and let dough rest at least 30 minutes.
Prepare filling while dough rests. Heat oil in a small heavy skillet. Add onion, sauté until tender. Add veal, cook, and stirring until meat is crumbly and lightly browned. Transfer mixture to mixing bowl cool slightly. Add remaining filling ingredients and mix well.
Divide pasta dough into 4 parts. Cover any dough you aren’t working with a damp cloth to prevent drying out. Roll out dough, 1 part at a time on lightly floured surface to a thickness of 1/16 inch. Cut into 3 inch circles using a glass or a cutter. Reroll the scraps. Place heaping ½ teaspoon of filling slightly to one side of the circle. Dampen the edge of the circle with water or beaten egg mixed with a little water. Fold into half moon shape: seal the edges by crimping with a fork. With folded edge toward you bring the 2 pointed ends together and pinch them. The finished item looks like a small circular hats with cuffs. Place pasta on a tray and cover with a damp towel rung out well over them until ready to cook. You can freeze these for future use for up to 6months.
Prepare sauce; Melt butter in a medium saucepan. Add flour, salt and pepper, mix well. Cook 1 minute. Gradually stir in broth. Cook stirring constantly, until thickened. Remove from heat. Stir in the Half and Half. Return to heat, cooking and stirring constantly, until thickened. Add cheese and nutmeg. Keep sauce warm while cooking pasta.
Cook pasta for 10 minutes in a large amount of briskly boiling salted water, with a small amount of oil added. Your sauce is based in fat so this will not affect the sauce in that it will cling to the pasta. Drain the pasta well. Put pasta in a warmed large shallow bowl. Serve immediately topped with cream sauce. Sprinkle with additional Parmesan if you like.
I hope you will love it.

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Let’s Get Pasted

Tomato Paste
Sometimes when cooking the smallest thing will make a difference; an example is using granulated salt instead of coarser sea salt in baking or that touch of tomato paste in a stew that rounds out the flavour. We got into a discussion at the How We Eat test kitchen about tomato paste and decided to test a few that could be found in the typical markets around the neighbourhood. These are pastes that you’ll have access too. We also wanted to make our own and see how it stacked up to them.

Tomato Pastes tested


In advance I want to let you know that even though my camera probably isn’t to blame two items didn’t make it in my photos; one of the grocery pastes and the homemade photos were lost in the great void.
Here are the names of the store bought. All but one was produced in Canada.
1. Bella Tavolta (not pictured)
2. No Name
3. Selection from Metro
4. Aurora
5. Ferma
6. Alpino
7. Homemade (not pictured)
Bella Travolta: a paste with no salt and is promoted as more healthy for you. Even if it was described by our testing crew as, “very sweet and tangy”, it was also short on tomato flavour and had a slight metallic taste.
No Name: Only one of the testers thought it tasted good enough to consider, describing it as tangy and peppery. While the rest of us agreed we could not get past the strong metallic taste or that it didn’t have much tomato taste at all. Low on tomato taste for us was a sin unforgiveable.
Selection: from Metro was a surprisingly popular one among us being salty but not too, sweet, sour finish and a tasty tomato flavour. The colour seemed a little gray for our liking.
Aurora: (A popular brand aimed at the Italian community) and one of the more expensive 1.98 for the smallest size. Yet it was described as, sour, vinegary, fresh, and creamy. It lacked a depth of flavour and is what we called a single note paste.
Ferma: The packaging looked promising with a cluster of Roma tomatoes on the front. After tasting it was found to have an over cooked flavour, it was grainy, weak tomato flavour and a little hint of metal.
Alpino: This is from Italy and it comes in a tube. I’ve used tomato paste in the tube from Italy before and we liked the fact that we could squeeze out as much as we needed, cap it and return it to the fridge for use later for up to 6 months. The tasting of it brought these descriptions; A very pronounced and deep tomato flavour, well balanced salt to sweet taste. Every one of the testers said they would eat it again. It was liked so much that of all the samples this one was the only one that was finished off.
Homemade: The tester said that there was freshness to this that the others didn’t have save the Alpino. It was also a little thicker, best balance sweet to tart ratio and had no metallic taste. The tomato flavour was deep and rich. All of this was expected so it was the once the others were judged against.
Our winner of the testing was Alpino, at the price of over 3.00 for one tube it cost the most but one gets what one pays for here.
The least favourite was No Name and Bella Tavolta. We all agreed that we wouldn’t use these in any of our cooking efforts.
Homemade Tomato paste:
In our home on the farm in Italy there hung on the wall, behind the door, in the kitchen. They were stained on one side a dark, reddish brown and smelled fruity. I never gave them much attention until one day in mid -summer when Aunt Rosa took them down and said to me to help her clean them. She took them outside and laying both on one of the large stones in the garden. She sprinkled salt on them and then cut a lemon in half handed one piece to me and we each took after one of the boards. While scouring the wood I asked her what we were doing this. Aunt Rosa loved to teach, having been a teacher earlier in her life, about food. On these boards is where we will make the “colla di pomodoro” or tomato paste.
Several kilos of plum tomatoes were put into a large pot cooked strained for seeds and skins then cooked again then the resulting paste was spread onto the boards. Once on the boards they were left in the August sun to further concentrate. The resulting paste was thicker than factory produced and had a greater depth of flavour and freshness. To make for yourself you will need:
5 lbs or 4.50 kilos of ripe plum tomatoes
¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste
1. Heat oven to 300°. Roughly chop tomatoes. Heat 1⁄4 cup of the oil in a 12″ skillet over high heat. Add tomatoes and season lightly with salt; bring to a boil. Cook, stirring, until very soft, about 8 minutes.
2. Pass the tomatoes through the finest plate of a food mill, pushing as much of the pulp through the sieve as possible, leaving the seeds behind.
3. Rub a rimmed 13″ x 18″ baking sheet with remaining 2 tbsp. of oil; spread tomato purée evenly over sheet. Bake, using a spatula to turn the purée over on itself occasionally, until most of the water evaporates and the surface darkens, about 3 hours. Reduce heat to 250°; cook until thick and brick colored, 20–25 minutes.
4. Store sealed in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one month, or freeze, wrapped well in plastic wrap, for up to 6 months

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The Dish Washin Blues

Your stereo is pumping out the beats of Lady Gaga’s, “Born this Way” song and you’ve been dancing and cleaning. You know you can’t continue without something to eat so you pluck out of the freezer that container of black bean soup that your friend, Joy, showed you how to make. You pour it into your stainless steel pan to heat up while you are getting into, “Just Dance”. In a little bit the smell of the soup draws you to the kitchen and the soup is ready. A bowl of this soup energizes you and when it is gone you shuffle to the sink, “Poker Face”. You wash the pot and put it in the rack.
The house cleaned and now some Nora Jones is playing and you are putting away the washed dishes and pot. Lurking inside the pot is a deposited from cooking beans. It’s a mineral deposit making your pan not only ugly but more likely to stick. Even so, if you let the water bowl away in the pan you heat water up for tea and it has boiled away and left that dark blue stain in the metal. What to do? Gerald and I wondered how to clean pots like this and we found that there were three options we had heard of or had discovered on our own. Here were the pots/pans before cleaning.

The Best in Cleaners

1. Baking soda .53 cents per application
2. Bar Keepers Friend 1.35 cents per application
3. Cream of Tartar .25 cents per application

First, Gerald suggested we try baking soda; he had used it to scrub things before and believed it might just be our solution. Baking Soda has been around for ages in one form or another and was used by the ancient Egyptians used natural deposits of natron, a mixture consisting mostly of sodium carbonate decahydrate, and sodium bicarbonate. The natron was used as a cleansing agent like soap. In 1791 a French chemist Nicolas Leblanc has successfully produced as sodium carbonate or soda ash. In 1846 two clever and industrious New York bakers, John Dwight and Austin Church, established the first factory to develop baking soda from sodium carbonate and carbon dioxide and their product is still produced under the Arm and Hammer brand today.

Saute skillet

Excited, I damped the pan and then with a wash cloth went at the pan with some elbow strength. After about 1 minute I rinsed the pan and dried it with a cloth. There was still a good amount of deposit in the pan. Ah me, that was sad because everyone has baking soda in their cabinet.
Next, we tried “Bar Keepers Friend” on a sauté pan. Yet, while tested BKF we started a pot with Cream of Tartar in it on the stove. I used an old wash cloth and BKF, following the same course as with the baking powder, after about a minute I rinsed the pan. No deposits and it was shiny like new, except the bottom of the sauté pan so I sprinkled some on it and soon most of the cooked on fat was gone.
Lastly the Cream of Tartar was done. The directions we were given is to put a half of teaspoon of the Cream of Tartar in the pan with water, stir it and turn it on to simmer and leave it for 5 minutes. At the end of the 5 minutes we poured the mixture out and dried the pan. Most of the deposit was gone except the tiniest bit.
The Bar Keepers Friend had our approval hands down. There wasn’t a trace mineral inside and the outside was clean as a whistle. At 1.35 cents an application it was the most expensive cleaner we tested but we agreed that it did the best all around job. It also cleaned a pot where the water had boiled dry and left a blue stain, it cleaned the anodized aluminum pots well and the stainless steel since.
Surprisingly, the Cream of Tartar, a by product of making wine, did a decent job in

Cream of Tartar

removing the stain and at .53 per use was an expensive option but no scrubbing was involved.
The baking soda had done an adequate job removing most of the stain except the thicker part of the mineral build up. The skillet was usable but we were disappointed because baking soda is something most of us have in our kitchens.

Our clear winner was the Bar Keepers Friend. It is not available in some areas but most hardware stores can order it for you. It works on a lot of other surfaces too, like smooth stove tops. The cost of it is around 3 dollars so it won’t be prohibitive.

Next up will be Tomato Paste.  You won’t believe it.

Paolo and Gerald

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Updates

So much has been going on since I wrote last. It really does take a lot to produce our work because it has to be done right and we, more on that later, have exacting standards. Like you, we want to know why and how and when, at what temperature. Each of our recipes are baked more than once and in some cases at least 10 times.
I always knew I needed a counterpoint in this blog because getting my opinions all the time without anyone questioning me gets a little boring. So I took sometime and secured another co-writer to this blog.
I met Gerald shortly after moving to Hamilton in 2010. He just had graduated from the culinary arts school, Liaison College. I am hoping to go there myself soon as my immigration status is completed. Gerald will write something soon to introduce himself soon, or else I’ll have to bend his finger back. I am just kidding.
Coming up will be some of our reviews of things you have in your kitchen or maybe not and always wondered about and when we don’t have the skill ourselves we will be seeking out those who do so that we can let you know the answer. In the coming weeks we will do some comparisons of cookware cleaners, tomato pastes and keeping your knives sharp. There will be recipes too of course and the stories that come along with them.  In the mean time we are happy to answer any questions you might have, because your questions are often things other have wondered too and we are in the kitchen together aren’t we.  Thanks for hanging in there with us and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Paolo and Gerald

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Friday Dribble

I can’t be here on Friday, I have to work on immigration again so here it is.
The Red Radio Flyer
Doug 24, pulled his old mom around in a red Radio Flyer wagon. They made an odd pair, but they were happiest people you could now. Mom would tell Doug where she needed to go and along the way how to get there. She would yell, “Stop!” when there was someone on the street she wanted to speak with.
I looked out my hardware store window and thought,” when I get old someday who will pull me around in a red Radio Flyer wagon?” Then I went to the books to order on. Isn’t hope a good thing to have?
Paolo

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