Cooking Italy: Pasta al’Amatriciana~

11 11 2009

Someday, a finished product photo will start this post.  For now, suffice it to say, the anticipation was too great, we couldn’t help ourselves, we were overcome with food-lust…I can’t believe…we ate it before I could take a picture.   So, when the picture comes, and it will, it will be from a subsequent cooking.  Here’s what happened…


I work outside the home as an Admin. secretary for an elementary school.  I come home pretty much spent at the end of a workday.  This recipe made me smile. A lot. There wasn’t a huge amount of prep, or long cooking this time. This is one of those sauces that comes together so fast there’s no need to buy a jar of sauce.  What have we got here…olive oil, tomatoes, red peppers (these are sweet peppers, so I added red pepper flakes to the tomatoes to rehydrate a little), onion and pancetta.  I slapped my hands 3 times to keep from adding the garlic I so wanted to! I made myself behave! LOL!


Then the sauce needs to simmer for 25 minutes.  While that’s going on, grate your fresh parmesan and romano for the sauce, and get your water boiling for the bucatini if you can find it…penne if you can’t…we used spaghettini, which isn’t necessarily recommended, but it was handy.  After smelling this wonderful sauce simmering for 25 minutes, I was ready to eat the walls.   I’m learning to set aside a couple tablespoons of the pasta water before I drain my pasta…just in case or because it’s required in the final stage.  A quick drain, add the pasta to the sauce, toss, add the cheese, toss, add a little pasta water if needed to help it toss smoothly, toss, and plate.  Add a little more cheese for the plate and you’re on…

Tasting Notes~
I finally have a way to get authentic Italian feedback on my recipe trials! One of our administrators is old family Italian, and has agreed to taste and critique for me.  When I manage to get food to him, I’ll share Dr. Tony’s feedback!  This dish brought forth this comment, “Wow!  Excellent!  Pasta was cooked perfectly, sauce was simple and simply tasty w/o being too rich.” I’ll take it! LOL!  Our only problem with this recipe was that we wanted more sauce with the pasta than the recipe recommends.   Is that the American tendency to excess, or a desire for more of a good thing?  We both enjoyed the dish a lot more with an extra spoonful or two of the sauce.  Another consideration maybe that these are “primi” sized servings rather than “secondi” servings.  We loved this, and as soon as I can get my hands on another nice piece of pancetta, we’ll be eating it again!

Whisk Wednesday~Braised Lamb Shanks

11 11 2009

braised-lamb-shank_basmatiSince we’re on a much more relaxed path in Whisk Wednesdays, which suits those of us still following along, this week I chose to braise Lamb Shanks.  Sadly, I couldn’t find a reference to a recipe in LCB@H,  I chose a general braising recipe for veal shanks, and went with that.

The biggest problem I have with lamb shanks is that sometimes they’re cut so long that they won’t fit in most of my braising pans.  Braising is best done in a heavy cast iron casserole, or brazier with a heavy lid, so that the liquid stays inside with the meat.  Dutch ovens are also great.  This is my 7 qt. cherished Le Creuset cast iron cooker which is really too much for 2 shanks, but it’s the only cooker long enough to hold the shanks.

lamb-brownI started by giving them a good all-over browning over medium heat, developing the fond that would later become the base for the great sauce in the end.  While the shanks were browning, all the other aromatics and seasoning elements were being put together…chopped onion, celery, carrot, tomato, and since this is lamb, garlic.  Add a bay leaf, a grating of fresh black pepper, 2 cups of beef stock and top it off with a sprig of rosemary, and we’re good to go into the oven at 350ºF for 2 to 3 hours.


When I took this from the oven, there was very little liquid left in the pan.  First, I removed the shanks to a platter and covered them to keep them warm while I finished the sauce.  The basmati rice was already finished and waiting in the rice cooker.  I also removed the bay leaf and the rosemary sprig.  I added water to the pan and made my gravy thickening it with a slurry of cornstarch and water.

Tasting notes~
We love lamb to start with…and we almost always enjoy braised lamb shanks.  This was no exception. The lamb had been frozen for awhile, but there wasn’t the slightest hint.  It came out moist and full of flavor.  The vegetables melted into an intensely flavorful sauce that accented the lamb perfectly.  The basmati rice was the only disappointment.  It was a great choice with the lamb, but I didn’t care for the texture.  I would have been happier with a heavier, more densely textured rice for this dish.  You live, you learn!  Other than that, I’d prepare lamb this way again without hesitation!  However…I am looking for a Mexican lamb recipe…I’ve eaten the dish at a particular recipe chain…they call it Borrego…but that’s just the Mexican word for lamb, so I don’t know.  If you know of a recipe, please let me know!