Friday, March 2, 2012

Risotto and Gnocchi

Gotta hand it to those Italians for the number of quality dishes they've invented. After the mediocre results from the the wheatberry mock risotto experiment, I decided to try my hand at making regular risotto. Turns out it's super easy, versatile, and delicious! It's definitely going onto my list of go-to recipes when I need something quick and tasty to whip up.

I'm still tweaking the add-ins so I don't have any photos, but here's the basic method:

[original method here:]

Chop and sauté a sweet onion in olive oil until glazed (try not to caramelize unless that's the flavor you're going for, bc it will overwhelm the other ingredients), add 1 cup of risotto (I used Arborio), then after swishing it around and coating all the grains in oil, add 4-5 cups chicken broth 1 cup at a time. Cook for approximately 20 minutes or until tender. The grains will produce/add a lovely creaminess, but I also added a tablespoon of butter to the onions and some grated parmesan cheese (approx. 1/2 cup). Since the base is already creamy, the parmesan incorporates in as it melts, unlike with the wheatberry mock risotto which was pretty watery.

For last night's risotto, I added sautéed asparagus, peas (at the very end--they can turn to mush quite quickly), sliced Italian chicken sausage, and pine nuts. Yum! The original recipe also called for zucchini, but for some reason the supermarket didn't have any (and this particular supermarket is usually busting at the seams with I imagine it must be completely out of season at the moment).

So that was dinner, Italian at the core and served with spinach salad and strawberries for dessert. All that was missing was the garlic bread.

We had basil prosciutto-wrapped fresh mozzarella for our appetizer instead.
For lunch today, another Italian delicacy. I decided to use some frozen spinach-stuffed gnocchi I picked up at the store. Gnocchi is probably my favorite pasta shape/type! The only problem is that most restaurants like to serve it with a wine or vodka-based tomato sauce. They're usually happy to serve it with marinara if I ask, but it's not quite right bc a real serving of gnocchi, imo, should be with a slightly creamy tomato sauce.
Individual gnocchi are described as "pillows", but this is the first time I've had gnocchi actually shaped like pillows!
YUM. So soft with a slight chew at the center and delicate sweetness...MMMMM!!!!
At any rate, I've been craving an eggplant tomato sauce for a while now. I normally don't mind store-bought tomato sauce, but it just wasn't going to fit the bill this time. I didn't follow the original recipe exactly and paid for it with mushy eggplant, but it was much easier to make and still tasted good!

[sauce method here:]

1 package frozen spinach-stuffed gnocchi, prepared according to package directions
1/2 medium eggplant, cubed
1 can Red Gold diced tomatoes (I used the kind with basil, garlic, oregano), partially drained
olive oil
garlic salt (to taste)
pepper (to taste)

About the eggplant:
You're supposed to salt and compress the eggplant, but I didn't feel like it... And then learned that eggplant acts like a sponge and no matter how well you oil your pan, it'll always soak it all up. So I added a little water and basically boiled the eggplant in the end. Just letting you know in case you prefer to prepare the eggplant the proper way!

1. Toss eggplant cubes in pan with olive oil; heat on medium.
2. Add about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water and cook for about 15-20 minutes or until cooked through, stirring occasionally. Salt with garlic salt and pepper.
3. Add drained diced tomatoes.
4. Serve immediately over pasta.

Note: if using an aluminum or Teflon-coated pan, make sure to rinse and neutralize your pan soon after cooking so the tomato acid won't affect the pan.

Bon appétit!

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