Season’s Eatings – Pasta Zucca e Ricotta

Christmas is approaching again, and as usual, Cucina Fintastica is full of ambitious culinary plans! The advantage of ambitious plans is that even if you don’t quite meet them (let’s say only 15%), you still achieve something. I hope.

Today’s recipe is not exactly a Christmas dish. In fact, I think the only Italian Christmas recipe I have posted so far was this one that I tested (very proactively) in May. Well, anyway, as far as I now know about the Italian kitchen, pumpkins are one of the seasonal favorites both for Christmas and autumn. So this dish should be at least a decent warm-up to get you in that Christmassy culinary mood!

Already earlier, I have learned that pumpkins are the BFFs of strong cheeses. This dish is another strong evidence of that. The end result is a lovely soft, hearty and flavourful pasta that is yet not overly heavy.

Pumpkin and ricotta pasta

Serves 2

160 g pasta

400 g pumpkin (peeled and cubed)

180 g ricotta

40 g pecorino cheese (grated)

1 garlic clove

olive oil

salt, pepper

In a pan, gently fry the garlic clove in some olive oil. Add the pumpkin cubes and a little bit of salt. Add a (smallish) cup of water, cover the pan with a lid and let the pumpkins cook on a low heat for about 20 minutes (until soft).

Cook the pasta in boiling and salted water until it is al dente, and drain it. Please note that the pasta will still get a bit softer in the oven in the next phases of this recipe.

Remove the garlic clove and mash the pumpkin cubes with a fork (or alternatively place the soft cubes in a blender to mash them). Stir in the ricotta cheese. Add the pasta into the sauce, and let the pumpkin pasta gain flavour for one minute. Season with salt and pepper. Add one half of the grated pecorino and mix.

Grease an oven dish (~medium-sized) with some olive oil. Move the pumpkin pasta into the dish. Sprinkle the remaining pecorino cheese on top. Bake in the oven at 200C for about 10 minutes.

 

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Twinkle Michelin Star – Fondente al Cioccolato Speziato con Gelato di More E Zenzero

I don’t understand what happened with Christmas this year.

I do know that it has a tendency to sneak up on you but this time it seems as if it was even slier than usual and very quietly crept behind my back and then suddenly yelled loudly “Hello – here I am again!!!” only a few days ago.

I had all these big plans for this Christmas season. I was going to send all those Christmas cards that I always forget to send. And this time even on time. I was going to clean my floors so spotless and shiny that they would serve as spare mirrors if needed. And obviously I was going to cook all sorts of Italian Christmas dishes and write very expertly about them.

But then something unexplainable happened and as a result, the quantity of Christmas cards sent and Italian Christmas dishes tested is now zero whereas the amount of spots on my floors is not currently publicly disclosable.

However, although I hence don’t currently have any Italian Christmas classics – such as panettone – at my disposal for blogging, I do have a very worthy substitute recipe with fittingly Christmassy flavours. The recipe is also related to stars – even though in this case they are Michelin (and TV) ones.

It orignates from another Italian cookbook “Via Emilia, via da casa” I recently bought. It is authored by an Italian celebrity chef called Bruno Barbieri. His restaurants earlier earned seven Michelin stars in total. More recently he has been starring in many TV cooking shows (such as MasterChef Italia).

Many of Bruno’s recipes in the book look fabulous but unfortunately many of them are also too challenging to test in Helsinki due to their very special ingredients. However, this dessert was a fantastic exception with the Christmassy twist as I mentioned. There are quite a few flavours in it but they work superbly together!

So I suppose all the remains to be written this time (accompanied by a solid intention to investigate different Italian traditions for New Year next week…) is:

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you all!

Spiced Dark Chocolate with Blackberry Ice Cream And Ginger

Serves 4

For the chocolate:

100 g dark chocolate

1 tbsp sugar

100 ml milk

100 ml cream

1 small dried red chilli

1 cinnamon stick

2 cloves

2 seeds of cardamom

fresh ginger

For the ice cream:

ice cream (home made or not)

2 punnets of blackberries

1 glass of sweet Lambrusco wine

2 tbsp sugar

zest of one orange

For the chocolate: In a kettle, gently heat the milk without boiling it and add the sugar and all the spices. Mix and remove the kettle from the heat. Leave to infuse for 3-4 hours. After that, filter the spiced milk through a strainer. Move the milk back to the kettle with the cream. Heat well, then switch off the heat and add the crumbled chocolate. Remove the kettle from the heat and stir well until the chocolate has melted into the mixture. Cool the sauce down in the room temperature.

For the ice cream: Rinse and clean the blackberries. Move them to a pan with the Lambrusco wine, sugar and orange zest and cook for 7-8 minutes. Filter the sauce and let it cool down. Combine the sauce with the ice cream.

Presentation: Spoon some chocolate sauce into a glass. Add a scoop of the blackberry ice cream on top and sprinkle with grated fresh ginger.

Greatly Recommended – Ravioli di Zucca

There was a bit of a milestone in my path of food-blogging some weeks ago: I got a recommendation for a recipe for my blog! Coming from a reliable source of a fellow foodie, I was eager to give it a try. My friend also helped me prepare the dish which was certainly a bonus – especially considering that making fresh ravioli does have quite a few similarities with baking. And yes, all the ravioli in the picture were made by her. The ones I put together were of a shape that could be politely described as “creative” or “interesting” (along with “unphotogenic”).

Despite being previously unknown to us, ravioli (or tortelli) di zucca is apparently again one of those very traditional and famous recipes in Italy. We weren’t exactly right in season with our timing of cooking it since it is in fact also a typical dish to be made on Christmas Eve… However, since we aren’t Italians, we just simply enjoyed a lovely dinner without feeling any urge to belt out a couple of verses of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer!

There is one nice twist about this recipe: it includes biscuits! The recipe I found recommended that you use amaretti biscuits which I managed to also find in Helsinki. They had quite a distinct almondy flavour although they do not necessarily include any almonds but only apricot kernels. My friend’s recipe on the other hand utilized the cantuccini biscuits. Apparently both work really well with the pumpkin. In addition, the union of sage, butter and parmesan to top the ravioli is just superb!

Pumpkin Ravioli

Serves 6

400 g flour (preferably “00” or durum wheat)

4 eggs

600 g pumpkin/ butternut squash (incl. shell, 400 g without it)

100 g parmesan, grated

40 g amaretti biscuits (or cantuccini)

bread crumbs (if needed)

nutmeg

salt, pepper

40 g butter

6-8 leaves of sage

Clean the pumpkin and cut it into slices. Remove the seeds. Place them on a parchment paper on an oven tray and cover with some tinfoil. Cook the pumpkin slices in the oven at 200C for 25-30 minutes until soft. Let them cool down.

In the mean time, prepare the pasta dough. Place the flour on a board or in a bowl. Crack the eggs into the centre of your flour. Add a pinch of salt and start kneading the dough. Add a little bit of water if needed. Continue until you have obtained a smooth and homogenous dough. Roll the dough out with a pasta machine or a rolling pin. The dough should be fairly thin to be ready for the ravioli (you can check out e.g. Jamie’s tips on how to roll the dough well if you are unsure what to do!).

To make the stuffing, mix the amaretti biscuits, parmesan, salt, pepper and nutmeg in a blend. Peel the pumpkin slices, add to the mixture and blend well. If the stuffing seems too moist, you can add some bread crumbs to it.

Cut rectangle or round shapes of your pasta dough with a glass or some type of a rolling cutter (mine was a pizza cutter!). Add a little bit of the stuffing in the middle (do not exaggerate to be able to close the ravioli properly) of a dough slice. You can brush the edges of the pasta lightly with water. Place another dough slice on top and carefully seal the edges (my friend used a fork quite successfully for this purpose). Alternatively, you can roll out two big sheets of the pasta dough, add bits of stuffing within equal distances of each other on one sheet and then place the other sheet on top, and only after that cut the ravioli into shapes and seal their edges.

Cook the ravioli in salted boiling water for 3-5 minutes (usually they are ready when they start floating on the water). Make the butter sauce by melting the butter and adding the sage. Serve the ravioli with the sauce and freshly grated parmesan.