Mangia!*

Having spent my earliest years in Italy, it probably explains why I could eat pasta all day, every day, much to my husband’s often unspoken botheration. In fact, just the other night for my birthday dinner, I asked my dinner date Liz if she would like to try a nearby Italian restaurant. I’m so grateful she said yes because the tortellini in mushroom cream sauce I devoured over the course of two days (I love you, leftovers) was pretty flippin’ delicious. But that just goes to show you that even the one night when I had my choice of any restaurant in this entire city, I chose Italian.

Growing up, I never paid attention to my mother’s Italian cooking (she’s Polish and German and grew up in Wisconsin so Italian food was very exotic to her, I’m sure). I know she learned from Italian friends and neighbors how to make spaghetti carbonara and she can still pull together a couple of homemade sauces (for tortellini and rigatoni), but sadly, whenever she tried to teach me how to make these things myself, I backed off.

That was a big mistake. I am now very thankful for cookbooks.

Over the past couple of years, I have made my own pasta and a meatless ravioli filling, as well as my own tomato-based pasta sauces.  Never did I realize how important nutmeg is to a red sauce, probably because I grew up in Northern Italy where the sauces are cream-based and not tomato-based.  But a few weeks ago we had a large jar of leftover chopped tomatoes just sitting in the fridge but instead of rushing another pizza night on ourselves, I decided to make a sauce out of it for some pasta.

Man, it was tasty. I think Mom would’ve been proud!

homemade pasta sauce

homemade pasta sauce

This is super easy to make, just toss all this stuff together:

Homemade pasta sauce (tomato-based):

  • chopped tomatoes
  • Cajun chicken strips (for the people in your life who love meat and/or spice)
  • red & yellow peppers
  • mushrooms
  • onions
  • garlic
  • oregano
  • basil
  • nutmeg – don’t forget the nutmeg!

I was apparently feeling ambitious that night (and possibly theme-driven?) so I threw together some cannolis, too.

homemade cannoli

Ricotta filling:

  • 15 oz ricotta cheese
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • cinnamon
  • Kahlua
  • mini semi-sweet chocolate chips.

Half of the lot was Kahlua-free, but I must admit the ones with Kahlua tasted much better. If you decide to forgo the Kahlua, use more chocolate chips. The ricotta filling just doesn’t seem to be sweet enough otherwise.

*This word, mangia (eat), was one of the first words I remember learning in Italy. I was probably only 3 years old or so, but Italian women doted on me (props to my cute pigtails and cowgirl boots) and seemed concerned by my tiny frame. Let’s just say I was well fed for the next five years, but I will never appreciate the octopus pizza I was encouraged to eat…

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