Spaghetti Alla Carrettiera

Sauce Carrettiera, is in short, a miracle sauce. Contrary to popular beliefs about spaghetti sauce, this sauce takes almost no time to simmer and is ready to go by the time your pasta has finished cooking. It is quick, and spicy, and satisfying- the perfect meal for college students doing some late night studying or for parents who need a quick bite before dropping the kids off at soccer practice. In fact, it is the go-to meal for university students in Italy- it’s pretty inexpensive too!

 

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This sauce’s miraculous powers come from two key ingredients: the fresh Parmesan cheese and the red pepper flakes.

 

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The marriage of these two ingredients is celebrated so perfectly in this dish that I cannot imagine eating Carrettiera sauce without the cheese. It would be like peanut butter with no jelly; an ice cream sundae with no whipped cream. The heat of the red pepper is both mellowed and complemented by the Parmesan; it helps bring out the ‘umami’ flavor of the cheese.

 

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So, next time you’re in a hurry, or just don’t feel like spending a lot of time cooking, try Carrettierra. The heat and immediate satisfaction will have your feeling as macho and spicy-hot as the muscular cart-pullers this sauce was named after- (Carrettiera originates from the Italian word for ‘cart-pullers’ and refers to the large, muscular, ‘macho’ men who spent all day doing this hard work and who came home to eat this spicy sauce for dinner).

 

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Spaghetti alla Carrettiera

From: Chrissy Esposito

Ingredients:

  • 26-28 oz strained peeled tomatoes (like the Pomi brand) or canned, peeled tomatoes that have been blended until smooth (either with a food processor, blender, or immersion blender)
  • ¼ cup good olive oil (it is okay to use good olive oil here because the sauce never goes beyond a mild simmer)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Red pepper flakes- to taste (1/2 tea-1 tea)
  • 1 pound spaghetti or thin spaghetti
  • 4-5 oz chunk of Parmeggiano Reggiano, freshly grated

Directions:

  1. Put the water onto boil and while boiling simmer the garlic together with the red pepper flakes in a small sauce pot over medium-low to low heat.
  2. Simmer the garlic and pepper flakes for a few minutes, being careful not to burn the garlic (you want the garlic to cook for a few minutes, until it “releases its scent” and is no longer bitter).
  3. Add the tomatoes and a pinch of salt. You don’t want to over-do the salt because the Parmesan is naturally salty, you will want a lot of Parmesan on your pasta! Let sauce continue to gently simmer until the pasta is done.
  4. Throw the pasta in when the water boils and when the pasta is done, the sauce is done! Drain the pasta, mix together, and serve with a ton of fresh Parmesan cheese.

German Apple Pancakes

These apple pancakes are my favorite Sunday morning breakfast. They look beautiful and have a sort of special occasion air about them. The flavor of the apples and walnuts really shine through and juxtapose the texture of the egg batter that surrounds them.

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They are delightfully different from everyday pancakes and perfect for a pampered Spring morning. So, thanks to Uncle Steve (who first taught me how to make them!)  I have the perfect breakfast in bed meal for my mom on Mother’s day. Pair them with a cappuccino, vase of fresh flowers and a hug to let mom know how much you love her.

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German Apple Pancakes

From: Chrissy Esposito

Ingredients:

  • 2 apples (pick firm, sweet apples that are a little tart like Honey Crisp, Braeburn, Pink Lady, Gala and Empire)
  • 1/3 cup chopped walnuts
  • 4 Tbs butter
  • ½ tea cinnamon
  • 2 Tbs sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • ¼ tea kosher or sea salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup milk

Directions:

  1. First, prepare the apple filling. Peel and dice the apples and place in a small pan with 2 tablespoons of butter. Add 1 tablespoon sugar and ½ tea cinnamon. Sautee on medium heat for about 10 minutes (the apples will begin to soften and will develop a sort of cinnamon/sugar syrup)
  2. While the apples are softening, sift together the flour, salt, and remaining tablespoon of sugar.
  3. Add the eggs and milk into the flour mixture, being careful not to over mix (a few lumps are okay).
  4. When the apples are done stir in the walnuts and take off the heat.
  5. Grease two 9 inch cake spans (spring-form pans are ideal) by putting one tablespoon of butter in each pan and placing the pans in the oven for a few minutes until the butter melts. Swirl the butter around so it covers the entire bottom of the pan and goes up the sides of the pan too.
  6. Pour the flour and egg batter into the pan. Spoon on the apples and walnuts so they are evenly dispersed.
  7. Bake for about 25 minutes at 425°until the edges start to become golden brown and curl up. The eggs will fluff and rise in the process.
  8. Now, this part is a bit tricky. If you used the spring-form pans, release the spring and with a spatula transfer the pancakes to a place. If you used a normal pan, trace the edges of the pancake with a knife before transferring it to a plate.
  9. Top with powdered sugar and enjoy!

The Best Way to Wake Up

I wrote about how I earned my first tip by making this breakfast in my blog last week. What I did not say though, was that this breakfast actually came out of desperation — our car battery had been dead for a week, and of course grocery trips were suspended indefinitely.

 

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Saturday morning, I woke up to an empty fridge. Well, not entirely empty. There was still a couple eggs left, and that was it. I turned to the freezer, and was so happy to dig out a package of thick-cut bacon and a bag of hash browns. Yay!

 

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I was too hungry to defrost the bacon in the fridge (didn’t even have the patience to use the cold-water method). I popped the entire package in to the microwave and waited, impatiently, for a whole two minutes. As soon as the bacon is separable, I threw three slices in a pan over medium-high heat. Soon enough they started sizzling, and the kitchen was filled with a wonderful aroma. Hmm, who needs coffee to wake up?

 

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The beauty of cooking bacon in the morning is that you get a lot of tasty bacon fat to cook with, which was what I used to transform the frozen hash browns into a tasty side. Even better, crack an egg into bacon fat and your sunny-side-up will be just as good as it can get.

 

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I could hardly wait to put everything on a plate and have a bite. Instant gratification! I learned something here: desperation can be the best inspiration sometimes, and that simple food can (and often does) taste great. Now I just wish a fairy would make this breakfast so I could wake up to it every single day!

 

 

 

 

 

Thick Cut Bacon, Parsley Hash Brown, and a Sunny-Side Up Egg

From: Danti Chen

Ingredients:

  • 3 slices thick cut bacon
  • 1 cup thinly sliced potato sticks (or frozen hash browns)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp chopped parsley
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp crushed pepper
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Heat up a pan on high, and fry up 3 slices of bacon. Reduce the heat to medium and cook on each side for about 7 minutes.
  2. Take about a table spoon of bacon fat, and put it in another pan on high heat. Throw in a cup of thinly sliced potato.
  3. Add the garlic powder and crushed pepper to the potato. Sprinkle some salt and pepper on top. Add the chopped parsley.
  4. In a separate pan, add about 1 teaspoon bacon fat, heat it up till sizzling.
  5. Reduce the heat to medium-low and crack an extra large egg into the pan. Crack some pepper and add a pinch of salt on top. Cover, and turn off the heat. Let it sit while the potato and bacon finishes cooking, for about (15 & 14 minutes total). The egg should cook for no more than 6 minutes total with the heat off.

Law, Leaves and Baklava

Every semester I promise myself that this is the semester I’m going to take it easy and every semester I don’t do that even a little. This semester, for example, I was supposed to accomodate 35 work hours a week by taking easy classes, but that was before I showed up to day 1 of the most amazing and demanding classes I’ve ever taken in my life. The unexpected final addition to the schedule was a positively life changing class on Shari’a, Islamic law. I decided to indulge my inner nerd, and last night I ended up making baklava at 1:30 in the morning.

 

 

Walnut-Honey Baklava | The Road Home

 

 

While it might be ever so totally true that this wasn’t even kind of a class assignment, we WERE assigned a mock divorce court last week (complete with costumes and props) as an in-class exercise and – what do you know? –the mock plaintiff just so happened to own a baklava company! Unfortunately we were representing her mock husband and bringing in baklava for the other side was too time consuming to be justified. But I didn’t have homework last night and so for class tomorrow I will be setting the mood in style.

 

 

Walnut-Honey Baklava | The Road Home

 

 

Besides, baklava is secretly a perfect fall food. With walnuts, honey, cinnamon and thin sheets of phyllo that could easily represent falling leaves, you could not possibly get more seasonally appropriate. I can’t lie, phyllo is a pain in everyone’s butt to work with, but I can promise the results will be well worth it. I may or may have nibbled on a store bought substitute while I waited for this to be ready and I can assure you, there’s truly nothing like homemade.

 

 

Walnut-Honey Baklava | The Road Home

 

 

Do you have any unexpected fall recipes? Or stories of classwork-turned-recipe? Let me know in the comments below!

Sixteen Layers / Sixteen Candles

I try my hardest to be the perfect big sister to Isabella and Francesca, but every so often, despite my best efforts, I will do something that violates the sister equivalent of the Bro Code, like leaving for Ireland at exactly the time we were going to celebrate Isabella’s sweet sixteen. So I knew that when we ultimately did celebrate her birthday in June (only 6 months late) I owed her big time. I would have loved to surprise her with, oh I don’t know, a car or diamond earrings or something, but by the time I returned I had completely run out of money (because otherwise all those things would have been completely reasonable).

 

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I decided that since I couldn’t give her anything from my bank account, I was going to have to give her something from my heart (awwww). And truth be told, all I’m really good for is baking anyway, so I turned to Pinterest because the strangers there are really good at helping with these things. With a little poking I happened across Bakerella’s brilliant 14 layer cake, and it wasn’t long before I put 14 and 2 together. The only way to show 16 years worth of sisterly love was with a 16 layer cake.

 

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16 aluminum baking tins and a number of hours later, the cake was assembled in all its finery. I adapted a white cake recipe that we once used to make a cake that would have been amazing if it weren’t for a coconut catastrophe (more on that later?), and I filled the layers with chocolate ganache. While I’m a big fan of the stack-of-pancakes look, I used Bakerella’s Chocolate Buttercream to create a surprise effect. Sixteen golden candles adorned the top, and this really tacky blinking “16” pin that I got at Party City adorned Isabella. Look at that pretty girl – if she’s wishing that I bought her something instead, she’s sure not showing it 😉

 

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You’ll find the recipe below – it’s easy, just a bit time consuming, but worth it for someone you love (as long as they’re not too old). Do you have any fun birthday traditions? Share them with us below! And let us know if you decide to try it out!

 

 

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Also, Happy Birthday Bella (kind of).

The Better Way to Eat French Toast

Francesca just had surgery yesterday and while it was a pretty low-key procedure, she was supposed to be out of commission for about a week. We had grand plans to lift her spirits and nurse her back to health, so it was a bit unsettling to find her running around the house this morning and having her drag *me* out of bed this morning. She appears to be the healthiest person in the house right now. That said, we had already promised her a special breakfast this morning so even though she’s doing a terrible job proving she deserves it, we’re committed to french toast and bacon, at least for brunch (oh how we suffer).

 

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Right before my birthday this past spring, I spent a beautiful weekend in Dingle, Ireland also pretending I needed to get well. I was thoroughly fake-stressed, and wanted a weekend of complete relaxation to welcome my 22nd year in style so, when the impending time came, I’d be ready to face the real world head-on. I spent the weekend biking, listening to traditional Irish music, and chatting with strangers in cozy pubs, but a large portion of the credit for the weekend’s “healing” powers goes to the Goat Street Café’s French Toast with Brie and Maple syrup. I swear that no combination of flavors has ever sung so beautifully and harmoniously together – they resonate through your heart like music from a particularly good traditional music session, and with similarly strong healing powers (as long as you don’t have an actual illness). You would never think to put these musicians together, but boy can they play. So to celebrate the art of pretending to get well, we’re putting an East Coast spin with Challah French Toast with Brie and Maple Syrup – and we’re adding a trad playlist to play while you eat. Whether you’re recovering from the Tired Tuesdays or post-sleep hunger, I assure you this is just the cure you need.

 

French Toast with Brie and Maple Syrup – The best french toast I've ever had (on The Road Home)

 

And we want to know – what makes you feel better when you’re pretending to be sick? Or do you have any fun spins on traditional breakfast foods? We want to hear all about it!

 

From the Fridge: Spanish Quesadillas

I grew up in a family where virtually nothing was wasted. My mother would save the tiniest sliver of Breyers ice cream that used to come in a square container, and sometimes, oh my God, we’d even take leftovers to amusement parks. I of course wanted those horrible hot dogs rolling around on those metal tubes all day. I often think how almost criminal it is that we have three refrigerators in our house that are so stuffed with food we can’t even see what’s growing in the back of each of them. Yes, I teach cooking classes so there’s always a lot of ingredients needed for classes and testing recipes, but it’s still no excuse for wasting precious food.

 

Spanish-Inspired Quesadillas, featuring Smoke Prosciutto and Iberico Cheese | The Road Home

 

I decided that instead of dreading the monthly clean-out of moldy bits and pieces and the slimy gook from spilled jars, I should stage our own version of Chopped, where contestants are given a handful of secret ingredients and they have to come up with some brilliant dish. The difference of course is that I won’t try to make a four star dinner out of cheese doodles, octopus, gelatin and some sort of spiky fruit. I’m challenging myself to search the freezers and fridges each week for several ingredients and to figure out a dish in one hour. This kind of self imposed contest forces you to use a variety of skills – it could be searing, braising, frying or roasting, or whatever – in new ways and to really work the spices you have on hand.

 

Spanish-Inspired Quesadillas, featuring Smoke Prosciutto and Iberico Cheese | The Road Home

 

Okay I admit, this first week I had a head start. I just finished doing a week of cooking demos on back to school healthy snacks and lunch options on Fox News (link to avocado video) and had great lime jalapeno guacamole left over. I had also had a huge package of 12 inch tortillas from making low fat baked tortilla chips on air. Quesadillas anyone? So I searched the fridge and found perfectly ripe yellow heirloom tomatoes, Iberico cheese and smoked prosciutto (similar enough to Iberico ham). Perfect ingredients to make a Spanish-ish Quesadilla. Here’s the recipe:

 

Spanish-Inspired Quesadillas, featuring Smoke Prosciutto and Iberico Cheese | The Road Home

 

Spanish-Inspired Quesadillas, featuring Smoke Prosciutto and Iberico Cheese | The Road Home

 

Apples and Bananas

The first time I saw a trailer for Despicable Me I thought it looked like the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen. But when I accidentally saw it in the lobby of a Courtyard Marriott two summers ago and found out it was actually a heartwarming film about family and bananas, my life was changed forever, though not quite so much as when I found out the current batch of Chiquita Banana fruit stickers had minions on them. There was only one in our whole bunch, but I immediately took it off and stuck it on my computer. I knew somehow I had to catch ’em all, and that I was going to make that happen no matter how crazy it made me look.

 

I think the minions are judging me but I don't really care...

 

So did I go through every single banana in the entire display of bananas next time I went to Stop and Shop? Nope! Because my mom did it for me! Two days later she brought home a bag of 15 bananas – meant, to be fair, to develop smoothie recipes – but almost every one with a different minion sticker. I’m ashamed to say I hid them under my desk for about 36 hours, until I could painstakingly apply them to my computer without my sisters trying to steal them. But here’s the finished product – an Apple covered with bananas! They look beautiful, don’t you think?

 

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How about you – have you ever done anything as crazy as this? Comment below and let me know I’m in good company 😉

An Italian Sugar Rush

The last article I posted was all about forgetting about time. It was about leaving that sauce on the stove until it was good and ready. This post, however, is the complete opposite. Making torrone is one of the rare moments where I can be seen moving quickly, almost rushing. It’s such a rare event, that my family doesn’t know what to do with me. They laugh as I buzz around the kitchen, impatient while the sugar is melting and having a mild-panic attack as the hot candy hardens while I cut it, little stands of sugar freezing mid-air.

 
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This kind of torrone is not the typical variety that most people are accustomed to. It is not the white, nougaty candy that comes packaged in a pretty box. For years, I didn’t even know that type existed. All I knew was the dark, honey- colored, almond candy topped with “dottie sprinkles” that my great Aunt Mary made every year for Christmas. Maybe, like me, Aunt Mary got a kick out of the hustle and ‘danger’ of making torrone and that is how it became a family tradition that hasn’t been skipped in what I can imagine is well over 50 years. Torrone di mandorle e miele (as it is formally known) is a sweet adventure in what toasted almonds, honey, and sugar can be capable of doing. An adventure in how three ingredients can transform into cheerful, little bites of holiday bliss and memory.

 
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Almond and Honey Torrone

From: Christina Esposito

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups toasted, slivered almonds
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tbs honey
  • 1 orange
  • Dottie sprinkles (rainbow non-pareils)
  • Greased (buttered) glass/marble/pyrex cutting board (a non-wooden surface that can withstand high temperatures without breaking)
  • A wooden or metal mold

Directions:

  1. Before you begin, make sure that everything is ready to go. Grease your cutting surface and candy mold, get out the dottie sprinkles and orange, and pour your glass of drinking wine (optional). In French, gathering all of your cooking materials and ingredients before you actually start cooking is known as having your “mise en place”. Most of us don’t cook at home with everything carefully thought out and prepared ahead of time, but for torrone, having your mise en place is essential.
  2. Now, put the two cups of sugar in a medium to large sized pot over medium-low heat. Be sure to stir the sugar even at this beginning stage. Keep stirring until the sugar is melted. This might take a little while. First, the sugar will start to clump together. Then, it will darken in color and melt.
  3. When all of the sugar is melted and there aren’t any clumps, add the honey. The honey will make the sugar bubble and fizz a little- this is normal.
  4. Next, take the sugar and honey off the heat and quickly stir in the almonds. This will be a bit messy, but that’s okay. This is also the point where mild chaos might ensue because you need to work quickly from here on out!
  5. Pour the mixture into the greased candy mold. Being VERY careful, use the orange (which acts like a greased spatula) and roll it over the mixture to flatten it out. The candy will be super, super, hot.
  6. Once the mixture is flattened, liberally shake on the sprinkles. Use the orange once again to push the sprinkles into the candy.
  7. Continue to work quickly and carefully and begin to cut the candy into little squares. This must be done with haste because as you will find out, the candy is fast to harden and might even freeze in little strands in mid-air. Also be sure to eat a few pieces while the torrone is still kind of hot. You’ll regret it if you don’t!
  8. Once all the candy is cut and cooled, store in an air-tight container. Torrone lasts for a good three or four weeks so you can enjoy it during the entire holiday season!
  9. Note: cleaning the pot that you melted the sugar in will look impossible and menacing. I promise it isn’t. Just fill the pot back up the water and heat on the stove. The hard sugar and almonds will melt off into the water.

Hubeners Butter-S’s

In Germany it’s an old and absolutely loved tradition to bake Christmas biscuits. There are million different kinds of biscuits. And we love to make them. With friends, with family, with children, … There are families, who bake 10, 15 or 20 different kinds. And every little biscuit gets some chocolate on top of it, or jam or any other decoration. Weihnachtsbäckerei…. That means „Christmas bakery“, but it means so much more: a warm kitchen, the smell of Christmas, children with flour in their faces, a Mum preparing the dough, .. I’m sure, you get the idea.

 

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My uncle, my grandfather, my great-grandfather, my great-great-grandfather, … were bakers. Their name was „Hubener“ and they had a little bakery in a little village. Every year they made Christmas biscuits to sell them (I loved those days, because we children always got a little piece of dough to make our very own biscuits). For generations they made the same ones: Hubeners Butter-S. Today I want to share this old family-recipe with you.

 

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Hubeners Butter-S – German Christmas Biscuits

From: Sophia Hermann

Ingredients:

  • 250 g butter 
  • 250 g sugar 
  • 500 g flour 
  • 1 egg 
  • 1 pinch of baking powder

Directions:

  1. Mix those ingredients till you get a nice dough. 
  2. Then you need something to form the biscuits. We usually use a masticator or a mincer or how ever you might call it. It helps you to get pieces of a line, which you form in a S-shape. That’s just important for the name, but doesn’t really matter. 
  3. Then put them in the pre-heated oven at 200°C (392°F) for about 10 minutes. 
  4. When they are cooled down, dip them in melted dark chocolate. To melt the chocolate, I have one advice: put the chocolate in a bowl and the bowl in hot water. Then it’ll work out fine. 
  5. Enjoy the German „Weihnachtsbäckerei“ and let me know, if you like my family’s butter-S. Merry Christmas!