Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Risotto - a classic dish. Today Risotto with Green Asparagus

Welcome back to the Mama Isa's Cooking School and to her blog!

We talk about one of the classic dishes of the Italian culinary landscape, an irresistible treat for all those who love tasty and healthy food. Risotto plays a role as pasta in Italian kitchens, and it is considered a PRIMO PIATTO.

The Italian Risotto was born in Milan in 1574, when its great gothic Cathedral (Il Duomo) was under construction. The Flemish glassmaker master – Valerio from Perfundavalle – worked on the stained-glass windows of the Duomo, and he used to add saffron to enhance his paint pigments and when mixing his colors. In 1574 the apprentice Zafferano (Saffron) married the Valerio's daughter and held the wedding banquet in the coiser behind the Duomo's apse. As a joke the groom's friends added saffron to a pot of rice. The wedding guests relished the saffron riso, and “risotto allo zafferano” quickly grew popular throughout Milan and Lombardia and Italy.

 Undoubtedly, despite the fact that Italy is not among the oldest and the largest producers of rice in the world, the Italians have created many variations of risotto recipes known all over the world. As a matter of fact, the recipe is a masterpiece and cooking risotto needs patience. For Mama Isa is very relaxing!

At Mama Isa Cooking Classes you will learn that using the starch naturally contained in rice (Mama Isa uses or Vialone Nano or Carnaroli or Arborio rice).

 All risotto is prepared the same way: where rice is coated in the “soffritto” in unsalted butter or evoo, then hot stock – which has been simmering on the gas stove – is added to it, a ladle at a time and the risotto is stirred over a low heat (please add stock only when all the liquid has been absorbed).
The method continues till the rice is tender and creamy, but still retains a bite, approximately 20 minutes.
 The final touch and the most important technique for making a creamy risotto is called in Italy “mantecatura”, which means add a dash of butter or evoo, (when necessary Parmigiano reggiano cheese) off the heat, and cover for a couple of minutes. This makes the risotto really creamy!

The result is a harmonious, creamy, elegant and exquisite dish that has little in common with the simple rice, often boiled, used in many cultures around the globe. The cooking process itself is quite elaborate. It starts with a soffritto, then the toasting of the rice that allows the grains to become translucent and release an intense fragrance. Once that’s done, liquids enter the scene, added gradually so that the grains can absorb them. The final touch is called mantecatura – i.e. the introduction of fat combined with vapour that invites the flavours to blend. Types ot Risotto

During the hot summer, risotto can absorb the perfume of the sun, with the help of plum tomatoes from Sicily. In the autumn days, the smell of wild porcini mushrooms will fill the palate of aromas. During the winter, a risotto strictly served hot, with bitter radicchio trevigiano and a Parmigiano reggiano cheese. With the arrival of spring, here is the risotto with the flavour of green asparagus.

Mistake to avoid
If you wash the rice you remove the starch which is indispensible for a creamy risotto.

 Mama Isa's Risotto with Green Asparagus 

INGREDIENTS (for 6 servings)
1 kg of fresh green asparagus
Enough Basic Homemade Asparagus Broth (in a pan that can accommodate all the asparagus lying flat. Put in enough water – min. 1 ½ lt, and 2 tablespoons salt. Turn on the heat to medium high and when the water boils, slip in the asparagus and cover the pan. Cook for 5 minutes after the water returns to a boil, depending on the freshness and thickness of the stalks. Drain the asparagus when tender, but still firm, without discarding their water. Set aside to cool. The broth is ready to make the risotto)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 shallot chopped very fine
1 glass of good white wine (not cooking wine!!!)
2 cups Vialone Nano or Arborio or Carnaroli rice
black pepper, ground fresh from the mill
Parmigiano reggiano cheese, freshly grated (12 tablespoons)
a little bit of extra virgin olive oil, cold press

Cut off 2 cm or more from the butt end of the green asparagus spears to expose the moist part of each stalk, then pare the asparagus and wash it. When the green asparagus is cool enough to handle, cut off the tips of the spears about 3-4 cm from the top and set aside, and cut the rest of the spears into ½ cm pieces, discarding any portion of the bottoms that seems particularly tough hard.

Bring the broth to a very slow simmer on a burner near where you’ll be cooking the risotto.
Put 3 tablespoon of unsalted butter, and the chopped shallot in a risotto pot, turn on the heat to medium high, and cook the shallot, stirring, until it becomes translucent.
Add the cut-up asparagus stalks (but not the spear tips).

Add the wine and let it evaporate. Then cook, stirring constantly with a risotto spoon (with a large hole in the middle to enable you to stir rice constantly without breaking any grains), wiping the sides and bottom of the risotto pot clean as you stir, until all the broth is gone.
You must never stop stirring and you must be sure to wipe the bottom of the risotto pot clean frequently, or the rice will stick to it.
When there is no more broth in the risotto pot, add another half cup, continuing always to stir it. Cook the rice until it is tender, but firm to the bite, with barely enough broth remaining to make the consistency somewhat runny.
Off heat, add the reserved asparagus tips, a few grindings of fresh black pepper, the remainings tablespoons of unsalted butter, and all the grated Parmigiano reggiano, and stir thoroughly until the cheese melts and clings to the rice.
Taste and correct for salt if necessary. Transfer to a platter,add a little bit of extra virgin olive oil, and serve hot!
The art of risotto making at Mama Isa's Cooking School - Risotto with green asparagus

Buon Appetito!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Bartolomeo Scappi | The art of Pasta making during the Renaissance - by Mama Isa

Bartolomeo Scappi | The art of Pasta making during the Renaissance - by Mama Isa

Bartolomeo Scappi (1500- 1577) was a Renaissance Italian author and a master cook for three cardinals and two popes.

He acquired fame in 1570 when his monumental cookbook "Opera dell'arte del cucinare" was published in Venice.

This "Opera" is considered the most extensive cookbook of the Renaissance.
Bartolomeo Scappi "Opera dell'arte del cucinare" (1570)

It's a legend that Marco Polo (1254 - 1324) - the famous  Venetian merchant and adventurer, who traveled from Europe to Asia - has imported from China the art of pasta making.
In fact fresh pasta was already known. The pasta making dated from Roman Times.

Today I want to write a post about Bartolomeo Scappi and the art of fresh pasta making.

He wrote how to make fresh egg pasta dough and how to use the special rolling pin (in old Italian "bastone") to roll the pasta, and  how to cut the pasta "tagliatelle" with a long knife.
Bartolomeo Scappi - How to make fresh egg pasta dough Tagliatelle

English Translation:
To prepare Fresh Egg Pasta and "Tagliatelle".
Work two pounds of wheat flour, three eggs and warm water into a pasta dough, kneading it very well on a table for a quarter of an hour.
Roll it out thin with a rolling-pin ("bastone") and let the pasta sheet ("sfloglio") of dough dry a little, with a pasta cutter ("sperone") away the irregular parts, the fringes.
When pasta sheet has dried, though not too much because it would break up, sprinkle it with wheat flour through the flour-sifter so it will not stick.
Then take the pasta rolling pin ("bastone della pasta") and, beginning at one end, wrap the whole pasta sheet loosely onto the rolling pin, draw the rolling pin out and cut the rolled-up pasta dough crosswise with a broad, thin knife.
When they ("tagliatelli") are cut, broaden them.
Let them dry out a little and, when they are dry, filter off the excess wheat flour through a sieve.

Bartolomeo Scappi - How to roll fresh egg pasta

I am a cooking class instructor and an historian. Today I share with other people the art of pasta making (as Bartolomeo Scappi taught) and I teach how to make fresh pasta by hand during my pasta workshop!
Pasta Workshop at Mama Isa's Cooking School in Italy near Venice
The art of pasta making | Mama Isa's Cooking School in Italy near Venice

I offer pasta workshop to learn the old art of pasta making! Here is the link about my cooking school:

Monday, November 30, 2015

Cacio e Pepe Sauce - Recipe by Mama Isa

Cacio e Pepe Sauce - Recipe by Mama Isa

This is the simplest and one of the tastiest pasta dishes in the Roman repertoire, served at home. “Cacio e Pepe” means “with cheese and pepper.” 

INGREDIENTS (to serve 6 people)
salt (about 20 g)
400 g fresh pasta tonnarelli or maccheroni alla chitarra (just if you don't have fresh pasta, you can use dried Spaghetti)
about 2 and 1/2 cups freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 heaping tablespoons freshly ground black pepper per person

The trick to making this recipe work is to  a technique called "mantecare", meaning to mix and meld.
Bring at least 4 liters of water to a boil in a large pot and add salt. 
Drop in the pasta, stir. When the water returns to a boil, cook, uncovered, until the pasta is al dente. 
Reserve about ½ cup of the cooking water and drain the pasta.
Return the still-dripping pasta to the pot in which it was boiled. 
Away from any direct source of heat, stir in the reserved pasta water (this water is a very important step in order to get a creamy sauce) and toss vigorously while sprinkling the cheese (about 1 and 1/2 cups) and the pepper: but please if the sauce becomes too watery, add Pecorino Romano cheese; if it becomes too dry, add water.

Serve immediately in pasta bowls with the remaining 1 cup Pecorino Romano cheese on the sid!  Season with lots of freshly ground black pepper.

Buon Appetito!

1- Usually keep in mind that for 100 g of pasta, you should use 10 grs of salt and 1 liter of water, but Pecorino Romano cheese is very salt, therefore Mama Isa's tip is to add half of the amount of salt for boiling pasta....... just 20 g)
2- Please gradually add Pecorino Romano cheese and water tossing vigorously until you get a creamy consistency.

Fresh Pasta Workshop - Cooking Classes in Italy about the art of pasta making Tonnarelli
The art of fresh pasta making at Mama Isa Cooking School in Italy - Tonnarelli

Cacio e Pepe Sauce at Mama Isa Cooking School | Recipe
Cacio e Pepe Sauce at Mama Isa Cooking School

Friday, November 6, 2015

Prawns in Busara Style - Recipe by Mama Isa

Prawns in Busara Style - Recipe by Mama Isa

Prawns in Busara's style Buzara or Busara (in Venice) is not originally from Venice itself, but from Istria. During the Middle Age Venice gradually dominated Istria (until 1797). The different food of the Istrian tradition have been influenced by the Venetian Dominion. Of course in Venice we have adopted many Istrian recipes. But this is a recipe that takes me back to when my mother Paola used to make this for me and my family a lot. She passed away many years ago, but she lives in my heart every day. Paola has shared with me this old family recipe. Now I want to share it with you! In Venice this dish is made traditionally with scampi, langoustine, but large prawns work very well. Prawns are gently simmered in wine, tomatoes, garlic and herbs,finished with breadcrumbs. This dish is a perfect “secondo piatto”, but it makes a great appetizer or a light meal when served with salad and toasted bread, and of course a good wine!!!!! 

INGREDIENTS ( serve 4 people) 
4-5 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil 
1/2 yellow onion, minced 
16 large prawns, raw and without the head 
2 garlic cloves, minced 
1 tablespoon of dry bread crumbs 
1-2 tablespoons of tomato paste 
1 glass of white wine (good white wine, not cooking wine) 
1 glass of fish stock 
Fresh Italian Parsley, finely chopped 
Black Pepper, freshly grounded 
salt to taste 

Heat the evoo in a large pan. Add the onion and cook until translucent, then add the garlic and cook for a few minutes. Add the tomato paste and solve it. 
Then add the white wine and let it evaporate. After add fish stock (hot) and seasoning with salt. Let it reduce over medium heat. Place the prawns and cook both sides until the prawns turn pink, about 2-3 minutes. Add the bread crumbs and mix. 
Cook another minute, then sprinkle with fresh Italian parsley, chopped. Sprinkle black pepper and more extra virgin olive oil. 

Serve immediately. 

Buon Appetito!

TIP: Choose the best fresh prawns. They should smell fresh and clean, not fishy, and should look moist.

Red Prawns | Mama Isa Cooking Classes near Venice Italy
Red Prawns | Mama Isa Cooking School

Prawns in Busara Style | Mama Isa Cooking Classes in Venice area Italy

Monday, October 26, 2015

Classic Minestrone - Recipe by Mama Isa

Classic Minestrone - Recipe by Mama Isa

Surprise someone special with one of Mama Isa's favorite soup!!!

Classic Minestrone: one of the most traditional vegetable and lovely soup in Italy. Minestrone means "big soup". Minestrone is a thick vegetable soup, delicious in winter.
Minestrone varies widely across Italy and in every region you can find a different recipe. Here is Classic Minestrone in Mama Isa's style.

2 Potatoes
2 Carrots
1 yellow Onion
100 g of Cauliflower, but only the flowers
2 stalk of Celery
40 g of Peas
100 g of Spinach leaves
100 g of Zucchini
100 g of Borlotti Beans
100 g of Broccoli, but only the flowers
50 g of Green or Red Cabbage
100 g of Tomatoes
50 g of Zucca (Marina Chioggia Squash)
Vegetable stock (1 liter or more)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
Salt to taste
Black Pepper to taste
Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, freshly grated
Classic Minestrone at Mama Isa's Cooking Classes in Venice Italy

Chop onion, carrots and stalk of celery. Cut potatoes, zucchini, Marina Chioggia squash, tomatoes in small cubes. Separate cauliflower and broccoli flowers from the stem and cut in small pieces. Cut green or red cabbage. In a large pot heat EVOO and add stalk of celery, carrots and onions (soffritto) without browning. Let them cook till the soffritto becames translucent. Classic Minestrone Soup in Mama Isa's Style
Add 1 liter or more of vegetable stock.
Add potatoes, zucchini, cauliflower, broccoli, tomatoes, squash, green cabbage - but not spinach and peas. Cook on low temperature about 30 min. If you see that the minestrone is too dense, add more vegetable stock.
After 30 min. add spinach, borlotti beans and peas and cook again for 10 min. Add salt and black pepper to taste.
Serve warm and sprinkle with EVOO and grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

Buon Appetito!

TIP: Minestrone can also be made in advance and served for parties. 

Classic Minestrone

Classic Minestrone - Recipe by Mama Isa
Classic Minestrone - Recipe by Mama Isa