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When looking for a quick but elaborate and unexpected first dish or even a main course, you don’t have to spend hours at the stove. Most Italian pasta dishes are prepared within twenty minutes with available ingredients in season. Pasta is almost always served as a first dish in Italy (primo piatto).
I like to serve pasta as a primo piatto because it is easy to make and most of the time you can pre-prepare the ingredients even if you are making the pasta fresh. Although you don’t often find foie gras on the menu in Italy, this dish is elegant and compliments meats that might follow. The rosemary gives it a smoky flavor and the richness of the foie gras makes this dish that special event star of the meal.
It can be served with red of white wine as the flavors are strong enough for either or if you really want to impress your guests serve it with a glass of Champagne.
Time: 20 minutes
3 baby artichokes, cleaned and sliced thinly
3 1/2 oz foie gras cut in medium size chunks
1/2 lb of spaghetti, boxed or freshly made
1/4 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped
2 sprigs fresh basil, roughly chopped
1 medium size clove garlic, chopped
10 oz celery, thinly sliced
1/2 shallot, finely chopped
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 pat unsalted butter
Freshly ground pepper
Salt to taste
Remove the leaves from the artichokes until you come to the white leaves. Cut them in half, if they are baby artichokes they won’t have any hay in the middle, but if they do, remove it. Slice them thinly.
Sauté the shallots, celery and garlic for a few minutes in the olive oil. Add the sliced artichokes, wine and chicken stock and cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add salt and taste.
In another pan, sauté the foie gras and rosemary in the butter for 1 minute and set aside.
Boil the water for the pasta; salt when it come to a boil, add the pasta and cook until al dente.
Sprinkle the basil over the top and lightly toss the ingredients well. You don’t want to over cook the foes grass, keep it on the heat just long enough to mix the ingredients.
Plate the pasta and grind black pepper over the and then enjoy the rich flavors you are about to experience.
You hardly feel like cooking on hot summer days and yet fish and shellfish seem so perfect for light summer meals. They are also very easy and fast to prepare. I have a husband who just didn’t like fish but would eat shellfish. I solved this problem by taking him to a cooking class in Italy where just about all the dishes we prepared were fish. There were 4 chefs from a 5 star restaurant and just the two of us. I didn’t expect this, as it was a class at a hotel that we had gone to many times and advertised as a class for a maximum of 6 people. Seems we signed up for the first class of the season that started the beginning of June. Along the Adriatic, this is not high season and we were the only ones to register. The chefs wanted to do the class in any case, probably to test it out, how lucky was that!
I wondered how my husband was going to deal with eating the meals we prepared, as he really hated fish. My husband is a diabetic and it was important for him to change his diet that consisted mostly of meat. This class was the cure and he totally enjoyed every dish we prepared. He still eats meat, but today we have fish at least two or three times a week. The message is that if there is something you don’t like, it is worthwhile to learn how to prepare it. Many times you can find recipes that you never knew existed and will satisfy your taste.
The following is an easy recipe that is great as it includes greens, shellfish and pasta, what is there not to like!
Strozzapreti con rucola, patate e cozze
Chef Franco, Vieste (Foggia), Italy
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Yield: 4 Servings
1 lb. strozzapreti, cavatelli or pasta of your choice
1 bunch arugula (rucola in Italian)
1/4 lb. of potatoes
1 lb. of mussels
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
Wash the mussels thoroughly and let them soak for about 1/2 hour in cold water, changing the water a few times. Remove the beard that is between the shells. Steam them in a small amount of boiling salted water. This will take 3-6 minutes; discard any that have not opened. Strain out all the liquid and reserve it for the sauce. Remove most of the mussels from their shells, keeping about 5 per person for garnish.
Peel and cut the potatoes into small squares, par boil them in salted water. Set them aside.
In a skillet, sauté the oil and onions until they become slightly translucent. Add the garlic and pepperoncino and cook a few more minutes. Add the reserved mussel liquid and boil it down to about half. Add the cubed potatoes.
In a large saucepan, cook the strozzapreti in salted boiling water. Three minutes before the strozzapreti is cooked add the arugula in with the strozzapreti and cook until the strozzapreti are al dente. Drain them and toss them into the skillet blending them until they are completely covered with the sauce.