Monday, 15 August 2016

Lasagna with tomato sauce and aubergines

Light, suitable for all (vegetarians included), and with a wow effect! 
My hubby was delighted by the novelty and so I used this recipe last week-end when I invited my friends for dinner.

Believe it or not, this summer recipe is made with leftovers of my fridge/freezer and I put all of them together to reach a great result.
I do not know if the word lasagna is suitable, as béchamel sauce and Bolognese sauce are completely missing. Anyway it gives the idea of layers of fresh made egg pasta, and that’s enough for me.

What I already had:
Some pasta, cut into squares which were drying as I forgot to put them in an air tight container after freezing. Some ricotta salata, already grated, and some aubergines, cooked in the microwave. I definitely wanted to do something with that food, as throwing food away is a sin in my family.

At the same time, I had very little in my cupboard which could match, a to tell the truth, making a traditional lasagna for just two people in Summer would take too long for me… Did I ever mention that I have no air conditioning in my kitchen? So I decided to add a simple garlic and tomato sauce, with a hint of oregano and basil. (when you buy tomato sauce choose the simpler one with just two ingredients: tomatoes and salt. If you do not find it, just process peeled tomato and its juice to obtain a sauce)

Well if you start from the very beginning it can take a while, but you can make your homemade pasta and freeze it for some other recipe, or make it in advance and freeze it...
The same can be said for the other ingredients: tomato sauce can be prepared in advance and then bottled and sterilised or frozen and aubergines frozen as well after cooking. Each of them can be used in other ways and this is the great way to use your time and eat seasonal vegetables when they are plentiful (and cheap!)
Here is how I made it, step by step.
Please consider that in this case my portion is for a 4 course meal. If it is your dinner, make more, for adults at least.

Ingredients for 4

2 eggs
200 grs flour

2 medium aubergines (I prefer the white ones)
3 table spoons red onion finely sliced and chopped
Coarse sea salt
2 pinches oregano
3 table spoons extra virgin olive oil

500 gr (about) tomato sauce (I use Mutti, which is rather thick and cooks very quickly…)
5 cloves garlic
5 leaves basil
2 pinches oregano
6 table spoons extra virgin olive oil (it depends how large your pan is. It should cover the bottom)

8 spoons grated salted ricotta (the original one. It is white and tastes of salted milk…)

Wash and cut the aubergines into thin slices, let’s say 0.5 cm/ ¼ inch. And then into small stripes (I use scissors).
Put them in a colander with an abundant pinch of coarse salt and let them rest with something heavy on them for at least 1 hour (the longer the better). They will loose their bitter water.

In the meanwhile prepare you pasta following the instructions here, let it rest for half an hour covered by a clean cloth, pin it with the roll and cut into squares 10 cm. / 4 inches. approx. They should be nearly the same size.
You will need three pieces for each portion. (at least).
Set aside and in case freeze the leftovers on a large tray covered with a clean cloth napkin (for an other day). When frozen, close them in an air-tight container.

While you wait to pin your pasta, warm up the oil in a large casserole and cook the garlic until golden brown. Raise the temperature of the oil a little bit and add the tomato sauce, (it will spray around!) a good pinch of oregano and the basil leaves and let cook (gentle bubbling) until it thickens (10-15 minutes), stirring now and then. 
Add salt and take out of fire.

Did your aubergines make the dark water? Drain them well and dry with some paper, cut unto small stripes (I do it with my clean shissors), put them in a microwaveable casserole (the larger the better) add the oregano, the finely chopped onion and the extra virgin olive oil, stirring them well so the aubergines are evenly oily.

Put the casserole in the microwave and cook until very soft. (about 10 minutes).

Ok, now your ingredients are all ready, but before putting them together, you will boil the pasta in abundant salted water and drain it on a tea towel.

Pre-heat your over 180° C / 350 °F.

Prepare your oven proof pan by putting some olive oil on the bottom and begin to layer the pasta, then a spoon of tomato sauce, some cheese and half a spoon of the aubergines.

 Repeat with 2 more layers of pasta, and put just some sauce on top. (make more than one portion if it is your only course).

Cook for about 10 minutes (the pasta on top will get crunchy) and serve immediately with a little bit of extra virgin olive oil on top and some fresh oregano.

Tip: I usually pair it with a red wine, but a strong white could go as well.

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Rustic Tomato sauce (Basecicapo)

"Basecicapo" is the funny name my grand mother gave to this sauce, which is functional to remember the ingredients: the name is composed by the first two letters of each ingredient. It would sound something like baceoncato in English, but it is so difficult to say!!

It a a classic tomato sauce, which my grand mother used to make when the tomatoes were at their peak and aboundant.
Two ways to conserve them, freeze it in air tight containers or put in mason jars/bottles, seal well with new lids and boil the jar in a large pan.
This sauce is very good on whole weat pasta, maccheroni for example and will solve a mid-week dinner, when time is always very tight.
If you have a large pan, make a lot doubling this recipe, the time you need is nearly the same and you can make batches both to eat immediately and to store for a next time.

Suitable for vegetarians.

Ingredients for 6

4/6 large leaves Basil
1 stalk Celery with its leaves
1 Onion
1-2 carrots
8 medium ripe tomatoes
6-8 table spoons extra virgin olive oil or vegetable oil (it depends on how large your pan is)

First of all wash and dry all your vegetables

Make a light cross on top of the tomatoes so to cut just the skin and drop them in a pan of boiling water for one minute or two and drain in a colander. Let them cool down.

Process the vegetables – except for the tomatoes and the basil leaves – in a mixer and pulse until it is evenly cut into very small pieces.

Warm up the oil in a large pan and add the chopped vegetables. Let them cook until very soft (the carrots will become yellow). Stir in now and then to cook it evenly. About 10 minutes.

Peel the tomatoes, cut them into pieces and discard as many seeds as possible.
Add the tomatoes, the basil leaves and a pinch of salt, stir well, cover with a lid and let it cook (medium heat) for about an hour stirring now and then.

The tomatoes should be very soft now, and some vegetation water should be on the bottom. Let it dry and your sauce is ready.

In the meanwhile cook your pasta in a large container full of hot salted water. Let it cook "al dente" (follow the instructions on the packaging) and drain in a colander. 

Now you can serve the sauce  as it is or process it again to make it creamier.
I think that both ways are great and the taste is not affected. Children prefer the second version.

This sauce keeps well in the fridge for about 2 days, but, as you see I choose to store it for winter.
Two simple ways:

Freeze: make batches in air tight containers and freeze (can last 6 months). Do not fill in completely to allow a slight espansion during freezing.

Sterilize : Put the sauce in a perfectly clean dry mason jar, do not fill in completely, seal well with a washed and dried new lid, and put the jar(s) in a large pan filled with water. The pan must be deep enough so that the water will aboundantly cover the lids. Bring the water to the hard boil, boil for at least 20 minutes and let the jars warm down in the water.
Dry them, label them with content and date of production.

Store in a dry cool place. Keeps well for 6 months.