Friday, January 19, 2007

Big Names in Italian Cooking

Just as popular songs are remade or "covered" by other musicians, classic recipes have several versions, which have been revised over time to be more conducive to contemporary equipment and home cooks' time constraints. Recently I've made a few such "updated" recipes - risotto, meatballs, and veal Marsala (see below for links to the recipes).

Since I first learned about the method for making risotto, which is endlessly stirring the ingredients over a hot stove, I never thought there could be a short cut (aside from a pre-made packaged mix). While searching for a way to use some leftover goat cheese, I came across a recipe for "Baked Risotto" on, and there's no mention of stirring aside from adding some of the ingredients to a pot on the stove.

Usually when I make risotto I like having it as a one pot meal, so I tend to include vegetables and meat with the arborio rice, garlic, onions and cheese. For this recipe, I omitted the asparagus and added 10 ounces of hot Italian turkey sausage, which is a staple in my standard risotto dish. I squeezed the meat out of the sausage casings and browned it in a pasta pot (I don't have a dutch oven, which the instructions call for, so I had to use a pot and a casserole dish), then proceeded with the recipe. The only other change I made was a splash of white wine, and it only added to the various flavors of the dish.

My resulting meal was better than I could have hoped for, and just different enough from my standard risotto that I will happily cook either one in the future. The tiny amount of nutmeg was a surprising compliment to the spices in the turkey sausage, and using stock with a small amount of wine emphasized but did not overwhelm the other ingredients.

Giada de Laurentiis' veal Marsala is lighter and simpler than some versions I've seen, which is what originally attracted me to it. It's an elegant meal without overexerting oneself in the kitchen. My only problem with the recipe was my fault, because I forgot to get mushrooms, and I know they would have contributed texture and absorbed all of the earthy aromas from the different ingredients. I don't normally eat veal, so I'll probably try again with chicken, but I was pleased with my efforts.

Meatballs and pasta in tomato sauce are one of the ultimate comfort foods, and my mom always used to make chicken pesto meatballs. I got the recipe from her, and it may have originally come from Gourmet, so if you're at all interested you can contact me for the directions. What makes the meatballs so appealing, aside from the bonus of the pesto, is that they're made with breadcrumbs and an egg white, and are substantial without being too dense.

Italian cuisine is probably my favorite to cook at home, and while I know that I can't replicate the wonderful meals I ate there, I can experiment and revise to my heart's content.,,FOOD_9936_26986,00.html?rsrc=search

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