Pasticco

I really wanted to name this blog post Des-Pasticco. Like the song Despacito. The original version by Luis Fonsi was all over the radio before we left Italy. When I arrived here and heard the version by Justin Bieber I was all kinds of confused.  Dad jokes aside, let’s get back to Pasticco.

Pasticco is basically lasagna, just not the version we typically expect in America. There is no mozzarella, no ricotta, and no tomato sauce. The pasta does not feature the familiar ruffle on the edge (I’ll link the one I used below), and this version does not have any beef, though veal is commonly used. It is worth noting that I also saw this dish referred to as lasagna al forno, pasta al forno, and other iterations throughout Italy. For the most part in our region, it was commonly called pasticco.

I originally asked my neigbor Giulia how Pasticco is made. She outlined the ingredients for me. Start with sofrito, the Italian word for the classic combination of carrots, onions and celery, in olive oil. Add Pancetta and other meats. A little white wine. Some milk. This is your ragu. Make basciamella (in the US this classic white sauce is called a bechemel) with butter, flour, milk and nutmeg. Layer with pasta and bake.

Armed with Giulia’s ingredient list, I searched the Internet for recipe. I found a few that used the ingredients Giulia mentioned and cobbled together my own recipe from there.

I find this recipe is easier to make that than your average American lasagna. Or at least faster because this sauce doesn’t need to simmer all day. Though the ragu’ recipe typically calls for pancetta, I was only able to find prosciutto locally.  Though pancetta and prosciutto  are not the same, the prosciutto worked out. If you aren’t able to source either in your area, you could give bacon a try. I would dice it and when you start your ragu’ do not fry the bacon until crisp, just render the fat a little bit. If you do this, please let me know how it works out!

This is easily my husband’s favorite dish from our time in Italy, he often ordered two servings when we went out to dinner. Now back stateside, this is also a meal my toddler eats with gusto. It has become a regular in our weekly rotation, and I think the next time I will make a double batch, because it freezes really well.

Forget what you think you know about lasagna, and give Pasticco a try! You will not be disappointed.

Pasticco

  • Servings: 6-8 depending on how large you slice it.
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Ingredients

Ragu

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 1 yellow or white onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, finely diced (or 1 teaspoon pre-chopped garlic from a jar, I like both)
  • 4 ounces pancetta (or prosciutto) diced
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup chicken broth (or vegetable,whichever you have on hand)
  • 6 ounces tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • salt
  • black pepper

Basciamella

  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 3 cups milk (I used whole milk)
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • a few shakes of nutmeg (It is recommended you freshly grind your own, I used the pre-ground nutmeg, I already had it in my pantry. One day I will be the kind of person that grinds their own spices, but today is not that day.)

Pasticco

  • Ragu’
  • Basciamella
  • Lasagna noodles   
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for grating (I have found my local grocery stores carry both chunks and pre-grated versions for sale. Just please do not use the kind that comes in a can in the pasta aisle! Treat yo’self.)

 

Directions

Preheat your oven to 375°F.  In a large pot or dutch oven, warm your butter and olive oil over medium/high heat. Once the butter has melted, through in your garlic, carrots, celery, and onions, and pancetta/prosciutto. Saute’ until your veggies are translucent and the fat has begun to render out. Add your ground pork and cook through. Add your white wine and scrape the bottom of the pan to get all of the tasty bits from the bottom of the pot. Add your tomato paste, milk, bay leaves and chicken broth. Stir to combine, then turn the heat down to low and let your sauce simmer for 1.5 to 2 hours.

When you are ready to prepare your pasticco, make your basciamella. In a large pan, melt 5 tablespoons of butter. Once melted, whisk in your flour. Cook for a few minutes, until your flour/butter mixture (roux) is a golden brown. Gradually begin to add your milk, whisking to combine. If you add your milk too quickly, your basciamella will not be thick, so go slowly! It is way easier to thin, than thicken. Once you have added all of your  milk, add nutmeg, salt and pepper , to taste.

Assembly.

The noodles I used did not require me to boil them before making my pasticco. If you use wavy lasagna noodles, please follow your package directions for noodle prep, then follow the directions below. If you use homemade noodles, follow the directions below.

In a 9×13 pan, spread a thin layer of ragu’ on the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle some parmiagiano-reggiano. On top of that, lay three sheets of pasta. (Or follow your package directions). It is okay if the pasta does not touch the sides of the pan. As it cooks, it will expand. On top of the pasta, add a layer of bascimella, then cheese, and repeat. I had three layers of pasta, topped with a layer of basciamella and cheese. Cover with foil and bake for 45-60 minutes (or however long your pasta suggests). For the last 10 minutes, I removed the aluminum foil to allow the top to brown.

Enjoy!

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German AppleChip Cake

Why no, that is not a donut (doughnut?) but a beloved bundt cake. Well, beloved by me. Growing up my Mom would make it occasionally, and though I vaguely remember being turned off by the chunks of apples when I was younger, (fruit ≠ dessert) they totally do it for me today.

AppleChipcakemixlgdThe sweet apples and warm cinnamon smack of fall. Being subtly sweet, in bundt cake form, and devoid of frosting this is the perfect cake to have in the morning with a cup of coffee.  Side note, for some reason whenever a cake is a bundt cake, I assume it can also be eaten for breakfast/as a snack. No idea why. I live by this rule though and it hasn’t failed me yet.

Every time I have taken it somewhere, be it work or a friend’s house, it has gotten rave reviews. In Italy, when I didn’t always have access to chocolate chips, I chopped up a Ritter Sports bar (Dark Chocolate, which is called Fondant in Italian, and confused the hell out of me) and threw it in, no regrets. I took it to work the next day and a few people asked for the recipe, which is always a good sign. So I say you can use whatever chocolate you choose, though chocolate chips are probably the easiest to use.

My Mom was given this recipe by a co-worker (noted in the corner of my copy of the recipe as Cathy) while living in Germany in the late-80s, which is why we call it German Apple Chip Cake. Not sure how German it actually is,but shout out to Cathy because I’ve grown up with this cake and it is delicious.

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Not only is it delicious, but it is totally customize able. While I baked it from scratch, you can also sub a yellow cake mix+ 1 teaspoon of cinnamon for the dry ingredients. No apple cider? My mom also notes you can use apple brandy or apple schapps.

If you find you need a fall dessert, or fun treat to bring to brunch, but aren’t ready to bust out the pumpkin quite yet (I’m not), try this cake. You won’t regret it.

ACCSLICELGD

 

German AppleChip Cake

  • Servings: 8 slices
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Credit=My Mom

Ingredients

  • 3 Eggs
  • 1/2 cup apple juice/cider/apple brandy/schnapps
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 cups All Purpose Flour
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups of chopped apples (for me this was 3 gala apples, use whatever apples you like!)
  • 1 Cup Chocolate Chips
  • Optional: 3/4 cup chopped nuts, powdered sugar for dusting

 

Directions

Preheat your oven to 350°F.  Grease and flour a bundt pan or 9×13 cake pan. I, per usual, used Baker’s Joy.

In a large bowl beat eggs slightly. Add oil, apple juice and vanilla. Mix until just combined. In another bowl, combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Gradually add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix until smooth. Stir in chocolate chips, apple chunks, and nuts, if using.  Pour into your chosen pan and bake. A bundt pan will need 65-75 minutes (I took mine out at 70 minutes) and a 9×13 will need 35-40 minutes to bake,

Once cooled, turn your bundt onto a plate and dust with powdered sugar. If using a regular cake pan, just dust once the cake is cooled.

 

 

The Cake That Tasted Like Nothing

Ohh this cake had potential. The recipe came from a trusted cookbook. I only purposely changed one ingredient. The batter (raw eggs be damned, I tried it) was delicious. The results were baffling.

The reason for baking this cake was standard: my husband wanted a chocolate cake. I always want any kind of cake, so it was time to bake a cake.

The recipe called for two teaspoons of vanilla extract. Let’s discuss how I like to add vanilla extract to my recipes: I just dump it in until I feel like I have added the right amount. Very precise.

My stand mixer is cleverly placed directly in front of my spice cabinet, so I can dump ingredients in the bowl at will, just grab, dump, replace. No counter clutter for me! This has also resulted in me making a few simple and highly preventable errors. This time, I added a decent pour of almond extract instead of vanilla. Noticing the liquid in question was clear and not the classic amber of vanilla, I immediately stopped and resumed with vanilla extract. I tasted the batter and it was quite tasty, so I called this one no harm no foul.

Fast forward to me proudly presenting my husband a slice of the chocolate cake he specifically requested. He digs in while I cut my own slice. “What do you think?” He is thoughtful. Too thoughtful. “Well, the frosting is really good. The cake doesn’t taste like anything. Not bad,  very moist, just not like anything. “. I am instantly offended, despite clearly having asked for his honest opinion. “What,?! The batter was delicious! You must be crazy.” *Takes bite* I feel the light crumb, and the cake is indeed moist. However, my husband’s description of the cake tasting like nothing is correct. It in no way offends me, but also has zero flavor. That said, I still ate half of the cake myself. Frosting ya’ll.

The frosting was fantastic, but considering it was made out of over a cup of butter and FIVE CUPS of powdered sugar, that is a given. And plus also chocolate.

Having made this cake before, I can only assume that almond extract+cocoa =bland. If you have an insane frosting you want to try, and only need cake so you don’t just eat the frosting with a spoon, make this recipe with almond extract. It will in no way compete with or overshadow your frosting.

nothingcakelgd

 

In summation: pay attention and maybe actually measure your ingredients, you might notice you have grabbed the wrong one before it is too late.

 

Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Frosting

  • Servings: 8 slices
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Credit=Very very slightly adapted from Nestle Classic Recipes Cookbook

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup strongly brewed coffee, room tempurature
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons VANILLA extract

Frosting

I used this recipe from The Pioneer Woman

Directions

Preheat your oven to 350°F.  The recipe calls for you to grease and flour two 9 inch cake pans. I use Baker’s Joy which works wonderfully and makes less of a mess.

Combine dry ingredients through salt in a large bowl. Into the same bowl, add all of your liquid ingredients. Beat the batter until everything is combined, about 2 minutes. Divide evenly into your cake pans and bake for 28 minutes. Remove from oven and cool for several hours in the pans before frosting.

After your cakes have cooled, make your frosting. Flip one pan onto a plate/cake stand/wherever you want your cake and put a thick layer of frosting in the middle. Spread to the sides. Place the second cake layer on top and frost.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Quest for the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie-Pudding Edition

Apple Pie is known as the ultimate American dessert, but I must respectfully disagree. Is there anything more American than a chocolate chip cookie, fresh from the oven with a glass of milk? I think not.

Hotel chains offer them in their lobbies. Neiman Marcus and The New York Times have infamous recipes. The internet is littered with how-to articles and comparisons, making it obvious what cookie Americans love.

Growing up, Nestle’ Tollhouse reigned supreme. The recipe on the back of the bag is the one my Mom always used, and the one I rely on when that familiar craving for the classic cookie hits. A tip from my Aunt Robin, I take them out a little early so they remain soft and gooey into the following days. But that is not the recipe we are here to discuss today.

pudding cookie 3

 

 

This recipe is closer to the cookie I associate with coffee shops and bakeries. Fluffy, but not cakey, crisp on the outside but thick and chewy on the inside. Perfect for dipping into a glass of chocolate milk. The secret? Pudding mix.

My supervisor at my last job introduced me to this little trick. When a gooey cookie is not quite what I am craving, I reach for these. In this batch I used milk chocolate chips and I regret it. Semi sweet or dark is a better foil to the sweet dough for my taste. Regardless of your chip preferences, give this recipe a go, you won’t be disappointed.

Chocolate Chip Pudding Cookies

  • Servings: Approx. 36 cookies
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Recipe from Pinterest

Ingredients

  • 1 cup aka 2 sticks of softened butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 3.4 ounce box vanilla pudding
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cup All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1 package semi sweet chocolate chips (The original recipe calls for milk chocolate chips, I found this to be too sweet and definitely recommend semi sweet instead).

Directions

Pre-heat oven to 375º F. In a large mixing bowl cream butter. In a separate bowl combine flour and baking soda. Add both sugars, pudding mix eggs and vanilla, beat for two minutes. Gradually add dry ingredients to the mixing bowl containing the butter. Mix until combined.  Stir in chocolate chips.

Portion onto cookie sheet, evenly spacing cookies. They do not spread very much while baking but you definitely do not want them to touch. I used a 2 teaspoon cookie scoop, but using two regular spoons to scoop the dough would work just as well. Just be sure to make each cookie roughly the same size.

Bake 9-11 minutes, until puffy and golden on the edges. Let cool for a minute on the cookie sheet to set, then move to wax or parchment paper to finish cooling. (Or a wire rack, I just use the paper like my Mom always does.)

Eat!

pudding cookie deux

Almond Scented Marshmallows+Shortbread S’mores.

According to the internet, s’mores are the quintessential summer snack. I associate them with fall. Probably because I think s’mores=bonfire=fall.

marshmallows

I cannot remember the last time I made a true s’more, over an open flame, around a campfire with friends. It was probably in high school. S’more latte? Yes. S’more ice cream? Yes. A MoonPie microwaved until gooey? Yes. (1. A favorite college snack, I have not had one in my adult life. Maybe it is time.)

Here’s the thing, the reason why I have not had a s’more in a hot minute. Marshmallows. My feelings towards them are lukewarm at best. They are not something I really ever thought about making at home.Now flash back to me sitting in my dorm eating microwaved MoonPies reading food blogs like the sad fascinating creature I was. I saw a few recipes for homemade marshmallows. I wrote them off as far too difficult, too much work with little reward.

Okay, back to 2017. I am an adult and now I want a s’more. If I am going to have a s’more it will be with dark chocolate and homemade marshmallow. I want it served on the grand daddy of all cookies, shortbread. I dug through my memories (i.e. the internet) and found a recipe on one of my favorite blogs howsweeteats.

Where she uses coconut, I am more of an almond kind of girl. A little tweak of the recipe, substituting one teaspoon of almond extract and one teaspoon of vanilla for her two teaspoons of coconut and omitting the vanilla bean paste resulted in the marshmallow of my dreams.

Another plus, these marshmallows were SO easy to make. I had all of the ingredients in my pantry, and was able to whip them up in 20 minutes, minus the wait time for the marshmallows to set.

The shortbread was also quick. Another recipe exclusively using pantry ingredients, this dessert, while it needs planning, is one that can be made sans trip to the store. I used this recipe from epicurious.

Topping it all off, was some of my favorite dark chocolate. The best thing about this dessert is that you can totally customize it. Use milk chocolate, or whatever sounds good to you. Store bought shortbread would be lovely. Or maybe a chocolate chip cookie! Or the traditional graham. Or a brownie. But definitely try out the marshmallow recipe.

 

s'moreslgd

Real Deal Banana Pudding

Living much of my life in North Carolina, I thought I knew banana pudding. Then I met my husband, who promptly informed me I was wrong.

Some people have strong feelings about potato salad. In other cases, macaroni and cheese can become controversial. What is considered barbecue in what state could be sacrilege in another. For my husband, that food is banana pudding. (For me, it is spaghetti sauce, but we will save that for another day.)

The delight that is boxed pudding, layered with overripe bananas, vanilla wafers and whipped topping on top? Do not even try.  Perhaps you whip fresh cream to add a little touch of homemade. Do not feed him that. Feelings will be hurt. Not that he thinks they are bad, per se, but they are not like what Nana makes.

Back in the early days of our marriage I scoured the internet looking for a banana pudding recipe. I would show them to him, but without meringue, they were nothing. This perplexed me. Meringue on pudding?  Never heard of it. So I decided to wait until we met up with Nana to learn from the master.

 

What was the secret recipe? TEACH ME YOUR WAYS NANA BECAUSE THIS MAN HAS SOME FEELINGS. Turns out, she just uses the recipe on the Nilla wafer box. The one place I failed to look. We made the pudding together, she gave me her tips, and the pudding went into the fridge.

I could see why my husband was sometimes disappointed when presented with another version of pudding. The homemade custard was satiny smooth. The Nilla wafers becoming almost chewy, reminiscent of the perfect texture formed when a chocolate chip cookie is dipped in milk before eaten.  The bananas, giving the pudding the slightest essence of banana, verses the sometimes over the top BANANA flavor artificially flavored puddings sometimes produce.  Topping it all, was the fluffy meringue, a light contrast to the decadence that was hidden underneath.

I was converted. In our house, this will be banana pudding.

So grab some bananas, some wafers and give it a go. Don’t be intimidated by the mention of a double boiler, I make it in a saucepan over medium low heat. Just like Nana’s.

This post is in no way, shape or form sponsored by Nabisco/Mondelez/ Nilla Wafers. It’s just what we use!

Real Deal Banana Pudding

  • Servings: 6-8 or in our house, 2-3
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Luxurious vanilla custard layered with ripe bananas and Nilla wafers. Topped with lighter-than-air meringue, perfect for any barbecue.

Recipe originally from the side of the Nilla Wafer box but you can also find it  here.

Ingredients

-1/2 cup granulated sugar+ 1/4 cup granulated sugar

-1/3 cup all purpose flour

-dash of salt

-3 eggs, separated

-2 cups milk

-splash of vanilla (they call for 1/2 tsp, I just pour until it looks good, I would say I am closer to 1 teaspoon)

-1 box vanilla wafer cookies (the original recipe calls for 45. Between snacking while cooking, and the fact that the cookies are my favorite part, I tend to use the entire box.)

-5 VERY ripe bananas

Directions

  • Pre-heat your oven to 350° F.
  • In a medium saucepan, whisk together 1/2 cup sugar, the flour and a dash of salt. Then add your egg yolks and milk. Stir slowly over medium low heat, until it just begins to thicken. This can take a while, I have never had the custard come together in less than 20 minutes. As soon as you feel the custard begin to thicken, remove from heat and gently stir to continue thickening.
  •  Ideally, I like to use a 9×9 glass dish, but you can use whatever you have handy. 9×13 is doable, but would result in a thinner pudding.  In the photo’s above I used a 9×13, and the meringue is not as thick as I would like.  In your chosen dish, place one layer of vanilla cookies. On top of this, a layer of thinly sliced bananas. Be generous.  Repeat until bananas are all gone.
  • Pour warm custard over cookie-banana layers, using a spatula to ensure it is evenly distributed.
  • In a mixing bowl, add three egg whites. Whip using a whisk, or whisk attachment on a mixer, until soft peaks form.  Add the remaining sugar, and then whip until hard peaks form when you gently pull the whisk from the meringue.
  • Spread meringue on top of the pudding, pushing the meringue to the edges.
  • Bake until the top of the meringue is browned to your liking.
  • Place finished pudding in the fridge for at least 6 hours, ideally overnight.

 

 

 

 

Chocolate Zucchini Banana Muffins

Growing up my Mom always kept a bunch of bananas on the counter. When someone (me) would whine that we(me) were hungry, she would direct us to the bananas. “Have a banana.” Naturally, I did not want a banana. She would then reply that we were not really hungry. And she was right, usually I was just bored.

Its funny what follows us into adulthood, because now I too always have a bunch of bananas on the counter. They are gratefully grabbed when hurrying out the door, cut into bowls of cheerios and smothered in peanut butter for snacks.  So I was quite surprised when I saw this weeks bunch rapidly turning brown. Knowing I would be the only person to eat banana bread, I pondered what else could be made.

 

Peering into our fridge, I saw some forgotten zucchini and an abundance of greek yogurt. Knowing if I made zucchini-banana bread I would still be the only one who ate it. my thoughts turned to breakfast.  Cloaked in chocolate and disguised as muffins, there was a chance my husband would eat them. Plus, a muffin with my coffee in the morning sounded delicious.

These muffins, dense, rich ,and chocolatey hit just the spot. Perfectly moist, I enjoyed one solo fresh from the oven, no beverage required to wash it down. The next morning, it was an excellent compliment to my morning coffee.

I was disappointed that they did not form the desired “muffin top” but I’ll chock that up to the greek yogurt. Or because I am not 100% sure what I’m doing. Either way, I loved these,  and my husband did not even consider that zucchini could be hiding inside.

If you have some bananas wilting away, or feel the desire to hide vegetables in baked goods, these are for you!

Chocolate Zucchini Banana Muffins

  • Servings: 12-14 medium sized muffins
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Rich chocolate muffins with zucchini and bananas, excellent for breakfast or a snack.

 

Inspired by  Fork Knife Swoon

Ingredients

-1/3 cup All Purpose Flour

-2/3 cup granulated sugar

-1/2 cup cocoa powder

-3/4 teaspoon baking soda

-1/2 teaspoon salt

-3/4 cup greek yogurt (I used 0% fat vanilla)

-1 large zucchini, peeled and grated

-1 very ripe banana

-1 egg

-1/3 cup butter, melted

-1/2 cup whole milk

-1 cup chocolate chips (I bet walnuts or dried cranberries would be tasty, or cinnamon chips, or peanut butter chips! Or whatever you have hiding in your pantry).

Directions

  • Pre-heat your oven to 375° F. Line muffin tin with cupcake liners, or grease using softened butter/Baker’s Joy/whatever you like to grease pans with. I used cupcake liners, and then butter when I ran out of cupcake liners.
  • In one bowl combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Mix until all ingredients are completely combined. You could sift them together, but I did not.
  • In a large separate bowl mash the banana. To the same bowl, add the shredded zucchini, greek yogurt, egg, and melted butter. Mix to combine. Add the dry ingredients to the wet in two or three large increments, mixing just until all of the dry ingredients are incorporated, being sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. The batter will be thick.
  • Once mixed, scoop batter into muffin tins, filling until they are just about to overflow. Bake muffins for 20 minutes, if you press your finger to the top of a muffin it should feel firm, not gooey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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