Spaghetti Squash alla Amatrciana

 

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Sugo all’amatriciana or Amatriciana Sauce, originathWUU97UI6.jpgting in a small town of Amatrice, located  in northern Lazio, a region of central Italy near the Adriatic Sea coast . The area is also known as the center of the food-agricultural area of Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga National Park.

Sadly, the town was devastated by a powerful earthquake in August 2016.

1024px-amatrice_-_corsoView of Corso Umberto I in Amatrice before the 2016 earthquake.
Photo credit: Mario1952, August 2008.

This type of pasta sauce is known for its meaty contents. The traditional Amarticiana Sauce will typically include tomatoes combined with pork meat sautéed in olive oil, and seasonings and aromatics, which generally are minced onions, garlic if desired, a small amount of ground chile pepper, and a pinch of black pepper. The recipe when made in the manner of a true Amatrice sauce, is served with cured pork meat from the cheek of the pig, which is referred to as guanciale.

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Guanciale. Photo Credit: Food52.com

According to popular tradition, numerous cooks of the Popes down the centuries came from Amatrice. In the Amatrice style of cooking, this sauce goes particularly well as a topping for strand pasta such as spaghetti, bucatini, perciatelli, vermicelli or fresh ravioli.

In this version of the recipe, spaghetti squash offers a hearty twist with its noodle-like strands.

Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 large spaghetti squash*
Olive oil
Kosher salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
7 ounces guanciale (cured pork jowl)*
One 14-ounce can chopped tomatoes*
1/2 cup tomato purée
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup  grated pecorino cheese, plus more for garnish
Fresh basil leaves, for garnish

Directions:
Preheat the over to 450º F.

Half the squash lengthwise (See Cook’s Notes).

Dice tthe guanciale into 1/2-inch cubes.

Line baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place the squash on top of the foil lined baking sheet and drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil over the cut surfaces of the squash and season with salt and pepper to taste. Arrange the squash cut side done and roast the squash until tender, 25 to 35 minutes.

In a large Dutch oven or sauce pan, add 1/2 tablespoon olive oil and spear in an even layer. Heat the pan to medium high heat. Fry the guanciale until crisp, 7 to 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the guanciale to a paper towel lined plate to drain.

Add the onion to the sauce pan and sauté, stirring until soft and slightly caramelized, 6 to 7 minutes.

Add the crushed red pepper and garlic to the pan with the onion and cook until fragrant. Add the tomatoes and the tomato puree. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium low and simmer until sauce is warmed through. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, as needed. Remove from the heat.

Using a fork, rake the roasted squash flesh to create spaghetti like strands and add the sauce in the pan. Stir in half pecorino cheese and half the guanciale into the sauce.

Divide the spaghetti squash Amatrciana between four serving bowls. Garnish with basil and the remaining pecorino cheese and serve with a good crusty bread.

Enjoy!

*Cook’s Notes: 
Spaghetti squash is a group of cultivars of Cucurbita pepo subsp. pepo. It is actually a fruit that ranges from ivory to yellow/orange in color. The orange varieties have a higher carotene content. Its center contains many large seeds. Its flesh is bright yellow or orange.Starr_070730-7822_Cucurbita_pepo.jpg

Tip: When raw, the flesh is solid and similar to other raw squash. The thickness of rawsquash2.jpg squash can make it vey difficult to cut into. It may be helpful to prick the squash all over with a fork and place it on microwaveable dish and warm the squash up in 30-second intervals to soften the squash before attempting to cut it in half. It may take up to 5-10 minutes to achieve the desired softness.

Spaghetti squash can vary in size as well. When cooked, the flesh falls away from the fruit in ribbons or strands like spaghetti. Taking this aspect into consideration a wider time range for roasting.

Guanciale is an Italian cured meat prepared from pork jowl or cheeks. Its name is derived from “guancia”, which is Italian for cheek. The pork cheeks are rubbed with salt, sugar, and spices, such as ground black pepper or red pepper and thyme or fennel and sometimes garlic, and cured for three weeks or until it loses approximately 30% of its original weight. A well prepared guanciale is full-flavored, balanced between being well-seasoned and sweet. It’s flavor is stronger than other pork products, such as pancetta, and its texture is more delicate. Upon cooking, the fat typically melts away giving great depth of flavor to the dishes and sauces it is used in. Usually found in specialty markets and italian grocers and deli shops, it is what gives the sauce its characteristic flavor. If guanicale is not available, you can used bacon or pancetta as a substitute. The flavor will not be the same, but it will give the essence of a good Amatriciana sauce, but you will have to adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper as needed.

San Marzano tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum) is a variety of plum tomatoes that 450px-TomateSanMarzano.jpg originated from the small town of San Marzano sul Sarno, near Naples, Italy, and were first grown in volcanic soil in the shadow of Mount  Vesuvius.Legend has it that the first seed of this tomato came to Campania in 1770, as a gift from the Viceroyalty of Peru to the Kingdom of Naples, and that it was planted in the area of San Marzano sul Sarno.

San Marzano tomatoes work well in this dish, mainly because  the taste is stronger, sweeter and less acidic than Roma tomatoes. The most common brands of canned San Marzano tomatoes available in  local supermarkets and these include Cento, Nina, La Bella, Solania, Vantia, La Valle and Strianese.

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Roasted Brussels Sprouts & Cauliflower Soup

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Roasted seasonal vegetables add depth to this simple winter soup.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 pound fresh Brussels sprouts
1 small head of cauliflower, cut into  florets
3 Tablespoons olive oil
Salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup diced  white onion
2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup  milk
Crushed red pepper flakes, for garnish

Directions:

Preheat oven to 450°F. Halve Brussels sprouts. Arrange sprouts and cauliflower on a large sheet pan. Light season with salt and pepper and drizzle with the olive oil. Roast for 15 minutes, stirring halfway.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a large sauce pan and sauté diced onion until translucent. Add the vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat for 5 minutes.

Transfer half of the roasted vegetables to the broth and simmer for about 2 min., stirring occasionally. Return the remaining vegetables on the baking sheet to the oven, to roast for another 5 minutes.

Use an immersion blender to purée the soup. Remove from heat and stir in the milk and remaining roasted vegetables.

Pour the soup into serving bowls and garnish with a few sprinkles of crushed red pepper. Serve immediately.

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Thank you so much!

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Trending in 2015: Almond Milk

almonds

The health benefits of almonds are numerous and well documented in the health an foodie literature. For the most part,  they are high in protein, vitamin E, fiber, and minerals such as magnesium, selenium, manganese, zinc, potassium, iron, phosphorus and calcium (commercial almond milks are often fortified with extra calcium). There is even some medical evidence that almond milk helps to lower LDL cholesterol and protect against heart disease. It is relatively low in calories and has zero saturated fats, making it a good choice for maintaining a healthy weight. Almond milk is also great in place of dairy milk in French toast, bread pudding, mashed potatoes, creamy bisques or curries, ice cream (churned), baked goods and, of course, smoothies and “milk shakes”.

Almond milk  tastes great and adds richness to all sorts of  dishes, from the sweet to the savory.  On the sweet side, you can find recipes for dairy-free Banana-Almond Milk “Soft Serve” ice cream, using almond milk, frozen bananas, honey and crystallized ginger, all pureed in a food processor.  Almond milk can also replace cow milk dishes like rice pudding Desserts such as Almond Rice Pudding, where  sushi-rice was cooked risotto-style using almond milk and a bit of sugar. Almonds and cherries are a classic pairing, and topping this recipe pudding with sweet-tart cherry preserves will make you crave it even more.

On the savory side, this recipe, Spicy Cauliflower Puree, a vegan dish  that is just as good as any mashed potato  and will fewer calories, utilizes the  simmering of cauliflower in almond milk until soft, then drained and pureed it for a thick, silky mash. This recipe technique so simmering cauliflower also makes a lovely soup if it is s blended with all of the almond milk. Another savory recipe, Almond-Milk Creamed Spinach,the  béchamel sauce can be made with almond milk, and folded into the wilted spinach and grated Parmesan  cheese, then topped with panko and marcona almonds and baked it until it was bubbling and golden.

These are just a few interesting ways to make almond milk a part of your cooking routine.  Make sure you check out the post about making home made almond milk. It will be worth you while an a fun project the the kid chef’s in the family.