Friday, December 18, 2009

Ciao Italia Five Ingredient Favorites

I enjoy cooking when I have the time, but all too often, I just don't have the time.  I also have to admit that I don't like having to wash every dish in the kitchen after I get done cooking.  When Ciao Italia Five Ingredient Favorites became available as a review book, I requested one, figuring "How much mess can you make with only five ingredients?"

The first recipe I tried was for a lemon chicken.  The five ingredients were chicken, lemons, parsley, olive oil, and oregano.  The author, Mary Ann Espositio, doesn't count salt and pepper as ingredients, but most recipes call for them.  I enjoyed the lemon chicken as did my husband, but the kids said it tasted too much like lemon (go figure).

The book itself is visually attractive, with full-color illustrations.  However, there are far more recipes for which there are no photographs, than those for which there are.  The pages with recipes have a stripe on the outside edge which contains the ingredient list and then the instructions are on the inside of the page.  Sections include Antipasti, Soups, Pasta, Sauces, Meat and Poultry, Fish, Vegetables, Salads, Sweets and Five-Course Meals.

The nice folks at FSB Media, from whom I received a complimentary review copy of this book, have allowed me to share the following recipes with you.  If they look like your kind of food, you can buy the book from Amazon Ciao Italia Five-Ingredient Favorites: Quick and Delicious Recipes from an Italian Kitchen

Spaghetti alla Carbonara 
Coal Miners'-Style Spaghetti
by Mary Ann Esposito,
Author of Ciao Italia Five-Ingredient Favorites: Quick and Delicious Recipes from an Italian Kitchen

Just about everyone I know has a recipe for spaghetti alla carbonara. This simple but heavenly dish is said to get its name from the coal miners who could make it easily with readily available ingredients: eggs, cheese, and guanciale, cured and salted pig's jowl and cheeks. A likely story, but the fact is that this dish is easy to make, superb when made correctly, and a completely balanced meal. The eggs should be of the highest quality and at room temperature so they will mix well with the spaghetti. The cheese should be none other than the true Parmigiano-Reggiano, or pecorino Romano. Today, the more readily available pancetta is used in place of guanciale. And a pepper mill is absolutely essential for the right grind of black pepper.
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 ounce chunk pancetta, diced
    Fine sea salt
  • ½ pound spaghetti
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature and lightly beaten
  • ¾ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
    Coarsely ground black pepper
Heat the olive oil in a small sauté pan, stir in the pancetta, and cook until crispy. Set aside the pancetta, still in the pan, and keep it warm.

Cook the spaghetti in 4 quarts of rapidly boiling salted water. Al dente means still firm to the bite but no uncooked flour is visible in the center when a strand of the spaghetti is broken in half.

Drain the spaghetti, reserving 2 tablespoons of the water. Immediately return the spaghetti to the pot and, keeping the heat very low, rapidly stir in the eggs, reserved water, and half the cheese. Toss to combine. Add the reserved pancetta and any pan drippings. Stir well. Add a generous grinding of coarse black pepper. Transfer the pasta to a platter and sprinkle it with the remaining cheese. Serve immediately.
Serves 4 

Polpettoni al Formaggio
Cheesy Stuffed Meatballs
by Mary Ann Esposito,
Author of Ciao Italia Five-Ingredient Favorites: Quick and Delicious Recipes from an Italian Kitchen

Can you make a better-tasting meatball? Absolutely! Just stuff them with a creamy, melting cheese like Italian fontina! This may be a slightly unconventional way to make them, but the taste elevates the meatballs to elegant; they can be served alone or in a tomato sauce. To achieve great flavor, use a combination of ground chuck and ground sirloin. The fat in ground chuck is essential for moistness while the sirloin provides great texture.

  • ½ cup good-quality dried bread crumbs
  • ⅓ cup heavy cream or half-and-half
  • ½ pound ground chuck
  • ½ pound ground sirloin
    1 ½ teaspoons fine sea salt
    Coarsely ground black pepper
  • ½ pound Italian fontina or mozzarella cheese, cut into 8 small pieces
Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Put the bread crumbs in a medium bowl and pour the cream over them. Mix with a fork; the mixture will not be soupy.

Add the ground chuck, sirloin, and salt and pepper. Mix with a fork or your hands just to combine the ingredients. Divide the mixture into 8 equal pieces and roll each in the palms of your hands to make compact 2½-inch balls.

Insert your thumb into the middle of each meatball and push in a piece of cheese. Close the meatball, encasing the cheese, and smooth the top.

Place the meatballs on a rimmed, nonstick baking sheet. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until they are nicely browned. Serve hot as is, or add them to a tomato sauce and serve them with pasta or as a second course.

Makes 8 meatballs 

The above is an excerpt from the book Ciao Italia Five-Ingredient Favorites: Quick and Delicious Recipes from an Italian Kitchen by Mary Ann Esposito. The above excerpt is a digitally scanned reproduction of text from print. Although this excerpt has been proofread, occasional errors may appear due to the scanning process. Please refer to the finished book for accuracy.
Copyright © 2009 Mary Ann Esposito, author of Ciao Italia Five-Ingredient Favorites: Quick and Delicious Recipes from an Italian Kitchen

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