Sunday, January 3, 2010

Italy Night

I think it's been easy over the course of my blog to conclude that I'm Italian. 75% to be exact.

My mom is currently a little obsessed with Italy. Her first trip was March 2006 with her sister (my aunt) and she's since gone back twice with different small groups of girlfriends. Her latest trip was in November, when Johnny and I were in D.C.

To prepare herself for these trips, her friends and her have "Italy Nights." They'll listen to Italian music, cook Italian food, they've taken Italian lessons and overall just broaden their knowledge and love for everything Italy! They've even given each other "Italian" nicknames!

From her recent trip, she brought back special grade 00 flour from Italy. This is the finest ground flour, it was like baby powder! She also brought her grandmother's (my great-grandmother's) pasta press and ravioli mold I used earlier this summer at her house. We invited Johnny's sister, Di and brother in law, Rob over and the 6 of us had our own "Italy Night" here at my house! This night's theme was "pumpkin!"

First, Johnny and Rob made two batches of dough for us. Once you make the dough, it needs to be wrapped in plastic and sit for about 20 minutes. While this was sitting we had our appetizers.

We had bruschetta with olives, fresh basil, pepperoni, and balsamic marinated tomatoes as toppings. Toast the bread in the oven on a sheet pan. Once it is warmed, remove it and brush each piece of bread with a raw piece of garlic. Place your toppings and drizzle each piece with a little olive oil. Put back in the oven for a few more minutes to crisp up.

Also served was an assortment of cheeses my mom brought back from Italy. The "star" of the cheese platter was this white truffle cheese. She went to a truffle festival and came home with coveted goodies. We were glad she shared this with us. It was creamy, velvety delicious with an earthy undertone that made me truly understand the definition of "umami."

The last appetizer was a classic prosciutto-wrapped melon, which we dressed up with cute little toothpicks for easy grabbing!

By now the pasta was ready to be rolled out. Di and Rob tried their hand at the pasta press and did a great job for their first turn! It takes a bit of practice to get a steady crank and passing process down, but they picked it up right away.

My mom and I whipped up the batches of filling. We had to do 2, to make one whey-free for Johnny. We used homemade pumpkin puree my mom made, roasted garlic, ricotta cheese (cottage cheese for J), sundried tomatoes, and seasonings. (Doesn't it look like I have Padma's scar in the above pic!? Weird- must be the reflection!)

Just like this summer, we filled the ravioli molds and then rolled a rolling pin over to release the extra dough.

Out popped plump little dumplings of goodness!

My dad made a light soup of broth with garlic, fresh spinach, and white beans. We ate this while waiting for the pasta water come up to a boil.

My mom had a chestnut sauce while in Italy and seeing how light that was, realized that a white or red sauce with the delicate flavors of the squash would over-power this. So, we went with a really, really light "sauce," just enough to wet the ravioli. It was made with chicken broth, white wine, garlic, sundried tomato oil, chestnuts she brought back from Italy, fresh sage, and a dash of cream with a hint of mozzarella cheese. (my mom's picture)

After boiling the pasta (only for a few minutes because it's freshly made!) we stirred them around the sauce pan with a wooden spoon, just enough to coat them with the sauce. We garnished with crispy fried sage leaves, which I'd been dying to try since seeing them all over the Food Network and the blog world. Kind of like a furry, herby potato chip!

Then, to bring pumpkin full-circle, we had Johnny's homemade pumpkin ice cream for dessert! He used my mom's homemade pumpkin puree in his usual recipe, which he adapted from a sweet potato recipe in The Perfect Scoop. This was served alongside warmed homemade panettone from one of my mom's piano students. We also munched on some pumpkin seeds my mom had roasted.

Needless to say, we were stuffed! It was a fun night learning new things and having everybody help have a hand at making dinner! It makes it a little more interesting than the usual dinner party! Just make sure guests arrive early enough to accomodate for all the cooking time! We had Di and Rob come at 4 to start, with the appetizers and soup during so we weren't famished, and ate the finished pasta around 6:30.


Ally's Sweet and Savory Eats said...

Everything looks wonderful! Please share the pumpkin ice cream recipe!

Linda said...

I just returned from Italy a few days ago and wish I brought back some flour now. Your Italian night looked like great fun.

Do you travel with your mom to Italy?

Christo Gonzales said...

what an absolutely fun time - your raviolis look so perfect!

sophia said...

When I'm in that area, and I happen to drop by (uninvited), I'm insisting an Italy night! Those raviolis look freaking AMAZING!!!

Christina said...

hahaha get real, Sophia! "uninvited??" you're always welcome here! :)

A@ Please Don't Eat Me! said...

wow, i just died at my desk.. this looks so amazing girl!!! i love it!
embrace the italian roots!!!

im thinking we might be twins?! lol from the crazy grandmothers to the love of cereal and boys with sensitive stomachs.. hmmmmmm!!!

and YES im definitely going to be cleaning up some of my mental health issues, i really think that all that stress from october just built up and up and now im ready to drop!

Jenn@slim-shoppin said...

Wow, what a great evening Christina!

I love the chestnut light sauce for the ravioli, that does sound really good.

Thanks for the recap!

Miss M.J. Ma'am said...

I really, really want your dad's soup recipe!!

Laura said...

Ohh I love it when you make ravioli will you cook for me when I come to town? Not if but when because sooner or later I will get there :) I love the way everyone pitches in to help. I like to cook together too!

Christina said...

Sure Laura! You're always welcome! :)