Bringing Italy Home
By: Lisa Henning
My trip to Italy filled me with wonder- the lush green landscape, the towering, ancient churches, breathtaking architecture and, oh, the food! Flavors, fresh and vibrant- served by people who knew the farmer who grew them. The pride of purveyors was evident, and the colors and tastes remarkable to my American eyes and palate, somewhat dulled by American meats, bred now for leanness, and vegetables flown around the world to my table. (I wasn’t yet on the local bandwagon. I assure you, that has changed.)
It seemed the more simple the dish, the better it was, each ingredient singing out it’s own individual tune, and then harmonizing beautifully with the others. I could taste the care, the love, with which each ingredient was treated, the grassy olive oil, the plump, juicy tomato, the pasta made from scratch.
When I returned home, my tastes had indeed changed. I found myself on a quest for the flavors of Italy, and this was certainly when my style of cookin changed to a focus of seasonal, local, fresh ingredients to the highest level possible.In that vein, I began making my own pasta like a fiend.
Tossing fresh pasta with fresh veggies and some herbs, perhaps some pancetta (I know, not local, but I was homesick for Italy!) and good olive oil and parmigiano reggiano, made me feel like I had stepped across the pond, right back to Firenze.
I invite you to try it for yourself. (In the interest of keeping this recipe simple, look for fresh pasta sheets in specialty stores.) If you’d like to make your own, here is a recipe I use.
Deconstructed Butternut Squash Lasagna
- 1 Butternut Squash, diced.
- 8 Sage Leaves
- 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted.
- 4 oz. marscapone cheese
- 1 slice pancetta, diced
- 1 shallot, diced
- 1/2 cup grated parmegiano reggiano cheese
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 12 fresh pasta squares, cut into 3 inch squares
- Place the squash on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and salt. Bake at 400 for 25 minutes, toss, bake 10 minutes more, or until golden flecks appear.
- Sautée the shallots and pancetta. Remove them from the pan, toss with the squash. Add more oil to the pan and fry the sage leaves for 10 seconds, until they turn bright green and crisp. Drain on paper towels.
- Set a large pot of water up to boil, add 2 tablespoons salt just as it boils. Add pasta, cook until just tender, drain- do not rinse.
- In individual bowls, layer a sheet of pasta, a tablespoon of marscapone, a 1/4 cup butternut squash mixture and a grating of parmegiano regiano. Repeat for one more layer, end with a final sheet of pasta. Sprinkle with toasted pine nuts and a drizzle of olive oil. Top with two sage leaves. Serve with a side of fresh in season veggies.
Lisa Henning is the Chef/Owner of Queen of Cuisine Personal Chef Service. She spends most of her time cooking, feeding her friends and clients and then blogging about it. Lisa also blogs at the Queen of Cuisine blog.