Maybe you can't get to Italy, but you can definitely eat like you're in Tuscany
One of the most incredible trips I've ever taken was a 10-day excursion through Italy with my family. Even though Rome was incredible and Venice enchanting, the place that truly took my breath away was Tuscany. Not only were the views spectacular, but the food I ate there was still some of the best I've ever had. It took four years, but I've finally created a menu inspired by some of the dishes I had there.
In addition to fresh tomatoes, proscuitto and gelato, the one thing I ate almost daily was freshly made pasta. That, paired with some fancy mushrooms, crispy olive oil bread and a tart but simple dessert, turned a regular menu into something right out of my beloved Tuscany. Just add some crisp white wine and start dreaming about that hillside villa you not-so-secretly want.
1. Homemade pasta with mushroom Alfredo recipe
For the pasta
3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
3-5 tablespoons water
For the sauce
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1 cup low-fat milk
2 tablespoons fresh mozzarella cheese
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper
For the topping
1 cup shiitake or oyster mushrooms
2 tablespoons butter
Attach the flat beater to a KitchenAid mixer. To make the pasta, place the flour into a large mixing bowl. Add the eggs in the center of the flour, and mix in the water. Beat on low (level 2-3) for about 2 minutes. Switch to the dough hook, and beat for another 2 to 4 minutes.
Remove the dough from the bowl, and place it onto a heavily floured surface. With floured hands, knead the dough for another 2 to 3 minutes or until soft. Wrap the dough in a damp towel, and let it rest for about 15 to 20 minutes.
Once the dough has rested, attach the flat pasta roller to your KitchenAid mixer. Cut the dough into pieces, and roll the pieces out a little with a floured rolling pin. Make sure to cover the pieces of dough not being used so they don't dry out.
Turn on the mixer, and set the roller to 1. Stick the pasta dough through. Set the roller to 2, and roll the pasta dough through again. Set it to 3, and roll through one more time (this will ensure the pasta goes through the pasta cutter easily). Remove the flat roller, and attach the spaghetti roller. Carefully run the rolled-out pasta through the spaghetti attachment, being sure to catch the noodles as they fall out so they don't clump together.
Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil, and sprinkle in some salt. Add the pasta in batches, and cook for about 3 to 4 minutes or until the noodles start to float to the top. Rinse the noodles in cold water, and set them aside.
To make the sauce, start by melting the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in the flour until the mixture resembles a thick paste. Gradually whisk in the milk, reducing the heat to medium. Continue to whisk until the sauce thickens (and coats the back of a spoon). Remove from heat, and stir in some salt and pepper as well as the mozzarella and Parmesan cheese.
Add the pasta to the sauce, and toss with tongs to coat.
In another skillet over medium-high heat, melt some butter. Add the mushrooms, and cook until softened, about 5 to 6 minutes.
Toss the mushrooms on top of the pasta, and garnish with cracked black pepper and parsley.
2. Polenta with poached egg recipe
3 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup cornmeal
1-1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vinegar
1/2 medium yellow onion
3/4 cup spinach
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
To make the polenta, bring the water to a rapid boil over medium-high heat. Add the salt. Reduce the heat to low, and whisk in the cornmeal. Cook until the mixture starts to thicken, whisking constantly, about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in the butter and herbs.
To poach the eggs, bring a large pot of water to a simmer, and add the vinegar. Crack each egg into its own shallow bowl. Carefully pour the eggs into the simmering water. Using a slotted spoon, move the whites over the yolks. Turn off the heat, and cover for about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the eggs from the water, and place them into bowls.
Meanwhile, in a skillet over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add the onion, and cook until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the spinach, and cook until wilted, about 4 more minutes. Add salt and pepper.
Separate the polenta into 3 bowls. Divide the spinach over the polenta, and then top with the 3 softly poached eggs. Grate 1 tablespoon of cheese over the eggs, and garnish with cracked black pepper.
3. Herb focaccia recipe
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped thyme
1/2 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 cup warm (about 110 degrees F) water
1 package active dry yeast
1/4 teaspoon brown sugar
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
Dash cracked black pepper
In a large mixing bowl, add the water, yeast and sugar. Let sit for about 10 minutes or until the yeast starts to foam. Add in 1 cup of flour and 1/4 cup of olive oil. Stir in the rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper. Let sit another 5 minutes or so.
Add in the remaining flour, and mix to combine. Move the dough to a floured surface, and knead it with floured hands until soft and elastic.
Oil a large bowl, place the dough into the bowl, and roll it around in the oil. Cover the bowl with a damp towel, place it in a warm spot, and let the dough rise until doubled in size.
Remove the dough from the bowl, and use your hands to spread it into a greased 8 x 8-inch baking dish. Cover the dish with the same damp towel, and let the dough rise another 20 minutes.
Using your fingers, press indentations into the dough all over. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden. Serve with olive oil for dipping.
4. Fluffy ricotta cream with tart raspberries recipe
1 (15 ounce) container full-fat ricotta cheese
1 cup whipping cream
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 cup fresh raspberries
4 tablespoons chopped pistachios
4 teaspoons honey
Place the ricotta cheese into a food processor, and blend until soft and fluffy, about 1 minute.
In a bowl, beat the whipping cream until thick. Add the powdered sugar, and continue to beat until the cream holds a stiff peak. Carefully fold the cream mixture into the fluffy ricotta until the mixture is fully combined. Chill the mixture for about 1 hour.
Once the mixture is chilled, divide it among 4 bowls, and top with 1/4 cup of raspberries, 1 tablespoon of pistachios and 1 teaspoon of honey.