Mmmmm Pasta!

I have honestly been pretty bored lately….well, really just this weekend since all of my friends went to France, and I decided to stay home. (Don’t ask me why, it was a lame choice on my part). But, what’s the perfect way to cure boredom? Cooking of course! Today’s menu is another scrumptious sounding pasta dish: Bucatini all’Amatriciana. Let’s get cooking!

As I stated above, all my friends went to the French Riviera this weekend leaving me alone to sit around and be a vegetable. Friday I watched the whole first season of Sex and the City, so on Saturday I decided to be a little productive with my life. I got my lazy butt up to go to the grocery store. I only needed to pick up 4 things: crushed red pepper, crushed tomatoes, bucatini (hollow spaghetti), and pancetta. Seems like a simple enough grocery list, right? Well, I don’t think any trip to the grocery store in Italy is going to be simple.

Finding the pepper and the bucatini was easy enough, but I got stuck when it came to the tomatoes. I even translated “crushed tomatoes” before I left, but I couldn’t find that translation on any can. Eventually, I gave up, grabbed a random tomato can and prayed there would be crushed tomatoes inside.

The final thing I needed to pick up was pancetta. Pancetta is like in an Italian cured bacon, I’ve used it before in various recipes, so I know what it looks like. I decided to test my Italian language skills, so I marched up to the deli counter and waited my turn. I said to the butcher: “cinque slices pancetta,” (I didn’t know the word for slices, okay) I felt very proud of myself except this man picks up finocchiona, not pancetta. I don’t know if he thought I was stupid and wouldn’t be able to tell the difference, and I knew I didn’t pronounce it incorrectly!! I just didn’t say anything because I wasn’t sure if it would’ve been insulting. So, here I am with this meat instead of my pancetta…I was disappointed and frustrated, so I payed and left.

I stopped by Conad to pick up prepackaged pancetta instead. That’s the last time I go up to a deli counter in Italy.

I was too lazy to cook last night, so when I woke up at noon today I decided it was the perfect time to cook!

This recipe was pretty simple to make. Boiling water is probably the most annoying part because it literally takes forever to bubble! I chopped up the *real* pancetta, an onion & garlic, and let that all cook together. When it came time to open the tomatoes I prayed they would be crushed…they were not, but they were close enough. I dumped the tomatoes in, and let the sauce simmer while the pasta cooked.

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This meal really did only take 30 minutes to make which only happens once in a blue moon. I happily scooped my pasta into a bowl and attempted to take an appetizing picture, but alas, the lighting in my apartment stinks. At least I tried!

I sat down, and was so ready for this moment of truth. 3…2…1…. ahhh, it’s just a pasta dish — a red sauce pasta dish. I’ve never been a huge fan of red sauce but this wasn’t bad. It had a little heat to it because of the red pepper too. I gladly helped myself to two portions.

Now time for the rating. Bucatini all’Amatriciana receives ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. I seemed to be bashing this recipe above, but in all honesty it was good. The tomatoes here are so different than the ones in the US…they’re actually delicious. This red sauce pasta was nothing like I’ve had at home, and it has everything to do with the freshness aspect of all the ingredients. I have enough of this to last me the next week too, so I’m pretty excited to come home and enjoy this every night. It’s unbeatable.

Though being alone in a foreign city with absolutely no friends this weekend was kind of intimidating, it was a much needed break to focus on myself. Nothing relieves stress quite like cooking while blasting Kesha’s new album. Really, although I preach cooking with friends, cooking by yourself just may be the medicine you need sometimes.

Fino alla prossima settimana! (Until next week!)

-Mary Honkus

 

Italy Meets Greece

Three weeks into living in Italy, and surprisingly I’m not sick of eating pasta. Well, I’m sick of restaurant pasta because that equals me blowing $$$$. I can’t even begin to explain how excited I was when I read tonight’s menu and realized I’d be making an Italian pasta dish of my own. On tap for tonight is Sicilian Sausage and Fennel Pasta, and a Greek Diner Salad. Let’s get cooking!

I used to think that traveling to Trader Joe’s was a trip and a half, but nothing could prepare me for Italian grocery stores. Before I even left to go shopping I had to research translations of all the ingredients just in case I had to ask an employee where to find an item. Looks like my grocery trips are now going to be a part time language class for me too.

I started out at Conad at 10:30AM. I was able to find all of the produce…but that was about it. I wasn’t in the mood to ask any of the employees where things were, plus I was in a hurry to get to class.

After class, I decided to have another go at a different supermarket: Pam. Pam is more like an express super market, so I didn’t go in there with high expectations. I managed to find feta cheese, pepperoncini, and chicken broth, but I still needed to find sweet Italian sausage….I really thought that would be the easiest thing to find because, oh, I don’t know, I’m in freaking Italy??!! Mama mia!! I stumbled upon another random market across the street from me and decided to give it a go. I found sausage, but I couldn’t tell if it was sweet sausage (yes I get super anal about ingredients). I stared at the package for about 10 minutes before my eyes found “DOLCE” and I nearly yelped for joy. I still needed to find oregano, but I was so done with this scavenger hunt through Florence, so I just gave up on that one.

I had to run to class after the endless grocery trip, but after 2 and a half hours it was cooking time…almost. I come home to see my room mate Shannon at the door of our building saying she broke her foot, so I helped carry her to the hospital. Once she was checked in our other roommate Stef stayed with her & I hurried home because if I didn’t eat soon I was going to pass out.

Before I could even cook I had to stop back at the random market to buy a new pan because all of the pans provided by our apartment sucked.

Finally after hours it was time to cook! As the sausage browned I chopped up garlic, onions and fennel. Fun fact about fennel: it smells like licorice, which is interesting because once I threw the vegetables in the pan I smothered them with sambuca which is licorice flavored liqueur. The whole sauce was a random concoction of spices, veggies, and cream, and they all seemed odd to pair together, but Rachael Ray’s weirdest combinations tend to be the best.

 

As the sauce simmered and pasta boiled, Kait joined me to chop up the salad ingredients. Chopping is always quick and easy whenever you have a helping hand! Before I knew it, it was time to eat.

Kait got all cute and set the dining room up for a roomie dinner, then we all sat down (minus Shannon because she was still at the hospital) and had the moment of truth.

3…2…1…No exaggeration, this pasta was the best since I’ve been in Italy! At first I thought it tasted so good because I was beyond starved, but everyone had the same reaction. I’d say it was a success! The salad was just a salad, nothing extravagant about it. Just salad.

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Now time for the ratings. Sicilian Sausage and Fennel Pasta receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. This pasta was so unique because it was sweet. Most people would be like “a sweet pasta? gross!” but hear me out, this was great. There was a slight licorice flavor to it from the fennel and sambuca, but not overwhelming. It was the perfect balance of salty and semi-sweet. Fabuloso! The Greek Diner Salad receives ♥♥♥ (3) hearts. I realized after we cleaned up that I forgot to put the feta cheese in. -_- Cheese always makes everything better, so this was just a meh salad. There was literally nothing special about it, and anyone could’ve made it — simply unimpressive.

Rachael Ray has perfect timing: as soon as I move to Italy, all of the upcoming recipes just happen to be Italian! I don’t know if it’s all in my head, but I think making Italian food in Italy makes it taste better…I’m definitely right. Pasta has always been the most difficult thing for me to make, but I’m gonna come back to the US a pasta master. Just you wait!

Fino alla prossima settimana! (Until next week!)

-Mary Honkus

PS Because of the ridiculous wifi here I couldn’t upload the pictures. I tried for 14 hours. So sorry about no pictures of this awesome meal. ):

At Home Sunday

It has been a crazy ride in New York with this blog — From my love/hate relationship with Trader Joe’s to masterpiece and failure recipes, this blog and my love for cooking have flourished in this city. But now, it’s time to take EVOO international!! For those of you who don’t know, I moved to Florence, Italy for a year, but I knew I couldn’t leave EVOO or my faithful readers behind. I packed up the cookbook, and safely made it to Europe. After settling down (and eating more pasta than I’d like to admit) I finally made the time to continue this cooking adventure in my new apartment. On tap for tonight’s first Italian EVOO is Aldo’s Cold Herb-Roasted Chicken and Blanched Green Beans with Parsley. Let’s get cooking!

This adventure is sort of confusing and all over the place because 1. I don’t know how to get around the city yet and 2. all the food labels here are in Italian. It’s going to take some time to get used to grocery shopping here. I first tried this marketplace called Vivi, and I was honestly petrified when I went inside. It was small, dingy, and I felt like there was no way the place would pass US department of health standards. The owner’s toddler was also riding around the tiny store on his tricycle, and bumped into me a few times. I left there empty handed but I knew it was for the best.

The next place I tried actually felt like an American supermarket. Stepping into Conad was somewhat relaxing — I knew it was clean and I knew this would become my regular grocery store. It was pretty easy to find all of the ingredients (considering all I needed was a chicken, green beans and parsley), but the way you buy the produce was slightly confusing.

Europeans are so much more trusting in the grocery store. To buy produce you put as much of one item in the bag as you want — in my case green beans — then you weigh it, and the scale prints out a price sticker according to weight. A pretty easy process, but anyone could put more in after they print the sticker….grocery stores in the USA are definitely not that trusting.

I didn’t cook until the next day (today). A majority of my room mates almost convinced me to go out to eat for the 5th night in a row, but I held my ground and stayed behind to cook instead. Rachael Ray warned in the recipe that it would take over 30 minutes — finally something she was honest about. Although cooking time was longer, it was honestly the easiest recipe in the history of this blog. All I had to do was rub my chicken with herbes de Provence, and then let it cook in the oven for 40 minutes.

I ran out while it was cooking (don’t worry, one of my room mates was home to watch it) to buy some tupper ware. When I returned the chicken was supposedly done, but when I cut it open it was still a little pink so it went back in the oven for another 20 while I made the green beans.

Now the recipe says that both of these items should be served cold….but ain’t nobody got time to let a full roasted chicken cool to room temperature (and why would you want to eat cold chicken) so I ate both of these hot. I’m sure that it was 100% better than it would’be been cold. Sorry, Rachael Ray.

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I was starved, so when this moment of truth finally came around I was so happy. 3..2..1… I was so hungry that this meal was better than I thought it would be. You all know I’m not a fan of green beans, in fact I’m allergic to them… but these were stomach-able. I gladly scarfed them down. The chicken was cooked beautifully too. I don’t care what anyone says, the skin is the BEST part! The whole bird was juicy and delicious. I could’ve eaten the whole thing but stopped myself and only ate half instead. Not too shabby for my first home cooked meal in another country.

Now time for ratings. Aldo’s Cold Herb-Roasted Chicken receives ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. I loved this chicken. It had a simple spice yet was so flavorful and cooked to perfection. The only thing that prevented it from receiving 5 hearts was that I never realized how difficult it was to eat a full chicken off the bone. I felt like a savage while eating and wasn’t sure if I got all the meat or not, which was kind of frustrating honestly. The Blanched Green Beans with Parsley also receives ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. I hate green beans, but this dish was more than tolerable for me. I will never LOVE green beans, but at least I didn’t hate them. I definitely can and will eat these for leftovers the rest of the week.

Cooking in a different country is oddly different, not just because of the shopping, but also having to learn how all of the appliances work. Though this cooking adventure didn’t require much work, I look forward to becoming more comfortable with this culture and my kitchen. Hopefully Rachael Ray will bless this next year with lots of Italian recipes to come. I’m ready to become a master *Italian* chef! Here’s to the next year of new food and new adventures! Ciao!

Fino alla prossima settimana! (Until next week!)

-Mary Honkus