Paige has been asking for Italian night ever since she first came home and tonight was the night.  The menu for Italian night was developed based on the dishes we enjoyed most in Italy: Caprese Salad, Pistachio Gnocchi and Arrabiata Pasta.

The key to great Italian food is quality ingredients so I started the day off today with a trip to the Edmonton’s Italian Center.

Italian NightCaprese salad is so simple but so fabulous.  Sliced tomatoes on the vine with slices of fresh mozzarella and basil drizzled with olive oil and balsamic glaze.

You can make balsamic glaze but I don’t do that I buy it.  It’s quite expensive but you don’t use a lot so it lasts for a really long time.  If you try it, you will love it.

Italian Night

Our first destination in Italy was Ortigia, a little Island off the city of Siracusa.  I was obsessed with finding this restaurant to try Pistachio Gnocchi, recommended by the lonely planet.  At long last we did find it and it was great.  I was able to find a recipe on a blog called Pinch My Salt that is pretty close to the dish I was introduced to in Italy and it’s surprisingly simple.  It’s very rare for me to follow a recipe exactly as I find it but I do with this one and it’s fab.

Pistachio Cream Sauce
1/2 medium white or yellow onion, chopped
1/4 C. ground pistachio
2 T. olive oil (plus a little extra)
3/4 C. heavy cream (according to taste)
crushed red pepper
fresh ground black pepper

Heat olive oil in a medium saute pan, add onion and cook until translucent.  Add pistachios and enough oil to moisten them to create a paste-like consistency.  Cook, stirring, over medium heat for about one minute.  Add cream, stir until heated through, then remove from heat.  Add a pinch of crushed red pepper, black pepper and plenty of salt to taste.

We like spicy food.  This recipe is unique in that it’s sweet, with a kick.  The flavors are fantastic.  I found this recipe on Una Mamma Italiana, stated to the best ever and believe me, it’s extraordinary.  I have made a few minor modifications.

1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 large onion chopped
5 cloves minced garlic
1/2 cup red wine
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 chopped fresh basil
1/2 tube double concentrated tomato paste (I used le cabanon)
1 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 large can whole tomatoes (easy to break apart … don’t buy crushed)
1 jar strained tomatoes (I used Ottima … excellent quality)
1 cup Oven Roasted Cherry Tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
Grated Pecorino-Romano cheese

Start by oven roasting the cherry tomatoes.  This is one of my additions to the recipe.  It’s kind of a pain but it’s oh so worth it.

Heat oil in large skillet. Saute onion until translucent, add garlic and continue cooking until fragrant.

Stir in the wine, sugar, basil, red pepper flakes, tomato paste, black pepper. Combine.

Mix in the tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 20 minutes (uncovered).

Combine with unrinsed pasta.  I used fileja, a traditional calebrese pasta, rolled by hand (not my hands … I bought it at the Italian Center).  It was beyond great.  Top with grated cheese, to your liking.

Italian NightWho could have room for dessert after such a meal?  Well we did but it was a really light one.  Of course I found this recipe online as well; it was my first time trying the recipe and it was a really great addition and nice way to end the meal.

Amaretti Baked Pears
20 raw almonds crushed
8 amaretti biscuits
2 tbsp light soft brown sugar
few drops of vanilla extract
1 egg white
2 tsp lemon juice
large, ripe pears
150ml pear juice

Crush both the almonds and amaretti biscuits in a plastic bag, you want tiny chunks, but not a fine powder. Put both in a small bowl and mix in the  sugar, vanilla extract, egg white and lemon juice.

Peel and halve the pears lengthways. Remove the cores from the pears with a teaspoon to leave a cavity for the filling. Put into a shallow ovenproof dish and fill the cavities generously with the amaretti mixture. Pour the pear juice into the dish, cover with foil and bake for 35 minutes, until the pears are tender. Uncover and bake for a further 5 minutes. Serve warm with ice cream.  The recipe calls for some homemade stuff but I served it with maple walnut ice cream and that was simply amazing.

In the true spirit of Italy, we enjoyed some red wine along with our meal.  The food was great, the evening was great.  Hope you try some of these recipes.  I promise you won’t be disappointed.

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