lasagne alla bolognese

“Using clunky, store-bought lasagne may save a little time, but you will be sadly shortchanged by the results.”

Thus saith Marcella Hazan in her lasagne alla bolognese recipe, which I was consequently scared away from making. Having eaten American-style lasagna and real Italian lasagna in Italy, I certainly preferred the Italian variety. It is lighter, without all the gloopy cheese of its American offspring. Because it is not weighted down with cheese, the exquisitely comforting flavor of the meat sauce is allowed to shine. But I had neither a pasta machine nor the budget to go out and get one, so I figured I’d just have to put off creating the best lasagna ever to some unspecified future date.

Recently, I remembered that I live in New York City (close enough anyway, in Jersey City) and that it was probably not impossible to find fresh pasta. A quick Google search, and I discovered that not only were there many places to purchase fresh pasta in the city, but one was quite conveniently located for me. For anyone in the New York area, I highly, highly recommend a trip to Raffetto’s. They have been making fresh pasta since 1906, and will cut the pasta any way you like on a machine that looks like it has been around since 1906. You can get spinach pasta (like I did), saffron pasta, squid ink pasta, and they have all kinds of different filled pastas – ravioli, tortellini, agnolotti – all you have to do is prepare a sauce to go with them, and you have dinner. They also have all kinds of imported Italian goodies and sauces that they make in house, if you are too tired to make your own sauce. I bought a box of pumpkin ravioli and served them with an alfredo sauce.

I’m not being paid by them to sing their praises. As someone who grew up in a place where Olive Garden and Carrabba’s were considered great Italian restaurants, I simply didn’t know that places like this existed. I was helped by some very kind ladies, who explained just how to cook the pasta and wanted to know the size of the pan I was using so that they could cut my pasta to the right size. It was a delightful experience from beginning to end.

I ended up going to six different shops to source all the ingredients for this lasagne – this isn’t necessary, but I wanted to get the best quality ingredients, since it is a pretty epic meal to make. So I went to Raffetto’s, a butcher (Ottomanelli, where they grind the beef fresh – so good), a cheesemonger (Murray’s), the Van Vorst farmer’s market back in Jersey City, Jersey Wine Merchants, and a small local grocer for the few ingredients that couldn’t be found anywhere else. This is how people used to shop for food, before the days of giant supermarkets with their meats in styrofoam packaging and aisles upon aisles of processed food products. I realize not everyone has access to these kinds of small, local shops, but since I do, I feel that I should support them. Collecting my ingredients was a perfect way to spend a cool, cloudy Saturday morning.

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sausage and potato gratin

This is a comforting dinner for the miserably chilly, wet days we’re having here in the northeast at the moment – a one-dish meal of meat and potatoes that is flavorful and satisfying (though you could also have something green on the side to make this a bit healthier!). It is pretty simple to make – other than briefly boiling the potatoes and sauteeing the onions, you just throw everything into the casserole dish and throw (or gently place) the casserole dish into the oven. This is thus a great weeknight dinner option, especially if you do some of the prep work the night before to save yourself some time – chopping the onions, peeling the potatoes, or grating the cheese, for example. If you’re only cooking for a few people, it will leave plenty of leftovers, which are just as delicious reheated as when fresh out of the oven.

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baked potato soup

With frosty temperatures across the U.S. today (highs in the 20s and lows in the teens here in the Northeast), soup is the obvious solution for dinner. When I was checking the weather (which I do obsessively!) a few days ago and saw how cold it was supposed to be today, I vowed to just stay in my cozy little apartment all day (one of the benefits of being a grad student). The next day, I got an email from the library informing me that a book that is past the renewal limit is due today, which means that I have to go all the way in to campus (grad student life not looking so great anymore). In any case, I made a batch of this baked potato soup yesterday, so I will at least have the leftovers to warm me up when I make it back.

This genius idea for potato soup comes from the SmittenKitchen. It doesn’t actually involve baked potatoes, which would be a pain to deal with; one just puts the toppings to a baked potato onto potato soup – thus making it less healthy, but certainly more delicious (not to mention prettier in pictures!). There will no doubt be plenty of days during the next few months when a thick, warming, hearty bowl of soup will be just the thing you need after braving the chill outside.

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maple bacon biscuits

So this is another post that starts with that trip to City Bakery with my friend Mimi. As we were enjoying our hot chocolate, vegan chocolate chip cookie, and pretzel croissant (mm…), Mimi informed me that the maple bacon biscuits City Bakery served at breakfast were amazing and something I needed to try. A week or so later, I took her advice, and I was not disappointed.

After slowly savoring a biscuit at City Bakery, I did some internet searching to see if their recipe was floating around in the ether. It wasn’t, but I did find a recipe from a bakery out in California called Huckleberry. I finally gave these a try yesterday, and they were so very delicious – the biscuits themselves were soft and flaky with a crisp top, the maple syrup added just enough sweetness, and then there’s the bacon – bacon, as far as I’m concerned, doesn’t need an elaborate description to make it sound tasty. Bacon speaks for itself. So instead of making biscuits, frying up bacon, and drizzling both with maple syrup (mm, also sounds good), you can enjoy all three parts in one tasty breakfast treat!

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quiche lorraine

This is perhaps not the light post-holiday fare one wants after stuffing oneself for several days, but I’ve got quite the backlog of posts at the moment, and since the picture has festive Christmas tree lights in the background, I’m going to go ahead and get it out of the way before the holidays are gone entirely. In any case, we can all start eating more healthily after New Years, right? I know I am certainly craving a big plate of vegetables, preferably not drenched in butter or cream.

This quiche is primarily composed of butter and cream, and yet it feels light when one eats it. Many recipes for quiche lorraine floating around the internet include cheese, onions, leeks, all kinds of things. This recipe is the classic: eggs, cream, and bacon. Julia Child says that a true quiche lorraine includes only those ingredients, and I trust pretty much anything she says (well, I don’t trust her crust recipe because it involves shortening and shortening freaks me out, but that’s another thing). You can serve this with a salad, fruit, and/or vegetables of some sort, but I definitely recommend serving it with brussels sprouts that are prepared simply – the flavors complement so well that I think they are made to go together. You should also be sure to have a glass of crisp white wine.

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