Stracnar (Stracenate) Pasta with a Pan-Fried Cauliflower, Tomato & Clam Ragu

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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All my posts now have a VERY customizable PRINT & PDF option.  Create a PDF & save the recipe to your computer or print it out.  It offers a “remove images” option & you can delete any part of the post you do not need before printing.  The button is below by the Twitter & Facebook links.

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Stracnar & stracenate are both the same name for a pasta that originated in the Puglia area of Italy.  Stracenate is essentially an egg pasta that is rolled thin & then rolled over a cavarola board & embossed with a pattern.  The cavarola board looks like this (Photo courtesy of AdriBarrCrocetti.com)

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These are very hard to find & the few I could find cost over $60.  I didn’t want to commit that kind of money to what could end up being a one-use item – so I tracked this tiny plastic version down & bought it for $14 HERE.

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Actually, I didn’t expect it to be tiny – but it is.  It is like 2″x3″.  I would much prefer a larger one that could imprint as much pasta as possible in one go.  As it was – I had to cut my homemade paste into tiny squares & then run each one, individually, over this little guy.

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It wasn’t difficult to roll these guys out.  The little plastic cavarola came with a little grippy thing to put under it & a tiny rolling pin.  I quickly moved on to my real rolling pin but, though this is a sorta slow process, it was satisfying & kinda Zen to do.  I didn’t bother attempting any uniformity of shape.  The rustic, variations bothered me less than trying over & over to roll out uniform strips of rectangular pasta.  After about an hour total – I had stracenate for four drying on my counter.

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The fact is, you can make this pasta & just blow off the embossing part.  Once cooked, the imprint is somewhat less noticeable, anyway, and it is purely an aesthetic.

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It is really just an old-school throwback to a regional, Italian, artisanal pasta and I love that kinda thing – so I did it.  Plus – I have far too much time on my hands & making pasta of all kinds has a really calming effect on me.  And homemade pasta is as delicious as it is gratifying.

For this dish, I used the other half head of cauliflower I had after my Kraft Cauliflower No-Mac & Cheese endeavor.   I used tomatoes for color & clams for texture.   You could leave any one of those out & compensate with more of another & still get a great ragu.  I didn’t use live clams because of a clam Holocaust I caused a while back recounted here in my Arugula Bucatini & Spicy Clam Sauce post.  Also – this video bums me out.  How can you throw these guys into steaming pots?  Oof!

As to homemade pasta – my “tutorial” for that is HERE.  You could simply roll that dough out thin & cut it into rectangles with a knife & declare yourself a stracanate maker.  Who’s gonna call you on that shit?  Nobody.  Nobody who wants to eat your homemade stracanate, that is.  If another kind of pasta seems preferable – look HERE for a pretty decent selection of pasta doughs I have posted over the last year – doughs made from spinach or kale or arugula or beets or serrano/cilantro – etc etc.  Or – just use any shape boxed pasta.

A quick aside about quantity of spices: I like my food heavily spiced & very garlicky.  But – you can use things like crushed red pepper & garlic to suit your own taste – added to or subtracting from my suggestions.  That said – my boyfriend Miles (looking super badass in Texas last March)

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and I ordered a pizza delivered from the awesome Village Pizzeria.  They sent a little plastic container or crushed red pepper with the pizza.  It is THE HOTTEST fucking crushed red pepper on Earth.  I use 1/2 tsp of this stuff where I would use 3 TBS of the stuff in my cabinet.  I am guessing that they must just go through theirs very quickly so it is always fresh & powerful where my Costco-sized container sits on my shelf for over a year and become less potent.  At any rate – I bring this up because I typically suggest FAR larger amounts of crushed red pepper than I do in this recipe & that is because I was using the Village Pizzeria stuff.  The amount you really use is up to you & the spiciness of whatever crushed red pepper you are using.  I had no idea the spice factor could vary as much as the two different containers I have here – and I have no way of knowing how spicy YOUR crushed red pepper is – so – just spice this up to your taste.

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Stracnar (Stracenate) Pasta with a Pan-Fried Cauliflower, Tomato & Clam Ragu

(This feeds two very well)

INGREDIENTS

2 servings homemade stracenate (stracnar) or 1/2 lb dry pasta (perhaps a pappardelle?)

1/2 head cauliflower – cut into bite-sized florets

12 cherry tomatoes – halved or quartered (plus more for garnish)

2 (6.5 oz) cans clams

6 (or less) cloves of garlic – chopped coarsely

1 small onion – diced

Lots of chopped parsley plus garnish

1/2 tsp of crushed red pepper

Olive oil

S&P to taste

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DIRECTIONS

Make your pasta or get a box out of the pantry.

Heat 1-2 TBS olive oil in a large pan.  Pan-fry the cauliflower florets by letting them sit about a minute at a time on the hot pan – unmolested – before stirring them so that you get some browning as they cook.  Once browned & tender – put them in a bowl & set aside.

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If needed, add another TBS olive oil to the pan & saute the onion, tomato & crushed red pepper until the onion is soft & browning a bit.  In the photos below, you can see I left my garlic in pretty sizable chunks.  I find it is harder to burn that way – but it also results in you biting into huge garlic bits.  I have no issue with that.  If you do – cut your garlic smaller.

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Add your garlic & saute a minute or two & then add the clams (with the juice from the cans) and the cauliflower.  Add a handful of chopped, fresh parsley & add S&P to taste.  Heat through and allow to rest over lowest heat.

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Cook your pasta.  Homemade pasta is done when it floats to the top of boiling water.  Boxed pasta has instructions.

Drain the pasta, arrange some on plates & top with the ragu.  Garnish with additional raw, chopped tomato and/or parsley.  Enjoy your Italian stay-cation!

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Pan-Fried Lemon, Goat Cheese & Ricotta Gnocchi with Tomato & Basil & Fresh Mozzarella

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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All my posts now have a VERY customizable PRINT & PDF option.  Create a PDF & save the recipe to your computer or print it out.  It offers a “remove images” option & you can delete any part of the post you do not need before printing.  The button is below by the Twitter & Facebook links.

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I posted a pumpkin gnocchi in February with three different sauces.  Those gnocchi came out more dense than I liked.  These new guys are not dense at all – but I experimented with pan-frying them rather than boiling them & I am uncertain how I feel about the results.  Rather than caramelizing – as other bloggers said would happen – they sort of fried up like French fries – with the exterior sealed & the interior soft.  I am not sure if this is because I was pan-frying cheese gnocchi rather than a potato gnocchi – but they were tasty all the same.  I am just not sure if I think the additional calories involved are worth it.  I will boil some up soon & report back on how they stack up against the pan-fried.  Here is how they looked after frying & draining on a paper towel.

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This recipe makes about 6 servings of gnocchi but the tomato & basil sauce is only for two servings.  So – be prepared to freeze some for later use.  To do that, line a cookie sheet with wax or parchment paper & put the fresh gnocchi on it & freeze them like that.  Once the gnocchi are frozen solid, pick them off the cookie sheet & put them in individual zip lock bags in your freezer – each containing a single serving (or in larger quantity – as you desire).  To cook frozen gnocchi – put them in boiling water directly from the freezer & boil until they float to the top.  If you let them thaw first, they will become a gooey mess.

Gnocchi is pronounced “Nyawkki,” for those that are unsure.

 

Gnocchi can be rolled on one of these (inexpensive) little rollers

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for a result like this

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or just cut into cubes like this.

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If you are frying them, do not bother with the board rolling.  The frying will dissolve the grooves anyway.  Also – frying in clarified butter (or ghee) is better because it is harder to burn but regular butter will work.  HERE is how you clarify your own butter.

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Feel free to just boil them.  They are done when they float to the top.

You can do this will all goat cheese or all ricotta.  I just happened to have the ratio of cheeses I posted here.

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Pan-Fried Lemon, Goat Cheese & Ricotta Gnocchi with Tomato & Basil & Fresh Mozzarella

INGREDIENTS

For 6 servings of gnocchi

3/4 cup (5 oz) goat cheese

1 1/4 cups whole milk ricotta

1 1/2 cups flour

1 cup grated Parmesan

2 egg yolks

2 tsp lemon zest

1 tsp salt

If frying – you will need 4 TBS clarified butter (or regular butter) and 2 TBS olive oil

For 2 servings of tomato & basil & mozzarella sauce

1 lb tomatoes – diced small (I used cherry & Roma)

olive oil

4 cloves garlic – minced

1 1/2 cups chopped basil

S&P to taste

Fresh mozzarella balls (in quantity you think suits 2 servings) – sliced

DIRECTIONS

For the gnocchi

Gently blend together the flour, goat cheese, ricotta, Parmesan, lemon zest & salt.  Add half the flour.  When well incorporated, lightly dust a counter with flour & transfer the dough there.  Add the rest of the flour & gently pinch it in.  Try not to over-knead or add too much flour.  You might need more or less flour depending on certain factors such as the size of the yolks & the wetness of the ricotta.

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When done and not still sticky – store in the fridge for at least an hour – covered in plastic wrap.

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When ready to make the gnocchi, take sections of dough & roll them out to 3/4 inch thick snakes.  I used my fingertip as a measuring device to cut the gnocchi into cubes.

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You can opt to roll them on a gnocchi board or not.

For the tomato & basil & mozzarella sauce

Heat 1-2 TBS olive oil in a pan.  Add the minced garlic & saute 30 seconds.

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Add the diced tomatoes & bring to a boil.

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Reduce heat to low & add MOST the basil – reserving some for garnish.  Simmer for 15 minutes or so.  Add S&P & leave on a very low simmer.

To assemble

If boiling the gnocchi – boil them until they float.  Remove with a slotted spoon & add to the sauteing tomatoes.

If frying the gnocchi – heat the butter & oil in a pan & fry the gnocchi – shaking the pan and/or turning the gnocchi until browned on all sides.  They can then either be drained on paper towels & then added to the tomatoes or just added directly to the tomatoes.

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Raise the temperature on the tomatoes to a serving temperature.  Divide between to plates & garnish with the sliced fresh mozzarella, grated Parmesan & reserved chopped basil.

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Truffled Celery Root Mixed Grain Risotto Tower with Roasted Beets, Pan-fried Cauliflower & Basil Jus

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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This might look intimidating but it is not.  It just requires a few easy steps.  Most of it could be substituted with other ingredients, too.  For example – hate beets?  Use carrots or corn or sweet potato instead.  Trader Joe’s mixed grain thing not available to you?

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Use a regular risotto.  Celery root unavailable or yucky to you?  Make your risotto with whatever ingredients you prefer.  Don’t have fancy food mold ring to create the tower?   Use a bowl or just free form it on the plate for a more rustic presentation.

I loved this dish.  The celery root absolutely held its own despite competing with a lot of other flavors here from white truffle oil to roasted beets & garlic to the fried cauliflower to the basil oil.   This dish was served closer to warm-room temperature than what I would call hot – primarily because there are so many ingredients to time properly – but I liked it just warm.  It might also be served hotter if you don’t spend 15 minutes trying to get the perfect photo of it.

Speaking of which – I am often asked what I use to photograph the food.  The answer?  My iphone 5 and a construction lamp.  See?

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That is all I have going on.  I have limited dishware & napkins etc with which to present my recipes and I am beginning to feel my images are starting to look a lot alike but that is just the reality of doing it all DIY on a shoestring budget.  But THIS dish – this will definitely wow folks on any plate.  I hope you try it.

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Truffled Celery Root Mixed Grain Risotto Tower with Roasted Beets, Pan-fried Cauliflower & Basil Jus

INGREDIENTS

For the risotto

1 lb Mixed grains (or risotto or other rice)

1 large celery root – peeled & diced

2 cups milk

1 cup Parmesan – grated

White truffle oil to drizzle – (VERY optional)

For the roasted beet & garlic puree

6 small beets

4 TBS heavy cream

4 cloves garlic

For the pan-fried cauliflower

1 head cauliflower

1-2 TBS olive oil

For the basil jus (basil oil)

1 cup fresh basil

3/4 cup high quality olive oil

DIRECTIONS

For the beet & garlic puree

Halve your beets (or quarter them if the are large) & drizzle them with olive oil.  Toss them with the garlic cloves & roast them & the garlic (add lots of extra garlic so you can have some extra around for future recipes) in a 400 degree oven for 30-45 minutes or until tender.  Check frequently & remove the garlic if it browns quickly & is done before the beets.  When roasted – cool a bit then puree the beets, 4 roasted garlic cloves & the heavy cream in a food processor.  Set aside.

For the basil jus

Plunge the basil in boiling water for 30 seconds.  Plunge it in cold water, drain & squeeze out the water.  Puree the basil with olive oil in a food processor.  Set aside.

For the pan-fried cauliflower

Slice the cauliflower into 3/4 inch steaks.  Heat the olive oil & fry the cauliflower until browned on both sides.

Alternatively – you could roast the cauliflower (tossed in olive oil) in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes or until it is soft & beginning to brown.  My photo here is of florets roasted in the oven.  The assembled tower images show cauliflower pan-fried as steaks.

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For the risotto

I cooked the bag of mixed grains as per the directions.

Bring the milk to a boil, add the diced celery root to the milk, reduce heat & simmer for about 20 minutes or until the celery root is soft.

Blend the celery root, the milk it cooked in & the cheese in a food processor until smooth.  Add to the cooked grains & blend completely.  Drizzle with truffle oil (if using) – sparingly, as it can really overpower the other flavors.

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TO ASSEMBLE

I used a food ring like this

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and simply put a layer of risotto then beet puree then cauliflower.  I drizzled it with the basil jus & topped it with watercress.  You could build yours backwards in a greased ramekin & flip it or in a bowl & flip it – or just present it in a more casual, rustic, unformed way.

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