03/28/12 Sausage, Red Pepper, and Spinach Cake

"A padre avaro, figliolo prodigo." (After a thrifty father, a prodigal son.) Welcome to another recipe edition from Angela's Organic Oregano Farm!

This week's Italian recipes:
  -Fresh Ricotta Cheese
  -Ricotta Gnocchi with Mushrooms
  -Sausage, Red Pepper, and Spinach Cake

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Yours Truly,              
Angela Reina       

 Recipe: Fresh Ricotta Cheese

Fresh Ricotta Cheese
Ricotta Fresca


8 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice


Line colander with 4 layers of cheesecloth.

Set in sink.

Bring milk and salt to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat.

Stir in lemon juice.

Let simmer until curds form, 1 to 2 minutes.

Using finely slotted spoon or skimmer, scoop curds from pan and transfer to cheesecloth-lined colander.

Let drain 1 minute (curds will still be a little wet).

Transfer curds to medium bowl.

Cover and chill until cold, about 3 hours. Makes 1 and 1/2 cups.

That's it!

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 Recipe: Ricotta Gnocchi with Mushrooms

Ricotta Gnocchi with Mushrooms
Gnocchi di Ricotta Ai Funghi


For the Gnocchi:
1 pound (about 2 and 1/4 cups) fresh ricotta cheese
1/2 cup to 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 large egg
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano cheese
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pinch of ground black pepper

For the Sauce:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound assorted wild mushrooms, cut into 1/2 to 3/4-inch pieces
4 green onions; white and pale green parts finely chopped, dark green parts thinly sliced
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup (or more) chicken broth
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano cheese plus additional for sprinkling
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons fresh marjoram leaves


Prepare the Gnocchi:
Place ricotta in strainer set over medium bowl.

Chill until ricotta has texture of wet clay, about 1 hour.

Mix ricotta, 1/2 cup flour, egg, and next five ingredients in medium bowl, adding more flour by tablespoonfuls until dough is slightly sticky (do not add more than 4 tablespoonfuls).

Cover and chill 30 minutes.

Sprinkle rimmed baking sheet generously with flour.

Transfer dough to lightly floured surface.

Cut into 4 equal pieces.

Using hands, roll 1 piece on floured surface into 3/4-inch wide log.

Cut log crosswise into 1-inch pieces.

Place gnocchi on prepared baking sheet, spacing apart.

Repeat with remaining dough.

Cover gnocchi with plastic wrap and chill at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.

Prepare the Sauce:
Heat olive oil in large skillet over high heat.

Add mushrooms; saute until beginning to brown, about 4 minutes.

Add chopped white and pale green parts of green onions.

Saute 1 minute.

Add wine; stir until almost all liquid is absorbed, about 30 seconds.

Add 1/2 cup chicken broth.

Stir until sauce is slightly thickened, about 1 minute.

Working in 2 batches, add gnocchi to large pot of boiling salted water, stirring to prevent sticking.

Boil until gnocchi rise to surface of water, then continue boiling until cooked through, 1 and 1/2 to 2 minutes longer.

Using slotted spoon, transfer gnocchi to skillet with mushrooms.

Add sliced dark green parts of green onions.

Rewarm mushrooms with gnocchi and green onions over medium heat, adding more broth by 1/4 cupfuls if dry.

Remove from heat.

Add 1/4 cup cheese, butter, and marjoram; stir until cheese and butter melt.

Season with salt and pepper.

Transfer to plates and sprinkle with additional cheese. Serves 6.

That's it!

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 Recipe: Sausage, Red Pepper, and Spinach Cake

Sausage, Red Pepper, and Spinach Cake
Torta di Salsiccia, Peperoni, e Spinaci


Sixteen 1/4-inch thick baguette slices, cut on slight diagonal
1 tablespoon butter
12 ounces fresh baby spinach leaves
1 pound sweet sausage, casing removed
1 and 1/2 cups grated Fontina cheese, divided
3/4 cup diced drained roasted red peppers
6 large eggs
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper


Preheat oven to 350°F.

Butter 8 x 8 x 2-inch baking dish.

Place 8 baguette slices in bottom of dish; press 2 baguette slices onto each side.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in large pot over medium-high heat.

Add spinach; toss until just wilted, about 3 minutes.

Transfer spinach to strainer; cool.

Squeeze spinach dry.

Transfer to medium bowl.

Heat same pot over medium-high heat.

Add sausage.

Saute until cooked through, breaking up, about 7 minutes.

Mix into spinach; mix in 1 cup cheese and peppers.

Spread atop baguette slices in bottom of dish.

Whisk eggs in medium bowl to blend.

Whisk in last four ingredients.

Pour over spinach mixture and stir lightly with fork to distribute evenly.

Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup cheese over.

Bake torta until puffed and golden and center is set, about 55 minutes.

Remove from oven and let rest 15 minutes before serving. Serves 6 to 8.

That's it!

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 Only In Italy!

"Only In Italy" is a daily news column that translates & reports on funny but true news items from legitimate Italian news resources in Italy. Each story is slapped with our wild, often ironic, and sometimes rather opinionated comments. And now, for your reading pleasure, a sample of today's edition:

Mafia Invasion of Northern Italy Successfully Underway

Reggio Emilia - February 24, 2012 - The Mafia used to be strictly a business of Italy’s south, but today organized crime has reached the north, Italy’s economic engine, and is thriving, investing its illegally-made millions there.

But unlike in the south, where the Mafia has a thorough and sometimes violent control over society, its influence in northern regions is mainly economic and often hidden.

"When they show up here, they look clean," says Enrico Bini, the president of the town of Reggio Emilia’s Chamber of Commerce and one of the first and most outspoken public critics of organized crime in Emilia-Romagna. "It’s tricky. Companies sometimes don't know whom they are making deals with."

"There was a defensive ideology around here," says journalist Sara Di Antonio, who wrote a book about the Mafia’s presence in the north. "People believed that our community, for cultural and historic reasons, had to be healthy."

Public officials and politicians were no exception. "They said that everything was under control, although there were many signs that things weren't quite right," Ms. Di Antonio says.

According to a 2008 report by the Italian parliament, the Mafia "colonization" of Emilia-Romagna started in the 1980s, when a large number of mobsters from the south were sentenced to forced residence in the region for up to five years. The measure, first introduced in the 1960s, was intended to disrupt crime by uprooting suspected members of organized crime groups from their local networks.

Instead, the "forced residence" approach allowed mafia members to work themselves into the rich northern and central regions. There they were joined by affiliates who remained at large and gradually created a new sphere of influence.

Since the 1980s, the crime syndicates have strengthened their presence and diversified their activities. Today, the 'Ndrangheta and the Camorra, the two main groups, operate all across the region.

Sos Impresa, an anti-Mafia organization, said in a recent report that charging illegally high interest rates is another common strategy organized crime uses in the north. Mafiosos lend money at extremely high rates to companies in distress and otherwise unable to get loans, with the ultimate goal of taking control over them and further infiltrating the local business sector.

Northern Italians have often claimed to be too honest to be targeted by organized crime, refusing to face reality, says Annalisa Duri, a local coordinator with the anti-Mafia organization LIBERA. But the Mafia thrives when people stick their heads in the sand, she says, agreeing to profitable business deals with individuals with questionable connections, for example.

"It’s everyone’s responsibility," Duri said. "We need to realize not just that the Mafia exists but that it’s affected by our daily actions."

"Che roba!" Can you believe this horse's petunia?

"...a large number of mobsters from the south were sentenced to forced residence in the region for up to five years." "Figlio di una mignotta", can you believe this reasoning? It makes just as much sense as going over Niagara Falls in a barrel.

Dear readers, what do you do with a chicken weasel that wreaks havoc in your chicken shed? Exactly! You don't arrest it, ship it to another part of the country far away from his weasel buddies...and place it near another chicken shed.

"Northern Italians have often claimed to be too honest to be targeted by organized crime, refusing to face reality..." Aww...aren't the idiots cute? When a Northern Italian sees a mobster digging up the yard, he/she has to face the reality that he is burying another Northern Italian and not planting tomato plants.

You see, many many years ago, if a Southern Italian had seen a Mafia victim laying on the ground helpless it would have been a such a rare occurrence that our reaction would have been: "Oh mio Dio! This Southerner needs help, let me assist!"

Fast forward to today. If you see a body laying on the ground, you wouldn't step over it...you would run over it just to make sure it wouldn't get up to attack you.

Oh, Northern Italians! We know you're repulsed by us but take our advice anyway:
You don't need people. Trust us.
Do like us. Buy a glass bubble and climb in it.

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