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All Roads Lead to Rome -- Even on Valentine's Day!

Posted Feb 10 2010 8:59pm

By Lidia Matticchio Bastianich,
Author of Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy: A Feast of 175 Regional Recipes

This yearValentine's Day falls on a Sundayand I'll be celebrating it with my kids and grandkids "Roman style". After allSt. Valentine's origins are actually considered Romanalthough many of us look for romantic dishes like lobsteroysters and chocolate covered strawberries. I say keep the holiday simplewholesome and still full of love with one or two delicious pasta dishes that can be put on the table in literally twenty minutes. That waythere's more time for lots of hugs following dinner!

Regardless of whether you decide to treat your spouseloved oneor the entire family to these dishesValentine's Day does need a little chocolate to top off the meal. And at my houseI'll be serving my traditional chocolate crepesserved with a little fresh whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Now THAT'S AMORE!

From Lidia's Italian-American Kitchenpublished by Alfred A. Knopf
Makes 6 servings

  • Salt
  • 6 ounces slab baconin one piece
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large yellow onionssliced ½-inch (about 3 cups)
  • 1 ½ cups hot Chicken Stock or canned reduced-sodium chicken brothor as needed
  • 1 pound linguine
  • 3 egg yolks
  • Coarsely ground black pepper

Bring 6 quarts of salted water to the boil in an 8-quart pot over high heat.

Remove the rindif necessary from the bacon. Cut the bacon into ¼ inch slicesthen cut the slices crosswise into ¼ inch strips. Heat the olive oil in a largeheavy skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon and cookstirringuntil the bacon is lightly brownedbut still soft in the centerabout 6 minutes.

The amount of fat in the skillet will vary depending on the bacon. If there is more than 3 to 4 tablespoons of fat in the panpour off the excess. If there is less than 3 to 4 tablespoonsadd enough olive oil to measure that amount. Add the onions and cook until wiltedbut still crunchyabout 4 to 5 minutes. Add the stockbring to a boil and adjust the heat to a lively simmer. Cook until the liquid is reduced by about half.

Meanwhilestir the linguine into the boiling salted water. Return to a boilstirring frequently. Cook the pastasemi-coveredstirring occasionallyuntil doneabout 8 minutes.

Ladle off about a cup of the pasta cooking water. If the skillet is large enough to accommodate the sauce and pastafish the pasta out of the boiling water with a large wire skimmer and drop it directly into sauce in the skillet. If notdrain the pastareturn it to the pot and pour in the sauce. Bring the sauce and pasta to a boilstirring to coat the pasta with sauce. Check the seasoningadding salt if necessary. If necessaryadd as much chicken stock or pasta cooking water as needed to make enough sauce to generously coat the pasta. Remove the pan from the heat and add the egg yolks one at a timetossing well after each. (A salad fork and spoon work well for this.) Add the grated cheesethen the black peppertossing well and serve immediately in warmed bowls.

From Lidia's Italypublished by Alfred A. Knopf

Makes a dozen palacinkeserving 6 or more

For the palacinke:

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon dark rum
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • ⅓ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups flour
  • 8 tablespoons melted butter or more
  • Finely grated zest of 2 lemons

For serving:

  • 10 ounces excellent bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (12 ouncesor morefor extreme chocolate lovers)
  • 1 ½ cups walnutstoasted and coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup heavy creamchilled (plus sugar to taste)

Recommended equipment:

  • A small ladle (⅓ cup volume or slightly larger)
  • A 7-inch crepe pan or a non-stick skillet7-inches wide on the bottom

To make the palacinke batterwhisk together the eggswaterrumvanillasugar and salt in a large bowluntil well blended. Sift the flour on topa bit at a timewhisking each addition until smooth. Drizzle in 4 tablespoons of the melted butterwhisking until the batter has slightly thickenedwith the consistency of melted ice cream. Finallywhisk in the lemon zest. Put the remaining 4 tablespoons of melted butter in a small cup and keep it warm.

Break or chop the chocolate into small pieces and put them a bowl set in a pan of hot (not boiling) water. When the chocolate begins to meltstir until completely smooth and keep it warmin the wateroff the heat.

Set the crepe pan or skillet over moderate-high heat until quite hot. Pour in a couple tablespoons of butterquickly swirl it all over the pan bottomthen pour excess butter back into the cupleaving the bottom lightly coated with sizzling butter. (If the butter doesn't sizzleheat the pan longer before adding the batter). Immediately ladle in a scant ⅓ cup of battertilt and swirl so it coats the bottomand set the pan on the burner.

Lower the heat to medium and cook the palacinka for a little less than a minuteuntil the underside is lightly browned in a lacy pattern. Flip it over with a spatula and fry for a half minute or longeruntil the second side is lightly brownedthen remove it to a warm platter. Heat the empty pan brieflythen rapidly coat it with butterfill it with batter and cook another palacinka. Repeat the sequencestacking up the finished palacinke on the platteruntil all the batter is used up.

Fill and serve the palacinke as soon as possiblewhile fresh and warm. Keep the platter in a warm spot and cover the stack with a tent of foil or a large bowl turned upside down. Whip the heavy creamunsweetened or with sugar to tasteto soft peaks. Stir the melted chocolate and reheat it if necessary so it is smooth and warm.

Take one palacinka off the stack and place it with its lacy-patterned side down. Spoon a generous tablespoon (or more) warm chocolate in the center of the pancake and spread it over the palacinkaleaving an inch wide border uncoated. Scatter a spoonful of chopped walnuts on the chocolate layer then fold the round in halfhiding the fillingsand fold again into a plump quarter-round.

Fill and fold all the palacinke the same way. For each servingplace two roundsoverlappingon a dessert plateheap some cream on topscatter some nuts on top of the cream and drizzle warm chocolate in streaks and squiggles over the palacinke and the plate.

Author Bio
Lidia Matticchio Bastianichcoauthor of Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy: A Feast of 175 Regional Recipeis the author of five previous booksfour of them accompanied by nationally syndicated public television series. She is the owner of the New York City restaurant Felidia (among others)and she lectures on and demonstrates Italian cooking throughout the country. She lives on Long Islandand can be reached at her Web site

© 2010 Lidia Matticchio Bastianichauthors of Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy: A Feast of 175 Regional Recipes

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