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Feb 28, 2014 06:13 PM

March 2014 Cookbook of the Month - Stir: Mixing it up in the Italian Tradition: A Passion for Pasta (111-175)

Greetings all!

Please use this thread to post your reviews for the "A Passion for Pasta" section.

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  1. Rigatoni with Spicy Sausage and Cannellini Beans, Pg 135

    We made this dish when I first got this book and it was, simply stated, Perfect. Tons of unmistakable Italian flavors especially with a reduction of a 2009 Isole e Olena Chianti Classico DOCG in the sauce.

    Used all the required ingredients without substitutions. One half teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes was just right for us. Hot and spicy in-house (local Italian market) made pork sausages, De Cecco rigatoni, Pomi chopped tomatoes, imported Parmigiano, Goya tinned cannellini. G had three helpings! We'll have to make it again this month.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Gio

      what could I substitute for the sausage?

      1. re: jpr54_1

        Hi jpr... you know, up here in the Boston area we can get both chicken and turkey sausage. Would you be able to use either of those? If not, perhaps heavily spiced chicken pieces. For this sauce the casings are removed so perhaps bite size pieces of other meat would do.

        The recipe calls for the addition of crushed red pepper flakes so there's a little heat, not too much, just enough. Good Luck!

      2. re: Gio


        Another dish I’ve made a few times since my first review. Posting it here to add to the discussion:

        On a cold winter’s day we were in need of some heat and this dish came to mind. Funny that Lynch comment’s that the dish “is perfect for a chilly night” and I didn’t read this until after dinner! This pasta has a lot going for it in that it’s quick to pull together w minimal chopping, primarily relies on pantry ingredients and, tastes fabulous. I prepared as directed and in hindsight, I’d taste the sauce prior to adding the suggested amount of chili flakes since our final dish was pretty darn spicy. Obviously our Italian sausages were spiced more aggressively than usual! No pasta water was added to the sauce, it was loose enough as is. Lynch has this as an optional step. Fresh basil was a nice touch. I’d make it since, w less heat so it’s fun for the whole family vs just me!!

        1. re: Gio

          Rigatoni with Spicy Sausage and Cannellini Beans, Pg 135

          This dish hit the spot on another cold and sleet-y night, even with some substitutions based on what I had on hand. I had some chicken sausage which needed to be used up, as well as a bottle of half-drank Italian Red wine which was taking us space in the fridge. This seemed like a perfect dish to use those up. It turned out my chicken sausage was kind of blah on its own, but I hoped this treatment would perk it up. PLus with more winter weather heading in and the kids released from school early, didn't want to have to head to the store for anything.

          As Gio and BC describe, this is a quick dish to put together. Very weeknight doable. I had to leave out the fresh basil at the end, since I didn't have it, but I think this dish is pretty forgiving. Even my less than stellar chicken sausage turned out being great with this treatment. It's amazing how simmering with onion, garlic and red wine can make a sub-par sausage taste great. I also felt like this recipe could feed a small army. A pound of pasta usually just feeds my family of 5, but we had 2 serving left over for lunches this week. Score!

          1. re: Gio

            Rigatoni with Spicy Sausage and Cannellini Beans Pg. 135

            This was dinner for us yesterday and we quite liked it. For my part, sausage and pasta is one of my favourite combinations.

            In this case I followed the recipe as described by others and the results were good. The pasta and beans are toothsome companions and the sausage sauce is rich and coats the pasta beautifully. I have to say I didn't really note the butter that was added at the end and I wouldn't be keen to increase it so I might simply omit it next time and see if I can note a difference.

            I would also venture a few suggestions that would possibly suit our tastes a touch better. I felt that white the basil was nice, it was a little too subtle, so I would likely add a bit more next time. Same for the parmesan that is added to the actual pasta. Lastly, Ina Garten has a recipe for "weeknight bolognese" which calls for crushed tomatoes instead of diced, as well a shot of about 1/4 cup of wine in the last 5 minutes or so of cooking. I always find that the crushed tomatoes make for a nice consistency, and the shot of wine makes the sauce a touch more assertive (which is a good thing for me).

            On the whole however, a very good dish.

          2. Saving my spot on this thread in case I decide (sigh...) to get this book :-)

            1. BUTCHER SHOP BOLOGNESE – pg. 121

              I've made this dish on several occasions, always to rave reviews. I thought I'd post my original review here for folks who may not have come across it.

              What separates this Bolognese from others we’ve tried is the combination of meats used. Ground veal, pork and lamb are added to sage and finely chopped (at least in my case!) chicken livers that have been browned and seasoned along with the usual onion/carrot/celery mix. Wine, chicken broth, chopped tomatoes are then added in to simmer away and, perfume your home with their meaty, delicious aromas! Prior to serving, ½ cup of heavy cream is stirred in.

              The lamb and livers really did deepen the flavors of this sauce that was almost “stew-like” in flavor. This is a real stick to your ribs meal that just hit the spot on this very cold, snowy Toronto evening. Oh, and the red wine played an excellent supporting role.

              8 Replies
              1. re: Breadcrumbs

                That sounds luscious, BC. Looks like similar ragus I've had too. I must look at the recipe.

                1. re: Gio

                  It really is special Gio. A very big, bold ragu, perfect for this horrifyingly cold weather we've been getting!

                2. re: Breadcrumbs

                  ...I realized that the 2nd photo I posted above (and subsequently deleted!!) was of a different dish from Stir! Here's the plated dish:

                  1. re: Breadcrumbs

                    Butcher Shop Bolognese, p. 121

                    I was dying to try this bolognese. I've rarely met one we didn't love. But it didn't wow initially. I followed the recipe to the letter, and I'm not sure if my choice of wine (an inexpensive Côtes du Rhône we had on hand) was the problem but after a two-hour simmer, the sauce was overwhelmingly wine-y, both in aroma and in its unappealing, well, wine color. I also wonder if the Pomi chopped tomatoes (which I rarely use as it's difficult to find Pomi) weren't the best choice as the tomato pieces never really melded into the sauce but retained their shape and texture. So after two hours, I added another 1/2 cup of tomatoes, a little more stock, and a tablespoon of tomato paste and threw in a couple of cheese rinds and cooked it for another hour before adding the cream, which helped the color a bit although my sauce still did not look like Breadcrumbs's (I'm including my photo, which suggests a better color than the sauce actually had). We ate this over a very nice pappardelle, and while it wasn't our favorite bolognese, it was a fine meal, one I'd eat happily anytime.

                    The repurposing a couple of nights later did wow us, however--in lasagne. To the leftover ragu, I added about 3/4 c. ea. canned tomatoes (which I mashed roughly myself) and the roasted chicken stock, cooked it briefly and then layered it with fresh mozzarella and a bechamel/parmigiana sauce. It made for several more absolutely delicious meals.

                    1. re: nomadchowwoman

                      I made this following the on-line recipe listed on the general "Stir" thread. This is very meaty in flavor - the chicken livers add a strong meaty element without registering as "liver". The lamb contributes to the meaty flavor too.

                      I ended up adding some tomato paste and a little of a dried pepper blend to adjust the flavor to my taste. My batch was very grey. The bits of carrots added more color than the tomato. My only other change was to use a can of Italian plum tomatoes which broke down with a little spoon action during cooking.

                      My first helping was just a bit too intense. I like meat but this was meat X 10. I hoped the leftovers would improve and they did. The second night I enjoyed the dish much more.

                      I think using the sauce with ricotta stuffed shells or lasagna will balance out the meatiness for me.

                      I don't think I'll make this again. The effort and range of ingredients didn't pay off in the final dish. I will take some of the ideas and use in a simpler variation.

                      I plan to decrease the chicken liver and lamb, keep the pork and substitute mushrooms for the veal. The mushrooms should stay true to the texture but reduce the (for me) overwhelming meatiness of the dish. My hand problems made the fine chopping a chore. I will roughly chop, cook until softened and then use the immersion blender.

                      It was a good exercise and I got to try a few new things with this recipe. And the leftovers won't go to waste!

                    2. re: Breadcrumbs

                      Butcher Shop Bolognese Pg. 121

                      I have to say I wasn't sure what to expect from this one as the reviews are generally positive but there have been a few concerns with colour (grey) and flavour (too meaty). That said, I am happy to report that we really loved this dish. My fellow chowhounds have summarized the prep very well, so I will simply add that the only modification I made was that I used ground beef, lamb, and pork as I couldn't get my hands on any veal the day of. I simmered the sauce for a good four hours, and let it sit in the fridge for a few days before serving with about 1 lb of a good quality dried tagliatelle.

                      The result is definitely a bit bland in terms of colour, but once it is plated and sprinkled with a bit of pepper and parm, the colour was a non issue. The flavour however was very deep with a meaty but varied flavour. The liver brought in a touch of umami, and the other meaty companions gave me the sensation that I was actually enjoying a slightly less lamby, lamb sauce. As good carnivores this sauce was definitely hitting the right notes for us. I do see however how someone might find it a bit dense and too meaty.

                      My only modification would be to add a bit of basil at the end as the long cooking pretty much eliminated any basil notes for me. A touch of green and a bit of additional basil flavour would definitely improve the dish IMHO.

                      1. re: Breadcrumbs

                        I was really excited to try this recipe. The addition of chicken livers sounded different and interesting. I more or less followed the recipe; but, having read other reviewers concerns about the sauce being a bit gray, I added two cans of tomato. I also increased the amount of lamb a little, while decreasing the amount of pork.

                        Overall, I thought it was a good bolognese. But, it didn't rock my world in the way I hoped it would. I would consider making it again; but, may continue my search for the perfect bolognese before revisiting it.

                        Side note: I used the leftover sauce to make stuffed bell peppers. I cut the top off red bell peppers and pulled out the core and seeds. I then placed the peppers cut side down in a steamer and steamed for 10 minutes. I then mixed the bolognese with some white rice, filled the peppers, and baked at 350 for about 30 minutes. It was very good, and an excellent low carb alternative for the leftovers :)


                          Yet another fabulous recipe from this book. A dish I've made previously but thought I'd share my review here for folks who may not have read it.

                          This is a lovely dish and perfectly suited to the fall IMHO. We loved the harmonious flavours in the sauce where the celery and apple blended beautifully and added a welcome crunch to the dish. The sauce is also terrific because it is made ahead w the final ingredients being added just as the pasta cooks. We served this alongside some chicken cooked in a similar style to Saltimbocca chx cutlets w a sage leaf and prosciutto slice atop that were dredged w seasoned flour then browned and cooked. Lovely. We'll definitely make this dish again. I have not made my own agnolotti though…yet anyway!

                          1. PASTA WITH POTATOES, (BEANS) AND PESTO – p. 126

                            Another recipe I’ve made previously. Re-posting my review here for folks who may be interested. We never seem to tire of this dish.

                            Amazing! Though this combination of ingredients didn’t seem to be an obvious choice for a pasta dish, I put my faith in Ms Lynch as she’s never let us down and this time was no exception. I had some green beans on hand so I decided to add them to the dish as well. The preparation method allows the flavours and textures of the vegetables to shine through and the finished dish was exceptional, it really surprised us. The sauce was rich and somehow creamy tasting – so much so that it reminded us a little of Carbonara. I ended up cooking the potatoes along w the pasta to save a step and, some time. This was so good we’re having it again this week. Scrumptious!

                            8 Replies
                            1. re: Breadcrumbs

                              Breadcrumbs, I'm curious, is the pesto in Stir the same or similar to the one in this link, which struck me because BL makes it largely with butter rather than olive oil? If so, that would certainly give credence to the rich and creamy description!


                              1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                Interesting Caitlin. No, not at all. This pesto calls for 1/2 c. pine nuts that you toast until golden brown, 1/2 c. of fresh basil , 2 cloves of garlic which you chop, and 3/4 c. of evoo along w s&p. One heaped tbsp of pine nuts are reserved for garnish everything else goes into the blender.

                                I think its the potato that somehow makes this taste richer. I've since made the dish and sauteed the green beans with some leeks. We love it w leeks. This is arally a special recipe.

                                1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                  Potatoes with macaroni always seems a peculiar pairing to me. One my mother would never have done, but I suppose it must have evolved because of mountain folks who needed a hearty dish.

                                  1. re: Gio

                                    It seems odd to me, too, Gio, however I have learned that pasta with potatoes, green beans, and pesto is a very traditional Genovese dish.

                                    1. re: Gio

                                      Seemed odd to me the first time too, but I love it. Also love very thinly sliced potatoes on a pizza (with pesto as the sauce).

                                      1. re: Gio

                                        This is how they eat it in Genoa, which is the port city in Liguria, where the pesto originated. I first discovered the potatoes many years ago through Genovese friends of my parents. It didn't make a lot of sense to me as a kid (primarily because I didn't really care much for potatoes), but it does now.

                                        1. re: Gio

                                          I think you must be right about the origin Gio. That said, when mr bc & I were first married I used to prepare a rice and potato dish that was born out of mr bc's preference for potatoes as a side dish and mine for rice. I remember one of mr bc's friends dropping by unexpectedly for dinner one night and he thought the dish was brilliant...his wife still prepares it for him so many years later!! (though we long since retired it from our menu).

                                    2. re: Breadcrumbs

                                      Pasta with Potatoes and Pesto Pg. 126

                                      This was a winner for us, but I must admit to doctoring a touch. I added some parmesan to my pesto, as well as just a touch of cream. I started out with the parmless pesto, but after tasting it I found it a bit flat and really wanted that rich umami flavour I love in my usual pesto, so in went some parmesan and a splash of cream.

                                      I did simmer the beans, potatoes, and pasta separately, which added a bit of time but maintained the texture of the potatoes and beans. That said, end to end this dish can be done in about 30-40 minutes and it is very tasty. Definitely a stick to your ribs meal, and one who's flavours were very much appreciated at our house.