Italian food is the ultimate comfort food. On this week’s episode, Domenica Marchetti joins our editors to share her passion for Italian food. We especially appreciate her tips on making homemade pastas, including the whole wheat pastas featured in our Feb/March issue.
Favorite Italian foods
Kathy’s favorite is risotto. (Here are a few of our favorites, for all seasons):
Some people may be surprised that rice is such a big part of the northern Italian diet. In fact, there are a few varieties of rice used to make risotto, beyond Arborio. Vialone nano and carnaroli are other short-grain rices that have their own distinct properties. Learn more.
Arancini, the fritters of rice filled with cheese, are a great way to use up leftover risotto.
Lasagne is Diana’s first love when it comes to Italian food. Since she feeds a lot of vegetarians, she particularly likes to do vegetable lasagnes. She roasts sheet trays of vegetables (squash, tomatoes, mushrooms, to name a few and layers them with very little cheese. It’s similar to this recipe but she mixes up the veggies depending on what she has. She likes the no-cook noodles for this type of lasagne, but it’s important to watch the expiration date.
Chris loves making biscotti. Store-bought biscotti don’t hold a candle to those baked from scratch, which are still crunchy, but won’t break your tooth. He especially likes adding whole nuts to biscotti, because when you slice the loaves into individual cookies, the nuts end up smaller anyway.
Interview: Domenica Marchetti
Domenica is the author of many cookbooks on Italian food, including The Glorious Pasta of Italy, and Ciao Biscotti. She blogs at domenicacooks.com, and her latest article for Fine Cooking is about making pasta from scratch with whole-grain flours. As heirloom and whole-grain flours are increasingly available to U.S. cooks, this opens up whole new vistas of flavor. Some of her outstanding sauce-and-whole-grain pasta pairings include Rye Pappardelle with Porcini and Fennel Ragu, Farro Cavatelli with Rich Meat Sauce, Sonora Wheat Fettuccine with Pesto Bianco, and Pasta e Fagioli with Whole-Wheat Maltagliata.
Pasta dough is not like pie dough: it likes the warmth of your hands, of a wooden surface (as opposed to marble or granite).
Let you pasta dough rest at room temperature. She doesn’t recommend making the dough in advance. Instead, make, roll and shape, then you can refrigerate/let it rest. Unlike pie dough, you do want to develop the gluten. It’s not really possible to overwork it!
Whole grain flours are often not as finely milled as the usual pasta flours, so don’t worry if at first it seems like there’s no way the dough will be a silky pasta dough, ready for rolling—it will!
Far better than drying homemade pasta, Domenica says, is to freeze it. Because you can’t reliably control the humidity.
Domenica also leads culinary tours in Italy, particularly in the region of Abruzzo, from where her family hails, and Liguria, on the Italian Riviera. Learn more on her blog. In a previous Fine Cooking article, she wrote about ragus from different regions of Italy, including Abbruzzese Lamb Ragu (and Sicilian Pork Ragu, and Venetian Duck Ragu, and the famous Ragu alla Bolognese)
So what else does Domenica make when she’s not cooking Italian food? She loves quiche, American cookies, and bundt cakes. But she finds that the more she explores Italian cuisine and all its variety and depths, the more she discovers.