Italian

Rosemary Focaccia

focacciaI’ve had a handful of meals that I would consider particularly memorable in my life. The meal after Travis and I got married in Savannah, Georgia immediately comes to mind as well as the meal Travis and I ate in a revolving dining room overlooking Niagara Falls. Then there’s the meal I shared with my family at Pinocchio’s restaurant at Disney World overlooking the It’s a Small World ride. Hey, just because I was probably 8 and eating chicken fingers doesn’t mean it wasn’t life changing.

I’d have to say that definitely in the top 5 most memorable meals in my life so far was the meal Travis and I shared in Rome in a little plaza overlooking the Pantheon. There are things that just don’t fade in your mind such as the red gingham tablecloth, the fact that it was probably 45 degrees but the heat lamp next to us kept us warm, the view (of course), and the FOOD. Focaccia was served along with my entree of Fettuccine Alfredo in a Parmesan cheese bowl. Yes, best day ever. 

focaccia

prepared biga (I could have used a larger bowl)

Let’s think about this a little longer to let it sink in. There was a basket of focaccia served to us, perfectly crisp from being smothered in olive oil before baking. There was Fettuccine Alfredo, possibly one of my most favorite dishes. There was a BOWL made out of Parmesan cheese. A BOWL, people. It was wonderful and I loved it. I ate it all. You don’t let focaccia and Parmesan bowls go to waste when you’re in Italy. You just don’t.

focacciaI won’t pretend that this focaccia can come close to the memory that I have of that meal. I have to face the fact that I do not live in a plaza next to the Pantheon so it’s a bit hard to recreate the mood. BUT, I will say that the time that goes into this bread is worth every last mouth-watering bite. You will not be disappointed. The ingredients are so simple but scrumptious when combined the right way. The bread isn’t greasy from the olive oil. It’s rich and crisp and wonderful. I have nothing more to say than go now. Go now, and make this bread. Now. Please.

focaccia

Rosemary Focaccia
Yields 2
Rosemary, olive oil yeast bread
Print
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
10 hr 50 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
10 hr 50 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 cups lukewarm water, divided
  2. 2 teaspoons dry yeast, divided
  3. 4 1/2 or 5 cups all-purpose flour, divided
  4. 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  5. 1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
  6. 2 teaspoons rosemary
  7. 1 teaspoon sea salt
Instructions
  1. Prepare the biga the night before baking the focaccia - combine 3/4 cups of lukewarm water and 1/4 teaspoon yeast in a medium bowl. Stir to dissolve. Mix in 1 1/2 cups of the flour. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in warm spot for at least 8 hours.The biga should be light and airy when it's ready.
  2. Combine the remaining 1 3/4 teaspoons of yeast and 1/4 cup water in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the biga, 1 cup of water, 3 cups of flour and 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Mix for about 2 minutes on low, add 1 1/2 teaspoons table salt, and mix for another 3 minutes on low. If the dough is sticky, add the remaining 1/2 cup of flour in small increments until it is no longer sticky.
  3. Place the dough in a large bowl coated with olive oil and cover with a damp kitchen towel.
  4. Let it rise is a warm place until doubled, about 45 minutes. Knock down the dough and fold it over a few times before covering again and letting it rise another 45 minutes.
  5. Coat two 9" metal* cake pans with olive oil (about 1/2 tablespoon each). Split the dough in 2 and place half in each of the cake pans. Spread the dough out until it reaches the edges. Cover with a damp kitchen towel and let rise for about 45 minutes.
  6. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Use your fingers to poke indentations in the dough. Pour 2 tablespoons of olive oil over each focaccia (this will pool in some of the indentations). Sprinkle the rosemary and sea salt (I used pink sea salt but regular sea salt is good too) over the focaccia and bake for about 20 minutes, until golden brown.
  7. Cool on wire racks before serving.
Notes
  1. Make sure to start the biga for this recipe the night (or at least 8 hours) before trying to make the bread. It's a long process, but worth it!
  2. Pretty much everything in this recipe is divided! Please note the amounts needed for the biga and for the bread-making process in the directions.
  3. *I tried this recipe in a glass baking dish and it did not come out as crispy as when I used the metal pans. However, you could use an 8x8" or 9x9" metal baking dish if you do not have round cake pans.
Adapted from "Baking Boot Camp" by The Culinary Institute of America and Goldstein via A Chookie Cookie
Flavor From Scratch http://www.flavorfromscratch.com/

Spinach and Cheese Manicotti

Spinach and Cheese ManicottiI’m approximately 0% Italian by blood. My husband is also 0% Italian I’m pretty sure. We are both pale, blue-eyed, and blonde-haired. I’m cool with that. However that doesn’t stop me from channeling my inner Italian to cook dishes like this spinach and cheese manicotti that are oh so *delizioso*. Yeah. That was my inner Italian coming out. Sorry.

Spinach and Cheese ManicottiI actually didn’t have manicotti to make this manicotti recipe because that’s how I roll. BUT, I was able to make some homemade lasagna noodles that I rolled up with the filling inside and it worked great! You certainly can buy manicotti or use store-bought lasagna noodles cut in half. Honestly, I couldn’t find manicotti at the store after I put everything else for this recipe in my cart. Since I’m too lazy to go to another store or ask where the manicotti may be, I made the noodles. The truth comes out. 

Spinach and Cheese ManicottiYou are also more than welcome to make your own pasta sauce for this recipe. I often do have homemade sauce in my freezer but for this recipe I took the easy way out and bought a nice store-bought sauce. It did the trick! 

Spinach and Cheese ManicottiOne thing I love about this otherwise cheesy and carb-filled recipe is that it does sneek some veggies in there! Apparently now that I have a little one I think about hiding vegetables in food. Such is life. The little guy’s only a couple months old though so he pretty much has a one track mind and it’s focused on milk right now.

Spinach and Cheese Manicotti
Manicotti stuffed with a 3-cheese and spinach filling and topped with your favorite pasta sauce
Print
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
45 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
45 min
Ingredients
  1. 10 ounces frozen spinach
  2. 15 ounces ricotta cheese
  3. 1 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  4. 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
  5. 1 egg
  6. salt and pepper, to taste
  7. 10 manicotti, cooked*
  8. 24 ounce pasta sauce (homemade or store bought)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Cook the frozen spinach according to packaging (I microwaved mine in a microwave-safe bowl). Place the cooked spinach in a kitchen towel and let drain. Squeeze the excess water out by twisting and squeezing the towel.
  3. Mix the spinach, ricotta cheese, 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese (the remainder is for the top), Parmesan cheese, egg, and salt and pepper together in bowl. Transfer to a zip top bag. Seal the bag and cut a corner off to create a piping bag.
  4. Squeeze the cheese mixture into the manicotti. This is easiest to pipe a little from each side to make sure you get the mixture all the way through the noodle.
  5. Spread 1 cup of the pasta sauce on the bottom of a lasagna pan. Place the manicotti in the pan, top with the remaining pasta sauce and reserved 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes.
Notes
  1. *I used homemade whole wheat lasagna noodles that I cut in half and rolled up once I put the filling in them. Either way works!
Adapted from The Cooking Jar
Adapted from The Cooking Jar
Flavor From Scratch http://www.flavorfromscratch.com/