Sundried Tomato and Shittake Pasta

Italian Food | Pasta Recipe - Sundried tomato and shittake pasta ingredientsWhen the weather gets cold outside I have a tendency to indulge in warm, comfort food. Soups, stews and roasts feature heavily in my menus. There are few things more comforting than sitting under a blanket with a good book, snow swirling outside the windows, and delicious smells drifting from the stove. The steam envelops the room in warmth and my belly grumbles in anticipation of things to come.

However, all my comforting meals usually have a heavy meat component. All that meaty goodness is not so great on my digestion (and my waistline!!!!). So I have decided to keep trying to add more veggie based dishes to my winter repertoire. I’ve come up with this pasta dish because the shittake mushrooms still give me the meaty texture and the cream cheese allows for the comforting creaminess without being too heavy. I hope you give this a try as well.

1 garlic clove chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
3 shittake mushrooms sliced
3 sundried tomatoes sliced
1/4  cream cheese brick
2 cups pre-washed baby spinach leaves
pappardelle or other ribbon pasta (cook according to package directions)
1/2 cup of pasta water reserved 
 
Prep time: 10 minutes     Cook time: 10-15 minutes
 

1. Add olive oil to a saute pan and turn the heat on medium. Put the garlic and sundried tomatoes into the pan and gently fry to flavour the oil and warm the ingredients.

Stirring garlic and sundried tomatoes for Italian Pasta dish

2. After about 2-3 add the sliced shiitake mushrooms. Keep frying them until they soften and release juices.

Stirring in shiitake mushrooms into my easy pasta recipe

3. Add the cream cheese to the pan and stir to form a creamy sauce. Use the reserved pasta water to thin out if the sauce becomes to thick,

Cream cheese added into pan into my italian pasta dishStirring in the cream cheese into my pasta sauce

4. Place half the spinach into the pan and stir into the sauce to wilt down.

Stirring in the spinach into my easy Italian pasta recipe

5. Add the second half of the spinach, then the cooked warm pasta and combine into the sauce.

Pappardelle added to the pan into my sundried tomato, shiitake mushroom and cream cheese pasta recipeCombing ingredients and pasta - pappardelle, shiitake mushrooms, sun dried tomatoes and cream cheese6. The dish is ready to plate when the ingredients are all combined and warmed through. Don’t forget to garnish with some parmigiano after plating.

Italian Food - Recipe for shiitake mushroom, sundried tomato and spinach pappardelle pastaThis pasta dish tastes very luxurious because of all that creaminess and the flavours are strong and burst in your mouth. With this one, a little goes a long way…your taste buds and your waist line will thank you!

 

An Italian Christmas with Massimo Bruno

Massimo Bruno Toronto studio kitchenThis past Sunday the boy and I had an opportunity to indulge in a Christmas feast in Toronto, Italian style. With promises of abundant food and a gregarious group of strangers (soon to be friends) squeezed in at a communal table, we were ready for a real European dining event!

Our host, Italian chef Massimo Bruno, had organized another of his popular, always sold-out Supper Club dinners. This one around the holiday theme, the fifth annual “Buon Natale” Christmas in Italy. The holiday dishes featured were many of his favourites, and the evening was dedicated to his Mama who would be celebrating Christmas back in Italy. The dinner was held at his cooking studio on King Street East where many of his Supper Clubs and cooking classes are held.

Massimo Bruno - Italian Chef in TorontoMassimo Bruno checking for his Supper Club guestsChristmas in the Massimo Bruno kitchen studioLike a great host, Massimo kept an eye out for his guests, welcoming each personally, and entertaining the rest of the room with great Italian humour, as we waited for everyone to arrive. Whether you were a Supper Club virgin or a frequent diner, you were made to feel right at home. And with a “bring your own wine” policy, the atmosphere was more than merry. Although, the boy and I didn’t bring any wine since we were driving back to London after dinner, more than a few of the guests offered to share their libations with us.

But of course, we were there for the amazing food. The warmth of the studio was only intensified by all the cooking in the open kitchen. Massimo, along with some help from his brother and friends Giovanna, and Enzo, prepared the feast in front of our eyes. And cooking for such a large group is no small task.

Enzo cooking in the kitchen studio at Massimo Bruno's Supper ClubSunday sauce at the Massimo Bruno Supper ClubAntipasti in the kitchen at Massimo Bruno Italian Supper ClubAnd we came ready for a feast!

Antipasti
Homemade focaccia
Calamari fritti (fried calamari)
Bresaola, Grana e Rucola (cured beef with arugola and parmigiano cheese)
Baccala’ frito (fried cod)
Burrata e pomodori (burrata with tomatoes and basil)
Lenticchie e Salsicce (sicilian lentils with barese sausage) 
Primi
Il Ragu della Domenica (Ziti pasta with big Sunday sauce)
Mafaldine ai Frutti di Mare (curly fettucine with seafood sauce)
Secondi
Agnello al Forno (baked lamb with shallots and white wine)
Insalata (salad)
Dolce
Flourless ricotta lemon cake
Pandore
Panettone
Espresso

Massimo Bruno Italian Supper Club - Tomato focacciaMassimo Bruno Italian Supper Club - Bresaola and arugulaBurrata plates at Massimo Bruno's Supper ClubAs soon as the food hit the table, I didn’t know what to try first. The burrata’s cheesey exterior revealed a flowing cream centre that paired perfectly with the fried tomatoes. Thin slices of bresaola were coated in a thin layer olive oil and shavings of parmigiano. Homemade barese sausages swam in tiny lentils and were the perfect start on a cold evening. Small plates of these antipasti were placed along the table and everyone passed them around for second and third helpings.

Massimo Bruno Supper Club - Italian antipastiMassimo Bruno Italian Supper Club DinnerGuests at Massimo Bruno's Buon Natale Supper ClubAfter these “small” bites, I couldn’t believe there was more food to come. The variety was amazing and the chatter around the table grew in the casual family atmosphere. I felt like I was having dinner with all my extended family and cousins back home. Massimo floated around the room chatting, taking photos, and generally ensuring that no one went hungry.

Massimo Bruno Italian Supper Club - Shrimp pastaZiti with Sunday sauce at Massimo Bruno's Supper ClubWine and photos at Massimo Bruno's Italian Supper ClubFinally the dishes were cleared and the desserts and coffee passed around. I’m positive I wasn’t the only one thinking of unbuttoning my pants or looking around for couch for an after dinner nap. The best evidence for the quality of food and dining atmosphere is a doodle filled wall full of thanks and comments from past guests.

Thank you's at Massimo Bruno's kitchen studio in TorontoThe drive to Toronto was well rewarded with the best Italian food and atmosphere I’ve found outside of Italy. If you’d like to experience it yourself, head over to Massimo’s site and discover something unforgettable.

Buon Natale a Tutti!

Destination Dining in London

Dining Room at Dolcetto Risto in London OntarioIf you’re looking for a casual, modern restaurant that serves housemade Italian food in London, Ontario, look no further than Dolcetto Risto. Located in the southwest corner of the ever expanding city limits, this Italian restaurant is quite the distance from the dining-focused downtown core. The location is actually part of an outdoor mall, surrounded by a gym, a grocery store, a bank, and a coffee shop. That is not necessarily a bad thing since parking is more than ample. And in my opinion, every part of this city deserves a unique dining spot and this one, because of its location, is definitely a destination.

In a style I like to call Scando-italian, the large open dining room features polished concrete floors, streamlined wood furniture and accents, and large windows that allow in generous light and open to a patio in the warmer months. The neutral vibe reads calm, but the atmosphere is lively and energetic, especially when you peek into the kitchen which stands in full display to the rest of the dining space.

View of Bar at Dolcetto Risto in London OntarioDining area at Dolcetto Italian Restaurant in London Ontario Regardless of where you are seated, the food remains the draw. The boy and I have made the visit a number of times. Each time we make an effort to try something different but a few items stand out as favourites. The large veal and ricotta meatballs, the calamari salad, and the creatively garnished, thin crust pizzas top the list.

With the weather on the milder side this weekend, we found ourselves in the Byron area and I suggested Dolcetto as a lunch spot (the boy didn’t need much persuading!). Seated by the large windows and basking in the sun streaming in, we placed our order. We started off with complementary fresh focaccia and an olive oil and balsamic dip. The soft, salty bread soaked up the oil beautifully and helped to bide time before our meals arrived.

The attentive server kept our water drinks filled until our food was served. The boy chose a trio of crispy arancini (risotto balls) on a bed of tomato sauce.They arrived hot and crunchy on the outside and hot and cheesy on the inside. I wanted a heartier meal and chose broad pappardelle noodles topped with a short rib ragu in a wine sauce. I was surprised at the amount and, to be honest, I couldn’t finish the entire plate. Of course, it was a great excuse to have it for lunch the next day.

Foccaccia with olive oil and balsamic dip at Dolcetto Risto in London OntarioArancini at Dolcetto Italian Restaurant in London OntarioPapardelle with short rib ragu at Dolcetto Italian Restaurant in London OntarioA forkful of papardelle at Dolcetto Risto in LondonAnd if you haven’t guessed by now I have a bit of a sweet tooth so no dining experience would be complete without dessert. We chose to share a double plate of cannoli. The sweet ricotta cheese filling was speckled with chocolate from a local producer, Habitual Chocolate (I absolutely love it when local businesses support each other – a huge kudos to Dolcetto!). However, unlike the traditional version of a cannoli shell, Dolcetto makes they’re own using a pizzelle press for a lighter and fresher taste. The result is a large crispy exterior which is the perfect foil to the creamy core. A perfect pairing with a cup of strong coffee!

Double cannoli at Dolcetto Risto Italian Restaurant in London OntarioNow I can’t wait until the weather gets warm and once again I indulge in some freshly baked pizza and a glass of wine on the patio. I hope you guys can find your way here and give this Italian restaurant a try!

Weekend Edition

Italian Inpired - Cafe break in Rome - Cobblestones & CappuccinosAm I wrong to already be dreaming about summer holidays? This weather is really giving me the blues and all I can think of is soaking up some sun in the Mediterranean. I keep going back to the photos from my holiday in Rome, anticipating the next time I will smell the aroma of freshly brewed espresso sipped on a cobblestone street in the warmth of the afternoon sun. In the meantime, I hope you will enjoy my Italian inspired weekend links!

  • There is nothing more beautiful than a summer wedding, especially one in Italy. Marissa Cox shares her beautiful snaps from a friend’s wedding and makes you feel like one of the guests. Thank you for the privilege!
  • The beautiful Eva Green stars in the 2015 campaign calendar for Campari, the liquor at the heart of Italy’s most famous aperatif, the Negroni.
  • Who doesn’t want a quick and easy recipe, especially for the weekend. Silvia Colloca serves up the perfect frittata which can be served hot or cold . Buon apetito!

 

The Chic Toronto Hangout, Italian Style

Terroni Bar Centrale exterior TorontoThough not one to frequent chain restaurants, whenever I can avoid them, the Terroni chain of eateries have become my go to place for great Italian food and a relaxed yet stylish atmosphere. Each of the eight Toronto based restaurants serve traditional southern Italian food but are themed in different ways. You can choose between family styling dining with large sharing plates, traditional restaurant dining or a wine bar atmosphere.

I’ve now visited three of the establishments and Bar Centrale tops my list. Located along the Yonge Street corridor, and often frequented by the chic residents of Rosedale, Bar Centrale is more than a restaurant. It’s a neighbourhood hangout. A place where you take your family for an early breakfast, meet your girlfriends for brunch, or linger over dinner and wine with whoever makes your heart beat a little faster. The staff is young, friendly and attentive. No one rushes you out the door. And in fact the longer you sit, the more you will order….the menu items are simply irresistible.

Interior view of Bar Centrale restraurantGlass water carafe and brunch menu at Bar CentraleCoffee and cream at Terroni Bar CentralePandolci with preserves and nutella - Terroni Bar Centrale Toronto And if you would like my recommendation…don’t miss the pandolci. Tiny Scandinavian style pancakes served hot with a side of jam and nutella.

Terroni restaurant Toronto ON