Pumpkin Potato Lasagna

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Usually I love following the traditions: I believe in keeping the proportions and following the procedures even if new technologies can simplify everything: after all, I am not looking for the “correct” and perfect ways, I just need my food to taste like in the childhood. But sometimes, when life sends you a good set of ingredients, I feel like experimenting (anyway, there was no lasagna in my childhood). This time my inspiration was the autumn – keeping in mind that in English climate autumn vegetables must be the tastiest. So, actually, the queen of the autumn, pumpkin, seems like a perfect stuffing balanced with new tomatoes and some potatoes. Alternatively, pumpkin can be replaced with aubergines. The nature is smart, and apparently all autumn veggies tend to combine perfectly with each other.

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Pumpkin Potato Lasagna

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: medium
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Ingredients:
Onion_____________1
Potatoes__________ 500 grams
Pumpkin__________ 300 grams
Tomato pasta______ 3 tablespoons
Scamorza Cheese___350 grams
Brie Cheese________150 grams
Lasagna sheets
Parmesan ____100 grams
Rosemary
For sauce
Butter ______ 40 grams
Flour _______40 grams
Milk ________600 ml
Nutmeg _____a pinch
1. Cut onion and fry till golden, add cut potatoes and diced pumpkin and cook on the low heat for 10 minutes. Add tomato pasta, mix well and cook until ready. Add salt, paper, and rosemary to taste.
2. For the béchamel sauce melt the butter in a pot with thick bottom, add flour, mix it and fry for several minutes constantly mixing so that flour won’t stick to the bottom. Add warm milk, mix well, cook on low flame till it boils, after add salt, nutmeg, cover with the lid and cook for 10-15 minutes (till it becomes dense). Note: for lasagna the sauce shall be not as dense as you would cook otherwise.
3. Grease a baking dish, cover the bottom with béchamel, lay the first layer of lasagna sheets (it’s better if they don’t overlap), cover with béchamel, spread vegetable mix, add salt and pepper to taste, and slices of cheese. Repeat layers till all ingredients are used, cover with lasagna sheets, béchamel, sprinkle with parmesan. Bake on 180C (350F) for 45 minutes.

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Lemon and Basil Pasta

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There is a famous Russian journalist, who dedicated himself to studying island cultures. He claimed, that as every island population developed in insolation, its culture and social norms are so distinctive, that it is not easy for continental people to understand them. As the examples he mentions Japan and UK (he spent 10 years in both countries and claims that British people are quite difficult to go alone with). I don’t know how true it is nowadays, but I am sure that this principle is not applicable to another large island – Sicily. It was conquered so many time, that it is rather a melting pot of people, traditions and cuisines. Specially distinguishing in this sense is Palermo region, which was under strong Arabic influence, and thus features couscous as a traditional dish. And it were Arabs, who brought lemons into Sicily – they started cultivated it on the fertile soil of Etna. Many people trust that exactly due to this volcanic soil and Sicilian lemons have these inimitable sweetness, which born the saying: “Lemons are not lemons unless they are from Sicily”.
Lemons are used in many traditional dishes, like famous Granita. But in the summer a popular dish is past with lemon, as it has rich, refreshing flavor.
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Time of preparation: 20 minutes Difficulty: Easy
Ingredients:
Spaghetti or tagliatelle_________400 grams
Olive oil______________________12 tablespoons
Garlic________________________2 cloves
Red chili_____________________1/2
Basil________________________a handful
Tomato______________________1 big
Lemon______________________ 2
Parmesan___________________40 grams
Butter_______________________20 grams
Salt, Pepper
1. Boil spaghetti in plenty of salted water till al dente. Drain, reserving a splash of cooking water.
2. Chop the garlic and chili; put olive oil into a pan, add garlic and chili and sweat on medium fire for about a minute.
3. One lemon cut in segments, grate the zest and squeeze the juice from another one.
4. Put pasta in the frying pan, add a little bit of cooking water, lemon segments, zest and juice, basil, and cut tomato. Stir, season to taste, and adjust the density with the remaining cooking water. Add grated parmesan and butter. Serve straight away.

Pesto from Genova

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I thought I should complete my small flash-back to Liguria with some eternal classics, namely green Pesto or Pesto alla Genovese (quite predictable, isn’t it?). But almost for a week I have been sitting without writing a line. I wanted to tell a little bit about Genova, but I can’t find the right words. I already mentioned, that it is a city of contrasts, city with drug dealers, prostitutes and people of other doubtful occupation openly managing their business right in the middle of the day. I decided to find a holy place within this seem to be sin city.
In good old time I wanted to name my son Harrison – quite a daring ambition for a Russian mother-tongue. Guess who was the hero of my lifetime? Sure, Indiana Jones. He was so irresistible going to all these incredible places (where the hell they are located?), fighting crowds of evil locals, saving somebody in the spare time, digging out various staff… Couldn’t help thinking of becoming an archeologist, buying the suit of a sand color, and going to search for Graal (or similar).
And here I am in Genova, many years after, in simple white-red and blue dress, with degree in international relations and with Graal in my hands. Ok, ok, not in my hands, but in front my very eyes. And what do you think? It’s GREEN! Moreover, it’s BROKEN! They say it was Napoleon, but I guess they just look for a scapegoat (Sphinx, Graal – too many staff to break for one guy). Pretty incredible, but the Holy Graal is not lost, neither it is hidden… it is simply disposed in the treasury of San Lorenzo Cathedral in Genova, together with many other relicts. Obviously, no photography allowed – but it is a hexagonal deep dish, made out of green transparent glass with a huge hole next to the basement…
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And back to pesto:
Time of preparation: 10 minutes Difficulty: Easy
Ingredients:
Garlic_______2 cloves
Olive Oil_____100 ml
Basil________50 grams
Parmesan___ 70 grams, grated
Pecorino____ 30 grams, grated
Pine nuts____1 tablespoon
1. Chop garlic, put in a food processor. Add basil, a pinch of salt and process for a short time.
2. Pour in oil, process again. Finally add cheeses and nuts, process till mixture is homogeneous. Enjoy!

Sour-sweet Vegetable Pasta

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As I just moved to London and have to sort out million things, for two weeks I’ve cooked jut the simplest and fastest dishes (and as my BF is Sicilian, pasta had a solid presence in our menu) P.S. as you may have noticed, now we have square plates! 🙂

Time of preparation:  35 minutes Difficulty: Easy
Ingredients (for two portions):
  • Spaghetti______200 grams
  • Aubergine_____ 1
  • Zucchini_______1
  • Onion_________ ½
  • Red hot pepper_1
  • Wine/water_____1 glass
  • Vinegar________1 tablespoon
  • Sugar_________ 1 tablespoon
  • Tomatoes______2

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Sun-dried Tomatoes’ Pesto

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Do not mix tomatoes pesto with 'red' pesto - the latter is done with red pepper

Do not mix tomatoes pesto with ‘red’ pesto – the latter is done with red pepper

Time of preparation:  15 minutes Difficulty: Easy
Ingredients:
  • Sun-dried tomatoes__400 grams
  • Pine nuts___________30 grams
  • Almonds___________ 20 grams (can be replaced with cashew)
  • Garlic______________2 cloves
  • A red pepper (optionally)
  • Parmesan and pecorino_30 grams of each (optionally)
  • Basil, salt, pepper to taste

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Pasta with Zucchini

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Farfalle, or "butterflies" is a type of pasta for cooking with vegetables.

Farfalle, or “butterflies” is a type of pasta for cooking with vegetables.

Time of preparation: 20 minutes Difficulty: Easy
 
Ingredients:
 
Farfalle/Penne__200 grams
Tomato_______ 1
Zucchini_______2 middle
Cheese________100 grams*
 
* Italians use mozzarella, which I wouldn’t recommend as when melted it becomes concentrated in one place. I usually use goat cheese for more peculiar taste.

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