By Nancy Caivano
Hello!! Welcome to the November edition of Pasta, Risotto and You! with the holidays coming up, this issue focuses on different recipes that you can use to shake up your holiday table. Tired of serving the same old things? Why not keep some of the usual recipes, but put in a couple of different courses, maybe some appetizers, or first courses, that can make the entire meal seem different. In the Pasta part of this column, I will show you some recipes that use seasonal ingredients and make wonderful starters for your holiday meal. In the Risotto section, we will look at using some wonderful winter purées, like butternut squash, and pumpkin, that will get your holiday meals off to a fantastic start.
Depending on the size of your table, and number of guests, you can either serve your meal buffet style or with everyone sitting around the table. I have always had to serve all the holiday meals in my home buffet style, simply because of lack of room. If you have to serve buffet style, there are a few ways to incorporate "first courses" into the meal. What you can do is, maybe have a few appetizers on the table when your guests arrive, for them to begin with. Then, instead of bringing out the meal, why not bring out a first course, of pasta, or maybe soup. Let them serve themselves, and use smaller dishes so that they won't fill up on the first course. Then you can bring out your main meal and all the trimmings. Your guests might find it a novel approach to the ordinary!
If you have the means to serve your meal sitting at the table, consider doing the meal in courses, instead of placing all the food out at once. It brings some variety into the meal and the change of pace alone will jazz up the day!!!
Traditionally, in many Italian-American households, pasta is served right along with the turkey and trimmings. It was usually a heavy pasta too, like Lasagne or Stuffed Shells. How we ate all that food I will never know!!! But, with today's lighter look to eating, many families have removed the pasta, and just had the turkey. I think that there is room for both on your table, should you wish to have it.
Both the pasta and risotto recipes this month are perfect for a first course for your holiday dinner. They are not overly heavy, and they are vegetarian, so that the meat of the meal is from your main course. For the pastas, I have included a different kind of Lasagne, made with mushrooms and butternut squash, which is much lighter than the normal lasagne, which is full of heavy cheese and meat. I have also included a Spinach and Pumpkin Ravioli, which is simply tossed in a Sage Butter. A small serving of this would be a wonderful first course!! Also included is pasta with thinly sliced pumpkin, sautéed with aromatic vegetables, and cooked with white wine. It is mixed with both mozzarella and Romano cheeses, and tossed with crunchy toasted almonds at the end.Using roasted vegetable purées is a wonderful addition to any risotto recipe. Risotto is normally a creamy dish on its own, but the addition of the purée adds a wonderful dimension to the dish. Roasting any vegetable adds a smoky, warm flavor to it, but it seems to work best with winter vegetables. The roasting brings out the natural sweetness in the vegetable, whether pumpkin, squash, even onion, and fennel. It mellows the sharp flavor of garlic, making it perfect when you want a light flavor of garlic, that won't overpower. Roasted vegetable purées are also very effective in low-fat cooking (something we will talk about after the holidays). It can add creaminess to a dish without adding fat. It especially helps in dishes like soups, casseroles, and of course, pasta and rice dishes.
The risotto recipes in this issue all use roasted vegetable purées. First up is Risotto with Roasted Butternut Squash. It is flavored with roasted garlic and sage, a perfect introduction to your Thanksgiving turkey! Then we have a more unusual Risotto with Roasted Fennel, Roasted Onion and Dried Tomatoes. The fennel and onion are roasted, then pulsed in the food processor. While it is not technically a total purée, it is used in the same fashion. Last up is a dessert risotto, which would make a welcome change from the normal pies and cakes. Pumpkin Pie Risotto has Granny Smith apples and is flavored with amaretto, cream, cinnamon and nutmeg. It is like a warm and creamy rice pudding.
I hope that you enjoy this month's recipes. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday, and I will see you in December! If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, please drop me a line, Chefchk@[email-address-removed]. I'd love to hear from you!
See you next month,
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