Tag: pasta

Menu Planning and Spaghetti Fridays

I am not a planner. Life can take me where it wants, and that is just fine. I feel this way about cooking as well, never having been one to plan what I am going to cook at the beginning of the week and do one big shop in preparation. Part of my day with Lilias is going to the deli/market/grocery store a few blocks from us and choosing something to take home and make for dinner.

But lately I have been in a rut. A very deep one that has made me not look forward to either the shopping or the cooking. I don’t know whether it is because we used to eat out quite a bit at exciting and inspiring cafes and restaurants and I got ideas from them? Or that now I have a nine month old to think about cooking for as well as us? But I felt like I was making the same stuff over and over. And not enjoying it.

So I decided to do the unthinkable. Menu planning. Sitting down in the weekend with cookbooks and planning what we are going to eat for the week. And I have to say, it has been working a treat! It means I actually cook to a recipe from cook books I may not have looked at for a while, I can look at the week as a whole and make sure we are eating a variety of foods, there is no waste of food that looked good at the market and then was never actually used, and it means I am trying a whole lot of new recipes in the kitchen. I don’t know how long I will keep it up, but for the moment it is getting me out of the rut.

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I still cook seasonally by only picking recipes that use ingredients that I know I can find at the market at the moment. And if something looks really good when I am out, I will pick it up and find a way to incorporate it into that night’s meal. It has been making things a whole lot easier and given me more time for adventures further afield with my little Lilias. We have been loving going for long winter walks on the beach- there is something so beautiful about a grey cold day and a stormy looking ocean. Makes me not mind the cold wind in my face and leaves both of us feeling fresh and new and ready for a big dinner.

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I may be cooking all different styles of food from all different cook books, but it is nice to come back to your favourites. So on Fridays? Not going out for an after work drink and getting home at 3am, nope, those days are over… for now. Instead? Spaghetti alla puttanesca. Red wine. Bliss.

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca
Serves four (or two very hungry people)

A very generous pour of olive oil
2 cloves of garlic finely minced
1 dried peperoncino/ generous pinch of chilli flakes
5 anchovy fillets
400g red, ripe tomatoes or 1 tin tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato puree
100g pitted black olives
1 large tbsp capers
roughly chopped parsley
spaghetti

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Firstly, pour yourself a glass of wine and put your pasta water on.

Put the olive oil, minced garlic, chopped anchovies and chilli into a frying pan over a very gentle flame to let the garlic soften and anchovies melt down into the oil.

Peel, deseed and roughly chop the tomatoes if you are using fresh ones, otherwise open the can and add them to the pan. Raise the heat a little so the pan reaches a bubbling simmer and then finally add the capers, tomato puree and the olives.

By now, the water should have come to the boil. Salt generously and add the spaghetti.

Allow the sauce to bubble away and reduce a little and then add the parsley and finally the cooked pasta.

Serve with a sprinkling of fresh parsley. Buon appetito and have a good weekend x

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While the baby sleeps, we eat

Lilias Madeline arrived early on Wednesday the 15th April. A San Francisco spring baby with a raging appetite, legs and arms always on the move, she has won us over completely. Her smiles and giggles are enough to make up for her disdain for sleeping during the day and she never fails to make us laugh with the faces she pulls.

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Her arrival has meant a return to basics in the kitchen. Meals that can be thrown together quickly, or put together earlier in the day to slowly cook in the oven over hours at a low heat. The first few months it took hours to get her down at night- rocking, feeding, crying (sometimes me as well as her) until finally she was out around 10pm, when we would eat something quickly before falling into bed ourselves. Recently though, I have managed to have her in bed and asleep by 7.30, perfect timing for me to prepare dinner and feel like a normal person.

Last night we celebrated a sunny couple of days and a baby who went down to sleep without crying for the first time ever, with a crisp, cold glass of white wine and spaghetti alle vongole. This is a dish I first really had with my friend Marco on holiday in Naples. He told me I had to order it, and so I did. It was divine. This one I made wasn’t bad either.

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Spaghetti alle vongole
Serves four

1kg clams
Olive oil
4 cloves of garlic
Pinch of chilli flakes
10 cherry tomatoes
Small bunch of fresh parsley
Glass of white wine
Spaghetti
Salt and pepper

A couple of hours before dinner, put your clams into the sink with cold, salted water. This will clean them and remove any sand. When you are ready to get started, bring a large pot of water to the boil. Finely slice the garlic and parsley stalks, and quarter the cherry tomatoes. (Side note, it is very controversial topic in Italy whether you should use tomatoes in this dish or not. I personally think that the sweet and fresh taste they bring is the perfect compliment to the salty, fleshy clams, but it is up to you.) When the water comes to the boil, salt it well and cook your spaghetti. Now glug a generous amount of olive oil into a pan with a lid. Add the garlic, and fry gently until it has softened. Next add the tomatoes, chilli and parsley stalks and fry for a few minutes. Last add the clams and the glass of wine and put the lid on. It will begin to steam and spit, so give it a good shake so that everything gets cooked. (I was using quite large clams, so they obviously took longer to cook. If you are using the smaller sweeter ones – better for this dish – cook them closer to your pasta being done.) You will know it is done because the clams will have opened and the tomatoes softened and broken down. If any clams do not open, throw them out. Drain the pasta and stir it into the clam mixture when it is still almost, almost cooked so that it soaks up the salty juices from the pan to finish. Roughly chop the parsley and stir through.

You are ready to pour a glass of wine, dish up and take a break from reality pretending you are back in Italy on a balmy summer’s evening. Or just a proud mother in San Francisco with a happy, sleeping baby.

Pasta primavera

This is my version of pasta primavera, or springtime pasta. A deliciously easy way to enjoy all the fresh green things that this season has to offer us. With cheese. Obviously.

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Pasta Primavera

Olive oil
1 big garlic clove
A bundle of asparagus- try and find the young skinny ones
2 spring onions
A handful of baby spinach
About 8 basil leaves
A handful of freshly podded peas (or frozen ones if you can’t find the real deal)
Juice of half a lemon
A ball of mozzarella di bufala (or feta if you prefer)
Salt
Pasta of the short variety

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Start with golden, grassy olive oil in a frying pan. Add a fresh garlic clove and two spring onions, finely sliced, and a bunch of tall, skinny asparagus cut into fives. Slowly and softly fry these.

Next add your dark green baby spinach leaves, a squeeze of lemon, then the basil and finally the freshly podded peas. These only need a minute to bring out their colour and sweetness all ready to burst with sweet flavour in your mouth.

Finish the dish off with some creamy mozzarella di bufala broken on top and another drizzle of olive oil. This dish works best with a shorter pasta and is delicious cold for lunch the next day.

I added chilli flakes to the olive oil at the beginning of the cooking process, which is, like everything in cooking, entirely optional. I am just doing anything in my ability to encourage this baby out of me and into the world. Tonight? Super spicy tacos from the hole in the wall round the corner. Wish me luck!

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Pasta for a misty evening


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I have been somewhat absent of late. A few weeks cooking for one while Ollie was in China for work, a trip home to New Zealand for a friend’s wedding, work and trying to get ourselves sorted for the baby’s arrival in just 7 ½ weeks (all going to plan), has meant I have not been snapping and blogging what we have been doing or eating. But here I am with a recipe for you.

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We had a weekend of unseasonably warm weather, 24 degrees, sunny, no wind and the smell of spring in the air. This meant wandering around the city with visiting friends, iced coffees, picnics in the park and a few new freckles. A lovely way to be welcomed back to the city after twelve days of sunshine, friends and family back home.

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We have also been welcomed back by the citrus stand at our local Farmer’s Market. They are currently laden with tangerines, clementines, mandarins, blood oranges, pomelos and grapefruit. Every Sunday we come home with bags of fruit, peeling and eating with sticky fingers and then watching my tummy go crazy when the sugar hits the baby. The big bowl of citrus and the sunny weather called for fresh and tasty things to eat when our friends came for dinner on Monday night. We enjoyed a quinoa, baked salmon, blood orange, fennel and pomegranate salad with fresh bread and cold white wine, followed by an orange and coconut cake that is so easy to make, I must blog it soon.

And then the mist rolled in. The temperature dropped and we were plunged back into winter. At work yesterday, all I could think of were hearty winter meals to sustain and warm us. I decided on a broccolo romanesco pasta with lots of parmesan, and perhaps some sausage meat too. May not sound glamorous, but it was perfect.

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Pasta broccoli e salsiccia
Serves four

I head of broccoli romanesco
4 small breakfast sausages
4 cloves of garlic
Chilli flakes
4 anchovies
Splash of white wine
Olive oil
1 packet of short pasta such as rigatoni or fusilli
Parmesan cheese

Take your beautiful, spiralling head of broccoli romanesco, break it into florets and then wash. Cook these in a pot of boiling water until tender. While these are cooking, heat a generous amount of olive oil in a pan with the chilli flakes, anchovies and the whole, peeled garlic cloves. Remove the sausage meat from the casing so you have little bits cooking in the tasty oil, flavoured with spice and salt. When the florets are tender, fish them out and add them to the sausage. I added a splash of wine at this stage, simply because we had a bit left over that wasn’t enough for a proper glass and was looking lonely. Smush most of the broccoli with the back of your wooden spoon so you have almost a pale green sauce with a few whole florets and the little bits of sausage meat within. Cover and leave on a very low heat while you cook your pasta in the broccoli water according to the packet instructions. Combine the pasta with the sauce and plenty of parmesan and dish up.

Quick to make and absurdly tasty.

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Happy Fall Y’all

The changing season may not be as evident here in San Francisco as other parts of the US, but leaves are turning, darkness arrives earlier every day and there is new autumnal fruit and vegetables at the local farmer’s market. Blushing apples, pears, pumpkins and squash. Leading up to Halloween the pumpkins started taking over- pumpkins in piles at the market, in window displays, carved or whole on doorsteps. Pumpkin spiced everything appeared on menus, as well as in coffees and other places pumpkins don’t belong. But it made me start thinking of ways I like to eat pumpkin and decided to have a few friends over for dinner to celebrate pumpkins and the arrival of autumn.

 

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I bought four different pumpkins and squash at the market to see what they were all like and made two meals out of them. (I love it when you can prep once, eat twice- speaking of which, my favourite blogger has just done a series for The Guardian which is about exactly this. She is an English woman living in Rome and her recipes are so fantastically Roman. I love them and whole heartedly recommend the braised lentils two ways.) Anyway, from these pumpkins I made ravioli di zucca for the autumn dinner with friends and then a spicy Thai pumpkin soup for Ollie and I to have on the Sunday night. PLUS I put the off cuts from the pasta in the freezer and we had these with a beef sugo a week later.

 

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Ravioli di Zucca

For the filling
A variety of pumpkin/squash (I am still trying to work out the difference and how this compares with our NZ naming of this family of round orange vegetables) enough to cover a roasting dish
1 onion
2 cloves garlic
Half a grated nutmeg
Butter
Salt and pepper
A splash of cream
6 sage leaves, finely chopped

For the pasta
5 cups of flour, tipo 00
5 large free range eggs

For the sauce
A big lump of butter
A handful of sage leaves

Peel, seed, cut into cubes and roast the pumpkin at 180 for about 40 minutes or until it is well cooked.  While this is cooking, finely dice the onion and garlic and  fry in plenty of butter until very tender. When the pumpkin is ready, add it to the onion and garlic with the grated nutmeg, finely chopped sage leaves, cream and a good seasoning of salt and pepper. Mush it up with a fork so you have a smooth filling with all the flavours combined.

Now start with your pasta dough- you just need 1 cup of flour and 1 egg per person. Make a well in the centre of the flour and add the eggs. Whisk the eggs with a fork, and when they are mixed, slowly bring in the flour until you have a dough. Now you can take out and unwanted anger on the dough as you knead it for at least five minutes. You’re aiming for a smooth and silky consistency. Cover with flour, glad wrap and leave in the fridge for half an hour.

This now gives you time to realise that your guests are due to arrive, quickly clean up the apartment, open a bottle of wine, and pretend that it was your intention all along to be rolling out pasta when they arrive rather than be organised beforehand.


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Making pasta is best when you have two people involved, one to do the rolling and one to do the ravioli making. The roller wants to work the dough through the machine down to the smallest setting, making sure the pasta is well dusted so it is easy to manipulate and doesn’t stick. The ravioli maker wants to put about a teaspoon of mixture evenly spaced down half of a sheet of pasta- you should be able to fit two across. Then fold the other half over top and tuck the little pumpkins into bed, pressing down so that all the mixture is sealed in. You can now cut them with a knife or use a ravioli or cookie cutter to make them into ravioli. Keep on doing this until you have used all your pasta and you have a plate of beautifully dusted ravioli ready to cook. The dusting part is really important, there is nothing more frustrating than all your hard work sticking together.

 

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These will only need 4-5 minutes in boiling, salted water to cook. While they are doing this, melt down a big hunk of butter and fry the remaining sage leaves until they are nice and crispy. Drain the ravioili, plate up and pour over the burnt sage butter. Buon apetito!

 

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And then the next day…

Thai Pumpkin Soup

Olive or sunflower oil
One onion
Four cloves garlic
1 stalk celery
2 carrots
2 Tbsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp ground coriander
1Tbsp of chilli flakes
The other half of the roasted pumpkins that you didn’t use for ravioli
200mL Coconut milk
100mL stock or water
Fresh coriander and natural yoghurt to serve

 

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Coat the bottom of a heavy bottomed pot with plenty of oil and add the spices so that you have a delicious paste to start your soup. Add the roughly chopped onion, garlic, carrot and celery and cook on a gentle heat for about 15 minutes. Add the pumpkin coconut milk and stock and simmer for at least 15 minutes to combine the different flavours and textures. Use a mixing stick to blend it all together, or if you don’t have one, transfer to a blender. It is up to your personal preference whether you like to keep this chunky or blend until it is smooth. Simmer for ten minutes longer to make sure they flavours have all mingled together in a delicious way and then serve in deep bowls with fresh coriander (and natural yoghurt should you wish) and toasted bread or naan breads.

 

 

A perfect Sunday night dinner for when it is cold outside. Happy fall y’all.

 

And I’m back… with some midweek spaghetti

A couple months back, I finally found myself a job and started working. As well as being busy during the day again, I was a little under the weather and I didn’t feel like cooking much. Uninspired, I fell back on old favourites. I stopped blogging. Things got busy, new habits developed and in this case, they didn’t involve blogging. Life ambled on.

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I hadn’t really thought much about the blog until a few days ago when I received a beautiful email from a wise student who inspired me, kind words from another friend about how she misses my recipes, another wanting to know what I have been reading. And so I’m back. Back to the blog and looking forward to it. I’ve been talking with a very-talented-certain-someone about making it look prettier and have been thumbing through new and old cook books getting excited.

I thought I would start with a quick and easy pasta dish that is perfect for a midweek, after work dinner. It’s quick to throw together, and can be used by scrounging around at the back of the fridge- there always seem to be half eaten jars of olives back there. I think it is great because of my love of anything that is either salty or vinegary. Don’t worry about chocolate or cakes for me, but salt and vinegar chips are a winner. Pickles, olives. fries and mustard are also good options. This is slightly healthier than the items on that list, but tastes just as good.

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Midweek Spaghetti 

1 handful of olives, I used a mix of green Sicilian olives and black Kalamata
3 diced tomatoes – I used Early Girl
1 big handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 red onion very finely chopped
1 Tbsp capers
Salt and pepper
Big, big glug of olive oil
Small glug of balsamic vinegar
1 tsp dried oregano
1 handful of rocket
1 handful of fresh basil and Italian parsley
Spaghetti

In a large bowl, add the destoned, halved olives, capers, tomatoes, red onion, tomatoes, oregano, salt, pepper, olive oil and balsamic. If you leave these for half an hour, they will slowly marinate in their own goodness and the bite will go from the red onion. While the spaghetti is cooking, add the rocket, basil and parsley to the bowl, then toss in the spaghetti. You want to eat this immediately, while the spaghetti is still hot, and it tastes great with some slithers of parmesan over the top.

DSCF3983It’s fresh and tasty and perfect for a summer’s evening.

It’s good to be back.

Anna x

Easy Sunday Lunches

Sunday dawned grey and dreary, the ground was damp outside from the light drizzle that never seems to turn into rain. We met up with some family friends to eat toast and drink coffee huddled against the wind and fog at the Mill, went to the farmer’s market then mooched around the apartment with the heater on. I wrote some cards (I love snail mail), finished reading Room by Emma Donoghue and then made us some pasta for lunch. It was ridiculously easy and was perfect for a Sunday.

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Zucchini Sunday Pasta

2 cloves of garlic
Half an onion
2 zucchini
A few leaves of basil and parsley
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper
A sprinkling of pine nuts

Throw the garlic, onion and zucchini into a blender and pulse until finely chopped. In a pan, heat plenty of olive oil and then add the mixture seasoned generously with salt and pepper. Put on a pot with plenty of water for the pasta and by the time the pasta is cooked, so is your sauce. Add the pasta to the pan with some grated  parmesan, the lightly toasted pine nuts and swirl it all together until each piece of pasta is coated. Check for seasoning and then dish up.

Just in time, the sun came out. We opened the windows, greedily scraped our bowls clean and then ventured out to explore around the headlands by the abandoned Sutro baths in the sunshine. A perfect Sunday.

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Pasta al Pomodoro

Yesterday I talked with a friend who is back in the stifling summer heat of Milan for a wedding. I was taken back to my time living there and how the two of us realised we were living just down the road from each other, friends from school who had fallen out of touch. I could see her as clearly as if it was yesterday, in gumboots on the side of Viale Gran Sasso in the slushy grey snow as she waited for me. We were getting our first of many espresso together in the city we Kiwis were choosing to call home. Sometimes it seemed like we were the only sane ones in the whole city, other times it seemed like we were the ones creating all the drama. I was taken back to the friendships and the adventures, the flavours and fragrance of an Italian kitchen. The bag of tomatoes in my fridge were calling to me and I knew what I had to do with them.

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Last Night’s Pasta al Pomodoro

A generous glug of olive oil
1 big garlic clove
2 anchovy fillets
A sprinkling of chilli flakes
1/2 red onion
6 big fresh tomatoes (I had a few yellow cherry tomatoes I threw in too for good measure)
A peeling of lemon skin very finely chopped
6 green olives
1 Tbsp capers
Salt

Cover the bottom of a thick bottomed pan with olive oil and then add your whole garlic clove. When you can start to smell the garlic, add the chilli flakes and anchovy fillets and slowly slowly fry these until they dissolve into the oil making a delicious salty, spicy and garlicky oil (I have been known to finish here and coat the pasta with the oil for dinner. If I learnt one thing from Italy it is that simplicity is always best). Next, finely dice the red onion and add this with the lemon zest to slowly soften in the oil. Fill a bowl with boiling water and drop your tomatoes in. Leave for 30 seconds and then pull out and peel the skin off. Chop the tomatoes up and add these to the onion. There will be a lot of liquid from the tomatoes at this stage, so you want to leave them to simmer and thicken until you are left with a deep red sauce. Add the capers and stoned and cut up olives and you have yourself a sauce. Cook your pasta – I think something long and skinny is best for a sauce like this – and combine them. You don’t want your pasta to be swimming in the sauce, but nicely shiny from it. Top with grated parmesan to really make your meal amazing.

The beauty of pasta al pomodoro is that there is no one way to do it. I am sure there are many nonne out there who are shaking their heads at this recipe, but there seem to be hundreds of variations on eating tomatoes and pasta together. It can be as simple as oil, garlic and a tin of tomatoes. Either way, you know it is going to taste gooooood. It is my go to food, my comfort food and my favourite dinner in the world. Plus, I can put away serious amounts. Very happily.

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While the pasta cooked, we had a little marinated zucchini salad which was a lovely combination of fresh crunch, zingy vinegar and soft mozzarella. 

Marinated Zucchini Salad

Half a green zucchini
Half a yellow zucchini
1/2 clove of fresh garlic minced
Olive oil
The juice of a lemon
Salt
A splash of white wine vinegar
Handful of fresh basil, torn
A few balls of fresh mozzarella
Handful of baby spinnach
A few pieces of prosciutto torn into smaller pieces

Finely slice the zucchini and put in a bowl with the olive oil, garlic, basil, lemon juice, vinegar and salt. Leave these for a couple of hours to marinate. Just before you serve, add the baby spinach, prosciutto and mozzarella. Easy as that.

Buon appetito a tutti. And Livs, I wish I was there with you x

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Celebrating with Italian Food

Today we signed our lease! We have a home! After getting a bit stressed about how competitive it is and how we don’t have social security numbers OR credit history in the US (apparently very important), I was starting to doubt our ability to be accepted anywhere. And when you have to pay $50 every time you apply for a place, things were getting expensive. But we succeeded. We are now proud renters of a one bedroom apartment and we move in on Saturday. It’s on the fourth floor, it’s near parks, cafes and restaurants, and it has a beautiful view out over the city. (Plus it is just near the Full House houses!)

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We went out to Ragazza for dinner and ate amazing salads and pizza, drank some yummy red wine and talked about what we needed to get for the place. And then the next night we stayed on the Italian buzz and ate this:

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MY KIND OF CARBONARA

2 zucchini
1 leek
1 onion
Fresh thyme
Fresh parsley
2 eggs
Long splash of cream
Salt and Pepper
Fettucine
Parmesan

Slowly and softly fry the finely chopped leek and onion in olive oil and the thyme. Add the zucchini halved and then cut into long slithers once they are lovely and soft. This will mean you will have some different textures going on. In a bowl mix together the cream and eggs with some salt, pepper and chopped parsley. When your pasta has finished cooking, drain it and then return it to the pot. Quickly add the cream mixture, stirring it through so it coats all the pasta equally. You want the pasta to be silky and shiny, not scrambled eggs, so make sure the pot is no longer on the heat. Then mix in the vegetables and serve with some shaved parmesan.

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Now I know this isn’t a REAL carbonara, but it  is rich and delicious. So Italians, you will have to excuse me.

You can add pancetta, prosciutto or bacon if you wish, it can add a nice bit of crunch. Or you can spend that money on a bottle of white wine to drink while you eat, as we did.