Beet Hummus Recipe + 17 Week Pregnancy Update

Beet Hummus Recipe + 17 Week Pregnancy Update

Beet HummusHey friends! Thank you so much for your comments, emails and messages to my and Mr. Italicano’s baby announcement last week! We are over the moon about becoming parents and starting this new beautiful, challenging and rewarding adventure. First let’s talk about this amazing beet hummus recipe that has been rocking my world lately, and for those of you who aren’t interested in all the intimate pregnancy details you can then skip to the written recipe below {I definitely don’t want to bore you!} For all of you who want the in’s and out’s about my growing belly and Baby Italicano/a’s first sailing adventure last weekend, you’ll find that in the second part of the post.

Video Recipe

This video was made in collaboration with Smeg. I created the recipe, photos and video—which you can also find on their website along with many other delicious homemade recipes. The writing and opinions are my own.

3 Things I Love About Beet Hummus

1. I can easily add a delicious beet flavor and pink color to my original hummus recipe.

2. I’m able to benefit from all the health benefits of beets like cancer fighting antioxidants, anti-aging properties and boosting my stamina (which is great because I find with the summer heat and being pregnant even climbing stairs make me tired!)

3. I can whip up a vegetarian, gluten-free, vegan-friendly, dairy-free appetizer in a matter of minutes to serve at dinner parties and please a large group of friends who have different eating restrictions. Plus, appetizer boards are one of the prettiest things ever! Just be sure if you have gluten free friends, divide the hummus into two bowls and keep one for the veggies and on another board put the bread/crackers to avoid someone dipping their cracker inside and contaminating the spread. Little chalkboard signs are also a good idea as a little reminder.

Ready to try this delicious beet hummus? Scroll down to the recipe.

Now onto baby news…. 

17 Week Pregnancy Update

17 Weeks Pregnant

How Big is Baby Italicano/a?

Baby Italicano/a is the size of a pomegranate!

It seems so surreal to have a baby this size in my belly. I still can’t feel this little pomegranate, but I had a doctor’s visit and my obstetrician said I would start to feel baby’s first movements in about three weeks. I can’t wait! Although, if he/she is anything like me when I was little, my tummy is going to get some wild kicks. When I was a kid none of my friends wanted to sleep in the same bed as me, I was an active sleeper and usually kicked them before the night was through. Luckily for Mr. Italicano, I’ve become a calmer sleeper and he doesn’t get any rude awakenings (unless constantly stealing the covers and hogging the entire bed count? Oh, how he supports me. )

How Big is Mamma?

So, I was really quite lazy the first 4 months about taking photos. I only took one about a month after I found out I was pregnant. Here it is:

Now that I’m seeing differences weekly, I want to document my expanding belly! Here’s me at 16 weeks.

And, yesterday, at the start of 17 weeks.

This is the last week of 4 months and next week I’m be officially starting five months! Nine months is a long time, but man is it flying by!!

Baby Italicano/a’s First Sailing Adventure

Every since Mr. Italicano got his sailing license two years ago, we’ve been taking every chance we can get to explore the Mediterranean Sea. We’ve been to Greek Islands and various coastal ports, towns and islands in Italy. This past weekend we went sailing around Elba Island where we recently unplugged for a truly relaxing weekend.

So, you would think that I would be ecstatic about this weekend sailing getaway! I mean, if there is some kind of outdoor activity and new location involved, I am in heaven. I consider myself an adventure-seeking soul and love exploring new places and countries. In 2008, I even took a 10 month around-the-world trip, backpacking to over 13 countries while sharing my journey and experiences on a travel blog. From riding elephants in the jungles in Asia to hiking the Himalayas in India, I pushed myself to live life at full momentum and without fear.

Yet, as I stood on the dock looking at the passerella, or gangplank, that separated myself from the boat and solid land, a million fears popped in my head as I watched a friend cross the wobbly wooden board in front of me. What if I lose my balance and fall in the water? Or worse, what if I slip and fall on the slippery boat floor when we start to sail and…*gulp*… I lose my baby? 

Fear.

Lot’s of it.

Rushed through every cell in my body.

I’ve already taken on the responsibilities of becoming a mom in the past 4 months as I’ve made many sacrifices for my sweet pea on what I eat and drink. I’m extremely, and at times excessively, strict. Yet, this is the first time I’ve ever felt the panic-mode that I’m sure most parents experience when they realize how many dangers there are in the world and all they want to do is keep their child safe.

As I watched others climb aboard, I took a deep breath and let logic take over. Nothing in this world is ever “safe”, the worst can always happen. On the contrary, the “best” can happen too, like enjoying a relaxing weekend with friends, cuddling with Mr. Italicano under the stars, feeling the wind on my face, letting Baby Italicano/a be kissed by the sun and cooled by the salty sea.

I don’t want to miss out on life’s beautiful moments because I’m afraid something bad will happen, yet, I can’t be reckless either. There is a little human growing in my body that I need to take care of and protect. So I gave my self some rules.

How to Sail Safely in Your Second Trimester

1. Let people help. Instead of being the independent-do-it-all that I normally am. Before I walked across that wobbly wooden plank, I passed my heavy bags to my friend Sara, and then took her hand as she helped me across. I felt like a little old lady, but that’s fine. 🙂

2. Minimize movements around the boat. I would find myself a comfy spot and stay there, especially when the boat was in movement. If I absolutely had to move around I made sure that I always had a tight grip on something in case the boat jerked unexpectedly.

3. Act like a pregnant lady. Use your get-out-of-work pregnancy card. At first, I felt guilty not being the proactive helper on the boat when there was something to do. It’s not that I didn’t do anything, but I limited activities when the boat was anchored or when we were in port, like cooking or washing dishes. As for helping with setting sail and mooring I simply let others do it so I wouldn’t risk rushing up and down the boat and potentially falling.

In the end, pushing the fear aside and taking extra precautions allowed mamma and Baby Italicano/a to have a good time.    Oh, and my favorite part? The hammock on the sail boat! What a genius idea. 

Where is Baby Italicano/a off to next? Today we’ll leave again for Tuscany, but this time for the hillsides where we’ll meet our client Poggio del Farro to have him taste some products I’m developing for his company that will appear soon on supermarket shelves (umm, how exciting!!) and to see the farro harvest firsthand. I’ll be posting videos and photos on Facebook and Instagram or you can check back next Thursday here for the highlights on the blog.

Hope you all are enjoying your summer. Hugs from Mrs. Italicana, Mr. Italicano and Baby Italicano/a!

Beet Hummus Recipe + 17 Week Pregnancy Update
 
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This beet hummus is the perfect vegetarian, gluten-free, vegan-friendly, dairy-free appetizer that you can whip up in a matter of minutes to serve at dinner parties and please a large group of friends who have different eating restrictions. Put a spin on the classic hummus dish by adding color, flavor and healthy beet nutrients.
Serves: 6-8
Ingredients
  • For the hummus:
  • ½ cup water
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon tahini
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 small cooked beet (100g)
  • 1½ cups (260g) cooked chickpeas
  • For the toppings:
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Poppy seeds
  • Chia seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Thyme
  • Bread and/or Crackers
  • Raw vegetables
Instructions
  1. Put all ingredients for the hummus in the blender in the order given. Blend until smooth, adding more water or lemon juice if needed to arrive at your desired consistency.
  2. Scrape the hummus into a bowl, use a spoon to make a swirl on top and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle with poppy seeds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds and thyme. Serve with toasted bread, crackers and/or raw vegetables. Enjoy!
Notes
If you have gluten free friends, divide the hummus into two bowls and keep one for the veggies and on another board put the bread/crackers to avoid someone dipping their cracker inside and contaminating the spread. Little chalkboard signs are a good idea as a little reminder.

Farro Pancakes with Whipped Cream, Strawberries and Maple Syrup

Farro Pancakes with Whipped Cream, Strawberries and Maple Syrup

Cheers for homemade pancakes!

Farro-PancakesAnd, cheers to video recipes that show you how to make these fluffy little gems in just 47 seconds. Life just got good. 🙂 Ok, well, this video is in Italian so you may have to put your student cap on for a minute but don’t fear, the English instructions and measurements are below!

This post is sponsored by Poggio del Farro. I created the recipe, photos and video—which you can also find on their website along with many other delicious farro recipes. The writing and opinions are my own. 

The great thing about pancakes is that you can make them in a variety of ways: craving a savory version, just try these zucchini pancakes with basil pesto or this version with arugula, gorgonzola, pear and walnuts. Not only are these great for brunch, but they also are a fun appetizer to be eaten in their original size or you can make them mini for to serve during a  buffet. Not to be missed from the pancake line up is a simple and classic whole wheat pancake recipe as well as this special strawberry and blueberry pancake cake. Yes, I did. I made a cake with pancakes. It’s seriously so good. 🙂 The latest addition to my pancake craze are these delicious farro pancakes.  Farro-PancakesI’ve been creating numerous farro recipes lately (just search “farro” on my blog). Once discovering the many nutritional benefits of this Italian ancient grain and how easy it is to replace refined white flours, I was sold. It also has a delicious nutty taste that I adore. Check for being healthy, check for being easy and check for being delicious. I really like Poggio del Farro’s organic farro flour for this recipe. They are just now breaking into the U.S. market. Watch out for them on store shelves.  

Farro-PancakesSpeaking of pancakes, I recently held a pancake cooking class for kids in Parma, Italy at the Gola Gola Food Festival. Most of them had never eaten a pancake before. I loved how curious and excited they were to learn how to cook. It’s so satisfying to see kids at such a young age get interested in making their own food. I hope that this interest for healthy homemade cooking increases for kids as well as their parents.  I hope that through this blog and cooking classes that I can make a difference towards forming good eating habits. ❤️ Here’s to hope for a healthier generation in the future and in the present!

Farro-Pancakes

Farro-Pancakes

Farro-Pancakes

Farro Pancakes with Whipped Cream, Strawberries and Maple Syrup
 
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These farro pancakes with homemade whipped cream, strawberries and natural maple syrup are a great alternative to refined white flour pancakes. You'll love their slightly nutty taste!
Serves: 8 pancakes
Ingredients
  • ¾ cup (175ml) milk (cow or soy)
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar (or white vinegar or lemon juice)
  • 1 cup (125g) Poggio del Farro Organic Farro (emmer) Flour
  • 2 teaspoons (8g) sugar (white or raw cane sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon (4g) baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon (3g) baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon (3g) salt
  • 1 organic egg
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter or coconut oil
  • Butter or coconut oil for greasing the pan, as needed
  • Homemade whipped cream
  • Strawberries, sliced
  • Pure maple syrup
Instructions
  1. Stir the milk and apple cider vinegar together in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl whisk together: organic emmer flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  3. In a separate medium bowl whisk together: egg, melted butter and milk/apple cider mixture.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk until combined.
  5. Brush a large nonstick skillet with butter or coconut oil and heat over medium heat.
  6. Add ¼ cup of the pancake mixture to the pan and cook until bubbles form on the top and the bottom is golden; about 2-3 minutes. Flip and cook until golden on the bottom, about 1-2 more minutes.  Repeat. (Depending on your size pan you can also cook more than one at a time.)
  7. Serve with homemade whipped cream, strawberries and pure maple syrup.

 

 

Beet Crepes with Ricotta, Blood Oranges and Pistachios

Beet Crepes with Ricotta, Blood Oranges and Pistachios

Farro beet crepes! As you can imagine, these beautiful crepes are naturally colored with beet puree. They are the perfect dish for Mother’s Day brunch.

Farro-Beet-CrepesEver since I learned how easy it is to naturally color my food, I have been experimenting more and more in my kitchen. I love the esthetic look of colored food—Bright! Fun!—I also love packing in more nutritious vegetables to every meal. Plus, it’s easier than you think—way easier.

This post is sponsored by Poggio del Farro. I created the recipe, photos and video—which you can also find on their website along with many other delicious farro recipes. The writing and opinions are my own.

I remember the first time I made a crepe; I was in high school. My feet on a step stool and my hands reaching  in the far corners of the wooden pantry shelf (where sometimes my older brother hid the best snacks), I ran across an old 1960s box with a crepe pan designed on the front—probably a wedding present. I was intrigued. I pulled it out, dusted it off and opened it up to find a little recipe book on top of the black crepe pan. That night I made cannelloni crepes for my family. I remember they turned out absolutely terribile. I was disappointed. My dad, on the other hand, continued to eat them. “It’s just one meal, Cindy,” I remember him saying. Ahh, my dad’s simple wisdom. He was right. I was just 16. In my lifetime I would have thousands of more meals to make and whole lot of opportunities to get it right.

Farro-Beet-CrepesThe second time I made a crepe was last year, almost 20 years later (wow does that make me feel old). I was recipe testing for Smeg {affiliate link}, an Italian design appliance brand. Since their small appliances have adorable colors, I wanted to create something stylish and colorful as well. My blender spinach crepes were so good that I brought them to my friends house where we created a beautiful outdoor aperitivo (Italian style happy hour).

Farro-Beet-CrepesSince spinach worked so well, I had to try it with beets. I also used farro wheat from Poggio del Farro for these crepes. I have come quite obsessed with Poggio del Farro’s products. Farro has lower gluten content and higher amounts of protein and fiber compared to modern day grains. I use their farro grains to make soups and salads, and their flours to make crepes, pancakes, chocolate chip cookies and homemade pasta, among many other recipes. Farro is pretty much replacing all other flours in my kitchen.

Farro-Beet-CrepesThe beet crepe on its own is not so beet-y tasting, so you can top it with a myriad of fillings from sweet to savory. My favorite for this recipe is fresh crispy arugula, creamy ricotta, juicy blood oranges, crunchy pistachios all drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, aged balsamic vinegar (affiliate link) and sweet honey. Pure deliciousness.

Farro-Beet-Crepes

Happy Mother’s day to all and especially to my mom, an extraordinary woman whom I admire.

Beet Crepes with Ricotta, Blood Oranges and Pistachios
 
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These beautiful farro beet crepes are the perfect brunch recipe to surprise your mom on Mother's Day.
Serves: 6-8 crepes
Ingredients
  • For the Crepes:
  • 1¼ cup (300ml) milk
  • 2 large organic eggs
  • 9 tablespoons(5.3oz,150g) beet puree
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter + more for cooking the crepes
  • 1 cup (130g) Poggio del Farro Organic Farro Flour*
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Toppings:
  • 1 package organic arugula
  • 18oz (500g) ricotta
  • Orange zest from 2 organic blood oranges
  • 2 organic blood oranges, peel removed and chopped
  • ¼ cup chopped pistachios
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Aged Balsamic Vinegar (Affiliate Link)
  • Honey
Instructions
  1. In a blender or a bowl, add all of the ingredients for the crepes then blend or whisk until homogenous. Chill in the refrigerator for ½ hour.
  2. Add a small knob of butter to a crepe pan or frying pan. As the butter and as it melts over medium heat, swirl the pan so that the butter covers the bottom. Pour in ½ cup of the crepe and quickly swirl the pan so that it distributes the liquid evenly. Cook for 1-3 minutes then flip and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Repeat for the rest of the crepes. Keep the crepes warm by putting them in the oven at a low temperature.
  3. Fill each crepe with some ricotta, arugula, blood orange pieces & zest and pistachios. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, aged balsamic vinegar and honey.
Notes
Batter should be chilled in the refrigerator for ½ hour before using.

*If you are not able to find farro flour you can replace with other flour.

 

 

Gluten-Free Mini Blueberry Muffins  

Gluten-Free Mini Blueberry Muffins  

Yes! Gluten-free mini blueberry muffins that actually taste amazing!

Gluten-Free-Mini-Blueberry-MuffinsGuys, you are going to love these. Whether or not you follow a gluten-free diet or you just want to mix up your diet with other healthy flour substitutes, these gluten-free mini blueberry muffins are so delicious that you will be too busy having a second one to even think about “normal” muffins.

What I love about these muffins is that they are made with almond meal (just throw raw almonds in your blender or food processor and blend until it because a crumbly flour.) Almonds— and all nuts in general—are one of my favorite go-to snacks. Why? Just a handful of almonds give me a boost of energy throughout the day and they are full of healthy fats, fiber, protein and all sorts of other nutritional benefits. I always bring them with me when I go hiking or on road trips. And, I love topping almonds in my salads or making almond butter to swirl in my smoothie or grain bowls.

When I was a kid, my mom always had a wooden bowl full of nuts. Not the already shelled kind that I usually have in my cupboards, but a bowlful of almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts and Brazilian nuts to actually crack. Surely you’ve seen the shells of walnuts, but have you ever seen the shell of an almond? With its tan oval shape and tiny little holes, it looks like its made out of cork. Or, how about a hazelnut shell? It looks like an acorn missing its little top. Then there is the peculiar Brazilian nut shell with its brown rugged surface that seems like a chunk  of washed up wood that you’d find at the beach. All so distinctive and unique, all so delicious too.

Gluten-Free Mini Blueberry Muffins
 
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These gluten-free mini blueberry muffins are made with almond meal and are a great breakfast or snack filled with a good source of protein and fiber.
Serves: 24 mini muffins
Ingredients
  • 3 cups (330g) cups almond meal
  • ¼ (1g) tsp salt
  • ½ tsp (3g) baking soda
  • 1 tsp (2g) cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon (12g) chia seeds
  • 2 tbsp (45g) honey
  • ¼ cup (50g) melted coconut oil
  • ½ cup almond milk
  • 3 organic eggs
  • 1 cup (150g) fresh blueberries
  • 2 tablespoons raw cane sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Butter or spray a mini muffin pan.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer equipped with the whisk attachment, add the following: almond meal, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and chia seeds. Mix on speed 4 for 10 seconds.
  3. In a separate bowl mix together: honey, coconut oil, almond milk and eggs.
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the bowl of the stand mixer and whisk on speed 4 until just combined, about 10 seconds. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and stir in the blueberries with a spatula.
  5. In a small bowl, mix together the raw cane sugar and cinnamon.
  6. Fill the greased muffin cups until full. Sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar mixture.
  7. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  8. Store in an air tight container for up to 5 days or freeze in an airtight container for up to 2-3 months.

Farro Beet Soup with Greek Yogurt, Pistachios & Orange Zest

Farro Beet Soup with Greek Yogurt, Pistachios & Orange Zest

I’m obsessed with this farro beet soup with Greek yogurt, pistachios and orange zest. Mr. Italicano is too. He even forgot that that he doesn’t like beets!

This post is sponsored by Poggio del Farro. I created the recipe, photos and video—which you can also find on their website along with many other delicious farro recipes. The writing and opinions are my own.

Really, all food can be great (or bad)—it just comes down to how you prepare the dish. Just take microwaved mushy asparagus vs. melt-in-your-mouth-shaved asparagus.  The first is seriously inedible (actually, flat out gross) the second I can down in a second. I often top my frittata with shaved asparagus or serve it with delicious fresh fish.   You can also use these green veggie curls in place of fettuccine noodles like Lindsey Ostrom does on her blog, Pinch of Yum. Watch out world,  shaved asparagus is going to be the new avocado to your toast.

Now that we got my shaved asparagus obsession out of the way, let’s get back to this amazing farro beet soup. The idea for this recipe came from Maria Speck’s lovely Simple Ancient Grain Book. She makes a bright beet soup with buckwheat and spicy horseradish, while I created mine to incorporate the irresistible flavors of the Mediterranean: a dollop of creamy Greek yogurt, nutty farro from Tuscany and pistachios and orange zest that are symbols of Sicily.

Farro is a staple in my vegetarian/pescatarian lifestyle. It’s a grain that  is high in protein, fiber and antioxidants—you can read more about the nutritional benefits here — and I love it’s subtle nutty taste and firm texture. It’s so adaptable and can be transformed into a healthy salad, homemade pasta, easy crepes, and more.

I get my farro from Poggio del Farro, a family owned company in Tuscany. They are truly “farro specialists.” The passion that they put into their work to make their products made me fall in love with this grain. When I met the owner Federico for the first time I listened as he explained that this business adventure was an act of love for his family and keeping the tradition of cultivating farro alive (many fellow farmers were switching to grains that were easier to cultivate). I’ve been substituting farro for modern refined flours more and more as the reading I’ve done shows that it is a better choice for your health. And, although I don’t have problems with gluten, I like that farro has a different kind of gluten structure than modern grains. In fact, many people with gluten sensibilities (not celiacs disease) find that they can eat this grain without adverse effects. I want to limit health problems in the future by being attentive of what I’m eating today!

Farro Beet Soup with Greek Yogurt, Pistachios & Orange Zest
 
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This vibrant and healthy farro beet soup with Greek yogurt, pistachios and orange zest incorporates the irresistible flavors of the Mediterranean.
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • For the beet soup:
  • 1 cup (200g) Dehusked Organic Farro
  • 3 cups (700ml) water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • ¼ red onion, finely chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 16oz (450g) cooked beets
  • 2-3 cups cold vegetable broth
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • For the topping:
  • ½ cup Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons chopped chives
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pistachios
  • Orange zest
Instructions
  1. Add the farro and water to a medium sized pot. Bring to a boil then add the salt and reduce the heat to simmer. Cook for 30 minutes.
  2. In a medium pot, melt the butter over medium low heat. Add the red onion and salt; cook until the onions are translucent, but not browned. Now add the garlic and honey and cook for another minute. Remove from heat.
  3. In a blender, add: the onion/garlic mixture, beets, 1 cup vegetable broth. Blend until smooth.
  4. Pour the contents of the blender into the medium sized pot and bring to a simmer.
  5. Now that the farro is ready, drain and add to the pot with the beet soup. Add more vegetable broth to arrive at a soup-like consistency. Bring to a simmer on medium heat until warm. Taste and adjust with salt and pepper--the salt really makes the flavor come out. Ladle into bowls. Top with a spoonful of Greek yogurt, chives, pistachios and orange zest. Buon appetito!

This post was sponsored by Poggio del Farro and their delicious farro grains!   I created the recipe, photos and video—which you can also find on their website along with many other delicious farro recipes. The writing and opinions are my own.

Homemade Matcha Pasta with Spinach, Lemons and Zucchini

Homemade Matcha Pasta with Spinach, Lemons and Zucchini

Easter is a week away! What better way to celebrate than to serve up a beautiful green pasta dish to your family and friends. This homemade matcha pasta with spinach, lemons and zucchini is a great vegetarian meal and, if you want to add some protein, you can top with grilled shrimp. Either way, it’s delicious.

In Italy, Easter is celebrated with a 3-hour family lunch, where laughter is abundant, hand gestures are inevitable, wine is always flowing and there is enough food on the table to feed a small army.  I don’t eat breakfast before this festive meal, otherwise I wouldn’t make it past the first course, which sometimes is still hard to do. Portions in Italy are not small, by the way.

Just to give you an idea, here is the menu for Sunday’s Easter lunch that my mother-in-law Patrizia is hosting. It’s also her birthday. Buon Compleanno :: Happy Birthday, Patrizia!

Easter Menu

Various appetizers

Ricotta & Asparagus Cannelloni

Mushroom Tortelli with Castellano Cheese and Tartufo Butter

Roasted Lamb with Parsley and Lemon Sauce

Cooked Spinach

Roasted Potatoes

Raw Vegetables with Olive Oil, Lemon and Salt

Napoleon dessert

Colomba

Ricotta Crostata

Fresh Fruit

Marsala Aged for 35 years

Passito

Caffè

The Easter bunny does not exist in the small country town where I live in the region of Emilia-Romagna.  There are no pastel weaved baskets filled with chocolates and candies to find when you wake in the morning, nor are there Easter egg hunts at the local park.  When I first started living here, I momentarily felt kind of sorry for Italian children, but then again, they have something we Americans don’t: chocolate eggs filled with surprises.

Now you may be skeptical, I mean, in America, chocolate eggs are the norm. But, these aren’t just any chocolate eggs. These oval delicacies are both fun and melt-in-your-mouth-delicious. They come in all different sizes: from eggs the size of your palms to the size of your head to the size of an adult body. The surprises are relative to the size and cost of the egg: from small little plastic figurines, to dolls and cars to giant stuffed animals (and much more).

How to open one of these chocolate eggs: Remove the shiny wrapper, admire the chocolate that you are going to shortly devour, and smash the chocolate egg against the table to reveal a plastic egg. Inside you’ll find your surprise. Outside you have all of the chocolate pieces to eat and share. Or not. 🙂

Traditional American Easter desserts are filled with colored dyes. How else would you color your cakes and frosting pastel green, yellow and pink? Believe it or not, there are so many easy ways! I used natural colorings for my pasta recipes: matcha and spinach for green, turmeric for yellow and beet puree for pink. You can also use these natural colors for your baked goods.

Here’s the thing: synthetic dyes are bad for adults and children. According to Eating Well, “Research has also associated food dyes with problems in children including allergies, hyperactivity, learning impairment, irritability and aggressiveness.”

I was actually quite tentative to use real ingredients to color my food, I mean, wouldn’t it taste weird? The surprising answer is no. Usually the amount that you add to your recipe is so minimal that you can’t even detect what ingredient it is. For instance, in this homemade matcha pasta you can’t taste the flavor of the green tea but you get all of the antioxidants and heath benefits. Is matcha tea good for kids, you ask? I found this article quite interesting.

I had a lot of fun developing this recipe; it was also quite a challenge. It took me about three tries to get the pasta the way I wanted it, and about 8 tries to find the “perfect sauce” (see my video on youtube.) I am very happy with the result and the responses during the 2 week cooking show tour in America with Smeg USA. Over the course of 17 cooking shows and demos in Chicago and New York City, I showed consumers how to make this pasta dough in Smeg’s beautiful stand mixer , and how to make the raw spinach lemon sauce in their vintage style blender.

I used their vegetable attachment to cut matchstick pieces of zucchini in seconds. Not only was it fun, but I absolutely love showing people how to eat healthy with simple recipes. It’s truly easy when you have the right kitchen tools.

Homemade Matcha Pasta with Spinach, Lemons and Zucchini
 
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This homemade matcha pasta with spinach, lemons and zucchini is a great vegetarian dish perfect for Easter and the arrival of spring. It's naturally colored and fresh in flavor. Enjoy!
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • For the dough for spaghetti:
  • 2½ cups + 2 tablespoons (400g) semola
  • 1⅛ cup (230g) water
  • 2 pinches salt
  • 2 tablespoons (10g) matcha powder
  • For the dough for fettuccine or tagliolini:
  • 3 cups (14oz, 400g) farro flour
  • 4 extra large organic eggs
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons (10g) organic matcha
  • For the sauce:
  • 8 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • ½ onion, skin removed and finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, skin removed and finely chopped
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 6 oz (180g) organic baby spinach
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • For the topping:
  • 2 zucchini, cut into matchstick pieces
  • 2-3 lemons
  • Chives
Instructions
  1. For the dough:
  2. Attach the dough hook to the Smeg stand mixer and add all of the ingredients for either the spaghetti dough or the fettuccine/tagliolini dough. Mix on speed 1 for 3-5 minutes until the mixture comes together as a ball, adding a spoonful of water at a time if the texture is crumbly or extra flour if the dough is sticky.  Wrap the dough with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  3. Attach the pasta roller accessory to the stand mixer. Divide the dough into 6 pieces, press them into flat rectangles and flour each side. Pass one of the pieces through the machine on speed 1 on no.0. Fold the ends towards each other and pass it through again. Now turn it to no.1 and pass it through three times. Let the sheets dry for 20 minutes or until they are no longer moist but not too dry where they break. Now proceed with one of the following:
  4. For Spaghetti:
  5. Attach the spaghetti attachment and pass each sheet through on speed 1. Repeat. Hang the spaghetti on a pasta rack or broom handle lined with a clean cloth and let dry completely before cooking.  Cook time: 2-4 minutes in boiling salted water.
  6. For Fettuccine & Tagliolini:
  7. Attach the fettuccine or tagliolini accessory and run one sheet through on speed 1. Repeat. Pasta can be used immediately. Cook time: 2-4 minutes (fettuccine) or 1-2 minutes (tagliolini) in boiling salted water.
  8. For the sauce:
  9. Heat 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil in a skillet, add the onion and cook over medium heat for 4-5 minutes until translucent, but not brown. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
  10. Add this mixture to a blender followed by 6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, water, lemon juice, baby spinach and salt. Blend until smooth, adding more salt or lemon to taste.
  11. To plate:
  12. Cook the pasta according to the directions above. Add the sauce back to the skillet. When the pasta is done add it to the skillet along with a few spoonfuls of cooking water. Stir to distribute the sauce evenly and heat over medium heat for 30 seconds. Divide into 4-6 plates, and top with zucchini, chives and ½ lemon zest for each plate. Buon appetito!

This post is sponsored by Smeg. I only work with companies whose products I use and love.