By Nancy Caivano
Hello there—Welcome to the April edition of Pasta, Risotto and You! This is the month we celebrate Easter and Passover, two important religious holidays, which are also important food holidays.
As with Christmas and Thanksgiving, most families have certain traditional foods that they serve on these holidays. I know in my family, the bulk of the meal changes from year to year, but there are some things that never change. The most important: we are always together! There are foods that appear every year, including one dish the family calls the Sausage Pie, or more traditionally, Torta Pasqualina, or Easter Pie. It is filled with different combinations of cheeses and meats, and is a celebration after the fasting of Lent. Also, we make special, traditional cookies, which are slightly sweet and iced with pastel powdered sugar icing. Of course, there is the Easter Bread, which is an Italian version of Jewish Challah bread. We usually start the meal with a stuffed or baked pasta, then go on to a dinner built around either Roast Pork, or maybe Stuffed Turkey Breast.
This month I focus on festive dishes for your Holiday table, including ones with spring vegetables that are beginning to appear right about now—pencil thin asparagus, lovely baby artichokes, the first spring peas. April is a wonderful month. Although in some places it can still be cold, it brings that first wonderful taste of spring—or at least the promise of it. We begin to tire of the stews and soups that have sustained us all winter, and want to see the vibrant colors of the pretty veggies and lighter sauces. Our cooking begins to change towards the lighter dishes of the spring and summer.
I have put together eight recipes for you. These would be wonderful to serve at your holiday celebration, as either a first course, or maybe as an entrée in a buffet.
First, we start with the pastas. Pasta with Asparagus, Green Beans and Walnuts, combines beautiful spring asparagus, with green beans and a creamy sauce flavored with Romano cheese. The crunch of the walnuts at the end gives the dish a fabulous flavor and a wonderful combination of textures.
Next, we have Pasta with Artichokes, Chicken and Mustard Cream. This is a great dish—if not for your holiday, it would be great to make when you come home for dinner. It tastes like you spent hours cooking. Golden sautéed chicken is combined with pasta and artichoke hearts in a luscious sauce flavored with Dijon mustard—a new, wonderful way to serve chicken.
This recipe is a true family favorite: Homemade Tortellini with Tomatoes, Cream and Peas, a perfect first course. Tender, homemade tortellini is stuffed with a mixture of chicken, mortadella and cheeses, then combined with tomatoes and fresh spring peas in a cream sauce and broiled to make the top golden brown and bubbly. The kids especially like this one!
Swiss Chard Ravioli with Spicy Tomato Sauce is also a good recipe for your holiday, as you can make the ravioli ahead of time. You can make them, and freeze them, then you just need to make the tomato sauce, and you are good to go!
This month's Risotto's are just as terrific as the Pastas. First up, a true taste of spring: Risotto with Shrimp, Asparagus and Peas, a delicious, and really pretty dish. Asparagus is combined into the risotto with spring peas and tender shrimp for a perfect first course.
Next up, we have Risotto with Chicken and Vegetables. This makes another great first course—or another nice weeknight dinner. The chicken is sautéed and combined in the risotto with a combination of wonderful vegetables for a colorful and flavorful dish.
This recipe is a classic one: Risotto with Braised Artichokes. The recipe for the braised artichokes is included, and it is fabulous all by itself. The risotto uses both the artichokes and the braising liquid, to really reinforce the flavor. You might want to make a double batch to make a beautiful soup out of the remaining artichokes.
Orange Scented Risotto with Chicken and Roasted Peppers is a truly fragrant, lovely dish. Orange zest and juice permeate the risotto, sending a wonderful fragrance throughout your kitchen. The flavor combination of orange and the roasted peppers are simply sublime.
I hope you try some of these dishes, to add a new component to your holiday traditions, whichever holiday you choose to celebrate. And for those who don't observe either Passover or Easter, I hope you find these special dishes a treat for any day of the week.
See you in May—
This page created April 1999
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