Final stop in Italy!

One final week immersed in my love of Italian food!I knew I had to include pasta in my February cooking plans. I have a hand crank pasta roller that I’ve never used and this was the month to do it. I knew it was an investment of time so obviously I put it off until the end of the month!

Pumpkin Ravioli with Pancetta and Sage Butter

I loosely followed this recipe for Pumpkin Ravioli with Brown Butter Sage Pancetta Sauce. I felt like making ravioli was actually more approachable than making something like pappardelle, because I could concentrate on making each individual ravioli as perfect as possible. The filling called for freshly roasted pumpkin puréed with parmesan cheese. I used canned pumpkin I found in the freezer, plus a little ricotta cheese, parmesan, nutmeg, and salt. I had some challenges rolling the pasta dough, but mainly due to my own inexperience. My first statement when I was done was, I’m never doing this again, then I ate the results of my efforts. Turns out I will do this again. There’s nothing quite like freshly made pasta. It may be inconvenient & tedious but it really does make for a restaurant quality meal.

Disclaimer – my final Italian meal was going to be Chicken Piccata, which is one of my specialities. I ran out of time so I promise I’ll share that one soon. Instead, I made a quick Panzanella salad for lunch. Little Kid me never would have touched this salad. I would have picked out the croutons and left the rest. The croutons may still be my favorite component, but the balance with fresh vegetables and tangy vinaigrette makes this entire bowl instantly devourable.

Panzanella “Stale Bread” Salad for One

  • 1 diced roma tomato
  • 1 diced mini Persian cucumber
  • 1/4 red onion, sliced thin
  • 1 slice stale sourdough
  • 1 TBSP butter
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3/4 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • 3/4 tsp sugar
  • Salt, pepper, Italian seasonings
  1. Combine dijon, sugar, garlic, seasonings, and red wine vinegar. Slowly whisk in olive oil – or put it all in a small jar and shake to combine.
  2. Cube the sourdough into 1/2 inch pieces. Melt the butter in a small skillet, add bread cubes and toss to coat. Add seasonings as desired. Cook on low heat, flipping often until all sides of the bread are toasted.
  3. Toss sliced onion, tomatoes, and cucumber. Add the bread, and drizzle with the dressing.
  4. Eat immediately.

That’s a wrap on Italian month! Here are all of the Italian goodies I made – the pesto gnocchi and the Italian sandwich were the favorites. There’s still so many other amazing Italian options that I will have to make in the coming months. Also I have about 1 million leftover arancini in my freezer that I’m not mad about.

I did manage to work in two meals from Half Baked Harvest this week – both were new recipes to the website in the last few weeks and I knew I wanted to try them right away. First, Crispy Chipotle Tacos with Cilantro Lime Ranch, which are baked tacos with a spicy ranch kick. I used turkey instead of the chicken. Usually I’m not a hard shell taco fan, but baking the shells with the cheese and ground meat helped with the typical broken taco shell issue. I topped these tacos with guac as well. Nothing too crazy, but a just a different seasoning mix and presentation from my usual tacos!

Then, One Skillet Greek Meatballs with Lemon Butter Orzo. Holy crap this one was good. I used turkey (leftover from the tacos) for my meatballs. The orzo picks up such a rich flavor from the lemon & butter and the leftover bits of browned meatball. What took this meal to the next level was the sun dried tomato vinaigrette and the giant schmear of whipped feta. Both of these additions only take a few extra minutes and can be done while the main dish simmers. I will be making this again, like probably next week.

Last but absolutely not least, was the February Baking Challenge from Sally’s Baking Addiction. Every month Sally posts a new challenge, with very detailed instructions on how to tackle a new recipe. This month’s recipe was Swiss Meringue Buttercream, which I’ve made before, and sure wasn’t going to pass up an opportunity to make again. SMBC is egg whites and sugar cooked together, and whipped into stiff peaks. Then, copious amounts of butter are added, along with any flavors of choice. The result is the absolute creamiest, richest frosting.

I decided to add Irish Cream to my buttercream, and pair it with Guinness chocolate cupcakes. P.S. Trade secret, you can mix and match cake to frosting. The cupcake recipe I used called for a cream cheese frosting and I chose to use my Irish cream buttercream instead. I was able to add about a 1/4 cup of the Irish Cream to the recipe for the perfect compliment to the rich chocolate cupcakes.


And the moment you’ve all been waiting for…March’s cooking theme…..Europe! I will pick 8-10 countries and dedicate one meal to that country. I’m not necessarily aiming for purely authentic, but after a month-long stop in Italy, I’m ready for a few new flavor profiles. I’ll be trying quite a few Half Baked Harvest recipes along the way! Even the March baking challenge fits nicely into my plans. Check back next week to see what European delicacies I make first!

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