2016 Holiday Gift Guide

As lovers of all things cooking and baking, we each have a list of dream gifts we would love to receive for our kitchens! This week, our team tells you about their most coveted gift in the store, without budget limitations. (For our 2016 picks under $50, see last week’s blog post here.)

Finex 12” Covered Skilletbm2016

This beautiful piece of artisan cookware is put together by hand in Portland, OR. The attention to quality detail makes this piece stand out from other cast iron cookware. The smoothly machined surface resists sticking and is easy to clean. The heaviness of the skillet allows for even heating, and its coil handle stays cool to the touch while cooking. A must have piece for the artisan foodie in your life!


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What’s Your Favorite Way to Cook Gravy?


Gravy, Marinara, Tomato Sauce, Whatever you call it, we call it Yum!

This week, we asked our staff a very personal question, one for which everyone had an answer.  Though the recipes vary, one thing can be said for sure, we love gravy. Red sauce, tomato sauce, marinara, whatever you call it; is a very individual joy, and everyone makes it differently. Today, we’re sharing our favorite recipes and techniques with you. Read the rest of this entry »

Perfect Pasta with KitchenAid

KitchenAid Pasta Press

Fresh macaroni in minutes with the KitchenAid Pasta Press

Is there anything in the world more satisfying to kids (young or old) than a giant plate full of homemade macaroni and cheese? Seems like their quintessential comfort food. Hot from the oven with the cheese still bubbling and the breadcrumbs crusting, it always puts a smile on their face.

There are so few ingredients in mac and cheese, yet there’s always room for experimentation. The first thing most people change is the cheese – but freshly made pasta will do just as much to improve the old classic.

As for making the hole in the middle of the macaroni, the KitchenAid Pasta Press is just the thing. And if you find making pasta dough by hand to be an arduous process, the perfect solution is to use a KitchenAid Stand Mixer. The Pasta Press, as with all other attachments, will fit any KitchenAid stand mixer with a hub, no matter the age.

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Cavatelli Crazy

As Pasta Month winds down, we’re left with a savory trip into the hearty, if sometimes misunderstood, world of the cavatelli. Why savory? Hollowed-out ricotta cheese dumplings served with a mushroom thyme sauce, that’s why. Why misunderstood? Cavatelli are often confused with, and substituted for,  gnocchi. But believe us — these are definitely gnot gnocchi!

Where gnocchi are (usually) made with potatoes (though ricotta cheese versions also exist), cavatelli are a product of recipe rigidity: it’s ricotta or nothing! Additionally, where gnocchi are solid cylinders, cavatelli are more like tiny little hot dog buns.

Another, likely more hotly debated idea, is how to pronounce their name. Cavatelli. Kah-vah-TELL-ee. Rolls off the tongue, yeah? Try asking for them here in South Philly.

Customer: “I’d like a bag of cavatelli.”
Merchant: “Huh?”
Customer: “Top shelf, behind you. The cavatelli.”
Merchant: “Ahhh. The gavadeel?”
Customer: “Huh?”

Thus, the pronunciation merry-go-round whirls until both sides agree to disagree, and the transaction is thus completed. Depending on where you are, how you say your cavatelli is almost as important as how you eat them. Speaking of… Read the rest of this entry »

A Moment With Mary Ann Esposito

“There are just some family traditions that can never be broken — nor should they be broken! “

Food television has exploded in recent years, producing shows about celebrity chefs, famous restaurants and even shows about things we would never dare eat, let alone cook at home. One constant during that time has been Mary Ann Esposito, the warm and welcoming host of America’s longest-running cooking show, Ciao Italia. We caught up with Mary Ann this week for a quick Q&A for our Pasta Month series.

As a trusted authority on all foods Italian, Mary Ann dishes out on her kitchen inspirations, evading the “pasta police” and just what to do with pre-grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

Toque Tips: You are very engaged with your viewers and readers. What are the most frequent questions you receive about pasta?

Mary Ann: The most frequently asked question I get by far is, “What does al dente mean?” Al dente literally translates to the tooth, but that tells an inexperienced cook nothing. What it means is that pasta is cooked correctly when you can fish a strand out of the cooking water, break it in half and see that there is no raw uncooked white flour present. It should still be firm and not mushy or collapsed on itself. It should hold its shape.

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Ga Ga for Garganelli

We love food history. At its best, the history of a food can wind its way through countless variations and tweaks on a centuries-old recipe. In that respect, food history is like the family stories told around the dinner table. The stories may be embellished in parts but the central themes ring true. That is particularly true for this week’s featured pasta.

Italian food expert and writer Carmelita Caruana claims to have the true skinny on our pasta, the garganelli. As she tells it, the invention of garganelli revolves around a group of hungry guests, some quick thinking, and a mischievous pet.

Garganelli were born in 1725, the story goes, in the country mansion of the representative of the Pope – the Pope at the time ruled the region of Romagna – specifically in the home of Cardinal Cornelio Bentivoglio d’Aragona.

His cook was busily preparing Cappelletti, the Romagna cousin of Bologna’s Tortellini, and she was either taken by surprise when a large number of extra guests arrived unexpectedly, or else, in another version of the story, the kitchen cat got at the tasty meat filling when she was not looking! Either way she had dozens of little squares of pasta all cut up and awaiting their stuffing and not quite enough filling to go round.

Thinking on her feet and in some desperation, she decided to dispense with the filling altogether and to make little maccheroni-like rolls instead, with the aid of the pencil-sized wooden twigs used to light the kitchen fire and a tool borrowed from the weaving room; country households spun hemp and wove most of their own linen in those times.

Trouble making is hard work…

Our own cat, Gus Gus (seen here taking a break from similar mischief) has also had his share of kitchen adventures, so we feel for that creative cook. But the real star of the story is the garganelli comb itself.

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Stamp of Approval: Corzetti Pasta Stamps

Pasta types have specific characteristics, similar to DNA, which make them unique to their home regions. There couldn’t be a better example of this uniqueness than this week’s pasta, the Corzetti.

Like Christopher Columbus, these tasty little pasta coins are native to the Liguria region of Italy, and rely on a dough a bit different than the basic semolina variety we profiled last week. The recipe we used is a variation on one used by our friend Mary Ann Esposito, of the PBS show Ciao Italia. It features fresh eggs, AP flour and (our addition) white wine.

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