Monthly Archives: May 2015

TURN SOUP PASTA SHAPES INTO A SIDE OR MAIN DISH, TUBETTINI WITH PROSCIUTTO AND ZUCCHINI

atubettiniprosciutto  Pasta comes in many shapes and sizes and there are special ones made to be used in soups.  Tubettini, Tubetti, Orzo, Acini di Pepe, Stelline, Pastina, Seme di Melone, Funghetti, Ditalini, Farfalline are just some of the names and shapes that are created to go in Minestre or Zuppe.  The Pasta part of Pasta e Fagioli uses any of these shapes as one of it’s star ingredients.  I love using these shapes the same way one would use rice, couscous, barley, farro, etc.  Mixing it with a few ingredients will give you a hearty side dish, or a substantial main dish.  Your choice.  Here’s a recipe I developed and the family loved it so I have to blog it for you.  I think you’ll like it too.

 

TIME:   30 minutes                SERVES: 4-6

1 lb. TUBETTINI (COOKED AL DENTE, ACCORDING TO THE PACKAGE DIRECTIONS)

2 TBS. OLIVE OIL

2 MEDIUM ZUCCHINI, SMALL DICE

1/4 LB. SLICED PROSCIUTTO, THEN DICED, FOR THIS SMALL PASTA YOU WANT THE PROSCIUTTO TO BE SAME SIZE AS THE PASTA

2 SLICED GARLIC CLOVES

KOSHER SALT, CRACKED BLACK PEPPER

1/8 CUP GRATED PECORINO ROMANO OR PARMIGIANO REGGIANO, MORE FOR ADDING WHEN SERVED

 

Let’s start out with noting the absence of an herb here.  It’s superfluous.  You will loose the nuance of the prosciutto here, so let the cheese be the additional flavor with the garlic and oil.  Sometimes American Italian food is over “greened” with unnecessary herbs, especially that parsley garnish. Want to cook more “Italian”? Let’s start with the less is more approach.  Cook the pasta according to the package directions.  While that is happening in a wide heavy skillet/pan, add the olive oil and heat it on medium.  Add the zucchini, sprinkle with some salt and let this cook for a good 10 minutes.   Shake the pan a few times to move the zucchini around to cook on all sides.  Then add the prosciutto.  Make sure you’ve taken care to cook the pasta only to the Al Dente point, then drain, reserve 3 tbs of the starchy cooking water.  Cook the prosciutto for about 5 minutes, then add the garlic, cooking another 3 minutes. Now Add the drained Tubettini and coat well with the zucchini and prosciutto, Add the reserved water and cook for only 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.  Add 1/8 cup of the grated cheese now.  Blend well.  TASTE now and see if any more salt is necessary, If so, lightly add more, and add the black pepper as well.  Toss well.  We are ready to eat!  You may want to add just a drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil over the top…and more grated cheese.  That’s what I would do.. You do as you like and I hope you like this visit with me in my kitchen.  Happy Cooking!

 

 

 

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PORK CHOPS WITH VINEGAR PEPPERS, COSTOLETTE DI MAIALE CON PAPACCELLE

12583652_10205563126459895_473867487_nSometimes your cravings take hold of you and nothing will get in the way of satisfying it.  That’s how most of my evening meals become a reality.  There are too many variables and speed bumps that create detours between the work day and getting home so I am not that cook who works off of a weekly planner.  I couldn’t survive on that type of grid.  The seeds are planted though with what  I already know is sitting in the fridge, like a pack of 1/4-1/2 thick PORK CHOPS.  Midday I started thinking about Pork Chops with Vinegar Peppers, one of my favorite ways to prepare pork chops.  There are many ways to make this dish, stove top, or in the oven. Nice to have choices!  Marinate the chop, or not.  Up to you.  This dish is one of the most Popular in the Italian-American suite of recipes and it’s an actual dish that is part of Napoletana (from Naples) cuisine.  In Naples it’s a heritage dish called Costolette di Maiale con PAPACCELLE.  Don’t try to translate PAPACCELLE let me help you out.  As will all Italian regions there are languages within the region or province which exist nowhere else.  PAPACCELLE is a Napoletana word for a specific type of squat, round, small pepper, very close to a cherry pepper.  In Naples they are prized and are generally prepared “SOTT’ACETA or SOTT’OLIO..in Vinegar, or Olive Oil, or a combo of both. The basic Napoletana recipe is simply searing the pork loin chops on the bone (sidebar…please do not ask if you can make this off the bone..ok, you can, but this dish is an on the bone dish, so work with me here!!), add some olive oil, garlic, and a few sliced Vinegar peppers, let it cook till the pork is done.  That’s the most basic version and I’ll go out on Campanian limb and say…that’s probably the most authentic.  My version is slightly jacked up but I don’t use any wine like many other recipes out there do.  It turns the dish into a Scarpariello tasting dish..very good, but the wine sort of steals the thunder from the vinegar.  I try to preserve that tang in the dish without the winey boozy flavor Wine or Vermouth would add.   Time to come into my kitchen, ANDIAMO!

TIME: 1 HOUR                                        SERVES: 4

4  1/4-1/2 INCH THICK PORK CHOPS ON THE BONE  (Loin are great, Rib are better, more fat, more flavor, more interesting flavors on the meat)

2 VINEGAR PEPPERS PROCESSED WITH 1 TBS EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL, 1 SMALL CLOVE OF GARLIC, 1/8 TSP KOSHER SALT,  1/4 TSP PEPERONCINO (DRIED RED CHILE FLAKES) into a paste

2 TBS OLIVE OIL

2 WHOLE CLOVES OF GARLIC

6 VINEGAR PEPPERS, SEEDS AND CORE REMOVED, SLICED OR SIMPLY SLICED

1 CUP of the VINEGAR PEPPER JAR LIQUID OR 1/4 CUP RED WINE VINEGAR

(sidebar…PUT DOWN THAT BOTTLE OF BALSAMIC!! no, you cannot substitute it in this dish.  Why? not just because I say so, although in some cases that is good enough, right? But because this is a dish from Naples..not Modena.  The cooking styles and products are very different.  Balsamic is NOT a substitute for all over Vinegars, it’s it’s own ingredient and it will discolor this dish as well as add a sweetness to it.  Now is that a bad thing?  No, but then you are making another dish.  Let’s stick to this Maiale con Papaccelle  dish shall we?  Good.)

1 SPRIG FRESH ROSEMARY  (not dried, it doesn’t cook long enough to soft those dried Rosemary needles up, and the flavor will be different)

1/2 TSP KOSHER SALT

To start, pat the chops down with a paper towel.  Discard (the paper towel…). Rub the chops down with the paste you made with the  Vinegar peppers.   Place on a plate and loosely cover in a cool dry area and let marinade for 1/2 hour.  In a heavy skillet,  heat the olive oil and sear the chops for 8 minutes, then turn, and sear for 3 minutes, add the garlic. Let it take on a little color (that little bit of garlic browning is the taste of most Italian American restaurants)) then add the sliced vinegar peppers.  Saute’ the peppers for 5 minutes, shaking the pan a few times.  Add the Vinegar or the Jar liquid along with the sprig of rosemary.  Taste this liquid after you bring it to a boil, then reduce it.  See if it needs any more salt.  If you are using the jarred liquid I’m going to say NO ADDITIONAL SALT.  If not add salt to taste. Let this simmer until most of the liquid is evaporated, maybe 10 minutes.  Let this sit in the pan for 5 minutes off the heat before you serve. 0002  Now if you cannot find the jarred peppers  here’s a solution…Find some sweet cherry peppers, or Cubanelle (Italian Frying Peppers),  Seed them and slice them (maybe 6) and boil in Red wine vinegar and a little water until tender.  Add a pinch of salt.  Let them sit in that hot brew for 2 hours.  Then use them as the recipe instructs you to as if you were using the jarred peppers.  Use that liquid as well, or if you want more Vinegar punch, go with the straight up 1/4 cup of Red Wine Vinegar.

Serve this with Roasted Rosemary and Garlic Potatoes. Not pasta.   A simple Escarole or other greens dressed with anchovies, capers, olive oil and garlic. Nice.  What a meal this is.

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SIDEBAR:  Feel free to adjust the thickness of the chops. Most Restaurants make this with monster chops, just adjust your cooking times as they will differ.

If you want to roast this, simply add all the ingredients to the pan and roast in a pre-heated oven for 1/2 hour or till pork it tender.

SPAGHETTI AL POMODORO E BASILICO…PASTA WITH TOMATO AND BASIL…MY VERSION

003  LA BELLA SPAGHETTI AL POMODORO E BASILICO.  There it is, my version of the Napoletana favorite, a simple plate of Spaghetti or pasta with a simple tomato sauce.  If you find yourself at a high-end Italian restaurant you may be twirling your fork around a $ 24.00 priced portion.  Don’t get me wrong, many of them, like Scott Conant’s version at Scarpetta are very delicious but really, it’s tomatoes, pasta and not much else.  Plus I need more on my plate, the portion is just silly as a main course. Don’t think I mean to imply that Tomato and pasta is solely the domain of the city of Naples, but it is the most emblematic dish of the city along with some other favorites.  As La Bella Sofia Loren once exclaimed..”Everything I have I owe to Spaghetti”.522819_465487016800755_202062273143232_27629574_1336257737_n  I don’t argue with an expert and native!!  So SPAGHETTI, in today’s world we have dried and fresh to choose from.  Choose this…DRIED. Why? It’s way more Napoletana.  The debate over dried being the lesser of the two is nonsense.  They each have their specific uses.  No contests..stop the pasta/macaroni insanity.  Never feel “less than” when you are using dried pasta, especially Spaghetti. This is the most common brand that I use for sheer quality and consistency, DeCECCO from Italy:420125_2681302714175_167925893_n  Does the pasta matter?  Yes, yes it does. Find pastas that are made in Italy, like DeCecco or Delverde just to mention the most popular in the U.S. from Italy.  Yes, there are many (Barilla sold in the U.S. is made here, it’s not exactly the same as it’s counterpart made in Italy.) but generally the cheaper the price per pound the lower the quality.  Lower quality results in a less “toothsome” chew with the pasta.  DeCecco is always spot on for me. Then there are the Italian made Artiginale types of Pasta (Artisanal), made in smaller batches and generally upwards of 4.99 @lb.  They are awesome but not necessary.  Let your economic comfort zone and availability be your guide. Next let’s discuss the tomato…I’m sold on San Marzano tomatoes for this sauce.  They are readily available in most cases and their canned nature makes it an easy delicious choice.  Why are they prized?  Could you not just use another domestic or Italian plum?  Sure you could but as with anything in life nature gave the San Marzano a little more in the all around perfect department.  162885_1500720160349_5853202_n  Things to look for…a DOP on the label, the grown and packed in Italy appearing on the label,  and no ingredients like garlic,onion, etc. Sometimes they do come with a basil leaf, I don’t mind that. They are less acidic (no need to balance with sugar), meatier so they cook into a sauce quicker. Have I sold you yet? LOL.

 

SPAGHETTI AL POMODORO

 

TIME: 30 mintues                              SERVES:  4-6

 

1 28 oz CAN SAN MARZANO TOMATOES CRUSHED WELL WITH YOUR HANDS (ok, take your time here and enjoy the age old practice of crushing “pummurola” with your hands.  Can you use a food processor or blender?  Yes you can but you will break the tomatoes down too much and have a more watery blend, more water, longer cooking)

3 tbs.  EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

3 SLICED CLOVES OF GARLIC (OR 3 WHOLE CLOVES, THE WHOLE CLOVE SAUTEED AND REMOVED IS THE MORE ITALIAN WAY TO COOK THIS)

KOSHER OR COARSE SEA SALT TO TASTE

PINCH OF PEPERONCINO

6 FRESH BASIL LEAVES

1 LB. GOOD QUALITY ITALIAN MADE DRIED SPAGHETTI, COOKED TILL JUST UNDER AL DENTE ACCORDING TO THE PACAKGE DIRECTIONS

1 TBS UNSALTED BUTTER (OPTIONAL)

PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO OR PECORINO ROMANO

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan, add the peperoncino, some salt, and the garlic.  If using sliced let it just get very light golden, then add the tomatoes.  If using whole, let them take on some color, press down gently on them (not too hard, the hot oil will spray back at you)remove them. Add the tomatoes at that point.  Bring to a gentle boil, then reduce to a simmer.  Add 3 basil leaves. 397224_3628916283922_1247137950_n Let this cook down for 20minutes-25 minutes, just until it’s thickened.  While the sauce was cooking you will make the spaghetti till a few minutes under al dente.  Drain, reserving 2 tbs of the cooking water, you may need it.  Add the pasta to the sauce and coat well and let it cook for about 2 minutes, no more.  Remove from the flame.  Add the other basil leaves.  Serve in 5 minutes grating fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano over each serving OR (option 2)…add the butter to the pan and let it melt into the pasta, gently twirling to coat all the spaghetti.  Then serve.

Some will say, no cheese…I say, eat this as you like.  Cheese on mine?  Yes please, I like.

I add the butter finish because many U.S.Restaurants do that and people seem to likeit. How do I like it?  Without the butter, but I leave the butter or not up to your taste.  Now there is much debate over butter or not. Who Am I to argue with Chef Scott Conant who insists on it in his signature Spaghetti al Pomodoro.  However, I’m more in the camp of Rosario Procino, owner of Ribalta, a shrine to the Napoletana style of cooking in NYC.  His view is that butter takes something away from the taste of the tomato.  I think so too.  But, America loves the taste of butter in Tomato sauce so it’s a common and liked taste.    I’m being fair…but you’re not getting it with butter at my table, lol.