Monthly Archives: December 2017

SAUSAGE AND PEPPERS MEATBALLS, PARTY TIME FAVORITES

IMG_4685More meatballs…can one ever have too many meatball recipes?  Imagine a world where instead of eating the same meatballs at every cocktail party, you know….the frozen bag of balls added to a slow cooker with Ketchup and Grape Jelly….those ones or added to brown gravy..those ones too? Imagine if there were different meatballs..all the time. A world of so many meatball recipes and styles you could eat a different one every day of the year.  That’s my goal.  To give the home cook ideas to move out of the same old same old.  Ok, sounding harsh here maybe but not my intent.  Variety.  Mix it up.  Like getting new clothes or a hair cut.  Bringing a fresh idea to a food type that everyone loves especially at parties.  I created this meatball recipe for a party where they wanted sausage and peppers but didn’t want big  links, or the rolls, or slices, or the mess associated with eating Sausage and Peppers at a party.  An appetizer party where everything is small, compact and can be juggled with a drink in one hand and a small plate in the other. Thinking outside of the old box.  I thought…put all the components of the Sausage and Peppers and Onions dish into a meatball.  There.  Done.  Easy.  The chopping of the peppers and onion and the rolling of the balls might be the most work involved.  Not sloppy.  Compact.  East to handle AND DELICIOUS. Get the flavor of a serving of Sausage and Pepper in a small meatball.  Are you excited? I’m excited.  Let’s go into the kitchen together and get this party started!!

1 1/2 lbs. SWEET ITALIAN SAUSAGE MEAT (PREFERABLY WITH FENNEL) OUT OF ITS CASINGS

1 LARGE EGG. BEATEN

1/4 CUP PLAIN ITALIAN BREADCRUMBS

3 FINE DICED CUBANELLE (ITALIAN FRYING PEPPERS)

2 FINE DICED MEDIUM SIZE ONIONS

2 FINELY MINCED CLOVES OF GARLIC

2 TBS MINCED ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY

2 TBS HEAVY CREAM

1/8 CUP GRATED PECORINO OR PARMIGIANO CHEESE

PINCH OF BLACK PEPPER

2 TBS  RED  ITALIAN WINE

OLIVE OIL

Add olive oil , about 2 tbs to a wide skillet and when the oil is heated add the onions and peppers.  You will need some patience here, this is not a quick saute’.  Instead your really “sweating” the peppers and onions to slowly soften them.  Season with just a small bit of salt.  Shake them a few times to prevent them from getting crisp or brown on one side.  When they are soft, about 10 minutes into it, add the garlic and let this cook for about 3 minutes.  Now add the wine. and let this cook until the wine is just about evaporated.  Move off the heat and let this mixture cool.  Pour the heavy cream over the breadcrumbs and let them hydrate.  Takes about 5 minutes.  Now add that to all the other ingredients (including the peppers and onions)  and gently blend well. Let this mixture sit for 20minutes covered in the fridge.  Now form into small balls and fry them on all sides for at least 10 minutes.  Break one open to make sure it’s cooked thru.  Makes about 25-30. Serve on toothpics, or pics on the side.  You can also use a longer pick and do a meatball and a small ball of mozzarella for a party platter.  Or you can freeze or refrigerate for use later.  They reheat wonderfully on a lightly oiled sheet pan.  Sausage and Peppers without the mess…serve a few in an Italian Roll..delicious!!  See folks, so many ways to cook a dish….be creative, have fun, Happy Cooking!!

 

 

BROCCOLI RABE AL FORNO (BAKED WITH BREADCRUMBS)

christmas2015 154BROCCOLI DI RABE aka BROCCOLI RABE, Rapini, Brucculi di Rapa, Friarielli, Broccolini…a family of similar bitter broccoli greens loved by Southern Italian. On  Italy’s southern Eastern coast it’s Cima Di Rape…a type of Turnip Green, but they all have the same earthy, minerally, bitter and broccoli like undertone.  Some people are always asking, “How do you make them Less bitter?” Well, here’s my answer.  Use Spinach. If you don’t like that Southern Italian taste for Bitter things, this isn’t your vegetable but you can always make any broccoli rabe recipe with a host of the mild greens, especially in the winter.  Consider Swiss Chard, Escarole, Spinach, Mustard Greens (ok, maybe not, they have a nice bite to them too..but expand the greens you cook with. Not only are the very nutritious for you but they are generally dirt cheap.)  The key to this BROCCOLI RABE AL FORNO is getting the Rabe soft.  This is a BISCOTTO dish, meaning it’s cooked twice.  Once to soften rabe. Then again in a baking pan with the breadcrumb topping.  I promise you once you taste this you’ll be making it again and again.  Let me just point out that your kitchen repetoire should NEVER be “ONE” of any dish.  In my years of blogging and posting on Social Media the most common comment when I post a dish like this is  “that’s not how I make it”, or “I make it like my mom did” or “I didn’t know it could be made any other way”.  There is no “ONE” Broccoli Rape recipe.  There’s always the most popular, garlic, olive oil, peperoncino, maybe a piece of anchovy, ok, or not..simma down…salt and the rabe…finished with water, or wine, or stock then eaten as is or with sausage and cavatelli or orecchiette. Most foods enjoy a host of ways to make them.   I chop Broccoli Rabe into Minestrone, roll it in a stuffed bread, pair it with beans, use it to stuff rollatini (get the picture??) or BAKE IT AND LET’S DO IT NOW!! ANDIAMO ALLA CUCINA (off to the kitchen we go).

TIME: 2 HOURS               SERVES : 4

2 Fresh Heads of Broccoli Rabe, taking about 1 1/2 inches off the bottom, rinsing then drying between a few paper towels.

1/8 cup OLIVE OIL

8 GARLIC CLOVES, mince 3 of them. leaving 5 whole.

1 TSP. PEPERONCINO

1 ANCHOVY FILET (oh, you like them?  add 2, no? you don’t? add none)

KOSHER SALT

1/8 CUP WHITE WINE

4 TBS. TOASTED PLAIN BREADCRUMBS *in a hot dry pan, gently toast the breadcrumbs just until they START to turn color. They will go from untoasted to BURNT in a NY Minute, keep shaking the pan). Once they take on some color add them to a bowl.  When they’ve cooled off add 3 tbs. grated Pecorino Romano.  then drizzle with a little olive oil, pinch of salt, pinch of peperoncino or black pepper, your preference. Then reserve for later.

OPTIONAL: 1 TBS RAISINS SOAKED IN WHITE WINE….1 TBS TOASTED PIGNOLI

Pre heat oven to 400 degrees F. Oil a medium sized baking pan and lightly coat with some of the toasted breadcrumbs.

Chop the Broccoli rabe into `1 1/2 inch pieces.  This makes it easier to eat out of the baking dish.  In a large heavy skillet or pot, heat the olive oil and add the broccoli rabe and make sure you get all the oil mixed in with it.  Add the garlic (all of it, minced and whole), anchovy and peperoncino.  Cover the pan and let this cook for about 5 minutes. Carefully remove the cover and stir.  Season with salt.  Add the wine..Mix. Cover and let this cook on low for 10 minutes.  Remove the cover and let it cook until the liquid is evaporated. Turn the cook rabe into the baking dish and top with the toasted breadcrumbs. Drizzle with more olive oil.  Bake for 15 minutes or until the crumbs are toasty and browned.  Let is sit out of the oven for at least 5 minutes before serving.  It’s wonderful at room temperature.  It’s a great side dish to seafoods and grilled foods.  Perfect for a buffet table.  That’s another reason I like to chop the rabe smaller than you’d normally serve it.  Easy access, easy to eat.  Hopefully you’re going to add this to your recipe files.  I might just have to make this again today!! HAPPY COOKING!!!

PASTA ALLA NORCINA

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARich, Earthy, as tan and brown as an Umbrian landscape, I give you Pasta Alla Norcina.  Let me start
by telling you that this was again me playing “CHOPPED” with what was in my refrigerator.  The
entire recipe started with 2 fresh sausages and a container of unsauced leftover Cappellini.  Just  so
you know, Cappellini(Angel Hair)  is not the right pasta for this dish, so, there, now it’s out there and I can’t take it
back.  I will not apologize for this breach of the recipe contract only because the largest breach of
contract comes from not utilizing everything in your refrigerator.  I will give myself points for that one.
The refrigerator also had 1/2 pint of cremini mushrooms that needed my attention and 1/2 cup of
heavy cream that also was screaming to be used.  Everything came together when I remembered the
classic dish (sauce) from Umbria for pasta called NORCINA.  Norcia is a town in Umbria, most
famous for being the birthplace of the brother and sister duo, Benedict and Scholastica, who founded
the Benedictine order of Monks.  The other is the intense food culture which has pigs at it’s center.
So hallowed is the Pig in Norcia that the word NORCINERIA is given to butcher shops where the em-
phasis is on pork, especially sausages.  The other claim to fame are their truffles and mushrooms.
All of these factor heavily in their food ways and this sauce seems to be a real triumph of all those good
things.
Start with the sausage..unlike the Southern Italians, Umbrians do not use fennel in their sausage, just
pork, pork fat, red wine, salt and pepper.  Umbria by the way is a region in Central Italy.It’s sort of a bridge
between the tomato and olive oil South and the butter, cream and polenta filled North.   For Pasta alla
Norcina for 4-6 , you will need 4 links of Italian Sweet Sausage, without Fennel.
Slit the casings with a sharp knife and remove the meat.
In a large wide skillet, heat 2 tbs. of olive oil then add the crumbled sausage meat.    Dice a medium
sized onion and set aside.  Move the sausage around so it doesn’t only brown on one side.  After
10 minutes on medium heat, add the onions, and 3 fresh chopped sage leaves, and 1 tsp. fresh
chopped thyme.  The sausage already is seasoned with salt, so only add a little to season the onions.
Move the onions and sausage around the pan, add 1/2
tsp. of peperoncino and cook this for a good 7 minutes. Chop 6 Cremini or Porcini Mushrooms into
a fine dice and add that to the pan.  Let this saute’ for a good 5 minutes, make sure those mushrooms
are diced finely…or it will throw the cooking of the sauce of…Now add 1 thinly sliced clove of garlic…let
it get fragrant (i love saying that…because it does!!) about 2 minutes.  Now, add 1/2 cup of White Wine,
deglaze the pan all around so all the bits of meat on the bottom.  This is sometimes referred to as the
FOND (that really means the deglazed pan juices, but many use the term to denote the bits that are
caramelized on the bottom of the pan)..regardless of the technical term..it’s a boatload of immense
and deep flavor.  Through out those over salty boullion cubes…this is where you will get concentrated
flavor from.   Make sure you use your wooden spoon or spatula to pull those bits off the bottom and
turn the wine a nice brownish color.  Let the mixture cook on medium for at least another 5 minutes,
or until the onions turn soft and translucent.
Now pour the cream into the pan and stir it around.
Are you noticing that I’m not using any addi-
tional fat like butter, or thickeners like flour to create this cream sauce….??  How can you make such
kitchen magic you say?  Ha…I’m no magician, a full bodied natural product like Heavy Cream and slow
heat will perform that magic for you.  This “trick” I absolutely learned in Italy.  There was something
different in Italy with their cream sauces for pasta..and that something is ..it’s just cream.  Let this
simmer with eh sausage and mushroom mixture and in 20 minutes, it will have reduced considerably
and will have changed into a thick and deep colored sauce.

Now like SO many Italian and homecooking recipes, this Classic will have variations from cook to cook
or chef to chef or family to family.  I researched as much as I could on this sauce and these were the
ingredients that came up the most :  Umbrian sausage, onions, small bit of garlic, olive oil, Heavy Cream,
Parmigiano, mushrooms, wine, sage and/or thyme, a bit of hot dried chile pepper..Truffles showed up
very frequently, but since mushrooms did as well, and I had them I added the mushrooms to my dish…less
frequently, but still common to many recipes was anchovies, peas, parsley, pancetta.  I had some frozen
peas so I thought it would be a nice touch.  For those who are non-pea lovers, omitting this is not a mortal
sin. For those who like peas (I LOVE PEAS!) add 1/4 cup frozen peas into the sauce, just let it simmer for
another 5 minutes, then turn the sauce off.  That’s right..FLAVOR MELDING WILL NOW HAPPEN.  Push
the sauce to the back of the stove while you cook 1 lb. of Penne (most proper for the dish) or Cappellini
as I did here according to the package directions just till al dente (are you sick of me saying that yet? un-
fortunately, that’s too bad, it’s the way macaroni is meant to be eaten, you will not serve mush on my watch).

Isn’t that awesome?  We are
not done yet…drain the pasta and then add it to the pasta and on a low flame, for only about 3 minutes,
warm the pasta in the sauce.
Remove from the heat.  Stop, no eating yet.  Add 1/4 cup of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano to this
masterpiece you just created.  Always add the cheese at the end, especially with a cream sauce.  Mix
well and let this sit for a few minutes so the cheese becomes part of the dish.
Time to eat..for 4-6.  A wonderful dish of pasta and meat for you and your family or friends.  Buon Appetito
from the Umbrian countryside…or New Jersey,

Add a little extra cheese when serving if you like…I like..