Category Archives: CHEESES

TORTELLINI DELLA NONNA, my wife’s version..with Prosciutto Cotto, Peas, Cream, and Parmigiano-Reggiano

dellanonna 006Things go in and out of fashion in all facets of human life.  Music, Clothing, Styles, FOOD, etc.  Some dishes have a white hot flash in the pan #hashtagged Social Media celebrity status life for a few months, years, decades while others are looked back on with a scratch of the head or maybe a sentimental hug.  Where do I place this dish that was one of the most popular ItalianAmerican restaurant dishes in the late 70’s-early 80’s?  TORTELLINI DELLA NONNA.  That era boasted a sauce called DELLA NONNA, which in true Italian fashion can point to 1000 things at the same time.  None of which are even closely related but the name is a term of endearment given by a cook to a dish when it evokes feelings of one’s Nonna, or Grandmother.  The French term many dishes “Gran Mere” in the same way.  Something your Grandmother made, or close to it, however in my case, My Grandmothers were both in Italy (one in Avellino and one in Sicily).  There was no cream saucy pasta being made in their kitchens.  That was restaurant food or the food of Central and Northern Italy.  To them, those regions were the same as saying “Austria,  Norway, or the North Pole”.  dellanonna 006  Even the use of Tortellini was unheard of in my family’s kitchens.  This was a pasta introduced to the ItalianAmericans of southern Italian ancestry via the American Italian restaurant.  Without those “Northern Italian” restaurants introducing these foods and dishes from Italy’s Central and Northern regions unless we travelled there, we’d be unaware of the complete treasures of the full Italian landscape.  So much food, So little time!!  During those years I mentioned one could order these dishes and recipes would be posted in magazines and in cookbooks or written down on a napkin by a cook in a restaurant to diners interested in making the dish at home.  I’m not sure when or how my wife Debi got this recipe.  Did I give it to her?  I can’t take credit for that. She’s not sure but maybe one day we’ll both remember.  She loved the dish, although prefers it with Cappellini.  Me?  I prefer it with Tortellini.  I feel it just married best with that. She enjoys Cappellini with everything.  After 42 years with her I’m not going to change her pasta eating habits no matter how hard I’ve tried. 00 There she is, our little Della Nonna Sauce maker with our two daughters. So consider this recipe a compromise, like any good marriage.  Her sauce with my pasta choice.   I hope you love her recipe for Della Nonna Sauce as much as I love her….and her sauce.

Time: about 1 hour              Serves: 4

 

1 lb. Cheese or Cheese and Spinach Tortellini

2 1/2 TBS. UNSALTED BUTTER

8 OZ. PROSCIUTTO COTTO (COOKED SLICING HAM), DICED SMALL

1 LARGE FINELY DICED SHALLOT

1/8  CUP VERMOUTH

1 1/2 CUPS HEAVY CREAM, ORGANIC WOULD BE OPTIMAL

1 CUP FROZEN PEAS

3 FRESH BASIL LEAVES

KOSHER SALT,  FRESH GROUND BLACK PEPPER

3/4  CUP GRATED PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO OR ASIAGO, GRATE IT FINELY

EXTRA PARMIGIANO/ASIAGO FOR TOPPING

1 LB. TORTELLINI OR TORTELLONI FILLED WITH SPINACH AND RICOTTA OR PROSCIUTTO, COOK TILL AL DENTE.

 

Start with melting the butter in a wide high sided heavy pan/skillet.  Add the shallots and season with some salt and pepper.  Do not let them brown, takes about 2 minutes.  Now add the ham and cook for about 3 minutes, moving the meat around in the pan.  Add the wine and let this cook for 5 minutes.  Now add the heavy cream and gently stir until all is mixed. Add a few basil leaves and the peas.

Let this simmer for 20 minutes stirring frequently.  The sauce “transitions” from a loose liquid into a thicker liquid.   KEEP STIRRING!!  Now add the tortellini and coat well.  Add the grated Parmigiano and blend it into the pasta.  Taste.  If it needs more seasoning, add more cheese, or more salt (never both) and a nice grinding of the pepper.  Blend.  dellanonna 005How does that look?????  And it tastes even better.  Now here’s my style of saucing this pasta, there will not be a pool of sauce in the bottom of the bowl.  I make this like these pastas are made in Italy.  With a wonderful coating of the sauce on the pasta, not enough for the pasta to go swimming.  If you like more “sauce” in your bowl, increase the Heavy cream to 2 full cups.  So if you want my wife to cook for you, this is basically her recipe with a few of my notes thrown in.  Make no mistake, I’m the daily cook in the house, she had zero interest in cooking. Which is another reason why we are together for so long, the kitchen is mine. LOL. When she does decide to cook I enjoy my plate of Tortellini and she enjoys her Angel Hair.  All the ingredients in this dish work well together, like any good marriage.  Happy Cooking.

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CHICKEN, PROVOLONE, PARSLEY AND BASIL PATTIES, SUMMER LOVE

401674_3107550370100_1304531591_32244544_484452443_nSummer, love it, can’t wait for it to start and hate when it’s over. This is my happy time.  Even the food changes for the most part as I migrate to being outside versus inside and what better way to start of the month of June than with a recipe of mine that is best when cooked on a charcoal or gas grill.  CHICKEN PATTIES…now don’t think a dry hockey puck of plain chicken with some seasoning, i understand that fowl (get it?? please lol) version is a thing.  Mine though reflects my world, that ItalianAmerican world of NYC and NJ that has a particular love for ItalianAmerican cuisine.  Every Summer growing up starting with Labor Day the local Salumerias (Pork Stores) would start selling certain meats just made for the Summer months.  The Cheese and Parsley ring on the crisscrossed skewers and the chicken patty made with Provolone and Parsley, sometimes Basil too, sometime diced peppers and onions in the mix too but my preference was/is the provolone/parsley and basil blend.  Easy to make, easy to cook and wonderful to eat.  These patties of my youth and current life are delicious.  You need a good sharp chef’s knife and a food processor.  What?  What about ground chicken?   It will be too dry.  It will be too processed and the texture will be off.  Your end pattie should have some chicken texture.  Trust me, it makes for a better pattie.

The recipe makes 4 patties.

TIME: 45 minutes                                     YIELD: 4 PATTIES

3 FULLY TRIMMED BONELESS SKINLESS CHICKEN BREAST, ORGANIC IF POSSIBLE

1 FULLY TRIMMED BONELESS SKINLESS CHICKEN THIGH, ORGANIC IF POSSIBLE

or use all breast, or all thigh, if all thigh it will take longer to cook.

1/4 CUP FINELY DICED SWEET ONION

1 TSP WHITE WINE

1/4 CUP DICED PROVOLONE (AURICCHIO BRAND IMPORTED FROM ITALY PREFERRED)

1/8 CUP GRATED PECORINO ROMANO

2 CHOPPED SPRIGS OF ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY

2 BASIL LEAVES

1 TSP COARSE ITALIAN BREAD CRUMBS

1/2 TBS. OLIVE OIL

1 TSP KOSHER SALT

1 TSP CRACKED BLACK PEPPER

 

Chill the blade and bowl of a food processor for 10 minutes.  Then Pulse the meat and cheese no more than 3 times. Add the rest of the ingredients.  Pulse JUST until everything is blended.  Turn out the mixture into a bowl and form into 4 equivalent patties. Place on wax paper and cover with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 20 minutes to 1 hour.

On a well oiled grate, grill the patties on medium heat (whether it’s gas or charcoal) and grill on each side for at least 5 minutes per side, certainly make any time adjustments for your grill.  A too high grill will burn the outside and keep the inside close to undone.  A too low grill will steam the patties.  Yes, all these different temps and methods change how the end product tastes!! When they are done, place on a platter and tent with foil.  Leave them sit for 5 minutes.  Then serve on Rolls or on their own..  A very delicious taste of my “Summer”. Enjoy.

 

 

SAN MARZANO COCKTAIL MEATBALLS…

007Time to discuss one of my favorite food subjects…the MEATBALL.  Let’s start out with this tidbit, there’s no such thing as the “ITALIAN MEATBALL”. Why you ask?  Because I said so.  And here’s why…there are meatballs of all shapes and sizes and ingredients made all over Italy.  Most likely you’re assuming the meatball in the big pot of sauce is the “Italian Meatball”.  Well that’s certainly one of many. Meatballs as a cocktail party or party food are fantastic since they are small.  They work well at a party and are generally a one bite affair.  For parties one of the meatball recipes I’ve developed is the SAN MARZANO COCKTAIL MEATBALL.  What is that all about? Scenario, you’re at a party…you’re dressed up..nice suit, shirt, dress, whatever.  You pick up the meatball out of the pan or platter and it’s dripping with sauce.  YIKES! Big sauce stain on your tie…or your chest and the shirt.  Down your blouse or onto the front of your dress or skirt.  Now you’ve done it!!  But you really want that delicious sauce flavor with the meatballs right?  Let’s mix this up a bit…for a cocktail party…or any party..add the sauce TO the meatball mix, then make the meatballs and simply serve on a tray, platter or bowl with toothpicks.  This recipe is made in two parts. first the sauce, then the meatballs.  To start:

THE SAUCE (which becomes one of the ingredients in the meatballs)

1 28oz Can SAN MARZANO DOP Tomatoes, or any good variety of Imported Italian Plums or Domestic Plum Tomatoes

2 TBS OLIVE OIL

1 SMALL FINE DICED ONION

SEA SALT

PEPERONCINO

3 FRESH BASIL LEAVES

In a sauce pan heat the olive oil and then add the onion, season with salt and peperoncino.  Let this cook until the onions are translucent and soft.  TIP: if you get impatient the onions will never really soften in the tomato sauce and you’ll have crunchy onions in the mix.  Be patient.  Take your time.  No rush.  Once your onions are soft add the tomatoes which you will crush with your hands first in a bowl, then add them to the pot.  Add one basil leaf and bring this to a boil, stir, then to a simmer and let this reduce for 1 hour, stirring frequently, until it’s reduced by about 1/2.  Add the remaining 2 basil leaves, taste for seasoning and let it sit off the flame to cool completely.  Should take about 2 hours.

MEATBALLS  (makes about 30 ish)

3/4 lb GROUND CHUCK

1/4 lb GROUND VEAL

1/4 lb LOOSE SWEET ITALIAN SAUSAGE MEAT

1 JUMBO EGG, beaten

handful of chopped Italian Flat Leaf Parsley

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

1/8 tsp kosher salt

1/2 cup dry italian breadcrumbs

1/4 cup of the Sauce you made (that recipe above ^^^^)

3/4 cup freshly grated PECORINO ROMANO

2 FINELY (stressing the FINELY) MINCED GARLIC CLOVES

2 TBS OLIVE OIL

1/2 CUP ITALIAN WHITE WINE

In a large bowl, mix the breadcrumbs, eggs, cheese, parsley, S & P, Sauce, Garlic together.  Let this sit for 20 minutes. Why? we want the sauce to hydrate those breadcrumbs.  Your Panada (write it down, it’s the Italian word for a breadcrumb/bread mix moistened with eggs, herbs, oil,liquids like milk or water, etc. which forms the binding for the meatballs.  See, we are learning…I love teaching and sharing my food with you!!)  Since there’s a significant amount of liquid in the sauce (which is why we reduced it) you want those breadcrumbs to suck up all that moisture which in turn doesn’t steal moisture from the meats and balances the end product…dry crumbs on their own suck moisture from the meat and other sources.

Blend all the meats together.  Then add to the Panada after it’s sat for a while.  If it’s still too loose, add more breadcrumbs, but only a little at a time. Mix gently with lightly moistened hands (lightly, or you’re adding more water to the balls).  When fully mixed let the mixture sit for 15 minutes.  NOW start rolling walnut sized meatballs and line them on a parchment or waxed paper lined tray.  Chill for 10 minutes.  In a heavy skillet add 2 tbs. olive oil and heat.  Fry the meatballs for at least 5 minutes on each side without overcrowding.  Fry in batches.. Add more Olive oil as needed letting the oil get hot before adding more balls in the pan.  (why? the balls will soak in the oil..frying actually prevents that from happening).  When finished frying all the meatballs, deglaze the pan with the White Wine and gently add the meatballs back and simmer until the wine has evaporated.  Done.  Now serve with toothpicks to hungry guests OR let them cool…wrap them in pans and you can reheat them on trays in the oven for serving at your event/ party/dinner.  Meatballs and sauce all together  No drip. No stains.  No mess.    It was great cooking with you…hope to come into your kitchens again real soon!!!

 

 

 

 

GRANDMA SCARAMUZZI’S EASTER PIZZA DOLCE (SWEET RICOTTA PIE)

PicMonkey CollageSeasonal dishes, they define our lives.  Whether it’s Thanksgiving Turkey or Candy Canes at Christmas or King Cake at Mardi Gras one can often tell the season by its specialty dishes.   Growing up in a Southern Italian American home there were and still are many dishes/foods that are like a calendar smacking you in the head telling you what Holiday or season you are celebrating. Spring. Primavera (it’s the Italian word for Spring, not just a type of Pasta, lol). Easter. Passover. Just a few holiday/seasons that March into May brings to us and in my home, on Good Friday the traditional family RICOTTA PIES would be prepared and baked post 3:00pm and NOT TOUCHED UNTIL 12:00AM EASTER SUNDAY.  This is maddening, although, we are modern now. The Catholic Church’s first Easter mass is around 4pm on Saturday before Easter so feel free to cut into the pie.  Certainly, you may stick to tradition and wait till that clock changed from night to midnight.

A little history with this pie I’m blogging about, in the old days Lent meant no eggs, no dairy, no meat, no sugar, no NOTHIN!!! Southern Italians devised dishes that were accessible and celebratory for breaking the fast.  Ricotta pies which are known as PIZZE (Pizza is a word for pie…the tomato and cheese one is just another version) are made in both sweet and savory types.  Let’s confuse you further!  Every town and region developed it’s own types of foods..while this confuses many ItalianAmericans because we often think only the way that our family makes something is the right way..there are many versions of all these Easter pies.  Mine comes from my Grandmother’s town of CASTEL BARONIA , PROVINCIA D’AVELLINO not far from Naples.  We call isSWEET PIE, or PIZZA DOLCE and it’s a wonderful baked ricotta pie scented with cinnamon, lemon, orange and anisette.  There are similar pies made in the Avellino area withouth the lemon and orange zest and without the glaze on top.  That glaze is used in baked goods from my Grandfather’s town of Grassano, Provincia di Matera in neighboring Basilicata.  I wonder if Grandma Scaramuzzi’s version melded a few things she picked up from Grandpa’s family.  It’s how recipes evolve but the basic pizza is pure Avellinese.  The crust is a typical PASTA FROLLA, the dough used for many Southern Italian pastry/baked goods.  The first thing we need to do it make the dough. You need time for this, Rome wasn’t built in a day!!

PASTA FROLLA

2-1/2 cups SIFTED all-purpose UNBLEACHED flour

-1/4 cup sugar

-1/4 tsp. salt

-1/2 tsp. baking powder

10 Tbs. good  unsalted butter, chilled

1 Xtra Large Egg, beaten

4 Tbsps. milk

Mix all the dry ingredients well.  Cut the butter into a small dice and work it into the dry ingredients until the mix resembles small peas. Now add the egg which you’ve beaten with the milk then add to the flour and butter mixture and stir it all with a fork or wooden spoon until it will hold its shape.  Knead this until it’s smooth then stop. Form the Pasta Frolla into a disk and wrap in “Saran Wrap” or Plastic wrap and into the fridge for 1 1/4 hours.easter16e 021 Don’t get scared, those are disks of pasta frolla for a few pies.

Now we will make the Ricotta filling.

1-1/2 lbs. WHOLE MILK RICOTTA which you’ve drained overnight or earlier in the day in a sieve.  You can also , if available, use the Ricotta which comes in a tin already drained, That’s what I generally use but it’s not available everywhere.

1/2 cup sugar

4 large eggs

1 1/8 TBS ANISETTE EXTRACT

1 TSP. PURE VANILLA

3 TBS DICED CITRONeaster16a 009

1 TSP. CINNAMON

1 TSP. LEMON ZEST

1 TSP ORANGE ZEST

Beat the eggs, then add the sugar and beat, add the extracts, beat.  Now mix in the Ricotta, cinnamon, the zests, and the citron until smooth.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to fill the pastry.easter16e 006These instructions are for a 9 inch pan.  I double recipe and make it in a larger rectangular.  Up to you.   Lightly butter the pan.  From the Pasta Frolla disk, remove about 1/3 for later.  The remainder you will roll out to about 14 inches and line the buttered 9 inch pan.   Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. You want some of the dough over the sides of the pan.  Press the dough into the sides and then pour in the ricotta mixture.  Roll out the remainder of the dough for the top.   With an egg wash of 2 eggs and 1/8 cup milk brush the rim and then place the top over it.. press the sides to the lid forming a crust and cut away the excess.  Brush the top with the egg wash.  If you truly want a Grandma Scaramuzzi Sweet Pie, turn those bits you just cut off and make a B and a P out of them.  Place them on center of the pie and coat with egg wash.   Place the pan on a baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour.  easter16e 001 What does BP mean?  BUONA PASQUA! Italian for Happy Easter..that makes it a real Grandma memory.  To test for done. use a sharp knife and place in the center going straight into the bottom of the pie.  If it comes out clean, your pie is done. Let this cool for 1 hour to 2 hours.  While it’s cooling it’s time to make the glaze.

1 cup Confectioner’s Sugar

1/2  tsp Lemon Juice

1/2 tsp Orange Juice

1/2 tsp. milk

1/2 tsp. Anisette Extract

1 tsp mixed Lemon and Orange Zest

multicolored “confetti” or non pareils

Mix all except the confetti until you can drizzle it.  cover with wrap until ready to use.

When the Sweet Pie is fully cooled, don’t rush it…make sure it’s cool!! Then simply drizzle the icing over the top making sure to get some into the sides.  You may have more than you need, use it for something else.  After you’ve drizzles add some of the confetti to the top.easter16dc 031 Now here’s some variations…you can do a lattice top  if you like, just cut the top into strips. Nothing at Easter makes me think, remember, and smile about who I am, where I come from, and who loves me almost as much as this does.  Grandma Scaramuzzi and my Mom are right there in the kitchen with me, guiding me as they once did to teach us this pie.  It’s About Easter, about continuity and the cycles of life, rebirth, family, love. About my ItalianAmerican and Southern Italian roots and sharing that with my multicultural family.  It’s fantastic and thanks for letting me share it with you.  easter16dc 030

 

MEATBALLS WITH A SICILIAN INFLUENCE, CREATING A RECIPE, POLPETTINE IN BIANCO

0041Meatballs….one of those perennial favorites, all kinds, all types, all cuisines.  One of my missions with my food blogging and Social Media posting is that people open their minds to meatballs other than the usual suspects. Oh I’m not saying that your favorites aren’t fantastic but instead I’m saying look beyond the familiar and there’s a world of other types to enjoy.  Standing at my stove last night it was St.Joseph’s Day (Festa di San Giuseppe) which is celebrated with much fervor by Italians, specifically Sicilians.  You see the good San Giuseppe saved Sicily from all sorts of bad things and as most religious legends and traditions  do, there is celebrating on the days these saints are honored.  For Sicily there’s a host of foods, and since March 19 falls during LENT when meat was forbidden to be eaten, all the dishes are meatless, emphasis on seafood and fish.  Confused? Asking yourself, um, then why a meatball post?  BECAUSE.  These are not meatballs for St.Joseph’s day but, as with all recipes, they have a development genesis. Ground chuck in the fridge….one daughter who doesn’t like anchovies in her pasta (which was the one of the St.Joseph’s entrees I made)…killing two birds with one stone meant to have something for my daughter, make meatballs out of that chopped chuck.  Easy. Then the recipe developer in me took over and I paired the Sicilian-ness of the day with my meatballs.  No these aren’t a traditional Sicilian meatballs but, again, recipe development has many influences and the Sicilian holiday gave me the inspiration.  Ground Chuck.  Sicilian Oregano.  Pecorino cheese. Black Pepper.  Eggs. Plain Breadcrumbs. Red Onions. Mix, roll, fry in Sicilian Olive Oil and simmer in a mix of that oil, red onion, basil and Marsala Wine, also from Sicily. Sicily’s cuisine does not always contain garlic, oh yes it’s used but Onion will show up more often.   Originally I was going to use White Wine and I named the dish Polpettini in Bianco.  Instead  I switch last minute to the made in Sicily fortified Marsala.  Still in Bianco because that Italian Culinary term means NO TOMATO.  See, more pearls of Italian culinary wisdom.  You’re Welcome.548528_2971219081903_1304531591_32189688_1417227459_n From my hometown of Staten Island NYC comes this picture courtesy of the Staten Island Advance of the San Giuseppe (St.Joseph’s) Procession.    How does any of this factor into developing a recipe? Again, my opinion only, but a good recipe is developed organically…things that should belong together create a special harmony and when you’re in a certain mindset you become even more creative. E COSI’. Let’s make POLPETTINI IN BIANCO.

TIME: 45 MINUTES                                    YIELDS: 25 WALNUT SIZED MEATBALLS, approx.

 

1 LB. GROUND CHUCK (80% lean, 20% fat)

1 LARGE EGG

3 TBS. FINELY MINCED ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY

1 SMALL CALABRIAN RED ONION OR SHALLOT, finely minced

1/2 TSP SICILIAN DRIED OREGANO rubbed between your hands, or any good dried Oregano

1 TBS SICILIAN EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL or another good Extra Virgin, preferably Italian

1/2 CUP DRY PLAIN BREADCRUMBS moistened (hydrated) with 3 tbs milk or cream

1/2 CUP FRESHLY GRATED CACIOCAVALLO OR PECORINO CHEESE

1/2 TSP SEA SALT

1/2 TSP BLACK PEPPER

2 TBS OLIVE OIL (or use the same you used above)

1/2 CUP MARSALA WINE OR WHITE WINE

1/8 CUP STOCK OR WATER

2 FRESH BASIL LEAVES

In a large bowl beat the egg and add the cheese, breadcrumbs, parsley, oregano, all but 1 tsp of the onion, salt and pepper,the tbs of Extra Virgin Olive oil. When this is well mixed together, add the meat and gently blend till it’s all one mixture. Let this rest for 5 minutes. Form into Walnut sized balls and line on a foil or wax paper or parchment paper covered baking sheet.  In a large wide and heavy skillet heat the 2 TBS of Olive Oil and in batches add the meatballs and let them fry for about 6 minutes,397224_3628916283922_1247137950_n then turn, fry for another 4 minutes.  remove them all to a platter keeping them covered until done.  In the pan add the remaining onion and saute for 3 minutes then add the stock and the Marsala, bring to a boil.  Add the basil leaf then the all the meatballs and reduce to a simmer.  Let this simmer for 15 minutes but stir a few times.  Done.Remove from the flame and  give gentle stir.  Let them sit for 15 minutes…then serve.  Wonderful with roasted potatoes and a green sauteed vegetable.  Enjoy making these PURPETTINE CU’BIANCU….what’s that?  POLPETTINE IN BIANCO in Sicilian.  More fun saying it that way I think.  Happy Cooking!!

TOASTED SPINACH GNUDI WITH A SAGE AND PUMPKIN SAUCE..GNUDI CON SALVIA E ZUCCA

002GNUDI!!!  pronounce it  NYUU-DEE, an Italian food from Tuscany is as it’s name implies, sort of a Nude Ravioli.  It’s a dumpling made with ricotta, eggs, spinach, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and just enough flour to bind it so it’s not quite a gnocchi but close.  Italian cooking is wonderfully full of dishes that closely resemble each other but nuances in ingredient amount or region make them separate and unique.  Fantastic!!  Let me give a foodie PSA here while I have your attention.  You know that TUSCAN recipe or dish you are eating in a restaurant or making at home?  You know, that ULTIMATE TUSCAN soup, chicken, whatever?  It’s more than likely NOT TUSCAN.  Drives me crazy.  As someone who shares food ideas and knowledge calling something TUSCAN when it’s not drives me insane.  Imagine this for a minute…in Italy…at a restaurant or supermarket/store selling American foods…there’s an item called….NEW YORK CAJUN GUMBO….or KANSAS LOBSTER…or MIDWESTERN CLAM CHOWDER….clearly you get my drift.  Louisiana gets the gumbo…Maine gets the Lobster…New England or Manhattan get the Clam Chowder.   The term TUSCAN gets placed on any dish someone (usually a corporate boardroom) wants to for marketing purposes. People are attracted to that term thinking it’s bona fide Tuscan food, or the implication is that all Italian food is Tuscan, or that the American created dish is Tuscan.  Let me do my part to promote real Tuscan influenced food by giving you this recipe I came up with using a Tuscan dumpling and some of the more common Tuscan ingredients..spinach, pumpkin, sage.

Gnudi can be eaten out of the pot, or with butter, or pan toasted, or lightly sauced with butter based sauces, or tomato sauce. A recent batch of gnudi I made, after poaching them i let them “dry” for 2 hours then toasted them in butter till they took on a golden brown crust then simply sauced them with sauteed onions, pumpkin puree, butter, sage, parmigiano-reggiano or Grana Padano, black pepper, and Vin Santo (Spanish sherry makes a decent substitute if you can’t find the Vin Santo).

serves: 4                                          time: 3 hours (which includes the time to let the gnudi dry)

First, the GNUDI

1 CUP  WHOLE MILK RICOTTA, DRAINED

1 CUP CHOPPED FROZEN SPINACH, THAWED AND SQUEEZED VERY DRY (important!!)

1 CUP FRESH GRATED PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO OR GRANA PADANO

3 LARGE EGG YOLKS (ORGANIC WORK BEST) at ROOM TEMPERATURE

1 CUP SIFTED ALL PURPOSE FLOUR OR TIPO 00 from ITALY

1/8  TSP EACH OF  FRESH GRATED NUTMEG, KOSHER SALT, FRESH GROUND BLACK PEPPER

2 TBS UNSALTED BUTTER

You can use a food processor or bowl for this.  Mix together the Ricotta, Spinach, Parmigiano, and yolks.  Pulse or mix till blended.  Add the nutmeg, salt and black pepper.  Mix.  Now gently add in the flour until fully incorporated. Let sit for 5 minutes.  NOW to form the GNUDI.  Some are made in the small oval shape like I do and some are made in the same size, just under 1 inch, in a ball. Keep the size and shape uniform for consistent cooking. As you make them, lay them onto a kitchen towel covered baking sheet.  Bring a large pot of water to the boil.   When you have finished the gnudi and they’ve rested, gently drop them into the boiling water. Let them cook  and as they are ready, they will float to the top of the pot.  Takes up to 5 minutes.  I use the 5 minute mark as my gauge.  Using a slotted spoon or kitchen spider transfer the drained gnudi to a parchment paper lined sheet pat.  Leave these to dry out now for no less than one hour.

SAUCE:

1 MEDIUM ONION, DICED FINE

6 TABLESPOONS UNSALTED BUTTER (EUROPEAN STYLE OR EUROPEAN WORKS BEST)

2 TBS OF VIN SANTO OR SPANISH SHERRY

1/2 CUP PURE PUMPKIN PUREE (PUMPKIN ONLY)

1/8 CUP RESERVED GNUDI COOKING WATER

2 SAGE LEAVES, WHOLE

FOR GARNISH:

4 CHOPPED FRESH SAGE LEAVES

FRESHLY GRATED PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO OR GRANA PADANO TO TASTE

SLIGHT GRATING OF FRESH NUTMEG AND /OR BLACK PEPPER

In a wide heavy bottomed pan melt the butter and then add the onions…bring to medium and let them slowly get soft. Takes about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the 2 sage leaves.  Now add the Vin Santo or Sherry.  Let cook for 2 mintues then stir in the pumpkin puree.  Add the reserved cooking water and bring pan to  boil then reduce to a simmer.  Let simmer for 5 minutes.   Now back to the GNUDI.

In a skillet heat the 2 tbs of butter and gently toast the gnudi on both sides, taking care not to overload the pan.  You may need to do this in 2 batches.  TOO MUCH CROWDING IN A PAN CREATES STEAM AND YOU LOSE THE BROWNING AND EVERYTHING IS RUINED!!!!!! When you have a nice color on the GNUDI like this:156142_2992380330921_1304531591_32200242_158577316_nyou are now ready to sauce them.  Bring the pan of Pumpkin Onion Sage sauce up to medium heat and gently add the gnudi and make sure you coat all the gnudi with the sauce.  TAKE NOTE: I’m saucing it in the Italian manner…as Lidia tells us..”Sauce is merely a CONDIMENTO, the star is the pasta!”…You always want the pasta to shine through, however I understand that most Americans are used to much more sauce on their pasta then they would have in Italy.  Want more sauce on this? Simply double the recipe. Tutti i gusti son gusti!! (Everyone to their own tastes)…back to my recipe.  After you’ve coated all the gnudi and it’s heated thru for a good 3 minutes remove from the heat and garnish with the chopped sage, nutmeg and grated cheese to taste.  Serve.  I’m starving now as I type all this.  It’s such a tasty dish.  0041As always, thank you for letting me into your kitchens….enjoy this little bit of Tuscany, I actually think the region around Siena is noted for their gnudi.  BUONA CUCINA!!

 

 

 

 

 

FRITTATINE, “SPAGHETTI CROQUETTES” FROM NAPLES, ITALY

frittatine-010Back to Naples for some inspiration and ideas, there is just so much there to choose from that become magic and a feast in your kitchen and dining room.  FRITTATINE is one of those glories of the CUCINA NAPOLETANA.  Basically it is a SPAGHETTI or MACARONI CROQUETTE, the cooked pasta is bound with a BESCIAMELLA Sauce, cheeses, enhanced with vegetables and cured meats, then formed and coated in a light batter and fried. Many versions add a bread crumb coating over the batter.  My version is the breadcrumbed one. Why?  Because anything fried in breadcrumbs usually rocks and it’s SO GOOD with this creamy molten center that you’ll agree after one bite to continue to use the breadcrumb version.  Some background on this treat—-I’m always talking about my strong Napoletana heritage as it’s the city where my maternal grandmother lived for 10 years of her life, from 10 to 20.  The New York City region is heavily influenced in it’s ItalianAmerican culture by the immigrant Napoletani culture and foods, take spaghetti, take Pizza, take Sausage and Peppers, take Mozzarella, take Zeppole…you get the idea. However, FRITTATINE never really made that leap across the Atlantic like many other Napoletana dishes did.  Strange.  Now Potato Croquettes (or as the Napoletane called them PANZAROTTI) definitely made the jump, think of all the restaurants that serve them as a side dish, or how many of our own kitchens recreate that treat.  FRITTATINE? Never heard of them.  Apparently I missed them on a trip to Naples as they are one of the most beloved and popular FRIED SNACKS in the Napoletana Fry shops known as FRIGGITORIE, the best places to sample Naples’ famous street food.  One night in NYC at one of the the new wave of Pizzerias to hit the US, the PIZZERIE NAPOLETANE, pizzerias that adhere to a prescribed formula for making the unique Pizza Napoletana (of which the American NYC Pizza is based on) I encountered FRITTATINE.  Don Antonio by Starita in Manhattan is a palace of simple Napoletana foods and pizza.  A host of other pizzerie have opened in the last 7 years that follow the same certified formula.  I ordered the FRITTATINE and was in love.  Absolutely love croquettes and this creamy macaroni version made me swoon.Of course I needed to recreate them in my own kitchen and here we are.frittatine-008 Aren’t they beautiful?  They taste as good as they look.  Ones containing prosciutto cotto and peas, provolone and spaghetti or bucatini are the most popular.  This is one of those recipes where, AS LONG AS YOU STAY WITHIN WHAT WOULD ORGANICALLY FIT INTO THE RECIPE, you have some wiggle room. Fine dice of cured italian meats….italian greens….italian cheeses…..that’s what’s allowable.  I used Finely chopped chard and sopressata in mine.  Spinach works too.  Provolone, Caciocavallo, Scamorza, PrimoSale, Parmigiano, Mozzarella, Pecorino, Asiago some of the cheeses that work in this.   No balsamic vinegar, sun dried tomatoes, or gorzonzola please, and no chicken.  please. no chicken. One more rule..lol…No dipping sauce.  No side of Marinara.  They are rich and creamy and full of complex textures and flavors..no dipping sauce.  Overkill.  Let’s now fly over to sunny NAPOLI or just stay in your own kitchen and COOK WITH ME!  Time to make the FRITTATINE, translates as small fried things, or Fried Pasta Cakes.  Frittatine sounds best. FREE-TAH-TEEH-NAY.

MAKES: about 20 2 inch Frittatine                                       TIME: cooking and prep: 3 hours

10 tbsp. UNSALTED BUTTER
1 12 cups TIPO 00 FLOUR, or SIFTED ALL PURPOSE FLOUR
4 1/2  cups WHOLE MILK
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 lb. DRIED  IMPORTED FROM ITALY SPAGHETTI OR BUCATINI
4 oz. PROSCIUTTO COTTO, or SALAME or SOPRASSATA, finely diced
8 oz. SMALL DICE OF PROVOLONE, or MOZZARELLA, or SMOKED MOZZARELLA
1/4 CUP FINE CHOPPED BLANCHED SPINACH OR SWISS CHARD, or COOKED PEAS
3 TBS. PARMIGIANO REGGIANO GRATED

 1/8 TSP. FRESHLY GRATED NUTMEG
OLIVE OIL FOR FRYING (or CANOLA, or VEGETABLE, or PEANUT)

2 cups UNSEASONED ITALIAN BREADCRUMBS

Gently melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add 1/2 cup of the flour and while stirring cook for 2 minutes.  Whisk in the milk and bring to a boil, gently whisking (gently or you will splatter the hot milk/flour everywhere).  Once it’s boiling reduce to a simmer and let it cook until thickened, takes about 5 minutes.  Make sure to frequently stir so the flour doesn’t collect on the bottom and scorch.  Now set this aside, cover the pan with plastic wrap.
If using Spaghetti or Bucatini, break them half. Cook the pasta you are using just till al dente according to the package directions.  Drain and shake well to make sure all the water evaporates.  Add all the other ingredients except for the besciamella sauce and the breadcrumbs. Mix with the cooked pasta.  Now pour the sauce over it and mix well.  Press the mixture into a lightly greased baking pan and cover with plastic wrap.  Keep in the Refrigerator for no less than one and 1/2 hours.frittatine-001frittatine-002frittatine-005 You can use a 2 inch round cutter OR do what I did, and hand form about 20 of these frittatine.  Once they are are formed, place back into the fridge for 10 minutes.
 Make the batter by Whisking 1 cup of flours with 1 cup of water to make a batter.  Set aside.  Pull the Frittatine out of the fridge and dip first into the batter, then into the plain breadcrumbs. Line on parchment paper over trays till they are all coated.  Heat a heavy pan or saucepan with 2 1/2 inches of your oil until the thermometer reads 325 degrees F.  Now gently add a few of the frittatine at a time into the pan.  Fry till golden on each side.frittatine-006

When they are golden on both sides and somewhat firm to the touch, drain on paper towels or paper bags or racks.  SERVE immediately..you want them to be very creamy.  frittatine-007

Serve with an Arugula Salad with parmigiano, extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, black pepper and lots of fresh lemon juice.

frittatine-009Seriously, how good do they look???  Make them even smaller for a party appetizer or passed hors d’ouevres.  Just break up the pasta smaller or use small pasta for it

What fun it is to cook with you…..can’t wait to see your FRITTATINE!! BUONA CUCINA!!!