Italy is loaded with wonderful vegetable combo dishes that serve either as antipasto…..as a contorno (side dish) or as a secondo or primo…first or second course. Many of these regional dishes are even amazing as sandwich fillers. Growing up Pepper and Onions and Potatoes was not an uncommon dish that would be placed in Italian bread. Long Hots, Sweet peppers, endless possibilities. In Calabria in Italy’s deep South this melange’ of Potatoes with a mix of Sweet and Hot Peppers, garlic, onions, good olive oil, herbs and it’s sort of national “regional” thing. Every Calabrian will probably make it a little different and every cook/chef will add their own twist or style to it. It’s pretty basic WHICH is one of the hallmarks of Italian Cuisine. Out of a few GOOD, WELL SOURCED ingredients comes a dish with amazing flavor. Try it as a side or addition to grilled sausage, meat, poultry or seafood items. Fantastic.
PIPI E PATATE FOR 4 TAKES 1 HOUR 15 MINUTES APPROX
2 SLICED AND CORED CUBANELLE (ITALIAN FRYING PEPPERS)
2 SLICED AND CORED RED BELL PEPPERS
2 SLICED AND CORED ITALIAN LONG HOTS OR LONG RED OR GREEN HOT PEPPER
5 PEELED AND SLICED MEDIUM SIZED POTATOES
1/2 SLICED RED ONION
2 CLOVES OF GARLIC, CUT IN HALF
1/2 CUP EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
PINCH OF GOOD ITALIAN OREGANO
SEA SALT OR KOSHER SALT
1/8 CUP of WHITE WINE
1/8 tsp DRIED CALABRIAN CHILE (or any good crushed hot pepper flakes)
In a dutch oven or heavy pan, add the olive oil and heat. Add the potatoes, season with salt, and cook over medium heat. After 8 minutes add the onions and cook until they start to soften. Now add the peppers, pinch of Oregano, and raise the heat for 5 minutes. Season with salt then add the garlic. After 5 minutes, add the wine and cover for 10 minutes. Uncover and continue to simmer until most of the liquid is evaporated and you’re left with the flavored oil. Taste for seasoning and make sure the Potatoes are tender and the peppers are like velvet. Add the Calabrian Chile and you are done. HAPPY COOKING!!! I want a sangwich of this right now!!!!
Internet surfing and research sometime turn up the most amazing unknown to me new recipes. It was October 4, Feast of St.Francis of Assisi and so I thought I would be fun to make something from his homeland, UMBRIA in Central Italy. I knew I had chicken parts in the fridge, some San Marzano tomatoes, so something that used those items would work. Now I could have just made an ItalianAmerican Chicken Cacciatore, I had a bit of a craving for that. But no. I wanted to celebrate the day and the region in St.Francis’ honor after all my middle name is Francis. After a full Google search of Chicken and tomato dishes from Umbria one dish kept coming up to the top of the search. FRICCO’ or FRICO’, apparently it’s spelled both ways showed up more than once and with two versions. One version is BIANCO, meaning in a white wine and herb sauce. The other was ROSSO, meaning Tomato is in the mix. Sounds like Chicken alla Cacciatora to me right? Well, the process is the same but they take a bit of a turn which is just enough to make this not your usual cacciatora. Pancetta or Guanciale or Prosciutto and Anchovy in the mix. I was SOLD and couldn’t wait to come home from work and create this wonderful sounding dish! By the way, FRICCO’ or FRICO’ is Umbrian for the French word, FRICANDEAU, a type of stew. Many versions of this are made with a trio of meats..Lamb, Rabbit, and Chicken. Others are made with just one. This Umbrian version doesn’t bear much resemblance to the French beef or veal versions, but love how they word was borrowed and localized. Other names for this dish are Pollo all’Eugubina or Pollo di Gubbio, Gubbio being a major city in Umbria. Don’t you find a dish is more exciting to cook and tastes even better when there’s a wonderful history behind it?
FRICCO’ DI POLLO EUGUBINA GUBBIO STYLE CHICKEN WITH CURED PORK, TOMATO, HERBS, VINEGAR, WINE AND A LITTLE ANCHOVY
SERVES 4-6 APPROX. TIME 2 HOURS
1 LARGE CHICKEN CUT INTO 8 PIECES, PATTED DRY WITH A PAPER TOWEL
1/8 LB DICED OR SLICED PANCETTA, OR GUANCIALE, OR PROSCIUTTO WITH SOME FAT ATTACHED
1 CUP WHOLE “PELATI”, PEELED ITALIAN PLUM TOMATOES
1/4 CUP WHITE WINE VINEGAR
1 CUP DRY WHITE WINE, USE ONE FROM UMBRIA, LIKE AN ORVIETO
2 CLOVES OF GARLIC, SLICED
1 SPRIG FRESH ROSEMARY
4 FRESH SAGE LEAVES
1 ANCHOVY FILET
PINCH OF PEPERONCINO
1/2 CUP CHICKEN OR VEGETABLE STOCK
SALT TO TASTE
OLIVE OIL, AS NEEDED
Season the chicken with salt. In a heavy skillet or dutch oven heat 2 tbs of olive oil. Add the chicken skin side down and let it get a good sear over medium heat. Takes about 8 minutes. Flip and sear that side for 5 minutes. Deglaze the pan with 1/2 the wine. Remove with the pan juices to a bowl. Add more olive oil to the pan and add the cured meat, saute’ for 6 minutes until it starts to caramelize. Add the garlic and the rosemary and peperoncino, and the anchovy. Cook for 2 minutes, then add the wine and vinegar and 3 of the sage leaves. Bring to a boil and add the tomatoes. Stir well. Bring to the boil and add the chicken pieces skin side down. Add the stock and again, bring to a boil then reducing and letting this braise on a simmer uncovered for 45 minutes. Taste the sauce for seasonings and adjust as necessary. When the chicken it tender and cooked throw in the remaining sage leave and remove the sprig of rosemary. There’s such umami in this dish with the cured pork and anchovy, there’s a bit of “agrodolce” going on too. That’s sweet/sour. What to serve it with? As you can see in my picture I made it with Parmigiano and Garlic Mashed Potatoes. Roasted potatoes, Rice, Pasta, up to you….but…the mashed were amazing with it. Chicken will taste best if you leave it to sit for 1 /2 hour before serving. You’ll thank me. Garnish with the pan juices, olive oil and fresh rosemary. HAPPY COOKING!!!
IMPANATE…your Italian culinary word of the day. Basically it means coated in breadcrumbs, like when you fry something like a Milanese, or when you top with a layer of breadcrumbs. This is the topped style. It’s a variant of ItalianAmerican Shrimp Scampi but Impanati i make a little different, yet it’s basically the same ingredients all baked together. Olive oil, then seasoned shrimp, then chopped garlic, then white wine, then a layer of seasoned breadcrumbs and minced fresh basil, then dot with butter and into a hot oven for not too long. It comes out of the oven hot and bubbly, then a squeeze of fresh lemon and serve. There’s the whole dealio. I’d eat anything treated with breadcrumbs in one or another form. Maybe it’s my Southern Italian DNA, there’s really no breadcrumbed dish that I don’t love. This is one of them for sure. I can tell you how to cook this since it’s my recipe I’ve created but I can’t dictate the shrimp you should be buying. I CAN however tell you that for this and almost all Shrimp dishes I cook I seek out never Frozen, fresh smelling Wild caught Shrimp from the USA. I realize that’s not an option for everyone. My second choice is wild caught or sustainably farmed frozen shrimp from safe waters. Places like Whole Foods usually carry those, or reputable seafood markets. I get my fresh shrimp at local seafood markets or my local Shop Rite. The hardest part of this dish is simply cleaning and deviening the shrimp. It moves very quickly after that. I love placing 8 shrimp in those baking dishes I have. Looks so much like a good seafood restaurant style. Family background note on that picture. As always you should bake items on a larger tray just to catch any bubbling up. Notice in the picture the simple pizza pan they are on. I baked them on the pan. No mess and keeps the bottom of your oven clean. The pizza pan itself could be 75 years old or so. It was given to my mom from her Dad, Grandpa Innocenzo Scaramuzzi, and was given to him by his brother in law, my Great Uncle Pasquale Pucillo. I never met Great Uncle Patsy, he passed away on the day I was born. This pizza pan was from his restaurant bar in Staten Island, NYC on Manor Road. I believe the name of the place was the Blue Manor. Family stories tell me he was a good cook along with his wife, Great Aunt Maria Giuseppe Scaramuzzi Pucillo. Whenever my mom made a homemade pizza she used this pan. Bringing the family history into my kitchen makes my dishes taste even better.
GAMBERI IMPANATI AL FORNO
SERVES 4 TIME: 1 1/2 HOURS
2 POUNDS 16-20 SHRIMP, PEELED AND DEVEINED (SAVE THOSE SHELLS FOR SHRIMP STOCK, TIGHTLY WRAP AND POP IN THE FREEZER FOR LATER USE)
4 TABLESPOONS OLIVE OIL
3 TABLESPOONS DRY WHITE ITALIAN WINE
4 THIN SLICED GARLIC CLOVES
1/2 CUP DRIED ITALIAN BREADCRUMBS
1/8 CUP FRESHLY GRATED PECORINO ROMANO
4 MINCED FRESH BASIL LEAVES
1/2 TSP SWEET PAPRIKA
1 STICK BUTTER, CUT INTO CUBES
PREHEAT your oven to 425 degrees F. Pat your shrimp dry then season with salt and black pepper. Combine the breadcrumbs, pecorino, salt, pepper to taste, paprika and basil together. Blend Well. In a square or round gratin dish, or smaller ones, add the olive oil to the bottom of the pan(s). Place the shrimp in tail side up. Scatter the garlic over the tops of the shrimp. Drizzle with olive oil. Add the wine. Then lightly pat the breadcrumbs on top of everything. Dot the top of the dish with a sprinkle of grated cheese, a little paprika, and evenly place the butter around. Into the oven for 10-12 minutes. I like to let it go for 6 minutes, then I rotate the pan and give it another 5-6 minutes or so, just till it’s bubbly and browned on to. Remove from the oven. While it’s bubbling squeeze fresh lemon juice over the top. The aroma will get you wild. It’s Amazing!! Let it sit for 2 minutes, then serve immediately with…..steamed rice, that’s my favorite accompaniment. A sauteed or steamed green vegetable. Bread to sop up the buttery shrimpy garlicky juices. Enjoy.
Never stop learning. Never stop looking for new ideas from traditional places. I’m always reading and learning about the World’s cuisines.. IT’S SO BIG how could you not? I’m terribly obsession (hence my on line name) with everything about food, especially Italian. One of the points I try politely to get across to people on line who follow me is that what was made in your family’s kitchens is never indicative of the entire scope of a country’s cuisine. Italian cuisine is no different. Case in point, ALLO SCARPARIELLO. Now here’s where Italian cuisine gets confusing, especially for ITalian Americans as we have our own nomenclature for certain dishes in both Italian and ITalianAmerican food traditions. SCARPARIELLO at its heart is a Napoletana word that means pertaining to a Shoemaker. In ItalianAmerica it’s a name given to a baked or sauteed and braised Chicken dish with wine, garlic, onion, peppers, onions, potatoes, sausage…any or all of those ingredient. There no “one” Chicken Scarpariello. In Italy Scarpariello is a sauce for Pasta that was created in Naples. Originally it was leftover Sunday Sauce that no longer had any meat in it as the week went on. To make a quick meal for the shoemakers they would cook pasta in the leftover sauce and then add a very generous amount of grated cheese to it compensating for the lack of meat. Another legend is that since so many of the Shoemaker’s customers were quite poor they would pay in Cheese instead of money. Are those great reasons to want to make this dish in your home? But I have more little info for you. As is the case in ITaly and NEVER argue with an ITalian about food, there are withiin the same region different stylesof Pasta Allo Scarpariello. How’s that? In Napoli it’s the basic…a sauce of Datterini or Cherry tomatoes melted down in olive oil or lard, garlic, peperoncino, the hot pasta is finished in the sauce along with a hefty amount of grated PARMIGIANO and PECORINO. After a little cooking time it’s served with lots of fresh basil around the plate. Go only about 1 hour and 1/4 East of Naples to the city of Benevento. There Pasta Allo Scarpariello has the addition of a little Cream at the end. Drive 45 minutes south from Napoli to the city of Salerno and you’ll find the same sauce as Naples but with fresh sausages, either whole or crumbled. This post will show you how to cook the one with Sausage from Salerno. I know you’re going to like this!! In Napoli Garlic goes in the sauce, for this Salerno version with Sausage, red onion is used.
PASTA ALLO SCARPARIELLO TIME: 1 HOUR SERVES:4
1 lb PASTA (THE TRADITIONAL SHAPES ARE PACCHERI, which i used, SPAGHETTI, BUCATINI, FUSILLI) COOKED AL DENTE ACCORDING TO THE PACKAGE
1 1/2 LBS CHERRY TOMATOES, SLICED
3 TBS EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
3 FRESH SWEET FENNEL ITALIAN SAUSAGES, REMOVE THE MEAT FROM THE CASINGS
1 MEDIUM SLICED RED ONION
1/2 TBS PEPERONCINO
1/2 CUP OF MIXED GRATED PARMIGIANO AND PECORINO ROMANO CHEESE, EQUAL AMOUNTS OF BOTH MIXED TOGETHER.
6 BASIL LEAVES
In a large heavy pan heat 1 tbs. of the Extra Virgin Olive oil…(the most authentic recipes used the same amount of Lard for this). Then add the sausage meat, peperoncino and let this cook until the sausage is no longer red. Add the onion and when the pan is fragrant, add another tbs of olive oil and cook until the onions are soft. Add the tomatoes, pinch of salt, and toss the tomatoes in the sausage, onions, and olive oil. Then reduce to a simmer and COVER the pan. Let this cook for 15 minutes. The tomatoes should melt down into the sausage. While this is happening you will make the Paccheri or Pasta just till al dente. Drain reserving 2 tbs. of the starchy cooking water. Add the pasta to the pan of sauce and mix well. A drizzle of the remaining olive oil then the cheese. Quickly mix the cheese into the pasta and sauce and let this cook for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat…The cheese should make the surface of the pasta a little “creamy”. Now tear up all the basil over the top and serve. That’s it. A more “authentic” version would be to leave the sausage whole but the loose meat really flavors the sauce. ENJOY!!!
Summertime in New Jersey means zucchini. Bumper crops of them. Everyone with a home garden grows them and the stores are overflowing with locally grown boxes of this versatile squash. Italians and Greeks love cooking with them. The recipes are endless. Clearly, for easy and relaxing summerentertaining this is a host’s dream. The day before I picked a nice bunch of fresh mint (spearmint) from my garden. Zucchini and mint are a very Mediterranean pairing, especially in Sicily and in Greece. I had some Feta cheese and there you go…a dish is born. Add some sunny lemons for a real Mediterranean freshness. Are you exhausted with grilled vegetables? I am,
call me blasphemous, but most times they are not grilled enough or burnt, and loaded down with balsamic vinegar and too much oil. Not a fan of the strongly acidic and flavored balsamic with charred vegetables, the flavors are too heavy for me. (I can see the hate mail now…)Instead of grilling, I decided to oven roast the zucchini slices and marinate them over night in fresh lemon and mint with a little garlic…topping it with feta…a platter of Summer sunshine reminiscent of a Summer’s day in the Greek Islands.. It brings blue skies, bright Mediterranean sun, white washed stucco houses clinging to the side of an ancient volcano, blue painted domes that blend in with both the sea and the sky…magic. All this from a bag of local zucchini.
Start with 5 zucchini. Slice them into rounds, about 3/8 of an inch thick, any thinner, they will just fall apart on you. In a large stainless steel bowl, add the zucchini along with 1/8cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (look for Greek Olive oil for a more “authentic” flavor), 1 tsp. ground allspice, 1 tsp. kosher salt, 1/2 tsp. fresh ground pepper. Toss. Pre- heat an oven to 400 degrees F. In a large baking pan, arrange the zucchini without overlapping. Bake for 10 minutes, then turn them, bake for addtional 6 minutes, turn the oven off, and leave them in for another 5 minutes. check for times though, You may need to adjust for your oven. Don’t let them burn, they should have a nice roasted bottom, then when you turn them over, they should be soft to the touch.gently place them into a bowl after they have cooled for at least 15 minutes. Mix together the juice of one large fresh lemon, 1 finely minced clove of garlic, 2 leavy sprigs of fresh mint, a pinch of salt, and a good amount of freshly ground pepper. Pour this over the zucchini and cover. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or overnight. Arrange on a platter and crumble 1/8 cup of Feta cheese over the top. Top with some whole mint leaves, a little black pepper..you are done. Do not serve this cold. Let it come to room temperature to appreciate all the flavors on the platter…and go to your laptop and book a trip to Greece…
EGGPLANT PARMIGIANA…what a gift Italy gave to the world!! Some commentary on La Parmigiana which is what Italians call it often as in Italy the only PARMIGIANA is Eggplant. There’s some conversation that in Sicily there was also Veal Parmigiana but mostly any other type of Parmigiana was not created in Italy but by inventive Italian immigrant cooks to the United States where they adapted their beloved eggplant parmigiana and decided to use meats, fish, poultry in the same style. It took off and became some of America’s most beloved ItalianAmerican dishes. Veal and Chicken Parmigiana when made well are simply wonderful. Pork and Beef as well as Shrimp are made into Parmigiana too. Let’s though talk about Eggplant Parmigiana. History point again to Sicily as the origins of this meltingly delicious blend of layers of cooked eggplant, Italian cheeses, some tomato sauce then baked to meld everything together. It’s a perfect food. I’m smiling as I blog this thinking of how often my mom made it. Hers was almost always thin sliced and breaded in 4C Italian Flavored breadcrumbs in her Electric frying pan. My sister AdeleMarie has one too and swears it’s the only way to fry batches of eggplant without having to change the oil. It cooks them perfectly she says confirming Mom’s love of the Electric frying pan. Like one of Pavlov’s dogs I would salivate incessantly when she’d call for Dad to go down in the basement and bring up the pan. I knew there would be fried eggplant cutlets to eat out of the fryer sprinkled with grated Pecorino Romano. By the way, they make amazing hero sandwiches. When we would go to the beach she’d make cold Eggplant Parmigiana sangwiches along with Ham and Cheese, Chicken roll and Swiss, Bologna and cheese sandwiches. Some plums. Some grapes, maybe some nectarines if she thought they were nice at the farmers market, usually Palermo’s or Bifulco’s. So when I think of Eggplant Parmigiana regardless of how it’s made I think of all those times Mom made it. However…the best eggplant Parmigiana in the family, as good as mom’s was, my Aunt Angie Scaramuzzi made the “most bestest”. Enough with my past Parmigiana…let’s talk about how you make it. There’s not one way and my most popular way of making it is thin sliced, dipped in flour, beaten eggs and pecorino, then fried, then layered in the typical manner with cheeses and sauce and baked. However, there’s also a way to just do it on top of the stove. The eggplants are fried in olive oil. then a sauce is made in that oil that’s been infused with garlic and basil. Then the cooked eggplant is layered into the pan, covered in abundant grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano, your choice..then topped with Mozzarella, or Provolone, or Scamorza. Again, your choice. The top is covered and once the cheese has melted you’re done. Nice? Great, I thought you’d like it. This eggplant is naked…it’s just fried. This actually harkens back to most Sicilian recipes for La Parmigiana. Many Sicilian recipe have no stringy melted cheese, just the grated. See? You can make this a few different ways. I’m giving you choices here. The leftovers are amazing, infact they taste better on day 2.
SKILLED EGGPLANT PARMIGIANA FOR 4 PEOPLE TIME: 1 HOUR 20 MINUTES
1 MEDIUM SIZED EGGPLANT SLICED INTO 1/4 INCH ROUNDS
KOSHER SALT, BLACK PEPPER
1 28 OZ CAN SAN MARZANO DOP TOMATOES OR ITALIAN PEELED PLUM TOMATOES
2 TBS TOMATO PASTE
2 SLICED CLOVES OF GARLIC
GRATED PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO OR LOCATELLI PECORINO ROMANO
1 CUP DICED MOZZARELLA OR DICED SCAMORZA
In a saucepan, add about 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil, place on medium heat. Add the garlic and just when it’s fragrant add the tomato paste, 1/2 tsp of salt, 1/ 2 tsp of pepper, some basil leaves, then cook for 2 minutes. Crush the tomatoes in a processor or with your hands, then add to the pot. Mix and bring to a boil. Let simmer for 1 hour, stirring frequently. While that is happening, heat 1 1/2 tbs of olive oil in a heavy wide skillet. Season the eggplants with salt and pepper. On Medium heat fry the eggplant on both sides (CRITICAL HERE!!!) till they are SOFT, the eggplant has to completely cook before you can finish the dish. If your heat is too high you’ll scorch the eggplants, take your time. Should take about 15 minutes to get them soft thru both sides. Add more oil as needed. Remove the eggplants to paper towels to drain. Pour the cooked sauce into the pan. Lay the eggplants in pan…cover with grated cheese, some basil leaves, more sauce, do a second layer if you have enough, more sauce, cheese and basil. At this point you can cover and let it cook together for 15 minutes. This is a very Sicilian way, with no mozzarella, just the grated cheese. DELICIOUS. OR, top the pan with the diced cheeses and cover. Wait until the cheese has melted, about 15 minutes. Now..remove from the heat and let it sit for 2 hours before serving for maximum flavor, just gently reheat. OR you may serve as soon are you’ve let it rest for 15 minutes. Up to you.
Now there’s plenty of flavor in this dish, and there’s not a shopping cart full of ingredients. It’s simple basic flavor which are the hallmarks of Italian cooking. Enjoy this dish..let me know how you like it!!
CHILLI MUSSELS…a find on the last vacation we went on. We spent a few days in Western Australia’s city of PERTH where because of a recommendation from Australian travelers we met in Bali we learned of these Mussels in a Tomato, Hot Pepper, and Wine Sauce. Sounds like Mussels Fra Diavolo? Sounds like a typical ItalianAmerican seafood dish? Since I’ve come back from vacation I’ve been trying to see where this dish originated. I’ve found out a few things. You can find them all over Australia, yet on line research always points to Perth and Western Australia. Australia’s proximity to Asia had me thinking these were possibly an Indonesian or Thai or Chinese style of mussels. No. They are decidedly Mediterranean in their style and flavor. Are they different from ItalianAmerican mussels in hot pepper spiked tomato sauce? When That bowl was placed infront of us in Western Australia’s seaside town of CERVANTES my head said..oh, it’s our Fra Diavolo with an Australian name. Sitting in the CERVANTES BAR AND BISTRO after a full day of driving up the coast I can tell you I was in for a great culinary surprise. These had a bit of sweetness to them. I detected maybe sugar in the mix. There were fresh sliced chile peppers in the mix. Aha. That’s it. Quite possibly with Australia’s large Italian Immigrant population this was a creation made by them with some changes as often happens in immigrant communities. There’s a style of cooking called AustralianItalian, just like we have ItalianAmerican in the States. Now you’ll say, what’s the difference??? Why would the dried chile pepper flakes (peperoncino) taste different than the fresh. Well…taste both for yourself. There’s a difference. And this is not a one is better than the other conversation, this is me telling you my foodcentric friends that there’s new dishes to be had when you change an ingredient. Fresh Chiles is possibly more Asian in it’s flavor profile. It’s a bit fruity. There’s a texture the ItalianAmerican mussels don’t have. It was amazing. Travel Food surprises are always welcome. Simply switch out fresh chiles for the peperoncino, add a pinch of sugar, or brown sugar and you’ll get the chilli mussel experience. Most important, use mid sized fresh mussels. Those enormous Green ones don’t work here. For a recipe, since I’ve not made my own version of them yet, here’s a link from Australia’s great Travel magazine, GOURMET TRAVELLER. I fell in love with this magazine after my daughter bought me one for the beach while we were there.
CALAMARI!!! Abundant and delicious. One of the most popular of all Italian Seafoods it lends itself to many different recipes. Calamari Fritti is the one most widely eaten but there are many way to cook Squid. I’d like to share one with you and needs a hot oven to cook it in (an outdoor grill with the cover down even better because you get that smoky flavor too!). CALAMARI AL FORNO CON PANGRATTUTO, Squid Baked with Breadcrumbs!!! Now don’t shake your head, this isn’t breaded calamari but a simple mix of garlic, olive oil, fresh parsley, lemon, peperoncino, plain breadcrumbs and yes…Pecorino Romano. Follow me, that old wives’ tale about never pairing Italian seafood with cheese has 1000 exceptions. This is one of them. It’s integral to the dish. Since it’s December I’m all about the traditional Southern Italian-ItalianAmerican La Vigilia Seafood dinner on Christmas Eve. Last year I overbought calamari and had some whole ones in the fridge after Christmas. Didn’t want fried calamari again since we had much of it on Christmas Eve so I came up with dish using some easy ingredients. Let get into the kitchen.
3/4 LB SLICED FRESH CALAMARI (SQUID) RINGS AND TENTACLES
1/4 CUP EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
6 SLICED CLOVES OF GARLIC
2 TABLESPOONS FRESH PARSLEY
JUICE OF 1/2 FRESH LEMON
1/3 CUP PLAIN ITALIAN BREADCRUMBS TOASTED IN A DRY PAN, COOLED, THEN ADD 2 TBS. GRATED PECORINO ROMANO AND MIX TOGETHER WITH A LITTLE OLIVE OIL, RESERVE
PreHeat your oven to 450 degrees F. Rinse the calamari in cold water, drain, pat dry with paper towels. In a heavy pan heat all but 1 tbs of the olive oil. Add the garlic and saute’ until fragrant, about 2 minutes being careful not to let it burn. Add the squid and saute’ for only 1 minute on high heat. Remove from heat, add the parsley and a good pinch of peperoncino…Toss well, then place into a baking pan with the additional olive oil. Top with the breadcrumbs , drizzle with olive oil, pinch of salt…and into the hot oven for no more than 6 minutes. Test the calamari for doneness, should be tender. When it’s done simply blend in the toasted breadcrumbs from the top and drizzle with the fresh lemon juice. Serves 3-4. It’s amazing. If you need more cooking time only go maybe another 2 minutes in the hot oven. Serve with lots of Italian bread. You can do this all on an outdoor grill too.
POLPETTINE!!! I can’t get enough of these meatballs..the smaller type, from any cuisine anywhere in the world. There are HUNDREDS of versions and every so often I create my own version based on what’s in the fridge. POLPETTINE DI SALSICCE E MANZO CON SALVIA, VINO, E PARMIGIANO is just one of them. How delicious does food sound in other languages? I think very. MINI MEATBALLS OF ITALIAN SAUSAGE AND GROUND BEEF WITH SAGE, RED WINE AND PARMIGIANO. Sounds better in Italian don’t you think? I’m not reinventing the wheel here, I ‘m creating using a specific traditional flavor combination. Beef and Sausage are commonly used in meatball making. Sage is so earthy and Parmigiano’s nutty complex flavor combined with a simmer in red wine, olive oil and garlic are simply amazing together. Towards the end I added a spoonful of crushed tomato just to balance it all out but not turning it into a pan of meat balls in sugo di pomodoro. Let’s create this delicious pan in your kitchen now shall we? ANDIAMO.
FOR 24 POLPETTINE:
1/2 LB. FRESH ITALIAN PORK SAUSAGE MEAT (NO FENNEL IS POSSIBLE)
1/2 CUP PLAIN ITALIAN BREADCRUMBS SOAKED IN 3 TBS. HEAVY CREAM
1 LARGE OR JUMBO EGG BEATEN
2 FRESH SAGE LEAVES FINELY MINCED
2 CLOVES FRESH GARLIC FINELY MINCED
1/4 CUP FRESHLY GRATED PARMIGIANO REGGIANO
1/4 TSP. GROUND BLACK PEPPER
NO SALT ADDED BECAUSE THE COMBO OF THE SAUSAGE MEAT AND THE PARMIGIANO WILL ADD THE SALTINESS TO THE POLPETTINE
1/3 CUP RED WINE
1/3 CUP CHICKEN STOCK
PINCH OF SEA OR KOSHER SALT
EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
1 TBS. CRUSHED ITALIAN TOMATOES
A FEW EXTRA SAGE LEAVES
1 PEELED FRESH GARLIC CLOVE
In a large stainless steel mixing bowl combine all the ingredients up to the Red Wine. Mix well, but just until it’s a homogenized mixture. Roll into small walnut sized balls. Place on a tray. In a large wide frying pan heat 2 tbs. of the olive oil and place as many meatballs as you can WITHOUT them touching each other. You may have to do this in 2 batches. This recipe makes around 24 meatballs. Brown the meatballs on all sides. Remove to a platter until you’ve finished frying them all. Add one more TBS of Olive Oil and the Garlic clove. Let this get fragrant and then add the wine and deglaze the pan. Get all the bits off the bottom of the pan and then add 1/3 cup of Chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then add the meatballs all in. Let them simmer for 15 minutes on medium/low. When you see most of the liquid is reduced, you’re almost done. Stir in the tomato. Pinch of salt. Remove to a serving platter and add a nice amount of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and garnish with sage leaves. OR, do it all right out of the pan (as shown in the picture).
Now you’re done. Serve as is, with bread to sop up those juices. Accompany with a side of sauteed greens like Broccoli Rabe or Escarole. Maybe some roasted potatoes or a seasoned Rice.
Stuffed breads are Iconic Italian-American food. They are sold everywhere ItalianAmerican live and then some, sometimes known as one of their most popular names “STROMBOLI”. Food Legend says the Stromboli was invented as the American cousin of the PIZZA IMBOTTITA, the Stuffed Pizza, also part of the CALZONE family. In true ItalianAmerican fashion there’s a bunch of cousins, they are all related yet they are all different. Strombolis usually have Italian Cold cuts and cheeses with a thinner rolled out dough, then rolled up (jelly roll style) and baked. It’s sliced in thinner pieces or in half for serving. Pizzeria culture in American serves it with a dipping sauce, usually a marinara. Homecooks make these stuffed breads in any one of a few popular styles. My Sausage, Peppers and Onions stuffed bread is somewhere between the Stromboli and Calzone style. I like a thinner bread to hold the sausage and peppers in . The last thing you want is a stuffed bread that’s just…bread. Or too thick and you don’t taste the filling. Balance. Pane Imbottito (Stuffed Bread) is popular in Campanian/Napoletana Cuisine. Often the filling is distributed through the dough, sometimes it’s thinly rolled out then spread with the filling and tightly rolled (Rottolo di Pane) and often a thicker dough with the filling tucked inside. Italian food=many variations. ItalianAmerican communities are known for homecooks and businesses that specialize in all variations of these stuffed breads. My favorite of them all is when I make it with a filling of chunky roasted Sweet Fennel Pork Sausage, fried onions and Cubanelle peppers, olive oil, pinch of oregano, pinch of Peperoncino, dash of Red Wine Vinegar, small dice of Provolone. When baked in a delicious dough it’s amazing. Let’s make a stuffed bread with Sausage and Peppers…oh the things I learned in my Mom’s kitchen.
FOR THE DOUGH:
2 1/4 cups SIFTED ALL PURPOSE FLOUR, or my preference, 2 1 /4 cups TIPO 00 FLOUR
1 cup warm water
1/8 cup Whole Milk
1 TSP Kosher Salt
Black pepper (coarse)
1 1/2 TSP HONEY
1 packet YEAST
1/4 CUP LARD
In a bowl add the water, yeast, honey and leave it for 15 minutes. When it’s fragrant and bubbling on top it’s ready. In a large mixing bowl add the flour , salt, 1/8 cup of lard. Using a mixer or a fork blend the dry ingredients. Make a well in the center and pour in the yeast/water mixture. Gently blend the dry into the wet and when it’s all come together knead it for 5 minutes. Roll it into a rectangle. spread 1/2 the remaining lard over it. Sprinkle with black pepper. Fold it over and roll it into a rectangle again. Repeat with the remaining lard and the black pepper. Fold it over and then knead it for 5 minutes. Cover with a light coating of olive oil and a kitchen towel over the bowl. Let sit for 2 hours. Should double. While that’s doubling..let’s make the filling.
1 egg beaten with some heavy cream for an Egg Wash
Roast or pan fry the Sausage. Let it cool. Then cut into small chunks. In a heavy wide frying pan, heat 2 tbs of the Extra Virgin Olive oil, add a pinch of Peperoncino and then add the Fennel Seeds. Let this saute’ for about 1 1/2 minutes then add the peppers and onions…the oregano, salt…and saute’ till the peppers and the onions are soft. When that happens, add the sausage and the collected drippings and simmer for 10 minutes. Then let it sit and cool down.
Preheat oven to 500 degrees F or as high as it will go. Roll out the dough into a large rectangle or two smaller ones. Sprinkle them with some grated cheese and breadcrumbs (helps keep the dough from getting soggy). Then layer in the sausage and peppers on 3/4 of the rectangle. Scatter the cubes of provolone over it. Starting at the left side where you’ve layered the sausage gently roll up. with some pf the egg wash press the roll into the end of the dough. The egg wash will help it adhere and not pop open in baking. Pinch the ends of the roll doing the same. Then brush the whole top with egg wash and sprinkle with black pepper, grated Pecorino, and kosher salt. Lay onto a well oiled baking pan and into the middle rack of the oven. Bake for 30 minutes checking to see it’s not burning. All ovens are different. Remove from the oven when the bottom is hard and well baked and when you tap on it it sounds hollow. Let this cool for 15 minutes before cutting. Use a serrated knife. Eat as is. Slice in whatever size you want.
As seen in the above pic I like to make party apps out of them. I make them a day ahead, then slice and bake as needed. Enjoy!!!