Category Archives: LEGUMES


0041Back to Italy we go for our dish today….follow me down south to the regions of Basilicata, Calabria, Campania and this recipe known as LAGANE E CECI will show up in kitchens that stick to the old ways.  Certainly that doesn’t mean it’s a stodgy musty old dish, in fatto, with this recipe you will feel very Hipster Brooklyn.  Get that?  OK..  A dish of this LAGANE pasta which is sort of somewhere between Lasagne sheets and a wide Tagliatelle.  The actual LAGANE are a rustic pasta made with no eggs and unless you make them yourself you’re out of luck in the USA finding that pasta.  No worries.  I’m giving you MY rendition of this delicious dish.  Use Lasagne noodles. Cooked just till al dente. You want some chew to the pasta.  When thinking MEDITERRANEAN DIET this has got to be a dish that shows up.  It’s yet another Italian pairing of Beans or Peas and Pasta with a flavorful base.   In the wooded hinterlands between Calabria and Basilicata there use to be roaming bandits  called I BRIGANTI.  They were known as thieves who ate copious amounts of pasta, specifically LAGANA or LAGANE and were given the name “SCOLALAGANE”.  Don’t you love Food history?397224_3628916283922_1247137950_n(the looting SCOLALAGANE in a picture from the internet).  In my ancestral homeland of Basilicata often Sage or Rosemary is the aromatic herb used to flavor the dish.  In my kitchen I prefer using fresh Rosemary.  Up to you! Of course with roots in Calabria and Basilicata you KNOW there will be a chile component to the recipe.  Diavulicchiu or Peperoncino, Calabrian hot dried peppers..any of them work.  The earthy herbs and chick peas and the chewy pasta with the chiles are Italian regional food magic.  It’s an addictive dish.  And easy.  Let’s cook!


TIME: 1 HOUR                                SERVES: 4-5

1 lb LASAGNA , cooked AL DENTE, then cooled on a rack. Then slice lengthwise into 1 inch strips.  OR us 1 lb PAPPARDELLE, also cooked AL DENTE, drained. OR `1 LB MAFALDE





SALT to taste


3/4 TBS CHILE PEPPER FLAKES (PEPERONCINO) or adjust to your heat tolerance.


In a wide heavy pan heat 2 tbs of the olive oil. Then add the garlic and peperoncino and let this get JUST to the point of lightly browning.  Add the tomato paste and blend in.  Add 1/2 tsp of salt and 2 empty paste cans of water.  Let this come to a boil after you’ve gotten all the paste, garlic and water smooth.  Now add the beans and the fresh herb Bring to a simmer for 20 minutes.  Add the “LAGANE” to the pan and heat through for about 5 minutes.  Shut off and let it sit for about 10 minutes.  Drizzle with the remaining tbs of Extra Virgin Olive Oil and the grated cheese.  Blend well.  Serve with extra cheese if you like and more peperoncino…

Enjoy this dish from the interior of three of Italy’s Regions.  I’m sure back in the late 1890’s one of these houses on my maternal Grandfather’s street in Grassano, Basilicata had a pot of this on their stove.  BUON APPETITO!!


Grassano, early 1900’ painted by my late cousin Professore Luigi Paone who lived and died in Grassano.  This painting was given to me by his wife, the late cousin Rosetta on August 15, 2006 in their living room in Grassano.  CHE BELLI RICORDI!!!








001 There’s not much for me to say here that you don’t know already..that PASTA E FAGIOLI or the more Italian-American name, PASTA FAZOOL is one of the most Popular dishes from the Italian kitchen.  Let me add that no one’s recipe is the “RIGHT” one, here, or in Italy.   It is a loaded bowl of beans and macaroni, a dish of fuel to keep one going and when researching or learning about Italian cuisine one learns that Italy is 20something regions that are different from each other.  Their locations are varied and can be warm sundrenched seashore to frigid Alpine peaks. Basically the region will absolutely dictate what beans, pasta and other ingredients go into that pot. Let’s complicate this more with personal preferences ,thicker versus more soup-like.  Throw the monkeywrench of the Italian-American cuisine into the pot and now the versions are hybrids of different immigrant Italian styles and American additions.  My bottom line here is to never, never shake your head in disgust at someone’s version of Pasta e Fagioli because it doesn’t match your definition.  No one’s will, however some will probably come close or can even be exacty.  There is NO “authentic” original recipe for this so don’t even look for it.  So what am I blogging about then?  My most basic version to which you can add, subtract, but this is how I generally go about making my PASTA E FAGIOLI.

TIME: 1 1/2-3  hours     SERVES: 6

Let also just start off here saying..type of beans…tomato or not…type of pasta..cured pork or not…all personal preferences.  And here’s another one…this Idea of the al dente pasta and bean soup..again..just my taste so you take it from there…but this is soup, it’s not a plated entree/secondo. Somewhere along the line chefs with some influence decided that a soup should be something ripe with different textures from soft to chewy.  I disagree.  It’s soup.  That level of comfort I derive from it is because soup always had a well cooked load of pasta,meat, vegetables, beans  in it. I really don’t think that the  people we learned these dishes from who would probably be over 100years old now added pasta after the dish was cooked and then served it.  I’d bet more than likely, the pasta was a. cooked in the soup b. cooked separately then added.  but the soup was left to simmer, or sit for a bit,  or for the next day.  I’ll put my blinders up and let you and your tastebuds decide how you want to have your components cooked but i’m in the soft comforting “old school” soup camp.

1/4 finely diced Prosciutto rind or Pancetta

2 tbs. OliveOil

2 stalks small diced Celery

2 peeled carrots, cut into a small dice

2 onions small dice

2 GARLIC cloves, finely minced

Kosher salt

pinch of Peperoncino

pinch of Oregano, Sicilian is best if you can find it

1 lb of cooked beans (cooked yourself OR canned)LIKE Cannellini, Borolotti, Great Northern

1tbs Tomato paste

1 cup Italian Crushed Tomatoes


1 cup water or stock

OPTIONAL:  small Parmigiano cheese rind


In a soup pot…heat the olive oil and prosciutto or pancetta.  Once that’s taken on some color, add the onions, celery and carrots. Saute’ for at least 8 minutes on medium.  Now add the garlic, peperoncino, pinch of salt,oregano.  Let this saute’ for 2 minutes then add the tomato paste.  Stir this as you saute’ for 2 minutes.  Now add the cup of Crushed Italian tomatoes. Bring to a boil.  Now add the cup of stock /water.  Bring to a boil then reduce to simmer.  Add the beans at this point.  Let this simmer for 1/2 hour, stirring frequently. If you are using the Parmigiano rind, add it now before you start to simmer.  When the simmering is done, add the pasta.  Simmer for 10 minutes, then turn it off.  Taste for seasoning. If you are good with it, add a tbs of grated parmigiano or pecorino, a drizzle of olive oil and cover pushing it back on the stove.  Let this sit for at least 3 hours before serving.  Now PAY ATTENTION HERE…look at my picture..this is how it will look.  If you like it more loose, use more stock when creating it.  If you like it more on the creamy/thick side, puree’ 1/8 cup of the beans and stir that in before your simmer it.  Use extra cheese and olive oil AND ground black pepper or peperoncino and a pinch of oregano or a basil leaf (optional) before serving.  Also, TIP/HINT..taste the soup after you let it sit and before serving.  It may need more seasoning.

I like this whole deal better on day 2…just my opinion, now make this yourself and enjoy!!



pastapiselli 004  In this blog we go back to my mother’s kitchen (get used to it) and recreate a soup that I make in my own kitchen quite frequently.  It’s a dish from Naples called PASTA E PISELLI, known in Italian-American speak as BASTA BAZEELS.  The dish as I make it uses a can of peas and it’s liquid…REALLY?? DID HE JUST SAY THAT?? yes, yes I did. In Italy, or Naples the dish is somewhat different and many Italian-Americans adhere to that style which is tubettini mixed with peas that have been cooked with lots of diced onion in olive oil.  Some add prosciutto or pancetta. (unless you are a new immigrant from Italy there’s no way that back in 1940 any Italian household in America was using pancetta except for maybe a select few that cured their own varieties. It was just not available until much more recently.) So for the families that added the cured pork it most likely was chopped sopressata or prosciutto rind.  The dish that came down to me via Grandma Scaramuzzi (from Naples) and my Mom, (from Staten Island, NYC) is a dish of broken spaghetti, onions, tomato, olive oil, pinch of oregano, and black pepper finished with pecorino. There it is.  I don’t think I can stress enough that most Italian dishes except a few elaborate ones, but the majority of them rely on not a very big ingredient list.  There is no Olive Gardening (my term for too many ingredients in a an Italian dish) here.  The massive flavor comes from a few places.  1. the peas and their canned liquid, I use, as Mom did, LeSueur Peas.  Feel free to use the canned peas of your choice, there’s lots of great organic varieties out there now too. 2. the onions (see, no garlic, stop thinking that EVERY dish that’s Italian needs or uses garlic..I love garlic..but it’s not in all our food, never way) which cook till sweet and soft, it gives the flavor. 3. Black pepper..AHA! you say! Finally, Battaglia cooks without Peperoncino.  Well this dish is more aromatic with the spicy notes from black pepper.  Be generous. 4. the tomatoes. Mom used Tomato sauce or some crushed Italian plums (again back in the Stone Age 1960’s, San Marzano Tomatoes were something you HAD to get in Italy, they were really not imported here like they are now)..but I use something slightly different, in fact it’s a very Napoletana addition to the canned tomato family and used very often, it’s the POMODORINI, or the cherry tomatoes that you can get here now imported from Southern Italy.  They are packed in a 14-15 oz can.  They also cook quickly.  So there you have it…reasons why I make this dish the way I do..Nods to it’s roots, to my family’s heritage recipe and just a bit of making it A FOOD OBSESSION’S.  You will like what you me here for sure.

SERVES: 3-4                     TIME: 40 minutes





1/4 tsp. KOSHER SALT





In a saucepan, heat 2 tbs. of Olive Oil, Extra Virgin will add more flavor, up to you…then add the onions and the oregano and let them saute’ for a good 10 minutes.  About 1/2 way thru, add the 1/8 cup of water to the pan. and let it continue to cook.  While this is all happening cook the broken Spaghetti according to the package directions till just al dente. Drain and keep the pasta loosely covered.  Now add the tomatoes to the onions, BUT, make sure they are soft, if not, let them cook longer. Bring to a boil and then add the peas and their liquid. Stir to mix giving a taste..add salt at this point just in case you need to.  Remember, there is salt in the canning liquid and the tomatoes.  Don’t be afraid, you just do not want to over salt, you are adding cheese at the end. Pecorino is salty AND delicious. Let this now cook for 15 minutes on low.pastapiselli 005 Then add the pasta and stir.  Cook for an additional 5 minutes on low, then remove from the heat. Add 2 tbs. of grated Pecorino Romano.  A good amount of black pepper and a drizzle of a little more Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Let it rest.  Check for seasonings to make sure it’s not over or under seasoned.  Adjust accordingly.  There, it’s all done. Reward yourself with this vegetarian friendly bowl of Pasta E Piselli.  If you omit the cheese it’s a vegan delight but the only label that is deserves is Italian-American.  When done right it’s a cuisine that one can be proud of.

pastapiselli 002


008 A complete meal in a bowl, how nice is that?  A steaming bowl of Lentil Soup for me is about the most reassuring food that says “all is right with the world”, basically it’s a big hug from someone that loves you.  The humble lentil is one of nature’s powerhouses ( i hate the term superfood because it conjures up fads in food and I don’t buy into that) in terms of nutrition.  Not going to bore you with that type of post but seriously if your body needs a great punch of nutrients this bowl is just the thing.  Lentils are not an Italian exclusive, they are eaten in every part of the world where they are grown because they are plentiful, cheap and so good for you.  All that aside let’s talk their taste, it’s unique and it’s delicious and LOVES to soak up the flavors of whatever other ingredients you are cooking with.  No shocker here but I’m going to give  you my recipe for an Italian   bowl of LENTILS.  This version is made with a base of vegetables, aromatics and PANCETTA.  Pancetta is an UNSMOKED cured Italian BACON. Highlighting UNSMOKED.  Can you make a lentil soup with smoked bacon?  Of course, in fact Lentils seem to really pop when you cook them with any pork, whether it be Chorizo, Italian Sausage, Salumi, Guanciale, American or other types of Smoked Bacon, ham,  so do not read my comments as saying the other meats are wrong..but for that gorgeous pot of lentils I made in the picture above I used PANCETTA.  For those wishing for this with no meat at all increase your aromatics, herbs, onions, etc. for extra flavor.  Unseasoned lentils for me just not worth my time but seasoning with meats or vegetables and herbs makes them shine.  Back to this post though, find the pancetta and maybe this could be your first time using it…how awesome is that when you open yourself up to something new!!

In this very active and vivid memory bank of mine I equate the aroma of lentils cooking with coming home from school in Staten Island NYC to my Mom making a nice big pot..while outside the day is dark, grey, rainy, cold, raw the mere whiff of the lentils was like two big arms wrapping themselves around me, warming me from the inside out and knowing that I’m ok.  Amazing was the taste and smell of certain foods will do, and no, I’m not going to quote the French guy with the little dessert cake here, that quote is as overdone as  a dry roast chicken breast.

SERVES: 6                                             TIME: 1 hour

1/2 lb PANCETTA, finely diced
1 large ONION , diced
2 stalks CELERY with leaves attached, diced
1 large CARROT peeled, chopped in to small cuts
1/2 tsp crumbled dried OREGANO

1 cup canned ITALIAN TOMATOES (in this dish the choice of regular Italian plums or San Marzano is up to you), crushed with your hands


2 cups brown LENTILS, rinsed in a colander under cold water
4 cups WATER

In a dutch oven or wide pot, heat the olive oil adding the pancetta.  Cook for about 4 minutes as it takes on some color then add the oregano, the onions, the peperoncino, the celery, and the carrots.  Add a pinch of salt and let this cook for a good 10 minutes until all the vegetables have softened up to an al dente state. Critical when making dishes like this to test the vegetables or they will remain sort of raw or too crisp in the final dish.  Just sayin.  Now add the tomato and let this come to a boil. Then add the water and the lentils, cheese rinds and salt.Bring it all to a boil then down to a medium simmer.  Let this cook until it’s thickened, stirring frequently.  It should take about 45 minutes.  When the soup is done check for seasoning and adjust accordingly.  I prefer a “drier” Lentil soup which is the consistency you see in the picture.  At this time add the spinach.  Let those tender baby leaves just melt into the pot.

When serving, remove the cheese rinds, and in each bowl garnish it with grated Parmigiano or Pecorino and a drizzle of EVOO and a pinch of peperoncino.

What prompted me to blog this dish of mine was a lentil soup with pancetta I had a few nights ago at a Pop up Dinner held by Gabriele Corcos of the TV show EXTRA VIRGIN on Cooking Channel.  I’ll be blogging about that dinner in the future but here is his bowl of lentil soup with Pancetta that we enjoyed:300823_2102887454155_1304531591_31828500_690752139_n


It was delicious!  You can’t go wrong with this soup.  Have fun making it and sharing the love.





Another PASTA post from A FOOD OBSESSION, get used to it, there are more to come but for now let’s entertain ourselves by cooking this delicious plate.  It’s a blend of all good things and along with maybe a tomato salad, some olives and cheese it’s a great meal.  No need to have anything else with this, I promise you will be satisfied.  I’ve taken some hardcore and basic Southern Italian ingredients and turned them into a quick (relatively) dish that will wow your guests as part of a long sideboard of treats in the afternoon or at a weeknight dinner.  Intrigued?  Good, I love grabbing your attention.  Orecchiette are “little ears”, a Southern Italian pasta that is made 2 ways, originally it’s a blend of flour and water and handmade.  The other way is using regular pasta dough and running it through a machine to make the shape.  Whichever type you have available should be the one you use, I will not judge.   The cooked pasta gets tossed with a saute’ of cooked chick peas (CECI in Italian, GARBANZO in Spanish), chopped bitter greens like broccoli rabe or spinach, garlic, olive oil, peperoncino and wine.  The Cheese at the end it optional.  Not for me though, it’s a requirement but A FOOD OBSESSION realizes that there’s all types of eaters out there and so I’m writing this blog to give omnivores, vegetarians, and vegans all a tasty dish to make.  Personally, I could eat a bowl of pasta or macaroni with tomato sauce every night, I realize we all don’t share in loving that.  So, here’s something that can stretch your pantry items and create a full meal for you.  Ready to cook?  Get your apron and for the Love of Julia Child, please wash your hands!  OK, here’s my ORECCHIETTE CON VERDURE E CECI.

FOR 4-6                                TIME: about 1/2 hour

1 lb. Orecchiette, cooked al dente according to package directions.  Find a brand made in Italy.  Be authentic.

3 sliced cloves of GARLIC (sounds like a lot but you are flavoring pasta and beans as well as the greens, needs some punch (FORZA AGLIO!!)



salt, peperoncino

1 filet of ANCHOVY (ok, ok, you hate anchovies, i get it, i hate, this is optional except for me, I will use it)

shot glass of WHITE WINE

2 cups of cooked CHICK PEAS (if using canned please rinse, then drain in a colander)


In a large skillet with high sides or a dutch oven heat the olive oil, then add the garlic,(Anchony also if you are using it) pinch of salt, peperoncino and then the greens an saute’ for 5 minutes.  Then add the wine and then the beans. Blend well and let this cook for 3 minutes. Then add the orecchiette.  When you are draining the pasta reserve about 1/8  cup of the cooking water.  Add a little to the pan after you’ve added all the ingredients and let this cook down.  Add more water or wine if you want it “more liquidy” and loose, I like it more on the drier side so watch the amount of water you are using.  At the end of cooking which should be no more than 4 minutes, remove from the heat.  Add 1/8 cup grated Pecorino Romano or Caciocavallo and toss throughly.  Now TASTE IT.  Does it need more salt or peperoncino?  Here is when you do that, not before you added the cheese.  Finish by drizzling with some Extra Virgin Olive Oil and cheese …always have more cheese on the side for those of us who crave it on our pasta.   Serve and enjoy.

If you like your greens more well done, steam them prior to adding to the mix, a little note here…soft greens and vegetables are traditional hallmarks of Italian cuisine.  Crunchy, al dente vibrantly colored vegetables are a more modern approach to cooking.  Pick your choice.


For Vegetarians this dish works without the anchovy and for Vegans omit the anchovy and the cheese. For those who don’t like anchovies just don’t use them at all.





vacation2014 280  What fun blogging is for me, the telling of a story, the teaching a dish, or sharing an experience, I love it all.  Less than a month ago I was on our family Summer vacation which took my wife and I and our 2 teen daughters  from home here at the Jersey Shore to London, Abu Dhabi and Dubai, the Seychelles, and all over South Africa.  Ambitious for sure, but in 17 days we did it all and now I can share some of those food/travel experiences via my blog.  I hope you enjoy the stories as I will be posting them on here along with my regular posts which come from my own kitchen.vacation2014 282vacation2014 289


We were in Abu Dhabi and Dubai for a few days and we were smack in the middle of Ramadan which means there were some restrictions on eating.  I inquired as to what a popular Ramadan dish would be when eating was permitted and SHORBET ADAS came up a few times, although Yellow Lentil or just Lentil Soup was what I was told.  Talking about it  on Facebook a friend of mine who hails from the United Arab Emirates told me the lentil soup is SHORBET ADAS.  Now if you are anything like me when you find something like that out in the food world it’s pretty exciting.  At first I thought, it’s 115 degrees F. outside , why on Earth would I order a hot soup, this is Winter food, but…i had to think like a local and say, it’s always hot here so food temperature is really not an issue.  I’m a big fan of all the Middle Eastern flavors with cumin, cloves, onions, herbs, name it I love all foods made in these cuisines from Israel to Armenia, from Morocco to Egypt, from Turkey to Dubai..the Middle East and it’s bordering cuisines are all joined by similar flavors.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere’s A FOOD OBSESSION enjoying a day on the Persian Gulf in AbuDhabi.  A delicious Lamb Kofte lunch poolside awaited me. That’s going to be another blog post.  Kofte, those grilled meat “kebabs”,”meatballs” are another favorite food of mine.

We loved our days in the UAE and I’m happy to share this soup with you.  LET’S COOK!!

FOR: 4-6                  TIME: ABOUT 1 HOUR OR LESS

1 cup YELLOW LENTILS, RINSED  (you can use orange or red as well)

1 chopped CARROT

1 diced ONION

1 tsp. SALT


1 tsp. CUMIN

1/2 tsp. ground CINNAMON

1/2 tsp. TURMERIC


LEMON wedges

In a heavy saucepan heat the olive oil and saute’ the onions, and carrot adding a pinch of salt and let them get soft, give it around 8 minutes or so.  Now add the lentils and let them “toast” a bit in the hot oil, season with cumin, cinnamon and the turmeric.  After 5 minutes add the water or stock.  Mix, Bring to a rolling boil then reduce to a simmer and let the lentils cook for about 35 minutes or until they have completely softened.  When soft remove from the heat and using an Immersion blender puree the soup gently (or carefully pour into a blender or processor and do the same, careful, it’s hot!).  Check the soup for seasoning.  Serve hot with LEMON WEDGES and each bowl gets a lemon wedge squeezed into it before serving…NOT AN OPTION..otherwise this is just another Lentil soup.  Clearly, the serving of the lemon with it is what completely got my foodcentric level of excitement up.  It’s part of the recipe, not simply a garnish.  Now, squeeze that lemon and enjoy the soup with some croutons or pita bread.







Chick Peas…they are NOT just for Hummus!!  No disrespect to Hummus, it’s a delicious and amazingly healthy and filling treat.  I think though that Hummus really introduced many to their first taste of a chick pea, unless you were Italian, Middle Eastern, North African..basically from Mediterranean ancestry or culture..Indian,  yes there are many places where the Chick Pea flourished. Not so much in the U.S. Till Hummus.  Ok, but I’m going to take you today to where my first recollection of eating Chick peas was, at my kitchen table.  First of all I didn’t know that the thing people called Chick Peas was the same as the CECI that we ate in our home, regularly.  Italians call them CECI, or in dialect, Cecira, or Cicidda.  Garbanzo Beans?  WTH??  Ok, there were cans of them in the grocery store under the GOYA label but it took me a while to put it all together and realize they all were the same thing..a chick pea!    Who doesn’t love a Falafel!

That mash of chick peas and spices fried in small balls and then stuffed into a pita with vegetables?  Or a Panelle?  A chick pea flour square fried and served in a soft roll with caciocavallo and ricotta cheeses?  See???  It’s not just hummus..they also are great tossed cooked and warm or cold into salads, with pasta (Pasta e Ceci is a staple of the old school Southern Italian Diet)..they are also wonderful roasted with spices, or dry roasted (a bag of them is a must while walking thru the Feast of San Gennaro in NYC, very old school)..but , as usual, I digress.  The most common way we had Ceci growing up was in a sort of tomato “stew”…not a soup, not a side dish per se, something in between.
At this point you should be as confused as I am.  Anyway, here is my recipe:

2 14 1/2 oz cans of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
2 tbs. of extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp oregano (try to find the Sicilian or Greek Oregano that come dried in a bunch)
pinch of peperoncino (red hot dried pepper flakes)
1/2 can of crushed San Marzano tomatoes
1/4 cup red wine (remember, something you enjoy drinking, not cooking wine)
kosher salt to taste
1 1/2 cups cleaned baby arugula

Let’s cook.

In a heavy saucepan heat the olive oil then add the peperoncino and 1/2 the oregano, 1/2 tsp of salt…then the garlic.  Cook until the garlic is just ready to take on color, about 1 minute or so, then add the chickpeas and completely coat with the oil and garlic, let this cook, stirring frequently for about 3 add everything else except the arugula.  Stir.  taste, add a little salt at this point if necessary. Let this simmer for 15 minutes.  Now add the arugula and continue cooking for 10 minutes more.  Don’t let it get dry, if that happens add a little more wine. Keeping it at simmer should prevent that from happening.Let it sit for a good 10 minutes before serving.  This will be a nice entree for 5-6, or side dish for 7-8.
Serving suggestion (ok, i never suggest anything, this is how i think you better be doing it…lol..) a bowl. with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, a pinch of peperoncino, a grating of Pecorino Romano, and pinch of oregano.    Now you are eating like A FOOD OBSESSION eats and ate while growing up.
Enjoy!  Great for Vegetarians too  (I guess vegans too if you don’t use the cheese).