Category Archives: MOZZARELLA

SAUSAGE AND BROCCOLI RABE PIZZA FROM NAPLES….SALSICCE E FRIARIELLI

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABROCCOLI RABE,  SAUSAGE AND PIZZA.  Sounds amazing and it is and it’s a classic.  Long before the tomato was introduced from the Americas to Europe Pizza was made using whatever the cook found in their pantries and gardens.  Most pizza reflected the local ingredients and this pizza we will make is one of the oldest Pizze in Napoli.  Naples, storied home of the modern pizza (tomato, mozzarella, basil) is also the land of the FRIARIELLI which is grown all around Naples is almost revered with a religious fervor.  I’ve never been able to ascertain whether it’s the same as our American Broccoli Rabe or a member of the family of similar greens (Cima di Rape being another one used in Puglia and Basilicata, Broccoletti in Rome) but in the USA I’ve never seen it marketed as Friarielli.  The popularity of Broccoli Rabe in America is due to this religious cult of worshiping the delicious bitter greens that the Italian Americans from Southern Italy,  Naples and Puglia in particular brought with them during the great Immigration from 1880-1930.  Every ItalianAmerican grew up with Broccoli rabe, marketed by the Andy Boy Corp who planted the seeds in California and began a huge business off of his forms of Broccoli.  Look at the label on your broccoli rabe.  Most likely it’s the Andy Boy brand, named after one of the founder’s sons. The founders were immigrants from Messina, Sicily, Stefano and Andrea (Andrew) D’Arrigo.  The family still owns the company.  We owe our American broccoli and broccoli rabe eating to them.  0001  There’s a 95 year old photo of Andrew D’Arrigo, “Andy Boy” the face on the familiar label.  0002How many of those labels did I see my mom take off of the Broccoli Rabe or Broccoli before she washed (and washed, and washed and washed) them prior to slicing them down for her various dishes.  That bitter, sulphury aroma of broccoli rabe cooking with garlic, peperoncino and olive oil is one of my most favorite sentimental food smells.  Brings me back to Mom’s kitchen with the first whiff.  Friarielli grow in certain regions around Naples and up into Avellino and Benevento, neighboring Provinces.  They are hallowed in those parts and great care and pride is taken with their preparation for eating.  This pizza is part of La Cucina Napoletana, the great cuisine of Naples which has given birth to much of what is part of the global and the Italian American cuisines. Sausage and Broccoli Rabe pie Naples style traditionally is without tomato.  That proves it’s an ancient dish.  The ingredients and preparation are simple and straight forward.  IMG_2069 The Broccoli Rabe (Friarielli).

An old Napoletana saying is  ” A SASICC E’ A MORT  RE FRIARIELL”.  Sausage will die without Broccoli Rabe.  They are meant for each other!!  Let’s make A’PIZZ…

 

1 Pizza Dough (homemade or bakery bought, don’t use the commercial brands, too many additives)

Risen for 24 hours.  Press into a well Olive Oiled pan till it hits all the sides of a standard baking  1/2 sheet.  I prefer the heavy gauge restaurant supply ones, They heat up more evenly.

1 head of Broccoli Rabe, well rinsed and dried, then chopped discarding the thicker stem ends.

Olive Oil

2 sliced cloves of Garlic

Peperoncino

Salt

Water

3 Sweet Italian Sausage with fennel Links , remove the meat from the casings.

2 cups of diced PROVOLA Cheese, or a blend of diced Mozzarella and Provolone.

While the dough is resting in the pan, heat 2 tbs of olive oil, add the garlic and peperoncino (to taste), pinch of salt.  When the garlic is fragrant add the Broccoli Rabe and cook this for at least 10 minute on medium.  Add 1/8 cup of water and just continue to cook until the broccoli rabe is soft.  Make sure the water has evaporated.  Drain.

In another pan heat 1 tbs olive oil and add the sausage meat.  Cook over medium stirring ocassionally until the meat is almost cooked.  Drain and add to the Broccoli Rabe.  Pre heat oven to 500 degrees F.guancialeravioli 022

Drizzle some olive oil over the pizza dough and then place one cup of the cheese over the top.  then the Sausage and Broccoli Rabe mixture.  Then the remaining cup.  Place on the bottom rack of the oven and bake for 10 minutes,  Then rotate the pan and bake for an addition 5-10 minutes being careful not to over cook.   When done slice into squares and let it sit for a few minutes.  Serve.  FANTASTIC!

The lead picture is the first time I had Friarielli.  We were on a family vacation on a MSC Italian Line cruise around Italy.  The cruise ship kitchen was decidedly Napoletana and the daily foods reflected this.  Other regions were represented as was the rest of the world’s cuisines, but the bulk of the meals were Napoletana and southern Italian.  I asked a server if I could talk to the chef or a cook and get this recipe for that picture.  I was shown the Friarielli which were on my bucket list and was told how to make this pizza.  I was also told how the sausage and friarielli combo is near and dear to Napoletana hearts and I shared how my ItalianAmerican world back in the USA is in love with that combination as well.  So you’ve just enjoy part of that wonderful vacation around Italy my family had by reading this and hopefully you’ll create this beloved pizza in your own kitchen.

 

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RICOTTA BALLS…PALLINE DI RICOTTA..CREAMY CHEESE MORSELS

 

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RICOTTA..one of the most popular Italian Cheese throughout the world prized for it’s versatility and mild taste. It’s a star player in certain types of Lasagne, Ravioli, a host of Baked Pasta dishes, the main ingredient in the Cannoli cream, pastries, gnocchi, cavatelli, rustica holiday pies, calzones. This cheese is a work horse and I’m going to give you yet another use of it..PALLINE…translated, that mean “little balls”  (stop giggling).  As with most cultures Italians love small ball shaped foods, especially of the fried variety.  Can these be baked for those who prefer that?  No idea. I’m a purist.  This dish was created to be fried.  I stick with that. So take a look at the picture….you know you want to make these.

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This recipe will make about 24-30 depending on how adept you are to rolling same sized balls. Apparently from the picture I am not, nor will I ever profess to be, lol. Some are more round than others,  some are bigger than others, some are slightly out of shape. This is homecooking. Don’t stress. Enjoy it!  In my area we have so many Italian Pork Stores make these and there are sometimes additional ingredients, like prosciutto,pesto, etc.  This recipe I’m sharing with you is strictly a PALLINE DI RICOTTA..Ricotta and other cheeses, no meats, or other vegetables.  Let’s talk for a minute about ingredients. Too much can be too much.  Researching other ricotta ball recipes there sometimes is a preponderance of overkill.  I don’t try to be a native Italian, because quite frankly that’s an impossibility for me.  I do try to keep most of my cooking and blogposts to adhering to some general food concepts that one might find in Italy where less is more, the quality of ingredients is the main event. So ,having said all of that let me add that as tempted as you might be DO NOT ADD garlic to this. I’d be very dishonest if within my own blog I wasn’t honest with my own cooking styles.  Garlic does not make a dish Italian,ie: Italian foo doesn’t have garlic in everything.  Generally cheese,soft cheese fillings are without garlic.  Like a calzone or layers of Lasagne, the cheese is mixed with a minimum of ingredients. The garlic overpowers the cheeses in this application.  A delicious light crispy shell that breaks into a soft cheesey center…this  is a sensory delight.   Let start cooking!!

TIME:  2 hours

MAKES:  25-30 WALNUT SIZED BALLS

1 cup fresh bread crumbs (not seasoned)
12 cup PECORINO ROMANO, FRESHLY GRATED
13 cup DICED MOZZARELLA, don’t use fresh mozzarella, low moisture type is best
1 TBS. finely chopped Italian Flat Leaf Parsley
1 1/2 CUPS DRAINED RICOTTA
3 LARGE EGGS, SEPARATED
14 cup flour
1/2 CUP UNSEASONED DRY BREADCRUMBS
OIL  (I use olive oil, you can use Vegetable, or Canola)
Kosher Salt, Black Pepper
Beat the egg yolks then  the add in the pecorino, 1 cup breadcrumbs, pinch of salt, 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper, parsley, ricotta, mozzarella.  When this is all well blended and you can easily roll it into a walnut sized ball, cover and refrigerate for at least 1/2 hour.
Set up your breading station..a pan of the flour, a pan of the egg whites, beaten, and a pan of the plain breadcrumbs.
Remove the ricotta mixture from the refrigerator and form into about 25-30 walnut sized balls.  Then roll each one in the flour, shake off excess, then into the egg, shake off excess, then into the breadcrumbs.  Line up on a tray.  When completed refrigerate for 15 minutes.
In a heavy high sides pan heat up 3 inches of Vegetable/Canola or Olive Oil and when it gets to 320 degrees F then test one ball…it should fry on all sides only till it gets golden, should take about 4 minutes or so.  Drain on paper towels.  Do one first to get the hang of it. Then continue the rest, i’ll advise only 6 at a time..no more…Let the oil rest for 1/2 minute before adding the next six.  Do this in batches until done.  Serve!  you can even cook ahead and reheat.  But they are never as good as right out of the pan.  They freeze well too.

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Enjoy this treat!!  Great for dinners and parties!!

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POTATOES CREATE AN ELEGANT CAKE, THE GATTO’, NAPLES’ POTATO CAKE

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This blog post will take us again back to Naples, Italy.  I’ll admit that the cuisine of Naples just makes me happy.  In large part it’s the cuisine that I grew up on along with the other regions my grandparents came from, but Naples in particular just makes me happy.  So many associate potatoes with the Northern European cuisines like Irish, English, German, Russian, etc. but the winds of exploration brought potatoes as well as tomatoes over from the Americas many centuries ago.  Italian cooking throughout the boot and it’s islands incorporates regional potato dishes from simple to more complex, yet, as with most Italian cooking the complexities are layers of flavors, not intricate and difficult cooking techniques only a top chef can master.  This is what I think makes Italian cooking so popular, only a few ingredients, a little fuss or none at all and you have platters of outrageously fabulous food.  Take the star of this blogpost..the GATTO’ (gah-TOH)a Mashed Potato cake mixed with some savories and eggs and baked. It comes from the kitchens of Naples, handed down from the old days of Bourbon rule when the French imparted some of their skills and styles to the wonderful ones that already were in place.   For those of your who are familiar with the French language, GATTO’ is simply the Italian (Neapolitan) word for GATEAU, or cake.  This recipe is basically 2 recipes in one but I’m only going to focus on the GATTO’.  The mix can be turned into another Napoletana dish, PANZAROTTI DI PATATE also known as CROCCHE’ DI PATATE, breaded Potato Croquettes.  Let’s save that for another day.  My Mom made this in a springform pan which I used as well until Sandy took that sentimental relic from me so when I made this one I used a 9 inch cake pan.  The cake is rich as it’s a mass of eggs, cheese, potatoes and cured meats.  A little goes a long way.  It’s beautiful when cut and served on a plate.gatto 008  Love the “action” shot of the diced sopressata falling out of the cake slice (I cut it while it was too hot, but, it is what it is…lol).  If creamy potatoes dishes and Italian flavors excite you this is perfect for your palate.  It’s time to walk into my kitchen and cook with me, my mother, and my grandmother (virtually as they both have passed but are ALWAYS with me at my stove).

FOR A 8 INCH CAKE PAN which will serve 4-6 people

Time: 2 days (hold on you thought I said simple, well there’s 2 parts..i truly believe that the mashed potatoes need to be made a day ahead of time and chilled overnight in the fridge..why?  I’m going to get a little Alton Brown here, I could be wrong, just my opinion but it always works out..something about the moisture in the potatoes that just makes them easier to use when they are day old.  Maybe it’s an absorption by the natural starches?  Sounds good, I’ll stick with it.)  On actual day of cooking, it will take about 1 1/2 hours.

2 LBS. OF MASHED POTATOES, MADE A DAY AHEAD OF TIME AND CHILLED IN THE FRIDGE OVERNIGHT.   Make mashed potatoes using 2 lb. of peeled Russets.Simply mash with butter, salt, and pepper to taste.  Do not add liquids like cream, milk, half n half. You can either rice them if you have a ricer, or mash or whip them well.  Tightly cover and keep over night in the fridge.

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 cup GRATED PECORINO ROMANO OR PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO (MY PREF IS ROMANO)

3 BEATEN EGGS

3 TBS. CHOPPED ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSELY

1/8 CUP FINELY CHOPPED SALAMI, OR SOPRESSATA (SWEET NOT HOT), OR PROSCIUTTO, OR PROSCIUTTO COTTO

1/2 CUP GRATED SMOKED SCAMORZA (IF YOU CAN FIND IT IT’S THE REAL DEAL)

1/2 CUP DICED MOZZARELLA (IF USING FRESH, PURCHASE IT A DAY AHEAD)

KOSHER SALT, FRESH GROUND BLACK PEPPER TO TASTE

2 TBS. MILK

BUTTER FOR GREASING THE PAN, 6 PATS OF BUTTER TO TOP THE CAKE

ENOUGH COARSE BREAD CRUMBS(PLAIN) TO COAT THE PAN

you can use an 8 inch SPRINGFORM PAN, or CAKE PAN.  Heavily grease the panwith Unsalted butter (definitely use butter for this for flavor). Then coat the pan with a light layer of the coarse breadcrumbs.  Set aside.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

gatto 001 Add all the ingredients to the Mashed Potatoes and blend in well, MAKE sure all the cheeses, meat and parsley are not CLUMPED up.  Want to cook more professionally?  That is one of those details that many times causes a dish to fail.  Incorporating ingredients like this sometimes when not done carefully will cause all the flavors to clump up in spots and not be equally distributed throughout the mixture.. TAKE YOUR TIME, there’s no rush!! A well blended mixture should look like that picture above.  “PAGEENZIA” (Pazienza in proper Italian, PATIENCE) would be what my Mom would say…that was a common outburst of her’s dealing with us kids AND my father…Alright, back to work now, after the mix is done press it into the pan keeping the top smooth.. Top with breadcrumbs and some grated pecorino or parmigiano.  Today’s Naples will most likely use Parmigiano.  The world I learned to cook from which is the southern Italy of the very early 1900’s used Pecorino for most things so that’s the taste I expect when eating this.  Use either one, Pecorino Romano will always be a more sharp taste, Parmigiano will be somewhat nutty.  Now dot the top with a few pats of the unsalted butter.  Why unsalted all the time?  Because this dish contains 3 different cheeses and salted cured meats.  Nothing worse than OVERSALTED food, under is bad too, but you can always add more to adjust that, oversalted is a kitchen FAIL.  There is no going back. Now bake this GATTO’ for 30-40 minutes or until it looks like this:gatto 003 I’m sure you want a piece.  Well you can’t.  PAGEENZIA!! which of course I didn’t have.  No wonder why Mom kept saying that to me!!  Please, let this cool for 20 minutes in the pan on a rack.  Then remove it from the springform or gently remove it from the cake pan as you would remove a layer cake from it.  Then invert it back onto the plate for serving..see, Like this:gatto 004How great does that look!!??  On one of my Mom’s plate too…all is right with the world on this one. Now slice it into wedges for serving.  gatto 007   Some recipe writers out there refer to this as a sidedish, ok, it CAN be but it’s more of a main dish.  That’s the big difference with how us American eats and how they eat in Italy.   Much of what we pile onto a table is meant to be eaten as a standalone I mean, this is a hefty group of ingredients and you really want to enjoy the flavors. OR add it to a buffet service.  I like it being served on it’s own with some greens and tomatoes.  That will be up to you.  Either way, a great idea for something to be made ahead of time too.  It reheats really well. Most of all enjoy yourself while making this and of course while eating it.

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MOZZARELLA MILANESE..EVERYONE’S FAVORITE ITALIAN CHEESE IN A CUTLET

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Name the most popular Italian Cheeses in America? Parmigiano (Parmesan) and Mozzarella will probably at the top of the list.  Being of Southern Italian, especially Napoletana DNA my tastebuds gravitate towards Mozzarella in any of it’s forms, especially when crisply fried with breadcrumbs and soft and very stringy on the inside.  Those “strings” gave the Roman version of Arancini(Rice Balls ) the name of SUPPLI AL TELEFONO..because of the mozzarella inside, when you bite into it the cheese wonderfully pulls.  Like in a Lasagne or on a Pizza it forces you to take another bite.  Fresh mozzarella though on the day it’s made, unless you have a 1000 degree oven like a Napoletana pizza oven, you will overcook it and will have lots of water come out from it.  For conventional ovens block mozzarella, or low moisture is better suited.  Save that fresh to be eaten as the cows or buffalo is came from really wanted you to..soft, fresh, and warm, and just made. Nothing like it.  BUT..and there’s always a but, if you have leftover fresh mozzarella, on day 2 you will be able to use it like you would a block or low moisture cheese.  Something chemical happens when it’s refrigerated and out of the water so that’s a great idea for you if you don’t care to use the commercially produced type.  Mozzarella sticks are a favorite but what if you turn that American treat a little upside down and be more Italian with it?  Well, you then have MOZZARELLA MILANESE!  Mozzarella Cutlets..so let’s start..come into my kitchen with me and put on an apron.

SERVES: 4                         TIME: 30 minutes

12 1/4 INCH SLICES OF MOZZARELLA  (USE WHOLE MILK MOZZARELLA)

3 LARGE OR JUMBO EGGS, BEATEN

1/8 CUP GRATED PECORINO ROMANO (for eggs)

3 TBS. GRATED PECORINO (for breadcrumbs)

1/4 CUP DRY PLAIN ITALIAN BREADCRUMBS

2 TBS CHOPPED FLAT LEAF ITALIAN PARSLEY

1/4 TSP FRESHLY GRATED BLACK PEPPER

KOSHER SALT

1/8 CUP FLOUR SEASONED WITH A PINCH OF SALT AND BLACK PEPPER

OLIVE OIL OR VEGETABLE OIL

PEPERONCINO, FENNEL FRONDS, LEMON (OPTIONAL)

Lay all of your pans/plates the you are using on a counter starting with the flour, then the egg, then the breadcrumbs.  Make the breadcrumb mix first..combine the breadcrumbs with a pinch of salt, the parsley, 2 tbs of  the cheese.  Add 1 tbs cheese and the pepper to the eggs, blend it well.  Have a sheet pan covered in foil or parchment paper at the end of your breading line. Dip each slice of cheese into the flour on both sides, gently shake off the excess, then into the egg, let he excess roll off, then into the crumbs pressing lightly on both sides to completely coat the cheese.  lay onto the covered baking sheet.  When you are all done loosely cover the cutlets with foil and refrigerate for 10 minutes. toptomato 048  When using fresh mozzarella (as in made within only hours of you buying it) for this dish, let it sit overnight.  Fresh mozzarella is meant to be eaten before it ever sees a refrigerator. And it’s loaded with liquid which will make your frying a dangerous nightmare.  Again, I suggest fresh but used the day after you purchased it, or any of the block Low Moisture varieties. I live in an area where fresh mozzarella made daily is commonplace.  This piece of mozzarella was from a local Italian supermarket, TOP TOMATO.    (http://toptomatosuperstorenj.com/).  Heat about 1 inch of olive oil or vegetable oil in a high sided pan.  When a cube of bread “dances” and starts to immediately start to brown, your oil i ready.  Have a tray lined with paper towels, or brown paper, or some racks over a tray on the side and spatula and long tongs ready to go.  Only fry 2 cutlets at a time…just till each side gets golden and crisp taking care when turning.  This Doesn’t take long at all.  If they are in too long the cheese will ooze and the crumbs will burn.  After they are drained eat immediately! or place on an oven proof platter and loosely cover with foil and keep warm in a low oven (about 200 degrees F).  When serving garnish with optional grated cheese, peperoncino, chopped basil or oregano or fennel fronds, a squeeze of fresh lemon.  DELICIOUS.  You can now throw that stale box of Mozzarella Sticks away.  You’ve mastered another dish!!!   This dish also comes from the school of FRITTI NAPOLETANA..the fried snacks of Naples.

 

Happy Cooking!!