Category Archives: Napoletana Cuisine

BACCALA’ CON PEPERONI, POMODORI, CIPOLLE ROSSE…DRIED SALT COD COOKED WITH PEPPERS, CHERRY TOMATOES AND RED ONIONS

BACCALA’. The Italian word for DRIED SALTED COD. A gift from the Northern Europe where the cod is caught, then salted and dried this fish became a staple in the poverty stricken homes across southern Italy. It became the most popular Christmas Eve seafood as it was cheap and available to both rich and poor in Italy’s south, from the sea up into the mountains. Every family has it’s Christmas Eve tradtional Baccala’ dish. Probably the two most popular are the simply Fried Baccala’ and the Baccala baked or pan cooked with tomatoes, peppers, olives. There’s a host of dishes that can be made with Baccala and Italians aren’t the only ones who love this fish. French, Portuguese, Spanish, Caribbeans, Northern Europeans…every cuisine has wonderful dishes. Most important when cooking Baccala is that you give the dried fish enough time to hydrate and rid itself of the excess salt. My standard rule is 3 days of soaking in cold water, left covered in the fridge with 2 changes of water per day. Pat dry on day 3 and now you’re ready to use it. This recipe is one I made up one Christmas Eve when I wanted something different from my usual preparations. The Cod is lightly floured and seared in hot olive oil. Removed. Then in that pan a saute’ of Sliced Cubanelles (Italian Frying Peppers), Red Onions, Sliced Fresh Cherry Tomatoes, a pinch of salt and black pepper. When the vegetables are soft, add some white wine and then add the cod back. Top with toasted breadcrumbs, pignoli and fresh basil. It’s Delicious!! Let’s COOK!!

1 3/4 lbs (original dry weight) of 3 DAY SOAKED BACCALA, CUT UP INTO MEDIUM CHUNKS.

2 TBS. ALL PURPOSE FLOUR SEASONED WITH BLACK PEPPER (NO SALT!!!)

OLIVE OIL

3 SLICED SEEDED CUBANELLE (ITALIAN FRYING) PEPPERS

1 LARGE SLICED RED ONION

1/2 PINT SLICED CHERRY OR GRAPE TOMATOES

HANDFUL OF CHOPPED FRESH PARSLEY

1/2 CUP ITALIAN WHITE WINE

2 TBS. TOASTED PLAIN BREADCRUMBS

3 TORN FRESH BASIL LEAVES

1 1/2 TBS TOASTED PIGNOLI

In a heavy pan, like a cast iron or heavy bottomed one heat 2 tbs of olive oil till you see the waves in the pan. Dredge the baccala’ chunks on all sides shaking off the excess and sear on all sides till the cod is golden. Transfer to paper towels to absorb excess oil In the same pan add the peppers, onions and tomatoes and saute’ on medium until they are soft. Takes about 10 minutes, Don’t rush it. Add the peperoncino and 1/2 the parsley. Deglaze the pan with the wine. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer, Add the Baccala’ back and cook for only 6 minutes. Finish with the toasted breadcrumbs, basil, parsley and pignoli. Remove from the heat. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving. ALTERNATE METHOD, after you’ve added the cod back, top with everything and place into a hot oven (400 degrees F) until the breadcrumbs begin to brown, then remove.

Serving suggestion….this dish can be served hot, or warm/room temperature. Serve with good seeded Italian or Sicilian Bread. Make it anytime you want a taste of Italian seafood whether it’s Christmas eve or not. BUONA CUCINA!! BUON APPETITO!!!

CONCHIGLIE CON POMODORO, ZUCCHINE E ROSMARINO..PASTA SHELLS WITH TOMATO, ZUCCHINI AND ROSEMARY…

ZUCCHINI!!! I call it a wonder vegetable because I can find a million ways for create a meal around them. In Italy they are known as ZUCCHINE, small squash…in America was spell it ZUCCHINI. Drives Italians nuts but it is what it is, I try to use both spellings so everyone is happy. Isn’t it better to sit a table happy than to be arguing? I think so to. This dish will keep everyone happy. Cooking historically is about what’s convenient and available. I have nice local zucchini I purchased this week from Holmdel NJ’s Dearborn Market ( https://dearbornmarket.com/ ) and have quite a bit of fresh Rosemary that I’m growing in my yard. The kids were home from college for the weekend and wanted Daddy’s Chicken cutlets (seriously, who doesn’t want chicken cutlets??) so I came up with this dish . I used a sprig of fresh rosemary, do not use dried. The taste pairs well with the onions and zucchini in the tomato and wine. It all works. Let’s get into your kitchen and make a pan of this!! BTW, I sauce it like an Italian in Italy sauces it. The pasta will take the whole pan of sauce, try it this way. It’s not a Sunday Sauce/Gravy kind of dish. Time to cook!!

1 14 oz box of Imported Italian Crushed Tomatoes (i used Cirio brand, the plain version not the flavored ones)

2 tbs. extra virgin OLIVE OIL

2 MEDIUM ZUCCHINI, RINSED AND DICED

1 ONION, DICED

SEA SALT

1/4 TSP. PEPERONCINO

1 SPRIG FRESH ROSEMARY

1/8 CUP ITALIAN WHITE WINE

1 LB. MEDIUM SHELLS (CONCHIGLIE) IMPORTED FROM ITALY, COOKED JUST TILL AL DENTE

PECORINO ROMANO

In a large dutch oven or high sided cast iron skillet heat the olive oil. Add the onions and zucchini and peperoncino. Season with salt…blend everything in the pan. Then cover and let cook on medium for 7 minutes. Carefully uncover and stir. Cover again for 5 more minutes. The zucchini and onions should be close to soft by now. Add the sprig of rosemary and deglaze the pan with wine. Cover again for 10 minutes. Uncover and add the tomatoes. Stir. Bring to a boil THEN reduce to a simmer and stir intermittently. Let this simmer for about 20 minutes. Remove the rosemary. Then add the al dente pasta shells to the sauce, make sure they are gently blended into the sauce and well coated. Let this cook for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in about 1/8 cup of freshly grated Pecorino Romano. Let it sit for 5 minutes, then serve. That’s all folks. Enjoy this dish. Zucchini is love.

POLLO ALL’ACETO…VINEGAR CHICKEN…MY VERSION

VINEGAR CHICKEN. Doesn’t sound too appealing on its own but say POLLO ALL’ACETO in your best Italian Accent and suddenly there’s a checkered tablecloth, a bottle of ITalian wine and the aroma of garlic and Olive Oil in the air. Right? Let’s get something straight, there’s no ONE recipe for Italian style Chicken cooked with Vinegar. OK? Now don’t we all feel better that there’s no rules we are breaking? There’s a million variations of chicken simmered, boiled, grilled, baked, roasted, fried with vinegar. And a million pairings with various vegetables, starches, herbs, spices, liquids. This is the beauty of Italian cooking. This PARTICULAR Pollo All’Aceto I made tonight is a braise after a Saute’. Stove top. Pretty easy. Great ingredients that are readily accessible. Took about 45 minutes to complete but with more chicken in the pan it would take longer. The taste and aroma will remind you of those great ItalianAmerican restaurant dishes you love. Cubanelle Peppers, Vinegar, Chicken, Onions, Garlic, Tomatoes, Basil, Olive Oil, Mushrooms. What’s not to love?

FEEDS: 4 TIME: 1 HOUR

POLLO ALL’ACETO

2 LBS BONELESS CHICKEN BREASTS (ORGANIC ARE BEST), CUT INTO A MEDIUM DICE

OLIVE OIL

KOSHER SALT, PEPERONCINO(DRIED RED CHILE FLAKES)

2 VERY RIPE TOMATOES, SQUEEZE OUT THE SEEDS, THEN DICE

2 CUPS QUARTERED MUSHROOMS

2 BIG CUBANELLE (ITALIAN FRYING) PEPPERS, CUT INTO RINGS

1 RED ONION, DICED

3 SLICED GARLIC CLOVES

1/8 CUP WHITE BALSAMIC VINEGAR

1/8 CUP ITALIAN RED WINE VINEGAR

FRESH BASIL LEAVES

1/4 CUP CHICKEN STOCK

SEASON the chicken with salt and pepper. Add 2 tbs of olive oil to a heavy wide skillet or Dutch oven and heat. Add the peperoncino to taste (1/4 tsp gives a nice kick…) Add the chicken and let it cook for at least 8 minutes on one side on medium heat. Shake the pan and turn all the chicken to cook on the other side for another 6 minutes. Deglaze the chicken with the Red Wine Vinegar and let this come to a boil, cook for 3 minutes. Remove the chicken and the pan liquid to a bowl. Cover lightly. Add 2 tbs of Olive Oil to the pan and place on medium high heat. Toss in the Mushrooms, Onions, and Peppers. Season with salt. Cook this for 10 minutes reducing the heat to medium-low midway. The object is to get the onions, peppers, and mushroom soft. If you need more time TAKE IT…i’m only a guide..it might take longer to get the vegetables soft. When they are tender add the garlic..let this cook for about 1 1/2 minutes, then add the tomatoes, season with salt. Let the tomatoes cook in the pan with everythng about 10 minutes. Then add the White Balsamic (if unavailable use Sherry Vinegar, you want a vinegar with a natural sweetness NOT DARK BALSAMIC), deglaze the pan, then add the stock. Bring to a boil and let this cook for 5 minutes. Add the chicken and it’s liquid back and simmer for 20 minutes. CHECK the chicken to see if it’s tender and most of the liquid has evaporated. When the chicken and vegetables are tender, and the liquid has significanly reduced you’re done. Tear a few basil leaves and toss in , mix well. Serve. I like a drizzle of Olive Oil and a pinch more Peperoncino (personally, i add a few spoons of Pecorino Romano to my plate as well.. OPTIONAL but so good..it actually “thickens” the sauce around the chicken…feel free to do the same!! That’s it. Serve with Roasted Potatoes or Rice.

SKILLET (PAN) EGGPLANT PARMIGIANA…MELANZANE ALLA PARMIGIANA IN PADELLA

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

OLIVE OIL

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

FRESH BASIL

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!!

TAGLIATELLE CON CECI, SALSICCE E POMODORO…LONG EGG NOODLES WITH CHICK PEAS, SAUSAGE AND TOMATO

TAGLIATELLE CON CECI, SALSICCE E POMODORO

TAGLIATELLE….long mid-thin ribbons of egg pasta dough made all over Italy, so delicious. I think you’ll love this dish I came up with combining the tagliatelle with delicious ceci (chick peas), sweet Italian fennel sausage meat, and sweet Italian imported tomatoes. Fresh basil, onion, olive oil, a little white wine. Do I have your attention now? Good. I’m really excited to share this one with you and you’ll want to put this into your recipe rotation. Layer of flavors is something many chefs and cooks talk about and I’m a big believer in that method. Part of layering is not rushing everything and adding it all at once. Cooking is chemistry. The amount, the ingredient, the type of cooking method, the length of time, and when to add the next item are CRUCIAL in pulling out the inteded and full flavor you want from your dish. This isn’t a difficult dish, it’s pretty straightforward but you need to pace your process. The pasta of choice is also important. Using a fresh made tagliatelle is optimal, but we all don’t have time as a luxury and certainly there are so many wonderful brands out there you can use an exceptional egg tagliatelle for this dish. That brand is Cav. Giuseppe Cocco. About 10.00 @ lb. for the egg pasta. Big however here, if you can only find a regular supermarket brand of Tagliatelle I suggest you stick with ones from ITaly. If that’s not an option use the best American brand you can find. Please don’t use Store brands or “Cremettes” or Mullers. Thank you. And before you ask, this dish was conceived for Tagliatelle, so your options are Tagliolini, Fettuccine, Linguine, Pappardelle. But if none of those are available, use what you like. Of course I think i’m developing something unique and original but like most recipes, if you know the basic and many of the food traditions of a cuisine chances are someone else has made a similar version long before you did. There are examples of Pasta with tomato, chick peas and sausage in Italy so I’m keeping this one with an ITALIAN label on it rather than ITalianAmerican. Us Italians/ItalianAmericans, we love the pasta/bean combo. For those who are carb-averse, simply move on..lol.

SERVES: 4-6 TIME: PREP AND COOKING, 1:15 HOUR APPROX.

1 LB. LOOSE SWEET ITALIAN FENNEL SAUSAGE MEAT.

1 MEDIUM ONION, DICED SMALL

1/8 CUP DRY ITALIAN WHITE WINE

2 TBS. OLIVE OIL

SMALL HANDFUL OF FRESH BASIL LEAVES

1 CUP COOKED CHICK PEAS (CECI)

1 28 OZ CAN SAN MARZANO DOP TOMATOES OR OTHER IMPORTED ITALIAN PLUM TOMATOES (KNOWN AS POMODORI PELATI ITALIANI)

SALT, BLACK PEPPER TO TASTE

1 LB EGG TAGLIATELLE COOKED TO AL DENTE RIGHT BEFORE SAUCE IS DONE

PECORINO ROMANO, GRATED, TO TASTE

LET’S COOK!!

In a heavy wide pan, like a cast iron or a dutch oven, add 1 tbs of olive oil and heat. Add the onions. Season with salt and pepper and let them cook for 10 minutes..stir frequently so they don’t brown. Add the sausage meat and let this cook still the meat has browned, taked about 10 more minutes…add some of the basil and then the wine deglazing the pan and pulling up the bits from the bottom. Bring to a boil then reduce. Add the Chick peas. Let this cook until most of the liquid has evaporated. Crush the tomatoes with your hands in a bowl. Then add to the sausage, onions, and ceci Blend well. Bring to a bowl then reduce. Let this cook on simmer for 1/2 hour. Towards the end of that cooking time make your tagliatelle. Taste the sauce for seasoning. Make any adjustments you need. When the tagliatelle is al dente drain and add to the sauce and cook in the sauce for 1 1/2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Drizzle with olive oil and tear in more fresh basil. Mix… Then add about 2 1/2 tbs of Grated Cheese, mix. Now serve with more grated cheese and cracked black pepper on the side. A delicious Pasta dish.

MAIALE CON PEPERONATA (AGRODOLCE), PORK COOKED WITH SWEET AND SOUR PEPPER STEW

PORK WITH SWEET AND SOUR PEPPERS AND ONIONS

Italy is filled with Pork recipes and ItalianAmerica added more to the scene. This one is one that shows up often in Southern Italian Cooking, the combo of Pork with Peppers. Sometimes it’s with Hot Vinegar Peppers. Sometimes it’s with a simple saute’ of Peppers and Onions. Sometimes it’s AGRODOLCE, meaning sweet and sour peppers and onions. Creating this recipe I used the Sweet and Sour Pepper and Onion stew of Southern Italy known as PEPERONATA. This dish tastes best if you make the peperonata and let it sit in the fridge for 3 days. This allows all the AGRODOLCE components to work their magic on the peppers and onions. So my eager cooks out there, start with this, my recipe for Peperonata.

https://afoodobsessionblog.wordpress.com/2016/09/26/peperonata-southern-italian-pepper-stew/

Let the finished Peperonata sit for up to 3 days to fully develop. Cooking is layering. Each layer needs to be the best flavor it can be. Too often cooking has become a dump in the crock, Instant Pot type of process. While they have their uses approaching every meal you cook with “how quickly can I get this done” doesn’t give the end result that it should have. Certainly don’t cook a dish/meal that needs a ton of time if you are limited. Wait till you have the time, maybe a weekend, a special dinner, etc. and don’t short cut. Peperonata on day one is vastly different from what it tastes like in 3 day or later. Trust me. I’m not going to lie, I enjoy a short cut now and then when it doesn’t compromise the end result just to get it done with quickly. The Sugar and Vinegar need to marinate the Peperonata for it to taste properly. Ok, i’ve beated this dead horse enough. Let’s cook.

1 RECIPE OF FINISHED PEPERONATA

1 3/4 PORK LOIN SLICED IN STRIPS OR SMALL PIECES

1/3 CUP SEASONED SIFTED FLOUR

1/3 CUP WHITE ITALIAN WINE

PINCH OF OREGANO OR MARJORAM

PINCH OF PEPERONCINO

SALT TO TASTE

OLIVE OIL

In a Large heavy pan, heat 2 tbs of olive oil and in batches brown the pork. Loin of Pork cooks fairly quickly. When the batches of pork are done add the oregano and peperoncino, salt…and toss together for 5 minutes. Now deglaze the pan with the White Wine. Blend well. Now Add the Peperonata and mix gently. Let this simmer for 1/2 hour. Done. Basta. Simple. I like serving this with whole small potatoes roasted in Olive Oil, garlic and Rosemary. And some Crostini you’ve dipped into the cooking juices It’s heaven on a plate Mi Amici. Pork and peppers really brings out my Southern Italian Roots. Let’s hope you feel the same! Happy Cooking!!!

CALAMARI FRITTI, ITALIAN AMERICAN FRIED CALAMARI AT HOME

Fried Calamari….tender pieces of Squid lightly coated with a fine dusting of flour or cornmeal or rice flour then quickly fried in very hot oil could be one of the most addictive of all the dishes that came over from the “old country” to the USA. Much of the Mediterranean makes this dish but Italy and Spain I think are where it shines and possibly is most popular. I’ve eaten it all over Italy and in Spain and the difference between ItalianAmerican style and European style is what it’s served with, meaning the dipping sauce. In Spain I’ve had it with a garlic and saffron loaded aioli, amazing. In both Spain and Italy I’ve had it simply with a squeeze of fresh lemon and maybe some sea salt. In ItalianAmerica where Americans LOVE dipping sauces the fried calamari is served with a tomato sauce often loaded with garlic, olive oil and a hefty dose of dried or ground chile peppers. The sauces can be “sweet” (mild), “Medium” (with a kick), or “Hot” (with lots of heat of varying degrees of mouth burn). How do I like my fried calamari? Love the Aioli….love the lemon, but really love a tasty hot tomato sauce with it. Tentacles are separated from the bodies and the cleaned body “tubes” are sliced into rings. Here’s where we may disagree. Often they are cut too wide for me. I like1/8 inch cuts. They cook quicker, there’s more crunch, but again ,that’s just my personal opinion. You cut into the sizes you like. You’re eating it. The coating? Let me start out with what I don’t think it should be, these are not cutlets or chicken fingers. Breadcrumbs are off the table. Beer batter or heavy floury batters also, no thanks. Instead a simple dredge thru a fine milled flour of sorts seems to work the best. You can use sifted All Purpose flour, Tipo 00 Italian flour(superfine), fine ground cornmeal, rice flour, fine semolina flour, even corn starch but that’s a tricky one to work with and I’d advise against it. The oil…MUST BE HOT….and you can use a deep fryer or a heavy high sided pan, like a cast iron pan or a dutch oven. Into it you add Peanut Oil, Corn Oil, Vegetable Oil, you can add a bit of olive for some flavor into any of them. Personally I do not like Canola oil because I get an aftertaste from it but if you don’t have that issue then Canola works too. Lard is a wonderful frying oil but the hardcore porky flavor will completely overtake the gentle nuance of the calamari taste. I vote no on that idea. Sentimentally this is a reminder of my mom’s kitchen on Christmas Eve, that magical night when you waited for Santa AND you ate what seemed like the entire ocean full of Italian seafood. Here’s to you Mom and the meals you made and the tricks you taught me. She’ll always be with me guiding me thru the process and onto the table where my hungry family awaits for one of their most favorite foods. CALAMARI FRITTI!!!

CALAMARI FRITTI TAKES ABOUT 3/4 HOUR SERVES 6

PEANUT, CORN, VEGETABLE , CANOLA OIL

OLIVE OIL

1 1/2 LBS CLEANED SQUID (CALAMARI) WITH TENTACLES SEPARATED, AND THE TUBES CUT INTO RINGS A MIN. OF 1/3 INCH, TO A MAX OF 1/2 INCH

2 CUPS TIPO 00 FLOUR, OR SIFTED ALL PURPOSE, OR 3 PARTS FLOUR TO 1 PART FINE CORNMEAL OR RICE FLOUR…OR ALL FINE CORNMEAL OR RICE FLOUR. THAT’S UP TO YOU. I USE THE TIPO 00 FLOUR.

SEASON THE FLOUR IF YOU LIKE WITH SALT, PEPPER, GRANULATED GARLIC, PAPRIKA OR NOTHING, AGAIN UP TO YOU. I LIKE THE SALT, PEPPER AND PAPRIKA SEASONING IN THE FLOUR

2 CUPS WHOLE MILK

SLICED LEMONS, CHOPPED FRESH ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY FOR GARNISH/FINISHING

SERVE WITH A SIMPLE MARINARA YOU HAVE ON HAND OR MAKE ONE USING LOTS OF PEPERONCINO AND GARLIC.

Place the milk into a large stainless steel mixing bowl. Pat the calamari dry with paper towels and discard the towels. Add the calamari to the milk and blend well. Let this sit for 20 minutes. Pour at least 3 inch of oil into your frying pot/pan and heat over medium heat until you get to 350 degrees F. Have baking trays laid out covered in brown paper bags or layers of paper towels. Remove the calamari in batches from the milk…shake off excess, and dredge in the flour…place into a spider or a strainer with a long handle and then shake off the excess, then into the hot oil . The calamari should dance around the oil quickly…and with move the calamari around the oil, then let it finish frying…takes about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes to get golden and crisp. Remove to the draining sheets immediately. Sprinkle with a little salt. Continue to do this in batches until you are complete. Add more oil as necessary giving time inbetween additions to come back to 350degrees F. The first batch might be darker than the remaining batches. Stick to that time limit. serve in a pile with lemon wedges and chopped parsley leaves. Serve a hot bowl of chile and garlic spiced marinara next to it and enjoy. You’ll be eating them as they are draining. Serve immediately. Enjoy.

STRUFFOLI….FRIED HONEY BALLS FROM MY MOM’S KITCHEN

There is no Christmas Season without Struffoli. That’s that. At least in my home anyway. Struffoli are a holiday treat made during the Christmas season throughout Southern Italy. They go by various names depending on the region, people from in and around Naples called the STRUFFOLI. Further south in Calabria they are Turdilli. In Sicily they go by the term PIGNOLATA. The recipes vary as well. It’s a sort of pastry dough, rolled and cut into small pieces and fried. After that they are given a bath in warm honey mixed with citrus juices, or something alcoholic or toasted nuts, confetti, etc. This dish came right over with the Great Wave of Southern Italianimmigrants in the years from 1890-1940 and has become almost an Icon of the ItalianAmerican Christmas celebration. In Naples there’s a specific traditional recipe but in Italian America there are many versions, styles, types of dough that are used. My mom had 2 recipes she used, the first one is same recipe as the Anginetti (Ciambelline) cookie that i’ve previously blogged. The second one is a close recipe to that and it produces a semi-soft Struffolo. I’m going to blog that one now. The joy of Christmas and the Holiday season is due in large part to the memories created either watching or helping my mom make her annual Italian dishes for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Especially since my parents and grandparents have passed away my siblings and our families keep the recipes alive, get together and recreate most or all of them and have something that no matter what tells us who we are and where we came from. We’ve passed this on to our own children who jump in and look forward to recreating this family recipes. The Struffoli is one of them. Oh don’t ask for an EASY or quick version. It’s time consuming and that’s why you pay up when you buy them at a Bakery. With some Italian Christmas Music on, and a few espresso under your belt you’ll enjoy yourself while you make these. Takes a few hours, how many? I’ve never counted. Do you really need to count when you’re connecting to your past and your present? I don’t think so. Mom never rushed through hers either. Enjoy the process. Merry Christmas!!!

STRUFFOLI , MY MOM’S RECIPE MAKES ABOUT 3 1/2-4 DOZEN

6 EGGS BEATEN IN A BOWL

1 STICK BUTTER SLIGHTLY SOFTENED

1/2 CUP SUGAR

2 1/2-3 CUPS OF SIFTED ALL PURPOSE FLOUR

2 TSPS. BAKING POWDER

1 TSP. VANILLA

1 TSP EACH OF FINELY MINCED LEMON AND ORANGE ZEST

2 TBS. BRANDY, GRAPPA, ORANGE BRANDY, UP TO YOU

1/4 TSP. KOSHER SALT

6 CUPS FRYING OIL

2 CUPS HONEY

1/4 CUP SUGAR

JUICE OF 1 LEMON

JUICE OF 1 ORANGE

CONFETTI (MULTI COLORED NON PAREILS)

TOASTED SLIVERED ALMONDS (optional)

Cream the butter and sugar in a Mixing bowl till light and fluffy. Now add the beaten eggs in a stream as you have the mixer on. When This is all well blended add the vanilla and the zest. Slowly add the flour, baking powder and salt 1/2 cup by 1/2 cup as the mixer is on medium. When it’s well blended and pulls away from the bowl knead it till smooth. Have a well floured surface prepared. Divide the dough into 4 pieces. Then make ropes out of the pieces cutting them into small pieces. Roll each piece into a ball. Continue until all the dough is used up. I place them on parchment paper covered baking sheets.

In a deep fryer or a heavy pot filled with the oil, heat it until it’s at 375 degrees F or when you add a struffolo it does the tarantella in the pot…(ie: i sizzles and turns around and around). Add a few struffoli at a time, like 10-15 and gently move them around with a spider or frying spoon with holes in it. When they are golden brown all around remove and drain on brown paper or paper towels. When you are done, start the honey by simply Heating it on a low flame with the juices and the 1/4 cup sugar. Stir until all the sugar has been disolved. Add the struffoli about 20 at a times and give them a “bath” in the honey. Using a slotted spoon keep basting the struffoli in the honey for about minutes. Pile them up onto a serving tray or bowl. Continue until all the struffoli are piled. Pour the honey over the top and let it rest for about 5 minutes. Then sprinkle with the confetti (and toasted Almonds if using). You can even make small rings out of the batch. Again, up to you. Mine go into a big tin and we pick out of it thru the holidays.

MERRY CHRISTMAS from A FOOD OBSESSION AND FAMILY TO ALL OF YOU!!

PANZAROTTI NAPOLETANI, POTATO CROQUETTES NAPLES STYLE, AS MADE BY MY MOM

PANZAROTTI NAPOLETANI!!  Potato Croquettes made Naples style, Grandma Scaramuzzi and my mom Assunta “Sue”Battaglia’s style could be one of my most favorite foods on Earth!  Grandma Scaramuzzi taught her daughter (my mom) how to make these culinary delights from the city she lived in before she immigrated to Staten Island NYC to marry my grandfather.  Now let’s discuss the word PANZAROTTO/PANZAROTTI (plural) shall we?  In every other part of Italy a Panzarotto is a “pouch” of filled dough.  They are baked or fried and depending on the region will be filled with all sorts of vegetables, cheeses, and meats.  Google PANZAROTTI PUGLIESI and you’ll see what I mean.  But for some reason, and this happens all over Italy one word will have a million different meanings regarding food.  In the language and dialect of Naples Panzarotti means a fried Potato croquette.  Growing up I watched Mom make these and she had a specific way of making them.  First of all they usually were a way of using up leftover mashed potatoes.  Certainly she’d make them on their own as well but NEVER with potatoes cooked the same day.  Something happens to the potatoes when you cook and mash them on day one and on day two form the Panzarotti and fry them.  She had some rules.  Only bits of  diced mozzarella, not too much.  Lots of Pecorino and black pepper in the mix.   Only egg yolks in the mix.  The whites would be for later when breading.  And the breading always PLAIN breadcrumbs, not the Italian Seasoned type.  Are you with me here?  Are you ready to take a stroll down the streets of Napoli and eat the foods that are sold in the Fry shops?  For those who want to be further confused they are also called CROCCHE’ DI PATATE and if you go to Sicily, they are called CAZZILLI where they can be either fried without the breading or with the breading.  Confused yet?  Don’t be…Italian and Italianamerican cuisine has lots of variations, twists and turns.  Whenever I decide to blog a new recipe or a traditional family recipe I do lots of research to see if my family simply creating these rules on their own or if they are following a hallowed ritual.  Happy to report that mostly all the recipes from Napoli I’ve researched dip the floured formed Panzarotti in beaten EGG WHITES and then into PLAIN BREADCRUMBS.  Moral of the story…don’t ever disagree with a Napoletana Mother and Grandmother!!!

PANZAROTTI NAPOLETANA      NAPLES STYLE POTATO CROQUETTES YIELD ABOUT 24

3 LBS RUSSET BAKING POTATOES   PEELED AND CUT INTO QUARTERS

3/4 LB MOZZARELLA DICED SMALL

1/2 TSP. KOSHER SALT

3/4 CUP FRESHLY GRATED PECORINO ROMANO OR PARMIGIANO  (MOM USED THE PECORINO)

1/2 TSP. GROUND BLACK PEPPER

1/4 CUP FINELY MINCED ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY

1 WHOLE EGG AND 2 YOLKS, RESERVING THE EGG WHITES FOR BREADING

1 CUP UNSEASONED ITALIAN BREADCRUMBS

1/2 CUP TIPO 00 FLOUR OR 1/2 CUP SIFTED AP UNBLEACHED FLOUR FOR DREDGING

3 CUPS OLIVE OIL, PEANUT OIL, OR CORN OIL   (WE PAN FRY OURS)

First we make the potatoes.  In a large pot filled with well salted water and bring to a GENTLE boil then simmer for at least 15-20 minutes.  Do not overcook.  When a fork easily pierces the potatoes they are done.  Drain the potatoes and place on a FLAT pan in one layer. Let this cool to room temperature, then  cover with foil and refrigerate for no less than 5 hours, preferably overnight.  Trust me.  Then bring them back to room temperature  and mash or rice them.  Beat the whole egg and yolks.  After you’ve mashed the potatoes, add the eggs, the cheeses, parsley, salt and pepper.  Blend well making sure your mixture isn’t too wet or sticky.  If so a little flour will tighten that up, just a little.  Now form the mix into about 24 equal sized panzarotti.  About 3 1/2-4 inches long in the shape of a cylinder.  Place on a baker’s pan lined with parchment.  Loosely cover and chill for 1/2 hour.  Now set up a station of the flour….then the beaten EGG WHITES…then the breadcrumbs.  Gently dredge the croquettes in the flour,, then into the eggs carefully letting the excess drip off, then into the breadcrumbs, make sure they are completely coated.  Line back up on a parchment paper coated tray.  Heat 3 /4 in of oil till it gets to hot, about 350 degrees F or when you place a cube of bread in it the cube sizzles and starts to brown.   Gently add the croquettes no more than 5-6 at a time DO NOT CROWD THE PAN!!!  Use a heavy high sided wide one.  When one side is done, takes about  2 1/2 minutes or less per side, turn gently. When all golden brown you are done.   Transfer to either a cooking rack or lots of paper towels.  Add more oil and wait between batches to let the oil come up to temperature again.  There’s a nice amount of mozzarella in there so you maybe have a little mozzarella burst thru but if you don’t overfry you should be fine.   

Serve them immediately, or you can reheat them when ready to serve uncovered in a hot oven for only a few minutes.  Here’s some other ingredients you can add….Provolone, thin strips or fine dice of sopressata, dry sausage, salami, prosciutto.  If using the cured meats just a small bit will work and the finer you dice/mince the better.  What a treat to have these on their own in a paper cone from  a Friggitori in Naples or on your own table at home.  Now you’ve made NU BELL PANZAROTT o CROCCHE’.  Eat like a Napoletano!!!

POLPETTE DI PANE, MEATLESS “MEATBALLS”, FROM SOUTHERN ITALY

ragudomenica 012Meatballs, Meatballs, Meatballs…so many kinds, so little time. This post is going to discuss one of the most inventive types of “meatballs”. no meat at all, but a POLPETTE DI PANE, a Bread “Meat”ball.  This is the Southern Italian version but by no means can the Italians lay claim to the bread and egg poached ball.  As you travel in the North of Italy and to the countries of Central Europe you’ll find a thriving kitchen culture of DUMPLINGS of all kinds.  This Southern Italian bread meatball is really a Dumpling.  Dumplings in the central european region often are breadballs poached in a liquid.  What makes these so tasty is that they are the flavors of a southern Italian or ItalianAmerican meatball without the meat.  They make for a nice change, oh I’m not going meatless, but this is just another dish in the vast universe of Italian cuisine and should definitely be tried.  Standard recipes call for Parmigiano-Reggiano.  Not me.  The taste of the cheese gets lost in this dish.  Pecorino Romano is my choice here.  It stands up to the braising and makes the balls taste so amazing.   Simply make your Marinara Sauce as you normally make it.  To make 12 POLPETETE DI PANE follow these instructions:

2 CUPS OF STALE ITALIAN BREAD

1 1/4 CUPS FRESH GRATED PECORINO ROMANO

2 TBS MINCED ITALIAN FLATLEAF PARSLEY

1 CLOVE FINELY MINCED GARLIC

4 LARGE EGGS

1/2 TSP FRESH GROUND BLACK PEPPER

PINCH OF SEA SALT OR KOSHER SALT

Have your medium to large pot of sauce simmering while you make the “meatballs”.  Using a food processor pulverize the bread into crumbs.  Add the cheese, garlic, and parsley and pulse until they are blended.  Add the salt and pepper. Pulse a few times.  The next step needs to be taken care with.  Add the crumb mix to a bowl.  Beat 2 of the eggs and pour into the mixture.  Blend well.  Once that’s well combined, beat a 3d egg and mix in.  Test your mixture now.  Your mixture should be hydrated enough but needs to be firm so you can roll it into balls.  If it’s still too dense, beat the 4th egg and blend.  Conversely if the mixture suddenly becomes too loose, add some dry breadcrumbs till you get it to the right consistency.  WHAT’S THE RIGHT CONSISTENCY???  You can form golf ball size Polpette di Pane without them falling apart or “drooping”.  Line up the balls on a baking tray and chill in the fridge for 10 minutes.  Bring the sauce to a low boil and gently drop the balls into the sauce gingerly stiring so they do not mash or break up.  Let them simmer in the sauce for 20 minutes.  Let them sit in the sauce for at least 1 hour before reheating and serving.  What to serve with them?  well….you can have them as a starter, an antipasto.  OR you can serve them as a side (Italian lesson here…side dishes are called CONTORNI) with a salad, with grilled meats, or vegetables, or a roast.  Be creative.  I like them just on their own with a nice shower of grated Pecorino on top, some fresh basil.  HAPPY COOKING!   BTW, I say it makes 12, but it could be less or more 12 is a good average.