Category Archives: PASTA SAUCES

GET YOUR PASTA ANGRY!!! PASTA ALL’ARRABBIATA!!! PASTA WITH CHILES AND TOMATO

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PASTA ALL’ARRABBIATA…translated it means ANGRY MACARONI.  A descriptive term referring to the spicy heat in the dish from the PEPERONCINO, or dried crushed red chiles that are used all over the world including many regions of Italy.  The dish is said to have originated in Rome and often it’s catalogued in La Cucina Romana (Roman cuisine) but Southern Italy has so many instances of chile-infused oil , or lard based , or tomato based sauces for pasta that it’s really a tough call.  What is generally thought of as the right pasta to serve with Arrabbiata sauce is PENNE, or PENNETTA.  Perfect when some of the tomato and chile flecks get caught inside of the penne.  I also love it with spaghetti…as illustrated in this ridiculous poor quality grainy Selfie..IMG_9327  Don’t be bullied.  Penne is the most popular pasta used  for a reason, it’s just a great match. But Spaghetti and any other pasta you like works too.  Shh..just don’t say that in Italy.  LOL.   In the town of Marigliano outside of Naples in Campania the beginning of July is given over to a Sagra, or a Celebration in honor of PENNETTA ALL’ARRABBIATA.  Imagine?  A feast celebrating a dish of tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, hot peppers and penne? 02-Locandina-01-701x1024This year’s announcement for the Sagra.  Music, Drink and Pennetta All’Arabbiata.  I think I like the sound of this.  The sauce for Arrabbiata, like SO many of Italy’s pasta sauces is a simple affair.  Olive Oil, Chiles, either Fresh or dried, garlic (some use onion), Italian Tomatoes, basil or not..Salt, and Penne. Really. That’s it.  From what my amateur research has gathered, recipes calling themselves “true” Roman recipes all use fresh chopped chiles.  Southern Italian recipes and Italianamerican recipes use Peperoncino, the same pepper,  but dried.  While they may be the same vegetable they do have different tastes.  One imparts a fragrant fresh taste with it’s heat and the other gives a deep earthy flavor and heat.  One day I will try this dish with fresh chiles, for now I use the dried.  While it’s a very quick dish to make the best way to get maximum chile flavor and heat is to slowly “fry” it in the Olive Oil rather than add it to the simmering sauce or only when ready to eat.  For dinner for 4-5 here’s how I do it.

TIME: 1 hour or less                                 SERVES: 4-5

1/2 cup good quality Olive Oil or Extra Virgin, preferably Italian

1 TBS. PEPERONCINO (crushed dried red hot pepper flakes), plus more for serving

2 sliced cloves of Garlic, or 1 small onion finely diced

Kosher Salt

2 28 oz cans SAN MARZANO DOP TOMATOES (or Italian Plums) crushed with your hands

1 pound Penne (I use imported ITalian Pasta )

4 Basil leaves

In a large pan or heavy pot heat the olive oil to medium.  Add the peperoncino and let this sizzle and pop on medium heat for a good 4 minutes.  This releases the oils in the dried peppers and helps to carry all of it’s flavor through the sauce.  Add 1/2 tsp of Kosher Salt.  Add the garlic and  (tricky here) saute’ until you just bring the slices to where they begin to get golden color than add the Tomatoes. Blend well and bring to a boil, then  back down to a simmer.  Allow the sauce to thicken, this will take some time, maybe 1/2 hour.  Then taste for seasoning.  If the sauce is thick enough (not watery) add the basil leaves and stir.  If it needs more time, keep it on low simmer until you get a thicker sauce.  Arrabbiata’s beauty is that it’s not “supposed” to be scorching…unless you want it to be.  At this point you can add more peperoncino to taste.  I find when feeding the family, less is more.  I’ll add more on my dish when I sit down anyway to get it to my heat threshold.  While the sauce is cooking , during the last 10 minutes, make a pound of Penne or Spaghettti till just al dente. Drain and add to the sauce and let it cook in the sauce for only 3 minutes.  Tear in the Basil leaves…mix, taste for seasoning, then serve.

IMG_9328IMG_9329IMG_9332 Dress the pasta with some Grated Pecorino Romano, a drizzle of Olive Oil, and more Peperoncino.  GET ANGRY!!! ARRABBIATA!!!!!  A grating of Pecorino or Parmigiano if you like!  I like.

Here’s a variation…PASTA ALL’ARRABIATA con SPINACI SALTATI.  Saute’ some fresh spinach with garlic and olive oil. Serve on top of the Sauced Pasta.  Then mix it all in after you’ve taken a nice pic for Instagram, Snapchat or Facebook…ok Twitter and Pinterest too. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere’s a tip regarding Italian tomato sauces from South to North…only a handful are more complex requiring a sizable list of ingredients.  The vast majority are but a handful of ingredients.  What makes people NOT angry with this Arrabbiata is that you control your anger..an anger management of sorts  LOL.  The amount of peperoncino heat is up to you but it needs to be more than just a pinch since it’s not just Sugo di Pomodoro or Marinara, but a wake up call for the taste buds..feel the burn!!!  Happy Cooking!!

PASTA alla PANNA WITH BRUSSELS SPROUTS…WITH PANCETTA AND GREEN ONION

1185030_266441590190815_42477728_nBrussels Sprouts are enjoying comeback over the last 10 years.  Once shunned by some home and professional cooks and those they cook for, these colorful little cabbage like marbles came into the own over the last 10 years.  Inventive ways of cooking them or even shaved raw into a slaw or salad they are a fall thru Spring staple.  Hardly an American Thanksgiving table anymore without a home cook’s interesting version of brussels sprouts especially ones that are caramelized with onions and maybe something sweet added.  Popular additions are onions, garlic, various nuts, Balsamic vinegar glaze, cured and/or smoked meats.  They are pan roasted, seared, oven roasted, blanched, oh you get the picture. My sainted Mom, she was an amazing home cook but Brussels Sprouts in the 1960’s home kitchen were a brutal affair and her’s were terrible.  In season she’d buy those nice little pint cups of them and out of season they came in a frozen square block (not even sure that frozen vegetable type is still around) and she would boil them until every article of clothing in the house reeks of the sulfuric cabbage stench.  Some how the cold outside and steam heat from the radiators in our house only intensified that stink in the middle of the winter. The end result were off colored mushy, tasteless, watery disasters.  Dislike.  Now I’m not picking on Mom….Brussels Sprouts and two other dishes out of the tens of thousands she made were the only 3 #fails in her kitchen.  So if she were still here with us I’m sure she’d not be too offended.  For a recent dinner at home for time’s sake I like to add the starch with the vegetable when it makes sense (AFO RULE: NOT EVERY MARRIAGE IS A GOOD ONE!!! I’m talking, in the kitchen of course!).  I had a pint of brussels sprouts, there’s always lots of macaroni in my pantry and there was green onion and pancetta in the fridge. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I used what’s labeled as GNOCCHI, it comes from Italy, dried pasta in 1 lb. It’s perfect for this dish.  Don’t confuse it with the potato or ricotta gnocchi which are totally different.  Medium Shells would be a good substitute if you can’t find the dry pasta Gnocchi.  I looked in the fridge again and saw the Parmigiano-Reggiano and heavy cream.  DONE.  Combine them all into a side dish (which can also be served as a pasta entree).  Let’s cook, enough of my bla bla bla.

PASTA ALLA PANNA (CREAM)  WITH BRUSSELS SPROUTS, PANCETTA AND GREEN ONION

  • 6 ounces PANCETTA, diced fine or thinly sliced and diced
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/4 pounds brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
  • 1  cup homemade or low-sodium /99% fat free chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup DRY WHITE WINE, preferably Italian
  • Coarse orKosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 16oz ( 1 lb) DRY MEDIUM SHELLS or DRY PASTA GNOCCHI (different from the fresh)
  • 1/4 cup HEAVY CREAM, ORGANIC would be best.
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO, have extra on hand for serving
  • 3 thin sliced GREEN ONIONS (SCALLIONS)
  1. Heat a  large skillet over medium heat. Add  1 tbs of the Extra Virgin Olive Oil then then pancetta until crisp, up to 5-7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon transfer to a paper-towel-lined sheet . Add another tbs of oil  to  the bacon fat in skillet  Add the sprouts and  cook, stirring occasionally until  golden Takes  about 3 minutes. Add the stock and season  to taste with salt and pepper. Cook for about 10-12 minutes until all the liquid is pretty much evaporated.  Add the cream and coat the sprouts with it. Cook for 2 minutes.  Remove from heat.

  2. Cook the Dry Gnocchi (Secchi) or shells just till al dente. Drain but reserve 1/8 cup of the salted cooking pasta water.  Add the gnocchi back to the pot.

  3. Stir in sprouts  and cream mixture and  the cheese. Gently blend well.  If too thick add some of the reserved pasta water.  Add the pancetta and 1/2 the green onions and 1 tbs of the olive oil. Gently blend well. Serve with more Green Onion, Black Pepper and Parmigiano on top.

    Makes 4-6 servings for an entree, up to 8 for side dish.  Not too hard right?  Looks and tastes like you put out much more work.  BUON APPETITO….sorry Mom for throwing you under the bus for those nightmarish Brussels Sprouts you use to make. Everything else was amazing!!!

 *gnocchi secchi picture courtesy of Google Images

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

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

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

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

First, the GNUDI

1 CUP  WHOLE MILK RICOTTA, DRAINED

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

1 CUP FRESH GRATED PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO OR GRANA PADANO

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

1 CUP SIFTED ALL PURPOSE FLOUR OR TIPO 00 from ITALY

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

2 TBS UNSALTED BUTTER

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

SAUCE:

1 MEDIUM ONION, DICED FINE

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

2 TBS OF VIN SANTO OR SPANISH SHERRY

1/2 CUP PURE PUMPKIN PUREE (PUMPKIN ONLY)

1/8 CUP RESERVED GNUDI COOKING WATER

2 SAGE LEAVES, WHOLE

FOR GARNISH:

4 CHOPPED FRESH SAGE LEAVES

FRESHLY GRATED PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO OR GRANA PADANO TO TASTE

SLIGHT GRATING OF FRESH NUTMEG AND /OR BLACK PEPPER

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

ANOTHER ITALIAN PASTA SAUCE..FROM BASILICATA,SUGO L’INTOPPO

004There couldn’t be a more appetizing picture for me than a pot of any  of Italy’s many tomato based pasta sauces.  Add a regional spin to them and now I’m even more excited.  Today is Sant’Innocenzo Day383468_3036299628876_1304531591_32215781_825528770_n in my paternal grandfather, INNOCENZO SCARAMUZZI’s Southern Italian town of his birth.  He lived in Grassano, Matera, Basilicata until he immigrated to NYC at the age of 25 in 1915.  What better day than September 22 to share a sauce that comes from his region?  FYI, not sure if he ever made this as Basilicata is a region with 2 provinces, Potenza (West) and Matera (East) and this sauce is made in and around both Provinces. Potenza is probably where it’s native to. It’s called in proper Italian… SUGO L’INTOPPO….in Basilicata or Lucanian dialect it’s called ‘NTRUPPC.  Sidebar here for a second…reasons why Italians are always arguing that THEIR version of any is the right one is because there’s never ONE definition, word, or pronunciation ,let’s just nod our heads and say, “I got it.”  Please do not call it a meat sauce or Bolognese or Ragu’Napoletano because there are many similaries in method and ingredients but there are some differences that make it a wonderfully unique regional sauce.  I will, on this patronal feast day remember my grandfather 156142_2992380330921_1304531591_32200242_158577316_n by blogging a wonderful sauce from his region.  What better way for a grandson who cooks and reveres his grandfather’s memory then to blog a new recipe for you all?  Right?  I thought so…Let’s cook.

 

SUGO L’INTOPPO   or  LU ‘NTROPPC…..SAUCE WITH OBSTACLES or A HITCH…what does that mean?  no idea…i’ll guess maybe all the meats in it are being called obstacles SINCE, most Pasta dishes in Italy serve the meats from their sauce as a secondo. Here the meats are served in the pasta so, they are “obstacles” to the pasta…That’s my thoughts and I’m sticking with them. ENJOY!!

1 1/2 LBS SWEET ITALIAN FENNEL SAUSAGE sliced or removed from their casings

1/2 LB STEW BEEF, MINCED

1/4 LB VEAL STEW, MINCED

6 14 oz CANS OF IMPORTED ITALIAN POMODORINI (most come from Potenza which is probably where this sauce originated), or 3 28 oz Cans of San Marzano DOP tomatoes.

1/4 cup OLIVE OIL

2 DICED MEDIUM ONIONS (Don’t even think of adding garlic)

1 TSP PEPERONCINO (DRIED RED CHILE FLAKES)

SEA SALT

HANDFUL OF FRESH BASIL

In a large heavy stock pot heat a 1/2 the olive oil and sear all the meats until they are nicely browned on all sides. Remove to a bowl or platter and add the rest of the olive oil to the pan.  Add the onions and rapidly stir them around..why?The liquid in the onions will release all the nice caramelized bits from the meats at the bottom of the pan.  It will also give the onions some color and flavor.Add some sea salt and the peperoncino.  Slowly cook this until the onions are soft, NOT BROWNED.  When the onions are soft, should take about 10 minutes…then add the tomatoes.  Stir.  Bring to a boil then add the meats, bring down to a simmer.  Add some basil.  Pinch of salt.  Let this simmer for 3 hours stirring occasionally.  Drop in the remaining basil leaves and let the sauce sit for about 2 hours before using. Done.

Now what pasta is most traditional?  STRASCINATI which you can make or buy in good Italian markets and pork stores.  It’s a flour/semolina and water rustic pasta that resembles a stretched out orecchiette or cavatelli.  BTW, in lieu of STRASCINATI orecchiette or cavatelli are fine .plenty of PECORINO ROMANO over the servings.003The finished dish using STRASCINATI I bought in a local Salumeria (Italian Pork Store).  Fantastic!!!

The recipe yields enough sauce for up to 3 lbs of Pasta.

Enjoy this view I snapped while coming down the road from Grassano in 2008.

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LEFTOVER SPAGHETTI, THIS IS HOW YOU DO IT…PAN FRIED SPAGHETTI

14232416_644181959083441_9086273294542237012_nLeftovers…they CAN be one of your most delicious dishes. Do you ever have leftover sauced Spaghetti? I hope you said yes because If you do not do this already I will now become your new best friend.  Reheating leftover spaghetti in the microwave should be a criminal offense.   Maybe that’s harsh, and….maybe not. The ultimate goal of eating to to keep the body fueled and functioning.  Why make everything quinoa puffs and kale? There’s no shame in making food that tastes exceptional.  Nature gave us taste buds that help us to enjoy    the various foods and dishes that mankind has developed over our history.  A bowl of leftover spaghetti can become an even better dish (and I know you loved it when you made it) the next day, with a little help..and I mean, a little.  First of all, and I do research a dish before I blog my own version of it, you can’t make this fresh.  Food undergoes chemical/physical changes and for some reason, if you fry the spaghetti in a pan after you’ve just cooked the dish is a fail.  Epic fail.  You’ve wasted a pound of good spaghetti. Your spaghetti needs to sit at least one night in the fridge and I think the texture and taste actually get better if you make it a few days after it’s first been made.

Some history…My Mom and countless other  ItalianAmerican mothers or fathers and grandparents have made this for generations.  It’s what we do with our pasta/macaroni leftovers.  Every bite of this dish is a trip back into my childhood kitchen in Staten Island, NYC where my mother reigned as queen of her kitchen.  Ever miss a loved one who has passed on?  Make a dish that connects you to them and you’ll never eat without them ..again!!

So how do you give a “recipe” for a dish that is really already cooked?  here’s how…Simply take your leftover spaghetti and let it come to room temperature.  In a heavy wide cast iron skillet preferably, add 2 tbs of olive oil.  No measurements here because…you’ll never know how much you have, they are leftovers!!! In the pictures on here I used just under 1/2 lb of cooked, sauced left over spaghetti.  Add this to the pan and make sure you hear a strong sizzle. DO NOT MOVE THE SPAGHETTI AROUND!~!  After 6 minutes sprinkle 2 tbs. of PLAIN ITALIAN BREADCRUMBS (no seasoning)over the top…mix that into the spaghetti. Flip the spaghetti and let this cook on that side for 5 minutes or longer, looking at it to see it there’s caramelizing going on. If not, let it be…this dish is not good if it’s simply heated in the pan. You want to see THIS:14202621_644181965750107_7802179799922542959_nsee those spaghetti strands getting toasty?  It’s fantastic.  Side note, do not confuse this with the other very popular Southern Italian or ItalianAmerican FRITTATA DI SPAGHETTI, or Spaghetti Frittata, Spaghetti Pie.  That has eggs beaten into it to create a pie like dish that can be cut into slices.  That’s for another blogpost.  If you have leftover meatballs, by all means, smash them into the pan too…continue to flip this spaghetti until it’s somewhat toasty on all sides.  Easy.  Now…how to serve it?  Grate lots of Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano over it and place a side of Ricotta next to it.  Sprinkle with peperoncino to taste and you are ready to eat.

SIDEBAR:  When saucing the spaghetti  on the day you actually made it DO NOT OVER SAUCE!!! Too much sauce creates a soft less crispy dish.  I know you’re saying you like the extra sauce, but hold off before storing the leftovers in the fridge.  It will never really caramelize if it’s too wet.  Happy Cooking…Happy Eating!

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MARINARA SAUCE 101, MY VERSION

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At the heart of ItalianAmerican cooking are the pasta sauces, the tomato based ones in particular.  Red Gold, this is priceless stuff.  Everyone has their particular style and signature methods of making their pasta sauces so this isn’t a post about what’s right..and what’s wrong.  It’s a guide.  It’s using my style to sauce your pasta, but it’s one particular type.  Italians do not use a single sauce every time they pair pasta with a tomato based sauce.  There’s types with meat, like that one that’s turned into the typical ItalianAmerican Sunday Sauce/Gravy we all love.  Depending on the region the sauces will change and signify a completely new dish.  And then there’s the basic tomato sauce which ALSO will change from region to region, kitchen to kitchen.  This post is a guide for what we Italian Americans call MARINARA SAUCE.  It denotes a light fragrant sauces of tomatoes, aromatics, olive oil and NO MEAT.  On the other side (Italy) it’s referred to as SUGO DI POMODORO.  Marinara in Italy means something to do with the sea, a dish using some type of fish or shellfish..nothing to do with tomatoes.  I suppose the early immigrants used the term Marinara to simply mean a tomato sauce “senza carne”, without meat, like one you could use for fish and seafood.  Drop some lobster, or crabs, or clams, mussels, shrimp or calamari into a Marinara and you have…Frutti di Mare Marinara.  So there’s the connection.  Order something on an Italian menu that says Marinara, it will be a fish/seafood dish of some sort.  By the way, NEVER feel foolish when that happens. How are you supposed to know if you don’t live there and for your whole life you were told Marinara means a meatless tomato sauce??  Just a little tip for traveling or general food knowledge now. ragudomenica 021  No debating or judgements here but but the best advice I can give regarding cooking is that the better the ingredient the better the finished product.  My choice for all my Italian and ItalianAmerican tomato sauces and dishes are the D.O.P. San Marzano imported form the Sarnese-Nocerino area of Campania (Naples) Italy. DOP means the government certified them as genuine.  The cost from 2.89 up to 9.00 depending on which brand you choose.  I’m not married to any brand, as long as I’m satisfied with their taste.  San Marzanos are usually softer (one of the key qualities) than other Plum tomato varieties.  They tend to cook quicker and have more flesh to seed ratio so they are a chef’s choice for sauce for this reason.  Also, they are low in acid and therefore sweeter.  Ok, I love them, I eat them straight out of the can.  Now you know!! LOL.

The other advice I will give is to limit the list of ingredients.  Italian cooking, with some exceptions relies on a handful of ingredients to make a dish.  I’m going to give you my Marinara Sauce recipe, add or subtract if you like, but it’s pretty delicious just as is.  I’m in the less is more when it comes to Italian food.  My sauce is made with the canned DOP San Marzano but you can use a like amount of your homegrown bottled tomatoes.  The most important element of this sauce is the TOMATO. Tomato should be the fresh overriding flavor at all times.  All the other players “support” the lead.  This version of tomato sauce comes from the Napoletana (Naples) tradition.

MARINARA FOR A POUND OF COOKED MACARONI (PASTA)

1 28 oz can of SAN MARZANO D.O.P. TOMATOES (or a good brand of Italian plum tomatoes) termed POMODORI PELATI, or PELATI

1/8 cup EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

3 SLICED FRESH CLOVES OF GARLIC

PINCH OF PEPERONCINO (DRIED CHILE FLAKES, the RED ONES, not A CHIPOTLE TYPE)

1 TEASPOON SEA SALT or KOSHER SALT (or to taste)

6 FRESH BASIL LEAVES OR PINCH OF OREGANO

Use a wide skillet if using 1 can.  For doubling or increasing the amount of sauce you’re making use a sauce pot.  For the one can of tomatoes though a wide skillet works best. Heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the garlic when hot, and sprinkle with 1/2 of the salt.  Add 3 basil leaves, or the oregano, and the peperoncino.  You’re flavoring the base of the sauce.  Crush the tomatoes in the case with your hands (pour into a bowl and crush). After about 1 minute or so, the garlic will have flavored the oil..do not let it brown.  Now add the tomatoes,  Blend well.  Add about 1/4 of an inch of water to the can and swirl it around, then add to the pan.  Bring to a boil then reduce and let it simmer for 20-25 minutes stirring occasionally.  When the sauce is at your preferred consistency  taste for seasoning, add more salt if necessary and the rest of the basil, another pinch of oregano if using oregano. PINCH of oregano is what I mean by the way…so often Italian food gets muddled down in too much oregano…only a small bit between the finger tips is needed. A little goes a long way.  Use either or (basil or oregano). Let the sauce sit off the heat now for about 2 hours. Then reheat and use. Once it’s all at the heated preferred temperature it’s done.  DON’T OVERCOOK THIS!!!  The long simmered sauces are different, not marinara.  Use on your preferred pasta, this is good for 1 lb. of cooked.

Happy Cooking!! BUONA CUCINA!!!

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STUFFED ESCAROLE NAPLES STYLE gone ITALIAN-AMERICAN

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Here is a dish that brings together all the mutlicultural flavors that make up the area of Italy known as Naples.  This city was ruled by the Spanish, the Greeks.the Italians, the French, and others and each group left its mark on the city’s architecture, style, and cuisine.  A land of garden treasures,with the gifts from the sea and the mountains, help make this Italian regional food so full of bold and striking flavors.  One of the most popular vegetables in the area is Escarole..or as it was called in my home, “Scharole'”.It was eaten as a side dish, chopped with garlic and oil, or with anchovies, breadcrumbs, hot pepper, raisin and pignoli. It found its way in many soups, notably the Minestra Maritata( Grandma’s meatball soup), or with beans in the famously popular ‘Scarole and beans…This Baroque filled plate stars all of Naples’ finest ingredients…pecorino romano, garlic, raisin, pignoli, anchovy, San Marzano tomatoes, good olive oil, Gaeta Olives(make sure you are using CURED black olives, not ones packed in brine), ground meat and soaked Italian bread..all served over Naples’  popular Pasta Secca…or dried pasta…in this case,
Ziti.

Start this escarole dish with a cleaned head of ‘scarole.  To accomplish this, you must open the head up without breaking any leaves off.  In a large bowl 1/2 filled with cold water submerge the escarole head stem side up.
For some reason, more so than any other fresh vegetable I have cooked with, escarole captures an ungodly amount of grit, sand, dirt deep within its green and white crevasses.  You must let this sit for 15 minutes, then in a colander, rinse the head under running cold water. Empty the bowl, you will see the sand and dirt in it. Fill it back up 1/2 way, and repeat this process 3 times.  Maybe 4.  Give it a final rinse. Then, in a large pot of salted
water, bring it up to a boil then place the escarole in it stem side up and bring to a low boil.  Cook this for a good
20-25 minutes.

Now let this cool in the colander for about 15 minutes.  While
it is cooling, let’s make the filling…a celebration of Naples’ best ingredients.  The choice of the ground meat is up to you…veal is my preference, then pork, lastly beef.  This dish is called in the Napoletana dialect, I MUCILLI, meaning little kittens and you stuff the whole head in the center with the leaves, then tie it all up.  My version is more like Eastern European Stuffed Cabbage, par cooked leaves, turned into individual rolls that are baked in sauce….but we call it Stuffed “Scharole”..   For 1 head of escarole which makes about 20 bundles, use 1/2 lb.ground meat, 1/3 cup grated Locatelli Romano, 1/8 cup raisins, 1/8 cup pignoli, 1 finely minced garlic clove, 1 tsp.red wine, 2 slices of bread, soaked in water and squeezed dry, 2 eggs, beaten, 1/8 cup chopped pitted Gaeta olives,
1 anchovy filet, 1/8 fresh chopped parsley, 1/2 tsp. dried oregano, and 1/2 tsp. chili pepper flakes, 1/2 tsp. salt.
Mix this all together well and let it sit for 10 minutes.

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you will need 1 lb of cut ZITI, cooked till  al dente. Best to make this after the Stuffed Escarole have finished cooking. While you are waiting for the escarole to relax in it’s sauce, just make the macaroni as normal, drain well, make sure it’s, as always, al dente!

Why are we letting this sit?  Flavor melding, it give a chance for the ingredients to give up some of their essential oils and
makes for a tastier end result.
Now take the cooled head of escarole and hold it by the stem, gently, with a knife, cut around the core to release the leaves.
lay them out on a flat clean surface and add about 1 tbs. of the mixture to the stem end of the leaf, then roll them up tuckingthe sides in on the way.  Lay them into a large oiled deep pan.  Continue till you are done. When you are done rolling the “mucilli” bundles, pour some olive oil over them, then 1/2 cup of white wine or stock, then 2 cans of crushed San Marzano tomatoes.  A little salt, pepper, 1 clove of garlic, a sprinkle of oregano,and a shake to the pan.  Cover and bring it to a boil , then lower to a simmer and let cook for 40 minutes on a lowflame.  This will further soften the escarole and let all the flavors get happy.  You can also bake this in a 350 degrees F oven, tightly covered for 1 hour 15 minutes, just check mid way thru that the liquid isn’t drying out.
The mucilli will soak up some of the sauce,not an overly liquid dish when it’s finished, great concentrated flavors…important tip here…DON’T SERVE IT IMMEDIATELY.
Let it sit for about 15 minutes. Serve 3 of the mucilli over a pasta portion, ziti my preference…that has been tossed withpecorino, olive oil and black pepper…pour some of the tomato over it as well…If you are looking for a more authentic Italian dining experience, dress the pasta with some of the sauce and serve first, then have the stuffed escarole rolls as a “secondo”.  (I will depart from authenticity right here..the dish is much better all served together, imho).

Just an afterthought…the reason I like the veal the best is because it’s so very mild that it really tastes like the sauce through and through and allows the ingredients in the filling to be stars of the show as well.  Purely my taste buds.  Another postscript here…the most “authentic” or traditional stuffed escarole contain no meat..it’s pretty much the same ingrdients I’ve used but..no meat.  Feel free to make them that way for a vegetarian/meatless dish…it’s very delicious either way.  Classify mine Italian-American Napoletana.  There’s a mouthful!!  HappyCooking!!

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