Category Archives: Pasta

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.

PASTA ALLO SCARPARIELLO SALERNO STYLE, PASTA WITH A TOMATO, OLIVE OIL, ONION, BASIL, PEPERONCINO AND SAUSAGE SAUCE WITH PARMIGIANO AND PECORINO

Never stop learning. Never stop looking for new ideas from traditional places. I’m always reading and learning about the World’s cuisines.. IT’S SO BIG how could you not? I’m terribly obsession (hence my on line name) with everything about food, especially Italian. One of the points I try politely to get across to people on line who follow me is that what was made in your family’s kitchens is never indicative of the entire scope of a country’s cuisine. Italian cuisine is no different. Case in point, ALLO SCARPARIELLO. Now here’s where Italian cuisine gets confusing, especially for ITalian Americans as we have our own nomenclature for certain dishes in both Italian and ITalianAmerican food traditions. SCARPARIELLO at its heart is a Napoletana word that means pertaining to a Shoemaker. In ItalianAmerica it’s a name given to a baked or sauteed and braised Chicken dish with wine, garlic, onion, peppers, onions, potatoes, sausage…any or all of those ingredient. There no “one” Chicken Scarpariello. In Italy Scarpariello is a sauce for Pasta that was created in Naples. Originally it was leftover Sunday Sauce that no longer had any meat in it as the week went on. To make a quick meal for the shoemakers they would cook pasta in the leftover sauce and then add a very generous amount of grated cheese to it compensating for the lack of meat. Another legend is that since so many of the Shoemaker’s customers were quite poor they would pay in Cheese instead of money. Are those great reasons to want to make this dish in your home? But I have more little info for you. As is the case in ITaly and NEVER argue with an ITalian about food, there are withiin the same region different stylesof Pasta Allo Scarpariello. How’s that? In Napoli it’s the basic…a sauce of Datterini or Cherry tomatoes melted down in olive oil or lard, garlic, peperoncino, the hot pasta is finished in the sauce along with a hefty amount of grated PARMIGIANO and PECORINO. After a little cooking time it’s served with lots of fresh basil around the plate. Go only about 1 hour and 1/4 East of Naples to the city of Benevento. There Pasta Allo Scarpariello has the addition of a little Cream at the end. Drive 45 minutes south from Napoli to the city of Salerno and you’ll find the same sauce as Naples but with fresh sausages, either whole or crumbled. This post will show you how to cook the one with Sausage from Salerno. I know you’re going to like this!! In Napoli Garlic goes in the sauce, for this Salerno version with Sausage, red onion is used.

PASTA ALLO SCARPARIELLO TIME: 1 HOUR SERVES:4

1 lb PASTA (THE TRADITIONAL SHAPES ARE PACCHERI, which i used, SPAGHETTI, BUCATINI, FUSILLI) COOKED AL DENTE ACCORDING TO THE PACKAGE

1 1/2 LBS CHERRY TOMATOES, SLICED

3 TBS EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

3 FRESH SWEET FENNEL ITALIAN SAUSAGES, REMOVE THE MEAT FROM THE CASINGS

1 MEDIUM SLICED RED ONION

1/2 TBS PEPERONCINO

1/2 CUP OF MIXED GRATED PARMIGIANO AND PECORINO ROMANO CHEESE, EQUAL AMOUNTS OF BOTH MIXED TOGETHER.

6 BASIL LEAVES

SEA SALT

In a large heavy pan heat 1 tbs. of the Extra Virgin Olive oil…(the most authentic recipes used the same amount of Lard for this). Then add the sausage meat, peperoncino and let this cook until the sausage is no longer red. Add the onion and when the pan is fragrant, add another tbs of olive oil and cook until the onions are soft. Add the tomatoes, pinch of salt, and toss the tomatoes in the sausage, onions, and olive oil. Then reduce to a simmer and COVER the pan. Let this cook for 15 minutes. The tomatoes should melt down into the sausage. While this is happening you will make the Paccheri or Pasta just till al dente. Drain reserving 2 tbs. of the starchy cooking water. Add the pasta to the pan of sauce and mix well. A drizzle of the remaining olive oil then the cheese. Quickly mix the cheese into the pasta and sauce and let this cook for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat…The cheese should make the surface of the pasta a little “creamy”. Now tear up all the basil over the top and serve. That’s it. A more “authentic” version would be to leave the sausage whole but the loose meat really flavors the sauce. ENJOY!!!

PENNE WITH “SICILIAN” SAUCE, U’ CAPULIATU RAGU’

Sicily…a land where so many of our ItalianAmerican food culture comes from. Wonderful dishes from Sicily’s coast and Mountainous inland capture the tastebuds and imaginations of food lovers all over the world. this meat sauce is termed “CAPULIATO or CAPULIATU” which means minced in Sicilian…the tomatoes can be minced, the meats are minced,,the vegetables are minced. Sicilians love peas….they ingeniously combine them in places you might not expect them, like in tomato sauce. My own Sicilian born Paternal Grandmother years ago made her very sweet thick Sicilian sauce with tomatoes, mostly paste, onions, olive oil, potatoes, hard boiled eggs, and PEAS. Peas simmered in a sauce of onions, ground beef and sieved tomatoes are truly a popular style in traditional Sicilian cooking. Here’s my version of the ground meat, peas, onions, and tomato Sicilian pasta sauce. This Ragu’ of minced or chopped meats is often called U’Capuliatu. Let’s “go” to Sicily now and start a pot of U’Capuliatu.

U’ CAPULIATU’ RAGU….SICILIAN MEAT RAGU

1 LB. MINCED OR GROUND BEEF

3/4 LB MINCED OR GROUND VEAL OR PORK

1 28 OZ CAN SAN MARZANO DOP TOMATOES, CRUSHED TILL SMOOTH

1 CAN IMPORTED ITALIAN TOMATO PASTE

SICILIAN EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

1 FINELY MINCED CARROT

1 FINELY MINCED STALK OF CELERY

1 LARGE SIZED ONION, FINELY MINCED

1 CUP WHITE WINE

1 CUP OF WATER

1 CUP FRESH OR FROZEN PEAS

KOSHER OR SEA SALT

FRESH GROUND BLACK PEPPER

FRESHLY GRATED CACIOCAVALLO OR PECORINO ROMANO CHEESE FROM ITALY OR SICILY

3 FRESH BASIL LEAVES

In a large heavy bottomed pot or saucepot heat 2 tbs of olive oil. Add the onions, carrots, and celery. Season with salt and pepper. Don’t rush this step. The vegetables need to “sweat” and give up their flavor to the oil and soften. Saute’ for at least 15-20 minutes making sure the vegetables DO NOT BROWN.Once they are soft add the meats and raise the heat making sure to have the sauteed vegetables well mixed into the meat. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook the meat till nicely browned for at least 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the wine and blend in. Cook until the wine is evaporated then add the paste and the water. Bring to a boil and blend well. Let cook for 5 minutes, then add the Tomato and 1 basil leaf. Bring to a boil and then to a simmer. Let this simmer for 30 minutes stirring occasionally. Add the peas and the remaining basil. Season with salt and pepper as needed. Cook on low for 1 1/2 hours. Let this sit overnight before using. Reheat gently and toss with pasta of your choice….I love it with Penne Rigati or Rigatoni…Toss the al dente pasta in the hot Ragu’ and then add 1/2 cup of grated CACIOCAVALLO or PECORINO to the pan, a drizzle of Sicilian Olive Oil, and blend in. Add more cheese to taste. ENJOY!!

Now here’s a bit more on the CAPULIATU…this is a Recipe for the Capuliatu’ Ragu….the minced meat and tomato sauce. You can make or buy CAPULIATO in Sicily and it’s a chopped dried tomato, garlic, basil, chile pepper and Extra Virgin Oil condimento that is used as is, tossed with cooked pasta and toasted breadcrumbs. My recipe is the Ragu’ Capuliatu…making sure I add this addendum so the SicilianFood Polizie don’t come after me…lol.

RAGU’ BOLOGNESE…this is how I make it

RAGU’ BOLOGNESE is the stuff that heated food debates are made of. A meat and tomato sauce from Bologna, Emilia-Romagna in Northern Italy it’s morphed in many kitchens and restaurants globally as ANY tomato and ground meat sauce for Pasta. Well…..call it what you will but there really is a specific sauce with specific more or less agreed on ingredients that are what Italians know to be RAGU’ BOLOGNESE. There’s even a certified formula for the sauce filed in October of 1982 to preserve the historical food heritage of this beloved dish. Unless it’s this method or ones close to it, it’s not a Bolognese sauce but instead a Meat Sauce with Tomato for pasta. Still very delicious. Still wonderful. But not a Bolognese. At the heart of this is that to be Bolognese you need something to be from Bologna. The close to the original as compiled by people in Bologna, Emilia-Romagna is the one filed in the October. For purposes of this blogpost I’m giving you some food facts and reasons why one is called one thing and something is called another. I realize that after reading this you’re going to simply say, Who cares it’s All Bolognese!! LOL. Whatever. I’m asking though that you try this recipe as I’ve developed it and hope that you enjoy it as yet another sauce to add to your recipe file.

RAGU’ BOLOGNESE

3/4 LB GROUND CHUCK (BEEF)

1/2 POUND DICED PANCETTA

1 MEDIUM ONION, FINELY DICED

1 CELERY STALK, FINELY DICED

1 LARGE CARROT, PEELED AND FINELY DICED

1/2 STICK UNSALTED BUTTER

3/4 CUP DRY WHITE WINE

1/2 CUP HOMEMADE OR LOW SODIUM/NON FAT BEEF STOCK

28 OZ CAN OF IMPORTED ITALIAN PLUM TOMATOES RUN THRU A FOOD MILL OR IN A PROCESSOR TILL SMOOTH, OR USE THE SAME AMOUNT OF PASSATA OR POMI

3/4 CUP OF WHOLE MILK

SALT AND BLACK PEPPER TO TASTE

2 TBS. HEAVY CREAM (OPTIONAL…THE RULE IS, IF USING DRIED PASTA, ADD THE CREAM. IF USING FRESH MADE PASTA, DON’T ADD IT. WHY? THE BOLOGNESE SAID SO THAT’S WHY..LOL)

PARMIGIANO REGGIANO

1 LB TAGLIATELLE OR PAPPARDELLE, COOKED AL DENTE

Using your heaviest saucepan/dutch oven, cook the pancetta on low stirring occasionally for at least 10 minutes. Add the vegetables and the butter, seasoning with salt and pepper and let these cook for at least 10 minutes on low until they are softened. Then add the ground meat, raising the heat to medium. Let the meat mix with the pancetta and vegetables and cook this until the meat has finished browning. At least 10 minutes. Deglaze this pan with the Wine and stir. Cook this down for about 8 minutes, stirring. Add the Tomato and the 1/2 the stock blending well. Cover the pot and leave on simmer for 2 hours checking occasionally. If at any time it’s looking to dry add more stock. After you’ve passed the 2 hour mark uncover and pour in the milk and cook for an additional 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper as needed, your sauce should be thickened and fully cooked. If it’s at all watery continue to simmer for and additional 15-20 minutes. If using the cream add it now and stir into the sauce. Now for optimal flavor do this all a day ahead of making the pasta dish. No crime is committed if you eat it all on the same day but it really does get happier overnight!! When ready to serve…Cook the Pasta according to the package instructions till al dente. Drain…In a wide pan that will accomodate all the pasta add a few ladles of the sauce. Then the pasta. Mix…heat for only 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Grate a nice amount of Parmigiano-Reggiano over the top. Blend in, and then serve. 1 lb of pasta will feed 3-4. I hope I’ve done justice to one of the World’s greatest sauces. Mangiare Bene!!

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.

PASTA CON ZAFFERANO E CAVOLOFIORE..PASTA WITH CAULIFLOWER AND SAFFRON

Long before Cauliflower became a trendy-hipster-carb stand in food it was a real thing. For centuries. Sorry folks, you discovered nothing except that Cauliflower is just versatile and delicious. One of the most ancient ways to eat cauliflower is pairing it with pasta. Doesn’t that usually make everything better? I think so. My DNA is 1/2 Sicilian, both paternal grandparents were born in the Sicilian city of Sciacca on Sicily’s southwestern coast. My love of this vegetable I’m going to say is genetic. Maybe not. Maybe yes. There are many versions of this Sicilian pairing of pasta and Cauliflower most notably with Saffron, Breadcrumbs, Raisins and Pignoli. This version of mine is a little paired back but loaded with flavor. Another thing to note…Sicilian food will contain onion more often than garlic. On this side of the Atlantic garlic was added to many dishes that in Sicily were onion only. Oh they use both, rarely in the same dish and usually onion is the more popular ingredient. SAFFRON, or ZAFFERANO, very Mediterranean. The Sicilians due to the many thundering hoardes of invading nations across the island picked up many food ways from east, west, north, south. Food often is a road map of a country’s past. It’s a fascinating trip if you chose to take it. Makes food even more “delicious” for me knowing why, where, and how it became a defining dish for an area. Let’s make a pasta with a little Sicilian in it. It’s wonderful for Vegetarians too.

YIELDS: about 4 SERVINGS TIME: Approx. 1 hour

1/4 TSP. SAFFRON THREADS

1 CAULIFLOWER HEAD, well trimmed and then cut into smaller florets

3 1/2 TBS. SICILIAN EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL (regular fine if that’s what you have)

1 MEDIUM DICED ONION

1/4 TSP. PEPERONCINO

1 lb PENNE COOKED AL DENTE

1 TBS FRESH SQUEEZE LEMON JUICE

2 TSPS FINE MINCED ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY

SEA SALT

CACIOCAVALLO OR PROVOLONE CHEESE GRATED

Start by soaking the saffron in 2 tbs of hot boiling water. Set to the side. Fill a large pot with water, add plenty of sea salt and bring to the boil. Gently add the Cauliflower florets and cook till tender…around 5-7 minutes.. Remove them with a slotted spoon and place in a colander to drain further. Bring the Cauliflower cooking water back to the boil. In a heavy skillet add 3/4 of the olive oil and when it’s hot add the onion,pinch of sea salt, peperoncino. So many recipe tell you to cook the onions for about 5 minutes, can we talk here? They will still be crispy. Here’s a trick, AFTER about 8 minutes of cooking, add 3 tbs of the cooking water and let this dance around the pan until it’s evaporated. Don’t listen to me here, TASTE one of the onion pieces and LET YOUR MOUTH TELL YOU it’s now soft. It will NEVER take only 5 minutes to break down onions into delicious softness. The water helps the process. Take your time. Now raise the heat and add the cauliflower and let the florets get some color from the pan, then add 1/4 cup of the cooking water and the saffron with its water. Season with more sea salt and cook till the water is almost 3/4 reduced. Meanwhile you will be cooking your penne just until Al Dente in the Cauliflower cooking water. Drain. Add to the pan of cauliflower and mix well. Drizzle more olive oil over it and toss then remove from the heat and add about 1/2 cup of grated Provolone or Caciocavallo, the lemon juice and the parsley. A very pretty and tasty dish. For those who want a little more Sicily in the dish saute’ a few Anchovy fillets with the onions.

PASTA E PATATE…MACARONI AND POTATOES..FROM SOUTHERN ITALIAN ROOTS

batann 001I am determined to never lose those dishes which I loved and learned as a child.  Along with Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches and Hot Dogs, Fried Chicken and Burgers the dishes of the Southern Italian Immigrant kitchen of the late 1890s to 1920s is the single largest pool of dishes I draw on in my own kitchen.  The dishes that Grandma and Grandpa brought with them, the American additions or deletions, how Mom interpreted them, these are the things that shape what happens at my stove. BASTABADANN, say it quickly with a long emphasis on the ANN at the end and now you’re talking like my father.  This blogpost is all about the Southern Italian dish PASTA E PATATE, or Potatoes and Macaroni.  Think Pasta e Fagioli and remove the beans and insert the potatoes.  The typical southern Italian kitchen of those days used what was available in ways to stretch the paltry amounts they had to work with.  Sad premise but as with much of the world’s cuisine extraordinary dishes with very little have been passed down to us.  In 2018’s often misguided food and eating world two hardcore carbohydrates in the same dish can be off putting.  Consider this, these soups or stews if you want to give them a label were not meant to be consumed as part of a larger meal.  They ARE the meal.  Keep an open mind and plan your eating around that and they are not CARB BOMBS.   A little tomato, onion or garlic, olive oil, pasta and potatoes, peperoncino to taste are the whole dealio. To those items I add a seasoning, a pinch of oregano or a basil leaf or two and I love to garnish the finished bowl with pieces of hot cherry peppers packed in vinegar.  Add Pecorino or Parmigiano to that and you have an amazing bowl of food. Some good bread on the side works too but watch for any Food Police that are lurking by.  A few years ago I posted my Pasta e Patate on Facebook and was scolded by someone for over “Carbing” my food.  That person the previous day posted a Tuna with Mayo Sandwich on White Bread (toasted) with a layer of Crushed Potato Chips.  Ahhh…the Food Police.  Watch out for them and ignore them.  Common sense says if you’re eating this many carbohydrates pair it with a good bracing salad of greens and maybe some tomatoes or a side of sauteed greens in garlic and olive oil.  Balance friends not preaching and bad messages.  We will all eat happier that way.  Ok, enough of my preaching and onto the PASTA E PATATE.  One more note..Pasta e Patate has a tradition (not a rule, and not everyone follows it) of using MIXED MACARONI, ie: different shapes.  I like using two together, but they are basically the same shape just in different sizes,  TUBETTI and TUBETTINI, one is bigger than the other.

TIME: about 1 1/2 hour or less                                   SERVES: 4-6

1/4 lb. TUBETTINI

1/2 LB. TUBETTI

1  1/4 LBS. PEELED AND CUBED POTATOES, or COARSELY CHOPPED, up to you.

1 fine diced ONION

1/2 stalk CELERY, fine diced

pinch of OREGANO or a few fresh BASIL LEAVES

3 SPRIGS OF ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY

2 TBS. TOMATO PASTE

3 TBS EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

1 SMALL RIND, PARMIGIANO REGGIANO

KOSHER OR COARSE SEA SALT

PEPERONCINO

3 COARSE CHOPPED HOT VINEGAR CHERRY PEPPERS

PECORINO ROMANO or PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO for grating the finished servings.

Use a large heavy bottomed pot.  Add 2 tbs. of the olive oil and add the onions, a pinch of salt, a pinch of peperoncino and the celery  Saute’ till soft, about 10 minutes on medium to low flame.  Now add the tomato, oregano or basil, parsley, blend, Then add a 2 cups of water.  Bring to a boil and add the potatoes and season with more salt.  Add the Parmigiano Rind if you have it.  Cook these on a low boil.  Keep an eye on this so that the liquid doesn’t completely evaporate, stirring frequently.  If more liquid is needed add it in 1/2 ladle increments. While this is cooking bring a pot of water to the boil, well salted of course and cook the 2 pastas.  When they are just al dente, remove them with a slotted spoon and add to the pot of potatoes.  Mix well.  Add a little olive oil and then check the consistency.  Some like this dish “dry”, some a little thick, and some more soupy.  This is when you add some of that reserved pasta cooking water to achieve your desired texture.  And don’t let the food police tell you your preference is wrong. Throw them out of your kitchen.  This dish is made a million different ways.  Blend the water and then remove from the heat. Important step here. LET IT SIT.  ItalianSoups, maybe soups in general, stews too, get better when they sit for a while, especially over night.  Let it sit for at least 1/2 hour.  (Longer is better but I’m sure you’re hungry by now!!). TASTE THE DISH AT THIS POINT before you reheat. It may need more salt, or add some grated cheese and see how it tastes, More peperoncino, more olive oil.  This is where you learn to not be dependent on a recipe and instead on your cooking intuition.  Serve the Pasta e PAtate in bowls with a drizzle of olive oil, a pinch of peperoncino, let your diners GRATE THEIR OWN CHEESE INTO THE BOWL.  Wow. Done.  Delicious. Ask your diners if they would like some hot vinegar cherry peppers on top.  Don’t assume they will like that. I like that, you may not. Serve the peppers in a bowl on the table next to the cheese!!!  Fantastic.  Buon Appetito!! Happy Cooking!!

 

Works for Vegetarians.  Omit the cheeses and it should work for  Vegan and Plant Based Diet followers.

 

 

 

PASTA ALLA NORCINA

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARich, Earthy, as tan and brown as an Umbrian landscape, I give you Pasta Alla Norcina.  Let me start
by telling you that this was again me playing “CHOPPED” with what was in my refrigerator.  The
entire recipe started with 2 fresh sausages and a container of unsauced leftover Cappellini.  Just  so
you know, Cappellini(Angel Hair)  is not the right pasta for this dish, so, there, now it’s out there and I can’t take it
back.  I will not apologize for this breach of the recipe contract only because the largest breach of
contract comes from not utilizing everything in your refrigerator.  I will give myself points for that one.
The refrigerator also had 1/2 pint of cremini mushrooms that needed my attention and 1/2 cup of
heavy cream that also was screaming to be used.  Everything came together when I remembered the
classic dish (sauce) from Umbria for pasta called NORCINA.  Norcia is a town in Umbria, most
famous for being the birthplace of the brother and sister duo, Benedict and Scholastica, who founded
the Benedictine order of Monks.  The other is the intense food culture which has pigs at it’s center.
So hallowed is the Pig in Norcia that the word NORCINERIA is given to butcher shops where the em-
phasis is on pork, especially sausages.  The other claim to fame are their truffles and mushrooms.
All of these factor heavily in their food ways and this sauce seems to be a real triumph of all those good
things.
Start with the sausage..unlike the Southern Italians, Umbrians do not use fennel in their sausage, just
pork, pork fat, red wine, salt and pepper.  Umbria by the way is a region in Central Italy.It’s sort of a bridge
between the tomato and olive oil South and the butter, cream and polenta filled North.   For Pasta alla
Norcina for 4-6 , you will need 4 links of Italian Sweet Sausage, without Fennel.
Slit the casings with a sharp knife and remove the meat.
In a large wide skillet, heat 2 tbs. of olive oil then add the crumbled sausage meat.    Dice a medium
sized onion and set aside.  Move the sausage around so it doesn’t only brown on one side.  After
10 minutes on medium heat, add the onions, and 3 fresh chopped sage leaves, and 1 tsp. fresh
chopped thyme.  The sausage already is seasoned with salt, so only add a little to season the onions.
Move the onions and sausage around the pan, add 1/2
tsp. of peperoncino and cook this for a good 7 minutes. Chop 6 Cremini or Porcini Mushrooms into
a fine dice and add that to the pan.  Let this saute’ for a good 5 minutes, make sure those mushrooms
are diced finely…or it will throw the cooking of the sauce of…Now add 1 thinly sliced clove of garlic…let
it get fragrant (i love saying that…because it does!!) about 2 minutes.  Now, add 1/2 cup of White Wine,
deglaze the pan all around so all the bits of meat on the bottom.  This is sometimes referred to as the
FOND (that really means the deglazed pan juices, but many use the term to denote the bits that are
caramelized on the bottom of the pan)..regardless of the technical term..it’s a boatload of immense
and deep flavor.  Through out those over salty boullion cubes…this is where you will get concentrated
flavor from.   Make sure you use your wooden spoon or spatula to pull those bits off the bottom and
turn the wine a nice brownish color.  Let the mixture cook on medium for at least another 5 minutes,
or until the onions turn soft and translucent.
Now pour the cream into the pan and stir it around.
Are you noticing that I’m not using any addi-
tional fat like butter, or thickeners like flour to create this cream sauce….??  How can you make such
kitchen magic you say?  Ha…I’m no magician, a full bodied natural product like Heavy Cream and slow
heat will perform that magic for you.  This “trick” I absolutely learned in Italy.  There was something
different in Italy with their cream sauces for pasta..and that something is ..it’s just cream.  Let this
simmer with eh sausage and mushroom mixture and in 20 minutes, it will have reduced considerably
and will have changed into a thick and deep colored sauce.

Now like SO many Italian and homecooking recipes, this Classic will have variations from cook to cook
or chef to chef or family to family.  I researched as much as I could on this sauce and these were the
ingredients that came up the most :  Umbrian sausage, onions, small bit of garlic, olive oil, Heavy Cream,
Parmigiano, mushrooms, wine, sage and/or thyme, a bit of hot dried chile pepper..Truffles showed up
very frequently, but since mushrooms did as well, and I had them I added the mushrooms to my dish…less
frequently, but still common to many recipes was anchovies, peas, parsley, pancetta.  I had some frozen
peas so I thought it would be a nice touch.  For those who are non-pea lovers, omitting this is not a mortal
sin. For those who like peas (I LOVE PEAS!) add 1/4 cup frozen peas into the sauce, just let it simmer for
another 5 minutes, then turn the sauce off.  That’s right..FLAVOR MELDING WILL NOW HAPPEN.  Push
the sauce to the back of the stove while you cook 1 lb. of Penne (most proper for the dish) or Cappellini
as I did here according to the package directions just till al dente (are you sick of me saying that yet? un-
fortunately, that’s too bad, it’s the way macaroni is meant to be eaten, you will not serve mush on my watch).

Isn’t that awesome?  We are
not done yet…drain the pasta and then add it to the pasta and on a low flame, for only about 3 minutes,
warm the pasta in the sauce.
Remove from the heat.  Stop, no eating yet.  Add 1/4 cup of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano to this
masterpiece you just created.  Always add the cheese at the end, especially with a cream sauce.  Mix
well and let this sit for a few minutes so the cheese becomes part of the dish.
Time to eat..for 4-6.  A wonderful dish of pasta and meat for you and your family or friends.  Buon Appetito
from the Umbrian countryside…or New Jersey,

Add a little extra cheese when serving if you like…I like..

TORTELLINI DELLA NONNA, my wife’s version..with Prosciutto Cotto, Peas, Cream, and Parmigiano-Reggiano

dellanonna 006Things go in and out of fashion in all facets of human life.  Music, Clothing, Styles, FOOD, etc.  Some dishes have a white hot flash in the pan #hashtagged Social Media celebrity status life for a few months, years, decades while others are looked back on with a scratch of the head or maybe a sentimental hug.  Where do I place this dish that was one of the most popular ItalianAmerican restaurant dishes in the late 70’s-early 80’s?  TORTELLINI DELLA NONNA.  That era boasted a sauce called DELLA NONNA, which in true Italian fashion can point to 1000 things at the same time.  None of which are even closely related but the name is a term of endearment given by a cook to a dish when it evokes feelings of one’s Nonna, or Grandmother.  The French term many dishes “Gran Mere” in the same way.  Something your Grandmother made, or close to it, however in my case, My Grandmothers were both in Italy (one in Avellino and one in Sicily).  There was no cream saucy pasta being made in their kitchens.  That was restaurant food or the food of Central and Northern Italy.  To them, those regions were the same as saying “Austria,  Norway, or the North Pole”.  dellanonna 006  Even the use of Tortellini was unheard of in my family’s kitchens.  This was a pasta introduced to the ItalianAmericans of southern Italian ancestry via the American Italian restaurant.  Without those “Northern Italian” restaurants introducing these foods and dishes from Italy’s Central and Northern regions unless we travelled there, we’d be unaware of the complete treasures of the full Italian landscape.  So much food, So little time!!  During those years I mentioned one could order these dishes and recipes would be posted in magazines and in cookbooks or written down on a napkin by a cook in a restaurant to diners interested in making the dish at home.  I’m not sure when or how my wife Debi got this recipe.  Did I give it to her?  I can’t take credit for that. She’s not sure but maybe one day we’ll both remember.  She loved the dish, although prefers it with Cappellini.  Me?  I prefer it with Tortellini.  I feel it just married best with that. She enjoys Cappellini with everything.  After 42 years with her I’m not going to change her pasta eating habits no matter how hard I’ve tried. 00 There she is, our little Della Nonna Sauce maker with our two daughters. So consider this recipe a compromise, like any good marriage.  Her sauce with my pasta choice.   I hope you love her recipe for Della Nonna Sauce as much as I love her….and her sauce.

Time: about 1 hour              Serves: 4

 

1 lb. Cheese or Cheese and Spinach Tortellini

2 1/2 TBS. UNSALTED BUTTER

8 OZ. PROSCIUTTO COTTO (COOKED SLICING HAM), DICED SMALL

1 LARGE FINELY DICED SHALLOT

1/8  CUP VERMOUTH

1 1/2 CUPS HEAVY CREAM, ORGANIC WOULD BE OPTIMAL

1 CUP FROZEN PEAS

3 FRESH BASIL LEAVES

KOSHER SALT,  FRESH GROUND BLACK PEPPER

3/4  CUP GRATED PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO OR ASIAGO, GRATE IT FINELY

EXTRA PARMIGIANO/ASIAGO FOR TOPPING

1 LB. TORTELLINI OR TORTELLONI FILLED WITH SPINACH AND RICOTTA OR PROSCIUTTO, COOK TILL AL DENTE.

 

Start with melting the butter in a wide high sided heavy pan/skillet.  Add the shallots and season with some salt and pepper.  Do not let them brown, takes about 2 minutes.  Now add the ham and cook for about 3 minutes, moving the meat around in the pan.  Add the wine and let this cook for 5 minutes.  Now add the heavy cream and gently stir until all is mixed. Add a few basil leaves and the peas.

Let this simmer for 20 minutes stirring frequently.  The sauce “transitions” from a loose liquid into a thicker liquid.   KEEP STIRRING!!  Now add the tortellini and coat well.  Add the grated Parmigiano and blend it into the pasta.  Taste.  If it needs more seasoning, add more cheese, or more salt (never both) and a nice grinding of the pepper.  Blend.  dellanonna 005How does that look?????  And it tastes even better.  Now here’s my style of saucing this pasta, there will not be a pool of sauce in the bottom of the bowl.  I make this like these pastas are made in Italy.  With a wonderful coating of the sauce on the pasta, not enough for the pasta to go swimming.  If you like more “sauce” in your bowl, increase the Heavy cream to 2 full cups.  So if you want my wife to cook for you, this is basically her recipe with a few of my notes thrown in.  Make no mistake, I’m the daily cook in the house, she had zero interest in cooking. Which is another reason why we are together for so long, the kitchen is mine. LOL. When she does decide to cook I enjoy my plate of Tortellini and she enjoys her Angel Hair.  All the ingredients in this dish work well together, like any good marriage.  Happy Cooking.

ZUCCHINI AND SPINACH PASTINA..FROM MY KITCHEN TO YOURS

397224_3628916283922_1247137950_n Stop stressing over what to do with “all those zucchini” your garden is producing.  Remember the Winter will come and you’ll be looking at a bleak frozen patch of ground soon enough wishing Summer’s bounty was still showering you with fresh produce.  I get it though.  Most people have only a few zucchini recipes they use and it could be tiresome eating/cooking the same old same old.  A Food Obsession will help you out.  Zucchini is pretty much a neutral tasting and fairly quick cooking vegetable.  So many possibilities and combinations.  One of my favorites is with pasta.  During a visit to Italy we were served a local pasta with a sauce of Zucchini, Clams, olive oil, basil and garlic.   Amazing.  Hopefully that gives you some ideas to run with besides the usual Fried Zucchini, Zucchini Pie, Zucchini Bread options.  I love it combined with Pastina, the little star shaped pasta that is pure ItalianAmerican comfort food.  Add some fine diced zucchini and spinach to a pot of pastina with butter and grated cheese and you have a delicious dish in front of you. Summer is short so let’s get cooking this dish I created with my ItalianAmerican roots.

TIME:   45 minutes                        SERVES: 6

1 Box (12 oz) PASTINA

6 cups water or chicken stock

1/2 stick unsalted butter

2 cups finely chopped  spinach, Baby spinach is ideal.

2  medium sized  zucchini diced small

2 thin sliced cloves of garlic

Olive oil

1/2 cup Grated Pecorino Romano (Locatelli Brand) or Parmigiano, your choice

 

First make the vegetables.  They will take the longest.  In a heavy pan add some olive oil (about 2 tbs) and bring to medium heat.  Add the zucchini and season with salt. Saute this until the zucchini is soft, stirring occasionally. When the zucchini is soft (about 10 minutes ) add the garlic and continue to cook until fragrant.  Remove from heat.  Move to the back of the stove.

Cook a box of Pastina according to the package directions.  When the Pastina is cooked add the butter and season again with salt and pepper. Blend well.  Add the zucchini and the spinach (yes, add the spinach raw..it will wilt nicely in the hot pastina) and blend well.  Now add the grated cheese.  Blend.  Taste for seasoning.  Serve.  That’s it.  Elevates a pot of pastina to a more substantial meal with good vegetables.

The beauty of this dish comes from the tiny dice and chop of the zucchini and spinach.  My preference is using Pecorino because that’s how I grew up…pastina and every other pasta/macaroni was showered in Pecorino.  Only once in a while would Mom buy Parmigiano.  Harkens back to the cooking traditions of the late 1800’s /early 1900’s in Southern Italy.  Today’s Italy North and South uses Parmigiano in most recipes.  Me, I like to hold onto the tastes of my family’s kitchen.  The choice is up to you.  Enjoy it either way!!  Buona Cucina!!!