Category Archives: peas

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.

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FRITTATINE, “SPAGHETTI CROQUETTES” FROM NAPLES, ITALY

frittatine-010Back to Naples for some inspiration and ideas, there is just so much there to choose from that become magic and a feast in your kitchen and dining room.  FRITTATINE is one of those glories of the CUCINA NAPOLETANA.  Basically it is a SPAGHETTI or MACARONI CROQUETTE, the cooked pasta is bound with a BESCIAMELLA Sauce, cheeses, enhanced with vegetables and cured meats, then formed and coated in a light batter and fried. Many versions add a bread crumb coating over the batter.  My version is the breadcrumbed one. Why?  Because anything fried in breadcrumbs usually rocks and it’s SO GOOD with this creamy molten center that you’ll agree after one bite to continue to use the breadcrumb version.  Some background on this treat—-I’m always talking about my strong Napoletana heritage as it’s the city where my maternal grandmother lived for 10 years of her life, from 10 to 20.  The New York City region is heavily influenced in it’s ItalianAmerican culture by the immigrant Napoletani culture and foods, take spaghetti, take Pizza, take Sausage and Peppers, take Mozzarella, take Zeppole…you get the idea. However, FRITTATINE never really made that leap across the Atlantic like many other Napoletana dishes did.  Strange.  Now Potato Croquettes (or as the Napoletane called them PANZAROTTI) definitely made the jump, think of all the restaurants that serve them as a side dish, or how many of our own kitchens recreate that treat.  FRITTATINE? Never heard of them.  Apparently I missed them on a trip to Naples as they are one of the most beloved and popular FRIED SNACKS in the Napoletana Fry shops known as FRIGGITORIE, the best places to sample Naples’ famous street food.  One night in NYC at one of the the new wave of Pizzerias to hit the US, the PIZZERIE NAPOLETANE, pizzerias that adhere to a prescribed formula for making the unique Pizza Napoletana (of which the American NYC Pizza is based on) I encountered FRITTATINE.  Don Antonio by Starita in Manhattan is a palace of simple Napoletana foods and pizza.  A host of other pizzerie have opened in the last 7 years that follow the same certified formula.  I ordered the FRITTATINE and was in love.  Absolutely love croquettes and this creamy macaroni version made me swoon.Of course I needed to recreate them in my own kitchen and here we are.frittatine-008 Aren’t they beautiful?  They taste as good as they look.  Ones containing prosciutto cotto and peas, provolone and spaghetti or bucatini are the most popular.  This is one of those recipes where, AS LONG AS YOU STAY WITHIN WHAT WOULD ORGANICALLY FIT INTO THE RECIPE, you have some wiggle room. Fine dice of cured italian meats….italian greens….italian cheeses…..that’s what’s allowable.  I used Finely chopped chard and sopressata in mine.  Spinach works too.  Provolone, Caciocavallo, Scamorza, PrimoSale, Parmigiano, Mozzarella, Pecorino, Asiago some of the cheeses that work in this.   No balsamic vinegar, sun dried tomatoes, or gorzonzola please, and no chicken.  please. no chicken. One more rule..lol…No dipping sauce.  No side of Marinara.  They are rich and creamy and full of complex textures and flavors..no dipping sauce.  Overkill.  Let’s now fly over to sunny NAPOLI or just stay in your own kitchen and COOK WITH ME!  Time to make the FRITTATINE, translates as small fried things, or Fried Pasta Cakes.  Frittatine sounds best. FREE-TAH-TEEH-NAY.

MAKES: about 20 2 inch Frittatine                                       TIME: cooking and prep: 3 hours

10 tbsp. UNSALTED BUTTER
1 12 cups TIPO 00 FLOUR, or SIFTED ALL PURPOSE FLOUR
4 1/2  cups WHOLE MILK
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 lb. DRIED  IMPORTED FROM ITALY SPAGHETTI OR BUCATINI
4 oz. PROSCIUTTO COTTO, or SALAME or SOPRASSATA, finely diced
8 oz. SMALL DICE OF PROVOLONE, or MOZZARELLA, or SMOKED MOZZARELLA
1/4 CUP FINE CHOPPED BLANCHED SPINACH OR SWISS CHARD, or COOKED PEAS
3 TBS. PARMIGIANO REGGIANO GRATED

 1/8 TSP. FRESHLY GRATED NUTMEG
OLIVE OIL FOR FRYING (or CANOLA, or VEGETABLE, or PEANUT)

2 cups UNSEASONED ITALIAN BREADCRUMBS

Gently melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add 1/2 cup of the flour and while stirring cook for 2 minutes.  Whisk in the milk and bring to a boil, gently whisking (gently or you will splatter the hot milk/flour everywhere).  Once it’s boiling reduce to a simmer and let it cook until thickened, takes about 5 minutes.  Make sure to frequently stir so the flour doesn’t collect on the bottom and scorch.  Now set this aside, cover the pan with plastic wrap.
If using Spaghetti or Bucatini, break them half. Cook the pasta you are using just till al dente according to the package directions.  Drain and shake well to make sure all the water evaporates.  Add all the other ingredients except for the besciamella sauce and the breadcrumbs. Mix with the cooked pasta.  Now pour the sauce over it and mix well.  Press the mixture into a lightly greased baking pan and cover with plastic wrap.  Keep in the Refrigerator for no less than one and 1/2 hours.frittatine-001frittatine-002frittatine-005 You can use a 2 inch round cutter OR do what I did, and hand form about 20 of these frittatine.  Once they are are formed, place back into the fridge for 10 minutes.
 Make the batter by Whisking 1 cup of flours with 1 cup of water to make a batter.  Set aside.  Pull the Frittatine out of the fridge and dip first into the batter, then into the plain breadcrumbs. Line on parchment paper over trays till they are all coated.  Heat a heavy pan or saucepan with 2 1/2 inches of your oil until the thermometer reads 325 degrees F.  Now gently add a few of the frittatine at a time into the pan.  Fry till golden on each side.frittatine-006

When they are golden on both sides and somewhat firm to the touch, drain on paper towels or paper bags or racks.  SERVE immediately..you want them to be very creamy.  frittatine-007

Serve with an Arugula Salad with parmigiano, extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, black pepper and lots of fresh lemon juice.

frittatine-009Seriously, how good do they look???  Make them even smaller for a party appetizer or passed hors d’ouevres.  Just break up the pasta smaller or use small pasta for it

What fun it is to cook with you…..can’t wait to see your FRITTATINE!! BUONA CUCINA!!!

PASTA E PISELLI, ITALIAN-AMERICAN MACARONI AND PEAS..SENTIMENTAL FAVORITE

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

SERVES: 3-4                     TIME: 40 minutes

1 CAN LE SUEUR PEAS AND THEIR LIQUID

1 MEDIUM ONION, DICED

OLIVE OIL

1/2 TSP GROUND BLACK PEPPER

1/4 tsp. KOSHER SALT

PINCH OF OREGANO

1 CAN POMODORINI OR 1 CUP OF CRUSHED ITALIAN/SAN MARZANO TOMATOES

8 OZ. BROKEN SPAGHETTI OR FIDEOS (ALREADY BROKEN SPAGHETTI IN A BOX..AWESOME!)

1/8 CUP WATER

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

pastapiselli 002