Category Archives: SAUCES

SPIEDIES, MARINATED AND GRILLED SKEWERED CUBES OF MEAT FROM NY STATE,ANOTHER ITALIAN AMERICAN CREATION

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WHO LOVES GRILLED MEATS?  I see lots of raised hands out there so this blogpost is just for you.  Ever have a SPIEDIE??  Well it’s time you did and they are extremely easy to make at home.  They are an ItalianAmerican version of a typical skewered meat/poultry dish popular around the world, but in this fashion it’s typical of the Mediterranean version.  SPIEDO is the Italian Word for KITCHEN COOKING SPIT.  italian meats threaded on skewers in some fashion generally take the name Spiedini which has different regionalities to it depending on the location in Italy or Sicily.Maybe you’re familiar with SPIEDINI, the small rolls of filled meat/poultry threaded with onions and bay leaves, sometimes slices of Italian Bread.  Or you’ve probably had the more well known Greek SOUVLAKIA which is REAL close to ItalianAmerican Spiedies with a few less marinade ingredients and the Greeks us TZATZIKI sauce and a Pita.  Spiedies just get more of the marinade on them and can be rolled up into a slice of American White Bread or an Italian long roll.

So what makes these Mediterranean treats ItalianAmerican? Let’s go back to the old country for a moment.  In the ABRUZZO region a popular dish is cubes of marinated skwered lamb called SPIDUCC’..or SPIDDUCCI. In True ITALIAN fashion each section of the ABRUZZO has local terms for this dish.  ARROSTICINI, ‘RUSTELLE, ARRUSTELLE, all pretty much are the same thing.   The term SPIEDIE though is pure ItalianAmerican.   The cubes are marinated in a simple dressing of Olive Oil, Red Wine Vinegar (PUT DOWN THAT BALSAMIC!!! IT COMES FROM UMBRIA NOT THE ABRUZZO!! Lidia Bastianich says it best, foods from an area taste best when you use the ingredients from that area/region. Balsamic while delicious is not a substitute for all vinegar dishes, there, I’ve said it.  I know, in America it’s used on everything.  My purpose in  blogging is to give you the real deal, or close to it.  If you use balsamic, just don’t tell me LOL.), garlic or onion, peperoncino, salt, lemon juice, herbs like mint, oregano, basil, bay.  The lamb cubes would be marinated for as long as possible, threaded onto metal skewers and slow roasted over hot coals.    One of the world’s most popular ways of cooking meats yet still amazing wherever you have it.   The American connection comes in via Ellis Island during the great Italian Immigration from 1880s-1930s.  Many paesani from the Abruzzo settled in the area of Central New York State around Binghamton NY.  As is the norm they brought with them dishes from their homeland and adapted them to the new surroundings.  Lamb was first used but in the USA immigrants found ALL meats were easy to get and well priced so in true American fashion varieties of meats and poultry were used to make these Arrosticini or Spidducci which turned into the ItalianAmerican word, SPIEDIES.  Legend hotly contests who the creator of the first one in a restaurant was and who had the first “sauce” for them, but the Iacovelli family of Endicott, NY near Binghamton  in the 1920’s-1930’s gets the most credit.  Plenty of other stories about who and what but that’s where an Italian regional dish made the jump into ItalianAmerican cuisine.  These SPIEDIES were marinated in the cook’s version of SPIEDIE Sauce, and grilled, then with a piece of American White Bread (see, this is what makes things ItalianAmerican too) you roll the bread around the spiedie and pull it off into the bread.  Instant SPIEDIE SANDWICH. Italian Rolls used also.  Now let’s get your charcoal grill stoked and ready for grilling, or prep that gas grill and get this Summer on the road with a platter of SPIEDIES for your dining pleasure!!!

2 LBS MEDIUM CUBED MEAT/POULTRY..Pork, Lamb, Beef, Chicken, Turkey
1 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 cup LEMON JUICE, not the bottled stuff, use fresh Lemons
1 cup RED WINE VINEGAR
1 TSP PEPERONCINO
3 finely minced GARLIC cloves
2 Bay Leaves
1 TSP CRUMBLED DRIED MINT OR
2 TSPS FRESH MINCED BASIL, not both
1 TSP MINCED FRESH PARSLEY

1 1/2 TSP DRIED OREGANO

you will need to make 2 batches of the marinade.

SALT and BLACK PEPPER, to taste (be generous with it)

LONG HEAVY DUTY WOODEN SKEWERS (soaked overnight in water), or METAL SKEWERS

Double the marinade recipe and blend well.  Let this sit at room temperature for 1 hour.  Now separate in equal amounts.  Cover and reserve one batch for serving with the finished Spiedies.  Add the meat to the other batch and make sure all the cubes are in the marinade.  Add the squeezed cut lemons to the bowl and cover. Marinade in the fridge optimally overnight, or no less than 3 hours. Remove the marinating meat from the fridge and LET IT COME TO ROOM TEMPERATURE.  Thread the cubes on the skewers, depending on the length of them make sure to leave some blank space at the tip and the end of the skewers.  On a well oiled medium heat grill start cooking them lining them up without touching each other and give them at least  7 minutes per side, or more, esp with the chicken/turkey.  You can rotate them a few times to get them more evenly grilled.  Discard the first marinade and use a little of the 2d batch to baste certainly using a new bowl. Keep the rest of the marinade for serving with the finished dish.   Remove the finished Spiedies from the grill and place on a platter. Have the extra Marinade and sliced bread or rolls handy to wrap around the SPIEDIES, PULL OFF, add more marinade and ENJOY.  Makes enough for 6-8 servings.

In the Summer an Annual SPIEDIE FEST is held in Central NY…here’s the link:

https://www.spiediefest.com/

 

Happy Cooking!!!  Oh yes, you can buy Spiedie Sauce already made.  Or not.  Make your own.

 

 

 

 

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CHICKEN CONTADINA, MY VERSION

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALet’s make a chicken dish.  This one is a bona fide Italian dish, and it’s an ItalianAmerican one as well.  Fantastic.  However.  You will probably find a million versions of this  so let me explain what makes a chicken dish “CONTADINA”.  Take the word itself, it means the Farmer’s Wife.  Many Italian dishes are named romantically or literally after the type of person who “invented” the dish.  Invented in quotes because we seldom REALLY know where these dishes actually came from.  Part of the fun with cooking is piece together bits of national tradition and food culture to find a genesis for a dish.  POLLO ALLA CONTADINA is a term used to describe Chicken made in the fashion of a Farmer’s wife or Peasant or Country style.  Cut pieces of whole chicken are seared then simmered with pieces of sausage, onion, herbs, wine, mushrooms, lard (or olive oil), peppers and tomato.  To make it easy, think of this as the famous Chicken Scarpariello with Crushed Tomato added.  Most dishes are interelated.  A specific change creates something new.  I’ve seen recipes for this with cream as well.  I prefer no cream.  My modern version of this dish utilizes Boneless breasts.  Unlike the Farmer’s wife who was chained to her kitchen and home duties all day I’m not, so I often have less cooking time than 10 hours to prep a meal.  You can get this done in under 1 1/2 hours.  Comes out even better when you use boneless thighs with the skin on them but my family isn’t a fan of the dark meat. So I’d be lying if I gave you that recipe…lol.  But feel free to use Bone in /Skin on pieces of chicken or the boneless skin on /skinless thighs instead of the boneless breasts.  Remember, they need longer sear and cooking times so adjust accordingly.  See???  Something for everyone is what A FOOD OBSESSION likes to give you!!  Historically Chicken is not very Italian in the kitchen and the dishes that are traditional usually are whole birds or in pieces because they were old. Old and Stringy, the young chickens were too valuable to eat as they gave eggs to the family with was way more important a food.  And cheap and available to all.  ItalianAmericans created most of the cutlet intense Chicken dishes.  I say that with love, not as it being a bad thing.  It’s wonderful when a cuisine creates a new cuisine.  Honor both!!!   Enough of my babble…time to cook.

TIME:  1 1/2 HOURS                                    SERVES: 4-6

1 1/2 LBS WHOLE BONELESS CHICKEN BREASTS CUT INTO CHUNKS OR STRIPS

1/8 CUP SEASONED FLOUR

OLIVE OIL

1 LB. SWEET ITALIAN FENNEL PORK SAUSAGE

1 DICED ONION

4 SLICED CLOVES OF GARLIC

3/4 LB SLICED OR QUARTERED BUTTON MUSHROOMS

1 SLICED RED PEPPER

1/4 CUP ITALIAN WHITE WINE

1 28 OZ CAN ITALIAN PLUM/SAN MARZANO TOMATOES CRUSHED WITH YOUR HANDS

1/8 CUP WATER OR CHICKEN STOCK

1 BAY LEAF

PINCH FENNEL SEEDS

ENOUGH FRESH THYME OR ROSEMARY TO MAKE 2 TBS. CHOPPED

KOSHER SALT AND FRESH GROUND BLACK PEPPER

Start by lightly seasoning the chicken  then coating it with the flour.   shake off the excess.  In your largest, widest, heaviest pan or Dutch oven, heat 1 tbs. of olive oil and cook the sausage until they are well browned on all sides.  Takes about 10-15 minutes.  Remove the sausage.  Now add more olive oil if necessary and brown the chicken on all sides, in batches if necessary adding more oil as you go (again, if needed).  When done deglaze the pan with the wine scraping up all the delicious bits on the bottom.  Pour this over the sausage you already have put to the side.  Add more olive oil to the pan and saute’ the onions, peppers, and mushrooms, seasoning as you good.  When they are soft (don’t rush it…you want them soft before you go to the next step, give this 15 minutes on medium, stirring or shaking the pan/pot from time to time.). Add the garlic and saute in for 2 minutes then add the tomatoes.  Bring to a boil.  Add 1/2 the chopped herbs and the bay leafand fennel seeds.  Season with salt and pepper.  Now reduce to a simmer.  Add the Sausage, Chicken and all the collected juices.  Add the water/stock.  Let this simmer for 45 minutes and reduce the liquid by almost 3/4.  Stir occasionally, do not cover!!!  You want the liquid to evaporate and leave a deliciously concentrated sauce around the meat and vegetables.  I like to let it almost completely evaporate.  Up to you.  Realize though the longer you cook it the more you need to pay attention since you don’t want to scorch/burn that tomato in the dish.  So many rules  LOL..  Let sit for a bit before serving.   Most of all, enjoy every part of cooking.  Especially the smiles on everyone who is lucky enough to enjoy your meals!  HAPPY COOKING!!

 

 

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.

MEATBALLS WITH A SICILIAN INFLUENCE, CREATING A RECIPE, POLPETTINE IN BIANCO

0041Meatballs….one of those perennial favorites, all kinds, all types, all cuisines.  One of my missions with my food blogging and Social Media posting is that people open their minds to meatballs other than the usual suspects. Oh I’m not saying that your favorites aren’t fantastic but instead I’m saying look beyond the familiar and there’s a world of other types to enjoy.  Standing at my stove last night it was St.Joseph’s Day (Festa di San Giuseppe) which is celebrated with much fervor by Italians, specifically Sicilians.  You see the good San Giuseppe saved Sicily from all sorts of bad things and as most religious legends and traditions  do, there is celebrating on the days these saints are honored.  For Sicily there’s a host of foods, and since March 19 falls during LENT when meat was forbidden to be eaten, all the dishes are meatless, emphasis on seafood and fish.  Confused? Asking yourself, um, then why a meatball post?  BECAUSE.  These are not meatballs for St.Joseph’s day but, as with all recipes, they have a development genesis. Ground chuck in the fridge….one daughter who doesn’t like anchovies in her pasta (which was the one of the St.Joseph’s entrees I made)…killing two birds with one stone meant to have something for my daughter, make meatballs out of that chopped chuck.  Easy. Then the recipe developer in me took over and I paired the Sicilian-ness of the day with my meatballs.  No these aren’t a traditional Sicilian meatballs but, again, recipe development has many influences and the Sicilian holiday gave me the inspiration.  Ground Chuck.  Sicilian Oregano.  Pecorino cheese. Black Pepper.  Eggs. Plain Breadcrumbs. Red Onions. Mix, roll, fry in Sicilian Olive Oil and simmer in a mix of that oil, red onion, basil and Marsala Wine, also from Sicily. Sicily’s cuisine does not always contain garlic, oh yes it’s used but Onion will show up more often.   Originally I was going to use White Wine and I named the dish Polpettini in Bianco.  Instead  I switch last minute to the made in Sicily fortified Marsala.  Still in Bianco because that Italian Culinary term means NO TOMATO.  See, more pearls of Italian culinary wisdom.  You’re Welcome.548528_2971219081903_1304531591_32189688_1417227459_n From my hometown of Staten Island NYC comes this picture courtesy of the Staten Island Advance of the San Giuseppe (St.Joseph’s) Procession.    How does any of this factor into developing a recipe? Again, my opinion only, but a good recipe is developed organically…things that should belong together create a special harmony and when you’re in a certain mindset you become even more creative. E COSI’. Let’s make POLPETTINI IN BIANCO.

TIME: 45 MINUTES                                    YIELDS: 25 WALNUT SIZED MEATBALLS, approx.

 

1 LB. GROUND CHUCK (80% lean, 20% fat)

1 LARGE EGG

3 TBS. FINELY MINCED ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY

1 SMALL CALABRIAN RED ONION OR SHALLOT, finely minced

1/2 TSP SICILIAN DRIED OREGANO rubbed between your hands, or any good dried Oregano

1 TBS SICILIAN EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL or another good Extra Virgin, preferably Italian

1/2 CUP DRY PLAIN BREADCRUMBS moistened (hydrated) with 3 tbs milk or cream

1/2 CUP FRESHLY GRATED CACIOCAVALLO OR PECORINO CHEESE

1/2 TSP SEA SALT

1/2 TSP BLACK PEPPER

2 TBS OLIVE OIL (or use the same you used above)

1/2 CUP MARSALA WINE OR WHITE WINE

1/8 CUP STOCK OR WATER

2 FRESH BASIL LEAVES

In a large bowl beat the egg and add the cheese, breadcrumbs, parsley, oregano, all but 1 tsp of the onion, salt and pepper,the tbs of Extra Virgin Olive oil. When this is well mixed together, add the meat and gently blend till it’s all one mixture. Let this rest for 5 minutes. Form into Walnut sized balls and line on a foil or wax paper or parchment paper covered baking sheet.  In a large wide and heavy skillet heat the 2 TBS of Olive Oil and in batches add the meatballs and let them fry for about 6 minutes,397224_3628916283922_1247137950_n then turn, fry for another 4 minutes.  remove them all to a platter keeping them covered until done.  In the pan add the remaining onion and saute for 3 minutes then add the stock and the Marsala, bring to a boil.  Add the basil leaf then the all the meatballs and reduce to a simmer.  Let this simmer for 15 minutes but stir a few times.  Done.Remove from the flame and  give gentle stir.  Let them sit for 15 minutes…then serve.  Wonderful with roasted potatoes and a green sauteed vegetable.  Enjoy making these PURPETTINE CU’BIANCU….what’s that?  POLPETTINE IN BIANCO in Sicilian.  More fun saying it that way I think.  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 , the wine, 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!!