Category Archives: SOUPS

MINESTRONE AL STAGIONE FOR THE COLDER MONTHS, ITALIAN COMFORT FOOD

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MINESTRONE….an Italian word coming from MINESTRA, a type of soup.  The ONE at the end of an Italian word means…This just got BIGGER!  It denotes a larger/bigger version of whatever that word meant before.  Having said all that please enjoy my version of MINESTRONE and realize there is NO ONE RECIPE for this soup.  Like so much of Italy’s and the World’s cuisines the end result is based on what’s available to the cook.    Some historical documentation says that the original MINESTRONE soups were always vegetable based.  Many Italians today still believe that for a Minestrone to truly be what it’s name says, there’s no meat involved.  That line has blurred.  Let’s say Minestrone is most times a vegetarian soup, with some versions having meat in them.  See?  No argument. No debate.  And my version here is NOT MY ONLY VERSION!!! I’m giving you ONE way to make it using lots of seasonal vegetables in the Fall/Winter.  The other “debate” revolves over adding pasta or rice.  Add what you want, that line has blurred as well.  Hardcore “purists” might say no pasta or rice.   And thirdly., the stock used as the base.  Purists and most likely the most original start simply with water.  Modern cooks have so much available to them that Beef, Chicken, Veal, or Vegetable stock is added as the base.  When your vegetables are at the height of their seasons water alone will help carry the flavors.  In this instance again, as you wish…use a meat or vegetable stock, or water.  Each instance will give a different nuance to the soup.  ALL GOOD.  There, no debate who makes the  best, whose recipe is correct, whatever.  It’s food people.  Did you use good ingredients and does it taste delicious?  That’s the heart of a Minestrone.  BTW, i always loved the Progresso Minestrone in a can, yes along with the hundreds of Italian and American soups my mom made while we were growing up we did have Progresso Minestrone and Progresso Chickarina.  Good Memories.  Now, let’s make MINESTRONE STAGIONALE, for the Fall/Winter.   Note:  Cavolo Nero.  Lacinato Kale  It’s one of my favorite vegetables for this soup.  Comes from Central Italy’s TUSCANY. Less “Kale-y” than other types of that vegetable.  More like a Swiss Chard with a little something something going on.  Can be found in many supermarkets and farmers markets in the fall and winter, esp. organic.   A great way to use a “new” vegetable.

MINESTRONE AL STAGIONE

TAKES 3 HOURS             SERVES ABOUT 5

2 1/2 TBS. EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

2 PEELED AND DICED CARROTS

3 STALKS CELERY, CHOPPED, USE THE LEAVES TOO

1 1/2 CUP CHOPPED RIPE TOMATOES, OR 2 CUPS CHOPPED ITALIAN PLUM TOMATOES

2 CUPS CHOPPED CAVOLO NERO (LACINATO KALE) OR DARK GREEN SWISS CHARD

1/2 CUP FINELY CHOPPED SAVOY CABBAGE

1 1/2 CUPS BORLOTTI (OR ANY ITALIAN BEAN OF YOUR CHOICE) BEANS, COOKED AND DRAINED

1 LARGE ONION, SMALL DICE

2 SLICE CLOVES OF GARLIC

4 1/2 CUPS WATER, OR STOCK

4 SMALL REDSKIN POTATOES, DICED

HANDFUL OF CHOPPED PARSLEY AND THYME

1/2 LB ORZO PASTA

KOSHER SALT, BLACK PEPPER

PLENTY OF FRESHLY GRATED PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO OR PECORINO

In a large heavy soup pot or dutch oven, add 2 tbs of the olive oil and heat.  Add the onions, carrots, celery, season with salt and pepper.  Let this saute’ for at least 8 minutes till just starting to soften.  Add all the other vegetables and beans except the potatoes.  Let this all blend together and cook for 10 minutes.  Now add 1/2 the parsley and thyme and all the liquid.  Taste for seasoning. Add more at this point. Bring to a boil. Let this simmer for 1 hour.  Add the potatoes.Check again for seasoning, add more if necessary.  Let cook for 15 minutes on medium boil.  Simmer for 20 minutes.  Bring back to a boil and add the ORZO.  Stir well.  Cook till the pasta has just gotten to al dente. Takes about 13 minutes.  Turn off.  Let it sit for at least 6 hours before reheating and serving.  Just before serving add the remaining chopped fresh herbs.  Serve in bowls with a drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Black pepper, and lots of grated Cheese.   Of course you will not disappoint me and there will be an amazing loaf of Italian bread served along with it.  Some nice Wine or Sparkling water…enjoy.

 

 

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HEARTY SAUSAGE AND CANNELLINI BEANS WITH SPINACH, ITALIAN SALSICCE E FAGIOLI CON SPINACI

fullcamera 490A hearty one pan Italian Stew made with Sweet Italian Sausage, Cannellini Beans and Spinach is just waiting for you to make it.  Read on and I’ll tell you how to create this dish of Italian Comfort Food.  About the most difficult part of this dish is taking the sausage out of the casing.  It’s pretty simple but tastes like you are eating something that took all day to cook.  Pretty cool huh?  SALSICCE E FAGIOLI CON SPINACI, looks better when you say it in Italian.  I can’t tell you how often my mother would pop open a can or two of beans and suddenly the house was filled with amazing aromas and we just couldn’t wait to sit down and enjoy one of the many dishes she created from her kitchen, or from her mother’s.  File this under CAST IRON COOKING (although it’s not a requirement) as it’s one of my favorite cooking pieces to use.  Hold heat.  Evenly cooks.  Durable.  Perfect for this dish or use any other high sided heavy bottomed pan.  Sometimes I sit back and can’t believe all I remember that came out of our kitchen in Staten Island, NYC.  Often I take those memories and dishes and build on them always staying true to the original and respecting it.  So let’s get started on this fairly “quick” dish which draws on my Southern Italian-American roots.

 

TIME:  1 hour 15 minutes                                  SERVES: 4-6

5 SWEET ITALIAN SAUSAGES , slit the skins and remove the meat.  Break it up into a bowl.

2 CANS CANNELLINI BEANS, DRAINED

3 SLICED CLOVES OF GARLIC

3 TBS EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

1/2 TSP PEPERONCINO

KOSHER SALT

1/2 CUP WHITE ITALIAN WINE

1/2 CUP CRUSHED TOMATOES

2 CUPS CHOPPED FRESH SPINACH

PECORINO ROMANO FOR GRATING

See, not too much to worry about here!! Let’s Cook!

 

In a Cast Iron Pan or a high sided heavy bottomed pan add 1 TBS of the Olive Oil.  Heat on medium.  Break up the sausage meat and add to the pan.  Let the sausage meat brown well on all sides by moving it around the pan every 6 minutes or so.  Should take about 15 minutes.  Add an additional TBS of the Olive oil, wait 3 minutes,  and then add the garlic.  Let this saute’ for 2 minutes and then add the wine.  Deglaze the whole pan (LOOK AT THAT BEAUTIFUL GOLDEN SAUCE YOU JUST MADE!! SMELLS GREAT RIGHT??).  Now add the tomato and bring to a boil.  Add the Beans, Mix well and check for seasoning.  Let this cook for 20 minutes.  Chop the spinach and add it at this point.  Stir.  Continue cooking for 20 minutes on low.  Now you’re done.  Check for Seasonings. Cook this dish till it gets to a consistency you like.  It like it when it’s at a thick stew consistency.  Much of that happens if you cook in on one day, and let it cool down and reheat it the next.  Serve the finished hot dish with Pecorino for grating, Extra Olive Oil for Drizzling, and Peperoncino for the spice.  Will last in the fridge up to 3 days.  BUON APPETITO!!! HAPPY COOKING!!! serve this is great bread!!

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.

 

 

 

SHRIMP AND CLAM CHOWDER…SEAFOOD HEAVEN

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A big bowl of warm chowder…works on a dock overlooking the sea in the Summer and it works next to a roaring fireplace in the Winter.  It’s an all seasons food so enjoy this one all through the year.  New England Clam Chowder is just about one of the best things…EVER but this is a little different..it’s a creamy soup with potatoes, vegetables, fresh dill, Hungarian Paprika, Onions, Sherry, Butter, and SHRIMP AND CLAMS.  It’s an elegant dish.  Make it for a fancy dinner or it’s wonderfully casual to..jeans and T-shirt time infront of the TV.  A little bit about some of the ingredients.  If you’re not using dill in some of your cooking, let this start you off.  It’s not just for flavoring pickles.  The Paprika should be SWEET HUNGARIAN.  SZGED is a good brand to look for, most Supermarkets do sell it so I’m not promoting a ridiculously tough ingredient to find.  Why Hungarian?  It’s way more aromatic than the cheaper PAPRIKA that just says PAPRIKA on the label.  There’s also a hot Hungarian paprika, don’t use that one in this.  For the Shrimp, if you can, use Wild Caught U.S.Shrimp and the clams, fresh that are shucked and chopped, liquor reserved.  When these items are not available, find the freshest shrimp you can and use a good prechopped fresh clam or a good canned variety.  Doxsee is generally a safe canned variety.  So, into the kitchen we go to whip up a pot of SHRIMP AND CLAM CHOWDER….you are going to love this.

BTW, don’t think that this is an all day affair….you’re going to be shocked…in an hour you will be enjoying this.

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SERVES: 4                TIME: 1 HOUR, about
3 tablespoons Unsalted butter
1 medium onion, fine dice

1 peeled and diced carrot

2 medium stalks of celery, fine dice
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup Sherry (Harvey’s Bristol Cream is really nice in this!)
2 1/2 cups homemade chicken broth or an organic/fat free low sodium boxed broth
2 tbs. tomato paste

1 1/2 tbs. SWEET HUNGARIAN PAPRIKA

Kosher Salt and black pepper to taste

1/2 tbs Tabasco Sauce or 1/8 tsp. ground cayenne or chiles
2 russet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined, coarsely chopped
18  clams,steams,  shells discarded, clams chopped, liquor reserved or 1 cup chopped clams
1 1/4 cups heavy cream, organic is richest
2 tbs freshly chopped dill

In heavy sauce pan heat the butter.  Add the onions, carrots and celery, pinch of salt and pepper.  Cook this on medium till the vegetables are soft, about 15 minutes, careful not to let them brown. Simply lower the heat if you see any of that happening.clamshrimpchowder 001 Add the 1/2 the dill. Heat for 2 minutes.  Now sprinkle the flour over the softened vegetables.  Add the paprika.  Whisk gently and let this cook until a roux is formed around the vegetables.  Cook an additional 1 minute or so..then add the sherry.  Whisk till blended and bring to a boil.  The whole thing will begin to thicken up. Whisk in the tomato paste.  Then whisk in the tabasco and the chicken stock.  Make sure it’s ALL well blended.  NOW bring this to a boil for 2 minutes..then reduce to a simmer.Let this cook for 10 minutes.  Keep Stirring. Now add the potatoes and cook until they are fork tender, takes at least 10 minutes. Only when you’ve tested the potato and it’s done. then you will whisk in the cream and the paprika.  Add the shrimp and clams with their liquor and simmer this for 6 minutes.  Taste for seasonings.  Adjust.  clamshrimpchowder 003 When the soup is of “chowder” consistency you can shut it off.  Stir in the remaining dill.  Now let it sit for at least 1/2 hour..TIP..make the soup..put it to the back of the stove..serve it an hour after you are done.  Let those flavor marry each other, but certainly, you can eat it before you wait another hour…I like letting it “meld” first.  Another option is to serve each bowl with a small spoonful of sour cream in the middle…ahh very rich, but very delicious.

Serve this with nice soft dinner rolls or biscuits..with sweet butter.

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PASTA E FAGIOLI…PASTA FAZOOL

001 There’s not much for me to say here that you don’t know already..that PASTA E FAGIOLI or the more Italian-American name, PASTA FAZOOL is one of the most Popular dishes from the Italian kitchen.  Let me add that no one’s recipe is the “RIGHT” one, here, or in Italy.   It is a loaded bowl of beans and macaroni, a dish of fuel to keep one going and when researching or learning about Italian cuisine one learns that Italy is 20something regions that are different from each other.  Their locations are varied and can be warm sundrenched seashore to frigid Alpine peaks. Basically the region will absolutely dictate what beans, pasta and other ingredients go into that pot. Let’s complicate this more with personal preferences ,thicker versus more soup-like.  Throw the monkeywrench of the Italian-American cuisine into the pot and now the versions are hybrids of different immigrant Italian styles and American additions.  My bottom line here is to never, never shake your head in disgust at someone’s version of Pasta e Fagioli because it doesn’t match your definition.  No one’s will, however some will probably come close or can even be exacty.  There is NO “authentic” original recipe for this so don’t even look for it.  So what am I blogging about then?  My most basic version to which you can add, subtract, but this is how I generally go about making my PASTA E FAGIOLI.

TIME: 1 1/2-3  hours     SERVES: 6

Let also just start off here saying..type of beans…tomato or not…type of pasta..cured pork or not…all personal preferences.  And here’s another one…this Idea of the al dente pasta and bean soup..again..just my taste so you take it from there…but this is soup, it’s not a plated entree/secondo. Somewhere along the line chefs with some influence decided that a soup should be something ripe with different textures from soft to chewy.  I disagree.  It’s soup.  That level of comfort I derive from it is because soup always had a well cooked load of pasta,meat, vegetables, beans  in it. I really don’t think that the  people we learned these dishes from who would probably be over 100years old now added pasta after the dish was cooked and then served it.  I’d bet more than likely, the pasta was a. cooked in the soup b. cooked separately then added.  but the soup was left to simmer, or sit for a bit,  or for the next day.  I’ll put my blinders up and let you and your tastebuds decide how you want to have your components cooked but i’m in the soft comforting “old school” soup camp.

1/4 finely diced Prosciutto rind or Pancetta

2 tbs. OliveOil

2 stalks small diced Celery

2 peeled carrots, cut into a small dice

2 onions small dice

2 GARLIC cloves, finely minced

Kosher salt

pinch of Peperoncino

pinch of Oregano, Sicilian is best if you can find it

1 lb of cooked beans (cooked yourself OR canned)LIKE Cannellini, Borolotti, Great Northern

1tbs Tomato paste

1 cup Italian Crushed Tomatoes

1/2 lb. cooked Al Dente TUBETTINI OR DITALINI PASTA

1 cup water or stock

OPTIONAL:  small Parmigiano cheese rind

 

In a soup pot…heat the olive oil and prosciutto or pancetta.  Once that’s taken on some color, add the onions, celery and carrots. Saute’ for at least 8 minutes on medium.  Now add the garlic, peperoncino, pinch of salt,oregano.  Let this saute’ for 2 minutes then add the tomato paste.  Stir this as you saute’ for 2 minutes.  Now add the cup of Crushed Italian tomatoes. Bring to a boil.  Now add the cup of stock /water.  Bring to a boil then reduce to simmer.  Add the beans at this point.  Let this simmer for 1/2 hour, stirring frequently. If you are using the Parmigiano rind, add it now before you start to simmer.  When the simmering is done, add the pasta.  Simmer for 10 minutes, then turn it off.  Taste for seasoning. If you are good with it, add a tbs of grated parmigiano or pecorino, a drizzle of olive oil and cover pushing it back on the stove.  Let this sit for at least 3 hours before serving.  Now PAY ATTENTION HERE…look at my picture..this is how it will look.  If you like it more loose, use more stock when creating it.  If you like it more on the creamy/thick side, puree’ 1/8 cup of the beans and stir that in before your simmer it.  Use extra cheese and olive oil AND ground black pepper or peperoncino and a pinch of oregano or a basil leaf (optional) before serving.  Also, TIP/HINT..taste the soup after you let it sit and before serving.  It may need more seasoning.

I like this whole deal better on day 2…just my opinion, now make this yourself and enjoy!!

 

ITALIAN EGG DROP AND SPINACH SOUP…STRACCIATELLA ALLA ROMANA

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Today’s  blogpost will introduce you to a favorite soup of mine, STRACCIATELLA ALLA ROMANA..translated it means Little Rags in the Roman Style.   Some of you may be confused because there’s a gelato flavor called STRACCIATELLA as well, a Vanilla gelato with ribbons of Chocolate throughout the mix.  When the ALLA ROMANA is added be assured it means a delicious rich clear meat  broth to which chopped spinach is added..and THEN, feel the excitement?, a mix of eggs beaten with black pepper and Parmigiano cheese is drizzled into the hot broth while you gently whisk  till the egg and cheese forms pieces/ribbons and then you are done.  The CLASSIC recipe will use a clear strong BEEF or MEAT Stock…Italian-Americans usually use a clear strong Chicken Stock.  Both are delicious.  The tradition of Stracciatella alla Romana was that it is a dish served in the dead of Winter at Christmas time.  In my Italian American home growing up with it’s Napoletana-Basilicata-Sicilian roots this was a common soup that Mom made.  No Roman in our house.  I do remember seeing it on Italian Restaurant menus during the 60’s and 70’s.  It’s not as popular now but when you bring it up when talking Italian foods people do perk up.  I think this falls under that Italian-American Comfort food umbrella, you know, the one where PASTINA resides.  Adding the Spinach might be a very Italian-American touch.  The original is made without it.    More often than not Mom used Grated Locatelli Pecorino for her soup not the usual Parmigiano SO I leave that up to you. Nutty and Mild is the flavor profile for the Parmigiano cheese..and Strong and Salty is the flavor profile of the Pecorino.  What do I like better?  Pecorino.  Don’t let me sway you.  Choose for yourself and make this wonderful soup.  I love when I can introduce people to something that once was so popular and now is…almost gone.  This soup was even served at my high school prom at the Hollywood Terrace in Brooklyn, 1979.  (YES, good food has always existed in Brooklyn, long before it was discovered by hipsters in the 2000’s…lol).  I considered this Italian Egg Drop Soup as opposed to Chinese – American take out EggDrop Soup.   I love them both.   So, ANDIAMO ALLA CUCINA..let’s go into the kitchen!

 

STRACCIATELLA ALLA ROMANA ———TIME:  1/2 HOUR     SERVES: 6

3 QUARTS CLEAR MEAT OR CHICKEN BROTH

2 CUPS FINELY CHOPPED CLEANED BABY SPINACH

3 EGGS

3 TBS. SEMOLINA

1 TSP. FRESHLY GROuND BLACK PEPPER

4 TBS. FRESHLY GRATED PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO or LOCATELLI PECORINO ROMANO

1/4 TSP. GRATED LEMON ZEST (optional, i don’t use it, many recipes do)

PINCH OF GROUND NUTMEG

KOSHER SALT

Heat the BROTH  till boiling then add the SPINACH.   Reduce to medium.   While that is happening beat the eggs with the pepper, nutmeg, semolina,  and cheese.  Then drizzle it into the pot of simmering broth gently and CAREFULLY whisking the egg mixture in.

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Keep whisking until all the eggs have formed the “STRACCI”, or RAGS..the colorful name given to the coagulated egg mixture that looks like torn rags.  Now Stracciatella is very Roman but it’s also made in Le Marche and other Italian regions.  Let the soup cook for 2 minutes longer then turn off the heat.  Season with salt to taste if necessary

Ladle into the 6 bowls and sprinkle with more grated Cheese.   Serve.  Great memories of a soup my Mom used to make.  I add a little peperoncino to mine.

So when planning your Christmas menu remember this fits right in during that week between  Christmas Eve and Santo Stefano.  (Dec.24-26) but why wait?  Make it anytime!

 

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.

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