Category Archives: Spaghetti

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..

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

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

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

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

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

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SPAGHETTI AL POMODORO E BASILICO…PASTA WITH TOMATO AND BASIL…MY VERSION

003  LA BELLA SPAGHETTI AL POMODORO E BASILICO.  There it is, my version of the Napoletana favorite, a simple plate of Spaghetti or pasta with a simple tomato sauce.  If you find yourself at a high-end Italian restaurant you may be twirling your fork around a $ 24.00 priced portion.  Don’t get me wrong, many of them, like Scott Conant’s version at Scarpetta are very delicious but really, it’s tomatoes, pasta and not much else.  Plus I need more on my plate, the portion is just silly as a main course. Don’t think I mean to imply that Tomato and pasta is solely the domain of the city of Naples, but it is the most emblematic dish of the city along with some other favorites.  As La Bella Sofia Loren once exclaimed..”Everything I have I owe to Spaghetti”.522819_465487016800755_202062273143232_27629574_1336257737_n  I don’t argue with an expert and native!!  So SPAGHETTI, in today’s world we have dried and fresh to choose from.  Choose this…DRIED. Why? It’s way more Napoletana.  The debate over dried being the lesser of the two is nonsense.  They each have their specific uses.  No contests..stop the pasta/macaroni insanity.  Never feel “less than” when you are using dried pasta, especially Spaghetti. This is the most common brand that I use for sheer quality and consistency, DeCECCO from Italy:420125_2681302714175_167925893_n  Does the pasta matter?  Yes, yes it does. Find pastas that are made in Italy, like DeCecco or Delverde just to mention the most popular in the U.S. from Italy.  Yes, there are many (Barilla sold in the U.S. is made here, it’s not exactly the same as it’s counterpart made in Italy.) but generally the cheaper the price per pound the lower the quality.  Lower quality results in a less “toothsome” chew with the pasta.  DeCecco is always spot on for me. Then there are the Italian made Artiginale types of Pasta (Artisanal), made in smaller batches and generally upwards of 4.99 @lb.  They are awesome but not necessary.  Let your economic comfort zone and availability be your guide. Next let’s discuss the tomato…I’m sold on San Marzano tomatoes for this sauce.  They are readily available in most cases and their canned nature makes it an easy delicious choice.  Why are they prized?  Could you not just use another domestic or Italian plum?  Sure you could but as with anything in life nature gave the San Marzano a little more in the all around perfect department.  162885_1500720160349_5853202_n  Things to look for…a DOP on the label, the grown and packed in Italy appearing on the label,  and no ingredients like garlic,onion, etc. Sometimes they do come with a basil leaf, I don’t mind that. They are less acidic (no need to balance with sugar), meatier so they cook into a sauce quicker. Have I sold you yet? LOL.

 

SPAGHETTI AL POMODORO

 

TIME: 30 mintues                              SERVES:  4-6

 

1 28 oz CAN SAN MARZANO TOMATOES CRUSHED WELL WITH YOUR HANDS (ok, take your time here and enjoy the age old practice of crushing “pummurola” with your hands.  Can you use a food processor or blender?  Yes you can but you will break the tomatoes down too much and have a more watery blend, more water, longer cooking)

3 tbs.  EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

3 SLICED CLOVES OF GARLIC (OR 3 WHOLE CLOVES, THE WHOLE CLOVE SAUTEED AND REMOVED IS THE MORE ITALIAN WAY TO COOK THIS)

KOSHER OR COARSE SEA SALT TO TASTE

PINCH OF PEPERONCINO

6 FRESH BASIL LEAVES

1 LB. GOOD QUALITY ITALIAN MADE DRIED SPAGHETTI, COOKED TILL JUST UNDER AL DENTE ACCORDING TO THE PACAKGE DIRECTIONS

1 TBS UNSALTED BUTTER (OPTIONAL)

PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO OR PECORINO ROMANO

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan, add the peperoncino, some salt, and the garlic.  If using sliced let it just get very light golden, then add the tomatoes.  If using whole, let them take on some color, press down gently on them (not too hard, the hot oil will spray back at you)remove them. Add the tomatoes at that point.  Bring to a gentle boil, then reduce to a simmer.  Add 3 basil leaves. 397224_3628916283922_1247137950_n Let this cook down for 20minutes-25 minutes, just until it’s thickened.  While the sauce was cooking you will make the spaghetti till a few minutes under al dente.  Drain, reserving 2 tbs of the cooking water, you may need it.  Add the pasta to the sauce and coat well and let it cook for about 2 minutes, no more.  Remove from the flame.  Add the other basil leaves.  Serve in 5 minutes grating fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano over each serving OR (option 2)…add the butter to the pan and let it melt into the pasta, gently twirling to coat all the spaghetti.  Then serve.

Some will say, no cheese…I say, eat this as you like.  Cheese on mine?  Yes please, I like.

I add the butter finish because many U.S.Restaurants do that and people seem to likeit. How do I like it?  Without the butter, but I leave the butter or not up to your taste.  Now there is much debate over butter or not. Who Am I to argue with Chef Scott Conant who insists on it in his signature Spaghetti al Pomodoro.  However, I’m more in the camp of Rosario Procino, owner of Ribalta, a shrine to the Napoletana style of cooking in NYC.  His view is that butter takes something away from the taste of the tomato.  I think so too.  But, America loves the taste of butter in Tomato sauce so it’s a common and liked taste.    I’m being fair…but you’re not getting it with butter at my table, lol.

 

 

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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