Tag Archives: PECORINO

TIELLA DI VERDURE NELLO STILE DI PUGLIA. VEGETABLE TIELLA (LAYERED BAKED CASSEROLE) USING THE STYLES OF PUGLIA

LA TIELLA…..La Tiella is a dish used in Southern Italian cooking to bake foods like a layering of seafood, potatoes,rice and vegetable in Puglia or to make a pastry enclosed stuffed pie with various fillings, often seafood in Gaeta. The finished recipes are known as Tiella also. One of my favorites is an All Vegetable and Cheese style made in Puglia. While it’s not as popular as the mussels, potatoes and rice one it certainly is made often and depending on the town or the cook or the season the vegetables and cheeses may vary. This is my version of a vegetable Tiella. Sliced potatoes and vegetables layered with Pecorino and Scamorza cheese, olive oil and parsley, topped with rustic, coarse italian bread cubes with olive oil and cheese create this delicious dish. I don’t have a Tiella pan in my house from Italy, do you? LOL. But…instead I used a 9 inch cake pan. Baking dishes are fine too. The traditional Tiella isn’t very Deep so a cake pan or similar deep baking pan works well. Before you start, since I often FORGET!!!! after I’ve started layering, brush the sides and bottom of the pan with a blend of melted butter and olive oil. Then dust the sides and bottom with fine Italian bread crumbs. This helps create a nice but light crust around the sides and bottom of the finished dish. So many great regional Italian dishes that are relatively unknown away from their places of origin…I really get excited when I’m sharing one with you. Can you feel it? Well, I’m excited to show you…Let’s cook!!

TIELLA DI VERDURE (VEGETABLE TIELLA) FOR 4-6 2 HOURS

INGREDIENTI:

2 POTATOES, PEELED AND SLICED INTO 1/8 INCH SLICES

1 PT. CHERRY OR GRAPE TOMATOES, SLICED

2 MEDIUM ZUCCHINI, SLICED INTO 1/8 INCH SLICED

1 LARGE ONION, SLICED INTO 1/8 INCH SLICES

1/2 LB DICED OR SLICED SCAMORZA OR MOZZARELLA

1/4 CUP GRATED PECORINO ROMANO

OLIVE OIL AS NEEDED

2 TBS OF CHOPPED FRESH ITALIAN PARSLEY

1/4 TSP OF GOOD DRIED OREGANO OR 4 BASIL LEAVES

COARSELY CHOPPED STALE ITALIAN BREAD, ABOUT 1/8 CUP TOSSED WITH A LITTLE OLIVE OIL AND SALT

KOSHER SALT, COARSE GROUND BLACK PEPPER

PREHEAT OVEN to 375 degrees F. Saute’ the onions in a little olive oil and salt until they are wilted. reserve. drizzle more olive oil into the bottom of your baking dish. start with a layer of potatoes. season lightly with salt and pepper, some parsley, some pecorino, and a drizzle of olive oil. add a layer of the onions, then add a layer of tomatoes and some scamorza, oregano or basil, drizzle of olive oil, season with pecorino, salt and pepper, then another layer of potatoes, onions, another of tomatoes then the zucchini doing all the same things you did with the potatoes. When you’ve used up all your vegetables top with the last of the scamorza and pecorino, but then top with the coarse bread. Season that with a little more olive oil and pecorino then TIGHTLY COVER with foil and into the oven for 45-50 minutes. Best to place the baking dish on a baking tray to catch any liquid that drips out. Uncover and bake for addition 10 minutes or until the top is nicely browned. IMPORTANT…resist the tempation to eat it now!!!! Let this sit for at LEAST 20 MINUTES before cutting into it. Trust me. It’s a much better dish AND even better when you make it a day ahead and reheat it the next day. FLAVOR!!!!! a great entree’ or side dish. I like to serve it with grilled fish, fried meatballs, chicken, pork chops..

CONCHIGLIE CON POMODORO, ZUCCHINE E ROSMARINO..PASTA SHELLS WITH TOMATO, ZUCCHINI AND ROSEMARY…

ZUCCHINI!!! I call it a wonder vegetable because I can find a million ways for create a meal around them. In Italy they are known as ZUCCHINE, small squash…in America was spell it ZUCCHINI. Drives Italians nuts but it is what it is, I try to use both spellings so everyone is happy. Isn’t it better to sit a table happy than to be arguing? I think so to. This dish will keep everyone happy. Cooking historically is about what’s convenient and available. I have nice local zucchini I purchased this week from Holmdel NJ’s Dearborn Market ( https://dearbornmarket.com/ ) and have quite a bit of fresh Rosemary that I’m growing in my yard. The kids were home from college for the weekend and wanted Daddy’s Chicken cutlets (seriously, who doesn’t want chicken cutlets??) so I came up with this dish . I used a sprig of fresh rosemary, do not use dried. The taste pairs well with the onions and zucchini in the tomato and wine. It all works. Let’s get into your kitchen and make a pan of this!! BTW, I sauce it like an Italian in Italy sauces it. The pasta will take the whole pan of sauce, try it this way. It’s not a Sunday Sauce/Gravy kind of dish. Time to cook!!

1 14 oz box of Imported Italian Crushed Tomatoes (i used Cirio brand, the plain version not the flavored ones)

2 tbs. extra virgin OLIVE OIL

2 MEDIUM ZUCCHINI, RINSED AND DICED

1 ONION, DICED

SEA SALT

1/4 TSP. PEPERONCINO

1 SPRIG FRESH ROSEMARY

1/8 CUP ITALIAN WHITE WINE

1 LB. MEDIUM SHELLS (CONCHIGLIE) IMPORTED FROM ITALY, COOKED JUST TILL AL DENTE

PECORINO ROMANO

In a large dutch oven or high sided cast iron skillet heat the olive oil. Add the onions and zucchini and peperoncino. Season with salt…blend everything in the pan. Then cover and let cook on medium for 7 minutes. Carefully uncover and stir. Cover again for 5 more minutes. The zucchini and onions should be close to soft by now. Add the sprig of rosemary and deglaze the pan with wine. Cover again for 10 minutes. Uncover and add the tomatoes. Stir. Bring to a boil THEN reduce to a simmer and stir intermittently. Let this simmer for about 20 minutes. Remove the rosemary. Then add the al dente pasta shells to the sauce, make sure they are gently blended into the sauce and well coated. Let this cook for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in about 1/8 cup of freshly grated Pecorino Romano. Let it sit for 5 minutes, then serve. That’s all folks. Enjoy this dish. Zucchini is love.

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

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

PASTA ALLO SCARPARIELLO TIME: 1 HOUR SERVES:4

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

1 1/2 LBS CHERRY TOMATOES, SLICED

3 TBS EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

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

1 MEDIUM SLICED RED ONION

1/2 TBS PEPERONCINO

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

6 BASIL LEAVES

SEA SALT

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

TAGLIATELLE CON CECI, SALSICCE E POMODORO…LONG EGG NOODLES WITH CHICK PEAS, SAUSAGE AND TOMATO

TAGLIATELLE CON CECI, SALSICCE E POMODORO

TAGLIATELLE….long mid-thin ribbons of egg pasta dough made all over Italy, so delicious. I think you’ll love this dish I came up with combining the tagliatelle with delicious ceci (chick peas), sweet Italian fennel sausage meat, and sweet Italian imported tomatoes. Fresh basil, onion, olive oil, a little white wine. Do I have your attention now? Good. I’m really excited to share this one with you and you’ll want to put this into your recipe rotation. Layer of flavors is something many chefs and cooks talk about and I’m a big believer in that method. Part of layering is not rushing everything and adding it all at once. Cooking is chemistry. The amount, the ingredient, the type of cooking method, the length of time, and when to add the next item are CRUCIAL in pulling out the inteded and full flavor you want from your dish. This isn’t a difficult dish, it’s pretty straightforward but you need to pace your process. The pasta of choice is also important. Using a fresh made tagliatelle is optimal, but we all don’t have time as a luxury and certainly there are so many wonderful brands out there you can use an exceptional egg tagliatelle for this dish. That brand is Cav. Giuseppe Cocco. About 10.00 @ lb. for the egg pasta. Big however here, if you can only find a regular supermarket brand of Tagliatelle I suggest you stick with ones from ITaly. If that’s not an option use the best American brand you can find. Please don’t use Store brands or “Cremettes” or Mullers. Thank you. And before you ask, this dish was conceived for Tagliatelle, so your options are Tagliolini, Fettuccine, Linguine, Pappardelle. But if none of those are available, use what you like. Of course I think i’m developing something unique and original but like most recipes, if you know the basic and many of the food traditions of a cuisine chances are someone else has made a similar version long before you did. There are examples of Pasta with tomato, chick peas and sausage in Italy so I’m keeping this one with an ITALIAN label on it rather than ITalianAmerican. Us Italians/ItalianAmericans, we love the pasta/bean combo. For those who are carb-averse, simply move on..lol.

SERVES: 4-6 TIME: PREP AND COOKING, 1:15 HOUR APPROX.

1 LB. LOOSE SWEET ITALIAN FENNEL SAUSAGE MEAT.

1 MEDIUM ONION, DICED SMALL

1/8 CUP DRY ITALIAN WHITE WINE

2 TBS. OLIVE OIL

SMALL HANDFUL OF FRESH BASIL LEAVES

1 CUP COOKED CHICK PEAS (CECI)

1 28 OZ CAN SAN MARZANO DOP TOMATOES OR OTHER IMPORTED ITALIAN PLUM TOMATOES (KNOWN AS POMODORI PELATI ITALIANI)

SALT, BLACK PEPPER TO TASTE

1 LB EGG TAGLIATELLE COOKED TO AL DENTE RIGHT BEFORE SAUCE IS DONE

PECORINO ROMANO, GRATED, TO TASTE

LET’S COOK!!

In a heavy wide pan, like a cast iron or a dutch oven, add 1 tbs of olive oil and heat. Add the onions. Season with salt and pepper and let them cook for 10 minutes..stir frequently so they don’t brown. Add the sausage meat and let this cook still the meat has browned, taked about 10 more minutes…add some of the basil and then the wine deglazing the pan and pulling up the bits from the bottom. Bring to a boil then reduce. Add the Chick peas. Let this cook until most of the liquid has evaporated. Crush the tomatoes with your hands in a bowl. Then add to the sausage, onions, and ceci Blend well. Bring to a bowl then reduce. Let this cook on simmer for 1/2 hour. Towards the end of that cooking time make your tagliatelle. Taste the sauce for seasoning. Make any adjustments you need. When the tagliatelle is al dente drain and add to the sauce and cook in the sauce for 1 1/2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Drizzle with olive oil and tear in more fresh basil. Mix… Then add about 2 1/2 tbs of Grated Cheese, mix. Now serve with more grated cheese and cracked black pepper on the side. A delicious Pasta dish.

ANOTHER ITALIAN PASTA SAUCE..FROM BASILICATA,SUGO L’INTOPPO

004There couldn’t be a more appetizing picture for me than a pot of any  of Italy’s many tomato based pasta sauces.  Add a regional spin to them and now I’m even more excited.  Today is Sant’Innocenzo Day383468_3036299628876_1304531591_32215781_825528770_n in my paternal grandfather, INNOCENZO SCARAMUZZI’s Southern Italian town of his birth.  He lived in Grassano, Matera, Basilicata until he immigrated to NYC at the age of 25 in 1915.  What better day than September 22 to share a sauce that comes from his region?  FYI, not sure if he ever made this as Basilicata is a region with 2 provinces, Potenza (West) and Matera (East) and this sauce is made in and around both Provinces. Potenza is probably where it’s native to. It’s called in proper Italian… SUGO L’INTOPPO….in Basilicata or Lucanian dialect it’s called ‘NTRUPPC.  Sidebar here for a second…reasons why Italians are always arguing that THEIR version of any is the right one is because there’s never ONE definition, word, or pronunciation ,let’s just nod our heads and say, “I got it.”  Please do not call it a meat sauce or Bolognese or Ragu’Napoletano because there are many similaries in method and ingredients but there are some differences that make it a wonderfully unique regional sauce.  I will, on this patronal feast day remember my grandfather 156142_2992380330921_1304531591_32200242_158577316_n by blogging a wonderful sauce from his region.  What better way for a grandson who cooks and reveres his grandfather’s memory then to blog a new recipe for you all?  Right?  I thought so…Let’s cook.

 

SUGO L’INTOPPO   or  LU ‘NTROPPC…..SAUCE WITH OBSTACLES or A HITCH…what does that mean?  no idea…i’ll guess maybe all the meats in it are being called obstacles SINCE, most Pasta dishes in Italy serve the meats from their sauce as a secondo. Here the meats are served in the pasta so, they are “obstacles” to the pasta…That’s my thoughts and I’m sticking with them. ENJOY!!

1 1/2 LBS SWEET ITALIAN FENNEL SAUSAGE sliced or removed from their casings

1/2 LB STEW BEEF, MINCED

1/4 LB VEAL STEW, MINCED

6 14 oz CANS OF IMPORTED ITALIAN POMODORINI (most come from Potenza which is probably where this sauce originated), or 3 28 oz Cans of San Marzano DOP tomatoes.

1/4 cup OLIVE OIL

2 DICED MEDIUM ONIONS (Don’t even think of adding garlic)

1 TSP PEPERONCINO (DRIED RED CHILE FLAKES)

SEA SALT

HANDFUL OF FRESH BASIL

In a large heavy stock pot heat a 1/2 the olive oil and sear all the meats until they are nicely browned on all sides. Remove to a bowl or platter and add the rest of the olive oil to the pan.  Add the onions and rapidly stir them around..why?The liquid in the onions will release all the nice caramelized bits from the meats at the bottom of the pan.  It will also give the onions some color and flavor.Add some sea salt and the peperoncino.  Slowly cook this until the onions are soft, NOT BROWNED.  When the onions are soft, should take about 10 minutes…then add the tomatoes.  Stir.  Bring to a boil then add the meats, bring down to a simmer.  Add some basil.  Pinch of salt.  Let this simmer for 3 hours stirring occasionally.  Drop in the remaining basil leaves and let the sauce sit for about 2 hours before using. Done.

Now what pasta is most traditional?  STRASCINATI which you can make or buy in good Italian markets and pork stores.  It’s a flour/semolina and water rustic pasta that resembles a stretched out orecchiette or cavatelli.  BTW, in lieu of STRASCINATI orecchiette or cavatelli are fine .plenty of PECORINO ROMANO over the servings.003The finished dish using STRASCINATI I bought in a local Salumeria (Italian Pork Store).  Fantastic!!!

The recipe yields enough sauce for up to 3 lbs of Pasta.

Enjoy this view I snapped while coming down the road from Grassano in 2008.

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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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STUFFED ESCAROLE NAPLES STYLE gone ITALIAN-AMERICAN

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Here is a dish that brings together all the mutlicultural flavors that make up the area of Italy known as Naples.  This city was ruled by the Spanish, the Greeks.the Italians, the French, and others and each group left its mark on the city’s architecture, style, and cuisine.  A land of garden treasures,with the gifts from the sea and the mountains, help make this Italian regional food so full of bold and striking flavors.  One of the most popular vegetables in the area is Escarole..or as it was called in my home, “Scharole'”.It was eaten as a side dish, chopped with garlic and oil, or with anchovies, breadcrumbs, hot pepper, raisin and pignoli. It found its way in many soups, notably the Minestra Maritata( Grandma’s meatball soup), or with beans in the famously popular ‘Scarole and beans…This Baroque filled plate stars all of Naples’ finest ingredients…pecorino romano, garlic, raisin, pignoli, anchovy, San Marzano tomatoes, good olive oil, Gaeta Olives(make sure you are using CURED black olives, not ones packed in brine), ground meat and soaked Italian bread..all served over Naples’  popular Pasta Secca…or dried pasta…in this case,
Ziti.

Start this escarole dish with a cleaned head of ‘scarole.  To accomplish this, you must open the head up without breaking any leaves off.  In a large bowl 1/2 filled with cold water submerge the escarole head stem side up.
For some reason, more so than any other fresh vegetable I have cooked with, escarole captures an ungodly amount of grit, sand, dirt deep within its green and white crevasses.  You must let this sit for 15 minutes, then in a colander, rinse the head under running cold water. Empty the bowl, you will see the sand and dirt in it. Fill it back up 1/2 way, and repeat this process 3 times.  Maybe 4.  Give it a final rinse. Then, in a large pot of salted
water, bring it up to a boil then place the escarole in it stem side up and bring to a low boil.  Cook this for a good
20-25 minutes.

Now let this cool in the colander for about 15 minutes.  While
it is cooling, let’s make the filling…a celebration of Naples’ best ingredients.  The choice of the ground meat is up to you…veal is my preference, then pork, lastly beef.  This dish is called in the Napoletana dialect, I MUCILLI, meaning little kittens and you stuff the whole head in the center with the leaves, then tie it all up.  My version is more like Eastern European Stuffed Cabbage, par cooked leaves, turned into individual rolls that are baked in sauce….but we call it Stuffed “Scharole”..   For 1 head of escarole which makes about 20 bundles, use 1/2 lb.ground meat, 1/3 cup grated Locatelli Romano, 1/8 cup raisins, 1/8 cup pignoli, 1 finely minced garlic clove, 1 tsp.red wine, 2 slices of bread, soaked in water and squeezed dry, 2 eggs, beaten, 1/8 cup chopped pitted Gaeta olives,
1 anchovy filet, 1/8 fresh chopped parsley, 1/2 tsp. dried oregano, and 1/2 tsp. chili pepper flakes, 1/2 tsp. salt.
Mix this all together well and let it sit for 10 minutes.

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you will need 1 lb of cut ZITI, cooked till  al dente. Best to make this after the Stuffed Escarole have finished cooking. While you are waiting for the escarole to relax in it’s sauce, just make the macaroni as normal, drain well, make sure it’s, as always, al dente!

Why are we letting this sit?  Flavor melding, it give a chance for the ingredients to give up some of their essential oils and
makes for a tastier end result.
Now take the cooled head of escarole and hold it by the stem, gently, with a knife, cut around the core to release the leaves.
lay them out on a flat clean surface and add about 1 tbs. of the mixture to the stem end of the leaf, then roll them up tuckingthe sides in on the way.  Lay them into a large oiled deep pan.  Continue till you are done. When you are done rolling the “mucilli” bundles, pour some olive oil over them, then 1/2 cup of white wine or stock, then 2 cans of crushed San Marzano tomatoes.  A little salt, pepper, 1 clove of garlic, a sprinkle of oregano,and a shake to the pan.  Cover and bring it to a boil , then lower to a simmer and let cook for 40 minutes on a lowflame.  This will further soften the escarole and let all the flavors get happy.  You can also bake this in a 350 degrees F oven, tightly covered for 1 hour 15 minutes, just check mid way thru that the liquid isn’t drying out.
The mucilli will soak up some of the sauce,not an overly liquid dish when it’s finished, great concentrated flavors…important tip here…DON’T SERVE IT IMMEDIATELY.
Let it sit for about 15 minutes. Serve 3 of the mucilli over a pasta portion, ziti my preference…that has been tossed withpecorino, olive oil and black pepper…pour some of the tomato over it as well…If you are looking for a more authentic Italian dining experience, dress the pasta with some of the sauce and serve first, then have the stuffed escarole rolls as a “secondo”.  (I will depart from authenticity right here..the dish is much better all served together, imho).

Just an afterthought…the reason I like the veal the best is because it’s so very mild that it really tastes like the sauce through and through and allows the ingredients in the filling to be stars of the show as well.  Purely my taste buds.  Another postscript here…the most “authentic” or traditional stuffed escarole contain no meat..it’s pretty much the same ingrdients I’ve used but..no meat.  Feel free to make them that way for a vegetarian/meatless dish…it’s very delicious either way.  Classify mine Italian-American Napoletana.  There’s a mouthful!!  HappyCooking!!

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OLIVE OIL, BLACK PEPPER, AND ROSEMARY FOCACCIA

tday2015 073 This will  become a favorite recipe in your collection I promise!! FOCACCIA!!! that square or rectangular shaped Italian bread of varying thickness.  Topped with nothing or with a variety of items, none more delicious as the simple and very traditional Olive Oil, fresh Chopped Rosemary, and Black Pepper topping.  Are you looking at the picture?  Take a look.  There’s a white something on it too and that’s the scary sounding Italian LARDO.  Now I did not title the blog with LARDO in it for a good reason, it’s simply another item to add to the top.  More later on why it’s SO delicious, but to make this recipe accessible to as many as possible, it’s a basic focaccia that you can add on to if you like.  Let’s talk a little about Italian Focaccia, baking, and my home memories.  None of focaccia.  Not sure when that became something here in America but the term generally at one time was used regarding the baked square breads of Central Italy.  My heritage is southern Italian so the word was not used until one day when it was used everywhere.  Same with Ciabatta bread..recent to me, but always fiercely Central Italian, not new.  Bread baking or any YEAST baking can be scary to some.  Get over it and you will be spinning your own Pizza doughs and coming up with your own types of focaccia.   tday2015 068What is FOCACCIA??  It’s an Italian bread which generally contains more olive oil and yeast than a pizza dough.  It’s usually baked in a square or rectangular pan, cut into squares and is served as a starter, part of an Antipasto with salumi, olives, and cheeses on the side.  Or it is served as the bread with one’s meal, or as the meal itself.  Rarely will you see Italians in Italy eating sandwiches using Focaccia as the bread as that practice is more of an American or out of Italy practice.  Personally, (  you know I’m throwing my 2 Euros into the pot here) it’s too much bread and too much of a food on it’s own to make a sandwich out of it.  It’s a great addition to a buffet table for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  One of the most popular forms is the Olive Oil rich Rosemary, Salt and Black Pepper Focaccia version.  Similar breads are made through Italy with other names.  SCHIACCIATA is a Tuscan bread many times made with grapes, rosemary, or just olive oil.  Consider my version here, especially if you go that extra mile with the LARDO as a Tuscan Inspired version.  Baking breads at home reminds me of a very DARK period in my parents’ kitchen growing up.  They would from time to time get on these “kicks” or phases.  Their bread baking phase was particularly hard for my sister and I . Their breads all tasted the same…almost saltless, dense and crumbly, overly yeasty, hard to cut, you get the picture.  “HEY PETE, TODAY LET’S MAKE A HONEY WHEAT BREAD”..and my sister and I were running for the last slice of real out of the house made Brick oven Italian bread.  Hated that period in their cooking experimentation.  Basically every bread they made tasted the same..everything.  Most childhood kitchen memories for me are sentimental, heart warming…this one is not. Living in Staten Island we were never 5 minutes away from an amazing Italian bread bakery so…..no need to bake at home!!  Focaccia falls into a different category than loaf bread does.  Let get the flour out and start making some Focaccia together!!

 

SERVES: up to 8              TIME: 4 hours or so

2 CUPS WARM WATER (around 110 degrees, F)

2 TEASPOONS DRY YEAST

1/2 TEASPOON SUGAR

2 TEASPOON SALT

4 1/2 CUPS SIFTED FLOUR *All purpose works, but TIPO 00 from ITALY IS BETTER*

3 TABLESPOONS GOOD EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL *you want to taste the olive flavor in this*

2 TEASPOONS FINE CHOPPED FRESH ROSEMARY (do not use dried)

1 TABLESPOON FRESH GROUND BLACK PEPPER

SALT FOR TOP, FLAKED SEA SALT IS BEST, COARSE OR KOSHER is fine also.

OLIVE OIL FOR BRUSHING

6 STRIPS OF LARDO (OPTIONAL)

LARDO..don’t be scared…Lardo is an Italian Cured Pork Cut..It’s the Cured portion of FatBack, very little meat if any is included.  Generally it’s snowy white.  Cured with secret regional herbs and spices, Rosemary  being one of them, so it’s a natural accompaniment to this Focaccia.  Serve in thin slices as an antipasto, the most prized comes from Aosta in the Northwest of Italy, and Colonnata in Tuscany.

In a large bowl add the water, mix the salt and sugar till dissolved. Then sprinkle the yeast over the top and gently stir.. Let this sit for 15 minutes until it bubbles and froths on top.  Now in slow batches, add the flour, 1 tablespoon olive oil and work the dough till it comes together.  If it’s still too tacky gently add more flour in small increments.  When it’s no longer sticky knead it on a floured board/surface for no less than 10 minutes.  Now place in a large bowl, add 1 tbs of OliveOil making sure the whole ball of dough is covered in oil. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap and leave in a warm area to raise for 2 hours.  Punch down the dough and knead for 2 minutes and reform into a ball, back into the bowl, cover and let rise for 45 minutes.    Oil a baking pan and press the dough into the pan (11 X13) or larger..the larger the pan the thinner your focaccia.  Try to press the dough till all the sides, if it shriks back some what, it’s ok… Now with your finger poke the dough in random spots, do not rip through the dough.  Brush the top of the focaccia with olive oil and sprinkle about 1 tsp. of coarse salt (like Kosher) over the top, the black pepper, and the rosemary (again, do not use dried rosemary for this..the flavor is wrong, the texture is wrong and it will only crisp up more in the heat…use FRESH).  Let this sit on top of the stove for 20 minutes.  Pre heat the oven to 475 degress F.tday2015 052

Bake the focaccia until it’s browned on the bottom and golden brown on the top, about 20-25 minutes.  Some ovens might get it done sooner, just keep an eye on it.  When it’s done it should look like this:tday2015 067  If you are using the LARDO, drape the slices over the top after you’ve let the focaccia sit out of the oven for 10 minutes.  The risidual heat will allow the lardo to melt into the bread.  It’s out of this world.  If you want to keep it VEGAN OR VEGETARIAN certainly omit the Lardo.  Cut with a sharp knife.  Enjoy.

 

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FILETTO DI POMODORO CON PROSCIUTTO, PASTA WITH TOMATO FILETS AND CRISP PROSCIUTTO

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Everyone loves PASTA.  I LOVE PASTA!  I love it in any cuisine too and of course in my own heritage cuisine, Italian.  Sometimes bad things happen to good pasta like bad sauce, incorrect recipes, oversaucing, undercooking.  The variety of shapes and sauces is endless and let me share one of my favorites with you, FILETTO DI POMODORO with PROSCIUTTO.  This sauce most probably based on one from Italy had a real day in the sun a few years ago. It showed up on every menu.  Too often I found that the sauce was nothing more than a cooked tomato sauce, sometimes with the actual “filets” of tomato visible with garlic or onion in the olive oil saute’ and many times with bits or pieces of Prosciutto.  Each kitchen has their own view of how this should be made.  I have no tolerance for ho-hum food that I’m paying for so I studied this dish and came up with a version of my own which sets it apart from just another tomato sauce.  I mean it’s CALLED Filetto di Pomodoro..shouldn’t that be the most notable quality?? If not why bother?  (Extreme? perhaps, however, it’s how I roll).  I think the type of tomato is important too and my choice is the San Marzano.  I also like the inclusion of sort of crisped Prosciutto, for taste and texture.  OH you will love this.  The ingredients are important, as always.  The Prosciutto should not be paper thin, but not thick either. Have it cut thin enough to fold it but not thin enough for it to come apart. Size of a food, shape, thickness will make or break a dish. Here’s the ingredients in my FILETTO OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGarlic, Prosciutto, San Marzano tomatoes from Italy seeded and cut into strips and fresh basil.

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Everything fresh!  That basil came out of my backyard.  Grow a pot or two at your own home if you don’t have room in a garden during the Summer months. Fresh picked is so much more fragrant.  And no pre chopped garlic.  It resembles real garlic about as much as a Tic Tac does.

SERVINGS:  4-6

TIME:      about 30 MINUTES

28 oz can San Marzano tomatoes (drain the can juices, reserve for some other use, seed the tomatoes and slice them into strips. then lay them on paper towels)
1 lb. IMPORTED ITALIAN TAGLIATELLE, FETTUCCINE, LINGUINE..oh, ok…that’s my preference, use whatever pasta shape you like..(but it will be better with the long and flat type…)
⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
6 fresh Basil leaves
4 ounces prosciutto, sliced 1/8-inch thick, and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch strips
1 tsp ground black pepper (or less to taste), 1/2 tsp KOSHER SALT
1 cup Pecorino Romano, grated

In a large heavy pan, heat 1/2 the olive oil and add the prosciutto.  Let the prosciutto saute for about 3,minutes per side.

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Cook the pasta according to the package instructions  (i love DeCecco or Delverde Imported Italian Pasta) till just at al dente.  Then drain. While the water comes to the boil, you can do the following:

Then add the garlic and let it cook for about 3 minutes longer.  Remove with a slotted spoon and reserve on a plate. Now add the tomatoes and cook for 4minutes per side letting them caramelize a bit. FLAVOR!!!  Concentrates the tomato flavor and absorbs the flavors of the already sauteed prosciutto and garlic.  Remove them,  Now add a few pieces of the prosciutto back till they are just crisp..it will not take long. Reserve and save to garnish the finished plates. Add the tomatoes, pinch of salt and remaining garlic,prosciutto back into the pan. Let this heat together for about 3 minutes.

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add 2 basil leaves.  Then gently add the drained al dente pasta, the rest of the olive oil and coat the pasta well letting it cook for no more than 3 minutes. Remove from the heat.  add 1/2 the grated cheese and mix in..Tear up the remaining basil leaves and use them to garnish everyone’s plate. Also, coarsely crumble the crisped prosciutto and top each plate with that.  Nice textures.  You can alternately the finished pasta to a large serving bowl and top with the basil and prosciutto.  A sprinkle of Pecorino over it all.  MANGIARE BENE!! EAT WELL!!

 

 

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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.