Tag Archives: Peperoncino

CALAMARI AL FORNO CON PANGRATTATO, BAKED CALAMARI WITH BREADCRUMBS, GARLIC, OLIVE OIL

CALAMARI!!! Abundant and delicious.  One of the most popular of all Italian Seafoods it lends itself to many different recipes.  Calamari Fritti is the one most widely eaten but there are many way to cook Squid.  I’d like to share one with you and needs a hot oven to cook it in (an outdoor grill with the cover down even better because you get that smoky flavor too!).  CALAMARI AL FORNO CON PANGRATTUTO, Squid Baked with Breadcrumbs!!!  Now don’t shake your head, this isn’t breaded calamari but a simple mix of garlic, olive oil, fresh parsley, lemon, peperoncino, plain breadcrumbs and yes…Pecorino Romano.  Follow me, that old wives’ tale about never pairing Italian seafood with cheese has 1000 exceptions.  This is one of them.  It’s integral to the dish.  Since it’s December I’m all about the traditional Southern Italian-ItalianAmerican  La Vigilia Seafood dinner on Christmas Eve.  Last year I overbought calamari and had some whole ones in the fridge after Christmas.  Didn’t want fried calamari again since we had much of it on Christmas Eve so I came up with dish using some easy ingredients.  Let get into the kitchen.

3/4 LB SLICED FRESH CALAMARI (SQUID) RINGS AND TENTACLES

1/4 CUP EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

6 SLICED CLOVES OF GARLIC

2 TABLESPOONS FRESH PARSLEY

JUICE OF 1/2 FRESH LEMON

PEPERONCINO

KOSHER SALT

1/3 CUP PLAIN ITALIAN BREADCRUMBS TOASTED IN A DRY PAN, COOLED, THEN ADD 2 TBS. GRATED PECORINO ROMANO AND MIX TOGETHER WITH A LITTLE OLIVE OIL, RESERVE

PreHeat your oven to 450 degrees F.  Rinse the calamari in cold water, drain, pat dry with paper towels.  In a heavy pan heat all but 1 tbs of the olive oil.  Add the garlic and saute’ until fragrant, about 2 minutes being careful not to let it burn.  Add the squid and saute’ for only 1 minute on high heat. Remove from heat, add the parsley and a good pinch of peperoncino…Toss well, then place into a baking pan with the additional olive oil.  Top with the breadcrumbs , drizzle with olive oil, pinch of salt…and into the hot oven for no more than 6 minutes.  Test the calamari for doneness, should be tender.  When it’s done simply blend in the toasted breadcrumbs from the top and drizzle with the fresh lemon juice. Serves 3-4.  It’s amazing.  If you need more cooking time only go maybe another 2 minutes in the hot oven.    Serve with lots of Italian bread.  You can do this all on an outdoor grill too. 

GET YOUR PASTA ANGRY!!! PASTA ALL’ARRABBIATA!!! PASTA WITH CHILES AND TOMATO

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PASTA ALL’ARRABBIATA…translated it means ANGRY MACARONI.  A descriptive term referring to the spicy heat in the dish from the PEPERONCINO, or dried crushed red chiles that are used all over the world including many regions of Italy.  The dish is said to have originated in Rome and often it’s catalogued in La Cucina Romana (Roman cuisine) but Southern Italy has so many instances of chile-infused oil , or lard based , or tomato based sauces for pasta that it’s really a tough call.  What is generally thought of as the right pasta to serve with Arrabbiata sauce is PENNE, or PENNETTA.  Perfect when some of the tomato and chile flecks get caught inside of the penne.  I also love it with spaghetti…as illustrated in this ridiculous poor quality grainy Selfie..IMG_9327  Don’t be bullied.  Penne is the most popular pasta used  for a reason, it’s just a great match. But Spaghetti and any other pasta you like works too.  Shh..just don’t say that in Italy.  LOL.   In the town of Marigliano outside of Naples in Campania the beginning of July is given over to a Sagra, or a Celebration in honor of PENNETTA ALL’ARRABBIATA.  Imagine?  A feast celebrating a dish of tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, hot peppers and penne? 02-Locandina-01-701x1024This year’s announcement for the Sagra.  Music, Drink and Pennetta All’Arabbiata.  I think I like the sound of this.  The sauce for Arrabbiata, like SO many of Italy’s pasta sauces is a simple affair.  Olive Oil, Chiles, either Fresh or dried, garlic (some use onion), Italian Tomatoes, basil or not..Salt, and Penne. Really. That’s it.  From what my amateur research has gathered, recipes calling themselves “true” Roman recipes all use fresh chopped chiles.  Southern Italian recipes and Italianamerican recipes use Peperoncino, the same pepper,  but dried.  While they may be the same vegetable they do have different tastes.  One imparts a fragrant fresh taste with it’s heat and the other gives a deep earthy flavor and heat.  One day I will try this dish with fresh chiles, for now I use the dried.  While it’s a very quick dish to make the best way to get maximum chile flavor and heat is to slowly “fry” it in the Olive Oil rather than add it to the simmering sauce or only when ready to eat.  For dinner for 4-5 here’s how I do it.

TIME: 1 hour or less                                 SERVES: 4-5

1/2 cup good quality Olive Oil or Extra Virgin, preferably Italian

1 TBS. PEPERONCINO (crushed dried red hot pepper flakes), plus more for serving

2 sliced cloves of Garlic, or 1 small onion finely diced

Kosher Salt

2 28 oz cans SAN MARZANO DOP TOMATOES (or Italian Plums) crushed with your hands

1 pound Penne (I use imported ITalian Pasta )

4 Basil leaves

In a large pan or heavy pot heat the olive oil to medium.  Add the peperoncino and let this sizzle and pop on medium heat for a good 4 minutes.  This releases the oils in the dried peppers and helps to carry all of it’s flavor through the sauce.  Add 1/2 tsp of Kosher Salt.  Add the garlic and  (tricky here) saute’ until you just bring the slices to where they begin to get golden color than add the Tomatoes. Blend well and bring to a boil, then  back down to a simmer.  Allow the sauce to thicken, this will take some time, maybe 1/2 hour.  Then taste for seasoning.  If the sauce is thick enough (not watery) add the basil leaves and stir.  If it needs more time, keep it on low simmer until you get a thicker sauce.  Arrabbiata’s beauty is that it’s not “supposed” to be scorching…unless you want it to be.  At this point you can add more peperoncino to taste.  I find when feeding the family, less is more.  I’ll add more on my dish when I sit down anyway to get it to my heat threshold.  While the sauce is cooking , during the last 10 minutes, make a pound of Penne or Spaghettti till just al dente. Drain and add to the sauce and let it cook in the sauce for only 3 minutes.  Tear in the Basil leaves…mix, taste for seasoning, then serve.

IMG_9328IMG_9329IMG_9332 Dress the pasta with some Grated Pecorino Romano, a drizzle of Olive Oil, and more Peperoncino.  GET ANGRY!!! ARRABBIATA!!!!!  A grating of Pecorino or Parmigiano if you like!  I like.

Here’s a variation…PASTA ALL’ARRABIATA con SPINACI SALTATI.  Saute’ some fresh spinach with garlic and olive oil. Serve on top of the Sauced Pasta.  Then mix it all in after you’ve taken a nice pic for Instagram, Snapchat or Facebook…ok Twitter and Pinterest too. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere’s a tip regarding Italian tomato sauces from South to North…only a handful are more complex requiring a sizable list of ingredients.  The vast majority are but a handful of ingredients.  What makes people NOT angry with this Arrabbiata is that you control your anger..an anger management of sorts  LOL.  The amount of peperoncino heat is up to you but it needs to be more than just a pinch since it’s not just Sugo di Pomodoro or Marinara, but a wake up call for the taste buds..feel the burn!!!  Happy Cooking!!

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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VONGOLE ARRABBIATA, CHILE SPICED CLAMS

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This is a great idea for hanging around on the weekends watching games, or casual get togethers, even works for a weeknight  meal.  America LOVES Chiles, after all it’s one of our indigenous plants.  We go crazy for hot sauce, for whole chiles, for all foods made with them in their fresh, cooked, or dried states.  America is a CHILE CRAZED nation.  From the Americas the rest of the world learned how delicious they are…with a seemingly addictive nature they have regardless of where in the world they are being consumed.   Let’s explore Italy (shocker) for a moment, in particular Southern Italy.  Chiles are a mainstay in all hot climates and the southern regions of Italy are hotbeds (pun intended) for growing these peppers.  Depending on the region they are referred to as PEPERONCINO or DIAVOLiCCHIO .DIAVULLILU, and many others.  Just an aside, don’t confuse PEPERONCINO with the Italian-American pickled Vinegar pepper known as PEPPERONCINI as they are 2 very different foods including their spelling.

Basilicata where my paternal Grandpa comes from LOVES the chile pepper in it’s cuisine.  Shows up in so many of the regional dishes.  We grew up with that tradition which was further cemented by my Dad who grew tons of redhot chiles and dried them every year strung up all over the basement rafters. Dad’s been gone since 2003 but I have the last jar he gave me. It’s my most prized “food” possesion. A pinch of peperoncino is a usual cooking method in COUNTLESS Southern ITalian dishes but sometimes it becomes the dominant flavor as in ARRABBIATA style, or FRA DIAVOLO(more ITalian-American) meaning ANGRY.  A colorful way to describe a dish..it’s a popular tomato sauce for pasta.  Here I take that southern Italian seafood and chile tradition and elaborate on it.  I rarely say this, but certainly adjust the amount of peperoncino that you are using to your taste but if anything spicy is not in your wheelhouse this isn’t the recipe for you.  My suggestion for how to serve this is as you would serve a pot of steamers…just the clams…and some good bread.

TIME: 1/2 HOUR                               SERVES:  4

4 TBS OLIVE OIL

4 CLOVES OF GARLIC, SLICED

1 1/2 TSP. PEPERONCINO

4 DOZ LITTLE NECK CLAMS, or COCKLES, or MANILA CLAMS, well scrubbed and rinsed

1/4 CUP WHITE WINE

JUICE OF ONE LEMON

SEA SALT

In a heavy bottomed pot heat the olive oil, then add the garlic and the 1 tsp. of the Peperoncino. Let this cook on medium for 2 minutes being careful not to let the garlic brown, then add the wine.  Bring to a boil then to a simmer. Add the clams.  With a heavy spoon get all the clams coated with the wine and garlic liquid.  THEN, cover tightly and keep on simmer and STEAM the clams until they have opened, takes about  8  minutes.   Shake the pot midway thru GENTLY.  Carefully remove the cover  and give the clams a good but gentle stir.  Remove any that did not open.  Add the lemon juice and the balance of the peperoncino and gently stir again. SERVE! with some good bread.  That’s it!! Now,are you wondering why I have salt in the ingredient list?  Taste that liquid.  I will venture a guess that it’s totatlly seasoned.  Why?  The liquor from the clams is salt water.  That will season the juices. Adding salt will put it over the top, unless you feel you need to, SO,before you serve, taste..then season if you need to, and drizzle with good Olive oil, then serve.  COOKING RULE…you can always add, you can NEVER subtract salt from a dish. There’s also a lack of greenery here..it’s no needed. Those clams look beautful without the green addition.  If you feel you need it…a little chopped flatleaf Italian parsley I guess (can you see my displeasure?? lol)..but one should always eat to one’s taste and pleasure.

 

LARGE PASTA WITH BROCCOLI “CREAM” AND WALNUTS…PACCHERI CON CREMA DI BROCCOLI E NOCI

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Vegetables and dairy are wonderful pairings especially when they are creamy and  used as a pasta “sauce”.  I put “sauce” in quotes because the correct term in Italian would be a “condimento”…a condiment that enhances the pasta which, sorry to do this to you carb-haters out there, but the Pasta is the main event on a plate of macaroni.  The sauce or condimento just adds more flavor and nourishment, it’s an enhancer. And the sky is the limit with pasta dishes. Italy is full of heritage recipes, family recipes, regional recipes, with new ones are being created all the time.  I’m going to think that I created this but somewhere out there this dish may already be on a table in an Italian kitchen.  Maybe.  Maybe not.  Let’s create together…for more texture I’m adding crushed walnuts.  Why?  Why NOT?  They will make the dish more interesting and complex.  The crunch with play off nicely with the toothsome pasta and creamy blend of cooked Broccoli and Mascarpone.  Parmigiano sharpens the plate and it’s nuttiness works with the Walnuts. Peperoncino because I’m of Southern Italian extraction and it’s what we do.  So I’ll give you a pass here and say if dried crushed chiles are too hot for your palate, fresh cracked black pepper will work too.  I’m going to ask you to do something that you will probably have been taught not to do.  I want you to “overcook” your broccoli.  That’s right, no crisp bright green florets for this dish, it simply will not work.  It will only taste raw.  Are you up for the challenge??  Do you have the courage to turn your Broccoli into mush?  GOOD!  Continue with me into the kitchen then..let’s go..ANDIAMO!

 

SERVES: 4-6                                    TIME: about 1 hour

2 lbs. CHOPPED WELL COOKED BROCCOLI (cook the broccoli until it’s very soft, drain well and let it sit for at least 1 hour, drain off any water that collects).

1 1/2 cups MASCARPONE CHEESE

2 SLICED CLOVES OF GARLIC

KOSHER SALT, PEPERONCINO (or fresh ground Black Pepper)

2 TBS EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

Juice of 1 LEMON

3 TBS PARMIGIANO REGGIANO PLUS MORE FOR SERVING AND FINISHING

3 TBS. CRUSHED TOASTED WALNUTS

1 TBS WALNUT OIL (if available)

1 lb PACCHERI OR RIGATONI..cooked till Al Dente according to the package directions

In a Bowl, using a potato Masher, mash the Broccoli.  A Food Processor will make this  “CREMA” too thin, I like this with some small pieces of broccoli among the mashed pieces.  If you must have it thinner pulse it in a Food Processor.

In a large non stick pan, heat the olive oil…when it’s heated, add the garlic and a pinch of the peperoncino, pinch of salt.  Do not let the garlic brown, as soon as you really can smell the garlic add the broccoli  and heat the broccoli through keeping this on a low flame.  Heat for at least 8 minutes, being careful to stir frequently. Taste for seasoning, if you think it needs some salt, add a little now.  Add the lemon.,Gently stir in the MascarponeOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA until it’s incorporated into the mixture.  Next add the grated PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO and the Pasta.           OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  Gently mix the pasta into the “CREMA”. Make sure it’s well blended.

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How nice is that? So, let’s finish this up…top with the toasted crushed walnuts, peperoncino or black pepper, a drizzle of Walnut Oil or Extra Virgin Olive Oil and more Grated Parmigiano.

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That is smoking “hot”.  A nice glass of wine or Sparkling Italian Water with fresh lime or lemon, or a frosty Beer or Coca-Cola…drink what you want.  Eat what you want.  You’ll want to eat this!  Happy Cooking!!

so let’s talk PACCHERI..what the hell is A FOOD OBSESSION talking about?  It’s an oversized Rigatoni like pasta that is loved in Naples (again with the Naples, sorry) and generally paired with light seafood sauces.  It’s big and toothsome and sucks into it’s center some of the Crema di Broccoli and the nuts.  Not easy to find but it’s what I use when I make the dish.  Rigatoni will work as well so, there’s your option.

STUFFED MUSHROOMS PIZZAIOLA, MY MOM’S HOLIDAY STAPLE

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  I hope that lead picture draws you into this blogpost because not only is it a great dish for you to make, it means so much to me.  STUFFED MUSHROOMS PIZZAIOLA..let’s explore that…what makes it (Something) PIZZAIOLA?  The SAUCE.  Simple.  A blend of crushed Italian Plum Tomatoes, usually out of the can, preferably San Marzanos, then blended with OLIVE OIL, GARLIC, OREGANO, SALT, PEPPER.  That’s it. It’s used on Pizzas in Naples and paired up with other meats or poultry then baked, and that’s the sauce that makes these Stuffed Mushrooms Pizzaiola (meaning in the style of the Pizza Maker’s wife).  While the Pizzaiolo was making the pies, the wife who was the home cook was using the sauce in inventive ways.  Ok, that’s what I think happened so I am standing by that romantic explanation.  More importantly I want you do enjoy something that was a Holiday staple for my family at Thanksgiving and Christmas Day dinner year after year.  These are my mother’s Stuffed Holiday Mushrooms.  Only when making them last night did it occur to me that her recipe contained Pizzaiola sauce.  I love when that happens.  She was Napoletana, the sauce is Napoletana, stuffed vegetables are very Napoletana, it’s a dish that defines my family’s history.  AND it tastes awesome and that is why you want to make them.  Now is this exactly like my mother’s?  Let’s say 85%, I add some other techniques or steps to Mom’s standard Italian Fennel Sausage, pecorino, garlic, herb, and breadcrumb stuffing so this is MY VERSION of Mom’s recipe.  There’s enough of Mom’s recipe in here to make it mostly her’s, soeaster79momI don’t think she’ll be looking down from Heaven on my stove without smiling.  Miss you MOM!! That picture was taken by me Easter Sunday 1979 in our dining room..where all the Holiday Meals and Special occasions went down.  While cooking this last night my kitchen had every smell of the Holidays of my youth.  Happens everytime I make these Mushrooms for Thanksgiving.  Even if we dine elsewhere, I make a tray for home.  Try a Stuffed Mushroom slider sometime. Delicious!!  And the Pizzaiola sauce after baking is further seasoned by the mushrooms themselves and all the flavors in the stuffing.  Mom’s Thankgiving table was the stuff dreams were made of, at least to this kid..Stuffed Mushrooms, Stuffed Artichokes, Antipasto, her roasted red peppers (Holla!!),Finocchio on the table, nuts, dates, figs, fruit, Manicotti, Sausage and Meatballs, Turkey, Stuffing, Broccoli Rabe, “American” Broccoli, Candied Sweet Potatoes, Corn, Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans Almondine, Cranberry Sauce..I’m not sure anymore if there was a salad…i’m thinking not…the dinner though would begin with chilled fruit cocktail in a stemed dish..This was as fancy as we got.  She even dressed her turkey, booties, fruits, garnishes, it was heaven.  Of course Italian Pastries but what everyone looked forward to were the pies…lots of them..apple, apple crumb, pumpkin, sweet potato, lemon merengue (my favorite), Cherry, Mince (no one at that one ),pecan, banana cream, chocolate pudding..you get the picture.  If you are at all in tune with food the heightened standard and diverse recipes and preparations during the Holidays is an excuse to do what you are really doing all year.  I love it and I hope you do to regardless of what holidays at year’s end you celebrate or do not.  It’s a time for entertaining.  My mom knew how to entertain, although, she wanted everything cleaned up too quickly…lol.  That tradition I do not perpetuate!  Relax, the mess will still be there tomorrow.  I’m not taking up precious social time to clean up..later for that!

Ready to cook?  I use regular button mushrooms for this..why you ask?  When there are beautiful huge stuffing mushrooms to be had?  Think of all that shows up at the holiday table, there’s usually a high variety of food, some of it very rich.  I’d rather serve a small bite than something that could be it’s own appetizer for a sit down dinner.  Think BIG picture, not just BIG food.

MAKES  50 MUSHROOMS

50 MUSHROOMS, STEMS GENTLY SEPARATED (finely dice the stems)

1 1/2 lbs. loose mix of hot and sweet ITALIAN PORK FENNEL SAUSAGE meat

(or just one type)

3 sliced cloves of garlic

1 large whole clove of GARLIC

Olive Oil

1 tsp. diced PANCETTA

1/4 cup RED WINE

1 tsp.Oregano

1/8 cup GRATED PECORINO ROMANO CHEESE

1/4 cup DICED LOW MOISTURE MOZZARELLA(not fresh made)

1/8 cup PLAIN ITALIAN BREADCRUMBS

1 ITALIAN ROLL, day old preferably..soaked in water, then squeeze out the water

KOSHER SALT

2 TBS. FINELY CHOPPED FRESH ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY

1 CAN (28 OZ) SAN MARZANO TOMATOES OR GOOD ITALIAN PLUM TOMATOES

1/2 TSP FENNEL SEED, SLIGHTLY BRUISED

BLACK PEPPER

Start by making the PIZZAIOLA SAUCE. Simple.  Crush the tomatoes with your hand or run thru the processor or a food mill.  I’m lazy.  I use my hands.  Less clutter and things to wash, but feel free to use whatever you are comfortable with.  Empty it into a mixing bowl.  Add 1 TBS. Olive Oil, I like the taste of Olive Oil, alot..so I like a good Extra Virgin in here.  Feel free to use what you like.  Add 1/2 tsp of Oregano that you RUBBED BETWEEN YOUR HANDS..key technique, you release the oils in the dried oregano..do not use fresh for this. Salt and Pepper to taste..Smash one whole clove of garlic.  Add that..Now blend the ingredients and set it aside.

mushroompizzaiola 007  How beautiful is that!!??  And btw, since this is not cooked before you add it to the mushrooms the type and quality of the tomato is very very important.  Sometimes you can help out not so good tomatoes by cooking them in a sauce.  Not so with this Pizzaiola method.  The bright fresh taste of the tomato is highlighted in this sauce.  No 1.99 tomatoes here, they should cost you at least $ 2.50 or more.  Make that mental note.

Now the stuffing…it’s a Red Wine Braised Italian Sausage stuffing with some additions.let’s have fun with this.  In a large heavy pan for caramelization! add a little olive oil.  Keep on medium heat and add the pancetta.  When that is somewhat clear and has a little color on it add the sausage.  Let it cook on one side for at least 8 minutes or until it’s browned, then chop it with a spatula and turn the sausage meat so it now will evenly brown.  Let this cook for 5 minutes. Now add the sliced garlic.  Resist the urge to season at this point because sausage meat is well seasoned and soon we will be adding cheese to this..more salt.  You can always add salt, you can’t ever remove it, so trust me here. Now add the chopped stems and blend in well.  After about 2 minutes add the garlic and cook for about 2 minutes then add the wine.  What an aroma you are now getting!! mushroompizzaiola 002 Let this simmer for at least 10 minutes.  If the wine evaporates before that just add a touch more.  This process infuses that tasty sausage with the wine flavor.  It’s delicious!  OK, take a piece out for yourself…are you smiling???  After 10 minutes, remove from the heat and let this cool down for at least 20 minutes.  In a large mixing bowl, add the remaining oregano, the breadcrumbs,the bread, all the cheeses, the parsley, and mix together. Now add the sausage mushroom mix and 2 tbs of that Pizzaoila sauce you made…blend well.  It’s ready when it looks like this:mushroompizzaiola 003  Then gently stuff each mushroom cap with the stuffing, just to the top, if there’s left over just add a little more to some.mushroompizzaiola 005  Place them into a baking/roasting pan that you’ve drizzled with some olive oil.  Next step…pre heat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Drizzle the Pizzaiola sauce around and over the mushrooms, another drizzle of olive oil, and a sprinkling of some grated Pecorino Romano.mushroompizzaiola 010  You really have to be getting excited now.  Please say you are!!  Bake uncovered for 20 minutes.  At the 10 minute mark, rotate the pan.  Why?  I believe most ovens have hot spots so this just helps with an even cooking of the pan.  They are done when the mushrooms are soft.  Let them sit for about  5 minutes before serving and these reheat REAL well.  Here’s the finished product:

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A wonderful starter to a big Holiday meal, or a side, or , away from the Holidays make this and serve with pasta..the sauce needs good bread for dipping or wonderful on pasta.

 

 

 

 

 

BAKED CLAMS AND PASTA…AN ELEGANT DISH WITH HUMBLE INGREDIENTS

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  I’m very excited to share my recipe for BAKED CLAMS OREGANATO with you as it’s really one of my favorite dishes to cook AND eat.  Fresh Clams, their essence giving a base to some pasta, the crunch and aromatic flavor of the breadcrumb mixture, the salty brine of the clam meat..a little lemon and parsley, some spice from Peperoncino..this is a dish you will want to make AND eat over and over again.  First though you must sit through my usual lecture, please sit down, CLASS is in session.  Overkill.  Death to any dish, especially a delicate flavored seafood that often gets loaded down with too many breadcrumbs with too much of everything in that mix.  Sometimes the clams are chopped for Oreganato, not for me.  I want to see that clam, it’s a little jewel of seafood sitting in it’s own serving piece.  Fresh clams are key to this dish.  I am so fortunate to live in a CLAM region as the Little Neck is harvested right here at the Jersey shore among other wonderful clam beds along the coast.  Use nothing bigger than a LITTLE NECK for this dish, it’s the perfect bite size and they are so sweet.

SERVES: 4-5                                   TIME: 1 HOUR

36 SCRUBBED AND RINSED FRESH LITTLE NECK CLAMS

1 CUP TOASTED PLAIN BREAD CRUMBS (HEAT THE CRUMBS IN A DRY NON STICK PAN ON MEDIUM AND GENTLY SHAKE THEM BACK AND FORTH UNTIL YOU SEE THEM START TO TURN COLOR. AS SOON AS THIS HAS HAPPENED TO MOST OF THE PAN AS YOU KEEP SHAKING REMOVE IMMEDIATELY FROM THE HEAT)

1/8 CUP GRATED PECORINO ROMANO OR PARMIGIANO REGGIANO

3 TABLESPOONS FINELY CHOPPED ITALIAN FLAT LEAVE PARSLEY

1 TSP. DRIED OREGANO THAT YOU RUBBED BETWEEN YOUR HANDS (RELEASES THE OILS IN THE LEAVES)

3 FINELY MINCED CLOVES OF GARLIC

1 1/2 TBS. EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

JUICE OF ONE LEMON

3 TBS. WHITE WINE

PINCH OF PEPERONCINO

FOR THE PASTA

1 LB. SPAGHETTI, OR BUCATINI OR PERCIATELLI, COOKED TILL AL DENTE ACCORDING TO THE PACKAGE DIRECTIONS

4 TBS. OLIVE OIL

EXTRA PEPERONCINO AND PARSLEY

PINCH OF SALT (PREFERABLY SEA SALT)

Let’s start cooking!  No Baked Clam dish starts without clamsOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA. In a dutch oven add the wine and the cleaned clams. Bring to a boil then reduce to simmer, cover tightly and let them steam for 5 minutes or less, just until they are open.  Remove the clam with a slotted spoon to a platter and pry off the top shells.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  Reserve all the liquid that the clams gave up to that steaming pot.  Strain that liquid through a sieve and reserve.  Add a little olive oil to the pan and 1/3 of the garlic, pinch of peperoncino and saute’ the garlic for no more that 2 minutes, Then add the reserved liquid and let this reduce on simmer for about 10 minutes.  While this is happening in a bowl add 2tbs. of olive oil, the breadcrumbs, the cheese, parsley, garlic, oregano, 1/2 the lemon juice and mix well until all are loosely combined.  Place a bit , maybe a tsp. full of the mixture on top of each clam which you have line up on a baking sheet.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  When they are all filled reserve some of those crumbs, you should have a small amount left.  Drizzle a little White wine and olive oil over the clams.  Pre heat your broiler and when it’s reached proper temperature, then place the sheet into the broiler at least 4 inches from the heating element or flame. DON’T MOVE!! Your clams will go from not ready to ready REALLY quickly, like in 2 minutes or less.  The clam is partially cooked so don’t fret, and you’ve already toasted the breadcrumbs so 2 minutes should brown them nicely.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

While this was all happening you should have been cooking the pasta, just till al dente.  Then drain and add to the pot with the reduced clam liquid.  Drizzle with olive oil then toss well.  Then toss the pasta with the remaining breadcrumb mixture.  YEAH!!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  Does that not look amazing?  Simple.  Serve the pasta along with the clams in another platter.  Or the pasta on a platter surrounded by the clams, whatever, it’s all going to be spectacular but WAIT…garnish the clams and pasta with more Italian flat leaf parsley, peperoncino and sprinkle that lemon juice all over the top of everything.  So important not to only use lemon in the mix, but to finish the dish with the lemon, and ok, a little more extra virgin olive oil. Those fresh tastes will hit your mouth and open it up, enhancing all the subsequent flavors you are eating.  Amazing.

Please pass the San Pellegrino, Sparkling please..or the White Wine or even a beer!

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PASTA FOR EVERYONE…ORECCHIETTE, GREENS, AND CHICK PEAS..SIMPLE GOODNESS

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Another PASTA post from A FOOD OBSESSION, get used to it, there are more to come but for now let’s entertain ourselves by cooking this delicious plate.  It’s a blend of all good things and along with maybe a tomato salad, some olives and cheese it’s a great meal.  No need to have anything else with this, I promise you will be satisfied.  I’ve taken some hardcore and basic Southern Italian ingredients and turned them into a quick (relatively) dish that will wow your guests as part of a long sideboard of treats in the afternoon or at a weeknight dinner.  Intrigued?  Good, I love grabbing your attention.  Orecchiette are “little ears”, a Southern Italian pasta that is made 2 ways, originally it’s a blend of flour and water and handmade.  The other way is using regular pasta dough and running it through a machine to make the shape.  Whichever type you have available should be the one you use, I will not judge.   The cooked pasta gets tossed with a saute’ of cooked chick peas (CECI in Italian, GARBANZO in Spanish), chopped bitter greens like broccoli rabe or spinach, garlic, olive oil, peperoncino and wine.  The Cheese at the end it optional.  Not for me though, it’s a requirement but A FOOD OBSESSION realizes that there’s all types of eaters out there and so I’m writing this blog to give omnivores, vegetarians, and vegans all a tasty dish to make.  Personally, I could eat a bowl of pasta or macaroni with tomato sauce every night, I realize we all don’t share in loving that.  So, here’s something that can stretch your pantry items and create a full meal for you.  Ready to cook?  Get your apron and for the Love of Julia Child, please wash your hands!  OK, here’s my ORECCHIETTE CON VERDURE E CECI.

FOR 4-6                                TIME: about 1/2 hour

1 lb. Orecchiette, cooked al dente according to package directions.  Find a brand made in Italy.  Be authentic.

3 sliced cloves of GARLIC (sounds like a lot but you are flavoring pasta and beans as well as the greens, needs some punch (FORZA AGLIO!!)

3 tbs. EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

1 1/2 cups chopped BROCCOLI RABE or SPINACH, or DANDELIONS, or SWISS CHARD, or ESCAROLE…

salt, peperoncino

1 filet of ANCHOVY (ok, ok, you hate anchovies, i get it, i hate liver..so, this is optional except for me, I will use it)

shot glass of WHITE WINE

2 cups of cooked CHICK PEAS (if using canned please rinse, then drain in a colander)

1/8 cup grated PECORINO ROMANO or CACIOCAVALLO

In a large skillet with high sides or a dutch oven heat the olive oil, then add the garlic,(Anchony also if you are using it) pinch of salt, peperoncino and then the greens an saute’ for 5 minutes.  Then add the wine and then the beans. Blend well and let this cook for 3 minutes. Then add the orecchiette.  When you are draining the pasta reserve about 1/8  cup of the cooking water.  Add a little to the pan after you’ve added all the ingredients and let this cook down.  Add more water or wine if you want it “more liquidy” and loose, I like it more on the drier side so watch the amount of water you are using.  At the end of cooking which should be no more than 4 minutes, remove from the heat.  Add 1/8 cup grated Pecorino Romano or Caciocavallo and toss throughly.  Now TASTE IT.  Does it need more salt or peperoncino?  Here is when you do that, not before you added the cheese.  Finish by drizzling with some Extra Virgin Olive Oil and cheese …always have more cheese on the side for those of us who crave it on our pasta.   Serve and enjoy.

If you like your greens more well done, steam them prior to adding to the mix, a little note here…soft greens and vegetables are traditional hallmarks of Italian cuisine.  Crunchy, al dente vibrantly colored vegetables are a more modern approach to cooking.  Pick your choice.

 

For Vegetarians this dish works without the anchovy and for Vegans omit the anchovy and the cheese. For those who don’t like anchovies just don’t use them at all.

 

 

 

SPAGHETTI ALLA PUTTANESCA, A GIFT FROM NAPLES, ITALY…BELLA NAPOLI!

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Ever not know what to cook?  It happens all the time and so often a meal starts  by opening the refrigerator then taking a peak as to what’s available.  It’s such a popular way to decide what you are going to cook that the Food Network’s hit CHOPPED is loosely based on that premise.  You are presented with a random group of ingredients and that will spark an idea.  This was what I found one evening after work in the fridge:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  Gaeta Olives (an Oil Cured Black Italian Olive), flat leaf Italian Parsley, Sicilian Anchovies, Salt Cured Capers…to that I added some standard pantry items like Dried Sicilian Oregano, Peperoncino, Garlic, San Marzano Tomaotes.  PUTTANESCA went off in my brain.  I had no plan of making that but it was right there in front of me..CHE FORTUNATO!!! What’s a puttanesca?  It’s a dish with legendary and questionable origins with many stories swirling around as to why, who, and what caused this dish to be created.  The ingredients are basic to the cuisine of the area in and around the city of Naples,  BELLA NAPOLI!  My own heritage is based in Naples as that’s the city my maternal grandmother lived in from the time she was 10 until she immigrated to Staten Island, NYC at the age of 20.   These ingredients along with dried pasta are always in my fridge and pantry.  So, this so called “Whore’s Pasta”, (Puttanesca translates to made by Prostitutes) was most likely born of the same circumstances as my dinner was, using the ingredients on hand to create something delicious.  Not so sure that the local street walkers concocted it to feed themselves and their Pimps inbetween “jobs”…ok..we can say that’s what happened because stories are always better when they are scandalous. Naples is a  crowded ancient city which spawned most of what America considers is the food of Italy.  It sits the shadow of Mt.VesuviusOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand has given my kitchen table so much inspiration.  Puttanesca Sauce is one of those favorites I love to cook.  As with most Italian Sauces and pasta preparations it’s relatively quick.  Yes, Yes, I know, your Nonna cooked her sauce for 100 hours on a Sunday so don’t even start with me..that’s only one type of Italian sauce.  There aren’t enough days in the year to discuss each region’s pasta dishes.  Have no fear of the time factor!  A pasta dish during the week is not a long and laborious process!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  Let’s pass through the gates of the Port of Naples now and enter the #AFOKitchen, my #AFoodObsession playground, ie: my  home’s kitchen and start to cook SPAGHETTI ALLA PUTTANESCA.

This recipe will feed 4 people and will take approximately 30 minutes or so.  (by the way don’t panic if you are falling behind on the time..that is just a guide..if you are still cooking it after an hour i suggest you order out…lol)

1 lb. good Italian Imported Spaghetti (cheap pasta is just that, it’s cheap, filling, but lacks the toothsome qualities the better pasta gives you.  DeCecco, Barilla, Delverde, a few of the good choices, although Barilla is now made in the U.S.)

2 tbs. salt cured capers, ran under water and drained

1 cup pitted and coarsely chopped CURED Italian Olives, such as the Gaeta variety  (canned black olives lose any flavor when cooked, the oil cured are amazing and stay flavorful throughout the cooking process.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

2 large cloves of garlic, sliced

1 tsp. dried oregano

1 can crushed San Marzano Tomatoes

Anchovies..here’s where I am going to veer away from possibly what many prefer, i used about 4 filets in this dish, others prefer up to 12…you be the judge.  Anchovies are a concentrated powerhouse of salt and Mediterranean fish love.  chop them.

1 tsp. peperoncino (red pepper flakes)

Salt to taste (sea salt best for this)

1/8 cup chopped flat leaf Italian parsley

In a wide pan heat 2 tbs of the Extra Virgin Olive Oil..add the olives,  the oregano that you rub between your hands first then let it fall into the pan, add 1/2 the peperoncino, then the garlic and anchovies. Add 1/2 the parsley.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Your nose is your best cooking tool, after your hands and once you can smell that garlic you are now ready to add the tomatoes.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA and the capers. Bring this to a boil THEN down to a simmer and let this cook for 15-20 minutes.  Stir frequently, and why? Tomatoes are loaded with natural sugar (they are a fruit!!)and they will burn and scorch.  Number one pet peeve with having tomato sauced foods out…scorched sauce. You don’t need to cook it that long!!!  Sorry, I digress, back to the pan of sauce before I burn it!!  While this is happening in your pan cook the spaghetti just until AL DENTE according to the package directions.  Drain and then add directly into the pan and toss well for no more than 3-4 minutes. Then serve.  Simple.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Here’s an important note…add salt to taste only if you need it..the capers and anchovies and the cured olives have plenty of salt in them.  However some like more punch than others so don’t add it until everything has been added and cooked down.  You can always ADD salt, you can never TAKE IT OUT.

See that…that dish you thought would take so long to make?  It’s not that hard and here’s why, Italian Plums, especially San Marzanos cook down rather quickly, the ingredients are packed with flavor which gives up some of that to the sauce.  Garnish with the remaining parsley and peperoncino.

And in your mind, let this be the view you have in your mind while enjoying the meal.  Sunset over the Bay of Naples and Monte Vesuvio  (pic taken by me in June of 2008).

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La Bella Napoli!!