Tag Archives: Tomato Sauce

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.

TRY A TASTE OF AUSTRALIA’S CHILLI MUSSELS

A BOWL OF CHILLI MUSSELS, CERVANTES BAR AND BISTRO, CERVANTES, W.AUSTRALIA

CHILLI MUSSELS…a find on the last vacation we went on. We spent a few days in Western Australia’s city of PERTH where because of a recommendation from Australian travelers we met in Bali we learned of these Mussels in a Tomato, Hot Pepper, and Wine Sauce. Sounds like Mussels Fra Diavolo? Sounds like a typical ItalianAmerican seafood dish? Since I’ve come back from vacation I’ve been trying to see where this dish originated. I’ve found out a few things. You can find them all over Australia, yet on line research always points to Perth and Western Australia. Australia’s proximity to Asia had me thinking these were possibly an Indonesian or Thai or Chinese style of mussels. No. They are decidedly Mediterranean in their style and flavor. Are they different from ItalianAmerican mussels in hot pepper spiked tomato sauce? When That bowl was placed infront of us in Western Australia’s seaside town of CERVANTES my head said..oh, it’s our Fra Diavolo with an Australian name. Sitting in the CERVANTES BAR AND BISTRO after a full day of driving up the coast I can tell you I was in for a great culinary surprise. These had a bit of sweetness to them. I detected maybe sugar in the mix. There were fresh sliced chile peppers in the mix. Aha. That’s it. Quite possibly with Australia’s large Italian Immigrant population this was a creation made by them with some changes as often happens in immigrant communities. There’s a style of cooking called AustralianItalian, just like we have ItalianAmerican in the States. Now you’ll say, what’s the difference??? Why would the dried chile pepper flakes (peperoncino) taste different than the fresh. Well…taste both for yourself. There’s a difference. And this is not a one is better than the other conversation, this is me telling you my foodcentric friends that there’s new dishes to be had when you change an ingredient. Fresh Chiles is possibly more Asian in it’s flavor profile. It’s a bit fruity. There’s a texture the ItalianAmerican mussels don’t have. It was amazing. Travel Food surprises are always welcome. Simply switch out fresh chiles for the peperoncino, add a pinch of sugar, or brown sugar and you’ll get the chilli mussel experience. Most important, use mid sized fresh mussels. Those enormous Green ones don’t work here. For a recipe, since I’ve not made my own version of them yet, here’s a link from Australia’s great Travel magazine, GOURMET TRAVELLER. I fell in love with this magazine after my daughter bought me one for the beach while we were there.

https://www.gourmettraveller.com.au/recipes/chefs-recipes/mussels-with-chilli-garlic-and-white-wine-9229

POLPETTE DI PANE, MEATLESS “MEATBALLS”, FROM SOUTHERN ITALY

ragudomenica 012Meatballs, Meatballs, Meatballs…so many kinds, so little time. This post is going to discuss one of the most inventive types of “meatballs”. no meat at all, but a POLPETTE DI PANE, a Bread “Meat”ball.  This is the Southern Italian version but by no means can the Italians lay claim to the bread and egg poached ball.  As you travel in the North of Italy and to the countries of Central Europe you’ll find a thriving kitchen culture of DUMPLINGS of all kinds.  This Southern Italian bread meatball is really a Dumpling.  Dumplings in the central european region often are breadballs poached in a liquid.  What makes these so tasty is that they are the flavors of a southern Italian or ItalianAmerican meatball without the meat.  They make for a nice change, oh I’m not going meatless, but this is just another dish in the vast universe of Italian cuisine and should definitely be tried.  Standard recipes call for Parmigiano-Reggiano.  Not me.  The taste of the cheese gets lost in this dish.  Pecorino Romano is my choice here.  It stands up to the braising and makes the balls taste so amazing.   Simply make your Marinara Sauce as you normally make it.  To make 12 POLPETETE DI PANE follow these instructions:

2 CUPS OF STALE ITALIAN BREAD

1 1/4 CUPS FRESH GRATED PECORINO ROMANO

2 TBS MINCED ITALIAN FLATLEAF PARSLEY

1 CLOVE FINELY MINCED GARLIC

4 LARGE EGGS

1/2 TSP FRESH GROUND BLACK PEPPER

PINCH OF SEA SALT OR KOSHER SALT

Have your medium to large pot of sauce simmering while you make the “meatballs”.  Using a food processor pulverize the bread into crumbs.  Add the cheese, garlic, and parsley and pulse until they are blended.  Add the salt and pepper. Pulse a few times.  The next step needs to be taken care with.  Add the crumb mix to a bowl.  Beat 2 of the eggs and pour into the mixture.  Blend well.  Once that’s well combined, beat a 3d egg and mix in.  Test your mixture now.  Your mixture should be hydrated enough but needs to be firm so you can roll it into balls.  If it’s still too dense, beat the 4th egg and blend.  Conversely if the mixture suddenly becomes too loose, add some dry breadcrumbs till you get it to the right consistency.  WHAT’S THE RIGHT CONSISTENCY???  You can form golf ball size Polpette di Pane without them falling apart or “drooping”.  Line up the balls on a baking tray and chill in the fridge for 10 minutes.  Bring the sauce to a low boil and gently drop the balls into the sauce gingerly stiring so they do not mash or break up.  Let them simmer in the sauce for 20 minutes.  Let them sit in the sauce for at least 1 hour before reheating and serving.  What to serve with them?  well….you can have them as a starter, an antipasto.  OR you can serve them as a side (Italian lesson here…side dishes are called CONTORNI) with a salad, with grilled meats, or vegetables, or a roast.  Be creative.  I like them just on their own with a nice shower of grated Pecorino on top, some fresh basil.  HAPPY COOKING!   BTW, I say it makes 12, but it could be less or more 12 is a good average.

ITALIAN STUFFED CABBAGE…FOR THE COOLER MONTHS…INVOLTINI DI VERZA

0001When you hear STUFFED CABBAGE you think of cuisines like various Middle Eastern, Polish, Ukranian,Hungarian, Turkish, Romanian, Czech, Greek but never Italian.  Many people thing cabbage is not vegetable used in Italy.  Oh there are many cabbage dishes up and down the boot.  Savoy Cabbage is a milder and thinner leaved type of cabbage.  There’s less of that “cabbagey” sulphuric stench to it.  I don’t mind the strong smell, I love cabbage, any way, any cuisine, from Germany to Korea it’s a vegetable that’s help keep the world from starvation and yes even from disease. Cabbage is loaded in Vitamin C.  Have I made you a convert yet?  What if you were to stuff a Savoy Cabbage leaf with a southern Italian meatball flavored filling adding rice to the mix and then baking them all in your usual Marinara?  Are we good now?  Good.  I grew up in a Polish section of Staten Island NYC and Stuffed Cabbage was verrrrry popular. Delicious.  Even as a kid I loved it.  My Mom turned that Polish Golumbki into an ItalianAmerican pan of deliciousness.  The filling was ground beef and pork, rice, and then the usual meatball suspects, garlic, breadcrumbs, lots of pecorino, black pepper, salt, parsley and an egg.  As I began to cook more often I started taking Mom’s recipes as a base, some by memory alone, and the adding or subtracting to them.  Over the years I’ve played with this, with different meats, cheeses, herbs, sauces and i finally came back to only slightly changing Mom’s.  The cheese I use in this is Provolone..It’s bold taste really works well with the meat and cabbage.  Whenever I make some adaptations to what Mom made I will always stay within her flavor profiles.  She knew how to cook.  So let’s make some INVOLTINI DI VERZA…stuffed Italian Cabbage Rolls.  Tis the season, cabbage tastes best in the cool/cold weather months.

SERVINGS: 4                                   TIME:  2 1/2 HOURS

1 LARGE HEAD OF SAVOY CABBAGE, bottom core taken out

1 1/4 lb mixed ground Chuck and ground Pork

1 cup cooked long grain rice, cooled

1/2 cup plain Italian Breadcrumbs moistened with 2 tbs heavy cream or water or milk

1/2 cup fine dice PROVOLONE

3 finely minced CLOVES OF GARLIC

3 TBS FINELY MINCED ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY

1/2 TSP OREGANO

1/2 TEASPOON KOSHER OR SEA SALT

1 TBS FRESH GROUND BLACK PEPPER

2 EGGS, BEATEN

2 TBS WHITE ITALIAN WINE

2 1/2 CUPS MARINARA SAUCE

3 TBS PARMIGIANO REGGIANO GRATED

OLIVE OIL

Preheat your oven to 380 degrees F.  Bring 5 quarts of water to a boil. salt the water.  Gently place the cabbage head into the water and cook for 15 minutes.  Drain.  Rinse with cold water.  Remove 14-16 leaves from the cabbage head and lay them out on paper or kitchen towels.  While they are cooling make the filling.  In a large mixing bowl add the eggs then all the ingredients  except the meat and the sauce.  Blend well then add the meat and blend with your hands until it’s the consistency of a meatloaf or meatball mixture. Now get your baking pan ready.  Drizzle the bottom of the pan with some olive oil, then a layer of the marinara, maybe 1/2 inch. READY TO ROLL!!! Using about a handfull of the meat place it at the bottom of one of the leaves. Fold the side in and then roll it up placing it SEAM SIDE DOWN into the sauced pan. You may need more meat or less, don’t over or understuff. And here’s something that many recipes never tell you.  I’m not giving you an EXACT measurement for the meat filling ? Why?  No, not because I’m’ being a jerk.  LOL…Because that head of cabbage yields different sized leaves. The magic of Nature!! You may need more, you may need less.  Get a feel for what you are cooking organically and not just using exact measurements.  You’ll be alot less stressed too!!  Once you’ve filled the pan with the rolls cover with a layer of sauce and a drizzle of olive oil, pinch of salt, pinch of pepper.  Tightly cover with foil and into the oven they go for 50 minutes.  Uncover, test for tenderness….if not ready, cover and bake an additional 10 minutes but you should be good to go at this point.  So uncover and sprinkle the grated cheese over the top.  Bake uncovered for an additional 15 minutes.  DONE!!  Oh this is another dish that is much better tomorrow than it is today.  If you can wait,  serve this the day after you make it.  It’s MUCH tastier.

Making these dishes for me is like cooking with Mom in her kitchen.  When I’m done I look up at her picture and smile.  Thanks Mom, you taught me well!!

 

 

 

POTATOES STEWED IN TOMATO, PATATE IN UMIDO, WITH GARLIC AND OLIVE OIL

12924567_1312429585441165_3820909032551130529_nDo you have a dish that brings you back to your childhood kitchen table?  I’m sure , like me, you have many.  Most of mine are simple dishes that my stay at home Mom fed us day after day and while they all left an impression on me some were just more special to me.  Coming in from P.S.26 in Staten Island, NYC at 3:10pm every day would always be made better when the aroma coming from Mom’s kitchen reached out..grabbed me by the nostrils and pulled me in.  These are things you don’t ever forget.  Let me not bore you AGAIN with my ethnic background, OK, I’ll bore you..I’m ItalianAmerican, second generation born in the U.S. and our meals were mostly Italian foods, or ITalianAmerican foods and peppered up with American and other international cuisines.  Mom gave us a great meal every night (not so much on breakfast, Mom hated the mornings). Come Spring I start to miss Mom more than usual (#italianamericanmommasboy), she loved her Spring and all the holidays it contained.  March is a bridge month I think.  A little Winter , A little Summer.  It takes us from the cold barren ice into the budding green and flowers.So winter or colder weather dishes are still great thru the month.  PATATE IN UMIDO…Stewed Potatoes, doesn’t sound to great does it?  Let me change your mind.  I’d eat this dish every night. On it’s own with a nice piece of Italian bread.  In the Summer when Dad’s garden was bursting she’d throw handfuls of his many varieties of green beans into the pot as well.  In that one move she took the hearty Wintry Patate in Umido and turned it into a Summer’s dish.  I smell her Aqua Net shellacked hair do along with her perfume as she’s passing me by as I write this. I’ll bet she wants to make sure I don’t screw up her dish as I share it with you!  LET’S COOK!!!

3 lbs of peeled potatoes

3 tbs. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

4 cloves of garlic

1 can of San Marzano tomatoes, run thru a blender to puree or 2 cups of Passata

pinch of dried Oregano

salt, pepper

3 fresh Basil leaves

water as needed

Pecorino Romano, or Parmigiano Reggiano, grated to taste

Peperoncino, to taste

Like most rustic Italian dishes not a lot of ingredients, all of these are very obtainable.

Cut potatoes into equal but cubes or slices.  Heat, in a heavy bottomed pot 2 Tbs. Olive Oil.  Pinch of salt, a bit of the Oregano, a bit of the pepper. Now add the potatoes and let them cook for 5 minutes stirring as you go.  Add the garlic and saute’ till fragrant.  Blend well.  Now season the potatoes with salt and pepper and then add the tomatoes and 1 cup of water.  Bring to a boil.  Stir.  Now let this pot simmer for 40 minutes.  Test a potato for doneness. Make sure you gently stir without breaking up the potatoes. If they are cooked through you are done.  Remove from the heat.  Tear up 3 basil leaves and gently blend in. DONE!  This makes large servings for 4, or a side dish for 4-6.  Check the dish for seasoning.  Add salt and pepper as needed/to your liking.  Drizzle the remaining olive oil over the pot. Let your diners add their own peperoncino and Grated Cheese.

Thanks again for stopping by and HAPPY COOKING!!

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CELEBRATING THE FEAST OF THE SEA ON SAN PIETRO DAY in SCIACCA, SICILY WITH A SPECIAL PASTA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

BENVENUTI A SCIACCA PER LA FESTA DEL MARE IN ONORE DI SAN PIETRO….Welcome to my paternal grandparents
town of their birth, Sciacca , in the province of Agrigento, Sicily…A beautiful seaside town on the South side of the island,
it faces Africa separated by the vast Mediterranean Sea.  On June 29, the Christian world honors the life of St.Peter the
Apostle and Fisherman, but in Sicily, and in Sciacca in particular, the day is more special as San Pietro is the Patron Saint
of Sicilian Fisherman.  Being an Island, and a rough and arid terrained one at that many people turn to the sea for their
jobs.  It is a celebration of the blessings the Saint provides to them, their safety, and a celebration of the treasures that
come from the sea. Anchovies, or ALICI are one of the most prolific and lucrative catches in the town…the Anchovies of
AGOSTINO RECCA are known to be some of the best in the world.  I use them exclusively and I’m very lucky that most
of the Salumeria in my area carry that brand.  They are caught and packed for export in Sciacca.  A connection to the
old country…

   In the   picture you
can see the men of the Society of San Pietro tranporting the Statue of St.Peter on their shoulders down the hill to
the harbor.  In the above picture you see them at the docks where the statue is transferred to a boat, then rowed out
into the harbor, boats filled with fisherman following it.  It then returns to the shore and the feasting begins.  The left
of the above picture shows the program of the feast.

So by now you all know my name, Peter…another Italian tradition is to celebrate the Saint whose name you bear on their particular feast day.  These are days set up by the Church to honor a saint,  Every Saint has one, and every one in Italy celebrated saying
“Buon Onomastico” and as my grandparents did, pull your ear lobe.  My wife (who is Irish and German-American) did just that
when she came home from work today.  She learned it from my grandparents years ago..another great tradition.sciaccacartoline

So my name is attached to an ancient tradition from the town my grandparents were born in.  Also, my great-grandfather  was
Pietro  di Stefano Vizzi, and my dad was Pietro Daniel Battaglia…a long line of Peters who share a tradition.sciaccaprocessone

Here comes the A FOOD OBSESSION food angle in all of this.  Thinking today about what to make for dinner and of course
I think  SEAFOOD, IT’S SAN PIETRO PESCATORE day!  No time, and the fridge is full of meat.  So, what to do?  I had some
ground veal, maybe 3/4 lb.  Then, I’m thinking anchovies, they pair so nicely with veal.  Then I said macaroni, and I have
the perfect shape for this meaty sauce, Cellentani, like a fusilli with a hole through the center.  And before you could say
A FOOD OBSESSION I came up with CELLENTANI PER SAN PIETRO..I would celebrate the flavors of Sicily in a pasta
dish.
There’s the dish…wow..it came out great and had
all the flavors I was looking for…AND it was quite festive for this special Name Day of mine!  The Cellentani pasta were
the perfect shape for this sauce, but not the most popular shape to find around the country.  When making a dish and
blogging about it, I was to be mindful that a global audience is reading this and not everything is readily available.
Fusilli or Cavatappi would be a good substitute.  Start cooking by adding 2 tbs. of olive oil to a deep and wide skillet.  Add 3/4 lb.
of ground veal, 2 tsp. of fennel seeds which you have rubbed between the palms of your hand..important step here:
this helps to release the aromatic oils which will flavor the sauce. Let the meat start to sizzle , then add 2 Anchovy
filets and mash them into the oil with a fork.  Add 1 tsp. of oregano which you rubbed between your hands to the
skillet.  Stir well.

Let this cook for 8 minutes.  Then add 2 sliced cloves of garlic, 1 tsp. of salt, some black pepper,and 2 tbs. of
fresh chopped parsley.  When fragrant,, about 3 minutes, add 1/2 glass of red wine.  Sitr well and bring it up
to a boil, then lower to a simmer.


Let this cook for 5 minutes, then add one can of paste,   1 can of San Marzano tomatoes which you have
already crushed with your hand, 1 pinch of sugar, dash of black pepper…then add 1 empty paste can
filled with water, stir, and simmer for 30 minutes. In the meantime make your pasta, I strongly suggest
the Cellentani, (Cavatappi)..or any tube pasta with ridges.  Cook al dente, and drain.  Toss with some of the finished
sauce.  One lb. of pasta will feed 4-6 people.

Now look at that special dish!!!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I was really happy with the flavors!
..before you start shaking your head because you don’t like anchovies, they are
integral to this dish because  A.  it’s a celebration of the Sicilian Sea, and the anchovies I’m using come from
there  B.  The flavor is in the background and it’s not a fishy flavor.  MY KIDS ATE IT, TWO PLATES EACH! and
they never knew.
Garnish this dish with fresh chopped parsley, adds the earthy notes, 1 tsp. of toasted pignoli, and a good
grating of Caciocavallo, a cheese that is imported from Sicily…you can’t go wrong with this one…
Cin-Cin to all things Sicilian…and a Happy Name Day to all Peters out there!!  This pasta will make you feel
special!!!P.S. to this blogpost which I originally blogged a few years ago..I thought it was so perfect to reblog on this June 29..however one piece of food interest that is necessary to report to you is that the most popular dish served in Sciacca on June 29 for the Festa del Mare is the Padellata di Gamberi…a large pan of sauteed local shrimp with olive oil, garlic, lemon..
However you spend the day have fun and cook something good!