Hotness Challenge – Macaroni with a Baby Back Rib Sauce

Make it hot with Calabrian pepper oil.

I’ve been thinking about this maccheroni con sugo di crostate di maiale (macaroni with a pork baby back rib sauce) since NoodleFest, the NorthBeach/Chinatown outdoor eating event last May. Right near the stage where I was demonstrating how to make fresh pasta dough about 20 NB restaurants had booths where they served up tastes of their favorite pasta. In between demonstrations I ran over to the closest booth. There I met Francesco who owns the Calabrian restaurant Vicoletto (Green between Columbus/Grant). He was serving fresh tagliatelle with a pork riblette sugo.

“You like hot?,” he asked. When I said yes he finished my serving with a sprinkle of grated pecorino and a few drops of a golden red olive oil from a gallon jar of hot peppers. Sweet tomato sauce,  meat falling off the ribs, the silky fresh pasta, it was heaven. But the heat and mellow flavor from the pepper oil really set this pasta apart. This is my version of Franceso’s dish.

Calabrians love hot peppers that make their food zesty and memorable. So here’s the challenge. How many drops of the hot pepper oil on top of your dish of pasta are enough for you? If you’re not into hot–no worries–this is a delicious sauce without the chili oil. I don’t think Calabrians would mind too much!

Eat one of the peppers if you’re brave enough. I love them but sometimes I need to have a hunk of bread nearby to put out the flame! The peppers are a great addition to an antipasti platter. Just warn your tablemates.



Village News–More New North Beach Restos & Shops

New Little Vine--Upper Grant, North Beach

It’s an exciting time to be in North Beach–lots of new places opening in the Village. The Bottle Cap reviews are starting to pour in including Bauer’s in the Sunday Chron. The Park Tavern is set to open soon. And Park and Pond also has open doors on Grant (between Green/Union), a small boite celebrating the crafts of local artisans–more about this and a couple of other new spots in next week’s post.

The paper is off the windows on upper Grant! The owners, husband & wife Melissa Gugni and Jay Esopenko who live in the Village opened Little Vine specialty foods. Little Vine (between Union/Filbert) is a cute  spot and a great addition to the Village. The place is already busy with a steady stream of Villagers stopping in to say hello and take a peak at the seasonal produce, meats and other interesting food products, grabbing a Bicycle coffee and Starter Bakery pastry, or buying a sandwich on Artisan bread. They have a great assortment of California and Italian cheeses and salumi by Fra’ Mani and Colorado’s Il Mondo Vecchio made as the name suggests in the Old World style–no added nitrites or nitrates. The gnarly salumi reminded me of those I’d see in the cellars in my neighborhood when I was a kid in Jersey.


My Nibble Plate from North Beach's new Little Vine on upper Grant

I had to get the whole Jersey cow milk ricotta in the basket from Bellweather Farms across the Golden Gate Bridge in Petaluma. Creamy, just the right fat/acid balance and dense enough from its time in the basket to slice. The Tartufo–a young Pecorino with black truffle is superb. There’s just enough age in the creamy sheep milk’s cheese to stand up to the earthy black truffle. The Mondo Vecchio Paradiso salami with porcini is as good as it gets–all natural and made in the traditional way.

I figured I could eat a little something when I got back up the hill. Here’s my nibble plate filled with my Little Vine score–the big ricotta basket cheese, pecorino tartufo, porcini pork salami, dry farmed tomatoes with basil, salt and EVOO. A perfect summer lunch that ended with a juicy ripe peach. Little Vine’s ABC license should clear soon. Can’t wait to see their selection of wines.



Sweet cherry tomatoes, juicy stonefruit, zucchini blossoms, dry-farmed Early Girl tomatoes, young onions


Cherry-picked the North Beach Sunday Farmer’s Market (Columbus/Mason) on Sunday–just needed a few things. Here’s my loot. The ruby red cherry tomatoes are sweet but the golden ones are even sweeter. Cherry tomatoes and the young onion were to top a focaccia that I brought as a gift to a friend’s birthday party later that afternoon.

Look forward to that focaccia recipe this Friday. And coming up on Wednesday is a video episode of one of my favorite Calabrian pasta sauces. Don’t miss!

Doppio macchiato, Caffe Puccini--North Beach


Just as an end note–they’re getting fancy at the Pooch (Caffe Puccini on Columbus near Vallejo). This macchiato is as good to look at as it is to drink!


Friday Recipe: Belly-Button Ricotta Gnocchi in a Sage Burnt Butter Sauce

Ricotta Gnocchi with Sage Burnt Butter Sauce

The rising popularity of the potato gnocchi video prompted me to share a simpler gnocchi recipe using ricotta to make the dough instead of potato.

Ricotta gnocchi are quicker to make and lighter than the potato version. The dough is ready in a jiffy and the sauce is finished as the gnocchi boil. I love these little soft pillows. Sometimes I give them a light finger poke to create a little “belly-button” on one side to ensure they’ll cook evenly.

The dough and ricotta gnocchi are made using the same methods as in my potato gnocchi recipe. Watch that if you want a visual of how to make gnocchi. The sauces in that episode go well with ricotta gnocchi too.

I reached up to northern Italy for the sage burnt butter sauce. You see it in Tuscany and the Veneto. This is a great sauce to add to your repertoire. It pairs well with gnocchi and other fresh pasta to create a full-flavored but delicate dish.



Little Scaloppine Bundles

Scallopine Rollatini


I had a “woo-lee” (desire) for veal scaloppine but I didn’t want to spend as much time as it would take to make one of the dishes from the 10—Super Versatile Scallopine video I posted last week.

In an effort to save time, here’s a 3-step version that is delicious and you can have it on the table in about 20 minutes tops! Use your favorite scaloppine–veal, chicken, turkey, or pork loin and simply roll it up with a basil leaf, prosciutto and fresh mozzarella (or a sage leaf and Italian fontina) and brown it in a saute pan with some EVOO and butter. I used veal, basil and mozzarella here.

Top the bundles with a pan sauce and you’re good to go. The scaloppine is fork tender and the prosciutto and basil are heated through with the mozzarella oozing out onto the plate. I’m serving chard sauteed with EVOO and garlic as the side but you can choose your favorite simple vegetable. I’m watching my intake so no starch this time around.

These little bundles are sometimes called scaloppine “rollatini” (little rolls with a filling) or scaloppine “ripieni” (stuffed). This cooking method is a great one to get under your belt. It’s similar to braciole that I make in my Sunday Gravy episode. I’ll post some additional recipes using this method –next up: eggplant rollatini.

In case you noticed, there’s a story behind the variant spellings of scaloppine (scallopine/scallopini which I use too). Curious? Stay posted.



North Beach Sunday Farmer’s Market

North Beach Farmer's Market

Another great weekend in the Village. The SF Mime Troupe was in Washington Square Park Saturday afternoon along with an interesting art show in the park. Lots of visitors too. I had a hard time making my way down Columbus but the boys at Molinari say they can sense that the tourist season is coming to an end. Luckily the farm bounty continues unabated.

Sunday was a chilly, foggy morning and the Village was still abuzz.  North Beach denizens flocked to the Farmer’s Market near the library (Columbus/Mason). Each Sunday a dozen farmers bring in their organic harvest and are joined by others selling bread and baked goods, olives and olive oil, nuts, salmon and other goodies  –even a couple of food trucks make it out.



North Beach Farmer's Market

We strolled the stalls accompanied by the sweet strains of a cello playing at the end of the short street. The fruits, vegetables and flowers were picture-perfect. I couldn’t resist the zucchini flowers that I stuff with mozzarella and anchovy and fry in a light batter. The chard was colorful. I’ll saute it in olive oil infused with garlic to accompany veal rollatini stuffed with mozzarella, prosciutto and basil. Friends report San Marzano tomatoes in some markets but I haven’t seen them yet. The farmers tell me the San Marzanos won’t be in for a couple of more weeks. Let me know if you score any–I’m anxious!

Support the North Beach Farmer’s Market every Sunday morning. It’s a great Village asset that we don’t want to lose!




Kerouac Alley Fair

Kerouac Alley (between City Lights Books and Vesuvio off Columbus near Broadway) was busy Sunday as they set up A Fair to Remember— clothes, antiques, paintings, crafts, photographs (including color ’60s pix from the first North Beach strip club).

Kerouac Alley is a great Village venue during the entire year. You never know what will pop up there–a jazz quartet one time, R&B the next, and local artists exhibiting their works.

Keep an eye out on SFGate for what’s happening next on Kerouac Alley.

As a head’s up, I know artists will be in the Alley over the Columbus Day weekend. The North Beach festivities on Sunday October 9 include the Italian-Heritage parade–the oldest in the country. Can’t wait!

10 for 1 – Super Versatile Scallopine

This might be one of the most versatile recipes ever.

I’m not great at math so I may need your help.

I promised 10 dishes from this recipe. I think I short-changed you. After my video proclamation I recalculated and I think there are 16 permutations–16 dishes, probably even more. Wow, lucky you!

Here’s the calculation:

You can use one of 4 meats. You can use one of 2 herbs. You can use one of 2 cheeses. 4X2X2=16. Right? Actually, there are probably more. For example mix mozzarella and fontina and that’s recipe #17. Leave out the prosciutto and that’s recipe #18. So on and so forth…

Enough. You do the math.Here’s the recipe.

My current favorites are the Scallopine alla Sorrentina (veal, prosciutto, roasted eggplant, basil, fresh mozzarella) and the Scallopine alla Bolognese (veal, prosciutto, fresh sage, fontina). The Sorrentina with the eggplant probably doesn’t need any contorni (sides)–the Bolognese without the eggplant may. Roasted potatoes and Swiss Chard or escarole sauteed in EVOO with garlic would be nice.

The cooking directions are exactly the same for all of the recipe permutations. You saute the meat and make the sauce in the same pan. Then you bake the scallopine in the oven with the pan sauce. Only the ingredients and combinations you choose may vary not the sauce nor the cooking methods.

This reciped serves 4. If you have scallopine the size I used in the video this recipe you may want to serve 2 as a portion.


Spaghetti Pie

Let over pasta with beaten egg mixed in makes a wonderful pie
Let over pasta with beaten egg mixed in makes a wonderful pie

So I had some spaghetti with basil pesto left over from last night’s dinner. This happens once in a while–they don’t eat all the pasta and some inevitably spends the night in the fridge. But boy-oh-boy the next day it’s breakfast–a spaghetti pie.

You can make this with just about any left over long pasta with just about any sauce (seafood not so good, however). Start the day by beating a few eggs in a big bowl, add the left over pasta and toss. Pour it into a baking dish. Throw it in the oven and take it out after your shower.

Spaghetti pie for breakfast–maybe with a fresh peach salad? Save it for later and enjoy it as a side dish or part of an antipasti course.

The pie is moist inside and those golden pasta strands on top have a crispy, nutty flavor.

This recipe is good for about a 1/4 pound of leftover pasta. If you have more leftovers, simply add another egg.



Basil Pesto–The Genoa Way?

Spaghetti with Basil Pesto

Don’t know why but I’ve been putting off making basil pesto–a simple salsa verdi (green sauce) from Genoa. I couldn’t wait any longer when I got a deal on a couple of bunches of small leaf organic basil this morning. By early afternoon, the kitchen was sweetly perfumed by the fresh basil marinating in the morning sun when I returned to make the pesto.

Yeah the Genoese insist you must use a mortar and pestle to make this pesto. I don’t have one so if you don’t either, use a food processor to mince the basil, garlic and pinoli and then mix in the grated cheeses and the butter to give the pesto more texture. Not the authentic Genoa way, but taste is never sacrificed.

Just a few ingredients and you’ve got this pesto in 10 minutes. Use it to dress fettuccine as they do in Genoa (they call the dish trenette) or with spaghetti as I did this time. This pesto is really versatile. Use it as a sauce with roasted meats, as a pizza topping with fresh mozzarella and grated pecorino romano, or add a dollop to a soup like minestrone.

Ah, summer!


Romano Bean Salad

Roman Bean Salad

Gotta love this time of the year when so many fantastic vegetables are in season. I get excited in anticipation of each farmer’s market visit. Sometimes my favorite farmers give me a preview of what’s about to be harvested and brought with them on their next trip to the City. But most often I revel in the joy of discovery wandering from one stand to the next.

Romano beans (aka Italian flat beans or pole beans) are plentiful this time of the year. I saw them this morning at the market and grabbed up a bunch.

Here’s a simple recipe that brings out the full flavor of the bean. You can enjoy them as soon as you make the dish but they are at their peak if you let them stand in a covered bowl for a few hours or even overnight so the dressing is absorbed by the beans.

The Romano Bean Salad can be served as a side with meat or fish or as part of an antipasti.

If you are into crunchy vegetables this recipe is not for you. It’s important to cook the beans in boiling salted water until they are tender. They will take on the color of an olive.


10 Minute Mussels & Clams

I eat this dish a lot when I’m in Naples, Capri or the Amalfi Coast in the summertime. These quickly steamed cozze e vongole (mussels and clams) are just out of the Bay of Naples, pristine and briny. I like a bowl of them swimming in their broth with a grilled slice of ciabatta rubbed with garlic for dipping. I like them in a pasta sauce served over linguine or spaghetti. I like them red or white and I like them spicy hot or not.

Here’s a basic recipe from Campania that you can have as I make it here and eat in 10 minutes or you can take it in at least a dozen other directions!

My clams and mussels love to eat polenta. As they ingest the polenta it helps clean out any sand inside the shell. I buy them from my fishmonger on the day I cook them. At home I scrub them well and put them in a salty bath sprinkled with polenta. I keep them in the fridge until the pan is ready for them.

Don’t mess with these beauties from the sea. Steam them quickly. Take them out as soon as they open and eat them immediately.

Some variations on this basic recipe, including pasta sauces, are at the end of the recipe below.

Welcome to the Bay of Naples. Buon appetito.