I’m hosting an informal Easter dinner next Sunday. Some of the friends at the table will be with me in Rome and Naples in a few weeks so I’m serving dishes from those 2 cities.
We’ll start with a savory deep-dish pie, Pizza Rustica filled with ricotta, mozzarella and salumi and a deep-dish ricotta with candied citrus peel pie, Pastiera Napoletana, will be the sweet ending to our meal.
Chicken Roman-Style with red and yellow peppers in a sweet tomato sauce with prosciutto bits will be the piatto secondo, the main course.
Pollo alla Romana con i peperoni is a simple recipe that is ready in about 30 minutes. I used boneless, skinless chicken breast but you can use any chicken parts that please you. If you have more cook time, bone-in pieces will add even more flavor to the dish.
The cooking method used here, insaporire, to develop flavor, is a classic Italian technique. Cook the chicken and peppers separately to develop their full flavors. Then combine them together at the end so that the ingredients absorb flavor from each other and the dish develops distinctive, yet complex flavors.
The chicken is infused with the soft sweetness of the peppers, the salty prosciutto and chunky San Marzano tomato sauce. A perfect flavor balance.
Serve some polenta or rice on the side to absorb the sauce and you have lunch or dinner on one plate.
Lucky for me I’m only making one of each pie this year. The picture above shows some of the pies I made a couple of years ago when the family gathered in Virginia. I had to ensure we had enough for Easter dinner and for everyone to take some home too.
I’ll post recipes for the rest of the Easter meal this week: Stracciatella, a Roman egg-drop soup and pollo alla Romano, chicken with red and yellow peppers in a light tomato sauce.
March 19 is the Feast of St. Joseph, Festa di San Giuseppe. It’s a big day in Italy and a big day among Italian-Americans.
St. Joseph’s Day is Father’s Day in Italia. Joseph was Mary’s husband and helped raise the young Jesus. St. Joseph is also Sicily’s patron saint. The story is that St. Joseph’s intervention saved Sicilians from starvation during a severe Middle Ages drought.
I make some of my favorite Italian food this time of the year in celebration of the Festa di San Giuseppe, the Feast of St. Joseph.
This year I’m making Sicilian St. Joseph’s Day dishes. First up is Spaghetti di San Giuseppe with toasted breadcrumbs that symbolize the sawdust on a carpeter’s floor.
The spaghetti is bathed in a zesty garlic, olive oil and anchovy sauce topped with nutty, golden toasted breadcrumbs. Spaghetti di San Giuseppe is a humble, simple dish with deep complex flavor. You can make the sauce in the time that it takes to cook the pasta.
My Italian roots are in Campania so I can’t forego making a Neapolitan pastry, Zeppole di San Giuseppe. We’re gathering to celebrate an Italian-American friend’s birthday tomorrow. I’m making Zeppole di San Giuseppe as my gift for the birthday boy and his guests.
Just cook the chicken (or fish) atop a bed of green olives, capers and lemon for less than 10 minutes. Serve the tender moist chicken topped with the zesty pan sauce.
Recipe type: Entree
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast cut in chunky pieces (or fish fillets).
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
¾ cup pitted olives, roughly chopped (I use big fat green cerignola olives)
1 tablespoon capers
juice of 1 lemon
sea salt to taste
2 tablespoons chopped Italian flat parsley
Mix the olive oil, olives capers and lemon juice in a 10-inch cast iron skillet or a heavy-bottomed saute pan.
Over medium-low heat slowly bring the mixture to a gentle sizzle.
Arrange the chicken pieces (or fish fillets) in a single layer. Cook in batches if necessary.
Cook the chicken until fully cooked, about 4 minutes on the first side and about 3 minutes on the other side. I cover the pan for about half of the cooking time for each side. (Depending on the thickness of the fish fillets cook a minute or 2 on the first side and about a minute on the second side.)
Sprinkle the chicken or fish with the chopped parsley.
Taste the pan sauce and add some salt if necessary.
Put the chicken or fish on a serving platter and pour the pan sauce with the olives and capers on top.
Spring is taking hold so I thought I’d make something to celebrate, an egg pie with tender, thin asparagus.
Actually “La Squadra”, is gathering at my house for lunch. My Rome and Naples traveling companions and I need to finish planning our final week in Campania next month.
The frittata is part of my antipasti course, along with buffalo mozzarella from Campania and thinly sliced cappocolo cured locally. We could be in either Roma or Napoli. This spring egg pie is popular in both cities. It’s popular with me too.
Don’t be intimidated. Making a frittata is not that hard. You can watch me making a frittata. If you don’t want to flip the frittata just finish it in the oven.
Frittata is a tasty antipasto or serve it with a salad and it’s lunch.
The golden frittata crust is nutty. The parmigiano perks up the tender, moist interior. The grassy, sweet asparagus scream spring has arrived.
Here’s one of my favorite spaghetti sauces that’s ready in the time it takes to cook the spaghetti. The recipe comes from the the small hill town of Amatrice in the Sabine Hills northeast of Rome.
You see spaghetti all’Amatriciana in all the trattorie in Rome. It’s a really popular pasta here in North Beach too. I get it whenever it’s on the menu at da Flora on Columbus.
Here’s my version of this simple sauce. It doesn’t have many ingredients. Make sure you use canned San Marzano tomatoes for this one. The tomato, onion and guanciale sauce is ready in about 20 minutes.
I like the sauce a little on the chunky side. It sticks to the spaghetti better. The onions enhance the sweetness of the tomatoes. The crispy little guanciale cubes add texture to every bite. I add some chili flakes to perk everything up.
Nothing better than a fat forkful of spaghetti all’Amatriciana. It’s a mouthful of flavor that packs a little heat.
In Amatrice they hold an annual August festival, Sagra degli Spaghetti all’Amatriciana, that celebrates their world-famous pasta dish. Here’s a video of the town and the festival devoted exclusively to this dish. Buon appetito!
You may see a theme in my upcoming recipes. I’m celebrating the food of Rome, the first stop on my upcoming trip to Italia.
A popular dish found in restaurants all over Rome, straccetti di manzo is a quick sauté of thinly sliced steak and mushrooms served over a bed of arugula.
The dish is called “stracetti” or “little rags” because the thinly sliced lean filet or steak is torn into small bite-sized pieces that resemble rags.
If you enjoy a salad topped by grilled steak, try this quick dish to satisfy your desires. It’s full of flavor and will be on your table in about 30 minutes. Just right for lunch or a light dinner all on one plate.
The boys at Little City suggested beef filet or a strip steak for this dish. I wanted buttery beef so I picked the filet and it works beautifully. The big heap of baby arugula at Union Produce caught my eye. It was a perfect base for the dish.
The tender filet rags and nutty mushrooms are bathed in the buttery pan sauce with sweet balsamic notes. The arugula adds a crunchy, peppery finish to each bite. Simple, healthy and delicious.