Stufato di Manzo: Italian Beef & Vegetable Stew

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Stufato di Manzo is perfect for cold winter nights.
Stufato di Manzo is perfect for cold winter nights.

Beef stew was my favorite lunch when I trudged home from elementary school on a cold wet winter’s day. I liked to squash all of the tender ingredients together to form a shepherd’s pie mash-up on my plate that I scooped up with a spoon.

Not so many cold wet days here in the Bay Area during the California drought but I’m making this comforting stew anyway. It’s still one of my favorite dishes. I like to make sure that I have some left over because it is a tasty and quick dish to heat up after a long day when I don’t have the energy to cook.

The beef adds deep flavor to the stew but to be honest I’m in it for the most flavorful ingredients, the vegetables.

You may have noticed that many of my recipes reflect my tendency to eat more vegetables and less meat. Often meat is a flavor agent in the dish not the star. The beef stew is a good example. If you have a paleo at the table just pile that dish up with lots of meat.

Food writer and cook Mark Bittman recently shared his thoughts about more vegetables, less meat in his NY Times article.

Bittman seems to have stirred to pot so to speak with his ribollita recipe, the humble but classic Tuscan vegetable soup.

If you want the real deal, check out my ribollita recipe that I learned from Stefania at North Beach’s fantastic BaoNecci on Green. Her ribollita goes back 5 generations in her northern Tuscany family.

If you don’t have the 2 days to make ribollita stop at Day 1 and enjoy a wonderful healthy minestrone.

Buon appetito!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Stufato di Manzo: Italian Beef & Vegetable Stew
 
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Italian beef and vegetable stew
Author:
Recipe type: Dinner
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 1 pound beef chuck, cut in 2-inch cubes
  • 2 carrots, cut half and then in 2-inch slices
  • 2 celery stalks, cut half and then in 2-inch slices
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 Yukon Gold potatoes, cut in small cubes
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 sprigs Italian parsley, 3 on the stem and roughly chop just the leaves from one
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste (I misspoke in the video and said 3 teaspoons)
  • 3 tablespoons EVOO
  • 3 cups water
  • sea salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Trim excess fat from the beef. Cut in 2 inch cubes. Season with some sea salt and freshly cracked pepper. Lightly dust the beef with flour.
  2. Quarter the carrots and potatoes then cut them into in ½ inch slices. Cut the celery stalk in half and cut into pieces the same size as the carrots and potatoes.
  3. Put 2 tablespoons of EVOO in an enamel or heavy-bottomed pot. Put the pot over a high flame until the oil starts to ripple then lower the heat to medium-high.
  4. When the oil is rippling add the beef. Cook the beef and let the beef develop a dark brown crust on all sides. (A fond will form on the bottom of the pot. Those brown bits will eventually melt into the braising sauce and add flavor. Lower the flame if necessary or add a little water so the fond doesn't burn.)
  5. Add another tablespoon EVOO if there is not enough fat in the pot to brown the vegetables.
  6. Add the vegetables and bay leaf to the pot.
  7. Stir the vegetables to coat well with the oil and cook until they pick up some brown color.
  8. When the vegetables are done clear a small spot on the bottom of the pan. Make sure it has a coating of oil adding some if necessary.
  9. Add the tomato paste to the hot spot and cook the tomato paste until it darkens. Stir to coat all of the vegetables with the paste.
  10. To braise add enough water to just cover the stew. Be sure to scrape up (deglaze) all the brown bits on the bottom of the pan. (You can use stock but I don't think the dish really needs it. You can deglaze the bottom of the pot with ¼ cup dry red wine to add another layer of flavor. Just cook off most of the wine before adding the braising liquid.)
  11. Add 3 stems of parsley and stir into the stew.
  12. Cover the pot and simmer the stew for about 60 minutes.
  13. Stir the stew occasionally to ensure it does not burn on the bottom.
  14. Reduce the heat to a low simmer. The stew should be just lightly bubbling at the edge of the pot.
  15. Put the lid ajar atop the pot if the stew is not thick enough and simmer for 30 minutes more.
  16. Braise until the beef flakes when speared with a fork and the vegetables are knife tender.
  17. Spoon the stew into a bowl and sprinkle a bit of finishing EVOO on top and chopped parsley for color.
  18. Serve immediately.

 

Family Survives 2 Weeks on Gianni’s Food!

Chicken & Potatoes: Lazio vs. Campania
Cook Off: My chicken cutlets and potato croquetta

A fan wrote to tell me she just returned from a 2-week Florida vacation with her father and husband. Usually to satisfy one of her Dad’s woolies (craving) they cooked up a whole bunch of my dishes.

I’m dizzy from the list. Chicken & escarole soup, chicken cutlets & potato croquette (at 7:43 in the Cook Off episode), sauteed kalegnocchi twice once with San Marzano sauce and once with the gorgonzola dolce sauce, eggplant parmigiana, and spinach & ricotta cannelloni morphed into a lasagna. The “boys” looked pretty happy in the pic of them about to devour the lasagna. They gave it “Two thumbs up!”

She made baci hazelnut & chocolate candies for friends & neighbors before they headed north. The Valentine’s Day gifts “were a big big hit,” she told me.

Now that they’re back home in the snow “as high as an elephant’s eye” her father wants pasta e fagioli. She shared her Mom’s version of the hearty pasta and beans soup we called “pasta fazool” in Jersey). Just the ticket on a cold night.

“Mom…used to make a version with olive olive oil, garlic, onions, parsley, white wine, potatoes, cannellini beans, some sauteed greens and grated pecorino romano.”

“Thank you for all the fun and good eats!” she wrote.

Piacere. My pleasure. I’m happy when folks make my recipes their own so thanks to my “snow bird” friends for sharing their story with me.

The family missed my food in the long car trip back home. They said I should shoot an episode on food you can take with you for a picnic or car trip. I know some of the lunches my Mom packed for Sunday summer escapes to the beach at Coney Island will be included.

Let me know if you want me to include one of your favorite Italian dishes in an upcoming video episode. Be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel so you don’t miss a one released every Saturday.

Buon appetito!

Baked Baby Eggplant via Japan

Baked Baby Eggplant

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Baked baby eggplant makes a great centerpiece for an antipasti platter.
Baked baby eggplant makes a great centerpiece for an antipasti platter.

Baked Italian baby eggplant is a favorite blog text recipe post so we decided to show you how to make it. Let me know if there are other recipe posts or other Italian dishes you want me to cook and maybe we’ll add them to our upcoming video episode list.

We’re in the worst drought ever here in California.

My produce guys tell me prices are already on the rise because of the drought. 60% of America’s produce comes from California so we’ll all be paying 15-20% more.

Even as prices rise, keep on buying local organic produce. The quality of the ingredients is vital. There are only 4 key ingredients in this dish so they all have to shine.

The only two days of heavy rain this whole winter had to be when I’m out food shopping over the weekend for the 3 episodes shot on Monday. I know we need the rain but that doesn’t mean I can’t complain.

I was a man on a mission. Off I went to the Ferry Building Saturday farmer’s market in the rain. No Italian baby eggplant. I hit at least six other markets and baby Italian eggplant were nowhere to be found. All I got was wet.

I panicked. I needed eggplant for Monday’s shoot. While scouring the city I caught a glimpse of dark eggplant on a sidewalk stand as the bus passed Grant Street in Chinatown. I made my way back to the produce stand and there I found not the Italian baby eggplant I desperately needed but Japanese eggplant instead.

I prefer the baby Italian eggplant but if I can't get 'em Japanese eggplant will do just fine.
I prefer the baby Italian eggplant but if I can’t get ’em Japanese eggplant will do just fine.

I was about to pass them up when I said to myself “Hey, you got a show to shoot. Whaddaya gonna do? Buy these. Stupido! This happens to other people too, so it’s an improvisation lesson.”

After chasing all over the city, I had developed a “woolie” (a craving) for these baked eggplant. I had to make them.

So that’s why I’m using Japanese eggplant that are readily available in the market. If you can’t get the Italian baby eggplant, use the Japanese.

The taste and texture is as good as baking the small black-purple Italian ones. But if I find them in market, I go for the baby Italians every time.

Zesty crispy tomato and pecorino top sweet creamy soft eggplant inside the flavorful shriveled skin. The essence of eggplant in every single bite. Serve it by itself or as the centerpiece of an antipasti course. Just add some prosciutto & cheese to the platter and some olives too.

If you like eggplant watch me make my favorite dish eggplant parmigiano.

Keep on cooking. Buon appetito!

4.7 from 3 reviews
Baked Baby Eggplant via Japan
 
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Intense creamy baked baby eggplant topped with San Marzano tomatoes, oregano and pecorino.
Author:
Recipe type: Vegetable
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 4 Italian baby eggplants
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 cup Italian canned San Marzano tomatoes, crushed well by hand
  • ¼ cup pecorino, grated
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • ½ cup water
Instructions
  1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Cut off the stem of the Italian baby eggplant and cut each in half. (If you're using Japanese eggplant, cut off most of the narrow neck.)
  3. Lightly score the top of the eggplant on the diagonal in both directions to form diamonds.
  4. Put the eggplant in a single layer in a baking dish cut side up.
  5. Drizzle each half generously with EVOO.
  6. Sprinkle sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
  7. Evenly distribute the crushed tomato on top of each half.
  8. Sprinkle the oregano on top of the crushed tomato.
  9. Sprinkle the grated pecorino evenly on each half.
  10. Pour the water in the bottom of the baking dish.
  11. Add some olive oil and tomatoes to the water. (This will make a pan sauce to put over the eggplant before you serve them.)
  12. Cover the baking dish tightly with foil.
  13. Bake until the eggplant are knife tender, about 20 to 30 minutes.
  14. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees.
  15. Uncover the pan and bake until the pecorino is lightly browned and the eggplant start to collapse in on themselves, 10 to 15 minutes more.
  16. Serve hot or at room temperature.
  17. Serves 4-6

 

Baci: Make Chocolate Hazelnut Valentine Kisses

Homemade Baci
Homemade Baci
Nothing says “I love you” like homemade Baci.

 

We shot 3 new video episodes yesterday. Don’t miss any of my new YouTube cooking shows released every Saturday. Subscribe today.

Even though I was busy shooting I had time to make these too.

Perugina Baci, the chocolate covered hazelnut kisses with little love notes tucked inside are a must for Valentine’s Day.

Why not have fresh? Make your own with this simple recipe. Even you guys can make this one for someone special. And if you don’t want to write your own note go to Perugina for love note ideas.

I was inspired by this video clip to show you how to make baci.

My friend and superb teacher Viola Buitoni sold out her Valentine’s Day event at the SF Italian Cultural Institute. Her family started Perugina Chocolate in Perugia and have been making baci they invented since 1922. Call the Institute. Sometimes you can score a ticket if someone cancels. If you get lucky you’ll learn how Viola makes baci and hear her family stories.

If you need Valentine inspiration here are some other suggetions for that special day. Stay home and cook. The restaurants will all be insane.

Make my romantic spaghetti in a pocket or how about super easy baked ziti. If you insist on going out here are some romantic North Beach restaurant suggestions.

And if you want to get a little weepy read how a parental spat created an accidental heart when I was growing up in Jersey.

Don’t forget to add love notes to your baci gifts.

Happy Valentine’s Day. Buon appetito!

Baci: Make Chocolate Hazelnut Valentine Kisses
 
Homemade chocolate & hazelnut baci. These kisses are easy to make. If you like intense chocolate flavor with roasted hazelnuts this one's for you.
Author:
Recipe type: Candy
Cuisine: Italian
Ingredients
  • 1 cup whole hazelnuts, roasted
  • 6½ ounces Nutella or chocolate-hazlenut butter if you want organic
  • ⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 6 ounces dark chocolate
Instructions
  1. Roast the hazelnuts in a 425 oven for 10 minutes. Remove the skin from the nut.
  2. Set 20 whole hazelnuts aside.
  3. Pulse the hazelnuts in a food processor to break the nuts into small pieces or chop them by hand.
  4. Put the chopped hazelnuts, the Nutella and cocoa powder in a bowl.
  5. Mix them well with a spatula to form a smooth dough.
  6. Form 20 balls and place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Gently push a whole hazelnut on top of every ball. (If the dough gets too hard to shape chill it in the freezer.)
  7. Place the sheet in the freezer for about 20-30 minutes.
  8. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler.
  9. Dip the chilled “baci” into the melted chocolate. (I hold it on a fork in the chocolate and spoon chocolate on top to cover it all over.)
  10. Put the baci back on the parchment-lined baking sheet.
  11. Allow them to dry a few minutes. (If the baci aren't firming up well put them in the freezer for a few minutes.)

Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni

Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni

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Spinach and ricotta cannelloni will take you to my childhood in Northern Jersey.
Spinach and ricotta cannelloni will take you to my childhood in Northern Jersey.

Growing up in northern Jersey when my Mom took out her small black cast iron pan Sunday morning we knew we were in for a treat.

She was getting ready to make crespelle (crepes) for her fantastic spinach and ricotta stuffed cannelloni (big pipes).

The crispy and creamy cannelloni hot from the oven would be the pasta course for our Sunday dinner.

Don’t give me a hard time with the cannelloni versus manicotti thing. In Italian-American restaurants these are called manicotti but in Italy especially around Naples this dish is cannelloni.

Now that that’s out of the way let’s get back to the recipe.

With a hot well-oiled small saute pan, a flat griddle pan or a non-stick crepe pan you’ll find that the crespelle are easy and quick to make. You can even make the crespelle the day before and keep them in the fridge to quickly fill and bake the next day.

Make a simple San Marzano-basil tomato sauce so that the cannelloni aren’t overwhelmed. The tasty crespelle are the perfect tender wrapper for the creamy spinach-ricotta filling with melted mozzarella on top.

I usually serve two cannelloni topped with a little extra sauce to each guest. If any cannelloni  are left over I have been known to eat one or two more. They are absolutely delicious.

Watch me make a fresh San Marzano tomato sauce during the late summer harvest. You can substitute canned San Marzano tomatoes from Italy for fresh so you can make the marinara sauce all year long.

And if you want to make fresh pasta instead of crespelle for the cannelloni watch me make fresh pasta ravioli for inspiration.

Buon appetito!

4.0 from 1 reviews
Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Pasta
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 6
Ingredients
For the Crespelle (makes about 18)
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1¼ cups (or more) whole milk
  • Extra virgin olive oil for brushing the crepe pan
For the Filling
  • 2 pounds fresh spinach or 2 10 ounce packages frozen spinach, thawed
  • 1 pound ricotta, well drained
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • ¼ cup grated parmigiano reggiano
  • ¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Crespelle Topping
  • 8-ounces mozzarella, grated
  • ¼ cup parmigiano reggiano, grated
Sauce
  • 1 28-ounce can San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand, stems and skin removed
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 sprigs fresh basil
  • sea salt to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
For the Sauce
  1. Put a pot over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the olive oil and garlic.
  3. Saute the garlic for a minute or so. You don't want it to pick up any color, just infuse the oil with its flavor.
  4. Add the tomatoes and stir well.
  5. Add sea salt to taste and the basil.
  6. Bring the sauce to a gentle simmer, lowering the heat if needed.
  7. Simmer uncovered for 20 minutes or until the volume is reduced by 25%.
  8. Keep the sauce warm while you make and bake the cannelloni.
For the Crespelle
  1. Whisk eggs and salt in large bowl.
  2. Gradually whisk in flour, then 1¼ cups milk.
  3. Whisk until the batter is very smooth and has no big clumps of flour.
  4. If necessary, add more milk by tablespoons to batter to thin to consistency of heavy whipping cream.
  5. Heat 8-inch diameter nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Brush with extra virgin olive oil.
  6. Pour 3 tablespoons batter into skillet and swirl to coat bottom evenly.
  7. Cook until top appears dry, loosening sides of crepe with spatula, about 45 seconds.
  8. Turn and cook until brown spots appear on second side, about 30 seconds.
  9. Turn crepe out onto plate.
  10. Repeat with remaining batter, brushing skillet with EVOO and stacking crepes on plate.
For the Filling
  1. Put the spinach in a pot over medium-high heat and add ½ cup water
  2. Cook until the spinach is wilted.
  3. Drain the spinach.
  4. When the spinach is cool enough to handle, squeeze out as much water as you can.
  5. Roughly chop the spinach.
  6. Put all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.
Assembly
  1. In a large baking dish put ¼ cup of the sauce to lightly cover the bottom of the dish.
  2. Lay the crespelle on a flat work surface.
  3. Put about 3-4 tablespoons at one end of each crespelle and roll it up.
  4. Place it seam side down in the baking dish.
  5. Repeat until all the crespelle are filled.
  6. Top the cannelloni with a light layer of sauce.
  7. Top the sauce evenly with the mozzarella and then the parmigiano.
  8. Cover the baking dish with foil and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes.
  9. Uncover and bake until the mozzarella on top of the cannelloni is melted and slightly browned, about 10 minutes more.
  10. Let the cannelloni cool for about 5 minutes before serving.

Gianni’s Tip: I made crespelle (crepes) for this stuffed pasta dish but fresh pasta sheets, no-cook lasagna sheets or dried manicotti (big sleeves) or large shells work just as well with this filling.

Cook the dried pasta in boiling water until al dente before filling.

The no-cook lasagna sheets should be soaked in hot water until they are pliable and the fresh lasagna sheets need to be cooked in boiling water. Either way put in the sheets in a single layer on kitchen towels until they are cut into 6 to 8-inch squares and filled.

If you have any cannelloni left over they are even better heated in the oven the next day. You can freeze them too.

Pork Chops with Peppers, Onions & Potatoes

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Pork chops with peppers, onions and potatoes
Pork chops with peppers, onions and potatoes–a real Italian-American classic!

If you’ve been on the East Coast for St. Joseph’s Day or any other feast day where they had the outdoor parade and set up the booths, you probably had a version of this dish in a sandwich. We used to call it, no matter who the saint was, the Feast of Sausage and Peppers because  there would be all these booths grilling the sausage. And they used the same combination of ingredients as in this dish.

This is a versatile one-pan dish. I made it with pork chops but it works just as well with sausage or your favorite cuts of chicken. Come to think of it this wouldn’t be bad with firm tofu slices instead of meat. You can have dinner on your table in way less than an hour and clean up is a breeze.

The trick to this one-pan dish is to cook the ingredients separately and then put everything back in the pan with a simple pan sauce to finish cooking.

If you want an easy meal jam-packed with flavor and texture this one’s for you. The golden crusted tender pork chops are delicious all by themselves. But wait there’s more. Add some sweet carmelized onions, bell and cherry vinegar pepper to every bite and your taste buds will be in full swing. Then there are the golden potatoes with the creamy interior. But my secret ingredient is my homemade vinegar, which is made from a over 100 year old mother from Burgundy, France. When the mother gets a little bit bigger, I’m going to start sharing it because you can break off a teaspoonful and give it to somebody else with a little vinegar in it. Then they can start making their own. But you can use store bought vinegar for this dish if you’re not lucky enough to have homemade.

What more could you hope for and it all came out of just one pan.

If you like this recipe watch my scallopine video episode to see how to make scallopine alla Sorrentina and 13 other scallopine dishes.

Yeah, that’s 14 scallopine variations all in one episode. I was feeling generous the day we shot that one.

Keep on cooking for your family and friends and for yourself too.

Buon appetito!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Pork Chops with Cherry Peppers & Potatoes
 
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Pork chops, onions, peppers and golden potatoes all cooked in one pan to create a plateful of deliciousness.
Author:
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 2
Ingredients
  • 2 center cut pork chops
  • 2 small Yukon Gold potatoes, parboiled and cut into 1 inch slices
  • 1 small red bell pepper, seeded and cut into large dice
  • ½ onion, thickly sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 4 small sweet vinegar cherry peppers (or any other pepper packed in vinegar), seeded and cut into small dice
  • 1 or 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, depending on your taste
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Slit the fat on the edge of the chop in several places. (This will keep the chop from curling while cooking.)
  2. Liberally sprinkle both sides of the pork chops with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  3. Put a large cast iron or saute pan over medium-high heat and add the olive oil.
  4. When the oil starts to ripple, put the potatoes in the pan in a single layer and sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
  5. Brown the potatoes on both sides. Set them aside on a large plate or platter.
  6. Add the pork chops to the pan. (Do not crowd the pork chops or they will steam rather than brown.)
  7. Leave the chops alone. When you have a nice brown crust on the chops, usually within 5 minutes, turn the chops over and cook the other side for about 3 minutes. (You do not need a nice brown crust on the second side because it will not be the presentation side of the pork chop so do not overcook the chops. The chops should be barely pink inside.)
  8. Sear the fat on the side of the chop if you want to cook some fat off and get some color on the side.
  9. Remove the chops from the pan and tent with foil to keep them warm. Set the chops aside.
  10. If the pan has too much fat pour some out and if it is too dry add a bit more oil.
  11. Add the onions and red bell pepper and sprinkle with salt.
  12. Saute until the onions take on some color and the bell pepper is soft.
  13. Add the cherry peppers and garlic; mix everything together and cook for a minute or two more.
  14. Add the vinegar and mix well.
  15. Take everything out of the pan, raise the heat to high and add the white wine.
  16. Scrape off the brown bits on the bottom of the pan and simmer until the wine is reduced in volume by ⅓.
  17. Put the chops, vegetables and any juices back in the pan to reheat briefly.
  18. Place the chops on a serving platter either covered by or surrounded by the potatoes, onions and cherry peppers.
  19. If there is any sauce left in the pan pour it evenly over the chops and vegetables.
  20. Serve immediately.