Ravioli & Gnocchi Kitchen Invasion

North Beach’s The Italian Homemade Company on Columbus is my go-to spot for fresh pasta made daily.

Mattia Cosmi, who hails from Le Marche and his wife Alice Romagnoli, an expert pasta-maker from Rimini in the Romagna region on the northern Adriatic coast are the owners. Recently, Gianmarco Cosmi, Mattia’s brother, joined them here in San Francisco as Executive Chef.

Gianmarco, also known as “Giammi,” was trained at ALMA, the international Italian culinary school near Parma and cooked at a Lago Maggiore Michelin-starred restaurant

Giammi is a maestro. I’m always entranced watching him make, cut and form his wonderful fresh pasta. It’s magical. I had to include Giammi’s pasta and sauces in my new series cooking with some of North Beach’s best chefs.

I’ve adapted Giammi’s pasta sauce recipes so that you can make them in your kitchen in the time that it takes to cook the pasta.

If you want to experience Giammi’s original dishes we explain how to make tomato confit, dried olives, and toasted grated parmigiano. They require a slow and low time in the oven but I’ve provided quick substitutions if you’re in a hurry.

Get the real deal, eat at The Italian Homemade Company, or make these quick sauces in your kitchen. Either way, you have to experience these pastas.

You can make your own fresh pasta or buy them at Italian Homemade or your favorite market or use dried imported pasta instead.

Red Beet Gnocchi in a Gorgonzola Cream Sauce

The sauce is complex but easy to make in about 5 minutes with my adapted recipe. The pillowy, tender gnocchi look like rubies on the plate coated with piquant yet mellow gorgonzola sauce. The toasted hazelnuts add unexpected crunch and flavor. Just beautiful.

Ingredients

  • 4 quarts water
  • 2 tablespoons sea salt
  • 1 pound of gnocchi or your favorite pasta
  • 21/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ shallot, thinly sliced
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • ¾ cup milk
  • ¼ pound gorgonzola dolce (the creamy soft one not the hard crumbly one)
  • Sea salt freshly grated black pepper to taste
  • 10 roasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped or crushed
  • Sprinkle of crunchy grana padano or parmigiano
  • Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil to finish

Instructions

Note: Giammi spreads a half-cup of grated grana padano on a silicon sheet (parchment paper works too) and lets it melt and brown in a 250 degree oven for about 30 minutes. If you want to avoid this step, simply finish the dish with grated grana or parmigiano.

  1. Put the water in a large pot and add the 2 tablespoons of sea salt.
  2. Bring the water to a boil over high heat.
  3. Over high heat roast the hazelnuts in a separate sauté pan until they pick up some color and you can smell their aroma.
  4. Roughly chop or crush the roasted hazelnuts and set aside.
  5. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. You want the butter to begin to foam but not brown.
  6. Add the shallot and cook until just translucent.
  7. Add the cream and milk and bring the cream & milk mixture to a gentle simmer.
  8. Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
  9. Add the gorgonzola and stir the sauce until the gorgonzola melts and is fully incorporated into the sauce.
  10. Drop the gnocchi into the boiling water. They will cook in about 3 minutes as you finish the sauce.
  11. When the gnocchi are done drain them (save a cup of the cooking water) or take them out with a spider and add them to the sauce and coat them well. (If the sauce is too thick add some pasta to loosen the sauce.)
  12. Off the heat finish the pasta by melting a ½ tablespoon of butter and a sprinkle of olive oil all over.
  13. Toss the pasta to coat well with the sauce.
  14. Put the gnocchi on a serving platter or individual plates.
  15. Scatter the hazelnuts and pieces of the crunchy padano on top. (Note: for the less than 10-minute version of this dish in place of the cruchy padano simply grate some grana padano or parmigiano reggiano on top of the gnocchi.)
  16. Serve immediately.

Ravioli in a Sausage Cream Sauce

Here’s a complex sauce that doesn’t overwhelm the delicate ravioli. The sausage and ham add dimension to the cream sauce. And the croccante on top adds a nutty surprise. It’s just as good in my adapted quick-cook version with grana padano or parmigiano reggiano grated on top in place of the croccante.

  • Ingredients
  • 4 quarts of water
  • 2 tablespoons sea salt
  • 1-pound fresh potato & mushroom filled ravioli or your favorite ravioli or pasta
  • 1-tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ shallot, thinly sliced
  • ½ pound pork sausage out of the casing
  • 2 slices of prosciutto cotto (boiled or roasted ham) cut into a small dice
  • ¼ cup dry white wine
  • 1-cup cream
  • Nutmeg, one or two grates
  • Sea salt and freshly grated black pepper to taste
  • Grana padano croccante (or grated grana or parmigiano, see Note below)

(Note: Giammi finished the dish with croccante. Grate a ¼ cup of grated grano padana or parmigiano reggiano and spread it over a silicon or parchment lined baking sheet. Place it in a 180 degree oven until it melts and browns, about 30 minutes. Break the croccante in pieces and arrange it on top of the ravioli before serving. If you don’t make the croccante, simply sprinkle some grated cheese over the top of the dressed ravioli.)

  1. Instructions
  2. Put 4 quarts of water and salt in a large pot over high heat and bring to a boil.
  3. In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat add the olive oil.
  4. When the olive oil begins to simmer, add the shallot and cook until translucent.
  5. Add the sausage, stir and sauté until it picks up some brown color.
  6. Add the cooked ham and stir to heat it through.
  7. Add the wine and cook until the alcohol burns off, about 2 minutes.
  8. Add the cream and a couple of grates of nutmeg and stir well.
  9. Reduce the heat to medium and gently simmer the sauce until it thickens.
  10. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  11. Drop the ravioli or pasta in the boiling water. (If your using dried pasta drop it in the pot as soon as the water comes to a boil so it’s cooked al dente by the time the sauce is done.)
  12. Take the ravioli out of the water with a spider (save a cup of the water if you drain the pasta in a colander.)
  13. Toss the pasta to evenly coat with the sauce. (Add some pasta water if the sauce is too thick.)
  14. Put the ravioli on a serving platter and top with pieces of croccante or grated cheese.
  15. Serve immediately.

Manicotti Kitchen Invasion

Only in America! You Can’t Get These Manicotti in Italy

I’ve been eating at North Beach’s da Flora for over two decades and never had a bad meal there. When my friends and I want to share a leisurely family-style 4-course meal we always head to da Flora on Columbus.

As the seasons change my network buzzes. Everyone wants to know what Spring bounty has made its way into the da Flora kitchen. The hand-written menu constantly evolves as spring progresses.

Jen McMahon, the genius in the da Flora kitchen, scours the local markets to find the best local organic ingredients. Jen is a master at giving her Italian inspired food a Bay Area Slow Food twist.

We’re making manicotti and this dish will certainly be controversial with my fans in Italy. You will not find manicotti (little sleeves) on a menu in Italia. Italians call this dish cannelloni (little pipes) made with either crespelle (crepes) or pasta.

Jen and I both grew up on the east coast immersed in the southern Italian immigrant food traditions they brought with them. But now our Italian ancestors were cooking in America using ingredients available in their local markets.

I loved my Mom’s manicotti. We called them “manigot” in the Neapolitan dialect.

When friends were in town recently we headed to da Flora and there on the menu were these spring manicotti. We had to have them as part of our pasta course and they were superb.

So here is Jen’s San Francisco version of manicotti for you to make in your kitchen. It’s a simple dish featuring the best of the early spring bounty, broccoli di rape for the delicate ricotta filling and early sweet red spring onions, mellow green garlic and fresh oregano for the marinara. The aged provolone grated on top makes this simple dish soar.

This recipe makes 8-10 manicotti. Serve two manicotti per person. While light, they are pleasantly filling.

Crespelle (Crepes)

Ingredients

  1. 2 eggs
  2. 2/3 cup all-purpose unbeached flour
  3. 1 cup whole milk
  4. A pinch of sea salt
  5. A sprinkle of extra virgin olive oil.

Instructions

  1. Put all of the ingredients in a blender or mix by hand in a bowl.
  2. Be sure all of the flour is incorporated. You want a very smooth mixture with no clumps of flour.
  3. Chill the crespelle batter for about 15 minutes.
  4. Put a small sauté pan (we used a 9-inch pan) over medium-high heat and add a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil.
  5. Coat the bottom of the pan with the oil.
  6. When the oil starts to shimmer lower the heat to medium and pour in about a half-cup of batter to form a thin crespelle that thinly fills the bottom of the pan.
  7. When the crespelle starts to brown at the edges in about a minute flip the crespelle over and cook for a minute more.
  8. Take the crespelle out of the pan and put them on a paper towel lined plate in a single layer.
  9. Set the crespelle aside.

Marinara Sauce

Ingredients

  • 3 stalks green garlic, trimmed
  • 3 stalks red spring onions, trimmed
  • 1 bunch fresh oregano, use the leaves only, stripped from the stalk and chopped
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 28-ounce can of San Marzano DOP tomatoes (use 2 cans if you want to have some sauce left over for future use)
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Put a pot over medium-high heat and add the oil
  2. When the oil starts to shimmer reduce the heat to medium and add the garlic and onion.
  3. Stir the onions and garlic and saute until translucent (you don’t want to pick up any color).
  4. Add the tomatoes and stir.
  5. Bring the marinara sauce to a simmer.
  6. Add the oregano, sugar, salt and pepper to the marinara and stir well.
  7. Cook until the sauce, stirring occasionally until the sauce thickens and reduces by about a third in volume.
  8. Take the marinara sauce off the heat and set aside to cool.

Filling

  • 2 cups whole milk ricotta, drained if necessary
  • 1 bunch broccoli di rabe, blanched and chopped.
  • Sea salt and freshly grated black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 pound grated provolone to sprinkle on top of the manicotti before putting them in the oven.

Instructions

  1. Drain the ricotta in a strainer over a bowl if there is a lot of whey (white watery liquid).
  2. Bring a small pot of water to a boil over high heat.
  3. Blanch the broccoli di rape stalks in the boiling water for a minute or so.
  4. Drain the broccoli di rape.
  5. Put the broccoli di rape in a food processor and pulse several times to mince.
  6. Add the ricotta and salt and pepper to the processor and pulse to mix the ingredients together.

Assembly

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Layer a casserole dish with a layer of marinara. (You can bake the manicotti in individual dishes or make them all in a larger casserole dish.)
  3. Lay out the crespelle on a work surface and put a tablespoon of filling in the middle of the crespelle.
  4. Fold up one side and then the other.
  5. With the folded side down, put the manicotti in the casserole.
  6. Add a dollop of marinara on top of each.
  7. Spinkle the grated provolone on top of each.
  8. Put the manicotti in the hot oven and bake until the provolone melts and lightly browns, about 20 minutes.
  9. Serve immediately.