I’m in Ortigia, a small island off the coast of Siracusa, Sicily. A swordfish dish I ate the first night here in local restaurant included the ingredients in this dish.
Today we decided to eat in the apartment we rented. So I bought everything I needed in a local market to cook at home for lunch. I hope you enjoy it. We did.
If you’re hungry and don’t have much time to cook, this flavorful chicken dish will be in your mouth in about 15 minutes.
I’m a breast guy but you can use thighs if you want.
The chicken is bathed in a rich sauce enhanced by the anchovy umami, garlic, capers and freshened with a squeeze of lemon. Add a little chile flakes to give a little sparkle as you finish each bite.
After you plate the chicken and pour all the sauce on top, sprinkle the chopped parsley all over for some color appeal.
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast or your favorite part
1 teaspoon sea salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
1 garlic clove, minced
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3-4 anchovy fillets, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons drained capers
pinch of chile flakes (optional)
juice of 1/2 lemon
fresh parsley, chopped for garnish
Season the chicken with salt and pepper on both sides.
Put a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the olive oil and 3 smashed garlic cloves.
When the garlic starts to take on color add the chicken and saute until a golden crust starts to form, about 5 minutes.
Turn the chicken over and saute for another 5 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.
Remove the chicken to a plate and set it aside. Remove the garlic cloves.
Add the anchovies, capers and minced garlic to the hot pan and saute until the garlic just becomes translucent. Be sure to break up the anchovies so that they dissolve completely.
Add the juice of 1/2 a lemon and scrape the fond, the brown bits on the bottom of pan, and stir until they are melted into the sauce. (If you need more sauce, add some dry white wine, chicken stock or water.)
Put the chicken back in the hot pan, spoon sauce all over and heat the chicken for about a minute more.
Plate the chicken, pour the sauce on top and sprinkle chopped parsley all over.
I love paccheri, big fat pasta tubes that trap sauce inside and close and open as you spear one with your fork, sometimes making a smacking noise. They’re fun to eat.
Hungry, low energy? You’ll be eating this dish in the time it takes to boil the pasta.
A few quality ingredients create a sumptuous dish, pasta coated with creamy ricotta, piquant grated cheeses, a sweet tomato sauce with torn fresh basil strewn on top. I can’t stop eating it.
28-ounce can of San Marzano tomatoes, squashed by hand
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, smashed & peeled
1 large sprig of fresh basil for the sauce and more as a garnish
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon sea salt for the pasta water and more for the sauce
1 cup whole milk ricotta
Additional ricotta as a garnish
1/4 cup grated pecorino
1/4 cup grated parmigiano
Put the San Marzano tomatoes in a large bowl and crush them into small pieces with you hands. (For a smother sauce pass the tomatoes through a food mill.)
Put a big covered pot of water on the stove for the paccheri and add the sea salt.
Put another pot over medium-high heat and add the olive oil and garlic. Saute until the garlic starts to take on color.
Add the crushed tomatoes to the pot and add sea salt to taste.
Add the fresh basil sprig and dried oregano. Stir well.
Reduce the heat to medium and let the sauce gently simmer. Stir once in a while. You want the sauce to thicken, reduced in volume by about a third.
Put the ricotta and grated cheeses in a large bowl and mix them well.
When the water boils add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 10-12 minutes.
When the pasta is cooked reserve a cup of the cooking water, drain and add the pasta to the bowl with the cheese. Mix to coat the pasta well with the cheese mixture.
Add about 2 cups of marinara sauce to the pasta and mix well. Add more sauce or pasta water if the sauced paccheri is too dry. You want a loose creamy sauce to coat the pasta well.
Plate the paccheri, add some sauce on top, scatter with thinly sliced or ripped basil and put a dollop of ricotta on the side. Serve immediately.
Pass more grated cheese at the table.
This is a versatile recipe that I use for baked ziti too. Just add fresh mozzarella cut in small cubes and ripped basil to the pasta mixture and mix well. Put a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of a baking dish, pour in the pasta in an even layer and top with more sauce and grated cheese. Bake in a 375 degree pre-heated oven for about 20 minutes or until the pasta is heated through, the mozzarella melts and the top layer of ziti starts to crisp at the edges.
Maurizio Bruschi, the chef/owner of Ideale, the classic North Beach Roman restaurant on Grant for over 20 years, and his partner Giuseppe Terminiello, recently opened Piccolo Forno on Columbus.
Piccolo Forno brings another Roman culinary tradition to North Beach, pizza al taglia, pizza by the cut. You find these shops all over Rome. One of my favorites is La Ranella in Trastevere and Piccolo Forno is in that same elite class.
But I’m headed to Ideale to cook with Maurizio. We were in a springtime frame of mind and in Roma that means young spring lamb and the first crop of artichokes.
Carciofi alla Romana is a simple preparation. Maurizio cleaned a large artichoke in a flash. The artichokes went upside down in a pot with a bath of water, white wine, extra virgin olive oil and a few aromatics.
Potatoes were tossed with extra virgin olive oil, rosemary and garlic and roasted in the oven.
But the star of this meal was the scottadito (“burn the finger”). The chops, simply seasoned with salt and black pepper, are so good you burn your fingers because you can’t wait to pick them up and eat those lollipops as they come hot off the grill.
Maurizio laid the crispy, creamy roasted potatoes down on a big platter ringed by tender, flavorful artichokes with a hint of mint and the lamb chops just off the grill atop the potatoes. Scatter some lemon on the plate. Squeeze a drop or two on the lamb chop, if you wish. Ah, Roman spring right here on Grant Avenue.
We always eat very well when in Rome. I have to say this North Beach meal is right up there with the best classics I’ve had in Rome.
Grazie Maurizio. Bravo!
Note: We shot this episode in April. Apologies for the late release. However, this meal is worth making any time of year as long as the ingredients are available in your local market. Buon appetito!
Baby spring lamb is in the market now. Get yourself a rack of baby loin lamb chops. Have your butcher divide them for you.
There’s no recipe here because there’s no need to mess with these tender chops. Maurizio pounded them a bit for uniform thickness.
Sprinkle the chops with salt and a grind of black pepper to taste and slap them down on a hot grill or hot grill pan atop your stove.
The scottadito only take a couple of minutes on each side. The Romans like their lamb well-done but choose the doneness you like best. You’ll be burning your fingers too. It doesn’t hurt too much.
Don’t forget to give the chops a squeeze of lemon before eating these lollipops.
Carciofi alla Romana
4 medium artichokes
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ cup dry white wine
2 sprigs Italian flat parsley, leaves only, roughly chopped
2-3 fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, sliced thin
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Put enough water to cover the cleaned artichokes in a bowl large enough to hold the cleaned artichokes.
Cut the lemon in half and squeeze the lemon into the water. Put the lemon rind in the water too. (The acidulated water will keep the artichokes from discoloring before you cook them.)
Cut off the tough top of the artichokes at the point where the dark green leaves turn to light green/yellow.
Trim the remaining leaves to remove the dark green outer leave.
Peel the stem.
Open the artichoke and with a spoon, remove the choke, if any.
Put the cleaned artichoke into the acidulated water.
Put a large pot over high heat. Add one tablespoon of olive oil.
When the oil begins to ripple, place the artichokes stem up in the oil and push them down with your hand to open them and to brown them a bit.
Add the water, wine, garlic, the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, parsley and mint and bring the pot to a boil.
Lower the heat to medium-low and bring the liquid to a gentle simmer. (If need be add more water. But in the end you want about half the original volume to create a flavorful pan sauce.)
Cover the pot with a lid or cover the artichokes with crumpled damp butcher paper.
Let the artichokes steam until they are knife tender, about 20 minutes.
Remove the artichokes to a serving platter.
Spoon some of the cooking pan sauce over each artichoke.
Oven Roasted Potatoes
4 potatoes (I prefer Yukon Gold)
1 clove of garlic, sliced thin
1 sprig of fresh rosemary, leaves stripped from the stem
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Heat the oven to 425 degrees.
Peel the potatoes and cut them into 2-inch cubes.
Put the potatoes, olive oil, garlic and rosemary in a baking dish, add salt and pepper to taste.
Coat the potatoes with the olive oil mixture.
Roast the potatoes in the hot oven until they begin to brown and are knife-tender, about 20 minutes.
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.
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
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.
Put the water in a large pot and add the 2 tablespoons of sea salt.
Bring the water to a boil over high heat.
Over high heat roast the hazelnuts in a separate sauté pan until they pick up some color and you can smell their aroma.
Roughly chop or crush the roasted hazelnuts and set aside.
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.
Add the shallot and cook until just translucent.
Add the cream and milk and bring the cream & milk mixture to a gentle simmer.
Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
Add the gorgonzola and stir the sauce until the gorgonzola melts and is fully incorporated into the sauce.
Drop the gnocchi into the boiling water. They will cook in about 3 minutes as you finish the sauce.
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.)
Off the heat finish the pasta by melting a ½ tablespoon of butter and a sprinkle of olive oil all over.
Toss the pasta to coat well with the sauce.
Put the gnocchi on a serving platter or individual plates.
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.)
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.
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
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.)
Put 4 quarts of water and salt in a large pot over high heat and bring to a boil.
In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat add the olive oil.
When the olive oil begins to simmer, add the shallot and cook until translucent.
Add the sausage, stir and sauté until it picks up some brown color.
Add the cooked ham and stir to heat it through.
Add the wine and cook until the alcohol burns off, about 2 minutes.
Add the cream and a couple of grates of nutmeg and stir well.
Reduce the heat to medium and gently simmer the sauce until it thickens.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
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.)
Take the ravioli out of the water with a spider (save a cup of the water if you drain the pasta in a colander.)
Toss the pasta to evenly coat with the sauce. (Add some pasta water if the sauce is too thick.)
Put the ravioli on a serving platter and top with pieces of croccante or grated cheese.
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.
2/3 cup all-purpose unbeached flour
1 cup whole milk
A pinch of sea salt
A sprinkle of extra virgin olive oil.
Put all of the ingredients in a blender or mix by hand in a bowl.
Be sure all of the flour is incorporated. You want a very smooth mixture with no clumps of flour.
Chill the crespelle batter for about 15 minutes.
Put a small sauté pan (we used a 9-inch pan) over medium-high heat and add a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil.
Coat the bottom of the pan with the oil.
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.
When the crespelle starts to brown at the edges in about a minute flip the crespelle over and cook for a minute more.
Take the crespelle out of the pan and put them on a paper towel lined plate in a single layer.
Set the crespelle aside.
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
Put a pot over medium-high heat and add the oil
When the oil starts to shimmer reduce the heat to medium and add the garlic and onion.
Stir the onions and garlic and saute until translucent (you don’t want to pick up any color).
Add the tomatoes and stir.
Bring the marinara sauce to a simmer.
Add the oregano, sugar, salt and pepper to the marinara and stir well.
Cook until the sauce, stirring occasionally until the sauce thickens and reduces by about a third in volume.
Take the marinara sauce off the heat and set aside to cool.
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.
Drain the ricotta in a strainer over a bowl if there is a lot of whey (white watery liquid).
Bring a small pot of water to a boil over high heat.
Blanch the broccoli di rape stalks in the boiling water for a minute or so.
Drain the broccoli di rape.
Put the broccoli di rape in a food processor and pulse several times to mince.
Add the ricotta and salt and pepper to the processor and pulse to mix the ingredients together.
Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.
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.)
Lay out the crespelle on a work surface and put a tablespoon of filling in the middle of the crespelle.
Fold up one side and then the other.
With the folded side down, put the manicotti in the casserole.
Add a dollop of marinara on top of each.
Spinkle the grated provolone on top of each.
Put the manicotti in the hot oven and bake until the provolone melts and lightly browns, about 20 minutes.
Wow, was I excited when I walked into Cavalli Caffe for an espresso macchiato on a recent Saturday morning. Piero, the truffle guy from Tuscany, was there and he had truffles, the “Diamonds of the Kitchen”, dug up in Tuscany just 2 days before.
He had white truffles, smaller in early spring , called “bianchetto.” And he had the last of the larger black winter “tartuffo nero.” Later in the season the spring truffles, tartuffo bianco, will be bigger.
Truffles are fragile and you need to use them within about a week of harvest. White truffles should not be cooked but black truffles can be used in cooked dishes.
Black truffles pair well with eggs so I had to make a frittata. Piero said his wife made the best. Now I’m in trouble. How could mine compare?
Piero described his wife’s frittata and I realized her Tuscan rendition was similar to mine. I made a few adjustments and I was ready for the kitchen.
I didn’t want the egg mixture to overwhelm the black truffles so I just added salt, pepper, chopped parsley, grated parmigiano reggiano and diced fresh mozzarella. I grated a large black truffle into the mixture. Save some to grate atop the hot frittata hot out of the pan to maximize the tartuffi aroma.
Lucky for me, Piero enjoyed my frittata. Whew!
The frittata didn’t last long.
If you are in the Bay Area, Santo will post the availability of truffles all season. You can find fresh truffles for sale online. If you don’t use them all right away, make a truffle butter or truffle-infused extra virgin olive oil so you enjoy their aroma and flavor for months.
Frittata with Fresh Black Truffles
6 extra large eggs
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (depending on the size of your pan you may need to add more to lightly coat the bottom and sides of the pan)
2 tablespoons flat Italian parsley, roughly chopped.
3 tablespoons freshly grated parmigiano reggiano
3-ounces fresh mozzarella, diced in small cubes
30 grams fresh black truffle (or as much as you can afford)
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated black pepper
Beat the eggs in a bowl.
Grate 2/3 of the truffle saving a piece to grate atop of the frittata
Add the parsley, parmigiano, mozzarella and 2/3 of the grated truffle to the eggs and mix well.
Over medium-high heat add the olive oil to a 9” inch cast iron or sauté pan and lightly coat the bottom and sides of the pan (if you use more eggs, use a larger pan)
When the olive oil begins to shimmer pour in the egg mixture.
As the frittata begins to set up, gently break up the center of the frittata with a fork and with a spatula move the frittata away from the sides of the pan. (You want to continually move the egg mixture to the hot pan surface to cook.)
Lower the heat to medium-low.
Continue to gently pull the frittata away from the side of the pan to allow the egg mixture to flow onto the hot pan surface.
Gently move the spatula under the frittata to make sure it doesn’t stick to the pan.
When the frittata is fully set on the bottom, put a plate on top of the pan, flip the frittata and slide it back in the pan to cook the other side.
Loosen the frittata from the pan with the spatula.
When the frittata feels solid to the touch, flip the frittata onto a serving platter. (If you don’t want to flip the frittata, place it in a 375 degree oven or under the broiler to set the other side of the frittata.)
Grate the remainder of the black truffle on top of the frittata.
The last time I was in Italy I hooked up with my friend Luca and the crew from his video company, HB Productions. We spent days together shopping and shooting episodes of me cooking in my apartment near the Spanish Steps.
Here’s the first of those HB Production episodes just in time as early spring vegetables hit the farmers market.
I shopped every day in Campo dei Fiori, the huge open air market in the historical center of Rome. I was lucky to meet Alessandro who had a produce stand there. He was my guide to the spring vegetables he had to offer.
This day he had wild chicory, cicoria, he foraged early that morning in the hills near his home outside of Rome. He sold me the chicory with a condition. “Cook it with olive oil and lots of garlic, that’s all.” “And chili pepper,” I said. Alessandro agreed and added “but no lemon, no lemon.” Boy, these Italians are strict but that was my plan anyway.
What a wonderful Slow Food moment, scoring locally foraged cicoria to cook in my Rome apartment a few blocks away from the market! Watch me use a versatile, simple method to respectfully coax maximum flavor from this humble wild green. Here in the U.S. curly endive is the closest to the wild chicory I cooked in Rome.
You may have seen some of the Rome footage in this Hungry Village production. Get a peek of Luca and his aunt Giulia, the best cook in the family, who joined me in the kitchen for a couple of episodes.
I hope to have the other Rome episodes ready to post soon. Stay tuned but in the meantime here’s my saltimbocca recipe.
So You Want To Be An American? is the music in the episode. I love the tune. Here’s hip Neapolitan crooner Renato Carosone’s 1958 rendition of his Tu Vuo Fa L’Americano.
I shot a porchetta episode a while ago. It’s a favorite among my friends and family so I had to share my recipe. And the episode got lots of views and tons of positive comments. Then, things suddenly turned nasty. The Italians got involved.
They started to flame me. One guy said I was like a counterfeiter handing out phony money with this recipe. The comments really made me mad.
But, after a time, I realized that the Italians weren’t being mean. They were just protecting their food culture and traditions. My porchetta was an American variation and the Italians weren’t happy I desecrated the classic porchetta they loved.
So they inspired me to do a Bay Area farm to table traditional whole pig porchetta. And I’d do it literally farm to table. I’d find a pig. I’d visit the farm and see how it was raised. I’d help butcher it and season it. I’d cook it on a spit over charcoal. And we’d film the whole thing.
So me and my Hungry Village producers found Rancho Llano Seco, a local farm north of San Francisco. We met up with Jamie at the Rancho to pick out the pig for my porchetta. When we got to the barn and open pen where the mature hogs spend their last days on the Rancho, there she was, a big sow with a beautiful red coat hiding just inside the barn. There’s my porchetta. I called her Bella.
Jamie sent Bella to my butchers at Golden Gate Meats in San Francisco’s Ferry Building . I joined Tom, who deboned the porchetta with a surgeon’s skill. Shoulder, sirloin, rib meat and loin all intact with a thick layer of belly and fat under the skin.
We scored the skin to form diamonds. Nothing less for Bella. Meat side up I scattered chopped rosemary, garlic, golden wild fennel pollen, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper all over. Rolled and tied, the porchetta sat for 2 days to let the aromatics infuse all the meat.
The porchetta slowly roasted on a spit over an open fire for hours. Each slice included a little bit of rib meat, loin, belly and crispy skin. A few lucky people also got shoulder or sirloin. 3 dozen friends and fans enjoyed a wonderful afternoon on San Francisco’s Russian Hill eating porchetta panini done the Bay Area Slow Food farm to table way.
And, in a nod to how porchetta sandwiches, are served around the Bay Area, I offered caramelized onions, sautéed broccoli rabe and fresh baby arugula as toppings. They don’t do that in Italy. I hope I don’t get in trouble again. I don’t want to go to Italian prison.
So there you go, Italy. I did porchetta the way it’s supposed to be done. Let’s be friends again.
A Thanksgiving dinner that you can cook in under 2 hours. You won't believe the complex flavor of the moist tender breast and the mellow spinach and salty prosciutto stuffing.
1 4 Pound turkey breast, deboned and butterflied
2 pounds fresh spinach
½ onion, finely diced
½ cup grated parmigiano
6 slices prosciutto
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 sprigs fresh flat Italian parsley
3 lemon slices
4 leaves fresh sage
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup water or broth
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
Over medium heat 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a wide pot.
When the oil is hot saute the onions until they are translucent and tender.
Add about an inch of water to the bottom of the pot and raise the heat to medium-high.
Add as much of the spinach as you can to the pot and turn it to mix it with the onions and to help it all wilt. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt.
Add more spinach until all of it is wilted.
Put the spinach in a bowl and mix in the grated parmigiano and set the spinach aside to cool.
Butterfly the breast and lay flat open, pounding with a meat mallet to create even thickness throughout. (Save time. Ask your butcher to butterfly the breast for you.)
Spread the spinach mixture across the breast, leaving a 1½ inch border all around.
Put the prosciutto slices in a single layer over the spinach.
Beginning at one end, firmly roll up the turkey breast and use 4 equally spaced kitchen lengths of kitchen twine to secure the roast well.
In a casserole lay out the parsley, sage and lemon slices to form a bed for the roast.
Rub a tablespoon of olive oil well all over.
Sprinkle sea salt and freshly ground black pepper evenly over the roast.
Pour in the white wine, water (or broth) into the bottom of the casserole. Sprinkle olive oil over the liquid.
Roast in a preheated 375 degree oven for about 1 hour 20 minutes, or until the turkey breast reaches an internal temperature of 150 degrees. The temperature will rise to 160 degrees as it rests. (I'm using an off-the-grid organic turkey but if your roasting a supermarket turkey you may want to leave it in the oven longer, until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.)
Baste the roast with the pan juices several times during roasting. (Add more wine and water to maintain about an inch of liquid in the casserole.
Remove the breast roll from the pan and loosely cover with foil.
Pour the pan juices through a strainer into a pan. Skim off excess oil.
Keep the pan gravy over very low heat to keep it warm.
After the roast has rested for about 20 minutes, slice it thinly and arrange the spirals on a serving platter.
Pour the pan gravy over the slices. (If you have more gravy, serve it at the table.)
Father’s Day is next Sunday, June 15. I’ve been thinking about my Dad with love and gratitude. Though he passed long ago he is still with me.
Dad immigrated to America early in the last century. He did not have an easy life but he prevailed.
He was a very smart and honest man. He spoke several languages. He taught himself to play a mean mandolin. He wanted to be a lawyer but ended up being a butcher in Newark’s First Ward.
While my Dad’s ambitions were never fully realized he ensured that his children achieved their dreams. His oldest daughter was the first in the family to attend college. Both daughters became teachers. His oldest son earned a mechanical engineering degree and served as an Air Force pilot. I became the lawyer he wanted to be.
My Dad loved and supported us all. He joyfully celebrated our every success. In his later years “Pops,” as his grandkids called him, was most fulfilled when his 11 grandchildren surrounded him. I cherish the memories of our 3-generation family gatherings around his table. Many of the dishes I cook today are from those happy days long ago.
In Italy Father’s Day is celebrated on March 19, the Feast of St. Joseph, who helped raise Jesus. I’m blending the Italian and American holidays together.
Cavazune, or St. Joseph’s Pants, are a traditional filled cookie made for St. Joseph’s Day all over Italy. Ron, a fan, asked that I make cavazune. His family hails from Balzano in northern Italy about 2 1/2 hours northwest of Venice. Ron tells me they made huge batches of these cookies for their St. Joseph’s Day celebration to share with family and friends. Mille grazie for your suggestion Ron.
There are many variations of this cookie throughout Italia. Ron shared a description of his family’s cookie. I used his memories as the basis for this recipe.
The cookie is filled with a mince of ceci (chickpeas or garbanzo), raisins and walnuts sweetened with honey and balsamic then fried. Mosto cotto, a sweet, thick cooked wine is traditionally used. I didn’t have any so I substituted a thick, sweet balsamic vinegar. If you have mosto cotto in your pantry use that instead.
These cookies are light as air. The delicate crispy wrapper holds a sweet ceci paste flecked with crunchy walnut bits and raisins all sweetened with California Wildflower honey. The spices and orange zest linger on my tongue after the last bite reminding me to have another one.
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I ate a lot of pasta and beans growing up in Jersey. My Mom made it often and I loved it.
So when pasta fazool, as we called it back East, was a Viewer’s Choice suggestion from lovelyamor13 on YouTube, I was very happy to make it.
Pasta e fagioli is healthy and inexpensive peasant dish. You can have this one-pot meal that packs lots of flavor and goodness on your table in less than an hour.
Pasta e fagioli is made all over Italy and varies from region to region. One big difference is that mine has no meat. Up north they usually add pancetta to the aromatics as the base of the soup. Some people like to add tomato puree. Some people don’t add tomato, they like a white pasta fazool.
Mine has a light pink hue. I use a little tomato puree. Make it any way you like it, just don’t make it the way they do at Olive Garden.
The creamy beans and pasta are bathed in a savory light broth enhanced by the sharpness of the pecorino and the mellow olive oil. Pasta fazool will warm you and fill you up. Make extra so you can eat it again the next day.
3 cups dried cannellini beans, soaked overnight or two 15 oz. cans
8 cups water
½ pound ditalini or another short-cut pasta
1 teaspoon dried oregano
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, roughly chopped
If you are using dried beans soak about 1¼ cups overnight or for at least 12 hours. They will expand and should yield about 3 cups of soaked beans for the soup.
Roughly chop the onion, celery and garlic.
Put the EVOO, onions and celery in a large enameled pot.
Over medium heat, sauté the onions and celery until translucent, about 5 minutes. (You do not want them to pick up any color.)
Add the garlic and bay leaf and sauté for another minute.
Add the cannellini beans and mix well.
Add the water and tomato puree to the pot. Stir well.
Put the cover on the pan and simmer over medium-low heat stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender and the soup thickens. (If you are using canned beans that should take about about 20-30 minutes. If you are using dried beans soaked over night that could take 60 minutes or so. You want the beans to be tender but not mushy.)
Add salt and black pepper to taste.
Add the pasta and cook until the pasta is al dente, about 8-10 minutes more.
Shut off the heat and add the parsley. Mix well.
Serve in bowls immediately with a sprinkle of pecorino and a drizzle of EVOO.
Here in San Francisco’s North Beach my favorite cannoli (little tubes) is Santo’s at Cavalli Cafe on Stockton. He fills them when you order one and drizzles the ends with his fresh orange syrup. He has regular size and minis. I always get the regular.
But I like my homemade cannoli too. They’re fun to make and really not that difficult. You can make the shells ahead and fill them just before serving.
My shells are crispy with blisters all over so be careful, they’ll shatter as you bite into the sweet, creamy ricotta filling studded with candied orange and chocolate chips.
If you don’t want to make your own shells you can buy the shells. I got a box of Ferrara’s shells at North Beach’s Molinari Deli on Columbus. Whip up your own ricotta filling and fill the shells just before serving so they stay don’t get soggy.
Zeppole di San Giuseppe is a Neapolitan pastry I love too. Check out my zeppole video episode and make some for yourself.
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Easter is a relaxed holiday. There’s a saying “Natale con i tuoi. Pasqua con chi vuoi.” Christmas with your family. Easter with whomever you like. In Italy the Easter celebration spills over to Monday, called La Pasquetta, when Italians like to eat al fresco or go on a picnic.
Torta Pasqualina, Easter cake, is traditionally served as an antipasto on the Easter table. Torta Pasqualina is best at room temperature so it’s good to go for your picnic too.
The torta includes traditional symbolic Easter foods. Before modern production, eggs were costly and only available this time of year so eggs and tender leafy greens are a reminder of spring awakening.
The dough for the crust is fun to make. It’s pliable enough so that you can stretch it and roll it out really thin. If making dough doesn’t sound like fun to you, use puff pastry instead.
Chard and baby spinach sautéed with onion in olive oil and brightened by fresh marjoram forms the first layer. Ricotta whipped light and fluffy with egg and parmigiano creates the second layer topped with a golden phyllo-like crust.
Spring lamb, “the Lamb of God” in all those Renaissance paintings, is a symbol of Christ’s sacrifice. So baby spring lamb is another traditional Easter food. If you’re looking for an Easter main course check out my abbacchio video, baby spring lamb roasted with rosemary and garlic served with golden potato wedges. And if you want help with the other courses, check out my Easter recipe roundup.
You want to end up with 4 sheets, 2 for the base of a 10" inch spring form pan and 2 for the top crust.
Dissolve the salt in the water then add the oil and stir.
Put the flour in a large bowl. Add the water mixture.
Mix the flour with a fork or knead it with you hand.
When a dough has formed put it on a lightly-floured surface and knead it until it becomes smooth, about 2 or 3 minutes.
Form the dough into a ball, wrap with plastic film and let sit at room temperature for about an hour.
Blanch the chard and spinach in simmering water for about 3 minutes. Drain the greens and let them cool on a plate.
When cool squeeze all the water out of the greens. You want them very dry.
Roughly chop the greens.
Chop the onion.
Over medium-high heat put 2-tablespoons olive oil in a large saute pan.
When the oil starts to ripple add the onion and cook until the onion starts to turn translucent.
Add the greens to the pan, add sea salt and pepper and mix well. Cook until the greens are tender.
Put the greens in a bowl and add the chopped marjoram and let the greens cool.
Put the ricotta in another bowl. Beat 3 eggs and add them to the ricotta along ¼ cup grated parmigiano, parsley, nutmeg (which I forgot to add in the video) and sea salt and black pepper to taste. Whisk all the ingredients together so that the ricotta mixture is well blended and fluffy.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Divide the dough in 4, roll 2 larger dough pieces (about 10 oz. each) to a thin sheet about a 13-inch diameter and the smaller balls (about 7 oz.) and roll out to to a thin sheet about 10-inches.
Brush the bottom and sides of the baking pan well with olive oil.
Spread one larger sheet of the pastry and spread it with evenly over the bottom of the pan and about up the side.
Brush the pastry all over with oil.
Put the second pastry sheet, put it on top of the first sheet and pat it so that the second sheet adheres to the first.
Add the greens to the baking pan and spread them evenly over the bottom crust.
Add the ricotta mixture and spread it evenly over the greens.
Make an indentation with the back of the spoon in the center and then 5 indentations spread evenly mid-way between the center and the edge of the pan.
Separate 6 eggs. Put an egg yolk in each indentation.
Lightly beat the egg whites and spread a thin layer of the whites on top of the ricotta mixture and sprinkle grated parmigiano all over.
Completely cover the top the ricotta layer with one of the smaller sheets. Press it to adhere to the side crust and brush it with olive oil.
Lay the last small sheet on top to fully cover the cake and press this last sheet gently to adhere to the side crust.
Cut off any dough that hangs over the side of the baking pan. Roll down the remaining dough on the sides, crimp with your fingers to form the edge of the crust an the circumference of the cake. Gently depress the edge with a fork to create a pretty top edge.
Brush the top of the cake with olive oil.
Bake the cake in the oven until the top crust is golden, about 45 minutes.
The hardest part of this dish is finding baby lamb. I’m lucky to live in San Francisco, so I got mine at Golden Gate Meat Company in the Ferry Building. If you can’t get the breast use chops or even a leg of lamb. Any cut works with this recipe.
The breast riblets are crispy and fall off the bone tender. The chops have a golden brown crust and delicate flavor and can be cooked to your preferred doneness.
Keep an eye out for my Easter Recipe Roundup. You’ll see the other 3 courses I’m making for my Easter dinner and recipes for dozens of my favorites for you to make your own 4-course Easter dinner.
Place the potatoes in a pot of well-salted water. Bring to a boil and cook for 3 minutes until just knife tender. Take the potatoes out of the water and set aside.
When cool enough to handle peel the potatoes, cut each in half and then in quarters.
Place the potatoes on a sheet pan and drizzle with olive oil and sea salt and black pepper to taste. Coat the potatoes well all over.
Put the potatoes in the oven on the upper rack. Roast until the potatoes, turning them once until they are crispy and very light brown, about 25 minutes. Remove the potatoes from oven and set aside.
Finely chop 2 garlic cloves, the leaves of 2 rosemary branches and the anchovy. Put the mixture in a bowl. Add the vinegar and sea salt and black pepper to taste. Mix well to form a paste and set aside.
Cut the breast into 4 similar size pieces. Thoroughly season each piece on both sides with salt and pepper. (Or substitute the lamb chops.)
Put a cast iron pan or a skillet large enough to hold the lamb over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil to the pan.
Smash 2 garlic cloves and 2 rosemary branches to the pan. Cook in the hot olive oil for a minute or two to infuse the oil with their flavor. Discard the garlic and rosemary.
Put the lamb in the pan and cook to form a golden crust on both sides. Put the lamb in a baking dish.
Add the white wine to the hot pan. Scrape up the brown bits from the bottom and let the wine simmer for a minute to burn off the alcohol.
Pour the wine into the baking dish.
Put the baking dish on the bottom shelf of the oven and roast the lamb until it is golden brown, about 90 minutes. (If using chops roast until they reach an internal temperature of 125 degrees.)
Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees.
Remove the baking dish from the oven and cover the lamb on both sides with the rosemary paste. Add the potatoes to the pan.
Return the baking dish and continue roasting until the lamb is fork tender. (If using chops until the internal temperature is 140 degrees.)
Remove the lamb and potatoes to a serving platter. Skim off any excess fat from the pan juices and pour them over the lamb.
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Want a “pick-me-up”? That’s the meaning of tiramisu and with its potent hits of espresso and alcohol, it is the perfect ending to a perfect meal.
Tiramisu was one of the favorite dolci at my Providence restaurant back in the 80s. I hope you like it too. The hardest part of making it is beating the egg yolks and whipping the whites.
Just dip savoiardi (Italian lady-fingers) in strong espresso laced with Marsala wine and line them in a casserole dish. Top with a layer of fluffy mascarpone (an Italian “cream cheese”) enriched by bright yellow yolks and lightened by whipped egg whites that are as airy as clouds. Repeat and dust the top with bittersweet cocoa powder. Add a few curls of dark chocolate to take it over the top. Then comes the best part, the eating!
Tiramisu is a full flavor palette. The strong espresso and fortified Marsala wine permeate the savoiardi and give them a not too sweet cake texture. The light, sweet mascarpone cream melts in your mouth. The cocoa and nutty dark chocolate caps it all off. Enjoy all the flavors that come together in every single bite.
Recipe note: I use raw eggs, the traditional tiramisu ingredient, from a local organic producer just across the Golden Gate Bridge in Petaluma. Just in case I soak the eggs in bleach before using them to minimize any possible contamination. I haven’t had a problem with raw eggs in the decades that I’ve made tiramisu this way. Read the raw egg notice under the recipe. And if you don’t want to use raw eggs there’s a substitute recipe for the mascarpone cream filling there too.
Put the espresso and Marsala in a shallow bowl and set aside.
Separate the eggs. Put the yolks in one bowl and the whites in another.
Add the sugar to the yolks. Using a hand mixer beat the yolks and sugar together until smooth and pale yellow.
Add the mascarpone and with a rubber spatula mix it into the yolks until well blended.
Whip the whites to a stiff peak.
Add ⅓ of the egg whites to the mascarpone mixture and gently stir several times to lighten the mixture.
Add the rest of the whites to the mascarpone mixture and mix until the cream is fluffly and smooth.
Dip the lady fingers in the espresso mixture and place them in a single layer in a casserole dish. Continue until the bottom of the dish is covered.
Spread one half of the mascarpone cream evenly over the lady fingers.
Make another layer of lady fingers dipped in the espresso mixture and cover evenly with the remaining mascarpone cream.
Cover the pan dish tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. Overnight is best.
Dust the top with cocoa and some shaved dark chocolate.
Serve chilled or at room temperature.
Use caution in consuming raw eggs due to the risk of salmonella or other food-borne illness. To reduce this risk use only fresh, properly refrigerated organic, clean grade A or AA eggs with intact shells, and avoid contact between the yolks or whites and the shell. I soak the eggs in bleach and water, wash them under running water and dry them well before using.
If you don’t want to use raw eggs, here’s a recipe for the mascarpone cream filling. Use the recipe above to make the tiramisu, just substitute this filling for the one with raw egg.
Combine 6 egg yolks and 1 cup of sugar in the top of a double boiler, over boiling water. Reduce heat to low, and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove the bowl from the heat and whip the yolks until thick and lemon colored. Add 1 pound mascarpone to whipped yolks, beat until combined. In a separate bowl, whip 2 cups of cream to stiff peaks. Gently fold the whipped cream in the mascarpone mixture and set aside.