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.
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.
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It’s ridiculous how a few quality ingredients can make such a sumptuous pasta dish. When in Rome cacio e pepe is one of two pasta dishes that I order at one of my favorite restaurants as soon as I arrive.
If you’re really hungry and want something simple to eat this no-cook sauce is for you. Boil well-salted water, cook the spaghetti and you’re almost done.
When the spaghetti is al dente, fish it out of the water and put it in a big bowl. Pour a cup of hot pasta water over the spaghetti, stir in the grated pecorino & freshly ground black pepper, toss and your ready to eat.
The silky zesty pecorino sauce clings to every strand of spaghetti and the black pepper explodes in your mouth. I couldn’t stop eating this one.
Be sure to buy the best spaghetti from Italy that you can. I prefer pasta from a small producer in and around Naples. This pasta could cost you 4 or 5 dollars but it’s worth every penny. Their durum wheat pasta extruded through a bronze die has a deep nutty wheat flavor and the rough surface holds sauce well. In a pinch I use De Cecco.
Buy a hunk of pecorino romano from Italy and grate just before using to maximize its taste. Buy quality black peppercorns and coarsely grind or crush them so that you fully enjoy their robust flavor and texture.
Oh, and that other pasta dish I can’t wait to eat when I get to Roma, spaghetti carbonara. Let me know if you want me to make that one in a future episode. Just leave a comment.
I often make a spaghetti pie when I have cacio e pepe left over. Just add beaten eggs, mix and bake it until the spaghetti strands on top are golden and nutty. It’s an easy way of getting a second day of enjoyment out of this tasty dish. You can make a spaghetti pie too.
5.0 from 1 reviews
Cacio e Pepe: Spaghetti with a No-Cook Pecorino & Black Pepper Sauce
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I love this time of year when the first of the early spring vegetables start to hit the market. Pencil-thin asparagus, tiny peas, and tender fava beans are among my favorites, so I just had to make pasta primavera with these spring farmers’ market beauties.
But the nice thing about pasta primavera is that it’s versatile enough to work well with all kinds of produce. Asparagus not looking so good? Use artichokes instead! Are those gorgeous ramps on sale this week? Use those! Just pick whatever’s fresh and delicious in your market and you can’t go wrong.
This dish is inspired by the original Spaghetti alla Primavera from Sirio Maccioni, co-owner of Le Cirque restaurant in New York City–it’s a real Italian-American classic. I’ve lightened the dish up by using no butter and less cream, and this keeps the spring vegetables in sharp focus. Instead, pasta water creates a flavorful broth as the base of the sauce and bow tie pasta instead of spaghetti guarantees you get some veggies with every bite.
I prefer the more robust ricotta salata flavor instead of parmigiano as a finishing note, but different strokes, right? And extra virgin olive oil does put some fat back into this really healthy, full-flavored taste of springtime, I’ll give you that, but come on, a little ain’t gonna kill ya.
I made farfalle alla primavera a few years ago at my cooking demonstration and tasting at The Villages in San Jose. I was cooking for 50 Italian-Americans and wannabes and I needed a boat-load of vegetables, so while setting up for the show I enlisted a dozen of my students to shell the peas and fava beans and cut the asparagus. When all the work was done, one of my prep helpers said “Next time use frozen!” Well, of course you can, but it won’t be as good as using fresh from the farmer’s market–the extra work means extra flavor and who don’t want that?
The full flavor of the spring vegetables rule this simple, uncluttered pasta dish that is ready in the time it takes to cook the pasta. After you shell the peas and fava that is. Just make sure none of your helpers throw them pea pods at ya.
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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.
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
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
For the Sauce
Put a pot over medium-high heat.
Add the olive oil and garlic.
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.
Add the tomatoes and stir well.
Add sea salt to taste and the basil.
Bring the sauce to a gentle simmer, lowering the heat if needed.
Simmer uncovered for 20 minutes or until the volume is reduced by 25%.
Keep the sauce warm while you make and bake the cannelloni.
For the Crespelle
Whisk eggs and salt in large bowl.
Gradually whisk in flour, then 1¼ cups milk.
Whisk until the batter is very smooth and has no big clumps of flour.
If necessary, add more milk by tablespoons to batter to thin to consistency of heavy whipping cream.
Heat 8-inch diameter nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Brush with extra virgin olive oil.
Pour 3 tablespoons batter into skillet and swirl to coat bottom evenly.
Cook until top appears dry, loosening sides of crepe with spatula, about 45 seconds.
Turn and cook until brown spots appear on second side, about 30 seconds.
Turn crepe out onto plate.
Repeat with remaining batter, brushing skillet with EVOO and stacking crepes on plate.
For the Filling
Put the spinach in a pot over medium-high heat and add ½ cup water
Cook until the spinach is wilted.
Drain the spinach.
When the spinach is cool enough to handle, squeeze out as much water as you can.
Roughly chop the spinach.
Put all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.
In a large baking dish put ¼ cup of the sauce to lightly cover the bottom of the dish.
Lay the crespelle on a flat work surface.
Put about 3-4 tablespoons at one end of each crespelle and roll it up.
Place it seam side down in the baking dish.
Repeat until all the crespelle are filled.
Top the cannelloni with a light layer of sauce.
Top the sauce evenly with the mozzarella and then the parmigiano.
Cover the baking dish with foil and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes.
Uncover and bake until the mozzarella on top of the cannelloni is melted and slightly browned, about 10 minutes more.
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.
I always have to satisfy a variety of diets at my table. A recent lunch gathering was no exception – vegetarians amongst the meat eaters! But, I had a strategy…
My method for vegetable sides, sauces or soups is to start with the universal base.
In the video I explain how to stage the cooking so that you end up with a vegetarian version of tortellini in brodo, and a roasted meat and vegetable stuffed tortellini in a chicken brodo, too.
It’s a traditional dish from Emilia-Romagna, the region of Italy around Bologna, called the “culinary heart” of Italia.
They’re famous for stuffed pasta among many other culinary wonders – mortadella (the original bologna), parmigiano reggiano, prosciutto and balsamic among them.
The tortellini’s rich roasted meat and vegetable stuffing is enrobed in a silky yet toothsome pasta skin. Scoop one up in your spoon filled with the delicate deep-flavored chicken broth and you’ll be in heaven.
(Watch me make the pasta dough in my fresh ravioli video episode.)
Put a big pot over medium-high heat.
Add the olive oil.
When the oil begins to ripple add the onion, carrot, and celery.
Saute the vegetables until the onion is translucent. (You don't want the vegetables to pick up any color.)
Add the water and bring the pot to a gentle boil.
(For the vegetarian version let the vegetable broth cook for about 20 minutes and set some aside before adding the chicken.)
Add the chicken and cook until the meat begins to fall off the bone.
Strain all of the ingredients over a big bowl to collect the broth.
Over medium-high heat return the broth to the low boil.
Heat the oven to 425 degrees.
Put the pork, mortadella, pancetta, all the vegetables, and rosemary in a shallow baking pan.
Add the tomato paste and mix to coat everything well.
Add the water to the pan.
Roast in the oven until everything is knife tender and browned.
(For the vegetarian version roast the vegetables and meats in separate roasting dishes and mince only the vegetables in the food processor, add the egg, parmigiano and nutmeg to stuff the vegetarian tortellini.)
When the roasted pork and vegetables have cooled put everything in a food processor bowl and pulse until everything is minced well.
Put the mixture in a bowl, add the egg, nutmeg and parmigiano and mix well.
Use the recipe for ravioli on gianni.tv. Watch me make it at http://www.gianni.tv/fresh-pasta-ricotta-ravioli-in-a-san-marzano-sauce/
Making the torellini
Lay out a long fresh pasta sheet.
Cut the sheet in 3-inch squares.
Wet the edges of each square with water. (I use dip my thumb in a bowl of water.)
Add ½ teaspoon of the filling near a tip of square.
Fold over the other half of the square and pinch the seam to tightly close it.
Wrap the tortellini around your finger, pull the 2 ends together and squeeze the ends together.
Put the tortellini on a floured kitchen towel. Make sure they don't touch or they'll stick together.
When the broth is at a low boil add the tortellini and stir them so they don't stick. (The tortellini are delicate so you don't want a rapid boil.)
When the tortellini raise to the surface let them roll in the boil for about a minute and they should be al dente and ready to come out. (Eat one if you're not sure they're done.)
Serve immediately with grated parmigiano for your guests to sprinkle on top of each bowl.
A northern Jersey friend enjoyed this yellow onion and anchovy whole wheat pasta dish several years ago at da Flora, one of my favorite North Beach restaurants. The food memory haunted her ever since.
She hasn’t been to San Francisco since that dinner at da Flora so I made my version of the dish when 10 of us gathered at the table back East last week.
Two of my Jersey friends picked 3 of us up in Manhattan and we headed to Arthur Avenue, NYC’s Little Italy in the Bronx to finalize our menu and buy what we needed for our 4-course meal from our favorite purveyors.
Then it was off to Clifton NJ for a day of cooking and eating together. 8 hours of conversation, laughter and fun fueled by fantastic food and wine.
The chance to be with family and friends around the table is what drives my cooking passion and warms my heart.
This is a simple recipe with few ingredients. Start making the sauce when you put on a large pot of salted water over high-heat to boil and the sauce will be done by the time the pasta is cooked.
The nutty toothsome whole wheat pasta is coated with the onion-anchovy sauce. The sweet onions play off the salty anchovies and the sweet acidic sherry vinegar adds a piquant finish to each bite. Savor a full-flavored pasta made from a few simple ingredients.
Flora is somewhat of a technophobe. I’m so happy that she finally decided to create a da Flora website. Take a look at this unique place. Meet the 3 remarkable women who prepare your meal with local seasonal ingredients, the best imported products and lots of love.
Book a table for your next dinner in North Beach. God bless Flora. She’ll only go so far on the web. You’ll have to call to make a reservation. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.
A quick zesty sauce that's ready in the time it takes to cook the pasta. Sweet onions play off the anchovy-garlic sauce and nutty whole wheat pasta for a full-flavored pasta dish perked up by a bit of sherry vinegar.
Recipe type: Pasta
1 pound or 500 grams, imported Italian whole wheat spaghetti or other long pasta
2 yellow onions, halved and then slivered
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup sherry vinegar
10 anchovy filets, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, slivered
3 tablespoons butter
2 cups pasta cooking water
3 tablespoons chopped Italian flat parsley
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
drizzle of good finishing extra virgin olive oil
Put on 4 quarts of water with 3 tablespoons of sea salt over high heat to boil.
When the water is at a rapid boil add the pasta and stir so the spaghetti strands don't stick together. Cook until very al dente.
In the meantime, place a sauté pan large enough to hold the cooked spaghetti over medium-high heat and add the extra virgin olive oil.
When the oil ripples add the thinly sliced onions, sprinkle the onions with sea salt and cook until translucent and slightly browned.
Add the sherry vinegar and cook until the sauce is slightly reduced.
Remove the onions and sauce to a bowl and set aside.
Reduce the heat to medium-low and melt the butter in the pan.
Add the anchovies and thinly sliced garlic to the pan and cook until the anchovies dissolve and the thinly sliced garlic starts to give off its aroma, about a minute or 2.
Return the carmelized onions and sauce to the pan.
Increase the heat to medium-high, add the pasta water and rapidly simmer until the sauce reduces by about half.
When the pasta is cooked to al dente, using tongs or a spider, add the pasta to the pan. (If you drain the pasta in a colander reserve a cup of the cooking water.)
Add the chopped parsley, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
Toss the spaghetti in the sauce. The pasta will absorb some of the sauce as it finishes cooking. (If the spaghetti is too dry add a bit more pasta water and toss again.)
Serve the pasta in warm bowls and lightly drizzle each bowl with a good finishing olive oil.
I promised to make a lasagna for our office potluck lunch Thursday. As I got ready for a trip to LA I tried to beg off making the lasagna.
I knew I wouldn’t be in the mood to make a lasagna because I was flying back Wednesday night. My office mates wouldn’t let off the hook.
I was stuck. After I unpacked I dashed off to the market to get everything I needed.
I was making a “lazy” lasagna. No homemade pasta sheets. No long-cooked sauce. This puppy is in the oven in a half-hour.
Don’t be intimidated. This is a simple recipe for a weekend meal or even for a leisurely weeknight dinner.
I used no-boil lasagna sheets, sausage browned out of its casing and a ricotta, mozzarella and pecorino filling. Canned San Marzano tomatoes made the quick tomato-basil sauce a snap. Leave out the sausage and you have a delicious vegetarian lasagna.
First start the sauce. It will be ready in about 30 minutes. Cook the sausage at the same time. In the meantime whip up the ricotta and mozzarella filling. When the sauce is ready assemble the 3-layer lasagna and bake it in a hot oven for about a half-hour.
How easy is that? You’ll be ready to eat in about 60 minutes start to finish.
The ricotta filling encased in tender pasta sheets is creamy and rich. The perky sausage layer bathed in the sweet tomato-basil sauce is a zesty counterweight. I savored every bite. 2 of my lucky mates snagged the leftover lasagna for their lunch the next day.
Serve the lasagna with a simple salad and a bold red wine. Have some crusty bread handy to wipe up the sauce left on the plate. You won’t have to wash that dish before you put it back on the shelf.
Tomatoes overflow the farmers market. I bought fresh organic San Marzano tomatoes with this pasta dish in mind.
I’m in the mood for rich and creamy so I’m mixing ricotta with the quick-cooked tomato sauce and serving it with giant dried pasta tubes.
The classic Neapolitan Paccheri con Ricotta e Salsa di Pomodoro is a late summer treat.
Paccheri means “slaps” in Italian. Gentle face slaps not hostile ones.
The fat tubes collapse on themselves. The pasta makes a slapping sound when picked up with a fork because of the creamy sauce trapped inside.
Paccheri are a big mouthful of pasta so you need a sauce that will hold up to them. This one fits the bill.
I usually just add basil to a quick-cooked fresh summer tomato sauce. But I remembered that sometimes my Mom added oregano to her tomato-basil sauce so I did too.
The mellow creamy ricotta-tomato sauce coats the fat pasta inside and out. Add a dollop of the tomato sauce on top. The fresh basil and oregano shine behind the sweet tomatoes. The freshly ground black pepper lightly tingles your tongue. You won’t believe the flavor wallop from so few ingredients quickly cooked.
If you can’t find paccheri use rigatoni, ziti or penne instead. If you can’t find San Marzano tomatoes use the ripest tomatoes available in your market. In a pinch use a 28-ounce can of imported San Marzano tomatoes.
Are you afraid of squash blossoms that are flooding farmers markets now?
Don’t be. The blossoms are versatile and easy to cook up. Grab some if you can.
Stuff the blossoms with mozzarella and anchovy and fry them coated with a light batter. Use them as a topping for a tomato-less pizza. Or make this really simple pasta cream sauce that will be on your table in the time it takes to cook the pasta.
Slice the blossoms into 1-inch ribbons. Saute the shallot with butter and extra virgin olive oil. When the shallot is translucent add the blossom ribbons and saffron. Finish with heavy cream and cook until the sauce thickens.
Add the cooked pasta and toss with the sauce to finish cooking. Shut off the heat. Add grated parmigiano and a sprinkle of grated black pepper and toss well.
That’s it. Sit down and eat.
Most of the sauce will be absorbed by the pasta and some will coat it too. The yellow-orange blossoms pleasingly speckle the saffron-tinted pasta and add a hint of zucchini flavor. Mild shallot deepens the flavor of the mellow parmigiano cream sauce.
Every eye-pleasing bite is a mouthful of delicate complex flavor. So simple and so delicious.
1 pound or 500 grams fresh tagliatelle, linguine or fettuccine. Or use a long dried pasta. I used fettuccine here
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 shallot, minced
12 zucchini blossoms, sliced into ribbons
Pinch of saffron
¾ cups heavy cream
¼ cup grated parmigiano
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Put a big pot of well-salted water on to boil.
Cut off the dark green base of the squash blossom and the stem. The pistil should fall out. Discard the pistil and stem piece.
Slice the blossoms horizontally into 1-inch ribbons.
Put the butter and olive in a large saute pan over medium heat.
When the butter begins to bubble add the shallot and cook until the the shallot is translucent, about 1 minute.
Lower the heat to medium-low.
Add the sliced blossoms and sea salt to taste to the pan and stir to coat the blossoms with the butter and oil.
Cook until the blossoms soften and become fragrant, about 3-5 minutes.
Add the saffron and mix well.
Add the cream and cook stirring well until the cream begins to thicken.
In the meantime, when the water is at a rapid boil. add the fresh or dried pasta (Fresh pasta should take less than 5 minutes to rise to the surface and be perfectly al dente. Follow the package directions for dried pasta. Cook until al dente.)
While pasta is cooking warm the sauce over low heat.
Drain the pasta and add it to the sauce. Add freshly ground black pepper to taste and the grated parmigiano. Mix well to coat the pasta evenly with the sauce and cheese.
Serve immediately with extra grated parmigiano on the table for your guests.
I scored the first of the organic San Marzano tomatoes from Happy Boy Farms at the Thursday Galleria farmers market in San Francisco’s financial district.
I was lazy and wanted a simple sauce so I didn’t cook it at all. This pasta can be on your table in about 30 minutes.
Just pop the San Marzanos in boiling water to loosen the skin and peel them. Roughly chop the tomatoes and let them marinate with extra virgin olive oil, basil and garlic for 30 minutes while the pasta water comes to a boil.
When the pasta is cooked add the marinated tomatoes and toss to coat the pasta well. Top each serving with a ripped basil leaf, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a light shower of grated parmigiano and eat.
You can use any fresh tomato for this pasta sauce. As long as they’re ripe and sweet, cherry, pear or heirloom tomatoes work well too. The heat of the pasta will bring out their full sweet flavor.
I didn’t make my own pasta. I bought some fresh pappardelle at the market but you can use long or short dried pasta too. Make it with penne or another short dried pasta and serve it at room temperature or slightly chilled and you have an Italian pasta salad for your summer buffet table.
I love the pure raw flavors of the sweet tomatoes and basil bathed in the garlic-infused olive oil. The toothsome pappadelle captures it all and adds a nutty wheat note to every bite.
Neapolitans love clams. The outdoor fish stalls have clams of all sizes just out of the bay on display in buckets of water. For me, the smaller the better.
I love vongole verace, those clams the size of your thumb, but you have to cook a lot so everyone gets plenty of the tiny, tender clams. Sometimes I want a fatter clam and these larger ones were perfect, meaty but tender. Just right.
This is a dish that’s ready in the time it takes to cook the pasta. Just put on a pot of water to boil for the pasta. When the spaghetti goes into the boiling water, make the clam sauce.
Heat olive oil, with garlic, parsley and chili flakes in another pot. When the oil is hot and the garlic is translucent, add the clams and a splash of white wine, cover the pot and steam the clams until they open.
When the spaghetti is cooked very al dente add it to the clam sauce and mix well. The spaghetti will finish cooking as it absorbs the clam broth. Sprinkle the spaghetti with chopped Italian parsley, drizzle on some extra virgin oil and serve. You’ll be eating in less than 30 minutes, start to finish.
The spaghetti sticks to the tooth. The briny tender clams are redolent with garlic. The chili flakes add a sparkle to every bite and when I’m done my tongue tingles for a while. The pristine taste of the sea in bowl. Delicious.
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Spaghetti with Clams Straight from the Bay of Naples
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.