Paccheri Pasta with Ricotta & San Marzano Marinara Sauce

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.

Ingredients

  • 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
  • Cheeses
  • 1 cup whole milk ricotta
  • Additional ricotta as a garnish
  • 1/4 cup grated pecorino
  • 1/4 cup grated parmigiano

Cooking Directions

  1. 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.)
  2. Put a big covered pot of water on the stove for the paccheri and add the sea salt.
  3. Put another pot over medium-high heat and add the olive oil and garlic. Saute until the garlic starts to take on color.
  4. Add the crushed tomatoes to the pot and add sea salt to taste.
  5. Add the fresh basil sprig and dried oregano. Stir well.
  6. 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.
  7. Put the ricotta and grated cheeses in a large bowl and mix them well.
  8. When the water boils add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 10-12 minutes.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.

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.

Cacio e Pepe: Spaghetti with a No-Cook Pecorino & Black Pepper Sauce

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Cacio e pepe
Cacio e pepe is a minimalist Italian version of mac and cheese.

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.

Buon appetito!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Cacio e Pepe: Spaghetti with a No-Cook Pecorino & Black Pepper Sauce
 
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Author:
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 1 pound (500 grams) spaghetti
  • 1 cup grated pecorino romano
  • freshly coarsely ground black pepper to taste
  • sea salt for the pasta water
Instructions
  1. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat.
  2. When the water reaches a rapid boil add the spaghetti. Toss the spaghetti to make sure it doesn't stick.
  3. While the spaghetti is cooking grate the pecorino, half on the coarse grate and half on the fine grate.
  4. Coarsely grind black pepper or crack them with a pan or a meat pounder.
  5. When the spaghetti is al dente fish it out with tongs and put it in a big bowl. (Save 2 cups of pasta water if you drain it in a colander.)
  6. Add a cup of pasta water to the bowl and toss to moisten the spaghetti.
  7. Add the grated pecorino and toss. If the pasta is too dry add more pasta water to form a silky sauce.
  8. Add the black pepper and toss the spaghetti well.
  9. Serve immediately. Have some pecorino and the pepper mill on the table for your guests to add more if they want.

 

Pasta Primavera: Bow tie pasta with early spring vegetables

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Pasta Primavera
Pasta primavera is spring on a plate.

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.

And if you like this, also try my recipe for spring asparagus frittata. It’s another great way to get spring on a plate.

Buon appetito!

Pasta Primavera: Bow Tie Pasta with Early Spring Vegetables
 
Bow tie pasta with fresh spring peas, lava beans and asparagus in a light cream sauce.
Author:
Recipe type: pasta
Cuisine: Italian
Ingredients
  • 1 cup fava beans
  • 1 pound or 500 grams Farfalle dried pasta
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 spring onions, cut in 1-inch slices
  • 8 thin asparagus spears, cut on a bias in 2-inch pieces
  • 1 cup shelled fresh peas
  • 10 ripe cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 5 basil leaves, ripped by hand
  • ¼ cup grated ricotta salata or grated parmigiano
  • sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and finishing olive oil to taste
Instructions
  1. Remove the fava beans from the pod and blanch them in the hot pasta water for a minute or two. Take the fava beans out of the water and when cool remove the wrinkled skin from the fava.
  2. Bring a large pot of well salted water to a boil over high heat.
  3. Add the farfalle to the boiling water and cook until just al dente.
  4. In the meantime, put a large saute pan over medium-high and add 2 tablespoons of the extra virgin olive oil and add the garlic.
  5. When the garlic starts to give off its aroma add the spring onion.
  6. When the onion is translucent, add the asparagus and fava beans sprinkle with sea salt and sauté for a minute or two until the asparagus takes on a deeper green color.
  7. Add a cup of the pasta water to the sauté pan and cover the pan. Cover the pan and cook for 2 minutes or until the asparagus and fava are tender.
  8. Add the peas and cherry tomatoes, another cup of pasta water and cook until the peas and tomatoes are wrinkled, for a minute or two more.
  9. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the cream and mix well. Cook to reduce and thicken the sauce.
  10. Drain the farfalle when just al dente and put them in the pan. Stir the farfalle well with the primavera sauce. (Add more pasta water if the sauce is too dense.)
  11. Stir in the basil.
  12. Off the heat add a sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper and the grated cheese.
  13. Drizzle the farfalle with your finishing extra virgin olive oil and serve immediately.

 

Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni

Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buon appetito!

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

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

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

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

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

Tortellini in Brodo: Homemade Stuffed Pasta in Broth

Tortellini in Brodo
Tortellini in Brodo
Tortellini in Brodo–don’t forget the parmigiano reggiano!

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 fresh pasta to use for the tortellini.

Buon appetito!

Tortellini in Brodo Recipe 2 Ways: Homemade Stuffed Pasta in Broth
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Soup
Cuisine: Itaian
Serves: 6
Ingredients
Brodo
  • 1 onion, cut in chunks
  • 1 carrot, cut in chunks
  • 1 rib celery, cut in chunks
  • 1 garlic clove, smashed
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 pound chicken parts
Tortellini Filling
  • 8 ounces pork shoulder, cut in 2-inch cubes
  • 2 ounces pancetta, (thick slice) cubed
  • 2 ounces mortadella (thick slice), cubed
  • 11/2 teaspoons crumbled dried porcini
  • 1 small onion, cut in small pieces
  • 1 rib of celery, cut in small pieces
  • 1 small carrot, cut in small pieces
  • 11/2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 stem of rosemary, leaves only
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • ½ cup grated parmigiano
  • pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Pasta
  • (Watch me make the pasta dough in my fresh ravioli video episode.)
Instructions
Brodo
  1. Put a big pot over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the olive oil.
  3. When the oil begins to ripple add the onion, carrot, and celery.
  4. Saute the vegetables until the onion is translucent. (You don't want the vegetables to pick up any color.)
  5. Add the water and bring the pot to a gentle boil.
  6. (For the vegetarian version let the vegetable broth cook for about 20 minutes and set some aside before adding the chicken.)
  7. Add the chicken and cook until the meat begins to fall off the bone.
  8. Strain all of the ingredients over a big bowl to collect the broth.
  9. Over medium-high heat return the broth to the low boil.
Filling
  1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Put the pork, mortadella, pancetta, all the vegetables, and rosemary in a shallow baking pan.
  3. Add the tomato paste and mix to coat everything well.
  4. Add the water to the pan.
  5. Roast in the oven until everything is knife tender and browned.
  6. (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.)
  7. When the roasted pork and vegetables have cooled put everything in a food processor bowl and pulse until everything is minced well.
  8. Put the mixture in a bowl, add the egg, nutmeg and parmigiano and mix well.
Pasta
  1. 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
  1. Lay out a long fresh pasta sheet.
  2. Cut the sheet in 3-inch squares.
  3. Wet the edges of each square with water. (I use dip my thumb in a bowl of water.)
  4. Add ½ teaspoon of the filling near a tip of square.
  5. Fold over the other half of the square and pinch the seam to tightly close it.
  6. Wrap the tortellini around your finger, pull the 2 ends together and squeeze the ends together.
  7. Put the tortellini on a floured kitchen towel. Make sure they don't touch or they'll stick together.
  8. 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.)
  9. 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.)
  10. Serve immediately with grated parmigiano for your guests to sprinkle on top of each bowl.

 

 

A Whole Wheat Pasta Recipe You’ll Love

Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Onions & Anchovies
Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Onions & Anchovies

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.

Buon appetito!

Whole Wheat Spaghetti in an Onion-Anchovy Sauce
 
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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.
Author:
Recipe type: Pasta
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 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
Instructions
  1. Put on 4 quarts of water with 3 tablespoons of sea salt over high heat to boil.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. When the oil ripples add the thinly sliced onions, sprinkle the onions with sea salt and cook until translucent and slightly browned.
  5. Add the sherry vinegar and cook until the sauce is slightly reduced.
  6. Remove the onions and sauce to a bowl and set aside.
  7. Reduce the heat to medium-low and melt the butter in the pan.
  8. 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.
  9. Return the carmelized onions and sauce to the pan.
  10. Increase the heat to medium-high, add the pasta water and rapidly simmer until the sauce reduces by about half.
  11. 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.)
  12. Add the chopped parsley, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
  13. 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.)
  14. Serve the pasta in warm bowls and lightly drizzle each bowl with a good finishing olive oil.

 

 

 

 

Lazy Lasagna Ready in an Hour

A ricotta & sausage lasagna you can eat in about an hour
Ricotta & sausage lasagna you can eat in about an hour

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.

Buon appetito!

Lazy Lasagna with Tomato-Basil Sauce
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Pasta
Cuisine: Italian-American
Serves: 8-10
Ingredients
  • 1 box oven-ready (no-boil) lasagna sheets
  • 2 pounds ricotta, drained
  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella, shredded
  • ¼ cup grated pecorino or parmigiano, plus more to sprinkle on top of the lasagna
  • ¼ cup fresh Italian flat parsley, chopped
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound Italian mild sausage out of the casing
  • 2 28-ounce cans imported San Marzano whole tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 sprigs basil
  • sea salt to taste
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter cut in small cubes
Instructions
  1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Put the canned tomatoes in a large bowl and crush them with you hand. Discard any basil in the can and any skin or tough stems.
  3. Put 2 tablespoons olive oil and garlic in a sauce pan over medium-high heat. Cook the garlic until it takes on a light tan color.
  4. Add the tomatoes to the pan and sea salt to taste. Bring the sauce to a rapid simmer.
  5. Add the basil, reduce to low heat and stir the sauce occasionally for about 30 minutes. The sauce will thicken a bit as it simmers.
  6. As the sauce simmers put a tablespoon of olive oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot add the sausage and brown. Break up any clumps as you cook the sausage.
  7. Drain off the oil in the pan and set the sausage aside.
  8. In a large bowl beat the eggs then add the ricotta, most of the shredded mozzarella, pecorino, parsley and black pepper. (Set aside a ¼ cup of the shredded mozzarella to spread on top of the lasagna.)
  9. Beat well with a fork or whisk.
  10. In a 9 x 13 inch baking dish spread a cup of sauce evenly over the bottom.
  11. Dot with 1 tablespoon butter.
  12. Lay down a single layer of lasagna sheets to cover the bottom of the dish.
  13. Add half the ricotta filling and spread it evenly over the lasagna sheets.
  14. Add another single layer of lasagna sheets on top of the ricotta filling. Spread a cup of sauce evenly over the sheets.
  15. Add the browned sausage in an even layer over the lasagna sheets.
  16. Top with another single layer of lasagna sheets and spread a cup of sauce evenly over the sheets.
  17. Spread the remaining ricotta filling evenly over the sheets.
  18. Top with another single layer of lasagna sheets and spread a cup of sauce evenly over the sheets.
  19. Sprinkle with the reserved shredded mozzarella and some grated pecorino.
  20. Dot with butter.
  21. Cover the baking dish tightly with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Uncover and bake for 5 minutes more to lightly brown the cheese on top of the lasagna,
  22. Let the lasagna sit for about 15 minutes before cutting the lasagna. (I usually make 3 cuts the length of the lasagna and then 4 cuts across the width to form 3 x 3 inch pieces.)
  23. Put any remaining sauce in a sauce bowl should your guests want to add more to their lasagna.
  24. (The lasagna is even better the next day.)

 

 

Fat Macaroni with Ricotta and Tomato Sauce

Paccheri with Ricotta and Fresh San Marzano Tomato Sacue
Paccheri with Ricotta and Fresh San Marzano Tomato Sacue

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.

Buon appetito!

 

Macaroni with Ricotta and Tomato Sauce
 
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A creamy light ricotta and fresh San Marzano sauce coats the fat pasta tubes inside & out.
Author:
Recipe type: Pasta
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 1 pound or 500 grams dried paccheri or your favorite imported tube pasta
  • 1 pound fresh San Marzano tomatoes or the ripest summer tomatoes available in your market (or in a pinch a 28-ounce can of imported San Marzano tomatoes)
  • 1 large sprig fresh basil, plus more for garnish
  • 2 sprigs fresh oregano, plus more for garnish
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup whole milk ricotta
  • ½ cup freshly grated pecorino
Instructions
  1. Put a big pot of well-salted pasta water over high heat and bring to a boil.
  2. Make an "X" in the top of each tomato. Put the tomatoes in the hot pasta water until the skin begins to blister, about 30 seconds.
  3. Remove the tomatoes to a bowl and when they are cool enough to handle peel off the skin.
  4. Pass the tomatoes through a food mill to form a smooth sauce. Or finely chop the tomatoes for a chunkier sauce.
  5. In a sauce pan over medium-high heat add the olive oil and the garlic. Cook until the garlic becomes translucent.
  6. Add the tomatoes to the sauce pan along with the basil and oregano sprigs.
  7. Reduce the heat to medium-low.
  8. Stirring occasionally cook the sauce until most of the tomato water is evaporated, about 15-20 minutes.
  9. Combine the ricotta and the grated pecorino in a large bowl and mix them well with a fork.
  10. When the pasta water is at a vigorous boil throw in the pasta. Follow the instructions and cook the pasta until al dente. Before draining the pasta reserve a ½ cup of the pasta cooking water.
  11. Pour about half of the hot tomato sauce into the cheese mixture in the bowl. Add 1 or 2 tablespoons of the reserved pasta water. Stir well.
  12. Keep the remainder of the tomato sauce warm over low heat.
  13. Add the drained pasta to the sauce, rip in a few fresh basil leaves and fresh oregano leaves and black pepper to taste. (Add more pasta water for a looser, creamier sauce.)
  14. Serve immediately topping each plate with a little more tomato sauce left in the sauce pan and a light sprinkle of grated pecorino.

 

Fettuccine with Squash Blossom Cream Sauce

Squash Blossom Cream Sauce with fettuccine.
Squash Blossom Cream Sauce with fettuccine.

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.

Buon appetito!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Fettuccine with Squash Blossom Cream Sauce
 
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Author:
Serves: 6-8
Ingredients
  • 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
Instructions
  1. Put a big pot of well-salted water on to boil.
  2. Cut off the dark green base of the squash blossom and the stem. The pistil should fall out. Discard the pistil and stem piece.
  3. Slice the blossoms horizontally into 1-inch ribbons.
  4. Put the butter and olive in a large saute pan over medium heat.
  5. When the butter begins to bubble add the shallot and cook until the the shallot is translucent, about 1 minute.
  6. Lower the heat to medium-low.
  7. Add the sliced blossoms and sea salt to taste to the pan and stir to coat the blossoms with the butter and oil.
  8. Cook until the blossoms soften and become fragrant, about 3-5 minutes.
  9. Add the saffron and mix well.
  10. Add the cream and cook stirring well until the cream begins to thicken.
  11. 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.)
  12. While pasta is cooking warm the sauce over low heat.
  13. 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.
  14. Serve immediately with extra grated parmigiano on the table for your guests.

 

Fresh San Marzano Tomatoes with Pappardelle

Fresh San Marzano Tomato with Pappadelle
Fresh San Marzano Tomato with Pappardelle

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.

If you want to have a quick cooked fresh sauce check out my San Marzano sauce with choke the priest pasta video episode.

Buon appetito!

Uncooked Fresh San Marzano Tomatoes with Pappardelle
 
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An uncooked fresh San Marzano tomato sauce marinated for 30 minutes with basil and garlic served over your favorite pasta. Simple and delicious.
Author:
Recipe type: Pasta
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 2 pounds fresh San Marzano tomatoes
  • 2 sprigs fresh basil, leaves roughly torn
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 pound fresh pappardelle or your favorite fresh or dried pasta
Instructions
  1. Put on a large pot of water to boil.
  2. Score the top of each tomato with a cross and put them in the boiling water for about 20 seconds to loosen the skin. Remove the tomatoes to a bowl.
  3. When the tomatoes are cool enough to handle peel off the skin.
  4. Cut the tomatoes in half and squeeze out the seeds.
  5. Cut the halves into strips and roughly chop the tomatoes.
  6. Put the tomatoes in a bowl with the basil, garlic and olive oil. Add sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste and mix all the ingredients well.
  7. Set the bowl aside and let the tomatoes marinate for at least 30 minutes to let the flavors meld. Stir occasionally.
  8. Add sea salt to the water and bring the water back to a boil. Cook the pasta to al dente so that it is tender but still has a toothsome bite.
  9. Drain the pasta and put in a large bowl. Add the marinated tomatoes and mix to coat the pasta well.
  10. Add a fresh ripped basil leaf, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of grated parmigiano to each plate of pasta.
  11. Serve immediately.

 

Orecchiette with Arugula

Orecchiete with arugala in a garlic infused olive oil sauce
Orecchiete with arugula in a garlic infused olive oil sauce

I snagged some baby arugula at the Petaluma farmer’s market yesterday.

Simply drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, a drop or 2 of red wine vinegar and sea salt, the tender peppery arugula is a summer treat.

But arugula isn’t just for salads.

I have more arugula that I want to eat now and I’m in the mood for a simple pasta. This quick recipe fits the bill. The pasta is on your table in the time it takes to cook the pasta.

I like a small short pasta for this dish. I used orecchiette (little ears) but you can use dried cavatelli, ditali or your favorite pasta shape.

What a treat to be able to use this just-cut arugula. I don’t want to lose any of its fresh goodness so I just let the arugula wilt in the heat of the pasta and garlic-infused olive oil.

The orecchiette is bathed in the thick mellow sauce. The lightly toasted garlic slices add a nutty note to the peppery arugula enhanced by light heat from red pepper flakes.

You won’t believe the full flavor from so few ingredients. Simple, quick, healthy and delicious.

Buon appetito!

Pasta with Arugula
 
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Just-cut arugula warmed by the heat of the pasta with garlic-infused olive oil. A simple summer pasta treat.
Author:
Recipe type: Pasta
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 6-8
Ingredients
  • 4 cups arugula
  • 1 pound dried orecchiete or your favorite short pasta
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • ¼ teaspoon dried red-pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons sea salt for the pasta water and more to taste if needed
  • 1 cup reserved pasta cooking water
Instructions
  1. Put on a large pot of salted water to boil. (5 quarts water, 2 tablespoons sea salt)
  2. When the water is at a rapid boil add the pasta, stir occasionally so the pasta doesn't stick and cook until the pasta is just al dente.
  3. While the pasta is cooking make the sauce.
  4. Put a skillet or pan large enough to hold the pasta over medium-high heat.
  5. Add the olive oil, garlic and red pepper flakes to the pan and cook until the garlic just starts to take on color.
  6. Reduce the heat to low to keep the sauce warm while the pasta finishes cooking.
  7. When the pasta is cooked reserve a cup of the cooking water, strain the pasta and add it to the sauce.
  8. Add some cooking water to thin the sauce and bring the sauce to a simmer.
  9. Add the arugula, toss well and cook until the arugula starts to wilt.
  10. Serve immediately with a sprinkle of grated parmigiano.

 

 

Spaghetti with Clams Straight from the Bay of Naples

Spaghetti with Clams from the Bay of Naples
Spaghetti with Clams from the Bay of Napleslams at the fish monger. They’re all over Naples.

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.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Spaghetti with Clams Straight from the Bay of Naples
 
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Spaghetti in a clam sauce flavored with garlic.
Author:
Recipe type: Pasta
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 pound (500 grams) spaghetti
  • 24 clams
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • ⅛ teaspoon chili flakes
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 Italian flat parsley sprigs, plus more for garnish
  • ½ cup dry white wine
Instructions
  1. Bring 5 quarts of water in a large pot to a boil for the pasta. Add 2 tablespoons sea salt.
  2. Wash the clams well. (I put mine in a bowl of water and sprinkle polenta on them to help clean out the grit as the clams eat the cornmeal.)
  3. Put the olive oil, garlic, parsley and chili flakes in a pot big enough to hold the clams.
  4. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.
  5. When the oil is hot and the garlic translucent, add the clams and the wine.
  6. Cover the pot and steam the clams until they open.
  7. Take the clams out of the pot and set aside in a bowl,
  8. When the pasta is very al dente, drain it and add it to the pot with the clam sauce.
  9. Toss the spaghetti as it finishes cooking. The spaghetti absorbs the clam sauce. (If you don't have enough liquid, add some pasta water to the sauce.)
  10. When most of the liquid is absorbed, put the clams back in the pot. (I take most of the clams out of the shell and save a couple for each plate of spaghetti as a garnish).
  11. Toss the spaghetti well with the clams.
  12. Put the spaghetti with clams on a large serving platter and scatter the clams in the shell all around.
  13. Sprinkle with some chopped parsley and drizzle some extra virgin olive oil.
  14. Serve immediately.

 

St. Joseph’s Day Spaghetti

St. Joseph's Day Spaghetti in anchovy sauce topped with toasted breadcrumbs
St. Joseph’s Day Spaghetti in anchovy sauce topped with toasted breadcrumbs

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.

Happy St. Joseph’s Day. Buon appetito!

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St. Joseph's Day Pasta
 
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Cook time
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Spaghetti in an anchovy sauce with breadcrumbs is made on St. Joseph's Day in Italia. The breadcrumbs represent the sawdust on his carpenter's workshop floor.
Author:
Recipe type: Pasta
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 9 anchovy fillets in olive oil, drained
  • sea salt
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 6 large garlic cloves, minced
  • Large pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • ⅔ cup toasted fresh breadcrumbs
Instructions
  1. Make the breadcrumbs in a skillet or in the oven.
  2. In a skillet:
  3. Warm 2 tablespoon olive oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat.
  4. Add ¾ cup of fresh breadcrumbs and stir to coat with oil.
  5. Cook, stirring constantly, until the crumbs are golden brown and crunchy, about 5 minutes.
  6. In the oven:
  7. Place ¾ cup of fresh bread crumbs in a bowl with 2 tablespoons olive oil.
  8. Using your hands or a fork, gently combine the ingredients.
  9. Spread the breadcrumbs on a baking sheet and place in a 350 degree F. oven.
  10. Bake about 8 minutes, stirring a couple of times, until golden brown and crisp.
  11. Set the breadcrumbs aside.
  12. Put a large pot of well-salted water (about 5 quarts) over high heat and bring to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons of sea salt when the water comes to a boil.
  13. Add the spaghetti to the boiling water.
  14. While the spaghetti is cooking to al dente, make the anchovy sauce.
  15. Finely chop 6 anchovy fillets; cut the remaining 3 into ½-inch pieces; set aside.
  16. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat.
  17. Add the garlic, red pepper, and finely chopped anchovies.
  18. Cook, stirring until the anchovies dissolve.
  19. Add ¼ cup of the pasta water and bring the sauce to a rapid simmer for about a minute.
  20. Remove the skillet from the heat.
  21. Stir in the parsley and remaining anchovies.
  22. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water and drain the pasta.
  23. Add the pasta and ¼ cup of the pasta water to the skillet with the anchovy sauce.
  24. Toss until the strands are well coated.
  25. Add some of the reserved pasta water if the mixture seems too dry.
  26. Set aside 2 tablespoons of the toasted bread crumbs.
  27. Add the remaining crumbs to the skillet and toss the pasta again.
  28. Transfer the pasta to individual serving bowls.
  29. Top each serving with a sprinkling of the reserved bread crumbs.