A Jersey Thanksgiving

3 Generations Cooking a Jersey Italian-American Thanksgiving Dinner

We’re all gathered in northern Jersey for our Italian-American Thanksgiving dinner, 3 generations in the kitchen today. My sister Rose and her daughter Wendy are in charge, I’m just the sous chef. RoRo has been rocking in the kitchen since 7 this morning and barking out orders to us non-stop. There will be about 20 of us at the table at 4 this afternoon, not sure when we’ll be done.

Here’s the menu:

Antipasti

Platters with prosciutto, salami, mortadella, provolone, fresh mozzarella, smoked scamorza, Italian tuna in olive oil, roasted peppers, marinated mushrooms, giardiniera, marinated artichoke hearts, oil-cured and Sicilian green olives

Primo

Lasagna with layers of ricotta and mozzarella, meat sauce and parmigiano (Wendy’s recipe is below)

Secondo

Turkey, 2 different stuffings, roasted mixed vegetables, mashed potatoes with gravy, maple syrup candied sweet potatoes, homemade whole cranberry sauce and just in case there’s not enough a baked ham

Dolce

Desserts will be Italian ricotta cheesecake, strufoli (fried dough balls covered with honey and sprinkles), pumpkin pie, coconut custard pie, lemon merangue and chocolate cream pie, roasted chestnuts and RoRo’s famous fresh fruit pedestal.

My vegan niece is at the table so we’re making sure that we have plenty of vegetables and other sides to accompany her tofurky.

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Cavati (Cavatelli) with Vodka Sauce & with Broccoli Rabe

Rhode Island friends are in town and we we’re making 2 classic Italian-American pasta dishes. Carol brought a cavati pasta machine all the way from Little Rhody. I’ve never seen this contraption and I was anxious to try it out.

You say cavati, I say gavadeal. These are RI and Jersey slang for the same pasta, better known as cavatelli.

Making the Ricotta Cavati Dough

Carol was the lead cook. Her cavati pasta dough is simply ricotta, milk, flour and an egg. This isn’t the gnocchi dough that is hardly kneaded so it stays light and tender. This dough is kneaded well to form a stiff, resilient dough, tough enough to be rolled into ropes and fed into the cavatelli pasta machine. It’s the fresh version of dried cavatelli pasta and it’s worth the effort. We made the cavati dough by hand but you can make it in a food processor to save time and effort. Mix the ingredients and knead it well to form a stiff dough.

 

Cavati Falling Out of the Pasta Machine

Roll out 1 inch dough ropes, feed it into the machine and crank. Out pop the cavati. The machine is amazing. Just keep cranking and in a couple of minutes you have a sea of cavati.

 

 

A Sea of Cavati

 

My mother dried her fresh pasta on a clean sheet atop her bed. We dried ours on the dining room table. Spread them out so they don’t touch one another and stick together. Let the cavati dry for 30 minutes.

 

Cavati with Vodka Sauce and Cavati with Broccoli Rabe

Carol made 2 sauces for the cavati — broccoli rabe with garlic, EVOO and chicken stock and the classic vodka cream sauce. Both were delicious. Here’s my first plate. The fresh cavati have a great toothsome feel, tender but resilient with each bite. The broccoli rabe sauce is garlicky and really rich with chicken stock flavor. The pink vodka sauce with flecks of tomato is silky and the cream mellows the San Marzano tomatoes. Buon appetitio!

If you have a cavatelli machine you are in good shape. If you do not simply roll out 1/2 inch ropes of dough. Cut the ropes in 1 inch pieces. Using your thumb press hard on each piece to flatten it out. It should curl up tightly as you press & pull with your thumb. You can get an idea of how to form these by watching my gnocchi video. The difference between the two is that you don’t want the puffy gnocchi form but rather a flat disk that tightly curls from the pressure of your thumb.

Or, just buy dried cavatelli from Italia.

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Weekend Recipe: Cavatelli with Arugula

Cavatelli with Arugula & Holy Oil in the Spoon

My mother made fresh cavatelli often, “gavadeal” in the argot of my southern Italian Jersey neighborhood. I’m making it with dried cavatelli from a small producer in Naples. Just 2 ingredients, durum wheat semolina flour and water. The pasta is extruded through a bronze die and dried in the slow, traditional way. The bronze die gives it “la lingua di gatto”, the rough feel of a cat’s tongue that helps the sauce adhere to the pasta. The pasta is the star of this dish so use the best from Italia.

When I lived in Rhode Island the same pasta was called cavatieddi or as my RI Italian-American friends say “cavati”. I made the pasta in anticipation of friends coming to San Francisco this weekend. Carol is bringing a “machine” from Rhode Island to make fresh cavati. Can’t wait to see this contraption.

Anyway, here’s the recipe for this really tasty, healthy and simple pasta from the southern Italia region of Apuglia. They love pasta with wild, bitter greens. I didn’t have time to forage so I used baby arugula. No garlic here! The full flavor of the al dente cavatelli  balances the peppery arugula and the grated pecorino ties it all together. A simple, pristine and full-flavored pasta ready to eat in the time it takes to boil water and cook the pasta! Olio sante (holy oil) makes this dish even better. Add a drop or two to your plate of pasta and a tear or two will follow. No hot oil no tears. I like the tears but you decide. Buon appetito!

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Note–If you can’t find hot peppers packed in olive oil you can make your own. Put a couple of small red hot peppers in a jar and cover with a cup of EVOO. Let steep for about a week. Add a few drops of the golden red oil to any dish to bring a tear or two to your eye as you eat.

Hotness Challenge – Macaroni with a Baby Back Rib Sauce

Make it hot with Calabrian pepper oil.

I’ve been thinking about this maccheroni con sugo di crostate di maiale (macaroni with a pork baby back rib sauce) since NoodleFest, the NorthBeach/Chinatown outdoor eating event last May. Right near the stage where I was demonstrating how to make fresh pasta dough about 20 NB restaurants had booths where they served up tastes of their favorite pasta. In between demonstrations I ran over to the closest booth. There I met Francesco who owns the Calabrian restaurant Vicoletto (Green between Columbus/Grant). He was serving fresh tagliatelle with a pork riblette sugo.

“You like hot?,” he asked. When I said yes he finished my serving with a sprinkle of grated pecorino and a few drops of a golden red olive oil from a gallon jar of hot peppers. Sweet tomato sauce,  meat falling off the ribs, the silky fresh pasta, it was heaven. But the heat and mellow flavor from the pepper oil really set this pasta apart. This is my version of Franceso’s dish.

Calabrians love hot peppers that make their food zesty and memorable. So here’s the challenge. How many drops of the hot pepper oil on top of your dish of pasta are enough for you? If you’re not into hot–no worries–this is a delicious sauce without the chili oil. I don’t think Calabrians would mind too much!

Eat one of the peppers if you’re brave enough. I love them but sometimes I need to have a hunk of bread nearby to put out the flame! The peppers are a great addition to an antipasti platter. Just warn your tablemates.

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Friday Recipe: Belly-Button Ricotta Gnocchi in a Sage Burnt Butter Sauce


Ricotta Gnocchi with Sage Burnt Butter Sauce

The rising popularity of the potato gnocchi video prompted me to share a simpler gnocchi recipe using ricotta to make the dough instead of potato.

Ricotta gnocchi are quicker to make and lighter than the potato version. The dough is ready in a jiffy and the sauce is finished as the gnocchi boil. I love these little soft pillows. Sometimes I give them a light finger poke to create a little “belly-button” on one side to ensure they’ll cook evenly.

The dough and ricotta gnocchi are made using the same methods as in my potato gnocchi recipe. Watch that if you want a visual of how to make gnocchi. The sauces in that episode go well with ricotta gnocchi too.

I reached up to northern Italy for the sage burnt butter sauce. You see it in Tuscany and the Veneto. This is a great sauce to add to your repertoire. It pairs well with gnocchi and other fresh pasta to create a full-flavored but delicate dish.

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Spaghetti Pie

Let over pasta with beaten egg mixed in makes a wonderful pie
Let over pasta with beaten egg mixed in makes a wonderful pie

So I had some spaghetti with basil pesto left over from last night’s dinner. This happens once in a while–they don’t eat all the pasta and some inevitably spends the night in the fridge. But boy-oh-boy the next day it’s breakfast–a spaghetti pie.

You can make this with just about any left over long pasta with just about any sauce (seafood not so good, however). Start the day by beating a few eggs in a big bowl, add the left over pasta and toss. Pour it into a baking dish. Throw it in the oven and take it out after your shower.

Spaghetti pie for breakfast–maybe with a fresh peach salad? Save it for later and enjoy it as a side dish or part of an antipasti course.

The pie is moist inside and those golden pasta strands on top have a crispy, nutty flavor.

This recipe is good for about a 1/4 pound of leftover pasta. If you have more leftovers, simply add another egg.

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Basil Pesto–The Genoa Way?

Spaghetti with Basil Pesto

Don’t know why but I’ve been putting off making basil pesto–a simple salsa verdi (green sauce) from Genoa. I couldn’t wait any longer when I got a deal on a couple of bunches of small leaf organic basil this morning. By early afternoon, the kitchen was sweetly perfumed by the fresh basil marinating in the morning sun when I returned to make the pesto.

Yeah the Genoese insist you must use a mortar and pestle to make this pesto. I don’t have one so if you don’t either, use a food processor to mince the basil, garlic and pinoli and then mix in the grated cheeses and the butter to give the pesto more texture. Not the authentic Genoa way, but taste is never sacrificed.

Just a few ingredients and you’ve got this pesto in 10 minutes. Use it to dress fettuccine as they do in Genoa (they call the dish trenette) or with spaghetti as I did this time. This pesto is really versatile. Use it as a sauce with roasted meats, as a pizza topping with fresh mozzarella and grated pecorino romano, or add a dollop to a soup like minestrone.

Ah, summer!

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Friday Recipe: Hot or Mild? A Quick Paprika Pasta Sauce Your Way!

As spicy as you want.

Paprika loves fat. That’s what Flora told me the other day.

At da Flora Restaurant (701 Columbus at Filbert), they know how to use the paprika she brings in from a small family producer in Hungary. The chicken or pork paprikash over homemade dumplings is one of my favorite dishes.

Flora is now selling her favorite paprika from the last harvest at her restaurant. We talked about the hot and mild paprika and the special paprika flakes. She thought the mild paprika would be best for me. I want to buy some but I don’t have any recipes that call for paprika I confessed. Flora quickly offered up a description of this pasta cream sauce with pancetta and radicchio flavored with the paprika. I paid her for the packet tied with a wide blue ribbon – the mild one.

I devised a recipe from what Flora told me and cooked it up the other day. Flora’s fresh paprika is the star of this recipe, smoky and piquant. I like the zesty basic tomato sauce and I like the milder one softened by the cream. Have it your way!

You can serve this sauce with long or short pasta. I like fusilli or rigatoni for the short and linguine or fettucini for the long. Be sure to get a good semolina pasta from Campania or Puglia in Italy . The artisanal pasta extruded through a bronze die is best. The bronze die creates a rough surface on the outside of the pasta that catches the sauce.

You can make the sauce in the time that it takes to cook the pasta. It’s hot and spicy but if you want it milder, add the cream to the sauce.

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Friday Recipe: Pasta Fave, Aglione e Guanciale con Ricotta Secca

Viola Buitoni and the spring vegetables

Viola Buitoni was holding a cooking class in the kitchen at the Italian Consulate on top of Pacific Heights last week, overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge, and I was invited. Le delize di primavera (springtime delights) were on the menu. Viola is a wonderful cook and teacher. I learned some great recipes and kitchen tips as we celebrated spring vegetables with simple and quick preparations.

We set out some fava beans, thinly sliced pancetta and a young Tuscan pecorino cheese so we could nibble as we began our work.

As we munched, I put the sliced rustic Acme bread in the oven to toast and made a fava puree. We prepared two more spreads in about 10 minutes – sheep ricotta flavored with orange zest, nutmeg, fresh majoram and drizzled with EVOO and a lardo spread.

Our tummies satisfied for now we made pasta with fave, green garlic and guanciale. A torta with ricotta, baby chard and prosciutto was put in the oven. Peas sauteed with spring onion and prosciutto and a frittata with fava and borage leaves were cooked on top of the stove as the torta baked. For dessert I made a cooked crema topped with cherries cooked in their own liquid.

Here’s my adaptation of Viola’s pasta recipe for you to enjoy. It serves 4-6 people. The sauce can me made in less time than it takes to cook the pasta. Buon appetito!

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Friday Recipe: Spaghetti Aglio e Olio

Photo by Flickr user der_dennis

Got a request from a YouTube fan for this recipe. It’s super easy and delicious. This sauce pairs best with a good 100% semolina bronze die dried pasta from the Italian regions of Campania or Puglia.

This is a versatile base for steamed clams, mussels or even crab. (I tell you more at the end of the recipe.)

I get cravings for this zesty, satisfying simple pasta. You can make the sauce in less time than it takes to cook the pasta. Easy to do and “sciue sciue” (very fast).

Here’s a recipe for 500g or 1 pound of pasta.

(If you’re a lover of Italian regional food, be sure to see the details of my upcoming Venetian dinner in San Francisco.)

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Photo by der_dennis

Fresh Pasta: Ricotta Ravioli in a San Marzano Sauce

With San Marzano tomato sauce.

This is a favorite of mine. My mother made the best big fat tender ravioli stuffed with creamy ricotta and mozzarella. My brother ate 13 one Sunday afternoon dinner! I could do maybe 4. The filling is really simple and quick to make. Depending on their size you should get about 20 ravioli. If you want fewer ravioli use 1 pound of ricotta not 2, and 1 egg not 2, plus the other ingredients as listed. (I used 1-pound of ricotta and 1 egg in the video.)

San Marzano Tomato Sauce

Make the San Marzano sauce.

Fresh Pasta Dough

Fresh pasta varies greatly from the Tuscan pasta pici made with just flour and water to tajarin a rich, golden pasta with a half-dozen egg yolks or more.

This is a very versatile fresh pasta dough. It’s the one I use for lasagna, ravioli, tortelloni and other stuffed pastas. You can cut into tagliatelle. fettucine or pappardelle too.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup EVOO
  • 3 Tablespoons water

Cooking Directions

  1. Put the flour in a large bowl.
  2. In a small bowl beat the eggs then beat in the EVOO and water to make a smooth mixture. Add to flour.
  3. With a fork work the egg mixture into the flour until it begins to form moistened clumps.
  4. Gather the clumps together with your hands to form a cohesive ball of dough.
  5. Knead the dough right in the bowl collecting anything stuck to the sides of the bowl.
  6. Turn out the dough onto a lightly-floured board and knead for a minute or two until it’s shiny smooth with a soft interior.
  7. Form the dough into a disc and wrap tightly with plastic wrap.
  8. Let rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes.

(You can make the dough in a food processor. Use the cutting blade. Add the flour to the bowl and pulse a couple of times to aerate.. With the processor on drizzle in the egg mixture. Run the processor until a dough ball forms around the blade about 30 seconds. Then turn the dough out on a floured board and knead as above.)

Cut the dough ball into 4 pieces. Form each into a rectangle. Set the pasta machine to the widest roller setting. Pass each dough piece through a pasta machine catching the dough as it passes through the rollers. Fold each piece in thirds. Pass it through the rollers again. Reduce the setting 2 notches and put the strips through the rollers. If the sheets get too long cut them in half. Repeat until you get to the most narrow roller setting. You want to end up with long sheets of pasta about the width of the rollers. Lay the strips out on a well-floured baking sheet or kitchen towel cover with a moist kitchen towel and set aside. If you don’t have a pasta machine use a rolling pin. Roll out each piece of dough until it is about 20 inches long and about 5 inches wide. Lay the strips out as above.

Fill a large pot with water and add a tablespoon of sea salt and a tablespoon of EVOO. Bring to a full boil.

Ricotta Filling

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds whole milk ricotta drained well
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella diced into 1/4 inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup grated Pecorino
  • 10 springs flat Italian parsley roughly chopped
  • Two extra large eggs beaten well
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Put the cheeses and parsley in a large bowl.
  2. Mix in the beaten egg. (The mixture should be smooth. If it’s dry or lumpy mix in another beaten egg.
  3. Add sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste and mix well.

To Make the Ravioli

  1. Lightly flour your work surface and lay out a pasta strip.
  2. Put a tablespoon of the ricotta mixture just below the middle of  the strip and about an inch from the edge of the strip closest to you.
  3. Put another tablespoon of the ricotta mixture about 2 inches (the width of 2 fingers) from the last mound.
  4. Keep adding another tablespoon of the ricotta mixture at equal intervals until you reach the end of the pasta strip.
  5. Wet your finger in a bowl of water and wet the edges of the pasta strip and wet the middle of each ricotta mixture mound from edge to edge. The water will help seal the ravioli.
  6. Fold the upper part of the pasta strip over the side that has the ricotta mixture. Press the 2 edges together tightly and press down between the mounds forming the ravioli. You should have a one inch unfilled pasta rim all around the mound of ricotta filling.
  7. Cut down the middle of the space between the ravioli using a cookie cutter or sharp knife.
  8. Press the edges of the ravioli with you fingertips to make sure no air is inside and they are tightly sealed.
  9. With the tines of a fork press down of the rim of the ravioli. These tine indentations will help seal the ravioli.
  10. Lay the ravioli out on a well-floured cookie sheet or kitchen towel.
  11. Put the tomato sauce in a large flat pan and heat.
  12. Drop the ravioli into the boiling water. They will soon float to the top of the water. When they all float to the top boil for another 30 seconds. I taste one for doneness to make sure they’re fully cooked.
  13. Put the ravioli into the sauce pan and generously coat each one. Shut off the flame.
  14. Sprinkle on the Pecorino and drizzle with EVOO.
  15. Serve immediately.

Lasagna al Forno with Fresh Pasta

A Tuscan delight.

This is a classic Tuscan white lasagna. It takes a little time and effort but it’s worth it. This is my favorite lasagna and I get a lot of requests for it from family and friends. The meat sauce by itself can be used over any pasta and the balsamella is a common ingredient so these are 2 good recipes to have in your repertoire.

(In case this video whets your appetite for more Tuscan food, there are still seats available for our March 6th Tuscan Dinner event!)

Pasta

Make the fresh pasta dough recipe. Cut the dough ball into 4 pieces. Form each into a rectangle. Set the pasta machine to the widest roller setting. Pass each dough piece through a pasta machine catching the dough as it passes through the rollers. Fold each piece in thirds. Pass it through the rollers again. Reduce the setting 2 notches and put the strips through the rollers. If the sheets get too long cut them in half. Repeat until you get to the most narrow roller setting. You want to end up with long sheets of pasta about the width of the rollers. Lay the strips out on a well-floured baking sheet or kitchen towel. If you don’t have a pasta machine use a rolling pin. Roll out each piece of dough until it is about 20 inches long and about 10 inches wide. Lay the strips out as above.

Fill a large pot with water and add a tablespoon of sea salt and a tablespoon of EVOO. Bring to a full boil. Cook the strips until they begin to rise to the surface. (The strips will finish cooking in the oven.) Drain the strips when they are very al dente and place in a bowl of ice water. Lay the strips out on a dish towel and cover with a moistened dish towel. Set aside until you assemble the lasagna. Let excess water drain you don’t want wet pasta strips when you assemble the lasagna.

N.B.  You’ll need about 3 tablespoons of butter and some extra grated Ptarmigan Reggiano when you assemble the lasagna.

Meat Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 large red onion
  • 1 celery rib
  • 8 springs Italian flat parsley
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 3 tablespoons of EVOO
  • 1/4 pound ground pork
  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 boneless, skinless chicken breast (you can use ground chicken if you want)
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
  • 2 cups of chicken broth
  • 1/4 pound prosciutto
  • Salt, freshly ground pepper, and freshly ground nutmeg

Cooking Directions

  1. Soak the porcini in hot water until soft about 10 minutes.
  2. Chop the carrot, onion celery, parsley and garlic very fine and place in a large enamel or heavy bottomed pot with the EVOO and over medium-low heat gently saute until golden brown.
  3. Add the pork, beef and chicken and saute for about 15 minutes more. Be sure to break up the ground meats so no clumps form.
  4. Clear a small patch on the bottom of the pot and add a little EVOO. In this spot add the tomato paste and stir to caramelize the paste a bit. The paste will darken and the oil will turn a golden red.
  5. Add the wine and cook until evaporated about 15 minutes more.
  6. Add 1 cup of broth and reduce about 15 minutes more.
  7. Take out the cooked chicken and chop very fine and return to the pot. (If using ground chicken skip this step.)
  8. Roughly chop the porcini mushrooms and put them and their soaking liquid  in the pot (pour the liquid in slowly so that any sand stays in the bowl) add second cup of broth and reduce for 15 minutes.
  9. Add salt and pepper to taste and reduce until the sauce is quite thick.
  10. Chop the prosciutto very fine and add to the pot.
  11. Close the flame and add grated nutmeg to taste. (It’s strong so don’t use too much it’s just a background flavor.)
  12. Let the sauce cool before making the lasagna.

Balsamella

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose unbleached flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • Salt and freshly ground nutmeg to taste.

Cooking Directions

  1. Place the milk in a large pan heat until until it is very close to frothing.
  2. While the milk is heating, in a heavy-bottomed pan over very low heat melt the butter.
  3. When the butter starts to froth add the flour and mix well with a whisk or a wooden spoon and cook stirring frequently until it is golden brown.
  4. Add the hot milk and whisk or stir while you’re adding it.
  5. Keep whisking or stirring in the same direction so no lumps form.
  6. When the sauce reaches the boiling point add the salt and a bit of ground nutmeg and gently whisk or stir until the the sauce cooks slowly for about 10 minutes. The sauce should be fairly thick. Cover pot and set aside until you assemble the lasagna.

Cheese Stuffing

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella
  • 1 1/2 cups grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Directions

  1. Coarsely grate the mozzarella and place in a bowl.
  2. Add the grated Parmigiano and mix together.
  3. Set aside until you assemble the lasagna.

Assembling the Lasagna

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Heavily butter a rectangular baking dish (131/2 x 81/4 inches).
  3. Spread a tablespoon of the meat sauce on the bottom of the dish.
  4. Then fit in a layer of cooked pasta strips to cover the bottom and sides of the dish leaving about an inch to hang over the edge all around.
  5. Spread  the cheese mixture over the pasta layer.
  6. Add another layer of pasta to cover only the inside of the dish.
  7. Spread a layer of the meat sauce.
  8. Cover the inside with another layer of pasta.
  9. Spread a thick layer of the balsamella.
  10. Add another layer of pasta to cover the top of the lasagna.
  11. Fold over the over-hanging pasta onto the top of the lasagna.
  12. Dot the top of the lasagna with a tablespoon of butter and sprinkle lightly with grated Parmigiano.
  13. If you have extra sauces or cheese mixture build another layer.
  14. Put the lasagna in the oven for about 25 minutes or until the top layer is lightly golden brown and crisp.
  15. Remove the lasagna out of the oven and let cool for 15 minutes before serving.



 

Potato Gnocchi with Three Sauces

Potato Gnocchi with three sauces

Gnocchi Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ pounds Idaho potatoes
  • 1 extra large egg
  • 1 ½ cups flour, plus more for the work surface
  • At least 1 tablespoon of sea salt for the cooking water

Cooking Directions

  1. Put the potatoes in a pot and cover with water about 2 inches above the top of the potatoes. Bring the potatoes to a gentle boil.
  2. Boil the potatoes until they are knife tender about 30-40 minutes. Try to keep the skins from rupturing so the potatoes don’t absorb any water and don’t overcook them.
  3. Let the potatoes cool a bit so that you can handle them. Peel them. If they’re too hot to handle use a kitchen towel to hold the hot potato when you peel them.
  4. Put the potatoes through a ricer or food mill while the potatoes are still hot. Mashing the potatoes works in a pinch but the gnocchi won’t be as light.
  5. Spread the riced potatoes on a cookie sheet or a flat baking pan in a single layer to cool and allow some of the moisture to evaporate. The drier the riced potatoes the lighter the dough will be.
  6. Bring a big pot of very well-salted water to a boil.
  7. Put the riced potatoes in a mound on a flat work surface. Create a well in the middle.
  8. Crack the egg onto the work surface in the well. Beat the egg well. (I don’t salt fresh pasta doughs including gnocchi because I think salt toughens the dough. I’d rather the gnocchi absorb salt in the boiling cooking water. But, if you want add about 3/4 teaspoon of salt to the egg before you beat it.)
  9. Slowly start to incorporate the egg into the ring of riced potatoes.
  10. When fully incorporated spread out the mixture and sprinkle some of the flour over the top.
  11. Knead the flour into the potato mixture.
  12. Repeat with another dusting of flour until the dough holds together and is smooth and soft. Try to use as little flour as possible for light gnocchi.
  13. Sprinkle some flour on the work surface so the dough doesn’t stick. Knead the dough to create a smooth dough ball.
  14. Cut the dough ball into 6 pieces.
  15. Flour the work surface again if necessary and roll each piece into a rope of 1/2 inch diameter.
  16. Cut the rope into ½ inch pieces. Make sure you have enough flour on your work surface so that the pieces don’t stick together.
  17. Using the back of a fork press the piece over the tines with your thumb and press downwards to push the gnocchi off the fork. You’ll create indentations from the tines on the back of the gnocchi and a concave indentation on the other side from the pressure of your thumb. Great shape and texture to absorb the sauce.
  18. Spread the gnocchi on a floured cookie sheet or flat baking pan as you make them.
  19. Drop the gnocchi into the boiling water, gently stir to make sure they don’t stick together and gently boil the gnocchi until they rise to the top of the water.
  20. Remove the gnocchi with a spider or mesh ladle and place them in the sauté pan with the sauce of your choice.

Makes about 48 gnocchi.

Don’t get interrupted when you’re making the gnocchi. When you finish making them all put them in the boiling water and eat them right away! Or, you can freeze them in a single layer on a cookie sheet or shallow baking pan. Make sure they not touching one another! When they’re frozen store them in a freezer bag. Boil them still frozen. They’ll take a little longer to cook.

Pesto Trapanese Recipe

Basil pesto ain’t the only one. Small ripe tomatoes and roasted almonds are the stars of this pesto. Basil is only a minor player. This uncooked sauce made in a blender or food processor takes only a few minutes. The aroma and taste of the almonds is front and center supported by the sweetness of the tomatoes and the sparkle of the hot pepper as you swallow.

Good for 1 pound or 500 grams of spaghetti or the yield from one full potato gnocchi recipe or your favorite pasta shape.

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ cups or ¾ pound of the ripest and sweetest cherry, pear or other small red tomato
  • 1 large garlic clove, smashed
  • 10-12 large fresh basil leaves
  • ½ cup whole almonds, roasted or lightly toasted
  • ¼ teaspoon peperoncino flakes
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ cup EVOO
  • ½ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano

Cooking Directions

  1.  Put the garlic, almonds, pepper flakes, basil leaves, tomatoes and then the sea salt in a food processor or blender.
  2. Blend for about a minute or so, scrape down the sides and then blend again until no large bits are visible.
  3. While the machine is running gently stream in the EVOO until the pesto is smooth and well blended.

Use the pesto at room temperature to dress the pasta. Top the dressed pasta with the grated Parmigiano Parmigiano. You can store it in the refrigerator for a few days.

Gorgonzola Sauce Recipe

A quick delicious piquant sauce you can make in less than the time it takes to boil the water for the pasta. The flavor of this noble blue cheese from northern Italia is the boss in this sugo. You don’t need a lot of the sauce. Just a thin coating on the pasta is what you want.

Good for 1 pound or 500 grams of pasta or the yield from one full potato gnocchi recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 ounces gorgonzola dolce
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • ½ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano

Cooking Directions

  1. Heat the cream stirring frequently so a skin doesn’t form on top.
  2. When the cream is reduced and thickened add the gorgonzola and stir until the gorgonzola is melted and well blended with the cream.
  3. Mix in sea salt and pepper to taste.

Top the dressed pasta with the grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano.

Pizzaiola Sauce Recipe

Named after the pizza-makers of Napoli this sauce is just San Marzano tomatoes, garlic infused olive oil and oregano, a typical topping for a pizza. Simple and quick but a rich and robust sugo. I use this sauce for pasta, my eggplant parmigiano and other dishes that call for a flavorful tomato sauce.

Good for 1 pound or 500 grams of your favorite pasta or the yield from one full potato gnocchi recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1 28 oz. can of San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • 3 tablespoons EVOO
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ cup grated pecorino

Cooking Directions

  1. Put the olive oil and garlic in a cold sauté pan big enough to hold the cooked pasta your using.
  2. Heat the pan over medium-high heat until the oil sizzles and the garlic just begins to take on some color.
  3. Add the tomatoes and salt and mix with the EVOO and garlic.
  4. Simmer to evaporate some of the liquid and the sauce thickens.
  5. Stir in the oregano.
  6. Continue cooking for about 30 minutes.
  7. Remove the garlic before using the sauce, or not. Your choice.

Top the dressed pasta with the grated pecorino.

Hint: Sometimes things go wrong. Don’t be discouraged, forge ahead!

Sunday Gravy

Sunday Gravy

Sunday Gravy brought me to tears. Check it out in the closing credits. Hand-crushed tomatoes and long-braised meats galore. The traditional, long-cooked pasta sauce from a small village in Campania. You have to make this one next Sunday!

Watch the video once, then follow along with Gianni, glancing at the recipe when you need to cheat:

Ingredients

Meat

  • Pork braciola: Thinly cut slice of pork shoulder or pork loin
  • Beef braciola: Thinly cut slice of beef chuck or round
  • Meatballs: Mixture of 1/3 ground beef, ground pork, ground veal,
  • 11/2 pounds total
  • 4 Italian sausage links
  • 1 cup Italian flat parsley, chopped fine
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped fine
  • 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • For the pork braciole: about 12 lightly toasted pinoli (pine nuts) and 12 raisins
  • For the meatballs: ½ cup of stale bread soaked in water or milk and squeezed dry to form the pinade (la pinada)
  • 1 egg

For frying:

  • 1/8 cup canola or other vegetable oil
  • 1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)

Gravy

  • 2 28 oz. can of San Marzano tomatoes imported from Campania, Italy
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 1 carrot, cut in half and then in 2 inch pieces
  • 1 celery stalk cut in 2 inch pieces
  • ½ white onion, quartered
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 sprigs fresh basil
  • 4 sprigs fresh flat Italian parsley
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Pasta

  • 1 lb or 500 grams pasta. Fusilli napoletani is used in the recipe, but you can use any pasta you want. Make sure that it is durum wheat pasta imported from Italy that is extruded through a bronze die. Look for something like this on the package: “Pasta trafilata in bronzo”.
  • 4 quarts water
  • 2 tablespoons sea salt

Cooking Directions

Gravy

  1. In a thick-bottomed pot, put the olive oil, the battuto (carrot, celery, onion, garlic and bay leaf). Turn heat to medium-low and sauté slowly. This is your soffritto (the odori, flavoring vegetables and herbs). You want these ingredients to be translucent, not browned, so they infuse the oil with their flavor.
  2. Crush the San Marzano tomatoes with your hands until they are all broken up into rough chunky texture. Discard any basil, peel or stems or veins on the inside of the tomato (usually white or yellow).
  3. When the soffritto is translucent and sizzling a bit in the oil, add the tomatoes. Stir to mix the tomatoes and the suffritto. Add the basil and parsley sprigs and submerge in the gravy. Add the sea salt. Reduce to low heat, cover the pot and simmer gently. Stir the pot frequently so it doesn’t burn. This is a long-simmered sauce and will cook for at least 3 hours after the meat is added to the gravy.

Meats

Braciole

  1. Finely chop the parsley and garlic. Set aside. You will use half for the braciole and half for the meatballs.
  2. Lay the pork and beef braciole out flat on the board. Take ½ of the garlic/parsley and equally divide the garlic/parsley paste between the two braciole. Spread the paste evenly over the surface of each braciola leaving about a 1/2 inch border at the long edges. Sprinkle ¼ cup grated Pecorino evenly over both braciole. Sprinkle salt and tower to taste over both.
  3. For the pork braciola only: Spread 12 toasted pinoli and 12 raisins evenly over the pork braciola.
  4. Tightly roll up each braciole and tie with string to keep the paste inside and to maintain the shape of the braciole.

Meatballs (Polpette)

  1. Put the ground meat, the remaining chopped garlic/parsley, Pecorino, stale bread pinada, egg, and ground salt and pepper to taste in a large bowl. Combine the ingredients with your hand. Squeeze everything together so that it is a homogeneous mixture. Put about 2 tablespoons of the meat into the palm of your hand and roll into a ball, round and slightly flat.
  2. Over a high flame, heat a large sauté pan, add the canola and EVOO and heat until it ripples and smokes a bit. Add all the meat and reduce heat to medium-low and cook the meat until a brown crust forms.  Cook the meat in batches if necessary so you don’t crowd the pan. Do not touch the meat until you can easily move the meatballs, sausage and braciole in the pan, without them sticking. Turn over and brown on the other side. You want to caramelize the meat and form a nice brown crust.
  3. When well browned, transfer the meat, except the meatballs, in the gravy. Make sure all of the meat is submerged. Leave the lid of the pot ajar a bit to let some of the water evaporate so a thicker gravy forms. Gently simmer for at least 3 hours on a low flame. You want the braciole to tenderize by simmering in the gravy. Add the meatballs to the gravy about a half hour prior to cooking the pasta.

Cooking the Pasta and Finishing the Dish

  1. Put the water and salt in a large pot. Make sure that the pot is big enough to allow the long fusilli to “dance” in the salted water. Cook about 8 minutes until the pasta is very al dente. It will finish cooking in the gravy in a sauté pan.
  2. Put about 2 cups of the gravy in a large sauté pan and heat over a medium flame. Pull out the al dente fusilli and put in the sauté pan. Finish cooking the fusilli in the gravy, turning it so that the gravy is absorbed by the pasta to finish cooking. You should just have enough gravy to fully coat all of the fusilli.
  3. Close the flame. Grate Pecorino to taste and mix to distribute it throughout the pasta. If you wish, drizzle with a good quality EVOO.
  4. Remove the strings from the braciole and slice into ½ inch slices. Put the braciole, meatballs and sausage on a serving platter and top with some of the gravy.
  5. Serve the pasta in a warm bowl or plate. Traditionally, the pasta is served as a separate course, followed by the meats as the next course. To be honest, I usually serve the pasta and the meats at the same time. My guests can decide how to enjoy the pasta and the long-simmered meats.

Serve with a hearty red from Campania, an aglianico or taurasi perhaps.

Linguine with Dungeness Crab in a Spicy Tomato Sauce

Dungeness Crab

Dungeness Crab

Photo by Miles Grant

I was in NYC when Dungeness crab season opened last week, and couldn’t get them out of my mind. The reports were that the harvest was bountiful and the crab were big and meaty. I couldn’t wait to get back home. I had to get one and add the crabmeat to a spicy tomato sauce over some linguine.

It was delicious.

Lots of briny and sweet crab in a simple San Marzano tomato, garlic and dried chili infused olive oil. Once you have the crabmeat ready you can make this sauce in the time that it takes to cook the linguine. In Italia, they don’t put cheese on seafood dishes. It masks the fresh taste from the sea. Don’t do it!

Recipe

Ingredients

  • Steamed 1-1/2 pound crab
  • 28-oz. can San Marzano tomatoes
  • 2 gloves of garlic, smashed
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 small dried chili or 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 pound or 500 grams linguine
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat Italian parsley
  • Drizzle of finishing EVOO

Directions

  1. Bring a large pot of well-salted water over high heat to a boil for the pasta.
  2. In another pan, bring about 2 cups of water to a boil. Put the crab in a steaming basket to keep it out of the water. Steam the crab until it turns a bright red-orange, about 7 minutes for each pound of crab. Or, buy a just steamed crab at your fish monger and have it cracked.
  3. When cool, clean the crab. Here’s a link to how to clean the crab.
  4. Pick out all the crabmeat from the legs and body. Shred the crabmeat. Set aside.
  5. In a large cold saute pan, put in the EVOO, red pepper and garlic and over a medium-high flame let the garlic sizzle in the oil until translucent to infuse the oil with its flavor.
  6. Add the tomatoes. Simmer to let the tomato water evaporate and to create a thick sauce, 15 minutes, stirring frequently.
  7. Put the linguine in the pasta water to cook, about 8-10 minutes until al dente.
  8. Add the crab to the sauce and keep on a low flame until the linguine is cooked.
  9. Add the oregano to the sauce.
  10. Check for salt. The crab adds saltiness to the sauce but add more to taste if necessary.
  11. Pull the linguine out of the boiling water with a spider, slotted spoon or tongs and put the linguine into the crab sauce. Finish cooking the linguine in the sauce, about a minute or two, tossing to coat with the crab sauce.
  12. Sprinkle the chopped parsley and mix with the linguine to distribute evenly.
  13. Serve immediately. Make sure each dish has some of the crab. Top each plate/bowl with a drizzle of a finishing EVOO.