Spring is taking hold so I thought I’d make something to celebrate, an egg pie with tender, thin asparagus.
Actually “La Squadra”, is gathering at my house for lunch. My Rome and Naples traveling companions and I need to finish planning our final week in Campania next month.
The frittata is part of my antipasti course, along with buffalo mozzarella from Campania and thinly sliced cappocolo cured locally. We could be in either Roma or Napoli. This spring egg pie is popular in both cities. It’s popular with me too.
Don’t be intimidated. Making a frittata is not that hard. You can watch me making a frittata. If you don’t want to flip the frittata just finish it in the oven.
Frittata is a tasty antipasto or serve it with a salad and it’s lunch.
The golden frittata crust is nutty. The parmigiano perks up the tender, moist interior. The grassy, sweet asparagus scream spring has arrived.
Here’s one of my favorite spaghetti sauces that’s ready in the time it takes to cook the spaghetti. The recipe comes from the the small hill town of Amatrice in the Sabine Hills northeast of Rome.
You see spaghetti all’Amatriciana in all the trattorie in Rome. It’s a really popular pasta here in North Beach too. I get it whenever it’s on the menu at da Flora on Columbus.
Here’s my version of this simple sauce. It doesn’t have many ingredients. Make sure you use canned San Marzano tomatoes for this one. The tomato, onion and guanciale sauce is ready in about 20 minutes.
I like the sauce a little on the chunky side. It sticks to the spaghetti better. The onions enhance the sweetness of the tomatoes. The crispy little guanciale cubes add texture to every bite. I add some chili flakes to perk everything up.
Nothing better than a fat forkful of spaghetti all’Amatriciana. It’s a mouthful of flavor that packs a little heat.
In Amatrice they hold an annual August festival, Sagra degli Spaghetti all’Amatriciana, that celebrates their world-famous pasta dish. Here’s a video of the town and the festival devoted exclusively to this dish. Buon appetito!
You may see a theme in my upcoming recipes. I’m celebrating the food of Rome, the first stop on my upcoming trip to Italia.
A popular dish found in restaurants all over Rome, straccetti di manzo is a quick sauté of thinly sliced steak and mushrooms served over a bed of arugula.
The dish is called “stracetti” or “little rags” because the thinly sliced lean filet or steak is torn into small bite-sized pieces that resemble rags.
If you enjoy a salad topped by grilled steak, try this quick dish to satisfy your desires. It’s full of flavor and will be on your table in about 30 minutes. Just right for lunch or a light dinner all on one plate.
The boys at Little City suggested beef filet or a strip steak for this dish. I wanted buttery beef so I picked the filet and it works beautifully. The big heap of baby arugula at Union Produce caught my eye. It was a perfect base for the dish.
The tender filet rags and nutty mushrooms are bathed in the buttery pan sauce with sweet balsamic notes. The arugula adds a crunchy, peppery finish to each bite. Simple, healthy and delicious.
You may have seen the news reports about the Mediterranean diet study just published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
People who eat lots of beans, nuts, fish, vegetables and fruits, use extra virgin olive oil and drink wine with meals have a lower incidence of heart disease and other medical problems.
In Italia, you’ll find locally grown, seasonal produce markets in every city neighborhood and town. Campo di Fiori is one of the most famous. I shop it often when staying in the historical center of Rome.
Italians cherish fresh produce. They eat fish often. Nuts often end a meal. Extra virgin olive oil is an Italian kitchen staple. Meat is eaten in moderation.
Italians eat most of of their food at the midday meal. Supper is a simple, light meal.
I get a lot of exercise every day in Italia, including a delightful passagata or stroll after the evening meal. I’ll be enjoying the local bounty in Italia soon. I’ll share what I cook in Rome and Naples with you.
I try to maintain an Italian diet here in North Beach. Luckily I have ample access to local, seasonal vegetables, fruit, and locally caught seafood. Beans and grains are a significant part of my diet. And, I always use extra virgin olive oil except when frying.
Adopt a Mediterranean lifestyle and you’ll never need another diet scheme to lose weight or stay healthy. Eat Italian. It’s delicious and it’s good for you. Try this simple vegetable recipe and fish recipe to get a taste for yourself.
In anticipation of tomorrow night’s Academy Awards I cooked up some Oscar-worthy eggs this morning.
Ever see Norman Jewison’s 1987 movie about a Brooklyn Italian-American family? “Moonstruck” won Oscars for Olympia Dukakis and Cher.
There’s a kitchen scene where Dukakis is making these eggs for herself and Cher.
“Moonstruck” eggs were a popular item on my restaurant’s brunch menu. There’s no better combination than peppers and eggs. We served them with roasted pork and fennel sausage.
In Italy this dish is known as “birds in a nest”. They are super simple and they make a big impression for that special Saturday or Sunday morning. Add your favorite potatoes and breakfast meat and that’s it.
Why go out for a “romantic” dinner on Valentine’s Day? The restaurants are crazy busy. Why tolerate the hassle of overbooked places and food pouring out of an overworked kitchen? All you’ll get is agita (heartburn).
Don’t go out. Stay home and cook Valentine’s Day dinner together. Start a new tradition. Enjoy your time cooking together and share food made with love.
Baked Ziti alla Sorrento is the star of this special dinner. It’s an Italian version of mac ‘n cheese from the sunny coast of the Bay of Naples.
The small pasta tubes are coated in creamy ricotta, soft melted mozzarella and marinara sauce then baked in the oven. I can’t resist picking off the nutty toasted ziti on top. Save the leftovers. Baked ziti is even better the next day. Aglianico, Nero d’Avola or Chianti go well with the ziti.
By making the marinara while the pasta water comes to a boil and the salad as the ziti bakes, dinner will be ready in about an hour.
And for dessert, top a big scoop of vanilla gelato with a shot of limoncello or your favorite liqueur. Who knows, after all that wine this might be just what you both need to get lucky.
Easy baked ziti is sumptuous. The pasta is coasted with creamy ricotta, mozzarella and marinara then baked in the oven until crispy on top.
Recipe type: Main
28 ounce can San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 large branch of fresh basil
1 tablespoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 pound ziti
1 pound ricotta
8 ounces fresh mozzarella
3 cups marinara sauce
5 basil leaves
1 cup grated parmigiano, pecorino or grana padano
Before you get started put a large pot of well salted water to boil over high heat. (Use about 5 quarts of water and at least 1 tablespoon of sea salt for a pound of pasta.) Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
Put the olive oil and garlic in a pan and over medium-high heat. Saute the garlic until it starts to take on some color.
Add the tomatoes, basil, oregano and salt.
Reduce the heat to medium-low, stir occasionally and cook until the sauce thickens, about 20 minutes.
Set the sauce aside.
Cut the mozzarella into 1-inch cubes.
Put the ricotta in a strainer to drain.
Cook the ziti in a large pot of well-salted rapidly boiling water. Drain the ziti just as it reaches al dente, about 10 minutes.
Put the ziti in a large bowl. Add the ricotta, mozzarella, ½ cup grated cheese, 2 cups of marinara sauce and basil leaves ripped in small pieces. Mix to coat the pasta well,
Cover the bottom of a baking dish with marinara sauce.
Spread the ziti evenly in the baking dish.
Top the ziti with the remaining marinara sauce and sprinkle with the remaining grated cheese.
Bake in the oven until the top of the baked ziti starts to turn golden, about 30 minutes.
I’m hoping for spring. The quince blossoms are in bloom so spring can’t be far away. For me, this classic salad from Sicily is a prelude to the change of seasons.
Start or end your meal with this perky salad. The licorice and sweet orange notes float in the citrus vinaigrette. The intense wrinkled, meaty, oil-cured olives add surprising complexity to this crunchy salad.
Usually I eat salad at the end of a meal but this one goes to the top. It’s fresh and complex and easily fills the bill as a simple first course or add it to your antipasti platter.
I’m in New York City and meeting up with friends. On a brisk, sunny Saturday morning we’re off to Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, the true NYC Little Italy.
We’ll spend the day cooking together, eating and drinking in northern Jersey. But first we have to decide on the menu and get everything we need to prepare our meal.
As is our habit, our first stop is Caffe DiLillo for a cappuccino and cornetto and to plan our menu. Our 4-course meal fell into place quickly.
My assignment is saltimbocca, the classic Roman dish, veal scaloppine topped with fresh sage and prosciutto and sauteed in butter and extra virgin olive oil. Saltimbocca is so good it’s moniker translates to “jump in your mouth”.
Saltimbocca is easy. I made enough for 8 at the table in about 15 minutes. The salty, crispy prosciutto enrobes fresh sage atop fork-tender veal scaloppine. Deglaze the pan with a dry, white wine to create a silky sauce and you’re done.
The dish works just as well with chicken. I used both veal and chicken scaloppine to satisfy the preferences of my table mates. Asparagus roasted with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt and lemon completed each plate. Yum.
Saute veal or chicken scaloppine topped with fresh sage and prosciutto in butter and extra virgin olive oil to create a dish that "jumps in your mouth."
Recipe type: Entree
1 pound veal (or chicken) scaloppine
¼ cup flour
3 tablespoons extra virgin oil oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
¼ cup dry white wine
Sprinkle the scaloppine with salt and pepper.
Depending on their size, lay 1 or 2 sage leaves atop the scallopine.
Cover the scaloppine with a thin slice of prosciutto.
Tap the prosciutto with the back of a knife to attach it to the scaloppine.
Lightly coat the scaloppine with flour. Tap off any excess flour.
Put the extra virgin olive oil and the butter in a saute pan over medium-high heat.
When the butter is melted and starts to foam, add the scaloppine and saute prosciutto side down until the prosciutto is golden and crispy, about 2 minutes.
Saute the other side about a minute.
Put the saltimbocca on a plate, loosely cover with foil and set aside.
Saute the remaining scallopine.
Over high heat, add the white wine and deglaze the pan, scraping up all of the crispy brown bits on the bottom of the plan and stir to dissolve the bits in the wine. Cook until the pan sauce thickens, about a minute.
Pour the sauce over the saltimbocca and serve immediately.
Crispy fried eggplant with a ricotta and prosciutto filling is baked topped with a simple marinara sauce.
Recipe type: vegetables
For the Eggplant
1 cup flour
3 tablespoons EVOO
For the Egg Wash
2 tablespoons grated pecorino or parmigiano
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat Italian parsley
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
For the Ricotta Filling
16 ounces ricotta
8 ounces mozzarella, cut in 1-inch cubes
¼ cup grated pecorino or parmigiano
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat Italian parsley
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For the Marinara Sauce
28 ounce can imported Italian San Marzano tomatoes
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon EVOO
1 sprig fresh basil
sea salt to taste
¼ cup grated pecorino or parmigiano cheese for topping the rollatini before baking
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Making the Marinara Sauce
Put the tomatoes in a large bowl and crush them with your hands (or a potato masher). Remove any large stems and skin.
Put the oil and the garlic in a pot over medium-high heat.
Saute the garlic until it takes on a light tan color.
Add the tomatoes to the pot.
Add sea salt to taste.
Add the basil and simmer over low heat stirring occasionally until the volume reduces by one-third.
Frying the Eggplant
Cut off the ends of the eggplant. Slice the eggplant in ½ inch slices lengthwise. (I don't peel the eggplant so I discard the first and last slice that is completely covered by the black skin on one side.) You should have about 15 slices to coat.
Sprinkle with salt and place the slices in a colander. Put the colander in the sink or over a large plate for about 15 minutes. Bitter dark liquid will release from the eggplant slices.
Wash the eggplant slices well and pat dry. Set aside.
Add the eggs to a bowl large enough to hold the eggplant slices and beat them well.
Add the grated cheese, parsley, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste and beat the egg mixture well.
Put 3 tablespoons of EVOO in a large saute pan and heat over medium heat.
Place the egg wash on the counter closest to the saute pan.
Place the the flour in a dish and place it next to the egg wash.
Flour both sides of the eggplant slice. Tap off any excess flour.
Coat both sides of the eggplant slice with the egg mixture.
Saute the eggplant slices until both sides are golden brown.
Remove the slices to a dish lined with paper towel.
Continue coating and frying all of the eggplant slices. Add more oil if necessary.
For the Ricotta Filling
Put the ricotta in a strainer to let the liquid drain, about 15 minutes.
Put the ricotta in a large bowl along with all the other ingredients and mix everything together well.
Assembling the Rollatini
Cover the bottom of a large baking dish with a light coating of the sauce.
Put the fried eggplant on a work surface and cover each with a slice of prosciutto.
Put a tablespoon of the ricotta filling on each slice about 2-inches from the narrow end of the eggplant slice.
Starting at the narrow end roll up the slice and place it seam side down in the baking dish.
Continue making the rollatini and place them in rows in the baking dish.
Sprinkle the grated pecorino evenly over the rollatini.
Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, until the ricotta filling is hot and the mozzarella melts.
Panna cotta means “cooked cream”. The classic Italian dessert now enjoyed everywhere was created in the Piedmonte region in the northwest corner of Italia.
Cows have a good life in Piemonte. They graze in beautiful Alpine pastures. It’s no wonder that their milk produces fantastic butter, cream and cheese and is the inspiration for this delicate flan-like delight.
Panna cotta is simple and sumptuous. You can eat it alone or with berries, caramel sauce or amerena cherries. I like to add strawberries macerated with a sprinkle of sugar and a little balsamic vinegar.
Panna cotta scented with vanilla and lemon melts in your mouth. The balsamic strawberries mute the sweetness and add texture to each bite.
Panna cotta takes about 5 minutes to cook. Pour the cooked cream into ramekins and chill for a couple of hours to set. That’s it. No more waiting to find it on a restaurant menu. Now you can eat panna cotta whenever you want some.