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.

Lamb Chop and Artichoke Kitchen Invasion

More Roman Food in North Beach. Bravo!

Maurizio Bruschi, the chef/owner of Ideale, the classic North Beach Roman restaurant on Grant for over 20 years, and his partner Giuseppe Terminiello, recently opened Piccolo Forno on Columbus.

Piccolo Forno brings another Roman culinary tradition to North Beach, pizza al taglia, pizza by the cut. You find these shops all over Rome. One of my favorites is La Ranella in Trastevere and Piccolo Forno is in that same elite class.

But I’m headed to Ideale to cook with Maurizio. We were in a springtime frame of mind and in Roma that means young spring lamb and the first crop of artichokes.

Carciofi alla Romana is a simple preparation. Maurizio cleaned a large artichoke in a flash. The artichokes went upside down in a pot with a bath of water, white wine, extra virgin olive oil and a few aromatics.

Potatoes were tossed with extra virgin olive oil, rosemary and garlic and roasted in the oven.

But the star of this meal was the scottadito (“burn the finger”). The chops, simply seasoned with salt and black pepper, are so good you burn your fingers because you can’t wait to pick them up and eat those lollipops as they come hot off the grill.

Maurizio laid the crispy, creamy roasted potatoes down on a big platter ringed by tender, flavorful artichokes with a hint of mint and the lamb chops just off the grill atop the potatoes. Scatter some lemon on the plate. Squeeze a drop or two on the lamb chop, if you wish. Ah, Roman spring right here on Grant Avenue.

We always eat very well when in Rome. I have to say this North Beach meal is right up there with the best classics I’ve had in Rome.

Grazie Maurizio. Bravo!

Note: We shot this episode in April. Apologies for the late release. However, this meal is worth making any time of year as long as the ingredients are available in your local market. Buon appetito!

Scottadito

  1. Baby spring lamb is in the market now. Get yourself a rack of baby loin lamb chops. Have your butcher divide them for you.
  2. There’s no recipe here because there’s no need to mess with these tender chops.  Maurizio pounded them a bit for uniform thickness.
  3. Sprinkle the chops with salt and a grind of black pepper to taste and slap them down on a hot grill or hot grill pan atop your stove.
  4. The scottadito only take a couple of minutes on each side. The Romans like their lamb well-done but choose the doneness you like best.  You’ll be burning your fingers too. It doesn’t hurt too much.
  5. Don’t forget to give the chops a squeeze of lemon before eating these lollipops.

Carciofi alla Romana

Ingredients

  • 4 medium artichokes
  • 1-cup water
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 2 sprigs Italian flat parsley, leaves only, roughly chopped
  • 2-3 fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, sliced thin
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Put enough water to cover the cleaned artichokes in a bowl large enough to hold the cleaned artichokes.
  2. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze the lemon into the water. Put the lemon rind in the water too. (The acidulated water will keep the artichokes from discoloring before you cook them.)
  3. Cut off the tough top of the artichokes at the point where the dark green leaves turn to light green/yellow.
  4. Trim the remaining leaves to remove the dark green outer leave.
  5. Peel the stem.
  6. Open the artichoke and with a spoon, remove the choke, if any.
  7. Put the cleaned artichoke into the acidulated water.
  8. Put a large pot over high heat. Add one tablespoon of olive oil.
  9. When the oil begins to ripple, place the artichokes stem up in the oil and push them down with your hand to open them and to brown them a bit.
  10. Add the water, wine, garlic, the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, parsley and mint and bring the pot to a boil.
  11. Lower the heat to medium-low and bring the liquid to a gentle simmer. (If need be add more water. But in the end you want about half the original volume to create a flavorful pan sauce.)
  12. Cover the pot with a lid or cover the artichokes with crumpled damp butcher paper.
  13. Let the artichokes steam until they are knife tender, about 20 minutes.
  14. Remove the artichokes to a serving platter.
  15. Spoon some of the cooking pan sauce over each artichoke.
  16. Serve immediately.

Oven Roasted Potatoes

Ingredients

  • 4 potatoes (I prefer Yukon Gold)
  • 1 clove of garlic, sliced thin
  • 1 sprig of fresh rosemary, leaves stripped from the stem
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Peel the potatoes and cut them into 2-inch cubes.
  3. Put the potatoes, olive oil, garlic and rosemary in a baking dish, add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Coat the potatoes with the olive oil mixture.
  5. Roast the potatoes in the hot oven until they begin to brown and are knife-tender, about 20 minutes.
  6. Remove the potatoes to a serving platter.
  7. Serve immediately.

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.

Veal Scallopine with Fresh White Truffles

Unlike the black truffle you shouldn’t cook with white truffle. The more mild and sophisticated white truffle is a perfect marriage with veal scallopine. Piero had the truffles, I needed to get the veal.

Inspired, I ran across the street to Little City Meats. Mike had some beautiful milk-fed veal and he pounded out thin scallopine for me. With the scallopine and a dozen organic eggs from Petaluma I headed back to Cavalli to cook.

The scallopine are quickly sautéed in extra virgin olive oil and butter, to give them a golden nutty crust. Some white wine in the hot pan yielded a simple pan sauce finished with a swirl of butter.

I turned the plate over to Piero. He carefully shaved biancetto all over the top. “Don’t be stingy,” he said in Italian, “be sure to cover the entire scallopine with tartuffi.”

Santo and I savored the tartufi aroma as Piero shaved the white truffle over the hot scallopine right out of the cast iron pan. The truffle perfume lingered with each bite of the delicate scallopine.

If you are in the Bay Area, Santo will post the availability of truffles all season. You can find fresh truffles for sale online. If you don’t use them all right away, make a truffle butter or truffle-infused extra virgin olive oil so you enjoy their aroma and flavor for months.

Veal Scallopine with Shaved Fresh White Truffles

Ingredients

  • 8 veal scallopine, pounded thin (depending on the size, I serve 1 or 2 scallopine per person)
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly grated black pepper
  • 1/8 cup unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup dry white wine
  • 40 grams shaved fresh white truffles (or as much as you can afford. We used 5 grams for each scallopine.)

Instructions

  1. Sprinkle the scallopine with salt and pepper
  2. Lightly flour the scallopine
  3. Over medium high heat, add the butter and olive oil to a sauté pan (add more butter and oil if needed as your sauté all of the scallopine)
  4. As the butter begins to melt lower the heat to medium. You don’t want to develop any color.
  5. Add the scallopine and sauté until the scallopine develops a light brown crust, about 2 minutes.
  6. Turn the scallopine over and sauté for one minute more.
  7. Remove the scallopine from the pan and put them on a serving platter.
  8. Increase the heat to high and add the wine.
  9. Scrape the pan to incorporate the brown bits into the sauce.
  10. Let the wine simmer until the alcohol is evaporated.
  11. Drizzle the scallopine with the pan wine sauce.
  12. Shave the fresh white truffle to completely cover the scallopine.
  13. Serve immediately.

Frittata with Fresh Black Truffles

Wow, was I excited when I walked into Cavalli Caffe for an espresso macchiato on a recent Saturday morning. Piero, the truffle guy from Tuscany, was there and he had truffles, the “Diamonds of the Kitchen”, dug up in Tuscany just 2 days before.

He had white truffles, smaller in early spring , called “bianchetto.” And he had the last of the larger black winter “tartuffo nero.”  Later in the season the spring truffles, tartuffo bianco, will be bigger.

Truffles are fragile and you need to use them within about a week of harvest. White truffles should not be cooked but black truffles can be used in cooked dishes.

Black truffles pair well with eggs so I had to make a frittata. Piero said his wife made the best. Now I’m in trouble. How could mine compare?

Piero described his wife’s frittata and I realized her Tuscan rendition was similar to mine. I made a few adjustments and I was ready for the kitchen.

I didn’t want the egg mixture to overwhelm the black truffles so I just added salt, pepper, chopped parsley, grated parmigiano reggiano and diced fresh mozzarella. I grated a large black truffle into the mixture. Save some to grate atop the hot frittata hot out of the pan to maximize the tartuffi aroma.

Lucky for me, Piero enjoyed my frittata. Whew!

The frittata didn’t last long.

If you are in the Bay Area, Santo will post the availability of truffles all season. You can find fresh truffles for sale online. If you don’t use them all right away, make a truffle butter or truffle-infused extra virgin olive oil so you enjoy their aroma and flavor for months.

Frittata with Fresh Black Truffles

Ingredients

  • 6 extra large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (depending on the size of your pan you may need to add more to lightly coat the bottom and sides of the pan)
  • 2 tablespoons flat Italian parsley, roughly chopped.
  • 3 tablespoons freshly grated parmigiano reggiano
  • 3-ounces fresh mozzarella, diced in small cubes
  • 30 grams fresh black truffle (or as much as you can afford)
  • 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated black pepper

Instructions

  1. Beat the eggs in a bowl.
  2. Grate 2/3 of the truffle saving a piece to grate atop of the frittata
  3. Add the parsley, parmigiano, mozzarella and 2/3 of the grated truffle to the eggs and mix well.
  4. Over medium-high heat add the olive oil to a 9” inch cast iron or sauté pan and lightly coat the bottom and sides of the pan (if you use more eggs, use a larger pan)
  5. When the olive oil begins to shimmer pour in the egg mixture.
  6. As the frittata begins to set up, gently break up the center of the frittata with a fork and with a spatula move the frittata away from the sides of the pan. (You want to continually move the egg mixture to the hot pan surface to cook.)
  7. Lower the heat to medium-low.
  8. Continue to gently pull the frittata away from the side of the pan to allow the egg mixture to flow onto the hot pan surface.
  9. Gently move the spatula under the frittata to make sure it doesn’t stick to the pan.
  10. When the frittata is fully set on the bottom, put a plate on top of the pan, flip the frittata and slide it back in the pan to cook the other side.
  11. Loosen the frittata from the pan with the spatula.
  12. When the frittata feels solid to the touch, flip the frittata onto a serving platter. (If you don’t want to flip the frittata, place it in a 375 degree oven or under the broiler to set the other side of the frittata.)
  13. Grate the remainder of the black truffle on top of the frittata.
  14. Serve immediately.

Cooking Foraged Chicory in Roma

My HP Production crew devouring spaghetti cacao e pepe I cooked in my Rome kitchen
My HP Production crew devouring saltimbocca I cooked in my Rome kitchen

The last time I was in Italy I hooked up with my friend Luca and the crew from his video company, HB Productions. We spent days together shopping and shooting episodes of me cooking in my apartment near the Spanish Steps.

Here’s the first of those HB Production episodes just in time as early spring vegetables hit the farmers market.

I shopped every day in Campo dei Fiori, the huge open air market in the historical center of Rome. I was lucky to meet Alessandro who had a produce stand there. He was my guide to the spring vegetables he had to offer.

This day he had wild chicory, cicoria, he foraged early that morning in the hills near his home outside of Rome. He sold me the chicory with a condition. “Cook it with olive oil and lots of garlic, that’s all.” “And chili pepper,” I said. Alessandro agreed and added “but no lemon, no lemon.” Boy, these Italians are strict but that was my plan anyway.

What a wonderful Slow Food moment, scoring locally foraged cicoria to cook in my Rome apartment a few blocks away from the market! Watch me use a versatile, simple method to respectfully coax maximum flavor from this humble wild green. Here in the U.S. curly endive is the closest to the wild chicory I cooked in Rome.

You may have seen some of the Rome footage in this Hungry Village production. Get a peek of Luca and his aunt Giulia, the best cook in the family, who joined me in the kitchen for a couple of episodes.

I hope to have the other Rome episodes ready to post soon. Stay tuned but in the meantime here’s my saltimbocca recipe.

So You Want To Be An American? is the music in the episode. I love the tune. Here’s hip Neapolitan crooner Renato Carosone’s 1958 rendition of his Tu Vuo Fa L’Americano.

Keep on cooking. Buon appetito!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Cooking Foraged Chicory in Roma
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
A simple chicory preparation that you can use for other leafy greens too.
Author:
Recipe type: Vegetables
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 pound chicory (curly endive)
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, smashed
  • pinch of chili flake
  • sea salt to taste
Instructions
  1. Bring about 4 cups of water to a boil in a pot.
  2. Add the chicory and blanch for a minute or two.
  3. Heat the oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and chili flakes to the pan and cook until the garlic just begins to take on some color.
  4. Drain the chicory and add it to the sauté pan. Add sea salt to taste.
  5. Stir well to dress the chicory with the oil.
  6. Serve immediately.

 

 

Porchetta War: Who will win?

Picking a Rancho Llano Seco porchetta to slow roast on an open spit.
Picking a Rancho Llano Seco porchetta to slow roast on an open spit.

I shot a porchetta episode a while ago. It’s a favorite among my friends and family so I had to share my recipe. And the episode got lots of views and tons of positive comments. Then, things suddenly turned nasty. The Italians got involved.

They started to flame me. One guy said I was like a counterfeiter handing out phony money with this recipe. The comments really made me mad.

But, after a time, I realized that the Italians weren’t being mean. They were just protecting their food culture and traditions. My porchetta was an American variation and the Italians weren’t happy I desecrated the classic porchetta they loved.

So they inspired me to do a Bay Area farm to table traditional whole pig porchetta. And I’d do it literally farm to table. I’d find a pig. I’d visit the farm and see how it was raised. I’d help butcher it and season it. I’d cook it on a spit over charcoal. And we’d film the whole thing.

So me and my Hungry Village producers found Rancho Llano Seco, a local farm north of San Francisco. We met up with Jamie at the Rancho to pick out the pig for my porchetta. When we got to the barn and open pen where the mature hogs spend their last days on the Rancho, there she was, a big sow with a beautiful red coat hiding just inside the barn. There’s my porchetta. I called her Bella.

Jamie sent Bella to my butchers at Golden Gate Meats in San Francisco’s Ferry Building .  I joined Tom, who deboned the porchetta with a surgeon’s skill. Shoulder, sirloin, rib meat and loin all intact with a thick layer of belly and fat under the skin.

We scored the skin to form diamonds. Nothing less for Bella. Meat side up I scattered chopped rosemary, garlic, golden wild fennel pollen, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper all over. Rolled and tied, the porchetta sat for 2 days to let the aromatics infuse all the meat.

The porchetta slowly roasted on a spit over an open fire for hours. Each slice included a little bit of rib meat, loin, belly and crispy skin. A few lucky people also got shoulder or sirloin. 3 dozen friends and fans enjoyed a wonderful afternoon on San Francisco’s Russian Hill eating porchetta panini done the Bay Area Slow Food farm to table way.

And, in a nod to how porchetta sandwiches, are served around the Bay Area, I offered caramelized onions, sautéed broccoli rabe and fresh baby arugula as toppings. They don’t do that in Italy. I hope I don’t get in trouble again. I don’t want to go to Italian prison.

So there you go, Italy. I did porchetta the way it’s supposed to be done. Let’s be friends again.

Make A Perfect Antipasti Platter

It's easy to make a lovely antipasti platter!
It’s easy to make a lovely antipasti platter!

An antipasti platter is your culinary canvas. Lay out a couple of your favorite Italian cheeses and salumi (cured meats) that pair well together. Add some veggies for color. Olives maybe? And what about some taralli scattered all around?

A feast for the eyes but more importantly an icebreaker for those around your table. A little prosecco doesn’t hurt to get the conversations flowing. Let their eyes feast on your canvas for a short while.

It’s a set-up. The antipasti course is an important beginning to a leisurely 4-course Italian meal. Wake up the taste buds with a little something. A variety of tastes preview what’s to follow.

The one I made is a classic from my days in Jersey. Some variation of that platter started every holiday meal.

No time? Get everything you need at an Italian deli or well-stocked market. Then you just have to paint your canvas.

But if you want to add something homemade, make my quick olives marinated with orange, oregano and chili flakes. My roasted peppers are always a favorite. Invest a little more time and make my homemade giardiniera, still crunchy pickled vegetables.

Be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss my upcoming porchetta episode. A real farm to table story about a sow from Chico and the beautiful spit-roasted porchetta devoured by a crowd on Russian Hill. Here’s a peek at the porchetta party.

Warning! Don’t fill up on the antipasti. You got a soup, pasta or risotto coming followed by the main course and dessert. Depending on who’s at my table sometimes I make individual plates for everybody so nobody eats too much right away.

Buon appetito!

Marinated Roasted Peppers
 
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Roasted peppers flavored with extra virgin olive oil, garlic and oregano
Author:
Recipe type: Appetiser
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 6-8
Ingredients
  • 2-3 red or yellow bell peppers (don't use green)
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 or 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced or chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • sea salt to taste
Instructions
  1. Roast the peppers right on the burner. Turn so that the skin is blackened all over.
  2. Put the blackened peppers in a covered bowl or paper bag to let them steam a bit.
  3. When the peppers are cool enough to handle cut the pepper in half and remove the seeds and membranes, turn over and scrape off the blackened skin.
  4. Cut into 2-inch strips.
  5. Put the roasted peppers in a bowl. Add the olive oil, garlic and oregano and mix well.
  6. Let the peppers sit in the marinade for at least 30 minutes.
  7. Serve at room temperature.

[amd-recipeseo-recipe:123]

 

Roasted Turkey Breast with Spinach & Prosciutto Stuffing

Roasted turkey breast stuffed with mellow sauteed spinach and salty prosciutto done in 90 minutes
Roasted turkey breast stuffed with mellow sauteed spinach and salty prosciutto

This is part two of our Thanksgiving special. Check out part one here.

I’m not in the mood to roast a whole turkey this year so I came up with this easy tasty boneless breast roast that’s ready after about 90 minutes in a hot oven.

The flavor of the Diestel turkey is out of this world, so much better than those factory-raised frozen birds in the supermarket.

These off-the-grid organic turkeys from Sonora, in the Sierra foothills, get to range about the farm and eat only organic grains raised on the farm.

The breast meat is tender and full of mild flavor. My stuffing and roasting broth keep the breast moist while it roasts.

Make sure each bite has some of the crispy skin, tender breast meat and mellow spinach stuffing topped with salty prosciutto. You won’t be sorry.

Add a starch and your Thanksgiving dinner is ready to serve in less than 2 hours. That way you can linger over your morning coffee before getting ready for your guests.

Watch me make roasted garlic and olive oil mashed potatoes. Or how about roasted brussel sprouts or a green bean salad?

Make my easy pumpkin ricotta cheesecake the day before for a light dessert full of fall spice.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Buon appetito!

Roasted Turkey Breast with Spinach & Prosciutto Stuffing
 
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A Thanksgiving dinner that you can cook in under 2 hours. You won't believe the complex flavor of the moist tender breast and the mellow spinach and salty prosciutto stuffing.
Author:
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 6-8
Ingredients
  • 1 4 Pound turkey breast, deboned and butterflied
  • 2 pounds fresh spinach
  • ½ onion, finely diced
  • ½ cup grated parmigiano
  • 6 slices prosciutto
  • 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 sprigs fresh flat Italian parsley
  • 3 lemon slices
  • 4 leaves fresh sage
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup water or broth
  • Sea salt and black pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Over medium heat 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a wide pot.
  3. When the oil is hot saute the onions until they are translucent and tender.
  4. Add about an inch of water to the bottom of the pot and raise the heat to medium-high.
  5. Add as much of the spinach as you can to the pot and turn it to mix it with the onions and to help it all wilt. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt.
  6. Add more spinach until all of it is wilted.
  7. Put the spinach in a bowl and mix in the grated parmigiano and set the spinach aside to cool.
  8. Butterfly the breast and lay flat open, pounding with a meat mallet to create even thickness throughout. (Save time. Ask your butcher to butterfly the breast for you.)
  9. Spread the spinach mixture across the breast, leaving a 1½ inch border all around.
  10. Put the prosciutto slices in a single layer over the spinach.
  11. Beginning at one end, firmly roll up the turkey breast and use 4 equally spaced kitchen lengths of kitchen twine to secure the roast well.
  12. In a casserole lay out the parsley, sage and lemon slices to form a bed for the roast.
  13. Rub a tablespoon of olive oil well all over.
  14. Sprinkle sea salt and freshly ground black pepper evenly over the roast.
  15. Pour in the white wine, water (or broth) into the bottom of the casserole. Sprinkle olive oil over the liquid.
  16. Roast in a preheated 375 degree oven for about 1 hour 20 minutes, or until the turkey breast reaches an internal temperature of 150 degrees. The temperature will rise to 160 degrees as it rests. (I'm using an off-the-grid organic turkey but if your roasting a supermarket turkey you may want to leave it in the oven longer, until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.)
  17. Baste the roast with the pan juices several times during roasting. (Add more wine and water to maintain about an inch of liquid in the casserole.
  18. Remove the breast roll from the pan and loosely cover with foil.
  19. Pour the pan juices through a strainer into a pan. Skim off excess oil.
  20. Keep the pan gravy over very low heat to keep it warm.
  21. After the roast has rested for about 20 minutes, slice it thinly and arrange the spirals on a serving platter.
  22. Pour the pan gravy over the slices. (If you have more gravy, serve it at the table.)
  23. Serve immediately.

 

Mashed Potatoes with Roasted Garlic & Olive Oil

"Smashed" potatoes flavored with roasted garlic and extra virgin olive oil
“Smashed” potatoes flavored with roasted garlic and extra virgin olive oil

This is part one of a 2 part Thanksgiving special. Stay tuned for part two next week.

Easy and delicious, mashed potatoes flavored with mellow roasted garlic and extra virgin olive oil, pairs well with meat, fish or poultry.

My Mom didn’t call them mashed potatoes, she called them “smashed” potatoes and I still do. I like chunks of potato for that toothsome feel. But I like a smoother or whipped version of mashed potatoes too.

Make your mashed potatoes anyway you like them. Mash them more, whip them with a whisk or a hand beater, or put the hot potatoes through a ricer if you want a smoother or whipped consistency, then add the roasted garlic and olive oil.

Any way you make them just get them to your guests while they’re still piping hot. .

For Thanksgiving this year I’m serving with my smashed potatoes with a roasted boneless turkey breast stuffed with sauteed spinach and prosciutto that’s in and out of the oven in less than 90 minutes.

It’s a complete easy and quick dinner with protein, veggies and carbohydrates all on the plate.

We’ll publish the turkey episode next week so be sure to subscribe now.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Garlic & Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes
 
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Roughly mashed potatoes flavored with mellow roasted garlic and extra virgin olive oil. Punch you spuds up a notch with this easy recipe.
Author:
Recipe type: Vegetable
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 6-8
Ingredients
  • 1 head garlic, roasted
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 pounds yukon gold potatoes
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • sea salt and freshly grated black pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Cut the top off of the garlic bulb.
  3. Sprinkle olive oil on the top of the exposed cloves.
  4. Tightly wrap in aluminum foil and roast in the oven until the cloves are squeezably soft, about 30-40 minutes. Set the garlic aside to cool,
  5. Put the unpeeled potatoes in a pot. Cover with water an inch above the potatoes.
  6. Boil over high heat until the potatoes are knife tender.
  7. While the potatoes are cooking, squeeze the garlic in a pot with a sprinkle of sea salt and mash it into a paste with a fork. Add the milk and mix well.
  8. Put the pot over low heat. Stir to mix well. Warm the milk but don't let it boil or scald.
  9. Drain the potatoes. Peel them when they're cool enough to handle and put them in a bowl. Mash them with a potato masher and leave some small chunks of potato.
  10. Add the milk and garlic mixture, add sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste and mix everything well.
  11. Put the mashed potatoes in a serving bowl and sprinkle a good, finishing extra virgin olive oil on top.
  12. Serve hot.

 

Pasta Fazool, Pasta e Fagioli, Pasta & Beans

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When the stars make you drool just like a pasta fazool, that's amore.
When the stars make you drool just like a pasta fazool, that’s amore.

I ate a lot of pasta and beans growing up in Jersey. My Mom made it often and I loved it.

So when pasta fazool, as we called it back East, was a Viewer’s Choice suggestion from lovelyamor13 on YouTube, I was very happy to make it.

Pasta e fagioli is healthy and inexpensive peasant dish. You can have this one-pot meal that packs lots of flavor and goodness on your table in less than an hour.

Pasta e fagioli is made all over Italy and varies from region to region. One big difference is that mine has no meat. Up north they usually add pancetta to the aromatics as the base of the soup. Some people like to add tomato puree. Some people don’t add tomato, they like a white pasta fazool.

Mine has a light pink hue. I use a little tomato puree. Make it any way you like it, just don’t make it the way they do at Olive Garden.

The creamy beans and pasta are bathed in a savory light broth enhanced by the sharpness of the pecorino and the mellow olive oil. Pasta fazool will warm you and fill you up. Make extra so you can eat it again the next day.

Buon appetito!

5.0 from 3 reviews
Pasta Fazool, Pasta e Fagioli, Pasta & Beans
 
A healthy, inexpensive Italian peasant dish, ditalini pasta & cannellini beans
Author:
Recipe type: Soup
Cuisine: Italian
Ingredients
  • ½ onion
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 tablespoons EVOO
  • ½ cup tomato puree
  • 1 cup dried cannellini beans, soaked overnight or one 15 oz. can
  • 8 cups water
  • ½ pound ditalini or another short-cut pasta
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, roughly chopped
  • grated pecorino
Instructions
  1. If you are using dried beans soak about 1¼ cups overnight or for at least 12 hours. They will expand and should yield about 3 cups of soaked beans for the soup.
  2. Roughly chop the onion, celery and garlic.
  3. Put the EVOO, onions and celery in a large enameled pot.
  4. Over medium heat, sauté the onions and celery until translucent, about 5 minutes. (You do not want them to pick up any color.)
  5. Add the garlic and bay leaf and sauté for another minute.
  6. Add the cannellini beans and mix well.
  7. Add the water and tomato puree to the pot. Stir well.
  8. Put the cover on the pan and simmer over medium-low heat stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender and the soup thickens. You want the beans to be tender but not mushy.)
  9. Add salt and black pepper to taste.
  10. Add the pasta and cook until the pasta is al dente, about 8-10 minutes more.
  11. Shut off the heat and add the parsley. Mix well.
  12. Serve in bowls immediately with a sprinkle of pecorino and a drizzle of EVOO.
  13. Serves 6.

 

Pasta e Fagioli (Pasta Fazool/Pasta & Beans)
Author: www.Gianni.tv
Ingredients
  • ½ onion
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 tablespoons EVOO
  • ½ cup tomato puree
  • 3 cups dried cannellini beans, soaked overnight or two 15 oz. cans
  • 8 cups water
  • ½ pound ditalini or another short-cut pasta
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, roughly chopped
  • grated pecorino
Instructions
  1. If you are using dried beans soak about 1¼ cups overnight or for at least 12 hours. They will expand and should yield about 3 cups of soaked beans for the soup.
  2. Roughly chop the onion, celery and garlic.
  3. Put the EVOO, onions and celery in a large enameled pot.
  4. Over medium heat, sauté the onions and celery until translucent, about 5 minutes. (You do not want them to pick up any color.)
  5. Add the garlic and bay leaf and sauté for another minute.
  6. Add the cannellini beans and mix well.
  7. Add the water and tomato puree to the pot. Stir well.
  8. Put the cover on the pan and simmer over medium-low heat stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender and the soup thickens. (If you are using canned beans that should take about about 20-30 minutes. If you are using dried beans soaked over night that could take 60 minutes or so. You want the beans to be tender but not mushy.)
  9. Add salt and black pepper to taste.
  10. Add the pasta and cook until the pasta is al dente, about 8-10 minutes more.
  11. Shut off the heat and add the parsley. Mix well.
  12. Serve in bowls immediately with a sprinkle of pecorino and a drizzle of EVOO.
  13. Serves 6.

Cannoli Siciliani: Crispy Tubes Filled with Sweet Creamy Ricotta

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Homemade cannoli are easy to make and even easier to eat.
Homemade cannoli are easy to make and even easier to eat.

Often at the end of a special meal growing up in Jersey Italian pastries would cap off the day’s celebration.

I’d visit Ferrara’s Pastry on Bloomfield Avenue in Newark and buy a dozen and a half of my family’s favorites. Sfogliatelle, baba, Cannoli, Neapoleans, eclairs. After Ferrara’s closed Calandra’s Bakery near the Water Tower and Dicky Dee’s fried hot dog joint further down Bloomfield Avenue became my go to place.

Here in San Francisco’s North Beach my favorite cannoli (little tubes) is Santo’s at Cavalli Cafe on Stockton. He fills them when you order one and drizzles the ends with his fresh orange syrup. He has regular size and minis. I always get the regular.

But I like my homemade cannoli too. They’re fun to make and really not that difficult. You can make the shells ahead and fill them just before serving.

My shells are crispy with blisters all over so be careful, they’ll shatter as you bite into the sweet, creamy ricotta filling studded with candied orange and chocolate chips.

If you don’t want to make your own shells you can buy the shells. I got a box of Ferrara’s shells at North Beach’s Molinari Deli on Columbus. Whip up your own ricotta filling and fill the shells just before serving so they stay don’t get soggy.

Zeppole di San Giuseppe is a Neapolitan pastry I love too. Check out my zeppole video episode and make some for yourself.

Buon appetito!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Cannoli
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 6
Ingredients
Shells
  • 4 cups sifted flour
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • canola or your favorite vegetable oil for frying
Filling
  • 4 cups ricotta
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1½ cups powdered sugar
  • ¼ cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips or chopped chocolate
  • ¼ cup finely chopped candied orange peel (or lemon peel or candied citron)
Instructions
Shells
  1. Mix the flour, sugar and sea salt in a bowl. Cut in the butter.
  2. Add the yolks. Stir in the wine a little at a time until a dough forms. (Use more wine or water if the dough is too dry.)
  3. Knead the dough briefly on a well-floured board.
  4. Roll out the dough to ⅛ inch thickness, or run it through a pasta machine.
  5. Cut the dough in 4-inch circles. Wrap the circles around cannoli forms. (Buy the forms on Amazon and many retail stores.)
  6. Wet the overlapping edge and pinch the ends together. Flare out the ends.
  7. Heat the oil in a pot to 350 degrees. Use a candy thermometer to make sure the oil stay at this temperature. Fry the shells in the oil until lightly brown all over.
  8. Drain the shells on paper towel.
Filling
  1. With a wire whisk blend the ricotta with the powdered sugar until very smooth.
  2. Add the vanilla, candied fruit and chocolate and mix well into the ricotta and chill.
Assembly
  1. Fill the cannoli shells with the filling just before serving so the shells stay crispy. Piping the filling with a pastry bag works well or use a spoon to fill the cannoli from both ends.
  2. Dust with powdered sugar.

 

Torta Pasqualina: Easter Greens & Ricotta Cake

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Torta Pasqualina
Celebrate the end of Lent with torta Pasqualina, a savory Easter cake.

Easter is a relaxed holiday. There’s a saying “Natale con i tuoi. Pasqua con chi vuoi.” Christmas with your family. Easter with whomever you like. In Italy the Easter celebration spills over to Monday, called La Pasquetta, when Italians like to eat al fresco or go on a picnic.

Torta Pasqualina, Easter cake, is traditionally served as an antipasto on the Easter table. Torta Pasqualina is best at room temperature so it’s good to go for your picnic too.

The torta includes traditional symbolic Easter foods. Before modern production, eggs were costly and only available this time of year so eggs and tender leafy greens are a reminder of spring awakening.

The dough for the crust is fun to make. It’s pliable enough so that you can stretch it and roll it out really thin. If making dough doesn’t sound like fun to you, use puff pastry instead.

Chard and baby spinach sautéed with onion in olive oil and brightened by fresh marjoram forms the first layer. Ricotta whipped light and fluffy with egg and parmigiano creates the second layer topped with a golden phyllo-like crust.

Spring lamb, “the Lamb of God” in all those Renaissance paintings, is a symbol of Christ’s sacrifice. So baby spring lamb is another traditional Easter food. If you’re looking for an Easter main course check out my abbacchio video, baby spring lamb roasted with rosemary and garlic served with golden potato wedges. And if you want help with the other courses, check out my Easter recipe roundup.

Buona Pasqua! Buon Appetito!

 

Torta Pasqualina: Easter Chard & Ricotta Pie
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Antipasto
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 6-8
Ingredients
Crust
  • 2½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2½ cups flour
  • 1½ cups water
Filling
  • 1 pound swiss chard
  • 1 pound spinach
  • 1 bunch of spring onions (or half an onion)
  • 1 pound ricotta, drained
  • ½ cup grated parmigiana
  • 9 eggs
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh marjoram
  • 2 tablespoons chopped Italian flat parsley
  • sea salt freshly ground black pepper
Instructions
Crust
  1. You want to end up with 4 sheets, 2 for the base of a 10" inch spring form pan and 2 for the top crust.
  2. Dissolve the salt in the water then add the oil and stir.
  3. Put the flour in a large bowl. Add the water mixture.
  4. Mix the flour with a fork or knead it with you hand.
  5. When a dough has formed put it on a lightly-floured surface and knead it until it becomes smooth, about 2 or 3 minutes.
  6. Form the dough into a ball, wrap with plastic film and let sit at room temperature for about an hour.
Filling-Greens
  1. Blanch the chard and spinach in simmering water for about 3 minutes. Drain the greens and let them cool on a plate.
  2. When cool squeeze all the water out of the greens. You want them very dry.
  3. Roughly chop the greens.
  4. Chop the onion.
  5. Over medium-high heat put 2-tablespoons olive oil in a large saute pan.
  6. When the oil starts to ripple add the onion and cook until the onion starts to turn translucent.
  7. Add the greens to the pan, add sea salt and pepper and mix well. Cook until the greens are tender.
  8. Put the greens in a bowl and add the chopped marjoram and let the greens cool.
  9. Put the ricotta in another bowl. Beat 3 eggs and add them to the ricotta along ¼ cup grated parmigiano, parsley, nutmeg (which I forgot to add in the video) and sea salt and black pepper to taste. Whisk all the ingredients together so that the ricotta mixture is well blended and fluffy.
Assembly
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Divide the dough in 4, roll 2 larger dough pieces (about 10 oz. each) to a thin sheet about a 13-inch diameter and the smaller balls (about 7 oz.) and roll out to to a thin sheet about 10-inches.
  3. Brush the bottom and sides of the baking pan well with olive oil.
  4. Spread one larger sheet of the pastry and spread it with evenly over the bottom of the pan and about up the side.
  5. Brush the pastry all over with oil.
  6. Put the second pastry sheet, put it on top of the first sheet and pat it so that the second sheet adheres to the first.
  7. Add the greens to the baking pan and spread them evenly over the bottom crust.
  8. Add the ricotta mixture and spread it evenly over the greens.
  9. Make an indentation with the back of the spoon in the center and then 5 indentations spread evenly mid-way between the center and the edge of the pan.
  10. Separate 6 eggs. Put an egg yolk in each indentation.
  11. Lightly beat the egg whites and spread a thin layer of the whites on top of the ricotta mixture and sprinkle grated parmigiano all over.
  12. Completely cover the top the ricotta layer with one of the smaller sheets. Press it to adhere to the side crust and brush it with olive oil.
  13. Lay the last small sheet on top to fully cover the cake and press this last sheet gently to adhere to the side crust.
  14. Cut off any dough that hangs over the side of the baking pan. Roll down the remaining dough on the sides, crimp with your fingers to form the edge of the crust an the circumference of the cake. Gently depress the edge with a fork to create a pretty top edge.
  15. Brush the top of the cake with olive oil.
  16. Bake the cake in the oven until the top crust is golden, about 45 minutes.
  17. Serve warm or at room temperature.

 

Easter Roasted Spring Lamb

Abbacchio: Easter spring lamb

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After 40 days of Lent, nothing hits the spot like tender, spring abbacchio.
After 40 days of Lent, nothing hits the spot like tender, spring abbacchio.

This is the time of the year to enjoy baby milk-fed lamb or baby goat.

The season lasts maybe 6 weeks running up to Easter. The prized animals are slaughtered before they are weaned and take on a more gamey flavor.

The breast and chops that I cooked came from a baby spring lamb that weighed just 35 pounds.

My North Beach recipe is a taste memory amalgam of the roasted capretto that my Mom made and baby lamb abbacchio and scottadito that I savored in springtime Rome.

The hardest part of this dish is finding baby lamb. I’m lucky to live in San Francisco, so I got mine at Golden Gate Meat Company in the Ferry Building. If you can’t get the breast use chops or even a leg of lamb. Any cut works with this recipe.

The breast riblets are crispy and fall off the bone tender. The chops have a golden brown crust and delicate flavor and can be cooked to your preferred doneness.

Keep an eye out for my Easter Recipe Roundup. You’ll see the other 3 courses I’m making for my Easter dinner and recipes for dozens of my favorites for you to make your own 4-course Easter dinner.

Buona Pasqua! Buon appetito!

Easter Roasted Spring Lamb
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 4 sprigs of rosemary
  • 2 anchovy filets
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 baby spring lamb breast or 4 double rib chops
  • 4 Yukon Gold potatoes
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup wine wine
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Place the potatoes in a pot of well-salted water. Bring to a boil and cook for 3 minutes until just knife tender. Take the potatoes out of the water and set aside.
  3. When cool enough to handle peel the potatoes, cut each in half and then in quarters.
  4. Place the potatoes on a sheet pan and drizzle with olive oil and sea salt and black pepper to taste. Coat the potatoes well all over.
  5. Put the potatoes in the oven on the upper rack. Roast until the potatoes, turning them once until they are crispy and very light brown, about 25 minutes. Remove the potatoes from oven and set aside.
  6. Finely chop 2 garlic cloves, the leaves of 2 rosemary branches and the anchovy. Put the mixture in a bowl. Add the vinegar and sea salt and black pepper to taste. Mix well to form a paste and set aside.
  7. Cut the breast into 4 similar size pieces. Thoroughly season each piece on both sides with salt and pepper. (Or substitute the lamb chops.)
  8. Put a cast iron pan or a skillet large enough to hold the lamb over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil to the pan.
  9. Smash 2 garlic cloves and 2 rosemary branches to the pan. Cook in the hot olive oil for a minute or two to infuse the oil with their flavor. Discard the garlic and rosemary.
  10. Put the lamb in the pan and cook to form a golden crust on both sides. Put the lamb in a baking dish.
  11. Add the white wine to the hot pan. Scrape up the brown bits from the bottom and let the wine simmer for a minute to burn off the alcohol.
  12. Pour the wine into the baking dish.
  13. Put the baking dish on the bottom shelf of the oven and roast the lamb until it is golden brown, about 90 minutes. (If using chops roast until they reach an internal temperature of 125 degrees.)
  14. Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees.
  15. Remove the baking dish from the oven and cover the lamb on both sides with the rosemary paste. Add the potatoes to the pan.
  16. Return the baking dish and continue roasting until the lamb is fork tender. (If using chops until the internal temperature is 140 degrees.)
  17. Remove the lamb and potatoes to a serving platter. Skim off any excess fat from the pan juices and pour them over the lamb.
  18. Serve immediately.