Also known as Italian wedding soup, chicken and escarole soup is an Italian-American classic. The addition of the little savory veal meatballs make this soup special. It’s a staple at Italian wedding receptions and hence the moniker Italian Wedding Soup.
But you don’t have to wait for a wedding to enjoy this bowl of goodness. Monday was soup night when I was growing up and my mother made this soup often. My family continues the tradition to this day. I like to dunk crusty Italian bread in the broth. My father liked to break chunks of day-old bread into his bowl to soak up the broth.
The soup I make here is a rustic version. You can make it more refined by cutting the vegetables into a smaller dice and make the meatballs even smaller. I always saute the vegetables in EVOO before adding the water. This method intensifies the flavor they add to the soup.
I’m not a dark meat fan but if you are use chicken thighs or legs in addition to or in place of the breasts. Be sure to skim off all the fat from the chicken and meatballs when the soup is done cooking.
Finish each bowl of soup with a good finishing extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of grated pecorino, parmigiano or grana padano before serving.
So make Italian Wedding Soup your way. It’s quick and easy. You can make it in less than an hour.
Fried squid (calamari fritti) is a quick antipasto that has to be eaten hot right out of the oil. Often my guests eat this first course in my kitchen standing around the hot stove. The calamari is crispy and tender. The vinegar pepper confetti adds a nice kick. The calamari is great on its own too with just a squeeze of lemon.
My friends and family always ask me to make calamari fritti. I make a big batch to enjoy as part of our Christmas Eve Seven Fish Dinner but you can have this delicious, fast dish anytime of the year.
No heavy batter here or breadcrumb coating to mask the taste of the calamari, just a light dusting of flour. No dipping sauces to get in the way either. Just enjoy the fresh, clean taste of the ocean.
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.
I promised 10 dishes from this recipe. I think I short-changed you. After my video proclamation I recalculated and I think there are 16 permutations–16 dishes, probably even more. Wow, lucky you!
Here’s the calculation:
You can use one of 4 meats. You can use one of 2 herbs. You can use one of 2 cheeses. 4X2X2=16. Right? Actually, there are probably more. For example mix mozzarella and fontina and that’s recipe #17. Leave out the prosciutto and that’s recipe #18. So on and so forth…
Enough. You do the math.Here’s the recipe.
My current favorites are the Scallopine alla Sorrentina (veal, prosciutto, roasted eggplant, basil, fresh mozzarella) and the Scallopine alla Bolognese (veal, prosciutto, fresh sage, fontina). The Sorrentina with the eggplant probably doesn’t need any contorni (sides)–the Bolognese without the eggplant may. Roasted potatoes and Swiss Chard or escarole sauteed in EVOO with garlic would be nice.
The cooking directions are exactly the same for all of the recipe permutations. You saute the meat and make the sauce in the same pan. Then you bake the scallopine in the oven with the pan sauce. Only the ingredients and combinations you choose may vary not the sauce nor the cooking methods.
This reciped serves 4. If you have scallopine the size I used in the video this recipe you may want to serve 2 as a portion.
I eat this dish a lot when I’m in Naples, Capri or the Amalfi Coast in the summertime. These quickly steamed cozze e vongole (mussels and clams) are just out of the Bay of Naples, pristine and briny. I like a bowl of them swimming in their broth with a grilled slice of ciabatta rubbed with garlic for dipping. I like them in a pasta sauce served over linguine or spaghetti. I like them red or white and I like them spicy hot or not.
Here’s a basic recipe from Campania that you can have as I make it here and eat in 10 minutes or you can take it in at least a dozen other directions!
My clams and mussels love to eat polenta. As they ingest the polenta it helps clean out any sand inside the shell. I buy them from my fishmonger on the day I cook them. At home I scrub them well and put them in a salty bath sprinkled with polenta. I keep them in the fridge until the pan is ready for them.
Don’t mess with these beauties from the sea. Steam them quickly. Take them out as soon as they open and eat them immediately.
Some variations on this basic recipe, including pasta sauces, are at the end of the recipe below.
Melanzane alla Parmigiana (Eggplant Parmigiana) – the dish I cut my teeth on. Loved it then, love it now, and make it often. Imagine perfection: the golden eggplant sauteed in a tasty egg wash, baked in the oven with tangy concentrated tomato sauce, sweet basil, creamy melted mozzarella, with a nutty parmigiana reggiano crust. It’s my favorite dish, rich and satisfying; it can keep a man alive for days.
Of course that’s assuming you’re lucky enough to possess eggplant parmigiana left overs after your meal is done. Because it actually tastes better the next day after some overnight magic melding of flavors. If you’re the preserving type, consider portioning your left-overs and freezing. Impress the unexpected and unsuspecting dinner guest with tomorrow’s eggplant parmigiana or satiate yourself on a night when there’s just nothing else to eat. Or, mix it up a bit. Eggplant parmigiana makes a great panino (sandwich) especially with a soft, chewy bread like ciabatta for tomorrow’s lunch. The possibilities are endless.
I often serve the melanzane alla parmigiana with roasted sausage. A simple arugula salad with EVOO and wine vinegar is a great accompaniment. I put the salad on the table and my guests can have it with the eggplant and sausage or as a separate following course.
Can’t talk about Eggplant Parmigiana without debating breadcrumbs. I often fry eggplant coated with breadcrumbs. Those crunchy slices are delicious and can be used in many dishes but I just don’t recommend using a breadcrumb coating in this recipe. You risk crisp and crunchy for soggy, a dangerous detraction from the dish. Mother made it best. She always does.
But I pass on to you the delicious, the dynamic, the perfect left-over, Eggplant Parmigiana.
For the Sauce
2-tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 1-2 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled (Ba-Boom) 1 28-oz can San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand, any peel or stems removed 1 sprig fresh basil 1 tablespoon dried oregano 1-teaspoon sea salt
Put a pot over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and the garlic Saute the garlic for about a minute in the hot oil Add the tomatoes, basil and oregano to the pot, stir well Put the lid ajar on the pot and simmer over medium heat for about 15 minutes or until the sauce thickens and has reduced by about about a quarter in volume
For the Eggplant
1 large eggplant 2-tablespoons sea salt (to drain the bitter liquid from the eggplant) 1 cup flour for dusting the eggplant 2 eggs 2 tablespoons Italian flat parsley, chopped 1/4 cup grated pecorino cheese 1/2 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano 1 pound fresh mozzarella sliced thin 1 teaspoon sea salt 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (or if using only olive oil, 4 tablespoons) 2 tablespoons canola or your favorite oil 10 basil leaves, or more as needed
Remove both ends of the eggplant Cut the eggplant in about 1-inch slices Sprinkle salt on both sides of the slices and line them in colander, put it in the sink as the bitter dark liquid drains Wash the slices well and pat dry. In a bowl, add the eggs, pecorino, parsley, salt and black pepper and beat well Put a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the oil to the pan and bring it to a ripple Put the flour in a bowl and lightly flour the eggplant slices Dip the slices in the egg wash and coat well Fry the eggplant until both sides are golden brown Remove to a platter lined with paper towel Continue frying the eggplant and add more oil as needed.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees In a large baking dish, spread some sauce on the bottom Add a single layer of the fried eggplant slice (save the best slices for the top layer) Put a dollop of sauce on top of each slice Rip the basil leaves and add a piece on top of each slice Liberally sprinkle the grated parmigiano all over Repeat this process until all the eggplant is layered in the dish For the top layer add the mozzarella and then sprinkle of grated parmigiana all over Bake the eggplant for 20-30 minutes or until the top begins to turn golden brown Serve immediately or at room temperature
A classic from Naples – it’s fast, spicy, delicious, and is named after the pizza-maker since the sauce is one that is always at hand in a pizzeria.
Traditionally, a thick slice of chuck or round is used. You can use these cuts if you have time to braise the meat for 2-3 hours to tenderize these tougher cuts. Usually I’m too hungry to wait that long so I make it with thinly-sliced ribeye steaks. You can make this dish in about 45 minutes.
I felt generous when making the dish so I added two contorni (side dishes) to accompany the steak: sauteed escarole and roasted potatoes.
Don’t miss this episode if you want to see my version of Italian ketchup.
We’re in Naples for this recipe, but we’re in Venice this weekend. Don’t miss a truly special private meal at da Flora Ostaria in North Beach – my favorite restaurant. Join me this Sunday, May 22, to enjoy an authentic Venetian spring dinner, 4-courses paired with 4 special wines.
Now, on to the recipe!
Here’s a zesty dish from Campania that you can have on the table in about an hour. Not many pots and pans to clean up–it’s all made in a single oven pan. This is one of my go-to dishes when I hit the kitchen after a grueling day with nothing ready to eat. Everything will be crispy and golden brown, the fennel mellow and the chicken moist.
Have your way with this one-dish dinner. Use sausage instead of chicken. Use parsnip or turnip instead of potato.
Italians love their artichokes and Romans know how to treat them.
I first had this dish in the Jewish Ghetto in Roma at Giggetto al Portico d’Ottavia sitting outside on a hot summer day with a glass of chilled Frascati and the Portico ruins as our vista.
This is my interpretation of that dish. It is one of my favorites second only to my mom’s artichokes stuffed whole and roasted in the oven. Those are messy to eat. You gotta scrape the leaves with your teeth to get the meat and stuffing. With these you can eat the whole thing!
Food author Mark Leslie was in town to promote his book, Beyond the Pasta, about the time he spent living with a family in Viterbo, northwest of Rome. Mornings he was in the kitchen with “Nonna” the grandmother, helping to prepare the family meals each day.
This is an experience I can relate to. So, we decided to both cook chicken cutlets with a potato contorni as a side. Mark’s are Nonna’s Lazio recipes. Mine are my Mom’s chicken cutlet and potato croquette, as they are still served in her birth village of Mirabella Eclano in Campania.
We met up at the Cookhouse (a wonderful new rental loft in North Beach – tell ’em Gianni sent ya!) for a little friendly kitchen battle. Watch the video above to see us cook our dishes side by side. Here are the recipes…
I put together a 4-course Easter dinner menu with wine pairings that your family and friends will love. Pizza Rustica is the opening act and Pastiera Napoletana is the closer. Check out the menu post that includes my video demonstrations and text recipes for each course.
This year for Easter I’ll be in Virginia with my sister Lucia and brother-in-law Carlo, my nieces and nephews, their spouses, and my great nieces and nephews. It’s a three-generation cooking branch of the family. We’ll all be in the kitchen making the pizza rustica and pastiera napoletana, probably on Good Friday. But, we won’t eat them until Easter Sunday.
Serve the pizza rustica as part of the antipasti course and the Pastiera as your dolce (dessert).
The pastry crust recipes are basically the same for both except I leave out the sugar and lemon rind in the torta rustica crust. These are very versatile pastry crusts that can be used in many applications.
This savory pie is also called torta rustica, pizza ripiena, pizza chiena or in Neapolitan-English slang, pizza gain.
This is probably the most famous Neapolitan pastry and it is one of my absolute favs. But, I still only make it once a year at Easter. Here in America, Pastiera is sometimes called pizza grano, Easter sweet pie, ricotta cheese cake, pizza or torta dolce.
Once a year, that’s it. No, I’m not talking about sex.
Zeppole di San Giuseppe should only be made on St. Joseph’s feast day, March 19, also Father’s Day in Italia. This is when I make mine. It’s tradition.
Traditions fade though. Now you can get this popular pastry all year round in many Italian-American communities and even at pasticcerie (pastry shops) in Napoli where it was invented in 1840 by Don Pasquale Pintauro. His pasticceria in Naples is still open.
But tradition is alive in North Beach. Victoria Pastry (Stockton/Vallejo) only makes Zeppole di San Giuseppe on March 19. If you want to make sure you get some order ahead. I did for years but now I make my own.
Victoria makes a smaller, simpler Tuscan version. My Zeppole di San Giuseppe are the ones you will find in Napoli and at Ferrara’s in NYC’s Little Italy.
BTW, pasticciera, the thick boiled custard cream filling is a versatile concoction that can be used in dozens of other recipes, even gelato!
Makes 12 Zeppole di San Giuseppe
1 cup water
6 tablespoons butter cut into 1-inch cubes
1 tablespoon sugar
pinch of salt
1-cup unbleached all purpose flour
Put the water, butter, sugar and salt in a large sauce pan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and stir a few times.
As the water begins to boil and the butter is melted take the pan off the flame.
Add the flour and stir vigorously until the mixture forms a dough.
Put the pan over medium-low heat and stir until the mixture is smooth and glossy and begins to form a film on the bottom of the pan about 3 minutes.
Take the pot off the flame and break the eggs one at a time and quickly beat each egg until the egg is fully incorporated into the dough and then add the next egg. Work quickly you don’t want to scramble the eggs.
Return the pot to the flame and stir vigorously until the dough forms a smooth, thick paste 30-45 seconds.
Cut parchment paper into 12 4-inch squares.
Put the dough in a pastry bag with a 1/2 inch star tip (#6) and pipe a 3-inch circle of dough on the parchment paper. Fill in with smaller concentric circles so that you have a solid filled-in circle.
Put about a 1/2 inch of canola or peanut oil in a 8 or 10-inch skillet and over a high or high-medium heat bring the oil to 375 degrees. Check the temperature to ensure it stays at 375.
Fry the zeppole a few at a time with the parchment side facing up.
As the zeppole begins to fry, use tongs to gently peel off the parchment.
Fry the zeppole slowly. The first side should take about a minute to turn a light golden color.
Turn the zeppole over and fry the second side until it is golden brown, about 2 minutes.
Turn over to the first side and finish frying until this side gets golden brown, about a minute. You want to make sure that the zeppole is cooked all the way through but don’t let either side get too dark.
Drain the zeppole well on paper towel and let cool before filling with the pasticciera. The zeppole should be light, puffed up and airy.
Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees.
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or lightly grease it and pipe out the 3-inch zeppole as described above.
Bake until lightly golden about 15 minutes.
Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and continue baking until the zeppole are medium golden brown, puffed up and light when picked up.
Transfer to a cooling rack.
If you don’t want to use a pastry bag, use a heaping tablespoon of dough for either the frying or baking method instead of piping the circles.
Pasticciera (Boiled Custard Cream)
1 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 quart milk
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla
Mix the flour and 1/2 cup sugar in a big bowl. Whisk in the eggs until the mixture is smooth and is quite thick.
In a large saucepan mix the milk, the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar and the salt. Scald over medium heat stirring frequently so it doesn’t scorch or form a film.
When a ring of small bubbles forms around the edge of the pan remove it from the heat.
Whisk 1 cup of the hot milk a little at a time into the flour and egg mixture. You’re tempering the mixture so whisk vigorously. You don’t want to scramble the eggs.
Whisk in a second cup of hot milk into the flour and egg mixture and then return the tempered mixture to the pan with the hot milk whisking constantly.
Slowly over medium-low heat and whisking constantly cook the mixture until it thickens, about 4 minutes. Take it off the heat when you see the first boil bubble.
Set up another large bowl with a fine strainer and pass the pasticciera through the strainer using a spatula to push it through the mesh.
Mix in the vanilla well.
To Assemble the Zeppole di San Giuseppe
For decoration Amarena cherries (sour cherries in syrup from Campania)
Put the pasticciera in a pastry bag.
Pipe the cream into the zeppole. Use the tip to break the surface of the zeppole so you get some cream inside the zeppole. Finish with a small rosette on the top.
Top the rosette with an amarena cherry and a bit of its syrup.
You can dust the top with confectioner sugar if you like.
The fried zeppole di San Giuseppe should be eaten soon after they are made. The baked zeppole will hold up longer. If you make the zeppole shells in advance you can crisp either the fried or baked shell by putting them in a 350 degree oven for a few minutes before filling them.
If you don’t want to use the pastry bag, cut the zeppole shell in half and spoon in some of the pasticciera.
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.)
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.
2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1/4 cup EVOO
3 Tablespoons water
Put the flour in a large bowl.
In a small bowl beat the eggs then beat in the EVOO and water to make a smooth mixture. Add to flour.
With a fork work the egg mixture into the flour until it begins to form moistened clumps.
Gather the clumps together with your hands to form a cohesive ball of dough.
Knead the dough right in the bowl collecting anything stuck to the sides of the bowl.
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.
Form the dough into a disc and wrap tightly with plastic wrap.
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.
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
Put the cheeses and parsley in a large bowl.
Mix in the beaten egg. (The mixture should be smooth. If it’s dry or lumpy mix in another beaten egg.
Add sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste and mix well.
To Make the Ravioli
Lightly flour your work surface and lay out a pasta strip.
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.
Put another tablespoon of the ricotta mixture about 2 inches (the width of 2 fingers) from the last mound.
Keep adding another tablespoon of the ricotta mixture at equal intervals until you reach the end of the pasta strip.
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.
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.
Cut down the middle of the space between the ravioli using a cookie cutter or sharp knife.
Press the edges of the ravioli with you fingertips to make sure no air is inside and they are tightly sealed.
With the tines of a fork press down of the rim of the ravioli. These tine indentations will help seal the ravioli.
Lay the ravioli out on a well-floured cookie sheet or kitchen towel.
Put the tomato sauce in a large flat pan and heat.
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.
Put the ravioli into the sauce pan and generously coat each one. Shut off the flame.
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!)
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.
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
Soak the porcini in hot water until soft about 10 minutes.
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.
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.
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.
Add the wine and cook until evaporated about 15 minutes more.
Add 1 cup of broth and reduce about 15 minutes more.
Take out the cooked chicken and chop very fine and return to the pot. (If using ground chicken skip this step.)
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.
Add salt and pepper to taste and reduce until the sauce is quite thick.
Chop the prosciutto very fine and add to the pot.
Close the flame and add grated nutmeg to taste. (It’s strong so don’t use too much it’s just a background flavor.)
Let the sauce cool before making the lasagna.
6 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup all-purpose unbleached flour
3 cups milk
Salt and freshly ground nutmeg to taste.
Place the milk in a large pan heat until until it is very close to frothing.
While the milk is heating, in a heavy-bottomed pan over very low heat melt the butter.
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.
Add the hot milk and whisk or stir while you’re adding it.
Keep whisking or stirring in the same direction so no lumps form.
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.
8 ounces fresh mozzarella
1 1/2 cups grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Coarsely grate the mozzarella and place in a bowl.
Add the grated Parmigiano and mix together.
Set aside until you assemble the lasagna.
Assembling the Lasagna
Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.
Heavily butter a rectangular baking dish (131/2 x 81/4 inches).
Spread a tablespoon of the meat sauce on the bottom of the dish.
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.
Spread the cheese mixture over the pasta layer.
Add another layer of pasta to cover only the inside of the dish.
Spread a layer of the meat sauce.
Cover the inside with another layer of pasta.
Spread a thick layer of the balsamella.
Add another layer of pasta to cover the top of the lasagna.
Fold over the over-hanging pasta onto the top of the lasagna.
Dot the top of the lasagna with a tablespoon of butter and sprinkle lightly with grated Parmigiano.
If you have extra sauces or cheese mixture build another layer.
Put the lasagna in the oven for about 25 minutes or until the top layer is lightly golden brown and crisp.
Remove the lasagna out of the oven and let cool for 15 minutes before serving.
At least 1 tablespoon of sea salt for the cooking water
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Bring a big pot of very well-salted water to a boil.
Put the riced potatoes in a mound on a flat work surface. Create a well in the middle.
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.)
Slowly start to incorporate the egg into the ring of riced potatoes.
When fully incorporated spread out the mixture and sprinkle some of the flour over the top.
Knead the flour into the potato mixture.
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.
Sprinkle some flour on the work surface so the dough doesn’t stick. Knead the dough to create a smooth dough ball.
Cut the dough ball into 6 pieces.
Flour the work surface again if necessary and roll each piece into a rope of 1/2 inch diameter.
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.
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.
Spread the gnocchi on a floured cookie sheet or flat baking pan as you make them.
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.
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.
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
Put the garlic, almonds, pepper flakes, basil leaves, tomatoes and then the sea salt in a food processor or blender.
Blend for about a minute or so, scrape down the sides and then blend again until no large bits are visible.
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.
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
Heat the cream stirring frequently so a skin doesn’t form on top.
When the cream is reduced and thickened add the gorgonzola and stir until the gorgonzola is melted and well blended with the cream.
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.
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
Put the olive oil and garlic in a cold sauté pan big enough to hold the cooked pasta your using.
Heat the pan over medium-high heat until the oil sizzles and the garlic just begins to take on some color.
Add the tomatoes and salt and mix with the EVOO and garlic.
Simmer to evaporate some of the liquid and the sauce thickens.
Stir in the oregano.
Continue cooking for about 30 minutes.
Remove the garlic before using the sauce, or not. Your choice.