Sunday Gravy

Sunday Gravy

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

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

Ingredients

Meat

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

For frying:

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

Gravy

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

Pasta

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

Cooking Directions

Gravy

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

Meats

Braciole

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

Meatballs (Polpette)

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

Cooking the Pasta and Finishing the Dish

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

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

Gorgonzola, Prosciutto and Pear Pizza

Gorgonzola, Prosciutto and Pear Pizza

Watch the Pizza Margherita episode to see how the dough is made.

I got slammed by a cousin in Sicily who complained that they never put fruit on pizza. I told him that this was a San Francisco thing. This is a white pizza, no tomato topping. In Rome, they make a long pizza bianca with just EVOO, sea salt and rosemary. In Campania they make a white pizza with EVOO, sea salt and oregano. These white pizzas are great on their own but also as an accompaniment to an antipasto or a salad. This one is a symphony, the sweet pear, the saltiness of the prosciutto, the tanginess of the gorgonzola and the harmonizing influence of the fresh mozzarella.

Video link.

Recipe

Place a pizza stone on the bottom oven shelf. If you don’t have a pizza stone, you can bake the pizza on a floured cookie sheet.

Pre-heat the oven to your highest temperature. Mine goes to 550 degrees. The oven should be at temperature for 30 minutes before baking the pizza.

Ingredients

Dough

  • 4 cups flour (I use unbleached All Purpose (”AP”) flour or “00” flour, more finely milled and used for pizza dough in Italy. Bread flour works too.)
  • 1 cup water, at about 100 degrees
  • 2½ teaspoons active yeast (one packet)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup water

Toppings

  • 2 oz. gorgonzola dolce, cut or broken into small cubes or “dots”
  • 4 thin slices of prosciutto, torn or cut into 16 pieces
  • 6-8 oz. fresh mozzarella cut into 1/2 inch slices and the slices ripped or cut in half
  • one ripe pear, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons EVOO
  • Fresh ground black pepper

Cooking Directions

Watch the Pizza Margherita episode to see how the dough is made.

Wet Ingredients

In a large measuring cup or bowl, put 1 cup of water at about 100 degrees and no more than 110 degrees (too hot and you’ll kill the yeast). I use water a bit warmer than my body temperature. Stir in the yeast and mix well. Add ½ cup of the flour. Mix well. Cover tightly and put in a warm place for 30 minutes. The mixture should double in volume or about 2 cups. This is the first “proof” of the yeast. If the mixture (called a sponge) doesn’t increase in volume the yeast is probably dead and therefore not “active.” If the yeast mixture doesn’t rise properly throw it out and start again. Better to find out now than later.  That’s why it’s called the first “proof” that the yeast is active. Yeah, right.

Dry Ingredients

  1. Put the remaining 3½ cups of flour and the salt in a large bowl. Mix to distribute the salt. Add the risen yeast mixture and the remaining ¼ cup water. (I use this last ¼ cup to wash out the container used for the first proof so that all the remaining yeast is “sloshed” out and into the bowl.) Mix dry and wet ingredients well with a fork or wooden spoon. When little dry flour remains, use your hands to finish mixing the ingredients into an integrated ball of dough. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and incorporate the scrapings into the dough. The dough should be a bit sticky to the touch. If it’s too dry, add a few drops of water at a time until it’s just a bit sticky. If it’s too wet, give it a light dusting of flour until it’s just a bit sticky.
  2. Place the dough on a floured flat work surface. Knead the dough with the heel of your hands. It will feel rough, granular or gritty when you start. When it feels totally silky-smooth you’ve kneaded it enough. To get from gritty to silky-smooth could take as much as 10 minutes, but I usually hit that texture in about 5 minutes. Form the dough into a compact ball.
  3. Put the ball back in the bowl you used to mix the wet and dry ingredients. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and cover with a kitchen towel. Put in a warm place. (This is the second proof.) When the dough doubles in size take it out of the bowl, reforming a ball and place on a floured board.

Making the Pizza

  1. Cut the dough ball into 4 equal pieces. (Each of these 4 dough balls will make 1 pizza, 10 to 12 inches in diameter (or one calzone). For a larger or thicker pizza, use two dough balls.)
  2. Use one dough ball for the Pizza Margherita. Put the other 3 dough balls to the side and cover with plastic wrap to keep a crust from forming. If you do not use all of the dough now you can put unused dough balls into tightly closed plastic bags for future use. The dough will last at least 5 days in the refrigerator. You can freeze the dough balls. Be sure to bring the dough to room temperature before forming pizzas from previously frozen dough.
  3. To form the pizza, push down on the dough ball with the tips of your fingers to begin shaping a round disc. When you reach a diameter of about 6 inches, pick up the dough, and holding it at the rim, begin stretching the dough using its own weight to help increase the diameter of the dough. Keep moving your fingers around the rim of the dough. Then, place the dough on your fist and gently pull it from the edge to stretch it more. When you reach a 10 to 12 inch diameter and the dough is about a uniform ¼ inch thick, you’re done. (For a thinner crust going towards a “cracker” crust keep stretching the dough until it is very thin and almost translucent.)
  4. Put the dough on a well-floured pizza peel (also called a pizza paddle). If there are any holes in the dough patch them. Make sure the dough moves freely on the pizza peel.
  5. Sprinkle the EVOO evenly over the surface of the dough. Scatter the pears evenly over the dough, then the gorgonzola, then the mozzarella slices, and then the pieces of sliced prosciutto. Grind black pepper to taste.
  6. Place the pizza on the pizza stone by holding the pizza peel at a 20-degree angle and slipping the pizza onto the middle of the stone. Bake for 6-8 minutes, until the mozzarella takes on a tan hue, the prosciutto is slightly crisp, and the rim of the crust is slightly browned. Take it out of the oven using the peel. When tapped with your finger, the dough should sound hollow. The bottom of the pizza should have some dark brown/black spots for texture and taste.

Let the pizza cool a bit and then slice into six slices.

Serve immediately.

Watch the Pizza Margherita episode to see how the dough is made.

Porchetta, Cipollini en Agrodolce, Truffle Roasted Potatoes

Porchetta

A fresh herb and garlic stuffing, crispy crust from a hot oven… Heaven!

Porchetta

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Ingredients

  • 2-pound pork loin. Have your butcher butterfly it to about ½ inch uniform thickness.

For the paste filling

  • The leaves of 1 branch of fresh rosemary. Remove the leaves from the stem. Only use the leaves.
  • 6 leaves of fresh sage
  • 12 fresh flat Italian parsley leaves
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, smashed
  • 1teaspoon extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • Sea salt and black pepper to taste

For the roasting dish

  • 1 fresh rosemary branch, remove the leaves from the stem and only use the leaves
  • 6 fresh sage leaves
  • 2 sprigs of parsley
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO}
  • Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Cooking Directions

  1. Finely mince the herbs and the garlic. Place in a small bowl. Add the EVOO and salt and pepper. Mix well.
  2. Roll out the butterflied pork loin. Evenly spread the herb/garlic paste to cover the entire surface of the loin. Don’t go too close to the long sides, leave about a 1/2 inch border. Tightly roll up the pork loin. Tie with string to keep the paste from leaking out and to maintain the shape of the pork loin roast. Rub the outside of the roast all over with some EVOO.  Sprinkle sea salt and black pepper all over the outside of the roast.
  3. In a roasting dish or pan, put the herbs and garlic to form a bed for the roast. Place the pork loin on top of the herb garlic bed. Pour in the wine and water and drizzle the liquids with EVOO.
  4. Put the pan on the middle shelf of the oven pre-heated to 425 degrees. Roast for about 15-20 minutes or until a golden crust starts to form on the roast. Reduce heat to 375 degrees and roast until the internal temperature of the roast is 145 degrees. Take the roast out of the oven and let it rest. The temperature of the roast will continue to rise to about 160 degrees.
  5. Pour the liquid in the roasting pan into a small pan. Use a wire mesh to catch the herbs and garlic. Skim out any fat on the surface. Simmer the sauce on a low flame.
  6. Slice the porchetta into ½ inch slices, top with some of the warm au jus or pan gravy and serve.

Cipollini en Agrodolce

I only cooked 3 onions in the demonstration. Here’s my usual recipe.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds cipollini onions peeled. (These are the flat Italian onions. If unavailable use pearl onions or shallots.)
  • 3 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons butter (use a couple of tablespoons of EVO instead if you wish)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon or so of sugar. (1/4 cup of red wine vinegar and 1 teaspoon of honey can be substituted for the balsamic and sugar.)

Cooking Directions

  1. Bring water to a boil, add onions, reduce to a simmer, cook until onions are knife tender, about 15 minutes. Drain onions well.
  2. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Melt butter and then put in the onions and coat entirely with butter. Season with salt. Toss onions frequently until carmelized, about 5 minutes.
  3. Pour the vinegar into the skillet and sprinkle the sugar over the onions. Bring vinegar to a boil tossing the onions until the sugar dissolves and the sauce thickens a bit.
  4. Serve hot or at room temperature. You can store these onions in the refrigerator for about a week. You can serve these treats as a vegetable with roasted sausage or other meats or to accompany salumi and cheeses in an antipasto. They’re very versatile and good to keep around.

Roasted Potatoes with Truffle Oil

Pre-heat the oven to 425.

Ingredients

  • 5 Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 1-tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and black pepper to taste
  • Drizzle of truffle oil (I use an extra virgin olive oil infused with black truffle (tartufo nero)

Cooking Directions

  1. Microwave the potatoes on high for 75 seconds. (This allows the potatoes to roast more quickly in the oven.) Quarter the potato and cut into 1 ½ inch slices. Put the potatoes into a baking dish. Add the EVOO, sea salt and pepper. Mix to coat the potatoes thoroughly.
  2. Put the baking dish on the oven middle rack and roast until the potatoes form a golden crust on the outside, about 15-20 minutes. Remove the dish from the oven and sprinkle the potatoes with about 10 drops of the truffle oil. Don’t use too much, the truffle oil has a powerful flavor.
  3. Serve immediately.

 

Pizza Margherita

Pizza Margherita

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Simple, quality ingredients are the starting-point for a great Neapolitan-style pizza.

Place a pizza stone on the bottom oven shelf. If you don’t have a pizza stone, you can bake the pizza on a floured cookie sheet.

Pre-heat the oven to your highest temperature. Mine goes to 550 degrees. The oven should be at temperature for 30 minutes before baking the pizza.

Ingredients

Dough

  • 4 cups flour (I use unbleached All Purpose (”AP”) flour or “00” flour, more finely milled and used for pizza dough in Italy. Bread flour works too.)
  • 1 cup water, at about 100 degrees
  • 2½ teaspoons active yeast (one packet)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup water

Topping

  • 4-6 San Marzano canned tomatoes imported from Campania, without as much of their juice as possible, cut into ½ inch strips, (il filetto di pomadoro). Be sure to remove any skin and stems, and the seeds, if you want.
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced into ½ inch slices, and dried on paper towel
  • 6 large fresh basil leaves
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Cooking Directions

Wet Ingredients

In a large measuring cup or bowl, put 1 cup of water at about 100 degrees and no more than 110 degrees (too hot and you’ll kill the yeast). I use water a bit warmer than my body temperature. Stir in the yeast and mix well. Add ½ cup of the flour. Mix well. Cover tightly and put in a warm place for 30 minutes. The mixture should double in volume or about 2 cups. This is the first “proof” of the yeast. If the mixture (called a sponge) doesn’t increase in volume the yeast is probably dead and therefore not “active.” If the yeast mixture doesn’t rise properly throw it out and start again. Better to find out now than later.  That’s why it’s called the first “proof” that the yeast is active. Yeah, right.

Dry Ingredients

  1. Put the remaining 3½ cups of flour and the salt in a large bowl. Mix to distribute the salt. Add the risen yeast mixture and the remaining ¼ cup water. (I use this last ¼ cup to wash out the container used for the first proof so that all the remaining yeast is “sloshed” out and into the bowl.) Mix dry and wet ingredients well with a fork or wooden spoon. When little dry flour remains, use your hands to finish mixing the ingredients into an integrated ball of dough. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and incorporate the scrapings into the dough. The dough should be a bit sticky to the touch. If it’s too dry, add a few drops of water at a time until it’s just a bit sticky. If it’s too wet, give it a light dusting of flour until it’s just a bit sticky.
  2. Place the dough on a floured flat work surface. Knead the dough with the heel of your hands. It will feel rough, granular or gritty when you start. When it feels totally silky-smooth you’ve kneaded it enough. To get from gritty to silky-smooth could take as much as 10 minutes, but I usually hit that texture in about 5 minutes. Form the dough into a compact ball.
  3. Put the ball back in the bowl you used to mix the wet and dry ingredients. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and cover with a kitchen towel. Put in a warm place. (This is the second proof.) When the dough doubles in size take it out of the bowl, reforming a ball and place on a floured board.

Making the Pizza

  1. Cut the dough ball into 4 equal pieces. (Each of these 4 dough balls will make 1 pizza, 10 to 12 inches in diameter (or one calzone). For a larger or thicker pizza, use two dough balls.)
  2. Use one dough ball for the Pizza Margherita. Put the other 3 dough balls to the side and cover with plastic wrap to keep a crust from forming. If you do not use all of the dough now you can put unused dough balls into tightly closed plastic bags for future use. The dough will last at least 5 days in the refrigerator. You can freeze the dough balls. Be sure to bring the dough to room temperature before forming pizzas from previously frozen dough.
  3. To form the pizza, push down on the dough ball with the tips of your fingers to begin shaping a round disc. When you reach a diameter of about 6 inches, pick up the dough, and holding it at the rim, begin stretching the dough using its own weight to help increase the diameter of the dough. Keep moving your fingers around the rim of the dough. Then, place the dough on your fist and gently pull it from the edge to stretch it more. When you reach a 10 to 12 inch diameter and the dough is about a uniform ¼ inch thick, you’re done. (For a thinner crust going towards a “cracker” crust keep stretching the dough until it is very thin and almost translucent.)
  4. Put the dough on a well-floured pizza peel (also called a pizza paddle). If there are any holes in the dough patch them. Make sure the dough moves freely on the pizza peel.
  5. Spread enough of the EVOO to lightly cover the entire surface of the dough. Scatter the tomato strips evenly over the dough, then the basil leaves, then the mozzarella slices.
  6. Place the pizza on the pizza stone by holding the pizza peel at a 20-degree angle and slipping the pizza onto the middle of the stone. Bake for 6-8 minutes, until the mozzarella takes on a tan hue and the rim of the crust is slightly browned. Take it out of the oven using the peel. When tapped with your finger, the dough should sound hollow. The bottom of the pizza should have some dark brown/black spots for texture and taste.

Sprinkle the salt evenly over the pizza. Let the pizza cool a bit and then slice into six slices.

Serve immediately.

San Marzano Sauce

San Marzano Sauce

A simple, light tomato sauce, made from the last of the fresh San Marzano tomatoes and fresh basil, served over choke the priest pasta.

This was our very first episode – a test if you will. You’ll forgive some of the rough production edges. I think it’s still very solid cooking instruction. And a delicious recipe!

Fresh San Marzano Tomato Sugo (Sauce)
With Strozzapreti (Choke the Priest) Pasta

You will only make this pasta when the San Marzano tomatoes are in the farmer’s market in late summer and fall. In other seasons use canned San Marzano tomatoes from Campania.

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds fresh San Marzano tomatoes or a 28 ounce can of San Marzano tomatoes from Campania, Italy
  • 1 sprig fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt for the sugo
  • 6 quarts of water
  • 2 tablespoons of sea salt for the pasta water
  • 1 pound or 500 grams of strozzapreti durum wheat pasta extruded through a bronze die.  (Of course you can use other cuts of pasta.)
  • 1 tablespoon of a good finishing EVOO to dress the finished pasta
  • 8 fresh basil leaves cut into a chiffonade
  • ¼ cup grated Pecorino Romano

Cooking Directions

  1. Put the water for the pasta and the 2 tablespoons of sea salt in a big pot over a high flame until it begins to boil.
  2. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil in another large pot big enough to hold all the tomatoes. (You can use the boiling pasta pot for this step and then again to cook the pasta if you don’t want to use 2 pots.)
  3. Wash the San Marzano tomatoes and take the stems off.
  4. When the water in the second pot is boiling, put the tomatoes in the boiling water for 15-30 seconds, until the skin puckers or bursts.
  5. Take the tomatoes out of the water and let them cool on a large plate. When they are cool enough to handle, peel off the skin.
  6. Cut the tomatoes in half and then into about ½ strips. Remove any skin, stem from the inside, and seeds if you want. Coarsely chop the tomatoes. (This is a variation from the video to help you get the sugo to the right texture more easily. You can just cook the filleto di pomodoro, the strips, just like I did in the video, if you want. Just make sure the tomatoes disintegrate into a sauce, with some pieces of tomato remaining. This method may take longer and require more attention to help break the tomato into chunks as it cooks.)
  7. Put the EVOO and garlic in a cold pan over a high flame. Saute the garlic in the oil to release its flavor. Don’t let the garlic brown. With the oil sizzling, put in all the tomatoes and 1 teaspoon of salt. Add the basil sprigs and stir them into the sauce. They will wilt and release their flavor into the sauce. Cook over medium-high heat until the tomatoes have broken down and a chunky sauce has developed. Most of the tomato water should have evaporated. This should take about 15 minutes, max. Stir frequently. When the sugo is done cooking remove the basil and garlic.
  8. When the pasta water comes to a boil put the pasta in the boiling salted water. Stir the pasta to make sure it doesn’t stick. Cook until al dente, about 8-10 minutes.
  9. Roll up the basil leaves and cut into a chiffonade, ¼ inch bands or strips.
  10. Pull the pasta out of the water with a spider or big slotted spoon and put it in the sugo. Finish cooking the pasta in the sugo. It will absorb some of the tomato liquid. Shut off the flame, drizzle the equivalent of 1 tablespoon of the finishing EVOO over the pasta, scatter the basil and sprinkle the Percorino and mix well into the pasta.

Serve immediately.