New Year’s Eve Italian Rules & Recipes Galore

Lentil Soup with Cotechino
Lentil Soup with Cotechino

Are you ready for your New Year’s Eve celebration?

Be sure to include these Italian tips and recipes in your plans. You won’t be sorry in 2014 that you did.

There’s an Italian saying that what you do on New Year’s Eve you’ll do all year so be careful.

  1. Wear something red as a wish for good luck in the new year.
  2. Hang mistletoe near your door to ward off evil spirits.
  3. Open a window in a dark room just before midnight to let out evil spirits.
  4. Then open a window in a lighted room to let in good spirits to help you through the new year.
  5. While the window is open throw out something old as a sign that you are willing to put the past behind you and accept what is to come in the new year.
  6. Eat lentils. The small “coins” represent all the money you will earn in the new year. The more you eat the richer you will be in the new year.
  7. Eat grapes. If you have fresh grapes this late in the season it’s a clue that you will prosper in the new year.
  8. Drink something sparkling, spumante or prosecco. A special bubbly toast to a loved one guarantees love all through the new year.
  9. Enjoy fireworks and sparklers to ward off evil spirits.
  10. “Anno nuovo – vita nuova!” “New year – new life!” Italians repeat this often tonight and tomorrow. You should too.

Here are some of my favorite dishes for you to consider.

  1. Lentils with sausage is a lucky dish. The lentils represent all the money you’ll accumulate in 2014 and the fat pork sausage the opulence you will enjoy.
  2. The crab season this year is fantastic. Try a couple of my favorite dungeness crab recipes. Crab salad is quick and light. How about linguine with a spicy crab sauce?
  3. If you didn’t make my cioppino yet this holiday season it’s not too late. Make it the star of your celebration.
  4. Want a full dinner menu for your New Year’s table?  This 4-course meal features a veal roast with spinach stuffing.

Buon appetito! Buon Capodanno! Happy New Year!

New Year’s Hearty Bean, Ham & Cabbage Soup Recipe

Leftover baked ham was the inspiration for this cabbage & cannellini bean soup
Leftover baked ham was the inspiration for this cabbage & cannellini bean soup

I’m just back from Christmas in the redwood forests overlooking the Pacific on the northern Sonoma coast a few hours north of San Francisco.

Our Christmas dinner on top of the ridge included roast turkey and baked ham.

When I got ready to head back to San Francisco my hosts insisted I take leftovers with me, including a big hunk of ham. I got inspired to make this hearty soup today.

Whether you have a big piece of ham sitting in your fridge or not you can make this sumptuous “lucky” soup for your New Year’s table too. The beans represent the abundant good fortune that is in store for you in the new year.

Salty ham, creamy beans and silky sweet cabbage all in one bite, simple comfort food from heaven.

Add a glass of prosecco and a hunk of crusty bread and you’ve got yourself a wholesome light meal ready in less than an hour.

If you we’re overserved New Year’s Eve, this is the best remedy to settle your queasy stomach. The soup is even better the next day.

Buon appetito and Happy New Year!

New Year's Hearty Bean, Ham & Cabbage Soup Recipe
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Soup
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 1 15-oz can cannellini beans or 1 cup dried beans soaked over night
  • ¼ pound baked ham, shredded or cubed (or get a thick slice of your favorite cooked ham)
  • ½ head of cabbage, cut in half again and quartered
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 carrot, cut in half and sliced into thin half-moons
  • 1 celery stalk with leaves, cut like the carrot
  • ½ onion, sliced in half again and cut in thick slices
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 small branch fresh rosemary or 1 bay leaf
  • 6 cups water
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Put the olive oil in a pot and over medium-high heat bring to a ripple.
  2. Add the carrots, celery, onions, garlic and a sprinkle of sea salt and sauté until the onions are translucent. (You don't want to pick up any color on the vegetables.)
  3. Add the beans and cabbage and mix everything together well.
  4. Add a pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
  5. When the cabbage leaves have wilted a bit add the water and bring a to a rapid boil.
  6. Simmer with the cover ajar until the cabbage is tender, about 20 minutes.
  7. Remove the rosemary branch or bay leaf and serve hot with a sprinkle of finishing olive oil, chopped parsley and grated parmigiano reggiano.

 

Bow Ties? Wandi? Cenci?–A Sweet Crackly Holiday Recipe

Bow Ties? Wandi? Cenci? Bugia? Delicate fried sweet ribbons
Bow Ties? Wandi? Cenci? Bugia? Delicate fried sweet ribbons

I love these delicate fried dough ribbons that show up on the table at the end of the meal this time of year.

I have 2 problems with them though. I don’t know what to call them and once I start eating them I can’t stop.

We called them bow ties or cenci (rags) in Jersey, wandi (gloves) in Rhode Island and bugia (liar’s knot) here in San Francisco. My favorite name is chiacchiere (to chatter) for the noise they make frying in the hot oil.

Call them what you want just make them for your table. I’m making extra so I can bring a plate of bow ties along when I visit friends this holiday season.

The simple dough is made in a food processor, kneaded briefly by hand and then rolled out with a rolling pin or put through a pasta machine to achieve a thin dough. I cut the ribbons with my ravioli cutter. Tie the ribbons in a bow and fry them quickly in hot oil until they are golden. Dust the bow ties with lots of powdered sugar all over.

The nutty bow ties shatter with each bite, light as air and just sweet enough for the end of a big meal with an espresso.

Be careful eating these crispy puffs so you don’t get powdered sugar all over your holiday outfit.

Some put honey I bow ties. I don’t. I reserve the honey for Struffoli, Holiday Honey Balls. These sweet nuggets are another staple at a Neapolitan Christmas table.

Buon appetito! Buon Natale! Happy Holidays to all.

Crispy Bow Ties, Wandi, Cenci Holiday Cookie Recipe
 
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Fry up a batch of these light, crispy holiday cookies for your table or to bring as a gift when visiting friends and family this year,
Author:
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 20
Ingredients
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • vegetable oil for frying
  • lots of powdered sugar for dusting
Instructions
  1. Put the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to aerate the dry ingredients.
  2. With the machine running add the eggs
  3. The dough is ready when it balls around the blade.
  4. Turn out the dough to a lightly floured board and knead until a soft dough forms and it doesn't stick to the work surface .
  5. Wrap the dough in plastic film and let it sit for about 15 minutes.
  6. Unwrap the dough and cut the ball into thirds.
  7. Work with one-third at a time and keep the others wrapped in plastic.
  8. With a rolling pin roll out the dough to about a 1/16th inch thickness or use a pasta machine to get the right thickness. I roll it through to the thinnest setting for crispy ribbons.
  9. Using a fluted pasta wheel cut the dough into 1-inch strips and cut the strips into 7-inch lengths.
  10. Pull the strips gently until they're about 9-inches long and tie the strip into a loose bow and set aside on parchment paper or a floured kitchen towel. (You want thin strips so the bows turn out light and crackly when you bite into one. If you don't want to make bows just put a small slit in the ribbon.)
  11. Put a couple of inches of oil in a deep pot and heat the oil to 375 degrees.
  12. Drop in a few bow ties at a time, turning them so that they are golden all over.
  13. Put the bows on paper towel to drain.
  14. When ready to serve sprinkle the bow ties with lots of powdered sugar. (Don't be skimpy with the powdered sugar dusting. There's not much sugar in the dough so the dusting adds most of the sweetness to the bows.)
  15. This recipe will yield about 5 dozen bow ties. (Keep them in an airtight container and they will last for days. Don't dust with powdered sugar until you're ready to serve some.)

 

Cioppino: Christmas Eve Stew of Seven Fishes from San Francisco

Cioppino Video: Christmas Eve Stew of Seven Fishes from San Francisco
Cioppino Video: Christmas Eve Stew of Seven Fishes from San Francisco
Learn to cook Cioppino.

Don’t miss the next new video recipe. Please subscribe now to my YouTube channel.

So how did I choose to do a recipe for the traditional San Francisco Cioppino stew for this Christmas Eve video?

We wanted to do a new episode for the traditional southern Italian Christmas Eve Seven Fish Dinner. I didn’t have time to cook seven separate fish dishes because I was hosting a holiday dinner for my office-mates the afternoon of the shoot.

I mentioned my dilemma when preparing Thanksgiving dinner with the Virginia branch of the family. “We were lazy last year,” my nephew confessed. “We just made a 7-fish cioppino.”

Problem solved. Cioppino, the famous fish stew invented down on Fisherman’s Wharf by the immigrant fishermen from Liguria and Sicily is just the quick and easy dish I need for a busy day in the kitchen with the cameras rolling.

The local tale is that when the boats were all in a big cauldron was put over a fire to cook the tomato broth. After selling their catch, the fisherman one by one would bring whatever fish were leftover on their boat. They “chipped in” and the dish they all shared on the wharf got its name. More likely the name is derived from the classic Ligurian dialect for the fish stew found around Genoa,  “ciuppin”.

This is an easy no mess recipe. Everything cooks in one pot. You can have cioppino on your table in way less than an hour. The briny seafood swims in a sweet rich San Marzano tomato bath. My favorite bite is dunking my garlic bread in the brothy sea-scented sauce.

Make sure you have plenty of napkins for your guests. You will get a little messy eating the crab and shrimp still in the shell.

If you want to make cioppino easier to eat take all of the fish out of the shells before serving. I like it best the messy way. I just love to scoop up some broth in each mussel and clam shell “spoon”. Any leftovers make a fabulous sauce for linguine.

If you want to cook 7 different fish dishes for your Christmas Eve dinner make some of my favorites. Choose from 11 fish recipes.

How about a luscious pork roast for Christmas or New Year’s dinner? I made it for my office holiday gathering. The butterflied loin is smathered with a rosemary and sage paste that infuses its flavor into the mellow pork while roasting in the oven.

I served the porchetta with potatoes roasted with rosemary and sea salt and finished with a drizzle of truffle oil and broccoli rabe sautéed in garlic-infused olive oil.

Make this fabulous porchetta dinner for your friends and family this holiday season.

Buon appetito! Happy Holidays! Treasure your time with family and friends at your table.

5.0 from 2 reviews
Cioppino Recipe: A San Francisco Treat for Christmas Eve
 
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Cioppino is the classic San Francisco fish stew invented by Italian fisherman immigrants when the boats came in for the day. An easy and delicious dish for a very special meal.
Author:
Recipe type: Dinner
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 1 steamed dungeness crab, cleaned and cracked
  • 6 mussels, scrubbed and debearded
  • 6 clams, scrubbed
  • 6 prawns or shrimp in the shell
  • 6 scallops
  • ½ pound calamari
  • ½ pound halibut or your favorite firm-flesh fish (sorry I called it haddock in the video)
  • 3 tablespoons EVOO, plus some to drizzle on top before serving
  • 1 small onion, halved and cut in thirds
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 small red bell pepper, cut in 2-inch pieces
  • half a fennel bulb, cut in thirds
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 28 ounces San Marzano tomatoes, crushed well by hand or pureed
  • 2 big sprigs of basil
  • 2 sprigs of Italian flat parsley, plus some chopped to sprinkle on top before serving
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • (slices of sourdough bread to grill, optional)
  • (1/2 cup of polenta to feed the clams & mussels, optional)
Instructions
  1. Put the mussels and clams in a big bowl of cold salted water and top with a ¼ cup of polenta.
  2. Let sit for 30 minutes stirring once in a while to distribute the polenta over the shellfish. The clams and mussels eat the polenta and any sand inside the shell will be expelled.
  3. (Simple bread rubbed with garlic is a must have when you're eating the cioppino. Slice sour dough bread and toast 1 or 2 slices per person in a grill pan. Put some weight on the slices to ensure they get grill marks. Toast the other side. Rub with garlic and sprinkle with EVOO. Set aside.)
  4. Take the clams and mussels out of the polenta bath and wash them well. Debeard the mussels if necessary. Set aside.
  5. Leave the prawns in the shell. Cut down the middle of the back and remove the dark vein. Set the prawns aside.
  6. Cut the calamari tubes into one inch bands. If the tentacles are very large cut them in half.
  7. Leave the fish fillet whole.
  8. Put the EVOO and garlic in a large enamel pot over medium-high heat.
  9. Toss the garlic in the oil to release its flavor but don't let it take on any color, about 1 minute.
  10. Add the onions, fennel, red bell pepper, bay leaf and red pepper flakes to the pot. Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
  11. Saute over medium-high heat until the onions are translucent, about 2 minutes.
  12. Over medium-high heat add the tomatoes and stir well.
  13. Add the basil, parsley and oregano.
  14. Cook the sauce until you reach the desired thickness. The volume should reduce by a third.
  15. First add the clams and mussels to the pot and give them a 2-minute head start.
  16. Next add the fish fillet, scallops, shrimp, calamari and prawns. Cover the pot and let it rapidly simmer for about 5 minutes.
  17. Then add the steamed crab and give the pot a good stir.
  18. Cook until the mussels and clams open, about another 4 minutes or so. Discard any mussels or clams that do not open.
  19. Put the cioppino in a large serving bowl.
  20. Top with chopped parsley and a sprinkle of a good finishing olive oil.
  21. Serve immediately with the grilled garlic sour dough bread to dunk in the sauce.
  22. Serves 4-6

 

North Beach is San Francisco’s Heart

Worth the wait!
Santo’s Cannolo at Cavali Cafe–A North Beach Treasure

So says Carl Nolte in today’s Chronicle.

“People will tell you that South of Market is the new center of San Francisco. But North Beach has all the contradictions that made San Francisco what it is. And for my money the heart of the town is North Beach.”

Molinari’s Deli, early morning tai chi in Washington Square, lunch at Original Joe’s where a mistress may be at the next table, Liguria Bakery’s fantastic focaccia, Carl surveys it all in his ode to North Beach.

You know how much I love North Beach. Come along with me as I scour what’s left of North Beach’s Italian-American neighborhood to get all the fixings for a 4-course meal with friends last weekend. Homemade ricotta and mozzarella ravioli in a San Marzano tomato-basil sauce were the star of that 4-hour meal. Santo’s incredible cannoli weren’t too bad either.

Wayne Thiebaud's Laguna Rising
Wayne Thiebaud’s Laguna Rising

Only one week left to see the incredible Memory Mountains, the Wayne Thiebaud exhibit at the Paul Thiebaud Gallery on Chestnut Street at the fringe of North Beach.

You may know Wayne Thiebaud from his luscious cake paintings or the gum ball machine. I love his landscapes as well.

At 94 Wayne remains a prolific artist. The exhibit features his recent work and older food and landscape paintings that give the exhibit context over time.

Don’t miss this extraordinary collection of art. See which new ridge painting resembles a cake good enough to eat and another like a swirl of chocolate gelato ready to be scooped up.

What’s not to love in North Beach?

I know, the messy and disruptive subway to nowhere dig, loss of old Italian businesses. Don’t get me started. I’m in a wonderful mood this morning.

North Beach Shopping Spree Ends with Shadow Ravioli

Homemade ricotta & mozzarella ravioli in a San Marzano basil sauce
David Fagan’s shadow pic of homemade ricotta & mozzarella ravioli

“Make homemade ricotta ravioli for Saturday’s dinner,” my Seattle friend told me before she boarded her plane. And so started a day of shopping and eating in North Beach with friends.

Those are my shadows on the dining room wall. I’m holding a tray of ricotta & mozzarella ravioli while tallying how many ravioli each of the 7 friends at my table would eat.

These are big ravioli. Most chose 2 or 3.

Early Saturday morning we headed down the hill to North Beach to buy what we needed for dinner. Santo let us use Cavalli Cafe on Stockton Street as our staging area.

As we sipped our coffees Santo packed up cannoli ingredients for us to assemble after dinner. We didn’t want the shells to get soggy if they were filled too soon before we devoured them.

We left the fruits and vegetables from Union Produce with Santo and headed to Molinari deli for the antipasti fixings. We dropped the bags back at Cavalli and crossed the street to Little City Meat Market for 3 types of sausage to roast and serve with the ravioli.

Italian wines from Coit Liquors and Acme bread from Little Vine and we were ready to head back to my place. My friends insisted that we had too many bags to carry up the hill. We hailed a cab. How civilized, a ride right to my front door.

Back in my kitchen, we got the San Marzano basil sauce going and left it to simmer. Then 3 of us made the pasta dough and ran it through my hand-cranked pasta machine until we had long, wide pasta sheets.

As the sheets dried we whipped up the simple creamy ricotta and mozzarella filling. My friends jumped in and made one sheet of ravioli under my careful supervision. We ended up with 27 large ravioli.

Watch my fresh ravioli with San Marzano sauce video episode and make some yourself. You won’t be sorry.

Antipasti Platter
Antipasti Platter

Here’s the antipasti platter that started off our meal. It’s a good example of what you can put together for your next holiday party.

Starting with the top middle dish:

Marinated mixed olives and black oil-cured olives; sharp provolone & a young pecorino with pistachios; marinated giant Corona beans; homemade pickled eggplant; gorgonzola dolce; taralli; steamed green beans with lemon & olive oil. In the center dish: prosciutto di San Daniele, mortadella and coppa picante.

Use my pickled eggplant recipe to make some to have handy in your fridge.

My green bean salad recipe is quick and easy. Add something fresh and delicious to your antipasti platter too.

Remember those cannoli fixings Santo packed up for us?

Three and a half hours after the meal started and 6 bottles of wine later, I just passed the shells, filling, chocolate chips and orange peel syrup around the table for each my guests to make their own cannolo. They didn’t mind doing it themselves. Santo’s cannoli are fantastic and the crispy shells shattered with each creamy bite.

Champagne grapes and roasted chestnuts ended our meal. A wonderful evening with friends at my table.

Treasure your times together around the table this holiday season.

Buon appetito!

Roasted Beet Salad Recipe

Roasted Beet Salad with Gorgonzola & Toasted Hazelnuts
Roasted Beet Salad with Gorgonzola & Toasted Hazelnuts

The Virginia branch of the family gathered at my nephew’s beautiful new house on Smith Mountain Lake in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

No one but my sister and brother-in-law knew I was joining 3 generations for this Thanksgiving gathering. As each wave of the family arrived at the lake taking in their surprised reaction upon seeing me for the first time was priceless.

Thinking I was in San Francisco my nephew emailed me on Tuesday as we were driving to the lake from Richmond.

“Hi John. I hope all is well. I wanted you to know I watched the video with your ribs hotness challenge and will make those for mom and dad over Thanksgiving. Looks awesome and perfect for a late fall ribs at the lake. Hope to catch up soon.”

“You’ll love these Greg. Happy Thanksgiving,” I replied. Little did he know that we would cook them up together that night to feed the first wave of family to arrive. 2 pounds of imported penne pasta and 3 full racks of ribs in a San Marzano tomato sauce doused with hot oil were quickly devoured by the crowd at the table.

3 generations pitched in to cook up a fantastic southern Thanksgiving dinner. There were so many side dishes I had to fill up my plate twice to get a taste of everything.

I’m eating light now that I’m back home. Here’s an updated version of my family’s favorite beet salad. Nothing concentrates the sweet beet flavor than roasting them in their jackets but in a pinch you can use canned beets too.

The tender butter lettuce is a perfect base for the sweet beets bathed in an olive oil, red wine vinegar, oregano & shallot dressing. Gorgonzola adds a zesty flavor note and crunchy hazelnuts add texture to this simple delicious salad.

Buon appetito!

Roasted Beet Salad with Gorgonzola
 
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Sweet roasted beets served over butter lettuce with an olive oil, red wine vinegar & oregano dressing dotted with gorgonzola & toasted hazelnuts
Author:
Recipe type: Salad
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 2 red beets
  • 2 gold beets
  • 1 head butter lettuce
  • 1 large shallot, thinly sliced
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup toasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped
  • gorgonzola, diced into small pieces
Instructions
  1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Wash the beets and do not peel them.
  3. Brush the beets with olive oil and put them in a baking dish. Cover the bottom of the dish with foil for easy clean-up.
  4. Roast the beets until they are knife-tender, about 20-30 minutes.
  5. In the meantime, put the olive oil, vinegar, oregano, salt and pepper to taste in a large bowl and whisk well. Add the shallots and set the bowl with the dressing aside.
  6. Lightly toast the hazelnuts in a saute pan to bring out their rich flavor. Roughly chop the hazelnuts and set them aside.
  7. When the beets are cool enough to handle, trim the top and bottom and remove the skin.
  8. Cut the beets in small wedges and put them in the bowl with the dressing and mix well to coat the beets with the dressing.
  9. Lay the lettuce leaves on a large platter and cover them with the beets.
  10. Drizzle the dressing remaining in the bowl all over.
  11. Dot the beets with small gorgonzola cubes and sprinkle the chopped hazelnuts all over.
  12. Serve the beet salad chilled or at room temperature.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Whole Wheat Pasta Recipe You’ll Love

Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Onions & Anchovies
Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Onions & Anchovies

A northern Jersey friend enjoyed this yellow onion and anchovy whole wheat pasta dish several years ago at da Flora, one of my favorite North Beach restaurants. The food memory haunted her ever since.

She hasn’t been to San Francisco since that dinner at da Flora so I made my version of the dish when 10 of us gathered at the table back East last week.

Two of my Jersey friends picked 3 of us up in Manhattan and we headed to Arthur Avenue, NYC’s Little Italy in the Bronx to finalize our menu and buy what we needed for our 4-course meal from our favorite purveyors.

Then it was off to Clifton NJ for a day of cooking and eating together. 8 hours of conversation, laughter and fun fueled by fantastic food and wine.

The chance to be with family and friends around the table is what drives my cooking passion and warms my heart.

This is a simple recipe with few ingredients. Start making the sauce when you put on a large pot of salted water over high-heat to boil and the sauce will be done by the time the pasta is cooked.

The nutty toothsome whole wheat pasta is coated with the onion-anchovy sauce. The sweet onions play off the salty anchovies and the sweet acidic sherry vinegar adds a piquant finish to each bite. Savor a full-flavored pasta made from a few simple ingredients.

Flora is somewhat of a technophobe. I’m so happy that she finally decided to create a da Flora website. Take a look at this unique place. Meet the 3 remarkable women who prepare your meal with local seasonal ingredients, the best imported products and lots of love.

Book a table for your next dinner in North Beach. God bless Flora. She’ll only go so far on the web. You’ll have to call to make a reservation. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.

Buon appetito!

Whole Wheat Spaghetti in an Onion-Anchovy Sauce
 
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A quick zesty sauce that's ready in the time it takes to cook the pasta. Sweet onions play off the anchovy-garlic sauce and nutty whole wheat pasta for a full-flavored pasta dish perked up by a bit of sherry vinegar.
Author:
Recipe type: Pasta
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 1 pound or 500 grams, imported Italian whole wheat spaghetti or other long pasta
  • 2 yellow onions, halved and then slivered
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup sherry vinegar
  • 10 anchovy filets, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, slivered
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups pasta cooking water
  • 3 tablespoons chopped Italian flat parsley
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • drizzle of good finishing extra virgin olive oil
Instructions
  1. Put on 4 quarts of water with 3 tablespoons of sea salt over high heat to boil.
  2. When the water is at a rapid boil add the pasta and stir so the spaghetti strands don't stick together. Cook until very al dente.
  3. In the meantime, place a sauté pan large enough to hold the cooked spaghetti over medium-high heat and add the extra virgin olive oil.
  4. When the oil ripples add the thinly sliced onions, sprinkle the onions with sea salt and cook until translucent and slightly browned.
  5. Add the sherry vinegar and cook until the sauce is slightly reduced.
  6. Remove the onions and sauce to a bowl and set aside.
  7. Reduce the heat to medium-low and melt the butter in the pan.
  8. Add the anchovies and thinly sliced garlic to the pan and cook until the anchovies dissolve and the thinly sliced garlic starts to give off its aroma, about a minute or 2.
  9. Return the carmelized onions and sauce to the pan.
  10. Increase the heat to medium-high, add the pasta water and rapidly simmer until the sauce reduces by about half.
  11. When the pasta is cooked to al dente, using tongs or a spider, add the pasta to the pan. (If you drain the pasta in a colander reserve a cup of the cooking water.)
  12. Add the chopped parsley, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
  13. Toss the spaghetti in the sauce. The pasta will absorb some of the sauce as it finishes cooking. (If the spaghetti is too dry add a bit more pasta water and toss again.)
  14. Serve the pasta in warm bowls and lightly drizzle each bowl with a good finishing olive oil.

 

 

 

 

Mighty Minestrone–A Hearty Vegetable Soup Recipe

A hearty & healthy vegetable soup
A hearty & healthy vegetable soup

There’s been a chill in the air so I decided to make my first soup of the fall season.

Minestrone was at the top of my list. It’s easy to make, delicious and good for you.

The most difficult part of this recipe is chopping the vegetables. Otherwise, you just let the minestrone simmer away for an hour and a half, stirring from time to time.

The flavorful kale is a perfect companion for the tender meaty borlotti beans surrounded by bits of cabbage, potatoes and zucchini floating in the full-bodied vegetable broth. If you get lucky you may get a piece of nutty pancetta in your next spoonful.

Slice some crusty bread and you’re ready for a hearty lunch or serve minestrone as a substantial first course for your next dinner on a chilly eve.

Leave out the pancetta for a vegetarian version. Either way minestrone is even better the next day so make sure you have some leftover.

Now I’m fortified for whatever fall has in store.

Buon appetio!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Mighty Minestrone--A Hearty Vegetable Soup
 
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Combine your favorite vegetables into this easy soup. You'll be eating delicious, healthy minestrone in about an hour.
Author:
Recipe type: Soup
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 6-8
Ingredients
  • ¼ pound pancetta, diced
  • 1 carrot, quartered and cut in 1" slices
  • 1 celery stalk cut the same as the carrot
  • 1 zucchini cut the same as the carrot
  • 2 medium potatoes, cut the same as the carrot
  • 8 cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • ½ red onion, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ⅛ cup fresh Italian flat parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup borlatti or cannelini beans, soaked overnight and drained, or from a can, drained
  • 8 kale leaves, sliced in 2-inch ribbons
  • ½ head cabbage, sliced in 2-inch ribbons
  • Grated parmigiano
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. (Do not add salt until the beans are fully cooked so the beans don't toughen.)
  2. Over medium-high heat put 2 tablespoons olive oil in a soup pot.
  3. When the oil is hot cook the pancetta until it takes on some color.
  4. Add the onions to the pot and saute until translucent.
  5. Add the bay leaf, garlic, celery, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes and zucchini to the pot, mix well to coat everything with olive oil and cook for a minute or two.
  6. Add 2 quarts water and bring the soup to a boil.
  7. Add the beans to the pot and cook until the beans begin to soften, about 40 minutes.
  8. Add the kale and cabbage to the pot and stir well.
  9. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil over the top of soup, reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 40 minutes, until the beans and vegetables are tender.
  10. When the minestrone is done add parsley, sea salt and black pepper to taste and stir well.
  11. Sprinkle grated parmigiano atop each bowl and a drizzle of good olive oil as you serve it to your guests.

 

Lazy Lasagna Ready in an Hour

A ricotta & sausage lasagna you can eat in about an hour
Ricotta & sausage lasagna you can eat in about an hour

I promised to make a lasagna for our office potluck lunch Thursday. As I got ready for a trip to LA I tried to beg off making the lasagna.

I knew I wouldn’t be in the mood to make a lasagna because I was flying back Wednesday night.  My office mates wouldn’t let off the hook.

I was stuck. After I unpacked I dashed off to the market to get everything I needed.

I was making a “lazy” lasagna. No homemade pasta sheets. No long-cooked sauce. This puppy is in the oven in a half-hour.

Don’t be intimidated. This is a simple recipe for a weekend meal or even for a leisurely weeknight dinner.

I used no-boil lasagna sheets, sausage  browned out of its casing and a ricotta, mozzarella and pecorino filling. Canned San Marzano tomatoes made the quick tomato-basil sauce a snap. Leave out the sausage and you have a delicious vegetarian lasagna.

First start the sauce. It will be ready in about 30 minutes. Cook the sausage at the same time. In the meantime whip up the ricotta and mozzarella filling. When the sauce is ready assemble the 3-layer lasagna and bake it in a hot oven for about a half-hour.

How easy is that? You’ll be ready to eat in about 60 minutes start to finish.

The ricotta filling encased in tender pasta sheets is creamy and rich. The perky sausage layer bathed in the sweet tomato-basil sauce is a zesty counterweight. I savored every bite. 2 of my lucky mates snagged the leftover lasagna for their lunch the next day.

Serve the lasagna with a simple salad and a bold red wine. Have some crusty bread handy to wipe up the sauce left on the plate. You won’t have to wash that dish before you put it back on the shelf.

Buon appetito!

Lazy Lasagna with Tomato-Basil Sauce
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Pasta
Cuisine: Italian-American
Serves: 8-10
Ingredients
  • 1 box oven-ready (no-boil) lasagna sheets
  • 2 pounds ricotta, drained
  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella, shredded
  • ¼ cup grated pecorino or parmigiano, plus more to sprinkle on top of the lasagna
  • ¼ cup fresh Italian flat parsley, chopped
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound Italian mild sausage out of the casing
  • 2 28-ounce cans imported San Marzano whole tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 sprigs basil
  • sea salt to taste
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter cut in small cubes
Instructions
  1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Put the canned tomatoes in a large bowl and crush them with you hand. Discard any basil in the can and any skin or tough stems.
  3. Put 2 tablespoons olive oil and garlic in a sauce pan over medium-high heat. Cook the garlic until it takes on a light tan color.
  4. Add the tomatoes to the pan and sea salt to taste. Bring the sauce to a rapid simmer.
  5. Add the basil, reduce to low heat and stir the sauce occasionally for about 30 minutes. The sauce will thicken a bit as it simmers.
  6. As the sauce simmers put a tablespoon of olive oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot add the sausage and brown. Break up any clumps as you cook the sausage.
  7. Drain off the oil in the pan and set the sausage aside.
  8. In a large bowl beat the eggs then add the ricotta, most of the shredded mozzarella, pecorino, parsley and black pepper. (Set aside a ¼ cup of the shredded mozzarella to spread on top of the lasagna.)
  9. Beat well with a fork or whisk.
  10. In a 9 x 13 inch baking dish spread a cup of sauce evenly over the bottom.
  11. Dot with 1 tablespoon butter.
  12. Lay down a single layer of lasagna sheets to cover the bottom of the dish.
  13. Add half the ricotta filling and spread it evenly over the lasagna sheets.
  14. Add another single layer of lasagna sheets on top of the ricotta filling. Spread a cup of sauce evenly over the sheets.
  15. Add the browned sausage in an even layer over the lasagna sheets.
  16. Top with another single layer of lasagna sheets and spread a cup of sauce evenly over the sheets.
  17. Spread the remaining ricotta filling evenly over the sheets.
  18. Top with another single layer of lasagna sheets and spread a cup of sauce evenly over the sheets.
  19. Sprinkle with the reserved shredded mozzarella and some grated pecorino.
  20. Dot with butter.
  21. Cover the baking dish tightly with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Uncover and bake for 5 minutes more to lightly brown the cheese on top of the lasagna,
  22. Let the lasagna sit for about 15 minutes before cutting the lasagna. (I usually make 3 cuts the length of the lasagna and then 4 cuts across the width to form 3 x 3 inch pieces.)
  23. Put any remaining sauce in a sauce bowl should your guests want to add more to their lasagna.
  24. (The lasagna is even better the next day.)

 

 

Marcella Hazan Tribute: Pork Loin Braised in Milk

A Marcella Hazan Tribute, one of my favorite dishes.
A Marcella Hazan Tribute, one of my favorite dishes.

Just before I left for a wonderful birthday celebration with friends in Provincetown on Cape Cod and Boston I learned that Marcella Hazan, the extraordinary Italian cook and teacher had passed on September 29.

Marcella was one of my early teachers. She opened up a world of authentic Italian cooking using a few choice ingredients and simple methods.

I remember well the sunny Sunday morning many years ago when Marcella visited my restaurant in Providence. We were all on pins and needles. The woman who taught America how to cook and eat Italian would soon be here.

Marcella was in town for a food editors conference and we were hosting a reception at the restaurant the next night featuring her dishes.

Marcella stepped out of the car with her husband Victor and son Giuliano, a cigarette with an incredibly long ash dangling from her lips.

After sidewalk introductions, we walked into the restaurant. I asked what she would like. “Jack Daniels on the rocks,” Marcella replied in her unmistakeable raspy voice. As I poured her bourbon we all sighed and relaxed. We spent 2 incredible days in the kitchen with the giving La Cucina Italiana master.

In honor of a remarkable woman, here’s my riff on one of my favorite recipes from her ground-breaking first book, The Classic Italian Cookbook: The art of Italian cooking and the art of Italian eating. I cherish the soiled copy she inscribed for me those many years ago. I hope you enjoy this pork loin braised in milk as much as those at my table do.

The delicate flavor of the tender, moist pork loin is enhanced by the clusters of nutty brown pan sauce. Add your favorite sides and dinner is served. I served mine with baby spinach sauteed with extra virgin olive oil.

Mille grazie Marcella. You live on in my kitchen.

Buon appetito!

Pork Loin Braised in Milk
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 pounds pork loin
  • 2½ cups milk
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Sprinkle sea salt and freshly ground pepper all over the loin. Pat it in with your hand.
  2. Put the butter and oil in a enameled or heavy-bottemed pot that fits the loin snugly over medium-high heat.
  3. When the butter foam subsides add the meat fat side down.
  4. Brown the loin thoroughly on all sides. Lower the heat if the butter turns dark brown.
  5. Slowly add the milk to the pot.
  6. When the milk comes to a boil reduce the heat to medium-low or even low to keep the milk at a low simmer, cover the pot with the lid a bit askew.
  7. Cook the loin slowly until the meat is fork-tender, about 1½ to 2 hours.
  8. Turn and baste the loin occasionally and if needed add more milk.
  9. By the time the loin is cooked the milk should have coagulated into small nut-brown clusters on the bottom of the pan. (If it is still pale remove the loin, uncover the pot, raise the heat and cook briskly until the milk bits darken.)
  10. Remove the loin and let it rest for about 5 minutes before slicing.
  11. Skim all the fat from the pot. Add a few tablespoons of water to the pan and scrape up all the residue on the bottom of the pot as the water evaporates. Taste the pan sauce and add more salt and black pepper if desired.
  12. Cut the loin into half-inch slices and arrange them on a serving platter.
  13. Spoon the pan sauce over the slices and serve immediately.

 

 

Artichoke, Leek & Potato Soup

Tasty artichoke slices, leeks and potato in a thick thyme flavored broth
Tasty artichoke slices, leeks and potato in a thick thyme flavored broth

The large artichokes at the farmers market were beautiful. I grabbed 3, heavy and still tightly closed.

Should I stuff them, bake them, steam them? Nope. I wanted something quicker to prepare so I decided to make artichoke soup instead.

The hardest part of this recipe is cleaning the artichokes. You want only the tender white heart. Then your about an hour away from eating this delicious simple soup.

In an enameled or heavy-bottomed pot sauté the potatoes and aromatics. When the leeks are soft and the thyme and shallot give off a wonderful aroma add the water and bring the pot to a boil.

Add the artichoke slices and with the pot lightly simmering cook until the potatoes are soft and falling apart and the artichoke slices are tender, maybe an hour or so.

Stir in the chopped fresh parsley and sprinkle each bowl with grated cheese and you’re ready to eat.

The thyme and shallot flavored broth is thickened by the crumbly potatoes. Each spoonful brings the clean and distinctive taste of artichoke, creamy potatoes and sweet leeks splashing over your palate.

Buon appetito!

You can watch me cleaning an artichoke here. But be sure to follow this recipe once the artichokes are cleaned.

Artichoke, Leek & Potato Soup
 
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A thick soup with fresh thinly sliced artichokes, potatoes and leeks in a clean thyme flavored broth.
Author:
Recipe type: Soup
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 3 artichokes (or in a pinch use frozen artichoke hearts)
  • Juice of one lemon
  • ¾ pound potatoes, peeled and curt into ½-inch cubes
  • 1 leek, white and pale-green parts, sliced, washed well
  • 2 shallots, chopped (about ¼ cup)
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • ½ tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt to taste
  • 2 quarts cold water
  • 1 tablespoon fresh Italian flat parsley, chopped
  • Grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano, for serving
Instructions
  1. Clean the artichokes.
  2. Put enough water in a big bowl to cover the sliced artichokes. Cut a lemon in half and squeeze in the juice of one lemon. Put the lemon halves in the water too. (This acidulated water will keep the artichokes from darkening after you clean and slice them.)
  3. Starting at the bottom, snap off all the tough dark green outer leaves. When you get to the light yellow-green leaves stop.
  4. Cut off the dark top of the remaining leaves. (A serrated knife works best.)
  5. With a paring knife cut off the stem and peel away any tough green on the bottom of the heart. You just want the tender white part.
  6. Cut the artichoke in half and scoop out the choke (the hairy part in the center of the heart) with a pointed spoon or cut out with a paring knife. (You now have a cleaned, tender artichoke heart that is white and light green in color.)
  7. Peel the dark tough skin from the stem.
  8. As you clean each artichoke lay the artichoke heart on a cutting board cut side down. Cut each half vertically into ½ inch slices. Slice the peeled stem into slices too. Put the artichoke slices in the acidulated water.
  9. Put the olive oil in an enameled or heavy-bottomed pot and heat over medium-high heat.
  10. When the oil is hot add the potatoes, coat with the oil and cook for about 3 minutes.
  11. Add the leeks and shallots, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
  12. Add the garlic, thyme, bay leaf and sea salt to taste.
  13. Cook until the garlic is fragrant, about a minute.
  14. Pour in the water and over high heat bring to a boil.
  15. Drain the sliced artichoke hearts and add them to the pot. Bring the soup to a vigorous simmer.
  16. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook the soup uncovered until potatoes and artichokes are tender, about an hour. (The potatoes should have broken down a bit to thicken the soup).
  17. Stir in the chopped parsley.
  18. Top each bowl of soup with a sprinkle of grated cheese.
  19. Serve immediately.

 

Cabbage Steam-Sauteed with Pancetta

Sauteed Cabbage with Pancetta
Sauteed Cabbage with Pancetta

Desperation one night led to this tasty dish.

I bought a head of cabbage intending to make an Italian-American cole slaw. It didn’t happen. Now what?

As I looked in the fridge for something to eat when I got home from a long day at work the cabbage caught my eye. Next to the cabbage was a fat slice of house-cured pancetta from my butcher. Bingo!

In less than a half-hour those 2 ingredients and a hunk of crusty bread became my light dinner.

Saute small cubes of pancetta in a pot with a little olive oil. When the pancetta is golden-brown add the cabbage and toss the cabbage with the pancetta. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add a little water, cover the pot and let the cabbage steam until it is soft and tender, about 10 minutes. Uncover and cook the cabbage until the water is almost all gone.

Put the cabbage on a serving plate and drizzle with olive oil and your done.

The mellow sweet cabbage strewn with salty, meaty pancetta is a complex taste and texture treat, simply delicious. So much flavor from just 2 quickly cooked ingredients.

Serve the cabbage as a side for meat and fish or eat it up for a light meal.

Buon appetito!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Cabbage Steam-Sauteed with Pancetta
 
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2 ingredients, cabbage and pancetta, quickly cooked yield a dish with full flavor and texture for a light meal or a side for meat or fish.
Author:
Recipe type: Vegetables
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 1 head of cabbage
  • ¼ pound pancetta, cut in 1-inch cubes
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus a finishing drizzle
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • ½ cup water
Instructions
  1. Cut the cabbage into quarters.
  2. Cut out the core and thinly slice the cabbage.
  3. Put the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.
  4. When the oil is hot add the pancetta and sauté until the pancetta is golden brown all over.
  5. Add the cabbage, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste and mix the cabbage well with the pancetta.
  6. Add ½ cup of water and bring to a boil.
  7. Lower the heat to medium-low and cover the pot and cook until the cabbage is soft and tender.
  8. Uncover and cook until the water is almost all evaporated.
  9. Put the cabbage and pancetta on a serving platter, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and serve immediately.

 

Calamari Salad

Calamari Salad
Calamari Salad

I’m cooking dinner as a birthday gift for a friend and I’m in the mood for this calamari salad as part of the antipasti.

The steamed calamari is sweet and tender bathed in the zesty olive oil and lemon dressing. The celery and onion add a crunchy textural note. The mellow roasted pepper strips and buttery Castelvetrano olives fill out the flavor palette.

You can make calamari salad in about 20 minutes. Just chill it in the fridge and you’re ready to eat.

Buon appetito!

Calamari Salad
 
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Sweet tender calamari with a zesty lemon-olive oil dressing with celery and onion adding a crunch.
Author:
Recipe type: Appetiser
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 3 fresh bay leaves
  • The whole peel and juice of ½ lemon
  • 1½ pounds calamari bodies and tentacles, cleaned and bodies cut into ½ inch rings
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ red onion, minced
  • ½ cup pitted Castelvetrano or other green olives, cut in slivers
  • 4 celery stalks with leaves, sliced thin (I like to use the tender, pale green inner stalks.)
  • ½ cup roasted red bell peppers, cut in strips
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh Italian flat parsley
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon dry oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon hot chili flakes
Instructions
  1. Put 2 inches of water in a Dutch oven or pot and bring to a boil over high heat.
  2. Add the bay leaves and lemon peel and boil for a few minutes until they release their aromas.
  3. Set a colander or steamer over but not touching the water.
  4. Add the calamari rings and tentacles into colander or steamer lower the heat so the water is simmering. Cover the pot and cook until calamari is just cooked through and is opaque, about 5 to 6 minutes. (I taste the calamari to ensure that I take them out when they are cooked but tender. Don't over cook the calamari or it will toughen.)
  5. In the meantime in a large bowl combine the onion, olives, celery, roasted pepper, parsley, salt, oregano, peperoncino, olive oil and lemon juice.
  6. Add the cooked calamari to the bowl and mix well with the other ingredients and olive oil and lemon dressing.
  7. Chill the calamari salad before serving.

 

Braised Baby Back Ribs with Potatoes

Braised Babyback Ribs & Potatoes with a rosemary-sage gravy
Braised Baby Back Ribs & Potatoes with an Onion-Rosemary-Sage Gravy

I’m back in Emilia with this dish, the region surrounding Parma (prosciutto, parmigiano reggiano) and Modena (balsamic vinegar) that lies in north-central Italy.

They like their pork in these parts. This is a simple but really rich stew. The potatoes begin to break apart while braising with the ribs and help thicken the sauce.

The ribs are fall-off-the-bone tender and the soft and creamy potatoes are coated with the sweet, rich, thick onion-rosemary-sage pan gravy.

You almost don’t have to chew at all. The pork melts in your mouth. The potatoes and gravy fill your mouth with complex, deep flavor.

This is a messy meal for me. I can’t resist picking up a rib and pulling off the pork with my teeth. My fork gets dirty as I pick up the potatoes and gravy that have to be part of each mouthful.

This dish will take you about 90 minutes to make. with 30 minutes of prep and 60 minutes waiting for the tender and moist ribs and creamy potatoes to finish cooking in the rosemary-sage braise.

Serve the ribs and potatoes with spinach quickly sauteed with garlic in extra virgin olive oil and you have a one-plate dinner.

Buon appetito!

5.0 from 3 reviews
Braised Babybacks with Potatoes
 
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Fall-off-the-bone baby back ribs and creamy potatoes braised in a fresh rosemary-sage broth.
Author:
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 rack babyback ribs, about one and a half pounds
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh sage, finely minced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 potatoes, peeled and cut in one-inch cubes
  • ¼ cup dry white wine
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Season the ribs on both sides with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  2. Cut the babybacks into individual ribs and remove any excess fat.
  3. Put a dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat and add the olive oil.
  4. When the oil starts to ripple put in the ribs and cook until you have a golden crust on all sides, about 6-8 minutes.
  5. Remove the ribs to a plate and set aside.
  6. Discard excess oil in the pot leaving just enough to saute the onions.
  7. Add the onions to the pot and saute until they are soft and take on a golden hue, about 5 minutes.
  8. Add the fresh herbs and mix well with the onions.
  9. Add the tomato paste and mix well with the onions. Cook for about 1 minute to toast the paste.
  10. Raise the heat to high. Put the ribs back in the pot and add the wine and simmer vigorously until the wine is almost entirely evaporated. Scrape up all of the brown bits on the bottom of the pot to incorporate the flavor nuggets in the liquid.
  11. Add the potatoes to coat with the onion mixture.
  12. Add the broth and bring the pot to a boil.
  13. Turn down the heat to a low simmer, partially cover the pot and braise until the meat is tender and falls off the bone, the potatoes are partially falling apart and the gravy has thickened, about an hour or so. Stir the pot from time to time.
  14. Put the ribs and potatoes on a serving platter and spoon the gravy on top garnished with a rosemary sprig or 2 and a few sage leaves.
  15. Serve immediately.